MTP Daily, Transcript 7/28/2017
Show: MTP DAILY
Date: July 28, 2017
Guest: Jeremy Bash, Joe Manchin, Ramesh Ponnuru, Eugene Robinson, Anne
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the main thing is, again, maybe Priebus wasn`t the
right political guy. It is pay political job. He needs a politician in
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: And is a – that deserved a little more
respect on the way out. All right. That does it for this hour. I`m
Nicolle Wallace. More breaking new now with “MTP DAILY” and Chuck Todd.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Wow, one way to end a Friday, huh, Nicole.
WALLACE: How is that for a lead in?
TODD: How`s that? I`ll take it. Thank you very much.
Well, good evening. Yes. There is the news. I`m Chuck Todd. Welcome to
MTP DAILY. We`ve seen a lot of dramatic and bizarre weeks under this
President but never anything quite like this.
And we`ve got the breaking news right now. The major shake up that had
been rumored since the day the President took office actually happened
today in the President`s inner circle. Moments ago, the President made
this announcement on Twitter. “I am pleased to inform you that I have just
named General/Secretary John F. Kelly as White House Chief of Staff. He is
a Great American and a great leader. John has also done a spectacular job
at Homeland Security. He has been a true star of my administration.”
So this means that current Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is out. Whether
he was fired or resigned, we`ll have to find that out in a few minutes. As
breaking news comes the day after White House Communications Director
Anthony Scaramucci publicly blasted Priebus as a paranoid schizophrenic,
we`re going to get to the health care collapse in the full extent of this
wild week in just a minute. But we begin with this breaking news. So
let`s go over to Kelly O`Donnell at the White House.
So, Kelly, Secretary Kelly, he had been rumored as a potential replacement
over the last past couple of days. But suddenly it moved fast. And I have
to say, apparently the President was tweeting out his new Chief of Staff
while Reince Priebus was still on Air Force One potentially. What more can
you tell us, Kelly?
KELLY O`DONNELL, NBC NEWS, THE WHITE HOUSE: Our best understanding is that
he would still be on Air Force One, although Priebus could have deplaned
from the rear of the aircraft. With a little bit of a delay, the President
has also now tweeted a thank you to Reince Priebus for his service to the
administration and the country.
This is a long time coming and on a rainy Friday in Washington with the
President giving a wave under the umbrella, he is making a major change in
his administration. On that aircraft today, Air Force One were two people
who were kind of polar rivals in this Trump or bit, Reince Priebus who came
from the RNC, who has been with the President as a partner for a year since
the President assumed the nomination in July of last year working with him
in the White House. Much of his portfolio was delivering on big things
like health care.
Last night, after multiple attempts, multiple setbacks, it appears that is
as dead as it can possibly be at this point. Although people in the White
House say there might be another way to revive health care. The fate of
Reince Priebus seems to be at least on a policy, maybe even on a deeper
level of a personal level tied to fate.
And what he is also doing is saying that John Kelly in his role from
general to secretary has been a stand out in the administration on a lot of
issues important to the Trump base, to the Trump campaign promises, and so
he is taking someone who he believes and has seen as being successful in
this atmosphere and bringing him right into the White House. Chuck?
TODD: Well, one quick question, Kelly. This is somebody who had a long
career in the military. Essentially his first job after the military is
Secretary of Homeland Security. This is somebody that we have no idea his
views on health care. Don`t know what he has ever done on taxes. Probably
isn`t familiar with the Senate map and things like that. He`s not a very
political guy per se because that`s not his career. Do we know how big his
portfolio as Chief of Staff will be at this point?
O`DONNELL: That is one of the big questions, especially with an Anthony
Scaramucci coming in as a Communications Director. But acting as a quasi-
chief of staff in the way he has talked about his hiring and firing power
and his direct line to the President.
Perhaps, the chain of command experience that John Kelly has can try to
bring order to an Oval Office where a number of people seem to have walk in
privileges and perhaps that can help streamline some of the operation. But
it all starts at the top, not the chief, but the President, in determining
what kind of power structure they want to have. Kelly certainly does not
have political experience. He doesn`t have the contacts. He certainly
testified before Congress during his military career. But he doesn`t have
those kinds of skills.
Does he bring a tactical bunker set of experiences? Sure, he does. And
maybe that`s doing the kind of abrupt change for the President. He took
someone from the political establishment and now he`s going to a place
where he feels a lot of confidence, and that`s the United States military.
I would also imagine the President will think this will be a well reviewed
and perceived move at a time of chaos and that that`s important to the
President as well.
TODD: And I think one other asset he brings. He`s not somebody who has a
lot of relationships in the media. Good, bad or indeterminate.
O`DONNELL: Sadly, that`s true.
TODD: And he`s not somebody that actually likes to interact with the media
which I`m guessing for this President might be something he appreciates.
Kelly O`Donnell, you`ve got a lot more to do on this, I know. In fact, go
find out what the fate of Steve Bannon is, if you could, would you?
