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INSIDE POLITICS

White House Says Trump Is Open to Visiting Moscow; Trump Touts Fastest U.S. Economic Growth Since 2014; CNN: Trump Angry as Investigations Move Close to Inner Circle. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 27, 2018 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: -- from the White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, quote, President Trump looks forward to having President Putin in Washington after the first of the year, and he is open to visiting Moscow upon receiving a formal invitation.

So the reviews of Helsinki were horrible. The president's own team still can't tell us with any specificity what was discussed in the long one-on-one meeting. And yet, the two presidents seem gung-ho about more summits.

ELIANA JOHNSON, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: You know, the most interesting thing I've picked up in reporting since Helsinki and since the president's invitation was sort of kicked down the road until after the new year is that people around the president in the White House don't really feel that he can get into any sort of substantive negotiations with Vladimir Putin. Or make any sort of substantive deal with Russia until after he's cleared of collusion, until after the Mueller report is issued. And that was something I really hadn't realized.

So he can have meetings, but it doesn't really make sense to do one of these summits or they won't really have any sort of substantive outcomes if or until he is cleared by Mueller.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: But -- and that's assuming that that's going to be over after the first of next year. There's no promise. I know the president -- people around the president like to tell him it's almost over, it's almost over. They don't know. No one knows when this is going to be over.

This could stretch another year. No one knows. No one knows what Mueller has, when he's going to drop it. There's a lot of guessing that if he doesn't do it, you know, in the next couple weeks because of the midterm elections, he's not going to run up right against them. We'll have to see, but that's -- I mean, that's wishful thinking in and of itself, that it's going to be over this year.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: And John, you actually hit on a key point earlier. We still don't have a real good sense of exactly what happened between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump in Helsinki. When Mike Pompeo was testifying about that this week, members of both sides were visibly frustrated that he was not divulging more information about what happened when he was asked specific questions about policy issues that came up in the meeting whether or not the president talked about drawing down troops in Syria, for instance. Pompeo pushed back and said that's not the question that you're interested and at issue here.

The real question is whether U.S. policy has changed, and U.S. policy has not changed. So it's really not clear to really anybody exactly what they agreed to and why the second summit is so critical.

KING: And to that point, the Russians have said they made some progress in the private meeting about Syria, whether that's about refugees or military cooperation. The defense secretary James Mattis was asked today is there anything changed on the ground. He answered with one word, no as that one goes forward.

Does this from President Putin, does it help or hurt the president, or does it not matter?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): You can critique him for what he does, and many people do that, but one thing is clear, he is willing to fulfill his campaign promises.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So there is this giant overhanging question. You know, Donald Trump, President Trump, has criticized just about everybody on the planet except for Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin. Then there you have President Putin saying, you know, he keeps his campaign promises.

Does that -- if you're a Trump hater, it raises your suspicions and your doubts. Does it do anything else?

OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, SIRIUSXM: No, I don't think it does anything else. There's been interesting dialogue between Moscow and Washington about this possible second summit. You remember initially when it was -- the president got really upset about the coverage of Helsinki and basically directed that they announce that he'd invited Vladimir Putin for this fall in Washington, D.C. The Russians didn't accept at first. The Russians --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They played hard to get.

KNOX: They played hard to get, they said, well, you know, there are all these other venues. You know, there are all these other summits where we will both be present and we can talk then. You know, it's like, I won't go to the dance with you, but if you're there, I'll dance with you maybe.

And then today, a pretty stark change from Vladimir Putin saying, yes, I'm absolutely prepared to do this. I don't know what the right working conditions are exactly.

JOHNSON: After the White House had already kicked it down the road. So it does seem that there's a sort of cat and mouse game happening here. KNOX: I'm trying to figure out exactly what they're doing at this point. Yes, the relationship between what the president says and American policy, I don't know that the secretary of state can really separate the two quite as neatly as he tried to do at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

KING: As he would like.

KUCINICH: And we've also -- we're going to have less information coming out of this anyway because the White House -- the president's interaction with any foreign leader because they announced this week they're no longer going to release transcripts after the president speaks with someone. That -- people basically say, oh gosh, who cares? I mean, (INAUDIBLE) anyway.

That means we're going to be at the mercy of foreign governments to tell us what the president said.

KNOX: I'd be skeptical if that actually happens, if they actually completely discontinue what are called read outs. Well, no, I really am skeptical. The folks at the White House are pretty keenly aware of exactly the problem you just described which is that, you know, making everyone rely on a foreign government's account of a conversation between President Trump and their leader is deeply problematic. I can give you a lot of examples of read outs being dramatically different, even among allies. Even between President Obama and Francois Hollande, the former president of France. Vastly different read outs.

KING: All politics is local.

KNOX: I know.

[12:35:00] RAJU: And that is quite the ample frustration from lawmakers this week about learning more about what's happening from the Kremlin than from their own administration.

KING: All right. We'll keep an eye on that one.

For us up next, after six decades, some American heroes finally heading home.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Topping our political radar today. Yes, he waited 18 months, President Trump will hold a national security council meeting this afternoon to talk about election security.

[12:40:00] Secretary of State Mike Pompeo among the top national security officials likely to attend. And a White House official says the meeting could include an update on Russian interference efforts.

This morning, the Department of Homeland Security says it has reunified all eligible parents and children separated at the border. The court ordered deadline to reunite families was yesterday, but officials say 700 children could not be reunited because their parents were either deported, declined reunification, or have criminal histories.

Today, 65 years after the end of the Korean War, remains said to be those of 55 American servicemen killed during that war began their journey home. You see the pictures arriving at Osan Air Base in South Korea this morning. There will be a repatriation ceremony next week. Then off to a U.S. military laboratory in Hawaii for DNA analysis. The president paying tribute this morning at the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE United States: These incredible American heroes will soon lay at rest on sacred American soil.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:45:28] KING: This story just in to CNN. CBS says it is investigating its own CEO, Les Moonves, that ahead of a coming New Yorker expose. Sources telling CNN, the magazine about to publish an investigation from Ronan Farrow detailing alleged sexual misconduct by Moonves. Reports of that impending piece sending CBS stock tumbling nearly five percent.

Back to our big story here now in Washington. Big growth numbers from the government, a big boom for the economy. The president is saying he deserves credit and Republicans hoping in this midterm election year they get some too. Let's look at the mood of the country when it comes to the economy.

Satisfaction with the economy is skyrocketing. This is George W. Bush's election. This is 9/11. This is the financial crisis, the Obama election.

The economy, confidence in it, has been growing for quite some time. But this is Donald Trump's election, spiking since then. Sixty-six percent of American people satisfied with the direction of the economy.

Here's another way to look at it. More Americans do think the economy has rebounded, and more Americans say the president deserves credit. This is last year. This is this year. You see the improvement numbers are up, including the president's, getting credit for it.

Here's another way to look at it. If we asked this question a year ago, President Obama was still getting more of the credit for the growing economy. Now a majority of Americans say, no, President Trump deserves more of the credit.

So if you're the Republicans running in a midterm election year, you hope the economy helps. There's some evidence that's possible. These are the last four big midterm years.

Look at the negative mood of the country in 2006, 2010, and 2014. This was as the country on the right track or headed on the wrong direction decidedly negative in 2006, the president's party suffered. Negative again in 2010, the president's party suffered. Again in 2014 is the second Obama midterm, so the losses aren't as big but still losses there.

Look now, yes, the country is still in a negative mood despite the good economy, but by a much smaller margin than in these prior elections. So Republicans have a path, if they can make the case you should feel better, we deserve some of the credit. That's what the president tried to do today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If economic growth continues at this pace, the United States economy will double in size, more than 10 years faster than it would have under either President Bush or President Obama. But we're getting jobs. We're getting money coming in. We're respected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It is the ultimate frustration for the president's party in this year. Four percent unemployment, 4.1 percent growth last quarter. Republicans should be dancing. But, but the prognosis today is they will at least lose the House because the president in much of the country, not all of the country, but in much of the country and places where it matters, he is politically toxic even though Americans still much better optimistic about what they now concur is the Trump economy.

KNOX: That 2014 midterm is really an interesting one because political scientists say that that was one of the most nationalized and president-centric midterms in a long time. And so that suggests a possible echo here where booming growth didn't pay dividends ultimately for the president's party. Remember in 2014, it was just a debacle for the Democrats at every single level. Senate, House, governorships. I'm sure they're watching that closely at the White House.

RAJU: Yes. And the 2014 was also interesting because actually the economy grew in one of the quarters at a similar rate. Actually even more I think than more than today's job numbers and what happened that year, of course the Democrats lost the Senate. It was a terrible midterm election year.

Still talking to Republicans yesterday, House Republicans before they left for a month-long recess, they were looking forward to this number because they wanted this to be their argument and pitch going into the August recess. They're feeling a lot better, something to campaign on. Perhaps one reason why they keep the House.

But still, so many other issues, so many other controversies drowning out their message. The president being so toxic and riling up the Democratic base. The enthusiasm still on the Democratic side. The ultimate question is, how do Americans feel? Do they feel better off at this point?

KING: And I just as we continue the conversation, I just want to show those numbers one more time over there in the sense that this is again, right track, wrong track in the country. And you see the country in a very negative mood, 2006, 2010, 2014. Still in a negative mood. These are NBC/Wall Street Journal numbers.

Now, (INAUDIBLE) of the Republican side of doing this poll shared this graphic with me. We changed it a little bit here but there's your argument for Republicans but can they make it? The problem is they're trying to get through the president's personal unpopularity when they say, look, we're making your lives better.

KUCINICH: Well, when you saw what happened in Helsinki, when you -- the tariffs, I mean, you've got Republicans on the Hill in particular that are just saying, OK, make this stop. The announcement of the $12 billion for farmers.

[12:50:00] Well, that's good news for farmers in some ways. Republicans are saying, no, they don't want to be given money. They want to work.

So the fact that the president is sort of making it harder for them to talk about the economy in a positive way, I think, is causing a lot of consternation within that party.

KNOX: The other thing is, when we talk about the economy, you know, if you look at the list of concerns on people's minds and you look at healthcare, for example, clearly an economic issue, right? There's a lot of concern about healthcare. And so when you talk about the big job numbers and the rest which are incredibly positive, for a lot of Americans they think -- they're thinking -- their concerns -- their top three or four concerns are not quote unquote the economy necessarily. And that's another challenge in the messaging.

KING: It's important there. All right. Quick break for us. When we come back, back to the big Michael Cohen news today and Rudy Giuliani saying the president feels betrayed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:55:23] KING: Welcome back. Today's confrontation between President Trump and Michael Cohen is a reminder the Trump inner circle is very different now. The familiar faces from the past, not only not around, many are key players in the investigations the president loves to hate.

Cohen flipping from, I will take a bullet for Mr. Trump to I will testify the president knew about a campaign meeting with Russians. Former communications director Hope Hicks gone from the Oval Office now and in the know on many big questions being explored by the special counsel. Ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn cooperating with the special counsel.

The Wall Street Journal reporting this week, the man who knows the ins and outs of the president's finances, Allen Weisselberg has been subpoenaed. So listen to Rudy Giuliani, the president took Cohen's turn especially hard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP'S LAWYER: He wasn't angry. You know, President Trump can get angry sometimes. He was disappointed, almost like a father who's been betrayed by his son. It was very moving for Jay and me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Like a father who's been betrayed by his son.

JOHNSON: It's a little dramatic. You know, I think we've seen repeatedly in the White House what's been on display in the Trump Organization for years and years, which is that the president expects loyalty but he doesn't return loyalty. And so loyalty is often not paid. And that's certainly on display now on the national stage with Michael Cohen.

RAJU: I was just going to that what one lawmaker told me yesterday was that, it really reveals also that a lot of these members are just -- I mean, a lot of these people within Trump's inner circle are out for themselves. They're trying to protect themselves. At the end of the day, that's where this may go.

And one reason why that Michael Cohen is doing this right now, that he's trying to protect himself, he has much more loyalty to his family than he certainly does to the president.

KING: And -- I don't know which you can try to take this any way you want I guess, but in a sense that you have a 72-year-old man who's president of the United States, who ran a tightly held family business, who has used to having the same people around him for a long period of time and his inner circle has changed.

Jeff Zeleny reporting that's why this past week, "An official describing the president's mood as angry. A point that was reflected in his grievance-laced afternoon speech in Illinois. The president spent time on the phone with lawyers and others learning details of the subpoena. It's getting closer and closer to his inner circle. How do you think he feels? A Republican close to the White House says."

KUCINICH: Well, especially this accountant. I mean, he was with Trump's father in the '70s. It was his first job, I think, right out of school. So this is someone who not only knows the business finances, he knows the Trumps' personal finances. So I would imagine the president just knowing what we know about him is enraged that this is getting so close.

KING: To that point, Tim O'Brien who wrote a biography about Trump writes this in Bloomberg View. He, Mr. Weisselberg, "If he winds up in investigators crosshairs for secreting payoffs, he could potentially provide much more damaging information to prosecutors than Cohen ever could about the president's deal making. Weisselberg's professional duties also came to include handling Trump's personal finances as well as the Trump Organization's corporate finances. He's paid household bills, made large purchases for Trump, and has communicated with Trump's outside investment advisers." In other words, if there's something to be worried about, he knows. And we should emphasize that's still an if. We don't know that. It's an if.

KNOX: Yes, very clearly. I mean, now the cliche obviously is he knows where all the bodies are buried, but that's applicable here. You know, if there's any sort of financial hanky panky, he'd be the guy to know about it. And so now you have these two figures, the Michael Cohen figure and this new accountant who are in a uniquely well-placed position to help Mueller along, at least in understanding the president's finances.

KING: Who is it around the president? Does anyone replaced -- you know, he liked having Hope Hicks close by. He -- Michael Cohen did not get a White House job and that hurt Michael Cohen's feelings. He didn't get into the administration, but they did talk a fair amount from the president.

Is there somebody new who has replaced, or is the president just relying now on a smaller circle?

JOHNSON: There isn't anybody like that. So I think that's why you see the president using his phone more to reach those sorts of people but also inviting people into the White House. Corey Lewandowski, his former campaign manager, David Bossie, his former deputy campaign manager. Inviting those people in, inviting them on trips with him because I think he's lonely. He likes the company. And so the president's doing more outreach since he doesn't have those people internally.

RAJU: And we'll see what he says this weekend. He's going to Bedminster. Apparently there's rain in the forecast. Maybe he doesn't go out and play golf. And he's going to be calling a lot of these people, be on Twitter. We'll see how he reacts to all this news on this week.

KING: We will keep an eye on that. Thanks for joining us on the INSIDE POLITICS today. Hope to see you Sunday morning, 8 a.m. Eastern. Also back here, Monday as well.

Jim Sciutto in for Wolf Blitzer today. He picks up our coverage 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 Washington. Wherever you're watching from around --