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INSIDE POLITICS

Can Trump Deliver His 100-Day Promises?; Paris Attack Casts Shadow Over French Election; Poll Shows Trump is Dishonest, Lacks Leadership; Trump's Unique Approach to World Stage; Reporters' Notebooks. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired April 23, 2017 - 08:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[08:00:11] JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): One week to 100 days, and the president wants action.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of people are liking it a lot. We have a good chance of getting it soon.

KING: Another Obamacare repeal effort, tax reform details and a looming deadline to keep the government open.

Plus, Iran draws the president's ire, while China gets a request.

TRUMP: Get rid of this menace or do something about the menace of North Korea.

KING: And with President Obama poised to end his silence, a little advice from the Democrat who thought this would be her big week.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Even when it feels tempting to pull the covers over your heads, please, keep going.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: To our viewers in the United States and around the world, welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your Sunday.

It is day 94 of the Trump presidency and an important election day in France. We'll get to that in a moment.

Back here in the United States, the ridiculous is what President Trump now calls the tradition of grading new administrations at the 100-day mark. There are nearly 1,500 days in a presidential term, so it is hardly a comprehensive report card, but it is good barometer for judging the early arc of progress or struggles.

Candidate Donald Trump clearly didn't view it as ridiculous.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: 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: With us this Sunday to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times", CNN's Jeff Zeleny and Jackie Kucinich of "The Daily Beast".

In a moment, we'll score some of the 100-day promises kept, broken. And some just cast aside. First, though, the urgent week leading to that 100-day mark. The government runs out of money Friday and a White House demand for border wall funds is one of the many hurdles to a spending deal.

The president who once talked of getting tax reform passed in his first 100 days now says he will finally offer a specific outline on Wednesday, and a month after he failed to win enough votes for a House Obamacare repeal plan, the president is pushing for action this week before the 100-day mark, even though Republican leaders say there is no agreement on a plan and they worry rushing things will lead to another embarrassing collapse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We'll see what happens. No particular rush, but we'll see what happens. But health care is coming along well. Government is coming along really well. A lot of good things are happening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The president, that was the president walking back from the Treasury Department on Friday, a lot of good things are happening. There's a debate about that in this town to say the least, about what has been happening in the first 100 days. But let's focus on this week ahead which is critical in tone and in substance, a deadline to keep the government up and running.

This president getting his first taste of that, past presidents, for example, and how hard will they push on this idea of another health care vote when the Republican leadership is saying, sir, too much risk here.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICS REPORTER: You know, I mean, all signs from Paul Ryan are that the focus is going to be on funding the government. I mean, that's the big thing. The White House obviously wanting to notch a victory, at least have something happening with health care, but it also seems like there's sort of dialing that back and the president I think early on had been like, you know, we're going to have something next week and now, it seems like he's like, oh, you know, we'll see when that happens.

But yes, I mean, he's obviously feeling the heat of that first 100-day mark which, of course, he wants to dismiss now as ridiculous, but you know, it's an issue but I mean, I think the House and the Senate can only do one thing at a time, and this funding the government is most crucial.

JACKIE KUCINICH, THE DAILY BEAST: Particularly when the White House is actually complicating the efforts to keep the government funded by insisting that border wall funding be in this measure. Democrats have said since March at least that this is a nonstarter.

And so, if they try to throw this in, you're going to get Democrat and you're going to hear Republican pushback as well in the House and the Senate. So, you can't say, OK, we want health care, but, oh, but we're also going to complicate this other thing you have to get done.

KING: And let's explore that issue because building a wall along the southern border of the United States with Mexico was a top Trump campaign promise. He's changed his mind, he's flip-flopped on some things. He calls it being flexible. On the one issue, he's been incredibly consistent on is that the border wall.

Listen here, this is his homeland security secretary who's on "STATE OF THE UNION", an interview you can see after this program in its entirety. He's asked, quite frankly, will the president draw the line here? Will the president of the United States shut down the government, if he doesn't get the border wall funding?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, will the president go to the mat and insist on funding his border wall as part of the stopgap government funding measure?

[08:05:04] JOHN F. KELLY, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Well, Dana, I think it goes without saying that the president has been pretty straightforward about his desire and the need for a border wall. So, I would suspect he'll do the right thing for sure, but I suspect he will be insistent on the funding.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN MARTIN, THE NEW YORK TIMES: But Trump himself said, "I just don't know yet" when he was asked by our friend Julie Pace with the "A.P." in a Friday interview, will you draw the line? Will you veto the bill to fund the government if the money for the wall is not in there? And he wouldn't commit to doing it. So, you know --

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORESPONDENT: I think the reality is --

MARTIN: -- he's flexible.

HENDERSON: Yes, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

ZELENY: He's flexible and shutting down the government is something he does not want to do on the 100th day of his administration. The timing couldn't be, you know, worse for him in that respect or better. It gives the option to not do it.

So, yes, he wants the border wall, but he's been flexible, to say the very least, on everything, so I think he'll be flexible on this. The question here is that he keeps throwing things out. We're doing tax reform on Wednesday. Announcing a plan is not the same as doing a plan, and passing a plan. The White House was surprised when he sort of threw out the Wednesday marker.

So, we were talking to the administration officials, said that Wednesday is more announcing the parameters for this. That's what campaigns are for. At some point, you have to put forward legislation. This is a long way from happening but they are desperate to show signs of action or urgency. So, announcing something on Wednesday may look like action but it's not action at all.

KING: Right. The president maybe he'll have an event, put out -- pick out a couple of pieces of paper, outlines, if the problem if they do that in the middle of the week when the speaker is trying to marshal up the votes to keep the government open and maybe -- maybe doing a head count, can we bring health care at the table again, and then the president say, it doesn't embrace the speaker's border adjustment tax. Everyone goes out to their partisan corners.

Let's go -- to your point about the border wall, here's specifically what the president said, "I don't know yet. People want the border wall. My base definitely wants the border wall. My base really wants it. You've been to so many rallies, OK? The thing they want more than anything else is the wall. They want to see the wall. They want to see security."

That's what the president told the "Associate Press" on Friday. If you take that and then look at his polling numbers heading into this critical week, the new "Washington Post"/ABC poll out this morning, 53 percent of all Americans disapprove of the president, a 42 percent approval rating. That's a little better than -- above 40 percent which is for him above 40 percent is an achievement, but that's historically unpopular if you look back to Ronald Reagan and beyond, all the way back to Eisenhower in a way.

But among his base, yet, he has not secured the border wall funding yet. The Obamacare repeal effort failed. If you look at the contract, and we'll get into more of the specifics later, the things he said he would propose and push for in the first 100 days, he's done none of it, but his base 94 percent approval rating among Trump voters. Only 2 percent disapprove.

He has kept his base with talking about his promises and this is where the tax reform proposal comes in, talking about it. Is he setting this up as I'm trying, Congress won't give me what I want?

ZELENY: I think it seems like he is and in particular when it comes to the Senate. I mean, there's a lot of discussion in Washington of just getting health care through the House and just sort of blaming it on the Senate if it fails there. But, again, the reality is he's going to have to have some more accomplishments at some point. Yes, he's held his base but his base is not enough to reelect him.

Yes it's early. We do not know what his presidency is going to be defined by.

This 100-day mark is certainly an important benchmark but it's not, you know, it's not the end of this by any means. He'll likely be defined by some external event which we don't know, but the reality is he needs to get points on the board in a Republican-controlled Congress. I can't state that enough. He has the keys to the car on both sides of Capitol Hill.

Why isn't he using it?

KING: They control everything and gotten none of the signature achievements done. To the point about the surprise on tax reform, again, this is an incredibly busy week here in Washington, keeping the government open, if you follow the debates during the Obama administration they get rough. They're hard to do. Conservatives dig and that's why John Boehner is not the speaker of the House anymore.

He got fed up with these debates within his own caucus and on Friday at the Treasury Department, knowing, knowing that this week would be about keeping the government maybe counting heads again on health care, the president throws tax reform into the mix.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We will be having a big announcement on Wednesday, having to do with tax reform, the process has begun long ago, but it formally begins on Wednesday. So, go to it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That "go to it" was to his treasury secretary --

HENDERSON: Yes, yes.

KING: -- who apparently was quite surprised, and the White House staff was surprised and they quickly came out and to your point, they quickly came out said we're talking about the broad parameters and outline, we don't have a plan yet.

HENDERSON: This has been the theater of the Donald Trump presidency -- you know, kind of announcements, executive orders, where he signs them in a big sort of event. Again you talk about sort of the action, there is action and I think maybe to supporters, it looks like he's trying and doing something. But in terms of movement, and actually putting points on the board and changing people's lives and shaking up Washington and draining the swamp, all those things he said he was going to do, he hasn't done those things yet.

[08:10:09] But it's also true it could be in this era of hyper- partisanship, 42 percent, which is his approval rating, according to that "The Washington Post" poll could be the new 50 percent. I mean, particularly if you look at where Democrats are in terms of how Americans feel about them and whether or not they speak to the needs. KUCINICH: But it doesn't inspire Republicans to put their neck out

for a president who is that unpopular because most of them have re- election well before he does.

KING: Right. And most of them now feel they have some latitude to separate. We'll get into that a little bit more as we go on.

Up next, though, it is election day in France. We have the latest, including a prediction from President Trump.

And this week's politicians say the darnedest things, football edition. Patriot star tight-end Rob Gronkowski explores a career change.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think we'll see what pans out in the negotiation but I think there's an opportunity that -- can I just --

ROB GRONKOWSKI, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Sean, you need some help?

(LAUGHTER)

SPICER: I think I got this, but thank you.

GRONKOWSKI: Are you sure?

SPICER: Maybe.

GRONKOWSKI: I like you.

SPICER: All right. Thanks, man. I'll see you in a minute.

Hold on one -- all right. That was cool.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:15:33] KING: Welcome back to the world stage now and an election day in France that could bring more dramatic change to Europe and to the western alliance. Voters today are choosing presidential candidates in a fiercely competitive race defined by debates over immigration, globalization and security.

The shooting of three police officers this past week in Paris and ISIS claim of responsibility only added to the volatility. There are five candidates lumped close together in the most recent polling, including Marine Le Pen of the far right National Front. She's a critic of Europe's open borders who called for mosques to be closed in France after the attacks this week.

CNN's Jim Bittermann, he's at a polling in Henin-Beaumont, hope I got that right, Jim, has more on today's vote and why it matters well beyond France's borders. JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I

think, John, there's a lot of reasons why, we're at this polling station which is in the sort of strong point of Marine Le Pen. She voted here a little bit earlier and, in fact, this -- around this area, globalization is the big issue. This is sort of the rust belt of France, with played out mines and steel factories. And people used to vote left wing socialist. They're now voting all the way to the other end of the spectrum right.

Now, why is that important to Americans? Well, I think one of the things is that both on the right and the extreme left here, there are candidates who would like to see France pull out of the European Union. So, really it's the strength of the European Union, which is something that is at play, and I think that's where the United States comes in, because of the European Union is weakened, then the United States is without a trading partner in Europe the way it has now.

Also, I think one of the things she's against is she's against the kind of trade treaties in the same way Donald Trump is against trade treaties, she is, too. If she were to get elected it could make a big difference as far as France and the French are concerned and I think it could make a big difference to transatlantic as well -- John.

KING: Jim, the expectation is, no one will get 50 percent, correct? And then, you have a two-candidate runoff on May 7th?

BITTERMANN: Yes, that's exactly right. There are actually 11 candidates on the running today, and it's only expected that about four really have a chance of winning a post today which would be one of the two top finalists, and then that goes on to March 7th -- May 7th, rather, where they have the finalists actually going to be chosen. We'll know then who is chosen as president.

KING: Jim Bittermann for us at a polling station. Thanks so much.

President Trump did not answer directly when asked Friday if he believed Le Pen should be the next French president, but he did tell "The Associated Press" he believes that attack last week in Paris will boost her because, quote, "She is the strongest on borders and she is the strongest on what's been going on in France."

Let's bring it inside the room here. You have the dynamics there just laid out by Jim in the rust belt part of France that sound similar to the dynamics we had here. Now, they're talking about Frexit. We've been through Brexit.

We're seeing this around the world, but for this president and if you think about the future of the western alliance, will France pull out of NATO, will France at least pull back from NATO, Marine Le Pen visited Putin at the Kremlin recently if she were to win the election.

Let's put this in the context of why it matters here.

MARTIN: It's extraordinary to have an American president effectively endorsing a National Front candidate for the president of France. If you step back for a moment and think about that, the U.S. president is effectively giving his blessing to the National Front.

And I get the fact that Marine Le Pen tried to kind of, you know, normalize the National Front and change it from what her father made it, but incredible to sort of see that and it just shows that Trump still has a bevy of folks around him and frankly his gut is towards this kind of nationalism.

Now, he could be pulled in other directions as we've seen numerous times here.

KING: Right.

MARTIN: But the fact that his gut tells him to basically come out and endorse Le Pen speaks to the fact that, you know, that is where his sympathies lay. I think if this does happen, and if she does become president, it's an extraordinary blow.

