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Trump Tweets about Social Media; Kelly Takes Charge; Ivanka Tweets about Kelly; Trump Dictated Don Jr.'s Statement. Aired 12- 12:30p ET
Aired August 1, 2017 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:00:21] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us.
Day two for new Trump White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, and he's quickly making his mark. But, in case you were worried, the president tweets he isn't about to give up tweeting.
Senators are meeting this hour on Capitol Hill. On the menu for Republicans, a choice of whether to try again now an Obamacare repeal or to ignore President Trump and his pressure and move on to something else.
Plus, here's a big question, were your tax dollars used to help the president's son twist the truth? "The Washington Post" reports that the president, while on Air Force One, with the help of taxpayer paid White House aides, personally worked with Donald Trump Jr. on a misleading statement about a 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If that's true, then that was a bad decision by the president, which will make us ask more questions. When you get caught in a lie about one thing, it makes it hard to just say, let the other stuff go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: With us to share their reporting and their insights, Jackie Kucinich of "The Daily Beast," Carl Hulse of "The New York Times," Margaret Talev of "Bloomberg Politics" and CNN's Sara Murray.
We begin with the White House reset, triggered, of course, by the hiring of General John Kelly, his chief of staff. It took only a few hours for the foul-mouthed Anthony Scaramucci to get the boot as communications director, and for General Kelly to impose his rules on how to get access to the president. Those rules, we are told, apply to everyone, including presidential daughter Ivanka Trump and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner. If they hold -- if they hold, then people like the social media director, Dan Scavino, can't just walk into the Oval Office and suggest a tweet storm. Well, that would be a big change. But can Kelly change at least tame the president? That's a big question. For the answer, keep an eye on the Twitter feed. It's actually been pretty tame since Kelly began work yesterday. But the president serving notice just about an hour or so ago he isn't about to go off the grid. Quote, only the fake news media and Trump enemies want me to stop using social media. He goes on to say between Twitter, FaceBook, Instagram, he has 110 million people. Only way for me to get the truth out.
So, we start there. Is that a message from the president to us? Is that a message to General Kelly? Or a little bit of both? And to -- in General Kelly's defense, if you look at the president's Twitter feed in the last -- pretty tame really since Kelly got on the job.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think the irony of that is that journalists love that the president tweets because it just --
JACKIE KUCINICH, "THE DAILY BEAST": I don't know a single person who doesn't want that.
MURRAY: I mean it's just like the most direct contact we have to a president's brain that I can think of, you know, in memory. You're wondering what the president's feeling? He's going to tell you because he's going to tweet it out first thing in the morning or late in the evening.
So, you know, maybe this is a message to John Kelly. Maybe this is a message to his supporters. But I don't -- even John Kelly cannot imagine he's going to take this job and suddenly be able to stop this president from tweeting. I don't think that that --
KING: But if you want to help -- if you want to help this president, the last thing you would want him to do is to not use social media. It's how he uses social media. And to -- Mr. President, to Sara's point, back (INAUDIBLE), we don't want you to stop. But the Senate majority leader, the speaker of the House, committee chairman on Capitol Hill, they might.
But, you were going to say -- I'm sorry.
KUCINICH: Oh, no. I mean not at all. I think that -- I think Sara's absolutely right. I don't know anyone who wants Trump to stop tweeting.
But you did -- you did see and, forgive me, I don't remember what story it was this morning, but you did see Kelly trying to right the president in terms of Afghanistan, in terms of the travel ban. He has taken him -- he's closed the door and he's had a face-to-face with the president. And so you're already seeing seeds that this is not going to be someone who's going to be steamrolled by the president. And perhaps it is because he's a general and the president does like to surround himself by folks who are in the military.
So perhaps that clout will maybe not change things, but maybe right the ship a little bit inside the White House. Still remains to be seen. It's still -- are we even in 24 hours at this point? I think we're a little over 24 hours.
