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Trump: "Very Proud" of Tax Reform Bill; U.N. Rebuke of Trump and His Jerusalem Decision. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired December 24, 2017 - 08:00   ET



[08:00:18] JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): A big tax cut win to close out a rocky first year.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are making America great again. You haven't heard that, have you?

KING: Plus, a threat as the president is rebuked at the United Nations.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: This vote will make a difference at how Americans look at the U.N. and how we look at countries who disrespect us in the U.N. This vote will be remembered.

KING: And a year-end warning from Democrats who worry the president is looking to fire or discredit the special counsel.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: These truly are red lines and simply cannot allow them to be crossed.

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


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.

President Trump is at his Florida resort to celebrate Christmas, after ending a year of legislative frustration with a big win on tax cuts.


TRUMP: The bottom line is, this is biggest tax cuts and reform in the history of our country.

This is the bill right here and we're very proud of it. It's a going to be a tremendous thing for the American people it's going to be fantastic for the economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: When Washington gets back to work, it will be an election year and the immediate challenges include Obamacare and immigration, putting the year-end Republican unity to a very quick 2018 test.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: They're just kind of a potpourri of year-end things that were in the end not addressed yesterday that we'll have to turn to in January, and we'll work most of those out on a bipartisan basis and that's what we need to pass.


KING: Plus, the Russia investigation clout is as big as ever. The North Korean nuclear threat, too. Some of 2017's biggest global challenges will only loom larger in the New Year.


TRUMP: For all of these nations that take our money and then they vote against us at the Security Council or they vote against us potentially at the assembly, they take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars and then they vote against us. Well, we're watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We'll save a lot. We don't care.


KING: With us to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Pace of "The Associated Press", Michael Shear of "The New York Times", Sahil Kapur of "Bloomberg", and CNN's Maeve Reston.

It's been too long. Welcome back to the East Coast.

We begin with two very different takes on President Trump's first year -- his take and the country's. The presidency sees historic success, capped by Friday signing of that big Republican tax cut plan.


KING: I consider this very much a bill for the middle class and a bill for jobs, and jobs are produced through companies and corporations and you see that happening corporations are literally going wild over this, I think even beyond my expectations.


KING: Plus, the president sees a year-end bonus in the tax bill.


KING: I think it ultimately leads to the end of Obamacare. It's essentially -- I think Obamacare is over because of that, and we're going to come up with something that's really going to be very good. But the individual mandate was very unfair.


KING: The country though does not share the president's glowing take on 2017. His approval ratings are historically low, and the president is viewed by a clear majority of Americans as undisciplined, divisive and dishonest.

The veteran Democratic pollster Peter Hart summed up a year of polling and focus groups this way: it has been all about him and only him from day one from the size of his inaugural crowd to his regular attacks on anybody who has something negative to say about him. No event or person is too small for Donald Trump to attack voters, wanted change, not chaos.

Let's have a conversation on Christmas Eve people watching at home. Put this week, which was big, a lot happened this week, into the context of this year which was also big and tumultuous.

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE ASSOCIATE PRESS: Well, this was the president's best week legislatively for certain he finally got the big legislative victory that presidents actually expect to get in their first year. There's no doubt that it was a political set success for he and for the Republicans.

But I think Peter hart's analysis is really spot-on. This is a president who has been presiding over an economy that is pretty strong at this point. He has had some success in reshaping the judiciary. He got nailed Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. There are some other signs that some of the punches that Republicans have landed on Obamacare that he is making progress on his agenda.

But it is overshadowed at every turn by his own words and his actions, and that is resonating with the public. They are they are taking that seriously they get frustrated by the tweets. They get frustrated by the divisive rhetoric.

[08:05:02] So, if he is complaining about his legislative agenda and his executive agenda being overshadowed, it's his own fault.

KING: And so, his personal brand is so tainted with a majority of Americans in some cases when you look at these numbers that overwhelming majorities of Americans when you ask about honesty or is he up to the job, is he being a uniter not a divider, is that -- is that it? That his success is that -- and Republicans worry about this. We'll talk about 2018 elections a bit later in the program, but worry about this too, that his brand is so bad that even good things he doesn't get credit for?

SAHIL KAPUR, REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: That's certainly a part of. I think -- I mean the fact of the fact that he was able to finish this year with the kind of trifecta of conservative ideological achievements is a huge victory for him, not only trillion and a half in tax cuts but ACA individual mandate repeal, and opening up ANWR to oil drilling.

But the economy as Julie pointed out is doing well in the sense that the stock market is booming and there's something close to full employment. The real test is going to be in what people are feeling. Wages are still stagnant. People are still crushed with debt, especially if you're young college tuition is not affordable for a lot of people.

So, the test is going to be, does this let piece of legislation that President Trump had just signed deliver the kind of growth and the broad-based benefits that he has promised?

One senior Republican I spoke to says if this bill works the way we say it will, we're going to be OK. If not, we're in trouble.

KING: But -- they say that with some trepidation though because even if people get more taxes, blue-collar people they have more money in their wallets starting February, yes, but the Trump brand is hurting everything they do.

MICHAEL SHEAR, REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, look the part of the irony here is that for a guy who both thinks believes and wants to portray everything to be about him, right, the great irony is that I don't know whether either the political establishment in Washington or the American public actually gives him credit for these victories, right?

I mean we know on Capitol Hill that they sort of feel like they got this despite him, right, and I think the American public feels that, too. That to the extent that there have been some of these, you know, victories in a sense, the Gorsuch nomination or whatever, people view the president of having gotten in the way of all of that and that some of these things happen despite the fact that he tweeted, despite the fact that he always steps on the message, despite the fact of the chaos.

And so, the question is does the -- I mean, yes there's these victories at the end of the year, but I'm not sure people are giving him any credit.

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, you know, it's interesting though. I was doing some door-knocking and in one of the midterm districts, and it was just fascinating to me that the people when they come to the door and you ask them about Trump, that they often blame Congress for everything that wasn't getting done. Obviously, this was before the you know the big tax reform victory, but he was very successful in getting that narrative across to voters that, you know, that it's intransigent -- intransigence in Washington that's standing in his way, and that is the genius of the Trump brand, when he repeats something enough, you know, people internalize it.

KING: There's no question, even if you look at the president's dismal historically low approval numbers, so we can show you these let's just put them up there and look is he looking at a whole list of past presidents, the president can say he's doing great, the American people which the ultimate jury in American politics don't think so.

You look, that's the president at the bottom in yellow, there's a president's going back to Eisenhower on that chart right there. That is dismal, and that's what the American people think at this point. But you are right. Congress is even less popular than that especially with Republican voters. Republican voters don't like their own leaders. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell even if they have questions about President Trump.

One of the questions would ask at this time they did get a big win on tax cuts are they kept the government open. In a moment, we'll get to the challenges waiting them next year. But did the president learn any lessons?

We know at times he had dysfunction in his relationships with his own party including the leaders, the speaker and the majority leader. Listen to the president in the big signing week, the big celebration of tax cuts. Is this going to last?


TRUMP: Paul Ryan and Mitch, it was a little team. We just got together and we would work very hard didn't we, huh? It seems like there was a lot of fun. It's always a lot of fun when you win. If you work hard and lose, that's not acceptable.


KING: Go ahead.

RESTON: I think he did actually learn a lot of lessons after the Obamacare disaster for him earlier this year. When you talk to people who talk to the president frequently now, they say that in tax reform, he was much more engaged. He understood that he had to give on some things.

And, you know, he didn't go out and bash parts of the bill or the lawmakers that he needed in that moment, and that has evolved in that way and understanding how Congress works. And, you know, asking questions about what it's going to take to get x lawmaker to yes.

So, I think in that respect, maybe we will see some more legislative success from him because he understands the lesson now.

PACE: I do think that one of the lessons at the White House staff learned is that there is expertise on Capitol Hill, that even though this is a White House that came in vowing to blow up the city, thinking that everybody in Washington who's been here forever, it's kind of a joke and can't get anything done, there are people have been working on tax reform for a very long time.

[08:10:05] Paul Ryan at the top of the list, and there is a newfound respect from some corners of the White House at the -- at the ability of the Hill to kind of wrangle something -- something that's large and really understand the complexity.

RESTON: And President Trump even then pointed that out, you know, at that -- at that ceremony I think calling out Rob Portman and other people who hadn't understood the intricacies of the tax code and giving them credit for that. KAPUR: And one of the big lessons he learned to simply not get in the way. He got in the way repeatedly in the healthcare battle. He called the House bill mean. He said one of the bills needs more heart. He didn't do that with the tax bill.

I think he's not a policy wonk in the sense that he's getting -- he's delving into these details and making demands and that helped, because one of the things he campaigned on was the elimination of the carried interest loophole for investment fund managers. That was largely preserved with a bit of a tweak in this bill. It's a broken promise, but at the end of the day, the president was willing to accept it to get something done.

KING: One of the things he was unable to do is any bipartisan deal- making. Remember, the campaign, they're all stupid in Washington. I cut deals. This is what I do for a living, I'm going to get everybody together.

He wanted to do infrastructure in year one, he never even sent the plan up to Capitol Hill. So, that was a promise broken, but he says it will be priority number one in year two.

Is there any reason to believe as we sit here in a midterm election year with the president's numbers in the tank, the Democrats going to raise their hand and cooperate?

