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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump Faces Conservative Backlash Over Spending Bill; Crowds Rally Coast to Coast Against Gun Violence. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired March 25, 2018 - 08:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(CHANTING)

[08:00:27] NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): After tragedy, a call to action.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will continue to fight for common sense. We will continue to fight for our lives. We will continue to fight for our dead friends.

HENDERSON: A passionate, nationwide debate on guns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To those politicians supported by the NRA, I say get your resumes ready.

HENDERSON: And, an almost veto and a not-so veiled threat.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will never sign another bill like this again. I'm not going to do it again.

HENDERSON: The spending bill becomes law but not without Washington drama.

Plus, more turnover at the White House, a frustrated president and anxious staff.

And Trump's legal woes continue.

KAREN MCDOUGAL, FORMER PLAYBOY PLAYMATE: Why did I file a lawsuit? I want my rights back. I need to control it.

HENDERSON: The women behind the lawsuits that could force the president to be deposed.

INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENDERSON: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Nia-Malika Henderson. John King is off today. To our viewers in the United States and around the world, thanks for sharing your Sunday with us.

Hundreds of thousands rallied in marches across the country and around the world protesting gun violence. Teens led the rallying cry with a national spotlight on the Parkland, Florida, school shooting survivors who marched in the shadow of the Capitol. More on that movement next.

But, first, President Trump is at his resort in Florida today after tumultuous week in Washington. "The New York Times", they summed it up this way with a headline: After another week of chaos, Trump repairs to Palm Beach. No one knows what comes next.

The chaos included another staff shake-up, three legal cases brewing over Trump's past personal conduct and a last-minute veto threat of a spending bill to keep the government open. Now, that "will he or won't he" drama came after the Senate passed the funding bill in the middle of the night with assurances from the White House that the president would indeed sign that bill.

Then on Friday morning, just hours before Trump was slated to sign the bill, he turned the process into a cliffhanger tweeting: I am considering a veto of the omnibus spending bill based on the fact that 800,000-plus DACA recipients have been totally abandoned by the Democrats, not even mentioned in bill, and the border wall which is desperately needed for our national defense is not fully funded.

Trump ended up signing the bill but he had this warning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: There are a lot of things that I'm unhappy about in this bill. There are a lot of things that we shouldn't have had in this bill, but we were in a sense forced -- if we want to build our military -- we were forced to have. There are some things that we should have in the bill. But I say to Congress, I will never sign another bill like this again. I'm not going to do it again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Now, some conservatives aren't buying it. There was this headline: "Drudge" called the veto threat fake veto, and from the right-wing outlet "RedState", there was this headline: you twisted my arm, I'll; sign it. Trump dumps a $1.3 trillion spending bill on U.S. taxpayers.

And from the normally Trump-friendly breitbart.com, there was this: Donald Trump signs bloated $1.3 trillion omnibus bill, cites military funding.

And from conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, normally a Trump fan, he says that Trump should have vetoed the bill on behalf of his base.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: This budget is designed to separate Trump voters from Trump. This budget is designed to make Trump voters think that Trump's presidency is irrelevant. This budget is designed to make Trump voters conclude, you know what? There isn't going to be a wall, and there isn't going to be anything serious on immigration.

And so, having Trump be president is meaningless. Folks, this budget is a slap in the face. This budget is the Washington establishment, both parties telling Donald Trump to go to hell.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Here to share their reporting in their insights, we've got Michael Shear of the "New York Times", Molly Ball of "TIME", CNN's Phil Mattingly, and Rachael Bade of "Politico".

Tough words there from Rush Limbaugh, basically saying that this was a message to Trump drop dead essentially you're irrelevant. Molly what do you make of what Trump's relationship with his base is at this point after signing this bill that he basically slammed.

[08:05:07] What's that relationship like? How can he repair it? And what is this dust-up mean for the way that Republicans can motivate that base?

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME: Well, we have seen already evidence that the Republican base is going to be demoralized in November that can always change. But in, you know, elections at the state level and special congressional elections, you are seeing Republican voters not nearly as enthusiastic as Republicans are going to need them to be if they want to keep the House.

