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North Korea Launches Another Ballistic Missile; President Trump's Islamic Speech Strategy; Trump: Russia Investigation a "Witch Hunt". Aired 8-9a ET
Aired May 21, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:16] JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): Stop one on the world stage, a warm welcome from the Saudi royal family. Will a big speech today help the Arab world move past this?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Islam hates us.
KING: Traveling with the president, a staff on edge, and the baggage of a rough stretch back home.
TRUMP: I respect the move but the entire thing has been a witch hunt.
KING: New special counsel gets to work and the legal and political stakes for the president rise dramatically.
TRUMP: No, no. Next question.
KING: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reports, now.
KING: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. To our viewers in the United States and around the world, thanks for sharing your Sunday.
In a few moments, the dizzying pace of developments in the Russia election meddling investigation and the mounting legal risks for President Trump and his White House.
But we begin with breaking developments on the world stage. North Korea test fired yet another ballistic missile and both South Korea and Japan convened emergency security meetings. The U.S. Pacific Command says the medium range missile traveled some 300 miles and landed in the Sea of Japan.
President Trump is attending a major summit of Muslim nations in Saudi Arabia and the White House officials say he has been briefed on the missile test. This is day two of the president's first big international trip. A festive welcome from the Saudi royal family and a big arms deal had the president in very good spirits on day one. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Today brings a much, much bigger test, a speech, asking Arab and Muslim nations to do more to battle extremism and asking them to forget or set aside the fact that the American president delivering that speech is the same man who said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think Islam hates us. There's something -- there's something there that -- there's a tremendous hatred there. There is a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it. There is an unbelievable hatred of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: With us this Sunday to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, Carl Hulse of "The New York Times", CNN's Manu Raju, and Karen Tumulty of "The Washington Post."
Delicate, a nuance are words not often found in the same sentence as Donald Trump, which makes the president's challenge next hour beyond fascinating. He will speak again to a big Islamic summit in Saudi Arabia, appealing for help fighting terrorism and extremism. As a private citizen, as a candidate, he repeatedly mocked President Obama for his reluctance to use the term radical Islam or radical Islamic terrorism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Anyone who cannot name our enemy is not fit to lead our country. Anyone who cannot condemn the hatred, oppression and violence of radical Islam lacks the moral clarity to serve as our president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The words radical Islam however are not in a draft of the president's speech obtained by CNN or in excerpts released by the White House just moments ago. In those the president calls for, quote, confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires.
As we wait to see if he stays that way after any big late minute edits -- late last-minute edits, this question looms anyway, how will the audience in the room and around the Arab and the Muslim world react to the praise of their faith and the traditions from a man who sounded very different as a candidate?
CNN's Jeff Zeleny is traveling with the president joins us live from Riyadh now with more on the speech. Jeff, a big moment for the president and it's just a short time away.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John, a big moment indeed. And the president really is looking to reset not only relations but rhetoric, his rhetoric.
As you were playing there, so much of the soundtrack of his campaign running for office was against Islam, against the Muslim faith. That was only some 18 months ago when he said those words: Islam hates us. You will not hear the words shortly when he delivers a speech to more than 50 leaders of more than 50 Muslim countries here in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Now, John, so far in the 24 hours or so, the president has been on the ground he's received something of a king's welcome. No questions from pesky reporters like us, certainly something that he has welcomed after the -- you know, what's going on in Washington there. But he so far has threaded the needle here. But you're right, the speech he'll be giving in a short time is the biggest task of all.
We have gotten a couple excerpts from the White House outlining what he's going to say. Let's take a look at one of them here, John. The president is expected to say this.
He'll say: America is prepared to stand with you in pursuit of shared interests and common security.
[08:05:01] But the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them.
He'll go on to say: The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries and for their children.
Then he goes on to say this: That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and Islamist terror groups it inspires, and it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews and the slaughter of Christians.
So, John, you may wonder what is the different between Islamist and Islamic. Islamist is more political reference, more of a political speech. Islamic is more of an attack on faith here. It is a fine line to cross.
So, John, so far, after this speech and even so far today, this is the biggest difference we've seen between candidate Trump and the president. His rhetoric different of course, his White House advisers hope it stays that way -- John.
KING: Jeff Zeleny with the president in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jeff, we'll keep in touch.
As we await the president's big next hour, let's bring the conversation in the room to the point Jeff made, this happens with every president. You say things during the campaign, you get the job. Realize running for president is a lot easier than being president, and you set something aside.
But what a contrast if you look at the excerpts, Jeff just had some of them there. What a contrast between candidate Trump and President Trump, more realistic, more what?
KAREN TUMULTY, THE WASHINGTON POST: The phrase that jumped out at me from these excerpts was principled realism. Most of this speech, at least what we've seen so far could have been delivered by Barack Obama.
NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Right.
KING: It also sounds very much like George W. Bush, trying to say, pick our side. Don't pick the bad side. We'll stand with you, but let's call out people who pervert a religion in the name of violence.
HENDERSON: Right. Yes, this whole idea of a clash between good versus evil, not this idea of a clash of civilizations or clash of religions.
You know, it will be interesting what the reception is, because, you know, we talk about candidate Trump who said all sorts of things including a Muslim ban but President Trump put in policies that a lot of people thought were anti-Muslim, the travel ban, banning Muslims majority countries from seven and then six Muslim majority countries, of course, that's been blocked.
He recently on his 100-day anniversary read the poem of "The Snake" which many interpret being about Syrian refugees. So, I think we're going to really see I think sort of a power of speech in his remarks today but also maybe the limits as well, whether or not he can sort of convince people that he's had some sort of conversion and whether or not he himself acknowledges that in the past, he's made some very intemperate remarks about Islam.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, I mean, of course, governing and campaigning are much different. So, this happened repeatedly, with President Trump on issue of foreign policy, China being one of them coming in and everything that he said criticizing China coming into the campaign trail, now he wants China to be an ally.
Similarly here, he railed on the term "radical Islamic terrorism" repeatedly on the campaign trail. He criticized Obama for not using the words repeatedly. Said this is something we need to say to people in the Islam world. He's not going to do -- looks like he's not going to say that today. It shows he's going to take a more moderate approach, more pragmatic approach. We'll see how his supporters respond to that, because that's not what he said to them on the campaign trail.
KING: That's an interesting question. How does it play with Trump supporters back here who voted for him, because, as Trump himself said, I will say the things other people won't say.
CARL HULSE, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, that's sort of my question the past few days. The first thing I would say is that, excuse me, the Saudis definitely read all the papers on how to win over president Trump with the way they've treated him, this ostentatious display.
I just wanted to say, too, under principled realism, I think that's the phrase we're going to remember out of this. It's like we have our principles but we're realistic about them, right? This is part of their policy that we're not going to maybe enforce our human rights stance the way we have in the past.
But yesterday on Twitter, and Karen and I were talking about this earlier, you saw some Trump supporters and allies pushing back already about the way he's acting over there and he seems to be almost turncoat to what he's told them and some of the tweets were pretty rough.
So, I think there is going to be some backlash.
KING: But, listen, you talk about principled realism. If you go back through history, you know, Donald Trump was as unique as it gets as a candidate. Some of the things he said shocked the system, shocked the foreign policy establishment. Now, you hear principled realism that's a bit of Jim Baker. If you hear Islamist, not radical Islam --
HULSE: I don't think people are going to be able to hear that exactly, though. You know, that's --
KING: That's how he says it but saying Islamist sounds more like Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. And here, this is an echo of George W. Bush. This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations.
[08:10:01] This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people of all religious who seek to protect it. This is a battle between good and evil.
RAJU: And that's so much different than, you know, he -- President Trump said several months ago most of Islam hates us and now, he's trying to make the case these extremists are not necessarily Muslim. They follow a completely different ideology, completely different faith. That is the argument that President Obama made repeatedly, that he did not want to call it radical Islamic terrorism because these people are not Muslims.
KING: It makes it harder to bring these countries and these leaders for whom this is local, this is their life, this is their citizenry, this is their community every day, the president from Washington trying to speak. That was the point Obama made. I get points for saying that at home but the people I need to help me, you know, get offended and can't say we need to help America.
HULSE: You know, the expectations though for President Trump in these things have gotten so low. To me, it's like can he get through this without offending a huge part of the world and can he just deliver this speech and not have a big gaffe or get, you know, off track. So, I think we view this speech as a little different than we would view of another president.
KING: But we shouldn't. I don't want to interrupt, but we shouldn't, in the sense, that number one, he's the president now and he has to deliver. Number two, we're talking about the rhetoric here and the page turning for Trump, but the reality of what happens is the fight against ISIS, does al Qaeda come back where? What happens in Yemen, where these arms deal the United States signed with Saudi Arabia is essentially a green light to have a proxy war. The United States hoping the Saudis and others essentially fighting Iran inside Yemen.
So, the consequences of this on the ground in the region are incredibly important.
TUMULTY: But I also think, I was also another if you don't mind me reading off my phone here, there was also the most explicit backing off of human rights I think we've heard.
TUMULTY: He says we are not here to lecture. We are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be or how to worship. That is also a pretty extraordinary line that I think may get lost in some of the others.
HULSE: It's a big change and senator McCain has already really railed about this.
HENDERSON: Very different from President Obama and different, too, from this idea of an America as sort of an indispensable nation.
HULSE: A shining city.
HENDERSON: Yes, a shining city on a hill, and so, I mean, there is a part in here where he does talk about the persecution of Jews and the slaughter of Muslims and the oppression of women in Saudi Arabia -- of course, of one of the most oppressive regimes in terms of women, in terms of all sorts of things.
So but, yes, this is a bit of a change, and they believe that you don't necessarily want to lead with the stick when it comes to lecturing about human rights that you want to --
RAJU: They've done that with China. They've done with Egypt.
HENDERSON: Exactly, if you want to make a deal, don't lecture first.
KING: Listen to the president's national security adviser here on what we can all agree is an evolution by the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LT. GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: What the president does is he listens to people. He listens to people in the region. This isn't America just on transmit here in the Middle East. This is the president asking questions, listening, learning. Of course, the president will call whatever he wants to call it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The president, again, this is not unique to Donald Trump, because of the volume of the rhetoric in the campaign, it may disappoint his supporters but it's not unique to Donald Trump. Bill Clinton ran against the dictators in Damascus and butchers in Beijing and went on to have relationships with old Hafez al-Assad and then with China. It happens all the time.
But that's essentially the national security adviser saying forget the campaign.
RAJU: And the Trump doctrine in so many ways, foreign policy is about getting deals. It's not necessarily about consistency or and it's not about as they say lecturing. They want to cut a deal, whether it's about an arms deal, whether it's about high China deals with North Korea, whether it's about how to deal with Islamic extremism, one way to do that they believe is not to attack --
HULSE: The difference with Trump, though, his comments were so strident. This is a long way to come back. And, you know, all presidents get religion. He's getting religion about religion in this case. You know, this is a really tough --
KING: Everybody, hold that thought. We'll continue the conversation. We're awaiting the president's big speech in Saudi Arabia. We have more of the excerpts we'll discuss with you.
Also, some insights into what is a fascinating giant summit. We'll show some pictures of that as we go.
And also, next, more challenges on the world stage, differences with the pope, with NATO allies, and even some tensions with Israel, and yes, we'll have a little politicians say the darndest things this morning with sing-along good-byes from "SNL's" team Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD (singing): Alleluia, alleluia.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
ALEC BALDWIN AS PRESIDENT TRUMP: I'm not giving up, because I didn't do anything wrong. But I can't speak for these people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Welcome back.
A reminder the president is in Saudi Arabia, a big speech on Islam coming up next hour. That's one of the many delicate moments of the president on this first overseas trip. NATO allies remain skeptical this president understands the importance of the transatlantic alliance. Pope Francis, another stop for the president, has made no secret of his differences with Mr. Trump on climate change, immigration and other issues.
And at the next stop, Israel, the president is assured a friendly public reception but several dicey issues to air out behind closed doors. Including the president sharing sensitive Israel intelligence with Russian diplomats.
[08:20:03] Not to mention this president's first up close lesson in Israeli/Palestinian peacemaking. Early optimism? Always. Difficult to sustain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It's something that I think is frankly maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years, but we need two willing parties. We believe Israel is willing. We believe you're willing, and if you both are willing, we're going to make a deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Again that's the challenge for the next stop, and look, people around the table were snickering a little bit, because if you've been in this town long enough, you've watched George H.W. Bush, followed by Bill Clinton, followed by George W. Bush, followed by Barack Obama go down this road, be optimistic at the beginning and then get frustrated and fail at trying to broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. But God bless him for being hopeful and for at least if he gives it a try because other presidents backed off quickly.
The test for this president will be when he gets engaged does he stay engaged. As we watched in Saudi Arabia today, we know what's next in Israel. We discussed a little bit of, what are we -- everyone wants to know, what's the doctrine or what's the philosophy? Is this a transactional president who will be different from stop to stop based on the circumstances?
HENDERSON: It seems that way. He talked about it himself, you know, flexibility. That is -- that is the Trump doctrine as much as anything else even when he talked about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict he's essentially said he wants a deal, one state, two state, as long as can he get a deal, he doesn't seem to necessarily favor either side at this point.
So, we'll see what he says. I mean, previewing this trip, there was a sense maybe they'd move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. They backed off of that. Lot of people were happy that he was backing off of that.
KING: Again, ceding back to a more establishment conscious position.
HULSE: But a big problem again, this was a major promise that he made to his Jewish supporters during the campaign. And now, he's backing off on it. There's a lot of disappointment out there. I thought at the end of the clip he summed up his philosophy, let's make a deal. This is the whole thing.
TUMULTY: And the one thing that is not part of his philosophy is consistency.
TUMULTY: This president will spin on a dime in the moment if he feels that it's in his interest, and he will never look back.
KING: And sometimes that's very helpful, but sometimes it's very frustrating especially to allies.
We're going to show you some pictures of the president arriving at the Arab Islamic American summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. You see the president entering the room there. Again a big speech from the president next hour.
This is a man who said Islam hates us as a candidate, a man who proposed banning all Muslims from the United States as a candidate. Positions as president moved back toward a more establishment position, but a big speech from the president next hour on how he views the fight against what he will call radical Islamist terrorism and extremism in his speech as we watch the procession the leaders arriving at the big summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
To his point about, is there a Trump philosophy? Is there a Trump doctrine? I think you're right. He's a deal maker, who will do things from stop to stop. He will change his positions at times, all presidents do. But it will be interesting as we learn.
Here's something else from the speech we're going to hear this morning: Our friends will never question our support and our enemy also never doubt our determination. Our partnerships will advance security through stability, not through radical disruption. We will make decisions based on real world outcomes, not inflexible ideology. We will be guided by the lessons of experience, not the confines of rigid thinking and wherever possible we will seek gradual reforms, not sudden intervention.
The last part in the region, sudden intervention, that's the headache of George W. Bush in Iraq that still affects any American president in the Middle East region. But the idea that not the confines of rigid thinking, that's a fancy way of saying, as the president has repeatedly said, "I'm flexible."
RAJU: And it's also more cautious than we've seen President Trump deciding things pretty, you know, make decisions on a whim. Here he's trying to show to the Muslim world that I'm not going to just do that. I'm going to be deliberate, cautious in my thinking, and we'll see how it plays in that audience, but yes, like you said, he's not suggesting that he's not willing to intervene in these areas but it's not that easy.
TUMULTY: But there's something else shall --
KING: Seeing pictures of president coming in. Please continue.
TUMULTY: But there's something else at play here. And as much as we in the media get criticized for covering the sort of internecine battles in the White House, the president also has a different set of personalities around him than he did at the beginning. General Flynn has been replaced by General McMaster. Steve Bannon, the chief strategist by a lot of reports has a sort of a bit of a reduced influence.
And so, I think that's part of it, too, is who he's listening to at any given moment.
KING: And, Dina Powell, who is a former George W. Bush administration official now the deputy national security adviser, I can hear her words, from covering the Bush White House and President Bush's words as you look that the speech as well and their approach.
[08:25:06] It's a -- again, I said at the beginning of the show, nuanced and delicate are not often words we associate with this president but the challenge he confronts today is one of the most intractable, frustrating issues in the world.
RAJU: And it's interesting. I wonder how much overall Steven Miller a role he had. Of course, this is the president's top policy advisers, former Jeff Sessions aide hard core anti-illegal immigration, was a supporter of the Muslim ban, travel ban.
The question is, his influence versus someone else like an H.R. McMaster, someone like a Dina Powell, more establishment view of the world, how much influence they have and what President Trump will say.
HENDERSON: If there was kind of, there is a battle between the New Yorkers, Dina Powell, Jared, and the Bannonites, it looks like at least on this trip so far that New York wing has won. Some people don't like that. We talked about Roger Stone before, they feel like this is too much like the New Yorkers, this is too accommodationists --
KING: You see the president's team, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Dina Powell, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, the chief of staff.
HULSE: That speech feels very carefully written, right, what we know so far. It's like every word is just, and sometimes those don't go over that well. It feels so scripted. Here is this message we're trying to send.
KING: Well, that's -- we're going to take a quick break. You see the president arriving there, a big speech next hour. We'll continue to talk about his trip to Saudi Arabia.
Also, if you had a hard time keeping track of all the new plot twists lately? A flood of leaks angers the president and his supporters but also makes clear the mounting troubles for Team Trump.
[08:31:12] KING: Welcome back.
Two big related truths the past ten days, the president's potential legal jeopardy grew dramatically. And the pace and the scope of the leaks was dizzying.
Just think about reading the news this past week: insights on the firing of James Comey, the president we are told still fuming in meetings about his loyalty to his fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn, insights into the congressional investigations, word that the president shared top secret Israeli intelligence with Russian diplomats and the blowback from that, and then the appointment of a special counsel, the former FBI Director Robert Mueller will now lead the Russia election meddling investigation. That is something the White House very much did not want.
It came as the president was trying to pick a new FBI director, there were leaks about that as well. Just before heading overseas for his first international trip as president, here's the president's take on a special counsel investigation he has no choice but to accept but doesn't like.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I respect the move but the entire thing has been a witch hunt, and there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself and the Russians, zero. I think it divides the country. I think we have a very divided country because of that and many other things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Let's try to help people who might be confused. I mean, if you read the newspapers, went online, read the news, followed cable television the past ten days you know a lot happened. You could be pretty dizzy and confused whether you support this president or don't like this president, you could be I think pretty confused about, well, what matters? Is this consequential or is this daily dribble? Where are we?
RAJU: Well, you know, the investigations are going to take some time to play out. You have, of course, specific counsel investigation that is looking into criminality, whether or not there was a crime committed, and then you have the investigations on Capitol Hill that are looking at the larger issues of Russia meddling, trying to determine whether or not there was any collusion. They can't prosecute but they can write a report to tell the American public and that's going to take some time.
The real concern this week for this past week for the White House was the revelation that President Trump may have tried to interfere in some way with the FBI investigation by apparently telling James Comey to drop that Michael Flynn investigation, telling the Russians in the meeting in the Oval Office firing James Comey would help ease pressure on the Russia probe. Now, there's concerns he may have tried to obstruct justice and that's something the special counsel is going to look into.
KING: You make a critical point there because the president -- the White House explanation for firing Jim Comey didn't hold up. The president gave an interview with NBC News where he at least conceded Russia was on his mind and frustrated with Comey not doing more about the leaks. To your point what came out about the meeting with Russian diplomats, if you are going to pursue obstruction of justice, you need to prove intent, that the president was deliberate about it.
Here is what, according to the "New York Times" he told the Russian more than minister and ambassador to the United States in a meeting, in the Oval Office: I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job, Mr. Trump said according to the document, which is read to "The New York Times" by an American official.
I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off.
Now, the White House is trying to spin this as the president just trying to tell the Russians let's do business, and that's sort of a rhetorical ploy, that I'm in a better position now we can do business.
KING: If you're Bob Mueller and you're trying to figure out, did he fire James Comey to impact the investigation? Was he trying to impede, obstruct the investigation, that goes a little bit to motive especially calling him a nut job and then linking it to now there's less pressure on me. I'm not under investigation.
HENDERSON: Yes. And the White House is saying, well, the pressure he meant was sort of negotiations with Russia in the investigation meant that he couldn't negotiate with Russia on any number of things. You know, this past week, it was the worst week of Trump's presidency.
[08:35:04] TUMULTY: Wait, Nia, how many weeks have you said this?
HENDERSON: You know, you sort of flashback to health care and they were out in the Rose Garden celebrating and you go to this week, and the problem is, we got here only because of Trump's decision-making, right? He was the one who decided to fire Comey. He seemed to think that would push Comey aside, that Comey wouldn't be talking. He tweeted about tapes in the White House, and that made Comey want to come out and respond.
And now I imagine if you work in the White House, as much as they're saying we're in this together, they're going to be in trouble together quite potentially and certainly have to hire lawyers.
KING: Well, the lawyer part, I know the president in a meeting the other day with his legal team as it now stands was told you need primo outside counsel to protect you. It doesn't mean the president did anything wrong. But you have a guy whose powers are essentially tantamount to the attorney general, who now has his special counsel investigation, you have to protect yourself.
And what was striking, and we played a little bit of the sound is, the president in that press conference Thursday was with the president of Colombia who was visiting. But it was after the morning meeting with the legal team he was much more careful, including, listen here to the question about, did you fire James Comey to shut down the investigation?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey in any way, shape or form to close or to back down the investigation into Michael Flynn? And also, as you look back --
TRUMP: No. No. Next question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, we know, and you just need to logon to his Twitter feed to see it and to watch this president as a candidate and as president, a part of his political skill, some people don't like it, he likes combat. When you get in his face with a question like that, he wants to give a longer answer to that, but his lawyers told him not to.
HULSE: He may come to regret some of this. You know, Comey, that comes out he called him a nut job and crazy, a few hours later, it's announced that Comey is going to testify in public before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
You know, he's in a fight with a practiced person here, James Comey, and I think that this could -- it could be a real problem for the president. And I also, I wrote a story, these special counsels, they go on for a long time. This could be part of his presidency, you know, for the next few years, for sure, and maybe longer.
So, it's something they're going to be dealing with and dealing with, and it's just hard to get out from under that.
KING: And very key people are also part of it. It's not just the president whose conduct, now that he made it about presidential conduct, it was did Trump's associates collude with the Russians during the campaign and did candidate Trump know anything about that if it happened. All ifs in 2016 and now, it's about the president, did he fire the FBI director, did he first try to pressure the FBI director to shut down the Flynn investigation and did he get frustrated when Comey said no and fire him. This is conduct that takes place when your title is president, not candidate.
TUMULTY: And also construction of justice, the legal definition, it's a state of mind crime. It is a crime of intent.
So, even though the FBI has said, you know, our investigation is proceeding at a pace, it goes to what was on Trump's mind. RAJU: And, John, this is the first week that I really saw the mood
shift among Republicans on the hill. On the whole Russia collusion issue, most Republicans they were concerned about some of the drip, drip, drip, some of the smoke, but they weren't sure if there was fire. Here now you see the president directly involved. There's a lot of concern, and within --
KING: You could see the separation.
RAJU: You could see the separation, the special counsel gave them something to point to saying this is investigated but there could be some criminality here, cause a lot of people to raise some alarms.
HENDERSON: And what they know is where special counsels start isn't necessarily where they end up. We know that with Bill Clinton, so now they basically have all sorts of leeway to get tax returns, any number of questions and probing into this administration.
TUMULTY: But what we don't have is an independent counsel law. Ken Starr was able to take what started as Whitewater, into travel-gate, file-gate, Monica Lewinsky. At least with the special council, yes, he has far-reaching powers to get information, but he cannot take this investigation into total --
KING: He's also a pro, a former FBI director. But to that point we expect Bob Mueller to stay in a clearly defined lane about Russia election medaling. The Comey firing fits into that. And as you go forward, to Carl's point, and about people lawyering up, the vice president was the head of the transition, he's going to be involved in this.
Jared Kushner, that's some undisclosed meeting with Russian diplomats during the campaign, he's going to be involved in this. Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer working in the White House, were all part of the campaign, if they have anything to do with this, who knows? But they're going to get questions and they're probably need lawyers. These are the things to your point once they start it's hard to see where the exit ramp is.
HULSE: In a funny way, there was a littler political respite for the Republicans on the Hill when the special counsel was announced. Now, they don't have to answer every day why won't you back a special counsel. So, there was a short term gain for them, but long-term I think they know this has a lot of potential.
[08:40:06] KING: And they're worried that if it hurts the president, it hurts the Republican brand.
We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we're waiting for the president to deliver a major speech in Saudi Arabia.
More on the president's speech and his foreign trip. INSIDE POLITICS will be back in just a moment.
KING: Welcome back.
Pictures here just a short time ago, President Trump arriving at a major Islamic summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is the host, more than 50 majority Muslim nations represented at the summit. The president moments from now will deliver a big speech, trying to rally the Arab and Muslim world to join the fight against terrorism and against extremism.
As we await the speech the president here, remember, what a striking departure from the campaign where he said Islam hates us. That as a candidate, he proposed banning all Muslims from entering the United States, at least on a temporary basis. A lot of these policies have been moderated, but today, we will hear directly from the president as he tries to issue this call and as we continue the conversation here, you see the president in the greetings there, as we wait.
I want to go back to I think what will be one key moment in the speech from the excerpts released by the White House. And remember, the president during the campaign not only used the term radical Islam extremism a lot, he said President Obama was a coward for not saying it. He said, call your enemy what it is.
But in the speech, the president uses different words. He says, quote, that means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires and it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, oppression of women, the persecution of Jews and slaughter of Christians. Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear, barbarism will deliver you no glory -- piety to evil will bring no dignity. If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and your soul will be condemned.
Now, that is not language we would normally associate with President Trump. So, I'm just struck by, A, the message, and B, the messenger. Can he convince -- can he convince these skeptics who think that he came to the office with an axe to grind against their faith that he wants to work with them and that he will moderate his language in doing so?
[08:45:09] RAJU: I mean, it's a big question. The other question, will he make any reference to the things he did say in the past and suggest he was wrong in any way. The president does not like to admit when he's wrong, but suggesting that they should ban Muslim travel to the country, suggesting that Islam hates us, will he separate himself from his own rhetoric? I think that's one of the big questions here going forward, and probably with some of the leaders in the room may want to hear.
KING: The Saudis, though, among the lay players involved their take, we understand we're not going to get an apology. As long as he moves on, we're OK with that.
HENDERSON: And, yes, and does he move on? Does he lapse back into speaking harshly? Does he really push for the travel ban, which is, of course, stalled now in courts. Reading over those excerpts, this sounds nothing like Donald Trump at all. I mean, it will be interesting to see how he delivers these words that really do not seem to be his own at all, that seem to be completely written by whether it's Steven Miller or whoever else wrote this speech. We'll see in an hour or so.
HULSE: Well, $110 billion in arms can buy goodwill. If there's anybody who knows thousand look out for their own interests it's the Saudis, and they're going to say, wow, President Trump, he really turned the corner, thanks, and thanks for the arms deal.
KING: When we're here six months from now, though, do we see a conscious effort by these Arabs and Muslim nations to change the things taught in their mosque, to change some of the things taught in their schools, to change whether it's by state actors or just through banking and business interests, the financing that goes to some of the extremist groups, that's the question.
TUMULTY: And that is determined much more about domestic pressure within their countries than it is I think about anything any American president setting foot on their soil would say.
KING: It's interesting. In a moment, we're going to continue to cover it.
Stay with us for President Trump's upcoming speech to those Muslim leaders. And next, our reporters share from their notebooks including a promise from the new special counsel to Congress.
[08:51:18] KING: Welcome back.
Let's close as we always do, head around the table and reporters share something from their notebooks, get you out ahead of the big political news just around the corner.
HENDERSON: So, the Census director, John Thompson, announced he'll step down at the end of June. He doesn't have a deputy right now, nor does he have anyone to report to at the Census. These vacancies come as the Census prepares for a big census in 2020 and the prep work to do that really extends the project around the country.
Why is the Census important? It's connected to federal funding. It's also connected to congressional representatives.
One of the things to look for, who gets this slot and what the budgeting is for the census going to work? It is important historically important to ramp up the spending in this census in advance of the 2020 and those decade census counts.
KING: Yet another help wanted vacancy sign in the Trump administration.
Carl? HULSE: I'm going to be doing a piece this week on Republicans in the
Senate to watch on the Russia investigation. The Intel Committee, there's a group of four Republican senators who have really shown determination, they want to see this through. Roy Blunt is one of them, Susan Collins. Roy Blunt says, you know, we want to be able to show people that we talked to everyone that we should have talked to and we've seen every document we should have seen.
So, how these Republicans are going to be working in this new environment.
KING: Keep an eye on that. How the special counsel impacts that.
RAJU: John, on Friday, when the Senate Intelligence Committee said they'd hear from James Comey in open session, there were some members who were angry on the Senate Judiciary Committee, those are the chairman of the committee, Chuck Grassley, Dianne Feinstein, ranking Democrats, this is part of an increasingly tense turf war between the intelligence committee and judiciary committee over getting access to information and to documents.
The judiciary committee has oversight over the FBI and some of the members are not happy that they have not gotten some information. This comes also one of the chairman of the subcommittee on the judiciary committee, Lindsey Graham, started to assert himself on the Russia probe, heard from Sally Yates in a hearing that actually undercut the House Intelligence Committee's effort to hear from Sally Yates.
So, this is not just about egos and personality. It has impact, because at the end, the key committees are the ones who write the reports and tell the American people exactly what happened.
KING: Not just about ego and personalities, but there's a lot of ego and personalities there.
TUMULTY: Well, and certainly, one of the questions that was raised with the appointment of the special counsel is what that would do to all of these investigations on capitol hill. It was interesting on Friday when the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was up there, he was pressed on this issue. And what's interesting was that he actually encouraged them to go full speed ahead. He said as long as you've got a point of contact in the Justice Department, go for it. That I think is important to endangered Republicans. They really feel they cannot be seen as putting the brakes on this.
KING: Aggressive oversight, we'll see if it continues.
I'll close with this: the words out of the loop returned to our political conversation this past weekend. Well, it stirred a little sense of deja vu. The phrase found this week in stories quoting people close to Mike Pence, suggesting the vice president feels more than a little frustrated with all this controversy swirling around the Trump White House and his role in selling it, selling the explanations.
History tells us this subplot is worth watching. Big investigations have a way of straining the relationship between the president and his number two. It happened in the Iran-Contra investigation, where then V.P. George H.W. Bush famously claimed to be out of the loop on the bad stuff.
The Monica Lewinsky scandal was the last straw in Al Gore's relationship with Bill Clinton. At a special counsel investigation that led to charges against Scooter Libby caused major tensions between George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
[08:55:03] Too soon to say if history will repeat itself here. That is one of the many interesting subplots to keep an eye on.
That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Again, thanks for sharing your Sunday. Hope to see you at noon Eastern for INSIDE POLITICS weekdays.
Next, "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper, including, stay with us, live coverage of the president's speech to the big Islamic summit in Saudi Arabia. Enjoy your Sunday.