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Trump: Won't Work with Dems Due to "Phony Investigations"; Trump Erupted at Pelosi's "Cover-Up" Accusation. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 22, 2019 - 12:30   ET



[12:32:53] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: More now in the big breaking news this hour. A big White House confrontation and then dueling press conferences. The president abruptly ending a planned West Wing meeting on infrastructure kicking the speaker of the House and the Senate Democratic leader as well as their deputies out of the White House. And told them they'll get nothing from me until all of the investigations stop.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I walked into the room and I told Senator Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, I want to do infrastructure. I want to do it more than you want to do it. I would be really good at that. That's what I do.

But, you know what? You can't do it under these circumstances. So, get these phony investigations over with.


KING: The dust-up at the White House coming just hours after the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi emerged from her meeting with her fellow Democrats and said this.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Would you believe that it's important for -- to follow the facts? We believe that no one is above the law including the president of the United States. And we believe that the president of the United States has engaged in a cover-up. In a cover- up. And that was the nature of the meeting.


KING: An adviser of the Washington Post joins us our conversation. They weren't together, to begin with, now they're out here. And 530 days to the next presidential election, if you believe what was said today, don't expect anything to get done because the Democrats aren't going to back off their investigations. The president doesn't -- he didn't want to come to the table on infrastructure anyway.

MATT VISER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Also notice, he's not calling them Chuck and Nancy there. You know, he's using more former titles for --

KING: We're done with that.

VISER: We're done, yes. We're not friends today. There's also implications on the Hill for budget deals, debt ceilings, I mean, actual work that needs to get done. And sort of takes away from the interesting political theater of today which is fascinating to watch. But the implications, I think, are significant.

If no work is going to be done until the investigations are put aside in Trump's view. It also changes that -- I think the 2020 candidates for the Democratic side are going to start playing into this, you know, sandbox as well on impeachment.

[12:35:08] We're hearing a lot more talk from them on that line as well.

KING: And the speaker has said consistently she views the president is trying to go them into impeachment. She came out of the meeting this morning feeling confident she had convinced her people, a lot of whom want to move forward, some for political reasons, some for legal reasons. I think they have better access to the documents if they have opened an impeachment inquiry.

She convinced them to hold on. Will this complicate that? Will some of those very Democrats say after he said things like that, after he refuses to cooperate on anything, what's the point?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. In a word, yes. I think that there's a lot of people who are feeling restrained by the speaker anyway when it comes to the impeachment proceedings or the potential of them, and think that they shouldn't shy away from what they see as actions that would deserve to open that. Because those types of proceedings because they're afraid of the political backlash. I think the fact that, you know, you were afraid of drowning out everything else that the Democrats wanted to talk about. Well, the president just kind of did that for you.

And so, in a way, you can't do it immediately because then that would seem like you're just tit-for-tatting with the president. But if this continues, if this sort of stalemate continues for a few weeks into the summer if they're getting nothing done, then what do they have to lose is going to be the argument of more and more Democrat as you go forward. And as those Democrats get closer and closer to Pelosi's inner circle, the pressure is going to be on her.

Their challenge though is to move these poll numbers in the meantime like keep making this case like we're trying here. The people who are blocking this is the president and everybody in the administration.

KING: And to her case is let it play out. You see on your newspaper this morning, a draft memo at the IRS saying, hey, we can't hold the president's taxes. The law is the law. We have to turn them over unless president invokes executive privilege.

Speaker Pelosi wants him to do that. She's hoping some appeals court upholds the -- or it happened yesterday, another one of these court cases, they order the White House to turn over documents, she says the president refuses, then you move forward with impeachment. That's what she wants to do.

The president says, listen to him in a Rose Garden here, it's a familiar grievance but in the Rose Garden with a sign about the Mueller investigation in front of him saying they're out to get me. They always have been.


TRUMP: I respect the courts. I respect Congress. I respect right here where we're standing. But what they've done is abuse. This is investigation number four of the same thing, probably five. And it started I think pretty much from the time we came down the escalator in Trump Tower.

So, I say to you that we're going to get everything done. We're doing a lot without them. Let them play their games. We're going to go down one track at a time. Let them finish up and we'll be all set.


KING: We'll be all set. We're not getting anything done. There are regulatory and executive actions the administration is taking. You know, we can debate whether you like those or don't like those. But, we were going to revisit healthcare. No.

They were going to revisit infrastructure. Forget about it. There was some talk that would they ever get anything done on immigration. The president's acting Department of Homeland Security chief was up there today, talking about wall funding and the like. Forget about it. I don't see anything getting done.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And now there's this trade deal also.

DEMIRJIAN: The trade deal, right.

KING: Right, the trade deal.

TALEV: That needs to get done.

