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North Korea State Media Shows Trump Saluting North Korean General; Tensions Ratchet Up Over Fissures In The GOP; DOJ Finds Comey Violated FBI Norms, But Not Politically Motivated. Aired 12:30-1pm ET

Aired June 14, 2018 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:03] REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: -- and I find it unfortunate. It's showing on North Korean state TV for a reason, because it absolutely shows the narrative of the summit that Kim Jong-un wanted out there, that they are now elevated to co-equal status with the United States on the world stage. And I find it unfortunate that the President allowed himself to be a participant in that.

I think he'll tell you, hey look, I'm trying to came to the table, that means I got saluted a North Korean general to get denuclearization, that's OK. And I think, John, that if in the results of the summit, we got more out of it, you know, and not just the concessions we made then I think I'd be a little bit more receptive with that argument than I am.

JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS HOST: If we got more out of it. We'll see how that one plays outgoing forward. Admiral Kirby, appreciate your insights there.

Back in the studio, Perry Bacon with FiveThirtyEight joins our panel. And so, the White House will say, look, the President is trying to keep the mood going, to keep the optimism going. It's an impromptu moment, and that was his reaction. Everybody lighten up. That's what the White House will say.

And people I think will fairly say, well then why did Republicans including the President of the United States now, when he was a businessman, pillory President Obama, when President Obama bowed to the Japanese emperor, bowed to the Saudi king at one moment I believe, right?

PERRY BACON, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: No, that doesn't the politics. But, yes, if this happening with Obama would be on Fox News every hour until the end of time. I mean, that said, the king issue here is where are we going in policy? Are we getting North Korea denuclearized? And the answer is, we still don't know, you know. We're four days in of this. It was a lot of spin from Pompeo and the President, a lot of criticism from other people.

But I still think ultimately, the policy is what matters here. And if he gets to -- if the bowing led to the end of the nuclear program, I would be OK with it, and I think most Americans would too, but I doubt that's what the case. It was like right now, we just don't know what the results are right now. KING: And it's a great point because -- I just want to show you the time cover here, the riskiest show on earth, Trump's impulse diplomacy. They are raising questions here. Questions, you know, was he too kind to Kim Jong-un? We'll get to more of what he said about Kim Jong-un in a moment.

If you watch the entire to 40-minutes of that, what we showed the general, part of a 40-minute state TV broadcast in North Korea where they do at least four times use the word denuclearization, which is a good thing. A good thing in the sense at least they're playing on the table. But they do it in North Korea's terms. They don't say North Korea will denuclearize North Korea. They talk about the entire peninsula.

They also say that the President put sanctions relief on the table and the denuclearization would be step by step and simultaneous action in the process, which seems to suggest denuclearization will happen over time in accordance with some sanctions relief. So their perspective seems a little different than the Secretary of States.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS; WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. I mean, I think that was the risk going into this meeting and I think that's probably a part of the reason that people are seizing on this video so much. So this is kind of like the worst case scenario that people were worried about that they would go into this room, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un together and come out with very different versions of what was agreed to, what was discussed, what was on the table. And of course, the North Koreans are going to play at the way that is advantageous to them and are very happy for the world to see the United States President saluting one of their generals.

It's also in a context to the fact that Donald Trump spent the day leading up to this summit, really thumbing his nose at in a very personal way, allies of the United States like Canada and, you know, European allies. And so the contrast, the juxtaposition of those two things is quite shocking for some people to see.

It also, though, underscores the fact that, you know, in going into this meeting person to person before any of the groundwork was being laid for a deal, this President is not used to be these kinds of confrontations. And this is the sort of thing that can happen when you're in a room alone with a leader of a country that's an adversary and his military leaders, they're going to want these kinds of encounters and you have to guard against that. Clearly this President was not prepared for that.

KING: And remember, gave the Russian foreign minister and then Russian Ambassador Kislyak before you left Washington a photo op in the Oval Office. American media was not allowed into that. The Russians use that as a propaganda tool early on. You're about to make a point.

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Oh yes. And I just want to go back to -- you're pointing out how North Korean media had said that the President basically agreed like a step-by-step process where they would do sanctions relief as denuclearization was happening.

But Pompeo has actually pushed back on that. We heard just a few hours ago him saying "no, no, no, no, no" in accordance with how Republicans and Democrats feel in this country. We got to have denuclearization completely and then we'll do sanctions relief after that. So I do think you seeing a little pushback on that from the White House.

KING: And the President also raising some eyebrows by essentially dismissing the human rights record of Kim Jong-un. Instead of saying something strong about it, he said, well, though things happen, his dad did it. That is also part of the conversation but we'll continue that conversations. We watch the negotiations.

When we come back, some numbers did show you. Here Republicans saying right now that the cult of Donald Trump is the Republican Party. It's actually more complicated than that. The new Trump Republicans and the old Republicans disagree. That's a pretty big issue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:39:11] KING: Welcome back. If you've been following politics in recent days, you know there are number of Republicans, it's a small number but a vocal group of Republicans that say the party has become the cult of Trump, abandoning its old principles on taxes and spending and other issues. Well, I'm going to walk through some numbers. Now, it's a bit more complicated than that.

One, when they say Republicans are afraid of the President, well, there's reason for Republicans to be afraid of the President. Look at this chart, this is at the 500-day mark, presidents all the way back to Harry Truman, how they would stood within their own party. 70 percent of Democrats, for example, at 500 days, 77 percent still supported LBJ. JFK was in 85 percent at 500 days.

Look at Donald Trump. Only George W. Bush had greater support within his own party at the 500-day mark. George W. Bush, that was in the days and months after 9/11. 87 percent of Republicans approve of President Trump. That's why other Republicans are afraid to cross him. Republican voters like this President and support this President.

As to the cult issue, that's more complicated. Think more of a shotgun wedding or a family feud. I want to go through some issues here. This is all Republicans.

[12:40:10] This is NBC-Wall Street Journal data. Republicans who say they are Republicans because they support President Trump and Republicans who say they are Republicans because they are traditional. Pre-Trump Republicans if you will.

Should we continue the DACA program? Only 15 percent of the President's supporters in the Republican Party think we should, nearly a third of those who are traditional Republicans. Look at this, end DACA. Half of Republicans were in the party because of President Trump say end DACA. Only 26 percent of traditional Republicans say that. That's why you have a big divide on immigration.

Now, climate change. Only 5 percent of Trump Republicans, if you consider them that, say there should be immediate action. This is a big problem. 11 percent of more traditional Republicans view that. That's a difference there. We come to the other end of this. The concern is unwarranted.

Almost half of Republicans who are Republicans because of Donald Trump say this is a hoax, 41 percent say it's a hoax. There's a concern about climate changes unwarranted. Only 12 percent of traditional Republicans think that. There is a big divide between the new Republicans brought in by Donald Trump and the family of Republicans that was there before Donald Trump.

Look at this on some action. These impacts directly what Republicans think about their own leaders. Among Republicans who are Republicans because of Donald Trump, 21-point net negative view of the Senate Majority Leader. Traditional Republicans like Mitch McConnell. They have a more positive view. Not Trump Republicans. They don't like him and they don't trust him.

Look at Speaker Paul Ryan, a better grade from Trump Republicans but an off the chart grade among traditional Republicans. So this isn't just a cult, there's a big disagreement between the new Republicans brought in by the President and the traditional Republicans who were there before him. So when he hears cult, listen to Rush Limbaugh here. He says talk of a cult is lazy and wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW HOST: The idea that there's some kind of a cult is simply a lazy way of dismissing it, a lazy way of not having to explain why your side keeps losing, because you don't want to get down to the substance that might explain that. And that would be painful. So you blame it on a cult. And you claim you don't understand it.

Yes, so create the picture that a bunch of Trumpsters are waiting for the next Hale-Bopp comet to come along and hope they get on board. But you're going to miss everything going on, if that's the case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Russia is right. It's a lot more complicated in just saying it's a cult. This President has brought new people into the party who have fundamental disagreement with NATO sitting at the Thanksgiving table with Republicans saying, we don't get along.

BACON: I would say, John, you focused on policy. I think there is a policy point where there's tariffs, where there is one party to another party. I would say on views on special counsels, views on infidelity with, you know, in leaders. I think there is a shift in the Republican Party that does appear to have started because of Donald Trump and has -- I would argue some cult-like elements. And if you used any presidents philandering is terrible but now you think that's OK, then that's have suggest your flip offing a bit and maybe following Trump.

I think if you look at norms around Mueller, I don't think George Bush would have separate children from their parents, the border this way for example. I think that this kind of policy I'm not sure would have been agreed to in a previous administration in the Republican Party. You know, the immigration, Trump (inaudible) in the electorate, on the policy that Trump is winning. And Paul Ryan is move for them.

KING: And when you look at the fear factor, it's interesting -- you're right about that. And if you look at the fear factor, people around the President or people who are fearful of the president, look at that 87, the 87 percent approval rating within the Republican Party, which is again, a record except for George W. Bush right after 9/11.

Listen to this in the last 24 hours. Ronna McDaniel, who's the Chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, "Complacency is our enemy. Anyone that does not embrace at, you know, Donald Trump agenda of making America great again will be making a mistake." You can read that as a threat to other Republicans.

Brian Walsh who runs the Trump super PAC to the New York Times. "There's room for negotiation, but obstruction will end careers", said Brian Walsh. And this is John Cornyn, the number two in the Senate who has to deal with this every day. "I think people who lock horns with the President need to understand what the limits are in terms of their ability to win elections."

BADE: Yes, most Republicans I would say will tell you, you got to be with Trump if you want to survive politically. We saw that again with (INAUDIBLE) primary lost just a couple of days ago. He was an adamant Trump critic and he is out and he is forever. He has his own sex scandal and he couldn't survive it.

But look, we saw this come to ahead yesterday. My colleague (inaudible) who covers the Senate basically saw Corker and Lindsey Graham go at it over tariffs where Corker was saying, oh, you Republicans are afraid to poke the bear in the White House. Lindsey Graham said, you're leaving the Republican Party and you don't matter anymore. He later apologized to him. But that just shows you how much of a divide there is right now, and right now the Trumpers are winning.

KING: The Trumpers are winning without a doubt, right?

MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes. And the Stanford election last night was a good sign for Trump and sort of solidified what you're talking here about here in the Republican Party and was a little bit of good news for Trump on this birthday, ahead of his birthday, which is proving to be an otherwise tough day for him with the IG report and the Trump Foundation lawsuit that we talked about earlier.

[12:45:19] But I would also just to bring it back to a conversation we had before. I would point out this divide within the party also shows how remarkable of a character Jeff Sessions has become. He's shown time again despite all the pressure from the -- direct public pressure from Trump himself, that his loyalty is with the Justice Department and the AG's Office. And his ability to hold that stance even today in the interview about feud in China is pretty remarkable.

KING: He's not joining the cult, is that the point you're trying to make there?

BENDER: I think so.

KING: If you look, it's a hearing now and a long-term trajectory issue. If you look at like the DACA numbers and you think about the Latino vote and all those support for protecting the DREAMers in the suburbs, white moderates in the suburbs. If you look at the climate change numbers, that issued place highest with younger voters which is Donald Trump's weakest point.

That's what Republicans worry about is that he might be winning the here and now, but that he's leading them demographically over a cliff. That three years from now, five years from now, 10 years from now, the Republican Party is going to be in a tough position. We'll continue to track those numbers.

But, first, a quick break here. Up next, a feel-good moment set for tonight. Congressman Steve Scalise takes the field one year after a near tragedy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:50:34] KING: Topping our political radar today, the love of the game and overcoming fear and adversity. That man in yellow right there, Congressman Steve Scalise, will take the field tonight in the annual charity baseball game between Republican and Democratic members of Congress. If you'll remember, Scalise was shot and nearly killed by a gunman exactly one year ago as he and teammates were practicing for the annual game.

Scalise will start at second base and he's the lead off batter for the Republicans and we wish him well.

The US Supreme Court today striking down a law in Minnesota that made it illegal to wear political t-shirts and buttons out of the polling place. The vote was 7-2. The Justice has ruled that law violates free speech.

President Trump's former top economic adviser breaking with is ex boss on tariff policy. Gary Cohn said in an interview today with the Washington Post he sees a trade war coming that could drive up inflation, increase America's debt, maybe even Cohn says trigger another economic slowdown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARY COHN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: If you end up with a tariff battle, you will end up with price inflation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could it wipe out the benefits of the tax bill? COHN: Yes, it could.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do traders trade on the President's tweets?

COHN: A 100 percent. That first, you now, three, six, nine, 12 months is very interesting in trying to work with each other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do the facts always win? Was that your experience?

COHN: I may not comment on that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: A little humor there. Up next, no matter what it says, the President's legal team will make the case, the new IG report coming out today is good for them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:56:12] KING: Learning new details of the Justice Department IG report on the FBI handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation. Let's get straight to our Justice Correspondent Evan Perez who had new details. Evan?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: John, the key finding from the Inspector General report which is right now being briefed to the President and to members of Congress as we speak is that James Comey violated the norms of the Justice Department when he held his July 2016 press conference in which he cleared Hillary Clinton of any wrongdoing in the e-mail investigation. But the Inspector General found that he was not acting out of political bias when he did that.

That press conference, of course, is one in which he detailed all the things that Hillary Clinton did wrong in which he said, however, that no reasonable prosecutor would be able to bring charges against her.

And of course, John, you remember that President Trump and a lot of Republicans have claimed that the e-mail investigation, the Clinton investigation, was rigged, that it was not done properly, that it was done with political bias. According to the Inspector General after this 18-month investigation, they found that there is no evidence to show that there was any political bias in the way the investigation was done.

Obviously, there's plenty here in this report. There's about 500 pages right now that members of Congress are being briefed on. The President is being briefed personally by Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General.

So, there is plenty in this report for the Republicans and the President to pick up on to support the idea that the President was right to fire James Comey. But the top line, the important part of this, is the fact that the Inspector General found that there was no political bias in the way the investigation was done, which is a key accusation that the President and Republicans in Congress have been making, John.

KING: Evan Perez with the breaking news. Appreciate it, Evan. Come back if we get more.

Back in the studio now. The question is will the President accept that when his Deputy Attorney General says, you know, you had every reason to fire James Comey. He made bad judgment calls here. We can have a separate debate about the President saying it was also about the Russian meddling investigation to Lester Holt, but there was no political motivation, Mr. President. He did not do this. There was no pro-Clinton anti-Trump bias in James Comey and the FBI according to this report. Will the President accept that fact?

BACON: No, but it's an important fact that we should think about and accept as journalists if the people have joined this. No, he's not going to accept it, but I think it still matters that he spent, you know, almost a year saying the investigation was wrong and cleared Hillary for no reason. And we've had a report from a pretty serious I.G. respected by both parties now saying it was not politically motivated. Will it change the politics? No, but it matter --

KING: An important point you just made. And we have to focus on the fact that the same I.G. who wrote this report, James Comey made mistakes, made bad judgment calls, should have handled himself better but it was not motivated by politics. It's the same guy who wrote the report Republicans love just a couple weeks ago that led to Andrew McCabe, former Deputy being fired. The question is what happened?

Rod Rosenstein sitting there, the President despises Rod Rosenstein. The President views Rod Rosenstein as part of the problem. He is saying Mr. President, James Comey was a bad actor. He was not a bias actor.

DAVIS: Well, this is not going to make him like Rod Rosenstein anymore. And I don't think he's going to accept as Perry said, that this was not politically motivated. He still feel that it is and he'll continue to say that. It is important that we now know an I.G., an independent and Inspector General has concluded otherwise.

But I do think he will seize on all the material in this report that we apparently have that says that, you know, Comey acted wrongly, because he will use that as a defense for firing him and say, this was not obstruction of justice, whether he's trying to protect myself, this was an FBI director who was off the rails and I have plenty of reasons to fire him. And that too will be an important part of the President's argument.

KING: And will he accept that his current Justice Department team can deal with what the ramifications of the report, the cleanup if you will, the new standards or will he accept the calls from Republicans or Capitol Hill to say Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein, Chris Wray, three Trump appointees are part of the problem now.

BENDER: Well, I think we can find out pretty quickly here that they started, there was no White House briefing while the President was meeting with -- they have now scheduled a briefing. I'm sure Sarah will be --

KING: Sarah will be asking about the --

BENDER: -- (INAUDIBLE) from the President.

KING: All right. We'll continue our breaking news reporting. Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. Wolf starts picks up coverage right now.