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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump Talks Infrastructure; Trump's Conversation with Comey; Counsel Investigating Obstruction; May Loses Majority in Parliament. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 9, 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] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Environment. We will get rid of the redundancy and duplication that wastes your time and your money. Our goal is to give you one point of contact to deliver one decision, yes or no, for the entire federal government and to deliver that decision quickly, whether it's a road, whether it's a highway, a bridge, a dam.

To do this, we are setting up a new council to help project managers navigate the bureaucratic maze. This council will also improve transparency by creating a new online dashboard allowing everyone to easily track major projects through every stage of the approval process. This council will make sure that every federal agency that is consistently delaying projects by missing deadlines will face tough new penalties. I know it won't happen with these two. We don't have to worry about them. We will hold the bureaucracy accountable.

We are also creating a new office in the Council of Environmental Quality to root out inefficiency, clarify lines of authority and streamline federal and state, local procedures so that communities can modernize their aging infrastructure without fear of outdated federal rules getting in their way. This massive permit reform, and that's what it is, it's a permit reform. It doesn't sound glamorous. They won't write stories about it. They won't even talk about it. But it's so important.

But it's only the first step in renewing America's roads, rails, runways, and rivers. As I discussed in Ohio recently, my new vision for American infrastructure will generate $1 trillion in infrastructure investment, which we desperately need. We've spent, as of a few months ago, $6 trillion in the Middle East. Think of it, $6 trillion in the Middle East. And it's worse than it was 15 years ago by a factor of 10. And yet, if you want to build a little road in one of your communities in Pennsylvania or Ohio or in Iowa or North Carolina or in Florida, you can't get the money.

State and local leaders will have more power to decide which projects get built, when they start, and how they are funded. And investors will have a much more predictable environment that encourages them to invest billions of dollars in capital that is currently stuck on the sidelines. Together, we will build projects to inspire our youth, employ our workers and create true prosperity for our people. We will pour new concrete, lay new brick, and watch new sparks light our factories as we forge metal from the furnaces of our rust belt and our beloved heartland, which has been forgotten. It's not forgotten anymore. We will put new American steel into the spine of our country. American workers will construct gleaming new lanes of commerce across our landscape. They will build these monuments from coast to coast and from city to city. And with these new roads, bridges, airports and seaports, we will embark on a wonderful new journey into a bright and glorious future.

We will build again. We will grow again. We will thrive again. And we will make America great again.

Thank you. God bless you. I appreciate it. Thank you very much. Thank you.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King.

You're watching the president of the United States, Donald Trump, just finishing an event at the Transportation Department. Part of what he had hoped to be a big week focusing on infrastructure. Of course, other things have dominated the conversation in Washington. But the president there delivering a speech where he's promising that his administration will do away what he says are incredibly burdensome federal regulations that he says slow down infrastructure projects, hurt the American economy.

The president leaving the Transportation Department there. Back to the White House for a meeting with Romania's president.

We're also standing by, we should tell you, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson due to deliver a statement at the State Department any moment now, offering, we are told, for the United States to mediate disputes between Arab countries in the Gulf, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other countries now at odds over a big diplomatic break. We'll wait - we'll get word from the secretary of state on his plans in just a moment. We'll take you there live.

[12:05:17] Also in a moment, major turmoil in the U.K. and its global implications. Prime Minister Theresa May will try to form a coalition government after a stunning election defeat last night.

But we begin here in Washington with the legal and political fallout of James Comey's blockbuster day in the witness chair. The former FBI director repeatedly called the president a liar, said he was certain the special counsel is now reviewing whether the president obstructed justice and raised troubling new questions about the attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I knew that there might come a day when I would need a record of what had happened.

I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: The president shocked Washington by staying silent during Comey's big day, but he counter punched today somehow claiming, quote, "total and complete vindication" and seemingly, if you read that tweet, accusing Comey of lying to Congress.

The president's lawyer, today, leaked word he plans to file a leaks complaint - that's how Washington works - against Comey. That's a stunt from the president's lawyer. Nothing more. And it comes a day after a statement from that lawyer that contained several factual mistakes and ended with this political spin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARC KASOWITZ, TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: The president feels completely vindicated and is eager to continue moving forward with his agenda with the business of this country and with this public cloud removed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With us to share their reporting and their insights, Margaret Talev of "Bloomberg Politics," Michael Shear of "The New York Times," Perry Bacon of FiveThirtyEight and Julie Hirschfeld Davis at "The New York Times."

We're going to hear more from the president as I said this afternoon. He's scheduled to take questions from reporters after a meeting at the White House with Romania's president.

As we await that, the outlines at the White House damage control strategy are now clear, attack Comey's credibility and try to distract attention away from the many damming things he said about the president, like this takeaway from Comey, when the president ordered everyone else to leave the Oval Office, and, according to Comey, said he hoped he could find a way to drop the investigation of the former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I took it as a direction. I mean this is the president of the United States with me alone saying, I hope this. I took it as, this is what he wants me to do. I didn't -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You -

COMEY: I didn't obey that, but that's the way I took it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: On the many damming things James Comey said about the president of the United States, from a legal jeopardy perspective, that perhaps the biggest, saying that he took it that the president, when he asked the attorney general and others to leave the Oval Office, looked him in the eye and said, you know, make this go away.

MICHAEL SHEAR, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": You know, I think part of - part of what it's hard for us in the sort of sound bite era to do is not look at the individual little pieces of things that he said, but look at the big picture, step back. And what Director Comey kind of laid out was a pattern of repeated efforts by the president of the United States to communicate his dissatisfaction with the direction of all of these Russia investigations and the various pieces of them and repeatedly tried to indicate that he didn't want them to continue. With the kind of idea sort of floating in the background not stated was that if - if he didn't happen, that somehow Comey's job was on the line. And, of course, as we know, he did get fired ultimately.

KING: Right.

SHEAR: So that's the sort of narrative that Comey laid out. And it's pretty damming. You know, obviously, we'll see what happens with the investigations. But that was, I think, the big takeaway.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD-DAVIS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, and, also, that seems to have been the moment when that idea of obstruction of justice first entered Comey's mind. That from that very moment, he then leaves that meeting, goes and commits the, you know, his account of that and his memory of that meeting to writing with the clear thought in his head that he might need this later, that this is something that was completely inappropriate. He felt he was trying - he was - he had been asked to do something or lose his job for it. And what we saw him do was sort of put in place a series of failsafe's with these memos, meeting after meeting, that he then activated once it became clear that, in fact, he - at least he believes his fear was confirmed, that he was, in fact, trying to obstruct something here.

KING: And what do we make of the White House strategy? The attorney, Marc Kasowitz, comes out yesterday, questions a couple of the things, calls into question the accuracy of Comey on a couple of those points but then, at the end, says the president's completely vindicated. The cloud is gone. It was remarkable that the president himself stayed out of this yesterday, especially after some of his aides were saying he planned to live tweet as Comey was up there.

He - the president stayed out of it yesterday. But, again, there is a special counsel investigation. That we have every reason to believe is at least looking at the president's conduct. It's hard to describe that in any detail more than that. Is the president under investigation? Is the special counsel just taking what Jim Comey says and taking a look at it and then deciding whether to go further. Those are things we will learn in the weeks and months ahead. But for the president to come out this morning and essentially accuse James Comey of lying under oath, which is felony perjury to lie under oath to the United states Congress, he's escalating this, not deescalating.

[12:10:17] MARGARET TALEV, "BLOOMBERG POLITICS": So the White House legal - or the president's legal strategy, which is sort of removed from the White House, appears to be twofold. And one is to say that the president is not under criminal investigation because at least up until the end of Jim Comey's tenure, that was true, according to Jim Comey. And then the second is to turn this into a Comey versus President Trump fight to kind of brand Jim Comey in with Democrat, the mainstream media and other critics, and make it a he said/he said. When, in fact, it's not really he said/he said. It's the like storied FBI director whose justice career has spanned a lot of crime and has a lot of credibility across the partisan aisle saying that the way he dealt with President Trump deviated in many ways from the way he dealt with other presidents because of the way the president had approached him, two meetings ever with President Obama, nine meetings with President Trump in the span of four months on and on and these sort of things. But that's the White House's approach now and that makes sense.

You know, I talked to Norm Eisen, who's been very active on Twitter today, the former Obama ethics adviser, the former ambassador to the Czech Republic. He's been involved with this group CREW, helped found it. So the one thing that he kind of says is, he's not saying it has gotten to this point yet, but that for the president and his lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, they need to be mindful of overstepping the political response. That when you're doing things, like what they're talking about filing a complaint with the I.G. or whatever, there is boundaries at which that is an acceptable, even if it's a strategically questionable, political response, and then boundaries at which that response itself perhaps draws you closer to the - if those who want to make a case about obstruction or interference, that becomes ammunition for that case potentially.

KING: Right.

PERRY BACON, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: The second part of that tweet's important because he talks about this idea that there was a leak and Comey did something wrong, because he's trying to lump it in with these classified leaks that are mentioned (ph).

KING: Right.

BACON: Obviously it was different for Comey to talk to a reporter about what he talked to the president about. Plenty of people talk (INAUDIBLE) with the president, from congressmen to journalist. So he's trying to sort of - (INAUDIBLE) Comey of something sort of illegal or wrong when it's not clear he did it all in terms of passing his notes to that professor, who then passes it to "The Times."

KING: And as we listen to Comey yesterday, he knows how to work the system in Washington.

BACON: He does.

KING: And a lot of the Trump team is saying he's manipulating the system in Washington. And we could have that conversation a little bit and we're going to have this throughout the hour. But I want to bring in one point. One of the thing we did learn is, you're right, and one of the things team Trump is rightly focusing on is that the attorney - the former director, excuse me, said several times that while he was director of the FBI, he did tell the president, you are not under investigation. People around you are under investigation, but you are not, sir. And the Republicans are saying, well, that is, to a degree, good news.

But listen to this part, Jim Comey dropping in here. Remember, he spoke to the special counsel, Bob Mueller, before he testified before Congress. He said he has shared his memo about his conversation with the president with Bob Mueller. Listen here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I don't think it's for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct. I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning. But that's a conclusion I'm sure the special counsel will work towards to try and understand what the intention was there and whether that's an offense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The president was not under investigation when James Comey was the FBI director. But in firing James Comey, the president might have put himself, looks like, pretty likely, put himself under investigation.

BACON: That's what it sounded like Comey said. I mean he pretty - was pretty strong on that point saying I talked to Mueller. Mueller's going to look into this now. He was asked questions about the firing itself, and he kept saying, this is going to be part of the special counsel. And actually Rosenstein and McCabe hinted that in their hearing on Wednesday as well. So I think it's pretty clear now that the actual - the actual behavior of Trump's up to now maybe - we also don't know the investigation is where it is now. If the FBI's investigating your campaign, you're the candidate, was not under investigation, doesn't mean is not. So I think it's important to say that as well.

KING: Well, I think particularly saying he has all the memos about things the president of the United States, not candidate Trump, not Trump associates from 2016, but the president, that was pretty enlightening there. Much more to talk about, including what James Comey said about Jeff Sessions, the political fallout.

Also, we'll take you to the U.K. for the election fallout there.

We're also waiting, right there, for the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, to deliver a statement on Qatar and what we are told will be a new U.S. mediation effort.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:18:58] KING: Welcome back. A lot of big international news today.

We're waiting right there. That's the State Department. The secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, about to come out and speak, deliver a statement, where we're told he will offer United States mediation in a big dispute in the Persian Gulf region. Nine Arab nations have broken ties at the moment with Qatar. The secretary of state, we are told, is going to offer some diplomatic bridge there, some mediation effort. We'll take you there live as soon as the secretary of state comes out. Now across to the U.K. The British prime minister, Theresa May, vowing to stay in power after an embarrassing election setback. May was so confident conservatives would grow their majority back when she called for early elections. Instead, her party lost his majority in the House of Commons. The head of the opposition Labour Party now calling on May to resign, but she promises to stay in power by forming a coalition with a political party from northern Ireland that has historically sided with conservatives.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: What the country needs more than ever is certainty. And having secured the largest number of votes and the greatest number of seats in the general election, it is clear that only the conservative and unionist party has the legitimacy and ability to provide that certainty by commanding a majority in the House of Commons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[12:20:10] KING: CNN's Phil Black is at 10 Downing Street with more on this stunning turn of events and where we go from here.

Phil, the prime minister there speaking, she's talking of certainty. I would make the observation from across the pond that we don't see much at the moment.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed. She's trying to talk about certainty or trying to talk about the need to talk about - to establish certainty, John, but that's really her greatest challenge. Interestingly, she's not acknowledging this scale of the political setback that she's facing here. The degree to which her authority is ultimately being diminished in her party in terms of government, the country. She's talking about simply getting on with it, trying to form a government because she believes that's what's in the national interest.

So there's been no humility, no real apology, no acknowledgement of her role in this of this being a rejection from the people because of her leadership or policies. She's saying she has to get on with this because Britain is about to begin these very important negotiations with the European Union to begin the whole Brexit process, to pull out of the E.U. That's only weeks away. So she says that it's important that she, who is still the leader of the biggest party in the parliament, should form this government and get on with the job.

KING: Phil, it's probably an unfair question because so many things factor into an election, but why? Why did this happen? Obviously if you call snap elections, back then she was clearly briefed on data that said the conservatives were in the driver seat, the conservatives would gain. And something happened in those ensuing weeks. Why do people think this happened?

BLACK: Seven weeks ago, John, this seemed like such a safe bet. She was so far ahead in the polls, about 20 percent. Her main rival, the leader of the Labour Party, was largely considered not a credible alternative. As prime minister, she was expected to sail through and really increase her majority.

But, of course, the campaign didn't pan out that way. The Labour leader, he performed quite comfortably, strongly grew momentum and support. She stumbled a few times, often looked uncomfortable. Policies weren't well received. She even back-pedaled on a few of them as well. And, of course, you probably have to consider the fact that the campaign was interrupted twice by terror events, one in Manchester, one in London. That affected the flow of campaign politics here as well.

And so for all of these reasons, she came out in a much diminished position and the final result was just so much closer than she expected. And no doubt she's feeling considerable regret that she began this whole process in the first place.

KING: Phil Black for us outside 10 Downing Street, as the prime minister tries to form a new government.

Phil, thank you.

And just a short time to, to Phil's point about dealing with the aftermath, I want to play a little bit of an interview here in which the prime minister, her party, lost a dozen seats in the House of Commons. Here's the prime minister speaking to those candidates saying she's sorry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I'm sorry for all those candidates and hard working party workers who weren't successful, but also particularly sorry for those colleagues who were MPs and ministers who contributed so much to our country and who lost their seats.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're - again, we're across the Atlantic Ocean, so I don't want to try to get into what - exactly what happened in Great Britain, but you are reminded yet again of the volatility in all democracies at the moment. We saw an interesting process just play out in France. The Brexit vote itself was stunning after the Trump victory here in the United States. And now a politician who clearly - you don't call for snap elections unless you see pretty overwhelming data. And then in the course of seven weeks, and as Phil noted two terrorist attacks could have something to do with it, but what a stunning turnaround.

SHEAR: I mean, look, no dispute over crowd size, but still an outcome that was, you know, that was surprising. And I think it does call into question - I mean, again, we don't want to sort of speculate too much, but was there a sort of unease about Brexit, which she supports? Was there, you know, was it her performance? Was it, as you said, the terror attacks? And I think it does give you a sense that there's a lot of upheaval all over the world.

TALEV: It's not about Donald Trump, but since we're all sitting here at this table, let's say that it's probably not great for him, although maybe it's too soon to say that yet. But if this does carry a message about Brexit, if this does represent a rise of more of an anti-President Trump faction in the U.K., the U.K. remains this indispensable partner of the United States and a lot of, in the age of Brexit, a lot of the U.S. and U.K. kind of relationship of matters vis-a-vis the relationship with the rest of Europe, that adds a new element of uncertainty that will affect, to some extent, the administration's calculations as well.

BACON: To bring up another U.S. politician. The Labour Party's candidate ran in a sort of - he ran on a free college campaign. He ran a very populist message. Bernie Sanders really praised - actually praised him today for his campaign. So you might show the fact that - I don't compare Britain and the U.S. too much, but it seemed like Labour, you know, Tony Blair was a Bill Clinton-like leader and Bernie - and now that might show that the left party in Britain has now moved to a Bernie Sanders-style approach. And I saw a lot of liberals on Twitter saying, see, Bernie could have won too. I'm not sure that's true, but I think that's - we're going to hear more of that, you know, coming forward.

[12:25:12] KING: Yes, we will likely get some overreaction (INAUDIBLE).

BACON: Yes.

KING: But you mentioned - and Phil mentioned this, at the beginning of the campaign there were a lot of people in - within the Labour Party and affiliated with the Labour Party who thought Jeremy Corbyn was the wrong leader.

BACON: Yes.

KING: And that if the party lost in this election, they would be done with him and they would move on. A lot of people thought they needed a new generation, a next generation leader. Now, though, the Labour Party did - didn't win the majority, but it took Theresa May's majority away that was part of that anyway. Jeremy Corbyn taking his moment to say that May should not stay on as prime minister.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEREMY CORBYN, LABOUR PARTY LEADER: If there is a message from tonight's result is, is this, the prime minister called the election because she wanted a mandate. Well, the mandate she's got is lost conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence. I would have thought that's enough to go, actually, and make way for a government that will be truly representative of all of the people of this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: This uncertainty is at a pretty important time. These Brexit negotiations. The E.U. says it's time, let's negotiate. You're out. Let's go. Send your team. The prime minister, before she can send a team, one assumes has to form a new government. DAVIS: That's absolutely -- I think it's interesting to hear her talk

about certainty because this absolutely undercuts Theresa May and it - and it raises the uncertainty, particularly surrounding Brexit, not just for the U.K. but, of course, for the rest of the world and for the United States watching how this is all going to play out, how this is going to affect our relationship with the United Kingdom. I - you know, it - there's no question that this is a much more fraught process than I think Donald Trump or any of his advisers thought it would be and now they're going to have to sit back and figure out how that's all going to play for us.

KING: You think - you think about all of this volatility. Theresa May became prime minister because David Cameron made a bad bet. David Cameron made a bad bet, the conservative prime minister, that - against the Brexit vote and he lost. So he stepped down. She's relatively young in the job, the former home secretary, which is homeland security essentially there. Now is the prime minister.

I just want to show you the "London Evening Standard." The front pages of the tabloids in London are often not kind after things like this. You know, the "queen of denial," as she tries to keep the government together.

But, again, for me, it's - you know, we're not there. I don't want to overanalyze it. But the volatility in politics, the volatility around things like Brexit, which is globalization, which is jobs, which is the role of government, which is the role of technology, that volatility is alive and well.

TALEV: And I think that's - and that's where you see potentially, depending on what we learn about what was behind this, potentially where you see some of the parallels on the U.S. side. If Brexit was the thing that people wanted at the time to shake things up, it certainly injected uncertainty in the process. Brexit itself injected the uncertainty. If this election was a response to that uncertainty and not just Theresa May not doing a great job a-

BACON: On more raw, political point. Theresa May was the closest European leader, had been more supportive of Donald Trump than the rest of them. Macron criticizing him all the time. Merkel is criticizing him all the time. And now you're running a European election. It's another sign you should talk about Donald Trump a lot and be very, very critical.

KING: Excellent point there.

Everybody sit tight.

Remember, we're waiting for the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, at the State Department. We'll take you there when it happens.

Also next, the White House spokeswoman says the president is not a liar. The former FBI director, James Comey, says he is. And he says he worried about the president's credibility from day one.

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