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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump on First 100 Day Accomplishments; Approval Rating at Historic Lows; Cost-Sharing Payments in Obamacare; Pentagon Opens Flynn Probe. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired April 27, 2017 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00] ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It behooves the White House. It benefits the White House. They must be completely transparent. Give it up. Give it all up. It's going to come out anyway.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, stand by for more.

Thank you all so much for joining me "AT THIS HOUR".

INSIDE POLITICS with John King starts right now.

Thanks, you guys.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Kate. And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

It is day 98 of the Trump presidency and, again, almost, as always, lots of moving parts. Among them, more trouble for President Trump's former national security adviser. The Pentagon inspector general now investigating whether General Michael Flynn failed to disclose payments from Russian interests after being warned not to take such money in the first place. Despite that continuing cloud, President Trump gives himself an A at the 100 day mark and, here's a shock, the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, disagrees.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: Some people have asked me what grade would I give him. We could take it subject by subject. Broken promises on jobs and infrastructure, F. We haven't seen a jobs bill. We haven't seen an infrastructure bill for all the talk. F. Broken promises on America's health care, F minus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The president says, A, Nancy Pelosi says F or F minus. How about what you think? What the American people think? Let's take a look. Forty-four percent of Americans approve of the job the president's doing right now, 54 percent disapprove. That's hardly an A, it's not an F. Somewhere in between. Maybe you call it a C or D. We'll see. But 44 approve, 54 disapprove.

A lot of questions in our brand new CNN/ORC poll about the president's management abilities and his management style. Fifty-one percent of Americans say their new president is not working hard enough at the job, 56 percent, this is pretty damming, 56 percent say he's done a very poor job of assembling a White House team that can help him. Only 44 percent think he can manage the government effectively. And, yes, we saw this low number in the campaign, but this is pretty stunning, only 37 percent of Americans think their new president is honest and trustworthy.

As always with Donald Trump, you get a bit of a divide. Republicans like what they see so far. Eighty-five percent of Republicans approve of the job he's doing as president, 91 percent of Democrats say, no thanks, they disapprove. Independents, more split, but a majority of independents, 53 percent, disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as we approach the 100 day mark. Still two days to get there. So, more time for the president to make a mark.

One drama very much worth watching, the House conservatives who derailed the last Obamacare repeal effort say they're good with a new plan, but can it really pass or is it just an effort to blame moderates for what so far is a giant 100 day failure?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), FREEDOM CAUCUS: We're not going to get the full repeal that we told the voter, so we've got more work to do and we, as conservatives, know that, but we believe this is the best plan we can get out of the House right now. We'll send it over to the Senate and some of our conservative colleagues over there will have -- will have more work to do to actually accomplish what the voters sent us here to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With us on this busy day to share their reporting and their insights, Abby Phillip of "The Washington Post," Margaret Talev of "Bloomberg Politics," CNN's Phil Mattingly and Sarah Westwood of "The Washington Examiner."

The president of Argentina is at the White House this hour. We expect perhaps a few more glimpses of the meetings with the president of the United States. If we see those, we'll bring them to you ASAP.

Other big news today, an abrupt White House messaging about-face on NAFTA, a plan to keep the government open past Friday's funding deadline and, yes, those on again, off again, now on again efforts in the House to try again on Obamacare repeal. Did you follow that? Let's set the table for all that.

First, though, the president's own assessment of how he's doing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I give us an A. I would say communication would be a little bit less than an A because I don't think we've gotten the word out what we've done because I think we're so busy getting it done that we're not talking about it. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Well, they've been talking about it quite a bit. Sarah, that is your interview from yesterday with the president of the United States. I'm always interested in a conversation with then Donald Trump the businessman, candidate Donald Trump, now President Donald Trump. He's a very good salesman. What was his mood, what was his spirit? When he was giving himself an A, did you get the sense that's what he really thinks?

SARAH WESTWOOD, "THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER": He did seem upbeat about his first 100 days. He was excited about the number of bills that he'd signed. He noted several times that by Saturday he expects to have signed 32 pieces of legislation and he felt that that wasn't getting enough attention. And it's interesting for someone who's so fixated on how his policies play in the media that he rated his White House's messaging as maybe it's weakest point in the first 100 days because that seems to be one of the things that he cares most about.

