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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump Earns Praise for Speech; Immigration Reform Possible; Trump Condemns Hate and Evil; Fallen SEAL's Widow Honored; Trump calls for Repeal and Replace. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired March 1, 2017 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:07] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Kate.

Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

President Trump's big speech last night is the talk of the town, and I suspect all the buzz where you live and work too. There were the big campaign staples, like economics and border security.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions and billions of dollars and make our communities safer for everyone. We want all Americans to succeed, but that can't happen in an environment of lawless chaos. We must restore integrity and the rule of law at our borders.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Tough talk on immigration there, but we were reminded, more than once, he is very different, and his agenda has some very un-Republican ideas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My administration wants to work with members of both parties to make child care accessible, and affordable, to help insure new parents that they have paid family leave, to invest in women's health.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And forget for a moment your party and forget what you might think of him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are blessed to be joined tonight by Corrine Owens, the widow of U.S. Navy Special Operator Senior Chief William Ryan Owens. Ryan died as he lived, a warrior and a hero, battling against terrorism and securing our nation. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: A very powerful moment there. We'll get back to it in a moment.

With us this day to share their reporting and their insights, Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times," "The New Yorker's" Ryan Lizza, Mary Katharine Ham of "The Federalist," and CNN's Sara Murray.

A lot to assess. We should also mention, the president, at this hour, having lunch with Republican congressional leaders. We might get a glimpse at that meeting. We'll bring it to you. We also have the morning after reaction.

But let's begin with two examples from last night of how the scripted and unscripted President Trump can be very different men. And what are we to make of that on this morning after? First, at a pre-speech lunch with news anchors yesterday, the president signaled a dramatic shift. He told those reporters he was prepared now to sign legislation granting legal status to millions of undocumented workers. That's a big shift from the Trump campaign. In the speech, though, he was more careful.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible.

If we are guided by the well-being of American citizens, then I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So what are we to believe on this morning after? What the president told the anchors at lunch, which is a huge shift for him, the more cautious words there, the vice president on some morning shows this morning saying border security first, we'll talk about that later. Where are we?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I tend to go with what the vice president said as the baseline for where we are. You have to remember, and I think everyone here does, that Donald Trump was very critical of Mitt Romney in 2012 when Mitt Romney talked about self-deportation. He described it as a mean-spirited way of going about immigration reform. So if you hear, you know, talk of what happened at this anchors meeting, it's not really that surprising. I -- you -- when you speak to people who have spoken to the president, you come away with the impression that he doesn't entirely know where he is on some of these things.

KING: Yes.

HABERMAN: He knows the top line. He knows the rhetoric, and he knows the campaign language. He doesn't quite understand the details.

You also can't rule out that this was done intentionally as some kind of a little news drop to drum up excitement ahead of the speech, which one person at the White House indicated to me that is indeed what it was. We are not going to know until he moves ahead. But real immigration reform is also a phrase that we've heard from Jeff Sessions, the AG. He thinks of it as something very different than, say, legalizing a lot of undocumented workers. This is going to come down to what he actually does, as it often does with the president.

KING: Right. And the timing is interesting. You mentioned, is he trying to gin up interest in the speech. He's also trying to get Republicans to cast tough votes on Obamacare replacements, tough votes on tax reform, tough votes to pay for his wall, And as we know, many of the Tea Party members, conservatives whose votes he needs, view any legal status at amnesty.

HABERMAN: That's right.

KING: The country's had debates about this, but his base thinks that is amnesty. A lot of his voters think that is amnesty. So I found it fascinating last night. Listen to Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, came on CNN right after the speech. He was pressed on this issue. Are you prepared to help the president pass legislation that gives legal status to the undocumented?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: We're very much open to an immigration proposal from the administration. I'm anxious to take a look at what the president would recommend. We're certainly open to see what the president recommends.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[12:05:03] KING: I think he said it one more time there. In other words, please know not now, right?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, and I think the thing --

MARY KATHARINE HAM, "THE FEDERALIST": Or but also -- ultimately -- go ahead.

MURRAY: Go ahead.

HAM: Just put this -- he's like, put this in Trump's mouth, because I think that's part of it --

KING: Right.

HABERMAN: Right.

HAM: Is that -- that he has a unique ability to speak to his own supporters, and in many cases they will change their minds about a fundamental policy when he changes his mind. And so McConnell's like, I'm not the one to carry this message. You're going to carry that message.

MURRAY: And I do think that --

KING: Right, if you're going to do this, it better be on Trump stationery with your signature, and you better hand-deliver it and walk around the country with it.

HAM: I think that's (INAUDIBLE).

MURRAY: And I think that -- that members of Congress on The Hill and Trump's own legislative aides have impressed upon him that Congress cannot metabolize more than one thing at once.

HAM: That's right.

MURRAY: You know, he seems to have gotten that. You have to do health care first, and then you have to do tax reform. I haven't really gotten the impression that we are going to see President Trump championing this initiative from the White House any time soon. When there were aides on The Hill who walked out of that briefing with Sean Spicer ahead of this speech yesterday, that were basically saying, you know, the sense we got is that if we deliver something up in Congress to the president's desk, he may sign it. I'm not guessing a lot of these Republicans in Congress right now are itching to scramble what a comprehensive immigration bill (ph).

KING: But do they live the quick sand of the past decade on that issue, I think.

RYAN LIZZA, "THE NEW YORKER": Yes. Look, he -- if he had a -- if he had a fundamental change of view about this, he might be the person who can finally fix the immigration system, right, in a Nixon to China way. You know, you could think of the dramatic proposal. Democrats, you let me build my wall, and I will actually come up with a pathway to citizenship for some of the 11 million.

And it is interesting, he has gone from the most extreme vision on immigration in the campaign, which was everyone here illegally has to get out of the country. He's no longer there, right, despite some very, very aggressive executive orders. He's now -- he, on DACA, he seems to have pulled back and he's flirting suddenly with this language that scares the hell out of a lot of Republicans. So I think you don't know where he's going to end up on this issue. It could -- he could go back to the most hard line view or he could --

KING: It -- on any number -- yes, on any number of issues. He's -- we know where he was in the campaign and he's in a lot of gray area on some of these issues now and we don't know where these debates are heading. To your point about processing one thing at a time, I think that's what the Republican leadership was saying, sir, we've got enough on our plate right now. One at a time.

Another fascinating moment in the speech last night, this is a president who, at his news conference not long ago, said that he believes some of these bomb threats and other anti-Semitic activities, the bomb threats against Jewish community centers, some of them were stirred up, he suggested, by political opponents. He said something in a luncheon with state attorneys general yesterday that left them a bit confused about what he meant. But then at the very top of the speech last night, a presidential moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week's shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Amen. Amen to that. From any president of the United States, given what's been happening in the country in recent days and weeks, right off the top of this speech, when he has, we assume, maximum attention of the country, but compare and contrast that with what we had heard from the unscripted President Trump in the past week or two.

HABERMAN: What you just said is, I think, the critical point, and kudos to him for saying that.

KING: Right.

HABERMAN: This is the first time that we have heard the president invoke the shootings in Kansas, which were really, really devastating, which have not gotten anywhere near as much attention as other types of crimes have, and other types of hate crimes have. We are essentially -- look, the president should get his due for the speech last night. It was a really strong speech for him especially at a key moment, and he has a real knack for kind of rescuing himself, right, out of the jaws of defeat over and over again.

But what he said last night about the community center threats and about the Kansas shootings was also the bare minimum of what we would expect a president to do.

LIZZA: Yes.

KING: Right.

HABERMAN: And I think that it's good that he did it, and it's significant, and, again, he should be praised for that, but it really depends on what he does going forward, as it does with almost everything about this speech. I don't know what tone he plans to set on this. This is the kind of message that in this climate a president needs to say over and over and over, not just once in a speech.

KING: Right.

HAM: Well, I -- I would say --

LIZZA: Yes, and my view was --

HAM: I would say he gave it like incredible prominence by saying it as the -- like the opening of the speech.

