tv Washington Journal Michael Kirk CSPAN April 11, 2018 4:10am-4:43am EDT
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c-span.org and listen free on the c-span radio app. announcer: "washington journal" continues. host: joining us from boston is pbs "frontline" documentarian k to talk about his latest project. good morning to you. guest: good morning. host: it is called "trump's takeover." can you give us a sense of the word your tried to imply by the word takeover? guest: it is the current republican party in washington versus the donald trump. it is what he did and they did over the year beginning in the summer of 2016 when they really do not understand who donald trump was. they did not feel like he cared because they did not believe he would win.
from that moment until the ceremony at the white house on december 20 after the tax cut is passed and they are all praising him, the astonishing difference between how they felt about him at the beginning and how they felt about him at the end of his first year is what the film is about. host: give us a sense than exactly how they did feel about him at the beginning and the end and why that changed. guest: at the very beginning, as i said, i don't think they expected him to win. i don't think they felt they needed to spend any time at all. trump comes to washington in july for a kind of victory lap as the presumptive nominee of the party. he goes to the rnc and meets with some members of congress and has lunch with members of the united states senate, most of whom are at arms length from him. hadf the best and brightest
been fighting with trump all the way across the primary season. one particular senator, jeff flake, is singled out by donald trump, who looks him in the eye and says i know you. you are the guy from arizona. be set some bad things about me. , i'm thes i'm the guy senator from arizona that was not captured, referring to the moment when donald trump in 2015 sets of nasty things about senator john mccain and whether he was a hero because he had been captured in the amount and held prisoner -- vietnam and held prisoner. that began a struggle that would last the entire year between jeff flake and donald trump. who steppednators back and watched it. decisions had to be made about how they would handle him. from the very beginning, they did not expect him to win. afterhow did it play out
he wins election and perfectly as he tries to get an agenda and he needs republicans to get on board to make that agenda happen? guest: they have two minds about .t could lea leader mitch mcconnell of the senate and paul ryan of the house, they are the people closest to him. they were willing to work with hillary and thought this is what we will have. we will have a job own and go back and forth over policy. when trump wins the presidency, they have a unified government, but they have a man in the white house. they're not sure who he is. is he an independent? is he really a republican? what kind of republican? he's a complete novice in terms of the legislative process. ryan takes the first shot and decides the first thing they should do is offer him as corey lewandowski tells us in the
film. he thought his agenda would be easy pc, lemon squeezey. they walked out to the white house and ryan has a plan that says we will repeal and replace obamacare probably by easter. then we will get you a tax cut and then we will do the infrastructure bill by the end of the year. you will be the most productive president ever. trump, who goes along with that apparently, says that's fabulous. let's do it. he's believing appropriately that the republicans that had 7.5 years of anger to talk about obamacare and the ability to repeal it. he sits and waits. they essentially tell him we will need you maybe for some cheerleading, but if you just step back, we will get this done. people we talked to who are very close to ryan said what ryan really wanted and what mcconnell would ultimately want is a pen
in the white house. they did not expect a president that would roll up his sleeves and get to policy or ideology for that matter. they were very surprised about what happened with that repeal and replace bill as it started to move its way through congress and so was trump. host: documentary filmmaker rk joining us about "trump's takeover." if you want to ask questions about tow trucks relationship with the republican party, (202) 748-8001, (202) 748-8000, and (202) 748-8002. let us show you a bit of that documentary. you heard our guest talk about the events leading up to the attempts to repeal obama care. president'sbout the relationship with the senate majority leader after that failed attempt. here's a bit of the documentary. [video clip] >> what good is the republican party if it cannot pass the things that they promise to pass
for seven years anyway? >> they were trying to work with the parties leaders. now he would strike out at them. as weapon of choice -- twitter. >> you can thank congress, the same people that cannot give us h care. >> he went after congressional republicans, especially mitch mcconnell. >> senator mcconnell said i had excessive expectations. i don't think so. why not done? >> the president's frustration was not subtle, particular toward mitch mcconnell. think he saw him as a failure. >> can you believe that mitch mcconnell, who has screamed repeal and replace for seven years, could not get it done? >> trump was using them as powerful weapon he has, which is twitter, to humiliate him repeatedly, raychem over the coals, let his followers know that this is mitch mcconnell's fault. he failed you, not me. >> mitch, get back to work and put repeal and replace, tax
reform and cuts, and a great infrastructure will on my desk for signing. >> he is feeding hostility toward congress. and netsuite storm galvanized -- that tweet storm galvanized trump voters to turn against congress in a way i've never seen a governing party supporters engage in. >> on the telephone, trump and mcconnell had a doubt. >> they get into a screaming match. mitch mcconnell rarely raises his voice. trump is using all manners of expletives to criticize mitch mcconnell. mcconnell is giving it back to the present. its extraordinary. >> as the feud group, he came out of his country club and fanned the flames. >> i said, mitch, get to work and let's get it done. they should of had this last one done. they lost by one vote. >> how does undermining your senate majority leader make you any more powerful, any more successful?
how does having a battle with the person who has to somehow manage the arcane rules and regulations of the senate and you are undercutting him everyday? i don't get it. >> the call between the two men erupted. >> the president and the majority leader would not speak to each other for weeks. host: does that nature of the relationship change? does that set the tone as far as where republicans and president trump stand today? guest: i think so in some ways. donald trumpso was doing what donald trump does. i don't think anybody expected him to break the rules as much as he did in terms of the core of and -- d corum and response. after john mccain did the thumbs down about repeal and replace, i think trump realized that legislation and the maneuvering of congress was not history. he was going to move toward the
cultural side and that is where the power was for him. he was not going to get into a tit-for-tat with members of congress and it takes a while for the to realize it. cataclysm, the charlottesville moment, or 35 members of the senate and house right text messages and tweets back and forth to the president. the relationship falls to a low trump is doing what eric cantor tells us in the beginning of the film, which is this is a guy who was elected by his base and others to come to washington and grab it by the lapels and shake it. what you just listen to and watched on our film tonight is that. it is trump shaking washington by the lapels. , the venerable mitch
mcconnell, he is sending a message to establishment republicans that the rules of the game have changed. that is what i think we saw and that is a big turning point for his relationship with the republican party. host: if you go to the pbs website, you can find out more about tonight's airing of "trump's takeover." terry from florida, you're up first for our guest. go ahead. caller: good morning and thank you for taking my call. i will get straight to it. and your documentary, will it be lies thatbout the president trump has told the american people? also, mr. kessler, the speaker , he admitted that president trump makes up things.
, would you say that president trump lies to the american people? host: go ahead. guest: i don't think there's enough in the film for you to make a judgment about that yourself. i do put as much as i can from trump and from others who really understand the washington scene for you to see across an entire year. depth and it's my fervent hope that you will watch it and decide what is true and what is false and what matters and what doesn't matter. most importantly, what's happening with the government in washington as the president is determined to drain the swamp and what some people call the swamp creatures are fighting back. what some people call the
republican establishment flees the scene right now. more than three dozen people are you backing their jobs in congress and the senate as we approach the midterm election year in the first year of the donald trump presidency. things are being shaken up. he understands something about the base out there and what he needs to say to them and how they will react with the lies and truth. he knows about the game that he is playing and you will see the consequences of that in our film. host: tom is in duluth, minnesota. caller: i have another comment and someone said trump is playing a game. this is not a game. this is our present. president. it's his lack of morals and
fairness that is kind of scary. follow myran and i president into war. i really great concerns that this man does things as a game. guest: you can decide that for yourself tonight. washington,that in what he does, what he's doing has been dramatically underestimated and exaggerated at the same time. you will see what i mean. the conventional wisdom about the way traditional republicans, establishment republicans, powerful republicans thought he would act is that he would pivot at the very beating -- beginning of his administration. they did not know his inauguration address would be quite so aimed at them. i think they do now understand
and have learned over the last is inust how intense this the demonstration projects that he rolls out, including the tweet storm about mitch mcconnell and the congress and what the impact of that is and how he plays that. i think those things are important for people to begin to understand, especially if he can step back a minute and take a view of the entire year and see what exactly happened. host: from maryland, william on the independent line. caller: good morning and thank you for taking my call. have a question for the gentleman about the movie. this, -- out of all these, do not think that trump is playing his personal agenda? he is doing everything to help himself and his followers. as followers are not even going to benefit from it. it looks like everything he does is for his own gain. he does not care about america. that is my point of view.
what do you think about that? guest: obviously i can't get inside his head so i don't really know what his deepest thoughts are. i do know that he understands something about an anger and a fear in a certain percentage of the population. i don't know how to put a number on it, but it's anywhere from 25% to 40% of the people who crusade with him. i know that he has done things and does things that some people whoe talked to in congress said it really feels like he's not ideological. doctrine. he does not have policy imperatives forcing him to do things. to their perspective and some of
these are the people leaving washington now, they felt like what was really all about is getting along with him. the way to get along with him is so he did not primary you or tweet about you are come after you and attack you was to swear loyalty and allegiance to him. that is really what motivates him. there are others, of course, especially those close to him like kellyanne conway, corey lewandowski, sean spicer, and others, who say that's wrong. this is a guy who has a deep policy interest in what he calls taking care of the forgotten. that is something i hope you will have enough information that when you see the film tonight you can decide where he stands on that. it is very hard to get inside the head of donald trump for all these reasons. documentary highlights those moments of getting along with congressional republicans,
particularly with the passage of the tax bill. here's a bit of that. [video clip] >> they finally passed the tax cut bill. less because of donald trump but more because republicans recognize we have got to have a couple smit next year -- a compliment next year. we cannot go into the midterms with anything besides whatever the latest dump truck controversy is. -- donald trump controversy is. >> you have not heard this expression, but we are making america great again. you haven't heard that? >> one by one, congressional leaders came forward to praise president trump. >> mitch, how about you start it? [applause] >> let me just say, mr. president, you made the case for the tax bill, but this has been a year of extraordinary a couple cements for the trump administration -- a couple
ccomplishments. you have ended the overregulation of the market economy. thank you, mr. president, for what you are doing. >> donald trump is the leader of our country both politically and from a legislative side of things. i think they have learned that over the last year. >> something this big could not have been done without the exquisite presidential leadership. mr. president, thank you for giving us over the finish line. thank you for getting us where we are. >> old be able to go home and campaign and 2018 fulfilling a pledge. i have lowered your taxes. and that is a fundamental republican promise and they fulfilled it. man standing with the president who equated white supremacists to civil rights marchers?
that is the price to pay. host: speaking glowing terms there. point toens at that where we are at now? guest: with the looming midterm elections in november, the fear that somehow one of the unexpected consequences of his actions has been an invigoration. nobody knows for sure. an invigoration of the democratic base. the town hall meetings after the andage of the house bill the repeal or replace of obamacare, those town meetings t like theful lock creation of the tea party meetings in the summer of 2009. there is this question, this looming concern in washington and by republicans that the blue
wave tsunami may be coming. if that is true, many of them have made the calculation that the safest place to be is under the shelter of donald trump and donald trump space, especially when it comes to their reelection prospects in the future. if he does not have coattails and if this will not actually wavethe so-called blue from the democrats, then i think all bets are off again for donald trump in washington. that is certainly what people tell us. host: from indiana, eddie, your next. caller: good morning. thank you very much for c-span. i have a couple of comments and questions. mitch mcconnell spent i don't know how long -- eight or nine years trying to get rid of president obama? wanting to make him a one term president. i honestly believed he is trying to do this to president trump.
paul ryan is a very poor excuse for what he is. my main question for this man is in order to drain the swamp, what the republican and democratic parties of the house and senate have to be the people who pass the rule so that they can only have term limits? i believe our president is on the right road. they say he is lying. that's what your house and senate does. they lie all the time. themselvesarties have to be the people who brings it up to get the term limits to drain the swamp? host: got it. thank you. guest: you can make the argument that the small is being drained de facto without any rules or regulations. you can look at vacancies around the federal government, the admin straight of state that steve bannon talked about --
administrative state that steve bannon talked about. it smaller in some ways. the lack of regulation and lots of areas seems to be the rules and the way things are operating. look at the epa. different things like that are happening on the president trump's watch. if you are a member of the base or a certain kind of republican coming might be a plotting that -- republican coming you might applauding that drain swamping, including paul ryan and perhaps leader mcconnell. it's a very different place when somebody likes jeff flake, who came to be in 2000 to the congress along with mike pence , is really hard right about so much of the government and the size of government and some new things they went after. flick feels and he told us in
the film that he does not feel there is any room for him in this republican party with this president in charge. it might be draining that might be happening. that sound might be the giant sucking sound of establishment republicans fleeing washington -- whatword now called are now called the steps of republicans in a different kind f candidate and a different idea of what is the ideology of the republican party may be replacing them. host: but given joyce in florida, independent line. -- let's go to joyce in florida, independent line. caller: i have a question about your previous guest tried to normalize trump in such logical and intellectual ways and saying that he understands anger. we all understand anger. he is playing to anger. host: you are on with our
current guest. could you direct the question because we are almost out of time? caller: i would just ask them how he feels this compares to a hitler's germany. is this the beginning of hitler's germany? host: thanks, caller. guest: i cannot go there, joyce. host: let's go to rose from nashville, tennessee, republican line. caller: good morning, gentlemen. how are you? host: fine, go ahead. caller: i have a couple of comments. the establishment republicans still hate donald trump. sen. corker: tennessee is not running. from tennesseeer is not running. he is not running because of public comments he made about our president. we also voted for senator
corker. he felt the ire of tennessee voters and that is why he decided he was not going to run again. mitch mcconnell and the senate and the house have been against donald trump from the very beginning. they all jumped on board about the special prosecutor over this fake russian deal. mitch mcconnell make sure every time the senate goes into recess that he does a pro forma so president trump cannot make any recess appointments. it goes on and on. they may smile over the tax reform bill, but we also remember that they tried all those years to repeal obama care . when it came down to the nitty-gritty, john mccain had a personal vendetta and voted no. host: got you. thanks. guest: fascinating caller and think you very much. you are an example of the
division in the country now. it is profound. i think there are people in washington who feel they that donald trump exacerbates it and those are his politics. this has been going on long before donald trump got here. he may be the first president who decided to capitalize on it. you will see a bit of that in the program tonight. i hope the information will help you judge for yourself what's going on. host: let's go for one more call. go right ahead. caller: good morning, gentler. good morning, mr. kirk. i appreciate you so much because you're dealing solely in fact oids. compared to the gentleman on prior to you, it is
mind-boggling. tolow americans forgot listen and deal with facts only. you put your finger right there on the point for trump. he's a capitalistic president. that is who and what he represents. [laughter] pruitt, i amtt from oklahoma and have personal experience. i called the fbi on him. host: we have to leave it there . anything on that? guest: thank you. [laughter] host: what did you walk away with learning going away from it? guest: almost none of us, especially none of us in the press for watching all the time really understand or understood at the beginning who donald trump was and where the power resides and just what he understands, which is how is
going to handle it. now the republicans understand it. certainly i know american journalism, the series parts of american journalism, understand it. we are evaluating this president in journalistic terms and i think voters in electoral terms and different way, not quite so hysterically maybe for voters. maybe when you take a big long look at it like we have tried to do, you will come away understanding what is going on a little better than if you just follow the daily bright shiny andcts thrust before you cause you either great anxiety are great hope. it is not as simple as that . i hope we have added a little bit to the understanding. host: that documentary is called "trump's takeover" and its airing on pbs. index project deals with senator
john mccain. -- your next project deals with senator john mccain. have you talked with him about brain cancer? guest: we've not talked about the subject of the film. we had footage that would shot with everybody close to circumstances and how we came to versus mp reestablishment party and where john mccain fits in and has fit the beginning back into the '70s and '80s. hour.a fascinating somebody who saw the film said to us, this is the last of a republican who is still standing, i think that is a fair assessment of who john