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Trump on Summit Talks: We're Doing "Very Well"; Trump's Troubles with the Truth; Trump Doubles Down on "Spy Claim" without Evidence; Higher Gas Prices Take Bite out of Trump Tax Cut; Democrats Nominate Progressive in Red States. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired May 27, 2018 - 08:00   ET



[08:00:15] JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): Is the big summit off?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've decided to terminate the plan summit in Singapore.

KING: Or maybe back on?

TRUMP: They very much want to do it. We'd like to do it.

KING: Plus, no facts but a week of tweets about deep state spying.

TRUMP: I think people are going to see a lot of bad things happen.

KING: And the midterm map now includes a chance to make history.

STACEY ABRAMS (D), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: And if we fight, if we push, if we work, we will win.

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.

The leaders of North and South Korea meet again and make the case President Trump should reconsider and move ahead with the Singapore nuclear summit. The president says -- stay tuned.


TRUMP: That would be a great thing for North Korea. It would be a great thing for South Korea. It would be great for Japan and great for the world, great for the United States, great for China.

A lot of people are working on it, it's moving along very nicely. So, we're looking at June 12th in Singapore. That hasn't changed. And it's moving along pretty well. So, we'll see what happens.


KING: Plus, more glaring trouble with the truth. The president attacks as phony a newspaper report that accurately quotes a White House briefing and he keeps saying the FBI illegally spied on his campaign but offers zero evidence to back it up.


TRUMP: When they look at the documents, I think people are going to see a lot of bad things happen. I hope it's not so, because if it is, there's never been anything like it in the history of our country. But a lot of bad things have happened. We now call it spygate, you're calling it spygate. A lot of bad things have happened.


KING: And here's a question: has the blue wave already crested? Republicans do see as somewhat improved midterm election climate. Democrats say their year of the women will prove the Republicans wrong.


LUPE VALDEZ (D), TEXAS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Texas is changing. Texas is changing. Look around you. Look around you. This is what Texas looks like.

AMY MCGRATH (D), KENTUCKY HOUSE CANDIDATE: What happened tonight is amazing. I couldn't be more honored and more humbled to be standing here tonight as your nominee.

STACEY ABRAMS (D), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: This is our moment, our chance to lift up Georgia. And if we fight, if we push, if we work, we will win.


KING: With us this Sunday to share their reporting and their insights, Anne Gearan of "The Washington Post", CNN's PHIL Mattingly, "Bloomberg's" Toluse Olorunnipa, and Jackie Kucinich of "The Daily Beast".

We begin the hour with hopeful words from the president of the United States and the leaders of both North and South Korea. President Trump last night welcoming home an American who had been imprisoned in Venezuela for two years. And as he did that, he was upbeat about talks aimed at reviving the Singapore summit with Kim Jong-un.


TRUMP: We do it very well in terms of the summit with the North Korea. It looks like it's going along very well. There -- as you know, there are meetings going on as we speak in a certain location which I won't name. But you'd like the location. It's not so far away from here.

And I think there's a lot of goodwill. I think people want to see if we can get the meeting and get something done.


KING: Those optimistic words striking because it was President Trump who just days ago canceled the summit. But North Korea's conciliatory reaction was a surprise, as is this -- the leaders of North and South Korea holding a hastily arranged meeting Saturday to try to get the summit back on track, and South Korea's president says Kim again insisted he is prepared to give up his nuclear program.


MOON JAE-IN, SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT: As a continuation to the Panmunjom declaration, Chairman Kim once again affirmed his commitment for denuclearization, emphasizing that he will clear the history of war and confrontation and cooperate for peace and prosperity through a successful North Korea/U.S. summit meeting.


KING: It is a remarkable moment. The question now is if you listen to the president just last night and you listen to President Moon who seems still wildly optimistic, does it look like the summit will go forward? And more importantly, are they actually making progress on the substance? Is they just trying to have a meeting or are they actually making some progress on the substance where if they have a meeting, Kim is coming to the table at least with the U.S. thinking he's reasonably open-minded to really giving it up?

ANNE GEARAN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, those are different things. Yes, I think both sides want the meeting more than they don't. Whether it happens on the 12th of June is an open question.

[08:05:00] There really is not very much time to make that happen. A U.S. planning delegation was -- that had been scheduled to go today, was pulled back, is now again going to go today. I think they're actually already on their way.

