Return to Transcripts main page


North Korea Tests Missile As Japanese Leader Visits Trump; Candidate Trump Versus President Trump on Policy; Trump: "A Lot of Other Options: After Travel Ban Decision; A Look at President Trump's Tweeting Behavior; Early Turf Wars in the White House. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired February 12, 2017 - 08:00   ET



[08:00:22] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A big court setback, but President Trump vows to get the last word.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll win that battle, and we also have a lot of other options.

KING: Three hectic weeks packed with action.

TRUMP: In public safety.

KING: But the obstacles are many, including the courts and the Congress.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think there's a little confusion here.


KING: And his style is unique -- tough tweets and tough talk and even if it flunks the fact check.

TRUMP: You've misrepresented his comments totally. His comments were misrepresented.

KING: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters now.


KING: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your Sunday morning.

A North Korean missile test interrupts President Trump's weekend of diplomacy with Japan.


TRUMP: I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent. Thank you.


KING: That was the president last night. A big court ruling against his travel ban is another challenge for the week ahead.


TRUMP: And we'll be doing something very rapidly having to do with additional security for our country. You'll be seeing that sometime next week. In addition, we will continue to go through the court process, and, ultimately, I have no doubt that we'll win that particular case.


KING: Plus, three weeks in, will lashing out at members of Congress, including Republicans, come back to haunt the president?


SEN. JOHN THUNE, REPUBLICAN CONFERENCE CHAIR: We only have a 52-vote majority here in the United States Senate in order to accomplish his agenda. So, I hope everybody can kind of dial it down a bit.


KING: With us this Sunday to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, Jonathan Martin of the "New York Times," Glenn Thrush of the "New York Times" and Jackie Kucinich of "The Daily Beast."

What was supposed to be a week of getting-to-know-you weekend in Florida instead turned into a quick of crisis management. North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile early Sunday Asia time, that's Saturday evening here in the States. It was the first North Korean provocation of the Trump presidency and the timing was no accident.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is not only here in the United States, but on a weekend break with President Trump in Palm Beach.


SHINZO ABE, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): North Korea's most recent mile of launch is absolutely intolerable. North Korea must fully comply with the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions.

TRUMP: I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent. Thank you.


KING: Now, interesting event all around. Let's try to unpack it some. That was the entirety of President Trump's statement last night.

He is different. He is different, and it's just interesting. It's striking to me that there's a script for these events. North Korea does this quite frequently.

Now, this president doesn't want to follow the script, but he didn't even mention North Korea and didn't say anything to North Korea. Don't test me. Get back in your box.

You know, didn't mention South Korea which is in its own political turmoil right now, another key critical U.S. ally right there.

And he didn't mention China which is maybe less surprising in the sense that U.S. presidents often say, we need China to come to the table and help here. A one-sentence statement from the president of the United States in his first provocation from Kim Jong-un.

GLENN THRUSH, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Apparently, he only stands behind South Korea about 96 percent, right? That's what you have a national security adviser for. That is why you have an entire national security staff and a national security communications staff.


THRUSH: So, in addition to having General Flynn, who has been the subject of a lot of controversy this week, that in a lot of ways is the most resonant story that has occurred this week, perhaps more than the travel pan, the issue of his conversations with the Russian ambassador and also the internal strive that is occurring on the National Security Council, we also don't have, and this is a pretty rudimentary important thing -- a communications director on the national security staff because the last up went down in a plagiarizing scandal. So, we don't have enough people kind of manning this so that kind of thing doesn't happen.

KING: It is striking. You know, it happened last night, so we'll get more reporting throughout the day. But they did put a longer state. There was an aide who put down a statement for the president on that lectern. He just decided not to read it.

MARTIN: Yes, I was going to say -- Glenn makes hugely important points -- but even if you had all that staff infrastructure, if the president of the United States doesn't give the statement that he's given and instead stands up and says one sentence and then walks away, all that staff in the world just doesn't matter if the president of the United States wants to go his own way.

[08:05:11] And we should note to our viewers here, this is not just some issue. There are thousands of American troops right now at this hour in South Korea and they have been there for over half a century. And so, this is in our direct interest we're talking about.

KING: Look, it's important for Prime Minister Abe. I thought the president letting Prime Minister Abe go first on his home turf, it was an important statement, because this is home turf and this was clearly -- North Korea, the timing was no accident here. They're testing Trump but they're also the Japanese prime minister who is on the road.

But it was just -- I don't know the right word for it, just bizarre that's all we heard from the president.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I mean, especially given that we hear from this president so much about so many different things and here was this moment where North Korea is essentially testing long range nuclear missiles that could reach the U.S. That's their ultimate goal. This was something that Obama talked to Trump about on his way out as a pressing issue. He has talked tough I think Trump on Twitter about North Korea, but when it got to his time to be that tough person that we've come to know, he just kind of whiffed I think in many ways not reading that statement.

I mean, it was -- I guess it was -- it was essentially like 140 characters he was using there, 240 characters or so. So I think it was very striking because it's a Trump we're not used to seeing without the kind of bluster and strength.

KING: Right, it's the first time we've seen him in this situation where he's been provoked by another government and during the transition. You mentioned President Obama. A lot of people said, you know, you focused on this and your travel ban and focused on this, overseas here. North Korea is going to be the first test. Just look for it.

JACKIE KUCINICH, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, right. And again, during the campaign, we're saying, OK, yes, he talks tough. What happens when something actually happens, and right now, it's silence. It's not like he's up and tweeting. He's up and tweeting.

HENDERSON: This morning.

KUCINICH: This morning, about illegal immigration and Bernie Sanders bizarrely.

But it just -- again, it's almost like there isn't a depth of knowledge there perhaps, and he didn't feel comfortable reading the statement, we don't know. But, yeS, what he said when you boil down the statement to what he said last night.

MARTIN: If you saw the statement which a "Reuters" photog had a picture of on Twitter, you can sort of make out most of the text.

Let's put it this way -- it didn't sound like the words that would typically come from the word of Donald J. Trump, so I think he may have had some reluctance to actually speak using that high-tone diplomatic language that's not really him, whereas his one-sentence tough talk like he did is Trumpian.

KUCINICH: That wasn't even tough talk. That was like, yeah, yeah, I really like this guy.


MARTIN: I think he viewed the event less as of a grand event and more I've got this leader from a country in the neighborhood, so I'm going to make him feel good by standing up for he and his country, not realizing that there are much larger geopolitical questions.

KING: Yes, I think that part is very important. The president being clearly differential, saying, this is your neighborhood. They're testing you, you go first. That part I think was actually smarter, but they're leaving the blank of what his policy is.

Now, to be fair to the president this is one of the world's most vexing issues.


KING: We went through this in the Obama administration, the George W. Bush administration. There's no easy answer that North Korea's leadership has changed.

THRUSH: I want to keep getting back to the bureaucracy on this, right, because one of the early criticisms of President Bush was that he engaged too much in personal diplomacy, that he remembered looking into the eyes of Vladimir Putin, right, and it seems like this president is very much predisposed to this flying Abe down on Air Force One, playing golf with him, hanging out with him all day yesterday.

I think, also, when you have that kind of statement prepared, it also reflects Trump's lack of respect for the bureaucracy and the infrastructure and the intelligence service and the quality of information that he's getting. I think this is a guy who is much more likely to go with what Steve Bannon is saying or what he hears from a foreign leader than he is from the people who are supposed to channel information to him.

KING: And yet, yet, what we have seen, we're only three weeks in. So, write your assessments in pencil, not ink right now.

But what we have seen in the early days is a move from outsider rabble-rousing candidate Trump language on foreign policy to much more establishment positions. If you look, he spoke to the Chinese president and said, "I'll stick to the One China policy". That was an open question when he took office.

He has, after Bibi Netanyahu took the early days of the Trump administration as a green light to expand settlements, the White House and President Trump even speaking to an Israeli newspaper saying, whoa, slow down.

His Japanese security commitment with Prime Minister Abe very different than the language he used during the campaign, and the European Union head says the administration has now promised to keep in place the Iran deal, and we'll see how that plays out. But he has become in the past three weeks, again, TBD, as we go forward, much more establishment on the form.

You mentioned he maybe doesn't like to read the language of the protocol scripts but he's moved his positions there. [08:10:00] KUCINICH: But how much has been in the public eye where

he's actually said this? I mean, we've heard about the calls. We've heard that he said this. It's gone through back channels, through other administration officials.

I don't know that he's comfortable just coming out and saying -- and saying these things.

KING: Well, we'll see this week. Prime Minister Netanyahu will be here next week, so are the prime minister of Canada who has publicly said nice things about coming to meet with President Trump, we both got elected on economic issues but he's also tweeted several times about the travel ban saying, you know, come to Canada.

HENDERSON: Yes, yes, that's right. I mean, Canada very much accepting our refugees. Lots of difference in terms of how Canada views things and Canada and Prime Minister Trudeau, good friends, had a bromance with Barack Obama. Interesting to see those two side by side.

Trudeau obviously a very handsome man and I say that just to say that he's a very handsome man. And, I mean --

KING: Glad you had the opportunity to say that.

HENDERSON: I mean, those kinds of things make a difference to Trump.

THRUSH: Bibi is not bad either by the way.

HENDERSON: He's not bad looking either. But Trudeau.

So, yes, those kinds -- I think those kinds of things makes a difference to Trump. We know that he's influenced by people who are in front of him and Trudeau happens to be straight out of central casting. I mentioned that NAFTA will also come up. That's been a big issue, and Trudeau said he's open to renegotiating it as well.

MARTIN: But he's reverting to the meme, as one of our colleagues put it, on the sort of, you know, on the menu of foreign policy issues here.

But Jackie raises an important point. You know, it's one thing for his staff to put out a paper statement saying that, yes, the Israelis should curb the building of settlements. Is he actually willing to voice that policy when Bibi is standing right next to him? We just don't know the answer of that.

KUCINICH: Someone he promised to have a better relationship with than President Obama who did not.

KING: Right. Well, you can have a better relationship and still be firm and tough. That's one of the tests as we're getting to know this president. We'll see some of that first week. First Trudeau and then Netanyahu.

I think you make a key point. What does he say publicly with the leader sitting next to him? We'll see.

Up next here, action here at home, an action-packed first three weeks. But do all the executive actions from the first week guarantee results?

First, though, politicians say the darnedest thing. "Saturday Night Live" takes the president to the people's court.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Mr. Trump, do you have one legitimate reason we need this ban?

ALEC BALDWIN AS DONALD TRUMP: Of course, I do. It's so simple. They are bad people. They are pouring in and you see them. And it's ISIS and San Bernardino and Chicago. I mean, look at Chicago. It's hell.

They are bad dudes coming in here. Bad hombres. Bad boys, bad boys. What you gonna do?



[08:16:54] KING: Welcome back.

Week four of the Trump presidency is rich with big challenges, including a decision about how to proceed now that a federal appeals court has refused to let the White House implement its travel ban.

The administration can try again in the courts, but it's also considering issuing a brand new executive order.


TRUMP: We'll win that battle. The unfortunate part it takes time statutorily, so it takes a little time. We'll win that battle. But we also have a lot of other options, including just filing a brand new order on Monday.

REPORTER: Are you planning to do that, is that your plan?

TRUMP: Could very well be, but I like to keep you -- you know, I like to surprise you. We need speed for reasons of security so it could very well be that we do that.


KING: That's the president and Melania Trump there on Air Force One on the way down to Florida. It's the beginning of the weekend.

So, what next and what does a travel ban controversy tell us about the president's early management style?

One of the questions now is if you keep fighting this in the courts, you might take it to the Supreme Court and they might uphold the lower courts and put -- create a precedent essentially the administration doesn't like. So, is our expectation, they'll just drop those cases and to give the new executive order or they seem to be having a new fight about this?

THRUSH: I think they seem to be having a fight about this, or they seem to be having changes of mind. I thought it was an extraordinary set of events at the end of last week where you had senior administration officials saying they weren't going to appeal it and like 20 minutes later, you have the president saying something else, and then you have 20 minutes later, senior administration officials saying something completely different.

I think there's just a tremendous amount of confusion about this. I think we -- the reporting that we've done has shown that the president is dissatisfied with the way this was implemented and after, by the way, for the first three or four days thinking things were going swimmingly even as events were showing otherwise. I think the question shows here is does this guy have the capacity at this point in time to react to these events and make the adjustment necessary to deal with this as opposed to make these off the cuff.

KING: But his reflex is to be pugnacious and it's worked for him quite a bit, but some of these things requires more patience. And you mentioned it probably would have turned out differently if they had taken time, A, had others lawyers scrubbed the order to read through the language a little bit better? B, tell the Congress about it, tell the Department of Homeland Security a little bit more about it?

But to your point, internally, you hear that the president is frustrated that a whole -- there's a tug-of-war over who is in charge about how to handle these things. But listen to the president publicly when he's out, this is not a president who likes to say, we got this wrong and we're going to fix it.


TRUMP: One of the reasons you probably heard that we did it so quickly, I would -- in fact, I said, let's give a one-month notice, and then law enforcement and General Kelly was so great saying we totally knew about it and did everything. We do things well. We did things right, but the law enforcement people said to me oh, you can't give them notice. I suggested a month and then I said, well, what about a week? They said, no, you can't do that.



KING: He's hard to follow sometimes because he just sort of connect thoughts, but the idea that General Kelly was great because he said we totally knew about it. Well, General Kelly was great from the president's perspective and he took one for the team and he was blind- sided by this and publicly said it's on me.

[08:20:04] MARTIN: But let's give the president and Reince a measure of credit here. On Thursday, after the court order came out 3-0, the president said, "see you in court," sort of a blustery tweet and then flying to Florida there, he acknowledged that you were basically going to have to retreat and try to advance in a different direction. And, yes, we'll likely come back and come up with a new executive order.

So, clearly, someone on the Trump staff got to him Thursday and Friday and said, look, the better course here, let's stop fighting this thing in court, let's devise a new EO and move forward next --

KING: The question --

MARTIN: There's some room for growth there.

KING: As you said, device a new EO, executive order. I think one of the questions is, what's the M.O. of the administration? Because again, the president is a very instinctive and reflexive person. But if you look at the early actions, they don't necessarily guarantee results.

If you look at some of them, he issued an Obamacare order very early on, but the replace part divides Congress. They have no idea how to proceed, how fast to proceed.

The border wall, Republicans ultimately saying, Mr. President, we can't afford that and there's questions about what kind of a wall and how much of a wall and the travel ban blocked by the courts. We know he's pugnacious and we know he's reflexive. Do we know if he can be patient? These things are going to take time and that's not his --

KUCINICH: I would argue the biggest success of the last three weeks is the Supreme Court nominee.

HENDERSON: Of course.

KUCINICH: That's the only thing that matters. You heard Republicans who may have been speaking out against him about this travel ban, all of a sudden, be like -- Gorsuch, look at this guy, he's great. That's all they want to talk about.

So, a lot of the stuff in terms when you talk about Republicans that were speaking out against him and started to get restless, kind of was forgiven because of that.

HENDERSON: Yes, and I think now -- I mean, you look on Twitter, a lot of conservatives are happy with the rounding up of undocumented immigrants. They have been cheering that.

The executive order on the Mexico City rule. I think that cheered a lot of folks. But, listen, I mean, the rubber is meeting the road now in terms of things like Obamacare, things like the wall. $20 billion I think is the estimate at this point that early reports are. Of course, Trump has come out and said, well, he can get a better deal, he can negotiate it down. Hard to believe that that would actually happen.

On Obamacare, he initially said, he wants the replacement -- the replacement and the repeal simultaneously. He's now, of course, saying, look to 2018. In the meantime, you've got this very active progressive left that is questioning everything he does.

So -- so, yes, I mean, I don't think he's built for patience. I don't think Bannon is built for patience, but Washington is very much built to move slowly, and there's sort of an inertia.

KING: You touched on the key elements of the immigration debate. Help me on this one, because again, in three weeks, you try to learn.

What are the early lessons we're learning here. On immigration, which has a lot of mixed signals. The president is tweeting this morning, taking credit for some of the crackdowns and roundups in deportation, although ICE said both in Arizona and Los Angeles, these raids were planned back in the Obama administration and just implementing a long- standing policy of looking for people with criminal records, look for people who have gang activity and to deport them. We'll watch that play out.

Steve King, the Iowa Republican congressman who's very -- a hawk on immigration, he would give a radio interview in which he voiced open disappointment with the president. He said during the campaign, you promised on day one to issue that executive order to kick the so- called DREAMers out, young people brought into this country. He says where is that?

And then the president, at this Oval Office, I mean, the White House meeting, not the Oval Office with senators the other day, apparently started --

HENDERSON: Embracing --

KING: -- embracing or talk about, hey, bring back the "Gang of Eight" proposal. That was comprehensive immigration reform. It included a path to citizenship.

Listen to Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat, who's in the room at the time.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: We were all pleasantly surprised, I think, and he every inquisitive, you know, and -- and realizes that we don't have a good immigration policy in the United States. I think it was Senator Alexander at that time. I believe you could be the president if you changed that, and -- and then explained to them that the "Gang of Eight", the bill that we, and he didn't, you know, boohoo or to walk away from it. He engaged.


KING: To Trump voters, the "Gang of Eight" bill is amnesty, capital A, capital M, capital N --

HENDERSON: It's the devil, yes.

I mean, it seemed like he was just learning about it in that setting. This is on-the-job journey. KUCINICH: But they were very quick to come out and say he does not

endorse the "Gang of Eight" bill --


KUCINICH: -- right after, I believe Spicer issued the statement.

KING: But that's one of the lessons three weeks in. One of the biggest lessons three weeks in is we are routinely told by people who work for the president don't pay attention to what the president says. That's stunning.

THRUSH: Can I just point out something? Does the dude do his homework?

You know, I mean, this is a job that requires a lot of being steeped in information. Hillary Clinton, we accused her -- I went to too many Hillary Clinton speeches and fell asleep at half of them, OK, but she had a grasp of policy. I think here's no question.

Even George W. Bush in terms of his briefing protocol was much more rigorous about this.

[08:25:01] At some point, do we ask ourselves, why isn't the president taking the time to learn about these issues before going into a room and being inquisitive with Joe Manchin?

MARTIN: About the signature immigration bill of the last eight years. It's a very well known bill, but this is a -- this is so revealing about this president though, whoever he is in the room with and who he talks to, he wants to make them feel like he might be their ally because he wants to be liked and wants their approval.

And so, even when something is brought up that would be anathema to much of his base, he doesn't dismiss it out of hand, in part because, yes, he's not quite sure what it actually was. He doesn't know what the "Gang of Eight" bill was, but also because he just wants to be seen as open. This is --

KING: But he went after Marco Rubio in the primaries. I don't buy that he doesn't know what the bill is or at least he shouldn't remember what the bill is. He at least, during the primaries, he was briefed enough in the debates to go after it. Maybe it's been forgotten.

MARTIN: Well, if they had described it to him, John, as the amnesty bill. He would have known right now. But that's now how Lamar, Joe Manchin are going to talk about the bill --

THRUSH: And his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is the guy who led the charge against it, as did his senior adviser Steve Miller.

KING: We will see. Here we go.

All right. We're learning every day. Attacks on judges, a war hero and a department store. Enjoy your

morning coffee with President Trump's Twitter feed and get a sense of the fights driving his day.


[08:30] KING: Welcome back. Three weeks into the Trump presidency, one lesson, we do know he's not going to give up his Twitter account. The president is very active usually in the morning.

How many tweets? Let's take a look at this. We have to make graphics in television. 47 tweets. We made this just before the show. He is up to 49 now. The president is up and tweeting from Florida this morning. 49 tweets from @realDonaldTrump in just the past week. Nine of them before 8 am. He likes to get up in the morning. He watches television. He reads the paper and he reacts on Twitter.

They come in different shapes and sizes. This one, an attack on Nordstrom after it canceled Ivanka Trump's clothing line. Some - these are familiar. In this case, "The New York Times," he likes to take after the news media. And Republican senators, he even takes after Republican senators. This, a trademark Trump, a relatively new thing, a three-parter, attacking John McCain who criticized a raid in Yemen.

Why does the president do this? This is how he likes to communicate. I had a conversation the other day with the former Treasury Secretary, Secretary of State and Ronald Reagan Chief of Staff at the White House Jim Baker, who says, back in the day, can't see Ronald Reagan on Twitter, but he says probably this president shouldn't do it, but you try to change his mind.


JIM BAKER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE OF THE UNITED STATES: Back in our day, we had the issue of the day. It'd be pretty hard today to have issue of the day if you don't know what the president's going to put on Twitter at 2 AM in the morning. You'd have to wait to learn, to find out what the issue of the day is.

But, look, it's been very successful for him, so who's to say? I mean, it worked. Nobody thought it would work. It worked. Maybe it'll work now. But I do think it makes it more difficult to have a well-oiled, well-coordinated approach where the administration can speak with one voice.


KING: That was a very polite elder statesman, trying to say, look, I know it works for you, sir, but I don't think this is a good way to govern, but in a polite way, Secretary Baker saying this. But even him, there was a conversation with him on-camera and then we were just shooting the briefs (ph) before and after the interview, he's fascinated by this because it's one of the things about this president that you look at and you say, no way, can't do it that way, and yet - to his point - he say it's worked for him, so you try to tell him no. NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. You know, the latest tweet this morning about Mark Cuban, maybe that's the issue of the day that the White House wants to focus on. Hard to believe, it is. That was Baker's point, right? How do you drive a message out of this White House when you don't know what the president is going to say?

He's tweeted a couple of times already this morning. Remember, this is right after North Korea and this pretty important international crisis going on.

KING: But this is what he likes.

HENDERSON: This is what he likes.

KING: You learn in the morning what's on his mind or what he's reacting to, whether he's watching on television or reading the morning headlines. He takes after you guys quite a bit for doing your job.

But what are we learning from it? A, he's not going to give it up. But is there anything else more strategic behind it?

JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": That, to me, is the real story of the first month of this presidency as far as the process goes. He's not going to give up the Twitter feed. And I just have to think that there are folks in the White House who are really unhappy about that.

KING: But they tried it in the campaign, they tried it in the transition.

MARTIN: It worked for a little bit in the campaign, but the fact that he's still doing this as the president of the United States and the fact that nobody is really challenging him about it, to me, is astonishing.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE DAILY BEAST": And it's not all sunshine and roses and Mark Cubans here. He did - he's hurt himself with the tweeting about the ban. The White House is trying to get away from calling the travel ban a ban, and then - exactly, it was used in court. So, this is actually his - not to be the Debbie Downer here.

MARTIN: If his family and his staff won't challenge him about giving it up, nobody else is going to. I was on the Hill this week and talking to Republicans there and they're fine with him doing it. They don't like it. You can sort of tell with their grimaces, 'oh, what's did he say now.' But they've accommodated him.

This is remarkable. Bob Corker, the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, very important job, he told me that he now gets a print-out every morning of whatever the president tweeted overnight.


KING: Well, you have to.


MARTIN: I mean, as one friend joked to me, back in the day, a senator on the foreign relations committee would get printouts from the overnight cables from Tokyo or Bonn or what's coming in. Now, you're getting the print-out of what the president is tweeting about. So, they're accommodating him. They're not sort of confronting him about his behavior.

KING: But it is part of his style. He uses Twitter to counterpunch. He always says I don't throw the first punch. Sometimes, he might. But most often he does counterpunch, reacting to something he doesn't like.

[08:35] But in public too, there were stories this week that his own Supreme Court nominee said in meetings with senators he found it disheartening that he was attacking the so-called judges on the federal court. President Trump reacted to that. He didn't say, good for Judge Gorsuch. He said the media was making it up.


DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You've misrepresented his comments terribly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wanted to ask you what your thoughts were, sir.

TRUMP: His comments were misrepresented. And what you should do is ask Sen. Blumenthal about his Vietnam record that didn't exist after years of saying it did. So, ask Sen. Blumenthal about his Vietnam record. He misrepresented that just like he misrepresented Judge Gorsuch.


GLENN THRUSH, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I'm old enough to remember reporters asking Donald Trump about his Vietnam record. Did he have heel spurs, I believe was the issue?

But the one thing I want to say, his approval rating is historically abysmal. So, you can't get away from that. But to Jackie's earlier point, the Gorsuch, with the exception of some of this back chattering, Gorsuch basically had to do that, you know, in order to -

KING: But why does Trump have to say the media was lying about it.

MARTIN: Trump was wrong here, right?

THRUSH: Of course, he's wrong. But, I mean, we have - look at the immigration ban policy, look how it's polling. It has not lost any altitude. It's around 52 - between 48 and 52 percent. It is a relatively popular policy.

The Gorsuch legacy, as you said quite rightly, which is far and away the longest lasting legacy item that he's done in his first couple of weeks, went fairly well and this guy is going to have a very easy time.

So, in terms of the actual deliverables - you know, it's funny. I had a Republican senate staffer say to me the other day that executive orders are just like press releases on steroids, right? I don't want - that's overstating it a little bit and the legislative battles are still to come. But so far, in terms of the more concrete and longer- lasting decisions that he's made, they haven't been that terrible.

HENDERSON: And he's still at 90 percent approval among Republicans.

KING: Holding that base is critical if you're underwater.

All right. Everybody sit tight. Next, is house Priebus under attack by house Bannon? The palace intrigue around team Trump and its early turf wars.


[08:40] KING: Welcome back. Interesting times, three weeks in. The vice president is mad at the national security advisor. The secretary of state is miffed after coming out on the losing end of a White House power play. And accounts of the inner workings of the Trump West Wing often sound like a mix of House of Cards and Game of Thrones. For the record, though, the house Bannon and house Priebus say talk of a staff war is a media fantasy.

Listen to this from New York Magazine. Steven Bannon says I'm quite aggressive and Reince is a calming influence. I'm, 'hey, bang, bang, here's how we ought to think about doing that.' Priebus then says, "we talk a lot, pretty much all day long. And then we communicate at night." Steve Bannon, little more banter here, "until we fall asleep."

Quickly on this. You're laughing at the table. Smart on their part.


There is all these stories out, but these two guys walking around the West Wing with - essentially in a knife fight, and they at least do an interview saying all is fine.

THRUSH: Which one is country and which one is a little bit rock 'n roll? Nothing says -

KUCINICH: I can answer that question. Priebus, Bannon.

THRUSH: Thank you for clarifying. Nothing says unity more than planted stories - not planted stories. Nothing says unity more than a story saying that there's unity, right? I mean, here's the thing. Does Trump mind all this?

KING: Right.

THRUSH: I mean, I don't necessarily think that he does. As you can see -

MARTIN: He loves it. KING: He had it during the campaign.


MARTIN: He lives off feuds. Look, he's happier to live in the world of feuds and controversy than he is litigating the policy details of the immigration bill or the North Korean provocation or what have you. But, look, White House is - this is not just Trump by the way. I can recall vividly. Glenn and I talked last week about this, in the spring of 2009, getting a call from a staffer to then White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel say, 'hey, I've got a good pitch for you that nobody else is really getting this angle. Rahm is actually getting along really well with Valerie Jarrett.' And everybody is talking about this, but the real story is that they're actually hanging out a lot. Background, I can tell you they had dinner last night together. OK, you know -

KING: Front page stuff, right?


KING: We'll watch how this sorts out. Bannon, obviously, is very aggressive. He's more nationalist. He's trying to push - seize the moment, do things as fast as possible. Reince is more establishment, let's work with the Congress, let's move toward the middle of the Republican Party.

The one that is front and center that I think is still sort of crackling with tension, though, is I'm told the vice president was furious. He went out on national television after talking to the national security advisor and said that in these calls that Michael Flynn had with the Russian ambassador in the transition period - so President Obama is still in office - he was assured the idea of sanctions and the whole debate about whether the United States would leave sanctions in place once Mr. Trump became president was not discussed. Mike Pence went on national television, was unequivocal that there was no conversation about this. Now, it turns out, on those intercepts, there is some talk of sanctions.

HENDERSON: There was some talk of sanctions, people corroborating that. And Flynn, of course, now saying he can't quite remember these conversations. Mike Pence couldn't have been clearer in his statement, Priebus couldn't have been clearer in that statement either. So, you have a situation now where either Michael Flynn told a fib, an untruth, or he can't remember conversations that happened just recently.

KING: This trial goes to a jury of one, though, the president of the United States, is if the vice president goes to the president and says this is my credibility that this man is under my -

THRUSH: Wait a second. Shouldn't this go before a committee of 535? We had Jason Chaffetz holding hearings - endless hearings into - I'm not questioning the fact that he should have investigated what occurred at Benghazi. But we now have, on the record, really significant dissonances in an account that is important to national security. And as we saw at one of his town halls in Utah, he was chased off the stage.

KING: Do your job, that's the oversight. Right. To both Obamacare and -

[08:45] THRUSH: So this, ultimately, going to ratchet up pressure on the Congress. I don't know how many more of these you can have before the Congress is actually - Republicans in the Congress are going to face some pressure to actually -

KING: There are investigations underway. The Senate Intelligence Committee and the other investigations at the Capitol. My question is, does the president wait? If those investigations are going to lead to something damning about the national security advisor, does he wait or does he try to get ahead of it?

HENDERSON: I mean, I think the thing about Trump is despite his 'you're fired' tagline, he doesn't necessarily like to fire people, right? So, we'll have to see. I mean, Flynn has been loyal to him. They've been good friends on the campaign trail. So, it's hard to see him doing that. It's almost like, the chaos of everything, they don't want more chaos.

KUCINICH: And he doesn't like capitulation either. I mean, remember, the Corey Lewandowski example. He waited weeks.

MARTIN: But real fast, this is a good test for Mike Pence, perhaps his first real big test. How much does he privately, with the president, tries to impose his will after being put in a really bad spot?

HENDERSON: Before we go to break - a lot of serious stuff here. Before we go to break, one of the people at the table here has become a regular on Saturday Night Live. Let's take a quick peek here.


MELISSA MCCARTHY, ACTRESS: Glenn Thrush, New York Times, stupid hat, go!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, I just wanted to know what the president intends to do now that the appeals court denied your request to stop the travel ban.


MCCARTHY: You're testing me, big guy. Look, it's simple. If the appeals court won't do what's right, President Trump will see them in court, specifically the people's court.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That isn't real.


KING: You have the floor, sir.

THRUSH: That isn't real. KING: Good for the kids, right?

THRUSH: My kids love it. And I have to say I've never worn the hat in the briefing room.

HENDERSON: But you used to wear the hat all the time.

KING: The hat's in the Green Room, you should put that baby up on -


KING: All right. Everybody sit tight. Our reporters share from their notebooks next including more on the fight over who's the real power center in the West Wing.


[08:50] KING: Welcome back. We surround our table with reporters, not pundits for a reason. And we close each Sunday by asking them to share a nugget or two from their notebooks to help you get you out ahead of the political news just around the corner. Nia-Malika Henderson?

HENDERSON: So there are some behind-the-scenes tensions among progressives in the wake of Elizabeth Warren's attempted floor speech about Jeff Sessions citing Coretta Scott King's words from the mid- 1980s. Some people thought it focused too much on Elizabeth Warren and should have focused more on Coretta Scott King's words and Jeff Sessions deeds.

If looked at the Congressional Black Caucus statement, for instance, it barely mentioned Elizabeth Warren at all. This, I think, really speaks to two things, one of which is Elizabeth Warren's ongoing challenges with black progressives. She's certainly the darling of white progresses, but I think she still has some work to do among black progressives and then just the Democratic Party more generally.

Is there a figure who can emerge that can really bridge that divide in the way that we saw Barack Obama do in 2008 because remember the Democratic party still goes through the south African-American communities there in any kind of primary?

KING: And a bit of turmoil in the family at the moment. Jonathan?

MARTIN: What could have been!? So, the bigger story among the confirmation hearings for President Trump's cabinet was Betsy DeVos, which was kind of a surprise, I think, for all of us. What is sort of lost to history now, but it's important to recall, is that after the protest, the phones melting down in all these senators' offices, they didn't have to - it didn't have to happen.

Michelle Rhee, the well-known, polarizing former school superintendent here in Washington DC, a well-known educational reformer nationally, I'm told, was in the mix to be education secretary and actually had a conversation with senior Trump people, but that was squelched by some top Trump folks who wanted Betsy DeVos because, A, she is a well-known donor and, B, she is somebody who sort of helped buy the Trump folks capital with the Republican establishment during that period after the election when they were offering olive branches to the establishment.

And lastly, because Rhee is more of an independent player, well-known in this field, expert in this field, perhaps not as easy to sort of run that department with her there as with DeVos.

KING: Keep it keep close. Keep it keep close. Glenn?

THRUSH: Stephen Miller, this is your moment. We had two major profiles of Stephen Miller, who is the president's senior advisor and the man who got into a little bit of trouble for, shall we say, the spotty implementation of the travel ban order.

This is a guy, who was just a couple of years ago, on Capitol Hill, the bane of inboxes. People would set their email to spam every time he would send out one of his famous kind of flaming missives on immigration reform.

But, now, this is the guy who really has the president's ear. And what we are hearing and reported - my colleague and I, Jennifer Steinhauer - today is that he is now working on work visas, the work visa issue. They are not shying away necessarily from immigration reform. The Bannon cluster in the White House is moving full speed ahead in part because they feel like they don't have a lot of time. And I think if you look at the backlash against the travel ban, they may not have that much time.

KING: Seize the moment, if you can. Jackie?

KUCINICH: So we've been talking a lot this week about the Republican town halls where there's been some pushback, particularly on the ACA. Well, in the midst of all this, progressives are actually selling this law again. There's been a bus tour for the last three weeks where they've gone to 12 cities. They've held 27 rallies, really reminding people about some of the good that the Affordable Care Act has done.

And yesterday, Sen. Schumer and Sen. Sanders called for nationwide rallies to, again, remind progressives why this law needs to be stand up for. Those will happen on February 25. So, some may argue, for the first time, Democrats are really pushing to save the Affordable Care Act.

[08:55] KING: 2010, 20 - never mind. Better late than never.

I'll close with this. As he makes the rounds in the Senate, the president's Supreme Court pick has a guy who knows the shortcuts, the back stairways and the members on a first name basis. That's former New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte.

She is Judge Neil Gorsuch's confirmation sherpa, meaning her job is to guide the judge through the confirmation process, including the courtesy calls we've seen playing out the past couple of weeks upon Capitol Hill. It was a surprising choice. She lost her seat in November, and in that campaign, had some not-so-complementary things to say about then-candidate Donald Trump. He returned the favor with some not-so-nice words of his own. But that was then.

Now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was among those suggesting to team Trump that Ayotte could be helpful because she's well-liked among her colleagues.

So, why would she want to do it? Some people in the know say she just wants to raise her profile to help land some corporate posts. Her friends in New Hampshire also see the seeds of a comeback. The other New Hampshire Senate seat, now held by Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, is up in 2020 when you might remember President Trump will be up for reelection.

If Ayotte did want to run and several friends say her early inclination is yes, making peace with the president now could help her get him on her side if there is a GOP primary. Yes, 2020, a ways down the road, but Ayotte and her allies view her new sherpa role as a smart play. Just in case.

That's it for us. Thanks again for sharing your Sunday morning. Remember, Inside Politics also live every weekday at noon. Hope to you see then.

Up next, "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper.