MTP Daily, Transcript 7/3/2017

Guests:
David Folkenflik; Brian Karem; Daniella Gibbs Leger; Shane Harris
Transcript:

Show: MTP DAILY
Date: July 3, 2017
Guest: David Folkenflik; Brian Karem; Daniella Gibbs Leger; Shane Harris


CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: If it`s Monday, it`s a special edition of MTP
DAILY, and it starts right now.

Good evening, I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington, and welcome to MTP DAILY.
We`re about halfway through the year, and on the eve of Independence Day,
we`re going to focus on a specific kind of freedom this country affords us.
It`s the freedom of the press. Usually around here, we actually try to
avoid this kind of naval gazing, but we do often focus on the creeping lack
of trust in institutions in this country and, of course, one of the
institutions is the media.

By now, everyone has seen the President`s tweets and heard his campaign
rhetoric. We knew he was hard on the press on the trail. And since he has
become president, the language has only gotten tougher.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me just say, the press
is very, very dishonest, and I think people are wise to the press. The
media isn`t just against me. They are against all of you. That`s really
what they are against. I`m not going to give you a question. You are fake
news.

The press has become so dishonest that if we don`t want talk about it, we
are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous
disservice. We have to talk about it and to find out what`s going on,
because the press, honestly, is out of control.

The public doesn`t believe you, people, anymore. Now maybe I had something
to do with that. I don`t know. Never be intimidated by the dishonest
media corporations who will say anything and do anything to get people to
watch their screens or to get people to buy their failing papers.

A few days ago, I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they
are. They are the enemy of the people. Even our enemies back there. Look
at all that press. Among the most dishonest people in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Folks, let`s call this what it is. The President and the White
House is waging a war on the media and their fight has only just begun.
The Trump White House is already limited on camera briefings and cut back
on presidential press conferences, limiting the amount of time he takes
questions.

In fact, President Trump has only held one solo press conference since he
was sworn in. And last week, reporter got in what could be considered a
shouting match with Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee
Sanders after she attacked CNN for doing the right thing and their handling
of a retracted story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think –

RICK PERRY, SECRETARY OF ENERGY: We`re here to ask you questions.

SANDERS: Right.

PERRY: You`re here to provide the answers, and what you just did is
inflammatory to people all over the country who look at it and say, see,
once again, the President is right and everybody else out here is fake
media. And everybody in this room is only trying to do their job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Then there are the tweets. President Trump has slammed the media on
Twitter at least 60 times since January 20th, that`s 60. Here is just a
smattering of some of the ways the President has spoken about the media
since inauguration day. You see it there disparaging, demeaning, failing,
false. You know, sometimes they`re a little lighter in humor. I get the
sleepy eyes treatment.

But some of the words are pretty, pretty nasty. Folks, if these actions
and this language was being used by a leader in a different country, our
state department, not just we in general, our state department would be
saying, hmm, that country is inching towards authoritarianism because
that`s usually the first sign when you try to delegitimize a free press.
But it has to fair.

U.S. presidents have always warred with the press. It`s in our interest to
push their agenda and there should be an adversarial relationship between
the White House and of course the state. That`s fine. It`s our duty to
find the truth and that truth can sometimes hurt. And yes, sometimes the
media does get things wrong. But this time feels different and here`s why.
While a lot of presidents have come to blows with the press, they have
usually recognized the vital role. Sometimes reluctantly, but they do.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN F. KENNEDY, 35TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it`s
invaluable, even though it may cause you some – it`s never pleasant to be
reading things frequently that are not agreeable news but I would say that
it`s an invaluable arm of the presidency as a check, really, on what`s
going on in an administration.

GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I consider the media
to be indispensable to democracy. That we need an independent media to
hold people like me to account. I mean, power can be very addictive, and
it can be corrosive, and it`s important for the media to call to account,
people who abuse their power. Whether it be here or elsewhere.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I spend a lot of time
on my – in my farewell address talking about the state of our democracy.
It goes without saying that essential to that is a free press. That is
part of how this place – this country, this grand experiment of government
has to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: So the world of post truth and post substance, where do we go from
here?

Joining me now is David Folkenflik, media correspondent for NPR, I had this
conversation with him few times and Brian Karem, executive editor for The
Sentinel Newspapers. He was the reporter I just showed you a few minutes
ago who got into that back and forth with the Deputy White House Press
Secretary last week. Gentlemen, welcome to both of you.

David, let me start with you. It is – we talked about this in New Year`s,
and before the President got into office and sort of trying to figure out,
OK, how is this relationship going to go? Well, it got off to a horrendous
start in day two with the Sean Spicer business, and the crowd sizes, and
it`s just gotten worse. And I guess the conversation I want to have with
the two of you is this. What should the press do?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, NPR: You know, in some ways, it was
worse than we might have hoped, and at least as bad as we might have
feared. It`s not as bad in a sense that you haven`t seen actions taken
against the press to as then-candidate Trump promised to go after the libel
laws, which would have been complicated in (INAUDIBLE). There are other
things he could have done. But you`re seeing a hostility transparency, to
accountability and even to the rhetoric that – you showed and I think
impressively not montage (ph), that`s three paths (ph) president that
whether or not they feel it every moment, they acknowledge that the press
is an important constitution that helps our democracy to function.

