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Trump Changes Story on Stormy Daniels Payoff; Trump: Administration is "Fighting to Protect" Gun Rights; Judge in Manafort Case: Mueller's Aim is to Hurt Trump; Trump Won't Be Invited to McCain's Funeral. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired May 6, 2018 - 08:00   ET



[08:00:11] JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): The president among friends and defiant.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are all fighting battles but I love fighting these battles.

KING: Plus, blame Rudy. Shifting stories about paying a porn star.

REPORTER: How is Rudy doing, Mr. President?

TRUMP: He started yesterday. He'll get his facts straight. He is a great guy.

KING: And big primaries this week and the big test of the Trump effect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump has allowed us as a party for the first time in a very long time to be party of the working man, I never once (INAUDIBLE)

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


KING: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. To our viewers in the United States and around the world, thank you for sharing your Sunday.

It was Michigan last week and Ohio this time. The president is the issue in the 2018 midterm elections and this he hopes is the upside.


TRUMP: We're going to call this plan the tax cut plan. Tax cut. C- U-T. Tax cut. We're going to cut taxes.

And we got it passed. And it's the first time, the biggest in our history.


KING: But the downside was on full display this past week, shifting stories about a campaign year payment to a porn actress. And with those shifts, both legal questions and a political credibility crisis.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LAWYER: I'm giving you a fact now that you don't know, it's not campaign money. No campaign finance violation. So --

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: They funneled it through the law firm.

GIULIANI: Funneled through a law firm and the president repaid it.

Imagine if that came out on October 15th, 2016, in the middle of the, you know, last debate with Hillary Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right, to make it go away, they made this scheme --

GIULIANI: Cohen didn't even ask. Cohen made it go away, he did his job.


KING: Plus, big primaries this Tuesday showcase the GOP's Trump effect, and test the patience of Trump voters.


KING: And you voted for President Trump.


KING: Still feel good about that?

HENDERSON: It's been an interesting ride. You just never know what to expect, so I think, you know, some things he's trying to get done are good, but there are so many distractions, it's hard to stay, you know, follow him and determine, is he doing good things or is he so off track, you know? But I think deep down, he really is for the good of the people.


KING: With us to share their reporting and their insights this Sunday, "TIME's" Molly Ball, CNN's Phil Mattingly, Josh Dawsey of "The Washington Post", and Catherine Lucey of "The Associated Press".

The president's story about the Stormy Daniels hush money payment is changing, even though he will look you in the eye and insist it isn't. This just last night from the president's new lead lawyer and chaos maker.


GIULIANI: Even if it was for campaign purposes, if it was to save his family, to save embarrassment, it's not a campaign donation. And second, even if it was a campaign donation, .the president reimbursed it fully and the fact is there is no way this is a campaign finance violation of any kind nor was it a loan. It was an expenditure.


KING: Now, the feds will get the last word on that, and on other 2016 financial transactions by longtime Trump fixer Michael Cohen, that "The Wall Street Journal" reports are now under federal investigation. Questions about violations of campaign laws or financial disclosure laws, well, they could be complicated. But this is not. At this hour last Sunday, the president's position was that he knew nothing about the settlement or the $130,000 election eve payment to the porn actress.

Here's where we are this Sunday: the president knew about the payment and more than reimbursed Michael Cohen, his attorney and fixer, for taking care of it. Giuliani again saying last night the president knew about the payment. "The New York Times" reports he had known for at least several months when he said last month he was not aware of the payment. In other words, the president of the United States lied last month on Air Force One and then repeatedly sent out people who work for him and are paid by taxpayers to lie to so we're in a very different position this Sunday.

Catherine, I want to start with you because you asked the president that question on Air Force One, what do you know about the payment, and he said nothing, call my attorney Michael Cohen, and then you tried again at Joint Base Andrews the other day, and I want our viewers to listen here. You tried to get the president to clear it up. Good luck.


TRUMP: We're not changing any stories. All I'm telling you is that this country is right now running so smooth and to be bringing up that kind of crap and to be bringing up witch hunts all the time, that's all you want to talk about, you're going to see -- excuse me, excuse me, but you have to --

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: But you said on Air Force One that you did not know anything about the payment.

[08:05:03] TRUMP: Excuse me, you take a look at what I said. You go back and take a look, you'll see what I said.

LUCEY: You said when I asked you, did you know about the payments?

TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me, you go take a look at what we said.


KING: He enjoys the combat but we will take a look at what is said and we have take a look at what he said he said he knew nothing about the payment call my attorney, Michael Cohen. Now, his own attorney says, he knew about the payment, he reimbursed him for it and then there's the confusion about whether it had anything to do with the campaign or not. But the president changed his story.

