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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, breaking news. Rescue workers have begun to pull boys from that flooded cave. We'll have the latest from Thailand in just a moment. Also, courtside seat. President Trump prepares to announce his Supreme Court choice.

DONALD TRUMP:

If you turn in Monday at 9:00, I think you're going to be extremely happy.

CHUCK TODD:

Democrats hope to stick together in opposition and win over at least one Republican to defeat the nomination.

SUSAN COLLINS:

It would be very difficult for me to support a nominee who does not consider Roe v. Wade to be settled law.

CHUCK TODD:

It's a fight over the direction of the court for a generation or more. My guests this morning: Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. Plus, North Korea nuclear talks. North Korea says the U.S. attitude is deeply regrettable and accuses the U.S. of a gangster-like demand for denuclearization.

MIKE POMPEO:

If those requests were gangster-like, the world is a gangster. Because there was a unanimous decision at the U.N. Security Council about what needs to be achieved.

CHUCK TODD:

Is this President Trump's "mission accomplished" moment? Also, the Russia investigation. Michael Cohen says his family and country have his first loyalty. And a Senate committee agrees that Russia tried to help Mr. Trump win the election. My guest this morning, President Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Joining me for insight and analysis are Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, NBC News Senior Political Editor Mark Murray, and Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief of U.S.A. Today. Welcome to Sunday. It's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

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

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. We do have a lot to get to today. The troubled nuclear talks with North Korea. President Trump's upcoming NATO meeting. And that planned one-on-one with Vladimir Putin after the NATO summit. I have my interview with Mr. Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani and the latest on the Russia investigation and the Michael Cohen developments. And of course, biggest of all, is President Trump's announcement tomorrow of his pick for the Supreme Court he’s doing that in primetime. But let’s begin with a story that has the entire world's attention, and right now it looks like it could be a good news ending at least. The effort underway right now to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach. They’re fighting weather. This is the big window that they have. Four have been rescued so far. Bill Neely is standing by right now in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Bill, what can you tell us?

BILL NEELY:

Yeah, good morning Chuck from a very rainy northern Thailand. Just a few minutes ago the third and fourth of those boys went past here in ambulances. So four of the 13, the 12 boys and their coach now in the hospital receiving medical treatment. They came down the jungle paths in ambulances. The first two just a few hours ago. And let me bring you right up to date because as we speak there is a news conference going on with the rescue commanders. First of all, confirming four children are now free and in the hospital. They say 90 divers in all took part in this operation. 50 international divers, 40 from Thailand, 10 were at the very apex of this operation. 10 went into the -- really it’s a ledge rather than a cave where the boys have been trapped for the last two weeks and one day. And the way it worked according to the rescue commander was that one diver put one boy literally underneath him as they went through the submerged sections of that cave. Remember even now, it’s possible that there are boys walking or waiting or even diving through this absolutely treacherous cave complex. So the divers put each of the boys actually beneath them. This has all happened faster than anyone expected. Three hours faster. He now says they have used all the oxygen tanks and they have to resupply those tanks. So this remains an ongoing operation with nine people still to be got out. And it is still a very perilous journey because they are going along what is potentially a death trap. Remember, just a few days ago a highly experienced Thai Navy diver died, collapsed and died. So still a very dangerous operation for these boys deep down. And the commander launched the operation saying ‘This is D-Day. It’s either now or never. There is no better time.’ Oxygen levels were falling inside that cave. As I said to you, rain is falling as well. There was a torrential downpour a couple of hours ago. So there was a red line for the commander beyond which they couldn’t pump the water out fast enough as this rainwater fell. So the operation is ongoing, the boys are being taken out two-by-two. We expect that this could be over certainly within 24 hours and four boys now being treated at the hospital. We don’t know what condition they’re in and we don’t know exactly which boys are out. But an extraordinary operation going on as we speak, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Alright, Bill Neely thanks very much. Now joining me is Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri. He's a member of course of the Republican leadership team. Senator Blunt, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SEN. ROY BLUNT:

Good to be with you. And good to hear that these boys are getting out of that cave. And hopefully today will be good news for all of them and their families.

CHUCK TODD:

Sometimes it's just nice to cover a good news story after all of that. All right. Let me begin actually in Asia and in North Korea and what happened there. Mike Pompeo was there this weekend. It seems like the meetings did not go well. I'm sure there are some people thinking, "I told you so when it comes to the North Koreans." You were skeptical. You were on here right before when the summit was announced. You were skeptical. The president tweeted, "We have nothing to worry about," within 24 hours of the summit. 26 days later, they're calling the Americans gangsters.

SEN. ROY BLUNT:

Well, you know, Yogi Berra grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and it's déjà vu all over again. This is standard operating procedure for three generations now of dictators in North Korea. And I hope we at the end come to success. But I think nobody should be surprised by foot dragging. Nobody should be surprised by saying one thing and then apparently that's not what maybe they meant to say when they said it. This has, this has troubled now four U.S. presidents. And I hope President Trump and Secretary Pompeo are more successful than anybody's been up till now.

CHUCK TODD:

But I got to ask you, let me play here. This was the president within hours after meeting with Kim Jong-un.

[BEGIN TAPE]

DONALD TRUMP:

We're going to de-nuke North Korea. It's going to start immediately. As soon as he arrives, he's going to start a process that's going to make a lot of people very happy and very safe. I mean, he's de-nuking the whole place. And he's going to start very quickly. I think he's going to start now. They're getting rid of a missile testing site. They're doing so much now. So it's a process, and it's really moving rapidly.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Is he naive? Is this is the naiveté of a first-term president?

SEN. ROY BLUNT:

You know, I think he's optimistic. I think he's genuinely optimistic about anything he is involved in at the time. At the same time, I think what you've got to look at here is actions. And as long as the actions are to continue to keep the economic pressure on North Korea, actions here will speak louder than words. And only those kinds of actions will ultimately bring North Korea to the place we'd like them to be.

CHUCK TODD:

Since the president gave-- we gave a lot to the North Koreans. International prestige, that moment. Is it time for the United States -- they threw a high, hard one at the United States by calling us gangsters. Is it time for the president to announce, "Okay, the military exercises with South Korea are back on"?

SEN. ROY BLUNT:

Well, I thought it was a mistake to give the military exercises up. As you know when I was on here the last time, I said the one thing I wouldn't give up would be our presence certainly in South Korea. I'd hate to give up our ability to act interoperably with our South Korean allies. And the president, and the Secretary Mattis, Secretary Pompeo have to reconsider that I would think at some future time. Particularly if these negotiations appear to be going on for a long time. And that's what you'd have to expect from the North Koreans, is, again, foot dragging, standard operating procedure. Let's see how much world attention we can get and then at the end of the day how much economic assistance the North Koreans would be able to get.

CHUCK TODD:

Should the president stop the happy talk publicly? Is he his own worst enemy here? Overselling, underdelivering?

SEN. ROY BLUNT:

Well, again, I think what you've got to look at is actions as opposed to his optimism about coming up with a final solution. I hope the president sticks with the sanctions and continues to work with others in the neighborhood to maintain the sanctions as well. That means Japan. That means South Korea. That means China.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. The president has another tricky summit coming up with another authoritarian figure. This one by the name of Vladimir Putin. Are you nervous considering how the Kim Jong-un meeting went where the president gave a lot more than what was expected including getting rid of the military exercises? Are you concerned, for instance, he's going to hand Crimea to the Russians?

SEN. ROY BLUNT:

Well, I would hope not. I would hope not. I think the Russian discussion about Crimea, about Ukraine generally, particularly the eastern part of Ukraine where clearly the Russians continue to have military forces there, what's happening in Syria and Iran. I think it's fine to talk to the Russians. But the president should clearly understand that neither the Russians nor dictators like Kim Jong-un are going to be charmed by anybody. They are very cold blooded, calculating. Putin would be in that category.

CHUCK TODD:

I was just going to say both Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin seem to have an idea of what they want out of these summits. Does President Trump know what he wants?

SEN. ROY BLUNT:

Well, I think he's surrounded himself with a pretty good team. I think--

CHUCK TODD:

Does he listen to them?

SEN. ROY BLUNT:

I hope so. Pompeo, Bolton, Mattis, all should--and General Kelly all are giving him the right kind of advice. I think he's comfortable with the team he's put around himself for the first time in his presidency. And hopefully that will show up in these talks.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to ask you about seven of your Republican colleagues went over to Russia. Six of them -- most of them were from the Appropriations Committee. No Democrat was with them. Why?

SEN. ROY BLUNT:

Well, I think there's merit to talking. Senator Shelby led that--

CHUCK TODD:

This looks like Russia's attempt though to get rid of sanctions.

SEN. ROY BLUNT:

Well, hopefully it doesn't work in that way. And I don't think it'll work in that way. I think there's nothing wrong with talking to the Russians. There's nothing wrong with the president talking to Putin. There's nothing wrong with my colleagues talking to the Russians.

CHUCK TODD:

Right

SEN. ROY BLUNT:

But you just have to understand who you're talking to. These are people who run a dictatorial government. They're people who are exerting all the influence they can everywhere they can. And they don't have many resources, but they're making the most of--

CHUCK TODD:

Were you invited to go on that trip and you declined?

SEN. ROY BLUNT:

I did not go on that trip, but I was going to be in Missouri for 4th of July parades and reopening the Arch. And had a lot of things already scheduled.

CHUCK TODD:

There's a report this morning that your leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, is recommending to the president of his four finalists for the Supreme Court he believes that Raymond Kethledge and Thomas Hardiman would be easier confirmation fights than Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Barrett. And he's recommending that he would go in that direction. Where are you?

SEN. ROY BLUNT:

Well, I'm looking to see who the president nominates, not trying to anticipate who that might be. I haven't talked to the president about this. Nor have I talked to Senator McConnell about it. But I think we can confirm any of the four names being mentioned. There are reasons to look in both the Pennsylvania and the Michigan nominee.

CHUCK TODD:

That's Kethledge and Hardiman. You lean more toward their--

SEN. ROY BLUNT:

You know, I'm not sure I'm leaning anywhere on those four nominees. I think they'll all be -they’re good judges. I think they'd be fine justices of the Supreme Court. I think the president has to think about who is the easiest to get confirmed here. And I expect we'll do that on sort of a normal timetable of a couple of months.

CHUCK TODD:

Your colleague Lindsey Graham here last week said he believes Roe is essentially settled law. He believes in precedent, and he wants to see a nominee that also believes in precedent. Where are you on this?

SEN. ROY BLUNT:

Well, I think these judges, whichever one's nominated, should follow the Ginsburg strategy, which has been no hints, no foretelling of how they're going to determine--

CHUCK TODD:

It’s the 21st century--

SEN. ROY BLUNT:

--happens.

CHUCK TODD:

It's the 21st century. I think the American people should know. No?

SEN. ROY BLUNT:

You don't think the notorious R.B.G. standard is good enough?

CHUCK TODD:

This is the 21st century, where we expect everything.

SEN. ROY BLUNT:

No, I think we expect judges to judge the case that comes up before them. I'm not a lawyer. This is maybe a pretty good month not to be a lawyer. But precedent's important. But precedent's not the only thing. We have had bad precedents that were reversed after decades--

CHUCK TODD:

That's not a nonstarter--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

--for you?

SEN. ROY BLUNT:

What is not a nonstarter?

CHUCK TODD:

The idea stare decisis. That if somebody doesn't believe in that, you're not--

SEN. ROY BLUNT:

I think judges need to--

CHUCK TODD:

That's not--

SEN. ROY BLUNT:

--look at the case. The court needs to look at the case and determine that case on the facts of the case.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Roy Blunt, I'm going to have to leave it there. But--

SEN. ROY BLUNT:

Hey, good to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:Thanks for coming on and sharing your views. Joining me now from the other side of the aisle and actually from the state next door in Chicago is Democratic whip, the number two in the Senate, Dick Durbin of Illinois. Senator Durbin, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:I've got the Illinois/Missouri rivalry right in front of me here. Let me start with the Supreme Court. Mitch McConnell has said he'd like to see it go in the direction of either Thomas Hardiman or Raymond Kethledge, believing that they would be less controversial perhaps than the other two. What's your-- what's your assessment of that, sir?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:Before I get into that, hearts and prayers are with those boys in Thailand trapped in the cave. I hope our hearts and prayers are also with thousands of children, toddlers, and infants removed from their parents by the Trump administration under zero tolerance. They're trapped in a bureaucratic cave too, so let's not forget them. But to your question, all of these nominees have been pre-cleared by something called the Federalist Society. This is a group that looks carefully at each one of the nominees to make certain that they can check all the boxes when it comes to the most conservative political agenda in America. So whoever is nominated by the president, I was told by the White House they'll come off that list. Leonard Leo, the leader of this group, is the one who made the key decision.

CHUCK TODD:So what is the Democratic party's strategy in the Senate? You have--you can do the math, you know you have 49 Democratic senators. First let me ask you this, is everybody going to be united?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:I can't say that until the president announces his nominee. Obviously each senator understands this is an historic decision. It'll decide the future of this court for a generation or more and so I know they'll look carefully at each nominee. I can't predict how all of my 49 -- or 48 colleagues in the Senate on the Democratic side will vote. I will tell you though, simple math tells you if John McCain is absent it's a 50/49 Senate. One Republican senator can decide the fate of any Supreme Court nominee.

CHUCK TODD:In 2016--I'm going to play a quote of yours in September of 2016 about that -- the other Supreme Court vacancy that we were dealing with back then. Here's what you said.

[BEGIN TAPE]

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:In a few weeks the Supreme Court will start its new term with eight justices; we need nine. Major legal questions are hanging in limbo because the court is deadlocked on four/four votes.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:There's been some talk among some of your colleagues for Democrats to push for a delay until after the election. Obviously you didn't like that in 2016. Where are you on this?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:Well, I asked Senator McConnell when Kennedy made his announcement whether he was going to be consistent. He said during the course of the vacancy at the end of the Obama presidency, "Let's wait and let the people decide in an election." Many of his colleagues came to the floor on the Republican side and said, "The people of this country are going to vote. They'll decide the future of the Supreme Court." Well, I asked Senator McConnell, "Are you going to use the same standard this go-around?" And obviously he is not. The net result of that, of course, is that we are going to move forward quickly to fill the vacancy. And I think it's pretty clear Senator McConnell was seizing the moment, stopping Obama from filling the vacancy with an extraordinarily qualified man--

CHUCK TODD:No, I understand that, but where are you on this now? Do you want it delayed? I understand you want to point out hypocrisy on McConnell's side. But there's hypocrisy on your side on this too, right? Do you think if it was wrong to delay in 2016, is it wrong to delay now?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:Well, come on, Chuck. Get real. Senator McConnell invented this new rule and wouldn't even consider a meeting with Merrick Garland. And now he's saying--

CHUCK TODD:I take your point--

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:--we have to hurry through here and get this done before the election. Totally inconsistent. He's either wrong the first time or wrong the second time. The net result is he's trying to play to his political advantage.

CHUCK TODD:What did you guys do wrong in the Merrick Garland situation? If you could redo it, how would you do it?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:I'm not sure we could've changed it. When it reached the point where the Senate Republican leader refused to even meet with the nominee of President Obama, a man extremely well-qualified, it was clear that the fix was in. They were going to keep this vacant in the hopes that they could put a Republican in the White House. It happened. And now Neil Gorsuch, chosen by the Federalist Society as well, has gone to the bench, is voting in lockstep on the Republican conservative side. And they want to fill this vacancy to give them an advantage in any future rulings.

CHUCK TODD:I got to ask you though, now going backwards even before Garland, let's go to the Harry Reid decision back in 2013 when you decided to scrap it for everything but the Supreme Court, the filibuster. There were predictions this would be slippery slope, and here we go. In hindsight, mistake?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:I think at that time Harry Reid faced an impossible decision. They had announced -- The Republicans had announced they would not fill the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is a critical court, second only to the Supreme Court in its importance. They were facing all of these filibusters day after day, jurist after jurist, and Harry Reid made this decision. He did make an exception for the Supreme Court, which Mitch McConnell swept away. Chuck, let me tell you though, we look at this decision in general terms and talk about the process.

CHUCK:

Yeah

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:

But let's get down to the heart of it. This Supreme Court is going to decide whether or not people in families with pre-existing conditions can have access to affordable health insurance. That's it. It's real, and it's a constitutional challenge by the Trump administration this court will face. This court will decide the future of women's health care and the freedom of women to make choices about the future of their families. That is a critical decision this court will face. So beyond the procedure, beyond the gamesmanship, it is a life and death important decision to be made by this court on so many issues.

CHUCK TODD:And yet you have this political dilemma that stares, I think, you and Chuck Schumer really in the face as the two leaders, which is this: staying united to stop the Supreme Court pick could cost you red state senators. Not fighting it as hard might allow the red state senators to get reelected and get Democrats in control of the Senate. That's your dilemma.

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:It is a dilemma in one respect but not in another. I will tell you, the men and women that I work with on the Democratic side really take this seriously. They understand it's an historic decision. It's about more than the next election. It's about what country the United States of America is going to chart as its course in the future on this Supreme Court. I think each and every one of them take that seriously, that personally. It goes beyond the next election.

CHUCK TODD:All right. And final question, you brought up the issue of trying to reunify these kids with their parents, the migrants at the border. A court -- the Trump administration is trying to buy more time. The court doesn't look like they're going to give them that more time. What's the recourse though? If a court says, you know, "No, you're not living up to this commitment," it's not like you can put HHS in jail or something. What is the actual recourse?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:I can tell you this: what we see in this process, forcibly removing children from their parents at the border and then putting them adrift on a bureaucratic sea where they can't even find them. If you take a child into a hospital for treatment the first thing they do is strap a bracelet on the wrist to make sure they aren't lost in the hospital. It is a convergence of cruelty and incompetence that brings us to this moment. And now it's up to a judge, a federal judge in San Diego to enforce his order this Tuesday so that children under the age of five are reunited--

CHUCK TODD:How do you enforce it? How do you enforce it if the administration's saying--

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:Well, if they--

CHUCK TODD:--"We only have so many resources?"

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:I can tell you, they have the resources to get it done. Chuck, this is not an accident. This is a policy of deterrence to stop future flow, to be mean to these kids and their families to say to others, "Don't even try it." And that, to me, is cruel. It's not what America's all about.

CHUCK TODD:Senator Dick Durbin, I have to leave it there. Democrat from Illinois. Senator, thanks for coming on and sharing your views. Much appreciated.

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:Thanks. Good to be with you--

CHUCK TODD:By the way, NBC News will provide live coverage of President Trump's Supreme Court announcement tomorrow evening at 9:00 Eastern, 6:00 p.m. on the West Coast. Later on the broadcast we'll talk to President Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. But up next, the fight over the Supreme Court and a reality check on North Korea. Panel is next so stick around.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panelists here, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Washington Post, Eugene Robinson. Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief of U.S.A. Today. Danielle Pletka, the senior vice president at the American Enterprise Institute, and NBC News senior political editor Mark Murray. Of course, my partner every morning on First Read.

Welcome, All. Let's start with Supreme Court. What we're learning this morning is that the Senate Republicans have a preference and they would prefer less of a fight. Raymond Kethledge, Thomas Hardiman, Susan Page, of the final four, those two are who Mitch McConnell prefers, essentially because Brett Kavanaugh is too much of a paper trail apparently and Amy Barrett would spark a culture war. That's essentially the message McConnell is sending.

SUSAN PAGE:

So here's what's amazing. Brett Kavanaugh's biggest problem is that he is associated with the last Republican president--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SUSAN PAGE:

--right? With-- with George W. Bush. Who knew that would be such a liability with the next Republican president. And the argument for Amy Barrett is the same argument for and against, that she'd spark a culture war--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SUSAN PAGE:

--because there are some Republicans who think that would be great and the question is will President Trump think that as well? She's 46 years old, that's an asset. You name her to the court and she gets confirmed, she could be there for four decades.

CHUCK TODD:

Eugene Robinson, there’s-- each one of these has a conservative concern about them-- sort of the... Susan mentioned with Brett Kavanaugh, it's the Bush connections. One administration official called him the low energy Jeb Bush pick. Raymond Kethledge Ann Coulter calls, I think, an open border zealot.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

CHUCK TODD:

Amy Barrett, the culture war, the question is is that good or bad? You could have that discussion. And then the fear on Hardiman is that is he a Roberts or a Souter? So it seems like conservatives have a way of killing any of them here.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

So right. So what are they supposed to-- what are they looking for? I mean, some sort of, you know, ironclad guarantee that they.. in writing that we will uphold the entire conservative agenda, as you see it--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

--by the way, not as other conservatives might see it. You know, I think if conservatives would take a breath and look at these candidates they'd see they're all really conservative as far as we know, as far as we can tell from anything they've written.

I mean, there's nothing that I've seen pointed out in any of their writings that indicates they're closet liberals. Now, when judges get to the Supreme Court, guess what, they take their job seriously and they actually look at the cases and sometimes they don't decide in a way that their prior ideological leanings would indicate.

CHUCK TODD:

Mark Murray, Thomas Hardiman, I think, has an advantage over all of the others with President Trump for one reason.

MARK MURRAY:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

Thomas Hardiman's relationship with the president's sister. Explain.

MARK MURRAY:

Yeah, those relationships do matter, particularly with President Trump. And, you know, the argument for also Thomas Hardiman is that he doesn't have that kind of paper trail. And to me, the biggest question about the Supreme Court pick is who ends up having the most pressure on them?

Is it someone like Senator Susan Collins and Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski? Or is it the Joe Manchin, the Democratic West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana. And the Hardiman/Kethledge with not a big paper trail, they're more bland jurists, the pressure would probably be on the Manchins and the Donnellys. But all of a sudden, if you are talking about Amy Barrett, who has said some explicit--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

MARK MURRAY:

--things about abortion and on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the pressure certainly then goes to Collins and Murkowski.

CHUCK TODD:

Danielle, it seems as if the president's got a chance to make. Does he want a win or a fight? That's what McConnell's presenting him, right?

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Yeah, I think that's absolutely true. And the president, I suspect, doesn't really care whether it's a win or a fight, he wants somebody who he can sit down and have a beer with. Isn't that what the reporting said yesterday? But he's--

CHUCK TODD:

Well, that's not Amy Barrett, apparently. Because we're told it didn't go well?

DANIELLE PLETKA:

I have no understanding of why it might not have gone well or what the president is asking each of these individual nominees, but I think you said the right thing. They're all conservatives, they're all qualified people. The fact that someone has a paper trail, to me, should not be disqualifying. You want people who are not afraid to make tough decisions, people are serious about their positions and about the rule of law.

CHUCK TODD:

Let's talk about what the Democrats are supposed to do here, Eugene.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

CHUCK TODD:

You know, look, I guess the question is what kind of fight do they need to put up in order to make this a voting issue?

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Yeah, sure.

CHUCK TODD:

Because it seems as if it's never been a voting issue for the left the way it is for the right.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Look, I don't know if the Supreme Court is ever going to be a voting issue for the left as it is for the right, unless and until Roe v. Wade is overturned and then it might be. Roe was really what sparked, I think, the conservative, not obsession, because it's real. But the conservative focus on--

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

--the Supreme Court and the fact that that is a voting issue for so many conservatives. And then sort of other issues sort of hang off of that. But I think Roe v. Wade is the central trunk of that tree. So I don't think it's going to get there unless something happens to Roe. I think they do need to fight because the base expects them to fight. I mean, even people who are now going to vote, they're excited, but they want to see a fight.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, they want somebody to climb up the Statue of Liberty.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

I think part of the problem here that the Democrats are kind of stuck in the last decade. They want this, they're trying to make this a priority, a fight about Roe v. Wade and about abortion. And that's not what this is going to be about at the end of the day.

What's interesting to me is that the courts have become so important in the last few years because the Congress has stopped doing anything because the executive branch has so overreached, both under Obama and now Trump. People are going to say, "It surprises me that the Democrats don't want to get with the 21st century and recognize the power of the courts."

SUSAN PAGE:

You know, this is a good thing for republicans in the short term, this is going to help them with turnout. Either way they're going to have a big fight, Republicans and conservatives vote on the court. You might want to watch out what you wish for over the long-term. If you are credited with overturning with Roe v. Wade or with accepting a lot of new state restrictions on abortion rights--

CHUCK TODD:

With five men, by the way, doing it.

SUSAN PAGE:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

Especially if it's not Amy Barrett, right? Five men.

SUSAN PAGE:

You could pay a big cost with women voters, with millennials, who are pretty clear on where they stand on this issue. And over the long-term, this could be the seeds of real problems for the GOP going down the road.

MARK MURRAY:

But this all comes down to winning elections. And if the Republicans have been much better in recent elections than Democrats have been and you asked, you know, Senator Durbin, you know, "What was the biggest mistake that Democrats made with Merrick Garland?"

The biggest mistake was getting routed in the 2014 midterm elections, which allowed Mitch McConnell to take over the Senate. And actually, if Democrats held on to a bare majority, you would have Supreme Court Justice Merrick Garland. And so being able to win in midterm elections and presidential elections, that's what gets you control of the court.

CHUCK TODD:

Well--

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Yeah, exactly.

SUSAN PAGE:

Well said.

CHUCK TODD:

You guys. Okay, but what does Joe Donnelly do? Because of the base, he's the only one of these three that actually has a Democratic base to worry about. I think Manchin and Heitkamp don't.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

I'm very much in the Mark Murray in terms of winning elections being what Democrats need to do. They're out of power. They're out of the White House.

CHUCK TODD:

So that--

EUGENE ROBINSON:

They're out of control of both of (UNINTEL PHRASE)--

CHUCK TODD:

--so then the advice--

EUGENE ROBINSON:

--they're out of state legislature--

CHUCK TODD:

--so then--

EUGENE ROBINSON:

--they need to win elections. So you let Joe Donnelly, vote how he has to vote.

CHUCK TODD:

There you go.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Okay? (UNINTEL PHRASE) on Donnelly--

CHUCK TODD:

So what you're saying is, if the choice is--

EUGENE ROBINSON:

--you know, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, you know, if she would vote her way, she can have her issues, let Joe Donnelly have his issues and let him vote his way.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm going to pause it there. We've got a lot of foreign policy to cover and I can't wait to hear what Danielle thinks about what happened in North Korea. We'll be back in a moment though with the Russia investigation and President Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. There were two pretty big developments related to the Russia investigation that flew under the radar during this holiday week. The first was the official report from the Senate Intelligence Committee supporting the conclusion of three U.S. intelligence agencies that determined that Donald Trump was helped by the Russians in the 2016 election. The other story was the apparent change of heart by President Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Cohen once said he would take a bullet for the president, but this week he told ABC News, quote, "To be crystal clear, my wife, my daughter, and my son and this country have my first loyalty." Well, joining me now is the president's current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Mr. Giuliani, welcome back to Meet The Press.

RUDY GIULIANI:

Thank you very, very much, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

All right.

RUDY GIULIANI:

Happy to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Well, you had said that the 4th of July was basically a deadline of sorts for you to determine whether or not you would recommend President Trump sit down with Robert Mueller. It is now past the 4th of July. Where do we stand?

RUDY GIULIANI:

Well, I think we're pretty much decided where we are. And we await the decision of the independent counsel. We would not recommend an interview for the president unless they can satisfy us that there’s some basis for this investigation. It's our, it’s our firm belief, and we think nothing contradicts this, that the president did nothing wrong. In all the leaking that's gone on there's been no leak of any fact that says the president conspired with anybody in Russia. I know from having been on the campaign there was no contact with Russians, no discussion with Russians. So we've got to see something. I mean, something started this investigation. What we're asking them for is: Is this the witch hunt that a lot of people think it is? Or is there a factual basis for this? You did that big, long counterintelligence investigation, which seems very, very questionable with very biased people who hated Trump and wanted to stop him. What did they find? Show us something. Mueller's been at it for 13, 14 months. 1.4 million documents. 29 witnesses. What did he find? Is there somebody who says there was a meeting where Trump discussed conspiracy to do this? There's nothing.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, but actually--

RUDY GIULIANI:

Nothing.

CHUCK TODD:

--Mr. Mayor, in the public record-- and you and I have actually had a discussion about one of these, in the public record, we have the president admitting that he misled the New York Times on the Donald Trump Jr. statement when it came to his role in the infamous Trump Tower meeting of June of 2016. You said there's nothing -- this is a public record of the president contradicting, and I know it is not a crime for the president to lie to us in the media. However, how is that not itself probable cause for Mr. Mueller to want to question the president?

RUDY GIULIANI:

Well, because the fact is that also in the public record is the conclusion of that meeting. And that is that nothing was done about it. That the person came in under the guise of having information about, about Clinton but also to talk about adoptions. All she did was talk about adoptions --

CHUCK TODD:

Wait a minute.

RUDY GIULIANI:

-- and sanctions.

CHUCK TODD:

First of all, we don't know that. That has not been fully--

RUDY GIULIANI:

Well, we do know that because--

CHUCK TODD:

--established. The story changed three times, Mr. Mayor. So if the story changed, how are we--

RUDY GIULIANI:

No, no, no, no.

CHUCK TODD:

--so sure? Look, your own legal partner here in the president's team, Jay Sekulow, misled me. Now, you had said he didn't intentionally do that. I take your word.

RUDY GIULIANI:

He didn't.

CHUCK TODD:

I take your word at that. But somebody misled him then. Your client may have misled him.

RUDY GIULIANI:

They already have all these facts. They can do with them what they want. They don’t need – I, I can tell them that the president's testimony will be exactly the same as he said about this.

CHUCK TODD:

Which part? What he said in the public record or when he-- we don't know what he said--

RUDY GIULIANI:

What he has said--

CHUCK TODD:

--privately.

RUDY GIULIANI:

He has had an opportunity to think about it, to refresh his recollection. He's given a statement about it. And it's clear that there was no discussion with him about this and there were no - that nothing happened from it.

CHUCK TODD:

What's the president afraid of? He's not afraid to sit down--

RUDY GIULIANI:

Not afraid of anything.

CHUCK TODD:

--with Kim Jong-un. He's not afraid of sitting down with Vladimir Putin. Why is he afraid to sit down with Robert Mueller?

RUDY GIULIANI:

One of the problems here, I think Jay and John Dowd would attest to this, is the president's very anxious to testify because he knows he's done nothing wrong. It's us, his lawyers, who have real, real hesitation about it. I mean, look at how biased the people who started this investigation were. I've never seen an investigation--

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think Robert Mueller's--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

--a biased man? Do you think Robert Mueller's a biased man?

RUDY GIULIANI:

No, no. But I think he's surrounded by biased people, almost, almost exclusively. He's got a guy who donated over $30,000 to Hillary. He's got someone who was crying at her loss party, victory party, whatever you want to call it. And his lead investigator is probably going to go to jail. The F.B.I. agent who said, "You have to stop Trump." I mean, has there ever been an investigation of this magnitude with such obvious indications of extreme, disgusting bias which totally corrupts the process? Can I expect these people to be objective about Donald Trump--

CHUCK TODD:

Then it sounds like--

RUDY GIULIANI:

--when they have--

CHUCK TODD:

Then it sounds like you think Robert Mueller's corrupt. I mean, when you're saying all that--

RUDY GIULIANI:

I do not think he's corrupt.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, everything you're alleging. You're alleging then that he was willing to have-- you're making allegations that he was willing to have corrupt F.B.I. agents on his team.

RUDY GIULIANI:

No. No, no. That's a fact. He had a corrupt F.B.I. agent--

CHUCK TODD:

He fired him.

RUDY GIULIANI:

--on his team.

CHUCK TODD:

And he fired him from--

RUDY GIULIANI:

He put him on his team.

CHUCK TODD:

And he got rid of him.

RUDY GIULIANI:

Well, after other people found out about the-- he never bothered to vet him properly. And then he remains with a chief assistant and several very others very close to have him who have extraordinarily close ties to Hillary Clinton. And we've not looked at their texts. If we had not looked at the other guy's texts, we never would have known how much he hated Trump. But nobody's examined the texts of the people working for him. Maybe they should. But in any event, we're still willing to do it if in fact they can satisfy us that there’s a basis for this. And we think -- and John Dowd started this back in January. And since we started it, we don't get an answer, which I'm sorry, Chuck, as a lawyer makes me suspicious. Please be clear. President Trump wants to testify. We have to hold him back. And the only thing they’ve been able -- we've been able to do is it becomes easier as evidence of the corrupt nature of this investigation becomes clear.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you two other questions. Are you concerned that Michael Cohen is going to start cooperating with the feds?

RUDY GIULIANI:

No. In fact, you know, if he wants to cooperate, I think it's great. We've been through all his records. I know Michael. There’s no -- he has no evidence of, nor was he involved in anything untoward with the president. The fact is that Michael has been a victim here like a lot of other people.

CHUCK TODD:

So you want, you want Michael Cohen to cooperate with the feds? You think that's a good development for the president if he does?

RUDY GIULIANI:

Yes. Because it's going to lead to nothing. And, look, Mueller gave it away. If this had any chance of leading to President Trump, don't you think Mueller would have kept this? I have every indication there's nothing in this investigation that has any ability to touch the president. And I think if Michael testifies or cooperates. I don't, I don’t know what's involved. But I'm hoping he'll be able to convince them that this was, this was not a wise investigation to start with.

CHUCK TODD:

The president's going to be sitting down with Vladimir Putin in just over a week. He's at the center of all of this. The Senate report just went out there. This is -- he’s been -- an influence campaign that was apparently approved personally by Vladimir Putin. As the president's lawyer, would you recommend your client sitting down with the person who's sort of at the center of this Russian investigation by Bob Mueller?

RUDY GIULIANI:

One thing as a lawyer, another thing as an American citizenand a person very interested in foreign policy and the safety of America and the world. He has to sit down with Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Putin happens to run one of the most powerful countries on Earth. Probably has the second or third-biggest nuclear arsenal. Has been very aggressive. On the other hand, has shown himself willing to negotiate. So I don't think he has a choice. I think it's a sign of how confident the president is that he did nothing wrong. He's not going to be stopped by this. I mean, this is the reason this investigation--

CHUCK TODD:

You don't think he's hamstrung by the fact that if he, if he looks like he capitulates too much to Putin, that it only raises more suspicion? I mean, doesn't it put him in a box that either way he -- there isn't going to seem genuine?

RUDY GIULIANI:

As his lawyer, I would like to say yes because it's a good argument of executive privilege, that they're interfering with the president, the presidency. However, if you know Donald Trump, it's not going to stop him one bit. Any more than it'll stop him from doing any other thing. And he's ready to try to regularize things with Putin. But Putin's going to have to meet him more than halfway.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Rudy Giuliani, I have to leave it there.

RUDY GIULIANI:

All right. Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you for coming on, sharing your views. Much appreciated, sir.

RUDY GIULIANI:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, our growing trade war with China. Who wins and who gets hurt?

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, Data Download time. President Trump has kicked his global trade war up a notch, targeting another 1,000 plus Chinese products this week. The economy has been strong under Mr. Trump, a booming stock market and low unemployment. But the impact of this trade war is going to start hitting American consumers in the coming months. And you may also know these folks by a different name, voters.

Look around your home. A good 20%, one in five, of the furniture and household items you see has a "Made in China" label, according to a 2011 report from the San Francisco Fed. Now, go inside your closet. That number is closer to 36% when you add clothes. Remember, tariffs being slapped on Chinese goods by the administration will end up getting passed on to the consumer. The company doesn't pay it, we do. It's likely going to take a few months for consumers to start feeling this pain. But here's some of the specific Chinese products where you could see a price spike. Items like remote controls, batteries, tool sets, and USB drives have all been targeted, although it's unclear right now what that dollar increase will be.

And remember, there are parts of other bigger products. Imported solar panels could go up between 500 and a thousand dollars per installation and the price tags for home appliances, like mini fridges and water coolers and thermostats are all predicted to go up by as much as 25%. Notably by the way, some consumer favorite items like flat screen TVs were taken off the tariff list after public outcry. But if this trade war lingers on, well, TVs could eventually be included in another round of tariffs on Chinese products.

On top of all of this, President Trump is considering a 25% tariff on all foreign cars. And that would cost consumers an average of $5,800 per vehicle. The impact of these cost bumps would be much broader than China's targeted tariff on soybeans that we talked about a few weeks ago. And remember, President Trump's greatest strength has been the economy. According to a CNBC poll from just last month, President Trump's approval on the economy is 51%, that's a full ten points higher than his overall approval rating for his entire job, which sits at 41%.

Now, to be fair, some American industries, like aluminum and steel, are expected to benefit from this trade war. But it's consumers right now, they're the ones paying the price. The problem for President Trump, as he continues to pursue this strategy, he risks damaging a strong economy in the short-term that has kept his poll numbers afloat. When we come back, End Game and President Trump's meeting next week with Vladimir Putin. Why that one on one has U.S. allies very concerned.

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with End Game. Okay, as I promised you Danielle, North Korea. Twenty six days later, the president told us we had nothing to worry about from nuc- from nuclear weapons from North Korea. There are a lot of people this morning thinking, "I told you so."

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Yes, well I think those people are right. The president came into office campaigning on the fact that the Obama administration signed an Iran deal that was the worst deal ever done, it was flawed, the Iranians were cheating. The president pulled out of that deal this year and now he is talking the way that Barack Obama did, even more liberally I would say, about North Korea without any facts to back him up. The problem here is very straightforward. The president says denuclearize and he means one thing and Kim Jong-un says denuclearize and he means another thing.

CHUCK TODD:

He thinks we should denuclearize if he does it. Like that's the point that's totally lost here, right?

DANIELLE PLETKA:

He means global zero.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Of course.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

He does not mean, "I am going to take apart the plans that I am working on, the missile centers, the nuclear plants at (UNINTEL)." They have been expanding and working on those in the last week as Secretary Pompeo was winging his way over to Pyongyang.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

By the way, just to note, in the Iran deal Obama did get virtually all the fissile material removed from Iran, take it out of the country, as a matter of -- The bomb material.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Well, they're still making the (UNINTEL) material.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

But it's gone. Whereas in North Korea, as you said, they continue with the development of their nuclear program and their missiles. You know, I-- I, this was never going to work. But they talked at least, that's something they hadn't done -SUSAN PAGE: But least -EUGENE ROBINSON: --in many years. I think that's probably a good thing.

SUSAN PAGE:

Least surprising headline in the world--

CHUCK TODD:

Yes.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

--North Korea talks, not come to a meeting fruition. But you do see, I think, after a year and a half in office, President Trump's foreign policy coming to fruition. You see America first on trade, you see less concern about our traditional alliances with this NATO summit coming up. You see a much friendlier attitude toward Russia. This is a president who has definitely left his mark on the U.S. role in the world.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. But if, As George Will said, he called the North Korea summit a catastrophe, a disaster, I think. What do we think is going to happen with Vladimir Putin? Let me play President Trump's greatest hits when it comes to Putin.

DONALD TRUMP:

He's been a leader far more than our president has been a leader. It's better to get along with Russia than not. President Putin really feels, and he feels strongly, that he did not meddle in our election. You know what, Putin's fine. He's fine. We're all fine with people.

CHUCK TODD:

NATO allies are already nervous about this meeting and they're already offended that the meeting got planned after the NATO summit, which is exactly the way Vladimir Putin would have wanted it.

MARK MURRAY:

Yeah, contrast that rhetoric about Russia and Vladimir Putin about the Trump rhetoric when it comes to NATO allies. You guys need to pay up, you guys are killing us on trade, et cetera, et cetera. And there is that kind of split and contrast there that does have a lot of people, very least, at pause. But to me, the biggest story with Trump going and meeting with Putin in Helsinki is Trump's continued denial about interference in the 2016 elections, despite the fact that other members of Trump's own team, like Mike Pompeo and other people from the national security community am saying, "Yes, Russia did, did meddle, they did meddle to benefit your campaign at the expense of Hillary Clinton's campaign," and the president still doesn't admit that.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Right, but, but --

CHUCK TODD:

Is he going to give them Crimea? Is he going to hand them Crimea?

DANIELLE PLETKA:

God, I hope the hell not. I really do. I, I -- this is a --

CHUCK TODD:

But doesn't it look like they're setting that up?

DANIELLE PLETKA:

This is a, I don't know that they're setting that up. I don't think that there's anybody on the president's national security team who is going to recommend this. I think they're explicitly going to say to him, "Mr. President, you cannot be okay with this." You know, agree to disagree that time.

CHUCK TODD:

They're going to write, "Do not congratulate?" I mean --

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Do not congratulate, exactly. Do not congratulate.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

Well, okay. But, first of all, let's be fair. One thing, we do expect more of our NATO allies than we expect of the Russians. It's important, it’s important to acknowledge that in fact our NATO allies don't spend enough on defense and that they deserve a lot of criticism for this. So I'm not going to disagree with the president on that, although I don't like his tone and I don't like the contrast. But the Crimea thing highlights something much more important, which is this awful meeting of sort of the Bernie bros and the Trump people on this question of eating away at other country's sovereignty. You know, "Oh no, that's fine, what do we care? Crimea, they've got a lot of Russians anyway." Bernie Sanders took that position, President Trump takes that position. I don't understand why it is that the center right and the center left are not more forceful on this issue.

SUSAN PAGE:

But Putin comes into this meeting having already succeeded, right? I mean, he has a situation where there's less pressure on Crimea and Syria, their behavior in both places. He has, he comes out of a NATO meeting that is a divided and a president who is friendlier to him than any U.S. president has been to a Russian since World War II.

CHUCK TODD:

And it's going to make for quite a week. Starts with the Supreme Court, ends with Putin. Unbelievable. Thank you all. Thank you guys for watching and we'll back next week. Because as we said, it's a busy week coming up. And if it's Sunday, it's Meet The Press.