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Leaders Say They Reached Deal on $1.3 Trillion Bill; Report: Bannon Oversaw Controversial Facebook Data Collection; Porn Actress, Playmate; Reality Star Pose Threat to Trump; Close Illinois Primary Results A Warning for Incumbents. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired March 21, 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] REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), MAJORITY LEADER: -- knowing what they want, I would have taken that deal. Sometimes I wonder, some of them want to just keep a problem out there, almost make it political instead of solving a problem.
The main reason we are where we currently are is because it takes 60 votes in the Senate. So if we didn't have to have that, we would be in a different situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: That's the House majority leader there blaming Democrats for this. But if you look at the details we have so far, they got to work this out.
The president is going to be briefed on this today. There are parts that he's not going to like that we can be certain of including this, this $1.9 billion for border security in here, $641 million for about 33 miles of new border wall fencing. The president wants 25 billion, 25 billion with a b for his wall, he's getting 641 million with an m here. Some other issues there.
Seems to me that a, why do they always go up against a deadline, I just -- what, your government not at work. And b, who's the winner here?
CARL HULSE, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I would say the Democrats. They're getting a lot of what they wanted in here. The House conservative Republicans won't vote for spending bills. That requires Republicans to enlist Democrats.
Democrats have to get a few things they want. You know, the money for this New York project, is it all the money that they want, that touch everyone? No, but it puts them in a good position for this.
The president really doesn't get the wall money that he was hoping to get. So he's gone the whole year now without getting one of his top priorities. And I'm also told there's negotiations on gun provisions that may or may not happen.
So, is this the way to do business? No. I mean, it's hard to believe that they can't do a better job.
KING: This will be probably the last major bill to be passed this year because even -- I know it's March, it's March and the year runs I think through December. It's an election year.
And especially the Republican incumbents who feel endangered, they have every right to feel endangered, they want to get out of town, they want to be home campaigning. They also don't want to touch anything controversial.
So this is the last big thing you're going to do. So you mentioned guns. This will have the fixed NICS in it most likely. It's not a done deal yet.
That's fixing the existing background checks, it's not an expansion, it doesn't cover new gun purchases. So it is an improvement in existing system, also some school safety money in there.
Not any of the sweeping gun controls the Democrats have asked for or that the kids who are going to lead a march in town this weekend are demanding. That's not happening in an election year.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: No, it's not happening. And we saw obviously some movement in Florida with Rick Scott signing that bill which the NRA doesn't like. But no surprise this wasn't, you know, coming together in an election year despite the president saying he could get stuff done and he wanted all these things that he eventually backed off on, raising the minimum age.
It's no surprise that much of it particularly from the president's part has been kicked to a blue ribbon commission I guess at this point. And that -- you know, it's a problem that continues. I mean, we've seen some school safety incidents and school shootings over the last days.
And yes -- I mean, the kind of gridlock and inability and really not wanting to get anything done. That impulse remains on the Hill.
MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: And also not happening is the entire immigration. After all of the back and forth between the president and the Democrats and the Republicans, there appears to be just continued gridlock. And I think part of that is that, you know, the Democrats see that they might have a lot more leverage if they can take back the House after November, if they can, you know, pull the Senate at least where it is. That they think they will have more leverage on issues like that than they do now in the minority in both chambers.
And so, you know, there's very little incentive for either side to really give up on the big things that they want. So what you have is gridlock.
KING: It's just a piece of a trillion -- $1.3 trillion bill I think to keep the government running. But this gateway project which has been a priority for not just Chuck Schumer, the senior Democrat senator in the Senate, period. But the senior Democrat from New York and also Republicans in New York and New Jersey want this money as well.
The compromise seems to be that the money goes to the transportation department and it's not automatically spent. It's up to Elaine, the transportation secretary. Will the president call that a win or will he lean on her to not spend it?
CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: I think we have to see exactly how he plays that out and how much he wants to dig in on that one.
HULSE: But there is basic money that they secured that they think gives them leverage to get that second round of money.
KING: Most of the country is probably saying what is this about? But this is seems to be a manhood test between the president and Chuck Schumer.
HULSE: And I think that the Democrats that I talked to this morning seem pretty satisfied. But, you know, it's not -- this is a big transportation project for Washington too, because we all take the train that goes through those tunnels to New York. So everybody is watching this pretty closely I think.
LUCEY: I think the other thing we need to see with the president is how he reacts to the lack of the wall funding. Because obviously it's such a big priority for him. He has made such a big deal about it. And if this really is the last vehicle this year.
KING: How he reacts and sometimes his first reaction is not the final reaction because he'll see the, you know, out there in the conservative Blogosphere and Breitbart and Fox News (INAUDIBLE).
[12:35:02] HULSE: I was just going to say the immigration and guns, these are huge issues and they're going to have to be resolved through elections. These aren't the kind of issues that are going to be resolved in spending bills, and I think you're seeing the results of that, just a little tweaking around the edges on both of that.
KING: And you have 50-50 Senate essentially. And we'll see what happens in the House.
Coming up, if you get a Facebook friend request from one Steve Bannon, think twice before accepting.
KING: Welcome back on our political radar.
Today, the House Oversight Committee now has the hefty pile of receipts. The EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has racked up a various trips he's taken just since August.
[12:40:03] Documents first reported in the Daily Beast show, he spent about $105,000 on first class air fare since assuming the post. He's also spent tens of thousands more on charters, and military flights. The EPA says security precautions had necessitated the higher costs. Congress has questions.
Senators from both parties say they're worried the Trump administration is being lax about cyber threats in the U.S. election system. During an intelligence committee hearing this morning, Republican Susan Collins telling the Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, quote, I hear no sense of urgency to really get on top of this issue. Nielsen promised it's a top priority.
And the Washington Post reports Steve Bannon is closely tied to the controversial Facebook data collection program at Cambridge Analytica. Bannon helped launched the firm. And a former Cambridge employee tells the Post, Bannon oversaw the controversial program.
And Trump campaign hired Cambridge Analytica to help with its digital operations. Now, both, Cambridge Analytica and the campaign deny using the questionably obtained data. But a top House Democrats have his doubts.
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REP. JIM HINES (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: When you look at this campaign, this is a campaign that didn't observe any of the traditional norms of an election, right? The president's son, when he hears that Russian Government people want to give him information on Hillary Clinton, he says that's wonderful, let's do it. The timing is perfect. That's not the right reaction.
And of course there's example after example after example. So if this is yet another example of the Trump campaign stepping over lines which are certainly ethical, but they in fact illegal, I wouldn't be less bit surprised.
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KING: Now this has been a huge issue. But the mood on Capitol Hill seems to re-haul Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg up here. The Republicans don't seem to be in any mood to re-haul -- bring up the Steve Bannons or people inside the Trump campaign who could answer the questions. Is that fair?
HULSE: Yes. I mean, I think that the Republicans see this as a chance to drag in some of the big tech firms that are seem to be too liberal and they can kind of point to them. You know, Steve Bannon manages to research. He was close to the Mercer family and, you know, this sort of makes sense to me.
KING: The special counsel is looking at this. In the U.K., there's an investigation but Republicans in Congress want to focus on tech and privacy, not Trump campaign and whether they screwed the rules.
HENDERSON: Yes, and in some ways it's not surprising. I mean, we certainly seen this on the House side with some of the Republicans there want to carry water for Trump. So (INAUDIBLE) and we'll see what Zuckerberg says.
At some point he's going to release a statement. He's been fairly quiet on this. I guess that whole idea of, you know, Zuckerberg 2020 and him getting to know America, that seems to sort of down the drain at this point.
KING: I wouldn't put money on that one.
HENDERSON: OK. All right. This is the way to launch a campaign.
KING: Keep your money (INAUDIBLE).
Up next for us, new legal woes for President Trump. Could the president of the United States end up being legally deposed over his sex life?
[12:47:03] KING: Welcome back.
Here is an interesting and a very real question being asked in Washington. Could three women, a porn actress, a playboy playmate, and a former reality T.V. star ultimately cause the down fall of the president of the United States?
In at least two of those cases, the president could be deposed under oath about his personal life. Adult film star Stormy Daniels going so far, you see it there as to share the results and a photograph of her taking a polygraph test. Proof she says she's telling the truth about having a sexual relationship with the president a decade ago.
Columnist Richard Cohen writing in the Washington Post saying the irony probably not lost on Mr. Trump. Quote, "It must have occurred to Trump that he is up against himself. Daniels is indefatigable, she appears everywhere. She makes statements, vows, rebuttals, and allegations and is scheduled to appear this Sunday on 60 Minutes. Trump must be shaking his head in admiration."
KING: I guessing it's something other than admiration although there is -- he has a point. Mr. Cohen has a point in the sense that she signed a non-disclosure agreement, you know, but she's out there talking all the time just as Donald Trump blew through every rule in his business life before and every rule of politics in the campaign, every rule of communications, every rule of what the national security staff wants you to say in a call to Vladimir Putin.
SHEAR: I just think the most remarkable thing about this is, that this is like three quarters the way through your show and this is where this story comes up. Can you imagine any other political time in sort of recent American political history where you could have read those words about a former porn star and playmate and that not have been the lead story?
I mean -- and that's not a criticism of the show and it's planning, it's just that that's where we are today.
KING: There's just so much. And again, three women here, three different legal threats to the president. Stormy Daniels, the adult film star, Summer Zervos, the former Apprentice contestant, Karen McDougal, a playboy model.
Now, in the case of Summer Zervos, she is suing the president for defamation and a judge has allowed here case to stand. Again, (INAUDIBLE) the Clinton White House back in the Paula Jones days, people roll their eyes and say this doesn't matter, or why does anyone care about the president's personal life. Whatever your opinion, if the suits have standing the president can be forced to give a deposition.
You write, Catherine, in a piece about this, quoting the Barry Bennett, the former campaign adviser to Trump. "I think we learned from the campaign something we never thought was true. People were able to bifurcate the person from the policies. They were willing to overlook the personal behavior or the words on tape."
That's in the campaign setting.
KING: The president of the United States -- I mean, forgive me, but one of the conversations in town is, will one of these women get Donald Trump oath in a chair before Bob Mueller.
LUCEY: Absolutely. I mean, where these cases go. And I think the campaign and the presidency are different, but what we're trying to figure out right now is what that means in terms of his support.
So -- and I think the other thing in addition to this, you know, the presidency and the campaign is we are now sort of processing all of this in this rising MeToo moment. And so, you know, all the accusations that came out during the campaign, the recording that came out, we are in a very different moment now.
[12:50:03] We have had people actually, you know, lose their careers over accusations from women. We have seen sort of an increased political activization of women.
And so, does that make this -- give this more hat?
KING: It's a great question because if you look at -- whether it's the Alabama Senate race, the Pennsylvania race we just saw, the suburbs driven by principally suburban women are against this president. And they're hurting the Republican Party right now, so we'll watch if this play up to November.
The other part of it is, is that, you know, there's these women who have these allegations against the president. They may have standing in court to get him in the deposition chair. It's the reality T.V. aspect of the apprentice president playing out almost every night now on cable television.
Here, an attorney for Stormy Daniels and an attorney for the president's personal fixer, Michael Cohen going at it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID SCHWARTZ, MICHAEL COHEN'S ATTORNEY AND FRIEND: She's going to be liable for $20 million, and Michael Cohen is going to collect every single penny of that money. Make no mistake. He's going to collect everything.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: If Michael Cohen is such a stand-up guy, where is he? No, no, where is this guy?
SCHWARTZ: All right, you're going to go down in flames on this case. There's no question about it.
AVENATTI: I love it when my opponents tell me that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: I mean, it's like keeping up with the real attorneys of Trump land.
HENDERSON: And that guy, Michael Avenatti, he understands T.V. I mean, he's got the big photo there of Michael Cohen. He's very telegenic, very media savvy. The columnist there talking about how Trump has met his match in Stormy Daniels.
Well, I mean, she's got a lot of help from this guy, Michael Avenatti who has a different kind of, I think appearance and kind of credibility in a way that other lawyers haven't necessarily had.
LUCEY: And he keeps sort of teasing out more to come. You know, that she's done this 60 Minutes interview and he keep -- yes, he's very good at building sort of the suspense.
KING: We'll see what happens. People are saying it's incredible Trumpian, it's pay back.
When we come back, a big primary in Illinois last night. The incumbents are winning, but there's a message.
[12:56:11] KING: A win is a win in sports and in politics, but there's often a message in the margins. And last night's vote count in Illinois is the latest snapshot of the 2018 mood and a warning to incumbents in both parties about restive base voters.
A conservative anti-abortion Democrat incumbent Dan Lipinski just barely survived a primary challenge from a progressive who had the backing of Bernie Sanders, another liberal force. And in the governor's race, incumbent Republican Bruce Rauner also won re- nomination but barely. A sign the GOP's conservative base is unhappy with him and a sign of weakness Democrats home carries over to November.
What did we learn here? We do see the progressives are mad. They thought they could get Lipinski, and they didn't. The party today saying they'll rally around him, he's the nominee. He's lucky his Republican opponent is a Holocaust denier. We'll just leave that one there.
But you did see the tensions in the Democratic Party. And you also saw in the governor's race the tensions in the Republican Party. The restive bases coming out in the primaries, what is the November message about the primaries?
HULSE: I mean, I think what you saw there is there's obviously dissatisfaction with political incumbents. And you're going to see that reflected in November, and Republicans, at least in this city, have more incumbents than Democrats and that's a problem for them.
Governor Rauner is in serious trouble. There was talk in Illinois that if he came in below 60 percent in this primary that it was going to be miserable for him. Well, he was well below that, and he is up against someone with a lot of money, and I think that is going to be a very expensive and ugly race.
KING: (INAUDIBLE) for the (INAUDIBLE) family, they're on the Democratic side proves that will be the candidate and someone else in the primary there.
If you look at the turnout, the thing the Democrats are happy about is intensity. And time after time, go back to 2017 special elections, even the House races, they lost. Democrats are coming out in higher numbers and before you see the turnout there, Illinois Democrats -- Illinois is usually a blue state but they do have a Republican governor.
Now, they look at that and say, OK, maybe we have primaries, maybe we have fights in the family, but our guys are coming out to vote and that's a big deal.
LUCEY: Yes, and that's so much bigger gap between Democrats and Republicans than we saw in 2010, say. So I think there -- and if you extrapolate that out nationally, I think it speaks to Democratic enthusiasm going into midterm -- going to poll. I think that's something they're really --
KING: Last night, the president was speaking at a House fundraising event. He understands the climate, but he says don't worry.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This year, in this election we are fighting to win, and we are going to win. Just no reason why we shouldn't win with what we've done over the last year. No reason whatsoever.
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KING: He says no reason whatsoever. Midterm elections are about presidential approval ratings. Here's the president's.
Among women, 35 approves, 59 disapproves. Among young voters, 31 approve, 61 disapprove. Among independents, 45 approve, 51 disapprove. In the suburbs, 44 approve, 52. There's every reason whatsoever to think that there's a blue wave brewing because of the president.
HENDERSON: Yes, and we've seen it already. We saw it in Alabama. We obviously saw it in a special election in Pennsylvania. History shows that they're going to lose seats because that's what's happened in the past midterm elections. It's a referendum on this president who isn't very popular.
KING: There's losing seats and then there's losing seats. You talk to smart Republican strategists and they think wave, tsunami, they're not happy.
HULSE: I like also when the president in that speech said that he was going to go everywhere. The Democrats are really hoping that's true.
LUCEY: And one thing we haven't talked about in this show is the tax cuts. And that's something that a lot of Republicans would like to be talking about as they head into these tough elections. It hasn't really been a talking point.
SHEAR: Yes, and all of the things going on.
KING: They can't. So the advice to them is to go home and try to make it local. We'll see as this one plays out. The president I think not looking in the mirror when it comes to that.
Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. See you back here this time tomorrow. Wolf starts right now.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 12 noon in Austin, Texas, 1 p.m. here in Washington, 5 p.m. in London. Wherever you're --