Return to Transcripts main page


America Says Farewell to George H.W. Bush; Trump & Xi Agree to Temporary Trade Truce; The Life and Legacy of President George H.W. Bush; Trump Takes Center Stage in Mueller Probe. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired December 2, 2018 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:20] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: 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.

Farewell to 41. President George H.W. Bush is remembered for his remarkable life of service.


GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high, moral principle. We, as a people, have such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world. My friends, we have work to do.


KING: Plus, President Trump home this morning after a G20 summit dominated by trade talks, including a temporary truce with China that delays higher tariffs that were scheduled to kick in next month.

And dramatic new twist in the Mueller had the president on edge and lashing out at his long-time attorney and fixer. Michael Cohen now says business dealings with Russia stretched deep into the 2016 campaign.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is a weak person and what he's trying to do is get a reduced sentence. So, he's lying about project that everybody knew about. I mean, we were very open with it.

So, he's lying very simply to get a reduced sentence. He's a weak person and not a very smart person.


KING: We will get to the current president's policy and legal challenges in a few moments, but we begin this Sunday with the passing of George Herbert Walker Bush and the nation's plans to bid farewell this week to a president who lived a life of soft-spoken dignity and service. A president who calmly led the country he loved through one of history's most tumultuous chapters.

"I love you, too," were his last words, the 41st president to the 43rd president. His son, George W.

President Bush will lie in state at the Capitol Monday evening and Tuesday. Services at the National Cathedral are Wednesday. With another service on Thursday, at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston where the former president lived.

And then he will be laid to rest alongside his beloved wife, Barbara, at the Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas.

CNN's Dana Bash is live in Houston, the adopted hometown where President Bush died peacefully Friday night -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: that's right. He is being remembered here and around the world as a person who had such a singular impact on this country about and around global diplomacy. If you look at what happened yesterday, John, in Argentina at the G20 summit, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, who rarely speaks English in public, made a point of talking about his impact on her country. Take a listen.


ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR: I was with Chancellor Kohl in the White House visiting George Bush, and he is the father or one of the fathers of the German reunification and we will never forget that.


BASH: So there, of course, talking about his role at the end of the Cold War when he was president and making sure that that continued to stay cold and not turn hot when the Soviet Union dissolved.

Then, of course, talking about the person and the kind of politician that George H.W. was. I'm sure you're seeing again on social media, in statements, in texts that I'm getting with people who are battling very, very strongly against the other party right now calling George H.W. Bush a gentleman, moral, humble, gentile. This is coming almost from all sides of the political spectrum. It is a reminder of those attributes being lost right now across the board.

And then here in Houston, if you look at those photos right there, we went to the gate outside his community and he is being remembered here as a pillar of this community. He and his late wife, Barbara, have raised millions and millions of dollars and they really -- I was talking to some locals here, saying they were considered royalty here because of how much they gave back to this community here in Houston.

And we saw people from all walks of life coming up, showing their children, John, what that memorial looked like, that makeshift memorial. And I tossed it back to you a little bit of a political tidbit on INSIDE POLITICS.

George H.W. Bush was elected to represent Houston in 1966. And that began the Republican reign here in this district in Texas. And guess what's going to happen in January? A Democrat won and a Democrat will now take over, Lizzie Fletcher.

So the turning of the tide is sort of in keeping with the passing of this man.

[08:05:03] KING: Dana Bash live for us on the ground in Houston -- thanks for the live report.

George H.W. Bush shares a place in history with John Adams as both president and father of a president. He served just one term but they were four years of profound consequences, the fall of the Berlin wall, collapse of the Soviet Union, the Persian Gulf War to evict Iraq's Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, a painful recession here at home, and then a faithful decision to break his signature political promise.


BUSH: My opponent won't rule out raising taxes but I will and the Congress will push me to raise taxes and I'll say no. And they'll push. And I'll say no. And they'll push again and I'll say to them, read my lips: no new taxes.


KING: I'm grateful this Sunday to have a great group to share their reporting and their reflections. Karen Tumulty of "The Washington Post", former CNN anchor and White House correspondent, Frank Sesno, Carl Hulse of "The New York Times", and former ABC White House correspondent Ann Compton.

