MTP Daily, Transcript 7/27/2017

Garrett Haake, Kelly O`Donnell, George Will, Neera Tanden, Eliana Johnson, Dick Durbin

Date: July 27, 2017
Guest: Garrett Haake, Kelly O`Donnell, George Will, Neera Tanden, Eliana
Johnson, Dick Durbin

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

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: How`re doing, Nicole?


TODD: We`re going to have big news, apparently, coming up. Five big-time
senators have a big health care announcement coming in 20 minutes.

WALLACE: Can`t wait.

TODD: So, even more reason for you to stick around, Nicole. Thank you.

If it`s Thursday, we`re about to find out if health care reform will go
belly up yet again.

(voice-over): Tonight, the skinny on the health care debate. Can
Republicans pass their so-called skinny bill? Or will even that go down to
defeat with every other proposal?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In some cases, it`ll get fat, if a lot of amendments
are adopted, and it may stay very skinny.


TODD: Plus, the growing chaos in the president`s inner circle.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If Jeff Sessions is fired, there
will be holy hell to pay.


TODD: Who`s in? Who`s out? Who knows.

And the Russia investigation. I`ll talk to the top Democratic on the House
Intel Committee. Do they have cooperation on the other side?

This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.

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

Guess what? The cots are out. It could be a long night in the Senate.
The Senate is barreling toward a major health care vote, we think, tonight.
And we have no idea what exactly they`re voting on. And guess what?
Neither do they.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know if you`ll support it or not?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I don`t know what`s in it still. I truly

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any idea if you`ll vote for this so-called
skinny repeal tonight?

SEN. SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO (R), WEST VIRGINIA: You know, I haven`t seen it
yet, so I`m going to reserve comment on that before – as we move into the
markup tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you decided how you`ll vote on this so-called
skinny repeal that`s so – apparently the plan tonight?

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: You know, I`m still waiting to see.
There was some discussion on the floor last evening when we broke, as to
what this skinny bill would look like. I`ve been in conversations with
folks and I know others have, so we`ll see what it actually looks like.


TODD: But we did find one Republican senator who says he knows what`s in
the bill, and he`s not optimistic about it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I know what`s in the bill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You do? Will you explain exactly for us what –
where it stands right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think it`s just up in the air. We`ll just have
to see what happens. But I don`t see anything passing.


TODD: In just a few minutes, these Republican senators, Lindsey Graham,
John McCain, Purdue, Johnson and Lee are holding a presser on health care.
None of them, of course, have been big fans of this approach. Are they
going to collectively kill this plan, draw a line in the sand?

Trust me, you`re going to want to hear what they have to say on this in a
few minutes. You`re looking live right now at the Senate floor, where
every single vote so far has failed. Repealed, failed. Repeal and
replace, failed. Repeal and replace, failed. Start over, failed. Single
payor, failed.

Even a symbolic resolution basically saying Medicaid is good, failed. The
Senate is actually moving on to a sanctions bill against Russia, Iran and
North Korea at this hour. It already passed the House and it`s expected to
pass the Senate easily. A version of this passed the Senate earlier, but
this now has North Korea added to it.

The current health care plan, on the vote as early as tonight on the so-
called skinny repeal which has become a big, fat headache for leadership,
that is what we`re trying to figure out when that comes up next.

Things got even more complicated, though, thanks to the wonky
reconciliation rules that Republicans are using to pass this skinny bill
without the help of Democrats who have, of course, have walked away from
the process entirely.

Folks, it`s no way to govern, as many of you already realize. And to make
matters worse, Republican Senator Dan Sullivan told the local press in his
home state of Alaska that interior secretary Ryan Zinke basically
threatened to sabotage Alaska`s economy. Because Sullivan`s colleague,
Lisa Murkowski, voted against starting debate on repealing Obamacare.

Now, Murkowski says she didn`t feel threatened, but she said the White
House has made it clear they don`t like her position. That`s makes it an
appropriate segue to this because within the executive branch, all hell has
broken loose.

It looks as if the new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, is
trying to get chief of staff Reince Priebus fired or make – force him to
quit. He`s accused Priebus of leaking a financial disclosure form, which
is a publicly available document, and called for an FBI investigation into
the leak of this public document.


know my history between me and Reince.


SCARAMUCCI: OK. I can speak for my own actions. He`s going to need to
speak for his own actions. If Reince wants to explain that he`s not a
leaker, let him do that.


TODD: When did you stop beating your wife type of thing. OK?

This comes as a President Trump lashes out at his attorney general for
recusing himself on Russia. The president has suggested Jeff Sessions
investigate his political opponent, Hillary Clinton, probe the opposition
party, the DNC, and fire the nation`s top investigator, the acting FBI
chief, among other things. He`s also threatened to undermine Special
Counsel Bob Mueller`s investigation. All this week, by the way.

[17:05:00] And if that`s not enough insanity, we`ve got some Republicans,
like Lindsey Graham, now threatening the White House.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If Jeff Sessions is fired, there
will be holy hell to pay. Any effort to go after Mueller could be the
beginning of the end of the Trump presidency unless Mueller did something

The president`s not in the business of drawing red lines when it comes to
the law. The law is above any presidential red line. This is not draining
the swamp. What he`s interjecting is turning democracy upside down.


TODD: Other Republican senators have told the president, point blank, that
if he fires Sessions, they won`t confirm a replacement. And to top it all
off, there`s a shakeup today inside the president`s national security

And, folks, this is just the madness that happened today. Well, we begin
tonight with what Senator Mitch McConnell is promising will be a long night
in the Senate. In fact, we have reports now that the cots are out.

So, I`m joined by Kelly O`Donnell from the White House and Garrett Haake
from Capitol Hill. Garrett, let me start with you, because that`s where
all the action is right now.

We have this press conference coming from five senators. I have an inkling
about where we`re headed here. And it has to do with this, what is the
House planning to do when or if the Senate passes something tonight? Are
they going to go to conference or are they going to try to pass whatever
the Senate passes?

the same wave length here, because that is the million-dollar question.
House leadership haven`t committed one way or the other, whether they would
go to conference on this bill. They`ve sent some signals, basically saying
they`re going to be here tomorrow with most rules suspended.

So, theoretically, they could vote on something the Senate passes tonight,
or they could decide to go to conference. And they haven`t said either way
which direction they`re going to go.

That press conference coming up with Lindsey Graham, John McCain, David
Purdue. The presence of David Purdue as part of that group makes me pretty
certainly this is not an effort to scuttle this bill.

TODD: Right.

HAAKE: He`s been a major, major ally of the president here. I suspect
we`re going to hear from them, trying to say, look, we`ll support this
thing maybe if the House agrees to do a conference committee on it.

But, you know, Chuck, they`re not in a position to make demands of the
House. So, it`s going to be interesting.

TODD: It absolutely will. And what if skinny doesn`t happen tonight? Is
there a plan E? I would say plan B. I don`t know – I feel like we`re on
plan E or F here.

HAAKE: Yes. I mean, in the short term, I think not. You know, skinny is,
essentially, the combination of all future plan – lettered plans. I mean,
the whole idea behind this skinny repeal, which is just, sort of, a name
we`ve put on it, is to slap together what concepts they think can pass with
50 votes.

So, if they don`t get that, I don`t know that there`s enough letters left
for a new plan beyond essentially going back to zero and starting over.

TODD: Kelly O`Donnell, who at the White House is tracking this? And who -
- other than the president? I mean, is this a Reince Priebus project? If
he has time in the midst of the Scaramucci stuff. Who is, sort of, the
point person at the White House right now, following this debate and trying
to be helpful if they can?

phone calls that I`m learning about from the White House going to senators
involved, Priebus is at the center of this. That, of course, also is aided
by his close relationship with the House speaker.

And then, of course, you`ve got a legislative team and the vice president.
He really has a big shadow over this. And the president even, kind of,
teased at him in recent days. Mike, this is on you, Mike. That kind of
public stance we`ve seen where the president tries to push people. So, it
is closely watched.

At the same time, we also saw a joint statement coming out from the White
House on the Hill today, talking about tax reform. So, they seem so ready
to try to turn the page.

It`s hot in Washington in the summer, and it just feels like the heat has
been rising for the political atmosphere. The stakes here, you know, after
skinny, does it go to skeletal? I`m not sure quite sure. But it`s going
to be tough –

TODD: That`s a good one.

O`DONNELL: – for this White House. It`s going to be tough.

TODD: Kelly, I`ve got to give you credit on that skeletal. That was –
that`s well played. All right, before I let you go, I`ve got to ask you
about Scaramucci and Priebus. What`s happening here? I mean, he – it
seems as if Scaramucci has no qualms about making every little public issue
that he has with Priebus public – excuse me, every issue that he has

O`DONNELL: Airing it all and then often marrying that to his close
relationship with the president, talking about how he has spoken with the
president, spent time with the president, sat in the Oval Office with the

Today, we`re just, sort of, looking for tea leaves. Reince Priebus, the
chief of staff, was in a very special event this afternoon, honoring are
the first responders for the congressional shooting. I saw a moment where
the president appeared to either shake his hand or pat him on the elbow.
So, he was there, he was present.

Scaramucci, we are told, was not here today. But they`re also giving us
somewhat conflicting messages. Is he actually an employee of the White
House yet? They say, yes, he is. Has he gotten a clearance? They won`t
talk about that. Has he taken the oath required of all senior staffers?
They are not aware of that.

[17:10:09] This is a communications director who is really managing up,
going right to the president. Normally, the chief is in charge of all
staffers –

TODD: Right.

O`DONNELL: – no matter how influential, no matter how wealthy, powerful
or big their personalities may be. And it really seems as if Scaramucci is
trying to pressure Reince Priebus in every way possible.

I sort of think it`s not unlike what the president has done to Jeff
Sessions, to really squeeze somebody publicly.

TODD: Right.

O`DONNELL: You either win or you move on. We`re just not sure how this

TODD: And it`s – apparently, the president doesn`t mind it. That`s
what`s amazing here.

Anyway, Kelly and Garrett, get back to work both of you. It`s going to be
a busy night, that`s for sure.

Let me bring in tonight`s panel. George Will, Columnist for “The
Washington Post,” and of, course, an NBC News and MSNBC Contributor. Neera
Tanden is President and CEO of The Center for American Progress. She`s
also a former senior advisor for President Obama and Hillary – the Hilary
Clinton campaign. And Eliana Johnson, National Reporter for “Politico.”
Welcome all.

George Will, what`s this look like? What are you watching?

GEORGE WILL, COLUMNIST, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Just a small little matter,
like in the last graphic, apt to be kept in the bill is the medical devices
tax. What`s funny about that is, A, it`s particularly destructive. It`s a
tax on a very dynamic industry, one spread all over the country which
matters. And it`s pay tax not on their profit but on their gross revenues.
So, a firm can be losing money and still pay the tax.

Now, what makes this interesting is you want something bipartisan to be 60
to 70 votes to repeal that.

TODD: They`ve had it. I think the Senate has voted to repeal this a few
times from Dick Durbin who I`m going to have on the show is somebody that
is advocated (INAUDIBLE.)

WILL: So, now, they`re keeping this tax that no one wants because or in
spite of the fact that they can get rid of it on a bipartisan vote.

TODD: That actually underscores the craziness in this. That the one thing
that there is bipartisan, it`s the one thing they can accomplish.

that the further aspect of the lunacy which is you have senator after
senator after senator, Republican senators, saying they don`t want skinny
(INAUDIBLE.) They don`t want it to become law, but they`re going to vote
for it.

I mean, just think about that. We are at the end of this process. They
have voted down multiple options. And now, their way of getting to a bill
is to vote for a bill which they`ve just said will – they know will
increase premiums for –


TANDEN: – millions of people, 20 percent increase in premiums. It`s like

TODD: You were at the White House when that was what the Democrats did.
Don`t worry. We`ll fix what you don`t like in conference. And there never
was a conference.

TANDEN: Oh, my god. We had a bill –

TODD: But there never was a conference. I understand that. No, no, no,
no. And I`m not going to compare the two. But because it`s not – you did
hold hearings and all this stuff. But you skipped the conference, too.

TANDEN: And then, people had to make a decision. But that wasn`t it.
This proves my point. That bill was deliberated on four hundreds of hours.
It was – we – just to be clear, it`s five o`clock Eastern time. We still
don`t have bill language for a bill that`s going to affect one-sixth of the
economy. No one has seen it. No member of the public has seen it. Most
Republican senators haven`t seen it either.

TODD: They want to this magical conference. I don`t understand why they
think if they haven`t been able to do it here, that they`re somehow going
to get it done in conference. But I get that they want to at least show
they can do something.

that this entire process has revealed is for all the focus there is in
Washington on the dysfunction of the White House and the president`s knack
for delivering self-inflicted blows is that there is more than enough
dysfunction in Congress to go around. And that Republicans in conference
are plenty good at delivering self-inflicted blows to themselves.

And I think going forward, there will be more focus on the processes in
Congress, among the Republican Congress. I think Mitch McConnell will
shoulder a huge amount of blame if he doesn`t get something acceptable out
of this.

But I do think that the focus will shift from the administration to
Congress, because there are plenty of problems there, too.

TODD: George, here`s what I don`t understand. Mitch McConnell, the one
thing he`s always so good at is understanding when he – when he – you
know, the old saying, you know when to fold them. You know when to hold
them. You know when to fold them. And he knows when to fold.

It seems to me, if any other president were sitting in that Oval Office
under the same circumstances, McConnell would have walked away from this a
while ago. For some reason, he`s pushing forward with what he knows is a
bad hand. Why?

HILL: I can`t figure it out. Because you remember when he was reelected,
he said, we`re looking forward to this Republican majority and we`re not
going to be like Harry Reid.

Now, Harry Reid may not have been the worst senator of all time, but you
can argue that he was the worst senator for the Senate because he made it
so entirely subservient to the interests of a Democrat president. Thereby
violating Madison`s hope and ethic which was that each institution would be
rivalrous and prickly about defending its own interests.

[17:15:06] This looks, to me, like a – this is what`s puzzling.
McConnell`s an institutional man. He was a Senate staffer.

TODD: He claims to be. Right.

HILL: He was a Senate staffer before he became a senator. And he`s been a
senator since the Taft administration.

So, I mean, it just – he does not look – seem to me to be looking to the
interests of his institution.

TODD: My thesis is he saw what happened to John Boehner. He saw what
happened, frankly, to Paul Ryan after health care, where the president,
effectively, was laying this blame on him. I think McConnell fears that he
could suddenly be out of – that all of the blame goes on him if he pull –
if he pull – if he pulls the rip – if, sort of, he pulls the plug too

TANDEN: Well, if that`s the case, he`s choosing his own political fortunes
over the senators he`s supposed to be serving. I would just point out that
this is the most broken the Senate has ever been. So, if Mitch McConnell
is an institutionalist, he should really go home right now. Nothing like
this happened under Harry Reid.

We are – again, I`m just saying, we`re delivering a bill that affects one-
sixth of the economy and no one has even seen it. And we`re likely to vote
on that – or they`re likely to vote on that within the next 24 hours.

The thing I don`t understand is why John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who are
also institutionalist, are acceptable – are accepting voting for a bill
that they, themselves – Lindsey Graham has said this bill is a bad bill.
He has said this bill is a bad bill. Why he would even send it into the
process that he can`t trust with the House, I do not know.

TODD: That`s what you just did. You just teased the press conference that
Lindsey Graham and John McCain are going to be participating on where they
may answer that very question.

You guys stick around. We`ll watch this together. We are expecting said
press conference any moment now from those Republican senators on the
future of this bill. We`re going to bring that to you live. So, we`ll
sneak in this break. Stick around.


TODD: Here we are. We`re going right to Lindsey Graham, one of five
senators, about the skinny bill.

GRAHAM (live): – concern on my part and others that what the House will
do is take whatever we pass, the so-called skinny bill, not take it to
conference, go directly to the House floor, vote on it and that goes to the
president`s desk with the argument this is better than doing nothing.

Here`s my response. The skinny bill as policy is a disaster. The skinny
bill as a replacement for Obamacare is a fraud. The skinny bill is a
vehicle to getting conference to find a replacement. It is not a replace
in and of itself.

The policy is terrible because you eliminate the individual employer
mandate which we all want eliminated but we actually have an overall
solution to the problem of Obamacare, so you`re going to have increased
premiums and most of Obamacare stays in place if the skinny bill becomes

Not only do we not replace Obamacare, we politically own the collapse of
health care. I`d rather get out of the way and let it collapse, then have
a half-ass approach where it is now our problem.

[17:20:08] So, we`re not going to do that with our vote. What we will do
is move the process along. Our Freedom Caucus friends, who I disagree with
a lot but sometimes I agree with them. Here`s what Mark Meadows said. We
will send a skinny bill to the president is the question. The answer is
no. So, it becomes the vehicle for conference.

Mark Meadows agreed the skinny repeal will be dead on arrival in the House,
but he understands it`s just a vehicle for a conference. Here is the
problem. The whip in the House is suggesting to some that whatever we send
becomes the final product. There will be no conference.

And I am not going to vote for the skinny bill if I am not assured by the
House there will be a conference where my idea and other ideas can be taken
up so we can actually replace Obamacare. I`m not going to vote for a bill
that is terrible policy and horrible politics just because we have to get
something done.

So, all three of us want to move the process along. We were encouraged by
our leadership to be team players. They`re coming up with a skinny bill
that changes by the moment. But none of us believe it actually replaces
Obamacare. Neither does the Freedom Caucus.

