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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump Keeps Focus on Immigration over Tax Cuts; Trump Plans Three-State Campaign Blitz; First Lady Visits Border Detention Center Aired 8-9a ET

Aired June 24, 2018 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:09] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. To our viewers in the United States and around the world, thank you for sharing your Sunday.

The Trump administration says it is now making progress reuniting families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. That new process follows a giant policy about-face. But on the road, listen here, the president still talks tough.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If they see weakness they will come by the millions. We have to have strong borders. We are going to have the wall. We're going to have the wall. We've already started it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Plus, Melania Trump sends messages, or messages. A jacket stirs a global debate while her words make clear the first lady disagrees with part of her husband's zero tolerance immigration approach.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm here to learn about your facility, and which I know you have children on a long-term basis. And I also would like to ask you how -- and help for these children to reunite with their families quickly as possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And the big election year question, does he help or hurt? 135 days until the midterm elections, the president is on the road more and more. For Republicans the risk is his predictability. The reward, his colorful efforts to attack Democratic candidates and juice GOP turnout.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Whacky Jackie --

(CROWD CHEERS) TRUMP: Has -- you don't want her -- you don't want her? She's your senator. A vote for her is a vote for Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. It's very simple. A vote for her is a vote for increased taxes, weak, weak borders. It's really a vote for crime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With us this Sunday to share their reporting and their insights, Margaret Talev of Bloomberg, Jonathan Martin of the "New York Times, CNN's Manu Raju and Julie Hirschfeld Davis of the "New York Times."

President Trump was forced into a dramatic about-face past week, on the issue that most animates his disruptive and unique political brand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I don't think being weak on the border, being pathetically weak on the border, I don't think that's a good issue. I may be wrong. I think I got elected largely because we are strong on the border. I really believe that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Zero tolerance is an immigration label the president loves, but global outrage and a full scale Republican Party panic brought a hasty midweek retreat in the form of a rushed executive order that even White House officials concede might not stand up in court. The political imperative was to quiet the outrage over separating children from their parents.

The policy fallout is now messy. The president says zero tolerance is still operative. E-mails from other administration agencies suggest otherwise. The government last night reported 522 children now have been reunited with their families. About 2,053 are still separated and in U.S. custody. The reunification process will take a bit because of legal proceedings or the challenge of locating and coordinating with the parents.

The administration now plans to keep arrested families together and the Pentagon is being asked to rush new shelters into operation with the capacity -- get this -- to hold tens of thousands.

The headlines are not kind. Just a few here from the past few days. The president, though, believes all this criticism is unfair.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Our people are actually doing a very good job handling a very difficult situation but this is a problem that should have been solved years ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What's interesting listening to the president on the road yesterday he almost didn't touch the family separation issue. Very quickly there defending his people but he didn't want to talk about it. I assume the reason is because it's a full and complete about- face.

JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, that's bad for his larger campaign theme for the midterms which is, like, hard on immigration, tough on the borders and you're in front of a conservative audience in a state like Nevada and you don't want to talk about the fact that you bow to the mainstream media and sort of bipartisan outrage by softening your border policies which is what he did. So of course, he is going to sort of, you know, avoid focus on that.

He does want to run on a hard line on the border. You played that sound bite just now. He thinks that's a winning issue for him, and frankly Democrats think it actually is a vulnerability for them if it is on issues like sanctuary cities --

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG: MS-13.

MARTIN: MS-13, open borders. But when you had kids being separated from their parents, it's not much of a wedge. You know?

KING: Right. And in that regard, on the policy front Wednesday after the president reversed course, Thursday, Friday, you'd ask questions, how many kids are there? How many have you accounted for? Are you missing anybody? Do you know where the parents are? How long is this going to take? How is this going to work? You got nothing from the administration.

[08:05:02] Last night they did release finally a statement in which they say, in part, DHS, the Department of Homeland Security, and HHS, the Department of Health and Human Services, "have a process established to ensure that family members know the location of their children and have regular communication after separation. The United States government knows the location of all children in its custody and is working to reunite them with their families. "

Are they getting their act together?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I mean, this is -- first of all, we have to understand this is a crisis entirely of their own making.

KING: Right.

DAVIS: You can argue there was a crisis in terms of the volume of Central American migration into the United States which has existed for many years. There was. But this particular crisis of all these children who are now listed as and being treated as unaccompanied even though they came to the border with their parents is entirely of the administration's own making. They put this policy of zero tolerance into practice without thinking about these implications it seems like at all.

