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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, battle lines. Michael Cohen tells congress what he thinks of President Trump.

MICHAEL COHEN:

He's a racist. He's a conman. And he is a cheat.

CHUCK TODD:

And provides new areas for investigators to look at, from Jared and Ivanka to Mr. Trump's tax returns. Republicans attack Cohen.

REP. VIRGINIA FOXX:

You lied.

REP. MARK GREEN:

He lies.

REP. JODY HICE:

You are a liar.

REP. PAUL GOSAR:

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

CHUCK TODD:

And President Trump tells a conservative conference what he thinks of all the investigators.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

And all of a sudden, they're trying to take you out with bull(BLEEP).

CHUCK TODD:

I'll talk to the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democrat Mark Warner, and to the ranking Republican on the House Oversight Committee, Jim Jordan. Plus, Democrats and activists are arguing over impeaching the president.

TOM STEYER:

Impeachment of this corrupt and lawless president is a first step.

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI:

Impeachment is a divisive issue in our country. And let us see what the facts are.

CHUCK TODD:

Debating purity tests for Democratic members of Congress, and disagreeing over what's more important to them in 2020, a candidate who shares their views or one who simply can beat President Trump. And finally, no deal. The president walks away without an agreement with Kim Jong Un on nukes and sanctions.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Sometimes, you have to walk. And this was just one of those times.

CHUCK TODD:

So what happens now? Joining me for insight and analysis are Helene Cooper, Pentagon correspondent for the New York Times; Matt Bai, national political columnist for Yahoo News; NBC News national political reporter Heidi Przybyla; and John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary. 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 fair, we've lost count of the number of times we've been tempted to say that this or that week was the most-consequential of the Trump presidency. But this week certainly is worthy of consideration. Consider, we saw President Trump's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, testify before Congress about alleged illegal activity by Mr. Trump as president. We saw House Republicans ignore all of Cohen's charges and fiercely attack Cohen's credibility. We saw the Hanoi summit, with Kim Jong Un, fall apart with no agreement. We saw an emerging controversy over how Jared Kushner received his top-secret security clearance. We saw the House vote to reverse the president's national emergency declaration. And then yesterday, we saw a president who seemed both energized by his crowd at a conservative conference and, simultaneously, unnerved by everything that's happening around him. In the longest speech of his presidency, before an adoring CPAC audience, Mr. Trump was eager or maybe desperate to recount every success, every controversy, and every grievance of his presidency.

[BEGIN TAPE]

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Crowd size. Negotiating with China. I'm building the wall. And we got rid of the individual mandate. Religious liberty. Lying James Comey. Socialism. The collusion delusion. Those caravans. A national emergency. We're being invaded by drugs, by people, by criminals. Phony charges of Russia. Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

The manic performance, complete with expletives, seemed like a fitting end to a week like few others in Mr. Trump's president.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

But I heard, this morning, "President Trump is waiting for the Mueller report."

CHUCK TODD:

With Mueller's report expected any day, President Trump delivered an agitated 122-minute speech to conservative activists on Saturday, railing against the special counsel --

PRES, DONALD TRUMP:

Now, Robert Mueller never received a vote.

CHUCK TODD:

-- and his own Justice Department for leaving Mueller in place.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

And as you know, the attorney general says, "I'm going to recuse myself." You put the wrong people in a couple of positions, and they leave people, for a long time, that shouldn't be there. And all of a sudden, they're trying to take you out with bull(BLEEP), okay? It's bull(BLEEP).

CHUCK TODD:

He also attacked his former lawyer, Michael Cohen.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

He's a stone-cold killer. He's a brutal man.

MICHAEL COHEN:

I am no longer your fixer, Mr. Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

In a riveting public spectacle this week, Cohen turned on his former boss and signaled a new phase in the Russia probe. Cohen alleged that President Trump paid hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, a crime, while in office.

MICHAEL COHEN:

There are 11 checks that I received for the year.

CHUCK TODD:

He's alleged that Roger Stone alerted Mr. Trump, ahead of time, in July of 2016, that WikiLeaks emails were coming.

MICHAEL COHEN:

Rhona Graff yelled out to Mr. Trump, "Roger's on line one."

CHUCK TODD:

He alleged that attorneys for the president, as well as Jared Kushner, reviewed his false testimony to Congress last year, about the Trump Tower Moscow project, in advance.

MICHAEL COHEN:

Because Mr. Trump had made clear to me, through his personal statements to me, that we both knew to be false, and through his lies to the country, that he wanted me to lie.

CHUCK TODD:

Cohen also said federal prosecutors in New York are looking at what the president said to him, after they searched his office last year.

MICHAEL COHEN:

This topic is actually something that's being investigated right now by the Southern District of New York. And I've been asked, by them, not to discuss it.

CHUCK TODD:

And Cohen directed congressional investigators toward potential key witnesses, including the president's former employees and family members. Democrats were quick to seize on the president's alleged crimes.

REP. DAVID CICILLINE:

We saw evidence, really, of a crime spree.

CHUCK TODD:

But while some Democratic activists pressed for impeachment --

TOM STEYER:

Impeachment of this corrupt and lawless president is a first step.

CHUCK TODD:

-- top Democrats are putting the brakes on, insisting that, for now, they will continue existing investigations but stop short of calling them impeachment hearings.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS:

Not one person, not one person on our side, even mentioned the word, impeachment, not one.

CHUCK TODD:

Instead, it's Republicans seeking to energize their base, who are enthusiastically embracing the I-word.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

The impeachment.

REP. CLAY HIGGINS:

Impeachment.

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Yesterday was all about Michael Cohen being kind of sort of laying the predicate for the Democrats and their crazy -- and crazy impeachment plans.

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now is the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner of Virginia. Senator Warner, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SEN. MARK WARNER:

Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

You also interviewed Michael Cohen this week. I think you had him the day before his House testimony.

SEN. MARK WARNER:

Nine hours.

CHUCK TODD:

Nine hours, fair enough. So -- and we had, pretty much, an eight- or nine-hour public hearing. So how was the exchange behind closed doors different than what the public saw on Wednesday?

SEN. MARK WARNER:

Well, first of all, let's realize, this is a guy who is back before us, because he had lied to our Intelligence Committee about the fact that the ongoing negotiations on a tower to be built in Moscow went way beyond what he said and, frankly, what Donald Trump said. And I do think it's curious that Mr. Trump has spent more than a decade trying to build a building in Moscow, didn't get much traction. Suddenly, he becomes a candidate for president. And he's got all kinds of offers on the table.

CHUCK TODD:

Is that the only thing he lied about that you know of right now?

SEN. MARK WARNER:

Well, again, we've got -- the three things that are in the public domain, that I think we need further investigation. How long were the negotiations going on for a Trump Tower Moscow? Obviously, beyond January. Did they go beyond even the convention? The president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said they may have gone on through -- all the way through the election. I think most voters would have liked to have known that piece of information before they voted. Secondly, this allegation --

CHUCK TODD:

Is that a crime, though?

SEN. MARK WARNER:

Well, it's not a -- not necessarily a crime. I'll let lawyers make a determination on that. But it would be, sure as heck, a relevant fact, that a candidate for president was trying to negotiate with a foreign power, Russia, offering the leader of that foreign power, Putin, a $50 million free penthouse. I think most Americans would say that's a relevant piece of information. The other two pieces of information that I think we need more on, Mr. Trump has said he didn't know anything about the WikiLeaks dump of information detrimental to Clinton. Mr. Cohen says that he was in the office, when Trump took a call from Julian Assange right, a day or two, before the dump of the information. We need to find out if that's true or not. And then we also heard testimony that Donald Trump, Jr., at least, indicated to Donald Trump about the infamous-now Trump Tower meeting that included his -- the president's son, the president's son-in-law, the president's campaign manager. Again, that meeting was not about Russian adoptions. It was about offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. We need to find out if all those things are true.

CHUCK TODD:

Was your entire focus of your portion of Michael Cohen only about the Russia portion? Or did you also spend time on the Trump Organization and the various outside-of-Russia parameters that you've been focused on?

SEN. MARK WARNER:

Well, some of those facts came up. Some of the tawdry and inappropriate behavior, some of the payoffs. But that was not something that we focused on. Our investigation is the only bipartisan investigation that's still focused on counterintelligence. What happened in 2016? What level of collaboration, collusion? How do we make sure it doesn't happen again in the future?

CHUCK TODD:

Why do you believe Michael Cohen's suddenly telling you the truth now, when he lied to you last time?

SEN. MARK WARNER:

Well again. This guy does not have a lot of veracity. We need to get documents. We are receiving additional documents from him to prove or disprove. But I'd also say, Donald Trump doesn't exactly have a great record of telling the truth, as well.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to play something that your -- the chair of the committee said, not too long ago, Richard Burr. Take a listen.

[BEGIN TAPE]

SEN. RICHARD BURR:

Well, I'm not sure how to put it any clearer than I said it before. We have no factual evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

What does that mean, "no factual evidence"?

SEN. MARK WARNER:

Well, again, Richard Burr and I have worked together very well. We're going to continue to work together. I think there is enormous amounts of evidence. What you do with that evidence, where it leads, I'm reserving my judgment, until we finish the investigation.

CHUCK TODD:

Is it fair to call it circumstantial right now?

SEN. MARK WARNER:

Well, let’s go -- just go through the litany of what we know. The ongoing negotiations about Trump Tower, well into the campaign, I believe the fact that Mr. Trump knew about the, the dump of the WikiLeaks material, the fact that, clearly, the meeting at Trump Tower meeting, which was not described appropriately, in terms of offering dirt, the president's campaign manager sharing information, polling information with the Russians, the earlier instance, where Russians were offering, through one of the campaigns, Papadopoulos information. To me, that's all evidence. Where that evidence leads, in terms of a conclusion, and we've still got some of those key people to come back, I'm going to reserve judgment, until I'm finished. But anybody could -- there's no one that could factually say there's not plenty of evidence of collaboration or communications between Trump Organization and Russians.

CHUCK TODD:

There's a report, in the Washington Post, that indicates that your committee and the House Intelligence Committee, that one other angle to Michael Cohen's testimony has to do with a pardon or pardon shopping. What more can you tell us about this issue? Are you investigating whether a pardon offer was serious or not to Michael Cohen?

SEN. MARK WARNER:

Chuck, I cannot comment on what went on in a classified setting.

CHUCK TODD:

Why? I say this, because at some point, it’s starting to become, you know, it comes across as innuendo, when you can't say certain things. And yet, we see reports about it.

SEN. MARK WARNER:

When we receive information in a classified setting, we will investigate things that come up in classified settings. And there will be an appropriate time to have the reveal. But when we hear things in a classified setting, you know, that's, that’s the duty I took on as vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

CHUCK TODD:

So you won't say whether this Washington Post story is correct or not.

SEN. MARK WARNER:

I’m not going to comment -- I'm not going to comment on that story.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I want to throw another sound bite at you from the president yesterday. Take a listen.

[BEGIN TAPE]

DONALD TRUMP:

If you use your rights, if you use your power, if you use Article II, it's called obstruction, but only for Trump, for nobody else.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

So he's basically saying his firing of James -- I mean, this is about the firing of James Comey, that you cannot interpret that, under any way, as obstruction. Is that fair?

