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Meet the Press - September 2, 2018

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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, a funeral and a rebuke. The country says goodbye to an American hero, John McCain:

BARACK OBAMA:

He made us better presidents, just as he made the senate better. Just as he made this country better.

CHUCK TODD:

With the Senator's daughter, among others, taking aim at President Trump:

MEGHAN MCCAIN:

The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump responds later by tweeting: "Make America Great Again." Plus, pressure points. President Trump claims if Democrats win back congress, they'll "overturn everything that we've done and they'll do it quickly and violently."

DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I just hope there won’t be violence

CHUCK TODD:

And warns that he could step in against the Mueller Russia investigation

DONALD TRUMP:

I will get involved and I’ll get in there if I have to.

CHUCK TODD:

This amid signs that the White House is not prepared for what may be coming. My guests this morning: Republican Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Plus, all about that base. Florida Republicans pick a die-hard Trump supporter.

RON DESANTIS:

I was able to talk to the president. I want to thank him for his support.

CHUCK TODD:

Democrats choose an unapologetic progressive.

ANDREW GILLUM:

Are y’all ready to flip Florida blue?

CHUCK TODD:

Is this showdown for governor where the country is headed? This morning, I'll talk to Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum. Joining me for insight and analysis are Amy Walter, National Editor of the Cook Political Report, Mark Leibovich, National Correspondent for The New York Times Magazine, Kimberly Atkins, Chief Washington Correspondent for the Boston Herald, and Matthew Continetti, Editor-in-Chief of The Washington Free Beacon.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, and a happy Labor Day weekend to everyone. What we saw yesterday at the National Cathedral was more than a funeral for John McCain. It was also a longing for what many fear is a lost era of American politics, an era when we could agree that there's more that unites us than divides us. It was, in other words, unmistakably, a rebuke of Donald Trump's presidency and style of politics that he's brought to Washington. Though President Trump's name was never mentioned, John McCain made sure to remind us what he thought of Mr. Trump by whom he asked to attend and to speak, and by what they said. There was the man he fought bitterly for the republican presidential nomination in 2000.

GEORGE W. BUSH:

If we're ever tempted to forget who we are, to grow weary of our cause, John's voice will always come as a whisper over our shoulder. We are better than this. America is better than this.

CHUCK TODD:

Then there was the man who defeated McCain for the presidency in 2008.

BARACK OBAMA :

He did understand that some principles transcend politics, that some values transcend party. He considered it part of his duty to uphold those principles and uphold those values.

CHUCK TODD:

But more than anything or anyone else, there was McCain's daughter, Meghan. Fighting through tears, she delivered a one-two punch at the current occupant of the White House. Here was number one.

MEGHAN MCCAIN :

We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness, the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those who live lives of comfort and privilege, while he suffered and served.

CHUCK TODD:

And then there was number two.

MEGHAN MCCAIN:

America does not boast, because she has no need to. The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again, because America was always great.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump was not invited. He spent part of the funeral tweeting and left the White House during the funeral, by motorcade, en route to his Virginia club to play golf. When he turned in, Henry Kissinger was speaking, in case you're wondering. Later in the day, as cable TV played Meghan McCain's "America was always great" remark over and over, the president tweeted then retweeted simply, "MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN," in all caps. We have a lot to get to this morning beyond the funeral. And joining me now is Republican Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska. Senator Sullivan, welcome back to Meet --

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

Chuck --

CHUCK TODD:

--the Press.

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

Good to be on the show. Thanks for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, you have, you have said he was your mentor, Senator McCain, became a friend. He sort of put his arm around you when you got elected.

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

Early on, very early on.

CHUCK TODD:

And you have your -- he's nominated you to replace him as head of the International Republican Institute that goes out there and promotes democracy, the vision that John McCain, I think, was trying to lay out for people yesterday. What did you take away from the service?

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

Well, first of all, I thought it was a beautiful service. And first, more than that, my condolences to the McCain family, Cindy McCain, the children. I think that they showed great grace, strength, dignity. And I think the service, really, the whole week, has been about unity. There's been, as you mentioned at the outset, some discussion about the tension between President Trump and John McCain. But this notion of unity is really what I've been seeing. And it's unity behind the values of a great American. And that's John McCain: courage, someone who loved freedom. You know, he loved freedom, probably, more than anybody, because he had it taken away.

CHUCK TODD:

That's right.

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

Service to our nation, and mentorship, as you mentioned at the outset, with me. You know, it's not just me, but Democrat and Republican senators. So I thought it's been a very, very important week to kind of look at these values that he represented. He wasn't a perfect man, he's the first one to admit that, and celebrate those. But the notion of unity, I think, was actually much stronger than some of this tension that you report on at the outset.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this, though. How do you make sure that yesterday wasn't a funeral for another era of politics, that this idea that, you know what? This is -- the Donald Trump style of politics is now how you win. And John McCain was trying to send the message, no, no, no, no, no. Don't go down that road. How do you prevent yesterday from being, essentially, a memorial service for that?

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

Well, look. John McCain was a fighter. There's no doubt about that, right? But he also was somebody who famously said that, "Honesty, integrity, is the core value and keeping your word in the Senate." I actually believe that, on a lot of issues, there is bipartisanship in the way that Senator McCain has folks --

CHUCK TODD:

I believe there is, too --

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

-- it doesn't get reported on all the time. You know, you're going to have Amy Klobuchar on after me. She and I worked together.

CHUCK TODD:

The president won't embrace it, though. The reason it's not getting reported on, the president won't embrace it, so you guys can’t-- you're not doing it.

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

Well, let me give you a couple examples right now of bipartisanship that I think is important, that McCain and Trump area focus. We just passed the National Defense Authorization Act. I think 85 senators voted for that. That was a McCain-led bill on the Armed Services Committee. It was all about rebuilding the military. It was all about implementing a new strategy that the president has put out. That was very bipartisan. We’ve -- We're right now, and you follow this, Chuck, we're working on appropriations bills. It's the first time since 1979 that we're actually getting appropriations bills, all of them done. That's Republicans and Democrats in the Senate. The president's been pushing that. Certainly, John McCain was somebody who believed in that -- on that part of regular order. So my point is is that you're right. The message of working together, particularly in the memory of John McCain, is important. But I do think that a lot of that is happening. And do we have principle difference on some issues? Absolutely, we do. But a lot of those have been with us for a while.

CHUCK TODD:

How do you explain the president's behavior and how he comported himself this week in regards to John McCain?

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

Well, look, we know there's been tension between them. I would say that the Trump administration, overall, was very engaged. You had an important speech that the pres-- the vice president gave at the ceremony of laying in state in the dome. Yesterday, there was a number of folks from the administration there.

CHUCK TODD:

You kind of gloss over it. Why? He's the President of the United States. It was -- it it it --

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

What what I’m trying to -- Chuck, I'm not trying to gloss over it.

CHUCK TODD:

I know.

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

I’m not trying to gloss over it. But here's what I think is more important. Yes, there was tensions between the president and John McCain. This week, though, has been all about John McCain and the unity of his vision of courage, of patriotism, of freedom, of service before self. And I think that's the lesson that we should take away from the week. That's what I want. I think that's what the family wants to take away.

CHUCK TODD:

What about President Trump? What should he take away from yesterday's service?

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

Well, I think there's a lot of things that the president can learn about. You know, look, the book on John McCain, his great life, it's been written, right? It's been written. But for all of us, you know, whether you, me, or the president, or other Americans who were watching that, you know, we're still an open book. And I think there's a lot of things that all of us can do: the president, myself, other Americans who are watching this. One of the things that John McCain was all about, he knows -- he knew that he was not a perfect man. He knew he made mistakes. But as President Obama and President Bush emphasized yesterday, he was always looking for improvement in himself and his country. And I think that's something we can all take away, whether it's the president or anyone else watching these important, beautiful services.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, something else that the president said this week about the November elections. He said, and it was in a meeting with evangelicals. He said, if the GOP loses in November, quote, "They will overturn everything quickly and violently." And then he added, "These are violent people," referring to Democrats. Is that --

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

I don’t --

CHUCK TODD:

--is there any basis here?

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

No---

CHUCK TODD:

Do you understand what he's referring to?

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

I don't know.

CHUCK TODD:

Why is he speaking to evangelicals this way?

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

I’ve -- I’ve not seen that quote. And I don't think, you know, Democrats are violent people. What I do -- I mean, and I haven't seen that quote. What I actually do think is important for the president, other Republicans, to talk about, I know you're going to talk in the panel, this fall is what we have accomplished, right? I mean, one thing that is very important for the American people, in addition, as I mentioned, rebuilding our military, is growing the economy. I mean, we are, we are hitting an economy that is the strongest we've seen in decades: consumer optimism up very high, 4.2% GDP growth. And these are because of policies, policies of less government, more freedom, tax reform, regulatory reform. And Chuck, here's an important point. You know, on the Democratic side, we're starting to see leaders being elected in primaries who have a very different view of the economy --

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

-- more focused on even the idea of socialism.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

Let's have that debate in the fall. That's an important debate to have --

CHUCK TODD:

Let me--

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

-- on the vision of growing the economy. I think our vision is working, and it's strong.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you a few questions that may come up--

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

Sure.

CHUCK TODD:

-- in the next few months. Jeff Sessions, the current attorney general, do you believe he's committed any fireable offenses?

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

I support -- I supported Jeff Sessions when he was nominated. I certainly voted for him. And I think he's doing a good job.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think there's any reason for the president to remove him?

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

The president has the constitutional authority--

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that.

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

--to remove him?

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think there's any fireable offense?

DAN SULLIVAN:

As I mentioned, he can do it. Would it be politically wise? I don't think so. And I support Jeff Sessions and the job he's doing right now.

CHUCK TODD:

You have been helping Brett Kavanaugh prepare for the confirmation hearing. You're also on the Judiciary Committee. Let me just ask you --

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

I'm not on Judiciary.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm sorry about that. You were preparing him for that. I conflated those two things. Let me ask you this. When he says he believes in precedent, all right, when we hear that, that's supposed to be code for he's not for overturning Roe v. Wade. Is that how people should interpret, when he says he is a believer in precedent overall, that that's what every American should take away, that Brett Kavanaugh does not want to overturn Roe v. Wade?

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

Look, I've known Brett Kavanaugh for a long time. I think he was an inspired choice. I think he'd make a great justice on the Supreme Court. He's been an outstanding federal circuit court of appeals judge. He's a man who's got a lot of humility, which, as you know, is kind of a rare quality in this town. I did talk to him about precedent. Like Judge Gorsuch, now Justice Gorsuch, he actually wrote a book on it. He's been very focused on it. With regard to Roe v. Wade, I didn't get into the details, when I met with him, of asking about that.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

But I mean I -- so --

CHUCK TODD:

You see how silly this is, though, to average Americans? They don't understand why we can't get a simple answer to this question from Supreme Court nominees. And I know this is a thing on both sides of the aisle. But why can't we get that answer to this simple question about Roe v. Wade?

DAN SULLIVAN:

Which simple question? Whether --

CHUCK TODD:

Which is, does precedent equal meaning he doesn't want to overturn Roe v. Wade?

DAN SULLIVAN:

Well, I think he's going to be asked about this a lot during the whole week. So we're going to watch on that. But I think that, you know, he's focused. This isn't just Judge Kavanaugh. You know, Justice Ginsburg, when she went through her confirmation hearing.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm aware. No I --

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

She famously said, "I am not going to predict what may or may not come before the court. Because that would be prejudging it. And that's not the role of a judge." I do think, on some key issues, Judge Kavanaugh, for example, his skepticism on the power and authority of federal agencies is something that we need on the court, something that is consistent with the Constitution. And these are questions he's going to be asked about. But I think he's going to make an outstanding justice.

CHUCK TODD:

Will he recuse himself on anything involving subpoenas involving the Mueller investigation?

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

I think he'll look at what the ethics are with regard to a Supreme Court justice. You know, there's been previous questions. Justice Kagan had a similar question on Obamacare-related litigation. And he'll do what the codes of conduct and ethics of a Supreme Court justice require.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, she did recuse herself on quite a few issues. So we'll see what he does there. Senator Sullivan, I'm going to leave it there, republican from Alaska.

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

Okay, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Thanks for coming on, sharing your views.

SEN. DAN SULLIVAN:

Great to be on the show. Thanks.

CHUCK TODD:

We appreciate it. As we suggested earlier, there was a sense at the National Cathedral yesterday that, with the loss of John McCain, came the loss of a certain civility in our politics. President Obama, among others, made that point.

[BEGIN TAPE]

BARACK OBAMA:

So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse, can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insult and phony controversies and manufactured outrage. It's a politics that pretends to be brave and tough but, in fact, is born of fear.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now, from the other side of the aisle, Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Nice to see you. What did you take away from yesterday? And did you see it as a rebuke of President Trump?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

I saw it as the story of John McCain, his grieving family, a grieving nation. People who he had run against, people who had defeated him, he invited them in. And I think it is no surprise that the subject of the administration came up obliquely from time to time. But I think that George Bush actually said it best to explain it. He said that John McCain's life was defined, in part, by the fact that he detested the abuse of power, whether that was people who poisoned political opponents or put reporters in jail, or, yes, people who would take on immigrants in a way that he thought was inappropriate, like the president has done, or people who would go after F.B.I. agents or P.O.Ws, like himself. So yes, that was part of John McCain's strength in character, that he was willing to stand up and take on bullies. And so I think that is how you saw it come up. But it was really a part of the arc of his life in fighting for those that needed someone to fight for them.

CHUCK TODD:

Some of us viewed this week as almost a memorial service for another era of politics. I talked to other senators, Jeff Flake, in particular, said, "No, no, no. It should be a call to arms to sort of bring the center of American politics back or bring the idea of compromise back." Let's be realistic. Both parties, right now, punish, punish you if either side works too closely with the other. How do you get that back?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

I think you get it back by listening to John McCain's words, that you have to be fighting for a cause greater than yourselves. And you see that, from time to time, in the Senate, especially when big things happen. And we have to do it again.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you really see it, though?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

I do. I mean, I worked with Senator McCain on bringing down the cost of pharma prices by bringing in drugs from other countries. There are other Republicans on that bill. And I hope that someone else will come and take the lead. We did the Honest Ads Act. And he was the only, sadly, the only Republican on that bill to take on the social media companies to make them put their ads out there. And so I'm, right now, asking another Republican to get on that bill. So you have a number of cases, and Senator Sullivan went through some of them, where we work across the aisle all the time. But we have to see more of it. And when people are afraid of pissing off President Trump, and so they won't come over and work with us, that's a problem. So people are going to have to rise to the occasion.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me move to the Kavanaugh hearing. You are on Judiciary, I believe.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

Yes, I am.

CHUCK TODD:

I conflated both of your committees. My apologies this Sunday morning. As you know, the Democratic base is pretty upset, pretty upset at Democratic leadership. They feel as if there was -- he didn’t like the deal -- they didn't like the deal that Chuck Schumer cut with Mitch McConnell that sort of, in their minds, fast tracked some of these judicial nominees. Why shouldn't the base be upset with that?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

What matters is what happens in the next week at this hearing. And I think you're going to see some really strong sets of questions from a number of us that are on the Judiciary Committee. The point I'm going to make is that this is not normal. You have a nominee with excellent credentials, with his family behind him. You have the cameras there. You have the senators questioning. But this isn't normal. It's not normal, because we are not able to see 100,000 documents, that the archivist has just -- because the administration has said we can't see them. They've exerted their executive power. 148,000 documents that I've seen that you cannot see, because they won't allow us to make them public. So I can't even tell you about them right now on this show.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think any of these documents could make him unqualified for the job?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

I think that you could ask some very interesting questions about these documents that I'm unable to even say, because I'm not able to make them public. And I don't know what the result would be of a hearing. We have had nominees like Bork that went down.

CHUCK TODD:

So it raises questions to you about his qualifications? What you have seen in these papers that we have not seen, it actually raises doubts, in your mind, about Kavanaugh's ability to be a fair justice?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

It would certainly bolster, strongly bolster the arguments that I could make. And then you have the president's campaign chair having been just convicted. You've got his lawyer pleading guilty. And you have a nominee who had one of the most expansive views of presidential power that we've seen in history. This is a guy that says, one, "A president should be able to declare a statute constitutional all by himself." That he, in writing, has said, "You should throw out the Special Counsel statute." This is all very relevant. And no, it's not normal.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, let's look at the reality, though. The Democrats do not have control of the U.S. Senate. There is no filibuster. And we know why we don't have a filibuster. This has been a game of chicken that both parties have played. There's nothing you can do, unless you do something out of the ordinary. Kevin de León, who is running against Dianne Feinstein for the U.S. Senate seat in California, he is arguing this. He's the nominee in the second slot there. "Stop playing polite, country-club politics with a Supreme Court nominee who represents one of the greatest threats to a woman's right to choose in our lifetime." I guess the basic question is, if in a similar situation, what would Mitch McConnell do?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

Well, we know what Mitch McConnell did. But that was because he had the power. So to me, the first answer is that we need a check and balance on this White House. And we need to win elections.

CHUCK TODD:

Some folks are suggesting that you guys should just walk out of the hearing. You've heard that.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

Okay, that's interesting. I think you have incredible senators on there, like Cory Booker and Kamala Harris and Dick Durbin, Mazie Hirono, Dick Blumenthal and Dianne, you name it, Chris Coons. I think it's much more powerful, if we go in there, and we ask the questions, Patrick Leahy. We need that opportunity to ask the questions. And if we just walked out, it would simply be one side asking the questions. So I don't think that's the way you examine a nominee and get the facts out.

CHUCK TODD:

You would probably have the ability to get all of these papers public, if there was a threat that they needed 60 votes, right? Let me ask you this. If Democrats get control of the Senate back, should the principle be that the filibuster should come back for Supreme Court nominees?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

Well, first of all, we would've not supported changing that.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that. But if you get the power, would you support bring the--

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

When the Democrats were in power, we said--

CHUCK TODD:

Would you support bringing the filibuster back, if you get power in November?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

I think that we should've had the filibuster in place. And by the way, that sounds like a really scary word to normal people out there.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

But it's the idea that you have to have a consensus. So I would've liked to see 60 votes, no matter what the judge is. I don't think we should've made that change, when we look back at it. But it happened. Because we were so frustrated. Because President Obama wasn't able to get his nominees. But I think we would've been in a better place now. The point is we still left the 60 votes in place for the Supreme Court --

CHUCK TODD:

Would you bring it back?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

-- and Mitch McConnell changed that. I would prefer to bring it back. We are where we are. And now, I don't think anyone's going to want to hamstring themselves.

CHUCK TODD:

You're on the ballot in Minnesota in November. Has Keith Ellison, who's the nominee for attorney general, there's some allegations against him having to do with potential spousal abuse. Has he explained himself to you enough, as a voter, to feel comfortable voting for him?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

He has. I think there's a very good article in the New York Times that went through all of this recently. He is still addressing this to the people of Minnesota. And I think it's being reviewed. And I know that he is moving forward --

CHUCK TODD:

Are you comfortable campaigning with him?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

-- and he got the votes in the primary.

CHUCK TODD:

Would you campaign for him?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

Right now, I'm focused on Judge Kavanaugh. He hasn't asked me to campaign with him. That is where we are right now. And we have an incredibly strong ticket in Minnesota. We have two Senate races up, a governor's race. Focused on that.

CHUCK TODD:

So if he asked, would you campaign for him?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

I will campaign with our ticket when the time comes.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat from Minnesota. Thanks very much.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Appreciate you sharing your views. When we come back, Mueller, the midterms, and John McCain. The panel is next.

CHUCK TODD:Welcome back. The panel is here. Matthew Continetti, editor in chief of the Washington Free Beacon; Kimberly Atkins, chief Washington correspondent for the Boston Herald; Amy Walter, national editor of the Cook Political Report; and Mark Leibovich, national correspondent for the New York Times Magazine and author of the new book, Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times. Welcome all. Let me just get right to it. I think Susan Glasser, in The New Yorker, put it in a quite interesting way, about the John McCain memorial service with the headline, "John McCain's Funeral was the Biggest Resistance Meeting Yet." She writes, "McCain's grand funeral, the Obama advisor, David Axelrod, called it, 'an exercise in civic communion,' underscored a fact that is often lost about Washington these days. The city is much more bipartisan, in some respects, than it has ever been, more united than it may currently seem in its hatred of Donald Trump." Amy Walter?

AMY WALTER:Yeah, I thought it was really interesting. You asked the question about if this was sort of a memorial service for an era of politics that is no longer with us. But I'd also argue that that era left us a long time ago and that this world that we're in, the tribalism, the polarization, the incentive structure, has pulled us to this place before Donald Trump ever came, and that he is exacerbating it, there's no doubt. But the service itself, I think, the call to our better angels, our better selves, stands out, because of the contrast with the president. But I just think that, whoever was president right now, these issues would still be the driving force. CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.AMY WALTER:

And we're not going to get past it, because of the fact that there is no incentive for folks to try to bridge this divide. There’s no incentive--

CHUCK TODD:Amy Klobuchar admitted that --AMY WALTER: Yes.CHUCK TODD:--in this question. You know, Mark Leibovich, I'm old enough to remember when George W. Bush was the most divisive president of our lifetimes and when Barack Obama was the most divisive president of our lifetimes. And yet, these two were making a call to arms for a more civil time of politics.

MARK LEIBOVICH:Right. Bill Clinton, too. Don't leave him out.

CHUCK TODD:I forgot.

MARK LEIBOVICH:I mean, you can go back. No, look. I mean, absolutely, Ted Kennedy, his funeral, what, eight years ago, whenever it was, there was the same sort of call to unity, a bygone era. He worked across the aisle and so forth. CHUCK TODD:Yeah.MARK LEIBOVICHSo, so I mean, I guess, not cliché (UNINTEL) there, because I think it's real.This was deeply personal. There's no question it was deeply personal. There was no president who was, like, not invited, pointedly not invited, to an event like this. And yes, this environment was created. And Donald Trump might be perpetuating it in some ways. But I also think that this is very Trump specific. This is - I mean, I think larger words and concepts, like unity, are important. But this was very Trump specific.

CHUCK TODD:Let’s be- It was, Trump, the president's comportment that has bothered so many people, Matthew. Like, really? You can’t- I guess we should be glad he didn't tweet a negative. MATTHEW CONTINETTI:RightCHUCK TODD: But that's a low bar.

MATTHEW CONTINETTI:Certainly, the McCain-Trump feud began with comments by Trump. But I think it also became something larger. And there was an ideological component to a lot of the eulogies here, talking about John McCain's ideas. When I looked at that ceremony, I saw John McCain designing the rebuttal to President Trump's inaugural address from a year and a half ago. We went from American carnage to the American idea or promise. We went from a very negative speech to a very positive speech. Everything is fine. America doesn't need to be made great again. The truth is the John McCain's America, the America that was represented at the National Cathedral yesterday, doesn't need to made great again, because it's doing fine. So the contrast is with Trump and who Trump represents. For them, America is not doing fine. They like the more negative message.

CHUCK TODD:I'm glad you brought this up. Kimberly, there was part of me that felt like, is this scene in the National Cathedral going to be seen as, like, the last gathering of the bourgeois, as the revolutionaries come with their pitchforks? Or is it this call to arms, where, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. We're going to stabilize America again"?

KIMBERLY ATKINS:I think it depends on who you ask. I think, for some, for some people, it'll be both, to that extent. But I think it's also important to remember, as much as we're talking about bipartisanism, a bygone era, I mean, remember that the fights between John McCain and Barack Obama were tough ones. They were-they were strong. They were on opposite sides of-

CHUCK TODD:On issues.

KIMBERLY ATKINS:On issues. And you know, as soon as any policy came out of the White House, if reporters remember, that our inbox were immediately filled with John McCain's office really excoriating everything that Barack Obama did. But yesterday, when he stood up there to speak, he was listed in the program as, "friend," friend first, President of the United States later. They had respect for one another. There was not- there was partisanism. There were bitter battles, tough battles. But there was not the pettiness that we see today. I think that's what people were addressing yesterday.

MARK LEIBOVICH:I thought there was one moment that stuck out for me. I mean, Barack Obama talked about, you know, yes, they had those battles. "We talked privately in our-- in the White House from time to time. No one, no one advertised that." I hadn’t heard that.

CHUCK TODD:That was the first I'd heard that.

MARK LEIBOVICH:First I'd heard that.

CHUCK TODD:But I believe it.

MARK LEIBOVICH:But what was interesting about that is he ended that anecdote with the refrain, "We never doubted that we were on the same team." He said it twice. And when I hear, "team," I mean, I think that actually gets to loyalty to America, if you ask me. I mean, when I hear, "team," I think, "patriotism." I think, "We both, we both never doubted that we're trying to move this country forward." And to me, that was a very, very poignant--

AMY WALTER:And now, we have a country that we don't believe we're on the same team.

KIMBERLY ATKINS:

No.

AMY WALTER:There are two Americas that don't believe that we are on the same team. And you have to choose a side. You're on this team, or you're on that team.

KIMBERLY ATKINS:And if you're not on the right side of the team, you're unpatriotic. You're un-American.

CHUCK TODD:We're fighting over who gets to define patriotism, Matthew.AMY WALTER: And what it--

CHUCK TODD:I mean, by the way, that gets to your book later on. MARK LEIBOVICH:Right. CHUCK TODD:But we're having this massive fight over patriotism.

MATTHEW CONTINETTI:One of the eulogies that struck me was actually Henry Kissinger's. And what he was talking about was how McCain lived by the warrior's code. McCain brought in ideas that aren't normally part of the discussion in Washington, things like courage, nobility, honor, and character.These are all values that were very important to John McCain's approach to politics. And it's one reason why he was able to create relationships across the aisle. These are values that I think are- been diminished. And I think they come from John McCain's experience in the U.S. military.

CHUCK TODD:This week, besides being about John McCain, there were days. I want to put up the president's Thursday tweet storm. Because that was the one where you were just like, "Is this just more of the same from him? Or is there something big?" literally, it was a‘rat-a-tat-tat’, almost a tweet gun he issued. "Rigged Russia witch hunt." "Lester Hunt got caught fudging my tape on Russia." "Fake books." "Enemy of the people!" "So much fake reporting and fake news." "Collusion." And everybody's like, "Is he acting rattled?" And there's always part of me, Amy, that says, "Yeah, something's new."

AMY WALTER:Or that it’s just--

CHUCK TODD:The walls are always closing in, or it's Trump, right.AMY WALTER:That’s right. CHUCK TODD: What is it?

AMY WALTER:And it's about keeping that energy up all the time of people who are on his team to say, "Never, ever take your eye off the ball. Because the second that you do, they're going to come and get us. And you've got to keep this energy as part of it." But I do think that this is what the remarkable piece of this entire campaign is. You had Senator Sullivan there saying, "But remember, the economy's doing great. Everybody's happy. We should be doing really well this election season." There was not one tweet in there about how great the economy was doing. Or about--

CHUCK TODD:He does not know how to campaign on the economy. And that has been a big frustration with a lot of republicans. All right, I'm going to pause this conversation here. When we come back, the man who just won the democratic nomination to be Florida governor. His name's Andrew Gillum. And it sets up a battle between an unapologetic progressive and a diehard Trump supporter in the most important swing state in America. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. We saw another huge upset in a Democratic primary on Tuesday night, this time, in the state of Florida. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum defied the polling to win his party's nomination. Gillum is an unapologetic progressive. And he's up against a similarly unapologetic Trump supporter, Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis. It's base against base. The race has national implications, will help determine whether it is safe for the two parties to so-called abandon the middle and appeal, primarily, to firing up their bases. On day one of the campaign, DeSantis said this.

[BEGIN TAPE]

RON DESANTIS:

He is an articulate spokesman for those far-left views. And he's a charismatic candidate. The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

DeSantis and his campaign insist that the use of the words, "articulate" and "monkey this up," had no racial connotations. Gillum says DeSantis is employing Trump-style politics. Quote, "They no longer do whistle calls. They're now using full bullhorns," is what he said. Well, joining me now is the democratic nominee, Andrew Gillum. And by the way, for viewers, we did invite Congressman DeSantis to appear this morning. It's the second invitation we've offered on various programs. But he declined again. Mayor Gillum, welcome to Meet the Press.

ANDREW GILLUM:

Thank you so much for having me Chuck. And I just want to quickly say --

CHUCK TODD: Yes.

ANDREW GILLUM:

-- that yesterday's display of true patriotism was something to behold in today's America. It was inspiring. And all of the speeches really moved me, personally.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you for sharing that. Let me start with the start of this campaign. You had that back-and-forth with your opponent. A Neo-Nazi group launched some really ugly robocalls. I don't even want to give the name of the group or anything. Because they're just, I think, just trying to get free publicity here. Are you satisfied with how quickly Republicans shot down that Neo-Nazi call? And does that reassure you that they don't want to make race an issue in this campaign?

ANDREW GILLUM:

Well, I mean, I think what's important is that Mr. DeSantis and, obviously, the president really try to go high on this thing. We cannot afford to weaponize race and to go to the bottom of the barrel here. And honestly, people are going to take their cues from what their leadership says. And in this case, Ron DeSantis is the leader. And therefore, he's got to be very, very careful about how he addresses these kinds of issues. I'm pleased to see them decry those robocalls. But it's also important that Ron DeSantis take control and ownership of his own rhetoric and words. Because we already know that, given the highly sensitized nation that we now find ourselves, that people take their cues. And sometimes, they act out in ways that go far beyond what is appropriate in today's environment.

CHUCK TODD:

You do not think Congressman DeSantis is a racist, do you?

ANDREW GILLUM:

I have not called him a racist.

CHUCK TODD:

I know you haven't.

ANDREW GILLUM:

What I simply said was that his rhetoric, in my opinion, has to be toned down. What I will call him is someone who has worked to undermine the healthcare system, someone who has decided to join with Donald Trump in giving more and more money away to the largest and wealthiest corporations and less to regular, everyday working people. I'm happy to debate him on the merits of public policy. I am not going to get into the gutter and name call. That's not what Florida voters are interested in. And certainly, that's not why I ran for governor. I'm here to talk about the issues that confront the people of our great state.

CHUCK TODD:

You ran as an unabashed progressive Democrat. You're for Medicare for All. You've talked about getting rid of I.C.E. and some things there. But I'm curious, pne of the things, you were supported by two billionaires who came in and helped your campaign. And largely, your campaign, early on, was funded by them: George Soros and Tom Steyer. How do you square sort of a populist, progressive campaign that wants to get big money, you know, among other things, get big money out of politics, get dark money out of politics, and yet, it's billionaires that have to prop up your campaign?

ANDREW GILLUM:

Well, I'll tell you, I'm obviously deeply appreciative of Mr. Soros, as well as Mr. Steyer, both men whom I've known for some time. But the truth is, Chuck, that our campaign was really propped up by a lot of small contributions, including my mother, who was on auto-deduct of $20 a month into our campaign. In the first two days of this general election, our campaign has been buoyed this first week, raising over $2 million by everyday folks, not big contributions, but everyday folks sowing a seed into our race. And I honestly think that that is what is going to help us win on November 6th is these everyday folks deciding to sow a seed into this race.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think the Democratic Party's giving you enough support? I saw the Democratic Governors Association made a $1 million investment. It can sound like a lot of money. But this is the state of Florida. I think there's 17,000 media markets in the state of Florida, by last count. I'm exaggerating slightly. A million dollars, some democrats say there was a zero missing there. Do you think they're showing you enough support?

ANDREW GILLUM:

Well, I will tell you, Chuck, I have every anticipation and expectation that the D.G.A. is going to come into this race strong. One, and you know this, being a homeboy yourself, that the implications here in Florida are so great, not just in this race for governor and the cabinet, but also the United States Senate. I really do think the pairing of Bill Nelson and myself and the other members of the cabinet, not to mention the legislative races, are very, very critical for 2020 implications. And so I fully expect that they're going to come in and have our back. But the truth is is that we're not going to wait or rely on that. We need everyday people to sow a seed into this race. We really are trying to run a campaign very similar to we run the primary, which is through the strength and the support of everyday folks willing to sow a seed into this campaign.

CHUCK TODD:

Now that you've been propelled a bit on the national stage, a lot is getting more scrutiny. The New York Times, this morning, dives a little deeper into the F.B.I. investigation that's been taking place into the city of Tallahassee. And I’ve read the story completely. You have said that the F.B.I. has told you you're not a focus of the investigation. But I have a few questions. So first is, when did you find out this was a sting operation?

ANDREW GILLUM:

Well, this came to light, for me, I assume, sometime last year, when I was first contacted by two agents that wanted to talk to me. I spoke to them for 20 minutes. In that indicati-- in that meeting, they told me that, obviously, I was not a target of their investigation and asked me questions specifically about one of my coll--someone else. But what we've tried, and I think it's important to point this out, that I, nor the city of Tallahassee, is under investigation. We have worked to be as cooperative as we can. Because, as I've said, anyone who has done anything wrong ought to be held fully accountable. Now, contrast that to Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump. Ron DeSantis and Trump have worked, at every step, to undermine the work of this important agency, the president going so far as to suggest a deep state. What we've said is we want this thing resolved. And anyone who was doing anything wrong should be held fully accountable. And I think that's how you deal with these kinds of things, not by standing in --

CHUCK TODD:

Right--

ANDREW GILLUM:

--their way and obstructing any form of justice.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, as you know, there's perception, and there's reality. So let me ask this. Have you changed your behavior as a public official given, given this experience you've gone through?

ANDREW GILLUM:

Well, I will tell you, I am, obviously, a lot more circumspect about everything. I think part of being elected at the age of 23 and not really having to be, you know, overly cautious or distrustful at the local level, as I think I was a bit naïve that everybody who comes into my space has good intentions. And I honestly don't know that I would've changed any of my interactions. But I will tell you, it has certainly made me a lot more scrutinous, as we run this race and, and as we move forward, to ensure that I'm surrounding myself and allowing people in my orbit who only have good intentions for me and for my family and, frankly, for my community.

CHUCK TODD:

And before I let you go, in the New York Times, they had said you were going to provide receipts having to do with, I think, a couple of trips that you did with the lobbyists. The receipts haven't been provided. Should we expect that soon?

ANDREW GILLUM:

You absolutely should. And I'll tell you, my commitment is to make every receipt available, because I have nothing to hide. Unfortunately, Chuck, I've got one interview left with the Ethics Board, that's this week. And following that, we will make those fully available. I just wanted to make sure that the process worked the way it was intended to.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Andrew Gillum, I'm going to leave it there, the new Democratic nominee for governor in Florida. Thanks for coming on and sharing your views, sir. I appreciate it. Stay safe on the trail.

ANDREW GILLUM:

Thanks for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

You got it.

ANDREW GILLUM:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, what did we learn in all of those primaries this year? And what might they tell us about what could happen in November?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Data Download time. Labor Day, of course, traditionally marks the kickoff of the general election season. It's a taking-stock moment, where we ask, what have we learned? Well, for one, people are interested. Take, for instance, overall turnout just this past week for the big primaries in Arizona and Florida.

Turnout was up 146,000 in Arizona. And over a million additional voters showed up in Florida. It's part of a larger trend of increased turnout in these primaries on both sides, but especially among the Democrats. The primary season, thus far, has also given us some other indications of where enthusiasm lies, for instance, in fundraising.

Democratic candidates have outraced Republican candidates across both House and Senate races. Democrats also literally have more candidates for the House right now. There are only four House districts in the country where there is no Democratic candidate running. There are nearly 40, 4-0, districts where there's no Republican candidate running, either.

We've also noted how diverse this year's pool of candidates has been. 2018 truly has become the year of the woman. For instance, the number of woman nominees set new records this year: 14 nominees for governor, 21 nominees for Senate, 226 for the House. By the way, our friend, David Wasserman, over at the Cook Political Report, notes that, in House districts that don't have incumbents in them, Democrats have actually nominated women in 50% of those races, while Republicans have nominated women in just 18% of those races.

So what does all of this mean for November? Well, obviously, there's been a lot of talk about a blue wave. And it's still too early to make that prediction. But the numbers do show, from Cook, that the battlefield is heavily tilted towards the Democrats, particularly in the House. Only five Democratic-held seats are rated competitive, while 65 Republican-held districts are rated the same. These are the places that the incumbent party is in real jeopardy of losing in November.

Obviously, two months, a lifetime in Washington in most years and several lifetimes in our current political environment. But we can say this for certain about 2018. Voters are engaged. The candidate pool is diverse. And Democrats hold the edge. We just don't know how big that edge is. When we come back, a great American institution in dangerous times.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with End Game, or should we say, Big Game? The NFL regular season begins later this week. And of course, nothing, not even the NFL, avoids politics these days. In our latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, we found that just 43% of voters believe kneeling during the National Anthem is an appropriate way to protest racial inequality, while the majority, 54%, say it is not appropriate. But look at how these numbers break down. 72% of Democrats say kneeling is appropriate, versus 23% who say it isn't. For Republicans, the numbers are basically reversed and then some, 10% appropriate, 88% not. And of course, there is a racial divide by a margin of 70 to 28 African Americans say kneeling to protest racial inequality is appropriate. Whites say no by a 20-point margin, 58/38.The president must have sports on his mind this morning or must be watching, because he's tweeted the following a few minutes ago about, "Tiger Woods showed great class in the way he answered the question about the office of the presidency and me. Now, they say the so-called left is angry at him. So sad. But the center and right loves Tiger, Kanye, George Foreman, Jim Brown, and so many other greats and even more." Obviously, you've got the book, Big Game, Mark Leibovich. The issue of the anthem, Trump, racial politics, it's exploding in the NFL, isn't it?

MARK LEIBOVICH:

Yeah, they should've just given him the Buffalo Bills in 2014. They could've avoided all of this. No, I mean, Donald Trump has wanted into the NFL for four decades. He can't get into the club. And in some ways, he's in their heads. Look, Donald Trump has a real knack for discovering culture war sort of grenades. And the NFL, even before Colin Kaepernick, was something that he thought was a metaphor for just the softness of America. He thought there were too many rules. There was too much political correctness. He, in a way, saw that, you know, the heartland of football, in Pennsylvania, in Alabama, in Ohio, very much mimicked his own heartland, his own base of support. And in some ways, football and Donald Trump became the two big spectacles of American life. And it was sort of inevitable that they would merge.

CHUCK TODD:

This culture, you know, it's interesting here with football, too. You know, it's almost as if the president has sided with college football fans over NFL fans by his attack on the NFL. Because, but it is a part of his base. If you look at his base of voters, they are sort of the base, sort of the heart and soul, if you went to any college football game in America, you'd see a lot of MAGA hats yesterday.

MATTHEW CONTINETTI:

And they're also the people that seem to be losing interest in the NFL, as these protests over the flag and anthem are taking place. A few things struck me from the poll. First, Trump continues to be on the majority's side with this issue. The second, you mentioned the polarization. I think it's important for all their discussions of populism. Democrats tend to view populism strictly through an economic lens. But they have to understand that there's also this cultural lens that has to do with symbols of American patriotism, kind of the American story. Trump is very effective at seizing on those symbols, polarizing them and rallying his base and some of those independents to his side.

AMY WALTER:

Well, it's also pretty easy, when the cultural issue equals what white America is comfortable with. And so as long as white America is comfortable with it, you're always going to be on the majority side of this. So that's where I think he's been able to be successful. What hasn't gotten discussed as much, and I think this is where the discussion really needs to go, it starts, it's always about Trump and kneeling and what it all means. But really, the fundamental, core issue is that, no matter how much wealth or prestige or influence you have, if you're black in America, the racism and race is always going to be the most important factor in your life.

KIMBERLY ATKINS:

I agree. I mean, economic anxiety is a euphemism for nationalism. Nationalism has very strong racial and cultural undertones. I think if you don't acknowledge that, you're missing the entire picture.

CHUCK TODD:

Kimberly, I want to go to the other aspect of this. And it's sort of what the president was getting at with Tiger Woods. There is now -- you know, I think NFL players, especially African American players, you know, on one hand, the community expects them, "Hey, don't back down." At the same time, they're getting pressure the other way, more and more African American athletes almost being encouraged to speak up. And yet, that president likes that. He thinks that'll be good for him, too.

KIMBERLY ATKINS:

Well, he thinks that the stronger that this war is, the harder that he sees himself as battling this cultural and racial divisiveness war, the better that it is for him politically. This isn't just about the idea of the flag. That's another euphemism for trying to take sides on an issue that he thinks is purely a political calculation. I'd take what Mark said about not being able to be a member of the club. I think this is a purely political calculation that he thinks is going to benefit him at the end. And this is nothing new. And yeah, I don't think you're going to see these players backing down. This is nothing new. Remember Muhammad Ali. Black athletes have been taking strong political stances and putting themselves at the forefront of this issue for decades.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I'm going to have to make that the last word. Thank you all. Thanks for watching. And of course, we will be back next week. Because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press. But we're going to leave you with the final moments of John McCain's memorial service yesterday, the singing of Danny Boy.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *

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