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INSIDE POLITICS

CNN: Former Fox News Exec In Talk To Take W.H. Comms Director Job; Michael Jackson's Father Joe Jackson Dead At 89; FBI Agent Who Sent Anti-Trump Texts Meet With Lawmakers; Oklahoma Voters Approve Measure Legalizing Medical Marijuana; Bolton Meets With Putin Ahead Of Potential Summit. Aired 12:30-1pm ET

Aired June 27, 2018 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:004] NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: -- with establishment picks, people like Reince Priebus, people like John Kelly even, people like Hope Hicks. And so now he is doing what he wanted to do in the first place probably and go with his (INAUDIBLE).

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: So when we've seen, you know, some of these figures who were caught up in the Me Too movement, who stepped down from their job, try to make these comebacks. Often there's like, you know, a huge backlash. And so I think that it is a risk for Trump in the sense that this is exactly the kind of thing that gets the left very riled up and sort of energized to, you know, potentially come out in 2020, to come out in the midterms. It's just sort of exemplifies the fact that he doesn't care, and it gets people hot.

JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS HOST: Also except that he does think very differently and how he structures the White House staff. The communications director traditionally, somebody who is looking a week, a month down the road, building events, reaching out, let's say, if you going to do an immigration push, to keep members of Congress, but also to constituency groups, out to Republican governors, out to organizations around the country. That does not strike me as Bill Shine's wheel house.

CARL HULSE, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes. I mean, I think this institutionalizes the relationship that's been going on, and let's just make it out there. I think mainly what it reflects to me is that Trump feels free to do whatever he wants now. There used to be people who would advice, we can't do this, it's going to bring back the "Access Hollywood" tape, women are going to really respond poorly to this. I think he feels right now that he's winning being Trump. And this is more being Trump.

HENDERSON: You wonder if Ivanka Trump is one of the people in the White House advising him otherwise on this. I mean, is she going to say anything on this, somebody who can fashions or --

RESTON: As political advisors, you know, as they're looking ahead to 2020, he's assembling a team that is have to run a campaign. They know that suburban women are going to be a big problem, especially after family separations. And it just seems sort of toned out from --

(CROSSTALK)

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I think going into the fall what he's thinking about for the midterms is the base, it's not suburban women. And we know that coming out of the Singapore summit, and some of the recent, you know, victories for this White House. He doesn't necessarily feel like he's getting a vigorous enough defense and (INAUDIBLE) is always doing enough for him. So, he is obviously looking to beef that up.

KING: He believes in the choir. OK. We're going to move on for breaking political news, some breaking news now from the entertainment world. Joe Jackson, the father of music legend Michael Jackson, the patriarch of the entire Jackson family, has died at the age of 89. He, of course, was a driving force in the family's rise to fame in the 1960s.

CNN's Nick Watt joins us now from Los Angeles. Nick, you can argue no parent in the history of music was more successful in guiding his children to international stardom.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, John. I mean, he was the patriarch of America's first family of pop, and we are hearing that he passed away early this morning. As you mentioned, aged 89, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Now, he was a father of 10, in the '50s and '60s, he was a crane operator. He started his own band, the falcons, and then he noticed some talent in his own children, and he was, at times, the manager of The Jackson Five. He was a notoriously famously tough parent. But he guided his kids including Michael, of course, who died in 2009, to international superstardom.

He was, of course, married to Katherine. They've been married since 1949, unclear exactly where that relationship went. They apparently never divorced but they lived separately. As you mentioned at the top, the king of pop's father, the man who shaped The Jackson Five, dead in Las Vegas, aged 89. John?

KING: Nick Watt, appreciate the breaking news. Joe Jackson dead at 89.

We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:37:07] KING: Welcome back. Today, the -- says rigged the Russia investigation is on Capitol Hill. Right now, Peter Strzok talking to House Committee members behind closed doors. Strzok was on that initial team assigned to investigate candidate Trump's ties to Russia, and whether his campaign might be colluding with a foreign power.

He landed on the Special Counsel team before Robert Mueller removed him last summer. That happened after Mueller learned about text messages surfacing showing Strzok criticizing the President. Republicans say the text prove political bias.

