MTP Daily, Transcript 6/20/2017
Show: MTP DAILY
Date: June 20, 2017
Guest: Jim Galloway, Steve Stivers, Eli Stokols, Ramesh Ponnuru, Ruth
Marcus, Mark Warner, Aditi Roy
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Happy – it`s my Monday, your
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: Happy your Monday. We`ll live on your
schedule. That`s fine.
TODD: Fair enough. Thank you.
If it`s Tuesday, somebody`s voting somewhere. Ah, the music. And tonight,
that somewhere could have major national implications.
(voice-over): Tonight, ticking down to the final buzzer in Georgia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON OSSOFF (D), GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I`m feeling pretty good
about the outcome tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Will Democrats finally put a win on the board in Georgia`s special
election or will Republicans and Lucy hold the football again?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAREN HANDEL (R), GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Special elections are
called special elections for a reason. This is essentially a jump ball.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Plus, exactly how widespread were Russia`s hacking attacks? The top
Democrat on the Senate Intel Committee wants to know and wants all of us to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: So far, only two states have come forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: I`ll go one on one tomorrow with Mark Warner ahead of tomorrow`s new
round of Russia hearings.
And later, American Otto Warmbier died due to his treatment in a North
Korean prison. What should the U.S. do to retaliate?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s a total disgrace what
happened to Otto. That should never, ever be allowed to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.
(on camera): Well, good evening. I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington and
welcome to MTP DAILY.
Voters are headed to the polls right now in the highly anticipated
historically expensive special election. It`s a very special election in
Georgia Sixth Congressional District between Democrat Jon Ossoff and
Republican Karen Handel.
The victorious candidate will become a member of the U.S. House of
Representatives and his or her party will score a major victory. The other
party will receive a loud wake-up call and the issue of health care will be
shaken up regardless of who comes out on top.
So, let`s run through the stakes. If Ossoff falls short of flipping this
seat, Democrats will see their best chance of a special election win slip
through their fingers probably for an entire calendar year. It will mean
Democrats couldn`t beat a non-incumbent candidate in a highly-educated
district where Donald Trump struggled in November. And that was before he
was officially under investigation.
Democratic donors who will likely be livid (ph) at wasting millions and a
losing effort, they could exasperate the ongoing ideological fight within
the party. A more progressive wing may object to another centrist-backed
candidate by the party establishment, losing what appears to be a winnable
Now, if Handel loses, Republicans are going to the 2018 mid-term elections
with a bitter taste in their mouths from the close loss and without a
certain political strategy. A Handel loss could also be seen as a tangible
rebuke to the Trump presidency and it would be another negative headline to
heap onto the Russia investigation and the party`s legislative challenge.
But perhaps the biggest ramification of today`s race could be on the fight
over health care. A Handel win would embolden Republicans, keep their foot
on the gas on health care and get the bill through the Senate before the
recess. Whatever it takes.
If Ossoff wins, you could very well see Republicans start tapping the
brakes on health care and becoming more vocal on how uncomfortable they are
with not just with the bill but with the process. We already saw John
McCain complain about it earlier today.
The two candidates laid out their final arguments in the last 24 hours and
took a couple of shots on each other. Ossoff has said Handel is an
establishment politician and for her history of being against Planned
Parenthood. But he`s also attacked her for supporting the House Republican
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OSSOFF: It`s bad for women. It`s bad for older Americans. And it`s an
example of what happens when career politicians in Washington are more
concerned with partisan objectives than serving the public interest.
This bill which my opponent, Karen Handel, supports is deeply unpopular in
this district. And folks want to see the parties work together on some
solutions that are going to make health care more accessible and more
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: But Handel told Breitbart health care, quote, “hasn`t been that much
of an issue on the ground. For voters in the Sixth District, the biggest
issue is that Jon Ossoff is from outside the district.” I`m guessing
that`s probably not the number one issue in this race but we see where the
messaging is there.
Handel announced that Republican groups threw the kitchen sink at Ossoff in
this race, tying him to Nancy Pelosi, Kathy Griffith, anarchists, Osama Bin
Laden. And they`re trying to make the carpet bagger label stick here at
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANDEL: The people of the Sixth District want this to be about the Sixth
District. They are not interested in Hollywood and California coming in
and buying this seat. And they are very concerned about an individual who
does not even live in this district.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: President Trump echoed that attack this morning on Twitter.
Democratic Jon Ossoff, who wants to raise your taxes to the highest level
and is weak on crime and security, doesn`t even live in district.
Ossoff says it is not a priority for voters. Folks, the only prediction we
can make right now is that the race is going to be very close. But the
time for moral victories is over for Democrats. They need a victory to
show any signs of this resistance showing political life.
And Republicans need a victory to give them a little bit more cover if
they`re going to get health care through the Senate and back through the
House again without any Democratic consultation.
One party will walk away unhappy. And we`re just a few hours away from
knowing who that will be or I kind of think we`re probably 12 hours away.
Joining me now is Jim Galloway, political insider at the “Atlanta Journal
Constitution” and the expert on Georgia politics.
So, Jim, good to see you, sir.
JIM GALLOWAY, “ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUION”: Great to be back, Chuck.
TODD: All right, we know there`s a ton of money. We know that turnout is
high. All of those things. So, what this race – regardless of the
victor, and there`s going to be a lot of reinterpretations in Washington.
From your standpoint, what has this race been about?
GALLOWAY: Well, number one, this race is about Trump. Don`t let anyone
fool you about that. And what`s strange is neither Handel or Ossoff want
to say that. They can`t say that because they`re after the moderate
Republicans who, in a Trump centric race, probably would disappoint both of
But I do take your point about health care. I think this is a very, very
important election as far as the health care bill goes. This is Tom
Price`s district that we`re talking about.
And Tom`s wife, Betty, has a state House district in Karen`s – in the
heart of Karen`s political base. So, she can`t walk away from that House
bill. And she has had to do this dance where she defends it and yet wants
to distance herself from it.
There are 14,000 medical workers with jobs in the Sixth District, 25,000
medical workers work in John Lewis` fifth district next door, but I bet you
half of them live in the sixth.
TODD: Who is the swing voter? Is it the moderate Republican you just
GALLOWAY: I think so. I think – I think the swing voter is female,
moderate, and conservative on social issues, maybe a little bit more
moderate on fiscal issues. She has, you know, kids in college, doesn`t
like the gun debate, and I think some of the excesses of the Trump – the
Trump administration make her very nervous.
TODD: It seems as if both candidates have flaws. And I`m wondering, do
you think they cancel each other out or will these flaws be extra
highlighted if they lose? With Ossoff it`s inexperience and youth. With
Handel, it`s the idea that she`s a retread. Which has been the harder
issue to overcome for the – for the two of them?
GALLOWAY: I would think the Handel`s experience, she`s got a lot of –
this is her, I think, third try for a big office without – and she has yet
to succeed. She ran for governor and she ran for Senate. And this is kind
of her last shot on this.
And I think there are for – there are internal Republican forces that
aren`t completely dedicated toward her re-election – toward her election.
And I think that could have some bearing.
TODD: How long of a night do you think we`ll – do you think we`ll know
before midnight or do you think we`ll have breakfast with results?
GALLOWAY: I think we`ll know before midnight. But I will tell you, Chuck,
it is – I don`t want to be a weatherman, but it is pouring here. We`ve –
we`re in the middle of a deluge, two to four inches, weather flooding
advisory until 10:00 p.m. And that is – that could affect your Karen
TODD: Do you think that hurts Handel more than Ossoff?
GALLOWAY: Well, Ossoff –
TODD: Because it`s Election Day.
GALLOWAY: – built his campaign around early voting. I think he pulled 48
percent in that April vote. But he pulled 62, 63 percent of early voters.
So, Handel`s voters – Handel`s voters are the ones who show up on the day
TODD: And one more thing you didn`t think you needed to worry about in the
spring-summer that the weather playing this kind of an impact. Anyway, Jim
Galloway, always a pleasure, sir. Thank you.
GALLOWAY: Thank you.
TODD: Enjoyed this.
Let me turn now to the Republican in charge of winning races like this for
the GOP, Ohio Congressman Steve Stivers. He`s also the – he`s the chair
of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Congressman, good to see you, sir.
REP. STEVE STIVERS (R), OHIO: Good to be on.
TODD: So, let me get you to – you heard Jim Galloway there. He says
neither candidate wants to admit it but this race is about Trump. What do
you say about that? Do you agree with him?
STIVERS: Well, I think it`s about more than Trump but, clearly, some
voters want it to be about Trump. And it`s about when voters want it to be
about. And, in the end, it`s about who they want to represent them in
Georgia Sixth District. And I think Karen Handel will come out on top of
that, not just because she lives there but because she represents the
values of the people of the Sixth District.
TODD: I`m curious, look, win or lose, this appears to be an
extraordinarily close race.
STIVERS: I believe that.
TODD: And if you look at the Trump-Clinton number from November, it was
one point which was, sort of, a precursor of what we all thought. Well,
geez, I guess this will be a close race.
Do you take any comfort in losing by a point and saying, well, we lost a
close race by a point but we – but Republicans didn`t get blown out? We
know how to run in this environment. Even though we lost by a point, we`re
not going to – every Democrat that a Republican has to run into isn`t
going to have $60 million. Does that –
STIVERS: Well, Chuck –
TODD: – does that – do you take any comfort in that if you come up
STIVERS: – well, Chuck, we`re going to win tonight. But I will tell you,
the Democrats can`t afford to spend $33 million in every seat. And that`s
what the left spent on this race is $33 million. If you multiply that out
times the 25 Democrat districts they have to hold and the 45 Republican
districts they want to target, that would be $2.1 million – billion, and
they don`t have that much money.
TODD: Yes, elections are getting expensive but I don`t think we`re going
to be in multiples of billions for House races yet.
STIVERS: I don`t.
TODD: But who knows.
TODD: Maybe before our lifetimes end, we might be.
Let me ask you this on messaging. The Democrats seem to have one message
they were focused on both – some form of Trump and health care. If you
look at what was coming from your side, and I know you didn`t control all
of the messaging, it looked like it was all over the place. Do you accept
the idea that this has been a bit spaghetti at the wall and you`ve been
trying to figure out what works?
STIVERS: Well, with a candidate like John Ossoff who has kind of a thin
resume and even exaggerated parts of that, you do find yourself trying to
figure out what you can throw against the wall and what can stick.
But I think, in the end, the people of this district want this to be about
who`s going to represent them the best. And I think that`s going to be
Karen Handel. I feel very confident that we`re going to come out on the
winning side tonight.
TODD: Do you acknowledge that health care is on the ballot tonight or at
least a process around it, meaning that many of your – many of your
colleagues, both in the House and the Senate, may be watching tonight on
health care. Because that was probably the issue more – most talked about
in this district compared to other issues. Do you feel as if the process
of health care this summer how it goes is on the ballot for you tonight?
STIVERS: I think it was one of the things that people talked about and
it`s certainly one of the factors in this race. I don`t think this race is
all about any one thing, as you said, Chuck.
TODD: Yes. No, it – let me ask you then specifically on health care. Do
you view it as a negative right now for your members because it`s so
unpopular in that it`s going to take time to it into a positive? Do you
think it is or where do you assess the health care issue right now for
Republican candidates thinking about 2018?
STIVERS: Well, I think only in Washington can keeping your promises be
called a negative. And, frankly, we campaigned in 2010, 2012, 2014 and
2016 and we`re going to keep our promise.
And by the way, Chuck, the status quo is terrible in my home state of Ohio.
Anthem just pulled out of the marketplace. They`re the third big insurance
company to pull out. I have four of my 12 counties that have zero
insurance companies now in the individual marketplace and four more that
have only one and no choice.
So, there`s a huge problem in the status quo. We have to do something to
fix health care. And, frankly, I realize that the first bill we passed was
not perfect –
STIVERS: – but it was a good first step.
TODD: Do you acknowledge that maybe you guys should be doing this more in
public? It looks like you`re hiding for political reasons that it`s – you
know, it`s too painful to talk about the individual aspects of the bill. I
get it as a political tactic. Do you think, though, that long term you
could pay a price for that?
STIVERS: Well, we had a lot of hearings in the House, and, you know, the
Senate is now drafting a bill. It`s hard to draft a bill in public, but
they will have hearings. They said they`ll have hearings. And I hold – I
believe that they will have hearings. We`ll see how it goes.
TODD: All right, we`ll be watching for those hearings ourselves.
Congressman Stivers, always a pleasure to have you on, sir. Appreciate you
coming on and sharing your views and speaking your mind.
STIVERS: Thanks a lot. Thanks, Chuck.
TODD: You got it.
Let me bring in the panel. Ruth Marcus, Deputy Editorial Page Editor and
Columnist for “The Washington Post.” Eli Stokols, White House Reporter for
“The Wall Street Journal.” Ramesh Ponnuru, Senior Editor for “National
All right, Eli, first crack at this. What did you learn about Georgia
Sixth in the last 10 minutes?
ELI STOKOLS, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”: Well, I mean, the commentary that
we`ve heard just, sort of, reflects this rather benign race that we`ve seen
from both of the candidates.
You`ve got Karen Handel basically trying to disassociate herself from the
president. John Ossoff trying to, sort of, get past the fact that all
these, you know, billionaire, millionaire progressive donors, Hollywood
celebrities have donated to his campaign. And he`s trying to convince the
moderate Republicans in that district that he`s going to, sort of, be the
down the middle type of Democrat or moderate. That`s not easy.
And then, trying to tar and feather him with this stale play book calling
him, you know, a Nancy Pelosi puppet. That – I mean, the idea of the fact
they`re paying money for that old tired attack is something, but it might
work in that district.
STOKOLS: And that`s – and talk about throwing stuff at the wall. It
seems like that`s the thing that worked the best. I mean, it`s
interesting. Trump`s tweeting about the race now because he`s going to see
it on T.V. He`s going to pay attention to it. He`s going to, you know,
wave his pompoms if she wins. But he didn`t go down there and campaign for
her. And I think that tells you about the fact that he`s a liability in
TODD: Ramesh, actually, you, like, put it in pretty – it is funny, both
candidates are running away from their bases. No, no, no, no, I`m not
that. I`m not that. Oh, no, no, no, I`m something different. It`s hard
to be a partisan these days and not – and then run away from it.
RAMESH PONNURU, “NATIONAL REVIEW”: Well, one of your interviewees was
saying the race was really about Trump, even though neither candidate wants
to talk about Trump.
I think that what that tells you is that even if 95 percent of the voters
are crow or anti-Trump, that five percent that they`re counting on are the
people who aren`t baked in one way or the other because of Trump. And
that`s – you know, that`s what the contest is about for that five percent
of voters is everything but Donald Trump.
The thing that – the reason we`ve all been obsessing about this race for
so long is the sixth most educated district in the – in the country, and
highly educated or at least people with college degrees have been a lagging
group for Donald Trump. Romney won this district by 20 points. Trump won
it by, I believe, about two.
TODD: A point.
PONNURU: Yes, by a point. So, this – if the Democrats can`t make inroads
here, then they`re really in trouble in the Trump years.
RUTH MARCUS, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: I think I have a different perspective
on that. I think if Republicans can`t keep this seat, they`re really in
trouble in the Trump years. And here is why. Yes, Trump won it by a
point. But Tom Price won it by multiple – you know, double digits
So, the fact that this is a – the fact that this is a competitive seat
tells you about the trouble that the Republican Party is in right now in
some congressional districts in the age of Trump. This should not be a –
this would not be a competitive seat were it not for Donald Trump. And, to
me, that`s what this race is about.
TODD: No, that might. I have to say, though, the single most important
thing I learned was I didn`t realize how bad the weather was today. I
mean, I know it`s raining in the Southeast. We`ve got that tropical storm
and all that stuff. But you`re, like, boy, throw yet one more weird hurdle
into this thing.
MARCUS: And, you know, you usually think that bad weather keeps Democrats
home, right? The Republican – the early voting. It`s really interesting.
TODD: Well, the Election Day voting was enormously important for
Republicans in the first round of this Georgia today. It kept Ossoff from
getting over the 50 the first time.
STOKOLS: Yes, and I think the impact of this might be – I mean, health
care is huge and that`s in the near term. But looking towards next
November, there will be some impact from this, some ripple effect, in terms
of fundraising and candidate recruitment.
If Ossoff wins, I think it`s possible some Republicans who are in districts
that are similar might feel a little more vulnerable, a little more likely
to hang it up.
TODD: I agree.
STOKOLS: And, if not, you know, Democrats may have a harder time
recruiting candidates if they feel like they get all this money and they
still can`t close the deal.
TODD: And very quickly on the impact on – potentially on health care.
Look, we have John McCain getting cranky about the process, that it`s
hidden. He goes, I haven`t seen a bill. Nobody in America has.
Why do I have a feeling if Ossoff wins, you will suddenly see eight to 10
Senate Republicans going, you know, it would be really nice if we did this
in public. But if Handel wins, McConnell gets his way.
PONNURU: Senate Mike Lee of Utah who`s in the working group on health care
is complaining that he hasn`t seen the bill, let alone everybody else. So,
these complaints are widespread and absolutely if Ossoff wins, especially
with a large margin –
TODD: It opens the door.
TODD: Yes. No, that will be – how do you think these senators are – you
used to – this was your beat. You were the Senate House person.
MARCUS: I don`t think they like it either way. Once we, in the media, and
we have been so distracted by that bright, shiny object that we failed to
pay enough attention to this health care bill, to the way it`s being
produced behind closed doors.
Sure, it`s going to be worse for the McConnell behind closed doors plan if
Ossoff wins. But I think the heat is on there and it`s a really hard thing
for people, like John McCain and others, to defend this process.
TODD: Well, because, I mean, we all have videotape. I mean, like, it is -
- it – look, I know we`re all shocked that hypocrisy is taking place in
Washington, but it`s, sort of, like, it`s exhausting.
STOKOLS: I think, in a way it`s more shocking –
MARCUS: It`s worse than exhausting. It`s embarrassing. I`m sorry, Eli.
STOKOLS: – in a way it`s more shocking that people – we all, sort of –
it seems like the country has become numb to it.
TODD: Or conditioned.
STOKOLS: You know, five, 10 years ago, maybe something as blatant as the
hypocrisy we see now on a daily basis would have more of an effect. It
doesn`t seem to in this – in this era.
MARCUS: We`ll find out.
TODD: We are going to find out.
All right, guys, you guys are sticking around. You will be here for the
rest of the hour. Polls close at 7:00 Eastern in Georgia. MSNBC will be
covering the results as they come in throughout the evening.
But I`m telling you, I think you set your alarm for 5:00 a.m. That would
be my guess.
Coming up, could Russia be trying to interfere in today`s elections?
There`s still a lot we don`t know about which states got hacked in 2016.
I`m going to talk to a Democrat, the top one on the Senate Intelligence
Committee, who wants to change that.
We`ll be right back.
TODD: Welcome back.
As we mentioned earlier, no matter what happens tonight in Georgia`s
special election, we could see quick ramifications for how the Senate
tackles health care. Republican work on the issue has been accelerating.
The majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said today, they`ll release a, quote,
“discussion draft” of the bill this Thursday.
Just this morning, Senator Bob Corker said all Republican senators will
meet tomorrow to go over some framework. Democrats, meanwhile, are stuck,
locked out of negotiations while Republicans try to pass the bill without
They`re now trying to use procedural tactics to grind the Senate`s work to
a halt. And late into the night last night, they took to the floor to rail
against the lack of transparency in the discussions. That`s a point even
some Republicans have expressed some frustration about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, if you`re frustrated by the lack of transparency in
this process, I share your frustration. I share it whole heartedly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you satisfied with the process that they`re taking
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: No, no, of course not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why not?
