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NBC News- Meet the Press

“01.28.18”

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday the president, the special council and the Russia investigation. President Trump tries to fire Bob Mueller but his White House council refuses. Democrats react.

SEN. CORY BOOKER:

We've seen persistent attacks to try to undermine the credibility. And that to me is unacceptable.

REP. JIM HIMES:

What it does do is it shows intent. And it's not surprising.

CHUCK TODD:

This is how Republicans sounded last year.

SEN. BOB CORKER:

That would be a major mistake.

CHUCK TODD:

But this week.

REP. BOB GOODLATTE:

I'm here for a hearing on copyright and I don't have anything to comment on it.

CHUCK TODD:

And President Trump denies all of it.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

Fake news, folks, fake news.

CHUCK TODD:

At issue now, will Republicans move to protect Mueller or the president? Plus immigration fight. President Trump offers a path to citizenship for so-called Dreamers but at a steep price. Are we headed for a deal or another shutdown? My guests this morning, Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. And under attack.

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN :

But there is deep concern that the F.B.I. may have been used in a political way.

CHUCK TODD:

I'll talk to former C.I.A. director Robert Gates about Republican efforts to delegitimize law enforcement institutions they once revered. Joining me for insight and analysis are NBC News special correspondent Tom Brokaw, NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent Kasie Hunt, Rich Lowry, editor of National Review and Heather McGhee, president of the liberal group Demos. 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. If this were a normal presidency with a State of the Union message coming up in two days we'd likely be focusing on how the president plans to sell his agenda to the public in a critical mid-term election year. But this has not been a normal presidency. And so it was almost predictable that the president's trip to Davos was going to be overshadowed by the story that President Trump tried to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller last June only to be stopped by White House Counsel Don McGahn. Also predictable was President Trump's response that it was all just fake news. What's not so predictable is what happens next, the attempted firing has prompted many questions: who leaked the story about President Trump's intentions and why? Why was it so easy for news organizations to quickly match the Times' scoop unless someone wanted this story out? And was it a sign that President Trump is, again, considering the dismissal of Mueller? Is it a warning to him to not to do it? Or was this a trial balloon to see if he can? And most important will Republicans in Congress who once urged Mr. Trump to not do this continue to hold firm on this issue? In other words, are the president's allies in Congress more eager to protect Robert Mueller or President Trump?

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

Fake news, folks. Fake news.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump with a predictable defense of yet another Russia-related allegation. Mr. Trump reportedly backed down only when White House Counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit saying the move would be catastrophic. Senate Democrats are pushing Republican leaders to include legislation protecting Mueller in budget negotiations.

SEN. MARK WARNER:

This president has continued to say there's no there there. Well, he is acting in absolutely the opposite way of someone who had nothing to hide.

CHUCK TODD:

Publicly Mr. Trump has repeatedly denied that he has considered firing Mueller.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

I haven't given it any thought. I mean, I've been reading about it from you people. You say oh I'm going to dismiss him. No, I'm not dismissing anybody.

REPORTER:

Are you considering firing Robert Muller?

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

No not at all.

CHUCK TODD:

But friends have acknowledged that he has.

CHRIS RUDDY:

I think he's considering perhaps terminating the special council.

CHUCK TODD:

In July the president told the New York Times that Mueller would cross a red line if he looked into Trump's family finances. Mr. Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he looks forward to sitting down for an interview with the special council.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

I would love to.

REPORTER:

Would you do it under oath?

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

I would do it under oath. Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

But worried that Mueller could be zeroing in on an obstruction of justice case Mr. Trump's allies are warning him that if he testifies Mueller could catch him in a lie.

ROGER STONE:

It's a very clear perjury trap.

RUSH LIMBAUGH:

ust a perjury trap.

REPORTER:

Do you have any fear of a perjury trap?

TY COBBS:

No but I think it--I think it would be foolish to not proceed without considering that possibility.

CHUCK TODD:

And ahead of the president's potential testimony Mr. Trump's defenders on Capitol Hill and in the media have stepped up a month's long campaign to discredit the F.B.I. and the Department of Justice.

REP. MATT GAETZ:

It is abundantly clear that the entire Mueller investigation is a lie built on a foundation of corruption.

REP. DARRELL ISSA:

It's actually the F.B.I. that's colluded with the DNC.

SEAN HANNITY:

It's been a huge week of revelations about corruptions at the highest level of the F.B.I. and the DOJ.

CHUCK TODD:

Last summer Republican leaders warned that if the president threatened Bob Mueller's job, they would move to protect Mueller.

SEN. BOB CORKER:

That would be a major mistake.

SEN LINDSEY GRAHAM:

There will be holy hell to pay.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

I have a lot of confidence in Bob Mueller.

CHUCK TODD:

Fast forward six months and Republicans have greeted these new reports with relative silence.

REP. BOB GOODLATTE:

I'm here for a hearing on copyright and I don't have anything to comment on any other issues like that.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER:

There are about a half million people obsessing over these investigations and I'm not one of them.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now is the House Majority leader, Republican Kevin McCarthy of California. Leader McCarthy, welcome back to Meet the Press.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

Well, thanks for having me back.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with the issue involving the president and Robert Mueller. Does it concern you that the president actually ordered his firing?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

Look, the president and his staff has fully cooperated. That's where they're moving forward. And I think we'll just continue this investigation to see where it goes.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you have confidence in Bob Mueller?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

100%?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

I have confidence in Mueller. I have questions about others within the F.B.I. and the DOJ. Especially what's come out of these texts, especially what it's been based upon. And I think it’s the responsibility of-- We have an intel committee. It's their duty and responsibility for oversight. And that's what's moving forward and that has raised a great deal amount of questions.

CHUCK TODD:

Is there some -- is there a red line the president could cross with you in his treatment of Bob Mueller?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

Look, the president and his team have fully cooperated. So I don’t, you're making hypotheticals. Right now--

CHUCK TODD:

It's not a hypothetical. We have reports that he ordered it to do it. And Don McGahn threatened to quit if asked to carry out the order.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

This is a place that I have not been a part of. I have not heard that. The only thing I've seen is cooperation going forward. And I think that's where they intend to end up.

CHUCK TODD:

Would you be open, if there is a bill that protects-- You know, there's a couple of bills in the Senate. One would be having a three-judge panel review a decision if the president did fire Mueller to see if it was done on fair grounds. Would you be open if that bill is attached to the budget bill? Would you support that? Would you let that go through versus--

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

Look, I think we should focus on the budget because military needs their funding. Why are we playing other games with something else? Let's take the issue that is right before us. He's cooperating right now.

CHUCK TODD:

Would you support legislation to protect Mueller?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

I don't think there's a need for legislation right now to protect Mueller. So we're raising an issue that's not. At the same time, we've got an issue about funding for the military. Chuck, remember this, one week ago when you were sitting here, government was shut down. Democrats believed government should be shut down trying to hold it hostage. The children's health insurance program and others. I think what's responsible for us to do is do the job that's before us. If there's an issue that arrives, we'll take it up at that time. But right now there is not an issue. So why create one when there isn't a place for it?

CHUCK TODD:

Do you believe there's some sort of deep state that's out to get the president?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

I never believed that. And I have people who have been U.S. attorneys and others. But it is a real question when somebody who works a high-end of the DOJ, wife is hired just to do research when it comes to fusion when somebody at the F.B.I. looking at the texts, talking to a person they're having an affair, putting their politics before. But it's not just somebody in the F.B.I. It's somebody that was responsible in looking at the investigation when it came to Hillary Clinton. It's somebody that was in this investigation that was with Mueller. And he didn't find it. It was the independent investigator that found it. And then when they had these questions about it, when you look at these entire texts and then why they were all lost right after the election, I think that gives anybody doubt. And I go to people who have dealt with this time and again. And now they have serious doubt.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me, let me ask you this. Let me ask you just in the reverse. If this were a Democrat that was being investigated, why do I have a feeling you'd be sitting here saying, "Boy, they seem to be so concerned about the investigators. It's almost as if they're afraid--"

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

No.

CHUCK TODD:

"--of the facts that are being found," because the disputes over this seem to be about the fact finders, not the facts. It's sort of like you don't like where the facts are going so let's question-- it's basically Johnny Cochran's OJ Simpson defense.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

No I think it's the complete opposite. You had never heard me prior to this have any problems with an investigation. You just asked me the question if I say Mueller, yes. What happens is the facts that came forward that an individual with the DOJ, his wife was hired by fusion only, only to work on the Russian portion. Low and behold that came through.

CHUCK TODD:

You believe this is a giant-- You're painting a conspiracy. You think that is the--

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

I'm not--

CHUCK TODD:

--plausible--

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

--no. No. I'm not painting any--

CHUCK TODD:

Do you want--

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

--conspiracy.

CHUCK TODD:

--people to draw conclusions that way?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

I want--

CHUCK TODD:

It does feel that way.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

I have given you no conclusion except the facts that are out there. As I said prior, I had no problems. But when these facts arise, remember, we're separate entities here and you have an ability and a responsibility for oversight. And I think the public has a right to know. Why was somebody that was in the middle of an investigation in this one conveying within their own texts concerned about the election, concerned about what happened after the election? And that high up. I think that is a problem--

CHUCK TODD:

There is--

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

--and we should at least look at it.

CHUCK TODD:

Right. And there is an investigation. It's called the inspector general. Why is that not enough for you right now? Let the inspector general do their job at DOJ. It seems as if you guys want to supersede that investigation.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

We weren’t the one that started this. You have differing investigations going on. And they all have their own part of going forward. We are separate but co-equal. We have a responsibility for oversight of DOJ and others. I don't care who was president this time. But I want my government to be fair and open. And what I'm seeing raises questions. So should we look into the questions? And it's just driven by facts. Let the facts take, take them where they may and that's the responsibility we have.

CHUCK TODD:

This memo that now the president apparently wants released which he has the power to do on his own. He can declassify anything he wants. Do you want the president to declassify this memo that was written by Republican staff on the House Intelligence Committee?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

Look, they have been doing their investigation. They found something out. I've gone down. I've read it. The committee voted. This is the process. They voted to allow members to read it. They have the ability to vote to move it forward just like being-- and then it would go to the executive branch.

CHUCK TODD:

Why are they afraid to send this to the Justice Department for review?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

Well, aren't we separate but co-equal? Don't we have a view? Don’t we have the responsibility for oversight? And the Justice Department will be able to see it because you have the executive branch and you have the legislative branch. And as the legislative branch looks at it, it will send it to the executive branch beforehand. They have the approval whether to declassify and put it forward. So they will have the opportunity--

CHUCK TODD:

Do you want the president--

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

--with the committee.

CHUCK TODD:

--do you want the president to declassify this memo?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

Having read this memo, I think it would be appropriate that the public has full view of it.

CHUCK TODD:

And you don't believe this is somehow the president tampering with the investigation? How does this not look like that if he does.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

Because it has nothing to do with the president right now. It is the committee doing their work who have found something, voted as a committee of the whole. And remember why the intel committee was created based upon what was happening in the executive branch from the C.I.A. and F.B.I. and others. So they have oversight of it. They made a vote for the public or for the members of Congress to look at it. Now they can vote to send it to the executive branch. And they could have say of whether to release it.

CHUCK TODD:

Why don't you want Senator Burr to look at it? He's chairman of the Senate Intel Committee. Why not?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

Well, the intel committee in the Senate's doing their investigation. We're doing ours.

CHUCK TODD:

He asked to see it.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

If we release it--

CHUCK TODD:

He has to see it first. Why not--

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

--well, that's a question for Devin Nunes, the chair.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I've got to ask you on immigration here. Is the idea of wall for pathway to citizenship for Dreamers as basically a one-for-one, is that off the table now? That idea off the table that that deal can't be struck anymore?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

Well, that deal was never on the table because when we had the meeting where we had bicameral senators, members of Congress, you had the media there for an hour. We all agreed, every single person in that room, that we'd focus on four items. We'd focused on DACA, we'd focus on border security, we'd focus on reunification of the family and we'd focus on merit. And those are the four issues we've talked about. The president just put out a compromise. It really goes to show--

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, do you view that as an opening bid, a start of negotiations by the White House?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

I view that as an opportunity to really show who's willing to solve this problem.

CHUCK TODD:

But that’s a -- but that’s a -- that's up for negotiation in your mind still.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

Well, that is talking what the president just put out there. I think it's a sign that shows he's serious about solving this problem.

CHUCK TODD:

Could that bill if you brought it on pass the House just with Republican votes, the president's plan--

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

Well, I think whatever we do is not going to pass with one party or the other. And the responsibility-- If you want to solve this and not be at this in another five or ten years, you want to do it correctly. And I think that bill has a lot of merit to solving the problem.

CHUCK TODD:

And finally, do you think this has to be done before March? Or do you think you have until the summer now to deal with the DACA situation?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:Well, you've got the courts going forward. You have the opportunity. I'd like to get it done as soon as possible.

CHUCK TODD:But you don’t think-- Is there urgency to do it before March? Or do you think this can slide?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:I think there's urgency to get this done. Unfortunately, the government was shut down by Schumer. They thought they wanted to take it hostage. That stopped the meetings that we were having in my office every day on a bicameral, bipartisan basis that was making great progress. So let's just get back to the table and solve it. But think for one moment, you're asking what the president has done? The president is the one that showed leadership in this. He's pushed himself. And remember, to solve this problem we're going to have to compromise. No one's going to get 100% of what they want. But this solves the problem long-term. And the president went there. And Schumer's now trying to back away.

CHUCK TODD:All right. Leader McCarthy, I'm going to have to leave it there. Thanks for coming on, sharing your views.REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:Thanks for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

Good to see you. And thanks for coming on. Now Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. He joins me now from West Virginia. Senator Manchin, welcome back to Meet the Press.

JOE MANCHIN:

Good to be with you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I ended with immigration with Leader McCarthy. So let me start on that topic. So we don’t have whiplash here for viewers. Just simply the president's proposal, could-- if that was legislation on the floor of the Senate, would you vote for it?

JOE MANCHIN:

Well, Chuck, it's not legislation so hypothetically saying if it was legislation would you vote for it, we haven't even seen it. I will say this, I think the president did the right thing by laying out where he wants to be, where he thinks the starting point is.

We've got to decide do we go large, do we go medium or do we go small? In 2013 we went large. The Senate passed comprehensive immigration. It was a pathway forward. We spent -- committed $42 billion to secure the border with walls. And with all other technology that was needed to truly secure America.

So we've been down that road. That was large. So we have to decide what, what venue and what avenue that we take here, Chuck. But I think it's a good starting point. We've got Susan Collins and myself is working with a common sense coalition of senators equally divided. We're going to meet Monday night and look at the proposal.

I think more details will come out tomorrow as I'm understanding. So it gives us something to work with. We have people with expertise, Thom Tillis, a lot of good people, James Lankford. A lot of people with knowledge are in this group. So I think we can find a pathway forward. I really do.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you believe that any deal -- are you comfortable supporting a deal on this that would include permanent changes in the immigration system when only dealing with the DACA population? So, for instance, I know some Democrats say, "Look, you want to talk about the family migration issue and what those rules are, that's fine. Let's just do it for the DACA population. Don't make changes for the entire system." Where are you on that issue?

JOE MANCHIN:

Well, first of all, I've said this before, Chuck, the immigration issue has not been a hot topic in the state of West Virginia. People are concerned and people want security and they want to have good opportunities and jobs and on and on and on like everybody else.

But it's not been of high concern so I haven't been on the front end of this issue. I do understand now more where everybody's coming from. I understand the issue and also the urgency of this issue. I'm comfortable working with any type of proposal they put in either a large package or a scaled-down package, Chuck.

But saying that, yeah, I think that we need to have an overhaul. But we had an overhaul with the large immigration bill that we did in 2013. I'd like to see that piece of legislation taken up and voted on again. The House never would vote on it.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this about this report that you pondered not running for reelection. And I'm just curious, did your threat of not running for reelection convince Chuck Schumer to back down on the government shutdown?

JOE MANCHIN:

I don't think so at all. No, Chuck, I've said this, this whole bantering back between Chuck and the president, that's New Yorkers talking to each other. I don't understand that language. But that's how they talk. Now when Chuck and I talk we talk West Virginian to New York. That's a little different. And I've said, "Chuck, this place sucks."

JOE MANCHIN:

And I've said it because--

CHUCK TODD:

If it sucks why are you running for--

JOE MANCHIN:

--well--

CHUCK TODD:

--reelection?

JOE MANCHIN:

Because I think I can make it better. I think I can contribute to bringing people together. I'm not giving up on it. This is a small price to pay for the great country I've had the privilege of living in and being an American. So I'm not going to give up on it. I don't have one Republican that I consider not my friend. They're all my friends. And I want to work with them.

CHUCK TODD:

If the shutdown continues--

JOE MANCHIN:

Politics is--

CHUCK TODD:

--if the shutdown continued would you have not filed for reelection?

JOE MANCHIN:

I'd have been hollering a lot louder probably. I don't think Chuck had the stomach to go on. He plays a part differently. I understand the dynamics of our caucuses much different. The Democrat caucus is, buddy, that's a big tent, Chuck. That is a big tent. And I just said I come from West Virginia. I'm representing my state. I'm not a Washington Democrat. I'm a West Virginia Democrat. That's a little different.

CHUCK TODD:

What's your reaction to the president's reported order to fire Bob Mueller? How much does that concern you?

JOE MANCHIN:

Again, that's New York talk. I look at it strictly as the New York language that they have which is different than most other people. But--

CHUCK TODD:

How is it here? How is that New York talk? I'm curious. I get what you're trying to do there. But it's a reelection year. I get that. You've got to be anti-New York in West Virginia. But explain--

JOE MANCHIN:

No.

CHUCK TODD:

--this to me.

JOE MANCHIN:

Chuck, here's the thing, you have a person who's the president of the United States that has been totally in control of his life, personally and his professional. He's been very successful. He's been able basically to either do things incentive-wise through checks, bonuses, money or organization or organization changes, things of this sort. He's had total control.

Now all of a sudden he's understanding there's equal branches and there's equal powers. But also there's checks and balances. He's having a hard time with that. Hopefully I think that'll all come. But right now what you hear saying and what he's going to do. Let's see if he moves on Rosenstein.

CHUCK TODD:

So if he did that--

JOE MANCHIN:

If he moves on Rosenstein, Chuck--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

--if he fired him you would suddenly say, "Time to pass legislation to protect Mueller?"

JOE MANCHIN:

I think at that time there'll be Democrats and Republicans saying, "Time to protect the judicial system and the three branches of government having equal power." Absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

What is your level of concern by what appears to be a campaign by some supporters of the president to undermine the investigators to go after the Department of Justice and the F.B.I. so aggressively?

JOE MANCHIN:

Chuck, I cannot believe, and when I say this I mean no pun intended, but what Congressman Nunes has done basically to the Intelligence Committee on the House side. He has neutered it from having any confidence of the American people. Any confidence in the House Intelligence to come out with something in a professional matter, unbiased. I think it's--

CHUCK TODD:

So you think--

JOE MANCHIN:

--been eroded.

CHUCK TODD:

--that comes out of the House--

JOE MANCHIN:

The Senate--

CHUCK TODD:

--that House committee is not credible?

JOE MANCHIN:

Well, when you look at what they've done and the actions they've taken he had to remove himself. And now coming back and making these accusations that he's making without any vetting. On Intelligence Committee we learn one thing, keep our mouths shut and work through the intelligence community, get the facts then come out with your findings.

You don't throw it out in the press and think, "Okay, let's let it fly and see what happens." That's not how we work. And if you take the seriousness of that committee. I do on the Intelligence Senate Committee. And I have my chairman and I have my co-chairman, Democrat and Republican. And I respect them. And we're going to come out at the end of the day and have the findings and the facts will take you where they are. I think the House has eroded that. And Congressman Nunes has made that happen.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Joe Manchin, I'm going to leave it there. Sorry about your Mountaineers last night against Kentucky. They're Kentucky for a reason.

JOE MANCHIN:

First half was--

CHUCK TODD:

They're Kentucky for a reason, senator.

JOE MANCHIN:

First half. Oh boy, I--

CHUCK TODD:

All right.

JOE MANCHIN:

--thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Appreciate it. Quick programming note, I'll join a number of my colleagues Tuesday night as NBC News provides complete coverage of the president's State of the Union address. Coverage begins at 9:00 eastern. When we come back, much more on President Trump, Robert Mueller and where the Russia investigation goes from here.

(COMMERCIAL NOT TRANSCRIBED)

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with the panel. NBC News senior correspondent Tom Brokaw, Heather McGhee, president of the liberal group Demos, NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent and host of Kasie DC on MSNBC, no dirty deeds here, Kasie Hunt and Rich Lowry, editor of National Review. All right, I'm going to start, Mueller first. Tom, six months ago when the president was supposedly thinking about firing Mueller here was the reaction from some Republican senators.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Any effort to go after Mueller to be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

I think it would be as explosive as anything I can think single act that the president might take.

SEN. JOHN THUNE:

We certainly advise that step not to be taken. I think this is a man who many believe on both sides of the aisle has tremendous integrity and will do his work in a very diligent way.

CHUCK TODD:

We have not had the same sort of reaction from Republican side of the aisle. It's been much more muted saying, "Well, look, it didn't happen. And we'll worry about it if it does." You heard Leader McCarthy there feeling--claiming he has confidence in Mueller, but....

TOM BROKAW:

Well, I think two things, one was I was here for the Saturday night massacre. And the Nixon White House thought that that was really going to unleash their ability to deal with what was going on. And it was another nail in the coffin. There ought to be a lesson in all of that.

CHUCK TODD:

Did they really think at the time--I mean, you know, we look back and realize what a catastrophic error that was. Did they really think at the time that was going to--

TOM BROKAW:

They thought that was the right thing to do. That their base would support them and that the president had a legal grounds for doing what he did. In this case, in the climate in which we now live, people move on in a hurry. He didn't fire him. He didn't get close to firing him because the White House was pushing back and he knew what the response would be on the Hill. So I think for the country, frankly, Chuck, it's kind of a non-issue now that he was thinking about firing him six months ago but he did not. I think that they moved on. I honestly think in the next year there are going to be three big factors. One is the economy. If it continues to go roar along the way that it is a lot of people are going to put aside these other concerns that they have and say, "Enjoy the prosperity." The other one is what does Mueller find? Do we hear from them this year? And then just down from that, of course, is what happens with immigration. I think those are the three big factors that are in play out there for the country. And that's what they're paying attention to.

CHUCK TODD:

You know Rich, there was part of me that thinks could this have actually been a trial balloon by the White House to see if he could get away with it? To see--last time Republican reaction was, "Whoa, don't do it." This time considering they've sort of softened the ground on Mueller, you heard Leader McCarthy, it's possible this was a trial balloon.

RICH LOWRY:

But I kind of think if you're going to fire Mueller you should have done it at the beginning because he has an extensive factual record now that's going to get out one way or the other. And I'm with Tom. You know, the question is the most salient fact here that he was thinking about firing Mueller or that he didn't actually fire Mueller? And he didn't actually fire Mueller. The investigation's continuing. And I don't think you're going to get him on obstruction based on impure thoughts about Robert Mueller.

HEATHER McGHEE:

Yes, but you could also get him on obstruction based on the facts that we already know. I think it's interesting that you said if he was going to fire Mueller he should have done it at the beginning. Why should he have fired Mueller except to stop this investigation to find out if there's been--if there’s been criminal wrongdoing? It's kind of shocking to me that we continue to play this partisan game when there are real questions of national sovereignty, real questions of who meddled into--in our election and what they were driven by and what they have on members of the Trump family. I feel like we are going to look back in ten, 20 years and be really disgusted by the way in which all of this was made hyper-partisan. And the way in which the Republican Party put party over country.

KASIE HUNT

Well, the one thing, and you touched on this at length in your interview with McCarthy, Chuck, but what is the memo? We talked about this memo that's been written in the House Intelligence Committee. Why is that important? It's because it potentially undermines the credibility of Bob Mueller. And I think that it does speak to this. He is still in his job. And clearly Republicans feel as though the best way to potentially mitigate the effects of whatever it is he finds is not necessarily to fire the special council because that would blow up. But to very carefully convince all of the people who voted for President Trump that this entire thing is a charade.

RICH LOWRY:

Well--

KASIE HUNT

And that's dangerous.

RICH LOWRY:

But I think we should focus on what we know and what we don't know. What we know is that the president hates this investigation, he hates everyone involved in it, he hates everyone who enabled it. What we don't know is why. Maybe he is covering up some terrible collusion with the Russians. But it may be just that he considered it a personal affront and a way to undermine his legitimacy.

HEATHER McGHEE:

I think we do to a certain extent know why though. This is somebody who has been obsessed since day one of this idea that he maybe didn't actually beat Hillary Clinton. That you know, every single--anything that contributes to perception that he did not win the election, that he did not win it in electoral college landslide. I mean, how many times have we heard that from this president? And every day that's what this investigation represents.

HEATHER McGHEE

Let's also remember the things that we've seen in plain sight, him going on a press conference and saying, "Russia, look into Hillary's emails." The fact that we know that members of the family and the campaign worked to try to set up meetings with Russian contacts about Hillary's emails. At minimum that's a violation potentially of campaign finance law, trying to seek out something of value from a foreign entity.

TOM BROKAW:

But in the final analysis we have to wait and hear what Mr. Mueller has to say. I mean, that's really what it's all about. What are the bill of particulars that he's going to bring to the American people about obstruction of justice? We also have to remember that he's already turned several people who are in there right now singing their hearts out to federal investigators and before juries of all kinds. I think what we really do have to keep in mind is exactly that. Let's deal with the facts as they come before us and what we're able to find out from Mr. Mueller and all this other speculation, we can do that until the cows come home, as they say in the rural part of America. But the fact is, let us hear what, in fact, the special prosecutor has to say about what he's found.

RICH LOWRY:

That was some West Virginia talk right there.

CHUCK TODD:

There's that West Virginia talk. By the way, I've got to get your guys' reaction to this, to the Joe Manchin interview. You had a very stinging reaction.

HEATHER McGHEE

It was a very strange moment where you were asking pretty basic questions about his opinions and he was being elusive and saying that it was New York talk. The fundamental question about the investigation around the presidency. I think that Democrats particularly, but all of members of Congress and the elected leaders in this country need to have some courage and some backbone. And it felt to me like that was sort of a typical moment of--

CHUCK TODD:

You cover a lot--

HEATHER McGHEE:

--politician evasion

CHUCK TODD:

--you cover a lot of Joe Manchin.

KASIE HUNT:

Yeah, I do. I talk to him regularly and know him fairly well. Look, do you want a Democrat to hold a Senate seat in West Virginia or not because Joe Manchin's the only game in town. And he knows that. His state voted for President Trump more than any other state in this country. What else is he going to say to you?

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I'm going to pause it there. We've got some immigration issues to talk about a little later in the program. I promise we'll get to that. Coming up, President Trump and his allies have launched an assault on the integrity of federal law enforcement agencies in the United States. I'll talk to former defense secretary and head of the C.I.A. Robert Gates about that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL NOT TRANSCRIBED)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. There was a time when institutions like the Justice Department, the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. were defended by conservatives and distrusted by liberals. Well, not so much right now. Among the themes of the Trump administration and its allies in Capitol Hill and in the conservative media echo chamber had been the relentless critics of federal law enforcement.

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

We have an informant that's talking about a group that were holding secret meetings offsight. There is so much smoke here, there is so much suspicion.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

I think it was disgraceful. Disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake. That's something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do.

REP. MATT GAETZ:

Our Republic is in jeopardy if we allow this type of a palace coup environment to continue to persist.

CHUCK TODD:

Yesterday I had the chance to talk to a member in good standing of the so-called deep state. Robert Gates has been head of the C.I.A. and the Secretary of Defense. You don't get better deep-state credentials than that I guess. Anyway, I began by asking him about his reaction to what has been an increasingly harsh tone Republicans have taken lately.

(BEGIN TAPE)

ROBERT GATES:

I obviously have a bias, having spent my life in these institutions. And, and I would say that I think it's disappointing. I think that they're very important for American national security. We have oversight committees in the Congress in both houses that are, were created specifically to maintain oversight of the intelligence agencies and the F.B.I. And, and if people think that there is something wrong going on, those are the proper vehicles to investigate and to come to conclusions that reassure the American people. One of the reasons I was always an advocate for congressional oversight was, that's how we can reassure the American people that we're obeying the law.

CHUCK TODD:

How hard is it for rogue agents to make the F.B.I. or the C.I.A. look bad and maybe mess up an investigation or turn it the other way?

ROBERT GATES:

If you have a rotten apple, if you have somebody go rogue on you, it can obviously do real damage. And, and it takes a long time to repair that. So that's why internal discipline is so important inside these agencies.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to put up something that Chuck Schumer tweeted, the Senate Democratic leader. He said this of these Republican attacks: "The Republican attacks on the credibility of the F.B.I. and D.O.J. are playing right into Putin's hands. They constitute an attack on democracy itself, and I urge the G.O.P. and the press to stop peddling delusions of secret societies and deep states and coup d'etats." Is the minority leader being hyperbolic or do you agree with his assessment on that one?

ROBERT GATES:

Well, let's just say that I've had the experience of having these kinds of attacks come from both sides of the aisle.

CHUCK TODD:

Yup, I know you have.

ROBERT GATES:

This is not strictly a Republican issue. And frankly, when individual members, particularly if they sit on these oversight committees go rogue themselves and to outside of the discipline and the order of the committee, then that’s a create -- that creates a problem both for the agencies, but also in terms of the credibility of the Congress.

CHUCK TODD:

When you hear the words "deep state," is there -- does it exist? I mean, there is this sense that there is this cabal of bureaucrats that have been there forever. Unelected people. I guess you're right, I mean, people would say you've been unelected so you must be the, the chief.

ROBERT GATES:

So I, as the director and deputy director of C.I.A., let's just say I was exposed to more than a few conspiracy theories over the years.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

ROBERT GATES:

And the one reason I always told people, "Conspiracies would never -- could never succeed in Washington," is because everybody in this town leaks. I mean, the idea that you could have some kind of a cabal to organize or control the government in some way and have it not leak or somebody go sell the story to a magazine or to a book publisher it just doesn't comport with reality.

CHUCK TODD:

But it really does seem to be seeping into the mainstream. This was Rush Limbaugh this week. Listen to this.

(BEGIN TAPE)

RUSH LIMBAUGH:

What if the, quote-on-quote, intelligence community misrepresented on purpose the degree to which Hussein had WMDs, because I’ll tell you it was a very, very embarrassing moment.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

So if I get this right, the conspiracy now, it's not just to up-end President Trump, but it goes all the way back to WMDs. Rush Limbaugh has a lot of influence over a lot of, of conservatives who are both elected or activists.

ROBERT GATES:

Well, the reality is, the intelligence folks do get it wrong sometimes. And they did get it wrong with weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The interesting thing that people don't pay much attention to is that, every other intelligence service in the world got it wrong also.

CHUCK TODD:

One final thing on this issue. A former acting C.I.A. director, John McLaughlin talked about sort of a dilemma that he says people like yourself who have been sort of veterans of the national security community, bipartisan veterans or nonpartisan veterans. He said this: "For most of us throughout our careers, we maintained a neutrality. But if you have a genuine conviction that the country is endangered, you can't help but speak out about it. No one from the intelligence community who speaks out about Trump does it with joy or satisfaction. It's against the grain of the culture we've grown up with." Do you feel that dilemma?

ROBERT GATES:

I think that people who have been in these positions, and I would include retired military, need to be very careful in terms of political commentary because you can be looked upon as representing that institution, not just yourself. So I think, I think people who have occupied senior positions in the intelligence community, in the military and others, need to be very cautious about getting involved in the political process.

CHUCK TODD:

Bob Mueller. You worked with him when he was head of the F.B.I. What do you make of the president's attacks on him? Do you have confidence in Bob Mueller? And if he were fired, how would you react to something like that?

ROBERT GATES:

Well, I think, I mean, Bob Mueller I know is a man of extraordinary integrity and character. I can't think of anybody who would do a more honest and stand-up job of conducting an investigation. And, you know, people need to be prepared. You know, people are assuming he's going to come to one conclusion, but people need to be prepared that a guy like Bob Mueller may come to a different conclusion that will elate some people and anger some people. So I, but I think he’s -- i think -- I have total confidence in him.

CHUCK TODD:

And do you think Congress should do whatever it took to protect him if somehow the president decided to fire him?

ROBERT GATES:

Well, this is tough, because it is an executive branch appointment. And I don't know how you, how you, how the Congress extends an umbrella of protection legally through legislation over what is an executive branch nomination or appointment. I would say this. I think that the one thing that can be done is to try and figure out how to make it clear the magnitude of the political cost that would be incurred, should he be fired.

CHUCK TODD:

If you want to hear more of my interview with Secretary Gates including his thoughts on Russia, China, the C.I.A. and spies in America as well as a little bit of the college sports scene right now you can hear it all on 1947 the Meet the Press podcast, download it. 1947, for free, on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcast. When we come back, President Trump is changing the way we think about government. Just not in the way you might have imagined.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Data download time a week after Washington brinkmanship shut the government down. And with our institutions under daily attack here's a bit of surprising news from our latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. After one year of Trump people say they want more government.

58% said the government should do more to solve problems and help meet the needs of people. That's the highest number we've ever recorded on this question. Only 38% said the government is doing too many things. Better left to businesses and individuals. Now let's compare that to this point in the Obama presidency. After a year of Obama only 43% said government should do more while 48% said government does too much.

So who right now thinks government should do more? Well, in this case it's almost everyone. Majorities of every single age group we measure, majority of women, a majority of whites, African-Americans and Hispanics all say government should do more. Plus Democrats and independents. And, by the way, it cuts across all education levels. Those with just some high school, just some college and those with a college degree or more.

So who's opposed? Republicans, Trump voters and white men without a college degree all say government does too much. This may not be surprising, advocating for smaller government has been a cornerstone of Republican politics. And this is the base of the GOP these days. But as midterms approach we live in diverse places that aren't just Democratic or Republican. They're a mix. And guess what? 51% of respondents that live in Republican-held districts say government should do more to solve problems and help people.

And that may be a concern for Republicans this November. So while it may be easy to dismiss the number of people who want government to do more right now as simply a result of having a Republican in office for a year, just like when a Democrat was in office for a year people suddenly moved to the less government category. But the fact that it's at an all-time high tells us something different particularly I think with the younger generation. When we come back endgame and growing accountability for sexual misconduct through the years.

(COMMERCIAL NOT TRANSCRIBED)

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with end game. So the immigration deal: is this harder for conservatives to swallow, is this harder for liberals to swallow? Rich Lowry, let me ask you about the right. Here's what top Senate candidates said about the president's proposal that would give citizenship for DACA recipients.

Chris McDaniel, a potential Mississippi Senate candidate, "Amnesty would invite more illegals," was his reaction. Corey Stewart and Virginia Senate, the likely nominee there, "I'm not happy about it." Danny Tarkanian, Nevada Senate who's challenging Dean Heller, "I don't believe we should grant citizenship to people who have come here illegally." We saw other debates. Basically if you're a conservative candidate in a primary you're criticizing the president's deal. Does that doom the deal?

RICH LOWRY:

I don't think it necessarily dooms it. It does go to the fact that this is a genuine effort to find something that could get 60 votes in the Senate. And the concession on the Dreamer's side is significant. It's going from 700,000 DACA recipients to almost two million so-called Dreamers.

And so there's been a lot of squawking on the right. But my view, if you look at the other side of the ledger and the stuff at the border and the reforms to the legal immigration system, this would be the most, if it passed, most significant victory for immigration hawks in at least a generation.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Heather, take it from the other side here. Lot of immigration advocates who believe the permanent changes are just too much of a price to pay.

HEATHER MCGHEE:

Well--

CHUCK TODD:

Where are you?

HEATHER MCGHEE:

--there's a huge price to pay. It would affect legal immigration which is not something that there's any kind of consensus that needs to be changed. The principle of family reunification is something that's enormously popular in this country. I mean I've got to wonder how many people in this town, on this set, would be here if it weren't for that principle, that families should remain together. And families are the core--

CHUCK TODD:

Is there a definition--

HEATHER MCGHEE:

--of the American--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

--let me ask you this, is there a definition of family unification that says it's, you know, children under 18, parents and that's it? Is that something that Democrats--

HEATHER MCGHEE:

If I'm living here--

CHUCK TODD:

--could support?

HEATHER MCGHEE:

--and working and I am a legal immigrant and my mother is sick at home in my home country I want to be able to bring her here. I mean this is the kind of values conversation that I don't think Republicans actually want to be having. They're trying to distract from their pro-corporate agenda. They're trying to pit struggling white families against struggling families of color. And ultimately I think it's a short-term game.

CHUCK TODD:

Will Democrats support this compromise, you think?

HEATHER MCGHEE:

I don't think so.

CHUCK TODD:

Tom, what do you think about--

TOM BROKAW:

Well, I think the other half of it is you've got to build a wall. I'll make the deal with you. But we have to build a $45 billion wall along the border. I don't know anyone who believes that that is viable or exercisable that you can get it done and it'll have a big impact. You've ought to be looking at other ways to stop illegal immigration. I've been down to that border a lot. There are lots of parts of it where you can't build a wall, frankly. I was down there recently and I was out on a field close to the Mexican border. We found all kinds of campsites where people had come running across (UNINTEL) and they're coming because the jobs are here.

They're not coming here to create mayhem. Of course there's a criminal component of it. But they come here, in part, because there's also a market for drugs. And just one other thing, if I can, I think that the people who are here already, who are showing up and demonstrating should change their tactics a little bit. They're saying, in effect, "We're here, we're going to stay and you have to take us on our terms." That's, in effect, what their sides are saying. And then out there there's a lot of unspoken concern about the browning of America. Race is a big, big part of this, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes. Yes it is. What's real on the Hill? This president's proposal, is it dead on arrival or not?

KASIE HUNT:

I'm not sure that it's dead necessarily. But I don't think that the wall is going to be the issue. I think that what Heather was talking about is going to be the potential problem. And I think the question is can they make enough adjustments here to get to a point where you can bring nine or ten Democrats on board? I don't have a good answer to that question yet. I think Joe Manchin in his interview with you suggested they still want a chance to come up with their own plan that they can put to Mitch McConnell to see and try and convince him that that should be the starting point.

CHUCK TODD:

I feel as if this smells like this could get punted even farther along than we think, Rich. Do you buy that?

RICH LOWRY:

Probably the likeliest outcome. I think maybe the next likeliest outcome is Joe Manchin talked about going big, medium, small. The White House proposal is medium. So there would be an option to go small, just codify DACA. There's--

(OVERTALK)

RICH LOWRY:

--path to citizenship, smaller population in exchange for the border provisions.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. There was the reckoning, I guess is probably the best way to describe it, the reckoning. Right? We have a reckoning at the U.S.A. Gymnastics. Reckoning with the U.S. Olympic committee, that in itself. But then there's been more reckoning with Hillary Clinton, a little bit the story in the Times that in 2008 her campaign that somebody was accused of sexual harassment. Campaign manager wanted to fire this person. Hillary Clinton stepped in and said no. Ruth Marcus today just eviscerates Hillary Clinton on this and, Heather, says, "Why can't she admit that that was a mistake?

HEATHER MCGHEE:

I think that you're right. I think that Ruth Marcus is right that she should have just admitted that it was a mistake. Hillary Clinton has a very difficult history with men in power abusing their positions in terms of sexual abuse and harassment. I think that our desire to bring Hillary Clinton continually into the story is understandable. I think the bigger story right now is obviously what's going on in the U.S. Olympic committee. I think the Steve Wynn story is a huge one in terms of finance share of the RNC. And some of those stories are terrifying.

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

Steve Wynn feels like the closest thing we've gotten to Harvey Weinstein. Like almost as bad as Harvey.

(OVERTALK)

HEATHER MCGHEE:

Worse in some ways.

CHUCK TODD:

It is. Harvey I thought is in a class by himself I think. But Steve Wynn was pretty close.

KASIE HUNT:

You're talking about Steve Wynn, owns a casino, people who work inside his casino rely on him for their paychecks coming into private spaces with him and facing assault. I see very straightforward parallels with Harvey Weinstein.

HEATHER MCGHEE:

Particularly women in the service sector.

KASIE HUNT:

And can I just add one thing to what we were saying about this issue with Hillary Clinton. Yes, it's about Hillary Clinton. But it's also about partisan politics. There are some men in Democratic circles who are trying actively to come out and find examples of harassment among Republicans and exploit those for their own political gain. I have talked to a lot of women who work inside Democratic politics. And I think their message to the people who would do that is, "Don't you dare because this is a problem that spans both parties.” I have heard plenty of stories --

CHUCK TODD:

Stop making it partisan, yeah.

KASIE HUNT:

-- not just in Hillary Clinton's campaign but other Democratic campaigns. This is a pox on everybody's house. And it needs to be cleaned out.

TOM BROKAW:

And my big issue with it is that I think it's long overdue frankly to have the kind of disclosure that we're seeing. But there has to be some kind of codification, the difference between Harvey Weinstein and the Steve Wynn and the other people down at the other end who are getting the same front-page treatment, for example, don't have a chance to speak out. Don't get to confront the people who are accusing them. We've got to get some kind of a system in place for dealing with all of this beyond what we're doing now. It's all tabloid fodder and--

HEATHER MCGHEE:

And--

TOM BROKAW:

--that's not good for the country.

CHUCK TODD:

It is. And unfortunately I have to leave the conversation there because we are out of time. That is all we have for this week. Thank you, as always, for taking some time to tune in with us on a Sunday morning. We'll be back next week because if it's Sunday it's Meet the Press.