We do politics here so let's get right to it.

How does George H.W. Bush fit in history? He would be lonely in today's Republican Party. He is the antithesis of what you see how you conduct yourselves personally from the current president we have.

And yet, for all the kinder, gentler talk, it was his M.O., and was who he was, he was the guy, my first campaign in 1988, who was the CEO of a campaign that was savage, Lee Atwater and Roger Ailes, an ad man, not of Fox News, in his treatment of Michael Dukakis.

KAREN TUMULTY, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, people talk about his bipartisan achievements of the scale that it's hard to imagine Washington today, whether it's the Americans with Disabilities Act or this budget deal to raise taxes, but he was also a pretty tough partisan as well and in dealing with the Democratic Congress, he issued over 40 vetoes of legislation and only one of those vetoes was overridden.

George Bush's whole presidency is sort of a paradox in that sense. So sure footed on the national stage but so struggling to connect on domestic policy and especially on the economy.

FRANK SESNO, FORMER CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: And he was book- ended between two giant personalities, right? Ronald Reagan, two-term president. Bill Clinton, two-term president, who were seen as, you know, resetting the political clock in the country.

But he, I think, has been underestimated and undervalued. And that's -- you know, I think about that clip that you just played. Read my lips, no new taxes. Well, that was -- it defined him.

Until he went into budget negotiations, realizing there were gigantic deficits and he started considering a tax increase -- ultimately proved his demise. But I think I was telling you earlier, I was out covering him one day. He was out jogging. I was in the press pool, negotiations were going on and I did one of those very undistinguished screaming questions, Mr. President, what about taxes now, or whatever it was I said?

As he jogged by, he said read my hips, no new taxes. So, a sense of humor, but he was considering raising taxes. And he did. And that's why bill Clinton, years later, had a balanced budget. But it contributed to his losing -- Bush losing re-election.

KING: No doubt.

ANN COMPTON, FORMER ABC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT : The book ends are very, very important, because remember, George Herbert Walker Bush was elected, kind of on the coattails of Ronald Reagan's years. And when he lost in 1992, he and Bill Clinton -- it was the old guard, a new, younger generation elected, but also in that race was H. Ross Perot.

Nineteen million votes Perot took. There's only 5 million votes difference between Bill Clinton and George Bush and, you know, he never blamed Perot outright but you know he carried that loss very, very --

KING: In his heart, the state of Ohio and others, he blamed on the Perot factor.

That's what's so fascinating about this. We can show the map, in 1988, this is not -- the history will record this. You can talk about the Dukakis people didn't like the savagery of the campaign. Bush was 17 points down when he went to his convention, and yet he won 40 states.

I mean, so you can argue about, was Willie Horton fair? Was Boston Harbor fair? Was savaging Michael Dukakis fair?

It worked. They won 40 states. The guy at 84 percent after the Gulf War in February 1991 loses in that three-way election.

Part of it was the times. Part of it was -- again, this is the paradox of Bush, understood the statistics as well as anybody but could not relate to real people about their pain in the economy. This is an iconic moment from one of the three-way debate.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, how has national debt personally affected each of your lives? And if it hasn't, how can you honestly find a cure for the economic problems of the common people.

BUSH: If the question -- maybe -- I don't want to get it wrong.

[08:10:01] Are you suggesting that if somebody has means that the national debt doesn't affect them? I'm not sure I -- help me with the question and I'll try to answer it.


KING: In the same debate, he did this a couple of times. He looked at his watch. There's no Twitter back then, no social media back then. The internet is a baby in these days. Imagine if you did that in a debate today.

But here is a man we know from his notes, his charity, from his Points of Life, cares deeply about everybody. Doesn't have a discriminatory bone in his body, but he had a hard time -- because he was a son of privilege, had a hard time relating to -- remember those days -- foreclosed homes, people losing their house and health insurance. And he kept saying, yes, but the economy is growing again.

CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: You know, what struck me is about what you said, I remember walking out of the Democratic convention in '88 and Democrats were just sure that they were going to win when they were looking at those polls. It was almost like they couldn't lose and, of course, they did. I think Bush is a transitional president, you know, in a lot of ways between conservative Reagan and Clinton, World War II war hero.

But what strikes me about the no new taxes read my lips, but he knew the Democrats were going to try to trap him. He actually articulated that idea, and that's exactly what happened. And it strikes me that somebody who knew what was coming -- the Democrats knew they could weaken Bush if they could get him to agree to that. And they went forward with it. And he sort of fell into a trap that cost him -- cost him the presidency, that he knew was coming.

KING: Believed he had to do it for the country even though it was going to be at risk.

Karen wrote a wonderful obituary in "The Washington Post". Read it if you haven't, about how now, today. So, let's listen, yes, the current president of the United States, it is no secret, the Bush does not like Donald Trump. Jeb Bush was one of his rivals in the campaign. George H.W. Bush doesn't like the way President Trump carries himself.

To the president's credit, in Argentina, President Trump yesterday saying this of 41.


TRUMP: He was a very fine man. I met him on numerous occasions. He was a high-quality man who truly loved his family. One thing that came through loud and clear, very proud of his family and very much loved his family.

So he is a terrific guy. He will be missed. And he led a full life and a very exemplary life, too, I will say.


KING: You can make the point they're total opposites, how Trump conducts himself, H.W. Bush, you could make the point they believe in total opposites. Trump challenges every multilateral constitution.

Can you make the point he just rewrote NAFTA? That was a Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush project signed by Bill Clinton. He shakes NATO, he shakes these institutions but the roots are deep enough that he has broken some glass but not the buildings yet.

TUMULTY: You see what happened during the Bush presidency, which -- people forget what a scary time it was.

KING: Yes, they do.

TUMULTY: You know, the Soviet Union blows up. The Eastern Block is pulling away. The Berlin wall is coming down. Any of these things could have just put the world in a very, very dangerous place. They were all happening at once.

And George Herbert Walker Bush handled it so skillfully and with such finesse that all of this ended up looking inevitable, as though it wasn't even hard. And it is so difficult to imagine, say, a Donald Trump in a situation like that. He would be poking every other --

SESNO: I think there are two things to think about. That I think about anyway when I see the contrast and I think about the Bush presidency. One is George H.W. Bush believed in playing by the rules, whether he was on the tennis court or on the international stage. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, he broke the rules and that aggression shall not stand.

Secondly, he was an institutionalist. He believed in institutions. He invested in the institutions. He was of that generation, depression and World War II, as we know, and those institutions transformed the world and was going to try to keep it a more peaceful place.

And that idea, I think, of playing by the rules and investing in institutions motivated him throughout the presidency as he was navigating these incredible challenges from the fall of the wall and the implosion of the Soviet Union to Kuwait and the big global coalition that he put together.

KING: And the calm -- the man had an inner calm.

COMPTON: The man also had a totally different C.V. coming into the job.

KING: Right.

COMPTON: He had been head of the CIA. He'd been U.N. ambassador. He'd been the first ambassador in China. Of course, he had been vice president. Totally different resume. KING: Appreciate, everybody. We're going to continue the

conversation about President Bush a bit later in the program.

Up next, though, President Trump breaks bread and breaks trade tensions with his Chinese counterpart. As we remember George H.W. Bush, his take on why before cake and ice cream on his birthdays, he liked to skydive.


BUSH: Just because you're an old guy, you don't have to sit around drooling in the corner. Get out and do something. Get out and enjoy life.



[08:18:48] KING: President Trump arrived back home early this morning from the G20 Summit after agreeing to a temporary yet still ceasefire and a risky trade war with China.

After the president's dinner with Xi Jinping last night, the White House announced it would not implement a plan to increase to 25 percent tariffs on certain Chinese goods. Instead, those tariffs will remain at 10 percent during a new 90-day negotiating period. In return, the White House says China agreed to an immediate but unspecified increase in purchases of American goods with an emphasis on agricultural products.

Now, this could well be a temporary truce. There are zero indications either side ready to blink when it comes to giant differences over trade barriers, technology transfers, intellectual rights, cyber disputes. But it's also clear both leaders thought it was important to hit the pause button on a tit-for-tat tariff war that is causing turmoil in both the U.S. and Chinese economy, not to mention in global financial markets.

Here is the president speaking to reporters on Air Force One on the way home.


TRUMP: It's an incredible deal. It goes down, certainly -- if it happens it goes down as one of the largest deals ever made. It's a deal between the United States and China, made by the president and the president.

[08:20:01] And it will have an incredibly positive impact on farming, meaning agriculture, industrial products, computers, every type of product.


KING: With us now to share their reporting and insights, Julie Pace from "The Associated Press", Carl Hulse of "The New York Times" stays with us, "Bloomberg's" Toluse Olorunnipa, and CNN's Sara Murray.

This is a big deal, especially if you look at the idea that as he left, the president told reporters, well, we think we have the framework of at least a pause or a timeout. But I'm not sure I want to do it.

What convinced him to do it?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: I think he was thinking about his political future as well. A lot of Midwestern states, Michigan, Wisconsin, a lot of places that had been hit hard by tariffs decided to go and vote for Democrats instead of staying with the president.

I think he's also looking at the fact that there's no real way to win a trade war with China. Everyone is going to get hurt if we go to a full-on trade war. He figured out a way to ratchet things up and bring them down and declare victory. We've seen him do this in the past with Europe, even with NAFTA agreement. He talked about walking away from that agreement, and then made some minor changes and declared it a new deal and sort of declared victory. We're likely to see that as well with this China situation.

KING: And yet we know -- you could see this in the picture at dinner last night, the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, the globalist, if you will, let's work this out in a peaceful way, at the other end of the table, the trade representative, trade negotiator, Peter Navarro, the people who say let's be tough, let's have tariffs. We don't know if this is just a time-out or if they'll actually work it out.

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: In some ways we go back to the beginning where you have these factions in the administration who will be pushing Trump. On one hand you have advisers who say, yes, we should be tough on China. Yes, we should take steps to try to correct this trade imbalance with the type of trade war that Toluse was talking about. Could this be devastating to the economy and would ultimately hurt Trump politically?

But then you do have, led by Peter Navarro, a group of advisers within this administration who are there for this reason, to push Trump to stay tough on China, to impose these tariffs. They believe that even if there is some short-term economic pain, for the long-term for the U.S. economy, this is the right thing to do.

But, ultimately, this comes down to a political decision for Trump. He made two promises. He said that he would be tough on China and he would correct the trade imbalance, but he promised that he would lead a strong American economy. And if the first leads to bad on the second, I think we know ultimately where he will come down on this.

KING: And you mentioned the new U.S./Canada, U.S./Mexico/Canada agreement they call it instead of NAFTA. At the signing of that was quite instructive, the president talked about how hard it was to get here. And listen to Canada's prime minister.


TRUMP: President, I must say Pena Nieto and President Trudeau, we've worked long and hard and have taken a lot of barbs, and it's great for our countries.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: Make no mistake, we will stand up for our workers, and fight for their families and their communities and, Donald, it's all the more reason why we need to keep working to remove the tariffs on steel and aluminum between our countries.


KING: The striking part is the president did not fire back. He did not fire back in the moment. He did not fire back after, which was un-Trump, if you will, normally, especially at these big international gatherings, where he likes to say America first and poke the process and poke the others. Remarkably calm president at the G20. Why?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I know. It's almost like the biggest headline is that there was no enormous headline in terms of Trump needling his headlines or doing something on the global stage that that looked like this huge faux pas. And I think, you know, he was in a little bit of a weakened position politically.

Obviously, we had the news about George H.W. Bush coming up, which sort of shook things up and little him pull back a little. But I also think that, you know, we look at what's happened with China, and the way the president played it is not actually such a bad thing. I think, in his eyes, if you go out there and say we're going to start this massive trade war and then you get China to come to the table and give you a couple of things, that's how this president likes to negotiate.

So, he may be learning that it's possible to sort of pull stunts like that and be able to at least achieve some things you can cast as victories without just showing up at these events and needling your allies and essentially becoming this pariah at events like the G20.

KING: He avoided any serious problems. Number one, we saw Putin high fiving the crown prince of Saudi Arabia or side fiving the crowd prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman. The president did not. They had a brief encounter, exchanged pleasantries. He ran into Putin at a dinner and the president made it clear I don't like what's happening at Ukraine.

But sometimes, the president steps in quick sand, but these events didn't happen here.

HULSE: Well, I think the president realizes he has a lot of problems and he wanted to avoid having some more. To the earlier point, you know, these pictures of soybeans piling up in these giant piles in the Midwest, that's not good for him.

But on the NAFTA now, he has said he is going to -- if the Democrats don't want to go along with this new agreement, he's going to cancel the old agreement to put pressure on them.

[08:25:06] And, you know, I'm not sure that's a negotiating tactic that's going to work with the newly empowered Democratic majority in the House. They're going to say, well, that's your decision. Let's go from there.

KING: Well, he calls them Chuck and Nancy will be at a lunch on Tuesday, I believe, right? For a meeting with the president, they'll talk about maybe a temporary spending plan. I'm sure the new trade agreement that's going to call NAFTA again --


KING: USMCA, we're going to have to get used to that as we go.

Everybody, stay put.

Up next, from an 80-plus approval rating to a painful primary general and a general election defeat, more on the life and legacy of President George H.W. Bush.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now that you're 85, are you thinking more about the "L" word, legacy?

BUSH: I'm thinking about the "L" word being life, life its own self. But, no, my view on legacy is let the historians figure out what I screwed up and figure out what I got right.





GEORGE H.W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The weight is lifted. Iraq's army is defeated. Our military objectives are met.

Kuwait is once more in the hands of Kuwaitis, in control of their own destiny. We share in their joy, a joy tempered only by our compassion for their ordeal.


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: That, you could argue, was the high watermark of the George H.W. Bush presidency, from a political standpoint anyway. His approval ratings soared into the 80s after a Persian Gulf War route that drove Saddam Hussein's army out of Kuwait.

It was just one of many eye-popping world events during his four-year term, along with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Tiananmen Square mass massacre and more -- you see the list right there. When the wall came down, the President's staff wanted a victory lap.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY STAFFER TO GEORGE H.W. BUSH: We all went over to the Oval Office to tell President Bush that he had to go to Berlin.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: You wanted him to go to Berlin?

RICE: I wanted him to go to Berlin.

GANGEL: And he said --

RICE: And he said what would I do -- dance on the wall? He said, this is a German moment.


KING: Here with more on the legacy of the 41st president, presidential historian Douglas Brinkley and Ambassador Nicholas Burns, whose 27 years of government service included working on the National Security Council in the George H.W. Bush White House.

So Nick -- let me start with you and that moment -- and that moment. We talk all the time now about, you know, the blur of the Trump age.

I remember those days. The Soviet Union was collapsing -- 15 countries emerged. Where were the nuclear weapons, where were the chemical weapons? Who was going to lead these countries? Take us inside the White House.

NICHOLAS BURNS, UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE: You know, John -- I think it was looking back, it was the extraordinary experience of George H.W. Bush. Nobody had had the jobs that he had, every job imaginable in the U.S. government. It was also his understanding that diplomacy -- successful diplomacy at the highest level is often about earning trust and confidence with the man or woman at the opposite side of the table.

And that's what he did with Gorbachev. It was not inevitable that the Soviet Union was going to end peacefully. We worried about all sorts of contingencies where the KGB or the Soviet military or some rogue Soviet military officer would get his hands on nuclear weapons and there would be a violent clash.

It didn't end that way because President Bush was able to work with a descending Gorbachev, a rising Yeltsin -- work with both of them and land that plane peacefully.

And the same is true of German unification. Without George H.W. Bush, Prime Minister Thatcher was dubious about German unification, as was President Mitterrand. It was Bush who made the commitment to Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Here is where experience matters and where character matters. I think that's why he's one of our greatest presidents on the international stage.

KING: And Doug -- to that point, we cover, especially in the cable news business, what happens. We sometimes forget what didn't happen. And I think that's the point Nick is making. It's a point former Vice President Joe Biden made yesterday. He said, "So much could have gone wrong but instead went right because of his leadership. This is how history will rightly remember him. Every American, and arguably everybody on earth, owes him a debt of gratitude for being such an able steward."

It's a fair point, right.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: A very fair point. I mean, you know, he could have done what was suggested on the clip, gloated about the Berlin Wall coming down, you know,. I won the Cold War. Ever since it went up during John F. Kennedy's administration and everybody's tried to deal with Berlin, well, I solved it. I got the wall down. Reagan gave the words "tear down the wall" but I'm the man who got the job done. He didn't do that because that would be gloating.

He didn't gloat about German reunification. Because who knew what was going to happen with that, if it would unravel on us once they tried to unify.

He instead worried about the national security concerns in Europe. Where are the loose nuclear weapons? When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, it was a danger alert everywhere because loose nukes could fall into rogue hands.

And he honed in on what really mattered and as Ambassador Burns said, did diplomacy every step of the way.

I mean you know, James Baker likes to say people don't ask me why we didn't go into Baghdad anymore. There's Gulf War One, which we did it right. We liberated Kuwait, filled our mission and went home and called Operation: Desert Shield a huge success.

And then there's the Second Gulf War where we tried to go in and take Baghdad and run civil society in Iraq. And that second war didn't work well because we overextended the limits of a U.S. intervention.

So Bush, as Ambassador Burns said, nailed it. He is a great foreign policy president.

KING: Well, let's talk about that because one of his unique spots in history is that he's a president and the father of a president. He went to war in Iraq and evicted Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, as you noted, left him in power.

His son went to war in Iraq and it didn't turn out that well.

Listen to the former President H.W. Bush here talking to Larry King in the middle of his son's unpopular war.


[08:34:57] H.W. BUSH: The decision is the President's and the President's alone. But you learn to live with it. War is hell.

And I think the fact that I was in a war makes me understand that a little bit better. But you just have to. You have to do it sometimes. It's good versus evil. And we're fighting Saddam Hussein, I thought it was that clear.


KING: One of the fascinating things we now know is that he had issues with his son's administration of the war and he had particular issues with Vice President Cheney and even more so with the Defense Secretary -- two good friends of his -- Donald Rumsfeld, right Nick.

BURNS: Well, John to be fair to both President Bushes -- these were very different situations. The Gulf War in 1990-91, the Iraq war 2003. President George H.W. Bush built up this 500,000-person coalition of over 60 countries.

President Bush and Secretary James Baker, they conducted Operation Tin Cup. They went around the world to the wealthy countries -- the Saudis, the Japanese and Germans and said you need to pay for the war. And they did.

But the mandate of the United Nations was to eject Saddam from Kuwait. It was not to go into Baghdad. It was not to occupy Iraq or to dismember Iraq. And I think when that fateful decision that President H.W. Bush had to make, when we had defeated the Iraqi army in the desert, the road to Baghdad was open, he said I'm not going to go down that road because he didn't have the mandate to do that from that big coalition.

And I think the politics, the international politics was very different 12 years later.

KING: And, Doug, put into context what we're going to see this week. We know the dysfunction between the Bush family and the Trump family -- President Trump. He will be there.

We saw the bond between President H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton even though they ran a nasty campaign against each other in 1992. What are we going to watch play out this week?

BRINKLEY: Well, Donald Trump is going to be having to take backstage when he is at the funeral. I don't think that he was close to Bush 41. The family doesn't like President Trump very much. After all, he pummeled Jeb Bush when he ran against him. And Barbara Bush, at her own funeral, didn't want Donald Trump there.

However, Bush 41 has done the right thing. The President of the United States should be invited. He will be there. A lot of people are going to be watching how Donald Trump acts, behaves while he's there.

But also these incredible eulogies, the chance for George W. Bush to talk about his father. Bake, James Baker -- who saw him shortly before he died, he called him jefe. It was the name for 41. He used to be Mr. President but after he left the White House, they called him jefe.

And he saw him, Baker, right before, you know, 41 died and he said where are we going now, Bake? And the answer was, we're going to heaven and 41 said great, that's where I want to go. I want to be in heaven. Those kinds of stories are going to be continued.

And then also the Navy, the fact that he was on 58 combat missions in World War II, the Navy right now is putting out things on Twitter and all about what a great American he was. So I think the military aspects of that career of duty, honor, country, patriotism will be coming out in the next few days more and more.

KING: Amen. That's important. A great man from the greatest generation.

Gentlemen -- appreciate you both coming in this Sunday morning. I hope we can talk more in the week ahead as we pay more tribute to President George H.W. Bush. >

Thank you both.

Up next for us here, the special counsel tightens his focus on the President and the President ratchets up his anger at the special counsel.


KING: Shadows from the Russia investigation stalking the President on the world stage this past week -- Russia still interfering is important context. The President on his Twitter feed saying illegal hoax, McCarthy-style witch hunt -- just a few of the words from a president who knows his role is central as the special counsel closes in on the big questions.

The biggest twist in a week full of them? Long-time Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen now says talks about building a Trump Tower in Moscow extended deep into the presidential election year meaning extended into a period where Candidate Trump would talk sanctions and a period during which his campaign softened Republican Party platform language critical of Vladimir Putin.

If that isn't enough, court filings show Cohen is also cooperating with other investigations including one into the President's charitable foundation as it's clear, the special counsel's focus is increasingly on the President it's clear he has always had anger but it's escalating.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well yes. I mean remember, the President said very early on that a red line would be delving into his business deals and the Trump family business. And that was partly because he was worried about protecting himself but it was also because he was always worried at the beginning of a special counsel being named that this was somehow going to seep into his family business and somehow impact his children.

And that's what we're getting into right now. Obviously we know through what Michael Cohen has said that the special counsel is interested in Trump's business dealings. And you know, that brings the kids much closer to the Russia investigation than we've seen thus far.

KING: You have reporting this week on this guy Jerome Corsi -- conservative author, conspiracy theorist who fits into Mueller's narrative about possible collusion, saying you know what we didn't really stop in January when he was a candidate and things are starting to kick into gear. We kept talking to Russia throughout the campaign.

And again, you connect dots -- Candidate Trump saying let's go soft on Russia, let's be easy on Russia. You asked the President this very question, this very question. When did it stop? What did you have?


MURRAY: Can you say whether you are aware that anyone who advised your campaign had contacts with Russia during the course of the election?

[08:45:02] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I told you. General Flynn obviously was dealing so that's one person. But he was dealing as he should have been.

MURRAY: During the election?

TRUMP: No -- anybody that know of. Nobody that --

MURRAY: So you're not aware of any contacts during the course of the election?

TRUMP: Look, look, look -- how many times do I have to answer this question?

MURRAY: Can you just say yes or no on it?

TRUMP: Russia is a ruse. I know you have to get up and ask that question -- so important. Russia is a ruse.

I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven't made a phone call to Russia in years. Don't speak to people from Russia. Not that I wouldn't -- I just have nobody to speak to.


KING: Turns out it was a damn good question. We can show you a list -- just a partial list of contacts between Trump campaign people and Trump business -- Trump Organization people with Russians during the campaign.

This is the issue. We don't know if the President is culpable of anything, but we know it's not a ruse.

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I keep coming back to this question. If there were contacts between Trump officials, campaign officials or Trump Org officials and Russia during the course of the campaign but there was nothing nefarious going on, why do people continue to lie about it?

KING: Right.

PACE: That is the great unanswered question. Is it because Trump has a culture around him where people choose to lie? It could well be that. Or are they trying to hide something? We don't know.

Bob Mueller may know the answer to that. But repeatedly we have seen people say that they were not involved with Russian officials only to find out that they were. That is just fact.

KING: And I think it's safe that we won't get much this week. Robert Mueller will probably be deferential to the H.W. Bush funeral.

But this is going to carry over to 2019. The President wanted it over last year, let alone this and it's going to definitely going to carry over to next year.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Yes. The President and the President's legal team thought this was going to be finished in 2017. They said Christmas. They said Thanksgiving. It bled into 2018.

And it seems like from some of the filings that Mueller has put out that this is going to carry over into 2019. There are several people close to the President who have already been indicted. There are several who are close to him even within his family who are worried about potentially being indicted.

And it's very interesting, as Julie said, that so many people close to the President have lied about this. And we're going to find out why.

KING: It does seem Mueller's building what I would call the pyramid. It does appear like we're getting closer -- closer to the top.

Our reporters share from their notebooks next. We asked some veterans of the Bush years to share some personal reflections about the 41st president.


KING: We close each Sunday by asking each of our great reporters at the table to share something from their notebooks to peek ahead of the political stories just around the corner.

Today, something a little different. We ask our veterans of the Bush years to look back and share a memory.

Karen. KAREN TUMULTY, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST" Well, the last time I saw the President up close and in person was at a funeral for my former colleague at "Time Magazine" Hugh Sidey. and President Bush got up and began reading this remarkable exchange of letters that he and Hugh Sidey had exchanged over the decades.

And he got so emotional that he broke down and could not finish. His daughter, Doro, had to get up and finish reading these letters for him. So I think -- people keep talking about his amazing rolodex. But what they don't realize is that for every name, there was a really intensely personal connection as well.

KING: Well, that's important. It's a different age.


FRANK SESNO, FORMER CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I have to tell a personal story. The President would have the White House press corps to his home in Kennebunkport in the summertime. You could bring your family and all the rest. So 1989, I went. I had a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old and my wife and I were there.

The President and Mrs. Bush engaged with the children because they really were family members and family oriented in every way. And there's this great picture I have. I'm holding the boys and all the rest. There you go. A while ago.

And next time we saw them, my wife and I together, was at the White House Christmas party that following December. By this time with our third child my wife is visibly pregnant. And we come through and the President points to her and he goes he says, another little Sesno on the way. And Barbara Bush, who was there, said yes, George, you remember their two boys. And he says yes, I do. Whether he did or not, I don't know.

But the impact that that had on us personally, and what that says about the President and Mrs. Bush, I think, really does speak to the human connection that they made, as Karen says, in virtually every interaction they had.

KING: A great point. The human connection. Great way to put it.


CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK TIMES": In 1984 I was a local government reporter in south Florida, and George Bush comes down and he's on a campaign swing for the Reagan re-elect. And I really hadn't had a big interest in national politics. This was the first sort of national politician I was around. And it made an impression on me, sort of piqued my interest in national politics.

A year later I was in D.C. and a few years after that, I was covering his inauguration. So I feel like a real journalistic connection here.

KING: We'll be playing George H.W. Bush for you. That's what you're trying to say. Ann.

ANN COMPTON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: The Internet revolution caught up after he was president. And while he was a prolific letter writer, I actually in 2010, got my first e-mail from a president.

And from Kennebunkport he writes, "We rarely go out anymore. We live a very happy, content life. We watch a lot of 'Law & Order'. I go out on my boat and I sit and I watch the sea and I count our blessings."

The e-mails and the domain for the George Bush retirement office is "former leader of the free".

KING: That is awesome. Don't ever delete those.

I'll end by sharing a funny encounter I had, by chance, with the President and Mrs. Bush in what was a very tough Bush family moment.

[08:54:54] It was backstage at the CNN presidential debate in Houston not long after Jeb Bush dropped out of the 2016 race. The GOP establishment, you'll remember at the time, was in a panic, aghast at the growing likelihood this guy Donald Trump was about to become their presidential nominee.

Also in the hallway Reince Priebus, then the Republican National Committee chairman. He jokingly asked President Bush if he wanted his old job as the party chairman back to deal with the Trump factor. 41 had a hearty laugh and said hell, no.

As I said goodbye, Mrs. Bush turned to me -- I think she was joking and said, you know, you could have been nicer to Jeb. President Bush patted me on the shoulder and laughed again.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Again thank you for sharing this special Sunday with us. Hope you can catch us weekdays as well. We're here at noon Eastern.

Don't go anywhere. Up next on "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper, memories of George H.W. Bush from two of his closest friends and advisers -- James Baker and General Colin Powell.

Have a great Sunday.