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INSIDE POLITICS

Florence Now a Category 4; Trump Hampers GOP Agenda; Trump Boasts of Booming Economy. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 10, 2018 - 12:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:00:10] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

What chaos? President Trump says his White House is a well-oiled machine, but he's on a manhunt for aides who think otherwise.

And Republicans worry about his focus as they try now to avoid a government shut down and to prepare for the midterms.

Plus, the president channels James Carville, of all people, tweeting, it's the economy, stupid. He does have good reason to brag. So why, as he did yet again today, twist the facts and lie?

And "Survivor," Democratic edition. Nancy Pelosi acknowledges the generational revolt on the left, but insists she has one good reason to fight to stay in power.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: I do agree that it's time for new blood and we should move on. And if Hillary Clinton had won and the Affordable Care Act was protected, I feel very proprietary about that, I was happy to go my way. But to have no woman at the table and to have the Affordable Care Act at risk, I said, as long as he's here, I'm here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Politics in a moment, but first, though, an important update on a very major story we're watching affecting millions along the East Coast. Florence gaining strength and is now a major hurricane churning towards the Carolinas. A mandatory evacuation order now in effect for Hatteras Island, along North Carolina's Outer Banks.

Our meteorologist, Allison Chinchar, tracking the storm for the CNN Weather Center.

Allison, a new update and it's a big one.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, actually, and it's very rare for them to issue updates at 12:00. Usually the updates come out at 11:00 and 2:00. So this is -- it's important. And the reason they're doing this is they want you to know that it has now increased to the next category. At 11:00 we were a category three. We are now up to a category four storm. Winds sustained are 130 miles per hour with this storm, gusting up to 140. The other thing to note is the eye is really starting to come into play where you can really see it visible on those satellite images.

Now, the thing is, we expect it to maintain that strong strength for the next several days as it approaches the U.S. Right now, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina are still all at play for an actual landfall Thursday or Friday. The reason we give two days on that is because the models are kind of torn as to exactly when landfall is expected.

The blue model here, that's the European. It really wants to make landfall sometime Thursday afternoon. But the red dot, that's the American model, holds it off until early Friday morning. So really it could be anywhere within say Thursday at noon to Friday at noon for the actual landfall.

The main concern going forward is the tremendous amount of rain because once it makes landfall, it's expected to just sit in place. So it will have a lot of time to dump a tremendous amount of rain.

Both models, both the European and the American show this white and purple. That shows 10 to 20 inches. The difference, John, is where. The European model pushing it a little further inland. The American model, right along the coastline. So we'll obviously have to keep a close eye on this in the coming days.

KING: And, Allison, take us through, you mentioned how rare it is to get an update. At 11:00 they said cat three. Then they give a rare noon update that said cat four. What does that tell us, A, about the strength of this storm, and, B, about the amount of water, which is, of course, what you worry about most?

CHINCHAR: I think the point of them doing it was to tell people to start to prepare. If you live in any of those states, start preparing now. Don't wait until Wednesday to do it.

KING: Allison, appreciate that. And it's important. A lot of people say, why are you telling me about this on a Monday when I don't have to worry about it until Thursday or Friday? Allison makes the key point right there, prepare now while you can. Keep in touch. We'll keep track on this from the Weather Center.

Allison, we really appreciate that.

Turning now to big political news and the president's fixations competing with governing and political priorities. The government, as of now, shuts down in 21 days. Voters go to the polls in 57.

Republican leadership knows their party needs essentially, in a baseball metaphor, to pitch a perfect game to stop a Democratic takeover of Congress. Amen, those leaders say, when the president starts the day as he did today by pounding the economic success story. But, oh, my, that's the polite version of what those GOP leaders say, when the morning tweet fest takes its inevitable detour to what is most animating the president. Fiction, the president said this morning, of the unflattering portrait in the new Bob Woodward book. He's also mad, of course, about that alarming "New York Times" op-ed. I'll write the real book, the president promises.

