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NBC News - Meet the Press

“03.25.18”

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, crisis, chaos, and confrontation. President Trump relying on his instincts and doing it his way. Four new faces in new places, all seen as fighters and all speaking the president's language.

JOE DIGENOVA:

A group of F.B.I. and D.O.J. people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely-created crime.

CHUCK TODD:

As Mr. Trump gears up for battles at home and abroad. My guests this morning, former Trump campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski who says, "Let Trump be Trump." And the lead Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner of Virginia. Plus, hundreds of thousands marched from Washington.

CAMERON :

Stand for us or beware, the voters are coming.

CHUCK TODD:

Around the country.

FEMALE VOICE:

And with your vote and our voices and that we make the real change.

CHUCK TODD:

And around the world demanding that something be done about gun violence. The movement has captured the world's attention. But will it produce change? And Facebook's face-plant.

MARK ZUCKERBERG:

This was a major breach of trust. And I'm really sorry that this happened.

CHUCK TODD:

Mark Zuckerberg promises to make sure the social network never loses control of its data again. Can Facebook protect our information and its reputation? Joining me for insight and analysis are Hugh Hewitt, host on the Salem Radio Network, NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent Kasie Hunt, Robert Costa, moderator of Washington Week on PBS, and Heather McGhee, president of the liberal group Demos. 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. Five and a half weeks after 17 people were murdered in that mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, hundreds of thousands of people led and inspired by students, marched in more than 800 cities and towns around the country and the world against gun violence. Now, we've seen marches for civil rights, for women, for the tea party.

But this is a first on the issue of guns. The largest of the gatherings was right here in Washington D.C., where students from Marjory Stoneman High School issued a challenge to members of Congress.

DELANEY TARR:

They know that if there is no assault weapons ban passed, then we will vote them out. They know that if there is no tightening of the background checks, we will vote them out.

CHUCK TODD:

We're going to have much more on the debate over guns in America later, when we bring you my discussions with seven people in Madison, Wisconsin, gun owners and opponents, on how to prevent gun violence while still respecting and abiding by the Second Amendment. It's all part of the NBC News series Solutions: Gun Violence. But we're going to begin this show with a president who increasingly seems to embrace crisis, chaos, and confrontation as his White House management style.

In just the last two-plus weeks, President Trump has added or promoted four men to his team, all of whom the president considers to be fighters. Replacing people who told him things he didn't want to hear. And Mr. Trump is gearing up for many fights, against China on trade, against North Korea and its nuclear program, against Iran and the nuclear deal struck by President Obama and U.S. allies, against Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation, and against Stormy Daniels and her claim of a sexual affair.

To some Americans, President Trump's staff changes and legal changes mean the world just got a lot more dangerous. To others, he just did what was necessary to get tough with his and the country's adversaries.

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Trump is reveling in the chaos he creates and testing his limits.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

You're fired. Get the hell out of here. I made a lot of money with that phrase.

CHUCK TODD:

This week, the president continued to dismiss advisors who would put up guard rails on Iran and North Korea, on trade, and on his own legal defense. Replacing them with a combative, cable-news-ready team eager to say yes to his first instincts. On Thursday morning, the president's chief lawyer handling the Mueller probe, John Dowd, resigned. After Mr. Trump made it clear he was bringing in a more aggressive attorney, a frequent commentator on Fox News, Joe DiGenova, who has pushed this conspiracy theory on television.

JOE DIGENOVA:

Make no mistake about it. A group of F.B.I. and D.O.J. people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely-created crime.

STEVE BANNON:

I think President Trump's going to war. I think it's very obvious he's going to go to war on this.

CHUCK TODD:

The president suggested that at least for now, he plans to ignore Dowd's advice against sitting down with the special counsel.

REPORTER:

Would you still like to testify to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, sir?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

Thank you.

REPORTER:

You would?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

I would like to.

CHUCK TODD:

By Thursday evening, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster was out. Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton was in, hearing of the announcement appropriately enough while on TV.

JOHN BOLTON:

I think I still am a Fox news contributor.

MARTHA MACCALLUM:

No you're not, apparently.

JOHN BOLTON:

I didn't really expect that announcement.

CHUCK TODD:

Bolton is an advocate of regime change in Iran and North Korea. Recently calling a preemptive strike in North Korea "perfectly legitimate."

JOHN BOLTON:

I think that their history over decades is that they, like Iran, like others, use negotiations to bide time to conceal their nuclear weapons and ballistic missile activities.

CHUCK TODD:

And he continues to defend his support of the Iraq War, which the president campaigned against.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

The war in Iraq was a big, fat mistake, all right?

CHUCK TODD:

But the president has long been enamored with TV-friendly advisors.

CHUCK TODD:

Who do you talk to for military advice right now?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I watch the shows. I mean, I like Bolton. I think he's, you know, a tough cookie, knows what he's talking about.

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Trump's shifting moods and willingness to be guided by Fox News and other conservative commentators is creating confusion inside the White House. On Thursday, Mr. Trump's top aides declared victory on the congressional spending bill.

MICK MULVANEY:

Is the President going to sign the bill? The answer is yes.

CHUCK TODD:

But on Friday morning, the president tweeted that his answer might be no, threatening a veto after many on Fox News tore the bill apart.

LAURA INGRAHAM:

This is not what the president promised.

CHUCK TODD:

Then the president held an event to announce that actually, he was signing the bill anyway.

