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Sources: Manafort Raid 'Rattled' Trump's Inner Circle; Trump To Receive High-Level Security Briefing Today; Senator Walks Back McCain Brain Tumor Comment. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 10, 2017 - 12:30   ET



[12:32:49] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Now, to the FBI search of a home belonging to former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort. Sources tell CNN the pre-dawn raid last month rattled a few cages in president inner circle.

This as CNN's polling shows nearly 60 percent disapproval the way the president is handling the Russia probe. And amongst mostly whites, non-college educated voters, a big part of the president's base that disapproval number goes down to 48 percent.

Let's discuss, and Mary Katherine Ham rejoins our panel. Actually, Mary Katherine, I'll start with you. You know, I mean, how much have we talked about this being, this notion of the Russia investigation being a distraction for the White House. But now that you have the -- his chairman, former campaign chairman, I should say, with a raid, which was apparently clearly focused on financial ties.

MARY KATHERINE HAM, THE FEDERALIST: Well, again, a former campaign chairman about whose Russia ties can sort of shave the financial dealings we talked about a lot when he was hired by the campaign to be with delegate that was his original -- during the campaign that was his original intention or reason for being there.

Look, this guy was in on the meeting that Donald Trump Jr. had. The one that says, I want to work with you to undermine Hillary. It's just like the clearest evidence we have that something weird was going on here even it's not the global conspiracy. And if you're investigating Trump and Russia and their involvement, you have to investigate the guy who's the head of the campaign, who had financial ties to Russia. I think that's of a piece naturally.

BASH: And I should just say that a spokesman for Paul Manafort, Jason Meloni, said the FBI agent executed a search warrant at one of Mr. Manafort's residences. Mr. Manafort has consistently cooperated with law enforcement and other serious inquiries and did so on this occasion as well.

Richard Blumenthal, senator from Connecticut, who's on the judiciary said, apparently there is now no question of clear evidence connecting Paul Manafort to some criminal wrongdoing.

JACKIE KUCINICH, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, the FBI doesn't do this if they think people are being forthcoming.

BASH: Right.

KUCINICH: And they don't say, OK, we're going to check your house. They actually have to get someone to give them that warrant in order, and think some of that they need to be able to go into someone's home which is very high bar.

[12:35:09] So, clearly, this is -- this shows that this is expanding. And that's why you see it rattling the cages in the White House because it's not going away. It's not getting better. It seems to be getting worse, for Trump associates.

BASH: Carl, what are you hearing on the Hill? And as I asked you that, I should just show another part of CNN's polling. Should Mueller, the special counsel, be able to investigate Trump's finances, 70 percent of the public said, yes?

So, the president might call that a red line, lots of red lines. But this is the Russia red line. We'll try to keep them straight going into his finances. But it doesn't sound like there's a lot of appetite for defending him on this?

CARL HULSE, NEW YORK TIMES: Yes. I think that I agree with Jackie. Search warrants, grand juries, you know, these show that this is a real thing. You know, the White House can say it's a witch-hunt that there is nothing to this. But, you know, there's actual criminal investigation matters going on.

And I think that, you know, think people on the Hill understand the financial aspect of this, right? If there's some kind of business dealing with Russia that would lead to compulsory collusion, they know that it's going to get looked at. They're used to that.

I think you'll -- I mean you'll hear some of the president's strongest supporters, Newt Gingrich and others say you can't go there. But they think on the Hill, they're going there a little bit themselves anyway.

BASH: Oh yes.

KUCINICH: Well, and they have at least still haven't seen the president's books. We haven't seen his tax returns. So, this -- that also, not to be a broken record over here, but that also, there's so much unknown with that.

BASH: There is.

KUCINICH: That remains from the campaign. And members of Congress haven't seen them either. So, that opens up a lot of questions.

HAM: And I think I'm somebody who is concerned. Look, if not accused of the crime, how far can you go into somebody's life in digging up things until you find a crime? But I do think that the financial dealings with Russia specifically by people on the campaign are probably within that box and something you need to be looking into. And there has to be some limiting factor after that. But I do think that this kind of thing seems within the range.

BASH: OK. Guys, as we're speaking something interesting that's going on in New Jersey. Something always interesting --


BASH: -- but I can say that. But is what is happening right now a power lunch at the president's New Jersey golf resort.

Vice President Pence joining President Trump on a working vacation that he is having, that is happening -- that lunch is happening this hour. We'll talk about it after the break.


[12:40:32] BASH: This hour President Trump is set to host his vice- president for lunch at his national golf club in New Jersey. Now, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is also expected to arrive there today.

On the president's agenda is a high-level security briefing by his national security team. Now, all of this is coming at a crucial time for the president amid the nuclear tensions we've been talking about with North Korea.

Let's bring in our Senior White House Correspondent Jeff Zeleny at the White House. And, Jeff, how is the White House responding to the latest North Korean threat?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Dana. So far the president himself and the White House have not responded directly to that, very strong words from North Korea last evening, when they -- it went directly after the president. You know, the president has been urged by some of his advisers to not respond, to allow this moment to cool, if you will.

We do expect to hear from him later today. He is meeting, as you said, with his vice-president and later with other national security officials. So even though the president and vice-president are not here at the White House, Dana, I can tell you, the National Security Council which is housed on the grounds here, the White House Complex, they are watching North Korea very carefully, all of these potential developments here.

And so interesting to see, you know, what the president is going to say, you know, in response to that very personal, those very personal comments last evening that went directly after him. But Sarah Huckabee Sanders the White House Press Secretary told reporters in New Jersey this morning that the president's view has not changed. He still stands by that to fire and fury response he said a couple days ago.

We do know that was improvised. But now it feels to me, Dana, the White House and the rest of the administration is trying to find a strategy to adapt to that. And one more thing, the president is getting his security briefing later this afternoon. That is something that is a normal course of business for most presidents.

This president has not received it every day. He said he didn't believe it was necessary to receive every day. But they are pointing out, of course, that this working vacation is a working vacation indeed today, emphasis on the working. That's why the vice-president is there in New Jersey as well, Dana.

BASH: Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much for that report. And let's start right there on the vice-president being there. It seems like, you know, all of our news is like in dog-ears now because things happen so fast that are all monumental. But it was just the beginning of this week that the big story line was the vice-president of "New York Times" report suggesting that the vice-president was preparing his own political future just in case.

And the vice-president's team pushed back hard saying, no, he was just working on getting money and massaging donors because he was doing it for the team. But this is the first time that these two men are going to be face-to-face since the president was up in New Jersey. And, you know, you both know Mike Pence pretty well, because he was a house member. Given his personality, do you suspect that he's going to, you know, be extra --

HULSE: I think he will be --

BASH: -- averting --

HULSE: -- assuring, reassuring the president over lunch than he would never think about running for president while the President Trump was in the White House. And he wants to get that message across.

Obviously, you know, there was an alarm that the president was going to just go after his own vice-president. But at the same time, you know, it would have been political malpractice for Mike Pence not to be getting ready for something in the future. I mean, he's the vice- president. He's an important person in the party. You know, he needs to have a political organization. But I guess there's a way you have to do it. Not to irritate your president.

KUCINICH: But to know Mike Pence is to know he's always wanted to run for president. I mean that was kind of the -- that -- you heard that about Mike Pence way back when he was a Republican Conference Chair. And it's also is in contrast to what the president wasn't doing. Mike Pence has been on the campaign trail. He's been -- he's been raising money for Republican candidates.

You haven't seen the president. So he's been selling what the Congress is doing with health care. You haven't seen the president do that in the same way that Mike Pence has. So, and he does have an unusual path that you haven't seen other vice-presidents. So there was reason, there is definitely in New York, and there was nothing in that "New York Times" piece that they said was, that they could say what pinpoint and say that's inaccurate.

BASH: Because it's the Trump years, as you were talking, Donald Trump tweeted again about Mitch McConnell. And I want to tell everybody what he just said. Mitch, get back to work, and put repeal and replace tax reform and cuts and a great infrastructure bill on my desk for signing. You can do it.

[12:45:09] Maybe he saw our new poll numbers and thought, OK. I'm on this train and not getting off of it. But, you know, Jeff, as I come to you, I was -- it was suggested to me by an administration source today perhaps a message would at least attempt to be sent to the president to try to tone it down with Mitch McConnell. Maybe even the vice-president was going to deliver that message. Who knows? A message has not been delivered yet.

JEFF MASON, REUTERS: How often have those messages been sent? It's just not President Trump's style. And again, whether it's on Mitch McConnell, or whether it's on North Korea, or whether it's on his own advisers in the White House. He uses Twitter and he lashes out. All to be a fly on the wall in at that meeting with Mike Pence for multiple reasons to talk about or to see what they say about the 2020 election but also North Korea and also Mitch McConnell.

BASH: And the question is that we have been asking is and I guess we're already getting answers by the minute. And the answer to this is that I'm about to post is, no. But can John Kelly, the former Homeland Security Secretary, now his new chief of staff, try to manage this at all? And he's now adorning a magazine cover that the president's loves which is "Time Magazine".

I think we have it to be showed up on the screen. There you go, which is not always a good sign for the person who is on that magazine cover when it comes to the president and how he views that person. Because there's generally only room for one face in the administration on the "Time Magazine", cover and that's the president himself.

HAM: No. I would like to say, "Time," are you trying to mess this up for us? No. It is like, no, I think that he can govern a little bit of this. But he is not going to take it over the Twitter account. I think you saw the first whisperings of Trump perhaps being upset that there was talk of that which, you know, that's not the path you want to go down with Trump and it's difficult not to go down it, which is what Pence is doing right now.

These are all more traditional actors in a very unorthodox environment. And that rocky marriage is not always going well for them. And I think for Pence, the paths of ambition and self- preservation align. And it means having lunch with Trump and assuring him that this is not what you're doing because the normal orthodox thing to do looks threatening to Trump. But same with McConnell, these guys are doing the things that you would do in a normal Republican presidency, but they are dealing with a guy who they can't predict on the other end.

BASH: OK. We have a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about up next. Including a Senate Republican making a stunning suggestion about why John McCain voted against repealing Obamacare. And now he's walking back that controversial comment. We'll explain, after the break.


[12:51:51] BASH: Senator Ron Johnson says he was just misunderstood. The Republican from Wisconsin wants you to know at home that he was just being sympathetic when he suggested that John McCain's brain tumor drove him to vote no on the Obamacare Repeal Bill.

Now, let me remind you what you Senator Johnson said in a radio interview on Tuesday.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: We did get a call from Paul and he assured us that skinny repeal is not going pass in the House it would have to go to conference. Again, I'm not going to speak for John McCain, you know, he has a brain tumor right now, that vote occurred at 1:30 in the morning, some of that might have factored in.

I don't know exactly what, we really thought that -- and again, I don't want to speak for any senator. I really thought John was going to vote yes to send that conference at 10:30 at night. By about 1:00, 1:30, he voted no. So, you have talk to John in terms of what was on is mind.


BASH: Well, Senator Johnson tried to put some distance between himself and that comment you just heard saying yesterday that he wishes he had been more eloquent. He was on CNN's "NEW DAY" this morning.


JOHNSON: I was trying to defend his position and truthfully, I just express my sympathy for his health condition. So, again, I've reached out to John. I'm hoping to talk to him today. I just have the greatest respect for John McCain.


BASH: Set the moment where if you're working for Ron Johnson, you're just like trying to send messages with your mind. Stop. Stop talking. Stop using words. No more.

HAM: Yes, It's a bad move. You want to try very, very lightly when somebody obviously has a very serious health condition and in the context to his vote, it's about health care. But Johnson is not known as a mean guy or anything so I'm very confident McCain and Johnson will work it out between each other. Not a great look for him, though.

BASH: Well, let's talk about John McCain who did a Facebook live chat yesterday and as part of it, he addressed his disease. Let's listen.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Look my friends. This is a very malicious disease. But I've had other challenges in my time as well. And I don't mean to be repetitious, but to my Democrat friends and some of my Republican friends, I'm coming back.


HULSE: That's a threat.

BASH: And a promise.

HULSE: I mean, one thing about Senator Johnson, he should have stuck to his decision not to speak for other senators. And, you know, we all covered that. He was so obvious that John McCain knew exactly what he was doing for hours there.

This was not -- we've all seen him like to a seat of the pants thing. This was not anything like this. This was a really thought-out decision. I mean, you know, Ted Kennedy had the same disease. Wasn't able to actually function in the Senate as much as McCain. Looks like he's trying to do. I'm sure he will be back honestly.

BASH: Carl and the rest of you, I want you to see another moment, television moment that Ron Johnson had this morning on "NEW DAY."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's get through some of your big points.

JOHNSON: So, this is the morning broccoli here? Let's start with just the basic fact what our health care system is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Appreciate they're saying ...

[12:55:00] JOHNSON: You know, the Powerpoint, this is fabulous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're saying that John King may have competition and it is embarrassing to me that in your first time out you're way better using the wall than I am. But senator, thank you.

JOHNSON: I'm a business guy.


BASH: First of all, Powerpoint. OK, it's the magic wall. But, you know, I don't know. He's usually in this chair. Maybe he should or maybe be happy that Ron Johnson won his re-election so that he's free from the anchor chair the next six years.

KUCINICH: I'm just saying it, have a game show like a magic wall of.

BASH: Powerpoint.

KUCINICH: Powerpoint.

HAM: That's the Senator Johnson we know and he shows some promise with his moves there, for sure. BASH: Yes, no question. Yes, no, no. As he said, he's a business guy. He knows some Powerpoint. Or as we say in the T.V. there's the magic wall. Thank you so much for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS.

Wolf Blitzer is up right after a break.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Its 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, 8:00 p.m. in Moscow, 3:00 a.m. Friday in Guam, wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

[13:00:08] Up first, President Trump about to huddle with his national security team as North Korea ups the ante regarding his threat against the United States --