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Meet The Press 03-05-17

NBC NEWS - MEET THE PRESS

"03.05.17"

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, connecting the dots between the Trump campaign and Russia. After telling the Senate this--

ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS:

I did not have communications with the Russians.

CHUCK TODD:

--Attorney General Jeff Sessions concedes he did meet with the Russian ambassador.

ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS:

I have recused myself in the matters that deal with the Trump campaign.

CHUCK TODD:

The growing evidence of the Trump/Russia connection threatens to consume the opening months of Donald Trump's presidency. I'll talk to Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Plus, what happens next? Many Democrats are calling for Sessions to resign.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

The attorney general, the top cop in our country, lied under oath.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

Attorney General Sessions should resign.

CHUCK TODD:

This morning, my interview with the Senate Democrat Leader, Chuck Schumer. Also, did Obama White House officials leave a breadcrumb trail to make it easier for Congress to investigate Russia and the election? I'll ask a man who would know: the former director of National Intelligence under President Obama, James Clapper. And President Trump's tweet claiming President Obama tapped his phones. Can the White House provide evidence? Or is the president just trying to get people to stop talking about Russia?

Joining me for insight and analysis are Tom Friedman, columnist for New York Times, Kim Strassel, columnist for The Wall Street Journal, Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher and Danielle Pletka of The American Enterprise Institute. Welcome to Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. It's a pretty good bet that the White House hoped and expected that the big story this week would be President Trump's initially well received speech to the nation on Tuesday night. Instead, almost immediately, the White House was back in a defensive crouch, forced to fight off a parade of new revelations linking the Trump campaign to Russia. Perhaps to distract everyone from this drip, drip, drip, President Trump yesterday tweeted, without any evidence, that President Obama had his phones tapped.

Quote: "How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones during the very sacred election process? This is Nixon Watergate. Bad or sick guy." We'll have more on that later. But the revelations this week added to a growing list of people with ties to the Trump campaign whose contact with Russian officials only came to light after reporters broke the story.

Chief among them: Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was forced to recuse himself from any investigation involving the campaign. And many of the episodes traced a familiar pattern: full denials followed, in effect, by, "Oh yeah, I forgot about that meeting."

(BEGIN TAPE)

ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS:

I have recused myself in the matters that deal with the Trump campaign.

CHUCK TODD:

That statement by the attorney general on Thursday came after The Washington Post revealed that Sessions met twice last year with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Sessions scrambled to clarify.

ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS:

Retrospect, I should have slowed down and said, "But I did meet one Russian official a couple of times." That would be the ambassador.

CHUCK TODD:

Sessions met with Kislyak on July 18th, after speaking to a group of ambassadors at the Republican Convention. And he met again with the Russian ambassador at his Senate office on September 8th, just three days after President Obama took a hard line on Russian sanctions in a G20 meeting with Vladimir Putin. Since the election, Mr. Trump and his surrogates have repeatedly denied any contact between the campaign and Russian officials.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

I'm just telling you, it's all phony baloney garbage.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

All the contact by the Trump campaign and associates was with the American people.

REPORTER:

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

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

Look, look, look, how many times do I have to answer this question? I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with, does.

CHUCK TODD:

But the Sessions reversal is just one example of a growing list of admissions dragged out of the Trump administration after reporting on contact between Trump associates and Russian officials. There is now Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who publicly denied he had discussed sanctions in phone conversations with Kislyak in December. But after reporting detailed transcripts of those phone calls, Flynn reversed himself and was forced to resign.

There's Jared Kushner, the President's son-in-law. Reports disclose that he was part of a December meeting with Kislyak at Trump Tower. Then there's Mr. Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. In July, he denied that, to appease the Russians, the campaign fought to have the Republican platform not include weapons for Ukraine.

PAUL MANAFORT:

It absolutely did not come from the Trump campaign. I don't know who everybody is. But I guarantee you there's nobody that was on the platform--

CHUCK TODD:

So nobody from the Trump campaign wanted that change in the platform?

PAUL MANAFORT:

No one, zero.

CHUCK TODD:

But former Trump policy advisor JD Gordon tells NBC News that Manafort was not forthright with us. Gordon says he was in the room and told the committee chairman that the amendment was a, quote, "Problem for the campaign." Gordon also met with the Russian ambassador at the convention. And then there's Carter Page, a one-time Trump foreign policy advisor, who was also at that meeting. He has changed his story about meeting with Russian officials.

CARTER PAGE:

I had no meetings, no meetings.

CHUCK TODD:

But on Thursday, Page's answer changed.

CHRIS HAYES:

Did you meet Sergey Kislyak in Cleveland? Did you talk to him?

CARTER PAGE:

I'm not going to deny that I talked with him.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, we contacted Paul Manafort last night and he told us that he has, quote, "Always been forthright with us, and that he had no knowledge of the platform change until Sunday after the convention, so he couldn't have authorized the change."

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida. Senator Rubio, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

Thank you, good morning.

CHUCK TODD:

Good morning. So you traveled with the president on Friday down to Florida on Air Force One. On Saturday morning, the president went on a tweetstorm, including accusing former president Obama of illegally having him wiretapped. Do you have any insight? First of all, did the president talk to you about this on Friday? And do you have any insight on what precipitated all this?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

We never obviously discussed that, number one. And I have no insight into what exactly he's referring to. And I'd imagine the president and the White House in the days to come will outline further what was behind that accusation. I've never heard that before. And I have no evidence or no one's ever presented anything to me that indicates anything like that.

CHUCK TODD:

But what it's--

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

But obviously, in the days to come, you guys are going to ask him, and I imagine they're going to answer it, right? About--

CHUCK TODD:

For what it's worth--

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

--what it is.

CHUCK TODD:

--as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, if there was a wiretap on Donald Trump's campaign, isn't that something you would have been made aware of?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

Well, again, I think the term "wiretap" is thrown around very loosely, and by a lot of people. So we have to understand exactly what they're talking about. Suffice it to say I don't have any basis, I've never heard that allegation made before by anybody. I've never seen anything about that anywhere before. But again, the president put that out there, and now the White House will have to answer as to exactly what he was referring to.

CHUCK TODD:

It's such a serious allegation. I mean it is either, if it's true, it's an extraordinary political scandal. And if it's not true, it's an extraordinary political scandal. Fair?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

Well, if it's true, and I just hate speculating about these things because it gives, you know--

CHUCK TODD:

This is the president of the United States that's speculating on our behalf --

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

I understand. But I'm saying if it--

CHUCK TODD:

--on our behalf.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

Let's say-- clearly, I don't think anybody-- if that were true, then there's no doubt that it would be a very newsworthy item with a lot of discussion about it. And if it's not true, then obviously, one would ask themselves, "Well, why did you put that out there to begin with? And what was the rationale behind it?"

But look, I didn't make the allegation. I'm not the person that went out there and said it. I've already told you I don't have-- I've never said that before. I wouldn't say that to you today. I have no basis to say that. If the president or the White House does, then they're going to lay that out over the next few days, and we're all going to be very interested to see just exactly what it is they were talking about.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you concerned that the president is gonna-- has a credibility problem? You know, we can go back to the birther business, three to five million illegal votes, now this wiretap thing that you say you're not aware of. This is the president of the United States. Can we take him at his word?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

Well first of all, I would say the president has gotten elected, and he, in many ways, is doing exactly what he told people he was going to do. A lot of this outrage that's out there is because Donald Trump is doing what Donald Trump said he was going to do if he was elected.

And it's one-- and you see that reflected in the public polling, where a large number of Americans are saying, "He's doing exactly what he said he was going to do." And that's what I think people are mostly focused on. Is the president's style different than mine? Absolutely. Is he an unorthodox political figure? Absolutely. But I've got to tell you, that's what people voted for. That's what they wanted in this election. He is doing what he said he was going to do. And I think voters and Republicans--

CHUCK TODD:

You don't think voters want to be misled.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

--in particular value that.

CHUCK TODD:

You don't think voters want to have their president intentionally mislead them, do you?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

Well, no one is saying that. But I am saying to you that the president has a unique style of communicating that is different from the way I would do it. And he won. He was elected.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

People voted for Donald Trump to be president of the United States. And they want him to be Donald Trump. And he is doing what he said he was going to do if elected.

CHUCK TODD:

Let's move on to this investigation. Are you concerned that it seems as if people associated with the Trump administration who were also associated with the campaign, they seem to deny any contacts with any Russian officials during the campaign. Then there's a report that comes out. Then they sort of reluctantly admit, "Oh yes, I forgot about that meeting, or I forgot about this meeting." And it's turning into a pattern. We now have three or four and five different officials that that has happened to. Are you concerned about this pattern?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

Well ultimately, what I'd be concerned about is if there is an-- you know, what I'm concerned about the most is what the active measures undertaken by the Russians to interfere with, participate in, steer and undermine our elections, what was that composed of? That's what I want us to focus on.

Now, there are facts that may emerge as a result of that that will be interesting to the American people, and that we're going to put out in our report when the Senate Intelligence Committee is done. That's what we're doing. We are gathering facts so that, not only do we know what happened, but we are prepared for the future of what this could mean.

I just returned from a trip a week ago to France and to Germany, where they have pending elections. They, too, are seeing the sort of active measures undertaken. So the purpose of the investigation is to gather facts, put them in a report to the Senate and the American people, so that we know what happened, and so that we can deal with it in the future. Because this is going to be an ongoing thing, unfortunately, not just in elections, but in our public policy debates.

Now, incidental to that, there may be facts that people look at and say, "Well, this may require further attention from someone else." I'm not saying that that's where it's going to lead. I am saying, if that happens, that'll be the job of someone else to pursue that. We're going to gather the facts. We're going to put them out there, wherever those facts lead us. And then we'll allow people to make judgments based on those facts.

CHUCK TODD:

Given that there's been reports that the White House reached out to your chairman of this intelligence committee, Richard Burr of North Carolina, some Democrats are concerned, including Mark Warner, are concerned that the credibility of the intelligence committee's investigation is now at peril because of this. Is there a point, and I know you believe you guys can do this, you have tweeted about that you guys can do this yourselves in the intel committee, is there a point, though, that it might be better for the political process to take politics out of this, have an independent commission, special prosecutor, whatever you want to call it, and put this sort of out of Congress right now?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

Not really. I mean not now. I certainly don't think we're at that point at this moment. And here's why. The job of the intelligence committee is not to be a law enforcement agency. The job of the intelligence committee is to gather facts and evidence, to go through counterintelligence programs, intelligence programs, understand all the evidence and the facts that's out there about how the Russians did this, why they did this, et cetera, and put all this in a report. That is our job, to gather facts.

And I believe that's what we're going to do. I've told everybody, "I'm not going to be a part of a witch hunt. But I'm also not going to be a part of a cover-up." I want us to put the facts out there, wherever those facts lead us. And I believe that is what the Senate Intelligence Committee will do.

And I will tell you this, if that's not what we do, if it, in fact, is not the kind of product that we produce, I will be among the first people out there on this program and others, telling you that I did not sign my name to that report because I believe it omitted relevant facts that the American people deserve to know. We are a finder of facts, a collector of facts.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

We will put that in a report. And then people will be able to make their own judgments based on those facts.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, right after Director-- the F.B.I. Director Comey briefed the intelligence committee, I believe it was about-- well, in fact, it was exactly on February 17th, you tweeted the following: "I am now very confident Senate Intel Comm, Committee, I serve on will conduct thorough bipartisan investigation of Putin interference and influence." I understand some of that is a classified situation that you were briefed on. But what gave you more confidence that day to tweet that than before that day?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

Well first of all, because I'm interacting with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. And the sense that I have very strongly is that virtually every member, if not every member of that committee, is interested in arriving at facts and of the truth. That no one is in there looking for this for a political angle. Everybody, at the end of the day, understands what our job is, understands that the credibility of the committee is on the line. And we want to arrive at the truth.

That everyone in there is prepared to go wherever the facts lead us, irrespective of what the implications may be politically. I'm very confident of that. I remain confident of that. If that changes, then I will be among the first out there--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

--to say that I, the committee is no longer capable of doing its job. But we're not at that point, thankfully.

CHUCK TODD:

You said-- you just-- you said earlier in an answer, you said you're not going to participate in a witch hunt. And that is words that the president has used to describe all of this. The more he does that, is that an irresponsible use of phrase right now?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

Well, I don't know why. I mean he obviously feels very strongly that he's being accused of things that he hasn't done, and that there's hysteria out there in the media. And so he has a right to express himself, just as people are out there basically saying that he won his election simply because of the Russians.

And he feels that's unfair. And he has every right to defend himself, and that's what he's doing. My use of the term has to do with the following, and that is, I want to go where the truth is, irrespective of its political implications. Wherever the truth is, is where we're going to go. And everyone else needs to be committed to that principle, as well.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you--

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

And I believe, in the intelligence committee, that we are. And if that changes, as I told you, I'll be among--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

--the first out there to say it.

CHUCK TODD:

Very quickly, do you still believe the intelligence community's assessment that the Russians interfered in this election and did so to try to benefit Donald Trump?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

Well, I've never doubted that the intel-- I've never-- from back in October, I've been telling people. I was in the middle of my campaign, and I refused to talk about Wikileaks--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

--because I said repeatedly it was the work of a foreign intelligence agency trying to influence our elections. The key here is to understand not just what they did but how they did it, because they're going to try to do it again and again, not just to influence elections, but to influence political debates in Washington D.C..

I want us to make sure that we focus on what-- that we don't spend so much time focused on things that may not have happened, that we don't focus on the things that actually did happen. Because they're happening now in France, they're happening now in Germany. And it will happen again in this country if we don't learn from it.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, thanks for coming on and sharing your views. Always a pleasure, sir.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you.

On Thursday, before Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any investigation involving Russia and the Trump campaign, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York joined a growing list of Democrats calling for Sessions to resign. Then, on Friday afternoon, President Trump responded by tweeting this 2003 photo of Senator Schumer with Vladimir Putin and called Schumer a total hypocrite. On that note, Senator Schumer joins me now. So Senator, you tweeted--

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

Good morning.

CHUCK TODD:

Good morning to you, sir. To finish up this little tweet back and forth, and there's so many tweets to keep up with, you responded back, "Happily talk re: my contact with Mr. Putin and his associates. Took place in '03 in full view of press and public under oath. Would you and your team?" Obviously that's you challenging them under oath.

Let me ask you this. This morning, the President's press secretary came out and said the following: "Reports concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling. President Trump is requesting that, as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the Congressional Intelligence Committee exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016." Is that a fair ask of this administration?

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

Well look, President Obama has flatly denied that he has done this. And either way, Chuck, the President's in trouble. If he falsely spread this kind of misinformation, that is so wrong. It's beneath the dignity of the presidency. It is something that really hurts people's view of government. It's civilization-warping, as Ben Sasse, a conservative Republican, called it. And I don't know of any president, Democrat or Republican in the past, has done this. It shows this president doesn't know how to conduct himself.

On the other hand, if it's true, it's even worse for the president. Because that means that a federal judge, independently elected, has found probable cause that the president, or people on his staff, have probable cause to have broken the law or to have interacted with a foreign agent. Now that's serious stuff. So either way, the president makes it worse with these tweets. Now, is he trying to divert things here? Yeah. The president denied this. I don't have any doubt to doubt-- I don't have any doubt that President Obama has been telling the truth.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me--

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

If they want to investigate it, sure.

CHUCK TODD:

You're--

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

But the real point is we need a special prosecutor to investigate what went on in the Trump campaign transition and presidency. And I--

CHUCK TODD:

Well, let me ask you, let me start with that, actually.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

Please.

CHUCK TODD:

So do you no longer have confidence in the intelligence committee to do this on the Senate side?

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

Okay.

CHUCK TODD:

To conduct this investigation?

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

Let me answer that in two parts. First, the Intelligence Committee is a Congressional oversight. And yes, I have some doubts about Chairman Burr. He first denied that they should even investigate. Then, when he was pushed by Mark Warner, he said, "Okay, we'll investigate."

And then, of course, at the administration's request, he went to the press and said something was wrong. That's taking sides in investigation. The faith I have in the intelligence committee is in Mark Warner and the Democrats. They've been holding Burr's feet to the fire. And they have said they will look for another alternative if a Chairman Burr doesn't fully pursue this.

But there's another point to this, and people mix up the two. The other, of course, is whether the law was broken, and whether the Trump campaign was complicit in working with the Russians to influence the election. That needs a special prosecutor.

Rod Rosenstein, he's a career man, he will be before the Judiciary Committee for his nomination for Deputy Attorney General. I am urging him at that hearing to say that he will appoint a special prosecutor to look into this, because it's on the--

CHUCK TODD:

All right, let--

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

--executive side that the full investigation is done, and any criminality is put forward.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you about this specific charge, what you were just talking about, with President Trump, this idea that there may have been a court ordered surveillance of some form or another. You're part of what's called, you know, there are so many gangs on Senate side, but you're one of the Gang of Eight--

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

Gang of Eight, yes.

CHUCK TODD:

--on Intelligence matters, the most sensitive intelligence matters. You're briefed on this. Is it fair-- wouldn't you have been briefed if the F.B.I. had gone to a FISA court to get surveillance of a foreign government involving the Trump campaign? Wouldn't you know this?

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

I don't comment on classified briefings.

CHUCK TODD:

So it's fair to say that if-- can you-- why not, if you know this information, why not share it at this point?

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

As I said, it is--

CHUCK TODD:

Because we have a real problem of trust. It goes to what you just quoted of Ben Sasse.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

You cannot-- the rules are such that you cannot comment on classified briefings. And I'm not going to violate those rules.

CHUCK TODD:

If-- Okay. But so now we are to sit here--

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

Sorry.

CHUCK TODD:

But we are to sit here and to wonder and ponder?

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

Well, no. If we have a special prosecutor, they will get to the bottom of all of this. And that's what we need. A special prosecutor is much better than letting a line department person do it for three reasons. And this is in DOJ guidelines. First, a special prosecutor has much more freedom day to day, who to subpoena, what documents to look at, the path of the investigation.

Second, a special prosecutor can only be fired for cause. So if they're hitting some real stuff, they can't just be gotten rid of the way, say, Sally Yates was gotten rid of by the Trump administration when she didn't do what she wanted.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

And third, they have to report to Congress. So we really need a special prosecutor. And I'm hoping that Rosenstein will agree to that, and make that-- say he's going to make that happen at the committee meeting. I know our--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

--committee members will be asking him about it.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this. Congressman Adam Schiff, who's the Democrat, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has implied that the F.B.I. has not been forthcoming in their various briefings. You get these briefings. Would you-- Do you-- Is he correct? Do you believe the F.B.I. has not been forthcoming on what it's doing with the Trump campaign?

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

Well, let me just say this. The F.B.I. is the premiere investigative agency here in our government. And I believe that they will do their job and get to the bottom of this without political interference.

CHUCK TODD:

Right, but do you believe they have been withholding information from Congress?

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

Well, there are certain kinds of information that can't be given to Congress that, you know, or all of Congress, that's classified or that can't be released. And there's a prosecutorial sort of way of doing things that you don't comment on ongoing investigations.

CHUCK TODD:

So, in this case, you wouldn't level the same criticism that Congressman Schiff has leveled?

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

Well, I'm not-- I'm just saying I am-- I believe they will get to the bottom of this. I hope they will. And if they don't, they'll be, it'll be a real dereliction of their duty.

CHUCK TODD:

So you have full confidence in the F.B.I. right now?

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

I gave you my answer.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat from New York--

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

--appreciate you coming on--

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

Nice to talk you.

CHUCK TODD:

--sharing your views. Coming up, did the Obama White House really leave a trail of breadcrumbs about the Trump/Russia connection for government investigators to find a bit easier? I'll ask the Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panelists here: Democrat pollster Cornell Belcher, he's author of the book A Black Man in the White House, Kim Strassel, columnist and member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, Danielle Pletka of The American Enterprise Institute, and Tom Friedman, columnist for The New York Times. At some point, I don't know where to begin here, but Tom Friedman, it is, it was jarring, President Trump accusing President Obama. And obviously, I guess it was an attempt to distract? But I don't see how this distracts from the Russia story.

THOMAS FRIEDMAN:

Well, it was beyond jarring, really, when you think about it, Chuck. This is such a serious charge. Under normal circumstances, it would be a six-column headline in my paper and I think every other paper. And a serious person, before he made such a charge, would have brought together the Congressional leaders, briefed them on it, brought together the intelligence community, and given the public evidence.

The fact that he just lobbed this out there on Twitter at six in the morning is shocking. I think we have to keep one thing in mind, though, the big picture. The big picture, Chuck, is Russia is not our friend. Vladimir Putin is not our friend. He has some very specific goals. He wants to fracture N.A.T.O.. He wants to fracture the European Union, fracture N.A.T.O. so it will not be a military threat, fracture the European Union so it won't be a counter-example for Russians. And he wants to destroy the ability of the United States to lead a Western Alliance. Right now in Moscow, they must be clinking vodka glasses. Because for less than the cost of a MiG-29, they have thrown the West into complete disarray.

CHUCK TODD:

I was just going to say, it doesn't matter what you think of their intentions was, look at our country right now.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Well, but, you know, what the Russians' intentions are and what happened during the election, are two very different things.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

Right.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

It's not just the Russians who want to interfere in our election. Lots of countries want to interfere in our elections. Lots of countries have historically tried. Remember the Chinese and Al Gore? Right. That's not the point. The point is, was there somebody inside the Trump campaign who was working with them, and did the president know about that? And were they successful? And I think on those latter two questions, we have no idea.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

No evidence. There's no evidence. I mean this is-- I just heard Chuck Schumer suggest exactly what you, that we know that this is the case. Look, there's nothing there. Especially this recent discussion about Jeff Sessions, which is the kind of height of the ludicrousness of this, okay?