And you and I as reporters and as journalists, we don`t always talk about
that every day on the air but it under-encouraged what we do if we`re doing
our jobs right. I think that there has to be the effort by journalists and
by the companies and corporations that employ them to open up transparency,
to fight for accountability, to seek ways to enlarge in our aperture, to
understand the workings of government. And to do that in a somewhat
symbolic room of the White House briefings, and at the same time, do your
job outside of the White House press room. That is the most of the most
important news that we`ve gotten about the Trump administration. It has
been broken far away from that room.

I think it`s important. I think both elements should happen, but I think
that that you have to be aggressive. You know, CNN has beefed up, has
gotten in a world of hurt lately and beefing up its investigative crew.
Well, it had a misfire in recent days and three – relatively distinguished
inexperience journalists left the network. Two is a not long after
joining. One of them, a former Pulitzer winner for the New York Prize –
for the New York Times, because of a misstep involving associate of
President Trump who is been reportedly being considered for a position
there, questions about his ties perhaps to a Russian fund.

Well, I`m not sure those people deserve to be fired for misstep. The CNN
team they take it seriously, it retracted, it apologized and, you know, how
a news organization responds to such things is I think is very much the
measure by which people get to judge them for fairness. But I think they
have to be able to press on. The question is, are you going to behave like
a corporation and say, you know, we need a show difference. Do you behave
like journalist and say, respectfully, we`re going to keep on keeping on?

TODD: You know, Mark, what impressed me about what you did, and what I
think is always actually the first step and actually – yes.

BRIAN KAREM, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE SENTINEL NEWSPAPERS: Brian.

TODD: Brian, I`m sorry.

KAREN: That`s all right.

TODD: No, no, no. The mark on the brain. Brian, what impressed me about
what you did is it`s this rehumanizing the press versus dehumanizing the
press? I mean, what the President does with these tweets, and I`ve had
this conversation with him, I said, don`t personalize it. Attack into this
all you want, but when you attack individuals, you have dehumanized, and
you gave voice to this, when you said, hey, we`re trying to do our jobs
here. What are you talking about?

KAREM: Well that`s what it boils down to. And from day one, you start out
by telling me I`m the enemy of the people. You start out by telling me
that I`m fake media. And I`m sure you know as I know, people who have been
injured trying to do this job. Me and there about 12 other people on the
planet have actually gone to jail for the first amendment and that`s a
sobering experience. There are people who have died, been shot at, covered
wars, and we`re the enemy of the people?

And to not have a press conference or a press briefing for a week on
camera, and then in your very first press briefing on camera, you start out
by bashing CNN in general and all of us, you know, as seen in specifically,
and all of us in general, that`s just a little too much to take.

TODD: Here`s the, I think, challenge and David, I want you to weigh in on
this as well. But, look, two generations of us as reporters. We`re
trained and conditioned to don`t show emotion. We`re the umpires, we`re
the referees. We are not to show emotion. Don`t take it personally.
Cover it, dispassionately if you can.

KAREM: Don`t be the story.

TODD: Don`t be the story. When somebody is insisting on making you the
story, what do you do? And I think, you know, this has been a struggle for
all of us. I struggle with it.

KAREM: It`s a struggle for me.

TODD: How do you handle it?

KAREM: Well, I handle it this way. To me, that day, and how I handled it
that day, was as I said before, I feel like he was not Sarah, but –
because we know where the words come from and where everything flows from
this, from the President of the United States. He was trying to bully us.
And I told, you know, my kids and I was taught by my father and mother, you
try to make a friend of a bully, turn the other cheek, and at some point in
time, you`ve got to wake him up and say, I`m not going to take the bullying
anymore.

So, it`s a constant struggle every day. Do I not say anything, or do I say
something? And at that point in time, I felt like I had to say something.
Would I do it again? Yes. Do I want to do it every day? No. As you said,
you work behind-the-scenes, I don`t think there`s a hard and fast rule. I
think you`re going to have to approach each day anew, and figure out on
that day, all right, what have I done, what have they done, and has it
reached the point where I have to say something?

TODD: You know, David, somebody tweeted during the mess of the President`s
horrendous attack on a colleague of mine using horribly graphic terms,
somebody tweeted that journalists today were never trained to cover moral
failings very well. And in some ways, this is what makes this more
difficult. We`re not good with having to say what`s right and wrong
sometimes because, again, we`ve been trained to be dispassionate in the
umpire.

FOLKENFLIK: Well I think, you know, every generation supposedly tries to
unlearn the mistakes of the past and so doing makes their own. You and I
were trained very much in the idea of being down the middle and being
scrupulously impartial, and I you`ve seen recalibration to the idea that
doesn`t always capture not only the facts in front of you, but the truth of
those facts assembled to become. And I think there`s more of an emphasis
among sophisticated, thoughtful journalist trying to make sense of the
world for their readers and their audiences that we have to be scrupulously
fair, very transparent about the journalism we do. But the idea of saying,
well, this is one hand, this is the other hand, and therefore we capture
the journalistic fairness is often a deep disservice.

