MTP Daily, Transcript 7/7/2017

James Stavridis, Mark Murray, Michael Leiter, Matthew Continetti, Yamiche Alcindor

Date: July 7, 2017
Guest: James Stavridis, Mark Murray, Michael Leiter, Matthew Continetti,
Yamiche Alcindor

I`m Nicolle Wallace. “MTP Daily” starts right now. Hi, Chuck.


WALLACE: I missed you.

TODD: Well, I appreciate you saying that. I missed everybody – I missed
seeing you. I`ll leave it at that, personally seeing you. Thank you,

If it`s Friday, no one else was in the room where it happened. Tonight
behind closed doors –


been discussing various things and I think it`s going very well.


TODD: What really went on today when President Trump met President Putin?
Plus, can the G20 leaders work out any good solution to the growing threat
from North Korea?


TRUMP: I don`t draw red lines.


TODD: And later, Trumpcare trouble.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: – with every other developed country can do that in
this world, why can`t America?


TODD: It`s the most unpopular bill of the last three decades. What will
it mean for the future of the Senate vote and the future of the GOP? This
is “MTP Daily” and it starts right now.

Good evening. I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington and welcome to a Friday
“MTP Daily” and welcome to the day. Many have been waiting for, for some
time, President Donald Trump meets Russian President Vladimir Putin face-


TRUMP: It`s an honor to be with you.



TODD: The off camera meeting today at the G20 in Germany lasted over two
hours even though it was originally only scheduled for 30 minutes. In the
room, just for six people, President Trump, Putin, Secretary of State Rex
Tillerson, who don`t forget was awarded Russia`s highest civilian honor,
Tillerson`s Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, and two translators.
That`s it.

There wasn`t anyone from the National Security Council there. National
security adviser was not in the room. According to former U.S. Ambassador
to Russia, Michael McFaul, he calls that basically unprecedented. I`ll
talk to him about that in just a moment.

The Trump team reportedly wanted to keep the meeting attendance restricted
in order to avoid leaks. It doesn`t seem to bode well for the president`s
level of trust in his own National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

And, folks, the small size of this meeting and who was included means every
account that comes out of it has to be taken with a serious grain of salt.
And right away we got differing accounts on the critical issue of Russian
interference in the election. Here is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE (voice-over): The president opened the
meeting with President Putin by raising the concerns of the American people
regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election. The president pressed
President Putin on more than one occasion regarding Russian involvement.


TODD: Interesting phraseology there. It was of importance to the American
people. And then, here is Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.


SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translation): President
Trump has said that these conveying is becoming rather strange and bizarre
because over many months when we`ve heard these allegations and not a
single fact has been presented.

President Trump has said that he has heard clear declarations from Mr.
Putin that Russian leadership and Russian government has not interfered in
the elections and he accepts these – the things that Putin – Mr. Putin
has said.


TODD: Now, the Trump administration is pushing back on Lavrov`s spin
saying it`s not accurate. But this is precisely the problem when you have
an administration that lacks some credibility when it comes to the issued
of Russia. And, of course, we have to treat the Russian`s account with
skepticism as well. So you end up with a he says, he says and what went
down behind close doors.

Both sides are saying they discussed North Korea, the conflict in Syria and
the future of Bashar al-Assad. Lavrov says they talked about Ukraine and
about the return of those two diplomatic vacation homes in the U.S., the
Obama administration seized in December. Tillerson did not mention whether
either of those topics came up.

And we also don`t know if the president brought up new reporting from
“Bloomberg Politics” this week that Russians government hackers are thought
to be behind the breach of at least a dozen U.S. power plants. We know
that Trump administration win in with it a set of agenda.

Well, folks, President Trump troubled to Europe this week with the cloud of
uncertainty over head. A lot of it, he has his own making. Remember, it
was just 24 hours ago that the president himself representing the United
States on foreign soil in a joint press conference questioned whether or
not Russia was behind the cyberattack against our democracy. And according
to Secretary Tillerson, the president seems eager to put the hacking story
behind him.


TILLERSON (voicer-over): I think the president at this point he pressed
him and then felt like at this point let`s talk about how do we go forward.


TODD: But how do we go forward and who do we believe, the Kremlin or the
White House? The Trump administration is handling the president`s speech
in Warsaw yesterday for its strong defense of the west and its values. But
if he doesn`t stand up to Putin about Russia`s repeated interference in
western democracies, does that speech just become that, just talk?

And because this president repeatedly refuses to accept what everyone else
in the government says is true about Russia, we`re stuck debating fact
versus fiction after arguably the most important diplomatic meeting of this
presidency so far. All a big risk, especially when you consider the lack
of foreign policy experience in the room representing America`s interests.

And as the former U.S. ambassador to NATO pointed out on Twitter, “Russia`s
total government experience in that room, 80 plus years, from the U.S.
side, less than 12 month, though we aren`t sure about the resume of the
U.S. translator.”

Joining me now, my colleague, Kelly O`Donnell, who is traveling with the
president in Hamburg. Kelly, let me start with you. The Trump
administration pushing back on Lavrov`s version of events, but the
Secretary of State said something very interesting.

He said, the president pushed him on the Russian interference because it`s
an issue of importance to the American people. But he seemed to leave some
doubt there about whether this was a priority for this president.

an interesting way to certainly bring the meeting to the importance of the
public sentiment about this and the frustration that exists about what
happened and did not happen and the effects of Russian interference, so
definitely interesting.

