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INSIDE POLITICS

Republicans Complain to Trump About Super PAC Ad; McConnell's Deal-making Skills Tested in Health Care Fight; Ryan: "I Would Not Bet Against Mitch McConnell"; Trump's 2020 Re-election Campaign Off to Fast Start; Tracking the President's Visits to Trump Properties. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 28, 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] MICHEAL SHEAR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: -- Capitol Hill. It's often a kind of difficult dance. This seems particularly clumsy, right. I mean, this -- here you have the Republicans need to maintain their majority in the Senate as you've said today, they only have two. They're only up by two.

You can't attack the most vulnerable Republican that you have, you know, over something like this and hand the Democrats a messaging strategy that's going to help them defeat him.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: When that's about keeping his seat. But then the other question is what their goal was in the short-term if he gets his vote on health care.

SHEAR: Which backfires.

BASH: It certainly didn't seem to help. I will tell you that just in talking to sources that the Super PAC, what they said over and over again over the past three or four days since this became an issue, is that they wanted to send a message not just to Dean Heller but to the other Republicans who run the fence. Stay at the negotiating table. Don't go out and give a press conference like Heller did last Friday saying that he was, you know, basically seeming to suggest that he was not even going to come to the table to negotiate.

The other thing is that they argue that this is a way to fire up the Trump base in a way that actually in the state of Nevada they argue that the base was depressed because there was a Republican candidate on the ballot in Nevada for Senate who actually lost. One of the few Republican loses and he distanced himself from Trump. But those are all I think valid political arguments that kind of make sense. But the negative and the angry is missing the other hand which is the positive that this is why this is good. This is why -- these are the reasons why this policy or other policies from President Trump are things that you should back (INAUDIBLE).

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's like they succeed in just really angering a lot of other senators who were sitting on the fence and maybe were sitting quietly on their concerns about the health care bill and then said OK, you think this is going to make any of us move. We're just going to stay here and not even allow a vote to go forward. And then when we do get a chance to go to the White House sends the message to the president directly that this is not expectable. This is not an expectable way for your allies to behave. So in that sense, yes, they may have valid points for doing it but it seems like a backfire on a spectacular manner.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: It hurts any efforts to build trust with the Republican senators who are afraid the same thing's going to happen to them that happened to the House members. But to your point I think it does illustrate, there's been a -- it's not just the president and his team inside the White House, that the Trump campaign people outside the White House, the Super PACs have reached the same conclusion that this president is unlikely to grow and therefore he has to keep his base and make it all about it.

But here's another Super PAC, the Great America Alliance with an ad, we can't run this from through the fact check machine or you'll break the machine but not attacking the special counsel investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOMI LAHREN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What does the Washington establishment independent investigation look like? FBI director Comey leaked information to the press hoping to start an investigation. Deploy works in his good friend and former boss, Mueller is chosen to be direct it. And who could Mueller star witness this, his old pal who seem to start, leaker James Comey. Only in Washington could a rigged game like this be called independent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Bob Mueller and Comey are not good friends. They did work together in the Justice Department. But to the idea that if you're trying to keep the Trump base stoked, that works. If you're trying to convince independents or Democrats, give the president a second look. Look there's not an election for 18 months, give him a chance, suspend your disbelief or your distrust of him a little bit and give him a chance. That's money, if you're trying to expand your base, that's money wasted.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, THE FEDERALIST: Yes. Well that's the base stoking ad is actually OK if you're not shooting yourself in the foot in other ways. But I think that's the problem with the Heller one, right. It was like why are we taking ourselves out while we're trying to stoke the base.

Everybody does the stoke the base thing, let's not (INAUDIBLE) about it. But, you know, Obama used to do some more things with Republicans when he needed their votes for things when he was engage in a very serious negotiation, and I would say like well this one seem doing not much good, like poking them in the eye. At least they were from the other party.

I just think like this is not strategically helpful. And that's as mad as you'll see a Midwestern senator get. He's saying is very nicely, but he's upset about the strategy because they aren't having these guys back who are about to take this very rough vote perhaps. KING: But in the New York Times report (INAUDIBLE) in Jonathan Martin about Leader McConnell about the Heller ad calling Reince Priebus and calling it beyond stupid but he is the one (INAUDIBLE) the votes.

SHEAR: Well and you might stoke your base but if we are telling your base that Dean Heller is the same as Nancy Pelosi, those folks aren't going to be excited to come out for and vote for him, right. I mean, ultimately that seems like a shooting in the foot kind of (INAUDIBLE).

KING: It's one of the many complicated, sometimes confusing things here in the nation's capital.

Up next, it is Washington gospel. If anyone can get a Senate health care deal, it is Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. True.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:38:56] KING: Welcome back. Mitch McConnell was a master at frustrating President Obama back when Republicans were in the minority in the Senate, and even more so once the Republicans claimed the majority in 2015. Remember, the Democratic president wanted immigration reform, new climate change rules, gun control, campaign finance reforms and more. McConnell was a big part in the giant years long Republican Party's no. And of course, it was McConnell's bold and controversial strategy to deny even a committee hearing for Obama Supreme Court Nominee Merrick Garland.

For frustrating Obama, whether you like it or not, Leader McConnell gets an A. But what about now that Republicans control everything. Can the master of blocking or obstruction also be the master of deal- making?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Either Republicans will agree and change the status quo, or the markets will continue to collapse, and we'll have to sit down with Senator Schumer. And my suspicion is that any negotiation with the Democrats would include not only reforms that we would like to make.

[12:39:59] Legislation of this complexity almost always takes longer than anybody else would hope but we're going to press on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I don't for a second doubt his mastery of the rules, his understanding of every last process of the Senate even once none of us have ever seen or heard about and his ability to try his tenacity. But he has never done this. He's never been an all Republican -- he's never been the leader in an all Republican government trying to bridge a canyon. This is not personal, this is policy divide. Can he pull this rabbit out of the hat?

BASH: It's a policy divide that is made so much more complicated because they're working off of a Democratic sheet. Meaning they have ObamaCare that has been the law of the land for years now. And they do have these Republican governors in the states with a lot of Republican voters who are benefiting from some of the ObamaCare particularly the Medicaid expansion.

So the thing that has him twisted in knots, Republicans in general is if they were to craft a health care bill from whole cloth, it would look nothing like what's out there now. It's really not their philosophical approach which is why you have conservatives like Rand Paul and (INAUDIBLE) Ted Cruz and others saying, this is not what I signed up for. Having said that, he is not only a, you know, a three- dimensional chess player. He gets the policy.

He can sit down with Ted Cruz and Mike Lee talk about, you know, Obama Regulations Section 1332 and understand what it means and how you get that idea without making the moderates mad so on and so forth. Getting there, bridging that huge gulf as you said is very difficult when you only have two votes to spare.

KING: And my question is, when you get to the point where you've done all you can and you're still one or two short, can he look two or three Republicans in the eye and say, you're going to vote for this, you're just going to. I know you don't want to but you have to.

HAM: Yes, it's going to be very tricky. Just on a character level I like the idea of this incredibly unscintillating speaker with apologies to Senator McConnell being this guy who nonetheless and still stirring hope in various (INAUDIBLE) like the magic he can do. I just kind of like that idea.

But look, I think the problem with this bill is that it has a chief legislator. It has a guy who wants to be the chief negotiator, who's Trump who likes to be the deal guy and make sure he sees when he do that. There is no chief order for this bill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.

HAM: And so the argument part is missing. If you don't have the argument part, legislating becomes much harder.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.

KING: And now let's look at some who say they -- everyone who says -- again, it become gospel in Washington. If anyone can do it, it's Mitch McConnell. Here's the perspective on that from the house speaker who's a Republican ally, and the Democratic leader of the Senate who says McConnell might do it but like how?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I would not bet against Mitch McConnell. He is very, very good at getting things done through the Senate even with this razor thin majority. I have every expectation that the Senate -- I don't know what day but I have every expectation the Senate will move this bill.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: Over the next couple of weeks, we know that Leader McConnell will try to use a slush fund to buy off Republicans, cut back room deals to try and get this thing done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Slush funds? Back room deals? No, this is Washington, that doesn't happen.

SHEAR: No, of course not. You know, one of the things I'll give credit to my colleague Peter Baker who came up with this. But one of the things that is true, is that the Republican divide that the ideological divide in the Republican Party that has been there for so long is a pre-existing condition for the party. OK. And one of the reasons that the house speaker can sort of say that and kind of have a little smirk because that -- the ideological divide has been the devil in the House for a long time, right.

(CROSSTALK)

SHEAR: Speaker Baker baked it in and now some of the same problems. Those same divisions that are so difficult to bridge are in the Senate and in at a much more.

KING: The point -- the thing that fascinates me as I get that if you look at the state by state polling, we have some private polling yesterday that at Lisa Murkowski's state, this is not popular even with Republicans. And Rob Portman states, this is not popular even with Republicans. However their signature promise has been to do something about this.

Writing -- I want to read this from the National Review, this is Michael Tanner who's a Cato Institute Libertarian senior fellow. "A wondrous thing happened. Republicans won control not just on Congress but the presidency itself. Now, nothing stood in the way of their efforts to get rid of ObamaCare. So, quickly they -- oh never mind."

But that's the air in the Republican balloon. If you thought we want everything, now this has to happen.

BASH: Right. And that back to Mitch McConnell, it did surprise me that he seemed to make the same tactical misjudgment that Paul Ryan made which was we've been talking about this guy four years. We've been promising it on the campaign trail for years. So we're going to make it happen. And it's not that easy when you have this brig gulf.

[12:45:09] And I have to say that Democrats are kind of sitting back and just on the pure kind of theater of this saying, OK, you know, we had 60 votes back when we passed ObamaCare, but it wasn't easy getting Bernie Sanders who wants, you know, socialized medicine on board with something like this. And Harry Reid was able to do it.

MURRAY: And if you're a Republican -- I mean, its one thing to run on smaller government. It's one thing to repeal -- to run on repealing ObamaCare. It's another thing to go home and look people in the eye and say you have a health insurance plan right now and you won't have one tomorrow.

Cutting benefits, removing benefit to people currently get from the government is the hardest and most politically toxic thing that you can do in Washington. And they are trying to do this in a way that makes it seem like they're just not leaving people out to dry. But they have no narrative as to how they're not leaving people out to dry.

HAM: And it's true it's painful even if you can make the argument sounds like that those benefits are pretty terrible sometimes. And I think this is a battle of -- it's become a battle of incrementalism that is not -- that's not a sexy argument as you say earlier. And conservatives make the point which is actually sort of fair that hey, guess what, they're literally going to call us murderers no matter what we offer. So maybe we should offer what we actually want. And I do not fault them for being a little missed about that because it will happen no matter what they are.

KING: (INAUDIBLE) and as we're having this conversation, Senator McConnell -- I'm told Leader McConnell tweeted out -- he's become a creature Twitter too. Look at that it happens to everybody. His thanks to the president of the United States for the meeting yesterday. So we'll keep track of that relationship. It happens to be very important at the moment.

Up next, it's no secret that President Trump likes to visit properties where his name is in giant letters. Tonight, perhaps the ultimate blurring of business and politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:50:36] KING: President Trump tonight kicks his 2020 re-election fundraising. Yes, 2020 re-election fundraising into high gear. And it is stunning example of the car family business, also helping the legacy family business.

The first official Trump re-election fundraiser is being held at the Trump International Hotel just a few blocks from the White House. The cheapest ticket, more than $35,000. So, it's a safe bet the re- election committee will have a big take, and so will the hotel owned by the businessman turned president.

It's just the latest mixing of business in business to that get ethics watch out sketch. Take a pick here. So, he's taking office in January, it's hard to find a weekend where President Trump did not visit a Trump property. From his Mar-a-Lago Resort in Florida to Trump golf courses in New Jersey and Virginia.

I think that calendar to me is just a proof that the president knows there are people out their saying, you can't do this, you shouldn't do this, you should more transparent about this. That if there's a yellow flashing light out there at the intersection, he is just going on right through it. This doesn't bother him, should it?

SHEAR: Well, I mean, he clearly doesn't care so I agree with that point. You know, if you listen to both the historians who had sort of, you know, examined past presidents and the ethics experts and frankly both parties, some of whom worked for President Bush and now are among Mr. Trump's biggest critics. It's a real problem. You know, it did -- it presents a kind of question in the minds of voters of still whose interest the president is working in. Is he working in the interest of American people or is he trying to fatten his own wallet. And that's the ultimate reason why most politicians but certainly president avoids this kind of situations.

BASH: Yes. And the question is what are the consequences? Normally in traditional times, the consequences are outrage among voters and outrage among colleagues that sort of forces the person who is doing this to take a step back and reassess. And I just don't see that happening here.

It's just the people who love Donald Trump see this with the prism of, why is everybody just attacking him for this, who cares? And the people who are either on the defense are going to moving away from him or don't like him, you know, see it for what it is which is this is on the line of inappropriate, perhaps even crossing the line of inappropriate.

KING: Then talk about -- let me just make this argument to play contrarian. If you own a hotel couple blocks from the White House, why should (INAUDIBLE) make money not Mr. Trump?

HAM: Well, I'm sure that's what he think and frankly he doesn't -- I don't think he goes much further than that because his brand and his business have always been together. They were together on the trail. They were what people voted for together as they always pointing out. They got as unorthodox package and this is part of it, and he doesn't care even though he should.

But, the folks who support him don't care that much, and the folks who really are against him, who are making arguments against him, think they have much bigger fish to try than this. So, this ends up in this almost middle part.

KING: If you go back and look at the campaign, again the critics say that, you know, he actually made money. Well at least he didn't -- you know, made money running for president. The Trump era group was paid almost $9 million. Trump Tower commercial, more than $2.2 million and most of those were friends. You know, Trump hotels, golf clubs where events during campaign (INAUDIBLE), more than $1.4 million.

That's in, you know, people who donates in the campaign and their money was direct when they held events at those properties again. And you know, yes, I think people get outrage saying, this is profiting thing ofd politics. If you you're going to profiting off the presidency and the Trump family says, we own this properties, it's easier to arrange then why we should we give them to somebody else.

MURRAY: Well, right, and you know, for the Democratic during this Republicans going to be (INAUDIBLE) thing but Republicans are pretty silent on this. Again, they also have bigger fish to fry and trying to get some tough done legislatively and they not really worry about it. But I think it also gets to the fact that Trump doesn't like to be cooped up in the White House. He doesn't want to spend his weekends sitting around, hanging on the White House grounds so he goes out to the golf course. I think the bizarre thing is that the way the White House has handled this, not even admitting he's golfing, not a thing, what he's doing out there. I mean, he's the president of the United States.

If he wants to like blow off some steam and (INAUDIBLE) while he's trying to pass health care then just say, he owns the golf course. He likes the course. He's blowing off a little team, you know --

KING: He's driving on his own grains. We found up from people --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: The questions that -- the ethics questions will be debated throughout the Trump presidency. This is so early, 2020 is long way stuff. This president already, before tonight already has raised more than $7 million for the re-election campaign.

[12:55:04] Barack Obama liked to raise money. He liked his campaigns to have a lot of money, he only raised $1.5 million at this point. This president from day one has sent a signal to any Republicans out there, forget the Democrats, any Republicans out there thinking about it, bring it on.

SHEAR: Well, you know, on top of that, Trump's campaign probably is the model for not needing as much money. I mean, they are cover -- I mean, he was the -- he did not need the kind of $750 million, $1 billion kind of massive operation. And I don't think he's not going need it again, right. I mean, he's not going to lack for trying to get people to cover him.

HAM: Yes. It's a big win for the money out of politics while blowing this party. Pretty excited.

KING: And on that note, thanks for joining us in the Inside Politics. See you right back here at noon time tomorrow. Wolf Blitzer in the chair after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, 8:00 p.m. in Raqqa, Syria. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

At first, efforts to revive the Senate Republican health care bill (INAUDIBLE) a little while ago, President Trump struck an optimistic tone.