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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump: I Am "A Very Stable Genius"; Trump: No DACA Deal With Border Wall; NYT: Mueller Learned of Trump Attempt to Stop Sessions Recusal. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired January 7, 2018 - 08:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[08:00:18] NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): Russia revelations.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's been no collusion. There's been no crime.

HENDERSON: Inside the report involving the president, the attorney general and what the special counsel found out.

Plus --

TRUMP: He called me a great man last night. So, you know, he obviously changed his tune pretty quick.

HENDERSON: From friend to foe. Bannon's uncertain future after a bombshell book goes all-in on Trump and his fitness for office.

And a week into the New Year, a Camp David summit setting the 2018 agenda with the midterms in mind.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I've never been more optimistic about an immigration reform proposal making it to the president's desk than I am right now.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENDERSON: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Nia-Malika Henderson. John King is off today.

To our viewers here at home and around the world, thanks for being with us.

We begin the week with the fitness for office question. In a series of truly remarkable tweets on Saturday, President Trump defended his competency and his mental acuity.

He tweeted this early Saturday from Camp David: Now that Russian collusion after one year of intense study has proven to be a total hoax on the American public, the Democrats and their lap dog, the fake news mainstream media, are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental instability and intelligence.

He continued: Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and as everyone knows, went down in flames.

He went on: I went from very successful businessman to top TV star to president of the United States on my first try. I think that would qualify as not smart but genius and a very stable genius at that.

Later on Saturday, reporters asked the president why he felt the need to take to Twitter. Trump took the opportunity to play defense again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Only because I went to the best colleges or college. I went to a -- I had a situation where I was a very excellent student. Came out and made billions and billions of dollars. Became one of the top business people. Went to television. And for 10 years was a tremendous success, as you probably having heard. Ran for president one time and won.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Here to share their reporting and their insights, we've got Julie Hirschfield Davis of "The New York Times", "Bloomberg Businessweek's" Josh Green, Mary Katharine Ham of "The Federalist", and CNN's Jeff Zeleny.

Thanks to you all for being with us this morning.

Jeff, I'm going to start with you on this. Really extraordinary that we're talking about the president's mental acuity, in that he was responding in the way that he is.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No question. And we're only at the end of the first week of 2018. So I think that is sort of a good framing for this year.

And the reason we're still talking about this is because the president is talking about this. He is weighing in himself. He could, unlike any other figure on this planet, change the conversation. Presidents can change conversations by talking about anything.

He has decided to focus his attention on this very issue. And by sending out that early morning storm of tweets, which you were just reading there, from Camp David, a snowy Camp David, a frigid morning, you have to wonder what is going on in his mind. And I think we have a fairly good window.

He's very, you know, susceptible to anyone saying he's not smart. Think if he's smart or not, that's not the issue, temperament is a bigger question here as he's in the Oval Office. But there are aides and advisers around him who talked to Michael Wolff in that book who expressed concern about this. Now, this isn't the first time we've heard this. We've heard this a

lot before. But by the president responding like this, I'm not sure he answers the question, but I think it's a temperament issue that is a bigger worry to many Republicans in this town, because they want to talk about their agenda. They want to talk about other things.

Clearly, the Russia investigation is in the president's head. It's gotten under his skin here. And if this first week of 2018 is any indication, it's going to be a distracting year.

HENDERSON: And Michael Wolff on Friday talked about the book. It came out. They pushed the publication up to Friday. Here is what he had to say in terms of his reporting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, HOST, NBC'S "TODAY": According to your reporting, everyone around the president, senior advisers, family members, every single one of them questions his intelligence and fitness for office.

[08:05:006] MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, "FIRE AND FURY": Let me -- let me put a -- put a marker in the sand here, 100 percent of the people around him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Julie, that is quite a bold claim to make.

JULIE HIRSCHFIELD DAVIS, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Absolutely. And it's very clear from the -- this book that he spoke to a wide range of people. Now, the White House is pushing back and saying he didn't have the access he said he had. The president saying, I never talked to him or I didn't talk to him for very long.

But it is clear, I mean, it is difficult to get people on the record or even on background to make statements about the president's mental fitness, about his intelligence, but what you can glean from talking to people at the White House is the length some of his aides and advisers go to, to try to control him and keep him sort of on the path of being on message, being on the agenda and not saying erratic things, not doing erratic things, and that certainly points you to the conclusion that there are many people around him in his inner circle who have concerns about the way that he behaves and the way -- and his state of mind at key moments when he's going to be out in public and talking about important issues.

And so, I don't think it's that -- it doesn't take you, too far to extrapolate that perhaps Michael Wolff got these people talking in a much more elaborate way about what the basis of those concerns are. I mean, I wouldn't go so far as to say 100 percent, but there's clearly a concern around the president about these issues.

