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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump Lawyers: President Can't Obstruct Justice; Trump: "We Lose a Fortune" In Trade Deals; Trump Lowers Expectations for Historic Summit; Party of Lincoln Now the Party of Trump?. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired June 3, 2018 - 08:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[08:00:25] JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): A hand-delivered letter from Kim Jong-un. The Singapore summit is on.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's a getting- to-know-you meeting. And that could be a very positive thing.

KING: Plus, a blockbuster jobs report. But will a trade war turn that boom to bust?

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: We have to believe that at some point, common sense will prevail.

KING: In a big midterm year, this branding question.

JOHN BOEHNER (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: There is no Republican Party. There is a Trump party. The Republican Party is taking a nap somewhere.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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.

If Mueller tries to subpoena us, we're going to court -- more tough talk there from the president's top lawyer as we learn fascinating details of a legal memo in which Team Trump asserts -- get this -- the president cannot be charged they say with obstruction of justice and they say he's too busy and too important to be bothered by the special counsel's questions.

That memo also exposes a blatant White House lie about the president's role in helping his son deal with a Russian meddling mess.

Plus, the Singapore summit is on, in just nine days. President Trump cautions it's only a first step, but listen here he also sounds upbeat about North Korea's willingness to give up its nuclear program.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I think they want to do that. I know they want to do that. They want other things along the line. They want to develop as a country. That's going to happen, I have no doubt. I really think they want to do something and if it's possible so do we.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And from tough trade talk to an actual trade war. The White House slaps new tariffs on China, then on Canada, Mexico and U.S. allies in Europe, and it brushes off worries that retaliation will hurt American workers and hurt Republican election odds.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISER: The trading system is a fossil. It's a dinosaur. It needs to be reformed.

Donald Trump is shaking the tree like he always does, he means it. I mean, it's funny. I think about this and I say you know what, when he says these things, believe him, please believe him. He's deadly serious and he may go down in history as the best trade reformer in I don't know how many years, 50 or 100 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With us this Sunday to share their reporting and their insights, Catherine Lucey of "The Associated Press", Josh Dawsey of "The Washington Post", CNN's Manu Raju, and CNN's Shimon Prokupecz.

We begin with new insights into the president's standoff with the special counsel Robert Mueller, including legal arguments that test the limits of executive power and one that raises questions about the competence of the president's lawyers. The insights come from a page memo delivered to Mueller back in January is part of the fight over whether the president will voluntarily submit to questions in the Russia meddling investigation.

In that memo, the president's legal team asserts it is impossible for the president to obstruct justice because, quote, he could if he wished terminate the inquiry or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired, and that impressing for an interview, the special counsel, the memo says, quote, has endangered the safety and security of our country and has interfered with the president's ability to both govern domestically and conduct foreign affairs.

Elsewhere, the memo cites a 1982 law in making a legal point on the obstruction question. That law however was superseded by a new version passed by Congress, raises some questions about research skills. They're sprinkled throughout the memo or themes that mirror the president's public attacks on the investigation and it's key actors, in essence a memo a warning to Mueller that there will be bruising political and legal battles if he decides to test whether he can force the president to testify.

When you've read, Shimon, the 20 pages here, what jumped out at you the most in terms of -- obviously, it's an aggressive legal strategy. Obviously, it's a political message as well. What was most telling?

SHIMON PROKUPEZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: I certainly think their arguments that was the most telling to me in terms of their arguing that he's the chief law enforcement officer, so therefore, he has the right to pardon, he has the right to limit the inquiry, end the inquiry. All of that certainly made it seem like he has all this power and he could essentially do whatever he wants.

That really jumped out at me. Certainly, there are some new details in there. But most of it is really information and stuff that we've been hearing for the last several months from the legal team, certainly Rudy Giuliani has been out there talking about some of this, and it seems that their position hasn't really changed.

And the other thing that I think is important is that it's clear that Mueller is not buying any of this, because he's -- they're still negotiating a sit-down, they're still fighting over this sit-down and whether or not Mueller is going to force and in fact we know that in March, there was indications that mall even threatened to subpoena the president. So, this isn't going away.

KING: And to that point, this document was written four months ago. Rudy Giuliani telling ABC it is still the operative document when it comes to the approach the -- so with the new what new lawyers have come in, but it's the same document, same approach.