If Jeff Sessions really was a mole working for the Russian government, he probably would have found a better place to have met within than his public Senate office surrounded by his aides. So the meetings are not necessarily what matter. They don't prove anything. The question is--

CHUCK TODD:

But the one thing, Kim, I will say--

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

--is there any substance?

CHUCK TODD:

--this on these meetings is--

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

Is there any substance?

CHUCK TODD:

--why do they-- they do have this pattern of, "Oh yeah, I forgot I had this meeting." I mean it is--

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

As many people in Washington have suddenly forgot, Mr. Schumer, for instance--

CORNELL BELCHER:

You know--

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

--about meeting with Russian ambassadors--

CORNELL BELCHER:

But you don't forget--

CHUCK TODD:

But there's a difference there.

CORNELL BELCHER:

--you don't forget-- you don't forget about--

CHUCK TODD:

Wouldn't you say?

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

I don't know.

CHUCK TODD:

You don't think there's a difference between those two?

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

No, no. If you're-- if you went--

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

--headed off to the Republican National Convention and a bunch of ambassadors walk up to you afterward, do you remember every single--

CHUCK TODD:

That I get.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

--person that you met?

CHUCK TODD:

That I get. Meeting in your office is a different story.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

You don't know senators if you're saying that.

CHUCK TODD:

No, no, no, I understand that.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Sorry.

CHUCK TODD:

But after the Mike Flynn situation, do you not try to correct the record?

THOMAS FRIEDMAN:

I agree, there is no evidence, which is why we need a special prosecutor or an independent commission to get to the bottom of it.

CORNELL BELCHER:

Well--

THOMAS FRIEDMAN:

And we need to see Trump's tax returns.

CORNELL BELCHER:

But look, there's an awful lot of smoke here for there not to be a fire, right? And you have three people who have already resigned. The ideal that, "I'm going to forget about a meeting with Russians," when there are news stories every day coming out about how Russia has actually tried to influence what's happening in our country, is kind of breathtaking.

And I've got to side with Marco Rubio on this. Look, you know, and he talked about he didn't, he wasn't going to talk about it because he understood that Russians are trying to influence our election and are going to continue to try to do something about it. This is a threat to our country, right? And the ideal that Russia is different from other countries, Russia is very different from other countries, because we have a history of the Cold War with Russia that, apparently, we thought was over because we have a short history, you know, lessened sort of view of the world, and Russia just, Putin just thought it was a pause. And clearly, they are trying to influence and dominate the world in a way that we haven't seen in a long time.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

I would be a lot more sympathetic to your argument if, over the last eight years, I had heard that argument coming from people in your position. The problem is that, for the last eight years, when the Russians have been exactly the same, Putin has been anathema to our best interests, he has been screwing us in the Middle East, to put it plainly, he has been interfering in Europe, and that didn't start with--

CHUCK TODD:

It's the Trump era. Everything's blunt talk now.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Thank you very much, Donald. But I mean honestly speaking, the problem with this is it is partisanship. If we could have a--

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

Right.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

--normal discussion about Russia in the context of Obama and Trump, fair enough.

CORNELL BELCHER:

No, take Obama off the table.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

But this is why--

CORNELL BELCHER:

Take--

DANIELLE PLETKA:

But, no but-- but that's the problem.

CORNELL BELCHER:

Take partisanship away from it.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

You can't do that.

CORNELL BELCHER:

Put it into a special prosecutor, then.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

No, no.

CORNELL BELCHER:

You've got to put it into a special prosecutor. Take politics out of it.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

But a special prosecutor doesn't fix it, either. Look, the problem we have at the moment is that, if you did what Trump said, and he put it all out there, there'd still be half of the country that didn't believe it was true. We have no faith in our public institutions at the moment.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. But then how do we restore the faith?

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

So-- so--

CHUCK TODD:

How does Congress do it?

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

But special prosecutor, not a good idea. And here's why. Because special prosecutors, their goal is to get someone in the end. And they will follow any rabbit hole that they can go until they're not even investigating the thing that they began with.

CHUCK TODD:

But you think it--

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

I think you need--

CHUCK TODD:

--should leave Congress at this point, though--

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

No, I think--

CHUCK TODD:

--a commission or something?

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

--maybe we are at a point where you need a Rob Silverman type commission like we had in Iraq, intelligence that is bipartisan. You know, I don't know what kind of powers it would have, that Congress would have to decide that. But a neutral arbiter. Because we need to know whether or not there was, in fact, wiretapping going on.

THOMAS FRIEDMAN:

Just for the record, some of us took Russia very seriously during the last eight years, like the Ukraine invasion. So--

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

Not in the White House.

THOMAS FRIEDMAN:

--just put that-- I'm not talking about--

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

Not in the White--

THOMAS FRIEDMAN:

--the White House. I'm talking about--

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

Right, not in the White House.

THOMAS FRIEDMAN:

--some of us in the press. But my point here, what worries me, Chuck, is this. Government moves at the speed of trust. And right now, there is, like, so little trust. We have a completely polarized environment. And somehow we have got to restore that. Because I don't see how the president's going to be able to solve any of these big issues: Immigration, debt, health care, at the level of polarization we have right now.

CHUCK TODD:

It is-- I think we've exemplified it here a little bit. We're going to pause the conversation and pick it up, I have a feeling, on the other side of the half hour. But coming up is a man who may know more than anyone about Russia's efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. It's the former Director of National Intelligence, Jim Clapper. He joins me next.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that, in the dying days of the Obama presidency, White House officials took steps to spread information about Russia's attempt to undermine the presidential election. Why? Well, one reason given was to make it easier for government investigators, and in particular, Congress, to uncover that truth.

Well, James Clapper, a career intelligence officer, was the Director of National Intelligence for more than six years under President Obama, he spearheaded the report that was released in January that concluded that Russians hacked the Democrat National Committee e-mails and interfered with the 2016 election. And Mr. Clapper joins me now. Welcome, sir, to Meet the Press.

JAMES CLAPPER:

Thanks, Chuck, for everything.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with the President's tweets yesterday, this idea that maybe President Obama ordered an illegal wiretap of his offices. If something like that happened, would this be something you would be aware of?

JAMES CLAPPER:

I would certainly hope so. I can't say-- obviously, I'm not, I can't speak officially anymore. But I will say that, for the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as DNI, there was no such wiretap activity mounted against-- the president elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign. I can't speak for other Title Three authorized entities in the government or a state or local entity.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, I was just going to say, if the F.B.I., for instance, had a FISA court order of some sort for a surveillance, would that be information you would know or not know?

JAMES CLAPPER:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

You would be told this?

JAMES CLAPPER:

I would know that.

CHUCK TODD:

If there was a FISA court order--

JAMES CLAPPER:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

--on something like this.

JAMES CLAPPER:

Something like this, absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

And at this point, you can't confirm or deny whether that exists?

JAMES CLAPPER:

I can deny it.

CHUCK TODD:

There is no FISA court order?

JAMES CLAPPER:

Not-- not to know my knowledge.

CHUCK TODD:

Of anything at Trump Tower?

JAMES CLAPPER:

No.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, that's an important revelation at this point. Let me ask you this. Does intelligence exist that can definitively answer the following question, whether there were improper contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials?

JAMES CLAPPER:

We did not include any evidence in our report, and I say, "our," that's N.S.A., F.B.I. and C.I.A., with my office, the Director of National Intelligence, that had anything, that had any reflection of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. There was no evidence of that included in our report.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that. But does it exist?

JAMES CLAPPER:

Not to my knowledge.

CHUCK TODD:

If it existed, it would have been in this report?

JAMES CLAPPER:

This could have unfolded or become available in the time since I left the government.

CHUCK TODD:

At some--

JAMES CLAPPER:

But at the time, we had no evidence of such collusion.

CHUCK TODD:

There's a lot of smoke, but there hasn't been that smoking gun yet. At what point should the public start to wonder if this is all just smoke?

JAMES CLAPPER:

Well, that's a good question. I don't know. I do think, though, it is in everyone's interest, in the current President's interests, in the Democrats' interests, in the Republican interest, in the country's interest, to get to the bottom of all this. Because it's such a distraction. And certainly the Russians have to be chortling about the success of their efforts to sow dissention in this country.

CHUCK TODD:

So you feel like your report does not get to the bottom-- you admit your report that you released in January doesn't get to the bottom of this?

JAMES CLAPPER:

It did-- well, it got to the bottom of the evidence to the extent of the evidence we had at the time. Whether there is more evidence that's become available since then, whether ongoing investigations will be revelatory, I don't know.

CHUCK TODD:

There was a conclusion that said, "It's clear that the Russians interfered and did so in an attempt to help Donald Trump." Do you still believe that conclusion?

JAMES CLAPPER:

Yes, I do.

CHUCK TODD:

But at this point, what's not proven is the idea of collusion.

JAMES CLAPPER:

That's correct.

CHUCK TODD:

When you see these parade of officials that were associated with the Trump campaign, first they deny any conversations, now we're hearing more, does that add to suspicion? Or do you think some of this is circumstantial?

JAMES CLAPPER:

Well, I can't say what the nature of those conversations and dialogues were, for the most part. Again, I'd think it would be very healthy to completely clear the air on this subject. And I think it would be in everyone's interest to have that done.

CHUCK TODD:

Can the Senate Intelligence Committee-- what are we going to learn from their investigation, do you think, that will move beyond what you were able to do?

JAMES CLAPPER:

Well, I think they can look at this from a broader context than we could. And at this point, I do have confidence in the Senate intelligence Committee and their effort. It is underway, in contrast to the House Intelligence Committee, which just last week agreed on their charter.

And importantly, in the case of the Senate Intelligence Committee, this appears to me to be a truly bipartisan effort. And so I think that needs to play out. If, for some reason, that proves not to be satisfactory in the minds of those who make those decisions, then perhaps then move on to a special prosecutor.

CHUCK TODD:

The New York Times, earlier this week, and as I was introducing you, this idea that they sort of left a trail, maybe lowered classif-- can you walk us through how that would work? Did they lower classification levels on certain information? Was that a fair read of what was done in the last few weeks of the administration?

JAMES CLAPPER:

Actually not. Because of the sensitivity of much of the information in this report, our actual effort was to protect it and not to spread it around, and certainly not to dumb it down, if I can use that phrase, in order to disseminate it more widely. We were under a preservation order from both our oversight committees to preserve and protect all the information related to that report, in any event.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you one other final question on the infamous dossier that was put together by this former British operative named Christopher Steele. Why did you feel the need to brief the president on that at the time?

JAMES CLAPPER:

We felt that it was important that he know about it, that it was out there. And that, without respect to the veracity of the contents of the dossier, that's why it was not included as a part of our report. Because much of it could not be corroborated. And importantly, some of the sources that Mr. Steele drew on, second and third order assets, we could not validate or corroborate.

So for that reason, at least in my view, the important thing was to warn the president that this thing was out there. The Russians have a term, an acronym, called Kompromat, which they will either generate, if it's truthful or if it's contrived. And it's important, we felt, that he knew of the existence of this dossier.

CHUCK TODD:

Have you done this with other presidents? Have you had to brief them about unverified intelligence?

JAMES CLAPPER:

Yes, I've had occasion in the six and a half years I was DNI to tell President Obama certain things that we could not corroborate or validate, but that we just thought he ought to know it was out there.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. James Clapper, I have a feeling-- do you expect to have to testify on Capitol Hill among these things?

JAMES CLAPPER:

Oh, I don't think there's any doubt.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Mr. Clapper, then I have a feeling we will see you on T.V. some time soon. And hopefully you'll come back here on Meet the Press. Thanks for coming on and sharing your views, sir.

JAMES CLAPPER:

Thanks very much, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, we've seen almost weekly demonstrations against President Trump. Will they translate into Democrat votes, or will it turn out to be nothing more than just a lot of feel-good noise on the left? We're actually going to get that answer a lot sooner than you think. That's next.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, Data Download time. Can all of the anti-Trump momentum that we're seeing on the left result in actual election victories for Democrats this year? Well, there are three special elections coming up, two of which may help us answer that question. The Montana at-large Congressional district vacated by the new Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, and the Georgia Six Congressional District, which includes the northern suburbs of Atlanta, that's been vacated by the new HHS Secretary, Tom Price.

So let's take a look at Montana, a state that is, white, older, and very rural. In other words, this should be Trump country. Those are all groups that President Trump performed well with across the board in November. Plus, this is a House seat Republicans have held since 1997. But the thing is, Montana isn't quite like other places.

While Republicans hold the House seat and one of the Senate seats, Democrats do hold the other Senate seat and the Governor's mansion. In fact, the governor was just reelected with Donald Trump on the ballot. So the Democrats can win here. Might give them hope for other rural places. Now, if the Republicans win, it may be more evidence that President Trump's army is still with him.

The story in Georgia Six Congressional District is a bit different. It's more diverse, higher educated and well-to-do. And it's been trending more and more blue over time. John McCain and Mitt Romney each won the district by double digits over Barack Obama in 2008, 2012. Donald Trump only beat Hillary Clinton by one percentage point in 2016, even though Price won his reelection by 23 points.

So it is the kind of place that might be showing signs that it is slipping away from Trump's version of the Republican Party. So if the Democrats win there, it'll say something. But if they can't win there, then it starts to raise questions about whether they have any hope at all in 2018.

But guess what? If they win one or both, that will suggest they have real momentum going into next year's midterms. And I can tell you this: House Republicans will start panicking this year if they see those results come in badly for them. When we come back, the story the White House hoped everyone would be talking about this Sunday morning.

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with the panel, and we have been going over the Jim Clapper interview just now. And here's the specific transcript for everybody here on the FISA court order. I asked him, at this point can you confirm or deny if this FISA court order exists. He says I can deny it. "There is no FISA court order?" I follow up. Clapper: "Not to my knowledge." "Of anything at Trump Tower?" "No." How big of a deal?DANIELLE PLETKA:Well, I think him denying that there was a FISA order is a big deal. But why are we talking about this? We're talking about this because Donald Trump tweeted it out, in pretty much the same breath that he tweeted about Arnold Schwarzenegger. CHUCK TODD:Which by the way-- I know, I know. Say no more.DANIELLE PLETKA:Don't let us get distracted by that as well. But I have to ask myself, would we be talking about this at all if he hadn't tweeted that out?CHUCK TODD:

Well we'd be talking about the Russia angle itself.

DANIELLE PLETKA:Wouldn't we be talking about Sessions?KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:Right. But he actually, he made two pieces of news I think here this morning. Not just he said that there was no court order, and assuming he just wasn't being careful with his words, it sounded fairly categorical to me. But the other one was that there is simply no evidence of collusion, at least while he was there, which was until very recently between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

THOMAS FRIEDMAN:

You know, Chuck--

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

So what have we been talking about for the last three weeks?THOMAS FRIEDMAN:This is -- waking up at 6 AM in the morning, tweeting out one of the most damning accusations one president could make after another, and then, as Dany said, then talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger, that is not--

CHUCK TODD:

And he did 18 holes.

THOMAS FRIEDMAN:

--non-presidential behavior. That is not adult behavior. That is juvenile behavior. And the fact that we have a president who engages in that is, to me, deeply disturbing. Because think about this. Now he's going to have to go to Europe very soon and interact with other European leaders, other world leaders. What would you think if you're a world leader going into a meeting with the-- "What do I say to this guy? What might he say about this meeting?"

He is everywhere we look. And we talked about this before. I quoted my friend, Dov Seidman, who makes the point there's a big difference between formal authority and moral authority. This president has formal authority. But every day you see him eroding his moral authority. And in the end, that is really going to hurt us.

CORNELL BELCHER:

And it's like Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey. I mean it is-- and you have to wonder, is he playing us? Right? So we spend all this time talking about this, and it is like, you know, is he really bait and switch? Is he really sort of diabolical in the way that he plays us? It's hard to think, sort of, that this was not thought out. So is he trying to play the American public and the media like a fiddle?

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, though, we now have some reporting, so Tuesday night went well for him.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

Wednesday seemed to be going pretty well.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

And then he apparently is angry that Sessions recused himself. Now this is the part of Donald Trump that, like, never give an inch.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

What I don't get is how he can't look at the reaction to that speech and--

THOMAS FRIEDMAN:

Right.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

--understand how much it helps him--

THOMAS FRIEDMAN:

Right.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

--to stay on script and sometimes just--

CHUCK TODD:

And not tweet about Arnold Schwarzenegger?

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

--put down the Twitter account. Because look, there were polls after that speech. 82% of those who watched it felt that he looked presidential. And the words that were in it, I mean I think it was sort of uplifting. It was a very good speech for him in laying out his policy agenda, putting some of the onus of burden on Democrats to work with him and get some of his agenda done. And then, yet, now we're talking about Twitter again.

CORNELL BELCHER:

No message discipline. And, you know, absolutely zero message discipline. It's got to drive the people in the White House crazy. Because, you're right, coming out of that--

CHUCK TODD:

It does.

CORNELL BELCHER:

--most presidents would roll this into momentum.

CHUCK TODD:

But a whole week. Travel the country--

THOMAS FRIEDMAN:

You talked about Georgia and these districts that are up. You can't beat something with nothing. And unless the Democrats have candidates, I believe, that are for pro-growth, that are patriotic and want to build the country one community at a time, I don't think there's any reason to believe they're going to take huge political advantage.

CHUCK TODD:

Can I bring up something? John Podhoretz, I thought, wrote a very good column here, that gets almost at this column. He says this, just in general about the Democratic Party, "Because Democrats and liberals have opposed every appointment and every policy and every word emanating from the Trump administration, they have damaged their effectiveness as a political force against it. They are in danger of limiting their ability to bring the soft Trump voters they need to grow disillusioned with him to their side." Do you buy that?

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Absolutely. I think the Democrats are doing themselves real damage by constantly calling on everybody to resign. They go to DEFCON five or is it DEFCON one--

CHUCK TODD:

Well, House Republicans did it all the time with Eric Holder--

CORNELL BELCHER:

I was going to say.

CHUCK TODD:

And it was ridiculous then. Right?

DANIELLE PLETKA:

It is ridiculous on the part of all of them. Congress needs to be taken seriously. Congress needs to start passing bills. Congress doesn't actually need to play this game. And this is where I don't get Chuck Schumer and I don't get Nancy Pelosi. You know, don't vote against every nominee. Don't go against everything the president says. Why not try and work with the American people to pass an agenda and get reelected?

CORNELL BELCHER:

Here's where I'm going to put my political hack hat on, right?

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Not the serious grown up hat.

CORNELL BELCHER:

Not the serious, the straight political hat. You know, I could make the same, you could make the same argument about the Tea Party and what Republicans did. But they were crazy like foxes. You have to generate energy among sort of your base constituency for both fundraising, but also this. The problem in midterm elections isn't that we have the presidential election voters changing their mind. The problem with midterm elections is that they're different electorates, right? You have a 16 to 18 point difference in precinct turnout for Democrats and Republicans in midterm elections. If Democrats can shrink some of that by energizing their base, it's a good thing.

CHUCK TODD:

I've got to pause it here. I've got to pause it here, because I've got to sneak in this break. And I will let you respond, Dany, I promise. President Trump calling for an end to trivial fights right before starting a trivial fight. We'll be right back.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with Endgame. I teased it. Let's hear from the president on Tuesday night. It was something that's been quoted a lot in the last 24 hours.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

And then, of course, after President Trump accused President Obama of wiretapping him, he did, as you pointed out Dany, throw in the Arnold Schwarzenegger bite here: "Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't voluntarily leaving the Apprentice, he was fired by his bad, parentheses, pathetic ratings, not by me. Sad end to a great show." The only thing missing from this tweet was hashtag sad from failing Celebrity Apprentice. Right, exclamation point. You brought it up-- you do, you shake your head at it.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

You shake your head at it. The president doesn't have any message discipline, I think that's what Cornell said. But, you know, we were talking about the Democrats before. When you talk about wanting to win again in the midterms, they need to do something that's gonna appeal to those people who voted for Donald Trump. Talking about Russia, calling on people to resign, isn't going to appeal to them. Anger, I think you'll agree with this, anger doesn't actually win elections.

CHUCK TODD:

In a midterm? But doesn't anger work in midterms? I agree that it doesn't work in -

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

Cornell said he put on his "political hack hat," I mean, you also have to though, is that the only reason Democrats are in Washington? To win and have power? Because, by the way, no, no, no. No, they've been out -- look, they have promised their voters some things that they would like to get done. And by the way, who better to work with than Donald Trump who loves to make a deal? By the way, this guy is one of the least ideological presidents that's ever been in the White House.

THOMAS FRIEDMAN:

You know, Chuck, a few more mornings like this of 6:00 AM tweets, and people are not going to be talking about taking away his Twitter, they're going to be talking about taking away his football. And I mean the nuclear codes.

CORNELL BELCHER:

Senator Mitch McConnell said, "My job is to make sure that President Obama is a one-term president." Yeah, they're kind of here for the power.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

Okay, but --

CORNELL BELCHER:

That's not a good thing. But both sides play this. And don't--

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

Of course. No, I'm not suggesting otherwise. I'm just saying that if you really did care about some policy goals--

CORNELL BELCHER:

Right.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

You've got an opportunity in Donald Trump.

CORNELL BELCHER:

But we're not in power in anything. So they've got to be the opposition party.

CHUCK TODD:

And I have to turn off the cameras. But you guys can keep the debate up--I promise you. That's all we have for today. Once again, a three-hour show packed into one hour. We're back next week, I promise. If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press. Okay, go ahead, continue.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *