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Meet the Press - June 25, 2017

NBC News - Meet The Press

"6.25.17"

(Begin Tape)

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday the battle over health care. Can the G.O.P. plan pass? Some Republicans say their bill is too harsh.

SEN. DEAN HELLER:

I cannot support a piece of legislation that takes insurance away from tens of millions of Americans.

CHUCK TODD:

Others say it does not go far enough.

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Maybe we'll have to pass whatever this is. But it's not going to fix the whole problem.

CHUCK TODD:

While Democrats and the left are unanimously opposed.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Thousands of people will die.

CHUCK TODD:

This morning, I'll talk to Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, and independent progressive Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Plus, the Democrats' loss in Georgia leads to calls for Nancy Pelosi to step down.

REP. TIM RYAN:

You've got to beat the Republican and you've got to carry this very toxic Democratic brand on your back.

CHUCK TODD:

But Pelosi says she's not going anywhere.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

I think I'm worth the trouble, quite frankly.

CHUCK TODD:

For Democrats to win the House, do they need a new candidate for speaker? Democrats on both sides of the issue join me this morning. Also, Russian election meddling. In this stunning statement from an Obama-administration official, "I feel like we sort of choked." What we now know about what the Obama White House knew and when it knew it.

Joining me for insight and analysis are syndicated columnist George Will, Helene Cooper of The New York Times, NBC News chief White House correspondent Hallie Jackson, and Mark Leibovich of The New York Times Magazine. Welcome to Sunday. It's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

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

(End Tape)

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. This was a week that brought into focus more clearly than ever the hardening of our political cultures. One left, one right, one blue, one red, one liberal, one conservative. From the special congressional election in Georgia to the debate over health care, to the Russian investigation, and even to the shooting at that Republican baseball practice, Americans watched their favorite cable channels, clicked on their top news site, and spoke and listened primarily to those who already agreed with them.

Our NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll bears this out this week. 38 percent gave President Trump a positive rating, 38 percent believe the economy has improved and that the president deserves the credit, 38 percent believe Obamacare is a bad idea, and 38 percent want efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare to continue.

Do you notice a pattern? That 38 percent largely packed into Republican districts, maybe just enough to push the Republican healthcare plan and President Trump's priorities over the line. And it's just another data point that illustrates why these days, to many voters, it may be less satisfying to win than to see the other side lose.

PRES. TRUMP:

I'll tell you about the Democrats. I am making it a little bit hard to get their support, but who cares?

CHUCK TODD:

Americans' distrust in institutions is becoming an old story. But now the most basic institution is crumbling: the trust Americans have in each other.

MALE VOICE:

The Democrats are making it divided. Instead of working together, they're fighting.

MALE VOICE:

The Republicans are honestly, they're looking out for their interests.

FEMALE VOICE:

The Democrats are so nasty.

FEMALE VOICE:

It bothers me that we're so separated as a nation.

CHUCK TODD:

The right and the left don't just disagree on solutions, they can't agree on fundamental facts.

FEMALE VOICE:

We elected Trump. We have to take what he says and believe what he says.

CHUCK TODD:

Just 26 percent of Republicans say they believe Russia interfered in the presidential election, compared with 78 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of Independents.

PRES. TRUMP:

They have phony witch hunts going against me, they have everything going. And you know what? All we do is win, win, win.

CHUCK TODD:

Washington has been captured by these tribal tendencies, producing a healthcare debate which is less debate and more all-out rhetorical brawl.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

These cuts are blood money. People will die.

RUSH LIMBAUGH:

You know what blood money is? Blood money is the money Democrats are raising since their recent attempted massacre of those Republicans at the baseball practice.

CHUCK TODD:

On Friday, Hillary Clinton tweeted, "Forget death panels. If Republicans pass this bill, they're the death party." The hardening polarization of Congress has led to a process where healthcare legislation has been crafted by one party in secret over just 52 days. Even some senate Republicans acknowledge this is no way to govern.

SEN. RAND PAUL:

I think it's being written by someone somewhere, but I'm not aware of who or where.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN:

We used to complain like hell when the Democrats ran the Affordable Care Act. Now they're doing the same thing.

CHUCK TODD:

A long list of healthcare advocacy groups oppose this bill, which would slash Medicaid spending in part by putting caps on how much federal money states can receive. All of that, despite Candidate Trump's campaign promises.

PRES. TRUMP:

I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid. Every other Republican's going to cut.

CHUCK TODD:

The Senate bill would also deliver roughly a trillion dollars in tax cuts over ten years. And it would allow states to drop many of the benefits required by Obamacare, like maternity care, emergency services, and mental-health treatment. In the end, Senate Republicans are speaking to a single audience, the 38 percent of voters who make up the president's base.

MALE VOICE:

I think they should vote for the healthcare bill and then make changes to it as they can, because Obama's bill is dead.

CHUCK TODD:

We've identified eight Republican senators whose vote is currently in question as the healthcare vote draws near, four from the moderate end of things, Susan Collins, Dean Heller, Lisa Murkowski, and Cory Gardner; and four conservatives, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Ron Johnson, and Ted Cruz. And Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin joins me now. He calls himself a "no" on the healthcare bill. Sen. Johnson, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Good morning, Chuck. Well, what I'm actually saying is I'm not a "yes" yet.

CHUCK TODD:

Fair enough, fair enough.

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

So a little bit different.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start first with process before we get to the substance. In fact, you yourself seem to lament how this has gone down. Earlier this week, you were lamenting the partisan aspect of this process. And you said, "Maybe this is what has to happen. The Democrats had their partisan bill, Republicans are doing ours, and then we'll sit down and start working in a bipartisan fashion and fix our healthcare system."

It seems to me you're admitting or you may be admitting that even if you guys passed this bill, it's going to be done in a partisan basis, and as soon as the Democrats get power, they'll do another bill, and we have more uncertainty in the healthcare market. Aren't we just banging our head against the wall here?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

You know, Chuck, my background really is manufacturing, I'm also an accountant. So I understand without a good process, you're not going to end up with a good product. And a process in terms of problem solving starts with information. But that's kind of foreign to Washington, D.C. I'm not of that world. You know, Washington, D.C. is an alternative universe, where people just talk about policies, void of facts, void of the types of information you really need to solve a problem.

So that's my first point right now is we don't have enough information. I don't have the feedback from constituencies who will not have had enough time to review the Senate bill. We should not be voting on this next week. But we should have started the process, reaching out to the Democrats, pointing out the fact that Obamacare didn't work, it did drive premiums up more than double nationally, some places three times has been the increase in premiums. Let's acknowledge that, let's repair the damage done by Obamacare and transition to something that works.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, you just described why this process hasn't worked. For instance, we have this debate about these insurance companies. Why are they leaving the market? Here's something that Congress doesn't know. They don't know the answer to that question because you didn't hold a single hearing with a single head of an insurance company in the last couple of months. So how do we know why?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

We do, but nobody wants to really talk about it. We know why these premiums have increased. I am reminded by, remember President Bill Clinton talking about Obamacare as a crazy system? He started talking about the people that are busting it, sometimes working 60 hours a week, and then they're left with premiums that have doubled and their coverage cut in half.

Those are the forgotten men and women in this entire healthcare debate, but we know why those premiums doubled. We've done something with our healthcare system that you never even think about doing, for example, with auto insurance, where you'd require auto insurance companies to sell a policy to somebody after they crashed their car. States that have enacted guaranteed issue, which is the guarantee for preexisting conditions, it crashes their markets. It causes these markets to collapse, it causes premiums to skyrocket.

Now the good news, Chuck, is you can actually address people with preexisting conditions without collapsing markets. It's by properly designing high-risk pools. Maine passed guaranteed issue, and what they had to do is they had to institute an invisible high-risk pool. But we don't have the courage in Washington. We don't have the honesty to talk about these things with real information, real facts, go through that problem-solving process, information, agree on achievable goals, then set the strategies, then pass the legislation.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, isn't some of the problem here the rhetoric that gets used? And look, I'm going to use you as an example here.

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to play the rhetoric you used during your reelection campaign. Here it is.

(Begin Tape)

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

This is our shot. We're not going to be able to repeal Obamacare the next time. This is our shot.

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Then yes, you bet I'd repeal it in a heartbeat.

(End Tape)

CHUCK TODD:

And then this is what you said in January.

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

I would.

CHUCK TODD:

No, but this is what you said in January about that rhetoric.

(Begin Tape)

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

It's way more complex than simply repeal and replace. That's a fun little buzzword, but it's just not accurate.

(End Tape)

CHUCK TODD:

The point is, during the campaign you used that fun little buzzword. And your constituents are hearing that buzzword, and then they're looking at this now and saying, "You've been promising repeal and replace on the campaign trail for seven years as a party." Now you're being realistic, I think, in the January statement when there isn't an election coming. But isn't this part of the problem in that you used one set of rhetoric during an election year, and then when you need a pragmatic process, the constituents don't buy it?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Well, the problem Chuck is on shows like this, you get a couple minutes and you have to condense what you want to do. No, I would repeal all of Obamacare and I would replace it with something that'd actually work. Focus on repairing the damage done. That's those skyrocketing premiums, those are the collapsing markets, that's addressing the forgotten men and women.

But, you know, here's some other inflamed rhetoric, you said it yourself. Slashing Medicaid. Now that's Washington speak. My definition of a cut is spending being reduced year over year. We don't have the final figures, but any projections that I've been working with, regardless of the bill, I don't see anything other than a reduction in the growth of spending.

So let's be honest about what we're talking about here. We are $20 trillion in debt. Over the next 30 years, according to C.B.O., another $129 trillion of accumulated deficit. We are mortgaging our children's future. A compassionate society doesn't impoverish future generations for benefits in the here and now.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, let's be realistic here. I think your concerns probably are never going to be fully addressed in this bill. What does it take for you? At some point, you've got to decide whether to do this or not. Is the political pressure of saying, "Boy, if you don't do this...” and you're one of the Republicans, and you've heard from Pres. Trump, he hopes “his good friends don't tank this bill," how much of that political pressure weigh on you even though you look at this bill and you see a lot of flaws?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Chuck, the reason I left a life I loved in Oshkosh, Wisconsin here is to fix this problem. And what I find so disappointing is these bills aren't going to fix the problem. They're not addressing the root cause. They're doing the same old Washington thing, throwing more money at the problem. And of course, we have all the inflamed rhetoric.

