>> NARRATOR: Tonight... >> It was the hostile takeover of the Republican Party.
>> NARRATOR: The fight between the president and his own party.
>> In one fell swoop, the Republicans sent a message, "You're not a king, you are a president."
>> Trump's response is classic Trump, "Who am I going to blame?"
>> Don't mess with Donald Trump.
Donald Trump doesn't forget.
>> Somebody needs to stand up and say, "This is not our party, this is not normal."
>> Tonight on "Frontline," "Trump's Takeover."
>> Breaking news from Campaign 2016, Marco Rubio... >> NARRATOR: Washington, 2016.
>> ...Chris Christie have suspended their campaigns... >> Jeb Bush dropped out, ending his dream... >> NARRATOR: That summer, Donald Trump came to do something he'd been avoiding... >> Donald Trump has clinched the Republican nomination.
>> NARRATOR: ...meet with the Republican establishment.
>> Nominee for the Republican... >> We had no interest in coming to see what was going on in Washington and to get the endorsements and to meet with these people because they're the ones who have had Washington broken for the last 30 years, and Trump was going to come and change it.
>> Donald Trump heads to Capitol Hill.
>> He looks to unify the party behind him.
>> NARRATOR: Now he would confront the party leaders he had attacked during the primaries.
>> Let's face it, he was larger than the Republican Party.
In fact, his nomination was the hostile takeover of the Republican Party.
(shouting) >> In Greater Washington, the political class and the establishment, if you will, weren't prepared for this guy with no political background or, frankly, desire to embrace the political establishment.
>> NARRATOR: The occasion was a lunch with Republican senators, who came to take the measure of the man who would be their party's presidential nominee.
>> The Republican Party establishment was never ready for him.
They never understood him.
They didn't know anyone who voted for him.
They thought that he was crass and coarse.
And they just... they just couldn't connect.
>> Those meetings are usually a bunch of boiled broccoli and fish, a bunch of septuagenarians sitting around listening to Mitch McConnell tell them about what they're supposed to do in the next week.
This is something totally different.
This is not what normally happens at a Senate lunch.
>> NARRATOR: One senator, Arizona's Jeff Flake, had already made up his mind.
>> My only thought about him and politics was the conspiracy theory that he not only espoused, but really forwarded, about the president's birthplace.
>> Obama is unwilling or unable to show his birth certificate.
>> I thought that was unseemly, frankly, and just not becoming of a serious politician.
>> It was major conservative... >> NARRATOR: It was tough criticism from a Republican senator, one with decades in conservative politics and deep roots in his home state.
>> Jeff Flake is born and raised in Arizona, devoted Mormon, comes from a large family.
>> NARRATOR: He'd earned his conservative credentials running the Barry Goldwater Institute.
In 2000, he was elected to Congress.
>> He was the hardline right in the House.
He was the one that was voting against the Republican establishment, alongside his friend Mike Pence, then a Republican of Indiana.
>> We are led by very stupid people.
>> NARRATOR: As a senator, Flake had watched as Trump had ridiculed, mocked, and belittled the party's brightest stars.
>> Flake sees what happens during the Trump campaign and says, "This is exactly what I am not."
>> NARRATOR: And it became personal when Trump attacked Flake's fellow senator John McCain, who had been a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
>> He's not a war hero.
>> He's a war hero, five-and-a-half years.
>> He's a war hero because he was captured.
I like people that weren't captured, okay?
I hate to tell you.
>> I was appalled by it.
But, boy, to go after a prisoner of war, and to say that he couldn't be respected because he was captured.
>> NARRATOR: Flake had gone public with his criticism of Trump.
Now, at the lunch, Trump turned on him.
>> He looked at me and said, "You've been very critical of me."
And I mentioned that, "Yeah, I had.
And by the way, I'm the other senator from Arizona, the one that wasn't captured."
>> The two of them proceed, basically, to have at it.
And at that point, Trump is coming, once again, face to face with the counterweight to his version of Republican politics.
And it's game on at that point.
>> NARRATOR: Neither man was willing to back down.
>> Donald Trump is the greatest counterpuncher we've ever seen, and he responded in kind.
And what he said to him-- and I'm paraphrasing-- at that day was, "I'll remember this when you're up for re-election next time."
>> And he pointed out that he was doing very well in Arizona, that he had Sheriff Joe Arpaio with him, and he was going to roll and told me I would lose in November, not knowing that I wasn't up in November.
>> NARRATOR: But Donald Trump would not forget Jeff Flake and the other Republicans who challenged him.
>> Just like you don't mess with a sleeping dog, don't mess with Donald Trump.
If he doesn't get the better of you in the meeting, he's going to get the better of you in his tweets, and you may have thousands of followers, but Trump's got millions, and Donald Trump doesn't forget.
>> Any tough questions, Mr. Trump?
>> Things did not go well as Trump called out some members... >> NARRATOR: The confrontation between Flake and Trump signaled a crisis in the G.O.P.
>> Between Donald Trump and Senate Republicans... >> NARRATOR: And raised the question of who would control the Republican Party.
>> The 2016 presidential race is underway.
>> 2016 presidential race starts to take shape.
>> It's game time for the Republican National Convention.
>> Establishment Republicans skipping the event.
>> Not going to be here because they can't support him.
>> I've never seen anything like this at a convention.
>> NARRATOR: The campaign that followed was unlike any Republicans had seen before.
>> Trump is encouraging gun rights advocates to act out against Hillary Clinton.
>> Called President Obama the founder of ISIS.
>> NARRATOR: The candidate was a lightning rod.
