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President Trump To Sign $1 Trillion Spending Bill; ACLU Won't Sue Over Trump's "Religious Liberty" Order; Trump's First Foreign Trip: Saudi Arabia, Israel, Vatican; Trump Vows To Get Middle East Place Deal Done; French Voters Pick A President Sunday. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 5, 2017 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS HOST: Welcome back. At some point before midnight, President Trump will sign a big spending bill that keeps the government running for the next five months. Those are the final five months of the fiscal year. Now, things could change, but for now, no public event to show the signing. The White House says they will probably release a photo of that.

Perhaps this is why. The President received scathing reviews in the conservative media this past week for agreeing to a spending plan that among other things has no money for his border wall but continues to fund Planned Parenthood. Look at those headlines. Ouch.

Today's headlines on those same sites are much better from a White House perspective. The President clearly hopes his base is thinking more about health care than spending.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This has really brought the Republican Party together. As much as we've come up with a really incredible health care plan. This has brought the Republican Party together. We're going to get this finished. And then we're going as you know, we put our tax plan in.


KING: I'm not sure if Rand Paul and Susan Collins, two very different senators would agree with the President that has brought them together. It has given them a joint mission. But this is your real house. In the past weeks the reviews of this President in the conservative meeting, the reviews of the spending bill not just him, why did the speaker go along with this, why would the Republican Senate go along with this, but he is the President. And the places he goes for affirmation were kicking him in the teeth.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, THE FEDERALIST: Yes. And like, it was an easy thing to kick everyone in the teeth over, because everyone in those two factions chose their favorite villain. It's either Paul Ryan or it's Donald Trump. Donald Trump caved or Paul Ryan caved. And they just choose the person. But the Republican and Conservative, you know, wing has to figure out how to work together. And what you saw in that Rose Garden ceremony, I think the most telling thing was Ryan and Trump coming together and working together and deciding that this was the thing they could get across the line together. Now, it's just the first step. But I do think that that's a signal of sorts.


MOLLY BALL, THE ATLANTIC: Well, I mean -- I think the question with this spending bill is given that it doesn't do so many of the things that conservatives and non-conservative Trump is -- Republicans of all has elected Trump to do. Like be it the border call or cutting spending or de-funding Planned Parenthood, is the entire Trump President is just going to be a lot of serve less than meets the eye? Is he going to be much less disruptive than he promised?

We've seen a Republican Congress that probably would like to rock the boat as little as possible and make as few people mad at them as possible. That's generally what politicians like to do. So, are we going to see a President Trump who is just a lot less mold breaking than we thought?

KING: And at some point does that affect the brand in the sense that you often hear it's more on foreign policy issues. But you often hear from people at White House, you know, don't pay attention to what the President tweets. Don't pay attention even to what he says. Pay attention to what he does and what we do. And we got in this -- does he run that same risk with his own base? Who -- he still sounds disruptive, he still says that it sounds like he's talking to his voters. But is he going to do things that give them what he promised?

MICHAEL SHEAR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think that's possible. I think that this connect thought I think the rhetoric especially he's shown the mastery of the rhetoric. And that goes a long way to sort of keep him over that. I do think it's very interesting that after a bunch of years with a Democrat in the White House to get blamed for everything when you have to run the government. You have to fund the government. You have to do things actively.

Republicans spent those eight years being able to, you know, stick to their principles. You know, Mick Mulvaney sticking to the sort of absolutist budget kind of situation. Now, they're in a position where they're in charge. They have to fund the government. They have to raise the debt limit. They have to do the things that they could always blame Obama on. And, you know, it looks like what they did here was cave a little bit on the principles so they could, you know, get the political win.

KING: And to your point, Mick Mulvaney who was among those who considered themselves reformers want big change in entitlement programs now has a boss who tells him, I don't want to touch that stuff.

HAM: He will always talk and tweet differently. And that will be a signal to me as voters. Just in speaking to Trump supporters in the past week or so about this specifically, because I was curious where they were coming down. I found a lot of forgiveness for him and a lot of leeway and a lot of just giving him the benefit of the doubt. That this is the guy who knows how to do the deal and he's decided doing it later is the way to do it.

Now, he's also the guy who unconventionally said we're going to try to push this healthcare thing again. Wherein this town most people would have said, don't do that. Well, they did get it over for the first line. So, I think there's some leeway.


KING: The calendar gives you 2020 when he won (ph) the election. The question is I still don't rule out if somebody will challenge him in the primary. We try to make a name. And we'll see how that goes and maybe they can try to beat him. We'll see that goes. But to your point that sometimes, you know, the difference between what he says and what the end product is.

Listen to the President yesterday in the Rose Garden on national day of prayer bringing religious evangelical, Christian, Catholic, all leaders of all faith into the Rose Garden of the White House. Using that important symbolism to sign an executive order that he says goes a long way in lifting restrictions on religious groups getting involved in political activities.


TRUMP: My administration is leading by example as we take historic steps to protect religious liberty in the United States of America.

[12:35:14] We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore. And we will never ever stand for religious discrimination, never ever.


KING: Now, this event in the Rose Garden, before it happened, the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union served notice that it was prepared to go to court as quickly as yesterday to sue. It said that what it expected to happen from the White House in the ACLU's view was going to violate all sorts of constitutional protections and separation of church and state issues. Then later, the ACLU tweeted out this. "We thought we'd have to sue Trump today. But it turned out the order signing was an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome."

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. I mean, it was a big nothing burger.

KING: Is it a big nothing burger? I'm not a lawyer.

HENDERSON: I mean, it seems to -- I mean the IRS won't pin -- I guess if you're a preacher you can basically speak from the pulpit about what your politics are. And I think most preachers do that already. I mean, I don't know how --


BALL: It was an IRS provision that was almost never enforced.

HENDERSON: Right, exactly. I view most of the churches I've been into, black and white. It's clear what the policy is or policy preferences of the preacher is. But I think the fact that he is standing in the Rose Garden there, using language of the church, using the language that evangelicals use. I think that's a victory for them. And I think none of the polls suggest that white evangelicals are going anywhere.

BALL: It's not the victory they thought they were getting though. I mean, I do hear a lot of anger from the social conservative community that this was something of a bait-and-switch. That the type of religious liberty provision that they thought they were getting which was more about, you know, freedom of conscious for business owners to do, for -- particularly when it comes to LGBT issues that this order had nothing to do with that. And as the ACLU said, it didn't affect very much policy at all. They really were expecting that that's what they were getting.

KING: Well, then that community in particular has been very disappointed in past presidents whether --


KING: -- whether it's from Reagan, George H. Bush, George W. Bush. And so, I think there is a risk for the president there, a bit of a trap door. I think they get disappointed again by the guy who promised them. And they gave him a lot of ground obviously. A lot of the people that voted for him had their reservations about him by the thought he would change things.

HAM: They also got Gorsuch which is the big one.

KING: Right.

HAM: But I do think there was disappointment on this front. And they're not terribly unused to being disappointed on the religious liberty.

KING: Right.

HAM: Because many of them don't go to bat for it.

KING: And that's the question. Whether they thought -- if they thought the brand at some point doesn't suffer, but we'll see.

Up next, the President's first overseas trip is rich in religious history and a giant test of his place on the world stage.


[12:41:58] KING: Welcome back. President Trump's first overseas trip will be an ambitious one in addition to the annual meetings of the NATO alliance and the G7 economic powers. The trip includes stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and at the Vatican. The President has been highly critical of Saudi Arabia times. But says his visit to the nation that is home of Islam's two holiest mosques is critical.


TRUMP: Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the two holiest sites in Islam. And it is there that we will begin to construct a new foundation of cooperation and support with our Muslim allies to combat extremism, terrorism and violence and to embrace a more just and hopeful future for young Muslims in their countries. Our task is not to dictate to others how to live. But to build a coalition of friends and partners who share the goal of fighting terrorism and bringing safety, opportunity, and stability to the war ravaged Middle East.


KING: No matter where you look in the world, if you look in the media. You talk to friends around the world. Donald Trump is the center of conversation everywhere. It's hard to project a trip that hasn't happened yet. But this will be the first time he leaves the country.

These are big, the structured events, the NATO summit, the G7. Those are big annual events anyway with Brexit, Brexit global economic pressures going. But let's start going to Saudi Arabia, trying to talk to the Muslim community about helping fight terrorism. When he received a lot of pushback, you know, for the language he uses in that fight, a fabulous diplomatic moment to start.

SHEAR: Yes. And so, I think two things. One, I do think that there will be an even more intense kind of focus on him in this moment given the rhetoric that he has employed throughout the campaign. And then, you know, with the travel ban and all. I thought it was interesting the White House did a briefing for reporters in a senior administration official, at one point. This was just sort to talk about the trip and give us some background about it.

And at one point, one of the senior administration officials referred to this as sort of we feel an obligation to do this, right? And this is what all presidents do. You covered a lot of them too. They all come into the Oval Office. They all feel kind of intense obligation to try to do something in the Middle East, to try to figure out how to make the situation better. And I think so, to some extent, this is something they sort of felt like they have to do. But I don't think any of them really have a good sense of what the result is. How they get -- not only how do they get from "a" to "z" but what "z" is and where? And so, I think that's a huge test and it's a real big risk from.

KING: And so, many of these issues have been the intractables to past presidents.

SHEAR: And not easy.

KING: Whether it's Tunisia. You know, the rivalries within Islam and the political within the neighborhood. Then you get to the Israeli/Palestinian issues, which the President was quite confident about this week hearing about the conference.

HAM: I'm not confident that there's a clear strategy here although I was also sort of pleasantly surprised by the rhetoric in this speech here where he's saying our Muslim allies and better things for the Muslim youth in the Middle East, and keeping it pretty low key.

[12:45:08] But you never know when he travels. He could goes saying about like, what about letting the ladies drive? What's the (INAUDIBLE). I mean, that's the nature of who he is that he could throw a lot of things into just array or a, you know, maybe it makes some progress but he's just a strange figure in that way. That will play out overseas as well.

BALL: And the rest of the world is still very much getting accustomed to Donald Trump sort of to your point, foreign policy in the arena in which he has most scrambled the occasion. And part because what you say is what you do in foreign policy. It's how diplomacy works. And he is so little enslaved you might say to the nice cities of traditional diplomacy.

But, you know, the world does not know what to make with this guy. He has not performed in a way that even if you believe in a certain coherent America first framework, that's not the way he has behaved in office. There are clearly different factions even within his cabinet on these issues. And so, I think a lot of foreign leaders just want some clarity and to the extent that they are able to have conversation with him where they can come away feeling reassured that's good. The question is does he have the power --

KING: Our friends who read the query writes about this in the Washington Post today. And he writes this it is critical, "There has been much focus on President Trump's erratic foreign policy, the outlanders positions, the many flip flops, the mistakes, but for more damaging in the long run might be what some have termed the Trump effect, his impact on the domestic policies of other countries. That affect appears to be powerful, negative and enduring. It could undermine decades of U.S. foreign policy success.

It is one of the examples he cite is the right of the anti-Trump candidate in the Mexican presidential election believing they could go back tomorrow but a nationalist approach.

HENDERSON: Yes. And, you know, there's some suggestion that's at play in this French election. We'll see what happens with that on Sunday. It will be interesting to see what Trump learns from this trip, right? I mean, he talks about his conversations with the Chinese leader and how much, you know, he learned from that conversation. And usually very open about, you know, what he learned in these conversations.

So, it will be interesting to see what he comes back with on that. And Melania Trump, this will be her kind of debut on the world stage, too, as the first lady. That will be interesting to watch soon.

KING: Keep an eye on that. That ones on at the end of the month. And they are just tied (ph) up the next block. When we come back, we'll follow Brexit? France picks a president on Sunday. And Presidents Trump and Obama, surprise, view the candidates differently.


[12:51:39] KING: Welcome back. France picks a president Sunday. And the campaign is testy to be polite.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (through translation): I am talking about the party of the far right. The one that you lead, the party that spreads lies on social media which encourages hatred but less journalists who generously dispense brutality everywhere.


MACRON: You did on several occasions. At my meetings, you have threatened and beaten people. And I have experienced that. That is the truth, Ms. Le Pen. So, it is your party, the party of the far right which has no resemblance to our country.


KING: It's an interesting campaign. Marine Le Pen of the National Front is anti-European Union, anti-NATO, pro-Putin and what strict limits on immigration.

Emmanuel Macron, pro-E.U., pro-NATO and calls Le Pen a radical and a threat to the western alliance. Giant (ph) consequential issues especially after the Brexit vote. Or you can look at this way. President Obama is endorsing Macron. President Trump won't endorse because seating president now do such things. But he said very nice things to say about Le Pen.

Is that how the United States audience will grab this down as Trump versus Obama or will they get to the significant issues? I just want to bring that. I don't mean too be too snarky about it, but here's what President Trump said in an A.P. interview about Marine Le Pen.

He is the seating president of United States and said I'll work with whoever wins. That's my responsibly. He said she's the strongest on borders. She's the strongest on what's been going in France. Who ever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism and who ever is the toughest at the borders will do well in the election.

Clearly his sympathies, if not his personal endorsement, lie with Marine Le Pen. President Obama is a bit of a surprise. Actually, he's been relatively quiet when it comes to U.S. politics but here's what he thinks.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have admired the campaign that Emmanuel Macron has run. He stood up for liberal values. He put forth a vision for the important role that France plays in Europe and around the world. And he is committed to a better future for the French people.


HENDERSON: He should have recorded in French.


HENDERSON: I think it's kind of weird.

KING: Can Obama be more influential in election in France than he ever was in an election in the United States?

HENDERSON: You know, I mean, he's coming out. I mean, he looks -- it looks like, Macron -- I won't try to pronounce it in French properly, sound like (INAUDIBLE) or something. But, yes, I don't know why he's meddling in this election.

You know, it sort of backfired with him and trying to transfer, you know, his popularity. And so, I think it's just kind of weird that he's in this election. But it does I think affirm what people -- the kind of framing of this Donald Trump versus Barack Obama.

BALL: It's really interesting calculation. I agree with you on both ends. I mean, it does -- it looks weird so clearly on the one hand Macron's campaign has made the decision that this helps him. They have tested it or something and they have found that Obama's popularity is such that this gives them a boost. If it was going to be bad for him they'd ask him not to do it. And if he wanted Macron to win, he wouldn't do it.

And it's a very interesting calculation by Obama as well. And it clearly signals that he intends to continue to be a player on the world stage. Perhaps in the mold of like a Jimmy Carter, right, where he is going to try to advance his sort of world view, because clearly the differences that you are articulating -- and that Trump was describing -- this is a clash of world views. It is about the populace nationalist wave that so many have described sort of sweeping, the western world, sweeping Europe since the Brexit vote and the Trump vote.

[12:55:08] And the question is has that wave crested or is it going to continue to sweep? And so, this is a really important test.

KING: And is Macron potentially an example for people in this country who look it a guy who -- and it takes to establish of positions but not for each (ph) from a new party started a new movement. Essentially don't take the baggage of the established parties because we know from Trump voters don't like that. But, you can -- can you sell establishment positions as long as you have an outside label.

SHEAR: And then, you think that in one way it make sense what Obama is doing because he has put this stricture on himself that he will not get engaged directly with confrontation with Donald Trump which largely puts domestic policies and politics off the table. But this is one where because of Trump's sort of need to kind of stay neutral technically, Obama can be out there and engaging some of these big topics without it looking directly like he's taking on Trump.

HAM: I want to say as we're coming up on this, the good news is the French have never been known to take a relationship too far, so.

KING: (INAUDIBLE), that is the last word. That's it for "Inside Politics." Hope to see you Sunday morning. Back here on Monday afternoon. Brianna Keilar for Wolf Blitzer, she picks up after a quick break.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, I'm Brianna Keller. And for Wolf Blitzer, it is 1:00 p.m. here in Washington and where ever you're watching from around the world, thank you so much for joining us.

We're keeping our eye --