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Trump Acknowledges Being Investigated; Anonymous Sources Warning; Uniting over Baseball; Pelosi Blasts Republicans. Aired 12- 12:30p ET
Aired June 16, 2017 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:00:19] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us.
President Trump on his way to Miami this hour. He's ready, right there in that hall, to announce a rollback of President Obama's historic diplomatic opening with Cuba.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know what I'm talking about. We will cancel Obama's one-sided Cuban deal made by executive order.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Score at a Democratic route, 11-2. But, more importantly, score and a message. Two days after a shocking ambush at the annual congressional baseball game raises big bucks for charity and raises hopes for a more respectful tone here in Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: I thought you were going to brag about how much my grandchildren are your big fans.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: That - that's right. Yes, her grandkids actually like me. Go figure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: President Trump is among those calling for unity, but don't bet on a more respectful Twitter tone from the president. Another angry tweet storm underscores the growing threat of an expanding special counsel investigation.
With us this day to share their reporting and their insights, Carol Lee of "The Wall Street Journal," Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times," Perry Bacon of FiveThirtyEight and Karoun Demirjian of "The Washington Post."
Up first this hour, a number of new developments and a few curious twists in the Russia election meddling investigation. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is very serious, expanding his team now, hiring 13 seasoned attorneys so far with more to come his spokesman says. Vice President Mike Pence has hired a private attorney to help him navigate the investigation. A few moments ago in Florida he said that is routine standard practice, no big deal. "The Washington Post" reports one area of interest for Mueller is presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner's financial dealings.
And then, there is this. A riddle wrapped in a presidential tweet. "I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director. Witch hunt." The president there in a tweet appearing to publicly confirm that he's under investigation and we have now learned when that first came out who was he talking about? We have now learned from White House officials that the president of the United States has turned has anger at Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who named Bob Mueller, the special counsel. We've heard the president has been mad at James Comey. James Comey got fired. We're heard the president is steaming about Bob Mueller, the special counsel. We know he's mad at Jeff Sessions, his attorney general, for recusing himself. Now he's mad at the number two at the Justice Department, a man who has a very important job in the Trump administration in addition to being the point person for the special counsel.
CAROL LEE, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Right. And this is a reflection of just broadly how frustrated and angry the president is generally about the whole Russia investigation. It's - he always has somebody that he's turning his fire on. Now it's Rod Rosenstein. And, you know, he issued a statement last night in response to some of the reports that were coming out about the investigation that was a little bit bizarre in the sense that it said, don't believe anonymous sources. And it just - it seemed designed and the Justice Department saying it was his own statement. He wasn't doing it by pressure from the White House. But it seemed designed to curry some sort of favor with the White House. It was certainly something that they would agree with.
KING: So perhaps he knew the president's angry and he's doing something - this one gets bizarre when you think about all of this. You -
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It made sense that he would be the lightning rod right now for the president's frustration because the president cannot reach over Rosenstein to fire Mueller without Rosenstein's help.
DEMIRJIAN: He has to be the one to actually sign that piece of paper, whatever the formal procedure is. And he just said, when he was appearing before a Senate Appropriations Committee Subpanel this week, he's not going to do it. Based on what he knows, he think there isn't cause. And he said that a day before we published our report about, you know, Trump himself now being under scrutiny for obstruction of justice potentially. So obsessively Rosenstein knew that and still said, I'm going to back Mueller in this case and not let him go.
KING: Right, he we very, very clear.
KING: He said, I will only do it if I see cause. And I do not see cause now.
DEMIRJIAN: And I do not see cause.
KING: And I don't care who asked me to do it, if there's not cause.
DEMIRJIAN: He's the firewall, yes.
KING: Which that means the president. Right.
JONATHAN MARTIN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": The Trump tweet is also misleading, John, because, as we know, from what Trump said in the NBC interview, he did not fire Comey because of what Rod Rosenstein said. He fired Comey because of the Russia investigation. Yes, they had Rosenstein do that memo suggesting that it was because of Comey botching the Hillary investigation, but that was laughable. Nobody actually believed that. And Trump himself undercut that spin the following week. So even what he's saying in that tweet is not actually the case. Rosenstein didn't make Trump fire Comey.
PERRY BACON, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: So important, though, to say that "The Washington Post" with sort of unnamed sources saying the president is being investigated. The president himself, that story was - you know, we weren't sure. Was that totally true? I assumed it was.
BACON: But no doubt now. Think about bad communications. The president is now on Twitter in public saying, yes, I am under investigation. I'm not sure what he was thinking there.
KING: Well, and he should know - and we're going to talk about more about this a little bit later in the show about his tone on Twitter, he needs to know, his lawyers have told him repeatedly, be careful, sir, because you are under investigation. Even if you've done nothing wrong, you need to be careful in an investigation. I guess the president decided to put the political fight ahead of the legal fight.
[12:05:07] But we come back - I want to come back to the point you made last - you just made a moment ago. "The Washington Post" published a story last night that Jared Kushner - we know he's being looked at. We know his meetings with Russian officials are being looked at and "The Post" reporting something that would be pretty logical in an investigation but they're getting sources to confirm it, that the special counsel is looking into Jared Kushner's finances, his business dealings, just to make sure there's no connection that might explain some of these Russia meetings. Well, that was when the Rod Rosenstein statement came out, after that. "Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous officials, particularly when they do not identify the country, let alone the branch or agency of government with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated. Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. The Department of Justice has a long established policy to neither confirm nor deny."
You raised the point. So this statement comes out. It's a curious statement. The timing is curious. The content is curious. And a Justice Department official, when you call and ask them, did the president ask them to do this? Did the White House Counsel ask them to do this? They say, but they say, you have to quote me as a source. You have to - I can only tell you as an anonymous source, Rod Rosenstein did this on his own. I thought we weren't supposed to believe anonymous sources.
KING: I don't want to digress onto that one, but, why?
LEE: Why they would be anonymous in that, I don't know. I mean the statement is -
KING: Well, why the - well, why the - why did he feel the need now?
LEE: I think there is also - so you have the president's frustration generally with the Russia investigation.
LEE: There is a growing frustration within - leading officials in the government who are tired of leaks and really, you know, they're seeing information leak out that's just - is not supposed to. We've seen leaks as - basically unprecedented in terms of what reporters are able - information that we're able to learn. And we like that. But they really don't. And there's a growing frustration there on that.
Generally, in Washington, there's like this increasing desire to put things on background or anonymous sources. Their - that is ridiculous.
MARTIN: Routine stuff.
LEE: Routine stuff. And, you know, it should be reserved for things like "The Washington Post" story, not for a statement saying, you know, the deputy attorney general is doing this on his own. Well, why not say that on the record?
MARTIN: Well, and this White House, too, has background briefings all the time and has staffers who insist on not being named for almost daily stories. So it's pretty rich to hear these (INAUDIBLE) -
KING: Right, all the stories about insight and White House intrigue are coming from sources -
KING: Who just happen to have some high -
MARTIN: Who are glad to cooperate, yes.
KING: Have some high-priced West Wing office space in there.
I want you to listen, here's the ranking - one of the big conversations now that the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation is ongoing is what should be left to Robert Mueller and what should be left to the congressional investigation. You have a House Intelligence Committee investigation. You have a Senate Intelligence Committee. The Senate Judiciary Committee is now talking about getting involved in some way about looking into the Comey firing or some of these obstruction questions.
Adam Schiff is the ranking Democrat, and listen to him here essentially saying, yes, I know Bob Mueller's operating over here, but we've got to keep at this in Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I can say that I certainly think that if there's an effort to interfere or impede the investigation at all or obstruct it, that's something that we need to get to the bottom of. We should be doing everything we can to either prove or disprove the testimony of James Comey. That's a very serious allegation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: All right, we should note, as we hear that, he was asked directly by Jake Tapper if he had any evidence, if they had additional evidence beyond the public testimony on these allegations. That was Adam Schiff's answer. But you wander the halls of Capitol Hill quite a bit. These aren't going anywhere either. We talk about a Mueller investigation and hiring more lawyers. And you look at what they're doing, their focus and the serious people they're bringing on, it tells you month and months and months and - plus Congress.
DEMIRJIAN: Ys. Right. And I think it's worth noting also that there's various investigations going on, on Capitol Hill. Schiff is the ranking on the House Intelligence Committee. The senate Intelligence Committee is the one that's really getting the most access for them, pushing ahead the hardest. They spoke to Mike Rogers this week, the NSA director. They spoke to Dan Coats yesterday.
KING: Both critical in the obstruction question.
DEMIRJIAN: Both - exactly. And especially because when they testified publicly last week, they wouldn't answer all these questions, but promised to answer them behind closed doors. Coats was in that - that sequestered hearing room for almost four hours yesterday. So, you know, they had quite a bit that they needed to talk with him about.
And you will see this going on forward and them trying to basically keep pace or at least keep access to as much of Mueller's investigation as possible. But you do see this kind of, you know, pass off happening, which is that the heads of the committee are talking to Mueller. Then they are getting these witnesses, which we know are critical to Mueller's investigation as well. And so it's almost happening in a slightly offset parallel. But we'll see, you know, if one remains kind of following the other and if that's going to happen it's likely going to be Mueller's investigation that's out front.
KING: Well, we'll see if the communication stays where it needs to be. Sometimes these things go off the track.
One of the conversations, as all this plays out, is, you know, we know the president's hired a private attorney and we know than team is building up too. But one of - we've talked about this a little bit here before, but, Byron York from "The Washington Examiner" has a detailed piece talking about the concerns among many Republicans and many Trump loyalists that he just simply does not have a legal team that is up to this challenge. He talks about all the very credible experienced prosecutors and investigators Bob Mueller is hiring and he quotes an attorney he talked to who said, "this ain't good," he headlined the e-mail, and went on to discuss all the impressive people that - that Mueller was hiring and that, "I look at Trump's team and think this is a joke," the lawyer said, "what are they thinking? Jay Sekulow is going to talk 'em to death?" Jay Sekulow is a conservative attorney, you know, who has worked with pro-life and other conservative groups. A very accomplished political attorney, if you will, and in fighting those cases, I don't want to diminish his legal skills. However, he is not a white collar criminal lawyer like - you know, and, again, again, people hire lawyers even if they've done absolutely nothing wrong. It is not an admission of guilt to hire a good legal team if you're under investigation, but that is a big conversation in town, does the president understand, will they add to his team some veteran Washington hands?
[12:10:40] LEE: Well, the challenge also is, is not only - is you have a client who's just unpredictable, hard to contain. And so even more so. Not only do you need, you know, the Republicans are concerned that he's - what the president is, you know, that he's not containing the situation in and of himself, but that he doesn't have a team that can help him do that. And the stakes are so high and the need for him to have somebody who can actually be very strong and try to really rein him in is really high. And so they're worried.
MARTIN: And, don't forget, about half -
LEE: They will have to (ph).
MARTIN: About half of the so-called mainstream party types in Washington, D.C., they might not be never Trump still, but they're still not very fond of this president and they sure as heck aren't in a hurry to go (INAUDIBLE) for him. And then even beyond that, as Carol sort of got at, you've got a lot of lawyers who are watching him tweet every day, including this morning most vividly, and they're saying to themselves, why in the heck am I going to take him on for a client? I don't love him as president - first of all, I wasn't for him in the primary. And then, second of all, you know, he's going to be a pain in the neck if he keeps saying this stuff online. So, you know, why would I sign up for that?
KING: Right. Part of - part of what he says that is, you know, about the issues in the investigation, but part of it is constantly also undermining people who work for him. So do you want to be his - you want to be his attorney and get ready - brace yourself for the Twitter (INAUDIBLE).
KING: Everybody sit tight. Much more on the Russia investigation and the president's attack strategy in a little bit.
But next, play ball. A big annual charity event has extra meaning this year.
[12:16:38] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By playing tonight, you are showing the world that we will not be intimidated by threats, acts of violence, or assaults on our democracy. The game will go on.
I want to take a moment to send our thoughts, love and prayers to Congressman Steve Scalise and his entire family. Steve is our friend. He's a patriot. And he's a true fighter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Welcome back.
That was President Trump addressing those on hand at Nationals Park last night for the annual congressional baseball game. The House Republican whip, Steve Scalise, should have been at second base. Instead, former major leaguer Steve Garvey led a pre-game prayer right out there near second base in honor of Scalise and three others shot Wednesday morning at the Republican practice. Congressman Scalise remains hospitalized.
One of the many touches moments last night was the ceremonial first pitch. You see it right here from Capitol Police Officer David Bailey, one of the heroes - heroes who prevented a massacre by taking down the gunman. Democrats won the game in a route 11-2, but the score took a back seat on a night members of both parties promised to work harder to tone down their rhetoric and be more respectful of their differences.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm here for the Republicans, by the way.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You're still - you're still - you're rooting for the Republicans.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: Well, you see there, we can - he can root for the Republicans. I can root for the Democrats. But we can still be friends. That's a model. Baseball is a good - some of my best friends hate the Yankees. I love them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Hate the Yankees. Full disclosure. Red Sox Nation.
But what do we make of this? I do not want to be the skunk at the garden party. And I think this - seeing them together, seeing them socialize more, I think that's a good thing in Washington. That's not going to resolve the differences on health care or the differences on other policies, but it might build respect where they have conversations. And there's not enough of that in Washington. I've been here a while. There used to be more of it than there is now.
But how long - how long is this going to last?
DEMIRJIAN: Not forever. You know, they will get - the fever pitch will rise, especially as health care comes back into the center of the ring and they have to fight over that. Things really were reaching a point where there was a lot of anger and they may tone it back or hold themselves in check for a while. And I think it will definitely be longer than the president has, I mean, because he gave - has given these prepared statements. He did that. The video recorded message the day of the shooting, he gave a prepared statement at the podium, but his tweets have been something else. He's still accusing people of witch hunts. There's fewer references, I guess, to Democrats in those tweets than ever before. But his vitriol has come back on display rather quickly.
But it hasn't for members of Congress. And to - on one extent you could say that they should be commended for that. On the other one it's natural because this doesn't feel - as Paul Ryan said on the floor that day, an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. It could have been any of them in any sort of environment. They were targeted as members of Congress. They were lucky Scalise was there with his detail, but it feels personal and the reaction has been very personal, regardless of what (INAUDIBLE).
KING: Right. It's a very important point because as we move on, can they continue the good rhetoric? You know, we should remember, it was two days ago at a morning practice that, you know, a bunch of guys playing baseball who happens to be congressman, this guy pops up and starts firing guns. I mean it is a scar experience just to, you know, when you think about what they went through. And, again, that's why Officer Bailey and his partner, they were heroes in taking the gunman down.
But to your point about (INAUDIBLE), my question is, when they get back to big debates about big issues like health care, on which they are so divided, what is - what are the words? What are the words? Instead of evil or, you know, un-American or, you know, what - how can they do it?
[12:20:02] And here's a test. Chuck Schumer, who you just saw standing there with Anderson Cooper and the Republican leader, the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer sends a letter to the Republican side today, because they've been working in private on a health care plan. It's a very tough internal Republican negotiation, and he says, "I write to invite you and the Republican Conference to an all senators meeting next week on the topic of health care. We believe we owe it to our constituents to meet to discuss your potential legislation that would profoundly impact many American lives."
I'm going to put the odds at pretty low that the Republicans, at a very sensitive point in their own internal negotiations, are going to go over and have a Kumbaya, let's air it out with the Democrats.
LEE: (INAUDIBLE) they can't even get it (INAUDIBLE) together on this issue. And, you know, I think that some Republicans are going to read that message as a little bit of bait and -
MARTIN: A little bit?
LEE: And see - and see -
LEE: And see it for, you know, what - and take it in the opposite way in which it's worded, which means that - see it as politics.
MARTIN: Yes. And you've seen signs of this tension, even in the hours after the shooting, where some - members of Congress, I think, the actual members, most, most, Steve King, Republican of Iowa said it was in part Obama's fault. Most members of Congress have taken a breath here. And even if they've believed things like that have taken a breath and decided not to say it. But a lot of other chatter out there, former members of Congress, in social media, have been pointing fingers. And Nancy Pelosi was asked about House Speaker Newt Gingrich and others who have said this violence stems out of the heated rhetoric on the left.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: I think that the comments made by my Republican colleagues are outrageous. How dare they say such a thing. How dare they. But for them to all of a sudden be sanctimonious as if they don't - never seen such a thing before. And I don't even want to go into the president of the United States but - in terms of some of the language that he has used.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN: And conservatives would say that if had been - the shoe was on the other foot and that somebody who was a supporter of President Trump had, you know, done the same thing to a Democratic practice, they will say - the reaction would be quite a bit different and there would be, you know, any number of stories about the Trump conduct and how he's sort of fostered this environment. And so that's their - that's their argument.
I'm skeptical, John, that this is going to create some new detente for this reason. I think you'll see more civility at least sort of on the service. But in terms of substance, I just think the incentives for both parties are such now that they don't see why it helps them politically or helps their career, to be cynical, to compromise. I mean that's not what they see their voters actually want. KING: And you're heading into -
MARTIN: They look at the polarized - it's a polarized climate.
KING: You're getting into - you're also getting into a midterm election climate where the whole thing is to turnout your base. And I think politicians in both parties would concede that at times and the efforts, you say something, and then someone - they have to be one- upped to return -
MARTIN: Politics has become more about mobilization than persuasion. It's about mobilizing your people (INAUDIBLE).
BACON: And also I would say that members of Congress, you know, they want to get along, the incentives from the electorate is very divided today.
MARTIN: Yes, the country's polarized.
BACON: And the electorate is very mad and the calls they get are not from people saying, be nicer to each other. The calls that they get are being mean.
Also, we get that this unity, it adds to the fact that the parties are divided by issues like race and religion and identity and these things are not just about health care and (INAUDIBLE). These things are much more personal.
KING: And emotional, right.
DEMIRJIAN: I think this also goes to the point of, you know, are you a politician or are you a person in this moment. And I think that's an really important question to ask, right, because a lot of politicians never miss the opportunity to exploit the political benefit of a political moment. But the ones who are friends with people who are on that team, are friends of people on the field are going to feel it very personally. And this is where you hit this debate we've had a long time of - for, you know, members who go home every weekend don't have these interpersonal relationships the way they used to on a broad scale, right? So the one who actually care about the people that were on that field, who are friends with Scalise, even if they weren't personally friends with Scalise, probably actually will sit very heavily on them because you could see that in - just in the way that people were talking. The Republicans who were on that team, when they came off the field and came into the Capitol still giving interviews in their uniforms -
DEMIRJIAN: They were not saying an ill word about the left or about Democrats. They talked in general terms about vitriol and harsh speech. But they didn't point a finger, not a one. So it makes a difference basically if you have a personal connection, you feel this in a much more real way than if you're watching from the sidelines and thinking, oh, well, there's a political story to be made here.
KING: That's - it's a very important point about sort of the good angel, the personal angel, and the political angel. Let's -
DEMIRJIAN: Yes, and they all - right.
KING: Lt's hope the personal angels win out for at least a little while longer.
Up income, here I go, crooked Hillary, witch hunt. The president is fuming about the Russia meddling investigation and very much wants you to know that.
[12:28:43] KING: Welcome back. Live pictures here, Miami International Airport, because that's Air Force One. Little hard to see there. It's making a turn on the tarmac. But Air Force One just landed in Miami. The president is there for a big announcement. He's going to announce a rollback of President Obama's big diplomatic opening with Cuba. It's not a complete reversal, but the president is imposing some new restrictions on business dealings, some new restrictions on travel. And we'll talk more about this in a few moments. But there you see the president of the United States, Air Force One, landing. It's always beautiful. I covered the White House for nearly ten years and I just love to watch the plane. I could just watch it go across the tarmac, but other news. Let's get to it.
Russia says it may have chopped the head off the snake by killing the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Russian military officials claim an air strike last month potentially took out the illusive terrorist. The Kremlin says missiles struck a command post in the south of Raqqa where top ISIS leaders, including Baghdadi, were allegedly meeting. But does that story hold up? Likely not.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Intelligence has indicated that much of the ISIS leadership have relocated to the town of Miadin (ph) on the border with Iraq. Very unlikely that he would be meeting with more than 300 ISIS fighters and senior commanders. They just don't do that. He especially doesn't do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: CNN's Barbara Starr joins us from the Pentagon.
Barbara, obviously this would be a huge deal, but the claim seems to be treated with some skepticism over there at the Pentagon. What are they trying to do to verify this?
[[12:30:03] BARBARA STARR: Well, right now what we do know is the Pentagon has been - the U.S. military's been able to verify that the day before they did have one of those de-confliction conversations with the Russians. The Russians said that on May