Return to Transcripts main page

INSIDE POLITICS

Traditional 100-Day Standard; Health Care Bill in Works; Government Shutdown Talks; Sessions on Hawaii Judge Blocking Travel Ban; Sessions on Border Wall. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired April 21, 2017 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Kate.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

One week to 100 days and a deadline to keep the government open. President Trump pushes Congress to try again on repealing Obamacare and to find more money for his border wall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as keeping the government open, I think we want to keep the government open, don't you agree? So, yes, I think we'll get both.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: He thinks he'll get both.

More tough talk, too, about Iran and North Korea. But the president makes clear, he wants no part of the continuing chaos in Libya.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do not see a role in Libya. I think the United States has right now enough roles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And as Democrats debate their future, a pep talk from the woman who thought she would be the one counting down to 100 days.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know the election hit a lot of us hard. But I can tell you this, even when it feels tempting to pull the covers over your heads, please keep going.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I had that temptation this morning. How about you people?

With us to share their reporting and their insights, "The Atlantic's" Molly Ball, Carol Lee of "The Wall Street Journal," Perry Bacon of FiveThirtyEight, and Jackie Kucinich of "The Daily Beast."

Add the traditional 100-day report card to the growing list of things on which President Trump, to borrow his word, is flexible. Today, this scornful tweet. "No matter how much I accomplished during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days, and a lot of it - and it has been a lot, including Supreme Court, media will kill." But it wasn't always a ridiculous standard. Perhaps the president forgets his own version of the Gettysburg Address.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am asking the American people to dream big once again. What follows is my 100-day action plan to make America great again. It's a contract between Donald J. Trump and the American voter. And it begins with bringing honesty, accountability and change to Washington, D.C.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Re-watch or re-read that speech and you will understand the political problem facing the president on this, day 92. He promised to label China a currency manipulator on day one. He promised to fight for tax reform passage in the first 100 days. And new infrastructure spending. And to end the Common Core education standards. To impose new trade tariffs. To fully fund his border wall. And, of course, this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The repeal and replace Obamacare act. Fully repeal Obamacare and replace it with health savings accounts. And we can do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, his 100 day list was wildly unrealistic, but it is his list or contract as he put it. Now his more modest hope, to get the House, just the House, to try again on Obamacare repeal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're doing very well on health care. We'll see what happens. But this is a great bill. This is a great plan. And this will be great health care. It's evolving. You know, there was never a give-up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let's start with the ridiculous standard, as the president puts it. Look, it is in some ways an artificial standard. It dates back to FDR. The second 100 days will be just as important and the third 100 days will be just as important. But this president, in that speech at Gettysburg, in a contract they put up on their website, in literature they mailed to voters around the country talking about an 100-day agenda, they made it pretty clear they were going to get a lot done, a lot done. And by legislative perspective, they simply haven't. MOLLY BALL, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, it's not just that. I mean every

politician makes unrealistic promises and every politician, once they get into office, has to decide on what they're going to prioritize and they're not going to achieve all of their goals right away.

But what's interesting about that list is, it's a mix of flip-flops and things that have totally slipped off the agenda. There's a lot of things on that list that he hasn't even talked about since he's got in office. Things like China, he's actually gone the other way on. The tariffs have gone nowhere. And so there's a sense that that list just - it's as if it didn't even exist.

KING: Right, and I only read some of them.

BALL: Right.

KING: They're - if you go back - again, if you go back and read that speech - and good for the president for laying out his ideas during the campaign. Good for laying out your ideas. The idea that you were going to get a lot of these done and get the action ball moving, as he said, on a lot of the other ones at 100 days, it was completely unrealistic about how this town works. But now why is the president trying to say this is a ridiculous standard because he knows he's in for a tough week?

CAROL LEE, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Yes, because he hasn't met - not even, you know, let alone all of them, which was unrealistic, he hasn't met a number of them for all the reasons Molly just said. And when you're facing that, you've just - you've seen this president do this time and again. You just try to rewrite history and, you know, and act like something that happened didn't happen. And, you know, he can say that publicly, but we all know that this White House is working hard to try to have some - to plan for this 100-day mark. They are - want to be able to show something. That's why they're doing this big push this week on health care again. And so they - it does really matter.

[12:05:18] BALL: Well, and (INAUDIBLE) more -

JACKIE KUCINICH, "THE DAILY BEAST": But the health care thing -

BALL: The more they talk down the 100 day standard, the more they call attention to it, I think.

KING: Right. In an odd way, that's right.

KUCINICH: But this health care thing seems to be a lot of motion. I mean just - just because something is moving doesn't mean it's alive. It's a "Weekend at Bernie's." It's just - it just seems like they're propping it up and moving it around, but it just - it doesn't - nothing that they've presented is different enough from what was presented before to that me believe that this is - that this is something that could pass the House, let alone the Senate. I mean it does have to get through the Senate. And the provisions - and it currently - particularly these waivers that states could opt to ask to get out of these essential health benefits, it's going to be a nonstarter for a lot of people.

KING: And - and what -

PERRY BACON, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: Yes.

KING: Yes, at what price? The president's now pushing Congress. In a week they're going to be back for three or four days, which a government spending deadline a week from today. The government runs out of money. The government would shut down. Now, they may do a one week extension. But how risky is it for the president to say I need this vote? And it would only be the House. You're right, it would not be repeal of Obamacare. It would be one chamber of the Congress. But how risky is it to say, I need you to do this before the 100 day mark, because if it fails again, if they bring it up and it fails again, that's a huge scar.

BACON: There are two (INAUDIBLE), one , if it fails again, and making them look even more ineffective. The second is, this bill has a 17 percent popularity rating right now. Do members of the House really want to vote for a bill like that? You're risking their - their winning their reelections for - to make - so you can look at your 100th day. Do defend the 100-day standard in one way, there's political science there that shows that 100-days - the first 100-days actually are time when the president actually gets more done in most administrations because often Congress is more - more easy - there's a honeymoon period. They actually do follow president's edicts more during that period early on. So, in fact, you're missing a part of your presidency. If his honeymoon is over without big accomplishments, things are going to get harder, not easier after this 100-days.

KING: I think there's no question.

BALL: I think there's one political upside for Trump of continuing to talk about the health care bill, and that is, if it looks like he's trying and Congress can't get it done, he can avoid blame. But that's not going to win him a lot of friends in the Republican Congress.

KING: Yes, it makes it hard to have tax reform. Not easy. Infrastructure. Not easy.

(CROSS TALK)

KING: Let's come in on the health care thing again. I want to listen to the president again yesterday because we know they pull the bill. The president wanted a vote. They pulled the bill on March 24th, I think it was, it was a Friday. They pulled the bill because Speaker Ryan told him, I don't have the votes, sir. There's a lot of finger pointing about who's to blame for that, but then a lot of negotiating while Congress has been home for a two-week recess. At least conversations. Here's the president's view of where we stand today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The plan gets better and better and better and it's gotten really, really good. And a lot of people are liking it a lot. We have a good chance of getting it soon. I'd like to say next week, but it will be - I believe we will get it. And whether it's next week or shortly thereafter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is he unrealistically, again, raising expectations for something that if you talk to the leadership in the House they don't think they're ready to do this next week? They don't trust conversations with people when they're home. They want to get everybody back. They want to count votes. They want to put something on paper and see what happens. When they put something on paper last time, a lot of people walked away from it, and they have to keep the government open next week.

LEE: Right. And they can't do that - or struggle to do that in a good week. And the idea that Congress is going to move as fast as this president wants just because he want them to, it's just - it's unrealistic. There are a number of procedural reasons why this would be difficult. Then you have all the reasons of, you know, getting people on the same page, which is then extremely difficult. And so he's really raising expectations. And at the end of the week, I think what they're going to have is not the health care bill and maybe a one week CR extension for the budget, which is neither.

KING: What does that say about Republican government? They said, give us a - they had the House. They won the Senate. Then they said, give us a Republican president and we will show you we can get things done. If - if - we have stop gap measures to keep the government open and they can't keep - or at least start moving, advancing their signature promise of the last five, six, seven years, repeal and replace Obamacare, what does that say?

KUCINICH: Well, there's a reason that they didn't have something ready to go because health care is complicated and not everybody agrees on it. And the Republican Party is not - has many, many factions that I guess no one bothered to talk to before making this - making this promise that this was going to happen right away. And they are complicating - the White House is complicating the government shutdown vote because leadership on both - in the House and the Senate have been working out a compromise.

Now, by adding the border - the border fence funding into the mix again -

KING: Right.

KUCINICH: That could, you know, push them even further apart.

KING: Right, let's - and let's go through these issues. First on health care, because you mentioned all the factions. If you go back to when it collapsed, the finger pointing, including from the president of the United States, was at the Freedom Caucus. The president - the speaker didn't want him to, but the president said, we're open to negotiation. They spent a week or so negotiating. The president made a number of concessions to the Freedom Caucus and then still couldn't get enough votes to pass the bill.

[12:10:05] Listen to Dave Brat, though, one of the members of the Freedom Caucus, who says, why does everybody keep blaming us?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DAVE BRAT (R), VIRGINIA: President Trump was very good in the negotiating process. He said yes. We said yes to him. And then somehow something in the swamp said no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BACON: Something.

KING: Something in the swamp. Where is it? I'm waiting for it to come up out of the swamp.

BALL: Swamp missing in the swamp. The Loch Ness Monster.

KING: The Loch Ness Monster.

BACON: And once - Brat is right, you look at the breakdown when we looked at who was sitting - weren't (ph) voting for the bill, about half the Freedom Caucus, about half of were people who thought the bill was too conservative. So that's the problem with Trump. When he's talking this vegaries (ph) about we're all coming together, when we get to the actual policy, there are some people who want repeal every part of Obamacare, as (INAUDIBLE) repeal only very small parts of it. And you get too deep (ph) in the details and I think Mulvaney said they have 200 votes this week.

KING: Right.

BACON: I don't necessarily believe that. But even then, getting the other 17 or 16 will be really hard.

KING: Right, and -

KUCINICH: Those swamp creatures are you colleagues, right?

BACON: (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Right. If you move it to the right, you lose the moderates. And I think, to your earlier point, a lot of people thought, if you had a Republican president, some of these ideological objections would melt because people would think, we have to take one for the team. We have to - you know, we have - the president needs this. I'm going to vote for a bill even though I don't like these parts. These parts are OK. But we haven't seen that in the Republican Party.

Let's get now to the government funding measure. As he asked them to come back to health care again, he wants his border wall funding in there. There are others who are going to say, we want to defund Planned Parenthood. There are a whole number of issues that could get ahead of this one. Can they work it out? Can they prove at least they can keep the government open? It's kind of their most basic job, keep the government up and running, or are we going to see again this factions and (INAUDIBLE) ideology send us off the rail? BALL: I don't have a prediction one way or the other of whether the

government is going to shut down, but it's going to be tough. It's going to be acrimonious. And it will be a very interesting test of the leadership, really much more in Congress than the president because this isn't something that the White House has been really engaged on the nitty gritty except for demanding things that - that throw a wrench in and make it harder.

(CROSS TALK)

BALL: But, you know, this is a very basic test of, can you keep the government up and running? There were - there were, again, there were lofty promises that like now that there's a Republican president, we can actually pass real budgets. We don't have to do these continuing resolutions. They may have to punt once or twice, but if they can avoid a shutdown, sadly enough, that will be a big deal.

BACON: Especially on this 100-day (INAUDIBLE), that would be the worst thing possible.

KING: The shutdown - the shutdown is on his 100th day. We'll watch as this one plays out.

Everybody sit sight.

Up next, tougher immigration enforcement is a promise kept by President Trump, even if the man leading the charge has an issue with an island in the Pacific.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:16:54] KING: Welcome back.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is, of course, the nation's top law enforcement officer and it seems the president's top ambassador when he wants to reassure the Trump base. Two trips to the U.S./Mexican border in the first 100 days. My personal surprise - favorite when it comes to politics, a surprise visit to the White House Briefing Room on the first workday after the Obamacare repeal debacle in the House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I strongly urge our nation states and cities and counties to consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to enforce our immigration laws and to rethink these policies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, dating back to his days in the Senate, immigration is an issue Sessions knows cold. Geography and civics, well, he might need a little work there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL (voice-over): I really am amazed that a - a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional powers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Hawaii is a state. It's actually eight big islands and about 130 smaller islands out there. And, yes, it's out in the Pacific. And the attorney general of the United States, you would think, knows that, yes, a federal district judge, whether he is in Hawaii or in Maine or in Texas or anywhere in between, has that power, right? So what is this about?

BALL: Well, he did - he did come back and clean it up afterwards saying that that was his point. His point was that it didn't seem fair that a single federal judge could get in the way of this initiative that he believes to be constitutional. And that's what the appeals process is for. And the administration does have a chance to bring it before more federal judges. But, yes, of course he knows how the system works.

KING: His argument there is with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, is that what we're - is that what we're -

KUCINICH: Right. Right.

BALL: No, his argument is with the judge who has stopped the order from being implemented, obviously.

KING: Right.

BALL: What he's actually upset about is the outcome. The fact that actually several courts, including this one, has stopped all of the iterations of the Trump travel ban so far.

LEE: But there's no reason for him to be amazed by this. It's the -

BALL: Right.

LEE: He's attorney general of the United States. He knows exactly how this all works. But we have - what we have seen is what you got to in the start of this, which is that, as Donald Trump has moved off of positions and shifted around and flip-flopped or not followed through with some promises, Jeff Sessions has been a consistent, merry advocate for all of the things that President Trump stood for as a candidate.

KING: Right. And they put - they like when he's out there publicly, and especially the reason I talked about that event at the White House, he came down and talked about sanctuary cities. He had nothing new to say. He essentially said, you know, here's what we're doing, here's what we're going to do. He added some tough language to cities saying, think twice about this. But it was an existing policy actually using an Obama administration policy on that day, but they wanted to put him out there because if the Trump base was wavering at all, they wanted them to see Jeff Sessions promising - he's been - I think if you're a Trump supporter and if you're the president, effective in the first 100 days.

BACON: Yes, if you think of Trump as flip-flopping on maybe foreign policy at times, think about the Syria strike, think about domestic policy or economics in some ways, on this - on these issues of immigration enforcement particularly, he's been very consistent. He's done what he said in the campaign. General Kelly and Jeff Sessions sound like Trump did in the campaign. They've been very consistent. So I do think that it has an appeal to the base. It happens to be a place where Trump can say, I promised something, we're doing it.

[12:20:11] BALL: Although he still has not rescinded DACA -

KING: Right.

KUCINICH: Yes.

BALL: Which is something that he promised to the immigration hawks in his base.

But, look, I mean, people talk so much about the power centers in the White House. Jeff Sessions was Steve Bannon before Steve Bannon was around, right?

KING: Right. And Steven Miller's still in the White House. Yes.

BALL: He's the - he's the O.G. of immigration restriction, if you will. And he was the first and for a long time the only senator to endorse Donald Trump. He really is the vessel of a lot of this stuff. And he was out liar in the Senate. A lot of his Republican colleagues in the Senate thought he was crazy and there were a lot of votes where he was the only one. And so he really is a driving force and a voice for the sort of populist, nationalist, trade protectionism and immigration restriction that Trump talked about so much on the campaign trail and has seemed to waiver on since taking office.

KUCINICH: And one of the people that Trump will go out on a limb for. One of the people Trump will defend. I mean let's not forget the tweet that started a lot of this Russia conversation -

KING: Right.

KUCINICH: Came after Sessions got himself in trouble by saying something during a committee hearing and it turns out that it wasn't necessarily true. So there aren't a lot of advisers, look at Bannon who - who once that became kind of a hot relationship, Trump started distancing himself. Jeff Sessions is not bad. He's very - he's close to the president.

KING: Right, and he has not gone back before the Congress because he knows he'll be questioned about the meeting with the Russian ambassador during the campaign and he doesn't want to deal with that right now as we go forward.

Today, as we talked about earlier in the bloc, one of the issues the Trump administration is fighting for next week when Congress is deciding how to keep the government open, to try to keep the government open, the administration is insisting, not only separately that they revisit Obamacare, but that there be the seed money to pay for the border wall. The administration is saying we want it. Some conservatives don't think it's money well spent right now. A lot of Democrats think it's a fool's errand. But listen to Jeff Sessions today saying this is why we need that money.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We do need that wall and we want to bring this down to virtually zero. We want people in America to know that we've secured the border. I think Congress will provide our necessary funds and there will be ways to fund this wall and I believe we've got to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: He's been passionate and consistent on this issue, but is - will they, will the president of the United States, will his budget director and his attorney general say, sir, don't sign it, don't keep the government open if you don't - if they decide, sir, we can't do it, we'll come back to it later but we can't do it this week?

LEE: That's the big question. And this is where it gets really hard for them to get something on - get a budget and also to throw health care then into this mix. It further complicates this. The Republican leadership has - has acknowledged for some time that they would have to try to cut a deal with Democrats. This sours that with Democrats. So it's really - it's kind of - he's a little bit playing on the edge. It's not clear where this will go and how much the White House really wants to push this forward, because it's hard to oversee a shutdown and fear of the president and your party is in control and not (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Also hard when your credibility and your effectiveness has been questioned to say, we want this money, we need this money, you have to do this. We want this health care vote, we need this health care vote, you have to do this. If those two things don't happen or if one of those two don't happen next week, again, you're going to have questions about his effectiveness.

LEE: That's right. And the only other thing I would add about that is that this is a White House that's increasingly worried about the narrative that he keeps flip flopping. And so that's another thing (INAUDIBLE) factored in here.

KUCINICH: Well, wasn't Mexico - I'm not trying to be cute about this - wasn't Mexico supposed to pay for the wall? Why - now they have to go hat in hand to Congress?

KING: Well, the president -

KUCINICH: And that - that was -

KING: The president did say, even back in that Gettysburg speech where he laid out the 100 day plan, the 100 day contract, which he has come nowhere close to meeting, he does say there that he wants Congress to give him the money and then he'll get it. Don't worry, Mexico will pay for it eventually. We'll get the money first from Congress so it can get started.

KUCINICH: Check's in the mail.

KING: To that - to that point, the president, at his first press conference as president back in January said it's not a fence, it's a wall. It's not a fence, it's a wall. That's the president of the United States.

Here's his homeland security secretary, who's working closely with Jeff Sessions on this issue, describing what he thinks will happen along the border.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: There's a paramount of what I would call fencing here between the border. It's very, very effective. The men and women that work the border, CVP and ICE and others find it remarkably effective in keeping down the amount of illegal movement across the two borders.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, I actually don't - you know, Trump promised a wall. Secretary Kelly talks about a wall for several miles here, some fencing here, maybe some other barriers here, maybe it's just an area of surveillance here. I don't think most Trump voters give a hoot as long as the numbers are down, as long as the crossings are down. But, again, it's interesting when the president keep using the terminology and pushes back when you call it a fence, that his own leader ono this effort is out there saying, of course it's going to be a fence in some place.

BACON: The crossings have went way down.

BALL: Ys.

BACON: So this is a big accomplishment of the Trump administration.

KING: Right.

BACON: So next is, my sense is, that Kelly would argue whatever is effective is what I'm going to do policy wise. And I do think that will - and I think Trump voter too, that data is the one thing they can point to very concretely and say, we did this one thing we talked about throughout the campaign.

KING: It's - if you're looking at the numbers in the first 100 days, that one is a stunner, the number of illegal border crossings down so dramatically. And Secretary Kelly makes the case, it's because the Obama administration, while it did deport a lot of people, it did not try to enforce the border.

[12:25:09] BACON: Right.

KING: And both by trying - having more aggressive enforcement and by just the word of mouth, I think, on the southern -

BACON: The rhetoric.

KING: The rhetoric that carries over to the southern side of the border, people saying, maybe I don't want to come. You have - again, a lot of people disagree with the policy, but in terms of the president keeping that promise, that's what he gets.

BACON: Totally agree.

KING: Yes. All right.

LEE: Yes, I think you'll see him talk more about that in the next week because they haven't touted it in a way that they could take advantage of that number.

KING: Right. That's one of the reasons the secretary and the attorney general down on the border today.

Up next, the world stage. The president is urged by a key U.S. ally to help in Libya and he quickly says no.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:29:38] KING: Welcome back.

Italy's prime minister came to the White House yesterday looking for help. A bigger U.S. role in trying to stabilize Libya. President Trump quickly made clear he isn't interested.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do not see a role in Libya. I think the United States has right now enough roles.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: But, like so much of the new administration's foreign policy, things became less black and white the more the president spoke. Listen here as he opens the door to perhaps helping some in the fight against ISIS militants who dominate western Libya.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do see a role in getting rid of ISIS. We're being very effective in that