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MTP Daily, Transcript 1/23/2017

Guests: Deirdre Bosa, Chris Coons, John Stanton, Ruth Marcus, Lanhee Chen, Peter Alexander, John Stanton, Ruth Marcus, Lanhee Chen, Deepak Gupta

Show: MTP Daily Date: January 23, 2017 Guests: Deirdre Bosa, Chris Coons, John Stanton, Ruth Marcus, Lanhee Chen, Peter Alexander, John Stanton, Ruth Marcus, Lanhee Chen, Deepak Gupta

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Yes, it`s Monday.

President Trump gets to work.

(voice-over): Tonight, just the facts. The White House begins its bold, new agenda while facing a crisis of credibility.


SEAN SPICER, U.S. PRESS SECRETARY: Sometimes we can disagree with the facts.


MELBER: Plus, a matter of ethics. Is President Trump already violating the Constitution? We`ll talk to one of the attorneys suing the president.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to need to see the president`s tax returns.


MELBER: Later, we`ll look at the Democrats road map in the age of Trump.

This is MTP DAILY, and it starts right now.

(on camera): Good evening, I`m Ari Melber in New York for Chuck Todd. And welcome to MTP DAILY.

And welcome to an unusual and sometimes wild day at Trump White House, following a weekend of new beginnings, new controversies and, of course, a memorable, new phrase from Trumpland on "MEET THE PRESS" alternative facts.

Now, in its first full workday, two sides of the Trump White House were on display. An ambition to shake up a Washington as promised, and serious questions about the administration`s credibility.

White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, today, holding his first White House briefing with the White House press corps and attempting to smooth over his relationship there after it got off to a rocky and, indeed, unusual start following his tirade against White House reporters this weekend for their reporting on inaugural crowd size.

Now, it was an address which included several false claims that were immediately disproven at the time. Here`s Spicer speaking with reporters today with his credibility on the line.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it your intention to always tell the truth from that podium and will you pledge never to, knowingly, say something that is not factual?

SPICER: It is. It`s an honor to do this. And, yes, I believe that we have to be honest with the American people. I think sometimes we can disagree with the facts. There are certain things that we may miss -- we may not fully understand when we come out. But our intention is never to lie to you, Jonathan (ph).


MELBER: Yes, that was clearly the effort to offer time and professionalism to the assembled reporters today. Contrast that tone with what we saw just this weekend from Spicer, when he was at the lectern for the first time and he tore into the press over that crowd size issue.


SPICER: No one had numbers because the National Park Service, which controls the national mall, does not put any out. This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe. These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.


MELBER: Spicer walked back part of that message today, noting some of those figures were wrong. But he also doubled down on the notion that this Trump administration will aggressively dispute facts from the press.

And he seemed to cast government misinformation as the same as reporters making any factual mistakes.

He also pressed the argument that the media audience for the inauguration was the largest ever, an apparent effort to thread the needle on that crowd size issue.

Now, that was the message. What about the substance today? Well the White House, to be clear, is considering major reforms on Obamacare, on trade, on Russia, on immigration, border security. And now, taking action through executive power.

Donald Trump, you see there, signing orders today to scuttle the TPP trade agreement, reinstate a ban on federal funding for organizations abroad that facilitate abortions and freezing all federal hiring, except within the military.

President Trump, today, also outlining an aggressive economic agenda during a meeting with CEOs. Here`s Trump.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to be cutting taxes massively. We think we can cut regulations by 75 percent, maybe more.

A company that wants to fire all of its people in the United States and build some factory someplace else and then thinks that that product is just going to just flow across the border into the United States, that`s not going to happen. They`re going to have a tax to pay. A border tax. Substantial border tax.


MELBER: All of this coming after hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Washington and cities across the nation. A large majority of participants were clearly there to protest President Trump, others emphasizing they were rallying for broader women`s rights` issues.

[17:05:04] Now, let`s get right to it. NBC`s White House correspondent, Peter Alexander. Peter, it`s always a big day in Washington and for the press corps when you have this first -- sort of, first maiden voyage, if you will. But it seemed quite different, given the overhang from this weekend.

What were your thoughts being in the room?

PETER ALEXANDER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Yes, I think maiden voyage not just for the press, but also, frankly, for Sean Spicer. His first real time taking questions from reporters in the Brady briefing room today. It was a rapid-fire affair that I think focused a lot less on the pettiness of the fight over the weekend, where, as you noted, he was really combative and more on the, sort of, policy issues.

Some things that struck me is notable today, specifically Spicer said that the U.S. would, effectively, work with anybody in the fight against ISIS, including Russia.