And then this past week in their panic, in their haste to try to diffuse the public relations crisis they put in place this executive order, the president did, but they also didn't fully vet, fully think through and fully figure out how to implement. And so now they're in a situation where yes, maybe they have a list somewhere of -- you know the names and birth dates of all of these children. I would be surprised if that were the case but maybe they do, but the actual process of reuniting with their families is going to be incredibly complex.

The legal system, the immigration system treats those children differently than they treat other people. They treat them differently than they treat adults and a lot of them now have their own legal processes that are going in parallel and sometimes diverging from those of their parents and this is going to be incredibly complicated for them to rectify. And again, they created this particular part of the problem.

KING: Right. There was the president's decision implemented by the Justice Department and much like the travel ban to your point about the chaos right now, much like when the travel ban was implemented, when you -- this past week, you called the different agency, you got a different answer because across the administration well-intentioned people trying to do their job, whatever they were told to do, didn't really know what the policy was after the president. But if you listen to the president, listen to the president here, again he doesn't say I had to retreat, I had to soften my policy, I made a mistake, we were wrong. He says this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: So we are keeping families together and this will solve that problem. At the same time we are keeping a very powerful border and it continues to be a zero tolerance. We have zero tolerance for people that enter our country illegally.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: No politician likes to say, I messed this up, I was wrong. We overplayed our hand. No politician does.

MARTIN: Right.

KING: But he -- if you listen to that it sounds like, I'm solving somebody else's problem. To Julie's point, this is a problem he created.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And he's given no clear indication of exactly how to fix it after coming out not only does the executive order, not explaining how they're going to implement it. He's had mixed messages about what to do on policy grounds telling House Republicans in a meeting, he needed to pass legislation not just to deal with this issue but also larger issues involving border security and the like. And then a couple of days later, drop that, we don't need to deal with that, so don't worry about it.

In the midterms this has been a bungled policy, a bungled response, and the president not surprisingly didn't want to talk about it yesterday because it's a huge embarrassment for his administration and they haven't explained to the American public about exactly what they're going to do to reunite these families.

TALEV: I think he's also strategically torn a little bit about how to message this because he understands he doesn't want to drag down midterm races and cost the majority in the way that then completely leaves him vulnerable for the second half of this term, but on the other hand he put Corey Lewandowski on the plane yesterday, flew him out to the rallies. He still sees right up to that line. Maybe even a crossed line of separating the parents who've made the decision to cross illegally or without documentation and their children, or to seek asylum in the improper way by not going to court or whatever.

This is a rallying cry for many people in the base and this is an opportunity that he now understands it's complicated to take advantage of that opportunity because it turns off so many people who were not in that camp. But he's still juggling the strategy on how message this.

KING: So juggling the strategy, and to Jonathan's point the president did win, he won the Republican nomination and he won the presidency in 2016 in part by taking positions on immigration that even people in his own party thought might be too far.

MARTIN: Sure.

KING: And so the president thinks I trust my reflexes here. I trust my instincts, they got me into the Oval Office. Democrats, to your point, understand they are vulnerable to a degree. But listen to these Democrats who visited one of the detention centers yesterday saying on this one issue they think they have a huge opening to look at the White House and say you got this so wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KATHERINE CLARK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Over and over again they said I just don't know. I don't know what the change will be. I don't know how these reunifications will happen.

REP. ANNIE KUSTER (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: They do not have direction on how to go about this family reunification and not separating families.

REP. ROSA DELAURO (D), CONNECTICUT: Where is the plan? Where is the list of the names? Their names, where they're from, where they are going? What shelters are they in?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[08:10:05] KING: Fair questions. Fair questions raised by the Democrats. But will Congress pass a separate piece of legislation that deals with this issue? Because look, if you're the Democrats you want these families reunited. If you want them reunited, and you want to focus on that, none on the political issue, there is a lot of questions whether the executive order would stand up in court. Does the president need legislation to allow this to go? RAJU: I mean, they argue they need legislation. Others say that they

don't need legislation. But that's the administration's point of view. But then the president of course, then he tweeted don't worry about this. Let's worry about it after the midterms. The House is going to try to pass the -- if they do come up with a compromise on the Republican side this week, that so-called compromise, Republican compromise, actually comes together, it still probably is not going to get the votes to pass the House, much less the Senate.

The Senate is working on a narrower approach to deal with this issue about the family separations. But there is not much appetite to take that up for Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, or see if it get through the House. I'm skeptical anything can get through.

MARTIN: Yes. They don't want to touch immigration in the Congress in an election year. Especially with Trump now saying don't bother, that's going to lose anyhow that they have remaining. I do, though, think that if the issue moves away from the kids at the border and gets back to the broader immigration issue I do think it's an opening for Republicans. I think the Democrats are being pushed really far to the left on the issue by their base and frankly by Trump himself. I think Trump demagoguing the immigration issue is pushing Democrats further and further to the left.

KING: He baits the Democrats into the conversation.

MARTIN: Yes. And it becomes harder for them to threat anything about the borders.

KING: And more on that and the midterm election complications down the road. But next Melania Trump and the $40 question.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:15:43] KING: Welcome back. Melania Trump's most interesting and intriguing week as America's first lady began last Sunday with a statement in which she broke with her husband's policy of separating families who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Then Thursday after the president hastily reversed course Melania Trump still wanted to make a statement, visiting with migrant children, and raising questions, pointed questions about their treatment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. TRUMP: Thank you so much for having me here today. I'm glad I'm here and I'm looking forward to seeing the missing children. Those children, how many times they speak with their relatives, their families per week for example?

When children come here what kind of stage, you know, physical and mental stage, they come here? How long is the time that -- the max time that somebody spend here, that they're going to reunite with their families?

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Those are questions the Trump White House has had a hard time answering. And to have them raised publicly by the first lady was a remarkable use of her platform to question and criticize her husband's policy but it wasn't the only message the first lady wanted to send on Thursday. Here you go, this $40 jacket and its provocative, "I don't really care, do you?" graffiti sparked a global mystery. Just who was the first lady looking to startle? So who?

(LAUGHTER)

TALEV: I wish I could answer this question. So I was on the trip. And it's raining. A lot of things were happening quickly, and the jacket was cinched as you can tell. Look, none of us saw it. And I mean, we didn't see -- we didn't know it said anything on the back. We land and there's this controversy. My instinct was not that she was trying to send a message about the kids. She had changed jackets and was wearing something clearly different during the time that she was visiting with them.

But of course -- of course it was going to spark a debate and speculation and of course nobody believes that it just happened accidently. How would Melania Trump find a $39 jacket from Zara? I mean, like, I don't think -- I don't think her closet is stocked with $39 jackets. Right? Mine has a lot of $39 jackets, but -- so was she sending a signal to the world about speculation for her kidney surgery, was she trolling her husband in a subtle way with the back of it pulled so that nobody could see what it said?

MARTIN: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

TALEV: Of course those questions were going to be raised and unfortunately I think it ended up overshadowing the more serious message she was trying to convey about this.

KING: Right. Very serious message that she wanted to convey. And again remarkably public disagreement with her husband or at least raising questions about her husband's policy. And to your point, she wore it on D.C., on the plane. She wore it on D.C. off the plane, not down at the border when she's with the children. But she also wore it walking along the colonnade at the White House, one of the sort of signature shots of the White House colonnade. What was she doing?

MARTIN: I think it is totally about her husband because the whole purpose of the trip was effectively a rebuke. I mean, this is his policy that he held on to and only grudgingly gave up on. And then the next day after he finally gives in she goes to the border to draw more attention to his policy that he just bailed on? I think it's pretty clear that, you know, she has her own views on this topic. Keep in mind she also issued a statement that was a little bit more milquetoast but a statement, when was that, Sunday or Monday I think?

DAVIS: Monday, yes.

MARTIN: Talking about the issue, as well. So clearly she has her own strong views.

KING: Right. She said you can have a strong immigration policy, you have to govern with a heart.

MARTIN: And don't forget, you know, she is an immigrant herself.

KING: Immigrant herself and to the point about the jacket, she's a former fashion model, she's had her own business.

MARTIN: She knows what's been going on.

KING: She thinks -- clearly thinks about what she wears. She knows sometimes unfairly that whatever she wears is going to be looked at and criticized. The headlines were -- here's the "Drudge" homepage, "First Lady Fashion Fireworks." The "New York Post," Flak Jacket, Has the First Lady Gone Rogue." "Melania Visits Border Kids in this Coat?" "New York Daily News," "Full Muddle Jacket: with Ice Cold Message" on her back.

I mean, look, the staff says it's just a jacket. The president tweeted that it was about us, that she is being critical of the media coverage of her and them. She was doing something.

RAJU: Yes.

KING: The fact that we still don't know exactly what she was doing to me makes it actually more interesting.

RAJU: Look, if the president is actually saying something accurate here, that it was aimed at us, even though the -- of course the spokesperson for the first lady said well, there was no message. No hidden message. The president said there was a message. It was against the media.

[08:20:03] If you take him at his words, that's still not appropriate. He should not be -- they should not be using this occasion, this very serious issue at the border, to try to troll the media. That doesn't make any sense. Here is a suggestion for the White House. They can clear this up by actually having a press briefing and answering questions, something that they haven't done in days.

DAVIS: I would love to be at that briefing actually. But I mean, the idea to Manu's point that they would allow her aides, other people in the West Wing who inevitably know when, you know, these trips are happening. Everyone knew she was going to do this, that she would be allowed to go out in public with a message like that on the back of her jacket at this sensitive time with the controversy over these -- the family separation policy and all the rest, and all of these questions swirling about her role, she is a very -- let's not forget -- private first lady.

She doesn't do a lot of these trips. She doesn't step out in the spotlight a lot. So when she does the fact that she uses it to send a message like that and that no one could say to her, you're the first lady, this is a very public venue, why don't you save this for another day is incredibly telling. And I think in the end no matter what message she was trying to send, it's all been overshadowed by that.

KING: I think without a doubt she wanted to send a message. She knew what she was doing even if it might have backfired.

Up next, the president is on the verge of a new record thanks to his anger of Robert Mueller and his passion for stoking the immigration debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:25:38] KING: There is one question about President Trump that's always easy to answer. What is most driving his mood? He tweets his anger, his frustration, sometimes his joy for all the world to see. And June could well be a record month for presidential sharing.

Let's take a look. These are the president's tweets by the month. You see? Last year in September he crossed 300. Here he is this month. Look at that. By the end of the day, maybe by the end of the hour, the president could set a new record for monthly tweets.

What does he tweet about? This is where you get into his mindset. This is just this month. 51 about the Russia probe. This is not exact. We're blending tweets. Somewhere about two subjects, but roughly 51 about the Russia probe. 44 immigration, trade, North Korea, the economy.

Republicans would like the president to be talking a lot more about this, a lot less about this. In this midterm election year. But that's not what the president wants to do. Again, yesterday he travelled to Nevada, flew out, flew back, the most tweets in the month came just yesterday on this Saturday. The Russia witch hunt is rigged, the president tweeted. Steel is coming back, he tweeted. Also tweeted this, "Very sad that Nancy Pelosi and her sidekick crying Chuck Schumer."

Then he goes on immigration message here. "It is this past month where we have seen," again Republicans want the president to talk about the economy, to talk about the tax cuts. Follow his tweets. Listen to his words in public, in the forefront on the president's mind right now tough on immigration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The dilemma is that if you're weak, if you're weak, which some people would like you to be, if you are really, really pathetically weak, the country is going to be overrun with millions of people. And if you're strong then you don't have any heart. That's a tough dilemma. Perhaps I'd rather be strong but that's a tough dilemma.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You talked about this, Jonathan, a bit earlier at the top of the program. He wants to talk about this even in the face of this major retreat, an embarrassment for the Trump White House. He still wants to talk about this . There are some in his party who agree, some in his party who think it helps when you see the Democratic enthusiasm gap. It will help juice the Republicans to turn out. There are other Republicans who say oh sir, not where we live in the country.

MARTIN: Yes.

KING: That's bad for us.

MARTIN: Two Americas, John. It depends on where you're living and what campaign you're working on, or you're engaged in. And the House, a lot of the action is in high income, affluent, educated suburban districts where, you know, demagoguing immigrants, fanning the flames about Hispanic gangs, is just not going to go over very well with the voters the party need to win. Other parts of the country where there are key Senate races playing out that kind of message is more effective. So it just depends on where in the country.

The challenge, John, this president doesn't do nuance very well. Right? So the idea that he's going to like nuanced that message, putting the pond, like the moment and where he's campaigning, good luck. That's just not going to happen. But this is why you see a split in the GOP on just how effective this message is because some folks want it and other folks say, you know, keep that stuff down.

RAJU: It's just so fascinating to see him in Nevada yesterday, Dean Heller, in a state where of course there is a large Hispanic population. So the conservative base very hard line on this issue of immigration. Heller, when he spoke at this convention, didn't mention the words immigration, wanting to talk about taxes and the economy. They believe that's a much firmer ground for them to run on.

Remember, Heller was one of the Republicans who voted for that 2013 comprehensive immigration bill in the Senate. That's the same bill that conservatives Trump has called amnesty. So there is a real split in the party. It will be interesting come the fall if Heller appears anywhere near Donald Trump on the stage as we get into the thick of the election when he needs those Latino voters.

MARTIN: And that bill, by the way, was to offer a pathway to legal status for every undocumented immigrant in the country. We're just talking now about the kids who were brought here by their parents illegally. So it just goes to show in five years how the party has moved to a more Trumpian place in the issue.

KING: The interesting conversation among Republicans is there, because there has been so much attention on this issue for the last week or so because of the family separation controversy they say let's watch what happens with the polling over the next week. We're getting to the point in the midterm election where you think, most pollster tell you the climate bakes at some point. It's hard to change the climate. So to your point, in some Senate races for Republican candidates this is fine. If you're Mike Coffman, you're a member of the House, you're vulnerable, you live in suburban Denver.

MARTIN: Right.

KING: You have an increasing number of Latinos in your district. This is toxic to you. And not only does Mike Coffman say the president is wrong, listen here, he says the president should fire somebody, fire whoever made him enforce this family separation.

[08:29:58]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE COFFMAN (R), COLORADO: I would like to see from the President an acknowledgment that this policy was a terrible mistake; not just that it was a bad visual image but a fundamental mistake to tear families apart and I think he ought to hold somebody accountable for advising him to move in this direction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You talked to him on the Hill this past week as well and he wants Steven Miller's head, the presidential advisor who we know is a hardliner on immigration. It's not going to happen.

RAJU: Yes.

KING: So what does he hope -- Mike Coffman to show the people back home on standing up to the President?

RAJU: Yes, no question. He is in one of those districts where he has to be concerned about President's hard line views about immigration, also heavy Latino voters in the Colorado district in a swing race -- swing seat.

So this clearly he does not believe that taking the same hard line approach that Trump and Steven Miller will be beneficial for his party going forward. He wants to deal with the DACA issue and the like.

DAVIS: But the reality is that Mike Coffman, like a lot of Republican members, also doesn't want to directly criticize the President.

MARTIN: Yes.

DAVIS: You heard him call for the firing of Steven Miller. That is a way of calling for something and challenging the President without actually directly challenging the President.

MARTIN: Yes.

DAVIS: He doesn't want to tweet. He doesn't want to nickname. He doesn't want any of these things that, you know, Republicans who get on the wrong side of the President --

(CROSSTALK)

DAVIS: -- and the fact is and Mike Coffman, I'm sure knows this, is they wanted to have a different approach to this policy. It's the President's approach. Steven Miller is advising him, it's the President's approach.

He said privately my people love this. My people want me to do this. He believes that. And that is why you are seeing it play out the way it is. TALEV: Every minute that the President is tweeting about Russia is a

minute that people cannot be dissecting this.

And I think on the policy matters -- he doesn't do that well on policy --

MARTIN: Yes, yes.

TALEV: -- as Jonathan has talked about, you know, but there are some policies that are safer to talk about. Tax policy right now is pretty safe to talk about. Health care policy definitely not safe to talk about so when the conversation turns to health care policy just talk about Russia. It will be fine.

MARTIN: Yes, I was going to say Trump benefits from the constant cloud of controversy -- Melania's jacket, the scandal du jour. He benefits from that because it is not about a policy conversation where he is more vulnerable.

The lowest point in his presidency among a lot of those was during the heat of the health care debate because the conversation was more about an unpopular policy. I think that this is part of the challenge Democrats have is trying to penetrate a policy message when Trump is creating this daily cloud of dust on Twitter and everything else.

Look at what he said in Nevada over the weekend talking about how we basically gutted the ACA. This is the sort of danger that Trump poses to his own party. He doesn't stay on teleprompter.

So, you know, whether it is sort of demagoguing the immigration issue in the wrong places like Nevada or it's talking about the ACA and saying we gutted it, that gives fodder to Democrats and Democrat ad makers typically .

KING: So another risk for Democrats, if the "forgive me just forget: history. And David French makes this point in the "National Review" this week and let me read this part of his column. "Despite this victory -- meaning Trump retreats on family separation -- despite this victory Democrats are still furious. It is not enough to stop child separation. Now they want to prevent family detention entirely. But those of us with a trace of historical memory know that the Trump administration is merely asking the courts and Congress to adopt the Obama administration's legal position. Is a policy child abuse simply because Trump is executing it?"

There are -- you know, Obama was called the deporter-in-chief. Obama did not separate families. They did not do that but some of this has happened before. This is not all brand new.

DAVIS: Absolutely. And as a matter of policy, the Obama administration didn't separate families. Of course, it happened sometimes when the parents were being prosecuted for a serious crime or a repeat border crosser or what have you.

But we forget the amount of blowback the Obama administration got when they did detain families for long periods of time before this federal judge told them in 2016 they couldn't do that anymore.

They also used this whole approach which was sort of the underpinning of President Trump's zero tolerance policy of deterrence. And they were also told by a federal judge that they can't adopt -- they couldn't adopt policies the Obama administration wants that were primarily geared towards deterring people, that that wasn't the way to go. That's not a legal way of attacking this problem.

So you can imagine that when the Trump administration looked back and saw what happened under Obama they thought well, we're just going to take it a step further and we're going to actually prosecute these people. They got a whole lot more political blowback than I think they thought.

But we forget how much controversy the Obama administration had.

MARTIN: It was a huge deal.

DAVIS: It was a huge deal -- the only difference was they didn't actually try to capitalize politically on it, right.

MARTIN: Right.

DAVIS: Because they knew it was bad for this.

MARTIN: Just the opposite -- right.

DAVIS: This administration is doing the opposite.

KING: Because it is his calling card. It is this President's calling card. President Obama, you're right, tried to do it kind of quietly hoping nobody paid attention. But when they did it was not pleasant.

[08:34:56] Up next for us the President's midterm road show. In some places it is a no brainer. In others it's a risky bet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR DEAN HELLER (R), COLORADO: Having an opportunity to listen to this president, isn't it great to have a chance to have him?

Mr. President -- thank you for coming to Nevada. Thank you for taking time. Thanks for all the hard work you do.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: President Trump having a little fun poking at his critics on the road this week. Yesterday he was in Nevada. Earlier in the week he was in Minnesota.

[08:40:01] In Nevada he was campaigning for Dean Heller, the most vulnerable Republican senator incumbent on this midterm elections' midterm map.

Let's go through it again. President first out of Minnesota -- that's unique because it's a blue state. He didn't win it.

Nevada also a state the President just barely lost in 2016 competing for Dean Heller. He'll be South Carolina this week, also going to Wisconsin this week.

Let's take a look at one of the interesting factors in this campaign. The President's controversial first midterm election -- among all Americans his approval rating in our polling just under 40 percent. Some other polls are well above 40 percent -- still historically low.

Nationally the President has a problem. Midterm elections you tend to lose. But look at Republicans -- 81 percent approve, 15 percent disapprove. Among Republicans the President is still the gold standard. He helps gin out turn out. That is why the Nevada trip is so interesting.

Again you go back and look in time, just barely but Hillary Clinton carried Nevada. Here is the plus for Dean Heller. He wants the President to gin up all these conservatives in the central part of the state.

Here is the risk. Will the President being out there especially in the middle of this immigration fight instead gin up more Democrats -- Latino voters, other union voters, Democrats to turn out. That is the big risk.

But if you're Dean Heller you are not going to run from your president. Democrats did that in 2010 and 2014 in the Obama years and they lost big time. So Dean Heller embraces the President and hopes, hopes attacks like this help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: A vote for Jackie is a vote for Nancy Pelosi. It's a vote for Schumer and it's a vote for all of the problems that they bring. And I don't think you want that.

You have an outstanding man in Dean Heller. And I know and I have been on both sides of him. And I want to tell you, he's a tough cookie. He's a tough cookie and we want him on our side.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We talked a bit about this. But as the President travels more it is interesting to look at the state by state calculations. No brainer -- he is going to be in South Carolina tomorrow. The Republican Governor Henry McMaster forced into a runoff. No brainer. Here in South Carolina you want the President on your side.

The Nevada one is a lot more complicated because the state is actually a very contested state. Before we have the conversation -- that is the President yesterday, he talked about you can't be weak on immigration. Dean Heller's opponent also had a friend in town, Elizabeth Warren, who says on immigration the President is dead wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: President Trump and his Republican leadership have decided to inflict as much pain as they can on people coming to the United States.

I want you just to look at the list. His administration has ripped children from the arms of their mamas. He has signed off on locking up small children in wire cages. He shrugged off the problem with reuniting thousands of children who have been taken away from their mothers and fathers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: If you want a test of this issue in a highly competitive almost evenly-balanced state, there you have it.

TALEV: Oh yes. Nevada, Colorado, California, Pennsylvania -- maybe a couple of states in the Midwest doesn't take that many pick ups for Democrats to take over control of the House. Now, President Trump may be playing to keep the Senate. He may have already made the calculation that holding the Senate is more important than anything else for his own fortune but this is now what's going to play out in these swing districts and in states that are tossup states or that lean left.

RAJU: And you know, Trump has told Republican leaders he is willing to go everywhere. And the question is do they want him everywhere?

They know that one thing that he does effectively is he drives up the negatives of a Democratic opponent. He's very good at that. But he also riles up the Democratic base. So it is going to be an interesting calculation come the fall as we get into the heat of the general election where middle of the road voters, people who maybe put off by some of the Trump rhetoric and policies and whether or not the President will be effective in a state like Arizona where there is another big senate race or Florida where he's got a big ally on the ballot in Rick Scott.

But of course, Florida being the swing state that it is will Trump be effective there? So this is going to be a difficult interesting calculation for how the Republicans decide to use him come the fall.

MARTIN: And speaking of calculations, Trump did two campaign events this week on the road. And the tell was who was there and who wasn't there. So on Wednesday he is in Duluth, Minnesota -- a house district where he actually won convincingly that Obama had won four years earlier to the iron range.

The House candidate the GOP has was there with Trump. The event was basically for him because this is one of the few House seats that the GOP thinks they can actually flip. Who wasn't there? Tim Pawlenty -- former two-term governor of the state, former candidate for president himself, wants to run for governor again this year; stays away from the event.

Why -- this is a blue state, maybe a tad purple but basically a blue state. And Pawlenty knows in a general election Trump is a toxic political figure with voters in the Twin Cities.

[08:45:02] Flash over to Nevada yesterday, there is Las Vegas -- Dean Heller with President Trump; his calculation very different than Pawlenty. Also a purplish blue state -- his calculation though is look, I've got problems with my base politically.

I've got to have my base unified. Trump can help me do that. And if I stiff him then I'm going to have a problem with my base politically. So I'm going to embrace Trump and sit here next to him. In doing so he is getting at his opponent but he is ensuring that his base is with him and it comes out.

KING: And again that's the lesson of 2010 and 2014. The Democrats who pushed away Obama still got pummeled.

MARTIN: Exactly right.

KING: They still got pummeled.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: That's right.

KING: May as well stick with the boss.

Does this matter? This is George Will writing in the "Washington Post" on Friday essentially taking after Republican congressman now standing up to President Trump on this (INAUDIBLE) separation but also on other issues.

George Will, a conservative, writing "Speaker Ryan and many other Republicans have become the President's poodles, not because James Madison's system has failed but because today's abject careerism failed to be worthy of it. In today's GOP which is the President's plaything he is the mainstream. To vote against his party's cowering congressional caucuses is to affirm the nation's honor while quarantining him." George Will saying "get rid of the Democrats".

We'll see how that -- I mean get rid of the Republicans. Give the Democrats the Congress. We'll watch that one.

Our reporters share a page from their notebooks next including why a governor's race in Maryland could be an early barometer for 2020.

[08:46:27] (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, get you out ahead of the big political news just around the corner. Margaret.

TALEV: I have been watching Vice President Mike Pence and part of the reason why I'll be like ten feet away from him. I'll be on this trip to Latin America this week. But look, this was supposed to be a trip mainly about Venezuela optics and Venezuela messaging and it still will be.

But he is going to Brazil. He's going to Guatemala. He's going to Ecuador. In all of these places immigration and the way President Trump has treated the immigration issue, the implications of family separations particularly for a place like Guatemala are front and center on many people's minds. It will be very interesting and possibly important to see how the Vice President kind of goes behind and tries to do cleanup on President Trump's policies --

KING: Test of his -- test of his diplomatic skills, you might say.

TALEV: Let's say that's a good way to say it.

KING: Jonathan.

MARTIN: The race hasn't gotten a ton of national attention but the Maryland governor's race which is this Tuesday -- the Democratic primary, I should say, has become kind of approving ground for 2020 Democratic aspirants.

Kamala Harris, Corey Booker and Bernie Sanders -- have all been out to campaign for Ben Jealous in that state. Now Ben Jealous is kind of the progressive candidate running against Rushern Baker who is more of the establishment type candidate.

It does have some echoes of Sanders versus Clinton from two years ago and to that end nobody needs Jealous to win more perhaps than Jealous himself than Bernie Sanders who has not had a great record in a lot of these primaries so far in the last year and a half and could use a W from his wing of the party this Tuesday in Maryland.

KING: Interesting primary week again as we move through those.

Manu.

RAJU: John -- the House Republican effort to undercut the Russia and Clinton investigation is only bound to intensify in the coming weeks after what they view as malfeasance in those investigations.

On Wednesday Peter Strzok, that FBI official who's been in the center of so much controversy after he exchanged text messages that were turned over to the inspector general and to Congress of text messages with former FBI attorney Lisa Page, some of the anti-Trump messages in those messages.

He will be before the House Judiciary Committee and House Oversight Committee after he was subpoenaed by the Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte on Friday. This despite Peter Strzok saying he would be voluntarily willing to come and talk to those committees but they wanted to issue that subpoena to really send a message to Strzok and to send a message that they want to go after this issue relatively hard.

And also there's a separate fight that is still intensifying about documents between Goodlatte's committee as well as House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy and the Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes about a range of issues the FBI late Friday said that they did turn over a number of documents, given access to things involving the Russia investigation and the Clinton investigation.

But Republicans are not satisfied yet and that threat of contempt or impeachment on Rod Rosenstein still looms large and of course, will intensify as we get closer to the midterms -- John.

KING: The fight continues. I'd love to hear a good explanation to those galactically not so smart texts.

Julie.

DAVIS: Well, keep an eye on how President Trump is using the courts. We have been talking a lot about how he has had trouble on the legislative front getting his agenda through, sending mixed messages through Republicans in Congress. That's what he wants them to do. There's obviously been a lot of challenge to his executive -- his exercise of executive authority.

In the courts he actually can make quite a bit of progress and the administration in recent weeks has been trying to do that not just on immigration although there has been a lot on that front in terms of DACA, in terms of changing the rules for applying for asylum and also in terms of this recent issue of detaining families and detaining unaccompanied migrant children, but also on the Affordable Care Act.

We saw those repeated attempts to repeal and replace fail miserably. And now the Attorney General Jeff Sessions has decided and made the official decision not to defend the constitutionality of that in court. That can have big implications for the health care law even if Congress doesn't do what President Trump has repeatedly asked them to do.

This is going to be and has been a big talking point for President Trump on the campaign trail and for Republicans particularly senate candidates that President Trump has really remade the judiciary and now we're beginning to see the ways in which he is trying to take advantage of those changes he is making.

KING: A different way to legislate, I guess is one way to put it.

I'll close with this. Michael Bloomberg is a Republican turned Independent who now wants to be the Democrats' 2018 midterm savior. His big splash: a new pledge to spend perhaps $80 million to help Democrats win back the House.

[08:55:05] Now Democrats are ecstatic at this gift but is the Democratic House Bloomberg's only goal here? The former New York City mayor has long wanted to be president and some very smart people in contact with Bloomberg's inner circle say Team Bloomberg sees this 2018 effort as a way to make new friends and test a possible Bloomberg 2020 campaign.

That is nuts, right? Bloomberg is not a Democratic and he is 76 years old but Bernie Sanders is also not a Democrat and also 76 years old and he's mulling another run for the Democratic nomination in 2020. Plus remember this Donald Trump is a Democrat turned Independent and now the Republican president.

Yes, Bloomberg 2020 seems more than a stretch but so did Trump 2016. So we will watch.

That's it for Inside Politics.

Again, thanks for sharing your Sunday morning. We hope you can catch us week days, as well. We're at noon Eastern.

Up next "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JAKE TAPPER". Among his guests -- Senators Bernie Sanders and Ron Johnson.

Have a great Sunday.

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