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CNN: "What I Have Said In Private Now Is Behind Me"; Soon: Trump "News Conference" On Spending Bill; Sources: Trump To Speak And Sign Spending Bill. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 23, 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)

[12:30:04] JOHN BOLTON, INCOMING NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: There is an all-purpose joke here. Question, how do you know that the North Korean regime is lying? Answer, their lips are moving.

What I would recommend to him if I were there is to get out of the deal completely, to aggregate it, to withdraw the United States, to bring back all of the sanctions, Russia, China, Syria, Iran, North Korea. These are regimes that make agreements and lie about them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And he will now become the White House National Security Adviser. Mike Pompeo is going to replace Rex Tillerson at the state department. Two more establishment were cautious, people leaving, two more bullish, hawkish, people coming in. Do we expect, number one, a month away or so, Iran nuclear deal ripped up? That's number one. Yes?

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee since today that that's where the president is headed. And if you look at the president's personal positions on this both in the campaign and in the White House, it's basically been the people around him who have kept him from following through on his instinct to rip up this deal.

Now with Pompeo and Bolton at the table instead of Tillerson and McMaster, I think that the challenge for those left in the administration to hold him back, for European allies to hold him back just got a heck of a lot harder.

KING: And to that, just for those let's be more specific. Does that mean Defense Secretary Jim Mattis? It was Mattis, Tillerson and McMaster who were viewed and John Kelly and now is the chief of staff even called themselves the adults.

PACE: Right. Mattis is if you are a mainstream Republican on national security, you see Mattis as your last line of defense here. You see him as the one person who still has respect from the president and still has his ear and credibility in the administration who can push an argument that we should stay in the Iran deal and take a more measure position on a range of other foreign policy issues. MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG: There are couple officials on the outside. By outside, I mean across seas that I also would love to be looking to in the coming weeks. And they are the French president, Emmanuel Macron, who is t be here for a state visit before that Iran deadline. And who is a very influential voice on President Trump. So, is the Australian leader, so is the Saudi prince, rising power in Saudi. And, of course, so are the Israelis to some extent.

And so, I think you're going to see an increase now in the external pressures on the president, with the understanding that inside the equation just changed quite a bit. But even months ago, the president's foreign policy and national security advisers were saying privately, as well as publicly, that they thought that it probably -- it didn't necessarily matter that much what the arguments were on the inside. He was getting very close to just walk in that.

KING: And we know the president has singled out John Bolton as one of the people. He says when he watches the shows he sees a candidate, singled him out as a stand by.

John Bolton, you know, look, he left -- he was in the Bush administration, he was actually in favor of the Iraq War which Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized. But a couple of op-ed headlines Wall Street Journal, "The Legal Case for Striking North Korea first", The New York Times, "Stop Iran's bomb. Bomb Iran".

TALEV: Yes.

KING: John Bolton though now saying, hey, look, I'm a Fox News commentator. I'm somebody who's writing my thoughts down in op-ed pieces. Now, an advisor to the president, that's a different job, don't hold me to what I said in the past.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOLTON: I've never been shy about what my views are. But, frankly, what I've said in private now is behind me, at least effective April the 9th. And the important thing is what the president says and what advice I give him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: But it's true, John Bolton didn't get his way in the Bush administration. He got to air his views, sometimes he won, often he lost. So, do we overplay the idea that he's on the record with this stuff, or is it more important because we know the president at least has given indications that's where he'd like to be and he's been restrained?

RACHAEL BADE, COGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes, and Bolton will be have the ear of the president. He's going to be right there in the White House advising him as he moves forward on all these huge international things coming down the pipeline.

I think the North Korea issue is particularly interesting because Trump obviously took -- he's agreeing to meet with the leaders of North Korea because he wants to be seen as the guy who made a deal that no other president can make. But, clearly, Bolton is hawkish when it comes to North Korea.

So, you know, is he going to be telling the president, you know, you got to be careful on this. And is he going to be trying to walk him back on this? It will be really interesting to see that going (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Or does he tells Kim Jong-Un, you better cut a good deal with me or else this guy's got to hold to it.

BADE: Right.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And maybe. I mean what we've seen in this president, a lot of his one on one meetings is that he says a lot of nice things to foreign leaders, he gets along with them. It's probably a different approach than to say a John Bolton would take. But what we know for this president, he goes with his own thoughts and his own instincts. What his advisor tells him, you know, but --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: To that point to that point, I just want to bring you a little breaking news right here. The president of the United States just tweeted, "News conference at the White House concerning the omnibus spending bill at 1:00 p.m."

That's the president of United States who, this morning, threatened to veto the omnibus spending bill. And now in 25 minutes at the White House tell us what he's going to do. The tweet doesn't say what he's going to do.

RAJU: This going to be his first news conference --

PACE: Bu he often uses these conferences --

MANU: What does he mean by that?

PACE: Sometimes he uses news conferences to mean statements to the press that are on question --

(CROSSTALK)

TALEV: He'll be saying something in that statement.

[12:35:06] PACE: And we would love if the president is watching --

KING: Yes. Exactly.

PACE: -- and we would love an actual news conference with questions. He hasn't had a full one since February of last year.

KING: And 1:00, it will be 11 hours before the government runs out of money. The president this morning threatening to veto this bill, high stakes. High stakes events. So, pour a cup of coffee for a little more.

When we come back, we'll try to find out exactly what the president is thinking. Plus, as they passed this big spending bill last night, a lot of drama on Capitol Hill had carried over into the early morning hours. Senator Bob Corker at one point calling things "juvenile", asking some key questions of the Senates Republican leader. You don't want to miss that, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:40:04] KING: Breaking news to bring you this hour, the president of United States scheduling now what he calls a "news conference" at the White House at 1:00 p.m. That often doesn't mean to the president what it means to reporters, but the president promising to make a statement at 1:00. The subject matter, the omnibus spending bill as they call it here in Washington, a $1.3 billion piece of legislation that passed overnight to keep the government running.

President has to sign it by midnight to keep the government fully open if passed early this morning. The president had signed up on the deal in the days leading up to this passage, but this morning the president tweeted that he might veto that bill because it does not meet many of his spending priorities, particularly border wall funding and immigration.

Conservatives now, encouraging the president to actually veto the bill. This one Senator Bob Corker just moments ago, "Please do Mr. President, I'm just down the street and we'll bring you a pen. The spending levels without any offsets are grotesque, throwing all of our children under the bus. Totally irresponsible."

Members of the House Freedom Caucus also tweeting the president should veto this bill. Again, the government technically runs out of money at midnight tonight. It's 11 hours 20 minutes from now.

The president who'd signed off on this deal, this morning threatening to veto this deal. In about 20 minutes, we'll hear from the president of United States.

Forgive those of us at the table looking down on our phones. We're trying now to work sources to find out is he going to sign the bill and just voice his objections to it? Ask Congress maybe to do some other things when it comes back? Or, is he going to do what would be high drama.

Veto this legislation, a lot of Congress has already left town, the government then -- they would have to rush back and, what, pass -- either shut down the government or rush back and pass some sort of a temporary continuing resolution, again, in the language of Washington.

PACE: Well, Jeff Zeleny at the top of this show I think put it perfectly when he says he's done making predictions. And I think that's a very safe place to be right now. I think we don't know what he's going to do.

Trump loves drama, he loves the reality show aspects of this, he's probably enjoying to some extent stretching this out, but there are obviously serious matter on the able. Congress has left. They left him with a bill that he -- that they'd not only expected him to sign, his White House promised he would sign.

KING: Right. Yes.

PACE: This whole leadership.

KING: The speaker of the house rushed down to the White House the other day. The majority leader joined in on a conference call by speakerphone, because they were told by aides the president's getting skittish about this. The president's sharing this isn't a good deal.

They explained the compromises and the president -- I understand his frustration. He wanted $25 billion for a wall. He's getting 640 million and some of that's for fencing and it's probably never going to be into a wall, anyway, and it's for one year. He wanted a big infrastructure plan in 2018, it's about $20 billion in this bill, it's very modest. It's not what the president wanted. There are other issues as well.

I get his frustration, but he promised to sign the bill, and based on that promise, the Republicans passed it and many have left town.

RAJU: And the White House was involved in these negotiations. It's not like --

KING: But the president wants it.

RAJU: The president wants it, and still, but his people were involved heavily in his negotiations for several weeks. So, this was not -- it shouldn't have been a surprise for the president. And if it was a surprise, then that's a problem for the White House for not fully informing the president of the United States exactly what's in this bill. And if he wanted to take a bigger role personally --

KING: Can I flip that just a little bit, though? He's the CEO.

RAJU: Yes.

KING: If they're not fully informing him, then what kind of process is he running where he is not having and to make sure -- let's lay everything, that make sure I got these guys. Lay it all out, guys. If I'm going to sign up on something I don't like.

And so, I agree with you 100 percent, but there's a flip side, too. If he's the boss, what kind of operation is he running if he allows them to speak for him and say he will sign it and then pulls the rug out from under them?

BADE: But they were fully informing him as recently as that Wednesday meeting you just mentioned. I mean, Speaker Ryan went to the White House, he explained to him what was in the bill. He said, you got to sign this otherwise this is going to really hurt the military. It sounds like defense (ph) talks have been trying to make this case to the president that if we have a shutdown, the military is going to be the most hurt and the military is one of your key priorities, you can't let this happen.

It sounds like just a couple hours ago, Mattis was actually at the White House trying to convince the president of this exact thing. And they were able to convince him on Wednesday to sort of back off. They left with a truce, but are they -- and we'll find out in just a few minutes if they were at this time around.

KING: To that point and that reporting you have about the defense secretary at this tug of war, after the fact tug of war. Now the game supposed to be over. The clock has ran out, they passed the bill, they sent it to the president. The fact that this is everything about Donald Trump is disruptive, everything about his administration and his governing is different. This is a classic example. But the number one priority of all of them, all of them the 535 members of Congress and the president to keep the government up and running.

The White House just confirmed that the president's tweet was a little ambiguous. It will be the president of the United States. He said there would be a news conference at 1:00 about the spending bill. The White House now confirmed it will be the president.

The number one issue here for the American people watching at home, government benefit checks. About if you work in the government agencies, if you have any relationship with the federal government, which is just about everybody, this will have the government stay up and running.

But to the point you made earlier, this is going to be the president of the United States, will he take questions? He has that kind of formal news conference since when?

RAJU: February '17.

KING: February of 2017. It is March of 2018. The president has not had a formal news conference. Will he stand there and take questions from the White House press core? Number one, about this chaos, about his governing style and the spending deal.

[00:12:45:03] Number two, about Karen McDougal's interview on CNN last night. Stormy Daniels interview is coming up on "60 Minutes" on Sunday night about the firing of his number one or the dismissal, the agreement to leave, it's probably the right language. The mutual agreement for John Dow to leave as the chief lawyer on the president's legal team.

He's deciding over the weekend to start attacking the special council Bob Mueller by name. I could go on, but I think I'll stop there and that'd be a good place to start.

TALEV: You've just laid out good questions to through ten hour in the news conference that's not going to happen starting at 1:00. So, if the president wants the entire message to be about DACA and the spending bill, then I can't imagine we're going to have an hour-long free-flowing news conference. Although, I think you could argue the apt of that case which is that having a free-flowing news conferences more often takes the steam off things so that they don't build up like this. But I'm not sure today if they just start, but I hope it is.

(CROSSTALK)

TALEV: But I just want to say that --

KING: It's the way it normally works. The steams refills in this bottle a lot quicker than in previous administrations.

RAJU: But the president should be doing this, because as we've seen, his people cannot speak for him. He constantly changes his position and his mind. He undercuts them at every turn. And so how, as a messenger, can you go up there and communicate for the president of the United States when his message is something different. And he's speaking something differently. So why not he come out there and answer questions and hint out (ph) the American public exactly what's going on. He should have these news conferences more often or at all.

TALEV: A strategic question that I have on this spending issue is that when you're talking about they, the congressional leadership, that passes and then went home, they are Republicans. The president is a Republican. The spending patch takes all of them through the primary season and up very close to the midterm so that Congress can focus on -- so that the Republicans and Congress can focus on holding their majority.

If you blow up this spending plan and you put the government in a shutdown mode, who are you hurting? Are you hurting the Democrats? Are the Democrats going to capitulate and come and say, never mind, you know, we'll do anything for DACA. Here's bazillion dollars for your wall.

The president either seems to be betting that, or at least is putting it out there to see what he can come back with, but if he's wrong, if Chuck and Nancy this time don't blink, where does that leave his party?

KING: It's a great question. We're going to sneak in a quick break. Again, about ten minutes from now, 11 minutes from now, the president of United States supposed to speak at the White House to tell us his decision.

Will he sign a spending bill that he signed up on just the other day? Or will he, as he hinted this morning, veto it? Because he is mad, angry, fuming, aides say, that he's not getting funding for his top presidential priorities?

We're working our sources, trying to find out the president's decision. Chief of White House briefing in there, the reporters are getting ready as well. We'll be right back in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:51:51] KING: The breaking news, the president of the United States is about to announce in the White House briefing room whether he will sign the big government spending plan or whether, as he threatened this morning on Twitter, he will veto it. Our Jeff Zeleny at the White House has some reporting. Jeff, blue pen, red pen?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John, we do believe a blue pen. The president, I am told by two administration officials, does plan to sign this spending bill actually in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, the same place the president was yesterday making the announcements on China. But this spending bill, John, specifically is coming only hours after he was venting about this, this morning.

You know, the words of the administration officials here around White House saying he was simply letting off steam and trying to voice his displeasure for the fact that his wall was not entirely funded. But I am told he is going to sign the spending bill shortly after 1:00 this afternoon.

John, we've seen this pattern before, the president likes to create drama around these things, and that is certainly what has been happening here. Many Republicans on Capitol Hill were unsure what he was going to do, but I'm told by two administration officials, the Diplomatic Reception Room being set up right now for a presidential signing, not a veto. John?

KING: Great reporting, Jeff Zeleny at the White House. Appreciate it. Jeff, get back to work. We know you've got a busy hour ahead as we wait.

To Jeff's point, Russian ambassador on the radio now because they saw the opening created by the president. The House Freedom Caucus says, veto it Mr. President. Senator Bob Corker says veto it Mr. President. Conservatives say this is a horrible bill, more spending than President Obama ever got out of the Republican house, veto it Mr. President.

Again, I've mentioned Russian ambassador. The president builds up hope among his own base that he's about to do something and now he's going to come in and sign it. He says he's going to impose tariffs on everybody, then they create exceptions. He angers the world, and then he creates all these exceptions. What is it?

RAJU: He's going to end up angering both sides on this, that's the problem. I mean he could've phoned it, taken the message of the Republicans on yesterday that they have some victories, and it was on perfect bill, but instead now it looks like he's not happy with it. And that's going to feed (ph) the people, why are you signing a bill you're not happy with?

But the bottom line here is, if there's a shutdown, there's really no way out of a shutdown right now. And inevitably he would be blamed for the shutdown and he have to go more to reopen the government. KING: In a midterm election here, conservatives are mad about the spending levels. I suspect a lot of Republicans would be mad if they shut down the government and there the majorities at risk as well.

BADE: I would say just sort of going out of on a limb here, but maybe this is politically smart from his standpoint if he signs it, he has able to put distance between himself and Congress. And he's really blaming them.

I'm curious to see if he comes out that Spear Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell brought me a crappy deal. I'm signing it for the military, but it's all their fault that they didn't negotiate a better deal.

A lot of conservatives on the Hill are already blaming GOP leadership. And, yes, it's the president, he's going to sign this, he's in charge. But, still, he's creating that distance that he's going to try to tell his base that I didn't really like this.

KING: And yet the more distance he creates from them or they create from him, raises the question, will his base turn out in the election, will the Democrats control the House in November?

We're going to take a very quick break here. Stay with us. The president of United States to sign, we are told -- and see what happens in five minutes -- sign the big spending bill, then he may take questions. The questions could wander into very interesting territories. There it goes with CNN, the Breaking News continues with Wolf Blitzer in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:59:16] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. We're following Breaking News.

Any moment now, we're going to hear directly from the President of the United States about that $1.3 trillion spending bill he had threatened to veto. Sources now say he will actually go ahead and sign the bill momentarily.

Let's go over to our senior White House Correspondent Jeff Zeleny, he's over at the White House. So, what's the latest and what are you hearing, Jeff?

ZELENY: Wolf, we do believe the president will be signing that $1.3 trillion spending bill, as you said. The Diplomatic Reception Room is being set up as we speak here. It's going to happen in a few moments I'm told.

The president not pleased by the entire spending bill, but apparently was fuming and venting this morning I'm told by administration officials when he was expressing the displeasure with some parts of the bill. But we are told now by two administration officials, the president does indeed plan to sign that spending bill which would find the government through September.\