The idea that the media doesn`t acknowledge when it has become part of the
story or plays a role in a story, I think is a disservice to our audience.
You know, I think the journalists should probably avoid trying to become
the story, but they need to acknowledge that they are apart of it. And
when you think of Donald Trump, you think of a, you know, president who
became essentially, 100 percent name recognition throughout the country by
virtue of his media presence, by virtue of being a television star, to be
honest, on your sister network, NBC in major part but also through his
prominence on Fox News.

Well, that`s something that`s important to understand in who he is and the
media, covering the media, understanding his interactions with the media
directly and through social media is not sort of a sideline that gives you
some additional instinct. I think it`s very much part of the main story of
our time right now with this presidency.

KAREM: I think – we are part of the story whether we want to be or not.
And that`s a fact that we have to face. So how do we deal with it is where
do we go from here? You can`t sit back and say, I`m not a part of it. He
is making us a part of it. And if you sit there and take it and take it,
there is a good section of the American public. When I did what I did, I
was surprise. That`s not the most viral moment I thought I had in the
White House.

I called Mick Mulvaney a soup not featuring (ph) during one briefing
because he wanted to take food away from poor kids, and it`s just
flabbergasting me. I thought, you know, that mean is going viral with
that. I really didn`t anticipate this. And what happened afterwards, it
clued me in, that it`s not just us in that room that are frustrated. The
American public is frustrated with us for not stepping up and holding him
accountable for that moral failing. People want to see that, and at the
same time, it`s almost – I don`t want to be his parent.

At some point in time, what do you do? As you said, you said don`t make it
personal. Well, he has made it personal. I can`t pretend that he hasn`t.
I can`t walk away from that.

TODD: Can`t unring the bell.

KAREM: Yes.

TODD: Yes. Now, here`s a good cliche. David, Brian I`m going to leave it
there, but there`s like 10,000 things I would want to follow up on.

KAREM: There are.

TODD: But unfortunately, I have a space time continuing issue. Happy
Independence Day. Thank you very much. Happy Freedom of the press day.

KAREM: That was 27 years ago today.

TODD: There you go. All right, thank you both.

Coming up, we`re going to try to turn the focus in 2018. Democrats think
they`re going to make some big gains. Republicans have to grapple with how
to campaign in the Trump era. We`re going to look at the stakes next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back. Capitol Hill is empty with Congress on recess for the
Fourth of July, so there`s no better time to take out the crystal ball and
wildly speculate about the 2018 midterm elections.

Yes, there are 16 months before Election Day and we`re still waiting to
hear about some potentially big retirements. The amazing thing is we don`t
have any. We already have a good idea of what to watch for in November
2018 is the upper chamber. The big story is the Democrats playing defense
for 10 seats they hold in states won by Donald Trump in 2016. President
Trump won five of those seats by more than 20 points. Thus pick up
possibilities for the Democrats. Jeff Flake seat in Arizona, Dean Heller
seat in Nevada. After that, though, they don`t have a third defined which
means they probably can`t get the majority, at least that`s their mindset.

In the House, 24 looks to be the magic number of seats to flip for
Democrats to take control even after some special election defeats, the
DCCC is steadfast that the House is indeed in play for Democrats, and
frankly 24 seats it is. To take control, Democrats will need to thank on a
few Republican health seats and districts Hillary Clinton carried over
President Trump for 2016. In fact, there are 23 of those such districts,
including seven alone in California.

And regardless of what happens over the next few weeks, 2018 looks like it
will be the third consecutive midterm election where the issue of health
care is front and center. The exhaustion of health care.

Let`s bring in our panel. Hugh Hewitt, host of the Hugh Hewitt Show on
Saturday mornings right here at 8:00 a.m. on MSNBC. Shane Harris, senior
national security writer at the Wall Street Journal, and Daniella Gibbs
Leger, senior vice president for Communications and Strategy at the Center
for American Progress.

I`ll start with the most shocking development to me when it comes to the
United States Senate in 2018, is that we are at the fourth of July, and not
a single incumbent has retired. And I think, Daniella, I`m going to start
with your side here because on paper, with Democrats looking like they
cannot get control, that was a recipe for Claire McCaskill to say, and I
think I`m done. Joe Manchin may be to say, you know, I`ll run for
governor, you know, all these – and none of them are retired. It`s
probably the single best news Chuck Schumer has had.

DANIELLA GIBBS LEGER, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: That`s probably true.
And actually I`m not surprised given the climate that we`re in and
everything that`s happening on the hill, and with the White House and with
Donald Trump being president. I`m not surprised that people maybe want to
stay in power a little bit longer and see if they can be that bull (ph)
work that wall against the, you know, the Trump craziness that`s happening.

