Politico’s Josh Dawsey: Gen. Flynn Scoop
September 13, 2017
BOB SCHIEFFER: I’m Bob Schieffer.
H. ANDREW SCHWARTZ: And I’m Andrew Schwartz.
MR. SCHIEFFER: And these are conversations about the news. We’re in the midst of a communications revolution. We have access to more information than any people in history. But are we more informed, or just overwhelmed by so much information we can’t process it?
MR. SCHWARTZ: Our podcast is a collaboration of the Bob Schieffer College of Communication at TCU and CSIS in Washington.
MR. SCHIEFFER: In this first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, we’re talking to the reporters who are covering the president the closest, the White House press corps.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Today on the podcast we have Josh Dawsey, a White House reporter for Politico. He started with Politico in December of last year, just in time to take on coverage of the Trump administration. Before that, he was a New York City Hall report with The Wall Street Journal, where he was known for breaking stories, taking readers deep inside politics, and writing detailed portraits of Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Chris Christie. Josh graduated from the University of South Carolina, is a self-proclaimed proud Southerner. So thanks for joining us, Josh.
JOSH DAWSEY: Thanks for having me.
MR. SCHIEFFER: And you’re right, most good writers come from the South, if you consider Texas –
MR. DAWSEY: Hemmingway, Faulkner –
MR. SCHIEFFER: Yeah, but if you consider Texas as part of the South, which I guess we’re really not. We’re just Texas.
MR. DAWSEY: Kind of.
MR. SCHIEFFER: But south of the Mason-Dixon line, there’s a whole lot of good writers that have come along.
Well, you fell right into our trap. You managed to come up with a big story on the eve of appearing on the podcast. So this one is, again, Michael Flynn is in some kind of trouble, it looks like. So tell us about your story.
MR. DAWSEY: Thanks for having me.
So Michael Flynn, the former national security advisor to President Trump, has been in the crosshairs of Bob Mueller’s special counsel investigation for several months. So has Paul Manafort. So have other officials on the transition and activities in the White House. And what we uncovered in the past few weeks looking into this – and I think what Mueller’s team was looking at – is what Michael Flynn did on the transition and in the White House, whether he was working for any sort of private clients and pushing their agenda, taking money without disclosing it, is what he’s under investigation for.
And what we found was that there was a Marshall Plan, they dubbed it this in the transition, that was designed to build nuclear energy facilities across the Middle East. And Michael Flynn was the one who was pushing this, promoting this, talking it up to his colleagues. Meanwhile, he had a preexisting business relationship with a number of conglomerates that wanted these plants in the Middle East, had traveled overseas on behalf of these folks, and had not really disclosed that relationship.
So one of the most interesting parts of the special counsel investigation is it began with a Russia collusion, and whether there was any collusion in the election. And it’s sort of sprouted off into various veins where in the process of, you know, subpoenaing documents and looking for information, doing interviews, the special counsel has found other – (laughs) – other very interesting, to say the least, behavior from Trump administration and transition officials.
MR. SCHIEFFER: So let me make sure I get this straight. While he was on the payroll of, what was it, an energy company, or a –
MR. DAWSEY: Right.
MR. SCHIEFFER: He was promoting building nuclear power plants across the Middle East?
MR. DAWSEY: It’s a little more nuanced than that. We’re not exactly sure he was on the payroll during the transition. We know he had been on the payroll for a while, up until he took over in the transition, was still communicating with these officials who wanted this, and meanwhile, was also pushing this to Trump administration officials without disclosing, hey, one of the reason I may be interested in pushing these are my preexisting business relationships.
MR. SCHIEFFER: So where do you see this going? Where is it now?
MR. DAWSEY: We’re at a junction where there are a lot of moving balls. You have White House officials who are going to be interviewed in the next few weeks by Bob Mueller’s team on the firing of James Comey, the FBI director, and the – not cover up – but what they did after that, and explaining the firing. What was the president’s motivation for the firing? You have officials who are going to be interviewed about a statement that was written on Air Force One explaining a meeting between Russian officials and Don, Jr. and Jared Kushner and others at Trump Tower.
So you have Bob Mueller’s team, who’s asking the White House for reams of documents, beginning to interview officials, trying to put together a piece. Meanwhile, you have Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, separate investigations into these gentlemen. There are obviously some overlapping and concentric circles with all of these players but, you know, Mr. Manafort in hot water for what he did overseas and the consulting and possible business deals, money laundering potential there. And then you have Michael Flynn, who – (laughs) – also is not in good shape. You know, to be clear, none of these people have been proven guilty, so I don’t want to get too far along. But there’s a lot of smoke in all fronts right now in the Trump-Russia probe.
MR. SCHIEFFER: This podcast is – we focus on journalism. And you know, one of the cases that people often ask me when I’m covering a story, they say: What’s it like to be a reporter on this story? When I was covering Capitol Hill, what’s it really like to talk to these guys every day? What is it like to cover the Trump White House?
MR. DAWSEY: (Laughs.) Depends on the day and the week. (Laughter.) I think – you know, there’s been a lot of criticism about the administration’s lack of transparency – not releasing visitor logs, not, you know, putting out disclosures, like they promised, not draining the swamp. What I found is that it’s often more transparent than people think. You know, there are a number of senior administration officials who I can talk to, who my colleagues talk to. You know, we see revealing details inside the room and meetings.
And one of the reasons this White House is so interesting to cover is that there are so many competing interests in the White House. You know, a senior person in the White House likened it to me. He said: You know, when you got to – when you go to a zoo you see all of kind of one animals in a cage. Normally in a Republican or a Democratic White House, you would have kind of birds of a feather. In this White House you have, you know, New York business Democrats. You have the nationalist wing by Steve Bannon. You have family. You have RNC officials who are kind of declining now. But you have all of these various factions who are all competing for the ear of the president.
So in some ways the toughest part of this job, I find, is everyone has an agenda. And it’s kind of sometimes difficult to know what the president’s agenda is, because you’re talking to, you know, all of the power players in the White House. They’re telling you this. This is their recollection of a meeting. This is what they’re saying happened. And sometimes you can talk to three people who were in the same meeting and hear three different things. And you go, all of those cannot be true. So in this White House I think you have to piece together – or, I have learned that, you know, everyone kind of has their own competing agenda. And to suss out what actually happened – sometimes you need to talk to four or five different people, and you still may not exactly know what happened.
MR. SCHIEFFER: You know, this is very much different than what we have seen before. I mean, I always tell people when they say, what was your favorite beat? Was it Congress or was it the White House? And I always say the White House is very glamorous, but covering Capitol Hill is much more fun, quite frankly – or, at least it was in my day. And the reason why I always say is, look, at the White House, everybody works for the same guy. On Capitol Hill you have all these independent contractors, and that’s how you get news. But this White House, I’m sensing, is much, much different than any White House, frankly, that I’ve known about in more than four decades in Washington, because you’re exactly right.
And I think – I can’t recall a White House where you could get people on the phone as easily as you guys covering the White House get people on the phone or talk to people. It’s just – it’s just amazing to me. I mean, I’ve – you know, in the Nixon administration, for example, it was – they were so disciplined. If you wanted to get some news, you had to literally go through the press office. And you were the – you know, you were held hostage to the – if you called somebody else and they called you back. Maybe they did. Most of the times they didn’t. It was very difficult to get news. But that has certainty changed here. Do you think it’s going to continue now that Kelly has come on as the chief of staff?
MR. DAWSEY: I think he would like for it not to continue. (Laughter.) I don’t know, frankly. I mean, he’s been in now for six, seven weeks. I still see rich details emerging from the White House. I still see the factions competing. There’s been a little less of it in the past six or seven weeks, but it’s hard to have a metric on that. I don’t know exactly how to measure it. Does feel like the staff has more respect and discipline for him. It feels like they, you know, listen to him, they believe that he’s qualified to be chief of staff. He has kind of a gravitas and the background and perspective, where a lot of these people, frankly, didn’t respect Reince Priebus. I’m not saying if it’s fair or not, but they didn’t. They stopped showing up to the meetings. They stopped listening to him. He stopped having the power that a chief of staff traditionally has.
And I think right now Kelly does. Everything in this White House, though, is ephemeral, you know. I don’t know how long John Kelly makes it. You know, you have cascading crises, issues, a temperamental president, lots of different factions in the White House. I don’t – I don’t know how sustainable it is for anyone. I do think things have felt a little more stable lately. I think you’ve seen fewer early morning tweets. I think you’ve seen a president who, from what I could tell, is brooding a little bit less, is a little bit less angry all the time. He loved his news coverage last week when he dealt with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. He seems to be in a bit more of a stable place. But, you know, that’s happened several times even in the first eight months. You go through a week or two where you go, huh, this doesn’t feel quite as chaotic as it has. And then there’s a bombshell that emerges and it all goes back to being just what it was before.
MR. SCHIEFFER: So what did you make of the Bannon interview with Charlie Rose?
MR. DAWSEY: (Laughs.) Nothing he said, to me, was particularly surprising. There was nothing that don’t I think most of the White House reporters have heard him express privately. Some of it, I think, was a bit factually challenged. I don’t think that’s why Chris Christie, for example, didn’t get a job on the transition, was not because – or, in the Cabinet, was not because he didn’t come to the plane after the Access Hollywood tape. His hatred for Gary Cohn was very well-known. Him calling on him to resign was not surprising.
What I did think was interesting is he was very careful to not criticize the president directly. I think he knew the president was watching. I think he criticized some of his policies, some of his personnel. But when he was talking about Donald Trump the man, I notice the careful rhetoric change than when he was talking about anything else. And I think that interview was to kind of show the broader world, and the audience of one, the president, as we like to say, what he’s going to be up to next, and how he’s going to try to harness his power.
MR. SCHIEFFER: He did criticize the president for firing Comey, said it was one of the great political mistakes of all time.
MR. DAWSEY: Yes. That is correct. He seemed to give in when Charlie Rose asked him and said I’ve heard you say this privately. He did not deny that. And he has been saying that privately to everyone in Washington for several weeks.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Do you think he had actually said that to the president himself?
MR. DAWSEY: Yes.
MR. SCHIEFFER: You do?
MR. DAWSEY: I think he, Reince Priebus, Don McGahn, many other senior advisors in the White House saw that as a potentially catastrophic move that would have, you know, wide ramifications for the presidency – and they were right. As soon as he fired James Comey there was a special counsel the next day. I mean, there was a core group – Stephen Miller, Jared Kushner, some others – who I think agreed with the decision. But the president was warned at length by a number of people, including Mr. Bannon. And he went with his own counsel.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Let’s bring in Andrew.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Thanks, Bob. Boy, am I glad we brought you on today. This is – your analysis is really interesting. And we’ve interviewed a number of your colleagues at Politico and we just keep having you guys on because you’re bringing, you know, fascinating insights and day-to-day coverage into this White House. I’ve got a question for you. You know, give the swirl that you just described, how do you know who to believe?
MR. DAWSEY: That’s a very good question. I think about that a lot. I think it’s a little bit of – on any beat, you judge over time, how often has this person been right? What is this person’s agenda? Why are they telling me this? What’s in it for them. In this White House there are – I’m not going to say on a podcast – but there are several people I talk to who are usually truthful, who I trust, who if they tell me, listen, the president didn’t say that or he didn’t do that I will go, OK, let me hold off. I can take that wave-off to mean something.
MR. SCHWARTZ: You can say it on a podcast.
MR. DAWSEY: I shouldn’t say it on a podcast. (Laughs.)
MR. SCHWARTZ: We give you permission, I mean, you know.
MR. DAWSEY: And there are other people in the White House who, you know, have lied to me repeatedly. And it’s a difficult conundrum – or, I don’t want to say lied. But said things that were not true. A lie would know that I know their motive. I don’t. But have said things to me that were not true on many occasions. And, you know, it’s a difficult conundrum because there are only so many people in the White House and in the circles that know things. And you have to talk to all of them on every day. I mean, Maggie Haberman from the Times, who you all have talked to and I respect – I think talks to 50, 100 people a day, you know, just pinging people constantly.
And what you try to do, or what I try to do, is ping enough people and ask them the same questions where you get a bit of a mosaic. OK, four people are saying this happened. And they all kind of give similar details. So there’s probably some truth to that.
MR. SCHIEFFER: You’re almost doing a focus group every time you report a story.
MR. DAWSEY: Yeah. Yeah, it’s because you have to. There are lots of – as I said earlier, I won’t belabor this – but lots of competing interests. And, you know, every time you are writing a story you have to get varying accounts and then try to see how they match up.
MR. SCHWARTZ: We hear a lot that certain people on the staff don’t like the swirl, they don’t like the chaos. But I get the impression that some of them do, and some of them do like the drama, and some of them like that this is kind of a bit of a pop culture show.
MR. DAWSEY: I think you would be somewhat correct. There are people in the White House who publicly decry the palace intrigue and anonymous sources stories who I know also participate in – (laughter) – palace intrigue stories.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Sure.
MR. DAWSEY: You know? Kellyanne Conway went on television at one point and said, you know, she kind of thought it was ironic that people would say they never talk to the press, they never talk to the press. She said, I know these people talk to the press. So – and part of it, Andrew, from what I can tell, is you talk, because you talk, and you talk. And if you know six of your colleagues are saying what happened or their version of what happened, you also want your version of what happened reflected.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Yeah. Right.
MR. DAWSEY: And this is a president who, you know, the famous Anthony Scaramucci goes on TV does a New Yorker interview, makes very vocal references about other members of his staff that were senior to him, and the president doesn’t fire him at the time, doesn’t discipline him at the time. Once John Kelly comes in, he gets rid of him. But the president has long embraced this conflict and chaos. One of the things that I hear is that he’s already chafing at John Kelly, you know, restricting access to the Oval Office. He wants his friends to be able to walk in whenever they want. He wants to be able to call whoever he wants on his cellphone. So I think a lot of these people – some, I think, enjoy it and embrace it. Some know it’s part of a job. And some do it because the president does it. And this is a culture in which they work in.
MR. SCHWARTZ: So who now has been limited. You’ve reported Omarosa, for one – Omarosa Manigault, who famously was on, I think, the first season of “The Apprentice” and has been a longtime Trump loyalist. I hear her access is now restricted. I hear other friends of Trump’s, or people he likes, are restricted. I hear Keith Schiller, who’s been probably the closest to him other than his own family, is leaving in a couple weeks. Is this – does Kelly have something to do with all of this?
MR. DAWSEY: Yes. John Kelly is trying to – with some success and some not-so success so far, you know, limit the information that gets to the president. In his first staff meeting with top aides John Kelly told them: He has to have good information to make good decisions. You can’t just put a Breitbart article on his desk. You can’t have an ad hoc briefing where someone’s just strolling into the Oval, sitting down, and saying: Mr. President, you should do X. And what John Kelly is trying to do is structure his schedule and his meetings in a way where Kelly knows what information he’s getting, Kelly knows who he’s talking to, and Kelly has some degree of influence over what’s being put in his brain.
Because this is a president who is often agreeable with his advisors, the last person he’s talked to. Someone will come in, they’ll make a good case to him, he’ll go, OK, let’s do that. And we’ve seen famously, you know, the transgender ban, you know, that’s a perfect example I’ve talked to him on, but there are others. He likes gut decisions, his gut instinct. He’ll wake up and, oh, FBI director search. He’ll just wake up and tweet something when he decides it, and will catch his own people by surprise. So I think what Mr. Kelly is trying to do in limiting the Oval Office and curbing access and making the paper that gets to his desk of higher quality and more factually driven and more analytical, is to say: If we put in him better situations and we put him in a more controlled environment, we think he will make better decisions.
I mean, there’s this liberal caricature of the president that’s frustrating to me, that he’s stupid. He’s not a stupid man. People sit in meetings with him. He can ask smart, analytical questions. He’s been – we don’t know his exact worth but he’s made a lot of money in real estate. He’s had some failures, but made a lot of money. He’s not an idiot. He’s a charming guy. He’s smarter than some people give him credit for. And I think Kelly is trying to take all the distractions and all the, you know, shiny objects and all the mistakes away. And I don’t know how long he’ll last, but we’ll see.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about what made a lot of news last week, and is the new friendship with “Chuck and Nancy,” as the president put it. (Laughter.)
MR. DAWSEY: “Chuck and Nancy.”
MR. SCHIEFFER: He makes a deal with the Democrats. I actually think that was a good thing, because it meant that Congress immediately not only just answered the debt limit question for a while, but most importantly got that humanitarian aid approved, and in record time, which to me that was the number-one priority at that time. But what’s the inside story on that, Josh? How did that come about? And what is the deeper meaning of that?
MR. DAWSEY: (Laughs.) The deeper meaning is a question I have not been able to figure out. And I don’t think the president and some of his own advisors have figured it out yet. I do know, you know, Donald Trump was a one-time donor to Chuck Schumer. They ran in the same circles in New York. They knew each other well. Trump was always going to have more personal rapport with Chuck Schumer than Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell, very taciturn guy. Doesn’t say a word that doesn’t need to be said. Often has calls with notepads. Will answer the phone and not even say hello, will just start talking.
And he was never going to do the glad-handing and the, you know, repartee that’s important to this president. This president is often driven more by personal chemistry than political ideology. And you have – you know, you have a president who doesn’t have a lot of set ideas on the debt ceiling. You know, he asked several people that I talked to: Why do we even have this debt ceiling? It makes no sense. He’s not someone steeped in Washington politics. So when Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi come in and they say: We’ll do this, get rid of the debt ceiling, humanitarian aid, boom, boom, boom, the president said, let’s make a deal. You know, he shocked Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan.
But there’s a frustration that – some of this has been reported, but I think in some ways it’s worse than has been reported, actually – his frustration with Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party. You know, the president says to people all the time – now, Mitch McConnell and his people will say, you know, the president has too many crises and should help us and stop, you know, just making us defend him in scandals all the time. But the president says all the time kind of what he tweeted the other day. Seven years, repeal and replace, where’s a bill? Where’s tax reform?
Like, he is of a mindset that these folks in Congress, as he says, Mitch M. and Paul R., should be sending him bills to his desk to sign. And he is not persuaded by the argument that this takes time, and this is a long-time deal, and there’s often fits and starts, and Obamacare took 18 months. He wants something done immediately. So, when Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi say X, Y, Z you get this, sign on the dotted line, we’ll move this along; you can announce it as a bipartisan deal, we’ll say positive things about you; the press might actually be good, which is what he cares about probably more than anything; why not?
MR. SCHIEFFER: You know, I think, looking back on it, I mean, to me it’s when the roof blows off your house the first thing you’ve got to do is fix the roof. You can worry about the zoning jobs in a neighborhood later, and you can work on that. And I think, in a sense, that’s really what happened here. And, I mean, we’ve been going on about we need bipartisan cooperation. Well, that’s a good example of what happens when you do that. And I thought it was interesting to watch the way it played out on Capitol Hill. But will Republicans rebel against him for doing that? Or what’s the sense up there? Or will they say, hey, maybe we can make this work in other areas?
MR. DAWSEY: The president’s calculation is that they will not, and that he is the vehicle for them to get a lot of their agenda done, and they need him. And I think that is 100 percent true. You know, there have been all sorts of peccadillos, early-morning tweets that were inappropriate by many accounts, lots of times when Republicans on Capitol Hill said: How do we support this? And yet, they continue doing it. I mean, how often has Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan broken with the president of the United States? Because their fortunes, in some ways, are inextricably linked together.
I don’t see this as a place where Republicans break with him. What I do see is this rising frustration among party donors and activists and kind of the Republican Party itself. They’re not sure he’s a reliable partner anymore. They wonder, what will he do in the midterm elections? If these Democrats help him will he go out and campaign for them? Will he prosecute the case, so to speak, against Democrats? If he begins getting better news coverage, gets some momentum, you know, starts making deals with “Chuck and Nancy,” as he says, what does that mean for us?
And you know, the question that I hear a lot – mainly at bars and breakfast – (laughs) – but not on the record is – is he even a Republican? I mean, I think a lot of these Republicans on the Hill and people close to the White House are saying, you know, he’s never really been fixed so much of an ideology either way. He’s not a Mike Pence fellow who’s always been a rock-ribbed conservative. You know, he’s always been a drifting kind of deal maker, above all. And what does this mean for us? I mean, the president is a party leader. If you have a president who’s not particularly moored to leading the party it had big ramifications.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Joe Scarborough said in a podcast with us, he is completely unmoored. He said, that is – that is the first thing to understand about Donald Trump. And I remember, this was back during the campaign, before he took office.
Well, let’s talk about the next big deal here in Washington is the tax cut. Where is he on that? And is that going to happen?
MR. DAWSEY: Well, the president last night had dinner with three Democrats, three Republicans, talked about, you know, personal income tax rates –
MR. SCHWARTZ: And this is different. He had three Democrats over for dinner.
MR. DAWSEY: Right. Corporate tax rates, you know, working on some of the broader picture ideas on how to get Democrat support. The problem, I think, the president’s going to have is that the big six in Congress – you know, Paul Ryan, Kevin Brady, Mitch McConnell – you know, to get Republican votes on this, there will have to be, you know, a lot of the Republican orthodoxy followed. And I think Schumer has already made pretty clear to the president in private conversations, you know, we’re not going to support a tax plan that we don’t like, that’s not for us. So I think the president’s getting torn in two different ways.
He has, you know, one set of advisors who’s saying, you know the margin’s narrow. We can get this through with 51 votes. Let’s kind of follow the Republican principles. I think that’s probably the most likely road we’re going down. But there is a thinking in the White House as well right now, that’s kind of bubbling up to the surface, of we could make tax reform something that Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota and Joe Manchin in West Virginia and other Democrats will support, and then force these Republicans. Do you really want to vote against a tax cut? The Democrats are voting for a tax cut. Do you really want to vote against a tax cut?
So I think you’re going to see some strategic gamesmanship over the next few weeks, with a White House that is triangulating at all times. It’s working closely with Republicans. I think he’s going to ramp up his meeting with Democrats. In the true Trump tradition, I think he’s going to tell both groups kind of what they want to hear. And I honestly don’t know where this nets out.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Well, you know, it seems to me, you just said triangulation. And I think that’s what this is. This is out of Bill Clinton’s playbook. This is triangulation and, you know, can be really effective. He’s not having the tax writing committees over for dinner. He’s having bipartisan group, Democrats. And, like you said, it’s appealing to some of them. Maybe this is the right way to go. Maybe this is the guy we thought was going to be open to many different thoughts.
MR. DAWSEY: You know, there was a great fear, at least – I don’t want to say a great fear – but there was fear among Democrats at first, particular more liberal ones, we’d come out of the gate and do infrastructure and would govern to the middle and force people like Chuck Schumer to make deals and to not – you know, the quote/unquote, “resist” movement. Instead, they did healthcare and the travel ban and some other polarizing moves, where Democrats were not going to work with them. But I think there’s a realization in the White House that, you know, there are things that are more popular – tax cuts, infrastructure. These were not Steve Bannon’s prescriptions for the base in 2018 and reelection. These are prescriptions from a Gary Cohn, Jared Kushner kind of mindset, who, I think, is driving a lot of this talk on tax reform.
So the core dynamic here is that they’ve squandered a lot of goodwill for bipartisanship over the last eight months with some far-right ideas and, you know, some things that drew flack, even from Republicans, frankly. That said, you know, the President pulled it together pretty quickly, like, last week. I mean, he’s a chameleon in some ways. You could see in the next couple months him just pushing Democrats to do stuff. And we look at a presidency of a totally different core. It’s almost like a TV episode, so to speak. We’ve had various episodes in this presidency. And this could be an entirely different one. Or, he could revert back to the Bannon base tendency, so to speak. I think anyone who’s telling you they know what he’s going to do, besides him – and I don’t even think he fully knows – is full of smoke.
MR. SCHIEFFER: You know, you’re – it’s almost like I’m hearing Glenn Thrush tell us exactly the same thing. He said, you know, people talk about the 24-hour news cycle. He said, the Trump news cycle is – runs in 15-minute segments. It’s not 24 hours. (Laughter.) He said, you have 15 minutes and then the next 15 minutes.
MR. SCHWARTZ: The improvisational presidency.
MR. SCHIEFFER: I think – I think you hit it right on the head. I think it’s impossible, really, to predict where all of this goes. But now I’ve said it’s impossible to predict, let me – (laughs) – what’s going to happen on the Dreamers?
MR. DAWSEY: Well, that’s the question that Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are trying to figure out. I mean, the president had a private meeting with Schumer last week where he signaled – publicly, Pelosi came out and said that the president wants to do Dreamers. We want to sign it too. He had a private meeting with Schumer where they talked about it as well. I think – first, he floated money for the border wall in exchange for doing that. Schumer said, no, not going to do that. Then he asked Schumer to be less critical of the border wall, even if he was going to oppose it. Schumer said no, we’re obviously – you know, the wall is something, for Democrats, is just gold. It’s gold for Trump’s base and it’s gold for Democrats.
And then I think the president signaled to Chuck Schumer, you know, we don’t want to end this. When he did this it was surprising to me, because several of his aides had told me for several months every time they talked about DACA the president said: You know, we don’t want to throw kids out of the country. We’re going to get killed. Everyone loves kids. Everyone loves children. And someone in the White House who is fairly high up said to me – you know, he repeatedly says, the kids, the kids. You know, it’s not that he wants to be light on immigration. He wants a border wall. He wants to limit refugees. There are – you know, he’s been pretty hardline on immigration.
But it was the one issue on immigration where he had repeatedly said privately we don’t want to – we shouldn’t touch that. That’s not good. We’re going to get flack for that. And so I was surprised when he announced it. And I think you’ll see a course correction on DACA. I think you’ll see the president work with Democrats on it. I think you’ll see something short of it ending. I am not of the persuasion that it ends. Knock on wood, I may be wrong. I am of the persuasion that in the next six months there will be enough political will to fix it and the president will go along with fixing it.
MR. SCHWARTZ: I have one final question I want to ask, Josh. And this is something I really want to know. Can you find out if John Kelly is trying to curb the president’s television watching habits? (Laughter.) I want to know if he’s being monitored. Is he allowed to watch Fox? Is he allowed to – what is he allowed to watch?
MR. DAWSEY: He is still watching television in the morning and at night. I think what John Kelly has done, from what my sources say, is limit that during the daytime. There would be previous occasions where the president would go eat lunch and he would sit in the study and watch TV for an hour or two. I mean, and his people would describe it in pretty vivid color. So I don’t think John Kelly is of a mindset that he can control the president, like you can control – he doesn’t think that. I think what he’s trying to do is structure the time a little bit better during the day where he limits trouble. Not stops trouble, but limits trouble.
The president is still watching TV in the morning and at night. And, you know, has TiVo that he loves and records dozens of programs and watches them when he sees fit. And I don’t think that’s going to change. And I think John Kelly knows that it’s not going to change.
MR. SCHIEFFER: (Laughs.) Josh Dawsey of Politico, White House correspondent, I’m going to say – you can tell me if I’m right or wrong, if you could place anyplace in the world to be right now in your life, or any job to have, my guess is you’d say the one you have.
MR. DAWSEY: (Laughs.) Never a boring moment. Never a dull moment. (Laughter.) Most days of the week, Bob, that’s true. And once in a while you just go, get me out of here. This is the worst. (Laughter.)
MR. SCHIEFFER: Josh, it’s a pleasure to have you. Keep up the good work.
MR. DAWSEY: Thank you so much for inviting me.
MR. SCHIEFFER: For Andrew Schwartz, this is Bob Schieffer. We’ll see you next time.