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Meet The Press 02-26-17

NBC News - Meet The Press

"02.26.17"

Sen. Tom Cotton, Tom Perez, and Gov. John Hickenlooper

Ramesh Ponnuru, Eliana Johnson, Helene Cooper, and Jerry Seib

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, media bashing and the Russia connection. President Trump thrills supporters with his attacks on the press.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

A few days ago, I called the fake news the enemy of the people. And they are. They are the enemy of the people.

CHUCK TODD:

But could his media attack be designed to distract attention from those disturbing Russia stories that just won't go away? I'll ask Republican Tom Cotton of Arkansas who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Also, those angry town halls. Can Republicans afford to ignore the growing opposition to repealing and replacing Obamacare? Plus, meet the new boss, former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, elected the head of the Democratic party.

TOM PEREZ:

Where were you in 2017 when we had the worst president in the history of the United States?

CHUCK TODD:

But the party's growing progressive wing is not happy. I'll talk to Tom Perez about healing a divided party. And our brand new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, the bad news for President Trump, an approval rating at an historic low. The good news, his supporters are as enthusiastic as ever. Joining me for insight and analysis are Jerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal, Helene Cooper of The New York Times, Ramesh Ponnuru of The National Review, and Eliana Johnson of Politico. 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, we have our first look at how the public feels about president Trump in our brand new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll out this morning. The president's approval rating stands at 44 percent with 48 percent disapproving. That is the lowest rating ever recorded in our poll at this early stage of a presidency. For a little perspective, it took President Obama 32 months to fall into negative territory. It took President George W. Bush 41 months for his numbers to be underwater.

On the other hand, after a very rocky first five weeks in office, Mr. Trump's 44 percent approval rating also suggests a durable floor of support for him. That support comes almost entirely from Republicans who approve of the president by a margin of 86 to nine. At the same time, polarized America, Democrats disapprove of Mr. Trump by exactly the same margin, 86 to nine.

It is independents that have put him underwater. They disapprove of the president's job rating by a nine-point margin, 38 to 47. One issue that doesn't seem to hurt the president right now, at least in the eyes of his supporters are the reported ties, he and his aides may or may not have with Russia. And whenever stories break on that subject, press bashing, which is always part of the president's arsenal, seems to escalate.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

I'm against the people that make up stories and make up sources.

CHUCK TODD:

It's a tactic with a pattern. The president's attacks on the media repeatedly have directly followed reporting on Russia. On January 5th, NBC News reported on the intelligence community's report on Russian influence in the election. On January 6th, President-Elect Trump tweeted, "I am asking the chairs of the House and Senate committees to investigate top-secret intelligence shared with NBC prior to me seeing it." On February 13th, 14th, and 15th, news outlets reported on Mr. Trump's ties to Russia. On February 16th, President Trump spent much of a 77-minute news conference attacking the press.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

Russia is fake news. Russia, this is fake news put out by the media.

The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake.

CHUCK TODD:

On Thursday night, media outlets reported that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asked the F.B.I. to publicly discredit a New York Times story on Russia after the F.B.I. deputy director reportedly told him it was overblown. On Friday, the president went after the press.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It's fake, phony, fake.

CHUCK TODD:

But Trump administration officials acknowledged on Friday that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus did ask F.B.I. Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to push back against news stories about contacts between Trump aides and Russians during the campaign. Days earlier, Priebus had said this on Meet the Press.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

I've talked to the top levels of the intelligence community and they have assured me that that New York Times story was grossly overstated and inaccurate and totally wrong.

CHUCK TODD:

Later on Friday, The Washington Post quoted both House and Senate Intelligence Committee chairmen, saying that administration officials also enlisted them in conversations with reporters. Conversations that Priebus also mentioned on Meet the Press.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

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.

CHUCK TODD:

The drip, drip, drip is making even some Republicans in Congress wary. On Friday, Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, who was narrowly reelected in a district Clinton won, said he is open to a special prosecutor to investigate Russian interference in the election.

REP. DARRELL ISSA:

You cannot have somebody, a friend of mine, Jeff Sessions, who was on the campaign, and who was an appointee. You're going to need to use the special prosecutor's statute and office.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas is well positioned to talk about two of our big stories this morning. He’s a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and would be involved in any senate investigation of the Trump administration’s ties to Russia. And he also got an earful from Arkansans worried about losing health insurance when he appeared this week at a town hall and called for repealing and replacing Obamacare.

(BEGIN TAPE)

TOWN HALL ATTENDEES:

Do your job. Do your job. Do your job. Do your job.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Quite a week for you, Senator Cotton. Welcome to Meet The Press.

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Was a fun week in Arkansas, Chuck. Good to be here.

CHUCK TODD:

Nothing wrong with being part of democracy in action.

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Anytime you can get 22-hundred of your voters to turn out and have a chance to talk with them it’s a good thing.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me get you first this reaction. Do you think -- are you concerned about the White House contacts with, in particular, the FBI and the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, since your committee has already announced it's investigating all of these allegations of Russian interference in the election. Do you think that contact was inappropriate?

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Well, Chuck, let's step back. Russia is not our friend. Vladimir Putin is K.G.B., always has been. The Senate Intelligence Committee, for as long as I've been on it, has been examining Russia's attempts to undermine faith in our electoral process and undermine our interests around the world.

