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Meet the Press - July 1, 2018

NBC NEWS - MEET THE PRESS

7.1.18

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday holding court, Anthony Kennedy steps down from the Supreme Court. President Trump is ready.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

We have a very excellent list of great, talented, highly educated, highly intelligent, hopefully tremendous people.

CHUCK TODD:

Democrats fear the makings of a conservative Court with little chance to stop it.

SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN:

Women's access to safe, legal abortions on the line.

CHUCK TODD:

They want Republicans to delay the vote again until after the election.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

Our Republican colleagues in the Senate should follow the rule they set in 2016.raitc

CHUCK TODD:

But Republican leader Mitch McConnell says, "Not this time."

SENATOR MCCONNELL:

We will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy's successor this fall.

CHUCK TODD:

Can Democrats stop President Trump or will he shape the Court for a generation? My guests this morning, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell. Plus, giant killer, a political unknown topples a House leader, a sign of a changing Democratic party.

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ:

Oh my God.

CHUCK TODD:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is here this morning. And President Trump says there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea. But NBC News reports North Korea is increasing its production of nuclear fuel post-summit. Is the U.S. being deceived again by another North Korean leader? Joining me for insight and analysis are NBC News chief White House correspondent Hallie Jackson, Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher, David Brody, White House correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network, and Kimberly Atkins, chief Washington reporter and columnist for The Boston Herald. 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. Happy July. The announced retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy this week helped make one political reality clear. Despite his overall unpopularity, President Trump is winning and the Democrats right now are reeling. The Supreme Court. Mr. Trump is about to shape the Court for a generation by choosing a possible tie breaking conservative justice. And he's already filled the lower Courts with like-minded conservatives. How about the Republican party? The President's approval rating among Republicans is around 90%. Elected Republicans fear criticizing him and the party has become a cult of personality, his. How about fake news? Mr. Trump has turned that phrase, which initially referred to the phony Russian generated stories designed to support his campaign in 2016, into an applause line now to discredit responsible reporting showcasing his misdeeds. How about credibility? If reporters faithfully fact check the president's serial misstatements, they risk being considered biased. If they don't, the misstatements gain traction. Either way, Mr. Trump wins.

The Mueller investigation. The president has succeeded in convincing millions that the investigation is biased, despite trafficking only in innuendo and not providing evidence. Then there's the economy. It is doing well. But it was doing well before he took office. Yet, with unemployment down and jobs being created, President Trump is getting this credit. Still, much of Mr. Trump's success is superficial. While he's more popular among Republicans, the party overall is shrinking. His trade war, North Korea, or the Mueller investigation all could turn against him and, frankly, could turn against him now like North Korea has. But if the Democrats' reaction this week to the Kennedy retirement proved anything, it's that the Democratic party has not figured out how to succeed in the Trump era.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

You know, we Democrats are a big tent.

CHUCK TODD:

The Supreme Court fight has exposed a Democratic party largely united in opposition to the president, but divided over goals, messaging and tactics.

SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

I think we will have a plan. And it will be announced by the Democratic leader at an appropriate time.

CHUCK TODD:

But it's not clear what that plan is. Democrats with 2020 ambitions, eager to win progressive support, are promising the base of fight.

SENATOR CORY BOOKER:

Don't tell me that this battle is one that's already lost. I do not believe that.

SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS:

This is a fight that is born out of love of country and we're not going to let anyone take our flag.

SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN:

We will fight today. We will fight tomorrow.

CHUCK TODD:

But the Senate's Democratic leaders are reluctant to give them that fight.

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:

The notion that we can stop them with 49 votes is just not in the, not in the cards.

CHUCK TODD:

Minority leader Chuck Schumer is stuck on a procedural argument. In 2016, Democrats ridiculed Senator Mitch McConnell's maneuver to deny Obama appointee, Merrick Garland, a vote before the election. Now, they are adopting the same argument.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER:

Our Republican colleagues in the Senate should follow the rule they set in 2016, not to consider a Supreme Court justice in an election year.

CHUCK TODD:

Meanwhile, three red state Democrats who voted for Justice Neil Gorsuch, are up for reelection in states Mr. Trump won. And they met with the president this week.

SENATOR HEIDI HEITKAMP:

I had a great conversation.

CHUCK TODD:

In the House, the defeat of New York congressman Joe Crowley by a rising star--

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ:

Oh my God.

CHUCK TODD:

-left Democrats with no obvious heir apparent to Leader Nancy Pelosi. And the calls for Pelosi to step side for a new generation of leaders have grown louder. Quizzed on that point, Pelosi fired back.

CONGRESSWOMAN NANCY PELOSI:

Well, I'm female and progressive on and the rest. So what's your problem?

CHUCK TODD:

The stakes for Democrats could not be higher. Kennedy's retirement sets in motion the biggest change on the Court in half a century.

TOM GOLDSTEIN:

Almost without exception, if it was a critical, ideological hot button issue, it was up to him.

CHUCK TODD:

From Citizens United, the Voting Rights Act and the Trump travel ban this week, where he sided with the Court's conservatives, to even the death penalty, same sex marriage and abortion, where he chiefly sided with the Court's liberals. Mr. Trump said Friday he won't ask candidates how they would vote on abortion.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

Well, that's a big one. And probably not. They're all saying, "Don't do that. You don't do that. You shouldn't do that." But I'm putting conservative people on.

CHUCK TODD:

But asked during the campaign whether he wants the Court to overturn Roe?

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

That'll happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the Court.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, joining me for the Supreme Court discussion are two senators, Democrat Maria Cantwell of Washington state and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who sits on the judiciary committee. We're going to begin though with Senator Cantwell out in Washington state. Senator, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL:

Good morning.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with the basic question here. Help me out. Where, where do you sit? It feels as if Senate Democrats in general all--have all sorts of ideas on how to handle this Supreme Court fight. What is yours?

SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL:

Well, this is a very different Supreme Court discussion because everyone in the United States Senate who's going to vote on this knows that it will change the balance of power. So you're not just voting on whether you think Trump should have his nominee, you're voting on whether that nominee is going to change precedent when it comes to a whole host of issues of women's right to choose, your access to health care. Whether if you have diabetes or asthma, all of a sudden a preexisting condition is no longer allowed and you have to pay more for insurance. So I think that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle know that this vote could be a-- one of the key votes of their entire career. And they know that, no matter what spin comes out of the White House, if they vote for somebody who's going to change precedent, it could be a career ending move.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. That's fine to say that in the aftermath. But the numbers are the numbers, right? We know what the numbers are in the Senate. The rules have been changed. Bear majority now does this. So you’re, it sounds like you want to defeat this nominee for sure, or are you trying to inspire President Trump to pick a moderate?

SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL:

Well, we, well I would love President Trump to pick somebody in the mainstream of American views who are going to hold up years, and years and years of precedent. The one great thing about our nation is an independent judiciary. In times of intense political debate, the fact that we have that independent judiciary that will uphold the law is key to what is so great about our country. We're a 51/49 Senate. And if he wants to throw an extreme conservative who basically says, "I'm not going to follow precedent --

CHUCK TODD:

Right

SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL:

-- I'm not going to follow these laws," then yes, that to me is a major change and something the president should be sitting down with moderates--

CHUCK TODD:

Right

SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL:

-- on that advise and consent. And say, "What would be good for America?"

CHUCK TODD:

All right. But the reality is I think we know where this is headed on a partisan scale, considering the president is only looking at nominees pre-vetted by the Federalist Society. So we know he's going to pick some-- more of a traditional conservative. So I ask you, how do Democrats, then, can you defeat this nominee if it comes from that? Are you hoping to woo Senators Murkowski and Collins? Is that the plan here?

SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL:

Well, the plan here is to speak out about the change in balance in the Court. You are not just voting, as was with Gorsuch, for just one more name. You know that Justice Kennedy was a swing vote. That he was a Libertarian. That sometimes he sided with the conservative justices, sometimes he upheld what were very important issues of marriage equality, of issues on the environment. So for my colleagues in moderate states, whether that's Democrat or Republican, you're really going to have to decide, "Am I voting for a justice that's going to hold up the Clean Air Act or the Clean Water Act? Am I voting for a justice that is really going to hold up Roe v. Wade or a woman's right to have the freedom to do what she wants with her body?" These are issues-- it's not going to be about what they say, it's going to be about whether you really believe that justice, given what the president has said he's willing to nominate.

CHUCK TODD: What are you willing to do--

SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL:

So these are going to be very--

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that. But what’re you -- there’s some Democratic activists who think that you guys are going to have a confirmation hearing and you're not going to do whatever it takes to stop any justice that the president nominates if it does come from a more conservative, a conservative era. There was one person quoted, one activist--

SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL:

Well Chuck there’s--

CHUCK TODD:

--quoted in The New York Times today saying, you know, they'd like to see some civil disobedience in the Senate. Do you buy into that?

SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL:

Well, I'll tell you what, I'm all for making sure this debate gets every bit of attention. But I'm so anxious to hear whatever this nominee has to say. Is the president able to pardon himself? Do you believe in the emoluments clause, that basically there should be a conflict of interest that, if there is one, the president shouldn't be able to participate in special self-interest? I want to know what he thinks about the process of how far the Mueller investigation needs to go, and will they fight to protect that? I'm interested in hearing what kind of nominee is going to be on the bench and if the president is under indictment, what is that nominee going to do about that? So these are monumental questions.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay

SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL:

And this is a person who wants 40 years on the Court, or probably 40 years. I want at least 40 minutes to hear what they have to say about these important issues.

CHUCK TODD:

So you would have an easier time, I think, getting your moderate if the rules of the Senate hadn't been changed. I want to play for you a remark Mitch McConnell made in 2013 when then Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid changed the rules for lower Court nominations. Here's what he said.

[BEGIN TAPE]

SENATOR MCCONNELL:

Say to my friends on the other side of the aisle you'll regret this. And you may regret it a lot sooner than you think.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Do you regret it?

SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL:

Well, we're dealing with what we're dealing with today. And I doubt that whatever the circumstances of the rules were then or now, that they would be preceding on this with 51 votes. The issue is there’s so many things before the American people. And this position will change the balance of the Court. The president has the right to nominate somebody, as he says--

CHUCK TODD:

But Senator, you had an attempt--

SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL:

--who he wants to change the balance.

CHUCK TODD:

You want to just ignore that? I guess I disagree with--

SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL:

No, no, no, no. I want to --

CHUCK TODD:

--you. You just want to ignore--

SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL:

--deal with--

CHUCK TODD:

-- that past. I mean, that is why we're in this situation--

SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL:

No.

CHUCK TODD:

--now, where a bear majority decides the future of the Court.

SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL:

Well, it's what we're dealing with today. And I'm not ignoring it. But I tell you, Chuck, I have been around my state this weekend and people are anxious about health care. They're anxious about the detention of people who are seeking asylum in the United States. They want to know what is going to happen with this Court nominee. They are so anxious that key rights that have been bestowed upon Americans are going to be rolled back. So yes, they want to know what we're going to do about it. And what I want to make perfectly clear is that this is not a normal Supreme Court justice vote.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah

CHUCK TODD:

You know for sure that your vote is changing the balance. And I want all my colleagues to have the time to take, that it is not a rushed process, to know whether this nominee is going to uphold those American rights or not. That is what we deserve to know.

CHUCK TODD:

What's the definition of a rushed process? Do you think this should be delayed till after the election or do you think we should know before the election where people stand on this?

SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL:

Well, I am sure that the president is in a hurry because he's already said he's going to make a decision by July 9th. And what I would say is that advise and consent role, I'd be sitting down with the moderates to say, "What kind of justice do we need in the United States for this process to make sure that basic rights are upheld?"

CHUCK TODD:

Do you want it delayed?

SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL:

But I think they're going to skip that.

CHUCK TODD:

But do you want it delayed till after the election or not?

SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL:

Well, I would love that because I want to make sure that we have enough time--

CHUCK TODD:

Okay

SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL:

-- and that the issues are discussed and that we have our rights heard. That's what I would like.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Senator Cantwell, I'm going other have to leave it there. Senator, thanks for coming on and sharing your views. I appreciate it.

SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Yesterday I spoke with Senator Lindsey Graham when he was in Turkey on a congressional trip to the Middle East. And I began by asking him what kind of Supreme Court justice he's looking for. A strict constructionist like Antonin Scalia, someone to the right of center like Chief Justice John Roberts, or someone, as Senator Cantwell described, more of a Libertarian, a centrist like Anthony Kennedy?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Conservative, not crazy. Solid. I like a John Roberts type myself, but I'm not picky. President Trump ran on the idea of who he'd pick, a conservative judge. And he gave us a list. So I would expect the name would come from that list. And the people on that list are highly qualified.

CHUCK TODD:

One of the big issues that's probably going to come up at the confirmation hearing is the issue of abortion. When he was a candidate, Donald Trump said that overturning Roe v. Wade would happen automatically because his picks for the Supreme Court would all be pro-life. Do you view that connection as automatic, that if you're pro-life it means you're for overturning Roe v. Wade and that should be how the public assumes when they hear of a Supreme Court Justice, a potential nominee being pro-life?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Well, I'm pro-life. And the job of a judge is to call, decide cases before the Court. But one of the concepts that really means a lot in America is stare decisis. That means you don't overturn precedent unless there's a good reason. And I would tell my pro-life friends you can be pro-life and conservative, but you can also believe in stare decisis. Roe v. Wade, in many different ways, has been affirmed over the years. But I would hope the justice that sits on the Court, all of them, would listen to the arguments on both sides before they decided. But stare decisis is a well-known concept in our law.

CHUCK TODD:

And that's important to you? Are you going to vote for somebody that doesn't believe in that?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM:

I'm not going to vote for anybody that tells me they're going to decide a case before the facts are presented to them. I don't expect the judge to say, "I'm going to overturn Roe v. Wade" or, "I will never listen to an argument about abortion." I have a bill that says, because a baby can feel pain at 20 weeks during the birthing process, 20 weeks post-conception, that there's a compelling state interest to protect a child from an abortion at that period, five months of the pregnancy. That's a novel issue that's never been decided under Roe. So I hope the justices, this one and all of them, will listen to the arguments before they decide.

CHUCK TODD:

The president's pick may end up having to rule on issues having to do with the Mueller investigation. Neil Gorsuch, he came up before there was a Robert Mueller special counsel. Now he exists. Do you believe this nominee needs to commit to recusing him or herself for anything having to do with the Mueller probe directly right now if it makes its way to the Supreme Court, especially given one of the potential nominees has said flat out they don't believe a president should be susceptible to a lawsuit while sitting in office?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Well, I've been a lawyer before I was a politician. To recuse yourself is proper in some cases. Elena Kagan recused herself from all the cases she worked on as Solicitor General. You can't really review your own homework. But the idea that you can't judge somebody who picked you is probably not a ground for recusal. You've got to show there's a connection between the case at hand and the activity of the judge. It makes perfect sense to me that Jeff Sessions can't oversee an investigation of the campaign he was part of. But I wouldn't have a broad rule that you can't, you know, review anything against President Trump because he chose you.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. It sounds as though there, there may be instances where you might think a recusal is appropriate having to do with--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

--this investigation?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

So where would that line be, if they had a direct--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Well, it depends what the facts are. Well, I don't know. I don't know who he's going to pick. And, you know, I think whoever he will pick will be asked about the connections to the Trump campaign, pending litigation, any conflicts of interest. A conflict of interest in the law is different than just, you know, again, you can't judge anything Trump did because he chose you. That's not a conflict of interest under the law. And we'll see where this goes.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Let me move to your favorite topic, foreign policy. I have a bunch of things to get to. I want to start with North Korea. As you know, we here at NBC are reporting that U.S. intelligence agencies believe that the North Korean regime is already cheating on the commitments that Kim Jong Un made to President Trump. In fact, they've apparently stepped up production of enriched uranium. Is this deal already headed to failure?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM:

That's a good question, Chuck. If it is true, they're saying one thing and doing another, nobody should be surprised. But here's what I would tell North Korea. There's no place for Donald Trump to kick the can down the road. You met with him in person. He's offering you a deal of a lifetime. I would take it.

CHUCK TODD:

But Senator, as you could tell, the president already knows this information. We've learned it, this is U.S. intelligence. He's already been told this. Does it concern you he has yet to act? Does it concern you, for instance, that he hasn't said, "You know what? The exercises with South Korea are back on"?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM:

I'll be honest with you, Chuck. I just know what I read. I'll follow up when I get back. But it would concern me a lot if they are expanding the nuclear program as they meet with the president. I don't want a war with North Korea. It would be devastating. A lot of people would be killed and hurt.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me move to another summit that's coming up. You were very skeptical when a President Obama in 2015 was about to meet with President Putin. You were worried that, that -- you thought, "No, he's going to get walked all over." And President Obama was there to confront him about Crimea and confront him about some of these things. I've got to ask you, President Trump is already hinting that he's ready to get out of Syria, that he's ready to hand him Crimea. How much concern do you have about this summit?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM:

I'm glad he's meeting, but I've got a lot. It's not Obama's fault that Crimea was taken by Russia. It's Russia's fault. It's up to President Trump to make sure that we don't give Russia and Iran Syria. I'm in Turkey today. This is a strategic ally. We've got many problems, but people in this region look at us as an unreliable ally. We've allowed ISIS to rise by leaving Iraq. We've now got ISIS in a good spot, but a lot of people over here are very worried about leaving Syria and giving it to the Iranians and the Russians, which would throw the whole region into chaos. So I'm concerned by what I hear. I'm concerned when the president tweets, you know, Russia denies they meddled in our election. When they say they didn't meddle, they're lying. So I'm glad the president is going to confront Putin. Show him the evidence you've got, Mr. President, because it's overwhelming.

CHUCK TODD:

You actually think he'll show him the evidence? I mean, again, the president is out there tweeting that he believes the Russians. You actually expect him to present the evidence that we have that's, like, you don't have it?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Well, here's what I would say, that in many ways, this administration's been tough on Russia. We've armed the Ukraine, we've imposed sanctions, we've kicked out diplomats. But the idea that Russia did not meddle in our election is fake news. They did meddle in our election and they're doing it again in 2018.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, one of the messages you regularly have brought back from the Middle East during the Obama era was you were concerned that, you would say that our allies in the Middle East, for instance, they don't know if they can count on the United States. Can our allies in Europe count on the United States right now?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Yeah. Congress is firmly in Europe's camp. I think the president is trying to get NATO nations to contribute more, but there's no serious effort to get out of NATO. I think the president appreciates the alliance. I can’t -- I'm not going to be on this show and tell you what he should say or not say, I'm going to judge him by what he does. I like some of the things he's done against Russia, but this whole idea that there's doubt that they meddled in our election is probably not helpful at all. The idea of leaving Syria means you're going to have ISIS come back. The only thing I can tell President Trump for sure is if you leave Syria without thinking about it, conditions on the ground being the reason you leave, ISIS'll come back. And if you leave any time soon, you're giving Damascus to the Iranians. So everything you said about Obama and Iraq, you're going to do in Syria. Please don't do that.

CHUCK TODD: By the way, during our conversation, Senator Graham shared with me that this was his first trip to the Middle East without his normal traveling companion, John McCain. Graham said that he and his colleagues were going to go out to McCain's favorite hotel bar last night and toast him. You can see the entire interview on MeetThePress.com, by the way. When we come back, President Trump, the Democrats and the coming battle over the Supreme Court. Panel is next. Is this going to be a huge battle or much ado about nothing? Stay with us.

CHUCK TODD: Welcome back. Panelists here, Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher, NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Hallie Jackson, Kimberly Atkins, the chief Washington reporter and columnist for The Washington Herald and David Brody, White House correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network. All right. David, I'm going to start with you. This is what Michael Gerson wrote. He says, "As a political matter, however, the fight over Kennedy's replacement is a gift to the president. It is a reminder of Trump's adherence to the deal he made with Evangelical Christians and other religiously conservative supporters. 'Ignore my bigotry and bad character and all the kingdoms of the Courts, from lowest to highest, will verily be yours.’ Pretty rough way to describe it. Michael Gerson's been very critical of Evangelicals and their sort of blind support for the President Trump over character. But is he right?

DAVID BRODY: Well, he's right to a degree and the degree is this. Evangelicals voted for this president predominantly, especially the ones that were on the fence. I'm not talking about the ones that were showing up in Alabama in those rallies, but the ones that kind of came with their nose held, to a degree. They voted for him for the Supreme Court. And here we are. And many of these Evangelicals believe-- and I know this is shocking to a lot of folks, but they believe he is God's chosen candidate for such a time as this. This is the word on the street in the Evangelical world. And so along comes a second Supreme Court nomination. And they're, like, "Well, here you go. We," as in Evangelicals, "have a chance to reshape this Court for a long time." I think it'll be interesting to see, in terms of reshaping the Court, Murkowski and Collins. You know, everybody talks about the big Supreme Court fight to come. I think the fight's right now. The fight right now is how is this candidate going to be defined in terms of in Trump's mind. How much Murkowski and Collins, potentially others, can get to this.

CHUCK TODD: Well, it's interesting. We did a little research on the issue of abortion among Republican senators from when Kennedy was confirmed in 1988 to today. And in 1988, ten Republican senators, Cornell, called themselves pro-choice in 1988 when Kennedy was confirmed. Today it's two, the two that David just brought up there. Do you buy the idea that this will be the be all, end all on Roe?

CORNELL BELCHER: You know, it's the dog catching the car. Look, be careful what you ask for. And I've spent some time in focus groups across the country the last two weeks, right? Democrats will likely lose this battle, right, because, like you said, the numbers just aren't there. And there’s only so man tactics you can take. Elections have consequences. But, Chuck, I've been looking at Gallup data over the last two decades. And nowhere in this Gallup data do I show we’re anywhere approaching a majority of Americans think that abortion should be illegal. And God help these old men if they tick off these suburban women, who've never really thought that their reproductive rights were at risk, and all of a sudden, there is that risk and it's real.

CHUCK TODD: I thought Lindsey Graham was trying to send a message to the president when he said, "Precedent matters."

HALLIE JACKSON: It's settled law. Right.

CHUCK TODD: It’s Lindsey’s way of saying -- he didn't want the headline that said, "Lindsey Graham supports Roe v. Wade." So, you know, he started speaking in Latin. Understandable--

HALLIE JACKSON: Political Latin. Yeah, yeah.

(Laughter)

CHUCK TODD: --political Latin here. I think Lindsey Graham agrees with Cornell. Be careful here with Roe.

HALLIE JACKSON: So, the other piece of it too, is that this is a president -- I had heard from sources this week and the president confirmed it on Friday, he is not going to specifically ask where these candidates are, where these potential picks are. He doesn't have to. They wouldn't be on this list coming out from the Federalist Society if you didn't already know where they stood on that particular issue. One way that I have heard that people close to the president are trying to inoculate against him of that is to push him toward picking a woman. And the president has said he is leaning towards selecting two women who on this short list of maybe five to seven, including Amy Barrett, who, as one person put it to me just last night, remember she was dinged by Diane Feinstein in her confirmation hearing for the Circuit judgeship. And so I think there is a calculation that some people close to the president are making. But I've also heard that the president himself has said, essentially, "I'm going to try not to think about gender politics. I want to pick the best candidate. And if that's a man, that's a man."

CHUCK TODD: You know, Kimberly, she's getting at something here. And I do think that each side is torn on this. Do they want the fight or not, right? Do Republicans want this fight? I don't know. I think some of them do and think it's a worthy fight. And I think Democrats aren't sure if they want the fight because if you have the fight too harshly, do you blow the red state Democratic senators, right?

KIMBERLY ATKINS: I mean, I think at this point, Republicans aren't sure they need the fight. They think they've already won it. And I think the point that Cornell made aside, that this could backfire in the polls, I think they already think that they won it. And for Democrats, the fight was in 2016. They missed the fight. That is when there was a Supreme Court justice being held up. But maybe because Merrick Garland wasn't the progressive firebrand that really stirred them up, or maybe they missed the fact that there was a path to Donald Trump to 270, they didn't fight that fight then. Now it's too late and they can only message the way we saw Senator Cantwell do as best as she could. But that's all Democrats have right now.

HALLIE JACKSON: But one thing that strikes me so much, especially as somebody who covered the campaign in 2016, when you look at the exit polling data, and you can't talk about this enough, how much that Supreme Court opening was such a motivating factor for Republicans in particular, more so than Democrats.

CHUCK TODD: Let me put up -- you just led to a graphic we had already prepared, Hallie.

HALLIE JACKSON: Well--

CHUCK TODD: You didn't even know this--

HALLIE JACKSON: --I didn't even know.

(Laughter)

CHUCK TODD: It was about one in five voters said the Court was their number one issue. And take a look at what the percentage was. Among those voters, 56% were Trump voters and only 41% were Clinton voters.

KIMBERLY ATKINS: And that's the Democrats fault? --

CORNELL BELCHER: But that's a problem that Democrats have now. But you have groups like Demand Justice that are mobilizing now because all of a sudden, they see that the Supreme Court is in fact possible -- important. I think you're going to see that number grow for Democrats.

KIMBERLY REED: Well, now, there's nothing that the Democrats could do to stop it. And, look, let's see. You were talking about the support of Evangelicals. Donald Trump is term limited. They have him, at most, for eight years. Not just the Supreme Court, but the federal judiciary. It will take a full generation to turn around the Court, the judiciary that's being shifted so far to the right.

DAVID BRODY: And that's why this is a 40 year decision, is what we're talking about here. I would also say that it's very important. Amy Barrett, Hallie, who you mentioned, Evangelical sources tell me that's the number one pick for them, for sure, Amy Barrett. But beyond that, we know Donald Trump likes optics. Can you imagine Roe v. Wade, whatever it happens to be, of five men, five-four decision on whatever it happens to be, Roe v. Wade or something along those lines? Look, this is an optics thing. And I think it would probably bode well for this president, if he cares about optics, and yeah, he does, to possibly go with a woman here.

HALLIE JACKSON: I don't know. I think back to when he was selecting his Cabinet, for example. There was a lot of talk about optics then and would he pick more women over these male candidates. And this is a president who doesn't like to be told how the optics make--

DAVID BRODY: True.

HALLIE JACKSON: --him look. --

DAVID BRODY: True.

HALLIE JACKSON: He will assess that and think about it, but I'm not sure that in this instance, that is the top motivating factor for him.

DAVID BRODY: There is a political calculation here. Midterm elections come along, you've got three months, July through November to say, "Hey, I picked a Supreme Court nominee who's a woman. And I'm just saying so listen to the fake news media out there saying I'm anti-woman. You know what? Fake news." It gives him a place.

CORNELL BELCHER: I think it works for his base. But a woman who's going to overturn Roe v. Wade is going to terrorize women in the suburbs.

CHUCK TODD: All right. I have to leave it there. But we'll pick up the conversation in a little bit. When we come back though, meet the woman who may represent the changing face of the Democratic party, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. That sound you may have heard on Tuesday night was the sound of a political earthquake in New York City that was really felt more so in Washington. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old political neophyte seemed to come out of nowhere to defeat Joe Crowley in a Democratic Congressional primary. And Crowley was not just anyone. He's currently the fourth ranking Democrat in the house, the party boss of Queens and was seen by many as the next speaker of the House if Democrats won the majority. Well, no more. It was a giant win for the progressive wing of the party. But as my colleague Steve Kornacki put it, as shocking as her victory was, the more you look at the changing face of the Democratic party, the more you wonder why didn't all of us see this coming? Well, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joins me now. Congratulations.

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ:

Thank you. Thank you for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

You're not a congresswoman-elect yet. You do have a general election, but it is a pretty strongly Democratic seat. So let me first start with something that Nancy Pelosi said about your victory earlier this week. Take a listen.

(TAPE BEGINS)

CONGRESSWOMAN PELOSI:

They made a choice in one district. So let's not get yourself carried away as an expert on demographics and the rest of that within the caucus or outside the caucus. It is not to be viewed as something that stands for everything else.

(TAPE ENDS)

CHUCK TODD:

She was a bit defensive, a lot of people coming at her saying your victory means a lot more than just a primary win in the Bronx. How did you react to that?

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ:

Well, I think that there are a lot of districts in this country that are like New York 14, that have changed a lot in the last 20 years and whose representation has not. And it's not to say whether someone should be voted out or voted in, but I think it definitely speaks to perhaps us evolving in our messaging and at least how we do things. So I think that -- you know, I do think that there are a lot of districts in America that are like New York 14.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm curious, if Joe Crowley had found out you were, you know, thinking about running and he called you up and said, ‘What am I doing wrong? You know, what would you like to see from me? What would you like to see me do that would make you say, You know what? I'll stand down this cycle and see what you do.'

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ:

What would I -- like, what would I say to him?

CHUCK TODD:

What would you have said to him if he had asked you for advice about how to win your vote before you decided to run against him?

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ:

I think -- I think the problem is that that never happened and the fact that that is not happening --

CHUCK TODD:

Meaning you never saw him in your mind? That the district never saw him, is that what you're saying?

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ:

I think, without going too hard, you know, because the Congressman has had phenomenal service in our community, I do think that there was certainly a lack of presence. And that was a big part of my win. There was I think a lack of listening on the ground, a lack of going to the grocery store and saying, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ And that is an important part of representation because we have a lot of work that we have to do here in DC. But that work needs to be rooted in the communities that we have been elected to represent.

CHUCK TODD:

Some of your energy and some of the energy behind you and some of the energy behind other progressives has to do with almost the tone and tactics of the Democratic leadership. I'm curious, what was your reaction to Senator Cantwell earlier today in how she described how she would like to fight on the Supreme Court?

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ:

Well, I think that what's going on is that, especially with the Supreme Court, we have senators and we have folks trying to figure out the strategy. But in the meantime, the messaging isn't as clear to the communities that we're trying to represent. Are we fighting or not? And I still don’t have quite a --

CHUCK TODD:

What do you want to see?

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ:

You know, for me, I'm a fighter. You know, I'm always one for a fight, especially when we see what the GOP has done. I feel like they're kind of gaslighting the country, where when they want to fight, when they want to bend and break the rules and stretch the Constitution to its limits, they'll do it. But when they're on the other side of the table, it's, ‘Whoa, decorum.’ Let’s, you know, let’s --

CHUCK TODD:

So do you want Democrats to borrow some of those tactics? I mean, because that's the tricky game here, right?

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ:

Yeah. Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

Which is, you know, do two wrongs make a right?

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ:

And I do see the point that you're making, like, the consistency point. And I think from my point of view, I kind of look at it more like soccer. You know, what are our positions right now? And this Supreme Court seat is extremely serious. We have a president -- there is a federal investigation going on with direct implications to the presidency. And that presidency is talking about nominating a Supreme Court pick that is going to essentially hear this case out. This is a very unusual time in this country. When is the last time that a president has been in this position?

CHUCK TODD:

So what do you want Senate Democrats to do that you didn't hear from Senator Cantwell this morning?

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ:

So I would like the Senate to delay, absolutely. We need to delay until after the midterm elections. That's my personal opinion. And I think that, at the very least, if we are going to -- if this appointment is going to happen, the very least we can do is delay the timeline in which women's health care is going to be taken away, delay the timeline in which our civil rights could potentially be further eroded.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me talk about some of your policy positions. First, explain this to me. You were endorsed by a group, the democratic socialists. And you have embraced this label. And I think The New York Times has a headline this morning, that sort of, ‘Millennials have embraced socialism.’ What is your definition of democratic socialist?

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ:

Well, for me, again, and there's so much focus on this endorsement. But I also think it's important that an important part of my strategy in winning was building a broad based coalition of people. So while there's the focus on this one aspect of the coalition and to me, you know, to answer your question, the definition of democratic socialism to me, again, is the fact that in a modern, moral and wealthy society, no American should be too poor to live. And to me, that means every working class American in this country should have access to dignified health care. Should actually be able to see a doctor without going broke. It means you should be able to send your kids to college and trade school if they so choose. And no person should feel precarious or unstable in their access to housing as our economy develops.

CHUCK TODD:

Some Democrats are afraid of the S word. Older Americans hear socialism and they tie it to sort of ugly governments from Europe and the past. Do you -- how do you sell this to an older generation?

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ:

Well, I think, you know, as the clip from Schumer showed earlier, Democrats are a big tent party. You know, I'm not trying to impose an ideology on all, you know, several hundred members of Congress. But I do think that, once again, it's not about selling an -ism or an ideology or a label or a color. This is about selling our values.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you a democratic socialist? Is that what you'd call yourself or you don't want that label?

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ:

I mean, it's part of what I am. It's not all of what I am. And I think that that's a very important distinction. I'm an educator. I'm an organizer. And I believe that what we're really seeing is just a movement for health care, housing and education in the United States.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. You defeated a potential future speaker. Should Nancy Pelosi be that next speaker of the House or should be a new generation?

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ:

You know, once again, I want to see the options on the table. First of all, I'm not even an elected member of Congress yet. Secondly, we need to see what is going on. I think that it's just premature for me to commit to any kind of decision on this. I was just elected on Tuesday, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Fair enough. I'm going to leave it there. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, again, congratulations on your primary victory. I imagine we will see you back here again.

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ:

Of course. Thank you so much.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you. All right. When we come back, why Ocasio-Cortez's victory may be more of a progressive outlier than a trend this primary season. But as we go to break, we want to remember the five staff members who died in Thursday's mass shooting at The Capital Gazette newspaper, very close to us here in Annapolis, Maryland.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Data download time. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's win on Tuesday gave a lot of hope to progressives trying to remake the Democratic party. But if you look at the total landscape, this story is a little different. At this point in the primary season, of the 33 House candidates endorsed by the Bernie Sanders group Our Revolution, 14 have won their primaries while 19 have lost to the so-called establishment wing of the Democratic party.

An upstart movement winning 42% of its races, that's actually not bad. However, what happens when you take a closer look at the districts where the Bernie wing is actually winning? Only one of those 14 races is rated competitive by our friends at the Cook Political Report. And even there, the Republican candidate is favored to win.

The majority of these Bernie wins are coming in either safe Republican districts, like Georgia's 1st, and a few are in safe Democratic districts, where the Democrat would win regardless of who won the nomination. Think of Ocasio-Cortez in New York's 14th, for instance. In other words, these are not the districts where control of Congress is being decided and not a way to prove that the movement can win over middle of the road voters in swing districts.

So what about the districts where the Democratic establishment is carrying the day? Well, guess what? Of the 19 districts where establishment districts have prevailed over insurgent progressives, 11 are rated competitive by Cook. These are some of the races Democrats have to win if they're going to take control of the House in November. So is the Sanders wing of the party having an impact on the Democratic party and its politics? Sure.

Progressive candidates in safe districts like Ocasio-Cortez will likely be serving in Congress this time next year. And wins do equal momentum for the movement. The left's success is also certainly being overhyped. And Fox echo chamber is helping that cause as well. They want to claim to moderate voters, "Hey, look, the far left is taking over the Democratic party." But in the places that matter most in 2018, it's actually been a good year for the so-called Democratic establishment. When we come back, End Game and those nationwide protests over immigration, how each party sees the issue as a potential winner in November.

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with EndGameand the debate over immigration. Hundreds of thousands of people in cities across the country turned out to demonstrate against the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy, especially the separation of children from their parents at the border. And, of course, the immigration issue, one that both political parties see as a potential advantage for them. The question is, is it for the Democrats heading into 2020 or November? And what about the Republicans? So let's talk about this. Cornell, I want to talk about this movement to get rid of ICE and what this means. Here's what the president claims that it means. This is what he said today. I think we have that on tape.

(TAPE BEGINS)

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

I hope they keep thinking about it because they're going to get beaten so badly. You get rid of ICE, you're going to have a country that you're going to be afraid to walk out of your house. I love that issue if they're going to actually do that.

(TAPE ENDS)

CHUCK TODD:

And I do already sense a split. The 2020 Democrats are all on this program already, Cornell. Do you see this as a good issue for the Democrats?

CORNELL BELCHER:

I think broadly, it is a good issue for Democrats because of the optics, right? Listen, those pictures of those kids being torn away from their families at the border, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or middle of the road, those images do not settle well, particularly with women voters, right. And I think again, we're going to have a year of the woman voter again that's going to make '92 pale in comparison. So I think overall, the optics don't look good. I'm not for getting into the weeds on this, right, and getting into the policy weeds on this. We should take it from the big standpoint of these are bad optics, these are not our values and not get in the weeds on this argument.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah. I think the president would love to make this about ICE.

HALLIE JACKSON:

He's dying to do that.

CHUCK TODD:

He doesn't want to make it about kids. He wants to make it about ice.

HALLIE JACKSON:

Of course, he does because what the administration will do and what you've already seen from the president and administration officials is then, for every discussion that comes up about abolishing ICE, they bring out ICE law enforcement, ICE enforcement officers to talk about the sacrifices and their service to the country, which is a message that resonates with a lot of people in the country who have a brother or a cousin who's in law enforcement and who feel like they can relate to this. For the president, this is exactly what he wants--

KIMBERLY ATKINS:

Right, and he's--

HALLIE JACKSON:

--to be talking about.

KIMBERLY ATKINS:

--already linked it to law enforcement. Said, ‘What's next? You're going to want to get rid of police.’

HALLIE JACKSON:

‘Want to get rid of police,’ right.

KIMBERLY ATKINS:

And on the Democratic side, I think you're seeing this polarization, this push to the left. This is the perfect demonstration--

CORNELL BELCHER:

But that's my point. Don't give--

KIMBERLY ATKINS:

--of this push to the left.

CORNELL BELCHER:

--it to them.

KIMBERLY ATKINS:

That's absolutely right.

CHUCK TODD:

But you have people inside of ICE that actually say--

HALLIE JACKSON:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

"--The thing--"

KIMBERLY ATKINS

There are problems.

CHUCK TODD:

‘--needs to be reformed. That you have actually messed up.’

HALLIE JACKSON:

But nuance is lost--

DAVID BRODY:

That's true.

HALLIE JACKSON:

--these days, right?

CHUCK TODD:

Nuance is lost.

DAVID BRODY:

That's true. But when you said, "Push to the left," and I think this is kind of the macro version here. Look, the Democratic party has been pushed to the left. Forget socialists for a moment. Forget Democrats. Just overall, the Democratic party's been pushed to the left and that's why Trump got into Wisconsin. You can make the case that Hillary Clinton didn't play in Wisconsin. That's fine. You can do that. Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, the blue collar Democrats. Here's the point, Donna Brazile, who I talked to just a few weeks ago, said, ‘Trump picked the lock in those states because we left the door open. And I think that's very important to realize.’

CORNELL BELCHER:

Okay. You're going to make my head explode. Here's the problem. Wisconsin, he didn't win a majority, right?

DAVID BRODY:

But he won the state.

CORNELL BELCHER:

In Pennsylvania, he didn't win a majority. His problem wasn’t picking up --

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, Hillary Clinton didn't win a majority either.

CORNELL BELCHER:

No, no, no. But Barack Obama did, and that's my point. The problem in Pennsylvania, the problem in Wisconsin were a lot of these Obama voters who, quite frankly, broke third party, their protest vote, and those millions who sat home. And guess what? How is that not voting working for you guys? It's a problem. His winning in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, quite frankly, against Obama was a loss, right? He did not go two points above what Mitt Romney did in those states. He coalesced the Republicans. He picked up a couple points. But that should not be a winning--

DAVID BRODY:

I'm just simply saying--

CORNELL BELCHER:

--majority.

DAVID BRODY:

--you cannot discount the fact that blue collar Democrats went more to this president than any other Republican president before, not just on personality, but also-- it was on personality, but it was also because of the leftward shift of the Democratic platform.

CORNELL BELCHER:

Well, I can make the same argument that, quite frankly, there are Romney, Hillary voters, right? And he did a lot worse among college educated white voters than a Republican has done in a long, long time.

KIMBERLY ATKINS:

I think you're missing my point a little bit. I think this leftward shift in messaging sort of belies the fact that the Democratic party is very, very divided. Is not divided between two different camps, it's divided among multiple different camps and going into --

CHUCK TODD:

As sort of Alexandria was trying to point out.

KIMBERLY ATKINS :

Exactly. You have the progressives like her. You know, you have folks like Seth Moulton, who's recruiting military folks. You have folks like Tim Ryan, who's trying to talk about those middle class voters. And then you have the old guard, like Pelosi and others at the top. And there is no overall messaging that is bringing that all together. That's why these arguments like abolish ICE start catching fire, because there's no other counter message out there from the Democrats--

CORNELL BELCHER:

I hate being the one who has to take up for Democrats. However, I will say this is all very reminiscent of a lot of conversations we heard in 2008 about the old versus the new guard. I think, look, where are Democrats on the major policies? You know, minimum wage increase. Majority of Americans are there, right? Cortez ran on people over the money. That's a winning strategy, left, right. That's a middle of the road, winning strategy right now. And this Bernie movement, is it really a movement, right? From your data download, is it really a movement, right? I don't see it.

DAVID BRODY:

I'm here to report from the frontlines and, you know, with this whole idea of Make America Great Again, I'm telling you, in Democrats, Independents and, yes, Republican households, it has resonated because Democrats culturally-- you mentioned minimum wage. That's fine. That's a cultural issue, you want to call it. But I'm talking about culturally, socially, they've moved to the left.

CORNELL BELCHER:

On what? On what?

DAVID BRODY:

Well, on abortion. On abortion, for sure. On same sex marriage. But I could go on and on.

CORNELL BELCHER:

But on abortion, you're the outlier on abortion. Nowhere is there a majority of Americans who want--

DAVID BRODY:

I don't think there's--

CORNELL BELCHER:

--abortion--

DAVID BRODY:

--an outlier.

CORNELL BELCHER:

--outlawed.

DAVID BRODY:

Yeah. Well, just real quick, I don't think there's an outlier on abortion when the polls show that it's very evenly split.

CORNELL BELCHER:

It's not evenly split. It's not close--

DAVID BRODY:

Well, sure. The polls show that it's evenly split--

CORNELL BELCHER:

I've got Gallup right here. It's not evenly split--

DAVID BRODY:

It is. It is.

CHUCK TODD:

We'll leave it there--

HALLIE JACKSON:

Can I say something?

CHUCK TODD:

I've got to go. Unfortunately, I've got to go. But a majority have said they wanted to keep Roe, for what it's worth on that fact check which will happen anyway. Before we go, I just want to share this email we quickly got from a Florida viewer who said he and 22 of his friends are going to be purchasing online subscriptions to The Capital Gazette. That's their way of honoring what happened in Annapolis. Well, guess what? That's a great idea. We thought his goal was honorable. But you know what? Support your local, free press at home as well. It's a good idea. Go buy that subscription to your local paper. That's all we've got for today. Thanks for watching. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it’s Meet the Press.