Feedback
Meet the Press

Meet the Press Transcript - December 7, 2014

MEET THE PRESS -- SUNDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2014

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, anger and disbelief across the country after a grand jury decides not to indict a police officer in a chokehold death.

HILLARY CLINTON:

Each of us has to grapple with some hard truths about race and justice in America.

CHUCK TODD:

Is the criminal justice system failing African Americans? Also, America in black and white. Our new poll on how differently African Americans and whites view the police. Plus, the fight within the Republican party over immigration.

JOHN BOEHNER:

We have limited options in terms of how we can deal with this.

CHUCK TODD:

How far will Republicans go to block President Obama's executive action?

TED CRUZ:

What I'm here urging my fellow Republicans to do is very, very simple. Do what you said you'd do.

CHUCK TODD:

And how rich is your member of Congress? A breakdown how Washington politicians are doing very well this last decade while ordinary Americans continue to tread water. I'm Chuck Todd and joining me to provide insight and analysis this morning are CNBC's Rick Santelli, Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report, John Stanton of BuzzFeed, and Kasim Reed, mayor of Atlanta. 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 morning. It's been another week with headlines dominated by an angry reaction to a grand jury decision not to prosecute a white police officer for killing a black man. Last week, the story was in Ferguson, Missouri. This week, New York City. The grand jury's decision not to indict Daniel Pantaleo who put Eric Garner in a chokehold, which led to Mr. Garner's death.

It brought thousands to the streets. What was different this week though was even as protesters demonstrated from coast to coast, politicians from across the political spectrum came together to condemn the New York decision.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PROTESTERS:

What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now! What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!

ERIC HOLDER:

Mr. Garner's death has led to several recent incidents across our great country that have tested the sense of trust that must exist between law enforcement and these communities they are in charge to serve and to protect.

ANN THOMPSON:

I asked them, I said, "What do you want? What is the point of this?" They said they want accountability from the N.Y.P.D., from the prosecutor over in Staten Island. And they said that they're going to be out here every night marching until they get an indictment in the death of Eric Garner.

PROTESTER:

He's got a camera. Don't worry, he's got a camera.

JOHN BOEHNER:

I do think that the American people deserve more answers about what really happened here and was our system of justice handled properly?

PROTESTER:

The crowd is reflective of a lot of people of New York City that are tired of autocratic, unaccountable police.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

And when you're dealing with something as deeply rooted as racism or bias, in any society, you've got to have vigilance. But you have to recognize that it's going to take some time, and you just have to be steady so that you don't give up.

GEORGE W. BUSH:

I had dinner with Condi the other night and we talked about this subject. And yeah, she just said, "You've just got to understand there are a lot of, you know, black folks around that are just incredibly, are more and more distrusting of law enforcement." Which is -- which is a shame. Because law enforcement's job is to protect everybody.

BILL DE BLASIO:

Chirlane and I have had to talk to Dante for years about the danger that he may face. We've had to literally train him as families have all over this city for decades, and how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers. They are there to protect him.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

I'm joined now in studio by Esaw Garner, the widow of Eric Garner, and Reverend Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network, and of course, host of MSNBC Politics Nation. Mrs. Garner, first of all, my condolences.

ESAW SNIPES-GARNER:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Your husband is now the face of bias in our law enforcement. How do you feel about that?

ESAW SNIPES-GARNER:

I feel that he was murdered unjustly. I don't even feel like it's a black and white thing, honestly, you know, in my opinion. I really don't feel like it's a black and white thing. I feel like it's just something that he continued to do and the police knew. You know, they knew. It wasn't like it was a shock. They knew. You know? They knew him by name.

They harassed us. They said things to us. We would go shopping. You know? They, "Hi Cigarette Man. Hey Cigarette Man Wife." You know? Stuff like that. And I would just say, "Eric, just keep walking. Don't say anything. Don't respond. You know? Don't give them a reason to do anything to you."

And he just felt like, "But baby, they keep harassing me." And I said, "Just ignore them, Eric." And he said, "But how much can I ignore them?" And I would say, "Just stay away from the block. You know? Just find something else to do." And he's like, "What else can I do? I keep getting sick." He tried working with the Parks Department. But he had asthma. You know? He had issues. You know? Heavy guy. And he was very lazy. You know? He didn't like to do anything. He wasn't used to it, so.

CHUCK TODD:

You say he was murdered.

ESAW SNIPES-GARNER:

Yeah. I feel like that. I feel like he was murdered.

CHUCK TODD:

You obviously aren't going to get your day in criminal court. But you're still looking for a day in court?

ESAW SNIPES-GARNER:

I'm looking for it, yes. Because I think it would only be right, not only for my husband, but for all the other young men and women and my sons. I have two sons, you know, that I have to train now. I have a 15 year old. I won't even let him go two blocks away from my house. On Halloween night, he wanted to go out trick-or-treating and I kept him in the house.

I went and bought him all kinds of candy from Duane Reade and told him, "Please stay in the house." I just don't want him to go outside, because now that everybody knows who he is, that he's Eric Garner's son, you know, I fear. And now my other son is in college and he's in Jersey, in Newark, and I make him call me. He's like, "Mom, I'm 20." I'm like, "Call me at least in the morning before you go to class, when you get out of school, don't go to any parties, don't do this." You know? I'm so afraid of what could happen to them in the street by the police.

CHUCK TODD:

And do you--

ESAW SNIPES-GARNER:

I'm afraid of the police.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you afraid of the police?

ESAW SNIPES-GARNER:

Yes, I am. That's why I left Staten Island. You know? I lived two, three blocks, tops, away from the 120. So if there's a bottle thrown on my block, the 120 is coming to see about it. If there's an argument or a fight between neighbors or something, the 120 is coming to this. I couldn't stay there anymore. You know? And everything on Staten Island is centered on Bay Street. So one way or the other, you had to go to Bay Street. And that's where they all are. And they all knew where I was as well, you know.

CHUCK TODD:

Reverend Sharpton, there have been protests coast to coast. The reaction, it seems, to this grand jury non-decision, much different than the reaction to what happened in Ferguson. We had a more polarized reaction. This one not so polarized. Do you see that as progress?

REV. AL SHARPTON:

I see it as progress as long as we take it to some real change. This Saturday we're having a national march that Mrs. Garner and the family from Ferguson is meeting to call for congressional action. The Congress needs to not only do hearings, they need to deal with the jurisdictional threshold of how you make a federal case.

How will she get her day in court? You've got to be able to move the jurisdictional threshold, which Congress can do. Congress needs to put money in the Justice Department, investigating these cases. We've got to go there bring protest to where it goes into legislation. Otherwise, we'll be back here again.

CHUCK TODD:

Which is why, I know, you kind of set up the big protest for this coming Saturday.

REV. AL SHARPTON:

This coming Saturday, the 13th.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me get you to react to something that Patrick Lynch, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president in New York said on Thursday. Here's what he said.

PATRICK LYNCH:

You cannot resist arrest. Because resisting arrest leads to confrontation. Confrontation leads to tragedy. So we feel badly that there was a loss of life. But unfortunately, Mr. Garner made a choice that day to resist arrest.

CHUCK TODD:

Blaming Mr. Garner -

REV. AL SHARPTON:

First of all, to blame the victim, the insensitivity of that is striking. But it's also, when you look at the video, the difference between Ferguson and Staten Island, even though we're bringing them together for now, is the video. And if you see in the video a man taken down on the ground with police over him, and then you continue to choke him, and the chokehold is illegal, are you now saying at the worst-case scenario, if he had resisted arrest and clearly he did, but the penalty then is that you choke him to death? I mean, I think it's the most absurd premise that this person could have raised.

CHUCK TODD:

Mrs. Garner, you wanted to react to that? I watched your eyes, I watched your head shake.

ESAW SNIPES-GARNER:

Because I'm not going to say he was a career criminal, but I'm going to say he had a past of being arrested. And he never, not once, ever resisted arrest. He's done a little bit of time, and he's accepted his time when the judge handed it to him. "Babe, I'll be home. They gave me two and a half." You know? So a person as far as my history in New York City, I've seen a lot of people who have resisted arrest. I've seen people pulled out guns on cops and live.

REV. AL SHARPTON:

But that's the point. But you bring up race. And she has tried to say, "I don't want to deal with race as the issue." But clearly they treat differently. If he would have a different race, with the same background, no one has tried to sugarcoat anyone's background, would he have been treated the same way?

And that's what we're talking about. You cannot have a broken-windows policing if you have broken training, broken accountability, and police that train that have the right to bring you down and then later say, "It's resisting," even when a videotape says it's not. So we're not talking about making victims saits, but we're talking about not giving a pass to police who do it wrong. You can't have two wrongs and make one civil right.

CHUCK TODD:

Right. And I want to ask you on this issue here, we're talking about Mr. Garner having to sell single cigarettes to survive, to make a living. Do you need to be focusing your efforts also on this economic problem?

REV. AL SHARPTON:

Absolutely, and we do.

CHUCK TODD:

That a lot of African American communities feel as if a hopelessness on the economic front?

REV. AL SHARPTON:

We do. Which is why we aggressively National Action Network and the civil rights community supported the jobs bill, support infrastructure development, because we want to challenge men in our community to say, "You've got to stand up and you've got to be responsible." They need jobs. They need training.

So one hand we can't expand the public sector for jobs. And another hand, they say, "Well, we have been harassed and treated differently by law enforcement." So we've got to strike a balance that is not in our power to do, which is why we're going to Congress to make that possible. You can't kill jobs bill and infrastructure and then tell men to take care of their family. You can't have it both ways.

CHUCK TODD:

Reverend Sharpton, Esaw Garner, again, my condolences. Thank you for coming on Meet the Press.

ESAW SNIPES-GARNER:

Thank you for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

We're going to be discussion a lot of the reform issues here in just a moment. Thank you very much.

REV. AL SHARPTON:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Of course, I'm joined now on our panel, Rick Santelli, Amy Walter, John Stanton, Amy Walter, Kasim Reed. I've got new polling this morning, been in the field the last couple of days on law enforcement issues. And not surprisingly, a big divide between blacks and whites. We asked, "Do you agree or disagree with this? Are there different standards in the law enforcement community that they apply to blacks and whites?"

Whites, the majority disagree that there are different standards, 51%. African Americans, 82% agree that there are different standards applied. How about confidence that the police, the law enforcement can be able to treat races equally? 52% of whites have a great deal of confidence, 43% of African Americans have very little confidence.

