MTP Daily, Transcript 6/23/2017

Bill McInturff, Fred Yang, Neera Tanden, Ron Wyden, Greg Miller

Date: June 23, 2017
Guest: Bill McInturff, Fred Yang, Neera Tanden, Ron Wyden, Greg Miller

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: That does it for this very busy hour. I`m
Nicole Wallace. “MTP DAILY” starts right now. Hi, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Hi Nicole. Good to see you. Happy Friday.

WALLACE: You too, happy Friday.

TODD: All right.

Well, if it`s Friday, 38 is our number of the day.

(voice-over): Tonight, he`s all about that bass.


what other people haven`t done in years.


TODD: President Trump`s support sits at a mere 40 percent. But in a
deeply divided country, could that actually be enough to get what he wants?
Plus, can Democrats sway enough ambivalent Republicans on health care to
kill the Senate bill`s chances?


SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: (INAUDIBLE), I will not support it.


TODD: Senator Ron Wyden joins us on what, if anything, Senate Democrats
can do next week.

And another stunning, new report on Russia`s election hacking. Did the
Obama administration sit on its hands?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, we actually know, yes, Putin directed it. He had
a specific goal. That was to defeat Hillary Clinton.


TODD: This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.

(on camera): Well, good evening and welcome to MTP DAILY. I`m Chuck Todd
here in Washington.

Tonight. we begin with a question of trust. Senate Republicans continue to
try to overhaul health care and new questions are arising about the Obama
administration`s handling of Russia`s meddling in the election. And the
political tunnel, the American people remain deeply divided as evidenced in
our brand new NBC News-“Wall Street Journal” poll.

We talk a lot on this show about the lack of trust in institutions.
Americans don`t trust politicians. They don`t trust the two parties. They
don`t trust the media. The president, himself, is constantly raising
doubts about the intelligence community.

Folks, the 2016 election is over but you actually wouldn`t know it yet.
Apologies if you still think the calendar hadn`t changed. And our poll,
though, suggested the distrust is so ramped (ph) that we now don`t even
trust each other.

We asked respondents about last week`s shooting of Republican majority
whip, Steve Scalise, among others at that Republican baseball team`s
practice field. Political leaders on all sides called for unity after that
incident. And many hoped it would be a turning point or at least a pause.

But the reality, our poll shows a deeply divided electorate. Swift to
point blame at the other side and unlikely to even believe at someone with
differing views.

When asked if extreme rhetoric from some in the media or political leaders
was an important contributor to the incident or if it was an isolated
incident, more about a mentally disturbed individual, the responses were
actually pretty much mixed. 46 percent overall felt it was an isolated
incident. 41 percent blamed rhetoric.

But when you break it out by party identification, the responses are
strikingly different. Among Republicans, just 37 percent said it was an
isolated incident. A majority of Republicans blamed extreme political
rhetoric. Not too surprising since it was revealed the shooter was a
Sanders` supporter.

For Democrats, just the opposite. 55 percent of Democrats said the
shooting was just an isolated incident. 32 percent blamed heated rhetoric.

Folks, if 2016 was the year of post truth. It`s almost like 2017, we`re
living in a post-substance world. Neither side is listening to the other.
Tribalism rules the day. And what matters most is a win or a loss for your
side. And we heard it directly from the poll respondents who blame
political rhetoric.

We asked them why they chose the political rhetoric. A Republican woman
from Texas in her early 50s told us this. Quote, “They keep stirring the
crap. The Democrats don`t seem to care who they`re lying to. They just
keep lying and the media keeps reporting the lies which keeps stirring the

And then, there was this from an Indiana Democrat in his early 60s. Quote,
“People are very gullible and if they only listen to one side of the story,
then that`s what they belief. The right-wing media and the conservatives
only give the public half the truth so people don`t question the

And then, there`s an independent woman in her late 50s from North Carolina.
She ended up blaming everybody. I think extreme political rhetoric has
gotten to a very irresponsible place. I think people were desperate on
both sides to get their candidate in office and they became very
irresponsible in the ways they communicated.

And the aggression was too much and when you have people on the edge to
begin with, it just takes enough to send them over. It has emboldened
people on the right and emboldened people on the left.

Folks, the Democrats don`t trust Republicans and the Republicans don`t
trust the Democrats. And the Independents are stuck in the middle, saying,
well, that`s why I`m not a member of either party.

And our political leaders are following their voters` lead as evidenced in
the health care vote. But there`s one other thing. Stuck inside our poll
numbers is a magic number for President Trump. Hovering between 38 percent
and 40 percent in his approval rating, it`s the percent who believe the
economy has improved and that he deserved credit. Another 38 and the
percent that want the repeal and replace effort to continue, 38.

Those numbers may seem small. They`re not a majority but they`re mighty.
And, right now, it`s keeping the president and this party afloat.

Let`s dive into those numbers with my pollsters. We`ll do that in a

But it`s important to remember. If the health care passes, it will be
without any votes from Democrats and Congress. And some Republican members
are being asked to decide between dismantling the law that works for their
state in the name of party loyalty or they could vote against the GOP
health care bill in order to do what they think is best for the
constituents and then face a loss in the primary.

