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INSIDE POLITICS

Lawmakers Face Angry Constituents Back Home; Are Town Hall Protests The Start Of A Movement; Anger Erupts At Town Halls Across The Country; McConnell Proud Of Protesters Outside Speech; President Trump's Approval Rating; Trump's First Months: Boom Or Bust; President Trump By The Numbers; Trump holds meeting on federal budget. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 22, 2017 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[12:30:00] REP. DAVE BRAT (R), VIRGINIA: ... given the obstruction in --

(CROSSTALK)

BRAT: A lot of people are organizing and doing rallies and people are getting boisterous. What -- I don't mind boisterous. I'm having fun, right? So that's -- I like having debate and spirited conversation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KING, "INSIDE POLITICS" HOST: That congressman having fun saying he likes it. That's Republican Congressman Dave Brat of Virginia. GOP Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, she didn't like it so much. Cutting off her town hall early after a very heavy dose of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED SPEALER (in unison): Shame on you. Shame on you. Shame on you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: There are questions out there about replacing Obamacare, questions about jobs and the economy, questions about immigration and at these Republican events, no shortage of opposition to the new president and his team.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: I think this Mrs. DeVos is going to be a fine -- OK --

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: So, what are we to make of this? Some Democrats are saying this is their seeds of a comeback, that this is similar to the Tea Party energy. We saw in 2009 and 2010. Most Republicans are rolling their eyes at that, saying these are just -- you know, with labor unions or other progressive groups getting these people to pack Republican events. This is a big TBD for me.

JACKIE KUCINICH, THE DAILY BEAST: You know, I think some of these people are activists. I mean, that is true. I mean, we've all kind of seen the e-mails. But I would say I would -- Democrats needs to be careful about trying to co-opt this. Because remember, in 2010 when Republicans -- when their tea party was going on, they were very careful to not try to immediately co-opt. They were very nice to them. They were pleasant to them. They were kind of like, we'll carry your message for us. Come on over here because some of these people pox on both your parties. We're done with you guys.

And that's what you saw with the Trump coalition, and if they don't like what Trump is doing, they're going to be -- they might be shopping for someone else, but that might not be an organized party. So I wouldn't be --

RYAN LIZZA, THE NEW YORKER: I just think one thing we learned from Tea Party and learned from any movements, you can't fake a movement, right?

KUCINICH: Right.

LIZZA: American politics, if people are angry about something then there's going to be some level of political activism. Eventually they're going to start encountering the party's leadership and people are going to bring money to that and they're going to organize, you know, some who are trying to discredited as creator (ph). But you can't invent this kind of activism. I'll never -- Democrats --

KING: You can't state it anyway but you might need to start with this my union list or --

LIZZA: Yes. Look, Donald Trump has people paid to come to his announcement speech and applaud. That was fake. He then won the White House. That was real.

MICHAEL SHEAR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I guess I'm also skeptical, to what end, right? I mean, if this is evidence of to whatever extent it is, a real energy at the base, that's fine, and that's -- and that could end up being real. But, you know, there was a kind of focused effort that the Tea Party had that really ended up coalescing around a single issue, right? Obamacare.

KUCINICH: Yes.

SHEAR: This seems much more -- at least in the early days, much more diffuse, right? A lot of different issues, a lot of different things, a lot of kind of anxiety, but, you know, does that really end up in 2018 in the midterm elections becoming a powerful force that is focused in places that can really matter, or does it end up being in Dave Brat's district which is, you know, maybe a solid for him and not going to (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like you said, TBD.

ABBY PHILIP, THE WASHINGTON POST: I mean, there -- and like the problems for Democrats they have a party that is disparate and diffuse.

KING: Right.

PHILIP: And so they have to figure out how to get all these people with all these different interests and backgrounds and hot issues to coalesce around something. And then go into a midterm election when Democrats are usually disadvantaged and do something for them at the ballot box. That's really, really hard to do.

KING: Bottling it up and deploying it in the right places.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

KING: Do you think -- you know, going after Marsha Blackburn or Dave Brat, might be important for them to come with a little bit of nerves if that was happening back all that's important. I don't say don't do it but it's very hard to win those districts when you look at how the seats are drawn.

LIZZA: Right.

KING: So, a lot of this is about the President. So of course, the President doesn't like it. And we know he's use vehicle for making clear of that on his own Twitter. He tweeted this early this morning. The so-called angry crowds at home districts of some Republicans are actually planned out by liberal activists. Sad.

Now, Justin Amash, a Tea Party congressman from Michigan, re-tweeted the President, but he put this on top. They are fellow Americans with legitimate concerns. We need to stop acting so fragile. I'm proud to defend liberty and the constitution. Good for the congressman. He -- go out there, take your hits, and explain yourself.

LIZZA: Justin Amash almost calling the President a snowflake, I think, is the term online. And look, that's what most presidents say. All presidents are get angry about the opposition and people chanting outside the White House and protesting their events. But if you ask them about it, at least they usually pay lip service to the fact that this is what makes the country great, organizing.

And obviously when Trump was asked about the people deserve rally, people at his rallies, he always rephrased them. So, it is unusual that unlike previous presidents, he doesn't respect the sort of healthy opposition out there or at least pay it lip service to it.

[12:35:00] KING: Late in his terms, George W. Bush used to joke with us on many cases, we got to talk to him that what do you mean all these demonstrators? I drop by these people, don't tell me I'm number one. That was his way of processing. One of those being protested. We mentioned, you know, where does this work and where it just a bench of frustration which is very important not to mark. Don't get me wrong. But where people are just writing their frustration or where are they maybe making people nervous they could lose a seat in two or four years?

The Senate Majority Mitch McConnell who will be a very key player in advancing the Trump agenda home in Kentucky yesterday. He got an earful too. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The last I heard, these coal jobs are not coming back and now these people don't have the insurance they need because they're poor. And they work those coal mines, and they're sick, the veterans are sick, the veterans are broken down, they're not getting what they need. If you can answer any of that, I'll sit down and shut up like Elizabeth Warren.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: See, she got a good laugh at the end. She lit into the Senate majority leader pretty good there about coal jobs, about health care, about veterans, and then she said if you can answer my question, I'll sit down and shut up like Elizabeth Warren, so she's clearly paying attention to what's happening here in Washington. After a stern look for most of that, Mitch McConnell gave her a chuckle.

PHILIP: I think Mitch McConnell involve Republicans in Congress really understands how to weather these kinds of storms. And I think he is going to -- he understands that this is -- whether it's organized and paid for by the Soros brothers, it's real in the sense that there are actually a lot of people who are angry. But he is going to take his time while he has it. He has the Senate majority. He has the House majority. He has the White House, and he is going to push through what he needs to push through for the time that he has left, and then if the tables turn, Mitch McConnell understands that the tables do sometimes turn (INAUDIBLE).

SHEAR: But the seeds in that last question -- there were the seeds of something interesting, right, talking about coal jobs.

KING: Yes.

SHEAR: You know, one of the things that the congressional Republicans have to do and Donald Trump has to do is actually make good on some of these promises. Donald Trump went and said to those coal places -- coal communities and said I'm going to bring back your jobs. That's hard given the kind of greater global forces and some of these things.

And if we get to 2018 and those people are still suffering and don't have their jobs back and the economy hasn't improved for them, you know, that kind of whether they're Democrats or Independents or even Republicans who are frustrated, that kind of anger could really come back. KING: Well, let's listen quickly because you make a key point. We're watching this frustration now. And the question is what happens to the economy? And it could be different in different parts of the country. We learn that in presidential elections for different states go to their way. We'll watch it go forward. Listen to Mitch McConnell at another event in Kentucky explaining. I'm perfectly happy to listen to these people even when they don't like me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: And let me just say about protesting. You know, this country for 240 years has been an open country where you can express your points of view as long as you do it peacefully, and we're proud of that. So I'm proud of those folks out there. They don't much like what I'm doing. They don't share my agenda, but I respect their right to be there, and to express themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's not our job to take sides here, but I would say as some Republicans debate cancelling their town halls or not holding town halls, they should follow the leader there and listen to Mitch McConnell. Go ahead and listen to your constituents even when they're dusting you up a little bit.