TODD: Hugh, on your side? Very few House Republicans who I think – who
are more precarious, we`ve had basically two, right? Elena Rosellen (ph)
and in some ways Jason Chaffetz, he`s not – he, I think, doesn`t want to
be here in the Trump years. I think Elena Rosellen (ph) then want to have
to run in a district that she might not be able to win, but there`s been –
again, same phenomenon? The Republicans feel just as –

HUGH HEWITT, MSNBC HOST, “THE HUGH HEWITT SHOW”: A little bit different.
Republicans have waited their whole life to be able to legislate. They had
never been able to legislate. Right now, they can`t going to legislate
either, but at time, right –

(CROSSTALK)

HEWITT: They are near legislating. And in the Senate, you don`t lose
power when you are in the minority. You have blue slips, you have vetoes,
you have filibuster so you can be a 48-46 Senate party and still have
incredible power. In the House, as long as there`s a good shot and they`re
putting at risk of this health bill, but as long as there`s good shot of
staying in the majority, these guys and gals want to legislate.

TODD: Shane, I`ve been surprised at this phenomenon that we haven`t seen
many retirements.

SHANE HARRIS, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”: Well, and I think in to your
point Daniella, I mean, the Senate has this institutional role that it is
playing and nowhere that might be on the national security that you`re
seeing that more the Senate Intelligence Committee which is leading this
vast, really trying to be thorough when you probe into the Russian meddling
and the interference in the election.

There`s a real sense among Republicans and Democrats that they have a
constitutional obligation to do this. And we were skeptical and even
cynical at times in Washington about lawmakers and not taking their role
seriously and not wanting to legislate, but people I talk to on that staff
and members they really do want to see this through. And so I there`s
something about the moment that they feel like they are in right now of
having to play this institutional role even separate from the politics of
the situation.

Or any of you confidently know what the 2018 elections going to be about?

HARRIS: I think I`m out of the predictions business.

LEGER: No.

TODD: You know, I mean, like – are there been being nationalized? You
concur that weighing (ph) nationalize referendum type of –

LEGER: I will guess health care will be, you know, a topic but –

(CROSSTALK)

HEWITT: We have no idea what it will be. It will occur in the last 75
days. It could be a national security – I think we`re on the brink of a
major war with North Korea, with the confrontation with Iran and the Gulf.
And I think that will change the calculus completely. And so –

RODD: For about a day. And then it changes the –

HEWITT: It`s like million light years away until we get to this election.

TODD: I guess I asked this because there`ll be a couple of forms of
nationalization of the selection, right. We did get a hint at what the
Republicans – like just trying to nationalize, this is how they are going
to try to hold onto the House and we play an Ossoff ad from that Georgia
6th special.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nancy Pelosi`s liberal agenda put American $22
trillion in debt, and Jon Ossoff is on her side. Pelosi supports higher
taxes and Jon Ossoff is on her side. Pelosi supported the Iranian nuclear
deal that weakened our national security, and Jon Ossoff is on her side.

TODD: Daniella, I think we`re going to see a lot of those ads and I think
we`re going to see similar ones from the Democrats that say its also voted
98 percent of the time with Donald Trump. And so voted, you know, we`ve
seen that.

LEGER: Yes.

TODD: Is this going to be Trump versus Pelosi?.

LEGER: No, I don`t think so. Because at the end of the day, I think it`s
going to matter who the candidates are, and it`s going to matter what those
congressional districts look like. I think all the post mortems from
Georgia`s 6th have been driving me insane. Like Tom Price won that
district by how many points and Ossoff lost it by a very small point. Yes,
Democrats do need to have some victories coming up, but looking at these
four special elections that were in heavily red districts, I don`t think we
can extrapolate from that, that we`ll tying a bit in Nancy Pelosi is going
to be, you know, a horrible thing.

TODD: That definitely will work in a Republican district

LEGER: I think –

TODD: The question is does it work to anti-Trump (ph)?

LEGER: And does it work in a Republican health district that Hillary
Clinton won.

TODD: All right, the Pulitzer (ph) that you miss, can Democrats win on the
back of the anti-Trump?

HARRIS: Well, that`s what they`re hoping on, obviously, right? I mean,
that`s the momentum that they want. But this is – and you talked about
this issue before. Our politics have becoming tribal. I mean, there`s
this nationalization of the election which seems like that`s a pretty safe
that it will be kind of proxy election and a referendum on Trump.

But even in national security, the extent to which – if you mention Russia
to somebody who was and aren`t Trump support, it is everything that
represents fake news, conspiracy, and trying to take down the President.
That`s an astonishing kind of the tribal reaction if you want to think
about it that way, that we`re talking about, inarguably, an American
adversary here that everybody agrees, tried to interfere with the election
in some way.

Forget about whether you think he was trying to help Trump or they`re
trying to hurt Hillary. You would think that it`s something that Americans
would get behind and say Russia, that`s bad. Interference, that`s bad.
That`s not what`s happening. You`re seeing this reflected in polls where
there`s a reflexive kind of instinct to go ahead and dismiss that story
somehow trying to take down the President rather than something that`s a
threat to national security.

HEWITT: Everybody is mobilized. Chuck has said on my radio show up number
of times, if you don`t get a way of election unless one side is energized
and the other size is demoralized. No one`s demoralized yet. But special
counsel Mueller cannot be fired. That would be a disaster. If he comes up
with even one indictment of someone in the satellite orbit of President
Trump, the Democrats have something to run on.

An impeachment will be in the 0:00:21 amplification of the extremes to
continue.

TODD: Now, I have a fear, thesis, whatever you want to call it, that the
person most interested in making 2018 referendum on impeachment will not be
the Democrats, but it will be Donald Trump.

HEWITT: Yes.

LEGER: Yes.

TODD: Because it will – the threat of losing him will make folks that are
not happy with him – you make it a – you essentially do – you make it a
recall race, right? How did Scott Walker successfully win that recall at
the time? He had a whole bunch of Obama people said, no, no, no, no, we
don`t do this this way. Maybe they don`t like Scott Walker but this is not
how we do it. It might be in affect to strategy, and it could rip the
Democratic Party in half.

LEGER: May be. I don`t think it would rip the Democratic Party. And I
think if he comes – if Mueller comes back with some actual evidence as a
wrongdoing, then Democrats will, you know, be unified behind that and
seeing that through the end. I am curious about your point when you say
that everybody is energized and no one is demoralized. Are moderate
Republicans not demoralized? I mean, Trump`s base is –

HEWITT: I`m a moderate Republican Party and I`m considered a squishy
conservative by –

LEGER: Honestly, you`re a Republican.

HEWITT: Well, that`s – you just kind of –

TODD: I think ideologically, you`re pretty conservative. I think your
demeanor is more moderate.

HEWITT: That`s it. I`m a general (ph) department and Republican, right.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: Conservative with a smile.

HEWITT: And we are not upset with anything yet. If health care craters
and they don`t deliver, there are three core promises. The Supreme Court,
of Justice Gorsuch and Justice Scalia, who ray. That national defense, the
repealed sequestration, that will be very important, and then health care.
If the ship is on fire, if they don`t deliver something, my side will be
demoralized.

HARRIS: And talking to my favorite Trump supporter, (INAUDIBLE) which is
my father. That`s exactly where he is on these kinds of things. Like if
he doesn`t get down what he said he was going to get down by 2018, I`ll
stay home and he doesn`t have my support anymore. It is transactional I
think for some people. And like you said, if you don`t make good on the
promises that we put you there, we`ll find somebody else to do it.

TODD: Just very fast. The chances Democrats do take control of the Senate
on a percentage. Nothing is zero, what do you think of that.

HEWITT: 25 percent because I think Ted Cruz could – there could be an
upset that no one sees –

TODD: Higher than you think basic is what you`re saying. I`m with you.

LEGER: Yes, I agree with that.

TODD: Yes. Now, I think it`s a more in play than the handicappers like to
admit. All right. You guys are sticking around.

Still ahead, Republicans hold the power in Washington, so why is one
prominent House member walking away from it? Now former congressman, Jason
Chaffetz explains some of his personal reasons for leaving what he calls
the crazy train.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back to MTP DAILY. One of the rising stars of the Republican
Party in Capitol Hill stepped down at the end of last week. Republican
Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah left the house and will start a role as
a political commentator.

Before resigning, Chaffetz of course made a name for himself as the
chairman of the house oversight committee where he conducted extensive
investigations into Hillary Clinton and the 2012 Benghazi attack. Here are
some of his most memorable moments.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: We paid $9 million to tax payers to get
a report. You started flailing around saying, here it is, it`s printed.
This is a slide deck, it`s not a report. Who are you holding accountable?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re going to wait. We`re not going.

CHAFFETZ: You`re going to wait. That`s the problem. Our people are under
attack. There are people dying. What is the military doing? If you want me
to start issuing subpoenas on the DCCC, I`m probably not going to do it,
but go ahead and suggest it. I just think.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about some of the FBI.

CHAFFETZ: The gentleman`s time has expired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You asked me a question.

CHAFFETZ: No, I did not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: I sat down with Chaffetz during one of his last days in office for a
pretty free-willing and candid interview, I think. Find out why he calls
serving in congress the crazy train. It`s fascinating. More of it when we
come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back. As I mentioned before the break last week, I sat down
with outgoing Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah. His last day
on the hill was Friday. We had a wide range of conversation about why he
made the decision to give up such a prominent role in the middle of his
term. Arguably at the peak of Republican power. And then, he said he just
did. And then we talked about all of the problems he sees in congress
today.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: You got elected in 2008, so you came in, unusually, you were a
freshman with a Democratic house. You were in the minority. Within two
years, you get to the majority, and now you finally get to be a Republican
member of congress with a Republican White House and you walk away. From
the outside, it looks like a huh?

CHAFFETZ: Yeah, it doesn`t make a lot of sense to people.

TODD: Politically, in your public persona, it doesn`t make sense. Explain.

CHAFFETZ: Well, you work hard to get to this point, where Republicans
control the levers, but it`s not necessarily everything I thought it would
be. First of all, the toll on the family after eight plus years – I have
spent nearly 1,500 nights away. I got kids and expenses and everything else
and I make a handsome salary but.

TODD: In 2008, you were elected in 2008, how old are your kids in 2008?

CHAFFETZ: Well, my youngest, you know, she was 7 years old. Now, she is
taller than her mom, and going ready to.

