Return to Transcripts main page

INSIDE POLITICS

Ryan: "Very Good Progress" In Health Bill; Trump Talks On The Phone With Putin Today; Trump, Putin Speaking Today Amid Ongoing Tensions; Trump: Would Be "Honored" To Meet North Korean Leader Under "The Right Circumstances"; Trump Considering Breaking Up Big Banks. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 2, 2017 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00] MARGARET TALEV, BLOOMBERG NEWS: -- undercut those guarantees. What he seems to be saying is -- or he's not saying it, but what he's implying, this isn't the bill that's going to clear the Senate anyway, so this will never land on my desk, don't worry about it. But if you're going on the board with that, you know, you own that vote whether or not and never becomes law.

He said something else really interesting yesterday during the interview and that was -- right after that clip that you played where he said this is going to be better than the Obamacare. He said you know why? Because there is no Obamacare. Obamacare is dead.

So the question is, is he saying that it's better to have some protections for pre-existing conditions than nothing at all or is he promising that the protections he will commit to will be better than they ever were under the promise and the initial rollout.

DANA BASH, INSIDE POLITICS HOST: And as we're talking, I should say Speaker Paul Ryan is trying to pushback like you said on the notion that pre-existing conditions won't be covered. He said in a statement the amendment is clear, under no circumstances can people be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition, but is that true?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't seem like it's true and the reality here is they are trying to get to 216 to a yes and the policy, you know, will basically come after the fact. Because it's going to change in the Senate. That's not good enough for a lot of these House members. I am told who have very specific questions for this White House.

This is -- there's nothing more important than health care because individual districts, it absolutely affects people based on where you live. Urban, rural, other areas. So I am told that members of the Congress have specific questions. Moderates in particular. The Health and Human Services secretary, of course, who's very involved in this, Tom Price, he's a medical doctor. He was, you know, involved in repealing it or trying to repeal it so many times. He is fielding questions, I'm told one by one by one with specifics. That's something the President can't do.

The President has been all over the map on this to be sort of polite about it and does not know the details or the fine print. So, at this hour they're trying to sort of have the President step back a little bit and not sort of confuse the situation here. But it is a confused situation. And it is hugely controversial for these undecided voters. You don't want to be the last person to jump on board something that, you know, may not do well in 2018.

BASH: We have to take a break, but I want to get your take --

CAROL LEE, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: One of the things that I'm struck by is that this -- when the Obama administration was trying to guard against repealing Obamacare, they really latched on to things that would be hugely popular as their safeguard and this was number one, pre-existing conditions. And you see it playing out now because they knew it would be divisive and politically divide Republicans as they tried to do this.

BASH: OK. Stand by, everybody.

President Trump has a very important call in just a few minutes. Actually it should be starting just about now. And in a new round of interviews, the President left a muddled message. More on that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:36:53] BASH: The President is making a very important phone call to Russian President Vladimir Putin probably right about now. Now last month, he made some uncharacteristically negative comments about Russia saying that the relationship may be in an all time law. Uncharacteristic because of how consistently and too many alarmingly positive he was about Vladimir Putin on the campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They say Putin likes Trump. And he said nice things about me. He called me a genius. He said we're going to win. That's good. That's not bad. That's good. You know, some of my opponents said we want you to disavow that statement. Why would I disavow, OK. Why? But if we could get along with Russia, wouldn't that be a good thing instead of a bad thing?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now that we're past the 100-day mark, getting along with Russia is all the more complicated. Complicated by Trump's military strikes in Syria and even administration suggestions that Russia was involved in chemical weapons attacks against Syrian civilians. Not to mention, that Russian investigation into meddling in the U.S. election, something that the President told the "Washington Times" is a disgrace.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The Russia story is a fake story. It was made up so that they can justify the fact that Hillary Clinton lost the election that a Democrat should not lose.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: Jeff Zeleny, from your first covering the White House for us, what is your expectation on this Putin call that should be happening right now?

ZELENY: Right. I mean, a very important phone call. Obviously it's the third time he's talked to him as president but the first time as you said since the military strike in Syria. It will be interesting to see what type of a readout, how extensive of a readout we get from this side. We definitely will get one from Moscow.

And the, you know, the expectations, my expectation is fairly low actually in terms of any huge development here. But back to the investigation, the President can call it fake news all he wants. Next week, they're going to be hearings on Capitol Hill where the Russia investigation becomes very much real, very much on television live on rolling (ph). Republicans are sort of bracing for that moment, worried about that.

So, the reality is it is a real investigation. Substantively though, this phone call, we'll see what he gets out of it. I wouldn't expect a lot.

TALEV: A tremendous amount that would probably be unsaid on this call, right?

ZELENY: OK.

TALEV: About everything that you just said. But look, so there's that. There's the fact that Angela Merkel was over there with Putin yesterday. President Trump does not want to get cut out of the loop on that. No matter what the tensions are, he wants this to be the U.S. and Russia talking about the U.S. on the sidelines while Germany does that business with Russia.

There are a couple other factors to watch. One is that there's a whole series of really important summits coming up, G7, NATO. And we're waiting for President Trump and Mr. Putin to meet actually in person perhaps sometime in this summer. So a lot of tension building on all of those fronts even though Russia maintains it did not meddle in anyone's elections.

LEE: Yes. And this whole comes at a time and if you look at President Trump and how many world leaders he's met with, and how many relationships he's called today, the reset with Russia just -- it did not get off the ground. And it's not just because there is the investigation that's clouding over this administration but also when we talk to people in the White House they say that Trump sort of realize that Russia is much more problematic than he necessarily saw on the campaign and they don't like a number of things that Vladimir Putin is doing.

[12:40:16] And in fact, the Russians asked for a meeting while the President was in Europe in May and the White House said no, and they pushed it off until later in the summer. So there's a lot -- while the President is embracing all kinds of world leaders, some of which his predecessors would not, from Egypt to the Philippines, he is not embracing Vladimir Putin.

BASH: That's a very good segue for -- what I was going to say now which is that the President of the United States likes to talk. For however quick he is to rail against the media, President Trump spends a significant amount of time talking to people like us, reporters. He did at least nine interviews to commemorate his first 100 days in office which to be clear we, journalists, we welcome. The more the better.

And I always said the best thing about interviewing Donald Trump is that he actually answers questions which, again, is a delight for us reporters. But when you're president and you say so much, you shape and in many cases reshape U.S. policy real time. The latest example is the nation's posture towards North Korea. Let's take a trip down memory lane. Actually, just less than two weeks ago, here's what the Vice President told me aboard the USS Ronald Reagan in Japan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Do you see a direct negotiation with North Korea and the U.S.?

RONALD REAGAN, 40TH U.S. PRESIDENT: I think not at this time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: It's pretty clear that the position there for the vice president was that the administration would not negotiate in any bilateral talks. Now we are hearing from the President never mind direct diplomatic talks. He's talking about personally having a conversation with the rogue regime leader Kim Jong-un himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely -- I would be honored to do it. If it's under the, again, under the right circumstances.

BASH: Margaret, that was your interview. Did you almost fall off your chair when he said that?

TALEV: I was like just kept looking at him. But he knew -- that he was -- but nobody knew that he was saying something really provocative that was going to get a lot of attention. And he said we're breaking news.

BASH: He said that?

TALEV: Yes, he did. So then I wrote it down. No, I'm just kidding. I wrote it down anyway. So -- but, no, he -- look, he -- so here's what we still don't know. Was he trying primarily to send a message to Kim that there's potential for an actual one-on-one talk if a series of changes happen, none of which he articulated? Is he trying to send a message to Xi Jinping in China saying, look, if you don't do this, I'm just going to get involve myself and we'll see what happens? Was he messaging to Congress? Who was he trying to reach in that message? Sean Spicer almost immediately after our interview trying to walk it back from the podium in the press briefing to make clear the President did not mean now. A number of things would have to change. You know, the Kim regime would have to -- can really ratchet down their behavior. But that's not what President Trump said in our interview.

And to be clear, he didn't say hey, I'm going to call him this afternoon. He didn't say that at all. And we asked, you know, I asked what do you mean by appropriate and is that time now. And he did not say yes, but he didn't rule it out either.

BASH: But even this is a suggestion of meeting at any point under any condition with this guy is obviously significant.

TALEV: And he said to be honored also.

(CROSSTALK)

ZELENY: And Sean Spicer explained the honored like why honored, and he said, well, I guess because he's the head of state so you have to -- and then he talked about how he's been moving his country forward. The reality is he's starving his own people. So I think that well that was just an odd turn of phrase.

BASH: Well, let's hear from one of the most senior Republicans on national security issues in the United States Senate, John McCain and his reaction to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN, CHAIRMAN, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I don't understand it and I don't think that the President appreciates the fact that when he says things like that it helps the credibility and the prestige of this really outrageous strong man. This is a dramatic departure from the kind of approach to foreign policy and human rights that I admired Ronald Reagan so much for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: I would imagine, Phil, he's not alone up on Capitol Hill.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. And it's not just the hawks like John McCain or Lindsay Graham. It's really up and down kind of the broad spectrum of both parties right now. Unsettled is kind of the best way I would describe what you hear from lawmakers. And this isn't just related to Kim Jong-un. It's related to all sorts of meetings and phone calls and kind of proclamation that he's made over the course of the last couple of weeks.

In the sense of foreign policy run by certainty, run by specific messages, there is a strategy to how things are said. There's a strategy behind when things are said. The fact that it seems ad hoc, that fact that it seems to fly in the face of what other administration officials we're telling of us including yourself. I think it just makes people on Capitol Hill very uncomfortable right now. [12:45:01] BASH: OK. But let's just, you know, play the devil's advocate. What America and what the world has been doing has not worked, so maybe this ad hoc getting Kim off his game, whatever it is that the President is doing, if it is specific strategy, why not?

LEE: That's what some people in the White House say. They argue that this is a President who is not afraid to embrace people that other presidents wouldn't have embraced because for various reasons and that it's all part of his strategy because he's transactional. He wants something from one world leader so he says nice things about that world leader. They do something in return for him.

You know, the problem is the United States has always stood for human rights and people listen to the President of the United States for signals, for ideas of our values. And I think when you hear -- when people hear the President of the United States say that Kim Jong-un is a smart cookie and he would be honored to meet him, that's what they hear. They don't hear all that other nuance. He not only said it there, he met with the President of the Egypt. He is saying he would host the President of the Philippines at the White House. This is a President who has committed all kinds of massive human rights violations in combating (ph) drug order. And so, it's all of these things piece together that people are really wondering where we are.

BASH: Well, he's also shaking up the sort of Republican philosophy domestically too. Listen to what he said about breaking up the big banks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We are looking at that. There are, you know, some people that want to go back to the old system, right? So we're going to look at that. We're looking at it right now as we speak. And Dodd-Frank is going to be very, very seriously changed so the banks can go back to loaning money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: OK. Jeff, you cover the White House now. You covered the Democrats during the primary. Take the Dodd-Frank part out of this. But just breaking up the big banks, it sounds like something you would have heard Bernie Sanders and now Elizabeth Warren say.

ZELENY: It does. And -- I mean, I think what he has living on to the fact that a lot of his advisers, many of whom worked at Goldman Sachs or work at Goldman Sachs right before join this administration would not agree with that. So I'm not sure what he was talking about there or what the context was, but it does not seem to me that it is -- he, you know, has a populace strain that sent him to office. But there's been no sign in these policies that he's going to do that that I can tell.

BASH: Tell me what you thought, because it was your interview, but as you do, I just wonder if you can enlighten us on his demeanor since you spent 30 minutes with him. TALEV: He seemed really confident yesterday. He didn't seem like at all like he had a chip on his shoulder about cutting a deal with the Democrats. He seemed fine with it and he seemed like he wanted to talk about what he's going to do in the next 100 days. And that's why we kind of covered the waterfront from everything from North Korea to, you know, whether you want to break up the big banks.

I see some commonalities in them. I think on North Korea, he sees his own personal negotiating skills and we know this from his life and business and we know this from his life as a campaigner and early months in the White House that he feels that he personally brings something special to the table in the way he deals with, and can bond with people and that could have an impact on everything from dealing with a dictator with nuclear ambitions to doing things like talking to truckers about whether to try raising the gas tax or talking with community bankers and perhaps even some Democrats about what to do if he wants to dial back Dodd-Frank but wants to come up with some protections and divisions between commercial banking and investment. So, some of this is I think President Trump's personal belief that he can, as Donald J. Trump, have an impact that others could not have, whether they're his advisers, whether they're past presidents.

BASH: Certainly what his supporters were banking on when they got somebody who was very different in the White House. Thanks, guys. Stand by.

And we are standing by, I should say, for Hillary Clinton's first live televised interview right here on CNN. It's her first interview since Election Day and you want to watch that. Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:51:25] BASH: President Trump relies deeply on close family members to shape his administration. Anyway, we really aren't use to seeing one of his closest confidants is of course his oldest daughter Ivanka who has an office in the west wing. In a revealing interview with "The New York Times", she talked about what she brings that others do not who are not related to him. She told the paper, "I'm his daughter. I've known him my entire life. He trusts me. I don't have a hidden agenda. I'm not looking to hit him to help myself."

So for my friends here who cover the White House and have covered her, Carol, I'll start you. I mean, that's very telling. Loyalty, the ultimate loyalty with somebody who is a blood relative. She says I have his back at all costs.

LEE: And she's right. And that's why the President values loyalty -- this president values loyalty. He likes having familiar people around him. He, you know, every president has had to some extent a close personal aide. For President Obama it was Valerie Jarrett. For President Bush it was Karen Hughes. But no one has had somebody who was a blood relative. The one reason (INAUDIBLE) who's a blood relative disclose in the Oval Office and in the west wing. And it just -- it's something that he find comforting.

BASH: And I'll just tell you a couple of fascinating little sort of color nuggets. She says she calls her father dad, not Mr. President while in the Oval Office and that she gets time with him. She gets time alone with him when she needs it. Kick the other advisers out to really have a one-on-one conversation. But I want to show you another quote that she gave "The New York Times." She said I'll go to the mat on certain issues and I may still lose those but maybe along the way I've modified a position just slightly and that's just great. But has she modified his positions? Climate change, women's rights, and so forth, those are her big issues.

ZELENY: We'll see if they withdraw from the Paris climate agreement which is coming up in a couple weeks. What I think is most interesting what she said is she's talking about the rest of the people in the west wing, suggesting by saying that other people are here for their own agendas.

BASH: Yes.

ZELENY: So she is saying, look, I'm not. She and Jared Kushner, her husband, a top adviser obviously, you know, two of the most important people and they are still sort of fighting those some of those internal fights. We are entering an entirely different sort of structure in the west wing heading into the second 100 days in the first. Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, a lot of others are not nearly as prominent externally or internally. We believe. And I think her comments right there are very interesting in that regard.

LEE: Yes, I agree. And I think when you make comments like that in the west wing, what you can create resentment among the other staff. Anyone with that kind of staff or an access to the President is always going to be looked at skeptically by the other members of senior staff. And so, she just kind of took that to another level with those comments in that interview.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And I would just say one of the biggest issues that I hear there on Capitol Hill is nobody is exactly sure who the right point to contact is on whatever legislative issue working on taxes from a security (INAUDIBLE).

On defense issues are you going straight on national security advisory, you're talking to Jim Mattis. She's a player. There's no question about it. And if you talk to top Republicans who have specific issues that they feel like might lineup with her, they are doing their damndest right now to try and getting contact and trying to set something up to work. Because they know, if she's on their side it will likely play whether it's a tax credit for child care, whatever the issue is. And so, it's been interesting watching the maneuvering as everybody tries to figure out who is who in this White House.

There's question at all the perception at least is if you have Ivanka Trump on your side, there's a really good chance that your issue won't just get a for hearing but might actually be included on legislative proposal.

[12:55:07] BASH: OK. Real quick, top of the hour, Hillary Clinton, her first live interview since the election will be right here on CNN. You covered her from the whole campaign. I want to go around the horn just briefly. Your expectation?

ZELENY: Well, look, I think she wants to get back involved in the process here. Not with the expectation of running again. But to be a voice of the Democratic Party which is largely a voiceless party in terms of one emerging leader. So she wants not just to have Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders out there. She wants to be part out of that.

TALEV: She needs to make peace with the Democratic Party so that she can move forward and try to preserve a legacy for herself.

LEE: And I think she sees a role for herself. She won the popular vote. She got a large amount of report and I think she wants to be relevant, so.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Relevant -- she sees a role for herself and she sees a party right now that doesn't have a clear leader or a clear message. I think she tries to fill that gap at least to some degree. A little bit off the map to some degree.

BASH: Well, and it's going to be must see T.V. We're all going to be watching. No question. I'm sure you are -- I hope you are there at home.

That's it for "Inside Politics." I'm Dana Bash. Stay with us for that interview we were just talking about right after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

Happening this hour, two major live events, Hillary Clinton speaking up.