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Trump Pushes Obamacare Repeal; Congress Close on Spending Bill; Ryan Backs Health Care Changes; Wall Funding Pulled as Government Shutdown Nears; Judge Blocks Sanctuary Cities Order; Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired April 26, 2017 - 12:00   ET


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

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

The president dismisses all haters. No doubt in his mind his first 100 days have been historic.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some of the things I'm signing, I say maybe people won't like it, but I'm doing the right thing. And no regular politician's going to do -- well, I don't know if you would would do. I will tell you, literally, some politicians have said, you're doing the right thing. I don't know if I would have had the courage to do some of these things. But we're doing them because it's the right thing to do. And it's --


KING: More on that ahead. Plus, we get an outline today of President Trump's tax cut ideas. That will come out next hour. He wants to aggressively slash rates for businesses, including his own. One giant White House challenge, even the president's own budget director worries the plan explodes the federal deficit.


MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: We need more upward mobility in the country again. And that's what's this tax bill is designed to do. If it does lead to deficits, Jake, as a conservative, that bothers me a little bit.


KING: And stunning administration language after another setback in the courts. The White House says leaders of sanctuary cities will have blood on their hands and a federal court is ridiculed as ridiculous and bananas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: It is as outrageous overreach by an unelected judge that simply doesn't understand the law, which is frankly sad that he's a judge, I guess. If you don't understand the law, maybe you shouldn't be making judicial decisions.


KING: With us to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Hirschfield Davis of "The New York Times," Dan Balz of "The Washington Post," Jackie Kucinich of "The Daily Beast," and FiveThirtyEight's Perry Bacon.

It is a dizzing day here in the nation's capital as the president looks to add to his 100-day portfolio, including that tax cut outline. And Congress is looks for a deal before a Friday midnight deadline to avert a partial government shutdown. Add into that mix, a fresh Republican attempt -- yes, a fresh Republican attempt to revive an Obamacare repeal effort. The president wants a vote this week. This talk of progress in talks between the key factions in the House. But we'll see. This is as far as Speaker Paul Ryan would go when asked a short time ago if he's ready to call a vote.

CNN's Phil Mattingly is live at a very, very, very busy Capitol.

Phil, let me start with the question about the spending deal. What's the biggest holdup at this hour as they try to avert a shutdown Friday?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, the border wall, that's old news. That's officially out. Right now it's a battle between Democrats and the Trump administration for something called cost sharing reduction subsidies. Now, what does that actually mean? That's about $7 billion annually that is given to insurers to help with the subsidies on Obamacare. Now, up to this point, that has been an administration bill, essentially. The administration has paid for that.

But, President Trump made very clear, in a "Wall Street Journal" interview, that he saw this as leverage and that he didn't want to pay for it, might not pay for it, and if they wanted the money, Congress would have to appropriate that. Because of that, Democrats have now set this down, at least on the leadership level, and said that money needs to be funded in this government bill or they won't come along. The administration has made very clear not only do they not want this in the spending bill, but they will actually consider not making the payments themselves in May if Democrats don't back down at some point soon.

This is a real sticking point. Speaker Paul Ryan said very clearly this morning, this wasn't going to be in the final spending bill deal and that's why right now we're at an impasse as they slowly work their way through the language, John.

KING: And at that impasse, slowly working through the language, I guess two and a half days to try to get it done. Phil, I was struck by the speaker's tone. Number one, the McArthur amendment was trending on Twitter for a little bit after the speaker talked about it. But is he convinced -- I know that members of the Freedom Caucus and some of the moderates think they've made a lot of progress on Obamacare repeal. The speaker's hands are still singed from the first time around. Is he prepared to bring it to a vote this week?

MATTINGLY: And it's important to note that the speaker's really taken a step back through this now I think we could say third iteration of trying to get health care repeal and replace through the U.S. House. I can say what I hear now from leadership officials is nobody's convinced of anything. They are cautiously optimistic that perhaps this is a pathway forward. There's no question the conservatives in the Freedom Caucus are largely coming into line. The outside conservative groups are saying, go ahead, we're OK with this. That's very important. But this all comes down to the moderates and the calculation is simply this, do you vote for something that could be extremely politically damaging, particularly on the headline level given what this amendment would do and risk your political future, or do you abstain and risk the wrath of being blamed with sinking repeal and replace? That's the calculation that's going on right now. What we know is over the course of the next 48 hours, they're softly whipping the vote, trying to get a sense of where their members are. Best case, perhaps a vote next week, worst case, maybe we're looking at 4.0 or 5.0. Who knows at this point, John?

KING: All right, Phil, I'm sure you know the shortest direct line to an espresso machine in the next two and a half days. We'll keep in touch with Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill.

Let's bring it into the room.

We're laughing about it, but every one of these pieces of this puzzle are serious business. Let's start with this shutdown talk and this -- the administration essentially saying, you know, we don't want to make the payments to essentially sustain the existing Obamacare law. Is it a bluff? They backed off on the wall. And if -- are they going -- are they going to back off here or are Democrats going to face a choice of essentially passing a spending bill that doesn't have that money in there and then seeing whether or not the administration signs the check or not?

[12:05:20] JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, it's hard to imagine that it's anything other than a bluff because if they did followed through with this, it's not Democrats that are going to be blamed for the consequences here. I mean President Trump is the president. He may not like Obamacare, he may not like the health care system the way that it is under the Affordable Care Act, but if these subsidies aren't there, then he's going to face some consequences, political and otherwise. And while Democrats may share in that, that is not a great place for him to be on the 100-day mark.

So I think you're right, he's been bluffing on the wall and , you know, on the first health care vote go around and I think there's some question now as to whether he's going to be willing to back down on this. But if he doesn't, the consequences for him are potentially as dire as they are for Democrats. JACKIE KUCINICH, "THE DAILY BEAST": Also, if the government shuts

down, it's still -- Republicans control every lever of government here. So the idea that Democrats would shoulder the blame for protecting Obamacare subsidies doesn't really -- I can't really see that hurting them politically to stand up to say they were standing up to the president, which is what their base has called for and which is what we are hearing from leadership.

KING: I'm assuming this president, Dan, doesn't want to shut down on his 99th day or going into his 100th day. But if you talk to -- remember, if you go back in time, a lot of people say, well, the Republicans will pay the price for this. If you go back in time, they did shut down the government for a brief period of time and everybody thought the Republicans were going to get doomed for it and the election after that, the Republicans kept the House, and then they won the Senate, and then they won the presidency. There are some conservatives who say, no, actually, if we stand on principle, we won't get blamed.

DAN BALZ, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, that's right, and memories can be short on the implications of a government shutdown, particularly of one that's resolved fairly quickly. I think the choice for the president is, he has caved on a couple of things already, as Julie indicated. If he continues to make demands and then backs off, he continues to send signals that he's not as tough a dealmaker as he claims to be. And I think that's the calculation they have to make. But, you know, I agree with Jackie, that the bigger issue for the Republicans is, do they want this to be the story on the 100th day when they have spent the week talking about how successful they have been in all the things they've tried to do?

KING: And one of the remarkable things, if you look at the ABC/"Washington Post" poll, the most recent, I believe, is that the president has backed down. They insisted they -- first they said last week, you know, we want the -- that's the -- those are the Obamacare repeal and replace numbers up there. Just want to show -- well, actually, take those down. We'll get to that point in a minute.

I want to get to this idea that, you know, the president -- and they had said over the weekend, we insist on the border wall down payment, and then they backed off pretty quickly and they realized Democrats wouldn't go for it. If you look at the polling, the president's kept his base. What, 94 percent of Trump voters say they'd vote for him again, or something like that, or he has a 94 percent approval rate among Trump voters. Listen to Rush Limbaugh, though. This is my question, if he continues to do this, is there a price to pay down the line. They're with him now but --


RUSH LIMBAUGH, "THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW" (voice-over): I'm not happy to have to pass this on. But it looks like from here, right here right now, it looks like President Trump is caving on his demand for a measly $1 million in the budget for his wall on the border with Mexico.


KING: Is there a risk that if that criticism continues out there in conservative talk radio, that the thing the president has been able to keep, yes, he's at 40 percent, but he's been steadily at 40 percent. His base has been rock solid. Is there a risk here that that starts to erode?

PERRY BACON, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: I think eventually there is. On immigration, the issue of immigration, it would be hard to say this president has -- has not been pretty strong.

KING: Right.

