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Omarosa Firing Backlash; CNN Poll: Dems Hold 11-Point Lead over GOP Ahead of Midterms. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired August 19, 2018 - 08:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The president punishes his Russia meddling critics and attacks the special counsel.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Mueller is conflicted, but let him write his report. We did nothing, there's no collusion.

KING: Plus the apprentice understudy and her secret tapes.

OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN, AMERICAN WRITER: And we're going to go toe to toe with him. Donald Trump has met his match.

KING: And for Democrats, the polls are good, candidates diverse, the wounds self-inflicted.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: We're not going to make America great again. It was never that great.

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


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

Big news in the special counsel investigation, the top White House lawyer has answered questions. Get this for 30 hours and has unique insights on several major events. The president and his team insisting no big deal, saying he was told to cooperate. But in their spin in his early morning tweets just today more signs the president himself will not cooperate.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I think the best analysis would be that the Mueller team is panicking. They know they don't have a case. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. They can't prove it, and they are trying to get the president to testify. And they're hoping that if they put out a story like this in which they suggest that McGahn is cooperating against then but don't say it, they don't say that, that he'll want to come in and explain himself.


KING: Plus, the president uses his tweets to attack and now his executive powers to punish a very select group. Those he sees essential to the Russia investigation. Is it justified anger or a dangerous abuse of power?


JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: He can revoke - you know and he has revoked my clearance and others, and just way he can give pardons out. But I'm not a lawyer but I know that there is a question about whether or not there's corrupt intent in terms of doing this.

And so I think this is the thing that lawyers and courts and others are going to be looking at in terms of whether or not Mr. Trump is doing any of this in order to obstruct justice or try to silence critics.


KING: And the apprentice villain turned West Wing adviser Omarosa, has secret tapes, yet another reality TV twist that has members of the president's inner circle and his family more than a little nervous.


NEWMAN: I am not going anywhere. I am not going to be bullied. I am not intimidated and I'm going to go toe to toe with him. Everything he throws at me, believe me my tapes are much better than theirs.

CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC ANCHOR: Are you going to release more tapes?

NEWMAN: If I need to. I'll do what I have to do to protect myself.

MELVIN: How are you going to determine whether you need to?

NEWMAN: Well we'll see. He's threatening to get me arrested. He's trying to intimidate my publisher, trying to intimidate me. Donald Trump has met his match.


KING: Yes, another very interesting week. With us this Sunday to share the reporting and their insights, Julie Pace of the "Associate Press," Michael Bender of "The Wall Street Journal," Toluse Olorunnipa of "Bloomberg" and CNN's Sarah Murray.

We begin this hour with the new White House attacks on the special counsel led by the president himself including morning tweets today and some new insights and just why the president and his team are so on edge. "The New York Times" detailing the extraordinary cooperation, Special Counsel Robert Mueller is receiving from White House Counsel Don McGahn. Get this at least three interviews totaling 30 hours.

In them, "The Times" reports and CNN has confirmed McGahn shared insights on the president's mind-set as he fired the FBI Director James Comey, repeatedly attacked and undermined the Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other Justice Department officials and even tried to fire Mueller, the special counsel. This is one of many lines in the story that just jumps out.

He provided the investigators examining whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice, a clear view of the president's most intimate moments with his lawyer. Not long after the story posted yesterday afternoon, the Trump lead attorney Rudy Giuliani tweeting this, "Time for Mueller investigation to file a report. We will release ours. Don't interfere with election like Comey." And if you're still holding out any hope the president himself might cooperate and answer questions from the special counsel, well, read his tweets this morning. Listen to this, time to reconsider.


TRUMP: Mr. Mueller is highly conflicted. In fact, Comey is like his best friend. I could go into conflict after conflict. But sadly, Mr. Mueller is conflicted. But let him write his report. We did nothing. There's no collusion.


KING: Comey is not his best friend. That's another lie the president likes to repeat. But he's up early this morning tweeting again about this story. Publicly the White House is trying to take a ho-hum about this.

[08:05:02] Saying the president under his previous attorneys told everybody to cooperate, Don McGahn is cooperating. That's no big deal. The president tweeting, he's calling "The New York Times" of course - he calls it a fake piece, says he -- you know, comparing Don McGahn to John Dean in the Nixon days for your history. He goes on to say, you know, "McCarthyism is at its worst." He then turns quickly into an attack on Bob Mueller.

