CHUCK TODD: This Sunday, state of play.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Thank you, New Hampshire.
CHUCK TODD: Who's the Democratic front-runner? Is it New Hampshire winner Bernie Sanders?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: We will not only defeat Trump. We will transform this country.
CHUCK TODD: Or delegate leader Pete Buttigieg?
PETE BUTTIGIEG: I now stand before you at the head of an unlikely campaign, leading in the race for delegates to the Democratic nomination.
CHUCK TODD: Can Amy Klobuchar keep surging?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: I'm Amy Klobuchar, and I will beat Donald Trump.
CHUCK TODD: Or should Democrats pin their hopes on Michael Bloomberg, who's now facing heightened scrutiny?
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: I know I can't change history. What I can do is learn from my mistakes.
CHUCK TODD: This morning, my exclusive sitdown with the one-time front-runner, former Vice President Joe Biden, who took on Sanders supporters.
JOE BIDEN: If any of my supporters did that, I'd disown them.
CHUCK TODD: And my interview with Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Plus, the president strikes back.
REPORTER: What lesson did you learn from impeachment?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: That the Democrats are crooked, they've got a lot of crooked things going, that they're vicious.
CHUCK TODD: President Trump attacks his foes and protects his friends in a post-impeachment show of force. And Attorney General William Barr sounds off about his boss.
ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR: Public statements and tweets make it impossible for me to do my job.
CHUCK TODD: Was this a genuine rebuke of the president? Or political theater? Joining me for insight and analysis are Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson; NBC News White House correspondent Peter Alexander; Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute; and María Teresa Kumar, president of Voto Latino. 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. When you're thinking about the Democratic presidential race, it's helpful to remember a line from the movie “No Country for Old Men”. No, I'm not going where you think I'm going. Paraphrasing here. "If this ain't a mess, it'll do ‘till the mess gets here." Bernie Sanders has a plausible path to the nomination, leaving the Democratic establishment grasping for an alternative. Two alternatives, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, are splitting the center-left vote for now, while another, Mike Bloomberg, stands ready to divide the non-Sanders wing even more come March. And then there's Joe Biden, the one-time presumed front-runner. Fourth and fifth place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire have raised serious doubts about whether his campaign can survive. In just a moment, you'll see my exclusive sitdown with the former vice president. And against that backdrop has come what one Democratic senator called President Trump's retribution tour. Mr. Trump sacking or attacking perceived enemies, including those who testified at the House impeachment hearings and then, of course, trying to protect his friends. It all suggests that the lesson Mr. Trump learned from impeachment is to just be himself, only more so. It's left Democrats feeling an even greater urgency to find the right candidate to take on Mr. Trump while being no closer to figuring out who that candidate is.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Nevada.
JOE BIDEN: South Carolina.
PETE BUTTIGIEG: California.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: North Carolina.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: Virginia.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: Right here in Texas.
CHUCK TODD: As Democratic candidates look to Nevada, South Carolina and the 15 states and territories that vote on Super Tuesday, Democrats are already anxious about the potential of a drawn-out primary fight that could drag on for months.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I did win the popular vote in Iowa. I did win the popular vote and win the primary in New Hampshire. I think we're going to win in Nevada.
CHUCK TODD: The strong start by Bernie Sanders is triggering alarm among some Democrats who worry he could win a plurality of delegates with strength just on the left without broadening his political support.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: I was the only one on that stage that raised my hand and said that I didn't think we should have a socialist leading the Democratic ticket.
PETE BUTTIGIEG: What he's offering is a vision that says you've got to either be for the revolution or you're for the status quo and there's nothing in between.
CHUCK TODD: And Democrats worry if Sanders is not the nominee, many of his supporters may refuse to get in line behind another candidate. This week, Sanders supporters attacked Nevada's hotel workers union after it criticized his position on Medicare for All.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: We're living in a strange world on the internet. And sometimes people attack people in somebody else's name. But let me be very clear. Anybody making personal attacks against anybody else in my name is not part of our movement. We don't want them.
CHUCK TODD: With Joe Biden's decline, Democrats are jockeying to prove they are the best equipped to take on Sanders and win the center. Among them, Michael Bloomberg, whose rise in the polls is fueled by more than $300 million in ad spending.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: You've all heard the slogan, "Mike will get it done." And if you haven't, I've been spending an awful lot of money to get it out there.
CHUCK TODD: With Bloomberg's growing strength comes new scrutiny of his past, including a 2015 speech defending New York City's controversial stop-and-frisk policing policy.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: The way you get the guns out of the kids' hands is to throw them against the wall and frisk them. Sometimes, you just make a mistake and I think the sign of leadership is standing up and saying so.
CHUCK TODD: 2008 comments that seem to blame the economic crisis on banks ending redlining, the denial of housing loans to minority neighborhoods.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: That crisis would not have been averted if the banks had been able to be bigger racists. And anyone who thinks that should not be the leader of our party.
CHUCK TODD: And allegations from women of sexist comments and workplace discrimination at his company. On Saturday, Bloomberg tweeted, "I would not be where I am today without the talented women around me. ... I will always be a champion for women in the workplace." Bloomberg's rise and the muddle among centrist Democrats is a product of one thing: Biden's struggles.
JOE BIDEN: Nobody told me it'd be easy. I don't believe you brought me this far to leave me now. Don't leave us now.
CHUCK TODD: Yesterday, I sat down with the former vice president, Joe Biden, in Las Vegas, where he is campaigning ahead of Saturday's Nevada caucuses. I began by asking how months of public attacks by President Trump on he and his son have affected him personally.
JOE BIDEN: First of all, it initially made me angry. But I realized that whomever was likely to be, whoever he most feared was going to be the victim of his affection. No matter who it is, they're going to go after them. And secondly, what I determined was, and I know this sounds -- I don't what it sounds, I'll just say it. You know, a president can't just fight. The president has to be able to forgive, has to be able to reach out. We've got to pull the country together, and so the dilemma's been, you know, how much do I let my frustration show and how much do I focus on -- because ultimately it's not about me, Chuck, it's about the folks listening. I mean for real. It sounds prosaic.
CHUCK TODD: I got to ask. You've been asked about Lindsey Graham before. What kind of violation of your friendship has this been?
JOE BIDEN: Well, you know, Lindsey -- I went out of my way for Lindsey, and Lindsey recorded things that were so -- you know, about what a wonderful guy I am. But when I watched how Lindsey responded under pressure to John McCain, our mutual friend -- John and I went at each other hammer and tong, but on his deathbed, he asked me to do his eulogy. We were friends. He was honorable. He was decent. And it just stunned me that he did not respond to, to the attacks on John that were made by this president so viciously. He -- and the way he, well I shouldn’t -- hurt the family. And so I'm not surprised. But I have to tell you, I'm disappointed. He was friends with Jill. He was friends with Beau. He was friends with Hunter. I mean, he was, you know --
CHUCK TODD: Let me ask it this way. If you become president of the United States and Lindsey Graham calls you up and says, "Hey, that was just politics. Can we begin our friendship again?" How's that conversation going to go?
JOE BIDEN: I would say I'll be willing to talk to Lindsey. I want to know.
CHUCK TODD: You want to know why he did it? So you'll take that phone call, if he'll ever, if he’ll ever give you that phone call?
JOE BIDEN: Yes, I would.
CHUCK TODD: Have you thought about the fact that the president's campaign against you and your son might have been effective? I mean, that it might have cost you Iowa? Might have cost you New Hampshire? Has that crossed your mind?
JOE BIDEN: It has, but you know, I can't, I can't focus on that, Chuck. I've got to focus on the future. I've got to focus on how do we, how do we end this era of -- I mean how do we literally, I wrote about it, restore the soul of this country? I mean it's just being eaten out. It's being eaten away. The cruelty. The viciousness. The way he pits people against one another. The way he goes after people of color. The way he makes fun of. I mean there’s a cruelty about it. And that's not who we are, Chuck. I refuse to believe that's who the American people are.
CHUCK TODD: Let me talk about the campaign.
JOE BIDEN: Yes.
CHUCK TODD: There was something you wrote in your book before you launched your campaign. You were talking about the 2016 campaign you might have run. Here’s what you said what you were not -- this is the type of campaign you said you were going to run in '16. “You weren't going to do a cautious, trim around the edges campaign. You thought that was pointless. So Biden for President was going to be big. Anything less just wasn't worth it.” You look at this campaign now. Can you say this is not a cookie-cutter campaign? Do you feel like you are running something different? Running something bigger? Some of your supporters feel like there's not the urgency that they want out of you.
JOE BIDEN: No, I understand. And one of the reasons they say that is because I am unwilling to, up to now, attack the Democratic opponents who are attacking me. I mean, I got involved. I was viewed as the front-runner. I had the target on my back. I've been put through the test. And they've thrown a lot, a lot at me. Some misrepresentations. And so I have to ask myself whether or not it has, it has been wise to be as, sort, of polite and not negative as I have been. The ideas I have, Chuck, are big and bold. I mean this idea that I'm not the progressive in the race. I mean my lord, if, if I get elected president of the United States with my position on health care, my position on global warming, my position on foreign policy, my position on the middle class, this will go down as one of the most progressive administrations in American history. But what we’re -- what you're up against is things that are almost fanciful. Like, you know, Medicare for All. Thirty five, thirty, forty trillion dollars. Even Bernie's now saying, "Well, how much is it going to cost?" "Well, who knows. We'll find out." I think that's the phrase he used -- or "we don't know." I mean, part of being president is not just the idea you have. Can you get it done? Have you ever done anything big? Have you ever been able to put together coalitions that bring along Republicans and all the Democrats to get things done? And the idea, I mean it's almost fanciful sometimes.
CHUCK TODD: I know, but isn't that Bernie's strength, though? Everybody knows -- one thing about Bernie. You know where he stands. You know who he is. He doesn't change. I mean, isn't that --
JOE BIDEN: And he's never gotten anything done. I'm not being --
CHUCK TODD: No, I get it.
JOE BIDEN: I mean, he's a decent guy.
CHUCK TODD: I get what you're saying.
JOE BIDEN: I mean, he's been talking about health care, Medicare for All, universal health care, for 35 years. Nothing's happened. I helped get passed Obamacare. I helped move it forward. I got the votes. I'm in a position where I take something that I promise you, I'll get done. We take Obamacare. We allow people -- like out here in Nevada, what's going on? Bernie requires, and Elizabeth's plan requires you to give up all private insurance. These folks have broken their necks, the culinary union and others, to get the most comprehensive health care that's out there. And they've given up wages for it. Now they're being told you've got to give it up, you can't, you can’t keep it, and it's going to cost 30 trillion dollars or more, and I can't tell you who's going to pay for it. I mean come on. This is -- I mean, I think people are so tired of the lack of straightforwardness out there. Now, if I'm wrong, I'm going to be dead wrong, but I really believe that you have to lay out why you're doing what you're doing and how you're going to get it done.
CHUCK TODD: Are you concerned that $300 million has gotten Michael Bloomberg half your support among African Americans?
JOE BIDEN: Well, no --
CHUCK TODD: We're starting to see it in these Southern Super Tuesday states.
JOE BIDEN: Well, I think -- you know, you just saw the Super Tuesday states, saw Georgia, I'm still getting 80%. Anyway, the point is that $60 billion can buy you a lot of advertising, but it can't erase your record. There's a lot to talk about with Michael Bloomberg. You all are going to start focusing on him like you have on me, which I'm not complaining, like you have on me the last six months. You're going to focus on him. His position on issues relating to the African American community, from stop-and-frisk to the way he talked about Obama, to, I mean --
CHUCK TODD: Has it dawned on you that two of your, two of your biggest rivals, one's not a member of the Democratic party yet, and the other was a Republican about five or six years ago.
JOE BIDEN: Yes. No, it doesn't surprise me.
CHUCK TODD: What does that say about the state of today's Democratic party?
JOE BIDEN: Well, I think what it says is money, billions of dollars, can take you a long, long way. And it says that it's going to be awful hard to go out and win those -- the base support of the Democratic party, the African Americans, Latinos and working class white folks, and put that coalition together. That's how you win an election. You put that coalition together.
CHUCK TODD: I was stunned that you didn't do as well in Manchester and Dubuque. You're Middle Class Joe. You're the guy of these working-class -- you didn't do well in Dubuque and Manchester.
JOE BIDEN: Well I, --
CHUCK TODD: Why is that?
JOE BIDEN: I did better in Dubuque, but I got outspent overwhelmingly in both places. I think Bernie spent $25 billion --
CHUCK TODD: And this is what has your supporters anxious. You're the former vice president. How are you getting outspent? How are you getting outspent by Bernie and by Buttigieg? You shouldn't be.
JOE BIDEN: No. I shouldn't be, because -- but I haven't, I haven’t spent the time -- it's starting to happen now. I haven't spent the time going out doing the fundraisers, and moving the way I have. Well, now online we're raising about 400,000 bucks a day, and we have a lot of fundraisers that are online, and we've got a lot of union support now. So -- but I think you're right, that my being outspent has had an impact. We're not going -- we’re going to be able to compete from here on in, including these two.
CHUCK TODD: South Carolina is it, isn't it? I mean you have to win that.
JOE BIDEN: Well, I think I have to do really well in it, but right --
CHUCK TODD: What's really -- is there such a thing as doing well without winning for you?
JOE BIDEN: Well, I think so. But look it’s, I’ll be, look, right after that, within -- on March the 4th we end up with -- going into all the states, which the polling data is now showing me doing incredibly well. Whether it's North Carolina or Georgia or Texas or any of these other places. So look, it's not an apt comparison, but Bill Clinton lost his first eight, ten, 12 primaries and caucuses before he won one. I don't plan on taking that long. But we're just getting to the meat of getting to the number of delegates you need to be able to win this election. And I'm confident we're going to be in good shape.
CHUCK TODD: Bernie Sanders is a guy who says he's going to support whoever's the nominee, and he's all in. Are you confident his supporters will do that or are you worried that some of his supporters -- and do you think -- who -- if his supporters are attacking culinary union members, who's responsible for that?
JOE BIDEN: Well look, he may not be responsible for it but he has some accountability. I’m going to not put you – put you in a spot you don’t have to – you know me well enough to know if any of my supporters did that, I’d disown them. Flat disown them. The stuff that was said online, the way they threatened these two women who are leaders in that culinary union. It is outrageous. Just -- just go online. I invite anybody to go and take a look, the things they said, the vicious, malicious, misogynistic things they said. The threats they put out. And to say “I disassociate” is one thing. Find out who the hell they are, if any of them work for me. Fire them. Find out. See what’s going on.
CHUCK TODD: You don't think he's been curious enough?
JOE BIDEN: I'm hoping he's looking, but I tell you what, so far I don't think it's sufficient just to say, "I disassociate myself."
CHUCK TODD: Mr. Vice President, thank you, sir.
JOE BIDEN: Thanks. Thank you.
CHUCK TODD: Good to talk to you.
JOE BIDEN: Thank you.
CHUCK TODD: You can see my entire interview with Joe Biden on our website, MeetthePress.com. When we come back:
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Hello, America. I’m Amy Klobuchar and I will beat Donald Trump.
CHUCK TODD: The candidate who introduced herself in a big way Tuesday night with a strong, surprising third-place finish in New Hampshire. But can Amy Klobuchar keep the momentum going? She joins me next.
CHUCK TODD: Welcome back. If there was one constant about Senator Amy Klobuchar's campaign, it's that she's had very strong debate performances that didn't translate into strong poll numbers. All that changed in New Hampshire when her powerful Friday night debate generated big crowds that weekend and a surging third-place finish, well ahead of Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden. The question now, does she have an encore? And Amy Klobuchar joins me now from Las Vegas. Senator Klobuchar, welcome back to Meet the Press.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Well, thanks, Chuck. I can't think of a better place to have an encore than Las Vegas.
CHUCK TODD: There you go.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: So there we go.
CHUCK TODD: Yeah, there you go. Fun way to tease that. But let me talk about that. You know, one of the hallmarks of your New Hampshire campaign is you essentially out-evented everybody. I think, by our count, you ended up doing more events in New Hampshire than any of the other major candidates. That translated into something there, the end of that campaign. You now are suddenly going from a one-state campaign to this thing's about to scale up in a hurry. Are you able to put together a campaign in order to become one of the leading front-runners?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: I am, Chuck. And we're really buoyed by what we've seen here in Nevada. I got the endorsement of the Las Vegas Sun and a recent poll in the Review Journal had me in double digits, so that's a major change for us. What has happened since that debate in just a little over a week is that we raised over $12 million online, mostly from just regular people, new people who gave. That's the first time in a campaign like this that you've seen a surge from people just seeing a debate and deciding, "You know what? I like this person and I think she's going to have my back. And I think she can lead this ticket to victory," which is the number one concern of Democrats. So we are doing multiple events here. We had over a thousand people in Reno just a day or two ago, in Las Vegas now, and we're just taking this message all over the state.
CHUCK TODD: $12 million in a week is impressive. $300 million from Michael Bloomberg is what you're facing. And I say this because you guys are fighting for the same part of the party here. I mean, it is - that has got to be daunting. On one hand, you've got some money, you can start building a national campaign, but you're facing this onslaught.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Yeah. I mean, honestly, is it daunting? Yes, because I do things like go on your show,take tough questions, and then at the same time, he is running more ads on whatever he wants during that same time. That's what life is, and I think what needs to happen here is that he needs to go on shows like this, which he hasn't done. He just can't hide behind the airwaves. He has to answer questions. And of course, I think he should be on that debate stage, which eventually he will be, because I can't beat him on the airwaves, but I can beat him on the debate stage. And I think people of America deserve that to make a decision.
CHUCK TODD: You know, when you looked at the New Hampshire exit poll, you saw that the sort of – the non-Sanders wing of the party, whatever we want to call this, the pragmatists, the centrists, whatever, whatever title you want to give to it, it is larger than what Sanders had. But at the end of the day, you guys aren’t pragmatic enough. Let me show you something Politico wrote: “The pragmatic, compromising Democratic moderates apparently can’t pragmatically agree to compromise on a preferred presidential candidate. Instead, they have handed their ideological intra-party nemesis, Sanders, the bragging rights in the first two contests even as he hasn’t touched 30 percent of the vote in either.” If you guys don’t coalesce around somebody, he could be the leading delegate guy after Super Tuesday, and there’s suddenly not enough delegates left to stop him.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: I don't see it that way at all, Chuck. This is a primary and we're not going to go back in some back room, three or four people, and just say, "Okay, you got it. I don't." We're competing, and the voters of this country get to make that decision. And eventually people will drop out of this race, but right now, this is a competition and that's how it should be. I also think people understand that what unites us is bigger than what divides us. I was the one on that debate stage, when asked, "Should we have a socialist leading the ticket?" I was the only one that raised my hand, even though I get along with Bernie. We came into the Senate together. We've worked on pharmaceutical prices together. My argument is that while I may not have the money of Michael Bloomberg, I will get the money from people as this goes on, as I emerge as a stronger candidate. We now are going to have teams in every single Super Tuesday state. I'm starting to travel to these states and we're going to be doing events --
CHUCK TODD:Let me ask --
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:-- in nearly all of them.
CHUCK TODD: -- let me ask you this. At some point--
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Okay.
CHUCK TODD: --you have to win. You have to win someplace.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Yes.
CHUCK TODD: And it can't just be in Minnesota. We know that's going to be an opportunity for you. Where are you going to win by Super Tuesday?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: There's so many states out there, I'm not going to list them all for you, but it's everything. You can just go around the country. I don't know which state I'll win, but I'm going to do better than anyone imagined. There's states like Colorado and Utah. There's states like North Carolina on Super Tuesday. There's states like Virginia. I can go around the map with you, but right now who knows who's going to win because a lot of us are clustered together in the polls? I don't have the biggest name ID or the biggest bank account, but I have this ability to bring people with me, and that's what you're seeing, slowly but surely, in every single state. And by the way, when the mayor, Mayor Bloomberg and the president were going at each other on Twitter, when the president claimed that the mayor was 5'4" and the mayor said, no, he's taller, I am the only one that has the claim to be 5'4" in this race, the only one.
CHUCK TODD: You take that, President Trump, I guess, on that front.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Yes.
CHUCK TODD: Let me ask you about Michael Bloomberg. Can you envision supporting him as the Democratic nominee, somebody who's been a Democrat, I think, only for a couple of years?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: I have been very clear that I am going to support whoever comes out of that convention who is our Democratic nominee. If he is the one that emerges from that convention, I would support him. I still do not think he is the best candidate for our country. I don't think that people look at the guy in the White House and say, "Oh, let's get someone richer." I think my background, where Donald Trump got $413 million from his dad in the course of his career, and my grandpa saved money in a coffee can in the basement to send my dad to a community college as he worked in the mines his whole life, you can't fit $413 million in a coffee can in the basement. I would also add the Midwest is not flyover country to me. I live there, and the people that live there are not poker chips in a bankrupt casino, since I'm in Vegas, of President Trump to me. They are my friends and neighbors. That's the area of the country that we need to win and that's also a strong case I'm going to have against Michael Bloomberg.
CHUCK TODD: If you're the Democratic nominee, are you going to be comfortable accepting funding help in different ways and, and from Michael Bloomberg? You know, there's a lot of progressive and Democratic groups that have, that have received a lot of money from him over the years. What, what is the price of that money in your mind?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Right now, I'm just focused on our own campaign, and that is based and fueled so much by those small contributions at AmyKlobuchar.com, that's allowed me to compete, a modicum of money to be able to compete on the airwaves with Mayor Bloomberg and others. That, to me, is where I am focused. And I believe in the future that, of course, when we get a nominee, there is going to be enough money because of the incredible interest of people in this country. Not just fired up Democrats, but also independents and moderate Republicans like I brought in in New Hampshire, like I'm going to bring in in Nevada. They also want to see a change in the White House and they don't agree with everything that's said on that debate stage, but they agree with me when it comes to a decency check and a patriotism check, even though they may not agree with everything on that debate state.
CHUCK TODD: Given some --
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: I'm really excited about the coalition I can put together to beat the president.
CHUCK TODD: Given some of the things that Michael Bloomberg has said, whether it's about women in the workplace that he's been accused of saying or about policing African Americans, redlining, things like that, if he's the Democratic nominee, does it make the job of going after President Trump's character harder?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Again, I don't think he's the best person to lead the ticket. I think I am. But I think, just like every other candidate, like I have come on your show multiple times and a number of other candidates have come on and answered tough questions, he's got to do the same thing. He hasn't gone on the Sunday shows since he announced. Instead, he's just running ads. And I don't think you should be able to hide behind the ads. I think you should not only go on these shows, I also think that he should take the debate stage. That's why I have actually been supportive of him on that debate stage because I know I can't beat him on the airwaves, but I can beat him on the debate stage.
CHUCK TODD: Let me ask you this. He's getting scrutinized for his record on criminal justice issues, and now so are you. And I'm curious about this. When it comes to your record, there's been a lot of people who have done more analysis of your record over the years as a prosecutor. Have you read these, these, these look-backs? And if you have, have you, have you sort of winced? Do you look back at your career and think, "Boy, there are some things that if I knew then what I know now, maybe I'd be a different prosecutor. Maybe I wouldn't have put so much trust always in law enforcement and what they say on the witness stand versus what somebody else says"? Do you at all acknowledge that maybe your record deserves a different look?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Well, of course, what we know now was not the same as what we knew then. And I have always been an advocate for criminal justice reform. That was a tough job. I supervised 10,000 to 15,000 cases every single year and we did a lot of good work and I was proud of our office, but we know that there is systematic racism in the criminal justice system. And the answer is, of course, something that I worked on when I had that job before being in the Senate is diversifying the office. It is doing things like videotaping interrogations, something I advocated for and we had in Minnesota. It is doing eyewitness ID in a different way that limits racial misidentifications. It is what we're doing now in the Senate, where I've been a co-sponsor of the First Step Act to reduce non-violent sentences. And as president, for good or bad, I think having someone that's actually led on these issues will be a good thing because I will be able to get that clemency board in place and move on to the Second Step Act because I have a deep understanding of the goods and the bads of the criminal justice system.
CHUCK TODD: Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat from Minnesota, thank you for coming on, getting up extraordinarily early today and sharing your views. Thanks very much.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: It’s all good. Thanks, Chuck.
CHUCK TODD: All right. When we come back, Michael Bloomberg is spending money like a front-runner, which means he's now getting front-runner-like treatment from reporters. Can he handle it? Panel is next.
CHUCK TODD: Welcome back, panel is here. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson; Danielle Pletka, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; María Teresa Kuma, president of Voto Latino; and NBC News White House correspondent, Weekend Today co-anchor, Peter Alexander. Welcome to all of you. So, Michael Bloomberg. María Teresa, this is alleged comments that Bloomberg-- this is from a Washington Post look-back on Bloomberg on women. And I'm putting all this up here because it feels like pre-Trump this could have been disqualifying in a Democratic primary. Quotes that have been attributed to him, "If women wanted to be appreciated for their brains, they'd go to the library instead of to Bloomingdale's." Referring to some lawsuits about discrimination, the lawsuit said when Bloomberg saw certain women he said, "I'd (expletive) that in a second." Another anecdote, "When Bloomberg learned on April 11, 1995, that Garrison," somebody who worked for him, "was pregnant, according to her suit he allegedly said to her, 'Kill it.'" He has denied that he said those words in a deposition. Is this going to be damaging to him as he tries to become a mainstream Democrat?
MARÍA TERESA KUMAR: This is where it's going to get tough. Who's going to show up for the American public? Is it going to be Mayor Bloomberg or is it going to be philanthropist Bloomberg? And I say this because philanthropist Bloomberg is the one that has invested heavily on electing women through his Emily's List, has invested heavily through Planned Parenthood for women's choice, has invested heavily on gun reform, has invested heavily when it comes to basically every single issue that technically will expand the base and bring in a bigger tent. Mayor Bloomberg, when he talks about what happened with redlining, when he talks about, you know, stop-and-frisk, has been incredibly damaging with some of those policies. And so as he rolls out his person and his persona, he's going to have to be able to answer directly of what is happening and who is going to show up.
CHUCK TODD: Eugene, does it take character off the table?
EUGENE ROBINSON:It-- it may. I mean, we did have an election in 2016 and Donald Trump did win it, right. After the Access Hollywood tape, after everything, he won the election. And so I think a lot of Democrats, as they look toward this election, they're saying, "It's Trump. It's going to be a knife fight. Maybe we should look at the guy with the biggest knife, right, and with a $60 billion knife." And that's Michael Bloomberg. I think that's why he's getting a look from the Democratic party and I think that's why, you know, things that definitely would have been disqualifying just a few years ago may not, in and of themselves, be disqualifying. We have yet to see him on a debate stage. We have yet to see him mix it up with them. We've yet to see how he actually performs, but we've seen a lot of ads and it's gotten him some numbers in the polls.
CHUCK TODD:You know, interesting, Danielle Pletka, Amy Klobuchar decided not to go to any of those places. And you know, that is her prerogative. Maybe she's going to do it at the debate, maybe not. She clearly wants him on the debate stage, that's for sure.
DANIELLE PLETKA: Yes, I think she does because she recognizes that she's going to come across as somehow genuine and together and he's going to come across as a thin-skinned rich guy who bought his way into the Democratic primary.
CHUCK TODD: Are you confident he's going to be a bad debater? I mean, we don't know that.
DANIELLE PLETKA: I worry. Let me put it this way, you know, I don’t, he's not a personal friend of mine so I don't know how he is going to debate, but one of the things that great wealth does to you is it insulates you from the people. You know, one of the things that Donald Trump has going for him is you can say a lot of bad things about Donald Trump, and we all have, but he is actually a man of a certain group of people. A lot of people don't like those people, but he is a man of the people. I don't think that Bloomberg is going to prove himself to be a man of the people.
CHUCK TODD: Peter, the president though, he’s, I think he respects only one thing in life, I think, wealth.
PETER ALEXANDER: I was going to say, there is one thing that the president notices and that's how much money you have, right. The president likes to boast about all the money that he has. This guy has, what, 60 times more money than he has, $60 billion by some estimates here, so I think that is the one thing that resonates with the president. We witnessed it this week where the president again attacked him, referring to him as Mini Mike. But Democrats watched the way that Bloomberg responded, I think, and were impressed by that. A lot of Democrats appreciated someone that fought back and used the same insults, where he said stuff that's ugly and not pretty, but at least they liked the fact that this guy's not going to back down from it. We'll see if that matters. I was in the Oval Office earlier this week and I said to the president, "Who's the frontrunner?" He said, "Yeah, I think it's got to be Bernie right now." I said, "Why is Bernie surging?" And his eyes kind of sparkled for a second. He wants to praise Bernie in a way--
CHUCK TODD: Yes, he does. Uh-huh.
PETER ALEXANDER: --because he sees something about Bernie in himself, which is he's an outsider. He's anti-establishment. He's got a movement. Obviously I think he'd like to run against Bernie Sanders. Bloomberg, I think he has concerns about.
CHUCK TODD: María Teresa, where is this all headed? I mean, it's a mess.
MARÍA TERESA KUMAR: Grab the popcorn. I think the biggest challenge right now is with Bernie Sanders I think the question is that he will grow that electorate base that the Democrats desperately need--
CHUCK TODD: Will he?
MARÍA TERESA KUMAR: --in order to win. I think he'll bring in the young people.
CHUCK TODD: But did he--
MARÍA TERESA KUMAR: The challenge--
CHUCK TODD: He hasn't yet.
MARÍA TERESA KUMAR: No, he has.
CHUCK TODD: In this, and so far, I mean, youth turnout was down, not up.
MARÍA TERESA KUMAR: No, but in Iowa you actually saw a constituency of the Latino vote and you actually saw a constituency of young African American votes actually outperform. That is where the new base is coming from. The challenge though is that is he going to turn off a lot of the moderate Republicans and independents that Bloomberg will actually be able to siphon off?
CHUCK TODD: Or Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg won those voters in New Hampshire as well.
MARÍA TERESA KUMAR: Yes, but I think the challenge is that-- this is the challenge with both Buttigieg and Klobuchar is that, coming into Nevada, they do not have a base. Biden has a base, Warren has a base, and Bernie has a base. Those are the three. And so when you start talking about, and they've been working it for a long, long time. And I have to say Elizabeth Warren's camp, she brought in all the folks from Julian Castro's camp, but also the same people who made sure that Hillary won last time.
CHUCK TODD: Julian was the best organizer in Nevada early on.
MARÍA TERESA KUMAR: All the folks, right, yes.
EUGENE ROBINSON: Well, after Nevada, we get to South Carolina. You know, it's dangerous this year to look past any primary.
CHUCK TODD:Don't look past anything, yes.
EUGENE ROBINSON: So let's not look past Nevada. What happens in Nevada will affect what happens in South Carolina. But that's, I certainly believe, a do-or-die state for Joe Biden. He has to do well there.
CHUCK TODD: What's well?
EUGENE ROBINSON: He's got to win.
CHUCK TODD: Okay.
EUGENE ROBINSON: He's got to win.
CHUCK TODD: I was surprised he didn't say win.
EUGENE ROBINSON: I'm sorry. He's got to win. And you know, there was a poll that showed nationally Biden's African American support going down. That's the ballgame in South Carolina. Basically you have to do well. So that South Carolina firewall, if Bloomberg actually makes inroads there, I mean, Bloomberg is not even running there and he's polling like 6% in South Carolina.
CHUCK TODD: The Charlotte media market helps--
EUGENE ROBINSON: Yes.
CHUCK TODD: --because he's advertising heavily in North Carolina.
EUGENE ROBINSON: And so if you see Biden go down, maybe Bernie comes up or whatever, you know, I think that would be a disaster for Biden and I think it would be good for Bloomberg going into super Tuesday.
DANIELLE PLETKA: But the problem is we're still talking about this as if it's some sort of speed dating show. And you know, for me, the big question that we don't talk about enough is what is the Democratic party going to stand for? Is the Democratic party going to be the party of we have to beat Donald Trump at all costs, or is the Democratic party, which is what it has been for the last two years?CHUCK TODD:And what Bloomberg is essentially saying, "Hey, that's what I am."
DANIELLE PLETKA: Yes, that's what I am, right.
CHUCK TODD:I am. You know, I have a lot of warts, but you know what, let's go.
DANIELLE PLETKA: Or is it going to be the party of ideas?And that’s, because that's what inspires people.
MARÍA TERESA KUMAR: And this is where the challenge is, that you have historically Democrats that will vote for whoever's on the ballot right now because they are feeling nervous, but we also know that that's not going to get them over the top unless they grow that base. And that has to be a party of ideas. And this is where I think a lot of the Democrats are missing the opportunity. They keep talking about these big ideas, but they're not landing it. They have to give the vision of the day after Donald Trump is, you know the day after, right after my inauguration and Donald Trump is gone, this is what we're going to do together. That's how they have to synthesize it.
CHUCK TODD: Well, that was a nice robust discussion. Thank you. And remember, NBC News and MSNBC, the networks at NBC News, will be hosting the next Democratic debate Wednesday from Las Vegas. I'll be joined by my colleagues Lester Holt and Hallie Jackson, Telemundo's Vanessa Hauc, and Jon Ralston of the Nevada Independent. That's Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Don't miss it. When we come back, Bernie Sanders is promising to expand the electorate by getting young progressives to vote. How's he doing so far? That's next.
CHUCK TODD: Welcome back. Data Download time. Bernie Sanders may have eked out the most votes in Iowa and New Hampshire, but if you look at the numbers more closely, it shows a candidate hitting a ceiling, for now, rather than a glide path to the nomination. In both states, Sanders garnered almost the same percentage of the vote. Check this out, 26.5% and 25.6% respectively, compared with Buttigieg earning similar amounts as well. Now, Sanders can blame the large field of candidates, but Donald Trump got 35% in New Hampshire in 2016 in a similarly crowded field. Sanders often makes the case for enthusiasm, that is people are more fired up and he's better able to bring new voters into the fold as a result. Well, if you look at the combined percentages among the centrist candidates, they do much better than the progressives, earning 51% of the vote in Iowa and 52% in New Hampshire. Then there's turnout. Tuesday's New Hampshire primary broke the record set in 2008 with an 18% increase in overall turnout compared with four years ago, but a decline in the groups that tend to support Sanders. The amount of 18 to 29-year-old voters was down 5% on Tuesday night compared to when Sanders swept the Granite State in 2016. And the amount of very liberal voters was down the same amount compared to 2016 as well. Those kinds of numbers do not favor the Sanders campaign and actually, it could just get tougher. Iowa and New Hampshire were near-perfect places for Sanders to flex his progressive muscle. Both were states he'd organized in before, one being next door to his home of Vermont. But there are very few other contests with as friendly of electorates to Sanders as those two first two states of Iowa and New Hampshire. When we come back, when Bill Barr suggested that President Trump knock off the tweets, was he really saying, "Don't worry, Boss, I got this"? End Game is next.
CHUCK TODD: Back now with End Game. And it's been quite an active week here in Washington away from the campaign, hasn't it? We've seen Attorney General Bill Barr's Justice Department intervene in both the Roger Stone and Mike Flynn cases. We've also seen four Stone prosecutors quit the case as a result. And then we heard Barr “rebuking”-- and we're going to put that in quotes for now -- President Trump and his tweets. Rebuked him again in an ABC News interview. I want to play a couple of things before we get started with this conversation. First, I want to play Barr about what the tweets have done to him. Take a listen.
ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR: Once the tweet occurred, the question is, "Well, now what do I do?" And do you go forward with what you think is the right decision? Or do you pull back because of the tweet? And that just sort of illustrates how disruptive these tweets can be.
CHUCK TODD: Of course, everybody's been trying to figure out -- who is Barr talking to? Is he rebuking the president? Here's what Laura Ingraham on, on Fox News, here's what she said after the interview.
LAURA INGRAHAM: The media sees this sexy story of Trump versus Barr, but they missed the fact that Barr was basically telling Trump, "Don't worry. I got this."
CHUCK TODD: Peter Alexander, did Laura Ingraham just say the quiet part out loud?
PETER ALEXANDER: I mean, I think a lot of people believe that's the case, right? That effectively what Barr was saying is, "Hey, boss. This is unnecessary and unhelpful. Look at the actions we've taken to this point so far." The president -- this is not a president who's in it for justice. He's a president who's in it for an eye for an eye. Think about what's happened in the last, what, eight to ten days since he was impeached. I asked him for lessons learned. There was no self-reflection. He said that the Democrats are crooked. In the days since then, he's fired Gordon Sondland and Vindman. He also moved on attacking the Stone decision, you know, and, and got what he wanted out of it. And McCabe, I'm told, is what made him angrier than anything right now. But this is a president that is emboldened. And the best example of that is the fact that today he goes to the Daytona 500, and I'm told that there are discussions, he is planning to literally take a victory lap where he will -- you know, the cars all lean left, the folks in the crowd lean right. This is going to be a massive Trump rally. And this is a guy who feels big, not just like a survivor, but feels stronger right now.
CHUCK TODD: Dani, he even quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson saying --
DANIELLE PLETKA: He misquoted Ralph Waldo, he misquoted Ralph Waldo Emerson.
CHUCK TODD: -- attempted to.
DANIELLE PLETKA: I guess I'm a little bit less inclined, which is why I'm here, I guess, to, to, to attribute some malign intent to, to Attorney General Barr. I mean, I --
CHUCK TODD: You were shocked Laura Ingraham said that.
DANIELLE PLETKA: I was totally shocked Laura Ingraham said that, but I, I -- no comment. But I do think it's possible that he's actually just telling the president to shut up. I think that those who see a conspiracy here have to make a decision. Either Trump is an idiot who's out there just, you know, slamming through everything, slamming through all the norms, or he's a conspiracy guy who's behind the scenes working with his attorney general to send out a message. I don't see him as that guy. I see him as that guy where it's all out there. And I also see Barr as a very serious prosecutor. So, you know, I think he'd love the president to be quiet.
EUGENE ROBINSON: I, you know, I -- a serious prosecutor? I think Bill Barr once was a serious prosecutor. I'm not sure he is now. But I do think, I cannot imagine that President Trump liked being publicly rebuked by somebody who worked for him. Whatever, even if --
CHUCK TODD: No other Cabinet secretary has --
EUGENE ROBINSON: Even if --
CHUCK TODD: -- gotten away with it.
EUGENE ROBINSON: Even if it had been a pre-planned kind of song and dance, he would not have enjoyed that. That would have eaten at him. I think it will eat at him that the Justice Department is not going to prosecute Andrew McCabe --
CHUCK TODD: Or Jim Comey.
EUGENE ROBINSON: -- and it's not going to go down -- or Jim Comey, right. It's not going to go down that road that President Trump wants it to go down. On the other hand, Laura Ingraham is basically right that Barr has done a lot of the things that Trump would like and if Trump would just leave him alone, you know, he'd get a good result. But I don't think the president can leave that scab alone. So we'll see the next couple weeks.
CHUCK TODD: What should Democrats in Congress do? I mean, they're in this sort of --
MARÍA TERESA KUMAR: Call him in for an Oversight hearing to --
CHUCK TODD: Well, they are --
MARÍA TERESA KUMAR: -- actually talk about it and they should --
CHUCK TODD: I mean, we're going to hear it at the end of the month, I guess. Or the end of March.
MARÍA TERESA KUMAR: This is the challenge, is that the president has taken the Department of Justice as his own personal vendetta. It is a dotted line to whatever he wants to actually do. And what I mean by that is that they, when Giuliani said, "I am in Ukraine right now trying to pick up dirt on the president, and I'm giving it over to the Department of Justice," Barr didn't exactly say that he wasn't accepting that, that dirt. It is --
CHUCK TODD: No, he said they've created a channel actually --
MARÍA TERESA KUMAR: A channel. Right, a channel, right? Like, they're actually actively building that. That's the wall, that’s the bridge that they're actually building together. And that is the challenge, is that the turmoil that was inside the Department of Justice prior to that, there, folks were -- you know, these conversations that there was going to be actually an insurrection. People were going to walk out. But I also know folks that have used to work for the Department of Justice. And they take their job so seriously. These are public servants. These are the ones that say, "My job is to uphold the Constitution, make sure that people, everybody gets a fair shot." And what Trump has been able to do in that institution is going to be long-lasting unless we change it.
CHUCK TODD: Peter, Barr himself, and that's the thing where everybody's trying to debate, “is Barr, is this -- “ Barr himself noted the dilemma. It, he's admitting it creates the appearance of political interference.
PETER ALEXANDER:Yeah. No, you're exactly right. This, this was a release valve for William Barr no matter what. It had to happen in some form because we know what was happening behind the scenes in the Justice Department. Not just those four prosecutors walking away, but the potential that a lot more were going to leave. We saw the reporting of that around the country, federal prosecutors having real concerns that the president was going to intervene with what's going on there. But at the end of the day, this is a president who wants his Justice Department to protect him and to punish his perceived enemies, right? And I'm told that he was fuming, he was so much more angry about Andrew McCabe not being prosecuted than he was about anything that William Barr said. Just the idea was, "Hey, let's go after these guys."
CHUCK TODD: Why does he always want to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?
DANIELLE PLETKA: Because that's Donald Trump --
CHUCK TODD: -- It’s amazing.
DANIELLE PLETKA: No, he can't help himself --
CHUCK TODD: His approval rating likely will probably go down from this. We know this, the Trump skeptic voter, right, sits there and says, "I like the economy. I like these things. Stop tweeting. Stop doing these things." And those are the ones that go back to disapproving him.
DANIELLE PLETKA: But I just want to, I want to draw us back to something that I think should concern everybody. And that is that these are norms that were beginning to be eroded before Donald Trump. Donald Trump just takes that ball and runs with it. The IRS going after people who the president doesn't like. President Obama being rebuked by James Comey for being perceived to have prejudged the Clinton email investigation. These don't rise to the level of what Donald Trump has done, but they, they create this appearance of -- what did Donald Trump call himself? "The king," right? You don't want a president who is “the king.” I don't want --
MARÍA TERESA KUMAR: We're not a monarchy.
DANIELLE PLETKA: Right. I don't want Barack Obama to be my king. I don't want Donald Trump to be my king.I don't want any of them to be my king.
EUGENE ROBINSON: And we really don't want a Justice Department that is seen as politicized.
MARÍA TERESA KUMAR: Exactly right --
EUGENE ROBINSON: I’ve lived in countries where that was the case.
CHUCK TODD: Let me ask you this.
EUGENE ROBINSON: We don't want that. It's hard to get it back.CHUCK TODD:I kind of think --EUGENE ROBINSON:It's hard to get it back.
CHUCK TODD:-- we're in a situation that we may need to come up with different ways that we appoint an attorney general. Do we need to come up with a five-year term? Do we need to separate it out from presidential terms?
DANIELLE PLETKA: Interesting question.
CHUCK TODD: I mean, I just throw that out there because the public isn't going to feel good about this. It doesn't matter --
PETER ALEXANDER: The Justice Department has to be objectively fair but also to have the perception of fairness right now. And if nothing, if we know nothing else, it's that the perception is clearly lost.
MARÍA TERESA KUMAR: But Eugene really hit on something. We have experienced countries where the press is under, constantly under attack and scrutiny and the Justice Department is constantly under attack and scrutiny. And I have to say, my family fled Colombia. The only thing that kept it as a democracy was the fact that their judges were fair and the, and the press was fair and told the truth. Those were also the most dangerous jobs in that country.
EUGENE ROBINSON: Yes. Yes.
CHUCK TODD:All right, guys. Thank you. What a - nice to have a couple of robust discussions today. We got them both in. That's all for today. Thank you for watching. It's been great to be in Iowa and New Hampshire, but it's great to be here, too. We'll be back next week right after the Nevada caucuses. We hope they have results. Because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.