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Meet the Press Transcript - July 5, 2015

Meet The Press - July 5, 2015

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, America on alert, security heightened across the country this holiday weekend. We're going to have a special report on why ISIS is proving so difficult to defeat.

RICHARD ENGEL:

Witnesses say ISIS militants have recently begun to lay landmines and fortify their positions.

CHUCK TODD:

Also, the race for 2016. My interview with Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas on immigration, his personal temperament and the Supreme Court.

TED CRUZ:

It is the justices who have politicized the court.

CHUCK TODD:

Plus the Trump effect.

DONALD TRUMP:

I understand everybody loves what I'm doing in terms of the border because we have to stop the illegals from coming in.

CHUCK TODD:

Is Donald Trump hurting not just his own business brand but the Republican party's chances of winning the White House? And this Independence Day weekend, the Declarations of Independents. Our independent voters are changing the landscape of American politics. I'm Chuck Todd and joining me for insight and analysis this Sunday morning are the former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, Carolyn Ryan of The New York Times, Kathleen Parker and Chris Cillizza from The Washington Post. Welcome to Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

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

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning and Happy Fourth of July weekend despite some slightly unseasonable weather there was some spectacular fireworks on the National Mall here in Washington D.C. We do Fourth of July really well in Washington, trust me.

As America celebrated its 239th birthday and thankfully despite a heightened state of alert there were no terror-related incidents. That said, authorities across the country remain on high alert with the big fear being still that an ISIS-inspired lone wolf attack could happen here. And we've got all the bases covered this morning, we got Richard Engel in Turkey on the battle against ISIS, Andrew Mitchell in Vienna at the Iran nuclear talks. Iran a potential ally against ISIS. But first I'm joined by my colleague, Kristen Welker who is at the White House. Were the crowds there any smaller this year as the city was put on this jumpy, high-alert?

KRISTEN WELKER:

Well, Chuck, good morning. It doesn't seem so. Federal officials say there's no indication that the terror threat deterred people. Hundreds of thousands braved the tight security in New York and scores turned out in Washington where, as you know, it poured earlier in the evening.

Now security was tight everywhere. In New York 7,000 extra police were on patrol. Here in the nation's capital, nine security checkpoints on the National Mall. There were similar measures in place from Boston to Los Angeles. Now one law enforcement official tells me this morning the message was sent out loud and clear to potential terrorists, don't even try it.

So the question now what happens now that it's July 5th? Well, law enforcement official says the greatest target was yesterday. So there is a sense of relief in that regard. But ISIS continues to call for attacks online and through social media including through the holy month of Ramadan which doesn't end until July 17th.

So federal officials are still calling for vigilance. They stressed that these threats are not specific. Instead ISIS is trying to inspire so-called lone wolves to carry out attacks on their own. ISIS' efforts to recruit on social media has become such a concern that there's actually a bill making its way through Congress that would require social media sites like Twitter and YouTube to report videos and other content posted by suspected terrorists. Now one top official tells me the bottom line about yesterday's celebrations show that, quote, "We're not going to stop being Americans because there's a group that wants to do us harm." Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Kristen, very thorough. We all appreciate that report this morning. And yes, we are all relieved.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Indeed.

CHUCK TODD:

And so while authorities here are still on that heightened state of alert, overseas ISIS has dramatically proven it poses a big threat there well-beyond Iraq and Syria, killing dozens in three continents in recent weeks.

And according to a bulletin circulated by the House Homeland Security Chair Michael McCaul, there have been 28 ISIS-inspired plots against western targets this year alone. That's an increase of 47% over 2014. The House Committee also has been tracking an 80% increase in the number of foreign fighters that are entering Syria and Iraq to fight for ISIS. That's now about 22,000 fighters from over 100 countries. Our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel has been to the Turkish-Syrian border to assess why ISIS continues to be such a tough adversary.

RICHARD ENGEL:

Each week ISIS seems to be branching out and striking new targets. There was the massacre on a beach in Tunisia where an ISIS-trained gunman killed 38 people including 30 British tourists. And this week violence in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula where ISIS-linked militants massed in the hundreds and attacked and killed dozens of Egyptian troops.

The atrocities keep ISIS in the headlines and fuel the group's social media efforts to recruit outsiders to copy them, especially in places that are perceived to be hard to hit like the United States. ISIS doesn't seem to be, as some U.S. officials have suggested, on the ropes. It's been successful.

SHADI HAMID:

It's no mistake that ISIS has risen in the two countries that are most unstable and riddled by civil war, Iraq and Syria.

RICHARD ENGEL:

Consider the Syrian town of Jarablus. It sits right on the Turkish border in an area that has been the main crossing point for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of foreign fighters joining ISIS.

ISIS is in full control of the town of Jarablus which is just over the Turkish border. Here it is that concrete wall that separates Turkey from Syria. And you could see the ISIS flag right there. Witnesses say ISIS militants have recently begun to lay landmines and fortify their positions. This whole area is a key ISIS supply route. And the militants clearly don't want to lose it.

And they're not likely to because Turkey which has troops positioned less than a mile away seems to be in no rush to push ISIS out. Why? Because if ISIS were defeated here Kurdish fighters would take over. And Turkey which has been at war with Kurds for decades doesn't want that. Abu Jassim, a Syrian who escaped ISIS in Jarablus says the Turks must do more.

"The Turks should clear out ISIS," he said. "How can they let ISIS plant mines in front of them and do nothing? They don't seem to realize the danger," he said. So here are two U.S. allies, the Turks and the Kurds. But the fight between them is preventing a full-scale assault on ISIS.

And, Chuck, Turkey last week even threatened to invade Syria to prevent the Kurds from taking more territory. And across the Middle East right now you see these much older, regional conflicts bubbling up to the surface. And the chaos that they're creating is helping ISIS. I like to think of ISIS as a virus. It thrives because the host is sick. And right now the Middle East is very sick. Chuck?

