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NBC News - Meet the Press

“12.24.17.”

CHUCK TODD: This Sunday, Democrats, Republicans and President Trump. What Republicans said this year on Meet the Press.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts.

REINCE PRIEBUS: But then we started thinking about whether or not Michael Flynn was being straight with us. SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: Here's what I think Assad's telling Trump by flying from this base: "F you."

CHUCK TODD: And what Democrats had to say.

REP. JOHN LEWIS: I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: We have a president who is delusional in many respects, a pathological liar.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: What we’re beginning to see is the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice. CHUCK TODD: We’ll look at a fractured Republican Party, whether Democrats embrace or avoid the push for impeachment, and at both parties’ uneasy relationship with President Trump. Plus, war on the media. President Trump calls the media, the “enemy of the American people.” This morning, a panel of top media critics on the president and the press.

GABE SHERMAN: My biggest fear is that there’d be a chilling effect and that newsrooms will be cowed. CHUCK TODD: And the new politics of shopping. Where do you shop online? More than ever, this holiday season, where you shop reveals how you vote. Welcome to Christmas Eve 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 and a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone this Christmas Eve. This morning we're going to take a look back at one of the most extraordinary political years in our lifetimes: Year one of the Trump presidency. And we're going to do that with four of the people whom you've come to know on Meet the Press: Hugh Hewitt, host on the Salem Radio Network and host of "Hugh Hewitt" on MSNBC. Amy Walter, National Editor of the Cook Political Report. Carol Lee, national political reporter for NBC News. And Gene Robinson, a columnist for the Washington Post. Welcome to all of you. Before I make you guys take over the conversation, we're going to start with the elected Republicans and Trump administration officials who've joined us on Sunday mornings in 2017: what they said, the story they tell, the policies they sold. The year ended with a victory for President Trump: his biggest and perhaps only real legislative achievement, it’s a 1.5 trillion dollar tax cut passed with only Republican votes. But the year was dominated by, a lot of things, including the Russia investigation, and the effort, the failed effort, to repeal and replace Obamacare and the growing divide inside the Republican Party, culturally driven by the president. And it all started with a debate over inauguration crowd size right here.

JANUARY 22

CHUCK TODD:

You did not--

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Yes I did.

CHUCK TODD: --answer the question of why the president asked the White House press secretary to come out in front of the podium for the first time and utter a falsehood? Why did he do that? It undermines the credibility of the entire White House press office--

KELLYANNE CONWAY: No it doesn't.

CHUCK TODD: --on day one.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Don't be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. What-- You're saying it's a falsehood. And they're giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that. But the point remains- CHUCK TODD: Wait a minute-- Alternative facts?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: --that there’s--

CHUCK TODD: Alternative facts? Four of the five facts he uttered, the one thing he got right--

KELLYANNE CONWAY: --Hey, Chuck, why-- Hey Chuck--

CHUCK TODD: --was Zeke Miller. Four of the five facts he uttered were just not true. Look, alternative facts are not facts. They're falsehoods.

JANUARY 15

CHUCK TODD: Can you say definitively that there was no promises, no winks, no anything that somehow there was an acknowledgement that these sanctions will go away as quickly as possible once the inauguration takes place?

REINCE PRIEBUS: So Chuck, almost every single day, General Flynn talks to counterparts and ambassadors from all over the world, almost every single day. That's his job.

REINCE PRIEBUS: But I have talked to General Flynn. None of that came up. The subject matter of sanctions or the actions taken by the Obama administration did not come up in the conversation.

FEBRUARY 19

CHUCK TODD: When did you know you had been misled?

REINCE PRIEBUS: Sometime after January 27th.It was, our legal counsel got a heads up from Sally Yates that something wasn't adding up with his story.

REINCE PRIEBUS: And eventually, we determined that he did, in fact, talk about the sanctions, even though we didn't believe that it was illegal. The fact was it turned more or less into a conversation about whether or not he was being honest with us and the vice president. And the president asked for his resignation, and we got it.

FEBRUARY 5

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: The president of the United States has every right to criticize the other two branches of government. And we have a long tradition of that in this country.

CHUCK TODD:

Is this a constructive way to do it?

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: I think people find it very refreshing that they not only understand this president’s mind, but they understand how he feels about things. He expresses himself in a unique way.

FEBRUARY 19

CHUCK TODD: Can Americans be confident that a Republican-controlled Congress can investigate this president thoroughly if necessary?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN:

I hope so. And I have to believe so.

CHUCK TODD: And then before I let you go.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: More hope than belief.

CHUCK TODD: More hope than belief? Before I let you go--

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Both.

CHUCK TODD: I'm curious of your reaction to a tweet that the president sent Friday night. "The fake news media, failing New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS, CNN is not my enemy. It is the enemy of the American people." You believe the press is the enemy? You believe any group of Americans are the enemy of another group of Americans?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: I was talking about the period as, you know, of the new world order. A fundamental part of that new world order was a free press. I hate the press. I hate you especially. But the fact is I, we need you. We need a free press. We must have it. It's vital. If you want to preserve-- I'm very serious now-- If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That's how dictators get started.

MARCH 26

CHUCK TODD: The president is blaming the Freedom Caucus, Club for Growth, and Heritage for, quote, "Protecting Planned Parenthood and Obamacare." Is that a fair read of what happened this week, sir?

SEN. MIKE LEE:

That is not at all how I see it. This bill didn't pass because it didn't deal with the most fundamental flaw in Obamacare: the part of Obamacare that has made healthcare unacceptable and unaffordable.

CHUCK TODD:

The president is blaming the Freedom Caucus. What say you?

REP. CHARLIE DENT:

Well, I tend to agree with the president on that point. Hey, let's be very honest about this. A lot of the concessions that the White House is making at the end of this process were to try to appease and placate the hard right on essential health benefits and other issues, all to placate people who are not going to vote for the bill anyway.

APRIL 9

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Here's what I think Assad's telling Trump by flying from this base: "F you."And I think he's making a serious mistake. Because if you're an adversary of the United States and you don't worry about what Trump may do on any given day--

CHUCK TODD: Wow.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: --then you're crazy.

CHUCK TODD: I have to say, you used the initials, but I think that's a first for Meet the Press, Senator Graham.

JUNE 18

CHUCK TODD:

The president tweeted earlier this week, “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt.” So let me start with this. When did the president become aware that he was officially under investigation by the special counsel?

JAY SEKULOW:

The president is not under investigation by the special counsel. The tweet from the president was in response to the five anonymous sources that were purportedly leaking information to the Washington Post about a potential investigation of the president. But the president, as James Comey said in his testimony and we know as of today, the president has not been and is not under investigation.

CHUCK TODD: If the president is innocent, why is he afraid of this investigation?

JAY SEKULOW:

He's not afraid of the investigation. There is no investigation.

JULY 16

CHUCK TODD:

Do you know for sure everyone who was at that meeting with Donald Trump Jr.?

JAY SEKULOW:

No, I don’t represent Donald Trump Jr. and I do not know everyone for sure that was at that meeting. And the president was not at that meeting. I can tell you he was not there. The president wasn’t aware of the meeting and did not attend it. CHUCK TODD: Can you tell me about the reports that the president was involved in the initial response that Donald Trump Jr. gave the New York Times.

JAY SEKULOW:

So I read those reports as well and the president was not -- did not -- draft the response. The response came from Donald Trump Jr. and -- I’m sure -- in consultation with his lawyer.

AUGUST 6

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

I wish that we, as a party, would have stood up, for example, when the birtherism thing was going along. A lot of people did stand up but not enough.

CHUCK TODD:

Did you do enough?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

That was particularly ugly.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm just curious, do you--

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

On that I think I did. But on other things as well, I mean, our party I wonder, you know, during rallies when the chants, "Lock her up," you know, we shouldn't be the party for jailing your political opponents. And anybody at that rally, anybody at those rallies, ought to stand up and say, "That's inappropriate. We shouldn't be doing that."

AUGUST 13

CHUCK TODD: Can you and Steve Bannon still work together in this White House or not?

LT. GEN. H.R. McMASTER:

I get to work together with a broad range of talented people and it is a privilege every day to enable the national security team.

CHUCK TODD:

You didn't answer can you and Steve Bannon work in that same White House?

LT. GEN. H.R. McMASTER:

I am, I am ready to work with anybody who will help advance the president's agenda and advance the security, prosperity of the American people. CHUCK TODD: Do you believe Steve Bannon does that?

LT. GEN. H.R. McMASTER:

I believe that everyone who works in the White House who has the privilege, the great privilege every day of serving their nation should be motivated by that goal.

NOVEMBER 12

MARC SHORT: Roy Moore is somebody who graduated from West Point, he served our country in Vietnam, he’s been elected multiple times statewide in Alabama. The people in Alabama know Roy Moore better than we do here in DC, and I think we have to be very cautious if more evidence comes out that can prove that he did this, then sure, by all means he should be disqualified. But that’s a huge if, and I think we have to allow that more facts come out.

CHUCK TODD: What are the more facts?

MARC SHORT: Roy Moore has said that this week he plans to come forward with more evidence to support his innocence.

CHUCK TODD: And if that evidence doesn’t work, what does that mean? You guys are going to step in, is this senate seat that important?

MARC SHORT: There’s no senate seat more important than the notion of child pedophilia Chuck, I mean that’s reality. But having said that, he has not been proven guilty. We have to afford him the chance to defend himself.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, there you go. I’m going to ask you guys. Hugh, I’ll let you start. The first word that comes to mind when I think about the first year of Trump is disruption. I mean, at the end of the day, love him or hate him, he was a disruptive – he has been – a disruptive force to Washington, whether it’s the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the press, you name it.

HUGH HEWITT:

Vertically, horizontally, you’re right. Disrupted everything.

CHUCK TODD:

Everything.

HUGH HEWITT: Every institution. I want to assure my conservative friends, they’ve got to stick around for the rest of Christmas Eve, because you put kryptonite under everyone’s Christmas tree this year. I was there when Nancy Pelosi used the word “icon.” So when I was here and Kellyanne Conway used the words “alternative facts,” it set the tone for the year, a year of constant struggle that has obscured incredible legislative and regulatory achievements. But maybe that was by design. But it has not stopped, not from the first day of the Inauguration.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, I want to put up something, earlier this week, Sahil Kapur, who’s a reporter over at Bloomberg, noted that with the passage of the big tax cut bill. Check this out. Because it includes the Obamacare individual mandate repeal. So suddenly, the G.O.P. accomplishment list looks pretty hefty, Gene Robinson. You’ve got the repeal of the mandate, cutting taxes by 1.5 trillion, oil drilling in Anwar, remember that one? Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. But it’s not just him. A whole bunch of appellate court judges, maybe the most in the first year of a presidency ever. And a bunch of regulations gone. If you’re an activist conservative or a major Republican donor, that’s a nice list.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Right, and I actually think the biggest change is on the regulatory front, on what’s been happening on the agencies. Not just in terms of actually repealing regulations, but in not enforcing others. Enforcement at E.P.A., for example, has been, if not gutted, then certainly attenuated, it’s not what it used to be. And so, if that’s your bag, if de-regulation is what you wanted, you have gotten it from the first year of Trump. There are a lot of things you haven’t gotten. I mean, you did get the repeal of the mandate, you now have the tax cut that we’ll see how that works out next year, and also you got the sort of fuzzing of the very concept of truth and fact, which I think is good for nobody. And I think people who supported this during the year will rue that decision.

CHUCK TODD: You know, Peggy Noonan actually sort of I feel like takes these two points and tries to at least explain why we’re in this moment, Carol and Amy: "He," referring to President Trump, "could've broadened his position with a personal air of stability and moderation and with policies that were soft populist. He has failed to do so, primarily due to this self-indulgence--his tendency to heat things up when he should cool them down. His tendency always to make the situation a little worse, not a little better, his tweets, his immaturity, his screwball resentments, and self-pity alienate and offend."

It's well put. I mean, it sort of puts this, like, why does that list of accomplishments--

CAROL LEE:

Not come with a better job approval rating for this president? Why does a good economy not come with a better job approval rating?

CHUCK TODD:

It's right here.

CAROL LEE:

And he did have a chance, at the very beginning of this administration, to put together a brand-new coalition, not just of the people that voted for him, but of course, the people that didn't vote for him. Remember, there were a bunch of Democrats, on inauguration day, who were worried that this populist president was going to pick off a lot of these Midwestern, Rust-Belt, red-state Democrats for a more populist message, right? And what we've seen, as we look over in your own poll, in the Wall Street Journal-NBC poll, to me, what's fascinating is that his job approval rating with the people that voted for him has stayed pretty consistent and pretty low. The job approval rating of people who voted for him, because they didn't like Hillary Clinton started off in the 40s and has stayed there.Those were the people that he needed to move, not just the people that voted for Hillary Clinton, but the people that voted for him despite the reservations about him. He has never gotten their approval, because of the behavior, not because of the policy.

CAROL LEE:

Yeah, this is a president who cannot get out of his own way. You know, he is obscuring his own accomplishments. There's no fight too small. He picks on everything, things that have nothing to do with what his message is supposed to be. And I think, if there's one big takeaway that we can all learn from 2018, is there's never going to be a pivot. This is who the president is. This is how he's going to lead. He's in there for at least another three years. And this is what we're going to see.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Let me just mention one word, Charlottesville. The reaction to Charlottesville, for a lot of people, was it and for a lot of Trump opponents. He will never get those people. He will never get them back.

HUGH HEWITT:

But can I add one counterpoint, the word that's not on anyone's list, Syria. ISIS has been defeated in Syria and Libya. The defense budget has gone up significantly. General McMaster, who you had on, defeated the Bannonite wing and has turned the national security conservatives into fairly reliable Trump supporters after a good year of American aggressiveness abroad.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this, actually, because I was curious. Who won the Trump presidency: congressional Republicans or Donald Trump, Carol?

CAROL LEE:

Well, right now, it's a bit of a mix, I think. You know, the president has gotten some things that he wants. I think 2018 is going to tell where these two factions go, how this plays out between the two of them. Now that they have the tax legislation, the next thing that's up is, maybe, infrastructure.That's a far more divisive issue for the party. The president has a very kind of tenuous relationship with establishment Republicans. He loves them and hates them. He needs them, but he doesn't want them. And you know, that's going to really just intensify in the next year.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

If you look at the result from the election in Virginia and the election in Alabama, a lot of congressional Republicans are worried that they're losing the Trump presidency.

CHUCK TODD:

But do you know what I mean by this, Amy? I actually feel like congressional Republicans, they cut a deal. They said, "We're going to accept this guy. Because he's going to pass a whole bunch of stuff we've been trying to do."

AMY WALTER:

And they got it. And they got it.

CHUCK TODD:

So now, what do they do?

AMY WALTER:

And the people who theoretically are benefiting the most from the Trump presidency or from even the economy, the tax plan, are your sort of traditional suburban republicans, those people who said, "Okay, I don't know if he's my kind of guy."But what they worried about was, by this time this year, the economy would be falling apart. He would be a true populist. We'd be in a trade war with China, we'd be in a trade war or would be out of NAFTA, the stock market would crash. None of that has happened. It is exactly the kind of agenda they'd like. And yet, they are giving him the lowest marks of any of their Republican group.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

And they voted against Republicans in Virginia and Alabama.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm going to pause it here. It's values versus pocketbook. And right now, middle-of-the-road voters are picking values. Anyway, when we come back, we're going to look at the Democrats who appeared on Meet the Press this year and discuss whether they can become more than simply the party of not-Trump.

SEN. TIM KAINE:

The Trump administration is posed to do horrible danger to our country, our values, our people, and our reputation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Democrats spent much of 2017 like a champion boxer, who had just recovered consciousness, to learn that he'd been knocked out of a fight he was certain to win. And he no longer had the championship belt. The Trump election victory stunned democrats as few events ever have.They managed to regain their footing late in the year with some big election victories, starting in November, in New Jersey, in Virginia, and then of course, the big upset in Alabama. And it gave them hope that 2018 could be the year that that party takes back Congress. But they face their own issues, including a growing divide between the Clinton and Sanders wings of the party, whether they should pursue impeachment, and if they stand for something more than being the party of not-Trump. Because it was President Trump who dominated the discussion, when democrats appeared on Meet the Press in 2017, we have a lot of Trump. Because it was President Trump who dominated the discussion when democrats appeared on Meet the Press in 2017, we have a lot of Trump.

JANUARY 15

CHUCK TODD:

You have forged relationships with many presidents. Do you plan on trying to forge a relationship with Donald Trump?

JOHN LEWIS:

You know, I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people. It will be hard. It's going to be very difficult. I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president.

CHUCK TODD:

You do not consider him a legitimate president. Why is that?

JOHN LEWIS:

I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. I don't plan to attend the inauguration. It will be the first one that I miss since I've been in Congress. You cannot be at home with something that you feel is wrong.

SEPTEMBER 24

NANCY PELOSI:

The essence of the bill was what the president committed. And that's what we trust him to honor.

CHUCK TODD:

He committed to a pathway to citizenship for these DACA recipients.

NANCY PELOSI:

He committed too --now, mind you, the pathway to citizenship is an earned pathway that is way down the road.

CHUCK TODD:

Right. But some people think there should be no path at all, that it permanently cut off. You believe the president agreed to a pathway to citizenship with this Dream Act.

NANCY PELOSI:

That is what is contained in the Dream Act, yes.

CHUCK TODD:

And you think he will keep his word on this.

NANCY PELOSI:

That's what he said.

CHUCK TODD:

What makes you trust him?

NANCY PELOSI:

Well, we'll see.

OCTOBER 22

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I'll move to healthcare. It seems as if the Democrats are a lot more enthusiastic about the bipartisan deal between Senators Alexander and Murray than the Republicans are. Are democrats done negotiating?

CHUCK SCHUMER:

We have a very good deal. McConnell should put it on the floor. It'll pass overwhelmingly. If Ryan puts it on the floor, it'll pass the House overwhelmingly. And the president would sign it.

CHUCK TODD:

You didn’t answer if you're done. Are you still willing to talk?

CHUCK SCHUMER:

We are. We have an agreement, we want to stick by it.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that. Are you willing to talk or no?

CHUCK SCHUMER:

We are sticking to the agreement we have. Put it on the floor. See if it fails. I mean, you're asking me to negotiate against myself. I've been around long enough, I don't do that.

OCTOBER 29

CHUCK TODD:

If President Trump, in the fall of '18, can say you didn't support his tax bill, and your opponent is somebody that will work with him, how problematic is that for your reelection?

CLAIRE MCCASKILL:

Well, I think Missourians are going to take a look and see who is actually getting stuff done. So there are specific policy things we agree on. And I am anxious to work with him on those things.

AUGUST 6

CHUCK TODD:

So you don't believe there should be a litmus test on abortion. Is there an issue there should be one on for the democrats?

JERRY BROWN:

Well, the litmus test should be intelligence, caring about, as Harry Truman or Roosevelt use to call it, the common man. We're not going to get everybody onboard. And I'm sorry. But running in San Francisco is not like running Tulare County or Modoc, California, much less Mobile, Alabama.If we want to be a governing party of a very diverse, and I say, diverse, ideologically as well as ethnically, country, well, then you have to have a broader --a party that rises above the more particular issues to the generic, the general issue of making America great, if I might take that word.

NOVEMBER 5

TOM PEREZ:

When I hear the word, rigged, let's be very clear. Hillary Clinton won the democratic party by 4 million votes. The Democratic National Committee does not run elections for primaries. The Republican National Committee does not run elections. States run elections. And those elections were run by the states. We run caucuses. And Bernie Sanders did very well in the caucuses. Where I think both Senators Warren and Keith Ellison and myself, where we agree is we have to earn the trust of the voters. And during the process of the democratic primary, we fell short in that, undeniably. And I accepted that responsibility.

NOVEMBER 26

CHUCK TODD:

So define zero tolerance. You said there's now a zero tolerance. John Conyers, what does that mean for him right now? In or out?

NANCY PELOSI:

We are strengthened by due process. Just because someone is accused, and was it one accusation, is it two? I think there has to be. John Conyers is an icon in our country. He has done a great deal to protect women, the Violence Against Women Act, which the right wing is now quoting me as praising him for his work on that. And he did great work on that. But the fact is, as John reviews his case, which he knows, which I don't, I believe that he will-- please, may I finish my sentence, that he will do the right thing.

CHUCK TODD:

And is the right thing what? Resign?

NANCY PELOSI:

He will do the right thing in terms of what he knows about his situation, that he's entitled to due process. But women are entitled to due process, as well.

DECEMBER 3

DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

As you know, I'm ranking on judiciary. And the judiciary committee has an investigation going, as well. And it involves obstruction of justice. And I think what we're beginning to see is the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice. I think we see this in the indictments, the four indictments and pleas, that have just taken place and some of the comments that are being made. I see it in the hyper-frenetic attitude of the White House, the comments every day, the continual tweets. And I see it, most importantly, in what happened with the firing of Director Comey. And it is my belief that that is directly because he did not agree to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation. That's obstruction of justice.

OCTOBER 10

CHUCK TODD:

Let me go to this impeachment question here. Is Tom Steyer right, that it's time to look at that option? There was already a House vote this week. Many democrats weren't ready to get on that bandwagon yet. Where are you on this issue?

BERNIE SANDERS:

I think there is a process that has to be followed. I think Mr. Mueller is doing a very good job on his investigation. And if Mueller brings forth the clear evidence that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, I think you have grounds for impeachment. But I think jumping the gun does nobody any good. You have to bring the American people onto this issue. You don’t want to make it into a partisan issue. If we’re going to go forward with impeachment, I want the American people clearly to understand why that is the case, why it makes sense, why it’s the right thing to do. I don't think we’re there right now. That’s what the Mueller investigation is all about.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, back now with the panel. Democrats, in a word, Eugene, I think it's fair to say they were woozy when this year began. And now, I would call them ebullient, huh?

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Yeah. Democrats are feeling a whole lot better at the end of the year than they felt at the beginning of the year. They see a very unpopular president. They see, from the evidence of recent elections, that that unpopularity can spill over into local races, state races. And they, for the first time, see a chance to pick off one or both chambers of Congress. Now, it's a long shot, a longer shot for the Senate than for the House, perhaps. But you could argue there are signs that, potentially, there's a wave election. Who knows? It could happen. It could happen. And so they feel better. What they don't have is sort of fresh, new leadership.

CHUCK TODD:

Right. Are we sort of in -- are we really wash, rinse, repeat here, Amy and Carol, meaning that we're just reliving eight years ago, except this time, exchange all the democrats for the republicans? You don't need a message right now. Because you just run against the machine.

CAROL LEE:

That's the risk, for the democrats. And that's what it feels like. You know, they're not necessarily united around any sort of policy. It’s all , is there something beyond, "We're the party that's anti-Trump. And if you don't like Trump then you vote for us"? That's not clear. Because these divisions, all of this right now, is obscuring what are still divisions within the Democratic Party on economic issues and other issues. And now, you know, I think the tax bill will be something that they'll cling onto and try to make it more about policies in 2018, because they have that to run against, which is a little separate from President Trump. But they still have serious issues, not least of which is the fact that they have not gotten any fresh leadership.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Amy, when 2009 began, there were people in the Obama White House that thought, "Oh, there's going to be eight or nine republicans they can work with." When 2017 began, there were people at the White House that said, “Oh, there are eight or nine democrats that they thought they can work with.” They most remarkable thing about McConnell in '09 was keeping that republican conference together. And I think the most remarkable thing about '17 is Schumer keeping those Senate democrats on.

AMY WALTER:

Right, and that Trump hasn't been able to. Again, a lot of it goes to why we are where we are now. Is both parties, both White Houses, whether it was 2009 or 2017, said, "We have a mandate. And our mandate is to do something that's way off of where the middle of the country is. So they go way too far. The country punishes them. Then the other side comes in. They go way too far. And the country punishes them. But there was an opportunity for the president, I think, to re-create these coalitions in a way that we hadn't seen before. Because he's not part of one of the factions of the Republican Party. The other thing is about timing. You know, Rahm Emanuel was famous about this. Never let an opportunity pass you up or a crisis pass you up. And in this case, democrats knew their one issue was healthcare. Here was their one chance to pass it. "We may never have the majorities again. Let's do it." For republicans, the economy says, "Don't do a tax cut." But, "This is our one chance. We're never going to be able to get this again. And let's do it." And I don't know of any policy or any party that does well when they just shove through policy on a purely partisan basis. There's always a backlash.

CHUCK TODD:

Hugh, and this is the issue that I think our viewers are probably throwing their shoe at the TV is that, essentially, republicans believe they're borrowing a democratic tactic. Democrats believe they're borrowing a republican tactic. Either way, the tactic is the same. Stay unified in opposition or stay unified in going forward. You can get some stuff done. But politically, it never holds. It never sticks. Democrats are going to use the same playbook on the republicans.

HUGH HEWITT:

If you used a Google search for the word most used in 2017 that wasn't used in 2016, I think it would be tribal. Because I believe tribal politics has jumped up. But something Carol and Gene both said that stuck with me, "fresh, new leadership," if the Democratic Party had a concussion protocol like the NFL does, most of it would still be in the protocol. The first person off the floor was Tim Ryan. He scares me a lot, as a conservative republican. The second person off the floor was Kamala Harris. She's a very different kind of democrat. There are democrats out there who can take that message of getting out of the tribes and bridging some gaps that could actually move the country.

CHUCK TODD:

And that's the question here, right? The leaders of the Democratic Party, who are they? And do they need any right now?

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Well, right now meaning today?

CHUCK TODD:

Right now for 2018.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

I think they're fine without it right now.

CHUCK TODD:

2020 is a different question, right?

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Exactly. 2020 is a different question. But you know, a party doesn't have that leadership, doesn't have that candidate, until it does, right? It didn't in 2007. It didn't have it, until it had Barack Obama. And then all of a sudden, everything changed. And you know, who would've known, a few years earlier, that that would happen. So we don't know what's going to happen in 2020. And we don't know who's going to emerge. It could be Kamala Harris. It could be Tim Ryan.

CHUCK TODD:

Here's a fun out question. McConnell, Schumer, Pelosi, Ryan, of the four, how many of them are in their positions come January in some form, whether just heads of their conferences? How many of those four come back? Quick.

CAROL LEE:

McConnell, Schumer, Pelosi

CHUCK TODD:

Interesting, three of the four. What do you say, Eugene? Be fast, five seconds.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Two of the four.

CHUCK TODD:

Two of the four. You?

HUGH HEWITT:

I agree with Carol. McConnell's the most successful majority leader of my lifetime.

CHUCK TODD:

What do you say, Amy?

AMY WALTER:

I think they all come back in January. I don't know that they stay through January.

CHUCK TODD:

I say one. I say only one comes back.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Which one?

CHUCK TODD:

It's Mr. Schumer. I'm just throwing it out there. We'll see. We'll see. McConnell and Ryan can spike the football. All right, guys, thank you very much. Happy holidays to all of you. Merry Christmas, everything you're going to be celebrating.Later in the broadcast, we're going to talk to a panel of media journalists about the uncomfortable and sometimes hostile relationship between the president and the press. But when we come back, more evidence now that where you shop reveals how you vote.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Data download time. Americans are spending more time than ever surfing the web for the best deal and the best holiday gifts. But where you browse can actually tell us something about your politics, at least according to our friends at Hitwise.

Here now are the top-ten online retailers, where you're most likely to find shoppers who identify as conservative republicans overall. Check it out. It's a mix of power tool and home improvement sites, like Grainger and Northern Tool, as well as more upscale home-good stores, like Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn, and Crate and Barrel. Only two apparel companies make this list, by the way, L.L. Bean and Lands' End. And I'll explain why I pointed that out.

Compare that to the top-ten retail sites you're most likely to find among those who call themselves liberal democrats. Nearly all are clothing stores that mainly cater to a younger, female clientele: Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, Express, H&M, Bloomingdale's, ASOS. By the way, that was a new one for me, no home improvement sites on this list. And the one store that appears for both liberals and conservatives, Crate and Barrel.

Hell of a good glass of wine, apparently. And it looks like both ends of the ideological spectrum need coffee tables and wine glasses, as well. There were, actually, one other online store that both liberals and conservatives were more likely to visit than moderates. And that is the official Trump store. We're not making this up. Here, both men and women can buy official Trump golf polos. There's a Trump onesie for babies, and even a coin bank in the shape of a gold bar, emblazoned with the name, Trump. So why are conservatives and liberals visiting the Trump store?

Conservatives are fans of President Trump. Not surprising they'd want to buy some of the merchandise with his name on it. Liberals, on the other hand, you're scratching your head, aren't you? Well, they're visiting out of curiosity. And possibly, they're looking for some gag gifts.

But as we previously discussed in Data Download, we do recommend doing this. Check your politics at the door this holiday season. Let's go a few days without it. Let's enjoy time with loved ones without debating the President for at least an hour, at least until you gather around the television with your family to do what? Watch Meet the Press. When we come back, some of the people in politics, the media, and culture that we all lost and mourned in 2017.

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI:

We no longer live in an age in which peace and war can be sharply differentiated. We live in a neither-neither land.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD: Welcome back. The holiday season is a time for joy and family and looking ahead with hope to a new year. But it's also a time to reflect and look back. So we want to take a moment now to remember some of those in the world of politics, media, and culture whom we lost this year, faces and friends who should be very familiar to our Meet the Press viewers.

Zbigniew Brzezinski: We no longer live in an age in which peace and war can be sharply differentiated.

John Anderson: There is a third way. And I represent that third approach for the American voter.

Roger Ailes: The American people didn't want to be told what to think about the information they were receiving. So we came up with, "We report, you decide, fair and balanced."

Kate O’Beirne: Given the historic trends and the mood in the president's ratings, you'd certainly rather be a democrat right about now.

Dick Gregory: Now, my feeling is, after being here, witnessing this, that as long as there's a man on the face of the Earth, this day will always be remembered the world over.

Mary Tyler Moore: I would like to know why the last associate producer before me made $50 a week more than I do.

Edie Windsor: I feel like this accident, this glorious accident of history, okay, that put me here in this position.

BOB MICHEL: Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to wield this gavel at least one time and actually sit in the chair. It was something to behold.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, President Trump is often accused of chronic inconsistency of saying one thing and then doing another, and then saying it again. But one area where he’s never waivered is in his stated contempt, or supposed contempt for people in this business—the media.

CHUCK TODD:

A few days ago we brought back four media critics we talked to last year at this time about the president and the press. David Folenflick of NRP, Hal Boedeker of the Orlando Sentinel, Claire Atkinson, senior media editor for NBC News and Gabe Sherman of Vanity Fair, who is also an NBC News contributor. And we began by discussing the increasingly hostile relationship between journalists and a media-bashing president who now considers other media bashers, some of whom are in the media themselves as part of his base.

All right. Let's start with a simple question. When we were here last year, there was a lot of optimism here that the media's reputation would improve. Okay. I'm going to start with the most outsider of everybody at this group. Hal, has the media's reputation improved as far as the people in Orlando are concerned?

HAL BOEDEKER:

Well, I think most people in Orlando would probably say no. But you're just repeating certain things. So if you say the Washington Post or the New York Times, I don't think most people in Orlando read those newspapers. So you're regurgitating what somebody else thinks. As somebody who observes these things, I think the reputation of the press has gone way up.

CLAIRE ATKINSON:

Three major newspapers now can say they've got a million-plus paid subscribers. That is historic. And the fact that people are deciding, "You know, we'll pay 10 bucks a month for our Netflix. But actually, we're going to pay 10 bucks a month for Washington Post or the New York Times," is a positive thing.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK:

I do think that a lot of news organizations are taking time, taking care. If you look at this recent race in Alabama, the Senate race there, not only did the Washington Post do strong reporting. Alabama newspapers chipped in strong reporting and even took very strong editorial stances that in some ways were vindicated by the results you saw. That is that people believed there were enough troubling information for them to absorb. Even if the hardcore of Roy Moore didn't accept that, I think a lot of voters did.

CHUCK TODD:

Hal, where I thought you hit us correctly was on the blind spots, right? Our biggest blind spot in '16 was misunderstanding Clinton hatred. Have we fixed these blind spots?

HAL BOEDEKER:

I grew up in red America. I grew up in Missouri. And so I talked to my dad and my brother yesterday. And they both voted for Trump. And they both hate his tweeting. They hate his tweeting. They like that he's shaking things up, but they hate his tweeting. So I think that explains his high unpopularity.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, sort of the biggest question we had was how was the media going to treat his tweeting. All right. A year later, let's discuss this. This is sort of where I want to really dive into this. I think we're still trying to figure this out.

GABE SHERMAN:

Yeah. I mean, I fall in the camp that I think the media should treat them as official presidential statements, which in many ways they are. And I think they are in certain ways a real-time window into the psyche. We've never had such a real-time read on the president's mood. I think they're oftentimes very offensive. But as journalistic material, incredibly valuable. And I think, you know, this whole idea that the media is over-covering the tweets I think underestimates their value.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK:

I think also if you make it a part of a tapestry of a bigger understanding of what the administration is doing in response, lurching around, trying to discern where the president is at any one moment, the tweets offer you a little timeline. It is a timestamped mood ring, you know, of where the president is at. And you can usually disambiguate the ones that he clearly wrote from ones that were probably a little more sculpted.

CLAIRE ATKINSON:

They offer up a new story of the day. When you think about Trump's feuds, whether it's the mayor of San Juan in Puerto Rico, whether it's the NFL or the media, it's a prepackaged story that drives the news agenda of the day. And it's fueled huge interest in the news business in general. Increases subscriptions. You know cable news ratings are way higher than they even were last year when they were stratospheric because of Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

But is this a good thing, Hal?

HAL BOEDEKER:

It's a bad thing for him. For him, it's a bad thing.

CHUCK TODD:

What about for us?

GABE SHERMAN:

I will say I think the value the media can have is providing context of the tweets. There is times that White House aides will tell me Trump has tweeted things to create distraction or storylines to misdirect the media. And I think the media should not just chase the tweets without saying, "Hey, look. Look at the hearings happening today on the Hill. It's curious that Trump is doing this," or, "Look at what Robert Mueller's doing. I wonder why he's tweeting about X." It's clear that he uses Twitter sometimes strategically and tactically. And the media should not just blindly, you know, follow that.

HAL BOEDEKER:

But if he says, "I don't get enough credit for what I've done," he is the one who has distracted people from what he has done.

GABE SHERMAN:

Fair.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK:

That's true. But it just seems to me if we focus, particularly online posts and sometimes cable news will take a tweet and build a segment around it, build a half hour around it, build a post around it. And that to me there is a laziness and there is sort of a dopamine drip. An adrenaline rush for people who love it. A sort of a backlash for people who hate it. And that's an emotional rather than a journalistic impulse. It does get traffic. It does get an audience.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. There's something else that took place this year. You had some journalists decide to publicly go after the president, publicly stand up to him. And on one hand, it makes them feel good in the moment. But is that good for us? Or has that been bad for us? Does that play into the media as the opposition of the American people, as the president tweeted? I want to sort of try to bring this in for a landing. But this is the part of the year that I don't know if this has been a good or bad development.

CLAIRE ATKINSON:

I mean, I think the most obvious example of that is the CNN-Trump battle and folks like Jim Acosta who are on the front lines and very aggressively saying, "I'm going to ask the question if I want to whether you want me to or not." And the backdrop of that is the question of political interference in D.O.J., decisions about whether they're going to allow AT&T to buy Time Warner, which is the owner of CNN. So I think there are some very intriguing questions about, you know, how journalists interact with the president and then the president's reaction to that.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK:

Look at the Washington Post. There is a place that I think has done some of the most aggressive investigative reporting of the past during the Trump presidency. And it has in some ways the most bold, new motto under its owner Jeff Bezos. You know, "Democracy dies in darkness. You listen to Marty Baron talk about it. He says, "We're not going to war. We're going to work." This is not some sort of hashtag struggle for him. This is about getting down to the first principles. This is about living up to your mission. It's a great approach.

HAL BOEDEKER:

There's no one way to do journalism though. I mean, you know, what you do is not what he does and not what she does. And that’s—

GABE SHERMAN:

I think a general rule though as a reporter. If you become the story, that clearly something is out of whack. I mean, readers turn to journalists not for who we are. It's what we do. And I think journalists should always remember that.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK:

If we look at this balance though, if we're talking about what’s out of whack, by and large, the president has made the media the issue. And the media is—it's almost internally in response to it. So those who might lean in a little too much to the combat, Jeff Zucker's administration at times at CNN has issued public statements that seem--

CHUCK TODD:

Have been a surprise.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK:

--a little snarky, a little tough. But they are trying to figure out how to navigate this world, too, commercially but also journalistically.

CLAIRE ATKINSON:

I think on the other side you have the FOX News's, the Sinclairs, a whole bunch of other folks who are kind of there hoping to win the president's hand and be the voice of the president. And so you are seeing this kind of division of the very tough on one side and the very supportive on the other.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Very quickly, getting out of here, biggest fear you have of the relationship between the media and the president in 2018. Hal, you go first.

HAL BOEDEKER:

I fear that we go to war and that, you know, something spirals out of control. I very much feel like we're living in a thriller sort of like Manchurian Candidate. I really worry about these kinds of things. And that's why I think the Russia investigation is so important.

CHUCK TODD:

That's heavy stuff. What about in the relationship between the media and the president?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK:

I guess I would say that, you know, as we saw as the early stage of the Trump presidency when the chips were down for him, when he was in a tough spot, he would go after the press. Things could get worse with the investigation and like that. Then there's the question of is there actual interference with the AT&T ability to acquire Time Warner for the wrong reasons not for antitrust review. Would he decide to intervene in certain ways that would undermine the American press abroad? I think that's a question. When he's under the most duress, that's when the relationship I think gets most fraught.

CHUCK TODD:

All right.

GABE SHERMAN:

I think my biggest fear is, you know, we saw recently Trump calling out a Washington Post reporter by name, calling for this reporter to be fired. My biggest fear is that there would be a chilling effect and that newsrooms will be cowed if they make a mistake. Mistakes are a part of journalism. That they will pull back too much.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Final word, Claire.

CLAIRE ATKINSON:

I think the fear that I have and I think most news organizations share is this idea that there are people out to get you, to fail you, to tape you in a bar when you're having a personal conversation with a friend and to release that as evidence of bias. And I think on top of that this fear that we're being set up for mistakes as the Washington Post was with the sex harassment story.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I'm going to go climb in my hole and make sure that nobody can find me and nobody can tape me. Anyway, guys, what a year.

That’s it for today. A Merry Christmas to all and remember. If it’s Sunday, it’s Meet the Press.