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INSIDE POLITICS

GOP Worries On Immigration Policy As 2018 Heats Up; Trump 2020 Campaign Manager: Fire Sessions, End Mueller Probe; Trump Jr. Withdraws From Bush Fundraiser After Criticism; Trump Defends Controversial Family Separations At Border. Aired 12:30-1pm ET

Aired June 19, 2018 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:04] JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS HOST: -- telling the President is, this isn't about 2020. Maybe that's how you view it, be tough on immigration? Let's say you're Will Hurd. You have to win right down here in the border in Texas. You're saying, Mr. President, bad idea. I could get beat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: When they made this decision of zero tolerance, what did they think was going to happen? Because we haven't seen a decrease in illegal immigration coming into our country. What I'm seeing on the ground is the exact opposite. I'm seeing on the ground people that are appalled by this, people that have been Republicans all their lives, independents as well. So I can't speak to any of the national polling, but I do know in the 23rd congressional district of Texas, the super majority of people believe this is something that shouldn't be happening and shouldn't be continuing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And again, the question is, will the President listen? Will the President be swayed when he's told tonight, this could help us lose our majority. We need your help, Mr President?

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: If they tell him that -- I mean, again, they might say so privately, but I think in a full meeting with Republicans where a lot of this is going to get leaked to the press, I'm really skeptical that they're going to push back on this, even though they are really, really worried.

KING: Is there not one who wants the leak to say there was one brave soul who was willing to stand up and speak?

BADE: Perhaps there might -- yes, you're right. The swing district Republicans, this is a huge problem for them. I mean, migrant kids in cages. How is that -- That's going to be terrible for them if they are coming from a swing district that has a heavy Hispanic population. Not only that, you mentioned suburban moms. They're listening -- hearing reports in coverage about kids being taken from their mother. That is really going to, you know, going to striking a chord in their heart and it's going to -- KING: I just want to jump in with these numbers to this point because

we did a poll in this and I think the policy is unpopular, but look at the numbers here. First, the President's approval rating. Among all Americans, the President's approval rating at 39 percent in a new CNN poll, disapprove 54 percent. Look at college-educated women. Only 22 percent approve of the President.

Now let's go to the zero tolerance policy. Along all Americans, only 28 percent approve, so it is not popular. 67 percent disapprove. But look again at college-educated women. 20 percent, 2 in 10, 77 percent. Almost 8 in 10 disapprove. If you're a Republican in a suburban district, college-educated women or key constituency, you already know they don't like this President. Now they hate this policy and you're saying help.

TARINI PARTI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BUZZFEED NEWS: One argument that could work with the President, because we know he's about self- preservation at the end of the day. So if you make the case, and we know he's getting more concerned about Democrats taking the House because of potential threat of impeachment. So that's the case some aides could make to the President and say, we need these suburban women, we need these vulnerable House Republicans to actually win their elections so that Democrats don't take over and start hurting your agenda and then also potentially getting into the process of impeachment.

KING: Will he listen is the question. Here's a little contrast for you. This is Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster. As run racist (ph) primarily I spoke to as early in this cruise in the south but now all across the country. Very smart guy. "Somehow I don't think that putting kids in cages is likely to go over very well with suburban moms," Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster uneasy about running on the culture wars." That's in the New York Times.

Same article, Stephen Miller, the President adviser who has his ear. "You have one party that's in favor of open borders, and you have one party that wants to secure the border, "Mr. Miller said. "And all day long the American people are going to side with the party that wants to secure the border. And not by a little bit. Not 55-45, 60-40, 70- 30, 80-20. I'm talking 90-10 on that."

MICHAEL WARREN, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: This is a message we've been -- I mean, I personally been hearing from Stephen Miller since 2013 or even earlier. There was this idea that there is a silent majority out there who is -- who really would support a policy like this. And I think that's effective when you're talking about trying to sink as he was back in 2013. Get enough Republican senators that oppose the immigration reform package.

It's a different prospects when you're advising the President. I think that 90-10 is just simply not reflected in the numbers. But if he is able to convince and he has the President's ear on this, then what is the President going to do?

KING: Let me stop you to change the subject and I want to do that for a reason. The Trump campaign manager, Brad Parscale, just tweeting this. "Time to fire Sessions. End the Mueller investigation. You can't obstruct something that was phony against you. The I.G. report gives @realDonaldTrump the truth to end it."

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Trying to change the subject.

KING: Someone maybe trying to change the subject today. But the I.G. report does know such thing and we'll get to that conversation in a minute. But the President's campaign manager speaks to the President, right? You're hired and paid for by the President's reelection campaign to speak for the President?

ZELENY: He does. Ever other one has, you know, a David Plouffe obviously spoke for Obama as did, you know, Ken Normans (ph) for President Bush, of course. So these are different times. President Trump has made clear he would love to fire Jeff Sessions. He just hasn't done it for a variety of reasons. Will he at some point? I actually think he will at some point.

[12:35:07] But back to the numbers for one second, one thing that I'm told by people in the White House, they believe that the President can blame a lot of this on Congress. Not just Democrats' Congress overall. Now with people with lowest approval ratings in the President? Congress. So that gives some --

KING: Again, we're back to that same conversation. Is he thinking about him or is he thinking about them? That's what Republicans worried about.

ZELENY: Him always.

KING: Whether it's immigration, whether it's trade, they think that he doesn't understand, he's the leader of a party now. Not just him, he has a party for him. But it's an excellent point.

We'll come back to this conversation. And when we do, on this immigration debate, Senator Lindsey Graham looks to the White House and says the President shouldn't look in the mirror, he should listen to his wife.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Topping our political radar today, just like father, just like son. Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of the President, now backing out of a fundraiser plan next week for George P. Bush, son of Jeb Bush. The source conforming to CNN that Don Jr. told the younger Bush, he could not continue to publicly support him, that after Jeb Bush tweeted criticism of President Trump over the separation of those families down at the border.

[12:40:11] Primary Republican Senator James Inhofe wants to meet face to face with the embattled EPA Chief Scott Pruitt, according to the Hill. Pruitt faces at least a dozen ethics investigation including allegations he asked staffers to help his wife find a job. Inhofe, an early backer of Pruitt, both of them are from Oklahoma says the meeting could happen as early as today. A new CNN poll shows First Lady Melania Trump still more popular than the President. 51 percent hold a favorable view of the First Lady, that's down six points from May. Roughly, though, the same where Hillary Clinton was at this time 1994 during her husband's first term. The First Lady Melania Trump grabbing headlines this week after she weighed in on immigration, saying the U.S. should follow the law, yes, but do so by governing with heart.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham telling CNN, the President should listen to her.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The vast majority children in detention are children that came here by themselves with no family member and we got to address that problem. That's the biggest problem. And I think Americans want two things. They want a better immigration system that doesn't incentivize illegal immigration but do it with humanity. I think Melania said it right. My advice, the President should listen to Melania.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: His advice, listen to Melania. Let me go back to the Bush story. The feud between the President and the Bush family runs deep. Now Don Jr. getting involved likes George P. George P. campaigned with President Trump, candidate trump, in the general election. But the bad blood between the families too much here?

PARTI: That's right. I mean, we've seen this in the last few days with Laura Bush's op-ed, and then Jeb Bush tweeting. I spoke to some people close to Don Jr. this morning who said -- made it clear they like George P. They think he's a good person, but the support is very much contingent on Jeb Bush not tweeting anything critical of the President. That was an arrangement that was made clear, and when that didn't happen, they were forced to pull out.

ZELENY: You know, I think that it is something that I guess we'll see a play out. One of the reason that George P. Bush was also supportive of the President because he is still in active politics. He's still running for office. He's an elected official in the state of Texas.

I don't think there's a full-on feud with him. I think he would be worried about that if there was, because it is Trump's Republican Party. It is not the Bush Republican Party regardless of what he might think.

KING: And I think to work in a break here, but still remarkable. The current First Lady issuing a statement that was clearly critical of her husband's policy. Gently, but clearly critical of her own husband's policy. We live in interesting times.

Up next, an eyebrow-raising answer from the Justice Department's Inspector General.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Let's get straight to the President talking immigration at the White House. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- for taking care of. We have to get the Democrats to go ahead and work with us. Because as a result of Democrats' supported loopholes in our federal laws, most illegal immigrant families and minors from Central America who arrive unlawfully at the border cannot be detained together or removed together, only released. These are crippling loopholes that cause family separation, which we don't want.

As a result of these loopholes, roughly half a million illegal immigrant family unit and minors from Central America have been released into the United States since 2014 at unbelievably great taxpayer expense. Nobody knows how much we're paying for this monstrosity that's been created over the years. Legislation that nobody has any idea what they are doing. They don't even know what it means. And you have to see this, it's a mile high.

Child smugglers exploit the loopholes and they gain illegal entry into the United States, putting countless children in danger on the perilous trek to the United States. They come up through Mexico.

[12:45:07] Mexico does nothing for us. You hear it here. They do nothing for us. They could stop it. They have very, very strong laws. Try staying in Mexico for a couple of days, see how long that lasts. OK?

They do nothing for us, and I see it through NAFTA. I see it with $100 billion plus that they make on trade through NAFTA, one of the worst deals ever made by this country. A disaster. And we're trying to equalize it. It's not easy, but we're getting there. It's not easy.

And we're going to take care of our American farmers, and we're going to take care of our manufacturers and our manufacturing jobs. But they're making unbelievable amounts of money, and that's not including the drugs that are flowing through our border because we have no wall, and we have no protection. The drugs that are coming in from Mexico and through the southern border is disgraceful. So we'll see whether or not we can make a reasonable NAFTA deal or deal -- it doesn't have to be called NAFTA.

We can do one on one with Mexico and one on one with Canada. And by the way, Canada, they like to talk. They're our great neighbor. They fought World War II with us. We appreciate it. They fought World War I with us, and we appreciate it, but we're protecting each other.

There was a story two days ago in a major newspaper talking about people living in Canada coming into the United States and smuggling things back into Canada because the tariffs are so massive. The tariffs to get common items back into Canada are so high that they have to smuggle them in. They buy shoes then they wear them. They scuff them up. They make them sound old or look old. No, we're treated horribly. Dairy. Dairy. 275 percent tariff. So basically that's a barrier without saying it's a barrier. And I told them if they don't change their ways -- so we have a tremendous deficit. People say, well, there's really not that much of a deficit. Well, they're not including two things, energy and timber. And those are the two big things when it comes to Canada.

No, we have to change our ways. We can no longer be the stupid country. We want to be the smart country.

So hopefully, we'll be able to work it out with Canada. We're in very good relationships with Canada. We have for a long time. And hopefully that will work out but Canada is not going to take advantage of the United States any longer, and Mexico is not going to take advantage of the United States any longer. And when I campaigned, I said, I will either renegotiate NAFTA or I'll terminate it and we'll start from an even base. And people are afraid of that, you know?

I've had so many people come up and say, please don't terminate NAFTA. But it's no good. Yes, but we know what we have. It's true. People are worried because they know what they have. If you look at -- I love the American farmer more than anybody. They have backed me. I love the American farmer.

And by the way -- I'll tell you in a little while because it's in one of my notes -- the American farmer virtually will not have to pay any more state tax on their farms when they pass away and they want to leave it to their children. And that goes for almost all small businesses. You won't have the estate tax to pay anymore, which was crippling. That was in our bill.

See? A young guy is standing up. Now, he's too young --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You're listening to President Trump here in Washington speaking at a meeting organized by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a small business group having its annual meeting. I mistakenly said this is at the White House. The President is out (ph) in Washington.

Speaking there on a couple of issues, they're dominating the headlines right now. Number one, talking about the separation of families at the border.

The President laying the blame on Democrats in loopholes existing laws. To be clear, his administration set a new policy of zero tolerance that has led this to happen. Yes, there are laws and loopholes on the books, but the administration took an -- used its executive powers to act on that, but the President again laying the blame elsewhere and then at the end talking again about trade.

[12:50:03] Another issue big in the news right now, focusing in his remarks there on Canada and Mexico at a time he's in a trade war not only with them on aluminum and steel issues but now with China as well. Let's come back to the immigration. The President says he doesn't want this. He doesn't want this to happen. He did not give any indication that he can stop. He can pick up the phone and stop it immediately. He gave no indication he's going to do so.

ZELENY: And he has said that repeatedly. He said that on Friday when he was talking extensively on the northland. He said I don't like this, I don't like the images. But he's not doing anything about it. They really do believe --

KING: Is it that he doesn't like the policy or he doesn't like the images?

ZELENY: He doesn't like the images. But the reality is people who are advising him, like Stephen Miller and others who we talked to are telling him that, you know, that it's worth it, essentially. You know, you need to have zero tolerance, you need to protect the borders. Someone we have not heard about and we don't really have a full picture of, is there a conversation inside the west wing about this?

Ivanka Trump, senior adviser to the President, she famously, more than a year ago, took her father, the President, images of children from Syria. And that was a big part of his foreign policy decision to strike Syria. As far as we know, she is not been involved in this. She was out doing a fundraiser on the west coast yesterday.

But we've asked for a comment from her. The White House does not responded. But we do not know if the President is hearing dissenting views inside the White House --

KING: Except for Melania Trump. Her statement, again, it was careful, but she was saying we can govern with a heart and issued in a context of this. He also said Mexico does nothing for us. Am I mistaken? Wasn't it just a few weeks ago when the caravan was making its way up through Mexico that the President was keeping praise on Mexico for helping the United States try to deal with the issue of the flow of illegal immigrants up through?

Today, they do nothing for us. It was just a few weeks ago they were great partner.

PARTI: He definitely seems to flip-flop on that. he tweeted that as he said, as the caravan was moving up its way to the U.S. border, and he said very supportive things that they were acting very strongly, and I think he even said that the U.S. should do similar things in terms of protecting its own border. And now, of course, he has changed his --

KING: Going back in. The President again returning to the immigration topic. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: -- for the federal crime of illegal entry. Those are the only two options. Totally open borders or criminal prosecution for law breaking. And you want to be able to do that. We don't want people pouring into our country. We want them to come in through the process, through the legal system. And we want, ultimately, a merit- based system where people come in based on merit.

Keep in mind, those who apply for asylum, legally, at ports of entry, are not prosecuted. The fake news media back there doesn't talk about that. They're fake. They are helping these smugglers and these traffickers like nobody would believe. They know it, they know exactly what they're doing, and it should be stopped, because what's going on is very unfair to the people of our country. And they violate the law. People that come in violate the law. They endanger their children in the process. And frankly, they endanger all of our children.

You see what happens with MS-13, where your sons and daughters are attacked violently. Kids that never even heard of such a thing are being attacked violently, not with guns but with knives because it's much more painful. Inconceivable -- here we are talking about business -- inconceivable that we even have to talk about MS-13 and other gangs. They attack violently, the most painful way possible. And a bullet is too quick. And we're allowing these people into our country? Not with me. We're taking them out by the thousands. We're taking them out by the thousands.

So what I'm asking Congress to do is to give us a third option, which we have been requesting since last year, the legal authority to detain and promptly remove families together as a unit. We have to be able to do this. This is the only solution to the border crisis. We have to stop child smuggling. This is the way to do it.

[12:55:00] And ultimately, we have to have a real border, not judges. Thousands and thousands of judges they want to hire. Who are these people? When we vet a single federal judge, it goes through a big process. Everybody that's ever met her or him, they come, they complain, they don't complain. They say he's brilliant, she's brilliant, he's not smart enough to be a judge. Now we're hiring thousands and thousands. What country does this? Judges. I won't say it. I refuse to say it. I hope they pick that up back there. They won't.

No, what -- Seriously, what country does it? They said, sir, we'd like to hire about five or six thousand more judges. Five or six thousand? Now, can you imagine the graft that must take place? You're all small business owners, so I know you can imagine a thing like that would happened. But here's a guy, they say, could you please be a judge? Come on, get it. They line up to be a judge. It's horrible.

We don't want judges, we want security on the border. We don't want people coming in. We want them to come in through a legal process like everybody else that's waiting to come in to our country.

And it got so crazy that all of these thousands -- we now have thousands of judges, border judges, thousands and thousands. And, by the way, when we release the people, they never come back to the judge anyway. They're gone. They're in your system. That's it. If they're good, that's great, and if they're bad, you'll have killings, you'll have murders, you'll have this, you'll have that, you'll have crime. You'll have crime.

And remember, these countries that we give tremendous foreign aid to in many cases, they send these people up, and they're not sending their finest. Does that sound familiar? Remember I made that speech and I was badly criticized? Oh, it's so terrible, what he said. It turned out I was 100 percent right. That's why I got elected.

We want a great country. We want a country with heart. But when people come up, they have to know they can't get in, otherwise it's never going to stop. Whether it was President Bush, President Obama, President Clinton, same policies. They can't get them changed because both sides are always fighting.

This is maybe a great chance to have a changed. But one of them says we want to hire 5,000 more judges. I don't want judges. I want border security. I don't want to try people. I don't want people coming in. Do you know if a person comes in and puts one foot on our ground, it's essentially, welcome to America, welcome to our country. You never get them out, because they take their name, they bring the name down, they file it, then they let the person go. They say, show back up to court in one year from now. One year. But here's the thing. That in itself is ridiculous. Like 3 percent come back.

The other thing they have is they have professional lawyers. Some are for good, others are do-gooders, and others are bad people. They tell these people exactly what to say. They say, say the following -- they write it down -- I am being harmed in my country. My country is extremely dangerous. I fear for my life. Say that. Congratulations, you'll never be removed. This is given to them by lawyers who are waiting for them to come up. And they're not all bad people. They're impractical people.

But, in a way, that's cheating because they've given them statements. They're not coming for that reason. They're coming up for many other reasons, and sometimes for that reason.

There's been a 1,700 percent increase in asylum claims over the last 10 years. Think of that. Think of that. We're a great country, but you can't do that. Smugglers know how the system works. They game the system, they game it. It's so easy for them. They're smart. They didn't go to the Wharton School of Finance. But you know what? They're really smart.

The United States has just surpassed Germany as having the most asylum seekers of any nation on earth. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine? And Germany, we talk about Germany. They allowed millions of people in. By the way, their crime from the time they started is up more than 10 percent. And that's one of the reasons it's at that level is because they don't like reporting that kind of crime, so they put it down as different kind of crime. But their crime is up more than 10 percent since they started taking them in.