Meet the Press - November 10, 2019

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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, mounting pressure on President Trump. On impeachment, more evidence that military aid to Ukraine was held up.

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

There's no doubt there was a quid pro quo here.

CHUCK TODD:

Pending investigations that President Trump demanded. And now the public will get to hear testimony directly.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

We will begin our open hearings in the impeachment inquiry next week.

CHUCK TODD:

But Republicans insist Mr.Trump did nothing wrong.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Show me where there was a quid pro quo. The whole thing is manufactured.

REP. MARK MEADOWS:

It's actually getting easier to defend the president.

CHUCK TODD:

My guests this morning, Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut, who sits on the Intelligence Committee. Plus another rough Election Night for President Trump. Republican losses in suburbia and in Kentucky —

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

If you lose it sends a really bad message. You can't let that happen to me.

CHUCK TODD:

— suggests last year's blue wave is not going away. And the Bloomberg bombshell. As Democrats worry about the strength of their top contenders.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

A lot of people are afraid of big structural change.

JOE BIDEN:

The way to approach politics to get things done is not to question peoples' motives.

CHUCK TODD:

Michael Bloomberg prepares to enter the race. I'll talk to a man many Democrats wanted to run instead: Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Joining me for insight and analysis are NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Hallie Jackson, Hugh Hewitt, host on the Salem Radio Network, Yamiche Alcindor, White House Correspondent for PBS NewsHour and Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. 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. President Trump finds himself facing pressure on two fronts. On impeachment, a growing number of witnesses testifying before Congress have now confirmed that military aid was being withheld until Ukraine agreed to publicly announce investigations into President Trump's rivals. There was more confirmation that, yes, the Ukrainians did know that a quid pro quo existed and three witnesses who testified behind closed doors will do so in public this week. Republicans, meanwhile, signalled yesterday that they hope to refocus the public hearings on Joe Biden's son and perhaps even on the whistleblower. Then there was Tuesday night's political fallout. President Trump made a special trip to Kentucky to support Republican Governor Matt Bevin, only to see Bevin lose a nail-biter to Democrat Andy Beshear. Democrats took control, though, of both houses of the Virginia legislature for the first time in a generation and they also swept local elections from Missouri to Pennsylvania. The large take-away? There's no ebbing of the Democratic tide among suburban, college-educated voters, the one-time foundation of Republican electoral success. Now, that should be a bright, flashing red light for both Republican office-holders and for President Trump next year. But Democrats have their own flashing red light as deep worries about the prospects of their top presidential candidates let Michael Bloomberg to take formal steps to enter the race. Still, on impeachment, there's no sign that Democrats are paying a price, at least not yet.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Those open hearings will be an opportunity for the American people to evaluate the witnesses for themselves.

CHUCK TODD:

Democrats will begin to make their public case on impeachment to the country, as a handful of current and former diplomats testify to a quid pro quo. The top U.S. envoy to Ukraine Bill Taylor who opens hearings on Wednesday, "That was my clear understanding, security assistance money would not come until the president of Ukraine committed to pursue the investigation" of the Bidens.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN:

Ambassador Bill Taylor testified and gave the most sweeping and devastating testimony.

CHUCK TODD:

The National Security Council's top Ukraine expert Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vindman, “There was no doubt." Senior State Department official George Kent also told investigators that President Trump “wanted nothing less than President Zelenskiy to go to a microphone and say investigations, Biden and Clinton." And President Trump's former top Russia adviser Fiona Hill testified that U.S. ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland told Ukrainian officials in a July 10th meeting at the White House “about how he had an agreement with Chief of Staff Mulvaney for a meeting with the Ukrainians if they were going to go forward with investigations.” And Sondland this week altered his testimony to acknowledge a quid pro quo as well, saying he told a Ukrainian official that “resumption of the U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement.” Congressional Republicans have struggled to defend the president, some acknowledging a quid pro quo but insisting it is not impeachable.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY:

There are perfectly appropriate quid pro quos. And there are inappropriate quid pro quos.

CHUCK TODD:

And now arguing - if there was a quid pro quo, the president did not direct it.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Nobody has testified that there was a quid pro quo ordered by the President of the United States.

CHUCK TODD:

Instead pointing the finger at Sondland. A month ago:

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

The text message that I saw from Ambassador Sondland - who’s highly respected -- was, There’s no quid pro quo.

CHUCK TODD:

But now:

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Let me just tell you, I hardly know the gentleman.

CHUCK TODD:

And Trump allies are reportedly eyeing others to blame including White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney - and the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

I don’t know what he’s doing over there. If people want to look at Rudy, that’s fine with me.

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now, from Bowling Green, Kentucky, is Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee.

