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Harvey Pummels Texas, Brings Catastrophic Flooding; Trump White House Makes Headlines as Hurricane Makes Landfall; Trump Increases Attacks on Fellow Republicans. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired August 27, 2017 - 08:00   ET



[08:00:10] NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): Hurricane Harvey brings life-threatening floods and strong winds.

President Trump faces his first natural disaster test.

Plus, a presidential pardon.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll make a prediction. I think he's going to be just fine. OK?

HENDERSON: Trump's executive powers in play with Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

And back to work in back at odds.

TRUMP: One vote away. I will not mention any names. Very presidential, isn't it? Very presidential.

HENDERSON: Why Trump is going after members of his own party while looking for a legislative win.

INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, now.


HENDERSON: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Nia Malika-Henderson. John King is off today. To our viewers in the United States and around the world, thanks for joining us.

We'll get to politics in a moment, but first, Tropical Storm Harvey. Texas is dealing with continuing downpours and widespread flooding because the storm has stalled. Even though Harvey's sustained winds are down to 45 miles an hour, it's forecast to continue dumping rain for days. At least two deaths have been confirmed and Houston officials say at least 1,000 people were rescued overnight and more requests are coming in.

A short time ago, the local sheriff told CNN the floodwaters are getting deeper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SHERIFF ED GONZALEZ, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS: We're receiving information that the rainfall totals over several hours -- this, of course, is not dated but has already eclipsed the 500-year rain level mark. And so, that's pretty severe, over 10 to 20 inches of water in some places. It's still rising. A few hours ago, we're hearing of six feet of water going into some homes and some of the southern part of our area.

So, you know, of course, with it happening overnight, it's kind of difficult to really put eyes on everything and assess the damage. Whenever possible, try to do some aerial assessment to get a better lay of the land. It definitely seems catastrophic. And, unfortunately, sad to say we may be getting more rain coming our way.


HENDERSON: Our Rosa Flores is in Houston.

Rosa, what's the situation you're seeing now in Houston?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Nia, it is overwhelming just how much water is in Houston right now, and as you can see, it's still raining. It's difficult to fathom how much water has ponded here.

But I want to show an area where we were live two hours ago, we can't go there anymore because the water has completely covered that area where we were. It's probably about a block from where I'm standing. Now, yesterday, we were doing lives beyond that.

If you can imagine this, where you see those -- the tree tops, that's actually a hill that goes down to the banks of the Buffalo Bayou. That Buffalo Bayou is now a gushing river, rushing towards the Gulf of Mexico. The streets are now ponds in areas. In other areas, they're gushing like rivers as well.

There is a ramp that goes on I-35 north towards Dallas. That ramp is completely covered in water as well. There are people with power outages. We just saw Center Point Energy personnel here checking the building that's to my right. This building to my left, you'll see that residents in this apartment building of about 100 units.

They're creating a dam to stop the water from going into the first floor, the area we are park their vehicles. They've been working on this for about an hour now. They keep on adding height to that because the water keeps on creeping up closer and closer to their building.

Nia, it is just difficult to fathom how much water is accumulating. This city is a city of bayous. These bayous meander through neighborhoods like they do through downtown. So, imagine these bayous creeping through neighborhoods and getting closer and closer to homes, 911 center is at capacity.

That's the last tweet that I saw from the city of Houston. The advice from city leaders here was that people needed food and water for four or five days because this was going to be a marathon. It really took a turn for the worst last night when it started raining.

As you can see, Nia, around me, it is still raining. Very bad news for Houston as the water continues to accumulate, continues to rise and become very, very dangerous.

I'll leave you with this picture before I toss over to you. You see floating debris. Floating debris as it rushes through these bayous that have now turned to raging rivers -- Nia.

[08:05:04] HENDERSON: And, Rosa, that unfortunately expected to be pretty heavy for the next coming days. You be safe out there and Godspeed to the residents of Houston. Thank you, Rosa.

We'll have another live update on the Texas situation in a little a bit.

Now, let's turn to the political fallout. Saturday, President Trump sent this tweet: Closely monitoring hurricane Harvey from Camp David, we are leaving nothing to chance. City, state, federal governments are working great together.

But as Hurricane Harvey moved in Friday night, the White House made quite a few headlines of its own. First, President Trump blocked an Obama-era plan that allows transgender individuals to join the military. Whether transgender Americans currently serving in the military can still remain in the military is still an open question. Also on Friday night, Sebastian Gorka, Trump's outspoken and combative counterterrorism adviser, left the White House.

And, finally, President Trump former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio, he became a controversial national figures because of his treatment of prisoners and undocumented immigrants and critics have accused him of racially profiling Latinos. Arpaio was convicted last month of criminal contempt of court for defying a judge's order to stop detaining people based solely on suspicion and not for cause.

Now, Trump praised Arpaio during his campaign and took an interest, once he became president, in his legal troubles and the admiration is clearly mutual.


JOE ARPAIO, FORMER MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA SHERIFF: He's a big supporter of law enforcement. I know it came from his heart. Two years ago, I supported him for his rally and I always said, regardless of pardon or no pardon, I'll be with him to the end and I say that.


HENDERSON: Trump hinted at a pardon earlier this week at his rally in Phoenix.


TRUMP: So, was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job? That's what -- he should have had a jury but, you know what? I'll make a prediction. I think he's going to be just fine. OK?


HENDERSON: Here to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Manu Raju, Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times", Margaret Talev of "Bloomberg Politics" and CNN's Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, I'm going to start with you on this. You think of just kind of big picture about this news dump that started on Friday, why did it happen? Some saying, well, maybe Donald Trump wanted it to get buried by the news coming out of Texas. Others said maybe he wanted the eyeballs clearly on the news because of the hurricane.

What's your -- what's your take on it?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it's so interesting that the president wants to do so many things at one time. I mean, I'm not sure he didn't want to sort of hide this news. He didn't want to draw attention to it for his base.

We've learned one thing as we near the end of this really very interesting month of August, you can change the people in the offices of the West Wing. You can change the staff. You can change a lot of people. The president is going to be exactly the same.

And he is going to directly after his base. That's his strategy. That's this entire Arpaio situation.

Yes, the new chief of staff, John Kelly, can have effects on the margins. That's one reason Sebastian Gorka is not there anymore. However, the president is sending a message that he is going to be the same as he was with Steve Bannon there or not there, and by going -- you know, throwing his full support behind Sheriff Joe Arpaio, he is sending a message to his base that they are the most important. They are the people who brought him to this dance.

Now, the question here is, what comes next, the legislatively here. I mean, has he so alienated himself from some Republicans that impact him or not? We're ending this month in a very different position than we started, and it's harder for anyone who works in the West Wing to get anything done.

HENDERSON: Yes, and you mentioned alienating some fellow Republicans. They came out, a number of them.

Paul Ryan came out after this decision and said, through a spokesperson: The speaker does not agree with this decision. Law enforcement officials have a special responsibility to respect the rights of everyone in the United States. We should not allow anyone to believe that responsibility is diminished by this pardon.

Also, John McCain, who hasn't been a fan, obviously, of this president, came out and said the president has the authority to make this pardon but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of the rule of law, as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions. Margaret, here is Donald Trump doing what he has been doing for a

while. And that is poking the establishment wing of his party.

MARGARET TALEV, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: Both Republican senators, in this case, in the state of Arizona, and then one of the Republicans challenging Jeff Flake came out in favor of the political issue, a pardon.

[08:10:06] HENDERSON: Yes, Kelly Ward, yes.

TALEV: I mean, the president not only signaled to the base that he's going to live up to his promises but he also -- and we don't know yet how deliberate this was, how incidental it was, but signaled to anyone who might be in trouble, who is a Trump loyalist, that at least in this case, he will stand by those people who stood by him. And there's been a lot of speculation about whether there's any intention to signal anything to the folks in the Mueller probe. I think that's all speculation at this point, but it certainly explains why this is such a controversial dynamic.

This is a situation where the president certainly has very broad powers to exercise pardons. All presidents do. It's unusual to do it presentencing.

HENDERSON: Right. And without consulting the Justice Department.

TALEV: A lot of the things about this case are unusual and that's why it's so subject to discussion. But unless somebody wants to challenge it in court -- I know there's been discussion about that, too, but I'm trying to see like the upside of that.

JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes. I was going to say, I think the Ryans and McCains of the world do have a legitimate gripe of the process of how this pardon came down.

What do John McCain, Jeff Flake and Paul Ryan all have in common? Well, all of them have in common is a fundamental difference with Donald Trump about what they see as the future of the Republican Party. They want a party that's more inclusive, that's expansive, that is big hearted, that basically is in the spirit of the Party of Lincoln that welcomed all people and that, you know, goes beyond the, frankly, older white male base of the party.

HENDERSON: And they feel that Hispanic --


MARTIN: Especially Arizona, fast growing state, increasingly Hispanic state. The McCains and Flakes of the world look at demography and think doubling down on Sheriff Joe -- you know, in the short term, perhaps not a bad play, but political death in the long run.


MARTIN: But I think that that's what they're really saying with is, is yes, we're going to cite legal issues. But in the back of their minds --

HENDERSON: They're thinking about the brand of the Republican Party.

MARTIN: Of course, absolutely.

HENDERSON: Manu, do we expect other also come out? I understand Mitch McConnell hasn't won his comment on this so far.

RAJU: He has been excellent.


RAJU: Yesterday, I reached out to his office and they said that -- they're referring questions on this to the White House.

HENDERSON: Conveniently.

RAJU: So, last night, McConnell was in public -- speaking at a Kentucky Republican event, he did not speak about this issue there. He's actually avoided most public comments about Trump since that August 9th speech when he gave that rather mild criticism of Trump, saying he has excessive expectations coming in. Of course, that set off Trump and that also led to Jonathan's article this last week.

HENDERSON: Yes, which we're going to get to that in the next block, yes.

RAJU: We're going to get to that later. But I do think that, you know, Republicans are happy that they're on recess this month.


RAJU: Because a lot of them could avoid talking about these controversial issues. But Arpaio pardon was so controversial even if the president did try to bury it in the hurricane, there are so many questions are outstanding. "Washington Post" reporting yesterday about potentially that the president discussed this issue with the attorney general.

HENDERSON: Months ago.

RAJU: Months ago to back off prosecuting Sheriff Joe. Arpaio supposedly is going to talk to the press tomorrow, too. So, a lot of questions still remain in exactly what happened.

HENDERSON: And Republicans won't be able to avoid those questions once they come back to Washington.

The president is up and tweeting, praising the first responders. Up next, it's the president versus Congress. Why Trump is going after Republicans at the same time he's trying to tackle a looming legislative to-do list.


[08:17:57] HENDERSON: Even though hurricane Harvey came ashore Friday night, it's now a bit weaker. It continues to cause torrential rains and floods. We'll have a live update on the situation in a little bit. But those images coming in from Rockport and it will likely to be more dangerous as more rain is expected over the next couple of days.

Here is where part of Trump's agenda stands right now. The Affordable Care Act still the law of the land. The border wall still not built.

So, now, President Trump is also turning to tax reform. On Wednesday, he's traveling to Missouri for a speech on changing the tax code.

His list also includes other not so easy agenda items: the $1 trillion infrastructure plan, something that the president wants, but his party isn't too eager to tackle, as well as the looming debt ceiling and budget negotiations which could lead to GOP infighting.

But tough words that the president has had for his fellow Republicans probably won't help him get any of those things done. During Tuesday's Phoenix rally, Trump name dropped the Senate majority leader and not in a good way.

And he also hit Senators McCain and Flake without even saying their names.


TRUMP: One vote away. I will not mention any names. Very presidential, isn't it? Very presidential.

And nobody wants me to talk about your other senator, who is weak on borders, weak on crime. So I won't talk about him. Nobody wants me to talk about him. Nobody knows who the hell he is.


HENDERSON: In keeping the feud with Leader McConnell feeling fresh, Trump tweeted on Thursday: The only problem I have with Mitch McConnell is that after hearing repeal and replace for seven years, he failed. That should never have happened.

Senator McConnell hasn't responded yet to Trump's jabs, but he did say this about governing at last night's Kentucky Republican party dinner.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: So, governing is challenging from time to time. A lot of people look at all that and find it frustrating, messy.

