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Trump's First 100 Days; Politicians Say the Darndest Things; DNC Dilemma; Steve Bannon Weighs In; Bannon: Trump will Deconstruct the "Administrative State"; Trump Aides Bannon, Priebus Deny Reports of Split; FBI Refused White House Request for Help; Intel Chairmen Spoke to Media on Trump-Russia Stories. Aired 8-9a ET
Aired February 26, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): The Trump takeover is complete.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The forgotten men and women of America will be forgotten no longer. That is the heart of this -- your movement and the future of the Republican Party.
KING (voice-over): The president plays to his conservative base and gets a big assist from his brash chief strategist.
STEVE BANNON, TRUMP CHIEF STRATEGIST: The third broadly line of work is what is deconstruction of the administrative state.
KING (voice-over): Plus a rowdy homecoming for GOP members of Congress.
It's great theater.
But will it change big debates like health care?
And Democrats pick a new leader and get a pep talk.
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Keep fighting and keep the faith and I'll be right there with you every step of the way.
KING (voice-over): INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories, sourced by the best reporters -- now.
KING: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS, I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your Sunday morning.
A very big week ahead, President Trump addresses a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, his early approval ratings are dismal but he claims a bold America first mandate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: There's no such thing as a global anthem, a global currency or a global flag. This is the United States of America that I'm representing. I'm not representing the globe. I'm representing your country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Also due this week, take two of the Trump travel ban, take one was rushed, sloppy and then blocked in court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So let me state this as clearly as I can, we are going to keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country.
We will not be deterred from this course. And in a matter of days, we will be taking brand new action to protect our people and to keep America safe. You will see the action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And as Congress returns to Washington, what to make of that feisty week back home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 2020, you're gone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm an angry constituent. You work for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
xxxKING: With us this Sunday to share their reporting and their insights, Abby Phillip of "The Washington Post;" CNN's Jeff Zeleny; Reid Wilson of "The Hill" and Margaret Talev of Bloomberg Politics.
Feisty week in the rearview mirror and an important week ahead of us. Let's start with the president's speech. We saw him at the CPAC event at the end of the week, a political pep rally, playing to his base, greatest hits from the campaign, some issues going forward.
How important is it for the president, when he gets this -- it's not a State of the Union because a new president but he gets this second chance, if you will, to make a first impression both to the skeptics under the dome -- and there are many of them, even in his own party -- and to the American people watching at home.
But a time when if you look at it, his approval rating is under 40 percent, his disapproval rating is 55 percent, 56 percent, depending what numbers you look at.
How important is this moment for the president in trying to sell his agenda early on? ABBY PHILLIP, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think it's actually an opportunity for him to demonstrate that his agenda goes beyond his base with not necessarily having to change the details of it but presenting it in a way that appears more inclusive, which is different from what he did at CPAC.
He was delivering a message that was designed for the conservative base. But to talk about jobs, to talk about sort of a long-term agenda of the kind of business first presidency that he has demonstrated that he wants to have is something that he can certainly do on that stage.
And it would be perhaps the first time that he's had an opportunity to be specific about what he wants to do, to be broad and to sort of be more forward looking and visionary and to not do some of the other things that he tends to do, which is talk about the election, talk about his political opponents, talk about things that are totally insulary (ph) and unrelated to his governance agenda.
KING: He can, he can do those things.
The question is will he do those things and is he interested in doing those things?
And I don't say that flippantly. We should give politicians credit when they have fidelity to their campaign promises. This president has had remarkable consistent fidelity --
KING: -- to his campaign promises.
His critics, to Abby's point, say, what about us?
When you are you going to reach out to us?
Now he did his weekly -- they call it a radio address still. They put it on the Internet and they stand in front of a camera -- he did reach out in his radio address this weekend saying he believes his economic plan will help African Americans, help create jobs in the African American community.
So there's been some small doses of it. But we haven't seen any big outreach from this president. And I don't think we should be looking for it here. I think they've been pretty clear about their political strategy.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I think you're right about that. For all the talk about this is going to be an optimistic speech, a positive speech, there was a call yesterday I'm told the White House had with some staffers on Capitol Hill. And those words were used, optimistic and positive.
But optimistic and positive are in the eye of the beholder. And the White House believes that he has a mandate. So I would be surprised if he didn't talk about his election victory. I can't recall many speeches in the first five weeks or so where he hasn't.
But one thing -- one big difference about this, the room is not just filled with just his supporters. At CPAC, when I was there on Friday, that was like a campaign rally. I felt like I was back I Iowa or something. This is half Democratic, half Republican -- almost; not quite, obviously. Republicans had a few more seats.
But that will be an interesting optics thing. And he does not mind a fight on some of these things, it fires up his base. So I'll be watching what Democrats are going to be doing about this.
But I think the idea, that big infrastructure plan, other things, that seems almost like ancient history, all that talk of a Chuck Schumer working with this president on things, we're in a different place right now.
KING: And we know -- let's just show our viewers, remind people at home, we know the big ticket items this year. He wants to repeal and replace ObamaCare. We're told in the week ahead we will get travel ban -- we call it 2.0; the first one was blocked in the courts and, again, it was rushed out.
The president has been very clear he wants to build a wall, he wants to have an America first economy and you to the degree he wants to embrace Republican plans on tax reform, there's a lot of details still to be worked out.
You mentioned the Democrats, a lot of them boycotted his inauguration, there's been no widespread talk of any boycotts here. But it will be interesting to see in the room if somebody boos the president or if they sit on their hands.
Remember, famously Joe Wilson in the Republican side screamed, "You lie," at Barack Obama.
Will we get an outburst like that from Democrats?
Will they try to provoke him and knock him off his game?
REID WILSON, "THE HILL": You know, one of the things that I'm watching the sort of under the radar element of this relationship between one side of Pennsylvania Avenue and the other is Republicans on Capitol Hill act in the long-term. For 50 years or so, essentially since Watergate, we have seen power bleed from Congress toward the executive.
This president comes in with fewer plans than pretty much anybody else. If Jeb Bush were the president, he would have 500 pages of policy prescriptions for the Department of Education or something.
If this president is not driving an agenda beyond what you just showed, those sort of four big-ticket items, that gives Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell really the opportunity to reassert Congress' power and take those bulls by the horns.
And we'll see whether or not they do it, whether or not the tax plan that comes off of Capitol Hill looks more like what Ryan and McConnell want than anything the Trump administration want.
So this is the other element of this -- sure, they're going to be applauding on Tuesday night.
But how much are they working with the White House?
And how much are they just making their own plans because this president has not dug in on specific policy issues?
MARGARET TALEV, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: I do. I think how he holds the Republicans is really the key aspect of this speech on Tuesday night. He's not going to reach across the aisle and tell the Democrats he wants to make friends now and everything is going to be OK.
But he cannot lose the Republican leadership in Congress.
And when the devil in the details really come into the picture, how are these things going to be paid for in terms of infrastructure?
When you come out with a sort of anti-free trade rhetoric, there's still a lot of Republicans who want some of that. And so how he actually explicates (ph) what he wants to do, whether he loses that Republican audience is key. And also I just think we haven't heard him talk substantively -- in terms of substance for this prolonged a period of time, assuming the speech is the normal length (ph) --
KING: And so usually somewhere in the ballpark of an hour, this president usually doesn't go on that long. We'll see; it's new. We're still getting to know him in that regard, that's a key point.
How much does he go?
Bill Clinton was famous for going an hour plus more with a laundry list and everyone said this is horrible and then the TV ratings were great and Bill Clinton said, I just said it --
KING: -- talk to the American people.
The question I get is this -- again, made it pretty clear that they're going to talk about their campaign promises, they're going to focus on the campaign themes and all of his executive actions, even though a lot of them don't really make things happening. But at least it tries to direct the government.
Where do you work on immigration?
You work on getting the (INAUDIBLE) plan.
But a lot of this will require legislative approval, to your point, to get the big things done.
But does he care about this? He's going to stand up before the American people -- a Marist poll out
last week, 58 percent of Americans say they are embarrassed by his conduct as president. A CBS poll out this past week, 40 percent says he does understand complicated problems that a president has to deal with; 58 percent say, no, the numbers are pretty consistent. High 50s on the negative side of these questions, whether it's about his job approval as he ups the job.
KING: Does he care about people like me?
This is an opportunity to deal with that if you so choose. Or so far we have seen we have our 40 percent, we're going to keep our 40 percent and that's where we're going to focus.
PHILLIP: I have to say, these numbers are really interesting and it's interesting the degree to which they has not mattered. I think Americans have consistently said that on matters of do you think that Donald Trump is qualified for the job, they by and large throughout the election they said no and yet he won.
