Meet the Press - October 6, 2019

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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, a democracy in crisis.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

I have an actual obligation and a duty.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump says out loud what Democrats have been accusing him of doing: pressuring Ukraine to conduct investigations that would help him politically.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I would think if they were honest about it, they'd start a major investigation into the Bidens.

CHUCK TODD:

And then says China should, too.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens.

CHUCK TODD:

There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden and he pushes back.

JOE BIDEN:

All this talk from the president about corruption, comes from the most corrupt president we’ve had in modern history.

CHUCK TODD:

As Democrats move forward with their impeachment inquiry.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

We’re not fooling around here.

CHUCK TODD:

Most Republicans defend Mr. Trump--

REP. PETER KING:

There’s nothing criminal about it. There’s nothing impeachable about it.

CHUCK TODD:

--while some remain cautious.

SEN. JONI ERNST:

I can say yay, nay, whatever. The president is going to say what the president is going to do.

CHUCK TODD:

My guests this morning, the bipartisan Senate pair who were leading advocates of aid to Ukraine: Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Also, former CIA Director John Brennan. Plus, the Bernie Sanders' heart attack, his health, how it could impact the race and it’s a reminder that all the leading candidates are in their 70's. Joining me for insight and analysis are NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker, Rich Lowry, Editor of National Review, O. Kay Henderson, News Director of the Radio Iowa Network and former Under Secretary of State Rick Stengel. Welcome to Sunday. It's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, the longest running show in television history, this is a special addition of Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. I made the point earlier this week that a national nightmare is upon us. It's not something I said lightly, or say it now, but the stability of our democracy is at stake. It's a moment that so many people, including Donald Trump's Republican primary opponents, predicted would happen. And now it's upon us. In less than three weeks we've moved from a simple Washington Post story about a complaint in which a whistleblower said President Trump was pressuring Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and the origins of the 2016 election interference investigation, to this Thursday, when President Trump himself said out loud that, yes, Ukraine, and for that matter, China should investigate Biden. In other words: You're darn right I did it. There's nothing wrong with it. And, here, I'm doing it again. What are you going to do about it? So this is where we are, the President of the United States calling on foreign governments, plural, to help him in next year's election. House Democrats are now all but certain to impeach him. Senate Republicans perhaps are all but certain to acquit him. A country more divided against itself than at any point in our lifetime. Perhaps every member of Congress, Republican and Democrat, would do well to heed the words of Kurt Volker, he’s the former diplomat caught up in this Ukraine issue. Here's what Volker said in his opening statement to congressional investigators: "I at some stage found myself faced with a choice: to be aware of a problem and to ignore it, or rather to accept that it was my responsibility to try to fix it.”

REPORTER:

What exactly did you hope Zelensky would do about the Bidens after your phone call?

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I would think that if they were honest about it, they'd start a major investigation into the Bidens.

CHUCK TODD:

The president, repeating his unprecedented request of a foreign power to investigate a political opponent -- this time, in public.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Likewise China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened to China is just about as bad as what happened with, with Ukraine.

CHUCK TODD:

The evidence that the president has solicited foreign help to discredit his political opponents and directed his Attorney General to do so as well is piling up.

HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI:

The president has confessed to his violation of his oath of office right then and there.

CHUCK TODD:

Explosive, newly-released text messages make clear that military aid for Ukraine and a trip to Washington were conditioned on Ukraine's commitment to investigate Biden and the origins of the Mueller probe. July 19th, Kurt Volker, then U.S. envoy to Ukraine, texts Gordon Sondland, a top Trump donor and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union.

CHUCK TODD [READING TEXT FROM KURT VOLKER]:

"Had breakfast with Rudy [Giuliani, the president's lawyer] this morning... Most impt is for Zelensky to say he will help investigation ..."

CHUCK TODD:

July 25th, minutes before that Trump-Zelensky phone call, Volker texts a Zelensky aide:

CHUCK TODD [READING TEXT FROM KURT VOLKER]:

"Heard from the White House -- assuming President Z convinces Trump he will investigate / 'get to the bottom of what happened' in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington."

CHUCK TODD:

After military aid to Ukraine is frozen, Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine objects … texting on September 9th:

CHUCK TODD [READING TEXT FROM BILL TAYLOR]:

"As I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."

CHUCK TODD [READING TEXT FROM GORDON SONDLAND]

A few hours later, Sondland responds: "I believe you are incorrect about President Trump's intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo's of any kind"...

CHUCK TODD:

When a key Republican senator, Ron Johnson, heard from Sondland that the money's release was contingent on an investigation, he says he called President Trump on August 31st, who told him, "Expletive … No way. I would never do that. Who told you that?"

JOE BIDEN:

All this talk from the president about corruption comes from the most corrupt president we've had in modern history. He's the definition of corruption.

CHUCK TODD:

Most congressional Republicans so far have been supportive of the president, been silent or simply deflected.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

I don't know if that's a real request or him just needling the press knowing that you guys were gonna get outraged by it.

SEN. JONI ERNST:

I can say yay, nay, whatever. The president is going to say what the president is going to do.

CHUCK TODD:

But Senator Mitt Romney spoke out on Friday - tweeting: "By all appearances, the President's brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.”

CHUCK TODD:

I'm now joined by two members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who have spent a lot of time working together actually on military aid to Ukraine, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Chris Murphy of Connecticut. I'm going to begin our discussion this morning with Senator Johnson. Senator Johnson, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Morning, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with something you told The Wall Street Journal late last week. You had said when Mr. Sondland -- Gordon Sondland seemed to imply that -- the frozen military aid was connected to a promise by Zelensky for investigations, you said, "At that suggestion, I winced. My reaction was, 'Oh God. I don't wanna see those two things combined.'" Why did you wince and what did you mean by "those two things combined?”

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Well, fir-- first of all, your setup piece was --you know, typically, very unbiased. But, you know, le -- let me first, before I started answering all the detailed questions, let me just talk about why I'm pretty sympathetic with what President Trump has gone through. You know, I'm 64 years old. I have never in my lifetime seen a president, after being elected, not having some measure of well wishes from his opponents. I've never seen a president’s administration be sabotaged from the day after election. I -- I've never seen -- no-- no measure of honeymoon whatsoever. And so what President Trump's had to endure, a false accusation -- by the way, you've got John Brennan on -- you oughta ask Director Brennan what did Peter Strzok mean when he texted Lisa Page on December 15th, 2016?

CHUCK TODD:

Senator?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Quote --

CHUCK TODD: Can we -- Senator--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

C-- no, no, no, Chuck --

CHUCK TODD:

Senator--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--Chuck, let me-- let me finish. "Think--"

CHUCK TODD:

What does this have to do--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

"--think our sisters--"

CHUCK TODD:

--with Ukraine--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

"--have begun leaking like mad, scorned and worthy political--"

CHUCK TODD:

What does this have to do with Ukraine?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

They're k-- they're k-- it has everything to do with Ukraine. Now listen. S-- "Think our sisters have begun le-- linking l-- leaking like mad, scorned and worried and political. They're kicking into overdrive." Now, that was December 15th. Six days before that is when we first started hearing the CIA leaking about Russia supporting the Trump campaign. Th-- th-- there's the-- that is why Trump is so upset. He had this false narrative, that resulted in him being set by up James Comey in -- on January 16th. Then he has the--

CHUCK TODD:

Senator--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--Special Counsel appointed that has hampered his entire investigation--

CHUCK TODD:

Senator?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--his entire-- his entire-- his entire administration. And now, once he's been-- that was proven false, he would like to know and I would like to know and I know his supporters would like to know, where did this all come from? Who planted that false story?

CHUCK TODD: Senator --

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Who leaked? You know, I-- I have-- I have my third letter into the Inspector General of the Intelligence--

CHUCK TODD: All right, Senator--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--Committee, asking to just confirm-- just confirm, are you investigating those leaks that Peter Strzok talked about in that--

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Senator--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--text to Lisa Page--

CHUCK TODD:

--I have no idea why--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

We're gettin'-- no, that's-- that's--

CHUCK TODD:

--why--

SEN.RON JOHNSON:

--a setup. It is entirely--

CHUCK TODD: -- why a Fox--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--relevant to this point.

CHUCK TODD:

--why a Fox News conspiracy, propaganda stuff is popping up on here.

SEN.RON JOHNSON:

It is--

CHUCK TODD:

I have no idea--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

It is not. That is--

CHUCK TODD:

I have no idea--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--that is-- that is exac--

CHUCK TODD:

--why we're goinG here.

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--that is ex-- that is--

CHUCK TODD:

Senator, I'm asking--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Because this is underlying--

CHUCK TODD:

--about--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--exactly why--

CHUCK TODD:

I'm as--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--President Trump is upset and why his supporters are upset--

CHUCK TODD:

All right, w--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--at the news media.

CHUCK TODD:

Oh, okay, this--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

You know-- you know, Chuck--

CHUCK TODD:

--is not about the media--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--here's the deal, here's the deal--

CHUCK TODD:

--Senator Johnson -- Senator Johnson, please!

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--is at the-- s--

CHUCK TODD:

--can we please--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Go ahead.

CHUCK TODD:

--answer the question that I asked you instead of trying to make Donald Trump feel better here that you're not criticizing him--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

I'm not-- I'm not.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm just trying--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

I'm tr-- I'm trying to lay the groundwork--

CHUCK TODD:

--to ask you a simple question--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--of your very biased opening--

CHUCK TODD:

--of what made you what made you wince. What-- I'm asking a simple question about you, clearly, were upset that somehow there was an implication--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Yeah-- I was--

CHUCK TODD:

--that military aid was--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--I was-- I was--

CHUCK TODD: --being frozen--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

--because the president wanted an investigation. Why did you wince?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Right, but th-- because I didn’t want those connected. And I-- I wanted-- I was supporting the aid, as is Senator Murphy, as is everybody that went to that initial inauguration. But here's the salient point of why I came forward. When I asked the president about that, he completely denied it. He adamantly denied it. He vehemently, angrily denied it. He said, "I'd never do that." So tha-- that is the-- the piece of the puzzle I'm here to report today that, unlike-- unlike the-- the narrative of the press that President Trump wants to dig up dirt on his 2020 opponent, what he wants is he wants to-- an accounting of what happened in 2016. Who set him up? Did things spring from Ukraine? You know, there's a good piece. We've got an oversight letter on -- from Politico in 2017 where-- le-- let me-- let me quote the article. It says, "Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump. They did so by disseminating documents implicating a top Trump aid in corruption, suggesting they were investigating the matter. Ukrainian officials also reportedly helped Clinton allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisors." There is potential interference in-- in the 2016 campaign--

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

That's what Trump wants to get to the bottom of. But the press doesn't want to.

CHUCK TODD:

Ambassador--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

The people who wrote this article are being pilloried. I'm being called a conspiracy theorist. John Solomon's being called a conspiracy theorist because the press is horribly biased. And Trump and his supporters--

CHUCK TODD:

Hey, look--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--completely understand that.

CHUCK TODD:

--I understand that a way to avoid answering a question is to attack us in the press. I'm well aware of that.

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

No, no, well--

CHUCK TODD:

And that doesn't work.

