Meet the Press - September 15, 2019

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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, the Democratic divide. Joe Biden...

JOE BIDEN:

For a socialist you've got a lot more of confidence in corporate america than I do.

CHUCK TODD:

...faces off against leaders of the party's progressive wing-

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: I've actually never met anybody who likes their health insurance company.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

I, who wrote the damn bill, if I may say so.

CHUCK TODD:

...at the top of the Democratic field. With trailing candidates still trying to break into the top tier. This morning I'll talk to former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke...

BETO O’ROURKE:

Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.

CHUCK TODD:

...and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey.

SEN. CORY BOOKER:

We have systemic racism that's eroding our nation from health care to the criminal justice system.

CHUCK TODD:

Plus, the impeachment muddle. Democrats approve rules that could make it easier to impeach President Trump.

REP. JERRY NADLER:

I no longer care to argue about nomenclature.

CHUCK TODD:

So why are both Democratic supporters and opponents of impeachment so unhappy? Also... and Bolton makes three. President Trump's third national security adviser is out.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

We were set back very badly when John Bolton talked about the Libyan Model. And he made a mistake.

CHUCK TODD:

Amid this constant chaos, I'll ask a member of the Republican leadership in the House, Liz Cheney of Wyoming, whether she thinks the world is more stable since Donald Trump became Commander in Chief. Joining me for insight and analysis are: NBC News Chief White House correspondent Hallie Jackson, Helene Cooper, Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times, Former Republican Governor of North Carolina Pat McCrory, and former Senator from Missouri, Democrat Claire McCaskill. Welcome to Sunday. It's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

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

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. To quote the great Yogi Berra, it's getting late early out there. Yes, there were still ten candidates at Thursday's debate and, yes, there may be even more at the next one but for now, at least, it feels as if we have a top three. Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. True, there still are 141 days until the first votes are cast in Iowa, but if anything, the gap between the frontrunners and the rest of the field only seemed to grow on Thursday evening with Biden dominating the party's moderates and Warren and Sanders fighting for the progressives. The Democratic race has turned into a contest between incrementalism and structural change, between the inside game and the change-the-game insurgents, between presumed electability and a loftier aspirational vision. So did anyone win? Here's one take: Elizabeth Warren won the Democratic primary debate, exciting the progressive left while Joe Biden won the general election debate, offering a safe alternative to President Trump, despite some verbal stumbles and an unsubtle reference to his age.

JOE BIDEN:

I don't view it as anything. I just think he got his facts wrong.

CHUCK TODD:

Joe Biden - deflecting questions about his age, after this attack by Julian Castro on whether his health care plan automatically enrolls the uninsured.

JOE BIDEN:

They do not have to buy in. They do not have to buy in.

JULIAN CASTRO:

You just said that - you just said that two minutes ago - you just said two minutes ago that they would have to buy in. You said they would have to buy in. Are- are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?

CHUCK TODD:

It's not clear Castro's attack was correct on the substance, and it certainly appeared to backfire - with other candidates quick to defend Biden.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

I just thought that was so personal. And, so unnecessary.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

Do you think it was fair to suggest Biden has lost it?

BETO O'ROURKE:

No.

CHUCK TODD:

Castro is denying that he was implying Biden is declining with age.

JULIAN CASTRO:

What I was pointing out is that he had denied saying the words buy in, even though he did say the words buy in.

CHUCK TODD:

Other candidates have carefully brought up the age question.

SEN. CORY BOOKER:

There's a lot of people concerned about Joe Biden's ability to carry the ball all the way across the end line without fumbling.

CHUCK TODD:

Before pulling it back.

SEN. CORY BOOKER:

Forgive me if my football metaphor about fumbling the ball is being taken out of context. But the reality is, is, I want to get into the end zone.

CHUCK TODD:

While wounding Castro, the line of attack could also hurt Biden, by giving a permission slip to critics who want to put his age in the center of the debate.

REPORTER:

How do you ultimately overcome this?

JOE BIDEN:

Carry the ball over the finish line.

REPORTER:

Will you be releasing your medical records to address concerns about -- ?

JOE BIDEN:

Yes. I don't have -- what the hell concerns, man? You want to wrestle?

CHUCK TODD:

On Friday Biden pledged to release his medical records before the Iowa caucuses. Though Biden struggled at times - especially on issues of race.

JOE BIDEN:

Play the radio, make sure the television -- excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the-the phone-- make sure that kids hear words

CHUCK TODD:

So far, Biden's general election argument has been durable. With the debate shifting leftward in the primary, Biden is challenging Warren and Sanders on the cost of their health care proposals.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:

Will middle class taxes go up? Will private insurance be eliminated?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN:

What families have to deal with is cost, total cost.

JOE BIDEN:

I don't doubt their motives. But it's going to cost over 3.4 trillion dollars a year. How can that possibly be done without raising taxes?

CHUCK TODD:

And questioning Beto O'Rourke's proposed mandatory buyback of assault weapons.

BETO O’ROURKE:

Hell yes - we're gonna take your AR 15, your AK 47, we're not gonna allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.

SEN. CHRIS COONS:

I frankly think that that clip will be played for years at second amendment rallies with organizations that try to scare people by saying Democrats are coming for your guns.

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now, from Houston, is former congressman, Democratic presidential candidate, Beto O'Rourke. Congressman O'Rourke, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

BETO O'ROURKE:

Good morning.

CHUCK TODD:

Good morning. Look, Senator -- Republican Senator Pat Toomey, from Pennsylvania, you heard the Chris Coons comment there, at the end of the, end of that package, there. And Pat Toomey tweeted the following. "I agree with Chris Coons. This is an awful and extreme idea. Thankfully, there's not enough support in Congress to do it. But with this rhetoric, undermines and hurts bipartisan efforts to actually make progress on common-sense gun-safety efforts, like expanding background checks." He went on the record, Congressman. A few other Democrats have gone with blind quotes. There's a lot of hand wringing about what you said, agreeing with your sentiment but concerned that the rhetoric is going to actually backfire. What do you say?

BETO O'ROURKE:

I think this just shows you how screwed up the priorities in Washington, DC are. I think what's truly awful is a 17-month-old baby shot in the face with an AR-15, as happened in Odessa. What's truly awful is 22 people killed in a Walmart the Saturday before school starts that next Monday, buying their school supplies, innocent of any crime or any threat to this country, in fact, living in one of the safest cities in America, El Paso, Texas, hunted down by their ethnicity with a weapon that was designed for use on a battlefield. Talking to those doctors and trauma room surgeons who treated those victims in El Paso, they said, "These are wounds of war." That high-impact, high-velocity round, when it hit their systems, just shredded everything inside of them. I refuse to accept that. And I refuse to even acknowledge the politics or the polling or the fear or the NRA. That has purchased the complicity and silence of members of Congress. And this weak response to a real tragedy in America, 40,000 gun deaths a year, we've got to do something about it. And I'm proposing that we do something about it.

CHUCK TODD:

Explain your change of heart. You describe -- to be a bit harsh here, what you just said about, sort of, the weakness of Washington, you used to be one of those members of Congress who used to advocate this very careful wording on guns. Where did you go wrong?

BETO O'ROURKE:

No, I reject that. I reject that, Chuck. So in Texas, in every single one of the 254 counties, no matter how red or rural or big and blue, I was showing up, talking about an assault weapons ban in that state, a proud, gun-owning state. Because I also know it's a proud, responsible gun-owning state. And folks said, "That is the third rail of politics in Texas. You can never talk about it." So I've been talking about these issues throughout the state. But you're right. On August 3rd, in El Paso, with 22 people killed, dozens more grievously injured, I could no longer accept that that would be enough. Because there are still more than 10 million assault weapons, weapons of war, out on the street. And if we agree that they're dangerous to sell, and that we should stop selling them, then we also have to agree that these are instruments of terror that are still out there and have to be brought back home, or they are going to be used against us. And that's what we've seen in El Paso, in Midland, Odessa, in Sutherland Springs. Those are just three communities in Texas.

CHUCK TODD:

You heard, at one time, I believe, it was Vice President Biden offer it up and he said, "Don’t forget the Constitution." So let me ask it this way. What is your interpretation of what the Second Amendment allows and what the Second Amendment does not allow?

BETO O'ROURKE:

I'll put it this way. This is something that we're able to do through the Commerce Clause. And this is something that is not prevented from – wouldn’t prevent the United States from doing by the Second Amendment. So, this is constitutionally sound. This is absolutely necessary, if we care about the lives of our fellow Americans. And here's something I want to tell you. Going to a gun show in Conway, Arkansas, stopping at a Buc-ee's in Katy, Texas, yesterday, listening to owners of AR-15s, Republicans, who come up to me and say, "You know what? I own one of these guns. Don't need it to hunt, don't need it for self-defense. This is the right thing to do. I would gladly give it up, because I also have kids who are in school. And I fear for their safety," or, "I have grandkids. I want to make sure that this country is safe for them." So not only is this constitutionally sound, I think there's support beyond the Democratic Party, to include Republicans and Independents, gun owners and non-gun owners alike, to do the right thing.

CHUCK TODD:

Very quickly, I am curious that -- you've gotten a lot more attention for saying what you did. You were supporting mandatory buybacks before. But now, you're getting this focus, because of how you said it. There's been some coverage of you, recently, going, "Hey, Congressman O'Rourke's in his blank-it stage," you know, referring to the fact that you will curse, occasionally, on the stump. Do you find it a bit frustrating that it takes, sometimes, theatrics to get the attention of the press corps, to get the attention of the American public?

BETO O'ROURKE:

I think what people want us to do, and what I'm trying to do in this campaign, is just to see things as clearly as I possibly can and speak as honestly as I possibly can without triangulating or polling or you know, focus group testing what the message is. Just, just call this out for what it is, absolutely wrong, unacceptable, that we have people killed in this way in our communities and people living in fear in America today. I reject that fear. And I want to go forward with a bold, ambitious proposal to make sure that we're safe in our communities, safe in our homes, safe in America again.

CHUCK TODD:

Is the debate about Vice President Biden and the concern about his fitness to take the fight to President Trump, A, is it a legitimate debate, and do you have concerns?

BETO O'ROURKE:

Oh, no. I could care less about that, to be honest with you. I was listening to your opening package. I mean, who the hell cares, right? You've got tens of millions of people who cannot see a doctor. In Texas, where I am right now, largest provider of mental healthcare services is the county jail system. You've got ten years left within which to confront climate change, or it is all over for all of us. You've got kids in cages, families who've been separated. I mean, there are some really urgent issues that we've got to be addressing in this country right now. The last thing I care about is Joe Biden's age or some inner-party fight between candidates up on that stage. We've got to be talking about the big things that people in this country care about.

CHUCK TODD:

Very quickly, if you were president right now, and you had a growing epidemic of people vaping and possibly getting sick or dying from it, what would you be doing right now; a temporary recall of all of these products? What would you be doing?

BETO O'ROURKE:

I think that's a great place to start. I think you're seeing a playbook pioneered by big tobacco over the last 50 or 60 years, trying to hook kids on something that will ultimately kill them, being employed by the vaping industry. We need vigorous regulation. We need to treat this as a true public-health crisis and respond with the urgency that it demands. We've got to make sure that no one's able to buy their way into our democracy with PAC checks or lobbyists, to write the rules in their favor, as tobacco has done, as pharmaceutical corporations are able to do, as the NRA has been able to do. We've got to stand up for people and especially for kids right now. This, this is an urgent issue.

CHUCK TODD:

Congressman Beto O'Rourke coming to us from Houston, Texas. Be safe on the trail, and thanks for coming on and sharing your views.

BETO O'ROURKE:

Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now is Democratic presidential candidate Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. Senator Booker, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SENATOR CORY BOOKER:

It's really good to be here.

CHUCK TODD:

Before I get into some of the specifics of this campaign, I want to quote something from Maureen Dowd's column this morning in the New York Times. She writes about sort of the larger issue of watching the debate. Headline says, "Are Democrats doomed?" And she writes this: "It's a paradox wrapped in an oxymoron about a moron. Trump's faux authenticity somehow makes the Democratic candidates seem more packaged, more stuck in politician speak."

You and I were discussing this before. This debate process isn’t -- it's very rigid. Lots of people on stage and all of that. Are you concerned -- she seems concerned about the picture that the country is seeing right now of the Democratic Party. Are you?

SENATOR CORY BOOKER:

No, not at all. Look, I've actually had some friends of mine in the press send me headlines from this time in a presidential election in '07 and -- you know, and you just see how there’s going to be sort of a scrimmage right now going on within our team. It may not be the message -- not the message, but it may not be the exact spirit that's going to be on that stage because you're seeing a natural competition of ideas. So I'm not worried. We have to go through this. It's part of the process. It's a good thing. You're seeing some of the best political talent in our country. And I have a lot of confidence. In fact, I'm making the case that we are going to choose somebody that's going to be able to unite the disparate voices of our, of our party and really bring a united front to this president.

CHUCK TODD:

It does seem as you're trying to somehow bridge a divide that appears to some of us between, say, Warren and Sanders and Vice President Biden of saying, "Be incrementally aspirational," I guess, meaning like, "Look, it's baby steps." The goal is Medicare for All, as you say, but you're not saying you're going to get there tomorrow. It seems as if that message is hard to wedge in here. People either say, "Hey, no. Give me an electable guy," or, "Give me the transformation."

SENATOR CORY BOOKER:

Yeah, look. I, I can't stand these people that say these bright lanes. For me, I think, I feel it when I talk to really good people on that stage that I know, that there is a unifying message here that, look, we are a nation with a savagely broken health care system. This is the party. Not the guy that's trying to take it away that's in the White House right now. We've seen since Obama -- Affordable Care Act number uninsured in this country go down significantly. We're the party that's trying to say, "Everybody should have health insurance." We're going to fight to get there. We can put the ideal out there but walk and chew gum at the same time. In other words, not sacrifice progress for purity.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to put up the poll numbers for this. Because among Democrats on Medicare for All, among Democrats, they would prefer building on Obamacare, 55%. Replace it with Medicare for All, 40%. I imagine many Democrats say that because they remember the political trauma of what it took. It's not as if, like, Obamacare was easy to implement, easy to get passed. Do you think you have to take that into account, how hard it would be to actually get Medicare for All implemented before you propose it?

SENATOR CORY BOOKER:

You know, when I walk around and actually have conversations with people, this is where you're right, Maureen's right about the political sloganeering. I think most people have multiple views of what Medicare for All is even in the first place. Americans are very frustrated with our health care system. Prescription drugs are ridiculously too high, especially relative to other nations as close as Canada. We have a system that seems bureaucratic. People have to fight with their insurance companies. And so I think folks just want this broken, expensive system that, by the way, incentivizes all the wrong behavior: Don't go to a doctor. Ration your drugs. We need to fix this system, and I think that we are the party that's putting forth a vision to do just that.

CHUCK TODD:

Right. But do you worry that you're scaring -- that either you're doing one of two things: overpromising something that can't be delivered or -- and at the time also scaring independents who are fiscally frightened by it?

SENATOR CORY BOOKER:

I'm not worried. 2018 was an election that turned in many ways on health insurance. And we knew the stark contrast. One party that’s trying to make it better, that's going to bring progress. And another party that is trying to kill it, is trying to take it away, is trying to cut your benefits or end your Obamacare and your protections for preexisting conditions.

CHUCK TODD:

You've spent a lot of time on stage with Vice President Biden. Are you concerned about his ability to get the ball over the, over the goal line, as you said?

SENATOR CORY BOOKER:

Well, number one, anybody on the stage, anybody that I was with the other night would be a better president than the one we have.

CHUCK TODD:

Is everybody ready? Is everybody physically up to it on that stage?

SENATOR CORY BOOKER:

Look, I think that, again, if I thought somebody else could do the job better than me, I would not be running. And I know this for a fact. This is not just about one office. This is about getting rid of Mitch McConnell as the majority leader. This is about statehouses and governors' houses. At the top of America's ticket in our party we need someone who can energize, that can ignite, that can capture the moral imagination of this country. I believe I'm the best person to do that and unify people.

CHUCK TODD:

But you're not alone. I want to put up some headlines from all the debates. After every debate you've gotten some really good reviews. First debate, "Booker reminded Democrats that he's a gifted communicator." Second debate, "He did well on Wednesday night." Third debate, "Probably his best performance so far." Hasn't translated into the polls. The three frontrunners are the three frontrunners, and it seems like there's a bigger gap now between those three and the rest of you. What's your diagnosis of why you haven't caught on yet?

SENATOR CORY BOOKER:

Well, we have --

CHUCK TODD:

OK.

SENATOR CORY BOOKER:

-- where it matters. And you know -- you're sophisticated enough to know the politics. The polls have never been predictive this far out. In fact, if you're polling ahead right now, you should worry because we've never in my lifetime and yours had somebody who was polling ahead this far out that went on to the presidency. The people that usually win are younger, dynamic candidates that are considered long shots. Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama. But here's something that's even more interesting to note. On the ground in those states where you're going to have 300,000, 400,000 people in Iowa deciding in caucus rooms, we have more endorsements from state legislators and mayors than all the top-five polling candidates combined. In other words, the people on the ground in Iowa who are seeing what's happened, who are going to be in those caucus rooms are choosing my campaign. We have a better organization, according to the Des Moines Register, than just about every other candidate. We're going to win this the same way I beat a machine in Newark, New Jersey: through organizing, through building a team that's going to win.

CHUCK TODD:

The Senate is back. There might be some gun legislation. Senator Pat Toomey is trying to get his background check bill in. You said something interesting at the debate about, you know, "We're letting too many things -- "the "enemy of the perfect" metaphor that you used. Do you feel that way about the gun issue as well? Because you're pushing for mandatory buybacks. You're pushing for gun registration. But do you also say, "You know what? If you can get an expanded background check, take it for now and move on"?

SENATOR CORY BOOKER:

Look, the only major bipartisan bill that passed under this president was one that I led in the Senate with Dick Durbin for criminal justice reform. The bill didn't get a lot done that I wanted to and we'll continue to fight for, but thousands of people have been liberated from prison. You talk to those folks who are out of prison right now --

CHUCK TODD:

You take, you take what you can get is what you're saying --

SENATOR CORY BOOKER:

You get as much off of the table as you can. But one thing I will not allow to happen for the rest of my life is to let this debate to be framed by the corporate gun lobby who's been stultifying our national conversation on guns. Overwhelmingly, the majority of Americans agree on bold action. End the carnage that's happening. Not just on the awful mass shootings that we see, but every single day we have on the aggregate a mass shooting destroying communities, lives, families.

CHUCK TODD:

Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. I know you've got to get to some campaigning. Thanks for coming and stopping by here.

SENATOR CORY BOOKER:

Thank you for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

Be safe on the trail.

SENATOR CORY BOOKER:

Appreciate you.

CHUCK TODD:

You got it. When we come back, what we learned from the Democratic debate and why for Democrats "impeachment" seems to be the hardest word. Panel is next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panel is here. Former Republican Governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory; former Democratic Senator from Missouri, Claire McCaskill; NBC News chief White House correspondent, Hallie Jackson; and Helene Cooper, Pentagon correspondent for the New York Times. I'm going to start with this headline. Actually, we'll call it a series of headlines. Dan Balz's analysis piece, here was the print headline right after. For Most of the Night, Biden's Time to Shine. And then at some point, the Washington Post decided to change their headline to the following, Senator Claire McCaskill: For Most of the Night, Biden Weathers a Volley of Attacks.

I start this way, because it does seem as if Biden's debate performance got worse and worse the longer we've gone from Thursday, versus people that watched it in the moment, like Dan Balz did, from soup to nuts, to the interpretations of it on social media after. What say you, Claire McCaskill?

SENATOR CLAIRE McCASKILL:

There's a critical mass of insiders and talking heads. And I'm one of them. I have to call myself a talking head now.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes, you do. You can't criticize us anymore.

SENATOR CLAIRE McCASKILL:

It's true. It's true. But there's narratives that people are really holding onto. I will tell you, people that are going to decide this election, that watched that debate, thought Joe Biden did fine. You know, the ones who like him still like him. I think some were offended at what Julian Castro did. The most-important thing that Joe Biden did in that debate, though, was crystalize the healthcare debate. Do you want a choice, Americans, between what you have at work and a public plan? Or do you want a government plan? And that, I think, will be the defining debate, as we go forward to Iowa.

CHUCK TODD:

I think the question I have is media narratives, Pat McCrory, which is, if, already, people are watching a debate, those that are interpreting it through the prism of, well, is he going to survive this debate?

GOVERNOR PAT McCRORY:

Well, remember, the Democrats' strongest argument for the presidential campaign is, "We need someone to be presidential." But the fact of the matter is, I, as a Republican, would love to see as many Democratic debates as possible. Because I watched the entire debate, well, changing back and forth to the Carolina Panther game. But I don't think anyone showed a presence of being presidential. There was no strategy. There was no vision. There were bad jokes. There were a lack of details. There was some confrontation the first part of the debate. But from there on out, everyone went to packaged comments, which you and I have been in many debates. We know what that's like. And I just don't think the Democrats are making any progress in being the president, among the ten people on that stage.

HELENE COOPER:

But I would say that President Trump has so changed the definition that presidential that I don't see how you can say that.

GOVERNOR PAT McCRORY:

Oh, it was easy to say.

HELENE COOPER:

Because everybody standing on that stage, I didn't see anybody doing any of the sorts of things that President Trump has done in the last 2 1/2 years, when you talk about the definition of presidential. So I think, at the very least, everybody, all ten of them on that stage, met the very low, low bar that we now have for that word. I think the issue, though, is still a question of, if you're watching that debate last night, if you're one of the lefties, the people on the left of the Democratic Party, then you thought that Vice President Biden, you know, completely self-immolated. And if you're one of the moderates, you think he did perfectly fine. Everybody still seems to be in their respective corners.

CHUCK TODD:

I sense that, too.

HALLIE JACKSON:

From a policy perspective, though, I think this debate did a couple of things. To your point, Senator, I think that it crystalized where these candidates stand on the healthcare issue. I think that, more so than we've seen in other debates, it became very clear, depending on what you want, you found a candidate that would or would not match you. The other piece of it is, and you had Congressman O'Rourke on, that moment, "Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15," so I cover the White House. There are those familiar with these negotiations happening on gun legislation and expanded background checks, who are acknowledging, that was simply not helpful. The congressman can say to you, Chuck, that, "I refuse to acknowledge politics." That is not pragmatically tenable in the eyes of people who are actually working on this policy, as it moves forward. And I think that that is going to be a moment that lasts a lot longer than those three hours.

CHUCK TODD:

I tell you, this is tricky. Claire, I want to show you some poll numbers here. Among Democrats, the mandatory buyback program is extraordinarily popular, mandatory. This has surprised a lot of people. It's got 74% support. Now look at it among Independents, and you start to see a declining support for it. But it's basically one to one, among independents. Now, look at it among Republicans, two to one, essentially, against it, which gives you an overall support number of 52%/44%. This, to me, seems to be the trap for Democrats, if you will. This is extraordinarily popular. And it's growing in popularity. And it may be a case where the public's ahead of the politicians. But you've been in that Senate. Are Chris Coons and Pat Toomey right about this?

SENATOR CLAIRE McCASKILL:

Well, this is really what you started with. There's two things here. Do we want to get things done and reassure the American people that their democracy works? Or do we want to continue to be inspirational only, with policies that, frankly, are not realistic, in terms of the way our government's set up? They're not going to get done. We're not going to have a Medicare-for-all program in four years. That's not going to happen. And Bernie knows it. I admire him for pushing this and trying to get us to talk more about those that are left behind in healthcare. So this is about pragmatism versus inspirational, aspirational stuff. And on guns, people are so frustrated and mad. This is what the Republicans are missing. This is what Donald Trump is doing. He's committing political malpractice. Because everybody wants universal background checks, everybody, including NRA members. And the fact they can't do that, it's pushing everyone to say, "Well, we've got to do even more." Because they can't even do the baby steps, because of the NRA and Donald Trump being totally under their thumb.

CHUCK TODD:

Pat McCrory, Mecklenburg County, the Charlotte suburbs, I mean, background checks are probably popular among those Republicans.

GOVERNOR PAT McCRORY:

Probably.

CHUCK TODD:

And so it feels that Republicans have their own trap here, you know, to win back suburban voters versus the base being won in another -- .

GOVERNOR PAT McCRORY:

Well, the District 9 race, which the Republicans just won, there was the Charlotte base, which was more moderate to liberal. But then there was the Fayetteville base, the same district, three hours away, where Trump campaigned. And he swung 2,000 votes on talking about what Republicans would consider extreme ideas on healthcare, on immigration, and now, maybe, on guns. So it's that blue-collar vote, in the rural areas of states like Missouri or North Carolina, that this could make the difference. And Trump is the one surrogate right now, not just for a presidential campaign, but for future Senate and House elections. And who are the surrogates for the Democrats, who are going to go out and spread this message that you're hearing in the Democratic debates?

SENATOR CLAIRE McCASKILL:

Donald Trump is our surrogate, too.

GOVERNOR PAT McCRORY:

That's true.

SENATOR CLAIRE McCASKILL:

He motivates everybody to vote.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, we're going to see a lot of Republican congressional candidates, if they can't support Trump, instead, run against Beto O'Rourke's comments.

HELENE COOPER:

I think, absolutely, they will. But I think there are so many Americans that it just really do epitomize what frustrates a lot of people about Congress. And most people are not going to be the sort of congressional, you know, tacticians that the people around this table or like Senator McCaskill might be. You're not going to see the why it is that it's so hard to get this done. All they can see is that Washington is standing in the way and gets nothing done.

CHUCK TODD:

Right. And I think that's the real frustration is that it's nothing. Up next, a drone attack on a major Saudi oil-production facility threatens heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran. I'll ask the number-three Republican in the House, Liz Cheney, about that and much more, when we come back.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. When President Trump fired his third national security adviser this week, the hawkish John Bolton, one Republican who was not at all happy was Congresswoman Liz Cheney, of Wyoming. She engaged in a sharp Twitter exchange with Senator Rand Paul, of Kentucky, who cheered Bolton's departure, tweeting that Paul was, quote, "a big loser, whose motto seems to be, 'terrorists first and America second.'" Cheney has been at least as tough on Democrats. And she's considering a run for the Senate seat that's being vacated by Republican Mike Enzi next year, in Wyoming. And Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the number-three Republican in the House, joins me now from Rock Springs, Wyoming. Congresswoman, welcome back to Meet the Press.

REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY:

Thanks very much, Chuck, great to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with sort of a 30,000-foot look at the world right now. India and Pakistan are warning of a nuclear confrontation over Kashmir. Turkey is poised to choose Russia over NATO, which it joined almost 70 years ago. And Japan and South Korea are in a trade war and have terminated their intelligence-sharing pact. These are allies I'm speaking of here. Do you feel as if the globe is more stable with President Trump as commander in chief now than it was three years ago?

REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY:

Oh, absolutely. There's no question. When you look at the situation that President Trump inherited, when he came into office, when you look at what we had seen happen, for example, across Iraq and Syria, when President Obama withdrew precipitously based on a political timetable. We had the rise of the caliphate. We had the rise of ISIS. President Trump's decision making and leadership changed that. One of the most important things this president has done is dedicate the resources necessary to begin rebuilding our defense department, rebuilding our military. Under Barack Obama, you had eight years, where our military did not get the resources it needed, while our adversaries built, deployed, and in some cases now, have weapons systems that we cannot defend against. So there's no question but that the world is safer, that we're in a situation where American leadership has come back. And it's important that we continue, continue down that path.

CHUCK TODD:

If American leadership has come back, then why are India and Pakistan closer to a hot war than they were before? Why is -- why is Japan and South Korea -- I mean, that would be a situation, frankly, that I don't think any previous president would've allowed to fester the way it has festered. That's the type of thing that you would wonder, maybe that's why we've had so much trouble keeping a national security adviser. Does none of this trouble you?

REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY:

Look. First of all, well, first of all, with respect to Ambassador Bolton, you know, Ambassador Bolton has served his nation honorably in a number of positions. But this president, any president, has the right to have the people around him he decides. The only people who are elected, in the West Wing, are the president and the vice president. And everybody else is staff. They serve at the pleasure of the president, the same with all the cabinet officials. So I think that's very important to point out. Secondly, I would say, there is no question but that the world is a very dangerous place, that America faces a very grave and complicated global threat environment. I think it's more dangerous than at any time since the end of World War II. But the way in which we are responding to that, the way in which we're dealing with it, the extent to which, for example, President Trump has been willing to walk away from dangerous deals, when he came into office, the United States was a party to the Iran Nuclear Accord. The United States was a party to the INF treaty. Both of those agreements were agreements that made us less safe. The INF treaty only restricted the United States, because the Russians cheated, and it didn't restrict the Chinese. The JCPOA, as we now know, the Iranians have continued to cheat, will continue to cheat. And then of course, we saw this horrific attack --

CHUCK TODD:

I want to ask about that.

REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY:

-- yesterday on the Saudi oil facilities.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm curious. What should be our response to that, in particular? And I say this, because -- do you believe this came from Yemen or do you believe this was -- and it was Iranian inspired or Iranian directed, or the Iranians did it? Where are you on this?

REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY:

Look, I think Secretary Pompeo's statements yesterday were absolutely right. I think it's very clear this was the Iranians.

CHUCK TODD:

Do we need to provide proof?

REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY:

I think that it's a -- it’s a very significant escalation. And I would say we ought to do several things. First of all, I would say we should deny the visas for the Iranian delegates who are planning to come into the United States, come to New York next week for the UN General Assembly. The Iranians --

CHUCK TODD:

All of them, the president, the foreign minister, every one of them, ban them?

REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY:

Yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. Secondly, I think, as her first step as our new UN ambassador, Kelly Craft, who's a terrific new UN ambassador, ought to offer a resolution for snapback sanctions to say, listen, it's very clear the Iranians, because of a number of things we've seen recently, including the secret warehouse that the Israelis found and revealed, where it's clear that they have now begun and continued their enrichment activities, expanded their enrichment activities. They're operating in total violation of the Iranian Nuclear Deal. And we ought to have those sanctions snapped back. I think that, you know, when you have entities like the Iranians, like the Taliban, who continue to attack American interests, as the Iranians are doing, who continue to kill Americans, as we've seen in the case of both the IRGC, as well as the Taliban and their ally Al Qaida, it's very important for us to send the message: you have to choose. You can either do diplomacy, or you can attack America and attack our interests. But we know you're not serious about diplomacy, if you continue to have the kinds of attacks we've seen over the last few days.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, the fact that you want to make sure they don't even get visas to attend the UN, I know where you are on my next question, which is the idea of the president sitting down and talking with the Iranians. That is -- it appears that the reason for the split between Mr. Bolton and Mr. Trump was over the idea of easing some sanctions in order to begin some talks with the Iranians. Do you think it's a mistake to talk to the Iranians on any level?

REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY:

I think it would not be the right approach now, particularly in the aftermath of the attacks that we saw on the Saudi oil facilities. I think that we've got a maximum-pressure campaign on the Iranians that this administration has put in place that is absolutely working. And that, what we ought to be about, right now, is making sure the Iranians understand that they're isolated --

CHUCK TODD:

How is it working if they’re making --

REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY:

-- that the world community will not abide by this kind of activity.

CHUCK TODD:

Sorry, I hate interrupting over satellite, because it sounds -- it can sound ruder than it's intended to be. But the Iranians are still now -- now, they're trying to make nuclear weapons. They're trying to do things faster. How has maximum pressure worked, if they're actually -- if it's accelerating their efforts to get a nuclear weapon?

REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY:

Look the Iranians have very clearly been feeling a huge brunt of these sanctions. And I think that it's important for us to make sure they understand that they cannot have a nuclear weapon, that the world will stand against that. The they cannot -- you know, during the -- when we were part of the Iranian Nuclear Agreement, the Iranians were doing all these things. There were no serious, real verification measures in that agreement. Remember, Chuck, the Iranians were, they didn't have to reveal any of their past nuclear activity. They were even able to verify, themselves, at their military sites. So what we know about what they've been doing, we know, in part, because of what the Israelis have done, from an intelligence perspective. But the Iranians have continued to foment and support terrorism across the globe. They've continued their ballistic missile development. They're in a position where these sanctions, now, that this president and this administration have put on are biting. They're hurting. They're feeling it. The people of Iran, you're seeing, increasingly, the people of Iran saying, "Listen, we don't want part of this. We don't want to be a pariah state." And the Iranians ought to understand and recognize, we're not going to abide by an Iranian nuclear weapon. We're not going to allow that to happen. And they need to come back to the table to negotiate. These sanctions will continue to be strengthened. They'll continue to feel increasing pressure, until they do that. But we're not in the business of doing what Barack Obama did, where he sent palettes full of cash, for example, to the Iranians to bribe them to come to the negotiating table.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, it does sound like --that you're speaking more stridently on this than President Trump is. He does seem to be open to this.

REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY:

Listen I -- I -- you know, you may want to say that. But I think, if you look at the way this president has operated, you look at the extent to which he was willing to walk away from this agreement, you look at Secretary Pompeo's statements from yesterday, I think, particularly now, in the aftermath of this attack, we have to be absolutely clear that the Iranians are isolated. And we're going to build a new national coalition of support for putting back the sanctions that ought to be in place against them.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, let me ask about this Rand Paul business. And let me ask you to respond to the fact -- to it this way. Washington Examiner headline, Liz Cheney Slimes Rand Paul as Supporting Terrorists, Because he Opposes War. And essentially, it’s criticizing you, the writer is criticizing you for, basically, saying, "She should engage with Senator Paul on the merits of his ideas, not slander him as pro-terrorism." It's using the words, calling somebody pro-terrorist. Do you admit that that's probably a little overboard?

REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY:

Look, I think, if you look back at what Senator Paul has said over many, many years, he's very different from where President Trump is on these issues. President Trump puts America first. Senator Paul, whenever given the opportunity, blames America first. If you look at what he said about, you know, why we were attacked on 9/11, if you look at what he said, he's blamed America even for World War II. President Trump doesn't believe that. Senator Paul does. And look, I think, fundamentally, at the end of the day, this is about substance and policy. And Senator Paul tried to get elected president. He was able to get only less than 5% of the vote in the Iowa caucuses, as you well know. His views are not views that are shared widely, certainly among Republicans and among the American people, as a whole. And they're dangerous views, as well.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you running for the Senate?

REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY:

Pardon me?

CHUCK TODD:

Are you running for the Senate?

REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY:

I have not got any announcements to make this morning, Chuck. But I'll be sure to let you know.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, that sounds like a thinking about it. As we go, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, thank you for joining us this morning and sharing your views. I appreciate it.

REPRESENTATIVE LIZ CHENEY:

Great to be with you, thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

As we go to break, a quick programming note. NBC News has created a new reporting unit that is dedicated to covering the environment. Starting today, NBC News, MSNBC, Telemundo, and NBC News Digital will be presenting a week-long series called Climate in Crisis. It's increasingly clear that hurricanes are getting stronger, weather events are causing more damage, and more lives are being lost. Climate change is costing trillions. When we come back, why are so many politicians ignoring this growing fiscal problem?

CHUCK TODD: Welcome back. Data Download time. Another major storm has hit the Bahamas, just two weeks after Hurricane Dorian flattened homes and killed more than 50 people. And if it feels like big weather events are becoming more common in the last few decades, it's because they are. And it's not just hurricanes. Since the 1980s, the number of tropical depressions getting big enough to acquire a name has been growing. There were 93 named storms in the Atlantic in the 1980s when I was growing up in Florida, 110 in the '90s, a whopping 151 in the first decade of this century. And the tally already sits at 149 for the current decade, and we are still at the peak of the 2019 season. We're likely to surpass that 151 number before the end of October. And while some people debate the seriousness of the climate threat, one thing is crystal clear in the data. It's becoming a fiscal nightmare. Since 1980, there have been 250 weather events costing a billion dollars or more. That's adjusted for inflation. And almost half of them, 111, have occurred in this current decade. And look at how the costs have gone up. In the 1980s there were only 28 high-dollar weather events at a cost of about $172 billion. Now, look at this decade. 111 into early 2019, costing more than $761 billion. Then when you tally it all up, the costs are likely to end up at three quarters of a trillion dollars or more. And then of course there is the human cost. The number of fatalities from extreme weather has climbed from 2,800 in the '80s to almost 5,200 this decade. And that does not include Hurricane Dorian. Here's the point. If there were something else that was costing around a trillion dollars a decade, thousands of lives, most voters would notice and demand for lawmakers to do something to control that cost. What's more? Climate change doesn't respect America's red/blue divide. Red Texas, purple North Carolina, and blue California are all impacted. And that means lawmakers on both sides of the aisle may need to stop debating and start dealing with this crisis. When we come back, End Game. With John Bolton gone, is there anyone left in the administration who would stand up to President Trump?

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with End Game. John Bolton, Helene, and Donald Trump not getting along. It ending - first of all, every relationship Donald Trump engages in eventually ends, sometimes like this. But what message is this sending around the world?

HELENE COOPER:

I think that's a, that’s a tough one. I mean clearly Trump, I mean, there’s the, there's the standard message, which is Trump doesn't hold on to his national security advisers very long. You know, you have, we're on our third defense secretary. We're on our second secretary of state. We're now about to head to our fourth national security adviser. That's one message. But I think this is Bolton, and that’s, everything is different when you're talking about John Bolton because John Bolton was viewed globally as a war hawk. And I think you saw a huge sigh of relief around the world when he stepped down as national security adviser because it sort of removed that whole threat that we’ve all, that a lot of people thought we were going to about there's a war with Iran, you know, right around the corner.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

HELENE COOPER:

You know, that, that, that immediately went away. And so you see what just happened yesterday with Saudi Arabia and there's a whole long, there’s a long list of reasons behind that. But at the end of the day I think you can see Iran starting to flex its muscle a little bit more.

CHUCK TODD:

Hallie, how concerned is the White House that Bolton will become a negative surrogate of sorts?

HALLIE JACKSON:

He already has started to lay the groundwork for that.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

HALLIE JACKSON:

I mean, the day that he got dismissed, he was texting multiple reporters personally, talking about his side of the story if you will, and very publicly promising more to come from him. So he is going to be back on the scene in a way that, for example, H.R. McMaster, who our reporting is, is having with the president conversations again, has not--

CHUCK TODD:

Maybe he'll come back.

HALLIE JACKSON:

--come back on the scene. Right. But I, but I will say this. You talk about how John Bolton was seen as a hawk globally, also extremely locally in the Oval Office. President Trump knew that's who John Bolton was. President Trump--

CHUCK TODD:

He loved to use it.

HALLIE JACKSON:

--claimed he liked that about John Bolton, but it was a couple of things. Our sources tell us that that is part of, Chuck, as you alluded to, why John Bolton left, was this disagreement over Iran and whether to ease sanctions for President Trump to meet with him to set up the conditions for a meeting. Liz Cheney, the congresswoman, says to you that, you know, the president has been very tough on Iran, but look at what the president has said for months, including, Chuck, to you back when you interviewed him months ago. He said he would meet with Hassan Rouhani with no preconditions and was willing and open to do that. Secretary of State Pompeo said the same thing.

CHUCK TODD:

Pat McCrory, you heard Liz Cheney wants to, like, deny all visas to the Iranians. And by the way, Donald Trump has not tweeted about that issue this morning. He's been tweeting about a Brett Kavanaugh story that's in The New York Times, but not that issue.

PAT McCRORY:

I'll tell you one other issue that we're not talking about is drones. Drones is the new warfare. This attack and Saudi Arabia using drones. And as a former member of the Homeland Security Advisory Commission, I'm worried about homeland security now that the enemy is using drones. Drones. And we better bring that up for discussion from a defensive and offensive standpoint regarding both homeland security and the Middle East. And also, the presidential debate, it's going to be interesting on foreign policy. Claire, you can respond to this. How different are the Democrats on trade and, and, and other foreign policy issues than the president right now? Versus maybe the divide might be in the Republican Party between--

CHUCK TODD:

Well--

PAT MCCRORY:

--the Cheneys and Trump--

CHUCK TODD:

That there’s more divide in the GOP.

PAT MCCRORY:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

How do you, how do you pick a side between President Trump and John Bolton, Claire McCaskill?

CLAIRE McCASKILL:

I don’t think you do as a Democrat. That's an open festering wound in the Republican party between the Liz Cheneys of the world and others who are not as hawkish as Cheney and Bolton. On our side, it's just we want to go back to the normal of taking care of our allies, and joining forces with our allies, and not being besties with, inviting Taliban to Camp David or--

PAT McCRORY:

Yeah, but Elizabeth Warren--

CLAIRE McCASKILL:

--having Putin and--. You know, I just think that we will go back to, if the Democrats win, if a Democratic nominee wins president, we'll go back to the normal of taking care of our allies.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Before we go, there's a new book that's out about Brett, the confirmation process of Brett Kavanaugh, the accusations. There's actually a new accusation. And in this reporting, Claire McCaskill, there's an indication that the FBI background check that was done on the second accuser, the, the, the woman from Yale, it wasn't done completely now. That is, there was always suspicion on your side of the aisle. You were in the Senate then. What should Democrats do now given this new information?

CLAIRE McCASKILL:

I'm not sure, honestly. You know, that was such a mess. And what it did for those of us who were running, it crystallized how bad Washington is.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes, it did.

CLAIRE McCASKILL:

So if you were of Washington at that moment, frankly, the party didn't matter as much as the fact that you were part of that mess. And the mess really occurred because the information that needed to be investigated came out so late. And then it looked like a kneecap even though there were reasons it was late. I'm not sure good ones.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

CLAIRE McCASKILL:

But if the information had come out early, I think you'd could've seen a full-thrown FBI investigation. But this isn't going away if the FBI never even bothered to talk to people surrounding this woman's allegation.

CHUCK TODD:

And one thing again, the president's tweeting about this. Not about Iran, not about any--

CLAIRE McCASKILL:

He thinks it's a winner.

CHUCK TODD:

--of this other stuff, which is interesting. Thank you, guys. That's all we have for today. I am running very late on time, as you can see. Thank you for watching. We'll be back next week. Because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.