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INSIDE POLITICS

Flynn Left Russian Speaking Fees Off Initial Financial Disclosures; Trump White House Can't Shake Russia Questions; Trump's China Rhetoric: A Change from the Campaign?; White House Threatens Republicans Who Opposed Health Care Deal; Trump's First 70 Days, the Good and the Not So Good; The Supreme Court Showdown. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired April 2, 2017 - 08:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[08:00:40] JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn wants immunity for a Russian meddling investigation the president labels a witch hunt.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's no evidence of the president's campaign and Russian officials.

KING: Plus, new evidence or a new stunt. Just what did White House aides share with a leading House Republican?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: We're not going to be distracted.

KING: With one month to the 100-day mark, the president lashes out at conservatives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were excited when Donald Trump said he was going to come and help us drain the swamp, but he is listening to people in the swamp.

KING: And it's Supreme Court showdown time.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: This is no neutral down the middle judge.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. To our views in the United States and around the world, thanks for sharing your time this Sunday.

Now, if you follow President Trump's Twitter feed, you already know what he thinks of the investigations into Russian meddling. And two important questions within those investigations. Question one, did his associates coordinate with the Kremlin back during the campaign? And two, are White House aides trying to improperly influence one of the investigations now? Saturday's presidential tweet storm called it all fake, phony a total scam the president says. On Friday, witch hunt was his label of choice. That after word surface his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is seeking immunity deal in exchange for his testimony to the House and the Senate Intelligence Committees.

Now, lashing out is a Trump trademark. We all know that and so is misdirection. His tweets blame the Democrats and the media. But remember, this past week included this from the Republican who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee on that question of possible collusion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We know that our challenges to answer that question for the American people. This investigation's scope will go wherever the intelligence leads it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Also this past week, this from the FBI director who also remembered this, made his name as a Republican appointed prosecutor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: Now, we're not fools. I know that when I make a hard decision, a storm is going to follow but, honestly, I don't care.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With us to share their reporting and their insights, Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times". The New Yorker's" Ryan Lizza, Jackie Kucinich of "The Daily Beast", and Abby Phillip of "The Washington Post."

The busy week of new developments to dissect. I want to start with this question. We are, believe it or not, one month to 100 days which some consider an artificial deadline but Washington tries to keep score.

How much is this constant focus -- Russia investigations, pushback, new developments, anger at the White House that we are even covering this story -- how much is it affecting this president's ability to get stuff done?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Quite a bit. I mean, look, the issue and to your point, he's good at misdirection and we hear about that a lot. There has been a big theory in Washington for a while now that every time the president tweets, it's some kind of a distraction from something else. That's like saying that you're burning your hand to distract from the burning ear.

This is not good every time he calls attention back to this, frankly. And when he characterize it Russia, just broadly Russia as fake news or a scam, it sounds like he is talking about the entire story. Remember, the only thing that we do know that there was a hacking and that 17 different divisions of the intelligence community say that this was done with a high degree of relative high in one case degree of confidence by Russia and that this was done to help elevate his campaign.

So, he sounds like he is dismissing all of that when he does this. The White House has been unable to get out of its own way on this. And part of that, as you know, is that this president, when he feels like he is under attack, he attacks back. But now, he is punching at ghosts and hitting himself in the face.

KING: Punching at ghosts and part of the problem -- look, you know, I try to come at this -- OK. Listen to them. Listen to what they say. Nothing nefarious happens. These were just meetings.

But, however, we ask for months how many meetings did your people have in a campaign with Russian officials? The president himself said none, and then we find out there were some. We find out Jared Kushner met with the ambassador, told us that only after it was made public in your newspaper, I believe. We found out Jared Kushner later met with a big Russian banker close adviser to Putin found out that he disclosed that only after he knew the Senate intelligence committee knew about it. Now, we find out, Michael Flynn would had to resign, didn't put on his financial disclosure form, speaking fees and other money he took from Russian interests.

When he took the job, he knew was this a big story. Now, again, that doesn't mean anything nefarious happen but it does make you wonder.

JACKIE KUCINICH, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, yes, and that's the thing. I mean, in terms of not able to get out of their own way.

[08:05:01] If it was just the tweets, maybe they could move past it. It's not. It's the more they -- it's like quick sand. The more they thrash, the deeper they go into this.

And the more that we find out more information like the most recent Michael Flynn not claiming money he made from RT and money from speeches on his disclosure forms, as you said, it raises more questions than it answers. That is a trend throughout this investigation and throughout this issue with Russia. Something else comes up and it doesn't answer any questions.

ABBY PHILLIP, THE WASHINGTON POST: And Trump is also creating a lot of problems for himself. Remember, this whole wiretapping thing was created just because he wanted to respond. He opened up a whole new avenue of problems for his administration which this week we learned has stretched into three White House aides giving information essentially to the House Intelligence Committee chairman, putting his credibility into question, really opening a Pandora's box of problems just because the president wanted to maybe it was misdirection or maybe it was just to fire back at his critics. But when you create new problems for yourself, that's hurting yourself.

KING: And he -- to that point, he is now seizing -- one much his tweets yesterday and if you look at FOX News, you look at Breitbart, you look around the conservative media, he is now seizing on a FOX News report that anonymously quotes a high ranking official who says someone very senior in the Obama administration -- a known person in the intelligence community unmasked, spread these reports Trump transition official picked up on some surveillance that's perfectly legal, unmasking them, meaning disclosing their names or at least making clear who they are. That would be very unusual.

They say this happened. Well, no one else is able to confirm that report, number one. There's a lot of good reporters working the story.

But number two, I would make this point -- if that is the case, if there was a serious irresponsible reckless effort in the Obama administration to spread this stuff around, the president has the power to declassify these documents. He could make this go away like that. Instead, we get this innuendo, and back and forth. He could end this in a minute and if he wanted to protect himself, he could bring in an establishment of people from prior administrations who security clearance to say, look what we found, please help us make the case that we're not nuts.

Instead, this is all spread to this -- that's why I'm skeptical.

RYAN LIZZA, THE NEW YORKER: Yes.

PHILLIP: Citing reports when you're the president of the United is not --

(CROSSTALK)

LIZZA: It reminds me of the worst chapters in these intelligence wars back before the Iraq war when stuff was leaked to the papers and then Bush officials would go on TV and say, ah-ha! Look what's -- it was in the paper. So, you have this very sketchily sourced report on FOX News that nobody else has confirmed and then the president tweeting about it as if he is not the president of the United States. And it's not actually his government that he's leading.

KING: And his echo chamber, they say we are all ignoring this giant scandal.

HABERMAN: Correct.

KING: To the best of our knowledge, it doesn't exist.

LIZZA: We've got -- look, we are actually getting close to the bottom of this, right? Now, Adam Schiff, the head of the House Intelligence Committee, has seen these documents, right? Nunes has seen these documents, right?

So, the evidence that the White House claims they have, these documents that have now been shared with the top two House Intelligence Committee members, they're going to have an -- you know, Nunes has characterized and I think soon I think Schiff will characterize them and we'll get a little closer to whether the claims that Sean Spicer made last week are accurate or not. KING: And Schiff makes a point I think -- he doesn't say it directly

but the idea I was trying to get is that the president has the power to make this all go away if it's true. He has the -- he can do it himself by noon today if he wanted to.

LIZZA: Yes.

KING: Schiff, after being over at the White House, they complained. The Republican chairman goes over and goes into the secret place in the executive office but he reviews documents and comes back the next day to brief the president of the United States who works across the driveway from that building on the documents shared with him by people who work for the president.

I'm sorry to confuse you at home and around the world, but that's how this story goes. Adam Schiff says, if the White House had any concern over these materials, they should have shared with the full committee in the first place. The White House has yet to explain why senior White House staff apparently shared these materials with one member of either committee only for their comments and briefed back to the White House. Again, it's like a spiral.

HABERMAN: It is a merry go round or feels like a merry go round.

To your point, the complaint from the Trump White House is -- you know, there's this issue of unmasking of people who are picked up in incidental wiretaps or listening in on foreign officials conversations and that is what is illegal is the unmasking and why aren't we angrier about that? I think part of the problem with this is, A, to your point, we don't know exactly what we are exactly talking about! No one has been able to confirm that, is number one.

But number two, all of this has taken place around the question of whether the Trump campaign had any connection to the Russian government while there was this hacking going on. So, that is the context for this, quote/unquote, "unmasking".

And when it comes to, yes, a lot of these meetings were perfectly legal. There appears nothing wrong with them, but nobody has told the direct full truth about them on the first telling and that doesn't help. And there is a broader problem which I know we have talked about here before, but this corrosive not being candid and in some case telling falsehoods the White House is going to need people to believe them a crisis not of their own making at some point and this is difficult.

[08:10:00] KING: And if this -- if the unmasking is real and it's a problem then investigate it and disclose it in a responsible way and hold the people accountable and don't have this --

HABERMAN: And it's a legitimate concern but they could solve it at some point.

LIZZA: One of the few people who have looked at all these documents is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes. He has said when asked, one, it did not relate to Russia, and, two, he did not see anything illegal in those documents. So, that's very different than the way Sean Spicer characterized this last week, which with was essentially as this mass backdoor surveillance of the Trump campaign which, of course, would be illegal.