He appeared to sort of soften his position on a variety of different issues that have been of concern to a lot of people who largely supported his opponent, Hillary Clinton. The issue of the dreamers. Those folks who came into this country as the children of undocumented immigrants. Basically, the concern was that they may be booted out, in effect, that he said -- he said that was not a priority.

And as for that feud with the CIA, remember Donald Trump compared members of the intelligence community to Nazi Germany. He pointed to the weekend event at the Central Intelligence Agency`s headquarters to the quote, "hooting and hollering" that took place there to, sort of, demonstrate that this was -- this is no story whatsoever. That he has the significant backing of the intelligence community.

But, obviously, having heard from a lot of brass within the intelligence world, we know that that`s not entirely the case.

MELBER: And so, does it feel like they are active today with the orders and what they`re rolling out, that there is a little more clarity, perhaps, than the weekend?

ALEXANDER: Yes. No, I think that`s certainly the case. I mean, this was, obviously, much more policy-centered today. We were litigating everything, as I noted, from trade, obviously a series of executive orders, the president signed today.

I was in the Oval Office where he went through this, you know, sort of, unique moment. I was there in the Roosevelt Room earlier today with business leaders as well. And this is sort of a master of branding, whether you like him or dislike him.

It was obvious, at one point today, he called us -- there was, like -- to give you inside baseball. he rushed reporters upstairs to rush into the Oval Office to see him with some of these union leaders so that he could say, we had a great meeting. Didn`t we have a great meeting? The guys behind him parroted (ph) back, yes, it was excellent, Mr. Trump. It was excellent.

I mean, this is -- this is a guy who recognizes the value in trying to communicate which is why so many people were so stunned by the way that Sean Spicer tried to communicate what seemed to be such a small issue when there are so many big issues going on right now, over the course of the weekend.

As it goes to the relationship with the media right now. I was struck. I asked a question in the Oval Office earlier today that, obviously, bristled some of his advisors. I was asking him about that lawsuit regarding the emoluments to which he said it was totally without merit. I know you`ll discuss that later.

But when I was back in the Oval Office for another what we call a spray, where the cameras were invited in to show him with the union leaders. As we walked out, he called me out by name. And he said, hey, you got a little bit of trouble earlier today, huh? You`re OK. You`re always welcome in here.

So, this is a guy that`s doing a little bit of a charm offensive in much the same way that some of his advisors, including Sean Spicer was trying to do later to -- just a short time ago of trying to do just a short time ago today as well.

MELBER: Very interesting stuff, Peter, especially as he`s learning his way around the building. Thank you very much for your time.

I want to go to our panel. Lanhee Chen was a policy director for Mitt Romney`s campaign and advisor to Marco Rubio. Ruth Marcus, a deputy editorial page editor with "The Washington Post." And John Stanton, Washington Bureau Chief with BuzzFeed.

John, your thoughts on what we saw today. And, with regard to the economy, there was one thing that happened that was the same thing as if Bernie Sanders had won as Donald Trump which was scuttling the TPP.

JOHN STANTON, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, BUZZFEED: Yes. You know, it`s -- the press conference was a little bit odd, I think, because it seemed like they did not -- Sean Spicer did the best job as he could, trying to, like, parese (ph) or set his relationship with the media and, sort of, how he looks to the American public.

It`s odd that he was engaging, I guess a little bit, on this stuff. You think that would have tried to have stuck with the TPP message. But, you know, that really, sort of, demonstrates how badly they`re handling this right now, frankly.

I think what happened on Saturday was a terrible thing. I mean, they just came out and said things that aren`t true. Today, he tried to make it sound as if he was talking about total numbers but it was very clear, when he was speaking, that he was talking about people on the mall.

But beyond that, you know, they`re getting in their own way. Right? The TPP withdrawal is a major thing. And it`s something -- one of the things that he really, sort of, hung his campaign on and a lot of voters wanted him to do. And you would think that they would be trying to spend --

MELBER: No, it`s --

STANTON: -- 24 hours a day just talking about that and that`s it, right?

MELBER: Absolutely. And that goes to something you hear about a lot which is folks will complain that, oh, the press is focused on this stuff. And we`re focused sometimes on D.C., storylines that don`t have to do with the rest of the country. And that`s a fair criticism, as far as it goes.

[17:10:06] But, again, they come out to the podium and what do they want to talk about on a day where there is this major trade news? I`ll show you a little bit of Sean Spicer here, saying the press is too negative and unfair and that`s the problem. Take a listen.


SPICER: We had a tweet go out about Martin Luther King. Think about how racially charged that is. Where was the apology to the president of the United States? Where was the apology to millions of people who read that and thought how racially insensitive that was? Where was that apology?

Over and over again, there is this attempt to go after this president and say, well, that can`t be true. And that`s not right. And the numbers weren`t there. And there was a rush to judgment every time. And it`s a two-way street. We to want have a healthy and open dialogue.


MELBER: And so, Ruth, I mean, you look at that. There`s no politician or president that`s going to like all their press coverage. But he`s out there complaining about a tweet which, again, I`m not going to give extra air time to something that had to be corrected. But it was corrected.

So, it`s Monday. I`m not sure that -- but for political junkies, everyone else is thinking about the tweet, that, apparently, the White House press secretary, and perhaps the president, are thinking about.

RUTH MARCUS, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It was - - the tweet was corrected. It was corrected within a matter of -- I don`t even think it was hours. I think it was a matter of minutes, as soon as the reporter realized he was wrong and he apologized for it.

And I think that I understand any White House is going to feel aggrieved, not just at some of his press coverage, but at press coverage on a very sensitive issue like this. I understand a sense of aggrievement. But, boy, when did we hear Donald Trump ever apologize for any misstatement or anything he got wrong, ever?

And so, you certainly want -- look, none of us like making mistakes. I`ve made my share and I`ve apologized for them. But, you know, a little bit of an equivalence here, guys.

MELBER: Lanhee, what did you think of this and how does this compare to the way other Republicans have done it?

LANHEE CHEN, FORMER POLICY DIRECTOR, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: Well, I thought today`s press conference was a -- was a dramatic improvement. I think part of the reason why is because there were substantive matters to address.

I mean, if you look at pulling out of the TPP, this is a very significant change in how the U.S. approaches the global economic order. This is a huge executive order. You even talk about freezing on hiring of federal employees. That is the fulfillment of a Republican campaign promise that members of Congress and, indeed, this president had made.

You look at the discussion about Obamacare. These are big issues. So, I think the administration would be well served to continue on this pathway of trying to have the substantive discussion. A, because it reassures Republicans that this is, in fact, a Republican president. But, B, because it takes us away from the issues where, frankly, I think they`re going to have a very difficult time litigating and winning.

MELBER: Of course, Republicans, elected Republicans in the Congress, have been muscular advocates of free trade, in most of these deals. Particularly pre-Obama when there wasn`t, perhaps, a partisan cast.

Here`s John McCain reacting today on the TPP decision. President Trump`s decision to formerly withdraw is a serious mistake that will have lasting consequences for America`s economy.

Contrast that to Bernie Sanders who says, I`m glad the TPP is dead and gone.

And Chuck Schumer who, sort of, tried to have it both ways, saying, well, this was dead long before President Trump took office. We await real action on trade.

Lanhee, what does it say that on this one Trump is closer to Bernie, and Chuck Schumer isn`t really being a hundred percent accurate there, because Democrats had long championed these kind of deals, including, obviously, President Obama.

CHEN: Well, this has always been the hope of the Trump coalition, right? The idea that they could build a new coalition that would attract Democrats, as well as Republicans, who are aggrieved by what they perceive to be the economic malfeasance that`s come from these bad trade deals.

I do think it`s going to be interesting to see how congressional Republicans who take the more main line view on trade. And you had John McCain up, Paul Ryan, others that have been very forceful advocates for free trade. It`ll be very interesting to see whether they will continue to support Trump as he goes on.

Let`s say he begins to slap tariffs on countries. Let`s say he begins to pull out of NAFTA. Then, I think we`re going to start to see maybe more opposition from congressional Republicans. But, for now, they are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

MELBER: Well -- and, Ruth, to that point. Let`s just get clear on the policy. The other executive actions today are mostly otherwise Republican dogma, scaling back Obamacare, freezing the new regulations we mentioned, and the banning the U.S. funds on abortion overseas.

So, isn`t the big question whether trade here is just the outlier?

MARCUS: Well, actually, I think that there`s a bunch of questions. And, like Lanhee, I would much rather be talking about issues of substance than crowd size or tweets or anything like that.

[17:15:03] But there are just a lot of potential schisms between President Trump and his party. What is he going to do on immigration? He vowed to get rid of those executive orders. Where is that? How does he deal with the trade things?

Most -- probably the most difficult is going to be how he deals with the promise to repeal and replace and wins his way through the -- especially the Senate system with a 60-vote requirement. In order to do that and how will he solves the anxieties of his voters who were worried about losing health care that they had, even if it might not be perfect.

So, I think that -- as we continue to talk about and start to talk about more issues of substance, I think it`s going to actually be very difficult to solve some of these problems.

MELBER: Well -- and, John, just briefly. Is that a prism here? That the easy things, like restoring abortion executive order which previous administrations have done, happen. And the hard things, like the solution to Obamacare doesn`t happen for a long time, if ever.

STANTON: No, I think -- I mean, I think it`s going to be much harder, obviously, to do Obamacare than to do the reinstatement of the Mexico City policy. I mean, that`s kind of an easy one that always gets done pretty quickly in a Republican administration.

Although, there`s one thing. I would actually argue that the trade shift - - this is a shift that the party`s been going through for 10 years, at this point. I think most of the Tea Party members that came into the House, particularly are -- a lot of them are very anti-trade. Senator Jeff Sessions has always been very -- you know, not, like, a full-on free trader like a lot of, sort of, main line Republicans used to be.

And I think that on this issue and on Obamacare, you`re seeing this, sort of, changing of the guard within the party. So, I don`t think that it`s necessarily that he is out of step with the party. But maybe the leadership is a bit out of step with the party, frankly.

And I think that that`s going to serve him well by getting out of this early. That`s going to build a lot of good will with those people for him to do what he wants to do on, let`s say, Obamacare. And it`s going to take him more than a month or two months or six months to figure out what he wants to do.

MELBER: Right. You`re saying he`s going to have some credibility on one of the issues where he actually had (INAUDIBLE) over the congressional Republicans to begin with, or at least the older establishment ones.

Lanhee, Ruth and John, stay with us, for our panel.

Coming up, the other big story here on the first full workday of the Trump administration. Major ethical questions following President Trump from the penthouse to the White House.

But you`re going to look at this new legal challenge that Trump faces over his international businesses. And, on the show, one of the lawyers who is suing the president.

Stay with us.


MELBER: Another story unfolding right now. The vote for Rex Tillerson, President Trump`s pick for secretary of state. Now, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee finished up their final remarks before voting to approve the former ExxonMobil CEO. Every Democrat on the committee voting Tillerson down.

[17:20:05] Senator Marco Rubio seemed to be the last plausible Republican holdout. But, today, he formerly announced he would support Tillerson`s confirmation despite his stated reservations.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I hope he does become the best secretary of state our nation`s ever had. But I also intend to hold him and, more broadly, the Department of State accountable.


MELBER: We are counting the votes set (ph) right now. We`ll have more on this and more MTP DAILY right after a break.


MELBER: Welcome back to MTP DAILY.

A bipartisan group of ethics` experts sued President Trump today, alleging he`s already violating the Constitution by continuing business operations that take money from foreign governments. The suit saying that from the moment that Trump was sworn in Friday, he was officially in violation of the Constitution`s emoluments clause.

That section says, no person holding any office of profit or trust shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept any present, emolument, office or title of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state.

So, the law suit cites Trump`s decision not to divest, for example, from the Trump Hotel in Washington. It flags leases held by government-owned entities and Trump Tower in New York, like the Bank of China.

And the president responded to a question about this lawsuit from our own Peter Alexander earlier today in the Oval Office.


ALEXANDER: Mr. President, reaction to the lawsuit today.


ALEXANDER: That`s it?



MELBER: Trump was using the correct legal lingo there. Cases are won or lost on the merit. But even if this challenge loses, it could still compel Trump to release business records or even tax returns that have remained hidden for years. That is if the suit clears the first hurdle of proving the ethics experts have standing, meaning that they can show the legal injuries required that would allow them to sue in the first place.

Deepak Gupta is one of the attorneys suing Trump. He is a Supreme Court litigator and former council to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the Obama administration.

Good evening to you.


MELBER: Absolutely. So, a lot of this argument on the merits turns on the idea that Donald Trump will be benefitting. So, the divestment plan that he put forward, in your view, the, sort of, separation plan, he didn`t divest assets but is, he says, giving control over to the children. Does that change the constitutional analysis at all?

GUPTA: It doesn`t really because the problem here is that Donald Trump has a financial interest in a vast empire of far-flung holdings around the world. And what the framers of the Constitution were concerned about and the reason they wrote that clause that you showed the viewers, is they didn`t want the loyalty of elected officials to be divided between the American people and financial interests in dealings with foreign powers.

And nothing that the president said he is going to do takes care of that problem. Divesting is really the only way to solve it, and we`ve realized that for a long time. It`s why, you know, Jimmy Carter had to sell his peanut farm even though he had no entanglements with foreign government.

MELBER: And that was just peanuts. That was just peanuts.

GUPTA: Exactly, that was just peanuts.

MELBER: It was literally peanuts.

GUPTA: A lease agreement --

MELBER: I just want a little -- I just want a little credit for this joke, even though it`s not funny.

Let me -- let me ask you this about your brief. Because I read it and your argument on paper about why all this money is problematic, why turning over only the profits to the treasury under the Trump plan doesn`t resolve it. All of that part of your -- of your complaint reads strong on paper.

I think you know what I`m going to say what reads less strong. And that is your argument that you and your lawyer callings really have the injury and the standing to sue. Now, you cite to a Supreme Court case that we`ll put up on the screen so that folks can assess it for themselves. Where there was standing found when civil rights discrimination and housing prevented a group from providing, quote, "counselling and referral services for the poor."

And that injury was more, the court said, than a setback to the organizations abstract societal interests. Won`t the Trump White House have a point that what you`re alleging is much more in that category than however important ethics are, your standing argument is only about your organization crews, abstract interests?

GUPTA: Yes. Well, they`re certainly going to make that argument. And ever since Donald Trump was elected, you know, one of the big questions was not is this a serious issue. I think we all have to acknowledge that there is a serious issue about whether the president can take payments from foreign governments. But how is someone going to be able to get into court and make that argument?

And CREW is really situated a lot like the organization in that -- in that case. It`s called the Havens` case from the 1980s. What the Supreme Court said was, basically, if you have an organization and it has to divert its resources because of legal violations that the organization is trying to challenge, that gives you standing.

And one way to think about this is, you know, we all agree that businesses have standing if they`re putting out a product and something the government does makes it less -- makes them less able to put out that product and affects their revenue.

Well, in CREW`s case, this is Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the plaintiff, their product is the good government work they do. The work that focuses on money and politics and keeping the government honest.

And because of Donald Trump`s unprecedented conflicts of interest, they have had to divert all of their attention and resources to these legal violations of the emoluments clause. So, they`re situated just like that organization.

MELBER: So, in a (INAUDIBLE) sentence -- I mean, judges, a lot of times, they`re still like regular people or anyone watching this program which is saying, OK, I kind of hear you. But in a sentence, how have you, as the plaintiff in this suit, been harmed?

GUPTA: Well, we`ve had to spend money. We`ve had to do -- all of the things that the organization normally does, it hasn`t been able to do because it`s had to focus resources on Donald Trump and his conflicts of interest.

And so, it`s all of the resources that it -- that it -- you know, it`s budget goes to, those are now going to these things. And that produces an injury. And I should say, also --

MELBER: I want to keep moving through. Let`s talk evidence. Standing is only so fun for so long. On the evidence, your counsel it has said now publicly on our air today, he wants the tax returns. He`s after the business records.

If you clear standing, why is that kind of evidence important for the constitutional claim you`re making?

GUPTA: Well, the point of the lawsuit is to get a court to address the emoluments clause issue and decide whether Donald Trump is accepting payments he can`t accept.

And in order to assess these claims, a court is going to have to know what financial interests does Donald Trump have? Where are his holdings? Who does he owe money to?

And we have had -- this is, you know, compared to all other presidents, the president who has been the most secretive about his financial holdings. Why is it -- why is he so afraid to release his tax returns?

MELBER: So, you`re saying -- when Kellyanne Conway says, as she did yesterday, hey, the voters looked at this. They don`t care. That might be right, politically. But you`re saying that if this goes to court, a judge, unlike the voters, will say, no. I need to actually see who he owes and what money he`s getting?

GUPTA: Yes, I think that`s right. I also think Kellyanne Conway is wrong. I think a lot of people care. And I think people are very concerned about Donald Trump`s entanglements around the world.

And this could get concrete very quickly. He has buildings in cities around the world, in the middle of city centers in places like Istanbul. And some of these buildings could become targets.

So, what happens when you have a terrorist organization that targets a Trump building that has Donald Trump`s name emblazoned on it? Does the U.S. military go in to protect Donald Trump`s private business interests? Do American soldiers die for that?

MELBER: You`re saying -- you`re saying -- I just want to -- you`re saying that would be a terrible thing, but it also creates terrible conflicts for the U.S. government that otherwise would not exist.

GUPTA: That`s exactly right. I mean, and the framers of the Constitution were so -- they had so much foresight. They understood that we did not want our elected leaders to have these divided loyalties. To have to choose between what was in the best interest of the American people and what was in their own personal financial interest.

And so, they wrote this very strict rule into the Constitution, no present, no emoluments, --

MELBER: Right.

GUPTA: -- nothing of any kind from foreign governments.

MELBER: Very interesting stuff. Deepak Gupta, thanks for taking us to law school a little bit today.

