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INSIDE POLITICS

Bush Departing from Houston; Trump on Mueller Investigation; Trump Renews Attacks on Cohen and Mueller; Trump and Xi Agree on Trade. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 3, 2018 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00] JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Make your funeral plans, sir. He did not want to have anything to do with this.

But then they said, this is part of your responsibility. This is part of your duty. And he actually got very involved in it. He micromanaged. There are some details that were very specific, including what meal and food will be served on the train between Houston and College Station. He picked the menu.

But there were also things -- we're going to see a tremendous amount of pomp and circumstance in honor of the office. But there are also things that he decided he didn't want to do.

So, yes, it's an honor of the office, but he kept it in George Bush's tradition. There isn't going to be the big funeral procession through Washington that we saw for Ronald Reagan, as an example, or JFK. But what he did here was in honor of the office, as opposed to himself.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And to that point, it's no secret, and I don't want to over talk about it at this moment because this is more a solemn moment. There's no secret the dysfunction between the Bush family and the current president of the United States. And yet the current president of the United States, to his credit, is going over to Blair House today to spend some time with the Bush family. The late President George H.W. Bush is someone who, out of respect for the institution, might have told his sons, who it might have taken the sons a little bit to get there, but that, of course, the current president of the United States will be part of this.

Tom Collamore, join the conversation, just about the man and his respect. Eight years as vice president. Watched Ronald Reagan. Four years as president. And his son was president. The words presidency, White House, the institution has been part of his life -- was part of his life for so long.

TOM COLLAMORE, SENIOR STAFF MEMBER TO VP GEORGE H.W. BUSH (1985-1989): You just can't under underestimate his level of respect for the dignity of the office. And it is so appropriate and fitting that he is coming to Washington on this airplane because he used this airplane as an instrument of his diplomatic personal relationship around the world. And it is a symbol of American majesty and power of the office of the presidency and President Bush used it to its full extent. So he'd be very pleased, I think, that he's using this airplane (INAUDIBLE).

KING: And to the point about friendships. It is his closest, dearest friend, Jim Baker, who will speak in Houston. It's one of those diplomatic friends, a relationship that became so critically important, Brian Mulroney, Kristin, who will speak here in Washington.

A little bit different than normally a president thing, but, again, part of the character of the international George H.W. Bush.

KRISTIN CLARK TAYLOR, MEDIA RELATIONS DIRECTOR, GEORGE H.W. BUSH WHITE HOUSE: Yes. And the beauty of it, like Tom said, is there's power here, there's majesty here. You can feel it as we watch. But there's also the essence of who he was. And it just kind of showers over everything as we're looking, the dignity and the militaristic precision that he loved so much. And, you know, if it's possible to feel more than one feeling and one emotion at a time, that's what I'm feeling now. I feel sadness, but I also feel gratitude and I also feel pride.

KING: That's a -- it's a very interesting point because it is -- it's -- obviously for those of you who worked closely, a moment of personal sadness. For the country, a moment of reflection and sadness. But also, and I hope -- I hope, as someone who's been here a while, who came to Washington just as Ronald Reagan was handing over to George H.W. Bush, who remembers when this town was different. Yes, it's always had partisan differences. Yes, it's always had partisan fights, but it wasn't so petty and it wasn't so polarized. You hope that in this reflection, especially for people who are maybe younger, who don't remember the George H.W. Bush presidency, you hope maybe a lesson? Possible?

TAYLOR: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before Twitter.

KING: Right. Right.

Mary Kate, just, if there is a lesson, what would George Herbert Walker Bush want it to be at this moment? What would he want the country to be thinking about?

MARY KATE CARY, FORMER GEORGE H.W. BUSH SPEECHWRITER: Well, he has a sign over his desk as the former president that's a quote from William Butler Yates that says, think where man's glory most begins and ends and say mine was that I had such friends. And he was tremendously successful at converting people into being his friends. It wasn't like young people would call networking and collecting people's business cards and things like that. This was a sustained effort, many times through notes like Kristin has, written notes to people that they had something tangible to hold on to that said, oh, I remember George Bush, he wrote me this note. And he widened the net -- I like to say he expanded the definition of "we." And I think that absolutely he would be all in favor of the current president coming to the funeral.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. CARY: He would not hear of any sort of shenanigans on that part. And he would say, this is an opportunity to covert him into a friend, too. And I'm hoping that the rest of the family sees it that way. I'm sure they do. But unlike say Senator McCain's funeral, everybody made such a big thing about whether the president was going or invited and all this and I don't think you're going to see any of that with this -- the -- President Trump has been remarkably gracious in the lead up to this and I think that would make President Bush very, very happy.

[12:05:26] KING: And, Jeffrey Engel, as we watch this moment, I believe everyone at the table would agree, that George Herbert Walker Bush, most of all, loved being a father and a family person. When you see the family board this plane, it is a reminder -- it is a reminder that we have the Kennedys and the Bushes as sort of political dynasties. A bit of a pause, George P. in Texas still holds office. But when you watch this family, out of step perhaps with the modern day Republican Party, but if you take a step back from the last few years and just look at the history of this country, it is remarkable the patriarch is coming to Washington for the nation to pay a final tribute of a remarkable family that has had a giant mark on American politics.

JEFFREY ENGEL, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, and I love the fact that you just used the word patriarch. Because it also gives a sense of why we are spending so much time on this funeral as a nation, because, you know, we have to remember, the president is, of course, not only the head of government, but also the head of state. So this is the closest thing we have to a national sovereign who's being buried. And so it's really a moment where the nation should be coming together to think about the things that unify us rather than divide us.

Though I would like to point out one small distinction with our discussion of President Trump speaking or not speaking at the funeral. That's unusual.

KING: Right.

ENGEL: Historically, a sitting president, in attendance, would speak at a president's funeral, former president's funeral.

KING: It is a unique and obviously I think the family's trying to thread a little bit of a needle here. And you see the plane is about to leave.

This is a Navy flyboy about to come to Washington on a -- America's premier Air Force jet, if you will. The United States Capitol will be open all night. There's a ceremony first with VIPs, the congressional leadership speaks, the vice president of the United States will speak, family members get to have some private time. People who served in the White House, some private time. The residents staff at the White House, some private time.

And I want to make a point about that. Again, to go back to those days. It's an institution and the building. And I remember when George W. Bush became president, there were a few moments -- one or two times you would catch him without a suit jacket in the Oval Office if he had to rush over in a crisis.

CARY: Right.

KING: But Bill Clinton would walk around -- this is not -- no disrespect to President Clinton, but he would walk around sometimes in jeans and a sweatshirt on the weekends. George W. Bush, I think knowing -- having been there through the Reagan years and his dad's years was like, no way, it's sacred ground.

CARY: You know, at John McCain's funeral, Mrs. Trump arrived with Buddy Carter alongside her who is one of the -- President Bush and Mrs. Bush's favorites on the resident staff. He's one of the butlers. And he was telling me many times about the horseshoe games that the president would organize between the residence staff and the White House staff and how much fun they had together.

When Mrs. Bush, Sr. was very sick, she came to visit the White House and President Bush -- she got unexpectedly sick while she was there. President Bush was sitting up with her one night taking care of her and Buddy Carter arrived and said, President Bush, there's a phone call for you. And he said, mom, I'm going to leave you here. You're safe. You're with family. And left his mother with the butlers. And they took tremendous care of her. It's a beautiful thing.

COLLAMORE: I think it's a moment, too. You know, President Bush had a unique understanding that there were hundreds and hundreds of people behind the scenes who made the presidency work. And he did everything he could to make sure their work and their contribution was appreciated, whether it was the CIA briefers in the morning, having a personal connection with them, or the people writing those huge briefing books for trips overseas, or the butler's, the Secret Service agents, the communicators. He understood that it wasn't a one-man show.

CARY: No.

KING: And you're watching these pictures. Again, that is usually Air Force One. It is Special Mission 41 today. The 747 about to leave Houston, Ellington Field in Houston, to carry the 41st president of the United States here to Washington, D.C. You see the crowd watching this solemn moment. The Bush family, the cabinet members, family friends, other distinguished VIPs aboard this plane. It is about to make the trip here to Washington, D.C.

Again, the president of the United States will lie in state and the United States Capitol. We are now told that among those visiting tonight for private reflections will be the current president and first lady. President Trump and Melania Trump will be among those who take some time to visit President Bush as he lies in state at the United States Capitol.

We're going to continue to monitor this. Again, Special Mission 41 about to leave Houston on its trip to Joint Base Andrews just outside of Washington. A solemn journey for the former president.

[12:09:52] We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS.

I want to make note, Special Mission 41 has just taken off from Ellington Air Base in Houston. The former president, George H.W. Bush, being brought here, along with his family, for the ceremonies here in Washington. We'll keep an eye on that flight as it comes to Washington. More special coverage later today as the late president arrives at the United States Capitol.

Back here in Washington, though, and back home at the White House, the president is again on the attack today against the Russia special counsel. The Mueller team this week is set to file two important reports detailing crimes and perhaps cooperation by Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort. The president's attention this morning, though, on two other individuals, reacting to the special counsel's scrutiny in very, very different ways. Michael Cohen, the president's long time lawyer and fixer, cooperating with the Mueller team. The president says Mueller -- Cohen, excuse me, is making up stories to get a lighter sentence for what he calls terrible crimes unrelated to Mr. Trump. That's the president take. He ignores, though, documents the Mueller team included in court filings that back up Cohen's new narrative about Trump business dealings.

[12:15:16] Roger Stone, on the other hand, a long time Trump adviser who is not cooperating with the special counsel. Stone says he won't testify against the president under any circumstances. That in the president's view, read the tweet, means Stone has guts and that he's standing up to a rogue and out of control prosecutor. That is what some lawyers would suggest cite 18 U.S.C 1512, there are laws against witness tampering.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live at the White House for us.

Kaitlan, the president clearly back from his trip, catching up on his DVR, and he's not happy.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, he seems to have bottled up all of his anger at the special counsel while he was in Argentina and now he is taking it out on Twitter, tweeting not only those things you just showed, but also continuing to say Bob Mueller, who is much different than people think, and his out of control band of angry Democrats don't want the truth, they want lies. He said the truth is very bad for their mission.

Now, it seems the special counsel would disagree with that since they have prosecuted people mostly for lying to them. But, overall, what the president seems to be doing this morning is criticizing the special counsel while distancing himself from Michael Cohen and what Michael Cohen is going to tell them now that he is cooperating with them. He said in those earlier tweets that Michael Cohen should be prosecute and go to prison for the crimes he committed that weren't related to President Trump, but, of course, John, two of the biggest things and most high profile guilty pleas from Michael Cohen was pleading guilty to violating campaign financing laws, which he said he did at the direction of President Trump, and lying to Congress, which he said he did out of loyalty to President Trump. So it would seem they are directly related to the president, even though he is trying to put them as far away from him and this White House as possible.

Now, the other question is going to be, is he dangling a pardon in front of Roger Stone. Something that his legal team has said before they did not want him to be talking about pardons because they were worried it could open him up to accusations to obstruction of justice.

John.

KING: The legal team may want one thing. The president often does as he wishes, shall we say.

Kaitlan Collins live reporting from the White House. Appreciate it.

With me here in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Manu Raju, Catherine Lucey of "The Associated Press," "Politico's" Rachael Bade, and Tarini Parti with "BuzzFeed."

And this is textbook for the president. Some might expect him, at this moment of reflection about the death of the former president, to maybe chill for a few days. But whenever he comes back from an international trip, he catches up on the news and then we know quickly what he thinks about it.

The point I make repeatedly is he knows a lot more than we do. And so when you see this anger at the special counsel, it tells us what?

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": Well, we don't know is what his attorneys are telling him, what he is hearing from people that he is speaking to.

And, yes, he -- he said a lot of appropriate and gracious things about the late President Bush over the weekend and is continuing to tweet about that and will participate this week.

But as we've seen before in moments of national grieving and sorrow, he rarely can completely turn off the other track in terms of what he wants to talk about and where he wants to direct our attention.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And you remember the last time when -- when -- before Michael Cohen went to court and laid out in stark detail what happened with this Trump Tower Moscow project, all the way to June 2016. The president was aware of it. Candidate Trump was aware of it at the time. Contradicting what Michael Cohen told Congress in which the president's attorneys agreed to that timeline, though the president is now calling him a liar. The president was briefed by his attorneys what happened before that happened. And remember what he did on Twitter the next morning. He laid out a litany of tweets attacking the special counsel.

Now, we don't know if that's -- if he's gotten any sort of indication that something is coming, but there is a sense in Washington that something could be coming down on Roger Stone potentially sometime soon and Roger Stone, maybe he's sending a signal too, don't cooperate the way that Michael Cohen cooperated because there's a pardon that could be on the table.

KING: Now, Roger Stone says he won't testify against the president because Roger Stone's word is that that means he would be lying if he turned on the president.

One of the problems for the president here, it's not only does the president have a causal relationship with the truth, but many of these central players who are involved now, Roger Stone, Jerome Corsi, known conspiracy theorists, known people who have a long record going back 30, 40 years of saying things that aren't true, which is why this is what makes it curious to me. They think that more is coming. What Michael Cohen did last week is bad for the president. They clearly think even more is coming.

Listen to Rudy Giuliani, the president's lead lawyer, on the radio attacking the special counsel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I think the special prosecutor has stepped over the line now with the way he's intimidating people in order to tell what he believes is his version of the truth. This is what's wrong with the special prosecutors and independent counsels. They think they're god. I mean they think they know the only truth that exists, even if there's a lot of doubt about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[12:20:00] KING: Every time, for the record, every time Robert Mueller's authority, his scope, his tactics has been challenged in court, he has won. Judges have backed him up. This is Rudy Giuliani and the president on Twitter this morning trying to talk to their, whether it's 35 percent or 40 percent of America to say, we think bad things are about to come out, do not believe them.

TARINI PARTI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "BUZZFEED NEWS": That's right. I mean the president and his, you know, inner circle don't view things from the prism of facts. They view things from the prism of loyalty. And that's exactly what the president is trying to make clear. We've seen this sort of split screen before when it was Manafort and Cohen when he was praising Manafort and sort of dangling the pardon and praising him and now we're seeing the same thing play out, but, you know, Roger Stone is sort of the new Manafort in these tweets and Cohen is still the rat who, you know, spoke out against the president.

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": The president and his legal team are very clearly threatened by what's going on. I mean Robert Mueller has successfully turned Michael Cohen, his number one fixer, against the president and in such a way that he is now willing to talk about things he did that were unsavory or potentially illegal for Trump and is coming forward with that. I mean this is a huge threat to the president. I know that House Democrats just last week, when Michael Cohen went and said he lied to Congress, they were saying potentially this guy could be our number one witness. This is a guy who's willing to sing right now and he's been on the inside, he knows where the bodies are buried and he's willing to talk right now. So this is a threat and they're lashing out.

KING: And that's a vital point to make because we're now less than a month away from the Democrats taking control of the House. And so we're all waiting for a big Mueller report, but you don't have to wait for pieces of it. You see in the Cohen filings, we're about to see in the Flynn filing this week, in the Manafort findings this week, that's where Robert Mueller gives us clues about what he's got and where he's going.

And now what -- in the Republican House and a Republican Senate, the Senate Intelligence Committee is doing most of its business in private, some of that out of deference to the president, some of that in how the committee works. The House Intelligence Committee investigation turned into a joke under the Republicans.

But, listen here, the man who most likely will be the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee under the Democrats and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee under the Democrats say, let Bob Mueller do his job. Let's see where he goes. And then, guess what, we are going to have the power to build on it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: There is now testimony, there is now a witness who confirms that in the same way Michael Flynn was compromised, that the president and his business are compromised.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: He was lying to the American people about doing business in Russia and that the Kremlin knew he was lying gave the Kremlin a hold over him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So I -- I mean Mueller, obviously, is the most important piece of this. Seasoned former prosecutor. We'll see what he lays out in court. But even if Mueller were to wrap this up in the weeks and months ahead, that is a signal that 2019 is going to be Democrats with subpoena and committee power saying, let's look even deeper.

RAJU: Yes, and it's going to keep the issue alive. It will get more in the public that we learn from Mueller, which we typically learn from court filings or what attorneys are saying. We'll have hearings, potentially public hearings. One person to watch, of course, is Matt Whitaker, the acting attorney general. He talked with Jerry Nadler and Elijah Cummings on Friday about what his role is overseeing the Mueller probe.

KING: Their statement was remarkably positive after that conversation.

RAJU: Remarkably positive, but I don't think they learned a whole lot.

KING: Right. Right.

RAJU: And I think we'll learn a whole lot when he comes into public about how he views the Mueller probe.

And that's another reason why Trump is tweeting the way he is.

KING: Right.

RAJU: He's -- I'm sure he's trying to send a signal to his acting attorney general to intervene if he can.

KING: Right.

BADE: Yes. And we haven't heard a lot about, you know, political opponents of the president talking about blackmail. This was something people sort of floated during the 2016 election saying, does Russia have something on the president? Are they blackmailing him? Democrats are pretty openly using that word right now because they think, you know, Trump was not honest about his business dealings with Russia, the Russians knew this and they could have gone public with him in any way. And so did that, in any way, contribute to policy changes or maybe the platform changed in 2016 to be more friendly to Russia.

KING: Which is why we want to read the Manafort documents to come, the Flynn documents to come. It's going to be an interesting week plus ahead as we go.

Up next for us here though, the United States and China each giving a very different spin on weekend trade talks that the president says were great. Who said what? What it means, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:28:46] KING: Welcome back.

Investors breathing much easier today. They're happy. Stocks seeing a little bump. You see the board right there, up 213. It was higher earlier today. This after the United States and China propose a tariff ceasefire. That truce comes after lengthy discussions over dinner between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Now, there's some confusion about exactly what was agreed upon.

CNN's Christine Romans helps us understand what we learned and what we didn't learn from this weekend's talks.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: John, essentially the trade war won't get worse for the next 90 days. It's the outcome of this extraordinary dinner where you have one side of the table, a president for life, on the other, an American president who came to power by promising to get tough on the Chinese. The truce -- the truce is this. The U.S. won't jack up tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods come January 1st. Instead, leaving that tariff at 10 percent. And off the table for now, more new tariffs on another $267 billion in Chinese imports.

[12:29:43] And now the two parties are officially negotiating again. President Trump said that China promised to buy more ag and energy from the U.S., but the window is tight, those 90 days to resolve years of American complaints. Complaints that China does things like this, forces companies to transfer their best technology to do business in China, that China steels IP, it imposes non-tariff barriers and conducts widespread spying and steeling from American companies.