And one of the reasons for that is because I think voters, not just his voters but independents and moderate Republicans, have valued his agenda items over his personality or even his character.
And I think that the White House is actually keenly aware of that. They're aware that Americans are uncomfortable with his Twitter habit, with the way that he deals with conflict in his opponents but they are also aware that the agenda can potentially trump that.
And they believe that it did trump that in the election, so I think we should be mindful that these numbers are not all they're cracked up to be, because Americans are making value judgments, like one, two, three, four, what is the most important to me. And while character -- he doesn't get high marks on character, it may not rise to slot number one or two.
KING: If he meets -- I think you're dead right, the two key tests, does the economy go that way -- up -- and does he shake up Washington, which is the main reason a lot of people who had reservations said let's send him.
That's what I'm interested in standing there before the Congress, how much does he call them out and say you're part of the problem?
Does he do it aggressively?
Does he say, hey, the American people are mad at you, let's work with me, I want to help you here?
Or does he do it in a confrontational way.
We're about to find out. Much more on the president's early success and struggles ahead. But next, the new leader for the Democratic Party whose liberal base is demanding confrontation with the Trump White House.
And first, "Politicians Say the Darnedest Things," the presidential hole-in-one edition.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Jeff actually watched me make a hole in one, can you believe this?
Should you tell that story?
JEFF: President Trump goes up to a par 3 on his course, he looks at the three of us and says, you realize, of course, I'm the richest golfer in the world to comment, then gets a hole in one.
TRUMP: It's a crazy, it's a crazy thing.
No, I actually said I was the best golfer of all the rich people, to be -- to be exact and then I got a hole in one.
KING: Welcome back.
The Democratic National Committee has a new chairman. And because of that election the party has a new national spokesman, former Obama administration Labor Secretary, Tom Perez, won on the second ballot yesterday, defeating Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison.
Ellison then agreed to serve as deputy chair as the party looks not only to counter President Trump but to deal with its dismal performance up and down the ballot these past eight years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM PEREZ, SPOKESPERSON, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: We're at this (INAUDIBLE) moment in our nation's history. Someday they're going to study this era in American history and they're going to study it alongside the Know Nothing movement.
And they're going to ask the question of all of us, where were you in 2017 when we had the worst president in the history of the United States?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Tom Perez's introductory speech as chairman yesterday. And he made a big show of trying to show unity. Keith Ellison, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren's favorite candidate ran against him, lost.
He brought him in as deputy, brought up the other challengers on the stage. Number one I guess is, how much does this matter? The Democratic
Party has been in a ditch. They won two presidencies in the last eight years but other than that they have been swamped.
How much does this matter and how much does this still brewing -- I don't know whether to call it discontent or suspicion of progressives out in the country about another Washington guy taking over the party matter?
WILSON: This is a party in transition, this is a party that's trying to figure out what's next, what is its identity. And the fact that Keith Ellison, the congressman from Minnesota, who was backed by Senator Bernie Sanders lost this election on -- in the short run, is going to raise questions about whether or not Democrats can stay together, can unify in a way that Tom Perez tried to do.
But let me suggest that this is going to be a much longer process. I was out in Sacramento in January, just after they had had some local party caucuses. And everybody I talked to was shocked at the number of people who showed up. And they were all Bernie Sanders supporters and they all elected their first sort of level of delegates who would then go on to the state convention and all this.
There is a concerted movement on the Sanders side to take over local, state parties, which will eventually lead to new people being on the Democratic National Committee and maybe if this process had been a little faster, the outcome would have been a different.
It's reminiscent of what happened in a number of states after Ron Paul ran for president on the Republican side, when a number of his fans took over state parties that didn't working out terribly well in states like Nevada and Arizona, where the state party infrastructure fell apart.
But on this side -- and this is a long process, this did not end yesterday, it's a reinvention of the party that's taking place. And it's going to be a long --
KING: It's - to your point about the progressive energy, some of it is negative, some of them are mad at their own party, a lot of them or all of them are mad at Donald Trump.
I want to just tell you, our Dana Bash was out in San Francisco for Dianne Feinstein's town hall. It's not just Republican town halls; Democrats are having town halls. If you can take a look at this sign here, this is someone outside of the event, telling Senator Feinstein, hold regular town halls, say no to all Trump nominations, say no to Neil Gorsuch, the Supreme Court nomination.
