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tv   Inside Politics  CNN  March 19, 2018 9:00am-10:00am PDT

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call today. welcome to "inside politics." i'm john king. thank you for sharing your day with us. the president leaves this hour for new hampshire. the policy goal? to discuss the war on opioids. the political backdrop? fresh chatter about a 2020 republican primary challenge. plus some better news for the president in a new poll, but yet the numbers also suggest there is a big blue 2018 wave brewing. and sharp new personal attacks on the special counsel have republicans asking why and why the president may be about to cross a big line. >> if i were the president, i would be completely and utterly silent about the special prosecutor. he's not acting like -- he's
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acting like he's concerned about something. >> and the president would be making a serious mistake in getting rid of bob mueller which just leads to more problems and another special counsel and it will go on for the next two or three years. >> we begin right there, with the new presidential attacks on the special counsel and the biggest of the many questions they raise. just what is the president afraid of? "witch hunt" was back in today's tweet storm. over the weekend it was the first attack on special counsel bob mueller by name. his tweets are full of anger and full of factual errors wrapped into smears attacking mueller, his team of prosecutors and the fbi investigators helping the investigation. back to another version of that big question. here in the words of republican congressman and foreign prosecutor trey gowdy. if there is no "there" there, why all the fuss, mr. president? >> let it play out its course. if you've done nothing wrong, you should want the investigation to be as fullsome
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and thorough as possible. >> it's clear that's the last thing the president wants. one of the president's lawyers suggests it's silly to suggest that this twitter storm is proof he has something to hide. the fbi in the headlines raising new questions about the conduct of the 2016 campaign and his family business. with us to share their reporting and insights, julie davis with the "washington post." cnn's kaitlan collins. the president i want to get to. for months he listened to his lawyers who said don't do it. now he attacks bob mueller by name saying there is conflicts of interest, no collusion, a mess. what is the possibility of the president crossing the line he previously has not crossed? >> his attorneys have told him this is going to be over, this
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is going to end. mueller is going through his evidence, he's interviewing his witnesses, and sooner than later, this will end. they said it around november, around thanksgiving, maybe at the end of the year. now it's march and he's well into his second year in office and it's not ending. so that strategy of laying off the special counsel, let him do his thing and the air will clear. that is clearly not working in trump's mind. i think that strategy was predicated on advice, let's just hang back here so the special counsel can do his thing, in trump's mind it's over. >> i think it's that and he's also growing more comfortable in his role, like he needs to listen to his lawyers and his outside advisers to not go after the special counsel. >> i don't think you can discount what happened last friday, that mr. mccabe was fired. even if it was a political recommendation by the fbi to do
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that, it sparked this whole political discourse again about the very fundamentals of everything that's going on in top circles of the fbi. the republicans would like to say it was corrupt and the president jumps off another really hard-hitting assault, basically on the mueller probe that started off -- there were tweets about mccabe at the same time. it's kind of a confidence boost for him to go back with this line of, this is all messed up, this is all wrong. >> that's the paradox you're hitting on there. he wants to be leading in the score in the next hour, his view of how to keep score. yet when he fired jim comey, it didn't work out that well. that got to the special counsel. now he fired andrew mccabe. there may have been justification about the decision, and he gloast about that and now talks about bob mueller. mr. president, you don't look like an innocent man here.