KING: Right. HABERMAN: Right. Absolutely. HAM: So that -- it's more than just the bare minimum. I agree that he's whiffed on this in the past and should we (ph) go forward.

HABERMAN: I'm not -- I'm not saying the timing, I'm saying the words themselves.

HAM: Right, the actual -- in doing something.

HABERMAN: Yes.

HAM: But I -- it was also sort of obviously morally right and a wise bit of jujitsu where he comes out of the gates and a bunch of people were saying, he must -- he must denounce hate, and then they go, I hate that you're denouncing hate.

KING: Right.

HAM: And I saw that all over the place. And so he puts his --

HABERMAN: Yes.

HAM: Adversaries back on their heels in an odd way, as he always (INAUDIBLE) anyways.

KING: I think this speech did that in any number -- this speech did that, we'll talk about that throughout the hour, did it in any number of ways.

HAM: Absolutely.

LIZZA: Look, what the president -- the president of the United States doesn't get participation trophies.

KING: Right.

LIZZA: Condemning anti-Semitism, nobody -- no president should be praised for that. That is just the standard thing that a president does. And it's good that he did that after the press conference where he seemed to be very defensive about it. But --

[12:10:03] KING: You make an interesting point. The expectation for him in this setting and on certain topics are so low --

LIZZA: We shouldn't grade him on a curve.

HABERMAN: That's what I'm talking about. Right.

KING: That he's getting these reviews today. Some deserved and some may be grading on the scale, I guess.

LIZZA: I think there's a little bit of a grading on the curve with this speech because of what's come before.

MURRAY: Yes. And I do think, to Maggie's point, it's not just that he can't be graded on a curve on this. He can't just sort of clear the bar. He has to leap over it over and over again because of the tone we heard from him from the campaign because we have seen white supremacist groups backing him, because there were many questions about things he said that -- and did and things his campaign did that people believe were playing to that audience. So it's not OK for him to just kind of be graded on the curve on that.

HAM: OK, bringing up the Kansas shooting -- I was going to say, bringing up the Kansas shooting in particular, which is something that I'm sure naturally he would get very defensive about and something that hasn't gotten a lot of attention I thought was really important. I liked that.

KING: Right, and we'll see. We'll see. We consider last night a good step. We'll see if there's the follow-through. That's the presidential moment is if you actually follow through. We'll see what happens.

There was also this moment, again, set your party aside, all of this is done in theater. This is -- there's some politics to this, despite the sensitive subject matter. Of course there's politics to this. But, this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just spoke to our great General Mattis just now, who reconfirmed that -- and I quote -- Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemy. Ryan's legacy is etched into eternity.

Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You just -- you can't overstate the drama and the emotion of that moment. And, again, there's a conversation in town about how was the raid authorized, was it -- was the intelligence taken from it really as dramatic and as significant as the Pentagon says?

LIZZA: Yes.

KING: But for a commander in chief, in his first setting, first time in this setting, presidents in the past going back to Reagan have done this, bringing special guests, you cannot dispute the power of that.

HABERMAN: It was a -- it was a -- it was an extremely impactful moment. And your heart has to break for this poor woman who was standing there while this is happening. And it was indeed a strong moment, I think, for the president. And I thought that he handled it effectively. You are correct, that there are a lot of questions about the efficacy of that raid, how it went, whether, you know, the SEAL's father, I think either yesterday morning or the day before had essentially said, leave my son alone, and I would like an investigation, and we haven't really heard anything about that.

But as I understand it, it's being said I think in the briefing right now at the White House, that his widow was -- agreed to be referenced in the speech and wanted to participate in that.

KING: Right.

HABERMAN: That is her choice. And that is how she wanted to honor her husband.

LIZZA: Yes.

MURRAY: Yes, I don't think you can dispute that. There are people, particularly (ph) in Washington, who will, who will call it a political ploy. There are even people who are taking offense to sort of when he, you know, cracked a joke at the end of the applause about how Ryan was setting a record for the length of the applause. To me this was such a genuine moment from the president to honor someone who gave his life in a tour of duty and whose widow agreed to participate in what was obviously a very difficult thing for her to do, to put herself out there, to be crying like that on national television, to know what a heartbreaking moment it is.

HAM: Yes.

MURRAY: And for me it almost seemed so human when Trump kind of cracked that joke at the end of the applause, like the way you would, you know, if your girlfriend is sobbing because she just, you know, got dumped by, like, what a jerk he was. Like, let's give you a moment of reprieve so you can pull it together and so that we can move on. I just felt like that was an excellent moment for him.

HABERMAN: It was a very, very strong moment. I agree with that.

KING: All right, everybody, sit tight.

Up next, America first. A big speech included a big focus on signature campaign promises. Yes, the wall came up, as did big changes in trade policy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:17:57] KING: Welcome back.

The White House had planned to release take two of its controversial travel ban today, but that announcement was put on hold last night. Look for it later in the week. Put on hold because of the president's big speech. In that speech, the president did make the case for the ban. Part of an America first security focus that echoed his big campaign theme.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is not compassion, but reckless to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur.

Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values. We cannot allow a beach head of terrorism to form inside America. We cannot allow our nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: He also promised to quickly build a border wall and quickly deport anyone in the United States illegally who breaks the law. There were some boos from some Democrats when the president said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American victims. The office is called, VOICE, Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement. We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media and silenced by special interests.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: There is -- there was some outreach in the speech. There was some effort to engage Democrats in conversation. But make no mistake, on this central promise of his campaign, especially on the border security, America first, security, he stuck -- I call it fidelity to the campaign promises, right?

LIZZA: Yes. And you heard the boos from the Democrats because this is probably the most controversial proposal that came out of that speech. He's actually creating an office that will essentially highlight crime from undocumented immigrants. We've stated this fact ad nauseam on CNN and other places. Native-born Americans actually commit crimes at a higher rate than the immigrant population in this country, So a lot of people are concerned of why is the -- why is the government, why is the president using his powers to specifically target one group of people and highlight their crimes? So I think this is going to get a lot of congressional review. I don't think Democrats are -- Democrats are going to be pretty worked up about this.

[12:20:15] KING: However Trump voters out there saying, as he said in the speech, I'm keeping my promises.

HABERMAN: It's part of the -- it's part of the paradox, though, when you begin this speech by appropriately condemning acts of hate, but that you would then later on in the speech focus very singularly on the crimes of one group of people. They're not -- there's not a clear line between them, but it is how you -- you know, when you're watching Trump, that sometimes he puts on brass knuckles, and sometimes he just uses the, you know, the glove. It's got a little more padding. And I would say this speech was more of that variety.

But at the end of the day, there wasn't much new in this speech, to your point.

KING: Right.

HABERMAN: This is stuff that we have heard him say over and over again, and on issues like that, he's not going to get a whole lot of Democratic buy-in. But to your point, with his base and with his supporters, this works very, very well. And I think the White House has reached a conclusion that at least for now he's not going to be able to grow his popularity that much. I do think some of this focus on his approval rating is probably a mistake because he had pretty low approval ratings. He still got elected. I think we're in a pretty charged atmosphere. What's going to matter is what he actually gets done. And for his supporters, if he's able to accomplish things like that, that will have value.

KING: Right, challenge one, when you start around 44 percent, let's keep what you got --

HABERMAN: That's right.

KING: Because you can't afford to lose it.

HABERMAN: That's right.

KING: And then if he grows -- and we'll get to the polling details in a minute, he will get a bounce out of this. How big of a bounce, we'll see. How sustainable a bounce, how secure a bounce, we'll see.

HAM: (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Please.

HAM: I just want to make one more point about the -- the tone of last night's speech and the way it was delivered seemed like a victory for the victory of the Reince wing of the fight in the White House versus the Bannon wing. And perhaps the holding off on this order, because they recognize that it's a success, means something about how that order will be rolled out or how they might proceed in the future, and there may be a lesson learned there. We can hope --

HABERMAN: I think it's a really big mistake to draw any long conclusion beyond just (INAUDIBLE) --

LIZZA: Well, they -- they're really undermining their own argument by -- by delaying this order.

HAM: That -- that only lasts two days. That's all -- that's (INAUDIBLE).

KING: They delay the -- they undermine -- they undermine this is an imperative national security by delaying the order --

HAM: Right.

LIZZA: Said bad dudes will flood in.

HABERMAN: Right, they'll flood in.

KING: Saying that we want to -- we want to enjoy a victory lap a little bit. Right, right.

HABERMAN: They've now waited for two weeks.

KING: But to your point, I think this is the defining question, was last night a new Trump? Will he see the good reviews --

HABERMAN: But it was --

KING: And say I'm going to be different --

HABERMAN: It's not. I'm not -- yes.

KING: Or is this like the campaign where he had his moments where he was on prompter, when he was on the cliff --

HABERMAN: Right.

KING: He would always recover and recalibrate for a certain period of time, which it varies, sometimes weeks, sometimes hours.

HABERMAN: He doesn't like being (INAUDIBLE). And, in fact, if he's watching all of this coverage that says he's a new Trump, at some point that will annoy him and he will go back to the other way.

MURRAY: He'll go back.

HAM: True.

HABERMAN: I just wholly reject the idea that there's a new Trump.

KING: Right.

HABERMAN: I think he is doing a different type of selling. If you look at him as someone who is always selling --

MURRAY: Right.

HABERMAN: He recognized he needed to make a different sales pitch.

KING: Another thing he was selling -- and this one's a little more difficult than a Republican Congress because he -- the traditions of the Republican Party, free market, open trade, not this president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe strongly in free trade, but it also has to be fair trade. It's been a long time since we had fair trade. The first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, warned that the abandonment of the protected policy by the American government will produce want and ruin among our people. Lincoln was right. And it's time we heeded his advice and his words.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: This was, I think, the immigration stuff, the new office and the Justice Department at that part there, the Steve Bannon part of the speech. There was some Ivanka in other places, but this was the Steve Bannon part.

LIZZA: But that -- you know, usually Lincoln is used by Republicans to talk about civil rights. You know, he's our greatest president, of course. And this is the first time I can remember a Republican president citing Lincoln to defend protectionism.

KING: Right.

LIZZA: To attack free trade. And if you noticed, at another part in the speech, Paul Ryan did not applaud when Trump talked about ripping up TPP --

KING: Right.

HABERMAN: Yes.

LIZZA: Which, of course, was Paul Ryan's baby.

KING: Right, he sat -- he sat there quite stoically at that moment.

Everybody sit tight.

Up next, heading into the speech, Republican congressional leaders like Paul Ryan asked the president for help settling internal party feuds on health care and tax reform. So, did the president deliver?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:28:25] KING: Welcome back. A peek there. Look at that. Some breaking news today. The Dow up 324 points, above 21,100. This, the day after the president's speech. There certainly has been a rally since Election Day. We'll keep an eye on that as it goes up 300 at the moment in the noon hour.

That was one of the president's goals last night, to keep economic optimism in the country going. Another major White House goal last night was for the president to sell a divided country on the need to repeal and replace Obamacare and on the need for sweeping tax reform. Now, those are big goals the president shares with Republican congressional leaders. But goals aren't laws. And to get legislation passed, Republican leaders need some help from the president settling some big internal Republican disagreements.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First, we should insure that Americans with preexisting conditions have access to coverage and that we have a stable transition for Americans currently enrolled in the health care exchanges.

Secondly, we should help Americans purchase their own coverage through the use of tax credits and expanded health savings accounts, but it must be the plan they want, not the plan forced on them by our government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So the leadership wanted help advancing the cause. Did he help? When he says tax credits there, a lot of the Tea Party members in the House don't like those tax credits, because they think it's another -- it's just another fancy way of having the government guarantee your health care, and a government entitlement.

LIZZA: I don't think that this speech papers over the divisions in the House on that issue because one can interpret tax credits different ways. And -- but you could see Paul Ryan there. That was probably where he lit up the most. And I know the Ryan team today is sort of saying -- is pointing that that excerpt and saying, he's on board with our plan.

[12:30:08] But, look, the fact that this plan goes --

KING: That's their read.

LIZZA: That's their read.