MTP Daily, Transcript 5/19/2017
Show: MTP DAILY
Date: May 19, 2017
Guest: Thomas McClarty, Michael Gerson, Anita Dunn, Francis Rooney, Chris
Van Hollen, Mack McLarty, Michael Gerson, Andrew Card, Anita Dunn
KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST (voice-over): Tonight, hot off the presses. A new
round of reporting on what`s been going on behind closed doors at the White
Plus, justice on the Hill, the deputy attorney general gives members of
Congress new insight about Mueller`s investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROD ROSENSTEIN, U.S. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: There were questions well
outside the Russian scope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: And America first goes global.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has done things which undermine the confidence that
our allies have in us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: How will the world receive President Trump during his first foreign
This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.
(on camera): Good evening, I`m Katy Tur in New York in for Chuck Todd.
Welcome to MTP DAILY and welcome to the unknown. Because we`ve never seen
a week quite like this and it isn`t even over yet.
It`s been another afternoon of major breaking news. “The New York Times”
reporting this afternoon that President Trump told the Russians last week
during a meeting at the White House that the firing of FBI Director James
Comey eased pressure from the Russia investigation. I just fired head of
the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job, Mr. Trump said. I faced great
pressure because of Russia. That`s taken off.
The White House, notably, is not disputing that account. And “The
Washington Post” is now reporting that the Russia probe, which is now in
the hands of a special prosecutor, has identified a current White House
official as a significant person of interest. The White House isn`t
disputing that report either.
These two bomb shells cap off a week of sheer chaos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why won`t you just explain whether or not there are
SEAN SPICER, U.S. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has made it
clear what his position is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s not a question.
SPICER: I understand that. Because that`s what the president`s position
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The story that came out tonight as reported is false.
Their national security has been put at risk by those violating
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Watergate took many months and this thing
seems to be taking hours.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The special prosecutor is doing an investigation of
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The entire thing has been a
witch hunt. Believe me, there`s no collusion.
REP. AL GREEN (D), TEXAS: I stand for impeachment of the president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you, at any time, urge former FBI Director James
Comey in any way, shape or form to close or to back down investigation into
Michael Flynn? And also, as you look back –
TRUMP: No. No. Next question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Well, we have never seen a week quote like this. We`ve also never
had a president quite like the either. Throughout this hour, we`re going
to try to make sense of the chaos. The president is on his way, right now,
to Saudi Arabia.
Just hours ago, he boarded Air Force One for his first presidential trip
abroad. He`ll hit five countries in eight days. His supporters are
desperately hoping it`ll be a chance to reset an out of control narrative.
Before the president departed, his Facebook page seemed to address the
chaos. It said, they are trying to sabotage us.
Meanwhile, we`re seeing distress signals from inside the Republican Party.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Clearly, it`s my hope that he
does – that he does right the ship, that he – that he improves.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: I think we could do with a little less
drama from the White House on a lot of things.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Obviously, they`re, you know, on a
downward spiral right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, the president, I wish we could take Twitter away
TUR: With the White House combatting chaos on multiple fronts, we`ve put
together an incredible panel, as we try to chart a way forward. We`ve got
my colleague, Steve Kornacki, who is a NBC News National Political
Also, joining us are four White House titans who have worked hand in hand
with the – with the – with four presidents in the past. Andy Card was
Bush 41`s deputy chief of staff and Bush 43`s chief of staff. Mack
McClarty was President Clinton`s chief of staff. Michael Gerson was Bush
43`s director of speech writing. And Anita Dunn was Obama`s communications
Guys, damage assessment. How bad are these new developments? We`ve got
“The Washington Post,” Steve. We`ve got “The New York Times.” Is – does
this make it worse than it was for him on Monday?
STEVE KORNACKI, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think
you have the two there that you`re talking about, “The New York Times” and
“The Washington Post.” I think one brings a lot more specificity. That`s
“The New York Times” and the reporting of what Donald Trump said to the
Russians in that meeting the other day.
And the key element of that entire story is that, essentially, the White
House isn`t disputing it. So, then, it becomes a question of I suppose the
White House Trump defenders eventually coming up with an interpretation of
this that they will try to offer as more benign than what I think it sounds
like to a lot of people.
But here, you`ve got a very specific account of words that were said to the
Russians and you don`t have the White House saying no, that didn`t happen.
TUR: Not denying it.
KORNACKI: “The Washington Post” one, I put it more in the category of it
is potentially explosive. It`s potentially blockbuster. But that term
they`re using in there is giving me a little bit of pause when they say
person of interest just because that is such a broad term. That`s such a
nonspecific term. That could be something devastating to the White House.
That could also be something that falls more in the benign end.