It`s an impossible choice. But if our poll is any indicator, it`s more
risky to stray from the party line than from what could be best interest of
the constituents.

I`m joined now by pollsters, our pollsters from behind the NBC-“Wall Street
Journal” poll. Fred Yang, on the Democratic side. He`s with Hart
Research. And Bill McInturff on the Republican side with the Republican
Opinion Strategies. Welcome to you both.

Fred, I want to start with you because you were the inspiration for why I
wanted to, sort of, set up the poll this way, when you said, yes, I`ve got
a thousand pages of cross tabs for you. But these quotes are emblematic of
where our politics stands today.

Republicans and Democrats don`t trust other, what the verbatim show is we
don`t even listen to each other anymore. And so, how can you get trust if
you`re not even willing to listen to the other side.

And, look, I think, you know, that`s where this country is and, as you
noted, that`s where politicians follow the voters.

TODD: Bill, it is interesting. When you go through this poll, I keep – I
keep counting – I keep seeing 38 percent. I keep seeing 38 percent. And
it struck me, the public has organized itself as if we`re a parliamentary

And right now, the biggest faction in American politics is that 38 percent
that is sticking by the president and the Republican party. And they stick
by it, lock – and while it`s not a majority, it`s bigger than any other
faction. And that is the guiding light right now for the Republicans.

I`ve said this before. I`ve said, we`ve become a parliamentary system
without the nicety of a prime minister that each party is voting 90 or 95
percent for their own candidates.

And the middle has, sort of, evaporated. And part of that`s because of our
congressional districts. There are just no really competitive seats. The
seats were drawn to either be very Republican or very Democrat. So, each
party has a and each member has a smart political filter. How do I not
lose a primary?

TODD: I think it makes – I guess the question is – I feel like it now
makes interpreting polls different now, right? I mean, we used to – you
know, it used to be 50 was the new 60. I think with Obama, 45 was the new
50. He has 40. We have the president sitting at 40. There was really no

If you look – if you would have said, five years ago, 40 percent is a
disaster for that party`s running in a congressional race. But 40 percent
was good enough for the Republicans to win a swing district (ph).

YANG: And – I mean, look, you know, we had our discussion over the poll
yesterday. Bill and (INAUDIBLE) Riley pointed out one of the reasons why
President Trump is in the high 30s, low 40s is because virtually no
Democrats will give him any oxygen.

And that`s very different from in the past. It`s usually taken a year or a
year and a half for an Obama or Clinton to reach those levels.

TODD: By the way, I`m – I couldn`t – I had forgotten that Obama could
get the 30 percent job approval rating from Republicans. I did not realize
that Obama gotten to 30 among Republicans.

MCINTURFF: Well, that was at the beginning of his administration. But I
think it`s important to communicate this. We live in two worlds. Do you
live in a congressional district that`s run by Republicans or one that`s
run by Democrats?

If you`re in a Republican direction, and you say you approve of President
Trump by two points, if you live in a Democratic district, you disapprove
of the president by 40 points. That`s a 42-point difference.

And so, when you say, how come Republicans are not losing Republican open
seats? They`ve been drawn to stay Republican.

TODD: This split is all over. Let me just throw up a whole bunch of them
and let you just see it. The president – approval rating of the
president`s decision to fire James Comey. OK, overall, it was 27-46,
approve to disapprove. But among Republicans, 55 percent approved of it.
Among Democrats, 75 percent disapproved of it.

How about, did the Russian government interfere in the 2016 election?
Something that 17 intelligence – this is not about collusion. This is
simply about, did the of the Russians interfere? Overall, a majority
believe that they did, 53 percent.

But look at the party splits. 65 percent of Republicans saying no. 70
percent – I mean, we can keep going down the line here.

It`s not a belief system anymore. We now disagree on facts.

MCINTURFF: Well, I think it`s – I think part of the Republican response
is that they`re pushing back and they`re saying there was not interference
that, in their mind, affected the results of the election.

And so, for example, we`ve got 24 – about one out of four people in the
country say, I believe that Hillary Clinton would be president were it not
for the Russians. And that`s the thesis totally rejected by the Republican

YANG: I think some of this is, like, a decade ago, maybe the average
person`s first response, would be, maybe they could be right. Maybe
there`s some truth (ph) to this.

And I think now, the default position, on either side, –

TODD: Right.

YANG: – is they`re wrong and I`m right.

TODD: This plays out on health care. You guys both have plenty of clients
that are going to be on the ballots in 2018.

What`s amazing here is 10 years ago, if you would have said – well, maybe
15 years ago, if you were to have said to me, boy, Fred, Democrats, do they
risk alienating – looking like they`re not wanting to do their job by not
working with the Republicans?

But is there an argument to be made that Democrats – Democratic voters
would punish any Democrat by a greater margin if they worked across the
aisle than not? And the same question vice versa.

