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White House: Trump "Weighed In" On Son's Misleading Statement; U.S. Test Unarmed Intercontinental Ballistic Missile; North Korea Missile Flew Within Miles Of Passenger Jet Flight Path; GOP Senator Announces Bipartisan Hearing On Obamacare. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 2, 2017 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:02] JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS HOST: But, yesterday, two top White House officials made clear, what you just heard the President's lawyer tell you, not true, not even close.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The statement that Don Jr. issued is true, there's no inaccuracy in the statement. The President weighed in as any father would base on the limited information that he had.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: The President said that he weighed in the way any father would on the statement. He wasn't part of the e-mail chain. He wasn't part of the meeting certainly. We all know that nothing came in the meeting. There was no followup. There was no attempt to collude.


KING: Now, the statement of issue of course was Donald Trump's Jr. initial response the world that he organized the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian close to the Kremlin. That initial response crafted with the President's help was inaccurate. The statement said the primary focus of the meeting was Russian adoptions. Donald Trump Jr. himself has since released e-mails showing he took the meeting because he was promised Russian government dirt on Hillary Clinton.

So, in the same answer in which he confirmed the President's lawyer didn't tell the truth, the President's Press Secretary herself twisted the truth. I'm sorry. You hate to say it, but there are credibility questions about this White House. Sean Spicer is gone. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is standing at the podium. Does she have the same issue in the room that people doubt her credibility, questioned her credibility?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And the problem with the boy scouts and the president of Mexico, whether it's creative license or making a point or not is these smaller little more minor lies and mistruths really point to a pattern and practice at the White House of there is just general disregard and it comes from the top to telling the precise trick about things. Whether it's a whopper or it's a slight shading of the truth. As I think, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was engaging in there about Donald Trump Jr.'s initial statements because she made her expounded on that. And actually reveal that there was a lot more that was offered before that discussion took place. So, I mean, I do think that this has created an unmistakable credibility issue for the President and for his aides to speak for him on a daily basis. And it's unavoidable. I mean there's way to for them to address that now. It's the horse has left the barn.

PERRY BACON, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: What will I say as more telling is that the police chiefs came out and criticized the President. The boy scouts came and said no, no. You didn't talk about this. It makes the government came out. The leaks continue.

It seems to me that like Trump is lying as the news itself. But it seems to me that now institutions and other organizations that are coming out and saying, the President has no credibility. He's also was low in the poll. So therefore we have no qualms about criticizing him bluntly in public.

KING: By -- and to that point, the police chief and the president said to saying, you know, you put them in a patty wagon. You should put your hand behind the heads or you can take hand away. And that White House was saying yesterday he was joking. The Attorney General of United State apparent told the law enforcement group that he was joking.

We kind of give our politicians somebody way. Politicians should be allowed to joke, but is that an issue on which anybody, especially the president of the United States should be joking? If we take him at his word that it was a joke for that job.

MOLLY BALL, WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, and I think the Perry's point people have just stopped taking seriously anything he says. It's not questions about credibility at this point. There is no credibility.

KING: I don't mean to interrupt. Repeat what you just said. He's the President of the United States.

BALL: Yes.

KING: He's the president of the United States.

BALL: Yes.

KING: He is the President of the United States. I was raised in a family where you listened to the president of the United States. I'm waiting for my children to tell me, it's OK that I fib, daddy, the President does it all the time.

BALL: I'm not saying it's OK at all.

KING: Yes. No, I get it. It's just the statement -- the -- sometimes these statements he's going to roll through the room that people don't listen to the president of the United States or don't trust what the President of United States say. DAVIS: Well, and the people who do trust and listen to the President of the United States, his core supporters probably love that statement about don't put the hand behind the head when you put them in a patty wagon. That dies and you want to wrapped up the bad guys, just think the bad guys did something wrong and this is rhetoric that appeals to them and Donald Trump knows that. So, I don't actually think that he thinks that's a liability.

BALL: Sure. But that's core is shrinking with every passing day and in part because there is a chipping away. There is a gradual erosion, even with core supporters when these patterns keep happening, when the President's behavior doesn't improve, when he doesn't starting acting, quote, unquote, presidential that does having effect overtime.