>> Attacking a federal judge because he is Mexican-American.
>> Trump called her Miss Piggy and Miss Housekeeper.
>> Donald Trump is questioning the parents of a fallen soldier.
>> NARRATOR: Their party divided.
>> Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan rebuked Trump's comments... >> NARRATOR: But in the end... >> ...Over those lewd comments Trump made in that "Access Hollywood" tape.
>> NARRATOR: ...Trump defied the odds.
>> Donald Trump pulled off one of the biggest political upsets in American history.
>> ...one of the most shocking elections in our political history.
>> ...our nation's capital where today, history will be made.
>> ...the whole world is watching our country today... >> ...45th president today in just a couple of hours.
>> I, Donald John Trump, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully... >> NARRATOR: As Donald Trump took the oath of office, the question: would he make peace with the party he had ridiculed?
>> ...of president of the United States... >> NARRATOR: His path to the presidency had been fueled by anger at those standing behind him.
>> Congratulations, Mr. President.
>> He is a non-politician who came to Washington owing no one anything.
He beat the establishment of two parties.
Not just one, but two.
He's ready for the job, but Washington was not quite ready for him.
>> NARRATOR: The Republican establishment was on edge.
>> Donald Trump was in a different league in terms of being able to demonstrate anger.
He was more angry than anybody by multiples.
>> The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.
Their victories have not been your victories.
>> A lot of folks probably thought, "Hey, you know what?
That guy will go to Washington, will take Washington by the lapels, shake it up, and then return it back to what we need it to be doing."
>> The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.
>> That confirmed a lot of our worst fears.
It was just an in-your-face, you know, kind of slash-and-burn speech.
And he seemed to be continuing the campaign.
And that's, that's never good.
>> A new world order, at least a new Washington order, where Congress... >> After watching President Trump's inauguration... >> NARRATOR: But in the days that followed, Republican leaders thought they had an advantage over the inexperienced president.
>> The problem that Trump had was there was no plan.
He had slogans, he had promises, he had populist impulses, but there was no policy to back it up.
>> Congress is back in session and ready to get down to work.
>> NARRATOR: Speaker Paul Ryan headed for the White House.
He had devised a way of handling the new president.
He would provide an agenda.
It began with Obamacare.
>> Paul Ryan came to the president and said, "Look, our goal, our plan, is, we'll get repeal and replace done by Easter."
Okay, easy peasy lemon squeezy, we've done this a hundred times, right?
Then we'll get a tax cut done probably by Labor Day, and you'll have your transportation bill done before the end of your first year, and you'll have the most successful presidency of a first-year president in the history of our country.
>> He thought that it would be easy to work with Trump.
That the president just wanted "wins," right?
He just wanted... he just wanted to be able to say he was winning and that he wouldn't be particularly combative about the details.
It was just about, "Get me bills and I'll sign them."
>> NARRATOR: With Republicans in control of Congress, Ryan believed he was on the verge of enacting policies he'd advocated for decades.
He had been in Washington since he was 22.
>> This guy is a guy who has been reading the "Wall Street Journal" editorial page since he was in high school.
He read Ayn Rand when he was young, and it kind of defined his political outlook for a lot of his life.
He's a small-government guy to his core.
>> NARRATOR: Ryan had worked his way up inside the G.O.P.
establishment: a vice presidential candidate, and eventually Speaker of the House.
Now, with a Republican president, Ryan was ready to act.
>> Good morning, everybody.
I would like to walk you through exactly what the American Health Care Act is.
>> NARRATOR: Written behind closed doors, Ryan hoped he could fast-track the bill.
>> The time is here, the time is now.
This is the moment, and this is the closest this will ever happen.
It really comes down to our... >> NARRATOR: But the Republican Party had deep divisions, and not everyone was happy to go along.
>> The bill's rolled out, no real hearings with actual witnesses, no amendments get offered until it gets to the rules committee and you're told, "Take it or leave it."
That's not how you're, you're supposed to do things.
So we pushed back against that.
>> NARRATOR: They were the Freedom Caucus, an outgrowth of the Tea Party.
>> Their whole purpose is to push the party as far as they can toward their end, the conservative end.
And they're okay with shutting down government, they're okay with setting a bill on fire and throwing it out the window.
That's not how Paul Ryan operates.
>> Republicans are pushing... >> NARRATOR: The Freedom Caucus refused to support Ryan's bill, insisting it didn't go far enough in dismantling Obamacare.
>> The Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare is coming under fire.
>> NARRATOR: President Trump had little patience for the Republicans' ideological squabbles.
He wanted a win, and quickly.
>> Are we even going to see a vote on the Obamacare repeal?
>> He sees, on paper, Republicans control everything.
This should be easy, fellas, right?
Let's get together.
We don't even need the Democrats.
But the difference there is, what the Freedom Caucus think is acceptable is not in line with what Paul Ryan and his leadership thinks are acceptable.
And so now we're fighting amongst ourselves.
>> Lawmakers, many of them members of the Freedom Caucus, will be meeting with President Trump, these are individuals... >> NARRATOR: But Trump relied on his own abilities as a salesman, and if Ryan couldn't sell the bill, he would.
>> Trump said, "I can overwhelm this town with my personality."
President Trump was trying to overwhelm Washington.
>> I just want to say that these are folks that were either a "no" or a "maybe."
>> To consume Washington with his spirit, his personality, his willfulness to get things done.
>> All of these nos or potential nos are all yeses.
>> That's the businessman in him, that he understands the backslap, the Oval Office lunch, the Air Force One ride, that personal attention, those relationships, can largely help pull one or two votes or make a lasting friend.
>> ...sit-down with members of the Freedom Caucus are vowing not to vote... >> NARRATOR: But the president didn't seem to understand or care about the details of the bill he was trying to sell.
>> Trump is praising the new legislation... >> It was very striking, and I interviewed a number of the participants of these meetings, just how little Trump understood or really cared to understand the key provisions.
He would just simply say, "Look, guys, we need a win.
We need to put this win on the board."
And he just seemed uncomprehending and uninterested.
>> The president was not particularly engaged in the policy details.
That was pretty apparent.
The president seemed to defer to Congress, largely, and basically, you know, "Whatever you guys pass, I'll sign."
>> NARRATOR: Unable or unwilling to get into the specifics of the bill, Trump struggled to win over the Freedom Caucus and other holdouts.
>> President Trump his entire career had cut deals in non-ideological situations.
Now he was confronted with a totally ideological situation.
Winning over an ideologue's not like winning over someone in a real estate deal because they have a core conviction which may prevent them from coming over to the other side.
It's not all transactional.
>> Here at the White House, it is all hands on deck.
>> NARRATOR: The bill was stuck, the president increasingly taking the blame.
>> The question, can he get enough Republican votes to pass the health care... >> NARRATOR: Frustrated, he headed to Capitol Hill to confront his party.
>> A growing number of conservative Republicans are now warning... >> NARRATOR: No more backslapping and cheerleading.
Now, an ultimatum.
>> Can you get the votes, Mr. President?
>> Think so.
>> Finally, Trump kind of just throws up his hands and says, "You know what?
This is the ultimatum.
You have until this day.
You have this deadline, and if you can't get it done, we're moving on."
>> Mr. President, did you make a persuasive case in what... >> NARRATOR: It was classic Donald Trump.
>> We had a great meeting... >> NARRATOR: The Freedom Caucus would either get on board, or the president would walk away from the effort to repeal Obamacare and make sure they got the blame.
>> The pressure was so massive, and this was the atmosphere that the Freedom Caucus was in.
They knew the spotlight was theirs.
>> NARRATOR: At the deadline, they decided to call the president's bluff.
Ryan headed to the White House to warn Trump that they'd failed.
>> I'm told Ryan was ice cold, very calm throughout the whole car ride and the visit to the White House because he had to convey a simple message.
He did what he could, but the votes weren't there.
>> I was there, I was in the Oval Office when he arrived.
Speaker Ryan was very candid and very forthright.
He said, "We're going to pull the bill.
We don't have the votes."
>> Donald Trump is a man who expects action.
This notion of pulling a bill is unacceptable.
"You told me we're going to get it done."
He promised the American people, "We're going to repeal and replace Obamacare."
So when he hears, "We have to pull the bill because we don't have the votes," he's beside himself.
>> NARRATOR: After Ryan left, the president picked up the phone to call the "Washington Post," determined that he not be blamed.
(phone dialing) >> I get a call on a Friday afternoon and it's President Trump.
Trump says, "I've pulled the bill."
He tells me the Republican Party is broken.
"I don't need this broken Republican Party," he said, "if they're not going to really help me, if they're not going to get their stuff together."
What he really wanted was a win.
He wasn't pushing for an ideological win, he wasn't pushing for a political win.
He wanted a win for Donald Trump, and the Republican Party failed him.
>> Congress failed to pass a Republican bill to reform... >> In the end, the self-proclaimed closer couldn't close the deal.
>> NARRATOR: The president, the salesman, the dealmaker, had also failed.
>> The Trump administration will be able to get one passed at all... >> NARRATOR: Trump was ready to move on.
>> ...repeal of Obamacare, those discussions are focusing on... >> NARRATOR: But on Capitol Hill, they were not ready to give up on repealing Obamacare.
>> Reboot of the bill... >> NARRATOR: Paul Ryan spent more than a month rewriting the bill, giving the Freedom Caucus what they wanted: allowing states to roll back key provisions of Obamacare.
It was just enough to pass the House.
>> ...the bill is passed... >> Republicans got the necessary votes to pass their Obamacare replacement... >> The problem, of course, is, if it's more to the liking of the Freedom Caucus, you can bet that means it's going to offend people who are moderates.
>> The House is celebrating... >> NARRATOR: They knew the bill would face stiff opposition in the Senate, where Democrats were entirely opposed, and some Republicans were also wary.
>> There was virtually no way that the United States Senate could ever pass that bill.
There's no way.
>> It was one big party after... >> NARRATOR: Nevertheless, the president wanted to celebrate.
Buses were arranged to take Republicans to the White House.
>> ...where the atmosphere was undeniably... >> NARRATOR: The Rose Garden was the scene.
A string quartet provided the ambiance.
>> And there's a band, and it's just this over-the-top celebration for one House bill.
>> The president and vice president... >> NARRATOR: It was orchestrated to show Americans what Trump considered his victory.
>> You could tell Trump didn't know what he was doing, because not only did the initial push in healthcare fail in humiliating fashion, but when they revived it and managed to eke the bill through the House of Representatives, what did he do?
He threw a huge party in the Rose Garden.
He thought he'd won.
>> This is, make no mistake, this is a repeal and a replace of Obamacare, make no mistake about it.
Make no mistake.
>> It was, it was crazy.
I remember watching it.
We were all just sort of, like, our jaws open, like, "Wow."
>> We want to brag about the plan, because this plan really-- uh-oh.
(laughter) >> We don't want that.
>> Well, yeah, we may.
>> I was watching that, cringing.
He certainly didn't seem to appreciate the difficulty of taking any piece of legislation from one body to another here.
>> How am I doing?
Am I doing okay?
Hey, I'm president-- can you believe it, right?
>> I remember going, I said, "I'm not sure it's wise to be spiking the football at the 50-yard line, but what the heck?"
>> Thank you all very much, everybody.
Thank you, thank you very much.
>> Mr. President, what about those Americans... What's your message to Americans with pre-existing conditions, sir?
>> NARRATOR: Outside of Washington, the response to the bill was very different, as Republican lawmakers discovered back in their districts.
(crowd shouting) >> All around the country, you had these hugely energized town halls, and legislators would go home and get screamed at... >> (shouting) >> ...by constituents who were terrified they were going to take away their healthcare.
>> And I had the Resist movement and the protesters around the building.
>> The problem is, Obamacare has just collapsed.
(crowd booing) There's just a huge reaction.
I had town halls with people in churches swearing and lobbing f-bombs at the pastor, if that helps set the tone.
(crowd shouting) I'd try to finish sentences on healthcare, et cetera, whatever, folks are just... (mock shouts) >> Read our questions!
>> That's what we were facing, right?
People were saying, "You're going to take away healthcare for millions," and, like, "Ah!
Boo, " you know?
I mean, so it was hard to have a rational dialogue-- still is.
>> Shame on you!
Shame on you!
>> They were kicking a hornets' nest of millions of Americans who were now terrified that they could lose their health insurance coverage.
>> And take the billionaires' money and give it to that woman-- here.
>> It just created an environment that I also don't think Republicans were really politically ready for.
>> A single payer run by the government, oh, yeah, it's got problems, but it's also got elections, and you're going to find that out in 2018!
>> What Trump has done is he's made Obamacare popular.
>> NARRATOR: President Trump may not have been interested in the details of the legislation, but the backlash got his attention.
>> Remember, this is a guy who takes most of his cues on what the American public is up to through television.
So he's seeing news coverage, and can see that it's unpopular because he's seeing the voters chastise incumbents.
>> The provisions that are in Obamacare's are extremely popular.
>> And he's just getting more and more impatient and anxious and frustrated, seething with resentment for the Republican leaders who had misled him and taken him down this kind of doomed path.
>> Some of these more moderate states, and yes, even Democratic states... >> NARRATOR: As the Obamacare repeal worked its way through the Senate, the president began to criticize the version the House passed.
>> ...think the Republican House health care bill is a good idea.
>> Trump soon starts to trash the very bill that he threw a party for.
When it's time to negotiate a Senate version, he says, "It's too mean."
>> Trump told senators the House health care bill was "mean."
>> All that celebration and then to come out and say, "Well, I really didn't like that bill."
That gave a lot of senators pause.
"Will the president be there for us if we pass something, and then it turns out it's not as popular?"
>> NARRATOR: In the Senate, the bill was in trouble.
Majority leader Mitch McConnell was in charge of getting it passed.
>> Mitch McConnell's the master.
You know, I mean, he understands the rhythm of the Senate.
He has been in that body and in elected politics for a very long time, so understands how to get something done in a legislative arena.
>> NARRATOR: McConnell had spent more than three decades in the party establishment, earning a reputation as a deal maker and fixer.
>> A senator once joked to me that if you had to call a friend and needed to bury a body, Mitch McConnell is the friend that you would call who would help you and never bring it up again, but might need a favor from you years down the line.
>> NARRATOR: But with only a razor-thin majority in the Senate, McConnell was struggling to keep the repeal bill alive.
The crucial vote: John McCain.
>> Keep in mind, this is basically two years to the month after President Trump had criticized McCain's P.O.W.
status and suggested he was not a hero because he was captured.
>> NARRATOR: Recently diagnosed with brain cancer, McCain had returned to the Senate for the vote.
>> And every time we saw him, it was, like, "Do you know how you're going to vote?
Do you know how you're going to vote?"
And he was grouchier and grouchier as the day went on, as he sometimes gets.
And he just said, "Stay tuned."
>> The Senate is scheduled to vote on the latest version of the bill.
>> NARRATOR: It all came down to one vote on one night, at 1:30 in the morning.
>> The clerk will call the roll.
>> It was the most dramatic night on the Senate floor I had seen in all my years up there.
>> Mr. Barrasso.
>> The vote's ticking away, the vote's ticking away.
And McCain's on the floor, but he's not voting.
>> Mr. Blunt.
>> You saw Mitch McConnell looking more and more unhappy, his arms were closed.
And you could tell from the body language on the Republican side that they were very worried.
>> John McCain walks up to where the vote clerks are and he lifts his hand very dramatically.
>> He knew that this was his one last chance to really take a stand, capture the nation's imagination in the process, but also remind his party that they had to do things differently.
>> NARRATOR: McCain, with a thumbs-down gesture, shocked the chamber.
>> (gasps) (light applause) >> It was pretty high drama.
I went the other way, but John felt that this was a time to take a stand.
And, frankly, as much as I, I disagreed with it, I admired it.
It was classic John McCain.
>> (gasps) (light applause) >> In one fell swoop, he killed Donald Trump's first major legislative push, and in so doing, sent a message that, "You're not a king, you're a president."
>> In the Senate chambers, you could hear the shock.
>> NARRATOR: Among the Republican establishment, McCain's vote signaled an ongoing unease with the president.
>> McCain represented a Republican Party, an establishment, centrist wing of the Republican Party, that was deeply unhappy with President Trump and did not appreciate his agenda, did not appreciate his style.
And so by McCain ending Trump's initiative, by McCain putting his hand up and saying, "Stop," it was a roaring back for the Republican establishment.
>> In a shocking vote, Senator John McCain delivering a death blow... >> NARRATOR: With the repeal effort dead, Trump left Washington.
>> August is a pivotal moment in his first year.
He's angry in August.
He's angry that he can't get healthcare through.
He's angry that it came down to John McCain's vote on the floor.
He's angry that he looks ineffectual.
>> NARRATOR: He headed to the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
>> And what good is the Republican Party if they can't pass things that they had been promising to pass for seven years anyway?
>> NARRATOR: He had tried to work with the party's leaders.
Now he would strike out at them.
His weapon of choice: Twitter.
>> "You can thank Congress, the same people that can't even give us Hcare!"
(computerized tweet plays) >> NARRATOR: He went after congressional Republicans, especially Leader McConnell.
>> "Senator Mitch McConnell said I had 'excessive expectations,' but I don't think so.
After seven years of hearing repeal and replace, why not done?"
(computerized tweet plays) >> The president's frustration was not subtle, right?
Particularly towards Mitch McConnell.
I think he just saw him as a failure.
>> "Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed repeal and replace for seven years, couldn't get it done?"
(computerized tweet plays) >> Trump is using the most powerful weapon he has, which is Twitter, to humiliate him repeatedly, to rake him over the coals, to let his followers know, "This is Mitch McConnell's fault.
He's failed you, not me."
>> "Mitch, get back to work and put repeal and replace, tax reform and cuts, and a great infrastructure bill on my desk for signing."
(computerized tweet plays) >> He's feeding it.
Trump is feeding hostility towards Congress.
And that tweet storm galvanized Trump voters to turn against Congress in a way that I've never seen a governing party's supporters engage in.
>> And I can understand that... >> NARRATOR: On the telephone, Trump and McConnell had it out.
>> He calls McConnell and they get into a screaming match.
And Mitch McConnell rarely raises his voice, but Trump is using all manner of expletives to criticize Mitch McConnell.
And McConnell is giving it back to the president.
>> NARRATOR: As the feud grew, 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 have 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're undercutting him every day?
I don't get it.
>> ...phone call between the two men erupted into a profanity-laced... >> Escalating his feud... >> NARRATOR: The president and the majority leader would not speak to each other for weeks.
>> ...with a Republican president and Republican... >> Trump was kind of casting out the establishment Republicans who he felt had led him astray, right?
It was almost kind of a darkly liberating moment when that healthcare bill failed.
>> The feud between President Trump and Senator McConnell... >> Because he realized that he was not going to be able to play the part of the good, mainline Republican trying to get conservative legislation passed-- that was not his game.
>> You will not replace us!
You will not replace us!
You will not replace us!
>> NARRATOR: Later that week, a torchlight march-- a new crisis that would further divide Trump and his party.
>> We have breaking news tonight on the eve of that alt-right white nationalist rally-- take a look at this.
>> ...torch-wielding white nationalists coming face to face... >> A demonstration by white nationalists at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
>> What you had in Charlottesville was the alt-right people, many of them marching in Trump's name.
>> We could see them marching with torches and it looked like something out of Nazi Germany.
(drumming) >> NARRATOR: The next day, neo-Nazis and white nationalist protesters were forming, protesting plans to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee.
>> Hello, how are y'all doin'?
>> NARRATOR: Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke praised President Trump.
>> We are determined to take our country back, we're going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump-- that's what we believed in, that's why we voted for Donald Trump.
>> NARRATOR: Also arriving, counterprotesters determined to confront the white nationalists.
>> This is what they represent.
>> The counterprotesters, the progressives, were gathering on the streets surrounding this park.
>> The counterprotesters began yelling and screaming.
>> NARRATOR: Armed right-wing militia arrived.
>> NARRATOR: Hour by hour, the tensions grew.
>> Violent clashes between white supremacists and counterprotesters broke out... >> NARRATOR: The anger finally boiled over.
(shouting) >> It quickly became a scenario that I think the police would admit they weren't... going to be unable control.
>> Charlottesville under siege.
>> ...as police in riot gear try to restore calm.
>> NARRATOR: Then the unthinkable.
(chanting) (screaming) >> You hear the screams go up, and a woman is struck by the front bumper.
(screaming) (tires squealing) >> Throws the car in reverse.
You hear the squeaking of the tires as he pulls back out.
(bumper scraping pavement) >> NARRATOR: A neo-Nazi turned his car into a weapon.
>> Panic and horror in Charlottesville-- a car slams into a crowd of counterprotesters at a white supremacy protest.
>> A woman was killed when a man drove his car into a crowd, injuring 19 others.
>> When a driver plowed into the crowd, killing a young woman and injuring 19... >> NARRATOR: Throughout the day, at his country club, the president conferred with staff.
Then he went before the cameras.
>> When this happens, the instinct of most presidents would be heal, unify, mourn.
But that's not what he wants to do.
It's not his impulse.
But he has to say something.
>> But we're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia.
>> He had prepared remarks that he was going to read, you know, condemning the violence in Charlottesville.
>> We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides.
>> The words "many sides" were ad-libbed and added by Trump.
They were not in his prepared remarks.
>> Thank you very much, thank you.
>> NARRATOR: The ad lib immediately provoked an uproar.
>> Struggled to shore up the president's equivocal response to Charlottesville.
>> That didn't go over very well because it was clear that one side seemed to, you know, initiate this altercation.
It was the nationalists, these white nationalists.
They were largely responsible for the violence.
>> Do you want the support of these white nationalists?
>> Would you call it terrorism, sir?
>> In many ways it was the worst moment of the first year of his presidency-- it's not a challenge to denounce white nationalists.
And yet he couldn't do it.
>> When the president won't stand with you against Klansmen... >> NARRATOR: Two days later, as Trump headed into New York City, the controversy was building.
>> That's how neo-Nazis see President Trump-- they are clapping for him.
>> I think he is making very clear who and what he is.
>> Talks like a white supremacist... >> NARRATOR: He was working out of Trump Tower.
>> Walking away from the... >> Facing a full-scale rebellion... >> NARRATOR: And it all came to a head when the president appeared in the lobby.
>> He goes into Trump Tower, they're in the lobby to do this press conference about cutting regulations and red tape.
We had literally been told, minutes before, "Trump's not going to take questions."
>> NARRATOR: But he did.
(reporters shouting questions) >> I didn't wait long.
>> NARRATOR: The president had decided to engage.
>> Excuse me, what about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right?
Do they have any semblance of guilt?
>> Then he goes off for an hour.
He's so fiery, he's so angry, and he's really getting a personal back-and-forth with members of the press.
>> As far as I'm concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day.
Wait a minute.
I'm not finished.
I'm not finished, Fake News.
That was a horrible day.
>> The real Trump emerges.
He's been watching the cable news coverage that says he hasn't done and said enough.
And he decides he's going to riff.
>> I think there's blame on both sides.
And I have no doubt about it, and you don't have any doubt about it, either.
>> He has to fight back.
So when you accuse him of being a racist, he doesn't want to back up, he wants to double down and prove you... to you, that that's not true, and that's what the president is.
>> But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay?
Thank you all very much.
>> If you're a Republican politician, at that moment, you're tearing your hair out, because the president of the United States has, in one way or another, identified himself with, in a sense, the worst elements of our politics.
>> NARRATOR: Senate leader Mitch McConnell was especially concerned.
Since the '60s, he has been a civil rights supporter.
>> He was irritated, you know?
He attended the "I have a dream" speech, he was in the Capitol rotunda watching Lyndon Johnson sign the Voting Rights Act.
>> NARRATOR: McConnell issued a statement: "There are no good neo-Nazis."
>> This was Mitch McConnell, who had spent months and months trying not to publicly respond to all of the president's attacks on him.
But in this case, in Charlottesville, he felt that there was so much wrong in what the president had said that he had to speak out.
>> President Trump is being criticized by fellow Republicans... >> NARRATOR: McConnell 's statement was part of a wave of Republicans criticizing Trump.
>> "White supremacy, bigotry, and racism have absolutely no place in our society and no one, especially POTUS, should ever tolerate it."
(computerized tweet plays) >> "Mr. President, you can't allow #whitesupremacists to share only part of blame."
(computerized tweet plays) >> "There's no moral equivalency between racists and Americans standing up to defy hate and bigotry."
(computerized tweet plays) >> There were, like, 35 or so statements issued from Senate Republicans attacking the president.
People were not reserved about expressing it.
These were not private conversations, they were press releases.
>> "White supremacy is repulsive.
This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for."
(computerized tweet plays) >> "We should never hesitate to call out hate whenever and wherever we see it."
(computerized tweet plays) >> NARRATOR: Trump refused to back down.
>> That August was an extremely dark time in Republican politics.
There's open warfare between Senate Republicans, who thought this was a real problem, and a president who sort of refused to acknowledge that.
>> NARRATOR: One key player in that fight-- Jeff Flake, the president's old nemesis.
>> This was not where a president should be.
This was a layup.
This was easy, you know?
If there's white supremacy in any form, you condemn it.
>> NARRATOR: Just weeks before, Flake had released a book denouncing the president's inflammatory rhetoric about race and immigrants.
>> Somebody needs to stand up and say, "This is not our party.
This is not behavior that we should condone.
We shouldn't be okay with this.
This is not normal."
Because, for the long term, I'm very concerned about the direction of the party.
>> President Trump is holding a "make America great again" rally in Phoenix this evening.
>> NARRATOR: Trump counterattacked.
>> ...a campaign-style event tonight... >> Trump, by nature, thinks of power as something that manifests itself through force.
These people need to be punished.
I'm going to attack a senator of my own party in his own state in front of his own constituents and I'm going to teach him a lesson.
>> Well, I'm thrilled to be back in Phoenix, in the great state of Arizona.
(applause) >> He goes to Arizona and holds this really remarkable spectacle of a rally where it's almost like he's returning to the campaign trail.
>> Build that wall!
Build that wall!
>> Build that wall.
>> He wanted to engage and get on the home turf of the two men who he saw as his enemies within the party, John McCain and Jeff Flake.
He wanted to strike out at them where they live.
>> They all said, "Please, Mr. President, don't mention any names."
(crowd laughing) So I won't.
We were just one vote away from victory after seven years of everybody proclaiming, "Repeal and replace!"
One vote away.
>> Look, it's about going back to the base.
>> One, one vote.
>> To demonstrate how popular it is to be with the president, particularly in Jeff's own state.
>> And nobody wants me to talk about your other senator, who's weak on borders, weak on crime, so I won't talk about him.
(crowd booing) No, I will not mention any names.
Very presidential, isn't it?
>> When the president of the United States rolls in and you have a rally that has thousands of people in it, Jeff pays attention.
>> Drain the swamp!
Drain the swamp!
>> NARRATOR: Trump had delivered a strong message-- they were no longer Jeff Flake's voters.
>> I think he knew at that time that I was out of step with a lot of the Republican base, that, that he represented more of their feelings than I did.
>> We will make America great again.
Thank you, Arizona, God bless you.
>> You know, it is the beginning of draining the swamp.
I think it actually is a big win... >> Angrily going after politicians in Arizona even though he refused to mention... >> NARRATOR: Back in Washington, members of the Republican establishment heard Trump's message loud and clear.
>> Breaking news-- two more G.O.P.
congressmen announcing that they will not seek re-election.
>> NARRATOR: For many of them, it was time to leave.
>> President Trump for two Republican senators.... >> We're seeing an entire group of political leaders and, and veterans looking at the Republican Party and saying, "You know what?
There's no future for me in this party anymore.
I don't belong in this party anymore."
>> I think we see a lot of these congressmen... >> NARRATOR: In record numbers, more than three dozen Republicans decided not to run for re-election-- some fearing challengers backed by Trump, others unhappy with his style and agenda.
>> It's a reminder that, if you are not with Trump, you are going to have great difficulty operating inside the Republican Party.
That in one way or another, if you're at odds with the president, you're at odds with the Trump Republican Party.
>> Corker, who will not be seeking re-election next year... >> NARRATOR: Even powerful Tennessee senator Bob Corker decided he had had enough.
>> Bob Corker was on the short list to be vice president.
He hosted a rally for President Trump where the two men kind of had a bromance on stage, talked about how great each other were.
But then President Trump enters the White House, Bob Corker sees a real recklessness from President Trump.
>> NARRATOR: When Corker publicly expressed his concerns, Trump turned to Twitter.
>> "I would fully expect Corker to be a negative voice and stand in the way of our great agenda.
Didn't have the guts to run!"
(computerized tweet plays) >> NARRATOR: And so did Corker.
>> "It's a shame the White House has become an adult day care center.
Someone obviously missed their shift this morning."
(computerized tweet plays) >> For Republicans like Tennessee senator Bob Corker, he came out, essentially said that he wasn't sure that Trump had the character or the temperament to be president of the United States.
(laughs) >> He had a real public break with the president.
>> NARRATOR: Trump seemed to relish the fight.
>> I think it juiced him, because here's another chance to go after yet another Republican in a red state that we should be able to win.
Saying, "You're going to do this kind of thing, I'm going to find a way to destroy you."
>> "Bob Corker, who helped President O give us the bad Iran deal and couldn't get elected dog catcher in Tennessee."
(computerized tweet plays) >> NARRATOR: With few in the party siding with Corker, Jeff Flake was coming to his own realization.
>> He made the statements about the president, I think he obviously hurt himself among the base, and so he was kind of on an island.
And I think that, that hurt him, and I think he understood the political situation he was in.
>> NARRATOR: He'd been in Congress for 16 years.
Now, disgusted by the president's behavior, Flake decided he'd had enough.
He paid a visit to John McCain.
>> It was tough.
It was, it was very tough, because we've stood together on a lot of these things, and a lot of the resistance to some of the moves and the behavior of the president.
So that was a difficult thing to do.
>> NARRATOR: Then he requested permission from the presiding officer to speak on the Senate floor.
>> I decided to pull the pin.
None of my colleagues knew it, at that point.
I told a few of them, "You may want to come to the floor."
>> The senator from Arizona.
>> I rise today with no small measure of regret.
Regret because of the state of our disunion.
>> There was a sense of heartbreak, sadness, disappointment.
There is a veil of sadness around him.
>> But anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.
The impulse to scapegoat and belittle threatens to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking people.
In the case of the Republican Party, those things also threaten to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking minority party.
>> Flake's speech on the floor is one of the most memorable moments we'll take away from President Trump's first year in office, because it sort of gives voice to what most of, if not all of, the Republicans in Congress are thinking, but most of them aren't saying.
>> NARRATOR: As Flake walked off the floor, he left the other Republicans with a choice.
>> He's basically drawing a line.
"If we are going to be a successful conservative party, we have got to turn away from what Donald Trump is doing to us, and the way he is leading us."
It's kind of a moment of truth for the Republican Party.
What kind of a party is this going to be?
Who's going to lead this party?
>> NARRATOR: But Flake's speech seemed to have little effect.
>> There isn't a rush to stick up for Jeff Flake or side with him.
Everyone just kind of stays on the sidelines and wants to stay out of it.
A lot of, when you would talk to someone, "What did you think about Jeff Flake?"
"Oh, I didn't see what he said," you know, or "I missed it, I was in a meeting."
Like, there wasn't much ruminating on his decision.
>> NARRATOR: The president had won.
>> Jeff Flake thought he was going to raise his profile to the point where he would have an opportunity to be something bigger than what he is.
And what happened?
He made a terrible calculation.
He went against Donald Trump, who's a proven winner, and now Jeff is a guy who also used to be a U.S. senator.
>> This would have been a really tough haul for them next year... >> NARRATOR: It had been a year since voters had given Republicans control of the Congress and White House, but they still hadn't had a big legislative win.
>> Republicans are panicking at this moment.
They are a year, nearly a year, into having entire control of Washington and they might not have anything to show for it going into the 2018 midterm elections.
>> NARRATOR: McConnell, Trump, and Ryan looked for something they could all agree on-- tax cuts.
>> The tax bill is a unifying force in Republican politics.
The one thing almost every Republican agrees with is tax cuts.
>> It looks like President Trump is going to get his Christmas wish.
>> All those in favor will say aye.
>> A sweeping rewrite of our tax code moves one step closer... >> Republicans inching closer to victory on taxes.
>> NARRATOR: In December of 2017, they finally delivered the president what he most wanted: a win.
>> Passage of the tax bill is the biggest single moment for the party in the first year of the Trump presidency, and the biggest single moment for Donald Trump.
>> ...took a victory lap... >> The Senate passed the first major rewrite of U.S. tax laws... >> NARRATOR: Once again Trump invited the Republicans, House and Senate, to the White House to celebrate their victory.
>> It was sort of a mirror image of the failed Rose Garden healthcare ceremony.
Like, this one was deserved.
This is when you celebrate, when you've actually finished a bill.
>> Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats.
>> The Republicans just showed America on December 20 what unified government looks like.
Republicans passed it all on their own in the House, Senate, and the White House.
>> Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States... >> They finally passed the tax cut bill, less because of Donald Trump and more because the Republicans recognized, "We've got to have an accomplishment next year.
We can't go into the midterms with nothing to run on besides whatever the latest Donald Trump controversy is."
And so they cobbled together a coalition.
>> I guess it's very simple.
When you think-- you haven't heard this expression, but we are making America great again.
You haven't heard that, have you?
>> NARRATOR: One by one, congressional leaders came forward to praise President Trump.
>> Mitch, how about you start it?
(talking quietly) >> Well, let me just say, Mr. President, you made the case for the tax bill, but this has been a year of extraordinary accomplishment for the Trump administration.
We've cemented the Supreme Court right of center for a generation.
You've ended the overregulation of the American economy.
Thank you, Mr. President, for all you're doing.
(applause) >> What the Republican establishment now know is Donald Trump is unequivocally the leader of the Republican Party.
He is the one who sets the tone of what takes place in Washington.
He is the leader of our country, both politically and from a legislative side of things, and I think they've learned that over the last year.
>> Something this big could have not been done without exquisite presidential leadership.
Mr. President, thank you for getting us over the finish line.
Thank you for getting us where we are, really.
>> They'll be able to go home and campaign in 2018 fulfilling a pledge.
"I have lowered your taxes."
And that is a fundamental Republican promise, and they fulfilled it.
If it meant standing with a president who has equated white supremacists with civil rights marchers, gone after members of his own party, that's the price to pay.
>> Orrin, say a few words, please.
>> Mr. President, I have to say that you're living up to every... everything I thought you would.
You're one heck of a leader and we're all benefiting from it, and we're going to make this the greatest presidency that we've seen not only in generations, but maybe ever.
God bless all of you.
>> Thank you, Orrin.
Paul Ryan just said, "How good was that?"
>> In essence, this became Trump's Republican Party.
The testimony that people gave there is hard to take back.
>> Orrin Hatch, for example.
But McConnell and Ryan and others who gave Trump an enormous amount of credit, that, that created a unity within the Republican Party that had not existed.
>> Thank you very much, everybody.
>> NARRATOR: Despite differences that would remain, and challenges to his presidency, for now Trump had shown he was in charge of the Republican Party.
>> The litmus test prior to Donald Trump was, you know, ideological purity: how doctrinaire are you?
And that was the litmus test.
And now here we are, and Donald Trump, of course, is not very ideological and he is not very doctrinaire, and the issue now is loyalty to the president.
And that is unsettling to me.
>> Donald Trump is running and setting the course for this political party.
He's not an outlier, but rather he is the model around which current and future Republican candidates are being crafted as we speak.
>> And that the long... you know, the long wave of the Trump influence is something we can't even begin to see the end of right now.
>> The Republican Party has been thoroughly Trumpified, and they're bowing the knee to him.
But the Republican establishment has gotten an awful lot of what it wants from Donald Trump.
So that is at the heart of the bargain, this kind of Faustian bargain, that the Republicans have made with Donald Trump.
Now, in a Faustian bargain, remember, you often get what you want.
You know, you get judges.
You get regulatory reform.
You get tax cuts.
But then you find out that the price is way more than you were expecting.
>> The Republicans are concerned that a loss... >> The president of the United States is debasing our nation... >> There are people inside the Republican Party who are deeply worried about what... >> Nuclear war tweet is getting a lot of attention.
>> ...Republican lawmakers who are very concerned... >> ...Stormy Daniels story... >> Republicans are worried a loss would set a devastating precedent for the midterms.
>> ...investigation as a witch hunt... >> ...Republicans worry that firing Mueller could be an impeachable offense... >> NARRATOR: Next time on "Frontline"... >> This isn't about who they are, this about who we are.
>> NARRATOR: The life and politics of a maverick.
>> John McCain fused together two almost opposing concepts.
He is all about duty and he is all about dissent.
>> NARRATOR: And what it tells us about America today.
>> In some ways McCain is a pioneer of the politics I think we're going to get.
And in some ways I think he's the last of a breed of something we're losing.
>> Go to pbs.org/frontline... >> I'm president, can you believe it?
>> ...To explore an interactive version of "Trump's Takeover"... >> Somebody needs to stand up and say, "This is not our party."
>> ...and as part of "Frontline's" Transparency Project, see key quotes from the film in context.
>> He beat the establishment of two parties-- not just one, but two.
>> Visit our films page, where you can watch more than 200 "Frontline" documentaries.
Connect to the "Frontline" community on Facebook, Twitter, and pbs.org/frontline.
>> For more on this and other programs, visit our website at pbs.org/frontline.
♪ ♪ "Frontline's" "Trump's Takeover" is available on DVD.
To order, visit shopPBS.org or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS.
"Frontline" is also available for download on iTunes.