RUSH LIMBAUGH:

I'm feeling like I just saw Donald Trump get on the escalator and go back up.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, joining me now from Manchester, New Hampshire is President Trump's first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. And you, of course, wrote -- co-authored a book that said Let Trump Be Trump. So we figured, why not talk to Mr. Lewandowski about this. Welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

Thank you, Chuck. Thanks for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

So, what does the reshfullfing underway at the White House -- how -- you know this man very well. You spent over a year traveling the country with him. What’s he up to?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

Well, what this is is the president again continuing to follow through on the promises that he made on the campaign trail which is putting America first. And when he brings in new individuals, he takes information from all of the people around him and then listens to those positions and then he makes the final decision. But what you have to have inside the building are people who are on the president's agenda. Whether that means this president is implementing steel and aluminum tariffs, if you’re not on that agenda, you might not want to be in the building. If this means that we’re going to ensure that there is no continuation of nuclear weapons in North Korea, then you’re going to have to make sure you’re in the building, and you’re listening and you’re part of the president's team. So he is bringing people in who are on his team to make sure that his agenda is moving forward.

CHUCK TODD:

So your advice to anybody that disagrees with the president’s agenda, “get out.”

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

No, no, not at all. I -- I completely disagree with that. You can have a disagreement with the president. He wants to have conversations on all sides. But when the decision is made, you have to be on the team because the president is the final arbiter.

CHUCK TODD:

So, if you disagree with the decision, don’t leak, get out, I guess is what you’re saying, though. You’re saying, you can disagree with him, but once he makes a decision, you better support it, and if you don’t, then you should leave?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

Well, Chuck what I’m saying here is it’s the president's final call. And, you know, if you’re a staff member, you have to be on the president’s team, and you can disagree privately, but publicly, it’s very problematic. And look, what we saw this week was a leak of a conversation between the President of the United States and Vladimir Putin from someone within the Deep State and that is very, very concerning to the American people that that information is being made public.

CHUCK TODD:

Leaked from the Deep State? So you th-- so an aide to the president might be part of the Deep State? Is that what you believe?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

I absolutely believe that it came from someone within that building. There are very few people who are aware of the briefing document that the president was provided, and very few people were aware of the actual conversation that took place. And I think there should be accountability.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this. Where did Rex Tillerson go wrong?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

Well, look. Rex had a fundamental different philosophy when it came to American relationships abroad, specifically as it relates to the, the nuclear deal. He thought it was a good deal. And the president has said many times it was a bad deal. And the president has said, particularly as it came to North Korea, that he was going to continue to put pressure on North Korea and that finally, the president was willing to sit down with Kim Jong-un, and Rex didn't think that that was the right decision.

CHUCK TODD:

Where did H.R. McMaster go wrong?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

Well, I think where H.R. McMaster went wrong is, you know, you’ve got-- you had a number of generals in the building with H.R. McMaster and General Kelly. And I think H.R. McMaster was the individual in the building who was advocating for a larger presence in Afghanistan, which the president had talked about during the campaign that he wasn't in favor of. And more intervention on behalf of the military, and that's not where this president is.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you about John Kelly, because here's what you told me. You actually were on the show, I think, the week that it was announced that he was going to become the next chief of staff. Here's what you told me at the time.

(BEGIN TAPE)

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

I think General Kelly is going to restore order to the staff. General Kelly is going to bring the type of discipline to the staff to ensure that the leaks are stopped and that the president's agenda is foremost of what takes place in that building. So there'll be no more backbiting, there'll be no more stabbing each other in the back.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Well, that was July 30th of last year. How's John Kelly done?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

Well, I think by and large General Kelly has done a good job in trying to control those leaks. You know, what we've seen for an extended period of time.

CHUCK TODD:

What about this week? I mean, you just railed against--

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

Well, this week--

CHUCK TODD:

--a major, problematic leak.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

Oh Chuck, I agree with you. And I'm telling you, I think General Kelly, he has publicly said how frustrated he has been. They're getting to the bottom of it. And now what you've seen is you've seen the change at the National Security Council. You've seen a change at National Economic Council. And what I hope both John Bolton and Larry Kudlow bring in is a team which is on the president's agenda. And if they find individuals who are leaking information, I hope they terminate those people immediately. You cannot be in the building and be leaking information about this president and expect to be able to keep your job.

CHUCK TODD:

You ever counsel the president to fire John Kelly?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

No, I never have.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think he's doing a good job? Wh--there's a lot of people that attribute the idea that you think John Kelly doesn't have the president's best interests at heart. Where, where are you on him?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

No, look, I, I think -- I've said this very, very publicly and I'll repeat it again and say John Kelly is an American patriot and he has done a fantastic job serving his country. He has recognized how difficult a job it is to be the chief of staff to the president of the United States. And, and I don't believe it's General Kelly's job to manage the president. His job is to manage the staff. And that's what he has been doing. And that's what he continues to do. We've seen additional staff changes this week with Chris Liddell being named the deputy chief of staff to bring more order. We've seen an increase in the portfolio of Johnny DeStefano inside the White House, an individual who has enormous respect to both the president and General Kelly. Those are very important changes.

CHUCK TODD:

Steve Bannon suggested this week that if there won’t-- if John Kelly leaves, there won't be a replacement, that the president will essentially be his own chief of staff, a little bit di -- more, more like he managed the Trump organization. Do you concur with that view?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

Look, I think that's a, a scenario that could very well play out. You know, we know that John F. Kennedy didn't have a chief of staff his entire presidency. He had it for a period of time. Jimmy Carter to a lesser extent, the same thing. But the difference with this president is, he is the decision maker and he loves to have all the information brought to him. I see him as the hub with a number of spokes coming out. And candidly, and I'm not advocating for General Kelly to leave, I think he should stay. But if he were to go, I don't think there is one person who is the chosen one to step in and fill that role. So I could see a scenario where the president is giving instructions to a small, core group of individuals who are then implementing on his behalf.

CHUCK TODD:

And you think at the end of the day that's what the president would prefer? That that's a, that’s a more comfortable way that he likes to run things?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

I do think the president likes to opportunity to get input from as many people as possible, and that small group, call it four, five, six people, who can come in and report directly to the president and then go implement his agenda, is something that he's very comfortable with over his 40 years of business experience doing that.

CHUCK TODD:

Have you met with the special counsel Robert Mueller? I know you've testified before the Senate and the House intel investigations. What about the special counsel?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

Look, I have said very candidly I'll be happy to speak with the special counsel if they'd like to do that. I've been very open about, I volunteered to testify for 12 hours in front of the House Committee. I've testified in front of the Senate Committee and I'll make myself available. Because I was there at the very beginning of the campaign. There was no collusion.

CHUCK TODD:

Have they asked for you yet though? Have they asked for you?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

Not yet. No. No, they haven't yet, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

You've not been subpoenaed? Nothing? Okay.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

I have-- nope. I have not been subpoenaed. And, and look, there's no reason to subpoena me because I'm willing to volunteer if they want to ask me questions. I'll be happy to answer their questions because I have nothing to hide and I was there from the beginning, so I know there was no collusion.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, but you weren't there at the end, at the end of the day. Are you confident--

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

No, that's exactly right. I wasn't there at the end.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you confident that between June 21st, 2016, after, you left on June 20th, that there is -- no collusion took place on that campaign? Can you definitively say that?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

Look, I, I can say that during my tenure, Chuck, which is all I can speak to, I saw no Russians.

CHUCK TODD:

It's your tenure. So you can't speak to anything after June, June 20th, 2016?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

Well, I,I, I wa -- I wasn't there. And, you know, what Paul Manafort did or others may or may not have done, I wouldn't have any access to that information. But what I have said was, if anybody did collude with the Russians in any way, shape, or form to impact the election, they should go to jail for the rest of their lives.

CHUCK TODD:

Did you know when Cambridge Analytica was pitching you, and I know you -- it wasn't until very late that you finally approved a contract, I believe, did you know that Steve Bannon--

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

No, no I never -- Chuck, I never approved, I never approved Cambridge Analytica's contract. They did not work for the campaign when I was the manager. So we have to be clear about that. They pitched me three times, three times I said no. They did not come to the campaign until after I left.

CHUCK TODD:

Were you aware if Steve Bannon was a founding executive of Cambridge Analytica when you met with them three times?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

I knew that Steve had a role in the organization. I didn't know what his ultimate role was. But that didn't impact my decision because I didn't hire them. They came to me three times, looking to be a vendor, and I said no all three times.

CHUCK TODD:

But you didn't know he was a founding executive? You didn't know he owned a piece? You didn't know any of those things at the time when he was chairman of Breitbart News?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

Correct. I did not know that that was his role in Cambridge Analytica. Correct.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Corey Lewandowski, I'm going to leave it there. Corey, thanks very much. Appreciate you coming on and sharing your views, sir.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now is the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee it’s Mark Warner of Virginia. Senator Warner, welcome back to the show, sir.

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to start first with all of the changes that we've seen take place. And I want to put up a quote from Charlie Dent, a retiring Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania, more center-right than than than conservative-right, but he said this: "The spontaneity and lack of impulse control are areas of concern for lots of members on both sides of the aisle. Disorder, chaos, instability, uncertainty, and tempered statements are not conservative virtues, in my opinion." This was Charlie Dent reacting to all of the changes this week. What do you make of the changes?

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

I think he's right. This chaos is not the way you run an organization. I was a business executive for 20 years. I ran a state. It was called the best-managed state in the nation when I was governor of Virginia. But with this president, I think he thrives on chaos. Maybe that's the way to run a reality TV show. It's not the way to run the greatest country in the world.

CHUCK TODD:

0At the end of the day, should it-- there's a lot of folks not happy with the instability. But he's comfortable with it. Should that matter?

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

Well, I think at the end of the day, when he took the oath of office, it was to protect and defend the constitution and our country. I think we are more vulnerable by having, you know, taking out and not consulting with our allies. I think we are more vulnerable when you've got a president that wakes up every morning and even his closest advisors don't know what he's going to say or do. I think we are more vulnerable when the president of the United States calls Vladimir Putin and, John McCain's words, not mine, "Congratulates a dictator on a sham election." I don't think that makes our country safer. And frankly, when the president of the United States, who still refuses to acknowledge Russian intervention, on that call, doesn't raise election security or doesn't stand up for our closest allies in the U.K.--

CHUCK TODD:

Why do you think he's doing that?

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

You know, Chuck, I gave up--

CHUCK TODD:

You've looked at a lot of evidence.

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

I gave up predicting this president a long time ago. I do know this, that when the president doesn't act, others do have to act. For example, election security. The Russians hacked into our elections, they scanned or broke into 21 states, every one of the president's top security advisors have said they'll be back. Yet, they received no direction from the White House to make election security a top priority.

