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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump: GOP Should "Take Control" Of Russia Investigations; Trump On Prospect Of Mueller Interview: "We'll See"; CNN: Trump's Legal Team Says President Got "Ahead Of Himself"; Conway To CNN: We Don't Talk About Clinton At The White House. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 11, 2018 - 12:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[12:30:02] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And there is no collusion. I can only say this, there was absolutely no collusion. But it has been determined that there was no collusion. When they have no collusion and nobody has found any collusion at any level --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: There you see it, President Trump at the White House just yesterday eight times there using his go to, no collusion to vent his great displeasure with the Russia meddling investigation. Let's call that for what it is. Misleading on several fronts.

The Special Counsel's investigations and the Congressional investigations are still ongoing. There's no public evidence of collusion, but it's simply incorrect to say there's been a definitive conclusion from any of the investigations. Also incorrect, this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I've been in office now for 11 months. For 11 months they've had this phony cloud over this administration, over our government. And it has hurt our government, it does hurt our government. It's a Democrat hawks that was brought up as an excuse for loosing an election that frankly the Democrats should have won because they have such a tremendous advantage in the Electoral College. So it was brought up for that reason.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Again, that's the President at odd with the facts. The initial FBI investigation began months before the 2016 election. All of the Congressional committees looking into Russia led by Republicans. The Special Counsel was appointed by President Trump's Justice Department.

Plus, the President is well aware the investigation isn't just about the collusion question. Two former Trump aides have already entered guilty pleas and they are cooperating with prosecutors. Two others are under indictment. The President's decision to fire the former FBI Director James Comey is part of the investigation. The President knows all of this. He also knows his attorneys are trying to negotiate ground rules for an interview with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which made another piece of his Russia answer yesterday more than a little curious. The President who once said he would be 100 percent willing to meet with Robert Mueller, now says he doesn't think there's any reason for such an interview. Why?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, because I think -- you know, now we're getting closer. I don't know how close we are, but to the point where the rubber meets the road and his legal team is actually discussing the terms under which he might meet -- sit down with Mueller or answer questions in some former fashion, whether it'd be written or in person. And this is becoming a very well prospects which I think, you know, he's hearing from a lot of his legal advisors. It wouldn't be wise for him to submit, you know, he doesn't have to appear, he doesn't have to testify the last president to do so in an investigation of which he was the target with Bill Clinton in 1998.

And the likelihood that we're going to see Donald Trump to submit to any of that is very low, but we also know that he likes to push back when he thinks that he's being treated unfairly as we were talking about earlier. And so, there is I think a part of him that wants to and that was the part of him that answered last June that he would 100 percent be willing to talk to Mueller wants to, you know, push back and rebut what he said is just a completely misrepresented account of that.

KING: Let's have -- as you jump in, let's first hear the President then and now. Equity said absolutely and now.

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JONATHAN KARL, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of these events?

TRUMP: 100 percent. I'll see what happens, but when they have no collusion and nobody has found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely that you'd even have an interview.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAREN TUMULTY, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, except that Bob Mueller has a big button on his desk and it's called subpoena power. And all of the, you know, precedent would suggest that while there are arguments over whether you can indict a president, there's a lot of grounds to believe you can actually subpoena a president.

And in fact Ken Starr in 1998 did issue a subpoena to Bill Clinton. That subpoena was withdrawn in part because they didn't want to push the precedent. But the -- if he decides he wants to hear from President Trump, he's got a lot of power to get him in front of this.

KING: And given his history, his reputation and the questions before the investigation including why did you fire Jim Comey? You would think that as a public servant, even if there's nothing in here that implicates the President, nothing in your bet as a public servant Robert Mueller is going to want to have that President's version in the book. It belongs in the chapter that sums this whole thing up.

Now, our Jim Acosta reporting the President's legal team saying the President got a little ahead of himself and saying, well, I don't think there's a need for an interview. That's the press clean up shall we say. Clean up on how to. But what I always come at these things is this way from my history of covering the Clinton last in those days is they know so many more things than we know.

And so the President knows his lawyers involved in this negotiations. He knows they're trying to negotiate the parameters. Some of it might be in writing, what can you ask about, what won't you ask about, what are you going to say publicly about it. And in the middle of that, his answer changes, that's what makes my wheels start to spin. What does the President know that we don't know?

DAVIS: Well -- and, I mean, one of the big concerns I think of the legal team, and first of all they know what Karen has said which is that Mueller might be able to compel this or at least to bring a big fight to them in terms of whether or not he can bring the President in. The second thing is, while we don't know whether there is any substance to the collusion charges or whether there's anything there, they do regard the Mueller investigation as a potential for this a giant perjury trap.

[12:35:10] And so if you sit the President down with Bob Mueller and it's a free wheeling conversation where he can ask about anything or a lot of issues that they think are very difficult ground for the President to answer questions about, you could be putting him in a situation where even if they don't find any evidence of collusion, he could be, you know, tagged for lying to Mueller. And obstructing the investigation not before when he fired Comey, but actually by his testimony itself which is a huge risk for him.

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: And if I can note, there's an eagerness on the part of the President to make this go away. We know how much he hates it, we know he thinks that it challenges the legitimacy of his presidency and it leads people to not give him the credit he thinks he deserves for his election victory. It is hard to see how he clear that cloud over his head without speaking directly to Mueller under oath in a situation where he cannot said, where he cannot lie and clear a lot of these things up.

One after another, things have come out, statements that were made previously during the campaign turned out not to be true. Collusion or at least contacts with WikiLeaks which were dismissed and denied by the campaign turned out to be real. How do you clear all of this stuff up without the principal himself?

KING: And we're having this conversation at a time, still a lot to unfold here. Papadopoulos, General Flynn, cooperating with Special Counsel, trials waiting for Manafort and Gates. We have a long way to go here. Just to note, consider the source, Russian President Vladimir Putin said today, all allegations of Russian interference are utter rubbish. Next, turn up the volume. The conservative revolt against the President, it's getting louder.

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[12:40:06] KING: Give thanks on our political radar today. The governor of Missouri, Eric Greitens, admitting to an extra marital affair, but denying he tried to blackmail the woman with a nude photo and she reportedly says he did. Greitens and his wife released a joint statement last night saying the affair happened before he was governor and that they have dealt with it as a couple. Greitens is a Republican, he took office a year ago.

Some states may soon make certain people on Medicaid work or go to school in order to qualify for those benefits. Federal guidance went out to the states today playing out how to add work requirements for non-disabled Medicaid recipients. That would be a major change to how the system now operates. Republicans have tried for years to add a work requirement to Medicaid, which covers nearly 75 million, low- income children, adults, elderly, and disabled Americans.

Governors on both coast, Democrats and Republicans furious today, asking questions demanding to know why Florida gets to be exempt from a new plan to do more offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling. The Secretary of Interior said because Florida needs tourists on the beaches. Other governors who also have beaches are saying not fair.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOV. ROY COOPER (D), NORTH CAROLINA: This is ridiculous to come in and say we're going to start drilling off the coast and then picking off a state like Florida.

GOV. KATE BROWN (D), OREGON: In what universe would this be OK? Our coastal beaches are really important to Oregonians. I don't know why it's OK for Florida and not OK for Oregon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Critics of the plan said it's not too hard to figure out. They say Florida is getting exempted for pure politics. Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott doesn't want to have to deal with this and he might run for the Senate next year. Whatever Governor Scott wants, Governor Scott gets.

President Trump seemingly changed his tune on some issues that were very important to his campaign back in 2016.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I want dreamers to come from the United States. I want the people in the United States that have children. I want them to have dreams also. We're always talking about dreamers for other people. I hope we're going to come up with an answer for DACA and then we go further than that later on down the road. It should be a bill of love. Surely, it should be a bill of love.

But the Paris deal, supported by Hillary, will cost our country another $5.3 trillion. We will cancel this deal so that our companies can compete.

And frankly, it's an agreement that I have no problem with, but I had a problem with the agreement that they signed, because, as usual, they made a bad deal. So we could conceivably go back in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: How concerns or worried there could be another flip on the Iran nuclear deal. The President's meeting today with his national security team, one of the big questions whether to renew a set of waivers for U.S. sanctions against Iran. Some commentators not happy with promises the President has already broken.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK LEVIN, THE MARK LEVIN SHOW HOST: How many more times are we going to get screwed here before we understand what's the, don't worry, Mark, don't worry. This is four levels of chess. This isn't four levels of chess. This is Tiddlywinks.

Now we're redefining the word wall, next thing you know, what, we're going to redefine the word is? I just wish they'd be honest with us. Just tell us just -- look, we said we we're going to do an entire wall? We're not. We said the Mexican government is going to pay for it? It's not. I said I was going to eliminate DACA, I'm not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let me start with you, John, you authored The Weekly Standard, a conservative publication. How real is this unhappiness revolt sense of betrayal? Is it just to talk radio dynamic? And let's be honest, some of it, they get listeners by stoking controversy. You can't say everything is great. It's not great for our radio show.

So part of it is that, how much of it is betrayal or how much of it is some conservatives make the deal? He used to be a Democrat. He said he was going to run as an independent. He wasn't one of us to begin with.

JOHN MCCORMACK, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: You know, I think there has been a big question about what is Trumpism. Is it an ideologist about populism, naturalism being tough in immigration, or is it there's this cult of personally drawing by Donald Trump? And I think that more and more, we're seeing it's the latter. It's not about the issues for the base. Now maybe it is for our talk radio, as Laura Ingraham, for Mark Levin. You know, they're actually being principled here saying hey, these are the issues that we care about. We're going to speak out against it. But, you know, I think for a lot of the President's base, it's more about supporting him. It's more about partisanship. It's more about tribalism. I think we saw that just last week when Steve Bannon was thrown overboard. I mean, he was totally thrown overboard for betraying the President's family when he is supposed to be one the leaders of this new populist nationalist movement. And he was just tossed overboard.

KING: Does it affect the President?

TUMULTY: You know, does --

KING: Does he care?

TUMULTY: I think that his connection to his supporters is so strong. In Selena Vida's (ph) mortal words, they took him seriously. They didn't take him literally.

KING: Right.

TUMULTY: I certainly remember my own conversations with Trump supporters last year. My colleague, Jonathan, did an amazingly good story about the wall and talking to people and Trump crowd saying, yes, we don't necessarily think this is going to happen, you know. Even as they are chanting, build the wall. So --

[12:45:06] KING: They're took it as sort of a metaphor for tough on immigration. He's going to be tough. He's going to be deferent. The specifics, it doesn't really matter.

DAVIS: Exactly. But I think there is a question to be asked here about when -- I mean, so far, with many of these issues, he is just talking about doing something other than what he campaigned on. He is not actually doing it. But if he does go ahead with the DACA fix that the base doesn't like, if he then goes to second step, which he said he would earlier this week, and he is willing to sign a comprehensive immigration reform bill that gives a pathway to citizenship or legalization for11 million undocumented immigrants after campaigning on, you know, demonizing these people and saying that's, you know, that's amnesty for lawmakers, I do wonder whether he's even that, you know, core group that is really, I think as both of you said rightly, more about Trump than about anyone policy, whether they really start to feel disillusions and like they were sold the bill of goods.

And I think, you know, there is a sense among some of the commentators and some of the, you know, the political class among conservatives that Bannon's defenestration and the fact that there is no one in the White House or there's a couple of people, but, you know, Bannon was the main person in the White House that was keeping this flame alive for a lot of his policies. Now, you have John Kelly, his chief of staff. He has cracked down a lot on the outside inputs that the President gets. The question is whether someone is keeping those -- that strain alive for Trump, because he is clearly not a policy-mind that's going to do it himself.

KING: And then the question on the table today is the Iran deal, which the President has several times said I'm going to rip up or walk away from. And he has not done that. Now, he did signal the last time that he was getting closer to that position. Now it seems to be the national security adviser or the Defense Secretary of the State Department want him to stay in the deal and them maybe order here on the side, we'll do some other sanctions dealing with Iran and support of Hezbollah and things like that. But keep the nuclear deals. Is that where we are headed?

KAPUR: Right. Well, that one, the Iran nuclear deal is certainly up in the air. I think this illustrates the tension that President Trump has had in -- on a lot of areas between his campaign promises. And the reality of once you get in the office, there are geopolitical considerations. There are security considerations the fact that he's already escalating with North Korea. Can you do that and, you know, go after Iran at the same time? There are all sort of delicate, I guess, complex decisions that need to be made.

And the two issues more than anything else that catapult President Trump and the Republican primary and made him the nominees eventually the then-president were immigration and trade. He was the one candidate who said I'm going to deport them all. Nobody else said that.

Every other Republican wanted to cut taxes and deregulate. He was also the one who promised to crack down on China and their trade practices and current the manipulation and that sort of thing. He has not done that. His immigration -- on the immigrations, we've seen, he is conflicted.

A new poll out, just in the last hour by Quinnipiac shows that 79 percent support a path to citizenship for the Dreamers, 7 percent want them to be able to stay if not apply for citizenship. The 9010 issue, I think he also understands that. He has advisers who want some sympathy and I guess some, you know, compassion for these people.

It's the reality of governing versus the campaign promises he made and comes up over and over again. And he has not demonstrated a paper trail of long convections on the number of these issues, which makes it easy for him to second-guess himself.

KING: Right. And back to your point, now, I love this conservative talk radio hosts who show fiercely loyal for the President during the campaign and they think they should get something for that. Don't -- they think he is now hostage to the establishment of what they called the Manhattan Republican Party and that going to fall through in that. We'll keep an eye on those.

Next though, Hillary who? The White House says the Clintons are not a big subject around the West Wing. Uh-huh. Before we go to break, a little flashback to the 1980s. President Trump often compares his presidency to that of conservative icon, Ronald Reagan. It was on this day in 1989 that President Reagan gave a farewell address from the Oval office. Some of this might sound familiar.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, back in 1980, when I was running for President, it was all so different. Some pundits said our programs would result in catastrophe. Our views on foreign affair would cause war. Our plans for the economy would cause inflation to soar and bring about economic collapse. It's been quite a journey this decade, and we held together through stormy seas. And at the end, together, we are reaching our destination.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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[12:53:19] KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: We don't care about her, nobody here talks about her. Hey, Chris, nobody here talks about Hillary Clinton, I promise you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That was Kellyanne Conway, just last night talking to my colleague Chris Cuomo. Nobody, I promise you. Got it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Hillary resisted and you know what happened? She lost the election in a landslide.

If you look at the Democrats with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, that's a mess. Everybody tells me I'm not under investigation. Maybe Hillary is, I don't know, but I'm not.

When look at what they did with respect to the Hillary Clinton investigation, it was rigged. Hillary Clinton lied many times to the FBI, nothing happened to her.

Oh, I hope, Hillary runs. Is she going to run? I hope. Hillary, please run again. Hillary was not for a strong military and Hilary, my opponent, was for windmills.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The election, just in case you keeping track at home, 429 days ago. And don't forget the tweets, the President has mentioned Mrs. Clinton at least 60 times since inauguration day, including seven times so far in 2018. But nobody at the Trump White House cares or talks about Hillary Clinton, right? Nobody. Is nobody a new code name for President?

DAVIS: I mean, he is clearly preoccupied with her and sees her as his forever rival. I mean, he -- yesterday, he called her his rival and a lot of it, I think, does have to do with trying to turn the tables on the Russia questions and, I mean, talk about her, the investigation into her, use of a private e-mail server. And he went on and on yesterday about her interview with the FBI, which of course it would be totally different than the sitting President of the United States sitting down with the Special Counsel. She didn't have to be under ought. It was a voluntary interviews that wouldn't have being transcribed.

[15:55:00] You know, there were new ounces here, but he clearly sees her still as a threat and also as sort a -- and we were talking before about how the wall wasn't necessarily a literal thing. It was more a way of talking about his whole approach on immigration. I think mentioning Hillary and for him, she represents his detractors, his enemies, the people he has to push back on. So, when he feels under attack, that's right where he goes.

KING: And he needs an enemy in his framing.

KAPUR: Exactly. It's so common for presidents to go after their predecessors, especially from the other party and blame them from this, that, or the other at the White House. This White House is that like -- every White House we've seen for a long time has done that. It's highly unusual for a president to go after their opponent who was never president to begin with.

It just shows how much the Clintons have captivated his base, the Republican base and how much the conservative entertainment complex, talk radio, in particular, has gotten in the last 25 years off of channeling anger and hatred toward the Clinton. They are a little lost without them right now and out of the public eye.

KING: Nobody, nobody is talking about Hillary Clinton. Nobody.

Thanks for joining us today on INSIDE POLITICS. We're expecting to hear from President Trump next hour with the round table discussions on the issue of prison reform. Wolf Blitzer will bring you that. He'll be here after a quick break. Have a good day

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