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INSIDE POLITICS

New Version of Travel Order; Aggressive Immigration Policies; Pence to Reassure European Allies; Russia Held Accountable; Mattis Contradicts Trump; Trump's Sweden Remark. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 20, 2017 - 12:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:00:13:] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your President's Day with us.

President Trump spending the day in Florida. One month on the job, in his view, so far, so good.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You want a government that keeps its promises, a great spirit of optimism and sweeping. And you see it. It's sweeping all across the country. Look at what's happening to the stock market. Look at what's happening to every poll when it comes to optimism in our country. It's sweeping across the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: An upbeat president there. But key allies offer a less rosy take. They're worried the new American president doesn't care much for the European Union and the NATO alliance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TUSK, PRES., EUROPEAN COUNCIL: Too much has happened over the past months in your country, and in the E.U. Too many new and sometimes surprising opinions have been voiced over this time about our relations and our common security for us to pretend that everything is as it used to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Plus, the White House promises take two on a travel ban this week absent the mistakes that helped the first try get blocked in court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: The president is contemplating releasing a tighter, more streamlined version of the first deal, and we will have this time opportunity - I will have opportunity to work a roll-out plan, in particular to make sure that there's no one in a sense caught in the - in the system of moving from overseas to our airports, which happened on the first release. So that's where we are on that, David.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So people who have valid visas will be allowed to enter, people who have green cards will be allowed to enter, I'm assuming.

KELLY: Yes, it's a good assumption and as far as the visas go, again, if they're in motion from some distant land to the United States when they arrive, they will be allowed in. That said, we will have a short phase-in period to make sure that people on the other end don't get on airplanes. But if they're on an airplane and inbound, they'll be allowed to enter the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With us to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Nia- Malika Henderson, CNN's Phil Mattingly, Reid Wilson of "The Hill" and CNN's Manu Raju.

Sorry, Reid, you're the odd man out today. We've got a CNN crew up here.

President Trump spending most of his day this holiday in Palm Beach, due back in D.C. tonight for an abbreviated but very busy workweek, promising that revised travel ban you just heard Secretary Kelly talking about it there. Also we expect this week the president's choice to replace his fired national security advisor. Those two big stumbles have scarred the early days of the Trump presidency. But if you listen to the president at that big rally Saturday in Florida, he thinks the big picture is overwhelmingly positive.

So let's pick up there. It's interesting. The president at that rally beating the media up. We'll get to some of that - specifics of that in a minute. But if you listen there to Secretary Kelly at the conference, he talks about one of the things we'll be able to do this time is work on a roll-out plan. He's quite candid, quite candid that they blew it the first time.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, and in last week's press conference, if you recall, Trump said this went perfectly. He said the roll-out went perfectly. It went very smoothly. Obviously, almost everybody disagrees with that, including his own party, including his own homeland security secretary. But it really goes to show the larger issue, that a lot of Trump surrogates and administration officials say things that flatly contradict the views and the rhetoric of the president. So who are they - who are people to believe, what his administration is saying or what the president himself is saying?

REID WILSON, "THE HILL": This is clearly a White House that has no problem delivering two separate messages at the same time. On the one hand, this president inherited a mess. On the other hand, Mike Pence, in Brussels this weekend, talking about the U.S. government still being aligned with NATO and still seeing NATO as an important ally. And this is - you know, this is - this is going to be a struggle going forward for a president who clearly has not mastered the art of diplomatic speak yet and may not understand the - just how much weight his words carry.

KING: We come back to the revised rollout. It's important for the administration, number one. The president can say everything went perfectly, which he did say, his own people, whichever agency you want to talk to, say it didn't. But when you walk the halls on Capitol Hill, this is a lot, as the Republicans, while they're trying to be polite in public words, a little nervous about the early days of the administration and can they get these things right?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. And I think the most interesting element of the revised order coming out is just that it's an acknowledgment that it didn't go well, right?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Right.

MATTINGLY: Which is what everybody on Capitol Hill said. But what you heard more from Republicans was, look, if they took the time with this, there are elements throughout the initial executive order that the vast majority of Republicans on Capitol Hill agreed with. If you fix up the green card error, if you fix up the special immigration visas, most Republicans would be OK with this. It was the roll-out. It's the way the procedure went that upset so many people. Why couldn't they have just waited? They were going to end up in the same exact place without the court fight, without every - all the kind of apprehension on Capitol Hill. We're all ending up in the same place right now. Why can't they fix this?

[12:05:18] I think everybody on Capitol Hill understands that President Trump is going to say things that will be unsettling and that they might not appreciate. But the fact that they have to be the ones to answer for this, the agency heads have to be the ones that answer for this, that's where the problems lie right now. And I think the big question is, will they learn from this or are they going to continue with this posture going forward? And I don't think there's an answer to that yet.

KING: Right, and he wants to get things done right out of the box, to show action out of the box. That's understandable. He get - he's a chief executive. That's how he ran his business. But the - to Phil's point, I think it's the staff issues saying, sir, let's wait a couple of days. Let's run this through the lawyers. Maybe we should give Secretary Kelly a heads up before we blindside his agency.

HENDERSON: That's right. And then Kelly essentially having to go out and take the blame for some of it in those days following all of this - the disruptions at the airport, the protests at the airport. Republicans are trying to have it kind of this formulation about don't pay attention to what President Trump says, pay attention to what he does. But oftentimes it's the same thing. I mean a president often is what he says. And sending a message around the world on any number of things, whether it's NATO, or whether it's the Russian/U.S. alliance.

Striking, I think, on Saturday to have on the one hand Pence saying that the U.S. is all about NATO and supporting NATO and that's what Trump told him to say, and then Trump on Saturday also saying he's a big fan of NATO, but which is very different than full-throated support.

KING: Right. The but, and we'll get to some of that in a minute, too, because Pence is doing this on the world stage. He's in Europe doing this. You saw at the beginning of the show, the president of the European Union kind of looking at Pence as he delivers a tough message.

HENDERSON: Yes. Yes.

KING: I mean you. I mean you. I mean you and your boss.

Let's come back to the travel ban roll-out and this other immigration policy changes we've seen in the early days of the administration because as we wait for travel ban number two, number one, you heard secretary Kelly at the top of the show saying it will take care of the green. There won't be confusion. If you have a green card, if you have legal status, you'll be allowed to get back in the United States.

Secretary Mattis has been saying they'll take care of those who serve with the Americans overseas. A lot of the translators in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere who then need to come to the United States because they're not safe at home.

HENDERSON: Right.

KING: If they stay in their countries after working with the United States, they become targets of ISIS and other terror groups. They'll be taken care of.

But as this plays out and we wait for the travel ban, we're also seeing expanded enforcement here, just immigration policy, not the travel ban, expedited deportations. People get taken into custody in the old days you might wait, you get held, you might get a hearing. Calls for prosecuting parents who brought their children here illegally. That's a tough - it doesn't deal, though, with the dreamer issue, which a lot of conservatives have said, Mr. President, you campaigned on this. You said you would issue an executive order reversing the Obama executive order. But let's walk through this on Presidents' Day. You're going to see protests around the country today starting this hour. People saying it's not my Presidents' Day. This immigration debate has a lot to do with that.

HENDERSON: Yes, it does. And you've seen a lot of groups, whether it's Latinos, I mean progressives across the aisle, talking about this, and it's very much galvanizing that side. The dreamers piece of it I think is going to, in some ways, get him in trouble with those conservatives, particularly, you know, sort of the talk radio set of conservatives. But this is something he's recently telegraphed. He said recently that the dreamer part is very hard for him. He's got a heart and that he feels for some of these kids who have come over through no fault of their own. So you wonder if this is some kind of balancing - sort of the law and order part of the party and the compassionate conservative part as well with the dreamers (INAUDIBLE) conservative part.

RAJU: And, remember, Trump sent mixed messages about this throughout the campaign.

KING: Right.

RAJU: First, he was signaling there would be some sort of deportation force.

HENDERSON: Yes.

RAJU: And then he walked back whether to actually deport the 11 million people here illegally. Then they said they would just deal with the people who were criminals and committed felonies and those are the folks they were going to focus on. And now he's suggesting maybe they won't deal with those dreamers, but they could deal with the parents of the people who are here, children who are here legally, but the parents maybe illegally here. So they're not necessarily felons per se, but if he breaks up some of those families, it's going to create a lot of really ugly stories and create a lot of outrage throughout the country.

WILSON: We're going to see a lot of conflict between other levels of government and the federal government, just as states like Texas and Oklahoma spent the last eight years suing the Obama administration. Now we're going to see a lot of states led by Democrats and cities and counties suing Republicans. Just over the weekend, we saw Maricopa County, which formerly had Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the hardest line anti- immigrant sheriff there was in the country, he lost his re-election race last time. The guy who replaced him just said the state - the county is no longer going to comply with ICE detention requests. So this is - this is going to filter through the legal system. Just because they lost the first round on the executive order in the courts does not mean that the lawyers are going to go away any time soon.

KING: All right, but if he's tough - this - help me with the balance because if you talk to, you know, the congressman from Iowa, Steve King, was on the radio. You had an interview I think with Mo Brooks a little while back from Alabama, if I have my geography right, saying, come on, Mr. President, you campaigned on this, be tougher. But if they're doing more deportations, if the president's saying we're going to push forward on the wall, and if he does strike a more compassionate balance -

[12:1013] HENDERSON: Yes.

KING: But he's tougher overall -

HENDERSON: This is - I think this is -

KING: You think he's going to get blowback or do you think that - that's the - the sweet spot?

HENDERSON: No, I think this is great for - great for his base. I mean, you're right, the wall was probably not going to be a wall. It looks like it might be a fence at this point. It's probably not going to cover the entire border. Paul Ryan, as you reported, is going to go down there and survey that. But, yes, I mean, you're - when you see the visuals on TV, as we've been showing them, of people being taken into custody and eventually deported, people - a lot of people like that. It's a - it's a - it's a campaign promise that he's making good on.

WILSON: It underscores too that there is a division within the Republican Party.

HENDERSON: Yes.

WILSON: And that Donald Trump's base does not equal the Republican base. There - you know, there was a story in "The Times" over the weekend about Kevin McCarthy, congressman from California, the House majority leader whose district is heavily agriculture and depends on a lot of seasonal workers and immigrants, many of whom are not here legally, to, you know, harvest the crops that they need to. So there is going to be this division between sort of the Trump base of the Republican Party and the Chamber of Commerce base of - no, I should say, the Trump base of conservative voters and the Chamber of Commerce part of the Republican Party that doesn't necessarily agree, and that's going to be a really complicated, political dance for them to do.

MATTINGLY: Yes, I think finding the sweet spot is kind of the key here, right?

HENDERSON: Yes.

MATTINGLY: And that's what they're trying to do. This is what I campaigned on. I'm doing everything on immigration I said I was going to do. But I also recognize the political reality of the dreamer situation. I think it's been fascinating to watch over the last couple of weeks as it has dawned upon the president and it's very clear that his team is also recognizing that this is a very dangerous road to go down. Not because you're going to upset the Hispanic community or that you're going to upset progressives, but that you're going to really upset members of your party, crucial allies on Capitol Hill right here, and that's why you're seeing them try and kind of have it both ways here. Hedge a little bit.

Will there be blowback on the dreamers issue from parts of the conservative - or elements of the conservative part of the party? No question about it. That's happening. But I think their hope is in how they're rolling out this new plan or these new orders from Secretary Kelly is that they try and check all of the boxes there, while not lighting this new fuse that could blow up in their face.

RAJU: And, remember, John, -

KING: A little bit of blowback might actually help the president.

RAJU: And, remember, though, Obama got a lot of blowback for the deportation under his -

KING: Yes. Right. HENDERSON: Yes, deporter-in-chief, yes.

RAJU: Deporter-in-chief. A lot of Hispanic lawmakers criticized him for that.

KING: Right.

All right, everybody, sit tight. A lot more to talk about, including the president's criticism of us.

Up next, though, European allies like what they hear from the vice president, but they wonder if he really speaks for the boss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:16:38] KING: Welcome back.

Vice President Pence spent the weekend meeting with European allies, offering assurances about the U.S. commitment to NATO and condemning recent actions by Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Be assured, the United States as well will continue to hold Russia accountable, even as we search for new common ground, which President Trump firmly believes can be found.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, those words were welcomed by European allies, but other American participants at the Munich Security Conference noticed a trend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Is what they're saying is, we can hear from the vice president, we can hear from General Mattis, we can hear from General Kelly, but we're not sure about the president.

REP. ADAM SHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: There's a lot of concern here about just who speaks for the administration and certainly even when things - when the vice president or others say the right things, they wonder, does the president stand behind this?

When he talked about American commitment to NATO, when he talked about the commitment to Europe, I think there's still profound questions about whether he is in those cases really speaking for the president or speaking for himself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: This can be amusing sometimes. You know, as when the president says something and then somebody who works for the president says something quite different. Sometimes it's amusing. But to the European allies it's not amuse because they're - what happens if Putin rolls, you know, further into Ukraine? What happens if the fighting in Ukraine escalates? What happens to the Iranian sanctions? Pick your world crisis and people say, well, if the president says one thing and the vice president says something else, then the secretary of defense comes in, who are we supposed to listen to?

WILSON: And we saw three members of the administration over the last couple of days, Secretary of State Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Mattis, and now Vice President Pence, all making the point that we still stand with Europe. And the fact is, they have to make these points. And Mike Pence has to stand up there and say, we will still hold Russia accountable. These are not things that would have had to have been said under any other administration. It sort of underscores just how much the president has shaken up not only D.C. but international affairs as well.

HENDERSON: Yes, and -

RAJU: And it's just spawning a lot of confusion on a variety of issues. I mean even last week when Trump said that is it a one - I can be open to a one-state or two-state solution, whatever both parties work in the Israeli-Palestinian - whatever each side wants. And then the next day Nikki Haley, the U.N. ambassador, comes out and says, we still believe in a two-state solution. So when you actually get down to the negotiations, who are the parties involved listening to, the president, or the U.N. ambassador, his people? It creates - it's going to create some real issues when they just have to start making these big decisions on that or on Russia - lifting Russia sanctions or if Russia is more aggressive in the region and NATO wants to react pretty aggressively, what does Donald Trump do? I don't think anyone knows.

HENDERSON: Yes, and into that gap you have Russia, an emboldened Russia. Lavrov saying over this weekend that there's a post-west world upon us. And so it is confusing I think for a lot of these allies. Puskov (ph), the Russian senator, also saying there are three different lines out of this White House, Trump and Mattis on one hand and just confusion as to what to do. So at some point I think everyone is looking - and I think Lindsey Graham said this -

KING: Right.

HENDERSON: Looking for Donald Trump - some leadership, right? I mean this is why he wanted to be president, presumably, to set the tone, to set policy and set whatever sort of world view that he thinks the United States should follow. But yet you've got all of his - his - his sort of aides saying one thing and him saying something different.

[12:20:07] MATTINGLY: I've always been struck by, you know, the idea that the president won this election because he was candid, because he said what he felt, because he kind of shut off the cuff or whatever he wanted to do. And we've all been trying to identify, OK, where do the words actually matter, right, because he hasn't lost on anything with - based on how he's been going up to this point. The last 18 months.

This is where words matter. It matters to allies. But it also matters - I've been struck talking to foreign service officers, talking to national security committee staff that they don't know how to make policy based on what the president is saying right now. And, sure, while the vice president might say something or secretary of defense, secretary of state might say something, how are you drafting policy? Whatever our posture is on any specific issue, if you can't figure out where the president is on said issue - and that's been the confusion right now, where do words matter on policy issues, on foreign policy? They matter a tremendous amount. They don't just matter because Germany is unsettled or Ukraine is unsettled. It matters because your own staff, behind the scenes, trying to create briefing documents, trying to give you pathways forward for your administration's posture or policy, unsure where to actually go with it.

KING: That's a key point because the president thinks if you're unsettled it helps him in a negotiation.

MATTINGLY: Right.

KING: He's got to cut a deal. He wants you to be a little bit off your game and a little bit rattled by what he's doing -

HENDERSON: Right.

KING: Because then he thinks he negotiates better. When you're setting policy, you need to have some benchmarks. Here's one for you. We always say, who's telling the truth here, or who speaks to the administration? Is it the president or is it the secretaries, the vice president, the defense secretary, former general James Mattis who's in Iraq? Remember during the campaign, the president repeatedly said we should have kept their oil. He said, we shouldn't have got into Iraq. I'm not going to revisit whether he was really against the war. We won't go there. But he said - and he even said as president, the day after he was inaugurated, he said, maybe we'll get another chance to take their oil. Listen to Secretary Mattis today saying, ah, no.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: All of us in America have generally paid for our gas and oil all along, and I'm sure that we will continue to do so in the future. We're not in Iraq to seize anybody's oil.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I just - I just love that. He does it very, very low key -

HENDERSON: Yes.

KING: But - you know, his own little sarcasm there. But that's - that's directly -

HENDERSON: (INAUDIBLE) he has to do.

KING: A direct contradiction to the boss.

HENDERSON: Yes, who said something that was never going to happen. I mean, what do you do, get 30,000 troops to surround the - I mean just logistically it's an impossibility -

KING: It happens to be in violation of international law too.

HENDERSON: Yes, because - and that too.

MATTINGLY: We're on the right side of the (INAUDIBLE) positive step, I suppose.

HENDERSON: Yes, and that too. Not to mention that. Yes, I mean not to mention that. Yes, the U.S. doesn't go into countries and steal their - take their natural resources.

WILSON: That's (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Right.

HENDERSON: So, yes, I mean the fact that he has to say that, I think, is, you know, telling.

RAJU: But the larger issue here is, I mean, as the president of the United States, you have the biggest megaphone in the world. You have the bully pulpit. When everybody's - people are saying different things about similar issues, you're undercutting your message. You're not able to sell a message on your vision for the world and your vision for the country. So it has a very dramatic effect. You have to be a good messenger to sell your policies and explain to the public why you're doing something. But no one really knows what your policy is if you're saying different things. It's going to undercut your ability to govern.

KING: And you get sometimes these are big questions, what - who speaks for the president when it comes to Iraqi oil, who speaks for the president when it comes to the NATO alliance and Russian aggression. And then over the weekend the president set off a whole other controversy by talking about Sweden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You look at what's happening in Germany. You look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden, they took in large numbers. They're having problems like they never thought possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILSON: You know who doesn't believe that? The Swedes.

HENDERSON: Right. Right.

KING: The Swedish foreign - the foreign ministry put out a statement saying, "the ministry of foreign fairs and Sweden's embassies work continuously to disseminate an accurate and fair image of Sweden. Unfortunately, we are seeing a general upward trend in inaccurate information."

WILSON: This is going to be a fascinating thing that historians look back on. What is the Trump doctrine? Has he thought through any of these - these big issues, whether it's our relationship with Europe, whether it's our relationship with China and the One China policy or a two-state solution in the Middle East? You know, George W. Bush came into office with a very clear doctrine of foreign affairs that changed dramatically after September 11th.

KING: Right.

WILSON: President Obama's view of the world as shades of gray evolved over time, but it was -it was very clear that he had spent a lot of time thinking about it. Has President Trump thought about this? Has he - has this - does he have sort of a coherent -

KING: Well, he's certainly more - he's more of a transactional person.

HENDERSON: Right. He's often - yes, yes.

WILSON: Right, which is - which is going to be fascinating to look back on after four or eight years of transactional foreign policy -

HENDERSON: Yes.

WILSON: Which we've essentially not (INAUDIBLE).

HENDERSON: And he speaks about kind of relationships in terms of deals, right?

KING: Right.

HENDERSON: Maybe I'll make a deal with Russia. You know those things - and he always thinks about them as transactional and one-on-one. But in foreign policy, you make a deal with Russia, it matters to all of Europe in terms of, is Russia emboldened by this deal. Is the west weakened by this deal. So it isn't transferable, this idea of just one-on-one deals in terms of foreign policy.

[12:25:03] MATTINGLY: It was interesting watching that and having flashbacks to the campaign where we would be sitting in rallies and he'd say something and 50 reporters at the same time would go to their phones and be like what is it - what the hell happened in Sweden last night? (INAUDIBLE) what this is, what this is?

HENDERSON: Yes.

MATTINGLY: But when you realize that it was because of a television segment on Fox News and a lot of what he says, a lot of what he tweets immediately follows something that he's seen on TV.

KING: Right.

MATTINGLY: Which is just who he is. I think the big question is, are there wider ranging ramifications? I think most people assume yes, but we have to wait and see.

KING: We'll see what happens. But if it makes his cabinet secretaries do a lot of clean-up work, but that's part of their job at the moment.

Up next, the president calls it a roose, and his chief of staff labels it garbage, but key senators have a very different take.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back.

[12:29:54] The FBI director, James Comey, was on Capitol Hill the other day for a classified briefing with senators. But lawmakers in the room would say little after, even less than the usual small talk. The only hint, a tweet not long after the meeting from Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who tweeted this, "I am now very confident Senate Intel Committee I serve on will conduct through bipartisan investigation of Putin