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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, waiting for Mueller.

GEOFF BENNETT:

The Washington waiting game goes on.

BRETT BAIER:

We're waiting for the Mueller report.

ALISYN CAMEROTA:

They're waiting for Robert Mueller's report.

CHUCK TODD:

With Robert Mueller said to be wrapping up, still, so many unanswered questions. What did President Trump know about the infamous Trump Tower meeting? Was there coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia? And most of all, why does it seem the president does not want to get to the bottom of what Russia did? We'll break it all down with Neal Katyal, acting solicitor general under President Obama; Sol Wisenberg, deputy independent counsel under Ken Starr; Democrat Jim Himes of the House Intelligence Committee; and Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, one of the Republican House managers in the Clinton impeachment hearing. Also, that Coast Guard lieutenant charged with plotting to kill Democratic politicians and journalists.

ROBERT HUR:

The sheer number and force of the weapons that were recovered from Mr. Hasson's residence, in this case, coupled with the disturbing nature of his writings, appear to reflect a very significant threat to the safety of our community.

CHUCK TODD:

How widespread is this kind of violent white nationalism? And why did the government stay quiet about the arrest? My guests this morning, former Homeland Security Secretary, Jeh Johnson. And off and running.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Our campaign is about transforming our country.

CHUCK TODD:

Bernie's back. Democrats are out in force in the early voting states. And we're already seeing some surprises. Joining me for insight and analysis are NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell; Republican strategist Al Cardenas; Heather McGhee, senior fellow at Demos; and Lanhee Chen of Stanford University. 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. We're going to take a look, today, at what to expect when you're expecting the Mueller report. From the moment Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel, nearly two years ago, Washington has existed in a kind of political limbo. The White House has been working overtime to discredit the investigation, while Democrats are dreaming of a Watergate-like gotcha moment. The wide range of expectations reminded us of those hurricane model maps, with projections forecasting landfall anywhere from Florida to New York and anything from catastrophic to the benign. So we decided to track Mueller-report projections. Many Democrats are hoping it's a category-five whopper, a direct hit on Washington, D.C., taking down President Trump, and spawning more storms and tornadoes that impact other Trump confidantes. That is one possibility. Another is that Hurricane Mueller sideswipes the White House and, instead, makes landfall on 5th Avenue in New York, damaging only Mr. Trump's foundation and business empire. And then there's the model Republicans likely are hoping for, the dud of a storm that turns and goes out to sea, leaving Mr. Trump saying, "I told you so," and Democrats wet and embarrassed. Whatever happens, we know the Mueller report will not be turned over to Attorney General William Barr this week, as many have expected. When the report is made available, in some form, to the public, the question is, how many of our unanswered questions will finally be answered?

REPORTER:

Should the report be made public, you think?

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

I guess, from what I understand, that will be totally up to the attorney general.

CHUCK TODD:

The Russia probe has led to indictments of 34 individuals and produced six guilty pleas. But as the nation waits for Robert Mueller to deliver his report on Russian influence in the 2016 election, a host of questions remain, including a number of known unknowns. Among them, question one, what did Mr. Trump know about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians connected to the Kremlin? And when did he know it?

REPORTER:

When did you learn about the Don, Jr., meeting, Mr. President?

CHUCK TODD:

Question two, why did former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort share polling data with Russian, Konstantin Kilimnik?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Here's the campaign chairman, meeting with someone believed to be associated with Russian intelligence, offering polling data. Why is that being provided to the Russians? And why are they lying about it?

REPORTER:

Did you know that Paul Manafort was sharing polling data from your campaign with the Russians?

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

No. I didn't know anything about it, nothing about it.

CHUCK TODD:

Question three, was President Trump compromised by his business dealings with Russia, including attempts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow? His former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, facing jail in just over two months, has been providing information to federal prosecutors in New York about the Trump Organization and will testify before three congressional committees this week.

MICHAEL COHEN:

The man doesn't tell the truth. And it's sad that I should take responsibility for his dirty deeds.

CHUCK TODD:

Question four, who directed former national security advisor Michael Flynn's contacts with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak on sanctions in December 2016? Why did Flynn lie about the conversations? And what did Mr. Trump know about them?

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Some people say he lied. And some people say he didn't lie. I mean, really, it turned out, maybe, he didn't lie.

CHUCK TODD:

Question five, who at the Trump campaign directed Roger Stone to get information about upcoming WikiLeaks disclosures against the Clinton campaign? And did anyone connected to the Trump campaign help WikiLeaks curate the emails? Five days after Stone communicated with WikiLeaks through an intermediary…

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.

CHUCK TODD:

And there are more questions. Will anyone else be charged? Will President Trump be subpoenaed? Why has the president obfuscated, attacked, and misdirected, if he has nothing to hide? Why doesn't the president want to get to the bottom of what Russia did? And finally, the biggest question of all, was there, quote, "collusion," a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia?

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. There was no anything. So that's the nice part. There was no phone calls.

CHUCK TODD:

The president's lawyer has been less definitive.

RUDY GIULIANI:

I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign.

CHRIS CUOMO:

Yes, you have.

RUDY GIULIANI:

I have no idea. I have not. I said the president of the United States.

