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White House Struggling to Address Stormy Daniels' Scandal; Florida Governor Could Sign Gun Control Bill Today; Trump: "Deals Are My Art Form"; The Obamas in Show Talks with Netflix. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 9, 2018 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:03] ABBY PHILIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And then secondly, you know, we are hearing a lot of finger pointing in the building about who is responsible for this whole mess. Some people say it's Michael Cohen, some people say that it is, you know, Sarah for how she talked about the arbitration agreement.

But, of course, there is the president who's at the center of this. I think it is a -- as with many things in this White House -- a slow burn that is always in the background. At the moment it is not consumed the building yet.

I've heard from a lot of Republicans that they find it distasteful but that they feel like as long as we're, you know, not in sort of Monica Lewinsky territory, they feel like they can contain it but it's a problem and they have to figure out a way out of it, and it seems like they're getting deeper and deeper into the problem rather than --

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Well, (INAUDIBLE) about Monica Lewinsky's territory, Paula Jones filed a lawsuit against President Clinton back in the days. It was discovery during that lawsuit that brought out a lot of things that ended up being harmful to the president and lot of (INAUDIBLE) into the Whitewater which became the star, which became the Lewinsky investigation.

Michael, you covered the White House a while, I just want to read this line from CNN Politics story. "Even as aides grapple with how to talk about this issue, Trump is taking no responsibility for the scandal. People familiar with the president's thinking said, highlighting how tangled the wen of outside lawyers continue to complicate matters at the White House."

The president is taking no responsibility. Well, if he is David Dennison, he is responsible, and Michael Cohen we know as a long time fixer for the president who is a -- whose signature is on the documents.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. I mean, I think this -- the point that you just made about the legal case in the Lewinsky matter is I think the same that makes this much more problematic for the White House than, you know, the myriad of previous accusations from people who have had interactions with him.

It is the legal proceedings and the potential discovery, the potential information, text messages, all these things that could emerge from some kind of ongoing legal proceeding that poses real risks. And I think this White House -- the people in this White House came into office not at all understanding how much of that can overshadow what you're trying to do.

They certainly have learned that lesson in the Mueller probe and I think they're beginning to learn a lesson here that that's -- it's not -- you can deny all you want, and then the president has denied this sort of underlying allegation that he had an affair with Stormy Daniels, but it's the legal process that catches up to you.

KING: If your first suit gets standing and you have discovery, then people will probably filing documents and then, who knows. Ask the question on Capitol Hill about this and you get the answer, who's Stormy?


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: I'm not going to comment on that issue. We want to stick to infrastructure.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: Is there a role for Congress to get involved in this matter?

Let me just say that I'm more concerned about the president's policies which undermine the financial security of America's working families.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I'm not even -- I haven't put -- I haven't given seconds of thought into this. Not on my radar screen.


KING: I get the Democrats, they think this is a problem for the president, they should keep their fingerprints off. That it's his own problem, they'll make it political if they touch it.

The Republicans (INAUDIBLE) ingenuous here in the sense that, they don't want to talk about Stormy Daniels. They wish this should never happened but again, they're in a midterm election year where they want to talk about our tax cuts are working, the economy is growing. And they know that the president's approval rating is the single biggest factor in their success or failure and this story does not help.

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: (INAUDIBLE) privately but we're not going to see them talking about it publicly. They are not going to give Trump the same sort of treatment they gave President Clinton on this.

I think it's interesting. It's hard for us here in Washington to sort of -- Washington to sort of wrap our head around the fact that for voters, the palace intrigue of Washington isn't necessarily what drives them to the ballot.

Republicans and Democrats on the Hill will tell you specifically they think it's going to be jobs, it's going to be the economy, it's going to be -- as their paycheck bigger or smaller because of tax reform and that's going to turn them out to have them cast a ballot for Republicans or Democrats?

I think this is obviously an embarrassment for Republicans but nobody wants to talk about it. Republicans got to be relieved that Democrat are not going after this right now because if they wanted to, they could certainly make an issue and try to embarrass the president and hurt the party.

MATT VISER, DEPUTY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE: It's also -- I mean, their answers are not that different from their answers during the Access Hollywood tape. And, you know, things they did not want to talk about that and they sort of avoided it and President Trump won.

And the differences now in whether President Trump can weather this both legally, you know, as a new questions. If there FCC violations, or, you know, you alluded to the discovery phase of -- did he know about the payments, have you paid other women?

You know, questions like that, that we don't have answers to yet. But it's also a lot of the allegations around the election happened before the MeToo movement. And so the context of these allegations is a little bit different than the stuff that he weathered during the campaign.

And that will impact, you know, those independent voters and voters in swing districts across the country.

[12:35:01] KING: Absent the details, they're on the ballot, he is not. His approval rating is the biggest factor. Already six in 10 women in America disapproved with the president performance. We can't think it's going to help, anyway.

A quick reminder before we got this break. This Sunday night, the premiere of the CNN new original series, "American Dynasties: The Kennedys."

Here's a little preview.


VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The Kennedys understand before any other American family the rule of glamour. And right now glamour is something that's really the province of Hollywood. The Kennedys pull it over into the province of politics really for the first time in a modern way. And as a result, everybody is in love with this family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Kennedy family really represent as America on the rise, an immigrant country, where anybody could get ahead if they were smart enough, if they ambitious enough. People would look at the Kennedys and they would see the American dream.


KING: You can watch "American Dynasties: The Kennedys" this Sunday night 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. Be back in a minute. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:40:31] KING: On top of our political radar today.

Sam Nunberg, doing today what he swore he would not do. Nunberg testifying now before the grand jury so he's complying with the subpoena from the Robert Mueller-led Russia investigation.

Nunberg, you might recall was the adviser to President Trump back in the campaign. Earlier this week he went on a media tear saying, no way, he was going to refuse to cooperate. It didn't turn out that way.

The Senator Dean Heller have the inside scoop on the next Supreme Court retirement. The Nevada Republican might be the most vulnerable senator up for election this year. But listen here, Politico obtained this audio in which Senator Heller tells an audience in Las Vegas, they're could be a big retirement and it could help him keep his job.


SEN. DEAN HELLER (R), NEVADA: I believe we're going to have another Supreme Court justice this year. I think Kennedy is going to retire sometime early summer. I believe in that case Republicans are going to have an opportunity to put another Supreme Court justice in place, which I'm hoping will get our base a little motivated, because right now they aren't very motivated. But I think a new Supreme Court justice would get them motivated.


KING: Something big to watch this afternoon. In just a couple of hours, the governor of Florida, Republican Rick Scott has a live media event planned. He's not saying why, but some lawmakers expects that he will sign the school safety and gun control bill that passed the state legislature earlier week. Florida Senator Marco Rubio says he likes most of what's in that state legislation, he thinks the bill signing could come soon.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: They raised the age to 21 for the purchase of all guns. My view on that is that I am open to supporting. I've said I would support as long as it's not shotguns and bolt action rifles and the like. But I also remind everybody that in this case he was 19, but in almost all of these mass shootings, the person was well over 21 years of age. So we got to be careful by overselling what it would do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you expect the governor to sign that bill that the Florida legislature passed?

RUBIO: I do.


RUBIO: I believe he'll sign it today.


KING: I believe he'll sign it today from Senator Rubio there. It's a big test on the governor.

Number one, he's been a gun rights governor in a state with a history of gun rights. He's defying the NRA if he signs this bill as governor. He's also expected to be a candidate for the United States Senate in one of the (INAUDIBLE) races this year. Big deal.

VISER: And it does -- it addresses some of the major things that have been floated around. Raising the age is something controversial that President Trump, you know, has talked about doing nationally and he's not sort of fully on board with. So it is kind of a template for what you could see on a national level.

SHEAR: But it also underscores how frozen and how different the federal government is versus the states, because the federal government is just frozen on this issue, and obviously there is some action at this level.

KING: He has not announced for the Senate race yet. Everybody assumes he will run, the president has personally begged him, urged him to run. Poll out this week show him trailing but it's margin of error. Forty-six for the incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson, 42 percent for Rick Scott, the Republican.

Any chance he blinks. I mean, this is -- he's essentially defying part of his base here, but the calculation of this team is they think Florida is becoming more and more suburban, so that makes political sense state wide, especially in a Democratic year to sign this.

BADE: Yes, it's too late for him to blink on this. He's got certainly gone further than Republicans have in the past on this. So he is the perfect test case on whether Republicans can support, you know, smaller gun control measures and not be, you know, primary part of the race and lost their seats, so.

PHILIP: And it seems very much that Marco Rubio still not totally sure where he wants to be on this issue. He says kind of tepidly that he supports most of what's in this, but he's not really drawing the kind of hardline that, you know, you might expect from someone who has some clarity about what politics are telling him about this both today and down the road on maybe he wants to make another run at the presidency.

KING: So he gets to watch the governor maybe as a test case. The incumbent governor in some ways is a test case for a lot of Republicans not just Florida Republicans, a lot of Republicans.

Up next, Donald Trump claims to be the master deal maker. Does his confidence match the reality?


[12:48:27] KING: Think about it, President Trump across the table from Kim Jong-un. Opportunity. Risk. History.

Even before he enter politics, Mr. Trump insisted this is his wheelhouse. "Deals are my art form", he tweeted in 2014. "Other people paint beautifully or write poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That's how I get my kicks."

His track record as president, though, is worth considering as we now weigh the coming U.S.-North Korea summit. Like that tweet, a lot of dealmaking swagger.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the toughest of all. But I think we have a very, very good chance and I certainly will devote everything within my heart and within my soul to get that deal made.

We are -- you probably read the papers, renegotiating NAFTA. We're renegotiating various other deals with foreign countries that are so embarrassing and so horrendous that you would say, why on earth would anybody have signed a deal like that?


KING: Confidence, yes. Results? Not so much. NAFTA, the Middle East peace deal, add in repeal or replace ObamaCare or protect the Dreamers while getting the border wall.

Just the facts as we look forward to the potential, the prospect and we think about what could happen if there is a Trump-Kim meeting is that he talks about being a great deal maker. He doesn't have a lot of great deals on the trophy case.

PHILIP: At least not yet. I mean, I think the NAFTA thing, we'll see what happens with that. They're playing hardball on that.

[12:50:06] I do think that what has happened with Trump is that his staff has learned not to really second-guess his gut in part because he won the election when pretty much all of them thought that he was going to lose it. And so things like North Korea, when he sort of uses the bravado to say I'm going to make this deal and it's going to work, maybe they doubt it but they kind of say in the back of their mind, maybe he's right. We have no idea how he's going to get it done, but maybe he's right.

And I think that's where we are with Trump on a lot of issues. There is kind of in wait and see mode until whatever materializes that might materialize. They've learned not to rule things out with this president.

VISER: I also think his history as a businessman and as president is that he's a good marketer. But in terms of actually doing deals, you know, even when he's running his businesses, you know, there were some deals but it did not guide his career. His career was as a marketer. And I think we have this idea that he can do deals. He hasn't as president done many big deals. The meeting in North Korea could sort of change -- I mean, that is his ideal situation where the attention is on him, the attention is on a potential deal. But history shows us so far that he hasn't been able to close a deal.

BADE: And that's particularly interesting, because, you know, Republicans control both chambers of Congress right now, and there's a question about, you know, after the midterm elections, will he be negotiating with Democrats when he's having a hard time negotiating with his own party.

I mean, tax reform, yes, it was a huge victory for them. They're going to be campaigning on it this fall. But when it comes to ObamaCare repeal, didn't get that done. Infrastructure, hasn't touch that. DACA deal, hasn't done that.

And I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that Republicans on the Hill, when Trump says something that they disagree with or they don't, you know, they don't want to believe, they just sort of say, oh, we can convince him otherwise, we can sort of change his mind. And because of that -- because they think they can change their leader's mind and change directions with him, they don't really listen and they try -- they do their own thing, you know.

KING: Yes, they're constantly moving goal posts, it was been one of the frustrations for anyone who has negotiated with the president. He loved the House health care plan then he called it mean.

He's in the room saying, this is -- I'll take this for a DACA deal then he moves the bar. Just a little bit more of history here. Listen to the president here. This is February 2016 in a debate. A criticism of his predecessor when talking about how I do deals.


TRUMP: With Congress you have to get everybody in a room and you have to get them to agree. But you have to get them to agree what you want. And that's part of being a deal maker.

You can't leave the White House, go to Hawaii and play golf for three weeks and be a real deal maker. It doesn't work that way. You have to get people in, grab them, hug them, kiss them and get the deal done.


SHEAR: Yes. That's the way to go with the grabbing and the hugging. I will say, look, to Matt's point, the -- his real, you know, strength is marketing. And if there is some kind of a deal, some kind of an agreement or arrangement that can be reached in North Korea, then the question is, really, can he sell it as something that's a good deal, right?

This is what the Obama administration tried to do after they negotiated the Iran deal. There was a huge period of time that they to actually had to like spend energy to convince people that it was a good one. And Trump may be actually pretty effective at that whatever comes out of North Korea.

KING: It's an interesting point you make because I would view the marketing challenge as actually earlier than that. His marketing challenge is convincing Kim to give up nuclear weapons which Kim views as his only leverage on the world stage. It's his means of survival and the president says the only way this works is if he gives them all up. That's the marketing branding challenge for the gods.

VISER: And at that point, how much does the idea with North Korea start to looking awful lot like the Iran deal.

SHEAR: If it fall short of the ultimate goal, right, then how do you sell it as something that's actually effective.

PHILIP: And I think it's also interesting how few real pros on North Korea they have around them on this issue. The president know -- feels like he knows business really well, he really doesn't know this issue as well.

And they're not a whole lot of people around him to guide this dealmaking process. So when he gets to the table, will he know what to trade and what to get out of Kim Jong-un? It's really an open question.

KING: You're saying you think the prospects of that meeting is 50-50? Keep our fingers crossed.

Next, the newest star possibly coming to Netflix? Who? The former president, Barack Obama.


[12:58:32] KING: Welcome back.

Do you miss the Obamas? If so, I need to make sure you subscribe to Netflix. The New York Times reporting today the streaming service in advance negotiations with the former president on an original content series. The details, the idea is still being settled. But if you've been keeping up, you get the sense the former president wants back in the debate.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are operating in completely different information universes. If you watch Fox News, you are living on a different planet than you are if you, well, listen to NPR.


KING: Michael Shear, this is your reporting. I was joking during the break, I wanted the first episode to be, Barack watches Fox. Can they just turn a camera on him and sit with him for the day?

SHEAR: They would be fascinating to see. I'm told by the people that I talked to for this story that this is specifically not intended to be a platform for the president to sort of counter-program Fox or to be a kind of liberal alternative to the conservative critics or to use it as a sort of platform to y attack Trump.

However, you know, he's clearly -- if the deal goes through, he'll clearly have a lot of time and a lot of opportunity and very high profile to reach millions of people. It has 17 million subscribers globally.

One Twitter person said yesterday they thought maybe it should be called "streams from my father" as a potential title.

KING: We'll keep an eye on that. Everybody work on their programming ideas.

Thanks for joining us. Hope to see you Sunday morning. Back this hour on Monday. Wolf starts right now.