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Meet the Press - July 2, 2017

NBC News - Meet The Press

"7.2.17"

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, Obamacare repeal and replace is on life support as Republicans peel away.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (RECORDING):

The bill needs a lot more than tweaking or tinkering around the edges. It needs a major overhaul.

SEN. SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO (RECORDING):

I didn't come here to hurt people.

CHUCK TODD:

And if Republicans can't pass their bill.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (RECORDING):

The markets will continue to collapse and we'll have to sit down with Senator Schumer.

CHUCK TODD:

My guest this morning, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and two senators who say a bipartisan bill might not be such a bad idea, Democrat Tom Carper and Republican Bill Cassidy. Plus, dignity of the office, that presidential tweetstorm aimed at two MSNBC anchors.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (RECORDING):

I'm appalled. This is the president of the United States. You don't attack women.

CHUCK TODD:

Why does the president seem more interested in fighting with the media than in fighting for his legislative priorities? And the Russia investigation, new reporting that could suggest the first real link between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

Joining me for insight and analysis are Hugh Hewitt, host on the Salem Radio Network; NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent, Kasie Hunt; Eugene Robinson, columnist for the Washington Post; and BBC America anchor, Katty Kay. Welcome to Sunday. It's Meet the Press.

VOICE OVER:

From NBC News in Washington, the longest-running show in television history, celebrating its 70th year, this is Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning and a happy July Fourth weekend to everybody. And one day late, how about a happy Canada Day to our friends watching from over the border. Well, who knew health care could be so complicated? Mitch McConnell had a simple plan: draft a Republican-only, repeal-and-replace bill; do it behind closed doors; pass it quickly, before the opposition could get organized; and then go home for the Fourth of July holiday with the party having made good on a key campaign promise.

Well, one by one, Republican senators began to announce their opposition to the bill, helped along by a Congressional Budget Office analysis that said 22 million fewer people would wind up being covered, and that projected Medicaid spending would fall 35 percent over the next 20 years.

Then, President Trump made life more complicated for McConnell by suggesting repealing now and replacing later. Last night at an event honoring veterans here in Washington, the president focused on attacking the media, not on health care.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

The fake media is trying to silence us. But we will not let them. Because the people know the truth. The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House. But I'm president and they're not.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Throw in Mr. Trump's tweet storm against two MSNBC anchors, which further complicated matters and McConnell was left with the task of trying to save a bill by himself, which is now on life support.

(BEGIN TAPE)

FEMALE REPORTER:

Mr. Leader are you gonna get yo 50 votes on health care by tomorrow? [sen. Mitch McConnell: chuckles] Is that a no?

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Republican members of Congress may have left Washington, but they can't escape questions on their floundering efforts to pass a health care bill.

(BEGIN TAPE)

TOWN HALL ATTENDEE:

Stand up for the people who are here to say, "We need our health care."

CROWD:

Vote no. Vote no.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

On Wednesday, the president promised.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Health care is working along very well. We could have a big surprise with a great health care package.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

But by Friday, President Trump appeared to acknowledge that McConnell doesn't have the votes, tweeting this: "If Republican senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately repeal and then replace at a later date." That threw a wrench into negotiations with Conservatives, who are desperate for a plan B that does not include the Democrats.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SEN. BEN SASSE:

I want repeal and I want replace. If we can do those two together in one legislative package, I'm good with that. If we're gonna fail at that, we should separate the two. We made a promise to repeal Obamacare and we should keep our promises.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

McConnell quickly dismissed the president's trial balloon telling reporters in Kentucky that the health care bill remains challenging, but, quote, "We are going to stick with that path," pointedly adding, "It's not easy making America great again, is it?" Repealing Obamacare without replacing it would complicate Republican efforts to move forward if they want to avoid a Democratic filibuster. What's more, Mr. Trump previously said that strategy was unacceptable.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

We're not going to have, like, a two-day period. And we're not going to have a two-year period where there's nothing. It will be repealed and replaced.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Then, there's the fact that an outright repeal likely has even less support than the current Senate legislation.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

I'd be fine with that. I don't think we've got the votes in the Senate to pass that.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

The legislative hail Mary has come as Republican opposition to the existing Senate bill is hardening.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO (RECORDING):

I didn't come here to hurt people.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

This week, some Republicans have cautiously suggested bipartisanship as a last resort.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

The best outcome I still think would be a bipartisan bill.

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

I wish we were doing this on a bipartisan basis.

SEN. SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO:

If, for some reason, it fails, I think then the floodgates would probably open to reach a bipartisan compromise.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

With the Senate bill on life support, President Trump further complicated the process by spending nearly half the week attacking MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski, drawing rebukes from some of the Republicans he is trying to persuade to support a bill.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

You’re president of the United States of America, the greatest country on earth, you have a special obligation to be above this.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now, representing the Trump administration, is Health and Human Services Secretary, Tom Price. Secretary Price, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SECY. TOM PRICE: Good morning, Chuck. Happy Independence Day weekend.

CHUCK TODD: Absolutely. And same to you. Let me start with where this administration is right now with this healthcare bill. The president suggesting, repeal now, replace later. Is that your official stance now? Is that an acknowledgement that the Senate bill is essentially unworkable as it stands now?

SECY. TOM PRICE: No, we don’t think so. We think that Leader McConnell and his senators within the Senate are working to try to get this piece of legislation on track. They’re – conversations are ongoing as we speak. And, so, we look forward to, hopefully, them coming back after this Fourth of July recess and getting the work done.

CHUCK TODD: Ok. What changes need to be made that you will accept? Is it more opioid funding? Is that what it’s going to do to pass this? Is it to scale back the proposed reduction in Medicaid spending? What is it that you’re comfortable with, that the president is comfortable with, that you would like to see in the Senate bill?

SECY. TOM PRICE: There are three specific areas that are being worked on currently. One is the Medicaid issue. We want to make certain that Medicaid is a program that can survive. Right now, we’ve got a third of the physicians in this land who won’t see Medicaid patients. That means the program is actually failing many many patients. We need to fix that. And so we need to make it so that those individuals – if they transition from Medicaid – that nobody falls through the cracks. That gets us to the second issue, which is making certain that folks who want coverage that they are able to select the kind of coverage that is right for them and their families, not that Washington forces them to buy. Then, the third area, as you mentioned, is the whole issue of the opioid crisis. The president is adamant about making certain that we address this issue. We had 52,000 overdose deaths in 2015, 33,000 of those from opioids. The numbers today are worse than that. The president has told us – and he’s got a commission headed by Governor Christie – to make certain that we address this issue in a way that turns those numbers in the right direction.

CHUCK TODD: You know, you said something to another panelist that is going to be on my show today, Hugh Hewitt, you seemed to – he was suggesting more funding to deal with the opioid crisis – and you were a little skeptical. You said, look “I believe as well that more resources are necessary, but they need to be done in a way that provides for evidence-based treatment and examination of the crisis. We don’t need to be throwing money at this issue.” So, I’m guessing you don’t like the way Mitch McConnell is just throwing – he’s right now just – is that what you’re suggesting this looks like simply like a buy-off –

SECY. TOM PRICE: No.

CHUCK TODD: of some senators –

SECY. TOM PRICE: No.

CHUCK TODD: that are worried about it.

SECY. TOM PRICE: No, not at all. The fact of the matter is that over the last 10 years we’ve seen overdose deaths in this country spike to an incredible degree. As I mentioned, 52,000 overdose deaths in 2015 and the numbers are no better now. That tells us – that should tell anybody who is sober and looking at this situation that what we’re doing right now is not working. Therefore, what we need to do is to address in a strategic way, in a logical way, in a methodical way –

CHUCK TODD: right

SECY. TOM PRICE: evidence-based programs that can, in fact, reduce this incredible scourge of opioid crisis and opioid overdoses and deaths across this land. We don’t need to be throwing money at it –

CHUCK TODD: right

SECY. TOM PRICE: just to say “let’s put more money in there.” What we need to do is to identify the things that are working and then fund those things that are working.

CHUCK TODD: So what you’re suggesting is then the United States Senate is not prepared to decide how much money is necessary, so if there – do you

SECY. TOM PRICE: No, no.

CHUCK TODD: object to this? Because if you don’t know, if you don’t have the evidence yet of what exactly is working, what’s not, are you suggesting that the Senate needs to hold some hearings on this before they decide to throw money at this problem?

SECY. TOM PRICE: No, there’s a lot of what works that is actually known through the Department of Health and Human Services, through SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Agency, through N.I.H., the National Institute of Health, through C.D.C., there’s a lot that’s known about what does work. What I’m just suggesting – and I think it’s important to appreciate this – is that when the resources are provided by the Congress of the United States, that those monies go toward those programs that are actually successful in mitigating the challenge of the opioid crisis and overdoses.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to go to the larger issue here, which is the cost of health insurance, particularly for older Americans with preexisting conditions. AARP came out with their analysis. And they note because older Americans could now be charged up to five times as much as younger people, rather than a cap at three times as much under the current law. The AARP is calling that an age tax, that basically the older you are, the more you're going to end up paying in premiums. Do you agree with their analysis?

SECY. TOM PRICE:

No, I don't at all. And I think that brings us to the point of why are we doing any of this in the first place? The fact of the matter is that premiums are up, enrollments down, insurers are leaving the market. Oh, and that's before President Trump was sworn in.

And the fact of the matter is that it's only gotten worse since then because there hasn't been action. So, what we're trying to do is to bring all of those prices down, everybody. Premiums in this nation have doubled over the past four years, up an average of $3,000 for the average family. That's a tax on everybody. What we want to do is bring all of those prices down so that seniors, young people, folks in middle age, folks who are gaining their coverage by their employer, all of those costs come down.

CHUCK TODD:

But for what it's worth, not a single analysis, whether it's Congressional Budget Office or third-party groups, has indicated that this bill, either the House version or the Senate version, is somehow going to make premiums come down for older Americans. Every analysis suggests while premiums may come down for younger Americans, that for older Americans with preexisting conditions, these premiums are going to go up. There's not a single analysis that has said otherwise.

SECY. TOM PRICE:

And that's precisely because the Congressional Budget Office and all of these analyses don't look at the entire plan. The entire plan includes not just this piece of legislation, which is a significant piece, but it's not the entire plan. The other pieces of legislation that provide for increasing competition and increasing choices in the insurance market.

And then all of the things that we're doing at the Department of Health and Human Services right now, as we speak, to make certain that we're turning back the tide of all of the rules and regulations that were put in place previously that decrease choices, that increase cost, all of those things. If you look at it in its totality, and nobody's looking at it in its totality, we will bring down premiums. We will increase coverage. We will increase choices. And I believe we will increase the quality of care provided in this nation.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, in fairness to the Congressional Budget Office, they can only examine legislation that's in front of them, not potential future legislation.

SECY. TOM PRICE:

That's right. But that’s your question.

CHUCK TODD:

Potential future legislation, which is yet to be fully introduced. Let me ask you, though, about the president's behavior over the last week. Not only has he unloaded on cable news hosts, including folks that I work with, but he seems to not be trying be helpful on health care publicly. Last night, he holds a rally, of sorts. Didn't talk about health care. He spent most of his time tweeting about anything other than health care. Is the president too distracted here to campaign for health care?

SECY. TOM PRICE:

Absolutely not. The president's held multiple meetings within the White House itself, with physician, with small business groups, with other folks who have been harmed by Obamacare, with patients, individual stakeholders from across this land who tell him and have told us repeatedly that the current system is collapsing. And that's what the president talks about.

And it's in the area where Obamacare is in place, where the A.C.A. is in place. It's problems inherent in the program. Remember, premiums up, enrollment down, insurers leaving states and counties all across this nation before the president was sworn into office.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you about the tone of the president's tweets. Many Republicans in the Senate condemned the personal attack on Mika Brzezinski and attacking on her looks. You have Lindsey Graham saying it was "beneath the office." Ben Sasse, "This isn't normal." Jeff Flake, "Beneath the dignity of the presidency." Susan Collins begging, "This has to stop." Lisa Murkowski begging, "This has to stop." Does his behavior bother you?

SECY. TOM PRICE:

Well, what I'm concentrated on is the job that he's given me. And that is to make certain that we fulfill the mission of the Department of Health and Human Services, which is to improve the health, safety, and well-being of the American people. And there are a whole array of activities that we're undertaking. One of them is this piece of legislation that's in the Senate right now. But my job is consumed by making certain that we fulfill the mission at the department.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm just asking you as a father. If your son tweeted about a woman like that, what would you say to him?

SECY. TOM PRICE:

Chuck, you know, this is really remarkable. You've got incredible challenges across this nation, incredible challenges around the world. The challenge that I've been given is to address the health care issues. And your program, a program with the incredible history of Meet the Press, and that's what you want to talk about?

CHUCK TODD:

I don't.

SECY. TOM PRICE:

Let me suggest to you that the American people want to talk about the challenges.

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Secretary, I don't. Mr. Secretary, with all due respect, you're blaming me for what the president of the United States has spent his entire week focused on?

SECY. TOM PRICE:

No. Listen to me, with all due respect. The American people are concerned about a health care system that is not providing choices, where premiums are going up, where insurance companies are vacating markets all across this land. And that's what they want us to concentrate on. And that's what they want us to fix. And that's what I and the president are working on.

CHUCK TODD:

Why isn't the president as devoted to this as you are?

SECY. TOM PRICE:

Well, I think that he is, absolutely. The fact of the matter is that he can do more than one thing at a time. And the challenge that he's put before us at the Department of Health and Human Services is to make certain that we not only just address the issue of this health care piece of legislation. But address the United States' role in the world as it relates to pandemic influenza, to address the United States' role in the world as it relates to research and development, to make certain that we're on the cutting edge of the incredible innovation that's available to decrease human suffering, not just in the United States but around the world. That's the challenge that he's given to us.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, Secretary Price. I don't think a lot of people envy, sometimes, the position that the president put you in. I understand that. Thanks for coming on. I appreciate it.

SECY. TOM PRICE:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

As we said the repeal and replace bill has been written entirely by republicans. But if the bill fails an increasing number of senators have suggested that a bipartisan bill might be the only option. This week I sat down with two senators, a democrat Tom Carper of Delaware and a republican Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. And I asked them what it will take for the two parties to come together on healthcare?

SEN. TOM CARPER:

You know what's missing here is the chance to do what I call regular order. And there's actually great value if you introduce a bill. We have some time to read it. We actually have a chance to hold hearings and have discussions, to touch the CBO director and say, "What are the implications?" And if we could do that, if we'd go through that process and have a chance to offer some amendments in committees, we would end up with a much better plan.

CHUCK TODD:

When does the reset button get hit? When do you--

SEN. TOM CARPER:

I think we just hit. I think we just hit it.

CHUCK TODD:

I think we have too.

SEN. TOM CARPER:

I think we've hit it.

CHUCK TODD:

But Senator Cassidy, I don't think leadership-- your side of the aisle leadership thinks we're ready to hit the reset button just yet.

SEN. BILL CASSIDY:

I agree with some of what Tom just said. I disagree with the other. We need governors involved. I for one have called governors on both sides of the aisle, including my own, but including those from other states. But I don’t -- Susan Collins and I and four other Republicans put forward something called the Patient Freedom Act, which was a concerted effort to reach across the aisle.

Gail Wilenksy, who was H.W. Bush's kind of head of CMS if you will. She said, "Listen, if Democrats will not sign on to a bill such as Cassidy-Collins, Patient Freedom Act, in which they get to keep exactly what they have now with just a 5 percent haircut, they're not serious about working with others." Now, there's a Politico article yesterday, Chuck Schumer, I think the authors were Kim and Shore, last names, speaking about how Senator Schumer got all 48 senators in line. "You can't cooperate," et cetera.

Until a Democrat says they are willing to sign on to the Patient Freedom Act, which allows a blue state to do what they're doing now, but allows a red state to do something different, I'm not sure we're ready for bipartisanship.

CHUCK TODD:

What do you say to that?

SEN. TOM CARPER:

This is a great opportunity to pause. This is a great opportunity for guys like Bill and me and others to say, "What is it in the Affordable Care Act that we should fix, that needs to be fixed?"

CHUCK TODD:

I guess my frustration watching all this, and I think a lot of viewers, Senator Cassidy, is that there's part of me. I sometimes look at this and think, "Okay, you're arguing over the details of the same structure." There are times that you guys sound like you're agreeing more than you're disagreeing.

SEN. TOM CARPER:

Well, I think we do.

CHUCK TODD:

But the politics is what's getting in the way. It's the fact that maybe Democrats don't want Trump to get a victory. Maybe Republicans don't want Obama to have a legacy. I know that seems simplistic, but it comes across that way with some.

SEN. BILL CASSIDY:

Which is why I go back to our Patient Freedom Act, which devolves power down to the state. I would argue that there are some fundamental differences between Cassidy-Collins plan and the Affordable Care Act. But that's okay. If Delaware wants to stay with status quo, that should be what the governor and the legislature and the people of Delaware decide.

But if Louisiana says, "We can't afford $20,000 and $30,00 and $40,000 premiums on the individual market, let us do something different." It should not be for us to decide. It should be for the people of that state to decide. And just if you've seen one Medicaid program, you've seen one Medicaid program. I would like it if you see one program to make sure that everybody has insurance, you've seen one program to make sure everybody has insurance.

CHUCK TODD:

We're talking around Medicaid here. I want to sort of close out the conversation this way. Is Medicaid going to be essentially the default insurance option for folks that can't get any other insurance at this point?

Like, is this default in rural America at that point?

SEN. TOM CARPER:

Let me answer that question this way. When I was 29 years old, right out of the Navy, I got to be state treasurer. Got elected 'cause nobody wanted to run. And when I was state treasurer I thought Medicaid was health care for poor women with children.

CHUCK TODD:

That was what everybody I think --

SEN. TOM CARPER:

It was.

CHUCK TODD:

That was the stereotype of what it is.

SEN. TOM CARPER:

Well, it's not today. Almost two thirds of the money we spend in Medicaid is for our parents, or grandparents, and our aunts and our uncles. A lot of them are poor. A lot of them have dementia. Two million of them are veterans. And for us to walk away from that, I think, obligation to veterans and older people, I don't think we want to do that. Are there ways to provide care through Medicaid in more cost effective ways? Yes, we do. In many states we have private insurance who run managed care plans in order to hold down costs.

CHUCK TODD:

I guess, Senator, I feel like that's the fundamental debate inside your conference, which is I think you have said, "Hey, we've got to get over this idea. Health care's a right, not a privilege." You're sort of there. But--

SEN. BILL CASSIDY:

Congress has already established that.

CHUCK TODD:

That's what you have said. But not everybody in your party believes that. It seems to me that Medicaid is the sticking point. Not every Republican's comfortable with the idea that Medicaid is more than just helping out the poor.

SEN. BILL CASSIDY:

I don't mind. In fact, I would prefer that people at the upper end of Medicaid go into private insurance. Medicaid can become a barrier to seeking self-improvement because you hate to take a higher paying job because you lose Medicaid. I would prefer to combine say the upper limit of Medicaid population with the individual market.

When someone makes more money, they make more money. They're not afraid of hitting a cliff where they fall off. So there's disincentives to work and even to an intact family under Medicaid. It will be essential, but it needs to be restructured. Ideally people go into private insurance.

CHUCK TODD:

How much harder does the president make this when he pops off, on Twitter for instance, and is beyond offensive. Does that not complicate your goal here, which is trying to maybe work with the other side?

SEN. BILL CASSIDY:

Our focus cannot be on the Tweet. Our focus has to be on that kitchen table family paying $20,000, $30,000, and $40,000 for their premiums, wondering how they're going to make ends meet. Their child might be addicted to opioids. We in Washington, we in the country cannot be focused on Tweets. We have to be focused on answering that family's problems. And I get so frustrated when we get focused on Tweets. We need to think about these families with this incredible human need.

CHUCK TODD:

Why aren't you frustrated with the president?

SEN. BILL CASSIDY:

Because the president, if you think about what he's saying on health care, he actually wants something better.

CHUCK TODD:

But you say you're frustrated with the focus on the Tweets. It's the president Tweeting.

SEN. BILL CASSIDY:

Oh, yes. But the president doesn't make my life. I'm a conservative. I don't wake every morning. I wake up in the morning and I read about the LSU Tigers. I don't read about the president's Tweets. And I think we need to have more of a focus on that family, not on a president's Tweets.

CHUCK TODD:

Does the president make it harder for Democrats to work with the other side?

SEN. TOM CARPER:

He makes it a lot harder for himself. The most important ingredient in the success of any organization, large or small, state, government, business, school, whatever, always is leadership. Always is leadership. And I've been trained as a leader since a 12-year-old Boy Scout, Civil Air Patrol cadet, midshipman, Naval Flight officer for 23 years.

And this man's been trained as a leader, too. And one of the things that they taught us early on in the Navy is treat other people the way you want to be treated. They taught us that leaders don't build themselves up by pushing other people down. They taught us that leaders surround themselves with the best people they can find. And when the team does well, give them the credit.

I mean, everything I was trained as a leader, this man is none of those things. He's none of those things. And I look at it and I just shake my head. It's got to be harder for him to recruit people to come and work for him. They're having a terrible time filling positions.

I was told by John Barrasso, senator from Wyoming, that they have like, "We're just not getting names." And that's out of 600 confirmable positions, I think we've gotten 100 names. And it's just because people in part don't want to work for this fellow.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you both for doing this.

BOTH: Thank you.

CHUCK TODD: You got it. Happy Fourth of July.

BOTH: And to you as well.

CHUCK TODD:

Bipartisanship, who knows? Later in the broadcast, did we just see the first link between Russian hacking and the Trump campaign? Also, the president's latest tweet storms in his continuing war on the media. Many expected or hoped that the presidency would change Donald Trump, but is it possible that it's the other way around?

*** COMMERCIAL BREAK ***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panelists here: Hugh Hewitt, host on the Salem Radio Network and now also host of his own show on MSNBC; BBC America anchor, Katty Kay; NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent, Kasie Hunt; and Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Washington Post, Eugene Robinson. Welcome all. All right, I want to get specific on health care, Kasie, with you. This is your beat. Give me the next when the senators come back a week from tomorrow, what's the timeline and what's going to happen?

KASIE HUNT:

I'd be really surprised if something happened the first week that they came back. I think everybody's a little exhausted by it right now. I think they want a little bit of space to do some other things. I think the week after that, though, you are going to have to see one more last-ditch effort on this bill, I think. I think Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, he's pretty tired of being stuck on this issue, of having it hanging out there, of not being able to agree. Every news cycle gets more difficult for him.

What has happened with Dean Heller, a key member, remember. His majority, very slim. Dean Heller, the senator from Nevada, a very important part of it. Allies of the White House went after him. That caused a real rift between McConnell and the White House. I think all of those things are going to be factors as this plays out.

CHUCK TODD:

Guys, the Washington Post did an interesting analysis of the president and his messaging. He did not talk about health care last night at his rally. He's been tweeting about everybody except anything having to do with health care. Look at the stats of the month of June.

Each one was steamed out. And we have this great graphic here. During the first week of June, infrastructure week, 80 percent of his tweets were not about infrastructure week. Then, you had workforce development week the next week. 94 percent of his tweets not about workforce development.

Here's a good one: technology week, not a single tweet that week was about what they wanted in a message. And then, energy week this last week, 91 percent not on energy. In fairness, if you add in health care, then only 76 percent of his tweets this week were off message. Hugh Hewitt, without a president helping, Mitch McConnell's by himself on this right now.

HUGH HEWITT:

He is. I know there are ongoing conversations between the White House and some senators about what they can deliver. But Mitch McConnell is on his own. I am one of the optimists, that I think he's going to get the 50 without Susan Collins and without Rand Paul.

But there are fixes that go to the crisis in rural America. And we were talking before the show began. Ohio has 19 counties without any providers. Nevada has 14. They're not large population centers. But it's a crisis in rural America. The Senate really doesn't have an option not to repair the system. It's just they're going to have to move towards the Rob Portman solution, as opposed to the Pat Toomey solution. And we have to do that.

CHUCK TODD:

Interesting. So, it moves the bill to the middle?

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Yes, to the middle. And at some point, I think there probably has to be a kind of explicit acknowledgement that the basic structure of Obamacare is going to stay. And the basic thesis of Obamacare, which is that health care is a right, not a privilege, is implanted in American society now, is not going away and can't be taken away by a snap of the fingers or pass of a bill.

KATTY KAY:

You talked about the president. It's not just that he's not helping them. He's actively hurting them, even by putting back on the table, as he did this week, the idea that they could repeal and then replace at a later date, which even the White House admits is going to be challenging.

If there is a strategy behind it, he's trying to put pressure on senators, remind them that they called for this for seven years and if they can't come up with a replacement at least they've got to repeal. But Conservatives are going to be the losers in this. Eugene is right. Inexorably, America and American public opinion is moving in favor of more government in health care, not less government in health care.

KASIE HUNT:

The point you were making in your interview with Carper and Cassidy is exactly true. The reality is privately, the middle of the United States Senate, they all agree on, largely, what needs to be done. There is, in fact, a bipartisan consensus around a set of insurance reforms to fix Obamacare. The problem is that it's called Obamacare. What they're trying to pass is called Trumpcare. And nobody can get over that.

HUGH HEWITT:

There's a deeper philosophical deal, which is that when you were talking with Dr. Price, endowment funding for opioid crisis allows the states to iterate their solutions over time, as opposed to one-time spending. Ted Cruz's option, which allows states to have one non-Obamacare-compliant plan, there are federalism solutions available, which is why I think they’ll get to 50.

CHUCK TODD:

McConnell's folks are worried that Cruz -- when Congressional Budget scores it that it's just going to drive a stake through the preexisting condition argument, that it's a huge problem.

KASIE HUNT:

It's half the point, I think, of showing him that analysis, the idea that if they send this to C.B.O. and if you make these changes to demonstrate to Senator Cruz, "Hey, your plan's not going to be there."

EUGENE ROBINSON:

But by the way, why is Congress' approval rating so low? Because there actually is a majority in the Senate that could get together, could agree on a bill to pass it. They can't agree what to call it. There are some philosophical differences. But what's written on the paper would be the same.

HUGH HEWITT:

It wouldn’t get through the House. Well, this is the problem.

KASIE HUNT:

But, if it did, they'd have to go call Nancy Pelosi and ask her for her help. And this would require Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. But that goes back to our original point.

KATTY KAY:

But that bill that doesn't give a big tax cut to the wealthy and doesn't roll back Medicaid expansion is not the kind of bill the that Conservatives are ever going to sign on to.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, let me ask this very quickly. If this does fail and the Republicans can't do this alone, what does the next month look like on health care? Is it a small deal of just sort of propping up the insurance markets and H.H.S. says, "Okay, we'll give you some risk insurance, essentially"?

HUGH HEWITT:

I think the fire rages in the insurance markets for months to come, and that there will be disasters, real human disasters, if they do not get to 50. That's why I think they have to get to 50. Because they will not be able to connect connect with rural America.

KATTY KAY:

And the more talk there is of repeal but not replace, the more confusion you're going to get in the insurance market.

HUGH HEWITT:

I agree.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

I kind of disagree. I think there will be initial disasters in the insurance market. Because, frankly, the Republican Party has happened its hands around the throat of the Affordable Care Act for seven years. And it's squeezed and squeezed. It hasn't died. But it's not doing too well now. But I do think they'll have to do something. I don't think that they own the issue now.

CHUCK TODD:

I smell a new version of the doc fix.

KASIE HUNT:

Something like that, Chuck. I think, look, there's been so much uncertainty. Basically the only supporters outside of this bill have been a handful of health insurers who are saying, "Okay, look, this bill will at least stabilize our individual market." I do think we're at the point where the uncertainty is so great, they will be forced to do that.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, we'll pause the conversation here. Later in the broadcast on this July Fourth weekend, the great writer, thinker, and provocateur Malcolm Gladwell stops by. And he focuses on how we Americans obsess over our differences but not on our similarities. But next, we're going to hear from Americans about not what divides us, but really, what brings us together.

(BEGIN TAPE)

FEMALE AMERICAN:

I have the freedom to vote as a woman.

MALE AMERICAN:

Freedom of religion, freedom of speech.

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD: And we're back, Data Download time. There are a lot of things that divide us as Americans these days. We're even divided about fundamental issues, like where we're headed as a country. In the most recent NBC News Wall Street Journal Poll, Americans were split on just that question.

Is America in a state of decline, yes or no? Well, 52 percent said yes, 44 percent said no.

Politics, of course, plays a huge role in how you view that question. Among those who voted for Donald Trump, 43 percent said the country was in a state of decline. But a majority of those Trump voters said it was not. Those numbers flipped if you were a Hillary Clinton voter. 59 percent of Clinton voters say the country is in a state of decline. 38 percent said it's not. But folks, there's more to the story than just numbers. There's actual people. So we went down to the National Mall to just simply talk to visitors who came to the nation's capital for the Fourth of July weekend. And we asked them not what divides us, but what they think brings us together.

(BEGIN TAPE)

MALE AMERICAN: Americans embrace one another.

FEMALE AMERICAN: The opportunities that I've been able to have as a single mom, you know, raising two kids, I don't think I could've come as far as I could anywhere else.

FEMALE AMERICAN: I have the freedom to vote as a woman. I have the freedom to be able to do other things that in some countries women can't do.

MALE AMERICAN: We have freedom to make choices and live with the consequences of those choices, and the benefits of the same.

MALE AMERICAN: I think we are a much stronger nation when we work as a team.

FEMALE AMERICAN: We are from so many other different parts of the world.

MALE AMERICAN: Freedom of religion, freedom of speech.

FEMALE AMERICAN: Our ability to be innovative.

MALE AMERICAN: We can protest.

MALE AMERICAN: There's such a diversity of cultures and different kinds of backgrounds.

FEMALE AMERICAN: Because of America's past and now believing in the future, I have hope.

CHUCK TODD: We spend a lot of time on the issues that divide us, but we don't spend a lot of time on what makes us the same or similar. It's actually a conversation I'm going to have later in the show. But when we come back, it's email hacking and the question of possible Trump campaign collusion with the Russians. There's a story out there that indicates we have some smoke and we have a gun. The question is, did they come from the same place?

*** COMMERCIAL BREAK ***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back in the fog of health care. It was a big story that came out this week on Russia. Did the Trump campaign collude with the Russians over hacked emails? It’s of course really the central question of the investigation lead by special counsel Robert Mueller, and this week the Wall Street Journal published two stories detailing what may be evidence of a leak—of a link, excuse me. The stories detail the efforts of republican opposition researcher named Peter Smith, who tried to obtain emails he believed were stolen from Hillary Clinton’s private server, presumably by Russian hackers.

Now, the stories end up linking Smith to four Trump campaign officials, Steve Bannon, who of course is now White House strategist; current White House counsel Kellyanne Conway; Sam Clovis, a campaign policy advisor; and of course fired national security advisor, Mike Flynn. Smith implied that he was working with Flynn and Flynn’s son. By the way, Smith died shortly after speaking to The Wall Street Journal. He was 81 years old at his death there, but still… Katty Kay, a first time there has been an explicit potential connection between somebody who that willing to work with the Russians to do whatever they could to get something damaging on Hillary Clinton.

KATTY KAY:

Right, so that’s why there’s been a lot of attention to this story, because if it all pans out, it would suggest to them—It would be the first suggestion that there may have been some form of collusion. The source of this story, a former British intelligence officer has also come out and corroborated his part in this story. What we don’t know is whether Peter Smith was talking up his relationship with the Trump people. Conway and Bannon have already come out and denied any links. We haven’t heard from Flynn, and we haven’t heard from Clovis about this, so there are still questions around. exactly how tight the relationship was.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me, you brought up the British citizen here Matt Tait, he wrote this long sort of explanatory post on the website Lawfare. And he writes this. And it's under the headline The Time I Got Recruited to Collude with the Russians. "It is no overstatement to say that my conversations with Smith shocked me. Given the amount of media attention given at the time to the likely involvement of the Russian government in the D.N.C. hack, it seemed mind-boggling for the Trump campaign or for this offshoot of it to be actively seeking those emails. To me, this felt really wrong.

"They," referring to Smith and his colleague, "had a reckless lack of interest in whether the emails came from a Russian cutout. Indeed, they made it quite clear to me that it made no difference to them who hacked the emails or why they did so, only that the emails be found and made public before the election." Hugh Hewitt?

HUGH HEWITT:

Well, until this point there has been no evidence of collusion. And I was on the show when Shane, the Wall Street Journal reporter, joined and broke the story on Meet the PressDaily. And it changes it because it gives a path to collusion. I do think it adds gray—it's smoke.

CHUCK TODD:

It's smoke. And there's a gun. We just don't know if the smoke is from that gun.

HUGH HEWITT:

And Mueller is going to put out "do not destroy" memos to everyone. And Flynn will be questioned about this. And if there is a connection between Smith and Flynn, there is a path to collusion. But there is no collusion evidence yet.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Right, exactly. But I think what this does is it illustrates the fact that people who have said, "Oh, there's no collusion. You have nothing to see here. Let's move on." In fact, there's an investigation that's going on. And there's a lot of smoke. And the Trump side speaks as if it has been proved that there was no collusion. In fact, it is just being investigated. And again, there's more smoke. It may not pan out. It may not be anything.

KATTY KAY:

It proves the need for the investigation as well. It does give the case for the investigation.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Exactly.

KASIE HUNT:

Yes. And I think one of the questions it's going to raise on the Hill, too, is the president was so defensive of Mike Flynn. So, there was a suggestion in the Journal story that, look, this may have been Flynn operating under his own auspices. It may not have been in his role connected to the campaign.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm glad you brought that up. They've over-denied on the story. Not only did they deny a leak, they suggested, "And if there is a leak, he was acting on his own."

KASIE HUNT:

Right. But, again, if you go back and watch Jim Comey's testimony, for example, significant because the president has specifically asked him, potentially, to back off Michael Flynn. And I think that there is a lot of confusion, especially amongst senators I talked to privately, about why the president was so devoted to Mike Flynn. And I think that could be an important piece of the story.

HUGH HEWITT:

Let me reiterate. This makes it very necessary for the president not to do anything regarding Mueller, other than give him the resources to do his investigation. He cannot remove him. He cannot fire him. You have to trust him. And everybody in the city does. He has got a reputation for complete probity and integrity. You cannot remove Robert Mueller.

CHUCK TODD:

I tell you, it just means the Mike Flynn—He is the central character now. What does he do? I'm sure if you're in the Trump White House, you've got to be concerned he may cut a deal.

KATTY KAY:

So, the question about Michael Flynn and the allegiance had always been that it had been some sort of form of loyalty from the president because Michael Flynn was the only person that stood by him during the course of the campaign. I think this story really, for the first time, gives weight to the counter-theory, which is that Michael Flynn may have something and that the president is nervous about that, and what will Bob Mueller talk to Michael Flynn about.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Well, everybody cuts a deal, I mean, if the special counsel squeezes hard enough. Everybody cuts a deal.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, and he's vulnerable on a non-Russian story, right, this issue with Turkey where he may have violated some foreign corrupt practices law.

KATTY KAY:

But we still don't know what his real role was.

CHUCK TODD:

We don't. And, again, he's no longer with us. That's another odd part to the story. All right, we're going to take a quick break here. Just this morning, President Trump escalated his war on the media in a tweet the likes of which we've never seen before. And I've uttered a sentence like that a bunch of times before. We'll be right back. Wait till you see this one.

*** COMMERCIAL BREAK ***

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with the panel. Every Sunday morning, we start our show going, okay, in the middle of it, we know the president's going to tweet. What's he going to tweet about today? Well, in the middle of the taping of this show, the president just tweeted something on “fraud news CNN, hashtag #fnn.” And he sent out this video. Let me show it to you.

(BEGIN TAPE)

FEMALE VOICE:

This is going to be on the (INAUDIBLE) next month. All you have to do is sign up for our free month (INAUDIBLE PHRASE).

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

It is video of then Donald Trump in a little W.W.E. sketch back in the day. People have seen this a lot. But the person he's, quote, "wrestling" there, they put the CNN face on there. Hugh Hewitt, we're beyond flabbergasted this morning.

HUGH HEWITT:

I am. Look, the basic premise is most of the elite media is center left and most of the country is center right. Combativeness towards the media plays well. Cruelty does not. And when the president crosses the line between combativeness into cruelty, he loses some of his base. And I'll just say, personally, I was at mass yesterday afternoon, 5:00 Saturday mass. And everyone there is probably leaning towards Trump. And everyone is appalled by cruelty. So, that is the line he's got to measure in.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

I'll just say the standard thing I say on so many shows. These are not just tweets. These are official communications from the president of the United States.

CHUCK TODD:

The cruelty aspect, I mean, I guess he's back on trashing CNN, which inexplicably the Washington Post reported that some aides were upset that the president picked a fight with Mika Brzezinski because it was taking away from what they thought was a successful fight with CNN.

KASIE HUNT:

Look, I just think we've never really consumed something like this. Where someone has taken, I mean, yes, when that video was originally filmed, he was an entertainer. That's what Donald Trump was doing then. And now, he's the president of the United States. And the reality is, you know, the media, okay, they've used the logo in that case, CNN. But it's made up of people. Every single day, you know, I go up to Capitol Hill. I ask questions of people. Yes, I represent NBC News every day.

CHUCK TODD:

You're a three-dimensional figure?

KASIE HUNT:

I am. That's what makes that video, I think, sort of striking.

KATTY KAY:

And the fact that we had Sarah Huckabee Sanders this week specifically coming out in the White House, and for a rare on-camera press briefing saying that the president has never condoned or encouraged or promoted violence. That is exactly what he has just done.

CHUCK TODD:

I think he would argue, no, he's promoting fake violence. Because it is wrestling.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

He says, "They say I'm not presidential. But I'm modern-day presidential." Didn't he say that in a tweet a day or two ago?

HUGH HEWITT:

Yes, but what's important to remember, I went to work for Richard Nixon in exile at 22. Everything goes into your biography. Nothing gets elided out. He's got to remember it.

CHUCK TODD:

He just remembers today and tomorrow. When we come back, it's End Game time, and my fascinating interview with the author Malcolm Gladwell, a Canadian who says we Americans spend a lot of time talking at one another and not talking to one another.

VOICE OVER:

Coming up, Meet the PressEnd Game and Post Game, brought to you by Boeing, always working to build something better.

*** COMMERCIAL BREAK ***

CHUCK TODD:

Finally on this Fourth of July, we're going to turn to a Canadian for some insight into who we are as Americans and how we approach our problems. The writer Malcolm Gladwell now hosts the enormously popular podcast Revisionist History, which encourages listeners to re-think moments from the past that he says have been either overlooked or misunderstood. This week, I had a chance to talk with Gladwell. And we discussed the lack of creative thinking in American politics, something that's become an obstacle to solving problems like fixing our healthcare system.

MALCOLM GLADWELL:

So Canada's had single payer for how many decades now? Fifty, sixty years. The reason Canada has single payer is that Canadians had a conversation amongst themselves many, many years ago. And they asked a very simple question, which is, "What do we want from our health care?"

And they came to the answer that what we want is a system that covers everyone. What that means is we're willing to give up choice. We're willing to give up the most high tech solutions to various medical problems. We're not going to have expensive, shiny hospitals. Basically, Canadians sat down and figured out what their priorities were. What always strikes me about American discussions, and I think this may be one of the root causes of this stalemate in Washington right now, is no one's ever had that conversation.

I can't figure out what people want. It seems to me that every party to the health care discussion wants something different. And those things are all incompatible. You can't want to curb the cost spiral, and simultaneously have access to the newest drugs, and simultaneously have patient choice, and simul--you know? These are mutually contradictory options. So I think that we should take a little period, a time out, and say, "You know, is it possible for us to agree on what we think the goal of our healthcare system is?" And maybe out of that conversation, you can have kind of a clear direction to a policy solution.

CHUCK TODD:

We've got another drama-filled week having to do with his tweeting and some offensive tweeting. But you said something very interesting in a Canadian interview. Literally, I think it was the day before the election, about why he doesn't pay a penalty for his offensiveness.

And you said, "So to the extent that he continues to be a boar and a pig, he satisfies that criteria, right, meaning authenticity. It is the very fact that he is so offensive, that generates enthusiasm among his followers" because essentially, you're saying being offensive is authentic?

MALCOLM GLADWELL:

Yeah. I mean, the cardinal rule of politics, it's always struck me, you know, I'm the millionth person to say this, is that you have to be true to yourself so people have an image of you. You get penalized from deviating from their expectations of who you are and what you stand for. He, from the very beginning, has made it very plain that what he stands for is authenticity.

He is not someone who follows any kind of convention. He's not someone who gets caught up in political correctness. He is someone who speaks from his gut, right? And so, if you have an expectation that someone is that kind of authentic character, you look on--you see these kinds of tweets very differently. They are expressions of something that you understood and already accepted about that person.

CHUCK TODD:

Finally, I want to pick up on a theme. It has nothing to do with your episode two, but it was a great quote at the beginning. This was an unusual case for you because you said, "Don't take a side." Is that our problem in our tribal politics that we are now in, is that actually we strive to take sides too much?

MALCOLM GLADWELL:

Maybe. The reason to step away from taking sides in the immediate discussion is it allows you to reflect on the larger questions, maybe unanswerable questions, that are raised by an actor or a situation. And I think we should indulge a lot more in those larger questions because I suspect we have a good deal more agreement on the larger, you know, questions. As the outsider, the thing about American society that has always baffled me is that Americans love nothing more than accentuating their differences.

Whereas I come from a culture, Canada, where all we do is celebrate what we have in common, even when we don't have anything in common, you know? We love talking about how we're Canadians, we're in this together, we're all the same in the end. You know, Americans are all the same in the end, but you guys like to pretend that you're not. And you know, I don't think it's that hard to get back to that position of understanding how similar you all are.

CHUCK TODD: See, we’re all more similar than we’re not. Thank you, Malcolm. If you didn’t get enough of Malcolm Gladwell, I’ve got two suggestions for you. Try his podcast, Revisionist History. It will make you think, trust me. And then there’s our own Meet the Press podcast we call 1947, ‘cause guess what? My guest this week? A more extended version of that interview with Malcolm Gladwell. That’s all we have for today. Thanks so much for watching. Have a tremendous 4th of July holiday, and remember all of those freedoms we do enjoy--even when we use those freedoms to attack each other. We’ll be back next week--because if it’s Sunday, it’s Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER: You can see more Endgame in Post Game, sponsored by Boeing, on the Meet the Press Facebook page.

*** END OF TRANSCRIPT ***