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Trump Confidence in Tillerson; Trump on Tax Cuts; Trump Derides Corker; Legislative Wins with Feuding GOP; California Wildfire Outbreak; Trump on WWIII Comment. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 10, 2017 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:16] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

President Trump having lunch this hour with his secretary of state and maybe there's an IQ test on the menu. The breaking of bread comes a week after it was report that Secretary Tillerson called the boss a moron.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: I think he's got excellent people, Secretary Tillerson. Incredibly intelligent individuals. I certainly find greater comfort when we're briefed on these enormous challenges.


KING: Don't look for a peace making lunch with Senator Bob Corker anytime soon. The Republican senator calls the Trump White House an adult daycare center. The president, stoking the feud again today on Twitter. The Democrats are loving it.


SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: In the halls of the Senate, the conversations about the president's judgment are -- they take place all the time. And they have been for months now. So Bob Corker's just giving voice to the things that many are thinking and many are saying on the Republican side.


KING: Plus, the first lady, Melania Trump, on the road, focusing on opioid addiction, but also in a feud of her own with the president's first wife.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you ever look at his position and Melania being the first lady and think, that's where I should be?


(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: We'll let you know off the top. We're standing by. The president of the United States spoke to reporters in the Oval Office just a short time ago. We'll have that tape for you in just a couple of minutes.

In the meantime, remember little Marco and lying Ted. Well, now it's little Bob. President Trump slapping that nickname on Senator Bob Corker today on Twitter, of course. All the proof you need to know their feud isn't about to disappear.

Quote, the failing "New York Times" set little Bob Corker up by recording his conversation. Was made to sound like a fool. And that's what I'm dealing with.

The president getting help, if you consider it that, from old White House hand Steve Bannon, who's promising a war on all Republican senators against, ironically, Ted Cruz.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: McConnell and Corker and the entire click, establishment globalist click on Capitol Hill have to go. And if he needs any -- if he -- we need any more proof about what they think, you heard it tonight. It's an absolute disgrace. If Bob Corker has any honor, any decency, he should resign immediately.


KING: Steve Bannon last night.

Here's the president in the Oval Office just moments ago.


QUESTION: Bob Corker. Did you (INAUDIBLE), sir?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think so. I don't think so at all. I think we're well on our way. It's very -- the people of this country want tax cuts. They want lower taxes. We're the highest taxed nation in the world. Our companies are not leaving so much now because we have them coming back.

You see what happened. You see the announcements from companies building car plants now in Michigan. They're going to various different states. They're actually picking some additional locations.

But just last week, five plants announced that they're going to build in this country. But I will say that we're the highest taxed nation in the world. People want to see massive tax cuts. I'm giving the largest tax cuts in the history of this country. In addition to that, there will be reform.

So I think that it's politically -- it's very positive. The people of the country want it. We're also bringing back $3 trillion from offshore. That's money that's been there for years that wants to come back into the country, but the tax situation didn't allow it to happen, and the bureaucracy. And that's going to come back as part of the deal. $3 trillion. It could even be more than that.

People want to see tax cuts. They want to see major reductions in their taxes. And they want to see tax reform. And that's what we're doing. And we'll be adjusting a little bit over the next few weeks to make it even stronger. But I will tell you that it's become very, very popular.

And I'll also be signing something probably this week which is going to go a long way to take care of many of the people that have been so badly hurt on health care. And they'll be able to buy. They'll be able to cross state lines. And they will get great, competitive health care. And it will cost the United States nothing. Take care of a big percentage of the people we're talking about too.

So with Congress the way it is, I decided to take it upon myself. So we'll be announcing that soon as far as the signing is concerned. But it's largely worked out a very -- it's very simple in one way, but very intricate in another. But it will be great, great health care for many, many people. A big percentage of the number of people that we were talking about for failed Obamacare.

Now, we're going to have to do something with Obamacare because it's failing. Henry Kissinger does not want to pay 116 percent increase in his premiums, but that's what's happening. And it's actually getting worse. It's getting worse by the minute. So we're going to have to do something with Obamacare and that will work out.

But very importantly a big percentage of people will be able to get health care and they'll be able to go across state lines. They'll be able to buy from many, many competitors and -- meaning the insurance companies. And it will not cost our country anything. But they'll have great, great health insurance again.

[12:05:18] QUESTION: Did you undercut your secretary of state today with the IQ comment?


TRUMP: No, I didn't undercut anybody. I don't believe in undercutting people.

Thank you very much, everybody.

QUESTION: Do you still have confidence in Secretary Tillerson, sir?

TRUMP: Thank you.



KING: The president of the United States in the Oval Office with the former secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, I don't undercut anybody, the president saying there at the end. That question was about his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who's at the White House now for lunch with the president, along with the defense secretary, James Mattis.

Let's unpack a bit of what we just heard there, talk about the (INAUDIBLE) politics.

With us to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Hirschfeld Davis of "the New York Times," "The Weekly Standard's" John McCormack, Seung Min Kim of "Politico," and CNN's Sara Murray.

Interesting -- to see Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office is just interesting for the history of that there. But the president, he's in this fight with Bob Corker. He's in this fight with his own secretary of state. And he's trying there to focus on what the Republican Party would like him to talk about every day. Let's talk about tax cuts. Let's talk about whatever you're going to do administratively to deal with health care until they make another attempt, probably next year, on repeal and replace. It's an interesting day in the life, shall we say, and a moment for the president.

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is an interesting moment. And we didn't see it on that tape but from the pool reports that we're getting, he was also asked whether he has confidence in Rex Tillerson, his secretary of state, and the president said "yes." Obviously they've had a little bit of a fraught relationship. But I think it gives you an indication that the White House does realizes they need to get some of this stuff done. And if they just keep having these side shows where the president is fighting with members of his own cabinet, where they are, you know, kicking secretaries out and then having to replace them, then it just stymies all of the legislative efforts in Congress. And that's something that sources tell us has been very personally frustrating to the president in recent days.

JULIE DAVIS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": And I think, you're right, that Republicans in general, and many people inside the White House want him to stay on the tax cut message. This is his last best hope of having any kind of legislative agenda get through this year and Republicans are desperate to have this.

But the more that he engages in these outside fights, certainly the feud with Bob Corker, the more he undercuts that possibility. So he can go out and talk in the Oval Office as much as he wants to about how very, very popular a tax cut would be, and that may be true, but it's going to take a lot of behind the scenes work and, you know, brokering with Republicans rather than insulting them on Twitter and --

KING: Right. You need Bob Corker's vote on the budget --

DAVIS: Exactly.

KING: And then on tax reform.

DAVIS: Exactly.

KING: But you can't -- unless they have passed their budget, which he agreed to let it come out of committee, but now they've got to pass on the floor. There's a lot of questions.

You know from this president, if you get a nickname on Twitter, you have his attention. And the lying Ted, little Marco can tell you about that, and low energy Jeb from the primaries. When he does -- when he does this, that means he's locked in on you.

What is the -- we can talk about this personal drama. It is a great, personal drama. You have a Republican senator who says I'm retiring who when unleashes in public, says a lot of things that a lot of Republicans, let's be honest, say privately about the president or questions they raise about the president. Does it impact the tax reform debate or is this just a war of words and indults between two men?

SEUNG MIN KIM, "POLITICO": So the president is insisting just now that you saw that it won't affect it. But, remember, Bob Corker was already kind of a tenuous vote on tax reform in the first place. He has said repeatedly, even before his retirement, that he would not vote for any legislation that adds a penny to the deficit. He's kind of one of these diminishing deficit hawks in the Senate these days.

But along with bob Corker, you have a number of other -- kind of these freer actors in the Senate. You have John McCain. You saw his major influence in the health care debate. You have Susan Collins, a moderate, who may even announce her -- announce week that she's running for governor. You have Lisa Murkowski and Rand Paul, who's always kind of been this -- a factor in these fights. So you just see how you have more and more when you can only lose two votes in the Senate, every vote matters.

KING: And -- I mean this is "The Weekly Standard's" race (ph) on (INAUDIBLE). Now, we've been going through this the entire Trump presidency in the sense that there's a war within the Republican Party, as well within the Democratic Party too. But when you have Steve Bannon going on "Hannity" last night and saying, we will primary 51 of the 52. We want to go after 51 of the 52. How does the president expect to get their votes when his former right hand man -- and the president could, at any time, say, Steve Bannon, stop. If he wanted to stop him, he could publically say, I need you to back town. How does that help them get things done?

JOHN MCCORMACK, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I don't think it does. And that's not exactly Steve Bannon's goal here. I mean if his goal were passing things, he would be focused narrowly on the people who stopped the last ditch health care bill from going through. People like John McCain, Rand Paul, Susan Collins. He's not. He wants to go after everybody apparently but Ted Cruz. He has his own ends (ph). Part of it is ideological. He's very focused on, you know, this hardline stance on immigration, against free trade. But also a lot of it's just temperamental. He wants people who are going to blow things up and people who are of a like mind.

KING: In is -- is that the president's goal just to shake up Washington in the sense, if you read this interview in "Forbes," it's interesting. Number one, he has a -- says he'll have an IQ test with the secretary of state. We'll get to that a little bit later in the program. We talk about their lunch (ph).

[12:10:03] But this is what -- here's from "Forbes." He boasts with a dose of hyperbole that any student of FDR, even Barack Obama, could undercut. Quote, I've had just about the most legislation passed of any president in a nine month period that's ever served. We had over 50 bills passed. I'm not talking about executive orders only, which are very important. I'm talking about bills.

The executive actions are important actually, and we'll talk about them in a few minutes. But in terms of major legislation, that is delusional at best in the sense that, what were the three Trump promises in the first year, repeal and replace Obamacare. Not happening in 2017. A giant infrastructure plan. Not happening in 2017. And tax reform, which we all agree, I think, is on a high wire right now. It would be very difficult to get done.

In the middle of this, if you have Bannon further blowing up the Republican Party, and he says he's doing it for the president?

DAVIS: Well, I mean, I think this is part of the push and pull here is that now that he is president, Donald Trump, I think on some level, recognizes, and certainly the people around him in the White House recognize that he has to get something done. He has to move an agenda in order to keep Republicans behind him, yes, but also in order to keep the support of the public.

But there is this impulse that he has that I think Bannon said when he was in the White House, he's continuing to seed now from outside of the White House, to shake things up and disrupt things and, you know, up end the system. And insult people on Twitter. And if the establishment doesn't like it, well then I don't care.

And the two things are slashing right now and I think that's what we're seeing. And they've been clashing all year long. But now we're in a -- at a point where his party really needs to see some sort of action in order to be able to feel secure in their own reelection prospects in the coming year. And so I think what you're seeing is a real kind of conflict of, which one of those things is going to win out right now. And it really needs to be the establishment president, you know, getting things done and he seems to be indulging this other side right now of just wanting to start fights and hurl insults and be the victor in some sort of a feud or a spat.

KING: Winning a Twitter war seems more important most days than winning a tax reform debate, but we shall see.

Everybody sit tight.

Up next, as we said, administrative actions do matter. The Environmental Protection Agency rolling back a key signature achievement of the Obama administration.

Plus, California coping with an explosion of wildfires that have killed at least 11 people. A live update on that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [12:16:21] KING: Welcome back.

Back to politics in a moment.

But California now dealing with a new emergency that seemed to come out of nowhere late Sunday night. At least 11 people now have been killed in wildfires now ranging in areas north of San Francisco, including prominent parts of wine country. California's fire director says dry conditions helped the flame spread at breakneck speed.

Here you can see what one subdivision in Sonoma County looked like before this week. Now, blocks and blocks of homes in ruins. And this at the Cinderella Winery in Napa before one of the wildfires tore through. It's been destroyed as well.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is watching firefighters bravely try to get a handle on the fires. He's in Santa Rosa.

What's the latest?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, dry conditions and wind drove these fires. And the Sonoma County Sheriff Department is looking for another 100 people overnight. They had disturbing calls from loved ones looking for their relatives and loved ones saying, I don't know where they are, but it may be due to just the confusion of how fast people evacuated. Tens of thousands of people with only a couple of minutes to go to -- had to get out of their houses.

I want to show you one area here. This 24 hours ago was a beautiful resort in lovely wine country. Now it is a smoking rubble. And if you look through the trees there, off in the distance, that is a neighborhood that is the exact same -- in the exact same situation. The fire just skipped across roads, across freeways and just obliterated entire neighborhoods.

Two hospitals have been evacuated in this area. And it's not just northern California. Seventeen fires popped up across California in a 24-hour period. One of them south of Los Angeles, hundreds of miles from where we are in Anaheim. That is Disney country. Five thousand -- six thousand acres are going up there. Several homes have been destroyed. Several thousand more.

If you can come back to a live picture here, I want to show you what the sun looks like trying to peek out through the heavy smoke here in Sonoma County, California. Just very, very heavy smoke here. A lot of it very noxious.

The one good thing that we can say, if we can say anything good right now, is that the wind is starting to cooperate with firefighters. The humidity is starting to come up. That temperature is dropping. Today, if this continues, they will hopefully be able it get out in front of that fire and start fighting it rather than just watching it go by. They haven't been able to do much actual firefighting in the last about 24 hours or so.

John. KING: Miguel Marquez for us on the ground in northern California.

Miguel, stay safe as well. And heroic work being done by the first responders there. Appreciate that.

Want to get back in just a moment.

Earlier in the conversation, we had the president -- tape of the president of the Oval Office. He was asked some other things. We couldn't get to the tape at the time. Including, asked about Senator Bob Corker's criticism that the president threw his -- what the senator says is child daycare center behavior is leading the country towards a World War III. Are we ready for that?


QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) the U.S. on the path to World War III.


We were on the wrong path before. All you have to do is take a look. If you look over the last 25 years, through numerous administrations, we were on a path to a very big problem. A problem like this world has never seen. We're on the right path right now, believe me.


KING: Interesting in the sense that he smirks a little bit and shakes his head. But, this is -- in the past, we've seen the president sometimes escalate the feud with personal. He does not respond directly to Senator Corker. He does not say he's wrong. He does not say what he said on Twitter using the -- you know, the personal insults. He just says, no, and makes his case that his administration is doing better than the Obama administration on the world stage.

[12:20:02] I find that a little bit telling in the sense that obviously the staff talked to the president. The media is coming in. You know what they're going to ask you, sir. And he, the president, made the decision not to escalate in that setting. That's not what he's doing online, but he decided not to escalate there.

DAVIS: Well, right. I mean what he said was reflective of the statement the White House put out -- put out yesterday on behalf of Vice President Pence, saying essentially, you know, that we've come so far and we're in such a better position with regard to -- we're isolating North Korea. You know, we're -- our national security is now protected. He has stepped up. And he almost made the case there that we were on the path to World War III before. And now I've pulled us back from the brink.

But anyone who's watched his actions, and certainly not just his Twitter taunts of Senator Corker, but his Twitter taunts of Kim Jong- un in North Korea, doesn't feel that way and there is this sense, which he didn't address there, among Republicans and some in his own national security establishment, that all of these actions and all of the rhetoric is actually pushing us closer to a very insecure position and pushing us toward a confrontation that wasn't on the table before he was president.

MURRAY: And I think that that was one of the interesting criticism from Senator Corker is he basically said, look, there is no good cop/bad cop in this scenario. It's not like Rex Tillerson is doing these negotiations behind the scene and then the president is, you know, firing off on Twitter and this is all going to lead to a good place. This is just a reckless move that is going to lead to -- potentially to a very unfortunate outcome.

And I think the White House had sort of been trying to play it both ways. It tried to play it off, like the president could tweet whatever he wanted, but you would still have people sort of doing this, you know, playing this ambassador role, still reaching out behind the scenes. And I think that once you have seen the way the president treats his own diplomats, it's just really hard for other countries to respect those people, to take them seriously, to believe that they're speaking on behalf of the administration or on behalf of the president.

KING: To me sometimes it's because there's so much daily drama, we kind of follow the insults on Twitter and you follow something that was said. And then sometimes I just think we need to step back and say, wait a minute, this is a chairman of the foreign relations committee essentially saying the president of the United States is an emotional child.


KING: The president -- that's what he's saying. That's what he's saying. And so it's -- you're not -- I was raised, you don't say those things about the president. But the -- you have the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee saying, sorry, I need to say these things. He's an emotional child. And it's an adult daycare center. And thank God there are these adults around him. Somebody must have missed their shift, he said the other day to the president.

When you step back about that, I mean and you do hear from time to time some other senators have said things close to this. You hear it a lot more privately. You even hear members of the Trump administration, cabinet members saying, you know, we keep the president off the guardrails and things like that. It's -- again, we get caught up in the daily drama sometimes, but it is stunning these things being said.

KIM: And you have to -- and Bob Corker is known as a man who chooses his words carefully. I mean he does talk to reports a lot on Capitol Hill, but he is very thoughtful with what he says. So those comments that he made to "The New York Times" were very deliberate.

And we can talk about kind of the feud's impact on tax reform and kind of the relationship between President Trump and congressional Republicans. But a lot of Democrats are now looking at Bob Corker's comments. You know, they take him very seriously as the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. And the concern from lawmakers on Capitol Hill are definitely growing because of what he told the -- told "The Times." KING: But no rush of other senators come out and back up Senator Corker on the record. That part's interesting. Privately they will tell you thinks, but you don't see other people coming forward and saying, let me agree with Senator Corker right now, because they know there's a chainsaw in the White House who has a Twitter account.

MCCORMACK: That's true. That's true. But I also think that Senator Corker needs to be held accountable for the fact that I mean this recklessness was also apparent. I mean this is (INAUDIBLE) President Trump. You have people like Marco Rubio saying he can't be trusted with the nuclear codes, then went on to support him.

Bob Corker, back in March and April, when there was still a chance to stop Donald Trump, he was saying, hey, everybody chill out, let's listen to the people. Let's not even talk about any sort of crazy things about stopping him at the convention. Or even earlier when -- in March when there was actually a realistic shot of stopping him. So, you know, Bob Corker, he made a massive misjudgment. If he thinks now the president's recklessness is putting us on the path to World War III, he basically didn't do anything to stop him back in March 2016.

MURRAY: I also think --

KING: Consistency. Consistency is not -- we don't find a lot of that (INAUDIBLE).

MURRAY: Yes, it's not just -- I mean it's not just worrying about what the president is going to tweet about you either. I man Corker, of course, is unburdened because he doesn't have to worry about a reelection fight. Well, every other senator that's up is going to have to worry about a challenge. They are going to have to account for what they have accomplished. And they haven't accomplish a whole heck of a lot since Trump has been elected.

And so to have a fight like this spilling out in public, to have the president fighting with the president of the Senate Foreign Relations, other members of Congress are looking at this and saying, this is not going to get us closer to tax reform and it's not going to get us closer to answering to our constituents about what we've been doing in Washington.

KING: But one thing that does get lost in all of this -- you're right, they're not passing big legislation. But a lot of people out in the country might not understand how much they have done from an executive standpoint. And the EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, now rolling back the clean power plants, regulating emissions from power plants across the country.

I want to show you a graphic. This is from "The Washington Post," we've borrowed it (INAUDIBLE). There was 130 rules changes or proposed rules changes in the works. Forty-one in the environmental sector, 23 labor and finance, 15 civil rights, 15 worker or consumer safety, 12 government reform, 11 health care, six immigration, seven education.

There are, if you are waiting for Obamacare to be repealed and replaced, not going to happen. If you're waiting for that big infrastructure plan, not going to happen. Tax reform, strap in, we'll see what happens over the next month or two here in Washington. But there are a number of things where if you're -- if you're a pro- business, less regulation conservative, for all the chaos of the Trump administration, you have something to cheer.

[12:25:16] MCCORMACK: Yes, I think this really shows the danger of the whole governing by a pen and phone strategy, as President Obama spoke about last time. You know, what can be done with a pen and phone can be undone with a pen or a phone. You can also run into legal challenges in the courts. That's what happened here with this EPA rule. It got stopped -- it got stayed by the Supreme Court back in the Obama administration. Trump wins. He undoes it. So that's got to show you the power -- the lasting power of legislative accomplishments and why that's so important and how Congress is really actually weakening themselves, the continuation, the filibuster, sort of weakening them relatively to the executive branch, I think.

KING: It's an excellent point in the sense presidents figure, I can't get anything done up there, even when my own party controls both chambers. So I'll do things administratively. We'll see where it goes forward.

Everybody sit tight.

Up next, one secretary of state from days gone by at the White House. Today's secretary of state at the White House for a face-to-face this hour with the president. Want to know who's the smartest guy in the room? Well, just ask the president.