KING: Let's listen to the president, this is the president February 18th rally talking about Brexit, but also talking about what he believes are changes sweeping the globe and global politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It's a movement that is just sweeping, it's sweeping across our country. It's sweeping, frankly, across the globe. Look at Brexit. Look at Brexit. Much smaller example, but it's still something you can look at.

People want to take back control of their countries, and they sweeping, it's sweeping across our country. It's sweeping, frankly, across the globe. Look at Brexit. Look at Brexit. Much smaller example, but it's still something you can look at.

[08:20:04] People want to take back control of their countries, and they want to take back control of their lives and the lives of their family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: It's a message of strength and security, safety, and security. There's this populist anger out there, but in France it's much more difficult to pull from the E.U. because it's part of their constitution here, but it is, as Jonathan said, extraordinary.

The White House will say, you know, he's stopping short of an endorsement, but not that short. I mean, it is essentially doing that here. You know, we'll see what happens, but I think that it is a sign that Steve Bannon still has a very large and prominent voice in this president's ear, and you know, it's something to not forget.

KING: And a sign that leaders here and in democracies around the world are grappling with the idea of how do you explain globalization to people, how do you explain that the steel jobs might not be coming back, those coal jobs might not be coming back? Where is the economy of the future? HENDERSON: And you saw Obama kind of weighing into the election,

calling one of the candidates, Macron, I leave, it was on speakerphone, it was -- you know, that's something this candidate feels is a good thing for him. It's not clear that it is. Obama hasn't been able to transfer his popularity across the globe.

KING: Maybe he has more luck in France than he has in the United States.

HENDERSON: We saw him weigh in on Brexit, that didn't go so well.

You know, this is the second test. We saw the first test in the Netherlands, which in some ways was a mixed bag in terms of nationalism winning out and we'll see what happens in France. And then Germany, right, Germany's coming up in September with Angela Merkel who is in some ways the last woman standing in terms of Western democracies, liberal Western democracies.

KING: And we're going to have a referendum called early elections called in Britain by Theresa May. And let's listen to Theresa May on this because again, this is the conservative prime minister of Great Britain whose -- she's prime minister because David Cameron got Brexit wrong.

Listen to her now talking about the changes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: A year ago, few of us would have predicted the events ahead. A clear, determined decision to leave the European Union, and forge a bold, new confident future for ourselves in the world. And, of course, a new president-elect in the United States who defied the polls and the pundits all the way up to Election Day itself. Change is in the air.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Just reminds you of the global volatility, and so, if you're betting on the establishment of France today, it's a risky bet.

KUCINICH: Truly, but this isn't the first time the president encouraged this, these nationalist candidates. Let's not forget that he advised Great Britain right after president that they should have Nigel Farage as the ambassador.

MARTIN: Yes!

ZELENY: Right.

KUCINICH: So, this isn't a test for Trump because it's obviously in France but it is another piece in this worldwide puzzle of whether this movement is catching on.

KING: And I think of whether political leaders can find a way to communicate with people with credibility on these issues, because people are just tired of what they view as -- MARTIN: Well, scapegoating is so easy. Le pen has shown it's so

easy, scapegoat this stuff and it's clearly aimed at frankly Islam and France and if you watch her rallies, it's a less subtle version of what Trump was doing last year.

KING: Everybody, sit tight.

Up next, back here in the States, candidate Trump offered a pact 100- day contract. So, how many promises did he keep and how many did he break?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[08:27:25] TRUMP: No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days that includes on military, on the border, on trade, on regulation, on law enforcement -- we love our law enforcement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: President Trump there quite bullish on his first 90 days. We're now one week from a hundred days.

Let's take a look at the numbers, and see how this president stacks up. If you want to look at laws enacted, the president's numbers are pretty good when you look at the comparison to President Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. I just want to note, though, and go to the Library of Congress website and take a look at this -- none of these are signature campaign achievements. Yes, he signed 28 laws. Some of them important but none of them from the big campaign promises. So, that's one of the challenges in this final week of the first 100 days.

The president signed more executive orders than any of his most recent predecessors. Some of these down the road as they're implemented could actually bring big change, financial regulation for example. Obamacare, if they don't get to that legislatively.

A lot of them, though, actually defer big campaign promises like on trade. The president now calling for studies, he said on day one, he was going to take dramatic steps. By the numbers, it's high. By the impact, we'll see.

Let's look at this number, this is important. This is what the president laid out, he could find it online and you're a Trump supporter and don't trust us in the media, he laid out a very detailed 100-day contract, he called it. He promised to get all of these balls in motion, many of them he said we would get past, others he said he would push for. Obamacare, tax reform, border wall funding, infrastructure spending, new trade tariffs, labeling China a currency manipulator, ending the Common Core education standards, 100 days in or one week from 100 days anyway, incomplete at best.

None of this, none of this has been done. It calls into question the president seemed to think that getting this done which is proven to be quite difficult, he once thought it would be pretty easy. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

TRUMP: We're going to make America great again. It's going to be easy. It's gonna be easy.

It's very easy to be presidential.

We have drugs. We have debt. We have empty factories. That's going to end. That's going to end. So easy.

So easy to sell off.

Believe me the jobs are coming back, folks, that's going to be so easy.

This is so easy.

I want to jumpstart America and it can be done and it won't even be that hard.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KING: Turns out it's pretty hard.

ZELENY: So hard, remember he said that we're going to be so sick of winning by the time he's president. Not sure quite at that, but if you look at that list, one thing infrastructure --

KING: And it's a partial list.

ZELENY: Without a doubt, it's definitely a partial list. Those are just the headlines. Infrastructure spending is one thing we haven't talked about this morning, why? Because the White House is barely talking it. This was a signature plan and this was the guy who was going to do it.

[08:30:03] He's the builder. He's the CEO. The reality here is that his chance to work with Democrats is largely over; at least it looks like at this moment here, and that's the only way to get an infrastructure bill through.

KING: You mention infrastructure. I want you to listen to the president here because he does not think like a creature of Washington, which many of his voters think that's great. That's why they voted for him. He doesn't think or talk or work like a creature of Washington.

But listen to him, he gave an interview to a local TV station when he was out in Wisconsin about the very question of infrastructure and how he was going to get it through.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How soon will you deliver on your promise of a trillion-dollar infrastructure investment? DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Very soon. I think it's going to come probably as part of one of the other bills. People want it. I want it but I want to use it to get whether it's health care or tax reform or something, I want to use it for that.

But I say very soon we're going to have a trillion-dollar plan and it's going to fix up our roads, our highways, our airports and so many other things and Wisconsin will be getting a big piece of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's sort of the -- it's the Trump version of a grand bargain in his mindset. In his mindset, he thinks if I attach infrastructure to health care or tax reform, Democrats won't like the health care or they won't like much of the tax reform but they'll like the infrastructure so I'll get votes.

But Washington has not proven it can work like that.

Can this president change that?

Or is that a pipe dream?

JONATHAN MARTIN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Very skeptical, yes, I mean --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pipe dream.

MARTIN: -- as Jeff pointed out, I think Democrats maybe, after he was elected, if he had moved swiftly to kind of, you know, govern as somebody who was kind of a post-partisan figure, which he actually could have because he's not a partisan figure.

But because he didn't do that, he's basically turned over his presidency to Paul Ryan's free market vision for the Republican Party. It's tougher now, when you're talking about we're almost here in May, trying to get Democrats to support you.

His numbers among Democrats are in the basement and the idea that Democratic politicians in Washington would be willing to work with this president now on infrastructure seems very, very dim.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Because their base won't let them, for one.

MARTIN: Yes.

HENDERSON: I think we'll see in some of Donald Trump's remarks when he talks about the first 100 days is the things you mentioned, there are more laws passed than previous presidents and more executive orders signed as well.

And I think the sort of deportation force piece of this as well, even though they don't have that wall, just those visuals and the numbers of people being deported and the slowdown in terms of apprehensions at the border, that is huge. He ran on economic nationalism and also cultural nationalism. So I

think some of these numbers that show Republicans very much still attached to this presidency, a part of it is because he's making good on those promises.

(CROSSTALK)

JACKIE KUCINICH, "THE DAILY BEAST": This is also a president that we're seeing, is that he was never versed in policy and now it's showing that it does pay to have a little bit, even like he can sing a note or two, because look at health care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

KUCINICH: He said that that would be easy, then fast forward and he's saying who knew it was so complicated. Anyone who has health care knew that health care is complicated.

KING: Anybody who lived in this town during the Obama years or the Clinton years or the Bush -- go ahead.

KUCINICH: No, no, exactly. But that's just one example of him learning on the job and seeing that, maybe, I mean I wonder if he could go back and say, take back all those easies.

KING: I don't think he's going to take back --

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: -- that you're going to tack on a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan to health care tax reform on the fly. A local interviewer, I mean, it tells you the whole story. He doesn't understand how things actually work around here and is making it up as it goes. But he's finding that it's very difficult to actually get major bills passed.

KING: It tells you how he thinks. Do a big deal because why do a little deal or that's (INAUDIBLE) health care issue?

(CROSSTALK)

KING: -- big deal but make it even bigger, which, if he could pull something like that off, we'll see what happens.

But the question is, can he?

Look at, at the moment, we've been talking about Republicans been home for two weeks. The reason Speaker Ryan won't commit to a health care vote this week is because everyone's been home for two weeks. And he wants -- he says, Mr. President, just wait, I want to get them back in the room.

I want to go around the room. I want see if they've changed their minds, I want to put something on paper, see if they'll actually vote for it. But the president is standing out there, you mentioned this in the last block or a couple of blocks ago, it's down. Look at this Quinnipiac poll on attributes of the president: 63 percent of Americans say he's not level headed; 61 percent say he's not a strong person; 57 percent says he doesn't care about the average American; 58 percent say he's not honest; 55 percent say he lacks key leadership skills.

It's in an environment like this, the Republicans decide, even if they're not running from Trump, they decide let's pick a few moments to get some separation from Trump because when I'm on the ballot next year or two years from now or four years from now, I don't want to do anything now that hurts me then.

Listen to Joni Ernst, one of the senators who, God bless her, all of these members of Congress should do town halls, she is out there taking the heat and she is also seeking some space.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JONI ERNST (R), IOWA: I think that we have a president that has a number of flaws. I would say I support more of the policies. I do wish --

[08:35:00]

ERNST: -- that he would spend more time in Washington, D.C. That's what we have the White House for. We would love to see more of those State Department visits in Washington, D.C.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: Well, notably, though, she then went to Jeff's favorite paper, "The Omaha World Herald," and quickly kind of walked back on what she said there, and said, "I support my president."

So they're walking a fine line.

Yes, John, to your point, his numbers are down. They're looking for places they can safely criticize him. But at the same time, they get that, you know, backlash from their own base and they are back on board pretty quick.

ZELENY: Right, without a doubt because the president still is pretty popular among the base. What we still haven't seen yet is the president going to go to some of these districts directly for the House Freedom Caucus, other places and sort of, you know, tell them to vote against him.

They're on health care, if he wants it, is he going to muscle this through or not?

I think he still has that ability as president but he's not going to --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He hasn't done it. (CROSSTALK)

ZELENY: -- Wisconsin this week, I was there with him. That's Paul Ryan's home district. You know, the -- he has not visited any of these other places. We'll see if he sort of steps --

KING: -- big rally Saturday night on his 100th day in Pennsylvania but these rallies have been designed to give cheer to him and give support and a morale boost to him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not so --

KING: -- not to be for a dealmaking president, not to be transactional , not to win your vote and your vote --

MARTIN: -- pressuring the ex-woll (ph) members from these places. The two cities where he had rallies before health care, Louisville and Nashville he had rallies, both of those cities have Democratic congressmen who are never going to vote for the health care bill. There's no strategy in these trips that I can see so far.

(CROSSTALK)

ZELENY: That's right. We'll see if he changes that, though, going forward here because he's going to have to start persuading, putting the heat on, twisting arms.

HENDERSON: Which means knowing what's in the bill --

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: -- bill being a good bill.

KING: He learned lessons and recalibrated many times during the campaign. We'll see if he can learn lessons and recalibrate in government. We'll see.

Everybody sit tight. Next, more tough talk from North Korea as the United States and its allies brace for a possible nuclear test and hope, hope for more help from China.

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[08:40:00]

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KING: Welcome back.

President Trump used unpredictability as an asset in global affairs believing he gets a better deal from people who are at least a little nervous. It's an approach that unnerves many key U.S. allies and it is an approach being tested at the moment in a showdown with enormous stakes. Look here, "Handle with Care" is the cover treatment "The Economist"

gives to the North Korea standoff. And Germany's "Der Spiegel," well, he might call that a more irreverent way of making its point about the risks here of miscalculation.

In South Korea this past week, Vice President Pence issued a warning of sorts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just in the past two weeks, the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new president in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan. North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Pyongyang promised a nuclear holocaust if provoked. But North Korea may not have been Pence's target audience.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER DIR., CIA: All this chest-thumping on our part is probably less designed to influence the North Koreans than it is designed to influence the Chinese, who do not want us disturbing the equilibrium in that part of the world so maybe we can use this as a lever against them to get them to do more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So will Beijing help?

The president who promised sharp trade sanctions in the campaign is now offering China's president a deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I actually told them, I said, you'll make a much better deal on trade if you get rid of this menace or do something about the menace of North Korea because that's what it is, it's a menace right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: But we are waiting and the intelligence community says the window is through the middle of this week, they thought North Korea was going to conduct a nuclear test. It has not had more missile tests of late. But we'll watch over the next 24, 48, 72 hours to see.

The question is, will the president get a return on this big bet he's making with China?

ZELENY: We'll see. And he is scheduled a phone call for this morning in about an hour and 20 minutes or so with the president of China here. So the reality here is, yes, his language has changed completely. He's not saying that they are raping the American jobs.

But Chinese officials and the president have not forgotten that. There's no question that is still part of the equation here. But this is a very unknown sort of a moment for him. So what happens in that phone call this morning will be interesting here.

But it is probably one of the biggest threats hanging over his presidency. That's what President Obama told him as he left the White House, North Korea, the biggest problem. It remains that.

KUCINICH: But it is all eyes on China.

ZELENY: Without a doubt.

KUCINICH: Because even the missile launch in North Korea, that was more directed at China, telling, saying, I do what I want, essentially. So both sides are exerting a lot of pressure on China and whether or not it works is the question.

KING: In a zone where a modest miscalculation can cause enormous problems, the president. And it shows you, though, the president's transactional approach to things because if you go back and look at the campaign speeches, again, like the border wall to the south, China -- attacks on China were a staple consistent; to your point, used words like rape, said he would act on day one.

But he's essentially said help me here. Now, again, President Clinton wanted China's help and President George W. Bush wanted China's help, President Obama wanted China's help. They tend to help up to a line. They don't want a unified Korean Peninsula. They don't want a refugee crisis of North Koreans coming into China. They tend to help up to their line, which is not usually the U.S. line.

HENDERSON: And that's what's not clear, what is the new incentive now for China to behave differently?

There's certainly a new sheriff in town with Donald Trump and he's rolling back some of his harsher language, he's talking about maybe you'd get a better trade deal if you help out with this. But it's not clear again sort of --

[08:45:00]

HENDERSON: -- what the new factors are and what their new sort of pressures and incentives are to behave differently.

KING: And if people are watching around the world, out of the questions is, what is the Trump doctrine, what is the Trump philosophy?

I think it's more transactional than any overarching strategy. Iran is another question, the Trump State Department this past week certified, as it's required to do by law, that Iran was complying with the nuclear agreement negotiated by the Obama administration.

Again, the Trump State Department said they are complying with the terms of the agreement. Now listen to the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: So as far as Iran is concerned, I think they are doing a tremendous disservice to an agreement that was signed, it was a terrible agreement. It shouldn't have been signed. It shouldn't have been negotiated the way it was.

I'm all for agreements but that was a bad one, as bad as I've ever seen negotiated. They are not living up to the spirit of the agreement, I can tell you that. And we're analyzing it very, very carefully and we'll have something to say about it in the not too distant future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: He's just buying time there.

KING: But buying time to what?

Buying time to pull out of -- you can't -- you know, you just certified they're compliant.

Buying time to find some reason to pull out?

Or buying time to hope people forget that you promised to pull out?

MARTIN: (INAUDIBLE) the question he was asked.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: I'm serious. His State Department said they're complying. He doesn't know what the answer is. He is just filibustering. I mean, let's be brutally honest here. He's not engaged on the details of these deals and he, therefore, is basically speaking the same lines he did during the campaign, with no knowledge of what's actually happening on the ground.

HENDERSON: And we've seen this a lot with the administration having all -- coming in with all of this bluster of the Iran deal, ripping up NAFTA. But at this point it's --

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: -- China, a further review and we'll make a decision down the line.

KING: Down the line.

HENDERSON: Yes.

ZELENY: A lot of studies happening.

HENDERSON: Yes, a lot of studies, exactly.

(CROSSTALK) ZELENY: One of the things he mentioned earlier about things they've done --

KING: A lot of studies.

ZELENY: -- a lot of studies that are under way, it's sort of like a blue ribbon commission.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: If we had a dollar for every study ordered by a president, we'd all be very rich.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: All right, everybody, sit tight. Our reporters share from their notebooks next, including President Obama's return to the public stage and a by-the-numbers look at whether members of Congress like or avoid town hall meetings with their constituents.

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[08:50:00]

KING: Let's close as we always do, head around the INSIDE POLITICS table, ask our great reporters to share a little something from their notebooks, help get you out ahead of the big political news just around the corner -- Nia-Malika Henderson.

HENDERSON: A lot of focus obviously this week on Donald Trump's first 100 days. It's also Melania Trump's first 100 days. I reached out to that White House to get a sense of how they feel like she's been doing, what the milestones were for her. They talked about her speech at the Women of Courage awards, hosting that bipartisan luncheon for Senate spouses.

Of course, the Easter egg roll came up as well and she's been able to staff that office.

One of the interesting things about her so far is she's still largely unknown. She's got 35 percent of Americans still don't know enough about her to really form an opinion yet.

So some of the interesting things to watch, I think, in these next 100 days or so, what is her issue, we thought it was going to be cyber bullying. Maybe that will end up being what it is. And who she is on the international stage because that was a big deal for Michelle Obama when she took those first international trips. It will be interesting to see Melania Trump on the international stage as well.

KING: And the school year ends for Barron Trump in the second 100 days. So we'll see if we see her more here in Washington -- Jonathan.

MARTIN: All eyes now on Montana after the Georgia race has now gone to a June runoff. The race in Montana to fill an open house seat is May 25th. So both parties putting a lot of money in there. I think you'll see that for the next month and a half for this reason.

I'm told that polls from both parties have the Republican candidate, Gianforte, up there but on the Republican side, they believe that no district is safe right now. They have to spend everywhere because the Left is so fired up.

And Democrats have to spend there because their base won't let them not spend there. So you're going to see both parties, I think, playing in this state, leading up to May 25th.

KING: We should all go to Montana. That's my vote. See if I can get budget approval -- Jeff.

ZELENY: Before that, we're going to Chicago. President Obama is going to reemerge after months in seclusion. He'll be giving a speech on Monday at the University of Chicago and this is his first big rollout of the next phase of his public life.

And I'm told by his top advisers that this is not going to be a political speech, he is not going to sort of weigh in, if you will, on the issues of the day and his successor in office.

However, they do acknowledge that some of the things he says may be interpreted as a reaction to things but they said that this is a chance for him to sort of reemerge on his terms. He's going to talk about public service, civic engagement, et cetera.

The real reason he's giving a public speech tomorrow, he's about to go on the paid speaking tour, so he wants to give a couple free speeches, public speeches, before he starts raking in the bucks. That starts next month overseas.

But, tomorrow, in Chicago, every word he says will be sort of viewed through the lens of, is he criticizing Trump or is he sort of following the Bush model of saying nothing at all?

KING: The timing is interesting. President pushing for ObamaCare repeal, government shutdown, President Obama lived through a bunch of those. We'll see if he can resist -- Jackie.

KUCINICH: So with Congress coming back this week, I decided to check in with the town hall project, which keeps track of where and when members of Congress have these town halls where they take questions from their constituents. And they had some interesting numbers.

So from April 7th to scheduled events tomorrow, Republicans held more town halls, they held 204, but fewer members held them, 60 members held them. On the Democratic side, Democrats held 179 town halls and 92 members had them.

And they said this was an improvement and they liked what they saw. But they hope that more members take advantage of being able to engage their constituents in the next recess.

KING: If you see some of the harpoons that come in at those, we'll see if that happens. [08:55:00]

KING: But kudos to those who have the courage to go out there and do it and do it consistently. They're your constituents. You're supposed to listen to them.

I'll close with this. The week ahead is a giant test of the still- evolving relationship between President Trump and the House Speaker Paul Ryan. During the ObamaCare debacle a month ago, the White House and the Speaker both repeatedly talked of working hand in glove.

But let's be honest, there were many rough moments. Now the White House wants a House vote on ObamaCare repeal and the Speaker's team saying we can't commit to that until it sees proof of progress, the talk of progress actually means more votes.

The Speaker is also making clear his top priority is keeping the government open even if that means he can't get the White House everything it wants in the spending measure.

Hand in glove again?

We'll see. It's a giant week ahead.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Again, thanks for sharing your Sunday morning. Hope you can join us weekdays as well. We're here at noon Eastern.

Up next, "STATE OF THE UNION," including a very important interview with the Homeland Security Secretary, John Kelly.