CNN's Manu Raju is following the session up on Mark Meadows. Let's listen.

REP. MARK MEADOWS, (R), NORTH CAROLINA: -- no political bias. I would expect, you know, any witness to suggest that they've looked at this impartially. I don't know how you read the text. I don't know how any reasonable person reads the texts and which suggests that there was no bias.

Now, even the Inspector General indicated that there has the potential of being bias as it relates to other investigations. The only reason they concluded there was not bias in the I.G.'s report is because there were multiple people in the decision making process, to suggest that Peter Strzok was not biased doesn't actually correspond with the -- really the decisions that the I.G. made.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: The text messages about stopping the President, according to the Democrats they said that he referred to it as an intimate conversation between intimate friends. Is that how we characterize it?

MEADOWS: Well, I don't normally comment on that but obviously if they're saying that, I wouldn't ever counteract what a colleague would suggest came out of a transcribed interview that's supposed to be confidential. And yet at the same time, if you have intimate, personal conversations between two people, that normally would show the intent more so than perhaps something that would be said out in public.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me question about -- did you have a direct line of questioning about the opening of the Russia investigation and the specific intelligence that precipitated the investigation and how early the intelligence gathering began?

MEADOWS: Those lines of questioning is obviously have -- will be asked before the day is over. I don't want to get into what's been asked already but that line of questioning will actually be asked before the day is over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has he answered the questions?

MEADOWS: Most of the questions that have been declined to be answered have been because of the need to go into a confidential, classified setting. And certainly we'll do that.

RAJU: Have you learned anything new beyond what was in the I.G. report?

MEADOWS: I think we have, and I think that the interesting thing is we'll build on that in this next hour. And so yes, there is new information that was not included in the I.G.'s report.

RAJU: About what topic?

MEADOWS: Obviously, I can't -- Manu, I appreciate you asking that, and you're a good reporter to ask that, but I can't get into the specifics of that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many concerns going in alleviated in anyway, do you still have the same concerns about political bias or that?

MEADOWS: Yes. And none of my concerns about political bias have been alleviated based on what I've heard so far. And yet, at the same time, you know, the day is young. We've got a number of hours to continue on with this investigation.

[12:40:15] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he still employed by the FBI?

MEADOWS: I have -- I don't know that that question has been asked.

RAJU: Do you really think that he had -- I mean, he has said that he didn't have political bias. Why don't you believe what he's saying, that this investigation was not prioritized over the Clinton investigation.

MEADOWS: I've read the text messages, I've read e-mails, I've read other information that would seem to convince a reasonable person that the total absence of bias in any decision making process is not consistent with the facts.

RAJU: Is he lying to the committee?

MEADOWS: Listen, lying is a different word. But I'm just saying the facts that I've read makes me come to a different conclusion than perhaps what the witness may or may not claim on the bias question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think he's a cooperative witness?

MEADOWS: Oh, yes. He's been a cooperative witness and there's nothing negative there. I've got to run in. We're going to start asking some questions --

RAJU: Thank you, Congressman.

KING: Manu is live on the Hill now. Manu, thank you for sharing that with us here on Inside Politics. It's interesting, trying to piece together, from following the investigation, what Mark Meadows is talking about. It would be easier if they had this hearing in public. I understand some of it has to be done in a classified private setting.

But it would have been easier if they would just have this in public at least on the basic questions. Why did the Republicans decide behind closed doors?

RAJU: Well, this was a decision made by the Chairman Bob Goodlatte who is running this investigation along with Trey Gowdy, the House Oversight Chairman. All the witnesses that have come before this investigation so far have happened behind closed doors. And there's just been five witnesses since this investigation started last October.

But a number of Republicans are raising that same question, including Mark Meadows and others have said have this public. And that's what the President himself tweeted earlier this week. I think there was some questions about exactly what he was going to say, some of the members wanted to hear what he had to say privately before they decided to open this up publicly. But Bob Goodlatte under pressure from his members and from the President said that he will open this up, have a public hearing at some point soon.