And of course, confidence in the legal system after Ferguson, after Staten Island, has it increased or decreased? In this case, both whites and blacks say their confidence in the legal system has decreased. Whites 35% say it's decreased, with blacks, 70%. Mayor Reed, the Atlanta Police Department, do you feel that they treat blacks and whites the same or differently in your city?

KASIM REED:

You know, I think you have to take it on a case-by-case basis. I think we do a better job than most. You look at the race composition of our police department, it looks like the communities that we serve. If you look at the movement towards cameras and videos, we were already discussing that before the Ferguson judgment.

And I think that because of the history of the city of Atlanta, candidly, we work harder at issues of race than other communities do. And it's a part of the DNA of our city being the home of Dr. Martin Luther King. But what I made clear is that Ferguson can happen anywhere. Because it's about the judgment of an individual officer.

And what we have to do is we have these conversations and move conversations to real reform, is to make sure that we don't take a broad brush and paint police officers as bad people because they do a tough job. But when we see wrong, we need to act decisively, Chuck. And in order to make the real value from the losses we've seen, we have to move forward on training, hearing about the equity in terms of the racial composition of the police force. And the conversation around video cameras is over. We're going to move there.

CHUCK TODD:

Clearly. You know, Rick Santelli, in the sense of trusting government issue, I mean, I sit there and say that we sit here and talk about trusting government, and we are so focused on agencies and competency and maybe it's healthcare, maybe it's this, there's another part of America's population, African Americans, who have a trust in government issue, and in this case, it's law enforcement.

RICK SANTELLI:

Believe me. When you're talking about trust in government, you're preaching to the choir, whether it's on the financial side, the central banking side, we see areas where the government does good jobs, we see areas where they don't do as good a job. I think the mayor nailed it. I don't understand it, and haven't understood in this world of technology, where every building has a camera, every ATM has a camera, why don't we have cameras on police officers?

And it's really sad that this horrible tragedy had to bring that about. But there's also a huge responsibility for us in the media, leaders like Reverend Al Sharpton, to make sure that this story doesn't end up like University of Virginia, Rolling Stone. We have to make sure we do it right.

A huge responsibility, because these cases might represent a small percentage of all the issues. And police, for the most part, as the mayor pointed out, do a good job. But that doesn't mean that with can't do better. And I think this is the time to begin this discussion.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, John Stanton, Amy Walter, you guys have been residents with me here a while. Rick's a Chicago guy, Kasim's an Atlanta guy. We've seen Washington go through this transition. I mean, I'd say 20 years ago we had a big trust problem between the populace and law enforcement. And it's been slowly restored. What's worked, do you think, in Washington?

JOHN STANTON:

I think that the police in D.C. have learned that they have to try to avoid what is I think a cultural problem frankly in our country, which is people look at young, black men as threats, automatically. It is just sort of how they've become defined in our culture.

CHUCK TODD:

Guilty until proven innocent.

JOHN STANTON:

Guilty until proven innocent. And when you add that into the justice system, that creates a volatile mix. And I think that the police in D.C. have tried harder than in a lot of other places to not do that. But you still see it here. It's just not quite as pronounced. We haven't had something like, you know, Mr. Garner or anything like that happen here of late.

But you do see it still happening here. You know, young black men are constantly being pulled over, they're being stopped walking down the street. I see it in my neighborhood all the time. And it's something that has sort of fallen down a little bit, but it's still there.

AMY WALTER:

That's sort of the piece of this, and I think the mayor addressed this, which is there's a powder keg that's sitting there, and it just takes one spark to light it. And say, "When you have the deep-seated--"

CHUCK TODD:

it's generations - It goes back generations. I mean--

AMY WALTER:

That's right. This polling is not new.

CHUCK TODD:

That's not new.

AMY WALTER:

If we asked this before, and I've seen polling, back in 2009, same numbers. This is still sitting there. It's not going away. It was the same number we saw after the riots in Rodney King.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I guess the question now, what do you do? What are some reform measures? Well, that's what we're going to talk about in a minute. A discussion of the future of policing in America that needs to be done to restore this trust gap between African Americans and law enforcement.

* * *COMMERCIALS NOT TRANSCRIBED* * *

CHUCK TODD:

So reforms. Welcome back. We've put together an expert group to talk about what needs to be done to reform policing and the justice system in this country. I'm joined by an array of people here. Cyrus Vance, Junior, the Manhattan district attorney, Michael Nutter, mayor of Philadelphia, Chuck Canterbury, chair of the Fraternal Order of Police, and Charles Ramsey, the Philadelphia police commissioner who this week was appointed by the president to co-chair his task force on 21st-century policing. Mr. Ramsey, let me start with you. Your mandate from the president, what do you believe you've got to accomplish to show that one of these taskforces can be more than just talk?

CHARLES RAMSEY:

Well, first, let me say that the president is very serious about this issue. That's why he put together the taskforce as a part of other initiatives that he has going on right now. We have 90 days to come up with some concrete recommendations to the president on how we can have change, positive change, in policing, starting with establishing trust.

I was listening to comments earlier in your program. And it's very troubling that people do not believe there's fairness in a way in which we police, a way in which cases are reviewed by prosecutors on and on and on. And we've got to change that dynamic. And we've got to take a look at our training. And more importantly, the education that we provide officers so they better understand the role of police in a democratic society. And those are the kinds of things we'll be focusing on, as well as use of force and technology.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, Mr. Canterbury, let me go to you. You represent rank and file police officers. The beat cop.

CHUCK CANTERBURY:

That's right.

CHUCK TODD:

The reforms. What do you want to see the president's task force tackle? If you were asked to be on this task force, what would you be saying? "Okay, let's not indict all police officers here. But this I what I think the police need."

CHUCK CANTERBURY:

Well, first of all, we believe that the judicial system works. The grand jury system and police-reviewed boards in certain cities have shown some promise. But the bottom line is, rank and file police officers have always wanted more training. And welcome that training. I don't believe that under current economic times, with the huge reduction in law enforcement officers around this country that training has kept up.

But, I also don't believe that there's a systemic problem in law enforcement. I believe that the media and others have taken a couple of incidents. There are 14 million arrests in this country every year. And we have less than 300 police officers that have been indicted for excessive force since 2009.

CHUCK TODD:

So there is a trust gap-- you acknowledge that.

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK CANTERBURY:

There's absolutely a trust gap. But it takes a holistic approach. It's not just law enforcement's problem. The common denominator is poverty. In every country in the world where there's an economic problem in a neighborhood--

CHUCK TODD:

Then you have a problem.

CHUCK CANTERBURY:

--you have a higher crime. And then, people like the mayor who have to, send us in to deal with the problems.

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Vance, I think another issue here has to do with the relationship between district attorneys and police officers. Can district attorneys fairly assess a police officer who is under suspicion, in this case with the police officer in Staten Island, of potentially having committed a crime? Can the D.A. fairly prosecute that case in front of a grand jury?

CYRUS VANCE, JR.:

Chuck, thank you first off for having me and I'd also like to extend my condolences to Mrs. Garner and her family for their loss. In answer to your question, Chuck, police officers and prosecutors need to be collaborative, but not cozy. We have a responsibility as district attorneys to investigate and where appropriate, prosecute police officers.

During my five years in the D.A.'s office, we have prosecuted approximately 60 or 70 police officers for cases ranging from lying on predicate facts about stop and frisk, to perjury, to rape. So we have to work together. But I think the moment that we have is something that we should not lose the opportunity.

There is much more we can do that is better in terms of both policing and in terms of prosecutors being more transparent and communicative about how we should do our job in our office. And I also think we need to be self-reflective and understand that we have jobs--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

Should we have special prosecutor outside of your office? Should your office not handle a potential police officer indictment? Should it be cordoned off? Should it be a justice department, maybe a state office that handles this?

CYRUS VANCE, JR.:

Chuck, I'm completely open to discussing what kind of special prosecutor program might be instituted. But be aware for what you ask for. Special prosecutors who have been reported in the past are accountable to no one. And when you're not accountable to anyone, as a D.A. is to the electorate, you're likely to get a special prosecutor, Ken Starr, for example, who can go off for years and spending millions of public dollars without result.

CHUCK TODD:

Mayor Nutter, I think there's another debate here that was interesting. A conservative columnist John Podhoretz, openly wondered, "Is it time to move on from the broken-windows style of policing?" Right? And broken-windows style of policing was back there in the '90s, and this is what he wrote.

"This inspired strategy helped save New York City and a lot of other cities. Its adoption across the country helped save the nation from the most pressing domestic problem it faced from the '60s to '90s. But we are now into our third decade of the crime drop. And the simple fact of the matter is that broken-windows logic doesn't work in the same way it did in the '90s.

"The criminal class that made New York City a disastrous place to live has been rendered ineffectual. Crime is down and has remained low because the crooks are in jail and have stayed in jail. The low-hanging fruit was picked, and so too was the fruit that hung higher." The meaning is that maybe the way to police petty crimes should change. Do you believe that?

MICHAEL NUTTER:

Well, I think one of the reasons Police Commissioner Ramsey was picked for the president's task force, it's 21st century policing. What does policing mean in the 21st century? I don't think we ever want to completely get away from just allowing people to do some set of random things on a regular basis and just say, "Well, we're willing to accept that level of crime," but then all of a sudden we're going to shift. I mean, where do you draw the line? What's the threshold? I mean, at some point, wrong is wrong--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

You, as a mayor, you can't ever accept any level of crime. Is that your mindset, that is the--

(OVERTALK)

MICHAEL NUTTER:

You can never.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

MICHAEL NUTTER:

You can never accept criminal activity. But there are gradations. And the issue is, go back to the issues of training and experience and what's in the officer's mind and what about perceptions and any amount of bias that any of us bring to our respective jobs. I mean, we've seen now two incidents. We've had two of the worst weeks in American history in recent times.

CHUCK TODD:

For law enforcement, yeah.

MICHAEL NUTTER:

What are the joining factors? Two large black men are dead as a result of engagement with the police. And so we have to look at what else is going on with the officers? What are they thinking about? What are some of their fears? What are community fears? I mean, you, in essence, have the citizens who want to be protected who are now increasingly afraid of the police, and you have some police officers who are increasingly afraid of the community.

There is a large gap in that context. And so it is about training. People need the police to protect them. I support my police officers back in Philadelphia. This is a dangerous job. They interact with really bad people.

CHUCK TODD:

There's no such thing as a routine traffic stop, right Mr. Canterbury?

MICHAEL NUTTER:

Routine traffic stops can turn into really bad things.

CHUCK CANTERBURY:

Absolutely. There's no such thing as anything routine in law enforcement.

CHUCK TODD:

Quickly, Mr. Ramsey, how do you keep bias out of the Philadelphia police force?

CHARLES RAMSEY:

Well, I mean, listen everybody has bias. But let me just real quickly comment on the notion that we need to get away from broken-windows type policing. I think we can do both. One of my deputies mentioned something at a staff meeting the other day. And that is that there's been a lot of research in policing about effectiveness of strategies. High-spot policing, foot patrols, things of that nature.

But very little, if any, on the aftereffects of such strategies in terms of alienation of communities. And that's what we have to take a look at, what's the collateral damage that's caused when we engage in certain policing strategies? If we know that and understand it, we can avoid it. And so I think you can do both effectively. But we have to be able to deal with a range of issues, from simple disorder-type things to serious crimes.

(OVERTALK)

CHARLES RAMSEY:

And as far as bias goes, fair and impartial policing and education of police officers in that regard.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, this has to be the last comment. I know you've done a lot of research in bias.

CYRUS VANCE, JR.:

Recognizing that prosecutors have to be aware of what may be in their own office, we brought the Vera Institute of Justice in, a non-partisan, criminal justice think tank to evaluate our practices and plea bargain, charging and bail, to determine whether or not there was any racial bias present. And I think that's, it's, a sensible thing for modern-day prosecutor's office to do, particularly in metropolitan areas.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Thank you all. This is a conversation that obviously could continue for hours. Coming up, do you think Washington politicians don't understand how big your concerns are? It might be because how big their wallets are. Wait until you see these statistics in a few minutes.

* * *COMMERCIALS NOT TRANSCRIBED* * *

CHUCK TODD:

Add one more senator to the Republican column, Congressman Bill Cassidy has defeated three-term senator Mary Landrieu in Louisiana. As expected, yesterday's runoff election in the Bayou State start even close with Cassidy taking 56% of the vote. That now gives Republicans 54 seats in the Senate, a nine-seat pickup for the 2014 midterms.

And it also will be the first time in 138 years that a Democrat hasn't represented Louisiana in the U.S. Senate. Republicans, by the way, also held a House seat in Louisiana. And if the party holds in a recount in Arizona, this is going to mean that GOP has their largest House majority since the Hoover administration. It also means, by the way, that the 114th Congress will contain 53 senators who had previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives.

That's more than any Congress since at least 1899, before the direct election of senators. Critics argue that this means this is the "housification" of the Senate. What do they mean by that? They think it increases polarization to what used to be called the most deliberative body in the world.

* * *COMMERCIALS NOT TRANSCRIBED* * *

CHUCK TODD:

Nerd screen time about Congress and wealth. The majority of Americans, of course, think members of Congress are out of touch with average citizens. 81%, according to Gallup's most recent survey. In fact, average Americans don't think members of Congress understand their needs or concerns.

And that members of Congress are too beholden to special interests. Well, there's a big reason why our representatives here in Washington appear to have a hard time relating to most of you. And it starts with a massive wealth gap. Let's take a look at the numbers. First of all, members of Congress make a lot more money than the average American.

Typical household income, $54,000 annually. The annual salary for each member of Congress, it's nearly $175,000, three times as much. And oh, by the way, that's not household income. This doesn't include spousal income. You included that, it's even much higher. Not surprisingly, members of Congress are also doing better than average Americans when it comes to seeing their wealth grow.

On average, media net worth for average Americans grew just under 4% annually from 2004 to 2012. In that same period of time, members of Congress saw their income increase at a 15% clip annually. The result? By 2013, the average 55 to 65 year old, that's about the average age of a member of Congress, had a net worth of just over $165,000.

And that includes real estate holdings. The average net worth for a member of Congress? Just over a million dollars. And that does not include real estate holdings. They don't have to report that on their forms. If they did, that number would even be higher. All of which makes this next figure not so surprising after you see all these numbers. And that is, millionaire households.

Overall, nearly 6% of households in America are millionaires. And that number's up, by the way. Members of Congress? Over half of them, remember there are 535 of them, over half of them are millionaires. So you wonder why the economy, income inequity, all of these issues, you don't feel like Congress quite understands the urgency of it, this is all you need to know. Half of them are millionaires. We'll be right back.

* * *COMMERCIALS NOT TRANSCRIBED* * *

CHUCK TODD:

And welcome back. Last month, when President Obama announced his executive action to allow five million undocumented immigrants to legally stay in the country, Republicans spoke with one voice, and they accused the president of abusing his power, overstepping his authority. But when it comes to stopping President Obama, or rolling it back, there are very real divisions among key figures within the GOP, as our Luke Russert has been finding out all week.

(BEGIN TAPE)

TED CRUZ:

Just about every Republican candidate in the country campaigned saying, "If you elect us, we will stop President Obama's amnesty. Do what you said you would do."

LUKE RUSSERT:

This week, the specter of a shutdown sequel, with government funding set to expire on Thursday, Texas Senator Ted Cruz took on Republican leaders again, channeling the distrust many conservatives have on immigration.

TED CRUZ:

Some will say, "Will vote to fund it for now, and then we'll have reinforcement from the Senate next year."

LUKE RUSSERT:

Despite the heated rhetoric, Republican leaders insist the government will stay open. After a largely symbolic vote this week, chastising the president for his executive action, they passed a funding bill with Democratic help. And they say the GOP will bring up immigration legislation in the new year.

PETE SESSIONS:

There's no one in a responsible Republican leadership, elected officials, that have said we should deport 13 or 11 million people. Even in our wildest dream would not be to remove any person that might be here unless they were dangerous to this country and committed a crime.

LUKE RUSSERT:

But Republicans, who have backed immigration legislation in the past have been punished by the right. Florida's Marco Rubio got beat up on talk radio when he campaigned for the Senate bill last year.

MARCO RUBIO:

Leaving things the way they are, that's the real amnesty.

LUKE RUSSERT:

Rubio's approval dropped among conservatives, and he withdrew support for comprehensive reform. In January, House Republican leaders tried to steer their own conference toward a bill.

CHUCK TODD:

The plan that you guys are going to push will have a pathway to legalization, but not citizenship. Is that how you understand it?

PAUL RYAN:

That's right, but it also involved basically a probationary kind of a status to make sure that a person is not rewarding for having broken our laws.

LUKE RUSSERT:

That effort quickly broke down with conservatives crying, "Amnesty." Also, rank-and-file Republicans were apprehensive about voting on the issue, after it played a role in Eric Cantor's primary defeat in June. In candid moments, House speaker John Boehner has griped about how hard it is to corral his members.

JOHN BOEHNER:

Here's the attitude, "Oh don't make me do this. Oh, this is too hard."

LUKE RUSSERT:

GOP leaders in Congress are poised to win this short-term fight with conservatives, that as Republican governors sued to challenge the president's action, the party still faces the same long-term immigration problem it did 18 months ago.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

If we don't pass immigration reform, if we don't get it off the table in a reasonable, practical way, it doesn't matter who you run in 2016, we're in a demographic death spiral as a party.

LUKE RUSSERT:

For Meet the Press, Luke Russert.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now is the next governor of Texas and the current attorney general, Greg Abbott. Mr. Abbott, thanks for coming on Meet The Press.

GREG ABBOTT:

My honor. Great to be with you. Thanks.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Let's start with the lawsuit. Standing requires you to show harm. Now, you argue the president's actions are going to inspire a fresh wave of illegal immigration. That that's the harm you're going to show. But we've seen other attempts at this before where courts have thrown out lawsuits like this because you can't quantify the harm. Are you gonna quantify the harm?

GREG ABBOTT:

First, this is growing much the same way that the lawsuit concerning Obamacare grew from 13 to 26 or 27 states. As to the standing issue, understand this. Texas has been at the epicenter of the 2012 DACA.

You all saw more than a 1,000 people crossing our board each and every day. Texas has come out of pocket to the tune of more than $100 million in law enforcement, education and healthcare because of what has happened. And understand this, the president's agencies' memos themselves have indicated that there will be more problems like this resulting from the next presidential order, or the most recent presidential order.

CHUCK TODD:

But many of those, and the children that came across in that wave, and I understand there's a lot of people that say that that wave was started, and some people believe it was inspired by, the DACA order on children that were brought here by parents illegally. But a lot of those folks were deported. Most of those folks were deported.

GREG ABBOTT:

Well, as we speak right now some of those children are in Texas schools. Some of the people who came here across the border are accessing--

CHUCK TODD:

But most of them--

(OVERTALK)

GREG ABBOTT:

--health--

CHUCK TODD:

--deported, right? Fair enough?

GREG ABBOTT:

I don't know the raw number.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

GREG ABBOTT:

All I do know is the absolute fact. And that is Texas has incurred taxpayer dollars out of pocket as a result of the prior executive order. It's also been stated by members of the Obama administration that this new executive order will lead to same results.

CHUCK TODD:

Now, when we talk about harm, I want to get into this financial issue here, because you talk about the issue of social services. How much money you have to spend to deal with these undocumented folks. But illegal immigrants that are working in Texas do participate in the economy. There have been some estimates that if you deported everybody who was in Texas illegally it would actually be create an economic recession for the state of Texas. How do you separate those two facts?

GREG ABBOTT:

Sure. Because we're not suing for that economic harm. It's the way that Texas has been impacted that gives us standing. What we're suing for is actually the greater harm, and that is harm to the constitution by empowering the president of the United States to enact legislation on his own without going through Congress.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to play for you a clip that you've heard from a previous governor of Texas and what he has said about immigration. Here it is.

GEORGE W. BUSH (ON TAPE):

I want to remind people that family values do not stop at the Rio Grande River. People are coming to our country to do jobs that Americans won't do to be able to feed their families. And I think there's a humane way to recognize that and at the same time protect our borders and at the same way to make sure that we don't disadvantage those who have stood in line for years to become a legal citizen.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you agree with that statement?

GREG ABBOTT:

Well, in a way I understand this even more powerfully because my wife is going to be the first Hispanic first lady in the history of Texas. And Texas has had a long tradition of uniting the Hispanic culture with Texas values. But remember this, there is a reason why people come from across the world to the United States and that is because of the power of what the Constitution has enabled this country to be.

It's the Constitution itself that is under assault by the president of the United States by this executive order. Chuck, what we are doing is this issue and this lawsuit is not about immigration. The issue in this lawsuit is about abuse of executive power. And if this abuse is not stopped it will erode the constitution that has attracted so many people to this country for generations.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask a basic question, though. Illegal immigration. Good for bad for the state of Texas? Bottom line.

GREG ABBOTT:

Legal immigration is great for the United States of America. Any illegal activity is not good anywhere.

CHUCK TODD:

And yet it's been good for the Texas economy. Right?

GREG ABBOTT:

Legal immigration has been great for America. And if bringing more immigrants here is the appropriate thing to do then what Congress needs to do and what the president needs to do is to figure out a way to improve our immigration system. In fact Americans are tired of both Congress and the president failing to act. It is time for Washington, D.C. to stop talking about this and take action. And that begins with securing our borders.

CHUCK TODD:

And let me ask you that on securing the border. Define that. Can you give me a metric that says, "Border's secure."

GREG ABBOTT:

Sure. I've been involved in these border surge operations where we see people crossing the border. Securing the border means ensuring that you don't have people who are crossing the border illegally. And that is through modern technology, through the technology that we are deploying right now, you can have monitors and cameras and see whether or not people are crossing the border. You want to see that grow to zero, would be the perfect metric. Congress has the power--

CHUCK TODD:

Is that realistic?

GREG ABBOTT:

Congress has the power and the resources to decide whether or not that metric will be zero or 10% or 20%.

CHUCK TODD:

Come 2016 you may be a popular figure inside the Republican party. Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, two Texas officials running for president. Rand Paul, born in Texas. Jeb Bush, his son is serving in Texas. Do you have a favorite?

GREG ABBOTT:

I will be strongly supportive of the Republican nominee--

CHUCK TODD:

Do you--

GREG ABBOTT:

--to be the next president of the United States.

CHUCK TODD:

You are staying out of the primarily totally?

GREG ABBOTT:

I'm staying out of the primary.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Greg Abbott, we'll be watching you when you're governor of Texas. Thanks for coming on Meet The Press.

GREG ABBOTT:

Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

You got it.

Now the lawsuit guys, we're going to find out a lot about before the end of the year. Here's a map of the 20 states. Rick Santelli, governor of Texas also told me that he thinks they filed a preliminary, try to get a preliminary injunction as you would, if you believe there's harm done, then you immediately want the law not enacted until you get your day in court. How should Congressional Republicans be responding? We know how they're going to respond, but how should they be responding to this?

RICK SANTELLI:

Well, listen, it's a complicated issue. I come from immigrant grandparents. The country would not be what it is if it wasn't for the immigrants in this country. The border, it's important to some conservatives. I understand that. Outsource it to the likes of Google. You could work through this problem. Why do we need this--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

You'd do a technology thing, huh?

RICK SANTELLI:

Absolutely. Why do we need this comprehensive plan? Have we not learned anything from the failed roll out of the Affordable Care Act? The Congress should pass small pieces. They should show people they can actually get things through. If the Senate or the president decides that they don't like them and they veto them, at least we'll see.

You know, and they call that vote that the Congress took symbolic. Before social media, everything was symbolic. Now look, they don't take a vote unless it's absolutely assured it's going to pass? I don't understand that. People need to know how the representatives are thinking and what they're doing, whether it's symbolic or not.

CHUCK TODD:

Amy, would the House Republicans be in a better place if they passed something, as Rick just said, passed even a piecemeal? They didn't even pass piecemeal.

AMY WALTER:

Or have even a plan that's been leaked about what the piecemeal plan looks like, right?

CHUCK TODD:

Well, not in two years.

AMY WALTER:

Not in two years. But look, I think here's the opportunity now, if you're John Boehner, to do something in that's next Congress. They were able to vent their frustration about the president in this symbolic vote. Now let's see what they have done. But here's the problem with the House. At the end of the day, the House does not look like the country. That's Republicans--

RICK SANTELLI:

Who sent them there?

AMY WALTER:

Well, that's right. They sit in districts --

(OVERTALK)

RICK SANTELLI:

Come on.

AMY WALTER:

But listen.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, that's the problem.

AMY WALTER:

The average Republican district is 75% white.

RICK SANTELLI:

Who does districting?

CHUCK TODD:

Well--

AMY WALTER:

There we go.

CHUCK TODD:

The politicians

RICK SANTELLI:

Come on, there's rules for this. You can't tear up the rulebook because you don't like the rules that are on the books.

CHUCK TODD:

But every state applies the rules--

KASIM REED:

Just remember that the next time you talk about the electoral college.

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I'm going to pause it here. Speaking of today, you guys are here, it's December 7th, it's Pearl Harbor day. This is the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese attack. It's a day, of course, that President Roosevelt would live in infamy. Listen to this, four of the nine remaining survivors of the attack on the U.S. Arizona, they're gathering today in Honolulu for what is due to be their last official reunion, though they vow this won't be the last time they'll meet.

And if you've ever been, I've been to that memorial, and when you see the oil that still comes up from the Arizona, it's like seeing a ghost of those brave men and women who sacrificed their lives. Don't go anywhere. We'll be back in 30 seconds.

* * *COMMERCIALS NOT TRANSCRIBED* * *

(BEGIN TAPE)

JEB BUSH:

I kind of know how a Republican can win, whether it's me or somebody else. And it has to be much more uplifting, much more positive, much more willing to be practical now in Washington, where you lose the primary to win the general without violating your principles.

HILLARY CLINTON:

You need people starting in your family, but going to your friends, beyond a larger circle, who will really be there for you and continue to treat you like a human being. Because you can easily lose touch with what's real, what's authentic.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Wow, both Jeb and Hillary, a little unplugged, John Stanton. I mean, I thought it was interesting, and both of them were trying to show there's some authenticity, trying to show they're not totally going to play a political game here.

JOHN STANTON:

Well, I think Jeb has less of a problem with that than Hillary. She clearly has had troubles with this whole issue of does she understand what it's like to be a real person. You know, like--

CHUCK TODD:

Twenty-two years, she doesn't walk alone.

JOHN STANTON:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

I mean, that's not necessarily her fault. I mean, she's had secret service protection for 22 years. That is tough.

JOHN STANTON:

And she's had a couple of bad gaffs and saying things about what qualifies being middle class things like that. And I think she's trying to at least acknowledge that she's got these problems and take them head on which is pretty smart on her part. And you know I think Jeb is looking at the reality that the notion is that he can't win the primary because he's too nice and too affable and isn't really going to go out there and bang on Democrats the way that conservatives will. And that's really what they're both trying to look at.

CHUCK TODD:

Mayor Reed, you ready for Hillary?

KASIM REED:

Yeah, we're going to know in '16 what's going to happen based upon what they're going to do on immigration and what they do on the budget. If Boehner and McConnell get deals on immigration and the budget, and don't let the government get shut down, then we're going to have a real race in '16. I'm ready for Hillary though.

CHUCK TODD:

What do you think of Jeb Bush's authenticity there, Rick? He's basically saying, "Look, I'm going to stay who I am. You may not agree with me," in some ways. Basically he's saying, "You don't agree with me on immigration and common-core conservatives, but I'm not going to placate you on those two issue."

RICK SANTELLI:

Listen, immigration is very important. Common core, I would like to think that the Republicans would have loftier issues that they would concentrate on when they bring a candidate in 2016.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, by the way, I have you here, the economy. I'm going to get a ton of emails today, "Gosh darn you, Meet the Press, great news on the economy, and you haven't done anything given President Obama praise." What say you on the economy right now?

RICK SANTELLI:

It is great improvement, and we've come a long way, but remember, let's not get too happy about six-year cures for two-year flues. We've been long out of this recession. A lot of people aren't cheering. We have good wage growth in that number, and we had good jobs, however--

CHUCK TODD:

That's what makes that one legit--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

Report, right? That wage growth?

RICK SANTELLI:

However, hospitality and leisure get the most hiring but they represent the smallest percentage of the wage growth. That's the problem. You talked about all the wealth in Congress, there's a lot of wealth in D.C. There's not a lot of wealth throughout all the country shared equally.

(OVERTALK)

AMY WALTER:

That's right, that's right.

CHUCK TODD:

We definitely have an inequality issue.

KASIM REED:

Fifty-seven months, ten million jobs, isn't enough, huh? 200,000 ten months in a row.

CHUCK TODD:

By the way--

(OVERTALK)

RICK SANTELLI:

--what's enough is people who need it the most when we look the issues that happened in New York--

(OVERTALK)

KASIM REED

Yeah, but we also have to talk about 321,000 jobs ten months in a row--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

--we stay on the same pace--

(OVERTALK)

KASIM REED

--ten million jobs, 57 months--

CHUCK TODD:

If we stay on the same pace.

RICK SANTELLI:

And that's despite most government policy, not because of it.

KASIM REED:

Yeah that's what you say now--

RICK SANTELLI:

--we're the most resilient economy in the planet--

(OVERTALK)

KASIM REED:

-- you weren't saying that when George Bush was President.

RICK SANTELLI:

I've said it all along, sir. All along.

KASIM REED:

Okay, oh good.

CHUCK TODD:

I've go a football break for you guys. Because I want to talk about some absurdity in what I think is going to happen at 12:30 eastern time today, when we find out about the college football playoff. The good news is we have a playoff. But think about how that would play out if they apply the same logic that they're going to use to find out who the final four is for college football if we did it for the presidential race.

It's as if we took a mayor, a reporter from the Cook Political Report, an economic expert from CNBC, and a tattooed D.C. bureau chief from BuzzFeed and said, "Okay guys, you get to decide the party's nominee. We have primaries to tell you the scores of games that took place, but you can take those primaries into consideration and you four get to decide who the nominees are." Is that a fair process?

AMY WALTER:

Well, isn't that how they did it in the old days, this is a smoke-filled room. Right? That worked great in the old days.

CHUCK TODD

Smoke-filled room of college football--

JOHN STANTON:

I mean that's how college football does everything anyway, right?

KASIM REED:

--hosting a college football playoff.

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

You know, it's as if we have our presidential race and had 538 people in an electoral college decide who was president. Oh, wait a minute. That's what we have. Anyway, I think that, let me just hope, if they leave out an undefeated team, if they leave out an undefeated team, wins should still matter more than data, right?

RICK SANTELLI:

Yeah, but there's a lot of teams that this applies to in the past. I mean, once again, change the rules.

CHUCK TODD:

I hear you. Well, they, college football, we talk about changing the rules, college football changes the rules every year. So, the winner--

KASIM REED:

I think Chuck is on a mission.

CHUCK TODD:

I am, I am, I am. Too much data. Who cares about who controls the game? I want to know who wins the game. Anyway, thank you guys. That's all for today. We'll be back next week because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *