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London Manhunt Underway; Trump Comments on London Attack; Trump's Deals to Pass Legislation; Trump Charlottesville Rhetoric. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 15, 2017 - 12:00   ET



[12:00:14] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

A manhunt in London after a rush hour subway terror attack, and the prime minister rebukes President Trump for his quick tweets suggesting police know who did it.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Well, I never think it's helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation.


KING: Plus, a conservative revolt. The president says he wants wins, but the right is up in arms over deal-making with the Democrats on immigration.


REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: If there's amnesty that's delivered into this package, that I don't know that any candidate could run for president again and make a promise and expect the people to accept that promise at face value.


KING: And this question. Why? The president reopens the wounds of Charlottesville, defending his words, equating counter demonstrators and the neo-Nazis and white nationalists.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of people were saying -- in fact, a lot of people have actually written, gee, Trump might have a point. I said, you've got some very bad people on the other side also, which is true.


KING: We begin in London and this morning's terror attack that sent nearly two dozen people to the hospital. This is the device, look at the pictures here, that exploded on an underground tube during rush hour. A British security source now telling CNN, a timer was found on it. That suggesting the bomb was intended to cause much greater damage. Witnesses on the scene say they heard an explosion, saw flames and panicked.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A couple of people who were on the next carriage heard the bang and saw the flash and saw the fire and everyone panicked and ran and there was blood and there was burns and there was a lot of screaming and horror and terror.

KALY LIEWELIYN-JONES, WITNESS: Yes, I was coming on to my flat, which back on to the railway line, so I was looking up at the train and I heard screams.

RICHARD AYLMER-HALL, WITNESS: Well, it was just every person for themselves. You know, big guys just barging their way through. Women who were in tears and screaming just being barged (ph) out of the way.


KING: CNN's senior international correspondent Nima Elbagir is on the scene for us.

Nima, you've been speaking to the authorities there in London. What's the latest on the manhunt?

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you can see, the cordon remains in place behind them. They have now evacuated a 50 meter perimeter around the tub station. They're still trying to piece together the evidence on the ground.

What is clear at this point in time is that -- well, you've seen the pictures, John. The device certainly appears crude and was definitely crude in its execution. But the intent and the ambition behind it were of much broader scope. Those sources that we've been speaking to believe that the timer, that that is leading them to the working assumption, the presence of that timer, that they were looking to actually perhaps detonate this in an area or at a time when it would have caused much greater damage.

And those eyewitnesses we've been speaking to say that the fact that so far the injuries are limited only to 22 is miraculous. And part of that was because of the coincidence of the train pulling up at Parsons Green Station just as that device detonated. This really has been such a lucky, lucky day for so many of the people on that train this morning, John.

KING: And, Nima, as you talk to the authorities there, one of several attacks in the last few months, what are the authorities saying about seeing a possible shift in tactics?

ELBAGIR: The mayor of London has been very clear for a couple of years now, John, that it was always going to be a case of when, not if there would be a real concerted effort by jihadi groups to strike in the heart of London. There is really an understanding here that the propaganda value of these attacks, even if they don't actually exact a death toll or a much wider injury toll, the propaganda value of hitting in London is second only to hitting in a city in the U.S.

And that's what so many of the ISIS loyalists are now looking towards as they've been forced out of Iraq and Syria. The mayor of London says that this is now where they're pivoting towards, wreaking havoc in European capitals, with London being at the top of that list, John.

KING: Nima Elbagir on the scene for us in London.

Nima, we appreciate the reporting. We'll keep in touch.

President Trump, back here in Washington, seizing on the terror attack to attack the London police and to push parts of his own agenda, like the travel ban. Here's what the president tweeted this morning. Another attack in London by a loser terrorist. These are sick and demented people who are in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive. The president went on to say the travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific. But, stupidly, that would not be politically correct.

With us today to share their reporting and their insights, Mary Katharine Ham of "The Federalist," Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times," CNN's Manu Raju, and Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times."

This we have seen before from the president. It is his instinct to insert himself into these global events. The prime minister's mad because he says Scotland Yard has an idea who this is. Maybe the president was told that in a briefing. But the last people who want that public, if it's true, is Scotland Yard in the middle of an investigation. And then he pushes the travel ban and gets into political correctness. Why?

[12:05:21] MAGGIE HABERMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think -- I mean I don't want to take it away from the briefing possibility. I think there's an equally good possibility that he saw someone say that on television before he tweeted that. So I don't actually know what this is based in.

Number one, he inserts himself in it because, a, he can't help himself. And, number two, I do think you have to look at his tweets as an aggregate. I don't think that he ever has any long-term strategy. He has strategies that get him through certain increments of time, and they're usually about 10 minutes or so.

I think that he is aware that there is some anger certainly from the conservative radio commentariet (ph), from Breitbart, from others, if not his actual base, about what he is doing in terms of a potential DACA legislative save. And I think that he fed all sorts of other essentially red meat items that reminded them, I'm with you on these issues.

He tweeted about the bombing. He then immediately talked about the travel ban and why that's important. The travel ban is mostly Muslim majority countries. You know, I think that if you -- and then he started focusing on the ESPN commentator, a black commentator who had accused him of being a white supremacist, which prompted a rebuke from the podium of the White House Briefing Room.

So I think if you take all of those together, you have a president who is basically trying to push the pendulum back in another direction. I don't think it's more thought out than that.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: : And the president himself, remember, after Charlottesville, said that the reason why he spoke up the way he did initially is because he wanted to wait for all the facts.

KING: Right.

RAJU: And here he is now speculating about the motives. Maybe he got a brief. But, clearly, the people on the ground in London, even the prime minister of the U.K., say the president should not be speculating about this. This is not helpful. So he did not wait for all that.

KING: And so let's go back because Maggie makes an interesting point. We know the president's transactional. He likes to win the day, win the hour, win the minute.

HABERMAN: Ten minutes.

KING: Ten minutes. To that point, that is what he said then. He's doing something very different now. And he's done the very different part more often than not, jumped into these events before anybody has information. Even the police on the ground don't have much information.

But this is the president after Charlottesville when everybody's saying, Mr. President, how can you say the things you said -- how could you say the things you said or not say some of the things you didn't say. Here.


TRUMP: I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct. Not make a quick statement.


KING: I'm not sure what to say about that except for time and time --


KING: Time and time again -- yes, it's --

MARTIN: (INAUDIBLE). But it doesn't mean anything. It's just -- for Trump it's just words.

But speak of words, I do think that it's smart politics for him to tweet out so quickly on the immigration issue because if you look at the Republican Party, and Lord knows it has its fractures, but one of the issues that probably unites the party, the hard core Trumpists and also those who are less enthusiastic about Trump in the party, a hard line against the threat of radical Islamic terrorism. That brings a lot of folks on the right together and to come out and say what he did this morning, does it totally contradict the clip that you just showed? Of course it does. It doesn't mean it's not smart politics for, again, not just his base, but the sort of broader (INAUDIBLE) of the right.

KING: And proof that he doesn't really care about the international reaction in the sense that we went through this --

MARTIN: Not at all.

KING: We went through this after a prior London terror attack where the president was out talking about -- and there were leaks from U.S. law enforcement agencies of some very sensitive British intelligence. The president has said things during these investigations before. The prime minister of Britain again today having to say to the president of the United States, please stop.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I never think it's helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation. As I've just said, the police and security services are working to discover the full circumstances of this cowardly attack and to identify all those responsible.


KING: But --

MARY KATHARINE HAM, "THE FEDERALIST": It's 2017 and here I am wishing that Nancy Pelosi was exercising her vonted (ph) control over Donald Trump's Twitter stream.

I wish I could get --

MARTIN: A little one-off (ph).

HAM: Yes. I wish -- I wish I could get circumspect Donald Trump, but I will not get him. I think there's a couple of things going on here. One, appealing to the base and to these conservative posts who are ticked off about the immigration deal. Revisiting the travel ban because he likes to be proven right and he's grasping at this as a chance that that might be the case and this might vindicate some of his policy.

This is Donald Trump. And, unfortunately, I think in -- in the case -- people who are interested in fighting terror should be interested in the president being responsible about it. I'm happy for him to use the term "loser terrorist" as often as he wants. That (INAUDIBLE) is, I think, quite enjoyable. Stop there until the facts are in.

HABERMAN: He -- but he -- I think you actually make a really important point, like he has never treated these issues responsibly.


HABERMAN: We now have several instances of that. We had an early period during his presidency where people said give him time. You know, you had many members of Congress suggest that he, you know, he would grow into the job. This was all about being new.

[12:10:07] I thought that Tim Scott had a pretty interesting statement yesterday about their meeting where he said, this is who the president is.

KING: Right.

HABERMAN: And I'm not attempting to change him overnight. I am basically trying to bring a different perspective. But the point of this is who he is doesn't make it OK, but it does make people need to stop expecting --

RAJU: And also --

KING: Stop expecting it to change. I think that's a very important point.

MARTIN: But the party -- the party likes it and wants it. It meaning the hard line on terrorism.

HAM: Right. Right.

MARTIN: This jogs the memory about Pearl Harbor Day 2015, when he came out for the Muslim ban. And a lot of party elites were horrified. You can't ban an entire religion from coming to America. This is outrageous they said. And I think there was some thought at the time, well, this could be the big one. And, you know what, two days later, a poll came out, I think it was "Bloomberg" actually, and, guys what, the party liked the Muslim ban. And so that, you know --

RAJU: And today's tweet actually --

MARTIN: The grassroots --

RAJU: Endorsed the Muslim ban after his whole campaign and the White House has walked away from that (ph).

MARTIN: Right.

HABERMAN: That's my point. Right. That's my point. I mean this is not --

MARTIN: He's still for it, basically.

RAJU: Yes.

HABERMAN: But the issue that he also did talk about during the campaign ending was DACA. That -- you know, look, I understand that immigration hard liners suggest that this is like a huge driver. There is zero polling I have seen that actually backs that up. The Muslim ban was much more of a motivator in terms of his voters. And there is some indication that his voters would follow him if he were to say, yes, I would do DACA. That they are -- they believe more in him than certainly they do in members of Congress.

MARTIN: Oh, yes.

HABERMAN: And that's a key point. But I think that that is why he is doing this. I mean this is essentially, you know, I'm still with you. Some version of that.

KING: Right. And we'll continue this conversation, particularly because I think all these things can be connected in many ways.

Up next, remember when candidate Trump promised there would be so much winning you'd get tired of it. Are Republicans about to find out what he meant?


[12:15:53] KING: Welcome back.

Republicans in Congress view it as disloyal backstabbing. Many of the usual pro-Trump voices in conservative media call it a betrayal. But the president wants wins, even if it means deal-making with Democrats on immigration.


TRUMP: I'm a Republican through and through, but I'm also finding that sometimes to get things through, it's not working that way. But we have to get things passed. And if we can't get things passed, then we have to go a different route. But we have to get things passed.


KING: No, there is no signed and sealed deal to protect the so-called dreamers. But by promising topo Democrats he would sign legislation granting them legal status and by, at the same time, promise he would not insist on border wall funding as part of that deal, the president -- this is an understatement -- significantly complicated the already difficult fall agenda for Republicans in Congress. Not to mention testing the loyalty of his core supporters.

Where are we here? The president -- you made a great point, the president yesterday said about 10 different things about this because he realized the backlash from his base. You have people -- people who usually support him on Twitter saying, impeach him. It's a betrayal. Run a primary against him. Saying this is worse to them than George H.W. Bush's read my lips, no new taxes, because it was so central to the Trump campaign.

HABERMAN: Except he had said all --

KING: Right. HABERMAN: I mean in April he said that, you know, that's not going to be my strategy is going after the people protected by DACA.

KING: That's my question. So these are the chatters --


KING: The chatters are offended.


MARTIN: And these people are the --

KING: But what about the voters?

MARTIN: On the issue of DACA, with the larger issue of an amnesty for every, you know, undocumented immigrant in the country.

HABERMAN: That's right.

HAM: But also what he's -- what he's very clearly doing is saying that DACA and protecting this group of people, which I have no problem with, is the priority over the wall. That's the signal.

MARTIN: Right.

HAM: And that's what people I think are most ticked at.

HABERMAN: I think that's a very good point. A very, very good point.

HAM: Many who could -- many who could be OK with DACA or be less upset about DACA or something larger --

KING: As a deal. As part of a tradeoff. Get -- right.

HABERMAN: That's a good point.

RAJU: But even as they're touting bipartisanship, what is concerning a lot of Republicans on The Hill who I spoke with about this yesterday is that the deals that are coming out, the fiscal deal and this emerging deal, appears to be heavily tilted to what the Democrats want --

KING: Right.

RAJU: And not what the president wants. He's calling it bipartisanship, but they're getting 80, 85 percent, maybe 90. And in the case of the fiscal deal, probably 95, close to 100 percent of what they want. And what does the president actually get? In that fiscal deal you mentioned, this complicated the agenda. Add -- putting the three month extension of the debt ceiling -- or the debt ceiling -- or, sorry, to keep the government open for three months, the debt ceiling could presumably be kicked off till next year. But, still, that creates a new issue they have to deal with in the fall, in addition to the own immigration bill that they're not talking about as well. John Cornyn of Texas told me yesterday, he said, look, he can talk

with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer all he wants, but there are 533 other members of Congress who have to actually review this. So their not ready to sign off --

MARTIN: And this is a --

HABERMAN: (INAUDIBLE) we're a ways away.

MARTIN: And the key reality check --

KING: We're a ways away, but this issue -- this issue we all -- everyone at the table has watched this for the last decade or more is quicksand.

HABERMAN: Yes, it's true.

KING: Even -- the votes are there. You could bring these things to the floor tomorrow and they would pass. You could probably pass --

MARTIN: With Democratic votes.

KING: Yes, with a mix of Democrat. But this is quicksand. So this I found striking yesterday. The speaker's in a tough box. The speaker doesn't like to publically criticize the president because of the complications that would cause. But we know the speaker and the majority leader, both Republicans are hot over this because the president is starting with the Democrats as opposed to starting with them and then trying to bring in the Democrats.

Here's the speaker yesterday trying to make a point politely.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Oh, I think the president understands that he's going to have to work with the congressional majorities to get any kind of legislative solution.


KING: He used majority another time too right around that. Does the president understand that or is the president so angered by the Obamacare experience that he's going to -- let's try this and see if it works?

HABERMAN: I think it is more that, honestly. I mean -- everybody I talked to around the president basically describes this as, you know, there are two versions that you get from people around Trump, and one is that this the master strategy, which I don't think it is. The other is that this is actually at some, you know, just sort of quick reaction to frustration, which I do think it is. I mean I think that he -- he likes surprising people. He always -- this is the thing about him that I think is very complicated for him to understand in part because it sounds weird, but, you know, he always does have some plan in his mind on what he's doing. That plan might not make sense to anyone else, but he genuinely has some little map. It's not a long map. It doesn't drive you far down the road. But in that meeting in the Oval Office, the one where all of the leaders were, he did think that he was doing something strategic. And, for him, that was what mattered. And he is frustrated. He doesn't understand how Washington works. And he's been very surprised by that.

[12:20:28] KING: And when people question him about his maps, because they don't have a final destination, he uses the phrase, you know, I'm president, you're not.

HABERMAN: Correct. That's right.

MARTIN: To the end of how Washington works, I mean, they cut the so- called deal. But Schumer and Pelosi can't bring any bill to the floor.

KING: Right.

MARTIN: So they can say they have a deal, but if McConnell and Ryan don't bring this bill to the floor for a vote, then what does it --


RAJU: That was (INAUDIBLE) what Trump said yesterday trying to essentially box in Ryan and McConnell by saying they are very much behind it. But then, not so much. And you look at the -- McConnell -- McConnell's statement, right.

MARTIN: And McConnell (INAUDIBLE), it was so telling. We could read it actually because it's classic McConnell. It's ice cold here. McConnell said he looks, quote, forward to receiving the Trump administration's legislative proposal. End quote. Mic drop.

HABERMAN: Yes, it was amazing.

HAM: By the way, how through the looking glass will we be when Ryan or McConnell insists on holding it up for assurances about border security and then Trump -- Trump folks get mad at them?

And, look, I think this is a betrayal to some extent of his rhetoric on the campaign trial. It --

KING: Right. And is there a price to pay for it or is this, I can shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue because my supporters live me so much.

HAM: Well, that's the question, as I said, can he shoot the wall in the middle of Fifth Avenue and get away with it?

Look, I also think it was --


HAM: I think -- I think it was totally predictable as well. I mean was doing photo-ops with dreamers just a little while ago. I don't think he care about this issue that much. But that issue worked in the moment on the trail.

HABERMAN: Yes. HAM: So people are mad with reason. I think there was always a chance that he could be a sort of a Nixon to China on comprehensive immigration form.

KING: Right. Right.

HAM: That's not what's going on right her because that takes a lot of Washington understanding to pull that off.

HABERMAN: That's right.

HAM: I think what he's doing right now is a smaller deal that many Republican leaders are fine with.

HABERMAN: That's the really important point that we're missing here.

RAJU: Yes.

KING: Yes.

MARTIN: For a news cycle or two, yes.

HABERMAN: No, no, no, they're really -- there is this -- there is this real overplaying of drama here. Oh, Ryan and --

KING: They hate how -- they hate how he did it.

RAJU: Yes, that's right.

HABERMAN: They may hate how he did it, but they're very happy to be -- have some kind of (INAUDIBLE) --

KING: But they don't mind --

RAJU: I mean as Republican told me yesterday said, if Mitch McConnell cut the exact same deal, the right would have gone insane. And, yes, sort of people on the right are upset. But if Trump does this, it can -- you could tamp down the rebellion much more than --

KING: In -- in an odd way --

HAM: Because -- because the unifying philosophy of the party is actually, oh, we don't like McConnell.

HABERMAN: That's right.

HAM: Or the base at least. I man that's kind of where we are.

KING: Yes, and it's hilarious -- it's hilarious, though, as the president cuts these deals with the Democrats, it is hilarious to watch the people -- I will just say the people -- I won't use the term that's in my head for them -- the president cuts the deal on the debt ceiling an spending. The president cuts this framework on immigration and they keep blaming Ryan and McConnell. It's amazing to watch these people go out on television screaming at McConnell and screaming at Ryan for what the president is doing. HAM: These are the kind of deals is what -- you know, some

conservatives are upset about who aren't necessarily big Trump supporters. He's making deals that you make when your party is in the minority.

KING: Right.

HAM: Perhaps this party is in the minority.

KING: Ah. Boom, boom.

All right, up next, the president reignites the firestorm over blaming all sides in the aftermath of Charlottesville.


[12:27:29] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think especially in light of the advent of Antifa, if you look at what's going on there, you know, you have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also. And essentially that's what I said. If you look at, you know, really happened since Charlottesville, a lot of people were saying -- in fact a lot of people have actually written, gee, Trump might have a point. I said you've got some very bad people on the other side also, which is true.


KING: That might feel very familiar. That was the president yesterday referring to his controversial comments on the violence in Charlottesville, equating hate groups with anti-white supremacy protesters. He made those new remarks just hours before signing a resolution condemning hate groups and just a day after a key meeting with Senator Tim Scott, the first African-American elected in the Senate in the south since reconstruction. That meeting with Senator Scott was part of an effort to turn the page. But, instead, the president now revisiting a sad chapter of his early months in office.

Phil Mattingly is live on Capitol Hill.

Phil, when Senator Scott left that meeting -- he mentioned it earlier -- he issued a very careful statement that he didn't think he had changed the president's mind. After hearing what the president said yesterday, what does the senator think?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, I think you kind of reiterated that a little bit. Most interestingly, we caught up to him -- I caught up to him with on other reporter shortly after those comments became public. He was on his way to Senate votes. Just kind of ran into him and asked him what he thought. You know, he'd made very clear that he was pleased that the president, throughout the course of their meeting in the Oval Office, mostly listened, said that he heard him. But he was also clear that he didn't think he changed his mind.

I want to read what he told me yesterday. Quote, that's who he is. It's who he has been. And I didn't go in there to change who he was. I wanted to inform and educate a different perspective. I think we accomplished that. And to assume that immediately thereafter he's going to have an epiphany is just unrealistic.

And I think what kind of caught me in speaking to him -- and, Senator Scott, well respected, always very well-spoken in terms of kind of what he's trying to say, what he means, not necessarily as scripted as some of the other senators you have up here -- was that he was both kind of resigned to the reality of the president, of the man that he had met with, but also that he still felt good about his efforts, whether or not they had a major impact or not.

And I will note that before he said that, he went on at length again kind of reiterated his point here that equating the two groups, that equating white supremacists, the KKK and Antifa, it simply doesn't make any sense if you look at it historically. He hasn't moved off that.

And I think one of the interesting elements is you could kind of see that he was frustrated that he was still talking about this. He was frustrated that it had come up again. It didn't seem that frustrated that he hadn't changed the mind. I think he just recognized that that's who the president is and, John, it's probably not going to change any time soon, if ever.

[12:30:06] KING: Phil Mattingly live on Capitol Hill with that important reporting.