Return to Transcripts main page
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Steve Bannon Unleashing His Resentments; Trump Fights Back Against Bannon. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired January 3, 2018 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
[22:00:00] JAKE TAPPER, HOST, CNN: ... the fire back and forth between President Trump and his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, Washington tonight is starting to resemble the final scene from reservoir dogs.
Simmering, long-standing resentments given new life today with the release of excerpts from a book offering a brutal look at the administration's first months in office, courtesy of journalist Michael Wolff and courtesy of the many White House officials who for whatever reason rolled out the red carpet for him and offered him the seat on their West Wing couches.
Excerpts of Wolff's new book "Fire and Fury," which hit number one on Amazon today, even though it hasn't even been released, have been rolling out all day. They range from the bizarre to the stunning, and some may even have the legal ramifications. The choice awards that Bannon has for the president's offspring seems to have caused the most damage. Though truly there's so much to choose from.
Here are a few of the excerpts. In one, Wolff writes that Trump and the residents of the White House, quote, "He imposed a set of new rules. Nobody touch anything, especially not his toothbrush. He had a longtime fear of being poisoned, one reason why he liked to eat at McDonald's. Nobody knew he was coming and the food was safely premade."
Wolff writes more seriously of a presidential pact between first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, senior adviser Jared Kushner. Quote, "The two had made an earnest deal, if some time in the future the opportunity arose, she would be the one to run for president. The first woman president, Ivanka entertained, would not be Hillary Clinton, it would be Ivanka Trump."
As for Ivanka's dad, the actual sitting president of the United States, quote, "Some believed that for all practical purposes, he was no more than semi-literate," Wolff writes. "He trusted his own expertise, no matter how paltry or irrelevant, more than anyone else's." Wolff adds that one staffer said, dealing with the president was, quote, "like trying to figure out what a child wants."
Now, there's a lot in the book that describes members of the Trump team, senior officials in the administration, viciously disparaging President Trump's intelligence. But what might bother President Trump more is one excerpt obtained by the Wall Street Journal, in which Bannon allegedly calls the president's beloved daughter, Ivanka, quote, "dumb as a brick."
Bannon had even choicer words for Ivanka's brother, Donald Trump Jr., saying of the FBI's Russia investigation, quote, "They're going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV." Perhaps even tougher, Bannon says of that June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between Trump campaign officials, Donald Trump, Jr., and a Russian lawyer, quote, "The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor with no lawyers. Even if you thought that this was not treasonous or unpatriotic or bad stuff, and I happen to think it's all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately," unquote.
Bannon also says in the book, quote, "The chance that Don Junior did not walk these three jumos up to his father's office on the 26th floor is zero." Donald Trump junior of course denied even telling his father about the meeting much less walking the jumos up to the 26th floor.
Now the responses from President Trump and his allies have been vicious today with President Trump furious, issuing an unprecedented statement for an American president, attacking his former senior strategist, the White House, and the Republican Party apparatus have risen up to attack Bannon and author Wolff, while laughably suggesting that Bannon only played a small role and had little influence in the White House.
Some Bannon allied politicians are distancing themselves from him. All while establishment republicans giggle and democrats are bringing in bowls of popcorn.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny is at the White House for us this evening. And Jeff, President Trump released a statement unlike anything I'd ever seen before from a president talking about one of his senior strategists.
JEFF ZELENY, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Jake, it was quite a day here. And certainly, we have seen the president that dismiss some of his closest advisers before, put them at a distance. But this was, Steve Bannon is no ordinary adviser. This was the president essentially acting like Steve Bannon was the coffee boy, to borrow a phrase, if you will.
But that statement released this afternoon which we are told the president had a personal hand in actually writing, it said this, let's take a look, Jake. It said, "Steve Bannon had nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people, with no access and no clue whom he helped write phony books."
So if you unpack a little bit there, a, they're trying to discredit Steve Bannon, b, they're trying to discredit this book that is out, of course. But all the while, Steve Bannon's comments, actually when you take away the layers of family drama, he is undermining the White House argument for more than a year that the Russia investigation, in the president's words, is a hoax, that there's nothing to see here.
Steve Bannon is actually lending credence to the argument here. So we'll see if he is called to be a senate committees on Capitol Hill here.
[22:05:03] But all this is coming, Jake, as the president is, you know, he's acting sort of strangely in the first few days of 2018. He has that big tax bill just signed. He was supposed to be promoting his agenda. So far, we have not seen him at one public event here at the White House. And as for tomorrow's schedule, no public events either.
TAPPER: And Jeff, just last night, we were discussing President Trump taunting North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
TAPPER: Talking about whose nuclear button is bigger. Is there any indication what's fueling this rage and this behavior on this, the third day of 2018?
ZELENY: Well, we have talked to a lot of officials here and the -- basically, the consensus is that the president is a little furious that the Russia investigation is still going. Our Dana Bash and Kevin Liptak are reporting tonight that the president believed that this investigation would be over. He listened to his lawyers, who said initially, Thanksgiving, then the end of the year. Now it is still going on. And he's being, of course, led to believe that it's going to continue.
So that has sparked some outrage. Also, I'm told, some pent-up aggression from being in Florida for so long. But, Jake, again, so interestingly, not talking about his agenda. Simply tweeting in private and again, this was supposed to be a big year for him. So much to do here and on Capitol Hill. Jake?
TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny at the White House for us, I want to bring in my panel and joining us, as a new contributor in his CNN debut, democratic strategist, Joe Trippi. Joe worked on the presidential campaigns of Ted Kennedy and Walter Mondale and John Edwards. Howard Dean, when I met him, just to name a few.
He was also the campaign manager of course, for Dean in 2004. But most recently, advising newly sworn-in Senator Doug Jones from Alabama with that unbelievable historic victory. Joe, welcome. Thanks for being here tonight.
JOE TRIPPI, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: A great night to start.
TAPPER: We really, really appreciate it. Joining us, of course, also, Mary Katherine Ham, senior writer for the Federalist, and Jackie Kucinich, Washington bureau chief for the Daily Beast.
Let me start off with a picture of tomorrow's New York Post cover. There you see the president and Bannon in togas. And it says 'et tu Bannon?' Joe, you know, I don't think that President Trump is necessarily wrong if he feels a bit betrayed. TRIPPI: No, he's not wrong, but this is exactly the kind of chaos and
division and sort of bitterness that's been flowing throughout the administration. And now it's flying out in the open in a way -- one of the things we saw in Alabama in that race was republicans in Trump's base were starting to get tired of this.
TRIPPI: They just wanted some calm, some voice of reason saying, let's reach across party lines. I mean, against the division. Like, in the chaos. And so, you know, today is just a classic example of more chaos and it's coming from within one of his top advisers in the campaign.
TAPPER: And Mary Katherine, what do you think about the significances for the Russia investigation? For Bannon, whose publication, Breitbart, has been out there calling the Russia investigation a nothing burger and that meeting at Trump Tower, a red herring, et cetera. He's saying that that meeting, taking that meeting was treasonous and unpatriotic.
MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, THE FEDERALIST: Well, I think, first, there's the political implication, which I think perhaps even more important than him going after the kids, because he's gone after Ivanka fairly toughly in the past, is this -- that he's fueling this narrative that is an anathema to Donald Trump, that just haunts him.
And I think, perhaps, that was the breaking point. And that will have political implications, because we were talking about, is there an appetite for Bannonism post-Doug Jones' election? And one of the things I've said is, look, you have to convince the folks who have an appetite for that type of candidate that only Donald Trump can pull that off. And that Bannon selling him these candidates in other forms is not going to work and they're going to lose.
Trump telling them that, which is what we he did today, would actually maybe make that shift. So that's the political part. And the other part, it's interesting with Bannon, we don't know if he's a reliable narrator, right? He wasn't there for this. He's sort of admittedly saying, I'm guessing they went to the other floor.
HAM: He doesn't know that. So I don't know how much credence to put into that. But some people are going to want to ask him questions, possibly under oath.
TAPPER: And Jackie, you have to wonder about the wisdom of inviting this author into the West Wing for weeks, for months on end.
JACKIE KUCINICH, POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: You can finish that sentence a lot of ways. You can wonder about the wisdom of a lot of things.
TAPPER: It's true. But I mean, Michael Wolff says President Trump had a big hand in it. KUCINICH: Right, but you also have to understand that President Trump
has every reason to distance himself from this. Because of all -- if any of this is true, it makes him look terrible. It makes him look like everyone around him feels like he's a bumbling idiot and doesn't tell him, talks behind his back constantly, makes him look like a fool, which to this president is one of the worst things you could possibly be.
[22:10:10] But this is what happens. When you -- for someone who is so obsessed with loyalty, he surrounded himself with people who weren't necessarily loyal to anyone but themselves. They were pieces of other people's campaigns that were cobbled together, other than his family. And even in this, his family...
TRIPPI: But really, the amazing thing is this wasn't the first White House that invited someone in to write the book and...
TAPPER: No, no.
TRIPPI: And every single one of them that's done that has paid a price for it.
TRIPPI: So you would think that this one of all White Houses would have avoided this problem. Instead, they actually invited this and now, I think, have a huge mess on their hands. Not just politically, but legally. There are going to be, you know, Bannon is going to be probably called to testify. It's not going -- this is not going to end well.
TAPPER: And one of the points about Bannon is that he -- he has said that he doesn't think that there was any collusion and that's a red herring. But he has also said that what he thinks what's going on here is that Mueller and the investigation is looking at money laundering.
And he also pointed out that Mueller's team has one of the experts on investigating this. And he said, he believes that Kushner could be convinced to cooperate if Mueller probes his financial records saying, quote, "It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner poop. The Kushner poop is greasy." He said a different word but you get the point. "They're going to go right through that, they're going to roll those --, it's worse, I should have said expletive. They're going to roll these two guys up and say, play me or trade me."
So he thinks that there's something there. Not collusion, but he thinks there's money laundering or something.
HAM: I think the financial angle is probably more likely to, that there's something there. I think the bank meeting that Kushner had is one of the more problematic stories we've seen with some actual evidence during all of this. But this goes back to the -- both working with Trump or working with Bannon, when the life philosophy is pugilism, you're just going to have fights constantly.
HAM: And now Bannon is outside the organization fighting with the president with Trump.
TAPPER: And that's your point. That helped you in Alabama.
TRIPPI: Yes. They -- yes. What happened is Trump is driving two things. The energy on the democratic side with progressives, with African-Americans, you saw that. But the other thing that we didn't expect, not to the size it came in, was the republican women, younger republicans who were telling us in our data in the polling and focus groups and things like that, that please, how do we just end the chaos. I mean, that's the word they use. And they weren't talking about Trump, so much, but just sort of...
TRIPPI: ... the environment. And he keeps feeding -- he's feeding both of these things. And like things like this book coming out and the fight between him and Bannon now, again, just keep doing that. And the problem for republicans, I see is, how do you stop a president who only knows one gear? Fight. He likes it.
KUCINICH: He does. As you said, he fuels it. And again, we've seen him do something that republicans like and then step on the message, right out of the gate, by attacking Bannon. He didn't have to dictate that message and really go after Bannon, except, he had to.
KUCINICH: Because he can't hold himself.
TAPPER: And he was -- and a lot of republicans are very happy about his response to the situation in Iran.
TAPPER: And then he does this tweets about North Korea that was unsettling to a lot of people.
TRIPPI: But that's also part of it. The constant feeling of being on edge. I mean, the people out there will have that. And I think that's one of the reasons Jones was so -- was -- his authentic thing was about finding common ground. And it was -- that came from him. When we started talking that way and had him talk that way.
TAPPER: And the comfort of being boring, if you don't mind my saying so. In a way, you know what I mean?
TRIPPI: That calm decency, a decent guy who actually said, there's honor in compromise and civility.
TAPPER: Yes. Civility's a better word for it.
TRIPPI: In this environment.
HAM: And when you talk about him going after Bannon in this case, I think Bannon miscalculates if he thinks that he's the populist pied piper, but it's actually Trump. And I think he miscalculate if he thinks the folks are going to take his side in this battle.
KUCINICH: He's gone from republican pariah to republican leper. No one wants to be near him now. McConnell and folks already didn't like him, and now he has the Trumps against him. Now, we'll see if he stays out of favor. Because Trump is also known to end up taking the calls of the people that he has cast aside. Roger Stone, for example, someone he's feuded with and then has been on the phone with him.
HAM: I think without him pressing the Russian narrative, I think that might have been the case, but I feel like that -- that's the thing.
TAPPER: But what about the ends, I mean, what about calling Ivanka Trump dumb as a brick or any of the stuff about Donald Trump, Jr. being unpatriotic or treasonous?
KUCINICH: You know, he's gotten away with going after Ivanka publicly. Remember, down in Alabama that during...
[22:15:02] TAPPER: Bannon has?
KUCINICH: Bannon has, yes. During that rambling speech he gave, he said, you know, there's a special place in hell, republicans don't know better. That's an exact play over what Ivanka...
TAPPER: But compared to dumb as a brick.
KUCINICH: It is different than dumb as a brick, but anyone else -- I mean, people went after Ivanka's dresses and Trump -- and Trump went after them.
KUCINICH: So, again, he's gotten away with this in the past, probably...
TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We've got a lot more to talk about and we're going to stay with the panel all night, including whether this is the end for Steve Bannon's political future or is it just the beginning? That's next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're certainly happy for people that have different opinions, but there's a difference between different opinions and different facts. And people are entitled to an opinion, but they're not entitled to their own facts. And we have a big problem with people putting out misleading information. Those are very different things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: That was White House press secretary Sarah Sanders today pushing back on the scathing book by Michael Wolff about the Trump administration, suggesting that people are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.
Just a reminder, Sarah, the president claimed with no evidence that three to five million people voted illegally in the 2016 election, that Ted Cruz's father was involved in the Kennedy assassination, that thousands of Muslims in new Jersey were seen on TV cheering after the 9/11 attacks and that President Obama wasn't born in the United States, which, of course, he was.
But, I'm sorry, you were saying something about misleading information and a need to stick to facts? In any case, let's continue the conversation with the panel.
Mary Katherine, let me start with you. In a blistering statement today, President Trump said, quote, "Now that he is on his own, Steve Bannon is learning that winning isn't as easy as I make it look. Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat held in Alabama held for more than 30 years by republicans. Steve doesn't represent my base. He's only in it for himself."
[22:19:56] It's very interesting and we have Doug Jones' campaign manager here, so I want to get to you in a second. But he's again blaming Bannon for the loss of the Senate seat.
HAM: Yes, it's rare that I will take Donald Trump's side in a feud, but in this one, he's sort of right.
HAM: It was a bad choice. Luther Strange was an imperfect choice, as well, in many ways. But he backed him. He sort of went to war with Donald Trump in a more subtle way, doing that. And it turned out very badly. And that was a seat that was like impossible to turn blue, so congrats. And there it happened. So I think he does need to answer for that. And Trump pointing it out, as I said, is the way that that it gets through people's heads, that this is not working.
TAPPER: How much is Bannon responsible for Roy Moore getting the republican nomination in Alabama? Do you think? TRIPPI: I don't really know. I mean, Roy Moore had -- everybody who
ever was going to vote for Roy Moore came out in this general election. I mean, he really does have a ferocious following, along the lines that Trump does. So I'm not sure that it's possible to add to that. Either for Trump or Bannon to add to that.
I think that's what got -- so I think Roy Moore got there himself, frankly. And I think -- but I think what happened in the general was, you know, what's important about Alabama is that you look at Trump's favorable and unfavorable; 48 favor on Election Day, 48 negative. In Alabama...
TAPPER: That's crazy.
TRIPPI: ... that's -- I mean, that's not just...
TAPPER: That's deep red.
TRIPPI: Yes, this is a place that he won by 28 points. That tells you, this is not about Steve Bannon or even to a large extent, Roy Moore. It's the president doesn't have -- when we would see him come out for Roy Moore, things would move two or three points. It would help Roy Moore, but not a lot. And within a couple of days, it all drifted back...
TAPPER: That's interesting.
TRIPPI: ... to us. It just doesn't -- he's not what he was the day he won the election in November. He didn't win the popular vote then, but he still had some real strength out there. I'm not saying that he doesn't have strength, it's just not the big, powerful thing that we've seen in the past.
TAPPER: Jackie, Donald Trump, Jr. has been on Twitter today attacking Steve Bannon very strongly. In one of them he wrote, "Wow, just looked at the comment section of Breitbart. When Bannon has lost Breitbart he's left with nothing."
Now Bannon is on Breitbart radio right now and we have somebody who don't pan out who is listening in and said that he has not said anything negative about President Trump, at all. Is it possible that either Bannon or President Trump might lose this Bannon wing, this white nationalist Breitbart reading and listening group? Or can there be like a friendly or an unfriendly alliance?
KUCINICH: Anything is possible. I was going to say it's 2017, but it's 2018.
KUCINICH: So you never say never with President Trump. And I'm inclined to agree with Mary Katherine that there probably is -- this might be broken beyond repair. Was you could see the president picking up the phone and calling Steve Bannon in a time where, you know, he's losing. And he...
HAM: He does change his mind a lot.
TAPPER: He does change his mind.
KUCINICH: He does change his mind a lot. So I'm really hesitant to say that he is cast out to Siberia for all time. And, you know, Breitbart's been kind of back and forth with their allegiance. So it really -- it's such a -- it's such an interesting dynamic there.
TAPPER: The thing is, Bannon has this push. Not just in Alabama, but all over the country, of these nationalist candidates he wants to sweep into office. Often in primaries. He want to replace republicans he thinks that are too far, much far to the establishment.
Disgraced Congressman Michael Grimm in New York. Republican trying to run for his old seat. He, of course, had been sent to prison, which is why he lost his seat to begin with. He denounced the comments made by Bannon, but you saw a picture of him announcing his candidacy, posing with Steve Bannon. Do you think that -- I mean, is he a liability? Do candidates now have to distance themselves?
HAM: Yes. Well, that's the question. Whether the folks who did like Bannon, and there was an audience for those candidates and for Bannon, whether they are mad enough at Bannon for reinforcing this narrative that is an anathema to that group of people, that they might turn on him enough to say, like I don't know if I'm standing behind the guy that you're standing next to.
TRIPPI: Yes, look, I don't think, I think Roy Moore had his own following that was literally out of the same ilk. I just don't think Bannon could add to that. That's not saying that that will happen in other places, where you have a big field of republicans and Bannon goes in...
TAPPER: Plucks somebody.
TRIPPI: Plucks somebody and helps create that kind of fervor for that candidate. I think he can have a big impact. I'm not trying to push him aside at all.
HAM: Of course you're not.
[22:24:58] TRIPPI: I think -- no, no, but I mean, I really think he's got -- he's got juice still. I just don't think it really impacted the Alabama race as much as people think.
TAPPER: One of the interesting things in the book, of the many interesting things, the book suggests that Trump did not think he was going to win the election at all. Quote, "Shortly after 8 p.m. on election night, when the unexpected trend that Trump might actually win, win-seemed Don Jr. told a friend that his father, or DJT, as he calls him, it looked as if he had seen a ghost. Melania was in tears, and not of joy." The White House pushing back against that, the White House
communications director for the first lady saying it's not true, she thought he was going to win, she was overjoyed. But there's a lot in this book about the Trump team. Nobody in the Trump team thinking that they were going to win.
KUCINICH: Any of us who covered this could tell you, I mean, some of this -- there are kernels of this that have been reported before, in terms of them -- this shock. And the calls that were going around, trying to pass the buck on whose loss it was during that -- during Election Day, that happened.
And, you know, those of us who were in New York knew that was happening. Now, again, it's this unreliable narrator, you're not really sure some of this is plausible, but you're not really sure what to believe?
TAPPER: Who's the unreliable narrator? Bannon or Michael Wolff, the author?
KUCINICH: That's the question!
HAM: Or any and all of the sources.
TAPPER: All of them. All of the sources.
KUCINICH: Because it's everyone's different perspective and they could be lying. They could be rehashing the narrative so they look better. You see a lot of that in this White House.
TAPPER: And even Michael Wolff and his authors note, does a nod to like how difficult it is -- how slippery the truth is in a Trump administration. Does his best. There's also a very illuminating passage according to a book about them expecting to lose. Quote, "Once he lost, Trump would be, this is what they were thinking before election day, Trump would be both insanely famous and a martyr to crooked Hillary. His daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared would be international celebrities. Steve Bannon would become the de facto head of the Tea Party movement, Kellyanne Conway would be a cable news star, and Melania Trump, who had been assured by her husband that he wouldn't become president, could return to inconspicuously lunching. Losing would work out for everybody. Losing was winning."
TRIPPI: And I think there's a good chance that that was indeed how they were all thinking. And I think some of them may still be thinking that way. Steve Bannon may still be thinking that way. And Ivanka, I mean, the entire apparatus may be thinking, post-presidency, what are we going to get out of this.
TAPPER: All right. Don't go anywhere. President Trump is the king of moving past inflammatory statements and scandals. So is this bombshell book even a blip on the political radar for him? We'll discuss next, stay with us.
[22:30:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you make of what we've seen today between Steve Bannon and President Trump and the blow-up we've seen?
JOHN KENNEDY, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: You know, that's between Mr. Bannon and the president. You know, they're former colleagues, former employer/employee relationship. Those things happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, HOST, CNN: Just a boss, former employee mishap. No big deal. I'm back with the panel.
Some of the really scathing details in the book have to do with President Trump's fitness for the job, his aptitude. The book describes President Trump as unstable, impatient. One excerpt quotes aides saying a number being sent to explain the Constitution to the president.
It reads, quote, "I got as far as the Fourth Amendment, number recalls before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head." Another excerpt recalls Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh, saying, he didn't read, he didn't really even skim -- I'm sorry, this isn't deputy -- this is Michael Wolff saying this.
"He didn't read, he didn't really even skim. Some believe that for all practical purposes, he was no more than semi-literate. He trusted his own expertise, no matter how paltry or irrelevant, more than anyone else's."
It's kind of stunning. I mean, we've heard people say this before. But Michael Wolff was brought in. I think people thought he was going to do a very flattering book. He had done a number of flattering stories about people in the Trump world, including Steve Bannon, had been very critical of the media. And then he drops this, which is much more critical than anything I've read.
MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, THE FEDERALIST: Well, I think, partly, it's because the chaos part of this is real. It is how they do business. The fighting part of this is real. Everything is a fight. And every fight is sort of out in the open. So it was sort of easy to gather some of that once you're in the door.
There are some parts of this that feel too good to check, like him not knowing who John Boehner is, for instance.
HAM: I think it's fairly clear that he knows who John Boehner is.
HAM: He referenced him so many times on the campaign trail and on tweets.
HAM: And anyone who watches Fox and Friends knows who John Boehner is.
JOE TRIPPI, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: But one of the things that happens is, you think that's what the writer is going to do, and then the writer gets all this great stuff.
TRIPPI: Who would -- who wouldn't write this if there were sources giving these kinds of revelations to the author.
TAPPER: Right, but why...
TRIPPI: Even if you came in -- no, but I'm saying -- well, look...
TAPPER: You think that he intended to go in a way...
TRIPPI: He may well have intended it.
TAPPER: ... to be a flattering book.
TRIPPI: Yes. And then you're in there and you're getting all these people that are dishing on each other and lashing out on each other and giving you give these great tidbits. I mean, come on, you're going to write what happened.
And the other thing that I think is more prone in this administration, for some reason. But you see it -- I've seen it in presidential campaigns, trust me, that I've been in, where there are factions and they're all out to get each other and they're dishing on each other.
TRIPPI: That's clearly what's going on here.
TRIPPI: You have too many people saying -- you can argue, this one really didn't say this, they can deny it.
TRIPPI: But there's just too many people...
TAPPER: Too many people calling the president an idiot. TRIPPI: Yes.
JACKIE KUCINICH, SENIOR POLITICS EDITOR, THE DAILY BEAST: But it's a weird stew of like nasty rumors we've all heard like, he can't read. And things that are actually plausible like the back biting.
KUCINICH: Like some of the staff saying nasty things behind his back. And the -- how it's all directed at the principle is also interesting. You don't see that a lot in these books. Maybe in some of the things written about Hillary Clinton, for example, saying that, you know, it was her fault that she lost and all of that. But just the venom that is directed at Trump himself sets this apart.
TAPPER: OK. Everyone, stay, stick around. We just scratched the surface of this new book about the Trump presidency.
Republican Governor John Kasich, who ran against Trump in 2016, he'll weigh in next. Stick around.
[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
TAPPER: Welcome back. More with my panel on the politics lead. But first, as Washington reels from this latest event, especially this new one, this explosive new look behind the scenes at the White House, there are republicans out there who might be tempted to say, I told you so.
And Ohio Governor John Kasich joins me now. Governor, thanks for being here. Happy New Year.
JOHN KASICH, (R) GOVERNOR OF OHIO: Happy New Year, Jake, and to everybody watching.
TAPPER: So as you know, there's this book that's coming out in which former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon describes top aides to then-candidate Donald Trump, including the president's son, Donald Trump, Jr., as unpatriotic and treasonous because they met with Russians who claimed to have dirt on Hillary Clinton and they did not report this to the FBI.
It's a rather strong statement, obviously it offended President Trump quite a bit. But do you agree that taking that meeting and not reporting it to law enforcement was unpatriotic and treasonous?
KASICH: Well, first of all, yes, first of all, I don't know anything about this book, Jake. But here's what I do know. There's -- look, I mean, we're not even through the first year and there's just so much chaos and so much disruption that has been circling around the administration.
And Jake, the problem with this is over time, people either tune it out or they tune it in, and it even polarizes people more. And if this continues, all this disruption, all this talk, all this -- all these things that we're watching, almost like a reality show, then he will lose support on Capitol Hill.
And so a lot of these issues, whether they're the CHIP program or whether it's border security or whether it's DACA or infrastructure or any of these things, it becomes increasingly difficult to get any support. And so we would see more gridlock. And, of course, more polarization.
And here's the other interesting thing, I believe, having been a member of Congress. Is that the democratic faithful are going to start demanding that their people not cooperate. Now, we've got enough polarization and enough gridlock without adding more.
So my greatest concern is this book, that book, this claim, that -- it's got to settle down, Jake, for the good of the United States of America and being able to solve some of the big problems we have.
[22:40:00] TAPPER: Well, one of the things that the president has done has been using Twitter in unprecedented ways, especially in foreign policy. It was just last night, on this very show, that we were focused on a tweet by President Trump that a lot of national security experts were really concerned about.
And whether it was going to contribute to an environment, a tense environment between the United States and North Korea that might even result in loss of life. The president tweeted to North Korea's Kim Jong-un, quote, "Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him, Kim Jong-un, that I, too, have a nuclear button but it is much bigger and more powerful one than his and my buttons works," unquote.
And the concern is, the president is taunting Kim Jong-un, saying, I don't think your button works, I don't think your nuclear device works. Does that concern you?
KASICH: No, I -- yes, it does. And look, I think early on, I spoke to lots of different people. You know, I used to serve on the defense committee, for 18 years I was there. And I've talked to lots of people, some who agree with me, some who don't. And in the early stages, being tough with North Korea and making them understand that we have -- what the capabilities are that we have and putting pressure on them was correct.
But we don't need to be doing a lot of bombastic statements from anybody, the president, senators, anybody else. Look, we put some sanctions on that the United Nations have put on, but frankly, I don't think they're enough, Jake. I think there are other things that we can do and we ought to have a coalition of nations that we can agree with that can start to put pressure on the finances of North Korea, including finances that would affect Chinese banks.
Putting a U.N. resolution together with China is not my definition of having a tough resolution. Look, it's fine, but we need to take the second step. We need to keep the pressure. We need to ratchet it up.
Now, the name calling, I don't think gets us anywhere. Now, there's now talk that the North Koreans want to talk to South Koreans. Fine. If they want to talk to us, fine. But we shouldn't be giving anything away. We have to keep the pressure on.
And Jake, I said this before, people didn't -- I don't know if they all understood it. We put immense pressure on Iran, which got them to the table. Now, whether the agreement is good or not is a matter of debate, but it did get them to the table. We have to continue to ratchet up the pressure and demonstrate in sort of quite ways what our capabilities are. We don't need to be bombastic about this, in my opinion.
TAPPER: Governor, stick around. We have lots more to talk about after this quick break.
[22:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
TAPPER: And we we're back with Ohio Governor John Kasich. Thank you so much again for being here, governor. I want to ask you. You were just talking about Iran, President Trump is criticizing Iran's leader, leaders, for their repressive policies, for fighting against the people demonstrating for a better economy and for political reform in the streets.
But this comes at the same time that President Trump is actively seeking to undermine various American institutions, whether the free press or the Justice Department or the attorney general or the FBI or the former head of the FBI, et cetera. Are you at all concerned that the president's posture towards the free press here in the U.S. or the justice system here in the U.S., that that undermines what America stands for abroad, that that undermines the message of the president when he speaks on behalf of the Iranian demonstrators.
KASICH: Well, first of all, Jake, I think he's been correct in terms of supporting the Iranian demonstrators, who were opposed to that government. I know that the people in the Clinton administration or the Obama administration regret the fact they didn't speak out when they had an opportunity, when there were these kinds of street protests. So I agree with them on that.
In regard to the attacks on the press, Jake, look, the press is a bulwark of freedom and democracy. And I can tell you there are a lot of people, democrats, republicans, and people who are highly educated who are just getting frustrated with the press, saying that, you know, we don't know what to believe, we don't know what's true. There's too much bias, there's too much of an agenda.
OK, that -- whether they're right or not, the fact of the matter is, thank God we have a free press. Because the free press, even when they make mistakes, are a protection against government.
Look, I'm a public official. I have to deal with the press all the time. And sometimes they report things that I don't like. But I thank the lord that we have a free press, because it is an essential part of America. And in regard to institutions like the FBI, the Justice Department, I have always had great respect for them. I mean, I just do. I've just never felt as though they were not doing their job and, so, you know, that's my view. TAPPER: Governor Kasich, at the beginning of this interview, you
talked about how you're concerned that the drama that we constantly see from the Trump administration, from the Trump White House, as we see today, that you're worried it's going to turn people off, and/or polarize people.
KASICH: They're already turned off, Jake. You're just going to harden positions. And I think over time, you're going to probably see a weakening of the support of republicans for the president if this all keeps up. I mean, people are getting -- they're either tuning it out, as I said earlier, or they're getting frustrated.
And at the end of the day, republicans, if they're not careful, could suffer a very significant electoral loss, because of the disruption. People don't want to hear all this angst and all this problems. They just want to get on with their lives. And look, there's a consequence to this.
Let's take the tax bill. I would have voted for the tax bill. But the tax bill was a tax cut. It was not tax reform. And so, as a result, we're going to see a significant increase in the national debt, which has the impact of slowing down our economy.
Now, if they had worked with the democrats, you know what the fact is? They could have had more tax reform. We could have paid for some of this bill. Now we're fighting over DACA. Then we're fighting over the child health program.
[22:50:03] It's got to stop, Jake. Come on. People are tired of this. And you see the electoral results in Alabama, the electoral results in Virginia. You're losing millennials, you're losing women. I mean, this is not a good situation.
TAPPER: You're worried that a democratic wave might be coming?
KASICH: Well, I think the democrats have momentum right now. Now, if the republicans can pass some things, if they can take care of DACA, CHIP, we can calm things down, begin to talk about infrastructure in a serious way. But you know, it's just trending the wrong way.
Now, look, here's the interesting thing. The democrats are not getting it because they've got a good program. They're just taking advantage of republicans kicking the ball out of bounds. So you know, that could -- that could work against this wave because you tell me what the democrats are for.
I don't understand. You get Bernie Sanders over on the hard left, people have to go to the hard left. This is not that kind of a country. We are a center right country and the democrats are lucking out. I don't know if they'll get it together. Right now I don't know what they stand for.
TAPPER: Governor Kasich, thank you so much. We appreciate your time.
Amid the stunning excerpts from the Michael Wolff book the Trump White House is putting an end to one of the president's more questionable actions, the voter fraud commission, but who will look into all those illegal votes that caused the president to lose the popular vote? Three to five million. Stick around.
TAPPER: This just in. ABC News is tonight reporting that President Trump's lawyers have sent a cease and desist letter to former chief strategist Steve Bannon demanding that he stop make disparaging and defamatory statements about the president and his family. Following the stunning details revealed in the excerpts of this upcoming book.
My panel is here with me. First of all, thoughts, I mean, I guess everybody who joined the Trump campaign signed a nondisclosure agreement, you weren't allowed to talk about the president, disparage him afterwards.
[22:55:06] TRIPPI: Right.
TAPPER: But do you think they would actually sue him?
TRIPPI: Well, it looks like they...
TAPPER: I mean, threaten him.
TRIPPI: Well, I know. But then you've got it like, you know, Bannon's got to lawyer up and spend a lot of money on lawyers and that may be why he's not pursuing this right now.
TAPPER: Why he's not criticizing them on radio.
TRIPPI: On radio right this minute, but we'll see. But yes, I wouldn't put past him.
HAM: I mean, this is how they do business, it's how he's done business for a long time and business is battle and he will continue to battle with Bannon until kingdom come.
KUCINICH: No, no, no. Yes, he tries to punch back harder.
TAPPER: Yes. One other thing, one thing that Steve Bannon was talk about on his Breitbart radio show earlier today was the fact that they shut down the voter fraud commission.
TAPPER: This very controversial organization that they set up after the president said that he only lost the popular vote because there were three to five million illegal votes. Apparently they're kicking it over to the Department of Homeland Security. But a senior White House advisers tells CNN that the reason that they're disbanding it is because the commission went off the rails. It was an s, dot, dot, dot show. Of course, and also quote, "it wasn't a good sign when a member of the commission sued the group for withholding material." What do you think?
HAM: Look, voter fraud exists. TAPPER: Sure.
HAM: In vanishing small amounts that can't change an election, did not change this national election, it's a waste of money to do this investigation and it disparages a bunch of secretaries of state of both parties...
KUCINICH: That's the thing.
HAM: ... who do really good work trying to make sure that this is not...
KUCINICH: Who they came out and said, we're not -- no, we've done fine with our elections but thank you. It's almost like this wasn't necessary.
HAM: And they go after the fraud.
TRIPPI: In Alabama where Roy Moore says it was voter fraud and it's a republican governor, republican attorney general and republican secretary of state who certified it and carried out the election.
TAPPER: He was actually very impressive on election night, Roy Moore who still hasn't conceded, I believe.
TAPPER: I mean, the secretary of state who is a republican who I believe had endorsed Moore.
TRIPPI: Yes, exactly. Right.
TAPPER: Still was there saying the people have spoken.
TRIPPI: Right. And they did -- they certified the results every -- again, this is all republican -- who runs the elections in Alabama?
TRIPPI: It's the republican -- you know, the republican secretary of state. But still Moore calls voter fraud. And this has been something that, you know, it's out there, it does happen. But we're talking a handful of cases, not enough to change an election.
HAM: Most guys who go after it often and who find it when it happens.
TAPPER: One thing I want to ask before we go because we only have a couple minutes left is, obviously this book "Fire and Fury" has consumed the news cycle today. But at the end, in any other presidential administration, in any other White House a book like this would be like -- we would be like wow, the Obama administration is over, the Bush White House, it's done, I can't believe this, they're never going survive.
But today it's like it's Wednesday, you know. It's just Wednesday. I don't even know if we're going to be talking about this tomorrow.
KUCINICH: Right, exactly, because like has he tweeted? This could stop, you know, in an hour. And it just shows that this year is kicking off just like the last one ended.
TAPPER: And you heard John Kasich talking about some of the things you talked about how exhausted people are.
TRIPPI: Yes. The chaos and that's sort of even if this isn't tomorrow it will be something else. That's what comes out of this White House and this president. And I think that's the problem for the Republican Party at large because, look, they can maybe stop a democratic wave if they can end the chaos. But the problem is it's coming from the White House and the president himself.
So how they do that and I think Kasich spoke to it. First words in the interview we're talking about chaos and the people were just exhausted. He's absolutely right. That's what's going on out there.
HAM: He's sort of busted the machine during his candidacy in the exact same way, just throw so many gas out there and so many odd things that he said that nobody can focus on one entirely. And this is what happens during the administration as well. And I do think that feeling of relentlessness takes a toll on people and I think particularly probably as we see in Virginia and Alabama, those excerpt and women, college educated voters who might have been republican voters before and who are becoming swing voters.
TAPPER: Who just -- and who there's almost been an infection of their psyches and they're tired. And they just, I don't know what you hear when you go back when you were at the rose bowl and congratulations by the way.
KUCINICH: Good ducks.
TAPPER: When you talk to your fellow alums are they excited or are they big Trump supporters?
HAM: I mean, it depends on the person. But I do think even among supporters there is a both of like, I can of tune out and I try not watch as much as I used to.
TAPPER: All right. Thanks, everyone. I really appreciate it. Great panel. Thanks for being here. Thank you for watching. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter. I'm Jake Tapper. You can tweet the show @theleadcnn. That's it for this special primetime edition of the Lead. I'll be back again at 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. again Eastern tomorrow.
And now I turn you over to a CNN special report. The Trump presidency one year later.
[23:00:00] Thanks for watching.