GUPTA: Sure, happy to.

MELBER: Now, as we mentioned at the top of the show, President Trump meeting with congressional leaders now from both parties at the White House. There are some new pictures coming in right now from inside the very start of that meeting. The president did not make any official remarks to the press there.

The president`s back was to the press as he was engaged in conversation. You see him there with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Paul Ryan. This is just moments ago.

We are witnessing really the beginning here on the first full workday of President Trump`s bipartisan outreach to congressional leaders. We`re going to bring you more news on that. You see (inaudible) there on the left as well when we come back.


MELBER: Hi I`m Ari Melber in for Chuck Todd. Still ahead on MTP Daily tonight, millions voicing their opposition to President Trump this weekend. But can democrats mobilize those marchers going forward? Senator Chris Coons joins me to discuss their strategy. And first right now, Deirdre Bosa has today`s CNBC Market Wrap.

DEIRDRE BOSA, CNBC TECHNOLOGY REPORTER: Thank you, Ari. Stocks beginning the week with slight losses. The Dow shedding 27 points, the S&P sinking 6, and the Nasdaq off 2 points. McDonald`s reporting revenues and earnings that beat estimates, however U.S. cost sales fell as consumers bought up fewer all day breakfast. Shares finished lower today.

And Yahoo, also out with better than expected results and it`s earnings release. The company said it`s deal with Verizon would close in the second quarter rather than in the first quarter. Shares are up after hours. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.


MELBER: After a big weekend of activism, democrats are grappling with how to harness the energy from those women`s marches that took over cities around the nation and even the world. The marches immediately drew comparisons to Tea Party rallies with activists and operatives asking the question that also faced the GOP when Obama took office.

How do you direct energy that is more of a grassroots reaction than a proactive embrace of any given party or agenda? And is the democratic party so called establishment even really listening? As activists flooded the streets around the country, gathering of major donors and strategists was convening near Miami. Of the seven candidates vying to chair the DNC, only south bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg joined one of the actual marches.

Right now the immediate tactic for congressional democrats seems to be an effort to try to clog the flow of some Trump cabinet confirmations. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer telling Chuck Todd on Sunday, democrats aren`t preparing to just be the party of opposition.


CHUCK SCHUMER, SENIOR U.S. SENATOR FROM NEW YORK, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: President Trump is floundering and going after things that he`s having real difficulty with, like his cabinet, like the Affordable Care Act, et cetera.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR, "MEET THE PRESS DAILY" SHOW HOST: All right. Republicans went sharp edged against a President Obama and we had a polarized eight years. Is that what we`re headed for here?

SCHUMER: Look, we`re going to go by our values. We`re not going to oppose something because the name Trump is on it as they did.


MELBER: Joining me now is Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. Good evening to you, I understand you attended one of the women`s marches. Although you are, I should note, a man, but tell us why that was important to you and what, if anything, that says about how democratic politicians are working with the grassroots?

SEN. CHRIS COONS, D-DELAWARE: That`s right, Ari. My daughter and I first thing in the morning about 6:00 a.m. joined a busload of our neighbors and friends from Wilmington, Delaware, and came down to Washington to participate in the women`s march on Washington. There were nearly 30 busloads of Delawareans who came down to Washington.

I must say it was a very positive, uplifting experience. I frankly found the inauguration on Friday very concerning. President Trump`s inaugural address, I thought, was negative, was dark, was dystopian about our future about the accomplishments of the recent years and the administration about our role in the world. I participated in the march here with my daughter.

And no small part to hold up a more positive and more inclusive view of women`s role in the world and of our role in the world. And I look forward to working with grassroots activists in Delaware to harness some of that energy to some upcoming special elections in Delaware. And to make sure that we here in congress are listening to and attentive to the concerns of millions of activists, women and citizens more broadly, who engaged in these marches all over our country.

MELBER: So you talk about that as a contrast. When you looked around that crowd, did you think of it as democrats? Did you think of it as Clinton voters? Did you think of it as independents, women and others, that you actually need to do more as a Democratic Party leader to appeal to?

COONS: I think we need to do more to listen to folks of all backgrounds in the United States. The democratic caucus is about to do a two-day retreat and one of the things I`ve been urging is that we take more time to listen to the voices of those outside of Washington who feel like we really haven`t fought for them, haven`t stood up for them, haven`t represented them in recent years. And take that seriously. And re-tuned both our economic message and our political approach.

The folks who I had a chance to listen to and meet with in the course of a full day here at the march in Washington were from a very wide range of backgrounds and political perspectives, and they were mostly motivated to come here to lift up a more positive and inclusive vision of America than they had heard in the inaugural address.

