Meet the Press - January 6, 2019

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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, shutdown politics. President Trump insists no wall, no deal.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

You can't really do the kind of job we have to do, unless you have a major powerful barrier, and that's what we're going to have to have.

CHUCK TODD:

But now he faces a new Democratic House.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY :

To the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, I extend to you this gavel.

CHUCK TODD:

And a new Speaker.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

We're not doing a wall. Does anybody have any doubt that we're not doing a wall?

CHUCK TODD:

The President is talking tough.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

He said he'd keep the government closed for a very long period of time, months or even years.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP :

I did say that. Absolutely, I said that.

CHUCK TODD:

But is he grasping for an exit strategy? My guests this morning, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, House Majority Leader Democratic Steny Hoyer, and Republican Senator Susan Collins. Plus, impeachment politics.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB :

We're going to go in there. We're going to impeach the mother(BLEEP).

CHUCK TODD:

Nancy Pelosi says Democrats should be careful about impeachment talk. But will she be able to stop her new activist members? Also, gender politics. No sooner had Elizabeth Warren all but announced for President.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

Hello, Sioux City.

CHUCK TODD:

Then we began to see stories like this somehow suggesting Warren, like Hillary Clinton, is too unlikable to win. The debate over different treatment women get on the presidential campaign trail. Joining me for insight and analysis are NBC News Capitol Hill Correspondent Kasie Hunt, David Brooks, Columnist for The New York Times, Former Congresswoman Donna Edwards, and Matthew Continetti, Editor in Chief of The Washington Free Beacon. 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 our first Meet the Press of the new year. The government shutdown is now in its 16th day and, well, second year, tying it for the third longest in history. The problems for everyone are piling up, literally. Though national parks are open, they are not staffed, which means a lot of places are beginning to look like this. In addition, the federal food stamp program, which services 38 million low income Americans, faces severe cuts. And some $140 billion in tax refunds, your money, could be frozen or delayed.

For Democrats who were once willing to provide wall funding, the goal now seems to be deny President Trump a victory, any victory. And for the President, the wall has become a symbol. It's no longer just about keeping illegal immigrants out, it's about keeping his base in. Senator Lindsey Graham made that point clear on Fox earlier this week.

[BEGIN TAPE]

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM:

If he gives in now, that's the end of 2019 in terms of him being an effective President. That's probably the end of his presidency.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

We have critical players from all corner of this drama. President Trump's acting chief of staff who's negotiating for the White House, the House Majority Leader, a Democratic negotiator, and a moderate Republican Senator who's up for reelection in 2020 who's caught in the middle. It's a staring contest in which neither the President nor the Democrats see an incentive to blink because each views this shutdown as a political winner and necessity for them.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

I'm very proud of doing what I'm doing. I don't call it a shutdown.

CHUCK TODD:

With the government shutdown in its third week, President Trump is digging in.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

He said he'd keep the government closed for a very long period of time, months or even years.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Absolutely, I said that. I don't think it will, but I am prepared.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump said Friday that if Democrats don't give him $5.6 for a border wall, he can use emergency powers to divert Pentagon funds.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

We could call a national emergency and build it very quickly. And it's another way of doing it. But if we can do it through a negotiated process, we're giving that a shot.

CHUCK TODD:

The President's latest threats come as he is boxed in and grasping for an off ramp that will not alienate Conservative media and the political base he needs for fights ahead.

SEAN HANNITY:

You Republicans got to stay the course. You can't back down. Now, the President's base is now deeply invested in this shutdown. The President has taken a stand, and it's time for the Republicans to do the same.

CHUCK TODD:

In December, the President rejected a short term spending bill passed by the Senate after it was panned by immigration hawks.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

We set out a number, $5.6 billion. We're very firm on a number.

CHUCK TODD:

Still, some Republicans who face tough reelection fights are pleading with the President shutdown, wall or no wall.

SEN. CORY GARDNER:

Let's get the government open and have a debate the American people can be proud of.

CHUCK TODD:

Meanwhile, some allies of the President have floated a short term plan to grant work permits to so called dreamers in exchange for the wall funding.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Give President the $5 billion we need for wall slash border security as a down payment to securing the border. The DACA population, about 700,000, give them work permits.

CHUCK TODD:

But it's not clear the President will support it or what incentive House Democrats, buoyed by their new majority --

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

I extend to you this gavel,

CHUCK TODD:

-- would have to accept that offer.

REPORTER:

Is there even a situation where you would accept even a dollar of wall funding for this President in order to reopen the government?

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

A dollar? A dollar. One dollar. A wall is an immorality. It's not who we are as a nation.

CHUCK TODD:

Democrats have to worry about their own grassroots. This week, Freshman Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan revived the debate over impeachment after these comments were caught on tape:

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB:

We're going to go in there and we're going to impeach the mother(BLEEP).

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

I don't like that language. I wouldn't use that language. I don't, again, establish any language standards for my colleagues. But I don't think it's anything worse than what the President has said.

CHUCK TODD:

But in exit polling, 71% of Democrats supported impeachment. So it may not be a question of whether impeachment proceedings begin, but when.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB:

I stand by impeaching the President of the United States. I ran on that.

CHUCK TODD:

Democratic and Republican negotiators are supposedly planning to meet again today after yesterday's meeting. In the words of President Trump, it didn't make much headway. I sat down with the President's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, shortly after those talks on Saturday broke up and began by asking him why so little progress was made.