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>> cannotexactly. but the question is when is the breaking point for most republicans on capitol hill? we heard some speak out yesterday, most notably trey gowdy. mr. mcconnell has been silent about this, probably will be silent about this until we question him about it. i was talking to public sources this morning and they don't see despite the attacks we saw from the president this weekend, they don't see it as a reason to fire the special counsel. >> the white house has said he's not thinking about firing the special counsel. we know he thought about that before. and in his tweet this morning he cited conflicts of interest in the special counsel investigation, which would be reason to fire him. so he's building a case to fire him. >> the president can't fire bob mueller, number one. he would have to ask his deputy attorney general, rod rosenstein, who said bob mueller
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gets his approval for everything he does from me and i see no reason to stop anything bob mueller is doing. to the point you made about republicans, this is a sampling of republicans on the sunday shows. it's important, but to mitch's point, there is something important missing. >> to suggest that mueller should shut down and all he's looking at is collusion, if you have evidence, mr. mueller, present it. >> i see no cause when it comes to mr. mueller. >> once he goes after mueller, then we'll take action. i think that people see that as a massive red line that can't be crossed. >> it is beyond the pale of presidential conduct having the president of the united states attacking the institutions investigating him. and yet to your point, the majority leader quiet, answers these questions only when forced to answer these questions. the speaker answered through his
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spokeswoman only when people called up and said, do you have any reaction, not stepping forward. they're afraid of the president. if they anger the trump voters, what dissidence will that cause throughout the trump primaries. then to the midterm election year, they're always looking down here and not up here. are you looking up here and not down here to the republican party? >> maybe, but the people who didn't speak about condemning these attacks, there is a bill that could put out that would put any decision of any order to fire the special counsel would have to pass muster of three federal judges. lindsey graham is cothe co-auth of one of those bills. chuck grassley not pushing for it. you asked paul ryan's spokeswoman directly about that. she avoided answering the question. jeff flake is the only person saying the word action. he's got nothing to back it up,
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right? >> i wouldn't advocate for the firing of him. he didn't draw any red lines or say what he would do. that's why i wouldn't advocate for it. >> they have the ability to do something here and they're not doing it. you can condemn a speech and they are, but they're saying, oh, he won't take a step so we're not taking a step. >> i want to get to some of what the president said in a tweet which he finally called out bob mueller by name. >> the mueller investigation shouldn should never have been started that there was no collusion and there was no crime. it was based on fraudulent activities and a fake dossier paid for by crooked hillary and the dnc, and brorply used in fisa court for surveillance of
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my campaign. witch hunt. he knows those things are not true, yet he continues to say them. >> he ignores the fact there have been 19 people indicted in this supposed witch hunt, that he's clearly glossing over the substantive facts of this investigation. i think more important than that, i think what you're seeing is he has this red line or said he had the red line about if mueller started looking at his finances. i think republicans have a red line of really confronting the president on the issue of firing bob mueller, particularly because they're worried about pushing him over the edge. we have seen the president responds to physical stimuli when he feels like he's under attack, when he feels like people who should be his allies or protectors are not playing that role for him, he'll push back. and then if the republicans really started pushing back on him, rather than what trey gowdy said, if you're innocent, act on it. they're suddenly trying to distance themselves from the issue. because if he doesn' dismiss th
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special counsel, republicans want to be nowhere near that decision. >> when the president gets on the phone and start talking to his friends and advisers, what is it? he knows they're negotiating with mueller about a possible interview. he knows what mueller wants to ask him about. he knows subpoenas were served recently in the trump organization about the family business finances. he knows -- we'll get into it later in the program -- his campaign is back in the news to reams and reams of facebook data they had no right to have and then using it to target voters. what else do we know about? >> we know he wants to speak to the special counsel, something his lawyers have advised him not to do. he's clearly abandoned that strategy, so it makes you wonder if he'll say, no, i'm going to talk to the special counsel. we know he was boasting over the weekend about the firing of
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andrew mccabe friday night, but even that was overshadowed with his growing frustration of this administration, because his lawyers can't tell him it's going to wrap up any day now. they no longer have that excuse. he spent the weekend talking about it with his friends. >> he's had meetings with, mr. president, he wants to ask you this, mr. president, he wants to ask you that, mr. president, he wants these documents. why is he getting personal in the attacks on the special counsel, or some would say why is he breaking free of the west wing cage? austin police search for
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officials show the latest bomb that was detonated overnight shows a higher level of sophistication than the previous three. two of them have killed people. the city obviously on edge. the motives for the attacks still a mystery. >> we were not willing to classify this as terrorism, as hate because we just don't know enough, and what we have seen now is a significant change from what appeared to be three very targeted attacks to what was last night an attack that would have hit a random victim that happened to walk by. so we've definitely seen a change in the method this suspect or suspects is using. >> let's go live to ed l lavenderas. what are the investigators saying about this? >> reporter: they're really taking a closer look. they say after being able to get into the crime scene in this neighborhood in southwest austin that there are indications that this crime scene compared to the
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other three give them reason to believe that the four bombings are connected to the masame bom maker. that is one thing authorities are coming out and saying this morning, even though they don't have any suspects or motive at this point. they are very concerned about what could very well be the random nature. they say that in this particular bombing, in this explosion, a trip wire was used, that that changes the situation here. as you heard the police chief there mention what appeared to be in the first three bombings perhaps a targeted attack on three specific people, this seems much more random and willing to injure or maim or kill anyone who happened to walk by this particular explosive device. so from that standpoint, it becomes much more nerve-wracking from what we've been able to get the sense from investigators here in this neighborhood in southwest austin, john. so they are pleading with whoever is is behind this to reach out to them. investigators want whoever the perpetrator or perpetrators are
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to reach out to them and explain what their message or motive is to all of this. they're hoping that message gets through. john? >> a fascinating and troubling story. john lavandera in austin. the president in washington saying and doing whatever he wants, which is a trump trademark. up until now, there was one area of relative restraint. for months, as we talked about a little bit earlier, his lawyers told him, you can be mad about the mission but don't talk about them yourself. he threw that out the window this weekend. megan explains the shift. some say mr. trump was trapped in a west wing cage built by mr. kelly and has finally broken loose. kaitlan, you talked a little about this earlier. they say this time he has a bit of a swagger, that he's finding
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his feet, he has his mojo. is that safe or risky when it comes to something in which there is obvious legal peril. >> it could be risky for the president. our sources say he doesn't realize what it entails to sit down with the special counsel and do an interview with them. clearly he's continued to attack them. the reason his lawyers have advised him against going after robert mueller specifically is that they don't want to alarm the republicans on capitol hill, even though they don't seem to be doing much of that, but they also don't want to antagonize the investigators, which is what he's doing when he calls them out. and a lot of his statements, misstatements and mistruths, were about the democrats, and we know that robert mueller himself is a republican. the president does seem to become more confident. >> and if you know robert mueller, praise isn't going to
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make him do anything otherwise differently, but we see this from the president, to what end? the president vents about things a lot. it's and i strength and a weakness. is he trying to mack a run, if not at mueller, at rod rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. or is he trying to create this atmosphere of not knowing what to believe. at least his slice of the american people say, oh, come on. >> with each progressive week that goes by, the stakes for trump to actually do something to get rid of mueller are higher and higher, and the blowback would be really bad, right? we've seen him, though, play these sorts of parlor games before where who is he upset at this week? who might be the next person on the chopping block? he keeps people a little scared, a little on their toes, about a
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weirdly written strategy that doesn't seem to end in due time -- >> if the president fires bob mueller, he might have an all-democratic washington. >> to the degree he's sowing uncertainty and keeping people off balance about what might happen next, he thinks that's a good thing. but i do think a lot of this is driven by kbauimpulse and his l of understanding. we saw the last time when he actually broached the subject where his white house counsel don mcgahn said, get rid of him. later when he and don mcgahn had a chance to talk about it again, he said, i didn't tell you to fire him. and mcgahn said, in having the
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conversation, that's the logi l logical. so he goes on impulse, he lashes out, and he doesn't think two, three, five, ten steps down the roa road,. they speak in court when they charge people, or they tournl. you have guilt i pleas from michael flynn, from. but michael fin, george hayes and papadopoulos. 13 russians have been indicted. bob mueller says, look what i've done. this is not a witch hunt. i want to go back to the president's attorney. speaking for myself, not the president, i pray that rosenstein is able to follow the office of professional responsibility. i'm going to stop reading.
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it's a political statement, not a legal statement, from an accomplished washington lawyer. it goes after rod rosenstein again. because rod rosenstein is the gatekeeper to bob mueller. he's served in the justice department for years. he's a man that's viewed as a man of great integrity. who is the bigger presidential target, bob mueller or rod rosenstein? >> the president and -- really likes his deputy attorney
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general and bob mueller really doesn't like him. ty cobb said it was because of media speculation, but the only reason the media was speculating about it is because the president was directly attacking him. >> the statement by the president's lawyer -- it's going to be an interesting week. up next, the whistle blower. the trump administration's campaign firm took information from facebook that it never should have.
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firm. they used ads from 15 million-plus facebook users without permission. they said that information would allow cambridge analytica to analyze how many people would vote, what kind of music you listen to and much more. it's obvious how information like that would be used to sway voters. it also used reams of data it never should have had. facebook is coming under fire where they have ties allowing this to happen. the man in charge of the 2018 trump campaign now also being looked at not just by the u.k., not just by the parliament but by the campaign.
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>> facebook is having one. >> i think donald trump won, but i think facebook was the method. it was the highway which his car drove on. >> the highway on which his car drove on. big data is the wave of the future in every business, every business, period. but when you read these accounts, and especially the idea that essentially a shell operation was set up that an academic gets all this information from facebook because they somehow allow academics without triple checking their credentials to get it, then hands it over to cambridge analytica and then uses it to target and sway voters, a, a big deal. b, the guy who talked constantly about rigging elections was cheating, using information he had here. where are we going? >> i think we're going to the parliament asking more and more questions about how facebook allowed this to happen, putting
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aside for the moment hwhat the trump campaign was trying to do, getting information from facebook. there are questions now about is it going to be possible anymore, and it won't be if members of congress have anything to say about it for, for facebook to j take the word of people that this is what this is for, it's a personality test, we're not going to be using this data for anything commercial or political, for them to say have at it with our users. whether it's a law or something facebook does on its own considering its stock is plummetting. >> that's what i'm wondering, too, how much mark zuckerberg can avoid the calls to testify, calling for zuckerberg to come
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before congress. we just heard a republican making those similar calls. so it's a question how much longer they can avoid this. >> it's a culture story. we underestimate the ability how they, facebook and google have this information. they want to call zuckerberg as they should. bring your attorneys with you if you want but he has the answers, he's the ceo. do they bring the trump campaign back before congress to ask, how did you get this data? how did you use this data? were you told at any point it was inappropriate you had it and did you stop using it. >> the media guy for the 2016 campaign who is now in charge of the 2020 reelection efforts was
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the guy who bragged about it. really digital, and as you just saw there, facebook was the way to go. we've seen the campaigns trying to bitter themselves, but we have jerry kushner on the record talking about how much of a benefit cambridge. often they like to blame somebody else. however, they can't copy boy this one. can't reach analytica. the digital operation inside the campaign was the baby of jared kushner. the key in 2016 now the already appointed campaign manager of 2020. they cannot say, we didn't know anything about this.
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it's a minor operation. some flunkie brought this to us. >> right, but the big question left over is, is that. unless congress decides to make some changes to what the laws are, and that's something that's been really, really. >> this push and -- are required to share, where does privacy come into this? this is reopening. and now they have an example of why they can't push it away, and everybody wants to watch the russian interference. >> we have seen the special counsel catch someone in a lie about something tangential.
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one of the things to keep on the radar screens, one of the these allegations is about foreign workers. now the special counsel often uses those things as stepping stones to other issues. up next, the outgoing secretary of state rex tillerson meets this hour with the man whos about to take his job. wish we got money back on gym memberships. get money back hilarious. with claim-free rewards. switching to allstate is worth it.
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and i am a senior public safety my namspecialist for pg&e. my job is to help educate our first responders on how to deal with natural gas and electric emergencies. everyday when we go to work we want everyone to work safely and come home safely. i live right here in auburn, i absolutely love this community. once i moved here i didn't want to live anywhere else. i love that people in this community are willing to come together to make a difference for other people's lives. together, we're building a better california. checking in to stories atop our political radar today. president trump's pick to be his new top diplomat meeting the man he's replacing.
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rex tillerson scheduled to talk with pompeo for about two hours. pompeo will then talk to bob corker who will run his campaign. the government shutdown. if they can't pass a new spending bill, friday night is the new deadline. the last bill allowed them to extend spending but it did not appropriate them to the various agencies. negotiations on who should get what are ongoing the rest of the week. vladimir putin now won a fourth term as russia's president. china, egypt and some south american allies some of the few to pass on good wishes. putin already laying out his agenda, insisting that the last thing he wants is another cold war. >> nobody has the intention of going in for an arms race.
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we want to be a peaceful state. we want relations with other countries based on peace and dialogue, constructive dialogue with our partners and obviously not everything depends on us. it's just like love. both countries have to be interested in the endeavor. >> let's just say not a model democracy. we'll leave that one there. i'm going to be the geek nerd at the table. spending bills become the kitchen sink. they all want to pass this and go home, the republicans especially, to run for reelection. what is the biggest conflict that could set this off the tracks? >> there are several options, but the one we're watching the most closely because it has gotten the president most directly involved, is the funding for this relatively obscure infrastructure project in new york called the gateway project. president trump has repeatedly
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vowed to veto the spending bill with this money, and it's not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things, about $90 million in a $1.3 trillion spending bill. but the president has vowed to veto it if it's in there, so we'll see if that is a real hangup by the time it needs to pass on friday. >> manhattan politics. up next, so many negative headlines about the president lately. get this, one poll shows his numbers are heading up. how might that affect the midterm election climate?
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. it's monday and the new work week brings this interesting debate for republicans. is the glass half full or half empty? on the plus side, a new "wall
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street journal" article says the president's approval meeting, the most critical midterm barometer, inching up a little bit. but here's the half empty side. the polls are back to a double digit advantage when voters are asked which party should control congress? if the president's polls are going up, potentially the other number changes. if it's 10 points come election day, then paul ryan is no longer speaker. >> remember, approval ratings can go down, which is the other problem for republicans, and i think there is one takeaway that the gop can take away from last week's special election which is that if you're in a competitive race, you have to build your own following and you cannot rely on trump to drag you across the finish line. i think that's one major lesson from last week. a reminder of how senate republicans of 2016 were not able to keep the majority
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because they were advised to run like you were running for county sheriff. keep your head down and build up your following. >> true, because republicans hoping it will trickle up. he's still well below where president obama was in 2010 and the democrats got smoked and lost the house. >> in the same way that advice about having a local brand was so important for republicans the last time around, i think even more so than most republican presidents or democratic presidents, this president's popularity, there are many indications that it will not be transferrable to anyone else in the party other than himself. so even if the approval rating continues to go up, there is no automatic rule that says the generic ballot you were just pointing to will also go up correspondingly. it may be the other way around. donald trump may gain in popularity and nationally these republicans in critical races around the country may still lose. >> and we've seen the president unable to pull people across the finish line, even when he's gone
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to their state and campaigned for them, they have not turned out to be winners. t the other thing is what this big tax bill they've been touting, saying that's what's going to help them. is it actually going to help them, because so far it doesn't seem to be the case. not surprising that tax bills to benefit the wealthy do not get the vote. the democrat winning in pennsylvania. that's what scares the republican house. if a democrat can win in a trump plus 20, what if i live in a trump plus 6? they'll say don't elect democrats or nancy pelosi will be speaker and they'll raise your taxes or whatever. even though the president's
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numbers are a little better, it's still bad. 52% positive image of the president, 37% negative. 43% look positively on nancy pelosi, 21% negatively. democrats are going on the record saying, i wouldn't vote for her, i would run away from her. but she says she's not going anywhere. she says, i have a following in the country that apart from a presidential candidate, i could run. if i was to walk away now, this caucus would -- >> there is no one that has the same poll that nancy pelosi does. she's a mathematician, she's been in that leadership role forever. she knows how to manipulate the democratic party so she can stay in charge of it and she can enforce discipline throughout the party as well. nobody is waiting in the wings
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to do that as well as she does. but how you work in congress is not equal to how you play on the election, on the campaign trail, and especially in some of these districts where she's really been -- she represents something that many people find very frustrating, both about the way politics as usual has happened. she's a female figure that it's easy to kind of put a lot of blame on her for various things that have been ilking the democratic party as well. she hasn't done any favors because she has tried to play to the liberal wing of the party and not move too close to the senate. >> and you see her competitive side come out. whether you like her or not, she was the first woman speaker for a reason. she works hard. it's interesting to watch. the midterm elections are about the president, but there will be places where nancy pelosi is an issue. trump heads to new
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hampshire. but others are paying attention to that state. let's see why. almost $800 when we switched our auto and home insurance. with liberty, we could afford a real babysitter instead of your brother. hey! oh, that's my robe. is it? when you switch to liberty mutual, you could save $782 on auto and home insurance. and still get great coverage for you and your family. call for a free quote today. you could save $782 when liberty stands with you. liberty mutual insurance.
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a big policy road trip today that is rich with politics. president trump off to new hampshire right now to discuss his views of the opioid epidemic. sending some drug dealers to the death penalty is also part of the package. two challengers test the new hampshire waters. jeff flake was the first there on friday. senator kasich will be back in two weeks. he won the primary. it was a big deal. first win for the president in the nomination. got some great congressional races this year in the midterm climate. obviously new england is among the hardest hit. the whole country was hit, but new england has been hit hardest by the opioid epidemic.
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the president going on the road, something he hasn't done that often, trying to sell a big initiative that has a lot of controversy in it. yes, it helps law enforcement as well. the death penalty part of it is a sticking point for some. >> a big sticking point. and it's not clear what -- you know, how much of the plan that constitutes. is that the sercenterpiece of t plan? it's not clear what his policy will look like, how much funding he's going to request for it and if he's going to continue to do these kinds of events which he didn't do for what he called big priorities. new england has been heavily impacted by the opioid epidemic, and no question he wants to shore himself up in what could be a very important place for him politically, especially as other republicans who could be campaign rivals are finding
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their own reasons to go up there. of course it's an official event, but there is clearly a political element to him going right now. >> he gets a second benefit out of it, too, which is there are discussions about criminal justice reform that take a very close look at sentencing for drug crimes. that's supposed to focus more on the middle man and the lower-level crimes and big kingpin dealers and things like that. it's a chance for him to take the political stuff, but also to roll out a policy that will set the ten or for what the discussion is going to be, because that bill hasn't actually hit the floor in congress yet, it's just been kicked around the judicial committee. >> the question is, is this something the president actually pushes for, the death penalty for some of these drug traffickers? the white house did once declare the opioid crisis a national emergency and then never followed through on it. this is something the president
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hawked during the campaign for a place he once referred to as a drug-infested den, and it's certainly something people cared about. >> if you go back to the 2016 primaries, they were all stunned by this. go to town hall if you want to talk about taxes, if you want to talk about anything. it was an organic issue and the president hoping he would hear from people on the ground. governor kasich has been keeping his options open for a long time. jeff flake keeping his options open. among republican voters, 60% say they still plan to vote for trump, 18% say no, 23% still don't know. there is a strong trump faction there. >> knowing jeff flake, i don't think he has any illusions that he'll actually be the republican
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nominee in 2020, but he obviously has been one of the vocal trump critics, and we've seen in history how, if there is a primary challenge to a sitting president, how much that can weaken the incumbent president going back to george w. bush. >> keep an eye on the world leader in new hampshire. wolf starts right now. hello, i'm wolf blitzer. it's 12:00 noon in austin, texas, 1:00 p.m. here in washington, 8:00 p.m. in saudi arabia. wherever you're watching from around the world, thank you very much for joining us. unleashed. the president of the united states launching direct attacks to the special counsel of the russia investigation, and they may be getting closer to a constitutional crisis. the

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