So what I'd like to do is slow the process down, get the information, go through the problem-solving process, actually reduce these premiums that have been artificially driven up because of Obamacare mandates. So let's actually fix the problem. But in the end, I come from manufacturing base. I will look at whatever I'm forced to vote on, and I'll ask myself, "Is this better tomorrow than where we are today? Is it continuous improvement?" And that's what will guide my decision.

CHUCK TODD:

So you don't like this process, but you're not willing to be the vote to delay things to force the process to get better?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Well, I would like to delay the thing. There's no way we should be voting on this next week. No way. There's no way the folks in Wisconsin--

CHUCK TODD:

Are you going to work to stop it? Are you going to work to stop a vote next week?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

I have a hard time believing Wisconsin constituents or even myself will have enough time to properly evaluate this, for me to vote for a motion to proceed. So I've been encouraging leadership, the White House, anybody I can talk to for quite some time, let's not rush this process. Let's have the integrity to show the American people what it is, show them the truth--

CHUCK TODD:

And why haven't they listened to you?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--so we can actually argue against the rhetoric. Well, maybe they will.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. Well, we're going to find out this week. Sen. Johnson, as you lamented, I'm out of time. I do wish we had more time. But until we meet again, thanks for coming on and sharing your views, sir.

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Have a great day.

CHUCK TODD:

Appreciate it. Let's turn over to Senator Bernie Sanders over Vermont. He is not at all conflicted about the Republican healthcare bill. He is holding rallies this weekend in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio, in an attempt to generate opposition to the bill and plainly says, "If it passes, thousands will die." Senator Sanders joins me now from Columbus, Ohio. Senator, welcome back sir.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Good to be with you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to first address that rhetoric. You tweeted that issue of saying that yes, you thought people would die. And then Senator Orrin Hatch retweeted, he said here, "Let us be clear. This is not trying to be overly dramatic. Thousands of people will die if the Republican healthcare bill becomes law." Orrin Hatch retweeted you and said, "This brief time when we were not accusing those we disagree with of murder was nice while it lasted." Any regrets at using the rhetoric you used?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

No. Chuck--

CHUCK TODD:

Considering what Senator Hatch said?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Chuck, what the Republican proposal does is throw 23 million Americans off of health insurance. What Harvard University, what a part of Harvard University, the scientists there determine is when you throw 23 million people off of health insurance, people with cancer, people with heart disease, people with diabetes, thousands of people will die.

I wish I didn't have to say it. This is not me. This is study after study making this point. It is common sense. If you have cancer and your insurance is taken away from you, there is a likelihood you will die and certainly a likelihood that you will become much sicker than you are today. That's the fact. Unpleasant, but it's true.

Second of all, while they throw 23 million people off of health insurance, while they defund Planned Parenthood, while they raise premiums for older workers, people who are in their 60s, they see premiums that'll be 50 percent, 75 percent higher, they are going to provide some $500 billion in tax breaks to the top 2 percent, to the insurance companies, and to the drug companies. Is what America supposed to be about, taking away health insurance from kids with disabilities, from people with cancer, in order to give tax breaks to billionaires?

That is what this entire debate is about. And one of the things that bothers me very much, Chuck, 60 percent of the American people, according to a recent poll, don't even know what is in this healthcare, so-called healthcare legislation.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I want to talk about that process, because I think the process here, look, I think Senator Johnson brought up a good point earlier this week, that I asked him about, which you may have heard. Which is this idea that Obamacare passed with a partisan, just with the Democrats, this, if it passes, is only going to pass just with the Republicans. And we know no law ever is sustainable in this town when only one party has a piece of it, when only one party is invested in its success. If another party is invested in its failure--

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Well, Chuck, I--

CHUCK TODD:

So I guess my question is, this process has been a mess. Is there any way of fixing this process in next week, stopping it, starting from scratch. If the Republicans say, "We'll get rid of reconciliation of Democrats come to the table, would you come to the table?"

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Oh, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait. Please, don't say "come to the table." What the Republicans have done, and that's what Senator Johnson just said, and he's right, we are talking about one-sixth of the American economy when we talk about health care. We're talking about an issue that impacts 320 million Americans. Every single person. There has not been one public hearing.

The insurance company has not come forward. The American Medical Association has not come forward. There has been zero debate. All of this has been done behind closed doors. So please don't say, "Oh, the Democrats would come to the table." The Democrats were not invited.

CHUCK TODD:

No, I wasn't implying it that way. Senator, I understand that. I hear you on that. I'm saying, if there is, if Senator Johnson gets his way, which is he wants to delay this process, delay the vote, and actually have a process, actually have some hearings, it sounds as if he wants that. If Mitch McConnell says, "You know what, I'm giving up reconciliation because trying to do this on a partisan-only vote is damaging overall," at that point, are you open to some sort of bipartisan compromise?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Of course. Well, we're open to it. Let's have the discussion. That's what should happen. Senator Johnson is right. There is no way on God's earth that this bill should be passed this week. People of Wisconsin don't know what's in it, people of Vermont don't know what's in it. We need a serious discussion and I'm quite confident that every member of the Democratic caucus would want to hold that discussion.

But let me also say something else when we talk about where we are with health care. Please do not forget that the United States of America today remains the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all people as a right. And my view is, that the Affordable Care Act has problems, deductibles are too high, copayments are too high. We have to address that.

