MTP Daily, Transcript 7/26/2017

Guests:
Ed Royce, Amy Walter, Ken Vogel
Transcript:

Show: MTP DAILY
Date: July 26, 2017
Guest: Ed Royce, Amy Walter, Ken Vogel

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: How are you? I missed you when you were gone. I
hope you missed me when I was gone.

NICOLE WALLACE MSNBC HOST: Of course I did.

TODD: All right. See, I had to just force that out of you even if you
didn’t. Thank you, Nicole. Well done.

If it’s Wednesday, the art of the repeal fails again.

(voice-over): Tonight, the health care debate. The repeal only vote
fails. Can Republican leaders come up with anything that can pass the
Republican Senate?

Plus, defending Sessions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: And I hope Sessions doesn’t quit,
and if the president wants to fire him, fire him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Republican senators forced to take sides in the Trump Sessions feud.

And why did President Trump move to ban transgender people from the armed
forces today?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, how did you decide your policy on
transgender people in the military?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She’s very rude.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

(on camera): Good evening, I’m Chuck Todd in Washington and welcome to MTP
DAILY. Thank you for watching while I was gone and thank you for being
here when I’m back.

We’re following two major stories tonight. One of them could up end the
Justice Department. The other could up end the entire health care system.
That’s all.

And what happens next on either of them right now? Anyone’s guess.
President Trump has torched the political landscape as we know it right
now. He’s publicly flogging his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, likely as
a way to force his resignation, possibly as a way to fire Special Counsel
Bob Mueller.

Today, Mr. Trump blasted Sessions again. This time he hit him for not
firing the acting FBI chief, Andrew McCabe, because of his wife’s old
financial ties to Democrats.

So, if you’re scoring at home, the president is now on the record saying he
thinks Sessions, quote, “shouldn’t have recused himself,” is damaging the
presidency, should be investigating Hillary Clinton’s, quote, “crimes,”
should be probing collusion between Democrats in Ukraine, isn’t tough
enough on leaks and should fire the acting FBI director.

Amid this onslaught, Sessions is keeping his own head down but his former
Senate colleagues are not.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: I would fire somebody that I did not believe could serve me well
rather than trying to humiliate them in public which is a sign of weakness.
I hope Sessions doesn’t quit. And if the president wants to fire him, fire
him. You have –

MANU RAJU, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, CNN: Do you think the president
is demonstrating weakness by his handling of Sessions?

GRAHAM: Absolutely.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS, MAJORITY WHIP: Jeff Sessions is an honorable
man. He did what any ethical attorney general would do under the
circumstances under the rules of the Justice Department.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY, MAJORITY LEADER: I think the attorney
general is doing a fine job, and I think he made the right decision to
recuse himself from the Russia matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Boy, there was a tone in McConnell’s voice there, if you heard it, a
stern tone. Even though you know McConnell’s, sort of, monotone sometimes,
you could detect that edge.

The White House attempted to explain why Sessions is still the attorney
general. Given the president’s dim view of him. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If he is so frustrated and so disappointed in him,
why doesn’t he just ask him to resign or fire him? Why does he continue to
just tweet about him instead?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, U.S. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, you can be
disappointed in someone but still want them to continue in their job. And
that’s where they are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does he still want him to continue on that job?

HUCKABEE SANDERS: I think that I made clear last week if there comes a
point he doesn’t, he’ll make that decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: As his attorney general twists in the wind, the president’s
legislative agenda hangs in the balance. You’re looking live at the Senate
floor which is voting on, actually more like voting down, various pieces of
health care legislation.

If you’re scoring at home, after yesterday’s procedural victory to start
debate on repealing parts or all of Obamacare or just simply reworking it,
the Senate voted on the GOP’s plan to repeal and replace it which failed.
Then, they voted on a plan focusing on repeal only, replace sometime down
the road. That failed. Then they voted on a plan to start over. That
failed.

Now, they’re going to try for what’s called – what they’re calling the
skinny repeal as part of a free-for-all amendment process which is going to
be riddled with potential land mines, both political and legislative.

Today, McConnell acknowledged that there is a bumpy road ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCONNELL: Ultimately, we want to get legislation to finally end the
failed Obamacare status quo through Congress and to the president’s desk
for his signature. This certainly won’t be easy. Hardly anything in this
process has been.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: There’s a wry smile out of him.

And as I said at the top of the show, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

I’m joined my MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt from Capitol Hill, also our NBC News
Capitol Hill Correspondent. And “The Washington Post” Robert Costa who is
also an MSNBC Political Analyst.

Kasie, I want to start with you. It feels as if all of this health care
debate – everybody knows – all these different health care votes that are
being held, everybody knows the result. So, they’re banging their head
against the west wall. Then, they’re bagging their head against the east
wall. Then, they’re banging their head against the south wall. What’s the
end game here?

[17:05:00] KASIE HUNT, MSNBC CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: At this point,
Chuck, I think the end game is to try to get something, anything that will
allow them to move forward.

I think they want to be able to declare a win. I’m not sure that anybody
feels very confident that they’re going to get to that point. I mean,
look, what they’re talking about is such small ball compared to, you know,
what originally this started out to be.

