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Meet the Press - April 2, 2023

Cyrus Vance, Jr., Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Charlie Baker, Stephanie Cutter, Pat McCrory, Ashley Parker and Kristen Welker

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, Trump indicted.

MICHAEL COHEN:

It’s been a long time coming.

CHUCK TODD:

A Manhattan grand jury votes to indict Donald Trump, making him the first former president ever charged with a crime.

JOE TACOPINA:

There is no crime. There’s not even a bad act.

CHUCK TODD:

I'll talk to former Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, who first opened this investigation. Plus, the political impact.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

This is legal voodoo.

CHUCK TODD:

The GOP -- including many of Trump's potential primary rivals -- rallies to his defense before knowing the specifics of the actual criminal charges he faces.

MIKE PENCE:

This is nothing short of a, of a political prosecution.

CHUCK TODD:

Will the twice-impeached former president continue to be seen as a positive force inside the GOP?

BILL BARR:

Politically, it's going to be damaging I think to the Republican party.

CHUCK TODD:

And what will this indictment do to our already divided politics? I'll talk to the Senate's leading centrist: Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. And pay to play. As the March Madness tournament comes to a close, I'll talk to NCAA President and former Republican governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker on the challenge of how to pay college athletes. Joining me for insight and analysis are: NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Kristen Welker, Washington Post Senior National Political Correspondent Ashley Parker, Former Republican governor or North Carolina Pat McCrory, and Former Obama White House Senior Advisor Stephanie Cutter. Welcome to Sunday. It's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

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

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. For the first time in American history, a former president of the United States has been indicted on criminal charges. Mr. Trump plans to travel to New York on Monday, stay overnight at Trump Tower, before being arraigned on Tuesday in Manhattan criminal court on charges related to hush money payments made to buy the silence of adult film star stormy Daniels just before the 2016 presidential election. Now the exact charges remain under seal. But according to our reporting, Trump faces about 30 charges of document-related fraud. The Associated Press is reporting that at least one of those charges is a felony charge. Now Trump's 2024 rivals have jumped to his defense, calling the indictment “un-American,” a travesty,” “an outrage,” “more about revenge than it is about justice,” and saying it “should not happen in America.” And the party with exceptions you can literally count on one hand has followed suit. Here’s a sampling.

FMR. PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

The unprecedented indictment of a former president of the United States on a campaign finance issue is outrageous.

FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL BILL BARR:

It's the archetypal abuse of the prosecutorial function to engage in a political hit job.

REP. JAMES COMER:

They want a picture of Donald Trump in handcuffs. They want a mug shot.

GOV. RON DESANTIS:

Now he turns around purely for political purposes and indicts the former president on misdemeanor offenses that they're straining to try to convert into felonies.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

This is going to destroy America.

CHUCK TODD:

It's notable that Governor DeSantis conceded that Trump may have committed misdemeanors. Trump's indictment and subsequent trial will be a test for the rule of law. Will it further divide the nation or signal that no one is truly above the law? Recall that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who has not commented on the indictment since it was reported on Thursday, but we should remind you what he said after voting to acquit Trump at his second impeachment trial.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one.

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, it’s worth noting, being charged with or even convicted of a crime would not disqualify Trump from running for president or even from serving as president. So what is the political impact? Well, the Trump campaign is trying very hard to act as if this is helping him. They've even circulated internal polling to the press this weekend showing that they are somehow increasing their lead over Ron DeSantis in the primary. And also according to the campaign, he's raised more than $4 million in the first 24 hours. Of course, after the indictment. Of course, it was thanks to this flood of fundraising solicitations. The indictment is likely to freeze the presidential race on the GOP side for quite some time, because it's gonna make it difficult for Trump's opponents to seize the spotlight and break through. And part of the reason for that, a whopping 72% of Republican voters still believe that the twice-impeached Donald Trump has had mainly a positive impact on the GOP, that was according to a new Quinnipiac poll released this week. But of course, longer-term, huge questions remain. Ultimately, whether this will be a political problem for Trump may depend on whether he faces a second indictment, maybe in Georgia, or a third indictment, or a fourth indictment by federal prosecutors here in Washington. So let's dig in to the Manhattan case. Joining me now is former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who preceded Alvin Bragg. And it was Vance's office that began this investigation. Cy Vance, welcome to Meet the Press.

CYRUS VANCE, JR.:

Good morning, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

So let me just start with the basics here. You began this campaign in 2018. I know you haven't read the indictment, but if you could perhaps help us sort out, what does it look like the charges are going to be on Tuesday morning?

