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Trump Calls On Congress For Repeal And Replace Action; GOP Disagreements On How To Repeal/Replace; Trump Calls For Historic Tax Reform; Democrats React To Trump Speech; Dems Take Measure Of Presidential Trump; Schumer; Speech Watchers View Trump's Address Very Positively

Aired March 1, 2017 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] RYAN LIZZA, THE NEW YORKER: That was probably where he lit up the most. And I know the Ryan team today is sort of saying -- is pointing to that excerpt and saying, he's on board with our plan. But the fact that this plan --

JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS HOST: So that's their read.

LIZZA: That's their read.

KING: Other people are saying, well, you asked him to be really specific. And he wasn't all that specific. So, is he not on board with your plan? So --

LIZZA: The House is a majoritarian institution. This is the one he -- that Trump should have nailed down. He should be focusing on those, you know, these Democrats he needs in the Senate. So, the fact that they don't have the Republicans in the House on board with this plan is a really bad sign.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, THE FEDERALIST: Well, I think he sounded better than usual and more sort of schooled than usual on this subject. I mean, I am doing a low bar thing at the moment. But, I think there was --


HAM: I think there was a bit of a missed opportunity outside of the legislative minutia of bringing to light people who have suffered, because of Obamacare, because these are real stories. And Republicans are notoriously terrible about highlighting those kinds of things. He brought human moments to other parts of the speech. Not to this.

Latest, NBC showed 4 percent think it should stay. It's working as is. So, there's plenty of room to work there, and find folks to highlight. And I think that might have been on the suffer (ph) for good.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And I think that is the key obviously. We know the President is hitting the road later in this week. We know he is getting a little itchy in the White House, and he wants to be traveling. So, how does he capitalize on that? Do we see him out on the campaign trail, bringing people like this on stage with him, telling them -- telling their stories and really selling the idea that the existing health care system is broken and that we have a plan to replace it and that people need to get moving.

And that is what, you know, what it really say the people in Paul Ryan's office tap dancing. Is if we saw the president fully leaning into this. And not just sort of mention the specific here. And there, but become the salesman, because, you know, he does still have a big base of support. And that does offer a big cross-section with a lot of these conservatives around him.

KING: But he also has campaign statements and post-campaign statements on the record saying, if you have coverage under Obamacare, you won't lose it. And the current Republican plan, as it stands, does not guarantee that. So, there's a lot to be worked out here. A, within the Republican family. Then B, to see will the President actually sign it. If he has to look the American people in the eye and say, I can't give you -- exactly what I promised you in the campaign. That's one issue.


KING: And there's a debate today about, did he help or just essentially continue to cut in and hurt the cause or did he help? The other issue is tax reform, where the speaker is trying to pass in the House a controversial proposal to border adjustment tax. He gets them the money they need to cut taxes elsewhere.

The President did talk about trade in a way that you could imply. He was kind of embracing that proposal. But he different do it specifically again. When he talks about tax reform, he was more general.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My economic team is developing historic tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies. So, they can compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone. It will be a big, big cut. At the same time we will provide massive tax relief for the middle class.


KING: No specificity. Did he help the Republican cause? And then, here is -- there's a different way to argue this. Some, you know, the House and the Senate disagree on that. Leader McConnell is not on board with the border adjustment tax. So, maybe the President will want to pick sides at this moment. This debate is still going on.

So, there's one argument that he needed to be more specific on a couple of issues to nudge Republicans along. The other argument is give a good speech, have your numbers go up a little bit. And that gives you the power you really need with the American people to say, you know, and eventually then you twist arms and bang heads. HABERMAN: I'm off the school of thought that that is what we're seeing. I think in part because you've seen the White House sort of publicly intimate and privately confirm that they are trying to let Congress lead on a number of issues. So, sort of not seem to take his side is a great idea. Plus, if you are Trump, this is sure his natural resting state, right. Which is, I'm going to say something that is sort of baseline. And different people are going to come away thinking what they want. He did that throughout the campaign.

He was very non-specific on any number of issues. So, in order to pin him down as a reporter, you would have to offer him sort of a menu of options to choose from and try to know what he was saying. And so, in this speech, you know, but -- I mean, to his credit, I think that he did a pretty decent dance, if the goal was to not be specific. And I think it was what it was.

HAM: Well, and where he was more specific in mentioning the magnificent motorcycles and the carrier deals. And of course -- and I think that's the kind of thing that public relations-wise, gives him room to do more of that nuts and bolts under the radar.

MURRAY: But you can't do both of these things at once. You can't do health care. You can't do tax reform at the same time. And so, the last thing Republicans on the Hill, especially in the house want, is to get hammered one about Obama Care from the senate and the house. And get hammered too on the border adjustment tax, especially from the senate. They don't necessarily need the president right now, out there advocating for whether he wants a tariff or whether he wants the border adjustment tax, because that just means that senators are going to be up in arms on the Hill about it all day long.

KING: You are right. That there's no record to prove this town can walk and chew gum at the same time. You're absolutely right.

MURRAY: I mean, right.

KING: However, people watching at home say, wait a minute. I had to get up this morning and make breakfast for the kids. I had to go to work. I'm trying to grab all my paperwork to figure out my taxes. I'm dealing with school enrollment for next year. I've got issues too. So, people look at this town and say, what do you mean? There's 535 of you. Why can't you do more than one thing at a time? I think that's a fair question for people out of the country to ask.

Another thing, the President had some un-Republican ideas here. He talked about Ivanka Trump's proposal to subsidize child care, paid leave, child care.

[12:35:14] He talked about a trillion dollars in infrastructure spending. Not all of that public money. He wants to do some sort of public-private partnership. After the speech, speaker Ryan was walking out. He called it a home run. He was happy. Republican Charlie Dent put it this way. Republican Carson of Pennsylvania, it was more uneventful in a good way.

They were happy that they were -- some Republicans, look, the bar was low even for them. They're not sure what they're going to get out of this President. They were happy. He read a pretty conventional speech. And he read it well. It was a good speech. Listen to the speaker, though out. He comes out. He says nice things about the President's speech overall. He says nice things about health care and Jeff Zeleny says, wait a minute he had a long list of things that cost a lot of money. They got paid for him.


PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: I think he did a fantastic job on health care. He articulated exactly the response that we're working on, that we all believe is necessary to repeal and replace Obamacare with a much better system. I thought he did a great job.

JEFF ZELENY, CCN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Did he answer questions how he would pay for things tonight?


KING: Silence is golden.


LIZZA: He was talking about in terms of how much is Trump driving the train here and how much is Congress.

KING: Right.

LIZZA: Trump, the non-traditional parts of the Trump agenda, if Trump doesn't drive those through Congress and he doesn't hit them every day, talk about them, get Republicans in Congress to back them, they will disappear, and you will get the Ryan, the preexisting Ryan McConnell agenda that was around before Trump came on board. So, I think Trump is sort of figuring out that balance.

HAM: As a conservative, every single State of the Union type speech I watch has a bunch of stuff that people want to spend way more money on than I want to, right. So, it doesn't matter (INAUDIBLE). But this is a -- he is not a conservative ideological creature. We all know that. And so much of this sounded like, well, the new hotness is dead. And the old and busted is talking about how the debt matters, which is discouraging to me. And it seemed at times that he was daring both Senate Democrats and Paul Ryan behind him to sit on their hands for exact opposite reasons. And it was --


HAM: -- this is our party now.

KING: He is different. He is different. All right. Everybody sit tight. Next, a closer look at what Democrats thought of the big speech. And what they will do if the President they love to mock is a loose canon, sticks to that disciplined script.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [12:41:36] KING: Welcome back. You know, (INAUDIBLE) but I'll just help the adequate search of the President's twitter feed this past month will unearth some early morning gems about inauguration crowd size, about Meryl Streep being overrated. Plus, President Trump has repeatedly called Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer a clown, and just yesterday morning was on television calling House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi incompetent, but then the clock struck 9:00.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us. We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts, the bravery to express the hopes that steal our souls and the confidence to turn those hopes and those dreams into action.


KING: Democrats insist Twitter Trump and unscripted Trump is the true Trump.


SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D) MINORITY LEADER: What's the problem for this President is not his speeches. Speeches have a shelf life. They go away. It's his actions. His actions have favored the hard, hard right. Not where America is. Not even where the Republican Party is, and that's why he's had such trouble governing over the last 40 days, and he is going to have trouble ever since.


