Meet the Press - December 15, 2019

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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday: articles of impeachment.

HOUSE CLERK:

Mr. Chairman, there are 23 ayes and 17 no's.

REP. JERRY NADLER:

The article is agreed to.

CHUCK TODD:

Democrats approve charges that President Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress.

REP. JERRY NADLER:

Today is a solemn and sad day.

CHUCK TODD:

This after days of debate and acrimony.

REP. MATT GAETZ:

It's not just an attack on the presidency. It's an attack on us.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN:

C'mon, get real, be serious! We know exactly what happened here.

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Trump denounces the vote, with a warning:

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Someday there'll be a Democrat President and there'll be a Republican House and I suspect they're going to remember it.

CHUCK TODD:

My guests this morning: Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware and Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Plus, impeachment and the voters.

MIKE WITTMER:

Has he earned the benefit of the doubt? I mean, he squandered it so often, it's unlikely that he's innocent.

PETER SMIT:

I don't think this is shaking the pillars of democracy such that it warrants impeachment.

CHUCK TODD:

The NBC News County to County project. Voters in Grand Rapids, Michigan, talk about how impeachment is -- or is not -- affecting their vote for president. Also, Boris Johnson's landslide victory.

PRIME MINISTER BORIS JOHNSON:

Well we did it. We did it. We pulled it off didn’t we?

CHUCK TODD:

Are there warning signs in Labour's crushing defeat in Britain for Democrats in America, in 2020? Joining me for insight and analysis are: Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, Eddie Glaude, Jr., of Princeton University, and NBC News Correspondent Heidi Pryzbyla. 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. Consider this: for only the fourth time in American history a President of the United States is facing impeachment and our national response has been -- ‘whatever’. Everything that's happened. The House announcing two articles of impeachment against President Trump. The president attacking the FBI, joined by his attorney general, even after the bureau was cleared of political bias in the launching of the Russia investigation. President Trump that same day meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister and finally, the House Judiciary Committee voting to send the two impeachment articles to the full House for a vote this week. All of it felt so strangely normal. As is what's about to happen: the House is all but certain to impeach Mr. Trump and the Senate is just as surely going to acquit him. And then what? As the public reacts with a collective shoulder shrug, it leaves us wondering whether we have lost our capacity to be shocked or moved or outraged anymore. Remember, no matter what happens, Donald Trump will not be president forever. The question is: what will we as a nation look like when we come out at the other side of this drama?

HOUSE CLERK:

Mr. Chairman, there are 23 ayes and 17 nos.

REP. JERRY NADLER:

The article is agreed to.

CHUCK TODD:

After a week of contentious debate

REP. DOUG COLLINS:

This is a, just travesty and a sham from day one.

REP. JERRY NADLER:

No president is supposed to be a dictator.

CHUCK TODD:

A predictable result:

REP. JERRY NADLER:

The House Judiciary Committee has voted articles of impeachment against the president for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

CHUCK TODD:

Now, both parties are making it clear they'd like to vote and move on.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

A trade agreement --

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

The circuit judges --

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES:

Lower drug prices --

SEN. JONI ERNST:

Defense spending --

REP. TED DEUTCH:

The budget for the full year --

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

Cutting taxes --

REP. TOM MALINOWSKI:

Robocalls --

CHUCK TODD:

In the House, Democrats have sandwiched an impeachment vote on Wednesday between funding the government, and passing a revised U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. Democrats are running ads defending vulnerable members on anything but impeachment.

VOICEOVER:

Max Rose knows you need to fight like hell to make things better. Thank him for fighting to lower drug prices.

CHUCK TODD:

And choosing to let every member vote their conscience, rather than whipping votes.

REP. ANTHONY BRINDISI:

I haven't decided. This has been a busy week in Washington. There has actually been a lot of good bipartisan wins that we got.

REP. KENDRA HORN:

I didn’t run to impeach anybody. I ran to fight for Oklahoma, to fight for education, for healthcare, for these things, and that is where I have been spending my time.

CHUCK TODD:

The president nursing resentment about his inevitable impeachment, set a record this week, tweeting more than 400 times. 123 tweets on Thursday alone. But Senate Republican leaders, with an eye on their more vulnerable members, are making it clear the trial planned for January will be brief.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

You could certainly make a case for making it shorter rather than longer, since it's such a weak case.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

This thing will come to the Senate, and it will die quickly. And I will do everything I can to make it die quickly.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

I’ll do long or short. I’ve heard Mitch, I’ve heard Lindsey, I think they are very much in agreement on some concept. I’ll do whatever they want to do. It doesn’t matter.

CHUCK TODD:

With a Senate acquittal almost guaranteed what will the political aftermath look like? This impeachment debate has rallied most of the party behind the president forcing even swing district Republicans to borrow his language.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

It’s a sham.

REP. DEBBIE LESKO:

This is a sham --

REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS:

Much of this is a sham.

CHUCK TODD:

But on the Senate side, the vulnerable Republicans have been able to stay silent so far. Meanwhile swing state Democrats are using the same language they used in 2018.

REP. ELAINE LURIA:

I'll stand with the president and next to the President when he does something right, but I'll stand up to him when he does something wrong.

CHUCK TODD:

And the president's 2020 opponents are weighing how to capitalize on that Democratic base anger, while offering a vision about something other than Trump to the rest of the country.

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

‘How is my life going to be different if you're president versus one of the others’? Our message is about preparing for an America after Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now is Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Coons, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SEN. CHRIS COONS:

Thanks, Chuck. Good to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

So let me just start with-- what we're -- what you'd like to see from a Senate trial, but try to address it this way. It feels like that many Americans -- we already know what the outcome is going to be-- and in fact, it feels as if the process in some ways -- the leaders in Capitol Hill, both on the, the House Democratic side and the Senate Republican side have decided to try to shorten everything, right? Shorten the investigation process, shorten the trial. Where does that leave us?

SEN. CHRIS COONS:

Well Chuck, that's a great question. What needs to happen next, now that it's clear that the House is going to vote out two articles of impeachment, and we will likely for only the third time in our history have President Trump on trial in front of the Senate early next year, Majority Leader McConnell needs to sit down with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and negotiate over exactly what the terms of this trial will be. The American people deserve the truth, not political theatre. And so I think all of us know what would constitute a fair and a reasonable, a serious and an open trial. In the House we saw lots and lots of evidence, witnesses and documents -- that supported the charges against the president. And the president really stonewalled making any defensive case. Those of us who will be sitting as jurors owe it to history to keep an open mind, and if the president participates to give him a chance to make his case. But this has to start with Senators McConnell and Schumer sitting down and beginning a real bipartisan negotiation about what rules will govern this trial.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me play for you something Senator McConnell said. Senator McConnell said he's -- is working -- he's not negotiating with Senator Schumer, but with lawyers at the White House. Let me play the bite right now.

[BEGIN TAPE]

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

Well, exactly how we go forward, I'm going to coordinate with the president's lawyers. So there won't be any difference between us on how to do this, 'cause we all know how it's going to end.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Do you see any problem with Mitch McConnell coordinating with the president's lawyers?

SEN. CHRIS COONS:

Well, I certainly think what he should start by doing is trying to show the American people and history that this is a serious trial. Try to imagine a typical trial in a typical courtroom where the person who is the foreman of the jury is literally talking to the defendant's attorneys day in and day out. I, I just think in the, in the best interests of the Senate and of the American people, what we need here is a small number, four or more, of Republican senators who go to Majority Leader McConnell and say "Instead of simply coordinating with President Trump you should work across the aisle. Try and get unanimity, as happened in the Bill Clinton trial, about what these rules should be going forward."

CHUCK TODD:

Are you comfortable with a trial with no witnesses?

SEN. CHRIS COONS:

Look, there's lots of evidence that's already been presented in the House. I think this is something that ought to be worked out between the two parties and that Schumer and McConnell should come to an agreement as to exactly what the scope and length of the trial will be. If it's dismissed on the first day, obviously that's not a full and fair trial. But the details, that really ought to be up to the majority and minority. You know, Chuck, I really miss the voice of John McCain in these moments. He was the sort of senator who was able to call his colleagues to put our national security and our country over party.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, our politics has become so tribal now. Think of this, you -- you have a Democratic member of Congress who's now going to switch parties, and it may be simply because he couldn't politically survive in the Democratic party by opposing impeachment.

SEN. CHRIS COONS:

That's right.

CHUCK TODD:

Is that -- what does that tell you? Should the Democratic Party be a big enough tent that you can vote against impeachment and stay a good standing member of the Democratic Party, or not?

SEN. CHRIS COONS:

Well, I do think we need to have a wider aperture for our politics in America and less purity test. But that particular case is someone who is underwater, as you referenced by I think 26 points -- among his own constituency, among the Democrats in his district. It's a very conservative district. I do think that Leader Pelosi wouldn't be moving forward with impeachment if President Trump hadn't forced her hand by committing an unprecedented and pretty striking act of dangling military aid over a vulnerable ally to try and get out dirt on his strongest political opponent. And whether or not one or two members of the House caucus vote against it, I think it will come out of the House with an overwhelming vote.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this, though. Do you think it's an odd picture to paint, if you're making -- if you're impeaching the president of the United States you believe he's an existential threat to the republic, to the Constitution, and then literally the next hour you're cutting a deal with him on USMCA and NAFTA 2.0. Is that sending a mixed message to the country?

SEN. CHRIS COONS:

Well, what I hear up and down the state of Delaware as I've done town halls this year is that folks expect me to, to remain a principled Democrat, to stand by the core principles that I ran on when I first ran for office, but to also work across the aisle and to try and get things done, to try and pass laws that deal with the kitchen table issues that affect most Americans, whether it's high prescription drug prices, or gun violence threatening our kids at school, or the opioid crisis. And the fact that we are able to continue legislating together I think is encouraging to the average American.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this. Kyle Cheney at Politico wrote the following, and I'd like you -- to get you to respond. "What happens when a remorseless president commits the same behavior that got him impeached in the first place, only this time after the House has already deployed the most potent weapon in its arsenal?"

SEN. CHRIS COONS:

That's one of my real concerns, Chuck. The only reason that Speaker Pelosi changed her position and supported moving ahead with an impeachment inquiry was because what Donald Trump is alleged to have done, and all evidence points to him having done it, which is to invite foreign interference in our next election, undermines the very core of our democracy, which is free and fair elections where foreign parties aren't influencing the outcome. If he is ultimately exonerated in the Senate, if the Senate Republican majority refuses to discipline him through impeachment, he will be unbounded. And I am gravely concerned about what else he might do between now and the 2020 election when there are no restrictions on his behavior.

CHUCK TODD:

Before I let you go, what lessons do you take from Labour's crushing defeat in the UK?

SEN. CHRIS COONS:

Well, you know, we have a lot in common -- language, culture, legal systems -- but we are different countries. But I do think it shows that an electorate even in this difficult and divided time is looking for concrete and clear plans that they think are achievable and enactable and Labour got just too far out to gain the support of a majority of Britons. I do think that's a cautionary note. That's why I continue to support Joe Biden, who I think is our most promising Democratic candidate for president.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Senator Chris Coons, Democrat from Delaware, Joe Biden's home state as you just mentioned there. Thanks for coming on and sharing your views, sir. I appreciate it.

CHRIS COONS:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now from the other side of the aisle, and really a neighboring state, Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Senator Toomey, nice to see you.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

Morning, Chuck. Good to see ya.

CHUCK TODD:

I primarily want to talk about USMCA and China trade. But let me ask you a question about the length of the trial, the process of the trial. Number one, appropriate for Senate -- Senator Mitch McConnell to be working with the president's lawyers on how this trial should go?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

I think it's appropriate to make sure that the president gets a fair trial here, and I think that's the idea. I think it would be extremely inappropriate to put a bullet in this thing immediately when it comes over. I think we ought to hear what the House impeachment managers have to say, give the president's attorneys an opportunity to make the defense, and then make a decision about whether and to what extent it would go forward from there.

CHUCK TODD:

You comfortable with no witnesses?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

I'm not comfortable making that decision right now, but it might come to that, Chuck. You know, there might be a lot of agreement on facts in the case that could be stipulated. I think there's a big disagreement about what rises to a level of impeachment. So after the arguments are made, then I think that's the time to decide whether witnesses are necessary.

CHUCK TODD:

You're a veteran in this town, both chambers you've served in. It was remarkable to me that somehow in a, in a week of impeachment, we got agreement on funding, we got this trade agreement, which again, I know you're not in favor of. What do you make of the fact that all of a sudden Congress was functional for a week?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

What I make of that is that there's a pretty good handful, something on the order of 30 House Democrats, that represent districts that Donald Trump carried in 2016 and is very likely to carry again. And for them to go home to their electorate and say, "The one thing I did was impeach the president you like," was probably not a politically sustainable thing. And so I think that put pressure on Speaker Pelosi to eventually come to terms.

CHUCK TODD:

You may, you may be the lone vote on the Republican side against new NAFTA, USMCA. You don't like it at all, you feel as if you’ve called it -- you believe it's a step backwards --

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

-- in trade. Explain what you mean by that.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

Yeah, so let's start with what NAFTA is. NAFTA is a free trade agreement. It is zero tariffs on --

CHUCK TODD:

You speak about it in present tense.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

Well, because it's binding and it is in force right now. We enacted it through legislation, and so it is the law of the land. And it's a free and fair trade agreement. It's completely reciprocal. There is zero tariffs on manufactured goods, zero tariffs on almost all agricultural goods. So you have this free and fair reciprocal agreement, which by the way, resulted in a 500% increase in American exports to Mexico, Pennsylvania exports, and somehow this was unacceptable to the administration. And I think we should ask the question, “Why?” The reason is because we were importing even more from Mexico than we sell to them. We had a trade deficit, we have a trade deficit with Mexico. And the purpose of renegotiating NAFTA was to diminish trade with Mexico, so as to diminish the deficit. That's the wrong direction to go on trade. And if you look at --

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think trade deficits are bad or good?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

Trade deficits almost always don't matter. So in the case of Mexico --

CHUCK TODD:

This president is obsessed with them.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

I think the president's mistaken on this. I've had this conversation with the president. But stop and look at the big picture, Chuck. We've had trade deficits with the rest of the world for over 40 consecutive years. And what country has the biggest economy, the highest standard of living, the strongest growth, and best prospects going forward? We do. And that's because trade deficits don't matter. That money gets reinvested back in the United States. So unfortunately USMCA is an exercise through all kinds of new provisions to diminish trade, and that's why I hope Republicans will reconsider this. We've historically recognized that we're all better off with more open markets.

CHUCK TODD:

The big criticism of NAFTA though, and I experienced it multiple times on the campaign trail myself, even if you would make the argument that you're making now, overall it was a net positive --

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

-- for this economy, overall you saw some sectors of this economy do well, you know there are spots in Pennsylvania, and in Ohio, and in Michigan where they didn't feel it. So the argument is, "Well, why don't you make the next NAFTA at least protect those communities better?" Do you think this will do that?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

Well, this doesn't protect any particular community except the auto sector. That's what it does, it erects barriers. And here's the part that's missing from that analysis, Chuck. It's absolutely true that there are some people that their work was displaced and that's, that’s enormously problematic. But the same is true of technology, the same is true of automation. When Microsoft came up with a word processor everyone who was in the typewriter business lost their job. We could of forbidden word processors and we'd still be using typewriters. We don't do that. Instead we say, "Okay, how do we help the folks who used to make typewriters learn to compete in the new economy --"

CHUCK TODD:

Well, is it true that -- so is that we've failed at doing? I mean, because I'll be honest, politicians always make that promise. “We're going to retrain and all this stuff.” And I think a lot of people say --

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

It's hard.

CHUCK TODD:

"This stuff’s never really happened.”

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

Well, except that what is the unemployment rate today, Chuck? It's at an all-time record low. This is the best economy we've had --

CHUCK TODD:

Wages are kind of static.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

-- in 50 years, and if it weren't for the modest recession in the manufacturing sector, which is caused by the trade wars, we'd be in better shape. And no, I disagree, wages are not static. Wages have been accelerating, and the growth has been fastest among the lowest income workers because our economy has been so strong, despite the trade tensions.

CHUCK TODD:

What is this -- what do you make of the fact -- look, I first met you before you were in Congress. You worked for a organization called Club for Growth, which doesn't have the same stance on trade as it once did when you were there. But --

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

Well, I hope it does.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, it seemed to have a little more of a different stance than you had on some of these things. The Republican Party's not the party of free trade anymore, is it?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

Let's not come to that conclusion yet. I think if --

CHUCK TODD:

Donald Trump's Republican party's not the party of free trade.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

President Trump is a skeptic about trade, I think that is true. But if you ask my colleagues, most of them would say they're free traders. You know, a trade agreement's a complicated thing, and there are other dynamics that are going on obviously in American politics which might inform someone's judgment. But my view is, it's really important that we preserve a commitment to free trade.

CHUCK TODD:

Were you surprised -- because you've made the point that Nancy Pelosi needed her -- her moderate members needed this USMCA. Every Republican senator who's publicly talked about this feels as if Pelosi ate the administration's lunch --

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

In the end --

CHUCK TODD:

-- including Pelosi, I think Senator Cornyn said that, that you’ve thought that. Why do you think the administration thought Pelosi had more leverage than they did?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

I don't have an explanation for that, Chuck. But in the end there's no question, it's a complete capitulation to Pelosi, and by extension Trumka --

CHUCK TODD:

Is it possible, is it possible he just agrees more with Trumka and Pelosi?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

Look, if you look at these provisions, I don't think that's entirely the case with respect to the intellectual property protection for biologics, a new category of medicine that went to zero. So there's none now because -- at the insistence of Nancy Pelosi. The labor provisions where American taxpayers are now going to be enforcing Mexican labor law in a way that increases the likelihood of future tariffs. It's, it’s very unfortunate, from my point of view.

CHUCK TODD:

Would you understand if many people read these -- this China supposed trade deal and say, "Huh?" because they're a little bit confused. First we have tariffs, then they're back down. We still have some. Some are cut in half. It is very confusing and it looks like we're back to square one.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

Well, it is confusing because there are a lot of moving parts. But actually I think there's some good news here, and the devil's in the detail and adherence to this. But China is a problem. I put China in a very different category than Mexico, for instance, for a variety of reasons. It certainly looks like we've got a truce, so that means the trade war and the taxes that we've been imposing on American consumers, at least that doesn't get worse in the short run. And there's been some level of commitment from China to address some of the real problems, like the theft of intellectual property, and of course technology transfer. So again, let's see how this thing codifies --

CHUCK TODD:

But it seems like we squeezed them to just do what they did before, which is buy some ag product.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

Well, there’s --

CHUCK TODD:

So what did we get?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

-- apparently there's a commitment to ag products, but there's apparently also a commitment to these other behavioral things, Chuck. Like I said before, intellectual property and -- and 'course technology transfers, and opening up their markets to financial services, for instance. Again, I think the question is, will they comply with us.

CHUCK TODD:

Very quickly, your political future. I saw some speculation, you're thinking about, that while you may not run for the US Senate again, you might run for governor in 2022?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

And I may run for US Senate again.

CHUCK TODD:

Oh. You've not ruled out anything?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

I have not made a decision. I have not absolutely not ruled that out.

CHUCK TODD:

I thought you were a term limit guy. I thought you were a two --

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

I have not imposed term limits on myself in the Senate.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. Well, there it is.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

All right.

CHUCK TODD:

2022, don't assume anything.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

Correct.

CHUCK TODD:

Republican Senator Pat Toomey, thanks for coming in and sharing your views.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

Thanks for having me, Chuck. Much appreciate it.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back the House of Representatives is about to impeach the president of the United States. Why does all this feel so ordinary? Panel is next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panel is here. Eddie Glaude, Jr., of Princeton University; Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute; NBC News correspondent Heidi Przybyla; and Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for the New York Times. Let me start with this, Peter. I'm starting with Rich Lowry. But you, essentially, had a similar theme to what Rich wrote on Friday, which is this, what we opened our show with. "Never has history felt less consequential. The impending impeachment of President Donald Trump is, as news accounts and blaring newspaper headlines tell us, historic. This is true, by definition, since a president has been impeached only twice before in 230 years. Ultimately, impeachment is going to get swallowed up by the news cycle, like everything else."

PETER BAKER:

Yeah, exactly. I mean, 21 years ago, when they impeached President Bill Clinton, it felt like that was the biggest story in the history of the world. Everything had stopped spinning on its axis for a while. This just feels like another chapter in the Trump story. We've been sort of at DEFCON one or DEFCON five, whichever it is since election day.

CHUCK TODD:

Since election day or Access Hollywood Tapes.

PETER BAKER:

Three years of intensity, nonstop, hurricane gale-force conflict in Washington. And this just feels like yet another chapter in that, rather than something unique.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA:

So I think that's where our role, as the media, is important, to point out where we are, take a pause, this moment in history. This president is about to become the first president, in the history of this nation, who will be impeached for violating one of the Founders' most primal fears, which is inviting formal involvement into our elections. We all saw it. We saw it on the South Lawn. We saw it in the call summary. So the only question now, really, is how the public is going to respond. The outcome is preordained in the Senate. He will be acquitted. They may have a trial, short trial, long trial. He'll be acquitted. And then the question is, a year from now, how are voters going to respond to that? There's only one certainty. And that is, we're going to have more information coming out. We've got all of these court cases winding their way through on his tax returns, on all the documents from State Department and OMB that are being withheld. We've not heard from any of the people who were in his immediate inner circle. That could all change in a year. And the question is going to be, who's going to be more angry, Trump's base, who believes that he was exonerated, or the Democratic base, who believes that he walked? I don't think we know yet. Because it's also not going to be the only factor that goes into the election.

CHUCK TODD:

You've set up, though, we're already in the battle of the aftermath, I feel like, right? Eddie and Dany? Eddie?

EDDIE GLAUDE, JR.:

So you know, one thing, I mean, let's pan out for a minute, just for a second. The aftermath is that we're going to have a particular understanding of the Executive Branch: its power. If Trump survives this, which he will, right? If it turns out that impeachment has no sting, has no bite, and we are in the aftermath, what it will mean is that there will be an unlimited, an imperial, Executive Branch that can do whatever it wants to do. I don't know what Congress' power will look like. So I'm just talking about it at the level of checks and balances.

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, we don't know what he will do with it, either, right? He may also feel chagrined. Unlikely.

EDDIE GLAUDE, JR.:

So the idea that was informing Federalist 51, the idea that informed the Founders, our very system of checks and balances, right, I think, is in question after this. Maybe that means I'm being hyperbolic.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

No, I think that- that imperial presidency, actually, that ship sailed a while ago. I really do. I mean, it was a problem under George W. Bush. It was a growing problem under Obama. And it has come to its apotheosis under Donald Trump. But I think what Heidi said, I think, is really important. Because I think you neatly, although, perhaps, unintentionally, illustrated the divide between how you, or perhaps, even we, see things here and how the rest of the world or the rest of America sees these things. They're seeing, you know, yeah, okay, we want to talk to John Bolton. We want to talk to Mulvaney. We want those papers. Yet, he definitely did it. This is what he did. He broke the founders' most-sacred vows about how our nation was to be run. Yeah, that's not what a lot of people think. And to the extent that they do, they either agree or disagree. But they're really not interested in all these details. And I think that it --

HEIDI PRZYBYLA:

That comes back to the media, doesn't it?

DANIELLE PLETKA:

But it goes further to the narrative that there is one side intent on persecuting the president and one side intent on not listening.

CHUCK TODD:

There's one other thing. We have the party switch in the news today, about the Democrat from New Jersey, who's likely going to switch over this. About three months ago, we had Justin Amash, who switched. Let's think about this. Neither member of Congress thought they could stay in their own party and criticize their party and disagree, that you had to leave the tribe. No matter what, you had to leave the tribe. That, to me, that the Democratic big tent's not big enough for somebody to be against impeachment. The Republican tent is not big enough to criticize this president and be for impeachment. I mean, that means -- it feels as if it's irreconcilable differences.

PETER BAKER:

Our parties are more homogenous than they used to be,right? Our districts are designed, so that your biggest threat, as a member of the House, is not from the other party, but from within your own party. --

CHUCK TODD:

Which with this Democratic congressman, Democrats are leaking all his poll numbers, saying, "Look, this guy, simply by not voting for the impeachment inquiry, was going to get roasted in the primary," which is probably true. Justin Amash would've gotten roasted in a primary.

PETER BAKER:

So the incentive structure has changed, right? 20 years ago, 30 years ago, there was an incentive to stand by somebody from the other party and say, "Hey, we've got this bipartisan legislation together." Even if it wasn't really bipartisan, you wanted the appearance of it. You would be rewarded for that. Today, it would be a punishment. And that has changed the incentive structure. You cannot drift from your party without penalty.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA:

I don't think that is absolutely true in the House. I don't think we know yet how this is going to go down in the Senate.

CHUCK TODD:

I think you're right.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA:

Because we watched Senator Toomey. And I think there is still a number of Republicans like him, who may want more than just each side presenting its case. Bring in some witnesses. Because to Danielle's point, the reason why the public has said wah wah wah is because they didn't see a real trial. They saw grandstanding by partisans. In the Senate, there would be a real trial, where they can't interrupt. And they can’t --

CHUCK TODD:

But it's unlikely to see that. But you did bring up a good point. I thought it was interesting. And I think it shows you, there are vulnerable Republicans, right, who are uncomfortable with this, too. He's like, "Don't get rid of this immediately. I'm not even sure -- I’m not sure yet I want no witnesses." Like, he was not ready to say, "We know everything yet," which is why McConnell's trying to strike an odd balance here, I think.

EDDIE GLAUDE, JR.:

Yeah, I think what McConnell said, on Fox News, to Hannity, was unconscionable, in terms of just simply being the Senate Majority Leader.

CHUCK TODD:

But he was trying to send Hannity's audience a message. "I'm not calling Hunter Biden."

DANIELLE PLETKA:

I'm not playing these games. Because that’s, for Hannity, it's a game.

EDDIE GLAUDE, JR.:

But I want to go back to the Democratic Party, though, in the sense that, remember, it took a minute for Nancy Pelosi to get here. There were folks within the Democratic Party who were not with the Al Greens, who weren't with Maxine Waters, who were actually making the case that, "We need more evidence. Impeachment's not a good thing." So I want to be very careful, when we kind of make the equivalency that I think, within the Democratic Party, there has been an ongoing debate between folks we used to call Blue Dog Democrats and progressive Democrats. And so it's a bigger tent.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

That closet meeting of the people, the conservative Democrats, that used to be a caucus and is now four people.

CHUCK TODD:

And you know where the moderate Republicans meet? In the basement of the RNC, in a small room. I actually have been there. There was plenty of room.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

I don't want to know why you were there, Chuck. But Mitt Romney, Toomey, others.

CHUCK TODD:

They couldn't get caught talking to me outside of the basement, I guess.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA:

Murkowski, Collins, yeah.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Susan Collins, these are serious people. They do want to hear it. But yeah, I think that -- ordained conclusion.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm going to end the topic here, but to remind people, after impeachment is all over, we're still going to get new information. Lev Parnas is under investigation. I throw this out here. He lied to federal prosecutors, failed to disclose this million dollar transfer from a Russian bank account. My point is, after impeachment is over, new information's going to come out that may help determine who, quote unquote, "wins" this post-impeachment political battle. When we come back --

[BEGIN TAPE]

MARY MCCARTHY:

I think people are just tired. They see it as a political hit. It is very partisan.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

-- we talk to voters about impeachment in Kent County, Michigan, one of the areas that we here, at NBC News, are focusing on in our County to County project. That's next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. You heard us reference -- ‘what does the rest of America think about all of this’? Well dominating the conversation here in Washington, but we have been wondering just how much voters beyond the Beltway care about the hearings on Capitol Hill? So, we traveled to Kent County Michigan. It’s part of our year-long project, County to County project, we’re following five key counties in five swing states that we believe will be the most competitive in 2020. For us Kent County is everything; so we traveled there -- home to Grand Rapids. My colleague Dante Chinni, here of NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, he sat down at Brewery Vivant with six voters, all Republicans, most of whom voted for President Trump in 2016. We wanted to know whether they're following impeachment as closely as we are. Here's some of what we found.

MIKE WITTMER:

I don't even care about it, it's just noise. Have you ever recorded a football game but found out the final score before you watched it? Then you just don't even care. So I kn -- you know what's going to happen. The House will vote -- Articles of Impeachment. The Senate will probably acquit. And so you know what -- it's already baked in. So it's just not interesting.

CINDY TIMMERMAN:

I'm thinkin' it's a done deal with the House. And I -- I agree that -- you know, the Senate will overturn that or -- or vote not to. We're not hearing people talk about it in my circle at all. I think everyone pretty much knows where everyone stands. And, you know, they're just not interested. Or they don't have the time to try to follow it.

DANTE CHINNI:

it is a complicated story. Is it -- do you think it's too -- do you think it's -- that it's too complicated for people to follow? I mean --

PETER SMIT:

No.

DANTE CHINNI:

-- there's a lot of ins and outs.

CINDY TIMMERMAN:

No.

DANTE CHINNI:

No? Pete.

PETER SMIT:

I think it's fairly straightforward. I think a lot of people see it more as an infomercial politically. And it's -- it's very different than, like, looking back on the Nixon impeachment which was really, really grave at the time. And was by the vote very bipartisan. And this just seems like -- it really is political theatre.

NATE GILLESPIE:

I still think it's-- it's merited to understand whether or not the president directed a quid pro quo with Ukraine and all the different things that are surrounding this investigation. It felt like for a minute -- there was a split second leading up to the Sondland hearings where it felt like there was momentum where maybe it wasn't a done deal. Maybe there was more to be uncovered. And then the second half of Sondland's testimony was completed, and it felt like everything just stopped. We plateaued. And then it began to again feel like the game was already finished, and we were watching a -- a predetermined process that was going to be played for political gain on both sides.

TIM DETWEILER:

I think we're looking at the Republicans posturing themselves. The president tweeting, for example. I don't think those are accidents. I think with great purpose he tweets at 2:00 a.m. to drive the next morning news cycle.

PETER SMIT:

He doesn't win a lot of style points.

TIM DETWEILER:

No, but I think he --

MARY MCCARTHY:

No.

TIM DETWEILER:

-- knows how to play the social media --

CINDY TIMMERMAN:

Yeah, he does.

PETER SMIT:

Oh, absolutely.

TIM DETWEILER:

-- political process.

PETER SMIT:

Absolutely.

MARY MCCARTHY:

He grabs the microphone.

DANTE CHINNI:

Yeah.

MARY MCCARTHY:

So I was -- saying earlier that -- through the holiday season getting together with people, nobody's talking about it. I think people are just tired. They see it as a political hit. It is very partisan. And if it's not one thing, it's going to be another. It's going to be another. It's going to be another.

DANTE CHINNI:

Does this have any effect on anybody's presidential vote in 2020 one way or the other?

MIKE WITTMER:

I wouldn't think so. Because we knew who Trump was when -- when they voted for him.

MARY MCCARTHY:

Right, yeah.

MIKE WITTMER:

So it's not -- it's already been -- it's already baked in.

PETER SMIT:

I don't think the impeachment does. I don't think this is shaking the pillars of democracy such that it warrants impeachment. I think my vote is more affected by the current economics situation and balancing that against frankly Trump's personality which is not the best.

TIM DETWEILER:

I was going to say for me it's beyond Trump. Trump will come and go. Worst case scenario for some, right, 2024. And I still believe that the Republican answers are the answers to solve some of our country's problems: social, economic, political policies. So I would not necessarily say I'm a Trump voter. But I think the Republican party has the best set of answers.

DANTE CHINNI:

Cindy, you have -- you have a term for what -- how you describe your own politics now.

CINDY TIMMERMAN:

I'm a repulsed Republican.

DANTE CHINNI:

Describe what does that mean?

CINDY TIMMERMAN:

I very much believe in the Republican values. And -- you know, we -- we need a strong economy. We have to support our businesses. I'm pro-life. I believe in a strong military. I believe in all of that. I also believe that -- we can do better in how we're managing our money -- that debt -- that debt -- is soaring. And, you know, to hear Mitch McConnell say that they will become the fiscal conservative party when they get a Democrat in the office tells me one thing. And it tells -- tells me we don't matter out here.

DANTE CHINNI:

Did President Trump -- I know, well -- well, there's a difference of opinion at the table about whether it's impeachment, where they -- did President Trump do anything wrong when you look at -- when you look at --

MIKE WITTMER:

Oh, oh sure.

PETER SMIT:

Daily.

DANTE CHINNI:

Is there anything in the impeachment inquiry you look at and say, "This -- these are the things he did with Ukraine. These things shouldn't have happened"?

TIM DETWILER:

I would like clarification as to his question on the phone call. Was it referencing back to 2016 and asking for information from Ukraine? Or was it referencing the upcoming election?

MARY McCARTHY:

I -- I agree.

TIM DETWILER:

And that's not clear to me. If it was back to 2016, that's not impeachable.

MARY McCARTHY:

Right, I agree. And -- and do we owe Ukraine money? Were we gifting Ukraine money? Were we lending Ukraine money? Who gives money without some kind of -- I don't wanna call it a quid pro quo. But, I mean, some kind of --

CINDY TIMMERMAN:

Sticky issue.

MARY McCARTHY:

-- you know, here. But, hey, while I'm giving you this, I heard about a problem back then. Can you look into that? Is that unreasonable?

MIKE WITTMER:

The -- the problem with Trump is -- does -- has he earned the benefit of the doubt? I mean, he squandered it so often, it's unlikely that he's innocent.

PETER SMIT:

Well, when you say wrong, I -- I'm tryin' to -- are -- are you saying illegal? Are you saying inappropriate?

DANTE CHINNI:

Impeachment is high crimes and misdemeanors. So it's very --

MARY McCARTHY:

Well, based on the transcripts of that call, when I listen to them, I'm thinking, "what are they- - what are they so upset about?"

DANTE CHINNI:

Where do we go? What would you like to see happen with this inquiry?

PETER SMIT:

I'm thinking an election might be nice.

CINDY TIMMERMAN:

Uh-huh.

CHUCK TODD:

You can watch our entire conversation -- our County to County voter discussion on our website, MeetthePress.com. When we come back: Boy has the American political landscape changed quite dramatically in less than three decades. We’ll be right back.

CHUCK TODD:

We are back. Data Download time. As everyone does their decade in review pieces over the next few weeks we wanted to mark a milestone of our own here at Data Download: 30 years, three decades of our own NBC News Wall Street Journal poll. So what has changed since our bipartisan pollsters first teamed up in September of 1989? Well, in our first poll ever here was the presidential job approval for George H.W. Bush, 67%. It was before the fall of the Berlin Wall or the start of the first Gulf War. Only 17% of people disapproved of his job performance. Bush 41 was garnering approval from independents and Democrats as well as Republicans. Consider that with President Trump now: 45% approve, 53% disapprove. The difference? Unlike President Bush, Mr. Trump has little support from independents and almost none from Democrats. And as we've grown more partisan, we've also grown less optimistic. In 1990 50% to 45% people said they were confident their children would be better off than they were. Now just 27% are confident their children will be better off. Two thirds of the country are not confident, 67%. Then there are the cultural and societal shifts that we've been making over the last three decades. In 2000 46% said it was a positive development that women were pursuing careers while raising children; 38% disagreed with that. By 2018 78% said the rise of working mothers was a positive; just 14% called it a negative. Big shift in just 18 years. And the shift in support for same sex marriage has swung even faster. In 2003 only 32% supported gay and lesbian marriages versus 51% who opposed. By 2017 support was up to 60%; just 33% opposing. Another big reversal, this one in just 14 years. And finally, we are becoming more secular. In 2000 41% of the country said they attended religious services once a week or more, compared to 14% in 2000 who said they never did. This year we found less than 30%; 29% of Americans say they attend religious services weekly or more, compared with 26% who now tell us they never attend. All-in-all we've become much more partisan, our outlook a bit more dour, and we've undergone massive cultural shifts in only three decades. And there's no reason to think these trends won't continue no matter who's running Washington. When we come back the lesson, if there is one, from Boris Johnson's smashing victory in the UK, that they may have for Democrats here at home. Endgame is next.

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with Endgame. All right, Eddie, let me ask you where you are on what happened across the pond with the Labour party. Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine writes, "Whether a more moderate Labor leader would have defeated Johnson is unknowable. What is certain is that his delirious backers assumed his success and built around it a self-serving theory from which they refused to deviate in the face of mounting indications of doom." James Carville, though, put it a bit more succinctly. He basically said (let me put his quote up on the board here), "You can go so far left that you can lose to an unacceptable incumbent. That's the lesson. The lesson is screaming right in your face." Do you buy it?

EDDIE GLAUDE, JR:

No, I don't. I don't. I think this, look, it's certainly the case that Corbyn's campaign presented a whole host of issues, of problems. I think he didn't focus, like he should have, on the Brexit question. But I want us to be very, very careful because my reading of Brexit has everything to do with right-wing populism in Europe, has everything to do with right-wing populism in the UK. What is the lesson to be learned? Do we kowtow to that? What do we do? So part of what I think we need to understand is that you have to have a robust vision. America's a different space, you have to have a robust policy position. You can't obviously go too far to the left, but I don't think that's the lesson we learned here. The lesson we learned here is that right-wing populism is strong. It is strong and it is pervasive, and we have to mount, I think, a concerted political and moral response to it. That's what I think we need.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

No. Sorry. We were busy agreeing during the commercial, but we're disagreeing now. Look, first of all, if you look at the demographics of who supported Boris Johnson you are not talking about the power of right-wing populism, or the right wing, or even conservative ideas. The Brexit vote isn't about right-wing populism alone. It's about the sense that people got left behind by Europe. It’s the sense that, there are a lot of resonant themes with American voters. I think James Carville had it exactly right. If you look at what Jeremy Corbyn was promising, the renationalization of railways, an entitlement for higher education, new taxes, he was repudiated soundly.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. But let me oversimplify it this way, and you guys may disagree with it, but let me offer it to this side of the table, Peter and Heidi, which is this. Did voters in the UK basically say, "Look, one person's offering me more disruption," which is Jeremy Corbyn. "The other person is just going to follow through on the mistake we made before. I don't like it, but at this point we can't go back," and that maybe everybody's trying to read too much of it, but ultimately this was exhausted British voters over Brexit?

PETER BAKER:

Well, they wanted some clarity, right --

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, clarity. And --

PETER BAKER:

-- after three years of --

CHUCK TODD:

-- Corbyn didn't provide clarity on it. And Johnson was.

PETER BAKER:

He did not. And I think that they finally decided, "Look, we're just going to pull the trigger here and get this done," and Boris Johnson was the one saying he would do that. So that is a different situation here. But the lesson I think that's important is elections are not about a referendum on the incumbent. They are about a choice. You do have to present a clear alternative that is appealing to get people off of their previous position. And that's what the lesson for Democrats is, what type of alternative are you going to present? It may or not be about ideology, it may also just be about other things. Jeremy Corbyn was an anti-Semite, or at least perceived to be that. He had a lot of issues that were not directly comparable to today's Democrats. But you have to be able to present a clear, coherent alternative.

CHUCK TODD:

Team Sanders wrapped their arms around Corbyn. You know, even I think one of their field person was like, "Hey, it's Team Corbyn." Does this stick to him in a negative way?

HEIDI PRZYBYLA:

Look, I think there are some huge differences between America's left wing and Jeremy Corbyn. None of the candidates are as uniquely unpopular as Corbyn was. But at the same time I don't think that we can ignore what's happening not only here, but all across Europe, which is that you have a combustive mix of huge demographic changes and shifts in migration, and you have economic distress. And when those things are mixing, when there's a choice given to voters between left-wing populism and right-wing populism, right-wing populism is winning out more than left-wing populism if the candidate on the left is perceived to be too far to the left.

CHUCK TODD:

What's interesting here is that the divide now in the Democratic party appears to be-- you know, Elizabeth Warren, her argument is, "Yes, Trump won because the left didn't offer the disruption and the change that he was offering." Well, of course you have others like Joe Biden saying, "No, no, no, we need to bring the country together," and that's played out in some rhetoric. Here's Elizabeth Warren going after Buttigieg and Biden.

[START TAPE]

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

Now, unlike some candidates for the Democratic nomination, I am not counting on Republican politicians having an epiphany. I'm not betting my agenda on the naive hope that if Democrats adopt Republican critiques of progressive policies or make vague calls for unity that somehow the wealthy and well-connected will stand down.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Well, both Biden and Buttigieg essentially responded to those, took the criticisms personally and responded. Take a listen.

[START TAPE]

JOE BIDEN:

And anyone who starts off saying we can't bring America together is just throwing in the towel.

PETE BUTTIGIEG:

The thing about these purity tests is the people issuing them can't even meet them, right? If doing traditional fundraisers disqualifies you from running for president then I guess neither one of us would be here.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

And that's why I highlighted it that way within the Brexit conversation, because ultimately it is about those in the Democratic party who say, "No, there's a massive change that has to happen," and those that say, "You have to get past Trump before you do it."

EDDIE GLAUDE, JR:

Right, so the argument has to proceed on these grounds, it seems to me. What happened before Trump? Before Trump we had, you know, historic levels of inequality. What was going on before Trump? Black folk were getting murdered in the street. What was happening before Trump? We had mass incarceration. So the question is, what does it mean to appeal to what was before him, right, as if the country was okay? The fundamentals weren't that. So I think what we need is an agenda for change, right? And let me say this about Buttigieg and others, right? Barack Obama's candidacy was revolutionary in part because he was a black man. In terms of the policies it seemed like Third Way Democrats to me. Some people would call him a Clinton Democrat. Buttigieg is presenting himself as a revolutionary candidate in some ways because of identity politics. But when you look at what he's saying, it's just the same old, same old.

CHUCK TODD:

That's an interesting point. I have to leave it there, unfortunately. 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.