What he did not say is that the president rebuked Vladimir Putin or accused
him. Pressed is the word he used. But he also said that Vladimir Putin
denied being involved. So, sort implicit in that is that there was some
kind of accusation made and maybe Lavrov is viewing the fact that after
repeatedly bringing it up according to Tillerson, they decided that they
could not get to any resolution on this except to say that cybersecurity is
a problem, that it`s a problem if it affects the elections because of
course the European elections are a concern, as well, and they moved on.

So, is moving on to other topics the Lavrov way of saying that president
accepted Vladimir Putin`s response? I`m not sure. It was a very close
circle. We certainly know that Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, has
personal relationships with Putin going back from his CEO days.

One of the things missing, Chuck, is the faceless note taker. Normally in
these meetings, there is someone with the responsibility to take notes.
Imagine, two hours and 15 minutes and people trying to piece together their
memories of what was said when every syllable can matter in diplomacy.

We don`t have any indication that there was any kind of note taking and
that would normally be a very standard thing. I can`t imagine that the
interpreter said any responsibility to do that and it`s hard to imagine
that Secretary Tillerson did either.

TODD: Let me ask you about the deliverable that they seemed to have at the
ready which was this cease-fire in – having in Syria. There`s always a
cease-fire on the table when Russia and the United States meet with Syria.
There`s always one that seems agreed upon and then literally the meeting
breaks up and whatever was agreed upon never comes to fruition. Where does
this stand?

O`DONNELL: Well, a lot of work was done in advance and we learned about
this from Secretary Tillerson with him verbalizing his hopes that such a
deal could be had. So, he was laying the ground work on this, foaming the
runway if you will for days ahead of this meeting.

A lot of work went in behind the scenes so that they would have as close to
a guarantee of walking out of the meeting with something they could to, to
show that there was a development here at the G-20 between President Trump
and Putin, especially something dealing on one of the handful of areas
where there might be commonalty, Syria.

So, Secretary Tillerson said that he would like to see what they agreed
upon for Southwest Syria, which is not the hot spot, it`s the Assad
stronghold, be expanded elsewhere in the country of Syria.

So, will it fall apart? The humanitarian piece of trying to work together
in that way might have some legs. It was a starting point. Secretary
Tillerson was very clear that he believes that this is a piece to be
expanded upon. So, we`ll see.

The nuances from Secretary Tillerson were interesting even referencing that
the first lady was brought into check on things. That`s an unusual
anecdote. Chuck?

TODD: That is an unusual one. A lot of people are trying to read between
the lines on that one. We`ll just let that go from there. We`ll chew on
it as well. Kelly O`Donnell, thanks very much.

O`DONNELL: One more thing though, Chuck.

TODD: Give me it, Kelly. Go ahead.

O`DONNELL: Yes, Melania Trump is sitting next to Vladimir Putin at
tonight`s dinner. So perhaps there`s a little more follow-on first lady
diplomacy to be had, perhaps.

TODD: Perhaps, very interesting. Kelly O`Donnell in Hamburg, thank you.

Joining me now is a – somebody who has been in plenty of Russia and U.S.
billets to take former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul is of
course an NBC News Russian Affairs Contributor. Ambassador, good to see
you sir.


TODD: All right, it was certainly – I was surprised that no member of the
National Security Council, obviously, Rex Tillerson being Secretary of
State is a member, but nobody from the official capacity. The National
Security Adviser, not in there, nobody else in that meeting.

You said it was of unprecedented to the point of you couldn`t think of an
example where if there was a second person in the room to the president
that the National Security Adviser wasn`t that second person.

MCFAUL: Well, that`s right. One tidbit, Chuck, I know both those
translators (inaudible). That`s one place where we have a little more
experience that we do on the Russian side, but did more seriously, yes –
when a president Democrat or Republican meets with a head of state, if
there`s only a plus one, it`s always the National Security adviser. It
should be more than that precisely because of the conversation you`ve just
been having. You want somebody to take notes. That was a job I did when
President Obama met with Putin and Medvedev.

When I worked at the White House, because you want a transcript of what
happened there. And it just internally within the Trump administration,
let`s remember this is not good for HR McMaster, the National Security
adviser. This weakens him within the inner agency and it`s just not good
idea. Why not have your National Security adviser in the most important
meeting you`ve had as president when it comes to foreign policy.

TODD: This town has got it`s share of conspiracy theorists these days.
Their suspicion around every corner right now this administration when it
comes to Russia. So if you wanted to ease those suspicions, why have a
meeting where the only two people in there are people that have the closest
supposedly potential personal relationships with the Russian government?
It just seemed to be optically and even worse decision because it only
raises more suspicion to those that are want to be suspicious?

MCFAUL: I couldn`t agree more. And then especially when you have the
dueling readouts. Now, we had that quite a bit the when I was in the
government, too. That is something –

TODD: Isn`t that standard fare? Right, the Russians – right, they have
their, they have, you know, that`s who they are.

MCFAUL: You do. But let`s be clear what has happened now on this
particular dual. On the record, Sergey Lavrov has said that President
Trump basically accepted Putin`s explanation.

On the record, nobody has refuted that. We`ve had a senior administration
official doing that, but bear in mind unless it was Tillerson himself, that
person was not even in the room. So what needs to happen in my view is
that Secretary Tillerson because he`s the only on one besides the president
that was there. He needs to go in and emphatically state what the American
side was because otherwise to me reading the readouts on both sides, it
suggests that, oh, yes it was raised but it really wasn`t raised in a very
forceful way and even the wording of Secretary Tillerson when he said, and
I`m paraphrasing here, but President Trump raised on behalf of the American
people –

TODD: Yes.

MCFAUL: – their concerns. Why isn`t the president of the United States
raising it as his own concern? That suggests to me that there wasn`t a
very big conversation and that a mistake. He looks weak in the eyes of
Putin and he`s not defending America`s national interests.

TODD: Why – would it – let`s say you politically don`t want to give –
you`re the Trump administration, you believe this Russia stuff is
overblown, you don`t want to give him that much credit. Why not make the
lead this concern about the Russian hacking into electrical grids.

MCFAUL: Exactly. To be tough and to say whatever – you know, even this
formulation we got to leave the past behind us when the past is all about
diecious really awful things that President Putin has done like hacking our
elections, annexing territory in Ukraine, supporting a dictator in Syria.
But even if you were going to accept that formulation, which you can tell I
disagree with, why not make it to say something very strong and say
whatever happened in the past, I, President Trump I`m not going to put up
with any Russian meddling and that would have been the readout you could
have said other than on, well, we had a very friendly chit-chat meeting.
These are serious matters. These are matters about American national
security. We should take them seriously.

TODD: All right, Ambassador McFaul, I`ll leave it there. Like it seems
like we have more questions than answers. And let me ask you this quickly,
you said you know those translators. Do you think we`ll ever know – there
will be the Russian version of events, the Trump version of events and then
the truth maybe somewhere aware? Will ever know?

MCFAUL: Not if somebody is not writing an income and writing down the
notes and occasionally as I did with the translator going to talk to the
translator to make sure that you got it right. It`s not clear to anybody
was documenting that for the historical record.

TODD: And it`s both the Russians and American then – and neither one is
bugging that room. All right, I`m kidding. Mike McFaul, thank you very

MCFAUL: All right, thanks MTP.

TODD: Let`s bring tonight`s panel, Michael Leiter an MSNBC`s news national
security analyst, former director of the National Couterterrorism Center,
serving under both President`s Bush and Obama. Yamiche Alcindor, national
reporter of the New York Times also an MSNBC contributor and Matthew
Continetti, editor-in-chief of the Washington Free Beacon. Welcome to all
of you.

Mr. Leiter, let me start with you, and we got – we`re going to chew
through this Russian aspect a bit, but from what you heard – what you
heard from Secretary Tillerson on this cease fire agreement, is it smoking
mirrors or something serious?

think it`s potentially a good thing in incremental stuff. The fact that is
on the on the military front, we have made real progress against ISIS. So
I think it`s excellent that the administration is now trying to think of
what the day after looks like. So this is really a confidence building
measure. If we can get this to hold in the southwest corner of Syria,
that`s a good thing. I still think we run into the major problem which is
our and the Russian`s strategic interests and what happens to Assad and the
future presidents in the region, really conflict that.

TODD: And that`s in their light.

LEITER: That`s right.

TODD: I mean forget, where we talking about the other Trump and Russia
stuff, this part is not aligned.

LEITER: That`s right, this is something that we can`t paper over and no
quick being meeting even if its two hours it`s going to get past that.

TODD: All right, let me get to the political side of this with the two of
you here. Matthew, I`ll give you first with this. I guess I just don`t
understand – they optically made this a worse story than they needed to
be. Why? Can we figure this out?

the easiest answer in the world.

TODD: The obsession with leaks?

CONTINETTI: Yes, it`s not on an obsession with leaks. In every other
meeting high level meeting, conversation with foreign officials that he`s
had in the Oval Office, the memcon is leaked.

TODD: Yes.

CONTINETTI: And they face a gosh of leaks, the study came out yesterday
showing that it`s kind of unprecedented the anonymous leaks they`re coming
out of this White House from in many cases the National Security and
foreign policy bureaucracy. So that`s resulted in this type of situation
where in order to have some control over the meeting, they clearly blocked
everybody but Tillerson and Trump out.

TODD: But wow, I mean it is a shot across the bow at General McMaster.
Appear and simply.

that this idea that it he`s looking at to makes him look paranoid in some
ways because he had some keep of circle so small and he ask and make sure
that people that you`re supposed to trust, though the National Security
adviser in the first night, your supposed to be – what happens to your
right hand person, you don`t trust that person to not leak to the media.
And its kind of speaks volumes about kind of how you control the White
House and how you control the office.

TODD: Michael, what are you hearing from former colleagues? Is there a
paranoia on leaks that is at another level?

LEITER: Well I think there is a paranoia and this is –

TODD: Is it legit? I mean –

LEITER: Yes, I was about to say, just because your paranoid doesn`t mean
they`re not out to get you.

TODD: Yes.

LEITER: And the flow of leaks is really, is not just a trickle, it is a
flood. And it`s – let`s face it, it`s not just coming from the
quote/unquote “deep state”.

TODD: Yes.

LEITER: This is coming from the Trump administration, the people
themselves trying to shape the story. So I think unfortunately if it was a
two on two with Angela Merkel or Theresa May, no one would – but Vladimir
Putin, this makes it a lot harder for them.

TODD: I guess the problem is now he`s got this issue. I mean, it wasn`t
just Rex Tillerson secretary of State. It`s the person that got the
highest civilian honor from Putin. Has a person with, it just looks like
the game was rig.