KING: Most about. But he's clearly seeing all these polls. He sees the polls. He sees our new poll. He sees other polls that say the American people are more split. A 44 percent approval rating is not stunning. However, it is proof the president -- we've had three polls since Donald Trump was inaugurated and he's been essentially a flat line on approval. So he's not growing. He's not getting new people. But he is holding pretty static among his own base, which has been his primary focus, but, an A?

ABBY PHILLIP, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I mean, I think that the president is always going to give himself a better grade than he gives even his staff and the sort of organization around him. The problem is that, as the president, he's responsible for that as well. And we're seeing this week Trump actually trying to take the reins of the messaging a little bit more. There was an interesting piece in Politico today where the president had brought reporters into the Oval Office where staff said, oh, it's off the record. The president said, no, actually, I want to talk about all of this stuff. That's the kind of stuff that he does when he feels like staff isn't really doing a good job explaining what I'm doing here, I'm going to do it myself. And we're seeing him do that all of this week.

[12:05:43] MARGARET TALEV, "BLOOMBERG POLITICS": But, you know --

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I -- go ahead.

TALEV: Well, I was going to say, there's a couple of measures by which to judge him by any of the sort of traditional measures, which is like some of the early campaign promises. He hasn't got anything done on health care yet, you know, any bipartisan compromises, no. If the goal was to come in, toss a little chaos into the middle and see if he could shake things up, I think he's certainly done that undeniably. And the question for the second 100 days is, to what end? What do you get out of it? So it -- yes.

MATTINGLY: Yes, I -- I also appreciate him becoming the 45th consecutive president who believes messaging is the problem and the staff is the problem, not him or the policies or any of the proposals. So it's good to see at least things are staying consistent on that level.

Look, I think when -- I'm on The Hill every single day. It hasn't been a great 100 days on Capitol Hill despite of what he says about the number of bills that he's signed into law. These aren't major issues. These aren't major pieces of legislation, the type of things that he promised. But, I do feel like health care might have an opening here. They feel good about what they did on taxes, as thin as the details may have been on that. So they feel like they're kind of starting to get into a better place. The question is, what does that actually turn into? Are there actual results that come out of that?

KING: Right. And another thing, in your interview, one of the questions on the table today, and it looks like they have a deal -- it looks like they have a deal to keep the government open. They're going to pass what's called a continuing resolution -- sorry, America, that's how we talk in Washington -- a continuing resolution or a CR for short if you want to know the lingo. It will keep the government open for another week while they work out the details of the spending plan that will keep the government funded ostensibly, that's the plan, is through the end of the fiscal year, to get to October.

One of the questions though is, to get the Democrats on board, Mick Mulvaney, the president's budget director, said yesterday the president, the Trump administration will continue to make payments to Obamacare -- to insurers under Obamacare. Republicans have long complained that's illegal, that the Congress never authorized such spending. The Democrats were holding up a deal until they got a commitment. Mick Mulvaney, the budget director, says, yes. Let's listen to the president in your interview. He seems to be saying maybe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I want to do is I want to see what happens with our bill.

So I really have to see what happens over the next couple of days or maybe weeks with respect our plan before I make that decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The "with respect to our plan" part is, and we're going to get to the details in just a minute, he's stilling hoping there's another health care vote. He's hoping there's a Republican repeal and replace plan that is at least moving through the House and then to uncertain fate in the Senate. But if his budget director goes up to Capitol Hill and tells the Democrats, don't worry, support the extension, we're going to give them that money, and then the president, on the very same day, says, I don't know, what's the impact?

TALEV: Well, I would actually go with Mick Mulvaney on this one. I mean I think we're seeing a little bit on -- on the NAFTA issue as well, which I'm -- you know, we could talk, it's a whole other conversation, right? But we might rescind the whole thing. Never mind, that's not what's going to happen. We're going to have negotiations. And then you see Trump tweeting this morning, yes, but the whole thing could blow up if they don't cooperate.

So I think like that's -- that's kind of standard messaging for President Trump is, let the other guys be the voice of compromise and then you keep the hammer out there just to remind people that you're unpredictable and if they mess with you, you might just do what you said you weren't going to do.