[08:20:05] Well, welcome to the democratic process. That's the way it is in our country. And it has been that way from the beginning. And the only reason people are so focused on it now is the 24-hour cable news and the Internet.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HENDERSON: J-Mart, you have the story this week about the relationship between Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump. He talked about the process of governing there being frustrating, messy and hard. That could also be a description of the relationship with the president.


MARTIN: Well-done. You couldn't ask for a better lead-in to describe the sharp contrast between Leader McConnell and President Trump than that clip you just showed there, where you got President Trump, who is standing at a rally in Phoenix, savaging the two senators of his own party before thousands of their own voters. I mean, literally mocking them, saying nobody knows who the hell Jeff Flake is.

Frankly, you wouldn't have a president from the opposite party say that about somebody in the past. This president is saying that about his own party. It points to just how little connection he has to the sort of institutional party.

Then you have McConnell who says this is not easy. This is messy. And I think therein lies the challenge.

President Trump comes from a world of basically being impulsive, instant success and gratification, seeing things happen at the snap of a hand. It's not how governing works.

And, you know, McConnell who first came to Washington in 1985 knows that well. This is a long, drawn-out process. And that has created this enormous tension in their relationship.

Trump wants to get things done. He wants to see success. He wants positive accolades. It's not happened so far and McConnell is now feeling the brunt of that because President Trump doesn't care about the fact that they share a party label.


MARTIN: He doesn't want to take any of the blame, number one. That's the biggest thing. Second thing is when he's attacked, he hits back, doesn't care who is doing the attacking. But it does raise questions about how much this marriage can be saved.

Look, it was shotgun marriage to start with and it was not based on love. It was based on sure convenience.


MARTIN: I'm not sure whether this thing can last.

HENDERSON: Can last and it's not --


MARTIN: If he does, by the way, keep doing this he's going to lose any capital he has left. If there are constitutional issues about this president and how he responds to Mr. Mueller, he's not going to have a lot of friends in the U.S. Senate.

HENDERSON: And the thing is, if you look at who has attacked. We'll put this list up. He has basically picked fights with one-fifth of the Republican Senate. Is he going for one-fourth at this point?

RAJU: Possibly. That's right.

You know, the thing that grates Republican senators the most -- I talked to a lot of them about these attacks last week. Trump gets into new controversy every day. It's not necessarily the controversy after controversy of the day. It's the attack against their own party, its own members.

The Senate is very much a clubby place. Relationships are very close, particularly within the Republican Congress. They overwhelmingly support Mitch McConnell. In fact, he won unanimously and was re- elected as leader, and there's no threat to his leadership even as President Trump suggested earlier this month that perhaps McConnell won't be leader next year, next Congress, if that doesn't happen.

MARTIN: And Flake --


RAJU: Yes, and Flake, too. The point that one senator made to me last week was that for Trump to legislate, he should learn about the senators, learn about their states. That's how he gets things done not this bullying and attack mode because senators will just dig in and rebel.

HENDERSON: And his bullying, Margaret, quickly, around the wall essentially threatening a shutdown. How serious is that?

TALEV: Look, it's only as serious as Republicans let it be. I think if you're novice, the press is watching Mitch McConnell, you don't understand what he's saying there. If you read between the lines, what Mitch McConnell is saying is, he's basically done with President Trump. He will work with Mike Pence, he'll work with the staff, the legislative team.

And there are things he still wants to get done, right? Tax reform among them. What President Trump is doing with his strategy is putting all the bets on that tax reform for himself and if -- forget about the wall for a second, forget about the shutdown for a second and the debt ceiling. All the chips are now on tax reform, for himself, for his own power base.

HENDERSON: There's teleprompter Trump and then off-the-cuff Trump. Coming up, why the president says his varying tones are actually an asset, and whether his bluntness is seen as unifying.


[08:29:00] HENDERSON: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS.

Before we continue, I want to get an update on the catastrophic flooding in Texas, the result of Hurricane Harvey. Even though the storm has weakened, it has stalled and continues dumping rain. So, in addition to the damage from the wind and storm surge, flooding now is a major and growing problem.

Houston officials say at least 1,000 people were rescued overnight. This morning, we are hearing still from people who were trapped in their homes.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is southwest of Houston in Victoria, Texas.

Polo, what's the situation there right now?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this really goes to show that there is an added flood threat here for some of the smaller communities as well, while Houston is dealing with some serious issues. This is the city of Victoria, or at least one of the neighborhoods. You can see partially submerged, the streets.

Meanwhile, though, some of the houses themselves still fairly dry. The concern here, a nearby river could overflow its banks in the coming days. All that rain water has to go somewhere, so we could see more flooding in the days ahead. Many people, though, seeking shelter in some of the shelters being set up here, about 1,800 people throughout the state, in about 34 shelters throughout the State of Texas here. This is much of the infrastructure some of this community has been -- has taken a hit like their power systems, their water systems as well. You can imagine those numbers will likely grow as that flooding threat continues throughout parts of Texas.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN HOST: And then (INAUDIBLE) what are residence being advised to do right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this point many people are saying or are being advised to simply stay at home. As we mentioned, the infrastructure took a very hard hit in some of these cities which means there's no power and also, believe it or not, (INAUDIBLE) there is mineral drinking water, so people are being asked to simply conserve water and just -- and there is an actual boil water notice in some of these cities.

So that is the main recommendation for folks as the cleanup is going to take days and also getting back our line, getting that -- the power restored also going to take days for several of the smaller cities, but finally I'll leave you with this, it's amazing, you can hear a rooster right now, very ominous, very quiet, a virtual ghost town. Keep in mind, 24 hours ago, the eye of that hurricane Harvey was sweeping through here with some whipping wind. So 24 hours quite the difference here.

HENDERSON: (INAUDIBLE) thanks, stay safe out there. Now, we'll get back to politics. Call it what you want, a tail of two Trumps or a split-screen presidency. It's been very much apparent over these last days.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think there's blame on both sides. Was George Washington a slave owners? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was.

TRUMP: So, will George Washington now lose his status? They show up in the helmets and the black masks and they've got clubs and they've got everything and (INAUDIBLE) we are not defined by the color of our skin, the figure on our paycheck, or the party of our politics. We are defined by our shared humanity, by our citizenship in this magnificent nation, and by the love that fills our hearts.

HENDERSON: As you just saw on a speech on Wednesday, the president sounded well pretty presidential talking about unity and bringing Americans together which was the day before not so much. The President Trump in the fine of his great (INAUDIBLE) on Thursday he tweeted this, "The fake news is now complaining about my different types of back to back speeches.

Well, there was Afghanistan Schlumberger (ph), the big rally enthusiastic dynamic and fun, and the American Legion V.A. were (INAUDIBLE) and strong. Too bad the DEMS have no one who can change tones, but really it wasn't a matter of changing tones.

President Trump speaking for more than an hour to a large crowd of supporters in Phoenix laid any fears that a post band White House would be a moderate one. But the Comp (ph) Trump also confirm some republican fears that his main concerns are his base voters. Margaret, what are you -- Jeff, do you want to jump in here? That those two -- we see two different Trumps, one is sort of appealing to the establishment, but mainly the person who is concern about debate.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's counter programing. This is exactly what he wants to do, this is what he will do for the rest of his presidency. Any thought that he is going to remain on message and on the teleprompter from here forward, that's not going to happen. But we are at different moment here. We are at the moment where his presidency will be tested by the events, yes, happening in Houston and the entire region, but also what's coming up in the agenda in September.

No presidential speech is going to be able to get him out of that. And we're also at the moment, at a point where the important necessity of government would come into view here. So the president is tweeting this morning that things on the ground are going along smoothly, we don't know that yet. As the storm moves through, we need government. This is reasons why the government exists at the local level, the state level.

So he is being tested on that front. But also the legislative test here. He can give us many rallies as he want surrounded by his supporters but that will not matter if hasn't accomplished anything here. So we're going to see the two different speeches, the tale of two presidencies. We also are going to see him tested this fall if he can accomplish anything.