And I need assurances from the speaker of the House and his team that if I
vote for the skinny bill, it will not become the final product. It will be
the vehicle to have a conference between the House and Senate where we
consider – can consider a true replacement.

If I don`t get those assurances, I am a no because I`m not going to vote
for a pig in a poke. And I`m not going to tell people back in South
Carolina that this product actually replaces Obamacare because it does not.
It is a fraud.

And with that, I`ll turn it over to my great friend, John McCain.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I have nothing to add.

As I stated earlier this week, I`m not supportive of the legislation as it
stands today. I am in close consultation with Arizona Governor Doug Ducey
regarding the so-called skinny repeal and its potential impact on the state
of Arizona.

My position on this proposal would be largely guided by Governor Ducey`s
analysis of how it would impact the people of our state.

My friends, this is legislation that directly affects the lives of the
people in my state. I trust my governor. I trust his people. And he is
looking carefully at this. He is looking carefully at the skinny bill
repeal, but he`s also looking at steps that need to be taken in addition to

So, I am convinced that we can move forward. But we have to have an
assurance that it will go to a normal conference. Right now, that is not
the case. And we do not have the assurance that is the case.

I believe that one of the major problems with Obamacare was that it was
rammed through Congress by Democrats without a single Republican vote. I
believe we shouldn`t make that same mistake again.

And, if necessary, this is – you are now about to hear from an antique
phone that very few Americans – there`s very few Americans anywhere in the
world. I believe there`s a person in Togo who also has – who has this

Look, we can`t make the same mistake that we inflicted in 2009. We`ve got
to have some bipartisanship. All of you saw my speech which I will be glad
to provide you with a recording of in case you missed it, in case you have

But the point is – but the point is, we`ve got to have Republicans and
Democrats sit down together and come up with a bill that gets a majority in
both Houses. Otherwise, we`re going to see this continuous gridlock.

And I don`t want to go on and on. But when we passed Obamacare in 2009, it
split us. It split us dramatically. And it split us for years.

It`s time we sat down together and came up with a piece of legislation that
addresses this issue. And don`t think this issue is just out there sitting
by itself. In my state, we`re down to one health care provider in every
county. Co-pays are going up by hundreds of thousands – you`re late. You
see, the freshmen show – the freshmen show no respect for their elders.

[17:25:02] Finally, I`d just like to say, again, in my state, Obamacare is
a failure. It needs to be fixed. We have fixes, but it`s got to be done
in the – in the normal process.

And what I`m afraid of, of course, is that this thing dies this week. And
then, it sits out there over the August recess or whatever it is. It`s
time we sat down together and came up with solutions that the American
people overall would support.

I guarantee you, in my state, the status quo is not satisfactory. And
that`s one of the major reasons why I`ve been in constant contact with the
governor of the state of Arizona who bears large responsibility.

Now, as is keeping with our seniority, we will allow the two additional
senators 30 seconds each.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: Thanks much, John.

MCCAIN: All right.

JOHNSON: Well, first of all, John, it was great seeing you come back. And
I`ve told you a number of times, it`s an honor to be able to serve with

Listen, I`m happy to join Lindsey and John and Senator Cassidy. Just
asking very simple request. Give us the assurance. Give us a guarantee
that whatever we pass out of the Senate is going to go to conference. So,
we can work on, for example, the great ideas that these two gentlemen have
been working hard, with our governors, something that I think can really
get a great deal of support.

The fact of the matter is the status quo is unacceptable. Obamacare
markets are collapsing.

Let me just tell you a little story of a woman that I spoke to for the
first time on Tuesday. Cheri and Vern Kobe (ph) from River Falls,
Wisconsin contacted our office. And I called her up and she conveyed her
story to me. Had some pre-existing conditions.

In 2014, they signed up for Obamacare. I won`t go through all the troubles
they had in signing up. Paid their premiums. Sent in their check stubs to
make sure they qualified for the subsidies. Did their taxes in March of
2015. Got the bad news that they made too much money and had to pay
$15,000 back to the IRS.

Now, the IRS isn`t real kind about being real forgiving about it. So, in
order to pay that $15,000 back because, again, they made too much money.
They first pretty well depleted their 401K. Then, they had to sell their
home that they intend – that they intended to live in for the rest of
their life so they wouldn`t lose their home. I mean, think about that.

Now, Cheri and Vern are the forgotten men and women, the same folks that
Bill Clinton was talking about, the ones that are busting it. Vern works
60 or 70 hours a week driving milk trucks. Cheri works 30 hours a week as
a florist.

They`re busting it. They`re working those hours. They`ve seen their
premiums double or more. Their coverage cut in half. They depleted their
401. They lost their house. That`s why the status quo is not acceptable.

And I`m sorry, the skinny bill in the Senate doesn`t even come close to
honoring our promises of repealing Obamacare. Those market reforms that
have increased their premiums. And nothing we`re doing, virtually nothing
we`re doing in any of these bills, and the proposals are addressing the
challenges, the problems, the damage done to people like Cheri and Vern.

And so, all we`re asking leadership, and this is a very simple request,
just give us the assurance that whatever we pass tonight will go to
conference. And so, the good ideas of people. like Senator Lindsey Graham
and Senator Cassidy here, can get scored. Can have a chance to be argued.
And hopefully can replace Obamacare with something that actually works for
folks like Cheri and Vern.

Now, with that, I`m happy to introduce Senator Cassidy who is doing some
great work coming up with an alternative.

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: And I just want to look at the potential
of what would happen should it go to conference. Again, Senator Graham,
Nelson, Heller and I have been working on a provision which, frankly, will
take a little bit longer to be scored. The process, as you know, requires
that to occur. And it could be overlaid upon the bill that would be passed

And in that, we would hope to take all the dollars that would go to a state
and deliver it to the state. The state would have to use it to health
care. But then, allow that state to come up with a solution particular for
their state.

