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INSIDE POLITICS

Dramatic Testimony in Paul Manafort Trial; Dems Focus on Suburbs While GOP Targets Pelosi; Charlottesville Marks One Year since Deadly Riots; GOP Hopes Anti-Pelosi Sentiment will Motivate Its Voters; Avenatti Says He May Run in 2020. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired August 12, 2018 - 08:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[08:00:23] JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): One year later, Charlottesville remembers. And the president lashes out again at black athletes.

SPIKE LEE, FILM DIRECTOR: This guy has got in the White House. It's not even a dog whistle. It's a bull horn.

KING: Plus, a big week in the Manafort trial and big message from team Trump to the special counsel.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: You're trying to trap him into perjury because you don't have a case.

KING: And as we sort the latest 2018 midterm clues, a familiar face turns his focus to 2020.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: When they go low, I say we hit harder.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

It was a very big week for the special counsel. Dramatic testimony in the Paul Manafort trial, including clues about more to come. The president's lawyers took a turn playing conservative radio host, more evidence their focus is on politics, not the law or the truth.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GIULIANI: A lot of people interpret it this way. Well, if he's telling the truth, why wouldn't he go in and testify? Hey, welcome to the real world.

The reason we have to worry about it is, one, we're giving away prerogatives of the president. Second, we're walking him into a possible perjury trap, not because he isn't telling the truth but because somebody else isn't telling the truth.

JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: Why would you do this? Why would you submit any claim let alone the president of the United States to this kind of situation?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KING: Plus, new clues this week about the midterm election climate. Democrats see hope in the suburbs but Republicans ramp up their attacks on Nancy Pelosi and immigration. They insist the House is not yet lost.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: You should never panic. If you panic, you shouldn't be in politics.

I'm not kidding myself here. These are going to be tough races. We have to fight hard. But if we fight hard and don't panic, there should be no reason why we can't keep the House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And one year after the ugly, Charlottesville divide, the president tweets against racism, insists he's trying to unite the country.

So, why the new attacks on African-American football players?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONTE STALLWORTH, FORMER NFL WIDE RECEIVER: I think everyone knew that the president was going to say something about players kneeling. He expects them to, you know, to just take a back seat and turn a blind eye to all the racial inequalities that are going on in this country. It's about race and he tries to downplay that it's not about race, but we all know it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With us this Sunday to share their reporting and their insights, Eliana Johnson of "Politico", CNN's Manu Raju, Perry Bacon of "FiveThirtyEight", and CNN's Kaitlan Collins.

Let's begin with a very busy week in the special counsel investigation. New witnesses called before a grand jury here in Washington, including one who defied his subpoena and is now challenging the legality of the investigation. There's also a new response from the Trump legal team.

But in truth, it appears to be much more a stalling tactic, did not appear to close the big gap over whether the president will agree to answer questions. And the first big case brought by the special counsel will likely go to the jury in the week ahead.

Prosecutors could rest their case against Paul Manafort as early as tomorrow. They used their witnesses this past week to paint the former Trump campaign chairman as a greedy, sleazy crook who lied to banks to get loans and then lie to the IRS and others by hiding millions in overseas accounts.

There was a mystery recess on Friday, a long break in the proceedings we still don't understand. And that wasn't the only intrigue. The judge sealed the transcript of a conversation with lawyers about star prosecution witness Rick Gates. Defense lawyers wanted to ask him about his work in the Trump campaign and how many times he had talked to the special counsel about that work.

Prosecutors though objected and this argument carried the day with the judge. Quote: Disclosing the identified transcript portions would reveal substantive evidence pertaining to an ongoing investigation. In addition, sealing will minimize any risk of prejudice from the disclosure of new information relating to that ongoing investigation.

Let's start the conversation there. Normally as trials progress, you answer questions. That raises a huge one. What else is Rick Gates helping the special counsel with and clearly, there's something to do with the Trump campaign.

ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: You know, the -- one of the commentaries about this trial has been oh, it really doesn't have anything to do with the Trump campaign or with Russia collusion, it has to do with Paul Manafort's misdeeds years before he joined the Trump campaign. But it has opened up the prospect, the very likely prospect that Rick Gates, who was the key witness against Paul Manafort, that his testimony was given -- that he's also giving testimony to the special counsel for something against President Trump, and that a conviction against Paul Manafort will be used to squeeze Manafort for his cooperation against the president.

[08:05:21] So, I think we're seeing sort of a long term strategy by Robert Mueller, sort of open up, or sort of widening of the aperture here.