SEN. RAND PAUL:

Good morning.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Paul, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

SEN. RAND PAUL:

Thanks for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with the Kentucky results first, before we get into the events of later this week, just your initial reactions. Matt Bevin, do you see his loss as something bigger than Matt Bevin, about the Republican Party as a whole?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

Well, when you look at all the races, there were six statewide races, we won five out of six. Republicans won five out of six. We did lose the governor's race. We were disappointed in it. But the interesting thing is is we beat a lot of other candidates that no one expected us to. So actually, in many ways, there was sort of a red wave in Kentucky. I think it was mostly particularly about one race. And I think the teachers were very unhappy. He tried to fix the pension but got crossways with the teachers. And I think the teachers' anger came out. But I think he was trying to do the right thing, which is save the pension for the teachers. But it's tough. When you ask people to pay more to keep their pension in place, people get unhappy.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, it's interesting. He was the only one of the candidates --you talked about the rest of the Republican candidates that won below, below him. He decided to nationalize this race, make it about President Trump, make it about impeachment. In hindsight, was that a mistake, you think?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

Well, you know, a lot of candidates do that. Because you know, we have conservative voters in Kentucky who elect federal representatives, overwhelmingly because they are socially conservative, and they do support President Trump. So I don't think it's a bad strategy, necessarily. But I think that he had some other things to overcome. One thing was the anger of the teachers. But another was some problems within the Republican base. He lost some Republican counties that other Republicans got over 60%. So there was also a problem within his base. And that's a complicated matter. But there are a lot of specific reasons and fights, within the Republican Party, that may have hurt him.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me move to the events that were going to be -- taking place this week. First, let me just simply ask, have you been reading the transcripts, as they've been released?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

You know, I've been reading the reports of them. The actual transcripts, I haven't seen it. But I guess my impression so far is, I think the American people want fairness. And I don't think they're going to judge fairness, when they're accusing President Trump of the same thing Joe Biden did, threatening the aid, if some kind of corruption's not investigated. And it seems like everybody, both parties, have been threatening aid, if some kind of investigation either doesn't happen or is ended. And so I think, really, what's going to happen is people are going to say, "Oh, they're impeaching President Trump for exactly the same thing that Joe Biden did."

He threatened the aid, if they didn't fire someone. And supposedly, the president did, if they didn't investigate someone. So it sounds exactly like what Joe Biden did. And if they weren't going to impeach Joe Biden, they look like, you know, hypocrites, in a way, for going only after President Trump and having not a word to say about what Joe Biden did.

CHUCK TODD:

So you think it's perfectly appropriate for the president of the United States to have sought this quid pro quo from Ukraine's government? Let’s say - I want to set aside - I want to set aside what — Vice President Biden. I just want to know, is it appropriate for the President of the United States to have engaged in this?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

I think there's a real question whether you think the president should specifically go after one person. But there's a real question whether Joe Biden should've gone after one prosecutor. It's exactly the same scenario. So I think there is a question --

CHUCK TODD:

No, but one is president of the United States.

SEN. RAND PAUL:

Well, let me finish. Let me finish. There is a question about that. But if it were me, I wouldn't give them the aid, because we don't have the money. We have to actually borrow the money from China to send it to Ukraine. So I'm against the aid. And I think it's a mistake to do the aid. So I wouldn't have played any of these games. But I think the American people think it's unfair to treat Trump under one standard and Joe Biden under a different standard.

CHUCK TODD:

But is that really -- I understand trying to go back. I go back to, do two wrongs make a right? I want to set that aside because I don't understand why that's always used as a deflection. Does that mean you think it's now okay for the president to act this way? It doesn't matter what we think of Joe Biden, at this point. If it's wrong for this to be done, then it's wrong period. No?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

Well, it kind of does, it kind of does. But I'll approach it from a different way. Fairness is one angle. And I don't think people are going to think this is fair. But I think the second angle is this. Foreign aid, by law, can only go out to countries that are not corrupt. So if you think that a country is acting in a corrupt way, a president can always withhold aid, until the corruption is fixed. So you're going to have to get into the mind of Trump and his advisers and say, "Well, he didn't really believe that the Bidens were corrupt." I think he absolutely does. I think you could give him a lie detector test and say, "Do you think the Bidens were corrupt? And do you think you were investigating corruption, and that corruption is in the law, that you can't give aid to a country that has corruption?" So there's no way. This ends up being a policy debate and a partisan debate. And it has nothing to do with legality or illegality or impeachment. It's purely a partisan way of trying to overturn the election.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you believe there should be a distinction between whether the administration, people in the administration ask for a quid pro quo and whether — if there -- and whether the president, himself, directed it? Do you think there's a distinction there? If there's no proof the president, himself, directed it, but for instance, as we've seen these transcripts indicate, about, perhaps, Mick Mulvaney was directing this, does that distinction matter to you?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

You know, I think we've gotten lost in this whole idea of quid pro quo. And I think Senator Kennedy kind of hit the nail on the head. It's that, if you're not allowed to give aid to people who are corrupt, there's always contingencies on aid. Even, even President Obama withheld aid. You know, he was supposed to give lethal aid. Congress said, "Give them $300 million in lethal aid." And he sent them blankets. So presidents, since the beginning of time, have resisted Congress. And there's been this sort of back-and-forth jockeying over what is sent. But also, presidents have withheld aid before for corruption. So the thing is is I think it's a mistake to say, "Oh, he withheld aid, until he got what he wanted." Well, if it's corruption, and he believes there to be corruption, he has every right to withhold aid. So I think it's a big mistake for anybody to argue quid pro quo. He didn't have quid pro quo. And I know that's what the administration's arguing. I wouldn't make that argument. I would make the argument that every politician in Washington, other than me, virtually, is trying to manipulate Ukraine to their purposes. Menendez tried it. Murphy tried it. Biden tried it. Trump's tried it. They're all doing it. They are all trying to manipulate Ukraine to get some kind of investigation, either to end an investigation or start an investigation.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask the question this way, though. If you're the average American citizen watching this, should you be concerned that the president of the United States wanted a foreign government to help investigate a political rival? Do you understand why some people think that that’s an un — that that is , basically, abusing the office for political gain, to mess with the election?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

I think you're right, Chuck. But I think an equal number of people are upset that Hillary Clinton hired a British spy to hire Russians to get dirt called the Steele Dossier. So here's Hillary Clinton, in the middle of a campaign, hiring a foreign spy agency or a foreign spy —

CHUCK TODD:

Alright, you did it again to me. You did it again. You went back and said, "Okay, there's behavior that's bad over here. There's behavior that's bad over there." All that does is condition us for more bad behavior. When do we put a stop to this?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

No, but what it says is — no, what I'm asking for is that they be treated equally. And I think the American public's going to say, "If you didn't do anything to Hillary Clinton for hiring a foreign spy, why is it, all of a sudden, wrong for President Trump --

CHUCK TODD:

So two wrongs make a right?

SEN. RAND PAUL:

--to have a country investigate somebody-- well, what I would say is that people want them to be treated fairly. I'm not saying, two wrongs make a right. I'm not even saying I would've done it that way. All I'm saying is, is that you're going to impeach President Trump, and you're going to give Hillary Clinton, you know, let her skate? So then I think people see that as unfair. And so it becomes partisan. That's why no Republicans voted for impeachment.

CHUCK TODD:

Is there anything that you could hear that might make you -- Are you an open minded juror? Let me ask it that way.

SEN. RAND PAUL:

I'm very open minded and fair minded. You'll not meet a person who is more fair than I am. I really do believe that justice should be colorblind, gender blind, you name it. I think justice should. But you know, one of our traditions about justice, about finding justice, is a defense should be able to present their witnesses. So if you can't call Hunter Biden, and you can't call the whistleblower, that's not -- that’s sort of a sham. That's not even really a trial. So I am fair minded. But the trial has to be fair.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Rand Paul, Republican from Kentucky, thank you for coming on and sharing your views, sir. I much appreciate it.

SEN. RAND PAUL:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now from Stamford, Connecticut, is Democratic Congressman Jim Himes who sits on the Intelligence Committee. Congressman Himes, welcome back to Meet the Press.

REP. JIM HIMES:

Good morning, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with this: Will there be new information the public learns from these public hearings on Wednesday morning?

REP. JIM HIMES:

There will be new information. I suspect most of the public has not read the release transcripts. And what they're going to hear is -- they are going to hear immensely patriotic, beautiful articulated — articulate people telling the story of a President who -- let’s forget quid pro quo; quid pro quo is one of these things to muddy the works -- who extorted a vulnerable comp -- country by holding up military aid. So yes, they are going to hear something new. And Chuck, if you'll, if you’ll grant me one second here, my head is only now decombusting from the exchange you had with Rand Paul. I've spent 11 years in public service defending the press, and when Senator Rand Paul comes on and says that what Donald Trump did -- and the transcript is there -- extorting a foreign government for his personal political gain, and that's exactly the same thing as Joe Biden, "Exactly the same thing," is what he said, as Joe Biden saying that this prosecutor should be released. When Joe Biden is acting in consistency with American foreign policy and back then we had a whole list of things that had to be done and this was American foreign policy, it was European Union policy, it was IMF policy that this prosecutor needed to go. When Rand Paul says that that's exactly the same thing as the president of the United States saying, "You need to find dirt on my political opponent," and with all due respect, Chuck, when you say, "Well, do two wrongs make a right?" Let's be very clear. The president of the United States demanding, extorting a vulnerable country to do his political bidding, to go after his opponent, has nothing to do with Joe Biden executing the foreign policy of the United States or Hillary Clinton, who is a private citizen, doing opposition research on her, on her presidential opponent. Those are radically different things. What the President did is wrong and impeachable.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you something. You just said you think the words quid pro quo shouldn't be used anymore. It's a lot of your own colleagues that have been using it. It’s part of this debate. Do you feel as if that, that that word just doesn't penetrate the seriousness with what happened?

REP. JIM HIMES:

Well, I have two problems with quid pro quo. Number one, when you're trying to persuade the American people of something that is really pretty simple, which is that the President acted criminally and extorted, in the way a mob boss would extort somebody, a vulnerable foreign country, it's probably best not to use Latin words to explain it. But the other thing I object to is that this is where the Republicans went. Extortion doesn't require a "you give me this and I'll give you that" kind of quid pro quo. It’s simple requires using your muscle to get something that you don't have a right to. So look -- and by the way, of course the crowning absurdity here is now they're all pretty much admitting, because Ambassador Sondland has refreshed his recollection, they're all basically admitting there was a quid pro quo. But gosh, it wasn't that bad. It was exactly the same thing as Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton. So, look, we've got to get off this quid pro quo thing, because it's complained. They've already attested to the fact that it occurred. And what we're dealing with here is corruption, abuse of power in a way that damaged American national security.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you at all concerned that if there's one missing piece of the story, it is you don't have yet a firsthand witness of the President directing Mulvaney and the OMB to put this hold on here. Obviously, that's a closed circle of -- you haven’t been able to talk to people in that circle yet. How important is it for you to have any sort of first hand witness in that circle before you vote out articles of impeachment?

REP. JIM HIMES:

Well, that's a really good question. And I think what's going to happen in the next couple of weeks is that the President's defense that you heard last week, which is all these people had secondhand knowledge, that's going to crumble. Lieutenant Colonel Vindman was on the call that he had with the Ukrainian President. A lot of people who -- remember, are the President's people. These are the people who are in the White House. These aren't Democrats on a mission to bring down the President. The President's own people will testify to what they knew. You ask a very interesting and specific question. Of course we would like to have Mick Mulvaney into the Congress to say what I think we know. You will learn in the testimony that it was Mick Mulvaney that was driving the decision and pushing the decision to suspend the aid. And everybody who saw it happen will tell you we had no idea where this was coming from, and it was unanimously opposed. So, it would be good to have Mick Mulvaney come in and explain to us his conversations with the President. But remember, Chuck, his conversations with the President, unlike all of the other claims of privilege, that is actually probably covered by executive privilege. But the American people are going to need to decide did Mick Mulvaney go home and think this up like, "Yeah, what the heck? I'm going to suspend $400 million in military aid to Ukraine"? Or did he perhaps get some kind of suggestion or order from the President of the United States?

CHUCK TODD:

Is there at all a distinction, since he is still a confirmed head of a cabinet level agency, Office of Management and Budget. Does that at all impact his claims of executive privilege?

REP. JIM HIMES:

Well, that's a good question. I can tell you for certain that the White House would say that the conversations that Mick Mulvaney as chief of staff would have with the president would be protected by executive privilege. Wherever you come out on that, of course that is an argument that I'm quite sure could go on for years. As a practical matter, I don't think we're going to hear from it. But what the America people are going to hear, 'cause we'll ask this question, is how many times in American history has the director of the Office of Management and Budget sat in a room full of national security leaders and said, "We're cutting off this aid." And what the America people will hear is that that is a wildly unusual, if not unique, event.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you at all concerned that your colleagues on the other side of the aisle may turn the process and make it such a hard process to follow for the public, perhaps some might call it a sabotaging of the process, where it makes it more difficult for you to air your -- air this public testimony?

REP. JIM HIMES:

Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.

Well, of course that's been the strategy all along, of course, has to been to attack the process. And when you look at their witness list, you can sort of tell what they're doing. They're really doing two or three things. Number one, they're calling a number of witnesses that we've already deposed. These are witnesses who aren't going to say that the President's actions were okay. In fact, they'll say that they had very serious concerns about it. But they'll say, "Well, gosh, I didn't know that this was going on. I didn’t -- I wasn't sure if this was illegal." That's not a very strong defense. The other thing of course, you know, Joe Biden's son is on that witness list. They're going to try to do exactly what you were pushing back on Senator Paul for doing. They would like to bring Joe Biden's son in front of the American people to discuss his role on the board of Burisma. As you pointed out with Senator Paul, we can have a long conversation about whether the sons and daughters of high ranking officials should do that sort of thing. That has nothing to do, absolutely nothing to do with the actions of the United States president in extorting Ukraine in a way that damaged our national security.

CHUCK TODD:

Congressman Jim Himes, a Democrat from Connecticut on the Intel Committee. You will become an even more familiar face to viewers, I imagine, beginning on Wednesday. Thank you for coming on, sir, and sharing your views.

REP. JIM HIMES:

Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, the public is about to hear directly from witnesses in the impeachment hearings. Will that move opinion one way or the other? Panel is next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panel is here. Hugh Hewitt, host on the Salem Radio Network, Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour, my colleague, chief White House correspondent Hallie Jackson for us here at NBC News and Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. Trying to figure out how Republicans want to defend the president is - continues, Hallie, to be, I think, a bit of a mystery. Let me put up an array of attempts.

HALLIE JACKSON:

Okay.

CHUCK TODD:

The various ways that various defenders of the president have made an attempt to defend the president. Here, let's take a listen.

(BEGIN TAPE)

MICK MULVANEY:

Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy.

REP. TOM COLE:

I look at it this way. The aid is there, and the investigations didn't happen. So if there was a quid pro quo, it certainly wasn't a very effective one.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Nobody has testified that there's a quid pro quo ordered by the President of the United States.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

And I think we can add, now, Rand Paul, who's just like —

HALLIE JACKSON:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

— you know, "I'm against all foreign aid. And I don't even know why they're even arguing about that." I mean, there is not an agreement among, among congressional Republicans on what to do here.

HALLIE JACKSON:

No, and they're not getting any messaging from the White House on what strategy the White House would like them to take, moving forward. But I would argue, Chuck, I wonder, is that almost beside the point? Because to the president, the only thing that matters is that these people are defending him. How they're doing it is almost irrelevant to the president and that’s not to say to the American public--

CHUCK TODD:

He doesn't care about the, he doesn’t care about the substance of the defense?

HALLIE JACKSON:

I'm told by sources that I've talked to in the last day that he is watching very closely, television. He is looking to see who is defending him and how vociferously they're supporting him. He's vacillating between anger and, frankly, relish, at times really furious about the fight, at other times, really liking, sort of, bringing this on. And the president wants to see his people defending him. How they get there, meh.

CHUCK TODD:

David?

DAVID IGNATIUS:

Well, I don't know about, about “meh.” I think in those two segments, with Rand Paul and Jim Himes, we had a good snapshot of how difficult this is going to be for the, for the Democrats to convince the country that this is extraordinary behavior that disqualifies the president from office. This argument, this is purely partisan. It's back and forth. Well, this one did it. That one did it. The one thing that will break through, I think, is if this can be dramatized so that our diplomats struggling against the president feel like soldiers in a battlefield, and their commander abandoned them. And if that gets through, or if there's something corrupt that Rudy Giuliani was doing that we discover, I think that changes the stakes. It makes it a very different process. But based on what we heard just now, you know, it's political bickering. And that's the way the people will hear it.

CHUCK TODD:

Hugh, I know where you are, professionally and personally, on this. But it does seem as if congressional Republicans wouldn't mind a sacrificial lamb.

HUGH HEWITT:

I've read those -

CHUCK TODD:

And is it going to be Mulvaney or Rudy?

HUGH HEWITT:

I've read those stories. I imagine it would be Rudy Giuliani. But I'm doing my best to read all the transcripts. And I have enormous respect for the Department of State. People know my son works there. And Mike Pompeo's a good friend of mine. So I'm trying to be very respectful of them. But what I see, I don't see any impeachable offense in the record, thus far. I don't even see an offense. I see a backchannel that the State Department has hated since Harry Hopkins went to England for FDR in '34 and '40, since Scali was involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis, since Kissinger went to China. The State Department hates backchannels. And when they blow up, like Iran-Contra, they blow up badly. But there is nothing illegal. It's a policy dispute. And so we're on the verge of the first partisan impeachment since 1868. And I don't think the American people like this at all, purely partisan vote in the House. That's what we're going to have.

CHUCK TODD:

It was pretty —

HUGH HEWITT:

And I don't think it's going to happen.

CHUCK TODD:

I think impeachment in '98 was a, was a partisan affair.

HUGH HEWITT:

But it was bipartisan in the vote to send it, bipartisan in the vote —

CHUCK TODD:

Ok. Justin Amash voted for it too so that would make it —

HUGH HEWITT:

Not a Republican anymore.

CHUCK TODD:

— it would make it about as bipartisan as the other one was. Yamiche?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

Republicans have had at least 14 ways to, to defend this president. And the president really wants fierce loyalty. My sources at the White House basically say that the president wants a Republican Party that is talking about him in, in a positive light, who are making the arguments that, frankly, you are making, Hugh's making, which is that the president did nothing wrong, or the president might have done something that was a little problematic. But this is how foreign policy works. We have to give them something to be able to get something. I will say that Democrats are very, they’re very focused on how to tell the story this week. And I'm told, from Democratic aides, that they wanted Taylor to be there because he's a Vietnam vet. He's going to be able to tell this story in a simple way. And they wanted Marie Yovanovitch there, because I'm told she cried in her testimony, and they essentially want someone who's going to be emotional to say, "I was a victim of the president trying to do this for his own political gain."

HALLIE JACKSON:

If Republicans have a messaging issue, and I think that, sort of, what we're talking about is that there is a different, sort of, various set of strategies on the GOP side, what you're seeing from Democrats, though, is looking for a shift in their own messaging strategy. You saw that with Congressman Himes, just a second ago.

CHUCK TODD:

Don't use the Latin.

HALLIE JACKSON:

Don't use the Latin, right? People don't get quid pro quo. Listen, it, it may be —

CHUCK TODD:

They don't?

HALLIE JACKSON:

Listen, that's the argument that Democrats are making if they're saying, "People don't get the Latin of it. Let's call it extortion." I had one Democratic congressman tell me, "Let's call it extortion. Let's call it bribery. Let's call it something that's more visceral, that people get."

CHUCK TODD:

This is the Eugene Robinson argument in your - in the pages of your paper, David Ignatius. "Enough with the Latin. What Trump did was bribery," was the headline over his piece. Is this really the Democratic party’s — Is that why there's 40 percent not listening? I don't think it's the Latin.

DAVID IGNATIUS:

So, so their problem is that this is something complicated. And it gets more complicated with all the names and faraway events. And here, we had, you know, one of the leading Democrats saying, "We don't want to talk about quid pro quo anymore. That's too complicated." If that's too complicated, all the rest of it is, too. Again, if there's a simple way to dramatize this, where, where these people sound like soldiers, fighting our fight for us, and they got undercut, then it'll be different.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

But Democrats have to deal with 200 — 2,677 pages of testimony to bring that to life. And as a result, they're trying to say, "Look, we need to change the languaging here. Because for my cousins in Miami and other places, quid pro quo might be too complicated when you're running to the supermarket, or you're going somewhere, rather than saying, ‘The president tried to bribe a foreign country to try to get an investigation into Joe Biden.’" That's an even more simple way that they're basically trying to make the argument.

HALLIE JACKSON:

Especially in the argument is there was no quo. The aid got there. You heard that from a lot of the President’s defenders as well.

CHUCK TODD:

That's the Tom Cole, which is, "Well, I didn't like any of this. But the aid got there."

HALLIE JACKSON:

The money's there.

HUGH HEWITT:

I want to pick up on what David said. In the first two impeachments there were, it's a concrete act, a break-in and an affair in the White House with an intern, on which you had a date stamp, a time, and the American people understood. Not only is that not here, there is a compelling argument that what the president did is just what other presidents do. And I am persuaded by this. I don’t think the Senate — There will be an impeachment. They're going to send an article over, purely partisan vote. I don't think the Senate should take it up. I think they should reject the motion to proceed and never touch it. Otherwise, we will have this done again and again, secret tryings, secret hearings, ex parte contact, just a bad precedent.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, there may be one person who doesn't want to have a Senate trial. Actually, there may be a bunch of them running in the state of Iowa that don't want that Senate trial, maybe not for the reason you don't want the Senate trial, Hugh. And they're presidential candidates. When we come back, Michael Bloomberg looks as if he's getting into the Democratic race. I'm going to talk to a man that a lot of other Democrats hoped would announce his candidacy, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Stick around.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. It is in their nature for Democrats to be nervous about possibly fumbling away the chance to beat President Trump. Many worry about Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders's electability, about Joe Biden's durability, and about Pete Buttigieg's ability to win over the party's diverse coalition, all of which may explain Michael Bloomberg's thinking and why he decided that there's space for him to get into this race, which brings us to Sherrod Brown. He's the senator from Ohio that many other Democrats saw as the ideal candidate to sort of bring the two wings of the party together, but he also declined to run. Senator Brown has just written Desk 88: Eight Progressive Senators Who Have Changed America, about the senators who have sat at the same desk that he sits at on the Senate floor. And Senator Brown joins me now from Chicago. Senator Brown —

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

— welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

Good to be back. Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, before I get into the book, I've got to ask you about, look, this timing here of this week. We had planned this interview with you before Michael Bloomberg jumped in. But you've, you’ve seen plenty of the speculation. You've gotten the phone calls. There's a lot of Democrats wringing their hands about this field that think you should be the one that have jumped in this week, not Michael Bloomberg. What do you make of this feeling in the Democratic Party right now about nervousness of this field?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

Well, it's genetic that Democrats wring their hands about presidential campaigns. I mean, we, we always do that. I, I think it's a good field. I think we're going to beat Trump. I think when people, when voters make the contrast with President Trump's promises, especially his promises to workers in Lordstown, Ohio, and all over the industrial Midwest, and contrast that with Trump's betrayal of workers on minimum wage and overtime and his court appointees and the National Labor Relations Board and all the ways he betrays workers in the middle west and he betrays our allies in the Middle East. And I think that's, that’s the contrast voters are going to make with whomever, with whomever our nominee is and we win in 2020 as a result. So I don't, I don’t, I don’t have this hand-wringing anguish that a number of my — a number of others might have.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, look, you and your wife have said the phone calls have increased lately, not decreased, since you decided not to — basically you and Michael Bloomberg, I feel like, decided around the same time not to get in. And much of it was attributed to Joe Biden. And I -- now you say that that wasn't the case, that Biden's strength didn't push you out, but what do you say to these folks that call you up and say, "Reconsider, Senator"?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

Well, I’ve just never — I, I said from the beginning, I never have had the big desire to be president of the United States. And to get in this race, to run for a year, you've got to want to do it more than anything imaginable. That's what separates the ambition of those who get to the Senate or governor and those who decide to run for president. You, you've heard the line, Chuck. Fifty or sixty years ago, a senator once said, "The only cure for the presidential virus in the United States Senate is embalming fluid." And I don’t, I don't want to be that guy. I just, I love what I'm doing and I just didn't have the huge ambition you need to be president of the United States.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you feel as if all of these top candidates, let's say the top four as it stands right now, that all four of them, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Biden, could carry Ohio right now?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

Oh, I don’t know anybody — I don't know about right now. It doesn't matter right now. It matters 12 months from now. And yes, I think that Ohio's been a swing state for the, for pretty much my whole lifetime and I think that it will be a swing state again. I think it will be competitive. I, I, I go back to the promises this president's made. He promises farm — he makes promises to farmers and then he chooses the oil industry over family farmers in western Ohio. And I, I think that is eating away at his support and I think a Democrat that talks about the dignity of work, looks into the camera, looks out at these rallies, talks to people about respecting and honoring work, whether you punch a clock or swipe a badge or raise kids or work for tips, all workers, we win if our candidates campaign through the eyes of workers and then govern in 2021 through the eyes of workers.

CHUCK TODD:

You made it clear from the get-go that you believe if Democrats make this about promises that President Trump made and failed to deliver on, that they have a good chance of winning. Do you think campaigning on Medicare for All rather than on protecting and expanding Obamacare does that?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

I, I have said publicly that I think people should, should say, "I want to — don't want to destroy Obamacare and start over. I want to build on it." But I think the issue — step back for a second, Chuck. All the Democrats want universal coverage. Some want to get to it at different speeds, on a different path. Contrast that where this president went to Congress, lost by one vote trying to wipe away the Affordable Care Act. Now he's in a court in the northern district of Texas trying to take away the consumer protections for pre-existing condition, trying to take away the Medicaid expansion in Ohio, 600,000 people in my state, the Republican governor, John Kasich, and I teamed up to do. President Trump wants to — make that contrast. Democrats want to get to universal coverage. Republicans want to take it away.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator, on the impeachment front, you have said it's the right thing to do, but you've also said you're a juror and you're going to keep an open mind.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

Yeah I think —

CHUCK TODD:

I, if you believe — in fairness, if you believe impeachment's the right thing to do, it doesn't sound like your mind's very open on the president.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

Well, my mind's open in terms of the trial. My mind, I’m concluding — I mean, Richard Nixon never did what this president did, go to another country and said, "Please, please help me in my campaign." So that's why he should be indicted, I mean, impeached, same as indicted in a court of law. We go — when we go to the Senate trial, 100 jurors, we — this is the only time you'll ever hear me say this, we shouldn't listen to public input on, on this. This is a trial and we should look at the evidence and does it rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors to the point of conviction and removal from office? And I hope all 100 members of the Senate, Republicans and Democrats alike, look at it that way, as they would in a court of law. I'm not a lawyer. Most of my colleagues are, including most of my Republican colleagues. They understand what this should mean. They should stop talking about getting rid of this and do that.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator, your book, Desk 88, we had a little fun with it here. Of the senators you wrote about in your desk here, two of them have made more appearances on Meet the Press than you have, George McGovern and Bobby Kennedy. We’re showing a picture —

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

Who would have known that?

CHUCK TODD:

Yes, who would have known that? You're going to catch them though, I have a feeling here. The desks — have you carved your name in your desk already? And senators do this in all 100 desks, don't they?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

Well, some senators don't. Harry Truman signed ten desks and some senators consider it defacing public property. It started when I, when I was a freshman and went out, we had to choose among ten desks that were not yet taken as the last to choose, freshmen. And I pulled the desk drawer. There are no bad seats. You're not sitting behind an old — you’re not sitting behind a post at Fenway Park.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

And so I just started looking in the desk drawers and I saw the name Kennedy, after seeing McGovern and Al Gore and Hugo Black. And I asked Ted, I said, "Which brother was this?" And he said, "Well, it's got to be Bobby's because I have Jack's desk." And that intrigued me. And I share a love of history —

CHUCK TODD:

I love it.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

— like you do, Chuck. And so I began to think about these eight senators, some of whom are pretty much lost to history, but all of them, all of them believed as I do. And that's really the key and the reason I wear this lapel pin of a canary in a birdcage fighting for workers' rights when workers didn't have those rights, that government can — the power of government can be a positive force in people's lives. That's why I wanted to outline these eight progressive senators that did Medicare and collective bargaining and civil rights and so much in between.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Brown, congratulations on the book. Thank you for coming on and sharing your views. I appreciate it.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN:

Always. Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, where have all the House Republicans gone?

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, Data Download time. President Trump has already remade the Republican Party and it means Republicans on Capitol Hill have had to adapt to fit in, or find another line of work. And it’s the rate at which Republicans are either resigning or retiring before 2020 that is truly remarkable and it could have an impact on impeachment, as well. When President Trump arrived in the White House in 2017, there were 241 individual House Republicans at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Today, 100 of those 241 members, individually, have gone or announced they're leaving, a departure rate of 41 percent. And we're not talking about Republican seats lost. This is the number of individuals who have left, even if they handed their seat over to another Republican. At this point in President Obama's first term, after a brutal midterm in 2010 mind you, he had lost 88 members, a 34% departure rate. But it's the reason these people have left Washington that may matter more. In the case of the House under President Obama, the majority of Democratic departures, 54 of them, came via the ballot box in that infamous "shellacking." But only 23 members voluntarily retired or resigned and left Obama’s Washington. Under President Trump, House Republicans have lost 36 members at the ballot box, but they've lost far more — 50 — because of retirement or resignation. And there are likely to be more departures over the holidays, the sort of the prime announcement time in an election cycle, and when members may decide they don't want to be part of the House minority, particularly in President Trump's Washington. So keep these changes in mind next week when the House impeachment trial becomes a public affair. All that turnover in the past few years means more new faces, ess institutional memory than it had just a few years ago, particularly in the president's own party. And that could make the partisanship even more bitter than we've seen it up until now if that's even possible. When we come back, why some candidates should be happy and some not so much now that Michael Bloomberg looks as if he's about to run for president. End Game is next.

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with End Game. Yamiche, I want to play here the welcome that Michael Bloomberg got from his fellow primary opponents. Let's just sat it wasn't very warm. Take a listen.

[BEGIN TAPE]

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

This is a stark difference from someone that can just come in and plop down checks and buy a bunch of ads. I think people are going to see through it.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

I think that our elections should not be something that are bought by billionaires.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

So tonight, we say to Michael Bloomberg and other billionaires, "Sorry. You ain't going to buy this election."

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Interestingly, both Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg didn't have harsh reactions to that the way other candidates did.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

Especially for progressive candidates. They see Michael Bloomberg's money as the number one Achilles heel that he has. The problem is, of course, that all of that money means that he can also, in some ways, buy ads and really start to become competitive. Now, he is obviously very, very late, but I had someone say to me, "Look, it's not like Michelle Obama got into the race. It's not as if this is going to shift completely everything that's happening. But remember that President Trump, even though he was at that time a frontrunner, he skipped a debate and continued to still have momentum. And that's the message that I think people around Bloomberg are saying, that even though he's late, he can probably still have a chance.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, look, let me put up the data as to what he's thinking here about skipping the first four states. Look, in the month of February, less than 4% of all delegates are available with those four states. 3.9% of delegate are available. And those are the four states he's going to skip. Guess what happens. In the month of March, 61% of all delegates are available. If you were looking at is as a business problem, you would say, "Yeah, of course put your resources where there's 61%, not four."

HALLIE JACKSON:

But politics isn't logical like a business, right Chuck? I mean, I think that's the argument that you're hearing. I talked to sources on both sides of the aisle invested in this presidential campaign, and they're raising questions about, strategically, does this actually make sense, with the way that politics works today, with the way that coverage works today? Yes, Donald Trump skipped a debate when he was a candidate. He was already in the race at that point.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

And a frontrunner.

HALLIE JACKSON:

Fully and wholeheartedly. By the way, Biden maybe didn't throw shade at Michael Bloomberg, but he definitely had a little swagger saying, "Hey, if you look at the polls, I'm not doing so badly right now." So I don't know. The implication being, "I don't know why Bloomberg's getting in here."

CHUCK TODD:

Look, David, I want to put up these Iowa numbers from March. This was right before Bloomberg. And it looked like Bloomberg was thinking about getting in and he decided not to get in. He had a net negative rating, favorable rating, among Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa. There are parts of the Democratic Party that support Elizabeth Warren that do not like Bloomberg.

DAVID IGNATIUS:

No question that Bloomberg has problems, a lot of resistance. But I think the fact that he's come in illustrates the uneasiness in the Democratic Party among prospective voters about the field right now. And I don't think this is the last late-entering, centrist Democrat we're going to hear about.

CHUCK TODD:

You think more will get in? I mean, I’ve seen —

DAVID IGNATIUS:

So, I —

CHUCK TODD:

— the Eric Holder name thrown out there. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts.

DAVID IGNATIUS:

I think if Biden continues to have difficulty, he has greater difficulty, there's going to be somebody else that we'll see. And I would think —

CHUCK TODD:

Do you have a name, sir?

DAVID IGNATIUS:

Well, I'll describe the kind of person who would fit. It's somebody who can bring the country together. The problem looking at the field is that, other than Biden, it's hard to imagine Elizabeth Warren uniting the country, for all of her strengths. So, you know, somebody who's served in the military. Somebody who has that kind of national security credibility. I bet we'll have other late entry personalities.

CHUCK TODD:

Hugh, Michael Bloomberg gave us a reason why he did not jump into this race in March, and it was quite blunt. Take a listen.

[BEGIN TAPE]

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

But it's just not going to happen on a national level for somebody like me starting where I am, unless I was willing to change all my views and go on what CNN called an apology tour. Joe Biden went out and apologized for being male, over 50, white. He apologized for the one piece of legislation which was actually a pretty good anti-crime bill.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

And he wants to win Democratic primary voters.

DAVID IGNATIUS:

Well, I think he's being honest that perhaps the apology tour thing has cycled through the primary and that it's over and that it's okay to step forward and be who you are. Look, I've been wrong about this primary from the beginning. I thought Kamala Harris would be rising like a rocket right now. It's Pete Buttigieg. But I think we have a problem of scale, which is, he can spend $100 million in 30 states and spend less than 5% of his fortune. No one has ever had this sort of resources. So when Rudy tried the, "I'll wait," strategy, he didn't have $55 to $70 billion on which to, "I'll wait to spend $100 billion in every state - $100 million." That's a lot of stuff.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Yamiche —

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

But what's —

CHUCK TODD:

— let's talk about the elephant in the room with Michael Bloomberg. It's really for all of the candidates not named Biden, which is what's your plan to win African American voters?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

I have three words: Stop and frisk. That will be the thing that will be the problem for Michael Bloomberg. People will remember the fact that African Americans were stopped and that a judge found it to be unconstitutional because it was racially discriminatory. And Michael Bloomberg just says, "I don't want to apologize for that." He never did apologize for stop and frisk. Now, I talked to a black Republican just yesterday who said, "I like that about Michael Bloomberg." But that's a black Republican. Most African Americans do not want — do not like that policy.

HALLIE JACKSON:

It's not going to help in the Democratic primary to get that. Listen, I think there are people close to Joe Biden's campaign who see these numbers and who know exactly your point, Chuck, that Joe Biden does have the strongest coalition of African American voters. And they're going, "Who is Bloomberg’s coalition"--

CHUCK TODD:

Look, there is an opportunity for Biden here, and that is he's got to get out of the cocoon. And we'll find out. And maybe Bloomberg's candidacy forces him to let it rip.

DAVID IGNATIUS:

Nothing works like success, right? So if Biden gets some momentum, if Mayor Pete does well in Iowa, all of a sudden you're just going to see increasing returns to scale. People will say--there will be kind of an inevitability to whoever begins to really do well.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, we are in the phase where we're also focusing just on words. Just on the words. That's all we have for today. Thank you for watching. We're gonna leave you this week with a gift lent to us by our hometown Washington Nationals. That's right, it's the World Series trophy, the Commissioner's Trophy for the World Series in Washington. I so desperately just want to grab it, put my fingerprints all on it. Actually, I know hope it lives here for years and years to come. Anyway, more importantly, enjoy the Veteran's Day holiday tomorrow. Be sure to thank a veteran and then some. And for us, we'll be back next week. Because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.