So, at this moment, I look at “The New York Times” one and I say, that one
is a lot more immediately troubling for the White House.
TUR: Yes, on that note, Mack, does it seem to indicate, without – you
know, I mean, we`re getting more and more every day. Does this indicate
only further that Donald Trump was trying to impede the Russia
THOMAS “MACK” MCCLARTY, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF, CLINTON ADMINISTRATION:
Well, I think we need to let the process play out, Katy. I mean, clearly,
you`ve got a lot to work with. A lot of impressions that are – that have
been made. But I think we`ve got processes in place and we need to let
My real concern, if I were in the White House, it`s hard enough to move
your agenda forward without all of these distractions, controversies and
just stresses on the White House. It`s going to be even more difficult
TUR: Michael, if your president had said something like this, had been at
the Oval Office with the Russians and denigrated a former FBI director,
what would your reaction have been?
MICHAEL GERSON, FORMER DIRECTOR OF SPEECH WRITING, BUSH ADMINISTRATION:
Well, first of all, I would have been shocked. That`s not the man I worked
for. You know, he built loyalty by showing loyalty. He would never have
done such a thing.
But I think what we`re seeing is an extraordinary high-stakes contest
between the leaks that are coming from intelligence and from law
enforcement. And the president here, that is – that represents something
just extraordinary. Something that I haven`t seen.
It`s a fraying of the relationship between institutions in our – in our
country. And it`s not good. You know, even on the face of it, it`s not
TUR: Anita, let`s just line some of this up. He has publicly criticized
the subject of the FBI investigation, calling it fake news and a total
hoax. He said he asked Comey for his loyalty, according to “The New York
Times.” When he talked to Donald Trump – excuse me, when he talked on
Lester Holt, he said he was thinking about the Russian investigation when
he decided to fire James Comey.
We`ve got this news today, calling him a nut job. We have the memo Comey
wrote afterwards, saying that Donald Trump asked him to end the
investigation into Flynn. What more do people need, other than that, for
there to be evidence that Donald Trump was trying to get involved, and, at
the very least, influence the investigation?
ANITA DUNN, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Well,
you know, Katy, in many ways, this has been the farthest thing from a
cover-up since Donald Trump, last week, went on your network to actually
say that this was why he had fired Director Comey or come as close as you
And this is now the second report. It almost makes you nostalgic for
earlier in the week will the worst they know he had done with the Russians
was to share intelligence from a trusted ally who didn`t know we were doing
I think that there are significant problems for this administration. All -
- you know, all four of us worked in different administrations. But, you
know, when you are trying to do anything in this town, to have the
alignment of enemies, that this White House has managed to line up very
quickly, and to have so few allies. So few people that are going to look
at you and say, it`s – you know, we`re going to stick with you down the
I mean, Richard Nixon, you know, three years into the Watergate
investigations, still had a fairly solid block of support on Capitol – two
years in, on Capitol Hill. And only when that crumbled did he resign. But
people hung in there with him.
This is a president who ran against his own party as well as my party when
he ran for president. Who took on the intelligence agencies and basically
said he didn`t believe what they were saying. Who, you know, has basically
attacked the press who has come into town – and, yes, he has shaken things
up. But I think he is about to find out how shaky his own ground is.
TUR: Andy, give me a, you know, 30,000-foot damage assessment.
ANDY CARD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, the challenges
that President Trump has he invited on himself. And there`s been a lack of
discipline from him which means there`s a lack of discipline seen as
permission around the executive branch.
So, we`ve got to find more discipline. The president should exercise more
discipline that`ll invite more discipline from people who work in the
government for him. They do work in the executive branch. But that`s –
it`s critically important.
This is a new stage. We now have a special counsel that is going to be
reviewing all of this. People should find the discipline to do what is
I hope that Reince Priebus convenes a meeting of all the people who work in
the White House and says, we`re going to cooperate with this special
counsellor and the work that has to be done. If you cannot cooperate, go
see the White House counsel or come see me, the chief of staff.
And then, I would say President Trump should demonstrate that he has called
for people who work at the White House to cooperate with the special
counsel effort to understand what happened. It would be good if this could
be done quickly so that this review doesn`t go on for years and years and
years. I think it should be done well.
And I have great confidence that Bob Mueller will do that. But we should
work to cooperate with them and find a solution so that we can get back to
doing the job of running the country.
And that`s the real job at the White House. President Trump must invite
people to work with him, so he can continue to do the job and not be
distracted, especially now that we have a special counsellor who is going
to be reviewing all of this.
Stop talking about it. Focus on the job at hand. And that`s the
discipline that has to come from the White House. And, hopefully, it will
then go into all of the intelligence agencies and they`ll start to do their
job rather than talk about their job or the job that somebody else is not
doing well. And talking to the press.
I think they have to get back to discipline. The special counsel is an
excuse now for the White House to say, we`re not going to talk about this
anymore. The special counsellor is going to handle all of this and let`s
see what happens and we`ll go from there.
TUR: You know, that is – Andy, that is the near universal advice that
people are giving Donald Trump. And I don`t think there`s much doubt that
those within his staff would like that to be the case.
But Donald Trump is not somebody who listens that. He`s somebody who will
send out a measured statement about the counsellor and then watch cable
news in the morning and wake up and tweet angrily.
So, I think Reince Priebus going out there and trying to give a stern
lecture to the staff is futile if the president of the United States
refuses to get on board. What do you do when the commander in chief is not
somebody that you can convince to put down his phone?
CARD: Well, I would think that the White House counsel and the chief of
staff should sit with the president and just outline the consequence of
having a special counsellor assigned to conduct an investigation. He will
take it wherever it goes.
And that means that you have to have discipline and you probably shouldn`t
talk about the past, publicly, if it relates to it. If it`s – if it`s
going to invite you into the process of being distracted by having a
special counsellor call you as a witness and want you to appear before
grand juries or anything else. That`s very disruptive to the operation.
And the president has a job to do. He`s an impossibly difficult job to be
president of the United States under any circumstances. He doesn`t need to
complicate it now by trying to second-guess what`s going to happen in an
investigation that he has no control over.
So, it is what it is. I think you should find the discipline to follow the
recommendations of his White House counsel and his chief of staff and
invite greater discipline on the whole process, including in the White
TUR: Anita made a good point, a moment ago, Steve, that the president ran
against the Republican Party. He ran against the Democratic Party. That
is 100 percent true. He only embraced the Republican Party after they
embraced him. And even then, it was touch and go. And it seems that even
now if they decided to back away from them, he would, you know, go out guns
blazing against the Republicans.
Because of that, because he was not – he doesn`t have a real allegiance to
a party and his supporters didn`t really have an allegiance to a party,
they have an allegiance to him. What does he have to listen to anyone in
KORNACKI: Yes, I mean, that`s what – I look at this from a – from a
different angle actually because I look at it from the standpoint of the
Republican members of Congress, the Republican establishment in Washington.
On paper, this is their president. And they still have – still, I think,
harbor a lot of hopes that, hey, he can calm down and they can pass this
agenda. And they also recognize that, look, as long as Donald Trump has
that R next to his name, their fate is tied to his, in a lot of ways.
And it`s such complicated thing because I think so many of them didn`t
embrace him in the campaign. Some of them even ran away from him in the
last month of the campaign when that “Access Hollywood” tape came out.
They believed he was going to doom them. He was going to their party.
The fact that he won their nomination last year and the fact that he then
survived those October revelations and won the presidency, I think has, in
the back of the mind of just about every Republican member of Congress is
the thought, wait a minute. Does this guy know my party`s base better than
KORNACKI: Is he more in touch with them? Are they more in tune with him
than they are with me? And I think that`s what`s given them so much pause
to come out and break with him.
And I`m looking at the calendar. What I got circled right now is next
Thursday. Next Thursday, Montana. Don`t ask me why it`s on a Thursday and
not a Tuesday. But there is a special election in Montana next Thursday.
And if the Democrat ever won that thing, I do wonder if that would scare
Republicans into a possible red state (ph).
TUR: And you made a good point the other day, Steve, that Nixon, the
support for him started to break after a special election.
KORNACKI: Special election, yes.
TUR: Michael, I want to get you in on this quickly. Does Donald Trump
know the Republican base better than the Republican Party?
GERSON: Well, not if he`s in the mid-30s in the polls coming up. I mean,
I think that members of Congress are looking at those numbers to see his
strength, remaining strength, where his floor is in all this. You know, it
makes a difference if it is low 40s or mid-30s, as far as intimidation
factor, about going against the president. The stronger he is, the more
difficult that is for members.
And, Anita – I`m sorry. My producer was in my ear for a second. I didn`t
realize you stopped talking.
Anita, do Democrats – do they understand how to capitalize on this or are
they just going to fall into the same trap they did during the election
which was criticize Trump. Say that he`s a horrible person. He`s not fit
to be president. Are they going to present their own ideas? Are they
going to be able to turn out at the polls? What do you think?
DUNN: Well, Katy, it`s interesting. You know, Steve just mentioned the
Montana special election which is being held next Thursday. The final ad
that the Democratic candidate, Rob Quist, has put on the air is about
health care. And it`s very specifically about the Republican health care
bill, tying his opponent to that Republican health care bill.
So – and I think it`s an interesting dynamic because, clearly, we`re
dealing with a lot of things out there when it comes to these special
elections. Hillary Clinton got 36 percent of the vote in Montana so I
think it`s a very tough state for a Democrat to win in.
But having said that, you know, obviously, Democrats have to go out and
they have to make the case, at some point to this country, that they are
ready to govern and to lead it forward. And that, in particular, they have
heard from, you know, the people who haven`t done as well over the last 10
years. And that they have ideas to move this country forward.
Donald Trump ran a very good campaign, when it came to appealing to the
people who felt left behind. Democrats have the challenge of coming with
their economic message.
You could probably say, every day that goes by, this White House is making
this mid-term much easier for the Democrats to make significant gains in
the House and to at least hold their own in the Senate where a month, two
months ago, everyone was talking about the Democrats losing significant
numbers of seats in the Senate.
TUR: Mack, we`re going to get back to you after – a little bit later in
the hour. Sorry I didn`t get to circle back to you during in this block.
MCCLARTY: It`s all right.
TUR: But, Steve, appreciate it, Andy, Mack as well. Michael and Anita,
stay with us. We`re going to – we`re just getting started in this hour.
Next, we`ll talk to members of Congress on both sides of the aisle with
reaction to today`s new round of breaking news. Keep it right here.
TUR: Welcome back.
Another day of breaking news out of Washington. In just the past couple of
hours, we`ve got new reports from “The Washington Post,” “The New York
Times” and “Foreign Policy” magazine.
“The Washington Post” is reporting that a White House advisor close to
President Trump is a person of interest in the Russia probe. “The New York
Times” is reporting that President Trump told Russian officials that Comey,
FBI Director Comey, was a, quote, “nut job” and that firing him eased
pressure from the investigation.
And according to “Foreign Policy” magazine, Israeli intelligence is furious
over President Trump`s disclosure of classified information to the
We`ll hear from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on all of this
breaking news next. And we`ll go to Saudi Arabia ahead of the president`s
TUR: Welcome back.
We`re winding up about as busy a week as you could have in Congress without
having any monumental votes.
Joining me now is Florida Republican Congressman Francis Rooney.
Congressman, thank you for joining me, number one. And I`d be remiss not
to start with a couple of breaking news stories that have come out of both
“The Washington Post” and “The New York Times.”
First, starting with “The Washington Post.” They say their law enforcement
sources are what U.S. official sources say that the investigation into the
Russian probe has reached a senior White House adviser, somebody close to
the president. Given that, do you still believe that a special counsel was
REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R), FLORIDA: You know, I think as long as it`s an
intelligence issue and the issues being talked about pertain to classified
documents and who has the right to receive them, who should be their names
disclosed, et cetera. That, yes, I think the intel committees should keep
their jurisdiction over it.
TUR: If a White House senior adviser, somebody close to the president, is
being investigated, do you trust that this administration is properly
ROONEY: Well, I wouldn`t know about their internal procedures about
vetting. I know the vetting procedures that the Bush administration did
which were exacting. And I would assume that they`re following the same
TUR: Well, I mean, Michael Flynn, they say they didn`t know about his ties
to Turkey. They say they didn`t know he was under investigation. There is
reporting that he alerted them early on. There`s questions about vetting
of Michael Flynn. And now, another White House senior adviser being
investigated by law enforcement during this probe into Russia. That`s a
pretty big deal. You think the vetting is OK?
ROONEY: Well, I have to agree with the Flynn situation, now that we know
some hard facts. That`s a bad deal if he was being paid by foreign
governments and still working around the White House and having classified
TUR: “The New York Times” is also reporting that Donald Trump, in that
meeting with the Russians, right after – the day after FBI Director James
Comey was fired, told the Russian ambassador, told the Russian foreign
minister that FBI Director James Comey was crazy and a real nut job. Also,
that it relieved great pressure from him. What is your reaction?
ROONEY: Well, I couldn`t understand why the president didn`t fire Comey
January 20th for the way he botched the Hillary Clinton investigation. But
that was his business to wait. And I think the fact that the deputy
attorney general has said that the – you know, that there was – or that
the deputy FBI director said that there was no effort to hinder the
investigation under sworn testimony is good enough for me.
TUR: Do you think it`s appropriate that the president of the United
States, in a meeting with the Russians in the Oval Office, called the FBI
director crazy and a real nut job? Is that appropriate for the president
of the United States?
ROONEY: Well, we all have our different personalities. And, certainly,
this campaign was laden with a lot of them and each of us looks at it
differently. I don`t know that I would say something like that but I`m not
TUR: So, as he also said that it relieved a great pressure. He told
Lester Holt that he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he
decided to fire FBI Director James Comey. Does that not look suspicious to
ROONEY: Well, I`d like – I want to see some evidence, you know, the –
TUR: The president of the United States said he was thinking about the
Russia investigation when he decided to fire the FBI director.
ROONEY: Yes, but the deputy attorney general said that Comey should be
fired for reasons he set out in his letter. So, what do you believe, you
know? I mean, we have an intel investigation about what may or may not
have happened with intelligence with the Russians. And I would like to see
the two committees do what the taxpayers hired them to do.
And if the people aren`t happy after that and they`re not satisfied, then,
perhaps, take it to another level.
TUR: What did you learn from deputy A.G. Rosenstein today?
ROONEY: Well, I think that he stands by his story that Comey needed to go.
TUR: Anything else?
ROONEY: No. Is there something else I should have known?
TUR: No, I mean, did you learn that it was leaning more towards a criminal
investigation? Were you happy –
ROONEY: Oh, no, –
TUR: – with the attorney general, deputy attorney general? Do you agree
with his decision to appoint a special counsel now even though you didn`t
agree with it beforehand?
ROONEY: No, no. I would just as soon not have a special counsel and let
the intel committees do their job first. What happens with these special
counsels is you get mission creep. You get a lot people trying to build
careers off these things. And who knows where it could go.
TUR: Do you think that Bob Mueller is trying to build a career off of
this? Bob Mueller, the special counsel is trying to –
ROONEY: No, not Director Mueller. He`s done everything you can do and
that`s important in the world. But there will be some people he hires that
might want to build a career.
TUR: So, do you think that this is an investigation that has an agenda,
even though someone like Bob Mueller is leading it?
ROONEY: I`m not going to criticize a person with a distinguished service
record like Director Mueller. I just would rather see the intel committees
do their job first and see if the people are satisfied with their work.
TUR: Given all the news that`s coming out of this White House, and given
the fact that there are multiple investigation into it, does anything
coming out of this White House, anything at all right now, Congressman,
give you pause about this president?
ROONEY: Yes, there are some things that give me pause.
TUR: Like what?
ROONEY: I think the Flynn – the Flynn situation is not good. And I think
those facts that the Department of Defense is investigating need to come to
full life. But I also would like the see them speed up their appointment
process and go ahead and fill out the posts of the government so they our
administrative agencies can do their jobs.
TUR: Congressman Rooney, thank you very much. I hope you have a great
ROONEY: Same to you. Thank you for having me on.
TUR: Thank you.
Let`s turn now to Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. Senator, thank you
for joining us. And I`m going to warn –
SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Good to be with you.
TUR: – you right now, I`m going to throw a bunch news at you. We have
tons of –
VAN HOLLEN: All right.
TUR: – breaking news that has been mounting by the moment.
First off, McClatchy is reporting that a number of congressmen seem to
infer from Rod Rosenstein today. That they were also investigating a
cover-up. Did you get that indication yesterday in your meeting with Rod
VAN HOLLEN: Oh, I don`t think there`s any doubt that the special counsel
has been charged to look into not just collusion between the Trump campaign
and the Russians during the election, but into obstruction of justice and a
I mean, that is clearly one of the reason why Rod Rosenstein did not answer
the questions about conversations that were had with respect to the memo,
whether he met with the president, his view of the Comey memo. All of that
now is in the purview of the special counsel, with respect to potential
obstruction of justice.
I should point out that in order to appoint a special counsel, under the
regulation, Rod Rosenstein had to make a finding, a determination that a
criminal investigation into a person or matter was warranted. And, at some
point, clearly, something tipped the balance from his decisions not to
appoint a special counsel to appointing one.
TUR: But did he tell you that?
VAN HOLLEN: He was very clear, in his comments, that a criminal
investigation was part of this and part of the purview of the special
counsel. And it`s right there –
TUR: Did he use the words, were you looking into a cover-up?
VAN HOLLEN: I`m not sure if he used the word, cover-up. But the word
obstruction of justice was used and that is announced to the same thing.
TUR: Got it.
“The New York Times” is reporting that Donald Trump, in that meeting with
the Russian officials in the Oval Office, he called FBI director a nut job.
That being said, leave that alone. He said that firing him eased pressure.
What does that say to you? What`s your reaction to the president, saying
firing his FBI director eased pressure to the Russians in a meeting in the
VAN HOLLEN: I think that`s going to be of great interest to the special
counsel. Because at the heart of this investigation, of course, is the
question of collusion between the Trump campaign and the elections. And
if, in fact, the firing of Comey was done by President Trump to try to
prevent Comey from getting to the bottom of things, that is something the
special counsel is going to want to look into in the context of the
obstruction of justice.
Again, we don`t know exactly what he`ll find. But that is clearly
something that is going to be on his radar screen. I mean, that`s going to
make his antenna go up. As is the news about the Comey memo where Trump
told him not to pursue the investigation into Michael Flynn who, clearly,
is, you know, over his head, with respect to his connections with the
Russians, both before and after the campaign.
TUR: Senator, “The Washington Post” is also reporting that the law
enforcement investigation now reaches as high as the White House, saying
that a current White House official is a person of interest. Any idea who
that could be?
VAN HOLLEN: I do not. I do not have any idea who it could be. What it tells
me is that in addition to the counter intelligence investigation that`s
going on, I think that this very likely falls under the purview of the
criminal investigation. As we know, even before the appointment of a
special prosecutor, there were grand jury proceedings.
Subpoenas had been issued in this case. Clearly things were heating up and
that seems be the the motivation for President Trump making the decision to
fire Comey. I mean, the irony, of course, is that the result is a special
counsel who is now going to be very focused on this.
And I should say that despite what Trump said the other day about how this
is dividing the country, for the most part, a few members of congress
excepted, there`s broad bipartisan support for this move by Rod Rosenstein.
TUR: In your roles, heading the DSCC and DCCC, what do you think? If
Democrats cannot win the two special elections that are coming up, one in
Montana, one in Georgia, what does that say? If they can`t win right now,
what does that say?
VAN HOLLEN: Let me make an important distinction. I believe that the
questions regarding collusion and the ongoing investigation are things that
really do rise above party politics. One of the things that we`ve called
upon our Republican colleagues to do is come together as patriots and not
partisans. I do believe as I said that the appointment of Rod Rosenstein is
an example where people came together outside the White House, of course.
With respect to the special.
TUR: But if the Democrats can`t win under those circumstances, I don`t want
to bring it back into politics, but does that mean the American people
don`t care? Or does that mean that even despite all of this, they trust
Republicans more with getting things done? It has to mean something.
VAN HOLLEN: With respect to the special elections, I think it was Anita
Dunn who mentioned the fact that the ads being run in Montana focus on the
Republican support for the Trump care, the Republican health care plan,
which is a total betrayal of the Trump voters when you actually get under
the hood and look at what it does, right?
It strips 24 million Americans of access to affordable care while providing
huge tax cuts to very wealthy people and powerful special interests. That
is why that kind of issue that shows the broken promises of the Trump
administration has been a powerful motivator. And yes, you`ve seen people
coming out to town hall meetings, making phone calls, marching in the
All of that is really important in special elections and off year elections
because it is the energy of voters. But I think what is motivating those
voters is the fact that Trump came in promising a lot of things. He said he
is going to use American-made steel in pipelines. He said he was going to
find China currency manipulator.
The reality is it is a campaign where a lot of members of the Trump family
have financial interests tied up with what the president is doing, and he
has got a budget coming up which we already know from the preliminary
glimpse is going to be a total betrayal of what he told the forgotten
Americans. He is forgetting the forgotten Americans and going after them.
TUR: Senator Chris Van Hollen, I appreciate your time. Happy Friday, sir.
VAN HOLLEN: Happy Friday to you.
TUR: Still ahead, still our panel of White House insiders gives President
Trump their advice for traveling abroad. We`ll be right back.
TUR: Still ahead, amid all of the breaking news, President Trump takes
America first abroad. Also this weekend, don`t miss the premiere of “Velshi
& Ruhle” Saturday on MSNBC. Join business journalists Ali Velshi and
Stephanie Ruhle for their new show at 12:30 p.m. eastern. Not going to want
to miss that. Right now, here`s CNBC`s Hampton Pearson with the “CNBC
Market Wrap.” Hi, Hampton.
HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Katy. We had
stocks basically ending the week in positive territory. The Dow up 141
points. The S&P gaining 16. The Nasdaq ending up 28 points higher. Today,
Ford motor company announced it is adding 800 jobs outside Detroit. The
$350 million investment in Dearborn follows a cut of 1,400 jobs in its
global workforce earlier this week. That`s it from CNBC, first in business
TUR: Welcome back to “MTP Daily.” Amid all this breaking news in
Washington, President Trump is on his way to Saudi Arabia on his first
foreign trip. So can the Trump administration use this time overseas to
change the conversation? Let`s go to my colleague, NBC News White House
correspondent Kristen Welker, who is in Saudi Arabia. Kristen, what does
the White House hope to do with this?
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Katy. Well, the
stakes couldn`t be higher. They are hoping that this will help President
Trump reset the narrative after what has been arguably the rockiest period
of his young presidency. This is going to be a historic five nation nine-
day trip. It starts right here in Riyadh.
He is going to be meeting with King Salman when he arrive here on Saturday
as well as the number of leaders in the region. His message to them is
going to be that he wants to be a partner to the Muslim world despite
controversial comments that he made as a candidate, despite his travel ban
that has been held up in the court.
I can tell you that he is being welcomed with optimism and excitement. He
is staying at the Ritz-Carlton just behind where we are, Katy, and there`s
a huge image of President Trump and the king as well as their hands
clasping. So there`s a lot of optimism. They see this as a possibility to
reset relations in the wake of former President Obama.
There was a lot of criticism of former President Obama in part because he
secured things like the Iran nuclear deal. Iran, they say one of the
enemies of Saudi Arabia. He then of course heads to Israel, the Vatican,
and Brussels, Sicily. It is a long trip, a chance for him to reset, Katy.
But you can bet all of the scandals you`ve been talking about throughout
the hour will follow him here. Katy.
TUR: Kristen Welker in Saudi Arabia, appreciate it. Now let`s go back to my
all-star panel of west wing alumni. Former White House chief of staff
Andrew Card and Mack McLarty, Bush 43 director of speech writing Michael
Gerson, and Obama`s communication director Anita Dunn.
Mack, let`s start with you. Do you think that this can be a reset for this
MACK MCLARTY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF FOR PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON:
It can certainly help in that regard, Katy. It does give him a chance to
change the narrative. The narrative he has got at home is not good. You got
to be strong at home to provide leadership abroad. I think he is set up to
have a good trip to Saudi Arabia as Kirsten outlined. I think he`ll be well
received by Mr. Netanyahu in Israel, despite the recent flap.
NATO is going to be considerably more complicated, how he squares America
first with NATO where he`s been very critical. But there`s no question when
the U.S. president steps on the world stage, if he can handle it in a
thoughtful, serious skillful manner, it will help him reset the narrative.
And he needs that at this point.
TUR: Michael, words matter when you`re visiting these sorts of countries.
Donald Trump`s speeches are being written by Stephen Miller, the same
adviser that wrote – the travel ban adviser who wrote many of the speeches
while Donald Trump is on the campaign trail. Many that were accused of
being Islamophobic. What does that say to you?
MICHAEL GERSON, SPEECHWRITER OF PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, COLUMNIST FOR THE
WASHINGTON POST: Well, it`s difficult in one way because he has to
repudiate his previous positions in order to communicate what he wants to
communicate in this circumstance. He has identified Islam as part of the
problem. You cannot fight war on terror by alienating the Islamic world.
That`s not possible. All of our allies on the ground are Muslims in this
fight. And so he is going to have to change his position.
The question is, is the speech writing department a voice of reason and
moderation in this to frame this? Or are they part of the problem? I mean,
they are the ones who produced the inaugural address, which is one of the
most divisive in our history, America first message. And so that I think is
going to be difficult. He has to repudiate his previous positions, and the
speech writing staff will have to do something it hasn`t done before.
TUR: And Andy, we`re just getting a report about Israel and the
intelligence out there being furious with American intelligence officials
screaming at American counterparts for the leak of highly classified
information from Donald Trump to the Russians. He goes to Israel right
after Saudi Arabia. By all public accounts, it looks like things are going
to go well. At least the Israeli ambassador said things will be fine. But
what is it going to be like behind the scenes? How tense could it get?
ANDREW CARD, FORMER BUSH 43 CHIEF OF STAFF: First of all, I think President
Trump does have a good relationship with Netanyahu. I think he expects to
have a good meeting and Netanyahu wants to have a good meeting. I think it
will go well. Yes, the intelligence services have friction. They`ve had
friction in the past so this is not the first time.
But we`re allies and we have the best ally that Israel has. Netanyahu knows
that. President Trump knows that. He is certainly standing up and
demonstrating that he wants to be a good ally. I think it is going to be a
good visit to Saudi Arabia and a good visit to Jerusalem and Israel.
So I think President Trump is actually going to be standing on stage at the
right time with the right message. But he does have a problem back home and
we should recognize that it is important for all of America to say he is
our president now. He is speaking for us when he visits these other
TUR: Anita, speaking of being back at home, Vice President Pence is not on
this trip. He is somebody that our NBC News reporting is being shown to at
the very least being kept in the dark on some of the more momentus things
that are happening inside the White House. What does that say to you? Are
White House officials purposely keeping him in the dark to protect him? Or
are they purposely keeping him in the dark because they don`t trust him?
ANITA DUNN, OBAMA COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I don`t know, Katy. I think that
Vice President Pence was never a member of the Trump inner circle during
the campaign. He has done what the president has needed him to do. I want
to go back to something that Andy said in the earlier segment which is
about the need for discipline and for the president to show discipline.
These foreign trips, a nine-day trip, five countries, is a grueling trip
for anybody. That is a really tough, long foreign trip. The discipline that
is required of this president to really take advantage of those
individuals, of his being presidential, of his meetings, of changing the
narrative, it is discipline that says do not get in these meetings and free
Do not get in these meetings and decide that you want to talk one more time
about how nobody thought you could win Wisconsin (ph). You know, it is
really important for him to go into these meetings as the president of the
United States, but also to exercise the kind of discipline that I think
Andy was talking about earlier in order to really maximize all of this.
TUR: If anybody knows about the need for presidential discipline, it is you
guys. So happy you`re joining in this conversation. We are going to pick
this up in just a moment. You are all going to stick around with me, so
keep it right here.
TUR: More breaking news rolling in this hour. “Politico” is now reporting
that two days after firing Micheal Flynn as national security advisor in
February, Donald Trump told several aides and friends he should have kept
him instead. You will get more “MTP Daily” right after this.
TUR: It`s time now for “The Lid.” It`s a lightning round. My west wing
friends are back. Andy Card, Mack McLarty, Michael Gerson, and Anita Dunn.
Guys, you`re going to get the same question, you have to give it to me
quickly. What is the story, Mack, that will still be in the headlines as of
MCLARTY: I think there will be two stories likely. I would not be surprised
President Trump`s encounter with the pope could bring forth some unexpected
new stories. But the stories here, the controversies will continue. And as
Anita noted, that will be hard to deal with on a long foreign trip.
TUR: Anita, your name was invoked. What about you?
DUNN: Jim Comey, and why he fired Jim Comey, because at some point Jim
Comey gets to talk, too.
CARD: Comey, Bob Mueller, the new FBI director. That will be very
interesting to America. But this trip could also generate some commentary
depending on how well the president does. And this is the chance for the
president to be standing on the world stage as the president of the United
States and I think that will make a difference, too.
GERSON: Special counsel just guarantees that Russia is going to be
important. And, you know, we have White House leaks all the time. We have
intel leaks. We`ve got FBI leaks that have guaranteed this story stays in
the headlines, and I`m not sure that`s going to change.
TUR: And Michael, since we have some more time, you guys were so quick, who
do you think the next FBI director is going to be, is Joe Lieberman a good
GERSON: I think Democrats are not very happy about the possibility of Joe
Lieberman on the argument that they want a nonpolitical FBI director. I
think a more consensus choice would – I like Joe Lieberman a great deal,
but a more consensus choice would be a consummate professional. That`s I
think what members of congress maybe on both sides are looking for.
TUR: Mack, it looks like they want to get Lindsey Graham and John McCain on
board. If they do that, do they stand a chance of being able to pass this
by a Republican majority only? Is that politically smart?
MCLARTY: Well, I think both senators McCain and Graham will support Senator
Lieberman if he`s nominated. I have great respect for Joe Lieberman. In
this case, I`ll show some bipartisanship. I think a consensus candidate
might be the better choice here.
TUR: And, Anita, are you surprised that Donald Trump didn`t want to fire
DUNN: You know, it`s very hard for Donald Trump to surprise me at this
TUR: That is true.
CARD: He`s surprising all of us.
TUR: Andy, yeah, he definitely is surprising all of us. Certainly
surprising his aides when he says that sort of thing. Guys, thank you so
much for being here. It`s wonderful to have such an an all-star panel.
People who really know what it`s like to be in the White House instead of
us folks like me who just pontificate about what it could be like. Thank
you guys very much. Next, why a traditional political neutral safe space
may be disappearing soon. Keep it right here.
TUR: In case you missed it, the role of FBI director seems like it`s one of
the last apolitical bastians in Washington. At least for now. Since long-
time FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover died in 1972, the senate has voted on
seven nominees to lead the bureau. In all, seven of those votes, there`s
only been one no vote. And it came during James Comey`s confirmation in
And if you follow the senate, you may be able to guess who was the lone
dissenter. That`s right, it was Kentucky Republican Rand Paul. He cast a
nay vote because he said he wanted more information on the FBI`s use of
drones. In addition, Oregon two Democratic senators Jeff Merkley and Ron
Wyden voted present on Comey.
That`s not exactly a yes, but Senator Paul`s time as a trivia answer is
probably coming to an end. It is quite likely that we`ll see more than a
handful of democratic no votes on whomever President Trump nominates to run
the FBI. That will do it for me this week. Remember you can catch me any
time at 2:00 on MSNBC, 2:00 eastern, 11:00 a.m. pacific, and “For the
Record” with Greta with special host Chris Jansing starts right now. Hi,
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the