KING: Yes, that -- the sealed part, what was public about that conversation tells you that at least the special counsel used this as a building block, not just a case against -- about Paul Manafort's pre-campaign bad deeds. But we'll see what happens when we get there.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: And also we see just how wrong Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow can be when they're saying this is going to be brought to an end by September 1st. It needs to be ended soon, and then Robert Mueller subpoenaed Randy Credico and to testify on September 7th.

It really just shows how we're only hearing from the president's legal team's side on this, and must how wrong they can be, though. Even Mueller and them aren't talking in public, we're seeing through their actions just how they are responding to claims --

KING: Right, it was completely clear to your point that Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow. Jay Sekulow has his own radio show. They took over Sean Hannity's show for a couple of hours this past week. They're in a political strategy right now to steal the Republican

base, steal to ease into the political climate of the midterm elections, to try to generate that this is unfair to the president, you have to come out and vote, you have to help the president and protect the president.

To your point about the grand jury, Roger Stone, an old Nixon hand if you will. He's been in Republican politics, a known dirty trickster for years. Robert Mueller is known as a very serious guy.

Why is Robert Mueller bringing a woman who once ran a prostitution ring, the Manhattan madam, a radio host, Randy Credico you mentioned, Andrew Miller, a former aide to Roger Stone, what is it that Robert Mueller thinks Roger Stone knows about contacts with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks or about other attempts? Is this the connection and boy, it's weird.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we don't know exactly why she came in earlier last week to testify. It's still unclear.

We do know that undoubtedly the special counsel was trying to understand Roger Stone's role, his contacts with Julian Assange and in Roger Stone's public comments, that, you know, his comments with Julian Assange were through an intermediary, his direct messages with Guccifer were just -- were innocuous. He's released those and that was it. He's not involved in any collusion.

It's very clear that the special counsel is investigating that much more further and may not necessarily believe Roger Stone, brought in for weeks been talking to people very close to Stone and you'll recall when one of Stone's closest friend, Michael Caputo, went in. Afterwards, Caputo came out and said it was very clear to him that they are investigating Russia collusion. So, it suggests perhaps that Stone could be central to that case. We'll see what they have.

And it's also interesting, John, Stone has not been contacted yet by Mueller's team. So, that also suggests that you don't want to be the person not being contacted when you're being investigated.

KING: Yes, you don't want to be the last person. That means it's about you.

RAJU: Yes.

KING: That means it's about you. It's interesting, Andrew Miller, the former Stone aide, he defied a subpoena, which is a big deal. He defied a subpoena and they are challenging the legality of the investigation.

So, that will be another test in court for Bob Mueller. He passed every one so far when people have said you're outside your mandate or, you know, jumped beyond what the purview of the special counsel -- survived every one so far. We'll see here.

The president remarkably quiet this week, up in Bedminster, New Jersey, on a working vacation, but active on Twitter, including going after his attorney general again. Now, he goes after Jeff Sessions this week, I can't -- we don't have a time, even though we have an hour to explain to you the president is basing this on something you'll find in another network by another journalist who I worked with a long time ago, that is not based in facts and not based in reality, about a guy who works at the Justice Department in counter narcotics. They're trying to put him into counterterrorism and the like. I'll leave it there.

But the president tweets, do you believe Nelly worked for Fusion and her husband still works for Department of Justice. Never seen something so rigged in my life. Our A.G. is scared stiff and missing in action.

It's all starting to be revealed. Not pretty. I.G. report soon, witch hunt.

Yes, we can spend a little time on that. But the idea, our A.G. is scared, stiff and missing in action. He had backed up Jeff Sessions for a little while. Why is he back?

JOHNSON: You know, the fascinating dynamic here to me is that the president attacks Jeff Sessions, which is, of course, unprecedented. But he doesn't fire him. And that to me says that Jeff Sessions has a lot of power here, because, of course, if the president moved to fire him which he wants to do but doesn't, it would play right into Robert Mueller's hands in an obstruction of justice case.

So, while I think it looks like Jeff Sessions is in a bad position, he does have a certain level of power because a president really can't fire him to a certain extent. It obviously would be better if Jeff Sessions had the ear of the president, which he doesn't. But he's one of the few Trump cabinet members who is unfireable right now.

[08:10:02] KING: But this is, again, this is the president talking to his base, trying to A, distract them from what's happening, things like the Manafort trial, things like a grand jury investigation that's going to go on well past September 1st. Meaning the investigation will carry into next year, mark it down. Why?

