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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump on Bannon: "I Don't Talk To Him"; Scaramucci: Trump Has The "Best Emotional Intelligence"; Trump Meets With GOP Senators To Talk DACA; Graham: Bush And Obama Couldn't Do It But I Think Trump Can; Trump On Immigration Deal: I Think It Can Be Bipartisan. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired January 4, 2018 - 12:00   ET

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


JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Bannon certainly knows that the President loves a good compliment. I think it already just less than 24-hours after that really caustic statement that scathing personal statement the White House put out, you already starting to hear, not really from Bannon's side but a little bit from Trump side too, the idea that this will not be a permanent that we've got, that this is a President who was lashing out in large part because Bannon went after members of his family, his son in particular.

But Trump has been through this cycle many times. People like Roger Stone, he goes after them, he may fire them, but they tend to stay around. This break ups tend to not be very permanent for him.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: And to quote somebody who is on the show earlier this week, Steve Bannon speaks fluent Trump and he was speaking it last night loud and clear.

JOSHUA GREEN, BLOOMBER BUSINESSWEEK: Exactly. He knows that the way to ingratiate yourself into Trump's good graces is to compliment him and to do it in an obsequies manner like calling him a great man after he just stomped all over you in the presidential statement.

I was in the green room earlier and I saw just on the CNN car (ph), you know, Bannon says Trump is "great man." We know that Trump digests a lot of cabled T.V. We know that this message is going to make its way to Trump and it is so interesting to see the reaction from Trump that, "OK, well, you know, I don't talk to him but I did notice that he is call me a great man."

BASH: Yes. I mean, and also let's just get real. He says, "I don't talk to him." That's a misnomer. I think that's the word he used.

GREEN: Right. He may not have talked to him today, but had been talking to him regularly before this detail flare up.

BASH: Yes, yes, absolutely. Perry, the whole notion of how this book came about is so fascinating because it's not like he worked around the White House. They didn't want him to know about what was going on. He was welcomed into the West Wing in a pretty aggressive way. I want to read a quote from what the author wrote. "Since the new White House was often uncertain about what the President meant or did not mean in giving -- in any given utterance, his non-disapproval, great turn of phrase, became a kind of passport for me to hang around, checking in each week at the Hay-Adams hotel, which is across the street, making appointments with various senior staffers who put my name in the system, and then wandering across the streets to the White House and plunking myself down, day after day, on a West Wing couch".

For people out there who have not covered the White House or, you know, been at the White House, this is not normal. This is not usual at all.

PERRY BACON, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: Well, you remember the Wolff (INAUDIBLE) thesis after the election in early 2017, they were pretty positive about Bannon and Trump. So I get the sense that he makes cycle to them and made him even think that they will get a favorable book out of him. Trump read those accounts. When you look at Wolff's career, he is known for writing for the controversial books. We read about Murdoch. It was very controversial and not very flattering to Rupert Murdoch.

So I would guess that a normal White House would have vetted this more carefully and made sure maybe no writer, essentially no sort of writer who might be risky when he gives us a little of axis. And it sounds like he talked to lots of senior staffers at the White House for lots of time.

It is going to be hard to deny certain quotes in the book that sort of sound real and are based on real accounts and he had a lot of access and it might -- I've heard he may be even had tapes, which going to make it even -- more challenging. But, I mean, his book does have some credibility because Wolff was in the White House and was around him a lot.

BASH: I think that some of the people who get quotes in here are denying the quotes.

JACKIE KUCINICH, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, and he opened himself up to criticism with quotes like the one about John Boehner where Trump allegedly said, "Who is that?" Well, Donald Trump knows who John Boehner is. He golfed with him. He tweeted about him. Someone said last night that anyone who watches "Fox and Friends" knows whose John Boehner is, maybe not in the most positive way.

So Wolff did open himself up to a lot of skepticism and to a lot of Twitter fury with that alone. And if you open the door to that sort of skepticism, it's really hard to -- it opens you up to saying other things in the book, aren't you?

BASH: And so we obviously look at a lot of these quotes and so forth, but the overall 10,000 feet view of this book is that Donald Trump is alleged that he is erratic and then he is not intellectually curious or intellectual at all.

Anthony Scaramucci who was his communications director for, I guess now it's a verb for Scaramucci, for 10 days said this, this morning about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: You cannot be dumb to win the American presidency. You know he is not dumb. I know he is not dumb. In fact, if any of these -- he get probably the best emotional intelligence in terms of sizing and reading people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Any day that your headline is the President is not dumb. It is not great that that has to be an actual defense because of this book.

GREEN: Right. It's both a defense, but it's also, you can even see in that Scaramucci interview, Scaramucci is grasping attempts to ingratiate himself to flatter Trump and stand up for him because that's the price of admission. That's essentially the ticket, the way you get your passport back into Trump.

[12:05:03] BASH: But he doesn't want to go back in.

GREEN: Well, there's a report that he does want to go back in.

BASH: I know he wrote it.

(CROSSTALK)

PACE: You can say he denies it.

KUCINICH: He denies it, but --

GREEN: But, you know, wink, wink. But, I mean, you have both Scaramucci and Bannon kind of aggressively flattering a president who fired both of them because this is the way back into power.

BASH: And then there's a question of the President's mood. I was told and I did some reporting with our White House producer, Kevin Liptak, that before this book came out, one of the things that fuelled his tweet storm about North Korea and Pakistan and other things that, you know, were really kind of amazing was his frustration about Russia.

And the fact that the investigation is still going on in 2018 and his lawyer said it was going to end soon and it hasn't ended. Chris Ruddy who is a rich guy, who is a friend of Donald Trump, sees him a lot at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, here's what he said about the president's mood.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS RUDDY, CEO AND PRESIDENT, NEWSMAX MEDIA INC.: He is probably a little aggravated and probably feels quite unfairly treated by Steve. I'm disappointed that Steve said some of the things he did. You have to remember, this interview for the book probably took place a month or two after Steve was fired by the President at the White House. He probably had very raw emotions. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: That's probably fair to say the President have some raw emotions.

PACE: Yes. I think those are a little couple understatement. Look, Chris -- look, the President is clearly angry at Bannon and you can understand why, right? This is somebody who had -- if Trump really raised Bannon's profile, he made him more of a national figure, he feels like Bannon owes him, and then Bannon is out there going after Trump personally going after his family. But to your earlier point, you have to put this in the context of where we are in the presidency.

This is a President who has been told for the last several weeks by his advisers that he would get to 2018 and the Russia investigation would be behind him. Well, we're in 2018 and guess what?

BASH: Exactly.

PACE: Not only is that investigation not over, it's not anywhere close to being over. So for the President, this is a huge frustration that he is coming back on the heels of a victory on the tax bill and he still has to deal with questions about Russia. That is a huge source of frustration for him.

BASH: Yes.

BACON: So, on the tax bill briefly. In a normal White House if you had this kind of tax bill, you worked on for months, that's the big thing you campaign on, you spend January, you go to Minnesota, you go to Iowa, list of events. That's how the regular people who talked the tax bill benefit.

This White House from the beginning, they just don't have a plan for, you know, talking about tax bill throughout. And now there's Bannon (INAUDIBLE) already taking them off now because they already -- did not really have a plan to cash in on this big achievement and really make it something the public recall.

This is the one thing Trump actually get done so far, but I'm not sure people really know about it that much and I'm not sure that Trump is getting the bump from it, then maybe he should have the way Obama did after Obamacare.

(CROSSTALK)

PACE: Three days this year so far with no events scheduled by this White House to promote the tax bill. That is communications office malpractice, frankly. If the President has been on vacation, out of the spotlight, coming up a big legislative achievement, you've knocking off his schedule to promote what has been. It's only a big legislation --

BASH: And how much does that speak to, again, you know, I should say we're not going to show some of the specifics in couple of the excerpts that -- like Wolff put out there because the sourcing doesn't need our standards. I mean, it would never the direct quotes saw the direct quotes. I mean that is, you know, that's a different story.

But still, again, that sort of broad -- some tapestry that Wolff leaves is a president and a presidency that is chaotic, adrift, and unsure of how to do the basics of the job.

