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A Week Of Bad Press For EPA Chief Scott Pruitt; Gowdy: "No, I Didn't Like" Serving In Congress; Trump Breaks His Silence On Stormy Daniels; West Virginia Welcomes Trump. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired April 6, 2018 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:02] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: There are administration officials who say they don't believe that's the true story. But they believe he did have something to do with it. Now, again, so the issue is who's the president going to believe. But we do know, listen here, that he's aware of this Fox News interview on what his EPA administrator said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know -- with Ed Henry? Which one, Ed Henry?


TRUMP: It's an interesting interview.


KING: It's an interesting interview. Stay tuned.

PERRY BACON, SENIOR WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: I do think that one thing Pruitt has going from Trump and that Republican Party are going to likes rolling back environmental Russian -- regulations, likes rolling back things Obama did and Scott Pruitt has done that. On policy, Scott Pruitt is the one of the stronger cabinet members of Trump.

It's not like Tom Price, the EPA repeal it failed any of ethics (ph) problem. It's not like with Master or Shulkin or Tillerson where they can't agree (ph) with Trump on policy. Trump and Pruitt are lined up on policy really well. He likes what Pruitt certain policy.

So, I think I would argue Pruitt already done, except for this alignment on policy. So, I think if he can ride this weekend out which is looking like to be hard, he can probably stay a little longer.

KING: A short term deadline there. That's the interesting part though. If there -- what would be the tipping point for the president in a sense that you're happy with his job performance. The condo deal raises some ethics questions without a doubt Scott Pruitt -- I'm sorry, if you just know better, period. And attorney -- their former state attorney general who faced the same kind of questions back when you're attorney general, you're listening to the oil and gas industry. The word lobbyist, don't live there, period. Sorry.

But, here's the headlines. The president's like that headlines. Trump administration reviewing EPA Scott Pruitt's conduct. Pruitt had a 50-day condo deal, EPA explored private jet lease. Scott Pruitt, it's one of my favorites, asked his security to use sirens in D.C. traffic to get through traffic apparently to get to a restaurant and was told no for non-emergency. EPA officials demoted or sidelines after raising concerns about Pruitt.

There's a lot here. Some of it about spending, some of it about ethics judgment, some of it about personal bravado, shall we call it, with your black motorcade zipping (ph) through an easy traffic?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: And he's very sloppy, you know, all of it together and which is --

KING: Soppy is a good work.

DEMERJIAN: Well I mean -- yes. It's like latest (ph) activity basically and elbow rubbing that shouldn't be happening and that's unethical on many points as well. But I don't know, I think that maybe if the line of the President is kind of what you heard him say which is that I was out in cold country and people seem to have loved him, right.

As long as he's paying something back in in terms of dividends and it's not a clear cut case. But, again, it's with 12:30 right now. So, things could change in the next hours.

MARY KATHERINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, THE FEDERALIST: Wait, I think Perry is right that he has been an effective secretary on regulatory issues. And that is one of the three pillars of his pitch.


HAM: And Republican's pitch that they're going to make in the midterms. That's why he is important, that's why he will have perhaps a bit more creed. But you do have this repeating problem.

Look, the fact that he's effective his part of why there's like a gazillion of lawyers looking for anything he's ever done, right. But there's a problem with this administration in which what you need is a top guide saying keep your noses clean if you are effective. Of course environmental groups are going to come after you on this stuff even if it's small, and therefore, you need to conduct yourself perfectly. And if you don't and if you don't have that message, then you will get caught up.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: And that story that we wrote about several of his top aides telling, you know, pushing back against all of these things that he wanted to do. It underscores the point that he can't really say I didn't know this was going on. Because there's evidence that he personally new a lot of a stuff was happening, and that's going to be a problem.

KING: One of my favorite part today, the president was tweeting out, "Can you believe the fake news media pushing a story that he talked about maybe replacing Jeff Sessions to Scott Pruitt."

Now, that story was published because your own friends, Mr. President, say that's what you are talking to them about. No one's making things up. You're talking to people about it and guess I think he talks to people knowing you're going to talk about it.


KING: And then he can say, what are talking about?

Up next, Corwin Lewandowski using words that might get trim out, washed out with soap. If you use them, he did well testifying on Capitol Hill.


