Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Fires Up Base Against Russia Probe; Kelly Tries to Bring Order to the White House; GOP Leaves for August Recess with Length To- Do List; U.N. Security Council Unanimously Approves New Sanctions on North Korea; Trump to Woo Red State Democrats. Aired 8-9a ET
Aired August 6, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:11] DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Campaign trail Trump is back, trying to keep his base on his side --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need to drain the swamp.
BASH: -- as he takes step to deliver on immigration promises.
TRUMP: You're going to see jobs pouring back into the country. Factories and plants are coming back into the country.
BASH: Plus, White House reset. A general at the helm.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: General Kelly has the full authority to operate within the White House and all staff will report to him.
BASH: But with Kelly's boss, the president's old Twitter habits die hard.
And following the money trail. Investigators looking at any Trump cash ties to the Kremlin.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: The president's camp set red lines for Bob Mueller.
BASH: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, now.
BASH: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Dana Bash. John King is off today.
To our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world, thanks for sharing your Sunday with us.
President Trump is not at the White House this morning but West Wing turmoil and brewing trouble with his shaken base are following him on his working vacation. The latest Quinnipiac University poll shows the president's job approval at just 33 percent. And he's so underwater that 61 percent do not approve of how he's handling the job.
But look closer at the survey and there's even more important danger signs for the president. Support from a key part of his base is slipping. Since his inauguration, he is down almost 10 points with white voters who don't have college degrees, 43 percent approval and 50 percent disapproval.
A different set of numbers, however, the monthly jobs report, is bringing some much-needed good news to the White House. On the president's watch, unemployment is down to 4.3 percent and a million jobs have been created since he took office. Now, when employment was on the rise at the end of the Obama administration, Donald Trump dissed the data. Now that he's in the White House, he's praising the better-than-expected jobs report.
As for Trump's supporters, many say it's their pocketbooks that will tell the story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you feel that he has accomplished quite a bit?
BOB HILGER, TRUMP VOTER: Oh, tremendous. Yes. He's laying the groundwork for the future, for us. People have got to have jobs so they feel comfortable and when they know the military is strong, they feel safe. They just want to make sure they have a paycheck and that nobody is threatening their life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Still, Trump's approval drop inside a key part of his coalition is real. And that likely explains why the president is trying a bit harder to tend to his bruised base. This week, that meant channeling 2016 Trump, a rally in the Rust Belt, with some of his campaign's greatest hits.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I love our coal miners. And they're coming back strong. And as you've seen, I've kept that promise. As president, we are putting our coal miners back to work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Then there's the more modern red meat, slamming the Russia investigation as a partisan witch hunt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Have you seen any Russians in West Virginia or Ohio or Pennsylvania? Are there any Russians here tonight? Any Russians?
They can't beat us at the voting booths, so they're trying to cheat you out of the future and the future that you want. They're trying to cheat you out of the leadership you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us and, most importantly, demeaning to our country and demeaning to our Constitution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, that calls for a quick fact check before we get started. Special counsel Robert Mueller is not a Democrat and he was appointed by the president's own deputy attorney general.
With that, let's go around the panel to get reporting insights from our wonderful journalists here, Michael Shear of "The New York Times", Julie Hirschfield-Davis, also of "The New York Times", "Washington Post's" Karoun Demirjian, and "FiveThirtyEight's" Perry Bacon.
Thank you all for joining me on this very wonderful Sunday morning.
Michael, you were at that rally in West Virginia. Did it feel like a throwback?
MICHAEL SHEAR, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I didn't see any Russians.
BASH: Not that you know of.
SHEAR: Not that I know of.
You know, it felt like the antidote to that survey that you talked about. I mean, it was as -- the people in that arena were as passionate and supportive of Donald Trump as any time that you might have seen on the campaign trail.
[08:05:02] You know, that said, that's a -- you know, small slice of the electorate, people who come out for a rally for a sitting president. It's in a place that is, you know, kind of core to his base.
He obviously won West Virginia by huge margins in the presidential campaign. So, you know, it's -- I think what's always been true, despite the survey, is that he's got this rock solid base that's not likely to go anywhere. And what he has done since being president has sort of played to that base over and over and over again with Russia slamming investigation stuff and everything else.