CHUCK TODD:

That's for sure. But Richard, very quickly, going back on this Turkey front, what will it take to get the Turks to take their eye off of the Kurds?

RICHARD ENGEL:

Well, I think it'll take a lot of negotiation. Right now the U.S. is backing the Kurds and is helping the Kurds militarily to fight ISIS because the Turks haven't been able to or haven't been willing to close their side of the border. So the U.S. went to the Kurds.

And that is absolutely infuriating the Turks. So you have this very old, very entrenched regional conflict whereas the U.S. is looking for a local partner, found the Kurds and now because it's helping the Kurds it is antagonizing the Turks even more.

CHUCK TODD:

And it seems to be the story of every Middle East conflict we get ourselves involved in. One side, two allies, they're at each other's throats as well. Richard, thanks very much. I now want to go to Andrea Mitchell who is in Vienna where Iran has floated the possibility of joint action against ISIS if the nuclear deal is reached as the talks neared their deadline. So let's go to to talks themselves. Andrea, where are we? It's well past June 30th. There's still no deal. It's now July 5th. What's going on?

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Well, they say, Chuck, that this is the end game. They're closing in on a possible nuclear deal. But there are still some big obstacles as of today. Secretary Kerry and Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif have been meeting all weekend and again today. In a snazzy YouTube video, Zarif speaking English, even used social media to pressure the U.S. negotiators.

JAVAD ZARIF:

Getting to yes requires the courage to compromise. The self-confidence to be flexible, the maturity to be reasonable, the wisdom to set aside delusions and the audacity to break old habits.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

So what is the progress? First on sanctions, their staffs tentative agreement to lift the U.S. and European sanctions. But they still have to get the foreign ministries to sign off on that when they get back here a few hours from now. Also where are the disagreements?

There still are plenty. They still have not figured out how to automatically reimpose UN sanctions if Iran cheats. And disagreements on how much access UN inspectors will have to Iran's sensitive and military sitesas well as unresolved pressure about Iran's past nuclear research. And Saturday the head of the UN Nuclear Agency reported progress. He may be able to resolve those issues by the end of the year, he said, faster than some had thought. But certainly not fast enough to satisfy Israel and the other critics.

And finally, they haven't closed the gap on how much nuclear research that Iran can do a decade from now. So all of this will be on the table tonight and tomorrow when the ministers rejoin the talks here and the next 24 hours are going to be critical, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Andrea, this is always put in the media as the U.S. negotiating with Iran. But there are other countries that are involved in these negotiations. Obviously Russia and China are the two most critical ones to deal with the UN snapback sanctions and things like that. What role are the other countries playing?

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Well, critical roles by certainly France, Germany. The Europe Union is at the table for all of these talks. Russia has been very, very helpful I'm told and that's interesting because despite the disagreements over Ukraine, the sanctions, Putin versus Obama, their terrible relationship, Russia, in these talks, has been helpful.

It has its own self-interest. They want an economic relationship. They want to sell oil equipment to Iran once sanctions are lifted if there is a deal. They also don't want a nuclear Iran on their border. And China has been more helpful than anyone had expected as well on the U.S. side.

But still they have to face the problem of Israel, Netanyahu again, calling this not only a bad deal but a worse deal than what was negotiated with North Korea. And as he pointed out they have a very big nuclear arsenal after the negotiations with the U.S. back in the 1990s.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Andrea Mitchell, you'll be all over it when the deal, if a deal, comes to fruition in the next few days. Andrea, thanks.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me bring in the panel now, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, Carolyn Ryan, the Washington bureau chief for The New York Times, Kathleen Parker, columnist for The Washington Post, Mr. Fix from The Washington Post, Chris Cillizza, welcome to you all.

Carolyn, let me start with you, the politics of this Iran deal obviously the minute something happens, and I think we all assume there's going to be a deal whether it's in the next week or the next month, we'll see. What kind of political earthquake is there going to be in Congress once there is something to present?

CAROLYN RYAN:

I think there will be a lot of huffing and puffing. I think there will be a lot of ads run. I don't think given the general contours of what we know about this deal, unless you had significant Democratic defections, that you would see Congress block the deal. Remember the way the legislation is set up you need 2/3 majority in both houses which is a pretty high bar to clear. And so far it seems like the indications, especially from House Democrats, is that they're not going anywhere.

CHUCK TODD:

It's interesting you bring up these Democrats though, Chris Cillizza, Jim Webb he sort of announced in an unusual way, just did it by press release, but he had critical things to say about the Iran deal in his announcement written speech. He said, "Today I will not be the president to sign an executive order establishing a long-term relationship with Iran if it accepts Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons."

And then Hillary Clinton was asked about Iran yesterday and she said, "Even if there is a deal," essentially she said, "Iran's aggressiveness will not end. They will continue to be a principal state-sponsor of terrorism. So just because get the nuclear deal, if we get it done doesn't mean we're going to be able to breathe a big sigh of relief." There is Democratic skepticism on the deal.

CHRIS CILLIZZA:

There is. And I think especially for Hillary Clinton, she doesn't necessarily-- we saw this with trades. She doesn't want to sign off on anything that she isn't in the room for or isn't sort of aware of all the details on. That said, I think everyone's just trying to buy themselves the ability to say, "Look, I was skeptical but I went along because President Obama is my president." You know, I mean, I think that that's what's happening here. I do think, I'm with Carolyn, yes, there will be Bob Menendez. There will be some folks who will not vote for this but I just don't think it's going to be enough. And I think you will see skepticism even if a deal is reached. People will say, "This isn't the deal I might've wanted. This isn't what I would've negotiated." But ultimately they will vote for it.

CHUCK TODD:

Now--

KATHLEEN PARKER:

You could say the same things with Republicans a little bit too. You've already seen Chris Christie come out and say--

CHUCK TODD:

He backed off.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

I'm not the one who's going to say on day one I will undo this thing. You know, he's buying himself a little space to be flexible. And Jeb Bush wrote an op-ed in which he outlined all the problems with the deal and his concerns. But he also says, "Whatever happens, the next president is going to have a lot to deal with," and outlined all those issues as well.

CHUCK TODD:

Michael Steele, the fact that the Iran deal is going to be a political football, is a back and forth, this is all about Israel, isn't it?

MICHAEL STEELE:

It is all about Israel. And you're going to hear more and more about Israel as you get closer to the vote on this deal. Israel is going to be a quiet force in the background. It's going to go to its friends and influencers in the House and the Senate.

And they're going to be the ones who are going to be putting out the TV ads and the commercials and making the noise that way. But at the end of the day I think the president is going to have the momentum he's going to need to get this thing done. It's going to be a big red flag though because this deal throws the trust but verify on its head. And I don't know how you're going to verify. That's going to be a big concern for Israel and a lot of folks in the Congress.

CHUCK TODD:

It is. But Carolyn, Israel is taking a different tact than it did just three months ago. Three months ago publicly campaigning against the deal. This time--

MICHAEL STEELE:

Behind the scenes.

CHUCK TODD:

--yeah, they've been very quiet.

CAROLYN RYAN:

I think they realize that--

CHUCK TODD:

They learned a lesson.

CAROLYN RYAN:

They don't want to set off something incindiary. I just want to get back to your point about skepticism though. I do think the Obama administration, especially given that the president sees this as a legacy issue, hasn't addressed the skepticism in the American public. I think 64% of Americans don't believe this is going to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

CHUCK TODD:

Yet, they're in favor of trying to do a deal. It's very interesting. The public wants diplomacy and it doesn't think it's going to work.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Well, they've bought essentially nine months where if they rush ahead and go ahead and develop they've gone from two to three months to a year. So it's not much of a deal.

CHUCK TODD:

No that's what we're going to find out perhaps in the next week. July 9th is the semi-real deadline. So keep an eye out for July 9th. When we come back, the race for 2016 and the man many people believe could be the super candidate in the Republican field, Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

**Commercial Break**

CHUCK TODD:

Come from behind victories in Iowa and New Hampshire have a history of jump-starting presidential campaigns. And right now this crowded field of Republican candidates is hoping a win in one of those early states will take them from one of 16 to potentially the nomination. Consider it a tale of two Republican brackets if you want to call it that.

At this early stage this is less about polling than the types of voters these candidates are targeting. There are the New Hampshire or bust candidates from Chris Christie to John Kasich, George Pataki to Lindsey Graham, the so-called moderates hoping they can beat Jeb Bush in the Granite State and take off down the road.

Then there's the Iowa or bust crowd, if Scott Walker loses in Iowa his campaign is in big trouble, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee to be Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal. All more conservative candidates hoping they could upset Walker there and take off. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina. Right now they fall into cross-over candidate bracket, if you will. They think they can do well in both states.

Now one of those candidates in the Iowa bracket is Ted Cruz. And he's out with some big fundraising numbers this morning. We can report that Cruz's campaign raised $14 million over the last three months with an average donation of $81.

And Cruz' Super PAC apparently raised nearly three times that amount giving him a total haul of $51 million to spend on behalf of his campaign. I met up with Cruz on Friday in Atlanta in between stops for his new book, A Time for Truth, about reigniting the American promise. And I began by asking him about the recent Supreme Court decisions on Obamacare and same-sex marriage which he compared to some of the darkest days in American history.

TED CRUZ:

In a period of 24 hours, we had two decisions of the Supreme Court where a majority of the justices violated their judicial oaths. In one, they ignored the text of federal law. They rewrote Obamacare, forcing that failed law on millions of Americans, and then the next day, five justices disregarded the text of the Constitution and purported to strike down the marriage laws of all 50 states.

And I agree with Justice Scalia who said in two powerful descents-- and I would urge everyone of your viewers to read Justice Scalia's dissents.

He said that these decisions are an assault on democracy. That this is five unelected lawyers declaring they are the rulers of 320 million Americans. I believe in democracy and the Constitution. And I think when the Supreme Court violates their oaths and undermines the Constitution, that is a grave threat to our nation.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, let's go to the-- the issue of marriage. The minute the federal government gives tax benefits based on marriage, doesn't it-- doesn't it make marriage a suddenly a federal decision that the-- the Supreme Court does have to make a decision?

TED CRUZ:

Of course, it doesn't. From the beginning of our country, literally, from the first days of our country, marriage has always been a question for the states. You know, on the question of gay marriage, on the policy issue, reasonable minds can disagree. I-- I am a strong supporting of traditional marriage, of the union of one man and one woman. You and I may disagree on that. But under the Constitution, there was a mechanism for us to resolve our disagreements, which is if you wanna change the marriage laws of your state, the Constitutional mechanism is to convince your fellow citizens to change the marriage laws. Now, what that might mean is that some states, California, New York, maybe they would go one way. And other states, like Texas and Florida, they may go another way. it is profoundly troubling when you have Supreme Court justices not following their judicial oath. And taking the role of policy makers and legislators, rather than being judges.

CHUCK TODD:

You wanna go another step further. You wanna make them part of the political process. You wanna have them deal in retention elections. Doesn't that politicize the Court more?

TED CRUZ:

Well--

CHUCK TODD:

Any state that has elections for judges, they're raising money, they're-- it-- it-- it-- it weakens the judiciary branch, does it not?

TED CRUZ:

Well, it-- it is the justices who have politicized the Court. They are the ones who have stepped in to try to resolve every policy matter. They shouldn't be rewriting Obamacare. You know, Chief Justice Roberts famously used the analogy of an umpire calling balls and strikes. Well, they stopped being an umpire. They became a player on a team.

They put on an Obama jersey. They got out the eraser, they erased terms in the statute and rewrote it, joining the Obama administration. That was wrong. And th-- and that's why I reluctantly called for a Constitutional amendment for periodic judicial retention elections.

CHUCK TODD:

Let's bring up-- Donald Trump. You defended him. Your former governor, Rick Perry, has criticized him. You've had an experience with plenty of Mexican immigrants in Texas. Are they-- are these immigrants that are coming into Texas what Donald Trump describes? Are they drug dealers, rapists, and-- and-- and such?

TED CRUZ:

Listen, I-- I am a passionate advocate for legal immigrants. I am the son of an immigrant who came legally from Cuba. And I'll tell you, from the day I started campaigning, I traveled the state of Texas, talking about how all of us, we are the children of those who risked everything for freedom. That that immigrant experience of all of us is what makes us Americans, because we value in our DNA liberty and opportunity above all else.

Now, when it comes to Donald Trump, I like Donald Trump. He's bold, he's brash. And I get that-- that-- that it seems the favorite sport of the Washington media is to encourage some Republicans to attack other Republicans. I ain't gonna do it. I'm not interested in Republican on Republican violence.

CHUCK TODD:

Rhetoric matters.

TED CRUZ:

You know--

CHUCK TODD:

Doesn't rhetoric matter?

TED CRUZ:

I salute Donald Trump for focusing on the need to address illegal immigration. The Washington cartel doesn't want to address that. The Washington cartel doesn't believe we need to secure the borders. The Washington cartel supports amnesty and I think amnesty's wrong. And I salute Donald Trump for focusing on it. He has a colorful way of speaking. It's not the way I speak. But I'm not gonna engage in the media's game of throwing rocks and attacking other Republicans. I'm just not gonna do it.

CHUCK TODD:

So let's go to immigration. What do you do with the 11 million?

TED CRUZ:

You know, it's an interesting thing in Washington. That is the question that both President Obama and Democrats love to focus on. How do you solve the problem? You focus on areas of common ground. I am long term optimistic and short term pessimistic on immigration. Long term, I'm optimistic because there's a lotta bipartisan agreement outside of Washington on immigration. There's overwhelming bipartisan agreement, number one, that we need to secure the borders. That we need to finally do something to stop illegal immigration.

CHUCK TODD:

What do you do with the 11 million people though? Do you have to send 'em back, or do you give them a way to get legal?

TED CRUZ:

Chuck, I don't accept the premise that you have to solve every aspect of this problem all at once. President Obama and the Democrats focus on that issue because the question you're asking is the most divisive partisan question in this entire debate. And I don't believe President Obama wants to solve this.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that it's divisive. But the-- it's still a problem.

TED CRUZ:

B-- but-- but you don't have to solve every problem at once. Look, here's the problem--

CHUCK TODD:

That's fine. But explain how you do it?

TED CRUZ:

I am explaining how. The last time Congress passed immigration reform was in the 1980s. And Congress came to the American people with the following tradeoff. Congress said there were three million people living here illegally. Congress said, "We will grant amnesty to those three million. In exchange, we're gonna secure the borders. We're gonna solve the problem so that illegal immigration goes away."

Well, we all know what happens. The amnesty happened. And the border never got secured.

And here's the sad truth. A lot of Republicans in the Washington cartel, they're all for amnesty too because from the perspective of the Chamber of Commerce and Wall Street, it's cheap labor.

CHUCK TODD:

You still didn't say what you'd do with the 11 million.

TED CRUZ:

Well, my view is first, we secure the borders and solve the problem of illegal immigration. And then I think we can have a conversation about what to do about the people who remain here. I don't think the American people will accept any solution until we demonstrate step number one, we can secure the border.

CHUCK TODD:

So anything's on the table? Potentially deportation or not deportation, but anything's on the table for the 11 million--

TED CRUZ:

I think we should secure the border and then have a conversation at that point. Stop using the Washington approach of I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today. The American people aren't going for it.

CHUCK TODD:

You write something-- interesting in your book about your cockiness. It is a frequent topic when people wanna discuss you. Your-- you're brash, you're ambitious, you're in a hurry. And you yourself say it's an issue. Explain where you in where you thought your cockiness cost you a job in the Bush administration.

TED CRUZ:

Well, look I discuss the time I spent back in 1999 and 2000 on the Bush campaign. And I was a young man in my twenties. I'd-- I'd enjoyed a lotta success. Almost everything I'd laid my hands to had gone well. And-- and I was far too cocky for my own good. And-- and as a consequence, coming outta the campaign, I desperately wanted to have a senior job in the White House.

Frankly, I wanted to be,- I know you're a political junkie, I wanted to be Michael J. Fox's character in The American President. The young, idealistic staffer in the White House, in the Oval Office, sayin', "Mr. President, do the right thing." And that didn't happen. And, and it became clear it wasn't gonna happen because I had burned too many bridges.

CHUCK TODD:

How, how have you changed? How did it change you?

TED CRUZ:

Well, it's interesting. My wife Heidi thinks that it changed my personality in a very fundamental way. And one of the things I talk about in the book is, you know, a terrific country and western song Some of God'sGreatest Gifts are Unanswered Prayers. I'm convinced if I had gotten what I wanted, a senior position in the Bush White House, there's no universe in which I'd be in the Senate.

CHUCK TODD:

You'd f-- you'd have flamed out?

TED CRUZ:

I almost surely would've been enmeshed in many of the-- th-- the mistakes in the Bush administration where, unfortunately, as time went on, the administration didn't honor the conservative commitments that the campaign had made at the front end. But-- but number two, listen, I would've been-- if I had gotten that job, I-- I mostly assuredly b-- would've been quite impressed with myself.

And here's a simple reality. If you run a grassroots campaign-- our campaign for the Senate, we were opposed by all of the money, all of the donors, all of the establishment. It came from the people. It came from-- from young people and Hispanics and-- and Republican women. It came from hundreds of VFW halls and Dennys' and IHOPs. You can't run and win a grassroots campaign if you're an arrogant little snot. And as I discussed in the book, A Time for Truth, I needed to get my teeth kicked in.

CHUCK TODD:

So we have a new Facebook partnership with all our presidential interviews. So I promised that I would ask one of their questions. Jeff Patterson wants me to ask you this. What issue or issues that you've voted on in the Senate would it most surprise people to know that you are actually in philosophical agreement with President Obama? And what do you most admire about President Obama?

TED CRUZ:

I tell you I admire that he is a true believer. The second part of the question I can answer. You know, there are some people in the grassroots who-- who-- who view him, ascribe bad motives to him and I will often dispute that. I think he believes in all of his heart in his principles. I think he fights for them relentlessly. If I were a leftist, I would love Barack Obama because he has advanced the left wing progressive agenda more than any president in history. Now, I think the problem is the ideas he believes are profoundly dangerous. That millions of Americans have-- been hurt by exploding government regulations and taxes that have taken away jobs and opportunity. But I admire that he stands and fights for his principles.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Cruz, I gotta leave it there. We could've gone another half hour just on foreign policy. So I hope to have you back.

TED CRUZ:

Excellent.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Cruz, thank you, sir.

TED CRUZ:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

And there's a lot more from my sit down with Ted Cruz on the Meet the Press' Facebook page as well as MeetThePressNBC.com you can see the full, unedited interview there. When we come back even Donald Trump admits he's hurting his own brand. But is he hurting the Republican Party's brand a lot more?

ANNOUNCER:

Meet the Press is brought to you by Morgan Stanley where capital creates change.

**Commercial Break**

CHUCK TODD:

And welcome back, the Democratic primaries field grew by one this week. You may have missed it though, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb has entered the race. He did it via press release. He's now the fifthDemocratic in the contest. And a tweet from our pals at The Washington Post, Aaron Blake in particular, reminded us about the history of the current Democratic field which turns out to be not as Democratic as you might think.

Let's start with Jim Webb. Webb wasn't always a Democrat. He was Secretary of Navy in the Ronald Reagan administration. Bernie Sanders, of course, is still not a registered Democrat. He was elected Mayor of Burlington, Vermont four times in the '80s as a socialist.

Lincoln Chafee has been elected two different offices in Rhode Island, never as a Democrat. He was a Senator from Rhode Island as a Republican and elected governor as an independent. In fact, among the Democratic challengers to Hillary Clinton only former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has gone his whole political career identifying as an actual registered Democrat. And then of course there's Hillary Clinton. Long before she became the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination she got involved in politics for the very first time as a Goldwater Girl. Never a registered Republican though we don't think. When we return, why are the people saying to Donald Trump, "Run, Donald, run," are all called Democrats.

**Commercial Break**

CHUCK TODD:

Well, there are now 14 declared candidates officially in the Republican side of the presidential race with two to more come at least. So it's no surprise some are struggling to stand out from the crowd and poll well enough to make it into the early debates because of that criteria that unfortunately was used.

But love them or loathe him a lack of publicity has never been a problem for Donald Trump. The property mogul is reveling in the limelight after his outspoken comments on immigration garnered national headlines. But many are wondering whether his candidacy and comments have already damaged the Republican party's chances of winning the White House next year.

CHUCK TODD:

Donald Trump is blanketing Spanish language television. The controversy has gotten the attention of big business and for a Republican party desperate to improve its image with Latino voters it may be a fatal blow. For two weeks Donald Trump has defended these comments.

DONALD TRUMP:

When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists and some, I assume, are good people.

CHUCK TODD:

And he just can't stop talking about it.

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, who's doing the raping? Who's doing the raping?

ALFONSO AGUILAR:

What he's doing is so offensive that, I mean, this is the number one issue right now in Spanish language media.

CHUCK TODD:

Since Univision announced last week that it would no longer broadcast Trump's Miss U.S.A. Pageant businesses from NBC Universal, to Macy's, to NASCAR, even Serta mattresses have been telling Trump, "You're fired." Republicans running for president initially slow to criticize Trump are now beginning to condemn the comments.

JEB BUSH:

To make these extraordinarily ugly kind of comments is not reflective of the Republican Party. We're going to win when we're hopeful enough domestic and big and broad rather than arr, grr, angry all the time.

RICK PERRY:

I don't think he's reflecting the Republican Party with his statements about Mexicans.

CHRIS CHRISTIE:

The comments were inappropriate they have no place in the race.

CHUCK TODD:

But candidates eager to win Trump's voters once he either drops out of the race or simply falters have been silent or even defended him.

TED CRUZ:

09:36:03:00 I salute Donald Trump for focusing on the need to address illegal immigration.

CHUCK TODD:

So far the Republican National Committee has taken a soft approach publicity.

REINEC PRIEBUS:

Not every comment's helpful. But you know what, I don't agree with my wife on everything either.

ALFONSO AGUILAR:

The problem with a lot of Republicans is silence. They may be for immigration, they may be leading immigration reform. But if they're being quiet then the only voice the Hispanic voters are going to hear are voices like Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, the panel is here and of course we have a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele. This is a tough call for Reince Priebus. I don't envy him here. On one hand he wants to play referee and you know inside he'd love to totally denounce. But they don't want to alienate part of the party. What would you be doing here?