The president's op-ed fury is still fresh. The White House now spending its time talking about suspects lists, lie detector tests and traitors in their midst. The problem doesn't promise to end. Woodward's book officially releases tomorrow. The president already tweeting about the author's morning "Today" show interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, "FEAR: TRUMP IN THE WHITE HOUSE": Well, I've never seen an instance when the president is so detached from the reality of what's going on. But there's a war on truth by him. And he says, oh, these are unnamed sources, but these are not unnamed incidents. Specific people on specific dates.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[12:05:19] KING: Let's go straight to CNN's Abby Phillip at the White House.

Abby, one school of thought is ignore this, let it go. The president, obviously, can't.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Clearly, John. The president is preoccupied still by Bob Woodward's book, even as it's expected to come out widely tomorrow. The president tweeting so many times this morning about Woodward trying to undermine this book and trying to tout his economic successes which he was clearly frustrated wasn't part of the narrative that Woodward told and all the various anecdotes that came out as a result of this book.

But even though President Trump says this is a smooth running machine he has here at this White House, it's belied by what we've seen from the last couple of days. This anonymous op-ed from an administration official has really set this White House into this parlor game of finger pointing and people saying it's not me. Even Vice President Mike Pence saying he was willing to take a lie detector test. And Kellyanne Conway, counsellor to the president, denouncing the leaker and saying that this person was trying to sow chaos.

Clearly chaos has been sewn here at this White House. They are -- continue to talk about the prospects that President Trump wants to out this person. He's already said Attorney General Jeff Sessions ought to investigate. But still, as of yet, there is no indication that there was anything to investigate other than aides in this administration continuing to raise doubts and questions about President Trump's fitness to lead.

John.

KING: Abby Phillip live at the White House. Abby, appreciate that. With me here in studio to share their reporting and their insights,

Julie Pace with "The Associated Press," CNN's Manu Raju, Michael Warren with "The Weekly Standard," and Jackie Kucinich with "The Daily Beast."

The drama is just indisputable. The question is, you write a great piece about this today, and Republican leaders want to kind of keep the government open. They think that's their responsibility. They have an election in 57 days where if a betting person today would say their probability of losing the House, possibility of losing the Senate and then the president keeps -- we focus on this anyway, but the president churns it up even more to their great dismay.

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": He keeps fueling this. That's why it continues to be in the headlines because he keeps putting it there. And it's just so frustrating for Republican leaders because they actually feel like, despite history being against them, the president's party tends to do poorly in a midterm election, despite that history, they actually feel like they have a good story to tell. They can talk about the economy. They still lean heavily on the tax plan that they passed at the end of last year.

And even when they can get the president to be tweeting about that in the morning, he overshadows it and he's going to continue to do that because he is so personally frustrate. And we know that the president has a real inability to put aside his personal feelings for, not just of the greater good of the Republican Party, but the greater good of his own presidency. I mean if this election goes against Republicans, the consequences for this president are enormous and he has not seemed to fully grasp that at this point.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE DAILY BEAST": Well, and the other thing that they have working against them is the president says, as you see, it said one thing in the morning and then he says something different hours later. Take the government shutdown, for example. He said that, you know, he's a (INAUDIBLE) leader. He's not going to shut down the government. Then he's at a rally and he says -- or he has an interview and he says, maybe I will. And you have -- I was at a breakfast with Steve Cyrus (ph) last week and he said, you know, I can't tell enough people how bad a shutdown will be, not only for the party, but for the country. So not -- you have conflicting -- the conflicting -- even the confliction isn't necessarily something that stays the same, you know, throughout the day.

MICHAEL WARREN, SENIOR WRITER, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": But I would say that -- that -- what you just described, Jackie, is a -- confirms what the Woodward book describes --

KING: Right.

KUCINICH: Right.

WARREN: Which is a president and if (INAUDIBLE) a White House and an administration that is pulled in all sorts of different directions. So I think the president is going to have a hard time refuting the book, which does give some really interesting insights, specific examples of what we have all reported on and what is actually pretty apparent to the public, which is the president cares most about the things that affect him directly, whether it's the Mueller investigation, the way that the press is covering him, all of these things. What the book does and what I think his response does is confirm what we all kind of know already.

KING: To the point --

KUCINICH: Right.

KING: To the point that you have this rush of what I call -- not to minimize anything else -- but the not me movement inside the White House lead by the vice president of the United States who goes out on two Sunday shows and has to -- has to deny. The op-ed writer says there have been conversations about the 25th Amendment, removing the president from power. He has to deny that. And listen to him here on "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace. Again, we're 57 days from the midterm election. The government shutdown is right before us. The vice president's been around a long time. You can ask him anything. He's smart enough to know you can change the question. Just say, that's stupid. I don't want to talk about that. Let's talk about this instead. He knows about the audience of one. So --

[12:10:05] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEW SUNDAY": He said all top officials take a lie detector test. And would you agree to take one?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would agree to take it in a heartbeat and would submit to any review the administration wanted to do.

WALLACE: Do you think that the administration should do that?

PENCE: Well, that -- look, that would be a decision for the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that -- I think that Pence is still concerned about the speculation that came right after that, that he was the one, or someone in his universe was involved with writing the op-ed. Clearly this also -- this just demonstrates the president's obsession about finding this author.

I mean Kellyanne Conway this morning was on Fox. She was pestered -- she was peppered with questions about who wrote that op-ed because the president himself is obsessed with it.

Lindsey Graham, when I was talking to him last week, who had talked to the president after this op-ed, he told the president, don't make this your obsession. Don't make the Woodward book your obsession. This is -- you're just going to sell more copies of the Woodward book. He said, just fight back smartly. The president says he wanted to fight back. That's what he told Lindsey Graham. And clearly he's not listening to that advice to stay on message. PACE: I think it's important though that we really think through the

consequences of this inside the West Wing right now because, yes, there's a lot of gossip and there's a lot of discussion, who is it. This has become quite a Washington parlor game over the last few days. But think about going to work in that West Wing every day.

KING: Right.

PACE: It was already a place where you had a lot of distrust because you have a lot of people going before grand juries, talking to the Mueller team, leaking to the press every day. Now you add on both the Woodward book and this anonymous op-ed. How do you trust your colleagues at this point? How do you have a sensitive discussion with them? How do you have a real debate over important issues if you assume that someone's going to come out and do some of these things that are happening there? It is just, I think, a really untenable work environment.

KING: Right. Add into that, Omarosa was just on "The View." She played another snippet of a tape. This one seems -- it doesn't seem to make any great news value. The president walks into a meeting in the communication staff. He says, this is all about Hillary Clinton, right? The Russia story's flipped on Hillary Clinton. The president's, you know, goes off, but the aides saying, yes, Mr. President. Absolutely, Mr. President. So it shows how, you know -- well, whatever.

But it shows the president keeps lashing out at the deep state. He keeps lashing out at the media. These are people the president put in trusted positions. In Omarosa's case she writes a book. In Bob Woodward's case, who clearly cooperated with this book. And now the president wants to know not, let's figure out how to not shut down the government, but who are these people?

RAJU: Yes.

KUCINICH: Well, I mean, I think part of the problem is, there has been a lot of churn out of this White House. They say it's disgruntled employees. Well, my goodness, there are so many disgruntled ex- employees at this point coming out of this White House. And then sometimes you can't help that. But on the other hand, you can. This is, you know, historic turnover.

KING: Right.

KUCINICH: We talk a lot about history in this administration. I mean the top levels of this administration has completely turned over sometimes a couple times over.

RAJU: And the frustration too, when you talk to senior administration officials, White House officials, is that you never really know what the president wants.

KUCINICH: Right.

RAJU: Very -- (INAUDIBLE) of just almost they're trying to interpret what the president wants. They believe he wants to do this and so they decide to take this step or that step and it turns out to be something different because the president's completely changed his mind and that leads to a lot of frustration, finger pointing and factions within the administration.

KING: And it is him and how he conducts his business that is central to voters, independent, suburban women especially. That's why the Republican Party is nervous about the substance of this and the timing of this.

We'll continue the conversation.

Up next, the White House insists the American economy going strong. They have the facts to back it up. So why then does the president twist facts and lie about just how good it is?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:17:46] KING: Welcome back.

President Trump downright giddy about the economy today. His Twitter feed, full of gems. Take a look at just some. President Trump would need a magic wand to get 4 percent GDP stated President Obama. I guess I have a magic wand, 4.2 percent and we will do much better than this. We have just begun.

The president also tweets this, the economy is so good. Perhaps the best in our country's history. Remember, it's the economy, stupid. James Carville somewhere is hiding.

There's more. He opened -- I opened up our beautiful economic engine with regulation and tax cuts. We are enjoying a beautiful economy at the moment. We are. The president has every reason to brag.

So why lie then? Look at this. The GDP rate, 4.2 percent, is higher than the unemployment rate, 3.9 percent, for the first time in over 100 years. Not true, Mr. President. Not even close. The GDP has, in fact, been higher than the unemployment rate dozens of times, dozens of times in that span. Most recently in 2006. Which brings you to the question, why? He does have, whether you like this president, whether you don't like this president, whether you agree with his policies or not, whether you think Obama deserves more credit, he's president. The economy is booming. It's just a tradition in American politics, the president benefits. The rising tide lifts all boats. He has every right, every reason to brag. Republicans want him to talk about the economy. Why throw a lie in there to allow us to have this conversation about this?

WARREN: Now you're getting mired in the details. I mean, come on.

No, look, I think this is -- he is unable -- we talk about the Woodward book in the last segment -- something that comes through a lot in the book is he's sort of unable to not exaggerate, to not boost up his own accomplishments. And I think that it's something that he's -- he just -- he just has to be the best at everything he's done. This is another perfect example. I've been wondering why the president just does not simply talk about this, talk about none of the other -- you know, the Mueller stuff or the book or whatever. It's like asking him -- it's like asking a fish not to swim in water. I mean it's like it's his nature and we can't be surprised that he's unable to (INAUDIBLE).

RAJU: And how much of this pushback too has to do with the fact that President Obama came out on Friday and started to make that case very clearly that he -- that Trump inherited this economy. He said that -- and obviously that got under the skin of this president.

[12:20:09] But you have not really heard Democrats making that sustained argument up until this point. In fact, the Obama years, they were actually --

KING: You didn't really hear Obama or Hillary Clinton make that argument in 2016.

RAJU: Exactly.

KUCINICH: Yes.

RAJU: Exactly. That's been their problem that Democrats themselves have said that, why didn't we make this case ourselves? But, clearly, that's what Obama's doing now. We'll see how he does going forward. And maybe this is what's getting under Trump's skin.

PACE: I think it gets under Obama and his advisers' skin too, though --

KING: Yes.

PACE: To have Trump being --

KUCINICH: Right.

PACE: Taking credit for this economy because they do feel like this -- and it did. If you look at the numbers, the economic gains started under the Obama administration --

KING: Right.

PACE: But there's no doubt they have continued under the Trump administration. And if you look, not just at unemployment and GDP, if you also look at things like consumer confidence --

KUCINICH: Yes.

KING: Right.

PACE: If you look at business confidence, those have increased under this president, in large part because businesses were in favor of the tax cut, but some of the other policies as well. I know we're going to talk about tariffs. That is the big, I think, looming question though on what that will do.

KING: Right. From a policy perspective, you may see a reckoning ahead from the tax cuts with the effect on the deficit. From deregulation and the effect on other things. You may believe there's a reckoning around the corner. But there's no question, we've had 95 consecutive months of job growth. Donald Trump has been president for 19 months. It started under President Obama. That's a fact. I don't care your politics, that's a fact. It has accelerated under President Trump. That's a fact. And that's what he should be bragging about.

Or this. Look at this graphic from "The Washington Post" today. One of the big issues, one of the reasons Donald Trump is president is because a lot of blue collar America, people who work with their hands, they don't feel, even if the economy did come back under President Obama, they didn't feel it was affecting them. This shows blue collar job growth. Some of it started during the Obama presidency, but a lot of it is during the Trump presidency. Why can't, instead of lying about statistics or making statistics up or I don't know who gave them to him but they're wrong, sir, and it's your job, it's your name, why not focus on the stuff where you should say, hey, look, I promised you and I'm delivering.

KUCINICH: It's an excellent question, but there really isn't a good -- no, but there really isn't a good explanation for it other than what Mike was talking about, that it's just not in his nature not to exaggerate.

But I also, as Manu said, I don't think you can take away the rivalry with President Obama. I think that's a really big part of this. Should he be talking about that in terms of that rivalry? Sure, he should. But --

KING: And he throws into it over the weekend, Ford abruptly killed a plan to sell a Chinese-made small vehicle here in the United States because of the prospect of higher U.S. tariffs. That's according to CNBC. This is just the beginning. This car can now be built in the USA. Ford will pay no tariffs. Ford says it would not be profitable to build the Focus Active in the United States given an expected annual sales volume of fewer than 50,000 units. So the president says, hey, build it here. Ford says, that's not going to happen.

This is an impact. You talk to a lot of Republican strategists doing races in the Midwest and in farm states, they say the national economic numbers are great, but they do worry that in pockets that are important to them electorally this fall they're starting to see some signs of trouble.

PACE: Places like Indiana, where you've got a really competitive Senate race that by all accounts should be leaning toward the Republican, now Joe Donnelly, the Democratic incumbent, is starting to feel a little bit better there in part because of what he's hearing for farmers, from what he's hearing from people who are going to be directly impacted by this. And I think that Republicans, if they have one major concern that's not the tweets, that's kind of a standard concern with them, but one major concern going into this fall election is going to be that the impact of the tariffs will start to be seen or that just the fear of the tariffs coming will really undercut all this positive economic news.

WARREN: And that puts the squeeze of both of the sort of groups of Republican voters. Sort of the more traditional suburban Republican voter who don't really like Trump what they -- but these -- he wasn't Hillary, so they voted for him. Well, now, the cost of everything could be going up.

Then you have the blue collar worker, who, a lot of them voted for Obama or had voted for Democrats in the past, who are now very happy to be seeing more jobs and wage growth there, but they could be feeling the squeeze, too. And it's not inconceivable for them to vote for someone like Joe Donnelly. They're not used to voting for Republicans for Senate. They voted for Donald Trump, but they're willing to swing. That puts a squeeze, I think --

RAJU: Gives them that -- gives Democrats an issue to --

PACE: Yes.

RAJU: To get -- separate themselves from the president without looking like they're being partisan.

WARREN: The --

KING: Right.

WARREN: The Republicans are running on a traditional Republican economic message, which was not Trump's economic message in 2016.

KING: Right. It's very important, as we look at these great national economic numbers in the context of the election, to go state by state, just like the electoral college. In some cases within big complicated states, sometimes the manufacturing areas are doing great, the farm areas, not so great. So it is quite complicated.

Up next for us here, Republicans Texas, SOS? Why they're calling in reinforcements in what most of us view as a ruby red state.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:29:18] KING: Welcome back.

Fifty-seven days now until the midterm elections. We talk a lot about the House, but new CNN race rankings underscore a highly competitive fight for control of the Senate and help explain a Republican red alert in a most unlikely place, Texas.

Let's take a look. Here's where we ended last week. if you take all of the races that are solid, likely or lean for each party and assign them, last week we had 49 seats either solid, likely or leaning Republican in the Senate, 44 seats solid, likely or leaning Democratic in the Senate.

Here are our new rankings this week. You see it goes from seven tossups to six. Democrats pick up one. So not a dramatic shift, but still evidence that the Democrats remain, steep hill, but remain in play when it comes to the Senate. It's what changed that's interesting. If you're the Republicans, you're happy with this, North Dakota moving from a toss-up, that's a Democratic incumbent, to lean Republican, a race moving right. New Jersey, steeper for the Republicans, but from solid Democrat we move it to likely Democrat. A Democratic incumbent there.

[12:30:14]