But I also want to say that there's something wrong when we remain the only country not to guarantee health care to all people as a right. I am going to go forward with a Medicare for all, single-payer program. And I think that's the direction long term that we should be going.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you a little bit about where the Democratic Party is overall. Because you said you want to go there, and that is not necessarily a unified position inside the left umbrella in this country. I say left, because you're not technically a member of the Democratic party. But why do you think Democrats lost that special election in Georgia last week?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Well, it's more than the special election. For the last nine years, Democrats have lost the White House, we've lost now the Senate, we've lost the U.S. House, two-thirds of governor's chairs are controlled by Republicans, a thousand seats have been lost to Republicans in state legislatures all over this country. I'll tell you what I think is going on.

I think there is a massive amount of demoralization on the part of the American people with the Democratic party, with the Republican party. I think the American people, in many cases, are seeing themselves working longer hours for lower wages, they're worried about their kids not being able to go to college, they're worried about what's going to happen to them when they are retiring.

They're seeing almost all new income and wealth going to the top 1 percent. There is an enormous amount of pain in this country, Chuck. And people are saying, "Does anybody in Washington know what's going on in my life? That I'm 60 years of age and I have nothing in the bank and I'll be retiring in five years? Or that I have $50,000 in college debt and I can't find a decent job? Does anybody know that? Do Republicans know it? Do the Democrats know it?"

And I think what the Democrats have got to say is that we will be on the side of the working class of this country. We are prepared to stand up to Wall Street and the drug companies who rip us off every day, and the insurance companies. And that we're going to fight for an agenda that makes sense to working families.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I'm going to leave it there because we're going to continue that debate after the break. Senator Sanders, thanks for coming on and sharing your views. Appreciate it as always.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Thank you very much.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, the brewing civil war inside the Democratic party, how that loss in Tuesday's special election in Georgia is leading to a debate over whether it's time for Nancy Pelosi to step aside.

* * *COMMERCIAL BREAK * * *

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panel is with us. Syndicated columnist George Will, Helene Cooper, Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times, NBC News chief White House correspondent Hallie Jackson, and Mark Leibovich, the chief national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine. Welcome all. George Will, let me start with you.

I want to get to the process part of this. Ron Johnson I think correctly stated, "Democrats did their partisan bill, Republicans did their partisan bill, maybe this is what it takes before the two parties come to solve this together." So it's an admittance that whatever gets passed is temporary.

GEORGE WILL:

Yes, but the process argument, while real, is an excuse it seems to me. I don't think the problem is that this violates the president's campaign promise not to cut Medicare. You can argue as Senator Johnson did that it's just a slowing of the expansion. The problem isn't that this violates the Mnuchin rule, which no one seems to remember. The Treasury secretary said there'd be no large tax cut for the wealthy. This is a large tax cut for the wealthy.

The problem isn't whether you scale back Medicare expansion in seven years or three years. Those are splittable differences. There are two problems here. One is that we don't take things back from people once we've given them. Once we did. Aid to families with dependent children was repealed part of the sacrosanct 1935 Civil Rights act, under 1996 welfare reform. But that took something away from poor people who are not organized, articulate and well lawyered.

This takes something away from people who've got it and they value it because they've got it now. Second, after eight years of debating this, we're up against the fact that expansion of Medicaid is exactly what this is about. Fifty-five million people are on Medicare, 68 million are on Medicaid, and we're still arguing about whether or not we should have government control of health care. It's there.

CHUCK TODD:

Now it's about reforming it. No, Helene, it is sort of, the irony here is that there is rhetoric that indicates, "Oh, we can't. We've got to get back into the private market." It's not private.

HELENE COOPER:

No, no. And it hasn't been for a while. I was very—It was really funny because this morning, I snapped awake at 2:45 in the morning and looked at Facebook because I was worried about my alarm not going off at 6:30 to wake me up to get here.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand. Yeah.

HELENE COOPER:

And the first thing that popped up on my page was an ad for Senator Dean Heller telling people, it's on Facebook already, to hurry up and make calls to him to make sure that he votes for the Republican plan. This is Senator Dean Heller of Nevada who was the one who did look like he was in a hostage video earlier on Friday when he said he wasn't going to support the bill as it stands right now. And I'm just so fascinated by just how these lines are being drawn right now. And it’s not over—it doesn't seem at this point to be—a lot of this is about process.

HALLIE JACKSON:

And when you look at who is on which side of the line, Chuck, you showed that graphic of which senators, they--

CHUCK TODD:

Let's put them back up. We've got the moderates there, she brought up Dean Heller, it's Heller, it's Collins, it's Murkowski, it's Cory Gardner, interestingly enough.

HALLIE JACKSON:

Well, and that's one that Democrats-- it's the Democratic operatives who say Gardner is actually somebody to watch. They've learned the hard lesson that health care is not just something that becomes an issue in the most immediate next election, but it's one that could become an issue down the road, maybe in 2020. And I remember Senator Gardner as somebody who's running the campaigns here in 2018. So he's someone to watch.

The president is reaching out a little bit. I know he had some phone calls Friday with at least one of the folks who's on that list, trying to get people on board. But the White House feels like they have some time now. I had somebody say to me, "Well, the vote is not going to happen until Thursday, so we have a little time to do that outreach." There are fewer people we need to do that outreach to. But at the same time, this thing is going to go by quick.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, it's interesting, I do think if McConnell successfully makes the political—it's because he made the political argument, not a policy argument, right? He made the argument the base will reject you. I think they can—I think they’re right about Cory Gardner. They can bluff their way through 2018 on this. I don't know if they can bluff their way to 2020 on this.

MARK LEIBOVICH:

Possibly. I mean, I think the more this debate is about Medicaid, the more that potentially cuts into the Trump base. You could take—you can look at video all day of Trump saying over and over again during the campaign, "We're not going to touch Medicaid, we're not going to touch Medicare." Sean Spicer, as recently as a few days ago said, "This bill does not really have any effect on Medicaid or Medicare."

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, Republicans won control of Congress largely on accusing Democrats of cutting Medicare, when they were cutting Medicare advantage.

MARK LEIBOVICH:

Here we go again.

CHUCK TODD:

So by the way, both parties know how to exploit that issue.

MARK LEIBOVICH:

Correct. Oh, absolutely. But I mean Republicans are in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation in some way, one because as George said, this is already the law of the land. But also, if they mess, or if they repeal this bill, it is going to affect a lot of people. And a lot of these people are in the Trump base. If they don't do anything, the base could possibly rebel.

CHUCK TODD:

And that's the thing. It feels like they're picking between their base and their constituent, Shelley Moore Capito to me, it's like Medicaid expansion on one hand, George, and on the other hand, she would lose a Republican primary over this.

GEORGE WILL:

Oh, repeal and replace Obamacare is extremely popular, 80 to 15. And Republicans--

HELENE COOPER:

Except a lot of people don't understand what that means.

GEORGE WILL:

Of course. And it's a sort of wash in the rest of the country, which means I think at the end of the day, people are going to wake up and see that no matter what we pass, it's not repeal and replace, it's tweak and move onto something we'd like to do, which is infrastructure and tax reform.

HELENE COOPER:

Uh-huh.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, the president going to get this?

HALLIE JACKSON:

You know, he seems optimistic. He did an interview that's new out today talking about wanting to have everybody come together. And he doesn't understand why the Democrats and Republicans can't sort of hug and make up on this one. He wants it, but at the same time, he's a lot more hands-off than what we saw in the House portion.

Remember when he was doing a lot of one-on-one outreach, he was having a ton of Congress members over to his house, he had that big celebration at the Rose Garden. We are not seeing that this time around. And part of that is intentional.

HELENE COOPER:

But that didn't come right away. That came after he had lost the first time.

HALLIE JACKSON:

Right, that's true. So maybe that's what it takes for him again.

MARK LEIBOVICH:

I do think though the operative word, especially on the Hill is move on. I mean, there is a sense, especially around leadership, that if they can lose, it would be good to lose quickly.

CHUCK TODD:

Lose quick. Yeah. Lose, lose fast. All right, we'll pause it here. When we come back, in order for Democrats to win the House, do they need a new candidate for speaker of the House? I talked to two Democrats, one who says it's time for Nancy Pelosi to go, and another who's not ready to say that just yet.

* * *COMMERCIAL BREAK* * *

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Democrat Jon Ossoff may not have been the only loser in Tuesday's special congressional election in Georgia. Groups aligned with President Trump, Speaker Paul Ryan, and former Speaker Newt Gingrich spent a combined $4.5 million in that race simply to tie Ossoff to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The ads made sure that Pelosi's supposed San Francisco liberalism and Jon Ossoff were indistinguishable, as you can see in these ads. And apparently, it worked. That's led some Democrats to call for Pelosi to step down, including Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio who actually challenged Pelosi last November for the position of House Democratic leader. He joins me now along with Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, who along with her husband and his father have made sure that Michigan has been represented by a Dingell, by the way, since 1933.

Welcome to both of you. Congressman Ryan, you have not been shy at all this week about what happened post-election there. Let me be blunt. If Nancy Pelosi wasn't leader, if you were leader, do you think John Ossoff would be a member of Congress today?

REP. TIM RYAN:

Well, let me first say, Chuck, I don't want to be leader. This is not about me. I don't want to run against Nancy Pelosi. I did that in November, I spoke my peace, I got everything out I needed to say. But I think it would be hard for us to say that after $5 million being spent tying that candidate to her, that it didn't have some effect.

The Republicans wouldn't still be using this if it didn't have some effect. And so it's still being used for a reason. And I think that's a discussion that we need to have. Now, with the health care coming down the pike now and everything that's going on, we do need to stay united as Democrats, especially this week, because of the travesty that would happen to a lot of our constituents. But we do need to have a family discussion. I don't necessarily need to lead it, because I've been pretty clear. But if others want to have that discussion, I'm happy to have it.

CHUCK TODD:

Debbie Dingell, you've seen a lot of this over the years. You've seen these party fights from the outside, from the inside. I'm curious of your reaction to what your colleague Kathleen Rice said earlier this week. Let me play it.

(Begin Tape)

REP. KATHLEEN RICE:

Nancy Pelosi was a great speaker, she is a great leader. But her time has come and gone. Yes, she's a great fundraiser, but if the money that we are raising through her leadership is not helping us win elections, then we have to have this difficult conversation now.

(End Tape)

CHUCK TODD:

Is she right?

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL:

No. I'm going to tell you point blank, and I'll respectfully disagree with her, because I love Kathleen. We were in the same class. I never thought we were going to win any of these four seats. I have been around. I am seasoned. These people were selected to go in the cabinet because they were in safe, Republican seats.

Two or three months ago, I would never have bet we came as come as we did in those. The Cook Report's done a very independent analysis of this and it says we've outperformed in all four of these seats by 8 percent. And if we were to continue in those numbers, the Republicans should be worried we could win 80 seats next November. Now that's not going to happen, we all know that, because we're running against incumbents.

But if you'd get pragmatic, we always attack the leader. I don't care who it is. As I say to people, I remember when we were attacking Tip O'Neill. I was very young, but I remember it. We love to attack our leaders, either party.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, let me ask you this though, and first, Congresswoman Dingell, I want to start with you. Because I think I know what Tim Ryan's answer’s going to be. How do you make the case in 2018 to be the change party and create a change election atmosphere if when every Democrat that's running for a House seat gets asked, "Well, who are you going to support for speaker? Are you going to support Nancy Pelosi?" And if she's speaker in 2019, are you sending a message of change to the voter who thinks, "Oh, I thought we voted that out?"

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL:

So I have a lot of things to say about, first of all, I think that if each of us doesn't start taking some responsibility for the leadership we have and start acting like a "we," we're not going to win. And that's one of our biggest problems. As you know, I care deeply about the issues for the coast, I care deeply about urban issues, but I also care about issues in the Midwest.

And Tim and I really share that passion of fighting for the working men and women. So we've got to stop this finger pointing, and each of us has got to learn how we're going to become part of the "we" and the community that's going to win. And when people start talking about age and everything, let's talk about that.

We elected a 70-year-old as president, Bernie Sanders is 75, Joe Biden's 74. The representative government is people of all generations, all ages. And we've got to come together and each of us has got to take responsibility for what we are as part of that "we."

CHUCK TODD:

Tim Ryan, has some of this criticism of Nancy Pelosi been too harsh and too unfair?

REP. TIM RYAN:

Well, what's been unfair is that it's not necessarily her fault. They spent, I would say, hundreds of millions of dollars against her. And as I said during the campaign, I've got enormous respect for Nancy Pelosi, I love Nancy Pelosi, she's helped me throughout my career and she was a tremendous speaker. We're talking about health care for everybody today because of the work that she has done.

So this is completely unfair. But the reality is the reality is that the fact that we have to go into 2018 with a leader who has been damaged. And the caucus, at the end of the day, has to make this decision. But let's make no mistake about it. This is not about us having a family fight publicly. We're going to have this discussion.

But the reality of it is, and why I get so worked up about things like this, is because if we're not in power, Chuck, we can't help anybody. This isn't just a fight to have a fight. If Democrats aren't in, we talk about the Republicans taking 25 million people's health care away from them. But if the Democrats are in, we can talk about how we're going to help them with their wages, their jobs, their economic security, their pensions, reducing their healthcare bill and their energy bills, and putting money in their pocket.

This is not just a fight that we just want to have. We've got to have these discussions because we owe it to our constituents. We owe it to the American people to put us in a position to be able to fight for them. Right now, we don't control any of the levers of government as Senator Sanders said earlier. So we've got to win these elections and put ourselves in a good position to do it.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to close, and it's a question I'm going to give you both a shot at answering here. Because it stumped me. I do a Facebook Q&A every Friday afternoon. And a man by the name of Chuck Kitterman asked the following question: what is the Democratic Party's constituency at this time? What is their mission statement? Will Dems be able to parlay a multitude of special interest causes into a winning demographic for the 2018 midterms? I have to say, and Debbie Dingell, I'll start with you, the Democratic Party does feel as if it's a coalition of various special interest groups, not sort of one voice. Is that a fair critique?

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL:

I know who I'm working for. I'm working for the working men and women of my district. And that's what we all have to remember. That we're elected to represent the districts that we come from. And that's why coming together as the "we" matters. I don't like this word special interests.

Since when are working men and women special interest? We need to make sure that every American has all those issues that Tim just cared about. Every American's got a right to affordable, quality health care. To be able to get a good education. To live in a safe neighborhood. To make sure that they're going to have a safe retirement.

That's what Bernie Sanders did a very good of articulating that earlier. That's who we are as Democrats and we've got to come together as "we." It's not one person's responsibility, it's all of our responsibilities.

CHUCK TODD:

Tim Ryan, I've heard you on this. I think you believe the identity politics has been a bit of a detriment to the Democratic Party.

REP. TIM RYAN:

Well, if you're a marginalized citizen in any way, shape, or form, the Democratic Party is the party for you. And that means economically marginalized as well. And I don't care about color, man, woman, black, white, brown, gay, straight, we should be working for all of those groups and their economic interests.

The one thing that the Democrats have and we need to get back to and focus on is that economic message. And Sen. Sanders is very articulate and very clear about what we all need to stand for. Yes, we've got to go to the mat on these issues, there'll be quality and tolerance and we've got to fight for people who are marginalized in that regard.

But what unites all of those groups, Chuck, is an economic message. Every one of those people in those groups want to make more in the paycheck they get every two weeks. They want to pay less for their energy bill and less for health care and still have coverage. Those are pocketbook issues that unite everybody.

But when we get off on just the social issues, again, those are important, we need to fight for them, but if we just talk about those and we don't talk about the economic issues, we do get frayed, the Republicans come in and divide us, and then we get what we got in the last presidential election.

We got lower African-American turnout in some communities, we had white voters go and vote for Trump, and we had a diminished electorate. So focus on economics, put money back in the pocket of people, grow this new economy, and Democrats will get back into the majority.

CHUCK TODD:

Tim Ryan, Debbie Dingell, I thank you both for coming on and sharing your views. Appreciate it.

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL:

Great to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

All right.

REP. TIM RYAN:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Up next, why Amazon's growing influence may cost millions of Americans their jobs and why it also may lead to the next jobs crisis that will face politicians on the ballot.

* * *COMMERCIAL BREAK* * *

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Data download time. When Amazon bought Whole Foods and announced its new Prime Wardrobe service recently, it didn't just confirm the brick-and-mortar retail crisis in America, it signaled yet another gigantic disruption in our economy and where people are going to work. But, early warning, this is not just an economic issue. It's the next big political problem, the canary at the cash register, if you will, that could change the way we eventually vote.

The number of people working in retail has dropped, even as the economy has been recovering. In the two years between 2014 and 2016, the unemployment rate fell from 6.2 percent to 4.9 percent. Despite this, the number of people working in retail sales declined during that same period of time. Let me emphasize, more people employed overall, fewer people working in retail jobs.

Politicians spend a lot of time talking about disappearing manufacturing and coal jobs. But the great retail displacement has been largely ignored. And retail actually employs millions more than the coal industry, 4.5 million compared to 76,000. Anybody see a press conference about the loss of retail jobs recently?

Plus, people from all races and backgrounds work in retail. In fact, retail employees look a lot like the country as a whole. And, they come from all over the country. Retail isn't regional like coal, industry's Appalachia or manufacturing's Rust Belt. All of this suggests the loss of retail jobs is on the verge of hitting a crisis point, which will make it a hot-button issue in our politics.

The top ten states for retail are all in the biggest states in the country. They hold 2.4 million retail jobs and 256 electoral votes. If enough of those jobs disappear, expect a great retail displacement to become a growing major issue in 2018 and 2020. It's yet another massive economic transformation we're about to see.

The biggest issue in the next 25 years will be work, the future of it. The population is growing and the jobs are disappearing. When we come back, why did a former Obama administration official say the following: "I feel like we sort of choked"?

* * *COMMERCIAL BREAK* * *

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panel is back. Let's talk about the Democrats here. On one hand, you look at our generic ballot and from our NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. Democrats have an eight-point lead among those who say, "Who do you want to have control Congress?" 50 percent picked the Democrats, 42, so you would think, "Oh, that's good for the Democrats." But let me show you the 2016 popular vote House race total and how it translated into House seats.

And as you can see, Republicans won the popular vote by a point, but that one point allowed them a ten-point spread among House seats. The point is, if you do your math, Mr. Leibovich, and I know math isn't your favorite subject, but if you do your math there, it means an eight-point Democratic lead still wouldn't be enough to win control of the House for the Democrats. They've got some work to do.

MARK LEIBOVICH:

Correct. And I think the math actually obviously doesn't work in presidential equations either, as the Democrats found out here. No, they do. And I think it might be a little bit misguided to talk about the message that Democrats might lack here, because as Debbie Dingell pointed out, these are very specific and pointed messages that every congressional district has to do.

I do think that one, perhaps benefit of health care, if Republicans pass it is it actually would give Democrats a message. It would give Democrats something to run on in addition to Trump. And right now, there is absolutely no-- the economic populism that Congressman Ryan was talking about is as close as he was going these days to that.

HALLIE JACKSON:

And I think that one of the most important words that Debbie Dingell said herself was, "We don't want a leadership fight now." And when you talk to people, that's what you hear. I talked to one high-level Democrat who said, "Listen, this is not the time to get into Nancy Pelosi's leadership. We've got to fight for health care, we've got 2018 coming up."

That said, what happens after that, I think that there is an acknowledgement that this is something that needs to be discussed. You look at, for example, who will replace Nancy Pelosi. Not even Tim Ryan. As somebody phrased it to me last night, it's an airing of the grievances. There is no succession plan. This is just getting out, venting, blowing off some steam.

Even Republicans will acknowledge, and I spoke with one operative who said, "She's a great fundraiser, she brings in good money for the party." But they love having her in place. And that's what Democrats have to figure out now over the next, if not six months, then at least year and six month.

HELENE COOPER:

Can I just interject here though? Because it feels as if the commentary after this Georgia election acts as if this was a blue district that flipped to red. It's not. This was a red district that the Democrats came very close to winning. And so I do think that there's a little bit of hysteria here when we start thinking about yet another loss on the Democratic side and Nancy Pelosi must go. God, I love that line about, "I think I'm more fit." I'm going to start using that all the time.

CHUCK TODD:

Worth the trouble.

HELENE COOPER:

Worth the trouble. Oh God, yeah. Right?

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, the "trouble" part is the part.

HELENE COOPER:

It's even better, right?

CHUCK TODD:

It's-- George?

GEORGE WILL:

Well, this ethical election to pick 1/435th of one-half of one of our three branches of government matters only if they misconstrue what happened down there. Progressives are saying, "He ran in the primary and won," as often by saying, "Vote for me and make Trump furious," then he won and he became militantly vanilla, campaigning against government waste and then going to have a high-tech north Georgia and all that.

If they say that if we only go hard left we will bring people out, if they say, "We're really more interested and realigning the party for the long term than winning elections in the short term," then what happened in Georgia will really matter.

MARK LEIBOVICH:

No, I think if there is one sure thing coming out of these special elections is that people will overinflate their significance.

HALLIE JACKSON:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

It's true. I guess if you look at it though, who's got more to worry about? Republicans or Democrats, after what they've watched there? Is it the Democrats and their message problem, or is it the Republicans that they're not going to get $30 million every time they can save a House seat.

HALLIE JACKSON:

Correct. And they acknowledge that. I think it depends who you talk to. To Helene's point, these are all seats in the special elections. Democrats point out, yes, we did overperform the numbers, as you heard Debbie Dingell said, the expectation. And these are seats that Republicans chose to vacate, that they pulled people out of, opening up those seats.

And so that is sort of the line you hear from Democrats. From Republicans, there is an acknowledgement that neither side is going to raise the kind of money that they raised in the special. And if I have to tell you how many times I've heard the phrase, "Special elections are special for a reason this week," I'd have a lot of nickels.

CHUCK TODD:

Waste happens when one side is demoralized and the other side is enthused. We don't have that just yet. We'll be back in 45 seconds with endgame. And the face that booked himself in Iowa this week that has the social media world buzzing.

* * *COMMERCIAL BREAK* * *

ANNOUNCER:

Meet the Press Endgame is brought to you by Boeing: Always working to build something better.

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with Endgame. Whiplash this week from President Trump on the Russia story. Now is admitting the meddling, and he tweeted this yesterday, "Since the Obama administration was told way before the 2016 election that the Russians were meddling, why no action? Focus on them, not T!" Helene Cooper, setting that aside, that expose in The Washington Post, and that quote, "I think we choked."

HELENE COOPER:

That's huge, I mean that's huge. But I think you look at it, on one hand, you can sort of understand the position that the Obama administration, President Obama would have been in, it would have been seen as so cravenly political if he had come out at that point and said, "Look, it looks as if the Russians are interfering to help then Republican candidate Trump." But at the same time, that's why we have leaders, you know? At some point, the American people deserve to have somebody in office who's only in office for, what, three more months, come out and say without political consideration. And I just think the fact that they're saying now that they choked is kind of sad.

CHUCK TODD:

George Will, that August 6th briefing before 9/11 was always known as the red flag that was missed. Are we going to look back, that quote of choked, is this a version of that for President Obama?

GEORGE WILL:

No. And I think it's supremely unfair. I think Obama faced an agonizing choice. A Democratic president comes out on the eve of the election and says, "A foreign power is trying to elect a Republican." Mr. Trump says, "Where was the action?" If the action had been taken, he wouldn't be president.

MARK LEIBOVICH:

It is true. It is the ultimate "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation again. I think it would have been, the political environment, for as charged as it is right now, think of what it was in October and November. The other thing is, people expected, and I think Obama expected the president to be Hillary Clinton. And I think that he sort of figured, "Okay, we can just let this pass and it will come out afterwards."

HALLIE JACKSON:

This gives President Trump a branch or something solid to hold onto. And you have seen that over the last 48, 72 hours. But I do think the broader underlying question here, why no action, what action is happening now to stop it from happening again, right? That is something that matters. We just did an investigation contacting every state, dozens of state officials responded and said they just haven't heard enough from the Trump administration. The White House says, "We've got this election fraud commission," which was started because of the president's unfounded claim that millions of people voted illegally, and they point to some things that D.H.S. is doing, but the alarm bell is ringing.

CHUCK TODD:

We had somebody show in Iowa this week. You know, hey, when somebody shows up in Iowa, you think, "Maybe they're running for president." Mark Zuckerberg showed up in Iowa and he posts this, "In Iowa, I stop by one of the major truck stops. It's like a small city where truckers on long trips can take a break, get something to eat, get a haircut, do laundry, get their truck washed -- or their dog washed! -- and even go to the dentist. ...I asked a number of truckers what they think about self-driving cars and trucks, what they think about the future. Everyone I met was skeptical self-driving cars would replace jobs for different reasons..." Mark Leibovich, you enjoy your share of snark. How does he run for president doing the, "Wow, look at this, a truck stop."

MARK LEIBOVICH:

Yeah, I would say that that was kind of like a parody of how a bubble person writes about that stuff when he ventures off from the West Coast to the East Coast and sort of discovers truck stops. Um, yeah, I think the messaging might need a little work, if he's in fact running for president. But it's certainly interesting. And I do think that Trump has created a generation of, I would say, maybe some pale imitators who think that anyone with name recognition and a lot of money can run. But we'll see.

CHUCK TODD:

David Plouffe, I'm going to say it, David Plouffe, is working, the president's former campaign manager, is working for the Zuckerberg foundation. That's all for today. Thank you for watching. We're back next week because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

You can see more Endgame in Postgame, sponsored by Boeing on the Meet the Press Facebook page.

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