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INSIDE POLITICS

Clinton Invokes Nixon, Take Dig at Trump; Trump Attends G7 in Sicily; Republican Accused of Assault Wins Montana Election; Gianforte Supporters Unswayed by Assault Charges

Aired May 26, 2017 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: But when you -- to your point though Karoun when you see Hillary Clinton making this case, and obviously it's personal to her. When you see her making this case you are asked who else is it for the Democrats. And we see President Obama coming there from time to time, Secretary Clinton from time to time.

But one of the legacies of the Obama years was getting wiped out at the gubernatorial level. Wiped out at the state legislature level. They're in minority in both the House and the Senate. And so perhaps she thinks this is part of her job. Early on, she will take a look and watch how the presidency unfolds then decide when and where to get involved. That was more aggressive than I thought it would be.

AMY WALTER, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Well, and it help build that grass roots movement and talk about getting more women in the process. I also think that this was, you know, here she is, she talk about your home field. This is not only your alma mater but you are surrounded by women and the talk I'm sure on that campus and while she was there but has continued since the election about women, could a woman be president. And the real frustration felt by so many there and the talk of the culture of misogyny and the difficulties there which I think she really did addressed head on about.

She said it over and over again about how confidence in yourself, you can do this. Now basically saying to these women who were listening to her that regardless of what happened to me, I don't want you to think that you shouldn't try.

ABBY PHILIP, THE WASHINGTON POST: It felt very much like she was going back to her root, even the references to her younger years when she was considered something of a sort of agitate or a rebel. When she spoke -- when she was graduating and spoke on the stage in Wellesley, her speech was incredibly controversial. So whenever -- I mean, this happened during the campaign.

Whenever she goes back to that mind set and that moment or she channels that, you sort of see a different Hillary Clinton. And I think that's what she was doing here today presenting herself as someone who really understands what's going on today because this is who she was. It may not have been represented in her last presidential run fully or in the one before that or in her years as first lady or whatever, but this is something she was telling these women that she really knows because she lived it.

KING: Right. Hillary Clinton there delivering that commencement address. When we come back, the current president is on the world stage and he's ruffling some feathers as he does. So I'm going to surprise the control room here but as we go to break, if we could, Hillary Clinton not just attacking Donald Trump in that speech, there was some humor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: You may have heard that things didn't exactly go the way I planned. But you know what? I'm doing okay. I've gotten to spend time with my family, especially my amazing grandchildren. I was going to give the entire commencement speech about them but was talked out of it.

Long walks in the woods. Organizing my closets, right? I won't lie. Chardonnay helped a little too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:37:23] KING: Welcome back. President Trump is in Sicily today for a meeting of the G7, the world's major economic powers. It's the last stop of his first international trip as president. And the world now getting a taste of the Trump effect we watch play out daily here in the United States.

If you've been watching, you know he doesn't care much for the gentle code language of diplomacy. Openly lecturing NATO allies yesterday about not spending enough on defense and attacking Germany for its trade surplus with the United States. And he takes things personally, you might say. Japan for example has a bigger trade imbalance with the United States than Germany. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe flatters President Trump at every opportunity, Chancellor Angela Merkel does not.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. It's great to have Prime Minister Abe, a friend of mine and somebody we've just developed a great relationship. And it's wonderful to have you here. It is a close partnership and collaboration and friendship. We've developed a great friendship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is it that simple? Is it that simple? Abe joked there about he's not going to golf with the president this time as he did when he visited him down at Mar-a-lago? Is it that simple that if you're nice to the president, you're complimenting the president, you know, he could have said Japan, trade? He could have gone after Japan on the trade deficit.

PHILIP: It is a huge part of the equation. I mean, really, really big. I think foreign leaders, diplomats take it very seriously that there's a sort of basic code of dealing with Trump. You have to flatter him, preferably talk about his electoral win. There are so many basic things that he always likes to hear. And that's because that's how he deals with them when he talks to world leaders.

He talks about his great friendship with them, how nice they are, how well they got along. That's the language where he speaks. He doesn't speak sort of language of details and someone like Angela Merkel is, you know, something of a technocrat. She is sort of a -- kind of a bureaucratic figure. She likes to meddle in the details and it that just does not work with their personalities. I mean, I think on some level, some of this back and forth is a little bit kind of exaggerated in the sense that Trump has talked a lot about this issue with German cars, but it highlights that their relationship is not -- it's not cushy in any way.

KING: And Merkel also happens to be a friend of a guy named Barack Obama, the former president of the United States. She appeared with him yesterday before she came to the NATO summit and when she was with him she said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): We all are united in the trust that it is not isolation and the building of walls that make us successful but open societies that share the same values.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[12:40:06] KING: Sorry. That was actually at the NATO summit where she said it's not walls. Who could she have been talking about there?

JOHN YANG, PBS NEWSHOUR: Another subtle reference.

Karoun DEMINJIAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: (Inaudible) dropping everywhere, exactly. And Merkel did not play the game of flattering Trump by doing an event with, you know, Trump's predecessor who Trump does not really like being compared to in the world stage and has a lot of (inaudible) attacking -- it's not a comparison he likes to make. Let's just say that. And Merkel does not particularly care for flattering Trump because she had a partner and Barack Obama still lot of the things she wanted to do, both in Europe, both (inaudible) in the Middle East. And she feels like she doesn't know what she's dealing with right now with President Trump and he's certainly not a partner in the same way that Obama was.

And so, can you say that that led to the comments that were made yesterday? That's very difficult to throw those sort of synopses say. But it certainly they are approaching each other from opposite ends of the table and she and Barack Obama were very much in the same side.

It's also been interesting to watch this trip play out because it started in the Middle East. We had visits to Saudi Arabia to Israel. Two places where the leaders were very happy to see him because he wasn't Barack Obama. And then he ends up in Europe where a lot of people are weary about him because he isn't Barack Obama. KING: And it's a great point. And this is one of the reasons, if you look at the incoming from diplomats that I had during the trip -- I wish I could be on this trip. But the incoming from diplomats is, you know, from the Germans, from the Brits and from others in Europe, they don't think Trump understands and appreciates the NATO alliance. They think that yes they get his point about burden sharing. And they think it's a legitimate point but they don't think you should publicly lash the other allies because they think they're places into Russia's hands and you could see a lot of the leaders. And again, the incoming when he talks about Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia is going to help us, the great leader of Saudi Arabia is going to help us crack down on terrorism.

Some of those leaders have been around since 9/11 where they have from time to time thought about this. And if you watched, I want to show you some of these pictures when the president was speaking, there was some eye rolling, there was some snickering, there are leaders talking into their hands and the like. I've covered a lot of these and I've watched a lot of these and I've never seen what I saw yesterday when during the speech by the president of the United States, the body language from other leaders.

WALTER: But I would have to argue that for a lot of Americans, when they see that, they go exactly. That's why we elected Donald Trump. And that's what we want America to do. Go over those snickering, we're better than you Europeans, that we continue to have to come and bail out. They're not paying their fair share and that's all that he's asking them to do and they look down on us. They were doing the same thing during the 2000's with George W. Bush who they thought was not smart, who they mocked openly, constantly. Obviously Tony Blair still suffering for his relationship with George W. Bush getting involved in the Iraq war.

So anytime a Republican goes -- at least in modern era goes over to Europe, there is sort of this condescending tone. I think there's also -- with the election of Macron now and Angela Merkel looking much safer for her reelection, there is a sense now, maybe they're not s nervous as they once were, that this populist (inaudible) is going to come and wash through Europe. That maybe it's been abated and Donald Trump election is one reason for that.

KING: Another thing we've seen play out in this trip is the administration has had to deal on the (inaudible) with the diplomatic outrage that is the Brits being mad that U.S. law enforcement or intelligence agencies leaked photos of the Manchester crime scene. And they showed up in the New York Times, they showed up elsewhere and the British authorities were saying, that undermine our investigation. You are putting details out there that will help the bad guys. They'll know what we know and it'll them get away.

On the fly, the administration has had to deal with this. Teresa May complained, the home security complained, the president is meeting with Teresa May. Listen here as two of his cabinet secretaries say, our bad, we'll fix this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We take full responsibility for that. And we obviously regret that that happened. In terms of how to fix the relationship between the U.S. and Great Britain, this special relationship that exists between our two countries will certainly withstand this particular unfortunate event.

JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I called my counterpart who I have got a great relationship in the U.K. She has an absolute right to be furious about these leaks. And I think exactly the right thing for the president to do is to get the investigators on it, find out who it is. They're totally unacceptable, particularly when it comes to classified information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YANG: A foreign leader complaining to Donald Trump about leaks is not going to put Donald Trump on the defensive. This is something -- you know, adds fuel to his argument about this. He said he wants to launch an investigation and there are all sorts of speculation that once he gets back, there may be a little bit of a housecleaning, some of it over leaks.

KING: Talking of leaks inside the White House. Everybody sit tight. Up next, charged with assault for roughing up a reporter one day, elected to the House of Representatives the next and he's promising to make Montana great again.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:48:49] KING: Welcome back. Montana has a new congressman, Greg Gianforte who in making an important apology last night also conceded his last big act as a candidate where an assault on a reporter and then to lie about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREG GIANFORTE (R), CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: When you make a mistake, you have to own up to it. That's the Montana way. I'm not proud of what happened. I should not have responded in the way that I did. And for that I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you're forgiven.

GIANFORTE: I should not have treated that reporter that way. And for that I'm sorry, Mr. Ben Jacobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Gianforte threw Guardian Reporter Ben Jacobs to the ground for daring to ask his position on health care. Then despite several eye witness accounts that made clear, Gianforte attacked Jacobs. The campaign issued a statement of accusing Jacobs of initiating the contact. Now that the votes were counted, the apology delivered, House Republicans are happy to pretend this never happened.

A spokesman for Speaker Paul Ryan says, "Representative-elect Gianforte is an outsider with real-world experience creating jobs in Montana. He will bring that experience to Congress where he will be a valuable voice in the House Republican Conference."

[12:50:04] Also happy, President Trump who shared his thoughts as he passed reporters at the G7 in Italy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Great win in Montana.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The special elections are always over magnified. Washington says this changes everything where both parties (inaudible) after their corners. Is there a national meaning, some lesson to be learned from Montana beyond the fact that you probably shouldn't grab reporters and throw them to the ground?

WALTER: Yes, that would be a really nice one. Here's how we're looking at the good report. And looking at all the special elections is to look at the margin of victory in these -- by the Republican and Democratic candidate and compare it to where it should be in a quote/unquote normal even year. In a normal year this is a kind of district where a Democrat should be expected to get about 39 percent of the vote. That is the base vote for a Democrat. He got 47 percent.

KING: The Democrat?

WALTER: That's still -- the Democrat got 47 percent. That still not winning, OK, but it's out performing Democratic performance by eight points. In Kansas it was 12 points, in Georgia before in the pre to where we are now, the primary before it gets to the runoff, it's seven points.

If that continues, over performance by Democrats in 2018, that is a problem for Republicans. It's not a problem in a district that's red as Montana and Kansas. It is a problem in suburban districts or districts that Trump or the Republicans only carried by four or five points.

But here's the thing for Democrats. They've got to, because of how these districts are drawn and the fact they need to win 24, they've got to be able to on national level probably hit over performance by six, seven, eight points. So they've got to do in every district that well in order to be able to win the majority.

KING: And most of those elections are next November.

WALTER: Correct. I think Georgia is going to be much more -- I think Georgia's going to be also very important because this is the kind of place, right? Suburban, we can't talk about it's rural and deeply red. This is a very winnable race for a Democrat. KING: What does it tell us anything about the use of media. Should we not overstate what this incident an assault. He is charged with misdemeanor assault on a reporter. Every eyewitness says he grabbed him, threw him to the ground, broke his glasses. I want you to listen to our Kyung Lah was out in Montana, talked to some voters about this, says they went to the votes and did it matter?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Who did you vote for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gianforte. Yes.

LAH: Did you hear the audio yesterday?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did. And I kind of had compassion on the guy because, you know, and I know you're a nice reporter, but not all of them are nice. And he probably just lost it or something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know who Mr. Gianforte is and the type of person that he is and it didn't affect the way that I voted. I believe he is the best representative for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Well, the people were polite there. He also tweeted during the day a couple of times. A Montana voter after learning we're from CNN said, you're lucky someone doesn't pop one of you. That audio made me cheer. Other voters said there is distrust, particularly in red America, of the media, of what the president and others have politically charged us this leftist mainstream media.

PHILIP: I don't think it's just about the media. I mean, I think, yes, there's a lot of animus toward the media, particularly on the right but it seems like a sign of the kind of coarsening of politics overall. The sense that people believe that you believe are not on your side politically are deserving of violence being directed toward them or harsh words being directed toward them. And that's a broader trend that has been getting worse over time.

I mean, some people are going to pin it on Donald Trump. Some people are going to go all the way back to the very beginning of Barack Obama and even further beyond that. But it's very clear that this is about the idea that if you have an "R" next to your name or if they think that you're more conservative, people are more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt. And putting aside just sort of basic decency about, you know, the things you teach to your kindergartners. You know, you don't throw somebody to the ground or you don't call them names. I think a lot of that sort of basic decencies stuff has fallen by the wayside recently.

DEMINJIAN: But this is something ugly that goes beyond the realm of politics too. Which is that -- you know, it's not a good thing when people say, you know, this group of people are bad. You seem like you're OK, but everybody else is like you. The media is not a race, it's not a (inaudible) but it's attached to something that's pretty darn ugly that we've been through in many different iterations in our history.

And I'm not trying to apply the media to be synonymous with any of that but it is disturbing when you see the number of people that, you know, reporter, other reporters were quoting, saying, well they deserve it and maybe not because you seem nice, but everybody else as quite of you know, and that is a really dangerous place to go. Whether or not you want to talk about the climate -- the political climate that's been set the fact that that's what we're seeing.

[12:55:05] KING: And quickly and lastly about this race, a lot of Democrats are upset at their own party now because they haven't got a win. This is probably not a place they could win even with a last day attack on a reporter. What do the Democrats do with this?

YANG: I think they're going to point to what Amy was talking about, that the margin was a little bit closer than the standard. But this -- I think again, everything boils down to these things to local issues and local effects. This was not a great candidate for the Democrats, he was not well own.

And also the Republicans knew that Gianforte was not a great candidate because he lost the governor's race last year even as Trump was winning the state. They went in early with a lot of money and defined the Democratic candidate before he could define himself.

KING: The Democrats even though they probably shouldn't have won this one (inaudible) they say, the progressive part of the Democratic Party is brewing, saying, we need to win somewhere and they're mad at their party. The frustration shall continue.

That does it for "Inside Politics." Thanks for helping us out today through the breaking news. The news continues after a break with my colleague, Wolf Blitzer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer.