Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Ends $7 Billion in Obamacare Subsidies; Trump Decertifies Iran Nuclear Deal; Bannon Declares War on GOP Establishment; Kelly: My Job Isn't to Control Trump; Storm Recovery Tests Puerto Rico's Endurance. Aired 8-9a ET
Aired October 15, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:13] JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): President Trump targets Obamacare, including the money that helps low income Americans get coverage.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One by one, it's going to come down and we're going to have great health care in our country.
KING: Plus, a big threat but stopping short of ripping up Iran nuclear deal.
TRUMP: Our participation can be canceled by me as president at any time.
KING: And what chaos? The chief of staff on leaks, frustrations and presidential tweets.
JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I was not sent into -- or brought in to control him.
KING: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories source by the best reporters, now.
KING: 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.
A dizzying and consequential week just behind us, frustrated his party unable to repeal and replace Obamacare, President Trump uses executive power to dismantle key parts of the law. Those moves caused turmoil in the insurance markets and some say a giant shift in health care politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The GOP will try to blame the Affordable Care Act, but they have purposefully, brazenly, cruelly and spitefully acted to sabotage the law and the health care it provides. It's a matter of life and death. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Plus, the president angers key European ally by threatening to rip up the Iran nuclear deal if Congress can't come up with additional sanctions or restrictions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're going to see what they come back with. They may come back with something that's very satisfactory to me. And if they don't, within a very short period of time, I'll terminate the deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And just what does it tell us when the White House chief of staff feels compelled to hold a rare public briefing to refute the latest round of stories about the president's temper, Republican in- fighting and West Wing chaos?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY: I'm not quitting today. I don't believe, and I just talked to the president, I don't believe I'm being fired today. And I am not so frustrated in this job that I'm thinking of leaving. Unless things change, I'm not quitting, I'm not getting fired and I don't think he'll fire anyone tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Busy hour ahead.
With us to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Abby Phillip, Michael Bender of "The Wall Street Journal", CNN's Manu Raju, and Eliana Johnson of "Politico".
The most significant of several executive actions designed to dismantle key pieces of Obamacare came late Thursday, when the Trump administration served notice it would no longer pay billions in subsidies to insurance companies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: That money is going to insurance companies to lift up their stock price. And that's not what I'm about. Take a look at who those insurance companies support. And I guarantee you one thing, it's not Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, the subsidies help individuals who buy their insurance through the Obamacare exchanges and who earn less than $30,000 a year or, say, a family of four earning less than $61,000 a year. Those people won't lose their coverage. The law still generally protects them.
But insurers are likely to raise premiums to make up the lost money. And many of those affected would then be eligible for bigger health care tax credits. Meaning, cutting the subsidies does not necessarily guarantee cutting federal health care spending. Eighteen states are already suing and the marketplace's impact is going to take a little bit to sort out.
But many Republicans think the political impact is clear and immediate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: President Trump is the president. He's a Republican. And we control the Congress. So, we own the system now.
So, we are going to have to figure out a way to stabilize this situation. You know, Barack Obama is no longer in the equation, so this is on us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: This is on us. Charlie Dent, the moderate Republican, who's leaving the Congress, often a critic of President Trump.
But let's start there. I want to get into some of the policy implications of this. But, politically, is it now, if you don't like something, you blame -- if you don't like the parking at the hospital, you blame Obamacare, if you don't like the traffic on the way to the hospital, you blame Obamacare. If you don't like your coverage or what you pay for, you blame Obamacare.
Are those days over? If you have a problem now with American health care system, do you blame Trump and Republicans?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm not sure -- I'm not sure yet. I mean, I think a lot of Republicans believe what Charlie Dent said, which is that come 2018, which is just a few months away, they're going to have to answer for the problems in the marketplace. And the problems next year are going to actually be pretty severe in addition to the pre-existing issues with the Affordable Care Act. The effect of all this uncertainty is going to be felt by consumers next year.
But I think that some of it is also wishful thinking. The president wants to believe that he won't be blamed for anything that was initiated under his predecessor but continues to exist through his tenure.
And that's not true. Just because he says it doesn't make it true.
[08:05:02] I think for some people who are his core base voters, yes, they're going to listen to him when he says, it's not my fault, it's Obama's fault.
But at the end of the day, he is the president. Republicans running in, you know, competitive districts are going to have to answer for this. I'm not sure exactly how much, though, because I really do think that you have this dynamic where these Trump voters will listen to the president when he says, it's not our fault.
KING: Although if you look at "The New York times," Care First in Maryland says 52 percent they think the premiums will go up. Anthem serving Virginia says 34 percent increase in premiums maybe. In Pennsylvania, a state Trump won, 36 percent increase in premium. An "Associated Press" analyses says a lot who will be affected actually are Trump voters out there.
So, does the political impact there, the president -- I spoke to the Value Voters Conference the other day, and conceded essentially that he's having to do this by executive order because he and his party had failed. He failed. Their mission was repeal and replace. Big, sweeping legislation, takes Obamacare off the books, comes in with an alternative plan.
Here's how the president explained, we couldn't do that, so I'm going to do it this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're really working very hard. And hopefully, Congress will come through. You saw what we did yesterday with respect to health care. It's step by step by step.
We're taking a little different route than we had hoped because getting Congress, they forgot what their pledges were. So, we're going a little different route.
But you know what? In the end, it's going to be just as effective. And maybe it will even be better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Maybe it will even be better, he says. That's a promise he might regret making.
ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: I think Congress clearly -- Republicans in Congress wanted to press pause on the health care debate and table it. Then the president stepped in and tried to do what Congress couldn't do and do something to dismantle Obamacare.
But the structure of the law has really made it such that -- a Republican health care policy analyst had pointed out this out, that you either have to prop it up, take actions to prop it up, or take actions to dismantle it. I think the question is, you know, analysts are not wrong when they say that the actions a president is taking are destabilizing the health care markets. And the question is, do Republicans in Congress move to step in and take action on it, which the president wanted them to do or do they just let this stand?
KING: Or, yes, or --
JOHNSON: So, do -- does health care come back on the table or do they stick with taxes? KING: Right. Does health care comes back on the table when they have
tax cuts to deal with. We'll get to the Iran deal in a minute. Some other things on Congress' plate: Congress has now proven they can do one thing at a time, let alone more than one thing at a time. But to that point, the president, Dan Balz of "The Washington Post" calls this governor by cattle prod today. He is disruptive. He is disruptive. He couldn't get his way on repeal and replace. So, he's trying to keep the dynamic going. He's doing what he can do to dismantle pieces of the law.
The president thinks in the end, this might not only get Republicans to act but bring some grand compromise with the Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If the Democrats were smart, what they do is come and negotiate something where people could really get the kind of health care that they deserve. What would be nice if the Democratic leaders could come over to the White House, will negotiate some deal that's good for everyone. That's what I'd like.
But they're always a bloc vote against everything. They're like obstructionists. If they came over, maybe we could make a deal. The Democrats should come to me. I would even go to them, because I'm only interested in one thing -- getting great health care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Is that even a remote possibility?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: I mean, he's ignoring the fact that Republicans control Congress. And if there's a bipartisan deal that's cut on health care, such an intractable issue like health care, among some members, to see a significant amount of Republicans supporting that bipartisan deal, particularly in the House, that's going to be enormously difficult, because what Democrats want in any sort of bipartisan deal is to essentially strengthen Obamacare.
That is not what Republicans want, particularly Republicans in the House. There is a bipartisan effort happening right now between Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray that is probably the one avenue to actually get something through on a bipartisan basis. It was a narrow deal that they're looking at, dealing with these --
KING: Might get through the Senate, but can you get it through the House?
RAJU: John, I'm not convinced can you get that through the Senate. There are a lot of Republicans who are skeptical in this the Senate. I don't think there's a chance of getting this through in the House.
So, what the president did by executive action is very risky because it could lead to a significant increase in premiums, create disparity within the market, affect people, particularly lower income people, far more than people who are not low income. And as a result, Congress could be left with dealing with something they have not been able to resolve for years.
MICHAEL BENDER, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: You have to admire the on the optimism here from the president, right? I mean --
KING: But is it real? Is it real? It's intellectually inconsistent to say in 2018, we're coming back to replace and repeal. We're going to try to do essentially Graham/Cassidy, this block grant approach to the states.
[08:10:00] But, in the meantime, come on in, Democrats, let's cut a deal. The Democrats are not going to cut a deal that looks anything like what he wants to do in the long run?
KING: Is it a shell game? Is it fake?
BENDER: But I do think they have a little time here. A lot of these insurance companies that are depending on these payments are saying right now that they more or less priced this into their -- into the market. There's only a few months left in their calendar year. It's unlikely anyone is going to -- there's going to be big, massive disruptions in the last few months of a year, and a lot of companies -- several states have already started approving increases based on the uncertainty that Trump has been projecting for most of this year.
My colleague Anna Matthews has reported rates have already gone up as much as 25 percent in Virginia, Mississippi, and Kentucky. So, whether or not it's real, I think the president will get points for talking about bipartisanship here. He will get points for using the cattle prod. I think from both sides of the aisle, that plays well.
But at some point here, you know, voters are going to start feeling this on their pocketbook and ask the question -- the exact question you are.
KING: As the year winds down and those bills keep coming, open enrollment period. If there's turmoil and uncertainty. Disruption, Obamacare, whether you like or not, caused a lot of disruption in the marketplace, disruption of people's family's budget. We'll see what happens.
Everybody, sit tight.
Up next, inside the Iran nuclear deal, a decision that puts pressure again on Congress and is making key U.S. allies in Europe frustrated, even angry.
But, first, "Saturday Night Live's" version of the West Wing showing a commander-in-chief's concern about the so-called war on Christmas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEC BALDWIN AS PRESIDENT TRUMP: Mike, I need to you check the cups, OK? Do they say happy holidays or do they say merry Christmas?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, it's October. They wouldn't have Christmas themed cups yet.
BALDWIN: They would if they respect, Mike, the cups. They would say merry Christmas all year and they would show me as Santa Claus, giving all the children coal. Coal is the future of this country. Check the cups, Mike.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The cups say pumpkin spice is back, sir.
BALDWIN: Get out of there right now, Mike, bail. (INAUDIBLE) Vamos!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[08:16:06] TRUMP: It was a terrible agreement. It shouldn't have been signed. It shouldn't have been negotiated the way it was negotiated.
The Iran deal, which may be the single worst deal I have ever seen drawn by anybody.
Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: On Friday, the president finally acted on his displeasure. Here was his choice -- recertify, terminate or decertify. Twice the president has certified, this time he said no way. He could have terminated, but instead, he decided to decertify.
What does that do? Kicks this to Congress, which now has 60 days. And the president wants Congress to look at a number of issues, some that have to do with the nuclear deal, some outside. He doesn't like some of the sunset provisions in the deal, wants the United States now through the Congress to consider more sanctions or restrictions.
He doesn't like or want stronger language about uranium enrichment. This two included in the deal. Outside of the deal, not put in it in purpose because they couldn't make agreement during the Obama administration.
The president wants tougher language or sanctions if Iran is conducting missile launches, and about Iran's alleged -- not alleged -- terror connections around the world, with Hamas, Hezbollah and others. The president says, Congress, send me legislation that toughens the U.S. approach to Iran. If Congress doesn't do that, the president says then he has power to terminate the deal and walk away.
Now, critics say the president is manufacturing this crisis, that it's not necessary, that Iran is largely in compliance with the deal. The president says that's not true.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: By his own terms the Iran deal was supposed to contribute to regional and international peace and security. And yet, while the United States adheres to our commitment under the deal, the Iranian regime continues to feel conflict, terror and turmoil throughout the Middle East and beyond. Importantly, Iran is not living up to the spirit of the deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Is it possible Congress can handle this cleanly? Cleanly? And send him something? Or are we going to have in 60 days, the president with another decision about whether to certify, as his secretary of state has recommended, as his secretary of defense has recommended, or walk away?
RAJU: It's going to be difficult to get anything through Congress. Is it possible? Anything is possible, yes. You need at least eight Democrats on board, that's if you get all Republicans in the Senate conference aligned.
You do have to start an early effort between Senator Bob Corker, Senator Tom Cotton to come to a consensus. They probably do represent a good sizeable chunk of the Senate Republican conference. But then you do have people like Senator Rand Paul who's very much not in that camp, so you may lose some votes on that part of the Republican conference.
And then what happens on the Democratic side -- and we're not even talking about the House, and they have their own internal issues, getting that through will be very difficult. It's going to require a lot of presidential leadership. The president will have to give cover to his own party. But it's going to be hard, John. Then what does the president do if Congress fails to stay in the deal or not?
KING: And fail or succeed, just the fact that they're doing this. The Iranians say, wait a minute, you can't unilateral -- this was an international agreement. The United States can't decide, we're going to change the terms or add terms to it. Number one, it's European allies essentially agreeing with that point.
There's a joint statement from Prime Minister May, President Macron, and Chancellor Merkel of Germany: We encourage the U.S. administration and Congress to consider the implications to the security of the United States and allies before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPOA, that's technically what they call the deal, such as re- imposing sanctions on Iran, lifted under the agreement.
And that's what the president is asking for. The president wants more power to sanction Iran. He also wants, and this part is a debate about the agreement since the beginning, you know, Iran support of Hezbollah, Hamas, other terror groups, Iran's destabilization in Syria, in Iraq and elsewhere.
But the Obama administration deliberately said, look, we can't get an agreement on that, we're going to set that over here and try to limit the nuclear program. [08:20:02] PHILLIP: Right. And I think they probably care and go
ahead and do some unilateral sanctions that are aimed at the nonnuclear program, that are aimed at funding of terrorist activities and all those other things.
I think the issue right now with Trump and Congress is that I think Congress can use this as an opportunity to really step in and manage Trump on the Iran deal essentially. I think that's kind of how this compromise decision was struck up. It kind of takes out of Trump's hands.
He didn't decertify the JCPOA and wreck the deal, like he wanted to on Friday. What he basically said was, hey, Congress, you guys can now improve upon it. If you improve upon it sufficiently to my liking, I won't pull out.
I think they might actually be able to do that. Or if they don't, then they have much bigger problems. I think it just gives them an opportunity to finally, you know, step in and resolve that problem and give Trump a little bit of a bone on an issue that he promised on the campaign trail and that he has truly -- I mean, it's important to say, he has not ended the Iran deal. He didn't break it up. He promised to do that and that's because there's no one in the executive branch right now who believes that Iran is actually defying the Iran deal and not meeting their obligation.
KING: To your point in that, it is a bit of a punt. He did promise during the campaign to rip it up. Chuck Schumer, the Democrat leader in the Senate, saying, you know, this is the POTUS M.O., failure to lead, he calls it. Throws destructive bones to his base and then tells Congress to fix, Iran, health care, Puerto Rico.
You had some fabulous reporting on this in the sense we know Secretary Mattis had to answer a question on Capitol Hill. He said he would prefer the president stay in the deal. Secretary Tillerson had said stay in the deal, that Iran -- I don't like Iran. I have issues with Iran, but they're living within the spirit of the agreement. You had some great reporting how Nikki Haley came to the president and was like, if you're going to do this, sir, let me help you.
JOHNSON: Right. The president made it very clear in July that he did not want to recertify this deal, and Secretary Mattis and Secretary Tillerson told him, look, you have not made a public case for decertification. And that's very important if you want to decertify.
And it was after that U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley came to him and said, I'll make the public case if you want to decertify. What's interesting to me about is so many of the president's aides and advisers are trying to check his impulses and keep him under control. And this was a case in which he had an adviser in Haley who came to him and said, let me channel your impulses and help you try to do what you want to do, lay the groundwork for it.
But what -- you know, I see shaping up in Congress, the question to me is does this become another health care fiasco where the vast majority of Republicans have campaigned against he deal, on undoing the deal, all the presidential candidates said that they will tear it up, the question was, will it be the first day or will it take time to negotiate? And I think Jeb Bush may have been the lone exception.
And so, I do think the question is, for Republican voters, will Congress follow through on that? And then as Manu said, you know, what happens if they don't?
KING: And a key player happens to be Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who has been channeling his impulses, to borrow a term, and having a very public fight with the president, calling the White House an adult day care, saying he's worried the president is leading the country into World War III.
And yet, here's what Bob Corker quoted in "The Washington Post", saying about Rex Tillerson, who the president has on several occasions undermined by tweeting others, says: You cannot publicly castrate -- yes, he said that -- you cannot publicly castrate your own secretary of state without giving yourself that binary choice. The tweets, yes, you can raise tension in the region. It's very irresponsible, but it's the first part, the castration of Tillerson that I'm most exercised about.
So, on the issue of the Iran deal, maybe the two can do some business, even though they're at odds with each other. But Senator Corker not quieting down, still airing his grievances with the president saying, sir, you don't know what you're doing or you don't know how to do your job.
BENDER: Yes, and this is raising the point here of Trump on one hand, wants to beat these members of Congress over the head, but on the other hand wants them to now take on the Iran deal, the Affordable Care Act, immigration with DACA, and I think he have some interest in tax reform, you know? To say nothing of their actual -- you know, the responsibilities they have to do to fund the government through past the end of the year.
So, it's hard to see where he gets any deals made, but on the other hand, he will continue to get points. I mean, it's easier to disrupt. It's easier to break things, but now, we'll see if -- how he's able to actually build support and build something else.
RAJU: And, John, all that, and there are fewer than 30 legislative days left in the congressional calendar this year.
KING: Now, that's -- it's an excellent point to make, because in Washington, that's how they dictate their lives, 38 days left in the congressional. People watching at home, who gets their kids to school, pay their mortgage, deal with other issues in their live, they think that's a bit of a false argument, shall say we say, about the Congress to be able to walk and chew gum, but very fun days ahead.
Ahead, all is not calm. The president's chief of staff says reports of West Wing turmoil are way overblown.
[08:25:03] But the president's top strategist says the GOP civil war, a former top strategist, says the GOP civil war is just beginning. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KING: Welcome back.
John Kelly is a calm, quiet man with a key job in Washington's least calm, least quiet place, the White House. The chief of staff, unlike the boss, doesn't thrive on attention. But he went very public this past week for a reason. Not only were there several news media reports suggesting more turmoil and tension at the administration's highest levels, there were also a lot of calls to the White House from White House allies worried the president seemed especially angry and erratic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY: I'd just offer to you that although I read it all the time pretty consistently, I'm not quitting today.
[08:29:55] I don't believe -- and I just talked to the President -- I don't think I'm being fired today. And I am not so frustrated in this job that I'm thinking of leaving.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: "Not to worry" is the message Kelly hoped to send right there. But there is turmoil in the White House and across the Republican Party. Calm is not on the horizon.
The President meets with the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell tomorrow Monday at a time efforts to pass the budget and tax cuts hang in the balance; a time for Republicans to stick together -- right?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: There's a time and season for everything. And right now it's a season of war against a GOP establishment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That's Breitbart's Steve Bannon, the President's former top strategist, his self-described wing man and no fan of Leader McConnell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BANNON: Like before the ides of March, right? The only question is, and this is just the analogy or metaphor or whatever you want to call it -- they're just looking to find out who is going to be Brutus to your Julius Caesar.
Yes Mitch -- the donors, the donors are not happy. They've all left you. We've cut your oxygen off -- Mitch, ok.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Et tu -- Eliana. It's just -- we want to make clear, this is just a metaphor. But, he means it and he's stirring up these primary challenges, this disaffection with Republican groups. He didn't start it but he's stirring it up at a higher level with Leader McConnell at a time we were just talking about.
The President just dumped Obamacare decisions on their lap again. They're trying to deal with the Iran deal, the President just put that; tax reform, a budget, immigration. Leader McConnell has a 52- 48, yes, he didn't repeal and replace Obamacare. It's his responsibility.
But what does this do to the town at a time the Republicans need -- don't they need to show they've done something this year?
ELIANA JOHNSON, POLITICO: You know, I think in many ways the power of Bannon and Breitbart is overstated but it's not nothing. And I do think that Bannon and Breitbart have given an infrastructure to something that was amorphous and sort of formless beforehand. And there is quite a lot of power to that.
And to the extent that Steve Bannon can go around the country, excuse me, and say to prospective candidates, not only is there a media outlet that will give you attention and fuel your campaign, but he's also got money in the form of mega donors, the Mercers. That does compel people to launch campaigns and that can be an enormous problem for the Republican establishment in 2018.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes. In a lot of ways, Bannon is certainly influential, certainly has the mega phone and now has potentially the funding as well to help these candidates.
But unlike in Alabama when there was an open seat, running against incumbents in the Senate Republican primaries is much more challenging because they -- those Republican incumbents themselves are better funded, typically better organized, they will have money from the outside.
Certainly there's still some big donors that are not giving as much money to the National Republican Senatorial Committee because they're frustrated at the failure of this Congress so far, but they still are going to have significant money.
