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Meet the Press - June 17, 2018

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday truth and consequences. President Trump makes many false claims about the Justice Department inspector general's report.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

The report yesterday may be more importantly than anything. It totally exonerates me.

CHUCK TODD:

No it doesn't. About the F.B.I.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

If you look at what happened, they were plotting against my election.

CHUCK TODD:

No they weren't. And about separating immigrant children from their parents at the border.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

That's a Democrat bill. That's Democrats wanting to do that.

CHUCK TODD:

No it isn't. How can we believe a president who routinely says things that are provably false? My guests this morning, counselor to the president, Kellyanne Conway and the leading Democrat on the House intelligence committee Adam Schiff. Plus, what is happening to those children separated from their parts?

JACOB SOBOROFF:

This place is called a shelter. But effectively these kids are incarcerated.

CHUCK TODD:

Whoever wins this immigration battle children are the losers. We'll have the latest. And the new endangered species, Republicans who criticize the president.

REP. MARK SANFORD:

I wasn’t trump enough in the age of Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

My conversation with Trump critic, Congressman Mark Sanford, just lost his Republican primary race. Joining me for insight and analysis are NBC News national political reporter Carol Lee, New York Times pentagon correspondent Helene Cooper, Republican strategist Al Cardenas and New York Times columnist Bret Stephens. Welcome to Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

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

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning and happy Father's Day. What kind of week has it been for President Trump? That made a pen in your place in the media political industrial complex. To President Trump's critics the North Korea summit was a self-serving spectacle that achieved little and elevated a ruthless dictator. To the president the summit was a historic achievement moving the world away from nuclear war. To the president's critics, the G7 summit was an unnecessary insult to our closest allies, increasing the risk of a costly trade war. To the president, the summit was a triumph of American strength. Mr. Trump making it clear the U.S. will no longer play the role of sucker to greedy allies. To his critics the Justice Department inspector general's report vindicated Hillary Clinton's claim that her campaign was the victim of James Comey's decisions. To President Trump the report fully exonerated him from charges of obstruction of justice and collusion. Finally, to the president's critics the jailing of his former campaign manager Paul Manafort was just more evidence to the campaign's possible conspiracy and collusion with Russia. To President Trump it was a tough sentence. "What about Comey and crooked Hillary? Very unfair," he tweets. While some of the president's assertions this week are debatable others are flat-out false. First of all, the IG report did not exonerate him. It had nothing to say about his actions. Its focus was on the Hillary Clinton email investigation, not the Mueller probe. And, no, despite Mr. Trump's repeated claims it is not a Democratic bill that is separating families at the border. It's Trump administration policy enacted by his attorney general. Still, the president spent the week feeling and acting emboldened, highlighting facts where they were helpful and making them up where they weren't.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

Paul Manafort worked for me for a very short period of time.

CHUCK TODD:

In 51 minutes on the White House north lawn President Trump served up a series of falsehoods shortly before his former campaign chairman was sent to jail. A federal judge ordered Paul Manafort behind bars on Friday over charges he tampered with witnesses while out on bail. Ahead of his trial on federal conspiracy and money laundering charges set for later this summer.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

He worked for me, what, for 49 days or something? A very short period of time.

CHUCK TODD:

That's not true. In fact, Manafort worked for Mr. Trump's presidential campaign for 144 days including during the crucial Republican convention. The president also defended former national security advisor Michael Flynn.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

Some people say he lied and some people say he didn't lie. I mean, really it turned out maybe he didn't lie.

CHUCK TODD:

In fact, Flynn has already pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. And Trump himself tweeted back in December, "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the F.B.I." And on a misleading statement he dictated last year about a Trump Tower meeting with Russians during the 2016 campaign which his lawyer at first denied on Meet the Press, then his legal team admitted to.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

Let's not talk about it. You know what that is?

KRISTEN WELKER:

But can you tell us--

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

It's irrelevant. It's a statement to the New York Times. Not a statement to a high tribunal of judges.

CHUCK TODD:

That's the president admitting he misled the New York Times. Emboldened after his meeting this week with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, Mr. Trump returned to the United States eager to go on offense against his political opponents and hinted there will be rewards down the road for his allies if they stay loyal. The president's attorney Rudy Giuliani told the New York Daily News on Friday that the Mueller investigation might get cleaned up with some presidential pardons before pulling back.

RUDY GIULIANI:

He's not going to pardon anybody in this investigation. But he is not obviously going to give up his right to pardon if a miscarriage of justice is presented to him.

CHUCK TODD:

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump is facing little pushback from his own party.

SEN. BOB CORKER:

It's becoming a cultish thing, isn't it?

CHUCK TODD:

In fact, Republican leaders signal this week that they may be done defending Mueller if the president acts against him.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

What I think about the Mueller investigation is they ought to wrap it up. It's gone on seemingly forever.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

I think the Mueller investigation has got to stop.

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Trump is relishing the lack of Congressional and political guardrails also making false statements about his administration's policy separating migrant children from their parents which over a six-week period separated nearly 2,000 children.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

I hate the children being taken away. The Democrats have to change their law. That's their law.

REPORTERS:

Sir, that’s your own policy, that’s your own policy. Why do you keep lying about it, sir?

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

Quiet, quiet.

CHUCK TODD: Joining me now is Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump. Kellyanne, welcome back to Meet the Press.KELLYANNE CONWAY: Thank you Chuck.CHUCK TODD: I want to start with something Senator Graham said on Friday, on CNN, take a listen.[BEGIN TAPE]SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: President Trump could stop this policy with a phone call.KATE BOLDUAN: He doesn't seem to acknowledge that.SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, he can. I'll go tell him. If you don't like families being separated, you can tell DHS stop doing it.[END TAPE]CHUCK TODD: Is the president ready to make that phone call to the Attorney General, to DHS, to stop this policy?KELLYANNE CONWAY: The president is ready to get meaningful immigration reform across the board. And Chuck, let me just tell you, that nobody likes seeing babies ripped from their mothers’ arms, from their mothers’ wombs frankly. But we have to make sure that DHS’s laws are understood through the soundbite culture that we live in. There are three circumstances by which DHS evaluates a child at the border. One is: Does this child actually have a custodial familiar relationship with the adult? And number two: is the child in any danger? And plenty have been over time. Some adults are using children to gain access at the border. And number three: is the adult subject to criminal prosecution? This is a vexing problem that both Presidents Bush and President Obama faced as well. Secretary of DHS under President Obama told the New York Times this weekend that this was the bane of his existence for three years. He was describing the fact that they had to detain families in these large facilities for very long periods of time. Why? Because in the summer of 2014 we saw the surge, particularly from Central America, tens of thousands, if not more, unaccompanied minors coming to the border and trying to gain entry. Chuck, I‘ve got a teenage daughter, you have a teenage daughter. Can we say with a straight face today that we know what happened to all those teenage girls? Very left leaning journalists from that time from POLITICO, from HuffPo, Jorge Ramos did a segment about the fact these girls faced almost certain rape trying to make that journey northward. Many of them were getting, many of them were getting vaccinated, or I guess they were getting shots for birth control because it was almost certain. This is a perilous journey for many of these children, and if people really cared about them we would figure out a way to get the funding to expand the centers and to close the loopholes. These loopholes are allowing open border policies. I think what the president is saying is if the Democrats are serious, they’ll come together again and try to close these loopholes and get real immigration reform. CHUCK TODD: So it sounds like, and this is going to sound harsh, but it sounds like you’re holding these kids hostage. KELLYANNE CONWAY: No --CHUCK TODD: To get the Democrats to the table to pass some law. You just laid out --KELLYANNE CONWAY: No --CHUCK TODD: -- a very compassionate case for --KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well I certainly don’t agree with that.CHUCK TODD: -- why, I understand. You just laid out very compassio--with a lot of compassion and a lot of empathy in there. But it’s not very empathetic -- the most traumatic things to do to a kid? Separate them from their parents once they’ve made that traumatic journey. Why do that right now? I understand we have an immigration debate going on in this country. Why use these kids as leverage?KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well I certainly don’t want anybody to use these kids as leverage, I saw a headline that breathlessly screamed as much and I object to that very forcefully. Let me say this, these children are handed over to HHS --CHUCK TODD: In fairness, by the way, it was a White House official that told the Washington Post.KELLYANNE CONWAY: Yeah I’d like to know who that is by the way --CHUCK TODD: The thinking in the building is to force people to the table. KELLYANNE CONWAY: By the way, by the way I want that person to say it to my face. I really do. I'll meet them at the White House today because I think that's a disgrace. I want them to come forward -- CHUCK TODD: Should that person be fired? Should that person be fired? KELLYANNE CONWAY: That person should have the guts to come forward and put their name to that quote. How’s that? Number two, and most importantly, these children are handed over to HHS. Why? Because that is Health and Human Services so that they can be put into facilities like El Cajon, where there was a report recently there were boys ages 6 to 17 who were all there. They have the necessary medications, obviously food and shelter. They have exercise. They have education during the day.CHUCK TODD: I don’t -- nobody’s doubting they they’re getting -- KELLYANNE CONWAY: And let’s get them back together. CHUCK TODD: -- that they’re reasonable care there. The question is --KELLYANNE CONWAY: Some are CHUCK TODD: -- the most traumatic thing to do is taking them away in the first place --KELLYANNE CONWAY: I agree and by the way CHUCK TODD: -- you don’t have to. KELLYANNE CONWAY: And Chuck that is why --CHUCK TODD: You don’t have to be doing thisKELLYANNE CONWAY: But that happens in our country as well. In other words, if I commit a crime and I am put in jail, my four children are separated from their mother, because we don’t have a policy -- why would you want the children in jail with their parents? You want them in a facility temporarily or you want them to be repatriated back to their home country, with said parent, or you want them to come into this country with a responsible adult who you know, who the authorities are confident means that child no harm. Won’t get them in an MS-13 gang, won’t subject them to trafficking or rape, or worse. You want them to go with a family member or another close family friend who would be a custodian and so this has been a vexing problem for many years. I would tell everybody this, this week, when the president goes to Congress at 5:30 on Tuesday, get together. Chuck, I don’t remember a single Democrat, I could be mistaken maybe one murmured it, but in the one hour meeting back in January in the Cabinet room where the president invited senators and congressman from the Republicans and the Democratic parties to the cabinet room. I believe that your cable station covered it live in full -- CHUCK TODD: Sure.KELLYANNE CONWAY: - one hour. Did this issue come up? The Democrats only want to talk about DACA, the Dreamers, why aren’t they mentioning this? CHUCK TODD: But in fairness, kids weren’t being separated from their parents then. This policy got implemented-KELLYANNE CONWAY: They were being detained -- CHUCK TODD:This policy got implemented in April, the ‘zero tolerance’ policy where every migrant -- KELLYANNE CONWAY: YesCHUCK TODD: -- every asylum seeker is treated as a criminal -- KELLYANNE CONWAY: And that, well, they are, they are --CHUCK TODD: -- first.KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well, they are subject to criminal prosecution. CHUCK TODD: That is an April change so why would they bring it up in January. KELLYANNE CONWAY:It’s adjudicated. It’s adjudicated. What they should have said is, ‘Look, we had a surge over the border in 2014, Mr. President, under President Obama, and it, it shocked everyone, and we simply didn’t have the capacity. We want to avoid that in the future and work with you.’ Look, the Democrats ought to disown it. Why don’t they say, ‘We’re for open borders’. But they have to be serious. Look, over time, if you extrapolate the money that is spent on each of these unaccompanied minors right now at the border, you’re talking about DHS statistics $35,000 per child. I think that’s great, but we have 18 million American children right now, as we sit here, in households that make less than $35,000 per year. CHUCK TODD: I understand. But as you know, this is, this is a question of morality. This is a question of American morality.KELLYANNE CONWAY: You’ve heard me weigh in on that.CHUCK TODD: I did. This is a question of American morality.KELLYANNE CONWAY: As a mother, as a Catholic, as somebody who has got a conscience, and wouldn’t say the junk that somebody said, apparently, allegedly. I will tell you that nobody likes this policy. You saw the president on camera that he wants this to end, but everybody has, Congress has to act. CHUCK TODD: He can end it -- KELLYANNE CONWAY: Congress has -- CHUCK TODD: --on his ownKELLYANNE CONWAY: Chuck, Congress passed a law that it is a crime, this is a Congressional law from many years ago.CHUCK TODD: Many years.KELLYANNE CONWAY: It is a crime to enter this country illegally. So if they don’t like that law, they should change it. If they don’t like the fact that -- CHUCK TODD: You can keep the families together. Why can’t you find a way to still -- KELLYANNE CONWAY: Do you want the child in jail? As opposed to a facility-- CHUCK TODD: You keep the families together. Why don’t you create a family detention center?KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well, we had those under President Obama but the Democrats are holding up the funding to expand those. The President had a 70 point immigration plan, this was included in it, Chuck, that expanding, really doubling the detention center capacity, hiring more ICE agents -- we don’t have the capacity. Those brave men and women at the border who are trying to do their jobs as best they can. This is an issue. And, and if the Democrats are serious, and if a lot of Republicans are serious, they'll come together. They won't just talk about this week, 'the dreamers', or just 'the wall', or just 'catch and release'. It's all of the above. And there are ways to repatriate these families back into their home countries expeditiously. But I want to be very clear, because thank you for saying because nobody is arguing the kids aren't getting care. A lot of folks are pretending these kids aren't getting care. You have colleagues in your network who are analogizing this to concentration camps and the Nazis. What a disrespect, what an outrageous disrespect to the six million people who perished at that time.CHUCK TODD: Alright, I want to go back. I want to move on quickly to tariffs. There's a headline in the Des Moines Register that shows the impact this is having, particularly in farm states. Already Iowa is feeling it. A $624 million hit just on soybean sales alone, perhaps, for Iowa. We’re in a full fledged trade war now, with China, Canada, the European Union, Mexico, which may, may not be as helpful to us in this border problem because we’re beating them up with tariffs. Is the president going to follow through with all these tariffs?KELLYANNE CONWAY:Respectfully, the president’s position is that we lost the trade war a long time ago. And you know who lost it? The American workers lost it. If you look at just the statistics alone since he took office, you have over 300,000 new construction jobs, 300,000 new manufacturing jobs, more jobs created in timber, in mining. These are industries that were flat on their back in years past and never seen the kind of growth in those jobs and job security that you see under this president. So when it comes to tariffs, this president has exempted certain countries, certain industries, he’s given a pause for a month, and then another month. But he thinks that we have been on the losing end of the so-called trade war for years. CHUCK TODD: I know what his position is. KELLYANNE CONWAY: We have a $400 billion deficit with China. How has that put us ahead? CHUCK TODD: You acknowledge you’re creating yourself, your own political problem now in the Midwest. KELLYANNE CONWAY: No, no. I didn’t say that. These farmers are very support--many of them are very supportive of President Trump because they like his policies when it comes to the tax cuts, the deregulation. The fact that China now is buying beef and poultry and dairy for the first time in about 15 years. And every time the president is told, ‘You can’t do that, it’ll never happen. What a mistake you’ll be making,’ pulling out of the Paris Accords, going over to Singapore and trying to get denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Moving -- really keeping the promise of five presidents to move the capital, excuse me, recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move our U.S. embassy there. He keeps the promises people say ‘don’t do it’ll be a disaster’. This will play out over time, but he’s tired of the American workers getting screwed. CHUCK TODD: President Trump on Friday said, ‘The real FBI, those guys love me.’ What does that mean? What’s the real FBI?KELLYANNE CONWAY: He means the rank and file. It’s so disturbing to anyone, Chuck, when you read this IG report and you see some of the comments that are being made in text messages. On September 9th, the same day that Hillary Clinton would go on to refer to President Trump’s supporters as irredeemable and deplorable. The same day, an FBI agent according to the IG report referred to Trump’s supporters in Iowa, excuse me, Ohio as “retarded”. Are we comfortable with that? Who is that person? Does that person still work at the FBI? Are they still getting government resources? Do they have his top secret security clearance?CHUCK TODD: Are you comfortable with the fact that the New York FBI office was leaking stuff to Devin Nunes in September of 2016 as well? I mean, against Hillary Clinton --KELLYANNE CONWAY:I'm very uncomfortable.CHUCK TODD:I mean, what is going on if -- I understand, you guys want to make an issue of that. That New York FBI office looks like it was leaking like a sieve. KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well, I'm very uncomfortable that in, apparently, in exchange for some leaks, that FBI officials were taking gifts from journalists. And you should be very concerned, too. I'm sure you are. That people are being offered meals, and tickets to games and things of real value. What were they getting in exchange? A new friend? Or someone who would be a source for them? It's very disconcerting. There are many disconcerting things in this report. And I know people are running around cherry picking it according to their own political point of view. What I would, what I would recommend, Chuck, is that everybody take the time to really digest 568 pages --CHUCK TODD: That I agree with. KELLYANNE CONWAY: -- because although people say that ‘oh the actions weren't biased,’ the people certainly were biased at the tippy tippy top. Jim Comey got a heroes welcome for some silly book about leadership, morality, and loyalty? And you've got Rod Rosenstein’s memo on May 9th, 2017, and you have this IG report essentially coming to the same conclusion, which is: he was insubordinate and outside the chain of command.CHUCK TODD: And if the President had never uttered the word Russia everybody would have -- to Lester Holt, then he would have -- be on a higher ground there. Kellyanne Conway, I have to end it there.KELLYANNE CONWAY: Thank you, Chuck.CHUCK TODD: Thanks for coming on.KELLYANNE CONWAY: Happy Father's Day.CHUCK TODD:Thank you very much and same to George.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

