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Senate GOP Leaders Eager To Move On; Sen. Paul: Trump Can Use Exec Orders On Health Reforms; Pence Fires More Salvos At Russia From Europe; Lawsuit: Fox Concocted Seth Rich Story With White House Coordination. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 1, 2017 - 12:30   ET



[12:31:19] JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS HOST: Welcome back. Senators gather for their weekly luncheon this hour, and most Republicans have a message for the Trump White House, mind your own business.

The President and his team spent the past few days you probably you know criticizing the GOP Senate saying it should try again to find 50 votes for an Obamacare repeal and replace plan. If you're with us yesterday, for example, you might remember this.


MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: That you promised folks you'd do this for seven years. You cannot go back on that.


KING: Well, that's the White House Budget Director. Here's the response from Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn, who's the number two in the Republican Senate leadership, "I don't think he's got that much experience in the Senate as I recall. He's got big job. He ought to do that job, and let us do our job."

A call, you know all these players. Mick Mulvaney, the Trump Budget Director. He used to be a member of the House.


KING: So, he's viewed skeptically by the Senate anyway.

HULSE: There's an app a take well when a former House member tells him how to do their job. It really struck me over the weekend when they're saying the Senate shouldn't do any votes until they do health care. The Senate is not going to be driven like that. It's a totally bad strategy. You know, they're trying to figure out how to move forward here but Mick Mulvaney is not the answer.

KING: And so -- but the big issue especially for people watching at home is the policy. You know, will the President cut off the subsidies to the insurance companies that will then hurt people, low- income people who get their Obamacare. What will they do about the states that are having exchange problems? Will they do short-term fixes while they debate long-term things?

But part of that plays out and the climate here in Washington and to the point Senator Cornyn and just of one of them. He's not alone. Roy Blunt, also key Republican senator here. "If the question is should we stay on health care until we get it done. I think it's time to move on to something else. Come back to health care where we have more time to get beyond the moment we are in. See if we can put some wins on the board."

Senator John Thune was also in the Republican leadership, "Until someone shows us how to get that illusive 51 vote, I think it's over." These are Republicans. The President was on twitter Saturday, Sunday, Monday saying, don't be quitters. Figure it out.

HULSE: And that they look like fools.

KING: And that they look like fools. Yes, much appreciated on Capitol Hill.

JACKIE KUCINICH, DAILY BEAST BUREAU CHIEF: The fact that they're going to be sweating to that though. And part of it is probably because the --

KING: What does that tell you? Not just on the health care debate. What does it tell you that the Senates essentially telling the Republican President go away?

KUCINICH: They're not afraid of him. They know what is approval ratings are. They know that they're more popular in their states, most of them, than the President, and they know that there's not going to be any repercussions. He can't do anything to them right now.

And all of the idle threats are just falling on deaf ears at this point. This is why it's important to cultivate relationships with these people rather than, you know, been -- you know, stick, stick, stick. There has to be carrots here.

MARGARET TALEV, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG: I think they're also are some things that they recognize or priorities and that they recognize that he is on the cusp of recognizing, our priorities. And then it will be like, we need to get this stuff done and they're just trying to get to it. There's a series of nominations, right, including the FBI nominee Chris Wray.

There's the issue of the debt ceiling and there's the very real issue about some kind of a tax reform or tax cut plan, because look, mid- term season is almost upon us. There's a lot of concern that all of these gains in the markets that the President touts on Twitter, are of a limited time only and that investors expect to see some action or a good-faith sign or movement or something. And all of these things are also sharing their to-do list. They know when their time expires and when they need campaigning.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And I think the President's view on this in talking this from his advisers, he just feels like they were so close to the votes that they that need. And so, he wants to keep hammering. Because when he sees that margin he thinks, you know, we can just push them a little bit harder. We can get there.

What you don't see is, you know, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins go home for the weekend and get free hugs that, you know, every stop and airport they're in.

[12:35:02] John McCain doesn't cast that vote like that and all of a sudden deciding that he's coming back next week and like change his mind. I mean, these are not three votes that are just going to, like, flip on a dime.

HULSE: And Senator McCain, due to his health, he won't be back any way until September. So, the votes just don't exist, you know. At the end of the day, it's a vote-counting exercise and not there. These guys want to do something where it looks like they're doing something. You know, oddly enough, the big legislative achievement so far has been the Russia sanctions.

KING: It's the first big -- if he signs it. We'll get to that in a minute when he signs it. I guess, I want you to listen to Rand Paul here. This is Rand Paul talking yesterday. He says that, you know, he's got some things he thinks can get done and for all the criticism Republicans had about the Obama administration using the executive action, Rand Paul says he's talking to the White House about some executive action on health care.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I'm still very excited about trying to let people join associations across state lines to buy their insurance, and I think he can act by executive order to do this. And so, we've talked to the secretary of labor, and I'm hoping that President Trump will move forward with actually doing some of this through executive action.

I think the President is very open to this. And so, I'm keeping up the dialogue. We ought to try to do something.


KING: Is that going to be the end here that they do something? The bigger questions are, you know, do you make the payments to the insurance companies? The President calls the bailouts. Other people call them subsidies depends on your perspective on Obamacare. That was the bigger question. But is the congressional effort collapses or at least gets put on pause? Is that what's going to happen? Trump administration using executive powers?

HULSE: I mean, executive action is really a sign of weakness if this is what you are resort to and do a few little things around the margins. I mean the big decision is whether to make this cost sharing reduction payments. He can probably do a few things but I don't think that's going to, you know, resolve this issue on either side. KING: Yes. Interesting to watch going forward and we'll watch Republican senators coming out at lunch today. See if they're more open to the President's nudge or more defiant.

Up next, the Vice President talks tough for an adversary that stands. It's tough contrast to the President history of, we might say, less confrontational rhetoric.


[12:41:10] KING: Welcome back. Vice President Pence traveling overseas, some tough words for Vladimir Putin in Russia today.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States of America strongly condemns Russia's occupation on Georgia soil.


KING: That's in Georgia today. It was Estonia yesterday. As the Vice President tries to assure Russia's nervous neighbors, the Trump administration will not allow them to be bullied.


PENCE: At this very moment, Russia continues to seek to redraw international borders by force. President Trump has called on Russia to cease its destabilizing activities. My purpose here today is to reinforce that message.


KING: Now as proof of that commitment, the Vice President made note of new U.S. sanctions about to be imposed on Russia.


PENCE: In signing the sanctions, our President and our Congress are speaking with a unified voice that those matters that the President spoke about so eloquently in Warsaw, about Russian destabilizing activities, about Russia's efforts to support rogue regimes, that has to change. For there to be a change in our relationship with Russia, Russia has to change its behavior.


KING: Well put. Well put in explaining his policy. Is his policy the President's policy? The Vice President there saying, you know, we're about to talk about the unity between the President and Congress on the sanctions bill. The President didn't want the sanctions bill. As a hugely detail proof majority was passed by, therefore, the President had no choice but to sign it.

But he's been sitting on his desk at the White House said he has not signed it, and not only he did not sign, that he has not said anything about it, and he were close to what the Vice President is saying. Why?

HULSE: Well, that would sort of typical what we would expect from an American top official in a place like that, you know, that kind of tough talk about Russia. The White House has been contorting itself a little bit to look like it supports the Russia sanctions bill.

You know, I suspect there might be a signing statement that's going to come out with this bill, and maybe try and loosen some of the provisions. So, maybe they are taking some time to write a signing statement.

KING: For those of you watching at home who don't understand the language what a signing statement, the President sign this into law but I disagree with provision x, provision y, and provision z. I think it ties my hand. Restrictive executive authority. We'll see what they get there.

But the Vice President, he said they talk about how the President is so eloquently explained in Warsaw. Now, the President was in Warsaw before the G20 meeting and he did talk about Russian aggression. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere, and its support for hostile regimes including Syria and Iran. And to, instead, join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and a defense of civilization itself.


KING: He did say that, not as detailed as the Vice President. No mentioned of the election meddling in the speech, but he did say that. The only problem is he undermined himself on the very same trip and the very same town. When asked about Russian election meddling and did it happen, he said this.


TRUMP: Mistakes have been made. I agree. I think it was Russia, but I think it was probably other people and or countries, and I see nothing wrong with that statement.


KING: Are we -- we understand the questions about the election, questions about the legitimacy of his victory get under the President's skin and have kept him from condemning the Russian election meddling. Are we just stuck there? Are we stuck in that time warp and will not break from it, even though he's been president for six months now?

[12:45:02] TALEV: Well, the rest of the administration and the Congress has broken from in is moving on. And to some extent now is tying his hands. Although I think Carl is right about it -- we'll all be looking to see what sort of wiggle room the administration tries to carve out for itself. And in fairness, any administration would.

Barack Obama had this side by a congressional after George Bush had. They also I think would seek to assert at least as much space to try to control the issue as they could. That's part of presidential power. Of course, there's that politics in President Trump's situation loaded on top of it.

But, when you hear Mike Pence speak forcefully, it sends one signal, that this is the U.S. posture. The second signal, which is what I heard the President saying these things. When President Trump himself starts to speaks that way, it will send a different signal.

I think it's destructive that Vladimir Putin did execute those retaliatory moves on U.S., you know, personnel and staff in Russia after the congressional act, rather than waiting for Donald Trump for two reasons. Number one, he knows that the Congress making decisions now. And number two, it is perhaps his effort to try to encourage the President to use as much wiggle room as he can.

KING: And -- please.

MURRAY: No. I mean, I think that Margaret is right. I think it's telling that there were no, or very few, let's say, Republicans who came to the administration's defense. Yes, every administration wants to have more presidential power, but historically I think we would have seen more members of Congress side with the President on that. And maybe weaken the majority with which this was passed by.

We really did not see very many people coming to the administration's defense because they don't trust President Trump on the issue of Russia. Because they have seen the statement he's made publicly and because he doesn't necessarily believe that Russia meddled in our election. And he's inclined to think that, you know, with the 400 pound-manned in his basement who is also helping despite the fact the intelligence agencies don't agree with him on that.

KING: That's the dynamic here in United States. The Republicans don't trust him, and they think he wants to be more friendly with Putin. And one of the reasons the Vice President taking that trip, it's because in the Baltics, which was yesterday, in Georgia today, those governments and if the elected legislatures, they remember during the campaign when President Trump said things like this.


TRUMP: He's not going to going into Ukraine, OK? Just so you understand. He's not going to into Ukraine. All right. You can mark it down. You can put it down. You can take it anywhere you want.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's already there, isn't he?

TRUMP: The people of Crimea, from what I've heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: No, that was candidate Trump. Candidates learn. All candidates learn. Being president is different with the running president, that's one of the reasons when the Vice President travels. The leaders in Estonia and Latvia and Georgia and elsewhere, that's why they want to hear, to heart it again and again and again and again, because they don't -- they have still --

HULSE: They want to be reassured --

KING: There's about president.

HULSE: -- that they actually know -- that the White House actually knows what's going on over there, right?

KING: All right. There's no -- no president -- there's no question the Vice President does. He's won a lot of praise even from Democrats for being out there sometimes pulling the President with him on these issues.

Up next, the lawsuit alleges. The White House had a hand in furthering a reckless conspiracy theory.


[12:52:09] KING: Welcome back. There's a new lawsuit that make some troubling allegations about a story that forced Fox News to issue a retraction. That story concerned Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee aide who was found shot to death in Washington last summer.

A former D.C. detective named Rod Wheeler is suing Fox. Wheeler says the network fabricated a story about the investigation and Wheeler says that story was coordinated with the White House and a wealthy Republican donor. Now, the lawsuit first reported by NPR says the story that Fox ran with was meant to establish that Seth Rich leaked the DNC e-mails to WikiLeaks and thereby shift attention, shift blame away from Russia.

Wheeler also claims that President Trump reviewed drafts of the story before it came out. And that Fox reporter Malia Zimmerman made up quotes from Wheeler, who's also been a Fox News contributor. The network has released a statement saying, "The accusation that published Malia Zimmerman's story to help detract from coverage of the Russia collusion is completely erroneous. The retraction of the story is still being investigated."

The Fox statement says, "And we have no evidence that Rod Wheeler was misquoted by Zimmerman. Additionally, Fox News vehemently denies the race discrimination claims in the lawsuit, the dispute between Zimmerman and Rod Wheeler has nothing to do with race."

This lawsuit, we should always be careful in lawsuit you're filed. Sometimes people had motivations for lawsuits. The facts have to be established in court.

When you look at some of the, a, just the allegation that the President was personally somehow briefed on this, I thought that he was involved in editing the story. Somehow briefed on this and knew about this will be interesting to see play out in court.

One damning piece of information, or at least makes you roll your eyes information about how the business is supposed to work and how it sometimes works in this White House, Sean Spicer confirms that a month before the story ran, Butowsky and Wheeler, the investor and the investigator, met at the White House with Spicer to brief them on what they were uncovering.

KUCINICH: I mean, this is something that started as internet conspiracy theory, and that has made its way at least in terms of, with Sean Spicer, into the White House. And that -- it's problematic. It's troubling. And I would be remiss if I didn't say I just feel terrible for Seth Rich's family that continues to have to deal with this story and hear about it while they're grieving the loss of their son.

KING: Right. Right. Beyond the merits of the lawsuit, it recycles the whole thing for this family, which has been through enough.

MURRAY: Yes, it's perplexing why if you're Sean Spicer, why if you're anyone at the White House you would have taken this meeting? Why would you want to be, in any way, involved in this? The kind of lawsuit that makes you hope that it is wrong. That the President would not actually be involved in this.

And, yes -- I mean, this family lost their son and is now going to have to continue to go through this, because, you know, Fox News and specifically Sean Hannity weren't willing to let it go. So, that's on them now.

[12:55:09] KING: Yes. Well, it's a troubling story. We'll keep an eye on the lawsuit. Again, always be careful when lawsuits are filed. Sometimes people have motivations for the lawsuits, but we will keep an eye on it. Troubling details there.

Thanks everybody for coming in today. I see you back here this time tomorrow. Thanks for joining us in INSIDE POLITICS. Wolf Blitzer in the chair after a quick break.


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

Up first -- the new Chief of Staff takes charge over at the White House, but an old problem resurfaces for the Trump White House. That problem is clearly Russia. The Washington Post reports that the President dictated a misleading statement issued by Donald Trump Jr., his son, about his meeting with a Russian lawyer.

The statement portrayed the meeting as primarily about the adoption of Russian children here in the United States, but e-mails later revealed that Trump's son was hoping to get damaging information on Hillary Clinton. A lawyer for the President has denied in the past that the President played any role in the statement. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR THE PRESIDENT: The President was not, did not draft the response. I do want to be clear. The President was not involved in the graphing of the statement, in denied issue statement. I wasn't involved in the statement drafting at all.