tv Meet the Press MSNBC March 4, 2018 3:00pm-4:00pm PST
and under siege by special counsel robert mueller. >> the president is very frustrated about this entire what he calls witch hunt and hoax. >> is a white house built on chaos now being consumed by it? plus, president trump promise its tariffs to help american businesses. >> 25% for steel. it will be 10% for aluminum. >> but already allies have promised to retaliate against american blue jeans, bourbon and harley davidsons. >> it's just going to be a huge tax on american citizens. >> will the administration actually go through with mr. trump's threat? my guests this morning, commerce secretary wilbur ross, independent senator angus king of maine and chief of staff for president obama, denis mcdonough. also, president trump and guns. on wednesday, he seemed to favor restrictions. >> we have to keep the guns out of the hands of those that pose the threat. this really includes background checks. >> by thursday, he was tweeting about his great meeting with the nra. will that white house meeting
bring results or was it just good tv? joining me for insight and analysis are nbc news special correspondent tom brokaw, nbc news correspondent katy tur, republican strategist, al cardenas and presidential historian, doris kearns goodwin. 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. good sunday morning. if this were "spinal tap," we'd say this is the week that things at the white house got turned up to 11. newspaper headlines around the country chronicle events as a white house built on chaos was even more chaotic and apparently dysfunctional than usual. at the center of it all is a president who is increasingly looking isolated, unhappy with his attorney general, with his chief of staff, with his national security advisor, and now soon to be without perhaps his most trusted loyalist who announced her resignation this
week. perhaps also his son-in-law who is increasingly under fire for mixing his personal business with white house duties and of course may be soon to be without the person he's closest to of all, his daughter. if all of this weren't enough looming over this administration is special counsel robert mueller and a russia investigation that seems to be moving closer to the white house by the day. >> thank you very much. >> do you still have confidence in attorney general sessions? >> president trump increasingly isolated and lashing out, as special counsel robert mueller peels away his defenses, tightening his net around the president's inner circle. the president is besieged on many fronts. hope hicks. >> hope hicks is a tremendously talented person. >> his communications director, one of mr. trump's closest and longest serving aides, abruptly resigned wednesday after eight hours of testimony on the russia probe in which she admitted to telling white lies on behalf of the president. that left mr. trump seething. >> you have ups and downs in administrations.
her departure is going to be a surprise, you know, and a shocking thing. >> jared kushner, the president's son-in-law, was stripped of his top-secret security clearance by the white house chief of staff amid news that the special counsel is investigating kushner's efforts during the transition to secure financing for his family's real estate properties from entities in russia and the middle east. >> i think the russians are very, very clever in terms of how they exploit relationships. >> in his last public statement to the media, more than seven months ago, kushner denied those relationships. >> i had no improper contacts. i have not relied on russian funds for my businesses. >> john kelly, reportedly intent on sidelining kushner and ivanka trump. the chief of staff is defending his own handling of the rob porter domestic abuse scandal, telling reporters off camera this week i have absolutely nothing to even consider resigning over.
jeff sessions, the president lashed out again at his attorney general calling him disgraceful this week for not using justice department lawyers to push back on what he believes are surveillance abuses at the fbi. >> the president is very frustrated about this entire what he calls witch hunt and hoax, the entire investigation. >> sessions responded curtly in a statement. quote, as long as i am the attorney general, i will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor. and he had this very public unity dinner with his deputy, rod rosenstein. mr. trump has taken pride in his ability to thrive in the midst of the chaos he likes to create. >> we have to be unpredictable. we have to be unpredictable. we have to be unpredictable, folks. >> but now aides say the president's consuming anger at mueller is making him erratic, even unglued. spoiling for a fight, any fight, the president decided to pick one on trade, announcing new tariffs against the advice of
many of his top advisers and without any internal review, tweeting, trade wars are good and easy to win. >> it will be 25% for steel. it will be 10% for aluminum. >> joining me now is president trump's commerce secretary, wilbur ross. secretary
ross, welcome to "meet the press." >> good to be on with you, chuck. >> all right. let me start with this. we had some reporting that said the president was looking for a fight, you gave it to him. but there weren't many preparations with this announcement. there was no diplomatic strategy. we had people at state, treasury, department of defense, they were blind-sided by this. what's the urgency? why was this suddenly needed to be done the way it was done and why the odd announcement the way it was done? >> first of all, it wasn't sudden. the president ever since the campaign has said he's going to do something to fix steel and aluminum. almost a year ago he commissioned the commerce department to do the studies on steel and aluminum. they have been through any number of intra agency reviews
before they were released to the public. so with a whole year of preparation i don't know why anybody should have been so shocked. >> i want to quote you to you. here's what you said just before taking office about tariffs. >> everybody talks about tariffs as the first thing. tariffs are the last thing. tariffs are part of the negotiation. the real trick is going to be increase american exports. >> okay. you just described a process to me before that that said that you've done inner agency stuff and researching it behind the scenes. but no negotiations with china. no negotiations with these other countries. why? >> we certainly have had discussions with china. their big advisor to mr. xi was in washington that very same day. we had mar-a-lago session with china. we had another session in november back in beijing. there's been plenty of discussion. >> how many people tried to stop the president from doing this?
gary cohn reportedly has threatened to resign over this. what's your understanding about this? >> i don't know anything about gary resigning. gary was certainly part of the interagency process. president likes to have dissenting views, likes to hear every side of everything because that way it makes sure that his final decision is the best informed. >> hard to find a republican supportive of this decision on capitol hill. hard to find many people in business that's not a -- perhaps somebody in steel or aluminum and not even everybody in those industries are for this. does this give you pause at all? should we believe this is actually going to happen? >> well, i think you have to take the president at his word. he made campaign promises. he's pretty well proven so far he intends to keep his campaign promises. >> so this is going to happen this week for sure, the way he said it, 25%, 10%? >> whatever his final decision is is what will happen. >> meaning this isn't a done deal? >> i didn't say that. i just said what he has said, he
has said. if he says something different, it will be something different. i have no reason to think he's going to change. >> what does this mean? you just said, well, he may say this and he may say that. >> no, i didn't say that. i said he is the one who makes the decision. he has made a decision at this point, 25 and 10. if he for some reason should change his mind, then it will change. i have no reason to believe he's going to change his mind. >> he said trade wars are good. they're easy to win. give me an example. >> i think what he's talking about is we have a big trade deficit with the rest of the world. our cumulative deficit equals the cumulative surplus of the rest of the world. they, therefore, have much more at risk in a trade war than we do. that's what i believe he was meaning to say. >> but is that the case? you slap this on steel, there are more jobs in this country based on using steel to make a product versus the number of jobs you may save in the steel industry itself.
>> sure, but that makes an implicit assumption that's false. and the false assumption is that just because there are more people in the consuming industries, there will be a net loss of jobs. that's not the case at all. >> okay. we're going to have retaliations on blue jeans, on harley davidsons, on bourbon, retaliations with canada. what part of this doesn't turn into just a massive tax increase on consumers? >> well, what are we talking about right now? we're talking about a fraction of a penny on a can of beer. >> that's if nothing is retaliated, though, mr. secretary, and right now europeans have said, oh, no, they're retaliating and they're going to do it quickly. >> retaliation isn't going to change the price of a can a beer or the price of a car. it's just not going to. it can't. >> the beer industry says it will. >> the beer industry hasn't put forward any numbers. my number is there's roughly three cents of aluminum in a can of beer. if you put a 10% tariff on that, that's 0.3 of a cent. beers sell for over $1 a can.
>> okay. but again, that doesn't account for the retaliation on every other industry. >> retaliation has nothing to do with the price of beer. >> oh, it's going to have to do with the price of everything. >> no. we'll see what it has to do with. what we're talking about in terms of the economy is $9 billion of tariffs. that's all. that's a fraction of 1% of the whole economy. what the european union has talked about is some $3 billion or so of potential retaliation. that's an even smaller fraction of 1% of the economy. >> i've got to ask you about the president personally. you've known him a long time, you're a personal friend of his. there is a lot of concern among other friends of his that what's happening inside the white house, his relationship with the chief of staff. are you concerned? >> i think chief of staff kelly is doing a very good job. he's a very disciplined, very organized person. and i think he's doing a very good job so far. >> but are you concerned about
the president's state of mind? >> his state of mind is fine. if he went to the gridiron last night, which i did and others did, he was very relaxed. he was self deprecating. he had some very good humorous lines. i don't see any problem with his behavior at all. >> okay. but if others are trying to -- john thune, the pretty high-ranking republican senator, especially in reaction to the tariffs, he's sitting there going every day is an adventure. this lack of working with allies to inform them what's going on, this erratic decision-making progress, none of this is problematic in your view? >> i don't know how you call erratic a decision that he announced in 2016 that he was going to help steel and aluminum and then went through the whole process with the 232s. how is that erratic? that's consistent. this president has been more consistent in following up his campaign promises than anyone i can remember. >> all right. i want to go back because we've seen him change his mind on
guns. we've seen him change his mind on immigration. these tariffs, you said this is the decision that he made as of friday. does that decision hold on monday if the markets are hammered again? >> well, the markets started recovering on friday as it began to adjust to the realities that this is not the end of the world. >> this is -- will you say definitively that this is going happen this week? >> the president has announced that this will happen this week. i have no reason to think otherwise. >> will there be exceptions for other countries in here? >> we shall see. we shall see. i know a lot of ministers from a lot of countries have been talking with the president. they have been talking with me. they have been talking with others. we'll see. the president makes the decisions. >> secretary ross, i will leave it there. thanks for coming on and sharing your views. i appreciate it. >> thank
you for having me. joining me now from brunswick, maine, is the independent senator who caucuses with the democrats, angus king. senator, welcome back to "meet the press." >> chuck, good to be with you. >> i want to get you to respond to secretary ross on the tariff issue first and then i want to get into some other things.
