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INSIDE POLITICS

Sanders: "Highly Inappropriate" to Debate Four-Star General; Trump Spars with Congresswoman Over Condolence Call; Trump: "End of the ISIS Caliphate is in Sight"; Lawmakers Push for Review of President's War Powers; Trump's Nine-Month Presidential Report Card; Bannon Calls Establishment a "Great Danger". Aired 8-9a ET

Aired October 22, 2017 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[08:00:13] JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): The nine-month mark, and a top priority finally advances. But can the president seal the deal?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let's give our country the best Christmas present of all: massive tax relief.

KING: Plus, the ex-presidents help hurricane victims after two make a rare leap into the debate about the current president.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: We've seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty.

KING: And a powerful defense of the boss, but Chief of Staff John Kelly flunks the fact check.

REP. FREDERICA WILSON (D), FLORIDA: So, that's a lie. How dare he?

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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.

We are live from Washington. Though, to hear this from the top government spokeswoman might make you think this is Myanmar, Sudan, or Thailand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If you want to get into a debate with a four-star marine general, I think that that's something highly inappropriate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Plus, the last Republican president takes sharp issue with the current Republican president, in substance and in tone. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And at the nine-month mark, pick a number. More than 1,900 tweets, 75 days at Trump golf properties, zero big legislative wins, though the president's tax cut plan is gaining momentum.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The timing is right, I have had people on both sides and I promise not to mention the name of the people on the other sides or names. But a lot of people are liking this very much. And I think we have tremendous support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With us this Sunday to share their reporting and their insights: Julie Hirschfield Davis of "The New York Times", CNN's Jeff Zeleny, CNN's Phil Mattingly, and Kimberly Atkins of "The Boston Herald."

In a moment, a White House policy report card at the nine-month mark. But we begin, though, with a White House power trip, nine months in, and its important lessons about what the president and his team think about the news media, the truth, and anyone who dares challenge them.

The president's chief of staff is a former four-star marine general, a hero, a man deserving of our respect, yes. But none of that excuses him from accountability when he stands at the White House podium and says something that is not true.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: And a congresswoman stood up and in the long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there in all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents, because she got the money, and she just called up president Obama and on that phone call, he gave the money, the $20 million to give the building, and she sat down.

And we were stunned. Stunned that she had done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, the congresswoman, Democrat Frederica Wilson, did not brag about getting the funding for the building. She did toot her horn for quickly getting the building named for two slain FBI agents, but as she did that, she also thanked several Republicans in Congress for their help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILSON: And guess what, the president signed the bill into law this past Tuesday, April 17th, 2015 with a bang, bang, bang!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, Chief of Staff Kelly has every right to think the congresswoman talked too long or too much about herself. But his briefing room rebuke painted a picture of her as selfish, as a showboater.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILSON: I made all men and women and first responder who is work in law enforcement stand up. Stand up now, so that we can applaud you and what you do. Stand up! We are proud of you! We're proud of your courage! Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, the tape doesn't lie. Chief of Staff Kelly got it wrong. But don't hold your breath for an apology or even an acknowledgement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: I think he's addressed that pretty thoroughly yesterday.

CHIP REID, CBS NEWS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: No, he was wrong yesterday, in talking about getting the money. The money was appropriated before she came into Congress.

SANDERS: If you want to go after General Kelly, that's up to you. But I think that if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that's something highly inappropriate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is it highly inappropriate to get into a debate in the United States of America with anybody?

I have great respect for General Kelly, for his service, for the tragedy of his family. He stood at the White House podium.

[08:05:01] He attacked a member of Congress. What he said is not true.

Therefore, it is highly appropriate that we ask these questions, and kudos to Chip Reid for his performance in the briefing room there, making the case, Chip from CBS.

Sarah Sanders has got it 180 degrees wrong.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: She does, which is why a few hours after that, she walked that back a bit and said, of course, you can ask questions of anyone, but don't impugn his credibility. The reality here, though, yes, John Kelly is a retired four-star

marine general, but in this case, he's wearing a hat as White House chief of staff. He's a political figure. He made the decision to attack this member of Congress in a speech that was otherwise extraordinary from the briefing room.

I was in there on Thursday, just a few feet away from him. The emotion, the raw power of what he was saying about how America responds to these war dead, was really powerful. And then he decided to make this decision for whatever reason, to personally attack this member of Congress.

Now, there is enough blame to go on all sides this week, after everyone politicized it. He did, she did, the president certainly did. But this chief of staff, he's a chief of staff, a political figure, of course, we'll question him.

KING: And the president of the United States likes this controversy. He's tweeting already this morning. Wacky Congressman Wilson is the gift that keeps on giving for the Republican Party, a disaster for Dems. You watch her in action and vote "R".

That's the president trying to make this about Dem-Republican and Republican voters may not like her.

The congresswoman sees it quite differently. She doesn't see it political -- she looks at the White House and she sees a president of the United States, and now his chief of staff, from, saying -- the president said she fabricated it.

If you look at the tape, we don't -- the conversation -- fabricated a phone conversation where she listened in. She was with the family, when the commander-in-chief called the mother and the widow of a slain hero. The president was mad about that. Then, General Kelly comes in, saying she shouldn't have been on the call and brings up this event down there.

He was wrong. Congressman Wilson says, when you're wrong, we call that a lie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILSON: You know, I feel sorry for General Kelly. He has my sympathy for the loss of his son. But he can't just go on TV and lie on me. I was not even in Congress in 2009 when the money for the building was secured. So that's a lie. How dare he?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And before we continue the conversation, I want you to listen to the president here. Now, remember, this controversy starts, the president's meeting constantly with his chief of staff, the president was asked in an interview that airs this morning on the Fox Business Channel about all of this.

Listen to the president here talking about why he and General Kelly were upset.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He was so offended that a woman would be -- that somebody would be listening to that call -- he was -- he actually couldn't believe it. Actually, he said to me, sir, this is not acceptable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The president caught himself. The president caught himself. He was so offended that a woman would be -- and then he pulled it back and said, someone would be. And he said, sir, this is not acceptable.

Now, I understand, General Kelly might think that when a commander-in- chief makes that call, it should be just to the family members. But the mother of this hero, the widow of this hero, this is America, she happened to be with them at the time, she's a friend to have the family, she apparently helped keep this young man off the streets and keep them on the straight and narrow.

This is a family's decision. This is not the president's decision. It is not General Kelly's decision. We can all say, oh, I don't like that, or I don't like this. But it's their decision in a moment of grief to decide who listens to the phone call. What do you make of that?

KIMBERLY ATKINS, REPORTER, BOSTON HERALD: That's absolutely right. I mean, these are -- you don't tell grieving people who to have with them and who to seek counsel from at the time.

And yes, the president is trying to paint this as if Congresswoman Wilson somehow infiltrated this family for the purpose of politicizing it later and is keeping this going and is now in tweets politicizing it after the White House has repeatedly bashed Congresswoman Wilson for politicizing this issue. And he's openly doing it now.

And it's a terrible -- look, it's a terrible tragedy for this family and the other three families who lost their loved ones. It wasn't lost on me yesterday that while the president was continuing to tweet about Congresswoman Wilson, she was sitting at the funeral of Sergeant La David Johnson while the wife continued to grieve openly with this family and their small children. It's a terrible political look.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: One of the things, I think, that's slightly perplexing or more than that, even, is when General Kelly came to the podium and explained what actually happened on the call, he seemed to confirm what the congresswoman was actually saying, but he actually gave a really excellent explanation as to why the president said what he said on that phone call, repeating or kind of reflecting his conversations with General Dunford when his son was killed.

And when General Kelly explained it and gave the full context of it and explain what had the president was trying to say, you sat there and said, oh, OK, this makes sense. The family may have taken it the wrong way, but the context and explanation, now, you actually see what the president was trying to say.

[08:10:01] He was trying to reflect what General Kelly had been told and what General Kelly conveyed to the president had been extremely helpful to them.

Misunderstandings can happen in these types of situations. There's no question about that.

What I was struck by earlier this week, I spoke with Lindsey Graham, obviously, the senator from South Carolina, who spent a lot of time with the president over the last couple of weeks, and he said, look, if there's any possibility of a miscommunication that somebody was offended, just pick up the phone and say, I'm sorry. There's no point to have this argument. There's no point to bring the family through this.

Whether you don't like the congresswoman or think this is political, or think people are grandstanding, there's a family here at the core of all of this. A family that's going through an awful time in their lives and a family that, frankly, General Kelly knows exactly what they're going through right now.

And for this to continue, to drag out through tweets and all of these issues, it's just -- it's nonsensical and I think it's really unsettling just in general.

KING: But it's a the trademark of the Trump presidency, whether it's the mayor of San Juan, whether it's members of Congress, whether it's NFL players, and now, the congresswoman who represents this grieving family, if the president feels that he is being slighted or he is being challenged, rules, decorum, the actual situation at hand get forgotten, it just becomes a slugfest.

JULIE HIRSCHFIELD DAVIS, REPORTER,THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, and rules and decorum aside, the idea of putting behind you, what turned out to be a very damaging history for the White House, is also off the table when the president feels personally aggrieved. And what was striking to me about that comment from Sarah Huckabee Sanders in the briefing room, about how dare you question a four-star Marine general, that seemed to be the premise of having General Kelly come out the day before and make the statements that he made.

Now, we're told, I'm told that he -- that was his decision. He wanted to go out there. It wasn't that the president said, you must go out and explain this.

And Phil is right, he did it in a very compelling way. But the whole subtext of that whole appearance was, I'm going to come out here and talk in a very personal way that's very meaningful to the people in this room and to all Americans about what this is about and then this is going end to this. And you're not going to question the explanations anymore and this is going to be over.

And that was a good tactic, I think, on their part. The problem is, then you have the president keeping -- coming back to this over and over again, and they've now kept alive a controversy that's very damaging.

KING: And General Kelly made the conscious decision not to limit it to Phil's excellent point about, look, maybe the president's language wasn't perfect here. He was trying to say, your kid was so tough, he volunteered, he knew what he was signing up for and still had the bravery to do it, what a hero. Maybe the president -- maybe it didn't come out that way, but General Kelly was saying, that's what the president was trying to say.

And if it was taken a different way, that's not what he intended. But then he went on to question the congresswoman at this event. His recollection is clearly wrong. Sarah Sanders, after seeing this tape, comes into the briefing room and says she's all hat, no cattle, which means she's useless and she's not real.

And she also says this -- listen to Sarah Sanders saying, look, General Kelly ended this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: It should have ended yesterday after General Kelly's comments. But it didn't. It continued. He thought it was important that people got a full and accurate picture of what took place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You can't stand at that podium with those words before behind you, the White House. That's the United States government speaking here. She's part of a legacy in history to say, get a full and accurate picture of what took place when he did not give a full and accurate picture of what took place.

And now, the congresswoman and her allies think, number one, they think it's sexist. She has herself raised the question about whether this is about race because she's an African-American woman down there. Why can't they just come out there and say, look, General Kelly's recollection was faulty, you know --

ZELENY: Because the high road is not usually an option for this president. He had several opportunities this week to, you know, sort of end this, but they do not want to end this.

But the challenge here, the White House was taken off guard entirely on Friday by this video. They had every reason to believe that the speech on Thursday was accurate. So, you know, they were kind of in this defensive mode.

I think this is over now. They want this to be over. It should be over. The real questions, here, are about what led to the ambush, but the president, as he's tweeting this morning, is not talking about that. He wants to make this about a member of Congress from Florida.

So, it's -- it's just an unseemly debate this week. I think, you know, the best example yet of how everything in this town or most things have broken down.

ATKINS: And it left Kelly so damaged. That's the worst part of it.

KING: The best character witness the president has is now --

ATKINS: In the White House is now damaged.

KING: Right, it's an excellent point there.

Up next, we'll get to those questions about the Niger ambush and why U.S. troops were operating in central Africa.

And as we go to break, let's look at some moving images here. This is what should matter most. Saturday's funeral service for Sergeant La David Johnson, a husband, a father, a hero.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:18:45] KING: Welcome back.

President Trump says the fall of Raqqa is proof ISIS is on the run and he predicts it will be a turning point in Syria's bloody civil war. Syrian Democratic Forces proclaimed the liberation of the city this past week.

See those pictures there?

CNN and other television crews in recent days have visited the self- proclaimed capital city of what ISIS had vowed would be a growing caliphate.

The ambush of those U.S. servicemen, though, in Niger is a reminder the fight against ISIS is hardly over and hardly limited to Syria and Iraq. And as lawmakers demand answers from the Pentagon about Niger, there's also a larger push for a new congressional debate about the use of military force. U.S. troops now operate under the same authority granted after the 9/11 attacks, even though that was a response to al Qaeda, and focused primarily in Afghanistan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: The war is morphing. You're going to see more actions in Africa, not less. I think most Americans want to do the following. Where there are threats to us and our allies, they want to us deal with it. They don't want another 9/11. We don't want the next 9/11 to come from Niger.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You have two tracks now, Phil, where you work up on Capitol Hill. Number one, Senator McCain and others demanding more about what happened in Niger, the particulars, why were these troops there, why did somebody clearly get the threat assessment wrong, the intelligence about that, how many are still there, what's coming next there.

And then you have the bigger conversation. [08:20:00] They're going to have a big hearing now with the secretary

of state and the secretary of defense on the possibility of Congress actually stepping up and voting to authorize military force, the use of military force, around the world, and essentially drawing new guidelines. Where can U.S. troops go, where shouldn't they be?

And the Trump administration at that hearing, I assume, is going to have to answer some questions that we don't know the answers to. How do they go about these things, how many U.S. troops? Where are they, what's the mission?

MATTINGLY: Yes. So, on the first, look, the Senate Armed Services Committee and the House Armed Services Committee, they need more answers. There's no question about it. Senator McCain has been very up-front about that fact. That Defense Secretary James Mattis actually coming to the hill, even for a quick visit, to kind of make peace on that grounds.

I think the reality is, at least in talking to aides, congressional aides in both parties about what happened in Niger, there are a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of things that we probably won't be able to know publicly for a bit of time because of the operation that what was going on there. On the authorization to use military force, look, this is a pure abdication of congressional responsibility and has been for the better part of 16 years.

The 2001 AUMF is the great elastic thing that can apply to all conflicts in war. And essentially in 36, 37 words, I believe is what it was in 2001, anything that could have any tie whatsoever to al Qaeda can be used as a rationalization toe send troops to Syria, to Libya, to Somalia, to the Horn of Africa. Just kind of across the globe right now.

And look, the merits of that and the merits of finding where ISIS is and making sure particularly on the special operator side that we have individuals there to face them and confront the threat before it grows or comes to the homeland, that's fair. Completely fair. But have the debate. And let people in Congress actually have to have these votes.

The reason why people in Congress are allowing this to happen is because they don't want to take the tough vote. President Obama sends an AUMF up to Capitol Hill, trying to do this in 2014 and 2015. Tim Kaine, Jeff Flake, there's bipartisanship on both sides saying, this is our job in Congress. We should decide when troops are deployed, not a 2001 AUMF.

So, how the Trump administration acts on this I think is going to be really important, because the reality is, the political will on Capitol Hill to touch this is very, very limited. And if an administration gets behind it or if somebody like James Mattis or Rex Tillerson says, we need these guidelines so we know how far we can go, maybe that will actual have an effect.

KING: They're afraid to vote for it, because then whether it's Hillary Clinton's Iraq war vote or -- you vote for something and then a horrible thing happens. Sorry, that's your job, that's your job. You signed up to be in the Congress, you have to be a part of these things.

You wanted to make a point.

ATKINS: Yes, and you need a strategy. I mean, this discussion is important, not just to get the White House behind it, but to get General Mattis and Secretary Tillerson to say, we need a strategy moving forward. We need a strategy that's not just military, but also strategic and political.

That's part of the mess in Syria right now, is, so, yes, Raqqa has been reclaimed, so now what? That's the next discussion that lawmakers and policymakers have to make.

KING: And to that point, as you jump there, I just want to read you -- it's rare, we did not get a statement from the president of the United States after the Niger ambush. We did get a statement from the president of the United States yesterday after Raqqa was liberated. And it is a clear victory for the administration. It's a clear victor for the coalition fighting.

The president says in this statement, this will not surprise who've listened to the White House, we have made alongside our coalition partners more progress against these evil terrorists in the past several months than in the past several years.

The president in also in radio interview earlier this week saying this is all because of him. He changed the rules of engagement. He says, he gave the military more muscle, he gave the military more power, that's why this is happening.

Listen here, though, President Obama's last defense secretary, Ash Carter, speaking to Jake Tapper the other day saying, well, not exactly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ASH CARTER, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: The plan has been -- was laid out two years ago, and has been executed pretty much in the manner and on the schedule that was foreseen then.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I'm not smart enough to know the truth. Ash Carter is a good public servant. I'm not disputing what he said there. I'm not going to domestic dispute what the president said today.

But that's why these hearings are so valuable. Let the administration go up. How are the rules of engagement different? How are you doing things now, Secretary Mattis -- was General Mattis in the Obama administration -- how are you doing things differently now than you were six months, nine months, two years ago? That's the value of airing this out, so the American people, as they watch these heroes be buried and as we have this debate about their service, not about the politics part of it, what to do about it.

ZELENY: We have not heard very much from the president on the ISIS strategy. He's given, you know, about one speech on it. So I think this week was a major missed opportunity for him to, you know, perhaps explain the strategy, do an Oval Office address or something to actually explain to Americans what is happening in Africa and other places around the globe.

He does not want to get engaged in this fight. You know, this morning, he's not talking about the substance. He's talking about this member of Congress again.

That is not the point. So I think that we don't know exactly what the strategy is. And he very seldom talks about this.

KING: All right. Everyone, take a break.

Up next, nine months on the job, the disruption is constant, but a lot of big promises are unkept or tossed aside.

First, though, a little fun. Politicians say the darnedest thing, as Ted Cruz invokes Bernie Sanders' doppelganger.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[08:25:00] SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Bernie, I didn't interrupt you. Just relax. Just relax!

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: I'm not interrupting you. Come on, come on. Tthe Italian in me.

CRUZ: You know, as some might say, curb your enthusiasm.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'd give us An A. I would say communication would be a little bit less than an A because I don't think we've gotten the word out what we've done, because I think we're so busy getting it done that we're not talking about it.

We've signed more bills, and I'm talking about, through the legislature, than any president, ever.

REPORTER: Mr. President, between one and ten, how would you grade the White House response so far to the hurricane?

TRUMP: I would say it was a 10.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[08:29:45] KING: The president obviously gives himself high marks for the first nine months, whether it's the hurricane or signing legislative bills, although that part is not exactly going to pass. Fact check -- let's look at some of the other numbers of these past

nine months. 1,912 tweets, that's of a few seconds ago -- it might be higher by now. 1,912 Trump tweets -- 127 of them about what he calls fake news; 16 about what he calls the Russia witch hunts underway.

The President likes to visit properties that have his name on them -- 83 Trump property visits, including a Trump golf course yesterday. He has spent 30 percent of his time of his 276 days as president, 30 percent of those days have been spent at a property that bears Trump's name. And we should say this does not include his resort at Mar-A- Lago, Florida where he goes in the wintertime taking back White House business.

A lot of turnover in the Trump presidency: at least ten senior White House departures. This includes a chief of staff, a chief strategist, the deputy chief of staff, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. So turnover has been a constant in these past nine months.

Now, the President likes to say he's been boom-time for the economy; when it comes to jobs -- that's not exactly right. If you look at the average, the first eight full months of the Trump presidency and those same eight months last year in the Obama presidency, President Obama's economy actually was creating more jobs than President Trump's.

Now, to be fair, President Trump took a hit because of the hurricanes here. So let's watch this will one play out. But he's running roughly even or a little behind President Obama over the same months when it comes to job creation.

The President is right when he says the Dow has boomed since the election. Just look at these numbers. You go back to the Election Day there -- 18332. Look where we are now. The stock market has had a big jump.

Again, those who prefer to look at the Obama economy will say, well this goes way back to there but since Trump has been president, skyrocketing.

One question -- if tax reform fails, will the stock market take a hit? That's why the President thinks with a little momentum right now, it is so important. He has zero big legislative wins. He wants one and he wants it quick.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we get the Republicans we need, which is virtually every single one of them, because that's what we need, we will get that largest tax cut in the history of our country. And you will see things happen like have never happened before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: He got the Senate budget vote. It looks like the House will accept the Senate budget resolution which is the vehicle, the train if you will, that you then write a tax cut plan and put it on right there.

Did they learn important lessons from the health care debate about how when to be involved with Congress and when to step back so that we don't go through what we went through with Obamacare?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, "NEW YORK TIMES": I think they did learn some important lessons in terms of you have to have some coordination with Capitol Hill. You have to also give some guidance and give clear bench marks and fence post what you expect to happen.

Because if you see the entire debate to the Hill and then come in the middle or at the end and say this is mean or I can't accept this, then you're in situation that's untenable for members of congress and for your White House.

What I'm not sure about and I think we'll have to see how the next few weeks play out, is whether they have actually internalized that in terms of the White House itself. How are they going to move this tax legislation, which is incredibly complicated and also very controversial, through the House and Senate, given that they have basically laid out no real predicate, for what they will and won't accept?

This has now become a complete free for fall among every constituency that cares about tax policy in this town. And it is not clear that they're getting messages from the White House about what is negotiable versus not negotiable, what the House can accept, what the Senate can accept and what can get through.

And until they have that sense of vision from the White House, I'm not sure that this is going to play out any differently from health care, even though they have sort of learned these lessons about, ok, well that way definitely did not work. This way maybe can work.

But they have such a small amount of time to get this incredibly big lift done.

KING: You say such a small amount of time. The President wants it now. He wants it yesterday. Even his own people said it's possible, they feel it could slip into 2018. I talked to somebody last night who I trust on these matters, who follows it very, very closely, who said the House will get it done. Please don't ask me about the Senate. That was the response, essentially.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Which is kind of an evergreen response -- anything, right, anything when it comes to which chamber of Congress will do what?

Look if you want a sign that things are heading in a good direction look at last week on that budget vote -- not the budget vote, but what happened right before it. The House and the Senate came to an agreement on some technical language that basically, as you noted, means the House will just eat the Senate's budget.

That's a big deal because that cuts two weeks off the time line. They're going to have conference that so what that shows and what that underscores is they recognize there's a political imperative to get this thing done. And they're willing to back off these issues that they usually care very deeply about and are willing to have very deep fights about in order to keep the train moving on time.

But I think Julie makes a key point here. This is the very easy part. Getting the budget, getting the vehicle, doing all that type of stuff, laying out a nine-page document of principles is the easy part.

The hard part comes now, when the Ways and Means Committee in the next two weeks drops their legislation and you start seeing details, when you start having corporations particularly when it comes to on the corporate side, the international tax system, territorial side of things. That's going to be very complicated -- thousands of lobbyists coming in there.

But on the individual side, when you start getting numbers on what the rates are going to be, what the implications are going to be, that's when things are going to matter and move.

[08:35:02] And I do think a lot of lessons were learned from health care. I do think that they're moving in a much better direction. I do think they recognize that if it's going to pass the Senate, they need to move very quickly and not allow it to hang out there.

Speed is of the essence here. But we haven't gotten to the hard part yet.

KING: Right, the hard part -- can they look a camera in the eye and can they pass a fact check that says this is a middle class tax cut as well as a -- look, corporations are going to do better here. Rich people are going to do better here if they pass something.

But they're going to have to pass a political test and is it also good for the middle class, which is what the President has promised.

I just want to show you a bit of the report card. We're nine months in. We periodically come back to this. You know, it's an all- Republican Washington, right. You have a Republican president, a Republican Senate, a Republican House.

They have failed to repeal Obamacare. That was the number one priority of the Republicans this year including their president. Tax reform, DACA, the so-called Dreamers immigration, the Iran deal, the President's infrastructure plan -- we grade infrastructure's incomplete. It's not happening this year.

But it's not a great record so far. The President can talk, he is right. But you can disagree with this if you're not a Trump supporter, but he can talk about what they have done from an administrative standpoint -- regulations, whether it's the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, things they've done in the stock market and Wall Street, things like that, judicial appointments. They have done some things. They have made progress on the things that they can control from an executive standpoint.

But nine months into all-Republican Washington, the family has not been able to pass big-ticket legislative items.

KIMBERLY ATKINS, "BOSTON HERALD": No, he hasn't been able to do the big things that he campaigned on, which is repealing and replacing Obamacare, tax cuts, putting some sort of ban in place. He put it in place, but it keeps getting struck down.

But that one point that you made about judicial appointments is the thing he doesn't talk about very much, but that's actually, probably, one of the biggest and most lasting impacts he has had. Not just with the Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch, but he is in a position, based on the number of people who are retiring, to completely reshape the entire federal judiciary and shift it rightward. And he's in the process of doing that.

So that is an underrated win for this White House, but elsewhere, there's really little --

KING: I asked the question, have they learned the lessons, because we all lived about the past nine months of Obamacare. We went through it a bit this past week where a bipartisan proposal came up. The President was for it, then he was against it.

I just want you to listen again. I'm raising this health care history in the context of a tax reform debate going forward. Has the President figured out how to govern, when to talk, when to not, when to take a stand and when to plant a flag?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Obamacare is finished. It's dead, it's gone. It's no longer -- you shouldn't even mention it. It's gone. There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore.

This is a short-term deal because we think ultimately block grants going to the states is going to be the answer. The solution will be for about a year or two years and it will get us over this intermediate hump.

We're going to see the bipartisan and Lamar Alexander's working on it very hard, from our side. And if something can happen, that's fine. But I won't do anything to enrich the insurance companies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The issue is more the mixed signals. If you're a member of congress who has to cast a tough vote or cast a vote, we are told, this is it. This is the final proposal. This is the best you're going to get vote, when the President constantly is zigging and zagging, as Chuck Schumer called it this past week. It's hard for Republicans to know if he's got their back.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is absolutely hard. And that's why the President's role in tax reform is so interesting here. He has to be on top of the details otherwise he will go sort of off the reservation, if you will. But at the same time, he can't be too involved in this, because they think he may complicate it. So the White House staff is -- and other Republicans close to the White House, are more pessimistic and worried about a tax reform privately, because they just simply do not know if this Congress can get anything done. We'll find out.

But they all need to lock their arms together for an accomplishment. They all know that. That's the biggest imperative to doing it, not necessarily this specific legislation.

KING: Big couple of weeks ahead -- very big couple of weeks ahead.

Everybody please sit tight.

A rare remarkable gathering last night in Texas -- take a peek here. The five living U.S. presidents coming together a benefit concert for victims of recent hurricanes.

You pick up the "New York Times" today Jimmy Carter says he'd love to help President Trump with North Korea. When we come back, two others in that most exclusive club made clear they don't think much of the current president.

[08:39:08] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Relationships are complicated, especially in today's Republican Party. Breitbart CEO Stephen Bannon calls President Trump a friend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: And let me say something about President Trump. I've had the great honor of being the CEO of the campaign and then being his chief strategist and senior counselor in the White House. And now I'm proud to say, his wingman outside.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: All right. Well, President Trump calls the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a friend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Despite what we read, we're probably now, I think, at least as far as I'm concerned, closer than ever before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: But Bannon insisting all the while that he's out there to help his friend, the President, calls McConnell public enemy number one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BANNON: The permanent political class that runs this country is one of the great dangers we face.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Help me, here. Can somebody square this circle? You have this -- you have -- and the President spoke favorably of Steve Bannon this week. He said he disagreed on some of the particulars; the particular senate incumbents he's going after.

He said, I like Steve, I understand Steve's frustration. Well, Steve's frustration is with Mitch McConnell, who was standing next to the President in the Rose Garden saying we're going to get this tax reform thing just right.

MATTINGLY: Just really confidently keeping feet in both parties right now, or in both areas right now, which, look, I think is probably difficult to pull that off.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTINGLY: If you can pull that off, then bless you for it.

Look, I think the President understands that Steve Bannon and what Steve Bannon brings to the table can be extraordinarily helpful to him and his agenda. I think his instincts are to traditionally align with Steve Bannon on most things.

But I think he's also been told by all of his senior advisers, if you want tax reform, if you want any major legislative achievements, we have to figure out how to get on the same page with the Senate Majority Leader and Senate Republicans.

And as we've talked about a lot, Senate Republicans have been very unsettled by what they've heard from Steve Bannon over the course of the last couple of weeks.

[08:45:00] And I was -- I think we said this earlier in the week -- that was an audience of 51, that whole thing that he was doing with Mitch McConnell. But I do think that he kind of goes back and forth and I think probably more traditionally aligns with Steve Bannon.

I will note just real quickly, the idea that Steve Bannon is going to primary every sitting Republican senator who's up for re-election or a lot of them, fine, knock yourself out. But if you're going to go after John Barrasso in Wyoming, with somebody who's not from Wyoming, good luck with that.

Go back and look into it --

KING: But that's the inside Washington, sort of Steve Bannon, the populist pitchfork, we don't like the establishment. Trump standing at least for now with Mitch McConnell and the establishment.

There's a broader conversation this week when George W. Bush who stays out of these thing, who has by design stayed out of these things, step forward and whether it's globalization, whether it's immigration, whether it's trade or tone -- went after President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our identity as a nation, unlike many other nations, is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood.

This means that people of every race, religion, ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It was striking to see -- he never mentioned Donald Trump -- but everybody knew who he was talking about.

ATKINS: Yes, he may not have been talking about the President directly, but he was certainly talking about Trumpism. And he is somebody who is seeing his party go in a direction that he does not like when it's being embraced by white supremacists.

And we are seeing the president really rail out against the very principles that he embraced during his presidency. He's worried about his party.

KING: Does he have an audience anymore, George W. Bush?

I think he does. I think we saw in the response to him this week that, you know, there are a lot of other Republicans and Independents, frankly who hear that message and are concerned as he is.

KING: And he would like them to step forward, I think.

Our reporters share from their notebooks next, including an insight on a big upcoming presidential visit to Capitol Hill.

[08:46:47] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Let's have one last time around the table, ask our great reporters to share a little something from their notebooks to help you get out ahead of the big political news just around the corner.

Julie Davis.

DAVIS: Well, we've been talking a lot about the President's domestic challenges. He also has a big challenging international trip coming up to Asia in a couple of weeks. And at the White House and in the State Department and in his administration in general, there's still a lot of debate about how this trip should go.

There's a lot of nervousness about how it might unfold. They're still debating whether or not he should visit the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, as other presidents have done, who have visited the region.

And I think there's a lot of worry that the President, who we know is prone to some inflammatory statements, might say or do something inappropriate there. And, of course, you know, this whole situation is on a hair trigger, with North Korea, to coin a phrase. There's also some debate about whether he should go to the Philippines. He actually alluded to that last week. He said he might not really want to go.

So he's accepted an invitation to attend a summit there. We'll just have to see whether he can get past his personal animus with the President Duterte there and actually go through with that.

KING: My bet on the DMZ is he won't be able to say no.

Mr. Zeleny.

ZELENY: We've been talking all morning about tax reform and health care, the President has been picking fights with Republican senators as we know, but this week, he's going on to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to be the guest star at the Republican Senate lunch.

Now this is going to be fascinating. He wants to engage on tax reform, have them come with him. But so many senators have questions for him, as well. John McCain has been really a rising voice as we've heard and then talking about it.

So my question is, what are the questions these senators have for the President, and how will this one on one interaction on Capitol Hill work for him? Because he needs them but he often wants to distance himself from them. So it will be a great lunch.

KING: Volunteer if they need an extra waiter. Phil.

ZELENY: No doubt.

MATTINGLY: So it seemed to take a matter of hours for the President to help inflate the optimism bubble and then take a rather large needle to it when it came to the Alexander-Murray short-term health care deal. A lot of people thinking that this is now dead in the water because the President seemed very clear that he wasn't for it.

I'm told that's actually not the case. Over the course of the last 48 hours, the White House has actually sent principles to Capitol Hill -- things that they need to see to actually make the deal work. And while some of the principles, whether it be relief from the individual and employer mandate, retroactive on the employer side, expansion of short-term health savings accounts, and more regulatory relief probably would be non-starters for Democrats on their face, it shows an actual legitimate engagement from the legislative affairs team, from the White House, showing that, look, we might actually be willing to get onboard on this. And instead of just dismissing it outright, here are some things that we need to actually see it move forward.

So I'm told, keep a very close eye on this. Right now you've got two veteran lawmakers who are working behind the scenes, gathering support, knowing how this process works, looking for a vehicle to attach it to, and now you have the White House that's actually making some reasonable demands inside the negotiations.

Long road to go, but it's not as dead as it may have appeared at certain points last week.

KING: Optimism, huh?

MATTINGLY: It's allowed. We can have it.

ATKINS: So before the President goes to Asia, he said he's going to make a decision about who the fed chair is going to be. And it's reported that he is leaning toward the more conservative choices in either John Taylor or Jerome Powell.

But Janet Yellen, the current fed chair, is not out of the running yet. She has some bipartisan support so the people backing her are taking an approach of claim to the President's love for bragging. Recently he has bragged a lot about how strong the stock markets are. We see him tweet about that frequently and sort of saying, look, you don't want to change course right now, a change of course or a change at the top of the fed could have a negative impact on markets and you wouldn't be able to brag about that anymore.

So we still don't know what he's going to do, the President. Nobody really -- no one knows what he's going to do until he does it. But Janet Yellen isn't out of the running yet.

KING: Doesn't get enough attention. It's a very important decision for the President.

I'll close with this. The official line from George W. Bush's aides after his big speech this past week was that it was no big deal. That all its themes were topics the former president has discussed before. That's true about topics like immigration, globalization, compassion and civility.

Bush 43 strongly believes former presidents should largely steer clear of current political debates and has no interest, I'm told, in joining say Congresswoman Wilson or the NFL on the President's repeat tweet list.

[08:55:04] But his top-to-bottom rebuke of President Trump's agenda and tone was no accident. Both Presidents Bush, 41 and 43, are described by friends and allies as more than a little frustrated that more GOP leaders are not stepping up to challenge a Trump effect they view as bad for the Republican Party and bad for the country. It was no accident.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS.

Up next on "STATE OF THE UNION" -- two big news-making interviews including the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Have a great Sunday.

[08:55:33] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)