SHEAR: No, and infrastructure in particular, there's no reason to believe that House Speaker Paul Ryan will want to cooperate either. That's not his priority.

I also want to be the sort of voice of kind of skepticism about Donald Trump learning. I mean, learning suggests that you both kind of understand what worked and then you apply that in the future and I don't know that I have a lot of confidence that the next moment he decides he wants -- he's angry with Mitch McConnell that he's not going to you know fire off another nasty tweet to you know to somebody that he needs.

And so, I mean, I guess the proof will be in the pudding, maybe he will have learned and you know we'll sort of see to Maeve's point, whether we get --

RESTON: He may have learned, but we're not saying necessarily a bit he'll change.


KING: Amen in the low bar, to find pudding it's the second and third week of January.


KING: Everybody, sit tight.

Up next to showdown in the United Nations to close a controversial year on the world stage for the president and his "America First" agenda.

But, first, politicians say the darndest things especially when talking about their Christmas plans. Yes, as we've discussed, the president and the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are getting along better of late. But there are limits.


REPORTER: Do you have any plans to visit Mar-a-Lago within the holidays.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: No, no. The closest I'm going -- I'm going through a bowl game in Jacksonville.




[08:16:42] TRUMP: From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it's going to be only America first, America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families.


KING: It's a memorable chunk of the president's inaugural address and another reminder this past week that America first has in this first year often translated into America alone or America isolated. Both the United Nations Security Council and the larger general assembly rebuked President Trump this past week for officially recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, accusing the United States of taking sides on a question long set aside to be settled in Israeli- Palestinian peace negotiations.

The White House could have ignored the U.N. rebuke, but instead it relished the fight and promised, there will be a price to pay for it.


HALEY: The United States will remember this day, in which it was singled out for attack in the general assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation. We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world's largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us as they so often do to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.


KING: Interesting first year in the sense of confrontation there at the United Nations, confrontation early on with NATO allies, confrontation with the world and walking away from a climate change agreement, and yet efforts despite traditional Republican foreign policy to try to have more friendly relations with Russia and China in the middle of all those confrontations.

SHEAR: Yes, that reminded me of the trip that we were on in -- when he went and spoke at the United at NATO and was supposed to sort of, you know, reaffirm his, you know, the Article 5 commitment to standing up for the NATO allies and didn't at the last minute, and it was when -- it was a similar kind of moment where, you know, what he wanted to say at the time and what he in what Nikki Haley just said there was you know stressing the financial obligations that the United States has to the rest of the world and, you know, essentially asserting that they owe us.

PACE: One of the interesting things I thought -- Michael will remember this because we covered the Obama administration together -- is President Obama actually made a similar point quite frequently, which is that when something happens in the world, when there is money needed, when there are troops needed, there's a fast response needed, the whole world comes to the United States and then the United States often gets criticized. And the posture of the Obama administration and Democratic and Republican administrations previously, it was basically that while, yes, that burden is it may be unfair on the United States, that is our role in the world.

And Trump has flipped it around on his on its head and basically decided that the playing field perhaps should be more equal -- and for a lot of Republicans that is really troubling because that is the uniqueness of the United States, that we do step up in these in these moments. And the fact that we do put more troops and more money and more effort into helping people around the world is again part of the extraordinary nature of this country, not a burden.

[08:20:01] KAPUR: And tone matters so much because as Julie pointed out, President Obama and previous presidents, including George W. Bush, viewed this as something we should embrace something that the United States embraces. That Nikki Haley speech I think speaks to the president's attitude a lot in that it was a little defiant, a little bit confrontational, those look a bit of a -- you know, don't mess with us. Yes, a little bit of bullying.

It kind of speaks to the challenges the bifurcated nature of the president's foreign policy. If you zoom out, there's the America first politics which does very well with his base which pulls well I think even a little bit outside his base. But then there's the complex set of challenges that you have to grapple with to make your foreign policies work on the issue of Middle East peace. President Trump says he wants it, yet he's prejudge the most explosive issue that has hung up, you know, attempt at getting making peace for decades on the issue of resettling refugees. He says, let's not invite them here let's resettle them in their own home but he wants to cut foreign aid. So how do we do that at the same time that disconnect I don't see them squaring that disconnect and when there is that tension he always defaults -- usually at least default to the America first side.

RESTON: And yet at the same time, we did see this past week, you know, some progress with Russia and China and collaboration in, you know, cracking down on North Korea and really understanding that threat. So, will the Trump administration get a lot of credit for that? I mean, it's just interesting that all of these things happen at the same time.

KING: That's an interesting point. Friday at the Security Council, new sanctions on North Korea -- marked me down as skeptical. I think the world is skeptical any more sanctions that there, you know, it's the most sanctioned regime ever.

