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Feud Between The Conways, And Trump, Escalates; President Trump Takes Questions Before Ohio Trip. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 20, 2019 - 12:30   ET



[12:30:36] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: The President is about to leave the White House for Ohio. He's outside the building right now talking to reporters, taking some questions. He had a big chart when he came out. We'll see what that was all about and we'll get -- bring you that as soon as we can.

He's also has a starring role in today's episode of keeping up with the Conways, the President, yes, the big guest appearance. Our President Trump standing firm with his top aide Kellyanne Conway tweeting today, the George Conway is a "stone cold loser" husband from hell, very jealous of his wife's success.

George Conway of course firing back in part "You are nuts." Does she loves and he hates the President drama is not new. But it escalated this week after George Conway questioned the President's mental health going so far as to tweet page from diagnostic and statistical manual of metal disorders.

Those kinds of tweets, George Conway told the Washington Post are done so quote, "I don't end up screaming at Kellyanne about it." So you air your laundry on Twitter so you don't ruin dinner with the kids, I guess. Somebody help me.

ELIANA JOHNSON, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: I mean look, all of us in the news media who have covered what we would have called, you know, normal presidents in the past. I think we look at these things as sideshows. And we say, why is the President focusing on this when he could be focusing on substantive issues?

But I think for this President, this is his substance. This is a thing that he enjoys. He likes putting himself in the middle of personal feuds. He did it with the closest parallel I could think of was sort of the NFL national anthem controversy where people were befuddled as to why he would inject himself in this.

And I think simply the President likes to put himself in the middle of controversy and to drive the news, and this is something that he's doing very successfully.

KING: And this has been the debate in the sense that you will have Republican pollsters or strategists or former congressmen who lost elections last year, say this is why I lost. When the President does this kind of stuff, when he tweets about this stuff, this is why people say this is not a President, I have a busy life. Why is he doing this? Doesn't he have better things to do with his time? Or you'll have the President team say, no, he's not politically correct, he mixes it up. He makes media mad. He makes the establishment mad. This is why people love him.

JOHNSON: He's a fighter.

JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: The problem there is that that's why 35 to 40 percent of the country loves him. And that's why he keeps that base because yeah, they delight in the fact that he gives it to the MSM, and he, you know, torches people who come at him. But the problem is that the actual up for grabs electorate resents this kind of conduct.

And by the way, those voters may be gettable on policy and they may like the direction of the country in a lot of ways. But his conduct overwhelms the policy. And that's why they've lost 40 seats in the House because there was a rejection of this President acting in abhorrent ways and especially on Twitter and you heard it over and over again. And I think a lot of his folks do know that. But there's nothing they can do and they can't get him off Twitter.

KING: And so this feud plays out. The feud plays out in the public way. Some people would say, why are you getting involved in this? There's some dysfunction in this relationship which I can't explain. She does work for the President. She is answering questions about it. Now, he is tweeting about the President of the United States so I guess that makes it fair game. What is George Conway trying to prove with this one?

Asked about the White House complaints and he's trading off her fame. He added, I made it possible for her to be where she is today. So there's that. It's not about jealousy. It's about reality. You know, George Conway is an accomplished attorney, but Kellyanne Conway has worked for years as a pollster in the party. She's worked her way up. She was key to the President's campaign.

You could disagree, if you don't like the President and maybe you don't like Kellyanne Conway, but she has proven herself. Where does he getting off I made it possible to be where she is today?

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: Well, I don't like to comment on other people's marriages, it's a private thing even though this is all in public. I will say I'm struck by a lot of people comment on how the President brings supporters of his sort of to his level, down to his level.

And what I'm struck by here is he does the same thing with opponents, as well. Just a week and a half ago I was at an event with George Conway, his group of conservative lawyers who are concerned about the checks and balances and the threats to that from the Trump administration. He's talking about substance and what is he talking about a week and a half later? He's talking about the President's mental health and getting into a Twitter spat with him. Nobody looks good. KING: And so here, this is raised by Brit Hume who was covering -- when I was covering the White House, Brit Hume covered the White House for ABC News. He then moved on to a successful career at Fox News tweeting today, why the President of the United States gets involved in petty disputes with someone most Americans have never heard of is beyond me. And he connects the dots here. The same goes for his continuing feud with the late John McCain. Why bother?

