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Meet The Press 02-19-17

NBC News - Meet The Press

2.19.17

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, the turmoil presidency, President Trump back on the campaign trail, thrilling supporters.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

People wanna take back control of their countries. And they wanna take back control of their lives.

CHUCK TODD:

While at Town Halls, his critics worry.

TOWN HALL ATTENDEE:

Ever since the election, I have felt like a passenger in a car that's being driven by a drunk driver.

TOWN HALL ATTENDEE:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

This after a week in which the president went after the intel community for leaking.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake.

CHUCK TODD:

Fired his national security advisor.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

Fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence, very simple.

CHUCK TODD:

Lost his labor secretary nominee, and called the media "the enemy of the American people." This morning, I talk to President Trump's Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Also, Senator John McCain says President Trump needs to learn from history about attacking a free press.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN:

That's how dictators get started.

CHUCK TODD:

My interview with Senator McCain. Plus, spy games, how serious is the rift between President Trump and the intelligence community?

LEON PANETTA:

The last thing they need is to have a president who questions their patriotism to this country and to him.

CHUCK TODD:

I'll talk to the former head of the C.I.A., Leon Panetta. And stress test, how politics is getting all of us stressed out, but some a lot more than others. Joining me for insight and analysis are David Brooks, columnist for The New York Times, Amy Walter, national editor of The Cook Political Report, Hugh Hewitt, host on The Salem Radio Network, and former Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland. Welcome to Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER: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. It's only been four weeks, but already we're running out of adjectives to describe the Trump presidency. And this past week did nothing to clear things up. Late yesterday, President Trump returned to familiar territory, comfort food for politics, essentially, addressing adoring supporters in Florida, far away from protesters or reporter questions.

Mr. Trump is hardly the first president to seek validation from campaign-style events so early in his presidency. The last three presidents, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, all chose to escape Washington early in the first months of office. But none were dealing with the kind of self-induced crises that President Trump is facing right now.

In just the past week, the president fired his National Security Advisor, Mike Flynn, saw his Labor Secretary nominee have to drop out, forced to react to a report that his staff had repeated contacts with Russian officials during the campaign, and realized that Congressional Republicans were becoming more emboldened to both distance themselves from the president and investigate his team's ties to Russia. And he watched his poll numbers in Gallup plummet to historic lows for this phase of a presidency. So it was no surprise that the president, set to go back to what he does best, communicate directly with the American people, first through a televised news conference and then, at yesterday's boisterous rally.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump was back on the stump last night for what his team called a campaign rally. More than 1,350 days before the next presidential election.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

Despite all their lies, misrepresentations and false stories, they could not defeat us in the primaries, and they could not defeat us in the general election. We will continue to win, win, win.

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Trump is hoping to shore up his base after a bruising week, and to put pressure on Republican lawmakers who are returning home and are being greeted by an angry opposition.

TOWN HALL ATTENDEE:

Ever since the election, I have felt like a passenger in a car that's being driven by a drunk driver. Your hand is on the emergency brake.

CHUCK TODD:

This week, Mr. Trump returned to a well-worn playbook. He held a 77 minute "flood the zone" style news conference and spent much of it defending his own performance.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.

CHUCK TODD:

And the president selected and targeted enemies, including the intelligence community.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

The leaks are absolutely real. The f-- the news is fake because so much of the news is fake.

CHUCK TODD:

And then there's the media. In a tweet on Friday, the president called the media, quote, "The enemy of the American people."

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

They have their own agenda, and their agenda is not your agenda.

CHUCK TODD:

But President Trump can't escape the governing problems that have pushed his job approval rating below 40 percent in several polls after just 30 days in office. White House infighting and chaos, a rejection of his key foreign policy initiative by the courts, and the forced firing of his national security advisor after just 24 days on the job.

Then there are the multiplying questions on Russia. At least seven Congressional committees, led by Republicans, say they are investigating issues related to either Russia, former National Secretary Advisor Michael Flynn, or the handling of classified information. At his news conference, Mr. Trump repeatedly was pressed on whether anyone from his campaign had contact with Russian officials. And he would not directly answer the question.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I had nothing to do with it. I-- I have nothing to do with Russia. I told you, I have no deals there. I have no anything. Nobody--

REPORTER:

So you're not aware of any contact during the course of the election?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

Look, look, look. How many times do I have to answer this question?

REPORTER:

Can you just say yes or no on it?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does.

CHUCK TODD:

Congressional Republicans are not exactly rushing to defend the president.

REPORTER:

The president said in his press conference that nobody he knew of from the campaign was in contact with Russian officials. Do you believe him?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

I have no idea.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now is President Trump's Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Mr. Priebus, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Good morning, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with the issue of Mike Flynn and the conversations, what was said or not said, with the Russian ambassador. You were on this program just before the inauguration. And here's what you told viewers at the time.

(BEGIN TAPE)

REINCE PRIEBUS:I have talked to General Flynn. None of that came up. The subject matter of sanctions or the actions taken by the Obama administration did not come up in the conversation.

CHUCK TODD:

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

REINCE PRIEBUS:

None.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Obviously now we know that was not true. You clearly were misled. Walk me through this. When did you know you had been misled?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Sometime after January 27th. It was, our legal counsel got a heads up from Sally Yates that something wasn't adding up with his story. And so then our legal department went into a review of the situation. And some time after that, when Sally Yates refused to do her job as attorney general, like two days later, we had to get rid of her.

And then, some time after that, the legal department came back and said that they didn't see anything wrong with what was actually said. But then we started thinking about whether or not Michael Flynn was being straight with us. And that's when we started asking a lot of questions and sort of deposing Michael Flynn and figuring out what he knew or what he didn't know.

He maintained the fact that he never talked to the Russian ambassador about sanctions. But still, something wasn't adding up. And eventually, we determined that he did, in fact, talk about the sanctions, even though we didn't believe that it was illegal. The fact was it turned more or less into a conversation about whether or not he was being honest with us and the vice president. And the president asked for his resignation, and we got it.

CHUCK TODD:

Did you-- Have you-- Did you read those transcripts yourself?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

I can't answer that question. But I can assure you that I am fully aware of the situation. And we determined that he wasn't being straight with the vice president and others. And that's why we asked for his resignation.

CHUCK TODD:

Why did-- Why was there more than a week-- Why did more than a week go by before the vice president was informed of this issue?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Well, I think he was always aware of the issue as to whether or not he talked about sanctions. I mean that was an ongoing conversation. He was aware of the fact that the F.B.I. interviewed Michael Flynn. The legal department started reviewing the matter to get a report on whether or not anything was actually done wrong, and whether or not he, in fact, talked to the Russian ambassador about sanctions.

And some point after we were first tipped off and got to the point of reviewing whether he was being honest or not, after we got the report back from the White House counsel, that's when we looped in, or that's when the vice president was brought into the conversation more fully in regard to whether or not Michael Flynn was honest.

CHUCK TODD:

Waiting that long, do you regret that it looks like that the vice president is essentially not in the loop?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

No, the vice president's in the loop on everything, Chuck. I mean it happened so fast. I mean what happened was the legal department was tipped off. They looked into the legality of it. The actual investigation was ended almost immediately. So there was no investigation as a matter of whether it was legal.

But then, when we found out that, hey, he may have talked to the Russian ambassador, that's when we started having the conversations with the vice president as to whether or not it was-- whether he was being honest or not. So I mean it felt like it happened very quickly. And we made a determination very quickly.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you still believe this was an honest mistake by Mr. Flynn? Or do you think something-- are you concerned it's something more nefarious?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

No, I don't think he did-- my view is, and I'm not an expert on, you know, the Logan Act. But I can just tell you that our legal department looked at it. My view is what he did wasn't illegal, like many other people have said, but it was the fact that he wasn't straight or honest.

And I just found it hard to believe that you would have a conversation with the Russian ambassador and not remember it. So either way, either you don't remember or you weren't honest, either way, it was an unsustainable place to be, and the president made a decisive decision to ask for his resignation, and he got it.

But look, the fact of the matter is, in between all that time, the president got a lot of things done, Keystone, Dakota. We got out of TPP. We nominated Neil Gorsuch. We had the Keystone and Dakota Pipeline begin.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

We had a hiring freeze. We had a deregulation executive order. There were so many things that were also happening to the good, Chuck, that it would be nice to talk about some of the accomplishments, which, in 30 days, have been remarkable.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to-- I'll give you some time to get to that. But I want to get back to Mr. Flynn. Is one of the reasons why you ended up having to let him go, when he was interviewed by the F.B.I. on the 24th, before the Sally Yates warning, are you, did he mislead the F.B.I. or lie to the F.B.I.? Is that one of the, one of the issues that came up during the deposing?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

That's a different issue for the F.B.I. to answer, Chuck. I mean I'm just not in a position to answer it. Certainly we've talked about that issue with leadership at the F.B.I.. But I'm not in a position to talk about that with you. But listen, we've talked about this. I think we've laid it out very clearly. And now it's up to the D.O.J. and the F.B.I. to take it any further, if that's what they do.

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, since Mr. Flynn, has anybody else inside the White House been interviewed by the F.B.I. over the last couple of months?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Not that I know of, Chuck. I think the answer is no to that. I would know.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. I want to go to the press conference on the issue of Russia. The president never seemed to answer the question that was asked three or four times there, which is, "Did anybody-- Does he know for sure that anybody on his campaign, does he, can he say definitively that nobody in his campaign, nobody that he's been associated with, had any contacts with any Russian agents?"

