Return to Transcripts main page

INSIDE POLITICS

Trump's Strategy Going Forward After Charlottesville; Trump Switches Message to Protecting Confederate Statues; DNC Fundraising Numbers for the Summer; Populist Messenger Bannon Now Back at Breitbart; Trump to Tackle His Looming Agenda To-Do List. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired August 20, 2017 - 08:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[08:00:09] NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): Another week, another White House shakeup. On day 211, Bannon out.

A country divided and a commander in chief under fire.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were neo Nazis, believe me.

HENDERSON: As the president's own party pushes back --

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.

HENDERSON: The president heads to Arizona and potentially takes on a new Senate foe.

INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENDERSON: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Nia-Malika Henderson, filling in for John King. To our viewers in the United States and around the world, thanks for sharing your Sunday with us.

President Donald Trump is looking to turn the page after a frenetic week that ended with Trump's chief strategist leaving his White House post. Trump's tumultuous seven days included aftermath from his responses to the deadly Charlottesville protests, comments that exposed the fault lines for the country as a whole, as well as for Trump's own party.

This Saturday, a different scene, mostly peaceful dueling rallies with thousands of protesters marching in Boston. President Trump weighed in with three different takes on the protest as the afternoon went by.

He first tweeted at 3:22 p.m. Eastern: Looks like many anti-police agitators in Boston. Police are looking tough and smart. Thank you. Another tweet at 4:34: Our country has been divided for decades.

Sometimes you need protests in order to heal and we will heal and be stronger than ever before.

Then another tweet: I want to applaud the many protesters in Boston who are speaking out against bigotry and hate. Our country will soon come together as one.

Trump also used his favorite medium to talk about the latest White House shakeup. He waited almost 24 hours after the news broke to say this about Steve Bannon: I want to thank Steve Bannon for his service. He came to the campaign during my run against Hillary Clinton. It was great. Thanks S.

And then this: Steve Bannon will be a tough and smart new voice at Breitbart News, maybe even better than before. Fake news needs the competition.

But it's this picture from January 28th that says it all. It's President Trump surrounded by his senior staff, with former national security adviser Michael Flynn now gone, former press secretary Sean Spicer also out, chief of staff Reince Priebus resigned, and most recently, chief strategist Steve Bannon fired.

With us to share their reporting and their insights, Michael Warren of "The Weekly Standard", Julie Pace from "The Associated Press", "The L.A. Times'" Jackie Calmes, and "The Wall Street Journal's" Michael Bender.

Another week and another White House staffer calls it quits. This time, it was the key champion of the president's populist movement. The president indicated that he didn't know what was going to happen between him and Mr. Bannon even though sources tell CNN his ouster had been in the works for a number of -- for two weeks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Look, I like Mr. Bannon. He's a friend of mine. But Mr. Bannon came on very late. You know that.

I like him. He's a good man. He is not a racist. I can tell you that. He's a good person.

He actually gets a very unfair press in that regard. We'll see what happens with Mr. Bannon. But he's a good person and I think the press treats him, frankly, very unfairly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Mr. Warren, I'll go to you on this one.

In many ways, the way that Steve Bannon has gone out, all of these interviews making it about himself, really, I think is exhibit A for many people of why he's no longer in the White House.

MICHAEL WARREN, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: That's right. I mean, this is a new regime, at least within the staff of John Kelly. A lot of the reasons that John Kelly ousted Anthony Scaramucci, probably the same that ousted Steve Bannon. You remember the interview that Bannon gave with Robert Kuttner, a liberal, a very liberal journalist --

HENDERSON: Right, "The Nation".

WARREN: "The American Prospect".

HENDERSON: Right, "The American Prospect".

WARREN: In which he said many, many different things, including criticizing members of the administration, saying he was going to sort of win some of these personnel battles or what have you. I think if we look at that, more so than anything else, is a big reason why Bannon is not there anymore. If you look at what the president is saying, you know, he doesn't really want to say he doesn't want Bannon in his administration anymore.

