Meet the Press - July 7, 2019

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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, immigration crisis. Democrats denounce conditions at immigrant detention centers in Texas --

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ

What we saw today was unconscionable.

REP. JUDY CHU:

We know the system is broken. It's gotta be fixed.

CHUCK TODD:

-- and in Florida.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO:

It's not, you know, it's not temporary housing. It's a prison camp.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG:

It is wrong.

CHUCK TODD:

And President Trump has an answer for them.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

You know how it could be taken care of? Number one, tell them not to come because it’s illegal.

CHUCK TODD:

What's the solution? This morning I'll talk to a Democrat who has long called for centers like these to be shut down, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and to the only Republican Congressman representing any part of the border, Will Hurd of Texas. Plus, as Senator Kamala Harris stays on offense, Joe Biden concedes he was wrong to seem to praise segregationist senators.

JOE BIDEN:

I regret it. And I'm sorry for any of the pain or misconception that may have cause anybody.

CHUCK TODD:

As scrutiny of Democratic candidates intensifies, I'll talk to presidential candidate, Senator Amy Klobuchar. And divided America. On this Independence Day weekend, Americans debate immigration, how to celebrate the 4th, even what it means to be an American. Joining me for insight and analysis are, NBC News White House Correspondent Peter Alexander, Kimberly Atkins, Senior Washington News Correspondent for WBUR in Boston, Jonah Goldberg, columnist for theLos Angeles Times and Shawna Thomas, Washington Bureau Chief for Vice News. 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 and Happy July Fourth weekend. This holiday is traditionally a unifying event celebrating the country's independence, and the pride that comes with being an American. But this week we witnessed a debate about what it means to be an American. We saw Democratic lawmakers denounce the conditions in detention centers filled with undocumented immigrants hoping to become Americans someday and we saw President Trump tweet, if Illegal Immigrants are unhappy with the conditions in the quickly built or refitted detention centers, just tell them not to come. All problems solved. We saw a fight over how to count Americans, with President Trump insisting on including a citizenship question on the census and opponents arguing that's nothing more than an attempt to reduce the number of representatives in Congress for Hispanic-Americans and Democrats. We even saw two separate July 4th celebrations on the Washington Mall, with pro-Trump crowds gathering to hear the president's speech at the Lincoln Memorial and those choosing to ignore Mr. Trump's speech gathering at the other end of the Washington Mall by the U.S. Capitol. Collectively, these incidents illustrate the growing divisions in the country. And perhaps none of those issues are more urgent right now than the migrant crisis at the border, with lots of challenges and very few answers.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

I think they do a great job with those facilities. But you know how it could be taken care of? Number one, tell them not to come because it's illegal.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump on Friday - responding to a report by the Department of Homeland Security's independent watchdog that warns of "dangerous overcrowding" and "prolonged detention" at border facilities in south Texas. Inspectors say 88 men were crammed into this cell with a capacity of just 41 people. Children at several of the facilities had no access to showers or hot meals. A third of the children at the facilities were held for more than three days, in violation of federal law. Last week, acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan denied that conditions at border facilities had deteriorated.

ACTING SECRETARY KEVIN MCALEENAN:

Unsubstantiated allegations last week regarding a single border patrol facility in Clint station in Texas created a sensation.

CHUCK TODD:

But immigration lawyers have described "deplorable conditions" - where children are left "without access to soap, clean water, showers, clean clothing, toilets, toothbrushes, adequate nutrition or adequate sleep." This photo was taken by Congressman Joaquin Castro - who visited several detention centers with a congressional delegation on Monday.

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO:

We saw that the system is still broken and that people's human rights are still being abused

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO CORTEZ:

No child should ever be taken from their family. No woman should ever be locked up in a pen when they have done no harm to another human being.

CHUCK TODD:

Justice Department attorneys have argued in court that those conditions are lawful.

JUDGE A. WALLACE TASHIMA:

If you don't have a toothbrush, if you don't have soap, if you don't have a blanket, it's not safe and sanitary. Wouldn't everybody agree to that? Do you agree to that?

SARAH FABIAN:

Well, I, I think it's, I think those are, there's fair reason to find that those things may be part of safe and sanitary.

JUDGE A. WALLACE TASHIMA:

Not may be - are.

CHUCK TODD:

The new reports have sparked protests around the country, from Texas, to South Florida, to Washington DC. Last week, Congress passed $4.5 billion dollars in new funding - but it failed to include oversight provisions supported by some House and Senate Democrats.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

I've seen some of those places and they are run beautifully, they're clean, they're good, they do a great job.

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me this morning are Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who has long called for centers holding children to be shut down. He'll be joining us from Portland. And from San Antonio, it's Representative Will Hurd, the only Republican congressman who represents a district on the U.S.-Mexico border. Senator Merkley, I'd like to start our conversation with you. You've been a leading voice on this. Before others had, you had made pilgrimages to these first -- to these centers before others had gone down there. Why hasn't anything changed and why has it gotten worse?

SENATOR JEFF MERKLEY:

Well, I'll tell you when I hear a member of the administration say that the reports on the conditions are unsubstantiated, I'm just like, "What world are they living in?" Because we've had the inspector generals, who work for these departments, do these reports. We've had journalists do extensive interviews and report on the conditions.We've had the Flores settlement agreement lawyers, who have special access, go in and report on the conditions. From every direction you see that the children are being treated in a horrific manner. And there's an underlying philosophy that it's okay to treat refugees in this fashion. And that's really the rot at the core of the administration's policy.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Merkley, what, what would happen if we could get our cameras in there? I mean, I don't mean to be this crass about it, but is -- are pictures are what's missing here for action?