And this is before the election, endorse Keith Ellison for Democratic National Committee chair or step down. Work for progress or step down.
This energy in the Democratic Party is tugging it more to the left but also the grassroots level, senators and congressmen --
KING: -- have to make different decisions, occasionally probably having to compromise.
But the pressure back home is say no, Donald Trump wants eggs for breakfast, say no. Donald Trump likes the sunrise, say no.
TALEV: Well, and the big challenge for Democrats is 3.5 years from now, can they take back the presidency, that involves appealing to a lot of more traditionally centrist and, to some extent, white voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, all these places where Trump had these surprising wins in the last election.
So there's been a lot of energy focused on the difference between Keith Ellison and Tom Perez and who's further to the left and who better represents the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
But they're both to the left of center and one is a Hispanic American, the other is a Muslim American. They both have some messaging challenges when it comes to that sort of natural instinctive appeal to middle America, who the Democrats have to win back.
And so this unity bid really is important for a couple of reasons, they need to align the progressive base, get everybody on board. But they also need to find a message about jobs, and that's part of Perez's strength in terms of his background with Labor, jobs, which worked so well for Donald Trump.
And if Democrats can't figure out how to message that to middle America, they're in trouble.
ZELENY: It's also the central question of how much do national parties matter now, really year by year by year, I think the importance and the strength of the national parties has declined.
So if Bernie Sanders decides that he wants to be a force on the outside, he'll be more visible than the DNC. But the reality is, as Reid was saying earlier, they need to start at the ground legal, state legislative seats and other things.
And that's what he's committed to doing. So I think he'll be a good spokesman for the party. He can deliver a fiery speech and it's not exactly like he's right of center, as Margaret said. He's pretty left of center himself, so but it's a wilderness moment for Democrats.
KING: Wilderness moment and for all the talk of what the party could do here in Washington, raising money, building the infrastructure, they need to find good candidates. They have been swamped. There's 36 governors' races next year. They've been swamped in state legislative seats over the last eight years. They need to find better candidates.
PHILLIP: And that's why I think it's not just about four years from now, it's about two years from now, it's about what's going on in 2018, beyond just state legislatures, governorships but also control of Congress really matters in an environment when you don't have the White House.
And if they can make inroads in a midterm election, that's probably going to be the most beneficial thing to the Democratic Party on the whole. And this energy among their base -- I mean, Democrats, their problem is they can't get their people to show up in midterm elections.
If this changes as a result of anger, either toward other Democrats or against Donald Trump or against Republican candidates, that might be to their benefit.
KING: And it's not a great map. If you look at the map today, it's not a great map for Democrats in 2018. But they're hoping that opposition to the president helps them out. We'll see.
Everybody sit tight. A quick programming note. New Democratic Party chairman Tom Perez and Senator Bernie Sanders will be live with CNN's Jake Tapper at the top of the hour, "STATE OF THE UNION." So stay right here.
Up next, the president calls his administration a "fine-tuned machine." But five weeks in, dozens and dozens and dozens of jobs critical to implementing his agenda remain unfilled.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESPERSON: Make no mistake, we were ahead of the curve on the beachhead teams, we were very clear with the landing teams during the transition. This has been a very methodical process that has seen from top to bottom through. And I think we're doing a phenomenal job of staffing the government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: It's the White House press secretary's job to be optimistic and to be positive about the administration's performance, including filling the government. But in this age of fake news, I would call that "fake spin," no offense to Sean Spicer.
But if you look through the jobs in the administration, the president has a problem. Let's just start here. At the cabinet level, yes, he's nominated his entire cabinet as we now go into week six of the administration and these subcabinet jobs.
He's still having a problem getting people confirmed. You see the highlights, that means that person has been confirmed. Now the White House blames the Senate. That's true in some cases; Democrats have stalled the process. Some of these Trump nominees have also been late getting their paperwork in and the like. So a problem even at the cabinet legal. This is other cabinet level
jobs here. But this is where the problem in government is striking, when you get to the deputy level, the assistant secretaries, the deputy assistant secretaries, the people who run federal agencies, who make the day to day, minute by minute decisions about running the government.
Look at all this. Let's come down here. Look at these. Let's look some more, you see no faces in any of these jobs because the administration hasn't named anybody to these jobs. You go through the numbers here, let me come back up here, these are the numbers, these are the people nominated and confirmed.
Let's just look at some facts. Yes, at the cabinet level, eight still awaiting confirmation, 14 in place. Again, the president lays most of the blame there on the United States Senate.
Look at these other jobs though: 12 awaiting confirmation; additional key positions requiring Senate confirmation, zero confirmed, 12 waiting, 515 open positions. These aren't waiting for votes in the Senate. They're waiting for the president or his cabinet secretaries to name somebody to these important jobs.
Below that, nearly 3,500 other jobs, presidential or political employees, cabinet secretaries can make them, the people who run the day-to-day affairs of the government. We're six weeks in now, a lot of the government still has Obama holdovers or transition officials trying to manage affairs.
The question is how much do all these vacancies, the lack of progress getting people into these jobs, affect the implementation of the Trump agenda as outlined here by chief strategist Steve Bannon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, TRUMP CHIEF STRATEGIST: I kind of break it out into three verticals or three buckets. The first is national security and sovereignty and that's your intelligence, the Defense Department, Homeland Security.
The second line of work is what I refer to as economic nationalism. And that is Wilbur Ross at Commerce, Steve Mnuchin at Treasury, Leitheiser (ph) at trade, Peter Navarro (ph), Stephen Miller, these people that are rethinking how we're going to reconstruct our trade arrangements around the world.
The third, broadly, line of work is what is deconstruction of the administrative state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Deconstructing the administrative state.
You heard there Steve Bannon, we don't hear from him much, a very rare public appearance, very coherently and directly and candidly laying out the Trump agenda. That last part especially, deconstructing the administrative state, that is music to conservatives' ears, especially federalists, who believe that the federal bureaucracy, even if a Republican president says do X, the bureaucracy does X- or X+, decides what to do, how can you deconstruct the administrative state when you have all of these critical jobs, the day-to-day management jobs, still open, six weeks in?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's a great question. But I mean, like one of the reasons, I'm told, I've talked to several Republicans on Capitol Hill and others who actually want these jobs. There's a loyalty test. First and foremost, if you said anything against the president during the primary cycle, you're likely out. It's this very rigorous process here. -- And it's taking much longer than it should be.
One of the other reasons is the lobbying ban. Some people do not want to go work in this administration because they're prohibited from working for five years as lobbyist. So, I think that that is one of the - draining of the swamp, if you will. But beyond that, first and foremost, one of the biggest reasons all those seats are empty, because there were a lot of people who were not supportive of Donald Trump in the beginning and now they're not welcome.
ABBY PHILLIP, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I actually think Stephen Bannon -- and President Trump by extension, doesn't mind that these positions are unfilled. Because deconstructing the Administrative State also means not allowing the federal government to do a lot of things. I think that that's - you know, when you talk to conservatives, that's the biggest - frame of minds difference between a Republican administration and Democratic one, particularly this kind of Republican administration.
They don't want the government to do things. And sometimes, the way to not get the government to do things, is simply to not have people implementing regulations, you know, running basic functions and as disruptive as that seems, I think that's actually what they're going for. And Steve Bannon really laid it out there.
REID WILSON, "THE HILL": On the other hand, though, this rolling back what the Obama administration has done or what the Republicans find so objectionable -- about the Obama administration is going to take some very active work. There is a Congressional Review Act that allows Congress to act on some of the regulations that were implemented late in the administration. But that's always 60 legislative days. We are rapidly running out of rules that would cover that to roll back a lot of the environmental regulations and a lot of the land use regulations, especially out west.
They're going to require senior officials at Interior, senior officials at AG (ph), senior officials in all these sort of sub cabinet agencies. And in a lot of cases, to the irony is to roll back a regulation, you need to promulgate a new regulation, which then takes, you know, years. As we saw, look, the Obama administration didn't promulgate a lot of these rules late in the day because they just suddenly thought of them. It takes, literally years to get something like this through the pipeline.
So to deconstruct that Administrative State, it's going to require people. And it's going to require time. And if they skip any step in the process there, any number of Democratic attorneys general in the states, who are going to sue the pants off.
KING: The career people will make the decision they made yesterday. If they don't have somebody from the new administration telling them, we're doing things differently, from here on forward going to tomorrow. The Steve Bannon appearance at CPAC was part of a remarkable exchange. It's been all of these stories about chaos inside the White House. And the White House says this is not true.
The White House says to the greeters, chaos is the kind of chaos the president likes. He likes people disagree with each other, to fight around him, to have their arguments and then bring it to him for the answer. So, you saw publicly, Steve Bannon and the White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus saying, everything's great.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Steve is very consistent and very loyal to the agenda and is a presence that I think is very important to have in the White House and someone that I work with every second of the day and actually -- I cherish his friendship.
STEVE BANNON, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: You know I can run a little hot on occasions.
And Reince is indefatigable. I mean, it is low key, but it is determination. The thing I respect most and the only way this thing works is Reince is always kind of steady.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
KING: All is well, right? You covered the White House.
MARGARET TALEV, "BLOOMBERG POLITICS": They're besties. Well, I'm going to say this. They really do have different kind of personalities. And so, they're not competing with one another in that kind of traditional sense. That they the same personality in are vying for the guy who gets to keep his personality. I think they also both understand that old adage about keep your friends close and your enemy closer. Not to say that they're enemies but to say that they really represent two different wings of Donald Trump's support system, right?
KING: That's what I found great about that though. It's again they're not taking sides, that they were openly candid about it. He's an establishment guy, almost pure thrower and you know, trying to change the party. And so, -- yes, we're going to argue a lot. So what?
TALEV: It kind of doesn't -- it doesn't work one without the other, right? I mean, without Reince, there's no lifeline to Capitol Hill, there's no good will or security safety net with Mitch McConnell, with Paul Ryan, with all that. Without Steve Bannon, there's not that momentum and energy and enthusiasm that Trump needs personally to get excited about every day. And - that the administration needs to be kind of the chaos factor or the scare factor. So, I think, these two men would legitimately understand that if they can work well together and block other people in that White House from dividing and conquering. Because there are other people in the White House that are also --
[08:35:09] KING: And there are lot of skeptics of whether this controlled chaos can work in the government setting. We're only six weeks in. I think we shouldn't rush to judgement. But you see I want to add Kellyanne Conway to the mix. You know, she had a TV timeout, if you will, because the White House says her own colleague say, this is not the news media say. Her own colleague said, she says some things in some interviews that were viewed as counterproductive. So she disappeared for a little bit. She came back this week. And she says somebody inside the White House is trying to get in her way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: And somebody's trying to start up trouble. But, look, I -- about 5 percent of what I'm being asked to do in this White House counsel role is TV, and I think that's about right because he's the president now and he's his own best messenger. There are some people, I think, trying to get in my way. I've also gobbled up a lot of other people's TV opportunities. So there's some resentment outside -- on the outside, I believe, and folks just trying to use me as clickbait in the headlines.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Who's trying to get in her way?
PHILLIP: Well, I mean, that perfectly encapsulates the problem with this White House. This snipe (ph) thing is happening in public, which is really remarkable. Considering that usually, at least they try to put on good face for the public. But you know Kellyanne Conway and other officials are warring behind the scenes about some of these issues. There was some genuine -- people were genuinely upset, in some cases, that she would go out on television early in the morning. Say one thing without necessarily consulting other people in the White House about what the thing is that they wanted her to - wanted the message to be that day.
But she does that, I think, in part to sort of demonstrate her independence -- from that process and from that chain of command. But you know the one thing that a lot of observers say about this White House is that there doesn't seem to be very clear hierarchies, and that the sort of chain of command is very flat. Everybody is sort of like on the same plane, trying to vie for - seniority in that place.
And the person who tends to get the blame for that - to Steve Bannon's benefit is Reince Priebus. He is the keeper of the clocks and the person who makes sure that the trains run on time. And so one of the benefits of that partnership is that Steve Bannon doesn't get blame for all of the other stuff that's going on in the White House, Reince Priebus does.
KING: Well, we used to call it Clinton time in the Clinton White House. I'm not sure what they're going to call it here when the trains go off the tracks. But we will see. Everybody, sit tight. Next, more presidential attacks from the media after CNN reports the White House Chief of Staff asked the FBI for help and he was told no.
[08:42:00] KING: Welcome back. I'm going to ask at home that you try to set your partisan instincts aside for a minute here. Just try, please. Right or wrong, you make the call. The White House Chief of Staff asked the FBI for help despite clear and longstanding guidelines prohibiting him from talking to the bureau about ongoing investigations. Think about that.
And right or wrong, you make the call. The Republican Chairman of the Committee's investigating Russian meddling in last year's campaign say, yes, when the Republican White House asked them for help shaping new stories about key details of their ongoing investigation. Right or wrong?
WILSON: If this had happened in the Clinton - in the Obama administration first, this town would be on fire. The fact that the chairman of the House government affairs, the Government Reform and Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz has essentially, investigated Hillary Clinton's email server for so many months and that investigation still apparently ongoing. And this is not top of the burner. This is not a huge --
KING: Just for context, if you haven't been following the news, the White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, the White House officials tell us, it was the assistant director of the FBI who brought this issue up and Reince Priebus then engaged in a conversation with him. Even if that's true though, the guidelines say, don't do it. Just don't do it, send him to the White House Counsel's Office. Don't get involved in any conversations that will politicize the investigation.
When it comes to the chairman, there are leading investigations of alleged caught Russian meddling. Big picture, alleged contacts between presidential associates and the Russians during the campaign. How can you then say they're independent investigations when in the early process of the investigation you went out and helped the administration spin stories?
ZELENY: It's incredibly problematic, I think. And the - you know how problematic this is when you have Darrell Issa, who's in a bit of a -- more of a liberal district and also Republicans, he says there should be a special prosecutor now. This is something that is not going away for the Trump administration, like it or not. And the FBI thing just added fuel to this fire.
So it's going to be a problem for them. And Senator Richard Burr, the Republican Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also has some issues here because he was also talking to reporters about this. So, look, for this Russia thing to continue to be problematic for the Trump agenda. But he needs Republicans on Capitol Hill. Every senator he'll need to vote for him and this is a problem.
KING: To your point, Mark Warner, who's the Democratic - ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, when he saw about Chairman Burr and Chairman Nunes on the House side, said, "I have called Director Pompeo," of the CIA, "and Chairman Burr to express my grave concerns about what this means for the independence of this investigation and a bipartisan commitment to follow the facts, and to reinforce that I will not accept any process that is undermined by political interference."
Now, again, the chairman say, they were just telling the truth to reporters. The problem is you're the chairman. You're the chairman. There are 535 members of Congress. Republicans have majorities in both chain but there are other members who could step forward and do this. I know the argument will be then on who have the expertise. They're not the chairman.
But here's how I view this. Remember your own words just months ago. Bill Clinton gets on the plane with Loretta Lynch. That's horrible. You're putting your thumb on the scale. Republicans had every right to be mad about that. President Obama goes on "60 Minutes," says he doesn't think that Hillary Clinton seem those server undermine national security. Republicans scream, this putting his thumb on the scale. They're not exact comparisons but hello?
[08:45:10] PHILLIP: It really demonstrates how little they care about appearances, which is problematic, considering that we're not that far into the administration. There's a long way to go left. And they don't seem to be mindful that every one of these things continues to erode their credibility over the long-term. It builds up until something big happens. And so, they're putting themselves at risk here, and they're doing it very flagrantly and defiantly. And you know, that's very troubling, considering that we are not that far along here. -- This investigations are just getting started.
KING: And isn't it they don't care or is it that they think the presence of us, just say fake news. If you see that on CNN, if you see that in "The New York Times," don't believe it. I don't think over time, that can sustain itself because I think, you know, everybody out there, whether you're Trump supporter or Clinton supporter, or somebody in the middle, A, they have a supercomputer in their pocket, they can figure it out themselves and B, the truth gravity -- there's a thing called gravity.
TALEV: I just think this is not incredibly well-thought out. I mean, I'm not quite ready to describe nefarious intent to any of this. I actually think, the Congressional Committee chairman issue may be a larger problem if Trump really wants to keep an independent investigation off the table. Because this just raises more questions about whether these chairs have the ability, not just to be independent themselves, but to -- kind of go deep and to have the credibility to go where they need to go. I think it's -- look, if we hear any hint or whisper that this administration is laying heavily on the FBI, on the CIA, on other agencies to reach conclusions that they haven't reached, that's one thing. I think this was sort of an ill-conceived chain of communications to try to figure out whether if all were telling them behind the scenes could emerge in public.
KING: All right. -- Ahead, our reporters share from their notebooks, next, including push back against plans for, yes, repealing and replacing Obamacare. And why Republican governors just might not be on board with that plan.
