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Meet the Press - April 30, 2017

NBC News - Meet The Press

"04.30.17"

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, President Trump promised to change Washington, but is it possible Washington is changing him?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.

CHUCK TODD:

The president fights to meet a 100 day deadline he calls ridiculous. With an outline on taxes--

GARY COHN:

We are going to cut taxes and simplify the tax code.

CHUCK TODD:

--that faces stiff opposition, another attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare--

REP. PAUL RYAN:

We think it's a really good step in the right direction.

CHUCK TODD:

--that is still short on votes. And a promise to kill NAFTA--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

We are going to get rid of NAFTA for once and for all.

CHUCK TODD:

--that turns into a decision to negotiate instead. Last night, the president took a victory lap in a campaign-style stop in Pennsylvania.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

We are keeping one promise after another.

CHUCK TODD:

This morning I'll talk exclusively with the vice president, Mike Pence, who joins me here, live. Plus, two senators from opposite sides of the aisle, on what it would take for our two parties to finally work together. Angus King and Susan Collins of Maine are here live. And winners and losers, what President Trump's tax outline really could mean for the people who support him the most.

Joining me for insight and analysis are Chris Matthews, host of Hardball on MSNBC, Helene Cooper, Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times, NBC News political analyst Nicolle Wallace, and Danielle Pletka, of the American Enterprise Institute. Welcome to Sunday. It's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, the longest running show in television history, celebrating its seventieth year. This is Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. For a president who said the first 100 days is a ridiculous benchmark President Trump this week certainly looked like a man eager to cross the finish line with some victories. But despite this week's flurry of activity on taxes, on health care, on NAFTA, the president has struggled to put some big legislative points on the board.

He has won the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, rolled back quite a few business and environmental regulations. And he has stayed true to his promise to restrict immigration. But in what may be the most revealing moment of the week, the Republican House rejected his call for a billion-dollar down payment for the wall with Mexico. Like many presidents before him, President Trump came to town promising to defeat Washington. And like many presidents before him, he's discovering that the Washington empire knows how to strike back.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

We are keeping one promise after another. And frankly, the people are really happy about it.

CHUCK TODD:

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania last night, the president marked 100 days in office in his favorite element.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

We're going to have the wall, don't worry about it. Major tax relief for the middle class. We're going to get the premiums down. We're going to get the deductibles way down. We're going to take care of every single need you're going to want to have taken care of. But it's not going to cost that kind of money.

CHUCK TODD:

It's a stark contrast to this admission earlier in the week.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.

CHUCK TODD:

The 100 day honeymoon is regarded, politically at least, as the easiest part of a president's job. On the campaign trail, governing looked easy.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

So a lot of politicians said, "You can't get Mexico to pay for the wall." I said, "Oh, it's going to be so easy."

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

You're going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost and it's going to be so easy.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

Presidential's easy.

CHUCK TODD:

But of the ten major pieces of legislation Mr. Trump promised in his contract with the American voter, none have been accomplished. If Mr. Trump is still battling Washington, then Washington appears to be winning. Health care is stalled for the second time in the House.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

I'm disappointed. I'll tell you, Paul Ryan's trying very, very hard.

CHUCK TODD:

The president's plan to overhaul thousands of pages of the federal tax code, so far just a single sheet of paper.

GARY COHN:

We will let you know these specific details at the appropriate moment.

CHUCK TODD:

A White House demand to include a down payment for a border wall in any spending bill, dropped.

MALE VOICE:

Build the wall.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

We'll build the wall.

CHUCK TODD:

After promising to terminate NAFTA, instead on Saturday, Mr. Trump signed an executive order which simply launches a six month review. Mr. Trump railed against so-called globalists during the campaign.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

Hillary Clinton is the chief emissary for globalism.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

Wants to surrender America to globalism.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

A representative for globalists. You know what globalists are?

CHUCK TODD:

But this week, he called himself one, telling The Wall Street Journal, "Hey, I'm a nationalist and a globalist." And then there's the Russia investigation. It continues to hang over this presidency, with new questions this week about former national security advisor Mike Flynn.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

When they say, "We" didn't vet, well, Obama I guess didn't vet because he was approved at the highest level of security by the Obama administration.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Well, we got a lot to get to. So no better person to talk to than my next guest, Vice President of the United States Mike Pence.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

Great, good to see you Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Good to see you, happy day 101.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

The president made that remark that this was more work than in his previous life and he thought it would be easier. What has the president found harder than he expected so far?

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

Well, I don't know that he's found it harder, I think he has found the range of issues as president of the United States at home and abroad, given path of the last administration, to be particularly challenging. In so many ways as the president has said the world is a mess. He spent an awful lot of time in the first 100 days re-engaging the world. He sent many of us around the globe to re-engage with our allies and strengthen America's ties around the world. We're rebuilding our military, we're rethinking trade agreements that have been costing American jobs. And then here at home, the president has rolled his sleeves up. Literally, not just 100 days, Chuck, but since the day after the election the president has been out there fighting for American jobs. In 2017 alone more than 500,000 jobs have been created. You see optimism among job creators in America, enthusiasm among consumers across the country. It's just I think we went through a difficult time the last eight years but America's back under President Donald Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

But in many ways, he has found himself, it's almost like Washington has either moved him or has defeated him so far. Would you accept that? I mean you look at his positions on NATO or even on the pull back on NAFTA a little bit, what he has said about China, it's all falling into the Washington conventional wisdom.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

I don't really share your perspective on that, with all due respect Chuck. I mean on the international scene, here's a president who's said that NATO had to change. That our NATO allies had to begin to step up to begin to share the burden of the cost of our common defense. And they are. They're also changing the mission of NATO to focus more on terrorism, that's exactly what the president called for when - I mean, he didn't change on NATO, NATO changed.

