Return to Transcripts main page

INSIDE POLITICS

Stone Pardons Reminder To Mueller Of Trumps Awesome Power; President Trump Wants Late Night TV Host Fired; Critics Hit Rep. Nunes Over His Allegiance To Trump. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 1, 2018 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:05] MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITTER, THE FEDERALIST: This is a problem, and I do think some of the pardons are used for trolling, Arpaio among them. There is this other category that Jack Johnson then which is a legitimate reversing of a real injustice of the Jim Crow-era. And I applaud him for that but he never -- I don't care why does the good one, as long as he does them.

The reasons are probably going to be weird like Sylvester Stallone bringing it to his attention. But I'm OK with that on the good ones. And I'm also OK with the idea that the President can use pardoning power. Like this is established of all the things that the President does do.

This is not going to be the one that it's going to upset me too much just because constitutionally it's like that, he has a lot of power here.

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: But this has been around for a long time but to your point, John, he does represent this kind of rising strain of modern conservatives that elevated Trump.

This operating the prime on, the visceral all these, you know, trolling and being a provocateur, I think the nationalist are represent that a lot. The conspiracy theories, he's fond of many of them. But of course, the critics will raise the question, if Trump can pardon Arpaio and D'souza without even the application letting go into the through the process, what about Manafort and Flynn? What about Michael or Rick Gates?

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Right. And as he talks about Rod Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois, he's still in prison and Martha Stewart, who's out of prison but was convicted of lying. People say, wait a minute, is he trying to send a message from Michael Flynn who was admitted lying? Is he trying to send a message about political corruption or people who get recorded surveillance? Is he trying to send a message about people sent to jail by James Comey's FBI or friends of James Comey?

He's our Roger Stone, the president's friend put it. "It has to be a signal to Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort. And even Robert S. Mueller. Indict people for crimes that don't pertain to Russian collusion. And this is what could happen. The special counsel has awesome powers, as you know, but the President has even more awesome powers."

So in the middle of the investigation, where are the President's allies, its saying, go ahead, Bob Mueller, the president can just overrule you?

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG: I mean, yes, kind of, although, Stone is playing an interesting role because he's on one hand, likes to give the impression that he's like talking to the President all the time --

KING: I think its social media directors before the grand jury today.

TALEV: Right, so Stone has got his own problems that I think is hopeful that if he says things to elevate the President, perhaps that could help protect him one day if he needed that protection. But where Katharine points out exactly what's right. The President clearly has pardon power, and the public's recourse if they don't like the way he uses that pardon power his elections.

And now, this is all up for everyone who see there's still two kind of channels that pardons were through. And one is through Justice Department. There's the process that takes several years, there is a section that handles pardons.

And then there's this other way, which is been used more frequently in the early year and a half or so of the administration, which is friend or ally goes to President and visitor phone call and says, hey, you should really pardon this guy. President says, interesting, I'll let my counsel's office know. President calls counsel's office, they study it and whatever.

KING: If you're waiting in that traditional line, I think, you've probably got the hint in recent days that you need to either --

TALEV: Get in the other line.

KING: Yes, I guess, still like for Arnold (ph) to put you on the Apprentice but, go ahead.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, I think, looking at the 30,000-foot-level is the more interesting element for me not to be an merger (ph) or what this means for the next administrations to come. Particularly, the last two administrations have been very careful about this. They understand, they're going through the Justice Department process, kind of alleviates some of the political the pressure.

They've turn down the opportunity to pardon people out of concern to the politics that were follow. The norms have shifted here. There is a different way of doing things now in this White House, and it's going to be fascinating to see how future White House is, whether or not they apply the Trump standard to pardons or whether they try to shift back the pendulum for what it have been --

HAM: And a lot of people deserve pardons and commutations, and they aren't dealt with because people are too scared. So this -- It may be that we end up in a different era, which would you not necessarily be a bad thing as we seeing by this national man and --

KING: Might discuss it on another day but an odd piece of advice, if you want to call that from the former Attorney General Eric Holder. Who is saying, if the President's pardons people upfront in the investigation, they lose their rights against self-incrimination, therefore they could be more powerful witnesses for Bob Mueller. As so, there you go. We'll continue to go.

President Trump furious with the TV host who insulted his daughter, he wants Samantha Bee to be kicked off the air and fired, that in the moment.

[12:34:10] But before we go to break, this just posted from the Twitter account of the 41st president, George H. W. Bush who remains in the hospital who may reading a book about the love story of him and first lady Barbara. We wish the President the best.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Just in to CNN, a new estimate. The number of civilians killed as the result of American military operations overseas. The Pentagon reporting to Congress today that in the first year of President Trump's term, nearly 500 civilians die from U.S. Air strike and ground operations targeting terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. During that time, the number of air strikes went up in all of those countries.

Now Puerto Rico, that potentially massive gap in the number of people reported killed there by Hurricane Maria last September. A Harvard University report, you might recall in recent days, estimating more than 4600 people on the island died because of the storm.

Puerto Rico's official fatality count, just 64. The Governor was on CNN this morning explaining that at that time, they were using the only accounting tools that they have.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICARDO ROSELLO, PUERTO RICO: We used a very limited protocol once this storm came about. It was a protocol designed by the CDC and that's why ever since last year, I've been saying, the numbers are going to be higher and that we needed to revisit and to study the scientifically to arrive not only of the numbers but also at how we can prevent another catastrophe like this happening in the future and another storm or earthquake hits.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[12:40:03] KING: Moving now to our political radar, President Trump. He doesn't want Samantha Bee's apology, he wants her fired. Tweeting this morning, why aren't they firing no talent Samantha Bee for the horrible language she used on her low rating show?

A total double standard, the President says but that's OK, we are winning and will be doing so for a long time to come. Samantha Bee, of course, insulted the President's daughter Ivanka calling her a vulgar name on her late night TV show this week. Conservative Radio host Mark Levin says this on Fox New over an hour before the President's tweet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK LEVIN, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: If somebody had said that about Chelsea Clinton, if somebody had said that about Chelsea Clinton, if somebody had said that about either of the Obama daughters, the nation in unison would be repulsed.

It's not even a question of comedy. It's just a matter of what you say about the President's daughter. Who the hell talks this way? Seriously, she should be fired, take her apology with her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Mark Levin there on Fox, when we come back, you know Devin Nunes is the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, a key ally of President Trump in the Russia meddling fight here in Washington. Some new numbers showing it's helping Devin Nunes raise money back home in California.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And a very courageous man, he's courageous. Congressman Devin Nunes, Thank you very much, Devin, for being here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[12:45:30] KING: President Trump likes Congressman Devin Nunes. They have been allies in the whole Russia meddling investigation. Well, Nunes is on a tough reelection battle. The first test Tuesday during the California primary. We'll be watching his district to see how the voting goes.

The President's report of Devin Nunes is helping Devin Nunes financially. Trump 2016 campaign donors who are now giving money to Devin Nunes in 2018, a CNN analyst to identified at least 39 donors formerly giving to Trump now giving to Devin Nunes. Of these donors, 33 have donated at least $2700, in the congressional race, you can give 2700 for the primary and then 2700 for the general election.

These Trump donors being loyal to Devin Nunes. If you want to look at it and add it up, it's a little more than $130,000 just this year. Now in context, Devin Nunes has raised nearly $5 million. So this is a relatively modest amount of his overall take but Trump loyalty means some financial help for Devin Nunes, and these money is coming from not just his home state of California but from all over the country here.

Again, Devin Nunes having more of a national fundraising profile especially with Trump donors because of his national role in the Russia meddling investigation. Helping a bit financially, without a doubt, from Republican donors? Well, listen here, former Democratic Congresswoman and a Democratic Candidate this year, they believe the Russia investigation, maybe it brings in the money, they think its better hurt at the ballot box.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELLEN TAUSCHER, (D), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE (D-CA): Spends most of his time playing Inspector Clouseau back in Washington. Lots of people are upset that he is, as I've said in the local paper, Trump's stooge.

ANDREW JANZ (D), CALIFORNIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: The issues back home have been forgotten, he's forgotten us here. He hasn't held the town hall since 2010, our real town hall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: This will be on our next big primary day California. Whole number house district should be watching that but this is why the most interesting questions. Where you have a one-time little known congressman, who had an identity mostly on farm and agriculture issues California issues, becomes Chairman of the Intelligence Committee and now is a national figure. Does that help or hurt back home in a competitive district?

KAPUR: It's certainly a question of how far anti-Trump sentiment will go in a place like California, certainly in blue state. But Devin Nunes' district leads Republicans by about eight percentage points. The issue for the people there is not Russia, its economics.

The median income is just about 56,000 about 20 percent of people in that district are below the poverty line compared to much less statewide. They're worried about that. They're worried about water. They're worried about wages. I don't think Russia really registers as a top concern, having said that. This could juice liberal turn up quite a bit there. So between that and the fundraising, we'll see how far they can go. Right now the district that hardly (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Could juice liberal turnout and Devin Nunes is trying to juice conservative turn out or at least conservative fund raising with this e-mail. These attacks proved top me that we must continue exposing these scandals and cover-ups of the Obama administration. I need friends like you on my team as the left goes all in to replace me this fall. They're targeting me because I dare to stand up for what's right and true, for the America I believe in. I'll say it, the Democrats have come unhinged in their absolute hatred of President Trump.

The Republican lawmakers, the Democrats would say, Devin Nunes, has become unhinged in his loyalty and support for President Trump and the voters in the district on Tuesday give us the first hint of whether he'll survive.

MATTINGLY: Yes, if you want to know where his fundraising targets are right now, you read that e-mail and you recognize that's a national fundraising type of e-mail. The national organizations used to pull money from Conservatives that likely aren't from the district. I think the key element here is that we're kind of laid up the district really well.

It's an Ag district, it's an Ag-central district and Devin Nunes has an Ag background and was formerly very involved on the Ag side of things. I think it's why he's always been so safe when he talk to people, Chamber of Commerce Leaders in the district. They feel very comfortable with him and that's why he's clearly favored right now. But, you made the interesting point, yes, he's juiced his own fundraising by becoming a national figure but the fundraising on the D side is huge as well.

They're raising major cash. They're one of the California seats that would probably likely in any other year, we considered a little bit out of the realm compared to some of the real take up opportunities there. They're raising money, they've got outside support and they've turn it in to a real race to some degree.

KING: And this is one of the tests of how is there a blue wave, and if so, how big is it? And then it's a Republican district but it's a gettable district.

HAM: Yes, I mean, I think good economy plus base boosting in an internal election, Nunes might be safe in a fairly Republican district, but he has to have that boon of the good economy, which is one reason that Trump shouldn't be messing with the trade.

That being said, if you lose touch with your district and people feel like you are showboating or you're only doing national issues, there is always a chance that, that can come back to bite you very unexpectedly. And this challenger is raising a ton of money.

KING: To that point, to that point, our Nick Watt is out the district and we played sound critical of the congressman. Here though, you do find it on a gentleman here said, no, he represents us.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Me, I'm a Devin Nunes fan.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Why? What do you like about Devin Nunes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like his values, and I like the way he's represented central California.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

[12:50:14] KING: So you have, it's a Republican district but it's a close enough district, and I just want to make sure we're fair to Devin Nunes. There are people out there saying he's doing just fine at even as he's become this lightning rod.

TALEV: But it just represents such a fundamental and fast shift in his brand. It's not just that he was a lower profile version of this guy always and kept getting reelected. He was at a completely different reputation just like, you know, before President Trump got elected. It's almost by a fluke that he even became affiliated with Trump's campaign.

Basically Trump needed a guy in Central California and that like take him around and Nunes got tapped and before he knew it, he was swept into this thing. But he was a guy who dealt with farming issues, he dealt with some military issues particularly if they like represented kind of this Portuguese background and ties in the area.

He's interested in tax issues and to go from that guy to this guy, it's a fundamentally different brand. So it's not just are Democrats going to be inspired to turn out and are people going to look at, you know, money coming from outside the district and say, what does that mean. It just that, it is all reputation to present it --

HAM: Or can you he maintain both brands in getting nationalize brief, can you go back home and be --

KING: Right, can the new Devin Nunes be at least enough of the old Devin Nunes to hold this district, that's we can hold, we kind of vote Tuesday night and its November.

Last night. The Cavs and the Warriors played 47 minutes of fantastic up and down basketball. Then in the last minute, chaos. I loved it, Phil didn't. That when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:55:44] KING: Basketball conversation, we'll have to wait for another day. We're waiting for some breaking news at the White House, Kim Yong-chol, former North Koreans Spy chief, now the right hand man to Kim Jong-un is in Washington. He's about to arrive at the White House. And we are told, he will have at least a brief meeting with the President of the United States in the Oval Office.

That is significant because Kim Yong-chol, we are told, is carrying a letter from the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. He had two-days of meetings in New York with the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. We're told he'll be at the White House any minute. He will be met by the Chief of Staff, John Kelly and the National Security Advisor, John Bolton. They're walk in into the Oval and through. Walk him over to the Oval through the Colonnade.

That tells you something, if you don't know the landscape, the real estate of the White House, that's the beauty shot. You've come through the Colonnade out in the garden -- walk by the rose garden in the Oval giving him stature. He's human rights violator, this is the man U.N. sanction. I don't say that to be critical. The President of United States wants this summit. They're willing to put that aside at least for now to get it. He has the letter, how important is that?

TALEV: There's a way to sneak someone in. This isn't the way that, that happened.

KING: Right. TALEV: And the letter is very important for two reasons. Number one, if there's anything that goes wrong in that letter that scuttles the summit, the stakes are very high. But more importantly, the letter will give us a hint of how many sort of concession or agreements North Korea might be willing to make up front.

And there are these questions about what guarantees does the U.S. get that there is enough seriousness behind this, that they should go forward with the meeting? Will they touch on verifications? Will they touch on inspections? Will they touch on, will the U.S. give anything in return on military pasture. The letter begins to set the table and watch more details than we see.

KING: As you watch this picture, this is the South Portico of the White House, you normally see the North Portico, you the marine outside the west wing. This is actually the front of the building. Most Americans, a lot of Americans don't realize that because that we show them the north side of the White House all the time because that's where we work. That's where the media is outside of the north lawn.

That's where most visitors do come in, up to the west wing. You'll see the President come out just last week or so go we came out to greet the Foreign Dignitary visiting there. So coming in the South Portico also sends a signal, they're coming in the main gate if you will, they're elevating him.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, the symbolism is real. I think it signifies two things, one obviously, the President's Willingness that I think desired to actually have this summit. And two, the reality that this is an important face to face whether or not, any of those questions are answered. I think it's an open question.

When you track back to what the Secretary of State said yesterday, saying, White House the most nowhere (ph) to think that North Koreans are contemplating the idea of going down a path of denuclearization.

They're not there yet. I think, did a lot of kind of discrepancy in terms of what the meeting is actually accomplished but since they had made progress but there was no finality and he wasn't even sure if the June 12 meeting was actually going to happen.

The most interesting element of the President getting involved one to one is the President wants the meeting and those types of things, those in the lead (ph) discussions may be cast aside if he feels like the face-to-face meeting goes well and he really wants June 12 to happen.

And I think that's going to be one of the more interesting elements to come out of this. If the President, regardless of what commitments he gets or what priorities are laid out, if he just decides, this feels right, let's go, that might dictate everything.

KING: Is it a risk and it is a huge risk, is it a risk worth taking? That is the calculation for the President of the United States right now and the Secretary of State, we assume we'll be, voice number one because he spent time with Kim Jong-un, now spent time with Kim Yong- chol.

But there's a different debate, as there should be, within the administration. John Bolton a little more hawkish and skeptical on this one, then Mike Pompeo formally very skeptical, now seems to be of the view in his new job of, I want to give diplomacy a chance. But, he's got the but too.

HAM: Yes, I mean, as always, I'm concerned whether there is a real strategy here and then addition, I'm concerned that we're giving legitimacy to folks that we shouldn't give legitimacy and honors to them that we shouldn't give. But this is 40 years of, you know, diplomatic intransigent, right, or is that we haven't gotten anywhere so we get some leeway there.

I also think, the fact that he walked away at one point and the fact that Pompeo is involved and give me a little bit more confidence that there is a strategy here. And the sort of maximum bellicosity (ph) plus maximum engagement, it certainly something new and it could change the gap (ph).

KING: Right, what we've talked in the past, we talked away this program about there some norms and rules the President breaks where he probably shouldn't. This is a norm and rules where I think, this is where you want to see if President have flexibility. If you really believe, you have this chance.

This is one of the top level U.S. officials telling us, they've not read the letter from Kim Jong-un yet, that gets to the President but they are aware generally of its contents.

[13:00:00] The person familiar with the letter saying the understanding among U.S. officials is the letters generally positive step in the right direction trying to get that meeting. Trying to get that meeting to pull about, we'll see that meeting about to take place at the White House.

Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS, Wolf starts right now.