CARL HULSE, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think it's like anybody with a new job, they're bringing in a high (ph) (INAUDIBLE). You know, they want to ease in. They want to make it look like things are going to be better. You know, that was an easy thing for him to do yesterday is fire Scaramucci, like, I'm making my impact and we're all jumping at it and saying, he's going to get the place ship-shape. But, you know, we'll have to see how this plays out.
KING: And an easy thing because even the president, with all the attention Anthony Scaramucci got with the foul-mouthed vulgar "New Yorker" interview, even the president, we are told, was sort of a little bit repulsed by that. But isn't it also a lesson that General Kelly -- yes, the president said, go for it. You have the authority. I so want you to take this job. You can fire him. But the president's first instinct was to bring in Anthony Scaramucci. That was the president's first reflex before John Kelly. So if you're General Kelly, you have to be thinking about that.
MARGARET TALEV, "BLOOMBERG POLITICS": So I was talking yesterday with a guy named Chris Whipple (ph), who's almost a household name these days. He's kind of the expert on the White -- the history of -- the fairly short history of White House chief of staffs. And what he said I think was really instructive. He said, we don't know what General Kelly negotiated behind the scene, but that he thinks it would probably be very important for him to have told the president, I have red lines. And if you cross those red lines, I will walk.
[12:05:11] And I don't expect that's a conversation any of us are going to become privy to --
TALEV: What the details of that were, but that could include something like Twitter, for example, where the chief of staff says, I know you need to tweet. It's part of how you operate. But either you need to run them past me or if you say things that are demonstrably false in the tweets, I'm not going to stick around and defend you.
So whatever the parameters are of conversations that we don't know the details of yet, that may very much have been part of the negotiation.
HULSE: But there is evidence that he, in the past, has --
HULSE: Thought about resigning or threatened to resign or said he should resign. So he's already walked up to that a few times. So we know he's capable of it.
KING: Right. And to that point yesterday, CNN reported that when the president fired the FBI director, then Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, he was over at the Homeland Security -- called Comey. Don't know each other very well, but that he found it distasteful. He didn't like it. He objected. And he said, maybe I'm going to resign too. I don't like the way this is happening. And Comey told him to stay.
I don't know if the president knew that before he hired John Kelly or not but he knows it now. What does that do?
MURRAY: Well, I think that reality is, you know, he knew he was hiring a sort of rule-following, law and order kind of guy. You know, people who know John Kelly say this is not someone who's illogical, but this is someone who believes that there is an order to how things should be run and that was distasteful to him.
Now, one other things on the president's tweets and the notion that we're going to try to rein them in. If you look at sort of this Jeff Sessions thing, this is another thing that someone like John Kelly probably finds distasteful, that certainly Republican senators on The Hill find distasteful, is to the president we're saying, yes, he's thinking about firing Jeff Sessions but he feels boxed in and he needs to get it out. He needs to vent. So, ultimately, he fileted his attorney general on Twitter for a couple days. He didn't actually fire him. And he got to sort of test out what would happen if he did. And Republicans responded pretty forcefully and said, it's going to be a huge problem if you try to do that. And in that sense, some aides actually think it's helpful for the president to tweet his feelings. He feels a little bit less helpless and he gets the immediate feedback of, no, this is not actually something that you can do.
KUCINICH: Well, and we also -- we should mention that Kelly has kind of thrown himself on a grenade for the president. He has -- he said that the whole travel ban limitation was his fault.
KUCINICH: We don't know that that's actually how things went down, but he took the --
KING: I think we know that it's not true.
KUCINICH: Yes. So, yes, I think that -- I think --
KING: I'll take that one for you.
KUCINICH: I think that's fair. Thanks, John.
And the other thing he's done is that when -- speaking of the president's tweets. When the president said he was wiretapped, Kelly actually I think he came on CNN and he said, well, I'm sure the president has a really good reason for saying that. He didn't say it wasn't -- he -- some of the -- some of the other cabinet secretaries, maybe some other people in the president's party said, I don't know if that's true. Kelly didn't. Kelly walked the line and was very loyal to the president on that issue. So it's not that he -- he hasn't called out the president perhaps when he has had an opportunity to do that.
KING: So he has the standing. The president, like generals, he has the stature. He's generationally an equal with the president. He's turned the job down before, so he has some leverage over the president. You talked about red lines about that. I want you to listen here. The president said when he hired here, he's
one of the stars of my cabinet. The president also has heaped a lot of praise on his veteran affairs secretary, David Shulkin, who's a holdover, actually, from the Obama administration. He was promoted, but he's from the Obama administration subcabinet.
Listen to David Shulkin this morning on Hugh Hewett when asked how big of a deal is this reset.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID SHULKIN, VA SECRETARY: I do. I do. I think that -- I think that this is a reset. I think that this is a White House that is dealing with so many issues and trying to move so quickly that it's taking a while to learn the best way in which to organize itself internally and to represent itself externally. And I think we now are on the right path. And I think everybody's committed to making sure that we support both Chief of Staff Kelly and the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: In some says that's pretty tame and pretty positive and pretty supportive of the change. But if you just listen to it as he goes through that, it's a pretty damning indictment. This is six --
HULSE: Of what's happening.
KING: Six and a half months. You know, we're just now learning -- they're just now figuring out how to organize, how to communicate, internally and externally. I thought he was going to run Washington like a business and we were stupid and he hired the best people? I mean that's a -- that's a -- this is the way he said. Pretty damning.
HULSE: Everyone likes a good reset narrative in Washington, right? I think we have to see who fills some of these other positions now. Who takes over for Scaramucci? So is that going to reflect, you know, a more Trump emphasis or is it going to be somebody more that can be associated with Kelly? I mean, I think there's a lot to play out here yet. But I think people are generally, on Capitol Hill, people I talk to, are like, OK, this is -- this seems like a sane move.
KING: I'm told the general has a favorite for communications director. I'm not going to mention him. I won't get him in too much trouble, but people will figure this out. He lives in San Francisco. He helped Secretary Kelly through his confirmation process. He has a nice life. We'll see if he can be convinced to come to Washington.
What do we make of this? We know that -- we know that Jared Kushner wanted Reince Priebus gone. We know that Ivanka Trump sided with him. They had hoped to get one of their own as the chief of staff. Instead they end up with General Kelly. Gary Cohn, the National Economic Adviser, the president made some calls about him as chief of staff. They had a lot of pushback from conservatives. Dian Powell is another friend of Ivanka in the White House and the president decided he had to go with General Kelly. [12:10:12] Look at this on -- from a tweet, an Instagram, from yesterday from Ivanka Trump, looking forward to serving alongside John Kelly as we work for the American people. General Kelly is a true American hero.
Nice of her to say that. My question is sort of, what happens inside? Does this realign the factions? Well, the first six months it was Reince Priebus and the establishment faction against, you know, Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller and the more populist faction, versus the Manhattan faction that Steve Bannon has been known to call Javonka. What does this do?
HULSE: Well, I like the serving alongside line.
HULSE: I mean that's just a figure of speech, I guess, but it's like, OK, we're a team and, you know, I'm equal to him. You know, he's -- is he going to be able to keep the family from running in and out of the Oval Office? I think that's probably a hard thing to do in any presidential administration.
KING: Right. Is that what the president wants? The president is known to like -- not only like people dropping by and saying hello --
KING: But to like this tension, to create -- you know, you call it creative chaos or you can just call it chaos, depending on your perspective.
TALEV: Yes, I don't think there's any chance that -- I actually don't think that General Kelly is aiming to keep the family out of the Oval Office or from having dinner with the president or any of the sort of sidebar conversations that almost nobody else in the White House really has the ability to do. But the question is twofold. Number one, can he diminish the kind of shots across the bow that everybody is firing at one another's camp to undercut competing policy proposals or whatever, personality conflicts. And number two, can he, with any degree of assuredness, get readouts and downloads on what the president's family or very closest team, whether it's Bannon, whether it's friends of the president who come, can he get the downloads either from those people or from the president on all of the nature of those conversations, ideas and people that are being suggestive to the president so that he has full awareness of what is going on in his White House? That's something Reince Priebus really had trouble doing and spent an awful lot of time just trying to be in the room so that he could see for himself things that nobody else was going to tell him, which was a terrible position from which to try to exert leverage.
MURRAY: And I think it's nod bad to have different perspectives in your White House. It's not bad if you are Donald Trump and you are not an ideological conservative. Remember, he was a Democrat. He lived in New York for a while. So it's not bad for him to have Steve Bannon in one ear and Jared Kushner in another ear and John Kelly, if all of those people are giving you different arguments about, for instance, a policy decision, and then you make your way to an answer, and you make a decision and then you execute it in a way that is not total chaos and pandemonium. And I think that's kind of like the goal of John Kelly in this situation. It's fine to have lots of perspectives. Let's channel them into something that's actually productive.
KING: And we know he reached out to the Democratic leadership, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the House and the Senate respectively. That's a courtesy call. It's something any new chief of staff would do. Is that all it is, or do we expect that somehow that he will somehow try to bring a different approach?
KUCINICH: I think there's -- there's more hope now he could bring a different approach and perhaps they -- because someone needs to make nice with The Hill. Someone needs to get all of these people together and start working with each other because as Carl wrote today, the abject threats and some of the other things that have happened throughout this health care process haven't worked. They've ended up, as Sara said, in chaos and going down Pennsylvania Avenue. So Kelly has a lot of respect on The Hill and that could be really good for Donald trump.
HULSE: But there were some Democrats who were unhappy with his handling at the homeland Security Department and thought he was way too tough. And so, I mean, we'll see how that's reflected.
KING: Right, tough -- tough especially in his enforcement, although --
KING: What Secretary Kelly said, I call him General Kelly out of respect, what Secretary Kelly said then is, you guys passed the laws. So either change the laws or shut up I think he said in a speech here in Washington.
Everybody sit tight.
Up next, a new report says the president, from Air Force One, helped his son craft a misleading statement about a campaign year meeting with Russians.
[12:18:20] KING: Welcome back.
New reporting in "The Washington Post" today adds a new wrinkle to the special council investigation of Russian election meddling and the related question of whether the president and his team are trying to distort the truth. Remember a few weeks back when word broke of that June 2016 meeting that Donald Trump Jr. took with Russians who promised him dirt on Hillary Clinton? Well, Trump Jr.'s initial statement to the media turned out to be less than accurate, to be kind. Back then, the president's legal team said the president had no involvement in drafting that statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP ATTORNEY: I wasn't involved in the statement drafting at all, nor was the president. I'm assuming that was between Mr. Donald Trump Jr., between Don Jr. and his lawyer. I'm sure his lawyer was involved. That's how you do it. And you know that. And so to put this on the president, I think is just absolutely incorrect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Absolutely incorrect, the president's private attorney says.
Well, "The Washington Post," as I noted, reports today that, in fact, the president himself personally dictated his son's misleading statement. The newspaper says as Air Force One flew back from the G-20 Summit in Germany, that the president dictated a statement to White House Aide Hope Hicks and that she served as a go between, between the president and his son as they worked through the edits. That statement said the meeting was, quote, primarily to discuss the issue of Russian adoptions. That is not true. And the account later had to be corrected.
What do we make of this, which is a big deal? Number one, it proves that you can't listen to the president's private attorneys when they go on television because that -- apparently that what Mr. Sekulow told us there was not true. And beyond that, if the president personally was working with his son while on Air Force One, which you pay for, whatever your views on this story, you pay for it watching at home, using Hope Hicks and other White House employees to help him, he puts them in legal jeopardy as well, or at least gets them a conversation with investigators from the special counsel's office even if, in the end, there's nothing to this.
[12:20:06] TALEV: Yes. It's that last part that's really the most important for two reasons. Number one, because it brings the White House now more squarely into the mix about something that for a long time was really about the campaign and then slid into also being -- about the transition and then as some members of the transition have moved into the White House, it sort of has become about the White House. But this makes it more current. It makes it now. Not pre-Jim Comey. Now. And it also gives both the congressional panel, though more importantly the special counsel's office, a new line of inquiry and a line that goes directly to the president himself. So it's just not -- it's not a good situation.
KING: Well, why would they come out and say the president had nothing to do with it if the president had quite a bit to do with this?
HULSE: Well, I mean, look at this entire meeting, all right? The whole way this has all unfolded, right? First there was no discussion or reporting of the meeting. Then there was a few people in the room. Then it was about adoptions. They just have dribbled out what actually went on there. Much worse for them than if they would have come clean and admitted the whole thing at the beginning. I just think it's sort of the attitude of this White House that you just take this first offense, we're going to say it's about adoptions, and think maybe that's never going to come out. Well, it does, and it really looks pretty grim.
KING: If they haven't figured that part out by now, they need to stop, pause and reconsider because, you know, there were no meetings with Russians. No, actually, Jeff Sessions had a couple meetings with Russians. There were no meetings with Russians, though Jared Kushner had some meetings with Russians.
HULSE: It's just the pattern.
KING: Again, even if there's nothing bad about the meetings, the fact that they kept saying there were none and then they trickle out and then their explanations of them don't hold up to be -- to be true.
Let's come to the issue of the credibility. When the president's legal team now speaks for him, you know, your first reflex should be to trust these people. They're trained lawyers. They're good lawyers. They're trying to protect the president, who, if he did nothing wrong, just needs competent spokesmen for him.
So Jay Sekulow, after this story came out says, a part of being of no consequence, meaning "The Washington Post" story, the characterizations are misinformed, inaccurate and not pertinent.
What is he trying to say here? Is this just a bunch of words thrown together because --
KUCINICH: He -- I mean he also said -- "The New York Times" reported a version of this, not that the president helped craft it, but that he signed off on it, a couple of weeks ago, I think. But at that -- now at that time, Jay Sekulow said that report was incorrect. So this is, again, it's a pattern. Crisis coms is not this White House's strong suit to say the least.
KING: So this story's been out there since last night, "The Post" story. If it were incorrect, if they could challenge it on the facts, they could give us a chronology of what made everyone -- the president -- you know, there are people watching the president. He was on Air Force One. There are chronologies about how he spends his time. If they could shoot this down, they could shoot this down.
MURRAY: Well, you may remember --
KUCINICH: Yes. Right.
MURRAY: Hope Hicks is a communication staffer. So either the president did or did not dictate this statement to Hope Hicks. So if they wanted to deny it, Hope Hicks could put out a statement saying this is flatly inaccurate. I was on Air Force One with the president. He dictated no such statement to me. They could put that statement out there and call it a day. The problem is, that's yet another statement about Russia that's coming from the White House.
And we don't know what Jay Sekulow knew. I mean we don't know what their version of events was that they then told him when this reporting started to come out. I mean this is part of the problem.
TALEV: And we don't know what the president knew either at the time of this (INAUDIBLE).
MURRAY: You know -- right, this is part of the problem of representing Trump and sort of the Trump family is, you don't know if they're telling you the whole story when you go to them and say, what happened on Air Force One when you were trying to decide if you were going to cover for Don Jr. or your -- if you were going to cover for Jared Kushner? And you don't know if any family member, including the president, is giving you a full account of that (INAUDIBLE).
KING: Right. And Margaret just made a very important point about the idea that we don't know what the president knew at the time.
KING: Did he know about, you know, the e-mail chain that Donald Jr. finally had to -- had to put out. And then they say they're fully transparent after they get caught saying things that aren't true, they put out a better account and then they say, see, we're being transparent, but that the e-mail was about, we have dirt on Hillary Clinton. We want to meet with you.
Here's when this first story broke, Donald Trump Jr. went on the "Hannity" program on Fox News and he was asked, point bank, does your father know about this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Did you tell your father anything about this?
DONALD TRUMP JR., PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SON: No. It was such a nothing. There was nothing to tell. I mean I wouldn't have even remembered it until you start scouring through the stuff. It was literally just a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: A wasted 20 minutes he said there. Now the issue is, this "Post" reporting, again, if you're the special counsel, perhaps in the end it's nothing, but you're going to talk to the Hope Hicks, you're going to talk to the other people on Air Force One. Eventually they're going to ask to talk to the president, you know, at the end of this investigation (INAUDIBLE) --
HULSE: Well, the reflex of every White House is to say as little as possible when you get into a situation like this.
HULSE: But what you don't want to do is say things that are going to be proven wrong or to be lies later on and --
TALEV: Or that are miss -- aggressively misrepresented.
KUCINICH: And by later on you mean like less than 24 hours later, which keeps happening.
MURRAY: And I think to Margaret's point about, what did the president know. I mean the problem is that Jared Kushner was also on that plane with the president at the time and he knew about that e-mail chain because he was on it. So the question -- like the notion that they were crafting this statement with no information, I mean, Jared Kushner had that information available to him. He was also on that flight with the president. It's hard to believe that they crafted a statement like that even believing at the time that it was going to hold up, it was going to be proven inaccurate.
[12:25:16] KING: And this has been -- you have the management chaos that General Kelly's been brought in to help with. And then this Russia cloud. They've been the two things that pulling at the Trump agenda since day one when people say, you know, where is Obamacare repeal? Congress has a role in that. Where is tax reform? Nowhere near to the found. Where is infrastructure? When are you going to get to the border wall?
Here's Senator Lindsey Graham, to the point made earlier at the table, that this adds more questions, which means more time to congressional investigations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It bothers me a lot because, one, he put his son in jeopardy. Now we have to wonder about what Don Jr.'s team will tell you about what he actually did. If you didn't know about the e-mail, the statement may have fooled you. If you know about the e-mail with Don Jr., then it's a misleading statement.
MATT LAUER, NBC: But it sound --
GRAHAM: If that's true, then that was a bad decision by the president, which will make us ask more questions. When you get caught in a lie about one thing, it makes it hard to just say, let the other stuff go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And that's a Republican senator saying that. You know, a lot of times when the Democrats on these committees say, we need to talk to this witness again, or we need to bring this person back, or we've got a long way to go, you know, the president, he has in the past, we'll see if this is a new world order, but has tweets hopes, Democrats, partisan witch hunt. This is a Republican senator saying a bunch of legitimate questions raised here. We've got to talk to everybody.
TALEV: Yes. To your point, this may actually, in the end, all add up to absolutely nothing other than bad P.R. instance and judgment. But when -- when an investigation becomes squarely about the old cliche, what did he know and when did he know it, it's like a hard place to get out of. And, you know, General Kelly's timing now, it couldn't come at a more important time. Certainly if there were ever a time for organization, discipline and for everybody to get on the same page, it would be a little more careful about the messages they put out, it's now. But he's inheriting a lot on his plate.
KING: And maybe he'll send the message, let's not use taxpayer dollars and taxpayer financed employee to do Donald Trump Jr.'s business. Just maybe. We'll see.
Up next, President Trump still pushing lawmakers to repeal and place. But most of them, in their meeting this hour, seem ready to reset and look ahead, tax reform or some other big challenge.