When that happens it's unclear. But as you can see, right now, John, we're trying to piece together what happened for the participants in the room. And the big headline so far is Peter Strzok saying that he had no political bias whatsoever in this investigation so far. But Mark Meadows there not believing a word he says. John.

KING: Not believing. And take us through quickly what we expect, more sessions, and then a classified session or are they going after lunch to a classified session?

RAJU: Yes, this is just all going to be behind closed door for the rest of the day, John. We're probably going to expect this to go late into the afternoon, early evening. We're not going to see any of this come out. This is not classified, just confidential, which means basically that they're not supposed to talk about it publicly. But some members are. And so we're getting some details, but we're not going to see any of this happen publicly for this for a few weeks, John.

KING: Give us a shout if you learn any more. Manu Raju live for us on Capitol Hill, only to discuss (ph) with Mark Meadows. Always nice to see how the sausage is made as you say.

A quick break, when we come back, Oklahoma last night joining a growing national trend. It's not about Congress, it's not about running for governor, it's about marijuana.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:46:19] KING: Welcome back. Last night, voters in Oklahoma approved a ballot measure legalizing the growth sale and use of medical marijuana. This headline from the states largest daily newspaper says it all, high turnout.

Republican Governor Mary Fallin says she will respect the will of the voters, but she expresses concerns the law, proposed law to loosely written. She says it needs to be tightened up by the legislature. But this vote Oklahoma now becomes the latest example of America's changing views on marijuana.

Let's take a look. Some polling here that goes back to 1969 only 12 percent of Americans thought marijuana should be legal then. Look at this, 64 percent. Now nearly two-thirds of Americans think pot should be legal at least in some form.

Let's look at this from Democrats and Republicans. This is from 2003. So 15 years of polling. Look at the Republicans, from 20 percent to 51 percent, a majority of Republicans now favor some legalization. Look at the Democrats 35 percent all the way up to 72 percent.

It is the Democrats who are pushing this even more quickly than Republican. So here's what's happening. Nine states have legalized, 13 states have partial or full decriminalization. Twenty-one states allow the use of medical marijuana. Pretty striking as you watch it through.

And it's an issue this year in the midterms. Michigan will vote -- you like the effect there? Michigan will vote to legalize marijuana. Oklahoma, we have the asterisk there because the voters approved it last night. But as we know, the governor says she wants the legislators to take a peek at it.

Missouri and Utah also to vote. Some Democrats expressing the view that maybe they should have asked for more of this. Put this on the ballot in even more states because they think it drives out turnout among their voters.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

GUY CECIL, CHAIRMAN, PRIORITIES USA: I don't think there's any question that in the places where we've seen legalization on the ballot that it has increased interest in the election on the part of young voters in particular, but it's increased turnout in those states. That's not the reason somebody should be for it. But I certainly think it's a winner in terms of just the pure politics of it.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

KING: It's striking. Pot politics to put it in short hand have changed dramatically especially over the last couple of years.

HENDERSON: Yes, it has. And, I mean, even if you look more broadly, I mean, if you look back to the 1970s, it was sort of white liberals who are pushing for decriminalization.

A lot of black politicians didn't really want decriminalization of it and legalization of marijuana. And now you have people like Cory Booker, people like Cuomo Harris who are moving in this direction. And thinking about this new generation, folks, and also thinking about the high rates of incarceration that they've seen in some of these African-American and Latino and low-income communities. So it's striking and we'll see if it's something that can boost turnout in any of these elections.

KING: And --

RESTON: Fairly in some of the red states that have had these votes, I mean, in Utah, for example, the strategists there are completely sort of recalculating what the turnout is going to be in November, and what they -- on the Republican side, what they might have to do to balance out younger voters turning out for that initiative. So it really does change the political calculus in an interesting way and boost turnouts.

LUCEY: And it's brought different people I think into the mix.

RESTON: Yes. LUCEY: Because I think you've seen in some of this mid-western and western states, where even -- maybe it's just, you know, medical marijuana is really effective grassroots campaigns where you see families.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: All pun intended.

LUCEY: You see families, you see, you know, people with children looking for certain types of, you know, derivatives to certain kind of treatments, and you see those folks in state houses. And I think that has also been effective in for those changing the messaging around.

KING: But Chuck Schumer just today, a tax benefit to states. So, (INAUDIBLE) a lot of -- that's how you move libertarians and more conservatives, some of them come over in the issue of we make some money out of this. Now, Chuck Schumer, delivering just today after the Oklahoma voter to promise to introduce legislation decriminalizing marijuana on the federal level.

[12:50:04] You mentioned the 2020 -- you mention Kamala Harris for this, look at this long list, a much longer list. Look at this list of potential 2020 Democratic candidates who have supported pot legalization or decriminalization. It runs from the governor of New York and to mayors and senators and the like.

That's a pretty -- there was a time when this position would be trouble.

CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think that, you know, there's always been a sense of this is good with young voters but I think it's good with all voters, you know, and baby boomers. Who, you know, kind of grow up in the pot era. I think this cuts across a lot of lines and I think Jeff Sessions is, you know, back in the Reefer Madness days, right? Where he's still trying to crack down on this.

That train -- the train has left the station on this. And you know, everybody else is trying to figure out how to do it. When Chuck Schumer does something like this, you know, he's examined this and it's a political winner and that's --

KING: Didn't the president himself say he was open to this most recently?

HUSLE: He would be -- he said that he would be for states. The state should govern it which is different than Sessions has been saying. I think the interesting could clash or come between Trump and the White House and other Republicans and Jeff Sessions.

KING: But the law and order party has a -- you know, has a hard issue with this but --

HENDERSON: Then where are the evangelicals? I mean, what are they going to say? You know, they're big backers of this president. KING: Plus the demographic of this issue is pretty striking though.

From this issue, we're going to shift right up at the Capitol Hill. Where in just about an hour, the House votes on what would normally be considered major immigration legislation. But the so called compromised bill is perhaps better described as major election year political posturing.

The Republican leadership is calling the vote again about an hour from now a little less, even though it knows the bill is unlikely to pass. It did get an 11th hour tweet of support from the president. House Republicans should pass the strong but fair immigration bill, the president says. "Passage will show that we want strong borders while Democrats want open borders and crime."

That from the president too last week said Congress would be wasting its time if they had this vote.

Phil Mattingly live up on Capitol Hill. Phi, what's going to happen?

PHIL MANTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So they will vote and the vote will fail, you pretty much got the summary correct. Look, I think the interesting element of this is if you think about the House Republican conference and years of kind of going out one another on this extremely divisive issue than it is immigration, they're actually gong to have a vote on the floor on a bill that overhauls the U.S immigration system. One that includes a solution and a pathway to citizenship for DACA eligible individuals.

One that includes $25 billion for a border wall. One that cuts the diversity visa program like the president has requested. One that cuts family visas down like the president has requested. And yet it is on path to fail rather miserably at least according to several aides that I've spoken to.

Look, what this all underscores here is, there is no real -- what I've been told many times, unicorn when it comes to immigration inside the Republican Party. This is something that has to be done in the House in a bipartisan manner if it is going to get the requisite number of votes.

Will they actually reach that point? John, I'll point you what the speaker -- Speaker Paul Ryan has said a couple of times where he says, even if this doesn't pass, this will kind of sow the seeds for a future solution. And what he means by that and what was long been his theory is, when the Supreme Court weighs in on DACA which it's expected to by the end of this year, that will force a deadline and also force everybody back to the table.

Maybe you see the components of this bill, be in that final kind of end game there. But at the moment, there is no clear end game. You mentioned the president's tweet, he had that come a week ago. Maybe it would have had an effect.

I'm not doubting that it could swing one or two votes. But the reality is, nobody has really known where he's been on this bill. He's been very wishy-washy. A lot of conservatives are very uncomfortable with how they treat DACA individuals in this bill.

And therefore, you're going to get the final number, might take up a little bit, probably not nearly enough. And I will note according to one senior Republican aide, the all caps in the president's tweet, that was his personal touch, that was not the direct request of leadership. The tweet was, not the all caps though.

KING: Not all the caps. Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill. It's a vote -- a bill that will not reach the president's desk but guess what? There'll be a lot of campaign ads. I voted for this even though you knew you weren't really voting for anything.

Phil Mattingly, appreciate your reporting.

Up next for us, the summit between President Trump and President Putin, is a go.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:56:11] KING: Welcome back. A big announcement today that sending some fresh chills across Europe. The Kremlin says the Trump-Putin summit is a go.

This morning in Moscow, President Trump's national security adviser John Bolton huddled with President Putin to discuss the details. Sources tell CNN the administration is eyeing Helsinki, the same week as a big NATO meeting with European allies.

Some allies say they see this summit as a slight and more evidence the American president has little respect for the world order America helped build. One European diplomat telling to CNN, you're going to go talk to Putin and then go to NATO? That doesn't look good.

John Bolton telling reporters in Moscow look, two superpowers, they should meet. He doesn't see anything unusual about it. He says the Russian meddling in elections will be discus. He promise the president will bring it up. And he says it make sense for these leaders to meet.

Europeans have met. So why the Europeans -- and I think I know the answer. But why are Europeans think this is a slap in the face?

LUCEY: There's a lot of concern about a real, you know, shift in the western alliances. I mean, you saw it with the G7 meeting going into that. The president said he'd like Russia to be brought back in. And then he proceed to really sort of, you know, threaten, unravel -- how to put it, trade relationships there.

So, there is a lot of uncertainty about what kind of partner America is going to be with those countries right now.

KING: The Poland's top diplomat telling Axios that she worries that the President Putin will push to pull U.S. troops out of Poland and other places in Europe. Listen to Vladimir Putin. This is what the Europeans are worried about. They look at Russia meddling in their on elections never mind ours. They look at Crimea, and they look at Vladimir Putin saying maybe we have -- forgive the word, a reset.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): The visit here in Moscow has brought us hope that we will be able to take the first steps toward restoring full pledge relations between Russia and the U.S.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HULSE: I still think that that -- this is one area where congressional Republicans, especially Senate Republicans still resists. They really have no faith in Russia. And I think that, you know, there'll be some pushback here as opposed to North Korea. I think this also reflects that Trump is very happy with what came out of North Korea.

He showed up --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

HULSE: -- the pictures happened. He looks like he's dealing with an adversary and pushing back. And I think he's like, well, let's just repeat that again. Maybe even if we don't get that much, but I love the coverage.

RESTON: And it changes the conversation certainly, you know, from what we've been talking about over the last week, which is family separations at the boarder. And now, you know, that's something that he is to move away from. So now it's, you know, Putin and the Kremlin.

KING: But to the Europeans, it comes in the middle of this trade war.

RESTON: Yes.

KING: Tariffs on steel and aluminum, retaliatory tariffs from the European Union. The president is saying, we'll escalate, now he's talking about European cars. It comes at a time where the president never misses an opportunity to tell European countries aren't paying enough into NATO doing enough for their defense.

And now he's going to sit down with Putin again at a time where he just said, let's invite him back into the club.

HENDERSON: Right.

KING: And most of them think no way.

HENDERSON: Yes. And he's meeting wit Putin before he meets with NATO. He of course bashed NATO on the campaign trail and kind of praised Putin. I mean, this is like a dream come true for Donald Trump. I mean, he has talks about it frequently -- KING: And for Vladimir Putin.

HENDERSON: And for Vladimir Putin.

KING: This is another case where game, set match, Putin wins.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. That's exactly --

RESTON: Lots of fodder for "Saturday Night Live" for short.

HULSE: We're also (INAUDIBLE), you know, Russia is on the world stage right now --

KING: Yes.

HULSE: -- with the World Cup. And, you know, there're probably feeling, you know, we're becoming more respectable. The coverage --

HENDERSON: Elevated --

HULSE: -- is out in there. And, you know, he wants to take advantage of this moment.

KING: A victory for Putin. We'll see how the summit plays out as we go forward there. We'll see. we'll see if the president will actually publicly say to Vladimir Putin anything about Russian election meddling in the United States. That would be progress.

Thanks for joining us today on the INSIDE POLITICS. See you back here this time tomorrow. Don't go anywhere, Wolf starts right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

We begin with primary politics here in there United States and the upset --