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Scandal-Plagued Trump EPA Administrator Resigns. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 5, 2018 - 16:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto, in again for Jake today.

And we begin with the major breaking news.

Just minutes ago, President Trump tweeting that he has accepted the resignation of the EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt. Pruitt came to Washington already as a controversial figure and has since then faced relentless questions, as a steady stream of scandals emerged surrounding the EPA chief, his ethics, his conduct in office.

Pruitt was facing at least 14 federal probes regarding his spending, his management, his ethics.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan, it was just yesterday that Scott Pruitt was celebrating the Fourth of July at the White House. Do we know what the tipping point was for the president?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, it could be any of the number of scandals again Scott Pruitt, who, you're right, was on the South Lawn of the White House just last night, with the president and several other administration officials watching the fireworks on the Fourth of July.

But now the president announced on Twitter that he has submitted his resignation, the president accepted it, and noting in his tweet, President Trump there, that while Scott Pruitt was the EPA chief, he did an outstanding job, in the president's eyes.

In two tweets, the president announcing this news, no mention of the scandals again Scott Pruitt, who is facing 14 federal probes right now, only saying he did a great job in that and then saying that the Senate has confirmed his deputy at the EPA, Andrew Wheeler, who is going to assume the duties as acting administrator of the EPA.

The president noting there he has no doubt that Andy will continue to build their own agenda at the EPA. That really says a lot about why Scott Pruitt was still in this administration for so long, despite the dizzying number of ethics scandals against him that range from abuse of taxpayer money to enlisting aides to do personal favors for he and his family, to quite zany ones like getting a used mattress from the Trump Hotel.

But now even Scott Pruitt could not stick around for much longer, Jim, after his name had been in the headlines this week, after there were more allegations made against him by his former aides and some reporting from CNN that he had gone and directly appealed to the president to replace Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice with him instead.

But even this week, the calls for Scott Pruitt to resign were coming from conservative corners who have hailed him as a hero for rolling back those Obama era guidelines at the EPA. Even they said that he needed to go, and the president now announcing his resignation, though we should note, Jim, that this is not a firing by President Trump, accepting to his tweets.

It's him Scott Pruitt's resignation after a dizzying number of ethics scandals -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, that could often be code language, I suppose, as well.

Kaitlan Collins the White House.

CNN's Sara Ganim joining me now.

Sara, you have been chronicling the many controversies of Scott Pruitt. And for the sake of our viewers, remind us, because it is quite a long list.


And, quite frankly, it's a list that has been growing by the day, Jim. This really started to tumble out of control a few -- few months ago for Scott Pruitt when there were reports that he -- that he was traveling in first-class on the taxpayer dime, citing security reasons.

That was costing taxpayers millions of dollars, an unprecedented amount of money, more than what they had spent on security for previous administrators.

But the list continued. Renting a condo at below market rate from a lobbyist who was lobbying the EPA. Firing people who are pushing back on some of his policies.

As Kaitlan mentioned, some of the more bizarre things, sending out on personal errands, like looking for certain kinds of lotion, trying to find a used mattress that he could buy, trying to get a job for his wife, a Chick-fil-A franchise, $200,000 salaried job with the Republican Governors Association.

I mean, the scandals, they just kept coming out day after day after day. And this went to 14 different federal probes, Jim. And you have to wonder, as those probes began to near the stage where the meat of those investigations were beginning to leak out, if some of this got to the White House, got back to them, what they were learning.

Just last week, on Thursday and Friday, congressional investigators, fellow Republicans heard from two of Pruitt's top aides, his current chief of staff, and his former top adviser. And we know that they were in those interviews for entire days, divulging information about the numerous questions that Congress has about Scott Pruitt's behavior while in office.

And as those probes loom over his head, it is interesting that this is the timing that we're seeing that he has been moving away, Jim.


And just a quick mention about the person who will take its place. Andrew Wheeler is absolutely respected within the agency and thought to have the ability to carry out the same policies, but maybe without some of the scandals, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Right, former coal lobbyist himself.


SCIUTTO: Sara Ganim, thanks very much.

CNN's Drew Griffin, he joins me now.

It was Drew who is behind one of these -- exposing one of these recent controversies for Scott Pruitt. And we understand two Democratic congressmen, they just called for the EPA's inspector general to investigate whether Pruitt had committed a federal crime by keeping that secret calendar, which, Drew, it was your reporting that brought to the fore.

