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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, the passing of an American original. John McCain, war hero, icon of integrity, and political maverick, died late yesterday four days shy of his 82nd birthday. A prisoner of war for five and a half years in North Vietnam.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else's.

CHUCK TODD:

Elected to the Senate six times beginning in 1986.

TOM BROKAW:

This is a man that we'll all want to watch. His name is John McCain.

CHUCK TODD:

Republican presidential nominee against Barack Obama with a sense of history.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country. I applaud him for it.

CHUCK TODD:

A fearless critic, even of a President of his own party.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

For the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.

CHUCK TODD:

Who fought for his beliefs always with honor.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

In the end, it matters less that you can fight. What you fight for is the real test.

CHUCK TODD:

This morning we remember John McCain. I'll talk to Hillary Clinton and his Arizona Senate colleague Jeff Flake. Plus, President Trump's nightmare week. Michael Cohen pleads guilty. Paul Manafort found guilty. The President's allies abandoning him. I'll talk to the leading Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler.

And how has all of this impacted President Trump's approval rating? We have a brand new NBC News Wall Street Journal poll taken before and after the Cohen and Manafort stories broke. Joining me this morning are Tom Brokaw, Andrea Mitchell, Hallie Jackson, Joshua Johnson, Susan Page, and David Brody. Welcome to Sunday for a special edition of 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. He was a warrior, a politician, a statesman, and a maverick. The news that Senator John McCain died late yesterday at his home in Arizona was not unexpected, but it was no less tragic. Some deaths leave a greater whole in our national psyche. Let's do some straight talk here. Given our current political environment, the loss of a man who worked so hard to build bridges rather than burn them seem particularly poignant. His wife Cindy wrote, "My heart is broken. I am so lucky to have lived the adventure of loving this incredible man for 38 years.

"He passed the way he lived, on his own terms surrounded by the people he loved in the place he loved best." He was a prisoner of war for five and a half years in Hanoi, a Congressman, a Senator, a two-time presidential candidate, and always his own man. A maverick, as he was so fond of saying about himself. His last moment in the Senate came in dramatic fashion. He walked on the Senate floor and delivered a now-famous thumbs down, defeating his own party's effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

This morning we're going to talk about the legacy of John McCain. And later we're going to get to some of the other big news of the week. But we're going to begin with two of my colleagues who have covered McCain for decades. Joining me now from Chicago is Tom Brokaw; and here in Washington is my friend Andrea Mitchell. Tom, you had the last interview that anybody at NBC conducted with John McCain. Let me play a pretty poignant response when you asked him, "Are we going to be okay?" Here's what he said:

[BEGIN TAPE]

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

Mark Twain said, "History doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes." Without American leadership, I'm not sure we're so well off. But could I also say I believe in America. I believe in its people. I believe in the folks in Arizona. I am not a pessimist about the future. I still think we're still a shining city on a hill.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Tom.

TOM BROKAW:

Well, I'm sitting here in Chicago. And one of the reasons I'm here is not just to appear on Meet the Press, but tomorrow to look back on what happened in this city 50 years ago. It was the Democratic Convention, which was more a riot than it was a convention. We lost 15,000 people in Vietnam that year. We had Dr. King killed and Bobby Kennedy assassinated. When I asked John about the difference between then and now, he said it was, "Much worse then."

The thing about John was that he was always authentic in what he had to say. He could be very self-critical very quickly. We got along extremely well for a while, and then he got angry with me, about what was never quite clear. But then he came to me about two years ago and said, "Look, I was wrong. We've got to get back to square one again." I don't know another politician who could talk like that. His friends included, for example, Tom Daschle, who was the Democratic leader of the Senate, and people like Lorne Michaels, who's the producer of Saturday Night Live. So I think that we're missing that in our public life these days, the kind of authenticity that he brought to the arena.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Andrea Mitchell, Mark Salter, his longtime aide, sort of a son from another mother and father in some ways, this is what he wrote in The Washington Post this weekend. "McCain was a romantic about his causes and a cynic about the world. He had the capacity to be both things and to live with the contradiction. He had seen human beings at their best and worst, often in the same experience. He understood the world as it is with all its corruption and cruelty, but he thought it a moral failure to accept injustice as the inescapable tragedy of our fallen nature. He was realistically optimistic I guess."

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And that optimism, that shining city on the hill, that of course we think of Ronald Reagan. I think Michael Beschloss said last night that if the happy warrior had not been termed, had not been coined to describe Hubert Humphrey, that John McCain would be the happy warrior. And a warrior and a fighter always, but always with so much optimism, and so much joy, and passion. Passion because he believed so much in his country, in the people of our country. And he believed in a greater vision of America.

CHUCK TODD:

Tom, there is, every generation has this handful, and it is literally a small handful, of people that don't become presidents, but become bigger than life. John McCain is one of those people. Patrick Moynihan was probably best representative of the generation previously. How did he achieve that status in your mind?

TOM BROKAW:

Well, I think you achieve that by sailing against the winds that are prevailing. For example, now both parties they are more ideologues than they are authentic people in terms of looking at a problem not just through the prism of being a Democrat or a Republican, but what is really needed to be done. And John McCain would do that. He was not trapped by his party label. I mean he was very conservative on international affairs, but willing to take a look at domestic programs from a different perspective.

We don't have that much anymore in politics. You know, I grew up in a time when both parties, they got along even though they had different ideologies. But they had in the Senate they had the giants of the Senate on both sides. And now we have everybody trapped into this kind of ideological box, whether you're a Democrat or a Republican. You can't move out of that box. I think the country is tired of that.

CHUCK TODD:

Andrea, I want to read you John Kerry's statement because it invokes a great memory of yours. Here's John Kerry's remembrances: "We met 32 years ago. We loved the Navy but had opposite views about the war of our youth. We didn't trust each other, but really, we didn't know each other. After a long conversation on a long flight, we decided to work together to make peace with Vietnam and with ourselves here in America. We traveled together to Vietnam, and together, we found common ground in the most improbable place. I stood with John-- the two of us alone-- in the very cell in the Hanoi Hilton where years of his life were lived out in pain, but always in honor." Tell me about that trip.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

That trip and the fact that they would stand there together. John McCain did not respect, or understand, or trust, as John Kerry acknowledges, what John Kerry did after the war being the leading, his first appearance on Meet the Press was as a protester against the war. But they worked together. And I was covering the POW commission that they created together. And as John Kerry wrote in that tribute last night, "He was savaged by lesser people, but that words could never hurt him because he was stronger in the broken places," in the words of Hemingway, of course, who was the great literary hero that John McCain loved so much.

John McCain, with John Kerry, helped Bill Clinton, who was an accused draft dodger in the '92 campaign, normalize relations with Vietnam. It's hard for some younger people perhaps to realize how bitter that was, how much they had to pay the political price. But together, they gave these two veterans-- and John McCain of course the POW-- gave Bill Clinton in 1995 the political cover to actually normalize relations with our former enemy.

CHUCK TODD:

Tom Brokaw, there is at least 70 people that are nominees for the United States Senate this November. There's going to be a lot of remembrances of John McCain this week. A lot of people are going to read about moments of John McCain that they're just learning about. These and half of those people are going to be coming back to the U.S. Senate. What lessons do you hope they take away from what they learn about John McCain's life this week?

TOM BROKAW:

That there's something greater than the party label, that there's something greater than a kind of ideological, if you will, attachment to whatever the mood of the day is. You have to look at the needs of the country. And the needs of the country are not just the domestic issues, but where we stand internationally. And have the courage, whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, to take a stand against what you know is not the best interest of the country, but it happens to be the ideology of whoever's in the White House at the time. We need more people who will sail against the wind. I just want to say one thing quickly.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes, sir.

TOM BROKAW:

I went to Hanoi, and stood in that park, and looked out on that lake where he landed after he had been shot down, terribly injured. And I had seen those pictures of him being almost savaged to death in that lake. And then he went through five and a half years. John McCain before all that had been kind of a playboy flyer. It changed his life. And he was very honest about it. And to go through that kind of an ordeal and come out of it wanting to help the entire country, not just a narrow base, I think that's a big, big lesson.

CHUCK TODD:

It sure is. It sets quite the example. Tom Brokaw. Andrea Mitchell.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

You bet.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you both. One person who shares a common bond with John McCain is Hillary Clinton. Both lost to Barack Obama in 2008. Mr. Obama defeated Mrs. Clinton for the Democratic nomination, and Senator McCain lost that year in the general election. But the two also shared eight years together in the two also shared eight years together in the Senate and actually spent a lot of time together overseas. So joining us now on the phone is Former Secretary of State, and Former New York Senator, and the 2016 Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton. Secretary Clinton, thanks for joining me on this somber occasion. Just simply: What's his legacy in your mind?

HILLARY CLINTON:

Oh Chuck, I was listening to Tom and Andrea and I think we could all talk for hours about what he meant to the country, what he meant to the Senate, what he meant to a lot of us individually. He leaves a legacy of service and courage. The courage, of course, we all came to know because of his time as a POW. But getting up every day and working as hard as he did for the people of Arizona, for the values that he cherished wasn't easy. You're right, I did travel with him. He couldn't comb his own hair because of the war injuries that he had sustained. He couldn't lift his arm above the shoulder level. We used to laugh because when we would do tv together sometimes for Meet the Press --

CHUCK TODD:

Oh, we've got a clip later for you don't worry.

HILLARY CLINTON:

--from places like Baghdad -- you know, he would say, well, is my hair is sticking up. I mean I have so many wonderful personal memories of him as well as public ones.

CHUCK TODD:

It was interesting the way he conducted himself in the Senate. He almost would go out of his way to find the Democrat that you would think is least likely to work with a Republican and try to forge a bond with them. Before you, it was Ted Kennedy. And it almost became a -- legendary the way he would try to reach out.

HILLARY CLINTON:

Well, that's because he did believe in the institution and he knows -- he knew that the Senate couldn't work if we didn't work together. I think it was heartbreaking to him that -- as he said in the speech he gave right before he voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act, that we need to cooperate. We need to learn how to trust each other again and do better to serve the people who elected us. And, you know, he was so typically John in those remarks because he said stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on radio and tv and the internet. To the hell with them, they don't want anything done for the public good. He really understood in the marrow of his bones what it meant to be an American and how important it was for us to, yes, disagree and differ. But at the end of the day to come together, to work together, to trust each other to get things done. And he will be missed for many, many reasons Chuck but I think that example that he set of working across the aisle, but more than that working to bring people together here at home and around the world is one we should remember.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me quote him and say ‘let's have a little straight talk.’ The timing of his death in this moment that we’re in in our politics, there's a reason I think Washington's taking an extra stomach punch this morning. The vacuum he leaves. The timing -- we can't ignore this moment that he's leaving us.

HILLARY CLINTON:

You're a hundred percent right, Chuck. I mean, he understood that we've been through perilous times before at home and abroad. But our institutions are being severely tested right now, including his beloved Senate. And he was, in every way he knew how, trying to sound the alarm to get all of us as Americans to understand that if we abandon the ideals that we have stood for around the globe, if we turn our back on leadership on behalf of human rights and the kind of future we want to forge for our children and grandchildren, we will be giving up on what he fought for, what he was imprisoned for, what he stood for, and in a long line of American patriots.

CHUCK TODD:

Secretary Clinton I’m going to leave it there. I thank you. I assume you and Lindsey Graham are going to have some vodka shots, and toast the Senator.

HILLARY CLINTON:

(laughs) Well, I don’t know. I hope, I hope that will happen at some point in the future.

CHUCK TODD:

I think the Irishman in John McCain would love for you to celebrate that way. Secretary Clinton--

HILLARY CLINTON:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

--thanks for sharing your remembrances. This week--

HILLARY CLINTON:

Thank you. Bye.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator McCain will lie in state at the Arizona Capitol, then at the Capitol Rotunda. His memorial service will be held at the National Cathedral right here in Washington, D.C. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama will be the eulogists. Overnight, President Bush released a statement saying in part, “Some lives are so vivid it is difficult to imagine them ended. Some voices are so vibrant it is hard to think of them still.” What a great way to put it. President Obama released a statement saying, “John McCain and I were members of different generations. But we shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed.” McCain will be buried at the Naval Academy in Annapolis.

Let me bring the panel in right now. Joshua Johnson, host of 1A, NPR. Washington Bureau Chief of USA. Today, Susan Page. NBC News Chief White House Correspondent, Hallie Jackson. And David Brody, the Chief Political Analyst and Reporter for the Christian Broadcasting Network. Look, I want you guys to share, but I want to share a moment of John McCain in 2000 regretting what he-- standing up for the Confederate flag in South Carolina. This is 2000. 15 years before the debate got back. Here he is.

[BEGIN TAPE]

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

They fought on the wrong side of American history. That, my friends, is how I personally feel about the Confederate battle flag. That is the honest answer I never gave to a fair question.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Susan Page. What does that say about him?

SUSAN PAGE:

It's a reminder that John McCain was not a perfect person, that he made mistakes in his life and in his political life. But he would come around and admit it and apologize for it. And you know, he did this with reporters. There were times when he unfairly criticized reporters for stories they had written, and then two days later he would call you back and say, "I was wrong. You were fair." Who does that?

CHUCK TODD:

I know. I know.

HALLIE JACKSON:

As somebody who covers the White House, I do think there is. If you talk about the timing of this, Chuck, and the moment that we're in. I can't help but look at the reaction and the response to the death of John McCain and some of those moments over the last eight years or so between President Trump, who was then a candidate, and McCain. Look back to 2008 when the birther movement was beginning against Barack Obama. Senator McCain came out and talked about his Christian-- "No, ma'am."

You remember that moment in '08? A movement, by the way, that Donald Trump was, was pushing as part of a conspiracy theory years later. You then had after the "war hero" comments when Donald Trump said, "John McCain is not a war hero," early on in his campaign. Remember, the RNC came out and condemned Donald Trump. It was about the first and only time that the Republican establishment did that. You look at what's happened over the last year as John McCain is convalescing in Arizona, President Trump has not mentioned McCain by name, but he has attacked him for his health care vote.

You have not heard that same kind of condemnation at all from establishment Republicans. And it seems-- people on Capitol Hill, for example, as well. And the way-- it is a contrast between the way that you look at how Republicans have shifted I think. It's like a microcosm, how Republicans have shifted over the years when it comes to that relationship.

DAVID BRODY:

He is a statesman living in a political environment where statesman is a bad word right now.

CHUCK TODD:

That's sadly true.

DAVID BRODY:

That's part of the problem here. I've interviewed him half a dozen times. I remember in 2007 on the Straight Talk Express bus in New Hampshire. And I'll never forget the mischievous twinkle in his eye. We all know that look of kind of like, "Look, this is the maverick in me." And he had it every single time. You know, but I think he sometimes-- I know he didn't go along with GOP orthodoxy a lot. But I have to tell you, I mean look, on judges, on Islam, you go down the list. He was pretty solid on a lot of stuff. But the truth of the matter is if he hadn't bucked his party so much, he may have been President of the United States.

JOSHUA JOHNSON:

I rode over here this morning with a driver who drove John McCain to Meet the Press quite a bit. And I was getting out of the car, he was like, "Oh, yeah. I remember him. He was a really nice guy." Told me that he used to ride in the front of the car instead of in the back. So he would sit next to the driver. Always called the driver "soldier" or called him by his first name. It just kind of was very warm about remembering his affability, even though the driver said his politics and Senator McCain's politics differed.

And as I got out of the car, I thought, "Oh, it was really nice that he shared those stories." And then I thought, "Wait a minute. What is my driver's name?" I didn't even ask. Maya Angelou once said, "People will forget what you say, they'll forget what you do, but they will never forget how you make them feel." And I feel like part of the legacy of Senator McCain was not just his patriotism, but his humanity. Even that speech that Former Secretary Clinton referenced about ignoring all the you know, the bombastic loudmouths was about remembering the humanity of the people across the aisle from you.

And if anything speaks to why this nation does not like Congress, trust Congress, support Congress, I think part of it speaks to that, that ability for us to just view one another as people who are trying to build a more perfect union.

CHUCK TODD:

You got to something. And I said it in a very blunt way earlier. People ask me-- The guy wasn't a snob. Do you know how many political reporters I know, including this one right here? The first person to acknowledge them when they were on Capitol Hill, to take them seriously as a reporter. Not to just look for the recognizable TV face. No offense to any of us now on TV. He wasn't a snob, whether it was a driver, whether-- that was an incredible aspect of him.

SUSAN PAGE:

I think people who go through enormous times of testing, as he did as a prisoner of war, they sometimes come out with a sense of what matters and what doesn't, which he had. And also, a sense of gratitude for every day. And I think he came out of Vietnam understanding that every day was a little bit of a gift and something to be used to a higher purpose. A higher purpose is one of the things that John McCain repeatedly talked about to everybody, to other members of Congress, to members of the press. I think he thought all of us should have a higher purpose.

CHUCK TODD:

He thought we all had a stake in keeping the democracy healthy.

DAVID BRODY:

Yeah. And I remember him being very happy go lucky on that bus in Manchester in 2007. He was the frontrunner for a while. Then he had dropped off, obviously. And it was a time when he had dropped off and no one was giving him a shot. He eventually rebounded.

CHUCK TODD:

Carried his own bags.

CHUCK TODD:

That's correct. And I'll never forget it. He looked at me and went, "Look, I've been a POW for four and a half years. This is nothing." You know, he knows. It was very happy go lucky, warrior spirit.

HALLIE JACKSON:

Yeah. He was always very funny and friendly with reporters, even when he was being crusty and cranky, right? That was part of his schtick was to come up and--

CHUCK TODD:

He'd call you, "Hey, you scumbag reporter."

HALLIE JACKSON:

Right. Exactly.

CHUCK TODD:

But he'd laugh.

HALLIE JACKSON:

With a twinkle in his eye.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes.

HALLIE JACKSON:

Yes. Exactly.

CHUCK TODD:

I think every reporter was called a name by him, but it was always with a smile.

HALLIE JACKSON:

Yeah. He gave bunny ears to a reporter live on the air. There's a lot of moments who people who covered John McCain remember fondly.

CHUCK TODD:

He didn't attack them personally on Twitter, that's for sure. All right, guys. Later in the broadcast we're going to get to the other big news of the week, Michael Cohen's guilty plea, Paul Manafort's conviction. I'll talk to Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York, both of whom, by the way, sit on their respective judiciary committees.

We also have brand new NBC News Wall Street Journal poll numbers on what impact this week's news has had on the President's job ratings. But when we come back, we're going to remember some of the many moments we shared with Senator John McCain over the years right in this studio right here on Meet the Press.

[BEGIN TAPE]

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

I may not be the youngest candidate in this race, but I'm certainly the most prepared. And I'm prepared to lead this country. I don't need any on the job training. I'm ready to do the hard things, not the easy things. And that's what I intend to do.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Senator McCain's death was of special note to us here at Meet the Press. No guest has appeared on this broadcast more often than John McCain. So we thought we'd share with you highlights of Senator McCain's 73 appearances here. Moments filled with grace, dignity, and a lot of humor.

[BEGIN TAPE]

TIM RUSSERT:

Senator McCain in Arizona, welcome to Meet the Press.

TOM BROKAW:

Welcome back to Meet the Press.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back to Meet the Press.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

I think the job of Congress and people like me, Tim, is to object, and to criticize, and to speak up where we think policy is wrong.

TIM RUSSERT:

How did five and a half years in a prison cell in North Vietnam as a prisoner of war prepare you for the presidency?

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

I think it helped me define the principles that I already held. I think I would not be running for president if I didn't think that there needed to be significant changes made in the Republican Party. I would leave the task to someone else. This is a tough business we're in. This isn't beanbag.

TIM RUSSERT:

Back to your good friends Trent Lott, Mitch McConnell.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

Yeah, yeah. We'll go do battle again. I'm sure they're eagerly awaiting my return. I'm sure they have very mixed emotions. "If the guy wins, we'll have to deal with him as president. If the guy loses, we're going to have him back."

TIM RUSSERT:

When you saw George W. Bush take that oath of office yesterday, did for a microsecond you wish, "Gee, I wish I was up there doing that"?

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

Every day.

TIM RUSSERT:

Thank you for being honest.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

I still believe that we did the right thing by going in there because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, had used weapons of mass destruction. If he was still in power, he would be trying to acquire those weapons of mass destruction.

TIM RUSSERT:

Senator McCain, a serious question. Do you think the lady to your right would make a good president?

HILLARY CLINTON:

We can't hear you, Tim. We can't hear you.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

You're breaking up. I may not be the youngest candidate in this race, but I'm certainly the most prepared. And I'm prepared to lead this country. I don't need any on-the-job training. Do Sarah Palin and I disagree on a specific issue? Yeah, because we're both mavericks. And there are -- You know, a lot of people complain about divisions within the Republican Party. That's good right now. Let's let 1,000 flowers bloom. I hate the press. I hate you especially. But the fact is we need you. We need a free press. We must have it. It's vital.

CHUCK TODD:

You said he's growing--

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

--in office. There are some that will say, "No, the Washington establishment sucked him in."

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

I hope so.

CHUCK TODD:

You've been on here a few times. So I've heard.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

Time flies when you're having fun.

TIM RUSSERT:

Senator John McCain, thanks for joining us and sharing your views.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

I haven't had so much fun since my last interrogation.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. It is fair to say this was the worst week yet in Donald Trump's presidency. On Tuesday we were treated to a remarkable split screen drama. On Trump confidante, lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to eight counts of financial fraud. Moments later and 230 miles to the south in suburban Washington, another Trump ally, Paul Manafort, was found guilty on eight counts of financial crimes of his own. The twin events dominated news coverage and have many asking whether this is a turning point in the Trump presidency. Joining me now is Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, who does sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee. But, of course, senator, I want to begin with your thoughts on Senator John McCain. You wrote something very lovely in a self-deprecating way. You said you were the other senator in Arizona and that when you served with John McCain, everybody learned to become the other senator from Arizona. Talk more.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

Oh yes, that was my title -- the other senator from Arizona. I grew to enjoy that and embrace it. It was like having a big brother who nobody wanted to mess with, so I very much enjoyed serving with John McCain in the Senate and being in the House when he was in the Senate as well.

CHUCK TODD:

You know a lot of people, including myself, are wondering who fills that void -- it's not going to be a void that is filled right away. But how does a void like John McCain's get filled? I think you've tried to step up in different ways, trying to reach across the aisle -- but not many of your colleagues do that.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

I don't know that we'll ever see anybody who's like John McCain. I think he's one of a kind. I think we can certainly try to follow his example and seeing the good in our opponents and recognizing that people may be on the other side of the aisle or have a different philosophy but they're our friends and they're fellow Americans. I think that that would go a long way if we would follow that example from John.

CHUCK TODD:

I know that Chuck Schumer, the senate democratic leader says he plans to introduce legislation to rename a senate office building. We assume it’s the Richard Russell senate office building -- something that goes back to the segregationist years in Georgia. I take it that would be a pretty easy vote for a lot of people to cast -- to rename that building the McCain senate office building?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

It would be. I hope to be the first Republican co-sponsor. I think that's a fitting tribute. He had his office there during his entire time, including right now, right near my office. And so, I think that's a very fitting tribute.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me move to the week's events and ask you -- ask you a question about dealing with the president this way. You're on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The President of the United States was accused of helping to commit a federal crime. Now, he's an unindicted co-conspirator there with Michael Cohen. But Charlie Sykes wrote in the New York Times in July that sometime before the midterm elections Republicans are going to need to show that they are more than just constitutional potted plants. What should the U.S. Congress do now to look into this accusation that the sitting President of the United States was ,apparently -- in a court of law, helped -- directed somebody to commit a federal crime?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

Well, first, we need to make sure that the Mueller investigation is allowed to continue and be completed. We've passed legislation in Judiciary Committee to that effect. I hope that it's brought up on the floor. Some of the investigation obviously isn't the Mueller investigation. It's I think the Seventh District of New York. That will continue as well. So I think to make sure that there is a separation of powers and Congress assumes its constitutional role. That's the most important thing we can do at this point.

CHUCK TODD:

So do you think though that means just protecting Mueller or holding some hearings?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

No, I think protecting the Mueller investigation. We don't want to get involved in terms of overlapping what's going on there. I think Bob Mueller is moving forward as he should. And that needs to continue. There is a concern that the president has ramped up rhetoric about perhaps firing the attorney general. I hope that that doesn't happen. If it does, we'll deal with it at that time.

CHUCK TODD:

I am curious if sentiment has changed in the Senate Republican conference when it comes to Jeff Sessions. I want to play for you Lindsey Graham from last year and Lindsey Graham from last week. Here it is.

[BEGIN TAPE]

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

If Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay. The president's entitled to an attorney he has faith in. And I think there will come a time sooner rather than later where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Is it fair to say that Sessions doesn't have the same amount of support in the Senate Republican conference right now that he did last year?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

I don't know. There may be a few isolated voices saying that the president ought to fire him now. I can tell you as a body we're saying, "Please don't." He serves at the pleasure of the president. We all know that. But I think it would be a big mistake for the president to fire him now.

CHUCK TODD:

What kind of mistake is it? I mean, does it--

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

It would be very difficult.

CHUCK TODD:

What kind of repercussion? What kind of repercussion do you think there should be if he does this?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

Well, the concern obviously is that that would be the first domino to fall. Then what happens with Rod Rosenstein? What happens with Bob Mueller? And I think firing Jeff Sessions would concern us all that that's the first domino. So I frankly think that the president will hold off. He's made these kind of noises before but then has pulled back.

CHUCK TODD:

Before I let you go, there is a primary in Arizona. Three Republicans vying to replace you in the United States Senate. You care to share with us publicly who you plan to support?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

(laughs) No, I wish them well. It's it’s nice not to -- not having to take a position on this.

CHUCK TODD:

Is your -- Do you think your endorsement helps or hurts people in the Republican primary right now?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

(laughs) Nobody would be asking for it in the Republican primary I can tell you that. It -- this is very much, and you know I'm not happy about it but this is the president's party right now. And I think that we'll be sorry for that in the future, but that's the case right now.

CHUCK TODD:

Jeff Flake, I know you have a heavy heart this morning. I know it's not easy to come on here when you've lost such a close friend and a mentor. Thanks for coming on and sharing your thoughts today.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now is the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York. By the way, that is the committee that would be charged with holding impeachment hearings against President Trump, if it ever came to that. Congressman Nadler, welcome back to Meet the Press.

REP. JERROLD NADLER:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Before I get started, you've been in Washington 26 years. I know you're in the House and the Senate, and those are real mortal enemies in Washington right, the House and the Senate? Your thoughts on John McCain this morning.

REP. JERROLD NADLER:

Well, he was a true American hero. From his courageous service in Vietnam when he refused the ability to go home and volunteered for a few more years of torture in the Hanoi Hilton, rather than get out of line and ahead of others, which he could've done, to his service to his country over the years. He was a true American hero. And it'll be a long time before we see his like.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me go to, after Michael Cohen essentially said the President of the United States was a co-conspirator with him in directing him to - a federal crime, should that trigger the start of an investigation in the Judiciary Committee that could end up going to impeachment or not? But the way our system works, is this the proper way it should begin?

REP. JERROLD NADLER:

Well, I think the Mueller investigation has to continue, first and foremost. And the Committee has to defend the Mueller investigation against the president's and the Republicans in Congress’ attempts to sabotage it, to discredit it, and to discredit the FBI and the Department of Justice. Congress is supposed to be a check and balance on the executive. We're supposed to guarantee accountability. Under the Republicans, it's been exactly the opposite. Chairman Nunes of the Intelligence Committee was caught on tape at a Republican fundraiser recently saying that he viewed his major role as protecting the president. The role of Congress is not to protect the president, it's to hold the president and any president accountable to the American people. And we ought to be holding investigations.

CHUCK TODD:

What would that look like today? Let's say you had a functional relationship with the other side, okay. We know right now that's tough inside the House. But if you did, what would that look like? You and Congressman Goodlatte would be doing what?

REP. JERROLD NADLER:

Well, first of all, we would, I hope we would confer with Mueller to see what we shouldn't do that would, that would, that would get in the way of his investigation. We don't want to step on, interfere with them by accident. But following that, we should be investigating all of these things, the possible interference, the interference of the Russians in our investigations, what we can do to make sure that that can't happen again, who in the United States aided and abetted that, if anybody, other crimes that may have been-- not just crimes, but other improper acts in terms of the campaign. We should be investigating all of those things and bringing them to light for the American people. And possibly seeing if there's any legislation we should do to prevent their recurrence in the future. But again, we should talk to the Mueller people first to make sure we don't step on their investigation.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this: You know, you were one of Bill Clinton's most ardent defenders during his impeachment. You called it at the time a "partisan coup d'état." If you were charged with running something that, some form of an impeachment investigation, if you're chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which what would happen if Democrats took over Congress, how would you make sure that somehow you handled this differently than your, than your Republican colleagues did 20 years ago?

REP. JERROLD NADLER:

I would take the same attitude I took then. I said then that impeachment is a constitutional provision to protect the Constitution against the president, who would aggrandize power, who would ride roughshod over checks and balances, who posed a true threat to American liberty or to constitutional government and the rule of law. And to, and I said also at the time, and therefore, you should only do it under those circumstances. I also said at the time that you should not do an impeachment on a partisan basis. That, in order to do an impeachment properly, you’d have to think that the evidence of, of, of, of, of threatening impeachable offenses, threatening to the constitutional order, threatening to liberty were so overwhelming that by the end of the process, the overwhelming majority of the American people, including a lot of the people who supported the other side, would agree that you had to do it. And we certainly didn't have that then.

CHUCK TODD:

Obviously, Watergate did eventually have that. Let me ask you this final question here: Back in 1999, you are, during the debate about whether or not President Clinton obstructed justice, you said at the time you weren't convinced that a president could obstruct justice. Do you still feel that way, that it’s not one of -- I think the quote, "It might not be impeachable." Put it this way: That obstruction of justice might not be an impeachable offense.

REP. JERROLD NADLER:

Well, I don't remember saying that, but if I said it, I said it. But no, I don't agree with that today. A president, anybody can obstruct justice. Obstruction of justice under certain circumstances might be an impeachable offense. Remember, there's a very big difference between a crime, which may or may not be impeachable, and an impeachable offense, which doesn't have to be a crime. An impeachable offense--

CHUCK TODD:

So wait. There are some crimes that the president could commit that you would think is not impeachable?

REP. JERROLD NADLER:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

Like what?

REP. JERROLD NADLER:

Absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

The affairs?

REP. JERROLD NADLER:

Well--

CHUCK TODD:

Paying these campaign finance, this wouldn't, to you, rise to impeachable?

REP. JERROLD NADLER:

No, that might, because it implicates subverting the election process.

CHUCK TODD:

But you're skeptical, it sounds like.

REP. JERROLD NADLER:

I don't know. I have studied that. But certainly I said at the time that perjury with regard to a private sexual affair did not threaten the constitutional order. It's a crime, but was not an impeachable offense. Perjury regarding an attempt by a president to subvert the constitutional order to aggrandize power probably would be an impeachable offense.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Jerrold Nadler. I have to leave it there. Ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, representing New York City. Thanks for coming on and sharing your views, sir.

REP. JERROLD NADLER:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, we're going to take a look at our latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. We polled both before and after the news about Cohen and Manafort. Did we see a change in President Trump's approval numbers? And as we go to break, another moment in the remarkable career of John McCain.

[BEGIN TAPE]

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

Every time I've done something for what may have been influenced by political reasons, I've regretted it. Every time that I've done something that I think is right, it's turned out okay in the end. I've got to do what I think is right.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. So what effect did Michael Cohen's guilty plea and Paul Manafort's convictions have on President Trump's approval rating? The two stories have many asking whether this was more than even President Trump’s supporters could bear. Well, we have brand new NBC News Wall Street Journal poll numbers, the answer so far seems to be no. We actually have two polls. The first one was taken last Saturday through Wednesday, mostly before the news broke. There, the President's job approval rating hit an all-time high in our poll, 46%. 51% disapproving. That's due entirely, by the way, to the hardening of support from the President's base. He's now getting over 90% approval from Republicans. Then we took a second poll entire after the news broke from Wednesday through yesterday, 'cause we knew some of you might be skeptical of the results. Well, the results, they barely changed. Margin of error differences. 44% approved. 52% disapprove. And trust me, inside the numbers not much there. As one of our pollsters Peter Hart put it, "For the 2018 Democratic strategy, the Manafort and Cohen convictions represent a fool's gold opportunity, rather than a silver bullet solution." By the way, in our poll Democrats still hold a very big lead for control of Congress. Eight points now. 50 to 42. It's an improvement for Democrats from July when they had a six point lead, 49 to 43. So that's right, the President strengthened and congressional Democrats strengthened. Still President Trump's right in the face of a nightmare news week demonstrates that his voters remain far more loyal than his close associates do, some of whom turned on him this week. We'll be back with End Game in a moment.

[BEGIN TAPE]

TOWN HALL PARTICIPANT:

He's an Arab. He is not--

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

No.

FEMALE VOICE:

No?

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

No, ma'am. No, ma'am. He's a decent, family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. And that's what this campaign is all about.

[END TAPE]

ANNOUNCER:

Coming up: End Game, brought to you by Boeing. Continuing our mission to connect, protect, explore, and inspire.

ANNOUNCER: End Game, brought to you by Boeing. Continuing our mission to connect, protect, explore, and inspire.

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with End Game. Instead of trying to sum up the week, maybe we'll use these three Time Magazine covers to sort of start this conversation. This has been the Time Magazine covers for the last sort of 14 months. They've done a series of three of them now. There's the president. There's wind and of course a little more water. And they have the word "stormy." And then now, as you can see, he suddenly is the Oval Office under water. Hallie Jackson, I think it's as good of a way to describe perhaps how the president is feeling right now.

HALLIE JACKSON:

And when you talk with folks inside the White House-- and I have, and I have over the last 48 hours or so-- there is an insistence, right, that this has nothing to do with us, and our policy, and what we wanna try to do. The president is doing his thing. We are not creating this crisis communications strategy, because we feel like we don't have to right now. And Chuck, the poll that you just talked about validates that in large part when it comes to what's happening inside the White House. That said, you've talked to folks outside the president's sort of West Wing structure there, people that he speaks with and do reporting on that. He is obviously unhappy with this. He's frustrated. He's upset, but not with Paul Manafort. I think that's an interesting piece to watch moving forward here. He's made that clear not just privately, but very publicly as well.

DAVID BRODY:

And all of the news this week has nothing to do with Russia. And that's the bottom the line. You gotta deliver the goods on Russia. We'll see what happens. But look, at this point if there's no Russia and there's no goods on Russia, base doesn't care. Base doesn't care. And why? 'Cause a lot of people--

CHUCK TODD:

You think the base cares about Russia?

DAVID BRODY:

They may care depending on what comes out about Russia. I would say that. But let me just say this: Everybody gets on their moral high horse, right, here and says, "Oh, but look, Trump's been dealing with this for 30 years. He's been doing this and that." They don't care. Why? Because they voted for the guy. They realize what they voted for. They realize what they signed up for. They're willing to live with that because of the political climate we're in today. And it’s a, it’s a -- how do I say this? The Republicans and Democrats, both parties, are to blame. And Donald Trump is here. And he's a bull in a China shop.

HALLIE JACKSON:

Can I just say one thing, though? Because even one person who's very close to the president said this to me: The argument that would be effective potentially with his base is this is a president who repeatedly promised to hire the best people, who said he would bring the best folks in. Chuck Rosenberg summed it up best when he said, "This is another person now-- with Allen Weisselberg and the news that the Trump CFO has been granted immunity-- who committed a crime and needed immunity for it who was in Donald Trump's inner circle. So that may be some sort of -- you may see Democrats latch onto that.

SUSAN PAGE:

But if you look at the numbers in your poll, I find what's interesting and important not the approval number, because I think we should accept the fact that Donald Trump's base is going to stay with him no matter what. It's the enthusiasm number. And 56% of Democrats say this congressional election is more important than usual to me. Only 38% of Republicans say that. Who's going to bother to go to vote in a midterm election? It's people who think, "This is an election that really matters to me." That is I think the more important number.

CHUCK TODD:

Though, there's some in President Trump's orbit who think the threat of impeachment actually will motivate this base.

JOSHUA JOHNSON:

Maybe. We've heard Nancy Pelosi this week. She spoke to my colleagues at KQED in San Francisco. You heard Jerrold Nadler speaking about kind of-- a number of lawmakers saying that impeachment needs to be a bipartisan thing. It shouldn't be a partisan tool. I'm just not sure what else Democrats have that's going to motivate them to show up at the polls more ardently than the prospect of doing something about Donald Trump. I mean, I understand why Republicans are motivated to keep that agenda in place. What else, like, what else is there emotionally to get Democrats out?

CHUCK TODD:

I was just gonna say I think the Democratic leadership and the disconnect. Republicans -- the Republican base, David, wanted a more aggressive Republican Party to go after Obama and go after Hillary Clinton. And the leadership was always like, "No. No. No. No. No." We're always trying to hold back those that id in the party. And they paid a price in Donald Trump. I'm thinking all of these responsible Democratic leaders that are preaching impeachment caution, are these people-- the base may say, "Give me Michael Avenatti. I don't want you responsible guys."

DAVID BRODY:

Well, right. I think that's something the Democrats are going to have to deal with. But I'd say on the Republican side they got exactly what they wanted, a guy that was going to shake things up. Look, I think one of the best things going in Donald Trump's favor-- we know this-- is the mainstream media. I hate to say it. I know I'm sitting on a Meet the Press roundtable, but the truth of the matter is 62% think the media is biased. So in other words, if you look at the approval ratings of Donald Trump versus the approval rating of the media--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

The conservative echo chamber created that environment. It's not-- no. No. No. No. It has been a tactic and a tool of the Roger Ailes created echo chamber.

DAVID BRODY:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

So let's not pretend it's not anything other than that.

DAVID BRODY:

Well, hang on. Yes and no. Because remember, the independents are part of Donald Trump's base. And I think that is very important. A lot of times we say, "Republicans are Donald Trump's base." Not really. They're--

CHUCK TODD:

No. It's a separate Trump -- it is a different version of the Republican Party.

DAVID BRODY:

But those Independents also distrust media. This is not just Republicans. It is many Americans across--

CHUCK TODD:

Oh, no. No. No. I take your point. I'm just saying it was a creation -- it was a campaign tactic. It's not based in much fact.

JOSHUA JOHNSON:

I do think it's worth saying, though, to kind of get away from all the politics what the leaders are saying about this needing to be bipartisan and so forth. They're right. The founders did not intend impeachment to be a tool for what they refer to as maladministration. If you don't like what a president is doing, you have a tool to get rid of that president. Vote him out. It's designed for treason, bribery, high crimes, and misdemeanors. And I feel like there are enough people who say, "I'd rather we just mobilize for 2020 than try to throw him out now." That sets a dangerous precedent.

CHUCK TODD:

Well and that's why I think it is Russia has to be a part of it if you're ever even getting there. All right, guys. That's all we have for today. Thank you for watching. Like all of you, we are keeping John McCain and his entire family in our thoughts. We'll be back next week. Because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press. But we're going to leave you this morning not with my words, but with Senator McCain's own words.

[BEGIN TAPE]

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

"The world is a fine place and worth fighting for. And I hate very much to leave it," spoke my hero, Robert Jordan, in For Whom the Bell Tolls. And I do too. I hate to leave it, but I don't have a complaint. Not one. I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times.

[END TAPE]

ANNOUNCER:

More Americans watch NBC News than any other news organization in the world.