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Republicans Face Critical Test In Ohio Ahead Of Midterms; Trump Team Expected To Respond To Mueller In Coming Days; DHS At Risk Of Wasting Billions On Border Wall. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 06, 2018 - 12:30   ET



[12:30:00] GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Millennials, you have it very close. I asked them the other day, why are you bringing Trump in? He said, well, I don't have anything to do with it. So, look, I think he's trying to thread this needle.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: If Republicans lose a district that is considered by most analysts plus seven, plus eight Republic -- you know, for Republicans, the last Republican won it by 30-plus points.

If it's even close, what does that tell us about the mood from now through November and the likelihood of a Democratic takeover of the House?

JULIE BYKOWICZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORT, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: It's just another data point potentially in the democratic enthusiasm that has shown up in numerous other special elections.

And from what we can see in fundraising from Democratic candidates, there's real enthusiasm out there. It's been consistent. It seems like even if you just look at the early voting in this particular district, there is some evidence that Democrats are casting votes early in ways they hadn't previously.

So, I think it's going to be a really interesting data point in sort of the overall special election and trending towards November as well.

KING: And so, the President goes out in the final days, and he makes the case -- he doesn't acknowledge that some people don't like him. But when he does make the case is that never mind me. If you elect this Democrat, then the Democrats might take the House back and then you'll get Nancy Pelosi. And then, you get higher taxes.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Pelosi, who by the way again controls Danny O'Connor, whoever the hell that is but you know. Danny O'Connor, that's a beauty. He's another beauty. This is what we're fighting. They will take away your taxes. They will destroy so many things that we've given. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Danny O'Connor would be the Democratic candidate against Troy Balderson.

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSIOCIATED PRESS: Probably did some good for his name recognition there.

KING: Yes, yes.

SAHIL KAPURM, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Yes. It's decent for Democrats if they come closer here, but it's a five-alarm fire for Republicans if they end up losing this district.

The Republican incumbent here, Pat Tiberi, has won this district by an average of 35 points since it was redrawn after 2010. The bigger implications are what's fascinating here. This is a very college educated district, one of the most in Ohio. I think the most in Ohio.

And if Republicans cannot hold on to this, what does it mean for someone like Peter Roskam in Illinois, someone like Dana Rohrabacher in Orange County who are also in these upper income, suburban college educated districts where a lot of voters especially women are turned off by Trump .

KING: And if you look just in the last days, there's been all the Republicans have gone out. Again, this tells you all you need to know. You could say, gee, these are just being good loyal Republicans, or you could say, wait a minute, why are they going to -- why do you have to send the President, the vice president, the house speaker, the Republican government of the state, the senior senator from the state, Rob Portman, and the President's son, Donald Trump Jr.

Why do you need to send all this and more essentially? Why do you have to send the fire department into a district that should be a cakewalk?

PACE: Well, every time we have these special elections, we always caution that it is true. You don't want to read too much into one special election.

But Julie's point, we have now had enough of these special elections and enough of these primaries over this year that you do start to see a trend. And Republicans are worried.

They know that Trump has 80%, let's say, approval rating with among GOP voters, but there is this soft 20%. And they tend to be college- educated younger voters. If that 20% starts to fall apart, it is a really difficult midterm landscape for the GOP.

KING: Right. Especially, if all the Dem -- if Democrats coming out of the woodwork too. Democrats --

PACE: Exactly.

KING: -- come out. The Republicans either aren't voting or may be going to steps. Look at the especially the money, the resources here.

Again, tells you all you need to know. This is a safe Republican district. Look at all the money the Republican parties and Republican groups are pouring into this district. You just look at that and say, I know they got a problem.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, and I think, in addition to everything else that folks have said here. I think there's implications for Trump's mood. You know, when he loses these -- if he loses, right? Like if they lose here, despite him going in there.

I was with him for the 78 minutes or whatever that he spoke in Ohio on Saturday night, you know, it has the potential to just really make him angry. And his anger tends to build and then, you sort of -- he gets less disciplined, and you can imagine the kinds of things that he tweets and the things he says, and statements and the like.

So, I think, you know, it's sort of in addition to the politics on the ground, kind of getting into his head. It's not going to be a good place.

BYKOWICKZ: Maybe he'll rethink the strategy that they've been talking about of getting him out there so much during midterms as we get closer and closer to the election. They were talking about plans to have him traveling all over the place and talking all the time.

SHEAR: And this would be a place that you'd want to put him. But if that doesn't work then --

KAPUR: But it's a bifurcated strategy. On one hand, they are trying to appeal to the Trump voter. That is the majority of the Republican voters trying to supercharge with that vote. But also appeal to what they call the Kasich Republican, the moderate Republican. He talked a little bit about that in the clip you played.

So my question is, can you bifurcate that? Can you bring Trump in? Can you bring Pence in? Do this, you know, this very red meat crime open boarder, (inaudible) resisting message, while also not turning off those exact voters that you're also trying to appeal to because they hold the balance.

PACE: The soft 20. But also -- but then energizing Democrats.

KING: Right.

PACE: I mean, Trump comes in and you can energize Democrats as well. Who say, hey, like this is our chance to stop him.

[12:35:00] Look, not just -- what it would do for the agenda, but impeachment obviously is something that gone by the minds and the lips of a lot of Democrats right now.

KING: Yes. And I think a lot of House Republican incumbents are going to say, go play in the Senate races, with Mr. President.

PACE: Yes.

KING: If this one goes down just like please stay away from me.

Up next for us here, new, this just in, Rudy Giuliani just gave CNN an update on when the President Trump's legal team will get back to Robert Mueller. You heard this story before?


KING: Welcome back. An important update on the President's legal strategy when it comes to the special counsel investigation. The President's attorney Rudy Giuliani just telling CNN the White House should have its response to Mueller's request for an interview within a day or so.

[12:40:03] The two sides have been negotiating the terms of a potential interview between Mueller and the President. Those negotiations have gone on for months now.

Giuliani recently suggesting the President and his legal team would make a final decision soon. Other sources now cautioning us the pending response could be just another counteroffer. Now, the final yes or no to the special counsel still it is significant, especially if you go back to where we began the hour.

And if we watch the President the last 7,200 hours or so, he's always attacking Bob Mueller. But with extra bigger in the 7,200 hours or so, in particularly now saying yes, the Trump Tower meeting was about dirt from Hillary Clinton, from Russians. And then, there's the question about the Air Force One call and we know Mueller that wants to talk about obstruction, impeding the investigation.

I guess, I have to add the caveat before I yield the floor that Giuliani has said before we're close to a decision, and then weeks later we're still close to a decision.

PACE: Well, and part of the reason that we see the timeline shifting is because you do have this divide between the President and his attorneys. The President is very sensitive to any perception that he is trying to avoid answering questions about all of the merit of things that Mueller is looking at.

His attorneys would like him to avoid some of these questions, in part because of the changing statements. So, you've had this back and forth not just between Mueller and the White House but between Trump and his own legal team.

KING: And Mueller based on our reporting has said, no, I need to interview the President. Giuliani's response is you can talk about the campaign. You can't talk about any action digressing. Mueller said no. I need to talk to him about potential obstruction of justice, what he knew about the Comey firing? What he knows about that air Force One conversation with Don Jr. et cetera.

But we'll do some things in writing. He's the President of the United States, I get it. So, the Mueller team has tried to present itself as reasonable, but we have to do some stuff. At what point -- what point do they just have to make a decision or do they have to make a decision?

BYKOWICZ: It does feel like we're very close to that point in time. And it's hard to read the tea leaves on these things. But if you do look at the tweets, it seems in some ways like the President is setting the stage for not cooperating with the probe at this point.

All of the talk of the 17 angry Democrat and just really building up the language against the probe. We'll see what happens with it.

KAPUR: And to the President's state of mind, I think it's fascinating that over the last week or so the White House Press Secretary has said the President believes Manafort was treated unfairly. The president has conveyed that himself.

Two other people that the President thought were treated unfairly, Joe Arpaio, quote, very unfairly treated. Dinesh D'Sousa untreated -- unfairly treated by the government. They both got pardons. It raises the question, at least in my mind that does Manafort think his end game, his way out of this is ultimately clemency.

KING: Right. And another way, the President's team has also upped its attacks on the credibility of the Mueller investigation. However, I would just add to that, you can do that on television or you could do it in a place called court of law. And every time that's been done in a court of law, Mueller has won. That's why Manafort have trial at the moment.

When we come back, another tweet from the President endorsing another Republican candidate. This one who shares his views that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election.


[12:47:07] KING: Welcome back. Topping our political radar today, Senator Rand Paul in Moscow, apparently doing some diplomacy of his own as a follow-up to the recent Trump-Putin summit. The Kentucky Republican meeting with Russian lawmakers asked if election meddling came up. He deflected that dialogue is the key to relations between the two countries. Senator Paul also says he's invited some of those Russian lawmakers to visit Washington for more discussions.

President Trump weighing in on the Kansas governor's race a day before the Republican primary there. He tweeted his support today for the Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach. Mr. Kobach is a fantastic guy, the President said, who loves his state and our country. He'll be a great governor as my full and total endorsement.

The New York Times reporting, though, that Republican leadership was hoping the President would stay out of this race, saying he could actually increase the Democrats odds of taking the governor's mansion.

A new government watchdog reports that the Trump administration haste with the border wall could waste billions in taxpayer dollars. The GAO spells out its concerns in a new report just obtained by CNN. CNN's Alex Marquardt, looking in to this report. Alex, what's it say?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we should also note that the Government Accountability Office is a nonpartisan watchdog that reports to Congress.

And in this report that came out just around an hour ago, they say that the Department of Homeland Security, which has been tasked with building this wall and specifically its subsidiary, the CBP or the customs and border protection, is proceeding without key information on cost.

And as a result, they risk wasting some of the billions of dollars that have been allocated for this project. They say that CBP is looking at different infrastructure, looking at different locations without taking into consideration the cost. And they're also ignoring some of the previous assets that are there, parts of the fence along that border that are already there, specifically in the Rio Grande Valley. And as a result, some of those billions of dollars risk being wasted.

John, I want to read part of the conclusion in this 50-page report put out by the GAO today. It reads, DHS faces an increased risk that the border wall system program will cost more than projected, take longer than planned, or not fully perform as expected. Without assessing costs when prioritizing locations for future barriers, CBP does not have complete information to determine whether it is using its limited resources in the most cost effective manner and does not have important cost information that would help it develop future budget requests.

So, John, essentially the GAO is saying that if you're going to spend this money, spend it correctly and spend it wisely. John?

KING: Think it through first maybe. Alex Marquardt, great reporting. Appreciate that. We'll see if this report comes up when the President and Congress have to debate a new spending plan reported law funding is a big deal.

Up next for us, the President says he deserves some bragging rights if you look at his record compared to President Obama's at this point.

[12:50:02] We'll show you the fact check, number by number. We'll break them down. Stay with us.


KING: Welcome back. Midterm elections tend to be about one thing, the President. Now, President Trump says he deserves bragging rights for his record, especially if you compare it to his predecessor, sharing this one tweet that looks at him and President Obama.

Here's the tweet. "Presidential approval numbers, very good, strong economy, military and just about everything else, better numbers than Obama at this point by far. We are winning on just about every front, and for that reason, there will not be a blue wave, but there might be a red wave." [12:55:08] That's what the President says on Twitter.

Here's a side-by-side comparison of some of the numbers at the same point in their presidency and guess what? President Trump is right, especially on the economics.

Remember the times. President Trump took office at a time the economy was booming. President Obama took office in a recession, after a financial crisis when the economy was tanking. But look, job approval, if you look at the margin of error in the gala pulled President Obama was a little above, but they're roughly the same. Roughly the same, President Trump a little below.

The unemployment rate, President Trump does deserve bragging rights. Again, consider the times though. Jobs added versus jobs lost, we were still deep in the recession when President Obama took over. The deficit, a lot of Republicans don't like the deficits under President Trump but again, higher under Obama at that point.

And the Obama administration in economic growth, certainly, again, we were just trying to crawl out of the recession there. President Trump has ever right to be happy about 4.1% GDP in the last quarter.

That is why when the President is on the campaign trail, even though Republican are so pessimistic, he says look at the numbers. Why aren't we doing better?


TRUMP: I purposely didn't mention the kind of numbers that we're achieving because I didn't want to be accused of exaggeration. If I would have said 4.1% GDP, they would have -- it would have been major headlines. By the way, it's going a lot higher. You can mark my words.

You know, if I get the trade deficits down, they never tell you this, if I get the trade deficits down, bring them down. If I bring the trade deficits down, we could pick up three and four points in GDP. Nobody says that. Nobody says that.


KING: Now, again, the direct comparison to the Obama numbers is unfair in some ways, just because of the times. So, President Obama took office when the country was in a ditch. President Trump took office, Republicans they can take credit for their tax cuts and deregulation, but the economy was already doing that when he took office.

But he does have a point in the sense that why is the political outlook for Republicans so bleak when you do have 4% growth last quarter? You do have a strong economy. You do have, you know, record low unemployment. Why so bleak?

PACE: I think one of the reasons is that Trump has been unable to keep the focus on the economy. KING: Right.

PACE: If he were able to just stay singularly focused on the economy, which is quite strong at this point, I think you might see Republicans in a different position. But instead, it's Trump himself that keeps muddying the waters there.

And then, the second piece of it for Republicans looking out, even past the midterms, is the worry about the impact of the tariffs, of the trade policies, that it will take an economy that should have the party in a pretty strong position and send it in the opposite direction. And there's really nobody else to blame in that situation but Trump himself.

KAPUR: Yes. To the extent that President Trump has high approval among some groups of people, it's because he scores really well on the economy. President Obama did not have that luxury.

Now, the Gallup numbers at the time showed that President Obama around this point in his presidency was in his mid-40s in approval.

President Trump right now is in his low 40s. Not a big difference. The one area where President Trump clearly exceeds Barack Obama at this point was an intra-party approval. Obama had sunk to about 75% on average at this point in his presidency. President Trump is about mid-80s right now.

One recent poll showed him at 88%, which is the highest of any president on an intra-party level since the '50s with the one exception of Bush post-9/11. That's a pretty remarkable thing.

KING: It is pretty remarkable. But what you get and what Republicans would tell you is, they try to sell the economy. And in suburban areas especially, like the district is up tomorrow, the President is personally toxic and they can't breakthrough.

They can't get through the personal drag of the President of the United States. He said let's listen to him a little more. This is Saturday in Ohio. He says there's not going to be a blue wave, trust me. Of course, most Republicans don't.


TRUMP: They're talking about this blue wave. I don't think so. I don't think so. If the Democrats get in, they're going to raise your taxes. You're going to have crime all over the place. You're going to have people pouring across the border.

So, why would that be a blue wave? I think it would be a red wave. I'll tell you what, really, I think it should be a red wave.


KING: Is there anybody, anybody you talk to smart about politics that tells you there's going to be a red wave? SHEAR: You know, the President's always in the run up to an election,

even when they sort of instinctively know they're going to lose that election or are likely to, they never give in. Obama didn't give in either in the run up to the 2010 midterms when in his words afterwards they got shellacked.

But this president in particular has really, I think, a way of living inside his own bubble, inside the Fox News bubble that, you know, he and his supporters live in. Until you do get the sense that he just doesn't quite understand the level of kind of the enthusiasm on the other side and the frustration that is going to likely contribute to problems for them in the fall.

BYKOWICZ: Well, but the economic message is so strong for Republicans that it is confusing that the President keeps kind of changing topics. Just look at that tweet about LeBron James right?

KING: Right.

BYKOWICZ: Before going to Ohio. What a random thing to tweet about.

KING: They're going to Ohio, yes, uh-huh. That's why Republicans love him so. Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS.

See you back here at this time tomorrow, Will starts right now. Have a great day.