Up next, if you judge the President's approval rating, Donald Trump struggling. But if your test is your 401k balance, the trend line is up. Bigley.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:42:58] KING: Welcome back. There are 1,461 days in a four-year presidential term. This is just day 34 for President Trump. So on the one hand, it is premature, even silly to make a major judgment. Yet, score keeping is constant. It's a reflection both of the internet age and the uniquely disruptive character of the Trump political phenomenon.

So a question for those of you keeping score, is he off to a lousy start? Look, only 41 percent Americans approve of the job he is doing. 53 percent disapprove according to the latest Gallop numbers. That's pretty bad, right? But maybe he is off to a booming start.

Look at this. Check out Wall Street. Here's a live look now at the Dow, up 25 points today. There's no disputing the Trump rally. Let's go back and look at Election Day. The Dow is at 19,827. Closed yesterday more than 900 points higher than that. Looks like it could be in the ballpark today, they close about 1,000 up.

So, since we're in the edge of keeping score by every second, if you are the president, you want to focus on the Dow. If you are his opponents, you want to keep him underwater when it's approval rating.

PHILIP: I mean, I think Trump can take credit for the stock market, but you live by the sword, you die by the sword. Stocks are going to go up and they're going to come down. So, in some ways it's a little bit of a risk to sort of, like, hitch your horse to that -- hitch your wagon to that horse.

I also think that we have to be mindful that there are some potential major hills and valleys coming up. Particularly as the Euro decides what they're going to do with their currency, as Trump decides to re- negotiate a lot of trade deals all around the world, including with our biggest partners north and south of us. These are all things that will have big macroeconomic impacts on this economy. I think Republicans ought to have a little bit of care here, but, you know, celebrate while you can.

KING: It's an excellent point because the Clinton campaign thought Dow 19,000 was good for them, that the economy was coming back at the end of the two-term presidency. Maybe people would want more continuity than change. Certainly didn't turn out that way.

The thing that fascinates me about the stock market and the President mentioned this in his rally on Saturday in Florida, this air of optimism he says that's in the country. Every reason. It is a Trump rally.

Businesses think they're going to get tax reform out of the Congress. They think they're going to get lower taxes, less regulation, they have a better environment for business.

[12:45:06] The risk I think to your point, is if those guys in Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania who voted for him, their wages don't go up. Your 401k doesn't mean a hoot if your week to week paycheck isn't helping you out.

LIZZA: Absolutely.

KUCINICH: Exactly. And when you campaigned against Wall Street or you're saying you're going to rope in Wall Street, and then Wall Street goes up, you know, that kind of muddies the message a little bit. And at the end of the day, you're absolutely right.

When it comes to your pocketbook, when it comes to the people who voted for them, they're not getting their jobs back or their wages aren't going up. That's what's going to matter at the end of the day to whether the Trump administration is a success.

SHEAR: But the Obama administration made the flip mistake at the beginning of their term. They never wanted to brag about any ray of good news because they always worried that there would be a counter veiling kind of bad news if the people weren't feeling it and they would have -- they would be accused of sort of being out of touch with the real feelings. And as a result they went years without actually claiming credit for what was in the end a very, you know, slowly but steadily improving economy.

And so I think --

LIZZA: Yes.

SHEAR: -- you know, there is the argument that, you know, you should just take credit for things when they're good.

KING: I think this President is going to do that. But you can lead public opinion. Some of this is a little snarky because they're like, you know, but I think (INAUDIBLE) start this all the time.

SHEAR: Right.

KING: You can follow a pole or you can change your poll. A leader could communicator can bend the poll numbers and I think that's partly what the President is trying to do. But one other statistic, I just wanted to get in at the one month. The Washington Post did a wonderful pie chart yesterday. We do it as a different graphic here.

But what has he done in his first month of this President? Six hours in intelligence briefings, four hours in news conferences, six hours signing legislation and executive actions, 21 hours on the phone and meetings with foreign leaders, listening sessions with various groups, a lot of them on the economy. 14 hours. Tweeting, 13 hours.

I'm not sure if -- how they got him.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: And he's also had 25 hours playing golf which some people are saying, wait, wasn't this the guy who kept criticizing --

SHEAR: He was very tough on Obama playing golf.

LIZZA: In his defense, this was a working golf vacation. He was actually developing a relationship with an important ally.

KING: The prime minister of Japan and --

LIZZA: Nothing wrong with that.

KING: -- and Rory McIlroy.

LIZZA: Yes.

KING: The U.S.-Ireland relationship is critical. All right. Everybody sit tight. Up next, you see it right their on your screen. The White House briefing is coming up momentarily. President is also meeting with his budget team.

Next for us, our reporters having their notebooks. And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson taking a back seat to the President on a major foreign policy issue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:50:29] KING: Welcome back. This is the President just a moment ago meeting with his budget team at the White House, the Secretary of the Treasury, others on the budget team. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good morning. Essentially inheriting is a mess. The finances of our country are a mess, but we're going to clean them up. Things that we've been doing, including negotiating deals that have already been negotiated, so you call it renegotiating on airplanes and lots of other things, military items.

We will end up getting many more planes free or we're going to save a lot of money but we've already saved a lot. Billions and billions of dollars we've saved. We have enormous work to do as the national debt doubled over the last eight years. Our debt has doubled over a short period of time. I want the American people to know our budget will reflect their priorities.

We're directing all of our departments and agencies to protect every last American and every last tax dollars, no more wasted money. We're going to be spending the money in a very, very careful manner. Our moral duty to the taxpayer requires us to make our government leaner and more accountability. We must do a lot more with less, and we must stop the improper payments and the abuses, negotiate better prices and look for every last dollar of saving.

We've already imposed hiring freezes on nonessential government workers, and part of our commitment is to continue to do that for the American taxpayer. We have appointed a cabinet that knows how to manage dollars wisely. I've known many of the folks for a long time. They've been tremendous winners -- whether it's Steve or Gary or another Steve right here. And that's why I will direct them to manage the country's dollars and your dollars wisely.

We won't let your money be wasted anymore. We're going to run government smoothly, efficiently, and on behalf of the very hard- working taxpayers, something that the taxpayers haven't seen in a long time. I will be holding everybody accountable for that. And I have no doubt that this group -- in particular this group will do a fantastic job.

I want to congratulate Steve Mnuchin as our new Secretary of the Treasury. He's going to be outstanding. Tremendous track record -- he has a tremendous track record. I have great confidence in him.

So we're going to continue on, and we are going to take this budget, which is -- in all fairness, I've only been here for four weeks, so I can't take too much of the blame for what's happened. But it is absolutely out of control and we're going to do things that are going to be tremendous over the years. We have to take care of our military. We have no choice, we have to take care of our military. It needs work; it's very depleted. And we have to take care of a lot of other things. Healthcare is moving along nicely. It's being put into final forms. As you know, before we do the tax -- which is actually very well finalized -- but we can't submit it until the healthcare, statutorily or otherwise. So we're doing the healthcare. Again, moving along very well. Sometime during the month of March, maybe mid-to early March we will be submitting something that I think people will be very impressed by. And with that, we're going to have a little meeting. And I think the press knows pretty much all of the people at the table, so thank you very much. We appreciate it. (END VIDEO CLIP) KING: That's the President meeting with his treasury secretaries, director of Office of Management of Budget, other senior White House officials. The President had to a submit a budget to the Congress in the coming days. You heard the President outlined his priorities there including tax reform, repealing and replacing Obamacare.

A quick thought. We'll go around the table.

PHILIP: I mean, I want to hear a little bit more about he feels about the debt. I mean, that's a big elephant in the room. How's he going to pay for infrastructure? How's he going to do health care reform and also bring down the deficit? I mean, open questions. And this is one of the few times we've heard him talk about that.

KING: Well, a lot of pressure from his more conservative members in Congress.

LIZZA: Yes.

PHILIP: Yes.

LIZZA: The President's first budget is a big deal statement of their priorities. It's the one that's looks at the most carefully. And there are big differences between Republicans on the Hill and both internally in Congress and with Trump. So, how he navigates the federal budget and the deficits and spending in his priorities that he announced during the campaign is going to be very interesting. Is his going to finally up to put it on paper and have all the numbers add up.

[12:55:06] KING: First big deal for a guy who thinks he's a great a negotiator.

SHEAR: Well, and it's going to be choices. And, you know, this is a guy I think likes to have it all. And budget forces you to make choices and the bureaucracy is going to push back.

KUCINICH: Absolutely. And -- yes, and the key is going to be these conservative members of Congress who aren't going to be inclined to go along to get along.

KING: OK. All right. You heard the president there outlining his budget proposals. We're also standing by for the White House briefing. Sean Spicer there, he's doing in the room just a few minutes. We think he might come out any second I guess so I guess I'm going to keep going at the table here as we go. Go do break or stay here?

All right, we'll stay in the room here. One of the things that President said was interesting that he is renegotiating -- setup (ph) at the top that he is going to renegotiating with all these companies. Do we know how real that is, yet? I don't (INAUDIBLE) it all forgetting with Lockheed and with Boeing saying, hey, can we get these military contracts? Can we get the cost down?

But when he says we're saving billions, are we saving billions? Do we know that yet?

PHILIP: I mean, it's somewhat real. Some of the savings were expected to happen in the processes. These are long term contract. So over the course of time, the savings are expected to come in. But even saving billions on a few planes is not going to make a real dent in the problem here. So that's the real issue.

KING: All right. The President is going to get more questions about all these proposals. The White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer. Let' listen.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As you saw, he's a really good opportunist with his team. It's clearly been a busy day here at the White House again, so I'm gonna kind of keep it quick and get to your questions. This morning, after receiving his daily intelligence briefing, the president met with Secretary of State Tillerson. As you all know, Secretary Tillerson and Secretary Kelly will travel to Mexico City later today as one of their first foreign trips. It's significant that the president is sending the secretaries to Mexico so early in the administration. It's a symbolic -- it's symbolic of the meaningful relationship that our two nations have.

These are important meetings regarding the president's agenda to improve the quality of lives for both people of Mexico and the United States by combating drug traffickers and finding ways to bolster both our economies through a broader relationship that promotes commerce and legal immigration. This is a very encouraging start to a working relationship with an incredible neighbor to the south.

At this moment, the president has a just wrapped up his discussions on the federal budget with some of the officials and staff who will be instrumental in the work to put this country back on a responsibly fiscal path. Joining the -- the meeting, where Reince Priebus the chief of staff, Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, Gary Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council, Secretary Steven Mnuchin of the Department of the Treasury, Director Mick Mulvaney of the Office of Management and Budget, Russ Vought of the Office of Management and Budget and Emma Doyle of the Office of Management and Budget.

As the president mentioned last week, we look forward to presenting our tax reform plan and providing much-needed tax reform and relief to the hard-working men and women of our nation. The president is going to restore and respect the American taxpayer by enabling them to keep more of their hard-earned money and by making sure the federal government spends money more responsibly. After the lunch, the president will continue this important discussion with other members of the senior staff.

Additionally, the vice president today is in St. Louis to participate in listening sessions with American workers and employees of the Fabick Cat equipment and engineer dealer, a 100-year-old family-owned and operated business. During his visit, the vice president will discuss the economic comeback in store for our nation under the president's economic agenda and with small business owners and employees.

The president has already made strides toward slashing redundant regulations through his executive actions and we will work with Congress to enact further pro-growth legislation.

Back to the president's schedule, later this afternoon, the president will participate in a standing legislative affairs strategy session. Our legislative affairs team is in constant contact with our counterparts on the Hill, keeping an open dialogue on all aspects of the president's agenda. Last week alone, more than 40 different senator and Congress -- members of Congress visited the White House.

On the Supreme Court front, so far, Judge Gorsuch has now met with 58 senators, 36 Republicans and 22 Democrats, and he has more meetings already on the books for next week when the Senate returns to session. We have been especially encouraged by the reception he's received from several senior Democrats, including Senators Feinstein, Tester, Durbin and Gillibrand.

Also on the confirmation front, multiple unions came out today for Alex Acosta, the president's nominee for Labor secretary. Both the Laborer's International Union of North America and the International Union of Operating Engineers praised his distinguished career and pledged their support for his nomination.

The legislative affairs team is using the congressional work period to coordinate with key coalitions in Congress. They are meeting with different groups in the House and the Senate, including the staff of the Congressional Black Caucus, House and Senate leadership and staff throughout various committees. We've used this work period as an opportunity to invite staffers from both sides of the aisle to come to the White House and discuss shared priorities and find common ground on the way forward.

[13:00:03] And we're not just reaching out to Capitol Hill.