So, they won't -- so from the White House side, they will at least give it a go, to see if they can put it together for the 12th.

But on the substance question, really the United States still only has President Moon of South Korea's word for it that the North Korean president is committed to complete irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and what does that really mean. That is the nut of the problem and the U.S. negotiators still do not have, in Kim's own words, an exact interpretation of what that means, let alone a schedule for what --

KING: And that's what makes this both so intriguing and so difficult, in the sense that President Moon says he means it. A lot of analysts think, well, if why was Kim so conciliatory? After Trump broke it off, people thought this is where North Korea's going to get confrontational again. Long history of that, they didn't. Then he comes back to the table, bear-hugs the South Korean

counterpart, says, I want to keep doing this. Some people think, maybe Kim needs a deal, maybe economic sanctions are having such a devastating impact on him he needs a deal. The question is, what deal is he trying to get? OK, let's keep talking about denuclearization, give me aid.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Yes, the North Koreans realized that sitting down across the table with President Trump would be a big diplomatic win for them and they don't want to squander that away just because there are some statements that either the president made or that the vice president made the national security advisor made that got under the skin of the North Koreans. So they're willing to put some of that aside.

And if you look at the President Trump's letter to Kim Jong-un on Thursday, one thing that he said was he believed that there was this beautiful dialogue opening up between the President Trump and Kim Jong-un, and he said that is the only dialogue that matters, the other statements from other people within the administration, talking about the Libya model, president saying put all that stuff to the side, he wants to sit down one-on-one with the North Korean leader even if all of the groundwork hasn't been done.

And we heard from the most senior official that they didn't believe that the groundwork could be done in time for June 12th, but the president does believe that can be done and that's why he's going to try to make this happen on June 12th in Singapore.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think one of the most important things of all of last week was Secretary Mike Pompeo's testifying in front of the Senate, where he made very clear that it wasn't the barbs back and forth, or the personal attack on Vice President Mike Pence are the reason that this was called off. It was that they've lost complete contact with the North Koreans for a period of days, trying to meet -- trying to get their advance teams and their logistical teams to meet, and it just been completely shut off.

I think when you look at the outside dynamics here, whether it's Moon Jae-in over in South Korea, whether it's Mike Pompeo, whether it's the president himself, I think all three have made very clear that they believe they're ready for talks and that talk should occur and that this meeting should occur. When you have all of those forces driving to a meeting, I think it underscores the fact that both sides want that meeting.

You make the key point here, the in-the-weeds details are what are going to make or break this in the end. But my sense of things right now and I think the sense on Capitol Hill where I am in most days is that they want the meeting, they want the sit-down, they'll figure those pieces out later.

And to your point in terms of we don't know where Kim Jong-un is on denuclearization, Mike Pompeo has made very clear, he believed in one- on-one conversations that Kim Jong-un understood where America where the U.S. was on this position, grasped where the U.S. was on this position and showed some sense of OK, we are -- we get that, we can get there.

And that -- all of those things put together is why June 12th is not only on the table but I think is the preference right now for an administration.

KING: And we still don't know, even though Mike Pompeo knows more than anybody else on the American side from two face-to-face meetings with his team, we still don't know much about Kim today. If we can get their part means, is this young leader willing to walk away from 50 years of his country's history, his grandfather and his father and the nuclear program and a more belligerent posture toward the world, is the -- is the backbone of the regime essentially?

The process won't matter. If they have a summit and if they make progress, the process won't matter. But the process has been pretty messy. The South Koreans felt blindsided when the president sent that letter, pulling out, didn't give them much of a heads up.

If you look at "The New Yorker", it says President Trump is a better deal breaker than deal maker. There's been all this controversy that the president, you know, he keeps talking about being "The Art of the Deal" president and things keep blowing up, whether it's the summit that was cancelled and now is tentative again, or whatever we want to call it, on NAFTA, et cetera.

We have seen inside the administration a bit of a tug of war. Mike Pompeo says, I've met with this guy, let's give it a chance. John Bolton, the new national security advisor, seems a tad more skeptical.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, we have a new set of frenemies this week between John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, and reportedly, Mike Pompeo was not happy at the fact that John Bolton had perhaps either made this a little bit more apparent that was going to blow up.