When the Justice Department's IG report was released on Thursday here was the reaction of the head of the F.B.I., Christopher Wray.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY:

This report did not find any evidence of political bias or improper considerations actually impacting the investigation under review. The report does identify errors of judgment, violations of or even disregard for policy and decisions that at the very least with the benefit of hindsight were not the best choices.

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now is the chief Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff of California. Congressman Schiff, welcome back.

ADAM SCHIFF:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start, where, actually - where we sort of ended there with Kellyanne Conway. The report did include that text message exchange between two romantically involved F.B.I. employees, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. And in one of them, in the text message, let me put it up, August 8th, 2016, Page stated, "Trump's not ever going to become president, right? Right?" And Strzok responded, "No, no, he's not. We'll stop it." If the shoe were on the other foot, can you imagine what Democrats would be saying? If they had text messages from New York F.B.I. agents, right, that said, "We're stopping her."

ADAM SCHIFF:

Yes, I certainly can. And, in fact, the report spells out that Loretta Lynch and James Comey talked about a virulent anti-Clinton bias in the New York office which is of equal concern to Democrats. We would, I hope, take solace in the fact though that the IG found that none of this had an effect on the decision making at the bureau. With respect to the New York office though we don't know that that's the case. Presumably that is--

CHUCK TODD:

Didn't Kellyanne just say the same thing? We don't know that's the case with Peter Strzok?

ADAM SCHIFF:

Well, the - the inspector general found it was not the case with Peter Strzok. But there was apparently an ongoing investigation by the IG into whether that New York field office was leaking to people like Rudy Giuliani or the chairman of our committee. That's ongoing. So we don't know the answer yet about whether that ultimately affected the revelation of the emails on Anthony Weiner's laptop.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to bring up your counterpart, the Republican chairman of the committee, Devin Nunes. Something amazing that he admitted to earlier this week. Take a listen.

[BEGIN TAPE]

DEVIN NUNES:

We had whistle blowers that came to us in late September of 2016 who talked to us about this laptop sitting up in New York that had additional emails on it. So good F.B.I. agents brought this to our attention. But what could we do with it?

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

For what it's worth, September 26th of 2016 is when this laptop was discovered. And he says late September. So that doesn't, I don't think, meet the definition of whistle-blowing. Essentially it was, he immediately found out and told Devin Nunes. He said, "We in the Intelligence Committee." Were you informed of this whistleblowing?

ADAM SCHIFF:

No. This is the first that we've heard about it. And it is deeply disturbing because if this was shared by New York field agents with Devin Nunes, was it also shared with Rudy Giuliani? Or did Devin Nunes do something which we have seen subsequently which is coordinate with the Trump team? Was this information shared by the committee with Rudy Giuliani or shared directly with them? We don't know the answer but we hope the inspector general will find out.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think Peter Strzok should still be with the F.B.I. at this point?

ADAM SCHIFF:

I don't know. I imagine that the Office of Professional Responsibility will have to make that decision. Certainly these texts messages are very troubling. The fact they were on a work email, the fact that they were co-mingled with emails discussing business, all that's problematic. Again, you know, the IG concluded that none of this affected decision making. But nonetheless, that was completely inappropriate.

CHUCK TODD:

The midterm elections are coming up. There's this idea that there should be pauses sometimes when you have sort of high-profile investigations. Is there a point where you think Mueller should publicly pause, continue the investigation but not, you know, is there a window where he shouldn't issue the report until after the election?

ADAM SCHIFF:

I think that he's very conscious of not making the same mistake that Comey made by having a decision or a public disclosure made close to the election. So I would have to think that within a suitable period of time before November.

CHUCK TODD:

When is that? Is it August one? Is it Labor Day?

ADAM SCHIFF:

I don't know whether that's 30 days, 90 days or more. But--

CHUCK TODD:

It’s not October.

ADAM SCHIFF:

It's not October. Absolutely not October. I think we're likely to see another indictment before that window. The hacking and dumping operation wasn't charged in the last indictment. And the only reason to exclude that when it was part of that same overall conspiracy is if that part of the indictment either involves U.S. persons or you haven't finished investigating whether to include U.S. persons.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to talk about the migrant crisis very quickly. There's going to potentially be this compromise piece of immigration legislation, Paul Ryan, that would include that some opportunities for citizenship, more protections for DACA folks. Look, not clear it would even have the support of some on the right because they call it amnesty. Is that a bill you could support, this moderate compromise that's coming up? Especially if it guaranteed that children weren't going to be separated from asylum seekers?

ADAM SCHIFF:

It's a moving target right now. What I've seen I think is problematic. But, look, what the administration is doing is they're using the grief, the tears, the pain of these kids as mortar to build their wall. And it's an effort to extort a bill to their liking in the Congress. It's, I think, deeply unethical. And by the president's -- making these provable falsehoods about what's required, the party adopting that has become - the GOP has become the party of lies. And it's such, I think, a sad degeneration--

CHUCK TODD:

Are you painting the--

ADAM SCHIFF:

--of the party.

CHUCK TODD:

--entire Republican Party with this?

ADAM SCHIFF:

I'm saying that Republican members of Congress -- Republican members of Congress who will not call out the president for demonstrable falsehoods on a daily basis and, and often trumpet them--

CHUCK TODD:

Mark Sanford did.

ADAM SCHIFF:

--become the party of lies.

CHUCK TODD:

He's going to be on here, later. Mark Sanford did and he lost.

ADAM SCHIFF:

Well, this is the problem because the GOP in Congress has become craven enough that they will do anything to maintain the majority. Even be complicit with a president who ignores and tears down the rule of law, who repeats falsehood after falsehood. They cannot maintain their integrity as a party if they follow this president.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, do you have a better solution on how to deal with this migrant crisis from Central America? It's now a four-year crisis.

ADAM SCHIFF:

Yeah. Well, you know first of all, I think we end this immoral policy of separating kids from their parents. And then I think, you know, we have to work with these countries to figure out what we can do to stem the violence back home, what we can do to humanely deal with people who are fleeing because they have no option but to flee. We need to be working with our southern neighbor, Mexico, to deal with this crisis. None of this can be solved by angry tweets or by using these families as leverage. Look, you're absolutely right. It's going to be very difficult to get a comprehensive immigration bill in an election year, in any year. So let's not tear these families apart in the meantime.

CHUCK TODD:

This shouldn't be a part of the immigration bill. Separating.

ADAM SCHIFF:

It shouldn't be. It's just plain wrong and immoral.

CHUCK TODD:

Adam Schiff, I have to leave it there. Ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Democrat from California, I should mention that, to your constituents out there. Thank you for coming.

ADAM SCHIFF:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, it's never comfortable to call the president of the United States a liar. But what do you say when the president says things that are provably false? Well, the panel's going to tackle that one when we come back.

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with the panel, New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, NBC News national political reporter Carol Lee, New York Times Pentagon correspondent Helene Cooper and Republican strategist Al Cardenas. Welcome all. All right, I've got to start with that breathtaking performance by the president on Friday morning. Let me put together this list of just outright misstatements, lies, whatever you want to call them. Take a listen.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

Well, no, there is no trade war. I think that the report yesterday may be more importantly than anything, it totally exonerates me. Some people say he lied and some people say he didn't lie. I mean, really it turned out maybe he didn't lie. Manafort has nothing to do with our campaign. The Democrats have to change their law. That's their law. President Obama lost Crimea, just so you understand.

CHUCK TODD:

Every single one of those things is absolutely not true, the Crimea one being the most ridiculous. There's no Democratic bill. Manafort for three months, more than, almost six months of the campaign. The president himself said Michael Flynn lied and that's why he fired him. The IG report was, of course, not about that. Bret Stephens, what do you do?

BRET STEPHENS:

Well, you have to be a sort of taxonomist of falsehoods. Traditionally the president's stock and trade has been to traffic in a substance that is identical to my initials. And this is a world between--

CHUCK TODD:

Your name again is Bret Stephens.

BRET STEPHENS:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, I just want to clarify.

BRET STEPHENS:

This is a world, sort of the gray world between clear truths and unmistakable lies. And there's always a question also about the president's state of mind because he says stuff and then often doesn't seem to remember what he had said the day, the hour, the minute before. I still think that you have to hold the president clearly accountable when he is contradicting information that he has previously purveyed. And that's what we call a lie, not a falsehood.

CHUCK TODD:

That's a fair point. It's funny you say this about his mental capacity. Andrew Sullivan went there. This is what he wrote, Helene, "If someone behaved like this in my actual life, if someone kept insisting that the sea was red and the sky green I'd assume they were a few sandwiches short of a picnic. It's vital for us to remember this every day almost no one else in public life is so openly living in his own disturbed world."

HELENE COOPER:

What do you want me to do? It's something that at the Times we've been wrestling with on the news side because we get a lot of letters from readers saying, "Why do you guys say the president made misstatements? Why do you say--"

09:29:32;16

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

Getting a lot of tweets right now.

HELENE COOPER:

Yeah, "Why don't you just call a lie a lie?" And we've said lied in the past. But what Dean Baquet, who's the executive editor of the Times has said is that he thinks that we shouldn't use it all the time because if we use it all the time it loses its meaning.

But this is something that I can't remember as a reporter wrestling with how do you call-- and he's right to a certain extent. If you keep saying lie, lie, lie it does lose its impact when there's a real whopper. But it's something I'm not used to having to deal with as a reporter when you're talking about the president.

CHUCK TODD:

It's disorienting.

CAROL LEE:

That's the thing because all politicians tell lies. We've all experienced this in covering politicians.

CHUCK TODD:

But there used to be honor among thieves.

CAROL LEE:

This is different. This is a different level. And I think what we struggle with as reporters is what do you label a lie? Because a lie has to be deliberate. And so with President Trump in order to call it a lie you have to be able to show that he is deliberately, intentionally doing that.

And there's a lot of times when he's ill-informed, he's misinformed. And you don't exactly know what his intent is. And so that adds a whole other dimension that we're not used to. But his false statements, there's nothing to compare it with the number of times that he--

AL CARDENAS:

After watching what you just played out here, you only reach one of two conclusions. Does he have mental capability issues? Or is he chronically doing this? And if he's doing it chronically is it purposeful? Or just a matter of habit or addiction?

BRET STEPHENS:

But there's also--

AL CARDENAS:

And so--

CHUCK TODD:

It does feel like he's selling a timeshare all the time.

AL CARDENAS:

And here's a point. The point politically is that it's less damaging for him to lie 18 times in one morning than once because the feature that helps him the most is the numbness because of the frequency and volume of these things. The numbness with the electorate. They have so much to absorb and so little time to do it that they go home half of the time confused rather than convinced that something is amiss here.

CHUCK TODD:

What a great point. Barack Obama got the quote, lie of the year, when he says if you like your health care plan you get to keep it. I think that was back in 2012 or 2013 or whatever it was. But you're right, he didn't serially do it. So here he's punished for one in a way uniquely, Bret.

BRET STEPHENS:

Sure.

CHUCK TODD:

The numbness.

BRET STEPHENS:

--the lies sort of disappear in their own ubiquity. But it's important for us--

CHUCK TODD:

It's right out of the Putin playback, by the way.

BRET STEPHENS:

Right. It's important for us in the media I think to pick our spots. I remember Senator McCain at one point said, "I can't be the car alarm that's always going off." And I think we also have to be careful about, for our own credibility, about being very scrupulous of separating what are clear lies or seem to be clear lies from misstatements, falsehoods. Otherwise it gets him an opening to call us the fake news media which is what he wants.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I want to transition a little bit because it's possible one of the reasons he did that crazy press scrum on Friday is that it's been a bad week legally for the president. This is all developments this week. Michael Cohen splitting with his legal team. Is he going to flip? Paul Manafort is now in jail. Is he going to flip?

Don McGahn, White House council reporter recused his office of the Mueller probe months ago. And now the New York attorney general is suing the Trump Foundation and referring perhaps a criminal complaint to the IRS, FEC. This was not a good week legally for the president.

CAROL LEE:

No. Not at all. And what you've seen him do is try to pivot from that and latch onto this IG report to argue that he's been vindicated and that there's bias at the F.B.I., and that the whole public campaign that he's been waging against the Mueller investigation is valid and that he's ramping that up.

And so not only did he do that scrum in the White House North Lawn which having covered the White House for eight years I've never seen the president do, but he also is latching onto that and preparing to really double down on their push back and effort to undermine the Mueller investigation.

HELENE COOPER:

What you left out from that White House was he also had an interview Friday morning on the White House lawn with Fox and Friends in which he also heaped all of this lavish praise on Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader and said he likes the way that he makes his people sit up at attention with him. And he wished he could do the same with his people. He said later on, "I was just kidding about that." But it's just been such an extraordinary, in a time where we've had a year and a half of extraordinary President Trump performances, I think Friday should be up there.

AL CARDENAS:

Here's the thing that's an indicator that's troubling. There's been a lot of talk about what Flynn may have done, what Manafort may have done. Some people tell me, "Well, those are selfish actions and those were horrible and they're paying a legal price for it. But what's that got to do with President Trump other than to say that he surrounds himself with people of questionable judgment and moral ilk?"

But when we had last week or week before that admission by the president himself that he wrote the script for the New York Times for his son, Donald Trump Junior, and three times before they lied about it then I say the myself, "There's more involvement here than meets the eye because with all the staff that he has for him personally to do this with his son, obviously he had to have a briefing of what occurred in order to write the thing." And so now we know of his involvement in a concrete way that we didn't know before.

CHUCK TODD:

And what was amazing is he almost admitted that, yes, look, I lied to TheNew York Times. So what? He didn't quite say it. He said, "You guys are no high tribunal--"

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

“You're no high tribunal." Apparently it's not illegal to lie to the American people either. When we come back, my interview with Republican Congressman Mark Sanford who just lost his primary largely because he was willing to criticize President Trump's personal conduct. And you know what, he hasn't stopped criticizing.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, Congressman Mark Sanford of South Carolina has been tough on fellow Republicans who criticize President Trump in private but are silent in public. And if you want to know why they're silent, Congressman Sanford is now exhibit A because he's soon to be former Congressman Sanford. Sanford has criticized President Trump in public and on Tuesday Mr. Trump tweeted the following, "Mark Sanford has been very unhelpful to me in my campaign to make America great again. He is MIA and nothing but trouble. I fully endorse Katie Arrington. Guess what happened? Sanford lost his primary to Arrington despite having voted with the president some 73% of the time. Sat down with the Congressman on Friday and I began by asking him whether he blames President Trump for his defeat.

REP. MARK SANFORD:

Plenty of blame to go around. But if you boil it down, I wasn’t Trump enough in the age of Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

REP. MARK SANFORD:

And yeah, so in that regard, he certainly had a hand in it.

CHUCK TODD:

You knew this for a while though, you saw this upfront.

CHUCK TODD:

When did it dawn on you that, boy, this is a tide that you're not going to be able to defeat?

REP. MARK SANFORD:

My boys had been saying this for a while and you begin to feel certain things. But, but, at the end of the day in this process, you've got to be you.

CHUCK TODD:

Uh-huh.

REP. MARK SANFORD:

And so I'd spoken out as I had with regard to the president. And it cost me. So, you know, the campaign commercials by the opponent were sort of a greatest hits of certain things I said against the president—

CHUCK TODD:

Right

REP. MARK SANFORD: -- over the last year and a half. But if you look from a policy standpoint, I was actually very supportive. So this was not about policy, it was about personal loyalty.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me play what some of your colleagues, how they reacted to your loss.

REP. MARK SANFORD:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

Take a listen.

[BEGIN TAPE]

REP. TOM COLE:

And when you're in primary season, again, it's usually a good thing not to be at odds with the most important elected official in the party.

REP. CHRIS COLLINS:

You're not on the same page as the president, and, 85, 90% of your base is, you can see where that could cause a problem.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

And it's okay to be critical, but you also have to add value. And, you know, my view is that I guess people didn't see the value.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

I know how close you and Lindsey Graham are. I think he's the godfather to one of your sons. I've noticed he's changed his style of late. It’s -- and you didn't.

REP. MARK SANFORD:

Uh-huh.

CHUCK TODD:

What did you make of that reaction?

REP. MARK SANFORD:

People are scared of getting bad news from the president, and they're going to say what they want to say. Again, the number of people who will say privately to you, "This is as tribal as I've seen it in my life," but then publicly, will say the kind of things that you just saw on air is remarkable to, to me. And that's been the case since the election. But even before when I was saying certain things where I legitimately disagreed with the president, based on stands that I'd held for 20 years of my life.

CHUCK TODD:

What's conservative to Donald – Do you think Donald Trump -- has the definition of conservative changed inside the Republican Party?

REP. MARK SANFORD:

I think we've got to do a whole lot of soul searching in this party. The number of calls, again, that I've gotten from folks back home, because it was a narrow victory--

CHUCK TODD:

Very narrow.

REP. MARK SANFORD:

--3,000 votes one way or the other.

CHUCK TODD:

Probably only 600 votes for a run-off.

REP. MARK SANFORD:

Right, correct.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

REP. MARK SANFORD:

But what was interesting is the number of people who said, "Look, I want something between sort of halfway crazy and Socialist, what's happened to our party?" I hear that over and over and over again. Because--

CHUCK TODD:

What's your explanation?

REP. MARK SANFORD:

Well legitimately, the Trump phenomenon was caused by people who wanted to see a change in the way that Washington works. And that is real and it needs to be acknowledged. But it has morphed or metastasized into something that is quite different about this larger loyalty to the president himself. And so have I been loyal to, you know, the conservative cause? Yeah, I've got every merit badge in the book if you want to call it that on the front.

CHUCK TODD:

Bob Corker said this, "It's becoming a cultish thing, isn't it? It's not a good place for any party to end up with a cult-like situation as it relates to a president that happens to be purportedly of the same party." Would you use that word?

REP. MARK SANFORD:

I wouldn't go so far as cult, but I would just say that, from an electoral sense, people are running for cover because they don't want to be on the losing side of a presidential tweet.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

REP. MARK SANFORD:

And from a popular standpoint, it's almost a Faustian bargain. I'll pander to you if you pander to me.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

REP. MARK SANFORD:

And that exchange is very dangerous really, with regard to, again, what the Founding Fathers set up, which is a system designed to garner debate and dissent. The idea that you can't speak out and say, "I disagree with you here but I agree with you on 90% of the stuff--"

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

REP. MARK SANFORD:

--is, again, a twilight world that I've never seen.

CHUCK TODD:

What about this issue that literally the president can just say whatever he wants, fact free, mischaracterized. The Friday morning spectacle was, was something to behold. You, like I said, you have said you have been troubled by his issues with the truth, you've been troubled by some of the things he's done with law enforcement. But speaking out cost you your political career. Jeff Flake, it cost his political career. These are two people --you guys are very like-minded libertarian-leaning conservatives. What does that say?

REP. MARK SANFORD:

That's a larger commentary on society and where we are. But because we've gone from George Washington, "I can't tell a lie by cutting down the apple tree," to they've become so replete that nobody even questions him anymore. And that's, again, a dangerous spot to be in a reason-based republic. I have a unique vantage point on this front. We all know the story of 2009 and my implosion.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes.

REP. MARK SANFORD:

A lie was told on my half -- behalf, which means I own it. More to the point, I was living a lie in that chapter of life.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes.

REP. MARK SANFORD:

But there were incredible consequences.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes, there were.

REP. MARK SANFORD:

Financially, politically, socially, I lost my -- I can go down a long list. A long list.

CHUCK TODD:

You paid a price.

REP. MARK SANFORD:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

You paid some price.

REP. MARK SANFORD:

And so maybe the reason I'm so outspoken on this now is there is no seeming consequence to the president and lies. And if we accept that as a society, it is going to have incredibly harmful consequences in the way that we operate going forward, based on the construct of the Founding Fathers.

CHUCK TODD:

Why is it just you and Jeff Flake and Bob Corker? Where's Speaker Ryan? Where's the head of the legislative branch?

REP. MARK SANFORD:

People are running for the hills. And, again, everybody – what you do as an elected official -- is an old time senator told me years ago the name of the game is staying in the game.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah. So you compartmentalize?

REP. MARK SANFORD:

You compartmentalize, you rationalize. I watched-- you know, I saw a thing the other day with Kevin McCarthy talking about how the president was a genius with regard to trade. And you're going, "Oh my goodness, tariffs are taxes." And yet, somehow, we're going to rationalize at a Republican Party leadership level that what the president's proposing with regard to, you know, using section 232 and go down the list--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

REP. MARK SANFORD:

--in very strange ways is somehow okay with what the Republican Party has historically stood for with regard to engagement or trade? I mean I could come up with a long list of things that people rationalized, but they do it fundamentally because they want to stay in the game.

CHUCK TODD:

You want to take these issues national in 2020 and, and debate the president about the direction of the party?

REP. MARK SANFORD:

No, I'm just trying to sort out the last 48 hours of my life. And, and, if you’ve -- I'd never lost election before. So this is new territory, but there's some real soul-searching that goes with it. I've had a, you know, a couple different chapters of life that have caused intense soul searching, this is going to be one of them.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back a lot of voters don't like either political party. But there's one party they really don't like right now and that could make a big difference in November.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, data download time. A big change in the kinds of voters this year who feel negatively about both political parties. And it could have a big impact in November. It's a key swing voting group. Overall compared to 2010 when Republicans gained 63 House seats this group of voters is now younger, less white and more likely to call themselves political moderates or liberal. The result, in 2010, voters that were dissatisfied with both parties favored the Republicans by 26 points. Now these dissatisfied voters favor Democrats by 14 points, a 40-point swing between 2010 and 2018 among those voters who don't like either party. And keep in mind, these are the throw the bums out voters. They rarely vote for the party in power. When we come back End Game and what to do about those kids separated from their parents at the border.

ANNOUNCER:

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CHUCK TODD:

Back now with end game and those kids at the border. Let me play for you guys the attorney general on Hugh Hewitt's radio show, Jeff Sessions, that -- explaining this policy that they have instituted. Here it is.

JEFF SESSIONS:

And every time somebody, Hugh, gets prosecuted in America for a crime, American citizens. And they go to jail they're separated from their children. And we don't want to do this at all. If people don't want to be separated from their children they should not bring them with them.

CHUCK TODD:

Al.

AL CARDENAS:

Yup. Separation anxiety. I'm a refugee. I came to America. I experienced it. The pain, the heartbreak of a child about that experience will never go away in their lifetime. And to justify that by saying they have a clean bed and food is -- is such a cruel comment regarding what's going on with the children and their hearts and their parents. I will debunk two myths or lies from the White House right now. Number one, things are not the same as before on two areas. Number one, officer refugee resettlement. Before this White House changed the rules they would be the ones that would intake these children. They would interview. Most of these children had relatives here, mostly undocumented. And they would turn the children over to these relatives. The president of the United States changed it and gave ICE the jurisdiction that the officer refugee resettlement for decades has had. So what does ICE do? If you're a relative undocumented, you come to interview to take that child, they deport you and the child remains alone. And so relatives are not claiming the children. And all of that is because of this policy. And the second policy that's really all here, the president has total authority to deal with the separation of children. And so all of those arguments are fallacious. In the meantime, we've had more than 2,000 children separated in just a few weeks. That's deplorable. It's wrong. And this thing needs to get fixed. I don't care. You know, I was listening this morning to Kellyanne and Congressman Schiff going back and forth. When it comes to human tragedy like this you don't stop the personal, let's call it time out for a week and get something done.

CHUCK TODD:

Helene, you think that the anonymous White House staffer will get -- be as harshly treated privately as Kellyanne Conway promised publicly?

HELENE COOPER:

Of course not. That was a really hard interview to listen to that you -- that you just conducted with Kellyanne Conway because it was just one talking point after another. ‘And of course my heart bleeds for these children being torn from their parents. I'm a mother.’ But at the end of the day this is what the administration has chosen to do. What Jeff Sessions said to Hugh Hewitt was preposterous as well. I mean he's sitting there and saying, comparing it to a criminal matter which means he’s saying that it is -- they’re treating it as if it's a crime to ask for political asylum in the United States. That's a ridiculous comparison.

BRET STEPHENS:

It's a master-class in cynicism which is, in turn, born of a philosophy that treats people trying to come to this country as criminals and as liabilities. You heard it in the president's comments about people from asshole countries. You heard it in previous Jeff Sessions' comments about why do we need these people who are--

CHUCK TODD:

John Kelly said they struggle to assimilate.

BRET STEPHENS:

You know, so there are two refugees at this table. And then I'm the son of a refugee. And I think we would all fairly say we're living an American dream and we're evidence that an immigration-based culture is also a success culture. You generally actually judge the success of societies by how many people want to come to them, not how many people want to flee them. One quick point, you know Angela Merkel, the Europeans have worked very hard with Turkey, with other countries to make sure that the refugee crisis there stays outside of their borders with some success. Some failures. We could do that. There are options other than a cruel and unusual punishment recalling -- almost recalling, I should say, Japanese internment.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, Carol. Last point.

CAROL LEE:

Well, this is a problem that the president created could easily, as you pointed out in your interview with Kellyanne, could easily undo. And yet he's kicking it over to Congress. And what's been interesting to watch is how this has divided his own party in the sense that you see the evangelicals and the religious Republicans say that this is not a good policy and put pressure on the White House. And yet, you know the president's trying to have it both ways where he's playing to his base and saying, "This isn't my fault."

CHUCK TODD:

Sadly, I have to end the conversation there. You guys can keep it going. But before we go I want to announce the return of the Meet the Press film festival. It's our second annual festival done in collaboration with the American Film Institute. And it will take place this October right here in Washington. To learn more go to NBCNews.com/MTPFilm. Maybe you want to submit a doc for our festival. That's all for today. Thanks for watching. Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there. We're back next week because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.