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--I'm tr-- I'm trying to lay--

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you something--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--the groundwork in order to answer your question--

CHUCK TODD:

--that Ambassador Volker said. Let me tell you what Ambassador Volker said under oath. And I'm curious if you shared this concern. Ambassador Volker said this. "I explained that I believed that Mayor Giuliani continues to have a negative view of Ukraine based on assertions of actions that happened in 2016 and that this viewpoint is likely making its way to the president." Were you concerned that Rudy Giuliani's disinformation campaign, sort of Ukrainian propaganda campaign was negatively influencing the president's views of the current Ukrainian president?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Well, certainly, the reports, not only from-- Rudy Giuliani, but from Ken Vogel out-- out of Politico and John Solomon doing some pretty good investigative reporting. Now The Washington Post is attacking him, undermining him. All that information, we have never got the answers to those questions. Chuck, I wanna get to the truth. I-- I'm not here defending the president. I-- I'm not here to denounce him either. What I'm here is telling you my-- my piece of this-- the puzzle here, giving you my honest assessment of what I heard, how-- how the president told me repeatedly in the May 23rd Oval Office visit, on the phone on the 31st, the reason he had very legitimate concerns and reservations about Ukraine is first, corruption, generalized. It's endemic. We all know that. And then specifically about what kind of interference--

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think Paul Manafort--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--in the 2016 election. And also-- and also--

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think Paul -- you think Paul Manafort--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

the fact that Europe is not--

CHUCK TODD:

--was framed?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--stepping up to the plate.

CHUCK TODD:

You think Paul Manafort was framed?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

No. You know, obviously, he was convicted. But there's a lot of other stuff going on back then too. You know, Hillary Clinton's campaign was searching for dirt. Maybe not only on Paul Manafort, but trying to keep president or Vice President Biden out of the primary for the Democratic campaign. So again--

CHUCK TODD:

All--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--again, Chuck--

CHUCK TODD:

All right--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--the B -- the bottom line is--

CHUCK TODD:

Why-- why--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--there are so many questions--

CHUCK TODD: --let me ask you this, Senator--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--unanswered. So again-- no, ask-- ask--

CHUCK TODD:

Why is the president--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--John Brennan--

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this.

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--what-- what was Peter str-- what did Peter Strzok mean when, "The sisters have begun leaking like mad"? Wh-- what-- what was the CIA scorned and worried about? What were they kicking into overdrive? There's one-- there's a key question I want answered among, I don't know about 100 others--

CHUCK TODD:

So Senator, do you-- do you not believe the Russians interfered in the presidential elections to benefit Donald Trump?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

They-- they abs-- they absolutely did. They absolutely did. And I don't know to what extent the Ukrainians did. I don't know to what extent DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign were involved in kinda juicin' up the-- the Ukrainian involvements as well.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you just ask those--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

There are a lot of unanswered questions. Chuck, I just want the truth. The American people want the truth.

CHUCK TODD:

So, do you not trust the amer--

SEN.RON JOHNSON:

Trump-- President Trump's supporters--

CHUCK TODD: --do you not trust the FBI?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--want the truth.

CHUCK TODD:

You don't trust the CIA? I'm--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

No, no I don't--

CHUCK TODD:

--I'm just very confused here.

SEN.RON JOHNSON:

Absolutely not--

CHUCK TODD:

You don't trust any of those--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--after Peter Strzok--

CHUCK TODD:

--agencies?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--and Lisa Page? Af-- after James Comey--

CHUCK TODD:

Okay -- you believe the FBI--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--and Peter s-- Peter Strzok--

CHUCK TODD:

--and the CIA--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--John Brennan--

CHUCK TODD:

--these government agencies--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

No, I don't trust any of these guys in the Obama administration. I don't trust any of 'em.

CHUCK TODD:

You don't trust them now? Do you trust them now?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

No, I d-- I didn't trust 'em back then.

CHUCK TODD:

And you don't trust them now?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

I-- I do not trust John Brennan. I do not trust--

CHUCK TODD:

Do you trust the CIA--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--th-- s-- Lisa Page--

CHUCK TODD:

--and FBI now-- because-- none of them have--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Andrew McCabe--

CHUCK TODD:

--come to any of the conclusions--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--I don't trust those guys.

CHUCK TODD:

--you're trying to come to. I'm just curious, do you trust them now?

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

W-- now, who're you talking about?

CHUCK TODD:

The CIA and the FBI.

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

I don't trust Andrew McCabe.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you trust the C--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

I don't trust Andrew McCabe. I don't trust James Comey. I don't trust Pe--Peter Strzok. I don't trust John Brennan.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator, let me ask you this.

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

I-- I-- I've got--

CHUCK TODD:

'Cause one of the things--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--a lotta questions that have remained--

CHUCK TODD:

--one of the things--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--not answered.

CHUCK TODD:

--that you came on here to do--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

I just want the truth, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

I-- so would I--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

I just want the ch-- truth. No, you--

CHUCK TODD:

So would I--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--you -- you set this thing up totally biased. I could never really get into the full narrative. We don't have enough time to go through all the things I can talk about in terms of--

CHUCK TODD:

You're right. Because you came here--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--my interaction with the president--

CHUCK TODD:

--and chose to bring up something about Lisa ---

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

No, you-- you s-- you started--

CHUCK TODD:

--Lisa Page and Peter Strzok.

SEN.RON JOHNSON:

--the piece with something incredibly biased that-- I-- I would never be able to get the truth out.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator, I-- I-- I don't know why you just came on here to personally attack the press and avoid answering questions--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Be-- because of your setup piece--

CHUCK TODD:

--about what's happened here.

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Because of your setup piece.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator, it's pretty clear-- we're only dealing with the facts that we have, not the facts--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

No, that-- that-- that's what I wanna--

CHUCK TODD:

--that you wish them to be.

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--deal with and I can't get the answers. And I can't get the answers. The American people can't get the answers. Something pretty fishy happened during the 2016 campaign. And in the transition, the early-- the early part of the Trump presidency, and we still don't know. Robert Mueller was--

CHUCK TODD:

We do know the answer.

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--completely blinded and he-- he'd never--

CHUCK TODD:

You-- you're choosing--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--he never looked into any of that.

CHUCK TODD:

--you're choosing not to--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

And he should've.

CHUCK TODD:

You're--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Ho-- hopefully--

CHUCK TODD:

--you're just making a choice--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--hopefully, William Barr will.

CHUCK TODD:

You're ch-- you're making a choice--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

Hopefully, William Barr--

CHUCK TODD:

--not to believe--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

--will get to the bottom of this.

