MTP Daily, Transcript 5/23/2017
Show: MTP DAILY
Date: May 23, 2017
Guest: Susan Page, Kim Darroch, Susan Collins
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: I don`t know, nothing much happened in the few
days that I was gone. But I`ll catch up. Thanks, Nicole.
If it`s Tuesday, there`s even more Russia smoke.
(voice-over): Tonight, the former head of the CIA says he worried last
fall that Russia was trying to undermine our election and that the Trump
campaign may, indeed, have been involved.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER DIRECTOR, CIA: Frequently, individuals who go along a
treasonous path do not even realize they`re along that path until it gets
to be a bit too late.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Plus, the Flynn investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re not taking contempt of Congress off the table
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Republican Senator Susan Collins joins us to discuss the next steps.
And terror in Manchester.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: But this attack stands out
for its appalling, sickening cowardice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: What kind of message President Trump is sending with his latest
remarks that condemn the terrorist action in the U.K.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will call them, from now
on, losers because that`s what they are. They`re losers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.
(on camera): Good evening and welcome to MTP DAILY. I`m Chuck Todd here
in Washington. Good to be back.
And since the last time I saw you, it`s been revelation after revelation
for the Trump White House, on multiple fronts, surrounding multiple angles
into the Russia probe.
Folks, all of these stories, the firing of James Comey. President Trump`s
Oval Office meeting with Russian officials. His disclosing of classified
information during that meeting. The drip, drip, drip of Michael Flynn
who`s now pleading the fifth. The possibility that someone inside the
White House is now a significant person of interest in the Russia
Oh, and I think, at one point, calling James Comey a nut job in front of
Russians by the president, that allegation being out there. On any one of
these stories would be huge on its own for this White House. But add them
all up, including possible charges of obstruction of justice, and you do
have a presidency in crisis.
And, today, two of the nation`s top spy chiefs and the former director of
the CIA all answered questions on Capitol Hill. All of this while the
president is still on his first overseas trip. He`s now in Rome, before a
meeting tomorrow with Pope Francis.
The president is also confronting the first large-scale terror attack in
the western world since his inauguration. The suicide bombing attack at a
concert in Manchester, England. We`ll have the latest reporting on that,
ahead, as well.
But first, tonight, we`re focusing on the increasing pressure this
president is under. The latest, “The Washington Post” and NBC News
reporting that President Trump asked the director of National Intelligence,
Dan Coats, and Admiral Mike Rogers, head of the national security agency,
to publicly say they saw no evidence the Trump campaign had colluded with
the Russian effort to interfere in the 2016 election. Both of them
Director Coats testified on Capitol Hill today. And while he didn`t
confirm the conversation happened, he didn`t deny it, either.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I have always believed that
given the nature of my position and the information in which we share, it`s
not appropriate for me to comment publicly on any of that. And so, on this
topic as well as other topics, I don`t feel it`s appropriate to
characterize discussions and conversations with the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: If the – if that report were incorrect, do you think you would have
corrected it? Folks, Coats did nothing there to correct the record. So,
that leads many to believe the reporting of what the president said is
true. And that`s a member of the president`s administration, an appointed
cabinet member, publicly protecting his own office rather than the
Admiral Rogers was also on the Hill today for budget hearings and wasn`t
asked about the reporting. In a separate hearing today, former CIA
director, John Brennan, also seemingly made matters worse for the
president, raising further questions about ties between the Trump campaign
and the kremlin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRENNAN: I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that
revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S.
persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because
of known Russian efforts to suborn the – such individuals.
And it raised questions in my mind, again, whether or not the Russians were
able to gain the cooperation of those individuals. Frequently, individuals
who go along that treasonous path do not even realize they`re along that
path until it gets to be a bit too late.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Folks, Senators Richard Burr and Mark Warner, the Chairman and Vice
Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, addressed Brennan`s comments
moments ago, saying their committee will look into it as part of its
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: What we`re looking at now, part of the
thing in this investigation, is to look at those contacts that Mr. Brennan
spoke about and see what they were, how extensive they were and what they
led to, if anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Joining me now is Michael Leiter, NBC News national security
analyst, and a former director of the National Counterterrorism Center and
before that, a chief of staff at the Department of National Intelligence.
Mr. Leiter, welcome back.
MICHAEL LEITER, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Good to be here,
TODD: So, let`s address this issue of the accusation of trying – of the
president supposedly making a personal plea to Dan Coats at DNI, Mike
Rogers at NSA, to definitively say there was no evidence of collusion.
What did you make of director Coats not addressing the issue at all, other
than saying, I`m going to keep it private?
LEITER: Well, I think Director Coats, someone who I have a great deal of
respect for, did exactly what a director of National Intelligence should
do. Which was, thanks very much, take notes, stay internal, and make sure
that he is still focused on being the director of National Intelligence,
and not issuing statements which fundamentally are at odds with what the
intelligence communities have thus far found.
TODD: Let me play devil`s advocate here. Obviously, the president is
getting chastised by many professionals in the intelligence community, many
Democrats, some Republicans who say, hey, this is inappropriate behavior.
Because he`s getting criticized because the assumption is he`s guilty or
that there`s some guilty there.
What about from his point of view. If he – if he`s – he believes he`s
innocent or he tells us he`s innocent. And if he believes he`s this
innocent, and he feels that it`s a witch hunt, why wouldn`t he make those
phone calls? And why wouldn`t that be appropriate?
LEITER: Well, we know that the president has no problem saying that
LEITER: Had that over and over.
TODD: But if you truly believe this, you know, why wouldn`t he – why
wouldn`t he act this way?
LEITER: It`s really clear. And, honestly, if he wants to call up his
director of Homeland Security or secretary of state or anyone like that,
and say, hey, we agree with the president, that`s just fine.
But the line has to be drawn, really, in two places. The most sensitive
one is the law enforcement people who are doing the investigation. And
that is one that can`t be violated. You can`t go and call the
investigators and say, let me tell you what you need to say and what you
need to find. We know that`s a problem.
But the second one, a little bit farther way, equally problematic, is
talking to the rest of the intelligence community and saying, hey, do you
have anything else in that intelligence bucket? And even if you don`t,
really, I need you to get out there and talk about why I`m not guilty.
And the intelligence community is going to say, what they should say, what
Dan Coats I think did say was, no. We`re the referee. We see the facts.
We call the facts. We`re not political partisans to defend your
presidency. We respect you. We work for you. But that`s not our role.
TODD: So is it – walk me through. I think there`s a lot of viewers who
probably sit there and are more cynical than even those of us in Washington
and say, please, presidents are always looking find intelligence to back up
their beliefs. George W. Bush did it with Iraq. Barack Obama did it with
Iran, trying to calm down the Iran worries. How prevalent is it? Walk me
through this process.
LEITER: That skepticism is reasonable to have. I can only tell you from
my experience, first for President George W. Bush and then President Barack
Obama. There are policies. And we knew they had policies and they wanted
to pursue things.
But for those – both of those presidents, when we showed up and said, Mr.
President, these are the facts we see. This is our assessment of the
situation. Here you go. I never had a president, I never had anyone on
their staff say, you know, Mike, we don`t think those are the facts. You
can disagree with the assessment –
TODD: Now, will they – what about, hey, Mike, can`t you – can`t you keep
finding intelligence that backs this up?
LEITER: They can tell us to go back and look and look and look, and we
would do that. But the idea of shaping those facts once we called them and
said, this is what we –
TODD: So, there was a line between, keep finding – keep looking –
LEITER: Keep looking is fine.
TODD: – versus shaping.
LEITER: But once we said what it was, they didn`t push back. And even on
Iraq. As you know, I worked on the commission that investigated the WMD in
LEITER: That was a bipartisan commission and, ultimately, it found, no,
the president didn`t try to shape the intelligence.
TODD: It really was bad intelligence.
LEITER: It was just bad.
LEITER: And it supported a political outcome. But, in my experience, the
idea of a president or the National Security Council calling and saying,
there ought to be different facts. We want to know those facts. Didn`t
TODD: If you were a political actor in this town, political analyst in
this town, and they say to you hey, Mike Leiter, this looks like the intel
community and Donald Trump indeed are at war. What would you say to that?
LEITER: Well, I said last week in “The Washington Post” that it may not be
a war, but it`s a series of skirmishes right now. There`s a level of
tension between these two parts of the government. Our president and the
intelligence community is there to support them. And, combined with that,
the law enforcement which is really problematic and bad for the country.
And it`s one of the reasons we see all these leaks.
TODD: Mike Leiter, NBC National Security Analyst, former head of the
counterterrorism center. Thank you, sir.
LEITER: Thank you.
Director Brennan`s testimony today, during it, we saw potentially telling
exchange between the former director and Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy
who has been a Trump ally at these committee hearings. Gowdy`s line of
questioning today may be a hint at where the Trump administration will go
as they attempt to insulate the president from any Russia-related
[17:10:04] Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Did you see evidence of collusion,
coordination, conspiracy between Donald Trump and Russian state actors?
BRENNAN: I saw information and intelligence that was worthy of
investigation by the bureau to determine whether or not such cooperation of
collusion was taking place.
GOWDY: And that would have been directly between the candidate and Russian
BRENNAN: That`s not what I said and I`m not going to talk about any
GOWDY: But that was my question and you answered it. You didn`t answer it
BRENNAN: No, I responded to your query. I`m not going to respond to
particular elements of your question, because I think it would be
inappropriate for me to do so here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: It was one of the more fascinating exchanges between those two
highly intelligent men and very good at their, let`s say, rhetorical bouts.
Let me bring in tonight`s president, Maria Teresa Kumar, President and CEO
of Voto Latino, and MSNBC Contributor. Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief
for “USA Today” and Sarah Fagan, former senior aide to President George W.
Bush and a CNBC contributor. Welcome all.
Susan, I isolated that exchange because it was very interesting to me that
Trey Gowdy separated Donald Trump, the individual, from what is the
allegation. It`s never been an allegation that Donald Trump, personally,
was involved. The allegation is that Trump associates.
Politically, I thought it was a clever attempt by Trey Gowdy. Brennan saw
it and didn`t do it. But, to me, it looks like a sneak peek of what the
defense could look like as we go forward.
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “USA TODAY”: And what we may have
heard from President Trump just, what, 24 hours ago, when he said, I can
only – I can speak for myself. Which is a sign, perhaps, he is no longer
completely confident that everyone around him would get the same clean bill
of health, when it comes to working or colluding with the Russians.
SARA FAGEN, CNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, this has – this has been the right
strategy all along. Because they`re –
TODD: You`re, like, saying they stumbled upon it now?
FAGEN: Right, because there hasn`t been strong evidence that Donald Trump
personally was involved. There hasn`t been any evidence.
TODD: Right. The evidence has always been on the periphery with
FAGEN: Right, and even though Michael Flynn certainly served in the
administration, it was a very brief period of time. And, you know, while
there`s rumors and articles about potential people in the White House being
involved, right now, it`s all outside the White House. And it`s all
outside of the Trump administration. And that`s where Donald Trump wants
that to live.
PAGE: Well, we don`t know that it`s all outside.
FAGEN: No, I said that.
TODD: No, she said that. She did. She made that caveat.
TODD: We have that report in there. But it is sort of, you know, is that
a – to me, it`s an acknowledgement that, number one, this is going to go
on for a while. And it goes to Susan`s point that maybe he`s starting to -
- let`s take him at face value here. I mean, he was going, well, maybe
somebody did something and I don`t know about it.
MARIA TERESA KUMAR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think he`s recognizing that –
and Sara`s absolutely right. That should have been their first strategy
saying that I know that I have a clean bill of health. I don`t know if
everybody else does. By ensuring that he does that though, that he – not
only does it distance himself, but he also gives the Republicans wiggle
room to do the investigation.
TODD: By the way, it was interesting in the story about Coats and Rogers,
who wasn`t mentioned in the intel chiefs. No Mike Pompeo.
PAGE: Yes, where was it?
TODD: Don`t know. But Mike Pompeo isn`t there. And the first time, we
know that Mike Pompeo – there was a time where this White House – now
maybe the White House has backed off on going after the – trying to get
the CIA to do this. Maybe he wasn`t asked.
FAGEN: Well, don`t forget, you know, one of his first challenges as
president was with the CIA coming into office. And, you know, perhaps they
TODD: Maybe they`re taking a hands-off approach with the CIA, more than
they are the other folks.
PAGE: But, you know, I think you do see the cost for President Trump,
having been so critical of the intelligence agencies now. Because the
intelligence agencies are now standing up for themselves, ensuring the
sanctity of their own reputations.
KUMAR: That`s right. They`re lockstep center and I think that`s – and I
think that`s the challenge that Trump has. He basically blew a lot of
political cover early on and I think that they would have been less united
under – in this situation had they been – had President Trump been much
more thoughtful with them.
PAGE: More respectful.
TODD: So, if we look at the two major developments of the day, and put it
this way, on is you`re starting to see the defend Trump, the individual
TODD: The other is, is Dan Coats a leading indicator of folks that are
starting to say, I`m going to protect myself before worrying about what`s
happening in that Oval?
FAGEN: Yes, perhaps. That`s exact – that looks like what happened.
Although, the reality is, when you run a National Intelligence operation,
you can`t go out there and have a political viewpoint and –
TODD: Not at all.
FAGEN: – not at all.
And Dan Coats is a pro and he understands that. So, even if someone at the
White House was suggesting he`d do that, lucky for them, he`s smart enough
to know that he can`t do that.
PAGE: Yes, bigger question, though, on whether Republican members of
Congress, congressional leaders, might feel, I want to protect the
institution of the Congress, not the White House. I want to protect my own
reputation, not protect the president. Because these are the kind of tough
questions that could possibly come up –
KUMAR: Well, and I think a lot of folks are looking very closely at how
Trump is – his dealing with his personal administration within the White
House, where they feel that they are not being protected by the president
right now. And that`s why these folks are saying, you know what?
[17:15:02] FAGEN: To Susan`s –
KUMAR: I need to protect my reputation.
FAGEN: – to Susan`s point, you know, we`re seeing that in the Senate.
We`re not yet seeing it in the House. And I think, you know, if more shoes
drop in this investigation, you`ll start to see it in the House.
TODD: Very quickly, war rooms in a White House. Did you guys have one at
any time that ever popped up? Was it during Social Security or during like
– did you have –
FAGEN: There were various iterations of it.
TODD: A good way of handling things or bad?
FAGEN: It ends up usually being people – it`s a good concept of people
work from their desks and it, sort of, goes away.
But, you know, in the case – I, you know, saw some reporting that had been
done about, you know, the Trump administration looking at bringing someone
in to handle – recognizing, this is here to stay, this investigation.
TODD: Go find somebody on the outside.
FAGEN: We`ll find a pro who`s been through it. We`ll have them be the
legal point person and the spokesperson. And that is the right strategy.
TODD: It all makes sense if the principal can allow it to –
TODD: Bill Clinton could compartmentalize, can Donald Trump?
PAGE: And Reagan had some trouble compartmentalizing to any (INAUDIBLE.)
They just made him stop talking about it. And the question is, is it
possible for anyone to make Donald Trump stop answering questions or even
KUMAR: And I think it`s in his nature to be a micromanager and this is the
antithesis of that. So, he has to show discipline. And that`s been
difficult for him.
TODD: That compartmentalization, it`s going to be a huge focus, I think,
going over the next six months.
You guys are sticking around.
Coming up though, we`re going to focus on the tragedy on the other side of
the Atlantic. Manchester is mourning as new details of that deadly terror
attack emerge. I`ll talk with the U.K.`s ambassador to the United States
right here on set and to a terrorism expert about where the investigation
in the U.K. goes from here.
TODD: Welcome back.
We`re used to President Trump using colloquialisms and schoolyard insults.
But today, he used what feels like an odd childish putdown when referring
to the terrorist attack in Manchester, England that killed at least 22
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So many young, beautiful, innocent people living and enjoying their
lives, murdered by evil losers in life. I won`t call them monsters,
because they would like that term. They would think that`s a great name.
I will call them, from now on, losers, because that`s what they are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Change in rhetoric comes after another one earlier this week, when
the president backed away from the phrase, radical Islamic terrorism, when
giving a speech in Saudi Arabia. That phrase was a centerpiece of Trump`s
presidential campaign and he the frequently criticized Hillary Clinton for
not saying it, when talking about the fight against terror. But he never
said it while in Saudi Arabia.
We`ll be back in 60 seconds.
TODD: Welcome back.
Moments ago, British Prime Minister Theresa May raised the terror threat
level in the U.K. to critical. That`s the highest level the U.K. has. It
follows last night`s terror attack that killed 22 people and injured 59
others after a concert at Manchester arena.
Now today, police have identified only two of the victims, ages 8 and 18.
This afternoon, British officials identified the bombing suspect as the 22-
year-old Salman Ramadan Abedi. Authorities are now questioning his 23-
Investigators do not know if there was any coordination between the bomber
and a terrorist network, though ISIS has claimed responsibility.
Here now in the United Kingdom`s ambassador to the United States, Kim
Darroch. Ambassador, thanks for coming in.
KIM DARROCH, U.K. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Thanks for having me.
TODD: Let`s start with what we know about this investigation. I know it`s
in the early stages yet. Investigators convinced that this was, sort of,
an ISIS – if not ISIS-directed, ISIS inspired.
DARROCH: Chuck, it`s been less than 24 hours since the appalling atrocity
of last night in Manchester. Investigators have said it was an act of
terrorism. Who is responsible is still to – I mean, the organization
behind it, if there was one, is still to be determined.
There are 400 odd police officers working on this. We will get to the
truth of the matter. It will be a very complete, very thorough, very
intense investigation. But it`s too early to draw conclusions.
TODD: The prime minister raised the terror threat level. It was already -
- you guys were already at a heightened level. And you have an alert
system. The United States scrapped theirs. We had the color-coded system
there for a while. That`s been scrapped.
What do – what are you asking citizens to do when they hear that? When
you hear that level, what does that mean to the average U.K. citizen?
DARROCH: This is a well-practiced procedure. We were last at this level
in June 2007. What it means is that armed police officers will now be
released to conduct, to support the investigation. And. in some cases,
they will be replaced by armed troops, all under the command of the – of
the police. And we`re asking citizens to be extra vigilant, extra alert.
But this is an appropriate response, decided in the Cobra meeting this
afternoon, the specialist can that looks at the threat. The prime minister
just announced it, as you say.
I used to sit on that committee when I was national security adviser so I
know how this goes. It`s the response to specialist advice to people who
understand the terrorist threat.
TODD: So, it means – it`s more of a resource dedication decision, meaning
this is – we`re appropriating more resources for X, Y and Z.
DARROCH: Well, it means there will be more visible presence on the
TODD: So don`t be alarmed.
TODD: Well, be a little alarmed.
DARROCH: It actually releases more officers to conduct the investigation.
Obviously, the investigation is key to where we go next.
TODD: Now, look, it`s still part of the investigation, but there`s some
early concern that this is somebody that basically – a British citizen
that went to fight, I think in Libya, there`s some potential connection
How concerned is the May administration now of this foreign fighter issue?
That those coming – obviously, it`s been a big concern here in the United
DARROCH: Yes. Terrorism is a global threat, as the president said in his
speech in Riyadh a couple of days ago. And there are people who have been
abroad, who get radicalized abroad. There are people who get radicalized
online at home. You see both phenomena.
We – it`s too early to draw conclusions about this particular case and how
this individual got radicalized. That will come out as the investigation
TODD: New security procedures. Any extra security procedures, besides
raising the terror threat level? When we see – we see, it looks like, he
didn`t get into the arena itself. But it looks like he got into the
perimeter. But what does this mean? New security? What would happen next
to protect the public?
DARROCH: Well, first of all, as I`ve said, the public will be – will be
encouraged to be as alert as possible. We will have to learn the lessons,
if there are lessons to learn from this.
I oughtn`t to jump to conclusions in advance of that. We already have, I
think, exceptional professional security services and police force. So, I
think, you know, we are well positioned to cope with the threat.
And as the prime minister said just now, they`re not going to win, the
terrorists. Our values will prevail. But we need to look and see what
happened in Manchester and see where we go from here.
TODD: Final question. Obviously, trying to win over hearts and minds is
going to be a part of this campaign. Because you could say, with some of
these individuals, we`re losing the hearts and minds to potential
radicalization. What is the right way to combat this?
DARROCH: We need to be as vigilant and as professional as possible about
stopping the threat, stopping – you know, I think we`ve stopped half a
dozen, actually, more plots in the last – in the last couple of years.
But also, it`s a question of ensuring that we work with our Muslim
communities, that they have champions who support our values and who
represent those values to the rest of the communities.
So, it`s got to be both sides of the equation.
TODD: All right, Kim Darroch, Ambassador to the United States from the
U.K. Thanks for coming on, sir.
DARROCH: Thank you very much.
TODD: And condolences to you.
DARROCH: Thank you.
TODD: Evan Kohlmann is an NBC News terrorism analyst and co-founder of
So, Evan, what you saw here, how – this felt more similar to many events
we`ve seen recently, whether it`s the Turkey airport bombing, in some way.
Is that the most similar incident, and yet – and it`s also similar into
the idea of a lone – of a lone actor getting radicalized locally and
acting locally, not globally.
EVAN KOHLMANN, NBC NEWS TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think there is one
problem with that thesis. I think, you know, it`s possible. But the
question is, is that if this is a lone actor, this is someone who is self-
radicalized, how did he manage to put together an explosive device that was
so, you know, unfortunately, successful? And that it was successful on
what appears to be the first try.
If you look at the Tsarnaev brothers up during the Boston marathon
bombings, most of the explosives they put together never detonated. They
failed to go off. And the ones that did, mercifully killed very few
people. This one killed a lot. And it was very effective.
And, again, a 22-year-old guy for – that lives in the U.K., that has
limited access to explosives or explosive-making techniques. How did he
manage to do this all on his own? That`s the part that doesn`t make a lot
of sense. It`s not easy to build explosives. It`s not easy to build bombs
at home. It`s possible. It`s just not likely.
TODD: Well, look, I wasn`t suggesting that he self-radicalized and self-
did anything. But there seems to be some sort of in between here, right?
Where you have more and more – and we`ve seen ISIS propaganda say this,
right, which is this idea of, hey, act in your community. You can be more
effective that way. Act in your community.
And so, have we found evidence yet, when they self-radicalize, that they
actually, then, actively help to then train a self-Internet radicalized
KOHLMANN: You bet. You bet. I mean, there was a guy from the U.K.,
Junaid Hussain, who went over to Syria and was part of ISIS and was using
the Internet to send back instructions to folks here in the United States
and in the U.K., giving them advice about how to carry out terrorist
attacks. And, in fact, several of those individuals, in fact, did carry
out terrorist attacks.
So, if you look at the communique that claim responsibility for ISIS for
this latest attack in Manchester, there is good reason to believe that
whoever wrote that communique was not familiar with the intimate details of
what happened. There is no mention of a suicide bomber. There is no
specification about what kind of explosives or how it was used. It`s kind
of a very generic claim of credit. It could have been written by anyone
who read the newspaper.
So, while I – it`s certainly very likely that this individual had some
kind of assistance. You know, there is that suggestion that this is at
least part – done, in part, independently. And we just very recently, on
May 4th, ISIS issued a call in English to its western supporters, people
living in the U.S. and the U.K., calling on them to carry out attacks on
soft targets, including very specifically concert halls.
So, I think we`re going to be looking at that list of targets that they put
out just a few weeks ago. And I think it`s going to be incumbent upon the
rest of us to look at that list and say, are there any other things that
are on this list that we should be looking at maybe securing a little bit
better than we had before? Because there is that active hunt for people
here in the west, both in the U.S. and the U.K., who are willing to carry
out attacks at the behest of ISIS.
TODD: All right. Last question, where is this headed? Is it any group
where there`s 500 or more, we`re going to a magnet orometer now? I mean,
what`s going to be the line when it comes that type of security? Under –
we`re already seeing it at sporting events in this country, in some
concerts where there`s magnetometers now. Is that the future?
KOHLMANN: Well, look, I mean, in the U.K., it`s amazing. I mean, they
really do, generally, have very tight security around these venues.
It`s impossible to secure everything. I mean, they can`t put metal
detectors in the parking lot. And if they did, there`s plenty of other soft
targets. I mean, ISIS has been even talking about carrying out attacks at
public swimming pools.
How are we going to predict every single public swimming pool in the United
States, in the U.K.? It`s not possible. Unfortunately, that`s what these
folks have realized. It`s much more successful for them to go after soft
targets that we can`t possibly fully protect than trying to carry out
another 9/11, which has a very low probability of success.
So far, most of the attacks we`ve seen have been low scale. This was not
low scale. Let`s hope that this is not the trend, because if this is a
case, it`s very difficult to prevent attacks like this and obviously, if
you see the casualties coming out of Manchester, it`s just shocking. It`s
very, very sad to see this. And it`s difficult to conceive of how anyone
could be so inhuman as to target little children.
TODD: Target pre-teens and teenagers, absolutely. Evan Kohlmann, NBC
security analyst. Evan, thanks very much. Just ahead, the Senate Intel
Committee weighs its options after Michael Flynn`s decision to plead the
Fifth. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the intel committee, joins us
TODD: Up next, Senator Susan Collins on the intel committee`s next move in
their Russia investigation. First, Hampton Pearson with the “CNBC Market
HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Chuck. We
had stocks climbing for a fourth session with banks leading the way. The
Dow gaining 43 points. The S&P up 4. The Nasdaq rising by 5 points.
Stocks on Wall Street got a boost following the release of President
Trump`s proposed 2018 budget, with plans to slash federal spending by $3.6
trillion over the next 10 years.
New home sales tumbling 11.4 percent in April, the biggest drop in more
than two years. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.
TODD: Welcome back. Senate Intelligence Committee is now responding to
former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, invoking his Fifth
Amendment right. Rather than comply with their subpoena for documents. In
the past hour, the committee`s top members announced they are now sending a
letter to Flynn`s lawyer, questioning if he can invoke the Fifth Amendment
Chairman Burr says the committee is leaving all options on the table,
including a contempt charge, to get this information from Flynn. Flynn`s
lawyer says their client has been subject to, quote, outrageous allegations
and a reminder, Flynn had asked for immunity in exchange for testimony and
now is dealing with the subpoena.
Joining me now is Maine Republican senator, Susan Collins. She is a member
of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Good afternoon, Senator
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Good afternoon, Chuck.
TODD: Let me start with what the chair and vice chair of your committee
announced going up to corporations. I take it you conquer, you do not
believe you can invoke Fifth Amendment rights based on giving you documents
that were created before any of these allegations happened.
COLLINS: There`s some real legal issue here. And I believe that the
committee is right to challenge General Flynn`s claim of Fifth Amendment
protections for these documents. In the meantime, the committee is issuing
another subpoena for his business documents, which may give us the
information that we need and where there`s a pretty clear argument that
they would not be protected by any claim of Fifth Amendment privilege.
TODD: How much is this holding up the investigation right now?
COLLINS: It`s not really holding us up much, as much as we would like to
have these documents, because we`re proceeding to issue many other requests
for documents from other people who are involved. Our staff has conducted
some 30 interviews and we`ve been reviewing information, intelligence
information, at CIA headquarters in Langley.
TODD: Is Mike Flynn the only subpoena you`ve issued?
COLLINS: No, it is not. But I can`t tell you the names of the others that
have been issued, but there have been other subpoenas issued. And also, and
this is important, there have been requests made or demands made that no
documents can be destroyed. That documents have to be preserved.
TODD: Right. So, walk me through this process. So, for instance, Paul
Manafort, Roger Stone, have turned over some documents. You didn`t make a
subpoena yet to them. You made a request. Is that how this has worked? You
make a request. If you deny the request, then you vote as a committee on
whether to subpoena?
COLLINS: Generally the way this works is we ask for voluntary cooperation
first. That makes sense, to give people the opportunity from the interview
and to provide documents on a voluntary basis. If that doesn`t work, then
the chairman and the vice chairman are authorized to issue subpoenas for
the interviews and the documents.
If that doesn`t work, then we`re going to be entering into a period where
we work with the special council to make sure that we`re not interfering
with his attempt to pursue any criminal case that could be warranted. Our
operation, our investigation is into the counterintelligence aspects of
TODD: So, does that mean you`re going to – how aggressively are you going
to pursue this story in “The Washington Post” about the White House,
supposedly the president calling up the DNI head, Dan Coats, NSA head Mike
Rogers, and looking for them to confirm or come out with a statement that
says there was no collusion?
COLLINS: We certainly would like to hear whether that was done, but I`m
sure that the special council will want to, also, as he evaluates whether
or not criminal charges are warranted in this very complex case. But I do
want to make a distinction on why we need two investigations.
Only the special council can determine whether or not criminal charges are
ultimately warranted. But only congress could pass a law to increase the
sanctions on the Russian government, if we find, as I believe that we will,
that Russia did have a very active campaign to influence our elections last
TODD: Senator, in two different answers, you have said, you`ve got to check
with the special counsel`s office, make sure this doesn`t run into what
they`re doing. That – the special counsel investigation, that is going to
slow down your investigation, it sounds like, is that fair to say?
COLLINS: It`s going to slow it down a little bit, but I don`t think that it
in any way removes the need for our investigation and already, the chairman
and the vice chairman are in the midst of working out a system for
consultation with the special counsel. So my hope that that will move along
quite quickly and that we will come to an agreement on certain guideposts.
TODD: Do you – how cooperative – would you describe Manafort and Stone
right now as being cooperative with your investigation?
COLLINS: Well, they have been more cooperative than General Flynn,
TODD: Well, that`s a low bar right now.
COLLINS: That`s true. But we`ve – we still have a lot of work to do. I
don`t mean to imply that we have everything that we need from any of the
TODD: Joe Lieberman, I know you were very close to him when you were in the
senate. You guys worked very closely together in the Homeland Security
Committee for years. A lot of your colleagues are uncomfortable with an
elected official at the FBI. Where are you on this? You must be torn.
COLLINS: I don`t want to see someone who is currently in public office, but
Joe has been out of the senate for a number of years. He`s a former
attorney general of Connecticut. He has an intelligence and homeland
We worked very closely with Bob Mueller, when we chaired and co-chaired the
Homeland Security Committee. So, I`m a fan of Joe Lieberman. He has
unquestioned integrity and that`s what we need. I would not be pushing for
him if he were currently a senator.
TODD: Fair enough.
COLLINS: . but he`s not and I think he would be great.
TODD: All right. Senator Collins, I`ll put you down as a “yes” on the
Lieberman column there.
COLLINS: You can.
TODD: As always, thanks for coming on. Good to talk to you.
COLLINS: Thank you, Chuck.
TODD: You got it. Up ahead on “The Lid,” how are the president`s biggest
supporters? Could they end up the biggest losers under his budget proposal?
That`s right, the budget was rolled out today.
TODD: Welcome back. Tonight, I`m obsessed with James Bond and the actors
who played him. Roger Moore, James Bond in seven movies, died today at the
age of 89. Moore played the suave British secret service agent with a
license to kill and a talent for women over 12-year period. From “Live and
Let Die” in 1973 to “A View to a Kill” in 1985, and that got us thinking,
everyone generationally has their own Bond, James Bond, who you think of as
007 probably depends on how old you are.
Trust me, we went through this at our staff meeting today. Sean Connery was
the original Bond in the `60s and the early `70s. He created them all. So
if you`re older than 50, Connery`s probably your man. Shake a Nutster (ph).
David Niven and George Lazenby each did one Bond movie, but they`re largely
forgotten. Then came Roger Moore.
And if you`re like me and in your 40s, Moore is your Bond. As one of which
way we put it, Generation X lost its James Bond today. It always seemed to
me that Moore was the Rodney Dangerfield of bonds. He didn`t get any
respect. He had the misfortune of being like Larry Holmes, the heavyweight
boxing champ forgotten between Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, and yet has all
Moore was crowded on both sides by Connery before him and Pierce Brosnan
after him. James Bond can defeat anyone, except, perhaps, another James
Bond. But like Holmes, Moore was a great champ. Just ask his Bond girls.
Solitaire, Mary Goodnight, Major Anya Amasova, Holly Goodhead, Melina
Havelock, Stacey Sutton and the character played by Maud Adams, whose
character`s name is not appropriate for family television.
So let`s give Gen X`s James Bond his due today. He did as many Bond films
as anyone, and he sure knew how to wear a tux and capture a bad guy at the
same time. Back in a moment. Until then, I remain Todd, Chuck Todd.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Save Medicare, Medicaid and social security without cuts. Have to do
I will do everything within my power not to touch social security, to leave
it the way it is. It`s my absolute intention to leave social security the
way it is, not increase the age and to leave it as is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Those campaign promises some are saying are not matching up with
President Trump`s first budget proposal which takes aim at some of those
very programs. Our panel is back; Maria Teresa Kumar, Susan Page, and Sara
Fagen. First of all, Sara, let me start with you. This is in the first time
in the modern era since presidents introduced their budgets, that a
presidential budget was introduced with the president out of the country.
TODD: This doesn`t seem like an administration that is interested in
selling this budget.
FAGEN: I don`t know if that`s the case or if it was planned or it is just
the way it worked out on the schedule. But, you know, it really felt to me
like a budget that had Director Mulvaney`s imprint on it very, very
TODD: And not Donald Trump`s.
FAGEN: It felt much more like Director Mulvaney put that budget than Donald
KUMAR: When the cat is away, the mice will play, right?
TODD: It`s funny I had my partner in crime, Mark Murray on “First Read,”
Susan, it`s like – the RNC statement is like, who is running message in
the RNC? Donald Trump`s Republican Party or Paul Ryan? And Mick Mulvaney
did a Paul Ryan budget to (inaudible).
PAGE: Hey, this budget is an orphan.
PAGE: You know what strikes me is not that he violated some of his campaign
promises, it`s that he laid out cuts and hurt his own voters, rural voters,
low-income voters, people who rely on food stamps, who rely on Medicaid.
The deepest cut in his budget I bet is Medicaid. Billions and billions of
dollars is going to affect millions of people.
TODD: But there was a response in Capitol Hill. I mean, even Mitch
McConnell said, well, it`s a recommendation, which, by the way, McConnell
would say about any budget.
KUMAR: I mean, in all fair, I was on Capitol Hill today to see Cory Booker
and Menendez and they said it was dead on arrival. That`s when it first
trickle in. And then Lindsey Graham said it was dead on arrival (inaudible)
McCain. So, for the very first time, you see bipartisan support for
TODD: Wait a minute. Barack Obama`s budget used to lose 97-0 in those
resolutions too. I mean, it is standard practice for congress to say
president`s budgets are dead.
PAGE: (inaudible) matters if they can`t get a budget through, they can`t
get budget reconciliation to do the tax plan, and then they can`t get a
KUMAR: And that is why Paul Ryan really wants – he was the one that was
much more enthusiastic.
FAGEN: He was enthusiastic. And I do think that while some of these
programs clearly will stay in place and should stay in place,
directionally, it is where the Republican Party wants to go. It`s not
necessarily that the party wants to cut Medicaid but the party wants to
TODD: I say this because I agree with you.
FAGEN: Okay, I see where you are going.
TODD: This feels like the club for growth wing of the party. The populist
Donald Trump wing is in a different place. And that`s the part of this
budget that is sort of – I think a lot of us are struggling with.
FAGEN: I don`t entirely agree with that. I think certainly I agree with you
it`s more Mulvaney and club for growth than maybe traditional Republican
but the Republican Party would like to balance the budget.
They would like to see spending cuts. They would actually like to go
broader than where Donald Trump is going relative to social security and
Medicare. And so directionally, I think there`s something that they can
KUMAR: But I think one of the things that they also highlighted was
everyone from the peers – Larry Summers saying that one of the reasons
it`s dead on arrival because the math doesn`t add up. This idea that
there`s actually going to be balance in 10 years doesn`t make sense.
TODD: Susan, he`s not out there selling his own budget today. That matters.
PAGE: Oh, yeah. He`s not in the country. Could he have gone farther away
when his budget came out? He`s not coming back to the country to do the
kind of stamping that other presidents have sometimes done for their
TODD: There`s usually one pet issue that they want to get no matter what
and they go and sell it.
PAGE: And he doesn`t do a serious job at balancing the budget either.
TODD: All right. We`re going to have to leave it there. The budget normally
would have gotten a lot more attention. There is so much going on. Thank
you all. After the break, a look at some swamp monsters.
TODD: In case you missed it, candidate Trump really wanted to drain the
(START VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When we win tomorrow, we are going to drain the swamp. Drain the
swamp. Drain the swamp. Drain the swamp.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: But in case you missed it, President Trump seems much more interested
in talking about draining the swamp than he is actually draining the swamp
or even conducting a census of the animals in the swamp. In fact, he`s got
an untold number swamp creatures or lobbyist as we call them in polite
society working in his administration right now.
And the number is untold because the administration won`t tell us. The
White House is actively blocking the office of government at its efforts to
find out the names of former lobbyists who have been granted waivers to
work in the White House or other federal agencies. A watchdog group is
suing to get those conflict of interest waivers. Maybe it`s all in the up
Maybe the swamp creatures are flamingos and not gators. We can`t know
unless we see the paperwork. Transparency, transparency, transparency. By
the way, if you think anyone is going to abide by the president`s voluntary
five-year lobbying ban for people who decided to work in the administration
and then leave, I`ve got some fine Washington, D.C., swampland to sell you.
That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more “MTP Daily.” “For
the Record” with Greta though starts right now. Greta, take it away.
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