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INSIDE POLITICS

Reunification Process For Immigrant Kids Remains Uncertain; Trump Signs Documents Calling North Korea "Unusual & Extraordinary Threat."; Trump's Tax Law Hits Six Month Mark; Trump Threatens 20% Tariffs One European Autos; Melania Trump's Jacket Choice Makes Headlines. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 22, 2018 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:05] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: They say why didn't you actually have this fully thought out before you implement it. Why didn't you brief members of Congress about this is your plan ahead of time? Perhaps even get a change in the law to prevent the separation from happening if you thought you were legally bound to do this? And if you were going to implement it, why not have the steps in place to figure this out? Clearly they did not have them. Now they're suffering as a result of it, and these kids and families are, too.

JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS HOST: It sounds a lot like, why would you have a couple guys at the White House not good constitutional lawyers draw up the original travel ban, for example.

RAJU: Right.

KING: This has been a recurring problem in this case because of the human tone. You see those pictures, or you can't see the pictures but you get accounts of people going in and seeing it. So here are the questions, the President sign the executive order doing a 180. The President's policy separated the families. He signed an executive order that said we shouldn't separate the families.

Here are the questions. What happens to 2300 or so in shelters? We don't have an exact number. How will the families be reunited? We showed you at the top of the show. Some of them are being reunited. And again, whatever your views on immigration policy, it's good that families are kept together. What about parents charged with a crime?

In that case, how long can you keep a family together in detention? That would be the test of the executive order because past cases 20 days is all you can keep a child in detention. Then the key you get to the question is why were they separated in the first place?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, THE FEDERALIST: When you also have the issue of the border patrol needs to be able to deal with which is the adults who say they are family. And you've had a couple of these cases that became icons of this policy when, in fact, there was a suspicion of smuggling involved. So we want them to be able to do that as well. Look, the federal government is somewhere between veep and house of cards on the incompetence and evil matrix. And so whenever they get something very wrong like separating families, getting them back together and fixing that problem is going to be not a great process. And so that's where we are right now. And I'm not sure it's getting any better super fast.

KING: And to that point, when you have a problem -- and everybody makes mistakes, every administration makes mistakes -- this one is a whopper. If you want to have zero tolerance, you have to think through all the implications of it. The President campaigned on a tough immigration policy, it shouldn't be a surprise. If you make mistakes, you better communicate with consistency. The attorney general among those who has not.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you. And that child may be separated from you as required by law.

And every time somebody gets prosecuted in America for a crime, American citizens, and they go to jail, they're separated from their children. We don't want to do this at all. If people don't want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them.

The American people don't like the idea that we're separating families. We never really intended to do that. What we intended to do was to make sure that adults who bring children into the country are charged with the crime they've committed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Huh?

ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes. Right. I think Sessions has not been the most eloquent defender of this policy, to be generous with that, and in general, I don't think Bible versus, which is a clip that you didn't show, are a compelling defense of policy in general. But the problem, I think -- and I read his quote to be saying that the intention isn't to separate parents from children, it's an unfortunate by-product of trying to enforce the law. I think that may be the generous reading of what he was trying to say.

But look, I've heard similar things to what Manu said, which is that, in a normal policy process, you would go and brief Congress about the policy you're going to enact, but in this administration you announce the policy and then you have Congress react. Like everything sort of inverted. And it's created on what was ultimately untenable situation for the administration where you had public revolt, lawmakers revolting. And ultimately the President's own family revolting against him with Ivanka Trump, President Trump's daughter, and his wife appealing to him privately in the White House and saying, you have to do something about this. MATT VISER, DEPUTY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE: And what was remarkable was that he hasn't backed down on so many of his policies. Even the Muslim ban he was stopped by the courts, not himself. In this case, he himself backed down because he was losing so much support from Franklin Graham, people who defend him all the time were not defending him.

KING: And he was alone with Stephen Miller and maybe one or two others on a small policy, when he flipped. And we'll see what comes as we go through it.

Now regrets that from a Republican Congressman who says speaking up against the President cost him his job.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:39:16] KING: Topping our political radar today, new reporting showing Michael Cohen was more than just Donald Trump's lawyer. The Washington Post reporting Cohen got advance copies of Trump-related articles from the National Enquirer and the tabloid let Cohen sign off. He goes all to those stories before they went to print. The Enquirer whose owner, of course, the friend of the President said in a statement those accusations are false.

New information today about that young migrant girl on the cover of TIME Magazine. The cover shows her along and crying in the shadow of the President. But new reporting reveals the girl wasn't alone. In fact, she was and still is with her mother. Washington Post spoke to her father in Honduras who says that his almost two-year-old daughter, Yanela, was not separated from her mother. Immigration officials then confirmed, Yanela and her mom are at the family detention center in McAllen, Texas together.

Today, an official White House document contradicting an official presidential statement. Remember last week when the President made the bold declaration on Twitter, the President saying, "There is no longer a nuclear threat in North Korea."

[12:40:12] Flash forward, to this morning, the President renewing a decade old national emergency with respect to North Korea. That document labeling North Korea, quote, an unusual, an extraordinary threat giving the President the authority to keep sanctions in place against Kim Jong-un.

And a surprising endorsement from the President to puts premium on personal loyalty. Today, the President telling Alabama Republicans to vote for Congresswoman Martha Roby in a runoff contest next month. Roby had spoken out against the President have seen the Republican leaders worried could doom here with the same faith as Mark Sanford. Sanford is a conservative who lost his primary battle last week in South Carolina in a small part because of a presidential tweet.

Here's Sanford on CNN this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: My political sin, if you will, that cost me an election was I spoke out against the President prior to my election, and he came to this chamber, sent a chilling message to my colleagues which is, if you mess with me, I'll mess with you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you regret speaking out about the president?

SANFORD: Not one bit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Not one bit from Mark Sanford. And yet, Martha Roby gets a big boost from the President this morning.

RAJU: Yes, because she started to show some contrition after going after Trump in the election year unlike Mark Sanford. Sanford has just been unloading on the President even after he lost, blaming it on his criticism of the President. I talked to him yesterday and he said to me, do we give a pass of the highest office holder in the land who is constantly saying things that aren't true? He's calling on his party to call out Trump's mistruth and lies, which of course, Republicans on the Hill are doing it.

JOHNSON: Good luck with that. I mean, one of the things that I think is remarkable about this, not about Sanford but about the President, is that for all of his inattention to policy details, he pays extremely close attention to the things that are covered in the media and on Twitter, and if you say something negative about him, there is no chance that he is going to miss it. And so he is acutely aware of any slights against him, and Mark Sanford he's going to know when you say anything about him, Martha Roby. So these lawmakers, they are aware that he knows what they're saying.

HAM: Mark Sanford is two things. He is actually idealogical, conservative as opposed to the more populist version of Trump, and he's bold about things that might hurt him politically and hold breath conference (ph) about living this life that he was on apple and share with them really. So there's a pattern here. And I would note that Roby is a little different because she's already faced several more Trump-friendly primary opponents and come out on top. So like she's in a little bit of danger but less than Mark Sanford is.

VISER: And look at the post midterm Republican Party with the ouster of people like Mark Sanford, the retirements of Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, and the reentry of Mitt Romney who once called him a fraud and a phony but is now much more sympathetic to Donald Trump.

KING: Things are changing. We shall see how much they change pretty now in November. When we come back, six months ago today the President signed up a tax law into effect. The debate continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:47:37] KING: It was six months ago today the President signed the big tax cut into law, and the political debate is sharp now as ever. Republicans say tax cuts pumping more life into the economy, creating more American jobs. Democrats are holding an event as we speak up on Capitol Hill. They're making the case it is big business, not workers, who benefit from this plant. Let's separate the facts from the spin. CNN's Alison Kosik looks at how businesses are spending their tax savings and what it means for you, the American worker, six months in.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPODENT: Hi, John. Six months ago the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act became law. It cuts the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. That's a huge windfall for companies.

In the first quarter, taxes on corporate income fell by more than $117 billion. So how are companies spending all their extra cash? They're buying their own stock back, raising shareholder dividends and investing in their businesses.

In the first quarter, stock buybacks for S&P 500 companies topped $187 billion. That's a record, the best since right before the recession in 2007. S&P 500 companies also added more than $24 billion in shareholder dividends. Dividends are basically a quarterly cash benefit for investors who hold the company stock.

Finally, investments of things like equipment known as capital expenditures hit $166 billion. That's a first quarter record. Now, the trend isn't slowing down, either. In May alone, buybacks and cash takeovers topped $200 billion. Nearly half that total is just from Apple. It pledged to buy back $100 billion of its own stock.

So what about workers? We know that roughly 3 million workers got one-time bonuses and those bonuses were partly reflected in higher wages and salaries in the first quarter of more than $119 billion in the first three months of the year. But that translated and actually hasn't translated into a big jump in consumer spending which rose 1% in the first quarter. Overall, it's clear the corporate tax cut is a bigger boon to shareholders than to workers.

And check this out. Of 137 raffle, 1000 companies tracked by just capital, 57% of their tax savings is going to shareholders. Just 7% is going to workers. John?

[12:50:00] KING: Alison Kosik, I appreciate the work. It's a great pie chart at the end there.

Look, you could find a data points in this and say, look, families have a couple hundred, couple thousand dollars in their pockets, that's a good thing. That's what Republicans are going to say. Businesses are using that money in some cases to buy new truck, raising new equipment, that's a good thing. Democrats will say look at all that money going into stock buybacks to make the companies richer for the rich people or dividends to big investors and the average workers is not a big investor. This debate will go right up through the midterm elections which is why I think Republicans are partly happy to get away from immigration, if they can.

RAJU: Yes. I mean, if they can stay on message, I mean, Republicans viewed it as if their best election year argument going forward. The question is can the President stay on message to keep that focus on that issue. But I think if you do look at the polls, it really depends on how American workers feel about this and not American workers don't feel an effect from this law. So if the -- but they do feel good about the way the economy is going. So, that ultimately is going to be how this election is fought at the end of the day.

KING: And I think in part it depends on where you live, what your local economy is like. But also in the middle of all these, the President just today, European tariffs and American goods retaliation takes effect today. And the President then got on Twitter this morning saying, OK, fine, you're going to do this, I'm going to do more. The President tweeting based on tariffs, he could soon place a 20% tariff on all European cars coming into the United States.

So, in the middle of this, the Republicans, they're not caught in an immigration debate they didn't want, thanks to the President. They want to talk us about taxes and the economy, but in many of these places they have to deal now with trade wars and tariffs, so what they do is a blanket over that economic growth.

HAM: Yes. I think that's the bigger threat. It's not that people won't feel the tax cut, or Republicans can't message a tax cut successfully but the trade war stuff is going to undermine the economy. And as long as you link the tax reform and the economy and that holds up, then that's an OK message until something goes off the rails.

VISER: And these polling numbers are down in some key states, like Iowa or even states like South Dakota that rely on trade with China with some of the agriculture. There is a lot of worry about what the trade war does there. So there is some concern for President Trump as he undergoes this effort on the trade.

KING: And again, in the debate we hear a lot. He views this in a long-term 2020, he'll be fine and we'll help him. The economy is strong enough. We'll get through it. If you're on the ballot this year, in place like Dakotas or a farm state, you think, please sir, please, please

When we come back, the message in a jacket.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:56:28] KING: Welcome back. The message here at a children's immigrant shelter in Texas is unmistakable. Melania Trump believes her husband's policy of separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border was a mistake.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm here to learn about your facility, in which I know you housed children on a long- term basis, and also like to ask you how I can help these children to reunite with their families as quickly as possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: The message here, though, is a huge debate. That's the first lady in the olive green jacket. This message on the back, "I really don't care. Do you?" In white lettering.

To be clear, the first lady wore it getting on the plane as you see there. And then again once she got back to D.C. she did not wear it when visiting that border facility. Still, people took notice.

To New York post trends at this way. Black jacket suggesting the first lady is going rogue. Melania visit border kids in this quote, "And on the home page of Drudge, this first lady fashion fireworks."

OK. So just a jacket is what the first lady's office says. Sorry. She's making a statement, she knows what she's doing, she knows what she -- when everything she wears gets watched, so what's the message?

JOHNSON: You know, I think when you're first lady or when you're president, whether or not you want there to be a statement in something, there is a statement in everything you wear, everything is scrutinized. Michelle Obama, if course would know that and I think, you know, better than anyone. And so, it was -- I think the responsibility of her staff if she wanted to wear that for somebody to pull her aside and say that's not an appropriate thing to wear. And you're going to come under fire for wearing it and to grab it off her back.

KING: I'm going to --

RAJU: Yes.

KING: -- bet they did everything up to the grab it off her back part. But she -- This is her decision.

RAJU: And look the president tweeting yesterday that the message was going after the media so the media would talk about it. Even if that were the case, which of course the first lady's office said there was no hidden message. But if that was a message, that's inappropriate, either because this is supposed to be about separated children. Why are they trying to troll the media when the focus should be on this plight that's happening at the border?

KING: And Fox News generally defending, a defender of the administration even on Fox News a little confused by this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEWS COMMENTATOR: Whoever the chief of staff of the first lady is should be fired for allowing her to wear that jacket down to the border. Here she had a noble gesture, totally selfless, so important and she wore a coat that gave critics of the president something else to talk about to deflect the fact that she had gone to see with her own eyes this tragic situation. I think that was a staff error. It was really a rookie mistake --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It got us talking about the wrong stuff.

RIVERA: It got us talking -- exactly the wrong stuff.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: And for all of you trashing Melania Trump, nice try. It's not working and you're digging yourself into a deeper hole.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I think it's a mistake here made by the first lady. She says, she was trying to deliver two messages yesterday. One was compassion at the border, reunite those families. The other, whatever she meant by the jacket.

HAM: Yes. No, I think it was probably an attack on someone else. I think she does actually disagree with the policy at the border perhaps the press because there wasn't weird speculation after she went to the hospital she may be a little ill about that. But the item is, that it was unintentional. She doesn't wore stuff with words on it, she doesn't ware this particular designer or store very often.

And she has trolled with her fashion several times with the Gucci blouse, with a white pantsuit, with the Robinson's blue outfit at the inauguration which was hearkening back to Kennedy to Jackie Kennedy. So she meant to say something. It's like walking post modern performance art at this point.

RAJU: In a hot day in Washington.

KING: Everyone wore jacket, strange jacket in the (INAUDIBLE) day yesterday.

All right. We'll figure it out eventually all we want. Thanks for watching joining to the Inside Politics. Appreciate your time. Have a great afternoon. Wolf starts right now.