That being said, though, because of these efforts, there is going to have to be more attention paid to these primaries that they wanted to ignore and they have the less attention, presumably, fewer resources spent in the states that Democrats hold, particularly the five red states, where Democratic senators are incumbents in which Republicans want to win those seats.
The question is the ultimate impact this may have on the Republican chances of holding majority or Democrats' chances of winning majority.
KING: And it's just -- it is proof, it is proof that, you know, Donald Trump is president of the United States. He rode this disruption, he rode this dissatisfaction. It's not over. And now the question is whether right now the President seems isolated but the voters don't blame him. Will they eventually? We don't know.
But listen to Steve Bannon's language. He's not saying, his plan's not conservative enough, he needs to do more. He's not saying, you know, act faster on legislation. He's saying this is war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BANNON: This is not my war. This is our war. And you all didn't start it. The establishment started it. But I will tell you one thing -- you all are going to finish it.
They fear you because they understand you've had a belly full of it and you're taking your country back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, the proof, as Eliana points out, will be next spring and into the fall. How do they do these primary campaigns? Do they knock off any Republican incumbents? Do they prove they can put results where their talk is, where they're talk of war is?
But the President is going to sit down with the majority leader tomorrow. We know they have an interesting relationship to begin with. At a time when the President's wing man is out there, and you're part of a reporting team that says the President has actually spoken to Steve Bannon of late, I've been saying on this program for a couple of weeks the President could stop this if he wanted to. He would just have to publicly say, Steve Bannon, stop.
MICHAEL BENDER, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Right.
KING: You say you support me. You say you're on my side. Stop. He hasn't done that.
BENDER: No. Well, you see, Bannon they're using Trump's language of, we didn't start it, you started it. Now, we're going to finish it.
This is what Trump identifies with. And yes -- and he's getting encouragement from the President. Not just talking with the President.
[08:34:58] He's getting encouragement for this kind of talk because what the President hears is support Trump. That's what he hears out of that.
BENDER: And what I don't think they're talking about is that the vast majority of senators that Bannon is talking about taking on are reliable votes for Trump, right.
We talk about the dysfunction of congress and the Senate can't get anything done. That's because -- of the map, it's so tight that a few opposition votes make every, you know, sort of magnifies that, you know -- those disagreements.
But Bannon is not talking about, you know, taking out a few of the no votes. He's talking about going after everyone.
KING: Every incumbent. I wish I could be at the McConnell meeting tomorrow, fly on the wall, serve the coffee -- whatever just to watch that one play out.
As this plays out at the same time we started by showing John Kelly, the chief of staff in the briefing room. He doesn't like to do public media. He talks to reporters sometimes. He doesn't like to be on camera. He doesn't like to be out there in public.
He came into the briefing room to try to say, listen, people, yes, sure, there's some frustration here. Sure there's some turmoil here, suggesting reporters need better sources. That it's not as blown up as some of these media accounts suggest.
But he also was asked, you know, about the President's tweets and the President since John Kelly has come on board has not stopped launching some pretty provocative tweets. John Kelly says, not my job.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY: I was not sent in to or brought in to control him. You should not measure my effectiveness as chief of staff by what you think I should be doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Don't tell me -- don't define my job for me. Thank you very much.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought that was so telling because, first of all, a lot of the stories that he was responding to were not only about the chaos more broadly but also about the chaos within the President's mind -- the anger, the frustration, the restlessness of the President himself.
And that is one thing that John Kelly did not refute. He did not go out there and say, you know, the President is really happy. He's focused. You know, things are going really well with him. He's satisfied.
In fact, he said the opposite. What he was talking about was, hey, I'm not responsible for that. I can't control that. It is what it is and that's not what I'm expending my energy on.
And I think that says a lot about what's really going on here. It may very well be true. He can't control the President but that's the dynamic that people like Bob Corker are talking about. People like Trump's friend, who -- Tom Barrack, who are coming out and saying, Mr. President, you have to rein it in.
That's what -- you know, that's what people are talking about. KING: We are a week short of nine months in the White House. Is
there anybody at this table who thinks the President is about to rein it in? Have we learned nothing? Have we learned nothing in nine months?
All right. Up next on that same subject, a most unpresidential tweet and then a civics lesson from Puerto Rico's governor.
[08:37:52] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KING: Welcome back.
Puerto Rico by the numbers -- 25 days now since Hurricane Maria made landfall. Food and fuel now widely available. You see 87 percent of grocery stores are open; 79 percent or about 80 percent of gas stations are operating. Communications are better but still spotty; 58 percent of land lines work on the island, only 40 percent of the cell phone towers are back on line. The biggest challenge remains power. Just over 14 percent of the island's electricity has been restored. Whatever your political views, this is anything but the President's finest hour.
No, the slow recovery is not all Washington's fault. And yes, island's infrastructure was a mess before the hurricanes hit.
But the President's tone is at times callous. Many think even worse. His team, for example, rushed into clean-up mode after this tweet Thursday. "A total lack of accountability," say the governor. "Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes. Congress should decide how much to spend. We cannot keep FEMA, the military and the first responders who have been amazing under the most difficult circumstances in Puerto Rico forever."
The President himself has cleaned that up after saying we'll be there with you. But his team had to rush out. The FEMA spokesperson had to rush out. Again it's true, when you're FEMA, when you're the military, as General Kelly said at the briefing, the second you get there, you're trying to get out meaning accomplish your mission and leave. Go from disaster relief to a longer term recovery.
But it's the President's tone more than anything. Why?
RAJU: And it wasn't just -- tweets have oftentimes been the story of this administration. They've really said that --
KING: It's what he thinks. It's what he thinks people are -- people often say don't focus on the tweets but it's the innermost -- it's what he thinks.
RAJU: It's actually what he said also publicly.
I mean his tone, even some of the comments that he made when he was in Puerto Rico itself, almost dismissing the impact suggesting that it's not as bad as Katrina, saying, oh, the death count isn't really that bad compared to Katrina. His tone has been off the --
PHILLIP: It's a good standard by which to measure.
KING: Is it just that he was criticized by the San Juan mayor? You know, when he's criticized, he has to push back?
PHILLIP: Not only by the mayor. I think the idea that he might not get an A-plus for the Puerto Rico recovery is galling to him. He doesn't like that at all.
And so the problem with the way that he's talked about Puerto Rico is that it's all about him. It's all about whether he gets the accolades. Everybody says that he did a really good job and his people do a really good job.
And I think maybe the problem is that he had two hurricanes before that that did go relatively smoothly where he was praised.
He had Republican governors who were right there alongside with him. He had strong, local and state partners. This time he doesn't have that.
And it doesn't seem that anyone has been able to get through to him that at moments like this, you have to actually -- you know, the message has to be, we're focused. We're not going to say it's done until it's done. That there are no pats on the back until people are up on their feet again.
He hasn't gotten that message. And frankly, he's fixated on the criticism and it's getting really deep under his skin.
[08:45:02] KING: You can say, I know it's not perfect but we're going to keep at it. People give you the grace for that. They understand how hard the challenge is.
But you mentioned the governor of Puerto Rico has been largely supportive of the President publicly saying, you know, the President takes my calls whenever. I asked for help, the President says he's trying to be (INAUDIBLE). And he's been largely supportive.
After the tweets saying, we might not be here forever. He felt compelled to tweet out, the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico are requesting the support that any of our fellow citizens will receive across our nation. Essentially saying, you know, if you live on the main land and don't think we're your brothers and sisters and fellow Americans, think again. That was pretty extraordinary.
BENDER: Yes. He's responding to the criticism here but he is also -- what we see from this administration is that he wants to find quick wins. Everything needs to be sort of in the moment and being able to chalk up a victory as soon as possible. And these things, to say nothing of Congress, disaster recovery is year's long process. You know, talk to the people in Florida who went through this. Katrina, I think FEMA was there for five years, right.
And this is a point that, you know, as the White House is trying to clean this up doesn't make. Yes, John Kelly says the goal is to be out of here as soon as we can. Well, this is not the kind of situation where you're going to have this kind of turn-around.
And frankly, I think the President had a point early on that disaster recovery in Puerto Rico is hard. It's harder to get these resources to an island more than to Florida or Texas where you had to deal with it.
He had a case to make where there were some real challenges they were dealing with. But instead it devolves into these Twitter fights which just raise questions about his motivation.
KING: Right. And he's not getting any. Plus Quinnipiac University poll not doing enough, 55 percent says not doing enough. Whether that's fair or not, that is public opinion and perception.
Our reporters share from their notebooks next. What do we make of President Trump's interesting choice of golf partners?
[08:46:54] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KING: For the last time around the INSIDE POLITICS table, ask our great reporters to help get you out ahead of the political news just around the corner, a little something from their notebooks.
PHILLIP: Well, sources close to the White House tell me this week that the President's decision to end these health care subsidies to insurers really came down to a desire to get Republicans and Democrats back to the table on health care. They want to revisit this hopefully after tax reform.
But they're coming under a lot of pressure. Insurers, consumer groups, even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce offered a letter to Congress, urging them to fund these subsidies and urging Trump to sign such a bill. But it's really not clear whether he would do that.
The White House said he doesn't want to sign a bill but just stabilizes the market but they won't say what he wants in exchange.
And that's going to be the key question. If he agrees to sign such a bill, he might be giving up that leverage. He might be giving up what he needs in order to get Republicans and Democrats to the table.
And it's not clear to me that the White House is really all that interested in funding the subsidies and some of these other stabilization methods or if what they really want is to force everybody to do something before the insurance marketplace goes off a cliff. KING: I'm not sure anybody can show me a day on the calendar that is
after tax reform. We'll see if that one happens.
BENDER: A little bit more on the Steve Bannon and Trump relationship. In addition to the call that the Washington reported on Friday, I understand that the President and his former chief strategist have been in contact at least three times over the past week.
If this trend continues, we'll see some fallout. These two guys feed off of each other's combustible energy and that will leave John Kelly and Mitch McConnell to pick up the pieces.
KING: You make the case Bannon is having more influence now that he's outside of the White House than he had maybe when he was in the White House.
RAJU: John -- there's a small but vocal contingent within the House Democratic Caucus that want to see Nancy Pelosi gone as Democratic leader. That got a boost earlier this month with Linda Sanchez, who's a member of the Democratic leadership in the House, who said that it's time for her and her top lieutenants to go.
But late last week she got a bit of a boost. The Congressional Black Caucus chairman Cedric Richmond told me that he supports seeing Pelosi stay as leader. He thinks that they can get back to majority with her as leader.
He said, quote, "The good outweighs the bad" with her in terms of her liabilities and they should talk about the positive things that she has done when Republicans tried to demonize her by talking about the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
Now this is significant because Richmond actually attended a meeting with some of these anti-Pelosi detractors within the caucus earlier this year. And it was rally unclear where he stood. But he's concerned about a distraction within the party if there are increasing calls for her to go.
However John -- winning and losing could change everything if they do not get back to the majority next year, calls for her to go will grow even louder.
KING: It's not just the Republicans who have these internal family issues, shall we say.
JOHNSON: Piggybacking on Michael's comments on Steve Bannon and the President and their communication, we saw Steve Bannon give remarks at the Values Voter Summit earlier this week. The most interesting of those remarks, I thought, were his comments that the White House was planning to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and that they were planning to go ahead and move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
These are things that White House aides say the President has no intention of doing. And I think we're going to increasingly see Steve Bannon not only backing anti-establishment candidates, that's predictable but pushing his own agenda from outside the White House that's a policy agenda, not merely a political agenda. And that puts him at odds with the White House.
And it will be interesting to see how that dynamic plays out between him and the President and if they start butting heads.
KING: Butting heads. Not the wingman, that's what he calls himself.
I'll close with this. Forget strange bedfellows, politics also make strange golf buddies.
[08:55:03] Rand Paul once said a speck of dirt was more qualified to be president than Donald Trump. Trump in turn called Senator Paul a spoiled brat. They have another tee time today.
Yesterday's presidential golf partner, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina for the second time in a week. Graham's also on record saying the President isn't up to the job. In return the President, among other things, called Senator Graham a nut job.
Both senators are known to enjoy media attention and both tell aides and friends they believe by spending time with the President, they can influence him because they say they don't believe he has firmly-held policy views. Like time, golf apparently heals all wounds.
That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Again, thanks for sharing your Sunday morning. Hope you can catch us week days as well. We're here at noon Eastern.
Up next, "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JAKE TAPPER".
Have a great Sunday.
[08:55:47] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)