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Meet the Press

Meet The Press 01/15/17

Meet the Press

01-15-2017

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, that stunning charge from an American civil rights icon.

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

I don’t see the President-elect as a legitimate president.

CHUCK TODD:

John Lewis says the Russians helped destroy Hillary Clinton's candidacy.

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected.

CHUCK TODD:

My exclusive interview with Congressman Lewis, the national debate his comments have already inspired, and reaction this morning from Donald Trump's incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus. Plus growing concerns about Donald Trump's coziness with Vladimir Putin.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Do you think the Russians were behind hacking into our elections?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

If Vladimir Putin a war criminal?

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

Should we ignore the lessons of history and our our relationship with Vladimir Putin?

CHUCK TODD:

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein joins me to explain the scope of the first Congressional probe into these allegations. And with the F.B.I.'s e-mail investigation now under investigation itself, Democrats go public with their anger at Director James Comey.

REP. MAXINE WATERS:

The F.B.I. director has no credibility.

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me for insight and analysis are Rich Lowry of The National Review, Helene Cooper of The New York Times, Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, and Danielle Pletka of The American Enterprise Institute. Welcome to Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning on this Martin Luther King Junior weekend, and the last Sunday of the Obama presidency. Even before John Lewis's explosive statements denying Donald Trump's legitimacy as president, we were experiencing a week in which our democracy seemed to be undergoing a bit of a stress test. Monday, President-Elect Trump, in effect, challenged decades-old laws against nepotism by hiring his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as a senior advisor. Tuesday, a dossier of embarrassing but unverified accounts of Mr. Trump's ties to Russia are published by the online site BuzzFeed.

Wednesday, the president-elect holds a bizarre news conference where, among other things, he called CNN "fake news" for reporting the existence of that dossier. Thursday, the Justice Department's inspector general announces a review of how F.B.I. Director James Comey handled the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. And then Friday, a living icon of the civil rights movement, Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, says he doesn't consider Donald Trump to be a legitimate president.

In a moment, I'll talk to the incoming chief of staff for President-Elect Trump, Reince Priebus. But with John Lewis's comments making headlines all weekend, we're going to begin with part one of my interview with Lewis and his comments about Donald Trump.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

You have forged relationships with many presidents. Do you plan on trying to forge a relationship with Donald Trump?

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

You know, I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people. It will be hard. It's going to be very difficult. I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president.

CHUCK TODD:

You do not consider him a legitimate president?

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

No --

CHUCK TODD:

Why is that?

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. I don't plan to attend the inauguration. It will be the first one that I miss since I've been in the Congress. You cannot be at home with something that you feel that is wrong, is not right.

CHUCK TODD:

That's going to send a big message to a lot of people in this country, that you don't believe he's a legitimate president.

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

I think there was a conspiracy on the part of the Russians and others to help him get elected. That's not right. That's not fair. That's not the open, Democratic process.

CHUCK TODD:

You're a man of action. You have been your whole life. You believe this president is not legitimate. What would you tell young folks, young activists to do?

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

I would say to young people, and I continue to say it to people today, and I'm going to say it during the next few days as we celebrate and commemorate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., that when you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something. You cannot afford to be quiet or to be silent.

CHUCK TODD:

So what should be done? What should Nancy Pelosi do? What should Chuck Schumer do? What should Barack Obama do?

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

We must not be silent. We all must act.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think the president's been too silent?

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

No, I'm not going to suggest that the president's been too silent. He's the outgoing president. But those of us in position and those of us not in position, we've got to go out there and make some noise. We've got to organize.

CHUCK TODD:

That is a powerful thing to say, coming from you, that you do not believe he's a legitimately elected president. What should be done?

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

Well, we have to continue to work, continue to speak up, to speak out.

CHUCK TODD:

If he's not legitimate though, how do you accept working with him under any circumstance?

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

Well, it's going to be very hard and very difficult. Almost impossible for me to work with him.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

We'll have more of that interview with Congressman Lewis later in the program, including whether he would ever invite Donald Trump to Selma, and as well, his take on President Obama's legacy. That's later in the broadcast. Not surprisingly, Lewis's comments drew some strong reaction from both sides of the aisle here in Washington, and multiple responses from the man he criticized, President-elect Trump.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

A day after Congressman John Lewis told me he doesn't believe Trump is a legitimately elected president, Trump responded, tweeting "Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart, not to mention crime-infested, rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk, no action or results. Sad."

Then, late last night, after many pointed out, Lewis's Atlanta district is solidly middle class with wealthy areas, Trump tweeted again: "Congressman John Lewis should finally focus on the burning and crime-infested inner cities of the U.S.. I can use all the help I can get." With five days to go until Trump in sworn in, the civil rights icon has ignited a new debate about Trump's legitimacy, putting Republicans on the defensive.

REP. DARRELL ISSA::

John's a good man. And I think he will, in time, feel that he used his words poorly.

CHUCK TODD:

And initially dividing Democrats.

REP. BARBARA LEE:

John Lewis is right on target, you know, in terms of how this President-elect was elected.

DAVID AXELROD:

I just don't want to see this constant churning that leads to a kind of reflexive reaction every time a president gets elected who we don't like.

CHUCK TODD:

But Trump's eagerness to pick a fight with a legend is now uniting the Democrats. It's the latest in a coming showdown over Russia, its interference in the election and ties to Trump campaign. Trump's pick for National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, is facing questions about a series of phone calls with Russia's ambassador, including on the day the Obama administration announced sanctions retaliating against Russia for its interference in the election.

DAVID IGNATIUS:

On the very eve of these sanctions, was it right to have that conversation?

CHUCK TODD:

Now Trump tells The Wall Street Journal he would be open to lifting sanctions on Russia in the future. Quote, "If you get along, and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody's doing some really great things?" But three senators in Trump's own party disagree with him on Russia. And that disagreement dominated confirmation hearings this week.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

Do you believe that Vladimir Putin and his cronies are responsible for ordering the murder of countless, dissidents, journalists and political opponents?

REX TILLERSON:

I do not have sufficient information to make that claim.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

None of this is classified, Mr. Tillerson, these people are dead.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Do you think the Russians were behind hacking into our election?

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS:

I have done no research into that. I know just what the media says about it.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Do you think you could get briefed any time soon?

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS:

Well, I'll need to.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

I think you do, too.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

Russia has invaded Ukraine and ex-Crimea, threatened N.A.T.O. allies, intervened militarily in Syria, leaving a trail of death and destruction.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now is the president-elect incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus. Mr. Priebus, welcome back to the program, sir.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with something Republican Congressman Justin Amash tweeted. He had a pretty succinct response to the second, excuse me third, tweet that the President-elect made on John Lewis, simply, "Dude, just stop." Let me ask you this. Did the president-elect contemplate reaching out to Congressman Lewis privately before tweeting?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Look, here's the thing. I think that, Chuck, it's shocking that Congressman Lewis, who is a civil rights icon and is a person who's championing voting rights, which actually question the legitimacy of an election in this country in starting this firestorm. I mean the truth is Donald Trump won 30 of 50 counties. He won about 128 out of the 159 counties in Georgia. He flipped 200 counties that Obama won and had the biggest electoral landslide on our side of the aisle since Ronald Reagan.

I mean I get, you want to go back and forth on tweets. But the truth is it's irresponsible for John Lewis, historic as he is, to have done this. And the other piece of this, Chuck, is that Barack Obama should step up, as well, and call it what it is. It's wrong what is happening. It's wrong how some of these Democrats are treating President-elect Trump. We have a great relationship with the White House.

I talk to Dennis McDonough every day. We had a great meeting with all of our cabinet members and all of the sitting cabinet members in the White House on Friday. The transfer of power within the White House is going great. But to do this to President-elect Trump five days before he puts his hand on the bible, it's just wrong. And by the way, the Democrats are fundraising on this comment from Congressman Lewis right now. So they're making money on it.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this, because one of the things that Congressman Lewis says that he will never forget and possibly never forgive is when Donald Trump said that Vladimir Putin was a stronger leader than President Obama. And there is going to be some other people that respond to your comments right now, Mr. Priebus, and say, "Donald Trump spent five years questioning the legitimacy of Barack Obama's constitutional viability to be president of the United States with the birther controversy." Do you understand why there are going to be some who look at your criticism of John Lewis and say, "That's hypocritical, coming from somebody that works for Donald Trump?"

REINCE PRIEBUS:

So first of all, the president-elect never said that Vladimir Putin was a better person. He didn't say that he was--

CHUCK TODD:

I said, "Stronger leader."

REINCE PRIEBUS:

--he looked up to Vladimir--

CHUCK TODD:

I said--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Hang on, let me just finish.

CHUCK TODD:

But my question to you was "stronger leader," for what it's worth. That's what I quoted.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Okay. I get it. And I'm trying to make the distinction. It wasn't, "He's a better person, I would rather have him as president of United States." It was that the characteristics of leadership can be parsed and compared. And characteristic qualities can be a lot of things. And that's what he was talking about.

But certainly wouldn't prefer Vladimir Putin over Barack Obama as President of United States. That's ridiculous. And to take an old argument about where the president was born has nothing to do with whether or not, in a democracy in the United States, whether Donald Trump won the election and whether it was legitimate.

James Clapper, the intelligence community, I don't know if John Lewis knows more than they do. But they have concluded that there's no evidence that anything that was done in the course of this election by Russians or whoever changed the course of this election. In fact, the only evidence there is of tampering and having a real connection to foreign leadership was the DNC paying an operative over $400,000 to meddle in the Ukraine to dig up dirt on Donald Trump. No one's talking about the $400,000 that the DNC spent digging up dirt with an operative in the Ukraine. There's nothing here in regard to this issue. And Russia and all of the defense--

CHUCK TODD:

Wait a minute.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

--intelligence agencies have concluded that.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm just curious. When you say there's nothing here, there's--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

I mean evidence that it changed the outcome of the election.

CHUCK TODD:

You're talking about-- you're not disputing that there is a lot of evidence of Russia's attempts to interfere in the election.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

I'm not disputing that the Russian entities hacked the DNC. But I am-- I'm not going to go back to our interview of a few weeks ago. I am also going to say that, when you don't have any defenses on your computer system and you basically hand over 50,000 e-mails, obviously that makes it a whole lot easier. And I also think that the Clinton folks wasted a billion dollars of their donors' money, and they've got a lot to answer for. And none of this would be happening--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

--if Hillary Clinton would have simply not used a personal server in violation of federal law.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. But Mr. Priebus, does that excuse a foreign government from attempting to interfere in the United States election?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

We've never-- of course not. All of it's wrong. China's wrong, Russia's wrong, Iran's wrong. All of these entities are wrong for doing what they've done. But back to John Lewis. For him then to say, which no intelligence official is saying, that Donald Trump was elected illegitimately is irresponsible. And just because he's a civil rights leader and someone that I respect as a civil rights leader, and someone that I went to Selma with him--

CHUCK TODD:

Yes, you did.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

--and many others a few years ago, it doesn't excuse the fact that his statement was not responsible. And it's not right. And it's too bad, because President-elect Trump's going to be a great president. And this country elected him in an electoral landslide. And it's a shame. It's really a shame that, five days from now, he's being sworn in, and we're talking about this.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to talk about, because the issue has to do with Russia, and there was another dispute and some concern that, on the same day that the Obama administration announced new sanctions against Russia for their meddling in the 2016 election, that the incoming National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, was on the phone multiple times with the Russian ambassador United States. Can you say definitively that there was no promises, no winks, no anything that somehow there was an acknowledgement that these sanctions will go away as quickly as possible once the inauguration takes place?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

So Chuck, almost every single day, General Flynn talks to counterparts and ambassadors from all over the world, almost every single day. That's his job. So as a National Security Advisor, for those that don't know, one of his jobs is to be in constant communication with his counterparts in security issues all over the world.

The tick tock on this is that, on Christmas, the two of them texted each other "Merry Christmas." A couple days later, this ambassador texted General Flynn that he wanted to talk. And then the next day, they had a conversation, which did happen to be that same day. But I have talked to General Flynn. None of that came up.

The subject matter of sanctions or the actions taken by the Obama did not come up in the conversation. In fact, it was the sports team that was in an unfortunate plane accident. They talked about setting up a phone call after inauguration. And they also talked about a conference in Syria, or a conference in regard to ISIS in Syria. So those were the only subjects that came up. But there's no controversy in General Flynn talking to his counterparts around the world.

CHUCK TODD:

So there was no challenge of American policy currently by Mr. Flynn with the Russian ambassador?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

None.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. One final question--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

No, sir.

CHUCK TODD:

There's a new report out this morning from Esquire Magazine that includes some quotes, both from the incoming press secretary, but some anonymous quotes that seemed to indicate that it is your intent to remove the White House Press Corps from the White House. Is that true?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Well look, first of all-- let me-- no, because the White House obviously is 18 acres, right, Chuck? So no, the technical answer is no. But what we have is that you saw the news conference the other day. And by the way, I have to quarrel with you. I don't think it was a bizarre news conference. I don't think it's a fair characterization. But there was 500 to 600 reporters at that news conference.

What I'm talking about, and what we're talking about, and the only thing that was even discussed about this, was whether or not you want to take that room that only holds 50 people, and that very small press room, which it looks big on T.V. but it's very tiny--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

--and whether you want to go 50 feet to the EOB and have, for the first few weeks or the first month or so, the press conferences where you can fit three to four times the amount of people.

CHUCK TODD:

So this is not about--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

It's about more access.

CHUCK TODD:

So this is not about--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

This is just about--

CHUCK TODD:

--the office space or any of that business.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

This is about quadrupling the amount of reporters that can cover our press conferences--

CHUCK TODD:

But there will still be reporters--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

--in the White House.

CHUCK TODD:

There will still be reporters every day going to work in the White House?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Well, that hasn't been determined, Chuck. But as of now, the only thing that created this story, I just want to make it very clear, was the question of whether or not--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

--the press briefings, at least initially, are going to be--

CHUCK TODD:

But this is-- is this about--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

--in the EOB.

CHUCK TODD:

But you're not answering the que-- is this about press briefings, or is this about kicking the press out of the building all together?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

This is about press briefings.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

That's what's created this story.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Reince Priebus, I will leave it there. So the press will still be going to work every day in the White House in the Trump administration.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

How about a little go Pack-- how about a little go Pack go, huh?

CHUCK TODD:

There'll be a lot of that, that I promise you, Reince Priebus, all day today. All right, sir, I appreciate your time. Thanks for coming out and sharing your views. All right. So much still to get to in this morning's broadcast, including the decision by the Justice Department's Inspector General to investigate how the F.B.I. handled its own investigation of the Hillary Clinton e-mails. And I'll talk to Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California about concerns over the relationship between the Trump team and Vladimir Putin's Russia.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, panel is here: Rich Lowry editor of The National Review, Helene Cooper, Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times, Danielle Pletka from The American Enterprise Institute, and Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor-in-chief of The Atlantic. Welcome. Jeffrey, let me start with you. This was already a tumultuous week.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

--yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

--going to the inauguration, and then John Lewis versus Donald Trump. Thoughts?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

Right. Well, right. I mean it's sort of this Monday through Saturday thing. I'm wondering, of course, if this is going to be what the next four years are going to be like every day. The thought that I have about Lewis is an operative one, also. The first thought is, i1s Rex Tillerson or Jim Mattis, the defense secretary, are they going to have to have special people monitoring Donald Trump's Twitter feed to see what policy becomes?

The John Lewis thing is interesting as a moral issue, as a political issue. It's also interesting as an operational issue. I'm curious about how he's going to use this tool going forward. Because he's about to become president. And he is so easily trolled by people that when he becomes president, if North Korea, China, someone else, starts trolling him, how is he going to react? Because this is not an appropriate reaction.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, we've put together, this is just-- and I'm going to scroll the list here. This is just the entities and individuals he's gone after since he won the presidency, Rich. And it is a long list. John Lewis is now at-- you throw on there. It was Chuck Jones at one point. You had a steelworker guy, GM. I mean some, most of them have been Democrats, some Republicans, lots of members of the media, present company included. At what point is this a problem for him?

RICH LOWRY:

I think everyone needs to get used to this. This is the new abnormal. And Trump is going to-- he finds this very effective and emotionally gratifying form of communication. His supporters love it. When he lambastes his critics, especially when he tramples on what are taken to be conventions and pieties of our politics, which is that you don't hit back hard against John Lewis.

And on Lewis's statement, I really see it as working through stages of grief. You know, all this Russia stuff, at least a lot of it, was litigated during the election. Hillary Clinton lost anyway. And my guess is Democrats, when they actually get traction against Donald Trump, it will be by acting as a normal opposition opposing a normal Republican who wants to, you know, cut taxes for the rich and throw people off until--

CHUCK TODD:

You're downplaying the Russia-- you're downplaying the Russia angle a little?

RICH LOWRY:

I think everything we've learned since the election could have been known prior to the election, and the result very likely would have been the same. I think most of the Wikileaks stuff was of gossipy interest, except for a few things like the Doug Band memo that explained in black and white how The Clinton Foundation was a profit center for everyone. I think that was pretty damaging. But Comey, I think, had much more of a political effect. And whatever else you think of him, he is an American official.

CHUCK TODD:

And that Comey is a whole separate topic. Danielle, where are you on all this? I mean this has just been one of these tumultuous weeks.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Well, I'll say something about John Lewis that maybe hasn't been said. You know, truly a great American. And I think we could all agree about that. But what the Russians want is not so much Donald Trump. What the Russians want is for there to be question about the legitimacy of everything that happens in America. This is their operative stance.

That's what we see in the U.K.. That's what we see in France. That's what we see in Germany. That's what we see them doing everywhere. And so when Congressman Lewis says he doesn't believe in the results of the American election, which I think we all can agree were legitimate, what he does is he sows that distrust that actually helps the Russians. And that's a shame. I don’t think he means to help them any more than I think half the people who did meant to help them. But it does. And it's not the way we should proceed.

CHUCK TODD:

Helene, I think there are people that feel trapped by all this. Because I think there are people that share Danielle's sentiment here that that's exactly what Russia wants, sow discord. At the same time, there are people that are generally outraged and feel the need to speak out.

HELENE COOPER:

I think that's certainly true. And I think that if you're John Lewis, there is a way to go about doing this, and that's in the measured way that he did with you. I think the far bigger issue, because John Lewis is not president-elect of the United States, Donald Trump is, and Donald Trump is about to become president. And as president, there's a meas-- there’s a way to respond and there's a way not to respond.

There's a way to say, "I disagree with John Lewis," without calling Atlanta a crime-infested hell hole. There's a way to disagree with someone, as you saw Reince Priebus just do, as other people have disagreed with John Lewis, without going on a Twitter tantrum. And that's sort of the thing that you do not expect from a commander-in-chief.

And I think this goes back to what Jeff was saying. We're now five days out from Donald Trump taking control of the greatest country on Earth. The idea that the president of the United States is going to be having on tantrums on Twitter whenever somebody gets under his skin I think is frightening to a lot of people.

CHUCK TODD:

Want to jump in there?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

I don't think he's going to change. I mean A) I don't think--

CHUCK TODD:

"The new abnormal," that is going to be the quote of the panel. “The new abnormal.”