are you reassured by what you've heard from the secretary that, number one, these are definitely going happen and, number two, that it isn't going to have the impact on the economy that others fear? >> well, i think you made the right point. we don't live in a static universe. you can't make a change of this significance and assume nothing else is going happen as a result. that's what worries me is second, third, fourth. the only thing i can think of is smoot-hawley, the tariff many economists believe contributed significantly to the worldwide depression. i'm not suggesting that's going to happen. but what i'm suggesting is the outcome is hard to determine. in the last 24 hours i've heard from two small companies in maine that use steel. one of them has already seen an 8% increase in the price they're going to be charged for the steel that they use to fabricate things. another is a company way up north right near the canadian border. they get their steel from canada simply because of the proximity
and they're very worried about the impact. so, you know, you want to do these kinds of things with a scalpel, not a chainsaw. and what worries me is the whole world -- he said 25% and 10% on the whole world in the name of national security. i don't think we need to block canadian steel in the name of national security. they're annoying, but they're too nice. but we don't fear a war with canada. >> i'm curious. i know a lot of republican colleagues of yours were shell shocked by the decision not just in sort of the turn in orthodoxy and, yes, secretary ross makes a point. donald trump the individual has been talking about this frankly for 40 years, not just for 40 months. but the way it was sort of announced is -- how concerned are your colleagues about this white house? >> well, i think there's a concern because, as you mentioned earlier, at least as far as anyone can tell, there wasn't a great deal of consultation outside of the commerce department and even there was significant dissent
and surprise, as i understand it, within the white house when the announcement was made on thursday. so there is a concern. i mean, this is a very, very important decision and it's one that could have long-term ramifications and it was announced in this kind of shorthand way. by the way -- >> do you want it rolled back? do you think he shouldn't do this? >> well, i think he should do it much more carefully. i think it should be refined and say, okay, for example, there's a difference between steel and aluminum. we do have a significant problem with aluminum. steel -- for example, china, my understanding is, supplies 4% of the steel in the u.s. so it needs to be more carefully tailored. i'm hoping based on the secretary's final comments there that that may happen this week and it may be a much more narrow and directed effort. >> you're a big part of the senate intelligence committee and the investigation that you guys are doing on a bipartisan basis of russian interference.
we are reporting here that the special counsel has been looking into whether jared kushner's discussions with various -- during the transition with various foreign entities, how much was it mixed with his personal business. i'm curious. what has your committee looked at when it comes to jared kushner during the transition and his interactions between his business concerns and, for instance, middle east policy? >> well, i'm not going to comment on the internals of our investigation. we're really trying to keep it under control and not do a lot of leaking so i'm not going to really talk about that. i can tell you that we are looking at all aspects of this. chuck, a lot of it is pretty well done. we're going to issue a report hopefully within the next two or three weeks about the russians' effort to get into state election systems. that's a crucial part of it. then there will be something on
what the russians did in the election generally. the hardest part and the most contentious part, frankly, is the final piece, which is, as you suggest, to talk about connections between the trump campaign and officials surrounding the president with foreign entities leading up to the election and after. >> do you have any reason to believe that the trump administration has made any policy decisions based on a personal financial issue for either mr. kushner or mr. trump? >> i have no reason to believe that, but i'm not prepared to comment on it one way or the other. >> i've got to ask you about your friends on the house side of things. i know it's been reported that senators burr and warner went to speaker ryan about the behavior -- apparently about the behavior of the house intelligence committee and something that may have leaked out from the republican side about senator warner. how bad is the relationship between the senate intelligence committee and the house intelligence committee? >> well, i would say there's not much of a relationship at this
point, to tell you the truth. we are trying to just continue on, on a bipartisan basis. you'll notice there haven't been all the memos and countermemos and that kind of thing. there really isn't that much of a relationship. we're only a couple of hundred yards apart, but it's worlds apart in terms of the way we've approached this. >> i'm curious what you think of tom rooney's comment, republican from florida. he's on the house intel. he said this, he goes, hey, i want this house investigation to end because we have gone off the rails of being able to objectively do our job. do you agree that the house intelligence committee is off the rails and they can't do their job anymore? >> well, i thought that was a really interesting comment because he wasn't talking about the substance. >> no. >> i at first thought he was going to say let's end it because i don't like where it's going, but he's basically just saying we are not getting anywhere. again, it's not my position to comment on what they do. i'm going to concentrate on doing our role as best we can and so far we've been able to maintain a bipartisan approach
to this, and we're certainly going to continue to try to do that. >> all right. and do you believe that devin nunes was trying to harm mark warner? do you believe he leaked this information to harm mark warner? >> i don't have any evidence to justify that conclusion. somebody did, and mark warner, by the way, made clear to the committee, to the republicans on the committee, to chairman burr what had happened. we were trying to chase down christopher steele and mark warner was trying to further that effort. we don't know where it came from, but it appears there is evidence that it came out of the house side and that's disturbing. >> senator angus king, the independent from maine, thanks for coming on, sharing your views. much appreciated. >> always a pleasure, chuck. coming up, allies of president trump are being quoted anonymously as saying they're very worried that the president under siege is starting to spin out of control. we'll get into that with the panel when we come back. al stooe when this guy got a flat tire in the middle of the night.
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welcome back. the pane welcome back. the panel is here. nbc news senior correspondent tom brokaw, nbc news correspondent katy tur, presidential historian doris kearns goodwin and republican strategist al cardenas, my friend from florida. welcome, everybody. all right. i've got to do this. we have to do this as a scroll, i can't name all the departures from the trump administration. here it is. it's quite a long list. and then i want to -- i have to tell you, when you start to wonder about the president and his inner circle, katy tur, you've covered him longer than anybody. john kelly said the following the other day, and it apparently got under the president's skin. take a listen. >> i miss every one of you every day. i went -- the last thing i wanted to do was walk away from one of the great honors of my life, being the secretary of homeland security, but i did something wrong and god punished me, i guess. >> one of the great honors of my life is apparently not being chief of staff to donald trump. >> the reason why that got a
laugh, that joke works, is because it's true. it seems like he is in a miserable situation in the white house with infighting not only with staff members that have their own agendas, but the president's own family who is there. think about john kelly. three weeks ago he was on the verge of being fired over this whole rob porter scandal, on the verge of being fired. how long is john kelly going to last? three weeks later jared kushner doesn't have a security clearance any longer. hope hicks, donald trump's longest serving advisor, the person closest to him in the white house other than his daughter, somebody that john kelly would have to go through to a degree to get to the president, is gone, as well. so john kelly's position is somehow out of the ashes, much stronger than it was, but even then it seems awful looking from the outside. >> i'm with katy. i think if you look at john kelly, here's a man who spent 40 years in the most disciplined structural environment in the world. it's all about truth.
it's all about discipline. it's all about loyalty. it's all about ethics, and then he's going from there thrust into a white house as chief of staff to easily, you know, the most chaotic environment in the white house history. and so, how does a person deal with that? i agree. i think that was a truthful statement. >> at the center it's a monumental failure of leadership on trump's part. how can you expect a chief of staff to steady someone who makes a promise one day and undoes it the next, whose word is not trusted? george washington, he said you have to set an example every day with your team, with your country. firmness and integrity are what count. that counts in spades. teddy roosevelt says the kind of politician you want is somebody who makes a promise they can always keep and whose word can be trusted. how can you possibly not be have demoralization when at the center no sense of the word matters and he himself knows what he wants? >> tom, you've known donald trump for a long time. he's now without anybody he knows personally from a long period of time surrounding him at that white house. it's all new people. relatively new for him.