CYRUS VANCE, JR.:

Well, Chuck, the truth is, as you've already commented, I haven't read the indictment. And we've read a lot about what the indictment may be about, but I think we all have to sort of take a pause here and wait until the charges are released in court on Tuesday. If the charges are exclusively along the lines of the reporting before I came on, it'll be a class E felony. And there is an upward range that involves prison, and a downward range, as you noted, that involves no prison whatsoever. So that's what we have to wait and see. Really, only District Attorney Bragg knows what the evidence is. That's another thing we all have to be mindful of. That we can speculate on what evidence we think they may or may not have, but even with the indictment published, we really will not know what the district attorney's evidence is, and what they would present at trial.

CHUCK TODD:

The Associated Press is reporting of at least one felony charge. Do you expect this to be more than that? Or is there probably only one charge that will be, as you described it, the class E felony?

CYRUS VANCE, JR.:

That I don't know, Chuck. But even cumulative numbers of counts of class E felonies won't necessarily increase any exposure.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you expect this to be a speaking indictment, essentially laying out the facts in some detail when we finally get it unsealed?

CYRUS VANCE, JR.:

I would anticipate, although I obviously don't know, that it would be a speaking indictment. And our office, when I was district attorney, used speaking indictments appropriately, I think, in order to explain the background facts that lead up to the specific charges in the indictment. I think it's a mechanism by which the public official can explain, in a public and legitimate way, why the case is being brought, and what evidence, generally speaking, can be anticipated during the trial.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me read for you an editorial from the Washington Post, just after the indictment was made public. Here's what they wrote: "This prosecution is now bound to be the test case for any future former president, as well as, of course, proceedings against this former president. A failed prosecution over the hush money payment could put them all in jeopardy, as well as provide Mr. Trump ammunition for his accusations of 'witch hunt.' This prosecution needs to be airtight, otherwise it's not worth continuing." Is there any doubt in your mind that this case is airtight?

CYRUS VANCE, JR.:

Well, I do not know if this guy's case is airtight or not. I know that the D.A.'s office has extremely experienced and seasoned lawyers. The charges that might be involved here are certainly well within their experience level and their trial experience level. The quality of the evidence, again, we must relate to. But when you look back on the investigation, Chuck, I mean, one has to remember that we went to the Supreme Court twice, our office, in order to get the financial documents, which were finally released to us by the Supreme Court. And that resulted in an indictment of the Trump Organization, as well as the CFO, the Trump Organization being, in effect, an alter ego of the president. Life continued after that event. The case was tried. It was a very strong case. The court imposed a fine. But the world didn't stop because the Trump Organization was indicted by our office.

CHUCK TODD:

Why didn't you charge the hush money case? Why didn't you ever charge it in 2018, 2019, 2020?

CYRUS VANCE, JR:

Well Chuck, I don't want to get into the deliberations that might be covered by grand jury material, but it’s – but as I believe you know, I was asked by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District to stand down on our investigation, which had commenced involving the Trump Organization. And as, you know, as someone who respects that office a great deal, and believing that they may have perhaps the best laws to investigate, I did so. And I was somewhat surprised after Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty that the federal government did not proceed on the areas in which it asked me to stand down. By that time, we were also well on our way in a financial investigation that ultimately led to subpoenas, which the president himself published in a lawsuit he filed against me and the office, and ultimately that long but, you know, successful journey to the Supreme Court. And for those who think this is about politics, I think it’s important to remind folks that the review of the president's objections to our seeking his tax and other financial records were reviewed by two separate district courts, two separate courts of appeal, and twice by the United States Supreme Court, all of whom who found no evidence that politics was motivating our actions.

CHUCK TODD:

Did your office conclude that a standalone felony charge for these hush money payments wasn't worth it because of so many of the uncertainties around the legal theory, and that's why you were pursuing this larger issue that this was just one part of – of, sort of, how the Trump Organization lied or – on their business records?

CYRUS VANCE, JR.:

Well, I think, Chuck, again, I don't want to get into our deliberations. But we have historically filed cases of false documentation, elevating them to felonies, when federal statutes were involved. It's never been done, that I know of, with regard to federal election law, which is quite a, you know, specific area of law. But I think the question is not so much why didn't I do it, or we did it, but why this district attorney is doing it. And that really requires us to be patient and to wait. This process isn't going to be accelerated by us talking about it. It's going to be moved by the court at the pace the court sees fit. And I guarantee you, the court will want this to move quickly.

CHUCK TODD:

Would this case be stronger, would you have brought this case yourself before you left office had Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer for the Trump Organization, cooperated?

CYRUS VANCE, JR.:

Well, ultimately, Mr. Weisselberg, of course, you know, did testify at trial, and provided, I'm sure, relevant evidence. I think his cooperation, perhaps, was not what the district attorney's office hoped. But nonetheless, I think he was a key witness at trial. And the jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, found the Trump Organization guilty of 17 counts, 17 felony counts. So I think his testimony was very helpful, is my belief. But I think, although I was not in the room, I think he did not provide full cooperation in testifying against the president himself.

CHUCK TODD:

Mark Pomerantz, who you brought in to help with this Trump case – a former federal prosecutor, he was in private practice, you brought him in. I had him on this show in February, and he said essentially that you had greenlit an indictment on a sweeping financial fraud case to do that. Had you?

CYRUS VANCE, JR.:

I don't want to get, actually, Chuck, into my deliberations and internal communications. But I can say this: Were I to have greenlit the continuation of investigation toward indictment, I also understood, for reasons that were just specifically about the time that we had – the delays going to the Supreme Court, the delay in this occasion by the Southern District's request for us to stand down, Covid was in the city during this investigative time period and had a material impact on our ability to get grand juries to sit and obtain evidence. So, we, from a time perspective, we had some unfortunate coincidences that kept us back, not going as fast as we could go, because we were trying to move as fast as we could. And ultimately, I knew, however, that because I was not able to be the district attorney at a time when all the evidence was in, that this was going to be District Attorney Bragg's call. I may have made a different call than the district attorney did on the case that I had, or we had. But when one is out of office, really, it's the district attorney's prerogative to look at the case afresh. He did, and then you've seen where he has pointed his, you know, pointed his team, resulting in the indictment today.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, again, with all the stipulations and caveats, and we haven't read the indictment, we know that the Trump legal team is going to try to get this case thrown out for a couple of reasons. One will be claiming that the novel legal theory, meaning this first legal theory that Alvin Bragg's going to be using to make a felony in state law, whether that is applicable here. There's the issue of Michael Cohen's testimony and there's the issue of this statute of limitations. As a, if you were the prosecutor, which one of those three hurdles would you see to be the highest?

CYRUS VANCE, JR.:

Well, I think this is obviously a case of great consequence and a case that's never happened before. So it's novel in and of itself. I think there’s, I think if I'm guessing about the president's strategy – and it's only a guess, I mean, he'll have excellent lawyers – is that they will take a run at the law first, perhaps on the question of whether or not the misdemeanors can be elevated. That's probably more a question of law than a question of fact. And will take a run there first. It would not surprise me if the attorneys representing the former president tried to move into federal court on some ancillary action, as they did with us. And to have that action somehow be reviewed, try to be reviewed on the federal side, and have some impact, therefore, on whether the state court could go forward. For example, asking for a stay because there's going to be an election in a year and a half. In this case, the state case shouldn't go forward. So those are avenues that I think that you'll see. Of course, Cohen will be attacked heavily. But the flip side of that, of course, is Cohen worked for Mr. Trump. And they obviously had a working relationship. So we often find in criminal cases that the witnesses who are involved aren't necessarily, you know, they’re not priests or nuns.

CHUCK TODD:

Of course.

CYRUS VANCE, JR.:

They are who they are, in whatever organization they have.

CHUCK TODD:

Final question is this. What's the likelihood --

CYRUS VANCE, JR.:

But I would add something else, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

No, go ahead.

CYRUS VANCE, JR.:

Well, I've got to say that I was disturbed to hear the former president speak in the way he spoke about the District Attorney Bragg and even the trial court in the past week. And I think, if I were his lawyer – and believe me, no one has called up to ask for my advice – I would be mindful of not committing some other criminal offense, like obstruction of governmental administration, which is interfering with, by threat or otherwise, the operation of government. And I think that could take what perhaps we think is not the strongest case, when you add a count like that, put it in front of a jury –

CHUCK TODD:

Interesting.

CYRUS VANCE, JR.:

– it can change the jury's mind about the severity of the case that they're looking at.

CHUCK TODD:

Likelihood this trial happens before Election Day 2024?

CYRUS VANCE, JR.:

That depends, I think, entirely on the judge. Judge Merchan is experienced. He's had, already, one trial with the Trump Organization. The Trump Organization and the president are tough litigants to control. But he's going to want to set a firm trial date. He's going to want to maintain firm control over all the parties. And that could end up in some flare ups between the parties and the court as it goes forward. But this, I don't think the former president does himself any favors, as it pertains to the ultimate outcome of this case, if he's, if he’s making more enemies in the courthouse than he needs to.

CHUCK TODD:

Cy Vance, the former district attorney for Manhattan. Really appreciate you coming on and sharing your expertise and perspective on this. Thanks very much. When we come back, what's the political impact of an indictment of Donald Trump? We're going to talk to the leading centrist in the Senate, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Donald Trump's attorney in the Manhattan case has made it clear Trump has no intention of settling.

[START TAPE]

JOE TACOPINA:

He decided, "We have to fight now." President Trump will not take a plea deal in this case. It's not going to happen. There's no crime. I don't know if it's going to make it to trial because we have substantial legal challenges that we have to – to front before we get to that point.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Well, those motions and a trial will likely stretch well into 2024. This will have major implications, whether we like it or not, for governing in Washington throughout this calendar year in 2023 and of course, for the campaign year of 2024. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin represents the state that voted for Trump by nearly 40 points in 2020. He himself has not said whether he plans to run for reelection next year or not, or whether he may instead run for president on an independent ticket, if they deem -- if he deems the party's too far to the left or right. And the nation's leading centrist these days, Senator Manchin joins me now. Senator, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN:

Hey, Chuck. It’s always good to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, there's always a lot to talk with you about. But I really want to ask you the first thing: your reaction to the news that the former president, for the first time ever of any president, has been indicted on a criminal charge.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN:

Chuck, it's a very sad time for America. And I feel like other people do. It's very sad for our country to have to go through this. And a segment of society who believes that maybe it's biased, that the system doesn't work for all, I would have to wait and see what comes out next week, but I would hope and pray that whatever comes forth, that they've done due diligence, they're very, very accurate in what they're doing and understanding that the rule of law is that basically no one's above the law, but no one should be targeted by the law. And we've just got to make sure that we understand that we have to come together. This country cannot, you know, we cannot be a house divided. As Abraham Lincoln said, "A house divided cannot stand." And we've got to come together. And the rule of law makes us different than any place in the world.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, a lot of your Republican colleagues in the Senate are already attacking this case, which only serves to go against what you've just been telling me. John Barrasso, who's not usually a bomb thrower, called it "politically motivated prosecution by a far-left activist." Ted Cruz called it the “death of the rule of law." Josh Hawley call it "an assault on our democracy." Thom Tillis said, "It doesn't pass the smell test." I focus on Barrasso and Tillis because I know you have a good relationship with both of them. To attack this now, I mean, doesn't that do exactly the opposite of what you’re advocating?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN:

Well, yeah. They have to understand, we -- again, I say, we must come together. American people want us to do our job. The more you talk about that, the more you make people pick a side – “Are they right or wrong?” – you give more credence to basically, “Is it biased or not? Does the rule of law work for all of us?” Let's wait until what comes out next week. Let's see the direction this goes. But the bottom line, it's a very sad time in America. You know, you have geopolitical unrest around the world. Just think of the people that don't wish our society or our form of democracy to work, whether it be China, Russia, or whoever. They're looking and saying, "Oh my goodness. Let's just sit back and kind of watch this melee unfold." Well, I want to show them that as Americans, we can work together. We can meet the challenges. We can basically lead the free world and come to the aid of our allies that have the same thirst that we have for the freedoms with democracy. And that's what I keep working on, and I keep saying -- I talk to people around the country. They can't take it anymore. They're just tired. They're wore out. "Enough is enough. Please, do your job. Get a budget. Live within your means. Start getting this crippling debt down. Get rid of inflation. Give me energy that basically gives me security, but also be able to invest in the new technology of the future." That's what we've been trying to do, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator, you sound like a presidential candidate. And I don't just say that here. In this morning's Washington Post, you openly admit you're thinking about it. You told the Post in an interview today, "If enough Americans believe there is an option, and the option is a threat to the extreme left and extreme right, it will be the greatest contribution to democracy, I believe." This is -- you were asked whether you would participate in a No Labels ticket. And you didn't rule it out, in or out. But like I said, what you just sounded like there, that sounded like what a presidential candidate says when they're trying to bring the country together. How serious are you about this?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN:

Well, first of all, Chuck, if you look the last 40 years I've been involved in public service through my great state of West Virginia. And since I've been a senator representing the state of West Virginia, it's always been about being a centrist in the middle. I tell people I'm fiscally responsible and socially compassionate, which I think most Americans. They've been driven to the corners to pick a side. When you're asking me what I'm going to do and what my political ambitions would be, it's to make the country work together and be a United States and not the divided states. And that's what I've seen happen over the period of time. I'm going to do whatever I can to have a voice in that middle, that we can basically force both sides to say, "Wait a minute, you've gone to extremes. You've got to start coming back. You've got to find ways to solve problems.” You can't solve them from the extreme right and the extreme left. You can't make people, make a -- pick a side. "Which side are you on?" "Well, I'll choose the left or the right, or the D or the R because this one's not as bad as that one." Neither of them are doing the job the way we should do it, but one's not as bad as the other, so you pick a side. I think we can do better than that, and if we can change that dialogue and have a movement, Chuck, then we've done our job.

CHUCK TODD:

Fourty-four percent of Democrats this week in a Monmouth poll said that they wanted Joe Biden not to run again. Twenty-five percent would like to see him run again. There were sort of 30% in the messy middle. Where are you? Would you like to see him run again or not?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN:

Chuck, let me just tell you this. I've always said this. No matter who my president is, whether it's a Democrat or Republican, whether it's someone I voted for or not, whether it's in the same political party or not, doesn't make a difference. Once the people of America speak, and that's our president, then I'm going to do everything I can to help them be successful, whether it's Donald Trump or whether it's Joe Biden. I've known Joe Biden for quite some time. And I've tried everything I can, and I will continue to try to be a productive senator and try to help my country move forward. But I've got to speak truth to power when I know that we can do better. When I know a piece of legislation that we wrote was intended to give us energy security and lower prices and make us much more able to help our allies around the world, and it's going a different direction because they want to interpret it differently than what we --

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think Joe Biden lied to you?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN:

Yeah, Chuck, I'm not saying that the president lied to me. I'm saying that basically, what we agreed on, the president and I agreed on, that what this bill would do, it would give us energy security. It would bring manufacturing back to America as quickly as possible. We would not be relying on foreign supply chain, such as China, to run our transportation mode. We talked about all of that. We would pay down debt for the first time in 20 years. We talked about all of that. We agreed exactly that's what it should do. And now to have different parts of his administration basically administering it, and writing rules and regulation that are totally foreign to what we did, is wrong. And I'm going to fight that. You need to speak truth to power, but basically hold people accountable. And I'm hopeful that the president will step forward and tell his administration, "We will follow the law. We will do what the bill was intended to do."

CHUCK TODD:

Alright. Let me ask you this. What's it going to take for you to endorse Joe Biden? You don't seem ready to do it, that's for sure.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN:

I'm not ready to do anything this year. Only in America does the next election start after the day after the last election ended. I don't do that. I've got a lot of work to do this year, and I'm going to work with everybody. Come on, let's get our budget under control. Let's get our spending under control. Let's make sure we bring down inflation. Let's do all the things that we're supposed to do. And if you're just throwing bombs and attacking everybody for two years, I think next year, when it starts in January, one year would be enough to attack. You don't need an extra year.

CHUCK TODD:

So bottom line, we'll find out if you're going to run for president January of 2024?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN:

My filing date is January 15th in 2024. And I will make my decision maybe a little bit before that, but not until the end of the year, I can assure you.

CHUCK TODD:

And do you know whether for sure you're going to be running as a Democrat? Or as something else?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN:

Well, you know, the party identification is not going to change me. Democrat, Republican. I mean, having a D and R should not change you as a person. I'm going to still fight for the things I do. Can't I be a moderate centrist with whatever identification, or no identification? I would think. I'm not going to be changing as a person. I've been doing this for a long time. I'm going to continue to fight for the people of West Virginia and the people of my great country. I’m proud to be an American.

CHUCK TODD:

And when you hear people say that you might be a spoiler if you run for president, what would you say to that?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN:

I would never intend to be a spoiler of anything. I would like to basically be a promoter of united – united government. A united government that basically has provided the greatest opportunities in the world. My great-grandparents came to this country for the opportunities it provided. I'm a product of that. I'm very, very, very appreciative of that, and I'm going to continue to try to offer that to people -- countless people in America and around the world.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Joe Manchin, right now a Democrat from West Virginia, it is always a pleasure to get your perspective on this program. Thank you for sharing it with us, sir.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN:

Well, it's good to be with you, Chuck. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

CHUCK TODD:

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday. Up next, Donald Trump's 2024 Republican rivals quickly jumped to his defense, even before they'd learned the details of the indictment. Will they regret this decision later? Panel is next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, panel is here. NBC News chief White House correspondent Kristen Welker, also the co-anchor of Weekend Today, Ashley Parker, the senior national political correspondent for the Washington Post, former Republican Governor of North Carolina Pat McCrory, and the former Obama White House senior advisor and Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter. I just want to put up one thing from – one response from a senator that I thought was kind of amusing to me about the indictment, Brian Schatz. Here's what he said in a tweet: "Just a reminder that there is no rule that you have to express your opinion before reading the indictment." Anyway, just wanted to give him a shout out there. By the way, Senator, we'd love to have you on the show. Kristen Welker, now what?

KRISTEN WELKER:

Well, now what? This is going to be a months-long process that will likely stretch into 2024, legally speaking, at least. And there's no doubt that it has hardened support around the former president. Look at how his rivals are responding. But that's in the short term, Chuck. And I think the big X-factor is are there more indictments? And do his rivals start to go after him? This might make him stronger in the primary, but it could make him a lot weaker in a general election.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, the Trump campaign wants us to think this is helping. They've sent out polling this morning, “Hey, look at our fundraising." I mean, they're, they’re almost celebrating – they’re acting as if this is a celebratory moment for them.

ASHLEY PARKER:

They're doing that publicly, and they're doing that privately. You know, some of the numbers they've put out, they've raised $4 million in the 24 hours after this, 25% from new donors. They have 16,000 volunteer signups in the 24 hours after the indictment news. I mean, I think one thing that's important to understand, and Kristen is exactly right, that the short term is very different than a general election calculation, is that Trump has always been someone who is trying to win the person directly in front of him; the minute, the hour, the day. So the idea that Trump and his team are not thinking about, "Well, what happens if I win this nomination," and now you have a lot of voters who don't love voting for someone who's been indicted. That's truly not a calculation you would expect someone like Trump to think of in the 48 hours after this news has broken.

CHUCK TODD:

Pat McCrory, your party seems to basically saying, "Whatever, whatever reservations they may have privately, they're not acting like it publicly with this." They're rallying around it.

PAT MCCRORY:

Well, being a former mayor, I hope this DA did triage because there are DAs throughout the country right now with a lot of violent crime, which is a big issue. And by the way, with a lot of white collar crime with the crypto and banking collapses. I hope this DA has his case for the sake of our country and did his triage and even Vance said it's a novel idea on itself. I mean, that's risky for our country. I am surprised the other Republican candidates, I understand them saying, "This shouldn't be taken to court." What I don't understand is them going, "Even with that, is Donald Trump the person that wants to represent the values of the Republican Party, the character of the Republican Party?" especially when we as Republicans are challenging the values of what's being taught at our schools. Then we can't go and say, "But Donald Trump is our leader" because he is not representing the values that I think we used to stand for.

CHUCK TODD:

Stephanie, how, how should the Biden campaign, look, politics, whether you like it or not, you've got to deal with the politics of this. What do you do?

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

If you're the Biden campaign?

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

You stay out of the way and I think that, that's, that’s what the White House strategy is. They don't want to be part of this story and they shouldn't be part of this story. If they are forced to comment on it, the answer is simply “The law applies to everybody, and we should trust our institutions, trust our legal system to get this right.” Not prejudge it. We don't even know what the charges are. We haven't even begin – begun the process of both sides presenting their evidence. This is, this is going to be a long process. And they need to set the parameters of how they engage early. And I mean, they've started to do that.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to pivot to the conversation I had with Joe Manchin because I do think there’s a – there seems to be a group of folks who believe that if Trump's the nominee and Biden's the nominee there's going to be a vacuum in the middle that's exploitable to actually win this election. Do you – or – do you buy that?

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

No.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you buy that that exists?

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

No, I don't buy that. And you know there – I've been involved in a lot of presidential elections. If you ask that question at this point in a presidential race, "Are you in favor of this guy or this woman, or the other guy? Or do you want a third candidate that is not a Democrat or a Republican," you're always going to get that third candidate rising above. But once you start to put names on it and actually talk about these people and what they've done, that position changes dramatically.

CHUCK TODD:

Pat, you're pretty involved with this no-labels situation. What's the likelihood this actually happens?

PAT MCCRORY:

I think there's a fairly good likelihood if, if the two candidates are Biden and Trump because the vast majority of people don't think they're the candidates to run this country in the future in the White House.

CHUCK TODD:

All right.

PAT MCCRORY:

And we haven't seen that before.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

And that's a dangerous thing for a voter to decide.

PAT MCCRORY:

We haven't seen these numbers before.

CHUCK TODD:

We shall see how that plays out. I think there's going to be a lot more conversation about this going forward. I have to pause here. When we come back, states across the country are moving quickly this year, targeting transgender Americans. I'm going to show you the spike in new laws around the country, around sports, gender-affirming care, and much more.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, Data Download time. It's no secret that today's GOP only has one thing that unites the party around it these days, and that's the culture wars. They think it's the only way they can motivate their base. Just take a look at how state legislatures across the country and the rapid pace that those controlled by Republicans have tried to pass laws that ban or restrict things that they deem different, at least personally, and all of it seems to be targeting the LGBTQ community. Let's start with this issue of banning transgender students from participating in high school sports. Believe it or not, there was no law in the books before 2020 that dealt with this. We're talking about, by the way, one half of 1% of the overall population identifies as trans - one half of 1%. The number of students is even less. Idaho was the first state, a bunch of them have joined since. And most Republican legislatures that haven't passed one are looking about passing a ban to do that. On the issue of gender-affirming care, fewer states have done that. But since 2021, you've seen nearly a dozen. And more Republican legislatures are considering bans, legislation that would ban gender-affirming care in those states for those under 18. Overall, the folks at the ACLU have noted there's over 435 pieces of state -- of legislation introduced in the states that are targeting the LGBTQ community, and they deem it targeting in a negative way. And when you look at it, even the issue of drag shows are being brought into this. The state of Tennessee was the first state to restrict drag shows, who could go, and where they could be showcased. Now a federal judge on Friday has already put a pause on that law. We'll see if it ever comes into fruition. But guess what? Fifteen other states are already considering legislation targeting drag shows. And when you look at the polling on this, it's a really one-sided polling. Look, overall, a majority of Americans oppose these bans on gender-affirming care. They oppose these restrictions on drag shows. But this opposition is made up only of Democrats in the defense. A large majority of Republicans support these bans. This is why, being done, it does unify the Republican base, but it may turn off some of the voters. Before we go to break, baseball is back. And in 1996, Tim Russert sat down with three-time MVP, ten-time World Series champion Yogi Berra, who, for many people, was more well known off the field for his many Yogisms.

(BEGIN TAPE)

TIM RUSSERT:

You have eight entries into Bartlett's Book of quotations.

YOGI BERRA:

Oh boy.

TIM RUSSERT:

More than Voltaire. Let me go through a few of them on the screen and get your understanding. The first: "How can you think and hit at the same time?"

YOGI BERRA:

Well, you can't. I don't think you can. You've got too much to worry about the pitcher out there. Why? Can't think and hit at the same time.

TIM RUSSERT:

So if you want an out, this is what you also said: "Half the things I said I never said."

YOGI BERRA:

Oh boy. You know, I'll tell you the truth, Tim. I don't even know I say these things. I really don't. But I could be sitting at a table with the family and all of a sudden they said, "Dad, you said another one." I said, "What did I say?" I don't know. I really don't.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

It ain't over till it's over. Another generation needs to be introduced to Yogi Berra. When we come back, there's real money to be made in college sports these days. And it's not just by winning your March Madness bracket. I'm going to talk to Charlie Baker, he's the new president of the NCAA, about the debate over how student athletes should be compensated, after the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in their favor that they can.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. In September of 2019, California became the first state to pass a law that allowed college athletes to be paid for their own name, image and likeness, essentially to make money off of that. NIL became shorthand for many a college sports fan. And nearly two years ago, the Supreme Court ruled 9 nothing against the NCAA deciding restrictions on, quote, "education-related benefits" violated anti-trust law and it has transformed college sports ever since. We now have a patchwork of state laws creating chaos for 1,100 member institutions and 500,000 student athletes.The question is whether Congress will intervene, and when. And now, perhaps reluctantly, the NCAA is actually wanting Congress to act. This week, the House subcommittee held a -- its first congressional hearing on college sports and this issue of compensation. It's the first hearing that they've held in nearly two years. Joining me now is the new president of the NCAA. And he's not a university president. They hired the former Republican Governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, to do this tricky job these days. He joins us from Houston, where, sadly for me, UConn defeated the University of Miami last night, setting up the Huskies to play San Diego State, which advanced to their first ever NCAA Final on Monday night after a thrilling buzzer-beater victory over Florida Atlantic. Governor Baker, welcome to Meet The Press.

CHARLIE BAKER:

Good morning, Chuck. How are you?

CHUCK TODD:

I am good. So, let me start with that hearing with Congress, this issue with name, image and likeness, and this patchwork of state laws. What exactly would -- do you want Congress to do here? I know normally you wouldn't want intervention, but given what's going on, what is it that you're hoping Congress does?

CHARLIE BAKER:

Well, I think you pointed out the intervention issues associated with states sort of going in a variety of different directions and the pressure that puts on conferences and schools because we do want to have sort of what I would describe as competitive equity here, a level playing field. And I think Congress has a chance to do what I would describe as consumer protections here. One athletic director, I think, put it pretty well when they said that the only thing that's true right now about NIL is that everybody lies and that puts families and student athletes and schools and coaches and athletic departments, and everybody else, in a place where they don't know actually what the market is. And I think we should have a public registry of NIL deals. And I think we should have what I would describe as financial literacy opportunities for families and student athletes, a certification process for agents and a uniform standard contract. And these are all things we've talked to folks in Congress about and I was thrilled to see them have a hearing on this.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, the professional leagues essentially have players associations, which do everything you're describing. They register agents. There is some transparency. There is some rules to the road. So, would that be a better way to go about this, collectively bargaining with student athletes?

CHARLIE BAKER:

Well, keep in mind that you have 500 -- as you pointed out – you have 520,000 student-athletes the vast majority of them participate in programming at many -- most of our 1,100 schools that is really what I would describe as the traditional way people think about college athletics, which is it's just part of the college experience and it's a chance for people to grow and develop and sort of find their teammates and learn a lot about accountability and discipline. That environment is not the one that would make the most sense for something like that. And in fact, the student-athlete who spoke at that hearing, Kaley Mudge, who is a softball player from Florida State, made pretty clear that she didn't think turning them all into employees was a good idea. And she also said something that's really important, which is this is something we need to get right.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me play something Charles Barkley said on “60 Minutes” last week. I'm sure you saw this, but let me play it for the audience.

[TAPE BEGIN]

CHARLES BARKLEY:

It's a travesty and a disgrace. I'm so mad now at how we can mess up something that's so beautiful. In the next three to five years, we're going to have 25 schools that’s going to dominate the sports because they can afford players and these schools who can't afford or won't pay players are going to be irrelevant.

[TAPE END]

CHUCK TODD:

Governor, I'll make a confession, I'm a huge University of Miami fan. I love that football program. And I'm sitting here, as a fan, and I want to make sure, oh, gosh, there's going to be haves and have-nots and I hope my team's on the haves. And then you look back and go, whoa, wait a minute, we're going to have just what Barkley described, two major conferences. They'll control all the sports and everybody else looks like a club sports or D3. Is that where we're headed?

CHARLIE BAKER:

Well, first of all, you just commented about the fact that this is the weekend of the Final Four in men's and women's basketball. The first time ever where no number one, number two, or number three seed made it to the Final Four. I think maybe, in some respects, people need to sit back a little bit and take a look at what's really going on out there. And I love Charles Barkley as much as everybody else does. I think, in some ways, the demonstrated competitive equity that we saw in the basketball tournaments, on both the men's and the women's side, was a big statement about the fact that there are a lot of terrific athletes out there and a whole variety of ways that they can be supported. And I think NIL plays a big role in that, if we get it right.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes, ironically, NIL and the transfer portal, which some people have said has been terrible for college sports, isn't it the reason why college basketball is so competitive?

CHARLIE BAKER:

It's a big part of it. And the other thing I would say about the transfer portal, we should remember that if you look at the number of kids, I think in some respects because of the Covid pandemic, who have been transferring who aren't athletes, those numbers are also up dramatically. I mean, in some respects, what's going on with kids and sports and the transfer portal on the athletic side is, in some ways, a reflection of what's going on with kids in college generally coming out of the pandemic. And I think people should keep that in mind.

CHUCK TODD:

We addressed this earlier sort of as an aside, but directly, what do you believe the impact would be if California passes a law that says student athletes are employees of universities? You know, student-athletes in Division 1 programs, what do you believe that would mean to Division 1 sports?

CHARLIE BAKER:

Well, first of all, we should all be careful about getting too far ahead of ourselves with hypotheticals. But what I would say is I've talked to a lot of schools about this and the big message you get from most of them is, and this is true, I mean, everybody pays attention to the big-time sports that they see on TV, but the vast majority of college sports don't look like that. And at most schools, the athletic program actually costs them money. They don't make money on sports and they offer it because it's a big piece of how they provide an experience for their student athletes. I think many people have done the analysis and they've basically said it would be very hard for them to maintain the current programming they have. A lot of the sports that they offer would probably either have to go club or go away. And I don't think these are idle threats based on the conversations I've had with school leaders and administrators.

CHUCK TODD:

This has been a banner couple of years for women's college sports. We've seen huge ratings in the NCAA women's tournament. Caitlin Clark is, inarguably, the most famous basketball player right now in either tournament, men or women. And yet, you do not put the women's tournament up as a separate media rights deal. Is that going to change? The last deal sort of lumped it in with every other NCAA sport that wasn't football. Are you going to separate out the women and show the real value of the women's tournament financially?

CHARLIE BAKER:

I think the women's tournament this year has been sensational, both in terms of the viewership, but also in terms of the quality of the play. And you had last year's Player of the Year in Aliyah Boston and this year's Player of the Year, Caitlin Clark, face off against each other in the most watched game in NCAA history in a semi-final, which was just terrific. I think – I think this is definitely something that's on our radar. The program, I think, is at exactly the right time peaking here because the contract is up. We do have an opportunity to put it out separately and we're going to work really hard to make sure that those student athletes, those schools, those programs get what I would describe as what they should get.

Governor Charlie Baker, thank you for coming on and sharing your perspective with us.

CHARLIE BAKER:

Thanks, Chuck. I appreciate it. Thanks, Chuck. I appreciate it.

CHUCK TODD:

Before we go, at least 27 people have died over the last two days as a major storm system ripped through the South and Midwest. We wanted to let you know if you want to help these communities with relief and rebuilding, please consider donating to one of these organizations that we have vetted and we believe they are doing good work. That's all we have for today. Thanks for watching. We'll be back next week, because if it's Sunday it's Meet the Press.