SENATOR JEFF MERKLEY:

Well, certainly we have a visual picture from the -- from these various reports. An actual camera might make a difference.

CHUCK TODD:

Why is the administration --

SENATOR JEFF MERKLEY:

But what you find --

CHUCK TODD:

-- not allowing -- because that to me sort of -- potentially comes across as damning. Why do they prevent -- why do they take your cell phones if you're a member of Congress going in there or they try to? I mean, they clearly are afraid of pictures. Why?

SENATOR JEFF MERKLEY:

Well, it's because pictures portray a very graphic representation that people can't argue with. And so they don't want that information out. I will say though the conditions are probably always better when members of Congress visit. They've required extensive notice in advance. They clean up the facilities. They decrease the number of people there. So that is why it's valuable to have an inspector general who can drop in at a moment's notice and who works for the administration to give a report. But let's think about that settlement or the bill that was just passed. It did nothing to change the blockade of children at the border being left in Mexico. It did nothing to change the for-profit system of Homestead, where 3,200 children capacity the largest child prison in American history is being established. And the company's paid $750 a day to lock up children. No incentive to get them into homes. This process of the brutalization of refugees and particularly children is part of a philosophy of saying, "If we treat them like this, we'll discourage them from coming." There's just no ethical framework or religious tradition that allows you to mistreat children in this fashion.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this. The president seems to say -- this is what he tweets. And I'm curious if you take him at his word. He seems to say that if Democrats will agree to his changes in the asylum laws, that he'll perhaps, you know, move on this issue. "Democrats must change the loophole in asylum laws, but they probably won't. They want open borders, which means massive crime and drugs." Is there changes to the asylum laws that he wants that you would agree to?

SENATOR JEFF MERKLEY:

Well, let's get rid of the myth that Democrats are arguing for open borders. We've supported border security, and that's just a -- that’s a red herring thrown in there. But the change they want is to get rid of the Flores settlement agreement, that says you can only lock up children for three days and you need to move them into a state-licensed child care facility or into a home. There is no way under any set of conditions that Democrats are going to support the indefinite lockup of children. We know from all the child experts that this does traumatic injury, that that trauma is -- can have lifelong effects. It is a horrific strategy on their part, on the part of the administration. And the answer on that is absolutely not. Flores in fact needs to be applied to the influx facilities like Homestead, where it's not being applied currently. And so we need to expand that application, not eliminate it.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, it feels as if we're in this stalemate here where he’s -- the president -- if the president's not going to budge on this, congressional Republicans are likely not going to move. They would move if he's willing to move. We've seen that politically on some other issues. Walk me through how this is going to -- how can we --- how do you fix this? How do you expedite this? It just seems to me we're in a, a cul-de-sac here.

SENATOR JEFF MERKLEY:

Well, we are trapped. We're trapped between a philosophy that says, "Let's discourage immigration by mistreating refugees," and an argument that, "Let's be a country, as we have often been, that treats migrants and refugees with respect." It doesn't mean that they're able to stay. I mean, it's very hard to go through the asylum process. Most applicants are turned down. But there's no reason to mistreat individuals as they're awaiting an asylum hearing. I don't know how we can get to that core change unless we have some real leadership from Republicans inside Congress who say, "Enough is enough."

CHUCK TODD:

I want to get you to respond to something that Jeh Johnson, the last -- President Obama's secretary for Homeland Security, wrote today in the Washington Post. Here's one part of it. He said, "We cannot, as some Democratic candidates for president now propose, publicly embrace a policy to not deport those who enter or remain in this country illegally unless they commit a crime. This is tantamount to a public declaration repeated and amplified by smugglers in Central America that our borders are effectively open to all." How do you respond to Secretary Johnson's critique that it does look like -- the idea of decriminalizing coming over the border feeds into this notion that, "Yeah, it's open borders"?

SENATOR JEFF MERKLEY:

Well we had, previous to the Trump administration, it was a civil offense, not a criminal offense. That's the distinction they're speaking of. Returning to a civil offense. That doesn't mean you get to stay in the United States indefinitely. You still go through an asylum hearing. We maintain the case management -- family case management program where 99-100% of families showed up for their asylum hearings. They were treated with respect and dignity. And if they establish their case, they're able to stay. If they're not, they're deported. But in between, they're treated as fellow human beings who are fleeing difficult circumstances and they're treated with respect and decency.

CHUCK TODD:

Before I go, one political question for you, Senator Merkley. Four years ago, this is what you wrote about Bernie Sanders when you endorsed him for president. "It is time to recommit ourselves to that vision of a country that measures our nation's success not at the boardroom table but at kitchen tables across America. Bernie Sanders stands for that America, and so I stand with Bernie Sanders for president." You have not endorsed this time. There was a reference this morning in the New York Times that you probably have heard about that Senator Sanders hasn't even called you to ask for your support again. Where do you stand on the presidential race?

SENATOR JEFF MERKLEY:

Well, we have a lot of capable individuals who are running who do understand the kitchen table. And I'm really looking forward to them laying out that vision, getting America excited about returning to the fundamentals of taking on health care, and housing, and education, infrastructure, living-wage jobs, the things that have been incredibly neglected and set aside by this administration.

CHUCK TODD:

So why not Sanders this time?

SENATOR JEFF MERKLEY:

Well, I feel that there are many capable individuals who are making this case. And I'm looking forward to hearing each of them lay it out. It's both the vision that you have and your ability to carry that vision into the momentum that allows you to make these changes once you're in office. And I think a robust debate among, among these individuals -- this is no longer a Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Hillary Clinton is not a candidate. So we have a different set of cards this time, and I'm looking forward to hearing from all of them.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat from Oregon, thank you for coming on and sharing your views. I much appreciate it.

SENATOR JEFF MERKLEY:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me turn now for another perspective, Congressman Will Hurd of Texas. As I said, the only Republican representing any part of the border. You're joining me from San Antonio. Nice to see you, sir. Happy July 4th weekend.

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD:

Hey, thanks, Chuck. I appreciate being on.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with what the Inspector General's report said of these border facilities. "Serious overcrowding, 31% of children held longer than 72 hours. Adults have been given wet wipes to maintain personal hygiene. Some single adults were held in standing room only conditions." That's just the government and what they've admitted. Here, as you know, in The New York Times today, about Clint, the facility in Clint, Texas, in your district, here's their description. "'Outbreaks of scabies, shingles and chickenpox are spreading among the hundreds of children who are being held in cramped cells,' agents said. The stench of the children's dirty clothing was so strong, it spread to the agents' own clothing. "The children cried constantly. One girl seemed likely enough to try to kill herself that the agents made her sleep on a cot in front of them so they could watch her as they were processing new arrivals." Congressman, I know you're not happy with these conditions either, but at this point, do we need to stop this? And how do we stop it?

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD:

Well, and in that New York Times report, that is the agents telling the New York Times reporter. These facilities shouldn't hold anybody for any length of time, let alone children. We should be handling people with care and humanity when they are in our custody. But, you know, this, the IG report which you were talking about that came out I think it was on July 3rd, there was also an IG report in May talking about these facilities were not prepared for the load that they were having to deal with. And these are temporary facilities. And unfortunately, the solution here is we need ICE and HHS to have additional resources. Especially when it comes to caring for children, HHS is the federal entity designed to handle children. Border Patrol, because of the Flores settlement, is supposed to have these children ready to transfer within 72 hours. Right now, they're having them ready within 42 hours. But ICE and HHS doesn’t have the capacity in order to take folks. And it's unfortunate, you know, when many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle voted against an amendment that I put forward, about 2 billion more dollars for HHS to deal with this crisis, they voted against that. I tried to get 100 more judicial teams because the backlog on these immigration cases, we have 900,000 people that are still trying to get through the system. We should be able to get an immigration case done within nine months. They voted against judicial, increasing the judges.

CHUCK TODD:

But isn't the issue here that the Democrats have are really not with your amendment, but it's a lack of trust of the Trump administration? They don’t -- you could make a strong argument that the decision to pull aid from the Central American countries, which I know you're a huge critic of, but to pull that aid, to create family separation, that they've made the problem worse? And so the lack of trust that they can handle this when you have an administration that clearly is micromanaging things. I mean, how many -- I would sit here and say, "Do you have confidence in the leadership," everybody's acting, right? There's no confirmed member anywhere, it seems, in this process.

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD:

Chuck, that's absolutely a problem. The number of acting folks, are they willing to make tough decisions when we need to? And so yes, there is a lack of trust between Congressional Democrats and the executive branch. But that doesn't change the reality that we're dealing with right now. Facilities, people that are overwhelmed. Border Patrol is not trained in order to handle children like this. They weren't trained for the medical issues that they're seeing. They were trained to be in between our ports of entry and grab people and apprehend people that are coming into our country illegally. But some of the things that we need to do to fix this, I've said many times we should nominate and select a special representative for the Northern Triangle, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. To work with those three countries on the root causes, which is violence, extreme poverty and lack of economic opportunity in those countries. We should be making sure that OPEC, USAID and State Department resources -- we shouldn't be decreasing resources to them, we should be increasing --

CHUCK TODD:

But Congressman, you’re at odds --

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD:

-- those resources.

CHUCK TODD:

-- you're at odds with the administration here. They seem to have no interest in that. How do you convince them --

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD:

And that’s why I’m --

CHUCK TODD:

Does the president reach out to you for advice on this or no?

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD:

He hasn't reached out personally, but I have many conversations with folks throughout the administration. I'm going to continue to articulate the solutions. You know, the other thing that we're not focusing on, not enough people are focusing on, is human smuggling. I spent almost a decade as an undercover officer in the CIA. I chased terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, prevented, you know, intelligence services from stealing our secrets, put nuclear weapon proliferators out of business. These, these human smugglers, people that are coming through our southern border, are coming through a human smuggler. We have their phone numbers. We have license plates of buses that have moved people from Tegucigalpa to El Paso. We need to make sure that countering human smuggling is a national intelligence priority so that we have the CIA, the NSA, the FBI working with our allies in those countries to stop those root causes there. They're the ones that are facilitating these perilous journeys for young women, for kids and for these families. And we're not putting nearly enough attention on that in order to dismantle the infrastructure that is moving people here illegally. And then also, we should be streamlining legal immigration, right? You know, I had a proposal, it was the only bipartisan immigration proposal out there to streamline legal immigration so people that want to come -- you know, the United States of America has benefited from the brain drain of every other country for the last couple of decades. Let's continue that. And let's benefit from the hardworking drain as well too. But let's do it legally.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. Let me ask you about the census and the Supreme Court decision and the president's attempt essentially to go around the Supreme Court. Where are you on the citizenship question? Do you think it should've been added or not?

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD:

Well, I think that the Supreme Court has ruled. I think we can't wait. We need to make sure we accurately count everybody. An accurate count is important for cities, for counties. It's important for --

CHUCK TODD:

So you were against -- it sounds like you were against --

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD:

-- resources.

CHUCK TODD:

-- the citizenship question because it could lead to a miscount?

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD:

Well, we don't want there to be a miscount. For sure, everybody needs to be counted. I'm also concerned that do they have the -- does the Census Bureau have the right technical capabilities to protect the information that is being collected. You know, I used to serve on the committee that oversaw this in the last Congress. And there was problems with their cybersecurity defense. And so we have, we have a lot of broader problems. So lets -- the Supreme Court has ruled. Let's move forward. We shouldn't stall the census. And we need to make sure that the information we're collecting is protected.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to ask you about somebody who you have voted with a few times against your own party, and that’s Justin Amash, who is no longer a member of the Republican party. Here's what he wrote on Independence Day, declaring his independence. "The founders envisioned Congress as a deliberative body in which outcomes are discovered. We are fast approaching the point, however, where Congress exists as little more than a formality to legitimize outcomes dictated by the president, the speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader." Number one, is Amash right? And have you thought about leaving the Republican party?

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD:

Well, it's unfortunate that Justin believes that the party's not big enough for his position and his ideas. I think the Republican party should be a broad party. I shouldn't be the only African American Republican in the House of Representatives.

CHUCK TODD:

You had a pretty colorful quote to The Washington Blade, where your advice to Republicans was, "Don't be an expletive. Don't be a homophobe," things like that.

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD:

Absolutely. Look, we need to make sure the Republican Party is growing. Just look at my state of Texas, ruby red Texas. It's actually purple. Just because we don't have a statewide elected Democrat, doesn't mean that we aren't purple. And I've been telling people if we want to keep a Republican party in Texas, the Republican Party in Texas needs to start looking like Texas. And I think this is -- you know, that goes for the rest of the country as well. But we have an opportunity because I know Independents and center-left Democrats are concerned with the direction of the Democratic Party. And we have an opportunity to intrigue those folks that are interested in solving problems in the future by empowering people and not governments.

CHUCK TODD:

Will Hurd, Republican from Texas. As I said, the only Republican that represents a district on the border. Thanks for coming on and sharing your views, sir. Much appreciated.

REPRESENTATIVE WILL HURD:

Of course, Chuck. Take care.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, we're going to talk about the crisis at the border. And as we go to break, here are some pictures of captivity drawn by children who have been held in a Texas detention facility, their perspective. Panel is next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. The panel is here. NBC New White House correspondent Peter Alexander. Kimberly Atkins, the senior Washington news correspondent for WBUR in Boston. Shawna Thomas, the Washington bureau chief for Vice News, former member-- actually, always a member of the Meet the Press family. And Los Angeles Times columnist Jonah Goldberg, among other attributes. Welcome all. Shawna, I feel like -- and I worried about this going into both of those interviews -- is that I would come out of it and viewers would come out of it with --

SHAWNA THOMAS:

No answers?

CHUCK TODD:

-- no answers. And we're in this cul-de-sac. And if feels as if -- I think it's because of the president, but I don't know how we get out of this cul-de-sac.

SHAWNA THOMAS:

Well, I mean, I think Secretary, former Secretary Jeh Johnson's op-ed in the Post was interesting, mostly because he basically said, "Comprehensive immigration reform is super hard. And we tried it during the Obama administration, didn't get it done, even though there was some bipartisan agreement on what to do --"

CHUCK TODD:

They tried it in the Bush administration, and it didn't get done --

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SHAWNA THOMAS:

Didn't get done, even though there was some bipartisan agreement on what to do. And the thing that I keep wondering, you know, is the same question you asked him, which is, "Okay, Republicans and Democrats, you both acknowledge that kids in cages and those photos you showed before we went to break is terrible. This is not how America treats people. We don't have enough space in HHS facilities to move people, which is why it's taking so long. What are you going to do? And you are going to have to get together and maybe force the president into doing something. But I think the other thing we know is the president thinks this is a deterrent.

CHUCK TODD:

Yep.

SHAWNA THOMAS:

And every time we put these pictures out there, it's a deterrent. And he is --

CHUCK TODD:

Is it?

SHAWNA THOMAS:

Well.

CHUCK TODD:

What's the evidence that it's a deterrent? I don't know if there's been, right? I mean, we don't think there's --

SHAWNA THOMAS:

Yeah. But he's hoping it's a deterrent. And if people come out and their stories are terrible, maybe he will end up getting what he wants out of that.

CHUCK TODD:

Jonah, I have a feeling if the President -- Capitol Hill could solve this if the president weren't involved on this one.

JONAH GOLDBERG:

Oh, that is a true statement about many things. But, look, it's telling. That video you showed at the beginning of Sarah Fabian, the Trump administration lawyer, defending those conditions, what's left out in a lot of media coverage is that was a case from the Obama administration. And the point being is that this is actually a bigger problem than Trump. The nature of the immigrants who are trying to cross the border is different than what our system was set up to deal with. It used to be able-bodied single men, mostly from Mexico coming across the border. We had a legal system to deal with that. Now, because of the Flores decision and other aspects of our laws, you have Central Americans who are bringing small kids. And they basically are using these kids. Sometimes they're not their own kids. Sometimes they are obviously. Most of the time they are. They're using these kids as a pass to get across the border. And Jeh Johnson is absolutely right. Will Hurd is absolutely right. If we don't deal with the problem as it actually exists, rather than the one we imagine it to be, as the Obama administration discovered, it creates a really perverse incentive to send more people to the border that perpetuates the problem.

KIMBERLY ATKINS:

But the incentive is also being exacerbated by the Trump administration and by Trump in his policies, in his rhetoric itself. I mean, talking about cutting aid to these countries. And, you know, using kids, I don't know if they're so much using kids. The vast majority of the time, children come with a family member. If it is not a parent, they are treated as if they are an unaccompanied minor. But these are people coming as families escaping atrocious conditions. If they see what's happening at the border, if they know, that just tells you how atrocious these conditions are. But the president sees this not only as a deterrent, but he sees it as a political advantage. He sees he's being tough on immigration. That's what his people want. In 2017 and 2018 he had an opportunity to do immigration reform. He could have said, "I did what Bush and Obama couldn't do." And he walked away from it both times because he thought it was politically disadvantageous --

CHUCK TODD:

Peter, why?

PETER ALEXANDER:

I'm struck by a couple things right here. First of all, the fact that the president had a different reaction when he saw those Syrian children. Obviously, the circumstances were different. He saw the images of what was taking place to these children overseas. He thought the solution was easy. "I could bomb these runways. Didn't hurt anybody. And I got to be the hero in the situation." Why hasn't he had the same impact? Why hasn't he shown the same empathy to some of these children that are in the United States? I spoke to a Trump ally this morning who said in effect it's because, "The president thinks this is a lot more complicated. He thinks the bad guy here is less clear. Some people say he's the bad guy. So clearly the bad guy has to be the Democrats." But the president, as you know from day one, he is so focused on marketing and selling --

CHUCK TODD:

Yep.

PETER ALEXANDER:

-- right? So this is all about, that's why he put out the tweet saying that, "We're going to deport millions and millions of these undocumented immigrants." Chuck, they only have 6,000 deportation officers in the country. You're not deporting millions and millions of people --

CHUCK TODD:

But he'll keep saying it.

PETER ALEXANDER:

Of course he'll keep saying it because the bottom line is this is the message that he campaigns on.

CHUCK TODD:

Which brings me to the census. Because why does he continue to fight this? He needs to be seen by his base as fighting. If he was trying to make a legal argument to get it back, this comment here destroyed any chance of that. Take a listen.

[BEGIN TAPE]

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

Well, you need it for many reasons. Number one, you need in it for Congress. You need it for Congress, for districting. You need it for appropriations. Where are the funds going? How many people are there? Are they citizens? Are they not citizens? You need it for many reasons.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Shawna.

SHAWNA THOMAS:

Yeah. I mean, number one in this country, when we redistrict based on the census, we do it based on persons, not citizens. So what everyone is saying is that when he says that, is he trying to, like, turn this into a ploy where we redistrict based on citizenship? And if that is the case, what everyone is, what a lot of people have said is that that means Republicans have an advantage and white people have an advantage and -- but the federal government has specifically said in this case that it had nothing to do with discrimination. The Supreme Court didn't even take that part up. They didn't let them take that part up. Now, the Maryland judge is letting them take that part up. And now, the people on the other side, the plaintiffs have this.

CHUCK TODD:

But, Jonah, I don't mean to be this cynical. But the --

JONAH GOLDBERG:

Go ahead.

CHUCK TODD:

-- president is going to continue to talk about it. And even though it won't be on the form, many Hispanics may hear that it is on the form or may fear that it's on the form. He has now said it enough. And maybe the damage is done.

JONAH GOLDBERG:

Maybe. There's a whiff of four-dimensional chess that you're ascribing to the president --

CHUCK TODD:

Well, and he's never a four-dimensional player. Three dimensional, two dimensional.

JONAH GOLDBERG:

I mean, we should be clear. I actually think the executive branch has every constitutional right to actually ask about citizenship and nativity, which it did for about 190 years. This was a completely unforced error, which Justice Roberts basically said, "If you just hadn't screwed up the way you did this, you could ask it." And the problem now is that Trump is not getting that message and they're not getting their ducks in a row. It's another one of these things where if they just were less on the crazy train they could get some of the things they want done.

PETER ALEXANDER:

It's the difference between growing pains and the pains of not growing, right? I was so struck by what the lawyers said. When they were discussing this, a lawyer said as the tweet came out, that was the first time this lawyer heard about it, said, quote, "I'm going to my absolute best to figure out what's going on here."

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, I want to take that quote. We should quickly put it up, guys. I'm sorry. I want to take that quote. It can apply to every tweet he has ever said --

PETER ALEXANDER:

Exactly right.

CHUCK TODD:

-- to any administration official. Here it is. "The tweet this morning was the first I had heard of the president's position on this issue, just like the plaintiff and, your honor. I do not have a deeper understanding of what that means at this juncture other than what the president has tweeted. But obviously, as you can imagine, I am doing my absolute best to figure out what's going on."

SHAWNA THOMAS:

It's also the conversation we've all had with our bosses--

KIMBERLY ATKINS:

With our editors. Right, right --

CHUCK TODD:

That is to me the quote of the administration.

PETER ALEXANDER:

Yeah. No, I think you're exactly right. The bottom line is he has the perception of fighting though is what matters here. That's why there's all this shifting going on behind the scenes right now to figure out what to do.

CHUCK TODD:

Joshua Gardner, you get the mic drop moment here for that. When we come back -- he was the person that uttered that today, the Justice Department lawyer. Sorry, Jonah. When we come back, is the Democratic Party left too fast? I'll talk to Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. The broad brush takeaway from last week's Democratic debates was that the party is moving sharply to the left. From health care, to decriminalizing illegal immigration, most of the 20 candidates staked out positions well to the left of where the party had traditionally settled, just, it appeared, just in the last couple of years. One candidate who bucked that trend is Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. She's presenting herself as a bit more of a pragmatic Democrat, or as she would say, a pragmatic progressive, who can win back those Midwesterners who supported both Barack Obama twice and Donald Trump once. Senator Klobuchar joins me this morning from the town of Whitefield in northern New Hampshire, where she's glad to be coming in July from that part of New Hampshire. Just wait till February, Senator.

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR:

I can handle it. Remember my announcement in the snow, Chuck --

CHUCK TODD:

That's right. That's right.

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR:

I can handle it.

CHUCK TODD:

That's for sure. No, you'd be very comfortable up there. Let me start with this debate about where is the Democratic party headed. During your debate night, I want to play for you what Bill de Blasio said about how he thought the Democratic party should be defined. Take a listen.

[BEGIN TAPE]

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO:

This is supposed to be the party of working people. Yes, we're supposed to be for a 70% tax rate on the wealthy. Yes, we're supposed to be for free college, free public college, for our young people. We are supposed to break up big corporations when they're not serving our democracy.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Is his assessment of the Democratic party concur with yours?

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR:

Those are his views. And I would certainly agree with parts of what he said. He said we are the party of working people. That is true now and it's certainly true when you look at the Republican tax bill. And when it comes to how we move our country forward on health care, you know I want a public option. And I'm very concerned about some of these plans that would kick half of America off of their insurance. I don't agree with that. And I think that we should make college much more affordable. But we want to make sure that that money is going to the people that need it, and not to a bunch of rich kids. And I have made that very clear. But what I do know is that we are much more unified against Donald Trump. And we have things that we disagree on. But in the end, we will come together. And the Republican Party, by the way, they basically are saying right now to Donald Trump, "How far can we jump? How high can we jump to be just like you?" I'm glad we have some differences. That's why we have the debates. But the most important thing is that we put a candidate on top of that ticket that's going to be able to unify us and win and beat Donald Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you --

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR:

That's what my numbers have shown. I've won in all those red districts before.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

SENATOR AMY KKLOBUCHAR:

And I believe we can do it.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this. Could you carry the state of Minnesota if you are the party of giving -- having your health care plan cover undocumented immigrants, for instance? I mean that would be -- whether you -- if you're the nominee, I know you didn't necessarily propose that, but as you know, that's how they would try to run against any Democratic nominee. Are you concerned that it paints a picture of the Democrats as too out of the center for, say, the state of Minnesota?

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR:

You know, in general, our party is where the country is. We're the party of opportunity, not chaos. When you look at the discussion you just had on immigration, all I can think about is it was not this bad before. Comprehensive immigration reform, which would bring the debt -- deficit down by $158 billion, you use a chunk of that money to help, as the Republican Congressman was saying, with those countries in the Northern Triangle. You let people seek asylum where they are, in those countries. You make sure you're not separating parents from their kids, something I would do in my first 100 days as president. And then you bring in comprehensive immigration reform. I am convinced, Chuck, that with my experience dealing with these immigration bills now twice, I can get this done in the first year.

CHUCK TODD:

What do you say --

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR:

Those bills were supported by the Chamber, AFO/CIO. We can get this done with a president that wants to get it done.

CHUCK TODD:

As you know, the argument against you in the primary is going to come from the left that says, you know, you vote with President Trump too much. Or you worked across the aisle too much. And some of these compromises are being painted as capitulations. I mean, you heard some of 'em -- that too often -- that the Democrats have gone too far to the Republicans to cut a deal. Look, I'm not saying those are fair criticisms. That's how you're going to be painted by some progressives. What do you tell them?

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR:

I tell them that I look people in the eye and I tell them the truth. That I'm honest about how we think we can move forward --

CHUCK TODD:

Does that mean your primary opponents are not telling them the truth when they say free college and free this?

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR:

There're a lot of people making promises. And I'm not going to make promises just to get elected. I am not running for chair of the Democratic National Committee. I am running for president of the United States. And that means you bring people together. And you find that common ground in our own party. And there are bold plans here. I want to double the Pell Grant. That'll help so many kids when you go up to $12,000 a year, double the eligibility up to $100,000 a family, where you can actually get those grants. I want to move forward with a public option and finally take on the pharmaceutical companies that are boosting up the cost of insulin so regular people can't even afford it. Those are big, bold things that haven't been done. And some of my colleagues, yes, they have, they have -- I guess you could call them bigger and bigger promises. But I think what's most important to the people of America is we actually get those things done.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this about the back and forth between two of your opponents, Senator Kamala Harris and former Vice President Joe Biden. Do you think Senator Harris' criticism of Joe Biden's record was fair?

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR:

I think it is fair to talk about the fact that if you're dealing with a racist or a segregationist, as he was, that you have to call them out. And he has now apologized for not doing that at the time and apologized for his past -- his past statements on busing. But you know what? I really want to move our country forward. What's happening right now with the African American community when we still have public schools that are crumbling, heat's not working in some of our schools in Baltimore. That's why I came out with an infrastructure plan that includes our schools. That's why I think we need to support our public schools with higher teacher pay. And that we need to put a bigger percentage of our federal budget into that and less giving away to the wealthy people. I do think that our tax bill that was just passed that I opposed gave way too much help to the people at the top. I called it all foam and no beer for the middle class. I still stand by that.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this. At what point should a politician's past positions be held account? What is the statute of limitations politically? What's fair game and what isn't? You know, when is it okay to switch your position and when isn't it? I know that that's in the eye of the beholder and in politics all's fair, period.

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR:

I think people understand that over time, you learn new things, you have different views on things. You take a vote and you realize, "You know what? Now I've learned new things and it's not the same." But in a presidential race like this with so many candidates, yes, you have to explain your past votes. It doesn't mean that every single person did every single thing right. Your other alternative is to have someone that has no experience at all and has no votes and has done nothing. I don't think the American people want that. They put someone in the White House that didn't have any kind of experience in working with Washington. And what do we have? Chaos, gridlock, not moving on infrastructure, not working to bring the costs of prescription drugs down. So I think that experience, while it always calls you on at sometime, I think that's important. That's what I would say about what I've done.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat from Minnesota in northern New Hampshire, thanks for coming on and sharing your views. Stay safe on the trail.

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR:

Thanks. Great to be on, Chuck. Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. When we come back on this July 4th holiday weekend, where liberals and conservatives like to go on vacation. Guess what? They're not likely to bump into each other. We'll be right back.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Data Download time. Summer travel season is in full swing. And like almost everything else in our lives nowadays, how you spend your vacation days can say a lot about your political leanings. According to data from MRI Simmons, self-described liberals more likely than conservatives to leave the United States, or at least have the ability to. 57% of liberals have passports, compared to 48% of self-described conservatives. Then there's the difference in how each group spends their downtime. Liberals are more likely to go to the beach by eight percentage points and more likely to indulge in fine dining by nine percentage points, while conservatives are more likely to go fishing or play golf. And when you travel within the United States, you might feel like you run into people with your same political leanings. Just look at the states people choose to visit. Park County, Wyoming, the so-called eastern gateway to Yellowstone sees visitors from mostly liberal strongholds and big cities, Denver, New York, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Seattle. Compare that to Branson, Missouri, a vacation destination in the Ozarks, where visitors hail from Springfield, Missouri, Kansas City, St. Louis, Little Rock and Oklahoma City. That's all to say when you take your vacations this summer, maybe it's time to mix things up. Try to be a cultural tourist too. Reach out to talk to someone across the political ideological spectrum. Figure out why you disagree. Maybe that could help bridge this bitterly divided country. When we come back, End Game. Sorry seems to be the hardest word. Joe Biden said it, sort of. Now what? That's next.

ANNOUNCER:

Coming up. End Game brought to you by Boeing. Proudly supporting our nation's veterans.

ANNOUNCER:

End Game, brought to you by Boeing. Proudly supporting our nation's veterans.

[BEGIN TAPE]

JOE BIDEN:

Now, was I wrong a few weeks ago to somehow give the impression to people that I was praising those men who I successfully opposed time and again? Yes, I was. I regret it. Should that misstep define 50 years of my record for fighting for civil rights, racial justice in this country? I hope not.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

He did it in South Carolina. Not an accident. Kimberly Atkins, enough?

KIMBERLY ATKINS:

Well, we'll see. I mean, what exactly did he apologize for? He seemed to apologize for giving, somehow, the impression that he praised people who --

CHUCK TODD:

The old, "I apologize that you were offended"?

KIMBERLY ATKINS:

Exactly. So he actually did give praise to segregationists. I think he needs to be forceful with it. I think that it's about a week and a half too late. But it's something that he does have to do. And you're right. He's in South Carolina speaking in front of a largely African American group of people. That's who he's concerned about, particularly after that last election. But I think that his biggest liability isn't just the fact that he has to explain his record because this is coming -- again, he's going to have to do this with the crime bill. He's going to have to do with his work on Senate Judiciary with Anita Hill. This is not the last time that this will happen. --

CHUCK TODD:

No, but --

KIMBERLY ATKINS:

-- Is that he said he was unprepared for this and that he allowed his opponents to successfully make him look like this relic of the past when the Democrats are fighting over what? What the future looks like.

PETER ALEXANDER:

So, so clearly he needed to neutralize this. Obviously it took two and a half weeks for him to be able to do that here. But the bottom line is that Biden, the challenge for him is to show that he can sharply respond in moments like this. The knock on him is that he isn't the same sharp Joe Biden that we had seen in the past. But I thought what was most striking about what he did yesterday: the apology and also the fact that for the first time, he finally invoked Barack Obama, as having been the vice president to Barack Obama. This is what his own campaign aides, this is what other Democratic strategists he should have done, Obama folks I spoke to last night --

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

PETER ALEXANDER:

-- said he should have done from the very beginning. So where was that on the debate stage then?

CHUCK TODD:

You know one of my favorite tweets, Shawna, was at one point during one of his, one of Biden's early speeches was -- remember, Biden was famous for saying about Rudy Giuliani, "Noun, verb, 9/11." "Noun, verb, Barack Obama."

SHAWNA THOMAS:

"Barack Obama." But the reason why this is going to keep coming back up, it's not just his history. It's that we are at a moment where we are talking about race right now.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes.

SHAWNA THOMAS:

And that is not going away from the Democratic Party. Even if you just look at the makeup of all the people who are going to be onstage again at this, for the CNN debates, he needs to not only have an answer for all of his positions, all the things that you talked about. He needs to know and be able to tap into, if you will, feel people's pain about where are we going to go forward in this country when it comes to this issue. And if he's scared of it other than saying, "Hi, I was the vice president to Barack Obama," that means people are going to be able to continue to attack him.

CHUCK TODD:

And, Jonah, how much of this is a little bit of style as well? Meaning people are looking at Joe Biden. "You're struggling to deal with your record among people that are eventually going to support you. How are you going to handle Donald Trump?"

JONAH GOLDBERG:

Yeah. No, I think that's right. Which is why I think in some ways he would be better advised to show some righteous indignation. Maybe it's performative. But just simply say, "Wait. Are you telling me that Barack Obama picked, you know, a racist as his vice president? How dare you." And just, like, drop it like that.

CHUCK TODD:

Interesting.

JONAH GOLDBERG:

At the same time, the simple, and I think you're absolutely right about this. There is literally no Democrat who could, who has a, who’s Biden's age, who was active in the '70s and '80s --

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

JONAH GOLDBERG:

-- that would not have these problems. Bill Clinton would have these problems, he talked about William Fulbright being his mentor.

CHUCK TODD:

Yep.

JONAH GOLDBERG:

Because the Democratic Party still had former segregationists in it.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, especially when they kept nominating people from the South --

JONAH GOLDBERG:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

-- as president. You know, it is interesting, this debate about-- and I got into it a lot with Amy Klobuchar, here's what Jonathan Chait wrote about what's going on in this larger debate in the Democratic Party about, "Are they going too far left?" "All these positions would likely be serious liabilities in a general election. What's more, none of them would appear to stand any plausible chance of enactment in the next administration. They're not laying the groundwork for a sweeping new progressive agenda they can pass in 2021. They're merely seeding Donald Trump's attack ads." You know, Kimberly, I thought the most interesting line from Amy Klobuchar was when she says, "I'm not running to be chairman of the Democratic National Committee."

KIMBERLY ATKINS:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

I thought was her most effective line at pushing back on the left without criticizing the left.

KIMBERLY ATKINS:

And I agree. I think that that was very savvy. And, look, I think we are seeing this debate playing out in this primary because this is the debate that's happening really in the Democratic Party. It's real. It's big. You have a lot of candidates in a really important election year. And so it's playing out publicly. This idea that Democrats are somehow beating each other up or moving too far to the left to a way that's going to really hurt them in the general, I'm still skeptical of that. Because even if you look at the differences --

CHUCK TODD:

What if the Republican Party --

KIMBERLY ATKINS:

-- between all --

CHUCK TODD:

-- nominated Donald Trump in 2016? They'd never win the general election. Right, Kimberly?

KIMBERLY ATKINS:

Right. Right.

CHUCK TODD:

Sorry.

KIMBERLY ATKINS:

And if you look at the differences between all twenty however many of these candidates, the difference between all of them compared to the difference between any one of them and Donald Trump is so much smaller.

CHUCK TODD:

Hey, let me put all those polls from the Washington Post this morning, very quickly. Matchups between Trump and the Democrats. Look at what we see here.

PETER ALEXANDER:

There it is.

CHUCK TODD:

Bid lead. Biden leads by ten. Everybody else, it would be margin of error. Sanders, Harris, Warren, Buttigieg. Shows you the strength of Biden, Shawna. Or at least a brand of generic Democrat. Maybe that's what Biden --

SHAWNA THOMAS:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

-- is right now.

SHAWNA THOMAS:

It also shows you the strength of name recognition and frankly being the vice president to Barack Obama. It's really early. You know, I have a team of people who's at Essence Fest right now. Mayor Pete is speaking this morning. They were talking to people about Mayor Pete down in New Orleans. And my producer texted me, and she was like, "Mayor Pete's black problem is that no one knows who he is." So I get that the polls are early. Let's, let’s figure that out.

CHUCK TODD:

He has a lot of money, by the way, to introduce himself now. More so than anybody else. So--

SHAWNA THOMAS:

Exactly. So.

CHUCK TODD:

-- he at least has that part.

SHAWNA THOMAS:

And he's introducing himself down there today.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. We shall see. Thank you, guys. What a great Independence Day weekend panel. I really appreciate it. And thank you all for watching. That's all we have for today. Enjoy the rest of your July 4th holiday. And, remember, we'll be back next week. Because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.