YANG: The polls I`ve seen would suggest Democratic voters are more open
than Republican voters, just, sort of, that working across party lines
argument. I think that is true.

So – but, still, I think, depending on, you know, the location and the
district, right now, one of the big factors for Democratic voters is, how
much are you leading the resistance of Trump?

TODD: And the Republican side, there`s no upside, as far – unless you`re
truly in a swing district. There`s not a lot of upside of working across
the aisle, is there?

MCINTRUFF: No. The – look, here`s the thing I want to make sure, though,
we understand. That is a generational change. Political scientists
measure polarization by my party rates my president – my own president
this way. I rate the other party this way.

Bill Clinton was our most polarizing president until George Bush, who was
the most polarizing president until Barack Obama. And he`s the most
polarizing president until Donald Trump.

And so, we need to look back at the Clinton era and say, this is not out of
the blue. This took 20 years to get here. And it`s – and this is a long-
time step-by-step process to create this lock that you are talking about
between these two political parties.

TODD: Well, every time we think we`ve hit bottom, as you just said, we go,
this has to be bottom. And who revolts? Like, do the independents revolt,
at some point? Do the soft Ds and soft Rs revolt what happens and do they
revolt in time or not?

YANG: Well, I actually thought that the Trump victory was, in some
respects, a revolt. Because he really is – he wasn`t Democrat, not really
a Republican.

TODD: Somewhat of a conservative.

YANG: Yes. Yes. And, sort of, you know, our partner, Peter Hart, has
been saying for 25 years. This country is right for third party.

TODD: Right.

YANG: But Trump had that opportunity allaying (ph) and now it`s, sort of,
been furthered away.

TODD: Yes. I mean, that does seem to be – there was an opening here
where you had a group of people in the middle so sick and tired of gridlock
in Washington that they were willing to – you know, let`s try something,
anything. That may – that opening may be gone.

MCINTURFF: Well, actually, you know, we have to go back to where we were
election night. And you asked us then, how did this happen? And we said,
look, there`s one out of – one out of five people did not like either
candidate but they voted Donald Trump by a two to one margin.

Because at the end of the day, if I didn`t like both, to hell with it. Let
me try something new. And I still think the president – (INAUDIBLE) in
our own poll. A plurality of people say, I still think Trump represents a
positive change, that`s 41 percent of Americans. 23 percent, I think he
presents a change I think would be bad.

I think we`re underestimating Trump`s strength in the element of change
still. And this is a very good economy. And the Republicans over the
Democrats are the party where they think the economy is going to get
better. And if you`re the party, Republicans, who represent change and the
strong economy, today, those are pretty two powerful playing cards on the

TODD: Obama used it in 2012.

YANG: I think it got used in 2012 but unlike those years, we are going to
have a Republican Congress repeal a health care law that`s been in place.

So, look, there are always issues with Obamacare. Obviously, it was – it
was a big issue of 2010. But it was never about taking something away from
the public, and I think that`s the added layer of vulnerability Republicans
have heading into 2018 and 2020.

TODD: All right. Fred and Bill, I will leave it there. It`s quite the
poll. And it`s, unfortunately, a bit depressing. That`s the day of our
politics. But thanks.

So, let`s bring in tonight`s panel. Chew on this. Neera Tanden, President
and CEO at the Senate for American Progress. Hugh Hewitt, Radio Host and
NBC and MSNBC Political Analyst, whose new show premieres here on MSNBC
tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. And Sara Fagen, she was a senior aide and
White House political director to George W. Bush. She`s now an CNBC

Let`s deal with the news at the top here. Sarah, I`ll start with you.
Heller, Dean Heller, one of the probably most vulnerable Republicans up for
reelection in 2018.

SARA FAGEN, CNBC CONTRIBUTOR: There`s a few Republicans, yes.

TODD: They`re the handful that have to worry about it in a state that
Hillary Clinton carried. He now is saying he`s no on the bill as it`s
written now which we all know that –

FAGEN: Right.

TODD: – there`s senator posturing and then there`s real no. He seems to
be in a real vice grip. There is no good answer for him politically.

FAGEN: Well, there`s not a great answer for him politically today.

But, you know, I think, look, part of what makes people successful in
politics is when they take something and they own it.

And so, you know, we`ll see where this bill ends up. I suspect he will
probably ultimately be for it. We`ll see.

But then, he`s got to own it. And that`s going to be what his campaign is
about. It`s going to be about, he voted to save health care in America.
Because, as we know, these big companies are pulling out every week in

And this thing is collapsing. And Republican senators are going to have to
make sure that they are talking about what they`re doing to provide health
care for people.

TODD: You know, Neera, reluctant – supporting something reluctantly.
Being dragged to support something. That didn`t go so well for Democrats
in 2010.


TODD: It`s not as if voters say, oh, you were a reluctant supporter of
something I didn`t like? It doesn`t matter.

TANDEN: Yes, it doesn`t – it doesn`t really matter. I mean, I think the
issue with Sandoval – I mean, with Sandoval, the governor, and his
pressure on Heller is –

TODD: The Republican governor.