PERRY BACON, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: I think all of this is building towards we will not testify. That is I think in Sekulow's interview, with Giuliani's comments, it is illegitimate and we will not testify. And you cannot subpoena us because it's not what (INAUDIBLE).

And I think that's where we're headed. I think that's where all this is building toward.

KING: And to that point, let's listen to Mark Levin, conservative radio host, frequent defender of the president, there's no -- everyone has the right to First Amendment, but is this the argument conservative defenders of the president want to make?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK LEVIN, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: Robert Mueller is a greater threat to this republic and Constitution than anything Vladimir Putin did during the campaign. And I'm no fan of Vladimir Putin.

What questions exactly does Mr. Mueller have? I'm talking to you, Mr. Mueller. Exactly what questions you have where you seek to turn this country upside-down and disenfranchise the over 60 million who voted for this president of the United States?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We could spend a long time listing the legitimate questions for the president and --

BACON: "New York Times" --

KING: Maybe he has answers to clear them all up. That would be great. It would be great for the country.

But is this where the conservative movement wants to be that Robert Mueller is worse than Vladimir Putin? This is a Vietnam War veteran, a career prosecutor, a guy who led the FBI after 9/11, really?

COLLINS: Who's been awarded Purple Hearts and several other medals and that's -- I don't even know what to make of the argument that Robert Mueller who is investigating Russian interference in the election, by a country that is led by Vladimir Putin is worse that Vladimir Putin. The right to vote is one of the most sacred rights as Americans that we hold.

That is why it is so important we are doing everything we can to protect elections, because if people doubt the legitimacy of our elections, then we are in a very bad place. But listen to that argument and look at the president's Twitter feed and remember that the president had Mark Levin in New Jersey at his club just this week, along with Sean Hannity.

And those are the people the president is listening to. Those are the people that have the president's ear, not Attorney General Jeff Sessions who the president does not speak with, barely even acknowledges when they are in the same room together. It is Mark Levin who has the president's ear on things like that. This is why you hear from the president in the way we did.

RAJU: And the argument, of course, misses the point that there have been Russians who have been indicted as part of this investigation who have been accused of interfering in the elections and who are part of Vladimir Putin's government. So, it's --

(CROSSALK)

KING: And several people who worked for the president in the campaign are in Michael Flynn's case in the White House who have acknowledged lying to prosecutors but, here we go.

Up next, a Republican congressman charged with insider trading tries to get off the November ballot. And he's hardly the only headache facing the Republican Party as it tries to keep its grip on the House of Representatives. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:16:39] KING: Twelve weeks now until election day and top Republicans insist they still see a path to defy midterm history and keep their grip on the House of Representatives. Two races though front and center in recent days suggest that could be wishful thinking. One is an urgent effort to get indicted Congressman Christopher Collins off the ballot in Western New York. Collins insists he's innocent of insider trading charges but Republicans are worried he might now lose if he stays on the ballot a district President Trump carried by nearly 25 points. They also worry they'll help Democrats make a national argument about a culture of GOP corruption.

Plus, the tight special election, this past Tuesday in an Ohio House district, the president carried by nearly a dozen points, the GOP candidate leads as the final votes are being counted but the Democrat ran very strong in the close in suburbs that were once reliably Republican.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: There's no question that people sent a message to the party to Republicans that knock it off, the chaos, the divisions. A lot of Republican women, they don't like this noise. They don't like this division.

Here's the challenge for the Republicans. If you are losing college educated women, if you are losing millennials, if you are losing minorities because you're not getting much of that vote at all, you've got a problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let's come back to the point made there by Governor Kasich in a moment and start with Congressman Collins. New York has a very strange election law. To get off the ballot this late, he has to essentially take another office. So, they have to find a job for him, appoint him or elect him to it to get him off the ballot.

Number one, I wouldn't want to be on the town council and have to cast a vote, if you have to cast a vote. That will be used against you when you run for something else. But it does reflect that they are working on this and that the lawyers are studying this and they're trying to find a landing zone for him tells you that national Republicans think this is a giant problem even though it's only one House district.

JOHNSON: Look, when you vote for the guy for dog catcher.

KING: Well, look --and hope the dog wins.

RAJU: This is a reliably Republican district, if Collins were not arrested and indicted that he would have walked into. This was a Democratic challenger running against him who had really no money, no name recognition. But Collins name remains on the ballot, they could lose that

significant and that would be a significant loss in an election where every seat counts, Democrats in the game 23 back -- to take back the House. Very feasible for the Democrats right now. They cannot afford to leave that on the table.