REINCE PRIEBUS:

No. First of all, the answer is no. And we don't know of any contacts with Russian agents. And that gets to that New York Times story, Chuck. I mean we've spent days talking about a story that says that our campaign had constant contacts with Russian spies. And I can tell you, I've talked to the top levels of the intelligence community. And they've assured me that that New York Times story was grossly overstated, and inaccurate and totally wrong.

I know what the intelligence committees in the House and the Senate were told by the F.B.I. and I know what I was told. And what I will tell you is that story was total baloney. And in fact, Devin Nunes, who is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee went on the record after he was informed by the F.B.I. as to that story. And what did he say? He said it was total garbage.

This is what we're talking about, Chuck. It's not all media. It's not everyone involved in the media. It is this sort of fake news stuff that is enormously important that, when you get a front page story of The New York Times without a single source on the record saying that your campaign had constant contacts-- they didn't say one contact. They didn't say two contacts. It doesn't matter. We have not been informed of even that. But to say, "Constant contact?"

Then the next day, Chuck, The Wall Street Journal comes out and says that the president of the United States is being cut out of information by the intelligence community. Then later in the day, all of the main departments of the intelligence community says, "That's not true." This is what we're dealing with while we're putting in a lobbying ban, while we're freezing federal government employees, while we're getting the economy back on track, we're sitting here talking about these stories or whether Steve Bannon and I get along or not, which we do.

I can assure you people in Kenosha, Wisconsin aren't worried about that. They want to see jobs and money back in their pocket. And that's what I'm trying to do, and we're trying to do, every day, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

The Associated Press has a story this morning that the Senate Intelligence Committee has sent a letter to the White House counsel asking for a preservation of any communication, anything that could have any ties, either during, right now since you've taken office, during the transition of the campaign, to make sure there are no-- all records are preserved regarding Russia. Are you aware of this letter? And have you already acted upon it?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Yeah, I'm aware of it. And I think they're going to do their job. And they have to do that. Those are things that Richard Burr and that team have to do. And that doesn't mean that there's anything there. It just means they need to do some things that satisfy their committee, that they've looked into something. And then they can have meetings behind closed doors that they always do in the Intel Committee, and then they'll issue a report.

And as long as they do their job, and we cooperate with them, they'll issue a report, and the report will say there's nothing there. I know what they were told by the F.B.I., because I've talked to the F.B.I.. I know what they're saying. I wouldn't be on your show right now telling you that we've been assured that there's nothing to The New York Times story if I actually wasn't assured. And by the way, if I didn't actually have clearance to make this comment. I'm not a sloppy guy.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

I dot my I's and cross my T's. I was a 15 year litigator--

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

--before I became RNC Chairman.

CHUCK TODD:

Fair enough. Let me ask you this final question here on the President's tweet. I'll put it up here, "The fake news media failing New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS, CNN is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people." And look, I understand there's press criticism all the time. It happens with many presidents.

But let me ask it, this question this way. Aren't you concerned that now that the president of the United States does not have the moral authority to travel around the world and express the openness for a free press in other countries, a free press is being challenged in a Turkey, in a Russia, with the president of the United States trying to de-legitimize the American press, does that not sort of undercut his ability to spread freedom and advocate for press freedoms around the world?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Well first of all, it's nothing new. Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, John Adams, have all had their issues with the press. I can assure you this, Chuck, and everyone in your business. The president believes in the First Amendment. He believes in the free press. I believe in those things. We don't believe everyone is lousy in the media. We don't believe everything is bad.

But there are some things that are really bad. And we've tried to-- he categorizes that as "fake news." What we've been through over the last ten days has been unbelievable, the leaks, the fake stories, the anonymous accusations. That stuff is bad.

And that's what he's referring to. I know where he's coming from on this. But I can assure you he believes in the free press, the First Amendment, he loves our constitution. We just want to get this stuff back on the rails and more honest in regard to these really big accusations that are coming at us.

CHUCK TODD:

I know you believe all of this is press generated. Do you not have a problem inside that West Wing with leaks yourself?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Look, if there's a problem there, those people will have big issues. But the truth is, is that we don't have problems in the West Wing. I mean you read about all these stories of I don't get along with Bannon, and this one said-- actually, we've really gelled as a team. And we get along great, and we're working well together.

And the amount of drama and spin that you read about mostly in the Washington daily gossip rags is unbelievable stuff. And it just isn't true. And you read it every day, and you wonder what alternative universe they're reporting on. Because it just isn't true.

I think every West Wing has different personalities. You had Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod. You had Andy Card, Karl Rove. You always have different kinds of people. But it doesn't mean that you don't ultimately get along, serve the president, want to make the American people proud. That's what we're doing every day. That's what we're trying to do every day.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Reince Priebus, I'm going to leave it there.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

All right.

CHUCK TODD:

I guess thanks for coming behind enemy lines. And we'll see you next time.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

No, I'm happy to be here. Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you, Mr. Priebus. Many Republicans have been largely reluctant to criticize President Trump, but not my next guest. Senator John McCain, who appears on the cover of this week's New York Magazine, has taken plenty of incoming from Mr. Trump, and has been willing to give as well. Here's what he had to say on Friday at the Munich Security Conference in Germany, an event essentially founded to confront the threat posed by this old Soviet Union during the Cold War.

(BEGIN TAPE)

JOHN MCCAIN:

They would be alarmed by an increasing turn away from universal values and toward old ties of blood, and race, and sectarianism. They would be alarmed by the hardening resentment we see towards immigrants, and refugees, and minority groups, especially Muslims. They would be alarmed by the growing inability and even unwillingness to separate truth from lies.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Well I talked to Senator McCain yesterday from Munich and I began by asking him whether, in that speech, he was referring directly to President Trump.

(BEGIN TAPE)

JOHN MCCAIN:

I was certainly referring to the threats that we are now facing with this, stated goals of this administration, which would upset the last 70 years of a new world order which was established after World War II. Seventy years based on human rights, respect for the law, free trade. All of the things, aspects of this world order that took place after one of the most horrific, terrible wars in history. And I'm for maintaining it. And I'm afraid that it's under assault from a variety of forces including, by the way, the Russians.

CHUCK TODD:

You say a variety of forces. You're being careful here. Do you think the president agrees with you about the world order or not?

JOHN MCCAIN:

I think many of his statements have been contradictory. Some of them have indicated that. I am very pleased with the national security team that he has around him, who are here in Munich, by the way, in General Mattis and General Kelly. I think that-- and the vice-president gave a very good speech today. But I worry about statements which upset our friends at a time when the strains on the European Union and Europeans are greater than they have been since any time since the end of the Cold War.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask the question this way. How much confidence do you have in the current commander-in-chief?

JOHN MCCAIN:

Well, I worry. I worry about the president's understanding of some of these issues and his contradictory articulations. And I think the rollout of the, quote, immigration reform was an example of a need for an orderly decision making process in the White House. And that I think is probably what's plaguing them more than anything else right now.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, you've been-- you've taken extra care to say how much you like the president's national security team. Does that include what you've seen out of the National Security Council?

JOHN MCCAIN:

I worry about the membership. There has never been a political advisor as a permanent member of the National Security Council. And in Mr. Bannon's role as both political advisor and member of the National Security Council, I'm very worried about. Former Secretary of Defense Gates has said he's deeply concerned. So has Leon Panetta and many others who view the National Security Council as apolitical and should not be influenced by any political influences.

CHUCK TODD:It's interesting you bring up Mr. Bannon. He calls himself an economic nationalist. When you hear that-- or how about this? When Europeans hear that, what do they hear?

JOHN MCCAIN:They feel uncertain about our trade relationships. They saw that we abandoned the TPP. They're facing the Brexit problem right now.

All this business with Vladimir Putin is very disturbing to all of us. To equate Vladimir Putin and the United States of America, as he was asked, you know, I guess it was Bill O'Reilly who said, "But Putin is a killer." And he basically said, "So are we." That moral equivalency is a contradiction of everything the United States has ever stood for in the 20th and 21st century.

CHUCK TODD:There's a lot of members of Congress it seems this week that do want to get more involved into an investigation into what Russia did, what role did Russia play in the 2016 election.

JOHN MCCAIN:There are so many questions out there that we first of all need to understand the parameters of what's happened here. And so I would hold off and wait and see what happens. One thing that you and I know from being around this to-- being around Washington, there's probably going to be some more shoes to drop.

CHUCK TODD:That's true, but let me ask you this. Can be Americans be confident that a Republican-controlled Congress can investigate this president thoroughly if necessary?

JOHN MCCAIN:I hope so. And I have to believe so.

CHUCK TODD:And then before I let you go.

JOHN MCCAIN:More hope than belief.

CHUCK TODD:More hope than belief? Before I let you go--

JOHN MCCAIN: Both.

CHUCK TODD:I'm curious of your reaction to a tweet that the president sent Friday night. "The fake news media, failing New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS, CNN is not my enemy. It is the enemy of the American people." You believe the press is the enemy? You believe any group of Americans are the enemy of another group of Americans?

JOHN MCCAIN:I was talking about the period as, you know, of the new world order. A fundamental part of that new world order was a free press. I hate the press. I hate you especially. But the fact is I, we need you. We need a free press. We must have it. It's vital. If you want to preserve-- I'm very serious now-- If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That's how dictators get started.

CHUCK TODD:That's how dictators get started, with tweets like that?

JOHN MCCAIN:With-- No. They get started by suppressing a free press. In other words, a consolidation of power, when you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. And I'm not saying that that's, that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I'm just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.

CHUCK TODD:Senator McCain, I'm going to leave it there. You are a student of history. That's for sure. I always appreciate you sharing your views no matter how much you hate me. That's all right.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:Coming up, how concerned should we be about President Trump's testy relationship with the intelligence community? My interview with the man who, among other things, is a former head of the C.I.A., Leon Panetta.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panel is here, Hugh Hewitt, host on the Salem Radio Network, former Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland. She's been on an RV tour so she took a break. Amy Walter, national editor of the Cook Political Report, and David Brooks, columnist for the New York Times. Welcome all. David, I'm going to start with you. Two columns this week that you had were headlined "How Should One Resist the Trump Administration?" That was a Valentine's Day. "What a Failed Trump Administration Looks Like." You have-- That's pretty declarative in thirty days.

DAVID BROOKS:Enemy of the people. I'm an enemy of the people. You know what, my fear of the administration as it's shaken out so far is not that it's incipient fascism, it's that it's anarchy. There are 696 appointed jobs that need, require Senate confirmation, and the Trump administration hasn't come up, named 692 of them. And so there's nobody home in the government. The civil service has basically opted out because they've been offended by Trump. The court system has given themselves permission to block every Trump initiative because they've been attacked by Trump. The intelligence community is some sort of disarray or disaffection. To lead, you actually need to lead a government. And the government has gone AWOL. And so in one of those columns I liken him to Captain Kirk on the Starship Enterprise at the command deck pushing the pretty buttons, but they're not attached to anything. And I've been in touch with a lot of foreign officials this week. They're noticing and they're afraid of a weak United States.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Hugh, you and I talked earlier this week about you were very upset about the Puzder withdrawal.

HUGH HEWITT:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

And you were pretty angry about it. And these weak-kneed Republican senators, and I reminded you they may not fear this White House right now. And that that is a problem that Washington seems to-- this White House hasn't gotten control of Washington.

HUGH HEWITT:

I think they're going to remember given the rally yesterday that he has got deep and lasting support in red America. And I disagree with David pretty fundamentally on where we are right now. And I think that to quote Dan Rather, "News is where you look." I look at Intel investing seven billion and bringing 3,000 jobs to Arizona.

I look at the Gorsuch nomination. I look at Reince's interview with you which was spectacular. I think if he names John Bolton as his national security advisor today he will find another ally who can do the Sunday shows as well as Reince did with you and articulate.

So it is slow. But I remind everyone, June 7th, 1993, five months into his presidency, Bill Clinton is on the cover of Time magazine, The Incredible Shrinking President. He had 91 more months to go in his presidency. He is here 25 years later, it's too early.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, presidents get a lot of opportunities to reset. Voters are definitely very patient on that point. But what are we seeing on 30 days?

AMY WALTER:

I think that I'm much more where Hugh is right now which is we are 30 days into this. While we in Washington are pretty clear about what we're seeing because it's not like anything we've ever seen before, the disarray, the internal discombobulation, whatever we want to call it.

I think that there is a good swath of Americans who want to wait and see what happens. A whole bunch of people voted for this president not because they liked him, not because they condoned his behavior. But because they thought that he was going to be able to make a difference.

You're not going to know that in 30 days. But here comes the bottom line, a year from now we're going to be back and all of these things that he said he's going to be able to do alone, right, "I'm going to fix border security, I'm going to fix health care, I'm going to fix jobs," they're either going to happen or they're not.

And whether he can get folks on his team along with him, we've been-- all the people at this table at one point or another, including you, you, I know me, said, "The Republican Party's falling apart. They're never going to coalesce behind the president. They're never going to stick with him." Right now they are. And they are not abandoning him, even John McCain.

DONNA EDWARDS:

Well, look, I think that, you know, all presidencies start with a little bit of chaos. But this kind of chaos is actually different because where it is and at what levels. And I think, you know, the actions on Flynn, on the implementation of the immigration ban, what some said was a Muslim ban, this is the kind of chaos that not just this administration but no administration needs. And it's got to wrap itself up quickly because I think Republicans are going to, like, head for the hills.

CHUCK TODD:

Guys, we're 30 days in. He doesn't have a national security advisor. He had to fire him. And there are seven committees that want to investigate his campaign on Russia.

HUGH HEWITT:

Oh there are big problems. Look--

CHUCK TODD:

I mean, that's a huge problem.

HUGH HEWITT:

Huge problem-- you should--

CHUCK TODD:

This is not a small problem.

HUGH HEWITT:

You should never call a federal judge "so-called." That's an enormous mistake. "Enemies" is an enormous mistake. But I'm pointing out, I think I agree with Amy, you make enormous mistakes early, you can course correct. You bring in a Bolton and all of a sudden you've got someone who can come on the Sunday show like Reince did. So there's opportunities to course correct.

DAVID BROOKS:

There's two levels here. There's the talk media thing which he's great at. He's good at your job. He's a talk media host from public housing. But there's the actual substance running of government. Rex Tillerson could be a great secretary of state. But he can't even pick his deputy because somebody in the White House blocks him.

CHUCK TODD:

There's a loyalty test.

DAVID BROOKS:

So he's emasculated right away. And then all-- And then Ben Carson loses somebody. People all around the agencies who are trying to actually run a government are prevented because of the loyalty test. Then the Israeli prime minister comes in, there's no state and no defense representation. This is just not how government works. You can't run it as one or three people in the White House. You need to lead an organization.

DONNA EDWARDS:

And people have no one to call. I mean, that is the problem. You've got people who are heads of agencies, no undersecretaries, no assistant secretaries, no deputy secretaries. You cannot run a government like this.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, we're going to pause here and pick up this conversation a little later in the show. But up next, what happens when there is a lack of trust between the White House and the intel community. My interview with the former head of the C.I.A. and the defense department, Leon Panetta.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Senator John McCain is not the only familiar face troubled by Donald Trump's current turmoil presidency. Just this week Leon Panetta, who has been the Secretary of Defense and the head of the CIA among other things, told the New York Times this, "I've never been so nervous in my lifetime about what may or may not happen in Washington … I don't know whether this White House is capable of responding in a thoughtful or careful way should a crisis erupt."

Well, I spoke with Mr. Panetta last night and began by asking him whether if he finds believable that report this week in the Wall Street Journal, which you heard referred to earlier in the show, that people in the intelligence community are withholding critical information from President Trump because they don't trust him.

(BEGIN TAPE)

LEON PANETTA:

No, it's not. In my experience, I have never had intelligence officers who have a responsibility to provide full information to the president and to other leaders in the country ever withhold a piece of intelligence. So it's something that certainly hasn't occurred when I was there, and I doubt whether it's happened this time.

CHUCK TODD:

If you were running the C.I.A., and you had an intelligence officer say, "I have a sensitive piece of information but it may be connected with this investigation that's going on with the current president," in particular, Russia, this is the implication that was in The Wall Street Journal story that somehow anything, at least in that sphere, there is a concern about giving that to the president, would you have a hesitation of giving that information to the president?

LEON PANETTA:

Absolutely not. Because your first responsibility is to provide the truth to the president. And if you start thinking about how the President's going to use it, what he's going to do with that information, then frankly, you'll never provide the truth to the president. And that's what intelligence officers are supposed to do.

CHUCK TODD:

So if you were head of the C.I.A. and you knew intelligence officers were doing this, would that be a fireable offense?

LEON PANETTA:

Absolutely. I think any time an intelligence agency withholds vital information to the president or withholds any key information to the president, that's a violation of their oath.

CHUCK TODD:

So let's talk about, though, this issue with the relationship between this president and the intel community. It's rocky, to say the least. What do you hear on the morale front?

LEON PANETTA:

Obviously, it's not a good situation. Because there is a lack of trust between the president and the intelligence community, and between the intelligence community and the president. And, you know, every time he demeans the intelligence community or accuses it of leaks or accuses it of doing things that it's not doing, that obviously impacts on the morale of that institution.

Look, these are good people. They're not Republicans or Democrats. They're good patriots who are trying to do their job. It's a tough job. They've got to put their lives on the line in order to provide information to the president. The last thing they need is to have a president who questions their patriotism to this country and to him.

CHUCK TODD:

What is the-- if this continues, if this sort of-- cold war between the intel community and the president continues where he believes that any bad story about him and a foreign leader or him and a situation having to do with national security is due to an intelligence leak, and that's what he tells the public, what is the long term impact on the C.I.A.?

LEON PANETTA:

Well, the bigger question is what is the long term impact on the president of the United States and decisions that the president has to make with regards to foreign policy and protecting the security of the country? That's his first responsibility is to protect the country. He can't do that without getting intelligence, without getting good intelligence as to what's going on in the world.

And so ultimately, you do have to have a relationship of trust reestablished. I hope Mike Pompeo, who's the new director of the C.I.A., can do that. I hope that Dan Coates, who's the new director of National Intelligence, that he can help do that. I think Jim Mattis is trying to do that. So my hope is that, ultimately, that relationship can be reestablished. Why? Because it has to be reestablished for the sake of the country.

CHUCK TODD:

But do you believe the president has a point on these leaks at all? Do you think these leaks are coming from the intel community and that it is undermining his presidency?

