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Trump Fights Pushback From Party, Own Administration; Joint Chiefs Chair: No Action On Transgender Ban Right Now; McCain's Vote Dooms GOP Health Care Bill; Priebus, Scaramucci Spotted On Air Force One With Trump. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 28, 2017 - 12:30   ET



[12:33:32] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. It's Friday. Many of us stake stock of the work week as we headed into the weekend. Here are some highlights of President Trump as he looks back at this Monday through Friday.

The head of the Boy Scouts apologized to scouts and their parents because the president used some salty language in a speech at the Annual Scouts Jamboree in launching some political attacks. The Whitewater Special Counsel Ken Starr, spoke for many conservative when he asked the president to, quote, please cut it out. Meaning, please respect the rule of law and stop attacking the attorney general.

On Capitol Hill, Republican after Republican also staged an intervention of sorts. Warning the president he was wrong if he believes he can easily replace his attorney general.


SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: If you're thinking of making a recess appointment to push out the attorney general, forget about it. The presidency isn't a bull and this country isn't a China shop.


KING: Interesting choice of words there. The Pentagon pushed back also against the president's Twitter announcement banning transgender individuals from serving in the military. And today in the Wall Street Journal, this from Reagan era wordsmith Peggy Noonan. "He's whiney, weepy, and self-pitying", Noonan writes at the president.

More of her take in a moment. But just trying to sum up the week, you mentioned it, it was mentioned by several earlier. This was an interesting week. We may look back at this week in terms of Republicans being more open in their criticism, John Cornyn said the president should get together with Jeff Sessions and work it out like men.

You can imply what they meant there. And Lindsey Graham going public and saying the president is weak. What do we make of this week and is it just a lot of little interesting pieces of drama, or does it mean something? [12:35:05] KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: It's not just little interesting pieces when it happen was concentrated. That's the thing. You can take each one of these things and say, OK, the thing that happened this week, maybe if they get past it.

But the fact that it's -- it struck a nerve this both political, policy related, personal for a lot of these Republicans. And the fact that it'll happened within a few days of each other means that you're really seeing a break.

And the fact that it happened the same week where the health care policy bill falls apart. This doesn't seem like it's good of a bet anymore as it seemed to a lot of these members of the GOP.

MICHAEL SHEAR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Look, I think he question is, is it kind of an ultimate break or does the ideological (INAUDIBLE) for various groups who want things, who still want things from this president, does it paper over it? I've talked to people this morning who want tax reform. Who are kind of in-line with the president on immigration policies, who want infrastructure.

And, yes, they worry that this week is an indication that the chaos inside the White House is going to kind of hamper their agenda items. But there also, there's strong reason for them to try to continue to push both on Capitol Hill among Republicans and with this White House to try to get their agenda done.

MOLLY BALL, THE ATLANTIC: Well, and the other thing that happened this week was that, you know, the president spoke at the Boy Scout thing and then the next day he had a campaign rally in Ohio. And he's just announcing doing another one next week.

And so I think there's a sense that he's sort of checking out. There's a sense that he's going and doing the one thing that brings him joy. Which is be in a big crowd of people who love him. And the rest of the Republican Party is sort of realizing it's time to go it alone.

It's time to just try to just shut out the noise, pretend he's not there. Let him do his thing which is travel around the country saying stuff. And when it comes to something like tax reform or all the other things on the agenda, they just have to do it themselves.

DEMIRJIAN: I think the other things to keep in mind, though, is that we have to take -- are we talking about the Republicans as like a body in Congress or as the party? Are we talking about the margins?

But I think one lesson of this week was, it doesn't really matter where the body of Republicans are if you have enough of people on the margins that won't play ball. That was a lesson of health care in the Senate.

If you have people like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, and maybe a few others who just lost their patient as this point, it doesn't matter where the rest of the party is, because they can jam everything else up. SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And I think it's not a question to see how big that group is. I mean, you know, Ben Sasse, God, I love him. He gave those quotes, and so with Lindsey Graham, but these are two people how have voted with the president on his priorities and had not shown any indication that they're going to split with what the president wants, despite getting the tongue lashing now and again.

Now maybe that'll be different when we see how the president deals with the Russia sanctions bill and maybe if it'll be different when we get to tax reform. But, as of right now -- I mean, John McCain was out there alone. There was no one else who was going to -- you know, we knew that Collins, we knew that Murkowski weren't getting onboard with this. But there was no show of course alongside John McCain.

It was one man who went out there and decided to take the political bullet on that.

SHEAR: And I'm still not convinced that the base, you know, that 30- whatever percent. I'm still not sure that even a week like this does --

KING: But they love him.

SHEAR: Yes. You're right and so --

KING: But they love him. But they -- it's just interesting. Again, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford sent a memo around the military saying, the president goes on Twitter, and says we're banning transgender individuals from serving in the military.

Now the Pentagon has no idea what he means. They have no idea -- they have no specifics of what he means because he blindsided them. And so you have the top general in the United States military sending a memo saying, "There will be no modifications to the current policy until the president's direction have been received by the secretary of defense and the secretary has issued implementation guidance. In the meantime, we continue to treat all of our personnel with respect."

The ban is just a stunning realization -- example of the dysfunction in government when the top general has to say, well, the president tweeted something but we have no idea what he means. And so stand by, stand down. Keep everything normal. But that's nuts.

SHEAR: And says it publicly. I mean, you know, there might be times in the past when generals and presidents had to sort of go back and forth privately in disagreement. Like to do it publicly is pretty amazing.

BALL: Well, and that's because they don't really have (INAUDIBLE) right? There's not a communication taking place behind the scenes with a deliberative process. So many of these agencies, they don't even have enough staff to run the building and they're finding out about policy from tweets. And so this is the only way to comment on. KING: And the president's on his way up to Long Island for an event. That's where Anthony Scaramucci is from. David Nakamura of the Washington Post just tweeted out a picture. I believe we have it, Anthony Scaramucci on the plane with reporters here. Reince Priebus, the chief of staff is also on that plane. Wish I was.

That would be an interesting place to be. A fly on the wall in disguise as an Air Force steward as you can make your way back and forth through the cabin.

One last point on this, again, Peggy Noonan, not a fan of this president. Although after his big speech in Poland, she was somewhat complementary of him. I heard what she writes in the Wall Street Journal today.

"He's whiney, weepy, and self-pitying. He throws himself sobbing on the body of politics. He's a drama queen. Half of the president's tweets show utter weakness. They are plaintive, shrill little cries usually just after dawn.

Meanwhile, the whole world is watching, a world that contains predators. How could they not be seeing this weakness, confusion and chaos and thinking it's a good time to cause some trouble?"

[12:40:00] That in the Wall Street Journal this morning. Again, it's one editorial voice. A constant critic of the president but that -- traditionally that's a friendly place for a Republican president. (INAUDIBLE) of the Wall Street Journal.

BALL: I would not call her a constant critic. I think she actually gave him a lot more of a chance than a lot of other sort of establishment conservatives. She wasn't out there with George Will and Charles Krauthammer saying, by no means can we attack this person.

She's actually being quite open to the one version of Trump, the populist version of Trump and the idea of that. But what she's finding and what a lot of people who wanted to believe in that fantasy version of Trump are finding is that the reality doesn't live up to that.

KING: It's amazing. Everybody, sit tight. Next, the moment Republican lawmakers have been waiting for seven years and they, well, I think they blew it.

We look back at how we got to this point in the health care debate -- excuse me. And what might happen next.


KING: More now on the collapse of the Republican ObamaCare repeal efforts and what it means or at least what it appears to mean this morning after.

[12:45:03] It was Senator John McCain's vote that was the last straw sending a Republican-only plan to defeat early this morning. Now he says the Republicans should work with Democrats and not have a one-party approach to such a huge critical issue. Maybe you like that vote in position, maybe you're mad at Senator McCain. At least he can claim he's consistent.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: You will have ran through a quote, reform in a strictly partisan basis without the participation of the other party, over the objections of a majority of the American people, done in closed negotiations. The American people don't like it.


KING: He didn't like it then back when they passed ObamaCare with all Democrats, he doesn't like it now. And the Republicans were unable to pass because of Senator McCain's vote.

The questions is -- we talked a little bit about this earlier. Who carries the day? What happens now? And part of it is, what happens in Washington?

Do they try to fix ObamaCare? Part of my question is, what happens in the Republican Party when you have conservatives groups now saying people like Senator McCain, you know, has failed the party? When you have -- talking about potential primary challenges in 2018 and beyond, how does this play out?

BALL: We don't know -- I mean, what I hear from Republicans on the Hill is that today they're just sort of in shock. There hasn't been a lot of planning because this was their last shot and now they don't have a plan b. So there is some regrouping, we've heard some members talking how they want to try to start over. But there really isn't a plan yet from leadership and I think leadership is severely bruised by what happened.

I think there are a lot of Republicans who were severely disillusioned with Mitch McConnell in particular who they really trusted to be a sort of wizard. They thought he was this brilliant legislative tactician who would make it work somehow. And he tried over and over again and, you know -- and he brought something to the floor that he didn't have the votes for.

That's a really hard thing to do as a leader. It means that, if this turns out to be a bad vote politically for people, he's just made a bunch of his members take a very bad vote and they're going to remember that.

SHEAR: And to your point, I talked to conservative this morning before coming on the show who was bitterly complaining about that vote and said what Senator McCain's vote shows is that there's too many Democrats that are in the Republican Party. Too many Republicans who are really Democrats.

And you know, a party that is driven that way with such pressure from folks like the guy I was talking to as well as on the other side. It's very hard to say --

KING: Well, this is the reason too. When I first came to Washington, this is the problem of the Democrats had though. The Democrats have the majority then and the southern Democrats who are more conservative and they would fight with the liberals all the time.

And now those southern Democrats are all Republicans. And so this is the price of victory for Republicans if you will. You have a bigger thanksgiving dinner because you're winning all these races but you have to set Susan Collins down with Ted Cruz and that's hard.

BALL: Well, the Democrats did have the problem when they had 60 votes and that's why they spent a year and a half negotiating, you know, with Joe Lieberman on the right and the liberals on the left to come up with something that everybody would vote for before they brought it to the floor.

DEMIRJIAN: I was just going to say as going back generations of these repeat splits happening with parties that hasn't been as much (INAUDIBLE) even pretend that you're going to talk to the other side before you start the conversation. I mean, there was no, no pretense of that (INAUDIBLE) on this round.

KING: And so one question, do Republicans is going to quite (INAUDIBLE) by themselves and try to figure this out. Can we say -- what's a better mechanism, a better vehicle to -- these are legitimate issues. These are not just personalities (INAUDIBLE), the legitimate philosophical differences about the role of government. Government spending, should Washington be writing rules for health care, you know, in Nebraska or Austin, Texas. That's part of it.

Listen to Trey Gowdy who is now a chairman of the House Committee, not intimately involved in health care but talking more about how do the Republican Party figure out the hard part, which is governing.


REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Our problem is that for seven years we've been telling folk what's we're against and what we're opposed to. And then we had seven months to govern, and the best we can come up with is a skinny plan on 24 hours' notice?

We got to get better at telling people what we believe, why we believe it, and persuading them that it's right for country. We've had plenty of time to do it. We set unrealistic expectations and then never meet them.


KING: Pretty honest assessment whether you're a Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal. It's a pretty honest assessment.

That is one of the defining questions. You know, they won the election in November. They knew they had a Republican president, knew they were going to have to meet this test because they have promised to do it. And whether it was the legislative leaders not working from transition, the president not starting from transition going to these tough districts and saying I'm going to need your vote.

And when she votes with me and you're mad at her blame me, not her. None of that was done. Why?

DEMIRJIAN: Well, first of all, they only had about two months, really, to get ready for this moment because -- or three I guess, most of January. Because they didn't actually think that Trump was going to win. They would have this, you know, complete road proud ahead to be able to do all of these things.

And then at the question of, OK. Because everybody had said for so long that they were, you know, in favor of repealing ObamaCare, they could really get take a quick political vote -- I mean, kind of get this off to the side and not get mired in the way that they did.

[12:50:01] And then the other thing you have to keep in mind is that, yes, Mr. McConnell is a master tactician. Yes, he's really, really good at this job but he has never had to grapple with anything this big, with this many moving parts and this is his first test and couldn't pull it across the finish line.

So I think the first question that you to look at is, does the GOP keep their confidence in him? And if they do, then he can probably use that to do other things going forward (INAUDIBLE). But you got to look -- and he probably wishes that he didn't extend the session for two weeks in August now.


KING: And taxes are just as complicated for different reasons. But you have the same factional, regional philosophical disputes as you do.

Hang tight. We'll be right back. Next, now the health care (INAUDIBLE) shall be moving from the back to the front burner? What's next?

What will the president want Congress to do next? What will the Congress want to do next? We'll be right back.


KING: As we know, the president of the United States this hour on his way to Long Island for an event focusing on cracking down on gangs. On the plane, his Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Also on the plane, his new Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci who has said Reince Priebus is part of the problem. There's Mr. Scaramucci there.

In the few moments we have left, help me understand how the president sort this. And here's one of the things Scaramucci said in addition to all the vulgar attacks against Steve Bannon, against Reince Priebus in the New Yorker interview.

He said, "I'm going to fire every one of them." And when you haven't protected anybody so then the entire place will be fired over the next two weeks.

He's talking about he believes the entire White House staff, especially the communications staff brought in by Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus leaking all the time. Help me.

MURRAY: Well, look, we've talked a lot about the leadership skills of Reince Priebus and the leadership skills of Mitch McConnell. But the leadership skills of the president are the reason that we have this chaotic White House, the reason that we have the chaotic process on the agenda too.

He is on a very small plane right now. This is the small Air Force One with these two guys. He could sit down and say, look, Reince, I'm really sorry but this hasn't been working out. You know, we brought you in to help you us get stuff done on the Hill. It's not going to happen anymore, like he has to go.

Or he could say, Scaramucci, like we're good friends, even have a good relationship. Well, you cannot be running around talking about people like this. You're no longer just my friend. You are my communications director and have to work alongside these people.

We haven't heard him do that. We also haven't heard him delivering agenda to the Hill. People elected him as you said, this fantasy Trump because they thought he was a pragmatist. And that he would say, this is what I want to do with Democrats, Republicans. Whoever wants to do that, get together and make it happen.

[12:55:06] We're not seeing leadership whether it's within the West Wing or whether it's on Capitol Hill from this president. And the (INAUDIBLE).

KING: If you're Steve Bannon or Reince Priebus, the president of the United States has not reputing Anthony Scaramucci since he said this thing. He has not issued a statement saying I told Anthony to shut up, back down or anything. Which to me is the bigger story and the one Anthony Scaramucci said is the fact that the president apparently likes it.

SHEAR: And what a remarkable statement that he's going around firing people? I mean, the quote you read, he's the communications director. I mean, it would be remarkable for the chief of staff to be mouthing off like that because it's ultimately the president who decides who works for him. But --

MURRAY: (INAUDIBLE) the time the Justice Department that they're going to be investigated.

SHEAR: Absolutely. So, at some point you do -- it does feel like the president has to get at least control of the chaos and say something.

KING: All right, well, we'll leave it there. We'll see what the weekend brings. It is Friday, sometimes late Friday afternoon has great drama. In Washington, Sara Murray is counting on it, she's on her way over the White House. Thanks for joining us in the INSIDE POLITICS. I'll see you back here, Monday. Also, up early Sunday morning. If you're up, join us then. Wolf Blitzer in the chair after a very quick break.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1 p.m. here in Washington, 8 p.m. in Moscow, 1:30 a.m., Saturday in Pyongyang, North Korea. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.