CHUCK TODD:

You're making a choice not to believe the investigations that have taken place, multiple--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

No, I'm-- I'm trying to get to the truth. I wanna look at the entire truth, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Does the truth--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

The media doesn't.

CHUCK TODD:

And the truth is only when it-- when it benefits-- when you believe--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

No, but that's--

CHUCK TODD:

--it politically--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

You're totally false--

CHUCK TODD:

--comfortable with you? I don't understand--

SEN.RON JOHNSON:

You're-- you're totally incorrect--

CHUCK TODD:

--what truth are you looking for--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

I want the complete truth.

CHUCK TODD:

So-- well, so are we--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

I want the complete truth.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm sorry that you chose--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

I doubt that.

CHUCK TODD:

--to come on this way, Senator. Thanks very much. Joining me now--

SEN. RON JOHNSON:

I'm-- I'm sorry you started the piece that way.

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now is Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Senator Murphy-- thanks for coming on. A question I was gonna try to get to Senator Johnson had to do with the fact if he shared his concerns about the linkage of military aid and the president's decision-- to want an investigation. Did you ever hear Senator Johnson wince? Did he talk about it with you? You guys were traveling a lot together? I'm just curious.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY:

Well, I-- I mean, first of all-- Ron's a good friend, but I'm-- I'm deeply scared-- by the positioning that Republicans have chosen to take. That interview was just a giant green light to the president of the United States to continue to solicit foreign interference in US elections. He telegraphed that he's gonna ask China to do the same thing he asked the Ukrainians to do this week because Republicans are allowing to-- are-- are allowing him to do it. And this entire country should be scared that at a moment when we need patriots, what we are getting is blind partisan loyalty. Listen, the texts make it clear that there was a quid pro quo on the table. That the State Department, the White House, the president's personal lawyers were all working to try to get the Ukrainians to interfere in the 2020 election in exchange for access to the White House and likely-- the resumption of aid. Now, I-- didn't hear Senator Johnson make that connection in Ukraine. And as I've said previously, neither did I hear s-- President Zelensky make that connection--

CHUCK TODD:

So--

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY:

--in Ukraine.

CHUCK TODD:

--so Senator Johnson seemed he-- he implied and he talked about he had heard about this. So we're-- again, you were working pretty closely on this same situation. Did Gordon Sondland make this clear to you, that they were conne-- that the issues were connected?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY:

No, when we went to meet with the president early des-- in early September-- no one from the White House-- or Gordon Sondland had told us that the two were connected. But, of course, it stood to reason that the two were connected. In Ukraine, there were many people who were-- under the impression that they must be because this aid had been suddenly cut off with no process, with no bipartisan-- notification. And there was an outstanding request to Zelensky to interfere in the United States election that Zelensky was not acceding to. And so, of course, it stood to reason to people in Ukraine that these two were connected. We now know from these text messages that they absolutely were connected. That they were telling Zelensky that, "If you want to see the president, if you want to normalize relations with the United States, you need to start investigating the president's political opponents." And now Republicans are basically inviting the president to do that over, and over, and over again.

CHUCK TODD:

When did you find out the aid was frozen?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY:

I found out the aid was-- frozen-- when it was reported in the press. So I did not have any prior notification.

CHUCK TODD:

Did the Ukraine-- when do you get the sense that Ukrainians knew it was being frozen, 'cause they didn't know at the time-- of the phone call, it appears, that it was-- technically had been frozen?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY:

Yeah. I do not know when the Ukrainians-- found out-- about it. But what we now know is that-- there were extensive conversations happening between Kurt Volker, Gordon Sondland, Ambassador Taylor and the Ukrainians. And so clearly-- the Ukrainians had a long period of time in which they knew that they had to provide what was called in those text messages a deliverable. Interference in the 2020 election, or they weren't gonna see the president. And they likely weren't going to get their aid. So I guess it's interesting what time they found out about it. But they found out about it in time to make it perfectly clear to Zelensky that he needed to do Trump's political bidding if he was gonna get back on good footing with the White House.

CHUCK TODD:

This is obviously-- it-- it's pretty clear that Republicans are fearful of even criticizing the-- the-- the idea of what the president is being accused of doing. For-- fearful of even criticizing the concept of it. A-- a whole world is gonna rain down on 'em. Based on-- Senator Johnson's not one of those that usually is a conspiracy theorist that usually goes down these rabbit holes. Um-- how fearful do Senate re-- are Senate Republicans of the president's wrath?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY:

I mean, listen, I don't know what Senator Johnson was talking about getting to the bottom of. I mean, is he doubting that Russia interfered in the 2016 election? Does he think that Paul Manafort was framed? I mean-- this is wild, the lengths to which Republicans are going to try to avoid being criticized by this president. Listen, you have a responsibility to the Constitution of the United States, right? Our democracy isn't the piece of paper that it's written on, it's the decisions that we make. It's the actions that we take. And the difference between the United States of America and tin pot dictatorships is that we don't let presidents of the United States do this. We don't let them take their official office and merge it with their reelection arm. They shouldn't be fearful of this president. If they vote to get rid of him-- there-- there's nothing he can do to hurt them.

CHUCK TODD:

Let's be realistic though. Th-- the president is-- is going to do this. We're spinning up-- I mean, we have-- we have a major problem here. I mean, the-- the comfort level that the senator had to character assassinate the show and us-- in this-- in this bizarre, personal way I think shows you where we're headed. What do we do?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY:

Yeah. I-- I mean, listen, I think our only choice now is to take this to the American public. And, you know, ultimately, these members of the Senate want to get reelected. And as you have seen public opinion shift very quickly. As you see more Republicans go into the bunker, like that-- and the president go deeper into trying to get more countries to interfere in our elections, I think public opinion will change. It is true. The president seemingly can shoot somebody in the middle of 5th Avenue and Republicans won't care. I don't think--

CHUCK TODD:

Do you feel powerless--

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY:

--people want that.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you feel powerless?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY:

No, I don't feel powerless. I mean, listen, I feel like this is a moment where patriots need to step up and try to save this country. And I think there are a lot of regular citizens out there that are going to demand that their members of Congress look at the facts, make a decision on the facts, not make a decision based on their loyalty to the cult of Donald Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy-- thanks for coming' on here--

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY:

Thanks, yes.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, President Trump's war with his own intelligence agencies and the man who's been one of his favorite targets, former CIA Director John Brennan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Virtually from the moment he was elected, Donald Trump has been in a low-grade war with the intelligence community. Most noble -- notable was that moment in Helsinki last year, when Mr. Trump said he did not believe Russia interfered with the 2016 election, accepting Vladimir Putin's denials over his own intelligence agencies' conclusions. One aspect of this fight has been the extent to which Mr. Trump and his allies have questioned the credibility of his critics in the intel community, which you just saw firsthand, yourself, here, this morning. Among them, John Brennan, who was President Obama's CIA director for nearly four years and is now the senior national security and intelligence analyst for NBC News. Mr. Brennan joins me now. Welcome back to Meet the Press.

JOHN BRENNAN:

Good morning, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, I was going to save the focus on you to the second half of our interview. But obviously, I have to bring this up right away. The importance of creating you as the boogeyman, as the person, as the whatever it is, your mere mention to be on the show triggered Senator Johnson in this. Do you understand how we got here? And how would you explain to somebody, you have been completely character assassinated and eviscerated? And it doesn't matter whether people like you or hate you. I think everybody can agree, you've been put through this. Do you understand how you got here?

JOHN BRENNAN:

Well, I think it all goes back to Mr. Trump and his dishonesty and his complete obliteration of the norms of honesty, in terms of his public statements. He was the one who started the birther conspiracy, as far as Barack Obama was concerned. He has continued to fabricate information. And clearly, Senator Johnson is running scared of Donald Trump, as are the other Republican senators. Because if they say anything against him, he comes after them with a vengeance. So he is the typical bully. And so now, I have become, you know, being pilloried, as an example of the deep state.

CHUCK TODD:

I'll take it another step further. People are criticizing you for speaking out now and for defending yourself. I've seen other intelligence officials, who I think are well meaning in their criticism of you. And frankly, I think I've asked you questions about this, going, you know, are you worried that you're impacting the perception of the intelligence community? Well, at this point, it's a campaign to destroy the credibility of the intelligence community. Even now, Senator Johnson would not affirm that he trusted the CIA and FBI right now. What does that say about those two agencies right now and their ability to conduct the work of protecting America?

JOHN BRENNAN:

Yeah, I struggle with what my public posture should be. What I don't want to do is to put the CIA in a difficult position. But I feel an obligation, as a former senior U.S. official, to call out Mr. Trump, when he lies to the American public, when he totally fabricates information just to advance his own political agenda. So I am going to continue doing it. Because people, at this time, I think, really need to speak out and speak up. And it's clear that the Republicans in the Senate are just going along. I've had many issues with the Democrats over the years but I’ve never had -- never seen anything like the Republicans right now, as far as just misrepresentations of the truth, because of what Donald Trump has done.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, here's why we're here. Because there is a disinform-- We have two sets of realities that live here. There is a 40% of the country that is only getting fed one reality. Arguably, 60% are getting what I would argue is reality. But this is a huge problem. And it's clear that, whether -- it doesn’t matter -- if your voters are only hearing this one thing, are we capable of governing ourselves with a disinformation campaign that's happening like this?

JOHN BRENNAN:

Well, until the senior officials of the Republican Party push back against Trump, I think this is going other be a very, very long and difficult fight. Because this dishonesty, this disinformation now, is just overwhelming and inundating the airways. Whether it be social media platforms or a lot of the news networks, they continue just to put out false information. And it gains traction. And I can understand how so many Americans, then, are confused.

CHUCK TODD:

Many Americans are going to send me emails, going, "How could you put a traitor like John Brennan on television?"

JOHN BRENNAN:

Well --

CHUCK TODD:

You know what I mean?

JOHN BRENNAN:

You know, I worked 33 years in national security. And I feel good about my record. And there's a lot of false information out there that, now, people take as gospel.

CHUCK TODD:

One of the things I used to do, when I had to travel overseas, professionally, is read those CIA -- the public fact sheets and CIA descriptions of the politics and what's happening in that country. How would the CIA assess the stability of the American government right now?

BRENNAN:

Oh --

CHUCK TODD:

If it were assessing America as if it was another country?

JOHN BRENNAN:

We would look at it as a very corrupt government that is under the sway, right now, of this powerful individual who has been able to just corrupt the institutions and the laws of that country.

CHUCK TODD:

What would you say about the stability of the democracy?

JOHN BRENNAN:

I think it's no longer, you know, a democracy, if an autocrat is -- has it in his hands. And people like Johnson and others are putty in his hands, which means that the democratic principles upon which this country are founded are, are eroding right now.

CHUCK TODD:

So the CIA would not assess America as a stable democracy?

JOHN BRENNAN:

I think it -- well, given the polarization of the country, as well, there's just tremendous political instability here and, which is consuming the government now. And it's not able to take care of the issues that it needs to address, whether it be on the domestic front or the national security or the foreign-policy front. So yes, I think there's a real question about the stability.

CHUCK TODD:

The president is trying to make a big deal that the whistleblower is a member of the CIA, as if that, somehow, damages the whistleblower, that they worked for that entity of the government, as opposed to, I guess, another entity of the government. Do you sense a chill, in the intel community, that fear of speaking out?

JOHN BRENNAN:

Well, I think that, certainly, is the intention of Mr. Trump. But I'm glad to see that the whistleblower did come forward. And I understand, now, there's a second one, also. So a chill, yes. But you know, the women and men of CIA and the intelligence community are among the most patriotic and dedicated Americans that this country has. And it's, I think, outrageous that someone like Donald Trump disparages and denigrates their work. But they're in the trenches. They're around the world. They're doing their best to keep their fellow citizens safe. And so somebody of Mr. Trump's ilk is not going to be able to undermine and undercut their contributions to this country, ever.

CHUCK TODD:

John Brennan, former director of the CIA, thanks for coming on and sharing your views.

JOHN BRENNAN:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

I know that it means more attacks. So thanks. When we come back, the impeachment inquiry, those text messages, and what Republicans are saying. The panel is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. The panel is here. Former Undersecretary of State Rick Stengel. He's the author of the new book, Information Wars: How We Lost the Global Battle Against Disinformation and What We Can Do About It. Kind of timely. O. Kay Henderson, news director for the Radio Iowa Network, NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker and Rich Lowry, editor of National Review and author of the new book, The Case for Nationalism: How it Made Us Powerful, United, and Free. Rich, I'm going to start with you. Senator Johnson, on Friday, was part of the-- Even Senator Ron Johnson seemed to have an issue with quid pro quo. Perhaps it was something that he was sensitive to. And he wanted to make it clear, this morning, "I'm on the president's side." The demand for loyalty from this president is pretty strong.

RICH LOWRY:

Well, it's always been fraught and perilous, dissenting from a president of your own party. What's new is the grip that Trump has on the party and the fact that he can destroy your career, possibly, with a couple tweets.

CHUCK TODD:

Jeff Flake.

RICH LOWRY:

Everyone's aware of that. But Chuck, I do think there are distinctions here. And there are multiple things that can be true. There's nothing inappropriate about a president urging a foreign leader to cooperate with his attorney general on a duly constituted probe of the sources of the Russia investigation. What's improper and inappropriate is the focus on the Bidens. It seems to me, the best position for Republicans would be one I happen to agree with, and I think it's true. It was improper to focus on the Bidens. But the level and the magnitude of this offense does not justify impeaching and possibly removing a president 12 months before an election.

CHUCK TODD:

What's interesting is that that seems to be, Tucker Carlson seemed to signal a similar, at The Daily Caller. I should put it up, Kristen, here, with what he said, essentially, saying he should not have done that phone call at all. Should’ve been-- "Donald Trump should not have been on the phone with a foreign head of state, encouraging another country to investigate his political opponent, Joe Biden. Some Republicans are trying, but there's no way to spin this as a good idea. Once those in control of our government use it to advance their political goals, we'll become just another of the world's many corrupt countries." Tucker goes on to argue a similar argument that Rich says. "But this does not rise to impeachment. The founders would say, 'Let the election happen.'" But does the president allow for that middle ground?

KRISTEN WELKER:

Well, he doesn't, because look at his attacks against Mitt Romney. Obviously, Mitt Romney, on the other side of the spectrum. Tucker Carlson is trying to walk a fine line here. I thought it was pretty remarkable. Because Tucker Carlson's been a pretty reliable ally of this president, so I'm curious to see what tweets he receives. Because this is still criticism, to be sure. It's also reminiscent of how Democrats defended Bill Clinton, during his impeachment. "We disagree with what he did, implicitly. At the same time, it's not impeachable." The question is, does that argument work? And Chuck, I think we can't underscore this enough. There seems to be a second whistleblower who is poised to come forward. Does this whistleblower change the conversation in any way?

CHUCK TODD:

Kay, this-- you're, you’re the Iowan here. You're the red-stater, in that you’re seeing, you see the people that get the two different realities. And some people live in one reality. Some people live in another reality. What Ron Johnson said, to some people, is going to sound like, "Chuck's the crazy one." And others are going to say, "Johnson's the crazy one."

O. KAY HENDERSON:

What I find interesting is, when I'm talking to Republicans and Democrats, they're not paying attention to the drip, drip, drip of this. They couldn't name the cast of characters, number one. Number two, Republicans see this, at least in Iowa, as an extension of Mueller. They say, "This again?" And they have come to the conclusion that the president will not be convicted. On the Democratic side, you go to Democratic presidential candidate events, they're not getting asked about impeachment because everybody knows where the candidates stand, number one. And Democrats have largely moved on. They're choosing someone to run against Donald Trump and they don't think the Senate will convict.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, this seems to be the struggle, Rick, is, and I think everybody has this, is that people are searching for a guardrail, right? And, and if-- I think Republicans would be up for some consequence if it weren't impeachment, right? And yet nothing seems-- you've got to do something to tell him to stop doing it. So far, he has no consequences on any of this. And I think there are some people going, "Can you put up a guardrail? It doesn't have to be impeachment," is what it sounds like, but people are frustrated there's no guardrails.

RICK STENGEL:

There are no guardrails anymore, and that's part of the problem of this rise in disinformation. Anybody can do it. The social media platforms are open to everyone. In fact, just to go back to what Senator Johnson started with, I mean, it's a classic Russian disinformation technique called “what about-ism,” to not answer the question but to point out to something else. From the Cold War, the Russians would say, "But you lynch black people," when we'd say, "You don't have freedom in your country." So part of the reason that there's no guardrails is that Donald Trump himself is the disinformationist in chief. He is the promulgator of false narratives like no one else is. And what that does is give permission to people to do it. Once upon a time, the president's words were golden. And everyone had to adhere to it. And now, basically, it's open season.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, that is a problem, right, if the President's words lack power?

RICH LOWRY:

Well, look. Again, I'd make some distinctions. The idea that the DNC server is in Ukraine is wacky. The idea that Paul Manafort was set up--

CHUCK TODD:

The President of the United States is believing this.

RICH LOWRY:

It's, it’s wacky.

O. KAY HENDERSON:

And Giuliani was investigating that.

RICH LOWRY:

But to Kay's point, to false narratives, Republican voters were told for two and a half years, there's this dastardly, treacherous conspiracy between the president and Russia. It never seemed plausible. It wasn't true. And then, as they see this, well, it's just all, never mind. And then two months later, onto something else. And that's why there's a lot of skepticism about that. And that's why a lot of Republicans will like what Ron Johnson did this morning.

CHUCK TODD:

No, I, I, I, I don’t--

RICK STENGEL:

But there was, there was that relationship between Trump and Russia, which I talk about in my book. Russia said, "I'm going to help you." He said, "I welcome that help." And it happened. That's collusion. I, I, I just-- And the reason Ukraine comes back into this now and is so important is that Ukraine is that hinge point between Russia and the rest of the world, between the east and west. What Russia is fighting over is to have control over Ukraine. And what we used to fight for is a democratic and free Ukraine, which Trump betrayed in that phone call.

RICH LOWRY:

The idea that there was any deep conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the president and Russia was false. We had a huge report over it. It took two and a half years, you know, hundreds of pages. That was wrong. And just very few people just admitted, "Well, I thought that might be true. I was wrong. I was miscued by all sorts of things." And it's just now, we're on to a five-alarm interpretation of this.

KRISTEN WELKER:

One of the things that's remarkable about this moment, though, as he faces this controversy and questions swirling around Ukraine, is that he doubled and tripled down on this all week long, called on China to investigate Joe Biden. And I think that's the president's strategy, to effectively say, "Look, if I say it out loud, there is nothing wrong with it." Inside the White House, though, Chuck, they've been scrambling to get a more coherent strategy going.

O. KAY HENDERSON:

The other, the other part about my reporting in Iowa, though, is that Republicans will say, "Let Trump be Trump. And Trump will be Trump." Democrats are now saying the same thing. Trump is being Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

Right, I-- Look, Joni Ernst may have summed it up best, when she says, "I could say this or that. And he's going to say whatever the heck he wants to say."

RICH LOWRY:

Everyone can agree, Trump's going to be Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, unemployment is at a 50-year low. So why is the income gap growing? And what could that mean for 2020? Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Data Download time. Friday brought mixed economic news for President Trump. Unemployment hit a 50-year low, but the number of new jobs was only lackluster. The nationwide unemployment rate is down to 3.5%, and the economy added 136,000 new jobs in the month of September. But at the same time that the economy is doing pretty well, income inequality is actually growing in this country, reaching a new high in 2018. And that could be because of some problematic trends. Especially problematic for President Trump. President Trump promised to bring back manufacturing jobs to levels we haven't seen in decades. And while the number of people working those jobs is up slightly from 2016, it is not nearly to the point that it was in 1980. The same is true about coal mining jobs, a key voting bloc for Mr. Trump in 2016. Those jobs are up slightly since his inauguration, but certainly not enough to make up for the trend. Only 53,000 people work in coal mining today, versus almost 80,000 a decade ago. And this week, we heard a bit of a reality check from President Trump's own agricultural secretary, Sonny Perdue, who told reporters bluntly that, in American farming, quote, "The big get bigger, and the small go out." Sounded harsh, but he's right, when we look at how farms fare based upon their size, large farms are doing well. In the last 30 years, we've actually seen an increase in those that are 2,000 acres or bigger. But smaller farms, the family farms, they are on the decline. There's been around a 23% decrease in the number of farms that are between 50 acres and 2,000 acres large. So what does all this mean for the president? No one can wave a wand and bring back middle class jobs or stock technological advances that are making old jobs obsolete, the kinds of reversals that could slow the growing gap between the rich and the poor in this country. While President Trump has made some gains for the people he promised to help, success could remain a really hard thing to run on. When we come back, End Game and the big story in the presidential race that didn't get the attention it deserves. A lot may have just changed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with End Game, and Joe Biden, and the debate about: Is Joe Biden fighting back hard enough? Is he handling this moment the way he should be handling it? This morning, here's an op-ed from him in the Washington Post where he writes to try to defend himself, "Our first president, George Washington, famously could not tell a lie," Biden writes. "President Trump seemingly cannot tell the truth about anything. He slanders anyone he sees as a threat. That is why he is frantically pushing flat-out lies, debunked conspiracy theories and smears against me and my family, no doubt hoping to undermine my candidacy for the presidency." Now, this op-ed has come as many Democrats are hand wringing, Kristen Welker, a little bit. In fact, I think the New York Times captures it pretty well today when they write, "Now Mr. Biden looks more vulnerable than at any point since he entered the campaign. Mr. Biden has plainly struggled to meet the moment of fully reconcile his own cautious instincts with his protectiveness of his family's privacy and his preference for taking the moral high road against Mr. Trump."

KRISTEN WELKER:

The Biden campaign thinks that they are responding appropriately and in a presidential way: giving the facts, taking on Trump, sticking to the issues. If you talk to the former vice president's allies, they say he's not responding forcefully enough. He's giving sort of the conventional response to this type of moment. And he's dealing with, obviously, as we have said over and over again, an unconventional president, an unconventional candidate. One of his allies said to me, "Look, he needs to be talking about this three times a day, not once," which he did Thursday night, very forcefully, but it was at night and of course got lost to some extent in the news cycle on Friday. So I think a number of his allies want to see a more robust, more forceful response from him.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Rich, I think it's David Plouffe's quote in that piece. He's sort of scratching his head. "Like, you're being handed, you’re being gift wrapped an opportunity here." And it clearly has to do with his struggles to deal with Hunter.

RICH LOWRY:

Yeah, and the Hunter thing, it's just going to stick. Everyone understands $50,000 a month thrown at you basically for nothing because you’re the vice president's son. And just in general, Biden's been sagging. I think he's no longer the frontrunner in this race. And unless he finds some way to excite people, which he hasn't yet, and find a rationale beyond just being the most electable guy in theory on paper, I would expect him to continue to, to descend.

CHUCK TODD:

Rick, you're sort of nodding there--

RICK STENGEL:

Well--

CHUCK TODD:

--a little bit.