And, you know, it's also what makes him so hard to work for. I mean, we've been talking about so much the staff changes this week. I mean, this is why so many people have turn down the job of being the president's lawyer because when you go out there and you act on information that he's given you, you never know whether or not you're telling the truth on his behalf when you're his press secretary, when you're his lawyer.

And so, the new chief of staff, who's going to try to hire a communications director for a president who still thinks it's a communications problems and it's his staff's issue, there's a lot of people who are wary of going in there.

JONATHAN MARTIN, POLITICAL CORREPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Here's the play book and Julie knows this well because she's there in the building every day. If the President says public and on camera, they have to say that he was just joking around if it's totally indefensible. If it's not on camera, then he'll just deny it entirely.


KING: Modern day presidential.

BACON: It's too precious.

KING: It's modern day presidential and straight from the source.

[12:35:07] Up next, that latest ballistic missile launched by North Korea wasn't just a future threat to the United States. It might have posed an immediate threat to an airliner in the neighborhood filled with passengers. Details from the Pentagon just a minute.


KING: The air force today staged what it called the routine test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. You can see it right there at the Monterey, launched from California, traveling some 4200 miles to the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. That's between Hawaii and the Philippines.

An air force statement said it was not a response to recent North Korean missile tests. But it was, the Pentagon says, a demonstration the United States is ready if necessary to response to any threat. North Korea's accelerated testing is a giant concern at the Pentagon.

And now we have this, Pyongyang's latest missile flew within miles of the flight path of an Air France passenger jet. Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon with more on that. Hi, Barbara.

[12:40:04] BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. Well, you know, if you didn't think you had enough to worry about with the North Korea, this is now very much an emerging concern. North Korea has been firing its missiles lately into the Sea of Japan. So, that's off the coast of Japan and especially off the northern coast which is a very busy, heavily trafficked area by both commercial airliners and maritime shipping.

And now, what has emerged is this latest test on Friday, it went into that Sea of Japan area off northern Japan and there was an Air France airliner that passed by that area just seven to nine minutes before the missile hit. Now, the good news is because of the speed of the airliner, it was well beyond the area when the missile impacted.

And we've talked to aviation analysts who say, you know, billions to one chance that it would hit an airliner. But what we are seeing seen already happening is commercial aviation is responding to this by increasingly looking at these areas as high risk potential.

We talked to an aviation analyst a short time ago who told that there's a couple of key air corridors through there that commercial airliners know very well and they might have to consider staying away from them when they fly between Seoul and Japan. Neither of those countries are really, you know, considered war zones, right? But now the North Koreans because they don't notify when they're operating their missiles in these areas, it's now much more a risky proposition. John?

KING: And that's the long lifts of the intractables when it comes to North Korea. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Barbara, thanks so much.

So, how will the Trump administration respond? Some see recent mixed signals as a deliberate good cop, bad cop routine, others suggest perhaps a disconnect between the White House and the State Department. Here's the President. You might remember this in the cabinet room on Monday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll handle North Korea. We're going to be able to handle them. It will be handled. We handle everything. Thank you very much.


KING: And here's the Secretary of State just yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We do not seek a regime change. We do not seek the collapse of the regime. We do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula. We do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th Parallel.

And we're trying to covey to the North Koreans we are not your enemy. We're not your threat but you are presenting an unacceptable threat to us.


KING: Is there a disconnect there of sometimes good cop and bad cop? You know, and sometimes good cop/bad cop said a bad thing. The President self-campaigns saying a life would be unpredictable. His language in the cabinet room was not specific but it sounds much killer. It sounds confrontational. The Secretary of State seems to be, hey, let's sit down and talk. We can fixture this out.

DAVIS: Well, I think the disconnect we're seeing is actually the one that Molly was pointing to on the communications front before which is that it's very hard to be a diplomat in the Trump administration. I mean, this President is not afraid to talk very tough and to be very confrontational.

And sometimes over and beyond what his -- the people that are working for him are prepared to follow up on. I mean, we saw this last week with him tweeting out that his banning transgender troops from the military. And then there was no policy work to heads-on on behind that.