KING: He needs Nancy Pelosi's help, and she is, (INAUDIBLE) might be saying this, she's a free trader. She's from California. She knows how important the U.S./Mexico/Canada trade agreement is for the California economy and the national economy. She wanted to find a way to get it done. That complicated it enormously.

TALEV: And there was always the thought that there would be some sort of negotiation to get enough Democrats on board, or perhaps it would have something to do, you know, with healthcare or perhaps it would have something to do with infrastructure. So -- but the president is the one saying that he's not going to make any deals with them until they stop. And it's like -- and he knows they're not going to stop. And so you wonder like, is he saying this because he wants to shut down all progress or is it sort of a bluff to see where they land?

He said something else interesting that -- in today's remarks from the Rose Garden where he talked about the potential of impeaching future presidents, be they Democrats or Republicans. And his choice of words was interesting because he seemed to be saying he didn't think that any Congress should just be able to impeach a president. And actually like any Congress can impeach a president if there's bipartisan will to do it.

So, I wanted to hear -- like I wanted to kind of get inside his head -- (INAUDIBLE) for saying this, get inside his head and hear him play out the rest of that thought. Is he saying that he wants to try to impose limitations on the impeachment process?

KING: Let's rewrite the constitution.

TALEV: Or was he just making kind of a rhetorical aside?

KING: The constitution is pretty clear on that question. That doesn't mean that it's the right decision or the wrong decision but the Constitution leaves that question to Congress.

To the point here, a lot of the post -- the president came to the Rose Garden then very quickly the Democrats came into the room. They wanted to make the case that they were serious. They're trying to get things done. The speaker went so far as saying I pray for the president, questioning not only his judgment or his strategy but questioning him if you will.

The Senate Democratic leader said we were ready, the president wouldn't let us.


[12:40:03] SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): To watch what happened in the White House would make your jaw drop. We, Democrats, believe in infrastructure. Despite signals in the previous few weeks that he might not be serious, we went forward. We came here very seriously.

The president asked in his letter last night, where would Democrats spend the money on infrastructure. I was prepared to give him a 35- page plan detailing this in all the areas I mentioned and more that had the broad support of Senate and House Democrats.


KING: And you see Senator Schumer there. And if you -- Nancy Pelosi introduced them all at the news conference. That is the leadership of the Democratic Party, the leadership teams, the leadership on spending and big infrastructure issues. The president told them to take a hike.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: And, you know, she was essentially saying these were serious people and these are people for instance from swing states like Michigan. You know, at some point it's going to leak what actually happened in that meeting. You saw Pelosi there and Schumer basically telegraphing that something really awful happened and, you know, when you hear it, it will make your jaw drop.

They're trying to make him seem like he's unreasonable. They're the serious ones. They have this 35-page plan but he doesn't really want to play ball and get anything done for the country.

And we'll see. Is this just a bluff? Does he -- I mean, he's somebody who does change tactics and doesn't necessarily always stick to his same stance over time. But we'll see if he's able to basically, you know, sort of stonewall on anything, on not only on cooperating with investigations but on cooperating with legislation.

KING: And we know sometimes he does not react well to strong, powerful women. Is it just that? Did he see Nancy Pelosi on television and decide I'm storming out of my meeting? Because the Democrats were right, he was pulling the plug on infrastructure. His own acting chief of staff, other conservatives, they were furious at the president for what he said in that meeting with Democrats three weeks ago. And they were actively trying to undermine that promise from day one.

So that -- it's not -- that's not it. And to the Democrats' point, these investigations existed yesterday and the day before and the day before and the day before. Pelosi has used the term cover-up in letters and in private meetings. It might be the first time she used it publicly but other Democrats have said it. Was that really a trigger or was the president just looking for a fight?

DEMIRJIAN: You could make that argument, I think because, look, it's not like Nancy Pelosi saying something like the word cover-up in a vacuum would necessarily set him off but this is a room full of gas and she is the match that gets lit. And, you know, he -- if he has issues with strong women saying things to his face, Nancy Pelosi is his foil in the Congress side. She is going to be the one that delivers these verdicts and these pithy remarks. And if that's something that he doesn't like the messenger then he snaps.

HENDERSON: It's also part of the art of the deal playbook. I mean, you know, this has been like a tried and true like Trump promoted tactic for decades where he said, you know, one of the ways that you make a deal is just if you don't like it just get up and walk out. And it forces everybody to recalibrate what they're thinking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Except it never worked actually.

TALEV: But he has talked about it and promoted this idea again and again and again. And we did see him try it a number of months ago. She does get under his skin. She has figured out --

KING: And she has a lot of experience at this.


KING: Way more experienced than him at this. And I think it's a very different dynamic than a real estate transaction to think you're going to move someone who has navigated politics and -- as the highest ranking woman in American politics.

TALEV: When you're the president of the United States you have a different role to play than a real state transaction.

KING: He has underestimated her tenacity from day one as have many Democrats here. And so we're trying to figure out exactly what was the trigger here?

CNN's Kaitlan Collins live at the White House with a little bit more inside the White House perspective. Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. John, we're told that the president erupted this morning when he heard Nancy Pelosi make that comment accusing him of being engaged in a cover-up after she left that meeting with her caucus. And it was that comment in particular that the president was so angry about.

Now we saw him come out to the Rose Garden seething, he was angry, lashing out not just about these Democrat investigations but also about the special counsel's investigation as well. And saying he could not work with Democrats while they're investigating him. But we're told it was singularly that comment from Nancy Pelosi that set the president off and derailed today's infrastructure meeting.

Now we're told if that comment had not been made by the House speaker today, that meeting would likely still be going on inside the White House right now. But the president was so angry that the House speaker had gone that far to accuse him of a cover-up, some of the strongest language that we've seen from her as she tried to tamp down that impeachment talk so far, John.

But of course, as far as infrastructure goes, the president met with Democrats just three weeks ago on infrastructure. And that was while all these investigations were still going on which Democrats said did not get brought up during that meeting. But today clearly a switch for the president and he was so angry over Nancy Pelosi's comment and that is why he derailed that meeting, John.

KING: Kaitlan Collins live at the White House.

So, again, here, you get into this and unfortunately, this is -- just about on anything now in the country, we are -- your perception of that, your reaction of that is divided by where you are, where you sit.

[12:45:00] If you are pro-Trump, the speaker said this provocative thing, damn right, he blew up the meeting, he said go away. If you're a Democrat or an independent, you think, she used language that other Democrats have used that she has used in writing, maybe not in public in front of a camera, and you throw a fit.

VISER: And the other thing that I think the White House did have those signs put up at the ready. It's possible that they have those signs for other reason.

KING: They have a machine in the building across the driveway. They can do it pretty quickly.

VISER: They do it quick. So, I mean -- but he gets set off, they print the signs, and then he's out there. I think politically, there's an interesting case of who is at the biggest loser if nothing is done in Congress? I mean, I think President Trump has something to lose. He ran in 2016 as the big deal maker. He's not cutting a lot of deals and I think that this could undercut some of that.

On the other, the Democrats, their midterm strategy was to point to healthcare, was to point to some of the things that they can do. So if they have nothing to really run on in 2020, I think it undercuts some of their arguments. So I think both sides are sort of trying to figure out who's going to take the fall in the next election cycle as a result of things like today.

DEMIRJIAN: To Matt's point about the signs, also though, you have to wonder what's going on in the White House right now. If Trump is going to walk out of a meeting, he's going to walk out of a meeting, you can't really stop that from happening. But, people had to say, OK, this is a good idea for you to go into the Rose Garden and do this. And is there any decent there, and if there's not, that tells you something about what's going on inside of his chambers right now, too.

KING: They have decided that they're going to run the same election they ran last time because they've had no progress and they haven't made much effort to reach out to new voters to bring new people in. So they are running the fight club campaign all over again this time.

We'll go to a quick break.when we come back, it has been a remarkable day in Washington, continuing to get a reaction. The president of the United States walking out of a meeting in his office, telling Democrats to go away, and marching into the Rose Garden to say nothing will be done until you stop investigating.


[12:51:17] PELOSI: -- for ideas, that's a big word that means so much. And some of it -- but unfortunately, the difference we have between the executive and the legislative branch, you know, House anyway is ideas based on facts, science, truth, evidence, did I say data. So we have a - we'll have different interpretations of what happens but here is the thing. Let's salute cap (INAUDIBLE) for her leadership.

Aren't you impressed with our freshmen members of Congress? Aren't they fantastic? And I know you hear from Adam Schiff earlier, we're so proud of his work.

I just want you to know this, when Watergate babies came, the Watergate came to the Congress in 1976, it was a big transformational class of members of Congress. It was fantastic. Fantastic.

People have compared this class in terms of size and depth and energy and enthusiasm on entrepreneurship and all the rest diversity as a similar class. The reason I bring it up is in 1976 when they came, not one of those freshmen got a gavel, chaired a Subcommittee in the first year. And this freshman class, 18 freshman chair Subcommittees in the Congress.

We view that as something spectacular. Ten women -- where is Stephanie? Ten women -- thank you, Stephanie, for helping me make that happen, and eight men. But this is remarkable. To think that the woman who is -- one of the first -- I know you heard from Sharice this morning and she's wonderful. But -- and Deb Haaland who is one of the other two first Native American women to come to the Congress. Deb Haaland is now the chair of the Natural Resources Committee Public Lands Subcommittee. That is a very big deal, and it's a very big deal in the Native American community as well.

So we're very, very proud of them. All of them. The beautiful diversity of it all. 106 women in the Congress, 91 of them Democrats. Thank you, Stephanie.

Isn't that remarkable? Sixty percent of the -- 60 percent of our caucus, women, people of color, LGBTQ, 60 percent --

KING: The Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking at an event here in Washington at a Democratic group. She was asked a question about the meeting with President Trump this morning, that's why we took you there live. She has decided at least so far not to answer that question. We'll take you back, we're going to monitor it if she gets through -- it gets to those remarks and not talking about the diversity of the Democratic caucus, we'll go back to it.

Let's just play quickly for our viewers here what started all this, this morning as -- well, I'll just paraphrase it. The speaker have come out of a meeting with the Democrats this is morning and said the president is engaged in a cover-up. The president decides then to blow up a planned meeting at the White House on infrastructure, goes in and says goodbye to the Democrats who are there, says I won't work with you until you stop your investigations. He goes into the Rose Garden, says I don't do cover-ups and then launches into his attacks.

We talked earlier in the program about how this is a turning point. It's hard for context in the age of Trump. They didn't get along much to begin with. He is temperamental and unpredictable.

She is trying to keep her sheep -- sorry, back to the speaker

PELOSI: -- the priorities in a previous meeting, we came to some agreement, $2 trillion, we came to how it would be divided, 80 percent federal and 20 percent local in any event.

[12:55:04] Today was the day he was supposed to tell us how -- what he would be willing to support and pay for all of that. Instead, in an orchestrated, almost to a poor baby point of view, he came into the room and said that I said that he was engaged in a cover-up and he couldn't possibly engage in a conversation on infrastructure as long as we are investigating him.

Now we've been investigating him since we took over the majority, so there is nothing new in that. But -- and then he had a press conference in the Rose Garden with all of this sort of visuals that obviously were planned long before I said most currently that he was engaged in a cover-up.

So it is really sad. And here is the thing, -- and I told this to the room when he came in and made that statement then he walked out, you got the secretary of Treasury and all -- this and that and the other (INAUDIBLE) distinguish group of members from the House and Senate Democrats. I said, you know, 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson tasked his secretary of the Treasury, the other one was standing there, to develop an infrastructure initiative for America, to build into the Louisiana purchase, the Louis and Clark expedition, it was the Erie Canal, the Cumberland (INAUDIBLE), all those kinds of things for America. Hundred years later, Teddy Roosevelt instituted his infrastructure initiative, the National Park Service, the green infrastructure of America.

And so we were -- and I said to them and I said to the president after, we want to give this president the opportunity to do something historic for our country. While there are those in our family who think why would you work with him if he, you know, and basically he's saying back to me, why would I work with you if you're investigating me. But the fact is, something happened there.

So I pray for him and I pray for the United States of America. It's really -- he walked away. Whether he ever intended to honor what he said before remains to be seen. But Democrats believe in building the infrastructure of our country, mass transit roads, bridges, broadband into rural America and into underserved areas in our cities, wastewater, clean water, infrastructure, the satellites so that we can have precision (INAUDIBLE). There are so many needs and we thought we had some level of agreement. But you never know with this president of the United States.

So that's what happened this morning. It was very, very, very strange. But the press says to me, were you surprised in and I said -- and I say to you, surprised? Nobody could ever be surprised at anything that happens here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So can I -- as a follow-up to that, can I just ask you, why do you think you, in particular, seem to have so much leverage or ability to drive Donald Trump to this level of distraction, to run out of an infrastructure meeting, he actually hasn't come up with a nickname. I mean, why is it -- why do you think you have done what others haven't been able to do which is throw him so off balance?

PELOSI: Well, I think -- I alluded to it earlier when I transitioned to your question. He recognizes the unity of our caucus, and that is a very big deal because he isn't about that. You know, he's not about consensus -- and also on his side of the aisle, he didn't see that kind of unity. So I think he sees the fact that we are united as something that he has to --


PELOSI: -- contend with, to deal with. And as the leader of House Democrats, the speaker of the House, he has to deal with me officially but also in terms of negotiating on the -- as the leader of the party that that unity gives me leverage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, you have a busy day, a lot of important meetings. Obviously, the issue of the investigations and what you said, you know, that he's engaged in a cover-up is a tap of news. You have eloquently laid out the constitutional role of Congress and oversight over the executive branch. With the Trump administration that is defying and trying to defy the subpoenas and fighting every effort to hold it accountable, how does Congress fulfill this oversight role moving forward.