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Kushner: "The President Trusts Me"; Trump Working on New "Major Tax Cut" for Americans; Gillum and DeSantis Spar Over Medicare-For-All Proposal. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 22, 2018 - 12:30   ET



[12:32:39] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Today, a glimpse at a much talked about, but rarely seen or heard from power player inside the Trump White House. The president's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner sitting down for an interview here at CNN forum. Kushner making clear he prizes operating in the shadows and he knows his chief qualification is his relationship with the boss.


VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Why should we have confidence in you to do all this stuff?

JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think the first thing is that the president trusts me. I think he knows that every task he's given me from the start of the campaign through, I have been able to do it quietly. I have been able to do it effectively. I have been able to deliver results.

I don't make a lot of noise. Noise is sometimes made about me, but I try to keep my head down.


KING: He doesn't make a lot of noise, and there is a lot of noise made about him. He is part of the Mueller investigation. But let me challenge the -- in the presidency part, not the campaign part. I'm effective and I get results.

Jared Kushner's portfolio, his prison reform. Middle East peace? The subset of the Saudi relationship. Are there any results?

ALEX BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, they fired Comey, right? No, I mean -- but really, like the record of judgment during the administration have been seriously mixed. And you see now in the -- it really coming to a head now in this moment with Saudi Arabia that I think it's almost unimaginable that you would see him face the consequences that a normal adviser would face for mismanaging a foreign relationship.

But if that is where this ends up going, right, if the feeling on the Hill or internationally is that he did not get his arms around this one, that has a real -- it has real lasting consequences for the administration.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It does. And one of the criticisms of Kushner from people who are involved in the campaign at the time was, he has this habit of always kind of appearing to be around on something that's going well and then never being around when it's not going well. And, there has been that consistent streak in the White House where we will constantly hear that he was really involved in something that was great like getting -- that the U.S. role in the World Cup for I think it was 2024 or 2026. Anyway.

But, that was something that he was really involved in. But this, you know, in terms of MBS and terms of all sorts of other things, that's less involved. There's less really -- you don't really know what's being said.

He's incredibly, incredibly focussed on his media coverage. I was really struck by something he said on that panel which that he doesn't have a Twitter account because he's certainly is aware of what it's on Twitter. So it's -- that is one of the big hallmarks of both he and his wife.

[12:35:01] MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: And there is a real sort of accountability issue that comes with the simple fact that they are family members of the president. Not just Jared Kushner but Ivanka as well. She has bristled in the past when asked questions that she deemed were too personal for a daughter of the president to be asked, but at other times, she very much maintains that she should be taken seriously as an adviser to the president.

You sort of can't have it both ways. And I think you're absolutely right that Jared Kushner is now facing this moment of having to be in the spotlight for an issue that is very, very serious.

HABERMAN: There was actually one other thing that he said that I was really struck by. As he was asked by Van Jones about how does he respond to critics on a couple of different issues. And he basically said he only responds to critics who he respects. That's not how government works in this country.

KING: That's now how government works.

HABERMAN: That was really striking.

KING: And another thing, that's not how government works, and again, the president has the right to set it up any way he wants. But when the crown prince calls your son-in-law who's not officially part of the national security apparatus, where there's no read-out, there's no -- we get no indication of that phone conversation, that's a structure -- you can't distance yourself from that. You're accountable for that.

I want to come back to some of his portfolio in a minute but listen here to what -- we're in a midterm election year, now we go into 2020. The president has been talking about 2020 a lot as he campaigns for 2018. Listen to Jared Kushner's take on the boss, his father-in-law, as a politician.


KUSHNER: I wouldn't bet against Trump. He's a black swan, he's been a black swan all of his life. And I just see in politics and business, I just don't like betting against him.


KING: A black swan.

PHILIP BUMP, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think it's the -- I think it's the black swan all his life that probably raises more eyebrows based on the (INAUDIBLE) reporting but, yes -- I mean, look, he won the presidency, right? I mean, no one is expecting him to won the presidency --

KING: You're trying to say black swans pay their taxes?

BUMP: They do at least. They don't have father black swans to look out for him. But, you know, the -- he won the presidency, right. He won the presidency by -- the Republican electorate in 2016 was looking for someone who is going to echo what they saw on Fox News. Because what they saw on Fox News was people who are very angry at Democrats, people who are increasingly angry about immigration. And Trump seized that, he was a Fox News watcher, he ran as a candidate, it was his gut instinct to do that and it paid off.

Right. He lost the popular vote, yes, but he won the Electoral College as he's always happy to remind us. So yes, I think that the point there generally speaking is correct, that said 2016 was itself a black swan and I'm not sure holds.

HABERMAN: It's also -- just again, striking the degree to which whether you're related to him or not. Everyone is still required to praise Trump (INAUDIBLE) on public which is mostly what I took away from that.

KING: But even if you're a son-in-law, that's part of the job. I want -- listen here, by talking about how prison reform not naturally an issue for President Trump, his son-in-law saying but he listens and he accepted.


KUSHNER: Somebody in the meeting said to him, you know, when you campaigned, you said that you're going to fight for the forgotten men and women of this country. And there's nobody more forgotten or underrepresented than the people in prison. And look, I talked to the president all the time and I know sometimes when I tell him something and he's listening, but he's not really want to listen to me. I know when he's listening to me and it penetrates -- I could tell right then that that really hit him in his heart. And since then, he's actually spent a lot of time on the issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Again, help me. In the sense that you have a Republican president with a Republican Congress, a Republican president with an attorney general who does not agree with Jared Kushner on prison reform. If the president really cared, if he really cared, wouldn't you do more than just invite Kim Kardashian into the White House for a photo op? Wouldn't you ask the Republican Congress, tell the Republican Congress, take up this legislation?

BURNS: You would and you also might spend some time thinking about the political atmosphere you're creating for this debate, right? You know, potentially there is a mix into China moment here that only Trump can convince Congress to be lenient on criminal justice. But if I'm a Republican member of Congress and I see the ark of the Trump campaign and presidency, I'm not buying this idea that the president sort of has changed and he can change the hearts of millions.

The Republican primary electorate doesn't want this, right? So maybe in a world of divided government if you were trying to look for some common ground with Democrats in the House. Although even there, if I'm a House Democrat, I don't know why I would believe that I could vote for this and then not ended up getting attacked for it by the president in 2020.

HABERMAN: And it's also where I think to your point about, is he going to do anything more than, you know, have Kim Kardashian or Kanye West to the Oval Office? This is where Jared Kushner has often been described as very tangibly playing to his father-in-law's ego, right. I mean, it's like he knew that bringing these celebrities to the West Wing, they want to meet you. That's how you penetrate and reach his heart as Jared Kushner put it.

I don't have a sense that this is an animating issue for Trump. And the other thing that Kushner said was that, this is an issue of fairness to the president. Fairness is not normally part of the president's lexicon as a flat structure. It's usually sort of weighted so.

KING: Very diplomatic.

HABERMAN: Thanks. I'm trying.

KING: Up next, the president makes a major policy announcement that just about no one saw coming.


[12:44:17] KING: Topping our political radar today, a 31-year-old missile pact now center stage. Talks in Moscow involving the national security adviser, John Bolton. This after President Trump said he'll withdraw the United States from Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty saying Russia's been violating it anyway for years. Analysts fear new arms raised if the deal was scrubbed altogether. A Kremlin official though saying the Russians will work with the United States on eliminating, quote, mutual objections.

The show of force by the U.S. Navy today that could spill tensions with China. Two-guided missile warships passing through the Taiwan Strait. It was shadowed by multiple Chinese vessels on their way through. The Strait is considered international waters but China is sensitive about American ships in the area. These transits used to happen about once a year, but the U.S. Navy has been doing them much more frequently in recent months.

[12:45:02] And President Trump full of surprises on the trail this weekend. Besides that promise to quit the INF treaty, he also dropped this domestic policy bomb at his own party after a campaign rally in Nevada. A promise Congress cannot keep before the midterms.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are looking at putting in a very major tax cut for middle income people. And if we do that, it'll be some time just prior I would say to November. Paul Ryan is working, we're all working on it. And we're looking at a major tax cut for middle income people who need it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was the time frame for that?

TRUMP: I would say some time around the first of November maybe or little bit before.


KING: It's October 22nd. The election is November 6th. That's 15 days. Congress is going to come back from campaigning and pass a new tax cut plan, right?

LEE: I can just imagine our colleagues on the Hill rolling their eyes at those comments. But no, very worth emphasizing that this is not something that is realistic or something that is going to happen before Election Day. But I think that this just brings it all back to the conversation we were having earlier about the attempts to signal to the American people that if you stick with the Republican Party, stick with President Trump, you might benefit economically by doing that. Whereas if you vote for the other party, the good run that we have had economically may not continue. And that sort of the messaging that Trump is trying to convey here, right.

KING: But saying, if the Democrats win, they might try to raise your taxes is one thing. Saying, we got another tax cut plan maybe in a couple of weeks. Magic.


BURNS: No. I mean, what popped out at me there, John, is it sort of highlighted how backward looking so much of the president's message has been and how defensive it is about what Democrats might do that you need to protect yourself from Democrats. You've not really heard him talk a whole lot about if you give me congressional majorities, this is what I will do in the next two years, right?

So, I'm left wondering, are we going to hear more from him on that theme. That obviously on November 1st, tax cut is not going to happen. But are we going to hear about, you know, February tax cut or March tax cut or is this just a one off thing before he goes back to playing the greatest hits?

BUMP: I would say that the fascinating thing about that too is the fact that he seems to now understand that the tax cuts they passed in December weren't the political winner they thought they're going to be. Essentially what he's saying is middle class, don't worry, you're going to get your tax cuts if you stick with us, right. And he's trying to make that be the case -- he's trying to turn those tax cuts that weren't a political winner into a political winner at the very last minute.

KING: I'm off (INAUDIBLE) in middle class. I'd like to see the deficit math worked out on that one after the last tax cut. We will see.

Up next, debate night in Florida but first, the president's son on the campaign trail in West Virginia asked voters, are they OK with a sometimes Trump ally representing them in Washington.


DONALD TRUMP JR., PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SON: Joe Manchin (INAUDIBLE), oh, I voted for Kavanaugh. Yes, he voted for Kavanaugh about the second after he knew that we had all the votes.



[12:52:04] KING: Control of Congress of course not the only thing at stake in this election. Thirty-six states are electing governors. One of the fiercest fights, in Florida. Where the Democratic candidate is Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Congressman Ron DeSantis is the Republican nominee.

The two had never met before then they debated on CNN last night. Healthcare, a huge point of contention.


REP. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: Andrew wants to take away employer-provided coverage. He thinks it should be illegal.


DESANTIS: You support Medicare-For-All. Read the bill.

GILLUM: Define Medicare-For-All?

DESANTIS: You ran commercials saying you supported single payer. I want to protect people's current arrangements. Governments should not force you off your plans.

GILLUM: And neither would I. The congressman again, his votes have diluted him into his own definition of what healthcare is. DESANTIS: So you don't support Bernie Sanders Medicare-For-All.

GILLUM: What I would support is expanding Medicaid for over 800,000 Floridians.


KING: Medicaid versus Medicare, actually a policy debate. I bet those two happen in campaigns.

It is fascinating when you look at the governor's landscape. That's obviously a big swing state in presidential politics, very evenly divided state. A close race. Gillum is favored if you look at the most recent polling and we had a poll with the big numbers. Most Republicans say that's too big of a number.

The Georgia governor's race, lot of big midwestern governor's race. Is that that the -- if the Democrats are going to make a fundamental rebuilding beyond the Congress, it will be in the governors' races, right?

BUMP: Yes.

BURNS: And that's where we're going to get the clearest signal probably about the 2020 map, right. That a lot of these Senate races are in states where they're just not really relevant in a presidential election. While these House races are in sort of suburbs that it's pretty clear where they're going to vote in 2020 barring some major change. The governors' races are going to give us a real gut check on, you know, is Ohio becoming a solid red state. Is Florida a relatively safe place for the president?

Right now, it looks like the answer in Florida at least is probably not. That -- you know, that race is anyone's game. But the notion that you could have a very liberal Democrat this competitive in a statewide election kind of compounds what I think a lot of us thought we knew about Florida a year ago.

BUMP: And I think it's sort of a fascinating -- Florida and governors -- the gubernatorial races particularly sort of a fascinating subset of this political moment. Where you have progressive people of color who are running against -- essentially de facto Trump acolyte. So, I mean, not to sort of over minimize on both sides but you have this very, very direct contrast between Kemp in Georgia and Abrams in Georgia who are two absolute polls of the politics at the moment and playing in very different states. Georgia and Florida playing different states. It's going to be fascinating to see where they end up as a result of this.

KING: And to (INAUDIBLE) the same point, DeSantis one of the president's most prominent defenders on Fox News, one of the people who, you know, wants to lock up Rod Rosenstein not Hillary Clinton or maybe both of them in the sense. Gillum there, you have two African- American governors in the south. That would be a huge deal plus if you look at all of these states, not just 2020 presidential race, post senses, redistricting which the Republicans dominated during the Obama presidency. This is the Democrats' shot.

BUMP: Right, exactly. I mean, that's something that is very, very much on the minds of Democrats below the national level.

[12:55:01] LEE: I also love the question that was asked to DeSantis about whether he believes the president is a good role model for children. And he answered -- and we've seen some creative answers to these kinds of questions before, but he answered with something about the embassy in Israel being moved to Jerusalem which is so completely unrelated to the question being asked.

And this is an uncomfortable position that I think a lot of Republicans have been put in. Which is they wanted to be aligned with the president and they want to seen supported but they don't want to answer sort of the ugly questions about the president and his comments.

KING: Never come up, the embassy in Jerusalem. Never come up when I'm thinking my children about who should be their role models. It's OK.

Thanks for joining us today in the INSIDE POLITICS. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. Wolf starts after a quick break. Have a good day.