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North Korea Claims Successful Hydrogen Bomb Test; White House Asks Congress for $7.85 Billion in Harvey Aid; Trump to Announce DACA Decision On Tuesday; Mueller Has Early Draft Of Trump Letter Giving Reasons For Firing Comey; DOJ: No Evidence Obama Wiretapped Trump Tower. Aired 8-9:00a ET
Aired September 3, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:11] JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): A major provocation from North Korea. Pyongyang conducts a nuclear test and claims progress on a smaller warhead for its long-range missiles.
Plus, an up-close look at Harvey's impact and an emphatic promise.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to keep it going that way. If anything, we'll even get -- I don't know if it gets better, but we're going to try to make it better.
KING: And back to work in Washington: tax reform, new Russia meddling wrinkles, and a big major immigration decision.
TRUMP: We love the DREAMers. We love everybody. Thank you very much.
KING: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, now.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
KING: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. To our viewers in the United States and around the world, thank you for sharing your Sunday.
Major breaking global news: North Korea says it has successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, rattling its neighbors in Asia and sending a defiant message to the Trump White House. Just moments ago, President Trump responding on Twitter, just in the past 20 minutes, writing: North Korea has conducted a major nuclear test. Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States.
Plus, the president gets an up-close look at Harvey's impacts on Texas and Louisiana. He saluted the spirit of the victims and those lending a helping hand, and the president promising the first installment of billions from Washington will be coming soon. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're signing a lot of documents now to get money into your state, $7.9 billion. We signed it and now it's going through a very quick -- hopefully quick process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Can the DREAMers stay? Or will President Trump tell young, undocumented immigrants he's kicking them out? It's a long-promised decision on a controversial Obama-era executive action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: What about the DREAMers? What people who came here when they were children?
TRUMP: The DREAMers, it's a tough situation, but they have to be legal.
BASH: Do they have to leave?
TRUMP: They're with that parents, it depends. It sounds cold and it sounds hard. We have a country. Our country is going to hell. We have to have a system where people are legally in our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We begin this morning with breaking news. North Korea's latest provocation to the world, a nuclear weapons test in Pyongyang.
Let's go live to CNN's Will Ripley. He is standing for us in Tokyo. Will is just out of North Korea.
Will, first, Kim Jong-un went and inspected what he says is a small warhead capable of delivering a nuclear attack on an ICBM. Then, overnight, this dramatic nuclear test. Give us the latest.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, when I was in Pyongyang yesterday, speaking with officials, it seemed at that time that things maybe calming down, but when I saw those images released on North Korean state media of the leader Kim Jong-un, their leader inspecting a miniaturized nuclear warhead, them saying that it be placed on an ICBM, I started to get nervous here in Tokyo, and a few hours later, the word came in of that massive earthquake, a 6.3 earthquake, the strongest ever created by a North Korean nuclear test.
Last year's nuclear test around this time was a 5.3, magnitude, and there was even a second seismic event in the mountains of northeastern North Korea, at the Punggye-ri, nuclear test site, some believing it might have been a tunnel collapse resulting from the size of this explosion estimated by seismologists in Norway as 120 kilotons. Put that in perspective, it was 15 kilotons, the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima here in Japan. South Korean seismologists have a slightly lower estimates, saying 50 kilotons. But nonetheless, North Korea claiming it's a hydrogen bomb, the
biggest bomb they have tested yet, a weapon that they could place on an ICBM, like the one they launched back in July, twice, an ICBM they say is capable of reaching the mainland U.S. North Korea also just testing an intermediate range ballistic missile just last week on Tuesday, flying it over the island of Hokkaido here in northern Japan.
What this is doing is North Korea is sending a defiant message to President Trump and the United States, despite the fiery rhetoric, despite the military exercises that wrapped up last week and the show of force after that missile launch, B2B bombers and fighters jets from the U.S. and South Korea flying over the Korean peninsula, North Korea not backing down. They're continuing to test these weapons of mass destruction at a frenzied pace and they refuse to accept the United States claims that North Korea will not be a nuclear power. North Korea says they must acknowledged as a nuclear power, and if the pressure and the sanctions and the isolation continue, it will only prompt them to accelerate their weapons development even further.
And I will say, John, that North Korea is not afraid by threats that perhaps China could punish the regime economically. They say they survived the great famine back in the late 1990s, when hundreds of thousands of people died of starvation, and yet the regime stayed firmly in control during that time, and they continued to launch missiles. And North Korea is a country that is more self-sufficient today than it really has ever been. So, no signs of this de- escalating anytime soon, especially after this now six nuclear tests, the fourth ordered by Kim Jong-un since he took power in late 2011.
[08:05:10] KING: A dramatic escalation without a doubt. Will Ripley live for us in Tokyo, Will is just out of North Korea -- Will, thanks, we'll keep in touch.
South Korea was among the first nations to condemn North Korea's nuclear blast. The South Korean president calling it, quote, an absurd strategic mistake.
CNN international correspondent Paula Hancocks is in the South Korean capital of Seoul.
Paula, obviously, South Koreans are the closest to this, and it's fascinating to watch the changing rhetoric of the South Korean government.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John. I mean, this is a president, Moon Jae-in, who came in saying he wants to North Korea. He wants dialogue. Now, he may still feel that way, but certainly, the dialogue we're seeing at this point is much stronger. He's calling for a strong response. He spoke about the absurd strategic mistake that's going to further isolate North Korea from the international community.
Now, already, today, we know the joint chiefs of staff chairman from the U.S. and South Korea have spoken twice on the phone. We're hearing from this end that he spoke to General James Dunford as well, talking about what kind of combined military measures they could carry out. So, could we see another show of force? Could we see more bombers flying over the peninsula?
Up until this point, that doesn't seemed to have that much of an effect on North Korea. But certainly, this is what they're looking at right now. And I think there will be surprise and raised eyebrows at the U.S. president's most recent tweets, talking about South Korea, talking about South Korea's appeasement of the North Koreans.
Now, certainly, they have been talking about diplomacy, but so have many within the Trump administration itself. The secretary of defense, James Mattis, there's still ways of doing that, which makes people here in South Korea very close to that border much more relieved. They don't want military conflict on the Korean peninsula, knowing just how catastrophic it would be -- John.
KING: Paula Hancocks live for us in Seoul.
And Paula just mentioned the president tweeting this morning, including one not likely to be well-received in South Korea. Here are some of president's tweets about the North Korean nuclear test. His latest saying: North Korea is a rogue nation, which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.
And as Paula just noted, South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work. They only understand one thing.
General Joseph Dunford, Paula just noted, the chairman of the joint chief, has been on the phone with his South Korean counterpart.
Let's get some insight and perspective from CNN military analyst, diplomatic analyst, retired Admiral John Kirby.
Admiral, help me understand how they will be processing this at the policymaker circle, the national security adviser, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, now, number one, that North Korea says it has a smaller warhead that they can put on an ICBM, and number two, this dramatic size nuclear test? How does that affect the conversations about what we need to bring to the president for options?
JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST (via telephone): Certainly, this test, the size of it increases the sense of urgency, not that there hadn't already been a sense of urgency over North Korea was doing, but clearly the size of this. They will try to confirm that, and that will certainly drive I think a new level of discussions about possible actions in the short term.
I think that the U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, should be involved in those discussions. I would expect we'll see an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council, and to talk about renewed sanctions, maybe strengthening the sanctions that are already in place.
From a military perspective, you're going to see, I would suspect that the U.S. and South Korean combined forces in an alliance, the show of force, either some sort of demonstrable show of force like, you know, flying aircraft or and perhaps including some sort of exercises on the ground, some sort of quickly called and quickly executed missile defense exercises, something like that. I think you'll see a military response to this.
But thirdly, you hit on it, John, it's important to figure out a way forward diplomatically. This does not change -- this test does not change fundamentally the situation on the peninsula that it was yesterday. What it does is it reinforces for us the knowledge that Kim Jong-un, A, wants to develop a nuclear ballistic missile program and is not likely to be deterred anytime soon, and B, that he's also -- there's no initiative for him to talk because he has the initiative, he has the momentum and he's not going to give that up. That doesn't mean there aren't going to be diplomatic initiative that can be pursued, and that's going to have to be done closely and clearly with Beijing.
KING: Admiral John Kirby, joining us -- Admiral, appreciate it.
With us here to join -- to share their reporting and their insights, "The Atlantic's" Molly Ball, Karoun Demirjian of "The Washington Post", Michael Shear of "The New York Times" and CNN's Sara Murray.
You heard the admiral there say there will be some military exercises between the North -- I mean, between South Korea and the United States, Japan likely to take part in that as well. But we've seen these repeatedly throughout this test. You had the president just last week tweeting, the U.S. has been talking to North Korea and paying them extortion money for 25 years, talking is not the answer.
[08:10:00] That's the president a couple of days ago, before this test.
How does this change his dynamic? Because the policymakers can bring him a long list of options which range from horrible to terrible to worse, because anything you do, let's say you strike where they launch missiles from. The fear is North Korea will then launch an attack on Seoul. These options we've known for years are horrible, but what is the president's mind-set when Kim Jong-un pokes him?
MOLLY BALL, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, what see from these tweets is that the president's mindset, as always, is to lash out at somebody else. And for a while, he was lashing out at China. He was blaming them for not having solved the problem for him. And now, he seems to be trying to lash out at South Korea, trying to lay the blame on them. That is not going to go over well and that's obviously an alliance that we need to be in very good shape to deal with this problem.
But over and over, you know, he lashes out on Twitter, he lashes out at our allies, he tries to get someone else to solve the problem. But it's possible that there are no, you know, creative new approaches, given the unappealing menu of options that exist, but we are not seeing, you know, some dramatic new approach arise out of this president's imagination.
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Look, the president is in a situation that is as tricky as any president has encountered, just more so right now because North Korea has basically advanced its capability and advanced its resolve. The president says South Korea has learned North Korea is only going to respond to one thing, that one thing is probably strength, right?
What does strength mean? Does it mean a military option? That's a very dangerous option. As you reporter pointed out, if it means sanctions, if they're draconian enough sanctions to actually shake the North Korean regime, you're going to end up hitting the North Korean people. That's the trick of sanctions, right? You can do targeted ones when you talk about leaders who care about their assets overseas, or their ability to travel to other places, but when you're a hermit country, how can you actually target those leaders in a way where they release control? It hasn't worked in North Korea. It can't probably work without really hurting the population, which then encouraged to rally on the flag.
So, what strength is, is not the traditional definition of strength. And that's why everybody is stuck right now.
KING: And is strength in this non-traditional -- everything about the Trump administration seems to be different and non-traditional. Is strength undermining your closest ally South Korea? Yes, he was elected on a platform of diplomacy, but in recent weeks he's been out in front of Trump in more aggressive rhetoric after these missile tests, saying we need to change our posture. It's not what I wanted but, I have no choice because of your actions, pointing at Pyongyang. The South Korean president has already moved and shifted.
Why would the president block him?
MICHAEL SHEAR, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, you know, I was struck this morning by the kind of -- the push and pull that was evident in those tweets, right? The first two tweets, we have three of them, the first two tweets sounded like maybe General Kelly's influence, a kind of typical leader, saying kind of cautious things in the wake of this dramatic nuclear development. And then you have the third tweet in which he sort of, as Molly said, couldn't help himself but lash out.
I think that's kind of been on display since in the last few weeks since that sort of flurry of really aggressive rhetoric from the president. I do think the question is, you know, how does the president manifest this debate going on inside the administration about all of the bad options. And that's going to just -- one last point, that's going to set the stage for the United Nations General Assembly later this month, in just a few weeks, when the entire world's leaders assemble in New York.
KING: But they talk.
SHEAR: They talk.
KING: They talk, because as Will Ripley smartly noted, North Korea thinks it has the initiative right now. And so, how you do -- what's the circuit breaker? If diplomacy is the only answer unless we want an ugly and horrible war on the Korean peninsula, the North Korean regime is not going to say, we will give up our nuclear weapons. The Trump administration says, we will not sit down with you unless you say the conversation is about you giving up your nuclear program and your missile program. How do you break that?
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there was a sort of belief among some close to Trump that if you are going out there and talking about fire and fury, if you're making it seem like you are very serious about a military option, that would be more likely to bring North Korea to the table, that that would be more likely to send the signal that the United States is serious about striking back, and so now is the time for diplomacy.
Obviously that has not worked out. We have seen this latest missile test, and so, I think they're going back, scrambling and looking at options again.
But what's really fascinating when you look at the president's tweets today is the notion of going after South Korea instead of going after China. He's been so critical about what China has done or failed to do in order to keep North Korea in check. So, it's fascinating to me that this morning, he woke up, presumably was briefed at some point on the situation, although the White House as not confirmed exactly what they told the president yet, or who he's been meeting with this morning, and he decided that the country to take aim at was South Korea, and not China, who has pretty much propped up the economy of the North Korea.
KING: Interesting perspective. We'll continue to watch it through the day. More details on test, more international reaction. We'll keep in touch with that.
Up next, though, President Trump in the spotlight as his administration responds to the devastation caused by hurricane and tropical storm Harvey.
[08:18:49] KING: Welcome back.
The president's stops in Texas and Louisiana yesterday brought him face to face with Harvey's victims and its heroes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I want to congratulate the governor. I want to congratulate everybody that's worked so hard. It's been an incredible five days, six days.
Really I think people appreciate what's been done. It's been done efficiently and very well. We've happy with the way everything is going. There's a lot of love.
REPORTER: What did the family tell you earlier?
TRUMP: They're just happy. There's a lot of happiness. It's been really nice. It's been a wonderful thing. As tough as this was, it's been a wonderful thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The federal response gets relatively high marks during these first 10 days since Harvey made landfall. But the biggest test for the president and his administration is still to come. Some, 27 trillion gallons of water dumped on part of Texas and Louisiana over just six days.
As of this morning, the death toll attributed to Harvey stands at 53. Some areas are still flooded, others beginning to clean up, and a tally to what it will take to repair or replace damaged homes, schools and businesses. Gas prices up 24 cents a gallon, that's part of an impact that extends well beyond the flood zone.
The full recovery price tag won't be known for a good while, but President Trump is asking Congress for a first installment of $7.85 billion.
[08:20:06] And early indications are, there's bipartisan support for moving that first aid package quickly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I'll give you another congratulations. In about one week, because that will be that other -- and then it's a long term. I mean, we're talking about -- they say two years, three years. I think because this is Texas you'll probably do it in six months, I have a feeling.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
No, I think for a lot of places maybe it never gets done. I think in your case, it will get done very quickly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Upbeat talk from the president? Some people were looking for more empathy or consoling, you saw him at the NRG, the facility where there's a shelter, hugging some people, talking to some people there. Again, high marks so far. I think the administration's initial response from Democrats and Republicans in Texas.
The big question is, do they understand the scope of the challenge ahead, getting in FEMA trailers, getting in other supplies, helping with the rebuilding, when inevitably there will be some push, or some wrinkle, some hiccup in the system, but where is the president right now?
BALL: Well, he's back. I mean, he's promising things that he hasn't really -- that we don't know he can deliver at this point, particularly the funding package, which there seems to be political will for it, but it's going to get tangled up in all of the deadlines that the Congress faces this fall. Are they going to attach that funding to raising the debt limit, for an example, in order to ease that portion of the difficult? There's all kinds of things. As you say, this is a complex process, and you had the president standing there making it sound like it was easy and like it was pretty much already done.
And the reality is a lot colder and harder than that. It is a very long-term process and there's a lot that has to go into it. And the department that's charged with managing it, Homeland Security, which is in charge of FEMA, still doesn't have a director. And apparently, the White House hasn't even really started to find one.
SHEAR: You know, one of the things that the president just said in that clip was that, oh, you know, Texas will get it done in six months. I remember traveling with President Obama in the summer of 2009, I believe it was, for his first trip as president to New Orleans, where he wanted to talk about Katrina recovery. Now, that's four years after Katrina.
And the reporting that I did at the time suggested that people were still frustrated, still upset there was too much red tape. They couldn't get the money to rebuild.
You know, the idea that this is going to happen quickly is simply ridiculous. And ultimately, the question is, is this an administration -- it really it hasn't demonstrated the kind of sophisticated handling of bureaucracy, you know, where it's going to go smoothly.
KING: I think that's the big test. There is a mood right now, again, you saw Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat, congresswoman with Ted Cruz, two people who don't talk here in Washington, sitting side by side. There is a mood right now.
The question is, six months from now, a year from now, again, inevitably when there are mistake, because mistakes will be made, in something so big, are they prepared, do they have in place the initial team response? Good marks? Are they ready for the long haul?
MURRAY: Right. I think, look, that's an open question, this is a long test, for a new president, for a new administration that's been disorganized, but I think that there has been a lot of attention paid to the notion that Trump says weird things when he goes to these places. He's not great at showing emotion. He's not great at showing empathy.
Look, these are all things we know about Trump. People voted for him in spite of that, because they thought he was a good manager. If you're judging empirically based on the response so far, Texas is saying they're getting what they need. Local officials are saying they're getting what they need.
The people in those shelters came up to the camera to say they're taking good care of us or getting what we need here. They deserve good marks. He deserves a good review for this, because he was the president. He went there, he said comforting things.
You're right. It's going to take six months. It's going to take longer than that and he knows that, but he went there and said what you need to say to make people feel like you are in it with them, like it is going to get better. But more importantly, the federal government is doing what it needs to do right now to give them backup and they're asking for that aid package.
So, you know, the griping about the empathy, fine, you can gripe about it. But what people want is to have a shelter to go to. They want to know the federal government is going to back them up with money so that they can get into a home, and right now, there's every indication that's happening.
DEMIRJIAN: The question is, though, how long can that keep going? And the president is going to be the one that's going to take it in the gut even if it's Congress's fault if that doesn't keep going long term. And as we know members of Congress do not exactly have, you know -- they've got short-term attention, you know --
MURRAY: Short-term political ballast.
DEMIRIJIAN: Exactly. But when you get far out and other things happen, as they always will, there's other priors that come along the way for spending, and it becomes more different to keep the pace and strength of that aid package flowing, and at that point, who's going to take the blame for it. Congress will, but will the president also end up doing so and will.
MURRAY: And will the president keep fighting for this? Will he keep holding, you know, their feet to fire if it does seem like the political will is evaporating to spend what is going to --
KING: And down the road. Conservatives won't do it this week. They won't do it this week. But down the road, when conservatives say, look, yes, we want to help these people, but there's only so much money in Washington. We've got to cut somewhere else.
[08:25:01] They're not going to do that with the first installment. But eventually, they're going to say, OK, now that we sent $15 billion, $20 billion, $50 billion, to Texas.
And that's a perfectly fair conversation. It's not unlimited money in Washington. The question is then, how does the president handle it or do they find the spending cuts?
DEMIRJIAN: And also, I'm sorry, if the president doesn't have that much leverage over Congress right now to be able to shame them into doing something he says they should do. It's not been a good relationship.
BALL: Well, to Michael's point, I mean, this is a process that's going to agencies and taking multiple layers of bureaucracy, and taking years and years. It doesn't really about how much money you spend at all. It's about on how much do you keep focused on the problem.
And what you had with Katrina, for example, was, a burst of attention, empathy and money, and then just a mess that festered and festered because they weren't focused on it in a sustained way. There wasn't a pro0activity in a sustained way to make sure that everybody actually got taken care of beyond just appropriating the money.
KING: And we'll see if those lessons are learned from the mayoral level, to the governor level, form here in Washington, the presidential and across the administration level if those lessons are learned in a long run. We'll keep an eye on that.
Up next, the White House confusion over big immigration decision, and fresh complaints the retooled White House team as well? Just not right.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. The White House now promises a Tuesday announcement of what President Trump plans to do about the so- called dreamers. Younger, undocumented immigrants who are currently allowed to stay and to get work permits in the United States under an Obama Administration Executive Action.
Remember, candidate Trump about to reverse that action as soon as he will get to the White House.
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: We will immediately terminate President Obama's two illegal executive amnesties in which he defied federal law and the constitution to give amnesty to approximately five million illegal immigrants, five million.
KING: Now in Thursday, there were White House release that the decision was coming Friday. Then on Friday, this from the president.
TRUMP: Sometime today or over the weekend we'll have a decision.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The dreamers stayed worried.
TRUMP: We love the dreamers. We love everybody. Thank you very much. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, President.
TRUMP: We'll issue it sometime over the weekend. Maybe this afternoon.
KING: A little while after that event, the press secretary promised clarity on Tuesday. Now, such chaos is the one constant in the Trump White House. The dreamers' debate just one big issue caught up on the daily battler for the president's attention and to the administration's policy direction.
And as we ever month eight, the tug-of-wars no less intense even though there's a more disciplined chief of staff in John Kelly and even though one of the most disruptive infighters Chief Strategist Steve Bannon was forced out.
And that's -- as we wait Tuesday's decision, that's the fascinating part for me. You have the outside forces now with Bannon amongst them arguing the president has stay to -- committed to his campaign promise here. You have the scorn, those outside forces heap on what they call the Manhattan Democrats, around the president inside the White House. So we -- the dreamer decision, which is a big deal, 800,000 people impacted by this. A lot of nervousness with the republicans in congress about what the president is going to do.
You have that decision and then you have the bigger battle, which continues until this day.
MOLLY BALL, THE ATLANTIC STAFF WRITER: Well, the interesting thing for me is, where is the president himself? Because this was something he promised during the campaign, although he did also express in more -- in less scripted comments, more sympathy for this population.
He always seemed conflicted about it, but this is something that he could have done on day one if he really wanted to do it. There was actually an executive order drafted and on his desk, and he just wouldn't sign it.
And over and over again, you had him expressing sympathy whenever he's asked, "Oh, we've got to, we've got to protect these kids. They seem like good kids."
And it's -- he's really been the only thing in the way of this thing that -- as you mentioned, the hard-liners in the administration, Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions are all in favor of ending this.
Even though would, it would be tremendously politically unpopular. And so trump really -- all my reporting is I -- and as I wrote this week, it was really just him seeming to want -- not do anything about this.
And his hand has been forced because this deadline's been imposed by the lawsuit brought by the State Attorneys General.
KING: Well, let's just show who will be affected by here. Again, the Obama Policy allows the young undocumented immigrants to get temporary two-year work permits about 800,000 of them in the United States. You have to come in to United States under the age of 16, meaning too young to make that decision. You're brought in by your parents or someone else in your family or somebody else. You currently have to be age 30 or under to get this. And obviously you can't be convicted of a felony or multiple misdemeanor offenses.
MICHAEL SHEAR, THE NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And look, the attention to more people (INAUDIBLE) to affect it because these are the people directly affected, but they have parents and siblings and others.
So I mean, if you, sort of -- I mean, there's millions of people that are, that are, kind of, affected directly by this. One of the things that I think might be an interesting question and I'm -- and they're debating it inside the White House.
Is, is there an escape for Trump by, sort of, pushing this back to congress and saying, look, I'm ending these programs in whatever sort of phase-out he decides to do because -- not because of the policy, but because of the way it was done?
It was -- you heard -- you saw him in that clip talk about the illegal executive action, that it was the wrong way to do this. And then to, sort of, kick it back to congress, and say, look, you guys were the ones that, you know, rejected the idea of doing this in a kind of legislative way with the dreamers.
That didn't past several years ago, try again. And --
KING: And this --
SHEAR: And you saw Paul Ryan and others or (INAUDIBLE) others, like, suggesting that maybe this time around there's a will to do that.
KING: And let -- let's listen to Paul Ryan on that because he gave a radio interview in this. So we'll just look if you -- he didn't say this on the radio. And the speaker A was worried, cooperation with the democrats does fall on the spending issues where he needs their votes.
[08:35:04] You mentioned the debt ceiling, he needs -- they need their votes probably on a spending plan to keep the government up and running. They don't want to poison the well on that.
Number two, the Republican Party struggled enormously with the Latino population. And Paul Ryan is trying to not have that ditch dug deeper by the --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: -- president of the United States. Listen.
PAUL RYAN, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES SPEAKER: I actually don't think he should do that. And I believe that this is something that congress has to fix. And I think the president as well as mentioned that he wants a humane solution to this problem.
And I think that's something that we in congress are working on and need to deliver on.
KING: Can they? Can they do this congress -- the republican congress could not repeal and replace ObamaCare? The republican congress is nowhere on tax reform. The republican congress has to deal with these spending issues, the debt ceiling and now a Harvey aid package.
BALL: Well --
KING: Can they really do a controversial immigration bill this fall?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, THE WASHINGTON POST FREELANCE REPORTER: The democratic congress couldn't even do a controversial immigration bill when they had 68 votes from the senate. And granted you had republicans in charge of the house then. And there's the point that Michael brought up about, you know, threading the needle there is one that a lot of republicans have argued for years. That, you know, it's not these kids. It's not the idea of doing this the way it was done.
We don't want Obama, kind of, running rough shod of everything with the -- with executive actions, right? But -- with executive orders. But it's -- the theoretical ideal bumps heads massively with the reality that we might have, which is that you cannot do stand-alone immigration bills.
People have tried time and time again and you have republicans in leadership right now who do not like the idea of letting this one go out ahead of the whole we have to security the border first.
Even if it's not a wall, we want to make sure we get that done before we left this run because if they put this on the floor, it will get loaded up with all kinds of other immigration-related things. It will probably die before it gets out.
Trump, at that point, will not be able to say, "Well, I tried," because this is such a sympathetic issue. And these are real people and they could --
KING: And you recover the White House every day. You see these accounts, now the president's already chaffing it, the restrictions put in place by his new Chief of Staff John Kelly. You see Steve Bannon on the outside saying, "We're not going to criticize the president."
But he's surrounded by globalists. That's, kind of, criticizing the president because he made the decisions about all the staff members. Listen here to Mark Levin on the radio just the other day.
MARK LEVIN, THE MARK LEVIN SHOW HOST: Mr. President, look around the Oval office. Look around the White House. Where are all the conservatives? Where are the people who supported you in the campaign?
So President Trump does himself a disservice, I believe, when the diversity of opinion is between a liberal democrat from Manhattan and a liberal democrat from Queens. There needs to be more diversity of opinion that includes more conservatives or he's going to harm himself and his administration.
KING: All right. Harvey the past 10 days has over, you know, over -- blocked out the conversation about these things. But when congress comes back, this is a stew about the president that his own base is stirring up.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But look, first of all, not all of the nationalists are gone from the White House. Yes, some of them are, but some of them are not.
And immigration, if you look at this issue, is a great place to see that Trump hasn't actually abandoned his base in any way on this issue. We are talking about what's going on with DACA, obviously that's going to be a huge decision.
And one -- in which, you know, some republicans, I think, would be fine with letting these kids stay here. Others, obviously, want them out. But we have seen an immigration crackdown throughout this country. An internal enforcement crackdown.
That really hasn't gotten much attention. And this is the president really living up to his campaign promises. And the acting director of I.C.E. has been unapologetic about the fact that yes, they are targeting people who have committed other crimes, but they firmly believe coming to the U.S. illegally is a crime.
And if they find you, they will deport you.
KING: Well, we'll watch out when the enforcement staff could take in all of -- now it looks like the president won't get his wall money, at least in the short term, because of the Harvey money there. We're going to see if this one's plays out.
Tuesday, the big decision on the dreamers. Up next, the president's anger at the former FBI director is a big focus as the Russia meddling probe and as the special counsel explores the potential of obstruction of justice.
KING: They were understandably overshadowed by the coverage of hurricane Harvey, but there was an unmistakable message from the Russia election meddling investigation headline this past week.
Here just a few, "The New York Times" Mueller has early draft of Trump letter giving reasons for firing Comey. "The Wall Street Journal" Trump attorneys lay out arguments against obstruction of justice probe to Mueller.
"The Washington Post" Trump's business sought deal on Trump Tower in Moscow while he run for President. Let's begin with the first two, "Wall Street Journal" and "New York Times" accounts that made crystal clear the special counsel is deep into exploring the question of whether the firing of the former FBI Director James Comey was part of an effort by the president of the United States to obstruct the broad Russian meddling investigation.
One piece of that puzzle is the president's initial thoughts on how and why to fire Comey. The Times account includes this, the letter drafted in May was met with opposition from Donald F. McGahn II, the White House Counsel, who believe its angry meandering tone was problematic.
What we learned here is we don't know where this ends. But when you look at these accounts and other accounts, it is crystal clear that Mueller right now is spending a lot of time on this question. This is not about what happened in 2016. This is not about things that Trump associates might have done. This is, did the president of the United States fire James Comey as part of a broader obstruction scheme?
We -- again, we don't know where it ends but that's a pretty big question that the president's attorneys are going to Bob Mueller to try to make their proactive case, no, sir, you don't have one.
BALL: Right. And that's not something, I mean, I'm not aware, but that's not something that you do unless you're feeling the heat. You know, his lawyers wouldn't be making this argument if they didn't feel it need to be -- needed to be made.
Well, we don't know a lot about what's going on in the -- inside this investigation, but we do know it is an aggressive, and serious, and wide-ranging investigation. We know that the -- that Mueller is working with the New York Attorney General, with the I.R.S.
There are all kinds of directions that this is going in. And eventually something is going to come out of it, right? This is not a sort of drip, drip, drip that never adds up to anything. Eventually it's going somewhere and it seems to be moving pretty quickly.
MURRAY: But this is a pretty obvious direction for this investigation to take. I mean, the notion that the president fired James Comey because he felt like James Comey was too hard on Hilary Clinton over her emails was laughable even when they were trying to sell us that from the White House.
[08:45:07] And then days later, the president did an interview on television and said that, you know, the Russia situation was on his mind when he made this decision to fire --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: -- Comey. So they tripped all over themselves as they were doing this in the moment. And then obviously that decision led James Comey to want to leak his memos about his conversations with the president to ensure that a special prosecutor was saying this is a box that president put himself.
KING: Right. And now the president's own deputy attorney general had to turn this letter over, the original letter drafted by Stephen Miller, not aware or maybe made aware but he's not a -- this is not his job.
He's a, he's a domestic policy guy. The president drafts this letter then the White House says, "No, no, no, no." They hand it over the justice department, but the letter -- the draft still exists and now Mueller has it.
SHEAR: Well -- and if the big the question is, what is -- what was in the president's mind? What's the motive? Why did he fire Comey? Something written contemporaneously on paper is always a critical piece of that kind of investigation.
MURRAY: I think Don McGahn was delighted to see that.
KING: Well, he wishes he could have shredded it but he can't. The -- well, the -- Trump's own justice department on Friday filed this in a court document. Both the FBI and NSD, that's the National Security Division, confirmed they have no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017 tweets.
Those are the infamous tweets from the president of the United States saying Barrack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. The president's own justice department has to go to court and say, No, sorry, wrong, didn't happen."
DEMIRJIAN: Hopefully that's the final nail in the coffin of that story because we kept seeing it come up in so many different iterations. And I mean, this is just, kind of, going towards -- if they're saying, no, this wasn't credible what he's saying on Twitter about this investigation.
It does, you know, leave open questions about other times when he's been trying to obfuscate what was actually going on, you know, in various chapters on -- of this Russia probe, especially when we're talking about, we'll focus over there.
Look at that, it's not about, you know, these collision allegations with my shop but things that the Obama and Clinton people were trying to do.
KING: And we know the president's been mad at the justice department too for other reasons related to this. Now his own justice department essentially says the president wasn't telling the truth. If you read that filing (INAUDIBLE) it's time our reporter share their notebooks, next. Including some White House venting.
KING: Let's head one last time around the "Inside Politics" table, ask our great reporters to share a little bit from their notebooks to help get you out ahead of the big political news just around the corner. Molly Ball.
BALL: Well, we've been talking about DACA, all of this drama obviously caused by the State Attorneys General threatening to add DACA to their existing lawsuit on the Obama era administration immigration policies.
But what about the United States Attorney General? The department of justice denies that Jeff Sessions has played any role in what the attorneys general are doing. But he has spoken approvingly about it. He has said he welcomes the administration being held accountable by the States.
And a lot of people involved in this issue in and out of the administration suspect that actually the attorney general is, sort of, behind the scenes encouraging this action that has, sort of, hemmed the president in.
That the president would've rather not had to face this deadline. Obviously Jeff Sessions' a very hardline voice on immigration in the administration as he was in the senate.
And he's part of this push-and-pull that's happening between the immigration hawks and the immigration doves in the battle for, sort of, Donald Trump's soul on immigration.
KING: Then we'll get some big word coming on Tuesday. Looking forward to that one. Karoun.
DEMIRJIAN: Well, coming back -- congress coming back to town means things on the Russia probes kick back into gear in a way that they never stop really over this summer but the members were gone and not really focusing on this.
Now Russia's being overshadowed by any number of other things, DACA, North Korea, all of the budget battles that are coming up, and, of course, Harvey. But in a way that could be really interesting because the (INAUDIBLE) guys aren't going to be on all of these members.
And we're entering a phase where the inner circle, Trump's inner circle is coming to talk to members of the senate side, at least, for the first time.
We had Kushner talk to the house committee that members of the Senate intelligence committee, members Senate of judiciary haven't had these face to faces yet. And Don Junior is coming in to talk about that meeting this month.
So it could be really interesting to watch people closely when the world isn't watching them closely because they may actually show their sympathies a little bit more when the cameras aren't quite as focused on that probe.
KING: Been missing a bit, but not forgotten. The Russia will be back. Michael.
SHEAR: So tomorrow on Labor Day in a little town called the Buena Vista, Virginia, Southwest Virginia is the annual Labor Day Parade, which for the last 40 years has served as the unofficial kickoff for the governor's race in Virginia.
Virginia and New Jersey are the only two off-cycle governors' races. So they'll provide an early clue of what voters are really thinking about all of the craziness that we've endured for the last, you know, six, eight months.
We've seen polls obviously. We know a little bit about what the public thinks. But this is an opportunity to get an early sense of how the midterm elections next year will go.
KING: Tough race so far, tight race so far. Sara?
MURRAY: Well, look, we know this is a president who needs to vent and sometimes he does that publicly on Twitter. Sometimes he does that privately.
CNN, my colleagues broke the story this week that Keith Schiller one of the president's long time aides had told people he's likely to depart the White House.
That means the president is losing another very trusted hand who can, sort of, moderate him, absorb just, kind of, the blowback behind the scenes when the president is frustrated.
So keep an eye on the president's mood, his frame of mind as he's, sort of, hemmed in by the constraints that Chief of Staff John Kelly is putting on him. At the same time that he's losing another person that he really was a trusted aide and a sounding board for him in the west wing.
KING: We'll see if chaos moderates, chaos escalates. Question mark. I know you think you know the answer up close with this. Michael Bloomberg's war on the big gulp is getting very expensive, even in places where he has already won.
The former New York City mayor in recent days added more money to what is now a $5 million advertising buy to fight efforts to repeal the sugar tax imposed on soda or other products in Cook County, Illinois.
[08:55:03] That spending in Chicago follows $2 million to shore up politicians taking heat for backing a similar tax in Philadelphia.
This is part of an ongoing showdown between the billionaire Bloomberg and the beverage industry, which is looking to --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: -- wound or defeat politicians who side with Bloomberg to send a message to other cities still considering that tax. That's it for today on "Inside Politics." Again, thanks for sharing your Sunday.
A reminder, we're also here weekdays at noon Eastern. Up next "State of the Union." More on the North Korea crisis and an interview with the Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Have a great Sunday.
DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Dana Bash in Washington where the state of our union is threatened. Breaking news this morning, North Korea claiming --