CHUCK TODD:

So do you believe--

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

So this week, this week bipartisan, our committee came out with, you know, "Let's make sure we've got paper trail on every election, let's make sure we help states better information sharing." So if the president's not going to act to protect the country, in this case, Congress is actually stepping up.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you believe the president's somehow acting as if he's compromised with Putin?

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

It is more than bizarre that 14 months into this president's administration, he has failed to ever call out Russia. He has failed to ever condemn Putin, even after Putin was accused of killing a British individual of a Russian-British individual in the U.K. There is something just strange about this. And I think it is one of the reasons why Mueller's investigation has to continue and why our investigation has to continue.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you about Facebook. Do you think they've been truthful and forthcoming?

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

I don't think Facebook has been fully forthcoming. I called out Facebook back in December of '16. In the spring of '17, I questioned micro-targeting and the use of this really sketchy firm Cambridge Analytica. Early on, for most of 2017, they blew that off. They then, during the summer, acknowledged that there was paid advertising. But more importantly, that there were a number of Russian accounts--

CHUCK TODD:

Right

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

-- that were fake accounts that spread information, that touched 150 million Americans.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you have concern that Cambridge Analytica, found-- founding executive of Steve Bannon, their financial sort of rainmaker are the Mercer family. If you hire Cambridge Analytica, you've got Mercer money. And that somehow this-- and then you had Steve Bannon was also the chairman of a news organization, and they're getting Facebook data.

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

Ho-ho-hold, Chuck, that's only part of it.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, I mean, are you concerned --

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

Their CEO, their CEO

CHUCK TODD:

-- that all of this was designed almost to create, I don't know, to create--to weaponize something that we weren't aware of. When you throw a media company with this political consulting firm?

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

What we saw in 2016 was the broad weaponization of information by Russians and unfortunately using some other tools. This same firm--

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

-- they recently disgraced CEO reached out to Julian Assange about leaked emails. This same firm reached out to a Russian oil company, Lukoil, about working on trying to get American election data. And this firm has a reputation, it's been in more than 30 countries where it's been using disruptive tactics. Why would this firm be then used by by the Trump campaign, $6 million country. And I think there are still a whole host of questions.

CHUCK TODD:

Did you know that Steve Bannon was a founding executive until recently?

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

I was aware --

CHUCK TODD:

Were you aware of this?

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

I was aware that there was both from the Mercer family, from other individuals that were Cambridge Analytica had at best a colorful reputation.

CHUCK TODD:

No, I understand that. But did you know that here you had a chairman of a news, news organization who was, I guess, more of a principle on this?

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

There were--

CHUCK TODD:

Was that obvious?

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

There were works around.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

And what bothers me is again, this is a firm that even I think the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, bragged about their value.

CHUCK TODD:

Right

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

Then after the election, you've seen nothing but the Trump campaign trying to distance themselves.

CHUCK TODD:

Right. I've got to ask you about this Facebook ad today. This is Mark Zuckerberg's apology. And I hold it out because if you can find Facebook's logo here, you've got better eyesight than I do. It’s very-- This looks like a guy that is uncomfortable with taking responsibility. This is what he told Kara Swisher. "Things like where is the line on hate speech? I mean, who chose me to be the person that did that? I guess I have to because we're here now. But I'd rather not." Does he sound like a CEO that wants to take responsibility for his comp--company's actions?

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

Mark Zuckerberg created, in many ways, the whole notion of social media. It's a great American success story, as is Twitter, Google, a series of other companies. But I think the whole industry has been reluctant to accept the fact that we're seeing the dark underbelly of social media. How it can be manipulated. We're still dealing right now with kind of fake posts and fake accounts.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

Think about the next generation of technology, where they can put somebody else's face on somebody's body. Or totally real time misrepresent words that come out of somebody's mouth. This is an area where we have to get our arms around it. And frankly, Mr. Zuckerberg needs to come and testify. He says he will do it if he's the right person. Well listen, I've got experts on my staff.

CHUCK TODD:

Who's the--

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

Yeah, I've got experts on my staff. But you don't want my staff here. You want me here. He is the face of Facebook.

CHUCK TODD:

You wouldn't go to a voter and say, "No, no, no, let me--"

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

Yeah, "Let me take my staff."

CHUCK TODD:

You wouldn't do that?

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

That's not going to cut it. He needs to come out. He created this entity--

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

-- he in fact created this industry, and he needs to come explain to the American public and to policy makers.

CHUCK TODD:

But if the F.T.C. finds that they violated their consent to agree. It's a $2 trillion fine minimum if you take the $40,000 for each instance, for each day that they let each instance have around 50 million. And I do the quick math, $2 trillion. Should that be the level of fine they should potentially be subject to?

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

The F.T.C. has to determine whether they violated the 2011 consent agree. They'll work through that. But--

CHUCK TODD:

And if they did, should you see maximum penalty?

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

I think there will be appropriate penalties. But I think it raises the bigger question. All of these social media platform companies have said they have no responsibility for any of the content. I think we have to relook at that.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

I think in many ways, some media companies. I think we have to relook at the fact that if you move from one company to another, maybe you should be able to move all your data. There are solutions and what I invite Mr. Zuckerberg and others is come help work with us. Congress is not always at the best in terms of cutting-edge technology. They need to work with us so we try to get it right. I don't want to out-regulate these companies into oblivion.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SENATOR MARK WARNER:

But I do think people need to have the ability to know whether information they're receiving is honest, truthful, or at least originates in this country.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Warner, I have to leave it there, Democrat from Virginia. Thanks for coming on and sharing your views. I think if you're a social media company, you can drop the word social. You're a media company. Anyway, thank you sir. When we come back, we're going to break down the flurry of changes in the Trump administration and what they mean with the panel. And later, as hundreds of thousands around the world joined the March for our Lives, we talked to a group of voters, gun owners, and gun opponents about what they think can be done to stop gun violence.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panel is here. Hugh Hewitt, host on the Salem Radio Network and of Hugh Hewitt on MSNBC, Heather McGee, president of the liberal group Demos, NBC News Capitol Hill correspondence, Kasie Hunt, host of Kasie DC on MSNBC, and Robert Costa, moderator of Washington Week on PBS. Welcome all.

I'm going to give you two takes on John Bolton, both from conservatives. One's David French and one's George Will. George Will writes this: "Because John Bolton is five things President Trump is not - intelligent, educated, principled, articulate and experienced - and because of Bolton's West Wing proximity to a president responsive to the most recent thought he has heard emanating from cable television or an employee, Bolton will soon be the second-most dangerous American."

Then there's David French: "A nuclear-armed Iran is far more dangerous than John Bolton. A North Korea capable of incinerating American cities is far more dangerous than John Bolton. The foreign-policy debate is frequently between hawks and doves, and in the last administration, the doves repeatedly failed. It's time to give a hawk a chance." Kasie Hunt, John Bolton, everybody has an opinion.

KASIE HUNT:

Everybody does have an opinion. And I think that this is-- you combine this choice. And what you may think about John Bolton the man and his history with this president's chaotic management style, and you have a lot of people who maybe even might be willing to say, "Okay, let's give John Bolton a chance," really worried about the impact that he might have inside the administration.

CHUCK TODD:

Bob, Bolton doesn't see eye to eye on the president with so many other issues, including the Iraq War. But they do see eye to eye on one, ripping up the Iran deal.

ROBERT COSTA:

Ripping up the Iran deal and talking to White House officials over the last few days, they say Bolton's going to be an ally of Mike Pompeo, the nominee for Secretary of State. That they're going to be a partnership inside of this administration, trying to nudge the president forward.

It's not so much an ideological case they're making, it's a personality mesh with the president. He never got along with General McMaster, he’s become-- General Kelly's influence has faded a bit inside of the West Wing. Pompeo, Bolton, Kudlow, the TV personalities, the hard-charging types. They're the ones now who the president wants at his side.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I have a feeling the two of you are going to have two very different takes on Bolton. I know where Hugh is, Heather. I'll let you go first.

HEATHER MCGHEE:

So there are three things that worry me about John Bolton. First is that he's an unrepentant cheerleader and architect of the Iraq War who thinks that regime change is better than diplomacy, thinks that's still the case about Iraq, which is pretty insane, given the facts on the ground, and thinks the same about North Korea and Iran.

Second, he's untrustworthy. I mean, you-- you were talking to Mark Warner about Cambridge Analytica. He's currently running a super PAC that is one of Cambridge Analytica's biggest customers. He ran a think tank in the 1990s that funneled foreign money to Republicans. I just think there's more to the story of the web of connection you were talking about that involves John Bolton.

And then third, I'm going to be honest here and maybe it's the spirit of the young people from yesterday, but when I see men around their 70s who did everything they possibly could to avoid going into combat when it was their time, banging the war drum, myself, many of my friends who have loved ones who actually had to fight in the Iraq War, it's dangerous, it's depressing, and it makes me feel like we don't have people who take seriously. I mean, Donald Trump loves war. He thinks it's great theater, it's great television. That is something he shares with John Bolton. And it's something the American people have no appetite for.

CHUCK TODD:

Hugh?

HUGH HEWITT:

As a Reagan-era conservative, I am very happy with the personnel choices made by the president this week. What Bob said about Iran and the alliance between Secretary of State-designate Pompeo and in-- incoming National Security Advisor Bolton is correct, add to that Jim Mattis who understands Iran to be the central threat in the Middle East and has for a long long time.

HEATHER MCGEE:

Is for the deal.

KASIE HUNT:

But Mattis has said that he is worried about working with Bolton.

HUGH HEWITT:

They might be. But I think with this talent, Pompeo, Bolton, Kudlow, John Kelly, General Mattis, you have a foreign affairs team to rival Jim Baker, Howard Baker, Colin Powell, and George Schultz at the end of the Reagan era. I am overjoyed. John Bolton has prepared for this job his entire life.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm going to ask you though about Kelly and Mattis. Does anybody think both of them will be there in three months? Costa?

ROBERT COSTA:

Based on my reporting, Kelly has had a strained relationship with President Trump. Three months, some people in the White House say it could be six months to a year. He sees it as duty. He's not there for the politics. He's not there because he has this kind of personal rapport with President Trump. General Mattis, he does have concerns I'm told as well about John Bolton. At the same time, the former U.N. ambassador is someone he believes he can work with on a lot of different issues, even if they don't have a nec-- a close personal relationship.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to bring up the president's tweet this morning. Because it seemed to be oddly defensive on, I guess, his legal team. And it's sort of, like, this is what's on his mind this morning. "Many lawyers and top law firms want to represent me in the Russia case," he says. "Fame and fortune will never be turned down by a lawyer, though some are conflicted."

Kasie Hunt, what he's referring to on the conflicted is Joe diGenova, his wife Victoria Toensing, both of whom-- I-- apparently they want to have joined the team, are have some conflict-of-interest issues that they're trying to change. And it-- it's interesting, I think the president, I guess is trying to erase doubt that he's having doubts on diGenova. I don't know.

KASIE HUNT:

I-- It seems that way. I mean, it seems to be a situation where he wants people on his team who are saying things in public that he agrees with. The-- the clip that you played in the beginning of the show from DiGenova saying, "Look, the president is being set up--

CHUCK TODD:

That's what he wants to hear, right?

KASIE HUNT:

by the F.B.I. and the D.O.J. That's what the president wants to hear. And John Dowd, the lawyer who was fired this week, who we haven't even hardly touched on today

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

KASIE HUNT: --Was somebody who was telling him something he didn't want to hear, which was you should not go in and talk to the Special Counsel Robert Mueller. That would be a bad idea. And, you know, we're seeing kind of across the board all these personnel changes. That's what's happening if you disagree with the president.

ROBERT COSTA:

Real quick, Ted Olson, the white-shoe attorney here, a veteran Washington lawyer, he said, "No thanks," to President Trump this week. That was the most revealing moment. We scooped it at The Washington Post, that all these lawyers don't want to come in. It's not just because of conflicts, it's because of the political risk. They tell you privately, it's the political risk of working with this president.

CHUCK TODD:

It's tough. Heather, it is something that Erick Erickson said that makes me think that he is embracing these battles. This is what he wrote: "What Trump really cares about is making America great again through great compelling television. In which one, Donald J. Trump, is the star, the hero, and the mythical demagogue who overcomes impossible odds to achieve glorious victory." And it gets at something that I know came up on Hugh's show. It's almost the president is embracing the battle. Let's go. And maybe he even isn't afraid of impeachment.

HEATHER MCGHEE

He says he loves conflict. And particularly because that makes good television. That worries me as someone who is thinking about the actual foreign policy conflicts of that particular sort of entertainment predilection of our president. But yeah, he wants-- he thinks conflict drives us to be talking about him, which it does. He think conflict makes people have to choose sides, and he thinks his base will always go to him if he's seen as being under siege. He loves conflict. The American people are sick of it.

CHUCK TODD:

Hugh, you and I had this conversation earlier this week, and you're of the mindset, you thought he might actually embrace it.

HUGH HEWITT:

He might love an impeachment process. It might be-- season three.

CHUCK TODD:

Because he's the star. Yeah.

HUGH HEWITT:

But I want to make one point about the changes this week. The three unhappiest people in the world about the arrival of Secretary of State Pompeo, our new C.I.A. director of 33 years, a covert operator Gina Haspel, the Bolton appointment, the Larry Kudlow appointment, are named Ayatollah Khomeini, Kim Jong-un, and Vladimir Putin. Our enemies are the enemies of those men, and Gina Haspel.

CHUCK TODD:

We will see on Putin. That-- that's for sure there. Anyway, panel, you guys are coming back in a few minutes. We're going to talk about Stormy Daniels and the gun debate. But when we come back, how our political parties are coming to represent a lot more than just our politics.

CHUCK TODD:

We are back, data download time. We know the two parties are different and that they represent two different Americas. But data released by Pew this week shows us that those changes between the parties are actually accelerating and they're growing even further apart. In many ways, Democrats are moving faster than the changes we're seeing as a country while Republicans have overall been slower to keep pace.

So there you go, more polarization. Between 1997 and 2017, the country has become a lot more diverse with the white population now at 69%. That's a 14 point drop. Democrats are outpacing that national average. Only 59% of voters who identify with the Democratic party are white, while Republicans still struggle on the diversity front, 83% of Republicans are white.

Now, on college education, in 2017, a full third of Americans had college degrees. That was up eight points from 1997. Democrats here too exceed the national average, 39% of Democrats are college educated, while Republicans lag behind with just 28% of Republicans being college educated. Now the country is also a bit less religious overall. With nearly a quarter of Americans saying they don't affiliate with any religion. That's a 16-point jump in sort of secularism in the last 20 years.

For Democrats, a full third do not affiliate with a religion, while that number is much smaller for Republicans, 13%. Look, this country is also getting older. With 50% of voters now over the age of 50, here Democrats actually fall behind on this national trend. 42% of their voters are 50 or older.

The GOP however has grown older as the country has aged and they've grown older faster. 57% of Republicans are over the age of 50. In short, Democrats are mostly heading in the same direction as the country as a whole. That's why Democrats are so bullish on the future and Republicans are so nervous about their future, even as their hold on older voters keeps them competitive in the now.

And these differences aren't just about bean counting. It makes finding common ground even harder and it's why compromise in Washington is so difficult and only growing more so. We'll be back in a moment with this question. Six months from now, which story will matter more to our politics? Stormy Daniels or yesterday's gun violence demonstrations? The panel is back to discuss.

CHUCK TODD:

Back again with the panel. Here's a question. In six months, what will have more of an impact on Washington? The Stormy Daniels interview on 60 Minutes or the gun march? And I know that seems on one hand an absurd notion, but on the other hand, it's about what has more impact on this town, in the next six months. I grant you, the gun march I think is a long-term movement. In the next six months, Kasie?

KASIE HUNT:

That's what I would say. I think that the gun march and the degree of engagement from so many people at such a young age and the emotion that we saw on display yesterday, I do think that that is a sea change that is going to catch up with this Congress in the longer term.

CHUCK TODD:

I do. I'd agree.

KASIE HUNT:

On the Stormy Daniels front, I'm not sure we can answer the question yet on that. But clearly, this is something that has gotten to the president. He is responding to what she is doing in a way that is completely different than how he was responding to everything else, in a way that suggests that there is something very serious and significant there. I think we'll learn a lot tonight when we hear from her publicly for the first time. But on the flip side, there's a question about does any of it matter anymore.

CHUCK TODD:

I don't know either. But Jonah Goldberg had an interesting thesis about this. And this is what he wrote, Bob. During the Republican primaries, "No one wanted to attack Trump because they knew he'd counter-attack viciously and, again, shamelessly. It's much like the old adage about not wrestling with pigs, you'll get dirty and the pig likes it. Trump uses the decency of others against them." Think Marco Rubio. "That's what's so fascinating about Stormy Daniels. What on earth can Donald Trump say about the star of Breast Friends 2 and Finally Legal 7? How can he embarrass her?" That this is what she has kryptonite with Trump.

ROBERT COSTA:

I don't know how he engages here. What's been interesting as a reporter is that he has not engaged in any kind of back and forth with Ms. Daniels in recent weeks. He has been relatively quiet for a president for whom relative quiet is not usually a tactic. What we're seeing though with this gun march, and I walked around with my notepad yesterday.

It was, regardless of your politics, as a reporter, you're there. It was powerful, and I saw all the parents with strollers, young children, teenage students, and I asked them, "Who are you going to vote for?" It was not really a partisan event. But they were out there marching. And I said, "Are you going to vote this fall?" They said, "Certainly, we will."

And you just felt that something's in the air. And yes, the president's moving on gun regulations right now with bump stocks. But if the Democrats take over the House or it's a narrow majority for the Republicans, there's this mood out there in the country, and you saw it on the Mall for gun reform.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to play a little bit actually of some of these speeches were unbelievable. We're not going to do them justice. But here's a quick montage of some of the better ones.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CAMERON KASKY:

Do you think any change is going to come from this? Look around. We are the change.

EMMA GONZALEZ:

Fight for your lives before it's someone else's job.

NAOMI WADLER:

For far too long, these names, these black girls and women have been just numbers. I'm here to say never again for those girls too.

SAM FUENTES:

And so when do we say enough is enough?

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Heather, I noted earlier, there's really a handful of marches that you remember. That our town remembers. The civil rights marches of the '60s, the abortion rights marches of the '80s and '90s. Tea party, Million Man March, I think about those things. This is right up there.

HEATHER MCGHEE:

Absolutely. And I think it's shocked many people how significant they were.

CHUCK TODD:

Count me as one.

HEATHER MCGHEE:

Count you as one. How worldwide they were. In places like, you know, South Carolina and North Dakota. Again, something like the women's march. You realize that there are these sort of moral questions that feel like they're dividing lines and galvanizing points for particularly women, people of color, and young people, who are saying that there is a corruption at the heart of our politics right now.

The fact that money in politics and the way that the N.R.A. is able to put their financial interests and their political interests ahead of the lives of children, for young people, that is a very, very stark moral issue. And so what you're seeing here is the moral high ground that I think people in Washington are not used to having debates at that level. And that's where the energy is and that's why when they chant, "Vote them out," if I were a Republican, I'd be very scared.

CHUCK TODD:

Hugh, first time where I feel like the gun-control movement is prioritizing the issue for voters in ways that the N.R.A. for years has prioritized gun rights with your voters.

HUGH HEWITT:

Activism is additive. And they undersold their achievements. The Florida law is a significant win that Governor Scott, I agree with Bob, it's a purple issue. Chris Coons and Pat Toomey have put forward a very important law on closing some gaps in NICS. So I think the activism is addictive and it will keep going. But far more important than either of those is your Facebook conversation.

Chris Coons has also suggested a new standing committee in the Senate, you've got bipartisan support on big tech and data. We have to get our hands on these media companies. It is the future survival of the country. And what Senator Warner said, I think these kids will figure out, they are not in control of their lives with their social media platform.

ROBERT COSTA:

You heard it in the Warner interview. He was hinting at what's to come. There was talk among Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill. Make them like a utility company.

CHUCK TODD:

A utility.

ROBERT COSTA:

At that level of federal regulation.

HEATHER MCGHEE:

And Facebook, I think, is actually more afraid of Democrats even taking back the House or potentially the Senate.

CHUCK TODD:

Both.

HEATHER MCGHEE:

Even though they are. And there are many people that are running those companies. There's a lot of assumptions that Silicon Valley is full of Democrats. But quite frankly, they think they're probably more likely to get regulated--

CHUCK TODD:

Oh, this is populist on the left and right. Anyway, when we come back, our NBC News series Solutions: Gun Violence. A group of voters debate how to reduce gun violence while respecting the Second Amendment.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. NBC News is kicking off a new continuing series called Solutions. We're trying to take a look at the ways communities across the country are tackling diverse policy challenges that our polarized climate can't seem to solve. This week, timed to yesterday's worldwide demonstrations, we're looking at gun violence. On Wednesday, I traveled to Madison, Wisconsin, where there's a group called Reach Out Wisconsin.

And they've been bringing people together for a few years now to try to foster dialogue across the political divide. I spoke with three pro-gun Republicans, three Democrats, and one independent who served in the military. And we began by discussing whether a ban on assault-style weapons would ever be possible under our constitution.

DAVI POST:

The issue with the-- the second amendment is what kind of weapons they were talking about. Military weapons. I know some people believe that-- it's important for ordinary citizens to have whatever weapons the government has because the government may come to get us some day and we wanna be able to defend ourselves. So I can see a little bit of a logic to that. But I don't really agree with it.

NOELLE LONG:

Honestly, this is where I get stuck every single time. So the second amendment, of course, the right-- to have a militia-- for the purpose of promoting a free society. But then it follows thereafter with the-- the right to bear arms shall not be infringed. It's not the government's--

CHUCK TODD:

You have to argue over the comma, right?

NOELLE LONG:

Yeah, it-- it's not saying that the government shall provide the right to bear arms. It's a right that's predating the constitution itself and saying that it shall not be infringed for these purposes.

HANS NOELDNER:

I think that ordinary citizens ought not have the right to have nuclear weapons or F-35s or M1 abr-- one t-- you know, Abrams tanks and the like. And, you know, if someone is saying, "Well, citizens ought to be able to rise up against an oppressive government," an AR-15 isn't gonna cut the mustard, buddy. You know, he-- you need some serious firepower if you're gonna overthrow your government. So we ended up drawing a line. What strikes me as kind of-- arbitrary.

PATRICIA ZANTON:

See, I don't have a problem. I'm very pro-second amendment. But I don't have a problem banning the AR-15 because it-- the bullet travels three times as fast. So it does a lot more damage to the organ. So, I mean, it is a lot more dangerous because of that. That being said, when you look at when we did have a ban from 1994 to 2004 l-- yeah, people stopped killing as much with the AR-15. But they just switched to other guns. So, I mean, it-- as a long-term solution removing AR-15s-- teens or s-- stopping them from being sold might affect it. But short-term we need to look at other things.

CHUCK TODD:

Someone make the case for owning an AR-15.

SCOTT GRABINS:

Tr-- well, I-- generally speaking, I mean, an AR-15 is-- is a semi-automatic rifle. And mechanically, I mean, it's no different than a hunting rifle. Pull the trigger, you get one bullet.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think the AR-15 gets a bad name?

SCOTT GRABINS:

Yeah. Yeah I think we tend to lump in-- lump in too many things under that one-- that heading-- as an assault weapon. And it's really-- it's-- it's just a semi-automatic rifle.

BETSY ERICKSON:

I don't think that it's just a semi-automatic rifle. I think that hunting rifles are designed differently. They're designed to shoot bullets actually at higher velocity over a farther distance with the goal of-- of a single shot traveling a long distance to kill an animal. An AR-15 is designed to kill people. It's designed to inflict-- maximum damage-- at a much closer range and to-- to fire bullets in-- in rapid succession. And-- and I do think that they are different in purpose. And-- and in construction.

CHUCK TODD:

If the whole goal here is to find a solution, so what are some solutions.

BETSY ERICKSON:

I think that one thing that we don't know a lot about are, you know, the underlying causes, you know, of these shootings. I-- I think that there's not a lot of research that's been done looking at gun violence as a public health epidemic. And I think, --

CHUCK TODD:

This new bill is supposed to open the door for more research.

BETSY ERICKSON:

And-- and I think that that's absolutely critical.

KALEEM CAIRE:

We have enough research. I mean, the problem is-- and I'm gonna c-- cross the line of race here for a minute. When white kids are killin' each other, it's a problem. And all of a sudden it becomes a national epidemic and a national issue that we need to spend $100 million in Wisconsin on for safety and security in schools.

NOELLE LONG:

Honestly, I think we can all agree that there definitely needs to be more research as to the underlying reason as to why. Why this is happening in the first place. 'Cause we all can see that it is clearly a problem whether it's the school shooting or individuals. Maybe more research, maybe some restrictions whether it be the-- with the bullet counts, that's not necessarily regulating the gun itself.

CHUCK TODD:

Davi, what have-- what have you learned here that's possible and what do you see as impossible?

DAVI POST:

Well, I-- I got three things. The first is close the gun show loophole, you know, make it a little harder for people to get-- these kinds of weapons. Crack down-- you know, better background checks, especially for-- semi-automatic weapons. And the third one-- I would say is in terms of mental health I-- I think we need to focus on-- reaching people who are isolated

PATRICIA ZANTON:

I agree that the biggest problem facing our country right now is apathy. That we will talk about it when it's in the news and then we go about our lives. So we really have to kind of have a change of heart and actually want to look for solutions.

CHUCK TODD:

Kaleem, what'd you take away?

KALEEM CAIRE:

A few things. One, I think we'll-- we'll produce a lotta research that'll sit on the shelves and take forever to implement. I think that the greatest chance is probably stronger background check. It's also confirmed for me that our children are their best lobbyist, that adults aren't good lobbyists for children today. But I do think that the opportunity exists, I mean, we've gotta be bold. I would love to see a tax, just like we tax cigarettes, I would love to see a special tax, a big surcharge put on weapons. And that those resources be used to invest in a healthy, productive and responsible society.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, look, Wisconsin is-- I always like being here because there's something about the citizenry of Wisconsin that makes you guys not wanna yell at each other. So I really appreciate that.

CHUCK TODD:

So you can be a Democrat not for gun control and you can be a Republican for it. That's the point here. Don't let your party decide. You can see a much longer version of this discussion on our website, MeetThePress.com and on the NBC News app. And before we go, a quick programming note, it's been 50 years since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior.

And tonight, on MSNBC, we're going to be taking a look back at how Dr. King, the Civil Rights Movement, and the media changed the way we looked at freedom and ourselves. Please be sure to watch Hope and Fury: M.L.K., the Movement, and the Media tonight on MSNBC at 9:00 Eastern. That's all we have for today. Thanks for watching. We'll be back next week because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.