CHUCK TODD:

But NATO changed years ago. NATO's been at the forefront in Afghanistan fighting terrorism. NATO - he's not the first president to complain that the rest of the NATO nations don't pay their fair share.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

Well, most of them don't. The president's gonna be visiting NATO in just a couple weeks, and he'll deliver that strong message again. And I know the Secretary General is standing shoulder to shoulder with him. But look, I think when you look at what this president has done, come to Washington, DC to fight for the forgotten men and women of this country and they see him doing it each and every day. I mean he announced this week that we're gonna renegotiate NAFTA. In the early days of the administration we got out of the Trans Pacific Partnership which as the president said would have made NAFTA's failures pale in comparison. I mean he literally each and every day has been out there fighting to keep his word to the American people and he's frankly been fighting, you know, against the gale-force wind of the establishment here in Washington, DC and frankly, fighting against the gale-force wind of many in the national media who would constantly like to change the subject away from the president's relentless effort to keep his promises to the American people.

CHUCK TODD:

One of the big promises had to do with a ton of legislative action. And I wanna put on the board. He called, these are the pieces of legislation he promised to at least introduce and begin fighting for, no one said he was gonna sign all of this, that I will give you: tax reform, offshoring jobs, infrastructure, school choice, health care, child care, immigration, ethics reform, military and crime and drugs. The only place where there's been any action actually in Congress is really on health care. So what's taken so long in getting these other aspects introduced or was it an over-promise?

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

No it wasn't an over promise, and remember, this president has already signed more bills in the first 100 days than any president since Harry Truman. I mean he's literally - 13 different pieces of legislation that have rolled back job-killing regulations from the Obama administration signed into law. And he's taken executive action -

CHUCK TODD:

Ok, but we're not on health care and we're not on tax reform.I mean, I'm talking about, we have not - I'm talking about the big signature pieces of legislation.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

But he's signed 30 different executive orders on virtually every one of those topics that you just referred to. And we're working with the Congress. I think health care reform, repealing and replacing Obamacare is just around the corner. Because this president is driving relentlessly toward an agenda to make America great again. And I gotta tell you, when we were out, we were out visiting a factory yesterday near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. You saw the big crowds, the thunderous crowds, the overwhelming support the president enjoys, virtually unanimous support among the people who supported us in last fall's election. But what was more inspiring to me was as we walked the shop room floor, not just the business owners expressing enthusiasm for the president's plan to cut business taxes, to cut taxes across the board, but the guys that had paused from working on the line to reach out to this president and just thank him for being there. You know, somebody said to me recently that everybody who puts on a steel-toed boot knows there's somebody fighting for them every day and that's completely true and it's President Donald Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

Alright, let's get out of atmospherics let's get into some details. We were talking about health care a little bit, I know you've been working hard on this you've been in many ways back and forth, people see you ducking into different congressional offices doing negotiations and one of them has to do with this so-called McArthur amendment that some moderates on the Republican side are concerned about. Let me play for you some sound of that and get you to respond.

(BEGIN TAPE)

JOHN KASICH:

I wouldn't be surprised if they pass something, but i'm not for it. I'm just telling you.

CHARLIE DENT:

It could affect people with preexisting conditions and it'll make different insurance probably much more expensive for them, and in some cases perhaps inaccessible.

JIM DONOVAN:

It doesn't help the people I represent.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD: You've heard this concern which is that if you essentially eliminate these essential benefits you give the states the opportunity to essentially take out the protection for preexisting conditions. Or if you do keep it, making it so that those folks are paying a lot more for health insurance. And if that's the case how do you pass this thing?

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

Well before I get to that, let's begin with the fact that Obamacare has failed. I mean it literally is collapsing all over the country.

CHUCK TODD:

Not a lot of folks agree with you on that. That is a very debatable point, Mr. Vice President.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:Well not on the facts. There are states around country where literally people in half the state have no choice for health insurance at all. People are seeing their insurance premiums skyrocket. The American people know that we need to repeal and replace Obamacare. And President Trump, from first day of this administration, has been working every single day to keep that promise to the American people. And I have to tell you, the legislative process is often slow. Nobody knows it better than you.

CHUCK TODD:

And yourself, you were a Member of Congress.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

What's the old saying? If you like sausage, don't go where they make it--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

And we're making law here. And we're un-making one of the worst pieces of legislation in modern American history. And on this point, you know, Congress obviously wasn't ready to begin the process of repealing Obamacare a little more than a month ago. But I think we're close. And it is owing to the fact that you're seeing members of Congress coming together to repeal the onerous taxes and penalties that people pay if they don't have insurance in Obamacare. To expand health savings accounts. To give governors like my friend John Kasich the ability, an all new flexibility to improve Medicaid for their most vulnerable citizens. But we're also keeping our promises to protect people who have pre-existing conditions.

CHUCK TODD:

But besides protecting them, are you going to be able to prevent their premiums from skyrocketing. That's been the concern, that if you isolate them into risk pools, that the inevitable impact is the rise in premiums. How do you protect that?

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

Well, I think the way you protect that is, first and foremost, you make it very clear, as we did in the first bill, but with the amendments that have taken place in the last several weeks and come forward, it's even better still. That we're basically borrowing an idea from the state of Maine that has seen a significant drop in premiums for people on their health insurance because you take people that have pre-existing and costly conditions and put them into a high risk pool.

And you subsidize that so that it is affordable to those individuals. And so, you're guaranteeing coverage for pre-existing conditions. And the flexibility that you're referring to in this latest MacArthur Amendment, states can only apply for that waiver and flexibility if they have either a federal or state high risk pool that guarantees that people will be able to have coverage, and it'll be affordable.

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, terrific segway. I have two Maine senators coming on the show later today. I will ask Senator Susan Collins about that Maine risk pool. I want to go to taxes here a minute. By the way, on health care, I know the president expects a House vote in the next couple of weeks. Are you going to be able to sign a new version of health care, whether it's full repeal or replace or not by the end of this year?

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

I believe through a series of bills, this first one that we're hopeful there'll be action in the House of Representatives soon. And through executive action and through further legislation that we'll deliver on our promise to repeal and replace Obamacare and give the American people the kind of world class health care they deserve.

CHUCK TODD:

Before the end of the year? Not making that promise?

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

I hope before the end of the year. Look, again, I go back to the first point, Chuck. I know you say it's debatable. Get out across the country. Obamacare has failed. Every promise of Obamacare has been broken. Premiums have skyrocketed, people have lost their insurance, lost the ability to choose their doctors. We've got to do better. We will under President Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

I wanna ask you on tax reform - a lot of estimates, and look we're very early into this, I'm not gonna get into too many of weeds, but the overall impact looks like a big big shot at deficit, some people estimate as high as seven trillion over ten years, as small as three trillion. Let me ask you this how important is deficit reduction? If this tax reform plan increases the deficit will the president still sign it?

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

We have nearly a 20 trillion dollar debt doubled under last administration. It didn't just double because of excessive government spending, it doubled because of a struggling American economy. We just got the numbers, 1.6% - the strongest economy on Earth growing at less than two percent, and less than one percent in the first quarter, look all those statistics and talking with everyday Americans and job creators across this country attest to fact that american people crying out for tax relief. We have one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world, the President's gonna drive to lower than to 15 percent, to make businesses large and small more competitive, and we're gonna lower tax rate to three marginal rates for every American unleash bound up energy of the American economy.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that, how are you going to pay for it? It is going to increase the- everything you outlined will increase deficit. Period. How do you prevent that?

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

Well the only way to meet obligations that we face in deficits today, or long term obligations in our entitlements, Chuck, is through growth. The President has a growth vision for the american economy that begins with allowing the American people to keep more of what they earn. The President has proposed. one of largest tax cuts in American history. And I have to tell you, the early response on Capitol Hill has been very encouraging.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand people are happy about it but you are gonna increase the deficit.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

Well maybe in the short term. But the truth is if we don't get this economy growing at three percent, or more as the President believes we can, we're never gonna meet the obligations that we've made today.

CHUCK TODD:

Quickly on South Korea, I know you were in Asia. There's some news this morning that the national security advisor, General McMaster, has reassured our South Korean allies about missile defence, about extra protections, and that the United States is going to pay for this. President Trump said South Korea would. How're you gonna square that?

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

Well when the President asked me to go to South Korea and Japan and visit our allies in the region, it was to reassure them during these troubling times, where we see increased provocation from the regime in North Korea, that America stands with them, America will defend them. And I have to tell you, the bonds between people of South Korea and people of United States forged during the Korean War are immutable and unshakable. However we resolve issue of their defense, the people of South Korea know that America will be there to defend them even as they defend themselves.

CHUCK TODD: So at a minimum we're not gonna argue over the bill now, is what you're saying?

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

Look, the President has been very clear,whether it's our allies in Europe or South Korea or Japan or other countries, we expect countries around world to do more. And whether it's this missile defence system or others systems I think you can be confident that the President of the United States will call on prosperous nations that the United States provides security for to do more in their own defence.

CHUCK TODD:

Final question: You did lose popular vote, by an estimate of 3 million. There has been some concern this administration hasn't reached out to those that didn't support him. The fact is you wanna bring this country back together, I believe you in that, but what haven't you made a concrete step reach out to other side a little bit and to try to sort of heal some of these wounds

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

I think the President reaches out everyday. I'm with him virtually every day, whether we were on the road yesterday out to Pennsylvania, in the Oval Office, and I've seen an extraordinary collection of Americans, come through the White House, come through the Oval Office. We had the teacher of the year teachers from all 50 states surrounding the President's desk. I've seen him reach out to leaders across the spectrum. Last night he said-

CHUCK TODD:

It hasn't worked. It hasn't worked. I mean look, last night was a campaign rally. It felt good, but it wasn't uniting rhetoric, it was pretty divisive rhetoric.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

Last night the President said, whatever your race or your creed that we're all Americans, and we all have the same patriot's blood in our veins. And I think you're gonna continue to see the President reach out. Look this is a very tough time, America faces real challenges at home and abroad, it's created great deal of anxiety among the American people. But I think as the American people see the strength and resolve of this President, as they see our economy coming back they see opportunities for themselves and their children and grandchildren and as they see safer and more secure world because of the strong leadership of President Donald Trump I'm confident you're gonna see more unity in America as a result.

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Vice President, I'm going to leave it there. Always more to get to, but I appreciate the time you've spent with us this morning and thanks for sharing your views.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Later in the broadcast, that outline of a Trump tax plan we saw this week, and the Trump supporters who may be surprised to find they're not among the winners. And later, how have the Democrats done in their first 100 days of the Trump administration? Perhaps not as well as you might think there either.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panelists here, Chris Matthews, host of Hardball on MSNBC, Helene Cooper the Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times, NBC News political analyst, Nicolle Wallace, my new cable neighbor. I can't wait--

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Exactly.

CHUCK TODD:

--for you to start at 4:00.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

Your lead in.

CHUCK TODD:

There you go. And Danielle Pletka--

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Is what they call it?

CHUCK TODD:

--of the American Enterprise Institute. Okay, you pantheons of Washington establishment. Basic question here. Who's winning, Washington or President Trump? Nicolle?

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Well, I think we ask his supporters, he is winning in a landslide. But I think that, you know, the questions you posed to the Vice President, I don't know that he's gained an inch in terms of doing what he said he wanted to do in his first address to Congress, which was to unite a larger group of voters around some common goals. I don't think he's taken the first step out the gate to doing that.

CHUCK TODD:

Danielle?

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Washington is winning, for sure. You know, just from the foreign policy perspective, there's no question that Trump came in threatening a whole series of different things, whether it was disengagement from NATO, which we heard the Vice President talk about, whether it was, you know, walking away from a variety of trade agreements, which he hasn't done. Whether it was not engaging in the Middle East, and we've bombed Syria. So from my standpoint, all to the good, the President has actually stepped up. If that's Washington winning, please, Washington, keep winning.

CHUCK TODD:

Chris?

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

Yeah, I think he's dominated the news. And I think that's the most important thing. Every hour, on the hour, it's Donald Trump. We do a thing every night on the show called Trump Watch. It's always about him. So what that's done is it's gotten rid of the middle politically. And it's polarized the Democratic party. The Democratic party is all anti-Trump. They're defined as anti-Trump. And that moved them to the left. So what he has now is a country that's either putting up with Trump, or hating Trump. And I think it's still open. I think it's still a question, whether he's going to make it or not. I think he could still make it.

CHUCK TODD:

Now, Helene, your beat is sort of the monument to the Washington establishment, in many ways, the Pentagon--

HELENE COOPER:

Oh, come on. That's a low blow.

CHUCK TODD:

No, I say that, it just is. That's a case where almost they're actively trying to restrain this president sometimes.

HELENE COOPER:

Yeah. It's a very weird situation that we seem to be in. President Trump has given an enormous amount of military authority to the Pentagon. He treats them very deferentially. He loves Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. And we're now in a position where we're looking at the Pentagon to sort of exercise traditional American foreign policy and to not just reassure our allies, but also to kind of restrain President Trump. Danielle went through a really good sort of list of where on the foreign policy scene President Trump has sort of ceded to the general Washington. But I'd like to just zero in on just China for a minute because during the campaign, I mean, the kind of anti-China rhetoric that we heard during that time, it was amazing. And now, you see where now things have completely shifted again. And you hear the way he's talking about China and talking about--

CHUCK TODD:

About President Xi.

HELENE COOPER:

--Chinese President Xi.

CHUCK TODD:

They're like--

HELENE COOPER:

They're like--

CHUCK TODD:

--these blood brothers now.

HELENE COOPER:

--brothers, we need them now in North Korea.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

So true.

HELENE COOPER:

This complete flip flop, I think is extraordinary--

NICOLLE WALLACE:

But can I just say---I mean, so this is where I think it gets complicated for him with the 100 day mark because you go back to your first question. You go back to his voters. And while the Republicans that came along and fell in line are largely happy, I'm covering the Democratic part of his coalition, in his defense, the softest part of his coalition.They're completely alarmed that when it comes to China, he's flip flopped. They're completely horrified that on foreign policy he's doing everything that Hillary Clinton would've done. This is where the bottom could drop out, not for his support. I mean, his numbers will stay high because of Republicans. But he won because Democrats in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin chose him over her. And if he flips on China and he flips on foreign policy, they will be gone in four years.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

No.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

But wait.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

That's pretty intellectual. That's pretty intellectual.

DANIELLE PLETKA

Okay, well.

CHUCK TODD:

But he means he's a gut guy.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Let's not confuse Chris here. But just a second. There are two sides to this. There's the political side and there's the substantive foreign policy side. On the foreign policy side, the reality is when Donald Trump says, "I'm working with the Chinese and I'm going to do this for them if they do this for the United States," that is how every presidency works. The difference is most presidents don't say it. The other side is the political, and I agree with you, I think the bottom could drop out. He got a lot of criticism from Democrat supporters and Republican supporters.

CHUCK TODD:

Chris, I want to get at something here though, which is I think the first 100 days are the easiest period of a presidency. Let me put up this graphic here--

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

Well, yeah, I've seen the numbers.

CHUCK TODD:

-because it's unbelievable here. The last six presidents, I'm going to show you, the 40 day approval, the 100 day approval mark and by the time of the midterms. In every case but one, and you're going to go down the list, the approval rating of that president went down from 100 days to the midterms. The exception is George W. Bush and the intervening event there was 9/11. My point is this, Chris. Usually, your political capital continues to dwindle after the first 100 days. And they're just starting to try to get a legislative achievement.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

Well, a big part of it's the media. I mean, the media heralded the arrival of Jack Kennedy, who by nothing, frankly, 100,000 votes. But yet, he came in, to the point where people say, "I voted for him." Everybody said they voted. They didn't vote -- This president's got huge gale force winds against him. He comes in with the media killing him every day. The New York Times does enterprise pieces four or five a day against him. Clearly, it's not a popular thing to say you voted for Trump. In fact, every time I look at a poll, I go, "Wait a minute, more people voted for him than admit they voted for him." And that's what's going on. And before the election, that was true. I think it's about attitude. I think last night, by not going to the press dinner and going to Harrisburg, he expressed his defiance of us. And it goes over very well. It's not about where you stand on China. Again, too intellectual. It's about attitude. As we say in Philly, attitude. "I like her but I'm not hiring her because she's got attitude." But I think attitude is what people feel about this guy. He's still screwing us. He's still saying, "The hell with you guys." And he's still saying things--

DANIELLE PLETKA:

It works.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

--that we know aren't true. And I think his people know that some of this stuff isn't true. But they love this, it's like fair and balanced. Remember that? Nobody who watched Fox thought it was fair and balanced. But they loved the way these guys would say, "Fair and balanced." Take that. Take that, you know? It's this defiance.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

It's a cultural thing.

CHUCK TODD:

Your newspaper deals with this sort of thing coming all the time. It's sort of fun how Landler wrote about it this morning.

HELENE COOPER:

I loved Landler's piece this morning.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes, it was very clever--

HELENE COOPER:

It was fantastic. As the representative of the failing New York Times, I don't think--

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

It's not failing at all.

HELENE COOPER:

--these stories you're talking about are against Trump. I think they just--

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

No, they're enterprise.

HELENE COOPER:

-enterprise stories that are laying out just what is going on in this country.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

But they're all about him.

NICHOLLE WALLACE:

And he's creating it.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

I know, but I've never seen so many--

--stories about the guy. We do them every hour--

HELENE COOPER:

Who else are we going to--

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

--and he's always--

HELENE COOPER:

--write about?

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

--in the news that hour.

CHUCK TODD:

Oh, all right.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

He's been the news.

CHUCK TODD:

Here's good news.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

I agree with you.

CHUCK TODD:

Here's good news. I'm just going to pause the conversation, that's it. When we come back, a rare sight on television these days. A senator who caucuses with the Democrats and a Republican senator appearing together at the same time. No walls between them. No two boxes in satellite studios. Sitting next to each other in our studio. If Democrats and Republicans can ever work together, it's these two senators that may show us the way. They're next.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. In our most recent NBC News / Wall Street Journal poll, just 20% of Americans said they approve of the job Congress is doing. 72% disapprove. That's primarily because the voters have pushed the Democrats to the left and the Republicans to the right, and very little gets accomplished. We have, joining us this morning, two senators who could theoretically buck that trend. Republican Susan Collins, who is among the most bipartisan members of the Senate, and Angus King, just one of two Senate Independents. He does caucus with the Democrats. Both happen to be from Maine, and they join me now to discuss whether the two sides can ever get along. Welcome to both of you.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:Look, it's going to be Pollyanna-ish and you guys are going to say the right things about bipartisanship, but let me ask you this. What are the hurdles to bringing common ground back to a case where a politician might see it as a reward, not as a duty that the voters will punish. Senator Collins, you first.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

There are two big hurdles. One is the rise of ideological-driven groups on both the left and the right who are requiring one hundred percent compliance with one hundred percent of their views one hundred percent of the time. And the threat for members is that if they don't comply, they will face a well funded primary opponent.

The second factor is that the polarization of Washington in many ways reflects the divisions in our country. More and more people are living with people who have the same views that they do. They're accessing news outlets that reinforce what they already think. We're seeing a growing intolerance on campuses for alternative viewpoints. All of that combines to produce divisions in our country that I think Washington reflects.

CHUCK TODD:

That was a pretty good answer. Senator King, what would you add?

SEN. ANGUS KING:

I would add, those were on my list. But here's one that's sort of odd and that is the Senate schedule. We leave on Thursday night, come back Monday morning. No one lives here anymore. When I worked here forty years ago in the Senate, everyone lived here. Their family was here. People literally don't get to know each other. And that's a problem. You don't have relationships. Here's another piece that I think might surprise you. Over 65 of the current Senators have been there ten years or less. And that means they don't know how to win. We're like a football team that's lost every game for five years. There's not a culture of success. Something doesn't work, you don't get the votes, you move on and you don't go back and try to make it work.

CHUCK TODD:

You know in fact, Senator Collins you seemed to mention, and you were asked about the idea you might run for governor and you've thought about it. But you even said, you know if you do that, you actually are vacating an important role here. Is it because of that lack of experience that's here that Senator King is referring to?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

It is and if you look at the way the Senate used to be, bipartisanship was always difficult. So--

CHUCK TODD:

Right, let's not pretend, it happens--

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

--all the time.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS:

It wasn't easy. But people were much more willing to sit down, negotiate and try to find common ground. And I've been part of several of those issues over the years. And I worry that the shrinking center in the Senate is making that more and more difficult. We saw that just recently, that there's a profound lack of trust between the two parties that makes those negotiations hard.

CHUCK TODD:

But here's what I don't get here, Senator King, with all due respect to essentially I'll say 95% of the U.S. Senate, which is if I talk to any of them individually, they all lament this issue. Is this a leadership-driven problem? Is it that the leadership, because they're being held to an electoral and political standard, they cannot even allow bipartisanship to happen?

SEN. ANGUS KING:

I don't think it's the personalities of the leaders, but I think you're onto something in the sense that the pressures on the leaders to be partisans first is very intense. I mean, Chuck Schumer's in a difficult place. Anytime he makes a move, in fact at the beginning of this session, he talked about, you know, "We're going to try to work with the president when it's necessary and when we believe he's right."

Huge reaction from the Democratic base. "You can't, you've got to resist. You can't compromise." And so, as Senator Collins said, there are these outside groups that are constantly putting pressure on you to be purer than the driven snow.

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, the state of Maine was brought up by the vice president today. I'm sure your ears perked up, as I thanked the vice president for the great segue on health care. But we were talking about this issue of the pre-existing conditions. I want to get into the details.

You have your own bill in the Senate that may be the vehicle here for repealing or repairing, whatever you want to call, the health care bill. But is he right in his description of these Maine risk pools, that they somehow do keep, protect those with pre-existing conditions and keep costs down?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

Maine for two years had what was known as an invisible high-risk pool. And people with pre-existing conditions did not even realize that they were part of that. It was financed by an assessment on all the health care policies that were sold in the state.

SEN. ANGUS KING:

Which is an important part of how it worked.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS:

It is. But what was important is that after an individual's expenses reached a certain amount, the high risk pool picked that up. And it did work well for two years. It had a $5 million surplus when it ended. But the Affordable Care Act ended it.

CHUCK TODD:

Would you be able to support something like that, Senator King?

SEN. ANGUS KING:

It's all in the details because what's being proposed doesn't have the subsidy, for example, that made the Maine high risk pool successful. And there are a lot of people in Maine that argue that it wasn't all that, that there were limitations, that a lot of the coverages were dropped and that expenses for people over 60, for example, went way up. You know, it's certainly-- we've got to look for what happened in the states. It's worth looking at. But I don't think it's a panacea. And I don't think it necessarily is an easy answer to the dilemma of pre-existing conditions.

CHUCK TODD:

I can't let you go without asking about your governor, Paul LePage, and the similarities. He called himself Trump before Trump. What have the two of you learned from the fact that Paul LePage found success in the same state that elected, you know, an independent and a very moderate Republican? And what have you learned from Trump that you think you both need to get better at?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

Well, President Trump spoke very clearly to those people in Maine, particularly in the northern part of the state, who had lost their jobs, in part due to poorly negotiated trade agreements. And he's right about that. And if you're a displaced mill worker in Maine, you feel pretty left out.

And he spoke to that group. He spoke compellingly to them. And I think that's something that we all need to do better on. Trade agreements often result in lower prices for consumers overall. But if you're without a paycheck, you don't really care about that.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator King, what have you learned from the success of a LePage and a Trump?

SEN. ANGUS KING:

I think what you learn is to listen. And I think, I remember-- You know, everybody thought Hillary was going to win in the day before. And I remember saying, "If and when she wins, she's got to do some serious listening to the people who voted for Donald Trump." The same thing goes in Maine. It goes across the country.

Now, turning that around, I was disappointed in the president's speech last night because he's still in campaign mode, talking strictly to his people. There're a lot of people who are disappointed or angry or whatever. They have reason too. I think we need a little quiet, what I call, eloquent listening in order to understand. The people who voted for Trump and Paul LePage have absolutely legitimate concerns and they need to be responded to. By the same token, people who are concerned about the Trump policies, they need to be listened to too. They have legitimate concerns. The country's divided in half.

CHUCK TODD:

Senators King and Collins, this was great. Hopefully, your other colleagues will see, "Hey, maybe folks from both sides of the aisle should appear together." Thank you for doing this.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

I appreciate it.

SEN. ANGUS KING:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, how a tax break can wind up being a lot less than it seems. And later, the best moments from last night's White House Correspondents Dinner, from comedian Hasan Minhaj.

(BEGIN TAPE)

HASAN MINHAJ:

So of course it lands in the hands of an immigrant. That's how it always goes down. No one wanted this gig. No one.

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

And we are back, Data Download time. There was a lot of talk this week on tax reform and we still don't know exactly what the Trump tax bill will look like. A lot of the criticism, though, has centered around how the plan, it appears, to benefit the wealthiest Americans with things like a lower corporate tax rate, doing away with the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax and a lower income tax rate for the highest earners. But it could also help many people in the president's core base of supporters. Here's why: more than 1800 counties that voted for President Trump have a median household income of less than 45,000 dollars per year. Take for example these two counties: Somerset in Pennsylvania and Ionia in Michigan. The president won both by more than 30 points, and both have median household incomes of about 45,000 dollars per year. So why does that matter? Well for people who make less than 50,000 dollars a year, 87 percent take the standard deduction rather than do an itemized return. So what does that mean? The president's proposal doubles that standard deduction, and that would mean married couples who earn less than 50 grand a year, could cut their federal income tax bills significantly. Good news for the people who elected Mr. Trump, right? But if this group gets a tax cut, and so do wealthy Americans, how would the government cover the difference? See filling the budget gap would require deep spending cuts. And if you look at some of the programs President Trump's budget blueprint plans to eliminate, they're in places like the Mississippi River Delta and Appalachia, parts of the country that have struggled economically for years, while urban centers have been thriving. So while some low-income families could benefit from an extra thousand dollars or so in the short term, there could be lasting, more long term negative implications in these areas for rural America - where many of them live and where many government subsidies are invested. When we come back, there's been a lot of talk about President Trump's first 100 days, but how bout the Democrats? How have their first 100 days gone in the age of Trump?

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with the panel, we've been talking a lot about the first 100 days of Donald Trump, but what about the first 100 days of the Democrats? I've got to read you this interesting quote here from Matthew Continetti, a conservative, Washington Free Beacon, but he writes this:

"What the Democratic Party has yet to understand is that its social and cultural agenda is irrelevant or inimical to the material and spiritual well being of their former constituents. And until the Democrats recognize this fact, their next 100 days will be no better than their first."

I'm going to guess Chris Matthews will agree with that.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

Well yeah, and I think, I was talking about it earlier, a lot of it is cultural, not just economics. And I think that the position Hillary Clinton, for example, took, on abortion, late-term abortion is fine, federal funding, get rid of the Hyde Amendment, pushed too far. I think a lot of the people who came out and voted in Pennsylvania, where I'm from, were pro-lifers. With all Trump's problems, morally, personally, whatever, they didn't like Hillary's position. I think the party moved too far to the left on cultural issues.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Helene, the other interesting fact about the first 100 days is the most popular member of the Democratic Party is not a member. Bernie Sanders.

HELENE COOPER:

That's true. No, that's very true. And the left of the Democratic Party, as you know, loves him. I mean, in the last 100 days, I mean, we haven't seen, you said we were going to talk about the Democrats and I was like 'who are they again?' It's like they've completely disappeared. I certainly hope--

CHUCK TODD:

But they're more popular right now than their Republican counterparts.

HELENE COOPER:

They are, and they may well be in power again in a year, in two years, and I hope they're spending this time out in the wilderness coming up with actual proposals and plans for what they're going to do unlike the Republicans, who spent their time in the wilderness talking about getting rid of healthcare and then didn't have a plan.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

And I think the biggest problem for them is that it hasn't gotten better since Election Day. I mean, you go out and talk to Democrats who picked Trump, and they say that they're more embarrassed now, they can't imagine voting for a Democrat again. That nothing they've done since the election has seemed to address the reasons that they alienated this working class part of their base on Election Day.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

That's exactly right. The Democrats were meant to be the party of the people and instead Donald Trump really got elected as a man of the people. Argue with it all you want, but at the end of the day they look like the party of Beyonce. We saw that at the White House Correspondents' Dinner last night. They're the party of Beyonce and Barbra Streisand.

HELENE COOPER:

Hey, don't knock Beyonce.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Yeah, well.

HELENE COOPER:

No, seriously.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

The beehive will come for you.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

She is not a political leader, forgive me. She is not a woman who is going to fix the problems of the American people.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

There's a solution, though. I mean, you ask a Democrat, including Bernie and Elizabeth Warren, all the big stars of the party now. You ask them 'what's your position on illegal immigration,' and they're offended by the question. They don't have a position. They don't have a position on bringing back manufacturing jobs. The reasons people voted for Trump, they don't even want to address, and they've got to have a counter-agenda. I think a counter-agenda right now would make a lot of sense. You know, they had a good bipartisan bill on immigration, a truly comprehensive bill that twelve Republicans, go back to that and say 'that's where we stand.' We're not for throwing people out, we're for a reasonable, enforceable border patrol. And we're for stopping illegal hiring, we're for real things. Instead they just think running against Trump is their solution. I think it's going to be--

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Which didn't work for Hillary.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

And calling everybody a bigot.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Ok, ok, ok. Except, guess what? In 2009 we were having similar conversations about the Republicans. They had no counter-agenda. President Obama was throwing everything. And just sitting there allowing anti-Obama unite the party worked.

NICOLLE WALLACE:I disagree. Obamacare is what worked. Obamacare rushed in--

CHUCK TODD:

So repealing Obamacare will work for the Democrats too?

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Well I don't know, I don't think so. But, I mean, I don't think it was that they were doing nothing and they woke up and suddenly had great successes. I think that a grassroots sort of element of Republicans and libertarians went out in opposition to Obamacare.

CHUCK TODD:

Well what's happening now? What do you see with this energy on the left? Because you're right, the Democrats haven't offered anything, but the energy is there.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

But it's all energy and it's not directed towards anything. It's exactly what Chris said, it's all about name calling, it's about, it's not about standing for anything. And at the end of the day, if the party doesn't stand for something, they don't get elected.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

By the way, I don't think our job is to help parties win at all costs. You could sit down and say, you know, Mitch McConnell, that's a brilliant idea. Say, your number one objective is to get rid of Obama. Now why should anyone in journalism, ideologically conservative, middle of the road, or whatever. Why should it be the job of the people who think about issues to help one party win over the other. What's the point in that? What's the point?

CHUCK TODD:

We're not saying that--

NICOLLE WALLACE:

And to Chris's point, but to Chris's point--

CHUCK TODD:

I'm not saying that, but I'm just telling you what politically works.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

I don't even want to answer that question because being awful works sometimes-- it works.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

But I think if the Democrats said, 'I'll take your money and build a bridge. I'll work with you on trade because I'm as protectionist as you are.' I think what the Democrats are missing is that some of Trump's stuff is their stuff.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

Yeah, I agree--

HELENE COOPER:

Yeah but the Republicans played that game and it worked for them. I mean there was a lot of the Obama stuff that was their stuff and--

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Right but Obama's stuff wasn't our stuff.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

Ok why doesn't Pelosi say, "I've got a plan to fix Obamacare?" There's a couple things we've got to do to make it work--

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, I don't know either.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

"Okay, I'm going to--"

CHUCK TODD:

I don't know why she doesn't.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

"--break the rule. I'm going to go to the floor and break the rule, get control of the schedule. And we're going to have a vote on that." Go out there and be aggressive. That's what Reagan did. Break the rule on the other side. Get control of the vote and try to do something. I think the Democrats could win on a lot of issues if they would just start challenging the leadership of their party--

HELENE COOPER:

I think it's very possible though that they don't need to do that.

CHUCK TODD:

Right, all right, go ahead.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

Huh?

CHUCK TODD:

Last word.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Sorry.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

They don't need to do that.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Sorry, Helene.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Susan Collins said this, she said, "People punish you if you work with the other side. That's the biggest problem in politics right now."

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

You could beat the--

HELENE COOPER:

You're right--

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

--other side if you--

HELENE COOPER:

--but they punish you.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

--get control of the debate.

CHUCK TODD:

Right. All right. We'll be back in a moment with endgame and an extra half hour. We'll have some highlights from last night's White House Correspondents' Dinner as well.

ANNOUNCER:

Coming up, Meet the Press Endgame, brought to you by Boeing. Always working to build something better.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

The panel is still chatting here, whether we're on air or not.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

It's the Chris Matthews factor.

CHUCK TODD:

It is. We're back now with Endgame. I want to play a couple of moments from the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Obviously it was without President Trump. It was with comedian Hasan Minhaj, plus a familiar face from the Samantha Bee, "Not the White House Correspondents' Dinner." Here's a couple of highlights.

(BEGIN TAPE)

HASAN MINHAJ:

Who would've thought...with everything going on in the country right now that a Muslim would be standing on this stageā€¦ for the ninth year in a row baby. No one wanted to do this, so of course, it lands in the hands of an immigrant.

WILL FERRELL:

How do you like me now, huh? The uh, the prodigal son has returned, yeah. I don't know what that means, but I know it's positive.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Look we've got to laugh a little bit.

Split screen Nicolle. You're a visual person too. You were a communications director for the president. Good decision by him to skip the dinner?

NICOLLE WALLACE:

It does him no harm to not be in that room, but I don't know that it does them any good as a staff to not show up and say "Hey, we're in on the joke. We've got thick skin" But the president certainly didn't suffer any injury by not being there.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

To the contrary, I think the president is actually helped by this, which makes me sad as a former journalist, because in fact, this is a gathering of people, all of whom have a great deal of contempt for the president, but to a certain extent also for the republican party.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

Dick Cheney went every year and you could've said that about him.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Yeah.

NICOLLE WALLACE:

And i think it showed Dick Cheney able to laugh at himself, but it didn't hurt him to not be there at all.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:I think he's smart not to go. I think some year he will come back and he'll show a picture of Obama making fun of him...

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

--at the dinner, and he'll say, "look where I'm at now." But I think last night was smart. Harrisburg was the smart move, being up there.

CHUCK TODD:

Well that's for sure. Alright. I'm going to close it there. These guys will keep going. That's all we have for today. We'll be back next week, because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press. We'll see you in May.

ANNOUNCER:

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

***END OF TRANSCRIPT***