[12:35:17] KING: On our Political Radar today, Corwin Lewandowski, not a Charm School graduate. Confirming to CNN, he did use profane language during his testimony to the house intelligence committee last month. Lewandowski told Democrats investigating Russian ties to the Trump campaign that he was "not answering their F questions". Lewandowski, of course, the president's former campaign manager, now he insists Democrats on the panel used profanity first.

Facebook press (ph) is on an apology tour. So, wind up to next week when CEO Mark Zuckerberg faces questions from Congress about a Facebook personal data wind up in the hands of a consulting firm that work for the Trump campaign and other political figures. Zuckerberg had a call with reporters the other night. Now, Facebook's Chief Operating Officer joining the damage control.


SHERYL SANDBERG, FACEBOOK CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER: What we weren't focused enough on was protecting, because that same data that you enabled to use social experiences can also be misused.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Mark is going to be testifying before a Congress. What's Facebook's message to Congress? And do you think Mark needs to apologize in that very public setting?

SANDBERG: Mark has apologized and I know he's prepared to apologize in any situation where we have responsibility.


KING: And it turns out Congressman Trey Gowdy is not a big fan of where he works. The South Carolina Republican is retiring this year. You might remember he got a lot of national attention and a lot of Democratic scorn for his leadership of the special Benghazi committee a few years back. Now, Democrats applaud Gowdy's strong support of the special council Robert Mueller. In an interview with Vice News, the former prosecutor says he quickly soured on serving in Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROILINA: Part of what I don't like about the modern political culture is 99 is a failing grade. It doesn't matter whether I liked you yesterday. The first time you do something or take a position that I don't agree with, you're going to go from me liking you to being a sellout, or rhino and a squish and never should've liked me in the first place.

[12:40:16] MICHAEL MOYNIHAN, VICE NEWS ANCHOR: What do you make of the Republican Party in 2018?

GOWDY: The goal is to win. That's all that the Republican Party cares about, that's the goal to win.


KING: They're always interesting on the way out when they feel liberated to speak, but a couple of interesting points there. Number one, should he have known that this is a partisan place? It's been a partisan place for while. And the whole idea in the end that this is not about policy, it's about winning. Surprise -- anything surprising there?

SHEAR: There should've been. And look, I mean I think the, you know, the thing that doesn't ring really true there is that he didn't spend his time in Congress being and sort of trying to be a nonpartisan person. At least, you know, that seminal moment that we saw him in national -- (INAUDIBLE) the Benghazi committee, he wasn't just a member of the Benghazi committee. He didn't just sort of go along, he led that committee. And, what, I think some in Washington considered to be an incredibly partisan way.

So, you know, you just sort of have to take that with a grain of salt when he leaves and, you know, and making a statements and then compare it to his tenure (ph).

DEMIRJIAN: Exactly. And then, also, in a way it was -- it's politically astute to make the point he's making right now as well. Because I think a lot of people are tired of the partisanship in Congress. It's not a non-politician necessarily saying this, you know, it's a non-political message, you know, to go from the head of Benghazi committee to this. It's what people wanted to hear in both cases. It was kind of like taking advantage of the moment. And I think that is part that's not true with that (ph).

KING: I'll just give it through right now. I do think it's true that there are a lot of people who, sure, they're happy to be partisans because that's why you're getting involved in politics who do think this time has not found a way to have any circuit breakers for that.

HAM: Yes. They don't have to be mutually exclusive.

KING: Right.

HAM: It's being thoughtful and also being an active person. Do not have to be mutually exclusive. We have a situation and a system that has terribly perverse incentives that creates that. And so having somebody who has a voice and who has smart talk about that and who has been aligned with a bipartisan's (ph) past, I think it's not a terrible thing.

KING: We'll see what the next act is. So we might understand these words a little bit better when we figure out what Trey Gowdy plan for the next day.

Up next, President Trump speaks out on Stormy Daniels. Her attorney says the commander in chief just helped his client's case.


[12:46:35] KING: The president now finally on the record about that payment to the porn actress Stormy Daniels. Debate now is over whether his words will help or hurt in court. You know the basics.

President's personal lawyer and long-time fixer, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 just before the 2016 election. It's part of an agreement for her to stay silent about an alleged relationship with Trump. Now, Cohen says he acted on his own. Here's the president on Air Force I yesterday.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

TRUMP: No. No. What else?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why did Michael Cohen make those if there was no truth to her allegations?

TRUMP: Well, you'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. And you'll have to ask Michael Cohen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

TRUMP: No, I don't know.


KING: Daniels, do somehow haven't heard all this before. He's trying to get her nondisclosure agreement tossed out because she says the president never signed it. Her lawyers says the president's remarks should help Daniels in court.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: It's like Christmas in Hanukkah all rolled into one. You can't have an agreement if one party claims they knew nothing about one of the principle terms of the agreement. So, the president has just shot himself in the foot. He should've left it alone and now he's put himself and he's put Mr. Cohen in a world of hurt.


KING: I think the legal point there is, if you look at the document, there's a line for Donald Trump under pseudonym to sign. And this nondisclosure agreement, it's not signed. And so now they're trying to make a point, now the president says he knows nothing about it, he never signed it, therefore it should be invalid. I guess that's the legal argument.

Politically, president hadn't said anything about this. The president hadn't tweeted anything about this. It's just a coincidence or he had to know when he came back on Air Force I yesterday this is going to be one of the questions.


SHEAR: He had to know and (INAUDIBLE) the thing to note politically again, setting aside the legal questions was one of the questions was if -- you know, if you didn't know about the payment why was the payment made if the allegations weren't true?

And many politicians would take that moment, that opportunity and say, of course, they weren't true or I absolutely deny it or, you know, make some statement about the underlying charges of the affair. He didn't. And he simply referred the questions to his lawyer which, you know, may have other legal implications. But I thought from a political standpoint it was an interesting moment.

KING: And if you've been following the legal argument, this has been as much a political conversation. It has been a legal conversation. The legal arguments, the president is now trying to get this back into arbitration. Settling an arbitration, do it in private, we'll talk through whatever she's -- Stormy Daniels is suing in federal court including the idea that she would like at some point to maybe have a deposition of the president of the United States about this conduct.

This is David Cooper quoted in a Washington Post story about the president saying that "Nothing in the contract and nothing in his remarks suggests that he had given Cohen the right to make binding commitments on his behalf. With these comments, we're almost certain to see this litigation play out a public court case rather than private arbitration."

So, this attorney, again, depends on the judge particularly involve. Making a case advice, the talk to Mr. Cohen there from the president essentially makes it a ripe issue to have him to deposed.

DEMIRJIAN: Yes. I mean I think that Stormy Daniels aside has been after the deposition of the discovery (ph) that everything that they would have to do, you know, they would be publicly out there in a trial that you might be able to vary, an arbitrational that there's been some dispute about what the State of California laws actually say about those particulars that I'm not well versed in.

[12:50:04] But, this has always been a little bit of a shifting legal game. I mean depending on who says what it kind of changes the play of Stormy Daniels and her lawyer. And so, the president has said, I don't know, you know, about anything about this. Pass it over Cohen. So now this is the reality that they're dealing within.

But they've been making -- they've been on television nonstop. I mean there has been contingency kind of legal arguments put out there depending on what the president says. If he had said I know nothing about this, then there could've been defamation. And now, this is what we had, the president yesterday and said this is what the next step is for them legally.

BACON: One saving grace for Trump in the Stormy Daniels story Pruitt and lots of the things, Congress is controlled by the Republicans. You can imagine lots of hearings about this kind of thing, particularly what he said yesterday if the Democrats control Congress.

That's one he's getting worried about is this story eventually Daniel's lawyer right in way (ph) to make news, I think. But I mean I think next year if Democrats are controlling Congress, then he's going to be able to like really drive the story further. And Trump is not -- because really it's hard of it, people believe Trump had the affair. It's sort of hard to believe. He didn't know about the money. So, I don't think he's enable to -- he's going to push aside this story if the Republic -- if the Congress is staying control by the Democrats.

HAM: First of all I think I'm not too sure about the council of either of these lawyers. Kind of (ph) like we've seen them in public. But what I'm struck by most is that Stormy Daniels and her lawyer are good at playing Trump's own game.

KING: Right.

HAM: And they will keep this. And then we have, a, because it's a very spicy story but, b, because they know how to do this. And that's why he is answering our questions because it's been put -- someone had a chance to put in (ph) because it's still here. It was a fairly disciplined answer from him and I've been kind of surprised he hasn't gone after her personally, or after her lawyer personally. So that may tell us something about how he's receiving at least.

KING: And he said no, and then try to descript and anything else, buy anything else he meant to ask me about something else. And then he said, call Michael Cohen. That's what you get being President's attorney, Mr. Cohen. Let's get some phone calls today.

Up next, President Trump takes his down memory land and returns to his campaign days during what was supposed to be to a policy trip to West Virginia.


[12:56:10] KING: There is no doubt the president feels at home in West Virginia. No need to stick to the script.


TRUMP: You know, this was going to be my remarks. It would've taken about two minutes, but that would've been a little boring. A little boring.


KING: And with that, an event scheduled at the roundtable on tax reform became a 2016 campaign flashback. Complaints about China, complaints about immigration, statement after statement that just flat outbreak the fact check machine. Like this, classic Trump welfare (ph).


TRUMP: In many places like California, the same person votes many times. You probably heard about that. They always like to say, oh, that's a conspiracy theory. Not a conspiracy theory, folks, millions and millions of people.


KING: It's a conspiracy theory or a mystery. It's about pick your words for it. But the president's numbers are off the charts in West Virginia which is why he has visited four times as president. But that performance put in full force the dilemma for Republicans in places that are not so Trump friendly. And that's the conversation in 2018.

If you're a Republican in a place that's in play, that's vulnerable where the president doesn't have, you know, almost 100 percent approval rake like he does in West Virginia. Does that make you more likely, or what I've been ventured I guess less likely to invite the president in?

DEMIRJIAN: Yes. I think that we have seen time after time we have and he's getting more confident about this too. I mean it was last week, you know, we're getting at a series of surprise everybody. And before that, when he was campaigning for the guy who lost in Pennsylvania whose name is escaping (ph) me right now.

BACON: Rick Saccone.

DEMIRJIAN: Thank you. It's Rick Saccone who lost kind of round. He made it by himself too. I mean if the president is getting bolder and bolder and now is tossing papers, so I think if you're worried about wanting the Trump bump for you, there's no guarantee that it's actually going to be about you at all. So that's especially --

SHEAR: Candidate strategist, campaign managers to these candidates, all they want is for things to be controlled. And when they control the message, they don't -- so the last thing they want is to invite the president in and then have him throw away the script because they just don't know what that script leads to.


KING: Now, I look at some polling data from West Virginia and it was shared with me not that long ago. The president had 86 percent of pure rating among Republicans. And Nancy Pelosi had I think an 80 percent approval ratings in the state of West Virginia,

So, he's on safe ground. But I also want to say this, I also say this. We should now and we have conversations in Washington, we have conversation about others in America. Do not just count the value to the president of people like this, a woman who stood up in his event and said thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tax cuts are a big deal. Thank you for listening to us, thank you for fighting for us. Thank you for caring enough to allow us the opportunity to come here and tell you thank you to your face. My boy, my little 10-year old wants to be a president one day.


KING: And we can look around the country all we want and find places where he's in trouble. And we will throughout the campaign year and that's a legitimate question. But that view counts too. Everybody gets one vote that vote -- that view counts.


HAM: But also not underestimate the power of the image and literally throwing out the script which is sort of his entire brand. It is what got him to the presidency.

The question is, look, his numbers are very good now (INAUDIBLE) too and he was in a Trump firmly for the country when he was doing this special election. It's great T.V., a lot of people really like this departure from like very controlled politicians and used to like some of that. But, it's a good T.V. and not your politics.

KING: And the rest of the map when the country is not many place like West Virginia.


BACON: Not great, yes. Midterm is around but (INAUDIBLE) the base though. So, he does need to get the base and do what actually is why he's doing so much immigration stuff right now. I think that's part of what he's doing right now. It's part of the base and the deliverable bas obviously, he's very excited about against (ph) this candidates.

KING: Immigration, China --

BACON: Right.

KING: -- sounds familiar. He thinks 2016 will work in 2018, we shall see. Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS, hope to see you back here at 8:00 a.m. Sunday morning and on Monday. Have a great weekend, Wolf starts right now.