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Meet the Press - March 11, 2018

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NBC News - Meet the Press

“03.11.18”

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, President Trump and North Korea. First, the stunning announcement of a meeting with Kim Jong-un. Next, the White House backtracks.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS:

The president will not have the meeting without seeing concrete steps and concrete actions.

CHUCK TODD:

Then, last night.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

They're not sending missiles up. And I believe that. I believe that. I really do.

CHUCK TODD:

If the meeting happens, will President Trump get a deal to reduce nuclear tensions, or will Kim Jung-un get the elevated status he craves? Plus, the president makes it official, tariffs on steel and aluminum.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

You don't have steel, you don't have a country.

CHUCK TODD:

Many Republicans are not on board.

SEN. BEN SASSE:

This plan will kill steel jobs in America.

CHUCK TODD:

While some Democrats are all in.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN:

I agree with the president and his approach on this.

CHUCK TODD:

My guest this morning, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Republican Senator Jeff Flake. Also, a stormy week. The White House denies an affair between President Trump and porn actress Stormy Daniels. Then why did the president's lawyer get a restraining order to keep her quiet? Finally, she denies she's running. But Elizabeth Warren is sounding more and more like a presidential candidate. This morning, my interview with the senator from Massachusetts.

If you win reelection this year, are you going to pledge to serve a full six-year term? Joining me for insight and analysis are Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, Matt Bai, national political columnist for Yahoo News, and Peggy Noonan, columnist for TheWall Street Journal. 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. To be frank, we're running out of ways to say we've never seen a week like this one before. Well, let's review. Monday, former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg appears on cable TV, all over cable TV, and insists he will not comply with a subpoena to appear before Special Counsel Robert Mueller's grand jury.By Friday, he was appearing before Robert Mueller's special grand jury.

Tuesday, Mr. Trump's decision to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum leaves his chief economic advisor Gary Cohn to announce he's stepping down.

Wednesday, we learn that President Trump's lawyer recently obtained a restraining order to prevent porn actress Stormy Daniels from talking about her alleged affair with the president. Wednesday night, The Washington Post report that Mueller has learned that a secret meeting in the Seychelles Islands before the president took the oath was designed to create a back channel to the Russians.

Thursday, President Trump signs proclamations on the steel and aluminum tariffs as America's allies promise to retaliate.

Friday, we're all talking about the "I alone and fix it" president who announced a meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong-un. Then last night in Pennsylvania, the president, bashing opponents and praising himself while purportedly campaigning for Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone against the Democrat Conor Lamb. Bottom line, the head-snapping week of screaming headlines and seat-of-the-pants decisions is indeed the presidency Donald Trump promised and the presidency he seems most comfortable with.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

You know how easy, remember I used to say how easy it is to be presidential? But you'd all be out of here right now if I-- you'd be so bored.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump unleashed campaigning in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The official reason, a stop for Republican Rick Saccone, who's in a tough special election. But the president had another campaign in mind, his own.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

But our new slogan, when we start running in, can you believe it, two years from now, is going to be, "Keep America great," exclamation point.

CHUCK TODD:

And picking familiar targets, as well as a new one.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

Can you imagine covering Bernie or Pocahontas? Maxine Waters, a very low I.Q. individual. Nancy Pelosi, you can't have that. And Conor Lamb, Lamb the sham.

CHUCK TODD:

The president stunned U.S. allies and his own advisors Thursday night by announcing he will meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un face to face, without preconditions, tweeting, "Meeting being planned." That contradicted what his own secretary of state had said just hours earlier.

REX TILLERSON:

We're a long ways from negotiations. I think we just need to be very clear-eyed and realistic about it.

CHUCK TODD:

White House officials scrambled to explain what exactly the president was announcing, adding new preconditions to the meeting.

SARAH SANDERS:

They've promised to denuclearize. We have to see concrete and verifiable actions take place.

CHUCK TODD:

Then, walking those preconditions right back.They're not sending missiles up. And I believe that, I believe that. I really do.

CHUCK TODD:

And there was confusion this week on tariffs.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

Your steel is coming back.

CHUCK TODD:

With nearly half of his original White House staff gone or heading for the exits, and his presidency mired in a federal criminal investigation, Mr. Trump has decided he is the only one who can achieve a White House reset. And he's going it alone, acting as his own negotiator and strategist.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

There'll be people that change. They always change.

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Trump campaigned on being the only one able to strike tough deals.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

Nobody knows this system better than me. Which is why I alone can fix it.

CHUCK TODD:

Now he is tired of being reigned in and ignoring advice from those around him, as if all this weren't enough, the president is dealing with a growing sex scandal involving porn actress Stormy Daniels. The White House is trying to deny the relationship.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS:

He's denied all of these allegations.

CHUCK TODD:

While simultaneously admitting, perhaps unintentionally that they are trying to silence her.

SARAH SANDERS:

I've had conversations with the president about this, and as I outlined earlier that this case had already been won in arbitration.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, joining me now is Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, he is a principal on the National Security Council. Has dealt with a lot of the sanctions involving North Korea. Secretary Mnuchin, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

Thank you, it’s good to be here with you.

CHUCK TODD:

And more importantly, thank you for getting up so early on spring forward day out on the west coast. I am well aware of how painful that is. So thank you.

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

Just to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with something the president tweeted last summer, which is this: “The US has been talking to North Korea and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!” What changed?

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

Well first of all let me be clear. The president has been very clear in what the objective is here. And that is to get rid of nuclear weapons on the peninsula. We’ve been executing all year a maximum pressure campaign. It’s been very effective. Sanctions has been a big part of that. We’ve done more sanctions this year than the entire last ten years. And there is no question these sanctions are working and that’s what brought him to the table.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you to respond to something though that National Review’s editors wrote this weekend, under the headline “Don’t Meet With Kim.” They write this: “North Korean leaders have long sought summits with American presidents as the ultimate means of international legitimacy. And what has Kim done to deserve this honor? Over the last nine months or so, he murdered Otto Warmbier, threatened Guam, and launched multiple missile tests, including two that flew over Japan.” So you cited the tough sanctions. National Review says how can you reward Kim Jong Un with this, when he murdered an American citizen, among other things?

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

Well obviously there’s a lot of issues here. But I do find it amusing that the president has been criticized over the last year for being too aggressive, and many people said he should be using diplomacy. So now we have a situation where the president is using diplomacy, but we’re not removing the maximum pressure campaign. That’s the big difference here. The sanctions are staying on, the defense posture is staying the same as it is, so the president is going to sit down and see if he can cut a deal.

CHUCK TODD:

Are there concrete actions the North Koreans have to take for this meeting to happen as Sarah Sanders said, or not? There is some confusion there.

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

I don’t think there is any confusion. Or there shouldn't be confusion, the president has made it clear that the conditions are--

CHUCK TODD:

Have they been met?

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

There’s no --There’s no nuclear testing, and there’s no missiles. And those will be a condition through, through the meeting.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you comfortable here elevating Kim Jong-Un to this status? He’s a dictator, some people think he’s a murd- a murderous thug. Not a leader of a nation.

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

This isn’t about elevating anybody. This is about the president has been very clear. That he wants to everything possible to protect America and its allies. That the existing situation of testing nuclear weapons and missiles is completely unacceptable. I’ve sat in multiple tri-lat meetings with Japan and South Korea with the president. He’s been very clear. He’s spoken to all the allies including NATO. We’ve had more UN resolutions than any before. So I think this is a very clear strategy that’s working.

CHUCK TODD:

What would make this meeting not happen? There were some officials who anonymously told the New York Times that this was less than a 50 percent chance this meeting would happen. What could … What could knock it off the agenda?

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

Well clearly if they don’t meet their obligation on testing, and on missiles, that’s obviously a clear condition of the meeting. But, uh, I would expect the meeting goes forward. I don’t know why anybody would be handicapping this at 50 percent.

CHUCK TODD:

Fair enough. Let me ask you this. Do you believe that the North Koreans would have agreed to this if they didn’t already have, didn’t already believe that they have the nuclear weapons they needed to have to sort of protect themselves?

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

I have classified information of what they have and what they don’t have so I’m not going to make comments or speculate on that, but I do ...

CHUCK TODD: Yeah, but ...

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

I do believe that the reason…a major reason why they’re having this meeting is because the economic sanctions are having a very big impact on both their economy, and their ability to get pieces of material and other things they need for their weapons programs.

CHUCK TODD:

Is denuclearization of the Korean peninsula still the American policy? And is that what President Trump is going to demand in any meeting with Kim Jong-Un.

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

Absolutely. We’ve been very clear on it. That’s the objective and that’s what we’re going to accomplish.

CHUCK TODD:

Any clue yet on where this meeting’s going to happen? U.S. soil, Korean soil, either North or South? Chinese soil?

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

Those logistics haven’t been figured out yet, but I’m sure we’ll be working on those issues in the near future.

CHUCK TODD:

Is there anything that you ruled out? Anything that’s been ruled out of those three locations?

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

Nothing that I’m prepared to comment on.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to ask you about the president’s rally last night. He made a few comments about various folks. Let me play one about someone that you have to be in front of in Congress quite frequently, take a listen.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

Maxine Waters…a very low-IQ individual. Ever see her? You ever see her? You ever see her? We will impeach him. We will impeach the Pres -- but he hasn’t done anything wrong. Doesn’t matter, we will impeach him. She’s a low IQ individual. You can’t help it -- she really is.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

I think you most recently appeared before her committee. She’s the Ranking Member on House Financial Services. If somebody on your staff referred to her that way in public, would that person still be on your staff?

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

Chuck, you know I’ve been with the president and at campaigns. You know he likes to put names on people. He did that throughout the entire presidential election. Including all of the Republicans that he beat. So these are campaign rally issues.

CHUCK TODD:

So is that acceptable---so you’re saying that’s acceptable behavior for the rest of the administration too?

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

I…I…again.

CHUCK TODD:

Or just unique to him?

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

Again Chuck. This is something that is at a campaign rally. And the president likes making funny names.

CHUCK TODD:

Alright let me ask you … I’m going to play another clip here about what the president said about the media, versus Kim Jong Un, take a listen.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

A lot of bad people. A lot of fake media. Look at them. A lot of fake media. Fake, fake Media. South Korea came to my office after having gone to North Korea. And seeing Kim Jong Un. And, no, it’s very positive. No.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

So the image of an American president encouraging boos of American press corps-- of the American press corps, and discouraging boo’s of a dictator from North Korea. Your reaction, sir?

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

Look as you know, first of all this president has created lots of news. Okay, and there have been lots of misreporting on the president. What you should focus on is we’ve had a great week of results. So this is a historic situation of the president meeting with North Korea with no preconditions on the United States side, whatsoever. As well as steel tariffs. This was a big week for our trade and economic policies. We’ve been focused on for the last year creating solid economic growth. That’s been a combination of tax reform, which I think you know a lot of people said would never get done. 30 years in the making. Regulatory relief and trade. So the president is focused on economic growth and we’re well aware and on our way to our target of 3 percent sustained GDP.

CHUCK TODD:

Alright, I understand you wanted to get back on an economic message, but the president of the United States in the past has been a beacon of freedom of the press. Instead last night he was praising authoritarian figures in China and North Korea and encouraging boos of the American press. Does this mean it is…this American president is no longer going to be preaching about the values of freedom of the press and democracy around the world?

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

Of course he believes in freedom of the press and democracy around the world. And he believes more importantly in protecting democracy around the world. And that’s what we should be focused on, a week of policies. And as I said before…

CHUCK TODD:

You keep saying that’s what we should be focused on, then why can’t the president be focused on that, sir?

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

I think the president has been very focused on that.

CHUCK TODD:

Would you call last night’s speech a focused speech on that?

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

I wasn’t at the campaign rally, as you know. But again don’t don’t take these campaign rallies and focus them on that’s what it is, okay.

CHUCK TODD:

So should we stop covering the campaign rallies? Do you think it’s a mistake then for us to cover them at all? That it doesn’t matter what he says? If it doesn’t matter what he says there. If we are to dismiss everything he says at a campaign rally as I think you’re trying to imply, then are you saying we should cover these things?

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

No, you’re putting words in my mouth. I wasn’t in any way saying you should dismiss that whatsoever. And you should obviously carry them. Because these are important moments for the president. And this is news. What I’m trying to say is, I’m focused on the policies. And the policies have created results. We’ve had more results in the last year on both foreign policy and domestic matters. So what we should be focused on and what I came to talk about were the president’s policies.

CHUCK TODD:

I wanted to talk about those with you. Obviously he chose not to do that. Look, final question for you. Many people including myself raise their kids to respect the office of the presidency and the President of the United States. When he uses vulgarity to talk about individuals, what are they supposed to tell their kids?

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

Well again, I’ll be with my kids this morning, and I’ll be focused on them on what the president is doing to protect the United States, it’s citizens, and more importantly it’s economy.

CHUCK TODD:

So he’s not a moral-- don’t worry about his values, don’t worry about him as a role model.

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

I never said that whatsoever. So I don’t know why you’re putting these words in what I’m trying to say. Okay. So again, I am very comfortable with what we’re doing, okay? And again I think you’re trying to take this out of perspective, and implying something I’m not saying.

CHUCK TODD:

Fair enough, what do you…what are you supposed to say when he’s using these vulgarities, to kids?

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

Again, I think you should be focused on what the policies are. He’s using these vulgarities in the context of a campaign rally and obviously there were a lot of funny moments on, on, on that rally.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, they were hilarious. Anyway, Secretary Mnuchin. I appreciate you coming on, again. I know you had to wake up extra early. That I appreciate. Thank you very much sir.

SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Earlier this morning, I spoke with Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona and I began by asking him about the president's rally last night and Mr. Trump's kind words for Kim Jong-un and his harsh words for the press.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

Yeah, I don't know where to start. I mean, on this free press thing. He's done this before. He referred to the press as the enemy of the people. He stood next to Duterte as Duterte referred to the press as spies and laughed. Um, and it has an effect. Words matter. We had a record number of journalists being jailed overseas. Some on false news charges. Echoing the phrases that he uses. So I don't think it's a responsible thing to do. I really don't.

CHUCK TODD:

You've gone to the floor of the Senate and given multiple speeches sort of condemning the different things he's done in the presidency. Really less on policy. Almost the way his actions -- just the way he's comported himself. He doesn't seem to listen.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

Well, I mean, I think that the risk is that this becomes normalized and we take as normal what is abnormal. We should never normalize this kind of behavior, particularly from the president of the United States. So I think it does real damage long term to the political culture. It really does.

CHUCK TODD:

Should the rest of your party be joining you in this? I'm sure you think they will. Why don't they? It gets to a point where isn't it getting a little out of control?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

Well, I can tell you when every question you get in the hallway going to vote is about this, it just becomes tiresome. And I don't blame my colleagues for just saying, "Hey, you know, I'm just not going to comment anymore." But I think it's our responsibility at least at some point when he goes so far to stand up and say, "This is not normal. We should not normalize this behavior."

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Speaking of something that's not normal, President of the United States-- sort of, out of, not quite out of the blue but bucking his advisors, agrees to this one-on-one with Kim Jong-un. Uh, you have said there's no good options with North Korea. What do you make of this decision?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

Well, it looks as if North Korea has come to a point where they believe that they can be treated as a nuclear power. I think that's what it's about. They're at that point.

CHUCK TODD:

So you think he wouldn't be doing this if he didn't already have the weapon.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

Right. And, I mean, they certain don’t- haven't been able to test enough to be able to deliver a nuclear warhead here. They still have a long way to go. But they are at some point where they feel, I think, that they have to be treated as a nuclear power. So what I want to see, I think what all of us want to see, is the prep work done for this kind of meeting.I was one who said, you know, years ago when President Obama during the campaign, or his campaign said, "I'll sit down with Castro. I'll sat down with Ahmadinejad," I thought, "Well, good. A president ought to never rule that out." But the important thing is the diplomatic work that has to go in before such a meeting. A meeting like that would be kind of an afterthought after things are negotiated. Here it looks as if, you know, that's kind of the opening gambit. And that's a little worrisome.

CHUCK TODD:

Given that this is something that North Korean leaders, Kim Jong-un and his father, have both craved, which is a meeting with the American president, has Kim already won?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

Well, like I said--

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

--you know, it depends on what we do now. If we say, "All right. Let's step back. What work needs to be done?" I'll tell you you don't want to sit down with the leader of North Korea and give him that kind of victory unless you put the groundwork in, unless your diplomats have negotiated things. You know, what does this do to our alliances? What does it do to regular nonproliferation? What do we -- You know, there are a lot of things. I mean, dozens and dozens of meetings, high-level meetings, that need to happen before this.

CHUCK TODD:

Denuclearization still should be the American policy?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

Well, that's what we say our policy is. But I don't think anybody really believes that North Korea is prepared to denuclearize. Now, maybe a freeze where they say, "All right. We are a nuclear power. Let's get some security guarantees." But denuclearization, but if somebody is saying, I've heard it suggested, that that's what the North Koreans have already agreed to, I would question that.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I want to go to the tariffs issue. You have a bill. You want to try to block the president's tariffs on steel and aluminum. Are you still ready to introduce that bill now? Or do you want to see how many exemptions that the administration allows?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

No, I think it ought to be introduced now. And there's no exemption--

CHUCK TODD:

There's not an exemption you're in favor of?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

You know, the problem is when you, when you say, "All right. Let's have tariffs. But let's couple that with uncertainty," that's almost worse. I mean, those are dual poisons to the economy. You know, tariffs are awful. Tariffs married to uncertainty is probably even worse. And then to have a president in a position to say, "All right. Australia, all right. What are you going to do for me?"Or wake up one day and say, "You know, let's impose more tariffs here or there," that's an awful situation to be. And where one person is basically deciding, you know, tariffs go up or down depending on what kind of behavior. Is it something else he doesn't like? It’s just -- It's not the way to do business.

CHUCK TODD:

Is the Republican Party the party of free trade?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

You know, it's tough to make that case right now really. And I'm not saying, I’m not suggesting that what the president did wasn't popular in a lot of circles. It is. Free trade is rarely popular out on the stump, you know, in a campaign. But usually after the campaign the Congress gets together and says, "All right. Let's pass trade promotion authority," or, "Let's pass this trade agreement." I think we're going completely the wrong direction. We need to aggressively negotiate both bilateral and multilateral trade deals because we're going to be left behind. And, you know, when we only represent just over 20% of the world's economy, only 5% of the world's population, if we don't trade, we don't grow. And so we need to trade.

CHUCK TODD:

I know you're going to New Hampshire. When people go to New Hampshire, it always raises questions about running for president. Let me ask you this. Do you have any regrets about retiring?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

You know, I love the Senate. I love this institution. I love the Congress. I'm not leaving because of any ill will toward my colleagues or this place. This is a great system of government.

CHUCK TODD:

So why are you leaving?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

I- I just can’t. As a Republican who believes in free trade, limited government, economic freedom, I couldn't be reelected in my party right now. Somebody who voices, you know, reservations about where the president is or criticizes his behavior like last night, it's tough to be reelected in a Republican primary.

CHUCK TODD:

He's running for reelection already. He announced that last night basically. Do you think he needs to be challenged from somebody who espouses your views?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

Yes, I do. I do. I mean, it would be a tough go in a Republican primary. The Republican Party is the Trump party right now. But that's not to say it will stay that way.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Jeff Flake, Republican from Arizona, good to talk to you, sir.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

Good to talk to you.

CHUCK TODD:

A lot more presidential campaign news than we intended to make today. Anyway, when we come back, we're gonna break down the president's decision on North Korea and that unscripted speech last night in Pennsylvania with the panel. And later, the politician who's been raising hopes for progressives and raising their own profile lately, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, panel is here. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, Peggy Noonan, columnist for The Wall Street Journal and Matt Bai, national political columnist for Yahoo News. Okay.

PEGGY NOONAN:

Wow.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

Where do we start?

CHUCK TODD:

Yes, where do we start? I want to start with North Korea. Andrea, let me start with you. This was in Politico, it was a blind quote from a former Bush administration official, nervous about this Trump/Kim Jong-un meeting. And it says this, "Trump does not have bad meetings. He's had bad phone calls, but he doesn't have bad meetings. So this is going to be a huge victory for Kim." How does any meeting between Trump and Kim not turn into a victory for the North Koreans?

ANDREA MITCHELL:

It's hard to imagine how it doesn't. First of all, they've had a victory by setting the terms and by having the meeting itself, as you were pointing out. This is what all North Korean leaders have wanted. Three generations have wanted a meeting, legitimacy from an American president.

It is not prepared. There was no letter, despite leaks that there was. So we do not yet know what he's really offering. And the treasury secretary with you repeated the phrase, "Denuclearization. Our objective is denuclearization of the Korean peninsula." That is a trap. The Korean peninsula means we eliminate our nuclear umbrella from our allies.

What we want is for him to give up his illegal weapons. Not for us to give up our nuclear security umbrella for South Korea and Japan. This just shows you the lack of, shall we say, competence or familiarity with these details. They do not have a North/South Korean expert, they don't have an ambassador, their top expert just quit in frustration, I am told, because Tillerson would not take him to White House meetings. There is no one in the House who knows this issue.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. But do you know what Donald Trump's going to say, Peggy--

MATT BAI:

I'm surprised that (UNINTEL) gets to go to White House meetings.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Well, not always.

CHUCK TODD:

Hadn't worked for 25 years, so why not?

PEGGY NOONAN:

Sure. And I understand that. He says, you know, people say they want diplomacy, they want diplomats running around. We've had diplomats running around. Nothing got better, everything got worse. However, you have to know two things about this meeting. One is we don't have any idea what's going to happen.

I mean, you can argue maybe something good, maybe something bad. The other is though it's high risk. Here's how it's high risk. Normally, you're talking to a country, negotiating private channels, getting things going. And as they go well, you get a gift. And the gift is the meeting. But you've pre-wired the negotiations. This is giving the gift and the reward ahead of time in hopes that it will guarantee good wiring and a good meeting. That's chancy. Nobody knows how this goes.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

And you know ‘cause what happens is the other party takes the gifts, says, "Thank you very much," and then, you know, starts once again, you know, from a maximalist position. But, you know, what I think is riskier though is to have a Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un hurling insults and threats at each other. And to have a U.S. administration talking about the absurd, catastrophic idea of giving a bloody nose to North Korea, some sort of limited strike.

That could immediately mushroom into, you know, a local Armageddon basically for itself. So I think great. If they want to sit down and talk, that's better than this alternative, which is where we seem to be drifting.

MATT BAI:

Except, and look, I think the best and most interesting moments of the Trump presidency are when he throws, you know, the orthodoxies to the wind and sort of does a snap, does his own thing. That's what people wanted from him. And that's what makes him sort of an interesting president, at his best moments. Except that the problem I have, Gene, is that he has at every turn shown a really unsettling appreciation for, or at least lack of antipathy for tyranny and autocracy.

And if you're going to sit down with tyrants and autocrats, you have to have, I think, as an American president, one would think it's a given, to have a deep-felt conviction about the supremacy of democracy.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Especially if they flatter him.

MATT BAI:

You don't hear that from him.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

No, and one quick point is, he wants results. If he were going to a meeting, and I don't think it's a great idea at the front end, but if he were going to a meeting saying, "Now our experts will work and do this hard, this is just a get to know you." But he wants results and he will be impatient. And what is a downside if he gets angry at what he experiences? Then it escalates, because you have no other option.

PEGGY NOONAN:

When you don't have diplomacy to go to because you've exhausted your diplomacy, then things go boom. That's the scary part.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

But he'd like to come out of meetings with success. So I predict he will claim success, if there is indeed a meeting.

CHUCK TODD:

No matter what.

EUGENE ROBINSON:

He will claim success. The actual success will have been had by Kim. But I don't think he'll--

MATT BAI:

That is what he promises. He's a deal maker. That's what he promised.

CHUCK TODD:

I've got to bring up last night’s rally a little bit. Because to me, it was a culmination of a week that he loved his presidency this week. This was the presidency he dreamed of. But what was funny was about how he sort of mocked the idea of being presidential, Peggy. Watch.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

I'm very presidential. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being here tonight. Rick Saccone will be a great, great, congressman. He will help me very much. And then you go, "God bless you and god bless the United States. Thank you very much."

CHUCK TODD:

Peggy, I want to tee you up here because he went after you.

PEGGY NOONAN:

Yes, why?

CHUCK TODD:

But you're a nice lady. Apparently you write about him being a Neanderthal all the time. But it actually, I said, well, we looked at your column this week. And you note this, you say, "Centrists and moderates are trying to wrap their head around him, in that yes, it's crazy, but maybe it's working."

But then you write this, "Crazy doesn't last. Crazy doesn't go the distance. Crazy is an unstable element that when let loose in an unstable environment, explodes. If the president is the way he is on a good day, what will he be like on a bad day? It all feels so dangerous."

PEGGY NOONAN:

Yeah, that was a column in which I tried to wrap my head around how many folks and business and folks on the ground in American politics, moderates, centrists, look at this White House and they say, "You know, in terms of this, this, and this, this is kind of working." But then I look at this, this, and this, his actions, and I think he's kind of crazy." And they have to go, "It's kind of working. He's kind of crazy." And it causes a certain disquiet and confusion. I have to say in fairness, isn't disquiet a nice word?

MATT BAI:

Though crazy is just might--

PEGGY NOONAN:

He was very--

MATT BAI:

That was right.

CHUCK TODD:

No, that was a very funny little routine. He's not wrong about all those people.

PEGGY NOONAN:

It was very, it was spoofy and there was, I think he was making fun of these false formality, meant to give an air of seriousness to many of our politicians. I would like to note merely he seems to think that in this column I called him a Neanderthal. I did not, I would not. I've been studying Neanderthals. They had great cave paintings, those paintings spoke of a certain sensibility, a certain artistic complexity, their tribes were organized. I would not call him a Neanderthal because that would not be fair.

(OVERTALK)

EUGENE ROBINSON:

--more I.Q. They were not--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

There you go. You've got to stop there, guys. All right. When I come back, it's Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Is Senator Elizabeth Warren running for president? Here's what she says.

--BEGIN TAPE--

ELIZABETH WARREN:

No, I am not running for president. I am not running for president in 2020. I am running in 2018 for Senator from Massachusetts.

CHUCK TODD:

Many have noted that Warren's comments are in the present tense, as in, "I'm not technically running for president at this moment. But I may be running for something in the future." Warren has recently been raising her profile in a manner that has some asking not if she's running, but when she will announce. I talked to Senator Warren late yesterday and I began by asking her what she thinks of President Trump's decision to meet with Kim Jong-un.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

I want to see our president succeed, because if he succeeds America succeeds. The world is safer.But I am very worried that they're gonna to take advantage of him. And it starts right where you asked this question. And that is leaders of North Korea, for a very long time, the Kim family, has wanted to meet face-to-face with a U.S. president. That is a win for them. It legitimizes, in their view, their dictatorship and legitimizes their nuclear weapons program. Before they get that kind of prize, we should insist that they make some real changes--

CHUCK TODD:

But senator--

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

--verifiable changes to their programs.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, senator, the president would say, "Hey, we've tried it all sorts of traditional ways for 25 years. It hasn't worked. Whether it's having the proper country to country relationships." And he's going, "You know what? None of that's worked. What's wrong with trying to shake things up?"

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

Look, I'm in favor of shaking things up if you're sensible about it. But the idea of handing them the prize, that we’re gonna ---you know, this North Korean dictator is going to be able to up in the photograph with an American president, that's the prize. That’s the part they want.

CHUCK TODD:

Mark Warner. He's one of the original, original drafters of Dodd-Frank. But you and he are on opposite sides of this legislation that is trying to revoke some provisions in Dodd-Frank that have to do with providing some relief, what he says, for community banks and credit unions, smaller banks. Barney Frank says that this is not going to make a serious dent in Dodd-Frank. Why are you so vehemently opposed to these changes?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: if this were just a bill about community banks, I'd be all on board. But I oppose this bill because it's not, and actually I think Barney opposes it as well. This bill says—

CHUCK TODD:

He does oppose it, but he also said he didn't think it was going to do much damage.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

Yes. But –well, but let's talk about that. It takes 25 of the largest 40 banks in America. Those 25 got more than $50 billion in taxpayer bailouts. Nobody went to jail. And it says, "Let's regulate them as if they were tiny little community banks that couldn't do any damage to the economy."Now, let's be clear. A quarter of a trillion dollar bank is not a community bank.

CHUCK TODD:

It's not unusual for Democrats to disagree, but some are taking issue with the tone you used to disagree with some Democrats. They were not happy when you sent a fundraising email. And, in Politico, anonymous attacks on you, I grant you, but here's one blind quote, "So you want Dems to win in all 50 states on the condition that senators from North Dakota and Montana agree with the senior Senator from Massachusetts on everything all the time. This is the Republicans' dream, which is to see Democrats work across the aisle, and Elizabeth Warren kill them for it." How do you respond?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

Look, I don't understand how anybody in the United States Senate votes for a bill that's going to increase the likelihood of taxpayer bailouts. This bill also makes it easier for banks that discriminate against people on home mortgages, charges more for African Americans or Latinos than they do for whites. Makes it easier to cheat people who buy mobile homes, if those are the kinds of homes they live in.I don't think that a bill like that is good for anybody in America. This isn't Democrats or Republicans or blue states or red states. I think that we do better as a country and we do better as a Congress when we're there to fight for working people and not for Wall Street banks.

CHUCK TODD:

If you win reelection this year are you going to pledge to serve a full six year term?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

So look, I am not running for president of the United States. I am running for the United States Senate. 2018. Massachusetts. Whoohoo. But let me actually make a -- underline a point on this one, and that is we can't just be a party that says, "Oh, we're paying attention about what happens every four years."And I know there's a lot of anxiety, particularly on the Democratic side, about how we are gonna deal with Donald Trump in 2020. But right now, this week, the United States Senate is talking about a bill that will roll back protections. We've got the Dreamers. We've got the tax bill that's gone through. We're still fighting to provide healthcare for everyone. We’ve now -- we should be having a gun debate on the floor of the United States Senate. It's not only about the election in 2018 where I think we do need to be laser focused. But it's about the fights every single day.

CHUCK TODD:

I take it as a no?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

I'm in this fight. That's where I'm focused.

CHUCK TODD:

I take it as a no you're not pledging to serve your full six year term if you win reelection?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

I already told you. I have no intention of running for the United States—

CHUCK TODD:

All right.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

For president.

CHUCK TODD:

I don't mean to pick on you about this, but you know how many people have said that—

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

Yes, you do.

CHUCK TODD:

You know how many people have said that over the years two years before, and then of course have run -- ended up running for president. You see why a lot of people aren't going to believe that answer.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

Look, what I'm telling you is that I am in these fights every day. For the people of Massachusetts, and for the people across this country. This government is working better and better and better for a thinner and thinner slice at the top. I am in these fights, and I am in this fight to retain my Senate seat in 2018. That's where I'm focused. That's where I'm going to stay focused. I'm not running for president.

CHUCK TODD:

So no pledge, though, on the six years?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

I am not running for president.

CHUCK TODD:

I know. Duly noted. Finally, I want to get you to respond to the Berkshire Eagle editorial. I know you've been asked about it before, but I'll go ahead and put it up for viewers. “Were you to test positive” -- They want you to take DNA test."Were you to test positive for Native American DNA it would permanently resolve the issue, while possibly shutting down President Trump. Should the test come up negative, it would be an opportunity for the senator to perform an act rarely seen among politicians, an admission of her error and a full throated apology to Native American tribes and anyone else offended by her spurious claim." What do you make of that idea?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

So let me tell you the story of my family. My mother and daddy were born and raised in Oklahoma. My daddy first saw my mother when they were both teenagers. He fell in love with this tall, quiet girl who played the piano. Head over heels. But his family was bitterly opposed to their relationship because she was part Native American.They eventually eloped. They survived the Great Depression. The Dust Bowl. A lot of knocks. They raised my three brothers, all of whom headed off to the military, and me. And they fought. They loved each other. And most of all they hung together for 63 years. And that's the story that my brothers and I all learned from our mom and our dad, from our grandparents, from all of our aunts and uncles. It's a part of me, and nobody's going to take that part of me away.

CHUCK TODD:Senator Warren went on to claim that she's never benefited from her Native American heritage. You can see my entire interview with Senator Warren at MeetThePress.com. I encourage you to do so. It was quite interesting. Be back in a moment with that special election on Tuesday in Pennsylvania and why it's so important to President Trump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:Welcome back, data download time. As we saw earlier, President Trump is diving headfirst into a special House race in Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district. So why all the interest? Well, this version of the Pennsylvania 18th shouldn't even be a battleground. President Trump won this district by 20 points in 2016, the Republican incumbent ran unopposed. Yet now, it's a total tossup. So what happened? This suburban Pittsburgh district that was designed by and for Republicans, the version of Republicans in 2010. It's overwhelmingly white, well-educated with a higher-than-average income. It was perfect for that version of the Republican party. But times have changed. The president won just 48% of college-educated whites in 2016. And now his approval rating with that group is down further, 29%. Bottom line, President Trump is trying to prove that he can still win in what was recently Trump country. We shall see on Tuesday. We'll be back in a moment with endgame and what we're learning about President Trump, Stormy Daniels, and that alleged affair.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:Back now with endgame. And as if we needed more stuff. This Stormy Daniels situation, it's salacious, it's sheer predictable headlines. But I want to put out what Michelle Goldberg wrote in The New York Times on Friday. "It's becoming clear that for all its sordid details, it isn't really a sex scandal. It's a campaign finance scandal, a transparency scandal, and potentially part of an ongoing national security scandal. It's salacious and absurd, but we should take it seriously." Matt Bai, is she right?

MATT BAI:I don't think so. I understand the point. You know how I am on stuff like this. It just all makes me uncomfortable. Look, we've spent the last three decades as an industry saying, "We don't care about your sex life, we care about your hypocrisy. You're always telling us how moral you are, and then we catch you being immoral." Well, Donald Trump's not guilty of hypocrisy. Say whatever you want. He's been all over the place saying he's had affairs, he's bragged about his sex life, about, you know, likening it to Vietnam, you know, trying to, trying to evade the diseases during the, during the '70s.

ANDREA MITCHELL:Last night saying, I don't have a problem with--

(OVERTALK)

MATT BAI:I mean, you know, to my, look, I have enough reasons, I have enough reasons on policy and on behavior to be unsettled deeply by this presidency. I don't really need this one and I don't think it's a bad one.

EUGENE ROBINSON:Actually, I think it's a bigger story than that though.

CHUCK TODD:Do you?

EUGENE ROBINSON:Because I think there is plenty of hypocrisy going around. Number one, the president is lying about the Stormy Daniels affair. He had Sarah Sanders come out and tell a story that really made no sense. And then reveal a bit of the story.

(OVERTALK)

MATT BAI:He lies every day, Eugene. We catch him lying every day about important stuff.

EUGENE ROBINSON:I think people kind of get that. I also think frankly it raises the question about President Trump's supporters and why, like the evangelical Christian community, for example, a lot of people who in the past have been aghast at lapses of presidential morality. Seem to be almost French at this point.

PEGGY NOONAN:I think part of the reason is Matt, what Matt says about Trump never put himself forward as morally exemplary, one of the things that hits me about the Stormy Daniels story quickly is that it doesn't seem to have had an impact really on anything. And the reason I think is that those who don't like Donald Trump, it's more confirmation of their dislike. Those who like him never had the illusion that this was in his personal life an exemplary person. One of them told me a year and a half ago, I said, "Who are you electing?" He said, "A junkyard dog." They saw it as Donald Trump's job to go in there and destabilize and be rough.

ANDREA MITCHELL:Access Hollywood, that tape proves they’ve, that people, voters, have discounted this. They accept the fact that he was a womanizer and that there's a vulgarian in the Oval Office. I mean, that is the persona. I do think that the lying is an issue. The lying from the podium is an issue. I hate the fact that they're lying about trade deficits. They don’t even, he is misstating the facts on trade deficits. That's important. But I do think that transparency and honesty is something that we need to expect from our presidents.

CHUCK TODD:Melania may care about this story. I do think that sometimes, and you know, he's already feeling isolated perhaps by his team. And suddenly you're not there. But this morning, the president's tweeting about his legal team. Matt Bai?

MATT BAI:Well, as president, generally as president if you're tweeting about changes in your legal team, things are going the way you might have, you might have hoped.

CHUCK TODD:And yet, very comfortable denying The New York Times story that he's, that he’s unhappy with his legal team, that he's fine, and he name-checks them all, John Dowd, Jay Sekulow, Ty Cobb.

EUGENE ROBINSON:That's a part of that tweet that just came out actually, said well story was by Maggie Haberman of The New York Times, who was given no access. We happened to know.

CHUCK TODD:It's the person he calls up first.

PEGGY NOONAN:Oh my goodness.

EUGENE ROBINSON:He calls up first, he drags into the office to harangue.

(OVERTALK)

ANDREA MITCHELL:He doesn't like the fact that a lawyer that Maggie wrote about him hiring is an impeachment expert. That just speaks of desperation.

CHUCK TODD:That the word "impeachment" was in the story.

ANDREA MITCHELL:Impeachment is in the story.

PEGGY NOONAN:Of course.

ANDREA MITCHELL:And the fact is that they are very worried about where Mueller is going. They're in negotiations as to how to try to put the president out there or not. And they are worried about the outcome of it.

MATT BAI:If you were the president’s lawyers would you want him in a room with those prosecutors under oath?

ANDREA MITCHELL:Well, guess what the alternative is? The alternative is a protracted legal argument which they will lose with a grand jury subpoena and something that Donald Trump might be the first and only president of the United States who could do, is to take the Fifth Amendment. And that's the equivalent to shooting people on Fifth Avenue and get away with it. Take the Fifth Amendment by telling people, by inoculating, "It's a witch hunt," this is what some people think is the whole diminishing of Bob Mueller. Getting his base to believe that he can take the Fifth because they're coming after him.

CHUCK TODD:Take the Fifth and pardon a couple people and walk away?

ANDREA MITCHELL:And walk away.

CHUCK TODD:That that's what he's going to try to do?

ANDREA MITCHELL:Other people might go to jail--

(OVERTALK)

PEGGY NOONAN:Wow.

ANDREA MITCHELL:And will.

EUGENE ROBINSON:Give it a shot. I'm not sure that's going to work.

ANDREA MITCHELL:It’s a legal, it may be the only legal strategy.

PEGGY NOONAN:I understand.

CHUCK TODD:Is that a legal strategy at this point or is that a political strategy?

ANDREA MITCHELL:It's a political strategy.

EUGENE ROBINSON:It's a political strategy.

CHUCK TODD:I was just going to say, it's the only political strategy that can work.

ANDREA MITCHELL:I mean, it may be the only political strategy for his lawyers--

(OVERTALK)

EUGENE ROBINSON:Yeah, because it's only legal jeopardy. It's political, right? It's impeachment.

ANDREA MITCHELL:And that's not the silliness of giving Bob Mueller, of Bob Mueller ever agreeing to a time limit. That is not going to happen.

CHUCK TODD:Of all days to lose an hour, this was a day we needed an extra hour and then some.

ANDREA MITCHELL:To avoid the sleepy eye.

CHUCK TODD:Well, there's that too. Anyway, thank you very much. That's all we have for today. Neanderthals, sleepy eyes and all, we'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

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