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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump Takes Divisive Tone Again After Pro-Unity Speech; Thirty- six Republicans Leaving the House; Tillerson Celebrates A Year in Office; Trump Addresses Lawmakers at GOP Retreat. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 1, 2018 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:33:27] DANA BASH, CNN HOST: President Trump is scheduled to speak in just a few minutes in West Virginia. We are on it live, of course, we'll bring it to you when it happens.

Meanwhile, the president is tweeting a familiar tone, seemingly putting aside the across the aisle unity message that he emphasized during his state of the union address. He wrote in a tweet today, "Heading to beautiful West Virginia to be with great members of the Republican Party. We'll be planning infrastructure and discussing immigration and DACA. Not easy when we have no support from the Democrats. Not one Dem voted for our tax cut bill. Need more Republicans in '18."

And afterward he said, "March 5th is rapidly approaching and the Democrats are doing nothing about DACA. They resist, blame, complain, and obstruct, and do nothing. Start pushing Nancy Pelosi and the Dems to work out a DACA fix, now!"

CNN's Phil Mattingly is in West Virginia at the annual Republican retreat. And Phil, behind closed doors, what is your sense of the mood particularly when it comes to this very tough election year, especially for House Republicans?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Better. At least, that's according to several lawmakers and aides who went in a private briefing with Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell yesterday.

Basically, what I'm told as they went through a PowerPoint presentation that showed numbers rising in terms of support for the tax reform bill, and numbers shrinking in terms of the generic ballot match up between Democrats and Republicans.

That is a turn -- Dana, if you recall back in early January when the president met privately with Republican leaders at Camp David and Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy laid out a very dire scenario in terms of what the numbers we're all looking at.

[12:35:05] So, they look at that as a positive, no question about it. But I also think I know as told they approached it with cautious optimism but also realism. The speaker laying out the realities of midterm election for a first term president, the real headwinds that people are facing, and the fact that still there are a lot of Americans who are opposed to the tax overhaul bill. That is something, Dana Republicans think they can change when they look at those rising numbers. I'm told the speaker told members explicitly, when you wake up in the morning, you should be talking about the tax bill. When you go to sleep in the morning -- in the evening, you should be dreaming about the tax bill.

That would be their focus. That's where they're willing to live and die on in this campaign, Dana.

BASH: And the question is whether they're going to get back that back up from the president himself who has the biggest megaphone of any of them on that note. So what do we expect to hear from the president today?

MATTINGLY: So basically what I'm told is you're going to hear a lot of similar themes that you saw at the state of the union just a couple of days ago. We had Vice President Mike Pence here last night talking to members and he was making very clear kind of similar points that the speaker is making behind closed doors.

You need to talk about what Republicans did in 2017. For all the talk of unifying and bipartisanship, they want to focus on what they accomplished. And if you look at the very end of 2017 with that tax overhaul, with some of the judiciary appointments that the Senate was able to push through, they have a record to run on. The question is, are they willing to do it?

I will tell you this, Dana. You know this better as well as anybody. You talk to Republicans from the House, especially who are in tough races, concerned about whether or not the president will be a drag on them. The vice president and the president today will say, not the case. We're going to stand with you shoulder by shoulder. We will be with you the entirety of 2018.

The question is if all the House Republicans would actually want that, Dana.

BASH: That is the key question for sure. Maybe some Senate Republicans where the president won by double digits plus, but maybe not so much some of the House members in tough races. Thanks so much, Phil. Appreciate that reporting.

Back around the table, I want to pick up at one of the things Phil was talking about, the generic ballot which basically means how broadly the House Democrats are perceived versus how the House Republicans are perceived.

And he's talking about private polling inside the Republican Party showing it looking better for Republicans. That's true in some public polling as well. Monmouth University did it and showed that Democrats only held a two percent point edge in the generic congressional ballot, 47-45. And that is down from a 15 point lead for Democrats in December in this poll.

Do you think it's the taxes, period? The tax reform bill. JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think that's certainly was a big factor. And the fact that Congress did something, that the Republican rolling the House and the Senate.

Up until the tax bill really, you know, they were not able to repeal and replace ObamaCare. The list of unable to, you know, was much longer. So, look, I think that had an effect.

And what Phil said, Republicans members should wake up thinking about taxes. As you said, they wish the president would just talk about this. He's talking about nothing else, why doesn't he travel the country talking about this instead of stewing inside the Oval Office and the White House about everything else here.

I mean, he draws attention to the Russia investigation. But I think this is a reminder that Democrats here, of course, history would show us that it will be a good year for Democrats. The president's party of power always loses seats with the exception in modern times of President Bush in the wake of 9/11, of course.

But Democrats have been recruiting very well, but it's no walk in the park for them, either, because they have their own internal divisions in their party. So I think -- it's February 1st, let's take a deep breath and see how these individual races go.

About retirements, I mean, there are many Republican retirements are happening and that's always the sign.

KAREN TUMULTY, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: That the important thing for Republicans here is to take this tax bill and tie it to the good things people are seeing in the economy. And the fact that people are more optimistic about the economy than they have been in well over a decade in every single poll. What Republicans are counting on, yes, this tax bill was unpopular when it was passed, and yes, it remains somewhat unpopular, but starting in March people are going to begin to see little changes, in some cases big changes, in their pay stubs.

And the Republicans are also going to try to wrap this in and say, look, you want this to continue, you got to keep voting for Republicans.

BASH: And Mary Katharine, Jeff just talked about something that's really important here in this whole calculus about whether Republicans can take the House. Thirty-six House Republicans have announced that they're retiring or they're running for another office meaning they're not going to run for reelection in the House. That's 15 percent of the House Republican caucus. Historic.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, THE FEDERALIST: Yes, it matters a lot. It means there's none an appetite for running in some of these counties particularly some of these earliest districts are sort of color, (INAUDIBLE) places, some of them in high taxed blue states where, by the way, the tax bill does not sell as well to that particular kind of Republican voter who may now be a swing voter. [12:40:02] So you see some indications that there are challenges in those places, even though -- like the tax reform bill has gone up, you know, well into the double digits in approval, and that's before people have seen the impact on their paychecks. So I do think that that's something that will work for Republicans.

They still have to get that credit for that, right? And they have to go home and they have to talk about it and have Trump not completely derail them. And they have to contend with what has proven to be really good organization on the ground from Democrats, plus enthusiasm not just enthusiasm, they actually have thrown together the GOP and done well.

BASH: OK, everybody stand by. We are waiting for the president to speak in West Virginia. You see the podium there with that presidential seal. As soon as he stands behind it, we will get it to you.

But, we also want to look at something that the president is claiming. Record ratings for his state of the union address. The numbers may say otherwise. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:45:20] BASH: While we wait for the president to take the podium, here are some things on our political radar today.

The not so nice back and forth between Vice President Pence and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. The V.P. went on a Twitter tear yesterday, hammering Senator Manchin, a Democrat for voting against the Republican tax and health care plans.

Senator Manchin tweeted today that he is disappointed. His words, "The V.P's comments are exactly why Washington sucks." He also just tweeted a few minutes ago that the V.P. talks a good game on bipartisanship, but that firing shots is not leadership. Manchin is up for reelection this year in a state where the president won by more than 30 points.

A happy day for Rex Tillerson. Plenty of his critics never expected him to last 12 months as secretary of state, but here it is, his one- year anniversary in office. In that time, Tillerson has had to knock down a few rumors that his days were numbered. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm not going to deal with that kind of petty stuff. I mean, this is a town that seems to relish gossip, rumor, innuendo and they feed on it. They feed on one another in a very destructive way. I don't work that way, I don't deal that way.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: This is a Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He said that the president has, quote, castrated you before the world stage.

TILLERSON: A check on pulling attack.

TAPPER: I did not expect that answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: And he told our Elise Labott earlier this year that he doesn't plan to go anywhere.

President Trump is tweeting his delight at -- I'm going to stop telling you this next story and get straight to the president himself. He's about to take the stage in West Virginia. Let's go there.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Paul and Mitch, for the introduction and for your tremendous leadership. You folks have done well. I just looked at some numbers. You've even done better than you thought, I think, based on what we just saw about 10 minutes ago.

And I want to thank you, to the governor of this incredible state, my very good friend Jim Justice and his wonderful wife Cathy, who are with us. And Jim is now a proud member of the Republican Party. He was a Democrat. He switched over, right? You don't see that too often. Maybe you'll see it more and more, but thank you, Jim, and the hotel is beautiful and everything is beautiful. We appreciate it.

It's great to be among so many friends for the second time this week. Tuesday was an incredible evening as we were all inspired, and I really mean that. We were inspired by America's heroes and uplifted by everyone who has sacrificed in the fight for freedom. They were and are incredible people that we saw that night and tremendous courage.

And one of the people, I have to say, boy, you got a very big hand, Steve. Steve Scalise. Great hand.

And we're all truly blessed to be Americans. Before going any further, I want to send our prayers to everyone affected by the train accident yesterday, especially to the family of the person who was so tragically killed. Our thoughts are with the victims and their loved ones. Thank you.

With us today on stage is our incredible leadership team, and they really have. If you just look at what's happened in the last short period of time. Without them I never could have won the presidency, I guess. I don't know, could I have won the presidency without them? Huh? Steve, yes, right? I don't know. But they become very good friends and we're now in battle together and in friendship together.

Senate Majority leader MITCH McConnell. Thank you, Mitch. Great guy. That was a big win we had, Mitch. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn. John, thank you. Great job. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise again. Steve, thank you. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Kevin. Chair John Thune and House Conference Chair Cathy Mcmorris Rodgers.

[12:50:12] Did they forget your name, John? I don't know. What's going on here? John Cornyn everybody knows. They didn't put his name up but that's OK. That's the first time that's ever happened. That will -- hey, John, that will never happen again.

Working together we have accomplished extraordinary things for the American people over the last year, and I really believe this is just the beginning. You know, Paul Ryan called me the other day, and I don't know if I'm supposed to say this, but I will say that he said to me he has never, ever seen the Republican Party so united, so much in like with each other, but literally the word united was the word he used. It's the most united he's ever seen the party, and I see it, too. I have so many friends in this group, and there is a great coming together that I don't think either party has seen for many, many years. Right? That's good. I was hoping he wouldn't deny that. He did, he called me, and I thought it was very nice so thank you, Paul, very much.

Every day we're removing government burdens and empowering our citizens to follow their hearts and to live out their dreams. The priorities of Republicans in Congress are the priorities of the American people. We believe in strong families, and we believe in strong borders.

We believe in the rule of law and we support the men and women of law enforcement. We believe every American has the right to grow up in a safe home and attend a good school and to have access to a really great job. And we know that for Americans nothing, absolutely nothing is out of reach. Because we don't know the meaning of the word "quit." We don't quit. And the Republican Party certainly hasn't quit.

Because if we did, we wouldn't be here today, we would be sitting home saying, boy, that was a tough year, instead of that was one of the greatest years in the history of politics, in the history of our country for a party, what we've done and what we've accomplished. I don't think it's been done. And certainly not by much.

We had a year that was almost, I would think, unlike any. It was a tremendous success. And I give everybody in this room the credit, and I give certainly these people behind me tremendous credit for what took place, especially in that last month. That was a month of tremendous pressure, and that was people that were able to act under pressure, my favorite type of person. They were able to act under tremendous pressure. So I just want to thank you all because that's what it was all about.

And, you know, it's interesting, while we had a great year, we weren't being given credit for it. Regulations at a level that nobody has ever done. In a year we knocked out more regulations than anybody. Supreme Court justice, judges all over. So many different records, so many successes. But when we got the great tax cut bill, and we call it the tax cut and jobs bill, we got that, it was like putting it all in a box and wrapping it with a beautiful ribbon. We started getting credit not only for that but for all of the other things that we did during the year. It's amazing the way that happened. I was surprised, actually. But we got a lot of credit from a lot of people and all of a sudden they're saying, while he had a lot of accomplishment -- and then they went on to do the thing. But the fact is -- you understand that. But we really did, we got a lot of credit. It all came together in that final month. So I give everybody in this room, really, kudos.

We're a nation of builders and dreamers and strivers and together, we're building a safe, strong, and very proud America already since the election. We've created 2.4 million jobs. That's unthinkable and that doesn't count things that are already happening. You're going to see numbers that get even better. The stock market has added more than $8 trillion in new wealth.

Unemployment climbs at a 45-year low which is something. After years of wage stagnation, we are finally seeing rising wages. African- American and Hispanic unemployment have both reached the lowest levels ever recorded. That's something very, very special.

[12:55:00] And when I made that statement the other night, there was zero movement from the Democrats. They sat there stone cold, no smile, no applause. You would have thought that on that one they would have sort of at least clapped a little bit. Which tells you, perhaps, they'd rather see us not do well than see our country do great, and that's not good. That's not good. We have to change that.

And as I said, we've eliminated more regulations in our first year than any administration as ever eliminated, and that means four years, eight years or, in one instance, 16 years. In one year we've knocked out more regulations. It's an amazing thing. And I happen to think that that is every bit as important toward our success as the tax cuts. I have many business friends and many people in business that came to me and they say that -- including small businesses. They say the fact that they no longer have to go through years of turmoil in getting approved and getting approvals and getting rule changes and getting all sorts of things, and getting old while they're waiting to get them, the fact that all of that is gone is probably as important or even more important to the massive tax cuts we've gotten people. So that's something. We've signed into law the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history.

And I have to say, included in there is the individual mandate. We repealed it. That's a big one. That's so big. By itself that would be a big achievement. And we sort of take it as, well, that was included. And ANWR, one of the great potential fields anywhere in the world. And I never appreciated ANWR so much. A friend of mine called up who's in that world and that business and said, is it true you're thinking about ANWR? I said, yes, I think we're going to get it. But, you know, he said, are you kidding, that's the biggest thing by itself. Ronald Reagan and every president has wanted to get ANWR approved.

And after that I said, make sure that's in the bill. It's amazing how that had a big impact. That had a very big impact on me, Paul. I really didn't care about it, and then when I heard that everybody wanted it, for 40 years they've been trying to get it approved, I said, make sure you don't lose ANWR. But it's great for the people of Alaska and Senator Sullivan and Senator Murkowski are here someplace. Where are they? But they are very happy (INAUDIBLE). Senator, thank you. They work very -- where is Don Young? He's such a quiet guy. Where is -- Don Young also. Don, thank you.

We were always good together, we never had a problem with it. But you think about it, that by itself is a big bill. The individual mandate by itself is a big, powerful bill. That was just added on to what we did with the massive tax cuts. I want to thank Senator finance chairman and a very spectacular man, Orrin Hatch. Where is Orrin? Orrin is -- I love listening to him speak. He said once, I am the single greatest president in his lifetime. Not as a young so it's not that much but -- and he actually once said I'm the greatest president in the history of our country. And I said, does that include Lincoln and Washington? He said yes. I love this guy. I love him but he is -- he is a special guy.

And House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady for their incredible work. Kevin, where are you, Kevin? What a job. I'd call Kevin night after night, Kevin, what about this, what about that? You were always there. He was working. What do you average sleep in about four weeks? It's about -- maybe nothing. I think he had no average but you did a great job. Nobody knows it better than you, Kevin. Thank you. Maybe we'll do a phase two. I don't know. We'll do a phase two. Are you ready for that, Kevin? I think you're ready. We'll get them even lower. But we are proud of you.

Here in West Virginia as a result of our tax cuts, the typical family of four will save roughly $2,000 a year. To lower tax rates for hard working Americans, we nearly doubled the standard deduction for everyone. Now, the first $24,000 earned by a married couple is completely tax free.

And when I came into this beautiful building, just a little while ago one of the people said, you know, I just got a check and I have $221 there are more than I had last year at this time in my envelope. At that one -- hey, really, that's what we were -- we were waiting until February. And then we got hit with these corporations giving tremendous bonuses to everybody that Nancy Pelosi called crumbs. That was a bad -- that could be like deplorable. Does that make sense, deplorable and crumbs?