LUCEY: Yes, the story has changed when asked to explain why it had changed he did not clarify, and he also sort of tried to qualify the Rudy statements some, you know, saying that he doesn't know all the facts yet, he's new to the job. But when pushed repeatedly about, you know, what did Rudy Giuliani got wrong, he wouldn't engage. So, we were left confused.

KING: What Rudy Giuliani has tried to clean up is when he said, you know, imagine if this came out in the last debate with Hillary Clinton, trying to clean up that it's not a campaign finance violation, it wasn't done for campaign purposes, it was done to protect the family, and it's not a financial disclosure violation because he says it wasn't alone even though the payments were made over several months, we'll leave that to the ethics lawyers.

But let's start -- there a lot of legal questions. Let's start with the credibility crisis. This is the president United States -- I'm sorry, he lied again, but he lied standing on Air Force One, which I would like to think is a symbol of America's great democracy around the world.

MOLLY BALL, TIME: Well, and we should continue to be shocked by this. But on the other hand, this is certainly not the first time that the president has boldly stated something that is completely at odds with the facts that are obvious to anybody with eyes and ears, and then just proceeded as though that were not the case. I mean, that is something that he does and something that he has always done as president and long before.

I do think that, you know, it's not so much that he has the credibility to lose or even about the legal issue which is relatively picking you, you know, this is the campaign final finance violation even if it's found is rather technical and small-bore, it's more just this ongoing storm you could say about the payments, about the method, about the impression that it gives people, about these repeat cover- ups that apparently were part of the way that he operated. I have to think that people are paying attention to this story not because they care about whether the FEC file paperwork was filed correctly, but because of what it says about a president who was allegedly having affairs, including one with a porn actress, and then paying off women in order to cover up his behavior.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, I think there's kind of two broad percussions to this that matter. First and foremost, the president and his team are talking about this on a daily basis, instead of talking about their tax overhaul or the tax cuts the president was talking about in Ohio and Michigan, going into a pretty nasty midterm season. So, that frustrates a lot of Republicans in general.

But I think there's also the repercussions inside the White House right now where you have a new addition to the legal team, adding about as much clarity to maybe the outside of a fishbowl that hasn't been washed in about six or seven weeks. So, that's confusing. Talking in an interview that nobody knew about at the White House and White House staff really flummoxed about where this is all going.

And I think you saw kind of a really poignant almost moment where Sarah Sanders is acknowledging on the podium, I didn't know about any of this. I was telling you things that ended up being untrue.

Now, you -- everybody laughs and says, oh this is what this White House does, this is what the president does, that's essentially running over your staff with a bus, a staff that's working very hard on a regular basis to try and get your message out and convey your wishes to the American people. That's problematic on the long term beyond whatever this story says about the president or the White House right now.

KING: Right, if it's about the lunatic lies about my crowd was bigger than your crowd, or 3 million to 5 million people illegally voted in the election or the long list of things we go, those are settled in the political marketplace. The issue with this one is it could be settled in court, which is why you had Kellyanne Conway, who's going to come in with Jake Tapper later today here, walking down the White House drive away the other day saying, I knew nothing about this when I was the campaign manager, because if she did it's potentially, it's potentially a question of campaign finance law, if it was done, this could hurt us in the campaign, pay her off, make this go away.

If that was the calculation, it could be a campaign finance violation.

First, Josh, adjust I want to read from your reporting because we'll get to the president's words on Rudy Giuliani in a minute, but he brings to this high profile guy clearly, a guy who likes to be on TV, clearly a guy who shares the president let's fight, let's fight. But clearly a guy who also caused a mess.

Despite the fallout from his comments, Giuliani still appeared to be in good graces with the president. In an interview Friday with "The Washington Post", Giuliani said Trump was not mad at him. He says he loves me.


KING: Does he love him?


JOSH DAWSEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, it's complicated as anything is on the president's orbit. What's happened is on Wednesday night, Rudy Giuliani goes on Fox News with only the knowledge of the president. Sarah Sanders doesn't know, John Kelly doesn't know, Don McGahn, the chief lawyer, doesn't know, and makes a series of pretty startling proclamations.

And the president first seems fairly OK with this, but as it plays out over 48 hours, 36, 48 hours where the headlines are the president lied, the president said something, Rudy Giuliani said something different, and the president was caught in this, that he could have jeopardized the attorney-client privilege by going on national television and describing the private conversation with a client.