This is a perfect example of how the president sort of keeps his distance from any of that nasty business of firing people or having to move on for people who have just become a problem for his administration.

[08:05:09] HENDERSON: He seems to leave it to some other people. In this case, Kelly.

Julie, one of the things Mr. Bannon talked to your outlet, "The Weekly Standard" and had a pretty bold statement. He said on Friday: The Trump presidency that we fought for and won is over. We still have a huge movement and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over.

Startling words from Bannon. What did he mean and why did he say it?

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: It's a pretty stunning statement and it hits on a couple of things that people in the White House actually have been worried about as discussions have gone on about Bannon leaving. They happened earlier in the year as well when he was clashing with Jared Kushner. And it is that Bannon actually is the one person who's been in the West Wing, who really represents the ideology that Trump ran on.

Trump himself is not particularly ideological, but he really latched on to a lot of things that Bannon has bean talking about, that "Breitbart" has been pushing for several years. And this idea that Bannon would be moved outside gives people concern about what direction this White House is going to take. Are they going to move more toward o a more moderate, perhaps Democratic position?

I think that's probably unlikely that Trump goes all the way there, but it's a worry. But then, also, the things that Bannon hinted at in that interview, make it very clearly that he's not going to be a silent bystander, even though he's on the outside now.

HENDERSON: Right. And, Julie, where the president goes, this idea of -- I mean, does he reach out to Democrats? The Democrats, they released a statement.

The DNC national press secretary, Michael Tyler, here's what they had to say. There is one less white supremacist in the White House. But that doesn't change the man sitting behind the resolute desk.

Jackie, what are they trying to say there? I mean, are there more white supremacists in the White House? And this idea of, is this really a reset?

JACKIE CALMES, REPORTER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: We're leaving that aside. I think they're absolutely right that moving Bannon out, I wrote that he was -- some people were treating him like he was a ventriloquist and Trump was his puppet. If there was a week that showed that wasn't true, it was this one, with the remarks on Charlottesville, where the president just held fort extemporaneously and we saw, you know, his true feelings.

One of the things about Bannon's departure that I think is overlooked and all the talk about white supremacist in Charlottesville, you could go back the last week when we were talking about North Korea, Steve Bannon was a real voice within the administration for -- against the hawks, as he perceived it, and he was really upset when the president just off the cuff said what he did about a potential military operation in Venezuela and he was very upset with the president's rhetoric towards North Korea, the sort of militaristic rhetoric.

HENDERSON: And contradicted the president in that "American Prospect" article.

CALMES: Exactly. And so, I think that's what's going to be -- and we're still waiting for the president's decisions on Afghanistan, which was the purpose of his Camp David meeting on Friday from which Bannon, of course, was excluded.

So, I think there's a lot of people in the base that are looking at what Trump -- just how interventionist and expansionist abroad he's going to be because they -- many of them thought they were electing someone who is going to retrench, rebuild America, as he said during the campaign.

HENDERSON: Right.

And, Michael Bender, Bannon returns to "Breitbart". He was hailed as a hero on their home page on Friday. The home page of the "Breitbart" news was: Steven K. Bannon returns home to Breitbart News as a populist hero.

What are we going to see now? Because in many ways, I mean, if you talk to people familiar with the way Breitbart was operating when Bannon was inside the White House, he was still pulling the strings even though he was not formally there at "Breitbart".

MICHAEL BENDER, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes, certainly had an influence in "Breitbart", the past eight months has been filled with people that Steve Bannon hired and the years beforehand. So, even if he wasn't directing it, it was his imprint on "Breitbart". "Breitbart", you know, Steve has referred to it as his killing machine and he's going to -- that's what he knows and that's what he's going to start doing.

You mentioned "The Weekly Standard" interview, which I think is relevant. He also gave an interview to "Bloomberg" where he said he's not going to war with Trump. He's going to war for Trump. And you can kind of parse that by, you know, if this president starts to tack left, starts to tack moderate, Steve Bannon will -- and Breitbart will point that out. They have so far.

But that still remains to be seen here. Breitbart is not going to get any sort of resonance by attacking Trump or firing Bannon. No one really cares about Bannon. Bannon did not get elected. But, you know, conservatives are watching for signs of, you know, success for this president. Haven't seen it yet.

[08:10:00] And so far, they've been able to blame the media and blame Washington Republicans. But if they start blaming the president, if the president -- if they start seeing the president as not being able to keep his own house in order, that's where I think it's real trouble and where Bannon leaving is a marker for them.

HENDERSON: Right. And he certainly wants to make it that way. He seems to be doubling down on this idea that it is the establishment, the Republican establishment who don't really want to go along with this president or support him.

Up next, Bannon says this means war. How his departure could change the inner workings of the White House and its priorities.

But, first, saying good-bye to Steve Bannon means also saying good-bye to "SNL's" version of Trump's former aide. You may remember him as the Grim Reaper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRIM REAPER: OK, Donald, that's enough fun for tonight. Can I have my desk back?

ALEC BALDWIN AS PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yes, of course, Mr. President. I'll go sit at my desk.

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

BALDWIN: So much fun. I love it.

GRIM REAPER: Yes, this is fun.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:15:32] HENDERSON: Steve Bannon didn't exactly leave the White House and go quietly into the night. On his way out, he said he plans to fight from the outside for President Trump's populist agenda. He told "Bloomberg's" Josh Green, quote: I'm leaving the White House and going to war for Trump against his opponents on Capitol Hill, in the media and in corporate America, end quote.

But going to war for what?

Now, this list may shed some light on that. Here is Bannon back in May, standing in front of his famous white board, showing a long list of Trump's campaign promises. Some of those priorities included repealing Obamacare, major tax reform, a border wall, just to name a few. Now, back in February, which just seems a few short months ago, Bannon told the crowd at CPAC to make sure that the Trump White House is getting check marks on that big board of promises.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE BANNON, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: We're at the top of the first inning of this and it's going to take just as much fight, just as much focus and just as much determination. And the one thing I'd like to leave you guys today with is that we want you to have our back. But more importantly, hold us accountable. Hold us accountable to what we promised. Hold us accountable for delivering on what we promised.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Now, Bannon does have a loud, very big and relentless platform at "Breitbart". But it's all about who is left in the West Wing. People who, by and large, did not represent Bannon's world view. And here is the list and we can put it up of who is left. You have John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, Cohn, Kellyanne Conway, who seems in some ways to have receded a bit, and people from the Bannon Wing, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka, are still there.

Julie, who do we think has the president's ear? Who do we think is ascendant at this point in this White House?

PACE: Well, what John Kelly is there to do is try to control who has the president's ear. That's one of his big tasks right now, is to keep this from being a revolving door in the Oval Office where you have people from different factions, each going in, each getting to sort of their piece and then going back in after their rival, goes in to say their piece again.

(LAUGHTER)

HENDERSON: That's fun.

PACE: Look, I think this is the biggest question with Bannon's departure is what direction does the administration go on policy because the reality -- again, I've always been struck by this in talking to Trump voters during the campaign. It's not just a cult of personality that got him elected. People who voted for him really supported the policy ideas he put out there, building a wall along the border, the travel ban.

HENDERSON: Right.

PACE: These were actual policy proposals that really resonated. And in talking to Bannon and others, they really feel like the wall, beyond everything else, Trump gets to the end of this term and hasn't built the wall, the disappointment for his voters would be tremendous.

And would he then fall into the same trap that so many other politicians do? Where they make big promise on the campaign, can't deliver and then Americans look at them as, you know, just another politician who broke their promises?

HENDERSON: And Trump tweeting about Afghanistan, previewing what are likely at some point be an announcement on a strategy there. He said, important day spent at Camp David. This was on Saturday. With our very talented generals and military leaders. Many decisions made, including on Afghanistan. That tweet came on Saturday.

Bender, I want to go to you on this. Whatever he decides -- I mean, this is going to tell us something about the Trump doctrine. It's also going to tell us where he is on that spectrum of Republican approaches to foreign intervention.

Julie talked about what his base expected. I think they didn't necessarily expect more foreign entanglements, particularly not in the Middle East.

BENDER: Yes, that's right. I think the last couple of weeks, last maybe month or so, we've seen more of a kind of nationalist versus national security fight within the White House instead of the nationalists versus globalists. This would be an indication of where Trump is going.

You know, it's hard for me to imagine he goes -- he tacks too much away from where he has been. I mean, we just look at the last week. Jackie made a point a little bit earlier, and then we had the first trade action against China.

You know, the news conference was remarks on infrastructure. There was actually supposed to be about infrastructure. You know, the defense of Confederate symbols. This is the nationalist agenda at a time a person who best represents that ideology was just axed from the administration.

So, don't -- I would not expect a big surge in troops in Afghanistan. I don't think he's going to privatize it either, probably somewhere in the middle.

[08:20:04] But we'll see. I think we'll hear numbers on that pretty soon.

HENDERSON: And Bannon in yet another interview -- he gave one to "The Weekly Standard". He also gave one to "The Washington Post" said this about a house divided essentially in this administration. He said no administration in history has been so divided among itself, about the direction about where it should go.

Jackie, in some ways, that seems to flow from the top. What does Trump want to do with his presidency, I think, is still kind of a question in a lot of people's minds. CALMES: Right, right. Absolutely. And how many times has his

spokespeople gone out and had to defend things he said only to have him then contradict them later?

HENDERSON: Right.

CALMES: And, you know, all of this talk now you hear as August winds down and they think about coming back in the fall about, we're really going to bear down on tax reform, and infrastructure and maybe even return to health care. But the fact of the matter is, they're going to need all the time they have just to do the must-do things like finish passing the appropriations bill by October 1st, which they won't do. So, they'll do a big package, and unless the government shuts down, and more important, raise the debt limit.

Now, what's going to happen I think and even more since Bannon has left, is that the conservative wing is going to try to add things to the budget bills --

HENDERSON: The House Freedom Caucus, right.

CALMES: And to the budget bills that will -- whether it's funding the wall or something much more ambitious even that that. And it will hold this up and the Republican Party will be at war with itself and in -- the threat is that we will be having a fiscal brinkmanship with the full faith and credit of the United States.

HENDERSON: Deja vu all over again, Michael Warren?

WARREN: Right. Let me just say that I think Bannon made the mistake that a lot of people make with Donald Trump, which is that he mistook Donald Trump's willingness to adopt Bannon's world view as a sincere adoption of his world view. And truth of the matter is that Donald Trump as a president, Donald Trump as a politician, is for and about Donald Trump. He's not about economic nationalism unless it serves his interest. He's not about sort of globalist unless it serves his interest.

And that's a big problem for anybody who sort of invests any kind of, you know, ideological hope in Donald Trump. He is going to do, at the moment, what he thinks is best for himself and his presidency. That's -- it was just a mistake that Bannon made.

HENDERSON: Right. And you see a lot of GOP senators sort of realizing that and not wanting to stick their necks out and, in fact, really coming out, particularly around Charlottesville over this last week.

Up next, an off-the-rails press conference leaves Team Trump in disbelief and the president's own party pushing back against him. The aftermath of Trump's comments on Charlottesville, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:27:18] HENDERSON: Welcome back. When President Trump got behind the presidential podium at Trump Tower

on Tuesday, he was supposed to focus solely on infrastructure. But Trump, he had other ideas. He wanted to talk about Charlottesville as his senior staffers watched from the sidelines.

Now, sources tell CNN that his aides were caught off guard, saying that the president just went rogue. Trump, he started off by commenting who was actually protesting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I've condemned neo Nazis and many different other groups but not all those people were neo Nazis, believe me. Not all those people were white supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSO: Then Trump basically seemed to equate some of the neo Nazis and white supremacists with the protesters who were there to condemn them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm not putting anybody on a moral plain. What I'm saying is this -- you had a group on one side and you had a group on another and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and it was horrible. And it was horrible thing to watch.

But there is another side. There was a group on this side -- you can call them the left, you've just called them the left -- that came violently attacking the other group.

Yes, I think there is blame on both sides. You look at both sides, I think there's blame on both sides. I have no doubt about it and you don't have any doubt about it either.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: There was violence coming from both directions, but only one side gathered the night before to denounce Jews, minorities and others. Trump's about-face essentially blaming both sides equally had Republicans speaking out against him and his comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I'm not going to defend the indefensible. I'm not here to do that. I'm here to be clear and to be concise and succinct. His comments on Monday were strong. His comments on Tuesday started erasing the comments that were strong. What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority and that moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HENDERSON: Bender, why did this happen? Why did Tuesday happen? He seemed to really relish that moment, to want that moment. What was going through his mind at that point?

BENDER: Well, this is -- this is sort of example A of why Steve Bannon leaving the White House probably isn't going to matter. It's General Kelly brought in to bring more command and control to this White House. But Tuesday -- Tuesday happened. You know?

And, you know, the silence out of the administration and the silence out of the West Wing when it comes to disavowing what he said -- one person gave Trump a full throated endorsement of that performance and he got fired on Friday.

[08:30:09] HENDERSON: Right.

BENDER: This is going to resonate for a while. And the -- watch for -- as Trump goes out to Tuesday, to this public event on Tuesday out in Arizona. He's got a big split with the Republicans on the Hill. He's already sort of implicitly endorsed the sitting senator from Arizona, his primary opponent.

HENDERSON: Jeff Flake, right.

BENDER: And I know that his primary opponent is trying to get face time at that rally. So out of a number of things that, you know, we'll all be watching for Tuesday night, if the primary opponent shows up at this rally, it's going to be a big indication that Trump is not interested in healing the divide on Capitol Hill.

HENDERSON: Jackie, we did hear a different kind of Trump in terms of his reaction to the protesters on Saturday. He said I want to applaud the many protesters in Boston speaking out against bigotry and hate. Our country will soon come together as one.

CALMES: Very different.

HENDERSON: It was different from the first two tweets that he tweeted out about that protest. Is this John Kelly literally grabbing his phone and tweeting something different?

CALMES: Exactly -- it had that feel, didn't it? It was because when his first tweets, you thought, you know, he was going to really be critical of the counterprotesters. And he pulled back. And I don't know if he was watching cable and saw it was largely in Boston, 40,000 people largely peaceful. Yes, there were over 30 arrests, but they weren't for, you know, disturbing the peace kind of things. And there were -- there's elements, people there that were just looking for violence, but very, very few.

And so you just had the sense that they did, there was an intervention there, wherever he was. I can't even remember. He's been flitting about on his working vacation.

HENDERSON: Right. Working vacation. WARREN: But back to the question of why did he make that Tuesday statement, go back to Saturday, previous Saturday when Charlottesville happened. And you basically heard him say what I think he really wanted to say, which was that people are bad on both sides.

HENDERSON: That was his impromptu from the -- yes.

WARREN: From the podium. Then he was sort of pressured into giving this Monday statement in which he really went after neo-Nazis, white nationalists. The idea that he had to be pressured to say that is beyond me.

Then Tuesday I think he really felt like he needed to say what he really wanted to say.

HENDERSON: Right.

CALMES: Trump unleashed, right.

WARREN: Exactly. Because he is the president. He can't go rogue. I love the idea that he can go rogue. He's the president of the United States. He's the one who does whatever he wants.

And I think -- it's interesting. You look at the comments. This is a classic example of how Trump sort of takes truish statements, right -- for instance, there are people out there who were peacefully protesting the removal of Robert E. Lee statues, for instance. Except they weren't there at the protest in Charlottesville. In fact, they said we didn't want anything to do with it.

That is the perfect example of how Trump sort of takes the truth and bends it and warps it into something that is not only not true, it ends up being offensive.

HENDERSON: Right, something that pleased David Duke, did not please many members of his party. They came out pretty strongly over the following days.

Lot of people drew attention to Senator Corker's comments about Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: The president has not yet -- has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the confidence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful. He also recently has not demonstrated that he understands the character of this nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Julie, the word that stood out to me in Corker's statement -- Corker, usually a mild mannered guy. He's not an ideologue. He used the word the president -- he questioned the president's stability, which is, I mean, striking. PACE: It's particularly striking particularly given Corker's role

over the last several months. Corker is someone who, one, was considered for vice president. He was considered for secretary of state. And on foreign policy he has really tried to be an active participant with this White House. He has gone over there numerous times, he engages with the staff. This is not one of these Republicans like a Jeff Flake, who has been consistently critical of this president. So for him to come out and use the word that he did, to question the stability and the competence of a sitting president of his own party --

HENDERSON: His own party, while he's up for re-election in 2018.

PACE: (INAUDIBLE) Tennessee a reliably Republican state, I think sometimes we get a little numb to some these comments that Republicans make. But when you actually think about Republican lawmakers saying these things about their own sitting president is really remarkable. And it speaks to a lot of the concern that they have, that this will not get on track, that we are not headed in a good direction, that the agenda they want to implement is almost going to be impossible for Trump in this weakened position to carry forward.

[08:35:09] HENDERSON: Right, and then this from Newt Gingrich.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think he's in a position right now where he is much more isolated than he realizes. On the Hill, he has far more people willing to sit to one side and not help him right now. You don't get down to the 35 percent range of approval and have people in your own party shooting at you and conclude that everything is going fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP

HENDERSON: That is Newt Gingrich, right? And that happened Friday, suggesting that, you know, there's work still to be done.

BENDER: Yes. There's a lot of work to be done. You know, this is the Bannon argument here. That if you believe that Democrats aren't going to help you anymore, if you believe that the Republican establishment is going to abandon you at the first moment they can, as they have, every time -- now they come back whenever Trump's numbers start to tack back up.

But if he can't keep the base, this goes from, you know, mid 30s, high 30s, which is bad, to mid 20s, low 20s, which is just inoperable.

HENDERSON: Right. And this -- I thought this was from the "Washington Post", this was Tom Ridge really getting at what next for these Republicans who've come out in questioning what they were doing.

At what point does a principled party stand up for its principles? You can't be afraid of losing an election because you stood up for what was right. A party of principle requires leadership, but at this time we're kind of rudderless. We need a chorus of opposition and didn't get it. And, frankly, if we did that, I think most Americans would applaud.

Jackie, to you on that. Tom Ridge from the Bush administration.

CALMES: Right, and Tom Ridge, who was a somewhat moderate Republican in the House before he joined the Bush administration as homeland security adviser.

I think this all points to the fact of how important Tuesday and the rally in Arizona is. Trump has -- they've scheduled this. It has all the hallmarks of another in-your-face performance where he's at odds with both Republican senators there, has all but endorsed the opponent, as we were talking about, of the -- of Jeff Flake. And, on top of that, he has teased that he may pardon former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who's anathema to Latinos and many other people for his performance as Maricopa County sheriff. And it has all of the makings for a -- quite a performance on the part of the president. And not the one people are looking for.

HENDERSON: Right, and the question is, whether or not, with this, if he does all those things you're talking about, is there sort of a GOP chorus of opposition in the way that Tom Ridge thinks there ought to be?

Coming up, a topic change. Why the president knew a tweet about Confederate monuments was a safer bit.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[08:41:03] TRUMP: This week it's Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson's coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: That was President Trump on Tuesday. His argument that George Washington owns slaves, too, so that makes him the same as Robert E. Lee.

The country isn't removing Washington statues, even as there has been a decades-long debate about what to do about Confederate symbols. Trump doubled down on his take on Confederate monuments on Thursday, tweeting sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You can't change history but you can learn from it. Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson. Who's next? Washington? Jefferson? So foolish. Also the beauty being taken out of our cities, towns, and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced.

For Trump, this calculation is easy, because most of the country and a majority of his base are actually with him on this. A new poll from NPR/Marist/PBS NewsHour finds that 62 percent of registered voters want the statues to stay put as symbols. And when it comes to white college -- voters without college degrees, a key group of Trump's base, 3 out of 4 of those voters say keep the statues where they are.

Jackie, certainly was a topic change for this president, really back an argument that's been going on for decades, back to the '90s, the '80s. So what was this about? Is he actually on safer ground?

CALMES: He is on safer ground. I mean, it's easier to talk about inanimate statues than it was to be equating very live on-tape neo- Nazis carrying assault weapons and torches with counterprotesters.

But that the figures you cited in that poll were sort of taken early in this brouhaha.

HENDERSON: Yes.

CALMES: And to the extent that Trump now associates himself with the statues argument, you might see -- I would predict you would see the percentage of support for the statues remaining come down.

Now, the thing about this is one thing Trump also said that gets forgotten, is he said it's really up to the locals to decide. Well, the locals have been deciding for a long time, and it picked up after two years ago, after the mass murder in Charleston.

HENDERSON: In Charleston, yes.

CALMES: And it's been a very thoughtful in most cases debate at the local level about this, and they haven't been talking about taking down Washington and Jefferson.

HENDERSON: Right, they haven't.

CALMES: And so it's roiled these local debates.

HENDERSON: Yes, and Mike Signer had this to say. He's the Charlottesville mayor, and he I think talks about what you just talked about. It's sort of a different moment at this point.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE SIGNER, MAYOR OF CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA: All of a sudden, these monuments, these equestrian statues of Civil War generals that were installed in the Jim Crow era here, they became touchstones of terror. They became these kind of twisted totems that these people clearly are drawn to. They're trying to create a whole architecture of intimidation and terror and hatred around them. It was visited upon our town. It was evil.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: And Bender, you see some municipalities, a college, Duke University, taking down a statue of Robert E. Lee. It does seem like we might be in a different moment in that Trump might not be on as safe a ground as he thinks he is, because of this sort of -- the sense that these statues now are viewed differently, because of their association with what happened. BENDER: Yes, I think the point there is the numbers you showed. He's

not talking to the people in Charlottesville, a small liberal college town that see these statues as symbols as racism, as symbols of slavery. He's talking to his base who sees these symbols as symbols of political correctness. RighT? I mean, this is Trump's brand, is the anti-establishment outside the box.

[08:40:02] And for these people, if I can speak for America for a second --

(LAUGHTER)

HENDERSON: Do it.

BENDER: They see -- you know, political correctness for them has become this verbal shell game that, generally for the white working class, has ended up with them being shamed out of a way of thinking, shamed out of a way of talking, shamed out of a way of living. And so when they hear Trump defending these sort of things, this is -- what they see is him bucking the establishment.

HENDERSON: Defending them.

And, you know, this gets back to the sort of white identity politics, and Bannon saying he would love to see Democrats talk about racism every single day.

Michael Warren.

WARREN: Right, it's one of those things that people suggest is how Trump gets elected. This sort of PC culture.

I was struck by, in that particular statement from Trump at the press conference, how much he sounds like the guy at the end of the bar. And that was such a part of his appeal during the election, right? He was saying the things that you really kind of --

HENDERSON: But it's sort of the white guy at the end of the podium, right?

WARREN: Well, yes, absolutely. But that is part of his appeal.

The problem is that, when you're president, you're not just the white guy at the end of the bar, or you're not just the Republican guy in the working class town at the end of the bar sort of saying what you viscerally think about PC or the left or whatever. You have to -- you're speaking to all Americans. And it doesn't have -- it may have worked for him in the election. It's not going to work for him as president.

HENDERSON: Up next, our reporters share from their notebooks, including the main messaging worry of a non-energized Democratic Party.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [08:50:54] HENDERSON: Let's close by asking our reporters to share something from their notebooks and keep you ahead of the curve on the big political news in the coming weeks. Michael?

WARREN: Well, how are the day-to-day operations going to change in the White House without Steve Bannon? Not much actually. I'm told that he spent much of his time, particularly in the last several months of his time at White House, sitting on a couch in the office of Reince Priebus scrolling through his phone. But what was he doing there? He was trying to run a sort of outside media campaign against his enemies on behalf of his agenda -- people like H.R. McMaster, Gary Cohn.

I guess we're going to see more of that and it's going to intensify from outside the White House. The difference now will be he's not in the White House so he might not have the goods that he had while he was a West Wing employee.

HENDERSON: Right, unless Trump continues sort of the relationship even after Bannon is gone.

WARREN: Right.

HENDERSON: Julie?

PACE: Democratic activists are pretty energized after this past week. But Democrats I talked to who are involved in some of the competitive Senate races for 2018 and certainly the efforts to win back the House are a little more anxious about this idea of Democrats going all in on Trump's response to Charlottesville.

They see Democrats potentially falling into some of the same traps that they fell into in 2016 where they ran mostly on an anti-Trump message, and the party still feels like it's an economic message that needs to resonate with voters.

The irony, of course, is that Chuck Schumer and some other Democrats have rolled out an economic blueprint for Democrats, but it's been completely overshadowed this summer by all of the antics surround Trump and the White House.

HENDERSON: Yes, they've still have got some work to do. Jackie?

CALMES: I wanted to talk about the helplessness of the Republican establishment in sort of dealing with Trump. And after a week like this, it really underscored that.

I talked to a couple very well known, formally high-placed Republicans over dinner, and the way they described what Trump was doing forced me to ask have you thought about an intervention? Is it possible to do an intervention? Sort of like more dramatically we saw during the Nixon years when senior Republican senators went to Nixon and essentially told them it was time to resign. And on a far less dramatic way, in the Reagan years, when senior Republicans would go -- in the Senate generally -- would go to Ronald Reagan if he thought his agenda on taxes or deficit reduction was not what it should be. In this case, so I raised this question of an intervention. And the

most senior of the two Republicans looked at me and said he's a classic narcissistic. He's a crazy narcissistic, and you cannot get someone like that to change. And the other guy is going --

And so it came up two more times, and each time he looked at me and said crazy narcissistic, as if to shut me off.

HENDERSON: Wow. That's major.

Michael, what do you have?

BENDER: Tax reform. Now that the president is back from vacation --

(LAUGHTER)

HENDERSON: Not much of a vacation.

BENDER: Yes. Watch for him to finally start his big kickoff for his -- his public push for tax reform. I'm told the West Wing has identified a Rust Belt city for a first major event on August 28th. And what they would really like this tour to eventually include is a stop at California, in Simi Valley at the Reagan Library, which includes the desk where former President Reagan signed the last major tax reform three decades ago.

HENDERSON: Yes.2 Sort of the symbolism of that. We'll see.

And I'll close with this. The Democratic National Committee's July fund-raising numbers are in and they aren't good. The haul was just $3.8 million compared to the Republican National Committee's $10.2 million. More numbers that show a much fuller picture. In total ,the RNC has $47.1 million to the DNC's $6.9 million.

Now, often it's easier for parties to rake in the cash when they have a sitting president. But for some progressive Democrats, the paltry numbers are a reflection of Tom Perez and proof that the Democratic establishment just can't get it done. Republicans say that for all of the supposed anti-Trump fervor, there is a lack of enthusiasm for the party and their better deal messaging. For their part, the DNC says it's still and the rebuilding of the brand and the party's infrastructure is still ongoing.

[08:55:06] They also say they think they'll have the resources they need for the rest of the year in 2018. Time will certainly tell.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Thanks for sharing your Sunday morning with us. Be sure to catch us weekdays at noon Eastern.

Up next "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)