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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump Calls out NATO Allies; Trump Scolds NATO; Trump on NATO Headquarters; Trump Vows Leak Prosecution; Montana Candidate Charged with Assault. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired May 25, 2017 - 12:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:00:21] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

Candidate Trump, you might remember, called Brussels a hell hole. And he called NATO obsolete. President Trump, today, is in Brussels for his first NATO Summit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the last eight years the United States spent more on defense than all other NATO countries combined.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Back here in Washington, more bad news for the House Republican health care plan. An estimated 23 million Americans would lose their coverage and a new report says premiums for the sick could skyrocket.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: Unless you're a health millionaire, Trumpcare is a nightmare. This report ought to be the final nail in the coffin of the Republican effort to sabotage our health care system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And here's an interesting twist, election eve outrage in Montana. A Republican House candidate attacks a reporter asking questions about health care.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREG GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here.

BEN JACOBS: Jesus.

GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here. The last guy did the same thing. Are you with "The Guardian"?

JACOBS: Ys, and you just broke my glasses. GIANFORTE: You - you - the last guy did the same damn thing.

JACOBS: You just body slammed me and broke my glasses.

GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: A busy day. A lot to discuss. With us to share their reporting and their insights, "The Atlantic's" Molly Ball, Carl Hulse of "The New York Times," Karen Tumulty of "The Washington Post," and Julie Hirschfeld Davis of "The New York Times."

It is a fascinating moment playing out right now on the world stage for President Trump. His first NATO Summit surrounded by skeptical European allies and he opened with a piece of skillful diplomacy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would like to ask that we now observe a moment of silence for the victims and families of the savage attack which took place in Manchester.

Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: A good and a smart first impression. Then, though, a lecture.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying for their defense. This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States. We should recognize that with these chronic underpayments and growing threats, even 2 percent of GDP is insufficient to close the gaps in modernizing readiness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What to make of the moment? You could see, as the president was speaking, some chatter, some eye rolls, a little bit of snickers from the other leaders there. Look, they're highly skeptical of him. They don't know if he - they, a lot of them, if you look at your incoming from diplomats, think he doesn't get it, doesn't understand the importance of the NATO alliance. And politically back home, though, the president's doing something that his supporters will love, saying, pay up, folks.

KAREN TUMULTY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, I think -

MOLLY BALL, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, and I think the point is not just how it plays for him domestically, but this is a rare instance of Trump actually saying to someone's face what he has said behind their back. KING: Right.

BALL: If you recall, in a lot of other situations, such as with Mexico, he talked really tough behind a foreign leader's back and then when he gets in front of them doesn't bring up any of his issues. China, a similar deal. So this is a case in which he is actually confronting on the world stage some of the leaders that he has criticized.

TUMULTY: I think he's also showing a little bit more of a sophisticated understanding of what the issue with NATO is, which is something that, by the way, previous administrations complained about as well. When he would talk about this on the campaign trail, it was often to leave the impression that somehow NATO owed the United States some kind of money. That, you know, that we should be sending them a bill. Now he's explaining it in the sense of, how much you spend on your shared defense.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": But I think what was surprising here was not what he said, because we've heard him make the case repeatedly that NATO allies need to pay more of their fair share. That the United States has taken up too much of this burden. But what he didn't say, his staff has said he was going to make an iron clad commitment to the Article Five mutual defense pledge that undergirds NATO. He did not do that. And so what you have is a lecture to all these leaders who have been, you know, hearing this for years from the Obama administration and previous administrations as well, but much more strongly from Trump, but nothing on the other end to say, regardless of that, NATO is important, the United States thinks NATO is important, and, of course, I'm here to reaffirm. There was none of that.

CARL HULSE, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think this was probably one of the more difficult parts of the trip for him in a way too. It's - this is the one place where they're literally not rolling out the red carpet, right? So he's dealing with people who don't have that much confidence in him and their expectations from him are different. They're not trying to make the deal with him. I mean the pictures of the eye rolling were really telling.

[12:05:18] KING: Including when he said - and the president's making a big bet here, and we won't know the answer for six months, maybe a year, maybe three years, maybe ten - but he talked about his meeting with the Saudis and the Saudis have promised they're going to cut off terror financing, cut off their support for extremism. You could see eye rolls there because, let's be honest, the Saudis have said these things for 16 years going back to 9/11 and have come up far short of what they promised.

HULSE: And there's a lot of experience with that standing there watching him deliver that lecture.

KING: Right.

BALL: But I do think that Carl's point about how he's being received is important because we know that Trump is extremely sensitive to perceived slights. And all of these other world leaders have bent over backwards to flatter him because they know that he is susceptible to flattery and that they may be able to get what they want simply by treating him as a very important person. If these European leaders are treating him basically as the kid who walked into the party with mud on his shoes and they're rolling their eyes and they're turning their backs and they're snickering, they may pay a price for that. Trump may be inflamed by the reception that he's getting here.

KING: And the moment - I want to get to some of the other - Trump's getting a lecture too from the British prime minister. I wanted to get to that in a moment.

But we are - we're getting to see him for the first time on the world stage. These leaders are getting to see him for the first time interacting with them. This was - you had an interesting ceremony there where Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, brought a piece of the Berlin Wall. The 9/11 Museum donated a piece of the north tower, the twisted steel of the north tower, as they dedicate the new NATO headquarters. And President Trump, remember, a builder, a real estate guy, couldn't resist.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I never asked once what the new NATO headquarters cost. I refuse to do that. But it is beautiful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is that taken as funny or is that taken as offensive?

HULSE: I think they probably took it as a cheap shot, right, you know, making fun of them. It is the kind of thing that works at home, though, and he gets to dig the needle in a little bit.

DAVIS: And the context of the lecture that he just - that he then delivered about, you know, the United States is paying for all of this and you all aren't contributing your fair share. I mean I think it was probably seen as kind of a damaging dig. And, after all, this is sort of sacred - this is a sacred memorial. There's a piece of the World Trade Center. There's a piece of the Berlin Wall. And to bring up its cost, it just - it seems - it seems like a callous thing. But, again, it probably plays pretty well at home.

KING: Plays well back home.

As we know, the president came to Europe. One of his stops beforehand was in Israel, where we know in private meetings the Israeli defense minister has called it a pointed correction, meaning, the Israelis was mad that the president himself shared sensitive Israeli intelligence with the Russians and it came up in private conversations.

As the president is preparing for this NATO meeting, the British authorities are furious, not at the president, but at American law enforcement agencies or intelligence agencies which we can show you some of the pictures published in - two "New York Times" representatives at the table here - published in "The New York Times" of the - the crime scene in Manchester. And the British authorities are angry saying American sources leaked these photographs at a time they were in very sensitive stages of the investigation. And if you know how complex the bomb vest was, if you know how complex the trigger was, perhaps if there are partners, other collaborators, they understand what the authorities know and they scram, get out of town.

So listen to Theresa May saying, I'm going to the NATO Summit and I have a piece of word for the American president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Shortly I will be traveling to the NATO Summit where I will be working with international colleagues on defeating terrorism. I will make clear to President Trump that intelligence that is shared between our law enforcement agencies must remain secure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, the president issued a statement before his public remarks at NATO. He issued a statement in his name, which is rare, actually, to get a statement on something like this from the president himself saying, "the alleged leaks coming out of the government agencies are deeply troubling. I'm asking the Justice Department and other relevant agencies to launch a complete review of this matter and, if appropriate, the culprit should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Is this a hiccup or is this a serious test of the president and of the, more importantly, take any president or any prime minister out of it, the U.K., U.S. intelligence sharing, which is absolutely critical for the global counterterrorism fight?

TUMULTY: Well, this is one area where his interests and Theresa May's align. He - President Trump is not exactly really thrilled about all these leaks here either. So I think a chance to stand up and make a strong statement and to be able to have, as the context, this terrorist attack actually helps him strengthen an argument that he's trying to make at home as well.

DAVIS: But also let's not forget that we're just a month or so past this episode where from the White House podium Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, repeated this charge that somehow British intelligence was responsible for having, you know, leaked this damaging information about President Trump and that was based on a report that was given on Fox News. The White House made no attempt to corroborate that. They made that very clear. They said, we were just repeating something that we saw. But that was not taken to very kindly by British intelligence and you have to wonder whether that played a role here in this, you know, the very public venting of their anger at this episode.

[12:10:28] KING: Right. As we discussed, I just want to show you these pictures here. There's the president and the secretary-general of NATO walking into a dinner the leaders are having today as part of the NATO Summit. You see them in this room there. Watch for a moment as the president goes through. We're not expecting any remarks here, but you see the president making his way.

And it's just interesting. It's the first time - we know there's a lot of skepticism in this room. You see Secretary of State Tillerson there, the Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau there. We know there's a lot of skepticism in the room. One of the things that came up earlier when the president, after a meeting with the president of the European Union is, listen to the president of the European Union coming out here saying, we welcome to the president, we're looking forward to these discussions, but we might have a big disagreement over one of NATO's big issues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. DONALD TUSK, EUROPEAN COUNCIL: And I am not 100 percent sure that we can say today, we meaning Mr. President and myself, that we have a common position, common opinion about Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Interesting that that hangs over. This has been a question since day one of the Trump administration and we have seen, as the election meddling investigations have played out here, the administration has moved away from this thought we're going to have a reset, we're going to have a new opening, a more friendly relationship with Russia. And yet - and yet, after initial conversations with the president there, the president of the European Union saying, I'm not sure we're on the same page.

BALL: They're not clearly getting the assurances that they are seeking. As Julie was saying before, they didn't get the Article Five assurances in public. They're also not getting assurances that they want in private about Russia. Russia is the key issue here. NATO is Putin's top priority. And to the extent that Trump has not taken NATO's side in that conflict and throughout his, you know, his candidacy, his presidency has not clarified that, has not taken an anti-Russian stance, that's deeply worrisome for NATO.

KING: Yes, and they want a promise that U.S. sanctions will stay in place about Ukraine and about other actions that may be additional sanctions if Russia keeps up what it's doing. Obviously, at least in the initial conversations, they didn't get those answers (ph).

Everybody sit tight.

Up next, it is election day in Montana and there's a last minute twist, the Republican candidate body slams a reporter and is charged with assault.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:16:49] KING: Welcome back.

It is special election day in Montana and the Republican candidate for Congress has a last minute addition to his resume, an assault charge. Greg Gianforte was charged last night with misdemeanor assault after, according to several witnesses, he grabbed a journalist by the neck and threw him to the ground. The reporter, Ben Jacobs of "The Guardian," was pressing Gianforte to offer his views on the revised Republican health care plan and that new Congressional Budget Office score. And, yes, he was recording the encounter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN JACOBS: In terms of the CBO score. As you know, you've been waiting to make your decision about health care until you saw the bill and it just came out. And what -

GREG GIANFORTE: OK, We'll talk to you about that later.

JACOBS: Yes, but there's not going to be time. I'm just curious (INAUDIBLE) right now.

GIANFORTE: OK, speak with Shane, please.

(INAUDIBLE)

GIANFORTE: I'm sick and tired of you guys. The last time you came in here you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here.

JACOBS: Jesus.

GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here. The last guy did the same thing. Are you with "The Guardian"?

JACOBS: Yes, and you just broke my glasses.

GIANFORTE: You - you - the last guy did the same damn thing.

JACOBS: You just body slammed me and broke my glasses.

GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here.

JACOBS: You'd like me to get the hell out of here. I'd also like to call the police.

Can I get you guys names?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, you got to leave.

JACOBS: He just body slammed me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got to leave.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You could hear that play out there. Obviously, we can't see it. Gianforte's campaign says it was Jacobs who initiated the contact. Jacobs says he did no such thing. And after interviewing the eyewitnesses, the sheriff filed charges against the candidate.

I've covered a lot of campaigns and I've been yelled at by a lot of politicians. I've had politicians walk away from me. But body slammed? Anybody?

HULSE: No. Obviously not the closing message that you want to send in a campaign. Totally outrageous. Disturbing because it's also part of a bigger pattern recently of, you know, manhandling reporters in West Virginia. There was a case here at a public billing during a public meeting at the FCC. You know, you see this going on and it's like what is happening? But, you know, I think it's going to figure into the results, but we just don't know how yet.

KING: Yes, there's a lot of early voting out there. So part of the calculation is, have enough votes already been cast so that what happens today - we won't know that until tomorrow. So there's nothing - anything we said about how it impacts the race would be speculative, right?

TUMULTY: And primarily too because so many - there's 700,000 registered voters and something like 200,000 votes have already been cast.

KING: Right, and tends to be a low turnout in a special election too (ph).

Let's just listen, the Republican speaker of the House, who would be welcoming Greg Gianforte into the House Republican Conference if he wins the election, spoke about this moments ago, as did the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: There is no time where a physical altercation should occur with the press or with - just between human beings. So that is wrong and it should not have happened. Should the gentleman apologize? Yes, I think he should apologize. I'm - I know he has his own version and I'm sure he's going to have more to say, but there's no call for this, no matter what, under any circumstance.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: And to see this person who wants to be the one representative into the House of Representatives from Montana be sort of a wannabe Trump, you know, use language like that, treat people harshly like that, that's his model. Donald Trump's his model. And we've really got to say, come on, behave. Behave. That was outrageous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[12:20:09] KING: Interesting and noteworthy the speaker did call for an apology. And he said, I know he has his own version of events. The Republican Congressional Committee has said, you know, this is unfortunate. Let's let the facts unfold. Said we all make mistakes. Sounds out of character but we all make mistakes. The speaker, quite clearly, saying he should apologize.

BALL: That I found so remarkable. I mean the outrageous thing is obviously the incident himself - itself, that any candidate would do this. But I found the statement that was issued by the campaign also so outrageous. The fact that it was blatantly contradicted by everyone who was in the room and the audio recording, the fact that he sought to blame the reporter and blame the liberal media really is - encourages this kind of antagonism. And the fact that there was no apology. I mean, you know, this is a tough situation for a campaign to be in. Say that you had a moment of - where you lost control. Say that you lost your temper and you're sorry. But to not apologize, I found that shocking.

TUMULTY: Except that's the Trump model as well. I mean with the exception of the "Access Hollywood" tape, I cannot think of any instances where Donald Trump has apologized for anything that he has said or done either as a candidate or president.

DAVIS: Right. And I can also not think of many instances where Speaker Ryan has been willing to stand up and say, he should apologize. And I thought it was actually remarkable that he did say that and he went beyond what a lot of other Republicans are saying. I heard one Republican earlier today said, well, this is clearly the wrong thing to do unless the reporter deserved it. And, you know, it is sort of - you have to think that it's part of this pattern that started during the campaign of, you know, Donald Trump really encouraging his supporters to target the media, to boo the media, to, you know, have a very us versus them sort of frame around the media. And then, of course, since he's become president, he called the - called journalists the enemy of the American people. So it is part of the - you know, and it seems that Ryan is pushing back, at least somewhat, on this - on this - how far it's gone.

HULSE: I think it's also representative, though, of a broader problem for the House Republicans. This race should have been pretty easy for them in Montana. It's going to be a close race. He still may win ever after this incident. But they're going to - this is the atmosphere for them right now. Very tough races. There's a lot of districts that are going to be much harder than this. They're going to have to spend all this money and resources. And, you know, if they can't pull out Montana, what can they do?

KING: And if it's that stretch that had Mr. Gianforte on the edge -

HULSE: Right.

KING: Because it's a close race and it shouldn't be by demographics, by voting patterns, by history -

HULSE: Right.

KING: You know, he's going to have to make some tougher calls if he gets to the United States Congress.

As you jump in, I just want to show, he had been endorsed by the major newspapers out there. It's a Republican state. And the newspaper endorsements, most of them said, we don't really love this guy but we love him - like him more than the other guy. But they all pulled them back. Three newspapers pulled them back overnight. "The Billings Gazette" said, you know, we're pulling our endorsement. The "Missoulian" rescinds. "Independent Review" pulls it back. One of the newspapers said, you know, we're at a loss for words of what to say over this happening.

You were about to -

BALL: Oh, I think to Carl's point, the House Republicans are watching this race more closely than anybody. And the closer it is, even if Gianforte pulls it out, the more it's going to affect their mood and the amount of cooperation that Trump can expect from the Republican conference. If House Republicans see a close race here, the closer it is, the more they're going to be jittery and afraid and more panicked than they already are.

HULSE: Panicked.

KING: Right.

BALL: And, you know, this is - you know, Trump endorsed Gianforte, recorded a robo call, won the state by 20 points. If that is not enough to keep someone from losing, you know, they may be in denial enough to just blame it on the incident. But they're going to get jitters.

KING: Right. And in the robo call the president called him my friend and a wonderful guy. Now, again, to be fair to the president, you know, presidents do this. He's the - he's the head of the Republican -

HULSE: That was pre-attack.

KING: Yes. He's the head of the -

DAVIS: Body slam.

KING: He's the head of the Republican Party. They bring him a script. He reads the script. It ends up in a robo call. But then something like this happens and that's your voice on that tape that will be used.

DAVIS: And let's not forget this - the underlying issue here. This is about Gianforte not wanting to have taken a position on the health care bill, which is a sensitive thing for Republicans. And as Carl and Molly said, this is going to continue to rear its head. And the fact that a candidate would get that angry about being asked to weigh in on a bad score of the health care bill is not encouraging news for Republicans.

KING: A candidate from the House of Representatives would be mad about getting asked about the number one issue in the United States Congress right now, that he would have to deal with when he gets here. Welcome. Welcome. If you come to Washington, welcome, sir.

Up next, the good news is, it cuts the deficit by $119 billion. The bad news, it might knock 23 million people from the insurance roll. The score is in on that big Republican health care bill.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:28:38] KING: Welcome back. The Congressional Budget Office is making more dicey a health care

debate that was already on very shaky ground in Congress. A new CBO, that's the Congressional Budget Office, report says the House passed bill to repeal and replace Obamacare would cause 23 million Americans to lose their health coverage by 2026. It would lower premiums for younger and healthy Americans, but would drive up costs for many of those so-called essential health benefits now covered by Obamacare. It would also - and Republicans like this part - reduce the federal budget deficit by $119 billion.

Now, the White House says the CBO isn't to be believed. That it's been wrong in the past. But it is the official rating agency as these bills make their way through Congress. And as the report makes clear, the House bill falls well short of the promises made by candidate Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: His campaign promise was the cover all continuing care for those with pre-existing conditions, eliminating mandates and lowering premiums. And by that analysis, the latest plan doesn't address that. One more thing, though. That's yesterday's news. Now it's on to the Senate. The Senate has got to, if you will, fulfill candidate Trump's campaign pledge. I think that's the more important issue now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[12:29:47] KING: One should applaud Senator Cassidy's optimism there and his pivot, which is a smart one. It's a smart one. The House bill is the house bill. We're going to do this in the Senate. But as he makes that pivot, number one, a new Quinnipiac poll out just this hour, a view of the GOP health care proposal, 20 percent approve, 50 percent disapprove. The senators will digest these numbers as they get about their business. And this very telling quote from the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, in an interview with Reuters yesterday, quote, "I don't know how we get to 50 votes at the moment.