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INSIDE POLITICS

Tillerson: Trump-Putin Meeting Still Under Consideration; Pelosi: Millions In Middle Class Face Tax Hike Under GOP Plan; Democrats See New Opportunities After Tuesday Election; Sen. Paul's Alleged Attacker Pleads Not Guilty; Sen. Paul's Office: "This Was Not A Fight, It Was A Blindside". Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 9, 2017 - 12:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:30:17] JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS HOST: Welcome back. Mixed signals today from the Kremlin and the White House. Will Presidents Trump and Putin meet tomorrow or are they too far apart on anything important to make a meeting worth while? The leaders will both be in Vietnam for the Annual Asian Pacific Economic Summit.

Russia says the meeting is on and that the exact time and the agenda are being negotiated. But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says it's all TBD.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: With respect to the potential meeting between President Trump and President Putin, that's still under consideration. The view has been if the two leaders are going to meet, is there something sufficiently substantive to talk about that would warrant a formal meeting. And so I would just say there has been no conclusion made on that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We seem to have a slight difference of opinion here.

ABBY PHILLIP, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think it's also interesting how often this White House and this administration generally allow the Russians to set the narrative about these conversations. I remember very similar thing happening before their last face-to-face meeting in which there was a lot of information coming out of the Kremlin and not much information coming out of the White House. And what is coming out of the administration is this internal dispute about whether it is wise to do it at this moment or not.

So, you know, on some level they have to kind of resolve this at some point, figure out what their strategy is. The challenges that its people like Tillerson warning against the President and, you know, you know who wins those disputes.

KING: But there is -- I mean, if maybe they don't have an agreement on any transactions if you will, but North Korea, the President said repeatedly on his trip he needs China and Russia to help him on North Korea. There's been a lot happening in recent weeks in Syria where Russia has not been on the same page with the United States and that's a dramatic understatement.

So there's reason for the two leaders to talk. There's also the undercurrent that if they talked, would the President of the United States criticize Putin? Would the President of the United States raise an issue that every, look at the congressional investigations, look at his own intelligence agencies, say Russia is still trying to middle in U.S. elections.

Our Jeff Zeleny tried to ask Secretary of State that question. You have to listen closely here. It's hard to hear Jeff's question but we showed here in the screen. If they meet, will the President bring up Russian election meddling?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Russian meddling investigation is still on the list of things to talk about? Were they considered to be at the (INAUDIBLE)?

TILLERSON: It stays on that list.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: It stays on that list from Secretary Tillerson's view. But we've also had the reporting in the last week that the President of the United States told his CIA director to meet with a conspiracy theorist who says it wasn't the Russians who hacked in. It was some internal hack job inside the DNC. So we know what the President still thinks about this.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. When they met previously, the readout was that the President brought it up. But we don't know to what extent, in what context if he said look, I'm really, really sorry that they're just investigating. Like we'll get over this, or if he said stop interfering in our elections. We don't really know the answer to that.

But the Tillerson/Trump administration versus the Kremlin negotiation about this meeting playing out in public is so fascinating. Because obviously the Russians are trying to make it happen by saying it publicly. And now that they have said it publicly, Tillerson is trying to use that as leverage for whatever he is trying to get behind the scenes to actually make it so.

And, you know, sometimes we see this kind of diplomacy that normally goes on behind the scenes play out in public. But not to this extent and that's really interesting.

OLIVIER KNOX, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: When they met last time in Hamburg, the Russian readout was that that President Trump has accepted the Russian explanation for the election --

BASH: Right. KNOX: -- meddling, their denial effectively. Some of this is just diplomatic choreography. Because one of the questions is, is it going to be what's called a pollicized? Do they share a hand shake in a conversation in a corner of the room or the other leaders of the Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation former are talking about something else? Or is it a full on sit down bilateral meeting like the one in Hamburg?

If so, who's going to attend? You remember all the kerfuffle about the fact that it was just the President and Secretary Tillerson last time. And then he went over and sat down after dinner. He went over and sat down for a longer conversation with President Putin.

BASH: But we didn't find about --

KNOX: But the Tillerson bar here, if they have something substantive to discuss we've cleared that bar a long time ago, as you illustrated with your list of issues. That part has been cleared. It's not about that anymore. It's not about where the meddling (ph) substantive to discuss.

ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes. Well, I think it's fair to assume that Secretary Tillerson was trying to exact some sort of concession from the Russians in exchange for a meeting or to determine what exactly it was they would be discussing and then the Kremlin got out in front of him. And is trying to strong arm him.

[12:35:05] And what's curious to me is that the White House hasn't come out and said anything or they still seems unresolved now several hours later.

KING: Maybe he wanted concessions from the Russians but they wouldn't put out a readout saying the President accepted President --

JOHNSON: Exactly, exactly.

KING: -- what happened in the election.

A quick break. Coming up, was Tuesday's electoral route for the Democrats? A roadmap to winning back the House in 2018? Nancy Pelosi thinks so.

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KING: Welcome back. Again, what a difference a year makes. A year ago on this day was all doom and gloom for Democrats. Just believe Donald Trump had just won the White House.

[12:40:03] Today, Democrats are ecstatic. Fresh from a top to bottom route in Tuesday's elections. Their performance especially in the vote write suburbs could be a roadmap could be to win back the House. I say could be because there are 362 days to election 2018.

The tax cut debate front and center now just one of the tests Democrats face as they try to keep their momentum. Just moments ago, this from the House Democratic Leader, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi making the case against the Republican plan. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: Thirty-eight million households, middle class households, are facing a Republican tax cut. Thirty-eight million households. So while they say this is for the middle class, it is not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It is the big question. Forgive me for being a little snarky, Democratic circles is we have this great opportunity after Tuesday's elections. So we can go through some of the fundamentals that make them so optimistic. But a lot of Democrats are nervous like are we going to mess this up.

JOHNSON: Well it is -- you know, it is a little bit early to talk about this, but I do think the Virginia gubernatorial race between Ed Gillespie and Ralph Northam was astonishing in that. In many areas, Gillespie's turnout, he improved upon the 13 gubernatorial race turnout. But Northam just improved upon the previous Democratic candidate's turnout, Terry McAuliffe's turnout way more.

KING: Right.

JOHNSON: And so it really does seem to me that Democrats are united by an enthusiasm in terms of opposition to Trump in the same way that Republicans were united by an enthusiasm that brought them out to the polls to oppose Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2016 and all the midterms during the Obama administration. So I don't even think that Republicans -- I just don't think Republicans can do all that much to help themselves.

BASH: Well, I think that you just said it, that they have been enthusiastic about the opposition. And that is why you're seeing Nancy Pelosi come out and start to really go in a very aggressive way against the Republican plan. She is trying to make sure that some of the few moderate Democrats left in the world particularly in the House don't cross party lines.

They want to have full and complete resistance. Why? Because it worked for Republicans. They had full and complete resistance for eight years and they took the House back. I mean, that is the play book that Democrats are using in the House and also in the Senate.

Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, they worked so hard to try to keep the moderate Republicans, many of whom were on the ballot next year, you know, and on tax reform? It's unclear if he's going to be able to do that.

JOHNSON: And by the way, I would add. Now that Republicans are in power, you can really see during all those off year elections during the Obama administration, look how many internal party divisions being united against an external enemy in (INAUDIBLE).

KING: And the question is, can the Democrats maintain that to your point? We just show just a handful of Senate Democrats who -- they are saying Right now they'll go to the meetings at the White House. They'll talk to President Trump about tax reform. Smart for them to do that. They have to win top states back home. The question is, will any of them give him votes?

Will Sherrod Brown, Joe Donnelly, Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin, Claire McCaskill, Jon Tester, all Democrats up in states next year, tough election battles. I believe that President Trump carried all of their states. So it's smart for them politically to show up at the meetings, smart for them to say I'm opening to listening to the President. Let's see if they can have a plan.

But can the Democrats if it's a question of -- Democrats think if Republicans can't pass this, they loss. Will those Democrats hold out if their votes would be the key?

PHILLIP: Well I think that -- up until this point, none of those Democrats have been willing to go along with much that this Republican Congress has put forward. And it's because the political calculus does not work for them. I don't see how it works anymore on this tax bill at least as it's currently constructed in which it is unclear what the benefit is going to be to the middle class. It is being sold as a corporate tax cut, which is astonishing.

And these are folks who --yes, Trump won in their districts but, you know -- or in their states, but they are also looking at a very vulnerable President. You know, I think going back to Virginia briefly, the Virginia results highlight the degree to which Hillary Clinton was a drag on, you know, on the party overall. You know, it's an off-year year now, but Northam really, really over performed.

You saw some of the things that Democrats thought that they were going to see in 2016 that they didn't see because a lot of people weren't willing to vote for Clinton. I think a lot of Democrats are looking at Trump as weak and wounded and unreliable as a political partner. And many of them are not going to be confident enough to stick their necks out.

KING: A lot of Republicans look at him that way too. A lot of Republicans look at him that way. Look at our polling. You have less confidence in the President since he took office. 64 percent overall. 93 percent of Democrats, 65 percent of independents, even 23 percent of Republicans, 52 percent of white non-college voters. A key part of the Trump base.

And yet, listen to Speaker Ryan here. He understands you have a Republican President, he's the head of the party, a lot of my members want to run and hide but --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[12:45:09] REP. PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We already made that choice. We're with Trump. We already made that choice. That's a choice we made at the beginning of the year. That's a choice we made during the campaign which is we merged our agendas.

We ran on a joint agenda with Donald Trump. We got together with Donald Trump when he was president-elect Trump and walked through what is it we want to accomplish in the next two years. We all agreed on that agenda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That is going to be in a lot of Democratic ads and House races. We're with Trump.

KNOX: It didn't run on the same agenda. Speaker Ryan had a whole separate campaign. Was it all a better way? What was the slogan?

The entire year it was like the sort of shadow campaign. It wasn't lined up perfectly with Donald Trump use (ph). Let's get back to Democrats for a second, because (INAUDIBLE) I can play. I talked to Tim Kaine yesterday, former vice presidential candidate, former DNC, and he said that one of the lessons from Virginia is the Virginia Democrats were united and focused on bread and butter issues at the same time. And he drew this distinction explicitly, that the national Democrats were relitigating whether the 2016 primary was rigged. And he said one of those is a winning strategy, the other one not so much.

KING: Not so much. Back to the speaker's point, you're right -- absolutely right. They had a separate agenda, but he also remembers Democrats ran for Obama in 2010, they got pummeled. Republicans referenced (ph) George W. Bush in 2006, they got pummeled. He understands it is what it is. Like it or not, Donald Trump is the leader of the Republican Party.

Before we go to break, I just want to share a rather unusual attempt that this is interesting word, bipartisanship. This is during the House tax bill markup after it deteriorated into a big fight over health care.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE KELLY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: They come here today and somehow try to paint us as some horrible group of people that don't want to do this. It is your health care bill.

REP. PETER ROSKAM (R), ILLINOIS: My suggestion is that we be forward leaning and forward looking and talk about the bill in front of us. The gentleman from Connecticut Mr. Larson, can you lead us now in this renewed effort for focus, Mr Larson?

REP. JOHN LARSON (D), CONNECTICUT: Amazing grace, how sweet thou art.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:51:21] KING: A court appearance today for the man who allegedly attacked Senator Rand Paul leaving the senator with six broken ribs. The man accused pleads not guilty.

It was earlier today Rene Boucher made his first court appearance. You see him right there on the right. He's charged with fourth degree assaults after the altercation with the senator on Friday. Some have called this a fight, but the senator's office today is pushing back when the stern statement just moments ago saying it was an assault. Listen to this. "This was not a fight. It was a blindside, violent attack by a disturbed person." Paul's office said, "Anyone claiming otherwise is simply uninformed or seeking media attention."

This is a bizarre story. It's a serious story. If six broken ribs, this is not a push and a shove. But it seems to get more bizarre by the day. Number one, you have the gentleman in court today pleading not guilty. Police say in a warrant that he acknowledged going out to the senator's property and having this altercation. Of what it is, bizarre.

BASH: Well, it shrouded in mystery because there are so many questions that are not answered. That's kind of statement wouldn't have to be put out if we could just get the answers to the questions on what exactly happened. And there's probably a very good reason or just a reason why we're not getting the answers to those questions.

Maybe it dovetails with this guy pleading not guilty. Who knows. But --

JOHNSON: Right. I mean, we've been told now what it wasn't about on a few occasions and what it wasn't in terms of, you know, it wasn't a fight. But we have not been told what it was and what the nature of the -- or, you know, what the subject of the dispute was. So when we find that out, I think this will be put to rest.

KING: This is a United --

JOHNSON: In the meantime I'm dying to know.

KING: No. You're dying to know anyway, but it's a United States senator --

JOHNSON: Right.

KING: -- who's home, who gets -- he says blindsided. We'll see how the court case placed out. He has six broken ribs, he had a collapsed lung.

BASH: Yes.

KING: The suspect's attorney says this is absolutely and unequivocally not about politics. But if you --

JOHNSON: But it's also not about shrubbery.

KING: Not about shrubbery. But if you follow Rand Paul's twitter feed, he -- and we can show this up here, he is retweeting stories in his the Washington Examiner and from Breitbart news that suggested it is about something about politics. So if he is -- if the senator is retweeting those and the senator is active in social media, he's not a newbie here, we assume that he is trying to say uhm.

PHILLIP: To be clear, he could clear this up very quickly. Letting everybody know what his version of events was. Because he is also the aggrieved party, he is the one injured with the broken ribs. But his office has not done that. And we don't know why. He has not done that.

He could use Twitter just like he's using it to retweet, you know, these stories. And that just only add too to the mystery because they could really just tell us what exactly happen here.

KNOX: I mean, if I had to guess, I'd guess that it's because there's the legal aspect of this where he probably shouldn't weigh in affirmatively on sort of some of the material here. But I can't think anything more 2017 and debating with a Rand Paul, retweeting Breitbart stories about an altercation that is still very mysterious. I can't -- I just can't think of a more 2017 thing to do. What message is he sending?

KING: What message is he sending?

PHILLIP: I can't wait until the airing of grievances at Christmas this year, by the way.

KING: That's the best -- yes. Rand Paul would have -- there will be a Festivus in Rand Paul's neighborhoods and, you know -- yes.

But look, I'm sorry, this is a fascinating case of what happened to anybody, but this is the United States senator who they need back in Washington. And Mitch McConnell, the leader who happens to be from Kentucky as well says he will be back next week.

[12:55:02] BASH: Yes. I mean, Ted Barrett was reporting that at the beginning of this week that this was giving them all heartburn. I mean, not just because their colleague got beaten up in a pretty aggressive way, but just the practical sense because they needed his vote and they do need his vote. So they were happy to hear that he is back.

But from my impression is that even the senior Republican senator, majority leader who happens to be also from Kentucky, at least what he is giving away to reporters in the hallway, he doesn't necessarily know the answers to the questions we've been asking.

KING: We should get those of Senator Paul when he is in town. He's not usually shy about talking to the media. So he's recuperating with some pretty serious injuries right now. Maybe that's one of the reasons we haven't heard from him but he could tweet, he could issue a statement when he's back in town. Guess what, senator first question is not going to about tax reform.

Thanks everybody for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. See you back here tomorrow. Wolf Blitzer in the chair after a quick break. Have a great day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer: It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

We start with breaking news, a major day here in Washington for Republican --