KING: And back to where we started in the sense that General Flynn, anybody with a good lawyer in the investigation asks for immunity. So, we should not draw conclusions from that, in a sense that that's what a good lawyer does. If you want to talk to my client, you sign a piece of paper that says, he can tell the whole truth, but nothing but the truth, and you're just going to let, give him a pass here.

But the problem politically, yes, a lot of politics about this, is back in the campaign, General Flynn and the president said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you're not guilty of a crime, why do you need immunity for, right?

MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: When you are given immunity, that means that you probably committed a crime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KUCINICH: That's not (INAUDIBLE)

KING: Mama used to say, be careful what you say, because it might come back to bite you, we'll leave -- we won't finish the sentence.

But, you know, look, politically, it's bad. They said these things about Clinton during a campaign when they were in a campaign environment.

What is General Flynn's story, do we know?

LIZZA: No. We don't know. And it could just be an exaggeration to sort of dangle something out there so that investigators are more likely to take him seriously.

But there is only a few possibilities, right? You don't give someone immunity if it's the Justice department doing it unless they just hear their story because it's fun to hear their story. The Justice Department is in the business of prosecuting crimes.

So, you're only going to give him immunity if you're the Justice Department if one, he is a bigger fish, right? That he has or a network of fish. And often, the first person in who gets immunity, it's sort of a race, right? A lot of people are under investigation which does seem like the case here. The first one in may be looking to incriminate other people. That's one possibility.

The other possibility, he doesn't really have much to tell, but he wants the committees to get him immunity and that would actually -- it gets complicated but that would complicate the Justice Department's case.

KING: Right.

HABERMAN: He also seemed to be sending of a signal that's the third possibility to the White House, that this could be happening and you saw the president respond in kind on Twitter and say, yes, go ask for immunity, which was really a breathtaking moment that I think in a series of breathtaking moments by this White House, that we have all become a bit numb to, that was shocking because that is a essentially the president saying, yes, he may have committed a crime. I mean, that is if you distill what that message is, it may have just been that the president was saying I've got your back, we hear you but it was unusual.

LIZZA: He's inferring in the investigation. It's his Justice Department that has to decide --

HABERMAN: That's right.

KING: Yes.

LIZZA: -- whether to give him immunity and for the president to be saying, oh, it's great, he is asking for immunity that is unusual.

HABERMAN: Yes.

KING: The president should -- protocol would say, be silent on these things, but protocol I think it left the beltway. Let's just leave it there. We'll be back in a minute.

Next, friend or foe, China's president comes calling this week, just as President Trump promises to crack down on unfair trade.

And, politicians say the darnedest things, including when signing executive order.

(BEGINVIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It's a child's desk, but that's OK.

(LAUGHTER)

Smallest desk I've ever seen!

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:17:40] KING: Welcome back.

The new administration made waves on the world stage this past week. And look for more in the week ahead. The King of Jordan and Egypt's president are coming to the White House in the days ahead and then, China's Xi Jinping visits for 2:00 days of talks at the president's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach. Now, candidate was scathing in his criticism of China, promised to

label it a currency manipulator on day, one a move that would have sparked a trade war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

TRUMP: We can't continue to allow China to rape our country and that is what they are doing. It's the greatest theft in the history of world.

The greatest abuser in the history of this country. They can't imagine, they can't even believe that they can get away with what is happening.

China is responsible for nearly half of our entire trade deficit. They break the rules in every way imaginable.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KING: That tough talk, that promise seems almost forgotten, though. The president did take some formal or modest action on trade Friday, asking for a study on the trade deficit and promising more aggressive enforcement of existing duties and tariffs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: To ensure that we fully connect all duties imposed on foreign importers that cheat -- they're cheaters -- from now on, those who break the rules will face the consequences and there'll be very severe consequences.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's a huge relationship. A complicated relationship. It seems, if you just even listen to the president there, the much more subdued talk, reading from the script, versus the candidate who was off the charts in singling out China.

Have they moved back to a more establishment position? Do we know yet? It sure sounds like they have.

KUCINICH: You know who has helped a lot to get to where they are now is Jared Kushner. After the whole One China debacle when he first came into office, it was Kushner who helped put the call together to make sure that, you know, China and U.S. were speaking again. And this is -- he'll play a big role when the Chinese president does come to Florida this week.

HABERMAN: The problem is, though, there's been a lot of reported on this and that is absolutely true but Jared Kushner has no diplomatic experience.

KUCINICH: That's very true, too.

HABERMAN: And he is not on the same level as his Chinese counterpart in these discussions. And so, you are going to see something interesting in term of how far family loyalty Trump can take him in terms of governing.

[08:20:03] I think it is too early to your question to know where they are headed with this right now, other than it goes in the sort of bigger basket of Trump discovering the governing is actually very different than campaigning.

KING: All right.

PHILLIP: And it's worth noting to Jackie's point that this relationship was off to a rocky start, in part, because the White House was basically not prepared to deal with the level of diplomacy that China was dealing with. They wouldn't take Trump's call for weeks going into this administration. That's a pretty big deal.

(CROSSTALK)

KUCINICH: Also because of -- he took a call from Taiwan.

PHILLIP: Because he took the call from Taiwan. The fact that Trump did not follow through on this promise to make -- to label China a currency manipulator on day one is a cave on a really, really, really big campaign promise. It cannot be overlooked the fact that this White House has talked about China as if it's going to be this really easy thing we just do this, that, and the other.

And the reality has been much more difficult because it's not that easy to just sort of make demands on China and have them cave to them and that they are learning that very publicly right now.

KING: In the campaign, you're right. It was -- it's a big cave that he didn't do it on day one because he talked so much about -- he used the term rape. You did hear him right there.

If you look at the trade deficit, the president is right. It's implicated. By the math, he's right. We have $500 billion trade deficit last year, more than half, $310 billion of that from China, Mexico next, $62 billion.

But that's one issue and that's an issue that's important to Trump voters. And the president, as Bernie Sanders did in the primaries, taught us that pay attention to this issue out there in middle America, it matters to people.

However, he very much needs China's help on North Korea, which, number one, flashing light on the international stage for the president right now. Number two, he very much is trying to figure out -- we talked about the NATO stuff, we forget about Australia, Japan, and South Korea. A lot who are very worried about how this administration is going to handle what those allies consider provocative Chinese actions in the South China Sea.

So, this is the biggest test I think of the world stage so far on a face-to-face.

LIZZA: Well, so far, the Chinese, the fears that they have from the Trump administration have not materialized, right? So, the hawks in the Republican Party wanted a more of an emphasis on Taiwanese independence and they started off with that fight. And as Abby pointed out, there was immediate climb down from the Trump administration.

If you go back and read the statement that the White House put out, it was almost grabbling in its announcement to the return to the One China policy and promising that. And then, two, the other thing that Chinese worried about what this rhetoric that we just played and declaring them a currency manipulator on day one. That didn't happen. The move on trade this week was basically a press release that we will look into this.

I think you have to watch, what happens in the personal meeting. There was a similar dynamic between Trump and United States and Germany, but where a lot of the fears of the Germans didn't come true but in that meeting with Angela Merkel, Trump did raise the issue of NATO and payments, and he sort of promised that this meeting with China is going to be tough but, so far, the rhetoric has been harsher than the actual policies with China.

KING: And another thing we thought from the campaign is that Trump made clear that he wanted a reset with Russia, some sort of at least a more practical working relationship. We talked last block about all the investigations and the impact. I don't want to connect the dots, please, if you want to, please.

But we did see this past week, number one, a gift to Russia when it comes to the policy in Syria. Nikki Haley, the United Nations ambassador, the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the same thing. Essentially, Nikki Haley saying this, "Our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out. Do we think he's a hindrance? Yes," she said. "Are we going to sit there and focus on getting him out? No."

That publicly saying something that became a known fact late in the Obama administration that Assad wasn't going to go. The fight against ISIS, you need to worry about other things first. So, there is a gift to Russia and Iran there, but then listen to the secretary of state and secretary of defense at their first NATO meeting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We want to, obviously, have a discussion around NATO's posture here in Europe, and most particularly Eastern Europe, in response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere.

JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Russia's violations of international law are now a matter of record from what happened with Crimea to other aspects of their behavior in mucking around inside other people's elections and that sort of thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That was the secretary of state and the secretary of defense speaking tough word we have not once heard from the president of the United States.

PHILLIP: And it's important to note that this is a change in strategy. They wanted to broker a different kind of relationship. They wanted to come with more conciliatory tone.

They cannot do that anymore. This Russia issue has permeated. This entire presidency and made it hard politically to do that.

And just one point on the broader question of, like, what is going on with our relationship to the world, on Russia, on China, on Germany? We have essentially diplomacy that is being partly run out of the White House as Maggie pointed out by someone who doesn't have any diplomatic experience. But at the State Department, it's also being run by somebody who doesn't have any diplomatic experience, so we're going to see some fits and starts here because this is not a well- oiled machine. These are people who are learning on the job.

[08:25:02] HABERMAN: This is the problem too, is that, you know, this was throughout the campaign, you try to discern where Trump was on any given issue because he would often say two competing things within the same sentence or be so vague you would have to present him with a menu of option about what he my be talking about. You are still seeing that.

There is no clear through line through this administration. You will hear Nikki Haley say one thing that appears to be at odds with the White House. You would hear secretary of state and secretary of defense do something similar. And there is nothing wrong on its own with wanting a reset with Russia for a better relationship but the problem is always the context and we are dealing with it in this post hacking world where there are also all of these investigations going on.

I think we still don't know where the president actually comes down on any number of these issues but I do think to the earlier issue about China and handled Taiwan and walking back where they were in almost grovel to your point the press release was quite something at the time. You know, the big complaint about the Trump administration for a while we heard from Democrats was essentially describing your word is well-oiled machine. There was almost the sinister quality that his critics have infused this with as if this was -- a book they compared it to was 1984 by George Orwell.

This is like looking like an animal farm, right, which is that he run against the system and described it as corrupt and then he risks having essentially becoming everything he ran against. That's a real problem for him approaching 100 days.

LIZZA: Like "Lord of the Flies" to me.

(LAUGHTER)

HABERMAN: We can pick and choose.

KING: It's library day here.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Up next, President Trump is nothing if not different. His biggest lesson from the Obamacare repeal defeat, threatened conservatives he will defeat them in next year's elections.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:30:49] KING: Welcome back. You know the old saying, politics make strange bedfellows. Well, in these new and very different days, for President Trump it seems politics also makes strange enemies.

In the past week, one of the most interesting dynamics is the president attacking members of his own party. This because of the Obamacare repeal failure on the part of the White House and Republicans in Congress. The president tweeting out this past week, "If Rep. Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, Raul Labrador will get on board, we'd have both great health care and tax reform. Where are Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, Raul Labrador? Repeal and replace Obamacare."

The president mad in this three cases at members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Now Jim Jordan's district right here in Ohio. President Trump carried that area. That's why he's mad. He thinks Jim Jordan should have voted with him. Raul Labrador's district up here in western Idaho. President Trump carried that area, too, thinks Raul Labrador should be loyal to him. Mark Meadows is the head of the Freedom Caucus, his district is down here, out in this part, western North Carolina. Again, Donald Trump carried it even with Mark Meadows thinks, Mark Meadows should give him his vote.

These conservatives think, no, Mr. President, you walked away from Republican Party principles. As this fight continues, listen to Mo Brooks, Freedom Caucus member, conservative from Alabama saying, Mr. President, we're not your enemies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: Well, if you've read the "Art of the Deal" you looked at President Donald Trump's history, this is a part of his method of operation. I hope the president will bear in mind that the Freedom Caucus is going to provide the bull work of the support the president needs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Well, that was on Friday. And the White House clearly not listening because they don't want to. Dan Scavino is the president's social media director, and used his personal account yesterday to attack another one, Justin Amash of Michigan, who responded in kind on Twitter saying, "Trump admin and establishment has merged into Trump establishment. Same old agenda. Attack conservatives, libertarians and independent thinkers."

We are one month from a hundred days. Their first big legislative effort blew up. Repealing and replacing Obamacare. There's a government shutdown coming up. There's then passing the Trump budget coming up. There's immigration decisions coming up. Can the president succeed if he's at war, not just having differences

with conservatives, but saying I'm going to come to your state next year and support a primary opponent?

KUCINICH: No, I mean, he can't. Especially in some of these -- Justin Amash's district is a little bit different than the other three members because in Jim Jordan's district, Raul Labrador's district and Mark Meadows' district, you could probably run a cardboard cut-out that said Republican on it and they would win those districts because they are solidly Republican districts. So they don't feel like they don't need the president. And Justin Amash --

KING: Can you get to their right in a primary?

KUCINICH: That would be -- that's the other thing. Good luck trying to find someone to the right of Jim Jordan.

KING: Right. Yes.

LIZZA: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe most of the Freedom Caucus members ran ahead of Trump, right?

KING: Yes. Yes.

LIZZA: But you never know what happens in a coordinated intensive campaign that Donald Trump is leading, supporting a primary opponent. Who knows, right? I do think it is interesting that he's identified the Freedom Caucus as the problem. There's some confusion after the health care bill failed over whether he was going to blame Paul Ryan or he was going to blame the Freedom Caucus. Now they seem to be on the -- White House seems to be very coordinated and saying, all right, it's these guys that are a threat to our agenda and they need to be disciplined.

HABERMAN: They're trying to show -- and there was a lot of discussion about this when the health care bill failed that there did need to be -- you had Mark Short, the president's legislative affairs guy, and you had Steve Bannon, the chief strategist, and a few other people in the administration making clear that they wanted to know who the no votes were so that they could essentially have the option of holding people accountable.

And there is still a view by some in that White House that you need to make an example of people to show them that you cannot cross the president and that is logical. Look, this would hardly be the first White House that would do that. But the Trump White House is so not operating from a position of strength right now. If you're at 35 percent you are not really scaring anybody and what Trump had -- a 35 percent approval rating for the president, what Trump had before was the ability to scare people and intimidate them. And when that goes -- I mean, essentially we saw it with the AHCH fight the president blinked and these guys know it and you're seeing that on Twitter.

KUCINICH: They also had the bill at 17 percent approval rating so that gave them an out, saying look at this, everyone hates this. KING: And they for years they ran on specifics, these House members,

and this bill did not -- it was no surprise. It should not -- and they've also moved the goalpost many times in debates with Speaker Boehner -- former Speaker Boehner.

[08:35:04] To the point you make about a 35 percent approval rating. A month away from the hundred-day mark, again the big debate in this town and out in America, there might be different debates, is how is he doing? Right? And so a Marist-McClatchy poll this week graded the president. A -- never mind polling numbers, but A, 15 percent. B, 22 percent. C, 15 percent. If you consider C a passing grade, a majority gives him a passing grade. D, 15 percent, F, 32 percent. That would be your hardcore Democrats at the bottom there.

It's an interesting way to look at it. I want to have this -- here is the conversation. In Washington, people say off to a horrible start. My colleague Alisyn Camerota had a great conversation with some Trump voters this week and I was e-mailing some -- in recent days, Trump voters during the campaign. And some are disappointed in this or mad about that. But they see it a little bit different. I just want to hear -- here's the good start case for the president.

The good start case is you have strong jobs reports. You have the Trump stock rally -- the rally of the stock market for the first quarter of the year. They see tougher immigration enforcement out in the states. They think there's a regulatory rollback coming. And the Gorsuch nomination has been a win for the president. So Trump voters say hey, wait a minute, this isn't so bad.

Here is the bad start case. The Russia investigations which we talked about. The Obamacare repeal debacle. The president just failed, he said he could do this and he didn't. Travel ban blocked in the court. All this Republican infighting. Staff turmoil and a lot of jobs that just simple haven't filled yet and key government positions.

Which is it? Or is this the paradox of Trump? It's a little bit or a lot of both?

PHILLIP: Well, I think we should always keep in mind that Trump's core supporters are measuring him on different metrics than much of the other electorate and many of those people are going to stay in his camp, very hardcore, they're very enthusiastic, they have a lot of energy.

But Trump didn't win by just winning those people. He had to have gotten some people in the sliver of the middle. And I think that he really is genuinely in trouble with those people. You don't get to 35 percent if the middle of the country is behind you. And so this is a real problem. How long it lasts is anybody's guess. I mean, we are very far out from having another test of Trump. How do voters really feel about Trump when they go into a ballot box and a lot can happen in that time. And as we learned in the campaign it's not just about how low he gets but is he able to come back up again?

KING: Right.

PHILLIP: And we've had -- we're going to have a lot of these cycles, up and down and up, it's just too early to tell.

KING: It's a rollercoaster blindfold, that I have to say.

LIZZA: I would say glass half empty on that demarcation, the three quarters empty.

KING: All right.

LIZZA: Look, you have a unique opportunity when you are the president and the Congress is controlled by the same party. And we all know that the first couple of years of a presidency is usually when you have a chance to get big things done. So the most important thing is the fact that they could not pass their main initial priority through the House and that is a very ominous sign. And as Abby points out, the other ominous sign is in these polls. He has rock solid 90 percent support from Republicans until the health care debacle and the first time you're seeing softening among that core. We have to see if that's a trend or just a blip. But that's got to be worrying for them.

KING: I want to quickly get to this. We knew that a lot of the people the president brought in were wealthy people, and there's nothing wrong with that. Wealthy people can serve in public service just as well as people who are less affluent. But we have fascinating numbers as they found -- had to file financial disclosures forms. And if you look at this, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, they're a power couple, the president's daughter and son-in-law. Income of $195 million. Assets upwards of $700 million.

Gary Cohn who came from Wall Street, economic adviser, income of $75 million last year. You see his $600 million -- up to $600 million in assets. Steve Bannon is the poor guy in the White House. The chief strategist, income of $2.5 million. I don't say that -- I shouldn't have said that because that's not nice. Assets of $12 million to 53 million.

We knew this. You know, we knew this. We're learning more details. Does it matter? I think one of the questions is, Ivanka Trump still had a stake in the Trump Hotel when those documents were filed. Now that she's agreed to come on sort of as an official employee, will ethics rules require her to divest then?

HABERMAN: The ethics rules, they believe, they're going to have some kind of ethics agreement, and so -- but they're not making that agreement public, so we don't know exactly what that is going to look like. What we do know is that with both Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump as employees, they are now beholden to conflict of interest rules. The president does not. And so actually this is for ethics watch dogs who want them to be held

accountable or at least have the potential for it that's not a bad thing. That is a good thing because it means there isn't a metric by which to judge.

KING: Right.

HABERMAN: In terms of the wealth, you know, there have been a lot of wealthy West Wings before. This is not -- this is not novel and we have a businessman president. So that's not really a surprise. The difference is that this is a businessman president who adopted the populist language of the working class and who sounded like a member of the working class.

KING: Right.

HABERMAN: This is a Queens-born or a Queens-bred president in New York City. And so I think that the more you can sort of see the split screen of what people are worth versus what they are talking about, that is potentially problematic depending on what he does in terms of policy.

KING: If he doesn't deliver on some of these policies you'll see that in campaign ads in congressional races next year. This is why, he is surrounded by these people, you see those numbers.

HABERMAN: Correct.

KING: Everybody, sit tight. Next week a defining week for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and for the Democratic Party.

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[08:44:04] KING: First the Senate Judiciary Committee this week and that floor vote on Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's nominee to fill a Supreme Court vacancy.

Here's the question. They will get the judge out of committee. Republicans have the votes to do that. Then what happens on the floor?

I want to show you 10 Trump state Democrats. We've talked about this 10 before. They are up on the ballot next year. They're all Democrats. President Trump carried their states last year. You see six of them have already said they will vote no on Neil Gorsuch. No also to close down debate. Two, Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota, Joe Manchin in West Virginia, have said they will vote yes and we're waiting for answers from Jon Tester and from Joe Donnelly.

The question is, will there be eight Democrats who go over to the Republican side so they have 60 votes, no filibuster? Or will Republicans change the Senate rules to pass him with 50 or 51? And 52 if all the Republicans do and then the Democrats hold firm? What's going to happen?

PHILLIP: It's been increasingly inevitable that the filibuster is going to be on its way out. But I also I think that one of the interesting things that we're seeing with these Democrats who are in Trump states is that they are realizing that they have to rely on their base going into this midterm.

[08:45:08] They cannot bottom out.

KING: Right. PHILLIP: And then go in hoping that Trump's people are going to bail

them out somehow. That's just not a way to run. They are going to run to their base and see what happens with those -- with that narrow sliver of the middle who many fewer of them happen to show up in midterm.

KING: A lot of Democrats think this is really not the fight to fall on your sword for, but, but they know that their phones and their e- mails and that energy back home is vote no.

KUCINICH: Abby is absolutely right. I mean, this has everything to do with the base. And there are a lot of people saying that this isn't the fight because the next -- if another space opens up, that is going to be whether -- Senator Bennett said those. That's going to be the seat that decides the court. This is a -- yes, exactly. This is a conservative seat. It will likely be filled by a conservative justice. The next one is going to be the fight.

LIZZA: I mean, this is interesting. This should not be the fight where the filibuster dies, right? I mean, most Democrats, if you ask them privately, is this person OK to be on the Supreme Court? Is he is qualified?

KING: They actually like him.

LIZZA: Of course -- of course he is. They haven't discovered anything in his past that would disqualify him from serving on the Supreme Court. And of course, it's just filling Scalia's seat. So you're going to go back to the status quo we had before Scalia died. The issue is they think it's a stolen seat. Right?

KING: Right.

LIZZA: They didn't -- so, you know, you have Democrats say what's the difference between voting against -- Democrats voting against Gorsuch and Republicans not allowing Obama's pick to have a vote at all? Really it's hard to answer that question. There's not much of a difference.

KING: It has nothing to do with Neil Gorsuch. It has a lot to do with what happened last year.

I want to squeeze this in if we can. We saw this past week Hillary Clinton was back out on the public stage. Joe Biden was back on the public stage. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren together in Boston the other day.

I want to listen to a little bit of Senator Sanders. So they're talking about what Gorsuch vote, they're talking about what the Democratic Party does looking forward. Listen to Senator Sanders here. There's still a lot of debate looking in the rearview mirror.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Some people think that the people who voted for Trump are racists and sexists and homophobes and just deplorable folks. I don't agree. It wasn't that Donald Trump won the election. It was that the Democratic Party lost the election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We are still refighting essentially Hillary Clinton forgot about blue-collar people is the translation of that.