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now are Neal Katyal, the acting solicitor general under President Obama; and Sol Wisenberg, who was deputy independent counsel under Ken Starr. Welcome to both of you. All right, you're my counselors for this. Neal, let me start with you. We've got a lot of open threads here. What is Mueller potentially – could still do that the president should be concerned about before submitting this report?

NEAL KATYAL:

I mean, Mueller can do a lot. So he’s only at the, you know -- he's done some things. We know he's indicted 37 people and 199 different counts, including Trump's inner circle, people like Michael Flynn, his national security advisor; Paul Manafort, his campaign manager; Michael Cohen, his personal lawyer. So if this is a witch hunt, Mueller's found a coven at this point. And looking forward, there are still targets, the smaller ones, like, Jerome Corsi, who said he's going to be indicted, expects to be indicted, and then some potentially bigger fish, as well, both on the indictment front. And then you have questions about, what's the report going to say and the like.

CHUCK TODD:

And I want to get to that. Sol, Rudy Giuliani said he hasn't heard from the special counsel's office now, I think, he said, in about a month, since they turned in the answers to their questions. The lack of communication, should that make the president nervous?

SOLOMON WISENBERG:

I don't think it should make him nervous. But in answer to one of your, your questions to Neal, I think that -- it's difficult for me to imagine that, let's take Donald Trump, Jr. If Mueller was going to indict Donald Trump, Jr., it's difficult for me to imagine that he would wait until after a report was filed to do that. So I think once that report is filed, you know, there won't be any more indictments, I think, from Mueller's shop, as opposed to Southern District of New York.

CHUCK TODD:

That's a different story.

SOLOMON WISENBERG:

That's a different story. And keep in mind, there are a lot of people who have been indicted. And there are a lot of people who pled guilty. But given Mueller's original charge, there's no American citizen living here, nobody associated with the Trump campaign, that's been indicted for criminally conspiring with the Russians, with respect to that campaign.

CHUCK TODD:

And I just want to reinforce, any -- you expect, if Mueller is going to have more indictments, they are going to come before this report. So if there's lying to Congress indictments, things like that, that would come before the report.

SOLOMON WISENBERG:

They would either -- they would be, they would be returned. Whether or not they'll be revealed, I don't know. But they'll be returned.

CHUCK TODD:

Neal, if there was the big election conspiracy to be charged, if he was going to charge this sort of giant election conspiracy, would we already have seen that charge? Or would that be the grand finale?

NEAL KATYAL:

No. It could be coming. And it could be something that, actually, someone else indicts, not Mueller. Mueller might do the setup piece for it. But look, we already have some of that information. I mean, Mueller has indicted Roger Stone for conspiring with WikiLeaks, which is a Russian front. He indicted Papadopoulos for lying about meeting with Russian agents, even before this email scandal became known, in April 2016. So we're starting to already see the outlines of a Mueller report that does look like he is alleging some sort of conspiracy. So I disagree with my friend, Sol, here, when he says, "Oh, there's no -- there’s nothing in these indictments about a Russian collusion, Russian conspiracy." There is.

SOLOMON WISENBERG:

Well, there are things in the indictment. But nobody has been indicted for actually conspiring with the Russians to violate the criminal law in connection with the investigation. They've been indicted for obstruction of justice. They've been indicted for witness tampering. And a lot of it relates to questions about the Russians. And that's something everybody should be concerned about and wonder about. But in terms of his original charge, and I'm not saying it isn't going to happen, I'm just saying it's a reality. It hasn't happened yet.

CHUCK TODD:

Is there a chance that -- does obstruction prove the collusion, potentially, in your mind?

NEAL KATYAL:

It sure comes pretty close. It's a really thin read to say, "Oh, you've been indicted for obstruction of justice about Russian collusion and not the Russian collusion itself." I mean, some people denigrate these as so-called process crimes. But anyone in law enforcement knows, these are really crucial crimes. Because it does obscure the search for the truth. Look at Mueller and how -- excuse me, look at Manafort and how much he's been lying and delaying the Mueller investigation by lying to him.

CHUCK TODD:

Where do you interpret that? How much should we interpret obstruction as, well, that might be some evidence of collusion, if they're obstructing it, the investigation?

SOLOMON WISENBERG:

Well, I don't denigrate it at all. I think it's serious. And I think you should wonder why people lie. It's an interesting feature of this administration that a lot of people connected with it lie when there's no apparent reason to lie. I mean, take a look at Michael Flynn. He had already told people, in the administration, that he was going to talk to the Russians in the transition period.

CHUCK TODD:

And he apparently took Andy McCabe he knew they were listening.

SOLOMON WISENBERG:

And then he reads a story in the Washington Post that says he's under investigation for the Logan Act and tells something that, allegedly, is untrue to Vice President Pence and then lies to the government about it. Why? Why? That’s a big -- it's a big mystery, why some of the people did lie. But yes, we should absolutely be concerned about it.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I want to talk about the report. Neal, you wrote the regulations, now, about these reports. So let me put up number one, Mueller's report to Barr. And here's what it says in the regulation. "At the conclusion of the special counsel's work, he or she shall provide the Attorney General with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the special counsel." Confidential report, that means no one's going to see it. What was your intent?

NEAL KATYAL:

Yeah, so the idea was there was going to be law enforcement, sensitive material in there. And in general, you wanted that report to be confidential. However, when you're dealing with potential wrongdoing by the president of the United States, if Mueller finds information out that says this, absolutely, the attorney general, here, Barr, has the discretion to turn that report over to Congress. And indeed, he has to. The overall intent of the regulations have said, time and time again, is public confidence in the administration of justice. And any sort of suppressed report about presidential wrongdoing will flunk that test.

CHUCK TODD:

Now, Sol, let me read part two here, which is Barr to Congress. Because I'm curious how you would interpret this and how you think Bill Barr might interpret this. It says this. "The Attorney General will notify the chairman and ranking minority member of the judiciary committees of each House of Congress with an explanation upon conclusion of the special counsel's investigation." An explanation could be anything. What is -- how would -- how do you think Bill Barr will interpret that?

SOLOMON WISENBERG:

Well, you know, it's an interesting conflict, potentially, between the plain language of the regulations and the intent of the framer here, who sees a little more in it, maybe, than the plain language. I think Barr has great discretion as to how much he's going to reveal. But he's already said, "I'm going to reveal as much as I can." And one of the interesting questions is, how will Mueller present his report to Barr? Because Mueller, in my opinion, will do a very thorough report, which I think the regulations call for. And he can do it in a way, if he wants to, that makes it easier for Barr to release it to the public.

CHUCK TODD:

Will we see Bob Mueller testify in front of Congress?

NEAL KATYAL:

It's certainly possible. So I think, I think there'll be pressures against that, because of privilege and so on. But all of those pressures, and this is one of the reasons the regulations initially said, "confidential." There are protections like 6(e), grand jury material sources, and methods and the like. We're in a different world than when those regulations were written because the Republicans have pierced all of that stuff. They've turned over fast and furious information, FISA surveillance warrants, and the like. So there will be a lot more pressure on Mueller to give all of the information to Congress.

CHUCK TODD:

And Sol, what does Bill Barr do, when the president says he wants to read the report?

SOLOMON WISENBERG:

I think it's perfectly fine if the president reads the report.

CHUCK TODD:

Before Congress or anybody else sees it?

SOLOMON WISENBERG:

I don't see any problem with that. The problem will be if the president orders Barr to do or not to do something about the report. That's when you'll have a problem. And I don't think Barr will stand for that.

CHUCK TODD:

Neal Katyal, Sol Wisenberg, thank you for providing some expertise to what is a very confusing situation, sometimes. Thank you, guys. It is possible, of course, that the Mueller investigation could lead to impeachment proceedings against President Trump. 20 years ago, after President Bill Clinton was impeached, Arkansas Congressman Asa Hutchinson was one of the Republican House managers and presented an obstruction of justice case to the entire United States Senate.

[BEGIN TAPE]

REP. ASA HUTCHINSON:

It is simply any corrupt act or attempt to influence or impede the proper functioning of our system of justice. It is a criminal offense, a felony. And it has historically been an impeachable offense. The obstruction of justice is of great consequence and significance to the integrity of our nation, when committed by anyone, but particularly by the chief executive of our land, the president of the United States.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Well, joining me now is Asa Hutchinson, who is now the governor of Arkansas and a former member of Congress. And from Stamford, Connecticut, is Democratic Congressman Jim Himes, who sits, currently, on the House Intelligence Committee. Welcome to both of you. Governor, let me start with you.

REP. JIM HIMES:

Good morning.

CHUCK TODD:

Simple question here. Obstruction of justice, if that is among the chief charges against President Trump, that was something that you brought to the United States Senate against then-President Bill Clinton. How serious, in your mind, is an obstruction of justice charge against a president of the United States?

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON:

Well, it's very serious, of course. And that's one of the reasons we pursued that back in President Clinton's impeachment trial. But you also have to remember, it's a very high bar. As that was presented, there was not a sufficient vote in the Senate to convict on that. And the American public, they look at any charge against the president of the United States with great scrutiny, as they should. So it's a very high bar. And in this instance, I think that's probably one of the most interesting aspects of the anticipated Mueller report, as to what form it would be in. You've got to remember that, first of all, Kenneth Starr, in his independent counsel review, four-year investigation that was preceded by Robert Fiske. This one is less than two years. And so it's being presented. Will there be specific itemization of crimes that could constitute an impeachable offense? That was the outline with Kenneth Starr. I don't anticipate that happening in this instance. But that will help guide and direct Congress as to what the report says on that.

CHUCK TODD:

Congressman Himes, what are you exp — what are you looking for from this report? And is it, is it an automatic that we're going to see at least an inquiry into impeachment?

REP. JIM HIMES:

Well, first and foremost, what I'm looking for is, you know, a report that, that, that gets to the truth and that gets out there. And this is really important. You know, in the preface of your show, you said, "Democrats are hoping for this, and Republicans are hoping for that." And look, it's a political world. So I do think people have their hopes. But more than anything else, you know, the question of the Russian interference and the possibility of collusion by the president and his people has twisted our politics into something unrecognizable for the last two years, including behavior on the part of the president, attacking the F.B.I., attacking Bob Mueller. You know, everything about this has become political. The way to end that, of course, is for the truth to be out there. And if that truth indicates that President Trump committed no crime, impeachable or otherwise, so be it. If it indicates that he did, that's a much more complicated world. But first and foremost, given that we've been on the edge of our seats for the last two years on this issue, everyone in this country needs to know what happened. And then we decide where to take it from there.

CHUCK TODD:

Governor, you said something interesting. You said you lamented the fact that there was -- you couldn't figure out a way to make the impeachment proceedings in the late '90s more bipartisan, which of course, on one hand, you think, "Well, of course you couldn't." But I understood what you meant. Meaning -- but you couldn't even get bipartisan cooperation for the mechanics —

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON:

That's right.

CHUCK TODD:

— of it. All right. How do you convince your fellow Republicans, today, that that was a mistake that Democrats made with you? Don't make the same mistake, if Democrats go down this road.

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON:

First of all, you have to try. And that's a big part of it -- is you have to have conversations as to, how should this be approached in a bipartisan way, how to deal with the Mueller report, both in terms of what should be disclosed, the timing of the disclosure, as well as, you know, what's the next steps? Of course, it all depends on what is there. And again, you know, this could be a, simply a report that does not outline any offenses against the president of the United States. Then you're going to wind up having investigations by different committees. It's going to wind up partisan, which is a disappointment. But I think you first have to try to say, "Let's communicate. What is the right thing to do here? What could be done in a bipartisan way?"

CHUCK TODD:

Congressman Himes, look, the House Intelligence Committee, to me, has proven pretty difficult to see bipartisan cooperation. We did see -- we've seen some on the Senate Intel side. Is there anything that has changed in the Intel Committee since the chairmanships changed?

REP. JIM HIMES:

Well, one obvious answer to that question is that the chairman is no longer Devin Nunes. And Devin Nunes, as chairman, of course, very early on, in the last Congress, sort of turned over his activities to being the defense of the president. And Devin is part focus that group. And it's not a huge group, but part of that group in the Congress that is really fully dedicated, facts be damned, to defending this president. And I sort of chuckle and Governor Hutchinson's optimism. And he's absolutely right. You know, we need to try to make this bipartisan in how we approach whatever comes out. It's more important today than ever. Because of course, today, facts are disputed. I mean, I remember the Clinton situation, in the '90s. There wasn't a lot of dispute about the facts. Now, each and every fact is disputed. And by the way, I'd point out that we're going to get, sort of, a feel for the partisan warping of our system this week. Because there will be a resolution in front of the House, saying that the president's emergency declaration, that his decision to spend money, contrary to the will of the Congress, is not constitutional. And you know, it's going to be quite a spectacle. Because a lot of the Republicans who were in the Obama administration, who called him a king and a dictator, and the pen and the phone was such a startling damaging thing to our Constitution, I suspect, are going to vote to not hold President Trump accountable for going around the Constitution on the issue of his wall.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, I've got two final questions for each of you. Congressman Himes, let me start with you. Michael Cohen's going to be testifying in front of your committee this week. What, specifically, are you looking for from him?

REP. JIM HIMES:

Well, you know, Michael Cohen is going to jail for lying to my committee. So obviously, step one is to re-ask him the questions that he felt he needed to lie to us about, when he, when he testified in the last Congress. So we're going to want to get to the truth, allow him to correct the record. And then, of course, the question is, okay, now that we know the truth, what are the follow-ups? It's going to be an interesting week in that regard. Because of course, he'll appear in my committee after he appears, publicly, in the Oversight Committee. So we'll also have an opportunity to ask follow-up questions. And remember, there's always some question here about whether Michael Cohen feared retribution for his testimony. I don't think he's going to say a lot that is classified. But he may have some things that he doesn't feel comfortable saying publicly that he then wants to say either to the Senate —

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

REP. JIM HIMES:

— or to the House Intelligence Committees, in closed session.

CHUCK TODD:

Governor Hutchinson, I want to actually ask you another question. Governor Larry Hogan — you're here for the National Governors Association. Governor Larry Hogan has lamented that the RNC seems to be rigging the rules to even prevent a challenge, a challenge — a Republican primary challenge to the sitting president. Do you think the RNC should -- look, let the chips fall where they may?

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON:

Well, this is President Trump's RNC, in the sense that he appoints the chairman. So obviously, there is something that is pro the White House and the administration. But obviously, in our system of democracy and in our party, anybody's free to make the challenge. Sometimes, it's a more difficult environment than others. In this case, with President Trump's record, with what he's accomplished, it would be very difficult for somebody to mount a successful challenge, at this point.

CHUCK TODD:

There is a debate in your party. Do you think that's a debate that should be had this cycle or not?

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON:

Well, you're always going to have a debate. But like I said, you know, there's people who criticize President Trump, because we don't like his style. You don't win campaigns on style. I mean, you might win. But in terms of challenging an incumbent —

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON:

— it's about policy and what you've accomplished. And what he's done, in terms of increased border security and the court, deregulating more authority to the governors, in terms of deemphasizing North Korea as a problem and resolving that, he's had tremendous success. And so that's the record that he would present. In the primary, it'd be difficult for anybody to challenge that.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Governor Asa Hutchinson, Republican from Arkansas, thanks for coming by.

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

And sharing your views. Congressman Jim Himes, Democrat from Connecticut, we'll be watching you this week for those Cohen hearings. And thanks for coming on, as well. Much appreciated.

REP. JIM HIMES:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, it's been a big week, as you know. And it'll be a big week, going forward. President Trump's headed to Hanoi. Michael Cohen's testifying before three congressional committees. And oh, by the way, the field keeps growing of Democratic candidates trying to challenge Mr. Trump. Panel is next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panel is here. Lanhee Chen, director of Domestic Policy Studies at Stanford University; Heather McGhee, a senior fellow over at Demos; NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell; and Republican Strategist Al Cardenas, in his last Sunday of bachelorhood. Yes, I said that out loud.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Oh, congratulations.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I'm going to start with Mueller report here. First, we got Mueller Saturday. We didn't have a Mueller Friday. Paul Manafort's sentencing memo, not a lot of news in here. But I've got to read -- the government literally threw the book at Manafort. "His deceit, which is a fundamental component of the crimes of conviction and relevant conduct, extended to tax preparers, bookkeepers, banks, the Treasury Department, the Department of Justice National Security Division, the F.B.I., the Special Counsel’s Office, the grand jury, his own legal counsel, members of Congress, and members of the executive branch of the United States government. In sum, upon release from jail, Manafort presents a grave risk of recidivism." I would say the government is pretty much done with Paul Manafort. But let me start the conversation this way. David Graham wrote this yesterday in The Atlantic. "Mueller's report, or whatever version of it the public sees, will be an important document, whenever it emerges. But it needn't and probably won't radically change anything about the basic story. You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. And you don't need a special counsel's report to know what kind of president Trump is." Lanhee?

LANHEE CHEN:

We are in an environment where people have made up their minds. They, you know -- in the absence of some spectacular revelation in this report, people are going to argue it exactly the way we think they're going to argue it. Republicans will argue it their way. Democrats will argue it their way. The 2020 candidates will look at it their way. I tend to agree that this report, at the end of the day, is a political document more than anything else.

HEATHER MCGHEE:

I think it's also an historical document, though. You know, maybe it's being one of the -- probably, the youngest person in the panel here. But I think about this. What am I going to tell my children about this period of time? And if we just think about what the talking heads and the politicians are going to say right now, I think we're doing a disservice to the long course of history of this country. This is an amazing amount of abuse of power, lies from left and right, the administration, and the campaign. We have to have a long view of the reckoning that this -- that we have to take after the Mueller report, after this administration is over.

AL CARDENAS:

Yeah. I think the following. A lot of, a lot of important people in this country's tweets have posted heretofore will not wear well. That's a prediction. And number two, I think that Mueller's investigation has already done a lot of good for America, in terms of talking about Russia, its involvement in the campaign, opened up other resources that are dealing with that. And a lot of people who are bad people surrounding the president of the United States have been indicted or convicted. Lastly, I will say this. I don't think the president will be indicted. You know, I kind of made up my mind on that, when they agreed to answer, in writing, a lot of important questions that the Mueller investigation sent them. You don't normally do that, if you feel like you're in serious threat of an investigation. And lastly, I think the Mueller report will end in unfinished business, you know, whether campaign violations, in terms of opposition research that Stone and others got from foreign governments. There's going to be a lot to look into. And I couldn't agree more with Heather. I think this will be a bar set where people are going to compare conduct in the future with what happens.

CHUCK TODD:

Andrea, I think the real question is going to be, how serious is obstruction of justice to the members of Congress? That's what I think we're going to find out.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And perjury. These are not process infractions. This goes to the heart of our criminal justice system. I agree with Heather. We have let people normalize really criminal behavior and bad behavior and abnormal behavior through tweets, through branding, basically. These are experts on branding. And you know, as Neal Katyal said, if this is a witch hunt, they found a coven so far, 37 indictments, as he just said here, on the program. This cannot be let to stand. And I also would caution that, going forward, in 2020, we do not know what impulses now, in social media, are being programmed from Moscow. And we've seen the forensics of what happened in 2016. And I see a lot of the things that are going viral. And I am now so suspicious about anything that we are reading.

CHUCK TODD:

Lanhee, can I ask this? It's just a simple question. Why isn’t -- why aren't there more Republicans suspicious of the president, because he just doesn't seem to want to get to the bottom of what Russia did? Like, he never says, "I'm looking forward to the special counsel's report." Because remember, one of the things he was charged with doing is trying to figure out what the heck the Russians did.

LANHEE CHEN:

I think it comes back to the politics. I think, given the president has a 90% approval rating with Republican voters, I think most Republicans feel like questioning the president puts them at odds with their base. But it puts them at odds with someone with a very, very powerful microphone.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

But does it come back to Vladimir Putin, Lanhee? Is there something more sinister here? We don't know that.

LANHEE CHEN:

Clearly, the president not directly saying, "I look forward to the report," I mean, these are things that raise additional suspicion. There's no question about that.

CHUCK TODD:

I think even Richard Nixon wanted to -- at least publicly claimed he wanted the reports to be finished.

LANHEE CHEN:

But that's the issue as to why Republicans behave the way they behave. I mean, I think it's a fairly simple political calculus.

AL CARDENAS:

No matter what the report says, it will not make go away the suspicions about Putin, the president, and his family and their involvement.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And why people lie so much. What are they lying about?

CHUCK TODD:

I guess though -- can Democrats not -- let me ask you this. You talked about it for a story -- because I've thought about this. Will Democrats regret if they don't open an impeachment investigation? You know what I mean by that?

HEATHER MCGHEE:

It's important, right? And we can have, you know, Bill Clinton impeached for obstruction of justice about a sexual affair. These are things that could amount to treason against the United States, certainly, a conspiracy against the interests of the United States. And it’s just whether or not, and you know Democrats are often looking at what the polls are. But whether or not it's going to be a winning case in the Senate, whether or not it's going to be something that any Republicans will get on, although I think we need to be watching Mitt Romney in Utah. Utah is a place that Donald Trump is not very popular. Whether or not it succeeds, these are people who took an oath to the Constitution. And I think that they have to, in the long course of history, say, you know what --

CHUCK TODD:

What is the unintended consequence, if they don't do it.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

But aren't they afraid, looking back and Newt Gingrich and what happened to Republicans in the midterms, that's a political argument. And that may be trumping everything else.

AL CARDENAS:

The Republicans will not fare well by whitewashing this investigation or by taking on Mueller. Mueller's reputation in the country seems impeccable, in spite of all the hits he's taken. And if he becomes a target, that will inure to our detriment. And then lastly, I'm fascinated by how the attorney general is going to react to the report.

CHUCK TODD:

I am, too. Because I think he's more bulletproof than you think right now from the president. You can't fire a second attorney general this quickly.

AL CARDENAS:

Yeah, exactly.

CHUCK TODD:

Anyway, when we come back, the arrest, this week, of that Coast Guard lieutenant, who stockpiled weapons, allegedly, to kill as many people as possible. And our tax dollars were paying his salary. Why did it take so long for us to learn about it and for President Trump to even respond to it?

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. On Wednesday, we learned that a Coast Guard lieutenant and a white nationalist had stockpiled a huge cache of weapons with a very specific intent, to kill as many Democratic politicians, journalists, and, quote, "leftists in general," unquote, as he could. It wasn't until Friday afternoon, a week after this man's arrest, that President Trump, who had tweeted about everything from so-called fake news to the wall to the actor, Jussie Smollett, that the president finally commented on this case, and then, only when asked.

[BEGIN TAPE]

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

I think it's a shame. Yeah, I think it's a very sad thing, when a thing like that happens. And I've expressed that. But I'm actually getting a very complete briefing in about two hours.

REPORTER:

Do you think that you bear any responsibility for moderating your language, when it comes to that?

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

No, I don't. I think my language is very nice.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now to talk about this case of alleged domestic terrorism is the former Homeland Security secretary, Jeh Johnson. Mr. Johnson, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SEC. JEH JOHNSON:

Chuck, thanks for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

So the most unusual aspect about this is the fact that it seemed to take 72 hours before the public knew. What, and maybe you can explain, given that it was a Coast Guard lieutenant. Why did it take so long to go public? And why did the government look as if it was almost underplaying this a little bit?

SEC. JEH JOHNSON:

Well, first, Chuck, I think it is important to note that the Coast Guard, in general, is an outstanding military service. I think I know something about the Coast Guard, because I was their civilian oversight.

CHUCK TODD:

It’s part, I was just going to say, it's part of Homeland Security, not the Pentagon, in case folks don't realize that.

SEC. JEH JOHNSON:

Correct. And there's no deep, dark violent extremist group residing within the Coast Guard. This individual was truly an exception. And I still am remarkably proud of the work the Coast Guard does. There are various different reasons why an arrest, a criminal investigation, may not come to light right away. I don't have a good explanation of why it took 72 hours. I am glad that the investigators did uncover this individual's writings on his government computer, which, in and of itself, is remarkable, and the fact that he's been arrested. So that's the good-news story here. Hats off to the investigators for uncovering this before anything bad could happen.

CHUCK TODD:

I guess the question, though, that I immediately have is, how did somebody with this ideology get into the Coast Guard, number one, stay in the Coast Guard, number two? And apparently, if he was doing this stuff at his work computer, how did anybody not notice?

SEC. JEH JOHNSON:

Well, first, rightly so, when you enlist in the military, when you go to a military academy, when you go to basic training, we don't ask, you know, "What is your political leaning?" We don't probe political thoughts. The U.S. military, our services, should be apolitical. And for the most part, they are. They're apolitical. And they're remarkably professional. So to go down the road of probing people's views on things is a dangerous road. We do, I think, need to do a better job of rooting out people who harbor extremist views that could turn to violence. And again, I think the good-news story here is that we did, in fact, uncover this individual's plans and his hatred before he was able to act on it.

CHUCK TODD:

There has been some controversy in the past. The Homeland Security administration that you ran and the one previous to you wanted to identify what was a rise in what they thought was domestic terrorism threats, white nationalism. In fact, let me just show, in 2016, DHS had 41 employees and a $21 million budget to counter violent extremism. In 2018, it's eight employees. And the budget's less than $3 million. But the debate seems --

SEC. JEH JOHNSON:

That's going in the wrong direction.

CHUCK TODD:

The debate seems to be, though, that what conservatives argue is that, "Hey, you're trying to police speech," that this isn't, this isn’t the same as, say, countering violent radical Islamic extremists.

SEC. JEH JOHNSON:

No. What the mission needs to be about is not policing speech, not curbing speech, not discouraging free speech and the expression of ideas, but building bridges to communities from which terrorist organizations or hate groups might seek to recruit. And that was something I spent a lot of time on, when I was secretary. It eventually became the centerpiece of my counterterrorism mission. And I was glad that the Congress, in 2016, actually funded Homeland Security's efforts to support local organizations in this, for example, a group based in Chicago called Life After Hate, which works with organization -- works with individuals who have left white supremacist groups. And I think that that's something that we need to rededicate ourselves and focus on even more now.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, there was a troubling New York TimesMagazine story about this issue of white nationalism. And it noted this. "In 2017, there were 65 incidents, totaling 95 deaths. Roughly 60 percent of these incidents were driven by racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-government, or other right-wing ideologies. Left-wing ideologies, think radical environmentalism, were responsible for 11 attacks. Muslim extremists committed just seven attacks." The point is, there seems to be a threat of white nationalism. And law enforcement doesn't know how to tackle it. Is that because of the politics?

SEC. JEH JOHNSON:

Well, I hope not. Very definitely, there is a rise in the levels of extremist, violent behavior directed not just at people based on race, but I think what's new is, directed at people perceived to occupy a certain political ideology --

CHUCK TODD:

More of an ideology.

SEC. JEH JOHNSON:

-- list, you know, for example, this lieutenant's personal belongings included the list, much like the pipe bomber that was arrested. And that is, and that is new. And so without policing speech, without policing thought, in a free and open, democratic society, traditional law enforcement, and through efforts to build bridges in communities needs to continue. Because this is truly a difficult nut to crack. And the levels of hatred and violence that we see are going up. The ADL points out that anti-Semitism in this country is going up now. And it's got to start at the top, Chuck. You know, leaders lead. And people really do listen to their leaders. And the level of dialogue is deviating downward. The civility of our dialogue is deviating downward, such that individuals, like this Coast Guard lieutenant, feel emboldened and, perhaps, even entitled to take matters into his own hands and carry out acts of violence.

CHUCK TODD:

So you're basically saying, because the president doesn't condemn this, and because the president doesn't want to take the lead on this, there's not much government can do, until he does?

SEC. JEH JOHNSON:

I think it's incumbent upon all our leadership, across the spectrum, to lower the levels of our -- to raise the levels of our civil discourse, discourage violence, call it out wherever it might exist on the political spectrum.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I've got to ask you very quickly, we're going to have this vote on whether this is an emergency at the border. There are some Democrats that have actually talked about removing some fencing at the border. Is it a national emergency? And would you actually be in favor of seeing less fencing than is there now?

SEC, JEH JOHNSON:

I am not in favor of seeing less fencing than there is now. I think that we need to continue our efforts at border security, smart border security, smart investments and use of the taxpayers' dollars in border security. I do not believe that it was appropriate for the president to invoke Section 2808 of Title 10. That is intended for military construction in support of a war or a national emergency, historically, overseas. And so this is really, in my judgement, trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Better to work with Congress and collectively come to the smartest, best solution.

CHUCK TODD:

Jeh Johnson, former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, thanks for coming.

SEC. JEH JOHNSON:

Thanks for having me on.

CHUCK TODD:

Good to see you. And thanks for sharing your views. When we come back, Florida, Florida, Florida. There's a big change in that most crucial of swing states. And it could help Democrats find new voters in 2020, or maybe not. That's next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Data Download time. Last November, Florida voters approved a measure giving most former felons their voting rights back. And in doing so, did they fundamentally alter the electoral map going into 2020 in the swingiest of swing states in the nation? The measure, known as Amendment 4, needed 60% to pass. And Floridians voted for it with 65% of the vote. As a result, up to 1.4 million new voters could be added to the rolls in Florida. Now, about a quarter of those former felons are African American, according to nonprofit group The Sentencing Project. The Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald analyzed what those voters could look like in the 20 biggest counties in the state, which hold more than 80% of Florida's voters. In these counties, 52% of those who lost their voting rights because of a conviction were Democrats. Only 14% were Republican. The rest, no party affiliation. Those numbers are a big contrast from the rest of the Sunshine State. 37% Democratic, 35% Republican, and the rest either minor or no party affiliation at all. So if you do the math, Democrats could see a net gain of several hundred thousand votes from the new amendment. And as we know in Florida, every vote matters. Since 2012, five of the last seven statewide races for either President, Governor, or Senate have come down to less than one and a half percentage points and 113,000 raw votes or less. Four of those five races were won by Republicans. So the data suggests Amendment 4 has the potential to be a game changer in Florida. Ah, the but. According to very early numbers, we're not seeing that shift just yet. Between December and January in Florida's ten largest counties, Democrats overall saw a net gain of 711 new registrations while Republicans saw a gain of 717. Potential is really the key word here. These are potential voters. But they have to be engaged enough to either one, register and two, show up and vote. And even then, there's no guarantee these folks are going to register or vote with their old party. That's just one more reason that come 2020 we'll be watching, you guessed it, Florida, Florida, Florida. When we come back, that confrontation between young kids and California senator Dianne Feinstein: what that viral video says about the growing tension within the Democratic Party.

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with End Game. And we had an interesting little viral video featuring Senator Dianne Feinstein and some activists on the issue of climate. It went viral. Let me show you guys a clip of what everybody has seen.

[BEGIN TAPE]

ACTIVIST:

The government is supposed to be for the people and by the people and all for the people --

SEN: DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

You know what's interesting about this group? I've been doing this for 30 years. I know what I'm doing. You come in here, and you say, "It has to be my way or the highway." I don't respond to that.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, that was kind of awkward, right? Well not comfortable. But here are some portions of what you did not see.

[BEGIN TAPE]

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Okay, I'll tell you what. We have our own Green New Deal piece of legislation. I will give you a copy of what we do support, and you can take a look at it. And if you've got a problem with it, you can let me know. But I think it has a much better chance of passing than what this is.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

I think a lot of people look at a lot of that, Andrea, and think, "Boy, she could have been more, less tone deaf in how to talk to the kids," and, "Who are the adults that are using kids to practice politics?" The whole thing was uncomfortable.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Very uncomfortable. And let me just say I think first of all, she is a leader on this subject. So why didn't they go after someone who's against climate change? She has legislation. She's saying, "I don't want to sign on to the Green New Deal because it's aspirational. It's not legislation. I'm working on something that's real." Also, who are the adults who bring their kids who don't understand this stuff? Seven-, eight-, nine-, ten-year-olds. I understand the passion of children and how important it is. But to ambush a senator this way. And again, her political skills, you know, were lacking in terms of the way social media conveyed this. But I just think, go after the critics. She has been, you know, stalwart on guns, on climate change, on all these other issues. And it just shows you the perils of social media. And also, I don’t, I really don't understand this type of activism.

HEATHER MCGHEE:

So I think this is a great topic for us to be talking about. First of all, those children in the Sunrise Movement, as it's called, which was started by young people, are sleeping outside of Mitch McConnell's office. So it's often, "Why are we attacking Democrats?" is what people say. But they're also absolutely --

CHUCK TODD:

The 80-20. You're 80% with but 20% against --

HEATHER MCGHEE:

Exactly. And --

ANDREA MITCHELL:

But they don't post videos though -- they haven't posted videos outside McConnell's office --

HEATHER MCGHEE:

They actually have, but they just haven't gone viral. So one of the things that I think is so important about this is that it's a difference of urgency. For someone who's seven years old -- we just sat here talking about the Clinton impeachment like it was yesterday. At that time, 20 years from now in the future, we will have all coral reefs gone in this country. It's something that I think most people who are thinking about their children right now -- and sorry I'm getting emotional. But Dianne Feinstein has been great. And she has been in office and not had the urgency that is required. This is an emergency in this country. It's an emergency on this planet. There's no higher responsibility of anyone who has any kind of political power right now than to try to stop a global catastrophe that's not happening in three generations. It's happening now.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

I agree with you though. But, Heather, she's got legislation she's working on.

HEATHER MCGHEE:

But it's not going to solve the problem.

AL CARDENAS:

Look, I don't even get there --

HEATHER MCGHEE:

-- it's not enough.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Is the Green New Deal going to solve the problem --

HEATHER MCGHEE:

Absolutely. The entire actual policy platform if you look at --

ANDREA MITCHELL:

No, I agree with the hopes behind it --

HEATHER MCGHEE:

-- the think tanks that have gone behind it --

ANDREA MITCHELL:

-- But don't you have to work on a bill --

HEATHER MCGHEE:

It's not a question of hopes. It's a question of: Is there going to be a reality for our children and their children's children? We can't say, "It's too aspirational." It's the planet.

LANHEE CHEN:

What you're seeing though, I mean, this is the pull of the 2020 Democratic primary process. I mean, this is where it's headed. The challenge is you've got so many people playing in this lane, in this lane around this Green New Deal that have endorsed it, that have said this is their policy preference. That's a very crowded lane in a 15-person field. And if you think about differentiation, because when you've got a 15-person field, you've got to think about your lane, there are an awful lot of lanes here, just the pure politics of this, not necessarily what might be the right policy --

HEATHER MCGHEE:

The Green New Deal is popular with --

LANHEE CHEN:

--the pure politics--

HEATHER MCGHEE:

--80% of Americans, why should there be multiple lanes on saving the planet?

LANHEE CHEN:

Well, it may be until they realize it means they're going to lose their health care, they're going to lose their transportation, everything that they care about. But let's talk for a minute --

HEATHER MCGHEE:

They’re gonna lose their national sovereignty when we have millions of climate refugees?

LANHEE CHEN:

-- about the politics. Because I think that there is an opportunity here for someone like an Amy Klobuchar, like a Joe Biden, like a Mike Bloomberg to come out and say, "Look, I think differently about this. I think there's a responsible way to approach these issues --"

AL CARDENAS:

Look, I don't even get to the merits of the policy. I mean, I can't agree more that we need to have focus on climate change. I just as a father of five children would have very much resented anybody in their school pounding my kids with propaganda either left or right as to any political issue. Teach them civility. Teach them the art of listening. Teach them the art of developing. But not stand in front of an elected official and yell at them.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

I agree with the policy. I just don’t -- it's the message --

CHUCK TODD:

I'm going to let you guys keep talking. I have to actually get off the air unfortunately. What a conversation. And I don't want it to end, but I have to. That's all I have for today. Thanks for watching. We'll be back next week because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press. And we'll still be debating this, I promise you. Thank you for watching.