RICK STENGEL:

--I think the opportunity he has been handed is to basically say, "Hey, I'm the de facto nominee. The President of the United States that we're all running against, who we want to topple more than anything else, has made me the nominee, and I should capitalize on that. I should act like I'm the nominee." I think that, that would help him. And I think, you know, fighting back forcefully-- look, I mean, people always don't know how to fight back against Trump. But I actually think he has to show that kind of fire that people want to see from him. And that's what he should be doing.

CHUCK TODD:

Kay, isn't that what this Democratic primary is about? Democrats are trying to figure out, "Which one of you's got the goods to take this guy on?" Right?

O. KAY HENDERSON:

Right, and talking with Iowa Democrats, the thing that the people who are not part of the Biden camp say mystifies them about this campaign is this is a guy who's run now three times. And he didn't enter with this huge juggernaut. He didn't enter with a campaign staff. In fact, he's still hiring full-time staffers in Iowa that are going to come on in the next few weeks. So that has really mystified people. And also, they're concerned because, as you mentioned, this is going to be kind of be kind of a head-to-head matchup in the news for a while. And so how does someone who's trying to break out of that lower tier become part of the campaign conversation when everyone is talking about Joe Biden versus Donald Trump?

CHUCK TODD:

So, by the way, I want to pivot here a little bit. Because a month ago, before Ukraine, before all this whistleblower, this Democratic race looked like it was sorting itself out. We were headed for some sort of Biden-Warren showdown with Bernie Sanders sort of not going away. And everybody else, goodbye. Bernie Sanders has a heart attack. We've got the Joe Biden situation. This is a more unstable race. The Bernie Sanders heart attack, Rick Stengel, you were on Bill Bradley's campaign during 1999-2000. He didn’t have a heart attack. He just had a heart arrhythmia issue. But it happened on the trail, and it pretty much did what to his campaign?

RICK STENGEL:

Yes, we were both at the Fort Des Moines Hotel, Chuck, as I remember--

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, I remember, I remember that.

RICK STENGEL:

He had a atrial fibrillation, I guess, is the technical term for it. And he'd had a couple of episodes on the campaign trail. And someone asked him about it, and he talked about it for the first time. And he hadn't talked about it before. And, remember, part of Bill's regimen was that he was a Hall of Fame basketball player, 6'5". I mean, you know, had this incredible vigor. But he hadn't talked about it. And then the New York Times wrote a story about it. It hurt him in Iowa, probably, and he really thinks it killed his chances in New Hampshire.

CHUCK TODD:

Kay, what is this going to do to Bernie in Iowa?

O. KAY HENDERSON:

Well, one of the things that I think folks who aren't from Iowa don't realize is that in 2016, 58% of the people who went to the caucuses were 50-plus. 28% of them were over the age of 65. Now, number one, that tells you two things. They know what it's like to be old. And those folks tell me they're looking for new blood. Then, you have other people who know what it's like to be old and they know what it's like to be discriminated against. And so they use words like "ageism" when you talk about, "Is Bernie Sanders too old?"

RICH LOWRY:

I would think everyone's going to feel fonder about Bernie Sanders after this. And everyone's glad he's going to be back on his feet. But there's also going to be even more skepticism about making him the nominee. And I thought for a while and think even more so, someone below the top three is going to do something to catch on--

CHUCK TODD:

Don't disagree.

RICH LOWRY:

--and Pete Buttigieg has a pulse in Iowa.

KRISTEN WELKER:

He does. And one thing is certain. I've been talking to the campaigns over the weekend. They're not going to make an issue of this. Maybe he gets a question about it at the next debate. But the bottom line is, if you're Elizabeth Warren, every moment that we're spending talking about Bernie Sanders' health, talking about Joe Biden, how he's handling this latest controversy is a moment that she's surging. And she's not sort of being given the frontrunner treatment yet--

CHUCK TODD:

Right. Well, I was just going to say--

KRISTEN WELKER:

--because of that.

CHUCK TODD:

--she continues to surge by staying under the radar. At some point--

KRISTEN WELKER:

Yeah. Exactly.

CHUCK TODD:

--she's not going to be under the radar.

O. KAY HENDERSON:

But the other point, data download for you, I mean, the September 21st Iowa

poll talked to Bernie Sanders supporters from '16. Elizabeth Warren has already locked up 32% of them. Only 25% of the people who voted for him last time intend to vote this time.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I think that, that says a lot right there. I'm going to pause it here because we're very excited about our next announcement here. Before we go, we're excited to announce that tonight we are kicking off our third annual Meet the Press Film Festival with the American Film Institute. Trust me, we didn't think we'd get-- we just wanted to try this once. Well, now, it's annual. We created this festival to expand our focus beyond what can fit in this hour-long broadcast. The Meet the Press Film Festival allows us to look at important policy issues in a deeper, more extended format. This year, we are premiering our first feature-length documentary. It's called Toxic Beauty, which explores the under-regulated market for beauty and personal care products. It's an issue with serious health implications, particularly for women, and one that has received rare bipartisan attention right here in Washington.

[BEGIN TAPE]

SCOTT FABER:

It's hard to imagine that there are rules that limit what chemicals we can spray on food or on crops, but not the chemicals we spray on ourselves every day.

ALEC BATIS:

So, a large part of my job as a formulator was to constantly do reformulations. Once a certain dye was thought to be potentially, even potentially have toxicities, they wouldn't wait for it to become a regulatory matter, they would be proactive in reformulation. I see bath products and shampoos and three-in-ones and a lot of bath-type of products for kids, which I have two nephews and a niece that I love very much. When I see their mother soaking them in this product every night for hours on end, it does concern me because they're not just taking a quick shower and washing it off, they're soaking in it and playing in it. All women who wear any type of deodorant or moisturizer is going to have parabens in their system for the last 50 years.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

A number of our films are available already for streaming for the next month on NBCNews.com and on all of the NBC streaming platforms. We hit criminal justice reform, climate change, lots of different issues, not just this one, but we thought this one was unique. And, again, feature-length documentary Toxic Beauty tonight here in Washington. That's all we have for today. Thank you for watching. We'll be back next week because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.