Meet the Press - July 28, 2019

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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday: after Mueller, the impeachment debate. Democrats try to get Robert Mueller to make the case against President Trump...

REP. JERRY NADLER:

Now does that say there was no obstruction?

ROBERT MUELLER:

No.

REP. JERRY NADLER:

And what about total exoneration. Did you actually totally exonerate the president?

ROBERT MUELLER:

No.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF

Your investigation is not a witch hunt, is it?

ROBERT MUELLER:

It is not a witch hunt.

CHUCK TODD:

...while Republicans seek to discredit the investigation...

REP. MATT GAETZ:

When people associated with Trump lied, you threw the book at them. When Christopher Steele lied, nothing.

REP. GUY RESCHENTHALER:

I find those facts and this entire process un-American.

CHUCK TODD:

Now, Democrats debate opening impeachment hearings.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

We will proceed when we have what we need to proceed. Not one day sooner.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN:

From my personal standpoint, I think we are in an impeachment investigation.

CHUCK TODD:

My guests this morning: The Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida and pro-impeachment Democratic presidential candidate, Tom Steyer. Plus, base politics. President Trump calls a black congressman's Baltimore district "a disgusting rat and rodent-infested mess." Why does he think such racially-charged rhetoric will work for him in 2020? Also, Democrats get ready for their second debate, with Joe Biden promising a less polite performance this time.

JOE BIDEN:

We'll see.

CHUCK TODD: Joining me for insight and analysis are: Amy Walter, National Editor of the Cook Political Report, Rich Lowry, Editor of National Review, Helene Cooper, Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times, and former Virginia Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe. Welcome to Sunday. It's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News, the longest running show in television history, this is Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. If Democrats squinted just hard enough, they could say they got what they wanted from Robert Mueller this week: the Special Counsel, on national TV, telling the country or confirming that : Yes, Mr. Trump and his campaign welcomed help from the Russians and that it is wrong -- and a crime -- to accept assistance from a foreign government. No, Mueller did not fully exonerate President Trump. Yes, the president tried to impede the investigation and was generally untruthful with Mueller. No, he was not cleared of obstruction of justice. Yes, Mr. Trump sought to make millions in business dealings with Russia during the campaign. And, no, the investigation was not a witch hunt. But it's also true that Mueller's six hours of reluctant testimony repeating or confirming what was already released, failed to produce the kind of "can't turn your eyes away" moment that Democrats hoped would galvanize public opinion against the president and spur the drive for impeachment. At the same time, Wednesday's hearing exposed Congressional Republicans as more interested in discrediting Mueller's investigation than in confronting Russian election interference which as we learned this week, one day after Mueller, was even more widespread than we previously knew, and is continuing at this very moment. For now the next move -- again -- is with the Democrats as they debate among themselves -- again -- whether and when to move ahead with impeachment proceedings.

REP. STEVE COHEN:

We're watching the temperature rise. We're not quite at boiling point, but we're getting close.

CHUCK TODD:

On the question of impeaching President Trump, everyone was waiting for Mueller... but, after his halting and somewhat reluctant performance..

ROBERT MUELLER:

Well uhh, uhh it’s -- problematic is an understatement. Generally, that’s true. I’m sorry what’s the citation, sir?

CHUCK TODD:

...they're now waiting for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

REPORTER:

Are you trying to run out the clock?

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

No, I'm not trying to run out the clock. Let's get sophisticated about this.

CHUCK TODD:

Democratic House leadership came out of Wednesday's hearings not ready to budge on impeachment. But, they don't seem ready to rule it out, either. And the waiting game is nothing new. For nearly two years Democrats have waited, first for Mueller to complete his investigation:

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER:

We have to see what the Mueller report says I think before making any conclusions.

REP. NANCY PELOSI:

Release the Mueller report as soon as possible.

CHUCK TODD:

Then, for the un-redacted version...

REP. JERRY NADLER:

Congress must get the full, unredacted report along with the underlying evidence uncovered by special counsel material. And then, to hear from Mueller himself:

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

In terms of Bob Mueller, he is going to have to testify.

CHUCK TODD:

And now, a new hurdle from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler:

REP. JERRY NADLER:

An application for the grand jury material underlying the Mueller report. If our committee is going to recommend articles of impeachment to the House, we must make the strongest possible case both to our colleagues and to the American public.

CHUCK TODD:

But while Democrats are divided between impeach-now progressives and wait-and-see moderates, Republicans are united against Mueller:

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Volume 1, 193. He lied three times, you point it out in the report, why didn't you charge him with a crime?

REP. MATT GAETZ:

When people associated with Trump lied, you threw the book at them. When Christopher Steele lied, nothing.

REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE:

Donald Trump is not above the law. He's not. But he damn sure shouldn't be below the law, which is where volume II of this report puts him.

CHUCK TODD:

Seeming untroubled by what may be Mueller's most consequential charge:

ROBERT MUELLER:

Over the course of my career I have seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government's effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious.

CHUCK TODD:

A day later, a bipartisan Senate report detailed those efforts -- showing that the election systems of ALL 50 STATES were targeted by Russia in 2016. But that report from the Senate Intel Committee seems to be where the bipartisan outrage ends. Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell again blocked consideration of an election security bill put forward mostly by Democrats.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

It's just a highly partisan bill from the same folks that spent two years hyping up a conspiracy theory about President Trump and Russia

CHUCK TODD:

That's a far cry from where McConnell and other Republicans were in 2016 and 2017:

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

Let me just speak for myself, the Russians are not our friends.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

They need to pay the price and I don't care what their motives were.

REP. PAUL RYAN:

It is absolutely unacceptable that Russia or any other country than Russia meddle in our elections. Period. RIght there.

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now from Los Angeles is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff. He was -- he is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Chairman Schiff, welcome back to Meet the Press.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Let's start with the hearings this week. Having a few days to have -- let them sink in, I'm sure you've probably reviewed the transcript as well, what's your thinking on them now?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Well, my thinking is that the special counsel made it very clear that the Trump campaign welcomed Russian help, built it into their campaign plan, never reported it, made full use of it and then lied about it, and that there were multiple acts by the president that constitute obstruction of justice. Essentially, this was a campaign and a presidential candidate characterized by disloyalty to country, by greed and by lies. And so I found his testimony chilling. I also found, as you pointed out, most chilling, the fact that the special counsel confirmed the Russians have never stopped their interference. They're at it again. And he is desperately concerned, as I am as well, that the acceptance of foreign help, the willing -- willingness to receive it, may become a new normal under this president. And that, as the special counsel said, ought to alarm every American.

CHUCK TODD:

Quite a few people observed the fact that your half of the hearing seemed to animate Mr. Mueller a little bit more. He seemed to give a few more, a little bit more, on some of his answers than he did in the first part. And it made, it made some of us wonder would the obstruction charges be easier for Americans to understand had they seen the presentation of the crime itself first, which of course, you were part one of the Mueller report, but you came as part two of Mueller's testimony.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Yeah. You know, that's a good question. I think there may be a number of reasons why the testimony of the second hearing came more naturally to the special counsel. You know, this animated his work for decades, that is protecting the country. And I think that he is most concerned that we're not rising to the challenge of protecting our elections and our democracy. And so you could see him become most passionate about that. That hearing was really about the central focus of his work. So I think that had something to do with it. We also had the benefit of going second, where we could hear the kind of questions that he would respond to.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

We understood the dynamic a little better than had we been the first up at bat.

CHUCK TODD:

James Comey testified two days after announcing the decision on Hillary Clinton back in 2016. Robert Mueller, let's see, the Mueller report got submitted some time in the spring. We've changed seasons since. It is now, it took until almost essentially four months. Obviously, you wish it had been sooner. Could you guys have done more to have made this happen sooner? And was it a mistake to let it go this long?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

I'm not sure what more we could've done. Of course, you know, Bill Barr withheld the Mueller report as long as he could. He put out that misleading summary. He wanted the narrative baked in as long as possible. And this is the same reason why it took so long to get Bob Mueller, it's taking so long to get Don McGahn and other witnesses. The Mueller report, the American people have to recognize, the Mueller report is not the evidence, it's a summary of the evidence. And maybe I'm just an old prosecutor, but I'd like to see the evidence. I'd like to hear from the witnesses before we make a decision about charging the president. And so I think where we are is probably most accurately described as preliminary to a judicial proceeding, that proceeding being a potential impeachment. But we should see the evidence. And we're just starting to. And yes, it's taken too long, but that has largely been by the design of the president.

CHUCK TODD:

Was there any part of Director Mueller's testimony you found unsatisfying?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

You know, look, I, I wish that he had testified in more narrative fashion, that the words didn't need to be coaxed from him as much as they did. But I think --

CHUCK TODD:

You were talking, you were hoping it would bring it alive, is what you said I think last week, right?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

And I think that it did. But it, it, it came alive, I think, more through very short questions and very short answers rather than a great deal of description from the witness. But Chuck, I think we knew that going into the hearing. And, as you might recall, what I was saying before, we shouldn't have too many expectations because we know the sum and substance of his testimony. But nonetheless, most people have had that filtered by the misleading characterization by people like Bill Barr. So it was very important to bring him in.

CHUCK TODD:

There was a little bit of a linguistic debate on Friday, as you know, and I think some of your words were used as part of that linguistic debate too. You had said we're at -- I think just now, previously, we're at a preliminary stage of an investigative -- all right. Is this impeachment or not? And you're not there yet. Why?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Well, I think that, you know, for the purposes of the law and Constitution, where we are now is most accurately described as preliminary to a judicial proceeding, and that judicial proceeding is a potential impeachment. And I say that because, you know, what we ask of the Constitution is, you know, what's the function of how we describe something? And right now, the most important thing is to obtain the grand jury material, to see the evidence. And the standard the court has set, that we have really set for the court, is are we preliminary to a potential impeachment? And I believe that we are. You know, where we'll get to an impeachment, at least in my view, where we should get to, the decision, "Okay, let's indict the President, let's impeach the President," is if we're convinced that we can make the case. And here, okay, there's no making the case to the cult of the president's personality that is --

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

-- the Senate GOP, but we should at least be able to make the case to the American people. And I'd like to see the evidence so I'm confident that we can do that before we say we're ready to charge the President of the United States.

CHUCK TODD:

As you know, that is unsatisfactory to some who think you guys have been too slow. Andrew Sullivan writes this this week in New York Magazine. "Pelosi has set an extraordinary precedent that clear evidence, meticulously collected, that a president has committed what she calls, 'crimes against the Constitution,' does not constitute sufficient grounds for impeachment, even when those crimes were designed to cover up an alliance with a foreign power. If more than that is needed the impeachment power has effectively been nullified." This gets to the argument that says regardless of what you think the outcome is in the Senate that you're setting a bad precedent by not -- if this -- if you believe these are impeachable offenses, you're setting a bad precedent if you don't do it.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Well, look, there is, I think, great weight to the argument that this is the strongest form of censure that we have and if we don't use it, what message does that send to the next generation? I worry equally though, Chuck, about the message of taking an impeachment case to trial, losing that case, having the president acquitted, and then having an adjudication that this conduct is not impeachable. So there's not a simple answer here. But the jury that I'm most worried about, not the Senate because I think that's a preordained conclusion, is the American people. Can we make the case to the American people? And I want to make sure that that's true before we go down this path because it's going to occupy a year of the nation's time. And I want to make sure that's the right decision.

CHUCK TODD:

Is there a, is there a moment where it's too late, calendar-wise? Are we -- and how close are we?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Well, here's the thing Chuck, that is, in a constitutional sense also, justice delayed is justice denied. They are doing everything they can to obstruct the congressional investigation --

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

-- having obstructed justice, so there may get to a point in the fall where we decide, "Look, he is violating a different provision of the Constitution by obstructing the Congress in its lawful and constitutional duty." That would not be a crime, that would be a misdemeanor. And the founders had a different idea of what misdemeanor meant. It's not a lesser crime, but it's misdemeaning in office. And I think violating the separation of powers would be such a misdemeanor. So this is why I say the President is doing everything he can to push us into an impeachment because if we can't get adequate answers from the court in time, that in itself will be an impeachable offense.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, you didn't really answer, it -- so you don’t think there -- you don't want there to be a deadline is what you're saying. I guess, is that, is that fair to say?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

There will -- Chuck, I'm saying there will be a deadline because --

CHUCK TODD:

Ok.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

--we will either get the answers that we need or the president's obstruction will be so complete that that itself becomes a grounds for his impeachment.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. Chairman Schiff, I will leave it there. Democrat from California, chairman of the Intel Committee. Thank you for coming on and sharing your views.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now is Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida, who is joining us from Naples, Florida, this morning. Senator Scott, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

Good morning, Chuck. How are you doing?

CHUCK TODD:

I'm good. I want to start with the Senate Intelligence Committee report that was just released the day after Mueller's testimony. And its findings said this. "The Russian government directed extensive activity, beginning in at least 2014 and carrying into at least 2017, in an attempt to intrude, at some point, all 50 states, where the Russians either tested vulnerabilities or extracted information." Just your initial reaction to this.

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

Well, it's exactly what you expect. I was just in Europe, talking to members of parliament in different countries there. And they said the Russians are trying to do the same thing there. I mean, we have to understand that Russia, Iran, China, they're going to try to impact our elections. We've got to be, we’ve got to be very diligent. When I was governor, I allocated dollars for cybersecurity, dollars to our separately elected supervisor elections at the county level. Every state's got to do this. Last year, the Senate allocated $380 million. We passed the provisions in the NDAA. We’ve got -- I mean, look, the Russians are here. They're going to try to get into our system.

CHUCK TODD:

It seems as if the president doesn't believe that, though. And the president -- if you don’t have the President willing -- because, for instance, one of the recommendations in the report was there has to be deterrents on Russia not to do this. And if they're still doing it, then they're obviously not being deterred. The president, himself, pooh-poohs this. So of course, there's no deterrent. How else are we going to get deterrence on the Russians, if the president won't stand up to them?

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

Well, let's look at the facts. President Obama didn't do what he should have done. And that's why the Russians had -- were able -- they got into two counties in Florida. They didn't get anything done, but they got into two counties. And let's look at 2018. The Trump administration put a lot of effort into making sure that nothing happened in 2018. And to date, we've not been told that anything has happened. They weren't able to get into that. So you know, the Trump administration has put a lot of effort into this. I've gotten briefings and I know --

CHUCK TODD:

But you're avoiding, you’re avoiding the part, I mean, come on, the president mocked, in front of a world audience, when a reporter asked, "Did you ask Vladimir Putin -- did you tell him not to interfere in these elections?"

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

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

Well, look, I think all of us would like everybody to be a lot more direct. It's hard to do that, I'm sure, sometimes, in person. But let's look at the Trump administration, what they've done. Let's look at -- not their words, but their actions. Their actions are, they've been very aggressive in trying to make sure that there's no Russian interference or any other country. But we all have to understand, they're going to do, and not just Russia, China, Iran, and other countries, are going to try to impact our elections. And we have to be diligent.

CHUCK TODD:

You brought up two counties in there. You know, this report was odd in this respect. Only one state allowed itself to be named in what happened to their voter rolls. It was the state of Illinois. The state of Florida is anonymous in here. There's a lot of speculation, based on similar reporting, that it's likely state two that's referred to in this report, is Florida. Did you learn new information from this report that you did not know as governor at the time?

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

Well, that report, I've not seen. I do know --

CHUCK TODD:

Why not? You haven't read this report yet? It got released on Thursday. I'm sorry.

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

Okay, I've not read that report yet. I have gotten briefings. We know that they tried to get into two counties in Florida. We know that they didn’t -- it didn't have any impact on the election. I, as governor, put a lot of effort into making sure they couldn't get into our system. That's why we had a counterterrorism experts -- cybersecurity experts. And we also allocated dollars to our county supervisor elections.

CHUCK TODD:

You were talking about you had gotten briefings. Did you get direct contact from DHS back in 2016? Or was it through other channels that DHS contacted the state of Florida?

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

So back in -- we didn't have it directly to me. But back in 2018, during my election, I reached out to Homeland Security, FBI, DOJ, to make sure that there was nothing that they had. And they told me, at the time, that they had no information, that there was no infiltration of our system, in Florida, at the time.

CHUCK TODD:

When did you find out about the 2016 infiltration, though? Did you ever find out about it in 2016?

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

No. No, Chuck. I didn't get any of that. And actually, it really happened this year. And so I've gotten, I’ve gotten briefings. And the bottom line is, they got into two counties. But they had no impact. They didn't change any voter registration, voter rolls. They didn't change any votes. We put a lot of effort, when I was governor, to make sure that couldn't happen.

CHUCK TODD:

You talk about changing votes. If it's an influence campaign or, worse, they've taken voter information, it's not influencing the votes. It's the concern that voters won't see their names on the voter rolls, that they'll be turned away from there. They already got a bunch of information from the state of Illinois. How do we prevent this in 2020? James Lankford said it's already too late to do anything about this in 2020.

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

Well, no. I think, I think the Secretary of State's offices, everybody needs to work together to make sure this doesn't happen. We did it when I was governor of Florida. We made sure we worked with DHS and FBI and DOJ to make sure this didn't happen. But all of us have to understand, the Russians are here and other countries. They're going to try to influence our elections. They're doing the exact same thing in Europe.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to move to the president's tweet storm. You spend a lot of time, energy, and resources trying to win over non-white voters in the state of Florida, in your elections for governor and the Senate. You've learned Spanish. You speak Spanish. You spend a lot of time reaching out. The president spends a lot of time, on his Twitter feed, trying to racially divide the country. Does that undermine efforts of the Republican Party in the state of Florida?

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

Well, first off, I think it's important that you talk to everybody. And you, you know, whether you're running for election or when you're elected, you represent everybody. On Friday, I met with a group of Chinese Americans. And I had a rally with Venezuelans about what's happened down there. Look, I think we've got to do everything we can to bring this country back together --

CHUCK TODD:

Why doesn't the president think that? Why do you think the president -- doing this, it's just stoking racial resentment, left and right. He's done it multiple times this month alone. He obviously thinks this is good politics inside the Republican Party. Do you think it's good politics inside the Republican Party?

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

Well, Chuck, let's look at what he said, all right, and why he did it. Congressman Cummings sat there and attacked our Border Patrol agents, all right? This is , this reminds me of what happened to soldiers coming back from Vietnam.

CHUCK TODD:

But that justifies a racial resentment tweet in response? Is that presidential leadership?

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

Well, look, I, I, look, I didn't do the tweets, Chuck. I can't talk about why he did what he did. But I'm very disappointed in the people, like Congressman Cummings, who is attacking Border Patrol agents that are trying to do their job, when the Democrats won't give them the resources to do it. They won't secure the border. They won't fix the asylum laws. And then Democrats want to sit there and say, "Oh, those Border Patrol agents don't care." Let me tell you, I've been to the border. I've talked to Border Patrol agents. I know they care about these individuals. But we have got to give them the resources and the ability to do their job.

CHUCK TODD:

It's not lost on me that you were harsher on Elijah Cummings than you were on the president and what he's done. You seem hesitant to do this, to criticize the president, individually, on these things. I understand the politics of it. But do we ever heal, if each side just goes into their corner?

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

Chuck, here's that -- when I agree with the president, I'll agree with him. When I disagree, I'll disagree with him. You can ask him why he did the tweet. I can tell you, I’ve had -- I've disagreed with the president with some things with regard to Puerto Rico. I mean, is he happy about that? Of course not, okay? But just like on Puerto Rico, I'm going to do what I believe is in the best interest of my state. I'm disappointed, when people are out there are attacking Border Patrol agents. Would I like everybody to come together and work together? That's what I'm trying to do in my state. Right now, I mean, the country is divided, because of a lot of things.

CHUCK TODD:

I will leave it there. Governor. Excuse me, Senator Rick Scott, Republican from Florida. Most senators who used to be governors, actually, I think, prefer the governor title, anyway. But anyway, Senator Scott, thanks for coming on and sharing your views. I appreciate it.

SEN. RICK SCOTT:

Bye Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, the Democrats' dilemma: avoid impeachment hearings and risk the wrath of their base or go ahead and risk the wrath of moderate voters. The panel is next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panel is here. Former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, author of the new book Beyond Charlottesville: Taking a Stand Against White Nationalism; Helene Cooper, Pentagon correspondent for the New York Times; Amy Walter, the national editor for The Cook Political Report; and Rich Lowry, editor of National Review. Rich, I'm going to use your publication to kick off the conversation--

RICH LOWRY:

Good.

CHUCK TODD:

Jim Geraghty, he has a great setup for us in this here. And he wrote this. "If you choose to impeach, recognize that you're almost certain to fall well short of the two thirds of the Senate you need to remove the president, and you may very well end up improving Trump's chances of reelection. If Democrats choose not to impeach, they avoid all of the above risks but the party's base will absolutely loathe them for it." Is Jim right? Does a conservative-leaning magazine have the Democratic dilemma--

AMY WALTER:

Have the Democratic Party--

CHUCK TODD:

--right?

AMY WALTER:

I don't know. Because you mentioned this. You said, "Will they risk the wrath of the left?" the wrath where? From grassroots voters or from Twitter? And it seems to me that the wrath is really coming from inside a bubble and not from voters. We didn't hear this grassroots enthusiasm in 2018.

We're not hearing it on the campaign trail in 2019 from Democratic voters. You talk to members on the Hill. They're not getting phone calls. They're not getting, you know, deluged with phone calls saying, "Well, you all better impeach, or else you've lost us." So this seems to be very much a contained within Washington, D.C., but it's not spilling out into the broader electorate.

CHUCK TODD:

Let's talk to a Democrat here. Terry, I mean, I'm curious. Is there a voter that's sitting there going, "Boy, I'm going to vote against-- I'm likely leaning against President Trump unless the Democrats start impeachment proceedings"?

TERRY MCAULIFFE:

Absolutely not.

CHUCK TODD:

I mean, that's a part of the political calculation I don't quite get.

TERRY MCAULIFFE:

No. And in fact, I've been traveling. We do have our House and Senate up this year in Virginia. I've done 56 events. I don't think one time has the impeachment issue been raised. And the issue for Democrats is: Are we going to spend all our time talking about impeachment, which we know they can't get him in the Senate? I mean, he could rob a bank and the Senate would not convict him. It doesn't matter.

CHUCK TODD:

You don't worry about precedent?

TERRY MCAULIFFE:

We don't have (UNINTEL) I say today precedent. Or get back, talking about the issues of, you know, the tax cut to the rich, what he's done to health care in this country, the issues of racial division that he has created in this country. I mean, we win when we talk about health care, infrastructure, good quality jobs.

Those are the core Democratic values. And we better spend our time talking. What Democrats care about is beating Donald Trump. So even going to that analysis in that story is: How do you beat Trump? If Trump, beating him means we're going to go talk about these issues and not impeachment, that's what they want.

CHUCK TODD:

Rich, are you convinced impeachment somehow helps Trump?

RICH LOWRY:

I think it hurts the Democrats. And I think the compromise at the moment is sort of a Schrödinger cat situation where impeachment impeachment is kind of dead but it's kind of alive at the same time. In fact--

CHUCK TODD:

Feels like the inquiry is alive, the articles are dead.

RICH LOWRY:

Right. But if they really--

(OVERTALK)

RICH LOWRY:

--start an inquiry, then at the end of the day are they going to say, "Oh, there are no articles"? So I think Pelosi's instinct's been right to stop this, try to stand in the way of this from the beginning. And I think there was a PBS poll last week. There's a swath of Democratic issues have theoretically majority support. Why would they focus on the one thing that doesn't have majority support and has supermajority support against it? It'd be crazy politically.

CHUCK TODD:

Helene?

HELENE COOPER:

I don't think Americans are sitting out there thinking about articles versus inquiry. I think the ordinary American doesn't really understand what exactly the impeachment process is anyway. I think most people, particularly most Democrats, would in the end, and I'm not talking about the left part of the base, but I think in the end would be happy with anything that, for instance, gets Don McGahn on the stand. So I think the whole impeachment argument ends up becoming something that nobody is really tuned into except the interior of the Democratic Party.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Let me slightly shift gears a little bit. The president is insisting on trying to insert himself into the show today and yesterday with these attacks on Elijah Cummings. Let me put up some of the tweets. I think the initial one that we had here. What do we have up there, guys? And let's get the initial tweet.

"As proven last week during a congressional tour, the border is clean, efficient, and well run. Just very crowded. Cumming district," that's his wording there from the president, "is a disgusting rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous and filthy place." Amy Walter, the Baltimore Sun has responded with an editorial this morning that says, "Better to have a few rats than to be one." That's the headline there. We know what the president is doing.

AMY WALTER:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

He does not like what the Oversight Committee is doing. He's upset about the Oversight Committee, and he's created the ultimate distraction for the entire political community, which is race.

AMY WALTER:

Yep. And this is what he's done since he's been a candidate, since he's been president. And this is the terrain he's comfortable on. This is the terrain he wants to fight 2020 on. And I don't think it works for him. He's still more unpopular--

CHUCK TODD:

But he thinks it does.

AMY WALTER:

I know he does. He's more unpopular than he is popular despite the fact that he has a good economy, despite the fact that people give him credit for what he's doing on the economy. Where he thinks this helps him-- again, the governor made this point. Where do you want to fight as a candidate: the terrain you're comfortable and your opponents are uncomfortable or the terrain where you're comfortable and you have the advantage and your opponent is uncomfortable?

For Democrats, they know that's health care. That's where they want to be fighting. The president doesn't want to fight there. He wants to fight here not because he thinks he can win on this but because Democrats will make unforced errors and where they move policy-wise is too far to the left, like we saw in the debates.

CHUCK TODD:

Rich, this stoking of racial resentment-- and I know that some on the right will have this-- that's not what it's about. The problem is he's got a fact pattern here that doesn't really support that very well. In fact, I left he's left a lot of people out on a limb after the Omar stuff given what he did today. Is there a point that this becomes a breaking point inside the Republican Party?

RICH LOWRY:

Well, I think what you have to understand about Republicans is for almost all of them, or for a lot of them, the charge of racism has lost its force because it's been so overused. And we remember defending George W. Bush and Paul Ryan from charges of racism. So this was another really bad tweet.

I think what he does though, if you're in his target, he is going to make any charge, no matter how personally hateful or low against you, no matter what. And I think you wish there were more awareness there that he's the president of the United States, which includes West Baltimore.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, if he's got a problem with it, he ought to want to try to fix it, too. Terry?

TERRY MCAULIFFE:

Listen. This is horrible for the country. What Donald Trump has done to create divisions in our nation today, it's going to take a long time for us to get over it, let it be with Elijah Cummings, what he did to The Squad, what he started out stopping people from these seven countries from coming to America.

As governor, I was at Dulles Airport. U.S. citizens were being detained who had come in from these countries. And then of course it was Charlottesville. I talked to the president that day. I told him what was happening. We had a thousand armed people from 35 states screaming the most disgusting things that I could not say on this program, going by the synagogue, saying, "We're going to burn you. We're going to burn that synagogue like we did in Auschwitz."

How did we get to a place like this in America? And I blame Trump not for specific acts, but I really blame him, Chuck, for the atmosphere. And he's continued to double down to divide these people. People used to wear hoods in this country. They used to do it at night. Now, they think they can walk in broad daylight. It has to stop.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Helene, the president clearly wants this conversation to be about race and not about what Elijah Cummings is doing--

HELENE COOPER:

Yeah, yeah. He's--

(OVERTALK)

HELENE COOPER:

--not happy that Elijah Cummings is going after his daughter. He's not happy about what the House Oversight Committee is doing. But I was really curious about your question to Rich, which I think was answered by your interview with Rick Scott just now when you said, "What is the breaking point for the Republican Party?" I think we have now seen that there is no breaking point for the Republican Party.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, it's not this.

ELENE COOPER:

Well, it's certainly not going to be--

CHUCK TODD:

That we know. It is not this.

HELENE COOPER:

--on race.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I'm going to pause it here. When we come back, the Democratic candidate who's been making the case for impeachment. Tom Steyer joins me next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. If you're wondering why Tom Steyer is known as the impeachment candidate, it's probably because of moments like this.

(BEGIN TAPE)

TOM STEYER:

That's why I'm asking Speaker Pelosi to cancel summer vacation and conduct daily public oversight hearings to hold Trump accountable for his crimes, corruption, and racism.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

But the billionaire hedge fund manager and philanthropist, who announced his candidacy earlier this month, will tell you he's not running on impeachment. He's running to restore the government to the American people. Because of his late entry into the race, Steyer will not be among the 20 candidates who debate this week, in Detroit. But he is joining me this morning from San Francisco. Tom Steyer, welcome back to Meet the Press.

TOM STEYER:

Chuck, nice to be here.

CHUCK TODD:

It is not lost on me that you're actually a constituent of Nancy Pelosi's. And you have run these ads directly talking to Nancy Pelosi on impeachment. And yet, as you know, the Democrats are not there yet. Why do you believe they're making a mistake?

TOM STEYER:

Well, Chuck, I'd like to point out the basic point, which is this is the most-corrupt president in American history. And for almost two years, I've said, "Bring the case to the American people." We have over 8 million people. Need to Impeach has over 8 million people who've sound a petition to have him be impeached. And I've said, "It's absolutely important to make it happen fast." And if you look at --

CHUCK TODD:

Is it now too late?

TOM STEYER:

-- 2019, this year, we've only had two hearings. We had one, which was Michael Cohen. And we just had Mr. Mueller. And now, the Congress is scheduled to be out until the middle of September, over six weeks. So we'll be in the middle of September, and we'll have had two hearings, so the American people can hear the truth. I'm saying, do the right thing. And do it now.

CHUCK TODD:

What do you -- why do you think you've been unable to convince Speaker Pelosi to change her mind on this?

TOM STEYER:

Well, I think that's a question you should be asking her, Chuck. But I think the way that we see this is it will always be good politics to tell the truth, protect the Constitution, and protect the American people. And that is what I've been trying to call for. And that's why I've been trying to marshal the American voice with a petition to say, "This is actually why we have a broken government." Is a very simple fact that we have the most-corrupt president in history has not led to actual action inside Washington but, in fact, has led to an awful lot of conversation about political tactics and political impacts, whereas, in fact, this should've happened long ago.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to get you to react to that, that side of the argument, that Nancy Pelosi and other allies of her make. Maureen Dowd, this morning, in the New York Times, she writes the following. "You can argue that impeachment, morally and constitutionally, is the right thing to do. But you also have to recognize that, historically and politically, it is not the right thing to do. Because it will lead to disaster. The attempt to impeach Trump is one of the rare cases in which something obviously justified is obviously stupid." Your reaction.

TOM STEYER:

Okay, I couldn't disagree more, Chuck. What we're, what we’re seeing in 2020, what we're going to see, and what we saw in 2018, is a basic question, which is, we have a broken government. How are we going to go to the American people and say, "This government is going to work again"? So the idea that not telling the truth, not dealing with what Maureen Dowd calls "an obvious constitutional and moral truth," avoiding that, is somehow going to inspire people to vote. This year -- I think this is the key point. 80% of Americans think this government has been purchased by corporations and does not work for them. In 2020, the question is going to be, how many Americans believe in this system enough to show up at the polls? What we saw in 2018 was people keep talking about winning the people in the middle, Chuck. What we believe in is going to the vast tens of millions of Americans who don't vote, because they don't believe in the system, and say to them, "This system can work again for you." That's what I've been trying to do, as an outsider, both in terms of impeachment, but for ten years, to say, "This system can work again." And the only way to do that, in my opinion, is to tell the hard truths, is to be straightforward, and not to be so calculating and careful and tactical, but rather, to be trustworthy. Look, we have done the largest youth-voter mobilization in history, an organization I started in 2018.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

TOM STEYER”

We asked hundreds of thousands of people, under the age of 30, why they didn't vote. And what they said to us, every time, was, "The system doesn't work. Neither party tells the truth. They don't deal with my issues." That's why they don't vote.

CHUCK TODD:

What is it about -- what did you see, in the Democratic debates, the first round of them, that told you, "I need to get in. Because what I'm advocating is not being advocated"? Do you believe that, of these 20 candidates, you’re not -- I mean, as you -- a lot of Democrats thought it was a bit head scratching that you decided to change your mind and get in, not believing there's really room for you anymore in this race. What made you get in? What's missing?

TOM STEYER:

Well, actually, Chuck, it's exactly what I've been saying, which is this. The Democratic debates have been about policy issues and important, substantial nuances and differences in those policies. But what is not in those debates and what has not been in this campaign is not, what is your policy, but how the heck is any of that going to happen in the real world? How the heck are we going to get any Green New Deal, any substantial new healthcare program? And what I've been saying to people is, "This is not a question of what. It's a question of how." We are going to have to break this corporate stranglehold on our democracy. We're going to have to push the power back to the people. And I’ve been doing that --

CHUCK TODD:

Can you -- by the way, can you be credible doing that?

TOM STEYER:

Absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

Can you be credible doing that, being a billionaire? As you know, Elizabeth Warren lumps billionaires and corporations into the same bucket.

TOM STEYER:

You know, Chuck, I've been doing this for ten years, successfully. For ten years, at the state level, I've been running propositions against corporations, oil companies, tobacco companies, drug companies, and winning. And I've been organizing at the state level. I referred to the largest youth-voter mobilization in history. If we're going to reform this system, if we're going to break this corporate stranglehold, I believe it's going to take an outsider to do it. I believe it's going to take an outsider who's done it, successfully, for ten years, not somebody from inside the Beltway, but someone who's going to bring fresh energy to this problem. And that's who I am.

CHUCK TODD:

Tom Steyer, you got up early for us this morning. So I appreciate that. You've shown your fresh energy. Be safe on the trail. Thanks for coming on and sharing your views.

TOM STEYER:

Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

And stay safe.

TOM STEYER:

Thanks for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, you might think that 50 states and Washington, D.C., will decide next year's presidential election. But you know what? It may all come down to three states. That's next.

CHUCK TODD:

We are back. Data Download time. 20 Democratic presidential hopefuls will meet this week for their second set of debates in Detroit. Next summer, the party will hold its nominating convention in Milwaukee. And Democratic frontrunner, Joe Biden, officially kicked off his campaign in Philadelphia. Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, sound familiar? President Trump captured those three states along with his 306 electoral votes in 2016. And he was carried over the finish line by those three states: Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, three states that Democrats had won in every election going back to 1992. But the margins for Trump were about as razor thin as they could be, only 78,000 votes, combined, in all three states. In Pennsylvania, he won by about 44,000 votes. Wisconsin, the margin was nearly 23,000 votes, and in Michigan, less than 11,000 votes. And there might be a reason why Trump won. Turnout in the big, urban counties, which often produce big margins for Democrats, did not keep up with counties in the rest of those three states. Wayne County, Michigan, the home of Detroit, produced 4% fewer votes in 2016 than it did in 2012, while the rest of the state produced 3% more votes. Milwaukee produced 12% fewer votes in 2016 than it did in 2012, while the rest of Wisconsin saw a much smaller decline in turnout, just two points. And in Philadelphia, they actually produced 3% more votes in 2016 than they did in 2012. But the rest of the state produced 8% more votes. So the Democrats' goal is obvious: pump up turnout in the big cities. Can they do it? Republicans know the landscape, too. Won't they try to do the same in rural areas? Well, who's got more votes to turn out? And could Republicans also use social media to encourage urban voters to stay home? Perhaps, that's what the president's up to now, just as the Russians helped do in 2016. No matter what, get used to rallies not only in large cities, but also in ones with datelines like Oshkosh, Reading, and Kalamazoo. When we come back, Joe Biden had a terrible first debate. So why is he still lapping the Democratic field? Endgame is next.

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with Endgame and as we teased, it's debate week, the second debate week. It's a big moment for Joe Biden. Terry McAuliffe, I want to put up some polls here from Fox News, some general election matchups here. And Joe Biden, ten points, and then in descending order there, Sanders, Warren, and Harris. Check out the president's numbers, by the way. They don't budge. They really don't budge. 39% to 42% is that range, whether it's Biden, Sanders, Warner, or Harris. That tells you a lot. Obviously, the range, on the Democratic side, is a much wider one. It goes from 40% to Harris for 49% for Biden. But the big picture here, Terry, is that Joe Biden's standing, basically, is back to exactly where it was the day before the first debates.

TERRY MCAULIFFE:

That's right.

CHUCK TODD:

Why is that?

TERRY MCAULIFFE:

Most people think he has the best shot of beating Donald Trump. And that is the biggest issue, as we go forward. Democrats want to beat Trump and they're all going to coalesce. He has to have a good debate. It wasn't his strongest performance at the first debate. He has to show that he's the one that can be onstage when Donald Trump starts hurling all the insults at him, and he can punch him back twice as hard.

CHUCK TODD:

How devastating would a second performance, where he's, "I'm out of time," and all that stuff, how much would that hurt his candidacy?

TERRY MCAULIFFE:

It would hurt. I mean, because I think there's a lot of expectations on this debate. I don't want this debate to be all about the past, what happened 40 years ago. He's got to put a vision out. Where do we go from here, in fact, I would say, Chuck, for all the candidates? I want to hear a little bit more on K-12, on infrastructure, on cybersecurity, on workforce development. We can't, as Democrats, spend all our time relitigating the past. We've got to go forward. And Biden has to show he can lead, taking this country forward.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Helene, it's July of '19. And yet, there's only five candidates, of the 20, that feel like have already made it to the next round, whatever the next round is. There's going to be 15 desperados over those two nights. What's that going to be like?

HELENE COOPER:

That'll be a free for all. It'll be interesting to see just how much they come and who they target, whether these people, the people who are polling lower --

CHUCK TODD:

One or zero.

HELENE COOPER:

-- Yeah, whether they go after Biden, or whether they go after Elizabeth Warren, who is the presumed other big person on the ticket. It's funny that we're not talking about Bernie Sanders as much anymore. What's going on there?

CHUCK TODD:

Well, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren will have their own night. They basically, no offense to the other eight, but that will be seen as, does Bernie Sanders attack Elizabeth Warren? And if he does, how does he do it? We know she's not. She doesn't need to. He kind of does.

AMY WALTER:

Well, this is what's interesting. That you mentioned this, Helene is really interesting. Because if you think about who's been sort of debating since the debate and mixing it up, Biden, Booker, Harris, Sanders. Who's not in this mix? Warren. She's done a very good job of sort of staying above the fray. She's all about the policy. She's all about the issues, staying out of it. Let it be seen as a food fight with all of them, which is a great place to be, as a candidate.

CHUCK TODD:

She caught another break by actually not being with Biden, didn't she?

AMY WALTER:

Yeah, absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

That's interesting. Rich Lowry, the one candidate I think may not attack Biden is Kamala Harris this time.

RICH LOWRY:

Right. Well, I mean, she had a great moment last time. Why would she mess it up by, potentially, not having a great moment?

CHUCK TODD:

You don't want to run the same play twice, right? Because they might stop it the second time.

RICH LOWRY:

So the Fox poll, what's notable about it, obviously, is just you would think nothing happened the last two months. But even though that speaks to stasis, I think, still, there's fluidity in this race. And someone, by the time there is snow on the ground in Iowa, will catch fire. Maybe it's one of the top-tier candidates now. Maybe it's someone we're discounting.

CHUCK TODD:

I was just going to say, is there anybody outside of the five? It feels like we're already sitting on a Biden, Harris, Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg, and then everybody else. Terry, is there anybody we should not be overlooking, other than those five, at this point?

TERRY MCAULIFFE:

Listen, I always argue, you should pay attention to the governors.

HELENE COOPER:

I knew you were going to say that.

CHUCK TODD:

Why can't they get traction? The governors have not gotten traction.

TERRY MCAULIFFE:

They haven't. And they're CEOs. You know, they build roads. They clean roads. They create jobs. They have to balance budgets. No offense to senators and congress folks. They get to talk all day. A governor's got to deliver every single day. The problem is they don't have exposure. You have a Barr hearing or a Kavanaugh hearing, a Mueller hearing, these Senators and Congressmen, they're in front of tens of millions of people. When I was governor, you were not calling me, Chuck, asking me about, you know, my thoughts on I-66 and my roadwork.

CHUCK TODD:

We would call you about national party leader stuff, sometimes.

TERRY MCAULIFFE:

Of course.

CHUCK TODD:

But you're right.

TERRY MCAULIFFE:

It just doesn't get the exposure. And it's hard. But you know, they're the ones that actually, you know, the CEOs. But listen, there's a lot of debates coming up. Listen, I was the chairman. I started these debates in 2003. We didn't have them before. I started the party debates to give everybody a shot of getting on that stage to make your case. And they're all televised. And so someone could break out. There could be a breakout moment.

CHUCK TODD:

Go ahead.

HELENE COOPER:

But there was a breakout moment for Julián Castro the last debate. And we haven't heard anything about him since. I mean, you just gave all the reasons possible why the governors are not going to be breaking out.

TERRY MCAULIFFE:

It helped his fundraising for a week. Come on.

RICH LOWRY:

But also, you look at Buttigieg, you know, who had a big breakout moment. In terms of fundraising, you know, it's really counted. But I just wonder, with him, whether just people look at the South Bend mayor, like him, impressive. President of the United States? I don't know.

CHUCK TODD:

We didn't even talk about him. He's in the Warren/Sanders night. I'll be curious to see if he can make an impression outside of those two. Thank you, guys. And thank you guys for watching. We appreciate it. We'll be back next week, I promise. Because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.