[12:35:05] MARTIN: I saw that. I saw that John. And I got to say, and Brit, a sharp analyst, he knows the answer. Why is he even asking the questions two and a half years in or really going now, if you go back to June of '15, going on four years into the sort of Trump candidacy and Trump presidency. We know the answer.

As Eliana pointed out, this is the main event. It's not a sideshow. He revels in personal back and forth and leaving no slight, real or perceived unanswered, that that's what he wants to do because that gets him press coverage which ultimately is what drives him. It's not a puzzling matter I think.

KING: To your point, we don't have the tape yet because the President is still talking. But he just, moments ago as we were having this conversation, called George Conway speaking to reporters from the south lawn of the White House, a quote, whack job.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Again, yes, so it continues. We expect it to continue. And while J. Martin makes the point that this is the main event. I mean just also have to step back and think it is really quite stunning that the President of the United States keeps attacking a deceased senator, a deceased war hero that is, you know, very, you know, very --

MARTIN: No question about it.

KIM: -- you know, held in high regard by the American people on Twitter. And then you're finally starting to see Senate Republicans push back on that a little bit. Lindsay Graham kind of gave a half- hearted defense of that earlier this week. But Senator Johnny Isakson who I'm going to be really watching this afternoon when he talks about his defense of John McCain and the President's rhetoric, I mean he's a guy who doesn't, you know, he chooses when he talks and when he talks I mean that's somewhat hopeless.

KING: He is not known as a troublemaker in the party, but he's speaking out here and he gave an interview in which he said, look, you know, I get the President point but above all else we honor and respect those who fought and risk their lives for our country.

Mitt Romney speaking up for Lindsay Graham considering was John McCain's best friend was out muted, I'm being polite to Lindsay Graham there. But it's interesting to see how much, how push back there will be from Republicans. I suspect it will be from people either from Utah, Mitt Romney, he's on safe ground criticizing the President. He doesn't have a great base there. Johnny Isakson, I don't think he's going to run again. So we'll see what's happening there. You see who has the courage say, Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, members of the Republican Senate Leadership still listening.

MARTIN: Facing a 2020 primary.

KING: Yeah, waiting for that one. And before we go to break, the president's youngest son is now a teenager. Barron Trump turns 13 today. His mom, the First Lady, wishing him a happy birthday on Twitter. Again, the President still speaking to reporters. We'll bring that as soon as we can. A quick break though. We'll be right back. Happy birthday, Barron.


[12:41:54] KING: Topping our political radar today, Senator Bernie Sanders, new senior adviser and speechwriter is already under fire. David Sirota had been advising the campaign on a trial basis for being officially hired last week. During that trial period, Sirota slammed rival candidates on Twitter repeatedly despite Sanders' call for more stability. He also deleted some 20,000 tweets just before his official hiring was announced. Sirota not responding to CNN's request for comment.

It should be campaign 101 after 2016, right? Protect your e-mails from hackers. A new analysis exclusive to CNN finds most of the 2020 contenders haven't done the basic tackling and blocking to stop them. A cybersecurity group says only four of the 14 Democrats officially running for President used basic e-mail protections designed to block spoofed links or links designed to mimic real web sites.

You might remember John Podesta of the Hillary Clinton campaign accidentally granted Russian hackers access to his e-mail via a spoofed link. Senator Elizabeth Warren says she wants to do a way with the Electoral College, the Democratic presidential candidate says it's important, she think, to make every vote counts. Here's what two other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates think of that plan.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you support getting rid of the Electoral College?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. It's got to go.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I were starting from scratch, absolutely I wouldn't have the Electoral College system, right? I'm as mad as anyone about what happened last election that Secretary Clinton got more votes and isn't our President, but just think it's not going to change.


KING: An interesting debate. Why? Why do the Democrats want to talk about this?

WARREN: It's -- I'm -- it's being talked about among sort of Democratic activists. This is the big, you know, the big whether it's this, whether it's talking about sort of backing the Supreme Court. It's something that's sort of bubbling up then. I think all of these candidates are trying to grab on to something to give them the distinction that they sort of speak for the left grassroots.

KIM: Yeah. I find the nature of the base be -- willing to be more aggressive and kind of just, you know, ripping up these structures and ripping up these kind of the rules of how things have been really interesting to watch. I mean another clearly is, you know, getting rid of the filibuster and that's been a clear dividing point between the non-senators in the race and the senators.

But you can see some of the Democratic senators who had pledged to support this, you know, the 60-vote threshold for the filibuster to pass kind of open the door a little bit so that those evolutions will be really interesting to watch.

JOHNSON: You know, it's another parallel I think between what you saw bubble up in the Republican base in 2016 which was a sort of distrust and institutions, a desire to reform them whether it was the police or the Supreme Court or Congress as a whole. But Trump really was able to tap into that successfully. And I think you're seeing that in on the Democratic side this time including in some freshmen lawmakers like Ilhan Omar who have said, you know, I don't really care that you're the speaker of the House. That doesn't mean all that much to me.

KING: It's a great point. And on this election, everyone is challenging institutions. The President is challenging institutions all the time.


KING: And we're going to hear from the President in less than a minute here. He tweeted out, saying, no, sorry, Democrats, I used to be in favor of getting rid of the Electoral College, not anymore.

[12:45:01] MARTIN: I think it's to --

KING: Wonder why, right?

MARTIN: Yeah. But that actually gets to the point I was going to make, that they've now twice lost the presidency in the last two decades after winning the popular vote. So I think that focuses the mind. I think two overriding things. Trump has expanded the sense of possibility among Democratic activists in the country. If he could be elected President of the United States we should be more ambitious on policy and process. Second of all, I think we're in the process primary season and what do I mean by that, it's March --

KING: Sorry to interrupt. Here's the President of the United States.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No collusion. No collusion. I have no idea when it's going to be released. It's interesting that a man gets appointed by a deputy and he writes a report, you know, never figured that one out. Man gets appointed by a deputy and he writes a report.

I had the greatest electoral victory, one of them, the history of our country. Tremendous success. Tens of millions of voters and now somebody is going to write a report who never got a vote. So we'll see what the report says. Let's see if it's fair. I have no idea when it's going to be released.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you reversed your policy in Syria?

TRUMP: No, no, in Syria, we're leaving 200 people there and 200 people in another place in Syria closer to Israel for a period of time. I brought this out for you because this is a map of everything in the red -- this was on election night in 2016.

Everything red is ISIS. When I took it over it was a mess. Now, on the bottom, that's the exact same. There is no red. In fact, there's actually a tiny spot which will be gone by tonight. So that's ISIS, red right there. And the bottom one is how it is today. This just came out 20 minutes ago. So this is ISIS on Election Day, my election day. And this is ISIS now. So that's the way it goes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you mind the public have a right to see the Mueller report?

TRUMP: I don't mind. I mean, frankly, I told the House if you want let them see it. Again, I say, a deputy, because of the fact that the attorney general didn't have the courage to do it himself, a deputy that's appointed appoints another man to write a report.

I just won an election with 63 million votes or so, 63 million. I had 206 to 223 in the Electoral College, 306 to 223. And I'm saying to myself, wait a minute, I just won one of the greatest elections of all time in the history of this country, and even you will admit that. And now, I have someone writing a report that never got a vote? It's called the Mueller report.

So explain that because my voters don't get it, and I don't get it. Now, at the same time, let it come out. Let people see it. That's up to the attorney general. We have a very good attorney general and he's a very highly respected man and we'll see what happens. But it's sort of interesting that a man out of the blue just writes a report. I've got 306 electoral votes against 223. That's a tremendous victory. I've got 63 million more. I've got 63 million votes. And now somebody just writes a report.

I think it's ridiculous, but I want to see the report. And you know who wants to see it? The tens of millions of people that love the fact that we have the greatest economy we've ever had. I'm going to Ohio right now and they're going to close the plant. It's where they make the tanks. It was going to be closed and I stopped them from closing it and now it's thriving and doing great. And the people of Ohio, they like Trump because I've done a great job in Ohio. And I've done a great job all over the country and that's what the people want to hear. [ INAUDIBLE QUESTION ]

TRUMP: I know nothing about it. I know that he's conflicted. And I know that his best friend is Comey who is a bad cop. And I know that there are other things, obviously, you know, I had a business transaction with him that I've reported many times that you people don't talk about. But I had a nasty business transaction with him and other things.

I know that he put 13 highly conflicted and, you know, very angry, I call them angry Democrats in. So, you know, so what it is. Now, let's see whether or not it's legit. You know better than anybody, there's no collusion. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. There was no nothing. But it's sort of an amazing thing that when you have a great victory, somebody comes in, does the report out of nowhere.

[12:50:05] Tell me how that makes sense, who never got a vote. Who the day before he was retained to become special counsel, I told him he wouldn't be working at the FBI. And then the following day they get him for this. I don't think so. I don't think people get it. With all of that makes sense, I look forward to seeing the report.


TRUMP: No, we're not talking about removing them. We're talking about leaving them and for a substantial period of time because we have to make sure that if we do the deal with China that China lives by the deal because they've had a lot of problems living by certain deals and we have to make sure.

Now, no president has ever done what I've done with China. China had free reign over our country, taking out $500 billion a year for many years. We actually rebuilt China in the truer sense of the word. We rebuilt China. But we're getting along with China very well. President Xi is a friend of mine. The deal is coming along nicely. We have our top representatives going there this weekend to further the deal. But no, we have -- we're taking in billions and billions of dollars right now in tariff money and for a period of time that will stay.


TRUMP: Well, I don't know him. Yeah, I don't know him. He's a whack job. There's no question about it. But I really don't know him. He -- I think he's doing a tremendous disservice to a wonderful wife. Kellyanne is a wonderful woman. And I call him Mr. Kellyanne. The fact is that he's doing a tremendous disservice to a wife and family. She's a wonderful woman.


TRUMP: Well, are you talking about the one that you just found out about having to do with cars? No recommendation. It's up for review, and the European Union has been very tough on the United States for many years, but nobody talked about it. And so we're looking at something to combat it. Not only do they charge our companies you're looking, it was 1.6 million to Google, it just happened yesterday and a lot of other thing, a lot of litigation.

But I say the European Union has been as tough on the United States as China, just not as much money involved. We'll see what happens. We'll see whether or not they negotiate a deal. If they negotiate a deal, a fair deal, that's a different story.


TRUMP: Yeah. Go ahead.


TRUMP: I think that Twitter is a way that I get out a word when we have a corrupt media, and it is corrupt and it's fake. So Twitter is a way that I can get out the word because our media is so dishonest, a lot of it, the mainstream, a lot of it. They don't report the facts. They don't report as an example that I just showed you, they don't want to report this so I figure I might as well show it.

So what I do on Twitter statements, I get out the word from a fake and corrupt media, and I have on five sites -- please, please, please. On five sites, I have over 100 million people, and that includes Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and everything, and it's a way that I can get honesty out because there's tremendous dishonesty with respect to the fake news media.


TRUMP: We'll take a look at that.


TRUMP: As I said, we'll be dealing with Pakistan. I think our relationship right now is very good with Pakistan.


TRUMP: The President of the United States making his way to Marine One on the south lawn of the White House. He's off to Ohio to visit an army tank factory, part of the President's reelection pitch. He'll call this an official visit. That's how it works. He wants to make the case the economy is doing well.

[12:55:03] What you just saw there, remarkable, trademark Trump if you will, for those at the table pacing the line of reporters, ignoring some questions he didn't like, answering the questions he wanted to answer, a lot of ground to cover. Him getting involved yet again in the dispute between his top Counselor Kellyanne Conway and her husband calling George Conway a whack job.

But what struck me the most was his language which obviously his interests, some would say his anxiety about the coming Mueller report. The President on several occasions sort of bending the facts, but saying a deputy meaning Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general appointed the special counsel because Jeff Sessions recused himself. And then some guy is the way the President put it, is writing a report even though that guy never got any votes.

It's not how it works. There's a special counsel statute, Jeff Sessions was recommended to recuse himself, he did. Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller. Robert Mueller has done an investigation and now is writing a report. But you can just get --

MARTIN: Based on the investigation.

KING: You can just get there, welcome to 2020, the President talking to his base that this whole thing is a farce.

MARTIN: Illegitimate.

KING: It's illegitimate. It's to ignore the will of the people. They're trying to get me. That's what the President is trying to say there. And twisting the facts in doing so.

WARREN: And it seems to be working. I mean Robert Mueller's approval ratings such as they are have dropped over the last, you know, couple of years that he's been the special counsel. I think there is sort of an appetite, Trump knows that there's an appetite for the idea that there is some sort of unelected bureaucrat who could undo the 2016 election.

But as you pointed out, John, Rod Rosenstein, an appointee of Donald Trump himself. This is the way that the process by which a special counsel is nominated and appointed. I mean that I think is something that has a lot of potency among his base. That's why he's talking about it.

KING: And you have, again, the President's party controlled both chambers of Congress for most of the Mueller investigation. They have oversight of it. Rod Rosenstein was called up to testify. Rod Rosenstein said repeatedly, he was very comfortable with where Robert Mueller was going. Robert Mueller has indicted a whole number of people. He's handed off investigations to the southern district of New York.

So the investigation itself, we'll see what the collusions are. And you can have your views about the special counsel. How the President describes it is not factual including again saying, his best friend James Comey. Robert Mueller knows James Comey from their professional dealings in law enforcement. There is zero evidence that they are social friends or friends, there's actually some evidence to the contrary. But that again, the President trying to tell his base, don't believe any of this.

JOHNSON: But look, this is a window into how we're going to see the President talk about the Mueller report on the campaign trail. The associated press had a great story yesterday about Trump beginning to use the Mueller probe as a political brick bat on the campaign trail and position himself as a victim of government overreach.

And that's a real change. He's been afraid of what this probe is going to reveal. But I think there's some growing confidence in the White House that if there's nothing explosive in this probe, Trump is going to seize it and campaign on this thing all over the country, that he has persevered over the deep state and that he deserves to be re-elected because against all odds he's still standing.

KING: That he's the victim. That he's victim here. That's how he's going to spin this.

MARTIN: He desperately wants to play the persecuted victim. And I was watching that. And I kept thinking about what Nancy Pelosi said about impeachment--

JOHNSON: Yes. He's not worth it.

MARTIN: -- which is basically we're not going to let him seize that political weapon and play the victim because we want to do this through electoral means to deny him that weapon.

And when you see him talking about the fact that he won X number of electoral votes, that's what Policy is getting at. And we keep on doing that. I talked to one House Democrat who made a really sharp or smart point to make and said here is the other problem with impeachment, it will happen in the House, but the Senate is not going to convict him based upon the fact that we have right now and that alone, the Senate non-conviction will hand tramp another weapon which is to go around the country saying the Senate rule, innocent. I didn't do it. The Senate exonerated me. And we'll hold that up as essentially a court of law.

JOHNSON: And Pelosi couldn't get a chance.

KING: Right. And it gets, again, back to the idea that anything, we just talked about how some things the Democrats don't like they're is illegitimate and they want to unpack the Supreme Court. They don't want to take it to the Electoral College. There's a trademark of this President, Robert Mueller didn't get a vote. Mr. President that's not how it works, you know, that's not how it works.

The special counsel was appointed by your deputy attorney general and you did win the election. You appointed Rod Rosenstein deputy attorney general. He did his job. But in the President's, I'm being persecuted way of putting it, and that's the way he wants to do it. That's the appointment of the special counsel letter right there, thanks for the control room for having that handy, I guess. Sometimes you know what might come out of the President's lips and you have that ready.

But again, there's the legal argument, there's the facts, and then there's what we see there on this day he's traveling to a critical state for him. Welcome to 2020 politics. All right. We'll watch this out. Interesting what the President says when gets to that tank factory. He's wind up today. Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. We'll be back here at this tomorrow. Don't go anywhere as you can tell, a busy day.

[13:00:02] Brianna Keilar starts right now. Have a great afternoon.