Tell us what you learned.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the EPA's inspector general acknowledged receipt of that letter from two Democratic congressmen, we should say, and began evaluating that.

Our reporting was then backed up by "The New York Times," which came out with a story very similar to ours just about an hour ago, with a different staff person coming forward, saying, yes indeed there was a secret calendar, yes indeed these federal registers may have been changed, in violation of federal law.

And so that may -- may have finally been the tipping point. But, as Sara has gone through the litany of these investigations by CNN, by all kinds of news organizations, by members of Congress and the inspector general office himself, it just was an overwhelming number of cases against Scott Pruitt, building.

But our reporting, Jim, is that Scott Pruitt and his inner circle would decide what to publicly and not publicly release in terms of who he was meeting at EPA, who he was traveling with, who he was meeting, when he was traveling. And those decisions were made to actually hide the fact he was meeting with business leaders, lobbyists, people who were seeking favors or favorable mentions from the EPA.

SCIUTTO: Yes. It's just hard to call it anything else but blatant.

Thanks very much, Drew Griffin. Your reporting, of course, part of this.

And I want to go to what my panel now.

Jeff Zeleny here. You have been covering this story for a long time.

I wonder. It raises an interesting questions. By resigning now, does Scott Pruitt get himself out of these federal probes of that behavior, or is he still subject?


I mean, I think it's a variety of federal probes, as Kaitlan and Sara and Drew were reporting. Some are the inspector general's office, some are the Office of Special Counsel. Some are the House Oversight Committee.

We will see. I would assume he does not get out of all of them. But I am told one of the reasons he is resigning now, as opposed to wait to get fired, the president simply had had enough of this.

John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, who is still in his position on that plane with the president, who is flying to Montana as we speak -- that's where he did this -- he was very much involved with this.

And the president has tolerated this, because supporters of Scott Pruitt like the policies. Oil and gas lobbyists, donors, others, oh, never mind the list. We like what he's doing. And he knew it would be hard to confirm someone.

John Kelly, I'm told, was leading the charge, saying this optically looks bad. The president finally agreed with that. So, shockingly, Scott Pruitt on the South Lawn of the White House last evening at that Fourth of July picnic.

I guess he knew it was his last invitation, so he went. But I think that John Kelly played a very big role in proffering this resignation, getting it to come out before he was fired, because that is where this was going.

SCIUTTO: Lots of free hot dogs there as well.

Take just a moment away from the panel, because my colleague Sara Ganim, she has some new reporting about those federal probes Scott Pruitt is facing. Tell us what you're learning.

GANIM: We're learning, Jim, that at least some of these investigations, the ones that are being conducted by the EPA inspector general, will continue, even though Scott Pruitt is no longer the administrator of the EPA.

I just got that from someone inside that office. A congressional source has also told me that he believes that the probes related -- that are being conducted by committees on the Hill will also continue.

Now, that may not encompass all of them, but at least some of these investigations that are looking into his conduct will continue. And we should see more on that front soon.

SCIUTTO: Understood. So resignation not necessarily a free pass from this.

Coming back to the panel now, Amanda Carpenter, I'm curious.

It seems like part of the impetus for this was that conservatives had lost patience with him. So, are conservatives cheering Scott Pruitt's departure?


Here's what I think changed. We have to ask, why did President Trump reach his breaking point? And I do think we have to look at the reporting by Kaitlan Collins. The news that she broke that Pruitt approached the president and offered to possibly step in as attorney general, why would he do that? Why was President Trump upset at Attorney General Sessions?

Because Sessions, would not blunt the Russia investigation. So was Pruitt making an offer to step into that position, circumvent confirmation by Congress, to blunt that investigation? That is what is different than all of these other scandals.


That is why it moves from being about Pruitt to about President Trump. It becomes possibly obstruction of justice. It becomes interesting to Robert Mueller.

I would assume that he would want to know what conversations went on in the White House around that. So I believe, just from watching these events, that have been what changed the fate for Scott Pruitt.

SCIUTTO: So, for the president -- what would the president have been upset about that implication?

CARPENTER: Well, certainly, that would be something interesting to Robert Mueller.

Who made the offer? Who invited him to the White House to talk about that? How far down the road did that go is certainly relevant.

SCIUTTO: No question.

Listen, as you look here at what Scott Pruitt brought to the president, Paul Begala, he enacted his agenda with fervor and success over the course of last year-and-a-half, particularly on taking away, rolling back not just Obama era environmental regulations, but regulations dating back some number of years on a whole host of things.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's what's so interesting about is, is that the president says, well, now we're going to really focus on the agenda at EPA.

And I think that's good. I don't agree with the agenda. We should focus on it.

The things Mr. Pruitt is accused of are really outrageous. They are egregious. They are shocking even by Washington standards. This is a very corrupt place. And he stood out.

I mean, it's Shaquille O'Neal saying, my God, that guy is big. When you are...


BEGALA: You're really scummy.

But the bigger thing is this agenda. Clean air gutted. Clean water gutted. The Clean Power Plan gutted. Paris climate accord, removed from.

There's a highly controversial insecticide that the Obama administration was trying to get people to use less of, because it causes brain damage in children.

The EPA stood that down. Now -- we're going to more brain damage, more toxins, more global warming.


SCIUTTO: That was one of the reasons for the mercury regulations in coal power emissions, right, because it has a direct connection to...


SCIUTTO: ... child brain development.

BEGALA: Right.

Everybody eats. Everybody drinks. Everybody breathes. And that's what I wish folks would focus on more. These ethics problems are outrageous. I'm glad he's gone.

But his successor is, as you pointed out, a coal lobbyists for a very controversial coal company, Murray Energy. The policies may well get worse, if that's possible. They're certainly going to continue. For those of us who actually like to breathe, it's going to be a problem.

SCIUTTO: Nia-Malika, those issues that Paul described -- and, of course, with Scott Pruitt, the focus has been on the ethics violations, as opposed to the policies.

Do they have a political backing, right? Is that a driving issue for voters? Are voters aware? Do they think about -- do they say, well, this upsets me, maybe this is going too far, I do care about clean water, I do care about clean air?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, and, certainly, it animates the left and animates right in a very different way.

They hear increased regulations, and they hear taxes and jobs killing and bad for the economy. And that's why Pruitt has been so successful in his job and in winning the support of any number of conservatives. Some of the tipping points being Laura Ingraham, who is big a conservative, essentially saying he's the swamp and drain it. So we see what happens.

But this has been an issue on the left. It has not necessarily been an invigorating midterm issue or campaign issue. Maybe it will be. We will see. But there's so many other things, right, that the left is focused on in terms of this administration, but maybe with this new appointment, that it'll change.

SCIUTTO: We have -- going to take a moment here from the panel, because I want to bring in Kristin Mink.

She's the mother who you may remember just days ago confronted Scott Pruitt in a Washington restaurant and urged him to resign, particularly over his standing on climate change.

Kristin Mink, if you could stand by, I want to play that moment to remind our viewers.


KRISTIN MINK, MOTHER: (INAUDIBLE) So, I would urge you to resign before you scandals push you out.


SCIUTTO: Kristin, the mother in that video, she joins us now on the telephone.

I would like to ask you what your reaction is to Scott Pruitt's departure?

Mink: Hi.

Initially, unrestrained glee, of course, because that was exactly what I wanted him to do, followed immediately, of course, by the realization that Trump now gets to appoint somebody else. And we see that it's Andrew Wheeler, a coal lobbyist.

So, clearly, the agenda is not going to be getting any better. Hopefully, Andrew Wheeler will be less effective at undermining all the environmental regulations that have been put in place years prior, administrations prior.

Maybe he will be -- maybe he will be less corrupt. It would be hard to be more corrupt than Scott Pruitt.

But I think what this shows us, this next appointment with Andrew Wheeler, is that the fall midterms are going to be really, really important, that we're not going to get somebody to head the EPA who believes in science and thinks that it's matters, who is going to help fix our environment, who is going to help us have clean air and clean water, going to do anything but pat the backs of energy lobbyists.

[16:15:10] So please get to the polls, everyone, this fall.

SCIUTTO: Kristin, I want to ask you, that moment with you holding your child, confronting him, it certainly captures a lot of people's attention, because you, of course, were thinking about your child, as we do -- as we all do. But in that moment, do you think that that encounter made a difference? Do you think that might have helped be a tipping point in his departure?

MINK: You know, because it caught on so much, I think maybe it helped to bring a little bit of extra -- a little bit of extra heat. I hope so. I do think that the great majority of the credit has to go to the quality of the reporting beforehand and around the same time. You know, fact based reporting and good solid research that helped to out Scott Pruitt on the level of corruption that he reached, that really helped bring the heat down, and more attention to Donald Trump as well.

You know, maybe my video helped to keep it in the news. I like to think that it did or, you know, helped it to put it in front of more eyes. And I hope that that does encourage other people to do the same thing.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask this. It was a chance encounter. I don't imagine you knew you would be in the same restaurant a couple of tables over as Scott Pruitt.


SCIUTTO: What drove you to stand up? I mean, as you spoke there, you knew what you were talking about. You know, you seemed prepared for that moment. What led you to go up and confront him?

MINK: I mean, Scott Pruitt's name has been in our house hold, someone directly undermining my child's future, future of humanity, frankly, America, and internationally. So, you know, him being right there, I was eager to talk to him. It was a little bit nerve-wracking because that's not my M.O. going up to strangers in restaurants.

But here's the man which I felt very strongly on an emotional level, who is undermining my child's future. He's literally sacrificing clean air and clean water for all of us for his own self serving benefits. And I'll be darn if I wasn't going to have a word with him about that. SCIUTTO: I'm curious what happened after that encounter. Did you

have a moment? Did you exchange words that we didn't see on the tape there?

MINK: No, that was the end of the encounter. I know that his office put out a statement later, he said thank you. So maybe that happened after we kind of stopped reporting and sort of went back to our tables. You know, we had the security guards behind us, it's not like we were going to linger.

So, maybe he did and we missed it, in which case like, you learn how to say thank. My 2-year-old, it's not really the issue here. You know, good riddance, Scott Pruitt. Best you got is thank you is not good enough.

SCIUTTO: Well, Kristin Mink, thanks so much. That was quite a moment there. We appreciate you joining us today.

MINK: Thank you so much for having me.

SCIUTTO: I want to go now to CNN's Maeve Reston. She is traveling now where the president is about to join for campaign rally tonight. You've been speaking to conservatives there, the president supporters, Republicans, what's their reaction to Pruitt's departure?

RESTON: Well, it's interesting, Jim, because as this was unfolding, I was talking to a bunch of Republican voters there, and they really haven't been following the ins and outs of all of these investigations the same way that Democrats have been. A number of them were surprised and said that they had been supportive of Pruitt mainly because he had done so much to unravel the Obama regulatory agenda. So, some surprise here, but also people just kind of thinking doesn't have a huge impact on their daily lives.

President Trump, of course, is coming out here to support the Republican who is running against Jon Tester in the Senate this year and is going to make the case that he's keeping his promises. And it's so interesting because when I was texting with Republican strategist as it was happening, they were saying that Pruitt had just become too much of a liability in some of these midterm races in the sense that he cut completely against that "drain the swamp" message that Trump had in the campaign and will continue to have.

There are people over here on this quadrant of the arena are holding up the signs saying "drain the swamp". And some strategists felt like thought it was too much all these story lines with Pruitt were becoming a distraction. So, they are relieved today that the president made this decision.

SCIUTTO: Maeve Reston there traveling with the president, appreciate it.

Coming back to the panel now.

Nia-Malika, the president is not someone who likes to admit failure.



SCIUTTO: He did accept the resignation, apparently reached the limits of his patience. What do we expect from the president now? Will he come up with alternative storyline as to how this happened?

HENDERSON: Quite possibly. We have seen him do it before and say he would do it. If something went wrong or mistake, he wouldn't necessarily admit it was his mistake, he would make something up. So, we'll see what he says tonight as the Pruitt thing was unfolding, he would essentially Pruitt is a Goodman and this is essentially kind of a vicious attacks from the media.

So you wonder if he has that similar line tonight essentially go after the media. I'm sure he'll go after the media and possibly link it to Pruitt's removal as well.

SCIUTTO: And to be clear, Kristin Mink said this, Scott Pruitt is gone because of good hard reporting. These things would not have come to light without reporters exposing this kind of behavior, you know, that kind of stuff still matters.

I wonder on the bigger issue here though, Paul, you've been around a long time, and anyone else who wants to pipe in, you know, clearly the president has limits, right? I mean, Pruitt went too far. The child separation at the border, as much as the president was behind tough immigration policy and as much as that identifies him, you know, his base identifies him with that, president saw that went too far, right?

BEGALA: Right.

SCIUTTO: This idea all things are changed under Trump, even he sees when things have gone too far.

BEGALA: And, generally, it's when he himself feels threatened. And it may well be he doesn't like the optics. I don't think that's the case, because he's traded intensity, traded away breadth, right? The intensity of support is very strong, it's terrific. The breadth of his support is very limited.

So, I think it's not the controversy for as Amanda said a few minutes ago, is that it can be circling back, believe it or not, to the Mueller probe. I was in a White House under federal investigation, OK? Anything that touches and concerns it gets subpoenaed.

And I don't know this, I know it from experience, that if in fact there was some movement that could be part of a plot to shut down the Mueller investigation, that's a very big deal. My prediction is based on what Nia just said, is the president in Montana, he's going to praise Pruitt. Notice he didn't praise Rex Tillerson went out the door. He said, don't let the screen door hit on the butt on the way out. He couldn't say a good word about Tillerson.

ZELENY: There are several members as well, and the list is growing. I mean, I remember Tom Price who was first health and human services, he was ousted for what now seems like small potatoes.


CARPENTER: Anybody mad about the Pruitt scandal is Tom Price.

ZELENY: He had a couple of plane rides and president did not like the optics of that. So, even right now, the president did not acknowledge any of these investigations, in the resignation letter which we are still trying to get a hold of, but I was just talking to someone who has seen it, there is no mention of the probes or anything in this --

SCIUTTO: In the letter.


ZELENY: These unrelenting attacks on him. So I expect the president to say that in this rally atmosphere this evening. They want to move beyond this.

But the reality is appointing anyone or confirming anyone in this environment I find impossible to believe. That's why they'll be an acting EPA administrator. So, the policies will not change at all, which is why suddenly in this midterm election years, Scott Pruitt was not worth the baggage, was not worth the trouble to the White House.

CARPENTER: But what they want to rush through confirmation hearing ahead of the midterms considering how slim the margin is for error in the Senate, with a 51-vote margin, it seems they would want to get somebody nominated and confirmed quickly rather than hang out with then acting through the midterms.

ZELENY: Supreme Court first probably then EPA.

CARPENTER: Yes, priorities.

SCIUTTO: Are these -- do these have, the issue family separation at the border, Scott Pruitt, swampiest of the swamp, you know, Laura Ingraham as you said, even Laura Ingraham identifying that. Do these percolate into the midterm elections? Because these are issues, were driving issues in 2016, right, certainly, you know, it's one reason many people voted for Donald Trump, because they thought that he could he claim to clean up the swamp. Are these big enough to have an effect?

HENDERSON: I think so. I mean, it's not necessarily that people are focusing on it right now, certainly not in the way that we are in the Beltway. But closer the midterms come certainly, these issues are going to be important. Poll out recently, immigration, high on everybody's mind.

Obviously, it depends on where you sit, where you see this immigration issue, whether or not you think the president's toughness is what's called for or whether or not you think his administration has displayed incompetent in humanity the way they have dealt with children separated from their parents. So, yes, I mean, I think it will trickle down in very real issues for individual voters. The ones you want to look at are independents, swing voters, suburban white women, how they feel in some of these swing districts, places like Virginia, California and Florida.

SCIUTTO: They were big driving forces in specials we've seen so far.


SCIUTTO: If you look at the Roy Moore elections, suburban women. If you look at the results in the Virginia election as well.

Paul, I think you want to --

BEGALA: That's been the heart of the erosion.

President Trump got 46, now he's about 42, that's not a ton of erosion, but it's some. Any politician would want to grow from 46 to above 50. And the erosion is exactly what Nia talked about. It's in suburbs, it's in with women, and overwhelmingly women who have a college degree.

Issues of clean air, clean water are especially important to them, right? They don't want their children -- who goes to like their kids rugby game and the mom says I wish we had more neurotoxins on our food, right?

[16:25:07] ZELENY: It's a generational issue as well. Young voters, younger conservative voters, much more concerned about the economy. And I think this shows, if you are Trump supporter, the president got rid of this.

So, you know, things move so quickly now. It is July 5th. I'd be very surprised if Scott Pruitt is going to be a factor in the midterms.

But had he hung on, had there been more than that, it was an unnecessary weight. Why did it take so long? Maybe it's because of what Amanda was saying earlier.

SCIUTTO: Part of the calculation from the president.

We'll take a quick moment away from the panel to go to Drew Griffin, who has some new reporting, new information about Andrew Wheeler who is Senate-confirmed deputy who will now take over Scott Pruitt's spot as EPA administrator.

What are you learning?

GRIFFIN: And, Jim, just some thoughts on Wheeler and why the environmental groups fear him maybe perhaps more than Pruitt if the aim is not to get the rollbacks and the environmental back, Wheeler is again product of Capitol Hill. He worked for Senator Inhofe in the Senate. He worked at EPA previously.

We are talking about the fact that he was just previously a lobbyist for a major coal company. But what environmentalists that we have been working on the story anticipating Pruitt's departure for a while now. What environmentalist groups fear is that without the headlines that Pruitt brought because of his antics and his ethical violations, the EPA's policy will continue to work under Pruitt's basically function, without any of those headlines, without any of the screaming stories about Scott Pruitt and therefore much more quietly this agenda to roll back regulations will continue somewhat unabated.

So, there is fear that Andrew Wheeler now, I guess, acting as acting deputy, acting administrator could be potentially even worse from the perspective of environmental groups, because he knows how the game is played and knows how to not get in trouble in Washington, D.C.

SCIUTTO: Exactly right. Thanks, Drew Griffin.

Amanda Carpenter's point, if you get the policy without the drama, that's a win for the president.

CARPENTER: Yes, absolutely. I'm trying to forecast any problems ahead, at least among Republicans. And the only thing I can think of is that Trump has talked favorably recently about trying to enact some kind of coal subsidy to prop up manufacturing among his base states, Pennsylvania, Ohio, that kind of thing, and that would cause heartburn among many Republicans. And so, I would be curious where Wheeler would be.

SCIUTTO: I thought Republicans don't pick winners and losers.

CARPENTER: Yes. There is a split among Republicans on that issue. And I would expect that to come up. And I would be interested in hearing Mr. Wheeler's answer on that.

SCIUTTO: No question.


BEGALA: If there is a hearing, there will be one day a hearing for new EPA administrator, and this is just Democrats trying to refrain. You know, you watch our president, he is great at this. He talks about job-killing regulations, and most Americans go, yes, good point. We need fewer job killing regulations.

If the Democrats can then put someone on the same and say, do you think we need more neurotoxins on our food? Do you think we need more led in our water? Do you think we need more pollution in our air? Specify.

If you go to a specific regulation, the same American who says, I don't want to kill jobs, would say I don't want my kids' food poisoned. So, that will be the tension. This is a huge opportunity actually for Democrats to put pro-human environmental issues onto the agenda instead of this vague indictment of regulations per se.

SCIUTTO: But is there a Democratic agenda? Have you seen that listed or clarified?


SCIUTTO: There has been a lot of talk about it but haven't seen it.

BEGALA: I've got three words: vote them out. That's all the Democrats have to say in 2018.

SCIUTTO: That might be.

Listen, Jeff, as you are watching this, and the president's kind of state of mind, you know, following, the family separation thing clearly is not going away. President thought he could run away with the executive pen and we just add we were reporting a short time ago that the number of kids are still around 3,000 still separated from their parents.

This is a big year. We're four months away from a midterm election. Does this president think he's got a handle on this? Does he believe that they have a good shot to retain the house coming up?

ZELENY: The president's mood I think is brighter than it's been in several months. This is the reason why. I've been traveling around the country to these rallies every week now for the last several weeks. In Fargo last week, tonight in Great Falls, Montana, it is like fueling up his gas tank.

It is something that takes him back to special place in his heart and his mind from the presidential campaign. It is why they are doing it, to get him out of this isolation box of Washington. It is something that Richard Nixon never had. He was isolated.

President Trump not isolated at all. He believes he is in this place where people are agreeing with him. Of course, he's preaching to the choir.

But I think his mood is quite bright. Look what he'll be doing on Monday evening. Monday evening, 9:00 in the East Room of the White House, he'll be announcing the second Supreme Court justice of his first term. Most presidents don't get this. That is a chance to fire up conservatives.

In terms of as he feels about Republicans holding control of the House and Senate, it's a complicated fight for the House, no question.