BACON: You look at his whole record from Sessions and General -- and Secretary Kelly on, they've been pretty strong in their record and have suggested people -- that people don't go -- are trying to come into the country has went down, deportations are up. So on immigration itself I think he's been pretty strong.

That said, yes, you've seen these number of flip-flops in this last month where he's moving from the conservative position to more the establishment view. And I do think over time that could erode his base if he does that continually on other big issues.

BALZ: I think the other aspect on the wall is that while his immigration policies are very important to the base of the Trump support, the wall itself may or may not be. I mean it became a nice symbol during the campaign, but the polling on the wall does not suggest that this is overwhelmingly important to people kind of across the board.

KING: Right. Right. And even his own Homeland Security secretary said a little bit of wall, a little bit of fencing, a little bit of drones and surveillance cameras. So I think their -- I think the Homeland Security secretary is try to take the president to where this debate is ultimately going to go.

Let's come back to the Obamacare issue because if -- we all remember a little more than a month ago when they were supposed to vote on this in the House, it's been a signature Republican issue long before Donald Trump came onto the scene, and it just collapsed. They did not do the work to figure out they didn't have the moderates and the conservatives in the House Republican caucus together.

Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, told reporters yesterday, "when the votes are there, the speaker will bring it to the floor and take the vote, but no sooner than that. Whether that's this week, next week, we don't know."

[12:10:04] That's a shift. Just last week, the intelligence they were getting, the White House was getting, was they are making progress and the president wants a trophy. He wants at least the House vote by the 100-day mark. A, do we think they've done enough in the recess to put that together, and, b, now we can go back to the poll graphic. Terrain under the Republicans is changing a little bit. Thirty-seven percent of Americans say repeal and replace, 61 percent say keep and improve. As this debate has been in the public eye during the Trump presidency, it appears that public opinion has shifted to, don't throw it away, just fix it.

KUCINICH: Not only that, they're -- they haven't been doing the work outside of the Congress to build support for this bill. We haven't seen the president go out to various states and really build up, get the public ready for this and get public opinion behind this. As far as we know, the bill -- the amendment that they've introduced doesn't change a lot of parts of this bill that other members didn't like and whether the public will bump it above 17 percent, which is what it has been polling at, it remains to be seen. So, right now, if you're just looking at the landscape, some of these members that say no have every reason to say no because the public doesn't like it.

KING: Right. I'm overgeneralizing some, but the amendment they're working, the McArthur amendment, he's a northeastern congressman, is essentially that if your state is moderate or has a Democratic governor or a centrist governor, you can keep the coverage as it is now. If you have a more conservative state, you'll have the right to opt out. You'll be able to opt out of a lot of things in Obamacare that your state doesn't like. So you create a state-based approach under a federal guideline. And so conservatives are willing to take that because they're from South Carolina and Alabama, et cetera, and they think our governor will -- our governor will change the policy. If you're from New Jersey or Massachusetts, our governor won't. But the question is, can they get to whatever it is, with the special elections, 215, 216, to pass a bill in the House and what is that worth if they pass a bill that will go nowhere in the Se?ate.

BACON: That's the --

DAVIS: Well, and --

BACON: Go ahead, Julie.

DAVIS: What I was going to say is that the failure of this effort the first time around I think for the White House meant that they got all of the downside of having a big debate like this on a big controversial issue that a lot of voters care about and none of the upside. So people really focused on the fact that you could lose coverage. There could be benefits that you have now under Obamacare that you might not have any more if there were more flexibility introduced in the way the Republicans want to do it.

Pre-existing conditions might not be covered anymore. Now, Republicans say they're not going to touch that, but people -- you had people starting to actually think about this and what would it mean and actually starting to get nervous about it. And then instead of having a big vote where it was an endorsement of, OK, this is what we're replacing it with and it's great and here's all the things it's going to do for you, it collapsed.

And so you had this sort of big promise of change, a lot of fears about what that would mean, and then no follow through. And I think that's why it's even more difficult now. I think they have laid more of the groundwork. But it's even more difficult for them to get to 216 and for the White House to get the victory it needs on this.

KING: Right, and a lot of grumbling from people on Capitol Hill that the president's style on these issues, putting them out there, pushing the debate, has pushed them to places they're not ready to be yet, I guess. And we'll see as that goes forward on tax reform and (INAUDIBLE).

Everybody sit tight.

Next, the president calls a court ruling ridiculous. His spokesman says officials in sanctuary cities will have blood on their hands if there's violence committed by the undocumented.


[12:17:29] KING: Welcome back.

One legacy of the president's first 100 days is a pretty lousy track record in the federal courts. Twice, President Trump's travel ban has been blocked. And, yesterday, a federal judge in San Francisco put on hold an administration effort to cut federal funds to so-called sanctuary cities. The Justice Department, last night, reacted with a lawyerly (ph) statement promising to make its case on the merits. Just a short while ago, President Trump, well, seemed nonplussed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you surprised by the -- the Ninth Circuit ruling?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm never surprised by the Ninth Circuit. As I said, we'll see them in the Supreme Court.


KING: But, before that more muted and somewhat optimistic reaction about the Supreme Court there, the White House, well, you might say, it went a little bananas. President Trump lashed out on Twitter with a burst of frustration. In a series of tweets he called the ruling ridiculous but wrongly said, or at least stretched the facts a bit, saying it was made by the same appeals court that blocked the travel ban.

The White House chief of staff also needs a bit of a civics lesson. "It's the Ninth Circuit going bananas," Reince Priebus told reporters. It was a federal district judge who issued the ruling. A district judge. The administration's appeal would go to the Ninth Circuit. Yes, the district court is within the Ninth Circuit's area of jurisdiction, but it was not the Ninth Circuit that issued an appeal. The Ninth Circuit's jurisdiction does include San Francisco. So a bit wrong on the facts, but more troubling to many is the tone the executive branch yet again using highly personal language to attack the judicial branch.

Dan, we're the gray haired guys at the table. I've been -- you know, I just -- it's just -- I've been around in this town for a long time. White Houses often get frustrated by the courts and they say they don't like this case. The personal language about ridiculous, bananas, specifically attacking judges, have we ever heard anything like this before?

BALZ: I can't recall that we have and so consistently and also because he's been so criticized over a period of time, Judge Curiel last year and now these kinds of complaints. He's been so criticized for it. It hasn't gotten him anywhere. It hasn't -- it hasn't improved his chances in the court.

There is a legal process under way. The courts are moving. When we did a poll on this, our respondents overwhelmingly said these are the courts doing what the courts do. It is not unfair or it's not an overreach. And I think the public recognizes that. So I don't know what the mileage is other than it's a kind of a frustration that boils out of the -- of the White House when these things happen, particularly again as they're looking at the 100 day mark and they want to have all kinds of successes and they know that there's going to be a lot of focus on this as a setback.

[12:20:01] KING: Right. And conservative tend to think of activists judicial -- you know, judicial activists on the bench in these federal courts. But I would remind people, President Obama, a lot of his executive orders, especially on immigration, were blocked in the courts. He didn't get to do, in his final year in office, a lot of the things he tried to do with executive action because they were stopped in the courts. So it's not unusual.

KUCINICH: And you didn't hear his AG criticizing the courts, which is a really fascinating -- I think it was last week that you heard Jeff Sessions, who's head of the judiciary, going after the judiciary. But this administration has a tendency to do an us versus them with whoever decides to challenge them. And if it happens to be the judicial branch, it's the judicial branch.

KING: Is it in part because this is a trademark issue for President Trump? And, again, to the consistency, a lot of people look at the 40 percent approval rating and say it's historically low and, in fact, it is. But it also has been historically steady in the sense that this is his core base staying with him.

And on that point, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, this is the statement issued by the White House last night. The president criticized the judge. The chief of staff criticized the judge. The press secretary criticized the sanctuary cities. "San Francisco and cities like it are putting the well-being of criminal aliens before the safety of our citizens, and those city officials who authored these policies have the blood of dead Americans on their hands. The San Francisco judge's erroneous ruling is a gift to the criminal gang and cartel element in our country, empowering the worst kind of human trafficking and sex trafficking and putting thousands of innocent lives at risk."

So, Sean Spicer goes after both the mayors, if you will, and police chiefs in these cities saying they have blood of dead Americans on their hands. BACON: This statement was -- I've not been around as long as you and

Dan, but this statement was unusual. The press secretary uses the phrase "blood on their hands" describing cities. That was the most aggressive statement I saw yesterday and it did surprise me. But I think it goes to the notion that these immigration issues, whether the Muslim ban or the sanctuary cities, these are core issues that Trump talked about essentially from the first few months of his campaign. They are his core promise. I'm going to stop people who shouldn't be in the country. I'm going to stop crimes. I'm going to target certain populations in certain ways. So I do think that is in part why they are responding so strongly. The idea also these judges -- Sean mentioned the judge from San Francisco, before it was the judge in Hawaii. These are not conservative places. So it is a little bit of a (INAUDIBLE) of the base as well.

KUCINICH: Yes, but the other thing is, if they cut funding to these cities, it's actually just going to hurt police forces. So things are just going to -- it's if they think that there's a crime problem there, which in a lot of places there are higher murder rates in non- sanctuary cities than in those that are considered sanctuary cities. It's sort of cutting off your nose to spite your face if they end up, you know, trying to take the fight -- if this works its way through the courts.

BALZ: But there's a -- there's a strong emotional message. I mean, Sean Spicer's language may be over the top in terms of blood on your hands, but there is --

KING: Right.

BALZ: There is a strong, emotional resonance to the idea that people who have been -- who are here illegally and commit crimes --

BACON: Right.

KING: Right.

BALZ: Are being in one way or another protected.

KING: Right.

BALZ: The Trump base in particular, but I think somewhat broader than that, want some broader solution to this. And when they will go after this issue, put aside the judges, when they go after this issue, it does resonate with people.

KING: I couldn't agree more. They have tapped into something saying these -- there are people here illegally, they're committing illegal acts and then they're being -- the Trump administration would make the case and conservatives have long made the case, that they're being somewhat protected. And if it were -- if anybody at this table who did the same thing, we would -- we would be in jail. We would be separated from our families. We can have those arguments. No doubt about it.

And just to make the point, a lot of people say, well, the Trump administration's playing politics with this, playing to their anti- immigration base. Maybe that's true. You make that call at home. So are the other people involved. Listen here, this is the San Francisco city attorney who won the case yesterday. The case is about sanctuary cities. The attorney makes the reaction about a little bit more.


DENNIS HERRERA, SAN FRANCISCO CITY ATTORNEY: The court found today that the Trump administration's arguments were not only not legally plausible, the court sided with us on every substantive issue. I hope this president learns from his litany of mistakes. His first 100 days have been a disaster.



BALZ: Well --

KING: Yes. That's blue America. That's blue America, you know, throwing blowback at the president of the United States, not arguing the legal merits of the case, but decided to make it about Trump rite large.

BACON: Yes, you're running for office and you're in office and you're a Democrat, attacking Trump, suing Trump, criticizing Trump in vitriolic terms is exactly what you probably should be doing politically.

DAVIS: Well, and also, I mean, if you look at the executive order itself that's at issue here, it actually didn't do anything. It called for --


DAVID: The finding ways of defunding sanctuary cities. They actually haven't found good ways yet to do that. And so this whole fight is unfolding in the courts and in the court of public opinion and with the political backdrop. Saving them the actual substantive task of finding a way to do this, which is, as Dan said, a very politically popular thing to talk about because it only stands to reason that people would want as much to be done as possible in every city in the country to crack down on criminal conduct. But it's not as easy as it sounds. And the way that President Trump has talked about it on the campaign trail and has talked about it since he took office makes it seem like a really simple question of shutting off a spigot. And it's not. And they know that. So having this us versus them is actually sort of not a bad place for them to be while they figure out how -- or weather this is actually possible.

[12:25:17] KING: Right, politically safe, politically smart and strong for them and their base as they go through the courts. We'll see.

Sit tight, everyone.

Up next, yet another executive action plus a call for a giant tax cut. It's day 97 and the president who recently called the 100-day test ridiculous is going all out to claim a passing grade.


KING: Welcome back.

President Trump wants you to pay no attention to this man.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The country wasn't based on executive orders. Right now, Obama goes around signing executive orders. He can't even get along with the Democrats and he goes around signing all these executive orders. It's a basic disaster. You can't do it.


KING: So what he once labeled Obama White House disaster is now Trump White House S.O.P., that's standard operating procedure. CNN is told, for example, there's an executive action in the works to study whether the federal government has overstepped its bounds in education policy. And just moments ago, pen to paper, executive action number 27, a review of presidential authority to designate giant swaths of federal land as monuments and, as a result, to protect them from development.