Return to Transcripts main page
Questions Arise About U.S. Strategy on Syria; Trump Softens Stance on China; Blast Tears Through Two Churches in Egypt; Priebus, Bannon and Kushner Meet Amid White House Turmoil; Winners and Losers of Trump's 100-Day Agenda; Trump Says Healthcare Battle is A Negotiation. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired April 9, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:10] JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): Missile strikes in Syria. A new red line from the new commander-in-chief.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.
KING: Russia is mad. Iran too. And in Congress, a debate over war powers and what comes next.
SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: There's no legal justification for this. Does the Constitution matter?
KING: Plus, trouble for the Trump agenda and more turmoil in the Trump White House. More and more a family business.
IVANKA TRUMP, FIRST DAUGHTER: I disagree with my father. He knows it. I express myself with total candor.
KING: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories, sourced by the best reporters now.
KING: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King.
To our viewers in the United States and around the world, thanks for sharing your Sunday.
A lot to talk about, including more evidence of West Wing staff turmoil and a new show of U.S. military muscle in Asia aimed at getting North Korea's attention.
But let's begin with this: being commander-in-chief is changing a man who for years said it was foolish to inject American power into Syria's civil war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Tonight, I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end this slaughter, and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, these are the images that changed the president's mind. Victim of a sarin gas attack the Pentagon says was launched by Bashar al Assad.
And these here, let's take a look. These are the images of the message sent by the president in the form of 60 cruise missiles, 59 of them aimed at the Al-Shayrat, 59 hit their targets at the Al-Shayrat Airbase. The red dots show you some of the damage.
Let me bring you up and show you, aircraft hangars here; hardened shelters for aircraft. You see these photos released by the Pentagon show some of the destruction. That's one example of the destruction we see from the cruise missiles. Again, come over here you see much of the same, burnt out areas here, hardened shelters, you can see the pockmarks where the missiles went in.
Again, the president of the United States trying to send a message to Bashar al Assad, to Syria and to Moscow.
The question now is, was this a one-time retaliation or is the United States on a new war footing?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: He won't stop here. If he needs to do more, he will do more. So, really, now, what happens depends on how everyone responds to what happened in Syria and make sure we start moving towards a political solution and we start finding peace in that area.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: With us this Sunday to share the reporting and their insight: Julie Pace of "The Associated Press", CNN's Phil Mattingly, Perry Bacon of FiveThirtyEight, and "The Atlantic's" Molly Ball.
The first major military assault of the Trump presidency was a plan initially drawn up for President Obama but kept on the shelf until Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, the fallout is complicated to say the least. Russia dispatched a cruise ship of its own to show its displeasure. Russian television showing the targeted airbase was back in business. What next is the big question. And the Trump administration is sending mixed signals.
You heard in the beginning of the program there, Nikki Haley saying if he has to do more, he will do more. The secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, seems to be saying, let's just see what happens on the ground, our big fundamental policy hasn't changed, this is more about ISIS than it is about Bashar al Assad. Which is it?
JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, you're right. They are sending mixed messages. I was with the president and White House staff in Palm Beach the last few days.
And on one hand, you would hear officials say that Trump is willing to do more to go after Assad. At the same time they say there's no broader shift in U.S. policy. I think what we can take away from this is that the strike was meant to send a message that Trump is a president who is willing to use military action when he feels necessary but that they have not really thought through what this means more broadly.
And I think that leaves them in a dangerous situation because the Assad regime doesn't have much to lose here and Russia and Iran have shown a great capacity for trying to prop Assad up over the last several years.
KING: And a red line certainly drawn by this president about the use of chemical weapons. President Obama drew that line, didn't enforce it when it was crossed. This president clearly has.
But do we know what happens if Bashar al Assad uses conventional weapons and bombs a town again? And we see pictures, horror not chemical reactions, still death, still children, still babies.
[08:05:05] Is that OK because it's not gas?
MOLLY BALL, THE ATLANTIC: What he said was that there are lines of many colors. In fact, there are many different kinds of lines that were crossed.
But as Julie was saying, they're basically -- the administration officials are almost explicitly saying they do not have an end game. They do not have a broader strategy. This isn't part of something that's been thought all the way through. It is a one time thing that might turn into a many times thing. And if it doesn't change U.S. policy, it is a direct contravention of what Trump consistently, what his stance was throughout the campaign on this issue.
So, the reason the previous administration took the public relations hit of Obama looking weak and, in fact, being broadly criticized for not being forceful enough on Syria, they decided that was still preferable to potentially being drawn into a quagmire, potentially being drawn into a broader war that would require troop commitment that we couldn't get out of and make the situation worse.
And this administration doesn't have answers to those questions of how you avoid those outcomes. KING: Whether it's a one off or not you're throwing a punch at Bashar
al Assad, the first time the United States has directly attacked the regime. At the same time, you have special operations forces and others inside Syria helping to fight is. Two enemies now, two combatants twin borders of Syria.
This is a complicated one. Without a clear policy, what's -- where are we going?
PERRY BACON, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: And as you said earlier, let me explain this. Nikki Haley today said something along the lines of Assad can't be part of the solution there, which is a strong statement -- closer to the he must go language Obama used but we don't have that from Tillerson and other things as well. So, it's not clear what the policy is towards Assad. Are we trying to push him? What are we doing there either?
So, again, we don't know. We took one step here on Thursday. Not sure what the next two steps are.
KING: Well, let's do that a little bit. Here's Nikki Haley, you want to stay with CNN. She's on "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper in the next hour. Listen to her on the fundamental question.
You just launched this military strike. Is this president's goal now that Bashar al Assad is -- policy, that Bashar al Assad must go?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Well, the regime change is something we think is going to happen because all of the parties are going to see that Assad is not the leader that needs be taking place for Syria.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That's the United Nations ambassador, works for Donald Trump. Here's the secretary of state, who has the same boss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: There's no real change in the United States military stance towards Syria from what it was last week.
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: That's correct, George. This strike, I think the president was very clear in his message to the American people that this strike was related solely to the most recent horrific use of chemical weapons against women, children and as the president said even small babies.
We are asking Russia to fulfill its commitment and we're asking and calling on Bashar al Assad to cease the use of these weapons. Other than that there's no change in our military posture.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Is confusion a strategy or is confusion because there's a lack -- the last administration went through this, as Molly just said. There are no good options.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, everybody is on the same page clearly on this.
Now, look, I think the -- what Julie and Molly and Perry can all laid out is the reality right now. They don't know necessarily what's coming next. They haven't had kind of the in-depth policy discussions/planning on what they want to do with Syria going forward. There's been so much going on in the first 75 days that I haven't gotten a sense that those meetings happened at the top line principal level.
And that raises a lot of questions. I was on Capitol Hill when Major General Dunford came in and briefed senators in a closed door secured briefing after the strikes came out. All of them came out and said, look, the briefing was fantastic. The lead up to this decision-making was very good as traditional as you could expect and we're impressed.
Nobody had any answers to what comes next. It's what you heard repeatedly. The reviews were good. We heard from allies. We heard from senators on both sides of the aisles. Everybody was pleased that the Trump administration was willing to take this step.
But nobody knows what happens next. And what happens next is not just on the military side of things, it's on the diplomatic side of things. It's how we're working with allies, all those things. And there just aren't answers there yet, at least that any of us have heard.
PACE: It's interesting. I mean, I've covered the political space around the Syria war since 2013 when Obama backed away and you almost felt like it was this cathartic moment for a lot of people in both parties who have felt frustrated the U.S. hasn't done more. So, the mere fact Trump was willing to take this action I think in the short term made people feel good.
But very quickly you see that start to fade away because this is not only the same complicated situation with Assad, this is that situation with ISIS and Russia then layered on top of it. We're now in a much more difficult situation in Syria than we were when Obama was making this decision in 2013.
KING: That's unpredictability is and always has been a Trump calling card. And now, you have the secretary of state going to Moscow this week to see the foreign minister, what are the Russians thinking about this? You had -- we're going to get to this in a minute, the summit with China and now, military ships going toward North Korea.
[08:10:04] What are they thinking about this in Beijing and Pyongyang? One thing we do know is that what the president decided to do was 180 degrees apart from what for years he said the United States should do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: If Assad got knocked off, let's say they get knocked off, he gets knocked off, what do we have? I mean, we don't know if it's going to be worse than Assad. So, what are we doing?
I think it's irresponsible for us to get bogged down in Syria and maybe let's end up over World War iii over Syria where we don't want to be in the first place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, they insist we're not gong to get bogged down. They insist, this was a one time response to a horrific act by the Syrian regime. But the president's letter to Congress explaining himself and saying he has legal justification for this says if I have to, I'll do it again.
And so, what did we learn about our president. Every candidate becomes president and has to leave some thing behind, sometimes they leave a lot of things behind, because they just realize, OK, this job isn't what I thought it was. It's much easier to run for president than to be president, is that what this is?
BALL: Yes, I think this is a major clarifying moment, perhaps the first real testing moment for Donald Trump because his presidency was always going to be determined by events he couldn't control and how he responded to them, how he answered, how he made decisions when he had to.
On the campaign trail, he often took both sides of an issue, right? You did have people with selective hearing thinking, oh, he's an isolationist, he's even sort of a peace maker, he talks about being against the war in Iraq although that's questionable. People with selective hearing on the other side hearing him say, we're going to bomb the you-know-what out of ISIS. Some we're going to be militaristic and tough and strong and putting in all the generals.
And it -- in a campaign, you can say both things and have people hear what they want to hear. When the rubber hits the road and you have to make a policy decision, it has to be one thing or the other thing, that's how you figure out what kind of a president someone is.
KING: And now, he's stepped in this. Again, they think it's a one- off. They hope it's a one off. But he stepped on this.
On Capitol Hill, you hear from the hawks who say we have to do more. We might need some more troops over there. We need to do more to help the resistance.
From Democrats, listen to Hillary Clinton here. She says, "Thank you, Mr. President. I applaud you for doing this." But --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I hope this administration will move forward in a way that's both strategic and consistent with our values. And I also hope that they will recognize that we cannot in one breath speak of protecting Syrian babies and in the next close America's doors to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Her case is: Mr. President, now you have a moral obligation to stop your refugee ban. To let Syrian refugees come in. Anyone want to bet that's going to happen?
BACON: I don't think that's going to -- it's an important statement that Hillary made, too. And we saw 79 senators by our counts supported this individual strike. So, that's a big majority of people.
When you get any questions beyond that, you saw lots of division about what do we do about Assad, what do we do about refugees? So, I think she's speaking to a broader view here. Just one policy agreed upon, a big fight.
Trump maybe clarified that he will not abide by his campaign rhetoric. But still, if your doctrine is no doctrine, if your doctrine is I'm flexible, that's not something people can act upon. It's unclear what you're going to do in next fight.
KING: Although we do know this is now front and center in his mind. We'll see how this develops.
Everyone sit tight. Ahead, some major turmoil at the top of team Trump. And next, another giant, an important policy shift. Candidate Trump cast China as an enemy. President appears to have a new friend.
In this week's politicians say the darndest things, "Saturday Night Live's" take on the Syria missile strikes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEC BALDWIN AS PRES. TRUMP: We all love Trump, don't we? We do, we do. I just had an amazing week, folks. I met with leaders from China, Egypt and Jordan. Gorsuch was confirmed. The media is saying nice things and no one is talking about Russia. Well, what a difference 59 Tomahawk missiles can make.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[08:17:59] KING: Welcome back.
Days after the missile strikes in Syria, another flexing of America's military might, this time in Asia. A U.S. Navy carrier strike group now steaming toward the Korean Peninsula in what the Pentagon openly calls a response to the recent missile tests and other provocations by North Korea.
That deployment comes amid even more evidence President Trump has taken a different path on the world stage than the one suggested by candidate Trump. Back then, this was Donald Trump's idea of dinner with Xi Jinping. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I get him a McDonald's hamburger and say we got to get down to work because you can't continue to devalue. I give him a double, probably a double sized Big Mac.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: He also promised a day one crackdown on China trade practices he called illegal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We can't continue to allow China to rape our country and that's what they are doing. It's the greatest theft in the history of the world.
China is responsible for nearly half of our entire trade deficit. They break the rules in every way imaginable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: But two days of talks in Florida included, yes, a fancy dinner between the two leaders -- vague but quite positive statements about trying to work together on economic and security challenges and a very, very different tone from President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The relationship developed by President Xi and myself, I think, is outstanding. We look forward to being together many times in the future. And I believe lots of very potentially bad problems will be going away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KNG: A lot of potentially bad problems will be going away.
We've gotten the readouts from both sides. The readouts from both sides, and this is not unusual, especially when it comes from China, the readouts on both sides are very general. That they talked bluntly and they talked candidly. They talked, frankly, they built a good personal relationship. And from the White House side, they're saying they look forward to Chinese actions on economic issues.
And let's start with security issues, because normally, a U.S. Navy carrier group steaming towards the North Korean Peninsula and China screams, "stay out of our neighborhood." We haven't heard that. Let's see what happens over the next several days. That in and of itself could be progress out of this summit.
But does the White House say anything -- do they get anything tangible on the ask that we need Beijing, we need you to talk to Pyongyang and get him to stop?
PACE: At least what we're hearing now no. They did get a commitment what they call a commitment China to work with the U.S. on this problem -- the security problem, the economic problem.
I think, you know, this meeting was so interesting because it was framed as generally an introductory meeting. This is the first time these two men have met before. It's an incredibly complicated relationship between these two countries. Maybe even more complicated because Trump was so aggressive during his campaign about China.
And also, though, you heard after the Syria strike that the White House was basically owning the idea that the other message that the strike sent was to China to say, we have asked you for your help on North Korea, we want you to exert more economic pressure but this president who is willing to act alone. If you don't believe him look what he did in Syria, regardless of what Russia and Iran were saying.
KING: And I assume sending the carrier group and I assume they give the Chinese a heads up about this, I assume that's an exclamation point to that, that we're going to put these assets in the region. We have told North Korea we're not going to negotiate anymore. We told you to stop testing your missiles and North Korea ignores that and keep testing its missiles.
This is Senator John McCain on his view, yes, the Middle East is a mess but his view on the number one strategic challenge for the United States heading into the China summit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The immediate crisis we have is not in the Middle East. The most immediate crisis right now is this crazy fat kid who is -- who is -- he's not rational. Everything I read about him he's not rational. Which is the worst kind of adversary would be an irrational person with a nuclear weapon.
And so, I would hope the meetings with the Chinese leader who is now going through the process of consolidating his position, would be that he would take sufficient action against North Korea to stop this. They can do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Senator McCain amuses himself what he thinks are funny terms of phrase, using the term fat kid there.
But this is -- and President Obama told this to President Trump on the way out, wherever you're looking in the world, this is the one that's going to come back to get you.
MATTINGLY: There's no question about it. I think there has been a noticeable shift in how the Trump administration handles this issue. The Obama administration, for years, was working behind closed doors with China to try and deal with Pyongyang. They made it clear they weren't going to attack them publicly, they weren't going to label a currency manipulator. A lot of things that they were doing on the economic side of things were because of back channel negotiations with China, trying to keep the relationship open to try to work with them to kind of persuade them, hey, we're not going to do this if you help us behind the scenes here.
It's very clear the Trump administration made the calculation either because of their experts or because the president himself, that that wasn't the proper course of action and they are going to change that. I think the big question now becomes, what actions do we see after the fact, right? What is China going to do that's tangible, that's noticeable, that they can bring to the table and the Trump administration can say our tact, our strategy is working. You can see the reaction that's happening in Beijing and it's having a noticeable impact on Pyongyang because there hasn't been any evidence of that up to this point.
KING: And as we watch and the next few days will be critical in terms of Beijing, whether it interacts with North Korea, as you see the Navy carrier group heading that way, that's on the security front. On the economic front, if you listen to Trump during the campaign, and there's no secret, his message on trade, his message on blue collar economics, America first, that's why Wisconsin, that's why Michigan, that's why Pennsylvania turned from blue to red.
Listen to Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader of the United States Senates, is saying Mr. President what happened to those tough promises on China trade?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Since Donald Trump has become president, when it comes to trade, his policies make America look like a 98-pound weakling. He's done virtually nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That is a risk for the president, right you get the idea the first face to face meeting, you know the culture of China, your don't want to get in their face because they tend to react negatively to these very positive statements. If he does not have tangibles to show three months, six month, nine months, a year from now on this economic front from China, there's a risk, is there not?
BALL: Sure. China trade was central to his campaign and if you believed the Donald Trump of the campaign trail this is one of the thing he was very consistent about. You would have believed that he would have slapped a tariff on day one.
Now, he did retract the TPP which never went into effect but that was a significant action that did fulfill his campaign promise, but beyond that --
KING: Bu in an odd way, it actually helped China because other countries in the region organizing against China.
BALL: And he hasn't ripped up NAFTA. He hasn't done a lot. He hasn't slapped a tariff on Mexico.
For a while, there was a back door tariff part of the house tax plan. Now we hear that may also be dead. So, if -- to your point, if the Trump you voted for was the Trump who
was going to get in there aggressively, smash the niceties of diplomacy, make that call to Taiwan no matter what anybody said was the right protocol, this is a different and more presidential looking Trump that's probably comforting to people who didn't want a complete disruption of all of our diplomatic institutions, but disconcerting to people who were hoping as a nonpolitician he would actually break some proverbial China.
KING: Certainly a more establishment looking Trump as we go forward.
Everybody, hang tight.
Next, rumblings of a possible White House shake up as the president's top three aides meet to see if they can move past constant infighting and constant policy differences.
KING: Back to our political conversation in a moment. First, I want to update you on breaking news out of North Africa, sad breaking news. Multiple explosions in Egypt this morning where tragedy was overshadowed one of the holiest days of the year. At least 11 people are dead after a bombing in a church in Alexandria, during a Palm Sunday service.
Local media says the head of Egypt's Coptic Church was inside when the blast happened. Just hours before that, more than two dozen people killed in a church bombing in Tanta, that's north of Cairo. Video from inside the church shows the moment the explosion happened. We want to warn you, maybe hard to watch.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
[08:30:03] Security teams are on the site of both of those bombings, digging through debris, looking for survivors. We'll keep that story - we'll keep you updated on that story as the day progresses.
Now, the big US-China summit wasn't the only difficult diplomacy at President Trump's Mar-A-Lago resort in recent days. Friday night, a 45-minute attempted peacemaking, or at least detente, between three top members of the Trump West Wing. Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, and presidential son-in-law and jack of all trades Jared Kushner.
It is not the first time these three have had to talk things out. And while the president was aware of the meeting and we are told he encouraged it, there's still talk bubbling that perhaps a staff shakeup or at least a staff realignment might be in the works. What's going on here?
Chaos was the trademark of the Trump campaign. We are now a couple of weeks from the 100-day mark and we continue to hear that the Chief of Staff isn't really running the White House, that the chief strategist is mad, somedays he's having a big week, other weeks he seems to be being pushed up, that the president increasingly is turning to his son-in-law because he trusts him.
Where's the power center?
PACE: It changes week to week, almost day to day. It's almost exhausting to try to keep up with the - who is up, who is down in this White House right now.
I think the most important thing to know and the reason that these stories actually matter is because this comes from the top. This is the president who, on the one hand, encourages chaos. He often will pit advisors against each other, try to make them compete, he believes that that is a recipe for success.
On the other hand, he's a president who is very aware of his coverage, very aware of how moment to moment decisions are played out. And he recognizes as much as anybody that things have not been going well, that he is not off to a successful start.
So, he is really trying to figure out what the formula is internally that can get this operation back on track. Someone like Jared Kushner, he has an inevitable advantage because he's the president's son-in-law, yet he comes politically from a much different position than some of these other people who helped Trump win the campaign. And so, Trump is drawn to them because of the success of the campaign, because of the connection to the base.
So, this will ultimately be up to the president to decide. And again, it changes almost day-to-day.
KING: You see in the personnel, the very same things we see in the policy fights, whether it's healthcare, whether it's tax reform that you have an establishment guy in Reince Priebus. Let's cut the best deal.
You have the America first populist in Steve Bannon, who says establishment be damned and we don't trust you even if you're the speaker of the House of Representatives.
And Jared Kushner, who Steve Bannon apparently tells his friends, he thinks - well, he is a Democrat and why do we have a Democrat in a Republican White House?
MATTINGLY: And it actually - it goes even deeper than that. If you look at kind of how everything is segmented off here, you have Gary Cohn, who is by far the top economic voice inside the administration, who was a former Democrat and aligns with Jared Kushner on a regular basis.
Dina Powell, also a former finance Wall Street individual, who kind of lines up with them as well as the deputy national security adviser.
And so, you have these teams kind of form here. And I think the interesting element that I've been kind of watching through is the who's up, who's down on a daily basis, starting like the second week of January. (INAUDIBLE) was talking about how Gary Cohn was soon going to replace Reince Priebus as chief of staff. That stuff happens every single day.
In terms of the ability of a West Wing to operate functionally, knowing that not only is everybody talking about the changes that are coming - well, a lot of it is coming from inside the West Wing. That's extremely difficult in terms of an environment to actually work when you have all of these huge issues that they're dealing with.
KING: It's a so-what-who-cares if you're getting things done. If you're getting things done, the president likes this way, OK, whatever.
But the Obamacare repeal and replace effort failed. They're nowhere on putting a tax reform plan on paper. They keep talking about infrastructure, but they don't have a plan to go before Congress and will have these same ideological fights, not only within their own team, but on Capitol Hill as well.
So, some people talk. And the president apparently when he calls his friend says, what do you think of my team, how are they doing, do you have any suggestions for me. There's still talk, even though the White House the other night tried to say, no, the president told these guys, get it together.
So, will there be a shakeup? White House says no. Listen to Kellyanne Conway, the president's counsel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Bannon there to stay? Is Reince Priebus there to stay?
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: I would assume so. That's up to Donald Trump. In other words, I have heard nothing but rumors and innuendos in press reports that will make any of us believe that anything other than the real shakeup going in Washington is the way Donald Trump is coming in as a disruptor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You got that?
BALL: Sort of remarkably honest, right, her saying, like, I have no idea and the only person who knows this is Donald Trump five minutes before he announces his decision.
KING: He has some history here, having gone out there to say he had full confidence in Michael Flynn right before his national security advisor was shown the door.
BALL: And so - but I think as you were sort of saying, the upshot of all this is gridlock because there is no clear direction coming out of the White House because Trump has not chosen a side in what are ultimately ideological fights about what direction, what public stance the White House is going to take, and what kind of leadership they're going to exert on - and even what their major things are that they want to get done.
[08:35:17] He has sort of been all over the place on that. And that has meant that they are at the mercy of the same old Republican divisions in Congress, they are at the mercy of the sort of Keystone cops operation of the leadership of the House of Representatives. That's not a good look for a president who promised to come in, start getting things done.
KING: And what we know that when he feels challenged or when he feels disappointed in the people around him, he tends to get more insular and go like he ran his business, with the people he knows best, his daughter Ivanka, his son-in-law Jared who he knows.
And so, you see Jared taking trips to Iraq. A lot of people saying, what are you doing there? I thought you were in charge of Middle East peace. Didn't you just launch a new White House Office on American Innovation that's supposed to reinvent the government? So, you get the Jared Kushner criticism.
Ivanka Trump has also moved into the West Wing. Listen to her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IVANKA TRUMP, ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT: I would say not to conflate lack of public denouncement with silence. I think there are multiple ways to have your voice heard.
Where I disagree with my father, he knows it. And I express myself with total candor. Where I agree, I fully lean in and support the agenda and hope that I can be an asset to him and make a positive impact.
But I respect the fact that he always listens. It's how he was in business. It's how he is as president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, there are some Republicans who view her as a calming force on the president. They view here as a gateway to get an idea to the president, but there are also a lot of conservatives who will remember, she couldn't vote for her father in the New York primary because she's not a registered Republican.
BACON: I would say the big shift when you think from November to today is it appears that Steve Bannon and his wing, whether on foreign or domestic policy, has less power and Jared and Ivanka have more power.
And that's a big shift because, like you said, Bannon is this nationalist, more conservative; the Trump family, less conservative probably. So, this is a big move if you're a (INAUDIBLE) in some ways because the family - or you're thinking them probably are not people who are very ideologic conservative. They don't have a lot of roots to the movement on Capitol Hill or elsewhere as well. So, it's a big shift, I would say, from November to today where Bannon who was president Bannon according to TIME Magazine, I think it's probably not. There may be President Kushner at this point.
BALL: But it's the establishment Republicans who are really winning. The things he's actually managed to get done, the Supreme Court, the cabinet appointment, that's straight conservative Republican.
KING: Right. And so, we'll see if we're having the same conversation next week. We'll see who's up and who's down next week. That's one of the issues. It can be a different conversation week to week.
Everyone sit tight. Next, three weeks to the 100-day mark. A big win at the Supreme Court and a huge mess on healthcare.
[08:41:58] KING: Welcome back. We're three weeks to the 100-day mark. And how you score the Trump presidency? Depends on how you look at it. If you look at from an economic perspective, jobs added during the Trump presidency, this past week was a bit of a warning sign.
Only 98,000 jobs created in March. You see that down from the more robust job growth just going back to the Obama administration. One month or a problem in the economy? We'll keep an eye on that.
There is another way to look at it, though. And this one shines favorably on the president. The unemployment rate - not the jobs created, the unemployment rate, pop that up there, now at a 10-point low. That's a good thing for the president.
If you score this all by your 401(k), so far, so good. A little dip recently, but so far, so good for President Trump.
Here's the big question at the 100-day mark. Repeal and replace Obamacare, that failed. America first economy, depends on your perspective. Not the tough action on trade, as we discussed, many expected. Immigration enforcement has been strengthened. The wall, a giant question mark going forward. And we don't have an infrastructure plan from the president yet, even though that was a big 100-day priority.
Still President Trump says all is fine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're only 11 weeks in, but already my administration has achieved historic progress for the American people. Security begins at the border. As a candidate, I pledged to take swift and decisive action to secure the border and that is exactly what I've done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Again, depending on what your big issue is, you look at this from your perspective. But with three weeks to 100 days, Congress is home for a couple weeks of that.
Let's start on the healthcare debate, which you have to say is a debacle. Phil, they were allegedly trying to get back to a deal this past week. They were all - Mike Pence was up there for a few days. We're going to get it, we're going to get it.
Now, they've gone home into the favorite thing they like, town halls. Can they possibly come back and move quickly on Obamacare repeal or do we have to put that one away?
MATTINGLY: The elements that led to the failure of the first repeal and replace three weeks ago haven't changed. And I think that's the biggest thing here.
Look, there was a reason that Speaker Ryan and House leadership took a step back on this 2.0 effort that Vice President Pence led with several administration officials. They recognize that, one, this is incredibly difficult; two, they didn't want to snuff anything out by kind of being overbearing; but three, and I think this is the most important, that the dynamics in the House Republican conference, when it comes to healthcare, are extraordinarily complicated and they can't figure out a way to thread a needle right now.
So, their ability to come back three weeks from now and all of a sudden be able to get to a deal - as one person told me, in the wake of Vice President Pence's efforts, despite their theater of the day before they left, they were further apart, had lost more votes than they had two weeks prior when this initially failed. They're not in a good place right now. Something needs to happen to change the very dynamics of how this conference works.
KING: And this gets to the core of who President Trump says he is. Here is what he told The New York Times this past week.
"You didn't hear me say it's over. That was a negotiation, you understand? A continuing negotiation. It may go on for a long time or it may go on till this afternoon. I don't know. It's a continuing negotiation. I didn't surrender leverage. I'm not looking to gain leverage. I'm looking to get great healthcare."
The president trying to make the best of what was a big disappointment for him because this was his calling card. I will get a deal, he said in his announcement speech. If you can't negotiate a deal with the politicians on Obamacare, you're not very good. So, by his own standard, not very good.
[08:45:04] But one of the problems of Washington is, if you continue a negotiation on healthcare, very complicated issue, then that sets you back when it comes to tax reform. That sets you back when it comes to infrastructure. Because whether it's right or wrong, good or bad, Washington has proven, it cannot do more than one big thing at a time, if it can do one big thing at all.
BALL: And the entire legislative strategy was to - for both fiscal and just sort of messaging reasons to do healthcare first, get it knocked out, boom. And Trump made it sound very much like - the symbolism of this would be, this is the shock and awe administration that can come in and get things done right away because, look, we've got all these Republicans, we don't need any Democratic votes, we can just do the things we've always wanted to do. Who knew that healthcare could be so complicated?
KING: Who knew?
BALL: But the other thing about that is, that quote you read from The Times makes it sound like he's much more engaged with this than he has seemed to be. You don't see President Trump really exerting himself to push the parties together personally.
He's having his people do it, but he's not really weighing in terms of, I want this thing and not that. Here's why I think this bill didn't work, here's the details that I want. Not only because he's not really a policy guy, and that's fine, that may be an asset, there doesn't seem to be a clear sense of what was wrong with the first effort and how those things can be corrected beyond just nibbling around the edges and trying to give someone something here and someone something there.
Is there a vision for what they can make that's different than the last thing?
KING: The one big victory under the Capitol dome is Neil Gorsuch whole will be sworn into the Supreme Court this week. But even that further polarized an environment that you thought couldn't be further polarized.
BACON: But that was a big victory. (INAUDIBLE) big victory. I would say, what that tells you is, he did one policy where the Republican Party is very unified on and it went through very easily.
If he picks issues maybe like a tax cut without all those border adjustment stuff, you might find an issue where the whole party agrees with him on.
KING: Good luck with that one.
Stay tight. Sit tight. Our reporters share from their notebooks and that's including the new sheriff in town when it comes to the House investigation into Russia election meddling.
[08:51:21] KING: We surround our table with reporters, not the pundits for a reason, so that we can close every week, asking them to dig deep into their notebooks, share a little nugget, get you out ahead of the big political news just around the corner. Julie Pace?
PACE: Democrats are pretty desperate to win something, anything these days, which may help explain why a 30-year-old Democrat in a Georgia congressional special election has raised an eye-popping $8 million. Jon Ossoff is attracting an army of volunteers from across the country, including a lot of celebrities who are trying to get voters out in early voting in a primary there. Now, this is a district that Tom Price, the Health and Human Services Secretary held. It's a Republican district, but it's one that Trump barely eked out in November.
So, for the ego boost alone, you're going to see Democrats really lavishing a lot of attention on this race through the finish line.
KING: 18th, right? The 18th, all right. What's that, Phil?
MATTINGLY: There's no secret, obviously, about the infighting that's going on in the White House. But I think the big question is what are the repercussions of it.
And if you look to Capitol Hill, you can see it. It's been laid bare over the last couple weeks. As one very senior Republican official on Capitol Hill told me there's White House, there's White Houses, as in nobody knows who actually speaks for the president. And what that does for members of Congress is creates a lot of difficulties.
We saw it just in a meeting last week. Reince Priebus, Vice president Pence, Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, the GOP leadership basically - the White House told them they had to put the healthcare bill on the floor.
Speaker Ryan said, can't do that. We don't have the votes. The White House basically threatened him and said, you don't know the realities here, you don't understand the politics, there's just a lot of confusion here and you wonder where that goes from here.
Well, when they get back from their two-week recess, they'll have four days to pass the spending bill. I'm told there are elements in the White House right now who are willing to shut down the government to keep the wall funding in there, something that Republicans in both the Senate and House would like to move to another time. So, no solutions yet.
KING: OK. Four fun days ahead. Perry?
BACON: The man to watch on Capitol Hill, Mike Conaway of Texas. We haven't heard of him much before, but now that he's replacing Devin Nunes, the head of the Russia investigation, he's a big figure to watch.
Th key question is, does he run the committee as Nunes did? Nunes was pretty - was on Trump - (INAUDIBLE) was pretty favorable towards Trump in a lot of ways. And does Conaway run the committee that way or does he run it the way Richard Burr is running in the Senate, which has been more bipartisan (INAUDIBLE) working with Democrats.
KING: We'll keep an eye on how often he pops up at the stake-out camera. That will give us our first clue. Molly?
BALL: What is next for the resistance? There have been questions lately about whether the air has sort of gone out of the balloon of the anti-Trump protests and the left's attempts to mobilize against the new president.
They are trying, now that the Congress is on recess, to mount a new show of force, a number of progressive groups all coordinating. There will be efforts to show that people are still coming to town halls, still angry at their members of Congress who are at home in their district for the next two weeks, but also a coordinated march on tax day April 15 next weekend, which has a number of sort of storylines I guess.
One to continue drawing attention to the issue of Trump's taxes and potential conflicts of interest. Two, to spotlight the tax reform plans in Congress. And three, this may seem a little (inaudible) but to try to take back the tax issue. It's traditionally been more of an issue on the right and to consciously (inaudible) Tea Party, which did the big Tax Day marches back in 2009.
But the thing, I think, is to just - we will see by how many people come out. They're doing this in hundreds of cities, plus DC. Are they going to get those mass numbers or are people starting to lose interest?
KING: We'll keep an eye on that one as we go. I'll close with this. It's no secret that the shark tank celebrity and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban likes to poke at President Trump. He also likes to stoke talk of possibly running for president himself.
[08:55:05] Now, Cuban campaigned, you probably remember, for Hillary Clinton last year and he's become a student of the process of running for president. Cuban is an independent. And while Bernie Sanders is proof that isn't necessarily disqualifying to Democratic primary voters, Cuban now is putting some money where his mouth is, you might say.
He is giving financial support to a group called competitive democracy, which won a big legal case in Pennsylvania last year, aimed at making ballot access easier for independent and minor party candidates. That group is now working on ballot reforms in Texas. And in part because of Cuban's financial support, it's looking to be more aggressive in ballot reform efforts elsewhere. Keep an eye on that one.
That's it for Inside Politics. Again, thanks for sharing your Sunday morning. Remember, IP is also on the air weekdays at noon Eastern. Hope to see you then. Up next, the United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley joins State of the Union with Jake Tapper.