CONTINETTI: From the White House`s perspective it was always a good thing
that Tillerson had a personal relationship with Vladimir Putin, that
(inaudible), objective is to somehow improve the U.S.-Russia relationship.
So that`s added leverage.

I mean, my point of view is Putin needs more from Trump than Trump needs
from Putin. Putin needs economic sanctions relief, Putin needs some type
of resolution to Syria, right. Because the Syrian intervention is not very
popular in Russia either. So Putin is coming in with asks as well. This
is not just about Trump here and it seems like Trump, we didn`t have the
look into the soul moment yet.

TODD: Yes.

CONTINETTI: We`ll see if that appears on Twitter in the next 24 hours. We
don`t have a reset button yet.

TODD: Right.

CONTINETTI: So far I think the meeting has been pretty good for Trump.

TODD: What do you make of that, Michael?

LEITER: Well, actually I don`t agree with Matt on this one. Honestly this
was good for Putin because he got to sit down with the president of the
United States and be the other global leader. The G20 is going on, this
was about Putin and Trump. And from Putin`s perspective for greater –

TODD: It was bigger that were the G20.

LEITER: Absolutely.

TODD: That`s the first time that Russia has been bigger than the on G20 in
a long time.

LEITER: That`s right, and that is ultimately what Putin is seeking. There
are details that Putin absolutely needs relieve fund, sanctions and the
like. But what he wanted to be was an equal, he wanted us to be about
Russia being at the center of major global issues and he accomplished that.

ALCINDOR: I also think that we have to think about – or we seat back and
think how much the Russia, the crowd – the Russian crowd has been over
this administration. For him is to say, well for the Russians to say that
this was something that was brought up and then accepted and the wording
that came out, the fact that it`s a concern of the American people, that
makes it seem as though Donald Trump in some ways is not really that
concerned about this, is obviously a year or (inaudible) how Hallie Jackson
(ph) asked him that question where he said, you know, people say that`s
what happened, that Russia is the person is behind this. The only a
couple, and that`s only a few intelligence agencies have said this. That
to me was stunning – it`s stunning, because now he sat down and had the
opportunity the big moment to make this a really big deal and it doesn`t
feel like he made it a big deal at all. And I don`t think you need strikes
a thing that the Russians came out feeling like, yes he does accept our
version, he`s not going to make this a big deal.

TODD: Everybody in Hamburg was talking about John Podesta.

CONTINETTI: There are four issues – I think it is relationship.

TODD: Yes.

CONTINETTI: Ukraine, Syria –

TODD: Yes.

CONTINETTI: – Korea, and the election interference. And Trump led with
the election interference, neither side disputes that, he led with it. We
don`t know exactly what was said, but if he had not mentioned it, can you
imagine what the –


TODD: There is no doubt there. And let me go – let me take this a step
further and backing up Matt`s point. This is now the fourth straight
president that has tried to say I`m going to start trying to make a deal
with Putin. And if it wasn`t for this some other stuff in the background
of this election, we`d be talking is he naive to do this. Three other
presidents who try this, Bill Clinton thought he understood him. George W.
Bush thought he saw in his soul. They did the reset button on Obama. You
know, you have to do business with Russia, right?

LEITER: That`s absolutely right. These two leaders need too have a
relationship. And in fairness to the president, although not really loud,
he really did say something in Warsaw day before yesterday that was good.
He did hit him on this. But what is different between –

TODD: He hit him on it and then two hours earlier –


ALCINDOR: But the level of expectations that we have I think to me is a
continuing issue with this administration.

LEITER: And a big difference between now and the previous presidents is
Vladimir Putin is on the move. Vladimir Putin has moved military force
into Ukraine. He has gone after other democracies in Western Europe. So
Putin has become the aggressor in a way that he has not in previous
administrations. And the question is will President Trump push back firmly
on that and i don`t think we have any real read on that.

TODD: Well that`s the question for all, all your points for now, how much
are we willing to be the person, the country that checks him the most. All
right. You guys are sticking around.

Another troubling topic that did come up between the two presidents, the
escalating threat from North Korea. We`re looking at the host of that
options are on the table for President Trump, up ahead.

And if Sunday we`ll have much more on the president`s meeting with Putin
and (inaudible), I`ll have exclusive interviews with former CIA director
John Brennan and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham who`ve just in
Afghanistan (ph). We`ll be right back.


TODD: Welcome back. North Korea and its successful launch this week of an
intercontinental ballistic missile is a major topic of discussion among
world leaders at the G20. It came up today in President Trump`s meeting
with Vladimir Putin. Secretary of State Tillerson acknowledge, “The
Russian seen a little differently than we do.” And after his meeting with
Putin, South Korea`s president said he saw role for Russia in helping
deescalate the crisis on the Korean peninsula.

But members of Trump`s own administration acknowledge that the window on
diplomatic solutions is closing and the truth is there are no good options
left. It`s all bad options. Despite the challenges, Secretary Tillerson
told reporters that he is not giving up hope of working with China.


TILLERSON: An approach like we`re using and I call it the peaceful
pressure campaign. This is a campaign to lead us to a peaceful resolution
because if this fails, we don`t have very many good options left. It`s one
that requires calculated increases in pressure, allow the regime to respond
to that pressure, and it takes a little time to let these things happen.


TODD: MSNBC`s chief international security and diplomacy analyst is
Admiral James Stavridis. And he joins me now. Admiral, good to see you


TODD: All right, let`s talk about the list of bad options. It seems like
if there were good options, they would have already been tried and I think
you can argue they have been. So here we are. First let`s talk about the
pressure that has been I guess attempted to be exerted on the Russians.
They like the Chinese, have stood with them in blocking us at the UN from
doing something more serious to North Korea.

Is there a real movement with Russia or not or is this just typical they
say good things in a meeting and they`re not going to change their ways?

STAVRIDIS: It is the latter. I don`t see Russia as part of the solution
in any sense in North Korea. They might be mildly additive to something
China has to do if we`re going to have a real diplomatic solution here,
Chuck. But Russia just doesn`t carry the water in that part of the world.
And they don`t really have a significant enough economic lever to pull with
Kim Jong-un. So I think other than a spoiler role at United Nations, which
China can overcome if they want, in the end all roads to Pyongyang lead
through Beijing.

TODD: Well, let`s talk about Beijing here a minute. If you`re sitting
from their perch, the North Korea problem in their minds, do they view it
as more of an American problem than their problem and the reason I say this
way, they certainly are acting that way. As if this is more of a –
they`re more than willing to live with a fractured Korea, they would prefer
it, they don`t like the nukes, but if that is what it takes to distract the
United States, they`ll take it. Is that their view?

TODD: It absolutely is. And they went to school on what happened in
Germany when the wall fell. Germany combines and after 10 years, you see
the emergence of this German juggernaut in Europe. They don`t want that on
that peninsula knowing that ultimately that nation, that unified Korean
nation would be aligned with the United States. That is a real nightmare
scenario for them and there is a tactical challenge as well Chuck, it`s
this idea of refugees flowing out in the event of a real war there.

So they`re going to do the minimum. They would like to just see the
situation muddle along frankly.

TODD: All right. So we know where the Russians stand, we know where the
Chinese stand. Let me ask you about the South Koreans.


TODD: The previous administration, the one that got up ended up getting
impeached essentially, seemed to be wanting a more aggressive posture
against the North Korean regime. This new administration does not. How
much does that complicate the set of bad options that the president has?

STAVRIDIS: It complicates it extremely and let`s face, so this is like the
chicken and the egg, the hen is engaged, the pig is committed, the South
Koreans are really committed if this thing goes to war. They`re going to
lose 20 million people potentially in and around Seoul. So they`re
logically enough trying to put the speed brakes on anything really
aggressive for President Trump.

So that is a third calculus he has to make. And frankly Chuck, your right,
we spend too much time talking about the South Koreans and not enough time
talking to them understanding their position on this. It makes this really
a three dimensional game of chess for the White House.

TODD: All right. Well, let`s think of all the different bad options. You
seem to settle on this one which may be the best outcome than the current
crisis then maybe simply living with North Korean nuclear weapons and
relying on Kim understanding that using one of his weapons would be signing
his own death warrant to say nothing of the carnage of his loyal subjects
and Admiral before I get you to answer and explain your comment on that
Charles Krauthammer essentially came to the same conclusion for a different
reason. He says, “Nukes assure regime survival. That`s why the Kims have
so single mindedly pursued them. The lessons are clear, Saddam Hussein, no
nukes, hanged. Moammar Gaddhafi gave up his nuclear program, killed by his
own people.”

What do you say?

STAVRIDIS: Exactly right. I agree completely. And let`s face it, Kim
Jong-un is young. He looks like he enjoys life. He is obviously having
quite an enjoyable time running this crazy country where everyone applauds
him constantly. He doesn`t want to walk into his own death warrant. He`s
not going to launch a nuke at us highly unlikely.

Frankly, Chuck, here is a news flash. If he ever does, it`s not going to
come on the end of a ballistic missile, it will come in a container
surreptitiously into long beach harbor. We have to rely on deterrence
because all the other options are really lousy as you and I just walked

TODD: All right. Admiral Stavridis. I had a feeling that was a conclusion
that you are going to be coming to on here but it is what it is. We`ll see
how long it takes this administration to decide what do next. I appreciate
it. Thanks very much.

We`ll quickly take you live now, we`re back in Hamburg, Germany. Yes, a
bunch of protests have been ramping up outside the G20. Joining me now from
the center of those protests is our own Keir Simmons who course – you`ve
seen him. He`s been water cannoned, he`s been sprayed, you name it. Keir,
what are you seeing tonight?

police are attempting to make another push to move these protesters who
have taken over this part of Hamburg away. They are facing heavy, heavy
resistance from the protesters. Let`s just get our cameraman to look closer
at this scene. You can see, Chuck, they are still burning a barricade set
up by the protesters.

Protesters are dressed in black with their faces covered throwing bottles,
stones, anything that they can find at the police to prevent them from
moving forward. You can see here guys just smashing up bits of concrete to
hurl at these riot police. There is a line of riot police back behind these
water cannon. And they are making very slow progress. On this area –
sorry, I don`t have any water. Someone here has just – tear gas is getting

TODD: Yeah.

SIMMONS: Let me just bring the camera this way. And you are going to see,
Chuck, stay with me for a second. I`m going to show you just what I mean
what I say that this area has been taken over by these protesters, by these
rioters. You can see here they are just picking up bits of concrete to
throw at the police.

Right the way down this – all the way down there, all of this belongs to
the protesters. And there is another police water cannon attempting to move
them from there on the street to the left. Again, what has been happening
for many hours and so far the German police have not managed to take
control of this area, Chuck.

TODD: Keir, where these protesters have sort of taken over? Was this where
they were cordoned off to and it got out of hand or was this more

SIMMONS: Yeah, as far as I have witnessed, what happened was – and I`ll
turn back because this battle is continuing behind us. As far as I have
witnessed, what happened was that these protesters got pushed back from an
area where there were G20 convoys. We saw one convoy attacked. We don`t
think that any one of the G20 leaders were inside. But it was clearly
getting very difficult for the police to control that place.

They moved huge crowds back into this area and now have left them here for
some time while they are making some attempts to disperse them
unsuccessfully. But now it looks as if the German police are trying again
to do that. We have seen by the way, Chuck, let me just mention, we have
seen – by the way, let`s move out of the way of that. That is tear gas
that just landed right–

TODD: In front of you.

SIMMONS: – where we were.

TODD: Yes.

SIMMONS: Right where we were there. That is going to get in our eyes a
little bit. Sorry, Chuck. I was just saying that we have seen protesters
smashing windows. One thing to mention though, this does seem to be fairly
well organized. On one occasion, we saw a protester smashing windows
beginning to look like he was going to loot the store and others moved in
to stop him from doing that.

We have also seen people were holding black flags who appear to be the
organizers of all this. So there is some strategy involved despite the fact
that what you are looking at are people who are anti-capitalists and
anarchists, people who do not believe in this system.

TODD: Is all the messaging is anti-globalism? This is the same sort of –
same protesters or message that the G20 attracts, correct?

SIMMONS: Yeah, that is exactly right. You`re looking at people who many
will be seasoned at this kind of demonstration. We do know that people have
come from around Europe, but many of them are from here, but they have had
these kind of clashes with the police before. Despite all of the tensions
at this particular G20, this is not just about that. I think it may make
for some people to feel even more strongly if you like. And we have seen
some anti-Trump slogans. But this is – okay. Let`s move, let`s move.

TODD: Yeah, let`s – why don`t we let you go.

SIMMONS: Just backing up here, Chuck.

TODD: All right. Keir, if you need to take cover, take cover, brother.

SIMMONS: Just had to back up a little bit.


TODD: If you need to take cover, take cover. We are getting the picture

SIMMONS: Yeah, we will. But we just need to move back a little bit. We
actually saw some people move in and stop the store from being looted. So
this is organized despite the fact that it looks like chaos. But this is
definitely not what Angela Merkel would have wanted people to be seeing in
this major German city as she has the world`s leaders gathered here.

TODD: All right. Keir, we`re all feeling guilty. We`re letting you go. Go
get some cover. Let us know when we need to check back in. Thank you, Keir.
Stay safe. We are going to continue to monitor that situation out of
Hamburg and bring you any updates as we get them and as we learn more about
President Trump`s meeting with the Russian president, we will bring you
that as well.

What can we learn if anything know about the Russian leader`s motivation
behind that meeting and others? My colleague, Richard Engel, is in Hamburg
with what he hopes is new insight into the mind of Vladimir Putin. You can
see that story and much more in the premiere “On Assignment” with Richard
Engel tonight at 9:00 eastern right here on MSNBC. We`ll be right back.


TODD: Members of congress may be out of D.C. and back home this week, but
still it`s been a rough few days for the senate health care bill. Just
yesterday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell conceded that passing the bill
still remains a difficult prospect.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, if we are unable to –
if my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of
action with regard to private health insurance market must occur.


TODD: Republican senators appearing in public are being pressured on health
care by their constituents. So it`s not surprising many have been staying
out of the public while home. Many of those who did venture out are going
way out of the way places in their state. Senator Susan Collins of Maine
and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska both appeared on remote islands in their

Senator Dean Heller rode a horse during the 4th of July parade in a very
rural town of Ely, Nevada. And yesterday, Kansas Senator Jerry Moran went
more than three hours northwest of Wichita to Palco, a town where the
population of less than 300 to say that he`d like a bill that wasn`t so
partisan. Joining me now is NBC News senior political editor, my partner on
First Read, Mark Murray. Mr. Murray, how are you, sir?


TODD: So, if your head has been in the sand for the last week, you`re
waking up today, the senate comes back to work at the end of this recess
next week. Give me the lay of the land on the senate health care bill.

MURRAY: Lay of the land is this was a really rough week for senate
Republicans and the leadership like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
And in some ways a very good week if you were a Susan Collins and you want
to be a negotiator and have some type of bipartisan deal.

Let me tick off some of the reasons why. You actually showed the video from
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying, look, if we can`t get our
own kind of bill, we are going to probably have to do something where we
work with Democrats to fix some of the insurance–

TODD: Leaving out of the word Democrats in that. It was very interesting.
We`ll have to deal with it some way. It was implied.

MURRAY: You end up having Jerry Moran in that off place in Kansas ended up
saying, you know what, we need more committee hearings, we need a better
legislative process, maybe we need some bipartisanship.

And then maybe the really big development yesterday came when Senator Mike
Lee`s office, the Republican from Utah, ended up saying, I need to have
more conservative reforms that relate essential health benefits on
preexisting conditions to be able to get my vote.

And the reason if that is problematic is that if you end up having Ted Cruz
and Mike Lee getting that, then all of a sudden that could push some
Republicans away that are a little bit more moderate.

TODD: The main quote of the week may belong to Pat Toomey, Republican from
Pennsylvania. You got to take a listen to this. And I know some of you
watched yesterday and saw it, but here it is again.


SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: You have seen how difficult it is to get
a republican consensus. Until the election last fall, which surprised me, I
didn`t expect Donald Trump to win. I think most of my colleagues didn`t.
So, we didn`t expect to be in this situation and given how difficult it is
to get to a consensus, it was hard to force that.


TODD: That was a lot of politician speak for we didn`t think there was
going be a Republican president, so we didn`t bother with a replacement
bill. That was another way he could have said that.

MURRAY: I mean, yes, jaw dropping. The other part of that component was a
Republican president that we didn`t think was going to win who really
didn`t have a detailed plan on what he wants to do on health care. You add
those two together, I think exactly.

And it goes to show you that the Affordable Care Act since 2009, 2010 as
difficult as it was, all the ups and downs, the Democratic leaders were
mostly united and they ended up fighting on 5 percent of the deal. 95
percent was already done by the moment that Barack Obama pretty much was
taking oath of office.

TODD: Susan Collins, the Republican from Maine, you know, the question is,
he can lose two votes. Looks like Rand Paul is a solid no on this. And
she`s sounding like a solid no. It`s interesting to me “The Washington
Post” sort of did a survey of senators, one of the hearing on the ground.
Susan Collins chose to share one specific anecdote of what she is hearing.
She chose to say she`s hearing stand strong, we don`t like this bill.

MURRAY: Yeah. That`s what she said at the 4th of July parade. She said, I`m
hearing from my people stay strong. And again, it goes to show that it
actually might be in her interests. You know, she was cut out of a lot of
these meetings with Republican leaders and crafting the legislation.

If you end up getting to that more bipartisan all of a sudden, Susan
Collins takes center stage, and you know, by the way, she might want to run
for governor of Maine, too, so she has her political ear to the ground as

TODD: I saw this week geared to action. The interest groups basically
because Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell were begging interest groups, trying
to be don`t get involved, don`t put us in this pressure and for the most
part, they backed off on health care until this week. Heritage action came
out against.

MURRAY: Yeah. There is one reason to be kind of bullish a little bit for
Mitch McConnell and the Republicans is you end up hearing from Mitch
McConnell allies they are making the message, this is our one opportunity.
You want a lot of these goodies, you want the tax cuts in this legislation,
you want conservative reforms to Obamacare, you have to vote for us.
Because all of a sudden, if we now open it up to Democrats, the Democrats
aren`t going to go along with the tax cuts, they aren`t going to go along
with these goodies.

TODD: The most important players are Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, not
my clean-type group (ph).

MURRAY: Correct, and that is the message that I think you are going to end
up hearing from Mitch McConnell. But again, you know, this wasn`t a good
week. They are going to need a really good week next week to get this back
on track.

TODD: Vote next week or probably not?

MURRAY: Well, our Capitol Hill team Kasie Hunt and others are saying
potentially the week of the 17th of July. So next week maybe some more CBO
scores and other kind of maneuvers and deals. Any kind of vote might happen
starting the week of July 17th.

TODD: Just what Mitch McConnell wants, more time.


TODD: Mark Murray.

MURRAY: Thanks, Chuck.

TODD: Good stuff. Still ahead, the question everyone has about President
Trump`s tweet this morning.


TODD: Welcome back. Tonight, I`m obsessed with something everyone, and I do
mean everyone is talking about. Besides President Trump. This morning, he
tweeted the following from Hamburg. “Everyone here is talking about why
John Podesta refused to give the DNC server to the FBI and the CIA.
Disgraceful!” Okay, let`s set aside for the moment the fact that John
Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton`s 2016 campaign, has nothing at
all do with the DNC server.

Let`s set aside for the moment the fact that even if John Podesta designed,
built, and lived with the DNC server, it seems unlikely that everyone at
the G20 in Hamburg would be talking about it. But then this isn`t the first
time the president has insisted he knows what everyone and everybody is
talking about.


saying it for a long time. Everybody knows it. It will be the biggest vote.
Everybody says it.

Everybody says it.

I know everybody says how honest everything is.

Everyone thinks a candidate is being wonderful and so do I.

There would be nothing wrong if I did say it according to everybody that
I`ve read today.

Everybody wants to be on this.

It will be announced at the appropriate time and everyone is going to be

And you know this. Everybody knows this. Everybody has to know this.

I think it`s totally ridiculous. Everybody thinks so.


TODD: John Podesta understandably fails to see the humor in the president`s
tweet. He writes in “The Washington Post” that the Russians stole his e-
mails, invaded his privacy, and helped expose the people he communicated
with to harm. One could argue what Russia did is something all of us should
be talking about. We`ll be right back.


TODD: Time for “The Lid.” Let`s bring back our panel. Michael Leiter,
Yamiche Alcindor, Matthew Continetti. Because we have Mr. Leiter here, I`m
going to stick to national security. So, we know Charles Krauthammer said
it. As anybody said it. Admiral Stavridis said it with a little less
bluntness, which is, you know, Kim Jong-un is not a madman. He`s very
rational with what he`s doing. It`s about survival.

Absolutely. He saw the example as Charles wrote. Iraq, Libya, he knows he
has no choice. And I think the Foreign Policy Committee is coming around to
the fact that we are – we have to resign ourselves to living with these
nuclear weapons. That`s really hard, but we`ve done it with decades. We`ve
done it with China. We`ve done it with Russia.

That doesn`t mean we don`t do more now. I think secondary sanctions on
Chinese banks are critical. I think pushing men to keep North Korea in the
box is still really important. We`re not going to get rid of it. I think a
key point that I don`t fully agree, this isn`t just about whether they news
nuclear weapons. It`s also whether they use that as a shield and get more
aggressive conventionally against the south to try to split the south from
the United States. That`s what we have to prevent.

TODD: Matthew, let`s back this up a minute. It seems to me the lesson is,
boy, I guess, in 1994 or in 2001 or 2002, some nuclear potential plants
should have been bombed. I mean, that`s now the lesson, isn`t it?

was talking about bombing the missiles on the launch pad a decade ago. Just
because we resign ourselves to the fact of a nuclear North Korea doesn`t
mean it`s going to be peaceful North Korea.


CONTINETTI: In fact, it`s exactly as Michael said, with our experience with
the Soviet Union, having the nuclear shield actually makes you more
dangerous conventionally. And you get to the point of nuclear brinkmanship.
What is the Cuban missile crisis–

TODD: Right.

CONTINETTI: – of the Korean peninsula going to look like? That`s the type
of scenario we have to start thinking about in the Pentagon.

TODD: Yamiche, it`s funny. It`s the true one thing that the Obama
administration and the incoming Trump administration that that message was
clearly conveyed. It was the single thing bothering the Obama people as
they left, after Russia, what`s going on in North Korea, and it`s clearly
what`s has this administration concerned.

it`s probably going to be the thing that bothers the next administration.
This idea that now that they have this and now they have this leader that
is very convinced this is the way he has to be strong and he knows that
because we`re so tied to the south that it`s a big weakness of the United

I guess weakness or liability that he`s so close to us that he could start
this and really make significant problems for the United States if he does

TODD: What`s the consequence on the Iran deal?

LEITER: Well, I think Iran deal probably helps influence the
administration`s conduct going forward and makes them feel better about the
Iran deal. Because the Iran deal, we probably got to Iran deal. Whether
it`s perfect or not through really rigorous global sanctions against Iran.
That`s not what we have against North Korea now.

TODD: Right.

LEITER: I think the administration probably says let`s move this more in
the Iran direction and let`s not blow up the Iran deal right now because we
have plenty of other nuclear issues which are going dominate our

TODD: Matthew, what`s your take in this? What`s the impact on the Iran

CONTINETTI: I slightly disagree. I think if anything, the lesson is you
can`t let these powers obtain nuclear status because once that happens,
then you`re back to square one and you have to face the type of nuclear
brinkmanship we will face with the North Koreans.

TODD: One could argue we have delayed Iran a little bit.

CONTINETTI: So what the Trump administration has done is they are keeping
the Iran deal in place for now, but they are also ramping up the pressure
on Iran through other means especially military means in Syria, sanctions
against the missile program.

Eventually though, they`re going to have to confront whether to maintain
the sanctions in Iran deal or whether Iranian behavior necessitates
relieving them. And I think if anything, the lesson of North Korea is, you
are going to keep those sanctions in place to ensure good behavior. Another
point, all of these issues, it`s not just North Korea that span

TODD: Yeah.


TODD: Right.

CONTINETTI: It`s Russia.

TODD: Right.

CONTINETTI: And so America faces – even though we go back and forth
between Republican and Democratic president–

TODD: Yeah.

CONTINETTI: Global challenges remain the same.

LEITER: There is another piece which is common against across all of these.
They`re not solved by simple tweets. Working with the Chinese is a long and
hard road. The Iran deal is really complicated. Russia isn`t solve
immediately. These are complicated problems.

TODD: The thing that what Admiral Stavridis said to me that stuck with me
the most is the economic fear of a united Korea. When he said, hey, they
saw – the Chinese saw what happened, basically now Germany is an economic
power. It`s not like West Germany was a chump. South Korea is no chump on
the economic stage. Together, you see that. That`s the real motivation. I
buy that.

ALCINDOR: What you said sticks to me is this idea that it`s not just about
tweets but it`s also about the fact that you have to build, you really
staff up and really build and really surround yourself with people who
understand what you`re going through, understand the longevity of the
decisions that you`re making. I talked to this one woman in southern rural
Pennsylvania who started talking about the Iran deal. It was surprising to
me because people also have a level of understanding of this that I wasn`t
really aware of at the time.

TODD: That`s a good thing. That`s nice to know.

ALCINDOR: Yeah, it is nice to know.

TODD: It is nice to know. I always said that we underestimate the public
way too often. Politicians, media, all the time, they pay attention to
details of this stuff a lot. Thank you all. Appreciate it. After the break,
something you may have missed from the president`s meeting with another
world leader today.


TODD: In case you missed it, President Trump also had a meeting with
another president, with another world leader today, with a history over at
least one big point of tension. Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico. He was asked
about the border wall. Here is how President Trump responded.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you still want Mexico to pay for the wall?

TRUMP: Thank you.


TODD: It`s a little hard to hear there, but President Trump said
absolutely, in case you missed it, Mexico, he said repeatedly, will not pay
for the wall. But Mexico isn`t the only source of funds floated lately to
pay for the wall. Another one, the sun.


TRUMP: We are thinking about building the wall as a solar wall so it
creates energy and pays for itself. This way, Mexico will have to pay much
less money. And that`s good. Right? Solar wall panels, beautiful.


TODD: So you can say the wall lives and the wall will always live in the
president`s soul. That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back Monday with more
“MTP Daily.” Of course, catch us on Sunday on your local NBC station. Have
a great weekend.


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