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Trump Touts 'Tremendous Strides' in Four Weeks; FBI Refused White House Request to Knock Down Recent Trump-Russia Stories; Bannon Lays Out Vision for Trump White House. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 24, 2017 - 12:30   ET



[12:30:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: -- behind me and it's been a disaster to business. This is going to be a place for business to do well and to thrive.

And so, with the signing of this executive order, I would like to just congratulate everybody behind me. And I would like to thank you for the mission to getting the group together.



TRUMP: -- to what we have done.


TRUMP: Should I give this pen to Andrew, DOW chemical? I think maybe, right?


TRUMP: We're very proud with this one. That means a lot of job, thank you everybody. Thank you very much.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump there in the oval office surrounded by CEOs just a short time ago, signing yet another executive action. Whether you like the president and support him, whether you don't like the president and don't support him, we've seen a lot of this.

And in some cases when you sign an order saying the Department of Homeland Security should get moving on the wall as soon as possible. You know, don't expect that to be there next week. You got to get money from Congress. You got to get construction. You got to market it.

But when it comes to these actions, he's had a lot of actions focused on jobs were actually is a lot the executive branch can do when it comes to regulations. And this is a clear effort by the President almost -- I would say every other, if not more than that of these photo opportunities we see are CEOs, business leaders, manufacturers, union people focused on jobs. Smart move.

MARGARET TALEY, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: Yes. Part of this is the optics of being able to name some of these major corporations that Americans are familiar with, and to make it seem like he's doing something to create jobs. The messaging is one thing. The numbers are another thing. And he knows that statistically, however he slice and dice employment rates. It's actually going to be very difficult for him to show a huge amount of progress on that front with those tangible numbers, the way the numbers have always been analyzed.

So, this is a way to counter that message. And the other is just to get this momentum going from the EPA. to, you know, health and human services across all of these you know, the Treasury Department has got its own guidelines. There are a lot of policies he can work with. And we saw just yesterday, the business roundtable come forward with this long lists 16 (ph) -- everything from clean water to, you know, overtime pay. Things he can do now to begin making the climate easier for them, for business.

KING: For the business community. And they're optimistic, that they're optimistic. And, you know, again we'll see if the numbers though. The President sometimes throws out numbers about new jobs. We'll see if there are six months to a year or two years from now, when we have elections come up and all that. But in terms of the climate, if you look at the stock market and the business -- the CEOs as you mentioned early, Taley. They think they're going to get tax reform. They think they're going to get regulatory reform. They think that's going to be better for business.

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: Well, if you want to talk numbers, you can go round and round about the different reasons why Trump won. But one of them was that the economy was not very strong under the Obama Administration last year. GDP growth was 1.6 percent which is the lowest it's been in five years. Obama was the first modern president to not have a single year of GDP growth above 3 percent. And that's a stated goal of this administration.

So, doing these kinds of pullbacks on the type of restrict regulations that really constrict that growth is going to be hugely popular. Not just when you are meeting with the CEOs. But, again, think of last week, when you are meeting with miners in hard hats on what he calls a job-killing regulation that their industry was very worried about.

KING: Right. We'll see if the jobs come. Again, it's important to the President, smart and politically for the president and focused on this quite a bit. We'll watch as it plays out.

Everybody sit tight. Up next, just an innocent request for help on an ethical restoring effort to influence the FBI's investigation of Russia's election meddling.


[12:37:42] KING: Welcome back. President Trump is lashing out at the FBI again today, complaining on twitter about more leaks. Here's one here. "Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on the U.S., find now." the president tweeted.

The latest leaks, however, have nothing to do with classified information. CNN was first to report last night that the White House through Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asked the FBI to knock down media reports. That several Trump associates were in frequent contact with Russian officials during last year's campaign.

Several sources familiar with the episode tell CNN the FBI said, "No" to the White House. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tells CNN, the White House was not trying to pressure or influence the FBI investigation. Just an effort, he says, to get it to tell the truth. But here's the tricky part. Even if that's true, such contact violates rules that have been in place for years.

