Meet the Press - May 26, 2019

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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday the Trump/Pelosi feud. After Speaker Nancy Pelosi takes on President Trump.

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI:

And we believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.

CHUCK TODD:

The president walks out of a meeting with Democratic leaders.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

I walk in to look at people that have just said that I was doing a cover-up. I don't do cover-ups.

CHUCK TODD:

Then promises no legislating as long as Democrats are investigating and turns on Pelosi.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

Crazy Nancy. She's not the same person. She's lost it.

CHUCK TODD:

What are the chances of getting anything done now? Plus the Democrats’ impeachment debate. While a growing number say the time is now.

REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY:

You know, I believe we have no other choice.

CHUCK TODD:

Speaker Pelosi says investigations must come first.

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI:

It may take us to a place that is unavoidable in terms of impeachment or not. But we're not at that place yet.

CHUCK TODD:

My guests this morning White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and two Democrats on opposite sides of the impeachment debate. Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. Plus President Trump orders a review of the Russia investigation.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

I declassified everything. Everything they want.

CHUCK TODD:

The growing concern over politicizing intelligence. Joining me for insight and analysis are presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour and David Maraniss of the Washington Post. 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 we hope you're enjoying your Memorial Day weekend. As Democrats debate whether to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump they're facing a dilemma. Growing activist base is asking what are we waiting for? Meanwhile Democrat leaders warn impeachment could be a fool's errand resulting in Senate acquittal and allowing the president to argue he's been vindicated in an election year.

The last time Democrats faced a similar quandary politically was in 2002. Many chose to vote to authorize a war in Iraq they did not fully believe in because the leaders at the time thought it was good politics in the fall of an election year with a Democratic Senate that was in control by the Democrats but sitting on a knife's edge.

And it was until it wasn't. When the war went badly and Democratic voters turned sour on those Iraq war supporters. Today's Democrats face a similar what do we do now situation. Do they ramp up impeachment? President Trump seems to want that remembering Bill Clinton's 73% Gallup approval rating after he was impeached.

Do they fight him on his terms, trading insult for insult? Last time a Democrat tried that Hillary Clinton wound up calling some of his supporters a basket of deplorables. How'd that work out? Or do they try to do what the president now insists he won't do, conduct the nation's business?

Remember, Democrats won back the House by promising to fix health care in a lot of swing districts. Whatever happened to that? What is clear is that the path ahead for Democrats is not at all clear: impeaching, fighting or ignoring all have their political downsides. It's a party divided with a base growing impatient for impeachment. And a more cautious leadership saying, "Not yet."

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

The only we're going to beat him is to impeach him. How about that?

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump can't stop talking about impeachment.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

Whether or not they carry the big “I” word out, I can't imagine that. But they probably would. The “I” word. The “I” word. Can you imagine? I don't speak to Russians about campaigns.

CHUCK TODD:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told colleagues this week she thinks Mr. Trump wants to be impeached even as he denies it.

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI:

I think what really got to him was that these court cases and the fact that a House Democratic caucus is not on a path to impeachment. And that's where he wants us to be.

CHUCK TODD:

Pelosi under growing pressure from a vocal minority of her own members to begin impeachment hearings now is trying to focus on the president's conduct instead.

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI:

This president is obstructing justice and he's engaged in a cover-up. And that could be an impeachable offense.

CHUCK TODD:

And she's trying to placate more progressive members who say it's past time to follow through with impeachment.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ:

This is no longer about politics but this is about upholding the rule of law.

REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY:

I believe we have no other choice.

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI:

An impeachment is a very divisive place to go in our country. And what we can get the facts to the American people through our investigation it may take us to a place that is unavoidable in terms of impeachment or not. But we're not at that place.

CHUCK TODD:

In recent polling a majority of Americans oppose impeachment hearings.

REP. JERRY NADLER:

If we were call, to hold an impeachment inquiry in the hearings in the judiciary committee how would they differ from what we're going to be doing if we don't call an impeachment inquiry? And the answer is they wouldn't.

CHUCK TODD:

Meanwhile, the president is raising questions about the F.B.I. and C.I.A.'s role in the Russia probe using the word treason and ordering Attorney General Bill Barr to declassify intelligence that led to the investigation.

PETER ALEXANDER:

Who specifically are you accusing of treason?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

Well, I think a number of people. You look at Comey, if you look at McCabe, if you look at probably people, people higher than that.

CHUCK TODD:

On Wednesday the president walked out of an infrastructure meeting with Democrats saying there will be no legislating as long as the Democrats are investigating. For both the president and for House Speaker Pelosi a clash may be politically convenient. Mr. Trump is trying to ensure Democrats share blame for government dysfunction.

REPORTER:

Is there anything that you are willing to work with Democrats on now? Because you said -

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

Everything -- I’d like to work with everything -- No, no, they have to go down their track. Let them get rid of the nonsense first.

CHUCK TODD:

While Pelosi focuses her members on the primary thing uniting Democrats, President Trump.

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI:

Another temper tantrum. I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country.

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now is the Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York. Congressman Jeffries, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES:

Good morning, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to start with what Republican Congressman Justin Amash laid out as his principal conclusions for reading the Mueller report in that infamous tweet storm last week, he said, "President Trump indeed engaged in impeachable conduct." And he believed that Attorney General Bill Barr, "Deliberately misrepresented” the Mueller report. Do you agree with Congressman Amash's two principal conclusions?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES:

Well, I certainly think there's reason to believe that there was obstruction of justice. The Mueller report laid out ten different instances that we need to look into separately as part of our investigation as to what may have taken place. And it certainly appears to be the case that the so-called attorney general intentionally misrepresented the conclusions of the Mueller report as part of an effort to fool the American people. We won't let that stand either.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, if that's the case then why aren't you ready to start impeachment hearings? You, you, you're referring to an attorney general as a so-called. He is the confirmed attorney general. I think he even had a Democrat or two I think vote for him if I'm not mistaken. But if this is the case then why aren't you for starting impeachment now?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES:

Well, Democrats can sing and dance at the same time just like Beyoncé. We have to keep our focus primarily on our “For the People” agenda which, we've been working on lowering health care costs, strengthening the Affordable Care Act, protecting people with pre-existing conditions, driving down the high cost of life-saving prescription drugs. These are all areas where we've passed legislation this month. At the same time, we recognize in the new majority that the House is a separate and coequal branch of government. We don't work for Donald Trump. We work for the American people. We have a constitutional responsibility to serve as a check and balance on a potentially out of control executive branch. But we will not overreach. We will not over-investigate. We will not over-politicize that responsibility. We'll proceed as Speaker Pelosi has eloquently laid out methodically yet aggressively to get to the truth.

CHUCK TODD:

Is it possible though you're making a political calculation about impeachment and then that in itself is actually something to, I mean, I opened my, my monologue here about the Iraq war debate. And Democrats, many of them, were convinced to make a political decision in the fall of '02 that down the road they would regret. What seemed like good politics in the moment, so in this case not impeaching seems like the right politics of that moment. How do you know that? And how do you know that isn't going to be bad politics five years from now?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES:

Well, the only way to proceed is to make sure that politics don't dictate a decision to impeach or politics don't dictate a decision not to impeach. We need to follow the facts. We need to apply the law. We need to make sure that the constitution is the guiding principle in terms of the way forward. The Judiciary Committee, for instance, has indicated through our chairman, Jerry Nadler, that we will conduct hearings on obstruction of justice, we will conduct hearings on abuse of power, we will conduct hearings on the culture of corruption that appears to exist at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But we are, in fact gathering mode right now. At the same time, we're going to continue to work on issues of importance to the American people. That's what we promised that we would work on should we win the majority. Now that we're in the majority we have to work to make life better for every day Americans and that's what we're going to continue to do.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you worry, though, you talked about this, the various investigations that are going on. You're doing obstruction of justice, you're investigating abuse of power, you're looking at his financial records. Do you understand why maybe the country just looks like, it looks like Democrats are throwing subpoenas up against the wall to see what sticks? Why is there not a focus, laser-like focus, for instance, on the Mueller report?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES:

Well you have a variety of different committees of jurisdiction who have important work to do. But with respect to the Mueller report, we have indicated that we want to see the full and complete unredacted Mueller report. We can't trust the attorney general's redactions to be presumptively legitimate. We want to see the underlying documentation. And, of course, we'd like to hear from Bob Mueller who needs to tell his story to the American people. But besides that, we do have important things to work on like infrastructure, you know, the president didn't just walk out on a meeting with Nancy Pelosi and infrastructure, Chuck, he walked out on the American people. Donald Trump is functionally a studio gangster. He pretends to be a tough guy. But he really is just playing that role on TV. Hopefully he will have gotten his temper tantrum out of his system. He can come back from Japan. We have crumbling bridges, roads --

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES:

-- tunnels, airports, mass transportation system. We need to get to work to fix it. We have a plan. And we'd like to do it in a bipartisan way.

CHUCK TODD:

Is there a point where impeachment becomes, does -- it becomes unfeasible because of the political calendar?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES:

Well, we are at the very beginning of our new majority, as you know. This is the start of the clock. We just crossed into the 100 day point of the House Democratic majority last month. And so I think we have to proceed methodically. We have to gather the information. And then at a certain point we'll have to make a determination as to how best to present that to the American people.

CHUCK TODD:

What, what, I mean but, is there a timetable, I mean, is there a realistic time table here? Is it the summer? Do you have to sort of, if by Labor Day you're still equivocating then you're probably not impeaching?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES:

I think that's a timetable that will be guided by the facts. I don't think it'll be guided by any political calendar. And we've been pretty clear, the presidential candidates are out in the campaign trail and they should make their case to the American people. We want to promote prosperity in every single zip code and hopefully they'll continue to do that. We have to do our work in the majority to govern, to pass bills, to send them over to the Senate as we've been doing and then try and get legislation to the president's desk to be signed into law.

CHUCK TODD:

Is there a, is there a point here in all of this where you're just arguing over semantics? I mean, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said what he's doing now, if you called it an impeachment inquiry, it'd be the same thing. So what should we take away from that? You already really have opened an impeachment inquiry, it's just not formerly called one?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES:

No that's not the case. I think what Jerry Nadler has indicated is that he's going to look at some troubling facts that have emerged out of the Mueller report. But we have to conduct our own investigation separately because that is our responsibility. We cannot just simply take what Mueller has done because we don't even have all of the --

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES:

-- underlying information.

CHUCK TODD:

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, member of leadership, head of the Democratic caucus, thanks for coming on and sharing your views this morning. I really appreciate it.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES:

Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, joining me now is Democratic Congressman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan taking the other side of this conversation. Congresswoman Tlaib, welcome to Meet the Press.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

You are easily, I think, one of louder voices when it comes to impeachment. I'm curious of your reaction to Congressman Jeffries in this respect. Do you believe that leadership is being methodical or do you believe that leadership is trying to buy enough time where they say, "We're too close to the presidential election," in order to take it off the table quietly?

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB:

Well, I can tell you as one of the newest members of Congress, the traditional Congressional oversight process isn't working. From subpoenas and trying to figure out what's going on with children being caged at the border, still waiting for a response from this administration, from even my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, when we're asking for big pharma to come before our oversight committee to testify about high cost of insulin, and they're telling them, "You don't have to come before the committee." A lot of the corruption that you see through the Oval Office is already seeping into the Congression -- into the halls of Congress. I can tell you from day one this president has misled Congress, has undermined his own cabinet members and has lied to the American people. I have to tell you, this is a pretty remarkable time in our country. And if you saw the largest class, incoming class, before our class was the Watergate class. And at that time even though many people say --

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB:

-- that we didn't campaign on this, look at the fact that the majority, the majority of states across this country saw an huge historic turnout of people coming out to vote for the first time. And I feel like in many ways that's a referendum to stand up to a bully, to a president that --

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB:

-- subverts the United States Constitution every single day.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to play for you a quote from an interview I had earlier this week from an Ohio Democratic activist who is a bit frustrated with all of the subpoenas on Capitol Hill. Take a listen and I want to get your reaction on the other side.

[BEGIN TAPE]

DAVID BETRAS:

They don't give a rat's you know what about his taxes. And they don't really care. I'm not saying that Congress should not walk gum -- chew gum and walk at the same time. But the volume on issues, kitchen table issues, needs to be louder because I want to win this election. I don't want to lose.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

You hear -- he, he, look -- I have no doubt and Congressman Jeffries ran down, I know you guys have passed other legislation. And you do --

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB:

We have.

CHUCK TODD:

--other stuff, other than talking about the president's personal conduct. But his point was it's the volume of conversation. It's the loud voice that he believes, “Win the election in 2020 and stop worrying about his tax returns.” What do you say to Mr. Betras about that?

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB:

Look, this is not about 2020 election. It's about doing what's right now for our country. This is going to be a precedent that we set when we don't hold this president accountable to the rule of law and to the United States Constitution. Just look at the fact that currently over a number of abuses of power but the public's trust is at stake. And we can't sit back idly and think that we can just pass health care reform and all of these issues, which are critically important, but at the same time, you have an administration that's not providing the information, not following through on subpoenas. It goes hand in hand. And I think we need to stop separating the fact that we're trying to change people's lives for the better but we have an administration that continues to violate the United States constitution. Did you know, Chuck -- I mean he has not complied with the United States Constitution when he took the oath of office by divesting in his businesses. So we have an upgraded version of pay-to-play. So, when I'm on the ground right now in my district fighting against the T-Mobile and Sprint merger, T-Mobile is turning around, spending $195,000 at the Trump Hotel in D.C. as again, an upgraded version of pay-to-play to get access to the most powerful corridor to power in our country, the president's office. And so for me, to fight back against big pharma, for many of my colleagues that came there to pass really important reforms that are needed, we can't do it when the president of the United States continues to lie to the American people --

CHUCK TODD:

Why --

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB:

-- continue to not follow through on subpoenas and give us the information--

CHUCK TODD:

Congresswoman --

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB:

--that we need.

CHUCK TODD:

-- why do you think you can't convince a majority of House Democrats that it's time to impeach him?

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB:

No, I think it is moving towards that. It's going to demand it. It already is. This is a time in our country right now that we can't look -- I mean, think about what just happened recently. The first time historically did we exercise our war powers and said, "No more armed deals. No more kind of interaction in helping the Yemeni humanitarian crisis through our relationship with Saudi Arabia." And he turned around and pretty much ignored the Congress' decision, a bipartisan decision. Understand, again, it goes hand in hand. And I think the American people understand that, that we can't do our job if the president thinks he's above the law, thinks that he cannot abide by what the United States Congress is passing through --

CHUCK TODD:

Yes.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB:

-- and asking and demanding of him. I've got to tell you, from the wall, to the children at the border --

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB:

-- to immigration reform, to everything. We can't be able to do our jobs if we don't hold him accountable.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm curious, a fellow Michigander, Justin Amash, became the first Republican essentially to call or at least believe that it is time to have an impeachment inquiry. I know on Twitter you invited him to meet with you and sign your resolution on that. Did you meet with him? Have you spoken with him? And if you have, what did he say?

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB:

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

No, I haven't. But I've got to tell you, I've worked with him in the Michigan legislature for a term. And he is somebody that truly believes the Constitution is brilliant, it's awesome. He's all about putting country first. I've known that about him for a very long time. He actually is one of the few that supported subpoenas towards the Trump administration about at least understanding what's going on at the border with children being separated from their family. He's one of the more courageous people that really does believe in the institution and believes in the rule of law.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB:

And I respect that very much and I continue to uplift his courage and for him to, again, put country before politics.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Congresswoman, I'm going to leave it there. Rashida Tlaib, Democrat from Michigan. Congresswoman, thanks for coming on and sharing your views. I appreciate it.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back the perils of trying to impeach President Trump, and the danger in not trying. The panel is next. And as we go to break, as we do every Memorial Day weekend here at Meet the Press we want to remember the American service members who died in the line of duty since last Memorial Day.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, panel is here. The former North -- Republican Governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory, Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, presidential historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin whose latest book, by the way, is Leadership in Turbulent Times and David Maraniss of The Washington Post. And he's author of a new book, A Good American Family. It's about his own family's ordeal during the Red Scare and McCarthyism of the 1950s. Nice to see you, David, Doris.

DAVID MARANISS:

Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Yamiche, I want to start with this sound with Nancy Pelosi. We've gone over about a two-month period where she's going from defiantly anti-impeachment to rhetorically more open to it. Take a listen.

[BEGIN TAPE]

SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI:

They wanted me to impeach President Bush for the Iraq war. I didn't believe in it then, I don't believe in it now. It divides the country. The president is demonstrating on a daily basis his obstruction of justice. This president is obstructing justice. And he's engaged in a cover-up. And that could be an impeachable offense.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD:

Yamiche, is she getting closer to impeachment or is she trying to keep Congresswoman Tlaib happy?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

Well, if you speak to the Pelosi camp it sounds as if they are still saying she's saying that we need to be in a fact finding. Obviously Hakeem Jeffries just told you that they're still in the middle of really gathering the information. But I talked to a source this week who said this freshman of Democrats has a really loud voice and they have more power than freshman classes before them. So when you listen to Rashida Tlaib and you asked her specifically why can't you convince the majority of the House to go with you, she didn't, she didn’t blink. She sounded very confident when she said that we're moving in that direction. So I think she's in some ways pointing to Nancy Pelosi's move and saying, "Hey, we're hearing that her language changed." I also talked to someone at the White House who said when they, when the president heard Nancy Pelosi talk about a cover-up he instantly started thinking about President Nixon. And the idea what gave in or what really took down Nixon was the cover-up. So that source told me she knows what she's doing. So I think most people including people in the White House see that not just as a shift of rhetoric but her moving closer and closer to impeachment.

CHUCK TODD:

David Maraniss, you forced yourself to get out of Washington a lot. You go back to the lovely country of Wisconsin, as we there. What, what do they say? What is the conversation there when it comes to Trump and impeachment?

DAVID MARANISS:

I think it's not that different from Washington, honestly. I think that there are a lot of activists who very much are pushing in that direction. And the majority of people are not, not thinking about it. We define Washington as just the political class. But there's a lot more to it here than that. But I think that's what happening is that Nancy Pelosi, there's a fine line between not acting out of fear and acting out of political smarts. And whenever you act just out of fear or not act out of fear then, then that's a mistake. But she's trying to be politically smart and get to that point where it's an act of --

CHUCK TODD:

Pat McCrory, does the president want to be impeached? That's been a question. Does he want it or does he just want to create the wedge?

FMR. GOV. PAT McCRORY:

I think it's helpful to the Republican Party and Trump's reelection if this process continues. I don't think it's good for the country. And I don't think--

CHUCK TODD:

You think it's good politically though for the Republicans.

FMR. GOV. PAT McCRORY:

It's good politically but I don't think it's good for the country. And it's not good for the presidency. This presidency or future presidencies. I do say this that Speaker Pelosi I think can no longer be called the adult in the room because she's pressured, like her predecessor was in the Republican Party, Speaker Ryan, by a caucus that frankly has gerrymandered districts. Their fear is from the left and future primaries, not in a general election. The same dynamics occur in both Republican and Democratic Party with speakers of the House and state legislators like my own and right here in Washington D.C. She's trying to appease them. She's trying to herd them into a coalition. But just today look - look, look at the names that have been called, studio gangster, dictator, corruption, misled Congress, pay-to-play, obstruction of justice, so-called attorney general. This is not good for our country.

CHUCK TODD:

Doris, I want to read you something Michelle Goldberg wrote this week about this issue. She said, "It's true that were Trump to be reelected after such a reckoning," meaning a -- basically surviving a trial after impeachment, "He might be even further unleashed. But were Trump to be reelected in the absence of impeachment it would still be seen as a vindication for him and would leave Democrats humiliated by their excess of caution.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

I think that the real challenge right now for the Democrats, whether they do investigations or whether they move to an impeachment inquiry, is they have to present a story, a narrative to the American people that they understand what behavior is and how it reflects upon the constitution. One of the things Lincoln always said is that with public sentiment nothing can fail, without it nothing can succeed. What we don't have yet, we have a scatter shot, partly what you were talking about, of things against Mr. Trump. Unless we understand how did this all begin, where -- what were the origins, not just the origins that he's asking for. But what is Mueller going to say about why this happened? Why were these people indicted? Why were people so sensitive about Russia? Where's the beginning, the middle and the end? People understand the story. They're not going to understand scatter shots. And that if you can create public sentiment then you're going to be moving the country along with you.

CHUCK TODD:

Who should do that?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

Well I think --

CHUCK TODD:

Who's in charge --

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

I think --

CHUCK TODD:

-- of leading that conversation?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

It’s not just the Congress. It's what the candidates on the 2020 campaign have to be doing.

CHUCK TODD:

You think they should be talking about it?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

They're going to have to talk about it. They've already been asked about it. But it's not just a question of saying I'm for or against impeachment. They have to argue. And we need Mueller there. We need the story to be told from Mueller, not from Attorney General Barr. And until the American people understand, this is what FDR did so great. He explained complicated issues in fireside chats so you understood them. So it's up to the political class right now if they're going to forward with impeachment, or even if they're not, to be able to understand what has happened, where's the beginning, the middle and the end of this story.

DAVID MARANISS:

But it's a lot easier for one person to tell that story than 24.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

And the internet-- no, I agree totally. But that's what leadership is.

DAVID MARANISS:

Yup.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

And that's the most important part of leadership right now, wherever it comes from. And whoever can do that best, they're going to be --

FMR. GOV. PAT McCRORY:

I don't disagree with you on Mueller needing to speak. But I also say we almost need a church commission, as many Republicans think, on really reviewing what are the guidelines now for investigations. Listen, I've been a governor whose administration's been investigated before. And it literally makes you temperamental. It brings down your staff. It dilutes any work that you can do on the side. You're nervous about, especially if you feel like nothing’s -- everything you've done is right, not wrong. And we've got to make sure that we really review what guidelines are used, especially if we investigate candidates in the future.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

But Doris is talking about a narrative. And why you see Hakeem Jeffries saying, “the so-called attorney general” is because Democrats are in some ways very furious because Attorney General Barr was pretty good at setting a narrative for the president. The president's very happy with Attorney General Barr. And all the people that I've talked to both on the Trump campaign and the Trump White House feel as though they have a coherent narrative: “Democrats are mad about the 2016 election. They're going to go harass me, now they want to impeach me. It's all about keeping me out of this office.” So the Republicans have kind of lined up their narrative.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

Absolutely.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

And Democrats, as you see them now, I think fighting over this issue of impeachment, they're going to have to decide whether they have a narrative as well.

CHUCK TODD:

And it goes back to the person best able to make the case is a person that I don't think wants to make the case which is Speaker Pelosi.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

Well, I think--

CHUCK TODD:

That goes--

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

--she's beginning to though. I think by talking about obstruction of justice and by saying we're moving methodically, we're going step by step, she's in charge right now. But she needs to make the narrative too. No one's made it yet on the Democratic side. And you're absolutely--

CHUCK TODD:

No, she--

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

-- right. The attorney general has made the narrative and the president is now carrying it forward. They've won the messaging right now.

CHUCK TODD:

She may simply be buying time in order to say, "Wait for 2020." But we'll see. When we come back it's White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, she joins us from Tokyo where President Trump is on a state visit. We'll ask her whether President Trump trusts his own C.I.A. And again, as we go to break, the names of more American service members who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country over this past year.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. This week President Trump made good on his promise to investigate his investigators. Mr. Trump gave Attorney General William Barr the authority to unilaterally declassify documents from the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies. Both the president and Barr have said the Trump campaign was spied on. And this latest move raises concerns in the intel community about politicizing intelligence. Joining me now from Tokyo where President Trump is on a state visit is White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. Sarah Sanders, welcome to Meet the Press.

SARAH SANDERS:

Thank you. It's great to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

Before I begin with some of that domestic political back and forth I want to start with something that's on the minds I think of a lot of Japanese and that is the ballistic missile tests of the North Koreans. Does the president agree with the prime minister of Japan and his own national security advisor that North Korea has violated a UN resolution with these tests?

SARAH SANDERS:

Look, the president's focus in all of this process is on continuing the very good relationship that he has with Chairman Kim. And he feels good that the chairman will stay firm with the commitment that he made to the president and move towards denuclearization.That's our focus. That's going to continue to be our focus. Some of the activity that's taken place, as you can see from the president's Twitter isn't something that's bothering the president. He still feels good about the relationship that he has and about Chairman Kim's commitment that he made to the president.

CHUCK TODD:

So the president has no qualms about not enforcing a U.N. resolution? If you don't enforce it what's the point of it?

SARAH SANDERS:

Once again, Chuck, though, the president's focus in this process is on continuing to move towards total denuclearization of the peninsula. We know that the activities at no point that took place over the last several weeks have been a threat to the United States or our allies. And we're going to continue pushing forward to the ultimate goal and that's denuclearization --

CHUCK TODD:

And, and --

SARAH SANDERS:

-- of the peninsula. And the president still feels comfortable and confident in the relationship that he has with Chairman Kim and that he's going to stay true to the commitment that he made to the president.

CHUCK TODD:

Well I, you referred to his Twitter feed. I do want to put it up. And you, and he did downplay it. "North Korea fired off some small weapons which disturbed some of my people and others. But not me. I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me. And then also smiled when he called Swampman Joe Biden a low IQ individual and, worse, perhaps that's sending me a signal." Can you explain why Americans should not be concerned that the president of United States is essentially siding with a murderous authoritarian dictator over a former vice president of the United States?

SARAH SANDERS:

Chuck, the president's not siding with that. But I think they agree in their assessment of former Vice President Joe Biden. Again, the president's focus in this process is the relationship he has and making sure we continue on the path towards denuclearization. That's what he wants to see and that's certainly what the people in this region want to see. And are hopeful that the president is right and that that relationship will be what helps move us further down that path.

CHUCK TODD:

The president of the United States takes Chair -- the North Korean dictator's word about Joe Biden? What, what’s happened to speaking with one voice in American foreign policy? Is the president not setting up trying to have world leaders sort of pick which political party they should side with? I don't understand what message the president is sending here.

SARAH SANDERS:

The president doesn't need somebody else to give him an assessment of Joe Biden. He's given his own assessment a number of times. I think you've seen it. I'm sure you've covered it on your program. The president watched him and his administration with President Obama fail for eight years. He's come in in two and a half, he's cleaned up a lot of the messes that were left behind. We shouldn't even be in the position that we're in to have to deal with North Korea at the level we are if they had done their job in the first place. And that we're seeing in moment after moment, in relationship after relationship that the previous administration did nothing. They failed with Iran, they failed with North Korea, they failed on trade. And we finally have a president that's being tough with these countries. We've put tougher sanctions on North Korea than the Obama administration ever did. But at the same time the president wants to develop that relationship. And he wants to actually get something done. He doesn't want to just talk in pretty rhetoric. He's been tough on China. For the very first time ever China is sitting down at the table and negotiating for better deals on trade. For the very first time we're seeing Iran's economy crumbling. Nobody's been tougher on Russia than this president. I think if anybody needs help with an assessment it's Joe Biden and whether or not he should be trying to get an upgrade when he failed to do the job in the number two slot.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm trying to understand how your North Korea policy is a success if he's still launching missiles. I mean I understand that you guys have had summits. But nothing's come of it. If anything, he's now doing missile tests again. So we're right back where we began.

SARAH SANDERS:

It's not true to say nothing's come of it. There have been steps that have moved us towards for a strong, a significant period of time there was no missile testing. We got hostages back home to the United States and remains of American war heroes. I don't know how you can say that that's nothing. But to me that is certainly something. And I know it's something --

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

SARAH SANDERS:

-- to the families of those individuals who those people came back home. And this is a president who's actually made those things happen. Once again, he should never have been in this position in the first place. This is because of the --

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

SARAH SANDERS:

-- failure of the administrations that came before him that never dealt with it to begin with.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to ask you about the decision to give the attorney general this unilateral authority to declassify intelligence. The order says the attorney general should consult with relevant agency heads but not that he has to. Why did the president not force the attorney general to consult with the, with the DNI and the head of the CIA? Here he's giving him unilateral authority not to do it. Only saying he should do it but he doesn't have to. Why?

SARAH SANDERS:

The president has total confidence in the attorney general and his ability --

CHUCK TODD:

But not the intelligence community?

SARAH SANDERS:

-- to make those decisions. We expect -- certainly. That's why we expect that the attorney general will consult with them on matters that he needs that guidance and advice from them. Certainly they work in lock step on a number of things. I don't see this to be any different. The bottom line here is there was a lot of corruption at the FBI and the DOJ. We see constantly more and more things that have come out of that. And the president wants transparency and he's given the attorney general the ability to put that transparency in place, make those decisions. And we're not like at all concerned that the attorney general is not going to do everything that is necessary to make sure we're protecting important intelligence that is vital to our national security.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm trying to understand what outcome the president expects. He’s, he tweeted the following: "My campaign for president was conclusively spied on. Nothing like this has ever happened in American politics. A really bad situation. Treason means long jail sentences and this was treason." Why did the president ask the attorney general to do an investigation if he's already come to a conclusion, already decided what the penalty should be? And I think has already determined what the jail sentences should be? Isn't this the president already playing judge and jury and putting his thumb on the scale here for whatever investigation he claims he wants Mr. Barr to do?

SARAH SANDERS:

That's pretty rich coming from the media who relentlessly covered and accused the president for over two years of being part of this massive election interference, something that never took place. The idea that anybody now says that the president doesn't have the right and not only that Americans deserve the truth to push back and find out where all of this started is absurd. Literally for day after day after day the media and Democrats in Congress called the president a traitor to his own country and said that he cheated to become president. I mean the idea of that is absolutely outrageous that he had to endure that for two years. And now he wants to know where and why it started. And all of a sudden that's a big deal? That is insane.

CHUCK TODD:

Sarah, I didn't ask about him --

SARAH SANDERS:

I think the president is doing exactly what --

CHUCK TODD:

No, no, no, no, Sarah I did not ask --

SARAH SANDERS:

-- he should be. And I think America is glad that --

CHUCK TODD:

Sarah --

SARAH SANDERS:

-- he's asking for that transparency.

CHUCK TODD:

I didn't ask whether he should ask those questions. He's not asking questions anymore. He's already made a judgment. That is much different. He’s already -- will he accept a result of the attorney general saying, you know what, "Everything was done legally and on the up and up, Mr. President." Will he accept that result from Bill Barr?

SARAH SANDERS:

We already know that there was an outrageous amount of corruption that took place at the FBI. They leaked information. They lied. They were specifically working trying to take down the president, trying to hurt the president. We'll leave the, the final call up to the attorney general and he'll get to the bottom of it. But we think Americans deserve the truth.

CHUCK TODD:

So he doesn't --

SARAH SANDERS:

The president's asked for that. And we should expect nothing less.

CHUCK TODD:

So the president is not going to accept exoneration if that's what Bill Barr finds?

SARAH SANDERS:

Look, I'm not going to get ahead of what the final conclusion is. But we already know that there was a high level of corruption that was taking place. We've seen that in the --

CHUCK TODD:

There, there --

SARAH SANDERS:

-- IG investigation --

CHUCK TODD:

-- which is --

SARAH SANDERS:

-- that has already happened.

CHUCK TODD:

-- not out yet.

SARAH SANDERS:

There's a lot more there that we still need to know. And we're going to let the attorney general do his job.

CHUCK TODD:

Well it sounds like you’re not -- that's my point. It doesn't sound like you want him to do his job. It sounds like you, the president has already determined the outcome.

SARAH SANDERS:

Chuck, that's the reason that he's granted the attorney general the authority to declassify that information, to look at all the documents necessary is so that we can get to the very bottom of what happened. Once again, we already know about some wrongdoing. The president's not wrong in that. But he wants to know everything that happened and how far and how wide it went.

CHUCK TODD:

Does he expect --

SARAH SANDERS:

We know that there was corruption. Let's see --

CHUCK TODD:

-- does he expect criminal charges? Does he expect -- he's accused James Comey of treason. Does he expect Jim Comey to be arrested?

SARAH SANDERS:

Again, we're going to let the attorney general make that determination as he gets to the conclusion of this investigation.

CHUCK TODD:

So the president, he's not going to accept --

SARAH SANDERS:

But we certainly expect the people that were responsible --

CHUCK TODD:

He’s, he’s --

SARAH SANDERS:

-- and that were part of this unprecedented obstruction and corruption at the FBI, those people should certainly be held responsible and be held accountable and the president expects that to take place.

CHUCK TODD:

So he expects an outcome that he wants, not an outcome that the facts lead to.

SARAH SANDERS:

Chuck, I think you're trying to muddy the waters too much here. We already know, once again --

CHUCK TODD:

I think we --

SARAH SANDERS:

-- that there was wrongdoing.

CHUCK TODD:

I think what’s rich is who’s muddying waters.

SARAH SANDERS:

Now we want to know how much there was. I don't think it's -- well, I don’t think it’s crazy to want to know how far and how wide the corruption at the FBI was. And that's what the president has asked the attorney general to find.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

SARAH SANDERS:

And we'll what happens.

CHUCK TODD:

Sarah Sanders, White House press secretary in Tokyo for us today. Thanks for coming on and sharing your views. I appreciate it.

SARAH SANDERS:

You bet. Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back the 2020 election and the comparison Joe Biden would probably prefer not to hear about.

CHUCK TODD:

We are back. Data download time. It has been a month since Joe Biden officially entered the 2020 race. And he's been at the top of the Democratic pack ever since, climbing to an 18 point lead over Bernie Sanders in one poll this week. Who should that remind you of? Well, in 2011 Mitt Romney also held a comfortable lead over his next closest competitor in a crowded race. And that's not their only similarity. In both cases, we have parties coming off of huge midterm successes and an incumbent president with approval ratings under 50%. In 2011, 90% of Republican primary voters disapproved of President Obama's job performance much like the 88% of Democratic voters who dislike President Trump right now. So, at this moment Biden actually looks more like Mitt Romney in 2012 than he does like Donald Trump in 2016. And that might be a similarity Biden wants to actually kind of avoid. 'Cause Romney, being Mr. Electable on the right, wound up losing that general election. When we come back, End Game and the major event that happened overseas that could tell us something of the politics in our own divided country.

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with End Game and we can't end a Meet the Press without talking a little bit of 2020. Small pattern developing here, Yamiche, in the Democratic primary polling. We've had a couple of recent polls. And there's one undeniable trend. Bernie Sanders seems to be getting squeezed from two sides.

Joe Biden's got in, his numbers grew. Bernie Sanders' got lower. And Elizabeth Warren has been growing. And in some ways, Yamiche, what was interesting, I think it was in the Monmouth Poll, the less you were paying attention the more likely you were a Bernie Sanders supporter. The point being Biden took a bunch of soft supporters. Warren with, "I have a plan for that," is starting to get traction. Bernie seems to be a candidate all of a sudden trying to figure out how to get traction again.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

Well, this is the dilemma of 2020 because Bernie Sanders in 2016 was the flagship progressive candidate. If you liked Warren, if you liked other people you really found your candidate in Bernie Sanders. Now you have Elizabeth Warren and other people talking about the same kind of legislation, same policies. I was talking to someone from the Warren campaign today. They wouldn't comment on polls, but they made a point to say, first of all, she's been to 18 states plus Puerto Rico. She's also someone who's held 81 town halls. That person was basically making the case, look, she's doing just as much as him. And I was thinking about how Senator Warren has been setting herself apart. Apart from being the first candidate to talk about impeaching the president she also decided not to go on Fox News and hold that town hall. And I asked that campaign person, "Well, tell me a little bit more about that decision." They pointed me to the thread and said, look, she was not, she didn't mince any words with Fox News. She said, "They're a hate-filled, propaganda network." As a result she's basically saying, "This is the camp that I'm going to be in." Obviously Bernie Sanders said, "I want to go after those voters."

CHUCK TODD:

He was the first one to give a Fox town hall.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

Yeah. And then, of course, you have Joe Biden who is, who is already trying to claim that he's the most progressive candidate. That's, of course, going to be pushed back, pushed backed on. But there's this idea that Bernie Sanders isn't the hot, new kid anymore. And I know that that's interesting to say about Bernie Sanders but that really--

CHUCK TODD:

I know. But Doris, you know, you can't be an insurgent twice. It's tough to be an insurgent twice. And there is part of this where you look at Sanders and you think, "Maybe it's nothing he can do about it." It's just that Hillary Clinton's not on the ballot again. I say this sometimes to Donald Trump supporters who think you know Hillary Clinton's not going to be on the ballot again.

DAVID MARANISS:

No.

CHUCK TODD:

Sanders, and that Sanders without her as a galvanizing force, he didn't have as big of a following as perhaps we all thought.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

Well, I think it was just inevitable. As these other candidates, just like you say, get on the ground. It's in the early states actually where those polls are even more likely to show Warren and Harris. But I think the real worry I have is that we do polls week after week. We have 19 more weeks of this thing left. Over a year and a half. And sometimes I dream of going back to the old system where do you realize if we had the parties choosing the candidates it wouldn't be until the summer of 2020 that we would begin to have the conventions? And then Labor Day it would start. And we'd be living a life. You know, it’s these polls --

CHUCK TODD:

Well now we get to be the gatekeepers and say, "Pst pst this whisper campaign is happening, and this whisper" and this is what everybody hated is that we journalists were the gatekeepers.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

I know you can't go backwards. In 1912 when they introduced the first primary and it was such a mess because TR was calling Taft a fathead with the brain of a guinea pig. And they said, "How can we argue like this? It's such a blush to all of Americans that we're seeing arguing like this.” We've got to go back to the old system which was rational, not a mob. But the good thing is, a lot of ideas are coming out right now. However many candidates we have, we're coming up with good ideas. Each one of them. And we can -- they have task forces who are studying them. And at least it's a respite from the obsession with the presidency, to talk about ideas.

CHUCK TODD:

Pat McCrory, I know the Trump campaign -- Donald Trump's a terrible poker player. He's made it clear he fears Biden. Okay, he talks about him all the time. He never, he never hides what he fears.

FMR. GOV. PAT McCRORY:

He cannot hide.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you concerned that, that Biden's not getting sucked into the liberal debate or the progressive debate--

FMR. GOV. PAT McCRORY:

Yeah, I think--

CHUCK TODD:

--like a bunch of you thought he would.

FMR. GOV. PAT McCRORY:

I think what Joe Biden is doing is what a lot of Congressional Democrats did in red states during the last election and that is say as little as possible about details of issues which the other 30 candidates have already done. And it's got them in trouble. Harris, for example, got in trouble with insurance and health care and getting rid of private insurance. Biden is saying nothing at this point in time. He's talking macro. The question is how much longer can he get away with that? A lot of Congressional Democrats got away with that in the last election. It'll be interesting if Biden can stall for that period of time.

CHUCK TODD:

David, I keep pinning you back into Wisconsin. But I think about the Madison activists.

DAVID MARANISS:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

And I think about them because that, to me, can Joe Biden win them over? Right? If you win over the Madison activists on the, hey, my number one plank in a climate change proposal is beat Trump, and the Madison folks buy into that, that's real trouble if you're Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders.

DAVID MARANISS:

I don't think he can win them over in the primary. I think if he wins the nomination he can win them over. And particularly depending on who he picks as his vice president. But I think there’s, I would -- there's a practicality to it where people are saying, "We just want to beat Trump." But I think there's plenty of alternatives besides Joe Biden for that among those activists.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Before we go, everything in the U.K. seems to preview American politics by six months, right? Brexit, Trump, et cetera. Doris, this is a western democracy thing, larger thing here. Put it in some quick perspective.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

I mean I think what's happening is that western democracies have not answered the needs of people, the prosperity of their countries has not been shared by a lot of people who feel out of the system. People in the country feel split up from people in the cities. Then they're blaming them on people. Immigrants become a scapegoat in all of these countries. It's a huge problem if a democracy doesn't share its prosperity and allow people to have mobility to rise to the level of their discipline and talent. And it's being felt in all these democracies right now. They haven't worked. And they have to work at that before we are going to see this everywhere.

CHUCK TODD:

A great way to end that. Thank you very much. That's all we have for today. Thank you for watching. I hope you enjoy the rest of your Memorial Day weekend. We'll be back next week because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.