TODD: Getting ready for college.

CHAFFETZ: Going into junior in high school, and two of our three kids are
now married and moving off. We`re faced with the reality of being empty
nesters. I don`t want to spend the rest of this congress two plus hundred
nights away while my wife is by herself in Utah. That`s – we have been
married 26 years.

That`s not what I signed up for, and then you add to it a dose of reality
that the things you have been fighting for and hoping to pass and bring to
the floor, even when you get something as bipartisan as my immigration
bill, which has 230 co-sponsors, it has no prospects of coming to the
floor. At some point, you just got to say, you know what? I got to get off
this crazy train. When your attitude kind of sours, it`s time to hang up.

TODD: Are you cynical?

CHAFFETZ: I am a bit, and I have changed. I was very optimistic.

TODD: Yeah.

CHAFFETZ: I was working 16, you know, hours a day.

TODD: You were the first member that I dealt with that was loved texting
with folks. You were sort of.

CHAFFETZ: Yeah.

TODD: You seemed to really love this job. It was startling to see you – if
you would have said you were quitting to start running for the U.S. senate,
that would have made sense, but that was what made it surprising.

CHAFFETZ: Well, I love to work, but I love my family more. It`s hard for a
lot of people to understand that, but there`s also a lot of frustration in
this job, in this work, in this role, and I just – I never – I always
admire those athletes who got out at the top of their game, and I kind of
thought about that. I look at the reality of what we`re going to be able to
get done and get passed. How much I`m missing my family.

TODD: You`re walking away. It`s a midlife crisis?

CHAFFETZ: I didn`t buy a red corvette or anything.

TODD: Did you feel pressure not to bring your family here because of how
often you had to go back to the district, or was it the age of your kids?

CHAFFETZ: At the time, you got kids that are in grade school, about to go
into high school. And I just didn`t want this to be disruptive to them.
There was one point where I remember I left on Monday and I came home on a
Friday night and I told our youngest daughter, Kate, I said, Kate, hey, I`m
back. She said, I didn`t even know you were gone.

TODD: She got used to you being gone.

CHAFFETZ: It stabbed me in the heart and I just thought, you know, I got to
get more balance in my life. And some people, I`m afraid, don`t get that
balance and it`s not healthy for them.

TODD: You brought up something recently about – there has got to be some
way to fix this housing issue here in Washington. And I know 50 other
states aren`t going to care. Most people don`t care. But I have always
said, if people ask me if members of congress are underpaid or overpaid, I
say, they are woefully underpaid. And I say this, I challenge you to figure
out how to have two households on an income of $175,000 a year.

CHAFFETZ: Yeah, this is.

TODD: Anywhere and any business.

CHAFFETZ: Washington D.C. is one of the most expensive cities. A beautiful
city. I like being here. But the reality is I have a mortgage at home. I
got kids in college. I can`t afford both, and so you are faced with that
reality. I do think there should be a stipend, a $2,500 a month allowance
for housing. We make a very handsome salary.

Nobody is going to vote for a pay increase, certainly not in this
atmosphere. But they also have no idea how many dozens of people who are
family-minded or in a financial reality that they can`t afford two
mortgages and two sets of payments. I have a bicycle here and a metro pass
and I can get around, but I can`t afford the $2,500 that it takes to have
proximity to the capitol.

TODD: So, the – I guess the way to pitch this to the public that is if you
don`t do this, then congress only is for the so committed they are willing
to do it instead of have their own life or the super wealthy.

CHAFFETZ: Yeah. You have a lot of very wealthy people here, and I pat them
on the back and say, hey, congratulations.

TODD: Fun to visit them at their house here. Great houses and condos?

CHAFFETZ: Yes, but this is not representative of America. If you want
people who truly aren`t the mega-wealthy, then there got to be a way for
your average person to serve. Again, you get a handsome salary, but at the
same time, I challenge everybody to try get two mortgages and have two sets
of expenses and the air travel. I`m out west, I`m in Utah. It`s expensive
to fly back and forth.

TODD: Let me add something else here. I don`t want you to take personal
offense, but you are surrounded by mega mega-rich people a lot, aren`t you?

CHAFFETZ: Yeah.

TODD: Whether it`s asking for donations, lobbyists that walk into your
office, everybody got an issue.

CHAFFETZ: Yeah,

TODD: You are surrounded and I have no doubt that that has an impact on
people as well, is it not?

CHAFFETZ: People have no idea that – look, I do my job, you know, 14, 15
hours a day. But when the staff gets to go home on the weekend, guess what
I get to do. I get to go beg rich people for $2,500, and that means going
to Florida or New York or California or Phoenix and saying, do you have
$2,500 for me? I got nothing to give you, but will you – and so that`s
something I will not miss. I promise you that. Is begging people for money.

TODD: Let`s look at your job. You were a very aggressive oversight guy on
one hand, and you were tough on Hillary Clinton. And there is a joke around
congress that says, nobody likes to be the chairman on the oversight
committee when their party is in the White House. Is that true?

CHAFFETZ: Yeah, I think in many ways it is tougher because you are bugging
one side or the other. Democrats don`t like it when you are not perceived
as being aggressive enough, and when you actually do pepper the
administration and it`s your own.

