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Meet the Press-February 25, 2018

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NBC News - Meet the Press

“02.25.18”

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, the debate over guns in America. Is this time different? After emotional pleas from survivors and family members who lost loved ones--

MELISSA BLANK:

We need a change.

ANDREW POLLACK:

Should've been one school shooting, and we should've fixed it.

SAMUEL ZEIF:

How have we not stopped this after Columbine, after Sandy Hook?

CHUCK TODD:

--President Trump signals he's open to change.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

Well, we're going to do a lot. But we are going to be very strong on background checks.

CHUCK TODD:

Some big-name Republicans break with the N.R.A. as the list of companies cutting ties with the gun lobby grows.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

Stand and unflinchingly defend the Second Amendment.

CHUCK TODD:

And a president pushes a controversial plan to arm some teachers.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

We have to harden our schools, not soften them up.

GOV. RICK SCOTT

I disagree with arming teachers.

CHUCK TODD:

Where is this debate really going? I'll ask Senator Pat Toomey, the Republican leader of the last bipartisan push for gun reform and Kentucky Republican Thomas Massie, a supporter of loosening gun restrictions. Plus, the latest way Russian Twitter bots are sowing division in our country. I'll talk to Senator Amy Klobuchar about the big tech companies that dominate our lives. Finally, Mueller's move, how nervous is the president? Another guilty plea and more indictments this week. Now the House Democratic memo is out and he's not happy.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

There is no collusion.

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me for insight and analysis are David Brody, host of Faith Nation on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Helene Cooper, Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, and former White House press secretary, Josh Earnest. 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. Right now, President Trump has an opportunity for one of those leadership moments on the issue of guns. But once again, he seems distracted by the Russia investigation. Apparently rattled by the release of a Democratic memo challenging Republican allegations of misconduct in the F.B.I.'s Russia probe, Mr. Trump sent out five tweets yesterday and felt the need to call into Fox News late last night to insist once again that there was no collusion, once again, that he did nothing wrong, and to once again, blame the election interference on President Obama.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

Because everybody's looking, there is no collusion. No phone calls, I had no phone calls, no meetings, no nothing. There is no collusion.

CHUCK TODD:

Phone calls, by the way, is a new denial for the president, as far as the specifics are concerned. The president may have reason to be rattled. In the last ten days, the Mueller probe has intensified with more indictments and more guilty pleas, plural. But the national conversation right now is on guns and the N.R.A. is the one in the hot seat, with more than a dozen companies cutting ties this weekend with the gun lobby.

The N.R.A. has lashed out at the boycott, calling it a "shameful display of political and civic cowardice." Still, you have a president with an A+ rating from the N.R.A. who says he's open to new gun restrictions, including one that the N.R.A. opposes.

And you have a Republican governor with an A+ rating from the N.R.A. defying the gun lobby and going further on gun control than Republicans went after Sandy Hook. There are few things more polarizing in this country than the gun debate. And both parties must now decide what, if anything, their bases can support or stomach.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

They want to do things that you wouldn't even believe, including taking your Second Amendment rights away.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump caught between a growing movement of grieving parents and students--

SAMUEL ZEIF:

How have we not stopped this after Columbine, after Sandy Hook?

CHUCK TODD:

--and its conservative base.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

The N.R.A., they're friends of mine, they backed us all. They're great people.

CHUCK TODD:

This week, Mr. Trump appeared open to modest gun reforms, including a bill that would reward states that improve reporting to the F.B.I.'s background check system, a ban on bump stocks, though that would likely be challenged in court, and raising the minimum age to buy an AR-15.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

We're going to work on getting the age up to 21 instead of 18.

CHUCK TODD:

The N.R.A. opposes that change. But faced with protests and boycotts--

STUDENT PROTESTORS:

Hey, hey, N.R.A. you (UNINTEL PHRASE).

CHUCK TODD:

--several Republican lawmakers, including Florida's governor, are bucking the gun lobby.

GOV. RICK SCOTT:

We will require all individuals purchasing firearms to be 21 or older.

CHUCK TODD:

But just like on immigration, where a long White House listening session produced little action, the devil is in the details. And Mr. Trump has so far refused to talk legislative specifics. Instead, pivoting the debate to arming teachers.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

The teacher would've shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened.

CHUCK TODD:

And that's not the only talking point Mr. Trump has borrowed from the N.R.A.

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

We must immediately harden our schools.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

And I want to harden the school too. Harden. Into a hardened, hardened, hardened, a hardened school.

CHUCK TODD:

According to a Pew poll last year, twice as many gun owners said they had contacted a public official on the issue of guns than non-gun owners. But there are signals Republicans in suburban districts may sense a change in the political climate. A Florida congressman, whose district Mr. Trump won by nine points, came out in favor of an assault weapons ban on Friday.

REP. BRIAN MAST:

I spent my life trying to defend this country and I can't stand to see the weapon that I carried, in defense of this country, used to kill kids.

CHUCK TODD:

Still, most red state and rural Democrats are wary of the gun issue, worrying it will energize the Republican base. Five senators who caucus with the Democrats voted against an assault weapons ban in 2013. And they're on the ballot this year. And Democrat Conor Lamb, running in the Pennsylvania special election, where voters go to the polls in just over two weeks, made it clear he does not want to run on gun control.

REPORTER:

So the majority of Americans who tell Pew and other pollsters that they're in favor of banning assault weapons, you do not support that?

REP. CONOR LAMB:

I do not support that.

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now is Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania – he was the Republican leader of the last bipartisan effort in Congress to reform gun laws, that of course didn’t pass. Senator Toomey, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

Morning Chuck, thanks for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with uh, your bill. And what we. Uh know about the shooter down in south Florida. There was a lot of information the school system had. There was a lot of information that were called into authorities about the mental stability or instability of this young man

SEN. PAT TOOMEY: Right.

CHUCK TODD:

But there’s no part of the law that would have mandated that information make it into the background check system. How would your bill deal with that?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

Uh, it wouldn’t. uh you know the fact is the bill that Joe Manchin and I introduced and that we still support, Chuck it’s not going to solve all the problems and we never suggested it would. And one of the challenges we face is what to do about someone who is clearly mentally deranged, but they haven’t acted out yet in a way that allows you to adjudicate them as dangerously mentally ill or they haven’t committed a crime. Clearly in this case there were all kinds of warning signs that were advertised, right? That were communicated. And nothing was done. That’s a problem. I think there’s an important discussion to be had about a temporary restraining order on somebody who’s evidencing some serious dangerous behavior. There would have to be due process. So that that couldn’t be used as a weapon against someone inappropriately. But, look, our legislation I think would be very constructive. I still support it. I’m not going to suggest it would solve all problems.

CHUCK TODD:

No I understand that. I guess the question then is, should school information be temporarily put in the system. So for instance, he was expelled. Does the fact that he was expelled. Do you put that in the system say for a five year period? So that, you know, he could be caught in the system. maybe an extra…maybe an extra interview by the FBI. Or an extra interview by authorities if he attempts to purchase a weapon?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

Yeah I’m not sure that expulsion from school is sufficient. I imagine there could be all kinds of…cheating on a test for instance, you know I don’t know what kind of circumstances might cause an expulsion, that really doesn’t suggest that this is a dangerous person who shouldn’t have second amendment rights. So I’m not sure that’s the right criteria. But look, we have a lot of gun sales in America today, for which there is no background check whatsoever. And this is one of the things that Senator Manchin and I are trying to address. Let’s at least require a background check for all commercial sales. That’s what our legislation attempts to do by requiring background checks at sales at gun shows, or over the internet. Um, we’d also, our legislation would encourage states to provide the information to the background check system so that the information would be there. And we also create a commission to study this kind of, these these massacres, this mass violence. I think it’s overdue, and I still hope we can succeed with another run at it.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator John Cornyn the Republican- the number two Republican in the Senate. He has a fix NICS bill. He says basically, whether it is your measure or even another that the President wants to put out there, raising the age, on getting assault weapons to 21. That it doesn’t have the votes in the Senate. Is he right? Does your bill not have the 60 votes?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

We don’t know the answer to that, Chuck. I’ve spent a lot of hours on the phone and uh, communicating in other ways with my colleagues this week. Uh, I do think there are some members who were not supportive in the past who are reconsidering. I haven’t got anyone who said “Yes, sign me up Pat.” But there are definitely members who are reconsidering. The President’s expression of support for strengthening our background check system is very constructive. Our president can play a huge and in fact probably decisive role in this. So I intend to give this another shot.

CHUCK TODD:

Uh, let me ask you this. On uh, on the idea of raising the age on assault weapons from 18 to 21. Are you personally supportive of that?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY: Uh, I’m very skeptical about that. Because the vast majority of 18, 19, 20, 21 year olds are law abiding citizens who aren’t a threat to anyone. So I’m skeptical about that. I- I- I’m willing to hear the other side on this, but I’m skeptical.

CHUCK TODD:

Uh, go. What about the AR-15 specifically. I mean, is there an argument to be made that something that powerful you know, you could make an exception for some hunting rifles, but something, something that powerful.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

Here’s the problem, Chuck. There's a lot of hunting rifles that are as powerful as an AR-15. The difference between the AR-15 and an awful lot of commonly sold rifles is just cosmetic. It's got a grip under the barrel and it’s painted black. That is uh, that doesn’t change its lethality.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to ask you about the failures of law enforcement down in South Florida. The failures, whether it’s the FBI, the Broward County Sheriff's Office, does that in your mind reinforce the notion that the background check system needs to be fixed? We need another fail safe because you can’t always count on law enforcement to be there, or does that reinforce this notion that more people need to be armed.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

Um, these are not mutually exclusive, Chuck. I think this is a case where an armed guard appears to have really really failed to do his job. As best as we know so far I think we need an investigation on that. But certainly I don’t think that would be the typical response of an armed guard. And it certainly is not the typical response of law enforcement and trained first responders we have all over the country. So I think having properly trained capable people in uh, vulnerable settings will enhance security, but I still believe that we absolutely should tighten up our background check system. So I think both are uh, you know sensible steps.

CHUCK TODD:

You’re opened to arm…having some teachers be armed?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

Under some circumstances. I’d leave it to the individual school districts and the states. I will tell you, in Pennsylvania there are school districts where there are a number of teachers who are extensively trained there. They’re ex-military. They would be comfortable and they would be...it would be suitable. I certainly wouldn’t impose it on a school that didn’t wish to do that.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to get you to respond to something that uh, the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre said in a speech over the weekend. Here it is.

(BEGIN TAPE)

WAYNE LAPIERRE:

The elites don’t care, not one whit about America’s school system. This growing socialist state dreams of manipulating school children to squeeze and squeeze information about their parents. And I sense your anxiety. And you should be anxious. And you should be frightened.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

You think the NRA has been playing a constructive role this week?SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

This is the first I’ve heard, and I don’t know what else Wayne LaPierre said, so that um, strikes me as a little bit conspiratorial in its tone, but again I don’t have it in the full context.

CHUCK TODD:

But I guess overall, I mean there has been this. A boycott that has, has gotten traction. And you know the NRA seems to be more defiant than wanting to talk about, um, the fact that hey, a lot of people want to have a different conversation on guns.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

Look, I mean I disagree with the NRA on this position. The NRA once held the position that I hold, which is that background checks at gun sales and any kind of commercial sale are appropriate. The NRA changed it’s position on that. I disagree with them. I think it would be terrific if the NRA were to come back to where it once was. And that would be very constructive.

CHUCK TODD:

Finally, have you been guaranteed that your bill is going to get a vote?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

No, uh. I’ll be speaking with Senator McConnell about, about that this week. You know, time on the Senate schedule is precious. Especially with our Democratic colleagues chewing so much of it up over non-controversial nominees, uh but if we’ve got uh 60 votes, I think that would be a very compelling argument to have a vote, and I think I think we would. CHUCK TODD:

Alright. Senator Pat Toomey, Republican from Pennsylvania. Thanks for coming on and sharing your views. Much appreciated.SEN. PAT TOOMEY:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Well not every Republican is on board even with some limited gun reform proposals that the President says he’ll support. After Mr. Trump proposed raising the minimum age to purchase the AR-15, Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie didn’t take long to tweet back at the President, quote, “Why should a 20-year-old single mom be denied the right to defend herself and her kids? We should lower the age to buy a handgun to 18 instead of raising the age to buy an AR-15. Sad.” In all caps there, a little tweak at the President’s use of that word. Well, Republican Congressman Massie joins me now. Congressman, welcome to Meet the Press sir.

REP. THOMAS MASSIE:

Thanks for having me on to talk about some serious solutions to these problems.

CHUCK TODD:

Well let me ask you this. What is-- you heard Senator Toomey, he wants to expand the background check system for all gun purchases. What’s wrong with that?

REP. THOMAS MASSIE:

Listen, my heart is breaking for the families in Florida. I have kids that go to public school. We had a school shooting here in Kentucky, and I’m a legislator who’s in a position to do something, but if I came home after proposing some of these things are so unserious and disingenuous that some of my colleagues are proposing as solutions to these school shootings, I couldn’t face my wife or my children. Now this-- but, I’ve not been in that situation of a school shooting, so this week I talked to two survivors of Columbine, and one of them, Evan Todd, related to me, his story of being in the library when the two shooters came in. He was the first one shot. He hid under a desk. They found him, and he pleaded for his life. Then he escaped from the library, ran outside and there were two police behind a shed, uh who had taken up a position. They weren’t going in. Now, he tells me that he forgives the adults that day. The legislators, the administrators and the police because they couldn’t foresee what was going to happen at Columbine. But he said it’s, you know, it’s a shame here we are 20 years later it’s still happening. And people are rolling out these same old solutions that will do nothing. And he supports my bill which is called the “Safe Students Act,” which will repeal the federal “Gun Free School Zone” act.

CHUCK TODD:

Alright, but what’s wrong with having multiple fail safes. That’s the part of this where I think that people get frustrated on this debate. You have people that say we don’t want to infringe upon anybody’s second amendment rights. But what’s wrong with an expanded background check, what’s wrong with maybe more cops at high schools?

REP. THOMAS MASSIE:

Well, you know I wish that background checks stopped criminals or stopped school shootings, but they don’t. They failed in Texas with the church shooting. They, they they’re failed in Columbine. Look the two students there-

CHUCK TODD:

Doesn’t, well wait a minute there. Doesn’t that mean the background check system is flawed? Isn’t that the issue here? That we’re not putting...

REP.. THOMAS MASSIE:

It’s absolutely---.

CHUCK TODD:

Well then why don’t… Because we don’t put any of the information in it. We’re not putting enough information in it.

REP. THOMAS MASSIE:

Well you’re trying to put. You’re trying to put lipstick on a pig. You’re trying to put lipstick on a pig. Look, you could put all the information you want in it, but the shooter in Connecticut who stole his mother’s firearms and shot her before he committed the crime wouldn’t-- isn’t going to be stopped by a background check. Neither were the two perpetrators in Columbine who got other people to buy the guns for them. One of them. One of the straw purchasers went to prison for that, because talk about the handgun, you know 21 age. The guy who went to prison he was 22. And he, he sold a handgun to one of the perpetrators who was 17. Look, people, criminals are going to get a hold of guns. We’ve got-- what we’ve got to look at is what’s the solution. The solution frankly, you could put more guards at schools if you have one guard it’s probably a waste of money because you’re just endangering that guard unless you have two guards. And anybody that is in security profession knows that. But what you need are some of the teachers who are armed. 98 percent of mass public shootings happen in a gun free zone. And we’ve labeled all of our schools as gun free zones. We need to take those labels off, and put our kids in that two percent category of being safe, instead of being in that 98 percent vulnerable category.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this. A majority of the country disagrees with you. Right, you have. We have 60- some 65 percent in a recent poll. And it’s been across the board, doesn’t matter which poll. That in general, the public would like stricter uh, regulation of gun sales, in some fo- form or another. You’re proposing weaker. I understand that. You’re from a rural state. And and so let me ask you this though. Shouldn’t that matter--

REP: THOMAS MASSIE:

Well you’re in a bubble. You’re in a bubble there.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this though. 65 percent of the country disagrees with you. Do you have a, do you have an obligation to legislate on behalf of them at all?

REP: THOMAS MASSIE:

You’re in a bubble. If you take out New York and California, 8 percent of Americans have concealed carry permits. And the people watching this show right now? There are a lot of them getting ready for church in middle America. Putting their guns on. Millions of them, they’re going to be carrying guns to church, and to family dinner after that, and they’re going to be safe. And so, you know all these things, these hypotheticals that come out of the bubble in DC or New York City or California. What if this happens, what if that happens. We don’t have to ask what if this happens. People are carrying every day.

CHUCK TODD:

I guess I go back to is what are you, what are you so opposed to expanding the background check sys- check system. Why do you make this argument that says, "Well, if you just pass more gun laws, it won't matter, criminals get it," then why do we pass any laws? Like, why do we pass laws on drugs, why do we pass laws on murder?

REP. THOMAS MASSIE:

Well, we should pass my law to repeal the Gun-Free School Zone Act. I call it the Safe Students Act. But, but look, those are, those are false senses of security. Like Evan Todd from Columbine, he's disgusted at these proposals because they wouldn't do anything. And in ten years, we're still going to have school shootings, unless you propose real legislation, like President Trump has proposed, that would allow teachers to be armed.

CHUCK TODD:

But you're in favor of that, but you're opposed to raising the AR-15 to 21?

REP. THOMAS MASSIE:

Oh, well that’s..that's ridiculous here. Think about this. You had a, a ban on assault rifles in 1999 when Columbine happened. The assault weapons ban lasted, the so-called ban, lasted from. The so-called assault weapons ban, lasted from '94 to 2004. Columbine fell right in the middle of that. The assault weapons ban would do nothing to stop school shootings.

CHUCK TODD:

Wow.

REP. THOMAS MASSIE:

84% of mass public shootings involve a firearm other than an assault rifle. So-called assault rifle.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that. But going back, you just think a background -- do you just think our background….Do you think our background check system, why do we bother with it at all?

REP. THOMAS MASSIE:

Well, you know what, it's flawed. Three million people, law-abiding citizens were denied a, denied a purchase since this has been put in place. But only about one in a thousand are prosecuted for trying to, quote, "buy a gun illegally." The reality is, most of those three million, 99.9% of them are actually law-abiding citizens who were denied a purchase because the background check system is flawed. It doesn't have the right information in there. It's got false information. And it disproportionately is biased against minorities. If you can get the information from the A.T.F., you would find that out.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, we have no gun research in this country at all because Congress in many ways has prevented that from happening. Congressman Massie--

REP. THOMAS MASSIE:

Well, I've got an inquiry into the A.T.F. to get that data.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Congressman Massie, I'm going to leave it there. Sir, thanks for coming on and sharing your views. Much appreciate it.

REP. THOMAS MASSIE: Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, much more on the corporate backlash facing the N.R.A. and what folks at one of the nation's largest gatherings of conservatives told us about the president's gun reform proposals. And later, why is the president so defensive about the Democrats' new memo on the Russia probe?

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, panel is here. Former White House press secretary and NBC News political analyst, Josh Earnest, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, Helene Cooper, Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times, and David Brody, host of Faith Nation on the Christian Broadcasting Network, co-author of his new book, The Faith of Donald J. Trump: A Spiritual Biography.

All right, before I turn the gun debate over to you, I want you to take a look at what we heard from some attendees at the CPAC Conference, influential, you know, conservative meeting here this week in the D.C. area. Here's how they reacted to some of the gun reforms the president is proposing.

CPAC ATTENDEE 1:

I don't believe schools should have a policy of arming teachers.

CPAC ATTENDEE 2:

Some teachers who would be willing to be armed is a reasonable request.

CPAC ATTENDEE 3:

I don't think anyone goes through to buy a gun and needs it right then and there.

CPAC ATTENDEE 4:

I think strengthening the background checks is a good idea.

CPAC ATTENDEE 5:

I believe that 18 should be the legal age.

CPAC ATTENDEE 6:

I agree in raising the age because I don't think, you know, my son when he was 18, I would never give him an AR-15.

CHUCK TODD:

Again, I want to reiterate, that was CPAC conference attendees. David, the N.R.A., they're getting hammered here on this boycott. And it's been effective I think because they've not shown a lot of empathy in the last ten days. And then perhaps even CPAC attendees have noticed.

DAVID BRODY:

No. The N.R.A. has been tone deaf. And they're going off of talking points that have been out there for a while. And they've got to figure out a way to update those. And now you have a president, for the first time a Republican president, who comes along as basically a Trump-publican, if you will. I mean, he's not a Republican, he's not a Democrat, he's somewhere in the middle, or who knows what he is, depending on what happens.

CHUCK TODD:

Depends on who's in the office, I think.

DAVID BRODY:

Well, and I'll just say this, but when it comes to guns, clearly he can lead here. It's an important moment for him. And I think there is a deal to be done.

CHUCK TODD:

There could be. But, you know, why am I a little skeptical?

HELENE COOPER:

Because we've covered this forever. I think you and I remember talking to you right after Sandy Hook and you laughed at me because I was like, "This is it. They're killing kindergarteners. Surely we're going to do something about it." And I remember you telling me, you were like, "No, this is not, you know, nothing's going to happen."

I never feel like I'm less of an American than when I listen to the gun control debate. Because what seems so obvious and what seems so rational and yet you just had a conversation between these two Republican guests who you had on there, talking about nipping at the edges, and it's all this stuff that we all know at the end of the day is probably not going to do that much to change anything. But it's still, if you can't even get that tiny, this tiny, tiny, tiny stuff. You know, how are we actually going to get anything real?

CHUCK TODD:

Josh, you were there during Sandy Hook and you saw the fight from Manchin-Toomey. I've always thought part of the reason why Manchin-Toomey failed was it didn't feel like a direct response to Sandy Hook. This time, we see how the background check system, if it had worked better, might have worked.

JOSH EARNEST:

Right. And certainly with the age limit being raised would also address the situation directly. I did think it was notable, and you mentioned this in the open, that Governor Scott was in a situation where he is actually taking a position that is contrary to the N.R.A. It's easy to imagine sitting around this table saying, "Governor Scott's never going to take any action on this, you know why? Because he's running for the United States Senate."

In fact, we're in a situation now where he is taking action on this because he is running for the United States Senate. So I'm not suggesting, Chuck, that I'm particularly optimistic that this Congress is going to get something done, but we are starting to see the politics on this shift in a way that leaves me more optimistic about the future.

CHUCK TODD:

Danny, that's what I think, if nothing legislatively changes this time, but the debate has shifted. The ground's shifted a little bit.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

I don't think there's any question the debate has shifted. The problem really is that we focus a lot on the N.R.A., which is I think out of touch. Sort of, you know, old-school, old talking points from the 1980s. But the reality is that the members of Congress, whether it's a Democrat-dominated Congress or a Republican-dominated Congress, are not taking these votes. We've got to ask ourselves why that is.

CHUCK TODD:

They don't want to take the votes, do they?

DANIELLE PLETKA:

But when they do, the reality is that these laws stay in place. So the problem is that we sit here, you know, we West Coast/East Coast elites talk about this. And I think we're, you know, we're probably in sync. We agree with Governor Scott, we agree something needs to be done. The problem is, there are a lot of actual Americans who live in places that don't agree.

CHUCK TODD:

Josh, do you think Democrats want an incremental? You know, it's interesting, base Democrats, will they accept incremental progress or will they kill it?

JOSH EARNEST:

Well, you know, this is one of the interesting things about this debate is that the vast majority of the problem exists on the Republican side. But there are problems on the Democratic side too. Republicans, many critics of President Obama have pointed out that Democrats were in charge of the United States Congress for the first two years of his presidency, and they didn't take any of these votes. And there's a reason for that. Because it wouldn't have passed, had they taken these votes, right?

But the other reason is that we--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

Harry Reid didn't want you to have that vote.

JOSH EARNEST:

That's right, yeah.

No, we were focused on preventing a second Great Depression, passing healthcare reform. So it's not as if we were focused on the wrong things, but the political dynamics here do portray that Democrats in some cases are not in the right place. The question is, what impact does that mean? What does it mean for Democrats? What should we do when we confront a candidate like Conor Lamb?

CHUCK TODD:

Right. I mean, look, Conor Lamb's in Western Pennsylvania saying one thing, and here's Pat Toomey the senator going, "Whoa, you know, let's do something."

DAVID BRODY:

But the issue here I think is that we've reached a tipping point, you know? In society we reach tipping points, in a marriage you reach a tipping point, enough of the lying, the cheat. Whatever it is. In the debate on guns, I think we've reached the tipping point here. Why? Yes, another shooting. At some point, just by osmosis, it just happens. It just happens. You see the poll results.

But then beyond that, I think eventually what you're going to have to see here is like what is going to happen going forward here? Because I believe that at some point, Republicans are going to have to figure this out. They have a president though that can lead here.

CHUCK TODD:

It's like, why not try?

HELENE COOPER:

We have a data point that's coming up on March 24th with this. You know, people are already talking about this national march on Washington. I'm very curious to see whether we are going to see thousands upon thousands of people coming up. But we're talking about it too. When we're talking about a tipping point, you, at some point, you know, you have to ask whether the voices of these kids, these kids who are going to the capitals, who are going, standing before Congress, who are standing before the White House, who--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

Look, we have a change. Brian Mast, a Republican member of Congress, not far from where the shooting took place, he came up with the assault weapons ban.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

But shockingly enough in Washington, it is reasonable to ask one question. The march is great, I agree with you, I think we have reached a tipping point. We all agree about these issues. Is this going to solve this problem? We have a debate about what we can all do politically to make the kids go away and to make the lobbyists go away. But what is going to solve this problem? And the answer is nobody wants to talk about that. Because it's unpalatable in the United States.

DAVID BRODY:

Well, and it's also cultural. And just real quick, mental health I think is going to be where this debate is going to go.

CHUCK TODD:

There's no doubt. But you can't do one without the other. And I think we all know that.

HELENE COOPER:

But that's where we get back to the whole middling around the edges thing again.

JOSH EARNEST:

You know, President Obama wrote an op-ed in January of 2016 basically suggesting that Democrats, if they care about this issue, need to be single-issue voters in the same way that N.R.A. supporters are. And I think that that really is going to be the question in this Conor Lamb race, right?

CHUCK TODD:

Is it real.

JOSH EARNEST:

Are we willing to give up a golden opportunity to enhance our chances in the midterm elections by voting against somebody who says they don't support an assault weapons ban? That's a question that Pennsylvania voters are going to have to ask themselves.

CHUCK TODD:

We will leave that there. Interesting way to leave the panel. When we come back, we're going to hear from a Democrat who's trying to crack down on how the fake news issue spreads online and ramp up Congress's role in policing social media. It's Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. She's next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. This weekend, we got to see House Democrats' response to Republican charges of misconduct in the FBI's Russia investigation. The Democrats' newly-declassified document defends the FBI's surveillance of former Trump Campaign adviser Carter Page and rebuts Republicans' highly-publicized memo alleging partisan bias at the Justice Department. Now, part of the reason that initial memo was so hyped? Kremlin-linked bots seeking to discredit the Russia investigation. The automated accounts, designed to amplify political divisions, sprang into action on social media, calling for that memo's release. And of course, they’ve also gotten involved in this gun debate as well, whether trying to create fake news or amplify fake news. Joining me now is Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. She’s introduced a bipartisan bill aimed at trying to police social media, at least on the advertising front. Senator Klobuchar, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

Thanks. It’s great to be on, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, let me start with this larger issue here of policing social media. I know your bill is an attempt to make digital ads part of the campaign finance laws that we have here, that they’re, that they’re regulated just the same, but can your-- would your bill have been able to regulate YouTube and keeping them from spreading this idea that one of the students was an actor, for instance, when it came to the, to the, to the gun activism?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

There are several fronts that we should be operating on here, Chuck. I mean, first of all, the thought of these innocent kids, they get no NRA money, they’re just out there telling the truth about what happened, leading to what I hope is going to be a seminal moment in our country, where we finally get Congress to act on some sensible gun legislation, they’re out there doing that, and at the same time, you have websites linked to Russia that are immediately, within hours, putting out fake things through bots, saying that these kids--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

--are paid actors, things that are totally false. Ok. So, one, come on Administration. Put those sanctions in place. They went through 98 to two against Russia for this very reason that they were messing around in our American elections. Secondly, on the bot front, separate from my legislation, these are the most sophisticated companies in America. They have brilliant people working there. I believe that they’ve got to put more resources, maybe it means they make less profits off of ads and other things--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

--but they’ve got to put the resources into Facebook and Twitter to stop these bots from dominating the accounts. There are literally tens of millions of these accounts out there right now--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

--on people’s pages.

CHUCK TODD:

How do you incentivize--

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

And the third thing is--

CHUCK TODD:

Go ahead, finish with your third point, sorry. I apologize.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

No, no, it’s just how do you incentivize it? Public pressure, Congress holding hearings, pushing them and pushing them, people realizing that these are fake people which I’m starting to see--

CHUCK TODD:

Should they be fined?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

--on my account.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, should they be fined? You know, in a superfund disaster--

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

Fined?

CHUCK TODD:

Should Facebook and Twitter face fines if they fail to follow, you know, to purge itself of, of bots, for instance, after the government finds out.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

I think that would be a great idea, but then you need a Congress to act, and there are too many people that are afraid of doing something about this. Because we know these sites are popular. Everyone loves putting recipes, cat videos. It’s a great thing. But at the same time, there’s an ugly side of this. And someone once said that these systems were set up without alarms, without locks, and big surprise, bad guys are coming in and manipulating people. And that is what’s happening, and worse, literally committing crimes, when they tell people they can text in and vote. And the last thing we know, is that Russian rubles were spent on ads--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

--coming out of this latest indictment that the Russians spent a lot of money on paid ads. That’s much simpler to regulate, Chuck. You know why? TV--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

--your station, right now, has rules in place--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

--so does radio and print. Do the same thing. They’ve got to have disclaimers on issue ads and on candidate ads, and they have to disclose them so the press and the other candidates can look at these ads and figure out what they’re-- where they’re coming from, what they mean.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to move specifically to the gun issue because, you know, you represent a diverse state when it comes to the gun issue, both with some rural areas, I think of the Iron Range, and I can only imagine their, their mindset when it comes to some of these gun laws versus those in Minneapolis. It’s going to be a different story. As a leader in the Democratic Party, how do you strike this balance? You know, you-- we were just talking about in the panel before. How do you strike this balance where some of your colleagues, like right next door, Heidi Heitkamp’s never going to be able to vote for an assault weapons ban, but there are some base Democrats who think that’s an outrageous decision. What do you say to the base?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

I was up on the Iron Range two days ago, and I was actually quite surprised, when your hosts there and your guests talk about tipping points, that’s where we are. I had a number of proud gun owners, we have a big hunting culture here, and I always look at every bill that comes before us, and I think, “Would this have hurt my Uncle Dick and his deer stand?” And what these hunters were telling me the last few days is that they are ready to do some background checks. They asked me why the bump stock bill hadn’t passed. They understand as law-abiding gun owners that we need to make changes. And I think these students are going to lead the way and we’re going to finally see some action. And when I had those Sandy Hook parents in my office, and they told their stories, and you think about the courage they had to come forward on a simple background check bill, and then the Congress didn’t have the courage to pass it, I don’t think you’re going to see that happen again. I want to see Senator Toomey’s bill come up for a vote, I’d like to see an assault weapon ban come up for a vote, and I would also--

CHUCK TODD:

Ok.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

--like to see the work we need to do on domestic violence.

CHUCK TODD:

You’re on Judiciary Committee. There’s been a lot of law enforcement errors that have been discovered in the shooting itself, particularly with-- whether it’s the FBI. What kind of concerns do you have about the FBI’s misses here, and what do you attribute it to?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

I, I’d like to get all the details on this because I think someone clearly made a major, tragic mistake in not reporting that to the Miami field office, and the FBI director has specifically come out and said it was a major mistake. In addition to that, you have an armed sheriff’s deputy outside of the school, didn’t go in, has now left that department. But you literally had 23 reports about this--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

--particular killer to law enforcement over the years, so they clearly had-- it’s not just the FBI--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

--it’s also what’s going on at the local level.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you attribute it to anything? Does the FBI got to-- the FBI’s taken a lot of heat lately, on a lot of ways. Is this something-- is this well-deserved?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

It sounds like this was something that has to have a major change in terms--

CHUCK TODD:

Ok.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

--of how they do their operations, if something was reported to a call center and then didn’t go to the field office to be checked out, that’s a mistake. But again, 23 reports to local law enforcement as well, so they have some issues here. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that if you want to stop these mass shootings like we’ve seen in other countries, whether they are in a church, whether they are in a concert venue, an outdoor concert venue in Las Vegas, you’ve got to start admitting, as so many gun owners in my state are starting to do, that we can do some changes without hurting hunting, and that includes backgrounds checks, assault weapon bans and some of the things we’re talking about.

CHUCK TODD:Senator Klobuchar, I have to leave it there. I appreciate it. Thanks for coming on and sharing your views.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:Okay.

CHUCK TODD:Always good to talk with you.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:Thanks. Go Olympics. We're proud of our Minnesota Olympics, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:Quite a bit. We need Minnesota to do well.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:Curling team.

CHUCK TODD:There you go. We'll talk about it.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

They have done very well.

CHUCK TODD:Great. All right.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. When we come back, it's not just foreign adversaries using social media to sow division, how the big tech companies are causing some big problems. But first, we're remembering the man considered by many to be America's Pastor. The Reverend Billy Graham died this week at the age of 99. He was a counselor and unofficial spiritual adviser to a dozen presidents. Every one of them, from Truman to Obama, prayed with Reverend Graham. Graham will become the fourth private citizen to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda this week. His mission took him all over the world, including to Meet the Press four times.

(BEGIN TAPE)

BILLY GRAHAM:

We have the message, but how to communicate it to the masses? And we have used television and radio and the press in every way we possibly can to communicate the fact that Christ can transform human lives.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, data download time. We talk a lot about the forces that divide us in American politics, increasingly those forces are getting a big assist from the big four tech companies, Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook. These companies dictate how we get online, how we shop, and how we find information, and how we share it with our communities. And they're bigger and worth more than ever.

A recent piece in Esquire Magazine caught my eye. Check out these numbers. They're astounding. In terms of sheer market value, Amazon is now worth more than the 15 most well-known retail companies combined. Look at that list of companies, folks. From Wal-Mart to Nordstrom's and everyone in between.

To match the combined value of Google and Facebook, you could take the value of the world's top five advertising firms, add the five major media companies, and the five major communications companies. And that still doesn't equal those firms' total value. We're talking about Comcast, Disney, all of us.

It's not all that surprising they're worth a lot in dollars. But it's the influence they have over our day-to-day lives that's more mind boggling. Two-thirds of U.S. adults have Facebook accounts, almost half of whom get their news there. And of the top five apps used most across the globe, Facebook and its other platforms make up four out of the five.

"So what," you say, right? These companies are curating what you see, what you buy, and what you read based on what you already believe. In blue America, your Facebook news feeds is dominated by liberal voices, The Daily Show, Bernie Sanders, Media Matters, and the A.C.L.U. In red America, your feed shows the opposite, Breitbart News, The Conservative Post, Rush Limbaugh, and the anti-abortion rights LifeNews.com.

In the end, creating completely different cultural bubbles for Americans to live, work, and vote in, that's what we've created here. Which is why the big four are finally attracting the attention and the ire of lawmakers on the left and right. When we come back, endgame, more twists and turns in the special counsel's investigation. And it's clearly getting a lot closer to the White House.

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with endgame. And if you're struggling to keep up with all the charges, indictments, and plea deals coming out of the special counsel's office, you're not alone. In the nine months since Robert Mueller was appointed to oversee the investigation, he has issued more than a hundred criminal charges against three companies and 19 individuals, including a Russian oligarch with close ties to Putin, who by the way, also appears orchestrated an attack on U.S. troops in Syria using a private mercenary force, oh by the way. Helene, we also have the Democratic memo. I know.

HELENE COOPER:

I love that you actually managed to do that connection and get that in there. That took something.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, it's a stunning reminder of what Russia's doing to the United States. But let me start with the larger picture here. The president last night, the Democratic memo comes out and he takes to Twitter and then takes to a phoner with Judge Jeanine. Mueller's indictments are coming. The president's acting in an interesting way.

HELENE COOPER:

But he's acting in a very consistent way, which is always, despite no matter what comes out of Mueller's office about what, you know, just about the scope and the depth of what Russia tried to do, President Trump's reaction is again and again and again, "Me, me, me, me, me. No, no collusion. Look, no collusion."

It's not about, you know, Russia completely subverted the American-Democratic process, or about all of the other things that they've done, including having Russian mercenaries attacking American back troops in Syria, you're not hearing the administration saying anything at all about that. What you are hearing President Trump instead says, "No, I, so far you have no phone calls, no collusion."

CHUCK TODD:

Well, Dani, I mean, that's the thing. Some of his actions, when it comes to Russia and Putin, including not calling out the fact that Russians attacked American troops. Hard stop. Russians attacked American troops. He hasn't said a word.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Inexplicable. Look, the problems of the president of the United States is the one that we identify every single time. Donald Trump is about Donald Trump. And not only that, but I think he takes it further. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. So if people are saying bad things about them and trying to tie them back to me, I'm not going to say anything. It is inexplicable.

One of the main reasons we talk about the Mueller investigation and Donald Trump is because Donald Trump keeps tying them together. Mueller has not tied the president in collusion and his campaign to Russia. What he has done has not even touched that for the most part.

CHUCK TODD:

Not yet. We don't know.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

But Donald Trump keeps saying, "It's not me. Don't look at me." He reminds us.

CHUCK TODD:

Right, it's a, "Me thinks you doth protest too much."

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Yeah, it's incredible.

DAVID BRODY:

But that was the reason, in essence, for the special counsel investigation. Look, I mean, the report from the heartland is these words and maybe they're not the most intellectual words (UNINTEL) but blah, blah, blah. I mean, really, this is what the folks in the heartland, they're thinking about the gun debate. You know, they're thinking about tax cuts. There are just not, look--

CHUCK TODD:

But what does that matter right now? Does that matter to the investigation?

DAVID BRODY:

Well, no. My point simply is how it's playing politically. And I'm just telling you that when you hear bank fraud and Ukraine and Paul Manafort and you put up all of those statistics, I'm telling you, how it plays in Peoria, they're just saying, "Forget about it."

I mean, it's to the point where this is why Trump goes and talks about no collusion, because look at those statistics. You put, "Where is any of this?" And that's what he's saying. I mean, who knows. Maybe they want to see if he's got Russian dressing on his salad tonight. I don't know. But they're trying to figure this out somehow. And they're not doing it so far.

CHUCK TODD:

Huh. What's your take on the Mueller probe?

JOSH EARNEST:

The challenge that President Trump faces is he is somebody who is not good at playing the long game. He is constantly figuring out how tactically I can get myself through the news cycle. And that's why he called Judge Jeanine Pirro on the same day that the Democratic memo was released. But this is where sort of the thinking of that breaks down.

Yes, it is taking a while for Mueller to conduct his investigation. At some point, though, he will have something to reveal. And that will be the question. And I think that's the more interesting question. The political resonance of the ongoing investigation I think your point is accurate. I don't think there is a lot of one. But once it concludes, once Mueller shows the goods, then how do the politics shift on this? And I think that there will be, once there is some substance for us to consider, I think that there will be some political consequences to consider as well.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, and it just goes back to the lack of action. That's what you don't understand. You had an internet company, we know what Mueller has found out to punish Russia, right? At this point? We know enough to punish them and we haven't.

HELENE COOPER:

Absolutely. And no, we haven't. Well, the White House hasn't put into place the sanctions that Congress has already voted in against Russia.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Hang on just one second, I'm sorry. You know, I wrote a lot of sanctions legislation. I have to say about this administration President, weird, Russia, accept. But the notion that this administration has not moved on the legislation passed by Congress on Russia is just simply false.

CHUCK TODD:

No, they moved. But it was the speed with which they moved.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

No, again. I've looked at Iran sanctions, I've looked at missile sanctions, nuclear sanctions, I have never seen an administration move so fast as they did. This oligarch's list, other lists that they have put together, in fact, they have. This is a process, and I don't want to defend the Trump administration where they don't deserve it, but in this case, they've done a lot.

JOSH EARNEST:

Well one of the things I think that's interesting about this discussion about sanctions is that so much of the criticism that the Obama administration got in dealing with Russia, whether that was countering them on Crimea, countering their interference in Ukraine, or even countering their interference in the election, was that well, the Obama administration's not doing anything tough, they're just putting in place sanctions.

The truth is what we know now is that the Russians have spent a lot of time and energy working with the Trump administration to try to get those sanctions rolled back. So here in the United States, that may not be a big deal, but Russia obviously thinks those sanctions are big.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I'm going to pause. I have to end the conversation. You guys can keep yelling at each other if you want. But before we go, a big shout out, collective shout out both to the U.S. women's hockey team and the U.S. men's curling team on their gold medal, won a first ever. So take that, Sweden. That's all for today. We'll be back next week because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press. We beat Sweden!

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