NBC News - Meet The Press
This Sunday, the chaos presidency. In the West Wing, Reince Priebus, White House Chief of Staff, out.
I think it's a good time to hit the reset button.
John Kelly, the head of Homeland Security, in.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:
General Kelly has been a star, done an incredible job.
In the cabinet, President Trump goes after Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:
I am disappointed in the attorney general.
Republicans push back.
If Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay.
This morning, an inside look at how President Trump operates from his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. Plus, the Republican healthcare effort goes belly up with a thumbs down from John McCain. And the president threatens to sabotage Obamacare.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:
I said from the beginning, let Obamacare implode. And then do it. Let Obamacare implode.
Will President Trump try to push Obamacare over the edge? I'll ask H.H.S. Secretary Tom Price and Susan Collins, one of the Republican no votes. And the red/blue divide, Candidate Trump broke down the Democrat's Midwestern blue wall. Is it still holding? And could we be seeing a crack in the Republican Southern red wall?
Joining me for insight and analysis are Hugh Hewitt, host on the Salem Radio Network, Helene Cooper, Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times, Democrat pollster and NBC News political analyst Cornell Belcher, and Eliana Johnson, national political reporter for Politico. Welcome to Sunday, it's Meet the Press.
From NBC News in Washington, the longest-running show in television history, celebrating its 70th year, this is Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.
Good Sunday morning. Pick your cliché of choice, the wheels came off the bus, circular firing squad, pressing the reset button. With the effective sacking of both his press secretary and his chief of staff in a seven-day span, President Trump did little to blunt the idea that his is a White House in a perpetual state of chaos.
As of this morning, the notable departures from the administration at six months include acting Attorney General Sally Yates, National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, F.B.I. Director James Comey, Communications Director Mike Dubke, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Then, on Friday, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Not to mention the public trashing and cyber bullying of Attorney General Jeff Sessions who does still have a job.
That means President Trump is now on his second chief of Staff, second communications director, second national security advisor, and second press secretary, and it's day 192. Now throwing a public display of infighting by the new communications director Anthony Scaramucci so vulgar we can't even hint here at some of the things that were said.
And the dominoes-like collapse of the Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare was the exclamation point. Voters say they chose President Trump to shake up Washington and end business as usual. On that score at least, the president has certainly delivered. But to what end?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:
Reince was a good man. John Kelly will do a fantastic job. General Kelly has been a star.
President Trump ended a week of bitter infighting, dysfunction, and a major legislative defeat with a very conventional Washington move, a White House staff shakeup.
I think it's a good time to hit the reset button. I think he was right to hit the reset button.
Retired four-star Marine General John Kelly replaces Priebus after just 189 days in office.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:
John Kelly is one of our great stars.
It's an attempt to bring order to a West Wing, which even Rupert Murdoch's New York Post compared to the reality show Survivor. In a profane rant to The New Yorker on Wednesday night, Mr. Trump's new communications director called Priebus an "expletive paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac."
Some brothers are like Cain and Abel. If Reince wants to explain that he's not a leaker, let him do that.
0I'm not going to get into the mud on those sorts of things.
But it's unclear whether Kelly will be given the authority to rein in chaos, which emanates from the president himself. This week, the president repeatedly attacked his own attorney general.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:
I am disappointed in the attorney general. He should not have recused himself.
If Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay.
Priebus's ouster came just hours after the colossal failure of the Republicans' best hope for a policy success. And Priebus was playing point for the White House. Senator John McCain joined Senator Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to defeat an already watered-down bill that didn't repeal the law, it was only going to repeal the mandate. Dealing a blow to Senate Republicans' hopes of passing something, anything.
Sen. Mitch McConnell:
This is a disappointment.
And denying the president a critical legislative win.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:
Secretary Tom Price is also here. By the way, are you going to get the votes? He better get them. Oh, he better. Otherwise I'll say, "Tom, you're fired."
CHUCK TODD: Joining me now is that Tom, from Atlanta, the secretary of health and human services, Tom Price. Secretary Price, welcome back to the show sir.
SECRETARY TOM PRICE: Hey Chuck
CHUCK TODD: I know you still have a job—
SECRETARY TOM PRICE: Thanks good to be with you.
CHUCK TODD: You still have a job. I assume the president was a little bit tongue and cheek. But let me ask you--let me start there. Ask yourself this, what could you have done differently? I'm sure you're asking yourself that considering what happened this past week. What could you have done differently to have a different outcome?
SECRETARY TOM PRICE: Well I think what the president has explained and punctuates is his seriousness about this issue and his passion for turning the healthcare system in a direction that puts patients first, not government and not insurance companies. We've all got a lot of work to do. We've continued to work with the members of the United States Senate. We look forward to continuing to work with them, and our house partners as well, to make certain that we move this healthcare system in that better direction, where patients and families and doctors are in charge, not Washington DC.
CHUCK TODD: You know it's interesting, there was a headline this morning in the Washington Post that I'm curious if you accept the premise of. And the headline was simple. It's not Obamacare anymore, it's our national health care system. You accept that the attempts to repeal the affordable care act as we know it are dead and now your job and the job of republicans is to make the system work better?
SECRETARY TOM PRICE: Well no, I don't accept the premise because we don't have a healthcare system. We've got about 5 healthcare systems. You've got Medicare for seniors, Medicaid for those individuals who are low income or vulnerable or disabled. You've got the employer sponsored coverage, where most individuals in this nation, about 175 million get their coverage. You've got the VA system and then you have the individual and small group market, where Obamacare focused its attention on setting up the exchanges. And it's that area where we've seen absolute failure. We've got 40% of the counties in this nation that only have one issuer, one insurance company providing coverage. So that's no choice at all. Next year you'll have dozens of countries that have nobody offering coverage. So this system is imploding, it is failing. And the president's passion, our passion, our concern is to make certain that we put in place a system that actually works for patients.
CHUCK TODD: Look, you were an elected official. You know how politics works. You know how to count votes. You know where the votes are. It's pretty clear a full repeal can't be done. It's pretty clear somehow rescinding the Medicaid expansion, that the support is not there. So what's realistic? What are you ask congress to do now? What is one thing that you want congress to do right now that's doable, that's realistic that can help you implement the affordable care act better?
SECRETARY TOM PRICE: Well, what we want congress to do is to go home and talk to their constituents. Talk to the families out there that are losing their coverage. Talk to the families that are making $50,000 dollars a year and have an insurance card through Obamacare but they don't have any care because they can't afford the deductible. Talk to the small businesses that are having to end their healthcare coverage for their employees because of the rules coming from Obamacare. Talk to the large businesses who are having huge challenges affording the health coverage for their employees. This is a system that is, that is imploding and has failed the American people. That's where the president's passion comes from. That's where my passion comes from, to move us in a direction where we actually put in place a system that works for patients, works for the American people.
CHUCK TODD: Alright, with all due respect, you gave me an explanation of what you'd like to see but you didn't give me a specific. And I want to ask you about a specific that the president tweeted about. He said his yesterday 'if a new health care bill is not approved quickly, bailouts for insurance companies and bailouts for members of congress will end very soon.' Now he appears to be referring to these payments that your department has been making monthly. And I know there is some legal questions about whether this is, been appropriated by the legislative branch or not. But the insurance companies have said this month to month reimbursement, of propping up the insurance markets, is creating more uncertainty and they would like to see some yearly--yearly certainty there. Can you say for certain that the, all of these insurance payments are going to be made every single month while the affordable care act is law?
SECRETARY TOM PRICE: Well, Chuck, as you know and your viewers know, this is a case that's in court and the case is House v Price. So I'm the defendant in that and therefore I can't talk about it. What I can tell you though is that the court has made a decision that those payments were made illegally and that's working its way through the, through the court system and it will. But again, what the president wants us to appreciate and wants everybody across this land to appreciate is that the system is being propped up in a way that makes it so it's not working for people. It's not working for those small businesses. It's not working for those families across this land. It's not working for patients. It's not working for physicians who are trying to care for those patients. So we're trying to put in place, trying to get a system that actually does work for patients and families and doctors so they're making decisions, not Washington DC.
CHUCK TODD: Do you feel it is your job at HHS to implement the affordable care act as it was meant to be or are you there to--some people think you don't want to see it work, so that's why we've seen cancelled tv advertising, the attempts to not get people to enroll, the cancelling of contracts that help with enrollment. And so some have accused that you do not want to see it work as it was intended. Can you explain?
SECRETARY TOM PRICE: Yea, no, our job is to follow the law of the land and we take that mission very, very seriously. And the role of the health and human services department is to improve the health, the safety and the wellbeing of the American people. And what we understand, what the American people understand is that their health and wellbeing is being harmed right now by the current law. And so our goal is to make--is to put in place, as well as the president's goal, is to put in place a law, a system, that actually works for patients. You can't do that under the current structure. You can't do that just with regulation. It requires an act of congress and that's why the president has been so passionate about making certain that the, that the congress of the United States repeals and replaces Obamacare.
CHUCK TODD: But Secretary Price, I understand that, but it's clear the votes aren’t there. So if they come up with a fix that helps, essentially gives some certainty to the insurance companies to go into rural markets, are you then going to implement the affordable care act as it was meant to be, including encouraging people to sign up, encouraging enrollment, encouraging Medicaid expansion?
SECRETARY TOM PRICE: Well, our, as I said, our responsibility is to follow the law and again we take that responsibility very seriously and we will continue to do so. But remember that the current law right now is failing the American people. As I mentioned, I think, we've got 40 counties across this--40 counties that will no longer have any insurance company next year. That's not a choice for anybody. You've got a third of the counties right now that only have one insurance company providing coverage. That's not a choice for anybody. You've got premiums that are up, deductibles that are up, people having that insurance card and no care, got insurers fleeing the market. 83 insurance companies fled the health insurance market last year. That's before this administration came in. This system is imploding upon itself and that's what we're trying to care of. That's what the president has said. That's why we need repeal and replace.