[08:51:22] KING: Welcome back. We surround our tables with reporters, not pundits for a reason. We close every week by asking them to share from their notebooks. OK. You're ahead of the big political news just around the corner. Abby Phillip?
PHILLIP: Well, Trump's immigration enforcement actions this week, they start to clarify it by issuing some new guidance. But the raids have been raising tensions in localities between federal ICE agents who are carrying out the raids and the local law enforcement agents who they need to help them with carrying them out. And some of the raids are actually starting to impact. And these enforcement actions are starting to impact people who are not undocumented immigrants. A plane full of people were searched for their I.D.'s recently as Southern California raid, detained several people who were in the country legally.
And some of these tensions are rising to the level of the attention of members of Congress who are hearing from local officials, mayors, police chiefs, about the trouble that some of these raids are getting them and with their local population. This is going to be one of those cases where immigration enforcement is going to bump up against law enforcement at the local level. And we might start to see, not just the Democrats speaking out about this but some Republicans getting a little bit uneasy about the tough spot that these actions putting local law enforcement officers across the country.
KING: Another great example of all politics is local. They might come back angry, some members of Congress, Jeff?
ZELENY: Well, Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have a date with President Trump at the White House on Monday. They're going to go to get a preview of the president's joint address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday evening. - They're hoping to hear his optimistic message. But they also haven't asked for him. They're still trying to get some things into his speech. That's why that meeting is happening tomorrow.
They desperately want him to talk specifics, at least a couple more about health care. Particularly, Paul Ryan wants to sort of endorse the brought out lines -- of the House plan. But they also are still left unsure, what does he think about the border adjustment tax. That's something that his administration has not been completely clear on. He has expressed support for it in some places and not in other places. That's a controversial item between the Speaker and Majority Leader. They're hoping that does not come up. But they do want to try and get him to talk a little more about health care.
KING: A little bit more about health care, Reid?
WILSON: Sticking with the health care theme, the National Governors Association is here in Washington this week, meeting with the Trump administration. And the top priority for them is the Affordable Care Act and what is going to come next. President Obama's signature domestic legislative achievement has some strange defenders.
Republican governors, specifically those who accepted funding for medicated expansion. Without that money, their states are going to have billions of dollars in budget holes, or they're going to have to choose to kick thousands of people off of their health care coverage. Neither is a politically popular choice, so you're going to see a lot of Republicans defending Obamacare because they don't want to have to go home and kick a bunch of people off their coverage.
KING: Great point. Margaret?
TALEV: Keep your eye on H.R. McMaster, the new National Security Council head. The president's national security advisor represents, so far, this will be his second full week on the job. The first sort of calming news story in the - otherwise, not calm news stories.
So, look, last week, he not only had this - all hands-on meeting where he addressed the full National Security Council staff, applause, laughter. He kind of had them eating out of the palm of his hand, kind of covered all the bases from Russia, to Islamic terrorism, to Iran, and in between. But he also was part of a dinner with President Trump. In the week ahead, let's look to see what sort of changes he begins to implement in terms of the way that staff is organized, the power structures, and how he begins to try to change how President Trump thinks and talks about everything Islamic terrorism to Russia.
[08:55:05] KING: New sheriff with the national security. I'm going to close by piggy-backing on Mr. Zeleny, a bit. A bit more on the expectations for the president's speech, that joint session, Tuesday night. Just how specific he will be as the contentious issue, especially on some of the big questions.
Take tax reform. In a "Reuters" interview the other day, the president spoke favorably of what Jeff just talked about. The border adjustment tax sent full to the leading House Republican tax reform plan. President said, it could help create American jobs, but Senate Republicans are far more skeptical of the idea. And out in the country, the conservative Club for Growth is beginning ads against key House members, arguing the proposal would end up raising prices on you, on American families.
Now, while his overall approval numbers are weak, the president is standing among Republican voters is quite strong and the degree to which he gets specific now, could help tilt some early internal party's skirmishes. But as Jeff noted, it's a mixed bag (ph). The GOP house leadership might like his kind words for their tax ideas, for example. But they cringe at times when the president talks specifics about Obamacare, because in the past, he's professed his support for some of the law's most expensive provisions.
So, watch the specifics Tuesday night and watch the speech. I hope you watch it right here. That's it for us in INSIDE POLITICS. Again, thanks for sharing your Sunday morning. We're also live every weekday at noon. Join us then. Up next, "State of the Union" with Jake Tapper.