Schlapp says changes in West Wing under new Chief of Staff Kelly 'portend great things'

The Powerhouse Roundtable debates the week in politics on "This Week."
13:30 | 08/06/17

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Transcript for Schlapp says changes in West Wing under new Chief of Staff Kelly 'portend great things'
. The statue of liberty says give me your tired your poor your huddled masses -- The poem is not part of the original statue of liberty. But the history -- more fundamentally -- You're saying that does not represent what a country has always thought of as immigration -- I'm saying -- That sounds like some national park revision-ism. Scene from the white house briefing room this week. Might be the communications director in the white house and we'll see what happens with all that. Let's talk about the week's politics. Matt schlapp is here. Democratic strategist Stephanie cutter, communications director for president Obama. Megan Murphy and senior editor at national review. Let me begin with you. As you look at the program today you see a bit of this divorce between the president and the Republican establishment. Kellyanne Conway being quite tough on the Republicans of thinking of runs in 2020 and senator Thom Tillis about supporting this legislation, protecting the special counsel. What are we seeing? You're seeing a lot of division amongst Republican that is started in the primary season going forward. So much political change. Definitely I can tell you on the Republican side I see a lot of change going on on the democratic side as well. But what you also see is a real cotitutional disagreement between the legislative branch and the executive branch. That's baked into the cake they're supposed to have disagreements. But reason publicans run the whole show. Donald Trump is kind of testing things that we haven't seen before. And going straight to the base in West Virginia this week. Sure. Yes. I think Matt is the expert on the Republican party but I think what's also happening is that there's -- people are losing confidence in him as the leader of the party and you can see people pulling away. John McCain's quote in that story is classic, people smell weakness with this president. I think the president understands this and knows that he's losing right now which is why he goes to West Virginia. We'll let you have John McCain if you want him. You can have him. Let me pose to you the question I put to kellyanne Conway at the start. She recited those economic statistics. No question that the economy is chugging along in the same fashion it did under president Obama yet the president 61% disapproval. And perhaps most importantly some declining numbers, some weakness in his base which kellyanne admitted, they're seeing falling away. Yes, he had a strong jobs number, 209,000 last week. We should remind viewers the pace is slower than it was in 2015 and 2016 although still robust. Here's one important fact for the president among people without a high school degree over the age of 25, their participation and movement into the labor market is the strongest it's been since 2011. A huge factor for him as we see people who voted for him get jobs and we see wages stick up. We see among lower income earners to be more robust than higher income. That is what matters. Despite the chaos and politics, among people's pocketbooks it's possible that we see the wage growth really helps him. The president at 61% when the economy is doing this well, when wage growth is starting to tick up, we're now what, eight or nine years into the recovery. At some point there's going to be a downturn. Does he have a bottom? There has been no national crisis over the last six months. The president has achieved these sorts of approval numbers without anything external to the administration causing problems for him. I think that has got to be a cause of serious concern for Republicans. One of the reasons he is not having the sway among congressional Republicans and in his own administration that you might expect is that his popularity is so low. What we saw this week, general Kelly come in, Stephanie, you served in the white house. It appears he started to get his arms around the staff this week. Be careful when you say something but so far the president's only tweet make America great. They seem to be more strategic with the Russia tweet. How much difference can he make? He can make an enormous difference. I think, you know, from what we can tell on the outside it's already happened. Giving the white house some sense of organization controlling the information or better controlling the information that gets to the president to ensure its accuracy. Putting the white house on a structure. All of that is so important to the success of a presidency. Not about controlling the president but what goes around him. Like the announcement on transgender. We were just talking about this. Rolling back transgender rights. He puts out this announcement and everybody in the Pentagon starts disagreeing with it. And kellyanne couldn't really answer the question of which experts signed off on that tweet. It's clear relatively none have signed off since they said they didn't. What's surprising is they put up such a weak support for it saying first the expense of transgender in the military. That was knocked down quickly and cost estimates that we spend more on Viagra than educating people with sexual identity issues. We support the men and women who support. They're questioning whether they have the support of their president and commander in chief. That is destabilizing. It's when he makes a policy announcement that could be much deeper. As someone who lived through the don't ask, don't tell controversies of the early 1990s and saw the resistance to the idea of gays serving openly in the military. What a remarkable turn around. I mean the military pretty much as united front saying hold on. Well the culture has changed dramatically on all of these issues but the other thing is this administration, there's a certain amount of dysfunction. The Pentagon seems to be ignoring the president's tweet. That's not something that's just isolated to the Pentagon. The vice president seems to have his own Russia policy if you listen to what he says and the president, they are not on the same page. Attorney general sessions not doing what the president wants him to do in terms of prosecuting or investigating Hillary Clinton. There's a question on the part of subordinates how seriously they should take the utterances of this president. That would involve not just managing the staff but managing the president. I think that's overplayed but I think it's fair, your comments on getting ahold of the bureaucracy. That plays right to the question about filling these jobs. #Resistance in the senate. They're slowing down the president's picks but the president hasn't been rapid enough. He's got to get ahold of these agencies and understand that the west wing has to work with the agencies to develop these policies. I think the changes in the west wing under general Kelly are good things. Several of us have worked there. It was never set up where you could see it working. For the first time in this administration I think the president is doing the right thing on the agenda. There's been too much turbulence around the decisions. I think general Kelly can straighten this out. General Kelly comes in and turns out it seems in the wake of that the attorney general's job is safe again. He got a call from general Kelly. I wonder if the president may have laid a bit of a trap for himself by bringing general Kelly in particularly on the Mueller investigation. Let's take kellyanne Conway at her word for now, the president is not discussing firing Robert Mueller although we know he did it in the past. She would not commit to saying he wouldn't fire him. I have to believe if the president took a step like that he would have trouble with his chief of staff. Absolutely. You would see mass resignations in certain parts of the government and obviously what we just heard from the two senators. There would be, you know, a real constitutional crisis if something like that happened. So whether that's a trap, I think a lot of that would happen anyway, but I don't think that general Kelly would stand for something like that. It's a clear obstruction of justice. He's already been investigated for obstruction of justice. He's -- It would depend on Mueller's actions. Everyone is acting as if Mueller wouldn't go outside that scope. If he stays in the scope of the investigations, follows the law he's going to be fine. You're one of the first to report Mueller would be looking into financials of president trump. That does derive from this investigation. Well that's why this empaneling the grand jury is significant. We knew this was a serious complex investigation. What's interesting is we're going to see from the kind of witnesses, the kind of leaks we're going to get out of this, that the kind of material they're looking at. Are they focusing on possible obstruction, collusion with Russia or looking at some of the financial dealings that were made with broader people around him. That is what we are likely to see. From the hiring it appears that's what they're doing. These are prosecutors most sophisticated at looking at mob ties, complex financial fraud we have seen. Make no mistake -- it is within his scope of his investigation. So the point if he made any money on Russian transactions, that would be illegal how? Are you saying if they find people made a quid pro quo, that is -- I didn't say that. That is the hardest thing to ever prove by a prosecutor. People are buying up a whole bunch of apartments is a way to launder money. It's clear that they have discovered evidence of something. So there is a predicate of wrong-doing here. We have two grand juries. Because we all know general Flynn and Paul manafort have a certain amount of legal trouble. You know, we learned it was on fox.com this week and we would have expected, you have got at least six top officials in the justice department and the FBI who are likely to be called in as witnesses on the obstruction case. That is a remarkable lineup facing the president. Right. You know, special prosecutors have a way of expanding their purview. We have to keep in mind it's not something that has to caulminate in an indictment. It could just be a report to congress and lay out fact that is are unbecoming of the president. There are multiple ways this could play out and none of them -- if you're in the white house you have got to be very concerned about the way scandal has become further and further institutionalized as an issue that could harm this administration. That is why the John Kelly issue can be also something that he's setting himself up for failure when we look at replacing the communications director. Stephen Miller, a man who has appealed to the most native impulses of the base, but his policies are out of step with main stream Republican voters and increasingly the base. Filling that position is crucial. As a Republican expert as Stephanie said, I might take exception at that. Let's focus on that right now. No question that Stephen Miller, that gets a lot of attention, he gets cheered inside of the white house. A lot of president's supporters say you go, you showed CNN in that exchange right there. If you look at that, if you look at the trip to West Virginia, if you look at the transgender ban, what you see is the president focusing on his hardest core supporters right now. I think what you see the president doing is trying to implement the agenda that he said he would implement and what you have is a west wing that wasn't set up to do it in a seamless way. I think the press is enjoying covering these skirmishes and it's why the daily briefing, days when it's painful and when it's not. Because you also have to admit George, the press loves those moments when all the cameras are on them and they're show-boating and that's not necessarily helping the country either. What I would say, we're all trying to get in Donald Trump's head and trying to look at why did he do it this way or that way, fair game. What I'm looking at are the policies he's implementing and none should be shocked at what he's doing. And I don't see a lot that's been implemented. I'm looking at health care, tax reform, success. Regulations alone have been -- let's get back to the immigration bill. We talk about the base. The base is a very gated thing. A lot of the administration's priorities have been pitched to a much more traditional Republican party base. Health care. People have talked about tack reform deregulation. Not a whole lot for the white working class voters part of a distinctive trump base. The immigration proposal is the first time this administration has really gone after and catered to this group of voters. One of the big questions is it actually going anywhere in the congress this year? That is all we have time for. Thank you very much.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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