HENDERSON: And one of the things, Margaret, that people would talk about is sort of the need for unity, right? And Trump, even himself making it seem like he was making a call for unity, but most voters don't really think that he's a unifier, they see him as a divider. The polls show that 62 percent feel that Donald Trump is doing more -- or to divide the country, and unite the country is 31 percent think he is uniting the country. I imagine that was -- are his base voters.


HENDERSON: A lot of the -- a lot of the --

TALEV: Yes, but 30 percent is slightly higher number of his base voters, but I think the issue on the message is not tonality when you're talking to different audiences about different things, it's consistency when it comes to an issue itself. And on some of these issues that galvanize country in national tragedy and national disaster or some of the important --

TALEV: -- Issues that (00:05:00) we hear at like the UN General Assembly next month. International issues on which world leaders are looking for consistency. It's the consistency message that has become problematic for both fellow republican who want to know how is the way -- how it's going to --


TALEV: -- steer on an issue like tax reform if they go out on a limb and agree to vote for something if that's still going to be the thing they're going to be asked about for a few weeks later. It really has become an issue inside the party. It's not just about predictability by democrats.

Although if you are a democrat who is thinking you're in a tight race, maybe you're thinking maybe to vote on taxes is the same where I should go across the line or maybe a deal that involves debt ceiling is something I should think about voting on. Is it a consistent asked? Is there -- can you take it to the bank that if you do ask, the result will be why? And republicans obviously worried about their branding.

HENDERSON: If you go to the "Washington Post," Danforth the former senator from Missouri, and basically says this about Donald Trump, as read is Donald Trump will be associated in the public mind with republicans in general. If the public feels that the Republican Party is Donald Trump or anything like Donald Trump then we have a very, very bleak future and that might have implications immediately for 2018.

MANU RAJU, CNN REPORTER: And a remarkable statement by respected former republican senator but I emphasized former, you're not hearing a lot of current senators saying that a lot member -- a lot of members of current republican leadership's certainly staying away from the criticisms. The challenges that they have is that of Jeff was saying earlier, they have to get stuff done.

So they need the presidential cooperation and basic essence of governing and to keep the lights on by the end of next month. The president last week run the government shutdown over the funding for the wall. There's -- the funding for the wall is not going to get approved by the senate, they're not to vote to approve that --

HENDERSON: And so republicans don't want it?

RAJU: And the republicans don't want the shutdown. The republicans don't want a lot of (INAUDIBLE) the wall--

HENDERSON: The wall.

RAJU: --either, So the president -- they're going to need to work with the president if they're going to wait out of standoffs like this to raise the national debt ceiling keep the government open, let alone the big tickets items like tax reform, infrastructure where they were nowhere close to getting something done. So this is one reason why you're seeing the challenges within the Republican Party.

JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: The two fast points here. The first is the base of this party is going to blame congress before they blame the president.

HENDERSON: Which Donald -- which Trump knows, right?

RAJU: And he knows that, that's why he's starting to fix this fire, right, yes.

HENDERSON: And he's sort of -- yes. The party of one.

MARTIN: Their -- well, I mean, the media first, its congress next. Before we get to President Trump's advisers he's going to be the last person they blame and the reason that they can't blame him is my second point, is they fear the right enemies, right? The real reason why they love this president because he's sort of styling out, but it's also because he's got the right enemies.

Whether or not they get tax reform on the infrastructure or border wall, yes, that matters to some voters but I'm telling you, there's sort of cultural fault being on the right side of media and the circle of liberal elite that matters so much nowadays to the hard (INAUDIBLE) conservative base.

And so I think President Trump with at least 25 percent of the party is going to be in good shape here for a while if they'll blame congress first. And look, I actually start just how much they're getting in any of these accomplishments were not (INAUDIBLE) will actually matter for them.

HENDERSON: They'll feel good about Trump if they feel like he put in a good effort, maybe that's enough.

ZELENY: Go find the answers.

HENDERSON: We're going to go to this, in a newly published (INAUDIBLE) in the Atlantic former Vice President Joe Biden is slamming Trump. He writes, "If it wasn't clear before it's clear now, we are living through a battle for the nation of the soul of this nation. Today we have an American president who's publicly proclaimed the moral equivalency between Neo-Nazis and Klansmen and those who would oppose their venom and their hate." So that's new from Joe Biden. What are you -- I mean, this is again, more reaction, not surprising necessarily that it's coming from Joe Biden, but it shows that this isn't -- this isn't done yet in terms of the fall out of Charlottesville.

ZELENY: Well, Jonathan's right, I mean, we are also ending August in a moment of a cultural war that did not seem to exist at the beginning of the summer. That is by design here. Yes, there are some external events happening but this is part of the president's strategy to build his base here. So this divisive cultural war is damaging and potentially (INAUDIBLE) for both sides politically as well for democrats to embrace this too much. It's the (INAUDIBLE) that we want democrats to talk --

HENDERSON: We talked about races involved that time, yes.

ZELENY: -- the race every day. And as you've been pointing out very smartly for weeks, the white identity politics here, work in his administration. So this is something that we have to keep an eye on.

HENDERSON: Indeed. Next, Trump, the latest commander in chief test. Leading the country as the (00:10:00) Gulf Coast brace for hurricane and its aftermath.



HENDERSON: Monitoring an increasingly dire situation in Texas, especially in Houston where rains from now tropical storm Harvey causing catastrophic flooding. Stay with CNN for a live update at the top of the next hour. Now back to politics. It's one of the many commander in chief challenges that President Trump is facing (INAUDIBLE) as a region of the country is hit by a dangerous storm.

The administration is conveying all hands on deck approach with the president on a video conference hook up at Camp David and Vice President Pence monitoring the situation from the White House. For presidents, natural disasters can become defining moments, particularly if they are handled poorly.

It's a warning that Senator Chuck Grassley pointed out to Trump on Friday when he tweeted, "Keep on top of Hurricane Harvey. Don't make the same mistake that President Bush made with Katrina." The president responded on Saturday tweeting, "Chuck Grassley, got your message (00:15:00) loud and clear. We have fantastic people on the ground. Got there long before Harvey. So far, so good." Margaret, this is an ongoing storm obviously, and we have this tweet from the president clearly of this morning.


HENDERSON: He tweeted -- many people are now saying that this is the worst storm/hurricane they've ever seen. Good news is that we have great talent on the ground. What do you make of how he's doing and how he is approaching this so far? TALEV: Not shockingly, he's using Twitter to express


TALEV: -- his -- but it become -- as the storm becomes --

ZELENY: Exaggerating, too.

TALEV: -- rolls through.

HENDERSON: Yes, we don't know yet if it's the --

TALEV: We don't -- we certainly don't.

HENDERSON: -- worst storm --

TALEV: Oh, we certainly do not, but so far the video and the reports that we've seen, I suggest the situation where federal officials have tried to be prepared and to that extent it's good that the president wants to support his federal staff.

There is a danger in being too much of a cheerleader and sort of declaring success earlier on for a storm where the impact was really supposed to be felt days after, the hurricane part of it came and went.

And that's a -- we're going to see in the next few days both how bad this storm is and how good the federal and state and local response is able to be. There have been reports or speculation that the president might go to Texas. We haven't heard anything --

HENDERSON: Maybe next week, yes.

TALEV: We haven't heard those details yet, but of course, this is something that presidents always weigh, you don't want to draw resources away from a response that's actually happening. I do think in this case -- this is maybe a case where the new Chief of Staff John Kelly was able to use his skills both as a retired four-star general and having led Homeland Security to have a real plan.


TALEV: But he's already seen that his efforts to control the president's message are sort of elusive and hit or miss. And so the --

HENDERSON: But when it -- when it --

TALEV: Jeff, you do -- you may see the fingerprints of John Kelly and that's something that Sarah Huckabee Sanders alluded to.

ZELENY: I think you absolutely do. You also see that the inspector of Katrina still leans over every president. This is almost the exact same time of the month. So no president is going to be caught as flatfooted, but this is something that he largely can't control. I think it shows why government is needed and there will be funding bills for this, which is going to impact things in September. We'll see some -- how these conservative senators, congressmen vote on that as well. So it's tough.

HENDERSON: Great point. We'll watch for everything. A quick note, Texas Governor Greg Abbott is among Jake Tapper's guests at the top of the hour in CNN "State of the Union."

Coming up, our reporters share from their notebooks including a Bipartisan push for health care compromise. The senators to watch were crucial to that deal, up next.


HENDERSON: Let's close by asking our reporters to share something from their notebooks and helps keep you ahead of the curve on the big political news on the coming weeks. Manu, I'll start with you.

RAJU: So next month congress returns to session and there actually may be a bipartisan effort to deal with health care, believe it or not. Senator Lamar Alexander the republican from Tennessee, Patty Murray of Washington, they're working on a narrow health care fix to try to shore up the individual insurance markets.

This is, of course, after a bunch of big insurers have left some key state exchanges, something that could look along the lines of insuring some of those subsidies that go to insurance companies, the current Trump administration threaten to cut off, continue, as well as to provide some more flexibility to states. That's something that republicans want.

Of course, we know how difficult health care is. But if there is a possibility of getting something done, they -- they're trying to do something in September. Something to ensure that there's some certainty before the enrollment period begins for some of these insurance companies and presumably to roll this into a must pass bill to keep the government open, but of course, a lot still has to happen. That's probably the last chance for congress to do something on healthcare.

HENDERSON: Hope springs eternal on that one. Jay Martin?

MARTIN: We talked I'm sure about his play. It's worth emphasizing just how big of a deal Missouri politics, some of the Jack Danforth's op-ed was this week. But Jack Danforth is not just any retired politician. He is still looms large on the Missouri political landscape, he's a mentor for a lot of folks in the GOP in Missouri including Josh Holley who's the attorney general who might run for the U.S. Senate against Claire McCaskill next year.

And the fact that now -- sooner Danforth has come out and called President Trump a hateful man who is basically leading the party to ruin, it puts a lot of the current members of the party in Missouri in a tough spot. Who do they side with, the godfather of their party in their state or a lot of the rank and file who like Trump just fine? And that I think gets to the larger split. A lot of folks in the party, the rank and file, are just fine with the president. The elites in the party increasingly believe that he is a perilous figure for GOP.

HENDERSON: We'll keep an eye on that. Margaret?

TALEV: I'm going to double down on Missouri, but that is great.

MARTIN: Tell me, yes, tell me.

TALEV: The dynamic inside the Republican Party is clearly fascinating but they were also going to get a Chance to see next week how President Trump, live and in person, deals with red state democrats, we'll see it with Claire McCaskill, who of course is facing what -- maybe one of the toughest re-election bids for democrats in the senate in the coming year.

She was, of course, Staunch Clinton supporter and has talked herself about bipartisan outreach and how she wishes that the president would engage in more about bipartisanship, whether it's tax reform, whether it's infrastructure.

Don't forget the other element in Missouri, this is certainly difficult to talk about but the state senator, the democrat state senator who posted on Facebook her suggestion glorifying assassination attempts against sitting presidents. Not OK and is under tremendous pressure now from both sides to her party to step aside. So I think we're going to see a lot of democratic/Trump politics play out of Missouri one these days.

HENDERSON: That'll be fascinating to watch next week. Jeff?

ZELENY: Speaking of Missouri, about that trip to Missouri, one of the reasons we're talking about it so much is because the president still has not traveled that much, doing events like this. (00:25:00) This is what administration officials say now is the beginning of a new phase of his presidency, that's going to start after Labor Day as well, about campaigning or traveling across the country to push the agenda. Tax reform, of course, is --


ZELENY: -- front and center on Wednesday in Springfield. But there's some skepticism, I have some as well as administration officials who say they don't know how much he'll actually travel. There had been -- I was talking to a senior administration official who said that they have tried to put --


ZELENY: -- events like this, not these big rallies but the agenda- focused event on his schedule only to have it fall off because the president simply wants to do large rallies, not more presidential, smaller things. But they say that the -- this is going to be one of the new themes of the president's travel, trying to do more target events. We'll see if it actually happens. That's Wednesday in Springfield.

HENDERSON: Yes, we'll see if it's a trend. That's it for "Inside Politics." Thanks for sharing your Sunday morning. Be sure to catch "Inside Politics" weekdays at noon Eastern.

Up next, "State of the Union" with Jake Tapper.