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INSIDE POLITICS

CNN: Cohen Claims Trump Knew of 2016 Trump Tower Meeting in Advance; Trump Touts Strong Economy As Trade Wars Loom; Democrats Gain in CNN Midterm Race Ratings; White House Delays Putin Visit until 2019. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired July 29, 2018 - 08:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[08:00:18] JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): The president's fixer changes his tune.

REPORTER: What else is on the rest of the tapes?

KING: Team Trump says Michael Cohen cannot be trusted.

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PERSONAL LAWYER: The man is a liar, a proven liar.

KING: Plus, the economy kicks into higher gear.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've accomplished an economic turnaround of historic proportion.

KING: And 100 days out, brand new CNN race rankings. Democrats have reason to be bullish.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: At every turn, House Republicans are selling out the American people.

KING: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. To our viewers around the United States and the world, thank you for sharing your Sunday.

President Trump's inner circle under scrutiny by the feds -- the long- time aide who knows the most about the money and the long-time fixer no longer willing to take a bullet for the boss.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LANNY DAVIS, MICHAEL COHEN'S ATTORNEY: This man has come to a moment in his life and I won't talk about what he did in the past for Donald Trump other than being a loyal defender as an attorney, but I will tell you my own personal view. This man has turned a corner in his life, has hit a reset button and he's now dedicated to telling the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Plus, new evidence the American economy is booming, low unemployment, high growth. Is the timing just right or will the president's trade war stall the boom times?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: This is the time to straighten out the worst trade deals ever made by any country on earth ever in history. These deals were made by people -- I don't know if they didn't understand or they didn't care or if they didn't, frankly, love our country. But we have the worst trade deals ever made in history. But now, they're becoming good again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And 100 days to the midterm elections, brand new CNN rankings releasing this hour give Democrats a clear path to seize control of the House. The president's numbers are better of late, but still historically bad.

Yet, listen here, he again vows to defy history.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: Give me the top 25 Congress people that are -- you know, could go either way, and I want to go out and campaign for those people. Likewise for the Senate. You know, the famous quote, it's the economy stupid. Well, if it's the economy, then we should do very well. I just don't know any reason why we shouldn't do well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With us this Sunday to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Abby Phillip, Michael Shear of "The New York Times," CNN's Phil Mattingly, and Mary Katharine Ham of "The Federalist."

But the Trump is back on his home turf this weekend, seems rather fitting. His Trump golf club in New Jersey is a jewel of the Trump Organization he built with the help of his son Don Jr., with the savvy math of his long-time financial guru Allen Weisselberg, with the whatever it takes, make it go away problem-solving skills, if skills is the right word, of long time lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, a small, tight, inner circle where loyalty to the boss is paramount.

Eighteen months into the Trump presidency, that organization, the Trump organization's credo is being sorely tested. Weisselberg now compelled by subpoena to answer questions of federal prosecutors in New York. He knows about the president's taxes, his loans and liabilities, perhaps about payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy centerfold, Karen McDougal.

Keeping Daniels and McDougal quiet, well, we know that was part of Cohen's eclectic portfolio. CNN this past week obtained a once secret recording of then candidate Trump talking to Cohen about buying McDougal's silence.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: So I'm all over that. I spoke to Allen about it. When it comes time to the financing which will be --

TRUMP: Wait a second. What financing?

COHEN: We'll have to pay something.

TRUMP: And we'll pay with cash.

COHEN: No, no, no, no, no. I've got -- no, no, no.

TRUMP: Check.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KING: Note the "I spoke to Allen about that," on that tape. That connects you back to Mr. Weisselberg.

And then we heard something perhaps even more eye-opening. CNN has now told Cohen asserts Mr. Trump knew advance about that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting organized by Don Jr. with Russians who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. The president says he did not know in advance. In fact, the president and those who speak for him denied it some 20 times back last July when word of the meeting broke.

Cohen, though, says others can back him up. The president's lawyer who just a few weeks ago called Cohen a straight shooter and an honorable man now says pay no attention to the man who for years lived behind the Trump Tower curtain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: I expected something like this from Cohen. He's been lying all week or two -- he's been lying for years.

We all make mistakes about people who have been disloyal to us.

[08:05:01] You know, Benedict Arnold was disloyal to George Washington, the greatest president, right? So, anybody can Brutus and Caesar. I mean, you can go back to ancient classical literature and you can find people who you think you trust and they turn out to be scoundrels.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I don't think I want to go back to Brutus and Caesar, but we have a dilemma here for Bob Mueller to resolve, for the Southern District of New York to resolve, and that so many of the key actors in these key questions are people with damaged, to be polite, credibility, from the president of the United States, to his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to Michael Cohen.

What do we make of this?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, I don't know. I mean, I think Rudy Giuliani, his dramatic take on this whole situation kind of tells you everything you need to know about how dire it is for the president.

But it really does make you wonder, if Michael Cohen was such a scoundrel and such a liar, why did the president employ him for so many years? I think that's really where this all comes down to. The key word for me from Giuliani is disloyal.

This is about the lack of loyalty to the president. But the question for someone, not for me, maybe a juror, maybe Robert Mueller, maybe the Southern District of New York is, you know, why is Michael Cohen perceived as being disloyal? Is it because he's telling the truth or because he's not telling the truth? We don't really know.

KING: And on these financial transactions and Mr. Weisselberg, who we don't hear from, smartly on his behalf, is I think in many ways the more consequential witness for the feds in the sense that he knows so much about the internal financing and he doesn't have the public credibility problems of the others. But we heard -- we know about the payments for one issue. We have this tape that Michael Cohen decided to release of the president.

Here is Rudy Giuliani last night saying, we have taken this to forensic experts and we think Michael Cohen has doctored it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: He abruptly ended that recording as soon as the president said the word check. We are now -- what we're investigating is how did that happen? What actually did happen? What was eliminated?

And then he's got to raise that question with every one of these tapes. How many of them are did he play around? We have determined the fact that he tampered with the tape in the sense that he abruptly mid conversation turned it off. Now, we know he didn't do that for a good reason.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, again, the feds have talented people who know how to do this, know how to do the forensics and analyze the tapes and all that. That will be eventually, if we get there, in a court of law.

In the court of public opinion, smear the guy who was for years the president fixer, is the strategy. And now what?

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, look, I think one of the important things that has happened this week is that there has always been this question about what is the importance of the southern district of New York case against Michael Cohen and the Trump organization? How does that connect back to the Mueller investigation and how does it connect back, if at all, to the president? There are a lot of people who says it doesn't really. It's -- you

know, the things that the New York investigators were looking at didn't have anything obvious to do with the president and the Russia probe. Here is where we get the answer to that question which is that pressure makes things happen, and the pressure on Michael Cohen has made -- has produced its first small piece of evidence linking the Russia -- the meeting at Trump Tower.

And I think that the question will be, as that pressure intensifies on Michael Cohen, on Weisselberg, on other people in that investigation, does it produce more linkages back to the Mueller investigation and back to President Trump? And ultimately, that's the big question politically and in Washington as opposed to just about Mr. Cohen.

KING: Is it reasonable to connect the dots and say that is one of the reasons? The president has criticized the investigations from day one. But is it credible to say that that might be one of the reasons he upped his ante when it comes to don't believe anything?

SHEAR: Absolutely.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: It's hard to see the point of all this hysteria. What exactly would the crime here be? It's not illegal to talk to foreigners. Nobody is claiming that any information changed hands. Though even if it did, so what?

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: If he's proven to have not told the whole truth about the fact that campaigns look for dirt and if someone offers it, you listen to them, nobody is going to be surprised. There are some things in politics that you just take for granted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That was not the president, obviously, but let's talk about that. The president's supporters often say there's Trump derangement syndrome, they call it, among his critics and in the media.

Well, that's an example there of Trump can do no wrong syndrome among his supporters, who I think months ago, or let's say if it were the Benghazi investigation, Darrell Issa didn't say, well, you know, she's a politician, Hillary Clinton, maybe she didn't exactly right. Susan Rice, she's great. She didn't say the statement right. It's OK the president may have lied about the meeting with Russians or knowing about the meeting with Russians.

I mean, what?

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, the meeting of collusion is shifting every day.

(CROSSTALK)

[08:10:00] PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The question, of course, of the last 14, 16 months of the defense has been kind of fascinating. You can put from January of 2017 until now -- I'm pointing to a screen that no one can see. But just FYI, it's right there.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTINGLY: It's illuminating and interesting and it also underscores a really key component of all this, that there will never be a groundswell of opposition that goes beyond the kind of 50 percent to 60 percent of the country that seems to be very uncomfortable with this. He will always have his defenders no matter what happens.

And I think, you know, everybody chuckles or laughs and says how can that be possible? And the other side lies about people going after the president saying that Trump derangement syndrome, all those things -- it's actually really important. You know, you can joke about kind of how things have split up.

But this is a different scenario that past crises. You can look back and people talked about this perhaps during the Nixon administration. What would have happened if Nixon always had defenders?

There was a 40 percent plus in the country that always defended him and supported him and didn't think he did anything wrong. But they didn't have the megaphone that the president has now, to continue to defend him, to continue to make the case that whatever comes out is wrong, is whatever one else would have done and he is in the right here in general and this is all just an effort to try and take him down. That matters because as we talked about repeatedly, this fight right now is a fight for public opinion. This fight right is a fight over the airwaves.

We have no idea what the Mueller investigation is actually looking at right now. We don't know where SDNY is in terms of their case. So, this fight is a public battle. And as long as these camps sit in their places and have no desire to move one way or another, that's important. And that will help dictate the direction.

KING: I get all of that and I agree with you 1,000 percent. I lived through covering the White House, the Bill Clinton team smearing prosecutors and smearing the investigations, casting doubt. This is that times ten I think.

But at the core of it, forget the issue, forget your partisanship, they're saying it's OK if the president lied. It's not OK if the president lies about anything.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right, but the thing about all of this is that -- and this goes along with his assessment of Cohen at this point, too, is that his assessments of people are transactional, it's based on whether that person is being loyal to him at that moment. So, now, Cohen is off and he's mad at him. So, that's what that is.

Look, the one thing I do agree with Rudy on, this is like an ancient drama at this point with the pathos those and the heel turn and you don't know who to trust. I think it's a problem for Trump that Cohen was recording anything because we don't know what else he might have. That being said, if -- you can't make those charges criminal, it's going to be splashy, it's going to be media, but we have seen splashy media tapes of Trump doing bad things, that not make a difference for him electorally because you have this issue where people stick with him.

So, I do think that's the issue for them.

KING: That's the issue and I should note, the president had gone a long span from late Friday night until this morning not tweeting. He's up busy tweeting this morning about immigration and about this, retweeting Michael Cohen back in 2017 when Don Jr. said the president knew about the meeting. The president saying, do you think the fake news media will ever report this tweet?

Well, there it is. That was Michael Cohen then. Michael Cohen has a different place now. We'll see how that goes.

Up next for us here, 4 percent growth, add that to 4 percent unemployment. The president has a plan to rev it up even more. A trade war his critics warn will smother that boom.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:17:07] KING: There is no doubt the American economy, the Trump economy is booming. The question is what now? Four percent gross domestic product just last quarter to go along with 4 percent unemployment.

To "The Art of the Deal" president, just the moment to disrupt, to use that strength to ride out a trade war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We've been working on these trade deals which are the worst ever made by any country in history. We have the worst trade deals. We don't have one trade deal that's any good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: But most of the president's fellow Republicans prefer the free market to tariff fights. They see the strong new numbers and argue, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: The pity of this is the economy is doing so well, the response to our tax reform, to the deregulation that we and the president have pursued jointly has been phenomenally successful. I'm afraid it could really be jeopardized by this downward spiral on trade.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is there any indication, though, the president is ready to step back? He did -- he did hit detente button, the pause button with Europe. Canada, Mexico, China? Any indication the president is going to say, you know what, I'm not going to risk this good thing? Or his argument has been, it is strong enough, we can ride this out, there'll be some turbulence, but we'll be OK in the end?

PHILLIP: I think he very much still thinks that's the case. And interestingly, the detente button was a little bit of a break for him with the E.U. They gave him a little bit of an out by saying we're not going to go further than we've already gone.

But with NAFTA and with China, things are not going well. China has basically backed away from talks. NAFTA is stalled and the president isn't actually making progress. If what he wants to do is up the risk for everyone so everyone decides to lower tariffs, that's actually not what's happening, even with the E.U. So, I don't think he's getting exactly what he wants, but he's not backing down.

I think his aides at this point have stopped really countering him strongly on this. You hear Larry Kudlow just saying, we just have to wait to see if it works. If the president is right, this could turn out great. If he's wrong, then who knows what's going to happen? I think his aides have kind of resigned to where we are.

KING: If you look at these headlines from around the country, this is any president's dream. I know there are a lot of people watching who didn't vote for the president. He's the president. And you can say, oh, this all started under Obama. OK, that's fine. But the economy has kicked in to a higher gear because of the tax cuts, because of the Trump deregulation, look at these headlines around the country.

But the president could just breed that in and he did take credit this week. But you could just take the victory lap and not do anything to mess with that, or you can try to do what -- this is the issue on which he's been most consistent.

SHEAR: Look, there is a playbook for taking an amazingly good economy and turning that into an electoral success with an election just in a few months. The question is, will he follow it, right?

You know, the message discipline that he and the Republican Party have to have to counter and blunt the Democratic wave that could be coming, you need to stay focused on that topic. And the trade war is one of those things that could challenge that discipline, but there are a million other things as we've seen that this president could end up diverting himself and the Republican Party from that disciplined message. And that won't help them at the ballot box.

KING: You have conservative free market politicians like Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska saying, Mr. President, what are you doing?

He says, when you have tariffs, they are bad thing. You try to solve with bailouts, another bad thing. You're not heading into a good direction. You're trying to make it 1929 again. That's not what the people in the state I represent want. We want to feed the world. We want more markets. We want more trade.

That's Ben Sasse, conservative senator from Nebraska. What's remarkable is listening to the farmers, this is from NPR, most of the farmers don't like this, they're worried about it.

But a lot of them voted for the president and they're saying, OK, Mr. President, we'll give you some time. We can't give you two or three years. If this stretches out too long, we'll be under water.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BRAD KREMER, WISCONSIN SOYBEAN FARMER: I think there's still overwhelming support for the president because of his intent. What we're really afraid of is slipping into a long-term situation here. We'd still like to see, in my personal opinion, I think most farmers I've talked to at least here in Wisconsin, we want trade, not aid.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KING: We don't give common sense, hard working Americans enough credit in the sense that, OK, you're the president, but --

HAM: There is patience for him doing things differently because that's why people voted for him, right? But this scenario where you bail out farmers because you're hurting farmers is like a little a heavy handed even for like an Ayn Rand model on central government stupidity. She would have said pass. But --

(LAUGHTER)

HAM: This is -- look, the top line numbers are so good it's almost impossible to rain on that parade, except by, I don't know, like an executive-driven trade war. That's what he's pushing.

Now, I think when you see the E.U. sort of detente, he would -- they would argue, look, we are moving toward freer trade, because they want to take off tariffs. But if you read the agreement they came to, very vague. It leaves out auto stuff and it almost as an afterthought puts in the fact that maybe we'll get rid of the retaliatory tariffs as well.

So, you're getting taxed on both ends. Regardless of whether it hits before the midterm, it does make long-term planning for businesses extremely tough.

KING: Right, and that's the key thing. The businesses saying how do we plan three, four, five years down the line? The politicians, the Republicans say, oh, there's an election in 100 days. We're going to get more of that in a minute.

The president thinks this is why a lot of Republicans think he doesn't understand he's the leader of the party. He thinks by 2020, we'll be out of this tunnel and he'll be OK. The question is, is he right?

Next, as you just noted, Michael made note, 100 days and counting, despite that strong economy, our brand new CNN rankings lean more races blue. Control of the house, wait until you see the numbers, are clearly within the Democrats' reach.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [08:27:23] KING: Welcome back.

One hundred days to the midterm elections. A new CNN rankings releasing right now give the Democrats even more reason to feel bullish about their odds of taking the big prize, control of the House of Representatives. The campaign trail in a second.

First, the current state of play. Remember, Republicans have the majority right now, 235 seats. You see the red filling in on the floor of the House. Democrats are at 193 today. That's the state of play in Washington.

But look at these new rankings releasing this hour again out on the campaign trail. Republicans from 235 down to 158 solid seats for the GOP, 29 likelies, 18 leans. You see the toss-ups, that's the yellow in the middle.

For the Democrats, improving numbers, 182 solid, nine likely and 12 leaning Democratic seats righ now.

So, can the Democrats get to the majority? Well, let me give you a dream scenario. Again, this is a dream scenario, but if the Democrats keep all the likelies, win on the leans and sweep these toss-ups, look at the numbers. That would give them 230 seats, more than enough to be in the majority.

Now, that's a dream scenario. Elections never play out as you wish. But it does show the math is within their reach.

Why are they so optimistic? Take a closer look at these toss-up races. Twenty-seven in all, they're in the yellow.

See that red? Twenty-five of the 27 of these seats are currently held by Republicans, 25 of the 27 toss-ups are currently Republican seats. That's why the Democrats are so optimistic. Only two of those yellow seats are blue, Democratic seats.

So, Democrats optimistic. Even more so now at the 100-day mark. Another reason they're so optimistic is the then and now. Let's go back to the beginning of the year. Republicans were still in danger, but numbers were better, 177 solid Republican seats back in January, only 158 now.

More and more races have moved from the dark red into the lighter red and the pink, to the yellow, sliding over towards the blue. The Democrats, 177 solid seats, in our beginning of the year rankings, you see 182 now. You see the likelies, you see the leans, you see the toss-ups.

The climate for the Democrats even better at the 100-day mark than it was at the beginning of the year, which is why current leader Nancy Pelosi sounds so optimistic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: The contrast between House Republicans and Democrats could not be clearer. At every turn, House Republicans are selling out the American people to put themselves and their special interests donors first.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: One hundred days to go. The significant part of these new rankings, again, you look at where we were in January, where we are now, 12 races since we last did this a couple months ago. Twelve more races moving toward the Democrats, which is the great tug of war in American politics.

[08:29:58] We just talked about this booming economy -- something the President and his party should be able to sell to the American people, but then you have the A first, the traditional midterm dynamics, the President's party almost always loses in the first midterm.

And dynamic number two, in much of the country including the places where you have those toss-up races, where you have those soft Republican seats, the President is toxic.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And so a couple things -- one, I think is that's reflective of what I was hearing from House Republicans before they left for the congressional recess. They've had a bit of a rollercoaster mainly based on how the generic D versus R poll has been bouncing around where they had a couple of weeks where they felt good. They thought they were getting into a better place. They've been seriously focused on the economy.

That has shifted as they were leaving town. People are now feeling not great about what they're coming home to.

And I'll say this. One of the most interesting things that I think everyone is keeping an eye on right now is Ohio 12, the Columbus special election that's going on right now. And one of the monster super PACs in the game aligned with Paul Ryan congressional leadership fund just recently put out a new advertisement that was focused entirely on illegal immigration and Nancy Pelosi.

This is a place from -- well, it stretches into Lincoln County, some rural areas. It's also the suburbs of Columbus. These are the types of people that the econ message should absolutely play with. This is a place that Trump won this district by 11 points in 2016.

And they have shifted focus, not unlike what they did in the Virginia governor's race into illegal immigration, trying to turn out the base, trying to hit the rural area numbers in Lincoln County.

That -- while I don't know what numbers they're looking at, that doesn't seem to be a great thing for me and kind of underscores what we're seeing right now with the math.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHIT EHOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I want to highlight one particular race, the Virginia 7 which is Dave Brat's district --

KING: Right. SHEAR: This is the old Eric Cantor seat.

KING: It was a bellwether when Brat won it.

SHEAR: Bellwether when Brat won it. It was one of those Tea Party sort of wave seats. It's -- you know, covering Virginia for a long time, that's been a Republican seat. That was not something the Republican Party thought they had to worry about.

The rankings here have moved that into the toss-up category. I mean if that's a toss-up seat for Republicans that they have to worry about, that's the, you know, canary in the coal mine that they have problems they need to address. And that's what that meant (ph).

KING: Let's look deeper at the numbers here. We're going to look at some 2018 numbers, current numbers -- compare them to how the President did back in 2016.

If you see right now, the generic house ballot, the Democrats are up 25 points among women. They won women in 2016, but only by 13. White without a college degree -- plus 11 for Republicans, but it was plus 37 for President Trump. Independents -- plus 17 for Democrats right now, President Trump carried Independents by four, plus four.

So you had -- midterms are always different. It's not a presidential year. But if you're Republicans looking at the fundamentals, especially women, Independents -- you're worried.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, THE FEDERALIST: Yes. And I think it's true that he can exist for a while on base support, but what Trump is doing to a large extent in some of these ex-urban, suburban areas is taking white college educated women who were occasionally, if not reliably GOP voters and turning them into at least swing voters, if not Democratic voters.

Now, we don't know how they'll behave in a midterm election -- if they'll come out at all, if they'll sit at home. But if they don't come out and they used to come out, then that's a problem for the GOP.

The other issue, I think for Trump, is that we haven't seen his power transfer to other candidates unless they are very aligned with the Trump style. And being very aligned with the Trump style is not helpful in a toss-up district where you need to be a little bit more subtle.

KING: And yet, listen to the President here talking on the radio with Sean Hannity. A lot of Republicans want the President to be quiet or to talk just about the economy, don't tweet about things, don't attack the special counsel, don't travel all that much, just go to the deep red places. But the President says I'm ready to help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, the famous quote, "it's the economy stupid". Well, if it's the economy, then we should do very well. I just don't know any reason why we shouldn't do well.

The economy is the strongest ever, and I think that's going to have a very positive impact. And I'm going to work very hard. I'll go six or seven days a week when we're 60 days out, and I will be campaigning for all of these great people that do have a difficult race. And we think we're going to bring them over the line.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Can he do it and where can he do it? And as we have the conversation, I just want to also show this -- Michael mentioned this in the last discussion about the economy -- 95 competitive House races we have in the country right now. Twenty-eight of them are in the Midwest -- a lot of those are farm states affected by this trade conversation we're having. Twenty-five of those seats held by Republicans; the three Democratic seats are in Minnesota.

Can the President at this moment -- we know there are some places he can help? He can help in the big Senate races. He can help in North Dakota. He can help in West Virginia. He can help in Indiana in the big senate races.

But in the House races, he could just drive across the bridge to go see Barbara Comstock. She would hide.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. She'll say, "No thank you". I mean the President is saying he can't think of a reason why Republicans won't do well. Well, Republicans can think of so many reasons and most of them are on his Twitter feed every single morning.

[08:35:03] So the President I think doesn't quite understand that the midterm dynamics are going to be different from what he was experiencing when he ran and won very narrowly in 2016. And he also often forgets that he did win very narrowly, that this was not a total -- it might have been a blowout on the Electoral College side, but it was not a vote blowout.

I think that Republicans are very mindful of that because this is a razor's edge kind of situation. And President Trump wants to throw his weight around in some of these swing states and Republicans are believing that he needs to be more strategic.

That being said, I think they've been fairly happy with the kind of discipline that he's had recently with, you know, endorsing the right people, endorsing the people that they want him to endorse, doing it at the right times, not going totally rogue, going where he's asked to go.

He's basically following directions. As long as that continues, I think they're going to be ok.

KING: It's going to be -- going to be a remarkable final 100 days of this campaign, all the money being spent, who goes what where -- both parties in internal tug of wars. We'll call it there.

Up next for us though, we go to the global stage. Presidents Trump and Putin say they want a second summit, maybe a third. Ah, yes, what a difference two years makes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.

[08:36:27] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back.

It is not your fault if you find the state of U.S.-Russia relations more than a little confusing. On Wednesday this past week, after pushback from Congress and silence in Moscow, the White House said never mind about those plans for a second Putin-Trump summit this year. Of course, they did fudge the reason for hitting the pause button. Quote, "The President believes the next bilateral meeting with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over."

That's from the national security adviser John Bolton in a statement and on Twitter, I believe. "So we've agreed it will be after the first of the year."

Then Friday though, this from President Putin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We are ready for such meetings. We are ready to invite President Trump to Moscow to be my guest. He has such an invitation. I've told him that.

And I'm ready to go to Washington. I repeat once again, if the right conditions for work are created.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That same afternoon, Friday, at the 18-month mark of his presidency, Mr. Trump convened his first National Security Council meeting on election security, but there were no new directives out of the White House and that meeting lasted, well, under an hour.

So are we getting tougher on Russia? Are we going softer on Russia? Are we going to meet? Are we not going to meet? It's a tad confusing.

PHILLIP: As far as the meeting is concerned, it seems clear that Putin was brushing the White House back. They said we'll invite Putin to Washington. And that was also a little bit of a game here where the White House felt like the Russians after the Helsinki meeting were running the show. They were releasing all of this information that they didn't want it to seem as if they were being dictated by the Kremlin.

Then Putin said, well, actually maybe we can meet at G-20. We don't really need to have another summit yet. And that's one of the reasons why the White House ended up pulling that invitation back because it wasn't likely to actually be accepted.

I think Putin feels, probably rightly so, that there's not a whole lot of good that can come out of another summit, a Washington meeting or even a Moscow meeting when the political environment in Washington is so toxic, and the White House is just trying to manage that.

The President really wants to meet. He thinks summits are the way to go. Putin doesn't. He understands that there's actually not a whole lot concrete that they can actually make work in that environment.

KING: And the administration, Secretary Pompeo up on the Hill this week saying, you know, we're tough, we're tough, we're tough, we're tough; watch the policy, not the President's words.

The President finally has this National Security Council meeting on election security. States are still complaining they're not getting enough help. There's not a coordinated response from the federal help.

You're calling David Sanger, our contributor has a fascinating piece in (INAUDIBLE) paper saying essentially the Russians in some ways have moved on. That yes, they still meddle in elections but now they're going after bigger fish.

State sponsored Russian hackers appear far more interested this year in demonstrating they can disrupt the American electrical utility grid than the midterm elections, according to United States intelligence officials and technology companies. And the White House so far saying very little.

Is our government -- no matter who's in charge going to be behind the curb again as we face state-sponsored attacks.

HAM: The confidence is not super high. But look, I do think that on the policy, they have been far better than his words. There's always going to be this divergence. The problem, of course, is when you're the president of the united states and the leader of the free world, your words matter. So your policy can do a lot.

But your words also shift the game. And Putin felt that when they met. So if they continue to meet, Trump's words will sort of change the game even if the policy is very solid which it has been in many cases. I am gratified that they at least had this meeting about specifically Russia and election meddling because that's the place where he's been unable to disentangle that from his own electoral fortunes.

You KING: And I just want to get this in. You have the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee asking the Secretary of State what did the President discuss with Vladimir Putin in private -- didn't get much.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Did the President discuss relaxing U.S. sanctions on Russia? MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Senator -- the U.S. policy with

respect to sanctions remains completely unchanged.

[08:45:02] MENENDEZ: I asked a very specific question.

POMPEO: Yes, Senator. And I gave a very specific answer.

(CROSSTALK)

MENENDEZ: Did the President tell you that he discussed relaxing Russian sanctions or not? Yes or no.

POMPEO: Senator -- presidents are entitled to have private meetings. I'm telling you what U.S. policy is.

MENENDEZ: I really don't believe, Mr. Secretary, you know what happened during the President's two-plus hour conversation with President Putin. And I really don't know much more about the summit after sitting here for three hours than I did before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Fair questions, no answers.

MATTINGLY: That hearing was actually probably one of the most fascinating things that happened in the week. And I think what was most interesting. One was Secretary Pompeo's posture which was very aggressive in pushing back. But the second was kind of to MK's point. He had a list of things the administration has done to counter Russia. You add what Congress has done to counter Russia, the money they spent on defense, the sanctions that they put in place, what they've done to Ukraine.

All of these things put together -- and the dissonance is what the President says when he meets --

KING: Pompeo says -- he told Congress watch the policy, don't listen to the President. An interesting management style.

Our reporters share from their notebooks next including Republicans trying to avert a pre-election -- here we go again -- government shutdown.

[08:46:09] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Let's head one last time around the INSIDE POLITICS table, ask our great reporters to share a little something from their notebooks to help get you out ahead of the big political news just around the corner. Abby Phillip?

PHILLIP: Well, next month the first sanctions go back into place after Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran deal. That's something that the administration is watching very carefully.

The Trump administration believes that there are protests on the ground that are a response to the economic pressure being placed on Iran as a result of some of the Iran deal sanctions about to go back into place. Trump, of course, would love for Iran to come back to the table, negotiate a new deal that he thinks is better than the old Iran deal.

Administration officials are watching it carefully especially before the next deadline which is in November. That's when those oil-related sanctions go back into place. We know that President Trump is really concerned about rising oil prices on the horizon.

Now, he wants that new deal. I think administration officials are actually quite skeptical that Iran is going to do all the various things that they'll need to do to get back to the table but that's just something to look for. The President, for sure, believes that his threats earlier this month against Iran "don't threaten us" are part of the paradigm to get them, to put that pressure on them to get them potentially back to the table.

KING: The next test for the blustery style and see what you get out of it.

Michael.

SHEAR: So the next phase in the fight over the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is going to kick up a little bit, this coming week, and that is, the fight over documents. The Democrats have demanded that the administration release documents both from Brett Kavanaugh's time in the White House as well as his time as staff secretary which is, of course, the place where a lot of papers that go to and from the President flow through the staff secretary -- that's a big fight.

But watch for another less noticed fight over documents and that is, the trove of documents that the national archive has of the time that Brett Kavanaugh spent working for Ken Starr on the investigation into Whitewater and the Monica Lewinsky fight. There are some thousands and thousands of documents that that national archive has.

There's been a FOIA from some groups to the national archive which has at this point said that it could take five years or more to release the documents.

Democrats on Capitol Hill are obviously going to want those documents sooner. And we'll see what happens.

KING: I remember those days, too well I might say.

Phil.

MATTINGLY: Yet another wild news week which is basically an evergreen statement at this point in the administration. One of the probably under appreciated moments was the meeting between Speaker Paul Ryan, Leader Mitch McConnell and the President.

I'm told that the meeting kind of went through a number of topics. But one of the primary reasons that they met was about government funding and the fact that according to both Republican leaders and Democrats, it's actually kind of a hold on, success story, at this point in time.

They're moving through a regular appropriations process. By the end of next week, the Senate will have passed seven appropriations bills. The House Committee on Appropriations has approved all of their bills. They're moving forward.

And one of the primary reasons Ryan and McConnell were meeting with the President was basically to A, lay out the fact that this is working well right now on a bipartisan manner; and B, stress that at this point in time, at the end of September, please don't shut down the government.

One of the pitches McConnell made, I'm told, was you don't want to step on the Kavanaugh nomination. That should be around the time that he gets confirmed. Keep things moving in the right direction. Don't have this fight now. If you want to have the fight, have the fight later.

I'm told based on people who were briefed on the meeting, the President was amenable to the suggestion, agreed he will be patient on things like wall funding and agreed that he didn't want to step on the Kavanaugh nomination.

Now, everything can change based on a tweet based on how the President feels and I'm told Mick Mulvaney, the OMB director is agitating for more cuts in spending during this process which would blow the whole thing up. But at this moment in time, with just 13 or 14 legislative days when the House gets back, things are kind of on a good path at the moment.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: You do realize you've just said Congress and working in the same sentence.

MATTINGLY: Together and bipartisan manner.

KING: We're going to keep -- keep the tapes.

Mary Katharine.

HAM: To complement my colleague, I'm going to go with the view on the Kavanaugh fight from the states. There's been a $1.5 million ad buy by Judicial Crisis Network targeting West Virginia, North Dakota, Indiana and Alabama. Obviously that will play into this and the midterms coming up and what that vote looks like for red state Democrats.

But there are also poll numbers from those states in Alabama, Indiana, North Dakota and West Virginia, double digits in favor of confirming which is going to make things a little bit more awkward for red state Democrats who might want to vote against Kavanaugh. We're going to have a sticky situation.

And Mitch McConnell will be none too hesitant to make it as uncomfortable for them as possible on the run-up for this. KING: Let me follow up on that. Michael mentioned this is a new phase this week. It is a new phase this week and one that adds to the already enormous pressure on the Senate's top Democrat.

[08:55:00] Judge Brett Kavanaugh's first meeting with the Democrat is tomorrow. That's West Virginia's Joe Manchin. Indiana Democrat Donnelly on the books for August 15. North Dakota's Heidi Heitkamp -- Mary Katharine just mentioned her state as well -- working with the White House making progress scheduling her meeting.

Manchin, Donnelly and Heitkamp, of course, are the three Democrats, the only three who backed Neil Gorsuch and they're the top White House targets now. The Democratic base is telling Schumer hold the line. But Manchin, Donnelly and Heitkamp, all up for reelection in states that went huge for Trump.

Plus there's this wrinkle. Donnelly and Heitkamp are also among the farm state lawmakers not happy with the President's trade tariffs. Now, on the surface, it has absolutely nothing to do with Brett Kavanaugh, right. Unless your research shows voters understand some fights with the President, but not too many.

We'll keep an eye on that one.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Again, thanks for sharing your Sunday morning.

Hope you can catch us weekdays as well. We're here at noon, Eastern.

Up next, don't go away, "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JAKE TAPPER". His guests include the President's top economic adviser Larry Kudlow.

Have a great Sunday.

[08:55:58] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)