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Meet the Press - February 14, 2016

MEET THE PRESS - FEB. 14, 2016

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday morning, the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia, and the rarest of events, a vacancy of the Supreme Court in the middle of a presidential election. How the fight over his replacement could paralyze the Senate and all of Washington. We'll hear from four Republican presidential candidates: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich. Plus, that wild Republican debate last night.

DONALD TRUMP:

You are the single bigger liar.

SEN. TED CRUZ:

When you point to his own record he screams, "Liar, liar, liar."

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

I think we're fixing to lose the election to Hillary Clinton if we don't stop this.

CHUCK TODD:

Also, Bernie Sanders gets a taste of what he may face as he tries to win African American voters.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

I've said "black" 50 times, all right? That's the 51st time.

CHUCK TODD:

Can Hillary Clinton win by making this campaign a referendum on Sanders, not herself? Joining me this Sunday morning for insight and analysis are Gwen Ifill of PBS News Hours, Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post, Ron Fournier of The National Journal, and Kathleen Parker, columnist for The Washington Post. Welcome to Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, this is Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. It hasn't happened since 1968, a vacancy battle on the Supreme Court at this stage of an election year. We learned late yesterday of the sudden and tragic death of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia. An intellectual and conservative thought leader. A man President Obama last night called one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court.

Scalia's death is of course a personal tragedy for his family and colleagues. But it is also bursting with major political implications. What will his loss do to the balance of power in the court? Will the Republican Senate even consider someone nominated by President Obama? How long will this vacancy paralyze the court and perhaps the U.S. Senate? At last night's Republican presidential debate in South Carolina, the candidates made clear where they stand on this issue.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

I do not believe the president should appoint someone. And it's not unprecedented.

GOV. JEB BUSH:

There's no doubt in my mind that Barack Obama will not have a consensus pick.

SEN. TED CRUZ:

The Senate needs to stand strong and say "We're not gonna give up the U.S. Supreme Court for a generation."

DONALD TRUMP:

I think it's up to Mitch McConnell and everybody else to stop it. It's called delay, delay, delay.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

We're going to hear from four of the leading Republican presidential candidates this morning. Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich. The Democratic candidates, meanwhile, were also quick to respond to the vacancy.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Supreme Court of the United States has nine members, not eight. We need that ninth member.

SEC. HILLARY CLINTON:

Elections have consequences. The president has a responsibility to nominate a new justice, and the Senate has a responsibility to vote.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

We'll also be taking a close look at the Democratic race and how Hillary Clinton's team is working overtime to try to turn this contest from being a referendum on her to a referendum on Bernie Sanders. A lot to get to, but we start with the impact and the implications of Scalia's death on the Supreme Court. Nobody better to join me on this than our justice correspondent, Pete Williams.

Pete? Welcome back sir. Let me ask very quickly, we're in the middle of some contentious cases that are on the Supreme Court now. What happens right now? We begin, the most one with political implications is the immigration decision.

PETE WILLIAMS:

Right. So when you have eight justices, it creates the possibility of a four-four tie. When there's a tie, it's as though the Supreme Court decision doesn't count. The lower court ruling stands and the Supreme Court decision has no precedential value. So for the immigration policy, it would be a defeat for the administration, because it would leave standing the lower court rulings that blocked it.

For the abortion question which is coming, it would leave the tough Texas restriction on access to abortion clinics standing. Might encourage other states to try the same thing. For public-sector unions though, it might be a victory because they won in the lower courts, defeating in efforts and try to restrict their ability to raise union dues.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, we are headed for the potential of if. If the president wants to nominate somebody, he's made that clear. The Republican-controlled Senate doesn't want to consider it. It's possible, terms of the Supreme Court begin in October, end in June. So at this point, under this scenario, we might go an entire term, October of '16 through June of '17 without a Supreme Court justice, because even if the next president appoints, it takes time to get this through the process.

PETE WILLIAMS:

So two thoughts about this. One is, the majority of Supreme Court decisions are not close votes. They're not five-to-four decisions. So the court will continue functioning and doing a lot of its business. It does raise the possibility that you won't get what only the Supreme Court can provide, and that is the final answer. Only the Supreme Court can resolve these things for once and forever. So a lot of these things will just have to keep coming back until the Supreme Court gets the right combination to make the decision.

CHUCK TODD:

Scalia, the way the cases are heard, once they're heard, there's an immediate vote that takes place among the nine justices.

PETE WILLIAMS:

That's right.

CHUCK TODD:

Does Scalia's vote count posthumously?

PETE WILLIAMS:

No. Not unless the decision has already been handed down. The rule is that because votes can shift and opinions can change, you have to be present for your vote to count.

CHUCK TODD:

I want you to just talk about one candidate that I think we may see nominated. It's a judge by the name of Merrick Garland, he's been the president's back-up candidate as people have told me in the past. If there's a Republican Senate, this is a guy they think that can get through the Republican Senate. He's considered more moderate than other liberal justices. Why?

PETE WILLIAMS:

Well, because of his record, experience in the Justice Department, widely respected. I mean, the thing is now, presidents tend to want younger nominees. If you look at the most recent trend, they're nominating people in their 50s. That's not Merrick Garland, but he's the right kind of ideology.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Pete Williams, it's going to be a busy 18 months for you on this confirmation process I think. Thanks very much. Well, joining me now is the first of four Republican presidential candidates who are on with us this morning. It's Donald Trump. Mr. Trump, welcome back to Meet the Press.

DONALD TRUMP:

Good morning.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you first on the Supreme Court opening. Do you have a litmus test? Do you have a litmus test on Roe v. Wade? Do you have a litmus test on Citizens United when it comes to deciding who you might appoint to the Supreme Court should you become president?