And they’ve spent weeks doing all of these negotiations over Medicaid and
taking, you know, quite frankly, so much heat in the public and making the
Affordable Care Act more popular than it really has ever been.

And now, it’s looking like they think that they can get the votes for the
medical device tax. And it’s unclear whether they can get the votes to
repeal the individual mandate because they’re worried if they do that, it’s
simply going to break the individual market. So, there might not be enough
Republican votes there either.

So, look, everybody is, I think, a little bit worn out and worn down on
this issue. And also, a little bit nervously watching the insurance
markets which are, you know, having more trouble than they – than they had
previously because there is so much uncertainty.

TODD: It seems as if, Kasie, they haven’t come – they haven’t been able
to come up with the face-saving way to say they have to move on. Is there
any talk about what that looks like when they have to come to grips with
the fact they’re not going to have anything that’s good enough to create a
conference committee with the House and do what the House did? Have they
even thought about what that looks like yet?

HUNT: Well, and, you know, they’ve also essentially started to dismiss a
little bit this conference idea because it would be so messy. It would
involve Democrat. It would drag this process even further. So, they’re
talking about an informal conference.

I think this is actually a place where the president has made it a lot
harder. I think the way McConnell has designed what we’ve seen over the
last 24 hours was essentially to show the White House that, look, the
support is not there. It’s not there for repeal and replace. It’s not
there for repeal and delay.

So, now, you’re right. They have to figure out a way to get out of this.
I think it’s going to look like whatever small things they can pull
together in this, quote, unquote, “skinny repeal.” Which, I will add, is
language that Republican aides don’t love. They don’t like that it’s been
getting bad branding.

TODD: Yes.

HUNT: So, that’s a whole other struggle as well.

TODD: Bob, let me go to you for the take, sort of, from the White House
perspective here. But I want to start with Sessions. Where are we right
now on Jeff Sessions?

ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Chuck, it’s a cold war between the
long-time Trump confidant and the White House. And you have the – you
have Attorney General Jeff Sessions, really, not on speaking terms with the
president of the United States.

We’ve reported here at “The Post” that his chief of staff, Jody Hunt, has
been, sort of, an emissary for the attorney general, going to the chief of
staff, Reince Priebus, asserting that the – that Sessions will not resign,
has no interest in stepping down.

And that’s where we are. The situation where the president is doing
everything he can to try to force his own attorney general to quit, but the
attorney general just won’t do it.

TODD: I don’t understand why the – why the chief of staff for Jeff
Sessions is going to Reince Priebus, at this point, when it’s painfully
obvious the president doesn’t listen to him.

COSTA: Well, there needs to be some point of contact. And Jody Hunt, our
sources tell us, has a relationship with Priebus that he can at least make
clear where the attorney general stands.

The difficult situation for the Justice Department is they’re pursuing all
of these Trump policies on law enforcement, on immigration. And they feel
like this is his dream to stay there.

And so, they know that all these pressures from the White House is to quit
but they know, personally, he just doesn’t want to do it.

TODD: Is it – we saw today with the whole Lowell Brooks, one of the
candidates to replace Jeff Sessions, said, hey, if this is what happens, I
pledge to withdraw. If everybody with draws with me and we’ll get
Sessions, basically, his Senate seat back. Does that interest Jeff
Sessions at all?

COSTA: I had breakfast with Congressman Brooks this morning. And at that
breakfast – he’s struggling right now in the polls trying to make this
runoff in the Alabama Senate primary.

But McConnell, the majority leader, and Senator Luther Strange who has
replaced Senator Sessions, they have a pretty tight bond. They’re spending
millions of dollars to keep Strange U.S. Senate.

So, there’s talk in Sessions world about maybe wouldn’t it be nice if he
could go back to the Senate? But most people who are at the upper echelon
of power right now, on both sides, say that’s not a realistic possibility.

TODD: Wow, quite the drama on every – I would just say, on both sides of
Pennsylvania Avenue but, frankly, it feels like every side street on the
way between the White House and Congress on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Kasie Hunt, Bob Costa, thank you, both. Appreciate it.

HUNT: Thanks, Chuck.

TODD: I’m joined now by Republican Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota.
Senator Rounds, welcome back to the show, sir. Good to see you.

SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: Thanks, appreciate it. Sounds like
you guys are going to have to get time and a half overtime.

TODD: Well, I appreciate you acknowledging that. Speaking of time and a
half and the votaramas (ph) that may or not be coming, you’ve got some all-
nighters potentially ahead of you.

[17:10:00] Explain to me this. If I’m a layperson – we get caught up in
the process. You know the process well. I know the process well.

And there’s part of me that says, well, this is just what happens. You
have to play all these scenarios out.

So, yes, you do have to bang yourself against the wall a few times to do
pointless votes. How do you explain this to the public?

ROUNDS: It’s hard because, in many cases, a lot of us are still learning
it as well. The idea behind it is that it’s what they call a privileged
plan. When we do reconciliation, we’re taking the House budget, the Senate
budget and putting it together. And we do it with 51 votes.

But since it’s 51 votes, it means that every single proposal has to be
scored to see what it does to the budget. We have to go to the CBO to get
that done.

If the CBO hasn’t got the amendment scored, then you have to have 60 votes
to put the amendment on this bill. And it makes the bill, then, a 60 vote.

So, Dems, on one side, are going to do everything they can to create this
process in which it becomes 60 votes to get passed which means it dies or
Republicans are doing everything to try to get their bill scored and
proposed.

ROUNDS: I think this thing will move to a conference committee. I’m – I
guess I’m – maybe I’m just an optimist, but –

TODD: What (INAUDIBLE)? What is it that – what does this look like? I
mean, that’s what the – that’s what we’re all struggling with here. Those
covering, I think you voting. What does this look like?

ROUNDS: I think that’s the reason why you saw a couple of votes yesterday
just to, kind of, take the measure of how close we would be to 51. The
original Senate McConnell bill that replaced the House bill to begin with,
along with the Cruz proposal and the Rob Portman amendment, were designed
so that we could see the strength of that combination together.

Now, you’ve also got a new one out there which is floating around, and
that’s the Graham amendment with Bill Cassidy, so Cassidy-Graham. And this
one would basically block grant this money back for health care coverages
the states, and let the governors in the individual states, with the
resources they’ve got, create and utilize the money to do what their people
think is the best for health care within their individual states, just as
another alternative.

But I think one of the reasons why we’re not simply doing it in the Senate
is they have to be scored. And, right now, we’re in session. We’re going
to be in session basically without a break until such time as we’re done
with this votarama.

TODD: Let me just ask you, though, philosophically. Do you believe the
government has a responsibility to help provide health care for all
Americans?

ROUNDS: I think government, right now, accepts that they should be part of
it. Remember, insurance is a regulated industry, whether you do it at the
state level or at the federal level.

We also know that we have a safety net in Medicaid which has become a part
of this, an integral part of it. But Medicaid has expanded because of
Obamacare.

And right now what we know is that it is not sustainable in its current
form. So, simply to say that we would do nothing is like admitting defeat
because we’re going to have people that get hurt. South Dakota, as an
example, has gone up 124 percent since 2014. It’s going to go up between
20 percent and 40 percent next year alone. That’s not sustainable.

I can’t sit here and go home and tell everybody, ah, we couldn’t get
anything done. And we didn’t try it and you’re just stuck with it. I
mean, Congress did this to people. Now, we’ve got to find a way to help
people get out of it.

And it’d be great if we had Democrats working with us. But, politically,
they see this as our waterloo, –

TODD: Well, –

ROUNDS: – and they’re not going to help us at this stage of the game.

TODD: – I understand that you want to pin the blame on – fully on
Democrats here on the predicament that you’re in. But I want to play a
little bit from John McCain yesterday, because he cast the blame on
everybody. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We keep trying to find a way to win without
help from across the aisle. That’s an approach that’s been employed by
both sides, mandating legislation from the top down without any support
from the other side with all the parliamentary maneuvers that it requires.
We are getting nothing done, my friends. We’re getting nothing done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: I guess, Senator, call the Democrats’ bluff. As you know, many
Democrats have said, if you get out of this reconciliation process and say,
look, at this point, it’s clear the best you guys can agree to is more of a
reform of Obamacare, not a full repeal and replace, which is where the
Democrats are. Why not pull reconciliation and take John McCain’s advice?

ROUNDS: Because, at this point, we don’t think that they’re actually
interested in providing us relief. And, look, we’re talking with friends
on the other side of the aisle. They’ve made it very clear that the first
step has got to be ours. They recognize that this is a political
opportunity.

And even our good colleagues on the other side say, look, there are certain
things that you cannot touch. You cannot touch Medicaid. That’s a
nonstarter.

And we’re looking at this saying, yes, but it’s not sustainable. This is
an opportunity to actually start to reform Medicaid, to slow down the
increases into the future. When you – when they start laying these things
out, saying that’s not a doable deal, or if they come back in and say, and
by the way, we want the concept of Obamacare to continue on.

[17:15:02] And our message is when you don’t have any competition and
you’ve run all the competition off, that’s not going to work.

So, our – look, eventually, I really do believe that Republicans and
Democrats will find ways to fine tune it, but we’ve got to change the
direction of health care in this country. I wish this was not on a
partisan basis. It is. We’re recognizing it. We’ve got to take the first
steps.

And it’s the best we can do right now. But we’re running out of time,
because come January first, we’re going to have fewer markets out there
under Obamacare. Everybody is recognizing that. But we can’t –

TODD: But (INAUDIBLE) yes, I understand.

ROUNDS: – simply sit back and say, we’re going to wait another year.

TODD: I’ve got to ask you about what’s going on with Jeff Sessions.

ROUNDS: Yes.

TODD: How do you think the president is handling this?

ROUNDS: You know, the president has a knack for choosing very, very good
people for his different positions. Secretary of state, secretary of
defense and the attorney general.

I think the president made the right move when he chose Jeff Sessions. I
have a huge amount of confidence in Jeff Sessions, and I want to see him
stay on board because he truly does believe in the rule of law.

And you may not agree with him on some of the concepts, but the one thing I
guarantee you, enforce the law the way it’s written. He won’t try to write
his own laws.

TODD: Let me ask you this. If the president fires him, it’s clear he’s
firing him over a decision to basically act ethically. Do you find it
would be your duty not to then confirm any attorney general nominee that
the president appointed, considering that the only thing he seems to care
about is the issue of recusal?

ROUNDS: You know, the evidence right now suggests that the president
clearly understands that he shouldn’t be doing that because he has not done
it, although he has the opportunity to do it. And so, I’m not going to
take the hypothetical and suggest of what we would do.

All I can say is this president made a very good choice the first time
around, and I think he should trust his own judgment.

TODD: All right, Senator Rounds, I’m going to leave it there. As always,
sir, I appreciate you coming on and sharing your views.

ROUNDS: Thanks, appreciate it.

TODD: Coming up, Republicans in Congress take sides in the Trump Sessions
show down. You just heard another Republican senator take the side of Jeff
Sessions against the president.

We’ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Here’s a look at what’s happening at the White House at this hour.
The president is expected to announce a new plant to be built in the state
of Wisconsin for the Taiwanese technology supplier Foxconn.

Republican Governor Scott Walker and House Speaker Paul Ryan, since it’s
his home state, are both in attendance, you’re seeing there, getting ready
for the president.

Foxconn produces iPhones for Apple and has been under fire in the past for
its labor practices. The company announced back in June that seven U.S.
states were being considered for new display panel manufacturing plants.
President Trump told “The Wall Street Journal” that Apple CEO, Tim Cook,
had promised to build, quote, “three big beautiful plants in the United
States.” Apple declined to comment on what the president said.

[17:20:00] It’s unclear if they are involved with the White House
announcement today since it is Apple related. Either way, this is the
president doing a little jobs’ announcement at the White House, sort of
your smart messaging political strategy.

Anyway, more MTP DAILY in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back to MTP DAILY.

While President Trump is leaving his attorney general’s state in limbo,
members of his own party, many of them Jeff Sessions’ former Senate
colleagues are coming to the attorney general’s defense.

But the way the president is openly venting his frustrations with the A.G.
brings up a fundamental question of the Trump presidency thus far. What is
the red line for Republicans? Are they reaching a point where they say
enough is enough and choose character over party?

Let me bring in tonight’s panel. Ken Vogel is a political reporter for
“The New York Times.” Amy Walter is national editor for “The Cook
Political Report.” And Michael Steele is the former chairman of the RNC
and an MSNBC Contributor.

Mr. Steele, I’m going to start with you. This is your party here. You’ve
got your finger on the pulse.

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Such as it is.

TODD: Such as it is. Where are we – I mean, this, sort of, like – the
Sessions-Trump feud is just a head scratcher in so many ways.

STEELE: It’s ridiculous, yes.

TODD: Because when you think about the core issue that put Trump on the
map, immigration, there is nobody that he’s more mind melded with and
nobody that has more bona fide with the tough on immigration crowd –

STEELE: Yes.

TODD: – than Jeff Sessions.

STEELE: Absolutely.

TODD: This is, to me, a terrible base move.

STEELE: And the one guy who, you know, ostensibly has been carrying out
the president’s agenda since he’s been in office. I mean, –

TODD: The only having real success.

STEELE: So, you want to take him out which leads everyone into the corner
of belief that, well, this is really about the Russia thing and wanting to
control that process inside the FBI that touches on the things that may
touch on Trump.

Having that said, Republicans by and large, and I think the president got a
strong whiff of it this week, have a very, very bright line that they have
drawn when it comes to someone like Sessions. He’s our guy. He’s there
for you. He’s helping you. Hands off.

You heard Rush Limbaugh say it. You heard Mark Levin say it. You have
other conservatives, both politically and in the media, come out and make
it very clear, Mr. President, this is not the pathway you want to go down.

TODD: And what did President Trump do when he saw all that, he hit him
again today.

STEELE: He tweeted out again today.

AMY WALTER, NATIONAL EDITOR, “THE COOK NATIONAL REPORT”: You know, one
story that hasn’t been getting a whole lot of attention but was out in “The
Wall Street Journal” today was a story about – going right to your point,
about how where the Trump administration is even undercutting Sessions on
his other big issue which is criminal justice reform.

He has been working within the Justice Department to roll back a lot of the
Obama era work on criminal sentencing. Sessions thinks we need to get
tougher on mandatory sentences. The Obama administration, of course, did
not.

Jared Kushner, apparently along with some Republicans in the House, doing
their own meetings, basically saying, maybe we’ll roll some of those things
back, the things that Sessions is talking about. And it’s directly
attacking Sessions on the issues he cares deeply about.

It’s one thing to go attack him on Twitter and attack him on Russia. But
on the things that he cares most deeply about and he actually has been more
– the most ideologically connected to, immigration and criminal justice
reform. If he gets undermined on those, that’s what is making his life
even tougher than the stuff with the tweets.

TODD: You know, Ken, I’ve been having my own flashbacks to the 1990s when
it came to Bill Clinton. It was an open secret in Washington. If Janet
Reno would have resigned, he would have – they would have popped champagne
corks, OK? Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, they were desperate. They
were – because of the Ken Starr appointment.

In the same way this president is, sort of, just out of his mind about the
recusal, the Clintons – the Ken Starr decision is something they – I
don’t know if they will ever forgive. But they didn’t make it public. An
open secret, but they didn’t flog her publicly.

KEN VOGEL, POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: Right. And flogging
her, flogging Jeff Sessions is one thing. But actually getting rid of him
would be so untenable. Not only would you have to get someone else through
the Senate, this body where there are already loyalties being – Jeff
Sessions has deep loyalties. And you have people coming to his defense.

[17:25:10] But it would really add to this narrative that Trump – you
know, you talk about the Trump investigation and a lot of people’s eyes
glaze over. A lot of voters don’t really care about it. They don’t follow
it.

But one thing that they do understand, and polls show this and they showed
after Trump got rid of Comey, was that they understand this idea of a
coverup. And getting rid of Jeff Sessions would fit into that – fit into
the narrative, you know, getting rid of Comey. That the call for Sessions
to get rid of Rosenstein as opposed to Trump doing it himself. Those are
all (INAUDIBLE) that I think is politically damaging.

TODD: What’s amazing is how much he just thinks Sessions loyalty was
disingenuous as well. Listen to the audio portion of this interview with
“The Wall Street Journal” from a couple days ago. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He looks at 40,000 people
and he probably says, what do I have to lose? And he endorsed me. So,
it’s not like a great, loyal thing about the endorsement. But I’m very
disappointed in Jeff Sessions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALTERS: I think that says as much about Donald Trump as it says about
Jeff Sessions, right? What would you do if you had 40,000 people cheering
for you, isn’t that the greatest thing you could ever imagine? That’s what
drives people is that adoration. That’s what his book – to me, that’s
what that quote said was, that’s what is – it inspires me and it drives
me.

TODD: He endorsed me –

WALTERS: So, of course, –

TODD: – to ride my (INAUDIBLE.)

WALTERS: – other people – exactly. Of course, other people are going to
want that same thing.

STEELE: And Jeff Sessions could give a rat’s patootie about 40,000 people
at a Trump rally back in the – he was there on principle. He was there
because, remember, this was a United States senator who was bucking the
trend.

TODD: On immigration.

STEELE: He had his – no, but he had his colleagues who were running for
president that everyone was, kind of, lining up behind.

TODD: And the whole establishment was (INAUDIBLE.)

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: The whole establishment (INAUDIBLE) the trend.

TODD: Jeff Sessions – while people personally like Jeff Sessions, he was,
sort of, on his own on immigration.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: – He was, sort of, an island in the Senate on immigration. He was,
sort of, an island in the Senate.

WALTERS: And on this criminal justice stuff he was on an island. He has
the best job he could ever have that he wouldn’t have gotten in any other
administration.

TODD: Yes. I don’t – I feel like we haven’t done health care here
because right now – you know, we should be split screening and you’re
seeing – it is – we know that whatever they come up with isn’t going to -
- isn’t going to last – isn’t going to be lasting. What are we doing?

VOGEL: I mean, it’s really an impossible situation that – you know, that
they’re in and they’re not getting any support from Trump. And Trump is
out there saying, they, and calling out specific Republicans by name
instead of doing the types of things that might bring them along.

I think the ship has sailed. I think that McConnell is trying to salvage
something from it, but there’s really no – it’s not – it’s a no-win
situation, at this point.

TODD: It is – and how much is this Sessions – I think the Sessions
situation, it certainly doesn’t help. I think it hurts. Do you?

STEELE: Oh, I think it does. I think it puts a –

TODD: Health care, yes.

STEELE: – I think it puts a pause in the health care argument. I mean,
if the president’s willing to go after someone like Sessions, why would we
expose ourselves in any other way? Why would we go out on that limb to
what if?

TODD: He’s going to blame us for any problems and take credit for
everything.

STEELE: (INAUDIBLE.) Right, exactly. So, they’re, you know, kind of,
sort of, stepped away through this thing.

I said it at this table months ago. Next year, Obamacare will be the law
of the land. The year after that, it will be the law of the land. And
Republicans will eventually come to the spot that pretty much everyone is
at right now.

And John McCain said it very clearly yesterday. You’re going to have to
come to that sweet spot with bipartisanship to get this done.

TODD: Wait. If I hear it (ph) one more thing, the medical device tax. I
mean, it’s almost, like, the medical device tax is now, like, being held up
as the great reform that they’re going to make.

All right, guys. You guys are sticking around.

Later in the broadcast we are going to talk about when President Trump
announced today that the U.S. military will no longer accept or allow
transgender people in the military. Was he simply trying to distract
attention from either the Jeff Sessions controversy and health care?
That’s coming up in a few minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS DAILY SHOW HOST: It’s now time to report the
best news of the day. Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise is out of the
hospital, six weeks after being shot during a congressional baseball
practice. The congressman was discharged from MedStar Washington Hospital
Center yesterday and will begin a period of in-patient rehabilitation for
the injuries Scalise suffered to his hip.

The hospital said he is in good spirits and looks forward to returning to
Capitol Hill following his rehabilitation. Great news on that front. Up
next on “MTP Daily,” what does President Trump mean when he warns of big,
big problems for Iran regarding the U.S.-Iranian nuclear deal. We are going
to try to get some answers on that when we come back. But first, Hampton
Pearson with the “CNBC Market Wrap.”

HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CORRESPONDENT: Thank, Chuck, and
welcome back. We had stocks closing higher on Wall Street today following
strong earnings. The Dow gaining 97 points, the S&P added a fraction of a
point, the Nasdaq closing up by 10. Boeing jumped 10 percent, its biggest
gain in almost nine years after reporting strong second quarter earnings.

Facebook also reporting better than expected sales and profit growth. The
social media giant says two billion people use the site each month. The
Federal Reserve says the Central Bank will keep interest rates unchanged
and will soon start reducing its $4.5 trillion balance sheet. That’s it
from CNBC, first in business worldwide.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Iran deal, which may be
the single worst deal I’ve ever seen drawn by anybody, if that deal doesn’t
conform to what it’s supposed to conform to, there’s going to be big, big
problems for them. That I can tell you. You’re going to see that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Welcome back. That was President Trump last night in Youngstown,
Ohio, and he wasn’t just playing that up for the crowd. In an interview
with the Wall Street Journal earlier that same day, he floated the idea
that the United States might not continue to move forward with the Iran
deal, the way the country has so far.

It’s important to remember, every quarter, the administration has to notify
congress whether or not Iran is – has complied with its obligations in the
nuclear deal. In the write up of the president’s interview, the journal
says, quote, when certification comes up again, Mr. Trump says he believes
Iran will be judged not compliant with the agreement.

He said he would be prepared to overrule his own advisers in proclaiming
that Iran hasn’t met the terms of the agreement. Quote, we’ve been
extremely nice to them in saying they were compliant. Mr. Trump said,
personally, I have great respect for my people, but if it was up to me, I
would have had them noncompliant 180 days ago.

President Trump said this on the same day that the house overwhelmingly
passed a bill that imposes new sanctions not just on Iran, but Russia and
North Korea. And after weeks of back and forth, it did finally pass, and it
passed overwhelmingly, 419-3. It looks like there still might be a little
bit of a hang up in the senate.

We’re going to get to that as well. Joining me now is Republican
Congressman Ed Royce of California. Of course as chairman of the House
Foreign Affairs Committee, he is the one that has been shepherding this
bill. Mr. Chairman, welcome.

REP. ED ROYCE (R), CALIFORNIA: Chuck, good to see you.

TODD: Let me start with the president’s comments on the Iran deal because
what’s interesting to hear him say it and the way you’ve described the Iran
deal before is, you have said, yes, they may be compliant, but you thought
the deal was badly worded.

Let’s set that aside. You and the president I think agree on that aspect of
it. What is the ramifications, though, if the president overrules his own
advisers who if they technically are abiding by the deal, even if you
spiritually don’t believe they are?

ROYCE: Well, here is the difficulty. Right now, we’ve lost that leverage,
right, the 150 billion arguably somewhere in that neighborhood of relief
has already gone into the coffers of the Iran and Revolutionary Guard Corps
because they own most of the companies in Iran.

So, at this point, the toothpaste is already out of the tube in terms of
any leverage we have on that. So I guess that’s the conundrum.

TODD: You can’t get them to renegotiate.

ROYCE: Right.

TODD: So if you can’t get them to renegotiate – look, we change parties in
our leadership all the time.

ROYCE: Right.

TODD: If we start-up ending agreements that a previous party does, what
does that do down the road? What is the unintended consequences?

ROYCE: Exactly. So the question here is, you know, how do you just get
compliance on this agreement, right, while we turn our attention to what is
maybe the more vexing long-term problem with their development now of
intercontinental ballistic missiles.

TODD: Do you think you can do both?

ROYCE: Yes, I think you try to keep them compliant with the agreement. We
know that their agents have met with German agents trying to get certain
technological expertise that they could deploy into the nuclear weapons
program. But we just try to stay on compliance, hold them accountable.

But then we need to address, I think, and we do this with this new
legislation, bipartisan legislation as you said that will focus on their
missile program, because that’s where they’re rushing forward at the
moment.

TODD: All right. But I want to go back to the initial question. What is the
president we would send, if the president essentially overrules and did
that where, you know, secretary of state said they were compliant
technically, but he simply doesn’t like this agreement, what is the ripple
effect of that?

ROYCE: Well, I think the difficulty here is what’s to be gained by that
approach, having already lost the ability to deploy pressure
internationally. That’s been given up in the original negotiations.

TODD: Do you think it’s better leverage to just enforce the agreement as
strenuously as you can?

ROYCE: At this point, that’s what you have to do, and at this point you
look at the other long-term problem which is this agreement will expire at
the end of 12 years. At that point in time, what do we do if they have a
hundred ICBM? We have to prevent them from developing the ICBM.

TODD: All right. I want to move quickly first to the Russia aspect of this
bill, this new sanctions bill. The White House has not said whether they’re
going to sign this yet. Do you think the president will sign this bill?

ROYCE: I think the president will sign it.

TODD: Why?

ROYCE: I think he will sign it because of the strength of the vote you saw
on the house floor. Four hundred nineteen to three is a very strong margin
and 92-2 in the senate. So, the important point is to get this bill up and
out of the senate soon.

TODD: Let me ask you this.

ROYCE: Yes.

TODD: He did veto it, you guys passed this with veto-proof majorities, will
that likely –

ROYCE: Yes.

TODD: They would override that –

ROYCE: Yes.

TODD: So he almost – he’s in a no – he almost has to accept it.

ROYCE: Correct.

TODD: All right. There is a little bit of kerfuffle between you on the
house side of things and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker who
doesn’t like what you did on the North Korean sanctions front, which is I
believe the senate would like to have congressional oversight before the
president could pull back sanctions.

The house bill doesn’t do that. What’s going to happen here? Do I have this
right? I’m trying to get this right.

ROYCE: No. I think the main argument here has to do with North Korea.

TODD: Right.

ROYCE: I think you’ve identified that. And I think part of the problem is
close to three months ago, we passed a North Korean sanctions bill into the
senate. We passed that one on the house floor 419-1. And so the senate has
had three months to look at this. In the meantime, we had a negotiation,
two weeks we sat down with the representatives of the senate and the house.

Republicans and Democrats. We worked out the legislation that we passed
yesterday into the senate. The senate has had input there. And the reason
North Korea is in that bill is because North Korea, we found out yesterday,
has fast-forwarded their ICBM program and are now rather than years away –

TODD: Right.

ROYCE: – are a very short time away from being able to launch and hit the
United States.

TODD: So you added North Korea.

ROYCE: Yes.

TODD: Is this going to go to conference or does the senate now need to pass
your bill?

ROYCE: The senate needs to pass this bill back to the house and they need
to do it –

TODD: So you don’t have to do conference.

ROYCE: – at the end of is this week. Exactly. I mean, we can wrap this
thing up right now. And I think we’re very close to getting that done.

TODD: And this gets on the president’s desk you think next week.

ROYCE: I think at the end of – yes. I think maybe Friday.

TODD: All right. Ed Royce, house foreign affairs chair. Thanks for coming
down.

ROYCE: Thank you very much, Chuck.

TODD: Appreciate it. Up next, the strangest thing has been happening in
Alabama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back. Tonight I’m obsessed with what is turning into a very
strange special election in Alabama, and that’s not just a play on the name
of the state’s new senator, Luther Strange.

Strange, on the left is running in a special election against among others
Congressman Mo Brooks, and race is really has turned into a battle over who
can hug President Trump the closest. In fact, a group aligned with Senate
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ran an ad attacking groups for not being
pro-Trump enough.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mo Brooks even refused to endorse Donald Trump for
president.

REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: A lot of people who have supported Donald
Trump, they’re going to regret having done so.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mo Brooks attacked President Trump, siding with them,
not Alabama conservatives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: But here is the problem. Strange and Brooks are running to replace
the man who left the senate to become the attorney general for President
Trump, a man named Jeff Sessions, the same Jeff Sessions who is being
belittled, humiliated, and cyber bullied right now by President Trump.

So what do you do now if you’re Luther Strange or Mo Brook? Do you still go
with a plan A and cling to a a president who is extraordinarily popular in
Alabama or you switch to a plan B and stand by your man whom you elected
four, count them four times, to be your state’s U.S. senator.

Well, Mo Brooks has one answer. Today after condemning what he called
President Trump’s public waterboarding of one of the greatest people
Alabama has ever produced, unquote, Brooks made the following offer.

I alluded to it earlier. He’ll withdraw from the senate race if his
opponents do the same and allow Sessions to return to the senate. All
right. Seems like a smart play. Your move, Senator Strange.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back. See, time for “The Lid.” Panel is back. Ken Vogel, Amy
Walter, Michael Steele. I want to talk about President Trump’s announcement
today that the U.S. will no longer, quote, accept or allow transgender
people into the military. I have to admit when I read the president’s tweet
this morning, my first thought was, don’t talk about health care votes or
mistreatment of Jeff Sessions, try talking about this.

And sure enough, all of cable in those first couple of hours talked about
this. But the stunning aspect of it is I want to get at that aspect, but
there’s a rebuke of this policy announcement by a set of Republicans that
range from Orrin Hatch and Joni Ernst to some of the more moderates that
you might say are usual suspects (ph). Amy Walter, are you surprised?

AMY WALTER, NATIONAL EDITOR, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Well, remember, the
house had vote on something similar. I guess it was a couple of weeks ago
about gender reassignment surgery that about 25 Republicans supported this
against the wishes of a lot of conservative Republicans.

So, you already knew that this was not going to be a clean cut of a D
versus R conservative versus liberal issue at the get-go. And at the same
time, we thought that this was going to be a distraction issue. But right
now, the president is standing with (INAUDIBLE) at the White House where it
really should have been today, right?

TODD: Yes.

WALTER: If he really want to have a good distracting issue, jobs, jobs,
jobs, economy. Not this. If that was really all about distraction, this
would have been a much easier one.

TODD: Ken, there’s also been some reporting that indicates that the house
leadership was frustrated that this divide about what to do of can the –
does the government pay for gender reassignment surgeries act of duty, you
know, is that – it’s literally we’ve seen a RAND Corporation study on it.

I mean, this is really negligible impact on the (INAUDIBLE). Is this the
house Republicans desperate for the president’s help on this bill or was
this a Steve Bannon, let’s have some cultural war fun today?

KEN VOGEL, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think it was a little bit of
both. I mean, that dispute was still sort of simmering beneath the surface
of the spending bill that they have to pass and they were some
conservatives in the house who were threatening, making noises about
potentially withholding their support if this was an address.

So Trump addresses this and Trump throws a bone to the Republican base on
an issue that we should note was not one that he campaigned on. In fact, he
said that he would be better for the LGBTQ community than Hillary Clinton
and a way it disturbed a lot of Republicans. Nonetheless, here we have him
sort of reaching out to them with this piece of red meat.

TODD: I wonder if the White House is taken aback at some of the backlash
they got from the senate side. Take a listen to Senator Orrin Hatch,
Michael Steele.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH, PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE OF UNITED STATES SENATE:
They don’t choose to be transgender. They were born that way. Why should we
hold that against them? They are human beings. Many of them are extremely
talented human beings. We should be open to everybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: I am just – Orrin Hatch from the conservative state of Utah
reminding his constituents that transgender folks are born that way.

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I think
there’s a growing sentiment in the Republican Party over the last few years
that has moved away from some of the old thinking in this regard. A lot of
it comes from the fact that it’s a family member, relatives, someone in the
neighborhood I know.

And so this idea that now we’re going to revisit don’t ask, don’t tell for
transgender community is just sort of stunning for a lot of people. This is
the what, the fifth, sixth distraction in the last few days that this
administration has thrown up.

What’s unfortunate about this, it goes to what Ken was saying. This is not
where the president was in the campaign. It’s not where the president has
been in the past. It’s not believable.

TODD: Ken Vogel, the first time I heard any major presidential candidate,
and in this a nominee use the “Q” in LGBTQ, OK, was Donald Trump.

STEELE: Right.

WALTER: at the convention.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: You know, look, a lot of folks in the gay and transgender rights
community said don’t believe it. It’s not believable. Now obviously, they
can say, hey, he wasn’t going to be somebody that was going to be very pro-
LGBTQ rights. But, that’s the way he campaigned.

VOGEL: Yes. You know, there’s a lot of disappointment I think in that
community not just towards him but towards Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump
who were seen as a real progressive influence on him both within the
campaign and the administration.

If you remember, they came out and scuttled what was a proposal that didn’t
materialize sort of related to not to this exact issue but related to LGBTQ
rights. And so now you have sort of the full reversal.

TODD: Amy, I can’t help but think that this is part of the old Roger Ailes
playbook, you know, which is, hey, things aren’t going well on substance,
let’s throw a distraction out there.

Look, the Democrats are going to come running, the elite media is going to
come running, and it will look like, oh look, the coast is out of touch.

WALTER: The old deal cultural war divide which the president did very well
in exploiting in 2016. The difference right now of course is that he has a
whole bunch of other issues that while you might be able to distract for a
couple of minutes, they’re not going to go away.

You know, we can talk about this today. Tomorrow we’re going to talk about
health care. We’re still going to be talking about Russia. We’re still
going to be talking about a whole host of other issues.

VOGEL: He’s still going to be talking about Jeff Sessions.

WALTER: He’s still going to be talking about Jeff Sessions.

TODD: By the way, very quickly, Rex Tillerson said today he’s not going
anywhere.

STEELE: He’s not going away.

TODD: He finally ended that (INAUDIBLE).

STEELE: He’s not going to do it.

TODD: He kept that out there for a few days. That was on purpose. He was
rattling a cage.

STEELE: Absolutely. He was sending a signal that I’m with Sessions.

(LAUGHTER)

WALTER: What is it going to lead to? Does that means he is going to get
people that he want in place in the state department?

TODD: We’re going the find out pretty soon. Guys, thanks for helping me
ease my way back in. All right. After the break, marking a very important
date in the history of law enforcement.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: In case you missed it, one piece of sensitive information the FBI is
not redacting, its birthday. The nation’s principal law enforcement agency
was founded on this day in 1908. It was the brainchild of Charles
Bonaparte, Teddy Roosevelt’s attorney general and grand nephew of the
famous French Bonaparte.

As a reformer, he wanted to use the DOJ to crack down on crime and
corruption. But only had a couple of agents at his disposal. When the
Justice Department needed investigators in the field, they would borrow
agents from the Secret Service. Congress thought this was a power grab by
the Roosevelt administration, so it banned the practice.

With Roosevelt’s blessing, Bonaparte hired his own force of investigators
and placed them under a chief examiner, which later grew into the modern
bureau. These agents were charged with conducting investigations for the
Justice Department. Yes, the FBI stems from the Department of Justice
despite what you may have heard recently.

And a reminder, we expect the senate to confirm Christopher Wray as the new
FBI director before the August recess. So, it’s likely he will be the one
to blow out the candles next July. That’s all for tonight. We’ll be back
with a lot more “MTP Daily” tomorrow.

“The Beat with Ari Melber” starts right now. More importantly, for me, the
beat for the first time I hand the baton over. Mr. Ari Melber, how are you,
sir?

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

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