KING: What is the morning after take for the Democrats? Because that's not the president they're used to, what they saw last night, and it's not the president most of their political strategy is designed to combat. They want to say he is divisive. They want to say he's a loose cannon. They want to say he is going to pop up, and he is not up to the job, that he is not presidential, and last night runs counter to what the Democrats have been telling us for 40 days.

HABERMAN: It was a speech, and it was a good speech, and we now have to see what happens tomorrow when he, you know, goes on his sort of post-speech lap, which many presidents do. He would not be the first one to do that. We have to see what he does on Twitter. We have to see how long this holds.

I do think that -- you could hear all the laughter in the room --

KING: Right.

HABERMAN: -- and tittering when he said that line about the tiny fights or whatever one was behind us. He likes dabbling in controversy and in conflict no matter how big or how small. And I don't think that's going to change. It's worked for him. And I think that he derails himself as much as anything and gives his opponents material to hit him with. You were -- we don't know yet what the ratings are or how many people watch this speech, but a lot of people are certainly familiar with his Twitter fights and the things that he says.

KING: But among the people who did watch -- I mean, just among the people who did watch and it's a very important distinction, among the people who watch -- not among America writ large -- among -- at large, it was a little boost (ph) in there -- among -- yes -- among those who watched and, of course, it's a republican president, so you assume the audience tilts Republican, but 57 percent had a very positive reaction. 21 percent is somewhat positive reaction. Only 21 percent a negative reaction. That's a big deal.

Trump's policies will move the country in the right direction. 72 percent said yes on the economy. 70 percent on terrorism, 61 percent on health care, 62 percent on immigration, 64 percent on taxes. You're right. It's one speech --

HABERMAN: No, but you're right too.

KING: -- and this is one day after, but for a president who started at 44 percent in a divided country, that's a win.

HAM: Well, I think another lesson here is that the unscripted Trump I think bothers the American people in general less than it bothers many people in Washington or who write and comment on this every day. And so when they tune in and see that, that might actually be more heartening to them because they have been sort of at peace with him for longer than the press has. And so, I think this is an ongoing problem for Democrats. Also, his popularity numbers are less important to him than they are to other politicians.


HAM: No, no, not to him personally. They're obviously very important for --

KING: Or you mean to his support to his success, right. Yes.

HAM: Whether he can hash tag win.

[12:45:00] KING: But he won. He was in the (INAUDIBLE) and he won. Right.


MURRAY: I mean, the one thing about those numbers, though -- that should put all Democrats at their peril if they don't learn how to combat this Trump, because we saw this Trump repeatedly throughout the campaign.

HAM: That's right.

MURRAY: He knows when to pivot. He knows when to behave. And this is him on the brink of wanting to do a lot of big things legislatively and want to lay the ground work for governing. So if you are a Democrat, you need to know how to deal with bombastic, crazy Twitter Trump, but also need to be able to go back to those policies and say, you may have said this about immigration, but he is pushing this policy that allows him to basically deport anyone who is here illegally. You need to have good anecdotes to back that up, and Democrats should not be learning how to do this now. We just went through it --

KING: But the Democratic base is screaming say no on everything.


KING: Say no on everything. If the President wants to take a left turn, say no. If the President wants eggs for breakfast, say no. Just before I just want to bring this (INAUDIBLE). So last night or at least at the anchor lunch, the President says he is open to signing a piece of legislation that will give legal status, right? In the speech he was a little bit more general. But -- so listen to Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader. We have an option here. Call his bluff, or say no way?


REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI (D) MINORITY LEADER: If it's something that forbids citizenship, no, I couldn't sign one for that. If we want to talk about -- I think there are plenty of ways we can work in a bipartisan way on immigration. In fact, we have to. This is the lifeblood of our country. The constant reinvigoration of America, all those hopes and dreams, which are meritorious.


KING: It's the first part. If it's something that forbids citizenship, no. Why not say, sure, give us status, and then we'll elect the democratic president and come back down future somewhere. Why not call the Republican bluff and have them split up like we've seen them in the past and go deep into the quick sand? But their base is telling them to always say no.

LIZZA: Yes, you saw that first shot of the -- when he came into the room last night. And it was just to stark divide (ph), right, and most Democrats were not even standing up applauding. But look, if Trump is being drawn into the legislative process now and being drawn into a process where he needs Democratic support, that actually might be politically a beneficial place for Democrats. It's not like they've had so much success countering outrageous Trump.

So, if this is a new Trump, which we'll have to be skeptical that it is, this might actually be where Democrats -- a playing field that they're a little bit more comfortable on.


KING: We'll deal with that question. Yes, maybe in April, May, June and July, we'll see if that exist. But I think right now, if they stick their hand up, their base goes boom. Let's see. Everybody sit tight. Our reporters share from their notebooks, including how the Trump inner circle plans a very important mission. Keeping the boss in good spirits.


[12:52:13] KING: Welcome back. Let's close as we always do. Head around the "Inside Politics" table and ask our great reporters to share from their notebooks. Get you out the head of the big political news just around the corner. Maggie Haberman?

HABERMAN: Sara noted earlier they're looking at how to keep the President from feeling a little too boxed in in D.C. So he was very happy with his (INAUDIBLE) of a press conference a few days ago at this point. They're looking ay maybe doing some kind of a formula where at a press conference every other week and then a rally every other week. They know that these visuals of him with these photo apps and false race (ph) work really in terms of what people see on T.V. but he feels a bit stifled. He loves feeding off the crowds at rallies as we all know and he actually really enjoyed that press conference. For all the criticism that he received for it, for him it was cathartic.

KING: His version of getting out of the bubble.

HABERMAN: Correct.

KING: We like that. Ryan.

LIZZA: So this week started with some big news on Monday when the head of the Freedom Caucus, those are the 40 add members, conservative members in the House said that they did not support Paul Ryan's tax credits in the Obamacare repeal plan.

Last night, of course, as we were talking about before, Donald Trump mentioned tax credits. Paul Ryan today saying Trump and Ryan are on the same team, the Freedom Caucus in the next couple of days is going to -- not just the chairman but the entire Freedom Caucus is going to come out with a joint statement opposing that part of the Ryan plan. So it's not just the chairman. The whole caucus will have a vote on this. They put together a formal statement. So that's going to be a significant hurdle for the President.

KING: One of the benefits of winning, you have more people at the table, more opinions. One of the down signs of winning you have more people at the table more opinions. Mary Katharine.

HAM: Like this a little personal. I don't know Mrs. Owens but I was bothered by the suggestion that she was only a political prop. Or she was only exploited. And it seem to take away that agency from this obviously very tough woman. I know many families of the (INAUDIBLE). She and her family know the price of freedom more than most of you ever will.

I was also weathered (ph) in 2015. He was not military but have two young children. She was there for (INAUDIBLE). She made a decision and she very well may have been there because she knew she would stand up and her husband, a hero, would get a hero's standing ovation that the entire nation would know his name, that the President would be honoring him and the entire Congress. And that years from now she can show that to her children as it should be, and so I don't want to take that away from her when we discuss this.

Yes, it's a Washington event, but let ourselves have that moment, let yourself have that moment because it was really human, whether or not there were politicians involved. It was beautiful.

KING: Yes. Amen, amen. Sara?

MURRAY: Well, I'm pretty mad for making me follow that, but let's change gears entirely and talk about the bait and switch that the President pulled when it came to immigration yesterday. He had this meeting with the anchors. He talked about the past illegal status. Basically, they set up things that they thought these anchors would like, that they thought would give them positive press coverage for the next few hours.

A senior administration official admitted that it was a misdirection play and you will note that when the President was actually out there speaking to the American public, he didn't talk about illegal status. He talked about reforming the immigration system, so it's merit-based. So that means fewer low skilled workers, fewer people coming on family ties, more people coming on high-skilled visas. That is still closer to a Steven Miller and Steve Bannon framework freedom of the world that Gang of Eight who pushed comprehensive immigration reform.

KING: Interesting twist. Although it does make you wonder, so we're not suppose to believe what the senior most official at the launch says who then they allow it to be the president's name says we're not suppose to believe what they're saying. Maybe we shouldn't believe what they say. All right. Yeah. I'll save mine for another day. Thanks for joining us for "Inside Politics." We'll see you right back here tomorrow. Wolf Blitzer in the chair after a quick break.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Wolf Blitzer, it's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, 9:00 p.m. in Moscow. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.