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NBC News - Meet the Press“05.20.18”

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, attacking Robert Mueller, President Trump denounces the Russia investigation.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

And I've been saying that for a long time. It's a witch hunt.

CHUCK TODD:

His lawyer, Rudy Giuliani warns, if they think Mueller's report is unfair --

RUDY GIULIANI:

We're ready to rip it apart. And we're ready to rip them apart, if that's what they want.

CHUCK TODD:

With the Mueller probe entering year two, my guests this morning, Congressman Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and a Trump ally that Mueller has been focusing on, Roger Stone. Plus, spy games. President Trump accuses the F.B.I. of spying on his campaign, saying "If true, all time biggest political scandal." But the F.B.I. says it moved only after becoming aware of contact between the campa ign and Russia. We'll have the details. Also, a big week for women and progressive candidates. At issue, are Democrats more likely to win back the House aiming from the left or from the center? I'll ask Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. And it's happened again, another school shooting, another ten dead, and another sign that this has become a part of American life.

PAIGE CURRY:

I've always kind of felt like everybody it was going to happen here too. I wasn't surprised, I was just scared.

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me for insight and analysis are NBC news chief White House correspondent Hallie Jackson, New York Times columnist David Brooks, Hugh Hewitt, host on the Salem Radio Network, and Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for the PBS News Hour. 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. One year into Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, we are seeing two narratives emerge: the case that Mueller appears to be building, and the counter-narrative that President Trump and his allies are creating. For instance, members of the Trump team meet with Russians in June of 2016 at Trump Tower.

President Trump says, "Anyone else would've done the same." Mueller brings charges against Mr. Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort and a deputy. The president insists Mueller is going too far, just fishing for information. The Steele dossier indicates collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians.

Trump allies point out dossier was partly paid for by Democrats, meaning they're the ones that did the colluding. And the latest, the F.B.I. dispatches an informant to talk to Trump campaign advisors after learning of suspicious contact with Russians. President Trump and his allies insist that's a sign of F.B.I. misconduct bigger than Watergate.

As the evidence appears to mount against Mr. Trump, he is returning serve with his own version of events, one he hopes will shield him politically whenever Mueller releases his report. To borrow a phrase from Donald Rumsfeld, here's a "known" known. The closer Mueller appears to get, the more Mr. Trump and his allies lash out.

RUDY GIULIANI:

And we're ready to rip them apart, if that's what they want.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump is suggesting he has been framed by his own Justice Department, this week calling the Mueller probe a "disgusting, illegal, and unwarranted witch hunt."

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

It looks like the Trump campaign may in fact have been surveilled.

RUDY GIULIANI:

For a long time, we've been told that there was some kind of infiltration.

CHUCK TODD:

The latest issue, the role of a confidential F.B.I. informant. According to reporting, the F.B.I. source met with at least three Trump campaign advisors after the F.B.I. received evidence of suspicious contacts with the Russians. Two of them, George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn, have already pleaded guilty to making false statements to investigators about their contacts with the Russians. A third campaign aide, Carter Page, has been on the F.B.I.'s radar since at least 2013. One year after Robert Mueller was appointed to oversee the ongoing investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election, and potential coordination with Trump associates, Mueller's probe has produced 14 indictments against individuals and secured five guilty pleas. Backed into a corner, the president has moved from denying the facts of his aides' involvement to attempting to discredit the fact finders, his own Justice Department.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

It's a witch hunt. Witch hunt. Witch hunt. Witch hunt. It's a total witch hunt.

RUDY GIULIANI:

If you're asking me who's committed crimes here, the crimes have been committed by the investigators.

CHUCK TODD:

For weeks, Mr. Trump's allies in the House have battled to publicly identify the F.B.I. informant, despite warnings from the F.B.I. director that Trump appointed.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY:

The day that we can't protect human sources is the day the American people start becoming less safe.

CHUCK TODD:

Over the last year, as new inconvenient facts emerge, the explanations from Mr. Trump and his associates have continued to shift on campaign contacts and coordination with the Russians.

CARTER PAGE:

I had no meetings. No meetings.

ROGER STONE:

I have had no contacts from Russians or intermediaries for Russians.

DONALD TRUMP JR.:

For me, this was opposition research.

RUDY GIULIANI:

Even if it comes from a Russian or a German or an American. It doesn't matter. And they never used it, is the main thing.

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now is a long-time Republican operative, an ally of President Trump, it's Roger Stone. Stone, by the way, is the author of a new book, Stone's Rules. Mr. Stone, welcome to Meet the Press, sir.

ROGER STONE: Thank you for having me, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD: Let me start with this, we learned that two of your associates now have been subpoenaed recently by the special counsel. We know that prosecutors have been asking witnesses about you. The last time we’ve talked you had said you hadn’t been interviewed by the special counsel. Are you preparing to be indicted?

ROGER STONE: Well, Chuck, I don’t know if I’m an interesting person or a person of interest. I think these leaks out of the special counsel’s office are reprehensible. At least eight of my current or former associates, mostly young people, have been terrorized by Mr. Mueller’s investigators. I can guarantee you they have found no evidence whatsoever of Russian collusion, nor trafficking of allegedly hacked emails with WikiLeaks. It is not inconceivable now that Mr. Mueller and his team may seek to conjure up some extraneous crime pertaining to my business, or maybe not even pertaining to the 2016 election. I would chalk this up to an effort to silence me, Chuck. I’ve been a, I think, effective critic on Infowars, StoneColdTruth.com, on programs like this, of the excesses, of the -- and partisanship of the Mueller probe, so I am prepared should that be the case. But I think it just demonstrates, again, this was supposed to be about Russian collusion, and it appears to be an effort to silence or punish the president’s supporters and his advocates.

CHUCK TODD: I don’t know how this has silenced you. You’re not somebody that’s been silenced very easily. You came here. Let me ask you this, so to confirm, you have not had any contact with the special counsel’s office, personally?

ROGER STONE: That, that, that is correct. Now should they --

CHUCK TODD: Not your lawyer, either?

ROGER STONE: That is correct. On the other hand -- should they decide to proceed against me for some extraneous crime that I can’t identify, perhaps we can get into the question raised by the New York Times on January 20th, 2017 that says I was the subject of a FISA warrant. Now for a US citizen to be subject to a FISA warrant, they have to be engaged in espionage on behalf of a foreign power. That is certainly not the case as far as I am concerned, so I, I, I am very anxious to find out. The New York Times has never retracted that story by the way -- I am very anxious to find out why I would have been subject to such a FISA warrant.

CHUCK TODD: Well, I think one of the areas of interest, apparently, has to do with your communications with WikiLeaks, various tweets you have said, so let me go down that road with you. I’ve asked you this before, but let me ask you again here. Did you have any advance knowledge of any kind about John Podesta’s hacked emails?

ROGER STONE: No, absolutely not. And Chuck, an honest reading of my tweet, I said “The Podesta’s,” apostrophe s, time in the barrel. This isn’t about the placement of the apostrophe, it’s about in -- the fact that in virtually every news account, the word “the” has been omitted. “The” refers to more than one person, meaning, as I have said here before even though you want to revive this chestnut, I was referring to both Podesta brothers, and the revelations in the April 2016 Panama Papers that exposed their shady business dealings in Russia. John and Tony -- the Podestas.

CHUCK TODD: Well, let me --

ROGER STONE: Even the final report of the House Intelligence Committee mistakenly omits the word “the” from my tweet.

CHUCK TODD: Fair enough, but let me ask you about some tweets in the first week of October. They go this way. October 2nd, Roger Stone writes, “Wednesday, @HillaryClinton is done #Wikileaks.” Let’s go to October 3rd, “I have total confidence that Wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon #LockHerUp.” Jump two days later, October 5th, “Libs thinking Assange will stand down are wishful thinking. Payload coming. #Lockthemup.” Finally Thursday, October 6th, “Julian Assange will deliver a devastating expose of Hillary at a time of his choosing. I stand by my prediction. #Handcuffs4Hillary.” Of course the next day is October 7th and then emails come out. A fair reading of that suggests to me that you had some advance warning of something big coming that had to do with John Podesta’s emails. How is it that the special counsel wouldn’t think that too?

ROGER STONE: Well there’s no evidence to that because I had no advance notice of the content, source, or the exact disclosure time of the Wikileaks disclosures. Assange himself has said so. In fact Assange has said in his own tweets and in interviews that Roger Stone never predicted anything that I hadn’t already said in public. Additionally, Assange went on CNN in June and said he had a treasure trove of material on Hillary and I’ve been very forthright and testified completely and honestly before the House Intelligence Committee that I did have a source who told me that Assange really had what he said he would have and that it would be delivered in October, consistent with those tweets. There is no evidence to the contrary, that I had advanced notice. Chuck, we’ve been down this road before and I answered these questions for you previously.

CHUCK TODD: I, I, I understand that but you -- you’ve been very specific with your denial. I had no -- I had no awareness of the content and the source. But you had an awareness, and you seem to have some --.and you seem to be very specific with this denial--

ROGER STONE: My aware-aware-awareness -- this is, this is --

CHUCK TODD: --so explain that specificity.

ROGER STONE: Sure. It’s, it’s very simple. All one has to do is follow Julian Assange’s tweets and set a Google News alert for Julian Assange, read every interview he’s given, and everything that I predicted is contained in his public comments. There is no evidence whatsoever that I had advanced knowledge of the content or source of this material. I received nothing from Wikileaks, or from the Russians. I passed nothing on to Donald Trump or the Trump campaign. We’ve been through this ad nauseum.-It is a wild goose chase.

CHUCK TODD: Are you 100 percent confident that Julian Assange has nothing to do with the Russians or Russian government or any sort of Russian associate?

ROGER STONE: First of all, I don’t even believe the Democratic National Committee was hacked. Based on the article I read in the Nation magazine--

CHUCK TODD: He -- John Podesta’s emails have nothing to do with the DNC, I’m talking -- by the way.

ROGER STONE: Again --

CHUCK TODD: They weren’t part of the DNC hack.

ROGER STONE: Again, I never predicted the disclosures of John Podesta’s emails. There does need to be some context though, Chuck. At a time that the Clinton people were actively promoting among members of, and many of your colleagues, Paul Manafort’s business activities in Eastern Europe, the activities of John and Tony Podesta were already public having been published in the Panama Papers. There is no evidence that I knew about the, the, the accessing by Wikileaks of John Podesta’s emails or their publication in advance. No evidence whatsoever.

CHUCK TODD: Before I let you go, I want to ask you about a comment you gave to the New York Times last month about Michael Cohen. And you said this: “Donald goes out of his way to treat him like garbage.” Explain what you meant by that.

ROGER STONE: Well, Michael Cohen wanted very much to be in politics, he wanted to be in the campaign, he wanted to be in the administration. He has not achieved any of those things. I don’t think the President regarded him as a political genius or was open to his desires in that area. And he had a tendency to discount any political advice that Michael would give him. What Mr. Cohen has and has not done for the President, I have no way of knowing. Chuck, I’m not an attorney nor was I privy to any of those internal dealings.

CHUCK TODD: Do you, do you think he does - do you think he should have something to fear from Michael Cohen because of the way he treated him?

ROGER STONE: I’ve been in politics for 40 years. I know enough not to answer hypothetical questions.

CHUCK TODD: Roger Stone, I will leave it there. Thank you for coming on. I appreciate it and I will try to find more hypothetical questions for you the next time we talk.

ROGER STONE: Thank you so much.

CHUCK TODD: You got it. Joining me now from Los Angeles is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff. Congressman welcome back to Meet the Press sir.

ADAM SCHIFF: Thank you.

CHUCK TODD: Well I want to ask you about -- you heard Roger Stone’s denials when it comes to the specificities and they’re very specific denials. Just curious of your reaction there. You’ve -- your committee did interview him. Do you believe his denials?

ADAM SCHIFF: Well look, Roger Stone is known for a lot of things, candor isn’t really one of them. And either his testimony before our committee was untrue, or his public statements are untrue. Both cannot be fact because they’re inconsistent with each other. We were never allowed to find out which was the case in our committee. We should have used compulsory process to obtain his private text or Twitter messages with WikiLeaks, something that he was forced to disclose when they came to light. And so his public comments that he never had contact with WikiLeaks, that he never had contact with intermediaries of the Russians, are inconsistent with certain facts but we were never allowed to follow the evidentiary trail. I suspect that Bob Mueller is and that’s why so many of Roger Stone’s confederates are being brought in. But someone needs to do that investigation. Unfortunately we were not permitted to.

CHUCK TODD: I gotta ask you about that. I asked Mr. Stone if he was preparing to be indicted. He said he was prepared if that is what it came -- he wasn’t saying whether he expected it soon. You’re a former prosecutor. It is interesting to us. There are four people involved in this investigation that have not been interviewed by Bob Mueller: Michael Cohen, Brad Parscale -- who’s the President’s campaign manager for 2020 by the way --, Roger Stone, and the President’s son Donald Trump Jr. As a former prosecutor, why would Special Counsel Bob Mueller, somebody who -- not interview somebody even though they appear to be so important to the investigation? Explain why that would be the case.

ADAM SCHIFF: Well it could be one of two reasons. It could be that they’re saving those interviews, like the interview with the President, for last after they’ve done all the groundwork. It makes sense to find out all you can before you bring in certain key witnesses. Or it could be that they’re a target of the investigation. It is not something I think that you can breathe easy about that you haven’t been called in. Sometimes that might indicate that you are in fact a target of the investigation and you’re more likely to be charged than interviewed. So it could be I think either of those possibilities.

CHUCK TODD: Let me ask you about this controversy involving the FBI informant. This is something that your Republican counterpart in the House Intelligence Committee -- he wants the Department of Justice to release more information about this informant. We now know who that person is. When did you become aware of this FBI informant?

ADAM SCHIFF: You know I don’t want to characterize what this individual may or may not be but I do want to say the Justice Department, the FBI, even the White House although clearly not the President has said that revealing information about this individual could compromise people’s lives, it could betray a relationship with our allies, it could compromise the investigation. And the President’s response and Chairman Nunes, Jordan, and Gowdy and others is: “bring it on. We don’t care. Whatever is in the service of the President we’re willing to do.” This is a dramatic and new and destructive low I think for the Congress of the United States basically to ignore the warnings of the FBI and Justice Department and potentially risk people’s lives. What they would like this information for is clearly to be of service to the Trump defense team and further any narrative they have. The most I can tell you Chuck is that this claim by the President, the suggestion by Giuliani that there is a political spy embedded in the Trump campaign, is nonsense. And you hear it in the same terms that Trump often speaks which is “people are saying”, or “I’m hearing”, or “we’re being told”. That’s another way of saying this is patently untrue but we would like to spread it anyway and it’s singularly destructive of our institutions but then that’s the point.

CHUCK TODD: Alright but in fairness to the President and his supporters, they look at this history of this informant. They see that he was involved in political campaigns and possibly even political espionage in 1980. And they think -- why shouldn’t they be suspicious of this?

ADAM SCHIFF: Well again I can’t comment on the, the identity of any individual or source but I can say this: this is part of a string of meritless allegations from the very beginning that “I was -- I was wiretapped in Trump Tower. There’s a vast unmasking conspiracy. The investigation began with the Christopher Steele dossier”. All of which was untrue. All of which as you pointed out at the outset is designed to create this alternate reality for Trump supporters to live in.

CHUCK TODD: Very quickly. You’re confident the FBI acted appropriately?

ADAM SCHIFF: I am confident.

CHUCK TODD: Ok.

ADAM SCHIFF: Everything I have seen, it would have been negligent for the FBI not to take steps to protect the country in the midst of information it was receiving.

CHUCK TODD: I want to ask you about the -- what appears to be potentially a bombshell new addition to what we know about the Mueller probe. New York Times, Wall Street Journal, talking about another Trump Tower meeting that may become infamous. Here’s the New York Times’ headline: “Trump Jr. and Other Aides Met With Gulf Emissary Offering Help to Win Election”. How much can you tell us about some of the players in here? You have George Nader as the emissary, of -- claiming he had two princes in Gulf state countries who were willing to help the President. Maybe Erik Prince is tied to this, Betsy DeVos’s brother, also a supporter of the President. What do you know about this? An Israeli firm is included in here. What have you -- what can you tell us about this?

ADAM SCHIFF: Well we sought to bring in George Nader but the Republican members were unwilling to do so. He could have shed obviously a lot of light on this as well as whether Erik Prince’s testimony before our committee was true or untrue. I can say this: if these facts are accurate, it demonstrates yet again just how not only willing but eager the President’s son and the Trump campaign were to solicit to receive foreign help. And I completely disagree with Mr. Giuliani. Receiving, soliciting, using foreign assistance is a crime. You’re not allowed to get the help of a foreign government -- friendly or unfriendly. But clearly if this is accurate it is consistent with the other Trump Tower meeting. With, reaching out to foreign sources for information.

(CROSSTALK)

CHUCK TODD: You say if this is -- was this new to you? Was this stuff new to you guys at the House Intel Committee?

ADAM SCHIFF: The specifics of this were certainly new, yes. And of course disturbing as yet another indication of the willingness to accept foreign help.

CHUCK TODD: Alright, Adam Schiff the Ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, I have to leave it there. Mr. Schiff thank you for coming on. Well when we come back, so much to discuss as you can see it’s gotten more complicated. President Trump, the Mueller investigation, now Middle Eastern figures involved. Possible indictments. Panel is next there. But, as we go to break, we’re gonna remember the ten people. Eight students and two teachers lost their in Friday’s school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, panel is here. Hugh Hewitt, host on the Salem Radio Network, and of Hugh Hewitt on MSNBC, Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for the PBS News Hour, NBC News chief White House correspondent Hallie Jackson, and David Brooks, columnist over at The New York Times, welcome all. Mr. Brooks, I'm going to start with you. Mueller one year, and what is reminded today in The New York Times, wow, there's a lot we don't know.

DAVID BROOKS:

That's true. I've been a bear on this all along. I have my scandal meter, like Watergate is ten. I've moved from, like, three, to four. Mostly because when you ask was there collusion with the Trump campaign, I don't think there was a Trump campaign. I think there were a lot of disorganized people having meetings. I'm not sure they were organized enough to have actual collusion. What I think is happening and the Roger Stone phrase that I heard most clearly was the phrase "extraneous crimes." And what he meant by that was there's a lot of other stuff in his life, like in Paul Manafort's life, that if you get a wandering prosecutor, they might stumble across that. And I think that's more likely where this all is going to end up.

CHUCK TODD:

Hallie?

HALLIE JACKSON:

So the president is, based on my reporting, no surprise, furious about this. He's upset with what has come out, with what you addressed, Chuck, with Adam Schiff, about The New York Times story, calling that "long and boring," a story that clearly he either read or was told about.

There is a sense inside the administration, inside the West Wing, even among those who acknowledge that the president doesn't have his facts right all the time when he tweets about this stuff, but people are extremely upset about the idea that the F.B.I. might've been looking into the Trump campaign, might've been investigating, even those who acknowledge it might not be political, which former law enforcement sources tell me it wouldn't have been political at all. The F.B.I. doesn't do that. They say, "Listen, we have become so desensitized to this." Rudy Giuliani is fanning the flames of this because he understands that this could help him discredit the Mueller investigation, which I'm told he believes could end up helping him in his case.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Hugh, though, this New York Times story is painting a larger, potentially disturbing picture. Depending, you know, depending on where the facts lead here of a whole bunch of foreign nationals who seem to thought, "Boy, we've got our own agenda here."

And perhaps they thought this was a transactional guy that they could work with, and they got aggressive. We don't know what the Trump campaign did, but it certainly looks like a lot of outside forces thought that was a soft target.

HUGH HEWITT:

Sure, a lot of people wanted to sell a lot of things. I mean, you've seen all the denials, and you'd think that the Trump campaign, desperate as David points out, to get something going, might've been willing to buy anything. It's an important point. The Mueller report will be fascinating reading at the very end. And I continue to implore the president and his team not to attack Mr. Mueller as he did this morning again. Because it's going to go forward.

HALLIE JACKSON:

The horse is out of the barn on that one.

HUGH HEWITT:

But there are four investigations that would be best, rather than applying to outline. There was the investigation of the Secretary Clinton server, done, closed. There's an I.G. investigation into that investigation, which will come out this week, perhaps. There's the special counsel's investigation which could go for years and not be out of bounds. And then there's the investigation into what happened between June of '16 and the inauguration. And that is the investigation that has got the center right upset about, you know, Adam Schiff wouldn't call him an informant, I don't know what to call this individual. Was he an agent? Was he an informant? That's the one that we're focused on right now.

CHUCK TODD:

Yamiche?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

I think we're one year into President Trump trying to make the case that he's a victim and trying to lay the groundwork for this investigation being seen as something that's partisan and something that's completely attacking him. And polls show that people have kind of settled into their views and those views are highly partisan. So in that regard, the president's narrative is in some ways working. And people look at this investigation and think, "If you're a Democrat, you want to know about it, you're super interested in it. If you're a Republican, you just look at it and kind of buy what Roger Stone and Rudy Giuliani are saying." I talked to Rudy Giuliani multiple times this week. And the thing that he kept saying to me was, "The New York Times story proves our point. They put an informant into the campaign, they were after him from the very beginning." And at the end of the day, I think that what you said about the idea of the report possibly being a fascinating read is what Republicans want it to be. They want it to be something that is interesting to read, but not something that has teeth behind it.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, I'm struck by something here with Mueller. You know, we had sort of two strategies here. The Trump team is all about making this a political strategy. They're not disputing facts, they're disputing the fact finders. They're not even going at fact. David Mueller is basically silent. Ken Starr wasn't silent. Ken Starr used to fight back. Mueller's staying completely silent. But he's not going to be in a courtroom. So he could win a court case, perhaps, but is Trump already trumping him by going and making a political argument?

DAVID BROOKS:

Nobody gets in the mud with Donald Trump emerges better for it. I think Mueller's doing the exact right thing in being silent. And he's got to maintain which is the truth, that most F.B.I. agents, most prosecutors, and as far as I know Mueller, they’re straight players. Donald Trump is taking advantage of the high level of social distrust we have in this country. That everything is crooked. Well, frankly, not everything is crooked. And we all hang around people in Washington that work at agencies, especially at places like the Justice Department and the F.B.I. And those people are weirdly nonpolitical. They're doing their job. They believe in their job. But they're not super political people.

HUGH HEWITT:

Or they haven't been since COINTELPRO. You remember the bad years, from '56 to '71, when the F.B.I. in fact was involved in many very bad things.

CHUCK TODD:

That was Hoover's F.B.I.

HUGH HEWITT:

It was Hoover. They worked very hard to restore their reputation after that. And now the Mueller report has got to be very carefully written. The Starr report was not, right? It was badly bungled. They've got to write this report well so that it persuades the center.

DAVID BROOKS:

But if anybody can do that, it's going to be Mueller. There's history here.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, what's interesting though, Hallie and Yamiche, is earlier this week, and this gets at the political argument, Peter Hart, and who's one half of our NBC/Wall Street Journal polling team, had this focus group in Wisconsin, half Clinton voters, half Trump voters. And I've been struck by Kurt, it's one gentleman in there who said, he's sort of overwhelmed by it all, saying, "Stormy Daniels, Mueller, how does that all work?" And you do wonder how is that playing in America, right? And that's what Trump's counting on.

HALLIE JACKSON:

That's exactly right. The president team's, the president is taking advantage of that. The idea that every week, we come on and talk about what some people view as maybe incremental developments in this that are extremely confusing. There's a billion names. You talk about George Nader, it's a lot for people to grasp. And that doesn't understate the importance of the potential findings that Robert Mueller will come out with, whatever they are, but I think for people out in the country, the president's team will say they care more about the jobs numbers, they care more about the economy. Now that's a nice narrative for them to sell, because there could be some serious bomb shells potentially coming out of what we hear from Robert Mueller. But remember this, we're also getting closer to the possibility of a sit-down for Donald Trump. That is something that will break through to Kurt and to those voters if he does talk with him.

CHUCK TODD:

That's true, and I wonder if- You looked at this Times story this morning, Yamiche. The president's foreign policy decisions, whether it's the Iran deal, whether it's the closeness to Saudi Arabia, the things that he's done. It lays out almost a quid pro quo. That is something that could break through if Mueller's proving that.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

That's something that could break through. But I think the point that Hallie's making and the point that I found on the campaign trail over and over again is that people voted for this president because they thought their lives were going to be better. And people are really hoping that that happens. And they're trying to get their kids to school, they're watching all these other things going on. They're trying to get healthcare, they're trying to figure out if the Republicans' tax bill is going to improve their lives. They're looking at all this stuff. And then they have to read these stories or watch these stories about Russia. And they're wondering, "Okay, well, is this real? How do I know about this? How does this impact my life?" So I do think something breaks through. I think that the polls show that the majority of Americans want the president to sit down with Mueller's team because it looks so bad if he doesn't.

DAVID BROOKS:

Yeah, this is sort of just a carnival of lowlifes. You've got Russian oligarchs, you've got the Manafort people, you've got weird Middle Eastern princes. They were all meeting, whether they were actually colluding is a different story. And most voters, at least Trump voters, have made the deal, "Okay, he's not a great guy."

CHUCK TODD:

But they don't think any of us are.

DAVID BROOKS:

Well, exactly.

CHUCK TODD:

And that's the thing. They don't think any of us are. So they (UNINTEL).

HUGH HEWITT:

One thing about the Roger Stone thing, if you tweet as though you've got inside information, you pressed him on this, then people are going to believe you've got inside information. Honest to goodness, you've got to live with what you tweet.

CHUCK TODD:

It is a pretty damning--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD: There you go. All right, back in a moment with the big center versus left battle taking place now inside the Democratic party, and a senator who has a very definite idea about what Democrats should do. It's Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Tuesday was another primary night. Four states last Tuesday and it turned out to be a big night for women candidates and progressives. Like Kara Eastman, who defeated an establishment, former member of Congress, a Democrat in Nebraska. Also this coming Tuesday, another progressive, Stacey Abrams appears poised to win the Democratic nomination for governor of Georgia. She hopes to win the general election without relying on the state's more conservative white voters. Democrats worry though that while progress candidates fire up the base, that they may be too liberal to get elected. Joining me now is someone who knows something about firing up democratic primary voters - it’s the Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Senator Sanders, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

BERNIE SANDERS:

Good to be with you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

So let me ask you to respond to the concern now that you’ve heard from national Democrats, and I know technically your organization didn’t back Ms. Eastman in Nebraska but many other progressives did - and they’re now - they’re not writing the race off but they are now backing off in their hopes of it. They think, “Oh, she’s not electable enough.” What do you say to national Democrats who say, “You know what, be careful of this - of nominating folks that are too progressive?”

BERNIE SANDERS:

I think that they are wrong and I think they are misreading where the American people are at. You know, Chuck, many of the issues that I campaigned on two years ago — issues like Medicare for All, raising the minimum wage, the fifteen bucks an hour, taking on the pharmaceutical industry, making public colleges and universities tuition free, legalizing marijuana - few years ago those were seen as radical, fringey ideas. Well you know what? In every instance those ideas are now supported by the American people, by a majority of the American people - overwhelming percentage of Democrats. So, I think what candidates all over the country are now beginning to understand is that it is more important to reach out to the people in your community, working people, the middle class, lower-income people, than rather than just worry about what wealthy campaign contributors want you to say. So, I think candidates who run on a progressive agenda, which demands that we take on the billionaire class, that we end the movement to an oligarchy in this country, that we fight for the rights of working people, I think that’s not only good public policy, I think that’s good politics and I think many of those candidates will win. Because you’re going to see voter turnout go up at a level of excitement that - that conservative Democrats don’t raise.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you - do you buy the idea that there is such thing as “electability?” That that should be part of a primary argument?

BERNIE SANDERS:

Well sure, we all want to win. The question is, what constitutes electability? Four years ago, as you will recall, Republicans won a landslide victory all across this country - and the reason was, primarily, that we had the lowest voter turnout since World War II - some 37 percent of the American people voted. Because establishment Democrats don’t generate excitement. And I think when you have progressive candidates - and we have seen this now for the last year, last year and a half, since Trump has been elected - we have seen progressive candidates, seeing voter turnout go up because the people in their communities know that it’s time to stand up and fight. That’s what they want to see. So the goal of the Democrats, it seems to me in 2018, has got to be significantly raising voter turnout and you do that by talking about the issues that working families care about.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, it’s funny that you talk about - you got to messaging there. And I know - I think I have an idea where your answer is going to be but we spend a lot of time, I spent a lot of time just now talking about the Russia investigation, the Mueller probe, there’s a lot of serious allegations that are being investigated. At the same time, you hear from rank and file voters, Senator Klobuchar, for instance, a Democrat from Minnesota said recently, “They’re not asking me about Russian bots, okay? They’re asking me about things like soybean exports.” How much should Democrats talk about Russia, and the Mueller investigation, on the campaign trail in your opinion?

BERNIE SANDERS:

Well I don’t think, Chuck, that it’s either/or. I think you've got to do a lot of things if you are a serious candidate. I think it’s appropriate to talk about the need to protect American democracy - to make sure - and examine fully and support the Mueller investigation to determine whether or not the Trump Campaign colluded with the Russians. I think that’s terribly important. I think that when we talk about preserving and fighting for American democracy we’ve got to stand up to voter suppression, which Trump and many Republican governors all over this country are pushing - trying to make it harder for people to vote. We’ve got to deal with excessive gerrymandering. So, when we talk about protecting American democracy, absolutely you’ve got to look at what Mueller is doing, but that’s not all that’s going on in this country.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

BERNIE SANDERS:

What you are seeing all over America - in my state and all over this country - is people trying to survive for 9 or 10 dollars an hour. They can’t afford housing, they can’t afford prescription drugs. They have no health care or they can’t afford health care. They can’t afford to send their kids to college. They’re sick and tired of seeing the growth in income and wealth inequality. You must talk about those issues as well.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you believe it’s still jumping the gun to talk impeachment? You still discourage - Nancy Pelosi said the talk of impeachment on the campaign trail is actually a gift to the Republicans and President Trump. Do you agree with her?

BERNIE SANDERS:

Yeah, I do. I mean I think you allow the investigation to go where it goes. I’m a member of the United State’s Senate and if Trump is impeached I will have to be making a decision, voting on that. You can’t jump the gun and determine that somebody should be impeached when you’re going to be voting on the impeachment issue. So, I think that you allow the Mueller investigation to do its course, you fight against anybody who wants to impede that investigation, but I think it is too early to talk about impeachment.

CHUCK TODD:

Alright, I want to move to the tragedy from Friday, because there was a -a young high school student who- who said something that, I think, really touched a lot of people. Here’s one of the survivors, Paige Curry, take a listen Senator.

(TAPE)

PAIGE CURRY, SANTA FE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT:

It’s been happening everywhere. I felt - I’ve always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here too. So, I don’t know. I wasn’t surprised, I was just scared.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

What does it say that we have high school students -- ‘Oh, yeah, I expected this.’ How did we get here?

BERNIE SANDERS:

Chuck, it is unspeakable, it really is to see that kids that all over this country, who go to a place where they should feel safe, where they can focus on learning, are now worrying about things that we’ve seen Texas or in Florida a few months ago. It is unspeakable.

CHUCK TODD:

Have you guys done enough in the Senate?

BERNIE SANDERS:

Of course not! Of course not! But it’s like every other issue, the American people are united, overwhelmingly, gun owners, non-gun owners, on common sense gun safety legislation. Expand background checks, do away with the gun show loopholes --

CHUCK TODD:

Then why are -- if they are, how come this stuff doesn’t ever pass?

BERNIE SANDERS:

It’s a three-letter word, it’s the N-R-A! And it’s Trump and the Republicans who don’t have the guts to stand up to these people, and that’s pretty pathetic. And what you are seeing in general, it’s not just the NRA, it’s tax reform, where you give huge tax breaks to billionaires, where Republicans want to throw 32 million people off of healthcare. You got a Congress dominated by a handful of billionaires, and the NRA, and all the right-wing organizations, and that is enormously unfair to the children of this country, kids in these high schools, and the American people in general.

CHUCK TODD:

There was a time that you weren’t so tough on the NRA back in the ‘90s. Do you believe that they’ve changed or you’ve changed?

BERNIE SANDERS:

First of all, in 1988, I probably lost an election because I called for a ban on assault weapons in a state that had no gun control, but the NRA frankly, which once was, believe it or not, a gun safety organization, teaching kids how to use guns safely, has moved to be part of a -- become a right-wing political organization, far beyond guns as a matter of fact.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Bernie Sanders, the Independent who caucuses with the Democrats from Vermont. Thank you for coming on, sir, and sharing your views. I appreciate it.

BERNIE SANDERS:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, a tale of two counties, a scene playing out across the country with big implications for how people vote.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, data download time. In a country marked by deep political divisions, a college degree is increasingly becoming one of the key factors in predicting how someone may vote. Perhaps the biggest factor. Now a college education is not about intelligence, rather those with and without a college degree seem to make different choices about key aspects of their lives. Those with a college degree have gotten bigger raises in recent years than those without one. More college grads own homes, have full-time jobs, and voted in the last presidential election while fewer college grads still live in the state where they were born. Meet the Press recently visited two counties in Pennsylvania that represent both sides of this division. There is densely populated Chester County, it's an affluent suburb of Philadelphia with a bustling downtown area. You're never more than a stone's throw from a Starbucks. Seventy miles away is sparsely populated Schuylkill County, a rural, hillside community, not a Starbucks in sight. These two places view having a college degree differently.

ANDREW GREAR:

A college degree is going to open more doors than without.

AUDREY LANTZ:

A lot of the positions that are open right now in the county, you do not need a college degree for.

CHUCK TODD:

And the numbers tell the story of these two counties. 50% of Chester has a bachelor's degree. That number is 15% in Schuylkill. The median listing price for a home in Chester is $380,000 compared to $75,000 in Schuylkill. And the median household income is $89,000 a year in Chester, versus $47,000 a year in Schuylkill. And these two counties represent the changing dynamics of American politics. Republicans are losing their grip on wealthier places like Chester County. Mitt Romney narrowly beat Barack Obama there back in 2012. But Hillary Clinton won by nine points over Donald Trump in 2016. The working class of Schuylkill are bolting the Democratic party these days. Yes, Romney won by a comfortable 13-point margin, but Trump won by a whopping 43 points. Before that, Schuylkill had actually voted for a Democrat as recently as 1996. And the Democrat's name was Clinton. Since the 2016 election, many folks have tried to stereotype the coasts as the places living in their own bubbles. But when you dig into these numbers, there are blue and red bubbles all across the country. Chester and Schuylkill are two of these such bubbles. And finding common ground between them, less than 100 miles away from each other, is growing increasingly difficult. When we come back, another school shooting. And now some are saying prayers alone aren't the answer.

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with end game. The tragedy on Friday felt extraordinarily familiar to folks. Here's a Facebook post, an excerpt from Art Acevedo. He's the police chief in Houston. Now, this took place 30 miles outside of Houston, not in his jurisdiction. But he writes this, a police chief in Houston, "I've hit rock bottom. This isn't a time for prayers and study and inaction. It's a time for prayers, action, and the asking of god's forgiveness for our inaction. Especially the elected officials that ran to the cameras today, acted in solemn manner, called for prayers, and will once again do absolutely nothing." Yamiche?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

I think that we are seeing a generation, if I had to go to the kids that we're looking at now, we're seeing a generation who grew up at rock bottom. Only six years ago, Newtown, Connecticut had six year olds be shot. And guess what, six years later, they're 12 year olds who are now activists. So when we think about why this generation is so plugged in and why they can talk about this in such articulate ways and understand that this is something that's becoming inevitable in their schools is because they had to watch all these kids die and do nothing. I remember being on the ground in Newtown and thinking, "Surely something's going to be different." And nothing was different.

And when you watch the interviews of these kids, as one baseball player, I'm going to say his name, because I think it's important, Rome Shubert. Rome Shubert, he got shot in the head, and then was talking to reporters the same day with Band-Aids stuck to his head, soaked in blood. And it reminded me that this is a generation that can't be fragile because they literally don't have the luxury to be fragile anymore.

HALLIE JACKSON:

If something is going to change when it comes to the way that this country regulates, deals with, has laws around guns, it's going to come from those kids and it's going to come from the states at least right now. Because I will tell you that I spoke with a top White House official just last night, there's not an appetite to do something on this. There's not an appetite to push on this.

CHUCK TODD:

Not in this election year.

HALLIE JACKSON:

There's just not. But there's just not. Of course. And that's the thing. Until this becomes, and we've talked about this on this set before. Until this becomes a mobilization issue for voters on Election Day, that is unlikely to change.

DAVID BROOKS:

It should be said, each of these events is super horrible, but we shouldn't be scare mongering. The number of school shootings has plummeted since the 1990s. Schools are about the safest place a child can be. And so we shouldn't get carried away about that. I'm for all the gun control you can name. I'm more thinking there's a media problem here. I think we just need to stop naming the shooters and putting their face on TV. Because we've got sort of a social contagion with these lunatics.

CHUCK TODD:

That's what it feels like.

DAVID BROOKS:

And we should just make them anonymous.

HUGH HEWITT:

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a very persuasive piece that it may be epidemic-like in that it exponentially expands among the teenage Petri dish in terms of the inclination towards it. I think it's an urgent issue for governors. Before the show, I was mentioning Doug Dussie, after Parkland in Arizona, governor of Arizona, went to his legislature with a request for STOP orders, a Severe Threat Order of Protection.

David French has written a national review about gun violence restraining orders. These are governor issues that I think ought to be treated as urgently as the possibility of a hurricane or the possibility of an earthquake and that governors need to lead like Dussie did. And the Republican legislature, I will name them, stopped his legislative proposal to their shame, if this happens in Arizona. Because STOP orders can work.

CHUCK TODD:

It strikes me, there's always a way to stop legislation on this. Because whatever it is, either you have some that say, "Well, that doesn't go far enough so I'm not going to support it." Or you have some that says, "That's the beginning of a slippery slope."

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

Or you have the N.R.A. that's out there kind of funneling money to all sorts of candidates and all sorts of lawmakers. So you have them kind of administering their pressure throughout the government. I remember when the Parkland shooting happened. And President Trump for a little bit sounded like he might take on the N.R.A.

I remember asking in the briefing room, "Would the president give political cover to Republicans who did decide to take on the N.R.A.?" And then, the deputy press secretary said, "Yes, the president would do this." And then of course he goes to the N.R.A. convention and completely says, "Absolutely not. And I'm here to protect the Second Amendment." So what you see is the president kind of in the moment feeling as though he might say something and then reverting back to I think his instincts which is to go back to the far right on this issue.

HALLIE JACKSON:

I don't know that you will see something similar after this shooting in Texas, and I don't know that for a fact, but my sense is that after that, remember he brought cameras in and it was one of those remarkable moments where it was televised interaction with these members of Congress. He kneeled.

Remember Joe Manchin? He said, "Well, why didn't you do this when it came to lifting the age for certain types of assault weapons?" I think that was a learning experience not just for Donald Trump, but for the people around him. And I think that at this moment, he is expressing empathy. He may go visit Texas. But action is something else.

CHUCK TODD:

But wait a minute, and you brought up Dough Dussie. A lot of people didn't believe Rick Scott was going to try to, and he went and did. And it was interesting to me, David Brooks, that Greg Abbott even said, "Prayers aren't enough this time." Now we don't know what that means. Maybe he's going to be for something that some people-- but the point is, I do think you're right. Every governor here realizes especially, and he's been through a few now. The more you go through, yourself as a governor, probably the more it personally hits you.

DAVID BROOKS:

Yeah. It's been landlocked because it's become a culture war issue. It's not really about guns. And I've always said get red-state people out in front leading this cause. And you're beginning to see that. And so I do think there's some cracks in the wall. Even after the recent shootings, public support for stricter gun rules, was only, like, 52 percent. Now it's up to 70 all of a sudden. Something has shifted even in the last two shootings. So you may begin to see red-state people. And then it'll have the cultural significance that it needs.

CHUCK TODD:

One quick thing. Do you think the N.R.A. is hurting themselves by getting too political?

HUGH HEWITT:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

Like, Oliver North seems like the exact wrong person to have as your face in 2018.

HUGH HEWITT:

No, as you just mentioned, Doug Dussie, Greg Abbott, Rick Scott, are all red-state governors, but also all parents. All right? This is a parent/grandparent issue. And if the N.R.A., and I like Ollie, I've known Ollie a long time. If the N.R.A. wants to lead, let them lead as parents would like them to lead.

Which is to talk about what can be done, not what can't be done. I hate the endless loops of talking points. Bernie got into some of them when he was talking to you. Actually sit down, as Dussie did, read his program, and say, "Yea or nay."

CHUCK TODD:

I'll have to leave it there. Thank you guys. That's all we have for today. Thanks for watching, another one of those weeks. And we'll be back next week because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.