HABERMAN: Well, they don't -- they don't have any agreement in the Democratic Party about what actually went wrong.

KING: Right.

HABERMAN: And so until there is unanimity on that you're going to keep seeing a dissecting of this. You're also going to see Hillary Clinton start poking her head up again right now which is perfectly fine and understandable, and it's right that she wants to have a voice and talk about how she feels about what happened. What I think is problematic for her is that, A, it partisanizes the investigation into Russia potentially number one.

KING: Right.

HABERMAN: And number two her folks have not shown much of a threshold for being able to absorb criticism.

KING: Grace is the word. Our reporters share from their notebooks tonight including Vice President Mike Pence quietly working the money trail.

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[08:52:15] KING: Let's close as we always do, go around the INSIDE POLITICS table and ask our great reporters to share a little something from their notebooks to help get you out ahead of the big politics news just around the corner. Maggie Haberman?

HABERMAN: The vice president has been quietly holding dinners with prospective Republican donors who could give to what is the blessed super PAC for the Trump team. This America First Policies group. It's been struggling a lot. There is, as always is the case in Trump land, there is a rival group out there that has been making a bit of an edge and has been airing ads partly in the hopes, I think, of catching Trump's attention on television and seeing the work they're doing.

Pence is working very quietly at a series of dinners where he is essentially talking about the need to support the president through this one group. House super PACs play out given the way the Trump presidency and the way Trump as a candidate felt about soft money and outside group and donations is going to be an interesting question.

KING: He certainly after the health care debate learned a lesson he could use the help. Ryan?

LIZZA: You know, I've been talking to Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and despite the fact that the last two weeks it seems that that committee has just blown up and its work is grounded to a halt. The Democrats now are actually somewhat bullish on prospects for getting some information and useful information in their view out of that committee and that's for two reasons. One, they believe that Nunes has politically been weakened by some of the shenanigans that have gone on over the last two weeks.

And two, there is still this issue of the opening hearing for John Brennan and James Clapper and Sally Yates, three witnesses that were supposed to testify last weekend. They were cancelled by Nunes but now which seems like it's likely to happen. And so instead of them pulling out of the committee, boycotting or anything like that, they are actually now bullish on moving forward and getting Nunes to restart things.

KING: See if that optimism is founded in the days ahead. Jackie?

KUCINICH: We talked about Trump's rhetoric about wanting to work with Democrats. Well, he just might have his chance. At the end of this month, April 28th, the government is going to run out of money. And he's going to need Democrats to help get that over the line. What does that mean? That means that there won't -- there can't be any money for the wall in that bill. There can't be any money to -- there can't be a defund Planned Parenthood effort because if Democrats leave him they do not have the Republican votes to get this thing or at least historically they have not had the Republican votes alone to get this thing over the finish line. And Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have both said there's not going to be a government shutdown. Pelosi says she's willing to work with them. We'll see if that hold going forward.

KING: New president, same debate, about keeping the government open. Abby?

PHILLIP: Well, Zeke Emanuel, one of the architects of the Affordable Care Act, has been coming into the White House pretty consistently talking to aides over the last couple of months since the transition. Most recently one of those meetings happened in the last week. And I'm told that he is being brought in by folks like Jared Kushner and Gary Cohn out of the New York ring and the White House. And the president in the those meetings seems always to be very interested in what he has to say, interested in very specific ideas.

[08:55:03] As we move forward it's clear that the White House is not taking this prospect of finding some kind of common ground with Democrats off the table but he keeps coming into the White House and the president keeps listening. We'll see how far things deteriorate with the Freedom Caucus but that's the thing to keep an eye on moving forward.

KING: I'd like to know what brother Rahm thinks about those meetings but that's for another day. I'll close with this one. Rationale for putting Congressman Tom Price in the Trump Cabinet was that he could help the Obamacare repeal plan, help get it through Congress. Well, we all know how that worked out. Now Republicans have gone from nervous to worried to very, very worried about the prospect of a Democrat winning Price's old seat. That is Georgia's Sixth Congressional District normally pretty reliably red turf in the Atlanta suburbs.

It's the first enthusiasm and turnout test of the Trump presidency and early voting tilting significantly so far in favor of the Democrats. 30-year-old Jon Ossoff is the leading Democrat in 18 -- that's right, 18-candidate field. If Ossoff gets 50 percent on April 18th he wins the seat. Priority one for GOP groups flooding money and staff into district now is to keep him below 50 and then regroup for a two- candidate runoff that would be in June. Lots of fun down in Georgia.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Again, thanks for sharing your Sunday morning. We're also here weekdays at noon Eastern. Hope to see you then. Up next, a packed program with "STATE OF THE UNION" and Jake Tapper.

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