The difference between the art of the deal and talking about real estate and this is they're actually our nuclear weapons that are on the table though, it was striking on Capitol Hill of when this did fall apart how little surprised there was from Republicans. No one was really sounding the alarm bells and I think they really thought that this maybe would fall apart and come together a couple more times, and because they want the president going in there with the strong hand instead of -- there was concerned that he was just going to go in there and wing it.

[08:10:09] And when something is this important, it's not exactly the best of prey.

KING: And there are also people, conservative hawks, conservative voices, who think the president is approaching this backwards, in that to deal with the China issue first and then North Korea, get on a better footing with China on trade issues and on security issues, and then deal with North Korea. Obviously, the president thinks that he can have a summit with North Korea might go forward. But here's how "The National Review" put it: we don't have a North

Korea problem, we have a China problem. North Korea is a wild dog. China holds the leash. To change North Korea's behavior, change Chinese behavior first. It is that confrontation between Washington and Beijing which will determine the course of the 21st century.

That last sentence I don't think anyone takes issue with. The China- U.S. relationship is the big question of the next 20, 30, 50 years. But is that -- is it fair there's always the question of, can Xi Jinping say, get in line, Kim Jong-un?

GEARAN: Well, clearly not, because Xi Jinping has been telling Kim Jong-on for two years now to, you know, check it, and he hasn't. Clearly, Kim does not do whatever Xi tells him to, and it's been frustrating for the Chinese.

The Chinese have stepped up diplomatically. They have stepped up in both passing sanctions at the United Nations and enforcing them.

There's always more China can do and Trump has gone back and forth, swung rather wildly just in the last year over, you know, praising Xi, saying he's doing so much, he's really been tough at the border, he's done this, he's done that. And then two weeks later saying China isn't doing enough. Both things are true.

And Trump also rightly sees the trade issue with China as linked to the outcome in North Korea. There's a tactical question as you point out of whether both things should be pursued at exactly the same time, but they are very much linked.

KING: They are and that's another complication, is the president's about to have, if he keeps going with this deal, to help the Chinese telecom company ZTE, he's going to have a bipartisan confrontation with the United States Congress, which thinks he's off his rocker, helping ZTE.

GEARAN: Yes, intel committees are not happy about it.

KING: Yes.

All right. We'll continue to watch that one.

Up next for us here though, the president's strained relationship with the truth. He lashes out and a phony quote in "The New York Times". That quote, though, is very real, spoken by a presidential aide, in a crowded room, just steps from the Oval Office.


[08:16:12] KING: Welcome back.

President Trump's trouble with the truth is on full and sad display again this weekend. Whatever your politics, you should want the commander in chief to tell the truth when he gives a commencement address to naval academy cadets. Well, he didn't. Don't believe me, take a look at the Twitter feed of Todd Harrison

D.C. This is analyst at the Washington national security think-tank offers a detail account, it's great to read, of how the president repeatedly twisted the facts in a speech to naval cadets.

And then this yesterday, a presidential tweet attacking "The New York Times" for what the president called phony sources in a story about whether the Singapore summit could be revived and kept on schedule. The quote the president called phony was spoken in the White House briefing room, by a senior Trump administration official who was introduced to a roomful of reporters by a deputy White House press secretary.

Here's the White House announcement that that briefing would take place, and here's the transcript, including the quote the president says is phony and fabricated, right here, on paper. Why? Why? Why?


OLORUNNIPA: The president read the art of the deal -- recently reread it, just to get a better sense of this president and he talks about the art of truthful hyperbole going back to that speech that he gave the commencement address where he talked about --

KING: Is that a fancy way of saying lying?

OLORUNNIPA: That's a fancy way of saying lying. He said that people want to know that -- want to hear that things are the biggest ever. So, when he says that this is the first time that service members, troops have gotten a raise in 10 years, that's actually not true. They've gotten a raise every year. He wants to show that he's doing what other people haven't done and he strays from the facts almost daily as he does that.

He talks about how the past administration didn't do XYZ. He gives himself credit for things that have happened before. It's just part of this showmanship of this president that he wants to sort of show that he's greater than he actually is.

KUCINICH: But I'd also like to point to what the president apparently told Lesley Stahl when she asked about why he says things that aren't sure about the media, and he says basically to just -- long story short, to discredit you, so when you write me a bad stories about me, no one will believe you. So, I think it part -- it's part of the deal and it's part knowing exactly what you're doing.

KING: And so, if you're a Trump supporter and you're laughing at this, or you think we're exaggerating this, as I always say, you have one of these. Check these facts yourself. Go to the @toddharrison. He works at a think tank in Washington, D.C. just clearly lays out.

This is the naval cadets. You think the commander-in-chief could tell the truth here.

Then there's this phony "New York Times". It's not phony at all. It's somebody paid, somebody works who's loyal to Donald Trump standing at the White House podium, trying to help the president out, explaining, here's our calculations for the summit. Here's why we would -- could do it, trying to pull it off by June 12th. That would be hard now because of the delay.

Why is it's -- why does he so have this need to attack -- if he wants to attack, fine -- but to just make stuff up in the attack?

GEARAN: I don't know exactly how this played out at the White House yesterday, but Jackie write that, you know, this is a -- he's attacking the media on purpose clearly, and using the phrase he -- you know, the insult phrase for "The New York Times" in doing it.

But he may not well -- may well not have known that the White House had sent an official out to different reporters. He should have known that before tweeting, but he may not have.

I think it's important to note too, that during that briefing a reporter asked why this session couldn't be on the record. There was nothing secret. There was nothing at all sensitive that was being relayed. In fact, it was -- much of it was kind of logistical questions filling in around the Pompeo testimony and what the president himself had said earlier in the day.

And the official's answer to why he couldn't be on the record is that the president has already spoken. Let's let the president's words stand and, you know -- then you have the president coming back and saying that that the official and his words don't exist.

[08:20:07] KING: Don't exist. Don't exist, the person -- and then the background trick is all administrations have tried that before, they don't want to step on the president. I don't say I agree with it, but I get it. It's happened.

But wasn't a phony person president works for you right down the hall. If he does this all the time, here's another one. Put pressure on Democrats to end a horrible law that separates children from their parents once they cross the border into the U.S. Catch and release, lottery and chain migration, he goes on and on and on.

Now, previous laws enacted under other administration, including Democrats, have separated children of immigrants, illegal immigrants from their parents come across the border. But this administration just enacted new policies that exacerbate the issue or they continue the issue. That's one.

Here's the president talking on Fox News on Thursday about immigration and, again, we know why he wants to talk about the issue, but you could get your facts straight.


TRUMP: We've done a lot of work on the wall. We're doing a lot of work on security generally speaking, security and border, border security. The border is down over 40 percent, and don't forget, we have a great economy -- probably the best economy the country has ever had, so people come across. But we're going to get the rest. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Not sure the point of reference happy for the White House to give it to me and I'll sit here and say here's what he meant. But the borders not down 40 percent right now. If you look at the most recent statistics on the president's complained about these directly to its homeland security secretary. Actually, they're up a little bit.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it's perplexing on a number of fronts, first and foremost on the separation of parents and their children. Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, has made clear that this was a deliberate effort to disincentivize people coming across the border. So, if this is --

KING: So, let me stop the interrupt just once. If you don't want your child separated, then don't bring them across the border illegally. Jeff Sessions, on the record.

MATTINGLY: Right. And so, if this is a policy designed to help bring border crossings down -- which as you noted are up right now, they were very low last year, but cyclically, they have gone back up again -- then own it, I think. And the attorney general has and if you talk to -- Chief of Staff John Kelly gave an interview talking about this, Homeland Security Department has been talking about this for a couple of weeks right now, if there's rationale behind it, and if you believe this is going to be helpful to you, then own it as the rest of your administration has leading up to this point. Don't blame passed laws.

And as you know, there are laws that you can quibble with that could have led to this point, but there's a very clear policy shift which had been debated for months inside the administration. I think that's the perplexing thing right now, same with the border crossings.

I do keep going back to the commencement address though because there are strategic mistruths or lies or whatever you want all that you can tell why the president is doing it, on the idea of number of ships which was way off in the timeline on it, on the pay raises, which was way off in the timeline of it. It's why -- there were elements of the speech which were very good and borderline inspirational, and you would sit there.

It's ideal for a service academy commencement address, telling stories about past naval aviators or whatever they -- in why you cloud that with making statements that have no basis in fact that don't help your administration in any way, shape or form. It's not pushing forward an agenda item. It's not trying to shift a message that you're being attacked on. It was just saying things that weren't true.

And by the way, the defense increase, spending increase that they got in the $1.3 trillion spending deal was no small thing.

KING: Right.

MATTINGLY: That was a huge deal. Sequestration was hollowing out the U.S. military, that was a big victory for the president. You can just focus on that. There are facts there that you can talk about. Why he goes in a different direction is just -- I'm not --I don't get it and I don't think to be frank a lot of his supporters understand it.

KING: In that case, the truth was actually his friend.


KING: He just chose to ignore it again.

Up next, the president says he's the victim of an FBI spy scandal. Should you share his outrage or roll your eyes? It's just another conspiracy theory.

Plus, politicians say the darndest things. You may not know it, but listen here. The Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein quite the comedian. Some of what he's been saying lately about his unusual predicament.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like to hand you a piece of paper with some words on it.



Dictionary defines "piling on" as joining other people in criticizing someone usually in an unfair manner. I also have experience with that. So, I am definitely against piling on no matter what definition you use.

It's refreshing to get out of Washington every once in a while. I know they say New York is the city that never sleeps, but it seems pretty restful to me.



[08:28:44] KING: Welcome back.

The president might want to be a little more careful when pushing his next eye-popping conspiracy theory. Talk of an FBI spying operation on his campaign got the president so angry and so animated that he forced the Justice Department to brief lawmakers on FBI tactics.

Now, the initial plan was for just two house Republicans to get the inside scoop but the Justice Department vowed to bipartisan pressure and invited a larger group, including Democrats.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: There is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intelligence agency placed a spy in the Trump campaign or otherwise failed to follow appropriate procedures and protocols.


KING: Now, Trump allies might discount that because they don't think much of the Democrat Adam Schiff. But the Republican speaker of the House and the Republican Senate majority leader we're also in the room.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST: Were you surprised what you learned?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Nothing particularly surprising, but again, it was qualified. So, there's no real -- no real report I give to you.


KING: To translate Leader McConnell in that and other interviews, he went on to say he continues to support Robert Mueller, believes that's the best way to do this.

[08:29:53] If he had been shown evidence of illegal, improper, reckless FBI spying as part of the special counsel investigation that is not what he would have said after.

So did the President step on his own story here?

ANNE GEARAN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think the President's story is that he wants to sow confusion and discord surrounding the investigation in general.

He sees an opportunity here. He told a friend as much last week. And he is deliberately using the word "spy" which is an incorrect description of the person they're talking. This is an FBI informant, long standing informant in other cases and who was employed to try to find out in the wake of the hack that was revealed just on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in 2016 ultimately attributed to Russia.

The FBI went wow, like we have a problem on our hands here. And one of the things the FBI did, not the only thing, was to use this informant to try to feel out whether the Russians were trying to use the Trump campaign to their advantage. We know all that.

KING: And the FBI insists that this was done by the book, they way you do what they call confidential sources.

GEARAN: Right. But that is all really boring and not what the President wants to talk about.

KING: Right. Much easier to say "spy" and again the President -- we'll just show you quickly -- he has a history of doing this, of exaggerating or sometimes just making stuff up.

But there's a spy. Obama had his wires tapped. Obama improperly unmasked Trump aides. There's a secret society inside the FBI that the President says conspiring against him including people he appointed in the Justice Department, and the Steele dossier triggered the Russia probe which it did not.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: This is all. This all has a very common theme. It's about President Trump trying to again, muddy the waters about the Mueller investigation and make himself the victim of this elaborate plot by the deep state and who are just trying to take away his election win.

That is not what is happening here. But the lengths to which he will go including potentially exposing an FBI informant which you saw some of the intelligence forces coming out saying this is dangerous what you are doing here. He doesn't care because it's about -- all about number one in this situation.

KING: Right. The President's attacks, a potential chilling effect, it's nothing to do with the investigation of the President, I mean. If you are thinking of cooperating with the FBI on some other sensitive matter they could end up being involved in the political environment.

Number one, the President does this, says "spy".

Number two, the President's chief of staff and his White House council -- one of his White House lawyers -- show up at the beginning of this meeting where the Justice Department and the FBI is going to share with lawmakers some of their tactics and how they got to the point of having this informant. Why is the President's chief of staff and his lawyer there?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So the back -- the interesting back story about that is first off, none of the lawmakers -- both at the Justice Department meeting or at the second meeting in the Senate skiff -- had any idea that Emmett Flood was coming. And I'm told some of the lawmakers didn't actually know who Emmett Flood was by appearance and asked one another like who is this guy that is walking in?

And then when they were told, there is some mix of befuddlement and borderline horror. I talked to a lot of Republican aides who kind of walked through how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr worked very hard behind the scenes to make sure there was a second briefing, to make sure Democrats would be there to basically make the point that this isn't a game, this isn't some effort to muddle things. This is how it's supposed to work with bipartisan ship.

And they felt that that was completely undercut by John Kelly and Emmett Flood coming. Now granted, stayed for just a minute, made some brief remarks I'm told which were rather awkward in both rooms at the time. But just the idea of why the appearance of it, why would you try and undercut something that Republicans on the Hill were trying to do was make it appear legitimate for the President.

KING: That adult supervision is overdue by those Republicans and let's hope it continues because it has been missing at key points during some of these investigation.

Another great point.

Stay with us.

On the next "STATE OF THE UNION" up next Rudy Giuliani, the President's top lawyer will be on. In the course of recent days he said Tuesday if they said they have to do it now the answer would be no. That's an interview between the President and the special counsel.

"I guess I would rather do the interview," he said Wednesday. "It gets it over with. It makes my client happy."

On Thursday, "I would not like to talk to Mueller at all. I don't see what you gain from that."

Next hour -- maybe the real Rudy Giuliani. Maybe we get -- do we get a final answer?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: We'll see. That's what I though we heard from the President multiple times. We'll see what happens. I think Rudy Giuliani basically is now saying that he wants more information from this briefing before deciding whether the President will sit down with Mueller.

He wants a full briefing for the President's legal team about this confidential informant and basically saying that that's what will -- that's what will let them decide whether or not to have this.

KING: I'm old enough to remember Rudy Giuliani's time as a federal prosecutor in New York. He got a lot of fame and attention for it. I don't think he shared sensitive information with the people and the people they're related to or allies of the people who are under investigation during the investigation. I don't think that happened.

MATTINGLY: Can we just add on the bottom line here? The Justice Department inspector general, Michael Horowitz, is looking into all of this in part because of the President's demand.

[08:35:02] There will be answers. There will be a full-fledged report. There's not a lot of people who question Michael Horowitz or the reports that he's put out or the investigations that he has been a part of. It is coming.


MATTINGLY: All of that is coming. Don't worry (ph).

KING: That's an established government process.


KING: That's not -- yes.

MATTINGLY: That's right.

(CROSSTALK) KING: Established government process.

All right. Up next for us here, election year economics -- Republicans want credit for that tax cut. They put more money in your pocket. They don't want blame now that rising gas prices are taking some of it back.

First though as we go to break -- a solemn look here at preparations at Arlington National Cemetery as the country honors its fallen service members.

Yes, you may have a barbecue today. Yes, you may have a long weekend. Please remember why we mark Memorial Day.


KING: This holiday weekend, first and foremost, a tribute to the fallen. But for many Americans it's also a gate way to summer. And those getting behind the wheel will be on a test drive of sorts for the election year politics of rising prices at the pump.

Let's take a look at the numbers. We go back several years here -- gas $1.83 on average when Barack Obama was sworn in as President; $2.32 a gallon when Donald Trump was sworn in. You see some of the spikes and falls during the Obama years. Now we have a spike in recent weeks during the Trump presidency from $2.32 on inauguration day, to right around $3 now.

Now this is cyclical -- a number of factors but we're a few months away from the midterm election. Republicans are worried that gets in the way of their midterm message.

Their big tax cut is what they want to talk about. They say it's helping the economy. It put $135 billion back in the pockets of Americans.

Problem is if gas prices stay right where they are now through the end of the year, about 30 percent of that money is going to come out of your pocket and go to the gas pump.

Let's look at it this way. The average family got a tax cut of just shy of $1,100. Again, by paying more at the pump if prices stay right where they are today through the end of the year -- remember your $1,100 it shrinks a little bit right there as you go through the summer and into the fall.

Republicans are worried that will muddle their midterm message of tax cuts good. The economy is doing great. Keep us in power.

And listen to the President here. Republicans were already a little bit worried about the muddle part.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Your vote in 2018 is every bit as important as your vote in 2016 although I'm not sure I really believe that, but you know. I don't know who the hell wrote that line. I'm not sure. But it's still important, remember.


KING: It's a great -- you know, what would we do without him, I guess? Let's come back to that in a minute; Republican jitters about how the President communicates.

But this gas price thing, it's cyclical. There are a number of factors. Democrats are saying it's because the President walked away from the Iran nuclear deal. That's a small factor. It's the summer so you have a more expensive blend. There is OPEC production issues. We could go on for about an hour.

It happens to every president. The problem for Republicans is it is happening to this president in the country right now months away from an election where they want to say, hey we put more money in your pocket. Now there is a little less money in your pocket.

How big of a deal?

OLORUNNIPA: Yes. The President gets blamed when the gas prices go up. That's just sort of a standard of American politics. It could happen under President Obama.

KING: And you can back and read Donald Trump's tweets about that.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes, you can.

KUCINICH: And I believe President Trump at one point bragged about the gas prices being low because of something that he did. There's a speech for everything but -- I'm sorry, you were saying.

OLORUNNIPA: Right, right.

And so we are up 25 percent since he took office and it continues to go up and he'll continue to get blamed for that.

One other thing that is going to be key to this midterm election is health care. Health care costs we're going to learn about premiums in October right before the elections. And all the indications are those prices are also going up pretty significantly. And President Trump is going to get a lot of blame for that because of some of the actions he's taken to sort of take the hammer to Obamacare saying that Obamacare is dead and cutting the individual mandate.

If healthcare costs go up significantly that could further eat into the tax cuts that people were benefiting from this year by increasing their costs not only at the gas pump but also on their health (INAUDIBLE).

KING: And so it's an important point that we're going to learn a lot between now on a number of issues -- gas prices, healthcare, other policies between now and November. So conversations in May don't necessarily mean much when you get to votes in November.

But one of the conversations right now is Democrats having a great primary season by nominating these female candidates who are going to be trail blazers and knock down, breakthrough glass ceilings including an African-American woman who wants to be the next Governor of Georgia. Or are Democrats, as Karl Rove would argue, nominating people who are too liberal because of the energy on the progressive side to win.

States like Georgia's Stacey Adams says she's going to prove Karl Rove and others wrong.


STACEY ADAMS (D), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I think that we are a blue state. We're just a little confused. We haven't had candidates who have done the work of really lifting up every voice.

We are not going to win trying to put together the old guard coalition. We don't have to pivot to conservative values to win in Georgia. We just have to speak about our own values and how bold and detailed plans about how we're going to make it work.


KING: I have no idea if she is right but what a fascinating test of the current mood in American politics. An African-American progressive woman trying to make history -- she will be the first black woman governor in the country, period. Can she do it in Georgia?

KUCINICH: It depends on -- one of her big pushes is voter registration -- getting people who've never been registered to vote to vote. And you know, I think people are looking at what happened with Doug Jones -- African-Americans came out to vote. Women -- African- American women came out to vote.

[08:44:59] And instead of focusing on the suburban college-educated whites who went to Trump and went to Republicans and could potentially be Democrats again -- they are saying no, no, no, no, we are going to get other people to turn out. We're not going to be worried about you.

KING: And on the flipside of that is you see the progressive energy. The President talking more and more about immigration and the President talking here after the NFL changed its policy, a victory for Trump, players cannot kneel on the field or they will be fined during the national anthem. The President said this.


TRUMP: I think that's good. I don't think people should be staying in locker rooms. But still I think it's good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn't be playing. You shouldn't be there. Maybe you shouldn't be in the country. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. And the NFL owners did the right thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: It was a win for him. And yet then he says maybe you shouldn't be in the country. If you disagree with the President of the United States, if you want to exercise your First Amendment rights, perhaps our most cherished gift, maybe you shouldn't be in the country. It's a great window into how he thinks.

GEARAN: He sees it as base politics. But it is also a window into part of what he thinks. There is a Supreme Court case on this, right. You don't have to stand for the --


KUCINICH: This isn't about patriotism. We really should say that. This is about -- I mean the whole thing about kneeling was about human rights. It wasn't about -- it wasn't about patriotism. >

KING: We'll stay with this one as well.

Our reporters share from their notebooks next, including one senator scolding his colleagues for being afraid to take on a big lobby.


KING: Let's head one last time around the 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.

Anne Gearan.

GEARAN: So something that isn't getting a lot of attention in the United States in the last couple of weeks is that the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has been hospitalized three times. He remains hospitalized. He was supposed to be released today.

The last word this morning is that he is remaining in the hospital. He has a lung infection. He's 82. He's a heavy smoker. There is a lot of discussion in the Mideast about what happens if he dies or steps aside. There is no real succession plan and he has no vice president.

This matters because he is committed to negotiations with Israel. He's pledged to a two-state solution. If he is not in the picture, whoever succeeds him might not be committed to those same things and U.S. leverage for a peace deal declines.

KING: Yet another obstacle -- long list of obstacles.


MATTINGLY: So Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has taken to telling reporters don't buy any nonrefundable tickets for the month of August when Congress is supposed to be on recess. Now, the idea of threatening the August recess is something historically that always occurs but never actually comes to fruition.

Let me give you a spoiler alert this will happen this time around -- at least a couple of weeks, I'm told, will be cancelled. And the reasons why are a couple. There's a young group, new group of Republicans who have been urging this to occur -- they're going to get their way but not necessarily because of them but because of the President.

Right now as one Republican lawmaker told me last week, there is peace in our time between the Senate Republicans and the President. The President wants them to use at least a couple of weeks in August. Mitch McConnell's calculation is let's just keep him happy. Things are good right now.

But I would also note there could be a positive here. Right now in the U.S. Senate on the appropriations process, the spending bill process, there's some comity. There are some people that are actually talking and trying to make something happen. These extra couple of weeks could allow that to continue in a positive direction.

Why does that matter? Well, the President made it very clear with the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill, he's never going to sign one of those again. There is a very real threat right now of a shut down at the end of September.

Maybe those couple of weeks will help clear a pathway because you talk to any Republican, even those who aren't super-happy about staying in August and there are quite a few, the idea of a shut down at the end of September in the middle of a midterm is a pure nightmare.

KING: You do know you just put "could be positive" and "Congress" in the same sentence?

MATTINGLY: Yes, I know that. It doesn't work -- doesn't work.

KING: Toluse.

OLORUNNIPA: President Trump on Thursday is going to be going down to Dallas for a fundraiser. He's on this long and very lucrative fundraising swing, making a lot of money for the RNC. But this is actually leading to a little bit of controversy. "Bloomberg News" and "The Washington Post" have obtained some solicitations that have gone out to Chinese investors inviting them to come to this fundraiser, pay $150,000 to have a handshake and a photo with the President.

Now, the RNC says they know nothing about this obviously. It is illegal to raise money from foreign nationals as part of a political campaign. But this is something that's happening while the President is involved in these negotiations with China over trade. And the RNC says they know nothing about why solicitations are going out to Chinese investors to speak to the President during this very tense time when it comes to U.S./China relations.

So it's just another example of ethical concerns surrounding the President when it comes to making -- raising funds and politics and policy all being mixed together. We have seen a lot of that with this president.

KING: Draining the swamp -- not. Jackie.

KUCINICH: So in March, 2016 the Centers for Disease Control issued a series of guidelines when it comes to prescribing opioids and one of those is to limit it to three-day supplies. Now, lawmakers and advocates who are curbing opioid abuse, who have been trying to make this a law, have been running into a really surprising foe and that's the American Medical Association.

The lobby is so powerful and they've been so successful in keeping this from law Senator Joe Manchin said last week that lawmakers are actually afraid of how powerful they are.

Now the American Medical Association says that prescriptions should be between their doctors and their patients. All that said, this just highlights again how difficult and complicated it is to really solve this problem -- the opioid problem in America.

KING: If there is one thing maybe they could come together for in an election year -- dealing with that would be. Let's see -- hopeful.

I'll close with this. The fire directed at the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein is now bipartisan. After months of praising him for standing up to the President some Democrats are now complaining he is bowing to Oval Office pressure and irresponsibly, they say, sharing investigative details that are supposed to be kept secret.

[08:55:05] Now, we all know Rosenstein for a year has been a pinata for Trump allies and for the President himself. That because of his steadfast support of the special counsel Robert Mueller. It is a spot light the Justice Department veteran does not want and does not cherish.

A long time friend describes him as quote, "clearly under stress but remarkably calm". Still quoting, "Rod is rooted in two things," the friend says, "the process and the law". And he says he is ok. We'll see if that lasts through the summer.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Again, thanks for sharing your Sunday morning. Hope to see you back here week days, noon Eastern as well.

Up next, don't go anywhere -- Dana Bash sits down with the President's top lawyer, Rudy Giuliani on "STATE OF THE UNION".

Have a great Sunday.