MICHAEL STEELE:

Well, I would have a slightly different approach. I would have gone out, look, you've got to have that Sistah Souljah moment with the party where you've got to be honest and call it what it is. The fact--

CHUCK TODD:

You as Chairman right now would aggressively criticize one of your candidates?

MICHAEL STEELE:

I would have said sooner, "This is not the tone. This is not the effort. We have an autopsy report that says one thing. You are running counter to that." You've got to stake that claim. You've got to be authentic. I mean, people are sophisticated enough to know when you're just full of BS. And the fact that you're not coming out on something that everyone in the country reacted to this and you didn't, the party didn't, and those who want to be president didn't until, what, this week?

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

MICHAEL STEELE:

That's a problem. It's a problem of authenticity. It's a problem of authenticity. It's a problem of a legitimacy when you're going to go speak to that community, what do you say to them? "Oh I'm sorry, well, we just figured out how we feel about this." It's not the place you want to be.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, I got a little bit more, Chris and Kathleen, from Jeb Bush here. I want to play a little bit more from Jeb yesterday on Donald Trump.

JEB BUSH:

He's not a stupid guy so I don't assume he's, like, he thinks that every Mexican crossing the border is a rapist. I mean, so he's doing this to inflame and to incite and to get to draw attention which seems to be his organizing principle of his campaign.

CHUCK TODD:

So really takes a shot at him there. The toughest shot, and Chris, the Trump folks have decided to respond to Jeb here and he said this. This is what comes from the Trump campaign. "Today Jeb Bush once again proves that he is out of touch with the American people. Just like the simple question asked of Jeb in Iraq where it took him five days and multiple answers to get it right. He doesn't understand anything about the border or border security. In fact, Jeb believes illegal immigrants who break our laws when they cross our border come, quote, out of love." Trump loves being Jeb's foil. And, by the way, I think Jeb loves having Trump as his foil.

CHRIS CILLIZZA:

I certainly agree that Trump loves being anyone's foil because it means we're talking about him, right? And then I think this is a car accident candidacy, Donald Trump, which is essentially there's a car accident. You don't want to slow down. You don't want to look. But there's always traffic because everybody slows down and everybody looks, right? And that's Donald Trump. And he revels in it. I think to Chairman Steele's point, I think even the slow reactions, yes, Jeb has come out forcefully now. But the slow reaction on this, you cannot be afraid of your party's base.

MICHAEL STEELE:

Yeah, you can't.

CHRIS CILLIZZA:

You will not win that way. And this sort of dancing around it, if you say, "Look, Donald Trump has his views. They are not my views and I believe they are out of step with what this Republican party is, what it was and what I want it to be," yes, are you going to lose some people? Sure. But no one wins these things in a 16-candidate field with 95% of the vote. Right? I mean, if you do, more power to you.

CHUCK TODD:

Kathleen, let's do the larger question that I posed at the beginning here which is has he already done the damage? These Donald Trump comments are already going to-- has he already Todd Aiken-ed the immigration issue with Hispanics for the Republican party in the fall of '16?

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Well, I think that's a big possibility and that is the harm he brings to the GOP because they're already having trouble convincing Americans, and particularly Hispanic voters, that they are friendly to other folks who are not part of the party as they-- at the moment. And, you know, once you get that kind of quote out there then the Democrats can see a diplomat and then, you know, use it to their advantage. But I would like to hear all of these candidates be much more forceful on saying, "This has nothing to do with us. This is Donald Trump's craziness."

CHUCK TODD:

And Carolyn, what do you make of the Ted Cruz decision to defend him?

CAROLYN RYAN:

I think that he's not eager to offend that base and those voters. And I think he's sort of applauding the brashness. I think it's a mistake. I think if there's one major obstacle to Republican being elected this time, look at 2012, look at Mitt Romney's numbers among Latinos. It's not a hard lesson to learn. But they seem very slow to learn it.

CHUCK TODD:

They were just slow. And I cannot emphasize enough what Spanish language television is doing with this story. This is the biggest story bar none all week.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Listen Putin is having a time with this story. He's talking about it.

CHUCK TODD:

There you go.

CAROLYN RYAN:

When you're behind a mattress company that it's not a good thing for a party.

CHUCK TODD:

That is true. All right, later in the broadcast, all right, thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Later in the broadcast, this Independence Day weekend, how independent voters are changing American politics more than you think. But first, rates in America with one of the leading voices on the subject, Ta-Nehisi Coates.

**Commercial Break**

CHUCK TODD:

The rapid retreat by many politicians over the issue of the confederate flag, the battle flag in the aftermath of the tragedy in Charleston last month highlighted the influence of a new generation of civil rights and social rights activists who are in no mood to compromise. My next guest, Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic Monthly Magazine doesn't lead civil rights marches but his work is widely read by those who do.

And he's followed on Twitter by thousands as one of the most influential voices in the discussion of race in the 21st century today. He's the new author of a book called Between the World and Me, a memoir of sorts, of his message to his son on the issue of race in America. Mr. Coates, welcome to Meet the Press.

TA-NEHISI COATES:

Thanks for having me, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

But before we get to the book's message itself of the confederate flag, three weeks ago, I'll be honest, after watching this for 20 years, watching what Georgia and South Carolina went through, I didn't think I would see the day when perhaps the confederate flag is being buried. How surprised are you and how significant?

TA-NEHISI COATES:

Well, I was quite shocked. You know, I didn't either even after, you know, the unfortunate deaths, you know, in the church I didn't necessarily think that this, you know, would be the end result. I think one of the good things, you know, for even skeptics like me is the response to the forgiveness that, you know, some of the families have.

I think, like, the way that that pricked the consciousness was really big. And I think unlike, you know, maybe some of my fellow travelers I actually think this is a huge, huge deal. I think symbols matter. You know, I think if you're somebody who has to walk past a confederate flag on the capital of South Carolina, in Charleston every day that sends a message about what's acceptable and what's not. Children growing up today will now see the symbol of an empowered slavery is now acceptable in the state. I think that's really, really significant.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think it takes the next step and it actually changes the way we teach the civil war? I mean, I think about how we're taught the civil war in main-- in sort of main, public schools. Do you think we've changed that conversation a little bit so it's a little more honest?

TA-NEHISI COATES:

A little bit. A little bit. I mean the struggle continues we were talking before we came on the air about what seems like, you know, the sudden reaction of the confederate flag going down. But for a lot of people, in fact, it wasn't sudden. Certainly for historians who have been fighting this battle for 50 years, you know, and other activists. You know, this is a long, long struggle.

So I think, you know, as we move into the sesquicentennial for reconstruction, you know, and the story around reconstruction which is obviously related to the civil war and the confederate flag the battle continues. So maybe in another 50 years we'll have that right.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, let's-- 50 years. Let's go to the book itself. It's a memoir to your son. That's how it turned into that. And I want to talk about what real reform when it comes to racial----social justice and race relations. And you write this, "You may have heard the talk of diversity, sensitivity training and body cameras. They're all fine and applicable. But they understate the task and a lot of the citizens of the country to pretend that there is a real distance between their own attitudes and those of the ones appointed to protect them."

This is in response to increased scrutiny of police brutality against African-Americans. Obviously a conversation that African-American fathers have to have with their sons a lot. But you're not comfortable with the conversation that's happening now even as we acknowledge the problem.

TA-NEHISI COATES:

No I'm not. Because I think people focus on the police as the problem and I think that allows us to avoid our responsibility as citizens living in a democracy. In each of these disturbances in Ferguson, in Baltimore, in, you know, Charleston, South Carolina.

But in South Carolina with Walter Scott we were talking about-- you can see policies behind each and every one of those instances. And so I think that we need to have a discussion about that be it policy in terms of, you know, in South Carolina with Walter Scott, in terms of how we deal with our child support payments, be it in terms of in Baltimore how easily we allow people to arrest other people.

You know, in Ferguson we need to have a conversation about how municipal governments fund themselves. The police are not some independent organization operating as a result of a military junta. We live in a democracy. We get the police departments we deserve. And so I think American citizens need to take some responsibility for that.

CHUCK TODD:

Two incidents seem to actually impact Republicans on this issue, Eric Garner in Staten Island and the North Charleston incident with Walter Scott. Are you heartened by that that you have a Republican Party, a lot of them now talking about criminal justice reform, a topic they wouldn't have talked about ten years ago?

TA-NEHISI COATES:

Well, frankly what I was actually most heartened by when you see actual Republican presidential candidates like Rand Paul come out and say that the flag, you know, was a racist symbol. You know, not that we're going to get rid of the flag to make black people feel better, not the confederate flag is innocent but that it actually stands for something that's really bad that we should embarrassed. So that was heartening.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think this conversation Republican's having, do you believe it's an honest discussion?

TA-NEHISI COATES:

I don't know to be honest. I don't know. I hope so.

CHUCK TODD:

'Cause you were skeptical of Rand Paul when he went to Harvard a few years ago.

TA-NEHISI COATES:

When he went into Howard. Yes, I was. I don't think that was particularly honest.

CHUCK TODD:

It sounds like you're more impressed with him today.

TA-NEHISI COATES:

Yeah, because I think, like, it's one thing to say, "I am doing this as a, you know, to be polite to you." I think that's one thing. But to say, you know, this is what this actually is," I think it's a different thing. So yeah, I was impressed by it.

CHUCK TODD:

Before we go I want to get to your response of how President Obama talks about race. I want to put up two different ways he's talked about race in the last few years. Take a listen.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Well, we've got no time for excuses. Nobody is going to give you anything that you have not earned. For too long we've been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to act some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty. Or attend dilapidated schools or grow up without prospects for job or for career.

CHUCK TODD:

The first was a speech, a commencement he gave at Morehouse College. You were very critical of that speech back in 2013. The president has changed how he talks about race in the last two years. I think that it's attributable to people like yourself, the Black Lives Matter movement. What do you think it is?

TA-NEHISI COATES:

I don't know that he's changed. You know, I think it'll be very difficult after the killings done in Charleston to go up there and give a, you know, pull up your pants and bootstraps, so to speak. I think maybe he went through change a little bit.

I suspect that if you talk to him privately he still pretty much believes what he believed when he addressed folks in Morehouse . And obviously I have no problem with the message of, you know, personal responsibility. That's the message I give to my son. But President Obama, as he always says, is the president of all the American people. He's not just the president of black people.

And so I think what comes with that is certain burdens. You know, I don't know that telling black people that they need to give more effort, you know, really the way to go when you're the leader of American state and be the bearer of the heritage that basically has gotten us in this situation to begin with.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I'm going to pause there. We're going to do a lot more in a separate interview on Press Pass, talk a lot more about the book itself. Ta-Nehisi Coates, congratulations on your success and the book itself.

TA-NEHISI COATES:

Thank you. Thanks for having me, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Thanks for coming on. And a reminder, if you can't catch Meet the Press live on Sunday mornings, no worries. Always available on demand, please season pass us or whatever your DVR tells you to do. So watch us on your schedule, not ours. Because even if it's not Sunday it's still Meet the Press. We'll be back in a moment with the Meet the Press endgame. Stay with us.

ANNOUNCER:

Stay tuned for end game brought to you by Boeing.

**Commercial Break**

CHUCK TODD:

Because yesterday was Independence Day it gives us an excuse use today's Nerd Screen to talk about independents. If the growing number of voters who don't affiliate with either major political party is reshaping our political system perhaps more than you may realize. How, let's take a look at this.

The largest political party in the United States is no longer a party at all. In fact, check out those stat. 45% of Americans now identify as independent according to our latest polling. That compares to just 27% who call themselves Democrats and 20% who say they are Republicans. What does this mean across the country?

Well, take a look at this. The number of unaffiliated registered voters has grown rapidly. In the 31 states plus the District of Columbia where voters have to pick a party when registering to vote unaffiliated or no-party voters are now the leading political party in 12 of those states. And in a few of them they're a majority of all registered voters.

Let's take a look at one swing state in particular, the state of Florida. It's perhaps the most crucial battleground state in 2016. The number of voters who now register as o"ther" has grown by a million in the last ten years. Compare that with the Democrats who only grew by 300,000 and the Republicans who grew by just 200,000. But even as the numbers of Americans identifying as independents have grown we haven't seen a jump in the number of independent candidates.

Certainly none that are actually gaining traction 'cause they're not in the race. Let me bring in the panel to discuss. Chris, you and I have ferocious debates about what the independent number means and all this stuff. The fact of the matter is I do believe it is voters, even if they agree with the left or agree with the right, they don't like to belong to those two parties right now.

CHRIS CILLIZZA:

I think especially now because they see the two parties essentially as engaging in a prolonged food fight with one another. So even if you identify with the principles of one party or the other, and this excludes the bases of both parties. Sort of the loose partisans, you don't like the tactics of either party.

But one thing I will say, not to rain on this parade like it did yesterday on July 4th. But most people like to say they are independents. Most people when they vote very traditionally vote for one or the other. Now there are a hardcore group of independents. The question is how big actually are they? It's not 45% of the public.

CHUCK TODD:

Kathleen, here's what I don't get though, we have more people wanting to run for president than ever obviously.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Apparently. I'm running actually.

CHUCK TODD:

Your announcement comes up later this week. I am stunned that there hasn't been a semi-significant independent candidate. Bloomberg's not really. There's some call, Bloomberg's not really flirting with it. Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, I think would like to be recruited to do it. I think he is sort of semi-interested. But there isn't a Ross Perot. There isn't somebody out there that I thought given this political environment would show up.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

You would think so given the number of people who do self-identify as independent. But I think, you know, independent candidates just don't do well. And I know it's you said, or maybe it was you who said that even though a person declares himself an independent they still typically vote one way or the other. They typically lean to the Democratic Party or lean to the Republican Party.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm going to move to Bernie Sander crowd sizes. Should we care?

CAROLYN RYAN:

Absolutely. I mean, I think the Clinton people care, even though they might play it down. I think--

CHUCK TODD:

I think the fact that they actively try to play it down tells you they care. I think I've noticed that, "We're not counting crowd sizes? Why are you telling me that?"

CAROLYN RYAN:

What does Bernie Sanders offer that Hillary Clinton can't right now, authenticity, a sense of a message that feels unleashed and uncalculated in a lot of ways. And she's really struggling to contend with it. Now I do think to give them a little credit I think they are glad right now that it is Bernie Sanders that is drawing those crowds and not that those crowds are luring another Democrat with more stature to get in the race.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Michael, in your-- the question is, you know, nobody believes that Hillary's going to lose the nomination. But Pat Buchanan made George H.W. Bush weaker, Rick Santorum made Mitt Romney weaker, Mike Huckabee made John McCain weaker. A prolonged fight for somebody that's obviously the nominee is not healthy.

MICHAEL STEELE:

Yeah, but I think you use the word, fight. And I don't see this as so much a fight between Bernie and Hillary. Not yet.

CHUCK TODD:

She's not fighting back.

MICHAEL STEELE:

She's not fighting back. So there's not that level of engagement. In those other races there was more of a tit for tat between Bush and Buchanan and so forth and Reagan and so forth. But in this case, Hillary's keeping her distance. She's, you know, watching what's happening with the numbers. But she's not going to engage with him directly the way we've seen in the past. And I think that's been helping her so far.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

I actually see Trump and Sanders as sort of mirror images of each other in that they're representing the extremes of the base.

CHUCK TODD:

I would like to end there. I'm going to try to end the show here a little bit. I'd like to end on a unifying note. It's been a long, strange trip obviously to get to this point. But I want to end on a unifying note because tonight is the final concert for the Grateful Dead.

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Wow.

CHRIS CILLIZZA:

At Soldier Field

CHUCK TODD:

And here's what I found amazing thanks to our friends at public opinion strategies and Mark Mellman Democratic, Republican polling firm, they decided to test the Grateful Dead and how popular they are by party. And guess what? The Grateful Dead unifies America. Look at these favorable ratings by Republicans and independents. And in fact--

CAROLYN RYAN:

Wow.

CHUCK TODD:

--the Dead has a higher favorable rating among Republicans than Democrats. How about that--

KATHLEEN PARKER:

They're older. They're older.

CHRIS CILLIZZA:

Why do more people not know them. There's actually huge unknown. Am I aging myself?

CHUCK TODD:

Dude, dude. A lot of people know them because Uncle John's band happened a long time ago. Any real Deadheads here, Parker?

KATHLEEN PARKER:

Well, my son is the biggest Deadhead I know.

CHUCK TODD:

Steele, nice.

CHRIS CILLIZZA:

I love music but I have many friends who are at the final shows, many who went for the last three dates.

CHUCK TODD:

It's time for us to go truckin' That's all for today. Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend. By the way, let's go America. Win this World Cup final this evening. We'll be back next week because it's Sunday with Meet the Press.

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