That's why they are doing all these -- they're scrambling to get his name off the ballot. We'll see if they succeed in avoiding the very --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: And remember, he initially said he's going to fight. He said he's innocent. He deserves every chance to defend himself.

But he said he was going to fight and stay on ballot and he will be forced to. Then he changed his mind after pressure at home and pressure from national Republicans, and in part because Democrats see this as tee ball. This is Nancy Pelosi.

This insufficient and overdue announcement does little to drain the toxic cesspool of self-enrichment, special interest deals and corruption that has proliferated in Washington under GOP control. Over and over, the Republicans' brazen corruption, cronyism and incompetence has left hard working families in the cold.

Republicans out there will dispute that, however, when you have a congressman indicted for insider trader who allegedly tipped his son off at the White House picnic, you know, that's pretty good.

BACON: She could have said that same quote in 2006, because I think she did say a very similar thing.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: That may have been recycled.

BACON: I think it's clearly what she's trying to get.

This is the kind of thing the Democrats need, to win a couple of seats by the Republican congressman doing something wrong, being under scandal.

[08:20:01] That kind of thing helped in '06 and it could make a difference here both in terms of seats individually but also in the idea that it's not you hate Trump, but also the whole Republican Party is sort of a cancer. It's the case the Democrats are making and this does help. At the same time, as you're saying, if they can get Collins off the ballot, they are going to win the seat. It's a very Republican area.

KING: Yes, if they can get him off the ballot. So, we'll watch that. We'll find out this week.

Let's come back to the bigger picture out of Ohio 12, again, just one race. But it's a district Trump carried about 12 points. If you look at the way CNN rates House races right now, we have 95 competitive seats, 82 of them currently held by Republicans. That tells you Republicans are on defense in this election year.

In 36 of those, 36 of those, Trump has lower support -- have lower Trump support than the Ohio 12. Meaning the president -- if you're in those districts and just so what happened in Ohio 12, you're thinking oh, boy, what's happening in my district. Remember that doesn't include the seats Hillary Clinton that she won that are held by Republicans, and Democrats need 23.

What was the Ohio 12 message, even though we don't have an official winner? It looks like a Republican will hold on.

JOHNSON: For me, the message was that the strong economy may not be outweighing for voters all of the other drama, the child separation at the border and other negative headlines that this administration is generating.

COLLINS: It also shows that this theory that if president comes and gives a rally and tries to boost the candidate, that it will help them. It really didn't help him that much. I mean, he barely squeaks by, if he does squeak by. But I think maybe John Kasich had more to do with that and less President Trump.

So, that's going to be a problem for them. How do they change that if they are going to need President Trump even though he's taking credit for it? He's saying that he swooped in and helped them so much here.

But really this is a really Republican area. They shouldn't have to worry about this. So, it really does make you question just how helpful President Trump will be in the coming months and I think that's a lot of anxiety they have as well.

KING: To that point this is a district that starts in the Columbus suburbs and then makes its way out. There wasn't great turnout in the rural areas. If you think you find Trump voters, the Republican candidate won by big margins but the turnout was underwhelming.

The suburbs, they did -- we can have a debate whether it's Trump or Kasich, but the fact that it's so close, look at the numbers from the NPR/PBS/Marist poll. The president's approval rating in smaller cities, a lot of Republican districts start near smaller cities, 38 percent, suburban areas, 36 percent. Small city suburban women, 25 percent.

The president is a drag in the areas where you find a lot of Republican House districts.

RAJU: Yes, and look, the fight for the House is going to go through suburbs, it's going to go through suburban women, people who voted for Trump last time who are concerned about what he's doing now. I was talking to Republicans who are involved in House races on Friday, in the aftermath of what happened in Ohio, they said, look, at the end of the day, this is eventually going to be a referendum on the president when he's not doing things that put our party, that voters are just unnerved about, whether it's Helsinki or you mentioned the child separation at the borders.

But things like Helsinki, he's aligning himself with Vladimir Putin, that really concerns voters that has a down ticket on these members who are up and that ultimately is going to cost members their seats. So, the more the president can stay on message and not do these chaotic things will be ultimately helpful. Can the president do that?

KING: And to the point Ileana made about Republicans, why not? Why aren't they running on economy? You have unemployment below 4 percent. You have gangbusters growth in the last quarter. Republican cut taxes that they say is responsible for some of that growth.

Instead, turn on a TV and this is what Republicans are doing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

AD ANNOUNCER: The liberal resistance is demanding open borders. They want to eliminate the law enforcement agency that enforces our immigration laws, opening America's doors to more crime and drugs.

AD ANNOUNCER: Would liberals in Washington politicians have a new crusade? They want to get rid of ICE.

AD ANNOUNCER: Anthony Brindisi, illegal immigrant before Upstate New Yorkers.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

KING: That tells me plain and simple, they are worried. Democrats have all this enthusiasm, the economy is not motivating their base, and they need to use that to try to intrude Republican rally the base issue to turn out voters.

RAJU: That seems smart actually, the strategy of like talking about the culture issues, talking about the national anthem, all the stuff we may not like. That actually seems to me like -- you look at the data, wages are still stagnant for a lot of people. Unemployment rates are very low, particularly in the Trump areas, people are not -- a lot of economic growth is happening like in Washington, D.C., not in sort of rural areas of the country.

So, I do think that approach is like smarter one. But it still may not work. I think the worry for the Republicans should be, you might lose 25 seats, but you might lose 50 if you have low turnout among the Trump base but you have high turnout among suburban people who swing from Trump to Democrats this time.

KING: It's a great point. We'll come back to the Democratic side of this in a few moments.

Next, one year before he blamed both sides, or all sides, for the hate and violence, half of America, half of America sees the president of the United States as a racist.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [08:29:00] KING: Charlottesville, Virginia, last night marking the one year anniversary of the violent marches of hate groups that elevated racial tensions across the country. More marches, rallies and demonstrations are on tap today. Here in Washington, authorities bracing for a so-called "unite the right" rally in Lafayette Park, across from the White House. That rally organized by White House nationalists and others.

President Trump tried to get out ahead of the anniversary with a tweet yesterday condemning, quote, all types of racism and acts of violence, but we all remember the president's words a year ago were anything but unifying and critics see his continuing attacks on African-American members of Congress and the language he uses in those attacks as evidence of his true compass.

[08:29:41]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: You listen to any of his language, it's always language that is trying -- stereotypical racist type language of which many of the neo-Nazis say themselves and they been saying it behind closed doors but this president is giving them the freedom to say some of those things in open now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now the president and his allies insist that is not fair. But this is fact. One year after Charlottesville, look at these number, 49 percent, 49 percent, half of Americans believe their president is a racist.

Just every time I look at those numbers, it just stuns me. And you would think that he would wake up every day knowing those numbers thinking I'm going to do something about this -- if it is unfair, if they think this is unfair. But in the year since Charlottesville, has he?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well -- and his tweet is interesting. He says I condemn all types of racism. It's not nearly as specific as the tweet from his daughter Ivanka that said she specifically condemned Neo-Nazis, white nationalists. There's no room in the country for white supremacy.

Instead the President said all types of racism. So that was unusual. I do think they tried to get out ahead of that before, you know, whatever could happen today. But this does come on the week that you can't ignore what the President himself has said about the athletes who protest by kneeling during the national anthem which the President said they were unable to define what it was they are protesting.

He referred to two very prominent, successful black men as dumb and insulted their intelligence. So you can't ignore what the President does and says just compared to one tweet that he sent saying he condemns all types of racism. KING: Somebody help translate this. This is Mitt Romney, former

Republican presidential nominee running for Senate in the state of Utah. "People who knowingly march under the Nazi banner have disqualified themselves as good people. We must insist that those we elect as our leaders respect and embrace Americans of every race, sexual orientation, gender and national origin. In this country it must be electorally disqualifying to equivocate on racism."

The President last year, one year ago, equivocated on racism. Is that Romney saying the President shouldn't be president?

PERRY BACON, POLITICAL WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: I think he's saying that Mitt Romney should not do that in 2020, is my guess as to what he's doing --

(CROSSTALK)

BACON: I think he's trying to like --

KING: Change your ways, sir.

BACON: -- yes, change your ways. Romney didn't embrace Trump during his campaign, you know, during Romney's senate campaign this year. So I don't think he's running as the anti-Trump candidate.

But if you read his statement yesterday, it was pretty -- he repudiated the statements that Trump made last year. It was very aggressively -- the statement Romney said was basically an anti-Trump Charlottesville statement in a thousand words.

So I know what Romney is trying to get at. He wants to be kind of referring to himself as the moral voice, kind of an anti-Trump voice for the Republican Party.

KING: I don't think anyone has forgotten but if you have, this is the president one year ago. Again, a young woman died. There were violent protests. There was no question as to who was responsible. This was the President's statement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Donald Trump, President of the United States: We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred and bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It was not the time to say many sides, both sides. And in the context of this one year later, we have a conversation by the African- Americans in the race, a prominent Trump supporter on another news network stoking this again in the Latino contest with this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: In some parts of the country, it does seem like the America that we know and love doesn't exist anymore. Massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people and there are changes that none of us ever voted for and most of us don't like.

Much of this is related to both illegal and in some cases legal immigration that, of course, progressives love.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I would argue from that that one year later, we haven't moved the ball in the right direction.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean look, after Charlottesville, the President wanted to reverse the perception that you showed in that initial poll that half of the country views him as racist. He could have come out much more strongly, cleaned up his remarks again and condemned white supremacy, condemned what happened in Charlottesville. Perhaps that could have changed the perception among a lot of voters.

But instead he does what he tends to do. He dug in, he fought, he pushed back and they tried to move on from the controversy to a new controversy. But undoubtedly that was one of the lowest parts of his presidency and he's done very little to clean up that perception since then.

KING: He could travel the country and do town halls. He could do this quietly if he wants. He could do this privately. You don't have to make it public, bring people in.

He did suggest at one point during the NFL controversy, anthem controversy that he wanted to listen to some of these players. They are protesting, you know, African-American treatment by police. They're protesting for prison reform, an issue on which the President says he's trying to do something.

He could either public or privately or a combination of the two, just show some outreach to show that he's willing to listen. Show that he's willing to take some criticism for his language or his past actions but he hasn't.

ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: You know, if Trump had said what he said yesterday, "I condemn racism, all types of racism," if he had said that a year ago, I don't think there would have been the controversy that there was. I think his critics are not asking for a whole lot and he could put all of this to rest through some very simple gestures but there is a certain I think stubbornness with the President.

I think his supporters would call it stubbornness; his critics would call it racism. In the end we can't read his mind really. But that he simply refuses to do things.

[08:35:06] And I think there's part of him that revels in the controversy that he causes. It's like he causes things -- he deliberately causes things that elicit enormous controversy and media coverage, sits back and watches it and does it again.

KING: Well, there's going to be people across the street from his house -- the White House today. David Duke among those invited. We'll see if he shows up to speak.

I was (INAUDIBLE) the response from the President, "Go away. Go away. You don't speak for me. Stay away from my house. Go away."

We'll see if that happens.

Up next Democrats say Tuesday's primaries add to their year of the women momentum. And then there's this question, not about 2018 but about 2020.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER FOR STORMY DANIELS: Before I go any further, however, I want to deal with the elephant in the room or shall I say the donkey in the room.

What, you may be asking, is a porn star lawyer doing here tonight to speak with you about our party and our republic?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[08:36:04] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Montana's house district is one test case for a big 2018 question. Is this the year of the women, plural, for Democrats or is this the year one Democratic woman helps Republicans defy the odds?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The liberal resistance is going too far. Now these radicals want to abolish ICE, the law enforcement agency that deports criminal illegal aliens. Kathleen Williams is their candidate for Congress. So liberal, Williams would vote with Pelosi for open borders and amnesty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Pretty easy to get that one.

Republicans hope Nancy Pelosi is their not-so-secret 2018 weapon but Democrats say this past Tuesday's primaries and yesterday in Hawaii only add momentum to what they believe will be this year's midterm legacy.

Take a look at these numbers here. Here's for the House of Representatives -- 476 women have filed to run for the house. More Democrats as you see -- 186 of them have won their primaries to date. That's a huge number.

Let's look at Senate races -- 54 women have filed to run for the United States senate. Slightly more for Democrats than Republicans -- 14 have won their primaries to date. And let's look at the governor's races as well, big deal in 2018 -- 62 women have filed to run for governor, 41 Democrats and 21 Republicans; 12 have won their primaries to date.

Look at the comparison to just two years ago and you get the picture here: female candidates for House, Senate and Governor in 2016 -- a whopping difference this year.

A Democratic candidate for the house in Michigan Rashida Tlaib says there is one reason these numbers are so big.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RASHIDA TLAIB (D), MICHIGAN CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I think President Trump being there in office, getting elected was kind of a bat signal for women across the country. It was like it's our time. We have to march on and we can't stay on the outside of the ring anymore. We have to actually run for office and we have to demand to have a seat at the table.

A lot of that drive does come from, you know, President Trump being in office. And the -- just the culture and atmosphere that he brings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The numbers and the success of these candidates is truly I think because we're focused on other issues right now maybe we don't come back to that enough. That is going to be the story of 2018.

BACON: There's a big tension here between the year of the Democratic woman -- we want to get rid of the Democratic woman who runs the Democrats. So that's a big tension there. Got to figure it out it's like, you know, if there was a viable 50-something woman who was in leadership, she would be -- the speaker candidate tomorrow I think.

But I think big factor here that sort of protects Pelosi in a certain way and I do wonder like what happens. I think you have 50 Democrats around the country who says I will not vote for Pelosi for speaker. That's a big number.

And we're getting to the point where you don't want to like win the House but then like who's the speaker is a big question at the end of it. That's going to be a hard thing to resolve.

KING: And to that point, Friday tweets from Nancy Pelosi get right to the point you just raised. It's fascinating when you can see the sense that she's trying to deal with this now. She's trying to deal with this.

"I have made some very powerful, rich enemies because I've been highly instrumental in passing Dodd-Frank, a big energy bill, the Affordable Care Act -- she was on for policy (ph). The special interest dark money groups are relentlessly spending millions writing falsehoods about me because they and the Republicans in Washington have nothing to run on." She's trying to deal with that problem you just mentioned now by saying hey, I'm not the problem. Republicans are just looking, you know, for somebody as a pinata.

RAJU: Yes. Her audience is an audience of 200-something -- those are the members of the Democratic Caucus who will be sitting in those seats. She hopes it's more than 218 so they take back the House if they have a majority.

But undoubtedly the question is going to be, where do these numbers come down when the vote comes, if the Democrats do take the House? This is ultimately going to be a public vote on the House floor. Members will have -- these candidates who said they will vote against her, one of the first votes will be who is the speaker of the House?

KING: Right.

RAJU: If they stick by what they said in the campaign trail. She's had a very difficult time getting that 218 number to become speaker because already there are a lot of people who are opposed to her, and if there's a narrow margin -- narrow majority for the Democrats, it's going to be hard for her to overcome.

KING: And some of that is because of the Republican criticism. These Democrats want to be safe politically. But some of it is generational change. These people just think they look at her, at Steny Hoyer, Jim Clyburn they say it's time for some younger leadership.

Let's move on to 2020 for a second here. It's Iowa's state fair week. There was a big Democratic dinner Friday night. Three potential Democratic candidates for president were at the dinner but this guy got the lead bill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[08:44:53] AVENATTI: What I fear for this Democratic Party that I love so much is that we have a tendency to bring nail clippers to a gun fight. When they go low, I say, we hit harder.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Seems impossible -- the attorney for Stormy Daniels as a potential Democratic candidate for president of the United States. But I would say seems impossible -- it's been said before and so I would be careful.

Is Michael Avenatti a real candidate, a real contender in the Democratic Party or is this a guy who's on cable television a lot trying to have his Andy Warhol moment?

COLLINS: I think what we learned best from the last election is that the people you may think are the least likely to be able secure the nomination and become president are the people who can secure the nomination and become president.

That was a big lesson we learned with President Trump. And I think going forward people are going to be very cautious about ruling people like Michael Avenatti out.

KING: But it's all very different circumstances but also everybody, when Barack Obama ran -- everybody said, smart kid. He's running to raise his profile and he's going to be a rising star in the Democratic Party. Then he was president.

JOHNSON: He rose.

Yes, my skepticism of Avenatti comes from the fact that he's been trying to damage the President and had tons of free media exposure for the past six, nine months and he doesn't really seem to have landed a blow.

So if Democrats are looking for somebody who can take down the President his track record doesn't seem all that strong to me.

RAJU: But it also says how open this field is. There are going to be 20, 25, 30 candidates and maybe Avenatti can sneak by because he's the most well known of a lot of these people. And if he's the one person willing to go low, probably lower than a lot of these politicians are willing to go, maybe that appeals to some in the base.

KING: And he might force others to be tough too, if people leave those dinner saying, you know what, I don't think this guy is president. I (INAUDIBLE) at president but I like that he's kicking, he's kicking; it might influence the other candidates there. We shall see.

Our reporters share from their notebooks next including an inside look at the President's so-called working vacation at his New Jersey golf resort.

[08:46:54] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Eliana.

JOHNSON: Senator Chuck Grassley this week announced Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Brett Kavanaugh will be September 4th and so I'm looking ahead to see whether this nomination will meet with any real resistance from Democrats. So far we sort of had dramatic resistance but whether we'll see any real controversy, the first tranche of the e-mails were turned over -- a big tranche. And there was maybe one controversial e-mail. We covered it at Politico but it didn't seem to really be a roadblock.

Even with Neil Gorsuch, we've got accusations of plagiarism and some other things. Haven't really seen anything like that with Kavanaugh, so we'll see whether he'll glide to confirmation or whether there will -- whether anything like that will come up.

KING: The fact they scheduled the hearing tells you the Republicans are at least confident but we shall see.

Manu.

RAJU: John -- there's still a lot of questions about the cryptic comments that Bill Nelson, the senator from Florida made last week suggesting that the Russians had penetrated certain counties in Florida immediately in the aftermath of that the Governor Rick Scott came out and said where's the evidence of this?

Secretary of state from Florida sent a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee asking them to turn over evidence. Because Nelson himself had cited both Mark Warner and Richard Burr, the two leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee to make his case that there's something untoward.

But in the aftermath, the statements that have come out have been confusing. First the Department of Homeland Security poured cold water on Nelson's statement but then Richard Burr issued a statement, a vague statement, not confirming it, not denying it and saying talk to the FBI, talk to the Homeland Security Department telling the Florida officials to do that.

Then Marco Rubio who joined Nelson in the earlier concerns about Florida and more general concerns, he issued a statement also not disputing what Nelson said, not confirming it either. All of which prompts a number of questions. Did the Homeland Security Department -- did they say when they poured cold water on it, should they have poured cold water on it.

And should Bill Nelson have disclosed information that either is true or perhaps is classified? Did he get out ahead of the news story here? And of course, it's all playing in the backdrop of a very contentious and highly contested senate race that could determine control of the Senate.

KING: Clean-up time. Clean-up time.

Perry.

BACON: A lot of primaries on Tuesday as (INAUDIBLE). And the one that I'll be watching for is the Wisconsin Democratic primary for governor. You know, Scott Walker, the governor there won in 2010. The Democrats tried to recall him but he won in 2012. He won again in 2014. So three for three.

So the fourth time, a big year, Democratic year probably. So if they can't beat Scott Walker this time maybe he'll be governor forever. It will be interesting to see what happens, who the Democrats nominate. They have a more left candidate, probably a more centrist candidate (INAUDIBLE) who is a Bernie person or a Clinton person as well.

KING: Big fascinating race. Scott Walker, once the rising star -- big question mark right now on the Republican Party.

Kaitlan. COLLINS: Well, as someone who just spent the last week in New Jersey,

a lot of us were discussing the President's non-vacation vacation, which the White House was insisting that the President was only there because they were doing the renovations to the White House, not the Oval Office specifically but other places in the East Wing and the West Wing even though they did not mention these renovations before the President left to go to New Jersey last week.

And it's just interesting to see how they try to maintain that he's still working even though he's there. And even the President himself saying he misses the White House and he wishes they were back there.

They lugged the small table that the President uses to do bill signings. He had CEOs over for dinner. He did a prison reform round table.

And it's not unusual for presidents to take vacation. His predecessors took vacation with abandon and they would never try to insist that it wasn't some kind of vacation. But with Trump because he has long criticized his predecessors, his most recent one specifically, Barack Obama for golfing and going on vacation, he tries to maintain that he's not doing that when in fact he's golfing and on vacation.

KING: That's been a strange week. This is the most quiet he has been throughout his presidency.

I'll close by circling back to that Supreme Court nomination. Democrats looking for reasons to oppose Brett Kavanaugh or seizing on new documents in which he asserts that a sitting president should not be indicted.

[08:55:04] But if you read them, other Kavanaugh memos from his days working on the Ken Starr investigation, actually offer Democrats fodder to question, even mock the Trump legal strategy.

Kavanaugh, for example, wrote it was quote "weak -- a weak legal argument to assert as team Trump does that a president cannot be subpoenaed to testify" and writing back then to support articles of impeachment against President Clinton, Kavanaugh said get this, "Refusing for months to testify while repeatedly lying to the public and key witnesses about key facts made credible pieces of an obstruction of justice count."

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 miss this. President Trump's lead attorney Rudy Giuliani joins Jake Tapper on "STATE OF THE UNION".

Have a great Sunday.

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