O`DONNELL: Yes, working on it.
TODD: Thank you, Kelly. All right.
Just now, another tweet by the President on this shakeup, a thank you to
Reince Priebus. “I would like to thank Reince Priebus for his service and
dedication to his country. We accomplished a lot together and I am proud
Joined now by Michael Steel, who was the press secretary for former House
Speaker John Boehner, and Alex Conant, who worked as spokesman for Bush 43
in that White House and was also Communications Director on the Rubio
campaign and of course a former national press secretary for the RNC.
Gentlemen, welcome. I`m going to be full disclosure. You are on here
because we were going to talk about your experience in Capitol Hill, your
experience working in a west wing, all this crazy dysfunction.
So, you`re learning this news as I am. You`ve worked in a White House,
Alex, so I`m going to ask you. I think, look, Secretary Kelly, there`s no
doubt this will get good reviews. This has been a very professional guy.
I`ve had interactions with him. He`s a very impressive individual. But
there is a lot of aspects of being chief of staff that he`s had no
experience doing. What`s your quick take on this one?
ALEX CONANT, FORMER BUSH 43 WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: Well, this was not a
surprise. I mean, the situation was untenable. There were effectively two
chiefs of staff with the mooch –
TODD: On a good day there were two.
CONANT: We woke up this morning and clearly there were two people who
thought they were chief of staff to the President. That was untenable.
Now, one of them is out. The big question I think is, does the new chief
of staff, does he reorganize the west wing?
This is not about Reince Priebus. This is a recognition that six months
into this presidency it is a failed presidency. He has not done any of the
big things that he promised he would do. And he doesn`t have momentum on
any of the big things he promised he was going to. So it`s a reflection
that there needed to be a shake up, that`s what this is about.
TODD: I`ve got to think Capitol Hill is looking at this going oh, OK.
Would this will be OK?
MICHAEL STEEL, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY TO SPEAKER BOEHNER: Yes. I think
there`s a couple of different layers of that. I mean, Reince Priebus has a
great relationship with Speaker Ryan. On the other hand, he doesn`t have
deep legislative experience. He comes from the political side of the
operation. Obviously General Kelly doesn`t either.
But the big question is whether the President is going to undercut his new
chief of staff the way he undercut his old chief of staff. The problem
with Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff had nothing to do with Reince.
TODD: He never had a chance to be Chief of Staff.
TODD: Let`s be fair to Reince here. Did he ever have a chance?
STEEL: No, this is the problem of this President who can`t pick a course,
pick a plan and stick with it long enough to achieve a goal. And the
question is whether General Kelly with his military background with
presumably a higher level respect from the President himself can get the
President to focus in a consistent way.
TODD: I find it interesting it does come after basically on the day after
the failure of health care. And as you just pointed out earlier, Alex, you
know, he doesn`t have a legislative – major legislative accomplishment.
It was teetering toward failure here in general. This is an acknowledgment
CONANT: Yes, absolutely. I mean, this is acknowledgment that six months
in this presidency is heading on the wrong track. And most Americans think
so. Just look at his poll numbers that continue to go further and further
The speech he gave this afternoon wasn`t about rallying (ph) the nation.
He was trying to defend his base, protect his base because I think a lot of
conservatives are now saying what`s the point of having all three branches
of government if President Trump can`t deliver anything. So I think it`s a
recognition that there needed to be some sort of a reset.
Hopefully he will empower the new Chief of Staff, as Michael said, to make
the changes that need to be do. And that he will listen to this Chief of
Staff unlike he did his last one.
TODD: One other aspect of Secretary Kelly here, Michael, is that he does
have relationships across the aisle. And the most successful White House
chiefs of staff had that. I`m thinking Leon Panetta, or I`m thinking Andy
Card, I`m frankly, you know, Dennis McDonough overtime day and I think your
office overtime – Jack Lew in many ways. You may have disagreed to them
on policy, but there was a camaraderie there a little bit.
STEEL: Yes. I think first of all far from draining the swamp, this is the
most Washington move you can imagine. Big legislative failure –
TODD: Good point. Yes.
STEEL: – heads will roll. Not obviously the President, but, you know,
we`ll make some changes in the staff.
TODD: Yes, fire the owner, he will fire the manager.
STEEL: They bring in the new coach. And – But one question as you point
out is whether this signals that when the President won unexpectedly and we
had Republican control of the House, the Senate and the White House,
unexpectedly, they embarked on a very, very aggressive legislative campaign
to act with – using reconciliation, strict party line efforts.
TODD: A partisan legislative campaign.
STEEL: On health care and tax reform. Health care has wobbled it seems to
its conclusion. Tax reform is next. Presumably, if we can get the budget
done, also ideally on a partisan basis, is this a signal that the President
is seeing the limits of that partisan-only strategy and looking for a
TODD: One thing I felt like that came is that the party still hasn`t
reconciled what it`s for right now. The different factions in the party,
Alex, whether – and you went through this the hard way during the
TODD: But the different factions, you know, Trump, the President tapped
into this populist base, sort of empowered them that you have the business
community in another place, a different factions. But what united them was
simply anti-Obama and that came to an end now.
TODD: Maybe lowering taxes will unite them but what does – what role
should McConnell and Ryan now playing all this?
CONANT: Well, I mean, obvious they`re leaders of the Republicans on
Capitol Hill and that`s an incredibly important role because the White
TODD: Are they weaker today because of what happened in health care?
CONANT: I don`t think so. I mean, look, health care didn`t pass because
of President Trump. I mean –
TODD: Really you lay it at the feet him more than you do –
CONANT: He is – first of all, he`s the leader of the Republican Party,
but second of all, no Congress is ever going to pass monumental reforms
especially of the nature of health care without presidential leadership.
And where were the presidential speeches? Where were the presidential
press conferences? Where were the interviews about health care?
TODD: Where was the event in Bangor, Maine for instance or Charleston,
TODD: So I absolutely put it on at the President`s feet. I don`t blame
(ph) capital years –
STEEL: And Republicans are always on bad ground on health care. This is a
land war nation. This is not one wings wind. Taxes, the economy –
STEEL: – these are areas where we`re strong that Democrats own pollsters
did a study that came out and reported today that white working class
voters still say Republicans are better on the jobs and the economy by 35
STEEL: It`s a massive advantage on the issues that presumably restraining
we`re stirring (ph) right in to now.
TODD: Well, and you would have assumed maybe you would have started with
that. But, we can talk about that in hindsight. Boy, that vision at this
point is 2100 when they made that. Anyway, Michael Steel, Alex Conant,
thanks for coming in and being flexible. Hey, nothing like breaking news
all in on Friday. Always an adventure.
All right, in our political units blog first straight earlier this week, we
news about the wheels coming off President Trump`s White House. Well, even
before this afternoon`s news about Reince Priebus, those wheels certainly
seemed to believe in the rear view mirror. We said it before but this
week`s turmoil may have been the worst one yet for Donald Trump. Here`s a
little time capsule.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That tweet is essentially the President calling on his
own Department of Justice Department to investigate his former political
opponent. That`s what that tweet is and that I think is what has really
raised some eyebrows here in Washington, Andrea.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am disappointed in the
Attorney General. He should not have recused himself almost immediately
after he took office.
SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: I don`t say that lightly and as a kind
of a, you know, a goofy guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: 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 have we got ready on screen
here? “Reince is a expletive deleted, paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoia
act. 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 he can succeed for the
That all happened in this one week. And of course, ends with a new chief
of staff. Let`s bring in tonight`s panel Eugene Robinson, of course, MSNBC
political analyst, Pulitzer Prize Winning columnist, Washington Post, Anne
Gearan, reporter, Washington Post. Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor, National
Review. Welcome. Ramesh, John Kelly, problem solved?
RAMESH PONNURU, SENIOR EDITOR, NATIONEL REVIEW: Well, I think that it is
going to be very hard for anybody to run this White House with kind of
military precision, even somebody who has got a military background.
And you`ve got to wonder, everybody says he`s got a great reputation.
People say great things about him. You`ve got to wonder about the judgment
of anybody who would take this job, especially under these circumstances.
TODD: But, Anne Gearan, it`s probably harder for Steve Bannon to yell at
Reince Priebus in front of others or a Jared Kushner to just dismiss a guy
who was a four star general.
ANNE GEARAN, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. I mean, clearly Kelly
walks into a room and you know he`s there, right?
GEARAN: He`s a big guy. He has a very direct manner of speaking. By all
accounts, he has a good relationship with Trump. They didn`t know one
another before this. And also, he`s developed a good reputation among
other people at the White House with McMaster, with McMaster`s Deputy, Dina
Powell. He has a pretty good relationship with Rex Tillerson.
I know nothing of his relationship with Steve Bannon, but that is
definitely one to watch.
TODD: Gene (ph), is this a guy who does have bipartisan –
EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes.
TODD: – friends on Capitol Hill, which is usually most of our good chiefs
of staff over the last couple of decades did. You know, I`m thinking Leon
Panetta, those guys?
ROBINSON: That`s a huge plus and the fact that this is somebody who knows
how to run an organization. At this point, frankly, with this White House,
build an organization. And he knows how to do all that. The question is
to what extent is he empowered by the President. Will everyone report up
TODD: I was just going to say, Anthony Scaramucci, who you report to,
ROBINSON: Right. If Scaramucci continues to report directly to the
President as he claims, although we haven`t quite heard that from the
ROBINSON: – you know, that would be a problem. Now, I think that would
be a problem for General Kelly and I think – and I`d love to see that
encounter. I`d love to see the mooch run into General Kelly.
PONNURU: We`re talking about bipartisan ties. He got to ties to the
Republicans. The –
TODD: He got that many times.
PONNURU: We`ve got a new Communications Director who was an Obama fund
PONNURU: We`ve got some, you know, we`ve got some high profile people in
the White House, Jared and Ivanka, related to the President who have been
Democrats. President Trump`s relationship with the Republican Party has
been uneven and rocky. Where are the actual Republicans in this White
TODD: It`s interesting. And I was thinking about this, if you`re about to
head in a direction where the base is going to get nervous because you`re
going to fire Sessions and you`re going to get rid of Bannon and you`re
going to get rid – and you`re thinking, oh my gosh – Kelly does – the
one thing Kelly has done for those that cared the most about the issue of
immigration is Kelly – he`s clearly tightened the borders and that`s had
an impact. So, with that part of the Trump base, they`ve got to like Kelly
and maybe trust him.
GEARAN: I mean, Kelly got marching orders and went out and did it.
GEARAN: I mean, immediately. And that was – and in his first trip, he
and Tillerson went to Mexico and basically said we`re here to tell you that
we`re going to build the wall –
GEARAN: – and, you know, we`re sorry you don`t like that. Which went
over great with the base. And presumably he can continue to do exactly
TODD: Few questions on new right away for what it`s worth Wall Street
Journal and the guardian are both reporting that Reince is telling – told
two reporters that he actually resigned privately yesterday.
ROBINSON: OK. That`s interesting.
TODD: And, you know, there had been rumors about that and now we know that
those rumors were true.
PONNURU: More leaks.
ROBINSON: More leaks. I think Ramesh`s point is absolutely right, though.
Where are the republicans? Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, you know, all the
people who had connections through the Republican National Committee, to
the Republican Party in general and were in prominent positions all of a
sudden they`re not there.
And if Sessions, you know, the torture of Jeff Sessions continues, you
know, what are Republicans to think? They can`t be in a very good mood
right now given what happened last night.
TODD: Yes. That`s for sure. Look, you still have guys like Mick Mulvaney
who`s got – I would have say, Ramesh, is if he was gone you would then
say, OK, all of them are gone.
PONNURU: Right. But, you know, Todd, one other interesting thing is it`s
not as though Priebus and Sessions are from the same wing of the Republican
Party. He`s apparently perjuring people from all different sides of the
Republican Party and not in favor of other Republicans. It is a really
remarkable turn of events for any President.
TODD: All right, guys. Let`s take a break here.
I had a lot of other things that we were going to touch on. We`re going to
get to those, I promise, in a few minutes. So stay with us for this
breaking news. Reince Priebus officially out as chief of staff. John
Kelly the Homeland Security Secretary is officially in.
Coming up, if this White House can`t function on a daily basis, what
happens if there`s a real crisis and who is in charge. And maybe we
finally got the answer to that question. And if it`s Sunday, we`re going
to take a closer look at what has been a chaotic White House on “MEET THE
PRESS.” So check your local listings. We`ll be right back.
TODD: We do know as the President got off of Air Force One, he did tell
reporters very quickly about how excited he was about naming John Kelly,
his new chief of staff. Of course, the devil will always be in the
details. What kind of power will he have as chief of staff, who reports to
him? A lot of different questions.
In fact, here is a clip of the President talking just now. It`s in the
rain, so it`s a little noisy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, why Secretary Kelly? Why John Kelly?
TRUMP: Reince is a good man. John Kelly will do a fantastic job. General
Kelly has been a star, done an incredible job thus far, respected by
everybody. A great, great American. Reince Priebus, a good man. Thank
you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: There you had it. The President putting his tweets essentially to
camera there for those of us in the media. We`ll have a lot more on the
impact and the fallout from the President`s naming of John Kelly as chief
of staff in just a minute.
TODD: Well, we`re trying to give – bring you even more now on what will
General John Kelly, the current Homeland Security Secretary and now new
Chief of Staff to the President, what will he bring as Chief of Staff to
the White House.
I`ve got two people who know him in different ways. Pete Williams, of
course, our chief justice correspondent, just interviewed Secretary Kelly a
few days ago in Aspen. I`ve got Jeremy Bash, long-time aide to Secretary
of Defense – former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. In fact, when he
was chief of staff at the Defense Department, the senior military advisor,
General Kelly. Jeremy Bash and General Kelly worked side by side for quite
So Pete, let me start with you. It was no secret that President Trump of
all of his cabinet secretaries, Secretary Kelly is the one he`s always felt
the best about because it seems that he has been getting the most
accomplishments done as far as his agenda is concerned. You just
interviewed him. Some of this had been percolating about the idea of
General Kelly going into the White House. What can you tell us about him?
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I asked him at the
very beginning of this – this is the Aspen security conference in front of
a large crowd, I said, you know, how did you end up in this job? Weren`t
you pretty much through with public service? He said he had been out of
the military for several months. He was home watching football and he got
a phone call from Reince Priebus.
And he said, as soon as he convinced himself that it really was Reince
Priebus and not one of his buddies playing a joke, Reince Priebus asked if
he`d be willing to come back into the government. He said he agreed to
have an interview with President-elect Trump. He said that he did so with
some trepidation because the President said I want you for the toughest job
in the government, and Kelly said I was afraid he was going to ask me to be
Secretary of State.
And then he said, when he offered me the job of Homeland Security
secretary, I said I`d think about it. He was in a jovial mood when I
talked to him about this, Chuck. He said he asked his wife about it. She
said well, you know, we`re a family of public service. And besides that,
I`m not sure I want you around the house all the time in retirement. So he
said he agreed to take the job.
But on a more serious note, I think you`re right. Kelly has been walking,
frankly, a very narrow line between being loyal to the President but not so
blindly loyal that he doesn`t acknowledge when he thinks the President has
been a little bit off the reservation in a very gentle way. But he`s led
the charge on building the wall, which is one of the President`s priorities
for controlling the southern border.
And by the way, Chuck, he comes by this concern about the southern border
naturally because he was the head of the southern command, and it was his
job to try to oversee the military side of this. So he`s seen that through
his eyes as a commander and believes very strongly that the President is
right about the need to control the flow of goods and people across the
southern border. So that`s been one of his biggest accomplishments.
He`s also been the person to push through the enforcement of the
President`s travel restriction that`s been back and forth through the
WILLIAMS: Kelly has made no secret of the fact that he`s very frustrated
by that. And then as you know, he`s led this very aggressive push to try
to get foreign airports and airlines to increase their level of security
because of the concern about the so-called laptop bomb. And he worked very
hard on that to persuade European allies to go along with it and it`s now
TODD: Very quickly, Pete, what`s his reputation on Capitol Hill? You
know, everything I hear is that it`s pretty good in both sides of the
WILLIAMS: Yes. He`s well respected. I think, you know, he`s earned the
respect from a 45-year career in the military, in the Marine Corps. And
he`s been – he`s been pretty blunt with members. He did get off to a kind
of rough start when he basically said, you know, I`m just enforcing the
law. If you want to change it, that`s your job, not mine. Not the most
conciliatory tone. He actually had the job –
TODD: Though he was right, Pete. I remember that question and answer. He
was right. It`s Congress`s job to write the law.
WILLIAMS: That`s right. No, he`s absolutely right. It may not have been
the thing they wanted to hear the most. But, you know, he knows the
Congress well. People forget he was in charge of congressional liaison at
one point in his career for the Marine Corps.
TODD: How about that?
WILLIAMS: So he does know – he knows the Congress well. He`s no
political NAF (ph).
TODD: Well, and in fact that`s what I want to talk about next. Pete
Williams, thank you, sir. Appreciate it.
Joining me now is Jeremy Bash. He, of course, is an NBC News and MSNBC
national security analyst, former chief of staff at both the Department of
Defense and CIA. And Jeremy, full disclosure, we were – the initial topic
you and I were going to talk about today is this concern particularly at
the Pentagon, sort of how things happened this week in the world of
national security from the transgender decision by the President, how that
was communicated or frankly not communicated, how the dysfunction had some
folks at the Pentagon nervous and wallah, a former general gets named chief
of staff and I`m thinking, boy, all these people you were talking to,
Jeremy, must be breathing a sigh of relief right now.
JEREMY BASH, FORMER DEFENSE DEPARTMENT CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, first, John
Kelly is a Great American. He`s a great man. And I think we should note
public service is really the reason he decided to go work for Donald Trump.
He`s not a Democrat or a Republican and he`s totally apolitical. And I`ve
had many conversations with him.
And as you noted, I worked with him closely at the Pentagon. He`s a close
personal friend. He and Karen have given every measure for our country.
Their son Robert was of course killed in action in Afghanistan. And he has
another son, his other son John Jr. is getting ready to deploy overseas.
So this is a man in whom every fiber of his being is about public service.
And I think when the President called him and said will you be my chief of
staff, the only thing he thought about was am I serving the country. Now,
that`s great and we want people like that in government service. The
question is, is in a no win situation.
TODD: But I want to ask you about because you have worked closely with
him. Pete Williams noted and I didn`t realize this about his background
that he actually was congressional relations for the Marine Corps. That`s
an interesting and a very helpful, actually, part of his resume being a
White House Chief of Staff. But how familiar is he with tax policy?
You know, is he going to be a guy that`s when he`s – that`s going to be
able to strike the balance between politics and policy when, frankly, a
chief of staff does have to do stuff like that. So, boy, the President
needs to be campaigning over here because it will help us with this effort
there? Is that him? I`m guessing it`s not. But can he get up to speed?
BASH: I think he`d be the first person to admit that, no, those domestic
policy issues have not been in his wheelhouse. And, you know, he`s close
to the President. The President calls him often. In fact, the President
earlier in this presidency asked him whether he`d consider being chief of
staff. He asked him whether he`d consider even being FBI director.
And he`s also called John Kelly to talk about things like tax reform, to
which I think John Kelly said to the President something like, do you know
who you`re talking to? You`re talking to your Homeland Security Chief.
But the President said to him, you know, yes, but John, you think like
average Americans, you`re sort of our salt of the earth, you sort of
reflect the way Americans think and I want your views.
And I think that`s the way the President thinks about John Kelly. But
these are very technical issues. These are politically laden issues and I
think Kelly is going to call upon a lot of support from the White House
team to get through them.
TODD: I guess what`s interesting here is – and I think about – like
going back to we were describing, you know, the President has been dealing
with an Afghanistan review that frankly I know some people have been
troubled by in the military community, the way the transgender decision was
rolled out is something that troubled the Pentagon.
How much will just Kelly`s presence there ease a General McMaster at the
NSC and ease the mind of General Mattis over at the democratic of defense?
BASH: I think there will be some comfort taken from our national security
apparatus that they have someone who understands the issues and more
importantly the process in the west wing with the president. This week
there were a lot of concerns checked as you noted. I talked to folks in the
Pentagon, in the intelligence community. Not simply about the content of
the transgender decision. That`s a whole other other issue –
TODD: That`s right.
BASH: – but really about the process, the way it was announced. And what
they`re concerned about is in a true crisis, the chain of command is the
thing that ensures American security is protected. And when the chain of
command is confused or whether communications go here and the chairman of
the joint chiefs says go there, people can get killed, Chuck. This isn`t
just a matter of just foreign policy. This is life and death if the chain
of command is not respected.
TODD: I`m going to leave you with this last question. Some Americans are
going to be troubled by so many generals making decisions, in charge of so
many key aspects of policy that there`s less civilians involved,
particularly in some national security affairs. Should that be a concern?
BASH: No. I don`t think so. But what I do think that people have to be
concerned about is whether the president empowers his chief of staff to
impose order and discipline on the White House, to get the chain of command
back to regular order, to use a phrase we heard many times this week in
another context. That discipline, that order is absolutely critical to
protect our country.
TODD: I hate (ph) to say, General Kelly, Anthony Scaramucci. They`re going
to have to work side by side.
BASH: I`d bet on John Kelly.
TODD: It`s an interesting odd couple there. Jeremy, thank you, sir.
We`ll have more about the latest change at the White House. We`ll talk to a
democratic senator in just a moment about if he`s ready to work with some
Republicans on health care. Stay with us.
TODD: Welcome back. Hindsight, always 20/20, but it was pretty clear that
the writing was on the wall for Chief of Staff Reince Priebus before
today`s breaking news and it wasn`t just Scaramucci`s broadsides against
him yesterday at the White House press briefing, Press Secretary Sarah
Huckabee Sanders would not definitively say if the president had confidence
in his chief of staff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sarah, does the president have confidence in his chief
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, I think I`ve
addressed this question when it comes to staffing and personnel many times,
that if the president doesn`t, then he`ll make that decision. We all serve
at the pleasure of the president, and if it gets to a place where that
isn`t the case, he`ll let you know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you can`t say right now if the president has full
confidence in Chief of Staff Reince Priebus?
SANDERS: I think I just answered that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Although to be fair, you`ve got to take all this stuff with a grain
of salt. Back in February, we saw the White House say the president had
full confidence in his national security advisor, Michael Flynn. The
president fired him hours later.
We have a new chief of staff, a new national security advisor, a new
communications director, a new deputy chief of staff, White House press
secretary. Those are just five positions that have changed hands in six
months. We`ll be right back.
TODD: More now on tonight`s breaking news. Reince Priebus has resigned as
White House chief of staff. He actually did so privately yesterday. And now
the president has a new chief of staff, Homeland Security Secretary John
Kelly. The senate is going to have to name a new homeland secretary, that`s
But now we`ll see, there`s also got to be some bipartisanship that perhaps
has to break out in the senate if we`re going to solve the health care
problem. So, to talk about both of those issues, I`m joined by democratic
senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Senator Manchin, how are you sir?
Good to see you.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Good, Chuck. How are you doing?
TODD: I`m okay. Let me just get your first reaction to the news. General
Kelly as chief of staff. I know you know him a little bit. I know you know
Reince Priebus a little bit. You`ve worked with both of them somewhat.
TODD: Your reaction?
MANCHIN: Well, they`re both good people. I wish Reince the best. And John -
- General John Kelly, you can`t find a finer human being and a more
committed American, a patriot than John Kelly. I think he`s just a great
human being, good man.
TODD: Give him some advice. Look, we use the word dysfunctional around this
town a lot, and I say that – and look, let`s be realistic. The senate is a
mess. The White House feels like it`s been a mess. Both for very different
reasons. What`s your advice to General Kelly in helping to functional eyes
this dysfunctional town?
MANCHIN: Well, they need – we just – you know, General Kelly has gone up
through the ranks, so he understands how to basically direct the functions
of jobs by jobs, categorize them, and know who is in charge and who has to
be responsible for each other and who is going to answer to who.
He can put that function together. He can put that structure together. And
he can hold them accountable for that. And then I think he came into this
with his eyes wide open. He`s been around this long enough. And the
president has a comfort level with and has confidence in General Kelly.
And he has to have a person around him that he has that type of confidence
in. So, that`s the president`s discretion there. He has to have these
people around him. And these are to be expected when you have will and
pleasure jobs. So, hes` picked General Kelly and he`s well thought of, high
regards, Democrats and Republicans, and he`s just a good man.
TODD: You know, senator, you made it very clear right after the election,
right after the inauguration, you were willing to work with this president
where you felt like that there was – whether if it could help in West
Virginia, no doubt.
He did well in West Virginia. You made that clear. And yet, he`s lost you
so far. Why is that? What has the president done to lose you? You were
willing to work with him on some of these things. How did he not get you on
some of these things?
MANCHIN: I still am. I still am. The bottom line is I`ve said from day one,
you shouldn`t repeal it. I didn`t think the health care should be repealed.
Chuck, if you go back to 2009, they had an open process. It went through a
process. I wasn`t there.
I wasn`t there when Obamacare passed in 2010. I thought there was a lot
much mistakes made and it unfolded. And If they were going to do repeal,
repeal, repeal, then they should have done it in 2012. And if President
Obama would not have gotten reelected, they could have had a clearer
pathway forward. That didn`t happen.
Well, they should have switched gears at that time and says, okay, how do
we repair this and make it the best we can? But if they thought they were
having success because of rallying cry about just the Affordable Care Act,
guess what, it entangled itself into one-sixth of the United States
And that`s what we`re dealing with now, an awful lot of peoples` lives are
at stake. We can do it much better. I`m reaching out. I`m still reaching
out. I still want to work with the White House. But I have to be an honest
broker. I was up front.
The president called me a month or so ago. I said Mr. President, I can`t go
down the repeal path. If you could consider repairing it, you`re the Mr.
Fix It president. You didn`t come through the normal channels. Let`s fix
TODD: You`ve been working –
MANCHIN: And that`s where I am on this, Chuck, and I`ve not changed.
TODD: You`ve been – we got some reporting that there`s a group of six or
seven of you that have been having secret talks and not telling your own
staff that you guys were talking. I hear you, but you were keeping it even
from your staff a little bit.
MANCHIN: How did you – how do you – you got your leaks –
TODD: Too many leaks in this town. That`s what I`m told.
MANCHIN: I got to check – I`m going to check this out.
TODD: What does the most likely first repair, the fact of the matter is
rural America needs some help here in propping up the insurance exchanges
and the insurance markets there. That is clearly a problem you guys have to
solve. What does that repair look like and how likely is it to be, say,
before the end of the year?
MANCHIN: It`s got to happen very quickly. We can`t wait until the first of
the year or the end of the year here, Chuck. It`s got to be done in the
next week or two. We`ve got to send a strong signal and a strong message to
the CSRS (ph), to the insurance communities that the cost sharing revenue
is going to be there. And it needs to be a 24-month guarantee.
We just can`t play games every month do they know they`re going to get it
or not. These prices are going to spike probably 20 percent increases just
based on the uncertainty are the insurance companies going to get the
backstop that they need in order to make sure that we have the exchange
working. That can be done, and we all, Democrats and Republicans, have said
that`s the first and foremost thing we`ve got to get done.
TODD: What if the president doesn`t sign it? The president said let
Obamacare implode then Democrats will come. What do you tell him? He said
that today in a tweet. What do you say about that?
MANCHIN: I just say, Mr. President, you know, this country, we can`t take
that. We can`t take that approach. And I know he`s upset. But we want to
work. No one won last night. There was no winners and losers. If anything,
if we don`t fix something, we`re all losers. And that`s what need to be
done. We`ve got a chance now to repair.
Our Republican friends and colleagues have tried everything possible they
could to fulfill their promise of repealing. It`s so entwined now that`s
not going to happen. And John McCain, Chuck, you know John McCain as well
as I know him. John McMain made a vote basically because this process isn`t
working. If I was on armed services for six years and you know what, when
we did the NDAA, the National Defense Authorization.
MANCHIN: John put everybody in the room. We stayed there for two and three
or more days. Everybody got a shot. Everybody got an amendment. And John
argued with you up and down, get your shot and move on. That`s the process.
That`s what he respects. That`s what he`s defended. And that`s the way he
voted last night.
TODD: Right. John McCain, institutionalist before a member of any political
party any way. Joe Manchin, Democrat from West Virginia. Appreciate you
coming on on a Friday night. Thank you, sir.
MANCHIN: Thanks, Chuck.
TODD: You got it. We`ll be back. A lot more “MTP Daily” right after this.
TODD: A lot more to get to on tonight`s breaking news. The fallout from it,
the impact. We do know this. John Kelly`s first day on the job, Monday.
We`ll be right back with “The Lid.”
TODD: Welcome back. Time for “The Lid.” Eugene Robinson, Anne Gearan,
Ramesh Ponnuru. All right. Little graphic time here. This is day 189 of the
Trump presidency. Put up a graphic here for the sense of the sweetness of
the chief staff shake-up. Barack Obama first chief of staff was Ram
His last day was on day 619, October 1st, 2010. Andy Card. His last day was
on day 1,084. He made it almost the entire time. It was 2006 that he left.
Mack McLarty made it to day 523, June 27, 1994. It shows you here we are on
day 189. Ramesh, so, it`s not just this.
As (INAUDIBLE) pointed out. We`ve had – now we`re in the sixth month, day
189. We`re now on the second chief of staff. The second deputy chief of
staff. The second communications director. The second press secretary. The
second national security advisor. That`s something else in 189 days.
RAMESH PONNURU, COLUMNIST AND SENIOR EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW MAGAZINE: Yes.
It`s not all that surprising when you consider President Trump was elected
as a disrupter. His election wasn`t felt disrupted. He was a non-
So you would expect things to take a little time to get working. But I do
think this is also showing some problems in what might call the management
style of this administration. It`s just chaos all the time. That it`s all
drama. It`s like a reality show as everybody keep saying.
EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: In fairness, 189 days for
the Trump administration feel like 1890 days –
TODD: Dog years.
ANNE GEARAN, DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Also, I mean,
the chief of staff traditionally or well often is someone who is a loyalist
from the new president`s previous life, whatever that is as a senator, as a
That person comes with a whole set of tools that Priebus didn`t have and so
far we don`t really know whether Kelly has either, right? Time and grade
with the new president. An ability to marshal loyalty among others and
punish if that loyalty isn`t granted.
I mean, Trump does all that himself. That doesn`t leave an enormous amount
of room for the chief of staff. I mean, it was clear from the beginning
that Priebus` days were going to be numbered by some, right? A 189 might be
longer than some people would have given him.
TODD: You know, it`s interesting, it`s true, I think we had our first
Reince Priebus chief of staff chief of staff shake-up stories before he was
named chief of staff.
ROBINSON: It`s like he is on his way out.
TODD: And he hasn`t been named yet. You know, we were talking earlier about
the deficits that John Kelly comes into in this job, just chief of staff,
political being a big one.
TODD: Domestic policy being a big one. The question I wonder is what about
staffing control? That seems probably –
TODD: – the single most important question that we need to answer.
ROBINSON: It is huge because the White House has to be a machine. It has to
be a machine that can do policy, that can do politics, that can do
communications, and it has to – those parts have to coordinate and work
together in some fashion.
Now, you know, a military man like General Kelly will have ideas of how to
do that, but he will have to have the power, an organization power. He will
have to (INAUDIBLE) boxes in organization chart in the Trump White House.
He will have to have a power to rearrange them.
TODD: Where – it seems that we`re all learning this, and I think Anthony -
- this is where the Anthony Scaramucci broadside actually do tell us
something about where different powers are coming. The kids are clearly on
the dump Reince and Bannon bandwagon.
We don`t know where the president is on that. But it goes to the point you
made earlier. Where are all the Republicans? Because it looks like Gary
Cohn is going to be in charge of domestic policy, right? We know McMaster.
This may empower McMaster even more.
There was some question about how much empowering will he get. I think
General Kelly probably has a deep respect for General McMaster. Are you
concerned that there isn`t enough Republicans?
PONNURU: Well, I think there are a number of concerns here. The chief of
staff traditionally has been somebody who either – Anne was saying had
close ties to the president or had some legislative or political
experience, had good ties with members on Capitol Hill.
This is the second chief of staff in a row who doesn`t have any one of
those characteristics, any of those traditional qualifications. Then
there`s the question of what`s the management flow. What is the structure
of command in this White House? Does Scaramucci still report directly to
the president or is he going to report through the chief of staff?
TODD: How about Jared Kushner? To me, that`s always – it`s trickier than
Scaramucci. Scaramucci is in the news this week.
TODD: Kushner in his own portfolio.
GEARAN: Sure, I mean, but everyone in the White House has that problem,
right? I mean, who are you to Kushner? Who is Kushner to you? I think that
isn`t going to be different for Kelly. I mean, their portfolios actually
might overlap less in some ways than they did before, right?
TODD: I wish I`ll say (INAUDIBLE). Quite a – just actually just another
Friday in Washington. This is one where he actually abided by the rules of
Washington. The Friday 5:00 p.m. news dump. Get your new chief of staff.
Gene, Anne, Ramesh. Thank you. A little bit more of “MTP Daily” right after
TODD: One little fun fact here. In case you missed, before John Kelly, the
only former military general to serve as White House chief of staff, Al
Haig. Haig held the job from May 4th, 1973 to September 21, 1974, through
Watergate, Nixon`s resignation, and (INAUDIBLE) Nixon.
That`s all we have for tonight. If it`s Sunday, we will have much more on
the White House shake-up. All of this chaotic week on “Meet the Press.”
I`ll be sure to check out our 1947, the “Meet the Press” podcast because my
guest this week, Ari Melber. And Ari picks things up right now.
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