This has to send them jitters especially I want to read a line. This is from William Burr, Don McGahn's attorney. The White House counsel has an attorney. "President Trump, through counsel, declined to assert any privilege over Mr. McGahn testimony, so Mr. McGahn answered the Special Counsel team's questions fulsomely and honestly, as any person interviewed by federal investigators must."

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": There's another line in that piece that really stood out to me, and that is that McGahn is his attorney came to believe that if Trump were to be investigated for obstruction, which we know he is now. That he might try to make McGahn the fall guy. And so that was McGahn's mindset going into these interviews. That Trump may try to set him up. Think about that, he's going in there expecting that he has to essentially clear his own name because he thinks the president could ultimately try to point this at him. I think that it is true certainly that the original team of White House lawyers told everyone to cooperate. There's a lot with this new team that Trump has about that strategy in part because we don't know what happens in a lot of these conversations. It's a small group of people that was in the room, in some cases it was just Trump and James Comey. It's Trump word against one other person. And we know his pattern of you know trying to change the facts, trying to tell different versions of this story, so I think that you can tell from these tweets this morning and the statements yesterday there is a lot of concern about the fact that McGahn is cooperating so extensively.

KING: He does this on Twitter when he's nervous. This is what he does. To your point about the different strategy, it's a big shift. The new White House attorney Emmet Flood has been brought in, for example, has told the special counsel no when they want to interview John Kelly. They have been much tougher and stricter about more defiant about requesting the special counsel.

If you're the president of the United States, and again Don McGahn knows a lot more than we do. Don McGahn's lawyer, who has several other clients involved in this, knows a lot more than we do. The president knows a lot more than we do. When you see this story now, what does it tell you?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It does tell me that there is concern in the White House about the fact that this was their strategy going to into it. It does tell me that you know obviously Don McGahn wants to protect himself. But this is a mess the White House got itself into. You know if they did not want their White House counsel to cooperate with the special counsel. They had an opportunity to sort of head that off at the path, to exert privilege, they chose not to do this.

So in many ways we shouldn't be surprised that the guy who is the White House counsel who has been permitted by the president to go in and to share his insights with Robert Mueller's team has been called in again and again because he was there for so many of these key decisions. Does that mean that he's provided something that the special counsel you know confirms the president tried to obstruct justice. No, he may have just confirmed the same things that Steve Bannon said, the same thing that Reince Priebus said, that the president would rant about these things and then nothing would ever be done and no one would ever really take him seriously. We just don't know.

But again, this is another example of a mess the White House has gotten itself into. So the president can be you know upset. He can rant on Twitter but they chose this strategy. This was the strategy they chose.

MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Show that - because another insight in the Trump-McGahn relationship here, it's been really acrimonious one for a long time now. There's that photo of Bannon stepping in front of McGahn during the travel ban because Trump was unloading on McGahn, Bannon tried to step in to stop that. We know that McGahn would disappear for days, stay out of the president's sight, out of the Oval Office to avoid getting yelled at.

And now we have a little bit of insight into what he's been doing when he's not in the Oval Office. We know he's working on judges. He's you know the point man on the Supreme Court nominations. He's getting a lot of his colleagues and former colleagues into the Justice Department as lawyer, and he's talking to Robert Mueller quite a bit. And this is kind of - I mean to Julie's point earlier this is sort the -- a much more serious version of the Omarosa story. The people around Trump fear what he's going to do, how you're going to eventually get thrown under the bus. Omarosa taped conversations in the situation room. Don McGahn is cooperating with Robert Mueller and what the president abuses are much more - is a very serious threat to his presidency.

KING: And to that point, Toluse, you should jump in. Michael Beschloss, the presidential historian retweeting yesterday cover of "Time" magazine back from a 1973, I believe it was, heading into the Watergate investigation where the big concern of the White House was John Dean ended up you know giving testimony against the president of the United States. And as we go through this you made a key point, a very important point. The president is very transparent, actually. We know what he's mad and animated by because he shares it with us.

I read you one of the president's tweets off the top of the show attacking "The New York Times" and attacking the story. He's doing it again. He's repeating himself.

[08:10:01] The failing "New York Times" wrote a story that made it seem like the White House counsel - he spelled counsel wrong - had turned on the president when in fact it is just the opposite, and two fake reporters know this. He goes on and on. The enemy of the people, he's attacking the media again which gives you all the insight you need into the president's anger.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "BLOOMBERG": Yes, this shows how much this is getting under the president's skin. This is a bombshell report that really cuts to the heart of this investigation. If the president committed obstruction of justice the person who might know better than anyone else would be his White House counsel, who was a party to all the major decisions that the president made when he was deciding to fire James Comey, when he was considering whether he was going to fire Jeff Sessions or fire the special counsel himself. So the fact that Don McGahn is spending 30 hours speaking to Bob Mueller it means that Mueller knows exactly what's happening inside the Oval Office. He has a better view what is happening, what the president was thinking when he made all of those decisions than anyone. And if there is an obstruction case, Don McGahn may have ended it on the special counsel --

KING: And that level of detail and that level of fulsome cooperation to quote his own attorney, that also gives Robert Mueller who also I need to talk to you what documents should I be thinking about you know - pieces together, the information. I saw Wisenberg who was on this program a lot who was the number two to Ken Starr during the Clinton investigation. In fact in those days said - this is - that the White House attorney, the lead White House counsel would cooperate, that "A prosecutor would kill for that. Oh, my God, it would have been phenomenally helpful to us. It would have been like having the keys to the kingdom."

PACE: And part of the reason that it's so important and that the reports make this point. And the piece is that the White House counsel is not the personal attorney to the president. They're there as the attorney for the White House operation and essentially to protect the office of the presidency, not the president themselves. And you do get the sense when you talk about the dynamic between McGahn and Trump that Trump doesn't necessarily understand that.

KING: Right. And Don McGahn is the one who could tell the special counsel, was the president serious or was he just ranting when he said fire me, the special counsel. Was he serious or was he -- did he do anything? Did he just talk about firing Jeff Sessions, did he just talk about going after Rod Rosenstein or did he ask people to do things.

BENDER: This is an important point here. The story points out that's what McGahn is talking to the Special Counsel's Office about. We've seen much more clearly the Trump PR campaign and against - and strategy against Mueller. Not necessarily the legal strategy. And what that PR campaign has been is no collusion. And that's always been kind of the harder point to prove. But this story shows is that McGahn's cooperating, none in collusion. But he's talking them a lot about obstruction. When you look at the Trump tweets, you showed one a little earlier, a couple of minutes ago.

Last year, Trump tweeted no obstruction one time. He's done it twice in the last 13 hours and about once a week for the last six weeks. So this also show -- the story gives a bit of insight into where -- I think Trump is aware of a lot of these details and has been now for a couple of months.

KING: I think it has also becoming increasingly clear, he has no plans. And their public line has been he wants to testify. I don't believe it. I don't believe it. But now I think you get the sense of confrontation that no, that if Bob Mueller wants to talk to this president he's going to have subpoena him.

MURRAY: Well I think they have a pretty good idea that this president does what he wants to do when he wants to do it. So if he really were clamoring to get in there and share his story with the special counsel, you know he would probably be doing that. I think anyone who would ever advise the president in this situation, any lawyer would say absolutely not. We're not just going to like run in there and give you fully the keys to the Kingdom. But I think we are sort of putting these two sides up for a legal battle. It seems like Giuliani is essentially gearing the special counsel at this point to subpoena him or to move on without the interview. We'll see how Robert Mueller is going to react.

KING: And also pressuring him -- if he has a report to issue it now. Our Republicans still control the House of Representatives as opposed to just hitting until after the elections when it possible the Democrats will control the House of Representatives. The timing there is not a coincidence.

Up next we continue our conversation about this. The president's anger and his critics takes a dramatic turn. Using his powers to punish those he blames for the investigation.


[08:17:52] KING: Welcome back. 15 former top U.S. intelligence officials who served in Democratic and Republican administrations reviewed President Trump this past week. As did some 60 former lower level intelligence officers plus the four star admiral who led the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. But the president despite all that criticism clearly pleased with himself.


TRUMP: I know that I've gotten tremendous response from having done that because security clearances are very important to me, very, very important. And I've had a tremendous response for having done that. There's no silence. If anything, I'm giving up a bigger voice. Many people don't even know who he is, and now he has a bigger voice and that's OK with me because I like taking on voices like that.


KING: The him in question there, of course, is the former CIA director John Brennan. The president revoked his security clearance this past week and plainly spelled out his reasoning in an interview with "The Wall Street Journal." Quote, "I call it the rigged witch hunt. It is a sham. And these people led it! So I think it's something that had to be done."

Whatever you think of the president, he is stunningly transparent. He is targeting, taking on in his words those he sees as responsible for an investigation that now stretches beyond Russia's indisputable meddling to include as we just discussed possible campaign collusion with the Russians, possible obstruction of justice by the president himself. In that targeting or taking on, he's now using presidential powers not just words and he's also again escalating his open war against law enforcement and intelligence communities. Another late Friday example, a tweet calling his attorney general in all caps, a blank.


BRENNAN: He's drunk on power, he really is. And I think he's abusing the powers of that office. I think right now this country is in a crisis in terms of what Mr. Trump has done and is liable to do.


KING: What is most interesting in the rebuke from all the former intelligence officials is that many of them actually take issues with John Brennan. Many of them think John Brennan now is a paid contributor on MSNBC, and they he has been too partisan. And they think he's out of his lane in some of these issues. [08:20:00] But they think the big question is not what John Brennan says but this is America and he has a constitutional right to free speech and that the president is punishing him. And actually, what's most striking is the president makes good, the White House says it's because of the things he says on television. The president may clear that interview with you but it's got nothing to do with that or at least that's secondary. Brennan was there at the beginning, like Comey, therefore he's the enemy.

BENDER: Right. If in the podium when this was announced - Brennan was announced - Sarah Sanders at a much more nuance version of this, my colleague Peter Nicholas gave him a broad open ended question that pulled him into the Oval Office. This was announced today, what do you think about it and -- what was striking the president immediately went to Brennan's connection to the Russian interference issue which has frustrated him from almost day one and continues, you know, this morning. When the announcement was made there was a lot of criticism that this was made in order to divert attention from Omarosa. Mission accomplished by doing that when he ties this directly to political --

KING: And "Washington Post" and others reporting they have a list of others and "The Washington Post" even quoting senior administration officials saying they're going to roll them out to distract from bad news headlines. What?

PACE: Well, that's a Trump strategy. It's a classic Trump strategy. You create drama, you put out a list of potential people that could come next, maybe we get one a day, one a week for the next several weeks, but it does - as Michael said, it really does show the level of frustration that the president had. This is not because he believes that John Brennan is violating, you know, some type of norm for intelligence officials. This is directly related to the fact that Brennan was there giving reports to President Obama about what he was seeing on Russian interference and what he believed was some type of connection between that interference and the Trump campaign.

KING: And if you look at the names involved here - if you look at the names involved here, it's a remarkable list of these former top intelligence officials, people who have served in Democratic and Republican administrations. William Webster goes back to the Reagan administration and the George H.W. Bush administration, Robert Gates towards -- I could go on and on here, people who have served in the military, people who have served in the Intelligence Community, people who have frankly have kept us safe pre and post 9/11. Admiral McRaven also speaking out against the president. It's just a sign of our times, right, that these are people who normally speak about military issues, speak about intelligence issues, don't get involved in the day to day political debates. But is that part of the already legacy of President Trump that everybody has to take sides?

OLORUNNIPA: Well he's politicizing things that haven't been politicized in the past, security clearances have not been political in the past. Democrats and Republicans have kept them after leaving office. And I think what we're seeing from a number of these officials is that they're a little bit worried about the danger or equating, attacking or criticizing the president with attacking or criticizing the government. We've seen that kind of language coming out of the White House, coming out of the allies of the president saying that Brennan is being unpatriotic because he's not going to be able to use his security clearance to help this administration because he's so outspoken against the president. So I think that's what we saw from these officials saying you can criticize the president, this is still America and still be patriotic.

KING: Again Brennan has been out there a lot. He said that he finds the president's behavior treasonous. He says he thinks he's committed treason. He just wants to use that word. He is paid on a network that especially in primetime is a very political progressive left network. And so that's where Republicans on Capitol Hill are hiding behind. They are making it about John Brennan not about the bigger question.

The president didn't consult the CIA before he did this. He didn't consult his director of National Intelligence before he did this. He did not follow the clearly spelled out process for taking away somebody's security clearance where you lay out the behavior that makes you worry they should have it instead as he told "The Wall Street Journal." He pulled Brennan's because Brennan is a critic was there at the beginning. Listen to Republicans on Capitol Hill trying to make this about Brennan not about the idea that there's this constitutional right to this thing called free speech.


SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: I think I've called him a butt head and I meant it. I think he's given the national intelligence community a bad name.

SEN. CORY GARDNER (R), COLORADO: I think the things that John Brennan has said over the past several months about this country has been disgraceful.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Mr. Brennan has gone way over the line in my view and I think restricting his clearance, pulling his clearance makes sense to me.

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: The fact that he's out there every single day, acting in a partisan way probably doesn't help his cause.


KING: If the president moves on, he said he's going to get Bruce Ohr, the guy who currently serves in the midlevel position of the Justice Department. The next hour, you're going to see "State of the Union" with Jake Tapper, General Hayden, General Clapper, former Obama administration officials. If he keeps going or Republicans keeps saying whatever Mr. President, do whatever you want?

MURRAY: Yes -- that's exactly what they will do. Maybe at some point they might say you know this is concerning or I don't agree with the president, but we've seen this same sort of milk toast response from Republicans no matter what the crisis in considering you know the many other things that they've been asked about the president's comments about African-Americans, president's comments about Muslims, president's comments about women.

You know there the GOP wags their finger a little bit harder. On this one, it's pretty easy for them to say, well Brennan has stepped over the line because he's been so partisan and the president is well within his authority to strip security clearances.

[08:25:06] But you know you listed off a lot of other people who have not been quite so harshly critical of the president. They have been. But you've also listed a lot of people who have a lot of ties with the Russian investigation. And it seems like when you dig through the people who have been put on notice a whole lot of them get back to the Russia investigation, they get back to Mike Flynn, they get back to what the president believes is a witch hunt. And so it's very difficult to see it as anything other than enemy.

KING: And if you can connect the dots, you say enemies list. You have a tax on the prosecutors questioning them. And next, Omarosa says she has tapes, many tapes. Yes.


KING: An update on the president's morning and a glimpse into his mind-set, six times now since 7:01 a.m., six times since 7:01 a.m. The president has tweeted about the big story that his White House Counsel Don McGahn is cooperating with the special counsel. President's latest ones studied the late Joseph McCarthy because we are now on a period with Mueller and his gang that make Joseph McCarthy look like a baby, rigged witch hunt.


[08:29:51] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Update on the President's morning and a glimpse into his mind set. Six times now since 7:01 a.m. -- six times since 7:01 a.m. -- the President has tweeted about the big story that his White House counsel Don McGahn is cooperating with the special counsel.

The President's latest one. "Study the late Joseph McCarthy because we are now in a period with Mueller and his gang that makes Joseph McCarthy look like a baby. Rigged witch hunt."

There it is from the President of the United States. I'm going to mark me down as some suspect that Bob Mueller is going to rattled by that.

Let's move on now. Five words from Eric Trump this past week -- "I truly hate disloyal people." His father, the President, has been much more verbose.

But one word stood out, he called "The Apprentice" villain turned West Wing advisor Omarosa Manigault-Newman a "dog". That's the President's word, a "dog".

Omarosa learned reality TV at the President's side. She vows she'll get the last word here.


OMAROSA MANIGAULT-NEWMAN, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: I am not going anywhere. I'm not going to be bullied. I'm not intimidated. And I'm going to go toe to toe with him. Everything he throws at me, believe me, my tapes are much better than theirs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to release more tapes.

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: If I need to. I'll do what I have to do to protect myself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you going to determine whether you need to?

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: Well, we'll see. He's threatening to get me arrested. He's trying to intimidate my publisher, trying to intimidate me. Donald Trump has met his match.


KING: Now, who knows what Omarosa really has, but top Trump aides are very nervous. She's already released snippets of the President calling her after she was fired. And of her and two other top Trump aides discussing whether he used the n-word and of Eric Trump's wife, Lara calling to offer a campaign job and making clear that Team Trump is worried what a free agent Omarosa might say.


LARA TRUMP, WIFE OF ERIC TRUMP: It sounds a little like obviously that there's something you've got in the back pocket to pull out. Clearly if you come on board the campaign like we can't have -- we got to --


TRUMP: Everything -- everybody's positive, right?


KING: Reminds me of conversations with mom long ago -- sometimes you get what you ask for.

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: My colleague (INAUDIBLE) heard that it's not just audiotapes but it's also video; that she may have text messages. I mean Omarosa is clearly sitting on some type of trove of material.

And to go back to our last segment, taking a page on a Trump playbook and claiming to release this sort of one tape or one video at a time.

And this is another thing that's getting under Trump's skin because he -- he liked Omarosa. He liked her on "The Apprentice". He brought her into the West Wing. And early on in the administration there were a lot of people -- Reince Priebus the chief of staff, others in the administration who were trying to keep her out -- It was always Trump who was bringing her back in. So in a lot of ways he has really no one to blame but himself for what we're now seeing.

KING: A huge problem of his own making. And to that point, again we don't know what she has and she's not exactly the most credible witness, shall we say.

However -- however, she does have the President saying, gee, I'm sorry you left. The President trying to cover, you know. And you have Lara Trump right there -- let's listen to some more of this. She left, what Lara Trump says right there, what have you got in your back pocket. They're clearly worried, I don't know if they knew she had tape. But they knew that she was around the West Wing all the time at a very important time.

Listen to Lara Trump right here essentially saying we want to bring you into the fold. We will pay you, but you've got to be nice.


TRUMP: The only thing that we have to consider when we're talking salary and as far as the campaign is concerned as you know everything is public. And that all the money that we raise and it pays salaries is directly from donors -- small dollar donors for the most part.

So I know you were making 179 at the White House, and I think we can work something out where we keep you right along those lines. Specifically I haven't even added up the numbers but we were talking about like 15k a month."


KING: It is a remarkably transparent negotiation.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Also a lot of money -- that's a lot of money if you look at campaign payrolls to pay someone who is not managing the campaign, running the day to day operations on the campaign but essentially, you know, going out there and maybe being a surrogate or whatever the role was they were talking about.

And I think that, you know, the great irony of this is we don't know what Omarosa has. Yes, she's trickled out things like this which they don't look -- they don't look great, but it's not the same as having a tape of the President saying the n word.

But she has learned from the best. She has learned from Trump and so she's learned that if you dangle out, you know, ok, I have -- I do have something. So you have no way of knowing if I have something more closer than that. Let me just throw allegations out there and maybe I'll provide proof or maybe I won't.

That is exactly what the President does every single day and she learned it from him.

KING: And this is classic -- they say there's a tweet for everything. This is then businessman Donald Trump, back in his apprentice days, tweeting in 2013, "Omarosa always promises and delivers high drama, honest Omarosa. She won't back stab, she'll come at you up front."

Yes. And to the point that Sara is making that they're legitimately nervous about this. They're trying to say she can't be believed or saying she's disloyal but they were trying to put her on the campaign payroll. And we all talked to them they work for a combustible boss.

[08:34:59] Sometimes just out of frustration and sometimes out of criticism or concern about him -- these are people who say remarkable things about the President to us. Imagine what they're saying to somebody who works with them.

MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Yes. I think that's the big point here. I'm not sure what Omarosa has -- I mean I know she has content. I don't know how, you know, serious that content is.

I think what the White House is afraid of or what the family is afraid of is how the boss reacts to it, right. When this story came out, when this story first broke it was actually kind of driving me nuts. I didn't think there was -- she told us anything new. The response was pretty predictable.

But there was also some really good, I thought, insights into the President. There was the Frank Bruni -- that started with a Tim O'Brien piece in Bloomberg, Frank Bruni's column in the "New York Times", Ashley Parker and Phil Rucker's debrief in the "Washington Post" -- all showed how the President becomes really frustrated with the people who play the game like he does -- Omarosa, Michael Avenatti, Michael Cohen.

KING: Right.

BENDER: The other takeaway here is that this is a problem, as you said, of his own making, right. We have -- as soon as Trump stops reacting to these tapes they almost drop out of the hourly news cycle. But he reacts to it, it becomes a story and then we have in order to get rid of it, if you believe Warner, the head of -- you know, the top Democrat in the Senate Intelligence that Brennan move was made in order to stop the Omarosa story. So this all sort of feeds back into itself just because of what the President -- how the President reacts.


KING: They told him not to hire Omarosa. They told him not to let Don McGahn cooperate with the special counsel. Mr. President -- look in the mirror.

Up next the numbers that give Democrats hope and the foolish words one prominent Democrat now calls inartful.



CHRISTINE HALLQUIST (D), VERMONT GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: The reason I'm in here is because of what happened in 2016. You know, in the world of physics we say for every action there's an opposite and opposing reaction. Well, I'm definitely a reaction to 2016.

If you look at the number of women that have jumped in it's incredible as well. I'm going back to the fact that we are all reacting to what happened in 2016. You know, I'm hoping our children and our children's children will look back at 2018 and say that's when we made history.


KING: Christine Hallquist there after she made history in Vermont this past week, the first transgender candidate to be nominated for governor. She frames 2018 as a referendum on President Trump.

Eleven weeks now until the midterm vote we have some new numbers to help frame the state as we close out August and prepare for what I'll call the post-Labor Day blur.

Let's take a look at those numbers.

Number one, mid-term elections are as Ms. Hallquist says, normally about the President -- his disapproval at 53 percent in our latest CNN poll; 42 percent approval for the President.

Let's track out how that's gone throughout the year. The President is actually up a little bit from where he started. If you go back to February the President is up 42 percent. That's somewhat encouraging for Republicans but this is what's so interesting.

Just look at the approval rating, it has just hugged 40 percent essentially for the entire year. The President's disapproval down a little bit from the beginning of the year but still those are not great numbers. They're improved for February, but not great numbers for Republicans heading into the midterms. These are worse for Republicans.

Democrats -- 52, 41 when you ask voters which party they're going to vote for, for Congress. Democrats now with an 11-point advantage in the so-called generic ballot -- that's what they need to take back the House. If it's double digit gap come Election Day in 11 weeks, the Democrats will retake the House.

Again, let's game this out over time. With an 11-point advantage now -- this is why the Democrats are encouraged. Yes, it's not as big as it was when they started the year. But late April, May -- things got close.

Now as we get closer to the election the Democrats think things are beginning to move their way. Eleven weeks to go -- the one thing the Democrats do not need, distractions like this.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: We're not going to make America great again. It was never that great.

We have not reached greatness. We will reach greatness when every American is fully engaged.


KING: It took several days but the Democratic governor of New York, Mr. Cuomo, later finally said the expression I used was inartful -- inartful. A smarter politician would have cleaned it up within seconds.

Does that matter? Is that -- Andrew Cuomo who still faces a primary, by the way, and his progressive opponent the actress Cynthia Nixon said he was trying to prove he's a progressive and that proved he doesn't know how to be a progressive. We'll let that one play out in New York.

Does that matter nationally? The President tried to take advantage of it asking, you know, what's worse -- Hillary Clinton's deplorables or Andrew Cuomo "America was never great"? Does it matter nationally or is it just the one guy who made a mistake?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: It probably won't matter in 11 weeks when the actual elections are taking place. But the President and the Republicans are going to try to get as much out of this as possible.

Every time a Democrat makes a mistake on the campaign trail you can expect President Trump, who watches a lot of cable television, to amplify it to his millions of Twitter followers and to try to make a big thing out of it, whether it's abolishing ICE or saying America was never great, President Trump is really attuned to the type of things that reality has based and he's going to be out on the campaign trail using these examples to make sure that his voters are actually coming out to the polls because we've seen a lot of Democratic enthusiasm in the primaries, not as much on the Republican side even though their numbers are up, not as much as they're up on the Democratic side.

KING: Another interesting thing this week was Nancy Pelosi speaking sort of openly about her future. This is from a "New York Times" piece.

[08:44:58] "What I've always tried to do is build a bridge to the future and hope that would be in the majority," Ms. Pelosi said. "If people want to be the bridge that I'm building toward they have to show what's on the other side of the bridge."

Number one, a lot of the younger members are saying she needs to go if they take back the House. But number two, she seems to be saying there who do you got, and what do you got?

PACE: This is the Pelosi argument as she looks toward running for Speaker again if Democrats take the majority. She knows that there are a lot of people in the party who want to see generational change. They would like to see potentially a minority as Speaker.

But the reality is there is no one who's right behind her waiting to step in. So you already hear her making this case and using this language about being a bridge. I think she will look if Democrats take the majority to try to stay in the Speakership for potentially a year or so, change-up the team around her and then help elevate somebody who can be the face of Democrats for the next generation.

KING: Can she sell that? You know, President Trump, whatever you think of him is a really good communicator. He is tough. He is a fighter. Mitch McConnell is probably not going anywhere, they think the Senate will stay in Republican hands -- tough, a fighter. That you guys aren't ready, you need me for a while -- will that work?

MURRAY: She can try. I mean until someone else I think steps in to fill the void I think there's certainly a decent shot at that. But I think that, you know, Nancy Pelosi and the other Democrats are all fooling themselves if they think that this is any kind of long-term solution. You can't look at the kind of candidates who are winning in primaries right now and think that the Democratic Party, that once they get to Washington they would be happy with someone like Nancy Pelosi staying on as Speaker for any long period of time.

I mean the Democratic Party is trying to be the party of change right now in the face of Trump. And the reality is Nancy Pelosi is not the face of that.

KING: Not the face of that but the parties out of power deal with difficult transition issues -- right.

BENDER: Yes. Yes. This is a good -- this is an internal message not a national one, right. She's going to be (INAUDIBLE) lightning rod that Republicans have made her, you know, for the rest of the year. And whether any of this matters come November, I think probably in the end it's still going to be about Trump and you see Trump's team making that same argument then pushing candidates like Kobach and --

KING: And also the special counsel may have something to do with it.

Our reporters share from their notebooks next, including an alleged Russian spy's attempt at an extreme makeover.


KING: Let's head one more 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.

Julie Pace.

PACE: One year ago this week, President Trump outlined his strategy for the Afghanistan war. He was the third president to do that and like his predecessors he is now finding that winning this war and ending it is extremely complicated.

We've just seen the Taliban increase their gains on strategically important locations. And when you talk to folks on the ground there, they say that the gains that they were hoping to see with the Afghan security forces just aren't proving themselves. Military leaders are urging patience. They're warning Trump that pulling out would be a disaster. But his instinct has always been to withdraw and with a $4 billion a year price tag just for propping up those Afghan security forces, we're starting to hear more concern of the administration that he could just follow through on that instinct.

KING: $4 billion a year, ouch.


BENDER: President Trump has been ramping up his rally schedule in recent weeks but without the same results. Once must-see TV events, these have become routine as he's recycling a lot of the same material. Attacks on Hillary's serves, heckles of the fake news, and, you know, the election night story has become Groundhog Day at these rallies.

This sort of repetitiveness has long been a staple of presidents and presidential candidates who see a value on staying on message but this is a president who thrives on driving the news cycle in front of large crowds.

But the question is how long this will be a release for a president who, you know, as the top networks stop carrying these rallies as has been the case the last few times he's been out, the next opportunity for this is Tuesday in West Virginia. So tune in or as is often the case now, don't.

KING: He's in West Virginia, what -- fourth time, I think? There's a repeat in and of itself.


OLORUNNIPA: Later this week the U.S. stock market is going to mark a record -- the longest full run in U.S. history that stretches back to almost 2009. It shows that corporate America is doing great, Wall Street is doing great.

If you look at a graphic of corporate returns over the last ten years and compare it to a graph of worker wages you'll see a very different picture. Worker wages have been flat basically since 2009 since the recession that we came out of. And even over the last year despite a tax cut we just got a report from the Labor Department showing that worker wages are actually down slightly if you adjust for inflation.

So we have to look forward to sort of what's going to happen on the campaign trail as Democrats start to hit against Republicans and the Trump administration on income inequality. Corporate America is doing great, worker wages are flat -- that's going to be a theme on the campaign trail for a number of Democrats this summer -- or this fall.

KING: We'll watch that play out. In the midst of a good economy -- can they find an opening?

Sara. MURRAY: Washington's favorite spy drama continues this week. Prosecutors have made alleged Russian spy Maria Butina out to be this sort of God-loving, honey pot. And her lawyer, of course, insists she's innocent and now he is out there trying to change the narrative.

They've launched a legal defense fund for Butina. They had a bunch of photos of her smiling ear to ear on the Web site sharing her version of her story. But those very glossy photos are going to be up against a very different image this week and that's going to be her mug shot as she was booked into the Alexandria Detention Center over the weekend. So her lawyer has a -- you know, maybe an uphill climb ahead of him.

KING: Just a grad student.

MURRAY: Just a grad student.

KING: I'll close with this. There was a political convention of sorts in Denver this week and a gathering of independents, who face very steep odds, but are worth watching as the mid-term year closes out.

[08:55:02] Unite America is the name of the group. It's backing a handful of candidates in statewide races and also putting an emphasis on trying to elect a few independents to state legislative chambers that are closely divided. The idea being two, three or four Independents could become critical swing votes on big issues in the state.

Again, the odds are beyond long, and many past efforts to create a lasting national Independent political force have failed and fizzled. But it's also no secret displeasure even disgust with a major political party runs high. Unite America's efforts offers one 2018 test of just how high.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Again, thanks for sharing your Sunday morning. Hope you can catch us weekdays as well. We'll be here at noon Eastern tomorrow.

Up next, "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper. Don't go away.

His guests include General Michael Hayden, James Clapper and former Obama counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco.

Have a great Sunday.