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Meet the Press - September 24, 2017

NBC News - Meet the Press

“09.24.17”

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, race, free speech, and patriotism. President Trump takes on NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem.

DONALD TRUMP:

Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say, "Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He's fired. He's fired!”

CHUCK TODD:

Dozens of pro athletes and teams respond with anger and disappointment.

LEBRON JAMES:

This guy that we've put in charge has tried to divide us once again.

CHUCK TODD:

And the Golden State Warriors cancel their White House trip. I'll talk to Mike Tirico of NBC Sports. Plus, repeal and replace or rinse and repeat? Once again, Republicans try to get rid of Obamacare.

DONALD TRUMP:

There's tremendous support from Republicans, certainly. We're at 47 or 48 already Senators.

CHUCK TODD:

And once again, there may be just enough Republican opposition to kill the effort.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

I obviously have very serious reservations about the bill.

KASIE HUNT:

Are you ready to support it?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

No.

CHUCK TODD:

My guest this morning, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who says he's a no for now; and White House director of legislative affairs, Marc Short. And can Chuck and Nancy really do business with President

Trump, or were their immigration talks a one-time-only deal? I'll ask House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi whether she trusts the president. Joining me for insight and analysis are Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review; Politico's Eliana Johnson; Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press; and former Obama deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter. Welcome to Sunday. It's Meet the Press.

VOICE OVER:

From NBC News in Washington, the longest-running show in television history, celebrating its 70th year, this is Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. There are two big stories we're watching this morning. The first is President Trump's attack on NFL players who refuse to stand for the national anthem. It began Friday night with a speech in Alabama with Mr. Trump saying he wishes an NFL owner would say the following.

DONALD TRUMP:

Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He's fired. He's fired!

CHUCK TODD:

Countless NFL players and owners have pushed back, as well as players from other sports. Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors said they would not come to the White House to have their NBA championship honored there, and even LeBron James weighed in, calling the president a bum. Much more on that back-and-forth coming up. The other big story, of course, here in Washington is the Graham-Cassidy health care bill, the Republicans' last chance, "This time we really, really mean it," effort to once and for all end Obamacare. And, once again, it's John McCain who has come in to save or ruin the day, depending on your point of view. Eight weeks ago, McCain gave his now-famous middle-of-the-night thumbs down to a previous repeal-and-replace plan. This time, his opposition came in a less dramatic Friday afternoon statement: "I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried." Polls show the bill is unpopular with voters and it is opposed by a virtual who's-who of medical organizations. With Democrats united, there are 48 no votes. And with two Republicans already opposed, it will take just one more Republican vote to kill the bill. But President Trump isn't giving up. At that Alabama rally, the president went after McCain as this latest repeal effort appeared on the edge of failure yet again.

DONALD TRUMP:

It's a little tougher without McCain's vote. I'll be honest. It's a little tougher.

CHUCK TODD:

Even President Trump is acknowledging that the latest Republican effort to dismantle Obamacare is very likely dead.

DONALD TRUMP:

We're gonna go back. You know, it's like a boxer. They get knocked down, get up. Get knocked down, get up.

CHUCK TODD:

In Alabama on Friday night, the president lashed out at Senator John McCain hours after McCain announced his opposition to the bill backed by Republicans Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy.

DONALD TRUMP:

John McCain's list in his last campaign was all about repeal and replace, repeal and replace. So, he decided to do something different. And that's fine.

CHUCK TODD:

On Saturday, the president continued to attack McCain, tweeting, "John McCain never had any intention of voting for this bill, which his governor loves. He campaigned on repeal and replace, let Arizona down." Just days ago, Mr. Trump was optimistic about finally getting legislative points on the board.

DONALD TRUMP:

It has tremendous support from Republicans. Certainly we're at 47 or 48, already, Senators. And a lot of others are looking at it very positively.

CHUCK TODD:

But by Friday, Republican attempts to rush a bill through by September 30th to take advantage of a deadline that would allow them to pass a bill with just 50 votes looked doomed, with McCain and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, declared “no's” and more Senators signaling they are not ready to support the bill.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

I obviously have very serious reservations about the bill.

KASIE HUNT:

Are you ready to support it?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

No.

CHUCK TODD:

The bill has attracted opposition from all corners of the health care industry, as well as from Canadian Jimmy Kimmel, whom Bill Cassidy had hoped to win over.

JIMMY KIMMEL:

This guy, Bill Cassidy, just lied right to my face. Coverage for all? No. In fact, it'll take about 30 million Americans off insurance. Preexisting conditions? No.

CHUCK TODD:

Perhaps realizing repeal and replace is doomed, the president turned his base's attention to other targets, lashing out at NFL players who protest during the national anthem.

DONALD TRUMP:

Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say, "Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He's fired. He's fired!”

CHUCK TODD:

N.B.A. star LeBron James weighed in, calling the president a bum.

LEBRON JAMES:

We all know how much sports brings us together, how much passion it has, how much we love and care and, you know, the friendships and everything that it creates. And for him to try to use this platform to divide us even more is not something I can stand for and is not something I can be quiet about.

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now is Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has said he's a no vote on the Graham-Cassidy bill. Senator Paul, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SENATOR RAND PAUL:

Good morning. Thanks for having me.

CHUCK TODD: I want to start, uh, with— the president didn’t just single out John McCain, he singled you out too at the Alabama rally, but in more hopeful tones. Let me play it and get you to respond:

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRES. DONALD TRUMP: Rand Paul was on that list. They say don’t even waste your time calling. He voted twice “yes,” okay? He was very good. And I haven’t given up on him because I think he may come around, okay?

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD: Alright, senator, uh, in the president’s words are you coming—are you going to come around?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): Well, I’ve always been a “yes” for repeal. But the bill, unfortunately, the Graham-Cassidy bill basically keeps most of the Obamacare spending, almost all of the spending, and just re-shuffles it and block grants it to the states. So I don’t think block-granting Obamacare makes—it doesn’t make it go away. It just means you’re keeping all the money we’ve been spending through Obamacare, most of it, re-shuffling it, taking the money from Democrat states and giving it to Republican states. I think what it sets up is a perpetual food fight over the formula. What happens when the Democrats win? They’re going to try to claw back that money from Republican states and give it to Democrat states. This is a bad idea. It’s not repeal. However, all that being said, if they narrow the focus to things we all agree on: expanding health savings accounts, giving governors more freedom through waivers, slowing down the rate of growth of an outrageous or out-of-control entitlement spending, sure, I’d be for that. But, uh, I’m just not for this block-granting concept because to me that is an affirmative vote that I’ve agreed to keep Obamacare.

CHUCK TODD: Well, I would just say this: if you cannot accept the block-grant concept, then there is no way you’ll ever support this bill, is that fair to say? Because that’s the centerpiece of this bill.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): Well, they could remove the block grants from it and then we could vote on what we actually all agree on: expand HSAs, governor waivers --

CHUCK TODD: Wasn’t that skinny repeal?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): Well, I think there’s a little more actually in this bill than skinny repeal, if you remove the block grants. But the problem I have, as a conservative—look, I started my political career campaigning against Obamacare. I went to rally after rally saying we would repeal it. I can’t in good conscience vote to keep it...all of the spending, and say “oh, now, it’s…” You know, because once we do, the Republican name will be on health care, and this isn’t going to work.

CHUCK TODD: So --

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): You’re going to end up having Republicans absorb the blame for a terrible health care system.

CHUCK TODD: So if block grant is in there, you’re a no? There’s no room for you to move?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): I would vote to block-grant at pre-Obama levels. If you want to look at 2009 and you say do you want to block grant Medicaid, I would have been a yes.

CHUCK TODD: Okay

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): But after you doubled the spending on all of these entitlement programs—we have a $700 billion deficit this year and a $20 trillion debt. We can’t just keep piling on new money. There has to be a few conservatives left in Washington who will say we really were for repeal and still are for repealing Obamacare.

CHUCK TODD: Let me ask you a question, and you’ve probably heard the speculation in sort of backchannels, but the National Review put it this way about you:

“There has been widespread speculation that Paul is playing a game on Obamacare: that he does not really wish to see major changes to it and will find libertarian-sounding objections to any Republican bill that has a chance of passage.”

The implication being, senator, that you don’t really want to change the Kentucky system. There’s a lot of people in Kentucky that like the system. But you can’t get caught ever saying that...

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): Well, I think what that is is a personal insult to my character and, coming from the pro-war National Review I don’t doubt that they would say that. This is a bunch of neocons who don’t like libertarians, frankly, and, so yes, they don’t like me and so they personally insult me and say, oh, this is all a charade. But I think most people who follow my position would find that, you know, as a physician, there’s not been a more consistent voice for repealing Obamacare. I’ve put forward replacement ideas. Right now, I’m still working with the president on letting people buy across state lines in groups, health care associations, and the president’s assured me that’s coming. By executive action, within the next couple weeks, he believes he can do this, the secretary of labor believes he can do this, I think we have some good news that will get millions of people access to inexpensive insurance. So, no, I keep working on all fronts for free market solutions. But I’m just not for block-granting Obamacare and calling it a day, and say “Oh, well, we’re keeping it. But we’re just going to divvy it up.”

CHUCK TODD: I’ve got to ask your reaction. There’s been a lot of back and forth between the president and the leadership in North Korea. The rhetoric has been, shall we say, not high, it’s been a little low. You have the president tweeting: “Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!” “Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N., If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer." But then, you had the leader of North Korea calling the president also some pejorative in his language. Are you concerned that we're going down a road we can't sort of pull back from?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): Yes. I think there is a problem. And if I were going to be sending messages to North Korea, I would say this: we don't plan on invading. We don't plan on regime change. We don't plan on occupying North Korea. And we don't plan on being the one to have an offensive military strike for any reason, other than the defense of South Korea or ourselves. I would also say there is no good military option for us, but also for them. And they need to realize that in no uncertain terms that there is no option for them to use military weapons, because the results would be catastrophic for them. But also, the results would be catastrophic for everybody on the Korean peninsula. So, I hope we can ratchet down the rhetoric. But I'm also still a believer that China can be coaxed into this. And one thing that I've offered that no one else has, is I would actually say to North Korea, "If you'll dismantle your nuclear weapons, I would invite China to be part of an international force on the DMZ to help keep peace within there." And I think that would reassure the North Koreans that we won't come in. But I will tell you that the whole problem here started with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama bombing Libya after they gave up their nuclear weapons. That sent a terrible message to North Korea that we weren't to be trusted.

CHUCK TODD:

And finally, you brought up your Libertarian ideology. I'm curious. What do you make of what many NFL players have been doing in their protests, and the president's criticism of them, appropriate?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY):

Well, you know, I've been outspoken in saying that there is racial injustice that comes from our war on drugs. There's a disproportionate impact on minorities in our country. We should speak out about that. And we should do something about that. I've been outspoken and unhappy that we fight undeclared wars in foreign lands. All that being said, though, if you ask me am I proud of my country? Yes. Am I hopeful for my country? Yes. Do I think America is a better place to live than anyplace in the world? I guess my reaction would be I don't hesitate to criticize policy when I think it needs it. But I stand and say the pledge. And I think people should. And that would be my advice if anyone asked me or if a kid asked me. I think you should stand. Still complain. Have you focus. But I just think, really, that this is the greatest country on the planet, probably in recorded history. And we need to be proud of our country and, at the same time, try to make it a better place.

CHUCK TODD:

So, you think the president was appropriate in criticizing NFL owners for not cutting these players that do this?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY):

Well, you know, I think that people have the right to protest. And I understand their protest, and actually join some of the things they're unhappy with. I personally stand and say the pledge. And I think that's the better way to do it. And take your complaint in a different venue.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that. But you didn't address my question about the president.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY):

Well, if I were president, I probably would not get involved in this. And the thing is, I do think, though, that the NFL makes money off of its fans. And the one thing you could hear from Trump saying that to that crowd is tens of thousands of people, and I think a lot of people across the country don't understand sort of disrespecting the flag or disrespecting the country. Look, see, I can stand up in my state and have real, serious complaints about fighting an unconstitutional war in a foreign land, but at the same time show that I'm very hopeful and patriotic. And I think you can do both at the same time.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Paul, I will leave it there. Thanks for coming on and sharing your views, sir. I appreciate it. Earlier this morning, I spoke with the White House's chief liaison to Congress, Marc Short, and began by asking him what the president is trying to accomplish with his attacks on Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players.

MARC SHORT:

Well, Chuck, I think it's pretty simple. I think the reality is that there are coaches -- high school coaches across America today who are punished for leading their players in prayer. And, yet, when an NFL player takes a knee, somehow that player is presumed to be a martyr for a social cause. There’s a, there are ways to express concerns about social causes, Chuck. But there’s also generations of Americans who have fought and died for the freedoms we enjoy that are represented in that flag and our national anthem. And I think the president's saying that, yeah, players have a First Amendment right. But NFL owners also have a right. And that right is that these players represent their teams. And if the owners want to get rid of them, they should be allowed to get rid of them.

CHUCK TODD:

O.K. What does the president think of the fact that a vast majority of owners have come out and uh, denounced some form of what the president did? They think he's creating more divisiveness, not less. What does the president think of that criticism?

MARC SHORT:

I think that the president is standing with the vast majority of Americans who believe that our flag should be respected.

CHUCK TODD:

Is this issue -- Why did the president bring this issue up on Friday night? Was this about -- because two hours earlier, he found out that John McCain was voting no on health care?

MARC SHORT:

I think you're probably reading much more into it than there is. I think the president has felt this way on this position for a while. And Friday night was a forum in which he could express it. I don't think it has anything to do with the health care vote coming up.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to ask you something on, that was in our NBC/Wall Street Journal poll having to do with race relations. It was the one thing that unified the country in our poll. It said that race relations in America, only 26 percent thought they were good. 70 percent thought race relations were bad in America. And this was across party lines, across the ideological spectrum. What does, does the president have a plan to try to play a role in improving race relations?

MARC SHORT:

I think the president believes it is his role to improve race relations. But it's also important to note that we had an historic election in 2008, electing the first African American president. But race relations didn't improve under his tenure, either. So, we are anxious to engage in that conversation. I think you'll see the president taking action on that.

CHUCK TODD:

Does picking these fights on Twitter with Steph Curry and getting in back-and-forths with some of these players, does this help it?

MARC SHORT:

Chuck, look Steph Curry is an amazing story. And, in fact, he’s an icon for a lot of young children. My middle schooler idolizes Steph Curry. He has his jersey. He wears it often. And it's a great story of a young guy who was overlooked by a major Division One basketball program.

Ended up at Davidson, worked hard at his game, and is now, perhaps, the best basketball player in the N.B.A. He has an amazing shot. But what's unfortunate is when they try to politicize an invitation to come from the White House. This president has already hosted the New England Patriots, the Clemson Tigers. He's hosted the Chicago Cubs. It's not necessary to make this into a political argument. He's tried to invite them to say, to acknowledge their terrific season. And Steph Curry is an amazing athlete. But why the Warriors chose to politicize an invitation to the White House, I think, is unfortunate.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this. You were hoping the Warriors would take the high road. Why can't the president?

MARC SHORT:

Well, I think that the Warriors were the ones that first went out and said that they began criticizing the president.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that. Does two wrongs make a right?

MARC SHORT:

Chuck, I think the reality is that the White House is something special. And if they don't want to come to the White House, then the president says then "Don't come."

CHUCK TODD:

Let's move to health care. Is this vote going to happen? If the votes are there, does the, is that the only way we see this vote actually happen? Or do you think make sure the vote happens, regardless of whether Mitch McConnell knows if he has the 50?

MARC SHORT:

We're planning to have the vote this week, Chuck. We think it'll probably be Wednesday.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you believe you will get the votes? And, if so, who's really in play there?

MARC SHORT:

Chuck --

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think you can get Rand Paul?

MARC SHORT:

Let's step back for one second and look at this. In the last several years, Obamacare has absolutely imploded. People are hurting across our country. There were promises made that if you like your insurance, you can keep it. The reality is that 45 percent of the counties across America, over 1,400 counties have only one insurer left. There's no longer competition. It's an absolute monopoly. You were promised that your, your premiums would decrease. How's that promise worked out for Americans? Is there anyone in America today who can say their health insurance premiums have decreased? In Alaska, they've gone up over 203 percent in the last four years, in Arizona 190 percent.

CHUCK TODD:

Ok, you’ve laid the case for why you think some changes need to be made. But this change? I gotta ask you to respond to this, this change. Basically, every single medical group you can think of--

MARC SHORT:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

--came out this morning with a letter, uh, and they write this: “We agree that the bill will result in dramatic cuts to Medicaid and a funding cliff in the future, fundamentally changing the way that states provide coverage for some of our most vulnerable citizens. This means that millions of patients will lose their coverage and go without much-needed care.” The big concern is that this is a massive change in how Medicaid is, uh, given out in this country.

MARC SHORT:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

Is this the time to do that?

MARC SHORT:

Medicaid is going to go broke. It cannot continue at the rate it’s going. What the Republican plan does -- it does not cut Medicaid. It does not. It does decrease the rate of growth, which only in Washington does that mean it's an actual cut. And all those groups you listed, Chuck, all those groups decided at a price they would climb in bed with the Obama administration to pass Obamacare. You know why? Because it mandated that everybody have insurance. So, if you're an insurance company and every individual in America, whether you want it or not, is forced to buy insurance, or if you're a corporation and you're forced to buy insurance, you like that plan. What they want is for more government bailouts. That's what they're asking for. The American people are tired of special interests deciding what the vote's gonna be in Washington, D.C.

CHUCK TODD:

But shouldn't there be some pause that you can't find a single medical health care group that supports this bill?

MARC SHORT:

Chuck, there are millions of Americans who will benefit from this bill. In fact, we think every state will benefit. And you know why? Because governors will be given the opportunity to allocate the program the way that makes most sense for their constituents and their residents. This is long overdue. We're taking something where, where the previous administration thought that some utopian idea in Washington, D.C., would know best how to distribute health care across America. And we're saying let's push it down to the states and allow the states the opportunity to devise the programs that makes the most sense for their people.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you accept the, uh do you accept the analysis that says pre-existing conditions are really not going to be protected because these states--

MARC SHORT:

Absolutely not. Absolutely not.

CHUCK TODD:

--aren’t going to be made to do it by the federal government?

MARC SHORT:

Pre-existing conditions are protected in this legislation.

CHUCK TODD:

The word intend is not some sort of legal protection--

MARC SHORT:

Pre-existing conditions, pre-existing conditions are protected in this legislation. It does not change, it does not change the legislation that Obama had in Obamacare. It leaves that clause the same.

CHUCK TODD:

And you believe that states are somehow going to abide by this? There is nothing in here legally that says states have to--

MARC SHORT:

There is nothing that changes it, Chuck. There is nothing that changes the previous legislation regarding pre-existing conditions.

CHUCK TODD:

It, it, it says in there-- there is nothing in there that protects that person from the state. You’re assuming the state will do it out of the goodness of their heart. There is no legal remedy.

MARC SHORT:

Chuck, there is nothing that takes away pre-existing condition coverage.

CHUCK TODD:

Alright. Very quickly, the president said he may have made a mistake in, um, getting involved in the Alabama primary. He said it in the rally itself for one of the candidates, Luther Strange. Does the president regret getting involved in this primary?

MARC SHORT:

No, Chuck, the president has supported Luther Stranger from the start. You've seen that. He went down to Alabama for a rally.

CHUCK TODD:

So what’s the mistake?

MARC SHORT:

The vice president plans to go on Monday. The president has actually won all four of the special elections he's been involved in this fall. So, we're very confident that he'll win again on Tuesday night.

CHUCK TODD:

If he loses, is it still a win?

MARC SHORT:

If he loses, I think the reality is that the Republicans will still hold that seat.

CHUCK TODD:

Is it still a win for the president, since it's his base supporting the other guy?

MARC SHORT:

I think that, uh, will depend on what Roy Moore does. But we think that either way, Republicans will hold that seat. Luther Strange has been a loyal ally to the president. He wants to see Luther Strange win.

CHUCK TODD:

Marc Short, I have to leave it there.

MARC SHORT:

Chuck, thanks for having me on.

CHUCK TODD:

Thanks for coming on. Appreciate it. When we come back, the national debate on free speech, race, and patriotism. President Trump set off by going after NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem. The president says what he thinks of the players and a lot of players are now saying what they think of him. That's next.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panel is here. Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press; Eliana Johnson, national political reporter for Politico; former Obama deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter; and Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review. And we're also being joined this morning by Mike Tirico of NBC Sports. Mike, I appreciate it.

MIKE TIRICO:

Morning, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm going to begin with you. But I want to show you a few things here. President Trump's attack on NFL players taking the knee, a number of NFL team owners made statements in defense of their players, and following and collecting the tweets from players who denounced the president or supported their fellow players yesterday was a full-time job for our staff. And we also reached out to Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, who, of course, has straddled politis a little bit. He was at the MSNBC Global Citizen Festival yesterday in Central Park. He's what he said about the controversy.

(BEGIN TAPE)

MARK CUBAN:

If the president's going to say something condemning a person, an industry, you know a sport, then he's got to be able to take the blowback that's going to come back. And, so, LeBron and Steph and any athlete, any owner, it's an open door now. And, so, they have every right for the same reasons to be able to say whatever's on their mind. Now we'll be able to see if he can take it.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Mike, you and I were texting yesterday. You said to me locker rooms are pretty emotional.

MIKE TIRICO:

Yeah

CHUCK TODD:

That was, that was before noon yesterday. How emotional are they now?

MIKE TIRICO:

I think the players who usually gather on Saturday night to get ready for the game on Sunday, they had conversations. Buffalo and Seattle for sure had team meetings about this. Buffalo, the ownership was involved in the team meeting. Pete Carroll, the head coach for Seattle, said as he put out a statement late last night, it ended with, "I stand with my players." So, I think you're going to see more of a collective show of some form of protest, not necessarily protesting what the initial beginning of this was with Colin Kaepernick, but protesting the president's direct pointing to these players.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, there's a lot of conspiracy theorists that, that the NFL owners have somehow collectively blocked Colin Kaepernick from coming in. And, yet, all of a sudden, it feels as if the president oddly united the players and the owners today. I mean, the number of teams that did speak out, and we've all be waiting for the six owners that gave to President Trump. None of them spoke out until, really, this morning, and Bob Kraft. It has united players and owners, no?

MIKE TIRICO:

And Robert Kraft is one of the loudest voices and most prominent voices in the league. And, as you mentioned, has been no hiding he's a friend of Donald Trump's. And for him to come out as strongly as he did and some of the statements from ownership did not include the president's name. Some stood behind the commissioner's statement from earlier. But some specifically said the president's comments. And when Kraft’s did, that was an eye-opener to me this morning.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, Mark Murphy of the Green Bay Packers, he's speaking for a public entity.

MIKE TIRICO:

Yes

CHUCK TODD:

That was, frankly, I thought, the most surprising until Kraft. Rich Lowry, you had an interesting tweet Friday night. You said, "Typical President Trump. He takes something, goes to 11, uh, and then there's going to be a Liberal media freak-out." This has been bigger blowback. I, I don't think the president thought Bob Kraft would be denouncing him on Sunday morning.

RICH LOWRY:

Yeah, well, obviously the president of the United States should not be musing aloud about people being fired for acts of free expression. But as a political matter, if this is a kneeling-versus-not-kneeling debate, President Trump will win that all day long. This is one of the most flag-soaked countries in the world. And protest movements always do themselves a favor when they embrace and appropriate our national symbols, rather than being seen as disrespecting them.

CHUCK TODD:

So, this is a good political wedge for him, even if it's more divisive?

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

Well, I think it's a good political wedge for him if he's speaking to that very, very small segment of the country who cares about this. But I think what you'll see today when football kicks off is that a big segment of this country disagrees with him, including what you were talking about, Chuck, players and owners uniting. These players have much deeper reach into these communities than Donald Trump does. And he has just ignited a cultural war that he may not be able to win.

CHUCK TODD:

Eliana, the White House thinks this is a good political fight. They were not unhappy when they found out our format was going to be a little changed this morning and we were going to make this a big segment. They weren't unhappy.

ELIANA JOHNSON:

Yeah,I think the White House understands that they do see it as a kneeling-versus-not-kneeling issue, not a sports-star-versus-the-president issue. And the president has a keen understanding. Uh, If he understands one thing, it is what the cultural flash points in this country are. And he has an ability to stick his finger in them. After he picked a fight with the Pope, I mean,

CHUCK TODD:

You’re right

ELIANA JOHNSON:

you can't be surprised by anything.

CHUCK TODD:

We all said, "Oh, McCain, that will hurt him, and the Pope."

ELIANA JOHNSON:

You can't be surprised by anything. But he does have a way of taking it to the extreme in such a way, um, by suggesting these people should be fired that ignites an enormous blowback and makes it difficult for people to stand with him. But the truth is a majority of Americans, I think the number is 54% with Quinnipiac do um object to players not standing for the national anthem.

CHUCK TODD:

Stephen, we put together a list of President Trump and some racial controversies. And it’s, He led the Birther Movement. Mexican immigrants, called them rapists, the border wall, the Muslim Ban, attacked Judge Curiel, attacked the Khan family if you remember August of 2016, that's the Gold Star dad, blamed both sides for Charlottesville, went after Colin Kaepernick, uninvited Steph Curry. Many people look there and say there's a pattern.

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

There is a pattern. And I think it's pretty clear. The the annoyance, I think, on the part of a lot of African Americans and other people who want more racial justice is the the apologists that continue to sort of argue about whether this is a president who supports institutions of white supremacy.Let's look at what he said on Friday night in Alabama and how enthusiastically he said it, that these people should be fired. Contrast that with what he said after he saw a bunch of white men with torches march in Charlottesville. "There are lots of fine people among those among those marchers," he said. Then, put it into the policy context. I mean, this is a president whose attorney general has said, "We're going to back off these consent agreements with police departments who are causing the very problem that people like Colin Kaepernick is protesting." You know, how can we continue to have an argument about whether this is a president who is pushing the idea of white supremacy?

MIKE TIRICO:

The race conversation is never comfortable in America. But in sports, it usually is a little more comfortable. Because the locker room unites people from all different races, all different parts of the country.

CHUCK TODD:

An ACL doesn't know race.

MIKE TIRICO:

That's exactly right.

CHUCK TODD:

A torn ACL does not know race.

MIKE TIRICO:

And and and the left tackle may be from a certain part of the country, and the quarterback may be from a very different part, and the receiver. They all come together. So, locker rooms come together.

CHUCK TODD:

Will it?

MIKE TIRICO:

I think that's what you'll see today with protesting.

MIKE TIRICO:

But I think you're going to see teams come together in support, maybe not say, "We would also kneel with you. But we may put an arm on you and support you." I think that's what you'll see around the league today.

ELIANA JOHNSON:

I think that's the question. You know, regardless in whatever poll you want to point to of whether people think that NFL players should stand during the anthem, they probably also agree with it's their right to do what they want. And nobody should be taking it away from them. That's what has united the NFL today.

[Crosstalk]

ELIANA JOHNSON:

Donald Trump is saying that they should be fired.

RICH LOWRY:

The president is not randomly attacking these players. He is attacking them because they're kneeling during the national anthem. And the national anthem is not a white-supremacist symbol.

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

Some of the words of the national anthem are white supremacist.

RICH LOWRY:

You think the national anthem is racist?

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

I think this is a country whose history is racist, whose history is steeped in white supremacy, and the anthem reflects that in its very words,

RICH LOWRY:

It’s also a nation [unintelligible] with ideals

MIKE TIRICO:

verses we don't sing anymore.

RICH LOWRY:

Well, it's also a nation with very important ideals that have worn down those injustices over time and created a more just society.

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

So let’s ask this question

RICH LOWRY:

And people have died under that flag for those ideals.

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

Understood, my father and my grandfather, among those who served.

RICH LOWRY:

You can have opinions about policing and what not, but don't disrespect the flag of the United States of America.

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

To take a knee and respectfully sit there, he's not turning his back on the flag. He's not burning it. He's not ragging it through the dirt. What's disrespectful about what he's doing?

RICH LOWRY:

We stand. It takes two minutes to pay that respect to our anthem and to our flag and all the sacrifices it represents.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

But the question is why doesn't he find it disrespectful for people to be marching and carrying torches and invoking violence in which a young woman was killed? He didn't find that disrespectful. He called them fine people.

RICH LOWRY:

That was tone deaf and wrong.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

You're right, it was. But I think that's the type of debate that we're having. Why is the president enraged about somebody taking a knee at a football game, but not enraged by violence?

CHUCK TODD:

I have to put a pause on this conversation. But let me try to put a period with this with you, Mike. Colin Kaepernick going to have a job this time next week? Why do I think he will?

MIKE TIRICO:

I don't think next week. But I think there's more of a chance that he will be back in the NFL because of this dust up. Because many of the owners have had to acknowledge what the other players are doing. Now, there's a separate football question. Does he want to play? Is he ready to play? There are all of those things. But clearly, his ability on the field, he's worthy of being on an NFL roster.

CHUCK TODD:

How about the fact that the quarterback play we've seen shows that maybe some people at this table could actually try out and have a shot?

MIKE TIRICO:

It's still early in the season, but there is room from a football standpoint.

CHUCK TODD:

We will see you tonight.

MIKE TIRICO:

Yes, you will.

CHUCK TODD:

It is Sunday night.

MIKE TIRICO:

Sunday night football.

CHUCK TODD:

And Sunday night is football night in America.

MIKE TIRICO:

You got it.

CHUCK TODD:

Mike Tirico, thanks for coming in.

MIKE TIRICO:

Thanks, Chuck, appreciate it.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi helped put together a number of deals with President Trump. But does she still trust him? And can the base of her party let her keep working with him? Nancy Pelosi joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL NOT TRANSCRIBED)

CHUCK TODD:Welcome back. Last month, President Trump shocked the political world and infuriated some Republicans by striking deals with Chuck and Nancy, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. One was on immigration, apparently. We don't know if that deal is still active. And the other was to provide hurricane relief money for Texas and to fund the government for another 90 days. Is this the beginning of a beautiful friendship or a one-time-only moment in a gridlocked Washington? Well, joining me now is House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. Welcome back to Meet the Press.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Good morning. My pleasure to be here.

CHUCK TODD: Before we get to the business side of Washington, look, you represent San Francisco, the Golden State Warriors, Steph Curry at the center of this, along with Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49er. I know this is more high topic of mind, perhaps, in your district. I imagine I know where you are among the president's comments on this. What would you like him to try to do if you think he would do it?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: I'd like him to do what he said he did, he would do when he ran and when he was inaugurated, to bring people together. He should see this as an opportunity. Somebody -- Colin Koper--Komper--Kompernick (sic)doing what he did says, "This flag enables me to do. This national anthem enables me to do this. This is about freedom of expression," instead of resorting to what he is doing now. It's unfortunate. I think he was ill advised, if advised at all, to go down this path. Sports have always been a great unifier. I've always said sports and the arts will bring America together. It's where we put our distance--differences aside. Let's not have the president of the United States do anything but bring people together.

CHUCK TODD: Regardless of whether you think it's the right politics, do you see the political strategy in this?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Well, you gave a list of the examples of how the president has been, shall we say, exploitive of certain divisions in our country when it comes to race. I would hope that he would transition from that and understand that he has a different responsibility than feeding red meat to his base. He has unclean hands when he comes to this discussion, too, because of what he did after Charlottesville and the other examples that you gave.

CHUCK TODD: What do you say to the activist on the Left, the person who really is angry at President Trump, who says, "Don't work with him at all"? You're working with him. Does this ever give you pause?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Let me just say this, as minority leader first, and then as a speaker who worked very closely with President Bush. What could be worse than taking us into the war in Iraq on the basis of a false premise? Isn't that one of the worst things that's ever happened in our country? And, yet, when we could work with him on the biggest energy in the history of our country, helping with a refundable tax credit for poor families, PEPFAR AIDS drugs to save lives throughout the world. There's a long list of things we did working together, even though I drastically disagreed with him on the war in Iraq.

CHUCK TODD: So, none of this gives you pause about working with President Trump?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: It's one by one. It's one issue at a time. And we don't know what the next issue might be where we can find common ground. I do believe as leaders --as an advocate, I'd probably be saying the same thing. As a leader, we have a responsibility to try to find common ground, stand our ground where we can't. We have important challenges in our country that we have to address. And if we can find that path, I think we should do that.

CHUCK TODD: I want to get into the details of the promise that you feel like you extracted from him on DACA. Tell me what that promise is. What is this compromise bill going to look like, in your view?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Well, we haven't seen the whole bill. But what the piece of it, on immigration, Chuck--Chuck Schumer, leader Schumer and I--

CHUCK TODD: Yeah, everybody is calling each other by first names these days, right? Anyway, go ahead.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Well, let me respectfully call him Leader Chuck Schumer. I'm so proud of his leadership. What we agreed with the president on was that the basic bill would be the Dream Act. This is a bill introduced and has nearly 200 cosponsors by Congresswoman Roybal-Allard. It is a bill that we will take forward. And it is the bill that we all support. What was to be determined was if and what there would be in terms of border security. But the essence of the bill was what the president committed. And that's what we trust him to honor.

CHUCK TODD: He committed to a pathway to citizenship for these DACA recipients?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: He committed to--now, mind you, the pathway to citizen, is an earned pathway that is way down the road.

CHUCK TODD: I understand. But some people think there should be no path at all, that it's permanently cut off. You believe the president agreed to a pathway to citizenship with this dream act?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: That is what is contained in the Dream Act, yes.

CHUCK TODD: And you think he will keep his word on this?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: That's what he said.

CHUCK TODD: What's makes you trust him?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Well, we'll see.

CHUCK TODD: So, you're not sure?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: We'll see, now, won't we? Well, no, I trust him on it. I'm concerned about what he might come up with in terms of border security and the rest of that. But we have said no wall. The Dream Act, no wall. And as long as we understand it's the Dream Act and no wall, what else do you have to say?

CHUCK TODD: Let me ask you something. Speaking of the wall, the president on Friday started describing the wall as the following: there are some parts of it that are already there. Sometimes there will be natural barriers, you don't need a full wall. And, oh, by the way, it's going to be see through. If you gave me that definition, I'd say, "Oh, that's a fence." Does that make you feel better now about where he's going with the wall, that he's outlining a fence that actually won't be the entire 2,000 miles?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: No, it doesn't. But I'm more concerned about what they do in terms of enforcement. We have said to them when we protect the dreamer, we don't use them as a target to go after their parents. So, we want to say that the prosecutorial discretion that you might use in terms of deportation does not use immigration status as a crime, and that if somebody commits a felony, or this, or that. So, those are the issues that are more of a concern than his backing off of a wall. We're not supporting a wall.

CHUCK TODD: If this DACA deal does happen the way you describe it, within the vicinity of your definition--

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: I believe it will.

CHUCK TODD:what is the next item you think is realistic that you could work with the president on?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Within the immigration piece?

CHUCK TODD: No, the next any piece. What's next? Is it health care? Is it tax reform? Is there some other thing? Is it infrastructure? What is next that you would be willing to sit down with the president?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI:I would say infrastructure, right from the start. Infrastructure has never been a partisan issue. We've always worked together. We've worked regionally, in terms of people coming together in regions for different things. And it is absolutely necessary. We'll create good-paying jobs every place in the country for everyone. And we need infrastructure improvement in that way. He talked about it during the campaign. We don't want it to be a tax break for some friends disguised as an infrastructure bill.

CHUCK TODD: That's something you're going to the table with him on this to at least see how it starts?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: I think we have a great deal of common ground there.

CHUCK TODD: DACA before the end of the calendar year? DACA before Christmas?

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: We have to. I believe so. We have that path. I would like to see it within the next few weeks, but certainly before we leave.

CHUCK TODD: All right, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, thanks for coming in.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: My pleasure. Thank you.

CHUCK TODD: Appreciate it. When we come back, the national anthem has been played at the first NFL game of the day. It's in London, by the way. And we'll show you what the players did.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. This may be the only day when more eyes are on what happens during the national anthem at NFL games than on what happens on the field. Well, the first is underway in London between the Jacksonville Jaguars, London's semi-official home team, and the Baltimore Ravens.

And the player reactions were mixed. Many players did take a knee as the Star Spangled Banner was being played, while others stood, many of them locking arms. This is a scene that's going to play out across the league today in the wake of President Trump's criticism of NFL players who take a knee and the players' sharp reaction to him. We'll be right back.

VOICE OVER:

Coming up, End Game, brought to you by Boeing, continuing our mission to connect, protect, explore, and inspire.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

VOICE OVER:

End Game, brought to you by Boeing, continuing our mission to connect, protect, explore and inspire.

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with End Game. There is politics that still happens in this town, Eliana. I don't think it's a coincidence that two hours after McCain said no, the president went on an NFL rant, meaning that he was viewing that issue as dead. Is health care dead or alive? Is Graham Cassidy, excuse me, dead or alive?

ELIANA JOHNSON:

I don't think it's totally clear right now, though my instinct says I'd bet against it. But I think that it's revealed for as many self-inflicted wounds as the president can administer, there are some serious problems in Congress. One of them is a process problem.

I mean, nobody had ever heard of Graham-Cassidy three weeks ago. And now, it's the talk of the town, until yesterday. And bills just don't pass that way. There's been no time for it to really amass public support. And the same thing happened with the last bill. Nobody owned it. Nobody was going around amassing support for it. This is just not the way to pass a bill that really needs a major public pressure and support campaign.

CHUCK TODD:

Stephen, your job, in many ways, you're trying to reflect your community as editorial page editor. "I'm outraged about Obamacare." "Don't get rid of Obamacare." Is that where we've come to? It's sort of like, "My God, Obamacare, all the prices. But wait a minute. Don't change it." It seems like the public is sending mixed signals.

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

In Michigan, we were one of the states that embraced the Medicaid expansion, projected that 400,000 people would get coverage under it. 700,000 people have signed up, which, of course, raises the cost considerably. A lot of those people will say, "I'm against Obamacare," not even linking that to the coverage that they now have.

There's a lot of misunderstanding for people about how this all works and how it can be solved. Then, you have middle-class people in Michigan whose premiums have gone up or who just can't even afford coverage anymore, saying, "This made it worse for me." And, so, you've got people all over the map. And I feel like Congress sort of is manipulating that for political purposes, as opposed to coming up with a solution that doesn't walk us off the cliff of kicking the people on Medicaid expansion off, but also deals with this rise in premiums that's hurting other folks.

CHUCK TODD:

Rich, by the way, I think we've forgotten all the other rigmarole here. Rand Paul came after you and National Review. First of all, his ask to become a yes vote seems unrealistic. Isn't block granting the entire point of Graham-Cassidy?

RICH LOWRY:

Yes. That's the centerpiece of the bill. And for me, his reaction was a good sign that that editorial actually landed. And one of the great ironies is that the election of Rand Paul as the Republican Senator from Kentucky was one of the best things to happen to the cause of preserving Obamacare. Because he'll just find a way to vote against anything that's plausible.

But I just want to underline Eliana's point. The process has been terrible. It would have been much better to start at the beginning of the year, say, "This is going to take most of the year, or maybe longer. We're going to grind it out slowly, build support, work out the various kinks and problems," rather than this rush and stop, rush and stop, and rush and stop, which makes it impossible to build any support for the bill.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

I think the irony of that is that they're going to end up taking an entire year, anyway, of getting nothing done.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, Stephanie, one of the chief criticisms of your boss's decision to pursue health care is that it gobbled up basically his entire two terms politically, to defend it. Here, it's now gobbling up President Trump's first year.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

It's gobbled up everything. First of all, it took us a good 18 months, almost two years, to get it done through a very public process, which politically was very difficult for President Obama. But we always knew once it passed, it would be very difficult to undo it. Because there are very few good options on health care.

CHUCK TODD:

Oh, I think your point's being proven.

STEPHANIE CUTTER:

Yes. But we also knew that once people were on it, and polling shows this, that are fixes needed? Absolutely, and most people recognize that. But they don't want to throw it out. They don't want to start over. They don't want to keep having this debate. They want us to come together and find ways to make it better.

CHUCK TODD:

Unfortunately, we are so way out of time, as you might not be surprised. I appreciate that we didn't even get to Alabama Senate and the fascination of Roy Moore. But finally, we spent a lotta time last week in the U.S. Virgin Islands talking about the damage Hurricane Irma caused.

And then, this week happened. Hurricane Maria has devastated Puerto Rico. If you want to help your fellow Americans in Puerto Rico, here are four charities that Charity Navigator gives its top four-star rating to, which are working primarily to simply aid Puerto Rico. This is going to be months, folks. Don't forget them. That's all for today. Thank you for watching. We'll be back next week. Because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

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