TODD: You have no ideal blow back.

CHAFFETZ: Then you`re getting a lot of blow back. I tend to think that
didn`t bother me so much. I am bothered by the fact that I felt like we as
Republicans aren`t playing enough offense. That we weren`t able to follow
through on the investigations that we had done previously. And I`m very
bothered that we were unable to build coalitions and pass bipartisan pieces
of legislation. I just don`t understand that.

TODD: What is it? Everybody has a reasoning for it, that there is this
fear, the base of the two parties will punish you if you work with the
other side. There is some of that in there?

CHAFFETZ: There`s a perception of that. Something mine experienced. I mean,
Elijah Cummings and I have done literally hundreds of letters together.
It`s never hard for me. In fact, I think it actually helps me, but, you
know, going into a primary, you`re not out there touting your credentials
on working with the other side of the aisle. That`s true for either party.

TODD: What would you do to fix that? How do you get more votes? Utah is a
one-party state in some ways. It has had its competitiveness in the past.
Look. If you believe in – I assume you believe in free markets and the
best thing for free market is competition. Right now, the market is not
working in elections.

CHAFFETZ: You need members who can answer their own questions, talk on
camera, who can actually stand up in town halls and answer difficult
questions and be able to stand up on principle and say, this is why I
believe this. And if that person isn`t able to do that in your own
district, then get rid of them.

I mean, it`s something like 98 percent of the people get re-elected. Are
you kidding me? I mean, I walk around this body sometimes and I would look
around and I think, did anybody ever meet you? Because there`s no way
anybody could possibly vote for you if they met you.

TODD: Well, I`m glad to hear a member say that. Well, 48 hours ago, I can
say that, yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

TODD: All right. There`s a lot of bad rumors that say you`re headed in the
media. Why? What interests you about it? You don`t have to confirm
anything, and I get that you have a contract, but what interests you about
our side of the fence?

CHAFFETZ: Look. When I first got here, I invested heavily into going into
New York. I realized and felt that Republicans were doing a very poor job
of communicating. And so I have always felt like, hey, if nobody else is
going to go out and spend the three minutes explaining our position, I`ll
go ahead and do it. And so I have always felt like there is a great
opportunity to talk to millions of people at a time and actually truly make
a difference.

And I`m excited that this next phase, I think will give me more and more of
an opportunity to go out and talk about the conservative values that I
believe so strongly. I like the debate. That`s what we`re supposed to come
and do. We do very little debating. A lot of showboating and a lot of
single-handed speeches, but not a lot of actual debates.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: It`s amazing what you hear from a member of congress as they are
leaving out the door. Anyway, you can hear my entire interview with former
Congressman Jason Chaffetz on the “Meet the Press” podcast. Call 1947. I
know you subscribe and if you don`t, go ahead and do it.

Still head, why I`m obsessed with independence as we get ready to mark
Independence Day. And in “The Lid,” where things stand nearly six months
into the Trump presidency. We`ll reassess some of our early predictions.
Ahead, we`re better than you think.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back. Every night on this show, I`m obsessed with something.
Usually it`s something that has had me fired up all day. From too many e-
mails to something sports or TV and not surprisingly usually something in
politics. In honor of Independence Day, I want to talk about why there are
more independents in politics. Get it? Bear with me.

I do this almost every 4th. Think about it. It`s increasingly clear that
two major parties can`t get anything done. They can`t work together on
bipartisan legislation. You just heard former member complained about that.
In fact, their basis don`t necessarily want them to. Of course there are
few independents in congress.

You know the most famous one, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. And the one
we sometimes refer to as the most interesting man in congress, Maine
Senator Angus King. Who doesn`t love the name Angus? But both of them
caucus with the Democrats. Does that really count? In the U.S. house, all
of the members are either Republicans or Democrats.

Folks, with all these gridlock, maybe it is time for more independent
lawmakers. Talk about this idea in the 4th of July. Do you really want to
upend American politics? Are you a disruptor? Run for office as an
independent. Knock on doors. Get your friends and families volunteer (ph).
And come to D.C. and blaze your own path and truly disrupt things.

Maybe we just need a real outsider or group of them to break through the
gridlock and bring the grand old party and the party of FDR (ph) together.
Imagine, if you can deny both McConnell and Schumer the number 50 in the
senate, those three or four independents could become the most powerful
block and you force compromise. Just an idea if you really do care about
gridlock. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back here on MTP DAILY. We closed out the end of last year by
daring to make some predictions for what would happen in the Trump
presidency, just where would the administration stand by the 4th of July?
Well, Independence Day is upon us. We can finally check how well we
expected the unexpected, which brings us to “The Lid.”

Panel is back. Hugh Hewitt, Shane Harris, and Daniella Gibbs Leger. All
right. The big one, first one was over Trump job on 4th of July, 45
percent. Hugh, you were on that panel and everybody agreed under, here we
are. Shane, under 45.

HARRIS: Yeah.

TODD: Is it 40 in the last NBC News Wall Street?

HARRIS: And 45 Rasmussen (inaudible) celebrated that of course. But, yeah,
that`s about where people thought he would be and I think you`ve seen the
polls too. His base is with him, right? That base is still holding, that
seems to be keeping him up. But not shocking that he would be right about
where we thought he was. It didn`t seem like he was going to move much from
that number and he has fulfilled expectations.

TODD: Hugh Hewitt, how many cabinet picks would make it? We said would he
lose any of them? We said – the assumption was he would lose one somehow,
someway. But we didn`t get the right one. We talked Sessions, Tillerson,
and Mnuchin.

HEWITT: It was Andy Puzder.

TODD: And it ended up being Andy Puzder.

HEWITT: They did not go quickly to obtain Andy Puzder`s defense. As a
result, last one was the one behind (inaudible) went down, and it was Andy
Puzder.

TODD: Daniella, the other topic that I want to bring up is Reince Priebus,
the over/under, would he still be chief of staff? We were correct that this
would be a constant theme of the Trump White House, but he`s still there.

LEGER: He`s still there for now. I think it remains to be seen how long he
stays. You know, Trump gives very mixed messages about how he feels about
him and how he is running the White House. So, I wouldn`t be surprised if
he`s not there much longer.

TODD: How much is health care`s fate and Reince Priebus`s fate tied? I feel
like the president constantly brings up the fact it was Reince Priebus,
Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and Mike Pence who decided on the scheduling of
sequencing, doing health care first then trying to get to everything else.
And Trump every once in a while doesn`t like that. And he blames Reince.

HEWITT: (inaudible) story in Politico about Tillerson exploding and a
meeting with Jared Kushner, Reince Priebus, and John DeStefano, the head of
presidential personnel. And it`s very un-secretary of state-like to
meltdown in the oval or near the oval. I don`t think Reince is the
balancing wheel in which many interests are spinning and the president
recognizes that. I really don`t think he leaves because I don`t know anyone
else who could actually step into that.

LEGER: Do you think the president recognize that?

HEWITT: Yes, I do.

LEGER: Okay.

HARRIS: That brings up the question too, now the question for predictions
is who in the cabinet resigns before the end of the year?

TODD: Well, he just brought up the name.

HARRIS: I would not be surprised at all.

LEGER: Yeah, after that article.

(LAUGHTER)

LEGER: You heard it here first.

TODD: Let me – we just all listened to that Jason Chaffetz`s interview and
all of you were surprised at various moments, but I want to bring up an
idea that he mentioned to me off-camera. I said we talked about this issue,
the oversight, and he told me, he said in Japan, they make the oversight
committee permanently headed by the head of the minority party, always. It
is – the chair is always the minority party. That seems like a nice
elegant solution, Shane.

HARRIS: Right and how efficient would that be, right? It`s an idea that
goes right to the heart of our constitutional system. It`s supposed to work
in the majority rules with respect to the minority. We talked earlier about
the Senate Intelligence Committee.

You`ve seen those two heads of the committee really fight to keep that a
bipartisan effort to show that this is not about politics, the counter
example that is the House Intelligence Committee, where it became totally
partisan and undone. There`s something to this idea though, giving that
minority party the voice, right? I mean, this is how it is supposed to work
with respect to the people who are out of power.

TODD: Thoughts?

LEGER: I think it`s a great idea. I don`t see it happening anytime soon
here, but I totally agree.

HEWITT: I think you can adapt it for 2022 in kind of way where no one knows
where they`ll be in the perfect state. We don`t know if a Republican would
be sitting in judgment of Democrat or a Democrat in judgment of a majority
Republican Party. The only way to get something adapted like that is to
make sure there are no immediate winners or losers but downstream you get
an idea that makes sense. I think that makes a lot of sense.

TODD: All right. Let me close with – how about Jason Chaffetz just dumping
on the whole place?

HEWITT; I`ve held three fundraisers in my life that actually helped them.
One for Jason Chaffetz, one for MiKe Lee, one for Doug Ducey. Common
denominator, decency. I don`t think it`s a good time for people who are
fundamentally decent. I think it wears them down and they leave.

(LAUGHTER)

LEGER: Well, that`s so depressing.

TODD: So what does that mean?

LEGER: We`re trying to encourage people to come and run for office and make
it.

TODD: More – that means you have to have the gruffness of a Trump?

HEWITT: I think they love the time at home too much. I think they don`t
want to miss the college years. They don`t want to wake up at 70 not having
passed anything and having on their tombstone, yeah, he was one of 5
million legislators.

TODD: How do we become a representative democracy? That was the bigger
point he and I were both trying to make here, frankly, which is this idea
that if you don`t figure out how to allow middle to upper-middle class
people to be here.

HARRIS: Listening to him talking remember thinking like, truly is there not
like a Capitol dormitory we could build? Is there not a way to help these
people survive in this town? It`s not easy.

TODD: All right. Until we meet again. Let`s go shoot off some fireworks.

HARRIS: Happy fourth.

TODD: All right. Happy fourth. Hugh, Shane, Daniella, thank you. That`s all
for tonight. Don`t burn yourself. At least do it properly, and have a good
time on the fourth.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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