KING: And the Democrats are saying today, at least Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat, is saying, if you try to force a health care vote before the weekend, before 100 days, on Obamacare repeal vote, we won't support the legislation that keeps the government open for another week. So a little bit of chicken here, gamesmanship, whatever you want to call it. Phil Mattingly doesn't get gray hairs somehow, but if he did, he would have gray hair tracking this repeal and replace over the last month or so. The latest incarnation is a moderate from New Jersey, Tom MacArthur, who's come forward with an amendment designed to appease everybody. That was his goal to appease everybody. Remember, Freedom Caucus members, they're the conservatives. They said no last time. The president made a bunch of concessions to them. Some of them said yes, but the more moderate said no. They don't have a deal. Tom MacArthur says he's trying to get to the finish line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TOM MACARTHUR (R), FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well, my goal has been to try to get everyone who was struggling with this bill to get to yes. And the only way to do that is to balance these two things, bring costs down for people and make sure we protect the vulnerable people. And, you know, no bill is going to satisfy everyone. This is certainly not a perfect bill and for some people there are elements of it that they struggle with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The question is, can they get more votes? It's been interesting watching just our air today. He's a member of the so-called Tuesday Caucus, the moderates -- or the Tuesday Morning Group, I guess. And I've seen a number of them come on our air saying nope, nope, nope, not my deal. Let's just show, Phil, and then tell us where we are, are we actually going to get a vote. The MacArthur Amendment would give waivers, states could seek waives for those national pre-existing condition rules. So, Obamacare requires our insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions. Under this amendment, some states could opt out of that if they wanted to. States can also seek waivers for the essential health care benefit rules. We went through this in the first incarnation, covering things that are quite popular in the essential benefits package. If a waiver is sought, states could also enact a high risk pool, but it could lead to higher premiums for sicker and older people, which the whole messaging has been lower premiums. Is this a solution or is this something the conservatives are wrapping their arms around so they can say, if we didn't pass health care repeal in the first 100 days in the House, it's the moderate's fault. [12:10:34] MATTINGLY: The latter is certainly a reality right now. And

I can say this, in talking to a number of Tuesday Group members yesterday, talking to a number of their aides as well, Tom MacArthur was out on an island on this. He did these negotiations kind of against the will of his group. They don't want to negotiate with the Freedom Caucus. They only want to vote with leadership.

Here's kind of the reality of the state of play right now. They're short. They don't have the votes yet. If they had the votes yet, they would schedule a floor vote and they would get it on the floor as quickly as possible. But this is as close as they've ever been. I'm told between 29, 30, maybe even 31 Freedom Caucus members are on board with this. That's from zero before in the initial iteration. But moderates are having a real problem with it.

And it was that latter point, the idea that this could drive up costs for individuals with pre-existing conditions. And the waivers, the language in the bill, they're trying to thread a very small needle with a very small thing of thread here if they can. And that's what Congressman MacArthur is trying to say he has ably accomplished. And they're just not sold yet.

The question now becomes, as they get very close, and I'm told they are close, as close as they've ever been, they're going to have to twist some arms. They're going to have to get some people who will be willing to say, I'm willing to risk my swing state district, my swing district in 2018 to vote yes on something that will go over to the Senate, likely be completely changed, if it ever comes back, and I'm willing to do that because I think we need to get this off our plate. So it's a calculation that leadership says they think they can get those members, two at some point, but they're not there yet.

KING: At some point. And this is the other reason Donald Trump is president of the United States, is because people are disgusted with this town. They don't like the way this town works. This is one of my favorites, Tom Massie, a Republican House member to "The National Journal," he's one of the more conservative members, he said, "I went from hell no to no. That's progress, I guess." That is today's Washington.

Everybody sit tight. Ahead, check your wallet and grab a calculator, the new Trump tax plan and what it might mean you to.

But next, more trouble for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and more proof the Russia cloud over the Trump White House will remain for the second 100 days and probably well beyond.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:16:42] KING: Welcome back.

New and more troubles for former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. We learned today that the Pentagon's inspector general opened an investigation earlier this month to look into payments Flynn accepted from Russian interests after retiring from military services. And new documents provided to Congress show the Defense Intelligence Agency three years ago warned General Flynn not to take foreign payments when he was in retirement.

This new twist just days after House investigator said there was no evidence Flynn disclosed those payments from a Russian TV network close to Vladimir Putin when he filed papers to receive his security clearance. Flynn's lawyer says he verbally told the DIA about his Russia trip and the payments. But in a letter to the House Government Reform Committee the DIA says, quote, it "did not locate any records of LTG Flynn seeking permission or approval for the receipt of money from a foreign source."

CNN's Manu Raju live at the Capitol with more on the significance of this what I'll call, Manu, the latest spy saga twist.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, absolutely.

And, actually, we're seeing what's happening in this House Oversight Committee is a breakdown along party lines. The release of these documents today were actually done by the Democrats on this committee, led by Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee who raised serious concerns about these warnings that the Pentagon issued saying that Mr. Flynn had to get permission as a former military officer to get these foreign payments and document -- no documents -- the documents that they received show that he did not get permission because there are no records showing that they got these payments.

Now, just moments ago the top Republican on the committee, the chairman, Jason Chaffetz, his spokesperson issued a statement saying that the Democrats did not consult with them in releasing these documents, but the Democrats are pushing back saying they did consult with them. Their protocol is to not necessarily get permission from the leadership, the Republicans, but to at least consult with them. So they're saying that.

And also in disagreement about whether the White House has been responsive to these requests from Congress. Congressman Cummings very critical of the White House for saying that they do not have those documents in their possession before January 20th and then saying that the documents after January 20th were not relevant to the investigation that the House Oversight Committee is now conducting. The Democrats demanding Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman, do more to get those documents. They just sent a letter to him asking him to do more to push for possibly even a subpoena. Right now, though, Chaffetz's office is not saying that they will go that far. Chaffetz himself previously saying that he's satisfied with the White House's response to that Oversight Committee on this issue.

So you're seeing, even though earlier this week, John, both Republican and Democrat were saying -- raising concerns about Michael Flynn, saying that he may have broken the law. Today, as this investigation takes a new twist, starting to see some tension along party lines as they try to move forward on this investigation, John.

KING: The Oversight Committee breaking along partisan lines as the Intelligence Committee insists it's getting back to bipartisanship. Again, welcome to Washington.

Manu Raju, thanks very much.

Let's bring it into the room.

This is confusing and there's a lot of -- there is -- shocking, there's some partisanship involved. There are also a lot of questions -- it's going to take some time to get through classified documents and the like to answer and General Flynn now under investigation by the FBI, by the Defense Department's inspector general, by House committees and by Senate committees. And so he, rightfully so, has a lawyer, and this is going to take time. But what does it mean for the president and the White House that this investigation is clearly going to go on -- investigations, plural, are clearly going to go on for months and months and months?

[12:20:12] PHILLIP: I -- it suggests to me that the White House doesn't know where this goes. They didn't seem to have much of an idea of what Michael Flynn was up to when he was working for the campaign, when he was in the transition, and even when he was in the White House. And so it's not surprising that they're trying to kind of limit the scope of how deep this investigation is going because if you don't know what investigators are going to necessarily find or what they're looking for, it's hard to want to open the door to them. That's why this is such a big problem. As this investigation goes on, there's a limit to how much it seems the White House believes they have a handle on what's going on, on what might be found, and that makes it a very dangerous political situation, but also legal situation for them going forward.

TALEV: It is -- it's really unusual for there to be so much focus on someone after they've already resigned from their job, because usually the reason why a White House will toss someone overboard is they've just become too radioactive and it's a drag on everybody else. But what we're seeing here is that General Flynn continues to be a real drag on the White House long after he's gone. And it suggests that if, in fact, the real and only reason why he departed was that his story with Mike Pence wasn't entirely straight, that was, like, the biggest gift the White House ever got, right?

But part of the problem now is that it raises questions for every other major player on the administration about their own shortcomings with disclosures, whether they were incidental, whether they were like kind of whatever, but lead to something completely different. Even so, all of those questions are now --

KING: We still don't know. We still don't know if we're done with a full accounting of meetings with Russians during the campaign.

TALEV: Yes, that's right.

KING: Even if they were innocent. Even if they were about nothing --

TALEV: Yes.

KING: We keep learning about new meetings which raises questions.

But here's my question. If we want in the end the American people to understand the findings and accept the findings of these investigation, if something was wrong, something was done wrong, to accept that something was done wrong. If nothing was done wrong and he had a bunch of meeting that maybe they should have disclosed but nothing nefarious happened, to accept that. Can they, when we have Democrats who understandably want to see documents, but they just asked the White House for them the other day. The White House said no. That's how conversations always start in Washington, D.C. But the Democrats are already jumping to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), RANKING MEMBER, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: I honestly do not understand why the White House is covering up for Michael Flynn. I don't get it. After the president fired him. For lying. So the president fired him for lying about his communications with the Russian ambassador. They should be bending over backwards to help us. It does not make any sense. And it makes the American people think the White House has something to hide.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We don't know that yet. Every -- look, it's the 100 -- we're in the first 100 days. Everyone's trying to gin up their base. The Democrats want to keep the anti-Trump movement going. You know, the president wants to keep his supporters locked in. I get the politics of that. But on something so important and so sensitive, the White House is covering up for Michael Flynn? If the White House is stalling on documents, call them on it. Come out every day and say, I asked you Monday for these documents, I asked you Tuesday again, I asked you Wednesday again. But the White House is covering up for Michael Flynn. If we get there, then you've got a scandal. But we don't know that yet and the rhetoric on both sides -- on both sides the rhetoric here is pretty overheated.

WESTWOOD: Right. And this reminds me a lot of the Benghazi Committee investigation. It was supposed to be a non-partisan probe but it quickly became something that was very politically charged because both sides were selectively releasing documents that supported their narrative. Both sides were accusing the other of foul play. And that seems to be what happened on the House Intelligence Committee and, to a lesser extent, what's happening with the Oversight Committee.

In the case of the White House, the evidence points more to that the White House is unable to comply with these requests than that they're unwilling because it doesn't seem that these documents even exist, the ones that Congress wants, and that's the trouble.

KING: It does seem at times they seem -- they seem, we'll see if it ends up this way, but they seem as surprised to learn things about what General Flynn did and didn't do and what he -- who he told and didn't tell. All right, we'll see where this one goes. I think this one's going to be with us for a while.

Up next, as we inch closer to the 100 day mark, how is President Trump doing on the domestic front?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:28:08] KING: Welcome back.

A bit more now about how you, the American people, feel about the country and about President Trump as he nears the 100 day mark. Here, most of the polls are discouraging for the president. But here, here's great news for the president, 59 percent of Americans say they feel good about economic conditions in the United States right now, 41 percent say poor. That's a good number anyway, but think about this, it has not been good. Good has not been at 59 percent in ten years. So people feel good about the economy right now. That generally does help a president.

Let's look at some of the issues, though. The president is struggling on the big issues, the economy, health care and immigration, especially if you compare it to our last poll seven weeks ago in March, 49 percent approve of how the president's handling the economy, down from 55 percent. Only 36 percent approve of how he's handling health care. The Obamacare repeal debacle clearly taking a toll, down from 43 percent. And even on immigration, an issue on which the administration believe it's keeping its promises, toughening enforcement, the president's standing down a little bit from about seven weeks ago.

Here's another big question, is the president keeping his promises? Well, the country's pretty split on this question. Forty-eight percent say he's doing a good job at keeping his promises, 52 percent say a poor job. One signature promise of the president during the campaign, get tougher against what he calls unfair and illegal trade, including, just yesterday, the White House telling reporters the president was poised to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement. That's the big trade deal negotiated by Bill Clinton with Mexico and with Canada. Pull out was the word yesterday. Listen to the president just moments ago at the White House. He says now let's try to renegotiate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rather than terminating NAFTA, which would be a pretty big, you know, shock to the system, we will renegotiate. Now, if I'm unable to make a fair deal, if I'm unable to make a fair deal for the United States, meaning a fair deal for our workers and our companies, I will terminate NAFTA.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[12:29:56] KING: It would be a pretty big shock to the system, as the president just said there. And he's been told that for weeks. Yesterday they were sending word that he was going to abruptly pull out of NAFTA, he was going to walk away from NAFTA. His chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, his Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, his Commerce secretary, have all told him, the stock markets would crash.