LEON PANETTA:

Chuck, you know, I've been involved in politics for a long time. And I've served two presidents and have worked under nine presidents. Leaks are a problem that every president has complained about.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

LEON PANETTA:

The presidents that I worked for complained about leaks. But the reality is that leaks come from all kinds of directions.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

LEON PANETTA:

The most important thing you can do to stop leaks is to established loyalty between the people that are working for you and the president of the United States. If you establish that sense of loyalty then he won't have to worry about leaks.

CHUCK TODD:

Anyway, Leon Panetta, again, if I go through all your titles, I'll run out of time. But it is always good to see you, sir. And thanks for coming on to share your views.

LEON PANETTA:

Chuck, it was good to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

You got it.

LEON PANETTA:

Thank you.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Alright, before we go, a reminder of our podcast this week. The story of a highflying lobbyist and a dark tale of power and influence in Washington. 1947 the Meet The Press podcast. Check it out on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. It is a gripping, gripping story. And when we come back, the thing that has a lot of Americans worried, really worried. And it's something we talk about on this broadcast every single Sunday. Stay tuned.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Data Download time. So, how stressed are you about politics? The American Psychological Association released its annual survey on stress in America and 2016 was the first year the group asked about the impact of politics. I wonder why.

49 percent of Americans say the outcome of the 2016 elections is a significant source of stress. Hillary Clinton got 48 percent of the vote, familiar number there, huh? 57 percent, by the way, say the same about the current political climate. And a whopping 66 percent are stressed out about the future of our country.

Now what's not surprising is that this stress caused by election results breaks down among party lines. 72 percent of democrats feel that stress versus just 26 percent of republicans feeling high levels of stress.

And the levels of stress over the election also depend on where you live. 33 percent of rural Americans are stressed about the results, 45 percent of folks in the suburbs, and a whopping 62 percent of people in urban areas. All of that not entirely shocking. Urban and suburban voters were mostly for Hillary Clinton.

Now, there was a stressor that did cross party lines. Majority of both democrats and republicans say they are stressed out about the future of America. 76 percent of democrats and 59 percent of republicans.

.

Look, it's been over three months since President Trump's election and it's clear that the anxiety that's felt by many in it's aftermath and the relief that's felt by others continues to play a role in how Americans are experiencing this new political reality. But the bipartisan concern about the future is something that may take presidential leadership, and only presidential leadership, to heal.

When we come back, we have something else that should be stressing this new Trump White House, falling poll numbers.

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with the panel. The congress is away but the opposition is not. Take a look at some town halls from the weekend in a couple of Republican districts over the last few days. Here's some clips.

(BEGIN TAPE)

REP. TOM REED:

More access to health savings accounts, access to health savings accounts. I'm trying, I'm trying to give you some details, I'm trying, it's ok--

CROWD:

How do the poor get a savings account? How do the poor get a savings account?

CROWD:

Are you proud to have him representing our country?

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

Given the two choices I had, I am thankful that Trump is our president.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

So that first rally, Donna Edwards, was Tom Reed, Republican from New York, that second that you saw was Sen. Tim Scott, he was actually doing a joint town hall with Congressman Mark Sanford. Does that look familiar to you at all from back in those 2009 townhalls that democrats were experiencing?

DONNA EDWARDS:

It looks really familiar and I have to tell you, you can't avoid them. You can't avoid - some members are choosing to do electronic townhalls to avoid the crowds, they better take them head on because Republicans are gonna face exactly what democrats faced then and it wasn't pretty.

CHUCK TODD:

Head on the right call?

AMY WALTERS:

And remember, the republicans who are in office right now, more than half of them, I think it's over sixty percent, weren't in office in 2009 and 2010, they don't know what these townhalls look like and they also don't know what it's like to put legislation together as difficult as this repeal and replace is going to be so, they're kinda going, this brand new for so many of them, but I do think you're right, taking it head on rather than looking like they're avoiding it.

CHUCK TODD:

Does Congress, do congressional republicans have a legislating problem, Hugh? You know look at where, Barack Obama had already signed a giant stimulus bill, George Bush's tax cut was well on its way to getting completed, what major piece of legislation is off the starting blocks?

HUGH HEWITT:

Only the budget reconciliation, but the President's two biggest allies are Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. And the southern gentleman and the boy scout with the big brain are very important to him to make this work. I think at these town halls they cannot run away, they have to come with facts. This week Aetna's head told the Wall Street Journal gathering that Obamacare is in a death spiral, Humana pulled out of Obamacare this week, so they have to sell the message that there isn't really anything left of what the president passed in 2009, they have to sell a replacement bill.

DAVID BROOKS:

Yeah, it's hard to adjust to this new world 'cause we're used to everybody defers to the White House. We've assume all around the world initiation starts there and then we react. But initiation is not starting there for the reasons we've described earlier so it's interesting to see who understands the new world, and the Asian leaders seem to be getting it. So, in Japan and in China they're saying, ok we have to be the actors it's not going to be- the Europeans sort of getting it. Vladimir Putin began to get it this week, he turned on Trump, the Russian state media and they're gonna start being more aggressive. In congress they still haven't quite gotten it, they still, I think Republicans in congress say "no we have to lead this thing".

DONNA EDWARDS:

Yeah but I mean eight and a half years they should actually have their replace bill and ready to put in front of the President and the reason that they don't is because they can't deliver pre-existing conditions, children under 26, making sure that you're really covered for wellness and these are the things people want. And the people showing up at those town halls aren't just Democrats, they're Republicans too because they have healthcare.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to show you, speaking of the issues with the President's popularity, two big polls this week, Gallup, Pew. I'm putting up the Pew numbers here, 39, 56, approve, disapprove. So he already has a job approval rating below the number he got, look, the partisan split is obvious but I put up those independent's number because as independents go so goes this Trump presidency, if you believe these numbers.

AMY WALTERS;

If you, this is true, although we know as you know, Chuck, as do you, the Democrats still have a geography problem. And where their, the most difficult Senate seats for them to hold are in places where they need to win Democrats need to win Republicans, not just Independents. Where some of these key House races are, they need to win Republicans not just Independents.The Pew poll thing, what depressed me the most, is remember when President Obama came in in 2013 and he said "the fever is gonna break on this partisanship". I looked at that poll and it is, the patient is in critical condition. The fever is spiked. It's not just a divide between D and R and I, it is the divide between gender, and race, and education, is deeper and more significant than I have ever seen, it can't continue like this that we have two countries that are divided on those things for this long of time. It's super depressing.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm gonna pause it here, especially when you don't have presidential leadership right now that is trying to unify the country, he is focused on his base and his base alone for now. We'll be back in less than a minute with End Game and the college that President Trump loves to talk about most of all.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with End Game - all presidents have their favorite answers that they fall back on, and apparently President Trump is no exception. This week, no matter the question or the setting, Mr. Trump wound up talking about… well, see for yourself.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

We won by a very, very large Electoral College vote.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

We are, you know, very honored by the victory that we had. 306 Electoral College votes. We were not supposed to crack 220. You know that, right?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

We got 306 because people came out and voted like they've never seen before so that's the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Well, it wasn't quite the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan since President Reagan's 49-state win in 1984, Donald Trump's 306 Electoral Votes were surpassed by Barack Obama twice, Bill Clinton twice and George H. W. Bush once. So really it was, the biggest Electoral victory since the last election. David Brooks, the question the first time was about Syrian refugees, the question the second time was about anti-Semitism. It's like, if he doesn't want to answer the question, he falls back on, "b-b-b-but I won."

DAVID BROOKS:

Ya, well I don't know if there's some conditional love. I mean a lot of people just need to prove they're validated, he's a marketing guy, he had got good numbers in the election, he won the election - he wants to go back to that. But Amy's written well about this, his supporters are a little transactional. He's gotta deliver for them. And so the numbers he should be focusing on are not what happened in the past, it was the fact that from 1950 to 2000, we had 2.3 percent growth in this country. Right now we have 1.1 percent growth. And so that's - there are 11 million men out of the labor force, there's 17 million ex-cons floating around wondering what to do with their lives - these are the actual substantive numbers he has to focus on, not the political victory.

CHUCK TODD:He's gotta turn this page.

HUGH HEWITT:Well, he keeps wanting to say, what he wants to say - I speak Trump - is "I won the greatest Electoral upset in modern American political history--"

CHUCK TODD:So why not just say that?

HUGH HEWITT:

That's what he needs to say and my telegraph - don't call the media the enemies, but mock their enormous self-regard.

CHUCK TODD:

Sure.

HUGH HEWITT:

That's the way to go. So he will learn how to do that, and when he does, the orchestra's gonna get into tune pretty quick.

AMY WALTER:I don't know that he's gonna - I don't think that that's ever gonna change.

DONNA EDWARDS:

It's a level of insecurity, either about how he won or the fact that he did. We're not arguing that. He needs to start talking about governing.

AMY WALTER:But it's also this, "I alone can do this." Right? Which goes back to what David's been talking about - "I don't need anybody else. Everybody around this table said I couldn't win. All the smart people said I couldn't win. And we need government. No we don't, I can do it by myself."

CHUCK TODD:Well, he alone may be judged then by the public on that front. Alright, before we go, quick programming note, this is gonna be a fun special for you to watch tonight. Don't miss the Paley Center Salute to NBC's 90th anniversary. 90 years, and we thought we were cool at 70. Anyway, don't miss it. That's tonight at eight, seven central. That's all we have for today. We'll be back next week because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

You can see more End Game in Post Game on the MTP Facebook page.

***END OF TRANSCRIPT***