>> he had no foundation for being president of the united states because he ran his empire in new york hot and cold out of his back pocket. he didn't have a group of directors. he was always kind of working the financial system. he was stiffing people on his bills. any number of law firms in new york or people who dealt with him will tell you god-awful stories about how he behaved during that time. when he got to the white house, he thought he could just have an extension of that, to be a reality television star, to have a lot of collapsed businesses. whether you stop and think about it. the trump steak, the trump ties, the trump schools, all that stuff. he brought all of that into washington, d.c., and the heart of the most important office in the world. i said earlier this week if you're in des moines, iowa, and the biggest bank in town or the local university or the biggest manufacturer in town started to behave like this, there would be people in the streets in those communities saying we can't go on like this. it's the center of who we are. >> this tariff decision
apparently is based on him so frustrated, doris, that he just wants to do something and, look, he's been wanting to play with tariff matches for 40 years. there is some consistency there. but to -- this is the u.s. economy and people are rattled. >> a tariff is not an abstraction and he keeps saying we're going to win this war of tariff. it's easy to win. >> william mckinley is still trying to win this war, right? >> and william mckinley lost. he keeps saying we're going to win. he says the most important thing is about his temperament. the reason he would always be the best, best president we ever had is because he always wins. tariffs involve a collaboration. he doesn't have a collaboration bone in his body. it's a matter of making compromises with all these other countries and working out something together with the congress and the country. all of a sudden one night he gets mad. here we are. >> but that's if the tariffs even live. i thought it was so interesting when you were trying to press the commerce secretary on this and he said basically whatever the president says will be what happens. >> the decision friday is what happens and then the decision monday could be totally different. >> this is what i used to say on the campaign because he would
flip-flop on his positions over and over again and he's been doing this in the white house as well. donald trump believes whatever he believes in the moment he believes it and if he changes his mind in the next second, he believes that. you can't follow it. there's just -- there is just a -- it's a steady stream of consciousness because he's just trying to get a reaction out of people. >> but there is something here at the center of why he's this erratic right now. it's russia. it's the mueller probe. it's getting closer. >> well, it appears that it is. i've tried not to project what he's going to find and i think he's acted with great discretion, the special prosecutor. they have kept it as tight as they possibly can. but every other week we find that there's another layer that has suddenly emerged. and then you look at that list of people who are now in singing their hearts out before the grand juries and they are very close to him, despite what he has to say about it. my own impression about the kind of leadership we have at the moment, if a bunch of martians arrived on washington and said take us to your leader, the white house would say he's too busy right now.
he's writing a tweet to alec baldwin. >> alex baldwin. the seventh baldwin brother we didn't know about. >> if i can go back to the issue of tariffs because i'm passionate about it. we tried it in 2002 during president bush's administration. the whole argument to us conservatives was it's national security. >> it was also a karl rove political idea. of trying -- hey, we can do well in pennsylvania here. >> exactly. it was a midwest political strategy to do well with the blue collar workers. didn't work. he made it a three-year tariff and within a year he had to postpone it. it doesn't work. plus, all the manufacturers except for china, 90% of manufacturers are all allies of the united states. there's no national security issue. >> chuck, you got to the point of this. at the bottom of every one of these scandals every week is the mueller investigation and that's what's setting him off against jeff sessions on twitter, calling him disgraceful. but the mueller headlines this week alone were staggering. i was on one of them. donald trump's now or witnesses are now being questioned about whether donald trump himself
knew about the democratic e-mails, the hacked democratic e-mails before the public did. that is a major headline that shows that the president himself is still being investigated for coordination. it goes from there. the question for the future, though, is if he gets frustrated by this again and there's not a tariff war to start, what other things is he going to try to do? >> go ahead. >> i think the real question is we do have evidence that the russians are now trying to meddle with the next election. our president should be mobilizing everything, elections are the fundamental basis of what we are. when he takes an oath to preserve and protect the constitution, he's protecting fair elections, free elections, it's at the center of democracy. a dictatorship is trying to meddle with us and he's not doing anything about it. >> well, it's a perfect place to stop because my next guest, we'll have the same conversation about the last president, did he do enough to stop the russians. when we come back, president trump says, hey, don't blame him, it's the obama administration that should have done more to stop the russians in 2016. does he have a point? president obama's second-term chief of staff, denis mcdonough, joins me next.
interfered with the 2016 election but that they're hard at work on 2018. but president trump is trying to turn the tables on the obama administration, tweeting two weeks ago, obama was president, knew of the threat and did nothing. in fact, even members of the obama administration have conceded they could have done more. in june "the washington post" ran this quote from a senior administration official. it is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend. i feel like we sort of choked. denis mcdonough was president obama's chief of staff for his entire second term and he joins me now. mr. mcdonough, welcome back to "meet the press." >> thanks for having me, chuck. >> as a private citizen, no less. >> private citizen. >> let's start with the choke comment. looking back, did you choke? >> look, we during the course of 2016 became alarmed about what we were seeing and became -- it became very clear to us what the russians' intentions were. so we took a series of pain-staking steps, including the president directly
confronting president putin, us going to congress to press them to work with us to make sure that the states were doing everything they could to protect the sanctity of every americans' vote, and then ultimately, releasing a very powerful statement from the secretary of homeland security and the director of national intelligence calling attention to this threat. so we did exactly what we think we needed to do. and, in fact, that discussion between president obama and president putin, we believe, was very impactful on the russian actions. some of the things that we feared they may do, they did not do. >> let me play for you what president obama said about -- talking what you just said, this was in december he was recounting his conversation with putin in september. here it is. >> i felt that the most effective way to ensure that that didn't happen was to talk to him directly and tell him to cut it out. and, in fact, we did not see further tampering of the election process. >> based on the mueller
indictment of the internet research agency, we now know that that is not true. we know the troll farms were working, particularly there are specific references to october 16th in 2016 november 3rd, at the time the troll farms in russia were pushing and encouraged u.s. minority groups not to vote, things like that. were these things you missed? you didn't know they were doing this at the time? was his comment just about the election systems? >> i think it is very important to recognize that there's two issues here, chuck. one is the sanctity of the vote, the voter roll, the individual going into that ballot box and casting a vote and making sure that that vote is counted. we stand by our position that the things we feared they may do in that spot, they did not. >> i want to know, though, why did director of national intelligence clapper and secretary of homeland security, jeh johnson, go out by themselves -- >> for two reasons. >> why wasn't the president flanked by his director of national intelligence? that would have elevated this to
a level that the public might have taken even more seriously. >> for two reasons, chuck, and i can come back to whether the public had an opportunity through the reporting to understand exactly what was happening. but for two reasons. one, you know how we run our elections and our electoral infrastructure. it's by state and local officials who are partisans, republicans and democrats. we feared that if it looked like the president was involved, that this was a partisan matter. at the time we were in the middle of the campaign. the president had a view in the campaign. we wanted to make sure that partisan politics did not color state officials' reaction to the information, point one. point two is we also knew that the russians wanted to undercut confidence in our electoral system. we did not want to play into their hands. in fact, we didn't. as a result, we had 33 states work with the department of homeland security to scan and strengthen their systems. that ends up being very important to the outcome of the election. >> if putin's goal was to elect donald trump, then how is it
that what you did in 2016 was the right call? >> look, i'm not going to get into whether we know precisely what his goal was or not. >> you're not as convinced as even mueller's team and the indictment is that the interference was intended to help donald trump? >> i'll let the indictment speak for itself. what i'm going to make is a simple point that says he wanted to do two things. one is sow confusion and lack of confidence in our system. and then he had a view on the outcome is my guess. >> so he's been successful on both counts. >> look, i'm not going -- >> we've sowed discord and donald trump got elected. >> and there's a way to address that, chuck. there's a way to address that. congress should stop with this stunning lack of urgency about this question, work with the states to strengthen their infrastructure because only the
states can do that. we can't. that's the way we run elections in this country. >> you brought up the lack of sort of bipartisan urgency at the time. i want to play something former vice president biden said about mitch mcconnell. >> mitch mcconnell wanted no part of having a bipartisan commitment that we would say essentially russia is doing this, stop. bipartisan. the dye had been cast here. this was all about the political play. >> do you stand by what he said, that mitch mcconnell is the reason why everything was a lower grade? everything that you did in '16, that you couldn't be as robust in a bipartisan sense because mitch mcconnell didn't sign on? >> what i know is the intelligence committee approached -- >> the so-called gang of eight. >> approached in early august, 2016. several members of that group did not take the briefing until early september, 2016. indication number one of a lack of urgency. number two, the president asked
the four leaders in a bipartisan meeting in the oval office to join him in asking the states to work with us on this question. it took over three weeks to get that statement worked out. it was dramatically watered down. you can ask harry reid and nancy pelosi, even the speaker -- >> and it was watered down on the insistence of mitch mcconnell? >> yes. >> and nobody else? >> yes. >> do you have any understanding as to why? did he not believe the intelligence? >> i don't. >> is there a single thing you guys would have done differently in hindsight? >> look, chuck, i spent a lot of time working about a lot of things at different times. i think we made a series of very good and very important decisions. what i also believe is -- >> do you believe you sounded the alarm enough? >> i do believe that, yes, chuck, i do. >> denis mcdonough, i will leave it there. denis, thanks very much. >> good to see you, chuck. thanks so much. coming up, democrats hope to win back the senate and the house. the eyes of texas are on a
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data download time. in the midterm primary season officially kicks off this tuesday in a big way, thanks to a big state. democrats are hoping to ride a big wave in 2018, and we're going to get a clue this week about how realistic that may be, as texas voters head to the polls. texas, you say? yes, texas. consider this. in 2016, hillary clinton came closer to winning texas than she did iowa. and remind me, which is the one we call such an important swing state and which did we dismiss? anyway, the biggest test case
may be in the senate where ted cruz will likely face democratic congressman beto o'rourke. what are you looking at to see if it will we competitive? turnout and demographics. on the turnout front democrats have reason to be excited. through ten days of early voting in the 15 largest counties in texas, republicans have seen a 16% increase in turnout since the 2014 midterm primaries, democrats have seen a whopping 102% increase in turnout in that same time period. that's more than four times the gains republicans saw in the last midterm primary cycle, which turned into a republican year. but the big question in texas always is who votes. in 2016, white voters made up 43% of the texas population, but 57% of the texas electorate. that's a big gap. while hispanics made up 39% of the population but only 25% of the electorate. if the percentage of white voters starts to drop closer to the 50% mark or even below, that
will be seen as a good sign to the democrats. but even if democrats don't swing the texas senate seat, they could still do well in other races. four house districts we're watching in texas all currently held by republicans, three of those voted for clinton over trump in '16. three are above the national average in college education, three are at least two-thirds urban and one of them is two-thirds hispanic. all are indicators that these races could swing in the democrats' favor. look, if the turnout trend of 2017 continues, and it looks like it is, where we saw big numbers and typically low turnout races, democrats will benefit. but by how much? could o'rourke beat cruz? maybe. but are democrats going to be competitive across the lone star state? i have a texas-sized hunch they will be. when we come back, end game and what vladimir putin just told megyn kelly about russian interference in the 2016 election. >> tech: at safelite autoglass
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back now with end game. this week my colleague, megyn kelly, landed an interview with russian president vladimir putin. she conducted the interview in russia. for more than half of the hour plus sitdown, kelly pressed putin on russian interference in the 2016 election. putin does not deny that russians and russian companies were involved, but he says there was no russian government involvement. take a listen to this excerpt. >> what have you done to satisfy yourself that the 13 russian nationals who have just been indicted, those three russian companies, including as you point out some of your close
friends, were not behind this? this has caused an international incident. >> translator: i know that they do not represent the russian state, the russian authorities. what they did specifically, i have no idea. i do not know what they were guided by. even if they did do something, it's simply our -- maybe it's just our american colleagues. let them just not talk to the press. let them provide some materials, specifics and data. we'll be prepared to look at them and talk about it. >> that would be great. will you extradite them to the united states? >> translator: never. never. russia does not extradite its citizens to anyone, just like the united states. does the united states extradite its citizens to anyone? >> we'll have a lot more of megyn kelly's interview with the chesire cat there. tom, putin almost smiled as she was pressing him about the russian involvement in the election. >> that was an important interview on a lot of different levels. first of all, not just president
putin but kim in north korea, xi in china now has an open field. he can run as long as he wants to. they're all looking at the united states and the chaos that is going on here and say how do we position ourselves to take advantage of that? when he talked about a missile that they have now that we can't knock down, nuclear armed. i had a long talk with one of my oldest friends who's back and forth to russia all the time. he's made a lifetime of scholarship of this stuff. he said, look, he's got an election coming up in march. the russians now, the rank and file people, are beginning to be anti-american in a way they weren't before. the economy is improving just enough. all this global competition going on, they're looking at this white house and this president and this country and saying now we can get them. we can take advantage of the chaos there. that was the opening as far as i'm concerned of what he's done. i've dealt with him a couple of times, and he's never not a kgb agent. you have to always keep that in mind.
>> that's what mccain always likes to say, al. >> well, look, he has four inflection points that help his strategy. one, he knows our infantry and military and the middle east. he knows our military is building up in the south china sea so a lot of money is going to the navy which he doesn't care about. he knows that we've got this global competition. so what he's doing? the cheapest thing you can do, he's disrupter in chief. i don't believe he really believe -- cared for donald trump to win. he wanted to undermine the basic structures of our country and not only our country, other countries. he's in the disruption business. every once in a while he'll do this nuclear thing to let the world know he is a top threat. he's into disruption but he's letting all the other guys do all the sweating and the hard work. >> the weaker we are, the more powerful he is. you look at the testimony on the hill i guess in this past week which kind of flew by because we had so many other headlines, but admiral mike rogers of the nsa saying that the price that putin is paying is basically nothing. and there's no reason for him
not to continue doing what he had been doing in 2018 and 2020. >> he saber rattles with the nuclear missile and the president responds with alex baldwin. >> and also responds when tom was mentioning that the chinese leader is now in there for life and he jokes about the fact that sounds pretty good, maybe i could have that. that need to be in the center of action is so great with him. teddy roosevelt they claimed used to want to be the baby at the baptism, the bride at the wedding and the corpse at the funeral. this guy wants to be the president for life. >> it's funny you say that. it's a good transition to guns, right? and that whole public spectacle that seemed like, well, look at that. it may be more about him wanting to be at the center of the spectacle. but i am curious here, it does look like we're about to complete the cycle of a gun -- there's a massive tragedy. people wringing their hands. we've got to do something and then the paralysis sets in. michael gerson says the following, tom, which i think captures the gun debate well. it's one of the dirty habits of our political discourse that so many people use they remember nuclear rhetorical weapons as a
first resort. it is not enough for defenders of gun rights to be wrong, they must be explicit in murder. it is not enough for gun control advocates to be mistaken, they must be jack booted thugs laying groundwork for tyranny and that is why we have no gun policy in this country. >> the gun thing, i have spent a lot of my life on it. i'm a gun owner as i've said before. i go in and out of gun shops out in the west and i've grown up with them. i don't think we can piecemeal it. i have come to the conclusion we have to get holistic about it. we have to get a blue ribbon panel out of the congress and the american people and get together and say this is what we have to do in a macro sense, not just about the access to ar-15s or the bump stocks. you can't do it piecemeal. you've got to change the consciousness of the country about the place these weapons and what we need them for. ar-15 owners say i need them to protect myself. i went and looked at two or three incidents in which a guy had an ar-15 and defended himself. he did it from four feet away. he would have been just as happy
with a short barrel shotgun or another kind of weapon. >> al, you were just in tallahassee. my theory is what tallahassee can pass, washington can pass. >> no doubt. i think 20 or 30 years ago, tom, unfortunately, gun policy went to the states and left washington. i think what florida does this week, which is -- >> or doesn't do, we don't know. >> or doesn't do will set the tone for national policy. they're hard at work at it. i can tell you from speaking to leadership that have a fairly ambitious agenda. we'll see if it passes. >> maybe i'm being to optimistic but i do think we've reached a tipping point here. just like rosa park when she went to the back of the bus, something happened in the civil rights movement. >> it took 10 or 15 years. for some legislation. >> i don't know, though. >> i think this parkland situation and the students and the business guys stepping in right now where there's a vacuum of political leadership, something is happening. >> if something is going to change it's got to change on the state level or business level like we saw with dick's sporting goods and a number of other businesses. the federal level, i think we'll get mired in another controversy and move on with another conversation as we have always done.
look. the president the other day, he is a unique person and in a unique position to convince people who otherwise cannot be convinced of things. if he came out strongly in favor of doing this, that or the other on guns, he could convince folks but he always waffles and rolls it pack. it back. >> he has yet to use his personal capital with his base to do something against his base. he thinks about it, he threatens it, he says he might. >> talks about how he can. >> he's yet to do it. >> it that's his security blanket. before we go, as you know the academy awards are tonight. what you may not know is three films from the "meet the press" film festival have been nominated for oscars in the best documentary short subject category. for your consideration, "knife skills" about the french restaurant using men and women almost entirely out of prison, "edith and eddie" about the country's oldest interracial newlyweds whose love story threatened by a family feud and it turned into an elder rights documentary. and then, of course, "heroin"
about the opioid epidemic in huntington, west virginia, and three men fighting that, including the city's fire chief jane raider who's been our guest frequently at "meet the press" and "meet the press daily." good luck to all of you. can't wait to see who does win this but it's going to be one of ours. we promise. that's all for today. we'll be back next week. if it's sunday, it's "meet the press." it's "meet the press." beyond is a natural pet food
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