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NBC News-Meet the Press

“01.21.18’

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday on the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump's presidency a government shutdown. Both sides blaming the other.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER

This will be called the Trump shutdown.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

Day one of the Senate Democrats’ government shutdown.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

President Trump earned an F for leadership.

REP. PAUL RYAN

We do some crazy things in Washington. But this is utter madness.

CHUCK TODD:

How did we get here and what happens now? I'll ask the number two Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin and Republican Senator Tom Cotton who have also feuded over what President Trump allegedly said about immigrants from Africa. And White House director of legislative affairs, Marc Short, plus our brand new NBC News Wall Street Journal poll, where does President Trump stand one year into his presidency? And the words supporters and opponents use to describe him. Also hundreds of thousands of women march across the country protesting the president. Many with an eye towards more women winning office this November. Joining me for insight and analysis are Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, NBC News national correspondent Peter Alexander, former Obama deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter and Republican strategist Al Cardenas. 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 and welcome to the one-year anniversary of the Trump presidency. Actually it's day two of year two. Democrats are calling it the Trump shutdown. Republicans are calling it the Schumer shutdown. Whatever you want to call it, this is what happens when both sides think they are on the winning side of a political argument. Whereas the Washington Post’s Dan Balz put it this morning, "We are here because we have a deal-making chief executive who can't make a deal, a divided Republican Party struggling to govern and a Democratic Party tethered to its anti-Trump progressive base." Democrats want a deal now to protect immigrants who were brought here illegally as children, the so-called Dreamers. Republican leaders are opposed to putting any Dreamer deal in a short-term spending bill which could keep the government open now. All of this comes as the president hits his one-year anniversary mark. And our brand new NBC News/Wall Street Journal's poll shows President Trump's approval rating stands at 39%. That's the lowest ever at the end of a president's first year. 57% disapproving. Compare that to where the president was last February at the start of his administration, it was a little bit better, 44% approving, 48% disapproving. Because this president inspires such passion we asked supporters and opponents to describe him in their own words. Here are the words supporters were most likely to use: positive, good, excellent, doing what he said what he would do. It's very different from the words used by opponents of this president: embarrassing, disaster, chaotic, disappointing and hasn't delivered. Changing the way Washington works was one of candidate Trump's signature campaign themes. But this weekend's shutdown shows that Washington is working or not working just as it always has.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with Jello.

CHUCK TODD:

One year to the day after President Trump took office the federal government shut down. And the finger pointing started.

REP. JOE CROWLEY:

Good morning and welcome to the Trump shutdown.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

This will be called the Trump shutdown.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

The Trump shutdown is all yours.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL

Day one of the Senate Democrats’ government shutdown.

MICK MULVANEY:

What we're calling the Schumer shutdown.

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Schumer shutdown.

CHUCK TODD:

Both parties face political risks. Ten Senate Democrats are on the ballot in states Mr. Trump won. And they depend on proving they can make government work. Four of those Democrats and new Alabama Senator Doug Jones voted to keep the government open. But for the first time in nearly 40 years the government is shut down while one party controls both houses of Congress and the White House. And opponents are quoting citizen Trump back to President Trump.

DONALD TRUMP:

I actually think the president would be blamed.

DONALD TRUMP:

If there was a shutdown I think it would be a tremendously negative mark on the president of the United States.

DONALD TRUMP:

These problems start from the top and they have to get solved from the top. And the president's the leader.

CHUCK TODD:

A year after Mr. Trump took the oath of office promising to be a disputer and a change agent--

DONALD TRUMP:

The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.

CHUCK TODD:

--the president finds himself in a deep hole. 57% of Americans disapprove of the job he's doing. But it's the intensity of the disapproval that's so dramatic. With a majority of Americans strongly disapproving including every age group except Americans 50 to 64. Mr. Trump promised to be the “Art of the Deal” president.

DONALD TRUMP:

I'm a deal maker. I believe that I can put both sides together.

DONALD TRUMP:

I will negotiate deals that nobody can negotiate like I do.

CHUCK TODD:

But ratings of the president's ability to change Washington are down a net 18 points from a year ago. His capacity to get things done, down 24 points. And just 19% give Mr. Trump high ratings for having the right temperament for the job.

DONALD TRUMP:

Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He's fired. He's fired.

CHUCK TODD:

A majority of Americans also feel negatively about the president as a leader, as commander-in-chief and as a representative of America abroad. One potential bright spot for Republicans, Americans are the most satisfied with the economy that they've been in nearly two decades. The president is not getting the credit though but Republican incumbents hope that optimism will protect them in November.

DONALD TRUMP:

It's the economy, stupid. Did you ever hear that one?

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now is the president's chief congressional negotiator these days, Marc Short. Marc, welcome back to Meet the Press. You're becoming a very familiar face I think to folks this weekend.

MARC SHORT:

Thanks for having me back, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Where's the president? I say this because we didn't see him yesterday. He didn't make a single public appearance. One thing about candidate Trump as we pointed out there a lot is he seemed to be the guy who says he was going to make Washington work differently. Washington looks exactly the way it did before he got into office. Where is he yesterday? Why isn't he involved in this?

MARC SHORT:

Well, the president has been involved. Yesterday he was speaking to Leader McConnell, Leader Ryan. He also spoke to Kevin McCarthy. He also met--

CHUCK TODD:

Republican, Republican, Republican.

MARC SHORT:

--he also met--

CHUCK TODD:

No Schumer, no Pelosi.

MARC SHORT:

--he met with, he met with Senator Schumer on Friday. It's been well-publicized. You know that, Chuck. And yesterday he also talked to Secretary Nielsen about the impact of our border and having border patrol agents not getting paid during the shutdown. He also met with Secretary Mattis to learn about over 100,000 national guardsmen and reservists whose training was canceled this weekend, who have to pay their own pay -- get here and travel costs back home. So the president is engaged in finding out what are the impacts of this. He's been on the phone in trying to find a resolution to it. And he had members that were to the White House just a week ago in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion to try to get past this impasse.

CHUCK TODD:

Part of the issue seems to be though that people come away from these meetings not sure, not sure what President Trump stands for. Let me -- here's Mitch McConnell just I think three days ago on the issue of DACA and immigration.

(BEGIN TAPE)

MITCH MCCONNELL:

Looking for something that President Trump supports. And he's not yet indicated what measure he's willing to sign. As soon as we figure out what he is for then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Chuck Schumer used Jello. That's another way of saying Jello.

MARC SHORT:

Well, as one of my colleagues said it seems a lot of senators probably know a lot about Jello. But the reality is that where we've been in this process is that the president put forward his proposal over about 11 months ago, sending it to Congress. General Kelly went to Congress to say, "Here's how we need to solve DACA." The DACA situation has been unresolved for decades which is why Obama took actions in his own hands with an unconstitutional solution to the problem. We asked Congress to fix it. We sent out priorities in October, a long list. We then sent a refined list a few weeks ago. We have been absolutely consistent, Chuck, in what it is that we're asking for these. There's four criteria, one is the DACA population, one is border security, ending chain migration, ending the Visa lottery program. I might be a naïve optimist on this but I actually think we're making significant progress and we will get a deal. And when we get a deal I think that there are champions like Senator Durbin who will be hailed as a hero for helping make this happen. But here's what, here’s where we are, the border issue, Democrats are moving forward. They are saying, "Yes, we recognize the necessary--"

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

They're giving you the wall.

MARC SHORT:

They're moving--

CHUCK TODD:

Right? They gave you the full funding, $18 billion is what Chuck Schumer agreed to in that Friday meeting.

MARC SHORT:

There's a couple--

CHUCK TODD:

Did he not?

MARC SHORT:

--things that need to be clarified on that because sometimes what Democrats have done is say they'll authorize it without appropriating it which is a game here. Democrats have voted before to authorize lots of money that never happens. So we need to clarify that. But we see progress. On our side they said they want the 690,000 DACA population expanded. Senator Durbin has made the case that say many people did not register and they should not be held harmful. We've been willing to expand that population. So there's progress happening here which, again, leads us, Chuck, so then why are we shutting down the government?

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I guess then-- Graham/Durbin say that they put this offer out here. Now you've got Chuck Schumer saying it. So why not, why not say, "Okay, it seems like we have the parameters for a deal." Democrats are willing. You guys are arguing over whether you're going to appropriate it or not. But it seems as if what they thought -- Chuck Schumer says what he thought he had an agreement of that the president changed his mind a few hours later. I guess the question I have for you is who's in charge of the president's position on immigration because what he-- look at Lindsey Graham. There was two -- he calls him Tuesday Trump versus Thursday Trump. What's the difference here?

MARC SHORT:

President Trump is being crystal clear on what he wants and he has not wavered in that, Chuck. What Lindsey Graham and Senator Durbin offered to the president was to say, "Here, we've narrowed it down to these four areas you've asked us to." When they came over to the White House and presented them we found them to be woefully insufficient inside those four areas. But nonetheless we had narrowed down the broader debate into a smaller one. We feel like we are making progress on the overall discussion. We think we will get to a solution. What befuddles is to say we're going to not pay millions of our troops serving around the world. And we're not going to pay our border agents untiil, until what--we don't know what it is they're asking for. They've said, "Give us a shorter CR." Tonight the Senate Republicans vote, instead of a four-week CR on a three-week CR. And yet Democrats are still are unwilling to give us their vote to keep the government open.

CHUCK TODD:

One of the issues Democrats seem to have is they just don't believe that the oral promise they get from the president will be fulfilled because every time they think they have one somebody with a stiffer spine on the immigration issue gets to the president. What do you say to that--

MARC SHORT:

I don't think there's anybody with a stiffer spine than the president. I'll give you a different three on it which is that when you look back over the last year and you see record tax relief, you see Supreme Court justice confirmed, you see more justices confirmed at the circa court level than any year in American history, repeal of the individual mandate, you see all the things the administration has done and they're being held captive by a base in their party that is angry. And they're responding to that base. This is not about policy, Chuck. It is purely about politics.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you know the same argument could be said that on the issue of DACA which is an 85%, you know, depending on the poll you want to look at, anywhere from 65% to 90% overall approval, including among Trump voters, that the president's position on this is being held hostage by a small conservative base.

MARC SHORT:

We want to solve DACA. We recognize that these are people aged between 16 and 36 who have work permits. They wouldn't get those work permits unless they had a clean legal record. They're productive to our society. We want to solve that too. We're not on a different page on that.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, you're taking a very conciliatory tone this morning. I want to play an ad that you guys unveiled last night.

(BEGIN TAPE)

VOICE OVER:

It's pure evil . President Trump is right. Build the wall. Deport criminals. Stop illegal immigration now. Democrats who stand in our way will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Tell me how that helps negotiations today? You're calling Democrats accomplices to potential murders.

MARC SHORT:

Well, you know that that ad is produced by an outside group and not those of us in the White--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

Donald J. Trump for president is an outside--

MARC SHORT:

Hold on.

CHUCK TODD:

--group?

MARC SHORT:

Let me talk about--

CHUCK TODD:

Wait, Donald J. Trump for president is an outside group?

MARC SHORT:

It’s not done--it's done from a political organization. It's not done from people working inside the White House. But let me talk about the basis of that ad. Today what we have is we have over 2,500 people on a terror watch list trying to get into our country each and every day. Each and every -- I'm sorry, each year. That's about seven per day, Chuck, that are being apprehended or turned away. We want to solve the problem of immigration coming in and the threat that it poses to our country. I think that that's a natural debate that we should be having. It's not something we should say, "Hey, let's do this at some other point in time."

CHUCK TODD:

But if you want to solve this problem, is that a way to treat opponents, political opponents here?

MARC SHORT:

Chuck, I--

CHUCK TODD:

Is that ad -- let me ask you this, is that ad helpful to you today?

MARC SHORT:

I think it's helpful to continue to raise awareness of what the--

CHUCK TODD:

The tone of that ad, you find the tone of that ad helpful?

MARC SHORT:

I think that the data in that ad continues to remind people that there are people coming across--

CHUCK TODD:

The data, not tone.

MARC SHORT:

--our border--

CHUCK TODD:

Is the tone wrong?

MARC SHORT:

I'm telling you, the data of the ad shows that there are people coming across our border that pose threats to our country. Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Marc Short, I have to leave it there. We've got you, we've got Dick Durbin, we've got Tom Cotton. After the show's over will you guys go solve this?

MARC SHORT:

I hope so.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. As many people have pointed out, Republicans, who are all for a shutdown when President Obama was in office, are opposed to one now. But Democrats, too, have had a change of heart. Here's what three prominent Democrats sounded like in 2013, when Republicans were threatening to shut down the government over health care.

(BEGIN TAPE)

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

You do not use the threat of shutting down government to try to advance your policy agenda. That's just not the way it works.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

You could say we're shutting down the government. We're not going to raise the debt ceiling until you pass immigration reform. It would be governmental chaos.

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

But if we're talking about competency and accountability, I have a question for the Republicans. We just went through a government shutdown of your creation. Who is going to be held accountable for that?

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Well, joining me now is one of those Democrats you just heard from, the number two Democrat in the United States Senate, it's Dick Durbin of Illinois. Senator Durbin, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

It's good to be here.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I know you guys hopefully are going to go solve this problem after the show is over. But let me ask you this, why draw the line in the sand now. It seems like you, to the average American, you guys are fighting over how long the window of negotiation on immigration should be. One month or five days, two weeks or three weeks. Do you see how, to the average American, they're not quite sure why this is the line in the sand versus say a month from now?

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

Let me tell you, the average American feels frustration that we haven't solved the problem and many problems that we face here in Washington. But let's put it in context, Chuck, you understand the Republicans control the White House. The Republicans control the Senate. The House of Representatives and through their nominees, even the U.S. Supreme Court. What we're trying to do is to find a solution to a shutdown which we believe is a Trump shutdown. Now you've heard it over and over. You played it early in your broadcast here. But the reason is pretty clear. When the president said on January 9th, and I was sitting right next to him, "You send me a bill to solve the problem” that he created on DACA, “I'll sign it. I'll take the political heat." Within 48 hours, Lindsey Graham, Republican South Carolina and I presented that bill to him. He rejected it out of hand. This last Friday, when Chuck Schumer was invited to the White House, he sat down with the president over lunch. There were two other people in the room. They hammered out an agreement where Chuck Schumer made major concessions on one of the major issues, the president's wall. Within two hours the White House called and said, “That deal is off.” So if you wonder what kind of shutdown it is and who's to blame, the president in both instances could've stepped forward to show leadership.

CHUCK TODD:

But what I don't understand is why the sense of urgency now versus three weeks? I mean, look, this is a, nobody likes the situation we're in. But explain to me why you need, frankly, why not draw this line in the sand in three weeks?

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

This is the fourth CR this fiscal year. For those who are not following the insides of Washington politics, it means a failure to pass a budget for the United States of America. This has to come to an end as well. There are people, even five Republicans, who voted against the cloture on the continuing resolution because they're sick as well of these continuing resolutions. So you say, “Why don't we wait another three weeks, another four weeks?” It has to come to an end, and it will, if and when the president shows the leadership that we expect of him as president.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to get some clarity on Durbin/Graham, Graham/Durbin. I guess we'll call it Durbin/Graham. You're here. If Lindsey were here, we'd say Graham--

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

Either way is fine.

CHUCK TODD:

--Durbin, which is you say you handle all of this and we now-- all of the asks that the president has. But I want to get to what they're referring to as so-called chain migration, family migration. It seems to me the real dispute is over does it apply just to the DACA population or does it apply to all immigration overall? Are you at all open to having larger changes to our immigration law in the DACA negotiations?

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

The president made it clear on the January 9th meeting he agreed with us there should be two phases. Let's deal with the problem, which he created on September 5th, by eliminating DACA, deadline March 5th, just a few weeks away. Let's solve that problem now. And not all the problems of immigration. And yes, we did include a provision related to family reunification, which breaks my heart. We've said--

CHUCK TODD:

Only applying to this population.

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

That's right.

CHUCK TODD:

Now they say it should apply to the--

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

Of course.

CHUCK TODD:

--entire immigration--

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

And you're going to have Senator Cotton on who even wants to reduce legal immigration into the United States. I'm not one of those people. My mother was an immigrant to this country. I'm very proud to be serving in the Senate under those circumstances. But what it comes down to is this, Lindsey Graham and I accepted the president's challenge. Produce the bill he asked for. Gave it to him 48 hours later and the infamous White House meeting took place.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you about that White House meeting. You've said you've not leaked the contents of that meeting.

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

That's true.

CHUCK TODD:

You amplified it though. Why'd you do that?

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

Because the president denied it happened. I was in Chicago, I woke up the next morning. The story had been in the Washington Post the night before. And the president tweeted it didn't happen. And it did happen, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

I ask this because I played that ad that the Trump campaign is playing that's accusing Democrats of being accomplices to crimes, to murders for some reason. Not helpful to a negotiation obviously to do name-calling. This became personal for many of you, not helpful to this. Do you regret that that became public?

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

I'm sorry that it was said. I'm sorry that the president denied it. But for the longest time we've heard that the driving force behind the administration's position on immigration is safety. It's terrorism. You heard Marc Short said the same thing earlier. What we heard in that Thursday meeting was much different. It really reflected something which I hope we will not continue to subscribe to in this country. We are a nation of immigrants. That is part of our values. We want to keep America safe. That's our first priority. But let us not turn immigrants into criminals. Let us not deport the Dreamers.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. What deal will you take to reopen the government? Obviously I think you guys accept the idea that you can't actually vote on the DACA bill as part of reopening the government. Obviously, it's my understanding you'll accept reopening the government as long as there's a separate commitment to vote on DACA. But give me what you'll accept.

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

There are two possibilities. One is that the president steps up, as he said in his January 9th meeting, and says, "I embrace the following approach to dealing with DACA and the Dreamers. Congress has met the challenge. Here's what I'll stand by and we include it and pass it quickly." The alternative is to have competing ideas. Senator Cotton and I have dramatically different ideas. Competing ideas that are considered on the floor and the Senate. And then, this is critical, and then are brought up in the House. Remember when we passed comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate with an overwhelming bipartisan roll-call and Speaker Boehner and the Republicans refuse to even consider it?

CHUCK TODD:

You want standalone bills voted on in the Senate. But it's my understanding you don't want the House to vote on a standalone.

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

No, the point that we're getting to is we need to have clear assurance that if we can pass a comprehensive or a bill in the Senate it'll be taken up in the House and won't be ignored. The March 5th Trump deadline on DACA is looming. And we want to solve this problem long before.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I want to end with where we started. Why was February 16th a non-starter for this but January 31st was okay?

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

It isn't--

CHUCK TODD:

I don't understand the difference. What's the difference between 14 days here?

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

The dynamic here, we've called for a one-day extension, a three-day extension to put a looming deadline on this negotiation and bring this shutdown, this Trump shutdown, to an end as quickly as possible. Now the Republicans have come back and said, "Well, instead of four weeks we'll take three weeks." What we need to have is a basic agreement on what we'll do in those three weeks, not just a calendar date.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Senator Dick Durbin, I have to leave it there. Honestly, it doesn't sound like we're very close, are we?

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

I'm more positive. I really think there are conversations at every level, among Democrats and Republicans--

CHUCK TODD:

You think this government reopens before close of business Monday?

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

I'm not going to make that prediction. But I feel that there are positive conversations--

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this, if it doesn't open by close of business Monday do you think we're here for the long haul?

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

No, I tell you, we're going to look every minute of every day. I wish the president would help us. At some point his leadership could make the difference.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Dick Durbin, I'm going to leave it there. Democrat from Illinois. We'll be watching.

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank, you sir. When we come back we're going to hear from a Republican in the Senate who seems more intent sometimes on keeping the president's immigration promises more than the president himself. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. One of the Senate Republicans who has taken a particularly tough stance on illegal immigration has been Tom Cotton of Arkansas. And Senator Cotton joins me now. Senator, welcome back to “Meet the Press.”

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Good morning, Chuck. Good to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

Alright. What would you say of what kind of deal the president will accept because there does seem to be -- the president -- Tuesday Trump, I guess, as Lindsey Graham likes to call him -- you were in that larger meeting -- he looked like he was willing to essentially accept Graham-Durbin. And then a lot of people say you got to him and you stiffened his spine. So can you explain the president’s position because it doesn’t seem to be clear, as Mitch McConnell himself has said?

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Chuck, I don’t think anyone got to Donald Trump. Donald Trump studied the proposal that Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham put in front of him and realized it didn’t address any of our key priorities. Not only did it give legal protections to the population that is in the DACA program, but it gave a mass amnesty to their parents as well, the people that created the problem to begin with. It didn’t give money for new border barrier construction --

CHUCK TODD:

No citizenship. They weren’t going to get citizenship.

SEN. TOM COTTON:

But it gives them legal status. That’s an amnesty, by adjusting their status from illegal to legal, no matter what you call it. It didn’t give money to build any new border barriers, only to repair past border barriers. It didn’t do anything to stop chain migration. Here’s what the president has been clear on. Here’s what I and so many Senate Republicans have been clear on: we’re willing to protect this population that is in the DACA program. If we do that, though, it’s going to have negative consequences: first, it’s going to lead to more illegal immigration with children. That’s why the security enforcement measures are so important. And second, it means that you’re going to create an entire new population, through chain migration, that can bring in more people into this country that’s not based on their skills and education and so forth. That’s why we have to address chain migration as well. That is a narrow and focused package that should have the support of both parties.

CHUCK TODD:

But you’re -- as I was saying to Senator Durbin -- it sounds like Democrats are willing to accept everything you’re talking about on a smaller population. Like let’s deal with the DACA and DACA-related population on all of those issues -- that’s part one. And then there’s a part two -- that you deal with the larger immigration law changes. That seems very reasonable. Why do you find that unreasonable?

SEN. TOM COTTON:

So first let me just say that Congress hasn’t gotten part one right for decades. So it’s important that we focus on part one. But second, the proposal that Senator Durbin and Senator Graham put forward doesn’t do any of those things. As I said, it doesn’t just give legal protections for the 700,000 persons in the DACA program, but to millions of other people to include the parents who brought those kids here in the first place. Second, on security, no new border construction, only repair of existing construction.

CHUCK TODD:

That’s already changed. That’s already changed. Chuck Schumer on Friday gave him full funding for the wall: $18 billion, put it on the table, done. That’s already changed.

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Were you in that meeting?

CHUCK TODD:

I’m just --

SEN. TOM COTTON:

I wasn’t in the meeting either.

CHUCK TODD:

Ok.

SEN. TOM COTTON:

It’s hard for the president to negotiate, it’s hard for the president or for Senate Republicans to negotiate when the Democrats sitting across the table don’t get what they want, they run out and they misrepresent what was a good faith effort to listen and to build trust. To claim that some ridiculous deal was made and then claim that the president walked away from that deal, and the media buys it hook, line and sinker. The president and the Senate Republicans engaged on this issue have been consistent since September when the president ended President Obama’s unlawful program. The problem we have is for four and half months, the Democrats have not been negotiating over these very real and very honest concerns.

CHUCK TODD:

What I don’t understand is how do you not see it as progress now that Chuck Schumer even publically is saying you get full funding for the wall. Luis Gutierrez publically saying, you get funding for the wall. How is that not done? How is that not a done deal? They’ve already moved. If you’re the Democrats here, they say ‘We’ve moved much farther.’

SEN. TOM COTTON:

So, Chuck, that’s a good first step. But the devil is always in the details on immigration. It’s a very complicated area of law. Last week, Senator Durbin, Senator Graham were saying you get funding for the wall. You don’t get any funding for it. You get funding to repair existing. And it’s only one year.

CHUCK TODD:

That’s an old offer.

SEN. TOM COTTON:

We’ve seen this time and time again in the immigration space: promises are made, promises are not kept because we spend money on a year to year basis. Second, you still have the problem of chain migration and of creating an entire new group of immigrants that is going to be able to bring millions of new immigrants to this country without regard to their skills or their education level or their ability to get a job and stand on their own two feet. We have to solve those two negative side effects of giving legal protections to the DACA population. That’s the parameters of the deal that we all agreed to a couple Tuesdays ago at the White House.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think it's a fair stance that if you can't vote for a bill the president shouldn't agree to it?

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Well, look, we all serve in co-equal branches, the House, the Senate and the president. We all make our independent decisions. I work with the president on this issue. I work with Senate and House Republicans. I'm more than happy to sit down with any Democrat as well.

CHUCK TODD:

Whatever the president eventually agrees to, will you support that bill, hook, line and sinker?

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Well, no I can't make that commitment at all. I will evaluate any deal on its merits and what's best for the people of Arkansas and best for our country.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, you question the credibility of the Democrats when they go into a meeting and they come out. I've got to ask you about the infamous meeting of 10 days ago. Did the president use a vulgarity?

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Chuck, I'm not going to get into every word that was or was not said. I will say, as many people have said, Kirstjen Nielsen, under oath, a lot of strong language was used. I think it's fair -- that there was some cursing behind closed doors.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, why couldn't you--

SEN. TOM COTTON:

The point--

CHUCK TODD:

--but what I don't understand is in the first 48 hours that there was a controversy about whether was said, you implied it wasn't said at all. And it made it seem as if you were accusing Dick Durbin of being a liar.

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Here's what--

CHUCK TODD:

And Lindsey Graham of being a liar.

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Here's what was miss--

CHUCK TODD:

Do you understand--

SEN. TOM COTTON:

As far as I know Lindsey Graham hasn't spoken on the record about this, Chuck. Here's the point, that Senator Durbin represented that President Trump used repeatedly, repeatedly used, vile, racist, hateful language. That's not the case. If it was, why didn't he say anything? Why didn't he slam his paper down and get up and walk out? What President Trump and others in that meeting expressed was astonishment that Senator Durbin and Senator Graham would bring a proposal that wouldn't move us towards a skills-based system but move us towards a system in which we are rewarding people based on where they come from, not who they are. The whole point of immigration reform is to judge people as individuals, based on who they are and what they can contribute to our society. Not where they come from or who they're related to.

CHUCK TODD:

But to go back to this issue of sort of trust on both sides, you let it sort of hang out there that Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham were misleading the public completely. And only now are you admitting, "Well, yeah, there was some vulgarity used." That isn't what you said a week ago. That isn't what you said 10 days ago at the time. Why?

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Chuck, I've never denied that there wasn't strong language used in the meeting by lots of people. I'm not a shrinking violet about these things. I've been in a command post overseas. I've heard some salty language before. What I'm saying is it is a gross misrepresentation--

CHUCK TODD:

Were you offended? Lindsey Graham appears to be offended. He said he said his piece. Were you offended by what the president said?

SEN. TOM COTTON:

I was not offended. And nobody in the meeting expressed their offense at any of the language--

CHUCK TODD:

Lindsey Graham--

SEN. TOM COTTON:

--that was being used.

CHUCK TODD:

--didn't make his piece?

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Lindsey Graham made a case about immigration policy. He didn't make a case about what the president was saying.

CHUCK TODD:

He said that he said his piece about what American ideals are about. Did he do that or not?

SEN. TOM COTTON:

Yes he did. And that's part of immigration policies because immigration policy is a part of who we are, who we are going to bring to this country to become new American citizens.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, I'm going to leave it there. Thanks for coming out. Appreciate it. When we come back, are there any winners in this shutdown battle? And we'll look at those tough new poll numbers for the president and what they may mean for the president's party in November.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, panelists here. NBC News national correspondent, Peter Alexander, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, former Obama deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter and Republican strategist Al Cardenas. Well, do I have any marks up here? I feel like I banged my head against the wall. Peter, I want to start with you here a little bit. And tell me how the White House is reacting to this criticism. Here is the president bragging about his negotiating skills.

DONALD TRUMP:

We need a leader that wrote the art of the deal. I will negotiate deals that nobody can negotiate like I do. Nobody is going to be able to do the kind of things I can do. I believe, because I'm a dealmaker, I believe that I can put both sides together.

CHUCK TODD:

I actually believe that candidate Trump was going to be the guy that would just bring people in the room because he loves this stuff. Where was he yesterday?

PETER ALEXANDER:

I think a lot of people are saying that this president has been MIA. You heard Marc Short insist, "Oh he's heavily engaged." He was in the residence until 2:30 in the afternoon yesterday. Was not really involved. Made calls to mostly Republicans. The day before the conversation with Chuck Schumer. I think a lot of Republicans I spoke to on the Hill feel like that, in effect, backfired on the president in some ways. What's striking is Republican operatives said to me they think this president is erratic, he's undisciplined, he's inconsistent which makes it tough for him when he tries to get himself engaged in a deal like this.

PEGGY NOONAN:

Um Yes. I think I would add looking at the history here of Mr. Trump meeting first in the public deal last week when he talked to everybody and he said, "Make a deal, I can take the heat," then in the conversation with Schumer, what I think we see is he's actually not good at making a deal.

What he does is pull New York real estate moves on the American political scene. He's saying, "You know what, we got a deal. It's so great. Come back tomorrow. We're going to have champagne and shine--sign it." And they come back and it's sort of, "I was thinking overnight. I got three or four more things. They're not that big," and everybody goes, "You're jerking me around." So that's the part that I think is not working. And maybe he's not so deeply involved at the moment because his particular talents don't apply here.

CHUCK TODD:

You know Al, I was talking to some Republicans on the Hill. And they do believe that if this were the straight up merits of this that they've got the winning hand here. Democrats, they're negotiating over the window of negotiating DACA. But they are--they know the wild card here is the president. That he could blink.

AL CARDENAS:

Oh boy, listen, I think this is such an easy putt I'm just perplexed by why it doesn't happen. It's a winning hand for the president. Allowed him to continue the momentum he had built after passage of tax reform. It's a winning hand for the Democrats because they showed that they got the Republicans for the first time to agree on immigration reform that helped innocent people, a million people. And so why didn't they make this deal? Why didn't they agree to the deal President Schumer spoke about is beyond me politically. For those who spoken principle on my side, in 2006 Republicans did not want to vote on what the president proposed because they thought it would-- you know amnesty was a word at that time that was poisonous. And number two, too many people would be coming to America when they thought we were soft. What's happened is there are five million illegal people here in America in 2006. Now it's 12 to 14 million. We failed to act and as a result of failed to act, failure to act was worse than passing a law. And so we haven't learned our lesson in 2018.

CHUCK TODD:

Stephanie, and I'm not asking you personally to defend this, but the Democrats feel like it's hard publicly. How do you defend it? You saw the question I had to Dick Durbin. How do you defend it? It looks to the average American watching that you shut down the government because you couldn't agree on a window to negotiate.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

Well, I think, let me say a couple of things. And I will defend it. I think what Senator Durbin said is what the American people believe, that you cannot negotiate with this president. Because it's like Jello. He keeps moving the goal post. He makes a deal one day, reneges on it in the next.

And I think what Democrats are simply saying is we'll agree to an extension. We'll agree to some date certain in the future to figure this out. But we want some assurances that we're going to figure it out. What's going to happen between now and then? We're not going to just keep kicking it down the road. And when it comes to the Dreamer population, you know Chuck, you had mentioned when you came over here you felt like you were banging your head against a wall. What was startling to me is you have the White House representative, Marc Short, who is very good in doing these shows, acting very conciliatory and wanting to make a deal. Then defends an ad that's basically calling Democrats murderers. And likening the Dreamer population to people coming across the border to kill people.

PETER ALEXANDER:

The president promising a bill of love.

(OVERTALK)

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

Right, they are merging these two issues. And I understand why they're doing it. I've been in politics for many years.

(OVERTALK)

AL CARDENAS:

Well, I don't understand it. I don't understand it.

(OVERTALK)

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

It's not right.

AL CARDENAS:

Because it's Pete Wilson, 1994 in California--

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

Exactly.

CHUCK TODD:

You see the long-term damage.

AL CARDENAS:

I see it's--

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

There is long-term damage.

AL CARDENAS:

--huge long-term damage. And we're not learning our lessons. We didn't learn them in 2006 on immigration reform and we're killing my party now in this short-term deal because it's going to happen the same thing. We've got 50 million Hispanics here now. We'll have 100 million in 20 years. What makes people think that this is good long-term policy for my party?

PEGGY NOONAN:

You know--

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

Bottom line is that if if Marc Short was as conciliatory --

CHUCK TODD:

Right

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

-- as he sounded and that there really is a deal to be made here, why did the president waste an entire day yesterday? I've served in the White House. I've been through shutdowns. Both Democrats and Republicans should have been sitting in a room yesterday--

CHUCK TODD:

That's what I didn't--

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

--trying to hash this out. If they really cared about the harm to the American people of shutting down the government they should have made yesterday work.

PEGGY NOONAN:

But it's my impression, I must tell you, it looks to me like to some degree the Democrats are overplaying their hand. And unfortunately obscuring something historic. What's historic? Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, in the White House right now are willing to trade changes in policy on DACA for changes in policy on immigration on the wall. DACA security which is kind of perfect and kind of where America is. You look at any of the polls--

CHUCK TODD:

It seemed the obvious deal, right?

PEGGY NOONAN:

Yeah. You know Americans, they don't like illegal immigration. They want it shut down. They don't really care how it's done. A wall, a drone. Just shut it down. It's dangerous for the country. At the same time, we have illegal immigrants here. We marry them. We are at school with them. We know them. Nobody's going to throw them out. Regularize it as best you can. That's kind of where the American people are. It's fabulous that Republicans and Democrats have almost this mind melt and in the last minutes getting screwed up by nonsense.

PETER ALEXANDER:

This is probably the most important soundbite you played today is from Mitch McConnell in the last several days saying, "We don't really know where the president stands on this. The president hasn't even given Republican leadership a sense of exactly where he is on this.

AL CARDENAS:

Well--

(OVERTALK)

AL CARDENAS:

--Stephanie, I thought the Democrats had a moral high ground on this until they failed to agree to extend this process for a short period of time. At that point I said, " You know This shut down is political."

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

Except, Al, let me--

AL CARDENAS:

It's not American.

(OVERTALK)

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

--let me remind you that Schumer went to the White House and offered a short-term extension. And basically gave the president everything he wanted. President agreed to it. Schumer leaves the White House. By the time he gets back to the Hill the president has changed his mind.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I think it's pretty clear to me Democrats are from Mars and Republicans are from Venus right here. And they need a relationship book really, really badly here. All right. Let's pause here in a moment. Democrats believe taking a strong stand in defense of so-called Dreamers is good politics. Are they right? I want to get to Al Cardenas' point. That's next. Wait until you see this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Data download time. The shutdown struggle is over DACA. That's the program that protects children who are brought to the United States illegally by their parents and have essentially known no other country. So why are Democrats willing to essentially shutdown the government over this issue? Well, last month’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed 62% of the country believed Congress should continue to protect those who receive DACA status, the so-called Dreamers. And our latest polling on this issue also shows that Hispanics favor Democrats to control Congress next year by a whopping 64% to 19%. And it's not just the polling. The 2018 midterm map shows how much DACA could put the GOP majority at risk. Right now there are 52 Republican controlled districts where the Hispanic population is higher than the national average, 17.8%. And in 21 of those districts, more than 30% of the population is Hispanic. These are voters who take the DACA issue to heart, they take it personally and may be motivated to get out to the polls in what's typically a lower turnout midterm year. And, by the way, ten of the representatives in those 52 districts are already bolting for the exits. They're either retiring completely or running for higher office. The 42 remaining incumbents do have a lot at stake in this current debate. So where are the places we're talking about? Forty-four of these 52 districts are in border states, 12 in California, four in Arizona, one in New Mexico, 22 in Texas and five in Florida. And yes, even as a Floridian, I do consider Florida essentially a border state. But some of these districts are in places you may not expect, Washington State, Nevada, three in Colorado, Georgia, Pennsylvania and New York. So if the Democrats do, indeed, take back the House this November it could be because they fought for DACA issue and they won districts like this, Republican-held districts with larger than average minority population. And they're not just along the border. They're now more scattered around the country. When we come back, end game and a report from NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt who is in North Korea.

ANNOUNCER:

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER:

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CHUCK TODD:

Back now with End Game. We're actually gonna stick to the politics of this, and Stephanie I want you to, I', gonna hit you here with the democratic base and in some way, it's 2020 politics that is drawing the line in the sand here about—on DACA. Some of your former colleagues have a very popular podcast called Pod Save America--Dan Pfeiffer, Tommy Vietor, Jon Favreau, all former Obama White House folks. And they were doing a whip count of Democrats on the so-called CR. And the whip count was between those in fight club and those in the waffle house. And they put Donnelly, Heitkamp, Jones and Manchin in the waffle house. How much is the base driving this outside? Do you think Democrats in the Senate would have a spine on this, would draw this line in the sand without that kind of activity?

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

Let's remember what this is about. This is about the Dreamer population. More than 700,000 kids that came here through no fault of their own and have basically grown up as Americans that are contributing to our country. Democrats have been for that, for--and fixing that problem, for a very long time, for decades. And most Republicans have been too. That's why it's an 80 plus supported issue. And I think everybody understands, and I don't think anybody around this table would disagree, that if the compromise were put on the floor of the House and the Senate they would both pass that bill. Drawing a line in the sand to get that done is not just a base exercise. It's the right thing to do.

CHUCK TODD:

But what does it do to those red state Democrats?

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

They voted the way they wanted to.

CHUCK TODD:

But is that healthy for them to be referred to as wafflers by fellow Democrats?

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

Well, in some of those states maybe it would be.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes, it has a net positive here. But the same base issue for the Republicans. It does seem as if the president's more worried about that base than thinking about the middle.

AL CARDENAS:

Well, all I know is that we did a reprogram after the '14 election and we've doubled down on the mistakes we agreed in '14 were--

CHUCK TODD:

You mean '12, right, '12 to '13.

AL CARDENAS:

Excuse me, that's right. And you know, look, for the Republican Party the president had already tested DACA. The base seemed to be okay with it. Now that things have changed to the point where this bill passes, and it should, Democrats are going to take all the credit for DACA. And we're taking none. Stupid politics. Number two, the second part that makes us stupid is the fact that no one in our party is saying, "Look, I'm not for this bill but I've got a lot of empathy for these million family." Look, I can see why somebody would not be for this policy-wise. I don't understand it. But I can respect it. But there's no empathy. When I saw the secretary of homeland security in front of a Senate saying she'd never met a Dreamer. And yet she's going to deport a million people, break up all these families. Where is the empathy in my party? People, you know the number one important thing in America when somebody's asking for a presidential candidate’s support is, "Do you care...Does he care about me?" How do we tell 50 million people that we care about them when there's not a single word of empathy about the fate of these million people.

CHUCK TODD:

Peggy.

PEGGY NOONAN:

Can I say the Trump base, in my view, would be very happy with a DACA deal and an immigration wall enforcement thing. They'd be happy. But it's more than they'd be happy. The middle would be happy. Centrists would be impressed. That's the way to play politics. It's odd. Sometimes I think the president misunderstands his own base. He doesn't really understand what it will like, what it will accept. May I say also I do not think, Stephanie, that this shutdown would be happening if Democrats in the U.S. Senate did not feel that their own base was angry, restive, holding their feet to the fire. And if they didn't think they can benefit because Trump is so unpopular--

PETER ALEXANDER:

Look at all the people on the mall yesterday...

PEGGY NOONAN:

--he's high thirties. Well, there's that. Well, but...

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

Yesterday was not about the shutdown. Yesterday was about a year of...or more than a year, a whole--

PETER ALEXANDER:

So imagine if Chuck Schumer--

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

--presidential election--

PETER ALEXANDER:

--imagine if Chuck Schumer hadn't held his ground.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

--about disparaging women, disparaging minorities.

PETER ALEXANDER:

Imagine if Chuck Schumer hadn't held his ground when all those people were marching--

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

But sometimes when you hold--

PETER ALEXANDER:

--across the country.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

--your ground for a political reason it's also the right thing to do. And that's where I think Democrats are coming down here.

CHUCK TODD:

There's another issue that I think--and it may be part of Trump's first year and the way he's changed Washington. I would say the shutdown rhetoric has been defining “deviancy down” as our friend, Mr. Moynihan would say. Peggy, I'd love you to tee off on this. Here's Lindsey Graham name-calling Tom Cotton, Steve King of the Senate. Tom Cotton shooting back, "Oh yeah, you weren't at the kiddy table in the debates." An official White House press release on Friday called Democratic senators losers instead of legislators.

PEGGY NOONAN:

I saw.

CHUCK TODD:

Nancy Pelosi with a bowl of doggy doo.

PEGGY NOONAN:

Oh my gosh, that was awful.

CHUCK TODD:

The point is, it's all awful. And it's the new normal.

PEGGY NOONAN:

It is. Look, as for the presidency, we just past one year anniversary two days into the second year. I think what we are seeing up close every day relentlessly is a post-heroic presidency. A presidency for a post-heroic era. People don't have illusions about how high and upstanding and rigorously upholding of values that the president is. And at the same time everybody in politics around him sees it, sees that it plays fairly well for him, that he is sometimes gross or abrupt or rude in his terminology. So they do it too. It does lower everything. We are living through a cultural lowering.

AL CARDENAS:

The lowering of expectations here, leadership is talking to an echo-chamber while more and more Americans are informed about politics.

AL CARDENAS:

It's a dichotomy.

PETER ALEXANDER:

So is the president.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah and it's all sort of Twitter-snark all--

PEGGY NOONAN:

It is.

CHUCK TODD:

--on public.

PEGGY NOONAN:

It is.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Before we go, my colleague, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt is in North Korea as tensions, of course, are rising over that country's growing nuclear weapons program. It's a rare look inside Kim Jong-un's regime. And of course it comes less than three weeks before the Olympics begin just a few miles away in South Korea. Which may be why North Korea is suddenly opening its doors a little bit to the west. Earlier Lester filed this report exclusively for us. Take a listen.

LESTER HOLT:

Well, good morning, Chuck. This is probably not the image you were expecting to see of North Korea. And that's probably one of the reasons we were invited to come here because it is not what you would expect. A modern ski resort here about four hours outside the capital. We have come here to talk about the Olympics which, of course, will be held in South Korea. But we've learned that here they will be training both athletes from the north and south, a product obviously of the recent talks, face to face talks, between the countries. None of it masking, of course, the issues that remain over the nuclear program. And no signs that North Korea's willing to dial that back. And also of course the crippling sanctions which have created such hardship. Again, you see no signs of hardship here. But it has taken a toll in this country. We'll have reporting this week on NBC Nightly News. But we'll send it back to you right now in Washington.

CHUCK TODD:

And that's what we all look forward to. Much more of Lester's reporting throughout the day. And be sure to watch Lester live from the region after he has been around North Korea Tuesday on NBC Nightly News. That's all we have for today. We're open every Sunday. No shutdowns here because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *

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