GREEN: Sure. And I think one reason the book has had the impact that has so far is because the picture it paints is really pretty consistent with the ones that other reporters are getting and even some of the more flamboyant quotes. Not even from Bannon, but Sam Nunberg, a long time Trump staffer said on the record and confirmed this to "The Daily Beast," I believe, he calls Trump an f-thing moron, idiot, I can't remember what it was.

BASH: Something along those lines.

GREEN: Something along so deeply insulting and he is willing to kind of stand up and say that. I mean, so the fact that, you know, Wolff has these quotes in the book and that it fits with a lot of what advisers tell reporters privately makes it seems like, you know, a more or less accurate macro portrayal of the chaos in the White House.

BASH: And just to go back to the notion that Wolff talked about of him kind of just kind of talking himself on a couch in the West Wing, that in and of itself speaks to the chaotic and unusual atmosphere in the White House that that would even be allowed.

KUCINICH: Well, to Perry's earlier point, the lack of vetting of Wolff's body of work really speaks to -- I mean, some of the -- I mean, he is flattering Bannon or someone who let him in the White House and let him sit down on the couch.

BASH: Well, apparently he liked the story about him that Wolff did for their Hollywood reporter and he had apparently had a nice cover.

[12:10:09] KUCINICH: Right, exactly. And so that's sort of flattering got him in the door and it's easy -- Lanny Davis was talking to get cover last night, and he said that he's forgotten whether reporters is the room. And, you know, during interviews and he is, you know, on a campaign and you're talking and this person is on the couch and you just sort of -- they end up part of the furniture.

BACON: And all you had to do was a Google search.

KUCINICH: And that -- which as a reporter that's awesome. Yes, right.

GREEN: You know, it would have illuminated his entire body of work and the fact that he is got pretty sharp clause a writer.

KUNINICH: Right, exactly. But and, so when you reread that part of the excerpt, and I think it was in the "New York Magazine," you read that and it shows that the White House opened themselves up to this whether or not everything in the book is true. The fact that he got in there is rests squarely in the West Wing. BASH: No question. And we're going to take a quick break, a lot more to discuss. Coming up, as we played at the top of the show, the President was asked about Steve Bannon in that meeting that he is having right now, but the focus is about immigration. A very important potential deal that maybe in the works. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:15:10] BASH: President Trump invited a key group of Republican senators to the White House today, a group that has been working on a potential deal on immigration, one that could marry legal status even citizenship for so-called Dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents, with a new border security bill, measures that would entice conservative especially to go along with that.

Now, the GOP group includes hard liners like Tom Cotton of Arkansas and more moderate Republicans on immigration like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. The majority leader, though, Mitch McConnell, he stayed back at the capitol. We'll talk more about why that is in a second. But first, let's listen to what the President said during this meeting just a few moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. You know, Lindsey used to be a great enemy of mine, now he's a great friend of mine. I really like Lindsey, can you believe that? I never thought I would say that, but I do like him a lot.

SEN. LINDSAY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you. I like you too, so we have something in common, all right.

TRUMP: We all know that.

GRAHAM: Obama couldn't do it. Bush couldn't do it. I think you can do it. There's a bill that you had. If you want it bad enough, we'll get it. It will be good for the country. Everybody has to give a little bit. But I've never been more optimistic about an immigration reform proposal making it to the President's desk right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Lindsey Graham speaks fluent, Trump too. It's all you Mr. President. Nobody else could do it. You can do it. Let's that -- let's go. Have that it.

BACON: I think the real challenge here is that's the meeting of Republicans. They don't agree on the issue, but then you have to have eight Democrats ultimately in the Senate and probably other Democrat as well vote for something as well.

BASH: Right.

BACON: And you -- the data suggested that the Democrats have moved left on immigrations while Republicans have moved right. So I think the idea, we had Trump on video at the top of the show talking about -- he wants the wall. He keeps talking about the wall, a bill without a wall and that's the reason he do it and I don't think the Democrats are going to vote for any bill --

PACE: And Republicans.

BACON: -- with a wall either and Jeff Flake as well. I think that (INAUDIBLE) -- there's like almost three parties here on immigration, the moderate Republicans, the Republicans who are more conservative, and the Democrats.

PACE: Well, then take advice among Democrats, though, also on how to handle DACA. It's a fascinating issue, because you have a lot of Democrats both in the House and in the Senate who wanted to go really hard line on this. Looking that there should be a clean DACA vote who think that should give away nothing on border security because the status of these young people who were brought to this country illegally is so important to them in part politically.

But they really want the party to take a hard line. They are quite frustrated that Chuck Schumer didn't do that at the end of last year. But then you have other Democrats who say, "Hey, let's not let the perfect to the enemy of the good here. If we have to give something to the President as a fig leaf on border security, if it's technology, if it's more drone coverage, we can do that." But I think a physical wall would be the breaking point for all of that.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: And I should just say that my understanding is that, well, obviously, Democrats are not in the room there because that would be bad optics that would not help the notion of the compromise at all that people like, Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate who has historically worked with people like Lindsey Graham, they are definitely in contact and potentially in board.

And it might be if there is a deal, that it might be a classic compromise which we can see in this along where people on the right are not happy, they don't vote for, people on the left are not happy, they don't vote for it, but there is a bipartisan middle (ph).

KUCINICH: I think the House is going to end up being the biggest obstacle here honestly, because that's where you have the two sides are the most polarized, are looking to score political points. Frankly, we are in an election year and that both of these groups have bases that are very animated on this particular issue because any concession on the immigration is going to be looked at as amnesty by a certain sector, I mean, frankly the Bannon wing (ph) --

BASH: Yes.

KUCINICH: -- of the Republican Party. And as Julia said, on the Democratic side, you can't -- they can't give an intruder (ph).

BASH: Which is why Lindsey Graham was picking Trump and making it about Donald Trump being the one to seal this deal, because the hope among Republicans is that he can -- he's got enough capital with the Republican base that he can sell it. And I mentioned that Mitch McConnell is sort of not where they -- that he is not there. He doesn't want to have amnesty, you know, sort of ring around his neck. Let this be the President's decision.

GREEN: You know, as we've established earlier in the show, the key to influencing Trump is to flatter him. And you could hear Lindsey Graham flattering him and talking about his immigration bill and essentially kind of, you know, implicitly urging Trump to take ownership of it, right?

It's Trump's bill then maybe, you know, he can satisfy some of those people on the right. They'll get cover to vote for a bill that may not be as conservative as they like. It's some kind of political cover that, you know, for example, Mitch McConnell couldn't offer them.

KUCINICH: But then you look at someone, again, I'm going to go back to the House, someone like Mark Meadows who has flattered the President in the past and taken a sector of the Republican House with him. So I have to imagine his phone has already ringing off the hook.

[12:20:10] BASH: Yes, no question. If they do come up with a deal, and it's still an if, a big one, this is going to be a big question for, not just Mitch McConnell in the senate, but you're exactly right, more importantly the House Speaker Paul Ryan, about whether he is just going to suck it up and say, "I'm going to lose a lot of my conservatives but it will pass because we have a bipartisan majority."

PACE: Right. And we've seen John Boehner previously get into a bind over this, whether you put something on the floor.

BASH: And he went bye-bye.

PACE: But he said something on the floor that you know could pass with bipartisan votes, but the majority of your own caucus wouldn't vote for. Ryan could end up in a very similar situation on immigration here.

BASH: Yes, no question. And I just think that this is fascinating if they come up with something that the President could be. I mean Lindsey Graham was flattering Donald Trump, but he's right on the facts. If the President finds a way to seal this deal and they could get this done, that the guy who talked about building a wall, which he will call it a wall, it properly won't be an actual wall at all, sort of a Rorschach test, that he could be the first person in a while to do something on immigration reform. It would be kind of amazing.

GREEN: Well, the only possible path for that to happen is going to be different than tax reform where Republicans were able to pass it with a narrow majority of 51, 52 votes. You know, now they can't do that. They need Democratic votes. And so almost by definition it has to be something that is more appealing to Democrats than just to kind of purest conservative position. Of course, again, that introduces the political problem of is there enough room to maneuver into the middle and pass a bill that won't immediately cost Paul Ryan his job.

BASH: Do you think Democrats might make it the perfect enemy of the good as some of the negotiators would think?

BACON: One of the hard things is when Trump was -- were you in this partisan environment when Trump is forcing and this is going to mean Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand probably can't be for it, right? So I think there is going to be a push to see like it.

The details really do matter here in terms of like what is the immigration enforcement policies look like, because Democrats are -- I guess that they're going to have a hard time voting for much. It looks really tough on immigration. And like you said, I think your point is right, which is that what does a wall means? I think we're getting in the zone of like, what counts as a wall and Kamala Harris says it's not a wall, but Trump says it is a wall.

BASH: Exactly.

BACON: That's going to be defined in the middle there.

BASH: Somehow I feel like you just predicted the future of discussions around here. So we just heard from some Republican senators on the DACA deal, including as we mentioned, Lindsey Graham. But how are things going for the brand-new Democratic senator from Alabama?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've been there 19 hours, are you shocked by the dysfunction yet?

SEN. DOUG JONES, (D) ALABAMA: No, not yet. Well, you know, we had one vote that went pretty simple, so all good so far.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Give it time, senator, give it time.

Up next, did President Trump really break up with Steve Bannon for good? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[12:26:52] TRUMP: Thank you all very much. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did Steve Bannon betray you, Mr. President?

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any words about Steve Bannon?

TRUMP: I don't know. He called me a great man last night so, you know, he obviously changed his tune pretty quick. Thank you all very much. Thank you. I don't talk to him. I don't talk to him. I don't talk to him. That's just a misnomer. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: That was once again President Trump talking or at least fielding questions from reporters in the White House about Steve Bannon talking at least on camera for the first time about him, but noting that the former White House counsel or counselor called the President a great man, which I think Steve Bannon did. We all here thinks Steve Bannon did.

It was a very specific strategy in mind, because the White House has turned on Bannon in public in a scathing way. Few politicians never mind Presidents would do. Here's how one veteran GOP strategist talked about Bannon's fate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED ROLLINS, STRATEGIST, PRO-TRUMP GREAT AMERICA SUPER PAC: He set himself on fire in the middle of the south lawn then the President ran over him with a tank, and put it in reverse and backed over him again. I've never seen anybody do anything as stupid as he did. No one ever heard of Bannon before Trump got elected. I think it's the end of Bannon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: But is it really? Is it really the end of Steve Bannon? Well, here's one potential factor to look at. The Breitbart engine could be running out of gas or at least looking for a new gas station. And by gas, I mean cash.

"The Washington Post" is reporting that Bannon is losing his biggest financial patron, Rebekah Mercer. Let's discuss with the panel.

We haven't been able to confirm that, but I know you haven't either the notion that the Mercers are leaving. But put this into context as to why this is important for Steve Bannon and Breitbart and sort of the outright machine.

GREEN: Well, it's hugely important because the Mercers are the major financial benefactor of Bannon's right-wing empire, and that includes "Breitbart News," it includes and the Government Accountability Institute, The Research Shop that produced an anti-Clinton book.

And it's especially important because in the year since Trump, or since Bannon was elevated to run Trump's campaign, there has been a fairly well organized advertiser boycott that has cost "Breitbart News" many of its advertisers.

So, if the Mercers were to pull out, that would potentially do enormous economic damage to Breitbart. And without that platform, it's not clear what the venue would be for Bannon to continue to exert the kind of influence that he has.

PACE: And then it's not clear if some of these insurgent Republican candidates would be flocking to him in the way that we saw just a couple of weeks ago. I was told by a couple of folks working for some of those candidates yesterday that even before we saw Trump go after Bannon, there were some questions about how much juice he had coming out of Alabama where he was so aggressively supporting Roy Moore. And obviously Roy Moore lost to Doug Jones.

They think potentially you could see some of these candidates, if not freak from Bannon and Breitbart, maybe not be so eager to rally behind him showing up at the Breitbart mansion, making clear that they are with him and they are, you know, representing the Bannon-Breitbart ideals.

BASH: So we played the President talking about Bannon and noting the fact that Bannon called him a terrific guy, a wonderful guy.