The 2009 Justice Department memo says, any contacts about active investigations, number one, should be extremely rare. And then "Will involve only the attorney general or the deputy attorney general from the side of the department and the counsel to the president, deputy principal counsel to the president, the president, or the vice president from the side of the White House."

So, just here's how I'm going to put this. If President Clinton can't get on the plane and talk to attorney general Loretta Lynch in the military of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, Reince -- and he shouldn't have. He shouldn't have. Reince Priebus should have known the White House is saying it was the deputy FBI director who brought this up or started a conversation about this. Reince Priebus, a trained lawyer, the gate keeper at the White House. If the White House account is absolutely right and there was nothing to fear as here, he should have walked away.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes. And he handled this in a clumsy manner. But, you know, and the White House is not disputing the fact that they did discuss these reports. And even if they were discussing just the P.R. aspect of it and I believe in wanting to knock down the reports. The essence of the reports are what these investigations are looking into, which is Russian contacts with Trump campaign officials. And whether there was anything inappropriate in those contacts.

This is going to be an issue for the senate intelligence committee to look into. The house intelligence committee likely will look into the issue of contacts largely, and we'll see if they get into the Priebus communications with the deputy FBI director as well. But clearly raising this issue, because it does violate these guidelines that were in place for nearly a decade to limit these communications between the White House and the FBI during this time, a the time of an open investigation.

[12:40:14] MOLIE HEMINGWAY, THE FEDERALIST: So instead of asymmetrical warfare here too, though, you've this ongoing massive leaks campaign. You know, that looks coordinated and involves people from the Obama administration very willing and receptive journalists, and there's no way to fight it. And it's very difficult. It sounds like what Priebus wanted was just someone to say what's actually going on, which is not as nefarious as it can be made. (CROSSTALK)

KING: Hold on a second. This is an important point. Let's assume you're right and that there's nothing here that the deputy FBI director said, you know, that story is overblown or at least we don't know that yet. We're still investigating this, and that story makes it sound a lot more nefarious or a lot more serious than we know it is or that we believe it is, one of those words. I think the point was they said that "no". They're still investigating and they're not sure.

Reince Priebus at that, there is a gift to Reince Priebus. Yes. But he has to say go talk to Tom McGowan (ph), go down the hall to talk to the counsel then. Please. I have to walk away because this is inappropriate. It's hard. It's a new White House. This -- but of all people in the White House, the Chief of Staff has to know the rules. Especially he's the former Party Chairman. He has to understand the policies on this.

MANU: And the deputy FBI director McCabe should have known that as well.

KING: Right. Absolutely right

MANU: I mean I think that he should not have brought this up to Priebus saying that he did not believe the "New York Times" reporting or that it was overstated. And we don't know exactly what McCabe said to Priebus. But this is the White House's account of what McCabe said, but even if he did suggest that, that is a potential problematic for him as well.

KING: Right. And if the deputy director screwed up that, my point is that two wrongs don't make it right. And we have to understand the sensitivity of this. Take them at there word about how this played out until we learn otherwise. Take them at their word. The chief of staff has to walk away and say, not me. That's the counsel's office, please.

TALEY: I do think this has been a communications challenge for this new house though because on almost any other area. If there were reporting that was kind of right but kind of wrong or overblown on an issue related. To currency, or the treasury, or the environment, or Obamacare or what have you. It would be completely appropriate for the White House to reach out to that agency and say, hey, could you come to the briefing next week and come stand at the podium with us and answer some questions about this?

This is a little too in depth for the press secretary to address, you know, for the record and it would be really good to be able to answer these questions for the record and show that, you know, there's no fire here. Right. But in this case suspect there probably a lot of reporters, including me saying, you guys keep saying these reports are overblown. Put some on the record and show us. I think they were trying to figure out how to do that.

KING: And I want to go back to the point because that was just playing out. The chief of staff Reince Priebus did go out and Sunday shows, and he said he had the blessing to say this wasn't such a big deal. Let's listen.


REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The "New York Times" last week put out an article with no direct sources that said that the Trump campaign had constant contacts with Russian spies. Basically, you know, some treasons type accusations, top levels of the intelligence community have assured me that that story is not only inaccurate, but it's grossly overstated, and it was wrong.


KING: Now it was after that appearance that James Comey we want to Capitol Hill and did a private briefing with members of the senate intelligence committee which is among the panels looking into this. And we talked about this the other day on the program. Senators left that meeting. Usually they give you a little headline. They don't disclose classified information about it was about this and it was about that. They came out button lipped.

RAJU: And I can tell you, I talked to several members of the intelligence committee this week asking them about Priebus's comments over the weekend. And a lot of them were very surprised at how categorical he was about there was nothing untoward and there were no contacts, absolutely overblown. They believe about the -- perhaps an oppression that was not accurate. They're still pressing forward looking into that aspect of contacts between Russia and government operatives and the Trump campaign. We'll see what they find out.

JACKIE KUCINICH, THE DAILY BEAST: I was just pint out that I think it's the same interview where Reince Priebus call the media for using unnamed sources, and yet he is using unnamed sources as he is making that point. Not to mention n right before Trump's speech today, he is riding on the media for using unnamed sources. And then, this morning they had a background briefing which means you cannot use the name of the person who's telling you the information about this incident in particular.

HEMINGWAY: OK. But there is --

KING: You are looking for consistency in Washington.

KUCINICH: I know. I know. I know it's a fool's errand, but --

HEMINGWAY: But there was not a single named source making a single verifiable claim of wrong doing, and that is frustrating. I mean it would be nice to have a single source. Anyone, it's so many people making claims without any substantiation which kind of time to -- for reporters to demand a little more.

KING: This has plan -- you're absolutely right about that. We should be -- we should have a higher bar for use anonymity, especially when we're casting this person on somebody. If you're saying if you're putting some that could be negative, you should have a pretty high bar. I know from our reporters here who are working the story. They do have a high bar particularly this story. And incase we go four, five, six sources sometimes just to make sure one or two sources aren't trying to twist us a little bit. This has come up a lot in the town halls.

[12:45:11] We've seen Republican lawmakers going home, people coming up in town halls. And let's be clear, a lot of these were Democratic activists showing up at Republican events. There's no doubt about it. But listen to the freshman congressman here. When this issue comes up with his townhall, because some people say the President could end some of these questions about potential Russian ties, alleged Russian ties if he shows us his tax returns.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are on the Judiciary Committee, you have said that they're going to investigate the Russian allegations.



REP. MATT GAETZ, FLORIDA: I'm grateful that the Judiciary Committee we've included within out --

CROWD Yes or no.

GAETZ: I think if you'll hear me out me out, you'll like the answer. Let me say, right here, right now, absolutely Donald Trump should release his tax returns.


KING: Now that's one freshman congressman in Florida. I don't want to make too much for this. Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine had if comes to that, she's willing to push for that if they think that would somehow be the evidence. But we don't have any indication that this is just one or two examples. Right. Nowhere near any critical mass or Republicans are going to back to Washington along the battles.

RAJU: No. Exactly. We don't have any examples of that. Now the Senate Intelligence Committee does have rules in which just five members of that committee could subpoena anything. And if just Democrats if they wanted could try to subpoena those tax returns, but there are issues, privacy laws involving tax returns, obtaining the tax returns. So they could prohibit Congress from getting them. So it's unlikely that we're going to see that. But, you know, we use to consider all pressure back home on some members.

If the Democrats get too political on that investigation, then the Republicans might move to how it does. So Democrats, better be careful if they wanted to be long as they would say hope thorough.

Up next, the often unseen man behind President Trump's agenda spells out just what he believes.


[12:51:31] KING: Well, if you watch a show called "Inside Politics" my guess is you've heard the name Stephen Bannon. He is the president's advisor, was the former Breitbart News executive, now, a senior advisor to the President of the White House, a key architect of the America first nationalist message.