So I think what we'll really have to watch is not so much that base, but that sort of folks on the margin, who supported him in the campaign, gave him the edge over Hillary Clinton. Those are the people I think we need to watch.
BASH: Well, I'm glad you brought that up because I want to look at some of the issues that were also in this survey that are very important to people. And even on those, look at from health care, immigration, foreign policy, economy, to terrorism, he is also under water. Terrorism, you know, he seems to be doing the best. And it's probably margin of error there.
What do you make of that, Julie?
JULIE HIRSCHFIELD DAVIS, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I mean, I think what we see is the failure of President Trump's agenda so far in Congress really starting to hit home with his supporters and certainly with those who were giving him a chance and haven't seen much in the way of progress on the issues they care about.
I mean, the major thing that the gentleman that was interviewed in that clip just before we came on is jobs and people having a paycheck. And as well as the job -- as good as the job numbers look, as good as the stock market has been doing, people are not yet feeling the change in their lives, the change in their paycheck. They don't see these jobs coming back yet.
You know, Donald Trump has been very strategic about making all these announcements. You know, we have a factory here, we have factory there. Foxconn is going to build a factory in Wisconsin. People don't have those jobs yet.
And the White House is very keenly aware of this, that this is a timing issue. They can be doing a lot of those things and actually a lot of those things aren't even in train yet, like tax cuts. But even if they were doing all the right things at this point, they need to get this train moving in time to get those people re-engaged and reenergized on behalf of President Trump, but also on behalf of Republicans in Congress if they want to be able to maintain a majority.
BASH: And let's be honest, that's how President Trump -- one of the main reasons President Trump won, is because the job numbers were looking good but people weren't feeling it. They were feeling left behind. They were feeling isolated. Wages weren't as good. And so, that is why, clearly, they understand, because that's the playbook that they use to get into office or that the president used.
But I want to go back to the base. And it wasn't just the West Virginia rally this week. It was also a very big announcement about a new immigration plan that the White House is backing, congressional plan about curbing legal immigration and I want to play a sound bite from Stephen Miller who was kind of front and center and pushing it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE POLICY ADVISER: It's the divide between how Americans think about immigration and how Washington thinks about immigration. So, to every day Americans, this is the most rational, modest, common sense basic thing you can do. Of course, you shouldn't have foreign workers -- of course, you shouldn't have foreign workers displacing American workers. In Washington, this represents a sea change from decades of practice. It just depends what lens you're looking at and through.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: And it's related. Jobs is related. Many people in his core base believe to the immigration question.
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. But it goes to the medium of feelings. And this is the problem. And that is why there's a disconnect right now between the Trump administration and a lot of Republicans in Washington, because it's not like those immigrants are necessarily taking jobs away from American citizens who would otherwise go for those jobs.
Whether it's, you know, highly specialized workers in the H-1B programs, who come with skills that maybe American workers the same job the markets don't have, or seasonal workers who are, you know, doing agricultural work that a lot of Americans don't want, you have these legal immigrants often filling in spaces in the economy, not to mention even just the whole -- you know, other moral, or emotional argument, which is that we've always had immigration to this country.
So, it's a cut down on legal immigration, people who are doing it right, of, you know, obeying the laws. This is not like that red meat, you know, undocumented immigrants, illegal immigrants --
BASH: It's different.
DEMIRJIAN: It's very different --
BASH: It's different but the same notion of they're the other and they're taking our jobs.
BASH: I'm just talking about the political rhetoric. I'm not talking about the actual facts. Let clear that up.
DEMIRJIAN: But that's why it works well for the base to say these things, to talk about immigration in general, that he's going to have trouble to get any actual support to do any of these things, because members of Congress know that their local economies thrive off of this immigration.
BASH: Yes. I mean, you saw Lindsey Graham, for example, saying this would be terrible for South Carolina, and others as well.
DEMIRJIAN: Right, not just Lindsey Graham.
DEMIRJIAN: When you have that many voices immediately being like, no, because you end up hurting American workers more than having to take the bottom out. Then, it's a good thing to say at a rally but that's about it.
[08:10:00] BASH: OK. So, there's another reason why maybe a different part of the president's base was very upset, and those with maybe the loudest voices, those on talk radio, and very influential conservative Websites like Breitbart. I wanted to put something up.
And this is about General H.R. McMaster, who is the national security adviser, who really angered the base by telling the former national security adviser, Susan Rice, that she could keep her security clearance. And this is just one example, claims he's very pro-Israel. They're very upset that the president supported him again. If you kind of look really closely in the corner, it actually says
president defies base.
BASH: I mean, if there's not a message for the president -- yes, exactly. I mean, is this -- is this a problem for the president, that this, you know, churning against the national security adviser is real?
PERRY BACON, REPORTER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: I don't think this particular issue -- I don't think people are worried about McMaster's job status.
BASH: No, but maybe people closer to the megaphone?
BACON: There's definitely a fight in the administration between sort of the Bannon wing and the McMaster wing. I think you're seeing that. I think that's in the Washington story.
I would say on the poll numbers, though, to jump back a little bit, is one thing we know, this president won with very low approval ratings. I think he knows he has done lots of things to anger people, the tweeting particularly, I would say. I think they're running like a base White House.
They're trying to do things that motivate the base. I don't think they sit around worrying each day that they expected to being really, really popular. So, I think that's part of what's going on here.
BASH: Yes, no, but exactly. But this is why you sort of think, huh? I mean, look, you know, if we're going to talk about sort of the infighting a little bit, but the notion of the president having to defend his national security adviser when maybe he's not even that thrilled with him.
SHEAR: Well, tending your base is both about tending it with the actual base and the voters, but it's also about the sort of people --
BASH: The conservative media.
SHEAR: The influence. That's right, the conservative media, the conservative activist types, and you need to do both. And this is one of those warnings that maybe, you know, maybe he's letting part of that slip away or at least there's some frustration.
DAVIS: And they were already upset about his targeting of Jeff Sessions --
DAVIS: -- the attorney general, which he has dialed back quite a bit. And now, we see him praising Jeff Sessions and I think they got the joke that that was not going over well with the base, and not going over with a lot of his supporters who really considered Jeff Sessions for decades to be the real deal -- BASH: Can I just interrupt you right there on this subject? Because
I want to show our viewers what you're alluding to, President Trump tweeted yesterday on a Saturday: After many years of leaks going on in Washington, it's great to see the A.G. taking action. For national security, the tougher the better.
So, that is a relationship that appears to be on the mend, thanks in large part to the attorney general on Friday doing some base building of his own in the Oval Office and making a big announcement, which is clearly an audience of one, saying, I'm going after the leaks. It's been, you know, three times more aggressive than in the past.
DAVIS: Absolutely. But I think Perry is right that, you know, this churn of the Bannon wing against everyone else in the White House is going to continue and it is a real concern to parts of the base that don't necessarily see the progress on the issues that they want and then the atmospherics of going after, you know, the wrong person in the administration is not helping Trump with his core supporters.
BASH: Well, we're going to talk about all of this after the break, about General Kelly taking over the West Wing. The changes he's made his first week to put some military-style organization into a free- flowing White House.
But, first, comedians say the darndest things. Late night hosts are already missing the Mooch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, LATE NIGHT HOST: The Mooch lasted as communications director for only 10 days. Ten. That's not even a whole pay period. His going-away party can serve what's of his welcome cake.
TREVOR NOAH, LATE NIGHT HOST: He's like the song of the summer. Scaramucci came into our lives, made everyone obsessed with him for like a week, and then he left us with nothing but memories and like a bunch of weird moves. You know what I'm saying? Macarena, macarena, hey, Scaramucci. What?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[08:18:39] TRUMP: I promise you, I will not be taking very long vacations if I take them at all. There's no time for vacation. We're not going to be big -- we're not going to be big on vacation.
If you're at the White House and you have so much work to do, why do you fly so -- why do you leave so much? Why -- you know, you think you would want to work, work, work. Straighten it out. Get it done. Fix it up, make it great and then when you're finished you could be proud.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: That was candidate Trump during last year's election promising, you wouldn't be seeing him jet set off on vacation. But that was so last year.