CHUCK TODD: Alright Secretary Price, I'm gonna have to leave it there, run out of time a little bit. I appreciate you coming on and sharing your views, sir.C
SECRETARY TOM PRICE: Thanks Chuck.
CHUCK TODD: Well, joining me now, from her home state of Maine, is one of the Republican senators who consistently voted against her party’s healthcare bills, the various repeal and replace options. It’s Susan Collins. She joins me now from Bangor. Senator Collins, welcome back to the show.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: Thank you, Chuck.
CHUCK TODD: Let me ask you this: same question - one of the same questions I asked Secretary Price - do you accept the premise that the efforts to repeal Obamacare are fully dead and it is now time to refer to this as our national healthcare system and it is his job and your job to make it work?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: I don’t accept the premise that we should not proceed to reform the law. There are some very real problems in the law. Secretary Price is right about that and he identified them. The problem is that Congress, as my friend and colleague Lamar Alexander has often said, does not do comprehensive well. What we need to do is go through the normal process, identify the problems, have hearings, hear from experts, hear from all the stakeholders and produce a series of bills to fix the very real flaws in the Affordable Care Act. And first on my list would be to stabilize the insurance markets to make sure that people have access to insurance.
CHUCK TODD: Are you confident, though, that Secretary Price at H.H.S. is implementing - is trying to keep this law afloat, that is doing everything he can to create certainty or are you concerned that there are some aspects of H.H.S. implementation right now that are actually undermining the law, attempting to sort of create more problems in order to force Congress to act?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: I’m troubled by the uncertainty that has been created by the administration. When it comes to the subsidies that are given to very low-income people to help them with their co-pays and their deductibles, I hear this described by some as an insurance company bailout. That’s not what it is. It is vital assistance to people who make between 100 and 250 percent of the poverty level and allows them to afford their out-of-pocket costs. And the uncertainty about whether that subsidy is going to continue from month to month is clearly contributing to the destabilization of the insurance markets. And that’s one thing that Congress needs to end. We need to make very clear that that subsidy is important to those very low income people and we need to appropriate the money to ensure that it continues.
CHUCK TODD: Do you think Senator McConnell needs to give up the reconciliation aspect of trying to deal with health care, that he should pledge, “ok, I’m done trying to jam health care through in this way. The process is back to the regular order.” Are you there, not only encouraging that, but are you going to tell Senator McConnell that you won’t vote for - your vote will never be there for him on any of these reconciliation healthcare bills until he opens up the process?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: I’ve made very clear that I believe we would produce far better legislation if we went through the normal process of having committee hearings, hearing from health care providers, from insurance regulators, from advocacy groups, from governors, from everyone involved and then produce bipartisan legislation with input from both Democrats and Republicans. That’s how we get the best legislation. And that is the best path forward to fix the very real flaws that Democrats and Republicans alike see in the Affordable Care Act. So that’s the path that I want to take and that means not going through reconciliation, but going through the normal committee processes I’ve been urging all along and as Senator John McCain urged in his very eloquent speech on the senate floor.
CHUCK TODD: It was something - you were quoted this week in another report as saying that while Vice President Pence lobbied you and some other administration officials lobbied you, that you didn’t really hear from the president. When was the last time you heard from the president on health care?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: Well, I do want to make clear that the president invited me to the two meetings at the White House to talk about health care. And, at the first meeting where I was seated next to him, he certainly did encourage my support for the bill. That was a few weeks ago. And he asked my opinion on what we could do on a reinsurance pool, which I am particularly interested in to preserve coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and lowering premiums. But most of the input that I’ve had from the White House has been from the vice president and from the administrator of the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
CHUCK TODD: There were a lot of side shows this week. One of them had to do with a hot mic moment that caught you and Senator Reed talking about the threat that a Republican member of Congress made at you. But there was another portion of the tape that you have not referenced at all. Here it is:
SEN. JACK REED: Yes. I think he’s -- I think he’s crazy. And I, I --
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: I’m worried.
SEN. JACK REED: I don’t say that --
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: No...lightly --
SEN. JACK REED: -- lightly as kind of yeah you know a goofy guy...
CHUCK TODD: You appear to be referencing the president there with Senator Reed and can you expound upon that a little bit? How concerned are you about the president?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: Actually what I was talking about is the president’s budget. And if you go earlier in that tape, I talk about the fact that at O.M.B. went through the budget and appeared to zero out many really vital programs without doing a careful analysis of the impact on communities, on vulnerable citizens, on veterans, on people across the United States. So when I said, “I’m worried.” That’s what I was referring to. I was referring to the president’s budget and I am worried about the president’s budget. As O.M.B. has put it forth, I think there are a lot of problems in it.
CHUCK TODD: And finally there’s been some speculation that the president may ask Attorney General Jeff Sessions to replace John Kelly as secretary of homeland security. But that would essentially be throwing him out of the Department of Justice. Would you support a move like that or would you attempt to block a move like that?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: Well, obviously, it’s up to the president whom he wants to have where in his cabinet. But let me say this: the attorney general made absolutely the right decision to recuse himself from the Russian investigation. He consulted with the career staff and he followed the exact guidelines of the Justice Department. So for him to be criticized for the decision to remove himself from the investigation I just don’t think is right.
CHUCK TODD: So you would not support any attempt to move Jeff Sessions to D.H.S.?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: It’s up to Jeff Sessions and the president. But if he’s being moved because of his correct decision to recuse himself I think that’s a mistake. I do think that General Kelly will do a good job as the White House chief of staff. I think he will bring some order and discipline to the West Wing.
CHUCK TODD: Alright, Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, joining us from Bangor. I want to prove to my friends in Maine that I do know how to pronounce the city’s name correctly. Senator, thanks for coming on. Thank you for sharing your views.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: Thank you. We appreciate that.
All right. When we come back, those dramatic last moments when the Republican healthcare rewrite efforts went down to defeat at the hands of Senator John McCain. And later, what we found out when we asked journalists, commentators, and regular voters how they think President Trump is doing so far at six months. Here's a sample.
The tone of our politics today really is degraded by the kind of leadership the White House has had.
Dr. Charmayne Horton:
If he's making changes, I'll be happy. I might not agree with the changes, but he's doing something.
CHUCK TODD: Well, we are back. Panel is here. Hugh Hewitt, host on the Salem Radio Network, Helene Cooper, Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times, Eliana Johnson, national political reporter for Politico, and NBC News political analyst, Democrat pollster, Cornell Belcher. Welcome all. I want to start by watching the dramatic moment on Thursday night, when Senator John McCain sank the last, gasp, so-called skinny repeal of healthcare.
It's like watching, if you're perhaps on the right side of it all, it's like watching the Seahawks throw that interception in the Super Bowl. But here it is. You see John McCain going up to get the attention of the clerk, get the attention of the clerk, and then you hear the gasps when they see the thumbs down, you have Elizabeth Warren there clapping, look at Mitch McConnell's sullen look there. And then look at Cassidy, Thune, Rubio, they're all just sort of sunken there. You didn't need words to know what happened there, Hugh Hewitt. This is a defeat that has a lot of mothers and fathers. Is there not?
HUGH HEWITT: Yes. It's an Earnest Byner fumble, if I use my analogy. And it was so unexpected. Look, three Republicans voted for the status quo. Senators Collins, Murkowski and McCain. The status quo is not working. People can disagree on, I think Price's five different discussions was right. But this was a decision to stand pat. There isn't regular order.
People's medical situations do not wait for the regular order of the Senate. And I think unless and until they decide that they've got to get to conference to take in the best expert opinion and fix this, they're not serious. And the Senate isn't serious. I'd also add McConnell and McCain have been going around for years. This goes back before Trump. It was McConnell who brought down McCain-Feingold. So there may be another element in this too.
CHUCK TODD: But I have to say there, Hugh, a bill doesn't become a law by sort of pass whatever you can and then write it in.
HUGH HEWITT: That's actually regular order.
CHUCK TODD: That is not, no that is not regular order.
CORNELL BELCHER: That's not how it should happen. Look, and Senator McCain was right. And look, we shouldn't be surprised. Senator McCain said he wasn't going to vote for this law as it was. And look, not my words, but a very conservative Senator from South Carolina, a very red state, "this as policy is a disaster."
What is unbelievable is that quite frankly had so many Republicans voting for, what they all knew was a disaster, and none of them want it to become law. If Americans want to understand why their politics is broke, look at what happened in the Senate when you had Republican senator after Republican senator voting for something that none of them wanted to become law.
And look, the secretary stayed on message, right? It's a failure, it's imploding, it's a failure, it's hurting people. Truth of the matter is, as big a failure as they make it out to be, it has never been more popular. More people are trying to get A.C.A. and for the first time, A.C.A. is actually above water right now. This is important. We can't take this away from people. We have to come to regular order and try to fix this.
CHUCK TODD: Eliana?
ELIANA JOHNSON: I do think that, you know, for the first time, you really saw Trump's influence on the party. Repeal was never on the table. Calling this repeal is a joke. And I think you could really see in the Senate procedure, Trump, he's a man who likes victory. He likes process, he likes the signing ceremony. And that really seemed to be the Senate's goal here. "Let's just sign something."
Nobody thought this bill was good. And Trump has ideologically fractured the Republican party, and I think that is what broke this Senate bill. They could not bridge the gap between conservative senators who really wanted repeal and moderates who never really made it clear what it was that they wanted. I'm still not clear on what moderate senators, what the outcome was that they wanted.
CHUCK TODD: You know, and Helene, bringing up the president's role here, he seemed to try an intimidation tactic against Lisa Murkowski that woefully backfired.
HELENE COOPER: That went poorly.
CHUCK TODD: And everything has been his way of cajoling is there's a nail, I'm a hammer, pound. And he did it yesterday again by essentially taunting Mitch McConnell. There's no soft sell with Donald Trump. It's all hard.
HELENE COOPER: It's so perplexing to me because it sort of seems to me as maybe he's not so great at the art of the deal. This is somebody who sent Ryan Zinke to call Lisa Murkowski and threaten her, the state of Alaska. How, in what way, given how powerful she is, and her political standing in Alaska, how did he think that was going to go over? I mean, that just made no sense to me.
But one of the things that I've been sort of struck with during this whole on again/off again debate that we've been going back and forth, and that's like taking aside the politics, there was a really good story on Friday, just about the patients and the people who are in the exchanges, who use Obamacare, and what they have been going through, watching this congressional debate.
And one day, Obamacare is declared alive, and the next day, and people are stockpiling, you know, medicine, they're, like, doing major surgeries before they were supposed to be scheduled. And I just keep trying to put myself in the mind of somebody whose health or the health of their child is on the line as these political shenanigans are going on. And I think that is what is probably one of the most disgraceful things, about the way the Senate and the way Congress has handled this.
CHUCK TODD: Tim Phillips, president of the Koch Brothers Network, Americans for Prosperity, said the following, "This is an epic failure by congressional Republicans. But it's time to pivot to tax reform. There's no good time to pivot." Hugh, can Republicans--
HUGH HEWITT: He's wrong.
CHUCK TODD: He's wrong? Can Republicans stop--
CHUCK TODD: --say, "Oh well, we tried."
HUGH HEWITT: --yesterday, it can't, for the reason Helene just said. People's healthcare is collapsing in small and large ways. And premiums are skyrocketing. I had a minor injury. I've been to the emergency room and two doctors and two rounds of antibiotics over a month. It cost me 650 bucks out of pocket. I can afford that. Most Americans can't. They can't do that.
The system is broken. So Cornell, you're right. That's why getting to the conference committee was so important so that they could begin fixing the regular order of which Susan Collins speaks and of which, you know, the constitution doesn't detail, other than the House and the Senate getting to a conference, is going to kill people if they don't hurry up.
HELENE COOPER: But what if the House had then gone and voted for the skinny bill? I mean, wasn't that a worry? You send it to conference and then, you know, the House goes--
HUGH HEWITT: Status quo is worse than the worst.
CORNELL BELCHER: But Hugh, would you give me this? And this is where it breaks down, this is where it could be fixed. There's a majority in both the House and the Senate who would get together and fix this. It’s not a majority of the majority though. And that's the problem.
HUGH HEWITT: You might be right, you might be right. And there is a Graham-Heller alternative out there, which involves devolution to Medicaid. Then you’d need a majority of the minority to support it.
CORNELL BELCHER: And you're not getting tax help on this. But we can fix this, but not by the same rules of the majority of a majority.
CHUCK TODD: All right. I've got to pause that conversation there, because I don't think we're going to fix it here. When we come back, the other giant story of the week. I'm going to talk to President Trump's first campaign manager and still close confidant, Corey Lewandowski, on how do you survive in the Trump fast lane. What advice does he have for John Kelly?
CHUCK TODD: Welcome back. There are very few people who have a better sense of what life is like in President Trump’s orbit. And my next guest, Corey Lewandowski was candidate Trump's first campaign manager and despite having his own run-in at the time, he actually still remains close to the president, and Corey Lewandowski joins me now from his home state of New Hampshire. Mr. Lewandowski, welcome to Meet the Press.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: Hey, thanks Chuck. Great to be with you today.
CHUCK TODD: Alright, let me start with a little—I guess we’ll call it Sunday morning quarterbacking here. Looking back, what went wrong for Reince Priebus as chief of staff? What went wrong with that relationship in your opinion?
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: Well part of it obviously is that the president wants to bring a new direction, and what that means is making sure his legislative agenda gets done, and what's very important to the president is fulfilling the campaign promises which he outlined, and we saw this week a legislative defeat in Congress for the repeal and replace of Obamacare, and that's something that he campaigned on, and Reince was brought in, as you know, as someone who could work with the members of the House and the Senate to get that legislative agenda done, and with that not being accomplished, the president made a decision to move in a new direction to bring a seriousness to his chief of staff and a pivot, so that he can have his agenda at the forefront of what he wants to get done.
CHUCK TODD: Given that Reince Priebus and the President weren’t always very close, you were—you had a front row seat to that. At times, the tense relationship between when he was chairman at the RNC and your campaign and with candidate Trump. In hindsight, was it a mistake for the president to hire somebody he wasn’t personally very close to?
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: I think what the president decided when he was president-elect and bring Reince on board was to bring someone in who understood Washington to help him staff his team in order to achieve his legislative agenda, and unfortunately where we are right now if you look at the ups and downs of the presidency so far, the single most important thing the president has been able to achieve was getting Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. It’s a very important thing he’s been able to achieve, but the major issues of his agenda have not been accomplished through Congress, and he’s decided to make a change at the top to move his agenda forward.
CHUCK TODD: And he believes that it’s all Reince Priebus’ fault? That he doesn’t have a major legislative victory? That that’s at the feet of Reince Priebus?
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: No, I wouldn’t say that Chuck, but what I would say is obviously the President has a very aggressive legislative agenda. Health Care, repeal and replace Obamacare was at the top of that list, we’re now moving to tax reform, where we can repatriate the money we’re sending overseas, we can give middle class deductions, double those, and cut taxes on small businesses—And look, what you’ve got with General Kelly coming in is someone bringing a fresh perspective—very important—And an opportunity to communicate the president’s agenda to the staff inside the White House and work closely with those members of congress and the U.S. Senate who wants to see the president’s agenda done, including building the wall on the southern border. I think the general should re-look at firing Richard Cordray, the CFPB, he is a person who is now all but running for governor in the state of Ohio and he’s sitting in federal office right now, and I think this general as chief of staff, is going to come in and put a fresh set of eyes on the inner-workings of the White House and making sure the president’s agenda moves.
CHUCK TODD: I have to say, Corey, that was sort of a random thing you just introduced there. What’s with the focus on Mr. Cordray? How is that at the top of the agenda there?
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: I think there’s three things on the agenda. It’s tax reform, it’s building a wall on the southern border, it’s repeal and replace of Obamacare which didn’t get done—but I think Richard Cordrey is somebody who is campaigning now for the governor of Ohio, he’s sitting in an office now at the CFPB, and I—you know, it’s my recommendation to the President of the United States to fire Richard Cordrey, and if he wants to run for the governor of Ohio, go do it, but my concern is, you’ve got an unelected bureaucrat sitting in an office right now and I hope that the new chief of staff looks at him moving forward and saying it’s time to act decisively.
CHUCK TODD: I have to ask this, considering that you brought this up. Do you have any business interest here? Do you have a client that wants to see this happen?
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: No, no. I have no clients whatsoever. But what I do know, two weeks ago, Richard Cordrey through the CFPB passed a rule with the antithesis of, you know, it’s going to be about a trillion dollars worth of arbitration that the government’s going to have to go through now, and he’s an unelected official, he’s announced—all but announced, Chuck, that he’s running for governor of Ohio, and if he wants to run for governor of Ohio, go run for governor of Ohio, but don’t do so while you’re sitting in a federal office right now.
CHUCK TODD: Let me go back to the West wing and how it’s organized. Here’s how Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman wrote about the Anthony Scaramucci, the new communications director, and the Reince Priebus feud. At the time, this was hours before Reince Priebus was fired. “The clash between Scaramucci and Priebus offers a case study in how the Trump White House operates, a conflict divorced from facts, untethered from the basics of how government works, enabled by the lack of any organizational structure and driven by ambition, fear, animosity and envy.” You may disagree with some of the tone of that, but there is a consensus that the president does like a little bit of chaos around him. How does John Kelly limit that chaos, and how does the president, essentially, limit himself from wanting that chaos?
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: I think General Kelly is going to restore order to the staff. His title is Chief of Staff, not Chief of the President, and what you have seen over the last 30 years is an unbelievably successful individual who is now the President of the United States and everything he’s achieved. And the ideas that he has brought to the presidency have been something that he’s talked about for a long time and what we need now from a Chief of Staff is ensuring that everyone who works in the White House is on the president’s agenda, and what I would guess moving forward is that General Kelly is going to bring the type of discipline to the staff to ensure that the leaks are stopped and that the president's agenda is foremost of what takes place in that building, so there will be be no more backbiting there’ll be no more stabbing each other in the back and what Anthony Scaramucci has said is he’s the type of person who if he wants to stab, he’ll stab you in the front, and what I think that General Kelly wants to bring is the opportunity to make sure that everybody on the staff is working for the good of the president and not their own agenda.
CHUCK TODD: Okay, last quick question. Is there one thing that John Kelly should avoid doing as President Trump's chief of staff?
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: Absolutely. The thing that General Kelly should do is not try to change Donald Trump. Chuck, as you know, I say you have to let Trump be Trump. That is what has made him successful over the last 30 years. That is what the American people voted for. And anybody who thinks they're going to change Donald Trump doesn't know Donald Trump.
CHUCK TODD: I think that's a good place to end. Corey Lewandowski, thanks for coming on the show. Appreciate you coming on and sharing your views, sir.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: Thank you.
CHUCK TODD: All right, when we come back, as the presidential candidate, Donald Trump won by breaching the Democrat's Midwestern blue wall. Six months into his presidency, how's that wall holding up now?
*** COMMERCIAL BREAK ***
CHUCK TODD: Welcome back--Data Download time. Barely a week goes by without President Trump talking about his great electoral map victory, even in his speech to the Boy Scouts. So, how does that electoral map look six months into the Trump presidency? Well, thanks to some state-level polling analysis from Gallup, we can take a look.
So, where is the president’s support still rock solid? Based on Gallup’s daily tracking poll from January 20 through June 30, the most favorable states for the president were West Virginia, North Dakota and Wyoming. His net approval in those three states is in the twenties. What do these places have in common besides voting for Trump by big margins in November? They’re all rural, fossil fuel-producing states with not a lot of racial or ethnic diversity. Put those pieces together and you have the underpinnings of Trump country.
Maybe a bit surprising, some of the toss-up states President Trump pulled-in last November, still look relatively good for him--in two cases, Ohio and Iowa. While his approval is somewhat underwater, it’s not by much—better in those places than we might expect. But, remember in the post-2000 era, these are states that have voted Republican, at least once before Trump.
Still, he is doing better in those states than some traditionally red states from the past. In fact, his net approval is negative seven points in Georgia and negative nine in both Texas and Arizona. These are states that no Republican presidential candidate has lost, at least, since 2000. But, demographically, their populations are growing and they are racially and ethnically diversifying. They could become part of a coming realignment.
Finally, it does look like the great blue wall that the Trump campaign so successfully cracked in November may be starting to reassemble. The president is struggling in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. He is under water by nine and ten points in those states, respectively—states that won him the presidency back in November. But, as you can see, performing more poorly there than in neighboring Iowa or Ohio. Each of those three blue states had voted blue in every election since 2000, and Trump won them by a total of 77,000 votes.
Look, we’re in the midst of a political realignment, but how quickly this shift happens is something to watch. If you look at this as snapshot, the 2020 map could be looking very different than the 2016 map we are all starting to get used to. When we come back, journalists and everyday voters weigh-in on Donald Trump’s presidency so far.
CHARLIE SYKES: Donald Trump could have been a successful president. He had, his party had control of both houses of Congress, and yet he has accomplished almost nothing.
FEMALE VOTER: I think with him, God has given this country a second chance to redeem itself.
CHUCK TODD: Welcome back. Simple question, has Donald Trump been a successful president? Is he on his way to being one? Journalists generally agree, Mr. Trump's first six months have been the most chaotic in recent memory. Does that matter to the voters? At this six-month point in the Trump presidency, we thought we'd reach out to a series of journalists, commentators, and everyday voters. We went to Kenosha, Wisconsin to talk to voters there. And we asked all of them if they think Mr. Trump has been successful so far. Here's a sample of the responses we got.
David Ignatius: The essence of leadership is to set the tone for the country and how it's governed.
A president is successful when he or she someday has a vision.
If President Trump builds a wall and doesn't get us involved in any more pointless Middle East wars, he will go down as the greatest president in my lifetime.
Successful presidents are people that the American public can trust.
I think with him, God has given this country a second chance to redeem itself.
Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels is 25. But he's so good that if he quit today, he'd be in the hall of fame. Donald Trump has only served six months but he's so bad, that he's in the running for the worst president of all time.
I think what's important for President Trump to realize is that he is the president to everyone in this country.
In the eyes of the people who voted for Donald Trump, he's a very successful president. They sent him there to shake things up and he does that by the hour, by the tweet.
What little he has done has seemed to be motivated very much by fear and by hate.
Eddie Glaude Jr.:
I think successful presidencies impact the ethos of the country. How people see themselves and how they see others.
Great leaders eat last. The best leader is the biggest servant of the lowest person on the ladder. Not the one that gets the biggest cheer.
You have to be focused, relentlessly toward a goal and he clearly is not and his White House is not.
I think at this stage, the only fair answer is an incomplete. I don't think there's ever been a successful or unsuccessful president where you could have predicted for sure six months in.
I don't think he's worried about being reelected. I think he's putting everything on the line to push his agenda without worrying about another term.
Donald Trump never made the pivots to become president of the United States.
You have to remember that Harry Truman left office, the universal judgment was that he was a failure. History has looked back now and decided that he was actually a very good president at that time. It's hard to see how Donald Trump gets to the end of four years where he reverses what appears to be his instincts to tweet and have chaos around him all the time.
All right. Now what do you guys think? Eliana, every president has a reset moment. This reset moment's coming awfully early.
It is. I disagree with what Corey Lewandowski said, who by the way is appearing at a fundraiser August 3rd for a Republican Ohio gubernatorial candidate.
Now we know the motivation there.
Despite his claim that he has no business interest in this. But that people voted for Trump because they supported his agenda and let Trump be Trump and all this. They voted for Trump because he wasn't Hillary for many reasons. But the shakeups coming early.
Look, Reince Priebus failed at his job because Trump didn't empower him to do it. And if he was interested in enacting Trump's agenda, he would have quit on the second day, when he was undermined and incapable of doing it. General Kelly, I think, hopefully will be empowered to do his job. He's someone who didn't toe the line in the Obama administration. He spoke out against policies in Guantanamo.
I think for that reason there's some hope that he will quit if he's not empowered to do his job. But those are the sorts of people I think this president should be hiring and who the country should be looking at. People who are going to speak out and quit their jobs if the president doesn't empower them to do them.
You know, at the Pentagon, when it was announced on Friday that General Kelly was going to be the next chief of staff, several people said, "Well, you need this sort of four-star general. These are men who know how to get things done. They know how to get people to follow orders." And that's all very true.
But also, to be a successful White House chief of staff, you've got to come with a little bit, a lot of political know how. And there I think we could see some issues coming up with General Kelly. As a four-star general, he knows how to talk to Congress. He knows how to appear on Capitol Hill and he knows how to schmooze. But it's a lot more than that to that job. This is a job that is so down and dirty in the Roman coliseum, you know, with gladiators from all different sides and trying to get all of these egos in line. I'm just a little bit, I’d love to see General Kelly and Scaramucci in their first meeting.
We're all trying to figure out.
And I can't believe you haven't brought this up yet.
I think we're all trying to figure out Scaramucci and Kelly.
It's so easy to be partisan hack here, but look, the power of the White House matters, right? And when you look at what's happening in the White House, when does chaos become dangerous, right? You know, when does the White House becoming a locker room become problematic, right? We need our people around the globe to respect the White House.
And the White House is shrinking and it's being diminished. That is a problem for us around the globe, when our allies don't think that they can respect or need to negotiate or talk with a locker room. That's the problem with what's happening right now. It is tonal. It is about diminishing the White House. And when you see Scaramucci and those guys behave that way, it makes the White House a smaller place.
My analogy, not coliseum, not locker room, it's the HBO series Deadwood. And I think that Reince Priebus was Doc Cochran and now they're hoping that General Kelly is Sheriff Bullock, but Swearengen and Cy are still running the place. And the legislature, who is Donald Trump, they have no idea what's going to go on.
Here's the good news. The most important interview of the last week was done by our own Andrea Mitchell talking to Joe Dunford at Aspen, where the general said, "A military option with North Korea is always on the table." And we have a war cabinet right now I think of General Kelly, Jim Mattis, the secdef, Joe Dunford, Mike Pompeo, Tom Cotton is the president's favorite senator. There's a huge story in the background here and a very competent team, but the Deadwood shooting has to stop.
I think some people worry that it's not Deadwood, it's Quentin Tarantino in Reservoir Dogs. Anyway, before we go to break, a quick programming note, this evening on Sunday night with Megyn Kelly, Kate Snow is going to do a report on whether talc, that's the main ingredient in baby powder may increase the risk of ovarian cancer, an important study worth watching tonight. That of course is on tonight at 7:00, 6:00 Central on NBC. We're back in 45 seconds with endgame and something we never thought we'd hear.
Back now with endgame. I bet you're wondering, "Geez, are they going to talk about the boy scouts, are they going to talk about this speech before the police department?" We're running out of, actually we're going to talk about...
Transgender, don't forget that.
That's what we're talking about here, is the president's transgender decision, thank you producer Helene Cooper. What was amazing about the announcement was the Republican pushback on the directive. Not from the Joni Ernst's of the world. Look at this, John McCain, Richard Shelby, Lisa Murkowski, Sullivan Tillis, Orrin Hatch, among the Republican senators who pushed back and said, "No, no, no, this is a mistake. Don't do it." But listen to Orrin Hatch. He made a very—he personalized it in a way that you might not expect.
But I said, "Look, people who are transgender, they don't choose to be transgender. They're born that way. And why should we hold that against them?"
Sea change from what's been happening in the Republican party. If you go back eight, nine years ago and listen to what Republicans were saying about this, conservatives were saying about this, it was not this. And it was a wedge issue. God bless America, we have changed on both sides on this issue.
Not a wedge issue anymore?
I still think it's a huge wedge issue. I think Donald Trump is a traditionalist in a strange body, the body of a Manhattan millionaire. And I do think that middle America—Donald Trump, you know, the Isaiah Berlin, Hedgehog and the Fox, Donald Trump is a fox. He understood one big thing, and it's the cultural estrangement of middle America from the Eastern elites. And by the way, those Eastern elites, those are the Republican senators whose views have changed on these things too. It's a bipartisan issue.
Well, an interesting way to put it. We will leave it there. Thank you Producer Cooper. That's all for today. Thanks for watching. And guess what? Not only are we going to be back next week, but every single Sunday for the rest of the world. No more preemptions, I promise. Because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.
* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *