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Trump Rips Into Media at Campaign-Style Rally; Pence Says U.S. Will Stand Firm Against Russia; Comey Gives Secret Briefing To Senate Intel Committee; Trump's Original Pick To Replace Flynn Turned Down Job; President Trump Gets Fact-Checked On The Spot; Time Magazine Goes Inside "White House Chaos"; Speaker Ryan's (Not-So) Secret Trip. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired February 19, 2017 - 08:00   ET



[08:00:22] NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN GUEST HOST (voice-over): The colorful.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will continue to win, win, win.

HENDERSON: Sometimes combative.

TRUMP: The press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.

HENDERSON: Commander in chief. How President Trump is trying to change the narrative with a throwback to campaign mode?

Plus, turmoil inside Trump land. His labor secretary nominee walks as the president's national security pick says thanks but no thanks.

And --

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We intend to introduce legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare.

HENDERSON: That's what Republicans wish they were talking about. Instead, it's the all-consuming questions about General Flynn and Russia swirling around the Hill and beyond.

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


HENDERSON: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS and thanks for joining us. I'm Nia-Malika Henderson, filling in for John King.

Old habits tend to die hard. So, on Saturday, 1,353 days before voters go to the polls in 2020, the president went back to his tried and tested routes, a campaign rally with a familiar foe. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I also want to speak to you without the filter of the fake news. They have become a big part of the problem. They are part of the corrupt system. They have their own agenda, and their agenda is not your agenda. In fact, Thomas Jefferson said nothing can be believed which is seen in a newspaper.


HENDERSON: Candidate Trump craved rallies, the crowds, the size, the adulation and President Trump doesn't seem to be that much different. Trump has always seen the press as adversarial and now media are his main opponents, and the president, he's the guy who can fix it all.


TRUMP: We are here today to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I hear your demands. I hear your voices, and I promise you I will deliver, I promise that.


HENDERSON: Trump's been in office for little more than a month. On the way to the rally, reporters asked him if it was a little bit too early to be back on the campaign trail. His response: Life is a campaign.

Here to share their reporting and their insights, Jackie Kucinich of "The Daily Beast," CNN's Manu Raju, "The New Yorker's" Ryan Lizza, and Julie Pace of "The Associated Press".

Julie, I'm going to start with you. We've seen candidate Trump bash the press. We've seen President Trump bash the press as well. I mean, sometimes he calls reporters out by name that he doesn't like. You covered -- we all covered rallies where he did that. But this seems to be ratcheted up to a whole new level. I mean, he in a tweet talked about the fake news media as he calls it as the enemy of the American people.

Why is this going on now? What is the strategy, if there is a strategy?

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: That tweet was so amazing when you really think about that, this idea that the press is not just covering him unfairly in his eyes but that he actually sees us as the enemy. There is a strategy to this for some people inside the White House. They feel like Trump supporters already look skeptically on the media, so they don't see any downside to him carrying on that narrative further.

But the reality is Trump is getting a lot of really tough coverage right now and a lot of things are getting out there in stories, very credible stories from reliable sources, that are making his White House look like they are off to a pretty rough start. I think that it's pretty fair to question whether Mike Flynn would actually had been fired had the "Washington Post" not written two back-to-back stories on this.


PACE: So, some of this is Trump pushing back at this -- at the perception that's being built about his White House. But to me, I think one thing that will be interesting in the Trump presidency, how he's being covered in the press is one way that he will be judged, but it's not the only way.


PACE: And it's certainly not the most important way. Whether he can get health care passed, whether he can do tax reform and he seems to lose that sometimes with his focus, this intense focus on the coverage.


And, Ryan, isn't clear how bashing the media actually helps him with governing, helps him get any of those things done, like Obamacare, like bringing people together that he'll need to do on the Hill to get any of these agenda items passed.

RYAN LIZZA, THE NEW YORKER: Well, it does accomplish one thing. I mean, discrediting the independent press does help a politician become the sole source of information to their supporters, right?

[08:05:02] And, look, he's not the first president to attack the press. He quoted Jefferson --

HENDERSON: Right, he mentioned Jefferson. Obama did the same thing.

LIZZA: Just to point out, you can cherry pick a quote from any of the founders to make your argument and just to read one other of Jeffersons --

HENDERSON: Yes, yes.

LIZZA: "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter." That's what Thomas Jefferson --

HENDERSON: Didn't mention that part.



LIZZA: The First Amendment and a democracy, we're lucky we don't get thrown in jail. A lot of other countries, the way you deal with the press is you throw them in jail. In America, the way politicians have long done it is you attack them rhetorically. Now, this is at a level that we have not seen.

HENDERSON: Right. LIZZA: You really do have to go back to the 19th and 18th century to

see the kind of attacks coming from leaders like this, and I -- I will say, I think it's a little bit dangerous when you start, as the president of the United States, the most important person in the free world, to describe us as the enemy.

HENDERSON: Of the American people.

LIZZA: There are a lot of people who are not stable out there and someone -- when they see a president that they respect and admire calling a certain segment of the population the enemy, it can encourage someone to do something stupid.

HENDERSON: And John --



HENDERSON: I was going to say John McCain. And we're going to go to that sound here, talking about his concerns about Donald Trump's comments about the press.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: We need you. We need a free press. We must have it. It's vital.

If you want to preserve -- I'm very serious now -- if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press, and without it, I'm afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That's how dictators get started.



RAJU: Yes, that's a pretty remarkable statement.

HENDERSON: Powerful, yes.

RAJU: And I think what Trump is saying, calling the press the enemy is unnerving a lot of Republicans. Few are speaking out right now. John McCain is one of the few who has not been afraid to criticize Trump on everything from building the wall to, you know, about Russia and clearly about the media.

I mean, from my vantage point -- I mean, from what I'm hearing, too, and it seems pretty obvious as well that what Donald Trump is trying to do is change the subject.

HENDERSON: Yes, yes.

KUCINICH: Right. RAJU: He's getting bad coverage, and we're focusing on a lot of the

controversies and stumbles in the early part of the administration and he wants to make the argument and the focus about the people who are writing about him and talking about him and reporting on him, not about the actual controversies themselves. And so, by ratcheting up language and calling the press the enemy, that's part of that effort to just change the subject.

HENDERSON: And, Jackie, I mean, this -- to some observers this seems to be part of a reset that this administration is going through after four weeks of pretty bad news.

We're told that Trump was really itching to get out there and be his own best spokesman, really itching to have that press conference. What do you make of that? Is this a reset? How long can he sustain it? We talked so much about Trump 2.0, Trump 3.0, Trump pivot. What do you make of where he is now?

KUCINICH: You know, it does seem like he needed to be back in his comfort zone and this rally is an excellent example of that, in front of people who are going to cheer when he talks. You know, at that press conference, you can see he was trying to get a little bit of love from the crowd, and there was no love to be given there.


KUCINICH: So, it's not because anyone hates him. It's because that's not the press' job. The job isn't, to you know, to give accolades to the president. That's what his supporters are for, and he wanted to be among them. But to Julie's point, at the end of the day, if he doesn't get tax reform done, if the ACA isn't repealed and replaced, that's on him. That's not on -- that's not because of bad coverage. That's because he didn't do his job with Congress and he didn't do his job getting his agenda done. That's completely on him and his people.

HENDERSON: And in the meantime, in Florida, among his supporters, about 9,000 people who showed up to see him there on Saturday, he struck a different tone in terms of being more optimistic in terms of what he sees is going on in this country.


TRUMP: You want a government in a keeps its promises, a great spirit of optimism is sweeping and you see it. It's sweeping all across the country. Look at what's happening to the stock market. Look at what's happening to every poll when it comes to optimism in our country. It's sweeping across the country.


HENDERSON: Julie, well, some polls aren't so optimistic, right, in terms of how people feel about Donald Trump. He's got about 39 percent approval rating. But he -- he's talking there about optimism, the stock market, but some numbers obviously are not so good.

PACE: Yes. I mean, look, the stock market is up. HENDERSON: Yes.

PACE: When you talk to CEOs, to the business --

HENDERSON: The chamber of commerce wing, right.

PACE: There is some optimism there.

[08:10:02] Some of that is related to the president. Some of that is totally separate from the president. So, I think he's going to lean on anything positive that speaks well to his candidacy.

But I think it's important to note whether you are looking at a poll that has him at 39 percent approval rating or one that's got him a little higher at 40 percent, 45 percent. This is a period of time for an incoming president that is supposed to be sort of the honeymoon period. You're supposed to be able to have a little bit of running room to make progress on your campaign promises. You generally have support, not only from the people who voted for you, but you generally have some people who didn't vote for you who are willing to give you a chance.

And we've just not seen that with President Trump, nor have we seen President Trump do much to really reach out and try to appeal to those people who he knows are skeptical of him.

HENDERSON: And coming up next week and in the next week we're told there are going to be Obamacare plans. He talked about that in the rally, also executive order on immigration, and we've seen from DHS that their immigration guidelines are coming out as well. So, I think we're going to see some of this.

Up next, the president does some impromptu negotiating with the Israeli prime minister. Did he throw a wrench into the two-state solution?

But, first, politicians say the darnedest things. Prime Minister Netanyahu's drop the mike moment on "The Art of the Deal".


TRUMP: As far as settlements, I'd like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. Bibi and I have known each other for a long time, smart man, good negotiator -- and I think we're going to make a deal.


TRUMP: Doesn't sound too optimistic but a good negotiator.

NETANYAHU: That's the art of the deal.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [08:16:04] HENDERSON: During his time on the campaign trail, Mike Pence was sometimes a one-man cleanup crew. He was fluent in Trump speak, mopping up for then-candidate Donald Trump by smoothing over his controversial comments with voters, other Republicans and the media. Now as vice president, Pence has assumed that role again, this time, it's an international mission trying to calm allies around the U.S. commitment to NATO and its relationship with Russia.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And know this. The United States will continue to hold Russia accountable, even as we search for new common ground which, as you know, President Trump believes can be found.


HENDERSON: And so, Ryan, there is Pence in this role going across the country or going across the world to kind of explain Trump, right? But if you notice what he's saying there, he's saying we can hold Russia accountable but also find common ground. Trump hasn't said any of that. He hasn't talked about holding Russia accountable. He has talked about this whole idea of finding common ground, making a deal with point possibly.

So, the disconnect there seems to be troubling and pervasive in other issues as well internationally.

LIZZA: Yes. There's continued mixed signals across a range of issues between Trump and then either Pence or other people on his staff, whether it's Mattis, the secretary of defense, or Tillerson, the secretary of state. The emphasis from Trump has been on Russia as a friend, Russia as, to use the words of a German leader this week, the view from America is that the United States wants to be equidistant from Europe and Russia and that is deeply troubling to our allies. They don't want us to be equidistant to those two entities. They want us -- they want full-throated support from the United States.

And you showed that clip from Pence. Yesterday in Trump's speech, he said, "I'm a fan of NATO, but" --

HENDERSON: But, yes. That's right.

LIZZA: The emphasis with Trump is always on the "but". The emphasis for some other people in the Trump administration is NATO is, you know, there's unshakeable support for NATO and that -- it's a continuing mixed message. And it's not just on NATO, it's on the Middle East. It's on North Korea. It's on a range of issues.

So, I think a lot of our allies are a little bit confused.

KUCINICH: And you can't blame them for the confusion at this point because when you have Secretary Mattis and Mike Pence saying that, "OK, everything is fine, NATO. We're behind you", and then the president gets up at a rally and says but.

I mean, what are they supposed to think because traditionally what the president says goes?


KUCINICH: And there's -- there's, you know, two -- two very distinct messages that they are getting. So --

RAJU: If you look at Israeli peace process, too. I mean, Middle East peace process -- last week saying in his press conference or with Netanyahu, he maybe supports a one-state solution, maybe a two-state, whatever, both sides like and then the next day, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., says the United States supports a two-state solution but is thinking outside the box, whatever that means.

HENDERSON: Right, right.

RAJU: So, this is just perpetual issue in Washington and around the world of the surrogates and top officials -- are they actually speaking for the president? No one really knows.

HENDERSON: Right. And here is Trump last week talking about that two-state solution in that press conference with Bibi Netanyahu.


TRUMP: So, I'm looking at two state and one state, and I like the one that both parties like. I'm very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two- state looked like it may be the easier of the two, but honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians -- if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I'm happy with the one they like the best.


HENDERSON: And here is Nikki Haley saying something a little different.


[08:20:05] NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: First of all, two-state solution is what we support. Let's -- I mean, anybody that wants to say the United States doesn't support two-state solution, that would be an error.


HENDERSON: She should probably talk to Trump, right?

PACE: She should. I mean, this played out not a pretty amazing way over a couple of days where you had a senior administration official first brief reporters ahead of the Netanyahu visit and float this prospect of moving away from the two-state solution. State Department officials that night were saying we have no idea where this came from. We do not think that there's been a shift in policy. The next morning, White House officials were backing away quickly from the idea of a one-state solution. Trump comes out and says, hey, I could do this. I think it's really important when you're looking not just at this

issue but so many of these issues to throw out these ideas of a major shift in policy --


PACE: -- with no details to back up where you are. The concept of a one-state solution, first, it's really difficult to imagine that the Palestinians would ever agree to a deal that had a one-state. Two, what would that actually look like? What does that mean to have these really provocative stances come out with no details behind them, I think it's really troubling for people in the U.S., but also our partners around the world.


LIZZA: It suggests that this lack of leadership at the National Security Council and complete chaos, National Security Council coordinates policy and in a previous administration with a well- running National Security Council, you would have a long process that leads you to a policy pronouncement such as the one Trump just said. In this administration, you don't have a functioning National Security Council and you have a president who seems to have said something completely off the cuff changing almost two decades of American policy towards the Middle East, because there's no process in place to get the words out of his mouth with precision.

HENDERSON: And one of the things we see into that gap is a lot of confusion internationally.

Here's Sergey Lavrov speaking about essentially an emboldened Russia.


SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): We can see a post-Cold War order has come to the end. The world has not come more Western-centric nor safer with the so-called democratization of the Middle East. But not only there, the extension of NATO over the past 30 years has brought about tension in Europe.


HENDERSON: And, Manu, this is what people like McCain and Lindsey Graham fear.

RAJU: Yes, they do, and they are actually pushing legislation that would actually put -- give Congress a veto power, give it check over the White House if it were to move in the idea of loosening and easing those sanctions on Russia.

Right now, the Republican leadership in Congress is not saying that they are going to schedule a vote on that issue, but if Trump were to start to move towards that direction of easing sanctions unilaterally, particularly before Russia pulling out of Crimea, this could prompt a major battle within Congress. The question is, does Trump want to do it or does he listen to someone like Mike Pence who clearly is uneasy about that prospect.

HENDERSON: The other thing --

KUCINICH: Last thing here, is that, you know, I just want to point out, these are all old issues, two-state solution, the relations with Russia, where to go with whereby. What happens when -- when something unexpected happens, when there's a new issue and when needs to be perhaps a new foreign policy of dealing with a country? That's an open question because they are still dealing with things that existed for quite a while. And there's a lot of uncertainty.

HENDERSON: There is no Trump doctrine that seems to be emerging just yet.

KUCINICH: Up next, President Trump's top pick for national security advisers says no, so who is on the short list now?


[08:27:46] HENDERSON: Congress is on recess this week, but questions are still swirling over how to handle Russia. FBI Director James Comey briefed members of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday. The senators stayed tight-lipped about that meeting.

But then a very telling signal from Senator Marco Rubio. He tweeted, "I am now very confident Senate Intel Committee I serve on will conduct thorough bipartisan investigation of Putin, interference and influence."

The briefing from the FBI came the same day as the White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus complained that the Russia story is overblown.


REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I have talked to top levels of the intelligence community -- every department, by the way, not just people that are only folks that we've put in place -- and they have green lighted me to say that I have talked to the highest levels of intelligence officials and they have assured me that the "New York Times" story about constant contacts is grossly overstated and inaccurate.


HENDERSON: Manu, and really what was a chaotic week for the Trump administration, this was maybe one of the most important things that happened. In some ways, it didn't get a lot of attention.

What are you hearing about what came out of this meeting and what might be next?

RAJU: Well, really the only thing we know is they discussed Russia. This was a Russia meeting, part of the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russia, both the members who were there were the members of the full committee as well as members of the leadership. You know, Chuck Schumer was there. We believe Mitch McConnell was there as well though he went a back way into the room.

It was under the radar. They did not announce it. They had it in the Capitol. Reporters saw Comey go in there, which is why it led to all this media coverage.

You know, the Senate Intelligence Committee is one venue where there's a bipartisan investigation at the moment. We'll see if the bipartisan process eventually breaks down but both sides believe that they are doing -- that they have faith in this process. On the House side, the Intelligence Committee is becoming more of a partisan process.


[08:30:00] RAJU: And Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is not going as far as some Democrats would like, even on the issue of the discussions between Trump and Mike Flynn over, before Flynn just talked with the Russian Ambassador. Nunez told me last week that he believes that that's not covered because he was, "executive privilege" even though at the time Trump was a President-elect of the United States.

HENDERSON: Right. Yes. Convenient.

RAJU: But this is putting more pressure on the Senate Intelligence Committee to do more bipartisan look, a deeper dive into the -- into what happened. It'll be interesting to see if they actually saw the transcripts between Flynn and the Russian Ambassador, because I talked to Richard Burr as the chairman of the committee last week. He -- at that time, he said, they had not seen the transcripts but they requested the transcripts, so we'll see if that was part of that discussion on Friday.

HENDERSON: And on Thursday, we saw Donald Trump face questions from reporters about his involvement with Russia -- with Russia, and all of the stories coming out about his campaign aides possibly having connect --contacts with Russia during the campaign.


PACE: Can you say whether you are aware that anyone who advised your campaign had contacts with Russia during the course of the election?

TRUMP: Well, I told you, General Flynn obviously was dealing, so that's one person, but he was dealing as he should have been.

PACE: During the election?

TRUMP: No, no, nobody that I know of. Nobody that --

PACE: So, you're not aware of any contacts during the course of the election?

TRUMP: Look, look, look, how many times do I have to answer this question?

PACE: Can you just answer no on this? TRUMP: Russia is a ruse. I know you have to get up and ask a question so important. Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia, haven't made a phone call to Russia in years. Don't speak to people from Russia, not that I wouldn't but I just have nobody to speak to.


HENDERSON: Julie, this isn't a yes or no question for you, but he's clearly going to get this question about Russia a lot, and how problematic is his answer to that question so far, and the fact that he has to keep answering? How problematic is it?

PACE: Well, I think what's interesting the way that he phrased it there and a little bit later in that exchange, he said, "Nobody that I know of was in contact with Russians during the campaign, and then later he said that there were no contacts to his knowledge, which is actually a very lawyerly way of answering that question. I think it's -- I think it's fascinating if you talk to people in the White House, Priebus said this on television.

They feel like there is no information here. They don't know why this keeps coming up. At the same time, it does keep coming up, and I think that it is worthy of exploration if for nothing else. If you -- if you believe that there were no contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the course of the election, then you should be fully open to an investigation of why Russia was interfering in the election, which seems to be generally accepted that happened, and the fact that there is such resistance then from republicans and people within Trump's administration to the investigation of the election hacking, to me, is very curious.


HENDERSON: You know, I think that's right. And one of the things we've seen also this week, Ryan, you talked about the National Security Adviser. There is someone in that position right now, but Robert Harward, this Vice Admiral, said no to the administration, citing some of the chaos. He officially said it was about family and financial reasons, but also pointing to the chaos and not being able to put his own folks up into that position as underlings. What does this say about the Trump White House? Is this going to be a consistent problem in filling this particular post?

LIZZA: Yes. And two things: One, before I say that, just on Julie's question, that was really a model of how to ask the president a question. Simple, direct, demanding yes or no, because sometimes when you ask him a question, he dodges and so, you know, great job asking him the way you did. I think on the National Security Council, look, there's some reporting that he saw that press conference, and it was after he saw that press conference that he made the final decision like, "I'm not going to be the National Security Adviser in this White House." He -- and then other reporting suggest that he was not allowed to have the staffers that he wanted, right? So, there's a lot of holdovers from the Flynn era, a lot of people who are very loyal to President Trump during the campaign are at the leadership of the National Security Council. Anyone who is going to come into that position has to have their own team.


LIZZA: You'd be crazy not to demand that. That's just -- that's just normal as part of that process. So, you know, someone like that who spent decades in the military, when the Commander-in-Chief asks you to be a National Security Adviser and you say, no, that is stunning. You know, most military people at that level, they don't say no.


HENDERSON: Right. They see it as a -- it's a call of duty if -- and they have -- it's an honor almost in accepting it.

LIZZA: Absolutely. So, that's a stunning rejection for the president, and one of the reasons where this whole process which what by Trump makes public, the people that he is giving the job to or offering a job to can be -- have a lot of blowback and it's embarrassing. Previous administrations, you hid that process because you didn't want to be embarrassed by a rejection.

HENDERSON: Yes. And in this White House, it's sort of -- or I guess it's in the Winter White House, it's out in the open air in terms of --

LIZZA: It's a public campaign.

[08:35:01] HENDERSON: It's a public thing. And the candidates or the sort of finalists or the short list, and the names we're giving, Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg who is in the position right now, John Bolton is a former U.S. Ambassador, and also Lieutenant Governor H.R. McMaster and Lieutenant General Robert L. Caslen. Manu, you have heard that Senator Cruz apparently is big on Bolton.

RAJU: He is. He told me that on Friday. He actually wanted to push Bolton's name and said that he'd be perfect for the job, but, you know, as we were discussing in the break, Bolton has a lot of views that are in direct contradiction of Donald Trump's, namely on Iraq. He was -- Bolton was one of the main supporters of Iraq, the Iraq war. Trump during the campaign insisted he had long, always opposed the Iraq War. And also, Bolton has this neo-conservative interventionist view of the world that that's not what the view that Donald Trump espoused on the campaign trail. So -- but there are a lot of conservatives who are pushing Bolton very hard and perhaps they are winning -- he's probably potentially winning over some support within the White House, because he's meeting with Trump this weekend in Mar- a-Lago.

So, we'll see if he goes that route. But if he does, it could upset some of the people in the more libertarian wing of the Republican Party as well, including Rand Paul who tried to scuttle any discussion of getting Bolton in the State Department job because he sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, Rand Paul does. So, that would certainly be a controversial pick.

HENDERSON: Yes. And so, I mean, no matter what I imagine, somebody is going to be upset by this pick. There are all sorts of internal sort of power centers in the White House, and some people think there's too much politicization going on in terms of this National Security Adviser.

PACE: I mean, and everything else.



KUCINICH: But, I mean -- but when you look at the other names, Bolton is definitely one of these things is not like the other.


KUCINICH: Because it really is -- all the promises, all the attacks that Hillary Clinton sustained from Trump, some of the attacks that he sustained, that Trump has waged against other people who've criticized him when it comes to the Iraq War or have criticized him in terms of his other foreign policy comments. He said, well, you voted for the war, you supported the war, you were part of what -- of Bush's Iraq War. Well, John Bolton, man, he's like -- he's one of the starting line on that, so that would just be a very surprising pick.

HENDERSON: Yes. So, we'll see where that lands and we'll see when it happens. Is it coming up maybe in the next couple of days. Coming up, a behind-the-scenes look inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. President Trump says no chaos here.


TRUMP: This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine despite the fact that I can't get my cabinet approved.



[08:40:00] HENDERSON: As a candidate and as Commander-in-Chief, Donald Trump has always had, shall we say, an interesting relationship with the truth. When the president decided to hold a surprise press conference, he said this.


TRUMP: I put it out before the American people, got 306 Electoral College votes. I wasn't supposed to get 222. I guess it was the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan.


HENDERSON: One reporter took the opportunity to fact check Donald Trump on the spot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said today that you had the biggest electoral

margin since Ronald Reagan with 304 or 306 electoral votes. In fact, President Obama got 365.

TRUMP: Well, I'm talking about republican. Yes. Well, I don't know, I was given that information. I was given -- actually, I've seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory. Do you agree with that?

HENDERSON: Ryan, remarkably, he said, "Well, I was given that." and apparently, if something fits his narrative, it's true and he'll repeat it.

LIZZA: Yes. It's not the first time he's made a similar case and been corrected it. And in his correction, he tried to say that it was the largest republican --

HENDERSON: Still not true. Still not true. Right.

LIZZA: Still not true. Great example for --

RAJU: Correct the correction.

LIZZA: Exactly.


LIZZA: I found it a little interesting, because he was rattled by it. Usually, he just sort of plows over a reporter who's contradicting him or fact checking real time, and he was genuinely rattled and sort of, you know -- or dismissed it as if -- you know, someone told him that, so he was repeating it. But, again, that's a -- the president doesn't always tell the truth, and it's a huge challenge for us in the media on how to grapple with that, and I think these moments are incredibly important when you -- when -- you know, it's important for us not to let these things go on. It's important for us to get him on the record admitting when this happens, because that's the only way that he's going to be, I guess the word is incentivized, not to do it, because let's be honest, let's just be plain spoken, this is an unprecedented situation we're in where we have the President of the United States who misstates things and doesn't tell the truth on a fairly regular basis. I mean, I don't -- you could -- look, Obama said things that weren't true, George W. Bush said things that weren't true, but the scale of this is much, much different.

HENDERSON: And Jackie, Ryan talked about it being a challenge for reporters, folks around this table, how much of a challenge is it for Donald Trump, or is he kind of teflon don in terms of the truth and facts?

KUCINICH: It's got to be so confusing for -- if it's -- if it's hard for us, it's got to be doubly confusing with -- and this is our job, right? For Americans who are just trying to figure out what's going on, and that also -- because when he's saying he's the only arbiter of information and fact, and then he is misstating facts, some things that are very simple facts, that -- that can't help him in the long run, but I don't know that out there they're obsessing about every single time that he doesn't tell the truth, but I think when it comes to the big promises, if he doesn't deliver, it's going to be a problem.


[08:45:08] HENDERSON: And one of the things he's talking about now, pushing back on this media narrative that's out there about the chaos in the White House, Time Magazine had a very interesting cover. Very different cover than his "Person of the Year" cover, and here it is. So here he is, the animated version, papers flying everywhere, his hair flying everywhere. Jackie, you were saying that the artist apparently said that the hair --


KUCINICH: Hair was very hard to (INAUDIBLE).

HENDERSON: -- was the hardest part -- hard to do in that rendering. Manu, one of the things that you hear republicans say, and they are trying to have this formulation of, "Don't pay attention to what the president says. Pay attention to what he does," which seems to be a very odd formulation because what the president says and does, are often the same thing.

RAJU: Yes. And it's interesting being how they are trying to balance this. I had a chance to ask Mitch McConnell this at his press conference on Friday, specifically about whether or not he was concerned about his tweets, whether he's concerned about the things that he said at his press conference. And he said, "Well, I'm not a fan of those daily tweets. I could do without, the quote, "extra conversation, extra discussion," but he says, "Oh, although, the policies are great. I'm really a big fan of all the policies," which is still a stretch in some ways. I don't think that President Romney would have done a travel ban, for instance, and a lot of republicans wouldn't have supported the travel ban if it weren't done by the new president from their own party. So, you know, it's a challenging thing for them because he says all these things but they are trying to tune out the noise as much as they can, but the noise is a big distraction.


HENDERSON: And part of it is the chaos, part of it is the leaking. Here is Roger Stone with his take on what's going wrong in the White House.


ROGER STONE, PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP ADVISER: There seems to be a division between those who are loyal to the president and those who are loyal to the Republican National Committee. The leaking that is coming out of the White House is a manifestation of the fact that there are people who have been hired, who very sadly are not loyal to this president.


HENDERSON: I can't imagine who he's talking about, Republican National Committee, maybe Reince Priebus. Julie?

PACE: It -- look, covering this White House is just so fascinating because you have -- you have the White House staff and then you have kind of the Trump circle that exists outside the White House that is very effective at getting their perspective into stories. And you have to remember, Trump himself, if you look at his campaign and you look at his business record, he actually likes to have these rivalries internally. He pits his advisers against each other. You hear these stories about him praising one adviser in front of someone else, taking sides with someone inside a meeting, then switching it the other way around the next day. This is part of his approach. Whether that translates into success in governing, I think is a huge open question, because if you don't have your White House teams working in coordination when you have, to Jackie's earlier point, in an unexpected crisis that pops up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right, which we haven't seen yet.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Which we haven't seen yet and we will.

PACE: It makes what is already a difficult job that much harder.

RAJU: Game of thrones, White House.

HENDERSON: Up next, our reporters empty their notebooks, including a secret trip by the speaker of the house.


[08:50:00] HENDERSON: We surround our table with reporters, not pundits and we end by asking them to share a nugget or two from their notebooks to help get you out ahead of the coming political news. Julie, I'm going to start with you.

PACE: So, the Trump White House is starting to pick up the pace and intensity of their discussions on Obamacare. There's a big meeting at Mar-a-Lago today with Tom Price, the new Health And Human Services Secretary, Mick Mulvaney from OMB. This is the third such health care discussion in the last four days, I'm told, and this is good news for republicans who are starting to feel like they are a little out there on their own on health care, going to all these town halls and getting a lot of pushback. The next benchmark to look for, though, early March, that's when the White House said that they're going to be putting out this mystery plan on Obamacare repeal and replace that we've been hearing so much about and have seen so few details on.

HENDERSON: Yes, we'll see what that's about and republicans certainly need some good news on Obamacare. Ryan?

LIZZA: Obviously, Trump has spent the week attacking the media, right, this is the new sort of argument from the White House. It's about us. Not everyone in the White House was on board with this making the media the enemy. There's a debate between the usual factions including Bannon, who is very much in favor of going after the media and making this a sort of Trump talking point all week. Another people who actually talk to the media a lot more, it could go on, we're not so excited about this. One senior White House official said, "If that's great for him, he never talks to the media. The rest of us have to take all of the media's piss and vinegar," was the language. So, a debate over that strategy in the White House.

HENDERSON: Yes, I'm sure it will continue. Manu?

RAJU: Paul Ryan is going to the border of U.S. and Mexico this week, but you wouldn't know that by talking to Paul Ryan's office. They are releasing very few details in this very secretive trip, but some of the members who are going with him are talking about it, including Congressman John Carter of Texas, who told reporters last week, one of the reasons why that they are going down there is to look at what can and can't be done in terms of building the wall along the border with Mexico, whether or not they can actually fulfill Donald Trump's main campaign promise. It comes as, of course, a number of republicans and conservatives, in particular are concerned about the price tag of this wall, upwards of $20 billion and demanding spending cuts to pay for the wall, and that's something that actually puts them at odds with Paul Ryan, who has suggested that that money could be added to the deficit because it's considered emergency spending. So it shows how the difficult position Ryan is in on this issue of the wall, and when I asked Ryan's office, "Why is this so secretive?" I didn't get a response.

HENDERSON: No surprise there. Jackie?

[08:55:09] KUCINICH: Well, the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC, is this week, and it's the first one with Trump at the helm of the party. And this traditionally has been an event that is much more favorable to the Ted Cruz wing, the more religious conservative wing of the Republican Party. But now that Trump populism has taken over, it will be interesting to see how that changes this long-time event in Washington in terms of the tone and in terms of the discussion. I remember just very -- not too long ago, when they were talking about bringing immigration back into the fold and having a discussion. That clearly is off the table now, but, yes, that four-day conference is going to be quite different.

HENDERSON: Yes, we'll be watching that one for sure. I'll close with this. By this time next week, the Democratic National Committee is set to have a new chair. Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison are the clear favorites. I'm told that they had dinner together recently, sparking talk among D.C. insiders about some sort of deal. Both campaigns knocked down those suggestions, yet the chatter shows how desperate the party is to bridge the Bernie Sanders-Obama-Clinton divide. Now who else to look for? South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Well, he's a long shot to win this race. Several democratic sources told me, he will emerge from this race as a rising star in a party that desperately needs to figure out who and what's next. Thanks very much for spending your Sunday morning with us. John King will be back at the anchor desk on Monday. Follow INSIDE POLITICS at noon. "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper is next.