So, when he says, we'll handle it, you never know whether that's just him talking tough or whether they're actually working on the plan behind the scene to handle it. Rex Tillerson's job is actually to handle it. And I think he had concluded that the only way to handle at this point is with diplomacy and that hasn't yielded much to fit for them as far.

BALL: Well, in to your question though, if there are disconnects, there's absolutely a disconnect. I mean, it's a reported fact that the White House and the State Department are badly estranged. And there had -- and this is not the first time they have seem to be speaking out of different types of the same mouth. And so, I think that just Julie said, you know, Tillerson is in the top spot and the upshot of it is that a lot of foreign countries around the world, allies and enemies alike don't know where America stands right now.

KING: Right. He's in the tough spot because he inherited a problem that goes back several administrations and because of his boss sometimes shall we say moving the barber (ph) without the State Department knowing it or in a way.

Conference, and listen here to Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican Senator on Capitol Hill often accredited the administration but he say's he listen to Secretary Tillerson yesterday. He had some empathy for the position because it's such a difficult issue, but --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you heard a clear message on this from --

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: No, Secretary Tillerson is trying to convince the Chinese and North Koreans that we don't want regime change. We're not trying to unify the peninsula, I get that. But if John Kerry have said what he said, what be all over and --


KING: To your point?

MARTIN: Of course, absolutely. I mean, that kind of talk would have raised the hackles of the hawkish corners of the party in a bigger way and it would come down on John Kerry and you would have seen scathing editorials in various magazines and from certain centers like Lindsey Graham. So, now, they'll give Tillerson a certain pass.

[12:45:02] I think there's also a measure of sympathy, John, from some of these senators for Tillerson. Because what you said he is trying to delicately, you know, as a word diplomatically, convey a message then the President just say, we're going to handle this, we're going to handle this. And it's like every ally, every senators will what does that mean, we're going to handle it, you know?

KING: We've heard this many times in the administration, but I just don't know whether to believe it at this time. But again, you see headlines they're contemplating tough actions against China because they're disappointed with China, again, about every other week. Since the administration started, they're about to crack down on Chinese trade practices. We'll see if it happens. But to the point Molly, you were making earlier about the President, you know, trying to conduct foreign policy by tweet.

In Xinhua, the Chinese government newspaper editorial today, I'm sorry, the other day they've said this, "Trump is quite a personality, and he likes to Tweet. However emotional venting cannot become the guidance for solving the nuclear issues on the Korean peninsula."

This is the Chinese newspaper and that's the words of the Chinese government. So, things don't show up. Things don't show up on those editorial page which unless they're blessed by the government. Emotional venting cannot become the guidance to solve the Korean problems.

BACON: That's probably true. I only say in this case, this is the rare issue where I don't think it's necessarily a Trump issue. It's not clear to me what President Bush or President Obama would have usually done. They would have had more organized process. They would have had more clear language.

But ultimately, the North Koreans want to had to missile test is going to be vary and they want to have nuclear weapon. It's not clear what the U.S. policy response can ultimately be to stop them from doing these things. BALL: Well, and I think the best to me, the most interesting part of Trump saying we'll handle North Korea. Yes, it's vague. Yes, it's a little bit aggressive but it's also in the future tense because they haven't handled it yet. And this is just one of many areas where Trump is going to come in and solve the problem like our stupid politicians couldn't give afford because it was so simple.

And it's still we're going to do it. We're going do it. Two weeks from now, we'll finally do it. They haven't risk.

KING: Well -- and, you know, the North Korea is complicated. Hold your thought. We're going to take quick a break.

When we come back, the President wants Senate Republicans to get back to work on Obamacare repeal. Senate Republicans answer? No sir.


[19:51:17] KING: Welcome back. Set aside for a moment the giant disagreements between Republicans and Democrats on the future of Obamacare. The most important gap at the moment is an internal Republican affair, a stare down between Senate GOP leaders and the Trump White House.


MIKE MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: Let's not move on from health care just because you failed by one vote. The President isn't giving up on health care and neither should the Senate.


KING: But the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says, sorry, Mr. President, the Senate won't immediately try again. And as he made that crystal clear, he also fired back at the President's weekend tweet storm suggesting that somehow a change in Senate rules might help.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: It's pretty obvious that our problem with health care was not the Democrats. We didn't have 50 Republicans. There are not the votes in the Senate as I have said repeatedly to the President and to all of you to change the rules of the Senate.


KING: No, sir. That was the long way of saying, no, sir, Mr. President.

So up next, if you can believe within today's politics, maybe you try it bipartisanship. Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander says he's working with Democrats to hold hearings on the biggest immediate health care challenges, "If your house is on fire, you want to put out the fire. And the fire in this case is the individual health insurance market. Both Republicans and Democrats agree on this."

So two questions for the table. Number one, pretty remarkable, the Senate Majority Leader saying go away to the White House.

BALL: Not for the first time.

KING: Not for the first time, but it seems to be getting a little bit more pointed there.

BALL: In the most public term (ph).

KING: Yes. And then we were joking during the break about Ouija board. What would Ouija board tell us of this question of can Washington actually do something bipartisan, a temporary, small, moderate fixes to Obamacare?

BALL: I do think there is bipartisan -- a bipartisan desire to get this done. On the part of Republican, it's more like panic. They are very concerned about the political fallout of the President's suggested strategy of sabotaging Obamacare, making it fail, undermining it so that people's health care gets worse and then the Democrats all run ads say, see, Republicans want to just make your health care worse. That, you know, what Trump does is not necessarily the biggest political problem for Republicans in 2018 when they're on the ballot and he isn't, because a lot of voters really do see them as separate entities.

A lot of voters really don't blame Republicans and Congress when they get mad at Trump. But what they will, I think, hold Republicans and Congress accountable for is whatever does or doesn't get done on health care.

DAVIS: I think the big issue here is whether they can keep it to contain to just what comes up in those bipartisan discussions, right. I think there is certainly a fast forward if they were able to, you know, get together with some ideas and there are some bipartisan ideas about ways to improve the Affordable Care Act. And perhaps attach them to the reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program, which has to be done before they leave for the year. I say has to be done with a great result because we've seen Congress push off things repeatedly. But that's one must have seeing in a lot of member's eyes.

And so, you know, you could see a possibility for some sort of a bipartisan thing to take hold. The question is, can they hold votes on something like that without -- and resist the temptation to try to attach in these more partisan issues that have separated them on the broader bill.

KING: Right.

DAVIS: And then you get back to where you started and you'll have the President tweeting, you know, unhelpful things that could crater the whole thing. So --

KING: Is this divide, is it just, you know, people are still wounded, temperature is still high after the failure of health care or is there a significant break between the Republicans and Congress and the White House to the point of Mitch McConnell talking there.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the White House yesterday was asked about the President's legislative agenda whether, you know, he was hurting it by the Russia cloud and all those other things. She said quote, I think what's hurting the legislative agenda was Congress inability to get things passed. So clearly, each side is perfectly willing right to poke each other, would it last?

[12:55:07] MARTIN: Shotgun marriage. And I think it's been -- that the problem has been exacerbated by the health care, at the back of what didn't start there certainly. Trump has gotten no loyalty to the institutional party, and institutional party feel the same way about him. And so, when the times turn tough, they're not going to hang with each other like this at all.

But in fairness to Trump -- I mean, obviously he's more floored in what he says and does and how he says it. But it's not new for a president to shift blame on to Congress when things don't go well for them. I think every president likes to blame Congress when they lose a vote or an election. It's just that -- it's frustrating for McConnell, I think, because it's not just his call, there aren't the votes there to change the rules of the Senate and Trump knows that. But he just wants to sort of like kick at them, and that's the easy way to do it.

BACON: Change the rules. We'll see tax reform coming up.

KING: Tax reform coming up, we'll see. Well put, we'll see.

Thank you for joining us in INSIDE POLITICS today. Thanks everybody for coming in. Have a good today. See you back here tomorrow, Wolf Blitzer in the chair after a quick break.


WOLF BLITZER: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, 6:00 p.m. in London, 8:00 p.m. in Moscow. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

Up first, President Trump tackle some major --