We don't see him much publicly. So it was a big event when he appeared publicly at the conservative conference yesterday laying out his view of the Trump agenda.


STEVE BANNON, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: I kind of breaking out the three verticals of three buckets. The first is kind of national security and sovereignty, and that's your Intelligence, the Defense Department, and Homeland Security. The second line of work is what I referred to as economic nationalism, and that is Wilbur Ross of commerce, Steve Mnuchin of Treasury, Lighthizer at Trade, Peter Navarro, Stephen Miller, these people that we're rethinking how we're going to reconstruct the -- our trade arrangements around the world.

The third broadly line of work is what is deconstruction of the administrative state.


KING: Fascinating to see because we don't see him publicly that much, number one. Number two, whether you might disagree with the agenda, but a very articulate lay-out, communications strategy for the agenda. I want to start at the end there. The deconstruction of the administrative state. A very conservative federalist approach that Washington has amassed way too much power and Steve Bannon views his job as Donald Trump's senior advisor to help the President blow a lot of it up.

HEMINGWAY: Right. Not just too much power, but too much on accountable power. And you see this with the agencies going rogue and people having different ideas than either the President or Congress that they report to.

You know, a lot of the problems with Obamacare came out not from the bill, but the way HHS interpreted the bill. A lot of the restrictions on religious liberty came out from the administrative state, not from the original legislation.

So this is a very big animating issue. And it is interesting to hear someone actually articulated on a national state.

RAJU: I think this is probably the most concise argument that anyone has method as you say that anyone from the White House has delivered about what Trump's world view is, probably even more so than Trump himself to hear that the deconstruction of administrative state. I mean, that is an interesting argument -- an interesting way to discuss how Trump views the world. Probably in a way that, you know, Trump may himself start to talk more about going forward because of explained and sell his agenda --

KING: And he -- the President's -- not a criticism, it just a -- he talks more transactional. I'm for this and for this and for this. This is the deal we're making.

Steve Bannon, they're laying out an ideological conservative America first and nationalist when it comes to the foreign policy, national security trade stuff, but a very states rights, you know, let's deconstruct Washington. That is a little bit of Reagan and Goldwater. You know, Reagan was unable to deliver as much as he promised there.

TALEY: But Reagan was still on establishmentarianism. And he believed in systems and in, you know, packing order and certain amount of chivalry. And there are these two pillars of his remarks yesterday. One is nationalism. One is deconstruction, which also goes along with the words disruption.

And it's not just the administrative state in terms of agencies. It is all of the way you consider the administrative state of Washington. It is disrupting and deconstructing the power of Congress, the power of the press, the power of institutions that put -- that central core inside the White House in check.

KING: That's right. Let's take his voice in one more time because we often talk about the politicians keep their promises but a lot of controversies. You know, is President Trump going to reach out to those bill forms. President Trump going to do things they didn't promise they can't. Hey, here's Steve Bannon on how he thinks the president will proceed.


[12:55:00] BANNON: He's laid out an agenda with those speeches for the promises he made. And our job every day is just to execute on that. It's to simply get a path to how those get executed. And he's maniacally focused on that.


KING: In other words, go back and look at what he said during the campaign, and that's what you're going to get.


KUCINICH: So, yes. Is anyone surprise about what he's doing and he's actually -- he's executing on what he said. But it's fascinating because Bannon has been saying a lot of this for a very long time. And to the extent that Trump has just adapted it and is executing it has been a fascinating thing so much.

RAJU: It's also a time there's a long way to go in this presidency.


RAJU: There's a lot that still needs to happen. We'll see if that -- he can -- they can still say that what you're telling.

HEMINGWAY: What he was also signaling was that it's very hard to achieve this and that they have all the forces in Washington raid against him was asking people to support and hold them accountable.

KING: Yes. They're asking CPAC to stay on the team to help and to push when necessary. We'll see you back here on Monday, "Inside Politics" Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m. as well.

After a quick break, Wolf Blitzer is in the chair.