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

--"The New Abnormal." I don't think he's going to change. You know, people at my age don't change. I don't think people at his age change. And also, it works. It works. I mean it, it, it--

CHUCK TODD:

I mean, can we talk about the political base--

DANIELLE PLETKA:

But you say it works--

CHUCK TODD:

But here’s the thing, Danielle.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

That satisfies the base.

CHUCK TODD:

Danielle, imagine--

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

It got him to the dance.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, the irony here is, if Donald Trump says nothing, tweets nothing, this is a debate inside the Democratic Party about whether to use the L word or not. And instead, it united the Democratic Party and is now-- you have some Republicans uncomfortable with his tone with John Lewis.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Okay, fair enough. But I think Rich is right. This is what works for Donald Trump. This is who he is. And to a large extent, we need to all think about how it is that the rest of the body politic in Washington reacts to this. If we all stand up and start screaming every time he drops a tweet, we're going to be very, very, very tired. Sorry, Jeff, the daily stuff-- at the end of the year. We need, we need to recognize that, first of all, not every tweet is policy. Okay? Because this is the, this is the constitutional government of our country. But when he--

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

I'm sorry, when the president says something, it's automatically news.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

I'm sorry, we can't ignore--

CHUCK TODD:

How do you, how do you--

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

--his tweets?

HELENE COOPER:

You keep--

CHUCK TODD:

--who, when do you pick and choose?

DANIELLE PLETKA:

I'm not telling you to ignore them. I'm telling you, I’m telling you not to, to, to edge toward the cliff every time you read one. That's what I mean. It's not always an object of hysteria. And it isn't going to necessarily be the policy of the United States. Plus, we have a Congress, we have a Constitution, and he has a cabinet.

HELENE COOPER:

But it almost sounds as if you're saying, then, that this is a responsibility of the United States to act as the adult, adult while the president acts like a child.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

First of all, I don't want to say that he acts like a child. I say that this is who he is. And he was elected being who he is. I, It's not what I would do. But that’s, I wasn't running. And if we are going to manage how we assess the government and how he governs, we need to actually--

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

This is very abnormal.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Okay.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

I mean to go back to this, that is a very abnormal way of looking at the way the world should be organized, that we have to--

DANIELLE PLETKA:

But that's what the American people chose.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm going to pause the conversation. I promise you, we, it's a pause. (CHUCKLE) I will hit "play" on this in, in a little bit later. But coming up, I'm going to speak with Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. She's on the Intel Committee. They are the first Congressional committee that will formally investigate the Russian, potential Russian, interference in the election. And later, more of my interview with Congressman John Lewis and his feelings about Donald Trump.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Can you imagine ever sharing a stage with Donald Trump?

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence announced on Friday that it will conduct a bipartisan investigation into, among other things, Russia's efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California knows as much about anyone-- as anyone about the intel community. She's the former chair and vice-chair of the committee. Still on it. And she joins me now. Senator Feinstein, welcome back to the program.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Before I get to the investigation, I got to ask you about what John Lewis said and about Donald Trump's response and just get your response.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Well, I understand why John Lewis feels the way he does. This is a very fearful and divided nation right now. And the Trumps have not done anything to bring it together. I really regret the president-elect's response to what John Lewis said. It's without understanding of his history, of what he went through, of the fact that this is Martin Luther King weekend.

And there is so much fear in this country. I come from the biggest state. I get tens of thousands of phone calls and e-mails of people that are fearful of what's going to happen. It's the job of this new president to reassure people that he is not just the president of his base but he is the president of everyone. And that means a coming together. Now--

CHUCK TODD:

Reince Priebus said it was, that he thought President Obama should play a role in healing more. What did you make of that statement?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Well, President Obama has played a role for eight years in doing just that. We're talking about the next period of four years. And the man that's going to head that four-year period really needs to step up and recognize that he represents the whole country and he represents people of all different races and creeds who are looking for opportunity, hope, and for the values that this country carries high.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me go to the investigation. You've seen the unclassified versions of this intel report. Do you have any doubt in your mind that Russia tried to interfere in the election? And then second, do you believe it altered the outcome?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

The answer is yes on both cases.

CHUCK TODD:

You truly-- you believe--

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

I tru--

CHUCK TODD:

--it altered the outcome.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

--that's what I believe. I've had all of the major classified briefings. I have been astonished at what has been a two-year effort at Russia to spearfish, to hack, to provide disinformation, propaganda, wherever it really could. And I think this has been a very sophisticated effort.

I think in our classified sessions, we will be able to get down to the depth and breadth of it. I hope so. I spoke yesterday twice with Senator Warner, who is our new vice chairman. And he reviewed with me the terms of this agreement. This investigation has to be full and robust. If it isn't, both of us will go toward an outside panel. But we cannot ignore what has happened. To ignore it is really to commit it--

CHUCK TODD:

What can--

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

--commit ourselves--

CHUCK TODD:

What is the s--

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

--to a very bad future.