[08:10:06] And he offered a whole new rationale for the Comey firing to say, Comey would not tell the president he wasn't under investigation. So, you have Giuliani who has -- you know, some swagger on TV that the president likes. The president knows Rudy Giuliani to supporters is known as America's mayor, known as someone who really has some credibility, and then you have everyone else in the White House saying here's a whole retinue of problems he has caused us with these startling proclamations on television.

So, the president's mood seems to be this so stick with Rudy Giuliani rely on him for this particularly as a high-profile surrogate. But inside the White House, folks are saying, there has to be some coordination here because we're causing more problems than we're solving. We're going out to try to solve one campaign finance problem, but we're actually opening up all these other doors that could be problematic to us.

KING: Right, and so, the president came out and this was key. You're right, the president tweeted initially, backing up Rudy's account, which was essentially, forget everything we've said before about the Stormy Daniels, the payment, the president knew about it, the president reimbursed Michael Cohen for it. That's a big deal, forget everything we've said in the past and the president knew about the payment and with his money reimbursed the payment.

Instead, the president says this:


TRUMP: Rudy is a great guy, but he just started a day ago, but he really has his heart into it. He's working hard. He's learning the subject matter.

When Rudy made the statement, Rudy's great. But Rudy had just started and he wasn't totally familiar with every but -- you know, with everything.


KING: A key point. So, Giuliani has done several more interviews and issued statements to clean things up. But all he has cleaned up is that he says it wasn't about the campaign, it was about saving the family from embarrassment -- the wife and the children of the family from embarrassment. The key point is he has not said, I was wrong, the president didn't know about this.

He has left on the record the president knew about this, the president reimbursed this repeatedly, which is 100 percent contradictory what the president of the United States told the American people repeatedly, sent out people who are paid by taxpayers, to tell the American people repeatedly, correct? DAWSEY: Right. What did we see on this beat, Catherine, I think you would agree where this, is just sometimes how hard it is to figure out what is going on? One person will tell you x, someone will say at the podium Y, someone will go on TV and say Z, you go all of these things cannot be true at the same time.

LUCEY: And that includes the president.

DAWSEY: And that's what we've seen this week. It was Sarah Sanders at the podium saying one thing. You have the president saying one thing. You have his lawyer one thing.

You have his lawyer talking about North Korean hostages that are freed on television, then Sarah Sanders saying, we can't confirm that Rudy Giuliani is saying that these hostages are going to be free today. The United States government cannot confirm what the president's lawyers are saying.

I mean, the number of story sometimes that you will go through in a period of 36, 48 hours are head-spinning.

KING: Or 36 to 48 minutes.


DAWSEY: Yes, and particularly on the Stormy part. We've seen so many different stories, it's hard to know what's true and what's not true.

KING: And the legal questions will continue and again, I just want to just a few words from your colleague, my friend Dan Balz. Does it bother anyone the President Trump has been caught lying? Does it bother anyone that this is not new?

The point you made, it should, it should. That's the credibility crisis. We'll see where the legal questions take us.

Up next, the Trump effect in this week's big primaries and an unemployment report. This is an election year gift to Republicans, at least it should be.

And for politicians say the darndest things, sit tight the woman. You might say is in the eye of the storm goes on "Saturday Night Live".



ALEC BALDWIN AS PRESIDENT TRUMP: Come on, Stormy. Stop making such a big deal about this. Everyone knows it's just an act.

DANIELS: I work in adult films. We are not really known for our acting.

BALDWIN: Just tell me, what do you need for this to all go away?

DANIELS: A resignation. BALDWIN: Yes, right. Being president is like doing porn, once you do

it, it's hard to do anything else.

I solve North and South Korea, why can't I solve us?

DANIELS: Sorry, Donald, it's too late for that. I know you don't believe in climate change but a storm is coming, baby.



[08:17:52] KING: The rules in midterm elections go something like this. First, worry about the base. Second, worry about the base. Third, worry about the base.

To that end, the president wants you and especially the National Rifle Association, to forget February.


TRUMP: Now, thanks to your activism and dedication, you have an administration fighting to protect your Second Amendment and we will protect your Second Amendment.


Your Second Amendment rights are under siege. But they will never ever be under siege as long as I'm your president.


KING: Never ever, the president said there. You might remember just three months ago, after the Parkland, Florida, shooting, the very same president talked about raising the age for gun purchases and he mocked lawmakers for being afraid of the NRA.

One Parkland shooting survivor right here says the president seems now to be all talk.


CAMERON KASKY, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: He's a professional liar who will say anything to appease whatever crowd he's at. If he's in front of families, he might say something in support of common sense gun reform. But then when he's at the NRA, he'll say something to get a big cheer.


KING: Is it as simple as it can appear to be that the president had that moment with the families, thought about it, then the NRA officials came in late on a Sunday night, I think it was at the White House, and talked to him, and he really just realized, boom, I'm going back to the base, back to the Second Amendment, sorry? BALL: Well, I think that this is an interesting case study in -- you know, the president has these in these instincts that in many cases are sort of transpartisan and go against what has historically been the dogma of the Republican Party, enforced by interest groups like the NRA, who are very passionate and very active.

And you saw, you know, in books that he's written in the past and even on the campaign trail, he sometimes had this instinct on guns, like, why don't we do something about it? He's not a gun guy. His son is, Don Jr., but Trump isn't into guns. But he is surrounded and we've seen this on so many issues, from trade, to spending and everything else, that he's surrounded by conservatives and so, his circle is all conservatives, it's all Republicans.

[08:20:01] And so, whenever he does sort of creep up to the ledge on polarizing issues like this, they're the ones reining him in, calling him back, saying here's what your base thinks about this, here's what your people. And he's very attuned -- he does care for a second and third about what his base thinks about things. He is very sensitive to that.

So, I do think that you have -- you know, immigration is another issue where you have Trump when he's all by himself or when he's talking to Chuck and Nancy has these instincts but the people around him are always going to remind him sort of where his bread --


LUCEY: He's someone who -- I should say, he's also someone I think he's really attracted to the big win or the sort of the big dramatic move. So, the idea that he could somehow broke her transformative deal is always appealing to him, and I think in these moments after Parkland, he did meet with these families and I think that was appealing to the idea that he could succeed where other presidents failed.

KING: And then Republicans on Capitol Hill told him, we won't even vote for it.

LUCEY: Exactly.

KING: It's not going to happen. So, you're not going to get -- even if you want it, you're not going to get it.

He's back to the base there. One of the striking things -- number of primaries on Tuesday. We can't go in time to cover ball here. We'll be talking about the impact throughout the week when we get the results Tuesday night.

I was in Indiana, where you have three Republican candidates for a Senate seat and the big issue is not taxes. The big issue is not spending. The big issue is not education reform.

The big issue is, how close can you get to Donald Trump?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. TODD ROKITA (R), INDIANA SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm Todd Rokita and here's the truth we're not going to beat Joe Donnelly with a RINO. I'll proudly stand with our president and Mike Pence to drain the swamp.

REP. LUKE MESSER (R), INDIANA SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm Luke Messer. I get teamwork, that's why I backed President Trump's agenda. Today, the U.S. senators walking on our president, I'm running to shake up the Senate.

MIKE BRAUN (R), INDIANA SENATE CANDIDATE: President Trump was right, we need fewer career politicians in Washington, folks who actually live conservative values who aren't beholden to special interests and who put you first.


KING: Now, it's Indiana. The president carried the state by a ton. The vice president's from there. It's a conservative place.

But if you need any evidence of the Trump effect, candidates just deciding, number one, I'm with Trump, number two, I'm with Trump, number three, I'm more with Trump than the other guy, it's a look at these primary elections across the country.

MATTINGLY: Yes, I think that's a -- that's not in isolation right there, if you're -- sorry pointing to where the video was. I say right now which makes no sense to anybody else.

You can go primary through primary and it's not just Senate, it's House as well. People are trying to get as close as possible, so I think well a lot of people are talking, you know, will Republicans leave Trump, will suburban Republicans leave Trump, the party itself has become the party of Trump, and all of these candidates are looking at numbers or looking at their people. And as you know, base is everything in a primary, the interesting element of all of this and maybe it's not so much to this degree in say, North Dakota or maybe even West Virginia.

But at some point, you're going to have to pivot back if you want to win a general election, particularly in a statewide race like the Senate. And I think their ability to do that after putting ads out like this and talking about like this, it's going to be fascinating to watch, if they even try at all or if they decide that this is the path --


KING: It's an interesting question to see what the turnout is. Democrats have to tense -- I just want to listen, this is Renee Elliot. She worked at Carrier in Indiana. She thought the president was going to save her job, because he said he would save her job. And then a lot of those jobs were lost and she lost hers.

She voted for Trump. She's no longer with Trump. She was going to vote for Luke Messer in the primary. She watched the last debate. Now, she might stay home, she's still undecided.


RENEE ELLIOTT, INDIANA GOP VOTER: I didn't hear anything the other night on attacking the opioid crisis. I didn't hear anything about how -- what plan they had in order to implement our schools to be safer for our kids. I didn't hear anything about what jobs they were going to create. They weren't talking about the people. They were talking about how they were going to be better for President Trump, but what about the voters?


KING: It's just one voter. It's not a scientific sample, but there was a Trump supporter who's looking for them to talk about the issues and she kind of turned off by the idea they just want to Velcro themselves to the president.

DAWSEY: Well, what are the things we've seen time and time again with the president was the 2016 campaign was basically about blowing up a system and I alone can fix it and, you know, you vote for me and everything's going to change.

And when you have these candidates in who are running and President Trump was out on the campaign trail, you have to show to mark any results, and the president will obviously point to the unemployment rate, what he's doing in North Korea, how the economy's doing and the stock market. But there are a lot of people who don't really know how's their life noticeably improve.

So, for a lot of Trump supporters, they're willing to back in regardless. I think he could do anything, including as he said shoot a man on Fifth Avenue, and they would continue to back him. But for other folks who maybe on the fence, who saw two candidates didn't like either one of them, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, you know, there are different alternatives, the different thinking now. And I think you're going to see that.

KING: And much like we saw in 2016, there's two congressmen running in that Indiana race because their title is congressman, they have a problem with a lot of others. Mike Braun, the businessman, is saying I'm not them. I'm not from Washington.

We also see this in West Virginia where a convicted felon, former coal executive, served prison time, is running for a Senate nomination against the state attorney general and against a congressman. He says they're part of the problem he says the bigger problem this is the race the Senate majority leader will be watching most closely Tuesday night, Don Blankenship says Mitch McConnell's the problem.


DON BLANKENSHIP (R), WEST VIRGINI SENATE CANDIDATE: Swamp captain Mitch McConnell has created millions of jobs for China people.

[08:25:02] While doing so, Mitch has gotten rich. In fact, this China family has given them tens of millions of dollars. Mitch and the swamp people are now running false negative ads against me.

I will beat Joe Manchin and Ditch Cocaine Mitch for the sake of the kids.


KING: It's sort of a hopey ad, it's sort of a not terribly refined ad. If you ask people in West Virginia, they say Don Blankenship is moving in the polls because what he's saying is I'm from West Virginia, I don't have a political title, I will get the establishment.

BALL: Well, I think there's sort of two different problems for Republicans posed by the whole Trump effect, and you do see in various races it's almost as if Republicans made such a tradition of having messy and divisive primaries that maimed their nominees that they just can't stop doing it, because we've seen this every two years, right, for the past decade.

But, you know, I still pointed out there's this problem for Republicans of a sort of Trump double bind on the one hand, you need Trump to win a primary and then hurts you -- in fact, it's not even clear if Trump is more of a net benefit than a net weakness because if he shows up in your state on the eve of the election, he may galvanize your opponents more than he gets your supporters out to vote.

And then there's the other problem that Trump is not on the ballot in November, the Republican Congress is, and Republicans running for other offices. And so, they're the ones who Trump has in many -- in many instances blamed for the problems in Washington.

KING: Right.

BALL: So, that is why you have all of these non-incumbents saying the Senate isn't helping President Trump enough. You have to send me there to support Trump.

A lot of Republican voters that I've spoken to around the country, when you ask them about Trump, they get defensive and say it is Mitch McConnell's fault.

KING: Right.

BALL: It is the Senate and the house that aren't doing his bidding.

KING: But they didn't like the establishment to begin with, but Trump has just put that on steroids which could be a big turnout issue as we go forward.

Again, stay with us during the week. It's going to be interesting.

Up next for us though, a federal judge puts the special counsel on the spot, suggesting the hardball tactics against the top Trump campaign aide, a part of an effort to get the president.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [08:31:28] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Important new questions about the special counsel and his mandate including from a federal judge overseeing one of Robert Mueller's most high profile cases. That judge, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis, a Reagan appointee, oversees a bank fraud case the special counsel has brought against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Now, Manafort was under FBI investigation well before he joined the Trump campaign. And the Justice Department folded that work into the special counsel's portfolio when Mueller got underway. Still Ellis said this Friday during a debate with a Mueller deputy. "You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud." Instead the judge said prosecutors are looking for material that would lead to Trump's prosecution or impeachment.

An interesting warning shot to the special counsel here who it's good -- this should be put to the test. There should be scrutiny. Why are you doing this? What is your evidence for this?

But the interesting thing is, how does Mueller respond, because in the past when Mueller had been challenged in court that is when we've learned things. That's when he's had to file documents explaining the scope of his investigation, has to explain.

But how seriously should the special counsel take this? This is not from the President, this is from a judge.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Extremely. Look, I think to your point it is a brush back pitch but I think anytime prosecution gets that from a judge, or a defense team gets that from a judge you have to sit up and take notice.

I don't think there's any question about the team that Mueller put -- well, strike that.

The team that Mueller put together when you talk to people in legal circles, they recognize that there is a lot of talent and very lengthy resumes with a lot of experience on that team that they're bringing to the table. So the idea that a brush-back pitch is going to all of a sudden throw them completely off kilter I think is not a realistic one at that.

Does it feed narratives that perhaps the President and Republicans are looking? No question about it. You have already heard the President cite it. I think he said it in a speech about an hour and a half later on the trail.

But I think to your point, the interesting element is how is the prosecution, how is the special counsel's team going to handle this? Let's just put it this way. The special counsel's team has a lot of experience dealing with things like this. But what their next steps are to prove their rationale for what they're doing is going to be really interesting and I think is going to be an important development in terms of --

(CROSSTALK) KING: And to the political argument point -- again, Mueller is going to have to answer this in court. When he answers it in court, that's when we tend to learn more about his investigation? Who allowed him to do what? What's he looking at? Why is he looking here?

In the political environment, The President did mention this in his NRA speech on Friday. Crack (ph) the code -- Trump voters, he read from a CNN report when he was doing that despite what he says we know where he looks when he's trying to get news.

Then last night on "Judge Jeanine" -- Rudy Giuliani making the same point.


RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP LAWYER: Maybe they think Manafort is somebody they can flip faster. The fact is this all plays into what my client, the President of the United States has been saying for quite some time. The judge in sum and substance said this is a witch-hunt with a tremendous amount of government misconduct attached to it.


KING: Interesting politically but also because Rudy Giuliani for months has said we don't need a special counsel but if you're going to have one it should be Bob Mueller because he's a man of such integrity. A switch.

JOSH DAWSEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": But the judge gives credence to an argument that Trump allies and the President have been trying to amplify for months. It's that6 this investigation was to find Russian meddling in the election, to find whether anyone on the campaign, you know, colluded with Russians, worked with Russians to influence the election and help the Trump presidency.

And the argument they have been making is, you know, it's not about Paul Manafort's bank records. It's not about his lobbying, undisclosed foreign lobbying. It's not about, you know, obstruction of justice and the firing of officials once the President came into office. It's kind of a fundamental and stark disagreement over what the special counsel should be doing.

KING: Right.

[08:34:59] DAWSEY: What the special counsel obviously has contended and continues to contend is in the course of this investigation we have seen potential obstruction of justice. We've seen other crimes that need to be probed. We've looked and found all sorts of other activities on the campaign, and you know, business records and the southern district.

I mean investigation is really sprawling now. And what you're seeing Rudy Giuliani try to do I think is really go to that core message. This was about Russian interference. What we are looking at is not Russian interference. KING: We do not get intellectual consistency. Not that we should

expect it in Washington. But I covered the Bill Clinton White House and Republicans didn't raise these objections when we went from Whitewater to Paula Jones to Monica Lewinski. Let's just say their argument was if you're investigating somebody and you find evidence of other crimes, you don't throw it away. You, of course, then pursue the evidence of other crimes.

That was then. This is now. There are questions about Mueller. He's going to have to answer them in court. But one of the other things is we don't know and the people challenging Mueller don't know everything he knows.

DAWSEY: Right.

KING: Just before I bring you into the conversation, I just want to bring Michael -- this is Michael Caputo. He's a former Trump campaign lawyer. He is saying publicly what so many witnesses called before the Mueller investigation have told us privately. They go into these rooms thinking this was my meeting. I arranged it. This was my thing and guess what, they know more.


MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: They know more about what I did in 2016 than I knew. I think they are very focused on Russian collusion. I think they believe that they will get to something. They are talking about WikiLeaks. They're talking about Guccifer. They're talking about DC Leaks. All that things that you would expect that they are looking into and I'm, you know, I'm concerned for some of my friends who are in peril.


CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Yes. Well, one thing we learned just over the weekend as you report that Tom Barrack -- who's one of Trump's closest friends, who has been involved in the campaign and the transition, has known him for many years -- was interviewed by investigators. So as this plays out we are learning more and more about the depth of this investigation.

The other thing I wanted to note was that this comes -- the comments from this judge come as there is this ongoing debate about whether Trump will sit for an interview. And that Trump on Friday, he said he would love to but will it be fair. And obviously these comments then color that whole process.

KING: Right. The fairness part from the President he said repeatedly. So he's trying to make that case there. But again to the point that the special counsel should be subjected to tough scrutiny -- but we also should all remember the people writing these articles, even the judges saying these things no so little about what Robert Mueller knows.

So the burden is ultimately on him. Don't expect it to come on your time table. I think it will come on his. When we come back Senator John McCain still feisty and still at odds with President Trump even from a distance.


KING: President Trump doesn't name names but Senator John McCain's late night thumbs down still stings.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We got a bad vote the evening that we were going to terminate Obamacare. We got a bad vote, you know about that, right. That was not a nice thing. That was an unexpected vote.

We actually had it beaten except for one vote. You remember that beautiful night. It was defeated by one vote -- changed. They changed.


KING: Now, Senator McCain hasn't been in Washington for months because he's home battling brain cancer but he still shares his disdain for the President with just about everyone who visits him at the ranch in Arizona.

And CNN has learned this also reflected as McCain writes the script for his final farewell. The senator does not want President Trump to attend his funeral but has asked rivals George W. Bush and Barack Obama to deliver eulogies. Again, that's the planning -- we hope that day is a long ways off.

On the front page of the "New York Times" today Jonathan Martin writing, "At home McCain shares memories and regrets." It is fascinating as this plays out. There's a little bit more of it but the Senator himself is planning his own farewell.

Let's just listen here. This is a book excerpt. John McCain is writing one last book, one last documentary. He's making a lot of news but part of it is just his tone saying "I don't like President Trump."


SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Whether we think each other right or wrong in our views on the issues of the day, we owe each other our respect as long as our character merits respect, and as long as we share for all our differences, for all the rancorous debates that enliven and sometimes demean our politics, a mutual devotion to the ideals our nation was conceived to uphold that all are created equal and liberty and equal justice are the natural rights of all.


KING: We owe each other respect as long as our character merits respect. That's John McCain's way of -- MOLLY BALL, "THE ATLANTIC": A statement as anodyne and gracious as

that ought not be a sub-tweet of a political figure much less a sitting president. But it is unmistakable in this context who he is talking about.

DAWSEY: You also saw when recently, you know, Barbara Bush died. You saw Melania Trump go the funeral. You saw all the other presidents there. President Trump was not there. It seems hard to believe that the Bush family has much love for President Trump.

And the same we've seen playing with John McCain. The traditional Republican dynasty in death even does not want to be associated with President Trump.

LUCEY: And we saw, I mean there was another moment with McCain and Trump early in Trump's presidential run. I mean you probably all remember the event in Iowa where Trump spoke about his war record. He said he likes people who weren't captured. And that really I think in some ways set the tone or revealed a lot about the kind of race that Trump was going to run. And now you're seeing this call for civility.

KING: And you see, if you know Senator McCain (INAUDIBLE) -- he had tough campaigns against Barack Obama, tough campaigns against George W. Bush asking them -- it's McCain's last -- probably revenge (ph) is the wrong word. That's John McCain being John McCain.

[08:45:05] It's interesting -- in the new book he writes this. "He recalls that his advisers warned him that picking a vice presidential candidate who caucus with Democrats and support abortion rights would divide Republicans and doom his chances. It was sound advice that I could reason for myself," he writes. "But my gut told me to ignore it and I wish I had." Meaning he wishes he picked Joe Lieberman, then a Democratic senator from Connecticut, as opposed to Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska.

BALL: Well, as Catherine said, that moment in Iowa where Trump insulted McCain did reveal so much. And what it revealed was Republican voters didn't care. Republican voters were not attracted to the call for civility. The Republican voters were not attracted to the dynastic and the sort of establishment appeal of people like the Bushes, Jeb Bush and John McCain that when it came down to it they preferred Trump's vulgarity. They preferred Trump's appeal and his insults and all of that.

And so we are seeing the literal passing of a generation of politicians.


KING: I get those voters are disappointed. They're disappointed that anybody with a title has let them down but there should be some middle ground right.

DAWSEY: That story that Jonathan Martin had on the front of "The Times" that was really a remarkable story. You know, Joe Biden, Lieberman -- all of these people paying homage to this, you know, cornerstone of American politics at his ranch and him figuring out his future, you know, it's really worth reading.

KING: If you haven't, go online and read it.

Our reporters share from their notebooks next including a squabble inside the House Republican Caucus over money.


KING: Let's head one last time around the INSIDE POLITICS table, ask our great reporters to share a little something from their notebooks, help get you out ahead of the big political news just around the corner.

Molly Ball.

BALL: Twice in the last week, speaking to his supporters President Trump has floated this idea of shutting down the government in late September when the new funding deadline comes up if he doesn't get funding for his border.

Now, on the one hand he's sort of cried wolf in this manner many times before, repeatedly said every time there was a funding deadline in the past year that he would be willing to shut the government down and then didn't do it.

On the other hand if you are a Republican in Congress you don't need to be reminded that this late September deadline exists, less than six weeks before the election and so there is again going to be a fight, there's again going to be this issue of the border wall.

The President is showing that he is well aware of that and he has been listening to some of the Freedom Caucus members who are still full of angst over the last spending deal that they agreed to that was so generous that they felt like gave too much away to the Democrats and again, didn't fund that border wall.

So if you are President Trump, you're going out there, you're reminding your supporters over and over again that they didn't get that wall that they were promised. And so Republicans really not looking forward to that next spending fight (ph).

KING: September -- just before the election.

BALL: Great timing.

KING: Everything is awesome. Phil.

MATTINGLY: So actually along those lines, one of the best stories in the swirl of huge headlines, bold headlines every single day is actually a spending fight going on behind the scenes between Republicans on Capitol Hill and Republicans in the White House. And this all goes back to that $1.3 trillion spending bill -- the President making no secret of his disdain for that.

Well, Mick Mulvaney, his budget chief and Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the house decided they'd work on something, spending cuts known as rescissions -- if you really want to get detailed on it -- to try and pacify a very angry president.

Now they started with a very bold idea -- $60 billion in cuts, really attacking that spending. That has now been pared back in a major way. Why -- because of Republicans. They didn't even think they could have the votes to get that through the Republican-led house. So it has been pared back to $30 billion, to $25 billion. Now I'm told it should arrive on Capitol Hill at about $11 billion.

And it won't touch the omnibus at all. That's the difficulty people have been finding. But the dynamics of this debate, back and forth -- you have House leadership elections perhaps with Leader McCarthy, Paul Ryan, the Speaker stepping trying to pare things back.

And all the while you have Mitch McConnell in the Senate saying this is a bad idea. Let's go ahead and not do this. The end result obviously pared back. But an interesting fight that really kind of underscores the dynamic, how complicated spending fights are, not just on Capitol Hill on the whole but inside the Republican Party.

KING: If the President has such disdain for it maybe he should have gotten involved in the negotiations or not signed it. Just to remind -- Josh.

DAWSEY: People in the White House this week are closely watching the nomination fight of Gina Haspel to be CIA nominee. There is a razor- thin majority of 50 Republicans right now with John McCain's absence. A lot of skepticism on her torture record, a lot of even Democrats who have raised questions in private meetings.

The White House still thinks they can get some of the Democrats on board. But for President Trump and some of his top officials, having her confirmed would be a big win after the botched nomination of Ronny Jackson. It was obviously embarrassing to the administration.

But it's certainly inside the building not seen as a sure fire thing. And it would be obviously an embarrassment if they can not get a CIA nominee through the Senate this week.

KING: Big week ahead there. Catherine.

LUCEY: Well, amid all the conversations Friday about Stormy Daniels, about the Russia probe President Trump also teased an announcement that we're looking for soon. He says he has a time and a place for what will be a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Now, he's a master of the slow reveal as we all know, so we haven't gotten all the details yet but he has previously given us some hints. He has suggested an interest in doing it in the demilitarized zone between the Koreas. He has also indicated it could be coming in late May, early June.

But of course, it is important to remember it's amazing that this is happening at all -- these conversations. I mean just a few months ago the President was taunting Kim Jong-un about the size of his nuclear button calling him little rocket man.

But obviously diplomatic efforts have picked up recently and we know that the President is very eager to make this happen.

KING: Keep an eye on that. Maybe we will get the time and place in the days ahead.

I'll close with this. Democrats are full of optimism this year and they're short-term midterm outlook is pretty good, maybe even great. But they are fools if they don't also recognize longer-term warning signs out in white working class and rural America.

[08:55:00] I spent a couple of days in Indiana this past week, including a visit to the Sullivan County Republican Lincoln Day dinner. It's a pot luck event in rural southern Indiana. Candidates up and down the ballot get to stand up and say hello and ask for votes.

And it was striking how many Republican candidates for local office introduced themselves as former long time Democrats. It was a flashback to travelers across the party switching south back in the 1990s.

So when we tell you who won the House and who won the Senate come November don't forget to take a look deeper down ballot to see if Democrats are improving their long term prognosis and dealing with their giant bench problem.

That's it for us on INSIDE POLITICS. Again, thanks for sharing your Sunday morning. Hope you can catch us weekdays, we are here at noon Eastern.

Up next, "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper. Don't go anywhere. He's going to sit down with the White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway.

Have a great Sunday.