MCCAIN: For the obvious reason that no one has even shared it. We used to
complain like hell when the Democrats ran the Affordable Care Act. Now,
they`re – we`re doing the same thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Senate leaders have indicated we`re likely to see votes on a health
care bill as soon as next week. So, I guess this idea of the hearings – I
know Congressman Stivers said we`d have hearings. Maybe we won`t.
We`ll be back in 60 seconds with more MTP DAILY.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does President Trump believe that the Russian
government interfered in the 2016 elections?
SEAN SPICER, U.S. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think I have not sat down
and talked to him about that specifically. And, obviously, we`ve been
dealing with a lot of other issues today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Wow. Welcome back.
That was White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer this afternoon unable to
tell us if the president believes his intelligence agencies on Russian
interference in the U.S. election in 2016. This comes as the U.S. Senate
Intelligence Committee is ramping up its investigation.
We`ve already seen blockbuster testimony from ousted FBI Director James
Comey, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others. Tomorrow, top officials
from the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, Illinois Board of
Elections, and the National Association of Secretaries of State are going
to be in the hot seat, amid reports that Russia`s targeting of our election
infrastructure in 2016 was far wider than previously thought.
The Intelligence Committee`s vice chair, Virginia Senator Mark Warner, is
now calling on the Trump administration to publicly disclose every single
state that Russia targeted.
Last year, two states confirmed being breached or targeted, Arizona and
Illinois. And “Bloomberg News” recently reported that U.S. investigators
believe Russia hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states.
I`m joined now by Senator Mark Warner, Democrat from Virginia, the Vice
Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator Warner, how are you
I know our time is short, so I`ll get right to it. First question, you
sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security. You want made public
how many states will – are infiltrated. Why is it important for that to
become public and are you at all concerned that it could create a little
WARNER: Well, we`re not trying to create a panic. We`re not trying to
relitigate the 2016 election or embarrass any state. What we know – and
there have been public reports that have had numbers, frankly, that have
been wrong. Only two states, Illinois and Arizona, have acknowledged the
Russians attempted to hack into their systems in the 2016 campaign.
I would rather – I think we would all be safer and better prepared for
2018, or 2017 in the case of my home state of Virginia where we have state
elections, if we get this information out. And we can share best practices
and make sure.
Because one thing we know, the Russians didn`t just try to do this in 2016.
WARNER: They tried to intervene in France. They`re going to try to
intervene in Germany. And they will be back trying to attack us again.
TODD: There has been a lot of comfort taken by officials, both in the
Obama administration and in the Trump administration, who have said
definitively, we`ve had no evidence, no proof, no anything that any vote
totals were altered. Do you still have that same level of confidence,
given the more information we`re learning about the state level of hacks?
WARNER: Chuck, I do have a high level of confidence that no individual
vote totals were changed. Again, this is not about relitigating 2016.
But if we show how extensive the Russian attempts were to penetrate state
systems, that, I think, will put us on a higher level of guard and
The one thing we do know is that if the Russians were able to even come in,
or some other adversary, and even change a county or an individual voting
precinct, that could cause a great deal of chaos and havoc going forward.
We just need to recognize, you know, 21st century technology, 21st century
hacking is going to with us for a while and we need to be better prepared.
TODD: On “MEET THE PRESS” on Sunday, Angus King, a colleague of yours, I
asked him, where would you put percentage-wise where you are in the
investigation? He said about 20 percent through it. There`s probably
another 80 percent to go.
One, I wonder if you agree with that assessment? And, two, if you could
answer this criticism from David Brooks both on the show and this morning
in his column. And he writes, as the Trump-Russia story is evolved, it is
striking how little evidence there is that any underlying crime occurred,
that there was any actual collusion between the Donald Trump campaign and
He is growing skeptical that, with all the leaks that have come out,
there`s never been a leak about that. What do you say to David Brooks and
others that are starting to question whether there`s any there there?
WARNER: What I would say is let`s take this in order. First of all, we
absolutely know that the Russians tried to intervene in our election
system. They hacked into the DNC. They also used (INAUDIBLE) weaponized
Everyone from all the intelligence community virtually every senator,
Democrat and Republican agree with this – with that fact. The only person
who, frankly, seems to still reject that notion is the president, himself,
who calls this fake news or a witch hunt. He`s just factually wrong.
The second piece is we are still at the relatively early stages, I`m not
going to give a percentage, as we start to deal with those affiliates of
the Trump campaign who at least have been rumored or talked about having
contacts with the Russians.
I would have expected to have more of that work done. But who could have
ever predicted that the president, himself, would have gone out and fired
FBI Director Comey, that he would be launching these, at least, rumors that
he might be firing, or potentially firing, special prosecutor Mueller?
That has actually taken time away from the further conversations with those
Trump officials who may have been involved with the Russians.
TODD: And final question because it sort of relates to health care.
There`s this idea that Democrats may try to do the delaying of all
committee meetings by at least two hours. That actually could have an
impact on the Senate Intel Committee. Are you comfortable with that and
WARNER: Well, listen, we will end up, whether it`s a formal hearing or a
briefing, we`re going to manage to get the information we need because
trying to make sure that we`re safe going forward in terms of our electoral
system is extraordinarily important.
I also, though, believe the Republicans – we all recall some of the
criticisms they made in the Obamacare process, where literally hundreds of
amendments were accepted, many from Republicans. Yet I`ve never, in all my
years up here, Chuck, ever seen anything like what`s going on right now, in
terms of this so-called secret bill being created behind closed doors.
TODD: Right. Senator Mark Warner, I`m out of time. I got to leave it
there. I appreciate you rushing to the camera.
WARNER: Thanks, Chuck.
TODD: I know it`s a busy day. Thank you, sir.
Still ahead, how can the U.S. respond to the death of the American student,
Otto Warmbier? Is there any action that can and should be taken against
North Korea beyond just more sanctions?
TODD: Much more ahead on the second half of “MTP Daily” including the other
special election happening today that could actually provide more of an
earthquake for the politics of this town than anything that would happen in
Georgia. Plus, why I`ve been quoting “My Cousin Vinny” for the past week.
But first, Aditi Roy with the “CNBC Market Wrap.”
ADITI ROY, GENERAL ASSIGNMENT REPORTER FOR CNBC: Looking forward to that.
Thanks so much, Chuck. Oil prices tumble as stocks pull back from record
highs. The Dow falling nearly 62 points, the S&P shedding 16 points, the
Nasdaq losing nearly 51. Signs of rising production sent the price of oil
falling to its lowest level of the year. U.S. crude for July delivery
dropped 2.19 percent.
And FedEx shares up 2 percent after earnings beat estimates. The shipping
giant is considered a bellwether of U.S. economic conditions. Sources
saying executives are meeting with President Trump to discuss a potential
roll for FedEx in the White House infrastructure push. That`s it from CNBC,
first in business worldwide.
TODD: Welcome back. The Trump administration is facing a seemingly
impossible diplomatic challenge today following the tragic news of the
death of Otto Warmbier just about a week after returning home in a coma
from a year and a half in prison in North Korea.
The State Department says it holds North Korea accountable for Warmbier`s
death and is demanding the release of three other Americans who are also
detained there. Senators John McCain and Marco Rubio say the 22-year-old
was murdered by the Kim Jong-un regime. Today, President Trump lashed out
over the timing of Warmbier`s return seemingly blaming the Obama
(START VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was a total disgrace what
happened to Otto. It should never, ever be allowed to happen. And frankly,
if he were brought home sooner, I think the result would have been a lot
different. He should have been brought home that same day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: The president`s words echoed frustration from Warmbier`s family who
believe the Obama administration should have pushed harder for Otto`s
release. What kind of response will this tragedy prompt from the president
who once said he`d be honored to meet with Kim Jong-un? What should be the
response to this kind of crime? Can anything be done? This afternoon, the
White House did not signal any change in tactics for now.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We will continue to apply
economic and political pressure and try to continue to work with our
allies. We had, I think, positive movement on China over the past five
months of this administration. We will continue to work with them and
others to put the appropriate pressure on North Korea to change this
behavior and this regime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: An understandably measured response from Sean Spicer and the
administration because they don`t know what to do here. Joining me now is
Christopher Hill, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea and NBC News
analyst. Ambassador Hill, I`m probably not alone.
There`s something about what happened with Otto that just makes you angry
as an American. And there`s some need for retribution, for retaliation
here. But for the life of me, I can`t think of an obvious answer or I`m
guessing if there was one, it already been implemented.
CHRISTOPHER HILL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SOUTH KOREA, NBC NEWS ANALYST:
Well, you bet it makes people angry. I mean, everyone can relate to a son
or a child who has gone off and done something, maybe should not have done,
but to apparently allegedly try to take a poster as a souvenir and to be
charged and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor is simply ridiculous and
outrageous. So, I think people do feel there has to be something we can do.
But the problem comes back to the same problem we have with nuclear
weapons. What is it we`re supposed to do? Do we try to attack them with
force? Do we then hold our breath and hope they don`t retaliate in South
Korea and get us into a second Korean war? Lot of problems there. And I
think the Trump administration has tried to deflect it and turn it into
politics and blame it all on President Obama, but I frankly don`t think
that dog is going to hunt.
TODD: Well, he put up this other tweet and I`m curious of your reaction to
it. He says this earlier this afternoon. “While I greatly appreciate the
efforts of President Xi and China to help with North Korea, it has not
worked out. At least I know China tried.” All past tense. What do you make
HILL: Yeah. Well, I think there`s a lot of criticism of the president
especially among Republicans and sort of foreign policy establishment that
somehow he gave way all his leverage, bet on the Chinese, put everything in
on the Chinese lo and behold, they haven`t been able to solve the problem
yet. So what he is trying to say is, look, I did the right thing in going
with Chinese, they really tried.
But as the tense suggested, he might try to be moving in another direction.
But I don`t think he has any idea where he is going to move. And one of the
problems with diplomacy with this administration is you get sort of one
announcement to the next announcement without a lot going on in between.
So, he doesn`t really have sort of an ongoing strategy and approach to the
Chinese that`s daily in nature as opposed to episodic.
So, I think he comes up against the same old problem, what do you do? And,
you know, he has a rather delicate relationship with the South Koreans. You
know, they don`t want to be pushed around by us. They don`t like the North
Koreans either. But we`ve got to manage that carefully.
If we`re perceived by South Koreans as not allowing them to have any talks
with North Korea, we`re kind of falling into that very deleterious
propaganda they have there which is to the effect that the great powers
have prevented the Korean people from coming together. So, this is not an
easy issue for him. I do understand the frustration with the Chinese, but
to some extent it was entirely predictable.
TODD: Let me go back to – I heard Sean Spicer say, we`re going to continue
with economic and political sanctions. No country likes sanctions, but this
country is operated under this sanction. Kim Jong-un`s whole life – hasn`t
it been his whole life that country has been under sanctions? I mean, at
this point, what new sanction could be enacted that might have any bite?
HILL: Yeah, it`s hard to say. People have tried to get at the North Koreans
by, you know, banning cigarettes and liquor sales and things like that. And
nothing really on the sanction side has really moved them. The issue is
whether China would somehow quarantine North Korea, prevent any movement
across that border, stop selling them refined gasoline.
As you know, they have no refineries there. So maybe China could step it
up. But I think history has shown that sanction trains are never fast
enough for the thing that you are really trying to deal with. In this case,
it`s utterly brutal regime, essentially. I think John McCain has a point.
Until the North Koreans can explain in some honest way what happened to
him, we have to assume he was frankly mistreated in such a way that I don`t
think murder is too far off the mark.
TODD: Ambassador, I guess it`s sort of – do we have to do – is there a
consequence of doing nothing?
HILL: Well, you know, throughout history countries have gone to war over
the treatment of their citizens. And certainly, the highest level of
responsibility certainly at the State Department and elsewhere is to take
care of our citizens. And by the way, that`s been true since long before
the Trump administration. So when you have a citizen mistreated and
ultimately killed, there is a sort of sense that something has to be done.
But the problem with North Korea is always finding out what that something
is. By the way, if we haven`t been able to find that something for nuclear
weapons, it`s hard to find that for the death a single American. So I think
we are going to have to continue to do what we are doing. Go after Chinese.
I hate to channel Sean Spicer, but he does have a point. We have to go kind
of try to do more things with the Chinese, do more things with our allies.
TODD: And maybe just go purchase a punching bag at home and get our
frustration on that, unfortunately. All right, Ambassador Chris Hill,
probably as tough of a diplomatic challenge as anybody faces no matter your
partisan feel on that one. Thank you, sir. I appreciate it. Just head, why
tonight`s special election in Georgia reminds me of “My Cousin Vinny.” I
think you will appreciate this one.
TODD: Welcome back. Like a lot of people interested in politics tonight,
I`m obsessed with today`s special election in Georgia. It`s no exaggeration
to say there is a lot and I mean a lot riding on the outcome. Democratic
fund raising, Republican fund raising, momentum for 2018, the Trump
resistance movement, candidate recruiting, strategy, the future of health
I`m missing like ten other things. In fact, the future of it seems the
whole political world. In fact, so much has said to be riding on today`s
vote, that it reminded us of a scene from one of the fun movies of our
time, “My Cousin Vinny.”
(START VIDEO CLIP)
JOE PESCI, ACTOR: I ain`t slept in five days. I got no money, a dress code
problem, and a little murder case which, in the balance, holds the lives of
two innocent kids. Not to mention your biological clock, my career, your
life, our marriage, and let me see, what else can be pile on? Is there
anymore (beep) we can pile to the top of the outcome of this case?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: That was me at our morning meeting about Georgia Sixth. What else can
we pile anyway? We don`t know who is going to win today but at least we
know Vinny Gambini got the two youths acquitted. We`ll be right back.
TODD: Welcome back. Time for “The Lid.” Panelists here. Ruth Marcus, Eli
Stokols, Ramesh Ponnuru. I want to talk a little North Korea and a little
bit of Russia. Ruth, Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor, wrote sort of why
he was – it was a great personal essay, like why he is bothered to what
happened to Otto Warmbier. It is frustrating. It feels as if we are
powerless. Essentially, Ambassador Hill, President Trump, Sean Spicer,
everybody is saying yeah, we are.
RUTH MARCUS, JOURNALIST FOR THE WASHINGTON POST: it`s totally
heartbreaking. Fred and I both have kids about the age of Otto Warmbier,
and so any parent, any human being sees this and is outraged. Every
American sees it and is outraged. Here`s something I think we need to
remember and Fred pointed it out in his op-ed and my colleague, Kristen
Carroll, wrote about it again today after Otto Warmbier passed away.
We need to remember him. We need to be outraged about his treatment and
outraged of the fact there are three Americans held there. We also need to
be outraged at the treatment by this regime of its own people. Tens of
thousands, hundreds of thousands of people who are killed, tortured,
imprisoned. Christian wrote about how if you were one of their
concentration camps and you catch a rat and eat it because you`re so
starving. They punish you for theft of state property. That`s this regime.
We can`t forget it.
TODD: There`s not another regime around the world like this. We talked
about the different (inaudible). Ramesh, this is on a level of, you know,
(inaudible) too kind.
RAMESH PONNURU, COLUMNIST AND SENIOR EDITOR FOR THE NATIONAL REVIEW
MAGAZINE: It`s like a combination of communism and psychopathic cult.
PONNURU: . in one state. It`s a country as a lot of concentration camp
really. And what`s frustrating about it is we know these things. But there
is a limit to what we can do about it. There is not effective military
answer here. And so we end just sort of flailing (ph) about trying to find
other ways to tackle the issue.
MARCUS: Also nuclear weapons.
TODD: No, Eli, I was just about to say, Eli, that is, boy, if that isn`t a
reminder and I`m sorry, it`s another reminder to any rogue state in the
world, what`s the best way to prevent the United States or any other world
power for ever punishing you for mistreating its people, have nukes.
ELI STOKOLS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER FOR WALL STREET JOURNAL: That`s right. I
think you see from this White House, you saw during the situation in Syria
where the president was motivated because he learned of a chemical gas
attack against innocent people. He was motivated to take action.
The difference is this case is there is no real action that can sort of
check a box and say, I responded, I was resolute, I drew a red line. With
North Korea, it`s just infinitely more tricky. I don`t think it will be
very satisfying for this president to tweet about it. But there`s not much
to do beyond that.
TODD: Where we are in Russia?
MARCUS: With the Russian investigation or with our relation.
TODD: No, Russia investigation. We know the relationship. The Russia
MARCUS: Well, we have to keep pursuing it. I mean, I think that the
argument that has been afoot in some corners that there`s no evidence of
collusion. Okay. Kind of got bored with that story, case closed. Gets it
completely wrong. The reality is that this is a really complicated story.
We have been pursuing it for a while. But there are threads that keep on
opening up. The president clearly has been frantic to keep Michael Flynn
What is the interest in that? What was going on with the contacts during
the transition? We don`t know. We are not yet even close to the bottom of
what happened between the campaign and Russian – Trump campaign and
Russians during that. Let`s let the process go forward. Anybody who has
ever watched legal investigation proceeds knows that it takes a really long
TODD: Ramesh, I was intrigued by something that Mark Warner said which made
me wonder that`s a White House coming with a good strategy or well, you
know, firing James Comey sort of threw us off our schedule and suddenly we
went down this path. And that actually has served as it`s added fog to the
PONNURU: Just imagine how much more thrown off they will be when Mueller
gets fired. Look, I agree with Ruth that the investigation needs to
proceed. But I do think that the giddy talk among Trump`s opponents mostly
on the left and some on the right as well about impeachment and 25th
amendment and smoking guns has gotten ahead of the story in a way.
TODD: But the story.
PONNURU: . that this counts anything to actually gets turned up.
TODD: Right. Let the investigation proceed on its own. Don`t jump to the
conclusion yet. Everybody`s trying to read the last page of the book,
right? And it`s not been written.
STOKOLS: And I think the zeal on both sides. You see Trump so eager to
brush this away and move on. That hurts him. It made him looks more like he
has something to hide. I think the media has to be careful about leaning
too hard into these Watergate comparisons as well because we`re already
living in these (inaudible) worlds where nobody really trusts each other.
That is not a climate where even if there`s obvious evidence, there`s a
certainty that is going to proceed like it did 40 years ago.
TODD: I guess I trust you. All right. I trust you. I trust you, guys. At
least today. I appreciate it. Any way, well done. Thank you all. After the
break, why Jon Ossoff`s carpetbagger status hits home with several members
TODD: In case you missed it, in every Republican with an interest in the
Georgia Sixth special election, just try to make sure you did not miss it.
There is one vote that Democratic house candidate, Joh Ossoff, is not going
to get in tonight`s contest, his own. Ossoff does not live in Georgia
Sixth, so he can`t vote in the race. He lives in Georgia`s 5th
congressional district. That what John Lewis represents. And the
constitution only requires that you live in the same state, not the same
district, to be a member of congress.
In case you missed it, this happens more than you might think. According to
“The Washington Post,” if Ossoff wins, he wouldn`t be the only member of
congress living in Georgia`s 5th district who represents another district.
Democratic Congressman David Scott has apparently registered vote in
Georgia 5 as well, but he represents the 13th district in Georgia. The post
identified at least 21 members of congress who live in districts they do
Guess what? It`s pretty bipartisan. 11 Democrats, 10 Republicans. Here is
something, none of them are from Wyoming or Montana. We will let you –
give you a minute there to think about why. In some cases, these are folks
who used to live in their districts, but the lines got redrawn. In any
case, if Ossoff wins tonight, he will have some neighbors on the house
floor just like camp (ph). That`s all we have for tonight. “For the Record”
with Greta starts now. Get ready to refresh those election Georgia 6 pages.
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