CHUCK TODD:

What is the scope? I'll be honest, I read it, and it comes across as-- it's an investigation into the investigation.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Well--

CHUCK TODD:

--it's an investigation into the intel community's assessment. Are you-- Is the intel community going to do its own investigation? And maybe, you know--

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Well, let me--

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

--it's a review of the intelligence that informed the declassified report about Russia's interference in the election. Now last night I read the declassified report. The declassified report is pretty certain about what Russia did. There are some particulars, which are classified, which are not part of it. But it's pretty clear that the hacking was in both political parties, but with the aim of hurting--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

--Hillary Clinton. And then, if Hillary Clinton were to win, the aim clearly was to weaken her.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you investiga-- but is there a new aspect? Are you investigating the specific allegations of whether or not there was Trump ca-- any member of the Trump campaign was somehow in contact with Russian officials?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Well, that hasn't been discussed. And I really can't answer that question right now. I can say that it should be full and robust with respect to who gave the order to do this, who participated in it, exactly what they did, and how they carried it out, and what it portends for the future. That's my view of what the intelligence committee should do.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you truly believe, though, it's going to be a thorough enough investigation that it will get to the bottom of it, as far as the American--

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

--public's concerned?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

We'll see. I know that we have to. If we can't this way, we will another way. But look, I'm certainly not going to leave this in limbo. Because this is the future of America. It's the future of democracy. And if we can't carry out an election without disinformation being pumped into it by another country, we've got a huge destruction of our system going on. So we have to be full and robust in this look. And I trust that we are. I have worked with Chairman Burr for a long time. And I believe that this can happen. If it doesn't, we will sing out loud and clear.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me buttonhole something, though. You said you believe that Russia's interference altered the outcome of the election.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

I do. I believe that with--

CHUCK TODD:

So do you believe he's a legitimately-- yeah.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Well, it's a combination of a couple of things. I think that, and I think the F.B.I., in the October surprise, I call it an October surprise, of announcing a subsequent investigation, did have an impact. And I believe the Clinton people believe it did, too. They were polling and they were up, and all of that diminished.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. You brought up James Comey. Is he still fit to serve as director of the N.B.-- F.B.I., in your opinion?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Well, I think that's a decision to come when everybody learns much more about what drove this. I think the--

CHUCK TODD:

It should wait until after the--

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

--inspector general's report?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

I think the inspector general's report is critical in this. Because there are rumors of all kinds of conflicts within the F.B.I. that focused on the director. The director, I think, was torn. I think he did what he thought was right. In my view, it turned out very much not to be right, because the F.B.I. doesn't announce investigations--

CHUCK TODD:

You're not ready to say he should be fired yet?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Not yet.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Dianne Feinstein--

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

--Democrat from California. By the way, quite a week.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Quite a week.

CHUCK TODD:

Confirmation hearings, new pacemaker--

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

--and right back here--

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

It is.

CHUCK TODD:

--as healthy as ever.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Well done.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Nice to see you. When we come back, investigating the investigation, as we were just talking about. The Justice Department is now looking into how the F.B.I. handled the Hillary Clinton issue.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Panel is back. We ended there on James Comey. Wow, Helene, James Comey might be in rougher shape than any non-elected official in Washington.

HELENE COOPER:

It's incredible. I mean he's had quite a week when you look at the beginning of the week and they came out with the Russia dossier. And there were so many questions about, "Okay, so what was Comey's motivation?"--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

HELENE COOPER:

--here, as well. And then you look at the end of the week. It's amazing to me to see the different iterations. One minute he's you know, he’s viewed as having hurt Hillary Clinton. And the next minute, he's hurting Donald Trump. And it's just it’s going to be very interesting to see how he emerges from this and how Trump ends up viewing him when he becomes president.

CHUCK TODD:

Rich, I mean on the day that The Wall Street Journal comes out and says, "Comey must resign," he goes and briefs House Democrats. And that ends in a debacle. And you heard Maxine Waters and others came out--

RICH LOWRY:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

And he has no confidence from either party. That is not a good place for the director of the F.B.I. to be.

RICH LOWRY:

Yes. So if the IG is investigating whether he violated guidelines during the election, we can all save a lot of time and money--

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

Yes, he did, he did.

RICH LOWRY:

We did. But the original sin here, and we talk a lot about how Donald Trump violates norms, the Democrat Party violated a very important norm. They nominated a candidate under F.B.I. investigation. And that was going to stress the system in all sorts of ways. I think you make a very good case that Comey never should have said anything about this publicly.

But I cut him some slack. Because as soon as Loretta Lynch has that meeting with Bill Clinton, there's a pall over the whole thing. And he feels as though he needs to explain his decision. And once you get outside the guidelines, and once you start explaining and talking, there's not a good place to stop.

CHUCK TODD:

I don't know how he survives this. And at the same time, I don't know how you get a new F.B.I. director confirmed in this atmosphere. I mean who wants the job?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

Who wants to be-- well, you know, I would say this. If I were doing PR for Comey, I would note that he's a uniter, not a divider. He's brought Republicans and Democrats together in a way that they don't get together anymore. And I would just note, for the record, that being under investigation is not the equivalent being found guilty. And so I don't want to suggest that people who are under F.B.I. investigation-- and you and I both know, I mean I used to cover this.

Being under investigation means somebody said something anonymously to the F.B.I. and they're looking into it. I'm not commenting on the particulars of the Hillary Clinton case. But let's be fair. We don't want to have a standard where anybody under investigation by anybody can no longer run for office. I'm just--

RICH LOWRY:

Once you do that, the F.B.I. director is going to be in a really tough position. And bad things might happen. And they did. And now Democrats turn around, say, "Oh, these terrible things happened to Hillary. Isn't this awful?" Well, it's what she did, and their decision to nominate her anyway.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me go to the meat of also what happened last week, though, a little bit, Danielle, which has to do with how it was three Republicans that I would argue set the tenor of some of these confirmation hearings, McCain, Rubio, Graham, all on Russia. Mattis, that confirmation hearing had nothing to do with Jim Mattis, it had to do with John McCain's take on Russia. You saw Marco Rubio with Tillerson. Where's this headed? Is there going to be a showdown about sanctions that's going to divide the Senate Republicans?

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Well, I spent ten years at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I've watched more of these hearings than probably most people. And the notion that a nominee would disagree with the President-elect is basically par for the course, to my mind.

CHUCK TODD:

Sure.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Especially when you have a President-elect who speaks in the way that Donald Trump does. You cannot expect that the nominees are ever going to echo his style of rhetoric, let alone the exact words that he says. So I didn't feel that that was so dissonant.

What I think is going to be a real question is how much of what they say, how much of what these nominees have said, whether it was on Russia or China or the Middle East, is actually going to be policy. Because once they're confirmed, guess what? Donald Trump is the boss. Not John McCain. Not Marco Rubio.

CHUCK TODD:

No. I guess, though, is there going to be a showdown, and I think there--

HELENE COOPER:

I think absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

There's going to be a new sanctions bill.

HELENE COOPER:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

The Senate wants to pass one. There is a majority in the Senate to pass a new sanctions bill against Russia and put it on his desk as a test.

HELENE COOPER:

I think there absolutely is going to be a showdown. I think there's going to be a showdown between President Trump and the Senate. There's also going to be showdowns between President Trump and his cabinet. I mean I was struck, and I sort of disagree with you, Danielle. I was struck by the level of distance between Mattis and Tillerson in particular and Donald Trump. And it wasn't just about Russia.

It was also about N.A.T.O.. It was also about Europe. It was also about Iran. There was just a level of distance that I have not seen in confirmation hearings--

DANIELLE PLETKA:

You forget that Hillary Clinton was nominated to be secretary of state for a president whose policies she called naive and wrong.

HELENE COOPER:

But what were the real sources of difference between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

That’s dispositional and characterological -- that’s not about the relationship and its traditional -- I think it's a word -- it's not about the relationship with America's traditional adversary in the world. I think this is-- when the dust settles, this is maybe the most interesting fight in Washington, the fight inside the Republican Party about how to understand the role of Russia in the world.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. We'll have another pause here. When we come back, more of my interview with Congressman John Lewis.

(BEGIN TAPE)

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

What happens? What role do the Russians play in determining the leader of our country?

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Earlier we heard Congressman John Lewis make the startling statement that he does not consider Donald Trump to be a legitimate president because of Russian interference in the election. Here's more of my interview with Congressman Lewis, beginning with what kind of relationship he might try to have with the incoming president.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Can you imagine ever sharing a stage with Donald Trump? Donald Trump came to you and said, "You know, I want forgiveness here. I want your trust," or, "I want your--" you know, would you take him to Selma?

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

Well, by going to Selma, like President Bush, President Clinton, President Obama, maybe he would learn something. Maybe he would get religion.

CHUCK TODD:

So you would bring him? You would do that for him if he asked?

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

Well, I would not invite him to come.

CHUCK TODD:

You wouldn't invite him?

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

Unh-uh.

CHUCK TODD:

But if he asked to come, would you let him?

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

I wouldn't try to do anything to prevent him from coming.

CHUCK TODD:

The story arc of history of this country, we're going from the first African American president, a breakthrough. At the same time, we've just elected a president that you believe was illegitimately elected. What does that say about the state of race relations in this country?

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

Well, it says on one hand, we made a lot of progress, come distance. But we're not there yet. And I think when the president spoke a few days ago, he said, "We're not a post-racial society." And some people said, and there're some people believed that when he was first elected. But we're not there yet.

The scars and stains of racism are still deeply embedded in American society. We cannot sweep it under some rug or in some dark corner. We have to continue to do all we can to move us closer to what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called the beloved community, where we can redeem the soul of America and lay down the burden of hate, separation, and division.

CHUCK TODD:

If he's not a legitimately elected president in your mind, there are tools that Congress has. You think Congress should use those tools? Are you one of those that believe that the impeachment process should begin?

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

Well, I truly believe that we should find out what happened and how it happened.

CHUCK TODD:

John McCain wants a special committee --

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

Well --

CHUCK TODD:

-- a select committee of some form.

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

--I agree with Senator McCain. I think we should have a special commission to get to the bottom of what happened. What role did the Russians play in determining the leader of our country? When you have someone been elected who said that the president or the leader of Russia is stronger or better than our own president.

CHUCK TODD:

That's just something you can't forgive?

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

I will never forget it.

CHUCK TODD:

There's going to be a weekend of commemorations. It's the holiday that we commemorate Dr. King…what would Dr. King say about this moment?

REP. JOHN LEWIS:

Dr. King would say to all of us to never give up, never become bitter, be hopeful, be optimistic and keep pushing.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

You can see the entire un-edited interview with John Lewis online at Meet-The-Press-NBC-dot- com. And a quick reminder that you're always free to enjoy the Meet the Press podcasts. We like to call it 1947, the year Meet the Press was born. We just did a terrific one on Russia, call it Putin 101. And our library also includes conversations with the likes of Maureen Dowd, Doris Kearns Goodwin, among others. You can find it on iTunes and the Apple Podcasts app. We'll be back in 45 seconds with Endgame and kind of a big thing that President Obama said in asking, "Is our democracy facing a moment of crisis?"

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with Endgame. Sort of lost this week was President Obama's farewell address. The guts of the speech, Rich Lowry, seemed to be a-- I don't know if you want to call it a defense of democracy, but, you know, a warning, "Hey, democracy is fragile." What did you make of it?

RICH LOWRY:

Well, I think in our national consciousness, we still look back at the couple of decades after World War II when there was a broad consensus in our politics, and we think that's the way it works and that's the way it should work. But in the broad sweep of American history, that's usually not the way it's worked.

You go back to the beginning of partisan politics, the Federalists thought the Jeffersons were tools-- Jeffersonians were tools of the French. And they thought the Federalists were tools of the British monarchy. And even lately, you know, Democrats thought George W. Bush was selected, not elected. Republicans de-legitimized, or tried to, Bill Clinton out of the gate because he only won 43% of the vote. So democracy, very often, it's messy, it's contentious, and that's the way it should be.

CHUCK TODD:

So you're saying-- that's an interesting take. Do you buy that, that the period, the post-World War II period, that 30-year period, was an outlier?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

I didn't think that until this past 12 months. But I'm wondering if that's the case. I think a lot of things that we didn't think were on the table about the way we organize ourselves, about the nature of our politics, I think those things have been put up for question in a way that they haven't.

I think President Obama very elegiacally was making that case that we can't take these things for granted. It was also, by the way, I thought, an admission that he had failed to achieve what he hoped to achieve, which is the changed politics. You know, not red America, blue America, but one united America--

CHUCK TODD:

That was interesting--

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

You know, I just felt that there was an elegiac through line.

CHUCK TODD:

Helene?

HELENE COOPER:

It was an emotional speech for him. I was really struck afterwards by the sort of the response from people both in the crowd in Chicago, they were rapturous, but also on social media, all over the place. You see people now changing their profile pictures on Twitter and Facebook to the Obama family and that sort of thing.

It's been-- I thought his speech was probably one of his better ones. And this is somebody who has made that an art form over eight years. And I thought, you know, yeah, democracy is pretty fragile, but it's also always been messy. And that's kind of the beauty of it.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, the irony in farewell addresses, you know, people talk about the most influential ones, Eisenhower's, or the most famous ones, the Eisenhower's Military Industrial Complex, and George Washington, with the political parties. And the irony is we didn't heed either warning. I mean we didn't, we talked about it, but we didn't heed it.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Yeah, but the American people are, as a nation, we're so profoundly sentimental. You know, you're talking about social media. You know, I really-- I was-- I felt my heart warmed when he talked about his wife and his kids. It was so sweet and so lovely.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

And Joe Biden.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Well--

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

His deep love of Joe Biden.

HELENE COOPER:

I know-- We’re not going to talk about the Biden medal of honor?

DANIELLE PLETKA:

--language, then. That was lovely. But let's not forget that one of the reasons our nation is so divided is because of the legacy of Barack Obama. One of reasons why we no longer lead the world is Barack Obama.

CHUCK TODD:

That's an-- don't think everybody's going to agree with you on that one. That's a tough charge. And I am running up against the clock that is-- We'll leave it there. The debate will continue, I'm sure. Before we go, a quick programming note. All this week, Lester Holt is going to take NBC Nightly News across America talking to Americans about the state of the nation, all leading up to Friday's inauguration. That's all we have for today. We'll be back next week for inauguration weekend. And because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press. And hopefully we got another Packer game to worry about. Let's beat them Cowboys.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *