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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump Tweet Touts Economy, "No WH Chaos!"; GOP Senator: "The Party Has Lost Its Way"; Nacho-Carrying Christie Confronts A Ballpark Heckler; Christie's Poll Numbers Hit New Low After "Beach Gate"

Aired July 31, 2017 - 12:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[12:30:02] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Unemployment is the lowest. It's been in 17 years. Business enthusiasm is about as high as they've ever seen it. In fact, it is as high. The highest point in 28 years according to a certain graph and certain chart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: All right, that's the President at the cabinet meeting. A certain graph and a chart. We know he likes visuals. I assume he means the University of Michigan or the business roundtable studies that do show the President is right. There is more optimism in the economy.

They see deregulation from the administration. They are betting on tax reform, the markets could change if the tax reform conversation goes south in Congress. But at the moment, President is right when he says highest stock market ever. Closes for the record just about every day. He was going up the end of the Obama administration.

But he's the President now. He gets the credit. He echoed that point in a tweet earlier this morning, if we can put up on the screen. I won't read it the whole thing because it's where done -- it's what we just heard the President. But at the very end of the tweet he says, "No White House chaos." Now, he's pushing back, because he's, you know, been paying attention to the media all weekend with the appointment of General Kelly.

You don't expect a president to come out and say, you know, my product is a mess, my White House is a mess. But, I guess, back to the question. What is his understanding of what he needs? That's the biggest question.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think that's an open question. I mean, the reality here is as Julie was saying earlier, there are no major legislative achievements. And this is happening at a time when Republicans control this town, all branches of the government for the first time in a decade. And that is the frustration of Republicans that they have not seized on this moment.

The first six month of the administration is supposed to be the easy part not the hard part. It gets harder from here going forward. So, yes, the stock market is good. You know, he might not want to have too much ownership of that because if it goes it in the other direction and he'll own that as well.

But I think the thing that's frustrating Republicans if things are going well, they are not going well on Capitol Hill. They're going home without any accomplishments. And tax reform is an open question to say the very least here, because that was incumbent on health care reform, which hasn't happened as well here. So -- we'll see if it changes going forward, but they need a legislative win of some kind or anyone on the ballot next year is nervous.

KING: And they need a legislative win. John Kelly's expertise is not legislation. That doesn't mean he can't be the effective chief of staff and reach out to the major players in Congress, talk to the President, reach out to the agencies, get things done. Sometimes coming out with a fresh set of eyes actually helps. But what does it tell us about inside the White House?

Let's look at departures in the six months of this administration. Two of them from the National Security Council, General Flynn and a woman he brought in K.T. McFarland, they are both leaving. Set that aside. That is because Flynn had his problems that aren't related to policy, related to the Russia investigation. K.T. McFarland going out when H.R. McMaster came in. She's going to be Ambassador to Singapore I believe.

But the other four, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, the former Communications Director Mike Dubke, Sean Spicer, the Press Secretary, Katie Walsh, the Deputy Chief of Staff. That was your Washington Republican National Committee establishment. Worked at the Republican National Committee when members of Congress or some of the interest groups in town who are used to the way Washington works wanted to talk to somebody at the White House. Those are the people they went to. They are gone.

What does that tell us? Is the President saying, good bye Republican Party? Good bye Washington Republican Party? What's the message?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, THE FEDERALIST: Well, part of it into the Republican Party managed to elect their president while going through a very ugly divorce. And now they're continuing to go through this divorce while governing the country. And that is, that divide is illustrated in all of this.

In the legislation, which Trump doesn't have any particular position on and therefore was not bully pulpiting a ton to push for any of these things and sometimes undercutting what they were doing with the staff that means that the GOP union with the New York forces and the Trump family, not going smoothly. And those guys are out at this point. I think that is the central problem with all of this. It comes back to that Trump as a very odd manager who likes some chaos and the fact they were in chaos before they got here.

KING: Officially make him our first independent president? KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Interested to see what happens next now that Kelly is taking over with Mike Pence. Because he is still a traditional old guard, old GOP Republican, contacts with Congress. They try to have him speak in Estonia, if that is fine he's actually going to take a bigger role and actually don't make the actually more work, cohesive voice of the standard GOP coming out under Kelly, Kelly leadership or is that just a one-off, and now he's going to be (INAUDIBLE).

Because remember, this all of this started because Flynn did not represent his conversations with Russians appropriately to Pence. Pence is (INAUDIBLE). Mr. Pence get brought back in the loop because -- and that's a sign that maybe the divorce is healing.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: And they have Tom Price at Health and Human Services. They have Mick Mulvaney, the Budget Director. They have Mike Pence. Three traditional conservatives all from the House. Mike Pence will not be in the government (ph), all from the House. Far more conservative than Trump, that three of those without a doubt.

The question is, so the President has been mad at both Price and Pence for not being able to get votes on health care. So where do we go here and -- and we're doing this in the context of the new chief of staff. You know, what next? How do they fix that?

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I think one of the questions is whether Trump does start moving in a direction that some people thought he actually might because he's not an ideologue which is he try to find some Democrats.

[12:35:04] You know, not the Democratic Party as a whole, but those Democrats that are running next year in states that Trump won. Does he start making some overtures there? Does he maybe throw infrastructure back on the board?

But it's important to talk about this in context with some of the other things we saw happen last week. One, on health care. It is clear that Republicans are not afraid of Donald Trump on these big legislative decisions and maybe even more important, the pushback that he got across the board from Republicans when he started floating this idea of getting rid of Jeff Sessions. That to me was very telling.

You don't want to overstate it. It's not that Republicans have completely walked away from him. I don't expect that anytime soon but there are now moments when they are not afraid to stand up to him.

KING: He also said and they got lost in all this in the interview with the Wall Street Journal that he was hoping to raise taxes on the rich.

PACE: Yes.

KING: And so, I just want to bring --

HAM: Tax reform will go great.

KING: But I want to bring a contrarian view in. Here's Chris Collins, a Republican member of Congress from Upstate New York, the buffalo area who says that those of us who are saying this is all bad aren't paying attention.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP.CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: This has been a great week for the President. You know, I was at the jamboree. You know, 40,000 boy scouts shouting we love Trump, we love Trump. You know, banning transgenders which is probably supported by the vast majority of Americans.

He's dealing with North Korea. He's dealing with Russia. And now he is solidified the inner circle of the West Wing with John Kelly, with Anthony Scaramucci, two great individuals. I think it's all coming together extremely well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The boy scouts had to apologize for the President's tone, his words and his political tone. Police departments are now distancing themselves from something the President said Friday about essentially a message rough them up a little bit when throwing them into the paddy wagon.

But when you hear Chris Collins, there is a Trump base out there that elected him President. Is that kool-aid? Unrealistic denial kool-aid or out in America? Is there a different take?

ZELENY: Well, he's right in some respects. No question. People view this as, you know, he's being Trump. He's being a strong leader. But the thing that is missing in that sort of, you know, long list --

KING: Hard to find a word for it.

ZELENY: -- of Kumbaya, a legislative achievement. That is something that Republicans control the Senate and the House. They should be able to get something done. There's no leadership from the White House happening here, though.

But I think one thing that the President has done. He's united the Democratic Party against him now. Again, had he started with infrastructure reform he would have divided the Democratic Party. So I think it's very difficult to go back to that.

KING: And hold your breath because we're going to continue the conversation dividing the Democratic Party. He say he's also about to divide the Republican Party further. The President says he has a new plan to revive Obamacare repeal efforts. Tell Republican senators they look like fools and threaten to take away their health care.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:41:50] KING: President Trump is keeping the health care heat on Republican senators and he's annoying the Republican leadership in the process. In a series of tweets over the weekend and continuing this morning, the President said, "Republican senators look like fools for failing to keep their repeal promise." He urged them to try again. Then upped the ante threatening to cut off federal payments, he calls them bailouts that not only help lower income Americans but also help pay to cover members of Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: He's going to make that decision this week and that's a decision that only he can make.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, stopping those subsidies would be a risky play by the President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: It really would be detrimental to some of the most vulnerable citizens of those payments were cut off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: But listen here, the Trump Budget Director Mick Mulvaney says the Senate should not move on to tax reform or anything else until it makes good on Obamacare repeal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: As you promise folks you'd do this for seven years, you cannot go back on that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Are they willing? This is -- it's an interesting play by the White House. Because if they want to get tax reform, if they want to move on to infrastructure, if they want to sign anything big this year, besides a Russian sanctions bill they don't like, they have to get Congress to do other things, but they are saying, no. Stay put on health care. When the votes aren't there, what's the play?

ZELENY: There's disagreement inside the White House on this. I was interested to see him say that because we talked to the legislative affairs director on Friday who said they were moving on to tax reform. So I think there's a disagreement inside the White House on this.

You know, August is going to be a time of a reset on Capitol Hill as well. I think we'll see, you know, if there actually is a hard, concrete tax plan. There's been an outline of one. We've not seen the specific bill. I'm not sure that Mick Mulvaney is speaking for everyone at the White House when he said that there. The President, perhaps.

KING: Certainly -- well, this iteration of the President. And again, that's the confusing part. The President if the -- just look on his own Twitter feed for his public statement, he has said repeal, he has said repeal and replace. He has said, I'll let Obamacare implode and repeal as recently as Friday and over the weekend.

You mentioned Marc Short. This is Marc Short on the idea of the President saying now -- this is a leverage, a threat, call it what you will. You know, do this or else I'm going to stop the payments to your health care plan. Listen to Marc Short linking that, the Legislative Affair Director, to the President's populist agenda.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARC SHORT, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: In many cases, what helped propel Donald Trump into the presidency was American's outrage about Congress living under a different set of rules and this is just one more example that happening. The President can't help drain the swamp and this is a perfect example of the swamp- like atmosphere in D.C.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: He's right in the sense that -- I bet there a whole lot of Trump voters out there and whole lot of other voters out there, who didn't vote for Trump, who don't think much of Congress saying, amen. I got struggles in my life let them struggle. Cut off the damn health care payments. But does that get you a health care bill?

HAM: Yes, I'm not sure that's the point. Again, we'd like the question of whether there's strategy here, he may want to land a nice populist upper cut and then move on to something else. And it is a decent hit.

KING: OK.

HAM: When you're talking about the members of Congress specifically, many people go, look, I'm in the individual market. You guys messed it up. I'm paying this government (ph) prices. I'm not subsidized, some people are. But --

ZELENY: It's also getting an insurance.

HAM: -- not working for me. It shouldn't work for you.

[12:45:02] ZELENY: Right. If he's also hitting insurance companies, and this is what I needs going to do.

HAM: Yes.

ZELENY: -- you know, go after individual CEOs. We'll see what he does on insurance companies. I've been actually surprised that there have not been pitchforks who are going after these insurance company CEOs that are making a lot of money over the last eight years or so. We'll see if he goes after them because that would be a popular thing to do.

KING: Well, Mick Mulvaney, let's go back to the Budget Director, because listen right here, he does just that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MULVANEY: If Obamacare is hurting people and it is, then why shouldn't it hurt insurance companies and more importantly perhaps for this discussion, members of Congress? I think the President simply is looking at this and going, is this fair? Is it fair that Obamacare is hurting people, and shouldn't insurance companies and members of Congress bear some of that burden as well?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You're right. It's a great populist punch. The question is, does the President want an issue or does he want a bill?

HAM: Well, and the problem is you have two options with the individual market. You have either cut down on some regulations so people can have less expensive plans or bail out insurance companies.

So if you're talking junk about the insurance companies and then the Senate pivots likely to teaming with Schumer and bailing out insurance companies, then what do you do? That's not a populist position.

KING: And in the middle of all these, the President keeps saying, they, they, they, about Republican senators, making clear, you know, I'm not one of you. And the inference is I'm not one of you, meaning, I'm not Republican or at least I'm going to separate myself as far as I can from Congressional Republicans and make yourself a Trump Republican.

Pushback there. Listen to Jeff Flake, who's a vulnerable Republican Senator up for election in Arizona. Just wrote a really interesting book about how he thinks Conservatives and Republicans. He says the President is going to push back, separate from us? Maybe we should do the same.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: The party has lost its way. We've given into nativism and protectionism. You've got to stand up and call, whether it's the White House or other elected officials to task when they're not doing what they should. And I do think that we bear the responsibility if we're elected officials to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: President Trump launched a hostile takeover. Donald Trump did, of the Republican Party. He's now.

There's so much daily drama. Are we missing something here? Is this is what has happened over the last week or so? The failure on health care, the President calling them they. More and more Republicans not afraid of the President. They look at his poll numbers still in the high 30s saying, you know, I don't want to do this on immigration. I don't want to do this on trade. We know there's been a fracturing in both political parties, but is this going to happen during a Republican presidency? PACE: I think you're starting -- if it it's going to happen, you're starting to see the seeds of that. You know, Jeff Flake is someone who has come in for a lot of criticism from this White House. His political advisors, Trump's political advisers keep throwing out these rumors about, you know, funding a primary challenge against him.

I do think you're going to see some individual members who are going to be making those decisions echoing Jeff Flake. But really heading into next year, I actually think it's more of a problem for Trump if these Republicans split off. Yes, Trump does have a loyal base, but Jeff was making this point and it's so true.

This is the easy part for a president. This first couple months. You head into a re-election year, historically, your party comes under siege. Particularly if you haven't passed a lot of legislative accomplishments and then the idea of Donald Trump without a Republican majority, it's not as though Democrats are going to suddenly jump onboard if they are in charge with Donald Trump. They're going to be heading straight for 2020.

These dynamics get very complicated, very quickly for Trump if Republicans are pulling away.

DEMIRJIAN: But that's a big, big if. I mean, I know you just had the health care bill crash and burned but it crash and burned in a 49 to 51 vote. And McCain took a lot of the heat off of other Republicans that might have had to make a difficult decision. By this, we're saying this is my last stand possibly in the Senate and (INAUDIBLE) were already there.

McCain doing that meant but people like Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake didn't have to make that decision. So will they make that decision now because the spotlight is been focus on them or will they say what they've been saying for a good amount of time. Which is we should go back to the regular order, this isn't the right way to do thing but they keep going with the party because there's other things they want from the President even if they're not totally comfortable with where he is on the edge of jet (ph).

KING: That's the next one point. We'll see if this is the heat of the moment after one big collapse or the beginning of something that will continue.

Everybody sit tight up next, from policy to a baseball shall we say. Chris Christie caught on tape shouting down yet another baseball fan. No peanuts. No crackerjacks, big shot.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:53:19] KING: Welcome back. Chris Christie is supposed to be in the news today because of his words addressing a national crisis. Instead, at least so far, the headlines are about the New Jersey Governor adding some drama to our national pastime.

You might recall, Christie serves as chief of a Trump commission panel investigating the opioid crisis. It is critical work at a very important time. Drug deaths in the United States are rising faster than ever. That commission's interim report due out this afternoon. It's already been delayed twice, past its deadline.

And yet search for the Governor's name this morning online and you won't find much about the opioid crisis. Instead, you'll headlines about this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CHRISTIE, GOVERNOR, NEW JERSEY: You're a big shot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Appreciate that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did he say to you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was the secret service right there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did he say?

BRAD JOSEPH, CONFRONTED BY CHRIS CHRISTIE AT BASEBALL GAMES: (INAUDIBLE) like a big shot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Apparently a little bit of a -- what would we call it? A dispute. A friendly dispute in democracy that is, baseball, why not, right? Every time he goes to a baseball -- I mean, the guy, I don't know what to say anymore.

ZELENY: At least he didn't steal his nachos. That would have been even worse.

HAM: In general, I think it would be nicer to a public official in public if I want to address him. But like out to a basketball game, the guy says it to his face and he got to expect maybe a reaction from the gov. And what does he have to lose at this point?

KING: Let's just listen throughout. This is Brad Joseph, the cubs fan in the confrontation. His take on all this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH: He told me, hey, why don't you have another beer? Which I thought was kind of fun and playful, a decent comeback. Although we hadn't really been drinking at all. But --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did he say to you?

JOSEPH: So first, he just said have another beer. And I thought that was kind of funny and maybe he was, you know, taking it in stride and then he started calling me a tough guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: He actually seems kind of like him, after the conversation. Which maybe should move in to New Jersey, because Chris Christie's approval rating in New Jersey at 15%. So Chris Christie maybe could use that guy there.

[12:55:08] PACE: I'm not sure Christie cares about this as he head into his lame duck months but it's a good reminder for public officials that everybody has a smartphone these days. Everybody.

KING: Everybody.

PACE: Everybody.

KING: Do we make too much of this? Is it just because he's -- I mean, Christie loves this stuff. He loves mixing it up with people. And --

ZELENY: Sure. One of the things hat was so great about him was going after people at his town hall meetings. So I think Washington, you know, will miss him, and national politics will miss him. I think he could have brought some order.

And once upon a time, we might have talking him as about chief of staff at the White House, but now we have a video at a baseball game.

PACE: Once upon a time, we were talking about him as president.

KING: We were.

ZELENY: He was.

PACE: At the very least he was.

KING: All right. Governor, come to a ball game with me anytime. I'll buy the beer.

Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. See you back here tomorrow. Wolf Blitzer is up after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, 8:00 p.m. in Moscow, 1:30 a.m. Tuesday in Pyongyang, North Korea. Wherever you're watching from around the world thanks very much for joining us.

Up first, West Wing makeover. President Trump's new White House Chief of Staff is officially on the job today. The appointment of John Kelly represents a reset for the Trump administration.