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INSIDE POLITICS

DHS Chief Says She Hasn't Seen Intel Community Report's Conclusions On Russia Election Meddling; Primary Day In Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky: Runoffs In Texas; Speaker Ryan Focuses On Unifying GOP Amid Ouster Talks; Trump Meets With South Korean President To Talk N.K. Summit. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 22, 2018 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:02] JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS HOST: Her job in part, she's up on Capitol Hill, this very meeting, is to talk about election security, to try to prevent this from happening again. She says I do not believe that I have seen that conclusion that the specific intent was to help President Trump win. I'm not aware of that. If she is not aware of that, what is she doing?

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: That is bizarre to think that she would be unaware of that even if she hasn't read the report which you would probably expect Homeland Security Secretary to do to an intel assessment something --

KING: Would kind of be required reading for this job.

KAPUR: Exactly. It should be. But even if you didn't read that, you would know what the conclusion is we've all been talking about. It's been one of the biggest issues we've been discussing. She knows that if she does accept intel community's assessment, she's going to draw the ire of Donald Trump which you pointed out already. You know, there's been a spot there. If she doesn't accept it, then she's going to be in hot water with everyone else.

ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: But I think to a certain extent I think this is like sort of a silly exercise and then I think there have really not been questions about Secretary Nielsen's competence. And I think, you know, so we know that she is good at the job, she is the type of person that we want serving in government and I think there's sort of an unsaid agreement that, yes, we know that she knows that these are the conclusions and yet she sort of forced to say this publicly. Reporters put her into hot water with the President. I think I'm sort of like uncomfortable with the whole exercise of pushing these people who I think we want serving in government to get in trouble with the President.

KING: I both get it and I don't in the sense that I agree.

JOHNSON: I can feel for her.

KING: She is known as a competent person in government. You want competent people in government. But she is the cabinet secretary of the department that oversees election security of United States of America. And forgive me, whether you're Democrat or Republican, an independent, not sure at the country, you should be concerned about a foreign government interfering in our elections.

She should be concerned about communicating as clearly as possible about that. So I agree that you want competent people in government and they have to understand their boss' volatility to be polite, but I'm not aware, I don't believe I've seen that conclusion? Ignore the question. Don't say that.

OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, SIRIUSXM: How about I've seen no evidence in the last year and a half that would lead me to contradict, you know, the intelligence community's findings about the 2016 election. I mean, there are ways of doing that.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Right here today to look forward. There are different ways to do it.

KNOX: But the backdrop is just that this is never going to be not a taboo subject in the Trump White House. There are only two people I can think of who have regularly, in front of cameras, really forcefully embrace the I.C.'s findings, Nikki Haley, the Ambassador of United Nation and Tom Bossert, the recently removed Homeland Security Adviser who has actually laid things at Vladimir Putin's doorstep in public on camera. But this will never not be a taboo subject because the Trump White House sees it as a dagger at the heart of their legitimacy.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATE PRESS: And anytime, Trump officials who need appearances, there isn't at this audience of one aspect to it where however many people are speaking to, at the end of the day, you are speaking to the President.

KING: Country first. An interesting proposition. We'll see.

Up next, two Democrats in Georgia look to shatter the glass ceiling at the governor's mansion. After today, only one will get a crack at it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:37:34] KING: Topping our political radar today, the Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Capitol Hill this morning, facing questions about school safety, that in the wake of yet another mass shooting. She said after Friday's attack that killed eight students and two teachers in Santa Fe, Texas, this trend cannot be allowed to continue. She expanded on that just a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETSY DEVOS, EDUCATION SECRETARY: I'm also pleased that Attorney General Sessions, Secretary Azar and Secretary Nielsen join me on the federal commission on school safety. We are seeking input from students, parents, teachers, school safety personnel, administrators, law enforcement officials, mental health professionals, school counselors, anyone who is focused on identifying and elevating practical solutions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Four states are voting this Tuesday. Primaries in Kentucky, Georgia and Arkansas plus its runoff day in Texas. In Georgia, two Democrats with the same first name each trying to become that state's first female governor. Stacey Evans thinks she can peel away moderates in the suburbs while Stacey Abrams, who's trying to become the first black female governor in the country going after rural voters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're in Trump country. Do you think that you can win here?

STACEY ABRAMS (D), GEORGIA GOV. CANDIDATE: So here's the thing. I've got to win Georgia, so that means I've got to turn out more Democrats everywhere.