We have said that we're going to undertake in a bipartisan fashion an inquiry into everything that Russia tried to do in our election process last year. If that leads to potential contacts between Trump associates and the Russian government, then we'll explore those as well. One of the last things I did, the week before last, before I left for home from Washington D.C. was have an hours long hearing on these very matters.

So I'm confident that we're going to proceed in a manner that goes wherever the facts take us. But what you're talking about is what Reince Priebus just said on your show last week. This is not something that the White House has tried to conceal. And if anything--

CHUCK TODD:

Well, it doesn't matter whether it's concealed, is it appropriate though?

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Well, so Chuck, let's take that CNN article on face value. I'm not going the confirm or deny, obviously, anything in these stories because these leaks of classified information could do real harm to our national security. But just take it at face value. So it says the F.B.I. went to President Trump and Reince Priebus and said that reports of contacts between Trump associates last year and Russian intelligence officials were grossly overstated.

Isn't it reasonable for the chief of Staff to then say to the F.B.I. director, "Well, are you going to say anything to correct the record on this, since everyone is running around Washington making these allegations?" I think that's a perfectly reasonable response.

Now, the F.B.I. and other intelligence agencies have reasons they don't go out and call balls and strikes on news stories because we don't want to let our adversaries know what we do know or what we don't know or how we know it. But again, if you just take everything in that story on face value, I don't think there's that much alarming in it.

CHUCK TODD:

But let's go to the issue of the White House trying to enlist the chairman of the two intelligence committees. But in particular, Senator Burr, who has already announced an investigation. Was that appropriate?

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Well, as Reince Priebus said last weekend, Devin Nunes was already saying this on the record. The White House I think was trying to ensure that the media had more access to information. That's what the CNN story said about Reince Priebus, that's what Reince Priebus said last--

CHUCK TODD:

Were you contacted by that White House?

SEN. TOM COTTON:

I was not.

CHUCK TODD:

And if you had, would you have talked to the media at their request?

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Chuck, I generally try to refrain from much comment about what's happening in my work on the intelligence committee or the armed services committee, because I want to make sure that I stay on the right side of the line about classified information, which frankly, I wish more people in the media and more of the Obama holdovers in the administration were doing.

CHUCK TODD:

Mark Warner, who's the Vice Chair, and the Intelligence Committee works differently than every other committee, it is truly bipartisanly run. Mark Warner said he has some concerns about this idea that the White House contacted Senator Burr, that it could call into question whether this was going to be a fair investigation.

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Well, I think there's no doubt that this will be a fair inquiry. As I said, we're already well underway. It's been conducted in a bipartisan fashion. Democrats and Republicans have been working well on it. I mean, there's a limit to what we can discuss publicly.

You know, the eight Democrats who are on that committee and Chuck Schumer know what we've learned. You know, I would encourage them to tell the other 40 Democrats in the Senate, you know, what they may and may not want to be saying, so they don't get over their skis making false allegations or exaggerated allegations.

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, you said to me earlier in this interview that right before you left for the recess to go back home, that it was a hearing. We all know that Director Comey went into this. So was that a hearing that you had with Director Comey? Is that how we should describe that? Or did you--

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Well, I'm not going to confirm what we may or may not have been discussed--

CHUCK TODD:

But you called it a hearing earlier in this interview.

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Well, every time we meet I call it a hearing, Chuck. We had a long, hours long hearing of the Intelligence Committee. It was on these very topics.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. And finally, I want to ask you about the Darrell Issa being open to a special prosecutor. What point is it in the best interest of the country to sort of take it away from elected partisans at this point? Whether it's a commission, I know a select commission, an outside commission, or a special prosecutor. Where are you on that?

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Well, I think that's way, way getting ahead of ourselves here, Chuck. There's no allegations of any crime occurring. There's not even an indication that there's criminal investigations underway by the F.B.I., as opposed to counterintelligence investigations, which the F.B.I. conducts all the time as our main counterintelligence bureau. If we get down that road, that's a decision that Attorney General Sessions can make at the time. But I think--

CHUCK TODD:

Senators can call for it on their own. I mean, you called during your campaign against Mark Pryor, you called for a special prosecutor for the I.R.S. How does this Russia allegation, when does that rise to that level in your mind?

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Well, I think that's far down the road from what our inquiry might reveal in the Intelligence Committee, or what the F.B.I.'s inquiries might reveal. That's something that can be decided down the road. But right now, there's no credible evidence of these contacts beyond anonymous sources in the media. And I've got to tell you, anonymous sources can't always be trusted.

CHUCK TODD:

Anonymous sources are how we found out about a lot of scandal in this country.

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Anonymous sources says Steve Bannon drove from the White House to the Department of Homeland Security to confront John Kelly, which we now know is not the truth. That's not, like, the tone of a conversation. That is someone physical whereabouts. You cannot credit stories that are based on anonymous sources. You should look into them, especially if you're in the position of responsibility. But you can't simply credit them.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me talk to you about healthcare. You got an earful from a town hall. Tell me your big takeaway from that. Does that say to you, you know, you've been one of these advocates as saying, "Hey, we can't repeal Obamacare until there's a replacement that the public can see." Does that make you more determined than ever to say, "Slow down, get this replacement right before the exuberance on repeal"?

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Well, we have to get healthcare reform right here. Our healthcare system has had problems going back decades. Obamacare claimed to solve them. It clearly did not, because the price of insurance is still going up and access to doctors is still strained. But what we saw over this past week, a lot of anxiety and stress that Americans feel about healthcare.

I know families that have been helped by Obamacare that feel that anxiety and stress, but also I know families have been hurt by it. Healthcare can be a very stressful thing. That's why when we repeal Obamacare, we have to get it right, we have to make sure that our solutions deliver affordable, personalized care for all Americans, that they have control in choice and freedom over their own healthcare.

CHUCK TODD:

Is that an -- that promise sounds good. Do you understand why some people think that's an impossible promise to keep?

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Well, I know why--

CHUCK TODD:

To make it affordable, making it wider. I mean, that just seems like, you know, it seems like you're selling something that can't be done realistically.

SEN. TOM COTTON:

I know a lot of Americans are skeptical about their government on a whole host of issues. And they should be, given the poor performance that we've seen in recent years from our government. But I think that we should trust the American people to make the right decisions for themselves. Obamacare didn't do that. It put too much power in the hands of politicians and bureaucrats in Washington.

We can make our healthcare system more flexible and more personalized and more affordable for everyone and still address the problems that Obamacare claimed to address, like the rising cost of health insurance, or the inability of people to get coverage if they had preexisting conditions and so forth. And that's what we're going to do.

CHUCK TODD:

John Boehner, in a speech, said they're not going to repeal Obamacare, they're going to end up repairing it. Is that how this will end up looking to a vast majority of people, that it's basically a repair of Obamacare with a conservative vision?

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Yeah, Chuck, we've had four elections about Obamacare in the last four cycles.

CHUCK TODD:

You think we're going to have a fifth one, aren't we?

SEN. TOM COTTON:

And in three of those elections, Republicans won big victories because we promised to repeal Obamacare and to fix our healthcare system once and for all. That's what we're going to do. It would not be keeping faith with the American people if we did not keep our word from those last elections.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Tom Cotton, I'm going to leave it there. Good to see you, sir.

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, appreciate it. Well, as Republicans have been greeted by those angry protesters at town halls, many Democrats are now simply calling for all-out resistance to everything that President Trump touches.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

We are going to dump Trump. Dump Trump.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

As long as the president continues down this path, there is nothing Democrats can work with him on.

FMR. SEC. HILLARY CLINTON:

Let resistance plus persistence equal progress for our party and our country.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

So that was the backdrop to yesterday's election of former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Perez defeated the more progressive representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota in a close race that was also closely watched. Many Ellison supporters made their displeasure clear when Donna Brazile, the outgoing chair, announced the results.

Little did they know that Tom Perez was about to announce that Keith Ellison was going to be his deputy chair. Now with the Democrats in their weakest position in almost a hundred years, Perez's first job will be to unite the moderate and liberal wings of the party and then try to lead them out of the wilderness. Mr. Perez joins me now from Atlanta. Mr. Chairman, congratulations.

TOM PEREZ:

Thank you, Chuck, it's great to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, let me start with the fact that that was a pretty divided room, all intra-party elections can feel personal, can feel petty. But the fact of the matter is, you do have a lot of Sanders supporters from the primary who were skeptical of the Clinton wing of the party, and see you as nothing more than an extension of that. How do you unite this party without just simply making it an anti-Trump party as a way to unite it?

TOM PEREZ:

Well, I thought we had a great day yesterday, Chuck. And Deputy Chair Ellison and I, we were there together, we were united, and our unity is our greatest strength. And frankly, our unity is Donald Trump's greatest nightmare. He's already tweeting this morning about the election being rigged. And you know, frankly, he ought to be looking at the U.S. election last November through a special counsel.

And what we saw yesterday, Chuck, not only in Atlanta, where the Democrats were gathered, but we saw up in Delaware great examples of how we are putting our activism into action. We had a special election there for the state Senate seat. And the state Senate hung in the balance. It was a tie. A lot of money was invested in that race by both sides. And we had 500 volunteers coming in.

Our Revolution, the D.N.C., grassroots activists all coming together. And we won that race. That's the energy. The most frequent question I get is how do we translate the energy into action? Yesterday was a great example. Not only here in Atlanta, where Congressman Ellison and I and the entire family of Democrats came out very united, but in Delaware, we've got a race right here in Cobb County, Georgia for District Six, and we're going to do the same thing here. So I'm very excited about the road ahead. We need to make sure we're electing candidates from the school board to the Senate. And yesterday was the state Senate.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me show the hole that you're in as a party and the hole, which is surprising, considering you had the White House for the last eight years. Since 2008, here's the financial hole. The Republican National Committee has outraised the Democratic National Committee with Barack Obama as the president of the United States and head of the Democratic party by over $200 million over that eight-year period.

And then look at the results, you know them, a loss of 11 Senate seats over that time, 63 House seats, 12 governorships, and nearly a thousand state legislative seats. I know you've been talking about this grassroots approach, grassroots approach. But the fact is, this party got gutted while you had a Democrat in the White House.

TOM PEREZ:

Well, we have to rebuild our parties in the 50 states, in the territories, and that's exactly what we're going to do. We also have to redefine our mission. We not only elect the president of the United States, but we elect people from the school board to the Senate and everywhere in between. Governors, secretaries of state, treasurers, attorneys general.

And it started yesterday in Delaware. And I'm very excited about that. And I think there's an acute understanding that where we fell short is that we didn't invest enough in those state parties. When we lead with our values and when we build that strong infrastructure, when we make house calls, when we're in every ZIP code, and I traveled ten states over the last five days, Chuck, that's why my voice is scratchy, and I heard from rural America that the Democratic party hasn't been there for us recently.

We have to make sure we have an every-Zip-code strategy. That's how we win. That's exactly what we're going to do. These investments in grassroots organizing, because our values are the right values, but we've got to put those values into action.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to actually put up a quote that Howard Dean used during his presidential campaign and some would argue that his tenure as chair of the Democratic party is perhaps one of the most successful tenures in the modern history of the party. But he said this as a candidate, "I still want to be the candidate for guys with confederate flags in their pickup trucks."

At the time, it was, "We can't beat George Bush unless we appeal to a broad cross-section of Democrats." Just replace Bush with Trump and that quote could be active today, that you've lost touch, whether it's rural America, whether it's-- do you think you've lost touch culturally or economically or both?

TOM PEREZ:

Well, I think we have to underscore that economic message. In Ohio, I went out there, I talked to voters, and what they heard from Donald Trump is, "I'm going to bring your coal jobs back." That's a lie. But what they heard is that he felt their pain. What they heard from us was that, you know, "Vote for us because we're not him." And we have to make sure we're communicating our affirmative message.

We stand for good wages. We stand for social security. We stand for retirement security. We brought this nation Medicare. The Republicans are trying to voucherize Medicare and privatize social security. Donald Trump wants to eliminate overtime pay for people. Donald Trump wants to-- he doesn't care about raising the minimum wage. But we have to communicate these messages consistently in every ZIP code because I learned in my trip across this country during this campaign that a lot of people do feel forgotten. And we will not allow that to happen. We will be in every ZIP code.

CHUCK TODD:

What is, though, you're out there, I think even the word "impeachment" was thrown around a lot during yesterday's Democratic gathering, and this idea of resistance, even Hillary Clinton calling now for resistance of the party. If that's the message, is that a signal to the Senate and House Democrats, "You can't work with President Trump no matter what he proposes"?

TOM PEREZ:

Well, he hasn't proposed anything but chaos and carnage, I mean, from day one.

CHUCK TODD:

But he's talking about a trillion-dollarinfrastructure proposal, something that Bernie Sanders has been talking about for a decade.

TOM PEREZ:

We've seen no evidence, Chuck, of anything constructive from this president. Hours into his presidency, he made it harder for first-time home buyers to buy a home. A few days later, he tried to make it harder for people to save for retirement. He nominates someone to head the Labor Department who wants to gut overtime pay.

You know, he is continually talking one way, but I judge people by their actions. Look at the ill-advised and frankly racist executive action against Muslims. He has governed from the far right in everything he's done. And I'm going to--

CHUCK TODD:

Are you comfortable with the Democrats being known as the "party of no" now?

TOM PEREZ:

The Democrats are the party of opportunity and inclusion. We are going to communicate our message whether it's through lawsuits, like the state attorneys general did to stop the Muslim ban, whether it's through actions yesterday at the polls in Delaware and hopefully April in Congressional Six right here in Georgia. And we're going to communicate that message that we are the party that lifts your wages, we are the party that preserves your healthcare, we are the party that's going to be fighting for middle class security every single day and opportunity for everyone.

CHUCK TODD:

Tom Perez, I've got to leave it there. Again, congratulations on your new positions.

TOM PEREZ:

Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

And we'll be watching and probably see you on this show again in the future. Thanks for coming on and sharing your views.

TOM PEREZ:

I'd love to be here. Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Later in the broadcast, more on those angry town halls.

(Begin Tape)

TOWN HALL ATTENDEE:

The veterans are sick, the veterans are broken down, they're not getting what they need.

(End Tape)

CHUCK TODD:

Are we looking at a brief burst of enthusiasm, or is this the beginning of a durable movement on the left that will be felt at the polls in 2018? And then generational warfare. It's the baby boomers versus the millennials, fighting to shape the future of the country. I'll explain coming up.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panel is here. Jerry Seib, top Washington editor at The Wall Street Journal, and of course my polling partner, Helene Cooper, Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times, Eliana Johnson, national political reporter for Politico, and Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor for The National Review, and a columnist at Bloomberg View.

By the way, a quick note before we get started in case you're wondering, as we always do, we ask the White House for any of a number of senior officials to join us this morning, especially cabinet secretaries, we also asked for them. Ultimately, instead of suggesting a senior administration official or a cabinet secretary, the White House offered a deputy press secretary. And so we declined.

Let me go to the Senior Cotton interview. Jerry Seib, I think the story of the weekend has to do with the White House contact with some of these investigative entities, F.B.I., Senate intel. Tom Cotton not ready to go the Darrell Issa Route yet.

JERRY SEIB:

No, but a couple steps down that path I thought. You know, he was very vocal on a need for a vigorous and independent investigation, not independent in the way Darrell Issa said it. But I think what Democrats are asking for, have been asking for, is either a special select intelligence committee or an independent committee in Congress.

I think that's where this conversation is going. You know, I think Republicans have resisted. But I think they're sending the signals. And Senator Cotton sent one to you that they realized that optics at least are going to require what looks like an independent investigation.

CHUCK TODD:

Helene, it's interesting that he referred to the Director Comey, that meeting that sort of got everybody, referred to it as a hearing. I'll take him at his word that he says he refers to all meetings of the intel as a hearing. But I think that it tells us, it confirms at least that we know what the topic was.

HELENE COOPER:

Yes, yes it does. I mean, I think it clearly was a hearing. But I think this also shows that I think we're at the very beginning of what's going to be a long, long story. We're just seeing the tip of it now. And this is going to go on for a quite a while. And I think that's one of the issues that has the Trump administration so worked up.

I think President Trump is clear and understands that this story is not going to go away, that it's going to continue. And that's part of the reason why he has now started to make both the intelligence community and the press part of the opposition party and part of the enemy. This way he can try to discredit what comes down as it does come down.

RAMESH PONNURU:

One dynamic I think worth watching here is do increasing numbers of Republican Congressmen decide that it is in their interest to punt this issue over to a special prosecutor? Because if there's a special prosecutor, that's a headache for the administration, but it's no longer a headache for members of Congress. They're not on the spot, they can do somebody else's handling.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm going to go in the way-back machine, in the Meet the Press way-back machine. The issue was Whitewater. And it was Democrats wringing their hands, all party control, and a guy named Daniel Patrick Moynihan came on Meet the Press. Take a listen.

(BEGIN TAPE)

LISA MYERS:

Is it time now for Attorney General Janet Reno to appoint a special prosecutor to--

SEN. DANIEL PATRICK MOYNIHAN:

Yup, yup. Nothing to hide. Do it. Come on, get on with other things. Get this work -- get some good lawyer working on that issue while we all go ahead on other things.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Ah, hearing Moynihan's voice, everybody getting a charm out of that. Eliana, the date on that, the time stamp on that is interesting to me. It's January of '94. Essentially, almost a year into the Clinton presidency, and Whitewater was this sort of nagging issue. And eventually, you could tell Democrats got tired of it. And that was Moynihan going the punt, as Ramesh noted.

ELIANA JOHNSON:

Well, I think there are similarities in that this is eating up an enormous amount of oxygen in Washington. Republicans in Congress in particular have things they want to get done. This is when they're supposed to have the most political capital. And this time is getting eaten up with scandal. On the Trump side, you know, I think you're seeing despite what Trump talks about, his hatred for the press, he's obsessed with the press. He needs the press. And in this case, the White House's attempt to manage the media narrative around this completely backfired. It was done in a really ham-handed way.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, Jerry, I mean, that's the problem, the White House may have fought themselves here.

JERRY SEIB:

Yeah, look, it's not unusual for national security officials to reach out to news organizations, to talk about stories and to try to steer them onto the right path, what they see is the right path. The difference in this case is this is not really a national security story. This was a political story.

And I think that's the difficulty in the issue that we're talking about right now. Look, I think that you're right. I think the reality is, as Helene suggests, we're at the beginning of a long road of investigation about what Russia did or didn't do in 2016 in the campaign context.

ELIANA JOHNSON:

The other thing I would add, you know, is the conclusion could be entirely different things here. These stories have been dancing around, was there a quid pro quo between the Trump campaign and Russia, or you know, Trump has set himself out with his bizarre unwillingness to say anything negative, you know, about Vladimir Putin, his hiring of Paul Manafort, who had done business in Ukraine for a pro-Russia guy.

It really could be that Trump actually in the back of his head, has done what similar president have done, which is he wants a reset with Russia. He has an illusion that he can reset relations with Russia and has a sort of psychological reset button in the back of his head. And it could be nothing.

CHUCK TODD:

There's also another explanation here, Helene in all of this is that maybe the President, as candidate Trump, if others were messing around and having improper context, they may have kept him out of the loop, which may explain why he gets so upset. I'm just, there's always another explanation.

HELENE COOPER:

There's always another explanation. And that is certainly one of them. One would think that if he was--

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think it's, "He doth protest too much"?

HELENE COOPER:

No, I mean, you're playing devil's advocate, which I appreciate and I think that's quite possible. What concerns me more I think is just the demonization of the media as the opposition party. That to me smacks of someone who is worried that something else is coming down the line. And if he turns the media into just the mouthpiece of the Democratic party, then it's just us against them. And I wonder whether that is what's going on here.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I think all of us will agree, I don't think we all feel like enemies of the state or any of that stuff, or the opposition party. And speaking of the opposition party, when you come back, we'll talk more about the actual opposition party, the Democrats. And in a moment, we're going to speak with a governor who may be just the kind of Democrat the party is looking for in 2020. We'll be right back.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Despite the election of Tom Perez as DNC chairman yesterday, Democrats are on the outside looking in at nearly all levels of government. The party’s bench is weak after the electoral shellacking it took during the Obama years. But one possible bright spot for Democrats is John Hickenlooper of Colorado. He’s the former mayor of Denver and current governor who won both of his gubernatorial terms in 2010 and 2014, two of the worst years for Democrats nationally in their history. His state is increasingly blue in a region of the country that has been a surprise growth area for Democrats over the last decade. He’s also a frequently whispered name in the early early stages of the Democratic presidential sweepstakes for 2020. I’m sure he loves me saying that. Gov. Hickenlooper, welcome to Meet the Press.

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

Great to be here.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with the question that I ended the Tom Perez interview with, which is this idea

the Democrats look like they’re uniting around this idea of just being the party of no and the party of anti-Trump. That doesn’t seem to be your comfort zone. Is it moving too fast in that direction in your opinion?

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

Well, I'm not sure it's moving that fast in that direction. Certainly, there's a lot of, you know, anxiety and anger and protest going on. But you look at someone like Tom Perez, who is, I mean, he's lived through bias and prejudice, he's experience it first hand, he spent years, you know, fighting for social justice and civil rights. And he also, as secretary of labor, did more to think about how do we reeducate people for the next generation of jobs than just about anybody. I mean, he's a constructive person. Now, obviously he's got lots to criticize, and that's part of his job. But he brings a big, broad background to the job.

CHUCK TODD:

I hear you. But you had Hillary Clinton saying, "Resistance." Using that actual word, which for a Clinton, any Clinton, that just seemed like a shock to the system. But you heard Chuck Schumer say, "Dump Trump." He's the Senate Democratic leader. A week after the election, he was even saying, "Well, on some things, if we agree with him, we'll work with a President Trump." That seems to be gone. And is that going to bite the Democrats at some point?

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

Well, I don't know. I think some of them, the people like Senator Schumer, has got to be thinking back to when President Obama was first elected, and within a couple of weeks, that same kind of anger was being used against him, and they'd do anything to beat him, they're going to, you know, take every single possible opportunity to try and embarrass him and make sure he's defeated during his reelection. I think there's, you can't blame them - you can’t blame anybody for being that upset. And also, there's been a lot of problems in the first month of this administration.

CHUCK TODD:

Let's talk about your political victories at times in other states that the Democrats haven't. You're a guy that's defended fracking, you're a guy that's been a proponent of charter schools. Is that one of the explanations, why you as a Democrat have been able to win in years that Democrats haven't? Is it things like that, challenging preconceived notions?

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

I don't know, part of it's I've been blessed to have a lot of really smart, hard-working people, many of that young people, who work their fingers to the bone on these campaigns. It's a tough job. I think part of it is I came from a small business, and I think I understand jobs, I really understand what it's like to-- I got laid off, I was out of work for a couple years, and then we built a company that hired a lot of people.

And being able to talk about jobs over the last ten or 15 years, when so many people feel they're not being heard, and really trying to listen, right? And when I'm campaigning, I go out and I don't tell people so much what I think as I try to hear what they're feeling.

CHUCK TODD:

But I guess, Governor, I mean, it's interesting to hear you talk about being an entrepreneur, owning a small business, again, fracking, charter schools. There are some Republicans in blue states that talk about those issues too. I mean, my point is is that, are you sending a subtle message to the Democratic party, "Hey, you've marginalized yourselves a little bit"?

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

No, I would never. No. And I think there are lots of places, I mean, Colorado was the first state where we actually found a way, we brought all the oil and gas industry, together with the environmental community, and we found a way the regulate methane, fugitive emissions.

And we really put a cap, I mean, every single well gets visited every year to make sure there is no leakage. It's really about collaboration. And I think that's part of the background of the restaurant business, but part of the background of the West, the mountain West is people have through experience, you've got to work together to really make progress.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, you're the governor of Colorado, so marijuana's going to now always be a question from a national reporter. Let me ask you this on the regulation side. The federal government has essentially never enforced the federal law, which has allowed Colorado to set up the recreational-use business. There's a new attorney general. We know that Jeff Sessions as a senator was opposed to it.

You're blessed as a governor to have senators from both parties. That's always a good thing no matter who's in charge. What do you hear from your Republican colleagues, about whether Jeff Sessions is going to basically enforce federal law and shut down recreational use marijuana businesses?

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

You know, at first, I opposed it. And most elected officials did. But our voters passed it 55-45. It's in our constitution. Right, I took a solemn oath to support our constitution. So - And at this rate, it's a sovereignty, the states have a sovereignty just like the Indian tribes have a sovereignty, and just like the federal government does. So it's an interesting com--

CHUCK TODD:

You don't think it's clear that the federal government could stop you? You don't think it's a clear-cut case?

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

Exactly. I don't think it is. And I think it's, certainly, it's never my choice to be in conflict with federal law. Let's make that clear.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

That being said, so Senator Gardner had talked to Mr. Sessions before he was confirmed, Senator Sessions at that point, and was led to believe that Senator Sessions said, you know, "Enforcement of marijuana was not going to be a primary, you know, it wasn't worth rising to the top and becoming a priority."

And look, the implication was you don't have go crazy on this. Now, obviously, things might have changed, and we have to see what happens. But, I mean, it's over 60% of American people are now in a state where either medical or recreational marijuana is legalized. It's become one of the great social experiments of our time.

CHUCK TODD:

If this were put on a ballot today, I know you opposed it before, but if it were put on a ballot today, would you now support it?

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

Well, I'm getting close. I mean, I don't think I'm quite there yet, but we have made a lot of progress. We didn't see a spike in teenage use. If anything, it's come down in the last year. And we're getting anecdotal reports of less drug dealers. I mean, if you get rid of that black market, you've got tax revenues to deal with, the addictions, and some of the unintended consequences of legalized marijuana, maybe this system is better than what was admittedly a pretty bad system to begin with.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. John Hickenlooper, Democratic governor from Colorado. Thanks for coming in. I know you're here for the big governor's meeting, so you've got more meetings to go to.

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

You bet.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, appreciate you coming on. When we come back, the new generation gap. Remember anti-Vietnam, impeach Nixon scene, like this one from the '70s? Well, it turns out a lot of yesterday's protesters are today's Trump supporters. Seriously. That's next.

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CHUCK TODD:

We are back, Data Download time. It may come has no shock that Americans are divided over Donald Trump’s presidency. But it’s the generational gulf between how baby boomers and millennials, our two biggest generations, view this administration. And it may have the biggest long-term political impact.

In our new NBC News/ WSJ Poll 52 percent of baby boomers approve of the job President Trump is doing so far, while 58 percent of millennials disapprove. By the way, for our purposes boomers are defined as ages 55-70 and millennials ages 18-34. We know, some gen-Z’ers in there if you’re going to be specific.

On President Trump’s temporary travel ban, 54 percent of boomers say it’s a necessary safeguard against terrorism, while 59 percent of millennials say it’s unnecessary and goes against American principles.

On the Affordable Care Act, 47 percent of boomers call it a bad idea, while 48 percent of millennials say the opposite.

Of course, some of this goes back to the divisive election we saw in November. Boomers came out in big numbers for Donald Trump, while many millennials failed to even show up for Hillary Clinton.

But this generational divide between boomers and millennials goes beyond explicitly political issues. Take foreign Trade. 44 percent of boomers say it has hurt the United States, while 50 percent of millennials say free trade has helped this country.

So, why does all this matter? Well, as you know, politics of today is always setting up politics of tomorrow. But I’m sure some people are wondering, “woah, the baby boomers of yesterday weren’t they on the left?” Anyway, so you never fully know. That said, baby boomers are pretty happy about the first month of the Trump presidency. And that could mean short-term success for the President and GOP, at least providing him a solid floor. But the future of the country will be in the hands of the millennial voters and so far they don’t like a lot of what they see from this president or his policies. The question is, when does that become a problem for the boomers who have helped keep many of these folks in power?

When we come back, some startling evidence of how the two major parties are switching sides on key issues.

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CHUCK TODD:

Back now with the panel. All right, the democrats have a new party chair. Gerry Seib you wrote a very interesting piece this week talking about actually that both political parties are going through this redefinition exercise. And when we saw Donald Trump at CPAC, essentially,he is redefining conservatism through his vision, and I think democrats are still searching for what they are. They clearly are moving to the left, but party of no to what?

GERALD SEIB:

Well, two things, that all the energy in both parties is outside of Washington right now. It is at the grassroots. There’s Trump followers and Sanders followers. Second, Donald Trump spent as much time in the last two decades as an independent or a democrat as he did as a republican and Bernie Sanders is essentially an independent. So those are the two most energizing forces in two parties--

CHUCK TODD:

It’s a great point, almost hardstop. Let’s let people digest that both Sanders and Trump are essentially not members of their own parties.

GERALD SEIB:

That they lead, basically. So, Tom Perez was not the Bernie Sanders candidate so you have to temper that, but everybody who was watching that DNC meeting knows where the energy was in that party and it was with the Sanders people. Tom Perez needs to get them at the grassroots, and it’s interesting that he started talking with you, today, about a state senate race in Delaware.

CHUCK TODD:

Right--

GERALD SEIB:

Talk about getting the message that we have to go back to the grassroots.

ELIANA JOHNSON:

But I think to that point, people talk about Tom Perez as the moderate candidate. There was no moderate candidate in this race. Tom Perez was confirmed in 2013 as Obama's labor secretary by a vote of 54 to 48, or 54 to 46. He was not a moderate or uncontroversial pick by any means. And I think we're seeing a real political realignment underway.

Actually the Dave Brat Senate race, which you wrote about, was the tip of the spear on that. But where blue-collar, lower-income workers are coming into the Republican party, and I think white-collar, more educated people are going into the Democratic party. And we're sort of in the middle of this right now.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, Ramesh, look at a guy like John Hickenlooper, right? Here's, on one hand, you know, pro-business Democrat of sorts. Right, he was trying to argue it in a different way. Is there room for him in the Democratic party? Then again, is there room for free-market capitalists in the Republican party? You just wrote a cover story a couple weeks ago about essentially defending the new nationalism.

RAMESH PONNURU:

Well, defending sort of parts of it. No, it's funny, this is a time of great political flux. And we saw a few years ago where you had this situation on the Republican side where, you know, you can be a pro-life, tax cutting, pro-school choice governor of New Jersey, and you're suddenly defined as a moderate within the Republican party.

And now I think with Tom Perez, who was just a few years ago, as Eliana's pointing out, seen as being on the left side of the Democratic party, is now a moderate, it's a sign of how far that party's moving. It is not yet healed, you still see some of these divisions, but they've got two things going for them, Trump, and the absence of Hillary Clinton.

CHUCK TODD:

What's interesting here, Helene is that there's one issue that almost shows you how this stuff can move so fast and it's the issue of trade. And just how -- where Republicans are on trade, before to today, and I think we may have a graphic up there or not, and where Democrats were, and now it's basically Democrats are sounding more like free-traders and Republicans more of the protectionists.

HELENE COOPER:

That's where you see that weird split that you were talking about within the Republican party as well, where you see the more highly-educated Republicans starting to shift away, and the grassroots people coming, the ones who are by their very nature, more afraid of free trade and feel that their jobs have been going overseas. It's just so weird to watch this happening, to watch the GOP become the party that's opposed to NAFTA and opposed to the T.T.P., I find this stunning.

RAMESH PONNURU:

But there's another split, Democratic voters are becoming more pro free trade, Democratic politicians aren't.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, that's true, because they're listening too. Very quickly, Obamacare, town halls. I thought what was clear to me is that Tom Cotton's language on healthcare has changed. Candidate Tom Cotton probably would not have said as many kind words about Obamacare as he is now.

ELIANA JOHNSON:

I think people talk in the Republican primary and in the general election about there was so much enthusiasm for Trump and so much energy behind his candidacy, journalists and others dismissed the crowds he was getting. I think you're seeing the energy and enthusiasm and passion shift to the Democrats now. And it would be dangerous for people to dismiss that.

JERRY SEIB:

You know, I think if we've learned anything in the last few years, it's don't dismiss energy in crowds at political events. I mean, tea party, Trump rallies now, Affordable Care Act, Obamacare. I think it means something. And, you know, we saw in the poll, Chuck, that support for Obamacare is actually ticking up as it becomes more imperiled. Which is probably a natural reaction.

HELENE COOPER:

The idea too, which President Trump has put out, that these are professional protesters, they're paid, it's not being brought out.

CHUCK TODD:

Wait, wait, by the way, if you spend money to throw a party and no one shows, you've wasted money. If you spend money to a party and people show up, does it matter if they're paid? They're showing up.

HELENE COOPER:

But we had reporters at these town hall meetings interviewing, when Trip Gabriel talked to almost everybody at this national meeting. And every single one of them was a constituent. These are not necessarily, you know, professional, paid protesters.

RAMESH PONNURU:

The central fact of the politics of healthcare is people fear disruption in their health arrangement imposed by Washington. That used to work for the Republicans when Obamacare was doing the disrupting. Now it's working against them.

CHUCK TODD:

You know what, they're all going to miss the days when everybody just blamed H.M.O.'s. anyway, we'll be back in 45 seconds with endgame and why even having one of the most famous names in the world may not protect you from immigration agents if you're Muslim.

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ANNOUNCER:

Meet the Press End Game is brought to you by Boeing, always working to build something better.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, it’s End Game time. Perhaps sometime this week we’re gonna get the revised temporary travel ban from the Trump administration, and I think, though, they keep running into internal legal holdovers and it keeps being pushed back. But, there’s been a consequence here. Let me show you this. Muhammad Ali Junior story, this headline in Muhammad Ali’s hometown paper, of course the late Muhammad Ali, but this was his son questioned by immigration officials. Mind you -- born in the United States. His lawyer said that officials held and questioned Ali Jr. for nearly two hours, repeatedly asking him, ‘Where did you get your name from? Are you Muslim?’” I put up this story, today’s New York Times had the following piece: immigration agents discover new freedom to deport under Trump. And then this statement here: “morale amongst our agents and officers has increased exponentially since the signing of the orders,” said the unions representing ICE and border patrol agents in a joint statement after President Trump issued those executive orders on immigration. The point is - there’s clearly something has changed, Ramesh, in some of these, and it is - these are stories that are not going to be politically helpful to the president.

RAMESH PONNURU:

And one of the things they’re gonna have to do, if they’re encouraging this sort of freelancing, by sort of the least restrained elements of these bureaucracies, they’ve gotta pull them back in, or it’s going to discredit all of their policies more than, you know, it’s gonna cast it in the least possibly flattering light.

CHUCK TODD:

This was somebody born in the United States.

ELIANA JOHNSON:

But one of the things I think Republicans or conservatives have worried about is that some of the things that Trump and the Trump administration has done, actually undermines the things he cares about most, and I think that this is a great example. And immigration hawks, in particular, I know National Review is one of them, Trump has a tendency to undermine his case. And this is a great example.

GERALD SEIB:

Well, I think that maybe the combination of those kinds of stories and the court action on the travel ban suggests that maybe going slow here, a little slower on a subject this sensitive may be a smart course. I mean because it’s not as if the idea of taking a tougher line on immigration is a politically unpopular thing. But how you do it does matter.

CHUCK TODD:

Alright, I am going to leave it there. As we leave you this morning, a programming note, NBC News will provide live coverage of President Trump’s Address to Congress. It’s this Tuesday beginning at nine o’clock eastern where I’ll be joining my colleagues Lester Holt and Tom Brokaw. That’s all we have for today. We’ll be back next week because if it’s this Sunday, it’s the Sunday after Miami beats Duke. But if it’s any Sunday, it’s Meet the Press.

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