Meet the Press - January 19, 2020

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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, the impeachment trial begins.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

He has been impeached. He's been impeached forever. They can never erase that.

REP. DOUG COLLINS:

This was all they wanted. It was a political impeachment.

CHUCK TODD:

The trial kicks off in earnest this week, with Democrats and Republicans attacking each other's motives.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

We saw the justification for running the fastest, thinnest, and weakest impeachment in American history crumble.

REP. JERRY NADLER:

A trial without evidence, without witnesses is no trial at all, but a cover-up.

CHUCK TODD:

This as new evidence emerges from a Giuliani associate:

LEV PARNAS:

President Trump knew exactly what was going on. He was aware of all of my movements.

CHUCK TODD:

My guests this morning: Senate Minority Whip, Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois and Republican Senator David Perdue of Georgia. Plus, Elizabeth Warren's refusal to shake hands with Bernie Sanders, and their post-debate squabble --

ELIZABETH WARREN:

I think you called me a liar on national TV.

BERNIE SANDERS:

You know, let's not do it right now.

CHUCK TODD:

-- has stirred fear on the left that this threatens its chances of securing a progressive Democratic nomination. And the NBC News County to County project:

REUBEN HOPKINS:

You have to speak to our issues.

DONNA CHILDS:

What I've been hearing is that people will change this time and get behind the nominee no matter what.

CHUCK TODD:

We talk to African American voters in Milwaukee about 2020. Joining me for insight and analysis are: Hugh Hewitt, host on the Salem Radio Network, former Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards, and the authors of a new book on President Trump, Phil Rucker, White House Bureau Chief for The Washington Post and Carol Leonnig, also of The Washington Post. Welcome to Sunday. Tt'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 morning, everyone. Last week we witnessed the dignified and solemn rituals that played out on Capitol Hill, with terms like "Hear ye, hear ye", "do impartial justice", and "on pain of imprisonment" marking the occasion. But beneath the 18th century rules and 19th century pageantry was corrosive 21st century partisan politics. Republicans accuse Democrats of doing anything they can to remove a president they despise. Democrats accuse Republicans of defending the president no matter how clear the evidence against him. Democratic trial managers and the president's legal team released filings last night outlining their arguments. A source working with the president's impeachment team says they will argue the Articles of Impeachment allege, “no violation of law” that impeachment is the result of a “flawed process in the House” and they insist that the Democrats' case collapses on the facts. "We will take it head on," the source claims. Still, we're left to wonder about another jury, similarly divided between supporters and opponents of Mr. Trump. That's the one watching at home. That jury remains as divided as the Senate. The question is: Are they still open to being persuaded one way or the other?

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

A lot of presidents, some good, some not so good. But you got a good one now, even though they're trying to impeach this son of a bitch, can you believe that?

CHUCK TODD:

Late on Saturday, House Democrats formally outlined their case for the president's removal from office - arguing he "used his official powers to pressure a foreign government to interfere in a U.S. election for his personal political gain, and then attempted to cover up his scheme by obstructing Congress's investigation into his misconduct."

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

President Trump put his own personal interest above the national interest, above our national security. And if not stopped he will do it again.

CHUCK TODD:

The president's lawyers issued a 6-page letter, calling impeachment "a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election" and arguing the president broke no laws. The preview of this week's arguments comes amid new documents from Lev Parnas, the Giuliani associate who is facing federal campaign finance charges. They include WhatsApp messages showing Parnas was working with an aide to the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes, to set up calls with Ukrainian prosecutors to feed Rudy Giuliani information about Joe Biden. The messages also show the possible surveillance of Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

LEV PARNAS:

President Trump knew exactly what was going on. He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn't do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the President.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

I don't know him. I don't know Parnas, other than I guess I had pictures taken, which I do with thousands of people.

CHUCK TODD:

As the Senate trial begins --

JOHN ROBERTS:

You will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help you God?

SENATORS:

I do.

CHUCK TODD:

-- many senators have already signaled how they will vote.

MITCH MCCONNELL:

I'm not an impartial juror.

MAZIE HIRONO:

The facts are that he committed an impeachable act and I will vote to convict him.

CHUCK TODD:

The showdown over whether to call witnesses, including former national security adviser John Bolton -- is likely at least a week away. Democrats will need at least 4 Republican votes.

LISA MURKOWSKI:

If I determine that I don’t have enough. I will vote to accept additional information by way of additional witness.

JONI ERNST:

I think that if they wanted witnesses, they should have called them in the House.

CHUCK TODD:

On Friday, the president unveiled additions to his legal team, including Harvard constitutional lawyer Alan Dershowitz --

ALAN DERSHOWITZ:

Abuse of power, even if proved, is not an impeachable offense.

CHUCK TODD:

-- and former independent counsel Ken Starr -- who once argued the case against Bill Clinton. Collectively, the president's defense team has made over 350 appearances on Fox News in the last year.

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now is the number-two Democrat in the United States Senate. It's Dick Durbin of Illinois. Senator Durbin, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:

Good morning, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Before I get to what Tuesday will look like, let me ask this. Are there any active negotiations happening right now between your leadership team, yourself and Senator Schumer, and Senator McConnell, Senator Cornyn, and the Republican leadership team?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:

I checked. And as of late last night, there really had not been an exchange, for instance, of the McConnell memo, which is supposed to kick off this entire trial. You know, we’re less than -- a little over 48 hours away from the trial actually commencing. And there hasn't been the most basic negotiation or exchange of information.

CHUCK TODD:

So it sounds like you guys, instead of having a debate behind the scenes, you're going to have this debate in front of us, on Tuesday. So, you know, it looks like Senator McConnell's going to outline rules that, while similar to Clinton -- what do you make of this reporting that indicates he's thinking of doubling the amount of trial time per day, to speed up this trial?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:

Chuck, as you said in the opening here, Donald Trump is on trial for impeachment and the jury, of course, will be 100 senators. But the Senate itself is on trial, as far as I'm concerned, and the jury's the American people. The question is whether or not we are going to have a fair trial, whether the members of the Senate are going to be loyal to the Constitution or loyal to the president. A fair trial, everyone understands, involves evidence. Evidence would be documents and witnesses. We know the president has refused to provide documentation beyond the July 25th telephone memo. And he's refused to provide basic witnesses, who actually heard what happened on that conversation and saw what happened afterwards. So at this point, you know, the Senate is on trial. And I hope, at the end of the day, enough Republican senators will understand, history will find you. Make certain that you make a decision that you can live with in terms of our Constitution and your own professional career.

CHUCK TODD:

So explain what you're going to try to do on Tuesday. He's going to introduce rules outlining this. There's going to be some debate. What power do you have, other than rhetoric?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:

Well, it's an interesting situation. The Senate members, by and large, are silenced. We can make motions. We can amend motions that are made before the Senate. The argument for those positions will be made by House managers, on the Democratic side, and the president's legal team, on his side. There may be some rulings by the chief justice presiding over this. But ultimately, the decision is made by majority vote of the United States Senate. That's the process we follow.

CHUCK TODD:

Does this mean you have to be working with Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, the House impeachment managers, on certain Senate rules that you're going to debate, since they have to do the debating on your behalf?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:

Well, it goes without saying that, on both sides, giving a heads up and fair notice to the managers, as well as the president's defense team, on the Republican side, is necessary, if they're going to have to argue the position of the motions that we make.

CHUCK TODD:

So that means you have to, essentially, work with Adam Schiff to make these -- let me ask you this. What motions are you going to call for on Tuesday that you know Mitch McConnell's going to try to stop?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:

I don't know exactly what will transpire. As I mentioned, we don't know what the McConnell memo or resolution includes, as we start up. But we've been very open about this. Chuck Schumer and the Democrats in the Senate have said, "Let's bring in the witnesses. Let's put the truth before the American people and let them join us in judgement." So I would assume that the early motions made by Chuck Schumer, on behalf of Democrats, will go right to that point.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me get you to respond to something from the president's legal team. It wasn't their official briefing. It was more of just their official response, so more of a statement than a legal document right now. But this is what they write. "House Democrats' abuse-of-power claim would do lasting damage to the separation of powers under the Constitution." The essential argument they're making is that this is very subjective. It's a partisan decision that was made in the House, or it's not a bipartisan decision. And abuse of power isn't -- there isn’t a defined -- it isn’t defined anywhere in law. So how do you respond to that critique?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:

I'd just ask those who criticize it to take a look at Federalist 65. Alexander Hamilton, not the musical, the real Alexander Hamilton, actually spoke out about what this trial gets down to. They were saying, at the beginning, that the standards are treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors. And it goes beyond the commission of a crime. Alan Dershowitz takes a very unique position, saying, "A crime must have been committed." But when it comes to the abuse of power of the office, you know, the president used -- misused the office for personal political gain. That, to me, is in the realm of what they considered in high crimes and misdemeanors, in the abuse of power.

CHUCK TODD:

The accusations and the documents that Lev Parnas, the Giuliani associate that is now, I guess, cooperating with the Southern District of New York, looking, perhaps, for some leniency here, we don't know what his motive is to release all this information, how do you plan to get that evidence into this trial, since it's not clear there's an avenue for it?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:

Well, I think it all depends on four Republican senators. They have to join us in, really, the pursuit of truth, to make sure the American people hear the whole story. Whether that includes Mr. Parnas or not, I can't say. We have four witnesses, that we believe are essential to start this conversation and to put the evidence before the American people. He has confirmed many of the suspicions we had about this Giuliani effort, on behalf of the president, and how far it went. There is now implicated, for example, a member of the House of Representatives, on the Republican side. There's a lot of issues that he's raised. But in terms of whether or not he or anyone associated with him is called as a witness, most of us believe the trial should start with the four basic witnesses we've called for.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that. But if you get four or more Republican senators to agree with you on that, but they basically say, "Yes, but the president gets to call a set of witnesses that they want to call, too." Are you comfortable with that outcome, if it means one of those witnesses may have the last name of Biden?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:

Well, listen. I don't know what the Republicans will suggest. But we've been told that, even within their caucus, there is a dispute as to whether or not that is really in their best interest, whether that's more theater than it should be. But the bottom line is this. The four Republican senators who will initiate, could initiate calling witnesses will really open a negotiation between the Republicans and Democrats in the Senate. The bottom line, is there going to be a fair trial? Are we going to have evidence, documents, and witnesses? To this point, Senator McConnell has said, "No, not necessary." He's made up his mind long ago. But I think the American people expect a real trial to have real witnesses and evidence.

CHUCK TODD:

Is the outcome in doubt, even if you get your witnesses?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:

In terms of the ultimate vote, I can't say. I don't know how this will unfold. I join my other colleagues and tell you that there was a moment when the chief justice arrived, and we each raised our right hand, that you could feel a change in the United States Senate. I saw it 20 years ago, with the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton. And I've seen it now, in this impeachment trial of Donald Trump. There is a feeling that we have a separate and awesome responsibility, under the Constitution, not to let the American people down and to make sure we do the right thing. So the ultimate outcome, I can't predict.

CHUCK TODD:

One final question on the obstruction article. Should the House have made more of an effort in the courts, before they filed that obstruction article?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:

I can tell you that the court’s process is a long one. It would have gone way beyond the current time, into some period right before the election. But don't forget that the House Judiciary Chairman, Jerry Nadler, offered to the president of the United States the opportunity to bring his attorney into their Judiciary Committee hearing, to ask questions, to produce evidence. They refused. If there's evidence out there that exonerates the president, we're still waiting to see it.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Durbin, I will leave it there. Democrat from Illinois, number two in the Senate leadership, thank you for coming on, sir, and sharing your views.

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:

Good to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

And now for a viewpoint from the other side, Republican Senator David Perdue of Georgia. He is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Perdue, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

SENATOR DAVID PERDUE:

Good morning, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with the basic this week. You said, this week, that the Senate should not consider new evidence. There's a lot out there, with Lev Parnas. Why not?

SENATOR DAVID PERDUE:

Well, Chuck, what I said was, no evidence within the scope. What we are obliged to do is to look at the case presented to us from the House. But I think it's very rich to hear people talk about, "What the Senate needs to do is have a fair trial." We're purposed to do that. But where was that outcry during 116 days of investigation and trial in the House? What we are proposing to do right now is exactly what we did during the Clinton hearing. And that is to hear both sides present their cases. We can talk about how long that might take here, in a minute. And then let every senator ask a question or several questions. And then we'll go to a decision point, at that point, which they did in the Clinton case, about whether or not we have further information or more witnesses come to the U.S. Senate. But let me remind everybody, Chuck, that in the Clinton case, they decided to have more witnesses come in. But the only three witnesses they approved to come in had already given testimony in the House. They just wanted clarification.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this, it does sound like you don't want to see this dismissed immediately but you're not yet open on witnesses. Are you still open-minded on witnesses?

DAVID PERDUE:

Well, I am, only within the scope of these two articles of impeachment. My personal preference, Chuck, would be to see this thing dismissed out of hand because I think it's an illegitimate process in the House. They did not give this president due process. However, what Mitch McConnell has decided to do, I fully support. He has all 53 Republican Senators backing him on this, and that is to do this exactly like we did during the Clinton impeachment hearing.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. So when -- let me ask you this, what is Tuesday going to look like? We're going to have this back and forth, are you looking to speed up this trial day-wise? Are we going to have -- instead of five hours of trial a day, double the amount of time? What is it that you guys are going to be proposing on Tuesday?

DAVID PERDUE:

Well, we'll see how the vote comes out on Tuesday, but what we're proposing -- and we've tried to enter these negotiations with the other side, but they won't have any conversation until we deal with witnesses up front. And that's not what we did during the Clinton trial. And so what will happen Tuesday is Mitch McConnell will put forward his proposal, we'll have a vote on that. That proposal right now will look very similar to 24 hours of presentation by the House managers over two days and then 24 hours of presentation by the president's team over two days, and then 16 hours of questions submitted by the members in writing to the chief justice. The chief justice decides whether or not they get asked and how they get asked and what sequence. And then we have, at that point, the opportunity to do exactly what we did after phase one in the Clinton trial and that is to decide where we go from here. Do we have more witnesses? Do we need clarification? Whatever. Those motions will be done then. That's our proposal.

CHUCK TODD:Why don’t you -- why shouldn’t the Senate hear from Lev Parnas under oath? This is somebody who is an associate of Rudy Giulaini, who was at the center of this. Why not have the United States Senate put this man under oath and hear what he has to say?

DAVID PERDUE:Again, second hand information. This is a distraction. This is a person that has been indicted. Right now, he’s out on bail. He’s been meeting with the House Intel Committee. If the House felt like this information was pertinent, I would think they would have included him in this -- his testimony in this information. It’s not --

CHUCK TODD:How is it secondhand? He was in Ukraine. He was doing the bidding. He’s got, he’s got material --

DAVID PERDUE:He wasn’t on the phone – he wasn’t --

CHUCK TODD:-- He’s got material -- he seems to have some material evidence that might be helpful in connecting some dots.

DAVID PERDUE:Well, that’s the deal he’s trying to make to get his sentence reduced. I’m not sure he does at all, personally.

CHUCK TODD:

Why do you think folks like Mr. Parnas end up so close to the president?

DAVID PERDUE:

Oh, I don’t know -- the president says he doesn’t know who he was. He wasn’t close to the president at all. I don’t accept that at all.

CHUCK TODD:

You don’t --

DAVID PERDUE:

Look, let’s put this in perspective, Chuck --

CHUCK TODD:

Why did he get so close to Rudy Giuliani? Why is Rudy Giuliani bringing some people like him so close to the president? Does that bother you?

DAVID PERDUE:

Well, what he was trying to do was to get access into the government of the Ukraine. And that was one way to do it. But let's put this in perspective, Chuck. The headlines of the Washington Post, on the day President Trump was inaugurated, said that the campaign to impeach this president has already begun. This is an impeachment looking for reasons. They want to undo the 2016 election and, in fact, the 2020 election, I believe. So I really think that what happened in the House was not a fair trial. It's illegitimate, because of that. They denied due process to the president. We're going to try, now, to have a fair trial in the Senate. Can you imagine, Chuck, if, in the Senate, we were to not allow the House managers to present their side of the case, that we would make the decision, and we could vote this with 51 senators, to only hear from the president. Can you imagine the outcry that we'd have over that? Well, that's exactly what happened in the House.

CHUCK TODD:Let me ask you this. I know you don't believe this rises to ousting the president of the United States. Do you think what the president did with Ukraine and this decision to ask for assistance on a political opponent was a legitimate use of presidential power?

DAVID PERDUE:Answer this, Chuck. The President of the United States is responsible for rooting out corruption. We're giving money to a country that we are afraid is going to the wrong people, for the wrong reasons. He is asking for help to root out this corruption. He asked President Zelenskiy to actually talk to the attorney general about it. You can characterize that as talking about a political opponent. What he's talking about is an American citizen that was potentially involved in corruption. That's what this president was doing on that phone call. It was a congratulatory phone call.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, in 2014, if President Obama was calling Hong Kong or calling governments, asking about you and your business career and your time living in foreign countries, going, "This guy wants to be a United States Senator. We just want to make sure he's on the up and up," would that be a legitimate use of president power?

SENATOR DAVID PERDUE:

That's a totally improper characterization. What happened here was there was evidence of potential corruption. And what the president was actually following up on was that. But I think -- I come back to this, as well. It seems to me that what we're talking about here are the details. But we have people no less than Jonathan Turley, who testified in the House, he's a constitutional law professor at your alma mater there, at George Washington, who said that neither of these articles rise to the level of impeachment. And they have -- but besides that, they have not proven either one of these in the House case. And we'll see, when they present it to the Senate next week.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. But let me ask you this. How would you present -- Jeff Flake wrote it this way, your former Republican colleague from Arizona.

SENATOR DAVID PERDUE:

Who is that?

CHUCK TODD:

Jeff Flake, a former senator.

SENATOR DAVID PERDUE:

Who? Who?

CHUCK TODD:

Oh, okay. Touché. But he said -- he basically wrote, in an op-ed, if President Obama did these -- did this exact same thing, would you be sitting here as comfortable defending what he did, as you are President Trump?

SENATOR DAVID PERDUE:

In fast and furious, he did exactly this. He withheld evidence from the House of Representatives. And the Republicans decided that it was not obstruction of Congress. The Democrats agreed. And we did not pursue it. Nancy Pelosi, Nadler, all said that that was not obstruction. And yet, in this case, when the president decides to use executive privilege, they now, all of a sudden, say, "Oh, no. That is obstruction of Congress." So it's a little bit hypocritical, I think, to see some of the comments that are coming out now versus what happened back in '98.

CHUCK TODD:

Would you like to see the president be more forthcoming, defending his side of the story, though? Because right now, it's more rhetoric than evidence that he uses to defend himself.

SENATOR DAVID PERDUE:

Well, this has all, you know, been tried out in the media. I mean, he has not had an opportunity. Remember, next week is going to be the first time America gets to hear President Trump's defense. He hasn't had an opportunity to do that. We did not have due process in the House, it's clear. And so now, for the first time, we're going to have that. It's ironic to me, Chuck, that with all the success we had last week, with the China trade deal and the USMCA being passed in the United States Senate, that this overshadows all of that. And yet, we have not heard the president's defense.

CHUCK TODD:

How was the president, though, denied due process, if he denied witnesses going in front of the House that might've had exculpatory evidence?

SENATOR DAVID PERDUE:

He used executive privilege to protect the presidency. That's his power, under the separation of powers principle. And every president has used that. President Obama used it. President Clinton used it, back in the day. So, he was well within his rights, in my opinion. Jonathan Turley agrees with that.

CHUCK TODD:

And I have a feeling the debate about executive privilege is going to be one we're going to hear a lot about, perhaps, over the next couple of weeks, as everybody has this debate. Senator David Perdue, Republican from Georgia, thank you for coming on and sharing your views, sir. I appreciate it.

SENATOR DAVID PERDUE:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, the impeachment trial. What are the chances that the unexpected still could happen? Panel is next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, panel is here. Hugh Hewitt, host on the Salem Radio Network, former Maryland congresswoman, Donna Edwards, Carol Leonnig, national political reporter for the Washington Post, and Phil Rucker, the Washington Post White House bureau chief. And Carol and Phil's new book is “A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America.” It comes out on Tuesday. Excerpts have been floating around quite a bit. You guys have gotten quite a bit of buzz here. Congrats on that. I want to get to sort of how the book and impeachment converge here a little bit. But Donna and Hugh, I want you guys to deal with this statement from the president's legal team. It's not the legal response yet. This is the summons. "House Democrats abuse of power claim," excuse me. I'm sorry. "The articles of impeachment are constitutionally invalid on their face," they claim. "They fail to allege any crime or violation of law whatsoever, let alone high crimes and misdemeanors as required by the Constitution." Now Hugh, you’re -- you're a lawyer. Technically, this sentence is not accurate. I mean, the House impeached. Whether you -- you may not like what they did, but it is a -- it’s constitutionally valid. You just may not like what they’re, what they did.

HUGH HEWITT:

I think they were trying to convey exactly that. I read last night the House managers’ trial memorandum and their entire statement of material facts. I do not believe they have presented a case that rises to the level of an offense that is impeachable, much less any offense at all. In fact, I looked at, with a little bit of stunned amazement, at material allegation 73, which is on page 25 of the second submission, in which they contradict their own allegation, which is at the beginning, the president was attempting to influence the 2020 election. They cite in their own statement of material facts, it was about the 2016 election, a Volker to Yermak text. So I spent a lot of time on this last night. I don't think we're going to get to witnesses now. They do not have a case. And on article two, I think it is absolutely silly. There was no offense, much -- no, no impeachable offense.

CHUCK TODD:

Donna Edwards, is that how you see it?

DONNA EDWARDS:

Well, it isn't how I see it at all. I’m -- you know, I'm a lawyer, maybe not as good as Hugh, but my reading of the, of the House's brief is that they state really clearly, I think, a strong constitutional argument in the beginning of the brief that lays out the history of impeachment, really reminding us that high crimes and misdemeanors was left to the definition of the legislators. It doesn't mean, you know, the breaking of a law. And they talk specifically about the abuse of, abuse of power allegations and that the abuse of power's exactly the kind of abuse of public trust that the founders had in mind. And so I think it's a really strong and compelling argument, and the question is whether there's going to be a fair trial so that Democrats can really present the argument against the president.

CHUCK TODD:

One quick question on the obstruction article. In hindsight, should they have either waited longer to file that one and fought in the courts, or used Mueller's obstructions to, to strengthen that article?

DONNA EDWARDS:

No, I actually think that the article is strong on its face with the evidence. Would it have been bolstered if witnesses were not obstructed by this President of the United States and prevented from giving testimony? Would it have been bolstered if documents were produced? No documents have been produced to the House of Representatives. And so I think that they made the case that they could, and now it's really important to focus on what kind of trial this is going to be and whether it's going to be the kind of trial that the American people expect.

CHUCK TODD:

The wildcard in this trial, guys, is the fact that unlike the Clinton impeachment, there's new characters, new information. And that's what this week has. Here's one of the potential new characters, Lev Parnas.

(BEGIN TAPE)

LEV PARNAS:

President Trump knew exactly what was going on. He was aware of all my movements. He -- I wouldn't do anything without the consent of Rudy Guiliani or the president.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. You guys have covered this, not just in the book, very well. Phil, Carol. Phil, I'll start with you. Lev Parnas. How's the president handling somebody who's now -- another person who's turned on him?

PHIL RUCKER:

You know, it's like Michael Cohen, the president's personal attorney turning on the president. Lev Parnas is somebody who tried so hard to get into the Trump orbit. There are photos all over the internet of him posing with the president, with his allies at Mar-a-Lago --

CHUCK TODD:

Lot of thumbs up --

PHIL RUCKER:

-- at different fundraisers. A lot of thumbs up. And now he's turning completely. He's providing this new evidence, those notes that were scribbled on the, the hotel stationary. And he wants to tell his story. The question, I think, becomes whether the Senate Republicans, enough of them, want to hear witnesses to bring him forward, and importantly John Bolton, the former national security advisor, who has said he'd be willing to testify if asked.

CHUCK TODD:

What do you make of, of the president's relationship now with Rudy if the people Rudy was bringing into this thing are now causing political problems for the president?

CAROL LEONNIG:

From our reporting, it's really shocking. Inside the White House and the president's closest confidants are all saying, "Oh, my gosh. Where has Rudy led us?" essentially. He wanted to be secretary of state and he was essentially operating as a uber-secretary of state, going around the country making some money and also trying to do things that -- leading our foreign policy. And now there are advisers to the president who say, "He led us down a path that really makes the president vulnerable."

CHUCK TODD:

Hugh, why isn't there more anger at Rudy? I'm surprised there isn't because do you think -- do think we'd be here without Rudy Guiliani?

HUGH HEWITT:

No, but I also believe there's not much anger at Rudy because not anyone on my side of the aisle believes an impeachable offense occurred. And I can't stress this enough, and you're -- you’re onto it with your question about article two, this is about future presidents, not just President Trump. Not only do I think he did not commit an impeachable offense or any offense, I'm also concerned that this rushed job, especially on article two, is a horrible precedent for future presidents. And when the issue of witnesses comes before the Senate this week or next, I think a lot of Democrats may be tempted to vote on behalf of future presidents.

CHUCK TODD:

But what's the worst precedent -- going back to abuse of power, Donna -- what's the worst precedent? I mean, if, if the president doesn't believe what he did with Ukraine is wrong, then future presidents may do the same thing.

DONNA EDWARDS:

Well, I think -- I think going back to the Constitution and the framers, this is exactly the kind of violation of public trust -- and, and particularly around foreign interference in an election. We had come off of a king. We didn't want that. We wanted a democratic republic. And what the president has done really goes right squarely at his constitutional responsibility in making sure that there's not foreign interference in our elections.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, it, it strikes me, and your book, I think, chronicles this well, and we're going to get to some more of the excerpts a little later in the show, but do you think, Carol and Phil, that the president would be here if his first or second teams were still around him in the West Wing?

CAROL LEONNIG:

You know, what we found in our reporting is that the guardrails are gone. The trajectory of this presidency is escalating towards a presidency of one, more chaos, less discipline in decision-making. The people who tried to hem him in, they're out. He drove them out of the room. And he has mostly a lot of people around him who view themselves and their mission as telling him “yes.”

CHUCK TODD:

Is there anybody left? Not a single person left that tries to restrain?

PHIL RUCKER:

You know, the people in power left, like Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, they see their job as trying to get the president to a yes, of executing what he wants done in a way that they can defend publicly and in a way that is somewhat legal. But they're not trying to challenge him. They're trying to execute his orders and placate his conspiracies to some degree.

HUGH HEWITT:

I have to disagree. You had Robert O'Brien on last week, Secretary Pompeo the week before. These are strong individuals who will tell the president “no” when they think he's doing something wrong. I completely reject the idea that Team Three, which this is, is somehow less able to tell the president hard facts. In fact, I think Team Three is the best team he's had.

CAROL LEONNIG:

But Hugh, what about the part where Mick Mulvaney agrees to withhold the aid, which turns out to be against the law, the aid to Ukraine?

HUGH HEWITT:

I don't know that it is against the law. I don't believe that to be the case. I don't think they made that case in the House managers’ brief.

DONNA EDWARDS:

Well, the Government Accountability believes that it was against the law.

HUGH HEWITT:

The GAO does. It's an arm of Congress. But I do not believe that has been shown in the managers’ brief.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Congress is part of the government too. I mean, they're allowed to make laws as well. All right. We're going to pause it here. When we come back, hoping to make up some lost ground.

DONNA CHILDS:

What I've been hearing is that people will change this time and get behind the nominee no matter what.

CHUCK TODD:

Can Democrats regain the enthusiasm that the party did not have in 2016?

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Throughout the year, as part of our county to county project, we're following five key counties in five swing states that we believe will help us tell the most about where the presidential election is headed. These counties represent different voting groups.

They're not all supposed to be 50/50 counties. Some of these are turnout counties that we're watching. So for instance, our county to county project includes a largely white working-class county, a majority Hispanic county. And this week we travel to Milwaukee County to talk to African American voters.

In 2016, Donald Trump won nearly 3,500 fewer votes in Wisconsin than Mitt Romney did in 2012, and yet he took the state because Hillary Clinton won 231,000 fewer votes than President Obama. Much of that Democratic falloff came among African American voters in Milwaukee County. So we asked my colleague Dante Chinni to go to Milwaukee, where he sat down at Good City Brewing with five African American voters to discuss how they're feeling about the 2020 election so far, including the lack of candidates of color still in this race.

MARCELIA NICHOLSON:

I think we've relied on identity politics in the past. We've relied on how to attract black voters is to get a black candidate. How to attract women voters is to get a woman candidate. But folks are, like, really struggling. They want someone that's going to raise wages. They want someone that's going to address student debt and affordable college, and affordable housing, and prison reform, and immigration reform. And unfortunately, some of our minority candidates weren't speaking about those issues, and that just goes to show, no one's going to vote for you just because they look like you, or identify with you. They're going to vote for those that are going to fight on their behalf.

DONNA CHILDS:

I think we're relegated now to just the fact that we need a candidate that can beat the current president, instead of the important issues, instead of qualifications, now who can beat the current candidate -- the president. And so that's sad to me, that we have kind of pushed aside the other candidates and their qualifications. And again, I agree. Initially, people were excited about the wide scope of candidates. Those of color. Although that's not always the key. But at least we have some choices. But now I think our voice has been limited.

DANTE CHINNI:

Look, Milwaukee, they didn't get the turnout it needed, or the turnout Democrats wanted, in 2016, to win the state. It's one of the reasons that Hillary Clinton lost Wisconsin. She didn't come here. Does it make a difference who the candidate is, in terms of being able to get the vote out?

MIKEL HOLT:

At this point, it may be centered on who the candidate's running mate will be, because the assumption is, it's going to be Biden, who stood up on the stage, and the only time they mentioned anything black was, they were each trying to outdo each other and said, "I have black support," and "I have black support." And Biden stood there and said, "I have more black support than any of you, or all you combined." I think older black voters will heavily lean towards Biden, you know? Black people have been protesting against Warren. Mayor Pete doesn't even have support in his own community. I mean, you can go down the line on that. So, if you want to engage and excite the black vote, Biden needs to bring in a black running mate.

MARCELIA NICHOLSON:

Well, I don't know.

RUBEN HOPKINS:

Okay. Okay. No. I can’t necessarily -- I respectfully disagree with that. I think it's going to come down to who speaks to our issues. You have to speak to our issues. Around this country in black communities, it's void of investment. It's void of redevelopment. And when you look at the central city and you realize, if any of those people in that community want to go to the movies, they have to leave that community. If they want to go bowling, they have to leave that community. If they want to go roller skating, they have to leave that community. If they want to go to a nice restaurant, they have to leave that community. When you talk about real, robust economic development, where that plan is. That's what you need to speak to, for the black vote, not just in Milwaukee, but in central cities around this country.

MARCELIA NICHOLSON:

And I think that's why Bernie Sanders does so well here. More specifically when he talks about issues like health care, affordable health care. When you're speaking about black businesses, a lot of folks aren't able to start businesses, or willing to leave their jobs to start businesses, because they can't afford to pay for their own health care. They can't afford to pay for their employees' health care. And so, when I talk about issues being more important, I don't think it's going to be a black VP that's going to engage the --

MIKEL HOLT:

I'm still praying.

MARCELIA NICHOLSON:

--voters. I think it's going to be someone that's absolutely speaking to the issues, and showing a true vision on how to improve people's everyday lives.

DANTE CHINNI:

But it sounds like you don't think you're hearing that from any of the Democratic candidates, or at least the big four, plus one or --

MIKEL HOLT:

See, that's the value of the black candidate I'm talking about. I mean, put Castro in there. He was talking about police brutality.

MARCELIA NICHOLSON:

Absolutely.

MIKEL HOLT:

He was talking about some of those concrete issues. Some of the other candidates just come off being elitist. You know, looking down. But the key is going to be, "Will there be enthusiasm to pull that turnout? To pull those young, black millennials, and those people who don't traditionally vote, that Barack Obama pulled?" I don't see it yet.

DANTE CHINNI:

Go ahead, yeah. Please.

SHERWIN HUGHES:

I think I see something different. Instead of waiting for a candidate to speak to our issues, we need a candidate that's going to listen to us when we speak, because we actually are living the life, and we see the disparities. And a candidate that's going to take black voices as credible ones, and take what we say when they come to our cities, and they do their rallies, are they going to take what we are saying, we've been saying for generations, and put that into policy, instead of waiting for someone to just echo what we already know? I guess that's what I'm waiting for. The thing about Biden, who is the candidate that I'm more likely to support, is he angers the progressives. In fact, I'm so nervous that, if Biden becomes the nominee, which it appears he will be, there's going to be a lot of people that are going to stay home. And everybody says, "No, vote blue, no matter who," no they're not. They're not going to.

DONNA CHILDS:

Sure. I mean, the trepidation is that people are fearful of what's going to happen, but what I've been hearing is that people will change this time, and get behind the nominee, no matter what.

MARCELIA NICHOLSON:

Absolutely –

DONNA CHILDS:

The Democrat nominee. That's the key. And so we've been from the angle -- pushing from the angle that, "Please, just vote." We can fix things later. We can talk to them. But get behind the nominee right now.

DANTE CHINNI:

President Trump says he has growing support among African American voters. You're here. You're in the community. What do you see? What do you hear? I mean, is --

MIKEL HOLT:

He had four, and now he has five.

SHERWIN HUGHES:

I think it's stronger than that. And I also hear a lot of folks talking about the economy. Look, I know it does not work for everybody. But somebody bought a house in the last four years. Somebody got a promotion in the last four years. Somebody got a raise in the last four years. And so if they attribute any economic success to this current president, I think that's troublesome from the Democratic nominee, because a strong economy is really, really tough to beat.

CHUCK TODD:

And you can see the entire focus group interview on our website, Meet the Press dot com. When we come back: It's not your father's Democratic, or Republican, Party, anymore. It's not your mother's either. What that could mean for 2020 and beyond.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Data Download time. If the last decade felt like one political earthquake after another, then you may be surprised to hear that there technically hasn't been much change in the overall numbers of the two political parties. But it is underneath those top-line numbers that there has been a massive political realignment that is going to carry us through this new decade and possibly beyond. Let us take you back to 2010. That's when the NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll found that 37 percent of registered voters identified as Republican, compared to 42 percent who said they were Democrat. The end of 2019, the numbers were exactly the same. Pretty remarkable stability. Has it felt stable though? Let's look below the surface at who those Republicans and Democrats were and now are. First, the education gap. We always talk about it. In 2010, voters with a high school diploma or less were much more likely to identify as Democrats, by an 11-point margin, compared to Republicans, who had a two-point edge among college-educated voters. A decade later, 2019, those numbers flip. Republicans lead with voters with a high school diploma or less right now. Democrats have a wide lead with college-educated voters. Then there's the other gap we talked a lot about during the 2018 midterms: the gender divide, specifically when it comes to suburban women. 2010, they leaned Democratic, but it was by a very small three-point margin. By 2019, that margin has grown to 13 points. Now, compare that with men aged 50 or older. They leaned Republican in 2010, but now that advantage has gone well above double digits. Look, all of these big double-digit swings are ultimately about a lot more than education or ethnicity, geography or gender. They show a hardening of views along socioeconomic lines, meaning voters on opposite sides of the aisle also lead opposite lives, making it even harder to relate to each other and see eye to eye on policy. That's how you compromise. These shifts and others are remaking the parties on a fundamental level, changing what it means to be a Democrat or a Republican, and the process likely isn't over yet. When we come back.

[BEGIN TAPE]

SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN:

I think you called me a liar on national TV.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS:

What?

SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN:

I think you called me a liar on national TV --

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS:

No. Let's not do it right now. You want to have that discussion, we'll have that discussion.

SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN:

-- Anytime.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Anytime. There's no time like right now in Endgame. That's next.

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with Endgame and what we teased before. Donna Edwards, this issue of a woman nominee, though, has been something that even Joe Biden has talked about, regarding Hillary Clinton. And I think-- take a listen to the last thing Biden says here, and tell me if this is probably what Elizabeth Warren in general is responding to when it came to whether it was Bernie Sanders or somebody else. Take a listen.

(BEGIN TAPE)

JOE BIDEN:

I think there's a lot of sexism in the way they went after Hillary. I think it was unfair. An awful lot of it. Well, that's not going to happen with me.

(END TAPE)

DONNA EDWARDS:

Well, you know, I mean, I think that Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, they've actually given voice to what at least Democratic women feel happened to Hillary. And some of that has been in hindsight, you know, looking at the overall scope of the coverage and the attacks. And I see it on social media. And I think that it was a voicing, acknowledging up front that sexism even within our party and certainly in the electorate is there. And I think Elizabeth Warren actually did a good job of saying, "You know what? Here's how you prove electability." And then she made her argument.

CHUCK TODD:

Carol?

CAROL LEONNIG:

You know, I think the sexism element is something that it's good for us to all discuss, whether it's in the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, or journalists. But Hillary Clinton had other problems, too, with the electorate. I mean, she had a toxicity that came with her that had nothing to do with her gender and had everything to do with the baggage people associated with her husband and her time in the White House. So we need to be careful about just saying it's about sexism. That may have been a big part of it.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Phil Rucker though, this is also about the progressives being divided on the left, which is a gift potentially to Joe Biden. And the Sanders campaign worried about it, even floating through their favorite publication, The Intercept, the idea that, "Oh, they've researched that Elizabeth Warren could be both Treasury secretary and vice president." And you're like, "That seems a bit ham-handed."

PHILIP RUCKER:

Yeah. You know, clearly both the Warren campaign and the Sanders campaign have a similar base of these progressive voters and if united could win the nomination. And this division we're seeing right now is so dangerous to both of them. Because if Bernie Sanders takes off in Iowa, which the polling there seems to suggest may be happening on the ground, how's he going to win over those Warren supporters if they're in this feud right now?

CHUCK TODD:

Hugh, what are you hoping for as a conservative here that wants to see the Democrats lose? This split here? Because this split might actually help Biden, who might be the tougher foe.

HUGH HEWITT:

I thought the winner of the split was Pete Buttigieg because either the Warren voter or the Sanders voter who is turned off, they're not going to go to Joe Biden. They've already committed to a progressive. I can tell you one thing. Because Virginia allows early voting and because I don't know where NBC or Salem will have me on March 3rd, I'm voting this week. And because it's Virginia, I get to vote in the Democratic primary. I'm voting for Bernie Sanders. And I think a lot of people will because he's authentic --

CHUCK TODD:

-- Going to do calculated voting?

HUGH HEWITT:

No, it's because I think he's authentic --

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah? You're going to vote for Bernie Sanders against Donald Trump?

HUGH HEWITT:

No. I'm going to vote for Donald Trump. But I want a clear choice between the authentic, traditional socialist and all the people who just pretend to be.

CHUCK TODD:

Oh wow. Let me go back to your book, guys. And I say this. It was interesting. You had a whole bunch of former staffers, and they all seem to say the same thing to you. "A long-term and immediate danger to the country. At times, dangerously uninformed. There's a new ethos. This is a presidency of one. It's Trump unleashed, unchained, unhinged." These are people that worked for him. A lot of people are going to look at this book, the president's already attacked, and say, "No, no, no. You're just picking the bad stuff."

CAROL LEONNIG:

Absolutely not. I mean, Phil and I were really careful and rigorous. We did not want a salacious book of cool little sound bites. We wanted to understand this presidency, hit the pause button amid all the crises, amid all of the hour-by-hour news flashes, and make sense of this presidency, and figure out what motivates Donald Trump. And what we learned was how distraught and frightened some of his senior aides were, and some of his current aides, who broke their silence with us for the first time because they wanted history to be right. They wanted us to get it right.

CHUCK TODD:

What's their explanation? There was some heroic anecdotes you had in here where the person giving you the anecdote seemed to put themselves in a heroic thing. And I half teased. But what is their explanation for why not standing up to Trump more?

PHILIP RUCKER:

You know, some of these people feel honor-bound not to criticize the president while he's still in office. Others are still serving him, still working for him, and are afraid of losing their jobs or of being retaliated against by the president. One thing we know about Donald Trump is that he nurses these grudges and he strikes back and punches back and could very easily fire people if he finds out who their sources are. And that's why Carol and I were so rigorous in reporting more than 200 sources rather in the administration and close to the president to make sure that we're careful to protect them.

CHUCK TODD:

Hugh, all of these books do have one thing in common. The president doesn't seem to know the story of America as well as perhaps other presidents have. Does that bother you?

HUGH HEWITT:

I don't agree with that. I think he has an intuition that has manifested at the rallies that he knows especially the white working class. There's another great book out. Now, I'm going to read “A Very Stable Genius,” but Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn have a book out called “Tightrope” about what has happened to working white America, and it's been a disaster. And I think he speaks to that and intuitively knows about that better than any of the Democrats that I watched this week.

CHUCK TODD:

I buy that, but it's sort of our history. Sometimes that's what feels like it's missing with him.

DONNA EDWARDS:

Right. And it's the arc of our history and the way that that story that Hugh is talking about is actually connected to a story of people of color in this country who've suffered tremendously. And he also seems not to have a grasp of world history and where the United States fits in that.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. The book is “A Very Stable Genius.” Good luck. I think the president tweeted, so that's usually very helpful to all authors, no matter good or bad. Anyway, that's all we have for today. Thank you for watching. I'm going to be "Aaron" on the side of rooting for the Packers. There's lots of Aarons to be rooting for with the Packers. Nobody believes in us. Go Pack, go. We'll see you next week, because if it's Sunday it's Meet the Press.