MELBER: You talk about inclusion, and there`s really no doubt at a factual level about how much broader some of the messaging and some of the -- what we heard from those marches was then the kind of dark or plaintiff tone in the president`s inaugural address. But when you look at the politics here which matters, I mean, a big part what democrats are trying to do is figure out why, despite some of these raise of energy or hope the party seems to be really losing ground.

And the governor`s house as you know and in a lot of the state legislatures and obviously in the electoral college even if there is a majority out there or at least a plurality out there. Take a look at this graphic that MTP Daily producers pulled up. It`s very interesting. Comparing this to the Tea Party. The marches are in Obama/Clinton areas, 80 percent compared to 33 percent in the Tea Party rallies. That sort of what we might call the blue states, right?

In those pivotal Obama/Trump areas though, the Tea Party rallies historically by the data were 25 percent compared to just 11 percent under Obama and Trump. Now, I`m not suggesting -- and I think it would be facile to suggest that people should only march depending on where they live. Obviously, people are marching where they are and this is a community event. But, as someone who wants to go about the hard business of also winning back seats, do those numbers concern you? COONS: Well, I do think we need to focus on this swing districts in our country as well as on places in our country that have been left out in the long economic recovery over the last eight years. We`ve seen positive numbers in terms of wage growth and new jobs created.

But there`s lots of places in our country that haven`t felt that difference. There were many folks who came from places who we might consider swing districts or districts left out of the recovery who came to the march in Washington.

So I`m not sure that the numbers you just put up about where the Tea Party marches happened, where the women`s march just happened are all that telling. What matters most is whether we in the democratic caucus here in the senate are able to hear these concerns, channel it, harness it, and focus it in a positive way.

I do think that my office frankly has already heard hundreds more calls from my constituents voicing opposition to some of the more extreme nominees for Trump`s cabinet.

MELBER: Right.

COONS: Betsy DeVos for education, Price for Health and Human Services. Pruitt for EPA. I do think we`re going to hear more energy and more engagement from the grassroots all over the country.

MELBER: And senator, this was Monday, day one, I want to get before you go, your views, anything Trump did today that particularly concerned you and was there anything you saw that gave you any positive view?

COONS: I was very struck, negatively by the tone and conduct of his speech at the CIA and by his executive order saying it`s the policy of this administration to repeal the Affordable Care Act long before they have any coherent plan to replace it. I do think that`s going to cause more Americans to lose their health coverage and will cause more dislocation in the health insurance markets.

MELBER: Senator Coons, thank you, very interesting to get your views as a lot happened today. Appreciate your time.

COONS: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Still ahead, some details of the Supreme Court`s move. This is new, you may not have heard about it on that controversial Texas voter ID law. Also, the rest of today`s political headlines in The Lid, keep it right here.


MELBER: Welcome back. The Supreme Court will not yet review a case on Texas`s voter ID law. Today, the nation`s high court declined a request to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling that found the law was discriminatory. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the issues involved would be better suited for the high court after a final judgment from that lower court, which is potentially a normal way to approach it.

But it also means the Supreme Court might take this case up down the road after President Donald Trump fills the current vacancy on what is generally a deadlock for full court. The Texas law first enacted in 2011 required voters present one of at least seven forms of government issued photo ID. We`ll be right back with more MTP Daily.


MELBER: Welcome back. And it is that time, time for The Lid. Our panel right back here, Lanhee Chen, Ruth Marcus, and John Stanton. And sometimes the interviews that politicians and political aids do can be revealing, sometimes they have to clean up with what they say afterward.

I want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, but play the original sound byte here from Kellyanne Conway that seemed to have some truth in it and got a lot of people talking. Take a listen to Kellyanne on the tax return question Sunday.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP ADVISOR: The White House response is that he is not going to release his tax returns. We litigated this all through the election. People didn`t care. They voted for him.


MELBER: He is not going to release them. End of the story. But it wasn`t. Because in fairness to Kellyanne although that sounded dogmatic and was covered that way is as the panel knows and many of our viewers probably know, she tweeted today that the position is actually on the repeated question same from the campaign, POTUS is under audit and will not release until that is completed.

I start with you, John. Is it possible that the actual plan was revealed in that candid answer someday that they`re never going to release it?

JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Expectation is that they are going to release his tax returns. They are just going to say he has been under audit and this kind of go on and on and then they`re not going to release it. I don`t think, you know, they can say that they are going to release, but I don`t think anybody really believes them at this point.


RUTH MARCUS, JOURNALIST AND COLUMNIST FROM THE WASHINGTON POST: I do not believe we are going to see President Trump`s tax returns ever. Look, it is not as if the audit is preventing him as you know as well as anybody from releasing the returns. Of course it`s not any claim that might be prudent and better from the point of view of his lawyers to keep his taxes private. That`s totally outweighed certainly when he becomes president by the public`s interest and the tradition of president releasing this.

What happens in the spring when normal president, most presidents in history, have released their tax returns and the audit is still going on. Or you could be subject to audit because he could argue then that he has been audited for years. He should release his tax returns. I am not getting any piece (inaudible).

MELBER: Lanhee, to be clear, we looked into this here. The fact is that his own lawyers only state he is in so called ongoing audit from 2009 on. So there are many years of tax returns before 2009 that are not even under the audit to the extent that`s the excuse. He also now oversees the IRS, so this is an ongoing audit that`s going to go on for several years.

It stops with people he appoints to oversee it. So there is a larger question here though. On the one hand, this might be the most sort of disgusting in the campaign that never happened. It`s also a new day because today is the first day, the first Monday of his presidency, and it is a different ball game.

LANHEE CHEN, FORMER POLICY DIRECTOR FOR ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: Yeah, I mean, he is president now. Although that having been said, I think the point that Kellyanne Conway was making is a fair one, which is I`m not sure that it`s an issue that frankly resonates with enough people for the White House to be concerned about it.

So I would not expect to see tax returns now, next year, or ever for that matter because they made the decision that it is an issue that they wish to tackle. Now, the issue of how the president is going to administer the IRS is very different of course. But in terms of tax returns, I don`t think that has bearing on what he does with the IRS.

MELBER: Do you think he should take any actions, Ruth, you take this, I`ll go back to Lanhee. But, Ruth, do you think he should take any actions to assure that that audit ongoing is independent and not effected by the fact that he is both the boss and subject of it?

MARCUS: Well, I think, you know, it`s traditional for presidents to put procedures in place to insulate themselves from any contact with the Internal Revenue Service. I certainly think would be doubly advisable in this case. But I do have to take issue with something that Lanhee said.

Did people vote for him and that demonstration that they didn`t care about the tax returns issue? Certainly it may be a demonstration that was not in their top set of priorities, but does not mean they don`t care about it. The polls are entirely clear and have been all along. A vast majority of people think he should release his tax returns because other presidents do that. MELBER: Right. Lanhee, in 20 seconds.

CHEN: Yeah, I mean, I don`t dispute the fact that it`s probably not -- it wasn`t a top issue, although it was an issue for some. He should take steps to insulate himself. But I think if it were a bigger issue, frankly if it was something that people really cared about, it would have been discussed during the campaign.

This was the most extensively covered, extensively litigated campaign in recent history. I have a very difficult time believing that it was an issue that rose to sufficient import that the Trump people would do something about it now. MELBER: Yeah, I mean, one way to put it is, the polls suggest people do care about it. Even republicans say better release it. But the vote count showed people cared about a lot of other things more. Lanhee Chen, Ruth Marcus, and John Stanton, thank you so much for joining us today.

MARCUS: Thanks.

CHEN: Thank you.

MELBER: Up next, the Trump/Lewis feud might get a rematch out on the football field. We`ll explain.


MELBER: As you may have seen, the match up is all set for Super Bowl 51. The big game pits Atlanta Falcons against the New England Patriots, a major battle in the field. But here at "MTP Daily," we also found a political angle. It`s a tradition in Washington for politicians to place bets when their hometown teams face off. And this one could be seen as a contest between President Donald Trump and Georgia Congressman John Lewis.

They had quite the war of words before the inauguration. Civil rights icon Lewis saying Trump was not a legitimate president. Trump shooting back a few times and tweeting that Lewis had a district and horrible shape falling apart and crime-infested. We should note PolitiFact ruled that claim mostly false.

The one thing that does exist in Lewis district is that Atlanta Falcons` stadium. And while President Trump has deep ties to New England Patriots including political support from their leaders, Robert Kraft spotted heading into Trump Tower just days after the election, Trump read a personal letter from head coach Bill Belichick in a campaign rally in New Hampshire.

And of course Trump and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady have long referred to each other as friends, that we should know Brady has at times distanced himself from Trump`s actual politics. There has been a lot of talk about all of branches after this hard fought election. Maybe Donald Trump could place a friendly wager with Lewis.

And since the Super Bowl victors traditionally visit the White House, he could invite the congressmen to come celebrate no matter who wins. That`s one thought for the end of our show. That is our show for tonight. Chuck will be back on Monday. "For the Record with Greta" starts right now. Hi, Greta.