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INSIDE POLITICS

Little Follow Through From North Korea Since Singapore Summit; Poll: 58 Percent Women Prefer Democrats for House Race; Trump Mocks Warren and the Me Too Movement; EPA Chief Calls it Quits Amid Ethics Scandals. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 6, 2018 - 12:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:32:52] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. Today, difficult business for the secretary of state. Mike Pompeo in North Korea trying to fill in the blanks, and trying to turn North Korea's paper promise to denuclearize into something real and verifiable.

Sources tell CNN the process so far has been slow and unsteady. Right now, still no timeline for de-nuking or even an administration consensus on who should be Secretary Pompeo's point person to do the critical detail work. The New York Times reporting today the secretary is telling outside advisers he expects these talks to fail. But the president says all is on track and says those who say he got played by Kim Jong-un are wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So remember, they said, he's too tough, he's going to cause a war, it's too tough. Now they say, he's too nice, he's too nice. What do they say all the time? Because I didn't give anything up. What do they say all the time?

They say, he went there. I went there. I went to Singapore. We had a meeting. But they couldn't find anything, so what do they do? They say he met. I met. That's what we lost, folks. He met.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What we in the media and some other people, including a lot of Republicans actually say is, where's the beef I guess would be one way to put it. I just want to put this up on the screen. Since the Singapore summit three weeks ago, yes, there are ongoing high-level talks. That's a good thing.

We should be in favor of diplomacy. We want the governments to try figure this out. But, North Korea has actually built up -- satellite images showing North Korea actually building up a nuclear site. The United States and South Korea canceled military exercises, a big concession to the south. Has the North reciprocated by say, giving inventory of nuclear materials? No.

Has the north reciprocated even with a gesture like returning the U.S. remains from the Korean War that the president says was promised? No. Where are we now as Secretary Pompeo is at this table?

CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I think that actually the president in that very wide ranging speech last night, by the way, he sounded a little defensive to me right there on this issue. I think he realizes that, you know, the beef is not materializing. I think that this was always going to be the hard part, to get them to do something.

[12:35:00] There's been these reports, you know, that North Korea is still engaged in a lot of the activities. And, you know, when he says, well, I went to Singapore, that's to show that he didn't, you know, actually go to North Korea.

So, I just think they're in for the same slog that two -- at least two previous administrations have gone through and come up empty. And to me, he sounded a little bit like, you know, starting to build the explanation and justification for why it hasn't quite worked out.

KING: I tried, but.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well -- and I agree with that, but I -- he's actually been making it more difficult for himself to even defend what he's done because you have him tweeting that he averted a war, right? You have him saying right after the meeting that, you know, the nuclear threat is gone.

So, you have Mike Pompeo, Secretary Pompeo over there being much more realistic about what the prospects may be and trying to actually put in place a process to get there. But you have the president making a victory lap. And so, now that it appears that at least for the -- in the short-term, there are no real material gains that the United States has achieved. He's having to go back not only to defend the meeting but to defend all of his own rhetoric, sort of overstating what he achieved just by going there.

KING: And Secretary Pompeo trying, as he gets to the table, a little bit of humor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Thanks for having me here. I really appreciate it. This is my third time. I (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: He's a new secretary of state, new to this job. I mean, what a task right out of the box.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, and the expectations obviously set up by Donald Trump. No clear sense of what plan b is, if this fails. And it sort of look looks like it already has failed. Do they go back to maximum pressure? Is it going back to the kind of rhetoric of war and threats? The fire and fury rhetoric.

You know, it's unclear. I mean, Pompeo has a tough job ahead of him. Already seems to be in this New York Times article telegraphing failure. Because it looks like -- in the meantime, Kim Jong-un has gotten a lot. He's gotten -- he's been elevated on the world stage in a way that he had never been before.

KING: It's a great point and they've repeatedly mocked the Iran nuclear agreement process which took forever. Months and months and months and months. And the question is, will they invest months and months and months if they don't get progress here. We'll keep an eye on that.

Up next for us, what's up next? The answer is, when jeopardy and the Russia investigation collide.

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[12:41:55] KING: Topping our political radar today, the president's allies opening their wallets to support his eventual nominee to the Supreme Court. CNN has learned the group America First Policies is planning a seven-figure ad campaign to push the president's pick. The campaign will start next week after Monday's big announcement and will focus on Democratic senators from red states carried by the president.

And Republican primary ad was also in full swing. Jason Emert, a Republican candidate for Congress in Tennessee launching this new ad against his opponent with a promise to voters he'll help the president build that wall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, Jason, are you really going to help President Trump build the wall?

JASON EMERT (R), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: You bet I am. I'm Jason Emert, and I approve this message because unlike Butch Jones, when I say I'm going to do something, I actually mean it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Emert running in a Republican primary, hoping to replace Congressman John Duncan who represents Tennessee's second congressional district.

And I'll take Russia meddling for a thousand, Alex. Only the smartest of the smart get to be on "Jeopardy", right? So what does this little exchange last night say about the nation's focus or lack thereof on the whole Mueller/Russia meddling and collusion investigation?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX TREBEK: In 2017, this ex-national security adviser pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Suzanne (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who is Kelly?

ALEX TREBEK: No. Steve (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is Gorka? ALEX TREBEK: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I would bomb on "Jeopardy" but I'd get that one right. The answer, who is Michael Flynn.

When we come back, the president on the road last night putting in a plug for Republican senate candidate, talking about his agenda, and mocking the Me Too movement.

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[12:47:50] KING: Montana, the latest stage for a president who prefers combative, often coarse political rhetoric. And of course, it's no secret this president enjoys thumbing his nose at what he calls the politically correct crowd. Last night's rally included fresh digs at ailing Senator John McCain, a dig at 94-year-old former president George H.W. Bush, and a new twist on this president's fascination with Elizabeth Warren.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Pocahontas, I apologize to you. I apologize. To you I apologize. To the fake Pocahontas, I won't apologize.

I'm going to get one of those little kits. And in the middle of the debate when she proclaims that she's of Indian heritage. We're in the Me Too generation, so I have to be very gentle. And we will very gently take that kit and we will slowly toss it, hoping it doesn't hit her and injure her arm, even though it only weighs probably two ounces.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, mocking the Me Too movement is a risk for a president who's been accused of misconduct by at least 15 women. And it's another reminder to Republicans on this year's ballot that, yes, there's no one like President Trump in rallying the base, but there's also no one like President Trump in exacerbating the party's biggest problem problems.

These are the latest Quinnipiac University poll numbers. Sixty-three of women disapprove of the president's job performance, only 32 percent approve. And when it comes to voting for Congress this year, men favor Republicans by eight points, 50 percent to 42 percent. But look at this, women favor Democrats by a whopping 25 points, 58 percent to 33 percent.

So the president is not helping his party when he does that, is he?

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME: I don't think so. No, I mean, look, it cannot be said enough that this election -- this midterm election hinges on women voters. It hinges on the activation of women voters. It hinges on suburban women voters in particular, college-educated women voters in particular. That mostly affects the House of Representatives. It mostly affects the Republicans who are in those types of districts. But anything that the president does to remind those women of why they're mad, and they are mad.

[12:50:02] We've already seen, you know, in special elections and marches and all the activism that's going on, anything he does to sort of remind them of that, I think doesn't help.

Usually in politics, there's sort of a, you know, for every action, there's a reaction. But I don't think that we have seen, you know, men being galvanized in response to either the Me Too movement or the president's rhetoric, saying, yes, we're just as mad, we want to go vote and stick it to those broads. We're not seeing that.

And so, it's really all downside and not a lot of upside when the president does things like that.

KING: Right. He's holding and Republicans are holding pretty traditional numbers among men, whereas the Democrats are off the charts in the search among women. And yet, he knows this. He follows the cable shows. He follows political news but he thinks he's bulletproof and most Republicans think he doesn't give a, you know, what about them. He doesn't think of himself as the party leader.

HENDERSON: Yes, and he just wants to have fun and tell his jokes and rally his crowd. I think --

KING: That's fun, mocking the Me Too movement?

HENDERSON: I think he thinks it is. I mean, he's seemed to be enjoying. It was almost like he was a stand-up comedian doing a bit that he maybe practiced in the White House before he got there.

So yes -- I mean, this is energizing to him, not clear that it helps that candidate in montana. Maybe. I mean, Tester is probably going to have a tough race, but he's also a really tough candidate in that state. So we'll see.

KING: All right. Quick break. When we come back, Scott Pruitt is gone, and he thinks life has been so unfair to him.

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[12:55:37] KING: Scott Pruitt is finally gone, but don't hold your breath if you expect him to man up. Lawyer up is something he is doing. The EPA administrator resigned yesterday after White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told him if he didn't, he would be fired. In his letter to the president, Pruitt took zero responsibility, saying he was leaving because, quote, the unrelenting attacks on me personally and my family are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.

Let's translate. What Pruitt sees as unrelenting attacks are at least 14 federal reviews of alleged misconduct. Reviews, by the way, being led by the Republican Trump administration and the Republican Congress. They range from wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars to asking government workers to find his wife a job, to perhaps breaking the law by scrubbing controversial meetings from his calendar. Pruitt has complained to friends in recent days about mushrooming legal costs to defend himself.

The New York Post mocking Pruitt's exit this way, casting the Trump administration as an episode of "Survivor." But for me, the news isn't that he's gone. The news is what took so long.

HENDERSON: Yes.

HULSE: I think that the president -- this is just my theory, I think the president was reluctant to do it because he would be giving in to all these attacks, and he had some affinity for Pruitt. I think, you know, obviously in any normal circumstances, it would have happened long ago. And the thing that always got me about it was Pruitt's hardly indispensable. There's a lot of conservatives around town who can unwind environmental regulations without all this surrounding trouble.

And I think maybe that's what we'll see now. You know, they've learned, hey, let's just keep our heads down and do this. A lot of --

KING: But some Republicans have been making that argument for weeks and weeks, that Andrew Wheeler, the deputy, who's now going to be in charge, that he can do the Pruitt agenda without doing the Pruitt circus. That's been the argument.

This jumped out at me. This is in the Washington Post today from a Republican donor called Doug Deason. "The president should have protected him better, said Doug Deason, a Dallas donor and prominent Trump supporter who fund raises for the pro-Trump America First PAC. I'm extremely disappointed. He's the only cabinet secretary who has done what he was told to do."

So here's the people who said lock Hillary Clinton up and that the Clinton family was this giant pay-for-play organization, that's what they said. They -- now that they're in power, the government is there to be their ATM and to do their bidding and the president should let this guy stay.

DAVIS: Well, I mean, I think Carl is right that there was a personal affinity there, no question. But yes -- I mean, this whole drain the swamp theme that Donald Trump ran on, this was the epitome of the swamp. Any one of those 14 investigations, it was very swamp-like behavior. And it was all sort of in the -- you know, while he was doing this deregulatory campaign he was -- all of those actions had nothing to do with his actual job.

Yes, he may have done the job as the donor said that he was supposed to do, but he also did a lot of things that he was not supposed to do. And there are a lot of Republicans not just outside the White House but inside the White House who have been telling Trump for weeks and months that he was bad news, that the trajectory was not going to get any better with him, and that he needed to cut him loose. I think he was just reluctant to go back on something that he had decided was fine with him.

KING: Well, I talked to somebody close to Pruitt yesterday, says he now understands he's going to need a team of lawyers and this is going to go on for months because these investigations aren't going anywhere. Andrew Wheeler was the deputy, now he's in charge. Most Republicans think essentially you'll have the same policy. This is Andrew Wheeler at his confirmation hearing on the question of climate change.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: Do you believe human activity is driving the temperature increasing on the planet?

ANDREW WHEELER, DEPUTY EPA ADMINISTRATOR NOMINEE: I believe that man has an impact on the climate, but what's not completely understood is what the impact is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: A lot of people in the science community, most people in the science community would tell you actually, no, we do know what the impact is. And it's time to have a debate about what to do about it. Let's stop debating the impact and let's start debating what to do about it.

HENDERSON: Yes, it's unclear if he gets the nomination. He's honestly the acting now. I think there's a time limit for the amount of time he can stay in that. We'll see. We'll see if he gets the ultimate nomination or there's somebody else who needs to come through and get nominated and confirmed by the Senate.

KING: So 200 days or something like that. (INAUDIBLE) he'll be there for a little bit, and we shall see. All right, we'll keep an eye on that as well. Again, Scott Pruitt is gone. I wouldn't place a bet if you're waiting for big policy changes.

Thanks for joining us in the INSIDE POLITICS today. Hope to see you back here Sunday morning 8 a.m. Eastern as well. Jim Sciutto is in for Wolf. He starts right now. Have a great weekend.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Hello. I'm Jim Sciutto in today for Wolf Blitzer. It is 1 p.m. here in New York. Wherever you are watching from around the world, thanks so much for joining us.