Now that he's actually president, Donald Trump is on a 17-day working vacation on his property in Bedminster, New Jersey. The president says he may be away from the White House, but don't call it a vacation. He said, working in Bedminster, New Jersey, as long planned construction is being done at the White House. And that was his tweet yesterday.
This is not a vacation. Meetings and calls, exclamation point.
With him, among other White House staff, newly sworn in chief of staff, General John Kelly. He's been on the job for about a week. In day one, General Kelly gave the White House communications director the boot. It's all part of his strategy to stop the White House infighting and control who is in the president's ear.
That military cut and dry approach is definitely apparent now in Trump's West Wing.
[08:20:04] With "The New York Times" reporting, Mr. Kelly cuts off rambling advisers' sentences, he listens in on conversations between cabinet secretaries and the president. He has booted lingering staff members out of high-level meetings and ordered the doors of the Oval Office closed to discourage strays.
The reporter who wrote that is with me, luckily, Michael Shear.
And as I want to ask you more about this, I want to show you a picture that was tweeted of John Kelly, addressing the staff, there's from the president's social media guru, Dan Scavino sent that out. He's addressing the staff in the EEOB, the executive office building, where all the staff has now moved as the White House is in renovation, because they're not all in Bedminster.
But -- so, that was kind of, you know, day one. He's only got a week under his belt. But do you feel in covering the White House day-to- day that things have changed?
SHEAR: You know, I guess a little bit. You know, this has happened before where president Trump has been encouraged by aides or advisers to sort of tone it down and we haven't seen any sort of really remarkable tweets in the times since General Kelly has been in here. But that has also proven to be, you know, kind of fleeting in the past. So, we'll see.
I mean, I think the kinds of things that you read that we described in our story, and, you know, shout out to my colleagues, Glenn Thrush and Eileen Sullivan, who helped get a lot of the really good details there. But at the end of the day, those are things that are kind of normal for a chief of staff, and what's remarkable is that they took six months to implement. That we had a White House that did none of those things, where there were people coming in, and going out of the Oval Office willy-nilly, where the information -- BASH: Yes, which is not normal.
SHEAR: Which is not normal in any White House prior to this one and the flow of information the president was likely to get, you know, something that he would talk about from FOX News or a "Breitbart" article, as he was to get it from a briefing that was, that flowed through a process. And that's what's changing. And I think, you know, we'll see -- the big question is, can it last?
BASH: And the "Bloomberg" reports this morning, Jennifer Jacobs, from Bloomberg, reports that what Kelly is telling West Wing staffers is to put country first, the president second and their own needs and priorities last. I hope the president doesn't read that, because I think he would want those first two flipped.
And that is part of the issue, is that, you know, some of the infighting is about, you know, egos clashing. But some of it also is about concern that the country isn't being put first.
DEMIRJIAN: Right. And I mean, if -- you know, you could say that that might be a source of the many reasons we're seeing different narratives come out of the White House and sometimes information that Trump doesn't want to come out that's coming out through other channels, because people are potentially putting the country above what the president's inclinations are.
BASH: You're talking about the leaks, about a lot of the information that we know. We don't know, we don't know -- right, exactly.
DEMIRJIAN: Whichever one you want to call it really. But exactly. I mean, in which, you know, you've seen that angered Trump when his preferred narrative of the week is not the one that is actually dominating because other information is coming out of the White House through reporters that counters that.
If that is -- but, again, you've got a situation where you got different personalities around right now. Trump seems to be OK deferring some ego to a general who is not a camera hugger. He's not OK deferring his ego to other people who are he thinks are trying to get the limelight above him. So, that is why this maybe could work as this arrangement.
It sounds good to say country first, president second, and then self interest third. It's something that Trump could get behind and say at rallies and from behind the podium. But he has to feel not personally threatened in that. And the question is, can Kelly manage him that way?
BASH: And Perry, I want to play for you something that Rush Limbaugh said about this whole notion of White House chaos, and talk on the other side.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: This White House chaos, I have said from the get go that the one way past all of this is to simply march this agenda through. If that means Trump has to get up to speed on every line and every piece of legislation and be able to sell it to the American people in appearance after appearance, that's what it's going to take, if it's going to require Trump doing the heavy lifting because there's nobody better at Trump being Trump, then that's what it's going to take.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BASH: So, that's a really nice thought but I'm not sure how realistic it is. I mean, that's --
PERRY: The tone he said is right. If the health care bill had passed by now, or if the tax reform had passed, we would not be talking about White House infighting. He's right.
PERRY: If you get the agenda passed, this idea that Michael wrote about, that the information flow has to change, that's probably true. But is Kelly going to stop "Fox & Friends" from being aired? But I think a lot of the information is coming from the president's --
BASH: Do they have to take away his TV? Does he have to take away his TV?
PERRY: Take away some of the friends he calls. I mean, the idea that information is being handed to him is wrong is probably not right. He's seeking out information that confirms what his views already are.
BASH: Yes, and --
DEMIRJIAN: What is the agenda? I mean, you can say health care and tax reform, but you need details.
[08:25:01] And Trump is not a details guy. And so, how is he going to sell that in sound bites? It's not his thing.
BASH: All right. We're going to talk about a lot more when we come back.
Also, I thought it was interesting that in your piece, he said that he's not even trying to tame the president. He's just dealing with the staff which tells you a lot.
Just ahead, the president has a new Twitter target, speaking of Twitter. His fellow Republicans who run Congress.
Plus, my exclusive interview with two of those GOP senators he's not pleased with. The women who defied him on health care.
BASH: When things get quiet here in Washington and traffic gets lighter, you know it's August. Congress and the president have both skipped town. But Republicans who control Washington left a pretty lengthy to-do list behind.
When it comes to the GOP's signature promise of repeal and replace, they get an F. Tax reform, incomplete. Infrastructure, incomplete. Raise the debt ceiling, also incomplete. And pass a budget, incomplete.
President Trump says if you're looking for someone to blame for that dismal report card, look no further than his Republican brethren on Capitol Hill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nothing in life is easy, but Congress must not give in. They must not give up. But instead Congress must get to work and deliver Americans the great health care that they deserve. Call your Congressman. Call your senators. Call everybody. Get them to have the guts to vote to repeal and replace Obamacare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Per usual, the vice president took a more diplomatic approach, saying this to a group of young conservatives, that the GOP will deliver on health care reform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow conservatives, let me be clear, this ain't over. This ain't over by a long shot. And President Trump and I are absolutely committed to keep our promise to the American people. We were not elected to save Obamacare. We were elected to repeal and replace it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: So, you know, not just the back and forth over health care, which is obviously going to happen, but just even this past week, Congress really pushed back, Republicans in Congress against the president -- on everything from making sure -- trying to at least start the process going of making sure that he can't fire the special counsel on a bipartisan basis. And maybe the biggest was the Russia sanctions that they passed overwhelmingly, that the president had no choice but to sign.
On that, the president tweeted about this, this week. He said our relationship with Russia is at an all-time and very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can't give us health care.
Then John McCain, who is by the way in cancer treatment, couldn't even, you know -- couldn't take that without responding. And he tweeted the following -- our relationship with Russia is at a dangerous low. You can thank Putin for attacking our democracy, invading neighbors, and threatening our allies. HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Well, I mean I think Karoun said it before, I think
we're just starting to see even more momentum in this process of Republicans really breaking off from the president when he say something that they disagree with, and particularly this comment he made about the Russia sanctions bill, which was extraordinary.
He, in fact, blamed Congress in his statement, his official statement. Not just the tweet, but after he signed the legislation, which the White House made it pretty clear he wouldn't have signed if it weren't for the fact that it passed by a veto-proof margin. That he blamed Congress, that they couldn't even make a deal on health care so how could you expect them to be able to make a deal with?
The point of passing this legislation was that they didn't want the president -- they don't want the president to be able to make a deal with Russia.
BASH: They're trying to tie his hands.
HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: And as the calendar, you know, marches on and they see their re-elections coming closer, I do think that Republicans are in a mood to be a lot more circumspect about what they tolerate from this president.
And the problem is that, given the report card you just showed, he needs them for a lot of very important things. And poking them in the eye -- which all presidents do. Let's make -- all presidents, you know, when they don't get what they want, they do blame Congress. That is a ready foil for a president who has not seen progress on his agenda.
But for this president, who hasn't seen any legislative victories, to be doing that at a point where he really needs them the most, is a questionable thing (ph).
BASH: So I spoke to two -- the two female Republican senators who were opposed the president, and their own leadership, from soup to nuts, from the get-go, on health care, and talked about what it was like to defy all of them. But in particular on this point about what it's like for them and for their fellow Republicans in Congress, vis- a-vis the president now.
Take a listen.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: If you come to Washington with the idea that people could intimidate you, threaten you, or force you to cast a vote that you don't believe in, then you might as well go back home.
BASH: He tried to intimidate you on Twitter, you know, very directly, specifically maybe having his interior secretary call you.
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: You can't live in fear that the direction that you're going to take -- BASH: Did you feel that he was trying to intimidate you?
MURKOWSKI: I will just say that the president and I had a very direct call. And --
BASH: Do you think that there's been a shift among your Republican colleagues as it goes -- as it relates to the president?
[08:35:04] COLLINS: I don't think that the caucus is ignoring the president, but there may be some ignoring of his rhetoric, which at times is over the top.
MURKOWSKI: If there's rhetoric that is out there that is not constructive to governing, that is just distractive to where we are, I think it is important to speak up. And I think you are starting to see a little bit of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: You are.
DEMIRJIAN: And you are. And I just -- Lisa Murkowski may have done the most delightful little pushback to the president to remind him that, you know, Congress does ultimately have oversight over him, over his administration, over what they do. And he can't go around bullying them.
Her office would never admit to it, but she did keep all of the Interior nominees that her committee was supposed to vet and just kind of said, oh, I don't have time to do it, basically, when push came to shove and he started bullying her on the health care vote.
But in general, I mean, we have seen -- the health care issue certainly has been what's shown that Trump cannot always be successful. That just because they have all the majorities in D.C. doesn't mean it can ride through.
But just to get to back to the Russia issue one more, this honestly to me feels like where you've seen the biggest breaking point --
BASH: I agree.
DEMIRJIAN: -- between members of Congress and the Trump administration.
One, because it's a serious matter about just the national security of the country, about election meddling, in general. Trump has not been able to get on board with that because he has been so obsessed about the allegations of his own personal links, and those of his surrogates, with the Kremlin.
But the -- and you see people just basically not believing him anymore. There were so many points of this sanctions debate that just didn't add up. I mean, he had lobbied hard against that bill and then tried to claim credit for it as a victory. That whole signing statement, even, when he said it and was blaming Congress for doing things that are unconstitutional, citing case law that was either grossly misapplied or something else.
There's just no --
BASH: And the fact that he signed it --
BASH: -- tells you what kind of pressure there was. Because he did it kicking and screaming.
DEMIRJIAN: Right, and then immediately after, you see those Mueller bills come out. The bills protecting special counsel. And these connect to it.
BASH: And the good news for the president, and for Republicans in Congress, is tax reform is something, if done right, that can unite them, and even maybe bring some Democrats along, and the conservative community, the business community that has been lukewarm on the president.
BACON: Health care is always hard, particularly this idea of maybe taking something away from people. But I would say where we started off was important here. The president has very low approval ratings. And that makes it hard to move Congress. Members of Congress are often very eager to vote against you when they don't feel like -- when they don't think you're popular. And that's what he's got to adjust to. If he can build those numbers back up, I think members will be more willing to listen to them.
Right now, their view is -- when I talked to staffers on the Hill, their view is that Trump does not help us pass bills; he often gets in the way. So why do we want to work with him? Why are we listening to him for advice? He can't pass a bill. His staff is fighting all the time. He's not helpful on health care. He's not helpful on much of anything. So what is he doing for us?
BASH: Well, we'll see. We'll see what happens when they come back on tax reform. Because, again, if they can't get this together, you know, this is really the core of Republican credo and a promise that everybody made across the board, no matter what flavor Republican you were running for the nomination.
OK, everybody stand by. Coming up, the Russia probe hops on the Trump money trail, with a possible financial clue coming from one former Trump administration official.
[08:41:34] BASH: A gut punch to North Korea. That's what U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley called the newly-approved sanctions on North Korea.
The U.N. Security Council unanimously voted to penalize North Korea for its intercontinental ballistic missile tests and other U.N. violations. Haley says North Korea is on notice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: It's a new day at the U.N. This was a day of action, this was a day where we stopped all the talk, and this is the day where we said to North Korea they have to stop their irresponsible actions. This resolution is the strongest resolution with sanction measures that we've seen in a generation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, as for possible military action in North Korea, both Haley and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster warned the ball is in North Korea's court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Are we preparing plans for a preventive war, a war that would prevent North Korea from threatening the United States with a nuclear weapon? And the president has been very clear about it. He said he's not going to tolerate North Korea being able to threaten the United States.
Look at the nature of that regime. If they had nuclear weapons that could threaten the United States, it's intolerable from the president's perspective. So of course we have to provide all options to do that, and that includes a military option.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: So, Michael, yesterday, look, the fact is that the Trump administration, Nikki Haley, got all 15 United Nations Security Council members, including Russia and China, on board with these sanctions. That's something.
SHEAR: It is. Look, I think one of the things that all of the North Korea news over the last couple of weeks reminds you is that, when you juxtapose it against the stories about infighting in the White House, and is McMaster up or down with conservative base, that it's not just sort of palace intrigue that we're all talking about. This is serious stuff.
I mean, you know, presidents, for the last, you know, eight, 10, 12, 16 years have been dealing with North Korea's nuclear ambitions. And it's all coming to a head right now.
So there is a sense of seriousness that, when you see a kind of successful coalition being built around sanctions like that at the U.N., that it reminds you that this is all important for the White House to get past the infighting.
BASH: And the infighting is also -- is not just about personalities; it's about what policy is going to rule.
SHEAR: They're struggling to figure that out.
BASH: And in this White House, it's no small thing. It's nationalism versus more globalism. I mean, those are hugely disparate world views.
HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Well, it also reminds you why the infighting is a big problem. I mean, it does put everything in perspective, right? Like, a communications director saying something off color. Or, you know, one faction being up, the other faction being down.
But the truth is, it is a major problem for this administration if the national security adviser is not seen as a person who has the confidence of the president and is speaking on behalf of the president on important issues like North Korea. And now we saw President Trump give a statement to Peter Baker, our colleague, on Friday about, you know, that he does have confidence in McMaster and he trusts him.
But that is the other side of the coin with all these sort of -- with all the factionalism, is it does cause one to question who in this administration is really speaking for the administration? Who's speaking for the president? We've seen this with Rex Tillerson as well.
Well, speaking of Rex Tillerson, moving from North Korea to Russia, he is in Manila and he met with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
[08:45:09] And apparently Lavrov asked Tillerson about Russia's retaliation measures that we were talking about earlier, about U.S. sanctions. So this is -- this is obviously very real; it's playing out on the world stage.
While that is happening, the Russia investigation is really full steam ahead. CNN reported that they expanded -- Mueller, Bob Mueller expanded to include financial ties of the president and people close to him.
So, you know, all of these things are still going on, and it's more than noise, while he's got these big foreign policy and domestic issues.
DEMIRJIAN: Right. I mean, the probe is expanding kind of in the direction I think a lot of people expected that it would. I mean, you can't really address the Russia issue when you have potential money crossing borders without looking into some of the potential financial connections. So that's already been alleged.
The question really, the open question, is how ably is the White House able to function? How are they able to, you know, impress the will of the United States as -- on the rest of the world -- as all of this is happening?
So North Korea is an interesting test, right? I mean, your reporting is probably more -- better than mine on this, but do we know how much the United States, you know, expertly played a good cop, bad cop scenario, even as we were dealing with all the Russia stuff that was a distraction home, to influence other countries? Or was this something that they were always going to get to because Russia and China have an interest also in not having North Korea have an ICBM? They don't necessarily want as much intervention as we do, but that's not a great thing for them either.
BASH: No, this has been a -- this has a big, Perry, a big push and pull internationally for many administrations.
BACON: He talked about this as intolerable, it's unacceptable. We've heard these words on North Korea for a long time. Is the U.S. policy going to affect them or are they going to keep moving forward? It appears North Korea wants a nuclear weapon and is going to keep moving forward no matter what military options we talk about, but really they we know we are unlikely to do.
BASH: OK, guys. Thank you so much. Stand by because a lot more coming up. Our reporters are going to share from their notebooks next, including Trump's plan to woo red state Democrats and the issue he's hoping will seal the deal.
[08:51:44] BASH: Let's close by asking our reporters to share a little something from their notebooks to help keep you ahead of the curve on big political news.
SHAER: So here is something to think about. The president is on vacation up in Bedminster and might think that that means he doesn't have to do a lot this summer.
But August has always been a sort of curse for presidents. President Obama had the Tea Party town halls in August. He had the Syria chemical attacks in 2013. In 2014, ISIS beheaded an American journalist and the Ferguson riots happened. President Bush, of course, dealt with Hurricane Katrina in August.
And so we don't know what's going to happen, but the president might be good not to think he can relax the entire summer.
BASH: That's a very good advice. I was with President Bush in Crawford, Texas, when Katrina was coming. And, boy, did nobody expect that.
HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Well, we've talked a lot about how Donald Trump is going to be trying to shore up his base a lot more. One thing that the White House has started to talk about, very tentatively and things are still early, but is the fact that they might have to start courting some red state Democrats to help them on tax reform, tax cuts potentially, and other key votes this fall.
As we know, his agenda has been stalled. They've had trouble getting to 50 among Republicans. Mitch McConnell acknowledged that. And so, increasingly, there is a knowledge that he is going to have to go after some of these Democrats in states that Donald Trump won in 2016 -- in Montana, in Indiana, in places like that. And if he's going to even get close to a vote on tax reform.
And so we may see him starting to travel to some of those places and target those senators by name as soon as this month.
BASH: Well, that would be nice, bipartisanship.
HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: It'd be interesting.
BASH: If there is an issue where you could see bipartisanship, tax reform in those states. That's fascinating.
DEMIRJIAN: Before we even get to bipartisanship, there's the question of what the GOP is going to be doing now. Congress is on recess, everybody goes home. Now, a lot of Republicans are going to be avoiding town halls this August, which is not normal. But it's pretty difficult to get through the entire month off without at least doing a radio interview, or some sort of interview. There's going to be some interaction with their constituents. And what's going to be interesting to see is do they stand with Trump? Or do they start to distance themselves from him? Because this would be the moment at which we would start to see that happening. Over the July 4th recess, that was when Susan Collins heard that all that "Go, Susan, go" stuff and she never came back to the fold on health care.
Now, granted, there's people like her who might -- you know, the moderates who might not join the party, but we saw Thom Tillis this week come out and say I'm going to back a bill that would actually prevent the president from getting -- from ordering the special counsel to be fired without judicial review. So there's other people that were not the usual suspects that seem to be separating themselves a little bit.
Does that continue? Is it broader as they go home? Because that's when we'll start to see what happens. And that has major implications for the fall.
BASH: It sure does. Fascinating.
BACON: So never say never but it seems like, in terms Congress, the Obamacare fight is over for now. That said, there's a lot of things that are happening in the administration, and they have to decide if they want to keep Obamacare going or to do -- or take steps in which it would not help implement the law.
So over this next month and a half, I'd be curious to watch how Trump, how Tom Price handle various situations on the Obamacare exchanges, and on the law overall, and how insurance companies react to them. Because ultimately, insurance companies are nervous right now and sort of withdrawing from Obamacare. [08:55:00] And they'll be curious to see if the president says
basically let the law fail or if he now works to execute it and to implement it and make it work better.
BASH: Which is really dangerous, because letting the law fail means letting people get really, really hurt with regard to the thing that matters the most, which is their health care.
Thank you all so much for joining me this morning. Appreciate it.
That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Again, thank you for sharing your Sunday morning with us.
Up next, "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper.