MTP Daily, Transcript 6/2/2017
Show: MTP DAILY
Date: June 2, 2017
Guest: Ben Cardin, Kasie Hunt, Shane Harris, Susan Li, Ramesh Ponnuru,
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: If it`s Friday, we`re about to hear exclusively
from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
(voice-over): Tonight, Putin pushes back denying that the Russian
government meddled in the U.S. election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT, RUSSIA (translator): Even in those reports,
there is no specific evidence, no facts, just assumptions, allegations and
conclusions based on allegations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: But it`s one day after suggesting patriotic Russian citizens were
behind the hacks.
Plus, the White House and a kremlin-linked bank have very different
explanations for a secret meeting between Jared Kushner and that sanctions`
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to ask about the meeting that you had with
SERGEI GORKOV, CHAIRMAN, VNESHECONOM BANK: No comment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please explain. We really do want to hear what
happened. If it was an innocent meeting, please just explain what happened
in the meeting, Mr. Gorkov.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Finally, a brewing storm? Hurricane season is upon us. So, why is
there no one in charge of the agency that handles national disasters?
This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.
(on camera): Good evening, I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington and welcome
to MTP DAILY.
Folks, once again, the flood gates are open on Russia with each day now
comes new allegations, new developments and new denials. And every time,
it seems we`re left asking the same question, why?
Moments ago, my colleague, new colleague, Megyn Kelly, sat down with the
Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in an exclusive interview that will air
in full this Sunday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on the premiere of Sunday night
with Megyn Kelly.
In just a few minutes, we`re going to bring you some key highlights from
that interview. It comes on a big news day already. Two former State
Department officials tell NBC News that the Trump administration was
gearing up to lift sanctions on Russia when Trump took office. Of course,
that ends up with the question, why were they doing that?
During the transition, Jared Kushner secretly met with Russian businessman,
Sergei Gorkov, who`s close with Putin and runs a bank that`s under U.S.
sanctions. Why did he want to have that meeting?
The White House says it was a political meeting. The Russians say it was a
business meeting. Oops, one of them isn`t telling the whole truth or they
mixed business and politics in which case they`re both not telling the
Today, my other colleague, Keir Simmons, asked Gorkov why he met with
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEIR SIMMONS, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: You`re the subject of intense
scrutiny in America because of your meeting with Donald Trump`s son-in-law,
GORKOV: I will not (INAUDIBLE) any comments about that. (INAUDIBLE.)
SIMMONS: I know you do. But the thing is, there is some confusion on what
GORKOV: Sorry. Sorry.
SIMMONS: What – were you talking about business or were you talking about
GORKOV: There are no comments, please.
SIMMONS: If it is an innocent meeting, why don`t you want to talk about
GORKOV: Sorry. Sorry.
SIMMONS: Mr. Gorkov – but, Mr. Gorkov, if it was an innocent meeting with
Jared Kushner, why don`t you want to talk about it, sir? If it was an
innocent meeting, please just explain what happened in the meeting, Mr.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: I guess those magnetometers aren`t working very well. No answers
there but here are more questions. Putin made a shocking admission
yesterday that, quote, “patriotic Russian hackers may have meddled in the
election to help Trump.” Why? You could argue that his answer just
creates more chaos for both of them.
He was asked about the hacking again today at the world economic forum in
St. Petersburg by my colleague, Megyn Kelly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEGYN KELLY, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: All 17 of the United States
intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russians did interfere with
our election. Republicans and Democrats alike on Capitol Hill, including
President Trump`s supporters and some are your defenders who have seen the
classified intelligence report, have all accepted this conclusion. And
even private non-partisan security firms say the same, that Russia
interfered with the U.S. election. Are they all wrong?
PUTIN: You have been telling me now about the non-classified versions. I
read those reports. Even in those reports, there is no specific evidence,
no facts. Just assumptions, allegations and conclusions, based on the
allegations. Nothing more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Folks, these are just the latest developments. They don`t even
include the other lingering Russian headaches for Mr. Trump. The FBI
director is – he fired is expected to testify next Thursday that the
president urged him to drop his investigation into Michael Flynn.
And you remember Flynn, the miss – he misled the White House about
conversations he had with Russia. He also didn`t disclose payments from
Russia. He didn`t disclose certain meetings with Russia either. Neither
did Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Neither did Jared Kushner.
In one of those meetings, Kushner may have been interested in establishing
a back channel with Russia using Russian facilities.
Again, in every instance, we`re always left with the same question which is
only leads the suspicion. Why? Why did any of this happen? Is it all
coincidence? We`re looking for answers, so is the public and now so is a
[17:05:00] I`m joined now by Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland who
is the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and he
joins me now.
Senator, welcome back to the show.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND, RANKING MEMBER, SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS
COMMITTEE: Chuck, it`s good to be with you. Thank you.
TODD: Look, your name was invoked in a big story having to do with this
idea that State Department officials, early on in the Trump – during Trump
transition and as the Trump administration came to be, were preparing to
eliminate or at least reduce some sanctions. What – and, supposedly,
these he warnings were brought to your attention. What can you tell me
CARDIN: Well, first of all, it would be outrageous to give Russia any
sanction relief, considering their activities have only gotten more anti-
American. What they`re doing in Syria. What they`re doing in Ukraine.
What they`ve done not only in the U.S. elections but also what they did in
So, there should be no sanction relief. There should be additional
sanctions that are imposed. And there`s strong bipartisan legislation that
I hope will be considered when we return on Monday in the United States
There has been some talk, by the Trump administration, of returning some of
the properties that were taken as a result of what Russia`s activities were
in the United States. That would be outrageous.
One of those pieces of property is located in my state of Maryland. That
would be just the wrong signal. And I would very much encourage the
administration to withhold any type of relief and to look at imposing
stronger sanctions against Russia.
TODD: But to go back to my initial question, having to do that,
reportedly, State Department officials contacted you. Did they and if so,
what specifically were they telling you what was going on?
CARDIN: No, the State Department officials have not said anything about
any type of sanction relief. To the contrary, they have indicated that
there would be no sanction relief.
I introduced legislation with Senator McCain that would have required a
notification to Congress on – and an opportunity for Congress to respond
before sanction relief could be given to Russia. We were assured that
that`s not on the table. And for that reason, that legislation has not
Considering what we`re hearing now, it might be timely for Congress to take
up that legislation.
TODD: So, did anybody from the State Department, foreign service side,
nonpolitical side, did anybody contact your office about this? Is this
where this came from?
CARDIN: No, there`s no – there`s been no contact made to us about seeking
our advice on sanctions relief. We did hear press reports that the
administration is considering –
TODD: So, this report is wrong. Dan Fried did not alert you or out of
concern on this – on this sanction front.
CARDIN: Are you talking about prior to the elections?
TODD: Yes, sir. No, prior to the – no. This was about – after the
election, before the inauguration.
CARDIN: We had gotten information sent to the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee about Russia`s meddling. I don`t know if that`s the report
you`re referring to or not.
TODD: No, I`m referring to a specific report in Yahoo that is reporting –
and let me get this right. That Dan Fried –
TODD: – who`s been at the State Department, who served as the chief U.S.
coordinator for sanctions policy, until he retired at the end of February.
He, apparently, according the Yahoo, grew so concerned that he contacted
various Capitol Hill allies, including Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, to
urge them to move quickly to pass legislation that would codify the
sanctions. Did this warning on this front come from the State Department?
Is this – is this report correct?
CARDIN: I don`t recall having any conversations with him, specifically in
regards to codifying sanctions. I had introduced legislation with 10
Democrats, 10 Republican members of the United States Senate that would not
only codify the sanctions, it would provide additional sanctions against
So, I had already made that determination that that needed to be done. It
was not someone in the State Department who asked me to do it. I thought
it was important, as did 19 other members of the United States Senate and
that`s why we introduced that legislation very early in the Congress.
TODD: Now, you introduced the legislation but then it got pulled back.
And I know there was some, sort of, deal with the – with the Republican
side, the Republican chairman, Bob Corker. What happened there and do you
regret now delaying it?
CARDIN: Oh, I didn`t want to delay it. I`m – I was always for moving it.
I just didn`t have the support of the chairman of the committee and it was
unlikely that the legislation would be brought to the floor. So, I`ve been
working, particularly with Senator Graham, in order to try to get this
Two weeks ago, we got a commitment from Senator Corker that the legislation
will be considered early in June. So, we expect, when Congress returns on
Monday, that sanctions legislation will be considered, additional sanctions
legislation against Russia. So, we have that commitment.
But I`ve always thought that we should have acted more aggressively and
earlier than we`re acting.
TODD: Now, you brought up the – this issue of these two Russians
compounds that were seized during – after new sanctions were announced
against Russia. Why do you believe they shouldn`t be returned now if the
Russian government legally owns this property?
[17:10:06] CARDIN: This is part of the privileges of doing business in the
United States. There has to be a price for what Russia has done in
attacking our country, our elections system, interfering with our
elections, playing favorites during the election time, all that. There
should be a price. And part of that can be withdrawing the privileges of
the use of these properties, particularly when we believe that attacks
against the United States were coordinated by the use of these properties.
TODD: But does this mean seizing ownership of them, too, or is this the
case where the Russian government owns it so do we force them to sell?
What happens here? Or is this something we just hold in perpetuity?
CARDIN: No, it`s owned by the Russians. We do not own the property. We
do not allow them to use the property for diplomatic purposes because they
have misused their privilege here in the United States. That was the
But it`s owned by Russia. If they change the way that they do business,
they can, again, get the privileges back. If not, of course, they`re free
always to sell the properties.
TODD: All right. Senator Ben Cardin, the Ranking Democrat on the Foreign
CARDIN: Thank you, Chuck.
TODD: Appreciate you coming on and sharing your views.
Well, joining me now is former ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, who
is, of course, an NBC News and MSNBC Russian Affairs Contributor.
Ambassador McFaul, always good to see you.
MICHAEL MCFAUL, MSNBC RUSSIAN AFFAIRS CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks for having me,
TODD: I have you on to be the, sort of, Putin whisperer for us. So, there
are things Putin says –
TODD: – and there are things Putin means.
MCFAUL: You don`t want me to talk about that Maryland property? I`ve been
to that Maryland property. It`s a very nice property. I understand why
Ambassador Kislyak wants it back.
TODD: Fair enough. Fair enough. It feels like a – like it`s been used
in a scene of the Americans. But I`m going to – but I digress here.
TODD: Let`s go to –
TODD: Vladimir Putin today was very careful in responding to Megyn Kelly`s
question. He said, all you have is allegations and then conclusions based
on allegations. You don`t have facts.
But he didn`t provide any facts to dispute the allegations. How should
this be interpreted?
MCFAUL: You know, we should just believe our own intelligence community.
We don`t need to be – to believe Vladimir Putin for what he did to us.
You know, you can`t see these things in the cyber world but that doesn`t
mean they`re not true.
You know, all of our intelligence community came together to say that this
happened. And he`s just being flippant. I think he`s being playful. But
we should believe our own people, not him, with respect to the facts.
TODD: No, that I get. I – my eyebrows were raised, yesterday, when I saw
that he conceded that had Russian hackers –
TODD: – he called them Russian patriots. To me, is that a wink and a
nod, going – and is he almost – is that his way of bragging about this?
MCFAUL: Yes. I think you read that exactly right, Chuck. And I listened
to it several times in Russian. And he adds in there, at the government
level, we did nothing to interfere in the American elections. Right?
At the government level is the key phrase. That leaves the door open that
nongovernmental actors, closely tied to the kremlin, may have done that.
And that`s the way that system works.
I mean, he knows that we know that he did this. OK, let`s be clear about
that. The people that are expert in this world, there`s no doubt about it.
I think he`s feeling rather smug right now and so he`s being – you know,
he`s, kind of, playing with us in these kind of comments that he`s making
TODD: And is it purposeful or ironic that the – by doing this, by saying
what he said, frankly yesterday, which, to me, was the closest thing we`ve
gotten to an admission from him. That he actually does Donald Trump no –
he does Donald Trump no favors. Because all he did was make it – make it
look more suspicious, not less.
So, if the goal is to sow confusion in the American system, I guess mission
accomplished, yet again. But he`s not helping Donald Trump at all.
MCFAUL: Correct. And why should we expect Vladimir Putin to help Donald
Trump? Vladimir Putin is out for Russia`s interests and he thinks that it
is in Russia`s national interest for America to be weak, for America to be
divided, for us to be arguing among our allies. That`s exactly what is
being accomplished right now.
And I think – again, I`ve followed this guy for decades now. He`s feeling
really smug. He can say these things.
And remember, nobody`s rebutting it. Where is the White House outrage to
MCFAUL: – audacious things he`s said. Why aren`t they not pushing back
on it? That is very striking and that, for Putin, is a sign of weakness
and he`ll continue to do so until there`s pushback.
[17:15:00] TODD: I want to shift here, slightly here, because this was,
also, a, sort of, surprising development coming out of the kremlin.
And it`s a report in “The Daily Beast” where, apparently, the Russian
government said the following. As Sweden joins NATO, we will interpret
that as an additional threat for Russia, and we will think about how to
eliminate this threat.
This does not quite mean that we will become hysterical and we will aim our
nuclear missiles at Sweden, but we will be obliged to undertake something
because we see this as an additional threat to Russia.
Sweden is one of these nonaligned, sort of, out – they kind of want to be
partners in NATO. They`re thinking about it but they`re not in yet. And
they`re not asking to be a member just yet.
Boy, was that some strong language, though, from Putin at Sweden? Will it
be, A, be effective. And, B, what`s he afraid of?
MCFAUL: Well, he`s not afraid of anything. Whether Sweden is in or not
doesn`t affect the power balance between NATO and Russia. But he does want
to stop NATO expansion. That has been his goal.
And as he said yesterday as well, by the way. He said, very explicitly, I
want to see the feuding between the west so that NATO is eliminated. He
What he`s doing here is he`s – that`s a comment designed for the Swedish
population for the citizens to decide whether they want that threat. And
he`s not afraid to make that threat as a way to keep them out of NATO.
So, he`s playing in the domestic affairs of Sweden as they debate this
issue. And remind – I want to remind you, they were never thinking of
joining NATO –
MCFAUL: – until Russia invaded Ukraine. That was the event that sparked
this debate in the first place in Sweden.
TODD: I know – I know you don`t like playing predicter or Nostradamus on
this stuff. But how concerned are you that Putin – he`s really gotten
much more aggressive with his words. We saw that with Sweden.
How concerned are you that he may get aggressive with his actions and say
MCFAUL: You know, Chuck, I`m not worried about Estonia. I`m worried about
the Balkans. And let me tell you why. Because we`re always talking about
the Baltic states. Right? We`re always talking about our NATO allies
MCFAUL: I actually think the NATO alliance did a good job in bolstering
our ability to prevent and to deter an attack on the Baltic states.
What I worry about is in the Balkans where most Americans don`t even know
which countries are our allies and which aren`t.
MCFAUL: Where they have a lot of influence. Where they tried to overthrow
a government, recently. If I were worrying about the future, watch the
TODD: Geez, a little history lesson there for a lot of people. Everybody,
go get your World War I history books out.
MCFAUL: Yes, everybody look at their maps right now, exactly.
TODD: Yes, that –
MCFAUL: Where is Macedonia?
TODD: Yes. Happy Friday to you, Mr. McFaul. Thanks very much.
MCFAUL: All right.
TODD: All right, as we said, my colleague, Megyn Kelly, just wrapped up
her exclusive sit down one-on-one. First one with an American journalist
in a year with Vladimir Putin. And we`re going to bring you some of that
in just a few minutes.
And, of course, you can see all of Megyn Kelly`s exclusive interview with
the Russian president on the premiere of “SUNDAY NIGHT WITH MEGYN KELLY.”
That`s Sunday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on your NBC station.
We`ll be right back.
TODD: Welcome back.
It may be a simple question. Does Donald Trump believe climate change
exists? But in the wake of the White House pulling out of the Paris
Climate Accord, try as they might, reporters cannot seem to get an answer
to the question, no matter who they ask.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the president believe that climate change is
real and a threat to the United States?
SCOTT PRUITT, ADMINISTRATOR, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY: You know
what`s interesting about all the discussions we had through the last
several weeks have been focused on one singular issue. Is Paris good or
not for this country?
KRISTEN WELKER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: You`re the EPA
administrator. Shouldn`t you be able to tell the American people whether
or not the president (INAUDIBLE) thinks climate change is a hoax? Where
does he stand?
PRUITT: As I indicated several times through the process, there is enough
to deal with, with respect to the Paris Agreement and making an informed
decision about this important issue. That`s what our focus has been over
the last few weeks. I`ve asked – I`ve answered the question a couple
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does the president actually believe about climate
change? Does he still believe it`s a hoax? Could you clarify that because
apparently nobody else at the White House can?
SEAN SPICER, U.S. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, I have not had an
opportunity to have that discussion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: While we do have actually a pretty good sense of what the president
thought when he was candidate Trump. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, Obama is talking about all
of this with the global warming and that – a lot of it`s a hoax. It`s a
hoax. I mean, it`s a money-making industry, OK? It`s a hoax. A lot of
I think there is a change in weather. I am not a great believer in man-
made climate change. I am not a great believer.
I believe strongly in clean water and clean air. But I don`t believe that
what they say – I think it`s a big scam for a lot of people to make a lot
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: But Trump did cite global warming and its effects on a permit to
build a seawall next to his golf course in Ireland. We`re not making that
We`ll be back in – more on MTP DAILY in just 60 seconds.
TODD: Welcome back.
The panel is here. I got NBC News` Capitol Hill correspondent Kasie Hunt.
Since Congress ain`t working, she`s here. Shane Harris, Senior National
Security Writer at “The Wall Street Journal.” And Ramesh Ponnuru, Senior
Editor at “National Review.”
All right, we`ve got a lot of Russia to unpack here. Kasie, obviously,
Capitol Hill is girding for the Comey testimony. Just very quickly, is
there an expectation that the president is going to try to invoke executive
privilege to at least gum up the works next week or is he going to let this
KASIE HUNT, CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Look, I think reasonable
people, on both sides of the aisle, privately say they think that there`s
not really grounds for him to do it because he`s talked about it publicly.
But I do think that there is a sense that the unpredictability of this
president goes farther than anybody ever imagined that it could. Kind
remarkable considering the experience we all had with Donald Trump. But I
think members of Congress are continually surprised by what he`s doing.
But that said, I think Democrats and Republicans want to hear from Comey.
TODD: Well, there is that aspect of it. Ramesh, politically, you would
think, oh, geez, not a good idea to invoke executive privilege, looking
like you`re hiding something. But, politically, it wasn`t good idea to
fire James Comey and it hasn`t – didn`t stop the president from doing
There is an argument to be made that he needs to show that he will fight
this on all levels all the time. And if he doesn`t fight on this, then
he`s – you know, why aren`t you?
RAMESH PONNURU SENIOR EDITOR, “NATIONAL REVIEW”: I suspect that that
argument is going to weigh heavily on the president himself, –
PONNURU: – possibly beyond its actual merits because I think that is the
psychology of this president.
But I`ve got to think that Congressional Republicans, whatever they are
worrying about, in terms of what kind of circus atmosphere –
PONNURU: – there will be for this testimony, they understand that trying
to block it would be worse.
When these – when Comey was fired, it was almost instant that
Congressional Republicans, including – and Congressional Democrats said,
we need to hear from him.
[17:25:00] TODD: All right, Shane, you`re beat – you`re on this beat a
lot, when it comes to trying to unpack, what did Russia do? What did we
know? What don`t we know? What did you take away from Putin?
SHANE HARRIS, SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY WRITER, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”:
Oh, he`s trolling us. I mean, that`s just straight up trolling, I think.
I mean, of course, he knows absolutely that Russia was involved in this. I
mean, the intelligence agencies have concluded that.
This was not the first time that Russia has intercepted American
communications, broken into government systems. This is what they do and
they`re actually quite good at it. And this kind of information operations
goes back many decades before we did this (INAUDIBLE.)
TODD: And, by the way, they justify it because they think we do it to
HARRIS: Sure, they think we do it to them. And it`s a tool that they have
to gain leverage and to push their message. And, you know, it`s from their
And from the intelligence perspective, it`s actually quite smart. I think
there`s a lot of – to argue that Russia got more than it bargained for,
however, in this. I don`t think they expected Trump to win.
And there is a blowback effect on this now, when you have this hanging out
there, not only over Trump but in the U.S.-Russia relationship.
TODD: Well, and it feels as if, guys, and everybody jump in o this, that
you`re now going to have Congress ready to codify these sanctions and may
even have stronger solutions. And they may force the president`s hand.
They`re now going to sanction the Russia government even more than maybe
they would have.
HUNT: I think that`s right. I mean, look, they`re going to need some
help, I think, from the one thing we have not seen move very far is
leadership, Republican leadership. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, they
have been reluctant to really challenge the president head on.
Occasionally, they`ve made – especially McConnell, have made, kind of,
underhanded comments that can be interpreted one way or the other.
But they have not, so far, sided with the hawks in Congress and said, we
are going to put legislation like this on the floor of the Congress. I
think that is potentially the risk that Trump faces. If he does something
like try to invoke executive privilege and, you know, really stick his
thumb in Congress`s eye.
PONNURU: I mean, just very big picture, the net effect of the last year
has been to make both the public and the Democratic Party more anti-Russia
and less inclined to have some kind of alliance or moves towards
So, I think, in that sense, they`ve overplayed their hands. There is –
they have strengthened anti-Russian sentiment in the public and in the
TODD: Look, I feel like Putin`s admission that Russia – that maybe some
Russian patrons are involved, like, correct me if I`ll wrong, that`s the
closest thing to a smoking gun we`ve gotten.
HARRIS: Yes, he`s, essentially, come out and said, yes, they could`ve done
it. And, by the way, the way that hack –
TODD: It`s his way of bragging about it. (INAUDIBLE) McFaul, it was – my
gut was, like, I think this is Putin`s way of bragging about it to the
world. If Powell was, like, yes, that`s exactly how (INAUDIBLE.)
HARRIS: And the way that these operations often work in Russia is that you
do, sometimes, have organizations and criminal groups that are acting
somewhat independently but with the blessing, maybe not official
TODD: Right. It`s just, kind of, how it works there. So, for him to say
patriotic hackers did it, that`s actually a very accurate description of
how this may have gone down, at least on some level.
There may have hacked in multiple groups. We know at least two
intelligence agencies got into the DNC and were, to some degree, working
competitively with one another. So, I mean, I read that from Putin as very
much a description of what likely happened.
TODD: You know what was fascinating about yesterday is that, yesterday,
all the attention of Paris, to me – besides Putin admitting the Russian
hackers, the other gigantic story is that the fact that Jared Kushner and
Sergei Gorkov have two different explanations of their meeting. That, in
itself, comes across as if, OK, somebody`s guilty here of something.
HUNT: Well, and, look, I think that`s been the danger all the way along.
It`s been the thing that, you know, ever since we first started talking
about this, months ago – really, since the beginning of the Trump
administration, it`s been a question of, OK, what is that one small, little
fact that, ultimately, is going to open this wide open.
And I think the more of these different times of things pile up, –
HUNT: – the harder it gets for frankly Republicans in Congress the
continue to stay behind the scenes. There`s no there, there.
TODD: Yes, this Gorkov-Kushner contradiction, to me, is that one needs a
lot of unpacking.
PONNURU: A lot of norms and protocols that have been built up over the
years are, of course, to prevent wrongdoing, but they`re also to keep
people out of trouble. If you don`t disclose things and you`re not careful
about these sorts of meetings and so forth, these things have a way of
metastasizing into scandals and then yielding further scandals.
And this administration, its gleeful flouting of all of those old rules, is
really inviting a lot of this scrutiny.
TODD: It`s make – it does feel as if they – let`s say, I mean, it seems
to me, the best explanation is they talked business and politics.
HARRIS: Oh, the Russians maybe see them undistinguished from each other.
Let`s remember, too, –
TODD: Well, that`s a fact.
HARRIS: – this bank that Gorkov represents is not just any bank. The VEB
TODD: This is not SunTrust or Citibank.
HARRIS: I mean, it has actually been used in the United States and New
York and its branch as an unofficial cover for spies, including one that
was convicted in a U.S. court. And, oh, by the way, aspiring that was
trying to recruit one Carter Page who was an adviser to the Trump campaign.
These are all dots that are very uncomfortably, kind of, pushing together.
And when you have conflicting explanations from the Russians and from the
White House about what they were talking about in this meeting, at a time
when certain business interests in New York might really want to see
Russian money flowing back into the United States, that`s a problem.
TODD: All right. I`ll leave the conversation here for now. We`ll do a
pause. You guys are sticking around.
Still ahead, another giant story that got overshadowed this week, the
opioid crisis. Should drug companies be blamed for America`s drug problem
the way tobacco companies were blamed for nicotine addiction and lung
cancer? We are going to talk to the attorney general who has decided to sue
those big drug makers.
TODD: Well, if it`s Sunday, we`re going to have more reaction to the
president`s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. EPA
administrator Scott Pruitt, former Secretary of State John Kelly, and
former Vice President Al Gore will join me.
Al Gore`s first appearance on “Meet the Press” in about a decade. All of
that is this Sunday on your local NBC station. Don`t miss it. Up next, the
legal fight against opioids. But, first, it`s jobs Friday. Susan Li has the
details on how the markets handle the report.
SUSAN LI, GENERAL ASSIGNMENT REPORTER FOR CNBC: Thanks, Chuck. Stocks
hitting all time highs today despite a weaker jobs report. The Dow gaining
62 points. The S&P adding 9. The Nasdaq advancing 58 points. The economy
added 138,000 non-farm payroll jobs in the month of May, falling short of
economy`s expectations of 185,000.
The biggest gains came in the business and professional services sector.
The unemployment rate and the jobless rate ticking down to 4.3 percent.
March and April employment numbers were also revived downward and shows
66,000 fewer jobs than originally reported. That`s the latest on CNBC,
first in business worldwide.
TODD: Welcome back. Tonight, I`m obsessed not just with hypocrisy in
politics, that happens everyday, but the intersection between hypocrisy and
grotesquely bad taste. By now, you`ve heard about Kathy Griffin`s foolish
President Trump severed head fiasco and all the legitimate criticism it
engender. Truly disgusting.
So why if many Republicans are so outraged legitimately so by stupid
tasteless display are they running pictures of it over and over in the race
for the open Georgia congressional seat.
If you`re truly offended by this image, if you like President Trump and
many others believe it`s so utterly inappropriate for children, like
legitimately his 11-year-old son, Baron, to see this gross thing of his
father, then how can you defend making sure that as many 11-year-olds as
possible will see it in the Atlanta media market? Where`s the outrage from
Speaker Paul Ryan whose pack is airing this ad?
And in case you wonder, no, this kind of hypocrisy is not limited to the
Republicans. Remember how offended Democrats were about candidate Trump`s
language? Yeah, so offended that they decided dozens of times that you need
to see those ads for Hillary Clinton repeat his disgusting language to make
sure more 10 and 11-year-olds heard this. Donald Trump said these things
The Clinton campaign repeated them thousands of times. So look,
Republicans, don`t tell me you`re so outraged by what Kathy Griffin did.
Admit it. You are thrilled because you get to use it as a (inaudible)
against all Democrats. You get to use it to hold a seat in congress. That`s
what`s wrong with American politics today.
TODD: Time for “The Lid.” Kasie Hunt, Shane Harris, Ramesh Ponnuru. Let`s
do a little debrief here on Paris. And sort of, is there domestic political
fallout from the Paris decision? I think everybody agrees, there`s
international political fallout. And we`re not quite sure how severe it
will be. Domestic political fallout.
HARRIS: Sure. You`re saying the mayor of Pittsburgh coming out and saying
don`t call us a dirty city stuck in the past. We`re standing with Paris.
You had CEOs pleading with Donald Trump to stay in the accord because they
fear that is going to make them less competitive. There`s a huge domestic
fallout to that.
I mean, many of these people are in his constituency and they`re not happy
I suspect with pulling out of this. And also, he is just –
internationally, of course, he`s handed everyone to hit us with now on this
issue but sure there is domestic consequences for it.
RAMESH PONNURU, COLUMNIST AND SENIOR EDITOR FOR THE NATIONAL REVIEW
MAGAZINE: You know, I actually – I approved of the decision. I was against
the Paris accord. But I do think politically all it does is heighten the
I think the people who were already against him are against him and maybe
shores up his support a little bit among Republicans and conservative
leaning independents. But that ends up with a split where he is on the
wrong side. He is still in the minority. He is not doing much to broaden
KASIE HUNT, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT FOR NBC NEWS AND MSNBC: I think, look,
my sense is that climate change to a certain extent is a generational
issue. Maybe compared to how quickly we saw a change on LGBT rights.
TODD: That`s interesting.
HUNT: I think that people who are under certain age feel as though this is
a no brainer and that`s true on both sides of the aisle. You see that there
are younger members of congress who signed the letter saying, hey, the
Republican Party needs to get more progressive on climate change frankly.
But you have people from – you know it`s the same base of Trump voters who
spent so much time talking about. The Republican Party is really afraid of
TODD: Why is that other conservative movements in other democracies haven`t
been so anti – this climate issue. What is your take on that? Not in
Canada, not in U.K., not in France, not in Germany.
PONNURU: I think the American conservative movement is more conservative
than conservative parties elsewhere on a broad range of issues having to do
with the size of government. It is also true on health care, for example.
PONNURU: That conservatives in America have been much more resistant to
kind of national health care systems than conservatives in Canada or
Britain and so forth. I think it is just other piece. I mean, this is
actually part of American exceptions, the American right is different from
other kinds of rights.
TODD: How much of this is just the old strain of just that anti-U.N., you
know, the anti-global?
HARRIS: You are going to see Europeans beating up on the Americans and
conservatives in those country, don`t like that Barack Obama went over and
said, I`m here representing the world`s second largest pollution emitter
here to take responsibility for what we did. And you are having to
apologize to the Europeans. So there is a huge element of that too.
TODD: It is fascinating a single – the White House has been sending out
praise for the Paris decision, and it has been nothing but either Trump
appointees or elected Republicans. Do you know what I didn`t see? Not a
single CEO. I didn`t see an industrial company CEO or an energy company
CEO. If there`s any big CEO in favor of the decision to pull out, they
won`t say it.
HARRIS. Right. And the secretary of state lobbied against pulling out. What
did he used to do? He ran ExxonMobil. I mean, this is fossil and fuel
company that knows the future is in the kinds of policies that this accord
I think is pushing.
HUNT: You know, it is interesting, too, that if anything, corporations have
become much more sensitive to political correctness.
TODD: You view it as political correctness decision, not a financial in
business decision by corporate America, that`s interesting.
HUNT: I mean, I think it is probably a combination of the two. Green
energy is still a relatively small portion of the overall income for a lot
of these companies that are doing it. It is a sector that`s growing but not
necessarily currently dominating.
However, yeah. I think, you know, you have seen I think time and time again
over the last five to ten years, whether it is the NCAA putting pressure on
Mike Pence or other business groups that do have.
TODD: Like what happened over prime time and Fox news.
HUNT: Exactly. Like they do have to cater to these broad audiences. They`re
making different calculations in the Republican Party. That`s a sharp
difference from where the Republicans were five years ago.
PONNURU: Just one point about the voters. I think the universe of voters
who would have voted for a congressional Republican but are now not going
to because of Paris is basically nonexistent.
TODD: That was the initial (inaudible) question is that, I don`t know if
there is going to be initial domestic fallout. Could be in 2020, right? If
it is part of a larger leadership issue.
PONNURU: It is not a top issue for most voters. The ones for who top issue
are already well ensconced.
TODD: I`ve described it as kind of like gun control, generically the
country is in favor of doing something about climate change. But then when
you say what`s your priority? The priority goes down.
HARRIS: That is narrow passionate audience.
HARRIS: Whoever the Democratic nominee is now is going to be running on, I
will put us back into the Paris accord. Now he`s now made that an issue.
HUNT: I think it adds to the pile of things that are going to get Democrats
really excited. And I think that is going to be the question in 2018. If
the house is going to be in play, put this on the list.
TODD: Right. All right. Kasie, Shane, Ramesh, thank you. We did our stuff a
little bit out of order here. But coming up next, the issue of the opioid
crisis is now, are opioids the new tobacco? We`ll be right back.
TODD: Welcome back to “MTP Daily.” A few nights ago, I was obsessed with a
lawsuit filed by the Ohio attorney general, Mike DeWine. Ohio is suing five
nature drug manufacturers for essentially causing the state`s opioid
crisis. DeWine argues that the drug companies hook patients on pain meds
just to increase profits.
According to the suit, the companies knew their drugs were addictive and
they downplayed the effects in marketing to patients and to doctors.
Despite guidelines from the FDA and the CDC then, the suit argues those
patients sought cheaper stronger drugs like heroin or synthetic opioids.
And Ohio is not the first state to file a suit like this.
There is also a one pending in Mississippi. That state sued the same five
companies in 2015. In that same year in Kentucky, two big drug companies
settled to some of the lawsuits for millions of dollars. As we noted on
Wednesday, these suits might sound a lot like the 1990`s tobacco lawsuit.
That`s intentional. Ohio`s largest Big Pharma is borrowing a page from big
So, to understand this more, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine joins me now
from Dayton. Mr. Attorney General, good to see you, sir.
MIKE DEWINE, OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL: Hey, Chuck, thank you.
TODD: Let me start with the basics of the lawsuit. You do compare it to the
issues of big tobacco back in the day. Do you have specific evidence
already that allowed you to feel comfortable filing this lawsuit?
DEWINE: You know, Chuck, taking on five big pharma companies is not
something you just wake up some day and decide to do. You know, we looked
at this long and hard. And frankly, we believe that the evidence is going
to show what we have alleged. And there are certainly some similarities.
What really happened here is this, and this is the history.
You know, historically, these pain meds have been used for short-term acute
pain. Someone has their wisdom tooth taken out, they take it for a day or
two or three or four. Also, at the other end of life, terminal illness,
cancer, they`re used for that. What we think the evidence will show is that
the pharmaceutical companies made a decision they wanted to go after a
much, much bigger market.
That market is people who are having continuous pain, but it`s not
terminal, it is not cancer. So, in the late 1990s, they really kind of put
together this program. And here`s where you see some of the similarities.
One of the things they did is create some what I would call front groups
that had pain in their name and they sounded like they would be impartial
And they were giving them money. Basically what they did is kept the party
line of the pharmaceutical companies. They hired doctors, paid doctors to
go out and do seminars and they would give that doctor the slides. They
would give them the talking points. Their real target was your family
doctor. They really didn`t target the specialists in pain.
They targeted the family doctor who most of us would go to, you know, if we
have some problem. That`s where certainly we would start. And they targeted
those doctors and they told those doctors that these pain meds were not
very addictive. They minimized the danger. They exaggerated the things that
could – the good things that could happen.
They created, even, a new name, pseudo-addiction and basically what they
would say is if the doctor had a patient and that patient was showing signs
of addiction, they would say that may not be true. What really may be true
is you just don`t have enough of the drug so you need to have more of the
This has caused a huge, huge spike in the prescriptions that are sent – in
Ohio, for example, a couple years ago there were 68 pills for every man,
woman and child in Ohio.
TODD: Right. Let me ask you this, though. Why now, why not – you saw
Mississippi do it. You`ve been there awhile. This is a crisis in a while.
Why wait till now? Do you now wish you had done this two years ago? And I
ask this because, look, some people say, hey, you feel politically
pressured to do this, that others have been pushing you in this direction.
DEWINE: Well, you know, that`s not how I operate. I`m a former prosecutor.
I want to make sure I`ve got the evidence before I file something. And this
is a civil suit obviously. But that`s my attitude. And it wasn`t until
recently frankly that I felt that we had enough evidence. I mean, there is
only one other state that has taken on quite the way we have.
There have been some other settlements. But in a comprehensive way,
Mississippi was the only state. So it`s not like every state is jumping out
there and doing it. But, you know, I have lived through this crisis in Ohio
and I see it every single day. I got to – frankly, reached the conclusion
that, you know, on my watch, I needed to bring this lawsuit.
TODD: This is – I would just say this feels like a very important lawsuit
to have play out in public, to see the discovery. Let me ask you this. Are
you going to pledge not to settle?
DEWINE: No, I don`t think that would be responsible. But what we want to do
is get an agreement. I mean, one of the things we asked for is an
injunction to stop the drug companies from continuing to do this. You know,
they really put enough money and they did it artfully, that they changed
the culture. They have changed the culture of prescribing.
And while in Ohio we`ve gone after bad doctors, we`ve eliminated – we`ve
taken the licenses from over a hundred, but that`s not who they were really
targeting. Their target was the good doctors. What they did is they made
good doctors believe that these pills were not very addictive.
And they lied to them and they misled. And I think these pharmaceutical
companies need to be part of the solution in trying to spend some money to
take that culture back, you know, somewhere in the middle if it`s rational.
TODD: All right. Mike DeWine, I want to talk more about this, but I`m out
of time for my hour. The attorney general Republican from Ohio. Thanks for
coming on. I appreciate it.
After the break, is a big vacancy at FEMA a disaster waiting to happen?
TODD: In case you missed it, hurricane season is now officially underway.
Any good south Floridian knows that very well. Guess what? We don`t yet
have a FEMA administrator. FEMA is the federal agency with job to respond
and recover from natural disasters like hurricanes. Look, there is a
nominee to be the next FEMA director. His name is Brock Long.
He used to head up Alabama`s emergency management agency. I can tell you
any time you get somebody from the gulf coast it`s a good idea. Long senate
confirmation hearing is scheduled for next week. That`s good news. But Long
wasn`t even nominated until April 28. You can`t really blame this one on
the senate. Took Trump nearly 100 days after taking office to even nominate
someone for what is essentially among the most critical posts that interact
with the American people.
Oh, by the way, there is also no NOAA administrator either. You know, the
folks that talk about – that have to predict the weather. The president
hasn`t even nominated someone to head up the agency that oversees the
government`s weather forecasting. Look, here`s the thing. The last FEMA
administrator, Craig Fugate, stepped down on January 20 as it is standard
for political appointees.
Fugate wanted to go. He was ready to move on. But he is also a guy who
served under Florida Republican Governor Jeb Bush before becoming President
Obama`s FEMA administrator. The idea was make it a non-partisan post. And
if President Trump would ask Fugate to stay on, well, we all know this guy,
he would have stayed. Then we wouldn`t be twisting slowly, slowly in the
wind. This is an unforced potential political error by this White House,
let alone the actual problems of cleaning up after a natural disaster.
Anyway, that`s all for tonight.
By the way, if it`s Sunday, catch Meet the Press on your local NBC station
- Kerry, Gore, Pruitt - it`s a big show.
For The Record with Greta starts right now.
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