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Trump Says He Has Confidence In Tillerson; Tillerson Having Lunch At W.H. Today; First Lady Visits Drug Treatment Center In West Virginia; Ivana Trump Jokes About Being "First Lady"; First Lady's Office Slams Ivana Trump As "Attention Seeking"; Senator Feinstein Will Run For Re-election Next Year. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 10, 2017 - 12:30   ET




[12:30:17] REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: President Trump's America first agenda has given voice to millions. President Trump's foreign policy goals break the mold. He puts Americans and America first. He's smart. He demands results wherever he goes.


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last week on a day it was reported he called the President a moron. Well, Secretary Tillerson's at the White House this hour for lunch with the President.

Here's what the President told Forbes about this relationship. "I think it's fake news, but if he did that, I guess we'll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win."

In that Forbes interview, the President also defends his tweets criticizing Tillerson for trying diplomacy to refuse the nuclear missile standoff with North Korea. "He was wasting his time," the President told Forbes. "I'm not undermining. I think I'm actually strengthening authority." That's the President stake with Forbes.

He just repeated this in that Oval Office right we showed you earlier. He said he doesn't think he is undercutting Rex Tillerson when he has issued a number of public statements essentially saying, "Rex, stop. What you're doing isn't going to work." "No, I didn't undercut anybody," the President said. "I don't believe in undercutting people."

If you're in the middle of something very important and I go on Twitter and essentially say, you're a dope, and this isn't going to work, isn't that undercutting?

SEUNG MIN KIM, REPORTER, POLITICO: I think that's an undercutting. Undercutting right there and you kind of wonder what is going on in the conversation at the luncheon at the White House.

KING: I would love to do this conversation at the luncheon. But, look, part of the deal, those of you who covered the White House know this better than I do. Secretary -- the President was mad. He saw, heard this on television, his Secretary of State called him a moron.

General Kelly, the Chief of Staff, did not take the trip out of Vegas. He stayed. Secretary Mattis who is also at lunch today came over from the Pentagon. Secretary Tillerson came over from the State Department. They had a meeting at the White House. Secretary Tillerson went back and gave that, "President is my boss," statement at the State Department. We have Dayton (ph) temporary. You're shaking. You don't even think we have Dayton.

JULIE DAVIS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I don't know if I would call it Dayton. I mean, clearly, there was a decision made. There was a process that was I think instigated by General Kelly and assisted by General Mattis to sort of diffuse the current crisis.

And there was a decision made by Rex Tillerson. I mean, handled (ph) been by him to say that now is not the time to leave. That I'm not going to resign. That I am going to try to make the best of this. I have a role here. Maybe it's the role that Bob Corker was describing of keeping the President from chaos or keeping him off the guardrails. But whatever it was, he obviously decided that it was worthwhile for him to try to stay and make the best of this.

That being said, I think you're right, that you have to wonder what's going on in a lunch like this and how this can ever be a functional relationship, even if it's a distant one, even if it's one where the Secretary of State has now said, "All right, whatever I hoped my role would be, it's not bad. I'm going to stay and do what I think I can do with this President." How is there a trust there? How is there a functional dynamic there where you can actually handle some of the big national security challenges that they have in front of them?

KING: And to the irony of Henry Kissinger being at the White House earlier, Secretary Kissinger would tell you if you're the Secretary of State when you're sitting down with leaders in Russia, leaders in Beijing, leaders anywhere in the world, but especially the big relationships, they need to know when you speak, you're speaking for the President. When Rex Tillerson speaks, if you are the foreign minister of the president of Russia, the president of China, are you certain at any moment he is speaking for the President of the U.S.?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I don't know how you could be. And look, these are both two men who had a very steep learning curve for their job to begin with. Tillerson came in a Secretary of State with no real experience in government. He is used to being a CEO. He is used to calling the shots. He is used to everyone in the room shutting up to listen to every word out of is mouth and making the final decision.

And President Trump is sort of in the same role. Not used to government, but used to being a CEO and just making decisions. And if someone isn't going go along with what he wants to do, or how he wants to do it, then get out of the way. That's not how governing works and it's certainly not how international diplomacy works.

But the learning curve for both of these two men on top of the fact that they this have a contentious relationship, there's just -- how can you expect this to be a long-term relationship? Maybe everyone hangs on for a while, but I don't think anyone is expecting this to have any kind of longevity to it.

KING: But you need -- if it's just a hanging on, you have a big Iran decision coming this week. The President is going to pull back from the Iran nuclear agreement and then sit under Congress and see what happens there. He's got a big Asia trip coming up. There are number of giant issues, not just North Korea, but the whole -- trade with China. China's actions to the South China Sea, other regional issues there with Japan and South Korea. How can you have a just hanging on in one of the most important relationships in the United States government?

KIM: And also pulling back another dysfunctional relationship between in the mix going back to President Trump's relationship with congressional Republicans when we're talking about the Iran nuclear deal.

[12:35:03] Congress is going to have a very major role to play once he, as we expect he certified the nuclear deal later this week, because Congress will be, in their hands to either re-impose sanctions with just 50 votes in the Senate which would kill the deal as it is.

Or you could re-impose new sanctions. We'd have to cooperate a lot with Democrat and also with the White House to look like -- to determine what those sanction would look like or do nothing. But the fact to the matter is you need cooperation from, again, Bob Corker and congressional Republicans on this very major national security policy issue and they don't have that relationship right now.

KING: A functional relationship instead of dysfunction. The great reporting in "The Weekly Standard" this week about the President's decision on Iran and about how Steve Bannon influenced his decision before leaving the White House to be more and more skeptical about this deal. Also about how the President reaches out to Senator Tom Cotton from time to time, Republican of Arkansas on Capitol Hill.

Listen to Tom Cotton here talking about, look, Secretary Tillerson doesn't get along with the President. President doesn't get along with Secretary Tillerson. The grown ups need to make a choice.


SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: When you're a cabinet member, when you're a senior adviser in the White House and the President is right, you should help him achieve his objectives and run with his thinking.

When you think the President is wrong, you have a duty to try to present to him the best facts and the best thinking to help him see it in a different light. And maybe you can, but if he doesn't and he said no, I want to do it my way, then your job is to move out and execute. And if you feel strongly enough, you have to resign.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Well, put commonsense there from the Senator. However, what departed isn't -- is how publicly this whole plays out. In the Trump -- in prior administrations you did have these battles. Of course you had battles. I covered the White House, Democrats and Republicans caution (ph) these battles but they didn't in the public like this every single day.

JOHN MCCORMACK, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I think Senator Cotton's point is generally correct. You know, you give the President the best argument you can. If you cannot buy it, then you have to follow-through Twitter, you got to, you know, just resigned.

But what he's missing there is the fact that the President really is indicted by any sort of ideology. It's all impulses, emotions, instincts. And so he can change his mind multiple times. That's what Steve Hayes and (INAUDIBLE) is seeing this week. That he changes mind multiple times on whether to decertify the Iran deal or not.

There were multiple times when people walked out of meetings in the Oval Office thinking one thing was happening and it changed within hours or days. So that is a real problem. That is not the cabinet officers. That is with the President.

KING: We'll expect that decision a bit today. Just one more comment (ph) at this moment before we go to break. This is from the Barbara Res, a former Trump organization executive, again, remarkable things said about the President of the United States.

"You either had to just convince him something better was his idea or ignore what he said to do and hoped he forgot about it the next day." These are people attaching their names to things about the President of the United States.

When we come back, the President's current wife is in a fight with his first wife.


[12:42:09] KING: Welcome back. The First Lady, Melania Trump, is in West Virginia visiting a drug treatment center that focuses on babies experiencing drug withdrawal and their addicted mothers.


MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: It's their passion in mine to have children and to educate them. Thank you for all that you do. You are doing an incredible job and I just hope we give a voice to more places like this and open them more around the country so we could have more families, more mothers and more children.


KING: The second time she traveled without the President for an official White House event and it comes a day after a remarkable public rebuke of her husband's first wife. This is what our Melania Trump. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IVANA TRUMP, MOTHER OF DON JR., IVANKA AND ERIC TRUMP: I have the direct number to White House but I don't really want to call him there because Melania is there and I don't want to cause any kind of jealousy or something like that because I'm basically first Trump wife, OK? I'm first lady, OK?


KING: Ivana Trump laughing there at First Lady. But the real First Lady's office responded with this, "First Lady Melania Trump plans to use her title and role to help children, not sell books. There is clearly no substance to this to this statement from an ex. This is unfortunately only attention-seeking and self-serving noise."

Ouch. That is a pretty blunt go away essentially from Melania Trump or don't dare. If you look at Ivana Trump, she is trying to sell a book, number one. When people try to sell books, they go on television and they say provocative things to sell books. But the, "I'm first lady," which was clearly a joke clearly did not sit well with the current First Lady or at least with their staff.

DAVIS: Well, it didn't sit well with somebody at the White House. It's not totally clear to me who that person was, if you know those people were. I mean, it's ironic because they use the phrase attention-seeking in that statement. It may have been attention- seeking, they actually got the attention they were -- Ivana got the attention she was seeking.

I mean, they got -- they elicited a statement from the east-wing which is actually not an easy thing to do, I discovered in months of covering this White House. They don't usually say very much, certainly not something about Melania Trump's personal life or her son's personal life.

So the fact that they decided to put out a statement speaks to a deeper grievance here and it's not totally clear to me what that is, but obviously the first Mrs. Trump touched a nerve.

MURRAY: Yes. I think Melania Trump has been -- the First Lady has been extremely private since she came to the Washington, since she came to the White House. It took him a while to get here, so to see such a barbed statement I think coming out to the east-wing, it does kind of puzzle you because, you know, I think people would have seen the Ivana clip and sort of looked at it, laughed it off, and this just elevates it to a entirely new level when you see the actual First Lady, Melania Trump, responding like that.

[12:45:04] KING: Use her title and role to help children, not sell books.

MCCORMACK: And she has actually. Melania Trump has carried herself I would say with more poise and dignity than a whole lot of other people in the White House, including the President so far. So it's a little strange that she would stoop this level but in the sort of just the latest, you know, plot twist in this reality kiddie episode, you have this last week.

You have the vice president take a plane trip to the Indianapolis so he could walk out of a game with the opposing players, now you have the Secretary of State privately possible calling the President a moron, the President challenging the Secretary of State to an I.Q. tests. When have these --

KIM: When you put it like that, it's just so fitting.


MCCORMACK: I mean, if he wanted to add T.V. show in the White House, you're getting it.

DAVIS: Well and what's stunning is that, you know, somebody in this White House allowed for the statement to be put out. I mean, I think in any other White House, particularly in --at a -- when figuring a crisis moment with all of that other -- with these other things happening you would say, you know what, maybe if someone feelings were hurt maybe we don't put out a statement. Maybe we quietly, you know, state to some reporters that appreciate that or something like that.

But to put out a paper statement, especially on the day before the First Lady is actually trying to do something that attracts attention to a cause that she cares about seems --

KING: Right. And we know number one, General Kelly was supposed to take tighter control over the statements coming out to the White House. We have to assume he knew about this.

Number two, help picks the New Communications Director comes from the Trump organization. She is well aware of the interactions here between, you know, that -- Ivana Trump is the mother of Eric and Don Jr. and Ivanka Trump who is still at the White House.

One more, I just want to make to point again how much she is joking. This is a Fox interview that was taped before the "Good Morning America" interview. You heard Ivana Trump say, "I'm first lady," joking and laughing in the "Good Morning America" interview. Here, similar question when she is on Fox.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you ever look at his position and Melania being the First Lady and think that's where I should be.

I. TRUMP: Not at all. I'm glad that Melania is there and I'm here.


KING: A different answer there. I guess we're just -- I'm with you on the mysterious of the statement because selling books is selling book that happens in this town quite a bit, right?

KIM: Yes. And again, we're all just kind of wondering what prompted this must to have a nerve in the White House. KING: Right. There is some untold story. We'll leave it at that. Coming up, are Democrats catching antiestablishment fever and could it affect Dianne Feinstein's future?


[12:51:33] KING: Welcome back. Antiestablishment fever hardly Republican only phenomenon, last week, another suggestion from a House Democrat that it's time for Nancy Pelosi and her leadership deputies to go. Now, California's senior senator drawing liberal heat for announcing she wants another term.

Dianne Feinstein is the oldest senator currently serving in the Chamber and the top Democrat on a Senate Judiciary Committee. Still, her critics back home say she is not willing to be more aggressive challenging the President. Take this moment back in August when the senator was booed for suggesting that President might improve.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D) CALIFORNIA: Look, this man is going to be President most likely for the rest of this term. I just hope he has the ability to learn and to change. And if he does, he can be a good President. And that's my hope.


KING: Now you have progressive Southern California saying let's primary Dianne Feinstein. A, is it real or is it just talk? And is this ideological? She is too centrist. Is this generational? There are whole bunch of young people been sitting around a long time in California, particularly you have Nancy Pelosi, Jerry Brown, Dianne Feinstein, not exactly next generation.

KIM: There are definitely some agitations for some sort of primary challenges a lot. No one is really stepped up just yet and we should know that a lot of the Democratic establishment in California did line up pretty quickly behind Senator Feinstein. You had Senator Kamala Harris, the junior senator within a few set of endorsements, Gavin Newsom as well.

But, we had Congressman Ro Khanna who is a freshman -- or freshman congressman said, "I don't want to run for Senate, but there should be a primary challenge on the left." How about Barbara Lee? She is a very liberal Democrat from there area, most well-known for her opposition in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Still there is really that clamoring there.

And I think it's a lot of the reasons that you just mentioned. It is generational. This is just a different time for politics. She also has a lot of policy issues. We know that Senator Feinstein did -- does not support single-payer, which had been almost growing as almost thing growing as a litmus test on the left.

She was actually been criticized. She has actually been criticized at town halls for not supporting the issue. So, it is a lot of factors. She's told does seem to be in a strong position to get reelected, but you see how -- you wonder how much that agitation is going to grow.

KING: And it's the same conversation we're having earlier. If you have these internal divide disagreements, maybe civil war within a party, Democrats have a chance. It's an outside chance, but a chance to take back the Senate. It's only 52 -- or 52-48. Do you want to be fighting in a place like California which costs a lot of bank?

If you're going to run elections in California it cost a lot of money. When you're trying to protect Democrats in red states next year and maybe knock off a couple of Republicans. But to the parties, they don't have the discipline they used to have. You can't say don't do that.

MCCORMACK: You know when we talk about polarization and we focus so much on Republican Party that we just forget how much the Democratic Party not pushing to the left. I thought the most remarkable thing I saw this year is when Nancy Pelosi held an event trying to draw attention to dreamers. This is a great issue for Democrats to focus on.

But there were protesters that are saying, "No, don't focus on dreamers. We need amnesty for everyone right now." And so that she shows you that this is --as a the Tea Party backlash back in 2009 and 2010 when Republicans are out of power, some Democrats are using this opportunity to consolidate power, pushing party for the left, which is strange because I mean, Dianne Feinstein sponsored the assault weapons ban that pretty much down the line and the liberal big supporter of right to abortion. You know, it's remarkable to see what's happening on the left and on the right.

DAVIS: But it's also I think response to President Trump in some ways because what we heard Dianne Feinstein say in that clip that she got her booed was very much like a standard senatorial response that you might say in response to any President acting, you know, what -- some people would think would be out of bounds.

[12:55:14] Well, let's see he has time as to grow into the position. This is the way that senators typically have talked about the presidents in the past. But this is not your typical president.

And there are many Democrats who feel that you need to respond to him in a way that is not your typical response. And so she is of a generation and of a time in the Senate when that was the way things are handled, but I think there are many on the left that -- who believe that that time has passed and it's because of President Trump.

KING: As we close, you cover the Trump White House. We talked a bit earlier sometimes it seems like a reality T.V. show. The President is having lunch with the Secretary of State right now and the Secretary of Defense. They got a lot of talk of attention between the President and the Secretary of State at the White House.

At the same time, a man who is sometimes gets floated around as a potential replacement for Rex Tillerson, John Bolton, who served as United Nations Ambassador during the George W. Bush administration seen right there going into the west-wing while this other meeting is taking place. Next up, survivor, Trump White House edition.

Thanks for joining us in the "Inside Politics." Wolf Blitzer on the chair after a short break. Have a great day.