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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, the fallout. President Trump claims victory over the Mueller report.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Total exoneration, complete vindication.

CHUCK TODD:

Allies line up to defend him.

RONNA MCDANIEL:

And what did we hear this week? No collusion, no obstruction.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

A total vindication.

CHUCK TODD:

And the president goes after his opponents.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Little pencil-neck Adam Schiff.

CHUCK TODD:

But Democrats push back.

REP. JERROLD NADLER:

The president has not been exonerated by the special counsel.

CHUCK TODD:

And condemn Mr. Trump's conduct.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

I think it's immoral. I think it's unethical. I think it's unpatriotic. And yes, I think it's corrupt and evidence of collusion.

CHUCK TODD:

My guests this morning, two Senate leader, Republican John Barrasso of Wyoming, and Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois. Also, President Trump vows again to repeal and replace Obamacare.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

The Republican Party will soon be known as the party of healthcare. You watch.

CHUCK TODD:

Did Mr. Trump just hand Democrats a winning issue? And the 2020 campaign.

JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

I am a dreamer and a doer.

CHUCK TODD:

Can a self-described extreme moderate win the nomination in an increasingly progressive Democratic Party? I'll talk to former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. Joining me for insight and analysis are NBC News chief White House correspondent Hallie Jackson; Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher; Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan; and the editor of National Review, Rich Lowry. 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. It turns out, we're still waiting for the Mueller report. On Friday, Attorney General Bill Barr sent a letter to Congress, promising to release the report with redactions, no later than mid-April, and said that there are no plans to submit the report to the White House in advance. What may be surprising is how little an effect, Barr's four-page summary of Mueller's nearly 400-page report seems to have had on public opinion. Our latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll shows that 40% of adults say they do not believe the Mueller report clears President Trump of wrongdoing. Just 29% says it does. But look at this number. A very significant 31% remain unsure. Perhaps those 31% are wisely waiting for the actual report to be released. Or they just haven't been paying that close of attention to this story. President Trump's disapproval rating, by the way, sits at 43%, with 53% disapproving in this poll. That is down slightly from last month's numbers, 46%/52%, approve to disapprove. But let's be honest. It's well within the president's trading range that we've seen all presidency long in fact, as you can see, over the past four months, as throughout this presidency, Mr. Trump's approval numbers have basically held remarkably stable, even though they are weak. It's perhaps why the president debuted a scorched-Earth strategy of sorts on the campaign trail this week in Michigan, as Democrats are debating which one of their candidates can survive the onslaught. Well, maybe most surprising of all this week was what Mr. Trump did during his celebration dance. He stepped on his good news. The president pivoted away from the best gift he's received as president, no collusion, and handed the Democrats a political gift of their own, a chance to defend Obamacare, now that he has vowed, again, to try to repeal it without any alternative.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

The Russia hoax is finally dead.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump took a victory lap this week.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Total exoneration, complete vindication.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:

It's a total vindication.

RUDY GIULIANI:

As clear a vindication or exoneration that you can get.

CHUCK TODD:

While Mueller did not conclude that the president committed a crime with the Russian government, he also did not exonerate him of obstruction of justice. And in that new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll, just 6% of Democrats, 19% of independents, and only 64% of Republicans believe the report clears Mr. Trump of wrongdoing. Now, Democrats are rejecting Attorney General Bill Barr's timeline, demanding the full report be released by Tuesday.

SPEAKER: NANCY PELOSI:

Show us the report, and we can draw our own conclusions. We don't need you interpreting for us. It was condescending. It was arrogant.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

I have great confidence in the attorney general. And if that's what he'd like to do, I have nothing to hide.

CHUCK TODD:

But by Friday evening, the president appeared to have reversed course, tweeting, "The problem is, no matter what the radical-left Democrats get, no matter what we give them, it will never be enough. So maybe we should just take our victory and say, 'No.'" Barr has already said he will redact the report for grand jury testimony, classified information, material that could affect ongoing investigations, and information that would, quote, "infringe on the personal privacy and reputations of," what he calls, "peripheral third parties," another way, perhaps, of invoking executive privilege.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

The Democrats have to now decide whether they will continue defrauding the public with ridiculous bull(BLEEP).

CHUCK TODD:

Republicans have moved on to singling out political enemies.

REP. MIKE TURNER:

Adam Schiff's leadership of the Intelligence Committee is compromising.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY:

He needs to resign from the committee.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Little, pencil-neck Adam Schiff, sick, sick. These are sick people.

CHUCK TODD:

Schiff called out the president's conduct.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

I think it's immoral. I think it's unethical. I think it's unpatriotic. And yes, I think it's corrupt and evidence of collusion.

CHUCK TODD:

And Mr. Trump appears focused on revenge, attacking his investigators, seeking to blunt their credibility.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

I'm sorry. They have to be accountable.

CROWD:

Lock them up. Lock them up. Lock them up.

CHUCK TODD:

Some Republicans worry that the president will fixate on the wrong message and were rattled by the Trump administration's surprising decision to tell a federal appeals court, on Monday, that the entire Affordable Care Act should be overturned.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

I'm very disappointed and vehemently opposed.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

We have a chance of killing Obamacare. We almost did it. But somebody, unfortunately, surprised us with thumbs down. But we'll do it a different way.

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now is the chair of the Senate Republican Conference, John Barrasso of Wyoming. Senator Barrasso, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

Thanks for having me, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to get to healthcare. But let me start with the Mueller report. The attorney general's working on getting a redacted report to Congress and the public by mid-April. I understand the public, perhaps, seeing a redacted version. Shouldn't Congress, who gets regular intelligence reports, shouldn’t Congress see the full -- some members of Congress see the full report?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

Well, first, the headlines were very clear last week: no collusion, no collaboration, no conspiracy. I've called for a release of the full report.

CHUCK TODD:

Un-redacted?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

Well, that's what I've been calling for. I understand the attorney general has some specific issues and areas that he has to be concerned. I think anything you give to Congress, ultimately, everyone will see. So I don't see a lot of difference in terms of making sure the public sees it.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think this is a mistake to draw out this fight, that essentially, the more he redacts, the more it becomes that -- you're essentially having the wrong debate in Congress, which is about transparency and the lack thereof?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

Well, I'm for transparency and for accountability. When Mueller was appointed, he was the patron saint of all that is just and good in the world --

CHUCK TODD:

Well, let's see his work.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

-- that's what Dianne Feinstein said. That's what Chuck Schumer said. Now, they just kind of want to seem to throw him under the bus, when he found out that there was nothing there. They don't seem to be happy with the results. But he is somebody that was praised, from both sides of the aisle, as being able to do a fair and compelling commitment to the job assigned to him.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you confident there's nothing there? I mean, let me quote from Mr. Barr's report. He said, "The special counsel states that, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him." What do you take that to mean? The president says he's exonerated. Who's right here, by the way?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

Well, the headlines, no collusion, no collaboration --

CHUCK TODD:

The headlines --

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

-- no conspiracy --

CHUCK TODD:

-- the headlines --

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

-- That's what is there. I want to see the report.

CHUCK TODD:

The headlines are Bill Barr's memo, he -- Bill Barr said the report doesn't exonerate him. The president says he is. Where do you come down on this?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

I've asked for a report, the full report to be released. The attorney general will make that final decision. And ultimately, the voters will make that decision. As you just saw from your report, you know, last week, NBC interrupted a golf tournament. CBS interrupted the Final Four. People wanted to get back to the sports they were watching. They were more interested in that than they were in the breaking news.

CHUCK TODD:

You may be right. Let me ask you this. The special counsel did not, did not find a crime, when it comes to conspiracy. There is a counterintelligence investigation. This is what we know from it. And I'm curious if you think the president is exonerated from all of these things: allegedly asking Comey for loyalty, allegedly telling Comey that he hoped he could let Flynn go, telling the Russian ambassador, in the Oval Office, that he got this Comey thing out of the way, the public asking for help. The President's behavior, while he's technically exonerated from a crime, is he exonerated from his behavior, as a president?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

Every president is judged on many things. Behavior is part of that. The electorate will be asked to make that judgement in 2020. And we'll see how they decide.

CHUCK TODD:

But do you -- what do you think on this?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

Yeah. I think that the president has been clear with the American people. He has been, I believe, falsely accused, for the last two years. And Mueller has proven the fact that there was no collusion or conspiracy with the Russians.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think he was falsely accused, because some of his behavior led people to believe there was something more there? He was the one that wanted to -- Do you think it was appropriate for him to want to do business with Vladimir Putin and Russia while running for president?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

The president is an international businessman, has success all around the world. It is not surprising that when he chose to run for president --

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

-- he was continuing to do the business that he was doing beforehand.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand. You stated a bunch of facts there. You didn't state any opinion. Do you think it's appropriate?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

No. I think that it's not surprising that international businessmen do these things, no.

CHUCK TODD:

Right, but he wanted to run for president. Should he have given that up?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

No --

CHUCK TODD:

Was that a mistake, to pursue something like that? Because it may have helped trigger all of this suspicion.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

It probably did trigger this suspicion. But I don't think that there is a fault there on the part of the president.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I'm going to ask you one other thing about Bill Barr's reading of, of expansive executive power. Here's what he said about, about what he wrote in his memo, before becoming attorney general. He said, "Constitutionally, it is wrong to conceive that the president is simply the highest officer within the executive branch hierarchy. He alone is the executive branch. Thus, the full measure of law enforcement authority is placed in the president's hands. And no limit is placed on the kinds of cases subject to his control and supervision." This maintains -- Do you believe the attorney general is right, of this expansive view that, essentially, the president of the United States is the law?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

Well, I believe the attorney general is right in his evaluation of the law and how it works. But no man is above the law.

CHUCK TODD:

How could you, though, correct this viewpoint? I mean, you're saying that he's right. But it does claim that, as sitting president of the United States, he is above the law. Maybe he won't be after or before, but he is while.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

You know, I'm not a lawyer. I don't play a lawyer on television. There are experts that look into that. And I know that Lindsey Graham, the pit bull that he is on the Judiciary Committee chairman, is going to continue to work on this area.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think investigating the investigators is a good, is a good idea?

SEN.JOHN BARRASSO:

Lindsey's a pit bull. And I think he's heading down that road.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think it's a good idea? Again, you've been very careful not to express your personal opinion on these things. Any reason?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

My opinion, my opinion is, we need to get beyond this. We need to get to the point where we focus on our strong, healthy, growing economy, we focus on the issues that are on the American public mind. And what we've seen is this is not something, look, this is not something I hear about at home, in Wyoming, Chuck. I was there this past weekend.

CHUCK TODD:

And do you think, not investigating Hillary Clinton is a good -- do you think then not investigating Hillary Clinton is the way to go?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:Well, it does seem to me that that's how we got here to begin with, and all of the things that were leading up to the 2016 election. I wish it would all be behind us. But we're not there yet.

CHUCK TODD:All right, let me move forward in healthcare. The president said you, Senator Cassidy, and Senator Scott are coming up with an alternative healthcare plan that will protect preexisting conditions, that can replace Obamacare. Is that true? And what does this plan look like, if it is?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:Well, as you know, it's going to need bipartisan support. Because Nancy Pelosi is the Speaker of the House. Every time I talk to President Trump, we talk about healthcare. He knows, with regard to preexisting conditions, that I'm a doctor. My wife, Bobbi, is a breast cancer survivor. She's been through surgery three times, chemotherapy twice. He knows I am 100% committed, as are Republicans, to protecting people with preexisting conditions. We are absolutely continuing to work on this, realizing that it has to be bipartisan. My concern is that the biggest threat that I see to the freedom and the economy of this country is this complete government takeover of healthcare, which is where the Democrats are going, this Medicare for all, with longer lines --

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

-- rationing of care, higher taxes, less freedom. And it is now the liberal litmus test --

CHUCK TODD: I understand that.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO: -- of all the Democrats running for president.

CHUCK TODD:But that isn't the law as it is right now. Is it a mistake for the president to have joined the lawsuit to say that Obamacare is unconstitutional? Do you want it overturned? Do you want the courts to overturn this right now? Or do you want it kept in place, until you guys figure this out?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:Well, first of all, this lawsuit isn't imminent. There's not going to be any decision on this for a couple of years. But it shouldn't be a surprise to anybody that Republicans are opposed to Obamacare. We have been for a long time --

CHUCK TODD:Right. But for ten years, you have been. We’ve actually -- I was thinking about this. It was in '09 that we began the debate. It's 2019. You guys have been talking about having a plan to protect preexisting conditions for ten years. And you haven't been able to come up with one. You had Congress and the presidency for two years. You haven't been able to come for one. Why should we expect it now?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:You know, the Obama healthcare law, I think Republicans and Democrats agree, it has failed to keep its promises. Prices are skyrocketing and continue -- I was in Wyoming, at my medical office on Friday, talking to patients, doctors. Bronze plan, cheapest bronze plan, in Wyoming, for a family of four, $1,900. The deductible, $12,000. That's not right. The president is right. This is on the American people's minds.

CHUCK TODD:But you can't find an alternative that would make that cheaper yet --

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

Well we’re --

CHUCK TODD:

-- and protect preexisting conditions, correct? Or you’d have it.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:Well, right now, we've done things to lower the cost of pharmaceuticals. They're lower this year than last year. We've gotten rid of the gag order on pharmacists. We have founds ways through association health plans to have people join together to get half the cost of insurance, cuts the cost, these short-term plans. We want to let people buy what they need, what's appropriate for them, so they can get the care they need from a doctor they choose at lower costs.

CHUCK TODD:Let me ask this. Should the American people expect an actual healthcare plan alternative from the Republican Party this year?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:The American people should expect to not have to be burdened with the incredible costs that are affecting them now, as a result of the healthcare law.

CHUCK TODD:A plan, will we see a new plan from the Republican Party about what their alternative is?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:I've been working on a plan since the day I got to the Senate. And it is association health plans --

CHUCK TODD:Twelve years now.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

-- It is allowing people to buy what works for them. Let ranchers join together and deal with transparency. The president is right on that. Drug costs, which are actually coming down, there are things that are working. But we need bipartisan support at a time where the Democrats want to take over all of healthcare and eliminate insurance from 160 million Americans.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Barrasso, I'm going to leave it there. I wish we had more time on this. I have a feeling we're going to be debating healthcare. If we've done it the last ten years, my guess is ten more. Senator Barrasso, thanks for coming on and sharing your views, sir.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO:

Thanks for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now from the other side of the aisle the Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois. Senator Durbin, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

Good to be with you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

I know you're chomping at the bit about health care, but I want to ask first about Mueller and this Tuesday deadline. What Mr. Mueller has -- excuse me -- Mr. Barr has already said he's not going to meet the Tuesday deadline for the Mueller report to be in Congress. What are the consequences? Do you have consequences planned?

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

We have a new species of political dinosaurs. It's called the Barr-Redactyl. And apparently, William Barr believes that he can take his time and redact the 300 or 400 page report from Bob Mueller. I think it's long overdue for him to apply to Court to get a waiver when it comes to grand jury information and then to produce this report in its entirety for the Congress. There's ample precedent. When it came to Clinton investigations in the past, for Hillary and for Bill Clinton, there were massive reports, unredacted, turned over to Congress. That should be the case here as well.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, before Mueller came out, you had been, sort of, preaching some sort of calmness. You had said things like, "Why don't you park yourselves on the sidelines until Mueller's work is completed?" All right. Mueller's work is completed. I know you're waiting --

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:

That's right.

CHUCK TODD:

-- to see what's in it. But you saw the polling. You know that this is -- while this is an obsession among the bases of both parties, the vast -- there's a vast chunk of America that has tuned this out and doesn't want this focus. You heard Senator Barrasso say that they -- he wishes their side could move on. Do you think it's time for your side to move on?

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

Well, I think there should be a complete disclosure of the Mueller Report. I was standing in the subway in Chicago on Friday. And a lady came up to me named Deborah, and she said, "We paid for that inquiry. Why can't we see the report?" She's not a professional politician by any means, but I think she speaks for most of America. I don't want to dwell on it, but I think it's important we at least see what Bob Mueller produced. Sally Yates had an important column just a day or two ago. She said remember, at the heart of this was the Russian interference in our election. To stop them from doing it again, to find out what conduct helped them or hurt them, we ought to see the full Mueller Report that gets into the counterintelligence phase. So it does have application to what we do moving forward. Let's release the entire report. Let the American people see what happened.

CHUCK TODD:

You sit on the judiciary committee. The chairman there, Republican from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, has indicated he wants to do some investigating of the investigators. How did this get started? He has said he wants to talk about Comey. Are you with him on this? Do you think that's an investigation that's necessary?

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

I don't want to return to Travelgate, Benghazi and the Clinton emails. You know, I think we can move forward from here. We ought to focus on the counterintelligence aspects of this and the security of the 2020 election. That's the one thing both parties ought to agree on. No one should interfere with the opportunity and the obligation of the American people to choose their next rank of leadership.

CHUCK TODD:

Given the fact that Senator Graham admitted he was sort of involved in the process, or at least knew of the process of how the dossier got to James Comey from Senator McCain and he read it actually before it got to Comey, does he have to recuse himself from this investigation on your committee or not?

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

Do you think Lindsey Graham would recuse himself from any investigation? I can't imagine it. And I'll tell you, I hope we don't dwell on this. As I said, it is yesterday's newspaper with Mueller's report. Let's put it to rest one way or the other. If there's action needed by Congress to keep our political system intact, let's move forward.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I want to move to a few issues. But I want to start first with immigration. The front page of The New York Times this morning notes that, look, whatever you want to call it, wherever you want to put the blame, we have a problem right now on the border. The secretary of Homeland Security wrote this letter to Congress. "DHS is doing everything possible to respond to a growing humanitarian catastrophe while also securing our borders. But we have reached peak capacity and are now forced to pull from other missions to respond to the emergency." Look, I'm well aware you don't like the president's plans on immigration, the wall, all of those things. The fact is, we do know there is a massive migration crisis right now. Does Congress have the responsibility to give Secretary Nielsen more tools to deal with this temporarily?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:

Let me tell you the first thing we ought to do in this administration, which was the author of the zero tolerance policy, removing over 2,800 toddlers, infants and children from their parents with no tracing of where they were being sent, so they could be returned. The first thing we need to do is to meet the humanitarian needs at the border. Instead of building fences two or three years in the future by taking money from the Department of Defense, focus on facilities to serve these families, so that there aren't children who are hurt and dying as a result of this situation.

CHUCK TODD:

Is there a --

SENATOR DICK DURBIN: Then take a look at the big picture. When the president says -- when the president says he's going to close the border, that is a totally unrealistic boast on his part. What we need to do is focus on what's happening in Central America, where three countries are dissembling before our eyes, and people are desperately coming to the United States. The president's cutting off aid to these countries will not solve that problem.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me move quickly to health care. And it's this question. The Democratic presidential candidates are all talking about remaking Obamacare, some of them radically, some of them on the edges. The Republican party is obviously in a different place. You're trying to defend Obamacare while your rest of your party wants to change it. Should the presidential candidates be more focused on defending Obamacare than changing it?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:

I can tell you this. I voted for it and think it's one of my most important votes. It cut the number of uninsured Americans and in Illinois in half. And back to my friend John Barrasso, and he is a friend, 25,000 people in the state of Wyoming have health care because of Obamacare -- 95% of them get a subsidy for the premium payment. There are ways to improve it. The Affordable Care Act was not brought down a mountainside by Moses on clay tablets. There are ways to improve it. For example, when it comes to prescription drug pricing, I disagree with John Barrasso. Most Americans believe, and I do too, that prescription drug prices are through the roof and indefensible. We should be addressing that as one of the first changes to make the Affordable Care Act more effective.

CHUCK TODD:

Quickly on 2020, Joe Biden, there's an allegation that he was basically too -- made some women feel uncomfortable by some ways that he acted around them. He has put out a more complete statement saying he still doesn't remember the incident, but that he will pay more -- that men in general need to pay more attention how they interact with women. Are you concerned that Joe Biden can handle the onslaught of 2020? Do you think he should run?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:

Well, I can tell you that Joe Biden is a friend and a seasoned veteran when it comes to political campaigns. I know nothing about the allegations that I also read this morning as well. I think all of us should take such allegations seriously and with respect. I took Joe Biden's statement to say just that exactly. So yes, I think he's ready, if that's his decision to move forward in this presidential campaign. We have a spirited field of 15 or 16 candidates--

CHUCK TODD:

So this isn't disqualifying him?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:

--across the spectrum in the Democratic party and its values. Certainly, one allegation is not disqualifying, but it should be taken seriously.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat from Illinois. As always, sir, thanks for your time and sharing your views.

SENATOR DICK DURBIN:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, the president spent the week going after his opponents in the wake of the Mueller headlines. Was that a missed opportunity?

[BEGIN TAPE]

PRES. DONALD TRUMP: There are a lot of people out there that have done some very very evil things, very bad things, I would say treasonous things against our country.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with the panel Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher. He's an NBC News analyst. Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, also an NBC News analyst. Our chief White House correspondent here at NBC News, Hallie Jackson, and the editor of National Review and a man who was up late watching UVA get to the final four because he's an alum, Rich Lowry. You are in a much better mood this morning, I imagine--

RICH LOWRY:

Absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

--than you would be. Let me play-- the president had a couple paths to go down after getting some good news on Sunday as far as he was concerned. Here's the president at his first campaign rally post Barr/Mueller Report.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

There're a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things, very bad things, I would say treasonous things against our country. Those people will certainly be looked at.

The Russia witch hunt was a plan by those who lost the election to try and illegally regain power. Sick. Sick. These are sick people.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Peggy, maybe I'm stuck in a time warp that thinks that, boy, you have a political opportunity, take it. He could've gone down one path. One is that path, the Uma Thurman Kill Bill path, right, trying to take revenge. Or he could've cornered the Democratic party this week and said, "All right, I'm ready for infrastructure, let's go."

PEGGY:

Yeah

CHUCK TODD:

But he went down the revenge path.

PEGGY NOONAN:

Somebody said when it was announced that the Trump White House was going to now push on health care once again after having been unsuccessful the first time, a reporter said to a White House official, "Why are you doing health care?" And the White House official said, "Too much good news. Have to change the subject." So there was an element of that. It would’ve been wonderful to see the president -- there's something a little surprising. He was angry when the good news came in. Didn't you get the impression that he was feeling anger when you think--

CHUCK TODD:

He loves the grievance, so yeah.

PEGGY NOONAN:

Well, relief and generosity would've been nice. A little history of how we got there, then put it away. Then, as you say and as I agree, go forward on infrastructure. He is the builder. America wants to build. Dems are for it, Reps are for it. Go, go, go.

HALLIE JACKSON:

There was consternation inside the West Wing among the president's allies about their whole place because let me take you back to, like, six days ago because not just the Barr summary came out, Chuck, but you also had the guy who was his chief nemesis, Michael Avenatti, got arrested. He had his best pal, Bibi Netanyahu over at the White House, giving him some wine. He was riding high. And then in a matter of 24 hours, that'll change because of this filing deadline on the Affordable Care Act and that lawsuit. And there was real concern, I'm told by my sources on the part of, for example, Vice President Pence. Not a disagreement on the policy, but a disagreement on exactly this, the tactics. Where do you go from here because they could see that people like Senator Barrasso are going to get hammered by people asking questions like, "Where is the plan? Do you have a plan?" There were also some questions from the lawyers on the legal viability of this argument. And the president, I don't think it's that surprising that he went full revenge mode.

CHUCK TODD:

No.

HALLIE JACKSON:

He was so mad for two years about this. So this was, like, a moment for him to, right, grind the grievance axe, if you will.

CHUCK TODD:

But Rich, when he wonders why is he sitting at 43-46%, I would just think, "Exhibit A."

RICH LOWRY:

Oh, this is true, but he was genuinely angry because you have to think a little bit from his perspective. So he fires James Comey, as far as I can tell, because Comey refused to say publicly what he was telling Trump privately which is, "Sir, you are not under investigation." Soon as he fires him, he's under investigation for two solid years with some people, serious people, suggesting he's committed acts of treason. And I do think there should be an investigation, the investigators, not to wreak vengeance on anyone because I do think this process went off the rails. We let a garbage oppo gathered from Russian sources by an ex-foreign spy, the so-called dossier, distort our politics for two--

CHUCK TODD:

By the way--

RICH LOWRY:

--solid years.

CHUCK TODD:

--should Lindsey Graham be the guy investigating this considering the--

RICH LOWRY:

Well, Lindsey--

CHUCK TODD:

--weird relationship he had with the dossier itself?

RICH LOWRY:

-- Lindsey switched around on a lot of stuff. But look, I would say, I know this isn't going to happen, but I feel as though this should be after the conclusion of the Starr Report, where all fair-minded people on both sides say, "Let's never do this this way again."

CORNELL BELCHER:

You want to take this first--

HALLIE JACKSON:

No, go.

CORNELL BELCHER:

--because I don't know where to start. This stinks. And this is why it stinks. Can you imagine for one moment if, if Democrats had taken the Starr Memo and said, "You know what? This exonerates the president. Nothing really to see here." Newt Gingrich's head would've exploded. Look, this is part of the problem with what Americans think of what's wrong with Washington is that there's no transparency. If in fact he's innocent, and by the way, Barr didn't say exonerated completely. If in fact he's innocent, put it out there and let us all see it. You know, the number that's striking from The Wall Street Journal poll to me is 19. Only 19% of independents think that this clears the president. And you know what? As an operative myself, you know, I've got to say, when you're giving your polling data to the Russians, as a pollster, it's kind of hard. You say that you're not colluding.

CHUCK TODD:

By the way, I do want to put up this number here. This is paying a lot of attention to news coverage on various-- we do this all the time in our polls, put this up. Look where the Mueller Report sits compared to other major events over the last couple of years. The Orlando shooting at the Pulse nightclub, the spread of Ebola, Access Hollywood tape. People have watched a lot of news coverage on the Mueller Report. It's sitting at 39, Peggy. It is one of these things where, understandably why all of us are into it, and because it's an important investigation. But the middle of the country, I think, that's who this is.

PEGGY NOONAN:

The middle of the country and America in 2019 has been used for decades to watching Washington do its thing and have its partisan investigations. And they do filter it out I think to a good degree. I'm sure they're all happy to have an answer now. I have a feeling the president's foes are never going to let this whole Mueller thing, the investigation, go. I think the Mueller Report, once it is made public to the degree it is made public, and then we'll all argue about that, is going to be seen less as a definitive to explicit Starr Report, and more like, "Oh, we can do Warren report on this for the next few years and pull every thread we see."

CHUCK TODD:

What are we going to be debating more in the next six months though, Hallie, Obamacare? Or are we going to be debating the full release of the Mueller Report? I don't think we're going to be debating what's in the Mueller Report for a while. I think we're going to be debating the full release, but what matters more?

HALLIE JACKSON:

It's definitely I think the health care law. I think when you look at the numbers and when you look at what people are interested in and when you look at what people are talking about on the 2020 campaign trail, specifically Democrats, they are not talking about Russia and the Mueller Report. Now that said, the president and there are those around him who do see this as essentially a political cudgel to be able to use against Democrats. So, for example, this deadline issue, Bill Barr came out in that letter and said mid-April. I'm told by folks inside the White House their stance is going to be, "We're okay with that and we're going to blast the Democrats for demanding it by Tuesday."

RICH LOWRY:

This counterintuitively could be a reason why this outcome hurts the president, because Russia was always a blind alley for the Democrats. The case against Trump is not that he's a Russian spy or a proto-fascist or any of that, it's what Nancy Pelosi's been trying to do. He's a conventional Republican masquerading as a populist with all the same Republican policies. That is the more powerful case.

CHUCK TODD:

A fascinating way to put it. I'm going to pause it there because that's a dangerous place for Trump because he ran as something not as that. Up next, can a self-described extreme moderate win the Democratic nomination? John Hickenlooper's trying. My interview with the former Colorado governor when we come back.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. In a Democratic party moving to the left, at least rhetorically, it could be hard to accuse John Hickenlooper of pandering. The former Colorado governor is opposed to things like Medicare for All. He's a moderate on immigration and considers himself a fiscal conservative, unlike some of his better known 2020 opponents right now. Still, Hickenlooper is a proven vote getter, having been elected governor of Colorado twice and mayor of Denver twice. And presidential candidate John Hickenlooper joins me now from Denver. Governor Hickenlooper, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

FMR. GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

Good morning.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me just start. Look, I want to dive into it. People want to assess your ability to be president. We've got a front page story in the Times, The New York Times that I'm sure you've already seen about the crisis at the border, that we have a larger debate about immigration. And I'm not asking for your larger answer on that. I'm curious, what would you be doing right now? We have this -- we have a huge influx right now. They're gaming the system differently. We don't have the facilities to deal with these type of asylum seekers. What would you do right now?

FMR. GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

Well, certainly, I wouldn't have gotten us into the situation we find ourselves at the border now. And I would not have ripped away hundreds and hundreds, thousands of kids away from their mothers and then shipped them off to adoptive families. I mean, it's a form of kidnapping. I think the key was to keep out in front of this issue and make sure we had the facilities so that we could provide, you know, humane processing of people that were, you know, in many cases fearing their lives who were at risk and fleeing perhaps certain death to try and come to America. This country's been built on immigration. We should respect and have a process that's fair for everyone.

CHUCK TODD:

What does a border -- what do our borders look like in a Hickenlooper administration? How tight? How secure? How porous? How would you describe it?

FMR. GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

You know, I think you need borders. But you have to recognize that we are a country built on immigration. Right now, we have more job openings than we have people looking for work. We've got to reevaluate our entire immigration system and whether we’re -- we need more workers to help bring in our crops, which were at the border line now, where last fall we were leaving some of our fruits and vegetables in the fields and unharvested. Whether we need more electrical engineers to keep our tech industry at the front of the global competition. I mean, that's all got to be incorporated into a comprehensive treatment of immigration and making sure that in the process of doing that, we solve the, the, the, complexities at the border.

CHUCK TODD:

What is an extreme moderate, right? A radical moderate? There are different versions of this. I've heard you off the record say versions of this as well. Define it for voters. How do you want that defined when we hear this phrase that you're an extreme moderate?

FMR. GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

I don't like any of the labels. You know, I tried to do both when I was in small business but also when I was a mayor, when I was a governor, I've tried to address bringing people together and getting things done. And I really do believe we're in a crisis now of division. That encompasses health care and the environment and the economy. And what I've done again and again is been able to, to bring people together and get stuff done. So we got to almost universal coverage in health care in Colorado. We expanded Medicaid. We created one of the most innovative exchanges in the country. We got the environmental community to sit down with the oil and gas industry and actually create the first methane regulations in the country. That the oil and gas industry paid $60 million to implement. But are, you know, the equivalent of taking 320,000 automobiles off the road. I think on the -- Of all the candidates so far, I think I'm the person who has the most continuous example, the most, you know, continuous record of actually getting people together and bringing them together, put down your weapons and then get things done.

CHUCK TODD:

But, you know, Governor, somebody would -- somebody on the left would say, "You know, you're going to sit down with the oil and gas industry. That's the problem. You're going to let them write the legislation. There's been too much accommodation over the years, not just on that issue." But that is the argument coming from the new progressive left. How do you deal with that as a candidate?

FMR. JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

Well, I hold out the record of actual accomplishment. Everyone else is pointing fingers and blaming each other. And, you know, when we got that methane regulation put in place, that system of regulations, not only has it helped Colorado, it's now being rolled out as national policy across Canada. It should be global policy. If we're going to address -- if we’re really serious about addressing the challenges of climate change and the environment, it's not sufficient just to address it here in this country. We've got to do it globally to have the impact that we have to have. I mean, this is a place where we don't have the luxury of continuing this Washington style battle of blaming the other side.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, and one of these battles where we have this a lot is on the issue of abortion. And I'm curious, when it comes to this idea of trying to basically break impasses, which I think is essentially what you're trying to say. You're going to be, you’re going to be a guy that's going to try to break an impasse. You have a lot of states, Georgia's the latest, that are passing fetal heartbeat bills. Essentially, they're trying to prevent abortions, making them illegal the minute you can hear a heartbeat. What is your reaction to laws that like? Do you believe they're unconstitutional or not? And what is the line on abortion for you?

FMR. GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

Well, I think those laws are unconstitutional. And I think from my point of view, I recognize the difficulty of the question and I empathize with people on both sides. But I believe, I've always come down on the side of a woman's right to take care of her own health care.

CHUCK TODD:

Is there any limit?

FMR. GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

One of the things we did in Colorado --

CHUCK TODD:

Is there any limit that you believe there should be?

FMR. GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

Well --

CHUCK TODD:

What is it?

FMR. GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

Wait, wait, wait, wait. But one of the things we did in Colorado over the course of five years, we got some foundation money, but we provided long-acting, reversible contraception. Things like Norplants and IUDs to 15 to 25 year old young women. And in that process, over the last eight years, we have reduced teenage pregnancy and teenage abortion by over 60%. I mean, that's some of the -- I mean, that’s the kind of accomplishment and achievement we should be looking at. And again, you've got to have the debate. And I respect that, but I think a woman has to ultimately have the right to, you know, make decisions about her own health.

CHUCK TODD:

And what is government's role at all? Should government just draw that line? Is there a line the government should draw?

FMR. GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

I think that the Supreme Court has already drawn that line. And that in this country, women are allowed that, that final decision of those issues that most directly affect their health care.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you a final issue that has popped up this morning, and that is this accusation against Vice President Biden. He has -- says he doesn't remember it, but he also says that he wants to rethink how men in general have interacted with women. First of all, is it a disqualifying -- from what you have read and seen about this, do you believe it's disqualifying? And second, what is, what should, what past behavior should be accountable these days and what shouldn't?

FMR. GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

Well, I think the more important issue to recognize is that we are at an inflection point. Really, a moment of transformation of the entire country, where women, in many cases for the first time, are having the courage to come forward and speak about things that happened to them that make them intensely uncomfortable. In many cases, they feel they've been damaged unfairly. I think our first responsibility is to make sure that we, that we allow these women, we recognize their bravery and that we listen to them. And we believe them, right? We have to make sure that that's the first issue.

CHUCK TODD:

And what about, is this disqualifying for Vice President Biden?

FMR. GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

Well, again, I don’t know aside from this one issue, I haven’t you know, even this issue, I don’t know all the details. But I think that’s why we have an election. That’s that process, but certainly it’s very disconcerting and I think again, women have to be heard, and we really, we should start by believing them.

CHUCK TODD:

Governor John Hickenlooper, Democrat from Colorado, I’m going to have to leave it there, thanks for coming on and sharing your views. I imagine we’ll catch up again, sir.

FMR. GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Up next, Democrats are desperate to win back the White House. So what do Democratic Voters think of some of the better-known candidates so far? That’s next.

CHUCK TODD:

We are back, Data Download time. So how do voters feel about the 2020 candidates so far? Our new NBC News-Wall StreetJournal poll offers a few clues. There's one candidate we're pretty confident will be on the ballot come November 2020, and that's President Donald Trump. Republicans look to be all in on the president, with 79% saying they are either enthusiastic or comfortable supporting him. Democrats, as you might expect, are on the other end of the spectrum. But only 34% of independents call themselves comfortable with Trump right now. That’s not a strong number for the president to be starting with right out of the gate. And perhaps most telling, a full 50% of all respondents called themselves very uncomfortable supporting the President's reelection. Remember, what we just tested with President Trump and what we're testing with five Democrats this month and will test more in the months to come is, basically, the floor and ceiling of potential support. This is not a horse-race poll on purpose. Anyway, among self-described Democrats, the person with the most enthusiasm and comfort was Biden, followed by Sanders, Warren, Harris and O'Rourke. Biden had the most saying they were enthusiastic or comfortable at 70%. Now, with independents, the candidate order, essentially, held with lower levels of support, of course, overall. However, Biden and Sanders seem to have an advantage with independents, both with close to 50% saying they'd be comfortable or enthusiastic supporting him or them. Republicans also followed the same pattern with much lower numbers. Biden stands out from the crowd here with 21% saying they'd be comfortable supporting him. That could suggest he has some crossover appeal, if he runs and wins the nomination. Look, name recognition is obviously crucial when running for president. And it could explain the stronger showings for Biden and Sanders right now. And we should note that Sanders also starts with the highest negatives among Democrats as well. Harris and O'Rourke received the highest numbers for, "Don't know the name" or "Not sure" in our poll. But that also means both Harris and O'Rourke have a better shot at defining themselves on their own terms throughout the campaign unless somebody does it for them. And that may be the case for much of the Democratic field. It's not a bad place to be in the spring of '19. When we come back, speaking of 2020, the political re-education of Joe Biden.

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with End Game and a story that actually continues to develop this morning, the accusation against former Vice President Biden. He has put out a new statement. Let me read the whole thing, in part. And let's dive into this discussion. The original context had to do with a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in 2014 talking about, essentially, Vice President Biden invading her personal space in an extraordinarily uncomfortable way. Here's what Vice President Biden, his second statement on this. "In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support, and comfort. And not once, never, did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention. I may not recall these moments the same way. And I may be surprised at what I hear. But we have arrived at an important time, when women feel they can and should relate to their experiences. And men should pay attention. And I will." Cornell Belcher, I should note, at least Lucy Flores, who did an interview this morning on CNN, called this statement better than the first one.

CORNELL BELCHER:

Well, it's a very good statement. But it's also not what you want to start off your campaign having a conversation about, right? I think they want to start off the campaign having a conversation about leadership and vision for the future. But this is also what happens, when you're the frontrunner. And you die by a million papercuts. And I think this is going to be, given his time in history, they want to focus on his competence and beating Trump. They don't want to be talking about this this morning.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, let me put up the headlines that you referred to here. Politico has a great one, which is that he's getting a quick 2020-- "blindsided by a dose of 20/20 reality." Obviously, this allegation, also, Anita Hill's come up this week, his back and forth on Roe v. Wade. Joe Biden's greatest strength is the fact that he's been in the political mainstream for 40 years. His greatest weakness is that he's been in the political mainstream for 40 years.

RICH LOWRY:

Well, and this allegation, there's a reason God gave us the handshake, you know? It's always respectful. It's always appropriate.

CHUCK TODD:

And it's gender neutral.

RICH LOWRY:

Yeah. And crux of this statement, I don't think this was sexual or malicious, but it was way over familiar and would immediately, in any workplace, get reported to HR, to say, "Stop doing that." And the problem he's going to have is, as you say, all this record and how he deals with it. And I just think, if he apologizes too much, he's going to risk seeming insincere and weak. And in theory, I think, he's a really formidable general-election candidate. But no one in either party, in our national politics, will say, "You know what? I want to own the old-guy, establishment lane in one of our major political parties.”

HALLIE JACKSON:

We're talking, and I think, rightfully so, about a lot of the political piece of this. But there is such a big cultural element to this, too. I mean, we are now post-Me Too. October 2017, right, that's not that long ago. And more broadly speaking, on a big-picture level, candidates have to grapple with what it means to have had white male privilege for many years. And you're seeing that in this very public way. Voters are demanding it. The woman candidates running are, in some ways, demanding some accountability for that, too. This goes beyond the realm of politics. It's much bigger than that.

PEGGY NOONAN:

Oh, I think it has to do with the fact, in part, that Joe Biden is a long-time American political figure, who came from the fleshy world of '60s and '70s politics, when everybody started to hug and kiss. It was different from the '40s and '50s. We're hugging. We're kissing. All that stuff is going on. That's part of his story right now. Another thing is, I think, for the first time in his life, Joe Biden is seeing himself the target of his own party's oppo. He's got operatives for other candidates going after him in a way that will have to be startling.

CHUCK TODD:

Can he survive this?

CORNELL BELCHER:

Yes, he can.

CHUCK TODD:

How? How does he survive it?

CORNELL BELCHER:

Yes, because he pivots to the issues. And I think it was a very good statement. Because he acknowledged it. And you're absolutely right. The culture has fundamentally changed, which is a problem for a lot of our older candidates, who, to your point, came up in a culture that was very different. But I think he can survive it. And this is why he survives it: comfort. The number that popped out in the NBC poll is comfort. And Democratics are very, very comfortable with Joe Biden. However, I don't think that sets people on fire.

CHUCK TODD:

The good news is, you know what you're going to get. The bad news I, you know what you're going to get.

HALLIE JACKSON:

That's a really good point.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, guys. That's all we have for today. What a show. Thank you for watching. We'll be back next week. Because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.