And in that documents, like they -- essentially some of it is legal, some of it as clearly we'll fight you on political grounds. The president's prime function as the chief executive ought not to be hampered by requests for the interview. Having him testified demeans the office of the president before the world.

OK, in theory, but if the president's conduct that is central to the investigation as Democrats are arguing is he -- is he asserting here that I'm above the law?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: It's really echoes the president's own arguments you've heard him what he said privately and oftentimes publicly, he's concerned about the way this investigation looks on him personally. He voices to foreign leaders, he voices to members of Congress, who've told me about the president's comments about this.

So, clearly, the legal team isn't a lot of ways of reflecting exactly what their client is saying and one reason why he wants this investigation to end because he believed that undercuts his credibility both globally and domestically.

JOSHUA DAWSEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: But is what we've seen time and time again is just kind of whipsaw argument in terms of president says I want to testify, I wish I could testify tomorrow. I want to do it for hours that terms Rudy Giuliani I said, yes, what sit down for an interview at times he said there's no way we want to do an interview. I mean, these lawyers have given so many different public positions on whether they want to be interviewed by the special counsel or not. You have the president last week tweeting, you know, I don't have time

for to worry about the Russia probe. You know, I have the -- all of these other things to go the next day seems like six tweets, like three days all about the Russia probe. But what's clear to me is that the president believes a sustained attack on the Russian investigation is working.

You see, he thinks the poll numbers are going up, he thinks he's undercutting the public trust on Mueller. He thinks it's working, and you seeing more and more of an attack and (INAUDIBLE) to work with him because he sees in this in his mind going that way.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: And as we see the president going into the midterms and campaigning more and going on the road more I think we're going to see more of what Josh is talking about, we're going to see more of this effort to undermine.

KING: Right.

LUCEY: And they haven't also -- we haven't resolved this issue of an interview. One of the last things we heard from Giuliani is they might not you know fully decide until after there's North Korea summit.

So, this still is going to extend to summer.

KING: You can tell part of this in the memo and in every interaction since, part of this is this test of Mueller, will you subpoena us? If we say, no, if we decide to say no, will you subpoena us? Remember in the Clinton-Lewinsky investigation, Ken Starr did subpoena the president, then he withdrew it, and the president then voluntarily agreed.

So, this is -- a lot of these issues have not been tested. Some of them -- there's a Nixon cases there's Clinton cases that have made the web other cases have not been tested so we'll see if we end up in court. It's interesting -- I mentioned the 1982 law.

They cited in this memo in 1982 law, but it's not operative anymore. That raises questions about who's doing the research on the legal team and did -- some why did somebody not catch this. They also exposed a blatant White House lie.

They say in the memo, this is about remember, the president was flying back from an international trip. Donald Trump Jr. was in trouble because that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, he asked that he was out -- reach out to him come meet with me we have dirt on Hillary Clinton. He gives the Russians this meeting.

The president dictated a short but accurate response to "The New York Times" article on behalf of his son Donald Trump Jr. The president is not required to answer to the Office of Special Counsel or anyone else for his private affairs with his children.

Number one, it's not a private affair with his child. This is central to the investigation, Donald Trump Jr. But number two, the White House and the president's lawyers on at least five occasions we have been able to find said flatly the president, you know, he was involved in some conversations, he might have had a bit peace in this, but that he did not -- he was not central to the statement.

His own lawyers tell the special counsel the president dictated. That's a lot -- so the White House lied.

PROKUPECZ: Right, the White House lied clearly and this is part of why I think Mueller is looking at this because we have continued to see lies when it came to -- as to the contacts with Russia. Here you have Don Jr. having a contact with a Russian lawyer who was there essentially to talk about adoptions, they thought they were going to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.

This goes to the really the heart of the Mueller investigations, these continued lies by people close to the president about contacts with Russians. People have been charged for lying to the FBI. And so naturally, Mueller would want to look at this and now the idea that the president was publicly lying but privately here we have an admission that, yes, I did help drop this statement.

That goes to the entire investigation.

KING: Right, we're talking about it the contents to the investigation. It also goes to the entire M.O. of the Trump White House where they say in the memo essentially, it's not a crime to lie to reporters, right, even if you're getting paid with taxpayer, even if you're standing at the White House podium, it's not a crime to lie to reporters.

DAWSEY: I think there's a lot of compunction there that they think it hurts them.

[08:10:02] I mean, you saw Rudy Giuliani go on TV and say, oh, the president did actually pay the money back to Stormy Daniels and for months, they had said otherwise. Here you have, they said over and over again, he did not dictate the statement. The letters, he dictated the statement and it just seems to just kind of keep moving that way.

I mean, one of the things that you hear from Trump allies repeatedly about the interview is they're afraid he will perjure himself. They say it on the record. Rudy Giuliani has said he's afraid it's a perjury trap. And I think that's what they fear him sitting now with Mueller is if the president will say things that are not true or he will say so many things that prove so many other things that were said before were not true.

KING: And again, they know from all the other witnesses what a meticulous -- what meticulous detail Mueller has about just about every one of these meetings, people come out of these conversations and special counsels team are stunned that he knows more about their meetings than they did.

DAWSEY: Yes. KING: This all happens in the context of a very interesting week where we've had back and forth number one Trey Gowdy publicly saying , I got that briefing from the FBI, the FBI did nothing wrong, the president should be proud of what the FBI did in having informants to look into the Russian question. That was one.

Then the president issues one part into a conservative pundit and raises the prospect of pardoning Martha Stewart and Rod Blagojevich. Martha Stewart everybody knows, Rod Blagojevich, if you don't, the former Democratic governor of Illinois convicted in essentially a pay- for-play political corruption scandal.

So, the president pardoning people who have admitted breaking the law, who lied to the government, who are caught up in corruption investigations, a lot of this happened in James Comey's FBI. You can connect the dots if you want, if you -- you know, is it fair to connect the dots.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: And as you do funny -- let me just say this, Roger Stone, a longtime friend of the president, he connects the dots. So, we don't have to.

It has to be a signal to Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort and even Robert S. Mueller III, 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.

Is the president or is it at least fair to ask, is the president sending a message to central figures in the Russian meddling investigation by dangling these pardons out there or is he just pardoning celebrities he likes and conservatives he likes to see on TV?

LUCEY: It's hard to see how it isn't something a message. I mean, the -- and you heard it there from Roger Stone, but both two figures in the Russia investigation. We also know there's a lot of concern about Michael Cohen, his personal attorney who is under investigation, what he knows, what he might say and the memo itself references the president's, you know, pardon power.

So, clearly, they are -- they are thinking about it.

KING: Do we have any sense of when this issue about the president's interview will be resolved? Not before the Kim Jong-un summit, they say, but is there -- I mean, the special counsels office doesn't talk much.

PROKUPECZ: No, they don't talk at all, and that's the problem here. So, you're getting everything from one side, right? All of the leaks, let's say, this letter, we -- it's not coming from Mueller's team. So, you're not getting anything -- we're not getting anything out of the Mueller team, unless they file something in court and then sometimes. We had thought maybe by the end of the summer that this issue would sort of come to some sort of resolution and whether the president winds up getting subpoenaed or whether he voluntarily goes in there, that's still ongoing. And you know, the fact that this has been going on for so long tells you the thought probably also on the Mueller side that, do they really want to go there? Do they really want to subpoena the president?

RAJU: And Giuliani's kept setting deadlines, they kept moving about when exactly that if an interview is going to take place, if at all. So --

KING: If you haven't read, it's a fascinating document. You can see it online. It lays out essentially the political and legal battle we're in.

Up next for us here, though, the Trump trade war begins. The White House says it is shaking up a broken system. The president's fellow Republicans say he's wrong, and that he might smother the booming economy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[08:17:49] TRUMP: I believe in the word reciprocal. You're going to charge five times. We're going to judge five times. That hasn't been done. No other president ever brought it up.

It's been a lousy deal for the United States from day one. We lose a lot of money with Canada and we lose a fortune with Mexico, and it's not going to happen like that anyway.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: President Trump there airing his grievances with NAFTA, and his broader complaint that the United States gets the short end of most international trade arrangements.

New protectionist tariffs are his answer. The president says it gets trading partners to give America more favorable terms. Those partners at the moment though say they are going to hit back and hit back hard on the U.S. economy.

So, as this trade plays out, what should you expect? Higher prices, if you buy a car, airplanes, appliances, construction, aluminum cans -- those prices likely to go up is we have the retaliation back and forth. This is a global effort now. It started with tariffs on China, but then the president expanded it to Canada, Mexico, the European Union.