SEN. MARK WARNER:

Well, again, I'll let lawyers make better judgments. But I will tell you this. An investigation into the president, and his organization, his campaign, involvement with Russians, a foreign power, a foreign, adversarial power, a power that this president has said nary a negative word about, a Russian despot that he, frankly, kowtowed to in front of the whole world in that hearing -- in that public testimony, public hearing in Helsinki, I think that's all inappropriate. And the notion that this president has done everything possible to undermine that investigation, from firing Comey to trying to undermine Mueller, to me, that does not seem appropriate.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you believe that Russian -- a Russian conspiracy without a -- actual evidence of a crime being committed, of a crime being committed, is enough to oust him from office?

SEN. MARK WARNER:

You know, you're going to get me into those conversations where I've not reached a final conclusion. What -- I do know this. I've been around politics a long time, just as you have. I have never, in my lifetime, seen a presidential campaign, from a person of either party, have this much outreach to a foreign country and a foreign country that the intelligence community, and our committee has validated, intervened, massively, in our election and intervened with an attempt to help one candidate, Donald Trump, and to hurt another candidate, Hillary Clinton.

CHUCK TODD:

It sounds like you've made your conclusion. ‘

SEN. MARK WARNER:

That’s, that’s --

CHUCK TODD:

You're close to a conclusion.

SEN. MARK WARNER:

Those are the facts that we have all agreed to, on a bipartisan basis. What level of collaboration, collusion, cooperation, we've clearly got repeated efforts from the Russians. We clearly have evidence from Donald Trump's own son, saying he would welcome that information. But again, I'm going to reserve my final judgment, until we collect all the information. And candidly, some of the key people that we want to see are still caught up in the Mueller criminal investigations. And those criminal investigations need to conclude, before we get a chance to talk to them.

CHUCK TODD:

Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, thanks for coming on and sharing your views, sir. Much appreciated.

SEN. MARK WARNER:

Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

At that Michael Cohen hearing on Wednesday, Republican members of the House Oversight Committee defended President Trump, largely by attacking Cohen, who has admitted to lying to Congress. And no one was more on message than the ranking member of that committee, Jim Jordan.

[BEGIN TAPE]

REP. JIM JORDAN:

And you have a history of lying over and over and over again. And frankly, you don't have to take my word for it. Take what the court said. Take what the southern district of New York said. "Cohen did crimes that were marked by a pattern of deception and that permeated his professional life, a pattern of deception for personal greed and ambition." And you just got 30 minutes of an opening statement, where you trashed the president of the United States of America.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Republican Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio joins me now. Congressman Jordan, welcome to Meet the Press.

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Good to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

Why do you think President Trump hired somebody like Michael Cohen as this close confidant for a decade?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Mr. Cohen said it was some real estate deal ten,12 years ago. Why he hired him, I don't know. What I do know is what I said at the hearing. And that is, Michael Cohen is going to prison in two months for four distinct federal crimes --

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

REP. JIM JORDAN:

-- one of which is lying to Congress. And yet, the Democrats made him their star witness. Their first announced witness of the 116th Congress is a guy who is going to prison for lying to Congress. And guess what? He came in last Wednesday and did what? Lied to Congress --

CHUCK TODD:

The leading, the lead --

REP. JIM JORDAN:

-- six different times --

CHUCK TODD:

The president’s --

REP. JIM JORDAN:

-- that’s why we sent a letter to the Attorney General.

CHUCK TODD:

-- the President of the United States, the lead attorney for him and, essentially, unofficial political adviser for a decade, is this person you just --

REP. JIM JORDAN:

I don't know about a political adviser.

CHUCK TODD:

-- you just described, you just described. Well we can, we can -- different political advisers --

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Even though he took credit for launching the Trump campaign --

CHUCK TODD:

But my point is --

REP. JIM JORDAN:

-- single-handedly.

CHUCK TODD:

-- again, does it bother you that Donald Trump surrounded himself -- kept this man as a confidant? For everything you've described him as, why did he keep him as a confidant?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

You'd have to ask the, you’d have to ask the president.

CHUCK TODD:

Does that bother you?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Not really. It doesn't.

CHUCK TODD:

Why?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

It just doesn't. What I know is what the president's done in his two years as president of the United States. The Democrats never want to talk about it. The press never seems to want to talk about this. Think about the two years under President Trump's leadership: taxes reduced, regulations reduced, economy growing at an unbelievable rate, lowest unemployment in 50 years, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh on the court. We're out of the Iran deal. Embassy's in Jerusalem. Hostages home from North Korea. And oh, by the way, there's a new NAFTA agreement coming, just to name a few things. So that's what I tend to focus on, is the amazing record we've seen under the leadership of President Trump. And you guys want to talk about a lawyer that worked for him for ten years that came in and told all kinds of lies, six of which he said -- six lies, which he said on the witness stand just last Wednesday.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this. Do you believe Michael Cohen, when he said there was no collusion with Russia?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

I believe a few things Michael Cohen said. Like, he said in the hearing, "My name is Michael Dean Cohen." I believe that. There's probably a few other things that we can prove. He said --

CHUCK TODD:

Do you believe he's never been to Prague?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

He said that. And that's something you can verify. You can look --

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

REP. JIM JORDAN:

-- at passports. You can look at travel. So that undermines this whole dossier, which remember, was the basis for this whole, crazy investigation to begin with. So --

CHUCK TODD:

That’s not, I mean, that isn't the facts. That’s a --

REP. JIM JORDAN:

It's a big fact. --

CHUCK TODD:

It is something that you have --

REP. JIM JORDAN:

We've had this debate before.

CHUCK TODD:

No, I understand. It's something that you believe. But it has not been proven.

REP. JIM JORDAN:

No, it's the lead thing they took to the FISA court to get the warrant to go spy on the Trump campaign. And oh, by the way, it was paid for by --

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, but that’s, it’s still not been --

REP. JIM JORDAN:

-- the Clinton campaign.

CHUCK TODD:

-- it never was even proven --

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Chuck, you know that's the case.

CHUCK TODD:

-- when you got, when you got these papers released to the public, you found out that that wasn't the truth.

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Yes, it is. Yes, it is. And they didn't tell the court that the Clinton campaign paid -- never forget what happened there. The Clinton campaign paid the law firm, Perkins Coie, who hired Fusion GPS, who hired a foreigner. And what did that foreigner do? Talk to a couple Russians --

CHUCK TODD:

You left out the Repub -- You left out the Republican donor, who began the whole thing.

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Put this dossier together that our F.B.I. used to go get the warrant to spy on the Trump campaign.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you something. Why do you not want this investigation concluded by Robert Mueller?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

I want it concluded. I want it over with. But there’s not, they’re not going to --

CHUCK TODD:

But you continue, but you continue to question it and interfere with it. So how is it ever going to end, if you question and interfere with it?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

I'm not questioning or interfering with it. I’ve just said -- it can be public. The president said he wants it to continue. He's allowed it to continue. It's going to continue. At some point, there'll be some investigation. And then the attorney general, Bill Barr, will decide, will follow the law and release what he wants to release and, maybe, release the whole thing. That's going to happen. We all know that. What we know is --

CHUCK TODD:

Do you want it all completely released? Donald Trump, Jr., does. Do you want it completely released?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Yeah, I'm open to whatever the attorney general decides. He should follow the law. He should follow the regulations. And if they release it all, I tend to think we should err on the side of transparency. I've been for that all along. I want the FISA applications released.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

REP. JIM JORDAN:

I want the 302s from Bruce Ohr. I want all that information released, so we can get to the bottom of it, and the American people can know exactly what happened, when they launched this thing.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you believe the Russians interfered with the 2016 election?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Everyone said that they thought they were trying to impact the election.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you believe it?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

The question Mueller --

CHUCK TODD:

Do you believe it?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Yeah. I mean, of course. That's what the intelligence community has told us. But there is zero evidence --

CHUCK TODD:

Do you believe --

REP. JIM JORDAN:

--zero --

CHUCK TODD:

-- they did it to try to help Donald Trump win?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Who knows why they did it. But there is zero evidence of any type of --

CHUCK TODD:

You think that it’s possible? It sounds like --

REP. JIM JORDAN:

-- collusion --

CHUCK TODD:

-- you believe --

REP. JIM JORDAN:

-- coordination --

CHUCK TODD:

-- it’s possible that Russians, for their own foreign-policy reasons, wanted Trump, not Clinton.

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Why would -- I don't know. I mean, they can, thee can do whatever they -- whatever they're trying to do. Who knows what their motives were. What I know is there's not one bit of evidence to show any type of coordination, collusion, conspiracy, whatsoever, between the Trump campaign and Russia, to impact the election. But, but there is all kinds of evidence to show that the Clinton campaign worked with Russians to impact the elections via that whole thing I just described, where they hired the Perkins Coie law firm, who hired Fusion, who hired a foreigner, Christopher Steele, who communicated with Russians and put together the fake dossier.

CHUCK TODD:

Why do you think that Donald Trump hired somebody, like Paul Manafort, with ties to Russian mobsters? Why do you think that Paul Manafort decided to work for free for the Trump campaign?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

I have no idea. I have no idea.

CHUCK TODD:

Does any of that bother you --

REP. JIM JORDAN:

But you’ve got to remember --

CHUCK TODD:

-- considering all of his ties --

REP. JIM JORDAN:

-- they were doing this --

CHUCK TODD:

-- with the Russian government? I’m just asking --

REP. JIM JORDAN:

You’ve got to remember they were doing this --

CHUCK TODD:

Why does that, does none of that -- Does that deserve scrutiny?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

And it's getting all kinds of scrutiny. For goodness sake, Mr. Manafort's been indicted. So it's getting all kinds of scrutiny.

CHUCK TODD:

No, but do you believe it deserves scrutiny?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Well, that's what the special counsel is doing. He’s -that's his call, not my call. So yeah, if they're looking at all that, that's fine. But that's not what this Wednesday was about. This was a guy coming in, who has zero credibility, and who has lied and is going to prison for lying. One of those lies, of course, was lying to Congress previously. And guess what he did. He came in front of Congress and told at least, at least, six different lies --

CHUCK TODD:

You are very concerned about --

REP. JIM JORDAN:

-- about the president.

CHUCK TODD:

-- a lot of the lying. Does it bother you that Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen, all these people around the president, all these people around the president --

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Do you know what bothers me?

CHUCK TODD:

-- has all been convicted or pled guilty to lying --

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Do you know what bothers me most?

CHUCK TODD:

-- to either investigators or Congress? --

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Here’s what bothers --

CHUCK TODD:

-- there's a lot of liars around the president. Why?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Here's what bothers me most. Jim Comey, director of the F.B.I., fired, Andy McCabe, deputy director, fired.

CHUCK TODD:

So you're upset that he was fired?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

No, listen, lied three times under oath. Andy McCabe is under investigation. Jim Baker, chief counsel at the F.B.I., demoted then left, under investigation by the Justice Department. Peter Strzok, deputy head of counterintelligence, demoted then fired. Lisa Page, F.B.I. counsel, demoted then fired. --

CHUCK TODD:

It doesn’t explain why the president --

REP. JIM JORDAN:

-- two of those people kicked off the Mueller team.

CHUCK TODD:

Why does the president surround himself with people who can't tell the truth?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

You’re missing the big --

CHUCK TODD:

You're not answering my question about --

REP. JIM JORDAN:

You're missing the biggest problem --

CHUCK TODD:

Why does the president surround himself with people who can't tell the truth to law enforcement or Congress?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

When have you ever seen an agency where the top five people, who, oh, by the way, Chuck, ran the Clinton investigation, launched and ran the Russia investigation, have either been fired, demoted, or left the F.B.I., the top people?

CHUCK TODD:

Again, it doesn’t -- you haven't answered the question I asked. Why does -- the president has surrounded himself with people who cannot tell the truth to law enforcement or congress?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

The president's surrounded himself with some people that, maybe, he shouldn't. I don't know. But when he was running this campaign, Mr. Manafort was there, was part of the campaign. Mr. Manafort had been involved with Republican politics before. Why he selected him, I don't know. What I'm most concerned about is what took place at the highest levels -- our committee is supposed to be the government oversight committee. We're supposed to look at abuses when, when government agencies do the kinds of things that I think they did, at the top levels of the F.B.I., that's what we're supposed to be focused on.

CHUCK TODD:

I am curious what you thought of this one comment by Michael Cohen. Take a listen.

[BEGIN TAPE]

MICHAEL COHEN:

I'm responsible for your silliness. Because I did the same thing that you're doing now, for ten years. And I can only warn people, the more people that follow Mr. Trump, as I did, blindly, are going to suffer the same consequences that I'm suffering.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Are you at all concerned you're, you’re blind to something here?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

No, no. My focus is on getting to the bottom of things, getting to the truth. That's what we're supposed to do on the Oversight Committee, when we do investigations. That's my focus. As I've said, the record, under the president's leadership, the last two years is simply amazing, the things that have been accomplished for this country, both economically, on the courts, and a host of areas, foreign policy, as well. So that’s my --

CHUCK TODD:

Do you concede that the president has not always told the truth on Russia?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

I don't think the president's lied about Russia at all.

CHUCK TODD:

Not once.

REP. JIM JORDAN:

There's been no collusion -- even --

CHUCK TODD:

Not about the Trump Tower Moscow --

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Chuck, even --

CHUCK TODD:

-- project?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

-- James Comey --

CHUCK TODD:

He didn't mislead the country on that?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

Even James Comey, even James Comey, when he -- when we deposed him, said, up until the day he was fired, May 9, 2017, said there was no evidence -- they were doing this investigation for a long time, no single bit of evidence to show any type of coordination between the Trump campaign --

CHUCK TODD:

Then why do you think the president didn't want to tell the country that he had a Trump Tower Moscow deal in the works?

REP. JIM JORDAN:

I don't know that. The president said one thing. And then you've got, you’ve got Michael Cohen saying something else.

CHUCK TODD:

Jim Jordan, the top Republican of the Oversight Committee, I'm guessing we will do this again.

REP. JIM JORDAN:

We will. Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you very much. All right, when we come back, the fallout from the Cohen hearings. And how serious are Democrats about impeachment? Panel is next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panel is here. Matt Bai, national political columnist for Yahoo News; Helene Cooper, Pentagon correspondent for the New York Times; our own NBC News national political reporter, Heidi Przybyla; and appearing on Meet the Press for the first time, which is an error on my part, John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary. I know, I feel like -- saying this. So you're the first-timer. So I'm going to get you the first shot at this. I want to put up Peggy Noonan from this weekend. Because it was a fascinating column she did, overall, sort of both trying to explain Trump world, but also, what she saw. And here's what she writes. "What is amazing," this is on the Cohen hearings. "What is amazing, though, is that such a rebuke, such an attack, on the essential nature of a president, and by an intimate, has no equal in our history. John Dean said there was a cancer growing in the presidency. He didn't say Richard Nixon was the cancer." J-Pod?

JOHN PODHORETZ:

Okay. So Michael Cohen, if the SDNY, Southern District of New York, or whoever, hadn't broken down the door of his hotel room in the Regency Hotel, you know, in the summer of 2018, would he have said these words that he said this week? Of course not. He threw himself on the mercy of the world that hates Trump, having spent ten years doing nothing but defending Trump. So his, you know, moralistic attack on Trump has to be taken with, you know, not a grain of salt, but a mountain of salt. Having said that, the weird thing, I think, about the Cohen testimony, is that, despite Jim Jordan saying he was a terribly liar, in some ways, he helped Trump on the larger question of Russia and impeachment, by saying that Trump did not formally, did not say "I want you to lie to Congress," by saying that he had attempted to purchase the videotapes mentioned in the dossier and had decided, from that experience, that they did not exist. So you know, that and a couple of other things, as somebody who said, "I hate Trump now. And he's terrible. And everything is terrible," and if he's such a confirmed liar, why didn't he say, "Trump told me to lie." If he had said it, Trump would there be subject to the possible charge of subornation of perjury. But he didn't say it.

CHUCK TODD:

Heidi, Michael Cohen's credibility increased, because he bailed Trump out of a few things.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA:

He did. And that's to John's point, that there was a number of cases here, where he actually defended the president against some pretty nasty accusations that have been swirling around, like the elevator tape, you know, rumors that he had, somehow, hit Melania in the elevator. And so he kind of built up his credibility, because he wasn't in 100% trashing Trump, and especially on the collusion point. He said he didn't see evidence of collusion. And so he wasn't 100% trashing the president. And that made him more credible on the new things that he did bring to the table, which was the news here that there had been hush money payments, and not just one, that were made throughout the entire course of this presidency. He also suggested that there is another, separate, criminal investigation going on at the SDNY. He said there were things he couldn't talk about. And tantalizingly, he mentioned his final conversation with Trump as something that was in that scope and that he couldn't talk about.

CHUCK TODD:

So that was that, Matt Bai. And we have the story this morning about, maybe, it's a pardon that they're doing. But let me ask this. Impeachable? Is he John Dean? John Dean brought the end of the Nixon presidency. Did Michael Cohen?

MATT BAI:

Not in that particular performance. Look, I agree with you guys. He's a liar. And we've known this. And you have to take that as face value. That being said, I thought, and I agree with Peggy Noonan on this, it was the portrait of the president he painted, particularly in his opening statement, that I thought, maybe, perhaps, is more damaging, in the end, than any particular thing on which he exonerated the president or implicated the president. I mean, talking about the president looking at him and saying, "I was going to go to Vietnam? You think I'm stupid," that the president, who he says, never indicated he loved the country or wanted to make it better. This is a guy who spent, you know, years and years at his side. I think there's a lingering sort of cumulative impact of that intimate portrait and damning portrait painted by someone so close to the president. That, by itself, is not impeachable. I do think we're going to get to impeachment at some point. I don't think Democrats are going to be able to hold themselves back, as they get closer to 2020. And I don't think it matters. Because frankly, nothing's going to drive this president from office. You have to think of him, he's not Nixon, as I said. He's Buddy Cianci. He's Marion Berry. Come at him. He loves it, right? He wants the fight.

CHUCK TODD:

He does. Helene, this was great, Washington Post, on Wednesday, about, why did House Republicans just attack Cohen and not defend Trump? Here's what one anonymous House Republican said. "'Truthfully, it is tough to ignore some of the gross immoral behavior by the president,'" said one senior House Republican. "But the reason there was no defense is because there is no defense," as Jim Jordan didn't want to defend certain things for the president.

HELENE COOPER:

No. I mean, I thought that was one of the extraordinary things that came out of the Michael Cohen hearing, was that so many Republicans didn’t -- no, you didn't hear people saying, "Trump isn't a racist." You didn't hear people saying, you know, "Let me defend the president." You heard them, you know, doing a concerted, making a concerted effort to go after Cohen, and that -- to break down his credibility. It's clearly the Republican strategy. One of the things I thought -- and you know, I used to cover Buddy Cianci, at the Providence Journal.

MATT BAI:

Oh, yeah, old Providence times, huh?

HELENE COOPER:

You've completely blown me up with this. That's a great comparison. But one of the things I thought was a little bit sad about the reaction to the Cohen hearing is that the United States -- people in the United States, now, are so in their respective camps. You've got the left way off to the left and the right at the right. And nobody is listening to facts or anything like that that's presented. You know, people are not coming out and saying, "Wow, he said this. He said that." It's all been baked into the process. And people hear what they want to hear.

JOHN PODHORETZ:

I think Jim Jordan set out the course for the Republican Party, from here on out, which is, "I don't want to talk about any of this. I want to talk about tax cuts. I want to talk about the economy. I want to talk about foreign policy." What we have here, beginning in 1998, when Bill Clinton got into so much trouble, polling started separating out the president's personal job approval from his work job approval. You remember? So Clinton's numbers went way down on his personal job and stayed there. But his work job approval was high. This is the track to re-election for Trump, if there is a track to re-election for Trump. If the nation can be convinced that the news is good, and Trump's character has nothing to do with whether or not he is managing the country effectively, they will have a case to make for his reelection. And that requires them to say, "I don't want to talk about any of this."

CHUCK TODD:

Final point.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA:

When it comes to impeachment, you just listened to Jerry Nadler, who is the chief Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. And he says, point blank, they've got to have more Republican support. We've seen what works, in history, with Nixon, which was bipartisan, and Clinton, which was very partisan.

CHUCK TODD:

So the bottom line is, they're not going to impeach him, until they have the votes to impeach him. Okay. In a moment, what do Democrats want more: a progressive idealist or a candidate who's simply better positioned to beat President Trump? That and more on the 2020 race, when we return.

[BEGIN TAPE]

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

We will enact a federal jobs guarantee to ensure that everyone in this country is guaranteed a job.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

That was Bernie Sanders in Brooklyn, yesterday. So the accent really fit, his first speech since launching his 2020 campaign. On Friday, it was Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, who got into the race. And tomorrow, it'll be former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper officially announcing. So whoever wins the Democratic nomination will face a president with a loyal and resilient base of support. In our latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, taken before all of the news about Cohen and North Korea, President Trump's approval rating stood at 46 percent. That's actually tied for the second-highest showing yet in our poll, since he's been president, 52 percent disapproving. He's basically in the higher end of what has been a trading range of about five points, in the low to mid-40s. Last month, we had him at 43 percent, with 54 percent disapproving. So is that good enough for reelection? Well, joining me now are our gurus, the NBC News/Wall Street Journal polling partners of Republican Bill McInturff and Democrat Fred Yang. Let me put up generic ballot. Always, we know, it's just a generic ballot. But a generic Democrat has 48 percent. President Trump has 41%. Bill McInturff, is that a yellow, flashing yellow light or a flashing red light?

BILL McINTURFF:

Well, it's a yellow light. You're behind. But so was Bill Clinton at the same point in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. And with a 46 job approval, the President's in the ballgame. And the other thing you remember is, last month, that was a minus 14 down. It's a minus 7. And a year ago, it was minus 16. It's getting closer. And I think that's a good and positive thing for the president.

FRED YANG:

Flashing yellow light. But that also means he has to do everything to win it. And it may not be enough. And one of the hallmarks of the Trump presidency is he really hasn't expanded his support beyond the base of people who elected him in 2016. And yes, he did win the Electoral College. But he only got 46 percent of the popular vote. And in a two-person race, which we still may have, 46 percent doesn't, probably, win you the presidency.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, it's interesting then. What do Democrats want? This is one of the questions we asked here, which is, among primary voters, do they want someone who's closer to their views, this is among Democrats, or somebody who's simply got the best chance to beat Donald Trump? 56-40, so a majority wants somebody closer to their views. But believe it or not, four years ago, nearly 80 percent wanted somebody a bit more pure, while 20 percent were in the pragmatic wing. Bill, did that surprise you?

BILL McINTURFF:

No. Because four years ago, it was some anonymous Republican. This is President Trump, enormous Democrat intensity against him. And you know, if you showed the Republican numbers four years ago or, sorry, eight years ago, about Obama, they would've looked just like that, 40 percent I want to beat Obama, majority I want somebody who agrees with my views. Primary voters, both parties, they're ideologues. They want to see somebody that they can be excited about.

CHUCK TODD:

Fred, is it fair to say -- there used to be a saying, Bill would say it all the time, Republicans aren't looking for the most electable. They're looking for the most electable conservative. Is that what Democrats are looking for, not necessarily the most electable, purely, but the most electable progressive?

FRED YANG:

I think, from our polling data, other polling data, yeah, I'd have to say, that is probably a fair characterization. I will also say that it's not just a binary choice, with so many different candidates running on the Democratic side. And even if you're taking the progressive-issue lane, there are so many different progressive issues a candidate can try to get ahold of. So many people -- and one important thing. There will be one more Super Bowl before there's a vote. There's a long time to go.

CHUCK TODD:

I wanted to -- there was a headline in George Will's column this morning that sort of, to me, was better than putting up a poll number, but just talking about the week of divisiveness in both parties. And it says, "Democrats," this is his headline, "Democrats are having an awful week. And Howard Schultz is having a good one." Fred, let me start with you. The divide in the Democratic Party, Howard Schultz thinks that's his opening. Democrats are going to go with a Sanders-like. And Trump's over here, with his committed base. Is, is this a week that is a reminder that Democrats could actually give an opening to a Howard Schultz.

FRED YANG:

Again, I think there's so much time left. Because there isn't a nominee to coalesce around, we're going to have different groups, you know, different issues, sectors, fighting for influence. But in our poll, whether you wanted to defeat Trump more, or you wanted someone who's closer to your views on issues, nine out of ten were voting for Donald Trump against a Democrat. I think our party comes together next year.

BILL McINTURFF:

Here's a poll number from NBC/Wall Street Journal. 38 percent said that they want a third party. That's the highest in the 16-year track we've been doing. And so obviously, this is a country where, guess what, since 1989, Democrats have become more liberal, all-time record last year. Republicans have become more conservative, all-time record. Independents, all-time record, were moderate. There is certainly an impulse, in the middle of the country, to see some other option between these two parties.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, it's funny you put it that way. You guys had a fascinating chart. And I'm going to put you guys a bit on the spot here. It was about President Trump. Has he been honest and truthful on the Russia investigation? And we had it split up by where people get their news on television, on the cable front. Well, let me put it up here. So has the president been truthful or honest on Russia? Among Fox viewers, 84 percent of Fox viewers believe the president has been truthful. Among MSNBC viewers, that's 21 percent. Among CNN viewers, that's one percent. Look, these are small samples. We can debate that. But that does tell you something major. What does it say to you, Fred?

FRED YANG:

It tells us that you get your reality from what channel you watch.

CHUCK TODD:

And what does that mean for how this -- I mean, does that mean that the Michael Cohen hearing, as significant as it was, Bill, as far as, maybe, the legal case and everything that we're worried about here, that the country has made up their mind, or that the partisans have made up their mind?

BILL McINTURFF:

I hate to say this, since you do a weekly show. But one of the main things you learn, as a pollster, is please, our country sort of comes to a steady state, and it's very hard to change. All the Russia news, all the Korea, all the stuff, I think we could do this same survey next week, and these numbers would be within a point of each other. You just have to, in some ways, ignore everything that happens and look at longer-term trends. And the longer-term trend is the country sort of said they've sort of decided what they think about Russia. And until there's a heck of a lot more fact --

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

BILL McINTURFF:

-- this country is nowhere near where it needs to be think you could impeach a president.

FRED YANG:

And to go to what Ms. Cooper said in the previous segment, I think most partisans have decided what the truth is right now and that’s -- in terms of the Cohen and Mueller report. We'll have to see what actually happens in the Mueller report, for people to have a reaction to the Mueller report.

CHUCK TODD:

There is another chunk of people who actually ignore social media all week long. Anyway, Fred Yang and Bill McInturff gold-standard --

BILL McINTURFF:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

-- pollsters. Thank you --

FRED YANG:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

-- very much. Later in the broadcast, the other big story of the week, the collapse of the nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea. So now what happens?

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Data Download time. So what characteristics are Democrats looking for or not looking for in a presidential candidate? Well, the answer may come in our new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. This month, we asked voters about certain types of characteristics that would make them enthusiastic or comfortable, and what characteristics would make them have some reservations or uncomfortable about a certain candidate. We're going to do other characteristics next month and throughout this election season. Across the board, Democrats were enthusiastic or comfortable with a candidate who is African American, a woman candidate, a white male, someone gay or lesbian. On the flip side, only 33% of Democrats were comfortable with someone over the age of 75 as their nominee. And only 45% were comfortable with a potential socialist president. I can think of a few Democrats running for president, or at least thinking about it, who fit one or both of those descriptions. And by the way, while the margins vary, Democrats are in line with voters, overall, on those questions. So where are the splits between Democrats and everyone else? Well, 67% of Democrats would be enthusiastic or comfortable with a Muslim president, compared to just 49% overall. Only 37% of Democrats, though, are okay with an evangelical Christian, versus 54% overall. And only 31% of Democrats want to see a business executive as president. I wonder what that's about. Overall, that number is 56%. Look, as we get further into this process, keep close attention to what Democrats and the country, overall, have said. They don't want someone over 75. And they don't want a socialist. We'll be testing other characteristics, like people who are Hispanic, an Asian American president, atheist, women of color, military leaders, and, yes, billionaires. They'll be coming to a Data Download near you. When we come back, what the president said about the death of student Otto Warmbier. Is he really taking Kim Jong Un at his word?

ANNOUNCER:

Coming up, End Game, brought to you by Boeing. Continuing our mission to connect, protect, explore, and inspire.

ANNOUNCER:

End Game, brought to you by Boeing. Continuing our mission to connect, protect, explore and inspire.

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with End Game and an awkward end to the North Korea talks. And I say, "an awkward end." I want to set aside -- walking away from talks could be a good thing. So let's put that aside. But it was the Otto Warmbier stuff that really, sort of, left a horrible taste in the mouths of a lot of people. Here was the president on Thursday talking about Otto Warmbier, the now-deceased student, who died, essentially, in the hands of the North Korean government. Here is the president on Thursday in Hanoi.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

I don't believe that he would of allowed that to happen. It just wasn't to his advantage to allow that to happen. He tells me that he didn't know about it. And I will take him at his word.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Here's the president, yesterday, trying to explain those comments.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

And I'm in such a horrible position. Because in one way, I have to negotiate. In the other way, I love Mr. and Mrs. Warmbier. And I love Otto. A lot of what I do, with respect to North Korea and any success that we hopefully have, and we've had a lot. We’re given no credit.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Otto Warmbier's parents put out their own statement. "We have been respectful during this summit process. Now, we must speak out. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that." You know, Helene, it actually, to me, puts a spotlight on human rights is just not part of this President's foreign policy.

HELENE COOPER:

It does. It's not part of his DNA. And I think that's -- that’s unfortunate. I was so prepared. You know, I think overall, Trump in Vietnam on this North Korea summit did OK. There was a lot of fear before he went that he was going to again -- at the Pentagon, in particular, they were terrified that he was going to talk about pulling troops out of South Korea, that he could do -- put any number of things on the table. He did not. His North Korea policy, if you take out all of the tweets and if you take out all of the inflammatory statements and the rocket man and all of that, is actually sound. And a lot of people buy into that, national security experts. And then he -- he does this Otto Warmbier statement, which is completely preposterous. And it sounded so familiar to him standing in Helsinki, talking about afterwards about the American intel community. And he had talked to Vladimir Putin, who told him they had nothing to do with interfering with the American elections. And so of course, he believes them. And he believes MbS on Khashoggi and it’s like one after another. All you have to do is, as an autocrat, it seems, is to have a conversation with him. And he is quick to -- there's a level of understanding, of kind of the personal pain that he might be inflicting that doesn't seem to be there.

JOHN PODHORETZ:

There was a time in -- on the conservative side of the American political divide when the Republican Party in particular was split between people who believed in fighting a moral foreign policy, in which you talked about the West's values versus, say, the Soviet Union's and human rights and pushing for human rights, and the other side of the right, which was a realpolitik right that said --

CHUCK TODD:

Nixon -- the sort of Nixon wing.

JOHN PODHORETZ:

Yeah, you have to deal with the world as it is. Don't be a fantasist. You know, you've got to deal with the bad guys. And you take them -- you take them as they are. The realpolitikers would never who you know were -- this was a real fight, they would never have gone out and said that the Russian's didn't know that they were torturing Andrei Sakharov or that they were isolating, they were throwing people in the Gulag. That was the reason they said, "These are tough people, evil people. So you'd better deal with them cold-eyed -- in a cold-eyed fashion." Trump has completely obliterated this. So he goes, and he says nice things about evil people, which doesn't help, unless you believe that flattering them -- flattering people who are beyond the reach of flattery, I would imagine, is the way to get them to do what you want.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, that's what works with Trump, by the way.

JOHN PODHORETZ:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

If flattery works with him, so he assumes flattery works with others.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA:

Right. But you can still be, to John's point, realpolitik and believe our intelligence services. And that is the other dimension of this that is similar to how he's talked about Vladimir Putin. That is similar to how he's talked about Mohammed bin Salman, which is that our intelligence services believe that Otto Warmbier was taken intentionally and strategically. Because if you look at the timing of it, it was three days before Kim Jong Un was about to test a missile for the first time in three years. This is a well-known tactic of the Koreans -- North Koreans, which is strategic hostage taking. So count this as yet another time where this president is not just trying to butter up dictators and strongmen but doing it in defiance of our own intelligence.

CHUCK TODD:

Matt, final word.

MATT BAI:

You know, presidencies take on the personalities of the president, always. And I agree with you. There's nothing inherently wrong with walking away from a negotiation. I don't think that's a problem. But -- and this is going to sound harsh, this is a presidency entirely without empathy. I think this is what you're getting at only because he seems to be for all appearances a person who is entirely without empathy. Whatever his strong suits or weak suits, he does not have the ability to feel, personally and deeply, the suffering of others. He never exhibits that. And I think that's what Cohen was getting at in his testimony. And it's what comes across in moments like this with North Korea.

CHUCK TODD:

David Brooks, today, that's basically the theme of his column. Who didn't love Donald Trump, when he was a kid? Anyway, that's all for today. Thank you for watching. We'll be back next week. Because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.