And so, but I was quite surprised to hear the right-wing media go as hard against this bill as they did. It is a big spending bill. It is a bill that Democrats feel they scored a big victory on and it does in many ways continue the status quo of domestic spending in Washington.

But usually, the conservative media have sort of covered for Trump, right? They've justified whatever he wants to do, whatever he decides to do that becomes the new great thing to do. And in this case, they really are giving him some pushback. And so, it will be very interesting to see if conservatives really react to this and, you know, Trump himself gave give them the ammunition.

HENDERSON: Yes, he did.

BALL: I can't imagine a worse thing to do politically than to tell your supporters this is a bad bill. I'll turn around and try it anyway, like but don't do it again. I mean, that doesn't work on --

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: You have Trump now noticing this would is a pretty steady blowback not only from folks like Rush Limbaugh but Fox News personalities as well. He was up tweeting this morning, here is in part what he said justifying this bill: building a great border wall with drugs poison and enemy combatants pouring into our country is all about national defense. Build wall through M, no sense of what M, maybe it's Mexico or magic, we don't know.

He also tweeted much can be done with a $1.6 billion given to building and fixing the border wall. It is a -- it's just a down payment. Work will start immediately. The rest of the money will come. And remember DACA, the Democrats abandon you, but we will not.

Michael, what do you make of that pushback from him?

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, look, I mean I think the oddest thing about what Trump did on this is that he reminded his base to attack him when he was going to sign it, right? As Molly said with kids, if you don't tell your kids they're going to get a cookie --

HENDERSON: Right.

SHEAR: -- they might not think about it. But if you say I'm going to give you a cookie and then you don't give them the cookie, then they're going to be really mad about --

HENDERSON: In this case, the cookie is the veto, right.

SHEAR: Right. And so, the -- I mean, it was just so weird that he -- that he sort of raised the issue with that -- of the possible veto and then in the end decided to sign it anyway. He not just done that, he might have gotten some blowback but I don't think it would have been quite as intense.

And the tweets this morning, I mean, he seems to continue to conflate the DACA issue with the spending bill, which you know, there had been some discussion about whether or not they might address the DACA issue as part of this bill.

HENDERSON: Right, but it didn't.

SHEAR: But it didn't happen, and it seems to me that the -- you know, sort of fundamental questions about whether or not he was going to sign this bill have to do with much bigger things than that.

HENDERSON: And the base certainly doesn't want to hear about DACA.

Phil, one of the things you saw in contrast to what a lot of Republicans are saying and the president and Fox News personalities are saying about this bill, Democrats essentially spiking the football. Here was Chuck Schumer are talking about all the good this bill did.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: We Democrats are really happy with what we were able to accomplish on a number of priorities that Democrats have fought for all along. At the end of the day, as the minority party, we feel good about being able to succeed in so many ways. You don't have the House, we don't have the Senate, we don't have the presidency, but we produced a darn good bill for the priorities that we have believed in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Different messaging, yes.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Definitely. And preface with everybody's spinning the heck out of this bill trying to say that they got victory, that's what happens when you actually compromise and trying to figure out a pragmatic path forward.

But the reality is, for any of us who were in Washington covering the spending fights of the eight years of the Obama administration, on the non-defense domestic side the spending increases there are you -- you're left slack jawed. It would never have been remotely a possibility.

And that's the baseline here and I think part of this is why you see conservatives so fired up right now because of the spending side, but that's what it took for them to get this -- for Republicans to get the spending increase on the Republican side. This is a negotiation. I think in Washington, the reason conservatives get so mad about bills like this as negotiations in Washington as it relates to spending means more spending from both sides.

HENDERSON: Yes.

MATTINGLY: And that's absolutely the truth. But when Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi make very clear, we're the minority party, we're not supposed to be getting what we've actually got out of this, they're not wrong. They got wins out of this.

Now, Republicans absolutely got things they wanted out of this, too.

[08:10:00] The defense spending is enormous, it's something they've been working on for six, seven, eight years right now.

But if you're Chuck Schumer and if you're Nancy Pelosi, if you're Democrats and you look at what you got an opioid funding, you look at what you got on veterans funding, you look at what you got a little bit on the infrastructure side too, you're probably pretty happy with this bill.

HENDERSON: And, Rachel, one of things you see the president doing is talking about an issue and doing stuff on an issue that is important to his base and that's tariffs. We did see the markets react not, so well to that. There was a two-day drop, that was the biggest in two years, about 1,100 points. Is that problematic that the economy which they won a run on seems to be, you know, kind of ill at ease with these tariffs.

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes, Republicans on the Hill are absolutely still freaking about the tariff issue. I think the president right now, because he's frustrated that he didn't get his wall in this omnibus is looking for something to hold up as a victory right now. I mean, it's interesting because there's been this theory among Republicans on Capitol Hill that if Trump declares victory, the base is going to applaud.

And so, a lot of them thought that if Trump came out and said, look, we are rebuilding the military we are doing an influx of cash that we haven't done in years, this is something I campaign on, this is something I'm delivering, then people would be OK with me.

HENDERSON: Right.

BADE: But instead, again, as we talked about he threw them under the bus, he chided them for putting out a bill just what, 48 hours before they were voting on it, more than 2,000 pages, a bunch of new spending, and this is really going to damage the relationship between Hill Republicans and the White House in the next spending debacle, because they said they would be with them and they were -- he wasn't with them.

HENDERSON: Yes.

Michael, quickly.

SHEAR: You could just see the dueling tensions within -- the messaging within the White House because by the end of his remarks that day, there were these lines that he read about, I want to congratulate the members of Congress for what they've accomplished.

HENDERSON: Right, yes.

SHEAR: Which as you say, he had just throw them under the bus.

(CROSSTALK)

SHEAR: And there was this dueling messaging going on.

HENDERSON: Yes, and one of the things he did was send out a fundraising plea saying he needs allies in the Senate and House. We'll see what happens in the midterms with that.

Still ahead, students marching for their lives remarkable pictures from here in the nation's capitol and around the country. The question now, will it create change?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:16:13] HENDERSON: In the shadow of the nation's capital, survivors of the Portland school massacre that claimed 17 lives had this warning for lawmakers: change gun laws or will change Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAMERON KASKY, PARKLAND, FLORIDA SHOOTING SURVIVOR: Politicians, either represent the people or get out. Stand for us or beware, the voters are coming.

DELANEY TARR, PARKLAND, FLORIDA SHOOTING SURVIVOR: We are not here for breadcrumbs. We are here for real change to call out every single politician, to force them into enacting this legislation.

RYAN DEITSCH, PARKLAND, FLORIDA SHOOTING SURVIVOR: We will register, we will educate, and then when it comes down to it, we will vote.

SARAH CHADWICK, PARKLAND, FLORIDA SHOOTING SURVIVOR: To the politicians that believe that their right to own a gun comes before our lives, get ready to get voted out by us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: The reality however is much, much more complicated. Anger at Washington can be a powerful motivator and that pushed hundreds of thousands from coast to coast to march in student-led protests. Those marchers received wall-to-wall coverage across cable networks yesterday.

But what happens now today and the day after and in the coming months is still very much unclear. So too is whether that anger actually morphs into a movement capable of changing gun laws.

We did see reaction here, lots of coverage, if you looked at the covers of the papers in New York, the two tabloids there. There was this message, "The New York Post" had "Up In Arms: America's Youth in Revolt Over Guns". "New York Daily News": "America Up in Arms".

Rachael, talk about where you see things standing now in terms of America's relationship with guns and what is this relatively new movement around gun control led by these young people.

BADE: There is clearly a fiery passion right now with these young adults and adults across the country for stricter gun laws right now. But movements take time.

HENDERSON: Right.

BADE: And until we actually see this discontent register on the ballot box we're not going to see much change in Washington at least from Congress's standpoint. Congress just passed a bill this week that basically reinforces existing gun laws, makes penalties a little tougher.

HENDERSON: The Fix NICS which is part of the omnibus.

BADE: The CDC is now also going to be allowed to research gun violence, which there was sort of a chilling effect there. But they're not talking about any sort of weapons bans. They're not talking about increasing ages -- the age of guns and when you can purchase firearms.

And the reality is they're not going to even have that conversation unless Republicans are, you know, booted from office because of their position on guns. And so, they have a lot of work to do, and they've got to keep this energy going. And if they are able to do that, perhaps we see change in a few years.

HENDERSON: And here's one of the young people from yesterday, her message to America and to folks in office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NAOMI WADLER, ALEXANDRIA, VA ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENT: I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African-American girls whose stories don't make the front page of every national newspaper. (CHEERS)

Whose stories don't lead on the evening news.

For far too long, these names, these black girls and women have been just numbers. I'm here to say never again for those girls, too.

(CHEERS)

I am here to say that everyone should value those girls, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Michael, you wrote about the march for "The New York Times". What do you see as their strategy, the young folks there? She's obviously 11. I can't imagine she has a political strategy, certainly not for 2018.

What do you see happening?

SHEAR: So, I think that Rachel is right that the question will be, what message do politicians take from what happens this fall, in November? And if the message is that in -- you know, multiple districts, there were politicians, mostly probably Republicans, who lose their seats because this in part, because this movement has translated the passion from yesterday into the actual voting and voter registration, into people going to the ballot boxes , then there's some potential for change and for Congress to take a different approach than they've taken for a bunch of years now.

[08:20:31] I think, you know, those of us kind of here in the sort of political chattering class, I think we're all very skeptical --

HENDERSON: Right.

SHEAR: -- because we've seen a lot of powerful things happen around this issue over the last, you know, decade whether it be, you know, the elementary school children slaughtered in Connecticut or the people mowed down in Las Vegas or, you know, any -- or Columbine or all of the others.

And I think you know that's why we're all very sort of skeptical and yet, you know, yesterday was a pretty remarkable moment. And one -- the thing that struck me mostly -- most about yesterday was that the normal faces that you always see, which are the adult politicians the adult activists --

HENDERSON: They were not leading -- none of them spoke, yes.

SHEAR: None of them spoke. There wasn't a single one of them. And to be able to keep Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi away from a camera like that is something else, that's an accomplishment.

And so, maybe, it's different. We're just going to have to see.

HENDERSON: And, Molly, part of this skepticism is because of the power of the NRA, what has been their reaction to what does seem to be an invigorated movement on the gun control side.

BALL: Well, the NRA strategy always is to just sort of wait these things out and that's been very effective because it's not that politicians fear that they will pay a price if they do something, it's that they've never paid a price for not doing anything. And so, the gun -- you know, gun control activism which I've followed for many years can have a hopeless quality to it because they do keep sort of running at the target and falling short, particularly after Sandy Hook.

Two things I see changing with this particular movement. One, it's put this issue on the front burner within the Democratic Party. This is now something that Democrats are running on very strongly. They've made -- they've really taken ownership of this issue as a party with, of course, some exceptions and maybe some red states.

And second of all the way that this movement aligns the gun issue specifically with the youth vote. If we see strong youth turnout in a midterm, which is pretty unusual, I think Democrats are going to see that as a strong signal that this next generation is really motivated by this issue. You know, previously, this has been a movement led by moms, right?

HENDERSON: Right.

BALL: Or other groups.

HENDERSON: And now, it's young people.

BALL: But now, it's a youth vote issue.

HENDERSON: And you see, Phil, some Republicans, Marco Rubio, he sent out a message about the protesters, obviously, moved -- some movement there in Florida. Do you see anything in Congress -- Rachael, you for instance talked about -- there were some provisions in this budget bill around gun control and in money to schools as well?

MATTINGLY: Yes, and I think it's the kind of the -- what's the art of the doable at this point. You know, if you listen to the march, if you listen to the speakers yesterday, they have some pretty expansive ideas about what they want to do. The idea of banning guns of any kind right now, as Rachael was talking about , is simply off the table. But you want to talk about smaller bore items like the Fix NICS bill, like the STOP Violence Act, like the CDC research, that in large part I'm told was driven by the parents of those killed in Parkland coming to Capitol Hill quietly and lobbying Republican leaders.

You have Marco Rubio talking about a gun violence restraining order.

HENDERSON: Right.

MATTINGLY: It's got some bipartisan. So there's smaller bore things that can -- that I think could actually move right now, and in large part, that's been driven by the enthusiasm you've seen over the last couple of weeks. You also have, as you note, the state level, and I think on the state level is where things can absolutely happen a lot faster, but on a national level, on a federal level, I think to everybody's point here, there's skepticism that's merited and it would really depend on what we see in November to determine what happens next.

HENDERSON: Yes, we will keep an eye on it.

Coming up: Bolton in, McMaster out. What it says about the inner workings of the White House and why Oval Office insiders say, nope, nothing to see here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[08:28:36] CHUCK TODD, NBC HOST: Who do you talk to for military advice right now?

TRUMP: Well, I watch the shows. I mean, I really see a lot of great you know when you watch your show and all of the other shows and you have the generals and you have certain people that --

TODD: But is there somebody, is their go-to for you, you know? Every presidential candidate has a go-to --

TRUMP: Well, probably, there are two or three. I mean, I like Bolton. I think he's tough cookie, knows what he's talking about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: President Trump likes John Bolton because he played a hawkish national security expert on TV. Now, Trump has cast Bolton as his real national security adviser.

Bolton does bring a legitimate resume to the white -- to the West Wing. He's served in three administrations. The president's decision to fire H.R. McMaster and bring Bolton into the White House came suddenly and reportedly short-circuited a plan to limit multiple bad headlines.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly had plotted to roll out several high-level departures at once, but the president disrupted that plan.

But the people in the administration say, just ignore the constant reports about turnover because of the supporting cast, it really doesn't matter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER: What I like in this environment too is a football team like the New England Patriots where they win their division every year with a different set of players and the only thing that's common really is the coach and the quarterback. And here in the White House, the coach and the quarterback are President Donald J. Trump. He's a great man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Michael -- of course, the Patriots lost in the Super Bowl this year. But I want you to talk about what this change from McMaster to Bolton says about Trump's mind-set at this point.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think the decision to drop H.R. McMaster was long time coming. He had clearly not meshed with Mr. McMaster or General McMaster.

But I think there were sort of two things that played into the selection of Bolton -- style and substance.

On substance, it is true that the President looks to be trying to bring people who are into his inner circle who actually agree more with his points of view on foreign policy, becoming more aggressive. You saw him say he liked Bolton because he's a tough cookie. He's tired -- he's been tired over the last 14 months of fighting internally with his advisers who have been trying to moderate him and sort of pull him back.

And on style, I mean it's all about television.

HENDERSON: Yes.

SHEAR: I mean it really is. He wants somebody who he can trust to put out there on television to say nice things about what he's doing, to argue for the President's policies in a way that he thinks, you know, is as good as he could do if he was on television, which he recognizes he can't do all the time.

And so, you know, I think it's that, you know, it's this meshing of both trying to sort of surround himself again with essentially "yes" people and the television.

HENDERSON: And Bolton -- speaking of Bolton being a tough cookie, some headlines from op-eds that he's written over the last months or so from "The Wall Street Journal", "The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First"; and from "The New York Times", "To Stop Iran's Bomb, Bomb Iran". So that's the sort of hawkish part.

But he's also, according to some of our reporting, Molly said that he promised the President that he wouldn't start any wars.

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME MAGAZINE: And we shall see, right? I mean that would be an interesting promise to extract from someone that you're bringing onto your team. One would think that the President would be able to do that himself if he so wanted.

But I do think that the substance question here is really interesting. What is this going to mean in terms of policy? Does this mean that we get rid of the Iran deal? Does this mean aggressive military action which Trump himself has seemed to want to favor demanding that plans be drawn up for military strikes against North Korea?

So, you know, Bolton is sort of the embodiment of Trump as most aggressive and Trump really likes the idea of using this military at his disposal.

HENDERSON: Yes.

BALL: But at the same time, you know, the Trump of sort of Steve Bannon's imagination, the nationalist, the America Firster, was very much about not entangling America --

HENDERSON: Right.

BALL: -- further in the world.

HENDERSON: And his base certainly liked that. He sounded very differently that most Republicans --

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: -- when he talked about war and foreign entanglement.

Here was Bolton in terms of thinking about his role that he's going to play with this president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BOLTON, INCOMING NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: 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)

HENDERSON: But Phil -- he's still going to be advising the President and he presumably has the same type of views.

PHIL: Presumably they're not changing --

HENDERSON: Right.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT : -- in the course of a 24-hour period in one interview in the west wing where apparently he wasn't sure -- didn't even know that he was going to be offered the job and then all of a sudden was the national security adviser. Congrats.

I think one of the most kind of maybe underplayed issues here that's really important is John Bolton's competency within the bureaucracy, right? Obviously he has his views.

But I'm trying to remember and I'm going to paraphrase here. But he was on the Hill at one point and a senator -- a Democratic senator said what scares me the most about you is not that I think you're stupid or that you don't understand what you're talk about or your views are ridiculous, it's how good you are at making sure that those views can actually be implemented.

And what you've seen over the course of the President's first 14 months in office is him straining against the bureaucracy, running up against cabinet officials or deputies or things of that nature who have been able to kind of restrain his impulses, restrain what he wants to do.

Now you have somebody like John Bolton who comes in with, as you guys were saying, a legitimate resume, a very real understanding --

HENDERSON: Right.

MATTINGLY: -- of how government work, a ton of experience on the government side of things with a grasp of how to turn whatever the President wants on the policy side of things from idea into action. And I think that is one of the reasons why he's probably in the West Wing and probably one of the more underappreciated elements of what he's going to be doing in that job as we kind of go forward in the months ahead.

HENDERSON: And other questions about other folks in the White House because of some of the recent departures. Here was Steve Bannon talking about what he perceives in terms of the chief of staff position.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: If General Kelly at any time does decide to leave, the President decides it's time for him to move on, I don't believe there will be another chief of staff.

[08:35:04] I think that there will be direct -- I think there'll be five or six direct reports like there was in Trump Tower. I think the President is a very hands-on manager and he feels more comfortable with that. I think the structure and process that General Kelly put in was probably too much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Too much and maybe no chief of staff going forward -- Rachael.

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Talk about Republicans on the Hill's worst nightmare -- a President Trump totally unrestrained, no chief of staff. I mean look, Republicans didn't have, you know, a huge relationship or a well-known relationship with General Kelly going into, you know, him becoming chief of staff. But they have come to appreciate him, and they do see him as an ally in the West Wing that they can go to when they need to get to the President fast such as during this whole veto thing --

HENDERSON: right.

BADE: -- and actually getting him to sign that document. So no chief of staff would be -- Republicans would have no allies on the Hill. And I just think it's just interesting, you know,, talking about no chief of staff at a time when not only McMaster is out but also Rex Tillerson.

Gary Cohn, another ally of Hill Republicans, has just left the White House because the President is slapping trade tariffs on different countries. HENDERSON: Yes. And possibly we'll see next week maybe more

departures. I mean part of this was this idea that maybe other people -- Ben Carson, Shulkin at V.A. would go too. We'll have to stay tuned.

Up next, the interview that will test President Trump's Twitter restraint -- Stormy Daniels tells her story.

But first, politicians say the darnedest things while working out -- time to pump some iron with notorious RBG.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUTH BADER GINSBURG, JUSTICE, SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would never, never exercise to that noise.

Let's shut -- let's shut it off.

STEPHEN COLBERT, TALK SHOW HOST: No. We could listen to opera too. Want to feel it?

GINSBURG: Pretty good.

COLBERT: Thanks.

[08:37:09] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HENDERSON: The President is scheduled to be back in Washington tonight as an interview with adult film actress Stormy Daniels is set to finally air. Daniels claimed she had an extramarital affair with Donald Trump and her lawyer has said a cover-up came after that affair.

A source tells CNN that Trump has been asking confidants how he should handle the Daniels dilemma and they've told him to just stay quiet. And so far he's actually followed that advice, but tonight's much- hyped interview will be a big, big test of whether he can keep following that advice.

Daniels' lawyer has some advice of his own for the White House claiming that she has proof that there was a relationship.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER FOR STORMY DANIELS: That DVD contains evidence substantiating the relationship, and the tweet is a warning shot. I want to be really clear about this. It is a warning shot.

And it's a warning shot to Michael Cohen and anyone else associated with President Trump that they better be very, very careful after Sunday night relating to what they say about my client and what spin or lies they attempt to tell the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Now, Daniels isn't the only woman talking about her past relationship with the President. Former Playboy model Karen McDougal is also sharing details about her alleged affair with Trump even though she accepted a plea deal to keep it under wraps. She's suing to get out of that deal, and she isn't waiting for a court decision to open up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Were you in love with him?

KAREN MCDOUGAL, DONALD TRUMP ACCUSER: I was, yes.

COOPER: And do you think he was in love with you?

MCDOUGAL: He was, yes.

COOPER: Did Donald Trump ever say to you that he loved you?

MCDOUGAL: All the time. He always told me he loved me. Yes, of course.

COOPER: Did he have any nicknames for you?

MCDOUGAL: He would call me baby or he'd call me beautiful Karen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: So I said there was a plea deal but she said it wasn't a plea deal. It was just a deal that she had to keep quiet about her story. She of course, is talking about it now.

What does this mean for the White House? Where does it go? Where does it end? How do you see it unfolding?

MATTINGLY: Look, if anybody had an answer to that, I think we'd all like to know. What's been amazing about this entire process has been this has just built over weeks after weeks. You know, "The Wall Street Journal" stories about financial transactions that seemed odd building into this exact point.

And I think a lot of us, for many of us who've been trying to cover this (INAUDIBLE) in the course of the last couple of months it's been the 10th, 15th, 20th most important story.

That's changing.

HENDERSON: Yes.

MATTLINGLY: And I think there's a couple of moments here that are really important. First and foremost, the running joke is what major foreign policy initiative was the President going to announce --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTINGLY: But I think, you know, joking aside, it's important to know what his personal response going to be. He's been very disciplined when it comes to this which isn't necessarily normal and is that going to maintain?

The White House has had this same exact answer of not engaging on this at all now for weeks. Is that going to change at any point? And then I think probably the most important is legally -- is there going to come a point in time where he's going to have to sit down and give a deposition, actually be on the record and under oath talking about those types of things? That probably is the most important thing and the most important end game I think everybody is --

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: And Michael Avenatti, who is Stormy Daniels' lawyer, tweeting this morning that this is not the end, this interview tonight is only the beginning.

Molly, some people say that these stories around the women could pose a bigger threat and danger to the President than the Mueller probe.

[08:45:03] BALL: Well, I think there's the legal issues, which as Phil was saying could lead to him having to give a deposition, be under oath and talk about a lot of uncomfortable things.

And then there's also the political issue, right. Already women voters and candidates are the story of these midterm elections.

HENDERSON: Right.

BALL: We already know that. Record numbers of women running for office up and down the ballot, women powering the activism that has already seemed to favor Democrats in elections that have happened so far this year and last year. And I think this constant drum beat of women speaking out about Donald Trump and his conduct toward women, that only fuels that fire, that only fuels the anger of so many liberal women specifically who have been roused to activism.

I've spoken to so many who said, you know, I was just a stay-at-home mom who went out and voted for Hillary but didn't do anything else. Now those women are in the streets. They are activists. They're really activated.

HENDERSON: And Michael -- you add that kind of chaos around the women to the chaos around the Mueller probe and the uncertainty around there, you saw the President make moves this week or one of his lawyers make moves to move away from that legal team, John Dowd.

The President tweeting this morning about the shake-up on his legal team basically saying "Many lawyers and top law firms want to represent me in the Russia case. Don't believe the fake news narrative that it's hard to find a lawyer who wants to take on this case. Fame and fortune will never be turned down by a lawyer, though some are conflicted. Problem is that a new lawyer or law firm will take months."

So he's thinking about this this morning. This shake-up, what does it mean for you in terms of what their strategy is around this probe?

SHEAR: Well, I think the idea that a lawyer will never turn down fame and fortune may actually be the most true thing he said.

(CROSSTALK)

SHEAR: I think what the shake-up of the legal team reflects is the President pushing back against what has literally been months, more than a year, of a strategy by the President's lawyers to say do not attack Mueller directly.

That has been their sort of their line that they never wanted the President to cross because the idea was if we cooperate and just let this thing happen, that we won't antagonize Mueller.

HENDERSON: Right.

SHEAR: He has clearly decided, the President has clearly decided, that he wants to change that strategy and so Dowd's leaving was the first shoe to drop in the lawyer's roundtable realizing that they don't have the ability to change and I think more of that is coming.

HENDERSON: Yes. And so we'll stay tuned to that.

Up next, our reporters will share what they're hearing from their sources on the biggest political news that you haven't heard yet, including a 2018 tax plan ploy by the GOP-controlled Congress.

[08:47:54] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HENDERSON: Each Sunday, the INSIDE POLITICS panel has to give you an early glimpse of conversations that they're having with their sources and the stories that they're focused.

Michael -- we're going to start with you.

SHEAR: So now that the omnibus bill has passed and it didn't deal with immigration, both parties are turning to an electoral strategy on the issue.

The Democrats are going to try to take the issue of DACA and win elections with that. And on the Republican side they're turning to sanctuary cities and hoping that the issue can play for them as well. Both sides are basically turning into an electoral strategy now that the legislative one has failed.

HENDERSON: Deja vu all over again.

Molly.

BALL: Could Republicans be in trouble in yet another special election in a Deep Red district? Arizona's 8th district was open when Trent Franks, a Republican resigned due to a weird surrogacy scandal.

And this is a district that Trump won by 20 points. It should not be in play. The special election is aril 24th. And the Republicans did get their favorite candidate through the primary.

They have now reported spending nearly $300,000 in this district signaling that they may actually be feeling the heat. The Democrats didn't expect this to be competitive at all, but who knows?

And the other issue is having already spent more than $10 million in the Pennsylvania election, they are burning through cash, the Republican Party, in a year where donors are not super excited.

HENDERSON: Yes. A slight preview maybe of what 2018 is going to look like for Republicans heading into November.

Phil.

MATTINGLY: Well, while anyone who is at least honest will tell you major legislative initiatives like that from the Hill is pretty much done-for for the rest of the way, that doesn't mean that personnel is done. And that's why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell actually has a lot of big plans in the weeks and months ahead. It's all about judicial appointments and what he pays attention to.

Last year he had 12 circuit court judges moved through -- the most in recent history. He has 29 judicial confirmations already this year. He's got three more district court judges queued up when they get back.

The reality is McConnell, and I'm told the White House counsel Don McGahn are extremely close, have been working through this project for the last 14 months to really map out how to remake the courts. Legislation might be done -- judges, just starting.

HENDERSON: Yes. And a big campaign issue, too, for Republicans to be able to campaign on.

Rachael.

BADE: So in the coming weeks, President Donald Trump and the Republicans on the Hill are going to talking about a tax reform 2.0 to make individual cuts that they passed temporarily, permanent. Surprise -- it's, again a campaign ploy.

Democrats back in December when they were voting against these tax cuts said specifically we are opposing these because the individual rates are not made permanent but the corporate rates are. So right now Republicans are under no -- you know, they don't think they're going to actually pass this, but they want Democrats to vote no on this so they can use it as a campaign strategy against them.

HENDERSON: Yes. November, every single day.

I will close with a very early glimpse of 2020. In the next week or so, the South Carolina Democratic Party is set to announce the keynote speaker for its annual dinner and convention later next month. I'm told that this year there will actually be two keynote speakers.

[08:55:07] So who will they be? Well, the details aren't yet final. A few names have been floating around as possibilities among the chattering classes in South Carolina. They include California Congressman Adam Schiff, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti -- all of whom have recently spent some time in the Palmetto State.

I'm told that bigger names like Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Joe Biden are unlikely to fill the keynote slot but there was great interest particularly in Senator Harris. Organizers want someone who can excite and rally the base in 2018 and those keynote speakers, whoever they end up being, will get to dip their toes in the 2020 waters and boost their profiles with voters in a very crucial 2020 state.

Thanks for sharing your Sunday with us today.

"STATE OF THE UNION" is up next with an exclusive interview with Democratic Senator Tim Kaine from Virginia. Stay tuned.

[08:56:01] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)