TANDEN: The Republican governor – is that I don`t think Heller can make
that argument in Nevada because his own governor says this bill is a
disaster. And his language today was very clear. I mean, you can make a
pretty easy ad against Heller for what he said about this bill. You can
make slight improvements here and there.

But, at the end of the day, given what they`re doing to Medicaid, hundreds
of thousands of people in Nevada, there are children with disabilities,
women with breast cancer are going to lose their health care because of
this bill.


FAGEN: That`s a completely false statement. That is a completely false

TANDEN: No, it is not a false statement.

FAGEN: It is a false statement.

TANDEN: We`ll see on CBO when – CBO is going to score it on Monday and
we`ll see what they say.

FAGEN: They`re bad about numbers and we all know that.

TANDEN: OK. Are you right about the numbers? Why – where are


FAGEN: I didn`t say it was –

TANDEN: And doctors` groups have come out against this bill. And he has
come out against this bill.

FAGEN: States have the ability to reshape this in a way that is more
efficient, that`s more effective, and that provides the coverage that the
people in the states need.

TANDEN: Then why is Governor Sandoval against it? If he thought this was
such a great bill for the people in Nevada, he would be supporting it.
He`s come out against it. Governor Kasich has come out against it.

FAGEN: Because all these states – many of these states have budget
challenges and this is going to provide some short-term paying for states.
Every –


TODD: Let me go to the political side of this for Mitch McConnell, Hugh
Hewitt, which is this. Who should he worry about moving this bill toward,
Rand Paul, Ron Johnson, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Dean Heller, Lisa Murkowski,
Rob Portman, Shelley Moore Capito, Susan Collins?

HUGH HEWITT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I spent three hours on the radio
this morning talking about this. Dean Heller is an ex-senator if he votes
against this bill. It is that simple. OK?

TANDEN: He`s an ex-senator if he votes for it.


TODD: He could be an ex-senator either way?

HEWITT: He may be either way, but it is a certain thing if he –

TODD: You really believe –

HEWITT: I really believe he –

TANDEN: Why? Why? Republicans (INAUDIBLE.)

HEWITT: Because I talked to the base every day.

TANDEN: Yes, and they`re just not going to vote for him because

HEWITT: They will not vote for him.

FAGEN: There`s another angle here where he`s able to improve it and now it
becomes something he did and he (INAUDIBLE) for Republicans all along and
he was able to get it passed.
But he`s got to own it. The thing with (INAUDIBLE) is he`s got to own it.

TODD: Right.

TANDEN: He has made a huge (INAUDIBLE.)

TODD: What do you do, though – OK. The problem is that moves it in one
direction. And while I think we all believe, Hugh, that Rand Paul`s a
definite no. He feels more no than everybody else. He actually – he has
set a bar that –

HEWITT: This can`t meet.

TODD: – you – that he isn`t going to.

TANDEN: And so has Heller. Actually, what he said today is exactly what
he said. That`s what he said.

TODD: I think Heller is too. So, I guess what –

HEWITT: So, what I want to do is for Republican (INAUDIBLE) –

TODD: So, where do you find your (INAUDIBLE)?

HEWITT: – and do exactly the opposite. Lisa Murkowski and Dean – and
Rand Paul are nos. And maybe you get Lisa Murkowski with enough money. I
doubt it. Everybody else has to be made comfortable with the bill. I
believe that Senator Capito can be done. I can believe Senator Collins can
be got. I believe Senator Heller has to come back.

But it can be done and I think Mitch McConnell knows that sweet spot, for
Rand Paul and Lisa Murkowski.

TANDEN: Senator Collins is a great example. She has defended her
statements on Planned Parenthood. To fix it with Planned Parenthood for
her definitive statements. I get it people – their word can be
meaningless. But assuming their word means something, her statements on
Planned Parenthood make it virtually impossible for the conservative – the
vast majority of conservatives to (INAUDIBLE.)

TODD: Let me ask this. If McConnell and it comes Thursday. And this is
the day he wanted to get the vote out –

FAGEN: Right.

TODD: – and he doesn`t have the numbers. The last thing he wants to do -
- I think he believes prolonging the debate only makes it worse. This is
not wine. It does not get better with age.

FAGEN: Maybe.

TODD: Do you pull the plug right then and force the vote, get everybody on
the record. If it goes down, you say, I`m out. Let`s go to taxes?

FAGEN: Look, I don`t subscribe to that view because I think you have to
get the bill done. Republicans –

TODD: Worst outcome if you vote, something`s better than nothing.

FAGEN: First of all, they`ve got something that is an improvement on what
exists and they can run on that and champion it. And, look, I`m not saying
we`re –

TODD: But what if we don`t know if people will think it`s an improvement,
for what it`s worth?

FAGEN: – I`m not saying Republicans are running the P.R. war, at the
moment. But they have a long time to win the P.R. war.

HEWITT: It is the most important opportunity to involve (ph) an
entitlement in our lifetime –


HEWITT: – since the great depression.

FAGEN: And if Republicans –

TODD: Well, we have to remember when Democrats thought, well, if they`d
just get time to sell health care, it will go well.


FAGEN: No, I`m not saying it`s easy. And I think we`re behind the curve,
as a party, on selling this bill. And there`s a bunch of reasons for that
which we could spend all show debating.

But, nonetheless, Republicans spent seven years talking about this. They
simply cannot present themselves on the ballot in 2018 without health care.

TANDEN: I guess – can I just say quickly. I mean, from the political
mindset, I would say – you know, Democrats should say, you will own the
health care system. You will own this bill.

It will – people will lose coverage. They will start losing coverage this
year. There will be ads against every Republican and every House district
who did this. Because it`s already unpopular. It`s not going to get more
popular. It`s already unpopular.

So, I mean, there is a political argument if they pass this. I believe in
keeping health care and not destroying people`s health care.

So, I don`t think it is the right thing to do for the country. But I would
also say in all these polls, even yours, people – Republicans want them to
continue working. Cassidy and others have called for a continued working.

TODD: I don`t know if they can afford to keep this debate going. I don`t

HEWITT: It`s the art of the possible and McConnell will figure it out.

TODD: We shall see. All right, you guys are sticking around. We`ll just
pause this debate. Trust me, it`s a pause.

Coming up, another Republican, we just told you about, pulls the support
from the Senate health care bill. We`ll talk to Democratic Senator Ron
Wyden and whether the growing Republican resistance ends up helping
Democrats decide whether they want a seat at the table or not.


TODD: Welcome back.

We have some good news to report. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise is out
of the Intensive Care Unit at MedStar Hospital. Scalise left the ICU late
Thursday, eight days after he was shot in the hip during a practice for the
congressional baseball game. On Wednesday, the hospital updated his
condition to fair.

Also, Matt Mika, the lobbyist who was injured in last Wednesday`s shooting,
he, too, is out of the ICU at George Washington University Hospital. He is
now listed in good condition.

And Mika also got a visit yesterday from Washington Nationals` outfielder,
Jason Werth. Not too bad. Look at that. He even cleaned up. Combed his
hair. He looks good out there.

Good job, Jason. Good job, Matt. And good to see you up and smiling.

We`ll be back in 60 seconds with more MTP DAILY.


TODD: Welcome back.

Reaction has been swift since Senate Republicans unveiled their version of
a health care bill. And as we mentioned at the top, Nevada Senator Dean
Heller who probably has the toughest reelection fight of any Republican
senator that`s up in 2018, came out against the bill, as it`s written, this


SEN. DEAN HELLER (R), NEVADA: This is why. First, it doesn`t protect
Nevadans on Medicaid and the most vulnerable, the vets, the elderly,
Nevadans struggling with mental health issues, substance abuse and people
with disabilities. The biggest lie in health care in the last 10 years,
was if you like your doctor, you can keep them.

If this bill passes, the second biggest lie is that premiums are going
down. There isn`t anything in this legislation that will lower your


TODD: Folks, this is yet another blow to the bill`s prospects it adds now.
Now, you`ve got someone on the moderate end of spectrum saying no.

With no Democrats on board, Republicans need 50 votes. So, they can afford
to lose two Republicans but not more. But President Trump this morning was
optimistic about convincing the four conservatives who came against the
bill yesterday.


TRUMP: Well, they`re also four good guys and they`re four friends of mine.
And I think that they`ll probably get there. We`ll have to see. I`ve done
in five months what other people haven`t done in years.


TODD: Joining me now for the Democratic perspective on this, Senator Ron
Wyden of Oregon. Somebody who`s been working on health care issues for
quite some time. I actually want to bring those up.

Senator Wyden, thank you for coming on.

WYDEN: Thank you, Chuck.

TODD: Look, I know that Democrats are not supportive of this bill. Hard
stop. Explain to me what your goal is next week during the amendment
process of this bill. Do you really want to fix this bill or is it – are
the amendments of the Democrats` offer going to be about making political

WYDEN: We want to defeat this bill. This bill would be a huge setback for
millions of Americans who depend, for example, on Medicaid as a lifeline
for nursing home.

And the fact is, Chuck, what we`re with here, and Americans hate it, is a
big con job. The Republicans said after this horrible House bill passed,
they were going to start fresh.

Instead, they`ve doubling down. For example, the H tax that was in the
House bill that says that you can charge people between 55 and 64 five
times as much. It is still in the Senate bill. It`s been a con job

TODD: All right, that`s pretty tough words. So, it does not sound like
you want to do any – you don`t think this bill is fixable.

Let me ask you this, why – is it just, politically, too hard for either
political base to tolerate the two parties working together on an issue
this polarizing right now?

WYDEN: Chuck, I have dedicated my professional life finding common ground
on health care. I`ve written bipartisan laws and have been signed by
presidents of both political parties.

Look, the point is we`ve said from the very beginning that if Republicans
said that they wouldn`t go with a partisan our way or the highway approach
which is known as reconciliation, we`d work together. The first thing we`d
do is we`d stabilize the private insurance market. I have some ideas.
And, by the way, in my bipartisan health reform bill, some Republicans went
along with those.

Then, we`d move to prescription drugs. One of the things we ought to be
doing is going after the middlemen. For example, these pharmaceutical
benefit managers. We don`t know what they put in their pocket and what
they put in the consumers` pocket. Those can all be bipartisan. But you
can`t do it if have a partisan process which, in Washington lingo, as you
know, is called reconciliation.

TODD: You know, I – it struck me. In 2011, you and Paul Ryan worked on a
Medicare bill. And you got a lot of grief from Democrats for working on
that bill. Tell me about that experience?

WYDEN: Well, of course, you get flack (ph). But what I can tell you is
out of that experience, I came up with an approach that liberals and
conservatives liked that would update the Medicare guarantee.

Now, Medicare, when it started, was about broken ankles and a bad case of
the flu. Now, Medicare is about cancer and diabetes and heart disease and

And we have launched a very significant bipartisan effort to update the
Medicare guarantee. We can find common ground on it. Unfortunately,
that`s not what the Republicans want to do, with respect to the Affordable
Care Act.

With respect to the Affordable Care Act, I think they`ve had two goals.
One is you give a massive tax cut to the well to do. You look, for
example, at the capital gains break. We`ve got people who are going to get
hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax breaks with that capital gains

Well, we`ll see (ph) baby boomers who`ve had a stroke and can`t afford
health care. That`s not fair.

TODD: If the bill goes down, because of some changes that HHS has made
under President Trump, there is more insurers pulling out of this market.
And again and I know each side is using – there is – many of the insurers
have pointed to this decision by HHS which some Republicans argue was
illegal, the guaranteeing of sort of some stabilization funds in order to
encourage folks to come in.

I guess my question is this, what do you have to do if this bill goes down,
what do you have to do with the health insurance exchanges in order to
stabilize the market this summer if this bill goes down next Thursday?

WYDEN: Chuck, the first thing we are going to do and I hope this bill goes
down, we are digging in to make that possible, is we are to stop pouring
gasoline on the fires of uncertainty in the health insurance marketplace.
This is the private sector. There are poor uncertainty.

And the fact that the Trump administration constantly plays Russian
(inaudible) with the idea of making these payments means the private
insurers don`t have a realistic way to price the products. The first thing
we will do is stabilize the private insurance market. We got ideas on how
to make it more efficient. I would like to get more people into these
insurance networks in providing ways to better spread cost and risks.

If we can take this down, the first thing we are going to say is we are
going to come up with some ideas and we have already suggested them with
Democrats so we can pursue it on a bipartisan basis.

TODD: Let me ask you this. Why did Obamacare do that?

WYDEN: As you know, that was not my first choice. I had a bill with several
Democrats and several Republicans.

TODD: I remember it. You and Bob Bennett, if I remember it right. It was
Wyden and Bennett.

WYDEN: What we got was one of our key provisions. We had 14 senators evenly
divided between both political parties saying that we absolutely have to
have airtight loophole free protection so that people with preexisting
conditions don`t get discriminated again. We got that into the Affordable
Care Act.

One of the reasons I feel so strongly about rejecting this Republican
proposal is I don`t want to go back to the days where there are loopholes
in the protection for people with preexisting conditions. Lets not go back
to the days when health care was for the health and wealthy.

TODD: I guess I go back to – why did Obamacare struggle to stabilize the

WYDEN: My sense is when they constructed the exchanges, there are probably
too many of them. For example, it was not efficient as it ought to be and
clearly you need more incentives to make it attractive for young people to
get into the pool, get into this insurance. You can`t help people buying
coverage after they got sick. Now in the bipartisan bill that I have, we
are able to avoid those kinds of problems.

I think that was one better approach than Affordable Care Act. But the
bottom line was what made me convinced that we have to pass the Affordable
Care Act is that if you don`t have protection for people who have
preexisting conditions, the insurance companies can constantly clobber the
millions of people who face those kinds of problems and you do have care
just for the healthy and wealthy. That`s not America.

TODD: Senator Ron Wyden, I`m going to leave it there, Democrat from Oregon.
You too sticking around a little bit late. I know most of your colleagues
took off. Thanks.

WYDEN: We are digging in. We are digging in for the fight.

TODD: All right. We`ll see you next week.

WYDEN: Thanks for having me.

TODD: Still ahead, new details about what the Obama administration knew
about Russia`s election interference and about what it did and did not do.


TODD: On Sunday, we`ll look at where things stand on health care. We`ll
talk exclusively to Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin about the
changes he is insisting need to be made before he will support the bill.

We will also speak to Senator Bernie Sanders who has said the Republican
senate bill will literally cause people to die. That`s this Sunday on your
local NBC station. Next on MTP Daily, why one Obama White House official
says they choked on their response to Russia`s election interference. Keep
it here.


TODD: Welcome back. A former senior Obama administration official who
remained nameless told The Washington Post “I feel like we sort of choked”
after deliberations on Russia. It is part of a bombshell report from The
Washington Post today. The new story details how President Obama weighed
the critical intelligence that Vladimir Putin personally instructed Russian
operatives to damage Hillary Clinton and specifically attempted to help
elect Donald Trump.

The Post reports that last August, President Obama and a handful of aides
began receiving eyes only briefings on Putin`s attempt to interfere in the
presidential election. It was that same month that then candidate Trump re-
upped the rigged election rhetoric. So by September, key members of
congress were briefed on Russian attempts to interfere. But the meeting of
course we know know ended with partisan disagreement on how to publicly

In that same month, candidate Trump was telling the Kremlin back television
network RT that was “probably unlikely that Russia was behind
interference.” The White House reportedly weighed a number of responses and
after months of what it turns out months of secret debate, the former
president landed on a modest package that even those who helped design them
described their impact as largely symbolic.

That`s what led to this sort of choked comment from that senior
administration official who chose to remain nameless. Greg Miller is one of
the key reporters that helped break this story for The Washington Post. He
joins me now. Greg, thanks for coming on.


TODD: So, you know, after reading your story, I`m starting to wonder, will
we look back in 20 years and say the eyes only briefing that was handed
from the CIA to the president, the eyes of I`m assuming say, Dennis
McDonald (ph), Susan Rice, and probably one or two others, is that going to
be – will we look at that – is that the equivalent of that famous August
6, 2001 presidential daily brief that said bin Laden determined to attack
like we will look back and say, ah, there was the red flag.

MILLER: Yeah, that`s interesting. I hadn`t thought of that. That actually
kind of works. I mean, in this case, there were already some signals from
pretty clear ones that Russia was mocking around in the election. This
piece of intelligence though, the significance of it was twofold. One, it
confirmed that this operation was being run by Putin himself.

Secondly, that he had a preferred candidate. That he had instructed Russian
intelligence services to work, to benefit Donald Trump and try to help to
beat Hillary Clinton. That intelligence came right at the beginning of
August, I mean, much earlier than we had known and long many months before
the Obama administration gave any glimpse of that to the public.

TODD: So with this whole debate on what to do, all of it was, it seems like
caller by the issue of perception.

MILLER: Oh yeah, big time. So, there were two main things. One was the
White House before the election was reluctant to take action in part
because they worried about escalation with Russia leading to chaos on
election day, really worried that Russia might mound some serious cyber
assault on November 8th that would disable voting machines or something
like that.

But you`re right, there was this sort of perception in politics, also an
important layer in all of these considerations. The Obama team throughout
this period was just really paralyzed by concern that it would be accused
of politicizing intelligence, that it would be accused of using this
Russian intel, using its response to that in ways to try to help Hillary

TODD: It is a good thing that hasn`t happened because none of that has
happened on that front. I am curious, some Obama administration officials
have made the claim to me that, yes, you can criticize them for not acting
publicly faster. They claimed that the action they took based on this
intelligence did slow the Russians down.

That maybe there was a plan to infiltrate the election data, try to mess up
election day itself, and that the response whether it was President Obama`s
personal appeal of Putin at the G-20 or whether it was the sanctions or
whether it was the fact that they got outed that that did stop the program,
do we know that for sure?

MILLER: Well, we don`t really know what the Russian objectives or
intentions were on election day. There were certainly indications that they
were probing state voting systems and databases. That was seen as a really
troubling sign. But there is no really clear cut intelligence that we know
of that that was the plan that they then backed away from because Obama
confronted Putin in China and the administration sent other warnings to

TODD: Why didn`t they after the election do something stronger?

MILLER: I mean, I think that`s a really good question. I think that the
election outcome was such a shock to the system that it took them a while
to recover and regain their footing. When they did and they returned to
these deliberations over measures toward Moscow, I mean their political
standing had changed. They were now looking at adapting measures that maybe
would or would not be supportive by a Trump administration.

So I think they were trying to calibrate those in a way that would design
to survive that transition. I mean, all along their assumption was a
Hillary victory which meant that they felt they had time to work with
whatever they did not finish doing, the Clinton administration would
complete. All of a sudden they are looking a Trump administration that
wants no part of sanctions on Russia.

TODD: All right. I wish I have more time for this. Greg Miller, fascinating
reporting. Good work. Thanks for coming on. Appreciate it.

MILLER: Thank you.

TODD: All right. We got a lot more. We will discuss a little about Russia
right after the break.


TODD: Well, that solid intelligence about Putin convinced more Republicans
that this was real. We`ll talk about that and the role the Obama
administration played in all right after this, so keep it here.


TODD: Time for “The Lid.” Panel is back. Neera Tanden, Hugh Hewitt, Sara
Fagen. Let me read something here from Tim Kaine, Neera. He wrote this for
magazine. It looks like a bit in response to the Obama administration and
what it had on Russia.

“Obama once said his national security strategy was don`t do stupid stuff.
But sometimes not doing stupid stuff became an excuse for not doing stuff
it was stupid not to do. The lack of a clear strategy led to a
lackadaisical response to Russia`s cyber attacks and its unprecedented
interference in the 2016 election.” I understand why Tim Kaine is upset.

TANDEN: Don`t we all.

TODD: In hindsight, I think it`s a fair criticism. But in the moment, do
you understand why the Obama administration was nervous about how to handle

TANDEN: I think what you see from the response today, you have Donald Trump
visibly attacking the intelligence agencies now so obviously and
Republicans falling in line. So I think their concern was that Republicans
would use it as an attack against the administration and nothing would have
happened differently. I think that`s a mistake.

I think they still should have done it. You see in the election in France,
actually conservatives all came together when the French government said
Russia was trying to hack, it was a different response from the country. We
seem even more polarized than the French. Look, I think the Obama
administration should have done more.

I think what`s more important is that today, in issue after issue, Donald
Trump, we still have this problem with Russian hacking. He is actually
trying to undermine Russian sanctions and has expressed no interest, not
any interest in this issue. In fact, the intelligence sources tell us he
has been trying to stop the Russia connection.

TODD: Hewitt, do you think it becomes a political problem at all if the
president works overtime to weaken Russian sanctions?


HEWITT: Republicans are passing sanctions. I spent a long time with Mike
Pompeo today, the interview for tomorrow. There is a lot of news.


HEWITT: The danger of assumptions in the intelligence community. They
assumed Secretary Clinton was going to win. They treated the information
and the context of that assumption as deadly to the effective functioning
of the intelligence agency at the assumption of weapons of mass destruction
being in Iraq. You can`t let assumptions handle – determine how you are
going to handle your material. They did its on team Obama that John

TODD: What do you mean by that when you say – I know that they just
assumed they had more time?

HEWITT: No, they assumed that Secretary Clinton was going to win. They did

TODD: They didn`t see the urgency.


FAGEN: It makes total sense. I think to your question, you`re in a no win
situation if you`re the president of the United States. You come out, you
point out Russia interference. Doesn`t make it look like you are trying to
somehow help Clinton. doesn`t make it look like you are trying to somehow
(inaudible) yourself in the election because of all these alleged Trump
connections to Russia. I mean, I don`t think he could have won. He was
cautious and that was probably what.

TANDEN: It`s outrageous that Mitch McConnell basically squashed this. I
mean, I think in all these stories, it really looks like people instead of
putting the country for.

TODD: You are referring to the whole idea that they briefed the gang or the
so called gang of eight which is the leadership of congress.

TANDEN: Gang of eight and the Republicans – I mean, when the Republicans
won`t even return the CIA director`s call.

HEWITT: The difficulty of that is Director Brennan called Bortnikov, FSB
counterpart, on August 4th and did nothing with the information having
after gone in this Washington poster which I asked Pompeo about directly.
He would not confirm what they said to have. But he talked about – he
wouldn`t confirm not talking to Bortnikov. This is crucial that when you
talk to Bortnikov and say stop interfering with our election, you have to
go public and tell American people.

TANDEN: He went – I`m sorry, he went.

HEWITT: It`s not McConnell`s call.

TANDEN: No, it was McConnell`s call to stand up.

HEWITT: It is not McConnell`s call.


TANDEN: Okay, the president – I agree, the president should have without
McConnell, I agree with that.

TODD: President Obama, not Trump.

TANDEN: President Obama should have gone to the public without McConnell.
The fact that McConnell and the Republicans wouldn`t stand with the
president and Democrats on this issue did mean they put partisanship over

TODD: All right. Sara, one in four Republicans, only one in four
Republicans believe Russia interfered in this election. They are not asking
about the collusion, only one in four, that`s striking.

FAGEN: They are clearly taking a Trump position on this. This is about
really checking the box that they support Donald Trump more than – the
Russians have been interfering in our elections since the `60s.

TANDEN: Not like this.

TODD: Not like this.

FAGEN: Not like this, but they`ve been doing this all over the world for a
very long time.

TANDEN: And some countries are better at fighting it.

TODD: All right. That was a lively panel. Thank you, three. don`t forget to
tune in the premiere of Hugh`s show right here on MSNBC. Congratulations.
Quite the powerhouse on Hugh Hewitt, your good friend Joe Reid after you.
That – that`s what about here on MSNBC, we like all perspectives. After
the break, the White House gets grilled for something spotted at
yesterday`s picnic.


TODD: In case you missed it, the president and first lady hosted a
congressional picnic on the south lawn to ring in the summer and of course
grilling up some hot dogs and hamburgers, the most American way to have a
picnic. The White House is getting skewered on Twitter for its choice of
charcoal. A reporter from associated press snapped this photo at the

It`s Lazzari mesquite charcoal, a product of Mexico. Ouch. Can the Trump
White House afford to do that? We`ll see. That`s all for now. Maybe this is
the way Mexico is paying for things. We`ll be back on Monday with more MTP

If it`s Sunday, catch “MEET THE PRESS” on your local NBC station. “FOR THE
RECORD” with Greta though starts right now. Take it away.


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