MICK MULVANEY:

The first line that the chief negotiator said was, "We're not here to agree to anything," which is a stunning way to start a negotiation. And then after --

CHUCK TODD:

Why is that stunning? I mean, none of their bosses were there and the president wasn't there, so nobody was empowered to make a deal. Isn't that normal?

MICK MULVANEY:

No, no, no, we were not -- let's make perfectly clear, we were not there to make a final deal. There is no question.

CHUCK TODD:

It was clear nobody was there to make a final deal?

MICK MULVANEY:

Correct. The specific mandate of the group was to try and find agreement on some of the underlying terms

CHUCK TODD:

Ok.

MICK MULVANEY:

Not agree to how much money we're going to spend but, “Do you think that ports of entry need to be included, do we think that? Yes? Ok, let's put that in the thing we agree on. Do we disagree on a wall or do you really agree that maybe a steel fence qualifies as a fence and not a wall and we want to build a steel barrier anyway?” Having those types of definitional conversations, we never even got to that. The discussion immediately turned to a bunch of technical requirements or technical requests that the Democrats were asking for for the first time ever in these negotiations, so I think this is going to drag on a lot longer. I think that's, that's by, by intention.

CHUCK TODD:

Obviously, there's a lot of distrust here. And part of this seems to be generated by the president himself. On one hand, he empowered the vice president to potentially cut a deal. The Democrats rejected the vice president's offer of $2.5 billion. But apparently, it's because the president said he never would've agreed to it. So the Democrats have this attitude. What they tell us when we're -- is that they can't trust anybody in the room other than the president.

MICK MULVANEY:

No. I think they said that -- I'll tell you the same thing that we said, we, the president told them when we were in that meeting which is, like, "Look, I sent the vice president down with a piece of paper to the Senate Minority Leader, to Chuck Schumer,” okay? That was our proposal. You are now claiming, or they were claiming yesterday or two days ago that they had unnamed sources in the White House saying it was no longer part of the deal. That's, that’s, that’s silly. When the vice president of the United States at the direct instruction of the president walks in with a piece of paper, that's a deal. They walked away from it. And it's no longer on the table because it was a deal we were trying to get in place before the shutdown got going.

CHUCK TODD:

The president himself has said on the record that is not true.

MICK MULVANEY:

No, no, it's not at all. He, he said that it's not on the table anymore. That that was the deal to try and prevent the government from shutting down in the first place. Actually, I think it was technically the day after and we had a couple days there because of the holiday, for Christmas. We were trying to do our best to get the government open before it became a serious issue.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to ask you how your mind has been changed on the fence. To go back to an infamous audio recording that's made the rounds --

MICK MULVANEY:

Sure.

CHUCK TODD:

-- let me play this one audiographic -- how you described the border back in 2015. Take a listen.

[BEGIN TAPE]

MICK MULVANEY:

To just say "Build the darn fence" and have that be the end of an immigration discussion is absurd and almost childish for someone running for president to take that simplistic a view. And, by the way, the bottom line is a fence doesn't stop anybody who really wants to get across. You go under, you go around, you go through and that's what the ranchers tell us is that they don't need a fence.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Is your mind changed on this personally or are you now just acting as the president's advocate?

MICK MULVANEY:

There's a, there’s a famous, I think it's an economist, it might be John Maynard Keynes, I don't remember who gets credit for it but he said, you know, "When the facts change, my opinion changes. What do you do, sir?" We had 60,000 people try to cross the border every month for the last three months. Things on the ground are different. And when the circumstances change, you change your opinion. The fences that we have built on the southern border, the ones that were already there under Republican leadership, Democrat leadership, they're in San Diego, they're in El Paso, more than 90% effective in preventing criminal immigration. We need more of that. Do we need it from coast to coast, 2,000 miles all the way across? No, and the president has admitted as such. There are places in the middle of nowhere where technology will be better. But a barrier, call it a wall, call it a fence, the president actually said he didn't care what you call it. He even offered to let the Democrats help him design something. He says as long as it's effective, he doesn't care what you call it. We need something to prevent people from coming into this country illegally.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this though. You know, in some ways, in the measurement, you guys keep claiming there's a crisis. In fact, the president says he could declare a national emergency and build the wall. Why hasn't he done that, by the way?

MICK MULVANEY:

It's not easy to do. The president has a lot of authority --

CHUCK TODD:

You were looking for funds. There was some reporting that you were actually looking in the budget to try to see if you could find the money.

MICK MULVANEY:

Absolutely. Still looking. The president made it very clear to every single member of the Cabinet several months ago, "I need you to go out and find every pot of money that you possibly can to help with this crisis." And everybody has done that. And the Office of Management and Budget, which is where I was up until a couple days ago, was intimately involved in that.

CHUCK TODD:

So why shut down the government? If this is what he can do, why have -- why sort -- and it's not the whole government. You're sort of punishing one slice of the government for this fight, when if you -- the negotiations can still go on. And if you think you can do it another way, you have other leverage. Why hold 800,000 people's paychecks -- you realize, they don't get paid January 11th, they're not going to get any money, at best, until January 25th.

MICK MULVANEY:

Technically, that’s -- we don’t know that to be true yet. There might be some who do get paid before the 25th. This is again, I'm putting back my old OMB hat on, but you're absolutely right. If we don't have an agreement I think by midnight on the 8th, which is Tuesday, then payroll will not go out as originally planned on Friday night.

CHUCK TODD:

And we're talking now a month. We're talking a month then with people without a paycheck.

MICK MULVANEY:

Congress isn't even coming back until Tuesday. Nancy Pelosi is not coming back to Washington DC --

CHUCK TODD:

And I'm going to talk to --

MICK MULVANEY:

-- on Tuesday night.

CHUCK TODD:

-- two members of Congress from both sides of the aisle and ask where their sense of urgency is but --

MICK MULVANEY:

Here’s what I say. Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

-- at the end of the day though, why, why hold this part of the government hostage for a political fight?

MICK MULVANEY:

And you can ask that of both sides. And if I were sitting here talking to Nancy Pelosi, I'd say, "Nancy, why are you holding border security, why are you holding every -- all of these 800,000 workers --"

CHUCK TODD:

You know what she might say?

MICK MULVANEY:

"-- hostage to a border security--"

CHUCK TODD:

She might then say, "Do elections have any consequences?" And I ask this. In 2018, the president in the last month of the campaign tried to make immigration the issue. Voters responded how? By handing Democrats 40 House seats. And if you actually look across border states, there's one new Democratic seat in Arizona, the, almost the upset of the century in Texas, more House members. If you looked at it from an election, can't you say voters that live near the border sent a message to the president, "No wall"?

MICK MULVANEY:

You and I both know that there's a lot more involved than one issue when it comes to elections. Candidates still count, the overall environment counts. So you could put that on the table, but it's certainly far from definitive. The better question is this: Is the status quo acceptable?

CHUCK TODD:

DACA for the wall? Is that deal ever back on the table if the law -- if basically, the Supreme Court says it can't be done with executive order? Is that deal back on the table in your mind?

MICK MULVANEY:

Let me answer it this way. The president is very interested in larger immigration reform. He's said that publicly. He’s said that privately. He wants to solve immigration, okay? I think he would tell you it's too hard to do it quickly. It's a huge issue. You know if it was easy to do, it would've been done before. You talk about complete control of the House and the Senate. Democrats had that --

CHUCK TODD:

Had it too.

MICK MULVANEY:

-- in 2008 and they had 60 votes in the Senate and didn't even solve the immigration problem.

CHUCK TODD:

Because they couldn't find 60 votes in the Senate.

MICK MULVANEY:

That’s exactly right. It's hard to do. And the president’s like -- I think the president's position is, "I'm more than interested in talking about that. But if we wait to do that now, this government will be closed for a long time," which I don't think he wants.

CHUCK TODD:

Lindsey Graham has said that if the president caves in, that's the end of -- you know, the base will abandon him. Essentially, it's probably the end of his presidency. Why do you think the president can't, can’t lead the base to a compromise? Why is this, why is this idea that, I mean, the implication here is that, essentially, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter have more sway over -- of the president's base than the president? Is that the implication?

MICK MULVANEY:

I've seen that -- I would make the argument that the president has probably more sway over Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter than vice versa.

CHUCK TODD:

Then why doesn't he lean on the issue?

MICK MULVANEY:

And you know that I like Lindsey Graham and he's a good friend of mine. We're from South Carolina. He’s not as good a politician as Donald Trump or else he'd be president. They both ran and one of them won and one of them lost. So look, the president is interested in resolving this issue.

CHUCK TODD:

Here's one thing though that I didn't hear throughout our entire interview.

MICK MULVANEY:

That's probably because you didn't ask.

CHUCK TODD:

What is the president offering the Democrats? What's the offer on their side? Right now it only is clear what the president wants.

MICK MULVANEY:

Let me tell you what -- because that came up the other day in the private meeting with the big eight as they call the leaders in the House and the Senate, Republicans, Democrats, was that he was willing to agree, and he mentioned this at the Rose Garden press conference, to take a concrete wall off the table. That is -- if that is not evidence of our willingness to solve the problem, okay, because again, what's driving this is the president's desire to change the conditions at the border. And if he has to give up a concrete wall, replace it with a steel fence in order to do that so that Democrats can say, "See? He's not building a wall anymore," that should help us move in --

CHUCK TODD:

So you want the headline --

MICK MULVANEY:

-- the right direction.

CHUCK TODD:

Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.

-- to be, "The president no longer wants a wall. He wants a fence"?

MICK MULVANEY:

The president is going to secure the border with a barrier.

CHUCK TODD:

Would he say it --

MICK MULVANEY:

You call it a wall.

CHUCK TODD:

-- that way? Would he say it --

MICK MULVANEY:

Somebody else calls it a fence.

CHUCK TODD:

Is he comfortable saying, "No, not going to have the wall. And by the way, Mexico's never paying for it"?

MICK MULVANEY:

I think he said yesterday it was going to be a 30 foot high steel -- he actually tweeted a picture out of it two weeks ago. We’ve -- and we told the Democrats this two weeks ago. "This is what we want to build. Do you think this is a wall?" Actually, under the way the law is written right now, technically, it's not a wall. But if that's not evidence of the president's desire to try and resolve this, I don't know what is.

CHUCK TODD:

Mick Mulvaney, I think we ran over. Appreciate your time. The current chief of staff, you haven't given up your title. Let us know when you do.

MICK MULVANEY:

It is always a pleasure.

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now is the House Majority Leader, Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland. Congressman Hoyer, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

REP. STENY HOYER:

Thanks, Chuck. Glad to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Let me start with that last -- Mick Mulvaney said just now, you heard him, the president is taking concrete wall off the table. If that's not, if that’s not evidence that he's trying to compromise, then he doesn't know what is. Do you take that as a, as a good faith offer?

REP. STENY HOYER:

It is an offer he made, and it'll be discussed. But the fact of the matter is you used Mick Mulvaney's quote, but you've got Senator John Cornyn who says, "I don't think we're just going to be able to solve border security with a physical barrier, because people can come under, around it, and through it." Lindsey Graham said, "The border wall is probably not a smart investment." Mike McCaul, the Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in the last Congress said, "You have to understand, too, that a 30 foot concrete wall is a very expensive proposition, and there are a lot of other things we can do -- be doing technology-wise to make it a smart border that's more effective and more cost-efficient." So this is not a Democratic position. This is a pretty broad position that this does not make sense. What we ought to do is open up the government first. And that's what we're going to do. We passed legislation last Thursday that would open up the government. I would hope that Senator McConnell would take the responsibility as the leader of the coequal branch of government, the legislative branch, and send this to the president. That would open up government. Would start serving the American people.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you regret not taking the deal that Vice President Pence offered? The ask for $2.5 billion? And maybe you could've said, "Here's more money for border security." You guys call it border security and all this, and you would've reopened the government?

REP. STENY HOYER:

Look, we were ready to take the deal that the vice president offered, and Senator McConnell took that offer. He passed a bill --

CHUCK TODD:

No, no I'm talking about- - he didn't pass that one, I understand.

REP. STENY HOYER:

No. No. Senator McConnell did pass that bill in the last Congress. He sent us a bill. And the Republicans in the House of Representatives rejected the Senate bills, the Republican bills. And when you have, "Have we compromised?" We have voted for and are prepared to vote for Republican bills. These are all the Republicans bills from the last Congress. And as a matter of fact, Chuck, as you know, we're going to make every effort to open up the government next week. We're going to offer two bills to open up the financial services, which will make sure that taxpayers get refunds. We're going to open up Ag to make sure that people get food stamps. We're going to open up HUD in order to make sure the housing vouchers and the interior so people can use their parks.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this: When is enough enough? I want to play a clip from a guy named Steny Hoyer to you from 2011. Take a listen.

REP. STENY HOYER:

Okay.

[BEGIN TAPE]

REP. STENY HOYER:

There does come a time when the American public expect us to be able to act. Gridlock is not what they voted for. The priorities that we have agreed to in this resolution are not my priorities, but we have reached agreement.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Basically, you've said you have supported things -- you have had to vote for things you haven't supported before.

REP. STENY HOYER:

And let me --

CHUCK TODD:

And it'll happen again.

REP. STENY HOYER:

Chuck, let me reiterate, what we voted for last Thursday were Republican bills. All Republican bills. No Democratic bills. And we took them as they were passed the Senate. We're going to do the same thing this week. The difference is we'll do it bill-by-bill so we can help taxpayers, we can help people who need food assistance, we can help people who need housing vouchers, people who need flood insurance. We'll do it one-by-one. I would hope that Mitch McConnell, as the leader of the United States Senate, would represent the Congress of the United States, the coequal branch that says, "We believe we ought to open up government." Mitch McConnell believes we ought to open up government.

CHUCK TODD:

At the end of the day, you need a presidential signature, right? At the end of the day, you need a presidential signature to open the government.

REP. STENY HOYER:

Correct.

CHUCK TODD:

You may not like any of the ways that the president has conducted himself, how he's conducted these negotiations. You can claim they've not been in good faith. When is it --

REP. STENY HOYER:

That's pretty close to a -- characterization.

CHUCK TODD:

Fair enough. But when is it, when it is your responsibility to say, "These federal workers got to get paid, and I may have to eat this."

REP. STENY HOYER:

We are -- we don't think the wall is a good technology to do the objective. This is a substantive argument. The reason I read these Republican views that say the wall is not the technology we ought to pursue is because this is a difference of substance. We ought to have that argument on the substance and not be held hostage. 800,000 federal employees, millions of people who need food stamps, millions of people --

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that, but what is your threshold, here?

REP. STENY HOYER:

They're holding them hostage.

CHUCK TODD:

He may be doing this. You may believe this --

REP. STENY HOYER:

We’re, we’re --

CHUCK TODD:

At some point, don't these people need to get paid?

REP. STENY HOYER:

We are for strengthening border security. And as a matter of fact, one of the positive things that happened in the meeting with the big eight, as it's called, was Senator Durbin brought up the fact that there was insufficient dollars in the homeland security bill to have the technology to have the electronic ability to see what's in all these trucks that are coming across our border every day. We're prepared to negotiate on that.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you willing to give them --

REP. STENY HOYER:

Now let me say--

CHUCK TODD:

-- anything on a fence?

REP. STENY HOYER:

Chuck --

CHUCK TODD:

If it's a steel fence and he doesn't call it a wall, can you accept that?

REP. STENY HOYER:

Chuck, let me say: We've done fencing in the past, as you know.

CHUCK TODD:

So you'll do it in the future, what you’re saying?

REP. STENY HOYER:

We've done fencing in the past. However, what is happening today, and hopefully the administration will come -- the administration has not come up with any specific plan as to how they're going to spend this money. Now remember, understand it was the last Congress. The president said to Mitch McConnell, "I will sign this bill." Mitch McConnell signed a bill. He sent it to the House. We were prepared to vote for that bill, but the Republicans wanted to shut down the government. We need to open up government and then negotiate, not the other way around. Because we're prepared to negotiate, and we're prepared to have the homeland security bill approved for a short term so that we have to negotiate.

CHUCK TODD:

Is an impeachment process inevitable?

REP. STENY HOYER:

No. I don't think an impeachment process is inevitable. And that's not what we're focused on. We're focused on substantive bills. Now, we gotta focus on getting the government opened. That's our primary, first responsibility. We have 800 --

CHUCK TODD:

You think the impeachment talk's a distraction?

REP. STENY HOYER:

I think the impeachment talks right now are distraction. We'll have to see what the Mueller report says.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

REP. STENY HOYER:

Nancy and I have both said that. We have voted that way on the floor of the House of Representatives. What we want to do is concentrate on our substantive agenda. We want to make sure that we get some reforms done on redistricting, on campaign finance, reform on voting rights. We want to make sure we get ethical reforms.

CHUCK TODD:

All right.

REP. STENY HOYER:

We want to make sure we get focused on wages and health care, all those issues that we campaigned on.

CHUCK TODD:

Steny Hoyer, I have to leave it there. The House majority leader -- the new House majority leader. Or, new again. Congratulations.

REP. STENY HOYER:

Well, I'm hopeful --

CHUCK TODD:

Thanks for coming on.

REP. STENY HOYER:

-- as I said, that Mitch McConnell, as we pass these bills, will send them to the President and we will continue to negotiate on making sure that our borders are secure.

CHUCK TODD:

We will find out this week, I hope. When we come back, with the shutdown impacting more people every day, will one side give in and say, "Enough already"? Or are we really in for a record long partial shutdown? Panel is next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, panel is here. Matthew Continetti, Editor in Chief of The Washington Free Beacon, Former Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland, NBC News Capitol Hill Correspondent and Host of Kasie DC on MSNBC, Kasie Hunt, and David Brooks, Columnist for The New York Times. Speaking of The New York Times, David, your newspaper I thought did a pretty good job of trying to show what equivalent shutdowns would look like in corporate America. For instance, the Department of Agriculture being down, that's the equivalent of one Goldman Sachs. The Department of Treasury being shut down is the equivalent apparently of three Facebooks, employee wise. And the Department of Interior, 10 Netflixes. Trying to put some context into this shutdown. David, it seems to me that's was missing here, the sense of urgency in this.

DAVID BROOKS:

Make it seem so good. I'd love to shut down Goldman Sachs. It’s great. Listening to the conversation, the thing that strikes me is we're the country that won World War II. We defeated fascism. We defeated the Japanese. We launched this complicated thing. Now we've shut down our government because we can't decide if it's a concrete wall, or a steel fence, or a row of ferns. It's just a sign of government dysfunction. And it seems to me the answer here is just sitting in front of everyone, which is the wall for the DACA deal. The reason that has not gotten done is because both sides have loaded up a bunch of stuff on that simple deal and made it impossible for the other side to accept. Some basic competence in negotiation would just get us out of this.

CHUCK TODD:

Kasie, it seems to me Capitol Hill would come up with that compromise if the president weren't involved.

KASIE HUNT:

It's possible, but Chuck, how many times does Congress do a big, complicated, what would have to be bipartisan thing under this kind of a deadline? It simply doesn't work that way. And In this case, the political incentives are just all screwed up. I mean, in previous shutdowns, usually somebody has been trying to force a shutdown because they want to make a political point. That's not the case here. Nobody really wants a shutdown. Certainly, Congress doesn't want a shutdown. And, it's simply not clear how they get anywhere without somebody simply caving in. I mean the President has essentially backed himself into a corner. I mean this is -- I've covered now more shutdowns than I really care to think about.

CHUCK TODD:

Isn't that crazy?

KASIE HUNT:

And I do not see a way out of this one. Whereas the others you could see how the political pressure was going to build on one side. It was inevitable that they would eventually cave in. The government would reopen. That does not seem to be the case here.

CHUCK TODD:

Where’s this headed?

MATTHEW CONTINETTI:

Well, that's because in many previous shutdowns the two sides are arguing for the middle. That's not the case here. In fact, what you have is the Democrats have public opinion behind them. The public wants the government open, and they don't like the idea of a wall.

KASIE HUNT:

By a huge margin.

MATTHEW CONTINETTI:

But the president has his Republican Party and has supporters strongly behind him. They want the wall, and they're prepared to shut down part of the government. The real question is when does the pain threshold become --

CHUCK TODD:

Too much. Right.

MATTHEW CONTINETTI:

Too much for either side. That's why I thought it was interesting that you did see some Republicans in the House, some Republicans, two or three, in the Senate voice maybe it's time to reopen at least part of the government until we get these negotiations going. Is Trump going to listen to them? Or is he going to listen to the base? On the other side, you know, Democrats are the party of government and government employees. If this thing stretches on for months, then maybe their own base starts saying, "You know what? It's just $5 billion. We need to be paid."

CHUCK TODD:

Donna, what is -- you've represented the district right here, plenty of government workers. What do you think the pain threshold is going to be for members of Congress that used to be in your shoes on this?

DONNA EDWARDS:

Well, I think the pain threshold is going to hit this week. This is the week where paychecks should be going out. It's the week where you begin to see more than just trash piling up at the national parks, where people really are in pain. And keep in mind that of those 800,000 federal workers and the additional contractors, probably 80% of them live someplace other than the Washington metropolitan region. And so members across the country in districts and senators in their states are going to begin to hear from their subcontractors, from federal employees that this really is causing them pain. They're not able to make their mortgage payments, daycare payments, all of those things, in addition to the things that Mr. Hoyer mentioned. And so, I think the week -- this is the crucial week when those stories start to come out and it is not sustainable, particularly with some senators who are going to be up in 2020 and are vulnerable.

CHUCK TODD:

What would be -- if you were there now, would you want the leadership to be willing to be a little more malleable on this or not?

DONNA EDWARDS:

Well, here's what the Democrats offered. I mean, for the first time ever that you can imagine, Democrats actually passed a Republican bill. They didn't have to do that. But they did it to say, "Here. We're going to get government open." And I think this week a strategy of beginning to pass these individual bills that have passed in the Senate and open up parts of the government that provide services is one direction, because then it leaves open the opportunity to just negotiate around the Department of Homeland Security.

CHUCK TODD:

This is all about Senate Republicans right now?

KASIE HUNT:

I think it is all about Senate Republicans. And Mitch McConnell is in a very strange spot. I mean, you've heard him say repeatedly this week, "I'm not putting something on the floor the President won't sign." Now, that as been interpreted as Mitch McConnell going along with this President on the border wall. I actually read something slightly different into it, which is to say that Mitch McConnell was assured by a third party, Mike Pence at lunch one day, that the President was going to sign the thing that he was going to put on the floor. Then all of a sudden, that turned out not to be true. Mitch McConnell came out and said, "You don't learn anything from the second kick of the mule." He told me, "I'm confident we won't have a shutdown." Here we are. He was embarrassed. So there’s really no -- there's no advantage for him in doing that again. On the other hand, Mitch McConnell thinks shutdowns are bad politics. He's said it a million and one times, and he knows it's bad for those vulnerable Republicans in 2020. And I think that's the underlying thing here. And I think you're correct to think that if there is going to be a place where it gives, it's probably there.

MATTHEW CONTINETTI:

I think there might be pressure from Senate Republicans, but President Trump is still fixated on that base. He needs to have the shutdown continue to such a point that he can turn to his base and say, "I gave it my all." We're not there yet. He needs that base because the base is the difference between a 42% approval rating and a 35% approval rating.

DAVID BROOKS:

Impeachment hangs over all of this. He's got to keep Senate Republicans and he’s got to keep his base.

CHUCK TODD:

That's exactly what I was about to prod you about.

DAVID BROOKS:

Because he needs those people in case there's an impeachment.

CHUCK TODD:

The president -- Who's more fixated on impeachment, the new House Democrats or the President of the United States? Take a listen to him on Friday on this topic.

[BEGIN TAPE]

DONALD TRUMP:

We even talked about that today. I said, "Why don't you use this for impeachment?" Nancy said, "We're not looking to impeach you." I said, "That's good, Nancy. That's good." But you know what? You don't impeach people when they're doing a good job.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

David, he brings it up almost as much as some of these new members of Congress do.

DAVID BROOKS:

I love him. For a guy who's sort of not totally honest, he's totally unhidden. I mean he’s totally -- he reveals everything. He's transparent. It's clearly got to be on his mind. The Mueller investigation is something he tweets about all the time. There are a bunch of investigations. What he's going to do -- and this is why it's going to get so ugly over the course of the year -- is I assume something's going to happen. There are a bunch of investigations. There's going to be some sort of indictment. He's not going to defend himself the way Richard Nixon defended himself. Nixon had an unconscious deference to the institutions of this society. Donald Trump does not have that. He's going to try to save himself by attacking the institutions.

CHUCK TODD:

Donna, is impeachment hearings inevitable in this new House?

DONNA EDWARDS:

I don't think it's inevitable, but I do think that Democrats are prepared to go where the evidence takes them. And the question is Nancy Pelosi holding that at bay so that the evidentiary base is there. I'm not sure we're quite there yet, but we're getting close.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, guys. When we come back, we're going to talk about one of those Senate Republicans that might be feeling unhappy about the situation. It's Republican Senator Susan Collins from Maine. She joins me next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Susan Collins is used to being stuck in the middle these days. And now she has company. She's one of six Republican senators up in 2020 who are either from states that Hillary Clinton won or from states that could reasonably be called toss-up or swing states. Collins, along with Cory Gardner of Colorado and Thom Tillis in North Carolina, have already called for an end to the shutdown, wall or no wall. They're pressured on one side from Republicans who want to stand firm and on the other side from Democrats and Independents who are opposed to the idea of a wall and certainly to the idea of a shutdown for it. Susan Collins joins me now. Senator Collins, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, you were very patient. You heard Mick Mulvaney. You heard Steny Hoyer. These are the people in the room. Did you hear any hope?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

I'm always hopeful. I have never thought that shutdowns are an appropriate means of trying to achieve any kind of solution. This isn't a matter of one side or the other caving in. It's a matter of getting to a compromise. And that's a sign of strength. And it's important that we remember that real lives are being affected here. The 800,000 federal employees, dedicated public servants who won't get a paycheck next Friday if this isn't resolved very soon.

CHUCK TODD:

Is steel for concrete a reasonable compromise offer from the White House in your mind?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

Well, I’ve — I've always thought that the debate over what the physical barrier should be constructed of was rather bizarre. We do need to strengthen our border security. We know that 90% of the heroin is coming across the southern border, along with human traffickers and a lot of unaccompanied children. That's not good either. But we need to look at more than just a physical barrier. We need to look at more border patrol agents, technology and other means as well.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this. The Senate adjourned at 11:00 a.m. on Friday. You're not here in town. You're not alone. The -- all of Congress is adjourned for the weekend. You guys don't reconvene until Tuesday. Where’s the urgency?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

Well, Chuck, just as I can talk to you from Bangor, Maine, I also have been talking to my colleagues. I have conversations --

CHUCK TODD:

No, and I don't mean it about you. I'm talking about in general. Where is the urgency here in Washington in Congress? It just seems sort of blasé.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

Well, I certainly feel a sense of urgency to get people back to work and government reopened. And I think many of my colleagues do. I think that we, we need to make this our first priority.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think Mitch McConnell has done enough? He has made the decision -- he has said this is between the Democrats and the president. And he has said he's not going to bring up any bills that he doesn't think the president will sign. Does he feel burned by the White House? Or do you think he should be more aggressive here and put some of these bills back on the floor?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

Well, I can't speak for Senator McConnell, but I would like to see him bring the House-passed bills to the Senate floor. We could reopen much of government where there's no dispute over issues involving certain departments like Ag, Transportation, Housing, and Interior. Let's get those reopened while the negotiations continue. But to be fair to Senator McConnell, the fact is that unless Chuck Schumer and Speaker Pelosi agree and the president agrees to sign a bill, we can pass bills but they won't become law. So that's why I understand the point that Senator McConnell's making about these important negotiations that are in fact ongoing.

CHUCK TODD:

There are -- yourself, Senator Gardner, Senator Tillis have all spoken out, basically sharing a similar position. "Let's reopen the government and continue the debate." But they’re the only -- you're the only three that have gone public on the Republican side of the aisle. Privately, how anxious are some of your colleagues?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

Well, there have been others. Lamar Alexander did an excellent column in which he outlined three possible compromises to get government open. One you've talked about and we advanced last year when there was a briefer shutdown, which was that we would have border security funded at $2.5 billion and we would give a path to citizenship for those DREAMers, those very young adults who were brought to this country through no decision of their own by their parents. That's a possible compromise on this issue. And I would note that 46 out of the 49 Democrats in the Senate voted for that compromise just last March.

CHUCK TODD:

Right. Let me ask you this. We're now in our third shutdown since President Trump took office. It seems like there's chaos when policy decisions get announced. Think Syria is the most recent example. When is enough enough for you? You've expressed displeasure in the past, but is it accumulating for you to the point where you're running out of patience?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

Government shutdowns are never good policy. And we've had them in the Obama administration. We've had them in President Trump's administration. They -- we should always get the appropriations bills signed into law before the start of the fiscal year so that neither side can use the threat of a shutdown or the reality of a shutdown as a political weapon.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. But I guess -- what is your level of satisfaction with how the president is conducting himself in office? That's where I'm getting -- are you losing patience with his conduct?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

Well, I'm frustrated in this situation that we've gotten to this point where both sides appear to be intransigent. It is not a sign of weakness to try to figure out a middle ground. And I think that both sides need to indicate a willingness to listen and to compromise.

CHUCK TODD:

You have said you intend to seek reelection in 2020, but that is not a, that is not a firm announcement. What, what is going into your decision? Is it, is it more professional and political? Or is it more personal?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

Well, it's a combination of factors. I'm very proud of the service that I've given to the people of Maine. And I'm getting ready to run. But frankly, I just think it's, it’s too early to make that kind of decision. But I am getting prepared, and I'll make a final decision at the -- towards the end of this year.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

You know, it used to be that we used the off year to actually legislate and left the politics to the election year. And that's what I would prefer to do.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Collins, that happened, that's the last century these days. I hear you. I miss the odd year on policy and the even-numbered years on politics myself.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

Exactly.

CHUCK TODD:

Anyway, Senator Collins, happy new year and thanks for coming on and sharing your views. Much appreciated.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, Republicans lost the House. But those who are left may be more pro-Trump than ever. That's next.

CHUCK TODD:

We are back. Data Download time. The new Democratic House majority has been making waves in Washington this week. But with them comes a new Republican minority. And while their numbers are fewer, this is a group made much more in the image of President Trump. Let me explain. Before this year's midterm election, Republicans held 23 seats in districts won by Hillary Clinton. That number is now two. That's right. Only two current House Republicans represent districts where most voters split their tickets. Looking at it another way for how the House GOP has let the middle slip away, look at it this way: Republicans previously held 94 seats where President Trump won less than 55% of the vote in 2016. Well guess what. That's been cut nearly in half to 52. But in districts where Trump won 55% or more of the vote in 2016, Republicans actually went from 146 seats to 148. That's right. House Republicans actually gained in Trump strongholds. These numbers matter because of just how much they change the political character of the House GOP. There may be fewer Republicans in the House now, but the ones who remain are more closely aligned with President Trump and his view of the Republican Party. And they hail from districts that backed the president with the most intensity. And by the way, here's one more number for you: Republicans now hold 200 House seats. That's 46% of the lower chamber. It's the exact same number as President Trump's approval rating in our November NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. And, oh, yeah, that's the same number as President Trump's share of the vote in 2016. The question is what does that 46% do now? Trump's base is rock solid. If this new House minority follows that pattern, get ready for a bumpy and contentious 2019. When we come back, is it fair to say Elizabeth Warren has a Hillary problem? Or is the problem with the people making the charge?

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with End Game. Elizabeth Warren basically launched her presidential race this week, Donna Edwards. And immediately, it seems the initial round -- and it started with Politico's headline here -- I think we can put that up. "How does Elizabeth Warren avoid a Clinton redux written off as too unlikable before her campaign gets off the ground?" It was interesting. Hillary Clinton's communications director from 2016 responded, Jennifer Palmieri. I think we have that response to that Politico tweet up there. "When did E. Warren become unlikable? Looks like you can pinpoint time of unlikability to moment she showed ambition to be POTUS. As far as women have come, people still find women with ambition vexing. There's something about her I just don't like." Donna Edwards, you've been on a ballot.

DONNA EDWARDS:

I feel it.

CHUCK TODD:

You feel it?

DONNA EDWARDS:

I mean, having been an unlikable, aggressive woman --

CHUCK TODD:

Is that what you were described as?

DONNA EDWARDS:

That's what, that’s how I was described. I really feel that, and I do think that if additional women get into the field that that changes that conversation a little bit, but Elizabeth Warren has put herself out there, and those are the kind of arrows she's getting. Is it fair? No, I don't think it's fair at all, and we've got to change that, that conversation, and women want that conversation to be changed.

CHUCK TODD:

Is it going to be better when more women get in this race? Because on one hand, Kasie, we, we sometimes organize presidential fields by ideological lanes, geographic lanes. If it's an identity politics lane, then this becomes what?

KASIE HUNT:

People are already splitting it up that way. I mean, I go back to this McSweeney's article. It's a humor column, but it said quite on point, I thought, in saying, "Well, you know, I, I never really didn't like Hillary Clinton. I was ready for a woman president, just not her. Elizabeth Warren, I would be ready for her, but there's something about her I don't like. And you know, there's something about Kamala Harris that I'm starting not to like, and I couldn't tell you why." Right? Which I think gets at the root of this is that is it possible for a woman candidate to ever get beyond that? And there's also a New York Times story, actually, that sort of walks through this idea that there are some Democrats who are even worried about nominating a woman to run against President Trump, which sets up a whole ‘nother set of barriers within the party. So very, very real. And you know, Jennifer Palmieri didn't always think the way that she did, until she went to work for Hillary Clinton, and then she looked around and she watched how she was covered, and she said, "Okay, this is real."

CHUCK TODD:

You, you know, David, it's interesting. The initial hit on Elizabeth Warren politically, if you were going to ask the question, should've been, "Can the Democrats nominate another Massachusetts liberal politician and win the presidency?” They've tried twice in the last, for over a generation and lost. But that isn't the comparison. There's a point here, isn't there?

DAVID BROOKS:

There is a point, but I do think as more women get in -- if we get five or six women in the race and as the race gets started, it'll look a lot different. This is, to me, is probably not going to be an identity politics primary campaign. The, the range of opinions about American capitalism has widened on the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Radically different views of the role of government. That's what Elizabeth Warren is really going to be running on. I think that's what other candidates are going to be running on. That's what we're going to be talking about. There are 45,000 who kill themselves every year in suicide. 72,000 die of opiate addictions. There are some pretty big issues on the table, and I think once the campaign gets going, we'll be done with the preseason chatter.

CHUCK TODD:

Coincidentally, as Elizabeth Warren is launching, Matthew, The New York Times comes out with a pretty rough look back at the Bernie Sanders campaign. Let me put up this headline. New York Times: "Sexism Claims from Bernie Sanders 2016 Run. Paid Less. Treated Worse." Bernie Sanders is asked about this article. Let me play for you his response to it.

[BEGIN TAPE]

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

I certainly apologize to any woman who felt that she was not treated appropriately. And of course, if I run, we will do better next time.

ANDERSON COOPER:

And just to be clear, you seem to indicate that you did not know at the time about the allegations. Is that correct?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Yes, I was a little bit busy running around the country trying to make the case.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Boy, that didn't seem like a good answer, did it?

MATTHEW CONTINETTI:

And he took some heat for that. And of course, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren will likely be competing over that same set of voters on the progressive side of the Democratic Party. When I look at Warren, you know, she's attracting high level campaign talent. She certainly has the most policy chops and the most defined message of the candidates we're looking at right now on the left side, the progressive left side. But she does have this burden of having high name ID and low personal favorability.

CHUCK TODD:

Donna Edwards, she’s -- in Iowa this weekend, she was asked about the infamous DNA test. Very interesting, the way she responded to a voter. A voter asked her this, not a reporter. Take a listen.

[BEGIN TAPE]

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

Yeah, well. You know, I'm glad you asked that question. I genuinely am. And I'm glad for us to have a chance to talk about it. I am not a person of color. I am not a citizen of a tribe. Tribal citizenship is very different from ancestry.

[ENDTAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

How'd she handle this?

DONNA EDWARDS:

Well, I mean, I actually think that she is -- she understands that she's going to be asked the question. She understands that she has to reframe it a little bit differently. And I actually think that that right there was the closest that she has come to acknowledging that she misstepped in the past. And I, I think this is going to be, you know, a story that's not going to be there for the long term. She does have those policy chops that people are looking for. But also, I don't think the era of identity politics is over. Because for a lot of women, for people of color, who are the base of the Democratic Party, our identity is our politics.

KASIE HUNT:

I think that's absolutely right.

DAVID BROOKS:

That comment reminds me, it's really hard to catch lightning in a bottle twice. Warren's moment, I think, was four years ago. There was a lot of momentum. She was the new face. Bernie Sanders was the new face. Now, there actually are a lot of new faces.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

DAVID BROOKS:

And this is a moment where you feel generational turns. You feel demographic turns. You feel a lot of people looking to the future. I think it's going to be hard for both Senator Warren and Sanders to come back and be “au courant.”

CHUCK TODD:

That seems to be her biggest problem, is that she's not new, as far as --

MATTHEW CONTINETTI:

Someone new, I think led, out of 12 options in a recent poll, it was "someone new," despite all these choices they have, so who that person is we have yet to see.

KASIE HUNT:

And I do think there is a huge argument for a woman candidate as well if you look at the women in the House and that excitement that we saw this week.

CHUCK TODD:

There's no question about that. The question is will the final two both be women? That would be an interesting development. That's all we have for today. Thank you for watching. We're glad to be back in 2019, and we'll be back here next week as well because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.