But, you're right, often China Russia might veto China Russia might abstain the president's diplomacy with the two, did get the votes there, which recalls a signature moment in this first year of confrontation on the world stage, the president in the well of the United Nations talking about the man he calls rocket man.


TRUMP: The United States has great strength and patience. But if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.


KING: This has been I think a textbook example it was discussed a moment ago what we've seen.

Sometimes the president's tough words or Ambassador Haley's tough words not always backed up by exact actions that entirely match the tough words, they say that's part of the plan. Keep people off balance, keep it unpredictable. We end the year with North Korea as big a threat even maybe a bigger threat than we began the year.

PACE: The year has been really fascinating when you look at it through this North Korea issue. The trend line has essentially been the U.S. doing more of the same with the exception of Trump's change in rhetoric being more aggressive, but largely relying on sanctions, largely trying to get China to change its behavior and the trend line from North Korea has been that they've moved forward in their nuclear capabilities, and that's what has people so worried, that leveling more sanctions is not going to get this regime to back down, tough talk is not getting this regime to back down.

Is this going to come to a head in 2018? Most foreign policy experts inside and outside the administration say this is the biggest crisis right now.

SHEAR: And look, the truth is that during the campaign, then candidate Trump was highly critical of President Obama for backing away from his red line in Syria and he put himself forth as this kind of guy that is going to follow up his words with actions. And he's finding, as many presidents do, that it's harder than it looks and that these sort of intractable problem -- intractable problems are intractable for a reason and but the challenge is that when you had advanced your rhetoric in and it is aggressive away as he has, you often find that the rest of the world leaders are looking around saying, well, are you following through on that? And he's not. KING: Right. And often time, they're being told by his cabinet secretaries, pay no attention --


KING: We're going to stay on this path. A major subplot of the Putin dynamic throughout the year, the president's made clear he wants to have a better working relationship. He believes that he's being sidetracked by the Russia investigations to having that throughout the year. The president knows congressional committees and now a very important special counsel investigation that has two plea deals, including a national security adviser plea deal and cooperation, two indictments, yet the president throughout the year says this:


TRUMP: As far as hacking, I think it was Russia, but I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.

How many times I have to answer this question?

PACE: Can you just say yes or no on it?

TRUMP: Russia is a ruse.

The entire thing has been a witch hunt.

The Russia story is a total fabrication.

I have nothing to do with Russia. Everybody knows it. That was a Democrat hoax.


KING: Russia is a ruse was a response to your question early on.

But, look, we end the year, the president somehow got convinced by some of his attorneys he was going to get a Christmas gift, a letter of exoneration from the special counsel. This was going to be winding down.

This is expanding. This is not winding down. This is getting closer to the West Wing, not farther from the West Wing, right?

PACE: Absolutely. I --


RESTON: You saw Don Trump, Jr., you know, this past week, spreading conspiracy theories, and, you know, talking about people -- you know, the decks being stacked against the administration.

[08:25:09] So, they're obviously not going back away from that rhetoric anytime soon, but it's just very different from what the reality is.

PACE: Absolutely. And the president has been told by his lawyers that this is going to wrap up soon, by the end of this year.

What does he do, when he do when he shows back up in Washington in January and realizes that these investigations are ongoing. How does he respond? That is what has a lot of Republicans, frankly, nervous about how he could react to that.

KING: Right. And I think as the president is in Florida for the Christmas break and he starts seeing these stories and he starts realizing two indictments, cooperation from General Flynn, cooperation from Papadopoulos, Jared Kushner's legal time hiring a crisis manager, they all think this is going well into the 2018.

RESTON: Oh, yes.

KAPUR: This could be, I mean, I think we just hit on the two issues that could potentially the two most cataclysmic issues of 2018. How the president handles the Russia investigation, what the verdict of that is, and the North Korea direction. I don't know how devastating that could be if that doesn't go the right way.


KING: There's another 2018 challenge. But we got to sneak in a quick brief.

The Republicans left town at Christmas, time to celebrating their tax cut. They come back to a lot of quick sand.



[08:30:53] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I guess -- I guess it's very simple. Wouldn't think you haven't heard this expression, but we are making America great again. You haven't heard that have you?




JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: No, I hadn't heard that. Pictures do speak a thousand words, or maybe a million.

And that tax cut celebration we just showed you at the White House was genuine. Republicans from the president on down are thrilled -- they closed 2017 with a big win. It's good for team morale, good for a dispirited Republican base, and, we all should hope, good for the economy, and America's global standing.

But -- this is a big but -- the GOP goal will face some giant immediate tests in 2018 -- the midterm election year -- it's already tilted in the Democrats' favor. To get that tax cut celebration and a holiday break, they guaranteed

early election year fights on issues that are quicksand or worse within the Republican ranks.

The Senate, for example, left for January a disaster relief bill some Conservatives label "full of deficit- exploding pork." Defense hawks and deficit hawks also are at odds over lifting Pentagon spending caps.

To win tax cut votes, the Senate leadership promised votes on Obamacare fixes that House Conservatives view as heresy. And even if it comes with some border wall funding, some Conservatives see a plan to protect the so-called Dreamers as amnesty.

So they celebrated their Christmas tax cut, but they got a lot of coal for -- especially for Republicans. There were some tough issues here for the Democrats as well.


KING: But given that 2018, given the dynamic, given the president's polling numbers, it looks like a wave could be coming for the Democrats.

How do Conservatives walk back out of the capital (ph), and grant what some of them call amnesty, spend more money? How do they keep it together?

KAPUR: This right now is the calm before the storm.

They kicked this negotiation and all these issues that they have to deal with into January, and once they get there, they have to do -- you mentioned some things, the government funding, defense and non- defense cap.

They have to deal with the Children's Health Insurance Program, flood insurance, to Obamacare's stabilization bills, DACA and young undocumented people, disaster relief, VA medical care. They're going to have to raise the debt limit some time --

KING: Yes, yes (ph).

KAPUR: -- in March or so. Other than that, it's a light agenda. But --

KING: Yes.



KAPUR: -- you know, it's going to be --

KING: Yes.

KAPUR: -- very difficult. These promises were made to get -- KING: Yes.

KAPUR: -- this tax bill --


KAPUR: -- through. They are eager to go home and celebrate without money running out for the Children's Health Insurance Program, which is why they had about a $2.8 billion patch so they don't have to deal with these awful headlines.

How they deal with this next year, in the face of primary season coming up --

KING: Yes, yes.

KAPUR: -- when a lot of these Conservatives are not going to want to vote --

KING: Yes.

KAPUR: -- for things like immigration --


KAPUR: -- and Obamacare --

KING: Right.

KAPUR: -- stabilization.

KING: But if you keep some of these promises, you blow up the Republican Party.


KING: If you break some of these promises, you blow up the Republican --


KING: -- Party.

SHEAR: Can I just focus on one?


SHEAR: I mean, all of these things are big and --

KING: Yes.

SHEAR: -- divisive and whatever.

I think the immigration fight that they're going to have over DACA is, you know, in some ways, Trump's election kind of pushed back the reckoning that the Republican Party has been having to sort of struggle with --

KING: Right.

SHEAR: -- over both the -- you know, the changing demographics of America, and the fact that Hispanics, they had -- they have over -- you know, more than a decade, been pushing Hispanics away from the Republican Party. And, you know, there were voices in the Republican Party before Trump that said, you know, let's try to fix that, and they're going into a fight that is highly emotional.

You know, you have this, like, really sympathetic group of young Dreamers, and come March, at the beginning of March, many of them are going to be facing deportation, but not only facing deportation; facing an administration that doesn't -- that it's not just a theoretical concern. They want


SHEAR: -- to deport people.

KING: Yes, right.

SHEAR: I mean, the administration is sending out the enforcers to go find people and round them up, and you've seen it kind of beginning again --


RESTON: It's happening all over --

SHEAR: -- happening all over the --

RESTON: -- California. Yes, yes. Go ahead (ph).

SHEAR: -- all over California, and in the interior of the country.

And so -- and so, like, it -- this is a fight that in an election year the Republican Party (LAUGHTER) is going to take on. And I think there's a lot of deep concern among part of the party that understands this -- the -- that the way this comes out --

KING: Right.

SHEAR: -- may be very bad for them long term.

KING: Right.



RESTON: But it seems like (ph) --

JULIE PACE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, ASSOCIATED PRESS: And it's a fight that Democrats are eager to take on.



PACE: They -- many of them actually wanted to take it on, and wanted to push Chuck Schumer to actually get this done in December, because they feel like it's a political winner for them.

And to Michael's point, that we're leaving in this sort of strained moment here. All of the trend lines that Republicans know are coming have been a bit paused by the Trump Administration.

KING: Yes.

PACE: But when you look at the numbers not just for Hispanics, but for young people --


KING: Yes.

PACE: It's pretty


devastating for Republicans long term.

KING: Yes.

PACE: And Democrats are very willing to pick a fight, and try to define the party on the issues.


KING: And on top --

RESTON: But there could be, like --

KING: -- of that, the president has added the suburb problem.

PACE: Yes.

KING: And by the way he --


KING: -- conducts himself --

PACE: Yes.

KING: -- in office, you have the long-term demographics you're dead right about. And then, he's created another, newer problem --


SHEAR: Which is what we saw in Virginia --

KING: -- which is --

SHEAR: -- in the governor's race --

KING: -- which is in Alabama.


SHEAR: -- and Alabama.

KING: Alabama has a --

SHEAR: Right, exactly.

KING: -- Democratic senator --


KING: -- in a couple of weeks --

SHEAR: Right.

KING: -- because of the suburbs.


RESTON: But, you know, it's interesting.

In contrast to Trump's rhetoric during the campaign, if you talk to people who have talked to him recently about immigration, he is really open to a lot of these ideas, that you -- that you wouldn't expect from him.

You know, on the DACA fix, that was very important to Jeff Flake. He was a holdout --

KING: Yes.

RESTON: -- on the tax reform bill until the last moment, until he got a commitment from Mitch McConnell that he would -- that they would have a vote on that in January.

So I think that's going to happen. And it's going to be very difficult for the Democrats, if there -- if there --

KING: Yes.

RESTON: -- is a true fix for the Dreamers, it's going to be very difficult for the Democrats to back away from that.

PACE: But immigration --

KING: Yes. Yes?

PACE: -- is one of those issues with Trump where he tends to follow a pattern.

There are his own instincts about it, which tend to lean toward, "Let's make a deal, we can find a way to help these people."

And then, when he hears from people like Steve Bannon, who represent sort of his base, and he is reminded of the fact that immigration was such a motivator for his voters, and he's told about the risks of disappointing that base, that idea hangs over Trump --


KING: Right.


PACE: -- really heavy.

KING: And he can -- he --

RESTON: But if he can brag about the wall --

KAPUR: There is no issue that has been more controlled.

KING: Yes.

KAPUR: Right, if he gets it.

RESTON: But if he can brag about the wall, whatever kind of wall it is --

KING: Yes, yes (ph).

RESTON: -- however high it is --

KING: Yes (ph).


RESTON: -- then I think he can emphasize that with his base --

KING: Yes.

RESTON: -- and, you know, potentially, bring some more people on board in the middle for the midterm elections with a --


KAPUR: But he's --

RESTON: -- DACA fix.

KAPUR: -- but he's not going to get a wall if Democrats --


KAPUR: -- have anything to say --


KAPUR: -- about it. And they need the -- they need 60 votes in the Senate, and they don't have close to that on the Republican side.

The issue of immigration is so central to President Trump's base.

KING: Right.


KAPUR: He was the one person on that stage of, what was it, 16, 17 Republican candidates who emphatically took the hard line against immigration, and that's where the power is --

KING: Right.

KAPUR: -- in the Republican Party right now.

If he does something, like help the Dreamers, which he said -- you know, rhetorically, he's showed some sympathy there and wants to do. If he does that, he will face some backlash --


KING: And --

KAPUR: -- in his base as well. The loudest voices --

KING: -- right.

KAPUR: -- even if they're a -- they're a minority --

KING: Right.

KAPUR: -- it'll be difficult.

KING: And remember the calendar -- remember the calendar. It's an election year. The president's approval ratings are already a huge danger sign for the Republicans. Their majorities are at risk; they're going to be making these decisions in January, February and March. Still time -- in many states, most states, they're not their primary challenge.


RESTON: I feel like --


KING: So you have Republicans being asked to cast up votes --


KING: -- and you have the aforementioned Steve Bannon --


KING: -- saying, "Go ahead, cast a vote I don't like? I'll recruit somebody to run against you." UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

KAPUR: Find me the Republican --

KING: Yes, yes.

KAPUR: -- who wants to vote for legalization of anybody --

KING: Right --

KAPUR: -- right before --

KING: -- yes.

KAPUR: -- a primary.

KING: Maeve, go ahead?

RESTON: But also, how much juice does Bannon have at this point?


KING: Well --

RESTON: That's the question, isn't it?

KING: -- we're going to find that out in 2018.


KING: It's going to be a great 2018 test.

Speaking of juice, when the president wants to share his opinion, where does he usually do it? On the Internet. The president and his tweets when we come back.



[08:41:44] TRUMP: You know, they are well-crafted. I was a good student. I'm, like, a person that does well with that kind of thing. And I doubt I'd be here if it weren't for social media, to be honest with you. Because there is a fake media out there. I get treated very unfairly by the media.


TRUMP: So when somebody says something about me, I'm able to go, "Bing, bing, bing," and I take care of it.


KING: Bing, bing, bing. We learned a lot about the new president in 2017, including that the very, very, very vocal bipartisan core's urging him to tweet less, think more, was a waste of time. All year long often before sunrise, presidential tweets were our best

straight-from-the-source take on what was foremost -- first and foremost on the president's mind. Let's take a look.

In all? Twenty-four hundred tweets from the President of the United States and counting since taking office. Some of them attacked the news media. The fake mainstream media, he says, is working hard to get him to not use social media. I've never met a reporter who wants the president to stop tweeting. This one would not pass the fact check.

He often as well has pitched -- you might call this a conspiracy theory -- accusing his predecessor, President Obama, of tapping the wires -- wiretapping at Trump Tower. The president called it McCarthyism, and it's (ph) not been proven to have actually happened.

And sometimes, he goes after friends and foes alike, including members of his own party. Sen. Bob Corker here who, he calls in this tweet, "the incompetent head of the Foreign Relations Committee" -- they made a little bit of detente in the tax cut debate.

Throughout the year, reading a lot of tweets like this, a lot of counterpunches, including two Republicans, this lesson was learned -- if you do not want to be on the receiving end of a tweetstorm? Say nice things.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KY., SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: This has been a year of extraordinary accomplishment for the Trump Administration.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WIS., SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Something this big, something this generational, something this profound could not have been done without exquisite presidential leadership.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Well, Mr. President, I have to say that you're living up to every -- everything I thought you would. You're one heck of a leader, and we're all benefiting from it.


KING: That was an important lesson, was it not, of the year? If you don't want to get thumped --


KING: -- be nice. That's one thing we learned. What else?


PACE: We learned that the president tweets very early (LAUGHTER), and --

KING: (LAUGHTER) PACE: -- that -- and that it's changed the way that Washington works.

Look, you were -- you were right when you said that you don't know any reporters that wanted him to start --

KING: Yes.

PACE: -- to stop tweeting. Because what's been amazing about it is that you can really read his mood, you can read his real thoughts about a situation, you start to figure out the trends in it. You know when something is bubbling up and getting really intense on the Russia Investigation --

KING: Yes.

PACE: -- in particular, when he starts going after Mueller, when he starts trying to throw some distractions out there. It has really reshaped he way we cover the presidency -- sometimes, in not so good ways.

But the access that you get to the real-time thinking of the president --

KING: Right.

PACE: -- has been astonishing.

SHEAR: Yes, that's amazing, but it's also incredibly difficult because they -- because they are so unmoored from, in many cases, the truth, or the facts, or what have you.

I mean, just, even just the other day, when he tweeted out that there was going to be a news conference --


SHEAR: -- at 1:00 --

KING: Right.

SHEAR: -- pm. The event was at 3:00. It wasn't at 1:00; it wasn't a press conference. It was -- you know, no -- they took no questions.

KING: Right.

SHEAR: And so, you know, when your editor as a reporter says, "So, there's a press conference --


SHEAR: -- at 1:00 --


KING: Yes.

SHEAR: -- tomorrow -- no. Maybe --


SHEAR: -- I mean, it's possible.


SHEAR: And you think, if that little thing is -- were so -- is difficult, think about what world leaders are trying to do --

KING: Right.

SHEAR: when they're trying to decode --



SHEAR: -- what's really truth.

[08:45:00] KING: Right, and --

SHEAR: And there are (ph) a couple of things that (ph) --

KING: -- that has been from day one.

We saw this during the campaign, and some people thought it would be different when he actually took his hand off the Bible and he was President of the United States, is that, from day one for where we are now, this is a president, sometimes big, sometimes small, sometimes in the middle, has a huge trouble with the truth.


TRUMP: People came out and voted like they've never seen before. So, that's the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.

The taxes are crazy -- the highest taxed nation in the world. We're going to turn that around very quickly.

We've signed more bills -- and I'm talking about through the legislature -- then any president ever. For a while, Harry Truman had us, and now, I think we have everybody, Mike. I better say think; otherwise, they'll give you Pinocchio.


TRUMP: And I don't like those -- I don't like Pinocchios.



KING: He's gotten a lot of Pinocchios. That's what "The Washington Post" Fact Checker uses when someone tells non-truths, and the president's told a lot of them.

"The New York Times" also took a look at this. Look at this graphic -- look at this graphic: Lies versus Obama, Trump versus Obama. Trump, 100 in 11 months; Obama, 18 in eight years.

KAPUR: These --


KAPUR: -- are the unique things about President Trump.

A lot -- I mean, he's -- he just cut taxes; a lot of presidents have cut taxes. Not a lot of them are as fast and loose with the truth, frankly, as he is. Not a lot of them play up the culture wars, and kind of have this --

KING: Yes.

KAPUR: -- knack for stoking grievances the way he does.

The feuding, with everybody from John McCain, a war hero, to Gold Star parents, to a beauty pageant contestant --

KING: Right.

KAPUR: -- to a judge, who's of Mexican ancestry, he is a culture war president more than anything else.

KING: And that's --


KING: -- the stew that makes it so hard for him to shake this toxic friend. The tweets, the mistruths -


KING: -- some of them called them lies -- divisive words, like after Charlottesville, where you said, "Both sides," when it was clearly the neo-Nazi white nationalists who started things.

So even when he passes a tax cut, he can't get to the sunlight, if you will, because people have him under this.

RESTON: And that -- and this very thing is what really bothers the midterm voters that they --

KING: Right (ph).

RESTON: -- are going to need to hold control of the House and Senate.

You know, you go out and talk to people, and they just can't stand the tweeting, and the exaggerations, and the tone. So it just is going to be maybe what the election will partly be about.

KING: It's going to be a fascinating -- it was a fascinating 2017 behind us, and a fascinating 2018 ahead of us.

When we come back, yes, the Russia Investigation is a giant cloud over the White House. As our reporters share their notebooks, why also does it motivate Republicans to get things done and soon?


[08:51:45] KING: One last time around the table. Ask our great reporters to share a little something from their notebooks -- help get you out ahead of the big political news just around the corner.

Julie Pace?

PACE: One of the really important things that's been a bit lost in the conversation this year about the Russian meddling in the 2016 election is whether there have been any lessons learned and steps taken to protect campaigns going forward against hacking from Russia or other state actors.

And I've talked to a lot of people who are going to be involved in 2018 midterms, and there's a real fear that what we've been discussing a lot -- the prospect of collusion or President Trump's involvement -- there hasn't been enough discussion about helping the parties and the campaigns actually protect themselves. And this is not just at the presidential level; this really is about the midterm elections.

So expect to see a lot of discussion behind-the-scenes next year about how these campaigns can protect themselves not just from Russia, but from China, North Korea, other potential bad actors out there.

KING: It would help if the White House cared.

PACE: Yes.

KING: Michael? Go ahead (ph)?

SHEAR: Speaking of elections, I'll go local as a -- as a Virginia -- ex-Virginia reporter.

Come Wednesday will be one of the most remarkable moments in elections, where, in Virginia, a House of Delegates seat that was -- that ended up after several tens of thousands of votes, exactly tied (LAUGHTER) will be decided when election officials draw a name out of a hat, essentially.

They're actually putting the names in little film canisters, and they're going to pull them out, and whoever they (LAUGHTER) pull out, will be --

KING: Yes (ph).

SHEAR: -- the next delegate.

But it's also important not just because it will decide this race, but because the outcome of this race decides the balance of power in the entire Virginia House of Delegates -- who becomes speaker, how many people get a -- you know, which party gets majorities on the committees.

It's a really big moment. Still probably some lawsuits to come, but it's -- that's politics in America.


KING: Sometimes, every vote actually does count.


SHEAR: Indeed.



KAPUR: President Trump jetted off to Mar-a-Lago on Friday after signing his tax cut bill and major legislative achievement to cap the year. He said a few things that I would like to fact check in his parting remarks.

He said it was the largest tax cut in history. It is smaller in real dollar terms than the one President Obama signed in 2013. As a share of the economy, it's also significantly smaller than the one Reagan signed in 1981.

He said he's had the most legislative approvals of any president up until the -- this point in his presidency. He's actually signed the fewest bills of any president since Dwight Eisenhower. That's according to the independent analyst Scrub Track (ph).

He said the tax bill is selling itself, becoming very popular. That is not the case yet; quite the opposite. Americans approve of it by a wide margin. This is the --

KING: Yes.

KAPUR: -- key sales job that Republican leaders have between now and the 2018 election -- can they make the public like it?

KING: What's the old saying? You're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts? Tick-tock (ph).


KING: Maeve, go ahead.

RESTON: We -- we've been talking about all these big legislative --

KING: Yes.

RESTON: -- priorities that Republicans have going forward.

And it's not just that they feel emboldened by the tax reform victory. There's actually some fear among Republicans that there are rumblings that Mueller's closing in on Don Jr.. And they want to get as much done (LAUGHTER) with the president's help before that point --

KING: Yes.

RESTON: -- because a lot of them are very worried about what he might do if his son ended up in real legal jeopardy, and that would potentially not make him a (LAUGHTER) very good partner in legislation.

KING: Understandable were --


KING: -- if that were to become the case.

I want to


close today by saying thank you. Thank you to the tiny but tireless teams in Washington, Atlanta, who get INSIDE POLITICS on the air six days a week.

Thanks to the correspondents, like this group and our IP (ph) family, who juggle their already crazy schedules to share their time and their reporting with us and with you.

And most of all, thank you for sharing your time with us. We know you're busy, and we know that you have choices. We are grateful -- I am grateful for your time and support. Have a safe and merry Christmas.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS, but sit tight if you can. Sen. Bernie Sanders joins "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper next.