What happens in Alaska with less than one person per square mile is very
different than what happens in Washington, D.C., over a hundred thousand
people per square mile which is different than South Carolina, Louisiana,
Wisconsin and Arizona. Those states should decide what`s best for those

We can do that through this process if, indeed, we pass the bill tonight
and then it goes to conference committee and then we can overlay this. We
think this is the way to fulfill the promise President Trump made to the
American people to actually repeal. And that`s our commitment. We hope
this process allows it.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The people that you have increasing concerns that you
will pass this bill and that it will not go to conference. Did something
happen to make you feel that way?

[17:30:02] GRAHAM: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is it that happened?

GRAHAM: Martin Meadows, who has become a good friend, he`s from North
Carolina. So, a really good conservative. He`s in the Freedom Caucus.
He`s been suggesting that nobody in the Freedom Caucus sees this as a
viable replacement.

I don`t think Governor Ducey is going to say that the skinny bill is –
fixes Arizona`s problem. I know it won`t fix Sherry`s problem. We`re just
trying to create a vehicle so we can take our bill which hasn`t been scored
that Governor Ducey likes and see if we can come up with a block grant

Four states get 40 percent of the Obamacare dollars. We`re trying to level
that out. So, Mark called me and said that he was concerned that there is a
move in the house to take whatever we pass in the senate and pass is, not
go to conference. We have been trying to communicate to the speaker. We`ve
asked our leader point-blank and he says the speaker now prefers to go to
the conference, intends to go to the conference.

I want to know like, are you going to go to the conference? I want to know
that, because I am not going to vote for a piece of legislation that I
believe is not a replacement, that politically would be the dumbest thing
in history to throw this out there, collapse the individual market and own
the problem at a time when Obamacare is collapsing.

So, I think Senator McCain is dead right. If you listen to Governor Ducey,
John is going to have a pretty good decision to make. The governor is going
to look at our new approach overlaid and he`s going to tell John that works
for Arizona. I can tell you right now, the skinny bill doesn`t work for any
state. It`s never meant to be the final outcome.

It`s meant to be part of a process to get a better outcome. My bill hasn`t
been scored. Our bill hasn`t scored. Ted Cruz`s bill hasn`t been scored.
So, we`re buying time to get there, but that requires the house to actually
go to conference. And if they don`t go to conference, then I am not going
to vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are any three of you worried about – is there a concern
if you three block the replacement attempt tonight that you will then have
to be accountable to voters who really want Obamacare replaced and then you
three –

GRAHAM: Yes, I do this with joy in my heart.


GRAHAM: I`m going to go back to South Carolina and say that the skinny bill
does not replace Obamacare. The skinny bill leaves most of the Obamacare
infrastructure in place. It`s a disaster for premiums in South Carolina. It
was never sold to be the final product. That I was told that if I vote for
the skinny bill, I get a chance to put in play my block grant approach.

So, I`m not the bad guy here. I`m actually a team player. I`m trying to
honor the request by our leadership to keep the process alive. And as we
get to the – near the goal line here, this will surprise people in South
Carolina, you need to trust but verify in Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you verify?


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: You – by the way, let me just confirm
what Lindsey said. This has been sold to us as the vehicle to get to
conference, so we can have the time, because CBO has to be able to score
things. We have 22 senators sign a letter that I asked the CBO to score the
full repeal of Obamacare back in March. Never got the score.

We`ve been told this is the vehicle to give us the time to get those scores
so we can take a look at those other alternatives. And so, again, all we`re
looking for is a pretty simple guarantee. We`re not trying to tank anything
here. We`re trying to do (INAUDIBLE). We`ll vote yes as long as we get that

GRAHAM: Wait a minute. Let me ask you. Wait a minute.

JOHNSON: He wants to ask a question.

GRAHAM: Do you believe the skinny bill is an adequate replacement for
Obamacare and if this will go?

JOHNSON: It absolutely would not, Senator Graham.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator McCain, what do you say to people (INAUDIBLE)
regular order (INAUDIBLE) Democrats?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you say to people who say, then you should vote
no, and send this thing back to committee.

MCCAIN: Right now as I mentioned earlier, I am voting no, unless I see that
there is a path to a conference that will come out with a result that will
address the challenges. The status quo in my state is unsatisfactory.

That`s why I`m working with the governor of my state, who has proposed
three different amendments which I will be putting up for votes as we go
through. And if it satisfies the governor, then I would be satisfied. Right
now, my governor is not satisfied.

GRAHAM: One last question from South Carolina.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has the parliamentarian said that your amendment will
still pass the (INAUDIBLE)?

GRAHAM: I am 99 percent sure that it will get a memo from the
parliamentarian saying that the Graham, Cassidy, Heller, maybe Johnson bill
will be conference (ph) and that block has been checked. And I really
wouldn`t too much worried about anything above that until I got a call from
Mark Meadows.

And I got a call from Mark Meadows who believes like Ron does and I do that
the skinny bill is not a replacement, that Obamacare is collapsing, and the
skinny bill won`t prevent it from collapsing and in many ways makes
everything worse. So, that part of it, I think, we`re good to go. I just
need an assurance. Who asked that? OK. Here is what an assurance –

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the guarantee? Blood oath?


GRAHAM: We don`t have it. It`s like pornography. You`ll know it when you
see it.


JOHNSON: There you go.

GRAHAM: We got to go.

JOHNSON: Thank you very much.

GRAHAM: Come on. Go ahead. Say whatever you want to say.

JOHNSON: Well, you also asked why are we a little concerned. You walked up
here, someone is asking me that the house is going into martial law. I
didn`t even know that was possible. I guess that would give us a little bit
of a concern. I do in the remaining moments, I`m happy to give you all this
charting. I keep talking about information we need.

This shows you the disaster that is Obamacare in terms of the effect of
premiums. This was the premium trend prior to Obamacare. This is what we`re
talking about now. This is why Sherry and Vern can`t afford insurance. This
kind of information we need to make better information to have a better
process to actually have a replacement that will work for Sherry and Vern.

GRAHAM: And we`ll end on this. We`ll end on this. As to the skinny bill
being a replacement for Obamacare, actually helping Americans like Sherry
and people in my state, that`s about as accurate as when President Obama
told you, if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor.

JOHNSON: Thanks much.


CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS DAILY SHOW HOST: Well, that was quite a lively
presser there with four senators. Should be noted the fifth senator that we
had been told was going to join that quarter of senators, David Perdue, of
Georgia did not.

Joining me now is Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Democratic whip, who
I`m guessing was listening, probably chuckling at times, because Lindsey
Graham and John McCain can make us all laugh at times. What`s happening
here? What can you decipher? What do you take away from what you just heard
from your four colleagues on the other side of the aisle?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Chuck, it has been over six years since the
Republicans told us they were going to repeal Obamacare and replace it. And
now it`s been seven months that we`ve been in session here and listen to
how Republican senators describe the work product we`re being asked to vote
on tonight.

I respect the senators who came before the press calling it a fraud, a
disaster. It will make this situation worse, and it won`t solve the
problems that face our health care system and Obamacare today. What I heard
them say was they are demanding a conference committee.

They want it to be bipartisan and they want buy in from the governors
across America who are going to have to implement the final work product.
That tells you that we need to roll up our sleeves, follow John McCain`s
advice, and have a bipartisan effort to finally write a good bill that is
deserving for the American people.

TODD: Look, there`s a lot of people that may have forgotten how a bill
becomes a law because I think many of you in the Uunited States senate have
forgotten how a bill becomes a law, to be respectful here. I`m trying to
figure out the last time a bill was written in conference.

George Will was reminding me here that the way it works, the way we thought
it worked was the house passes a bill, the senate passes a meaningful bill,
and you work out a few differences. It seems as if the plan by senators
Graham and McCain and Cassidy in particular is they view the conference as
an opportunity to write new legislation.

How does that work? Is that – and will you participate in something like
that? Will Democrats be appointed to a conference committee and participate
in helping to write that legislation?

DURBIN: And don`t forget, we have reached this point in this deliberation,
and the Republicans in control of the United States senate could not find a
plan that 50 of them could agree on. And so they came up with this skinny
thing, which I think Lindsey Graham was right. It is a fraud.

It is going to raise health insurance premiums. He said as much and I agree
with him completely. It`s going to cut 16 million people off of health
insurance. And so they couldn`t come up with a plan that 50 of their
members can agree on and now they`re hoping that a conference committee
might be able to. I just say to George Will, let`s go back to basics here.

Basics suggest that we ought to junk this approach, really go down to the
regular order which John McCain spoke about. Let`s have the hearings in the
committee. Let`s have the deliberation and the amendments and the debate on
the floor. That`s the design of the constitution and that`s what we ought
to follow.

TODD: You`re a member of leadership on the democratic side. You have good
personal relationships with the leadership on the other side of the aisle.
I know that. Senators Cornyn and McConnell and those folks.

The rank and file on that republican side clearly would like regular order.
You see it growing. We`re up to probably 12 or 13 senators who don`t like
the reconciliation at this point. When does leadership acknowledge that on
the other side?

DURBIN: When the Republicans have a vote that they lose. If the vote that
is called on this skinny approach loses, and at that point they have to
decide what the alternative is.

Do nothing and watch the health care system that we currently have face
problems that we know exist and need to be resolved and solved, or they`re
going to step forward and have a meaningful bipartisan approach which these
senators asked for today, John McCain asked for two days ago. That really
is the answer.

TODD: I want to go back to you didn`t quite answer my question about the
conference situation. If we do get a conference committee and it`s clear to
me Lindsey Graham used the fraud word to almost guarantee that Paul Ryan
will have no choice but to do that. Will Democrats participate in that
process of helping to shape that legislation or are you going to be a
little more – as hands off as you`ve been so far on the floor of the

DURBIN: Well, I can tell you if we start with the premise that this is not
about a tax cut but it`s about health care for all Americans, if we say
that we`re at the end of the day not going to cut off health insurance for
Americans and try to expand that opportunity, and really address the issue
that I think most are concerned about, the premium costs and the individual
market, I`m sure we`re ready to sit down and work. We`ve said that for
months to republican leadership.

TODD: Even in a conference committee you would do that, even the way this
process has gone?

DURBIN: Can I add one caveat, Chuck?

TODD: Yes.

DURBIN: We don`t know who is going to be on that conference committee. If
the conference committee includes a group of good faith participants who
are trying to reach the goals I just described, then it`s possible that we
will be joining them. But let`s wait and see how this unfolds. The first
step is going to be this critical vote on the skinny freedom bill as the
president now calls it and that will decide how we go forward.

TODD: Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat from Illinois, the democratic whip, who
at this point I`m guessing is just watching with amusement from the other
side of the aisle. Senator Durbin, thank you very much. Let me bring back
the panel.

George Will, Neera Tanden, Eliana. George, I invoked your name. We`ve
invoked you a lot here. You were pulling your hair out when you heard the
conference committee being sort of warped in its description.

inserted into our language, the phrase defining deviancy down.


WILL: What they are doing here is defining regular order down. They are
envisioned in the conference committee as a third branch of the legislative
branch. That is these guys could pass and call it repeal and replace. They
could pass this afternoon – it`s very interesting that`s box score.

Send it over there and hope that these unknown and unnamed people so far in
the conference committee would write a bill. That is not regular order.
Regular order is the reconciliation of two fully written and deliberated
and debated, after hearings, pieces of legislation.

TODD: It seems to me, Eliana, the ball really is now suddenly in Reince
Priebus – wrong Wisconsin – in Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy`s corner. I
mean, the senators through them the gauntlet (ph). You`ve got to tell me
this is going to conference or we`re out, which then it`s over.

right. They have got to decide – I think Paul Ryan has to decide what he`s
going to do. But he also has to corral house members and get them to vote
on whatever, you know, piece of paper is passed from the senate to the
house, which we don`t know what it`s going to be.

And as we`ve seen before, it`s not so easy either for Mitch McConnell to
round up the votes he needs or for Paul Ryan in house to round up the votes
he needs. So, if he wants to do this, he will have the difficult task of
corralling the votes and ensuring that house members trust that there will
be – I think it`s difficult because precisely for the reason George
described to get the trust among house and senate members that what results
will be a good bill.

TODD: What did you make of Dick Durbin essentially not ruling out the idea
that while Democrats haven`t wanted to participate in the process right now
that they might in a conference committee if they know something is going
to the president`s desk from there, that Democrats appointed to that would

to John McCain and Lindsey Graham, particularly John McCain, talk about how
he wants to fix the markets, that`s a conference Democrats are willing to
have, have been willing to have. What I think is just bizarre about where
we are is that if you listen to Senator McCain, it sounds like he
recognizes that skinny (INAUDIBLE) or the skinny repeal and replace will
hurt Arizona and so he may well vote no.

But most of those senators are talking about how this is a disaster bill, a
terrible bill, a disaster for their markets and yet they may still vote for
it to get to a conference in which they can talk about a proposal that
nobody has ever discussed before their own particular idea on the process.
And the reason why we are where we are is because we`ve had no mark ups, no
deliberation, no normal system.

People are just – to be honest, spitballing ideas out there and the idea
that we`re actually going to decide issues that affect people`s health
insurance in this kind of random way is just like the most irresponsible
leadership I`ve ever seen in my life.

TODD: You want to talk?

WILL: I spoke this afternoon with Congressman Mark Meadows of North
Carolina, the head of the Freedom Caucus. He`s got 30 serious people who
are here for a reason. And he was none committal, but he said, look, if
they passed if from the house by two votes.

Now, they`re going to go back over there and Mark Meadows` people are going
to look at this and they`re going to see some things. They`re going to see
maybe a hundred billion dollars thrown at the opioid crisis.

They`re going to see – that will be dwarfed by the slush fund that will be
provided to stabilize the insurance markets, that is to subsidies the
insurance companies. And by the time –

TODD: By the way, the exact thing that they criticized Obamacare for doing
and repealed some of that earlier.

TANDEN: We don`t know.

WILL: At that point, again, I keep saying this every two weeks, keep your
eye on the Freedom Caucus.

TODD: Well, it`s clearly, and Meadows made his presence known. He`s the one
that sounded the alarm.

TANDEM: It`s weird. He sounds more (INAUDIBLE) than Paul Ryan, that`s for
sure when you`re looking at this guy.

TODD: Where is Ryan on this? Where is McCarthy on this?

JOHNSON: Well, I have no idea but this is precisely why I said this is why
I think it`s going to be more difficult for Ryan simply to say I agree, you
know, and come out and have a ceremonial handshake with Lindsey Graham or
Mitch McConnell.

TANDEN: I mean, all of this is just passing the buck.

JOHNSON: The larger problem here is that all of the crafting of this
legislation has been done behind closed doors, and what they want to strike
an agreement to do is to craft the bill behind closed doors.

TODD: There`s a fundamental issue that I have – that somebody yesterday
pointed out. We don`t know what the goal is of the bill. The Republicans
have never outlined what is the goal of their health care legislation. Is
it universal coverage? Is it lower premiums? What is the goal? They`ve
never outlined it.

WILL: All of the above, but the primary goal is to get this over with, so
they can get on with the mayor`s nest of tax reform.

TODD: There is the problem right there. There is the problem.

TANDEN: Absolutely. They`ve never –

TODD: They say the goal is not about the policy. The goal is to get through
the bill.

TANDEN: Whatever the American people have seen is a 12 to 25 percent
because people don`t know what they`re trying to do other than just pass
something that helps their political goals, which is not what they`re
supposed to be here – I hate to be naive, but they are not supposed to be
here just to get reelected. You`re not supposed to damage people health
care in order to meet your political needs.

WILL: In recent with something amazing happened that is for the first time
since 2010, the Affordable Care Act was 50 percent approval. So what
Obama`s tireless campaigning and rhetoric could not accomplish, this debate
has accomplished.

TODD: It`s unbelievable. Let`s sneak in a quick break because I don`t want
to go to our next topic here, because we call our final break “The Lid.”
Well, Anthony Scaramucci has blown his own lid in an interview with Ryan
Lizza filled with expletives that is unbelievable and we`ll quote as much
as we can on a family program like ours. Right after the break.


TODD: Welcome back. Time for “The Lid.” George Will, Neera Tandem Eliana
Johnson. All right. The headline of the Ryan Lizza piece in “The New
Yorker” that just broke about 40 minutes ago is this. Anthony Scaramucci
called me to unload about White House leakers Reince Priebus and Steve

It`s filled with four letter words descriptors from Mr. Scaramucci. We have
a few of them up here that we feel like we can at least give you an idea of
how Scaramucci described Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon. Let`s put up a
few of these quotes now. What are got ready on screen here. Reince is a –
expletive deleted – paranoid, schizophrenic, a paranoiac.

What I want to do is I want to – expletive deleted – kill all the leakers
and I want to get the president`s agenda on track so we can succeed for the
American people. I think we have a couple more choice quotes that we could
not actually put on air because we`d have to delete so many expletives, you
would not understand what the quote meant.

Eliana, you`ve had some interactions with Mr. Scaramucci, as have I. We
know he`s a colorful talker. But this is the White House communications
director speaking of the chief of staff in such a derogatory and deviant
manner. It`s unbecoming and yet with this president, maybe it works.

JOHNSON: Well, he`s clearly the kind of tight lipped guy you would want in
charge of your communications operations. But, you know, what occurred to
me was, I think the president likes to be surrounded by people he feels
comfortable with, people he enjoys being around.

He brought on Anthony Scaramucci who is a wealthy New Yorker, you know, a
vulgarian, clearly, and he will go to the match for him. And I think this
is going to win him points with the president, oddly. He lost Sean Spicer
who is somebody he has far less in common with who is not wealthy and not a
New Yorker, and clearly is willing to depart with his chief of staff Reince

Both of those guys have ties to the Washington establishment, clearly not
something he values. But, yes, I think this is the new face of the Trump
White House. It`s something that perfectly reflects the president himself.

TODD: This was all on the record here. He said, Reince is going to get
fired if he`s proven to be a leaker. He wants to do lie detector tests. He
also went after Steve Bannon in here. Mr. Scaramucci said on Bannon, I`m
not trying to build my own brand off the – expletive deleted – strength
of the president.

I`m here to serve the country. So, Priebus may be going soon, but Bannon
isn`t going anywhere. And so he`s going to have another war inside that
White House, apparently.

TANDEM: This is a circular firing squad. They`re all alike. The president`s
staff are all attacking and we`re hearing this president likes when people
attack each other. What`s ridiculous about this whole situation is Jared
Kushner recommended this guy for the job.

Jared Kushner recommended that he fire the FBI director. I mean, I just
wonder where the accountability is for this where you have disaster after
disaster after disaster coming out of White House.

WILL: The west wing of the White House is today the state of nature as
Thomas Hobbes described it, where life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish,
and short. Emphasized the short. I would be – nothing surprises me. I
would be semi-surprised if the man who gave that interview with that
language and who is not now as far as we know a public official.

TODD: We don`t think he`s technically taken the job yet.

WILL: That`s right.

TODD: Officially, as far as bookkeeping is concerned.

WILL: That sort of fits because remember before Mr. Trump was president, he
wielded presidential powers against the Carrier air-conditioning company.
He said this is our new policy and they caved. They`re a little casual
about distinctions between public official and not public officials. But
even so, if after this they go ahead and put this man in John Adams` White
House, we`ll have learned even more.

TODD: Again, his title is communications director.


TODD: I`m just sort – that`s the part of this, Eliana, that I`m struggling
with. He chose to communicate this way.

JOHNSON: Look, I think Scaramucci came in and said he was going to crack
down on leaks. I think there are two things. First is that there is no
cracking down on leaks in the Trump white house. The reason is, you know,
second point is that in previous White Houses, you know, people really
believe in the George W. Bush agenda. They felt a loyalty to George W.
Bush, same in the Obama administration and the Clinton administration. I
don`t think there are very many people –

TODD: Different tactics. They may trash people.

JOHNSON: There were plenty of arguments, but I don`t think in the Trump
White House, there`s anybody who is not related to the president of the
United States who feels loyalty to the president and who even knows let
alone believes in what the larger cause is here. That`s why I don`t think
any of this is going to change.

TANDEN: But why would they? He attacks his staff all the time. You have to
be loyal to get loyalty.


TANDEM: He viciously humiliates Jeff Sessions, like his first – the first
political leader who actually – he viciously humiliates him day after day
after day. Who would be loyal?

TODD: George Will, you left the Republican Party. You are no longer a
Republican. Who stands for character in the Republican Party right now? Who
says – I mean, Ben Sasse says a lot of strong words, but at what point the
other words are not enough?

WILL: Well, the words depend on when they are said and about what. Mr.
Sasse, I think, is laying the predicate for institutional and political
opposition to the president. Jeff Flake is another. They`re out there. Mr.
Trump – one of the good effects he`s going to have is he`s going to
revitalize institutional identity of the legislative branch.

TODD: You know, the best example of this is what we just saw take place in
the last 24 hours in Alaska. So, here you have Lisa Murkowski, one of two
Republican senators, who didn`t vote, the president attacks. Apparently,
the interior secretary called up the other senator in Alaska, Dan Sullivan,
and says, you know, boy, the interior department may not be able to be as
helpful to the state of Alaska all the time.

What was interesting, Eliana, is that Dan Sullivan decided to go public and
make sure he basically – even though he`s going to be a yes on this, he
and Murkowski aren`t technically on this, but he thought that was
unbecoming and then Lisa Murkowski today suddenly decided in a committee
that they didn`t have time to consider any interior secretary
undersecretary nominees today. The payback goes two ways.

JOHNSON: Yes, I was going to say they showed that if the executive branch
shoves them in one direction, they have the power to push back.

I think the other example of this this week was Lindsey Graham and Chuck
Grassley coming out and saying, if the president fires the attorney
general, we have some power too, we`re not confirming another attorney
general in 2017, and if he fires Bob Mueller without showing any proof that
he did anything wrong, you know, there`s going to be serious consequences
for that.

So I think this isn`t really the first time that we have seen congress draw
a serious red line, you know, cliche term now, but with regards to the
president`s behavior.

TANDEM: The only I will add to this is it`s true that there has been
resistance in the senate. So far Paul Ryan has not stood up to the
president and say you can`t pass a bill, you can`t pass a bill to tie the
president`s hands on a special prosecutor without the house. It`s not
enough. You need leadership from both sides. Republican leaders to have
backbone in both the house and the senate.

TODD: By the way, what Ryan Lizza (ph) did, against the law?


TODD: Might be against the law.

WILL: That`s (ph) not criminal act.

TODD: We don`t know, right. But it certainly may get an inspector general.

TANDEM: I mean, if an inspector general does not investigate that –

TODD: You may get that.

TANDEM: What do you have an inspector general for?

TODD: All right, guys. What an hour. What a day. Guess what, it`s only
Thursday. Thank you very much. That`s all we have tonight. We`ll be back
tomorrow with more “MTP Daily.” My friend, Ari Melber, is next with “The
Beat.” And it starts right now. Boy, Ari, the beat goes on and on and on
for sure today.

ARI MELBER, THE BEAT SHOW HOST: The beat goes on and what an hour it could
be a theme for any number of hours in today`s political news cycle. Thanks,

TODD: Thanks, brother.

MELBER: Appreciate it.


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