STACEY EVANS (D), GEORGIA GOV. CANDIDATE: I think we should take our progressive message to persuade those that are living in suburban communities that maybe have tended to vote Republican, that there is something for them on the Democratic side that's going to make their lives better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: An important race and a great example of, I would call it tension, call it debate, call it just across the Democratic Party primaries where do you make a play for Republican voters in the suburbs or do you make a play, Stacey Abrams there, going into the rural areas saying, yes, I need a big turnout of African-Americans in Atlanta but I have to find base voters everywhere. Get them places where they probably long go give up.

KAPUR: Right, that's a very real conversation happening inside the Democratic Party right now. There are progressive wing that is very energized putting up in certain candidate who want to defeat party favorites. We saw that last weekend with Kara Eastman in Nebraska. We're going to a sign of that today later in a Texas runoff between Laura Moser who the (INAUDIBLE) trying to intervene and to try to take down. Did not work. She forced the primary.

Many examples of this coming up. The cook political report which is a non-partisan tracker on this just today moved four race ratings on the House side toward Republicans. I think that's the first time they've done that, this cycle. It's highly unusual in a Democratic year and two of them are in Southern California where Democrats have massive cluttered feels open seats of Ed Royce and Darrell Issa. That could split the vote.

[12:40:05] The top two rural (ph) in California could send two Republicans to the general election in winnable races for Democrats. That would be an extra ordinary, you know, suicidal move.

KING: A jungle primary there. Let's listen quickly to Hillary Clinton. She recorded a robocall for Stacey Abrams. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: A Yale educated attorney, Abrams is the only candidate with bold new plans to ensure Georgians have access to good jobs, quality public schools, affordable child care and higher education. So, on May 22nd, vote for my friend, Stacey Abrams, that's Abrams with an A.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Last line, two Stacey is running. Two Stacey is running, so you got to make clear which Stacey to vote for.

Sometimes you see a candidate who loss the last election gets pushed aside, like we don't want her involve, but obviously you wouldn't do that unless you thought it could help.

LUCEY: Yes, I think there is certainly still people out there who like Hillary Clinton what to hear from her, that's true. But I think also we're seeing in these races is the legacy of the 2016 elections. These deep divisions in the party that have not been resolved. And it's going to continue to play out into '20.

KNOX: It's some fine tuning on the messaging which is really interesting which is there's a bit of a gap between some of the national rhetoric and the House race rhetoric. House race rhetoric is very much focused on local issues, jobs, you know, potholes, that kind of stuff. And if you listen to the national stuff especially no offense on cable television, you are getting questions about things that a lot of voters actually, you know, have either tuned out or have already reached a conclusion on like the Russia investigation.

KING: Not a motivating factor in the laws (ph) but it's definitely right.

Up next for us here, chaos and talk of a possible coup in the Republican Party and some advice in the middle of all that from the man at the middle of all that, the House Speaker Paul Ryan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:45:53] KING: Want to remind you, we are still standing by the President of the United States, the President of South Korea having an extended session with reporters in the Oval Office. They have talked everything from the Justice Department and the FBI and the President's not so happy view about them to China trade talks. The President says they are not going well to the plans to maybe delay the plan summit with North Korea. So you want to stay with us, we'll have that tape for us in a minute.

In the meantime, take a deep breath. That was Speaker Paul Ryan's advice to fellow House Republicans this morning, who gathered for their weekly meeting amid legislative chaos and even talk of an election year coup. The coup question came amid reports that Ryan's number two met with old friend and out-Trump Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on Sunday and that there were discussions of maybe Kevin McCarthy trying to force Ryan out before the November elections.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I think we all agree the best thing for us is to complete our agenda and not wedge into the middle of the completion of our agenda divisive leadership elections.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I've read that report, the report is not true. What they brought it to me is not true. I just think if you look at what we're doing this week from Dodd-Frank reform becoming law, right-to-try becoming law, NDAA, prison reform, it's a clear example that none of that is true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Not so sure about that. But in addition to the leadership turmoil, there are policy methods. House Republicans last week as you know failed to pass a farm bill and another election year -- other election year disagreements, excuse me, include a nasty internal immigration fight.

CNN's Phil Mattingly is up on Capitol Hill. Interesting job today, Phil?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it. Look, this is clearly a carefully calibrated distraction from the beet and cane sugar industries defeat of the confectioners last year during the amendment process. Now, look, this is exactly what you expected to happen when Speaker Paul Ryan announced that he was going to retire. That's why a lot of donors were uneasy about it. Frankly, that's why a lot of the ranking fellow Republicans were uneasy about it, because they knew what it would start.

Despite the united front, despite the Speaker saying Kevin McCarthy had his endorsement to be the next Republican leaders, behind the scenes, things would be happening. And when things are happening, and all of a sudden you run into problems on the House floor. Look, it's not a rarity that the farm bill went down. That's happened in 2013. It's not a rarity that the House Freedom Caucus would sink a bill. That seems to happen on a weekly basis or at least the threat of that.

The problem is this all compounds when behind the scenes you have outside advisers, you have groups trying to figure out how to position themselves for a potential leadership race and you have members who are uneasy about this entire process, the same members who are looking towards November and are very, very weary of their electoral prospects. And you talk about immigration specifically when it comes to that.

Obviously, you have already 20 moderate Republicans who are fucking leadership trying to push this petition to force a DACA vote. These are guys that are always in the pocket of leadership saying that they are there to take tough votes for leaders, saying if the Speaker asks me to do it, I will say yes. They are now saying no. Now is that because Speaker Ryan leaving? Not entirely. A lot of these guys have elections that they are more concerned about. But you add all of that together and this is why you actually have the intrigue.

Here's the reality. Speaker Ryan at this point is not going anywhere. There's no actionable effort to have a coup. Kevin McCarthy while he has, I'm told, had discussions with people is not moving to try and bounce the Speaker. But this is something that's going to continue for the months ahead. This is the reality for the House Republican conference the rest of 2018, John.

KING: Free ticket to the circus every day. Phil Mattingly live on Capitol Hill. You're a lucky guy, Phil, and I mean that. I actually mean that.

Let's bring it into the room as we wait. We're still waiting to hear from the President. Look at these headlines just in the past week. TIME, "The House GOP is in chaos." Weekly Standard, "A coup in the offing." POLITICO, "Ryan facing growing doubts about hold on speakership." Slate, "Has Paul Ryan already lost control of the House?"

Really? That's just what you want in an election year in which your hold on the majority is at stake, right?

KAPUR: I'm really surprised that Republicans are tearing each other apart over immigration again. This has been going on for 15 years. This is the same party that's cuddle (ph) the immigration overhaul in 2007 and it was divided to adapt (INAUDIBLE) President, the Filibuster, the Dream Act in 2010, the past 18 (ph) vote in the Dreamers deportable in 2013, nominated Trump in 2016. This is a continuation of a very, very primal and powerful debate that's been happening within the party.

As for Paul Ryan, this holding pattern underneath him, I'm not convinced it's going to hold all the way through November and to January.

[12:50:05] One thing that Harry Reid did differently when he retired 20 months before he was going to step down, was pick a successor, got the conference on board, stamped out any leadership battle. There is a difference going on at the House.

KING: Different scenario. To that point, here's what the Weekly Standard says about, again, Kevin McCarthy meets with his former House colleague Mick Mulvaney, who now is the Trump cabinet member. They talked about McCarthy being speaker some day, they are debating about what the day was. McCarthy is denying something Mulvaney admitted on the record. They've either spoken about forcing an early vote or they haven't. One of them isn't telling the truth. Will the truth teller please stand up.

JOHNSON: Yes, I think it's getting increasingly difficult for Kevin McCarthy and his allies to deny that they have at least had conversations about what they I think view as an untenable situation with Paul Ryan. The argument I think that you're hearing is that it's going to be difficult as the November elections approach for Paul Ryan to raise money for Republican candidates, and as we're already seeing for him to be a functional leader in the Republican Party. And I think Ryan allies are saying, no, that he has proved himself to be a really excellent fundraiser, but also that you don't want to have a leadership election in the months leading -- what would be a divisive leadership election in the months leading up to the election.

KING: And what they have now is not divisive at all, right? If the election would divide them and make things messy, so let's be divided and have things messy, I guess is the counterbalance there.

In this meeting today, the Speaker said everybody calm down, everybody take a breath, let's get our -- together and let's try to come up with an immigration plan. Really? Let's try again. Listen to Mark Meadows here, the Chairman of the Freedom Caucus coming out of the meeting saying the Speaker gave us our mission, we're going to keep it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK MEADOWS (R), HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS CHAIR: The Speaker made a challenge to all of us to come together and find some real solutions and I think we're capable of rising to that challenge and certainly will do so in the coming days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And I can levitate.

LUCEY: I mean (INAUDIBLE) raising to that challenge so far.

KNOX: But Republicans didn't suddenly become an -- House Republicans did not suddenly become an ungovernable force on Paul Ryan's retirement announcement. If we just look at the last --

JOHNSON: He is a symptom of the --

KNOX: -- look at the ten years of it. I mean, this is just the idea that this triggered everything. I mean, I understand why it feeds into it, but they didn't start having trouble with immigration just now. They didn't start having trouble with spending bills just now. That's not what happened.

I'm mostly interested about something that Eliana raise which is the question of Paul Ryan's fundraising clout in this election year because that is clear -- he is alluded to what I think in public, that is clearly the sort of the cornerstone of his clout in this midterm election.

KING: Let's stop the conversation here. We'll go straight to the President of the United States, the South Korean President in the Oval Office. A number of questions. Listen to this.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. It's a great honor to have President Moon of South Korea with us. We've become great friends over the years and it's now -- we've now known each other for quite some time. We're working on many things. Obviously, North Korea is the big one. No matter how big trade is, North Korea, in this case is the big one. And we'll be discussing that. We'll also be discussing trade. We have a very big trade arrangement that we're renegotiating right now with South Korea. They've been excellent people to work with for the Trump administration. And we will have some pretty good news, I think, on trade. And we'll be discussing other things.

But the big topic will be Singapore and the meeting. See what happens, whether or not it happens. If it does, that will be great. It would be a great thing for North Korea. And if it doesn't, that's OK too. Whatever it is, it is.

But I look forward to spending quite a bit of time with the President. And I think a lot of good things will happen. I want to thank everybody for being here.

Mr. President, a great honor. Thank you. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Foreign Language)

[12:56:28] PRES. MOON JAE-IN, SOUTH KOREA (through translation): Well, I'd like to thank you, Mr. President, for your warm hospitality and for sharing much of your time with me. I know you have a very busy domestic calendar, as well as the all-important U.S.-North Korea summit approaching.

I heard the tragic news that many innocent lives were lost due to the shootings in a Texas high school a few days ago. So I'd like to convey my condolences to you and the American people.

On a brighter note, I would like to congratulate you for the safe return of the American citizens who had been detained in North Korea. Thanks to your vision of achieving peace through strength, as well as your strong leadership, we're looking forward to the first-ever U.S.- North Korea summit. And we find ourselves standing one step closer to the dream of achieving complete denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and world peace.

All this was possible because of you, Mr. President. And I have no doubt that you will be able to complete -- accomplish a historic feat that no one had been able to achieve in the decades past.

I have to say that the fate and the future of the Korean Peninsula hinge on this. And as such, I'll spare no effort to the end to support the success of the upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit, and stand with you all along the way, Mr. President.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you think President Kim is serious about denuclearization?

TRUMP: I do think he's serious. I think he would like to see that happen. At the same time, he's going into a future that's different from what they've had. But I think he's absolutely very serious. Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Go ahead. Go ahead. John.

JOHN: Can you give us an update, sir, just on where things stand with the summit? President Moon's national security advisor, on the way here, seemed to think that things are on track and that this will indeed happen.

TRUMP: Well, we're moving along. And we'll see what happens. There are certain conditions that we want, and I think we'll get those conditions. And if we don't, we don't have the meeting. And frankly, it has a chance to be a great, great meeting for North Korea and a great meeting for the world. If it doesn't happen, maybe it will happen later. Maybe it will happen at a different time. But we will see.

But we are talking. The meeting is scheduled, as you know, on June 12th in Singapore. And whether or not it happens, you'll be knowing pretty soon. But we're talking right now.

JOHN: Do you have an idea of how denuclearization would take place? Would it be all at once?

TRUMP: I do. I have a very strong idea how it takes place. And it must take place. That's what we're talking about. It must take place.

But I have a very strong idea, and I have very strong opinions on the subject. I also have very strong opinions that North Korea has a chance to be a great country, and it can't be a great country under the circumstances that they're living right now. But North Korea has a chance, really, to be a great country. And I think they should seize the opportunity. And we'll soon find out whether or not they want to do that.

Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, have you spoken to Kim Jong-un?

TRUMP: I don't want to say that. I don't want --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you trust Kim Jong-un, going into these meetings?

TRUMP: There's no reason to discuss that. I can say this, that for a short period of time, we've been dealing with North Korea, and it's been a, you know, good experience. We have three hostages back. They're home. They're living with their families. They're very, very happy.

And so I can only speak for a very short period of time. But it's been a relationship that seems to be working, and we'll see how long it continues to work. Hopefully it's going to work for a long time. John. JOHN: Unrelated, Mr. President, can you tell us more about your meeting with Rod Rosenstein and Director Wray yesterday?

TRUMP: Well, it was just a very routine meeting. As you know, the Congress would like to see documents opened up. A lot of people are saying they had spies in my campaign. If they had spies in my campaign, that would be a --