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I think there are some great people out there. Diane Sykes from Wisconsin, from what everybody tells me, would be outstanding. We need a conservative person. I think that certainly we have some great people. We lost one of the greats. I'd like to have the person tailored to be just like Justice Scalia. Justice Scalia was truly a great judge.

CHUCK TODD:

How will you determine--

DONALD TRUMP:

And respected by all.

CHUCK TODD:Well, that's what I mean--

DONALD TRUMP:

Both sides.

CHUCK TODD:

How will you determine that? How would you determine whether you got somebody--

DONALD TRUMP:

I mean, I think you determine-- look, you never know, you never know what happens, Chuck. You look at where a guy like Ted Cruz pushed very hard for Justice Roberts. Everyone thought that was wonderful. And Justice Roberts let everybody down by approving ObamaCare twice. I mean, he really did let us down. And that's largely Cruz's fault and the Bush fault, because they put the wrong guy in there. That was a shocking decision.

So, you know, you never really know. But at the time, he looked okay. But he's a-- that was a Ted Cruz mistake because he pushed him very hard. Look, we need great intellect. We need, I think absolutely conservative. But the real-- I think the real plan forward would be somebody just like Justice Scalia.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I want to move onto the debate last night.

DONALD TRUMP:

Which is hard-- by the way, which is hard to find.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, I think a lot of conservatives will agree with you.

DONALD TRUMP:

Which is very hard to find.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to go to the debate last night. Your 2008 comments about George W. Bush were brought up, and this idea that you were surprised at the time that then Speaker Pelosi had ruled out impeachment. Did you believe that, and I just want to clarify this, did you believe that there was enough there to bring up impeachment proceedings against George W. Bush in 2008 over Iraq?

DONALD TRUMP:

No, I was in the private sector, so I didn't think about it too much. But certainly, the war in Iraq was a disaster. No, not to be impeached, but the war in Iraq was a disa-- it was a mistake. He just made a mistake. We went into Iraq, we lost thousands of lives, we lost trillions of dollars, $2 trillion.

CHUCK TODD:

You don't believe it's an impeachable offense now? You were implying that it might be in 2008.

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, that's for other people to say. And look, that is for other people to say. I can say this, it may not have been impeachable because it was a mistake. I think it was a mistake. But it was a horrible mistake. Number one, there were no weapons of mass destruction. So, you know, did they know there weren't or not? That would tell you something right there.

But there were no weapons of mass destruction. Chuck, the war in Iraq was a disaster. We end up with absolutely nothing. Iran is taking over Iraq as we sit here right now, and as sure as you can be, Iran is doing pretty well worldwide. They take $150 billion, we get nothing. They're taking over Iraq, they're getting the oil. It was a disastrous decision, the war in Iraq. And unfortunately, Bush happened to be president.

CHUCK TODD:

You called though, you were saying that President Bush lied. How do you know he lied about W.M.D.?

DONALD TRUMP:

I think that people knew that there were no weapons of mass destruction. I think they wanted to go in there. I think they thought it would've been easier. They didn't prosecute the war well. It wasn't well-prosecuted. And they ended up getting, I mean, leaving. Now, I have to say, he made a mistake getting in. And I'm the only one on the stage that said we should not go into Iraq. That the war in Iraq is a mistake. Everyone else said, "Oh, they're all--" you know, all of the other people on the stage, I should get points for vision.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, let me, but actually let me pause you there.

DONALD TRUMP:

Because everybody in there, even Jeb Bush, Chuck, it took Jeb--It took Jeb Bush five days, wait a minute, it took Jeb Bush five days to say that the Iraq War was a mistake. He went back and forth, back and forth. Then finally his pollster told him what he had to say. But Jeb Bush, and then he admitted that it was a mistake. Finally, after five days. In fact, it almost, I mean look, he's got no chance anyway. But it almost cost him the election before it even started.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I want to just, for what it's worth, PolitiFact has never been able to find, none of us have been able to find any instance where before the invasion, you came out against this war. Why is that?

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I did it in 2003, I said it before that. Don't forget, I wasn't a politician. So people didn't write everything I said. I was a businessperson. I was, as they say, world-class businessperson. I built a great company, I employed thousands of people. So I'm not a politician. But if you look at 2003, there are articles. If you look the 2004, there are articles.

In fact, I saw somebody commenting on it last night, that Trump really was against the war. I was against it. Look, I'm the most militaristic person. I'm going to build the military bigger, better, stronger, hopefully we'll never have to use it, but nobody's going to mess with us. But I will say this, the war in Iraq, it was a mistake. Anybody would have realized Iran and Iraq, they used to fight. They go back, forth. Chuck, you destabilize the Middle East. I'm the only one that called it. I was the only one that called it.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you-- you made it clear that you wanted to remind people that 9/11 happened, I believe you used the phrase, during "George Bush's reign." Do you believe that George Bush kept America safe?

DONALD TRUMP:

No. Because the World Trade Center was knocked down. Look, that's another myth. I wish he did. I have nothing against him. I don't know him, I don't think I ever met him. I don't think I did meet him. I have nothing against George Bush. I'm just saying, when Jeb Bush gets upset, "My brother kept America safe."

What's kept-- How did he keep us safe, when the World Trade Center, during his time in office, came down? I was there. I lost many, many friends in that tragedy. That was the worst tragedy in the history of this country, worse than Pearl Harbor, because they attacked civilians. They attacked people in office buildings.

CHUCK TODD:

And you think George W. Bush could have prevented this?

DONALD TRUMP:

They had people walking on the streets.

CHUCK TODD:

You believe he could have prevented this?

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, according to-- according to, if you go back, you will see the C.I.A. and other agencies had information that bad things were going to happen and yes, the answer is he should have known. They were not talking to each other, there was total disassociation, they didn't like each other, all of the different agencies were a mess. They were fighting with each other. Absolutely, they should have known, they should have known something.

Osama bin Laden, hey look, I wrote about Osama bin Laden in 2000 in a book. I was talking about Osama bin Laden. If I know about Osama bin Laden just by seeing press and seeing, you know, what's going on, why wouldn't the president of the United States know about Osama bin Laden?

CHUCK TODD:

Well, let me ask you this. In South Carolina, as you know, George W. Bush is popular among Republicans. You are, this is a risky strategy. You called him a liar last night about W.M.D. and you essentially said you would have been okay had--

DONALD TRUMP:

I didn't call him a liar. I say-- I said, I didn't call anybody a liar.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, you called Ted Cruz a liar--

DONALD TRUMP:

Look, I said maybe, Chuck, I said maybe there were lies. Because look, the weapons of mass destruction, they said they existed, and they didn't exist. Now it was his group that said, "There are weapons of mass destruction. That's why we went in." That's why so many people got hoodwinked into going into Iraq. Then they go in there, they searched high and dry, they looked all over, there were no weapons of mass destruction. It turned out that there were absolutely not. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Now, was it a lie? I don't know.

CHUCK TODD:

If you lose-- if you lose South Carolina, do you think the game-change moment people will point to is what happened last night and what you said about George W. Bush. But if you win, does this prove that the Republican party--

DONALD TRUMP:

I know so--

CHUCK TODD:

-- is rejecting Bush?

DONALD TRUMP:

No, I don't think so. I think they're rejecting the war in Iraq. The war in Iraq is a disaster. I have a great relationship with South Carolina and the people. I've known them for a long time, I've been there many times. I have great relationships there. They're very smart people. They understand that the war in Iraq is a disaster and was a disaster.

It was-- it totally destabilized the Middle East. When you look at the migration, when you look at all of the things that are happening right now, it all started with the war in Iraq. And you know what? We got nothing. We have absolutely nothing. Iran is getting the whole deal.

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Trump, I have to leave it there. A little short on time this morning. I look forward to speaking with you again soon, I hope. Thanks for coming on and stay safe on the trail.

DONALD TRUMP:

Thank you. Thank you very much.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, moments ago I spoke to Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, and I began by asking him how he might go about replacing Justice Antonin Scalia in the court.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Let me go to litmus tests. Do you have them for potential Supreme Court justices?

SEN. TED CRUZ:

Well, my litmus test for any Supreme Court justice is whether he or she will faithfully apply the constitution of the law. It's not a specific issue. It is rather a jurisprudential approach. And the only way to determine that is if they have a proven record. If they have spent years demonstrating they'll be faithful to the law. That's the job of a justice.

It's what liberal activists don't do. Liberal activists want to instead legislate from the bench. And, you know, a perfect example of that is Justice Scalia. Justice Scalia was a lion of the Supreme Court. He's one of the greatest Supreme Court justices in history. He spent three decades on the court. But before he was on the court, he was a law professor for many, many years, he was a court of appeals judge, he had a long-proven record so that you knew exactly what you were getting with him. I knew Justice Scalia for 20 years.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, is this a mistake you think that was made with John Roberts? Because you were a big supporter of him.

SEN. TED CRUZ:

Of course it is.

CHUCK TODD:

But in hindsight, you're not. Is that because you think that he didn't have a track record?

SEN. TED CRUZ:

He didn't have a track record. And I would not have nominated John Roberts. Once George Bush nominated him, I supported the nomination as a Republican nominee. But I would've nominated Mike Luttig, my former boss, who was a court of appeals judge, who was Justice Scalia's very first law clerk, and like Justice Scalia, had a long-proven track record. And Chuck, just as Ronald Reagan was to the presidency, so Antonin Scalia was to the Supreme Court. He had that big an impact.

CHUCK TODD:

No doubt.

SEN. TED CRUZ:

And I think his passing yesterday really underscores the stakes of this election. We are facing our fundamental rights in a balance.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you, does the United States Senate have an obligation to at least consider a nomination that President Obama puts forward? I understand that you guys don't want it, and you would prefer to let the elected... but doesn't the United States Senate have an obligation to at least go through the process and have an up or down vote?

SEN. TED CRUZ:

Not remotely.

CHUCK TODD:

Why?

SEN. TED CRUZ:

It has been 80 years since a Supreme Court vacancy was nominated and confirmed in an election year. There is a long tradition that you don't do this in an election year. And what this means, Chuck, is we ought to make the 2016 election a referendum on the Supreme Court. I cannot wait to stand on that debate stage with Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders and talk about what the Supreme Court will look like depending on who wins.

If Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders wins, or for that matter, if Donald Trump wins, whose record is indistinguishable from them on a great many issues, then we will see the Second Amendment written out of the constitution. And another thing we'll see, and this is very relevant for conservatives in South Carolina. If Donald Trump is the nominee, or if Hillary Clinton is the president, we will see unlimited abortion on demand throughout this country, partial-birth abortion, taxpayer funding, no parental notification. And we'll also see our religious liberty torn down, our basic rights.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, but I want to go back to the United States Senate here. So you believe the presidency is only three years long in each term? I mean, if we go down this road, we're cutting off a presidency with a year to go. And more importantly, Senator Cruz, the risk here for conservatives is that if you have all these four-four ties in the court, then the more liberal leaning circuit will then have, you know, their rulings will take precedent.

SEN. TED CRUZ:

Look, the consequence of a four-four tie is that the judgment of the court of appeals is affirmed by an equally-divided vote. This has happened many times in history that there have been vacancies, sometimes on a closely-contentious case. They'll hold it over for the next term, when the replacement justice arrives.

In an election year, we have a long tradition that a lame-duck president doesn't get to jam a Supreme Court nominee through on the very end. L.B.J. tried that and the Supreme Court rejected it. And particularly when the court is five-four, is balanced, an Obama liberal nominee would dramatically shift the U.S. Supreme Court.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, I understand that. But why not go through the process? Shouldn't the United States Senate do its duty and go through the process? Reject it, Senator, but go through the process.

SEN. TED CRUZ:

By the way, the Senate's duty is to advise and consent. You know what? The Senate is advising right now. We're advising that a lame-duck president in an election year is not going to be able to tip the balance of the Supreme Court.

That we're going to have an election, and if liberals are so confident that the American people want unlimited abortion on demand, want religious liberty torn down, want the Second Amendment taken away, want veterans' memorials torn down, want the crosses and stars of David sandblasted off of the tombstones of our fallen veterans, then go and make the case to the people.

I don't think the American people want that. I'm very happy to take that case directly to Hillary Clinton, directly to Bernie Sanders. And I would note, look, how do we know Donald Trump's record on this is going to be bad? He has supported liberals for four decades: Jimmy Carter, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid.

Anyone who cares about judges would not be supporting Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer and John Kerry and Hillary Clinton. And the consequence is, if either Hillary or Bernie or Donald Trump is the president, we will see the Second Amendment written out of the constitution. This is a basic question, who will defend our liberties?

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Cruz, I have to leave it there this morning. A lot more to get to. I look forward to hopefully having you on perhaps next Sunday, and we can get to more of that. Thank you, sir.

SEN. TED CRUZ:

Excellent.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back we're going to hear from Marco Rubio who hopes to put New Hampshire behind him, and John Kasich who hopes New Hampshire is a sign of the future.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

B BLOCK**

CHUCK TODD:

And we are back. Earlier this morning, I was joined by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Governor John Kasich of Ohio. And I started with Senator Rubio asking if the senate has an obligation to give the President's supreme court nominee an up or down vote.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

We have an obligation to do it, but not now. This term of the Supreme Court, they just started it. But it's not all year long. The court can function with eight justices, it does it all the time, especially when justices have to recuse themselves. For example, Kagan had to recuse herself early in her term because she had just left the administration.

We're going to have an election in November where this vacancy is going to be an item of debate and voters are going to get their weigh in. So I just don't think it's wise. And there's precedent for this, for a president nearing the last few months of his administration, to put someone on the court that may be there for 30 years.

CHUCK TODD:

So you don't think that--

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

And in many instances perhaps -.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that. And I understand the decision that you may not support, and that the Republican majority doesn't want this, but aren't they obligated to at least go through the motions here? I mean, you're saying don't even go through the motions. Why?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

Correct. Well, we will go through the motions, but not while Barack Obama's in the White House.

CHUCK TODD:

Well why?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

It's not going to happen.

CHUCK TODD:

Do presidential terms end after three years? That's what I don't understand, is why not go through the advice and consent? You don't have to approve it. You can reject it. That's what happened in '68. But why not go through this process?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

Because actually, it's not just for the Supreme Court, even for appellate court, it's been both parties have followed this precedent. There comes a point in the last year of the president, especially in their second term, where you stop nominating, or you stop the advice and consent process. You basically say, "At this point, with a few months left in your term, no accountability from the ballot box and the appointment you're going to make, on a lifetime--"

CHUCK TODD:

We're 11 months--

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

That's the important thing here. These are--These are not laws that can be re--

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that, but we--

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

Yeah, right, but these are not laws that can be reversed. In essence, this is a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the country, at a time when the balance of the constitution and the court's interpretation of it is at stake, we're not moving forward on it. Mitch McConnell's already made that very clear. I support it 100%.

Here's the bottom line, I don't trust Barack Obama on the appointment of Supreme Court justices. We cannot afford to have Scalia replaced by someone like the nominees he's put there in the past. We're going to have an election, there's going to be a new president, I believe it's going to be me, and we're going to look for someone that most resembles Scalia to replace him.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I want to move to the debate. You said in response to a heated exchange between Jeb Bush and Donald Trump on 9/11, this is what you said about 9/11. And I want to ask you about it on the other side.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

The World Trade Center came down because Bill Clinton didn't kill Osama bin Laden when he had the chance to kill him.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

That's a big charge. I know Bill Clinton has said it is one of his regrets, but he did make an attempt to go after him. But you believe that is a direct result? That basically Bill Clinton's failure led to 9/11?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

Well, I believe that if Osama bin Laden had been killed, Al Qaeda as an organization would not have grown to the point where it have conducted 9/11. And it was in response to this argument that Trump was making, that somehow President Bush was responsible for 9/11. And my argument was, no, the responsibility of 9/11 falls on the fact that Al Qaeda was allowed to grow and prosper and the decision was not made to take out their leader when the chance existed to do so.

Not once, but four times, according to the 9/11 report. President Clinton has acknowledged that as a regret. And so the bottom line is that Al Qaeda was able to carry out 9/11 because as an organization, they grew and prospered a capability led by Osama bin Laden. Had bin Laden been taken out, it is doubtful that 9/11 would have happened, at least on September 11th of 2001, because Al Qaeda would not have been in the position to be able to carry something like that out.

CHUCK TODD:

So you're not blaming 9/11 on Bill Clinton?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

No, he made a decision not to take out its leader, which I think ended up being there, the situation that happened with 9/11. And as this was a response to an attack, that the reason why 9/11 happened was because of George W. Bush. And my argument is, if you're going to ascribe blame, don't blame George W. Bush, blame a decision that was made years earlier, not to take out bin Laden when the opportunity presented itself.

CHUCK TODD:

So I'm actually still not quite clear. Are you putting 9/11 on Bill Clinton?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

No, I'm putting it on his decision not to take out bin Laden, absolutely. This is what happens when you have a chance to take out the leader of a terrorist organization, and you failed to do so. And the results are something like 9/11.

CHUCK TODD:

Later this week, Pope Francis is going to speak and certainly going to tour the border of Mexico and the United States. And in September, in front of Congress, he called himself the son of immigrants, and he called on Congress and Americans not to, quote, "turn their backs on their neighbors." You have, yourself, got emotional listening to that speech. Do you feel that the pope's message about immigrants, particularly Mexican immigrants and our immigration debate here, do you agree with his take on this?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

Sure, we're a country of immigrants, we continue to be a country of immigrants. Let's have some perspective here. America accepts close to a million permanent residents every single year. No other nation in the world comes close to that number. That's not the issue we're debating. The issue we're debating is not whether we're going to accept immigrants, because we do, and we're going to continue to.

The issue is, is there going to be a process that people have to follow to immigrate to the United States, do we as a sovereign country get to control how many people come here, when they come here, and who they are? And the answer is yes. I don't think the pope was saying, "Open up the borders and allow anyone who wants to come in." I mean, you can't move to the Vatican just because you feel like moving there.

They've got laws that restrict who can live within that nation city state. And I think the same is true for the United States. So I agree with Pope Francis saying that we should be compassionate towards immigrants, and we are. The United States is more than any nation on earth. But we are allowed, as a sovereign nation, have an obligation to have immigration laws and to enforce them. And that's what we need to be doing better than what we're doing now.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I have to leave it there. We're short on time this morning. A lot to get to, Senator Rubio. Nice to catch up with you. Stay safe on the trail, sir.

And I'm joined now by the fourth presidential candidate we've had on the show this morning, Republican governor of Ohio John Kasich. Welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

You know, if it's Sunday, it's, like, Meet the Press. It's--

CHUCK TODD:

I appreciate that.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

--Sunday, isn't it?

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I've had two U.S. senators on this morning who say that the U.S. Senate shouldn't even bother considering a nomination that President Obama puts up. Does the U.S. Senate have an obligation to at least consider it, hold a hearing? And if they vote it down, they vote it down. But should the U.S. Senate, should Mitch McConnell at least open up that part of the process?

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Well, you know, that's their decision, Chuck. You know, as the governor of Ohio, I have to deal with legislators and their decisions. And I don't try to tell them what to do. I understand the president has prerogative here. I got that.

Senate has a prerogative, too, of course. But, you know, I just think at a time when the country is so divided, it would just be great if the president didn't send somebody forward and we had an election. And then everybody would be clear about what they want in the next Supreme Court justice. But I guess it's not going to go that way.

CHUCK TODD:

It's roll the dice--

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

And it's going to cause--

CHUCK TODD:

Governor, that's a roll of the dice. You could have a Democratic Senate--

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa--

CHUCK TODD:

--a Democratic president--

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Wait a minute. Wait a minute.

CHUCK TODD:

--come in.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Well--

CHUCK TODD:

And then have a more liberal justice than what President Obama might provide.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Well, but that's life. I mean, you know, then the people actually have had some say. It's really kind of a unique thing when you think about it, Chuck. It's unique to say that the public itself is going to have sort of an indirect vote on who's going to be a Supreme Court justice.

I think that's kind of cool. And what I don't like now is, you know, we could talk about this all day long. You and I both know in the real world, they're not going to confirm anybody. Unless they pick somebody who's so beloved that everybody goes, "That's great," okay, I don't think that's going to happen.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah. You're probably right on that. Let me move to the debate. And I have to play this one clip from you last night because I want to get a better explanation of what you meant. Here it is.

(BEGIN TAPE)

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

I've got to tell you. This is just crazy, huh? This is just nuts, okay?

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

That was after Jeb Bush and Donald Trump were going at each other. What did you mean by that comment? Explain.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Well, I mean, it's like all the yelling, and screaming, and back and forth. Chuck, what I have found, and I tell you I'm having the time of my life, people want to know what you're for. Look, I've been all over. Yesterday, I went to this barbecue shack. There were 500 people waiting there.

I was there, you know, taking pictures. Must have been another 45 minutes after I got done speaking. And people are grabbing onto you, saying, "Please stay positive. Please don't get into these fights." And I get my energy by being for things. I don't get my energy by being against things.

And I think people tend to get negative when they're not selling their own positive. So, look, that's where I am. And if it works out for me, great. If it doesn't work out for me, I'll get to spend more time with my family. But, look, I want to win. And we're doing well. Really well.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me to point to something. There was something last night you said at the debate. You said you didn't think we should have gone into Iraq if there weren't any weapons of mass destruction.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

But you also said we should not get embroiled in civil wars overseas.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

That's right.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, we've done it before--

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Correct.

CHUCK TODD:

We did it with Bosnia. Was that the right call--

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

We did it with Lebanon.

CHUCK TODD:

And we did it with Lebanon.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Chuck, let me tell you. You know how I--

CHUCK TODD:

--Libya.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

--voted on Lebanon? Yeah. Well, Libya was a terrible mistake. You know, frankly, that's something that people ought to be thinking about in regard to Hillary. You know, they talk about Benghazi, which is very legitimate. Of course it is. But we should never have deposed Gaddafi. That was a terrible mistake.

The guy was working with us. And now, we've created chaos in that country. Look, I was not in favor of U.S. troops in Lebanon. And I voted against it. Even when Reagan wanted them there. Tip O'Neill wanted them there. Then when they got blown up, Tip was out blaming Reagan. And I never forget it. You know, since the 6th century, Sunni and Shia have been fighting. And we want to get in the middle of that--

CHUCK TODD:

So you would stay out of Syria--

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

It makes no sense.

CHUCK TODD:

You'd stay out of Syria?

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

I would only go to Syria to destroy ISIS. I would not use U.S. troops to depose Assad. But I would support the rebels there. It's okay to support those people who share your view. But for the United States to be embroiled in a civil war in Syria against Assad I think is a big mistake.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, you have also been critical of how the surplus that you as a Republican budget leader-- and working with the Clinton administration you forged a budget that gave us surpluses and that was projecting surpluses throughout the first part of the 21st century. It was gone immediately. Many Democrats have said one of the reasons why that surplus went away so quickly was due to the Bush tax cuts. Do you concur with that? Were the Bush tax cuts too big--

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

No. No. I think it was spending, Chuck. And the dirty little secret is Democrats love to spend. And Republicans do, too. It's just that Republicans feel guilty. Look, if you don't have a leader that stands in the breach to restrain the spending of government, they'll always spend.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm going to leave it there.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Okay, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

I appreciate it. We'll catch up--

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

--I'm sure in the next week or so.

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

Yeah, we will--

CHUCK TODD:

Thanks very much. Well, coming up--

GOV. JOHN KASICH:

All right.

CHUCK TODD:

Well coming up, the Democratic race and why it may start getting tougher from here for Bernie Sanders. And, of course, Saturday night fights. In other words, last night's Republican debate and what all of those nasty exchanges mean.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. The panel is here on this huge Sunday of political news. Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post, Gwen Ifill, fresh off of moderating that Democratic debate that I think happened in the last few days, welcome, of PBS News Hour, I've also got Kathleen Parker, columnist for The Washington Post, and Ron Fournier, senior columnist for The National Journal. Let me start with the consequences quickly on Scalia and then we'll move to the debate. The United States Senate, Chris Cillizza, you know the politics of this.

CHRIS CILLIZZA:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

The United States Senate, will it be a function chamber this year, or could this fight shut the entire Senate down for the year?

CHRIS CILLIZZA:

Okay, so I generally put myself in the 1 percent of most cynical people about politics. I was surprised that Mitch McConnell came out with a statement as quickly as he did, saying not, "It is unlikely that President Obama's nominee goes through," "There's no point in President Obama putting a nominee forward."

You then saw Harry Reid respond. Given that and given what we've heard from Ted Cruz, from Donald Trump, from Marco Rubio, I think Mitch McConnell will feel under considerable political pressure. I know he just got re-elected. Considerable political pressure to shut this thing down before it ever starts.

CHUCK TODD:

And Gwen, this is the box he's in, right? The base. Oh my God, they don't want to see even a chance that somebody could get confirmed. On the other hand, there's five blue-state Republicans who, do they want to look like obstructionists? Like, he's basically, he's got a tiger on one end, and a cliff on the other, I think.

GWEN IFILL:

Is this the box that Mitch McConnell has been in, and that John Boehner was in for a very long time. I was not surprised that it came out that quickly. I'm not sure that he had any choice but to come out and say, "This is the line we're going to draw." And then step back and let other people fight it out.

Just as the leader to say, "This is the line I'm drawing." And as we saw from the pressure coming from the presidential candidates, that wasn't a big risk for him. And for the blue-state Republicans, we'll worry about them later. But right now, they have to worry about the base.

RON FOURNIER:

I think it's even worse than this. Within 20 minutes of the announcement that he was dead, I got an email from a very prominent Republican consultant, all of you know, saying, "We are not going to allow even a hearing." The man's body, a good man's body was not even dead yet, and politics was already in play.

The Republicans are not going to let this happen. It's totally irresponsible. It's a sign again of our democracy, of our system not functioning. And I have no reason to believe that if a Republican leads the White House, why would the Democrats not--

CHUCK TODD:

I was just going to say. This is a heavy political race.

RON FOURNIER:

I think we could have a three-three for years.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

This seems like a really good time to say that among conservatives especially, people are very, very sad today. So I think we should just acknowledge that for a moment. Because Justice Scalia, you know, we've heard a lot about the many wonders of his personality and his brilliant mind and all that. But to your point, I agree, it was just a little bit jarring, to suddenly have everyone talking about the political implications. I mean, that's our job.

CHUCK TODD:

Within hours.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Within hours.

RON FOURNIER:

Within minutes.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

And I got a call from the Hill, just, you know, somebody just saying, "Okay, game over, time to get serious, everything matters now." And but let me just say this, on the conservative side, I think a lot of those people, a lot of Republicans feel that President Obama does not respect the constitution. And that he has gone around the legislative body to, you can argue that he had to, but to get what he wanted done.

RON FOURNIER:

So, it for them not to respect the constitution.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

No, but also let's remember, you know, it's not unusual, I mean, it's very unusual to nominate a Supreme Court justice during an election year. It's only happened once in 80 years. And Kennedy, Justice Kennedy it took a year.

CHUCK TODD:

Well it did, we had the board fight. I want to move to the debate very quickly. But we'll know what kind of fight President Obama wants. If he finds somebody who's a little more to the right of his two previous nominations in order to find a confirmable sort of left-leaning judge or not.

GWEN IFILL:

There's not such a thing as a confirmable--

CHUCK TODD:

I don't think anymore. But--

GWEN IFILL:

But--it's clear that President Obama was not going to take Mitch McConnell's advice on this.

RON FOURNIER:

But he started out on the high road yesterday a very, a high road, you know, complimentary--

GWEN IFILL:

Yeah, of course.

RON FOURNIER:

--Scalia, he should do the same thing. Put up somebody who would be confirmable if things were working well and show that the Republicans aren't willing to work.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Well, that is the risk for the Republicans. And, you know, he's got to be thinking, "Oh my gosh, Ted Cruz or Donald Trump could become president, and then they're going to appoint the next justice?"

RON FOURNIER:

And, a big story, Chuck, this is another sign of the political dysfunction in this town that you and I have talked about for a long time. I really think it's going to be a long time before we have nine judges on that court.

GWEN IFILL:

Can I just say one more thing? There is also a risk for these Republicans that maybe Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders does get elected. And by holding up the court appointment until the next president, the next president could be a Democrat.

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, all of these potential presidential candidates, be careful what you wish for. If your first hundred days is dominated by a Supreme Court fight in the environment, you will get nothing else done.

CHRIS CILLIZZA:

And we talked about this, you have basically one big swing. Like with Obama, it was healthcare. So if your one big swing is----you have to do.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, that's--

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Well, the right thing to do is the right thing. And I agree with what we're saying here, you just let the process.

CHUCK TODD:

Let it--

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Let it roll.

CHUCK TODD:

Just let it roll. All right, we've got to let it roll here. We're going to do some debate chatter later in the show. But coming up, Bernie Sanders came up big with white voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. But can he win over African Americans to defeat Hillary Clinton in states like South Carolina?

(BEGIN TAPE)

BERNIE SANDERS:

I said "black" 50 times. All right? That's the 51st time.

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

After the New Hampshire primary, we saw a flood of press releases from the national parties and their related interest groups. And most of them had a similar theme. They did not want to talk about what's going on on their side of the aisle at all.

Look at this, the RNC wrote, "Hillary Clinton's resounding loss in New Hampshire is another devastating blow for her campaign." And then the House campaign Republican arm said, "Clinton was defeated in the first-in-the-nation primary by an elderly socialist." On the Democratic side, it wasn't much better. Their congressional committee was even more colorful.

"In the New Hampshire snowscape, where robot Rubios run free, and the Republican debate stage mirrors an SNL skit, Donald Trump has emerged as the decisive frontrunner." And their Senate campaign arm declared, "Trump has done nothing but cause anxiety and heartburn for Senate incumbents and candidates since his launch."

So national Republicans and Democrats, burying their heads in the sand about what's going on there. Ha-ha Sanders and ha-ha Trump, while they're trying to avoid confronting what's going on in their own parties. Anyway, we'll be right back with the latest on the increasingly bitter fight between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Bernie Sanders proved he could do very well against Hillary Clinton among liberal white voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. But a recent NBC News/ Wall Street Journal/ Marist poll gave Hillary Clinton a 57 point lead among African Americans in South Carolina. No surprise then that the morning after New Hampshire, Sanders travelled to Harlem for breakfast with my next guest, civil rights leader and MSNBC host Al Sharpton. Reverend Sharpton, welcome back to Meet the Press.

REV. AL SHARPTON:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD: I want to play for you an interaction that Bernie Bernie Sanders had on Friday with an African American voter in Minnesota and get your response on the other side. Here it is.

(BEGIN TAPE)

FEMALE VOICE:

So the question specifically, my black son, okay, I know you're scared to say black, I know you're scared to say reparations, because it seems like every time--

BERNIE SANDERS:

Hold on, ma'am, I don't think that's the fairest--

FEMALE VOICE:

I'd like to finish.

BERNIE SANDERS:

We have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth, especially within the African American community.

SHOUT FROM CROWD:

Say black!

BERNIE SANDERS:

But I, I've said "black" 50 times, all right? That's the 51st time.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Is that a fair criticism from the crowd of him?

REV. AL SHARPTON:

Well, I think that what it is, is that people have felt, in our communities, ignored and marginalized in that people have kind of, like, generally discussed things. And we supposed to assume we're part of that, when we have some very specific needs. And all of us don't agree, nobody can deliver the black vote.

But all of us agree that there are specific things that you just can't cover just talking about economic inequality without talking about racial inequality in there. You can't just talk about the problems with Washington, without talking about a race problem in there. So I think that some of the anger you hear is from being marginalized. And that has come from both liberals and conservatives.

CHUCK TODD:

Go ahead, guys.

CHRIS CILLIZZA:

I think the reverend is right, in that I think this is the problem for Bernie Sanders. Is that Bernie Sanders believes at the core, the fundamental inequality that explains America is economic in nature, not racial, not anything else. The problem is he believes, "Well, I've covered it, I've talked about economic equality." You heard his response there in Minnesota. That's not enough for some voters.

CHUCK TODD:

Is he-- go ahead.

GWEN IFILL:

It was also in that same event, he was asked about reparations. Now he's been through this argument already. Yet somehow, he went back to what we were talking about, talking in general about economic inequality. The skepticism about Bernie Sanders among many African Americans can be summed up in two ads he's run. One, the wonderful Simon and Garfunkel, we come to America ad where there was barely a face of color in it. And now a new ad that he dropped yesterday, which has almost nothing but faces of color, this together ad. Which actually is very, reminds me a lot of the Will.I.Am ad from 2008, because it was very much about how we can all be together. And that's--

REV. AL SHARPTON:

Part of the problem that I think that is coming to the surface in this is that we have experienced both in the liberal north and the south hostility. Let's not forget Howard Beach, where Bernie Sanders was born in New York, Howard Beach was in the north. People like me emerged in the north. I never lived in the south. We're dealing with Hollywood, progressive Hollywood, with an Oscar whiteout right now. So I think what a lot of people are beginning to see is, "Wait a minute, we do not want to be marginalized, and we don't want to be thrown into a situation where specific needs are not dealt with."

RON FOURNIER:

What if Bernie Sanders talked about one of the issues where the African American community has been marginalized, instead of talking about the number of times he said "black"? What if he talked about the number of African Americans who were imprisoned under President Clinton? What if he talked about the ten-to-one racial disparity that President Clinton supported? What if he talked about Hillary Clinton talking about super predators and driving them to heal?

And what if he said, "I have a solution for this. I'm going to unleash the powers of presidential clemency, and I'm going to free every person, many of whom are African Americans, who are in prison over sentences that have not been grandfathered?"

REV. AL SHARPTON:

Well, I think if he--

RON FOURNIER:

How powerful would that be in South Carolina?

REV. AL SHARPTON:

If he talked about those issues, whether people agreed or not, at least they'd be specific issues. The problem is is when you talk about president, the problem is when you talk about President Clinton and the crime bill, is Bernie Sanders voted for it. So that might be one reason he doesn't bring it up. But I think that at the other side of that is, Mr. Clinton has said he made a mistake, Mr. Sanders oughta say he shouldn't have voted for it, and then we ought to talk about how we deal with mass incarceration, police reform, and all of these issues. I don't think unless we press it, those of us that--

CHUCK TODD

I've got to wrap it up here. I've got to wrap it up here, but Reverend Sharpton, are you going to endorse before South Carolina?

REV. AL SHARPTON:

I don't know. We meet with Mrs. Clinton Tuesday. We're talking to Senator Sanders. We may or may not. What I don't want to get caught in is who we're going to endorse. I want to see who's going to endorse us having a fair share in this country. Not whose side are we on, who's on our side?

CHUCK TODD:

Reverend Sharpton, I will leave it there. Prophetic words. When we come back, we have less than a minute with our endgame segment. Some of the highlights or lowlights from last night's debate.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

(BEGIN TAPE)

GOV. JEB BUSH:

While Donald Trump was building a reality TV show, my brother was building a security apparatus to keep us safe. And I'm proud of what he did. And he's had the gall to go after my father.

DONALD TRUMP:

The World Trade Center came down during your brother's reign--

GOV. JEB BUSH:

He's had the gall to go after my mother--

DONALD TRUMP:

Let's remember that--

GOV. JEB BUSH:

He's had the gall to go after my mother.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD

Endgame time. Panel is back. We have to discuss the debate. Kathleen, Jeb Bush's big moment there, taking on Trump.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Yeah, that was a good line. You know, he, every time Trump baits Jeb Bush, Jeb Bush responds. And it never works that well for him. I don't know why, but he just can't pull it off. And every time Trump opens his mouth, I think, "Okay, he's really trying to get fired this time. This is the one, this is the time he's going to do it."

You know, it's all about style. I mean, you can say the Iraq War was a mistake. But you could also say in South Carolina particularly, where you have a high percentage of military people and veterans, "With great respect to the brave men and women who fought in Iraq, I have to just say, you know, it was a mistake and I think a lot of people agree. And let me just say this." And then go on. But, you know, he attacks the family, he attacks the mother. And, you know, Jeb's desperate. He brought in Laura yesterday.

CHRIS CILLIZZA:

If any other candidate, literally in politics in America performed the way that Donald Trump did in that debate last night, I would have written and concluded this person has gone off the rails. He looked angry. To Kathleen's point though, he kept--

GWEN IFILL:

Oh, we know better than that now.

CHRIS CILLIZZA:

"You spent $36 million," you know, the thing about the New Hampshire and ads that people don't care about. But, any sentence that begins, "This is going to doom Donald Trump because," has been proven wrong so many times.

KAHTLEEN PARKER:

Yeah, over and over.

CHRIS CILLIZZA:

What's the point?

RON FOURNIER:

And it's not so much about Trump, it's about the people who are supporting him, who are so angry with the establishment, why do we assume that they're going to defend the establishment, they're going to defend Bush--

GWEN IFILL:

But you know what, it was interesting to watch Marco Rubio, who's found a way to wait, to let the fight between Trump, Cruz, and Bush play out. And then he said, "And this is what I believe," and he did it in that fluid, non-repetitive way, that we have come to know that Marco Rubio can do. And I think in that respect, he did himself a favor last night.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

It was mutually-assured destruction last night, and it was a very good night for Kasich.

CHUCK TODD:

It's interesting, look, I think we have Trump, Cruz, one, two, and we don't know which order one, two is going to be. Third place matters.

CHRIS CILLIZZA:

Well, and that's why I thought, I thought Jeb was actually as good as he has been, and I actually thought--

CHUCK TODD

But Rubio doing well didn't help.

CHRIS CILLIZZA:

Rubio needed to do another last Saturday debate. Because Rubio's B+ is better than Jeb's A in debate terms. And I think Rubio was better, did more good for himself. I thought to Gwen's point, how does Marco Rubio wind up being the big figure defending the Bush administration in a fight--

CHUCK TODD:

More so.

CHRIS CILLIZZA

--with Jeb Bush on the stage?

CHUCK TODD

I know, he stole Jeb's thunder

KATHLEEN PARKER:

I think that overall, don't you think people just felt like, "Okay kids, can you just start fighting?"

GWEN IFILL:

Well, and to your point about John Kasich--

KATHLEEN PARKER:

And John Kasich.

GWEN IFILL:

--who clearly has said, "There's only one little place left for me to go. I can't get into that fight, I'm not going to win it. I'm not going to get heard otherwise, so I'm just going to be Mr. Positivity we saw again this morning.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm glad to have that point, Gwen.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Absolutely.

CHUCK TODD

I love it. My mom will be happy about that. That's all for today. We'll be back next week, because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *