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Trump Shakes Up His Inner Circle at Six-Month Mark; Mixed Results on Trump's Campaign Promises. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired July 23, 2017 - 08:00   ET



[08:00:10] JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): He's in.


KING: And he's out.

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.

KING: The Trump presidency at the six-month mark, no big legislative victories and expanding special counsel investigation and historically horrible poll numbers.

SCARAMUCCI: The ship going in the right direction.

KING: INSIDE POLITCS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, 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.

Turmoil is the trademark of the Trump presidency at the six-month mark. The president is shaking up the legal team and White House inner circle. He is constantly described as angry and frustrated.

And his newest hire seems to share the boss's view that president's behavior is not the problem.


SCARAMUCCI: I was in the Oval Office with him earlier today and we were talking about letting him be himself, letting him express his full identity. I think he has the best political instincts in the world and perhaps in history when you think about it.


KING: Now, there is Trump agenda progress, when you look at economic numbers, for example, or the sharp decline in the illegal immigration. But it is also a simple fact, not fake news, that this president and his Republican Party have in six months failed to get any of their big signature campaign promises, like Obamacare repeal even close to the finish line.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let Obamacare fail, it will be a lot easier. I think we're probably in that position where we just let Obamacare fail. We're not going to own it. I'm not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it.


KING: Vladimir Putin is the undeniable big winner at President Trump's six-month mark. The Kremlin's election meddling is a constant source of tension in American politics. The expanding special counsel investigation is a cloud over the White House and giant trigger of the president's visceral anger that Mr. Trump's son, son-in-law, former campaign chief and his attorney general face new questions about their dealings and about their honesty.


TRUMP: Sessions gets the job. Right after he gets the job, he recuses himself.


TRUMP: Well, Sessions should have never recused himself. And if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else.


KING: A lot to discuss with us this Sunday to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Hirschfeld Davis of "The New York Times," "The Atlantic's" Molly Ball, Michael Shear of "The New York Times", and CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson.

Now, most of you I bet didn't waste a second on the idea that a new White House communication director with mean a new strategy or style from President Trump. The morning after hiring Antony Scaramucci and accepting the resignation of the press secretary, Sean Spicer, the president took to Twitter to let us know, of course, he has unlimited power to pardon people and that maybe his Justice Department of the special counsel would be better off investigating Hillary Clinton. The president misspelled counsel, by the way.

So, the more things change, the more things remain the same, or so it seems anyway. The test of whether this White House shake-up means anything that matters to those of you watching, a more effective and efficient government, for example, or progress on big ticket items like health care and tax reform, well, that won't be clear for a while. What we do know is a president who thinks just about everyone around him has let him down these tumultuous first six months decided to overrule the chief of staff and overrule his chief strategist.

And Wall Street veteran Anthony Scaramucci, once a fierce Trump critic, made clear in his opening act that he knows what the boss likes and wants most.


SCARAMUCCI: I love the president. And I'm very, very loyal to the president. I love these guys. I respect these guys. I love the president.

The president is phenomenal with the press. The president himself is always going to be the president.

I think he's got some of the best political instincts in the world and perhaps in history. He's done a phenomenal job for the American people. He's the most competitive person I've ever meet, OK?

I've seen this guy throw a dead spiral through a tire. I've seen him at Madison Square Garden with a top coat on, he's standing in the key and he's hitting foul shots and swishing them, OK. He sinks three foot putts.


KING: But he hasn't got a deal on health care, advanced tax reform, moved infrastructure anywhere from square one. Why and what to expect from Anthony Scaramucci? And a bigger question of a White House that has been beset by this chaos and turmoil for six months, does it make it better or is this just a new chapter?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I mean, one thing you didn't play which is also fascinating about that performance is when he looked at the camera and actually apologized directly to Donald Trump for having said some pretty harsh things about him during the campaign before.

KING: Called him a hack.

DAVIS: Called him a hack, and much worse, a big mouth and, you know, said hurtful things about didn't treat women well.

And so, I think what we're seeing there is not necessarily a new press strategy but a strategy for dealing with the commander-in-chief himself.

[08:05:04] And the play may have been and yesterday morning's tweets undercut this premise quite a bit, but it may be a question of making Donald Trump feel like he is better represented, like he has someone out there fighting for him, protecting him, protecting his flank so that he doesn't then feel the need to strike out on his own on Twitter. He doesn't then feel the need to hold interviews like did he with our colleagues without consulting his press shop and hearing from them what they thought, which this is a really bad idea right now.

And, you know, the possibility that that could reset things for the White House won't be clear for quite some time because as you point out, this is not really about his policy agenda, which is what they really need to worry about right now. Nothing of a legislative, the list of legislative items that he promised, they don't have anything. And that approach doesn't necessarily get them there.

KING: And so, the president's critics after watching Anthony Scaramucci's opening act, were like, oh, my God, no, somebody is going to tell the president he's great, I love the president. You know, some people took that as feeding the worse. The president should stay on Twitter, Anthony Scaramucci says.

But let's be contrarian. Let me contrarian for a minute. Let's assume we know he has better access to the president than Sean Spicer had. The president views him not as a peer, but as somebody from the business community, somebody with whom he has more of a personal rapport.

Might that first act have been an effort show the president, to Julie's point, I'm out here, I will defend you, I will promote you, I will do combat for you. But when I walk into your office and say, sir, give me a chance, this will help you. I need you to dial it back. Give me a chance. Give me a week, give me two.

Could possibly progress come with this?

MOLLY BALL, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Maybe. I don't think we ever know how Trump is going to react to particular changes in his orbit. It does seem to me that, you know ,the entire last two years starting with the campaign have been over and over again this sort of Groundhog Day repeat of maybe this time he'll behave differently.

Maybe this time he will change. Maybe this time he will turn over his Twitter account to someone else and back away slowly and turn into a person who acts, you know, quote, unquote, presidential. I'm not holding my breath for that to ever happen.

But it does seem like this is a sort of defensive retrenchment that the entire White House is undergoing where given that the agenda, the agenda is almost off the radar at this point. They're in war mode and focused on defending the president mostly in the face of this investigation. That's what they're all focused on.

KING: If that's all it, is then they're going to -- we're going to have more of the same, in the sense that, again, Anthony Scaramucci is speaking publicly, if you defend Bob's-Cola, if that's your job to defend Bob's-Cola, you say every day it's better than Coke. That's your job and that's a hard job sometimes.

So the fact he was out there saying things are great, the ship in the right track, you know, numbers tell a different story. We can look at the latest Gallup tracking poll, the president's approval rating, 38 percent approval, 57 percent disapproval. That's historically low numbers.

Now, Anthony Scaramucci knows that. He said sometimes the polls are wrong. I can show you 30 polls that say about the same thing. They're not wrong.

The president has kept his base to his credit. To his credit, the president has kept his base. But he hasn't expanded at all and in some ways, he's lost independence. So, it's a big challenge for Anthony Scaramucci.

But it's not just his challenge. This is a White House that had infighting from day one. We' are told that Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, the chief of staff and the chief strategist, two people you would think would hold some sway with the boss, the president of the United States, didn't want this.

I want you to listen here to the way our friend and colleague, Maggie Haberman, of your newspaper, Julie and Michael, "The New York Times", described this. She did a podcast with the "New Yorker" and this is pretty colorful.


MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: We're used to a team of rivals. We're not used to a team of the Bloods and the Crips, which is essentially what this is in the White House. I mean, these are rival gangs.

DAVID REMNICK, THE NEW YORKER: Who are the Bloods and Crips? How does it work?

HABERMAN: I think I need to add in some new gang names, too, because Bloods and the Crips makes it sounds like there are only teams. There's something like six.


KING: Does this shift the power on the street if you want to use the gang analogy? Does this help? Is this a victory for Jared and Ivanka and Gary Cohn, the Manhattan crowd, and a defeat for Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, or is that an oversimplification?

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Look, I think on the surface it is. It's sort of a victory for the kind of New York elite that is around -- part of which is around Donald Trump. I think -- I think that -- I have the same deep skepticism that this is going to fundamentally and sort of quickly change Donald Trump's approach.

On the other hand, Sean Spicer was always sort of ill-fitting in that administration, right? He wasn't the kind of person in any way that Donald Trump kind of could look at and say, yes, that's the guy I want sort of carrying my message. And Scaramucci sort of is. And so, you know, I mean, I think we -- we will need to see over -- I mean, he's on the shows this morning. He's doing other -- he'll be on TV all the time I think.

If that proves to be something that is sort of a solve for Donald Trump, then it may change things a little bit. NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. And I

think one of the things you could really tell from that press conference is how much Anthony Scaramucci enjoyed being up there, enjoyed talking to the press. He was kind of given the hook several times.

[08:10:00] He wanted to stay there and in some ways wanted to talk about himself, his best-selling book which he at one point joked was in his basement or whatever, talked about his days at Goldman, talked about being in Harvard Law School. And people I talk to said, you know, that might be a problem. You know, there's one thing to be there as kind of sycophant of the president but is this also a platform that's about Anthony Scaramucci, if he ends up on the cover of "TIME" magazine, for instance, the president might see things a little differently.

KING: Yes, he should have a conversation with Steve Bannon about that. Here's a question I have with the six-month mark -- no offense to anybody, the president has every right to bring in his own team, bring in people he's comfortable with. But I want to show you, ten top White House people. You start with the president himself. The vice president, the chief of staff, the chief strategist, the president's son-in-law who is a big adviser, now, Anthony Scaramucci, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Marc Short, Ivanka Trump and Gary Cohn. None of them -- none of them have ever worked in a White House. None of them have federal executive branch experience.

Now, Governor Pence -- Mike Pence, Vice President Pence was Governor Pence. He was Congressman Pence. He has Washington experience. Marc Short had some time on Capitol Hill working for Kay Bailey Hutchison and others as well. He was some Washington experience.

None of them have White House executive branch experience and six months in, you can make a pretty strong case I think that maybe the president needed one or two people who do know how this town works.

He was election on disruption. He was elected on change. Smart of him not bring in everybody as old hands. But does he hurt himself by having nobody who's done this before?

DAVIS: Well, I think just on the surface of it, he does. You can't look at the situation and think anything otherwise. And of the people you showed, the two people on that chart that have some sort of political and organizational experience in this realm, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the new press secretary, and Reince Priebus are by all accounts by this latest shift kind of shifted to the side. Priebus was overruled with the hiring of Scaramucci. He completely overshadowed her at her first ever White House briefing. The president didn't even come out and announce her as the press secretary, or even put out a statement until much later in the day.

There is a clear sense here that the people who are ascendant are the people who do not have the kind of political experience, certainly not White House experience to get some of the things done. And I'm not saying necessarily that Reince Priebus and Sarah Huckabee Sanders would be the people to sort of drive through to the agenda, ones that they need right now, but certainly, they are not the ones who are the driving this and they are the folks who are trying to put towards some sort of organization, some sort of function that would be more of a typical White House operation.

BALL: There is also a complete lack of consistency, right? I mean, this White House has never been sung on the same page when it comes to policy.

So, you do have the New Yorkers who are viewed as sort off liberals in the administration. You do have people like Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Reince Priebus who are more traditional Republicans and, of course, Sean Spicer came from that wing as well. And so, and then you have, you know, Steve Bannon, the sort of Breitbart wing, and Stephen Miller and so on.

And so, there is not a sense there is a coherent ideology driving this White House. And Scaramucci is someone who -- while he has been a Republican donor and gotten behind traditional Republican candidates like Scott Walker and Jeb Bush, he also has tweeted a lot of sort of liberal leaning things. And so, it's really not clear what direction they want on policy.

KING: Praised Hillary Clinton, mocked the idea of a border wall, donate to Hillary Clinton as well.


KING: So, we have a lot of uncertainty of what's coming forward. Before we go to break, I just want to remind you what we're losing, Sean Spicer from the podium from day one was controversial.


SPICER: -- biggest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.

I said it from the day that I got here until whatever that there is no connection. You got Russia. If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that's a Russian connection.

Time and time again, an attempt to parse every little word and make it more of a game of gotcha as opposed to really figure out what the policies are.

Ultimately, the best messenger is the president himself. He's always proven that, that he is the best messenger.


KING: He lasted six months in one day. We will see what's ahead for him and, of course, for the White House.

Ahead, the special counsel puts the White House on notice. Also, the Trump agenda at the six-month mark. The stock market is up, illegal immigration is way down. But on the big stuff, the art of the deal president you were promised is nowhere to be found. But, first, saying good-bye to Sean Spicer means saying goodbye to

"SNL's" Spicey, Melissa McCarthy.


MELISSA MCCARTHY, AS SEAN SPICER: I just like to announce that I'm calm now. As long as you sons of -- take that! (INAUDIBLE). Radical most land (ph).

spicy finally made a mistake.

You don't have a chance!



[08:19:14] KING: That part of a 21-gun salute for the commander-in- chief yesterday as the president commissioned a new Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, and promoted one of his top priorities, more military spending.


TRUMP: It's been a very, very bad period of time for our military. That is why we reached a deal to secure an additional $20 billion for defense this year and it's going up. And why I ask Congress for another $54 billion for next year.


KNG: Now the exact numbers are still being debated, but a bigger Pentagon budget is one of the campaign promises the president is on track to keep. The overall score at the six-month mark, though, is more mixed and downright bleak on the biggest promises.

[08:20:00] Let's take a look at some of the ways to judge this.

Number one, how do you feel about how things are going on in the country? In January, 72 percent said, no, things are not going well in the U.S., 26 percent said yes. Six months later, the country feels just about exactly the same. That's not good for the president. He hasn't convinced people to be more satisfied about the direction of the country.

Now, this is good news for the president. You look back to the beginning of the Obama administration, unemployment, remember, spiked at 10 percent; 4.4 percent as President Trump heads into the second six months. That's a good place for a president to be. A low unemployment rate.

Now, the problem is, the president's promises are built on more robust growth and the campaign, he promised a job boom. So far, the economy is doing well. But not any better than the -- if you compare his first five months of jobs reports to the last year of the Obama presidency, the same five months, actually, job growth is a little more robust under President Obama. So, not bad for President Trump, but not the job's boom he promised just yet.

Let's take a look at another way to look at this. The jobs added, most of them in health care, not so much when it comes to coal-mining or construction. Growth but not the growth the president thought would be coming, in part the infrastructure plan stalled. Coal mining, he says those jobs are coming back. There's a lot skepticism.

Let's look at the bigger picture. No progress, a little bit of progress maybe in Obamacare repeal and replace. The House passed the bill but it's stalled right now.

You could make the case there's been some progress in tougher trade deals. The president pulled out of TPP, which is going to happen anyway. And he's had a few dustups with Canada. But on the big ones, China, NAFTA, a lot of talk, no action yet.

Progress on immigration, absolutely. Illegal border crossings are way down. There's been more enforcement out in the cities. His base is happy with that. But no progress really on building the wall yet. Zero progress on tax reform. Again, a lot of talk, no action.

And infrastructure remains stalled. So, the big ticket items the president promised, nowhere near the finish line. Yesterday at that big military event, the president put in a plug for his agenda, specifically, health care.


TRUMP: I don't mind getting a little hand so-called that congressmen and senator and make sure you get it. And, by the way, can you also call the senators to make sure you get health care.


KING: Anthony Scaramucci said the ship is heading in the right direction. There are regulatory actions again. The economy is doing OK. Some executive actions, the immigration enforcement.

But on the big things the president promised, you know, the big theme of the Trump campaign -- Washington is stupid. I will hire the right people and I will cut the big deals. We have not seen that six months in.

HENDERSON: Yes, we haven't. And in many ways, it sort of feels like Groundhog Day in this administration. Lots of tweets about Russia, lots of tweets about Hillary Clinton, lots of fights with the media. But on those big ticket items, not much is done.

And even on something like health care, you don't see the president using his ample following and actually going out there to get anything done. And one thing you also are starting to see is Republican senators. Not really being afraid of this president. Not being afraid to part ways with him, essentially thinking, you know, if you're Ron Johnson or Dean Heller in Wisconsin or Nevada, essentially saying, well, I ran ahead of the president in any respective states. So, that's one of the things we're seeing. These six months, not a lot getting done in the other -- the senators

looking to go their own way.

KING: He's on the road twice this week. He's going to West Virginia. He's going to Ohio. Will we see a shift?

Will we see maybe the president learning, maybe I have actually done some of these during the transition, maybe I should have done more of this in the first six months, to go to specific states and say, you know, I need Molly Ball to cast a tough vote? Molly doesn't want to cast, but when she does and I need her to do it, I want you to blame me, not her. Call her to do it.

Will we get some of that?

BALL: Well, he's not going to the states where there is a vote to move, right?

KING: Right.

BALL: Rob Portman in Ohio is already thought to be behind the health care legislation that's being done. And, you know, West Virginia, Shelley Moore Capito potentially is a problem for him.

But there's not a sense of focus on getting votes in the Senate or getting senators into a room to work out a deal. He did have that one lunch on health care. But it was kind of amazing, the tape that you just played, his reference to health care was basically an aside. Basically saying, oh, by the way, you can call -- will you please make them do it? And that has been his attitude towards this whole thing, would you --

KING: Virginia with two Democratic senators. I know he is speaking to a national audience but in the particular state he was in yesterday has two Democrats in the Senate. Not happening.

SHEAR: And, look, the lunch that Molly referenced, right, you asked something, will the president learn? I mean, we have seen no evidence that president so far has learned from these kinds of things and that lunch that he had with half a dozen senators, they were all already in the -- in the yes category. I mean, in other words, he didn't use the power of his White House to bring folks over and lobby the hard cases. It was -- there's no evidence.

KING: And in addition to that, the president at the White House the other day, his I don't own it, I want to play here. That scared a lot of Republicans in the sense that if they cast tough votes, they want a president to keep -- to hold their back to support them. If the poll say, oh, bad idea three months from now, you don't want the president saying, wash my hands of this as he did at the White House.


TRUMP: Let Obamacare fail.

[08:25:01] It will be a lot easier. I think we're probably in that position where we'll just let Obamacare fail. We're not going to own it. I'm not going to own it. I can tell you, the Republicans will not own it.


KING: The fear among a lot of Republicans is that he doesn't understand. He always says they, that he -- he is the Republican Party.

DAVIS: Right. Well, this is the other side of the coin of what Nia was talking about, senator -- Republicans are not afraid of the president in any of the useful political ways like they're going to vote with him because they're afraid if they don't the will feel political consequences. I think they are afraid of him in a sense that he's going to make us walk this plank, take these hard votes and then not be with us if it ends up hurting us in our states and our districts. And I think that's a real problem for him and that is the reason why you see a lot of this dysfunction on the Hill and inability to move things.

KING: Six months, always a chance to reboot, learn.

Up next, the Russia cloud expands yet again. The special counsel tells the White House to preserve e-mails, notes. Congress gets set to questions the president's son and son-in-law.


[08:30:25] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. We learned these past weeks the special counsel investigation is expanding in ways that have the President and his beefed up legal team on edge.

And the President's eldest son, his son-in-law, and his former campaign chairman are about to face congressional investigators who, among other things, want to understand why they met in the heat 2016 presidential campaign with several Russians known to have Kremlin connections who promised incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.


JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: A lot of this, to me, had kind of the standard textbook tradecraft long employed by the Russians and -- or the Soviets and now into the Russians, so I don't find it surprising that these connections are trying to -- are coming out. It would have been a really good idea maybe to have vetted whoever they were meeting with.


KING: Expect a public hearing down the road. But for now, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and the former campaign chief, Paul Manafort, will be interviewed in private. The President is angered all of this is very public.

The Special Counsel, this week, told the White House to preserve all records, e-mails, and notes related to that June 2016 meeting orchestrated by the President's son. Plus, there are new indications the investigation includes a look at Trump Organization real estate deals and financing.


MICHAEL SCHMIDT, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Mueller was looking at your finances and your family's finances unrelated to Russia. Is that a red line?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would say yes. Yes, I would say yes.


KING: In that stunning interview with "The New York Times," the President made clear he blames his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for the fact there is a special counsel investigation in the first place.


TRUMP: Zero.


TRUMP: So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have -- which, frankly, I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself?

If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, Thanks, Jeff, but can't -- you know, I'm not going to take you. It's extremely unfair, and that's a mild word to the President.


KING: I have reread and reread and relistened to parts of that interview because the President is telling us a lot in that interview.

He knows things about the investigation that we don't. He is being told by his attorneys what they're asking X, what they're asking Y, what they're Z, what kinds of records they're asking for.

You get a sense in that interview where he blurts out about selling condos to Russians and about how there is nothing wrong with that. About how just open he is there about how he believes Jeff Sessions did something unfair to the President.

We're at a very interesting moment, but what do we make of that?

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, look, I mean, the implication of that part that you just played, right, was that if -- is that what the President wanted in an Attorney General was somebody to come in and protect him from the investigation swirling around him, which is such a kind of perversion of the job of Attorney General, right, in a kind of, you know, focus on just him, which is that -- the word he used was that it is unfair not to the presidency, not to the White House, not to the country, but to the President.


SHEAR: Right. Right, but --


SHEAR: And that I think was what's -- I mean it was an amazing interview that my colleagues did, but that was the part that, I think, jumped out to all of us.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, and also the way that he kind of played the time element there, right, that he wanted him to think in advance of, would he recuse himself if something like this happened?

Because, of course, the recusal came after the revelations about the meetings that he had with Russians that he hadn't disclosed on his original disclosure forms and that he had a conflict because of that. And that is what caused him to have to recuse himself.

So by saying now that he wishes that Jeff Sessions had told him, way back in November when he was chosen, that he would recuse himself if anything like that came about, that gives you the sense -- and there's no other conclusion to draw without knowing what transpired in private -- that they knew that there was -- that there were going to be revelations to come out and that he was under the impression that Jeff Sessions was going to stay and fight and protect him from these revelations.

KING: Please.

MOLLY BALL, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, but it is the case that Jeff Sessions knew he had had these meetings, and he didn't disclose them in the confirmation process. And, you know, "The Washington Post" reported on Friday night that, in fact, there are these intelligence intercepts of Jeff Sessions actually discussing campaign managers according to the Russians.

And then Trump seemed to confirm that that was an authentic leak in his tweets on Saturday morning, when said -- he basically alluded to it having been a real thing. As I think he said, at one point, the news is fake but the leaks are real.

KING: Right.

[08:35:11] BALL: And so, you know, there is an issue for the White House. I don't think the White House is out of line to be displeased with Sessions' lack of disclosure.

KING: And you make -- it's an interesting point here because here is the President's tweet yesterday that you mentioned.

A new intelligence leak from the amazon "Washington Post" -- that's a nice play -- this time against AG Jeff Sessions. These illegal leaks, like Comey's, must stop.

Now, the story in "The Post" was that Ambassador Kislyak, talking to his masters back home, said that Jeff Sessions in those meetings in 2016 did talk about the Trump campaign, did talk about potential Trump administration policy, about sanctions, about how to deal with the Kremlin.

Jeff Sessions has said, listen here, I did not.


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I didn't have -- did not have communications with the Russians.

Let me be clear. I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign.

I have never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States.


KING: So the President's son, his son-in-law, his former campaign chief are being interviewed by Congress this week. If you -- the Attorney General either was lying when he said that or the Russians could be playing a game. Let's be careful here.

They understand they're being monitored. They understand they're being eavesdropped. Kislyak could have said Sessions talked about all these things when, in fact, did he not.

That's why I make my point that, at six months, Vladimir Putin has won. That this constantly a source of tension, turmoil, conversation in American politics no matter what happened. The question now is the integrity and the honesty of all these people.

If you thought the job of the administration, the first six months, was to try to put this in the rearview mirror, it is expanding, not contracting.

HENDERSON: Yes. And you saw them in that interview, Donald Trump talked about what their strategy is, essentially to discredit everyone who is attached to this, whether it's Bob Mueller or the Deputy Attorney General because he has ties to Baltimore. So that's one of the things they're going to try to do, essentially say they're partisan.

But you do wonder about the fate of Jeff Sessions, right. Does this put him on thinner ice than he was before? You heard the President express his dismay about the recusal. Does this new revelation even put him on thinner ice?

Or what can the President do now? Because it does seem like the ultimate target is Mueller. The ultimate sort of goal from this White House might be to get him removed and Sessions obviously can't do that because he recused.

KING: And one last point on this, Congress is about to send the President a sanctions bill that slaps new sanctions on Russia, additional sanctions on Russia because of its 2016 behavior. It also deals with Iran and North Korea. Can the President veto this?

We know he doesn't like it. We know he doesn't want it. He can make the argument that it's an infringement on executive power. But because it involves Putin, Russia, can he?

HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: He could, but the White House has worked very, very hard to not put him in a position to even have to consider a bill that had a congressional review process in it for just this reason. And this is going against a precedent that this White House and past White Houses have rejected in the past.

And the question is, I mean, nothing else that they've done would indicate that they're going to take the political stakes of this and decide, you know what, it's too much. We can't.

KING: But it's going --

BALL: And so to that point --

KING: It's going to pass with a veto --

BALL: -- the fact --


HENDERSON: Yes. Usually, that's right.


KING: Yes.

BALL: The fact that this is going on his desk represents Congress standing up to the President in the most forthright way that they have to date.

SHEAR: Right.

BALL: And that is going to set a benchmark for congressional relations, where I think they're just going to get more and more aggressive in the things that they --

KING: And worth --

BALL: -- are putting on his desk.

KING: Worth repeating, even though it's obvious, a Congress led by Republican Senate --

HENDERSON: Republicans, yes.

KING: -- Republican House, that will be a confrontation just down the road.

Next, for all the chaos of these past six months, there is one constant. When the President wants to make a point or lash out, we all know where to look.


[08:41:54] KING: Welcome back. You might call this a little bit of breaking news. We're showing you a tweet from 12 hours ago. That's the last time the President tweeted about his visit to the USS Gerald R. Ford yesterday.

President Trump often tweets on Sunday mornings, but he's been quiet this morning. But let's take a look at his history at the six-month mark.

You all know his Twitter handle, @realdonaldtrump. He also has @POTUS.

The President has tweeted 1,026 times since becoming President of the United States. Let's take a quick look.

One of the reasons, he has 34.3 million Twitter followers. He believes it's a way to get around the traditional media, get out to the country and communicate with the people who follow him.

Now, if you want to take a look at the tweets, the President likes to tweet in the morning. Look at this, 5:00 a.m., 6:00 a.m., 7:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m. That's when you see a lot of the tweets.

Sometimes later in the day too as he's watching the news. That's generally what happens. He watches things on the news and reacts to them, but the morning is his preferred time of tweeting. Again, as I said, often on Sunday mornings.

What do people think about this? Well, 67 percent of Americans disapprove of the President's Twitter use. Twenty-four percent approve.

Let's look at some more numbers. Words associated with the President. The pollsters asked, when the President tweet, what do you think?

Inappropriate, insulting, dangerous. Interesting, effective, refreshing. Smaller numbers but people do talk about that as well.

As to the President now, some of his aides often tell us, because they're frustrated, the boss catches them off guard, they say pay little or no attention to the President's tweets. But listen here. His new communications director, at least at his first public appearance, makes clear he's a big fan.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: The President is a very, very effective communicator, and he'll use social media. And I think he's got -- I'm going to -- if I get this wrong, I know I'm going to hear it from him, so I hope I don't get it wrong. He's got 113 million or 114 million.

I know he's picking up about 300,000 followers a day, God bless him. And so to me, I think it's been very effective use of reaching the American public directly. And so, listen, we -- I welcome him continuing to do that.


KING: Now, the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader disagree with that take. The President should not and will not stop using Twitter. It has been part of his political identity. It's very important to him. The question everyone has at this moment of shake- up is, will he moderate it?

If you ask the Speaker and the Majority Leader, they've been quite in public. They think, at times, it is distracting. At times, it undermines the sensitive negotiations they're trying to do on things like health care. But it has been the constant of his first six months.

SHEAR: Well, the --

HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Well, he was only off by a factor of about four there, Scaramucci, when he --

KING: How many followers --

BAL: No, no. That's not --


BALL: That's not right. They are counting all social media including Facebook.

KING: Yes, Facebook and Instagram.

SHEAR: Right.

BALL: And he's add them all together and assume there is no overlap between them.

SHEAR: Well, that's the problem, is they're all overlapped. So that is --

BALL: Sure. But that is -- that number does come from somewhere.

KING: Yes.

BALL: It's not made up. HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Right. But I think the point is that, no, I don't

think he or anyone else expect the President to moderate it, his Twitter usage. I think in the dream scenario, he would keep it in check. He would only do it when it was politically useful and to communicate with his -- you know, his core supporters.

I do think it's informative to watch what he chooses to tweet about and what he doesn't.

KING: Right.

HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Because those are the things that are most important to him and that I think he thinks are most important to his supporters. The problem for Republicans is that doesn't necessarily line up with them and their priorities. And that's --

[08:44:59] KING: Right. To that point, it has undermined the ObamaCare negotiations on occasion, if you talk to the leadership on Capitol Hill.

Also, though, the President sometimes -- in all the accounts about the alleged secret meeting with Vladimir Putin, he had the big meeting we knew about then he had a dinner conversation.

The President tweeted out, fake news of secret dinner with Putin is sick. All G20 leaders and spouses were invited by the Chancellor of Germany. Press knew.

We knew he was at the dinner. We didn't know that he had nearly an hour-long one-on-one conversation with the President of Russia without any other American presence. So there is no official government record of all this.

I bring that up because, again, part of the conversation, the President's tweets have driven a lot of the conversations about the Russia story and given the Russians -- here's the Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov -- a big platform, in this case, to be kind of funny.


KEIR SIMMONS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Do you know about President Putin and President Trump meeting three times in the G20? They met obviously for the bilateral, they met at the dinner, and they met when --

SERGEY LAVROV, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF RUSSIA: Well, maybe they went to the toilet together. That was a fourth time.

SIMMONS: They met also and they were photographed shaking hands. That's my question. I mean, did they meet other times, in the hallways? Were there other occasions when they met?

LAVROV: When you are brought by your parents to a kindergarten, do you mix with the people who are waiting in the same room to start going to a class -- classroom, greet each other?

SIMMONS: It's the G20 though, not a kindergarten.

LAVROV: Well --


KING: That has little to do with anything of note.


KING: Except that, a, that the Russian Foreign Minister is a desired guest on American morning television, tells you everything you need to know about the past six months.

HENDERSON: Yes. I mean, this idea of Donald Trump talking about being sick of winning as you said, it's the Russians who are sick of winning at this point. Because, I mean, they have done -- they invested, you know, time and money into meddling in the election and sort of destabilizing things.

And also being seen as an equal partner -- you know, equal partner in equal footing with the United States. And that's, in some way, is what's happening and what Trump has given them.

KING: Well, our reporters should open their notebooks next, including fresh panic over another big Trump agenda item.


[08:51:07]: KING: Let's close as we always do, head around the INSIDE POLITICS table, ask our great reporters to share a little nugget from their notebooks, get you out ahead of the political news just around the corner.

Julie Davis?

HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Well, with all this talk of health care, there hasn't been a lot of attention to the tax reform effort that's been under way now for months. The White House is starting to kind of panic about the prospects of not getting this done this year.

And so what we're seeing, what we're hearing from these meetings that have been going on behind the scenes, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary; Gary Cohn, the NEC Director; and the top congressional leaders on the Republican side, is that they're sort of starting to think about potentially trimming their sails and not doing a big massive tax reform but instead a tax cut.

Not necessarily getting down all the way to 15 percent but maybe drifting up more towards 20 percent or higher. And even then, the prospects of that are very much in doubt. And there's a lot of uncertainty about whether they're even going to be able to get that this year.

KING: That would be a huge set back. Tick tock goes the clock. Molly Ball? BALL: A bipartisan couple of senators, Dick Durbin and Lindsey

Graham, reintroduced the DREAM Act this week. This, of course, is the proposed legislation that would grant a form of amnesty to young illegal immigrants who have been in the country for a long time and meet certain requirements.

And it might seem like a strange time to be doing that, but this administration has sent very conflicting signals about DACA, which is a similar but executive program that exists.

There are some state attorneys general that are -- that have imposed a deadline on the administration to basically tell them whether this is going to go or stay. They have been issuing work permits.

And so, Lindsey Graham, at the press conference, introducing this said, you know, President Trump, you could really sort of act against time. You could solve of this problem. They are hoping that there is a chance for this.

KING: That will be a defining moment for the President. Michael?

SHEAR: We talked about Anthony Scaramucci. Obviously, one thing that, looking forward, we might see is -- and this is, you know, always determined depending on Donald Trump himself and his desires, but there could be an opportunity for a press reboot over some of the issues that the press corps has been arguing with the White House corps, access to the President, press conferences, on camera briefings.

There is a new White House Correspondents Association President who is coming in, as it happens, at exactly the same time that we have a new communications director and head of the communications shop. So will the President allow there to be kind of reboot on some of these issues? I guess we'll see.

KING: We will see. Time will tell us, is that how you say it?


KING: Go ahead.

HENDERSON: The NAACP meeting next week, starting Monday, in Baltimore and really kind of beginning the most important stretch of their annual conference. The question there, how does this very old -- the oldest civil rights organization in the country reboot and reimagine themselves in the Trump era and the era of Black Lives Matter and in the era of resistance?

They invited Donald Trump. He said, no, he wasn't going to come. The White House has said that they'd be happy to work with the organization and be in touch with the organization.

Who will be there? Eric Holder will be there. He'll be talking about gerrymandering, something that's very important to Democrats particularly. Also, it's being looked at as something of a 2020 cattle call. Also in attendance, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Bernie Sanders.

And Bernie Sanders, of course, struggled a bit with getting African- American support when he ran last go around, so we'll see what else they'll have to offer.

KING: Fun week ahead.


KING: We'll keep an eye on that. I'll close it with this, the past few days have caused a disturbing chill among a lot of people, from the worker bees to cabinet secretaries across the executive branch. The White House shake up, just part of it.

More troubling to many was how the President, in that remarkable "New York Times" interview, so publicly and repeatedly threw one of his earliest supporters, the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, under the bus. Among those who found that unprofessional, to say the least, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon Mobile CEO.

Secretary Tillerson has a long list of disagreements with the White House, from personnel fights to big policy disagreements. That list grew even longer this past week.

[08:55:04] His friends outside Washington, for some time, have been saying that Tillerson talks of calling it quits around the holidays, so he can say he gave it a year. It could be just fresh venting but keep an eye on foggy bottom.

In the past day or two, there are rumblings Secretary Tillerson is actively debating a much earlier exit strategy. We'll keep an eye on.

That that's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Again, thanks for sharing your Sunday. Hope you can join us weekdays as well. That's noon Eastern.

Up next, "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JAKE TAPPER" and a live interview with the new man running the White House communications shop, Anthony Scaramucci.