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Meet The Press 03-19-17

NBC News - Meet The Press

"03.19.17"

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, credibility crisis. President Trump's unapologetic defense of his unsubstantiated claims.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

As far as wiretapping, I guess, by, you know, this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps.

CHUCK TODD:

Did President Obama wiretap Mr. Trump? The former head of U.S. intelligence:

JAMES CLAPPER:

There was no such wiretap activity.

CHUCK TODD:

The speaker of the House:

SPEAKER PAUL RYAN:

I have not seen any evidence of this.

CHUCK TODD:

The Republican House Intel chair:

REP. DEVIN NUNES:

We don't have any evidence that that took place.

CHUCK TODD:

The top Democrat on the House Intel committee:

REP: ADAM SCHIFF:

Thus far, we have seen no basis for that whatsoever.

CHUCK TODD:

Now F.B.I. Director James Comey is set to testify before the House tomorrow on those spy claims and on Russia's role in the 2016 election. The ranking Democrat on that Intel committee, Adam Schiff of California joins me this morning. Plus, that budget blueprint, sharp increases in spending for the military, sharp decreases in domestic programs for the poor.

MICK MULVANEY:

Look, we want to give you money for programs that don't work. I can't defend that anymore.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump's budget director Mick Mulvaney is here this morning. And healthcare fight, can President Trump win over enough Republicans to get his bill through Congress? I'll talk to one Republican no vote this morning, Senator Susan Collins of Maine.

Joining me for insight and analysis are syndicated columnist George Will, Yamiche Alcindor of The New York Times, Robert Costa of The Washington Post, and anchor of BBC World News America, Katty Kay. Welcome to Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

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

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. It was in the late '60s that the term "credibility gap" first gained currency, as people drew increasingly skeptical of President Lyndon Johnson's claims about U.S. progress and Vietnam. Now just two months into his presidency, Donald Trump is facing similar growing distrust. What began with claims on such trivial matters as whether his inauguration crowds were larger than President Obama's, they weren't, has metastasized into something far more consequential.

The president and the White House have spent more than two weeks redefining but never retracting Mr. Trump's insistence that President Obama had him wiretapped or surveilled. He even revived it on Friday, taking a swipe at the National Security Agency under President Obama for listening in on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone conversations.

And this week, the administration's policy of "ready, fire, aim," caused an international incident with the U.K. When the White House peddled a claim that Britain's spy agency worked with President Obama to spy on Mr. Trump. Tomorrow, F.B.I. Director James Comey will testify before the House Intelligence Committee where he will be asked about the spy claims, as well as about Russian meddling in the 2016 election. And the president's credibility issues are growing just as he's struggling to sell his agenda to Congress.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

As far as wiretapping, I guess by, you know, this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump, claiming yet again on Friday that President Obama had him wiretapped despite unambiguous statements from Republican leaders who would know.

SEN. MITCH McCONNELL:

There's no evidence of that.

REP. PAUL RYAN:

I have not seen any evidence of this.

REP. DEVIN NUNES:

We don't have any evidence that that took place.

CHUCK TODD:

Now the British are livid after Press Secretary Sean Spicer used the White House power to traffic in an unverified claim by a Fox News commentator that it was Britain's spy agency that monitored Mr. Trump on Mr. Obama's behalf.

ANDREW NAPOLITANO:

He's able to get it. And there's no American fingerprints on this.

SEAN SPICER:

He's able to get it, and there's no American fingerprints on this.

CHUCK TODD:

The British agency called it "nonsense, utterly ridiculous." The White House is refusing to apologize, quote, "I don't think we regret anything."

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television.

CHUCK TODD:

He's referring to Fox commentator Andrew Napolitano. But on Friday, Fox News distanced itself. In the two weeks since Mr. Trump tweeted the allegations, the president and his aides just can't let it go.

SEAN SPICER:

The president's already been very clear that he didn't mean specifically wiretapping, he had it in quotes.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

Let's see whether or not I prove it. I just don't choose do it right now.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump's wiretapping claims are straining his credibility with Republicans just at the time he needs a united party to push his agenda through Congress. And two months into the Trump presidency, that agenda looks stuck in the mud. The president's revised travel ban blocked again, this time by federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

I think we ought to go back to the first one and go all the way, which is what I wanted to do in the first place.

CHUCK TODD:

Healthcare legislation, on the rocks with a House vote scheduled for Thursday, the president promises he is getting Republicans to yes.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

Every single person sitting in this room is now a yes. And we made certain changes.

CHUCK TODD:

Those changes recommended by the House Budget Committee, giving states the option to require able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work in order to get medical care and further limiting Medicaid spending. But Freedom Caucus conservatives say they need further changes before they support the bill.

REP. MARK MEADOWS:

I've been very fully articulating my problems for about two weeks. So I don't know that any of those have changed.

CHUCK TODD:

But every time this bill is changed to placate conservatives, they risk losing another moderate in the Senate.

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI:

We want to be there for our constituents who have received the benefit of Medicaid expansion.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

In addition to healthcare, there's President Trump's budget. The budget blueprints calls for significant increases for the Defense Department, Homeland Security, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, while making huge cuts in what's known as discretionary spending, the EPA and the State, Agricultural, Labor Departments all in that part all take big hits in this budget outline. And joining me now is the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney. Sir, welcome to the show.

MICK MULVANEY:

Good morning, thanks for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

Very quickly, on this surveillancing, do you take the president at his word, that he or his associates were wiretapped by the president?

MICK MULVANEY:

Well, I saw the thing with Angela Merkel, I thought it was sort of tongue in cheek. But again, I'm the numbers guy. I'm sitting here doing the budget, so I'm really not involved in the wiretapping issue.

CHUCK TODD:

On one hand, are you concerned though that eroding credibility on that issue makes your job harder on Congress, on Capitol Hill?

MICK MULVANEY:

No, no. Listen, those of us who see and work with the president every day believe him, trust him, have no difficulties like the folks in the press do.

CHUCK TODD:

And you think this is just a press thing? You don't think that this is a difficulty for folks, that they can take the president at his word on healthcare? He's made some, "Hey, take my word for it, I'm going to make these changes," and some of these folks are out on a limb on it. They--

MICK MULVANEY:

Listen, I was in that meeting in the Oval Office, either Thursday or Friday, I lose track of the days. But the president had a very clear and cogent argument to these folks, got all these folks to commit to the bill. It was a very credible discussion, so no, I don't have any concerns of those things.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm going to start on the budget with something you said in March of 2013. You said this, you're not the first person to say something like this, but, "Remember, a budget is more than just a spending document. It is also a vision document." Explain the vision behind this budget that does lack a lot of domestic programs, some of which are ones that a lot of people benefit from and puts all the emphasis on security.

MICK MULVANEY:

Yeah, well, the vision is that this is what the president ran on. He's trying to do something that politicians are not very famous for, which is actually following through on his promises. So if you go back, which is what we did, and look at his speeches, look at his interviews, talk to him directly, and say, "What's important to you?" Look for that message the president was trying to deliver, that meant more money for defense, more money to secure the border, more money for law enforcement generally, and then more money for things like Veterans Affairs, veterans' healthcare, and private and public school choice.

And that's where we spent more money. At the same time, the president was very clear that he did not want this to add to the deficit this year. So when we added that $54 billion for defense, we took that money from other places. So that's the vision. More money for what the president said, without adding to the deficit.

CHUCK TODD:

But he also said, "We're going to take care of those people." He's not going to let his people go untaken care of. And there is, look, you've seen them, it's story after story of just specific programs. You can take Appalachia, programs that benefit his voters.

MICK MULVANEY:

Sure.

CHUCK TODD:

That he is taking a whack at here. Why do that?

MICK MULVANEY:

And some of the stories are just either grossly wrong or nearly grossly wrong, all the stories about how we cut Meals on Wheels. I think the program that we proposed to eliminate regarding Meals on Wheels accounts for 3 percent, 3 percent of the Meals on Wheels funding across the nation. But step back, and talk about--

CHUCK TODD:

But you're getting rid of the full block grant. You're getting rid of the whole block grant that that provides.

MICK MULVANEY:

But the block grant only provides 3 percent of Meals on Wheels money. And that didn't get very broadly reported. But step back to what you asked the question, which is what about the Trump voters. The president knows who his voters are. His voters are folks who pay taxes as well. And I think for the first time in a long time, you have an administration that is looking at the compassion of both sides of the equation.

Not just the compassion in terms of where the money goes, but the compassion in terms of where the money comes from. Could we, as an administration, could I as a budget director, look at the coal miner in West Virginia and say, "I want you please to give some of your money to the federal government so that I can give it to the National Endowment for the Arts?"

And I just think we finally got to the point in the administration where we couldn't do that. The debt is so significant, you owe $60,000 to the government, so do I in terms of the debt. And the president said, "Look, let's take care of both sides of the equation."

CHUCK TODD:

All right, but let's go to some of these cuts seem to be counterproductive to the president's message, for instance, on infrastructure. You want to do a bunch of spending on infrastructure at some point, but you're cutting the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program, Manufacturing Extension Partnership, that provides assistance to small and midsized manufacturers to get off the ground, to create jobs in these very counties that need the jobs created. Why cut these programs and why do it before you've even come up with your infrastructure plan?

MICK MULVANEY:

Sure, because when we looked at the infrastructure, we know we're working on a plan to come out later in this year. We think we'll do health reform, I think, this week, as a matter of fact in the House. I think tax reform after that. And that moves infrastructure probably to sometime around summer or early fall.

And so what we did with this budget was go through and find out where we thought the infrastructure money was not being spent as efficiently as it possibly could and said, "Okay, let's take it out of the discretionary budget with the intention of putting it back into the infrastructure bill," and that's exactly what we did. We think it's a better allocation, a better use of Americans' resources.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to talk though about the issue, you said that one of the president's goals was not to add to the deficit as it is. But this budget will have a deficit. Is that fair to say?

MICK MULVANEY:

Sure. The deficit before we came into office was going to be $488 billion this year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. And after we spent all of this additional money on defense, on border enforcement, law enforcement, veterans, the deficit will be the same. So we did is we plussed up the spending, we increased the spending on the president's priorities without adding to that number.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. But I want to play something, this is Candidate Donald Trump throughout the last year.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

I do want a balanced budget. We owe $19 trillion, we've got to start paying it down. We've got to start balancing budgets.

These people are talking about balancing budgets in 35 years from now. We can do it, believe me, much quicker. We can do it quickly.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

He even made a pledge to get rid of the debt in eight years. Okay, if you're going to do this very, very quickly, nothing in this budget goes close to balance. The fact that you're just even doing neutral to what the deficit was last year is not progress.

MICK MULVANEY:

Keep in mind what a budget blueprint is, and this is fairly traditional, Chuck, for the first year of a new administration. Obama did it, Bush did it. What this is is a spending outline and all it is, as you mentioned in the intro, is the discretionary spending part of the budget.

That's only about, oh, I don't know, 25 percent of what the government spends. The other 75 percent roughly is the mandatory, what some people call entitlement spending. In May, we'll be introducing the full budget, which will address the ten-year budget window, tax flows, larger policy changes, healthcare reforms.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you pledging a balanced budget in May?

MICK MULVANEY:

No, we won't be able to balance the budget this year, but we're working on try to get it to balance within the ten-year budget window, which is what Republicans in the House and the Senate have traditionally done in the last couple of years.

CHUCK TODD:

So the goal is to have a balanced budget within ten years, but basically that means you will add to the debt every single year in the next ten years.

MICK MULVANEY:

That's correct. It's very difficult, and we've been talking about this, you and I have talked about this.

CHUCK TODD:

I know, that's not what Candidate Trump said. Candidate Trump said this is going to be very easy. Does it turn out this is not easy? This is complicated too?

MICK MULVANEY:

It is a very complicated budget process when your entitlements, your mandatory spending is driving most of your budget deficit. For example, you could cut the Agriculture Department to zero, H.H.S. to zero, HUD to zero, the F.B.I. to zero, and you'd still have a deficit this year. So over the course of the next decade, we'll have to look at the mandatory spending side in order to figure out a way to make changes to the way we spend money.

CHUCK TODD:

Have you figured out how to pay for the trillion dollar infrastructure yet?

MICK MULVANEY:

No, but in all fairness, there's some great ideas, things that I think-- one of the neat things about having a business man in the office and all of these folks come from the private sector, is they brought ideas that I don't think government has ever contemplated before.

We're talking about public/private partnerships, talking about ways to sort of capitalize future revenue flows, really creative ideas. So, listen, I'm a deficit hawk. I think it's why I got the job. But the more and more I hear about the infrastructure plan, the more comfortable I'm getting.

CHUCK TODD:

Speaking of being a deficit hawk, the debt ceiling, we hit it. On Friday, extraordinary measures by the Treasury secretary will mean a couple more months. You were somebody that was-- you were a tough nut to track on the debt ceiling when you were Congressman Mulvaney.

MICK MULVANEY:

Yup.

CHUCK TODD:

Why should people who were like-minded with you, who basically said, "Hey, look, I'll give you that debt ceiling, but I want real cuts, I want real deficit reduction, I want a real plan." I think at one point, you said, "I'll raise the debt ceiling in exchange for a balanced budget." You're not going to be making that ask this time, are you?

MICK MULVANEY:

I voted to raise the debt ceiling before, as most people in Congress have, traditionally, you back to the 1920s, and the 1930s, and 1940s, the debt ceiling debate has been used to try and sort of step back and say, "Okay, why do we have a deficit problem? Why do we have a debt problem, and how can we fix it?" So we'll be coming forward with his ideas to raise the debt ceiling, but at the same time, try to address some of those long-term reasons that we have a debt in the first place.

CHUCK TODD:

You're not somebody that voted for a lot of budgets when you were in Congress. This doesn't look like a budget Congress Mulvaney would have supported, because why would you support keeping the deficit? I feel like Congress Mulvaney would not be supporting the numbers that this budget shows.

MICK MULVANEY:

It's a fair question. But keep in mind that the administration is different than members of the Hill, members of the House and the Senate. Every House member, as I used to be, has a constituency, that we have a group of people back home we represent. Senators represent the whole state. There's also a lot of special interests, a lot of lobbying involved.

The president's not beholden to any of that. The president represents everybody. And believe me, consultants were consulted on this, lobbyists were not, special interests were not, this is a budget for the entire nation, because that's who he represents.

CHUCK TODD:

As you put together this budget, did you look back on some of your votes and go, "Hmm, maybe I shouldn't have voted that way"?

MICK MULVANEY:

No. I've always thought that I do the best job I could to represent the folks in South Carolina. But now I'm the president's budget director, and I think we put out a really, really good budget.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I want to wrap up with one final question. When will you be able to propose a balanced budget? What year?

MICK MULVANEY:

I don't know yet. We're getting into that now. By May, I think it's mid May we're shooting for right now, we'll have that larger budget which puts a little bit more--

CHUCK TODD:

You think you can do it in the first term?

MICK MULVANEY:

--flesh on the bone. I don't know yet. I honestly don't, because we don't know what healthcare reform will look like, what it will do to the budget, we don't know what tax reform will look like, will do to the budget. We haven't finished the infrastructure program yet. Those are the really, really big-picture items that we won't know more about for a couple months.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Mick Mulvaney, I'll have to leave it there, the director of Office and Management Budget. Thanks for coming on and sharing your views. Appreciate it.

MICK MULVANEY:

Thanks for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

Turning now to the issue of healthcare, President Trump is working hard to get the Republican support in the House, and that healthcare plan to get through the House. But the Obamacare replacement does face some tough opposition in the Senate as well. If all 48 senators who caucused with the Democrats vote no right now, as expected, the president can only afford to lose two Republicans.

Right now, there are four Republican no's, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, who say the bill is too generous, and Dean Heller and Susan Collins, who argue the bill is too harsh. And Senator Susan Collins of Maine joins me now from Bangor. Senator Collins, welcome back to the show.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

You were very tough on the House bill. You were unambiguous when it came to your no vote on that House bill. So very simply, what would it take to get you from no to yes?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

We have to deal with three issues. The first is coverage. Under the House bill, 14 million Americans would lose coverage next year. That rises to 24 million over the next decade. Second, we have to do something about the fact that the House bill disproportionately affects older, rural Americans.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that a 64 year old who is earning $26,500 a year would see an increase in his or her costs from $1,700 to $14,600. That is unaffordable. And third, we have to do something about the Medicaid changes would shift billions of dollars of costs to the state, to hospitals, and to other people who are insured.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you believe that healthcare is a right? And if so, that it is a right that the government is responsible for fulfilling?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

I believe that as a practical matter, people have a right to healthcare in that if they're sick and they go to a hospital, they're not going to be turned away. In fact, federal law requires the hospitals to treat someone who comes to an emergency room. But that is the least cost-effective way to treat an individual who does not need emergency-room care. So there's a lot that we can do to reduce the cost of healthcare by, for example, using managed care for the Medicaid program.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you a couple questions on the president's budget. Is there any part of the president's budget that you support?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

Yes, I do think that we need an increase for our veterans and that we need an increase in military spending because readiness has really suffered. But I think we may have to do a more gradual increase. One of the most disturbing parts of the president's budget is his slashing the funding for the National Institutes of Health.

We have been making tremendous progress in increasing N.I.H.'s budget and that has helped us to develop effective treatments and new cures for very expensive diseases. If we're serious about reducing healthcare costs, the last thing that we should be doing is cutting the budget for biomedical research.

CHUCK TODD:

Where do you get the money though? I mean, I think that's going to be the fundamental question is that, you know, there's a lot of these programs that I think a lot of people can individually make a case for. And I think what the White House would say is, "Hey, some of these, maybe they are good programs that could be done better, but we have a financial problem in this country. We have a rising national debt. We can't seem to get out from under an annual deficit." Where do we find the money? Do we have, for instance, can we afford a massive tax cut?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

We do have to scour the budget. And tax reform does not necessarily mean that we're going to have a significant reduction in revenue. It's possible to come up with a tax reform bill that is more pro-growth, simpler, and fairer, and does not substantially reduce revenues.

Senator Bill Cassidy and I have a healthcare bill, and we're looking at different paid-fors for that bill, including some that were included for the Affordable Care Act, but some others as well. So we need to scour the budget, there are duplicative programs that could be combined. We need to look at everything. But I'm worried about the outlines of the budget that have been submitted. I would point out that I've never seen a president's budget make it through Congress unchanged.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, it never does. Yeah, that's for sure. Let me ask you about the president and the issue of credibility. He continues to believe that he was somehow either he or his associates were wiretapped or under surveillance and that it was ordered by President Obama. You also have access to various intelligence. Is there any way that statement to your knowledge is true?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

I have seen no evidence supporting that statement. And what we need is evidence. If the president has evidence of that, I would encourage him to turn it over to the House and Senate Intelligence Committee. We're in the midst of a big investigation of Russian activities in our country. And we would want to look at this allegation as well.

CHUCK TODD:

Can you take the president at his word?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

Yes. I mean, do I think the president gets everything right? No. But I want President Trump, just as I've wanted every other president, to be successful. Because he is America's president. Now that doesn't mean that I support his policies, and it doesn't mean that I'm going to be with him when I think he's wrong, or has misstated what the facts are.

CHUCK TODD:

If he's wrong about this allegation, Congressman Tom Cole said that President Trump owes President Obama an apology. Do you concur?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

Well, I'd like to first get to the bottom of this before saying what should be done. I don't know the basis for President Trump's assertion. And that's what I wish he would explain to us on the Intelligence Committee and to the American people. And I do believe he owes us that explanation.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Senator Susan Collins, Republican from Maine, I will leave it there. Senator Collins, thank you for coming on the show, sharing your views.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, tomorrow big day in Washington. Hearings begin for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and F.B.I. Director James Comey testifies on Russia's role in the 2016 election and those wiretap claims made by President Trump likely will come up. We'll be right back.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, panel is here. Syndicated columnist, George Will, he's making his 52nd appearance on Meet the Press, but it's his first since 1981. Where've you been? You know, I don't know, have you been on some other show that I never, don't think about?

Yamiche Alcindor of The New York Times, BBC America anchor Katty Kay, and Robert Costa of The Washington Post, welcome to you all. George, I will give you the first word, and that is on the president's credibility. Is it-- At what point does it become a problem on Capitol Hill when you're trying to sell healthcare and sell this budget?

GEORGE WILL:

It becomes a problem immediately, and there's a much bigger credibility problem down the road. This week, Secretary Tillerson in the Far East, in Korea, obliquely but clearly raised the possibility of preemptive war against the ballistic missile program and nuclear weapons program in North Korea.

That means there's a not-trivial possibility that sometime in the life of this term, this presidential term, the president will have to come to the country and say, "We have to do something dangerous and difficult and even morally ambiguous because the intelligence services tell me X, Y, and Z." And the country's going to say, "Wait a minute, those are the people we don't trust and you don't trust. And we're not sure about you particularly." So it's hard to hermetically seal the loss of credibility.

CHUCK TODD:

Robert, do they understand this, or are they not thinking about this?

ROBERT COSTA:

My sources inside of the White House tell me that the president reviews news organizations’ information, sometimes even more than intelligence information.

CHUCK TODD:

So we're more important than the presidential daily brief?

ROBERT COSTA:

Well, he gets the presidential daily brief, but if you look at the tweets a few weeks ago that started this whole wiretapping situation, it was because of a Breitbart article, my sources tell me, that was put in front of the president. Now he's watching Judge Napolitano on Fox News, and he's digesting all of this information rather than just the intelligence brief, and he's disseminating it publicly.

CHUCK TODD:

Katty, I just think about him with these House Republicans this week going, "No, no, no, don't worry, I'm going to make these fixes for you. You have my word on it." Okay.

KATTY KAY:

And the question is, how valuable is that word, which is what we have had members of both Republican and Democratic parties asking quite publicly this week when they refuted from the Senate Intelligence Committee the idea that there had been wiretapping, effectively, that the president, and it was very interesting to hear Susan Collins there, she wouldn't actually directly answer your question, "Do you trust him," but she says, "Do I think everything he says is right? No I don't." That's a pretty precarious position for a president to be in.

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, it was interesting to me, I thought this observation in The New York Times, Yamiche, Jeremy Shapiro, a research director for European Council on Foreign Relations, he said this, "It's very easy to have a good meeting with Trump, it's very pleasant and he's very pleasant in person. He'll promise you the world, and 48 hours later, he'll betray you without a thought. He won't even know he'll be betraying you." Sort of this idea that you just, you don't know when to take the president at his word.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

And that means that our allies, and the people that are not our allies are sitting down with Donald Trump and again, they might have a great meeting with him, but as soon as they get on the plane to go back to their respective countries, they can already tell that he might betray them. And I think that was really interesting too when I was waiting for Senator Collins to say, "I really do trust him. He's someone who when he says something, he's going to do it. He made these promises, I believe in these promises."

She said nothing that even came close to that. And I think when I think about the credibility issue as a whole, I think about the fact that before he was president, before he walked into the Oval Office, this is someone who also came into politics because he thought that President Obama wasn't born in the United States.

He is someone who also said that the Central Park Five were still guilty. I think that those things are things that are not lost on people, including his own party. I think that it would be somewhat foolish to only think about the fact that these are the credibility issues he has.

KATTY KAY:

You know, you've had exactly that with two very important American allies. Theresa May came here and she thought she had a good meeting. She got on the plane, back to Europe, wakes up, and the executive order has been issued. She felt she had been stabbed in the back.

I suspect exactly like Shapiro says, Trump never even thought about that. They were apologized to this week over the issue of whether G.C.H.Q. had spied on the president. And then I don't know about you, but if you apologize to your wife and then you roll back the apology, it never goes down very well. You're left in a worse position than you were originally.

GEORGE WILL:

When Mr. Trump was standing next to Angela Merkel, treating this wiretapping as a kind of flippantly and even some would say as a kind of joke, he was standing next to someone who grew up in East Germany, where the Stasi was listening all the time. And it's not funny to those people.

CHUCK TODD:

Not to her.

GEORGE WILL:

And probably won't be funny to Americans over time.

ROBERT COSTA:

One thing I keep hearing from people in the foreign police community, diplomats, is they wonder who's going to actually shape this White House in the coming months. We know Bannon, Steve Bannon, the chief strategist is there, this populist, but you look at this rising force within the White House, he wrote about it in today's Post, Dina Powell, one of the new national security advisors from Goldman Sachs, Gary Cohn from Goldman Sachs.

CHUCK TODD:

The New Yorkers.

ROBERT COSTA:

The New Yorkers. And they're--

CHUCK TODD:

Oh, the New York liberals.

ROBERT COSTA:

Well, and Gary Cohn's a registered Democrat and they're seen as a more moderate force. And a lot of people in the foreign policy world are saying, "Can Dina Powell, can Gary Cohn, can they have more influence in the coming months?"

CHUCK TODD:

We'll see. All right, we're going to discuss this. I wanted to get to healthcare. Now we're going to do a little healthcare in a second, when you guys come back. But first, the House Intelligence Committee does hear from F.B.I. Director James Comey on Russia tomorrow and about those wiretap claims. The leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff joins me next for a preview.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

When FBI Director James Comey testifies before the House Intelligence Committee tomorrow. We can expect to hear about two stories that have dominated the news. 1) Evidence that the Russians interfered with the 2016 election, perhaps on behalf of the Trump campaign and 2.) the committee has asked the FBI to turn over any evidence it has to support President Trump's allegations that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower prior to the election.

Congressman Adam Schiff is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. You will see him a lot tomorrow. And he joins me here now for a preview. Congressman Schiff, welcome back to the show.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Thanks. Great to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with your two witnesses tomorrow are going to be the FBI director and the National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers. What do you hope - what light will be shed tomorrow, do you hope?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

I think for a lot of Americans this will be the first time to really tune in to exactly what the Russians did and what the investigation involves and I'd like to walk through with both directors: What do we know about the Russian operation? What was its breadth?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

We know it was hacking and dumping of documents. We know their slick use of their media campaign. But more than that I think we want to share with the country why we're so concerned about the issue of US person involvement. Were there US persons who were helping the Russians in any way. Was there any form of collusion? And what can we do to protect not only ourselves in the future and our allies who are facing the same Russian onslaught right now?

CHUCK TODD:

But if this is an ongoing investigation by the counter-terrorism unit in the FBI. What do you think Dir. Comey can say publically?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Well, on the issue of collusion he'll probably be the most limited in what he can share, but there's a lot he can tell us about the Russian motivations for their intervention in our election, how the Russians operate in Europe, what techniques they use and what we should be on the lookout for in our investigation in Europe and other places we've seen them use blackmail, use compromise, use the natives of those foreign countries that they're intervening in, how they use paid social media trolls, so the full range of Russian intervention and what that looks like. So I think fleshing out why this ought to matter to Americans. I think people need to understand we are in a global war of ideas. It's not communism vs. capitalism, but it is authoritarianism vs. democracy and Putin is very much at the vanguard of that autocratic movement and that ought to concern all of us.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you about - you received information on Friday from the Department of Justice about President Trump's claims on wiretapping. What can you tell us? Were you satisfied with the information they provided?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Well, I got a classified briefing on their response. They delivered it after most of us had left town. But once again no evidence to support the President's claim that he was wiretapped by his predecessor. And you know, I have a lot of respect for Susan Collins, but I have to differ with her on this, she said we need to get to the bottom of this. We are at the bottom of this.

CHUCK TODD:

Is there any bottom? We are at the bottom?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

There is nothing at the bottom.

CHUCK TODD:

Will Director Comey say that definitively tomorrow, do you expect?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

I expect that he will. And I hope that we can put an end to this wild goose chase because what the president said was just patently false. And the wrecking ball it created now has banged into our British allies and our German allies, it's continuing to grow in terms of damage, and he needs to put an end to this.

I suspect what's really at root here, Chuck, is this is just how the president does business. Now maybe this is the way he conducted his real estate business with half-truths and sometimes no-truths, and a lot of bluster. That, in my opinion, is no way to run a business. But it's an even worse way to run a country.

It's dangerous to us, it's already alienating allies, and as George Will so correctly pointed out, when there is a crisis over North Korea or Iran or whatnot, and every president has one in their term, we need to be able to believe our president and he's making it very, very difficult.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to get to the point of, look, collusion is sort of what hasn't been proven here between whatever the Russians did and the Trump campaign. In fact, the former acting director of the C.I.A., Mike Morell, who was a supporter of Hillary Clinton, he essentially reminded people, took Director Clapper at his word on this show who said, "There has been no evidence that has been found of collusion." Are we at the point of, at what point do you start to wonder if there is a fire to all this smoke?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Well, first of all, I was surprised to see Director Clapper say that, because I don't think you can make that claim categorically, as he did. I would characterize it this way, at the outset of the investigation, there was circumstantial evidence of collusion. There was direct evidence, I think, of deception.

And that's where we begin the investigation. Now I don't want to prejudge where we ultimately end up, and of course, there's one thing to say there's evidence. There's another thing to say we can prove this or prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, or there's enough evidence to bring to a grand jury for purposes of criminal indictment.

But there was certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation. The American people have a right to know, and in order to defend ourselves, we need to know whether the circumstantial evidence of collusion and direct evidence of deception is indicative of more.

CHUCK TODD:

Well I want to get to the witness list here. You have subpoena power if you choose to use it. But you and Congressman Nunes need to come to an agreement on that. Is he willing to use subpoena power?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

He's going to have to be willing to use subpoena power, because there will be people we need to bring in before the committee who may not be willing witnesses. And if we're going to do this credibly, and right now, we're the only game in town, we and the Senate Intelligence Committee, we're going to need the power of compulsion.

You know, I still think we have a lot of spade work to do before that. You don't want to bring the witnesses in before you've reviewed the evidence that you want to question them with. You may only get one shot at the witnesses. But we're going to have to do that.

CHUCK TODD:

But you guys seem far behind. The Senate Intel Committee has already been asking Roger Stone, a one-time advisor of President Trump, who admitted some at least communication with Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. He's been ordered to preserve documents, sort of to make sure he doesn't destroy any documents, sort of, perhaps he is going to be subpoenaed by them. Have you done that with any, have you formally sent letters to any potential witnesses to say, "Hey, you need to make sure you have saved any documents related to the campaign or Russia"?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

You know, I think we were the first to send letters to the U.S. government to tell them to preserve evidence.

CHUCK TODD:

What about outside fols? So Mike Flynn, Carter Page, Roger Stone?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

We have not yet sent letters to individuals. And I think it’s a good practice. I'm not sure that if you have someone who wants to hide, that that letter's going to have the effect that it ought to. But nonetheless, there is a great deal that we are doing. And I think in some respects, we are ahead of where this Senate investigation is, in some respects, they're ahead of where we are.

I do think, look, at the end of the day, the real question where the rubber will really hit the road, is as you suggest, when we have to use compulsion to get documents that we need, to bring in witnesses. I hope the answer is going to be yes from the majority. I also do think though--

CHUCK TODD:

But right now, you have not been given that authority?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Well, we haven't asked for it.

CHUCK TODD:

Or you haven't asked for it? Okay.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

To subpoena certain witnesses. But we will be. There are a lot of witnesses that we're going to want to--

CHUCK TODD:

Devin Nunes agrees with you on this?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Well, he's going to have to. Otherwise we really can't do our job.

CHUCK TODD:

Which means he doesn't yet agree with you on it?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Oh, you know, I don't want to say that.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

You know, we hammered out a very detailed agreement that allows us to look into issues like collusion with U.S. persons, people in the Trump campaign. That's what we wanted, that's what we got, and we have to hold him to that commitment.

CHUCK TODD:

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on House Intel, we'll be watching your hearing tomorrow. Thanks for coming on today.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

You bet.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, the one big thing that may be more responsible than anything else for our current state of polarization in American politics.

And before we go to break, this note. Centuries from now, when rock-n-roll is merely one chapter in the history books, there may only be one name that you have time to associate with rock-n-roll.

And that name may very well be Chuck Berry. He was the genius who created the kind of music that paved the way for performers like Elvis Presley and countless other white rockers to become megastars. The writer of such rock-n-roll classics like Johnny B. Goode and Roll Over Beethoven. Chuck Berry died yesterday at the age of 90.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, Data Download time. And an issue I’ve been spending quite a bit of time on: how the misuse of big data is destroying the American political system. Campaigns traditionally aim to win the middle, and if you won the middle, you won the election. Now campaigns are using or abusing big data to identify and mobilize like-minded voters, rather than using it to make arguments that change minds. So how bad has this polarization gotten in the last twenty years?

According to Pew, in 1994 there was a good deal of ideological overlap between the two parties. Thirty six percent of Republican voters were more liberal than the typical Democrat, and thirty percent of Democrats were more conservative than the typical Republican.

Today, no longer the case. In 2014, just eight percent of Republicans, six percent of Democrats, were more liberal or conservative than the members of the opposite party. And guess what? We’ve seen the same shift among our elected officials. Based on a National Journal analysis of voting records, in 2002 there were 137 House members who fell in the ideological middle ground. With voting records somewhere between the most conservative Democrat and the most liberal Republican. In 2013 that number was down to four. Let’s go to the Senate. 2002 there were seven members in that middle ground. 2013? Zero.

So as you can see, in the last fifteen years we’ve seen a complete hollowing out of the political center. And this coincided with the advent of microtargeting in 2004, then advanced by team Obama, and now, of course, everybody uses it. Look, the electorate and politicians alike used to be conditioned to know that the middle mattered. That’s why big deals in Washington were bipartisan. Tax reform in the eighties, welfare reform in the nineties. Flash-forward to 2010, Democrats pass health care without a single Republican vote, and right now Republicans appear poised to try to do it the same way.

But look, there is good news in this. Big data can be used to fix the very problems it helped create, as long as there is a political will to do it. The incentive structure has to change where we persuade the middle again, because then elected officials who win by persuasion suddenly want to make deals.

When we come back, how far are Democrats willing to go in opposition to President Trump? Are they ready to become the new party of no?

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, panel is here. Yes, Director Comey is testifying tomorrow. Yes, we have Neil Gorsuch and his first confirmation hearing. But I think the biggest story of next week could be the house vote on Thursday on health care. George Will, where is this headed for Republicans?

GEORGE WILL:

They don’t know yet because usually in legislative dealmaking, it’s an additive process. I support X, you support Y, I’ll support you if you support me. That’s how coalitions grow, that’s also how government grows. In this case, however, addition is subtraction because the big issue and it turns out the heart of Obamacare is the expansion of Medicaid. Twenty Republican senators represent states that expanded Medicaid. Absent that expansion, they have huge holes in their budget, they’re a problem.

CHUCK TODD:

Asa Hutchinson, John Kasich, Brian Sandoval- three Republican governors all over the ideological spectrum, Yamiche, signed a letter saying ‘Hey, be careful of this Medicaid cut’.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

Mainly because, as soon as the CBO came out and said that all these people are going to lose their health insurance, it sent shock waves into the party because there are some things that are very complicated for maybe voters to understand. Losing your health insurance is not very complicated, it’s either you have it or you don’t. And a lot of Trump supporters,while they didn’t like the idea of being forced to have insurance, the idea that you might lose it in a state where you really, really need it is, I think, scary for a lot of people

KATTY KAY:

It’s been an interesting shift amongst House Republicans who have gone on the conservative side, who with President Trump’s very effective wooing, have gone from kind of ‘hell no’ to possibly ‘yes’. But now you have moderates amongst the Republican Party in the House who are all saying hold on a second, if this is going to die, thanks to people like Susan Collins, in the Senate, why should I sign my name to it? Where does that leave me for the next two years?

CHUCK TODD:

Robert Costa, here is the conundrum. Colorado poll out this week shows here’s the president’s approval rating among all Republicans, he’s got 83 percent favorable rating, excuse me, among Republicans 83 percent, but among all voters he has got a 55 percent unfavorable rating. You’re Cory Gardner, Republican senator, what do you do? Do you listen to the Republican base that loves Trump or your overall, realize, oh my gosh a majority in Colorado don’t trust him, aren’t satisfied, do you go with him on health care?

ROBERT COSTA:

It’s not just Senate Republicans, it’s also the president. Who actually has ownership of this healthcare bill? We know the speaker’s tweaking it with the Medicaid expansion, doing some things that the conservatives want to get it through the house. But when it gets to the Senate, is the president really going to rally behind it? When I spoke to the president right before he got inaugurated, he said he wanted insurance for everybody. He said he’s not driven by philosophy, and his team, his populists at his side talk about infrastructure and taxes. They didn’t get elected, in their minds, to do health care first.

CHUCK TODD:

George Will, is the debate over about the idea of whether government is involved with our health care or not? Meaning, you know, because there are still some that want to have this fight going no you know what we shouldn’t-- the right-- the issue of whether it’s a right or a privilege type of thing is-- Bill-- Cassidy-- Senator Cassidy in Louisiana said hey the debate is over, we have got to provide these people health care.

GEORGE WILL:

Before the Obamacare legislation was passed, fifty cents of every health care dollar was a government fifty cents. The government’s been deeply involved in this forever and it will only become more so.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

And I think when I was listening to Senator Collins talk about not wanting to say health care is a right, in some ways, as soon as you say that sentence, you think about Bernie Sanders. But in theory, she made this point that we're paying for health care whether we like it or not. So whether we take away Medicaid and then we feel like we're not paying for it in this way, you're still paying for it when you go, when people go show up to the emergency room and have to pay for it and these hospitals have to provide them care anyways.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, very quickly, Neil Gorsuch, is there a filibuster? Do Democrats get forced to filibuster Neil Gorsuch?

KATTY KAY:

No, I think there are going to be enough Democrats up for reelection in conservative states who are just going to say, this is not the fight that they want to have now. They may have to have a fight on the second pick, but they're not going to have--

CHUCK TODD:

It's an easy way to look bipartisan if you're a red-state Democrat on this pick, isn't it?

ROBERT COSTA:

And in almost any other period, they would be consumed by Gorsuch. But when I talk to progressive activists in Washington, they say, "Russia, Trump, the wiretapping allegations, chaos at the White House," they're focused on different issues.

CHUCK TODD:

And health care. Don't forget that. All right, we'll be back in 45 seconds with End Game, and a viewer's alternative version of a segment we aired last week. Yes, we really do pay attention to what you have to say. Stay with us.

ANNOUNCER:Coming up, Meet the Press End Game, brought to you by Boeing, always working to build something better.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

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

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with End Game, and I want to actually continue quickly. We talked about on the Gorsuch conversation whether Democrats can aff-- is it the right strategy to just be party of no? George Will, the Washington, you’ve been used to covering for 30 years, of course the answer to that used to be no. But perhaps it’s better for them politically to be the party of no.

GEORGE WILL:

It’s better in the sense that it energizes their base. You get to an election and you realize you can’t win an election with your base alone. The old axiom used to be that American politics took place within the 40-yard lines. I still think it’s true.

CHUCK TODD:Yet, does anybody win that way? Or if they don’t think they win that way, whether they actually do or not, if they don’t think they win that way, Yamiche, this is why they act the way they act.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:Yeah, and I think, I mean when I talk to both-- I’ve talked to some freshman U.S. representatives who are saying we should be the party of no, mainly because they feel as though their base is really watching this and saying, “We need to stick to our grounds, we need to not go and try to make compromises when it comes to health care but start pushing a single-payer system. So they’re facing these people who are really frustrated and think that they should be kind of like the Tea Party and that they should really stop and not make deals.

ROBERT COSTA:But when I’m at the Capitol, we keep talking about the Democratic party. Who are the leaders of the Democratic party? We know there’s Leader Schumer and there’s Leader Pelosi, but who’s the soul right now of the Democratic party if they are going to be the party of no? Is it Senator Warren? It’s hard to tell.

KATTY KAY:And I mean, Democrats can easily point to the last six years of the Obama presidency and say, “Hey, it didn’t do the Republicans any harm being the party of no. Take Merrick Garland. Case in point. Why on earth shouldn’t we try that too?”

CHUCK TODD:All right, good luck being a centrist in today’s Washington. Finally it’s not often that we do viewer mail here. Actually, we never do it and we don’t want to make a habit of it, trust me. But this week is an exception.

As you may remember, last week we took a tongue in cheek look at what it would be like if we applied “repeal and replace Obamacare” language to repealing and replacing American sports. We pointed out, for instance, that sports was already in a death spiral since on any given day, 50 percent of all teams are losers. And if you throw in soccer into this, we even have losers and ties. That it’s important to give players greater access to more home runs, touchdowns and slam dunks, allowing players to choose the success that’s best for them. And that teams need the ability to cross state lines, as the New York Giants and Jets did when they moved to New Jersey.

Well, one viewer, Kevin McGonagle, he wrote to offer perhaps a more conservative alternative to our examples.

(BEGIN TAPE)

McGonagle writes that because of sports' death spiral, the San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, L.A. Dodgers, and San Diego Padres all disband, leaving just the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as the only baseball team in California. And without competition, the Angels could increase prices by 160 percent. Now Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders may insist that sports is a basic right for citizens and noncitizens alike, and that all states must have sports. So in order to cover everyone, the NHL is forced to set up a failing team in a hockey hotbed like New Mexico. Subsidizing teams like that and others would force prices to rise for all hockey fans.

(END TAPE)

And of course, everyone will be mandated to buy season tickets to their home teams, whether they want to or not. Anyway, see, we can have a little fun here.

That's all we have for today. We'll be back next week, when I guess the Big Ten is going to teach the ACC another lesson. Ugh. If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

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