HENDERSON: And Rex Tillerson, who, of course, is the secretary of state talked about this in an interview with Elise Labott on Friday. Here is how he responded to these questions about the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Everybody in this book, you know, questions he's mental fitness.

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF THE STATE: I've never questioned his mental fitness. I have no reason to question his mental fitness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Josh, how effective is that pushback, especially coming from Tillerson?

JOSHUA GREEN, REPORTER, BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK: Yes, I don't know that it was hugely effective. And the fact that these questions were being asked of Tillerson specifically is fraught with significance because it was widely reported last year that Tillerson called Trump a moron in a meeting at the Pentagon. And that was a charge that Tillerson really didn't dispute. He said he wasn't going to engage with reporters' questions about, but he never came out and said, no, I never called the president a moron.

And so, I think that gives the sense, really support to Wolff's thesis that the people around him don't have the highest opinion of his stability or his intelligence.

HENDERSON: And this, of course, has implications here, and the president frames it as a political argument in that it's the Democrats who are basically pushing this, but it also has global implications, right? The world is watching the president of the United States.

And Theresa May addressed this. She got a question about the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the states, there are quite serious questions being raised by some people about his mental state. Do you think they're serious?

THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: As I say, when I deal with President Trump, what I see is somebody who is committed to ensuring that he is taking decisions in the best interests of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: MK, not exactly a firm defense of President Trump.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, THE FEDERALIST: Well, she's had her own dustups with Trump and quite cleverly sidesteps the central question there. Excuse me.

As a person who is also, like, really smart, I do want to push back on the notion that we would be talking about something else. I don't think we would be talking about something else if the president wasn't tweeting about this. He had a burn book come out about him, essentially, and he is always going to push back on that.

What I am a little wary about because I have similar concerns to some of the people in the book and have been since he started running for president, is the problem of confirmation bias, which is that almost everyone in this town and many in media, almost all of them, have these concerns. And therefore when you hear those concerns, you go, oh, well, that confirms exactly what I was thinking. Let me repeat that many, many times.

So, I do want to be careful about how we weigh each of the reporting instances here and decide, OK, does this sound credible or not? Because it's going to sound possible in many, many cases. That's something I get a little concerned about in a book of this nature with Trump, but he will continue to talk about it, and that will prevent us in the near future from moving on from it.

DAVIS: Well, to Mary Katharine's point, I think the president's own response adds to that confirmation bias problem because he seems to be in pushing back on this actually confirming some of what's been said about him, that he can't resist. He can't check his own impulses and things like that.

But I do think for foreign leaders it's a very difficult place to be, because like Republican members of Congress, these people have to work with this president whether they want to or not. There are a lot of things they have to get done with the United States. They can't ignore him. They can't just put it to the side. They have to deal with this person. If they have concerns about this -- either his fitness or his stability, that is a major problem for them.

ZELENY: I also think, though, we should put it in perfective, like you said. There is no one in the Trump base, no one who voted for Trump as a true supporter who is bothered by this. They believe the media is piling on.

[08:10:01] And in some respects, they are.

So, this is very much a conversation happening here in Washington and across the country and, indeed, around the world, but we shouldn't pretend that everyone is on -- everyone is having it. This is going to rally his supporters as well, that, you know, that people are making fun of him.

So, every time he is out there on social media, he's speaking to his base, which is still very much with him.

HAM: The thing they will note rightly, he won an election fair and square and we have a fairly rigorous process figuring out whether someone is fit.

ZELENY: And he's right, this was an issue in the election.

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: Hey, speaking of 2016, if you look at those exit polls, a question about the president's temperament was asked, does Trump have the temperament to be president? Yes, 35 percent. No, 63 percent. He still won.

And, of course, there is a breakdown, a party breakdown in terms --

GREEN: Well, what's so interesting about those numbers is that clearly a lot of people agreed, a lot of voters in 2016 agreed with Wolff's thesis that maybe he isn't the most stable guy, and maybe he's not a genius and they voted for him anyway. So --

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: Right, baked into the cake in some ways.

GREEN: One other point I'd make about this, too, where I think Trump is correct is that Democrats have gleefully been pushing this notion that he's unfit, that he's unstable. They summoned a Yale University psychiatry professor up to brief them on Trump's mental stability, which seems like sort of a strange to do since this person I don't think he'd ever -- he had never spoken to Trump.

(CROSSTALK)

GREEN: So, there is a partisan effort to kind of fan the flames on this.

Now, Trump is doing everything in his power to help that effort out. I was speaking to an outside Trump adviser who said the problem we have with this now is this is going to create a feedback loop, right? You get these charges in the book, you get Trump responding to it, and then you guys, meaning we on cable TV are going to talk about this and Trump is going to see it on cable TV, get angry and keep responding to it.

So, it's not clear exactly how he's going to move beyond this.

HENDERSON: Right. We'll see.

Up next, Trump as the negotiator in chief. His approach to working with Democrats or against them on DACA.

And politicians, they tend to say the darnedest things. When your boss asks if you're staying on the job, a bit of advice here, always best to just smile and nod.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Will Gary Cohn continue to remain?

TRUMP: I hope. Where is Gary? Is he here? He was here. Gary?

Did you hear the question, Gary, in this beautiful hangar that's freezing.

GARY COHN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: I did not, sir.

TRUMP: They said, will Gary Cohn continue or remain in the administration? I said I hope so. Now, if he leaves, I'm going to say I'm very happy that he left, OK? All right?

Come here, Gary. Come here. Are you happy, Gary? You just passed a very big bill. I think he's pretty happy.

COHN: Yes, I'm happy. How is that?

TRUMP: Come here. Gary, hopefully, will be staying for a long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:16:14] HENDERSON: The president and top Republicans are spending the weekend at Camp David hashing out their priorities and their differences.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: From a right of center point of view, 2017 was the most consequential year in the many years that I've been here in Congress. We had a great planning session for 2018. We hope that 2018 will be a year of more bipartisan cooperation in the president's agenda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: But what might make 2018 bipartisanship problematic, passing a budget deal that includes a DACA fix.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We also obviously wanted to budget, so we went into DACA, and how we're going to do and we hope that we're going to be able to work out an arrangement with the Democrats. I think it's something that they'd like to see happen.

We want the wall. The wall is going to happen or we're not going to have DACA. We want to get rid of chain migration. Very important. And we want to get rid of the lottery system. In addition to that, we want some money for funding. We need some additional border security.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: MK, you heard the president's wish list there in terms of DACA. How likely is it that he's going to be able to get those things and reach a deal with the Democrats?

HAM: Yes. So, I think it's not a question of whether Republicans can stomach DACA, because I think most in leadership and the president even who was posing for photos with DREAMers a couple of years before he ran as a Republican candidate would not mind making that deal. But it's going to be a question of how much enforcement, money or actions Democrats can stomach.

He's going to have to get something that is at least a faint at the wall for his supporters. In the past, of course, that's been the moment that the Ann Coulters of the world have turned him on when he get soft on that particular thing. So, I think there's got to be some enforcement there.

There has always been a weird dynamic where Trump could be a Nixon to China on comprehensive immigration reform, because the issue for many right of center people has been, rightly, that they don't trust the federal government to do the enforcement part. They trust him more than they have trusted people in the past. I think he ideologically wouldn't mind getting a big deal like that done, but it has to have that trust part. So, whether we get there or not is a whole other question, but it is one of these weird possibilities that a Trump presidency creates.

HENDERSON: And he's floating what he wants in terms of this wall, the spending, $33 billion on a border security plan. It's a ten-year investment plan, about $18 billion for the border wall. Never mind that I guess Mexico at one point was supposed to pay for it.

Josh, I want to go to you on this. The Democrats, and you've heard some Democrat activists particularly say that Democrats should really stick it to the Republicans and shut down the government. This is what Dick Durbin had to say about where these negotiations are.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TILLERSON: I think we're going to have a very productive 2018. Again, the State Department gets stronger everyday understanding what we're trying to do. And I look forward to having a very, very successful 2018.

LABOTT: For the whole year?

TILLERSON: I intend to be here for the whole year.

LABOTT: Has the president given you any indication you won't be around for awhile?

TILLERSON: None.

LABOTT: None whatsoever?

TILLERSON: None whatsoever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: So, a little mistake there. Dick Durbin actually said the latest White House demand on immigration, $18 billion for a border wall, he called it outrageous.

What's your sense, Josh, of the Democratic calculus here?

GREEN: Well, there had been hope among Democratic activists that Democrats would actually shut down the government or threaten to last year at the end of the year. And it turns out that the sentiment to move in that direction wasn't as strong as a lot of the activists imagined because there are a lot of red state Democratic senators up for re-election next year who maybe aren't willing to jump off a cliff to support something quite so extreme.

[08:20:06] So, Democrats absolutely need to get some kind of a deal. They are not going to give, you know, $18 billion for a border wall or do anything short of some kind of legalization for the DACA kids. One positive, though, as far as reaching a bipartisan deal is the figure in Republican politics and in Trump's orbit who is most adamant about the idea that he could not legalize the DACA kids and had to build a border wall was Steve Bannon.

We've seen Bannon blow himself up in the last week or so and Trump kind of coming out actively on Twitter insulting him. So that's one voice that I think will be silenced, which ought to open up a little bit more room for some kind of a deal to happen.

HENDERSON: And more broadly, Julie, the GOP in 2018, this is obviously what they're trying to talk about here at Camp David. What does it look like more broadly in terms of bipartisanship? All sorts of things on the list there, infrastructure, DACA, obviously.

DAVIS: Well, listen, I think they realized given the reality in the Senate in particular, that they're going to have to have some measure of bipartisanship to get some of this stuff done. If there is going to be an immigration deal either in the short term or the longer term, they're going to need Democrats. If there is going to be an infrastructure bill or welfare reform as the president has said, they're going to need Democrats to come along.

And they're going to need to do -- the president is going to need to do a lot more than he did last year in terms of courting some degree of centrist Democratic support for his agenda. He pretty much wrote that all off for the tax bill and they got it through. But that's not going to be possible for a lot of other issues.

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: But you end up with red state Democrats like Manchin saying after the tax bill, for instance, trying to answer questions why was this not good for West Virginia? He's like, well, there are actually are some good parts. You don't want to be on that side of the issue too often. Something like DACA with Democratic activists, you don't necessarily want to say no, no, no, no, no, when, in fact, you could get it.

ZELENY: It's a really good --

HAM: It's a tricky situation.

ZELENY: It's a good point. I think that the politics for some Democrats, some red state Democrats in 2018 will be to work on things because it's risky for a Heidi Heitkamp and a Joe Manchin and others to, you know, be completely on the anti side of this.

At the same time, we have not seen any substantive meetings, really, with a bipartisan group of Republican --

HENDERSON: Right. ZELENY: -- of congressional leaders. It would have been interesting if the president would have had Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi out to Camp David. I mean, they've had a few meetings and I think --

HENDERSON: Chuck and Nancy, right.

ZELENY: We'll see more in the next couple of weeks. But that is the question here. President Trump as you were saying earlier on immigration, he is the one who has been both sides of the political parties.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the sides.

ZELENY: All the sides, genius.

He has the capacity to pull this together. But his base, you know, will restrict him from doing so.

GREEN: One other factor, this courting has to do more than just inviting Democrats up to Camp David. I mean, what Democrats have impressed on me is that there have to be policy concessions in their direction.

HENDERSON: Citizenship.

GREEN: Citizenship. Well, but it seems like if you look where Trump has moved over the last couple of weeks, it's been more in the direction of the right wing rather than Democrats. So, there's going to have to be some kind of a course correction I think in order to bring a meaningful number of Democrats aboard.

HENDERSON: And, quickly, Jeff, I want you to jump in here in terms of the staffing at the White House. That's something been discussed. You saw Gary Cohn talk about it. Do we see any staff shakeup in the offing?

ZELENY: I think we see some people eager to move back to the private sector. Gary Cohn a top example. A lot of people expected him to leave.

He didn't necessarily say he'll stay for a long time, but he seemed to indicate he was happy with the job. The question here, though, is, who is in the ranks to fill some of these positions? There are going to be vacancies. There is not a huge line out the door --

HENDERSON: To be in this administration.

ZELENY: -- of qualified people. So, I think that is the real issue, especially on the economic side. There are a lot of people who do not want this drama, potential legal consequences, et cetera, here. So, I think staffing is a huge issue in the second-year of his term.

HENDERSON: And some of the news this week was Tillerson, who seemed to be exiting, says that he's on for 2018 at least. We'll see what happens with that. ZELENY: I mean, his demise has been reported now for months and he's

still there. I think he could stay around a longer time than we think, at least through a couple more seasons, perhaps into the summer.

HENDERSON: All righty. We'll see.

Coming up, the special counsel has significant details about the drama surrounding Attorney General Jeff Sessions' recusal from the Russia investigation and White House critics say it all points to obstruction.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:27:56] HENDERSON: Welcome back.

President Trump is defending himself, saying he's done nothing wrong regarding the Russia investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Everything that I've done is 100 percent proper. That's what I do, is I do things proper. And, you know, I guess the collusion now is dead, because everyone found that after a year of study there has been absolutely no collusion. There has been no collusion between us and the Russians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Trump is, of course, responding to a "New York Times" report that says he asked White House counsel Don McGahn to urge Attorney General Jeff Sessions to stay on the Russia probe. Sources say that McGahn reached out to Sessions in March of 2017 and tried to dissuade him from recusing himself from the investigation but Sessions, of course, stepped aside anyway.

Now, a senior administration official is telling CNN that then Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and then Press Secretary Sean Spicer were among those who participated in calls between the White House and the Justice Department. Democrats claim this is further evidence that Trump's White House was trying to get in the way of a fair investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: This excellent reporting certainly indicates a key element of an obstruction of justice case. Jeff Sessions ought to explain this kind of contact from the White House. The White House staff ought to be called before the grand jury. And I would predict there will be convictions and indictments early in the New Year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Julie, this was partly your excellent reporting, and the piece very much talks mostly about obstruction of justice. DAVIS: Well, right. I mean, you heard the president say earlier

there's been no collusion. That's not a conclusion that Bob Mueller has come to, what he's looking into is another issue altogether, which is whether the president and the people around him tried to obstruct justice.

And one of the key pieces of information he's looking at, one of the big episodes he's trying to make sense of is the firing of Comey and Jeff Sessions' recusal. And so, the revelation that he had the White House lawyer, this is the White House counsel, not his personal lawyer, but go and try to lobby the attorney general to stay in his job, to keep control of this investigation, is something that he is exploring.

And he's also looking at what White House lawyers did in response to the president's determination, they understood, to fire the FBI director, which included basically keeping from him the key piece of information that he didn't actually need a reason as the President of the United States to fire the FBI director.

And so these all -- these are all threads that Mueller is looking at to figure out whether there was an effort to obstruct the investigation by the President that was maybe even -- and that there was maybe even an attempt by White House lawyers to stop those efforts, understanding how improper that would be.

NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: And Sessions, again, featured prominently in this article. And part of the article says that "Two days after Mr. Comey's testimony, an aide to Mr. Sessions approached a Capitol Hill staff member, asking whether the staffer had any derogatory information about the FBI director.

The Attorney General wanted one negative article a day in the news media about Mr. Comey, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting."

Josh -- what do you make of that? How does that make the Attorney General look?

JOSH GREEN, "BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK": Well, it makes him look bad because it looks like there was a concerted, basically a smear campaign being run from the Justice Department or from people in the administration to impugn and tarnish the reputation of FBI director, James Comey.

Reading between the lines, the effort seems to have been designed to make him look bad and kind of give Trump a pretext to get rid of him, which he did.

HENDERSON: And Trump keeps talking about collusion, as you said. Here he is again, the President, on Saturday talking about collusion and essentially saying there is no collusion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's been no collusion. There's been no crime. And in theory, everybody tells me I'm not under investigation. Maybe Hillary is, I don't know, but I'm not.

We have been very open. We could have done it two ways. We could have been very closed and it could have taken years. But you know, sort of like when you've done nothing wrong, let's be open and get it over with because honestly, it's very, very bad for our country. It's making our country look foolish and this is a country that I don't want looking foolish.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Jeff, how effective is that?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think he may be right about that in terms of making the country look foolish here. I mean this has been sort of a central thing. But the President has said repeatedly he's not under investigation, again sidestepping the point of obstruction of justice.

That now appears to at least be a central focus of this Mueller probe. But by the President standing in front of the House and Senate leadership, who both have investigations and inquiries going on about the Russian meddling, he says, you know, it just simply isn't true that we know there isn't collusion. We don't know. It's still under investigation.

We don't know that there was. We don't know that there wasn't. But by the President still talking about this repeatedly, it, I think, makes clear that he was told by his attorneys that this would be over -- his role in his would be over initially Thanksgiving, then the end of the year, now it's obviously still going on.

So I believe just talking to a variety of people who talk to the President that this is the underlying cause or one of them of his frustrations so far this week in the early hours of 2018 is that he is frustrated this is still going on.

But as much as he says, you know, it's simply a hoax, that's not going to end it. It is simply complicating it for everyone.

HENDERSON: But MK, it certainly plays with the base and the folks who support Donald Trump.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, "THE FEDERALIST": I mean he has a point on the collusion part of this, which is, look, he was told by Comey, even though it was reported that he wasn't told by Comey, that he wasn't the focus of this. And it has been a year.

And with everybody happy to leak enthusiastically, we don't hear a ton about actual sort of giant global conspiracy to overturn an American election.

That being said, the President does not do things proper which is what is going to get them in trouble. He does not think about the propriety of talking to each of these Justice Department officials. He does not worry about that. And he does what he feels is his best counterpunch, which is not always in the right.

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: So we may find out that that's how he got himself in trouble and that's the obstruction of justice part of this.

GREEN: But the other thing that I think set Trump off on this topic this week and that it gives Mueller, you know, additional things to look into is once again, this Wolff book in which Steve Bannon is quoted describing this meeting between Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. as treasonous. That goes directly to the issue of collusion.

I think one of the reasons Trump is out there, you know, metronomically (ph) repeating no collusion, no collusion is because there are stories out there in the media that are suggesting that maybe there was. And these aren't stories pushed by Democrats; this is his chief White House strategist.

ZELENY: Steve Bannon did something that, you know, really undermined the entire argument for a year. The White House and the President have said no collusion. Again we don't know if there was or there wasn't. But by Steve Bannon using those words, unpatriotic, as well he undercuts the argument.

[08:35:02] HAM: Well, I think that's why he got the very dramatic brush-off. Not the stuff with the kids. This is the thing --

ZELENY: Yes, right. Agree.

HAM: -- that is in the President's head and it bothered him immensely.

I would caution, again, with the confirmation bias (ph), treating Bannon as a reliable narrator, which we have never done before and we should be careful about doing that. He was not in -- he was not in the campaign at that time of that meeting -- so.

HENDERSON: We're going to get to Bannon a bunch in the following block.

I want to turn again to Sessions, right. It seems like one of the things that's happening with Sessions, he's always been on thin ice. But at this point you've got House Republicans now suggesting that he should step down.

Here is what Jim Jordan had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: I like Jeff Sessions. I just want you to do your job. We expected different -- we expected a different process and treatment and a different Justice Department when you took over, but, unfortunately, we've getting the same kind of slow walking on witness access, slow walking on document production. So that's what we want to see happen. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Julie -- the President said he stands by Jeff Sessions. What does this mean for Sessions' future?

DAVIS: Well, it's not clear. I mean he's been enraged at Jeff Sessions for quite some time. I mean in the days immediately following that recusal, he was clearly enraged. He gave him the silent treatment for awhile. He wouldn't take his calls.

But he did that -- that relationship did seem to stabilize. He isn't at Camp David this weekend with a bunch of other cabinet secretaries. I don't know what we want to --

HENDERSON: We noted that, right.

DAVIS: -- read into that. Now, he has a key role in some of the things they're discussing, including DACA and other things.

But whatever that says about the here and now, I do think that a decision has been made or was made at some point at the White House and maybe by the President himself that it makes sense to keep him where he is.

Now, if the drumbeat among Republicans like Jim Jordan intensifies and there is a real call for him to be gone, they may rethink that. And with all the calls now for him to come back to Capitol Hill and testify again because of this new reporting, that may change.

But I think for now there has been a decision at some level that it's better to just keep him where he is. He does after all -- he's very loyal to the President.

ZELENY: Imagine the confirmation process for a new Attorney General.

HENDERSON: That's true.

ZELENY: That is something this White House does not want. So it's the best reason I think to keep someone in place, even though the President clearly still, you know, furious at him.

HENDERSON: MK -- I want to get you in quickly here. One of the things that probably pleases people about the Justice Department under Sessions -- at least some people, is that they are apparently investigating the Clinton Foundation and any sense that there might be quid pro quo between the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton.

HAM: Yes, well, first of all, the improbably successful campaign to make Jeff Sessions a sympathetic figure continues. It's coming from all sides now.

Look, I think that the congressman would be excited about this particular inquiry. And the thing that is concerning I think is that the President, again his public statements make the job that these FBI guys are doing very tricky because it looks like they may be doing his bidding. HENDERSON: That it's political, right.

HAM: They're like public servants who are doing their jobs. So that part of that dynamic is going to continue and it makes it tough for them.

HENDERSON: Up next, Steve Bannon's path from White House chief strategist to outside ally to finally Sloppy Steve.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, I have a very good relationship, as you know, with Steve Bannon. Steve's been a friend of mine for a long time. I like Steve a lot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[08:38:18](COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Mitch McConnell and this permanent political class is the most corrupt and incompetent group of individuals in this country.

There is a time and season for everything. And right now it's a season of war against a GOP establishment.

They have no interest in what you have to say. They think you're a bunch of rubes, right? They hold you in total contempt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: That's Steve Bannon's 2017 highlight reel. There he is taking jabs at the GOP establishment and predicting a Bannon-led reckoning.

But now that 2018 is here, the political climate and Steve Bannon's political capital look very, very different. Bannon has gone from working in the White House to being essentially persona non grata with Trump and possibly Trump's populist base.

And, of course, it's all because of a bombshell book, "Fire and Fury", that includes quotes that have been attributed to Bannon that go after the President and his family.

Bannon says he's still on good terms with Trump, calling him a great man and saying they're actually still close.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't care what Trump says, he would have never gotten in without you.

BANNON: Thanks for the kind words. And by the way, nothing will ever come between us and President Trump and his agenda. Don't worry about that.

Don't worry about us and the MAGA agenda. President Trump -- it's, we're tight on this agenda as we've ever been.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Trump, of course, has a very different take on their relationship.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did Steve Bannon betray you, Mr. President? Any words about Steve Bannon?

TRUMP: Thank you.

I don't know. He called me a great man last night, you know, he obviously changed his tune pretty quick.

Thank you all very much.

Thank you. I don't talk to him. I don't talk to him.

I don't talk to him. That's just a misnomer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

TRUMP: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Josh -- you're the Bannon expert at this table. You wrote a book on Bannon. Is this insurgency over? Where does he go from here?

GREEN: I don't know that it's over because there were, you know, a lot of people in the Republican Party that were a part of this. Bannon was viewed as kind of being a leader. I'm not sure it goes away.

But I think it's definitely weakened by the fact that he has been so publicly excommunicated and humiliated by the President to the degree that he has been, especially when you look at the issues coming down the pike in the next couple of weeks. You have DACA, the issue of whether or not there will be funding for a border wall.

These are the issues that Bannon and that wing of the party care about. And now all of a sudden, whether or not Bannon wants to admit it, he's been thrown out.

HENDERSON: And one Republican strategist had very harsh words for Bannon, and essentially predicting it's over. Here he is -- Ed Rollins.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: He set himself on fire in the middle of the south lawn and the President ran over him with a tank and put it in reverse and backed over him again. I've never seen anybody do as anything as stupid as he did. No one ever heard of Bannon before Trump got elected. I think it's the end of Bannon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: The end of Bannon, Jeff. This is certainly Trump's kind of "Bye Felicia" moment for Bannon. But can he get back in the President's good graces? We've seen that happen before.

ZELENY: We have seen that happen before. And I think many people like Ed Rollins in this town would like it to be the end for Steve Bannon.

I'm not so sure we know that yet. I mean in the Trump orbit, we've seen so many people rise and fall and rise, but people always seem to have a second life.

[08:44:51] And the President likes to have, you know, the viewpoints from a collection of different people. So I do not think it's at all improbable that several months from now it will be reported by Mr. Green here or someone else --

HENDERSON: Right.

ZELENY: -- that they are back on the phone with each other.

But no doubt about it, humiliated in every way here. So we'll see what happens with Steve Bannon.

But this does create a vacuum and an opportunity for people opposed to Steve Bannon, particularly Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, others to sort of seize that. And it could have policy issues as well. Steve Bannon has been driving the train on some of these things.

But the reality is people will side with Trump, not Bannon, at least in terms of the base, I believe.

HENDERSON: Trump piling on here. On Friday, he tweeted, "Michael Wolff is a total loser who made up stories in order to sell this really boring and untruthful book. He used Sloppy Steve Bannon who cried when he got fired and begged for his job. Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone. Too bad."

That's what Trump had to say. And we also know that Bannon apparently tried to, you know, release a statement or drafted a statement basically saying Don Jr. is a patriot and that this was a lefty hatchet job, the book.

HAM: Look, once you've got a nickname, it's a different ball game, right.

HENDERSON: Yes. Yes -- an alliterative one, yes. HAM: I think you're right that many Republicans are so eager to hear that he's done that they may overplay this news. And never say never with people coming back into the Trump circle.

Although -- like confirming the collusion narrative seems to be such a huge deal for Trump. I will say, I think Bannon miscalculates if he ever thought he was the pied piper of populism. It was Donald Trump.

And this will change many of those primary situations where Bannon was pitching, look, take a wacky candidate who says whatever you want to hear him say and we will win with that candidate. It turns out you lose with that candidate, as you did in Alabama.

The trick is to convince them it only works for Donald Trump. And I think Donald Trump telling those voters that as he did in that statement helps turn that page.

HENDERSON: Josh -- I wonder if you think it's possible for Bannon to capture a sliver of Trump's base, making this argument that he's essentially been captured by the establishment -- Mitch McConnell in particular.

GREEN: You know, it's possible. The role that Bannon imagined for himself had he not been blown up by this Wolff book was to be the guy that held the line on issues like DACA and the border wall as these things came down. So he and Breitbart were going to be a very loud voice putting pressure on Trump not to go in that direction.

Now that, you know, he's been so publicly diminished, it's hard for me to see how he could play that role, how he could exert the same kind of influence.

And as MK said, I don't think too many Republican voters are going to look at Trump and at Bannon and think, you know, I'm going to go side with Steve Bannon on this.

HENDERSON: Julie, somebody's who is happy and smiling over this is Mitch McConnell. He seems to have won the heart of Trump in this battle between Bannon and Mitch McConnell and Trump.

DAVIS: Right. And with the very large caveat that Mary Katharine and Jeff both talked about that you never want to say that someone is totally out of the Trump orbit because people come in and out in unpredictable ways.

But yes, Steve Bannon was going to be a huge thorn in Mitch McConnell's side and the side of the mainstream Republican, possibly even the entire RNC this year as they look toward a very difficult environment for midterms where it was going to be a real war that Bannon was holding up one side of against the establishment. They could have had some very nasty primaries with Bannon being a key player.

I think with him diminished, the likelihood that at least he plays that role is less, although it's not totally clear to me that somebody else is not going to come in and play that role. And certainly we know that Donald Trump is conflicted about this and might actually -- we might see the Alabama situation replay itself many times over. But it's probably not going to be Steve Bannon who is in that pole position on those races.

HENDERSON: And we really haven't heard much from Bannon since this happened -- Jeff.

ZELENY: No, we haven't. We heard him on the radio show, you know. I think I do not expect him -- and Josh would know more -- but I do not expect Steve Bannon to try and keep this fight alive. He will be magnanimous towards the President and the agenda.

I mean he is not interested in exacerbating this feud. It's really extraordinary because he loves Trump. I mean he loves this whole idea of it.

HENDERSON: An agenda.

ZELENY: He's his creation, in his mind.

GREEN: And he's absolutely groveled before Trump just in the days since Trump turned on him.

HENDERSON: We've got to wrap it here.

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: After the break, our reporters give you a glimpse of some stories they're working on that could make headlines, including Trump's strategy for the midterm elections. Will the President go into full campaign mode or stay away?

[08:49:32] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HENDERSON: We'll close by asking our reporters to share a tidbit from their notebooks so you can get a glimpse of some of the biggest political headlines in the works right now.

Julie -- I'll start with you.

DAVIS: Well, we've talked a lot about this near-term negotiation on immigration reform, and a potential bill to normalize the Dreamers. But President Trump has actually quietly been talking about a much broader immigration measure that could come later if they're able to strike that deal, which would be basically a way of addressing the situation of the other 11 million undocumented immigrants who are in this country.

If they're not felons, finding a way to give them legal status in exchange for some future stiffer work site enforcement, bigger enforcement efforts on the border as well. And even though it seems like a long shot to imagine that something like that could happen, I think folks are looking at this dreamer deal as a potential prelude to something a lot bigger.

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: Wow, big plans ahead. We'll see what happens with that.

Josh.

GREEN: Steve Bannon's political future obviously unclear. But so is the future of Breitbart News, the right-wing Web site that had an outsized effect on Republican politics even before Trump came along.

My sources tell me we may be headed for a power struggle because Rebecca Mercer, the billionaire investor in Breitbart, wants Bannon out but doesn't have enough equity to force him out on her own. Bannon very much wants to stay and intends to fight.

The problem is he gave up his own equity when he went into the White House so he doesn't have control of it either. And it's not impossible to think that the President himself could weigh in on the issue as a way of further punishing his ex-strategist who he has now branded Sloppy Steve Bannon.

HENDERSON: It's really hard to imagine Breitbart without Steve Bannon. But we'll see what happens with that.

MK.

HAM: As we saw in Virginia this week a Republican, David Yancey won a House seat by his name being drawn out of a bowl. That determines the --

HENDERSON: Democracy.

HAM: That determines the balance of power in the Virginia House, which will stay with Republicans just barely. But Republicans looking forward are talking about bracing for better organization and better get out the vote and better enthusiasm from Democrats.

You saw it in Alabama with a lot of people not knowing that that ground game was what it was. Virginia was sort of the precursor of that and a warning because the balance of power in the House of Delegates went almost to Democrats it had been a solid majority for Republicans.

[08:55:06] And I think it's a lesson that the Democrats learned during the Obama years that when you have the guy at the top, sometimes that can wipe out a lot at the state level -- so something to be prepared for in 2018.

HENDERSON: We'll look to that.

Jeff.

ZELENY: Speaking of 2018, I'm told that the President listened to a presentation on the midterm elections while he was at Camp David this weekend with Republican leaders. There was a PowerPoint presentation of the House races and other things in particular. And history, as we know, is not kind to the President in power. Obama saw it, Bush saw it, on and on. But President Trump, I'm told, is increasingly focusing on House and Senate races. He is saying he'll do whatever he can to help, even if that means staying away.

So I think a key thing to watch in 2018, he'll raise money for them but will he be asked to campaign for them? And will he? He has not shown a willingness to really help anyone beside himself at these rallies. We'll see what his role is in 2018.

But I'm told he's focusing on it more. There is one reason, a Democratic-controlled house means investigations, and the other I word, potentially impeachment, you know, the dream of liberals. He certainly does not even want to go there.

HENDERSON: Thanks, Jeff.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Again, thanks for sharing your Sunday morning.

Stay right there. Jake Tapper will sit down with White House policy senior adviser Stephen Miller just after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: "Fire and Fury", an explosive new tell-all book questions the President's mental stability fitness.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[09:00:05] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They say he's a moron, an idiot. I will quote Steve Bannon, "He's lost it".

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: President Trump fires back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He's a fraud.

(END VIDEO CLIP)