If you look at how this plays out, those countries say they're going to retaliate. Motorcycles made in these key states. Whiskey, orange juice, cranberries -- look at the states, not all, but most of them, A, states the president carried, many of them states with big Senate contest this fall. Soybeans, sorghum, pork and beef -- again a global trade war has

retaliation now at some key areas here. The economy is booming right now. Republicans say why Mr. President you want to get to this fight. Republicans also a more optimistic about holding the Senate, but it's not guaranteed.

Listen to the Senate majority leader right here telling the president, please think again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Just look at it from a Kentucky point of view. You've got Toyota impacted. You've got farmers impacted.

I don't think anything good will come out of a trade war and I hope we pull back from the brink here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Majority leader there. Rachael Bade of "Politico" joins the conversation.

This is an economic argument. It's a global economic argument, but it -- from Mitch McConnell, he also thinks, wait a minute, 3.8 percent unemployment, we feel better about our prospects for the Senate. Why would you risk the economy? Why would you risk our mood? Why would you break so far from Republican orthodoxy?

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes.

[08:20:00] So, Republicans right now going into the midterm election, they're feeling pretty good. I mean, there was a headline in "The New York Times" this week: We ran out of words to describe how good the job numbers are. Republicans are looking at these reports. They're saying the economy and they're saying they could potentially keep their majorities this fall.

But -- and this is a big but -- they are petrified of President Trump's tariffs and they worry that, you know, they are clearly -- Republicans have always said, free markets, free trade that will drive down prices and there's a fear that this is just going to send prices skyrocketing for manufacturers and for Americans and that that's going to hurt them in the polls and the election.

KING: And the question is, will they do anything about it? Bob Corker, the outgoing but still the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, tweeting yesterday, I'm working with like-minded Republican senators on ways to push back on the president, using authorities in ways never intended and that are damaging our country and our allies, will Democrats join us?

Rare, rare that the Republicans did -- they grumble about the president all the time. Rarely, do they actually try to do anything with legislative powers. Does Corker have the leadership support? Will he do something here? RAJU: Yes, they may. I mean, there is -- it's talk right now. There's a lot of discussions that are happening behind the scenes among senators, Republicans, some Democrats alike, they still have to put together a legislative package, that's to get support from the leadership, as to get through both chambers and, of course, they have to get enough votes to override a presidential veto.

So, it's a -- you know, we're the very, very early stages here. But the real concern that McConnell is voicing is that if there is a legislative confrontation on the floor, this is very bad politically because you want to be consistent in your message in the midterm election, the party wants to speak with one voice. They don't want to be at war over a key economic issue in the middle election year and that's one reason -- one thing that could happen if this does go forward and the Republicans begin pushing something to override one of the president's key economic decisions.

So, this is -- that's one big fear for McConnell.

DAWSEY: This is a key issue he's broken with Republican orthodoxy. No tariff, imposing these sorts of restrictions are anathema to many Republicans. I mean, we see Mitch McConnell, you see Paul Ryan putting out a rare statement criticizing the president, you know?

And you have Democrats and labor unions who in some ways are aligned with the president here. I mean, it's something that took Schumer you know was pushed for a lot of these blue collar, you know, states with steel mills have one of these. And it's an issue where the president is kind of out on his own and away from his party.

And I think there was a few early on in the presidency, right, that he would be doing that on many issues. He would continue to be a Democrat on on issues, you know, good New York Democrat he hasn't. But this has been one issue where he stuck tried-and-true to position that's not the Republican Party's position.

KING: Right, and he waited a bit. He was swayed by his advisors for months not to do this. Now, he seems fully into it.

He believes he likes disrupting things, number one, that's his trademark. And number two, he thinks he's president because of this, because of Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania.

DAWSEY: Just on immigration.

KING: And it has left him alone in the world.

To your point, to the domestic politics, just look at these headlines, as you said, we ran out of words to describe how good the jobs numbers. That was in "The New York Times" this week.

On the CNN Website, unemployment rate matches lowest point in half a century. Bloomberg: unemployment about as low as it gets. So, if you're Republicans, you're thinking when this is nice.

We like those. Let's stay there. Let's not have a trade war that hurts us in key states. Internationally, this has left the president alone and this is the people are now saying America first means America alone.

There was a G7 -- there's a big G7 meeting coming up. The finance ministers were meeting in Canada this weekend. The French finance minister says it's been a tense and tough G7. I would say there's been far more a G6 plus one than a G7, meaning G6 and the United States.

Listen to Justin Trudeau here, the Canadian prime minister. He says we're your friend Mr. President. We'd like to work this out. We don't understand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUDEAU: These tariffs are an affront to the long-standing security partnership between Canada and the United States and in particular an affront to the thousands of Canadians who have fought and died alongside their American brothers-in-arms. We have to believe that at some point, common sense will prevail.

But we see no sign of that in this action today by the U.S. administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We see no common sense from perhaps the United States' closest, most friendly ally in the world. It's pretty stunning that the level of the discourse here.

LUCEY: Not only is the president heading to the G7 later this week before Singapore, it's in Canada. So, not really sure who's going to want to sit next to him at some of these meetings given the tone coming at it.

KING: But he kind of likes that. This is -- this is this is his own party, most economists leaders, around the world, all telling Donald Trump, he's wrong. He tends to like that, right?

LUCEY: He's not necessarily going to have a problem with that, although -- I mean, some critics are saying, is this the right time to do this? You are, you know, looking ahead to this North Korea summit, you're trying to get something there. You're trying to do it thinks the Middle East. Do you really want to alienate allies at this time?

But the president really feels -- I mean, to Josh's point earlier, but this comes down to promises he made, promises he made to his base and he is going to keep them.

KING: He also promised to renegotiate all these deals. We're 16 months in, 15 plus months in, and he hasn't renegotiated any of them.

[20:25:06] RAJU: Yes.

DAWSEY: One of the things we hear repeatedly from people around the president and this White House is that he makes these bold moves like, you know, trying to pull out of NAFTA: Obviously, he didn't do it, but trying to pull out of NAFTA. You know moving the Jerusalem -- moving the embassy to Jerusalem, pulling out of Paris support. People turning, the sky is going to fall, the sky is going to fall, and then he doesn't think that there are these reverberations like people promised.

He says, I did what I wanted on this and actually it turned out OK and you were wrong. So, every time I talk to folks when he's making one of these big decisions and you say, aren't people warning him but their consequences to this, that this could turn out badly, he doesn't see it that way.

LUCEY: He also rarely thinks I think that this is an end point. So, he thinks, well, we try this. If it doesn't work, we'll do something else. I mean, there's the negotiating mindset to it.

KING: That uncertainty is what has, if you talk to people -- U.S. companies that have global operations or global supply changed it's the uncertainty for six months from now, which I have to do to keep my company afloat with all this uncertainty? But we'll see as it plays out.

Up next for us here, you mentioned Singapore, face to face and just nine days, the United States and Korea are holding a summit. Just what should we expect?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:30:22] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Will it be history in the making? North Korea's dictator will get an unprecedented face-to-face meeting with the President of the United States in just nine days from now in Singapore. A Kim Jong-un letter hand-delivered to the Oval Office, you see it there. That sealed the deal.

Kim Yong Chol told the President North Korea is prepared to discuss giving up its nuclear program in exchange for security and economic commitment. Now do not confuse discuss with dismantle. Some veteran career watchers worry the President is already making concessions without getting meaningful commitments. And even the President warning against any grand summit expectations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It will be a beginning. I don't say and I've never said it happens in one meeting. I think you're going to have a very positive result in the end, not from one meeting.

Again, it's a process. We're not going to sign -- we're not going to go in and sign something on June 12. The process will begin on June 12 in Singapore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The President doesn't say much there and yet he says so much there. And here is a person we know is hyper-confident in his own ability to negotiate and to change people's minds trying to say everybody calm down.

This is going to be a first getting to know you plus is how he described it. We're going to try to make progress. We're going to try to get on a track to negotiate disarmament. But don't get your hopes up.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: This is a much different story than the White House has been telling for the last several weeks. Remember going in, the White House was saying very clearly they expected some significant commitments on the front end before any summit would take place.

Trump at one point tweeted that they had already agreed to denuclearize, which of course is not true. And now Trump is saying that this is a get-to-know-you meeting beyond having those commitments on the front end.

That is probably what is going to happen. It is hard to see any commitments happening before -- certainly before June 12. But clearly they are starting to recognize perhaps at the White House that this is going to be a long, long time coming.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: It is hard to argue that just getting on a more predictable, more sustainable, more open communication path -- that's not a bad thing. I understand that is not denuclearization. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Here is the interesting part going in though. This is Victor Cha (ph), an expert on the subject, speaking here to "The New York Times". "For him to say we are not increasing pressure is already a huge concession before they've met. And then to say it is a process also implies that he is not demanding and immediate verifiable commitment to denuclearization, and that is also a concession."

Has the White House lowered its bar heading in?

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: They certainly are trying to manage expectations and I think folks like Victor Cha would also say that just doing a meeting is something that Kim Jong-Un really wants. But something that we heard a lot from people inside the White House into the run up to this "will they, won't they" moment was anxiety about how high expectations have gotten and how hard it would be for the President to get something that looks like a win.

All the Nobel Peace Prize talk; all of this talk about denuclearization -- they are trying now to ratchet it back.

JOSH DAWSEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": And I think with some success, right. I mean the President has -- you know, he wrote that letter canceling the summit. You remember the hand written letter that he dictated to -- not hand-written but he dictated to the president of North Korea and then later that day he said it may happen again. The President, you know, in the beginning was very excited for the summit. He told his aides repeatedly, you know, we really want to do this and want to do it soon. I want to do what Obama and Bush could not do. I'm not going to listen to the naysayers.

And I think to some -- successfully in the White House, they have ratcheted down for him his rhetoric on North Korea. These folks are going to be great. I'm telling him these folks are always going to try to trick you. They want to nickel and dime you.

John Bolton is (INAUDIBLE). Internally you have a president who's really brilliant and wants to do this. And then you have a number of his aides around him saying you need to dial this back. You could get yourself out on a limb and it may not work out well for you.

KING: And listen here. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell getting into the program. He is in Kentucky giving a speech where he is essentially doing just what you just did. He is nervous. He's worried that the President so wants the meeting, he's going to give us so much.

But listen to the language.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: You fall in love with the deal and it is too important for you to get it and the details become less significant, you could get snookered. And I think the President is fully aware of that as he goes into it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's the last line -- I think the President is fully aware of that. But first, you lay it out there -- please, please, please don't get snookered.

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes. Lots of the same talk this week on Capitol Hill. A lot of them when this first came up in March and they started talking about, you know, the summit between the President and the leader of North Korea I remember Marco Rubio who is a defense hawk, tweeting something along the lines of, you know, it would be harmful to actually sit down with North Korea unless you have ironed out beforehand a promise from them to denuclearize.

[08:34:59] I mean clearly the President is lowering expectations. They are not expecting that out of this June meeting. And so it will be interesting to see if talks on the hill, you know, are vocal about trying to -- I have heard none of them saying we should stop this meeting right now. They are letting the President, you know, try but they're warning him --

RAJU: In fact, a lot of them were happy when this was cancelled last week.

BADE: Yes. Relieved. They wanted to have -- RAJU: They were relieved. And now --

KING: Another thing to watch, we don't have time for it today but there was tougher rhetoric from the Pentagon at China about the South China Sea in recent days. It doesn't seem connected to North Korea except it's completely connected to North Korea because if there was any agreement even just for more talks, the President's going to need China to have his back. Keep an eye on that as well as this one plays out.

Up next for us here, what has become of the party of Lincoln? Even the former speaker of the House wonders out loud.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BOEHNER, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There is no Republican Party. There is a Trump party. The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[08:35:54] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They're more interested in taking care of criminals than they are in taking care of you. The Democrats want to use it as a campaign issue. And I keep saying I hope they do.

If you want your country to be safe then you must go out and get the Democrats the hell out of office because there is no common sense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Some trademark tough talk from the President there. That was on immigration in Tennessee just the other day. And as the 2018 primary season takes shape, including a big Tuesday this week, a lot of Republicans are following what you might call the President's gin- up-the-base the play book.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN KEMP (R), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I have a big truck just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take them home myself. Yes, I just said that.

JONATHAN LAMB (R), INDIANA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: This is our country. This is our country when we don't secure our borders.

TROY BALDERSON (R), OHIO CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I'll end sanctuary cities to stop illegals from taking our jobs. Fight alongside Trump to implement his agenda and use conservative threat to build the darn wall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Proof there in those ads this is very much President Trump's Republican Party.

But here is a little proof that there is a competing view of what the GOP should stand for on immigration and on other issues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are dreamers. They were brought to this country as children. They were our classmates and neighbors. Now they serve our communities as teachers and soldiers. They are Americans in every way except on paper. Will Hurd is fighting to protect the dreamers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It is fascinating to watch this play out. Again, you heard Speaker John Boehner earlier in the program. There is no Republican Party anymore. It's a Trump party.

Most candidates in the primaries echo the President on immigration, number one. Number two, it's interesting that immigration is playing such a prominent role when Republicans a couple of months ago were saying we're going to run up taxes in the economy. It's much more immigration.

But there is this competing view especially in places where, you know, some endangered House Republicans like Will Hurd -- that's a Chamber of Commerce ad to help him -- are thinking I can't be that tough or I might lose my seat.

RAJU: No question. I mean this has always been a very divisive issue within the Republican Party, one of the biggest reasons why we have not been able to pass a major immigration bill in Congress because of divisions internally.

The President, of course, staked his hard line on immigration and as a candidate believes that it's one of the big reasons why he was elected president. The real question is that there are some concerns about from Republicans that in states with heavily Latino districts as well as vulnerable Republicans in the states like Arizona and Nevada where Senate seats could flip that if you take this very hard line on immigration it's going to drive up Latino turn up to help Democrats in those states.

So this is an issue that cuts both ways for Republicans.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: And I think we have to remember we are still in the middle of the primary season. And so Donald Trump is your living, breathing example go as far right on immigration, talk about the wall, talk about tough and you'll succeed in the primaries. The question is -- if you go back to some of those races -- if those we showed in the first ads, the tough ads win primaries, see if that changes at all. See if their message changes at all as you head toward the general election. To the broader question John Boehner saying there is no Republican Party anymore. We just talked about trade earlier in the program. Donald Trump is not a mainstream Republican on trade. He thinks he is right. He thinks he should pull the party that way.

Listen to Marco Rubio, senator of Florida here -- one of those Republicans who lost in the primaries to Donald Trump trying to strike the balance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I would challenge the idea that it is the Trump era. I think the era made Trump.

The bottom line is that he got elected, the voters chose him to be our nominee and chose him to be our president. My job is to serve in the senate and to work with him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I would challenge the idea it's the Trump era. You can't challenge that idea, can you? I'm sorry -- I get Marco Rubio's position. You don't want to say we are just puppets now in Donald Trump's party. But it is the Trump era. Now, Marco Rubio stands up to him. He stood up to him on North Korea. He stood to him on some other issues. But it is the Trump era.

LUCEY: This is wishful thinking on Marco Rubio's part, no doubt about it. This is President Trump's party now and John Boehner is completely right not only on tariffs, immigration.

Think about one of the central pillars of the Republican platform for years was the national debt which now tops $20 trillion. The deficit is going to reach highest levels that it has been in almost a decade because of their tax overhaul and their spending. And the President wants to spend more on infrastructure.

[08:44:57] At the same time you look at just the rhetoric in the Republican Party which used to be sort of focused on compassionate conservatism like Paul Ryan likes to talk about all the time, who is now retiring, by the way because the party has changed so much.

And now we have very divisive politics, a lot of name calling. He has no doubt changed this party and made it his own.

KING: And here's -- here's more proof of it. Steve Bannon, the exiled former chief White House strategist who's still in touch with the President from time to time. Listen to him talking to Fareed Zakaria about how he views the stakes in the midterms of 2018.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Trump's second presidential race will be on November 6 of this year. He's on the ballot and we're going to have an up or down vote. Do you back Trump's program, ok? The dollar's good and all is bad, do you back Trump's program or do you back removing him? Because that is what Pelosi and Tom Star (ph) and these guys want.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Again, motivate the base message.

LUCEY: Yes, this is what we're hearing from other folks on the President; they see this as a fight for his presidency going into the midterms.

DAWSEY: They want it to be a referendum on him. They want that in the White House. A lot of his advisers say let's make it about us.

KING: On that the Democrats agree.

Our reporters share from their note books next including a new spending scandal for Scott Pruitt. You won't believe how much of your money was spent on pens.

[08:46:10] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Rachael Bade.

BADE: So in the House this week, all eyes are on Thursday, June 7 when the moderate Republicans have basically created a self-imposed deadline to get 218 signatures to push a bipartisan DACA bill that would shield Dreamers from deportation. Obviously this is something we have been talking about a lot in the news.

Leadership in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan -- they are trying to stop this by trying to get some sort of agreement between the moderate Republicans and the conservative Republicans that will stop this bill from going through because they know it will look terrible if a bipartisan bill supported mostly by Democrats passes the GOP- controlled house.

But conservatives are unwilling to give moderate Republicans what they want which is a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. And without that the moderates say we're going to work with Democrats and go around you guys. So it's looking like it's going to happen that way.

KING: Election year Republican family feud -- Fun.

Manu.

RAJU: John -- a huge test for the Democratic effort to retake the House comes Tuesday in California in those primaries. It's part of the Democratic effort that's looking at 23 seats nationally including those Clinton districts, ones that Hillary Clinton won, Republican- held seats.

There are seven of those seats in California with two causing a lot of concern for Democrats heading into Tuesday because of the unusual rules in California that allow for the top two vote-getters to get on to general election ballot. There are two seats in particular, one being vacated by Congressman Ed Royce who is retiring as well as Dana Rohrabacher, the Republican who is still running.

The concern is that the Republicans will get on to the general election ballot and the Democrat will not. So there's a lot of money that has been spent in the last week by Democrats nationally to try to prevent what would be a significant concern losing potentially two seats on Tuesday if only Republicans get on that ballot.

So Republicans -- if Republicans are successful Tuesday they will be buoyed in their effort to keep the House. Democrats will say it is not a total disaster. There are other ways we can recapture the House by other seats nationally. But no doubt about it, big test Tuesday if they can take back the House.

KING: Up late Tuesday night counting votes.

Josh.

DAWSEY: Everybody's fixated on the Scott Pruitt travails -- Scott Pruitt is under investigation by the House. His aides are being interviewed. OMB is looking at some of his misdeeds. There's also some new revelations he is taking front row tickets from a lobbyist at a basketball game, spending thousands of dollars on fountain pens.

We've had months and months of stories about Scott Pruitt. And some of these investigations seem to be coming to a head a bit more.

So far the President has stood resolute by his embattled EPA secretary and he said, you know, basically what he is doing policy-wise and deregulations and rolling back some of the Obama-era agenda is worth all of the ethical missteps that he has made.

So I don't know how long that can last. And I think everyone in Washington should be paying close attention to Pruitt's continuity.

KING: Worth keeping an eye on. And also proof that John Kelly has lost his clout. He said weeks ago that Pruitt should go.

Catherine.

LUCEY: Yes, John. So we are looking to the summit between President Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un this week. And we know U.S. teams have been working on policy and logistics for the summit.

But one thing that we haven't heard a lot about is human rights. North Korea obviously one of the world's most repressive governments accused of torture, of forced labor. But President Trump said this week when he met with a top official that human rights didn't come up. He said it could be part of a summit.

Now, we know that his top priority obviously is a nuclear deal. And he is not the first U.S. president to focus on that. But we have heard from lawmakers, from human rights activists who are really pushing this is not be completely discarded as part of these talks.

KING: We'll see if that comes up. I suspect not, there are not many details. We shall see.

I will close with this. We still don't know if the ailing John McCain will ever return to the United States Senate. But we do now know that his seat in any event will not be on the ballot this year. Once the calendar turned to June the prospect of a special election this year disappeared because of Arizona law.

There was another wave of speculation early in the week because the state's Republican governor met with McCain just before the deadline. Some accounts of that meeting mentioned Cindy McCain as a potential replacement for her husband.

[08:54:59] The pushback was swift. The governor called any discussion of a replacement premature and tasteless. And CNN is told that Cindy McCain told associates the mention of her name made her cringe. She felt it was a cheap shot. And she wanted to make clear to her associates that she has no interest she says in the seat.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS.

Again, thanks for sharing your Sunday morning. Hope you can catch us weekdays as well. We're here at noon Eastern.

Up next, don't go anywhere. On CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" Dana Bash speaks with the House Majority Leader Representative Kevin McCarthy. Have a great Sunday.

[08:55:30] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)