IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

MTP Daily, Transcript 1/24/2017

Guests: Alex Padilla, Robert Traynham, Steve McMahon, Molly Ball, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins,: Hampton Pearson, Pete Buttigieg

Show: MTP DAILY Date: January 24, 2017 Guest: Alex Padilla, Robert Traynham, Steve McMahon, Molly Ball, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins,: Hampton Pearson, Pete Buttigieg

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: And that is going to bring us to the end of this hour.  I`m here in New York, Steve Kornacki.  Tomorrow on "MORNING JOE," you`re not going to want to miss this one, Senator John McCain going to join Joe and Mika for a special interview.  That starts at 6:00 a.m. Eastern on MSNBC.

But first, "MTP DAILY" starts right now. 

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST:  Yes, it`s Tuesday.

It`s another action packed day at the brand new Trump White House.

(voice-over):  Tonight, the White House defends President Trump`s latest unfounded claim.  This one, election fraud. 


SEAN SPICER, U.S. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  It was a comment that he made on a long-standing belief. 


TODD:  Plus, what will replace Obamacare?  I talked to two Republican senators who say they have the right prescription. 


SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA:  And opposed to repealing everything immediately, you channel it into this new system.


TODD: And from the heartland to the beltway, could small city values save the Democratic Party.  I`ll talk to the mayor of South Bend, Indiana about his bid to be the next Democratic Party chair. 

This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now. 

(on camera):  Good evening, I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington and welcome to MTP DAILY.

Every presidency has its flaws.  You can say Nixon loved power a little too much.  Clinton struggled to keep his personal life in check.  Bush, of course, had the Iraq obsession.  And then, you had Obama who seems to be paralyzed by Syria and all things in the Middle East.

But, folks, here we are on day five in the Trump presidency and it`s become clear what this administration`s Achilles heel will be.  Trump`s vanity.

That vulnerability was on full display at today`s White House press briefing which took a bizarre turn.  We`ll play you those highlights in just a second.

But, at times, it appears to be alarmingly easy to get under this president`s skin.  It`s gotten to the point that the White House is talking about alternative facts or pushing straight up misinformation or, frankly, unverifiable claims.  All in an attempt, it seems, to essentially appease the boss.

And the Trump White House and bad poll numbers are called rigged.  Photos of Sparse inaugural crowds are treated like enemies of the state.  And a loss in the popular vote is rejected and replaced with debunked claims of rampant systemic voter fraud. 

Why did this come up?  Well, two sources confirmed NBC News that Trump spent about the first 10 minutes of this bipartisan meeting last night with congressional leaders at the White House talking about the campaign.

I`m told, nobody brought up the election results.  That he did this on his own.  It wasn`t, like, what I initially thought is somebody said, hey, are you reaching out to this popular vote -- you know, vote totals?  Nope.  He brought it up.

And about -- and, of course, then he talked about the three to five million illegals that he believes voted in the election which he says is the reason why he lost the popular vote.

Now, the claim has been debunked.  It`s false.  White House press secretary Sean Spicer was peppered with questions about this today.  And this is where things got a bit messy. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Does the president believe that millions voted illegally in this election?  And what evidence do you have of widespread voter fraud in this election, if that`s the case? 

SPICER:  The president does believe that.  He has stated that before.  I think he stated his concerns of voter fraud and people voting illegally during the campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Paul Ryan, today, said there`s no evidence.  The National Association of Secretaries of States say that they don`t agree with the president`s assessment.  What evidence do you have?

SPICER:  As I said, I think the president has believed that for a while, based on studies and information he has. 


TODD:  You`ve got to give Spicer credit.  He was prepared on this one and he hung it on the word beliefs.  He said, this is Trump`s belief.  He didn`t try to hang it on hard facts.

When Spicer was pressed for evidence to back up the president`s beliefs, he brought up a Pew study that it seems the Trump campaign has mentioned before.  It is possible, by the way, that he`s conflated a couple of different studies together.

But here`s the thing, the one Pew study does not examine this election, nor does it allege voter fraud.  And the primary author of that Pew study says, himself, that even though they found millions of out-of-date registration records, due to people moving or dying, they found no actual evidence that all of that resulted in some sort of voter fraud.

That author, by the way, tweeted again today reiterating, quote, "zero evidence of fraud."  And the co-author of the other study that we think Spicer might have been talking about also has said his results are not proof of massive voter fraud because it samples only a few hundred people.

Well, then, things took a turn for the bizarre at the White House, as Spicer was pressed by reporters on Trump`s beliefs. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  If 3 to 5 million people voted illegally, that is a scandal of astronomical proportions.  Doesn`t he want to restore American`s faith in their ballot system?  Wouldn`t he want an investigation of this? 

[17:05:07] SPICER:  Well, I -- you know, this is -- as I`ve noted several times now, he`s believed this for a long time.  And I think he won fairly overwhelmingly so he`s not --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I agree with that.

SPICER:  -- and, look, we`ll work --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I`m asking you, why not investigate something that is --

SPICER:  Maybe we will. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  -- the biggest scandal in American electoral history, 3 to 5 million people voting illegally. 

SPICER:  I -- and I think -- we`ll see where we go from here.  But, right now, the focus that the president has is on putting American`s back to work. 


TODD:  So, as quickly as it appeared Spicer opened the door to an investigation into Trump`s election victory, he quickly closed it. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I just want to be clear about this investigation because it seems like you potentially opened the door for one.  Have you discussed with the president --

SPICER:  Which investigation are you referring to? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  -- of possibly investigating this voter fraud.

SPICER:  No, I didn`t.  I did not -- no, I did not. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But you said it`s possible. 

SPICER:  No, I -- of course, anything`s possible.  No, I think, at some point -- look, I was asked a question.  There is no investigation.  It`s a -- I said it was possible.  Anything is possible.  It was a hypothetical question.


TODD:  Folks, it`s big news when your president can`t handle bad news.  But this is good news.  He won the election.

Beyond the circus this all causes, there are now serious questions to be asked.  How does that impact his ability to lead if he continues to get distracted by the small stuff or his ability to manager relationships with our allies or our enemies.  How does this impact his agenda?  How does this impact his support on the Hill? 

It looks like we`re going to find out.  Let me bring in my panel:  Democratic strategist, Steve McMahon; "The Atlantic`s" Molly Ball; and former Cheney advisor, Robert Traynham, who runs communications for the bipartisan policy center.  Hello, all. 


TODD:  I -- this is -- and that`s the thing.  He`s in -- he gets in his own way. 


TODD:  Saturday, he got in his own way by -- I guess, we don`t have the answer to the question.  But, apparently, he insisted that Sean Spicer go out there.  And he did it today.

There`s a lot of interesting things, good stuff that he could be talking about.  But they distract themselves. 

TRAYNHAM:  I think reality is, here, two things.  One, Sean Spicer is only doing his job.  He`s just mark -- following the orders.  But the orders are, focus on these things.  Focus -- because that matters to the president.

And we know that he`s incredibly thin skinned.  I dare say a little insecure, maybe, about Hillary Clinton getting more votes, technically, than he.  And so, this stuff matters to him.

And the I -- the question becomes, Chuck, who around him, whether it`s his daughter, whether it`s, you know, Rand.  So, whomever that considers (ph) the president.  With all due respect, we`ve got to focus on the economy.  We`ve got to focus on --

TODD:  Well, let me throw up two Republicans.  I`m going to throw them back to back here.  One is somebody that has tangled with Trump a bunch, Lindsey Graham and one is Mike Huckabee whose daughter works for the president.

TRAYNHAM:  Yes, Sarah Sanders.

TODD:  OK.  Here`s what they both had to say.  Let`s play them back to back.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA:  I am begging the president, share with us the information you have about this or please stop saying it.

As a matter of fact, I`d like you to do more than stop saying it.  I`d like you to come forward and say, in having looked at it, I am confident the election was fair and accurate and people who voted, voted legally.

Because if he doesn`t do that, this is going to undermine his ability to govern this country. 


GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE (R), ARKANSAS:  I have no evidence whatsoever.  And I don`t know that anyone does that there were that many illegal people who voted.  And, frankly, it doesn`t matter. 

He`s the president.  And whether 20 million people voted, it doesn`t matter anymore.  He`s the president.  And I`m not sure why he brought it up. 



TODD:  The reason I played that is I think I took the words out of your mouth.

MCMAHON:  Yes, you`re not going to hear this very often.

TODD:  Those were Lindsey Graham --

MCMAHON:  Lindsey Graham -- I agree with Lindsey Graham. 

TODD:  And Mike Huckabee?

MCMAHON:  And I think, by the way, that Robert`s explanation would adequately explain what happened on Saturday.  Trump ordered Sean Spicer to go out there and make these claims that were crazy and unprovable.

And -- but, today, it was something Trump brought on himself.  I mean, he`s had these series of executive orders that are making news.

And he`s actually delivering some of the things he promised his supporters he is going to deliver.  He`s got a good story if he would allow it to be told.  But he keeps getting in his own way. 

TODD:  It goes back, Molly -- I mean, obviously, the inaugural attendance thing.  There are external factors that will contribute to the fact that more people came for Barack Obama than him.  That doesn`t take away from his potential win or presidency.  It just -- I don`t get it.

You know, Barack Obama`s was an historical first in this country.  Also, we lived in an area that was very blue.  He happens to be having his inaugural in an area that`s very blue so a lot of folks couldn`t come.

Maybe his people couldn`t afford to fly out here.  There`s all sorts of ways that they could -- that are factually probably true. 

MOLLY BALL, STAFF WRITER, "THE ATLANTIC":  Right.  And then, there`s a lot of other things that they could be focusing on to make a case that his -- that the beginning of his presidency is successful.  His cabinet nominations appear to all be sailing through.

Now, granted there have been some significant snags in the vetting process.  But it appears they are going to be approved anyway.  They`re gearing up for what could be a very difficult fight over the Supreme Court.

But that`s a story that is potentially going to make a lot of people in his base happy when he makes a nomination, if he nominates a conservative justice.

[17:10:07] But it`s Trump who keeps bringing this up.  It`s Trump who won`t let the election go.  It`s very reminiscent of the campaign when he kept talking about the primary through the general election.  He kept talking about the polls --

TODD:  Yes.

BALL:  -- over and over and over again.  This is what he (INAUDIBLE.)

TODD:  Robert, you brought up somebody will say no to him.


TODD:  And we don`t know who the person is yet. 

TRAYNHAM:  Well, I just thought of this.  Maybe George W. Bush needs to call him and say, Mr. President, I won the presidency by 527 votes.  The Supreme Court ultimately made that decision as you may remember.

TODD:  Do you think Bush -- do you think Bush family --


TODD:  -- do you think a Bush family member is going to have an impact on Trump?

TRAYNHAM:  Well, but listen -- but listen.  I mean, take a page from that play book on day one when president -- you may remember this.  When president Bush took the oath of office, he ran like he had a mandate.  I mean, he governed as if he had a mandate.

In other words, he legitimized his own self by saying, I am the president.

TODD:  He also spent a month before that --


TODD:  -- reaching across the aisle, having a meeting with Dick Gephardt who was calling him illegitimate, talking with the Congressional Black Caucus, who he knew members were calling him illegitimate.  He did a few things to try to calm the waters. 

MCMAHON:  He did -- he did two things.  Number one, he tried to calm the waters so he did some reaching out.  But the second thing that he had going for him on the day he arrived there was there an approval rating that was in the 60s.  And Donald Trump is arriving on day one with an approval rating of 37 to 40. 

TRAYNHAM:  But, Steve, he changed the narrative.  We`re talking about that now.  He can -- he can --

MCMAHON:  He`s obsessed idea with why he`s unpopular.  The man wants to be loved and he`s figured out that he`s not. 

TODD:  Let me play -- 

MCMAHON:  He`s going to have to do something.

TODD:  -- let me play something.

MCMAHON:  No one`s going to give it to him.

TODD:  Yesterday, on my day off, I did watch Sean -- Mr. Spicer`s first briefing because I wanted to see what happened.  And I could not shake this moral explanation from him.  Take a listen. 


SPICER:  There is this constant theme to undercut the enormous support that he has.  And I think it`s just unbelievably frustrating when you`re continuingly told it`s not big enough.  It`s not good enough.  You can`t win.

It`s a little demoralizing to turn on the T.V., day after day, and hear, you can`t do this.  This guy`s not going to get confirm.  No way they`re going to go through.  The default narrative is always negative.  And it`s demoralizing.


TRAYNHAM:  I think he`s mimicking his boss. 

BALL:  I don`t think he`s -- I think it`s actually a remarkable act of transparency. 

TODD:  So do I. 

BALL:  He -- you know, people keep asking, why is Trump doing this?  Why is Trump like this?  Sean Spicer has told us in absolutely honest terms, on the record, why Trump is doing this.  He finds it demoralizing.  He finds it a blow to his ego.  He has a chip on his shoulder about all of the things that people said he couldn`t do.  That`s the explanation right there, right in front of our eyes.

TODD:  Why is that --

BALL:  I think he`s absolutely telling the truth.

TODD:  Why isn`t that -- why isn`t it a positive?  People knocked him down.  Look, I`m one that didn`t think he was going to get in.  I`m one of those.

MCMAHON:  Right.

TODD:  And you know what?  The fact is, I don`t underestimate the guy anymore.  A lot of people don`t underestimate the guy anymore.  Why don`t you take that as a badge of honor?

MCMAHON:  And turn it into part of your narrative.  And so, for instance, - -

TODD:  Don`t count me out. 

MCMAHON:  Don`t count me out.

TODD:  That`s right.

MCMAHON:  And don`t count out the American worker either.  We`re going to bring them back.  Look what he just did together.  I -- and we`re going to keep doing it.  He`s got a --


MCMAHON:  -- (INAUDIBLE) and he`s not pursuing. 

TRAYNHAM:  I`m with you.  But, Steve, did you listen to his inaugural address?  I mean, it was pretty dark.

MCMAHON:  It was dark.

TRAYNHAM:  But I think that --

MCMAHON:  That was brazen for him to do that, when he had a moment, to be able to actually say, we surprised a lot of people.  People thought we were down and out.  A lot of people say that about this country. 

TODD:  But I want to go back --


TODD:  -- I want to go back to this idea of who`s got his ear.  And there does seem to be a divide.  We`ve seen it with blind quotes.  This administration is blind quoting to death each other, where you have a faction that is basically thinking like you two.


TODD:  And then, you have a faction that clearly says have a fight with the press.  That`s good for your politics.  Right, Molly?

BALL:  Trump believes that his way works.  That`s the thing he learned from the campaign.  He learned from the campaign that he can win by dividing.  That he doesn`t have to do this conventional politician thing of trying to bring people together, trying to unify.  That was the sort of conventional expectation of what he would do in his inaugural. 

He went another way.  He did what he`s done all throughout this campaign and which he believes is a winning strategy for him.

The problem is, you know, when you`re in Washington and you`re trying to govern, you know, once he is trying to actually achieve policy victories, once he actually needs votes in the House and Senate, it`s not clear how many friends he`s going to have.

TODD:  Well, --

BALL:  And he needs them. 

TODD:  -- but you`ve brought up an important point.  Until this way doesn`t work in his mind, --

TRAYNHAM:  Right. 

TODD:  -- he`s going to keep doing it.  And you`re right.  So far, as far as he`s concerned, he`s in the Oval Office because of this. 

BALL:  That`s right. 

TRAYNHAM:  Right. 

TODD:  I will pause here.  Steve, Molly and Robert, you`re sticking around.

Coming up, Republicans have said for years, they want to repeal and replace Obamacare.  But what is the replace?  Well, now, there is a Republican plan and I`ll talk to the two senators who are co-sponsoring the bill.  Is this the vehicle to replace Obamacare?

Stay tuned.



TODD:  Welcome back.

We thought we`d provide you with a quick health update of the Minnesota governor, Mark Dayton.  The governor fainted 40 minutes into the -- his state of the state address last night.  It was a very frightening moment there.  He hit his head on the lectern.  At the time, he blamed the heat and the length of the speech for the episode.

Dayton was back at the capitol today for his budget press conference.  But he also revealed, unfortunately, that he`s been diagnosed with prostate cancer and that happened last week.  He said, doctors do not believe the cancer has spread.  And he will have follow-up consultation at the Mayo Clinic this week to look into treatment options.

The governor said that he plans to continue serving as governor through his treatment. 


GOV. MARK DAYTON (D), MINNESOTA:  The people deserve a governor who`s on the job and is qualified to perform the job intellectually and physically.  I believe I am.  I said, when I had my hip surgery, there`s no brain cells in my hip.  And there -- as far as I know, there`s no brain cells in my prostate either. 


TODD:  Well, he`s still got a sense of humor.  Dayton says he does not believe the fainting episode was related to his cancer diagnosis.  Of course, we all wish the governor the best, as he undergoes treatment.

We`ll be back in one minute with more MTP DAILY.


TODD:  And we are back.

President Trump`s pick for Health and Human Services secretary, Congressman Tom Price, faced a second Senate grilling today.  It`s actually the only formal confirmation hearing that he has.  This one in front of the Senate Finance Committee.

Democrats are concerned about allegations of insider trading and prices introduction of legislation that would have directly benefitted a company that he owns stock in.

Meantime, though, his confirmation comes amid the Trump administration`s repeated promises to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.  But the White House is yet to lay out a replacement.

And now, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana are deciding to introduce the first Senate replacement bill, one that could be considered -- some might call it Obamacare light.  It depends on your point of view.

Basically, it does allow states that like Obamacare to keep it as the law of the land, or at least their land.  If they don`t, there are some alternatives.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer was asked about this specific plan today at the briefing and he gave a friendly dodge, saying, simply, they look forward to working with Congress on this.

But, folks, at some point, Republicans will need to compromise, in order to pass a replacement health care bill that can get at least a dozen Democrats.  And this one, brought by a moderate Republican and a conservative Republican, looks like, on paper, as the best possible vehicle.

But, again, they`ll probably need a Trump White House behind them to succeed.

I sat down with Senators Cassidy and Collins earlier today on Capitol Hill and began by asking them why they`re not waiting for President Trump to introduce his own bill first. 


[17:20:01] CASSIDY:  This is Congress`s responsibility.  And to truly do a repeal and replace, you`re going to need 60 votes in the Senate, number one and number two.  Number three, we think we have a good idea.


CASSIDY:  And we were both sent here to bring our ideas and our life experience, and that which we hear from our constituents, to bear on national problems.  And I think that`s what we`ve attempted to do.

TODD:  Senator Collins, is it as simple to describe this plan as if you like Obamacare, you can keep it?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE:  Well, that is part of it and that is a unique part of our bill.  What we`re trying to do is actually achieve a solution.  If you look at the Obamacare exchanges across the country, a lot of them are in a death spiral.  We`ve seen double digit, even triple digit increases in premiums, co-pays, deductibles.  Insurers fleeing the market.  And we`re going to have to do something regardless.

But we recognize that there`s some states where Obamacare may be the right answer for the citizens.  So, why not allow those states to keep it, if they like it.  And then, we proposed an alternative which we believe is a better choice for most states. 

TODD:  One of the things that it seems almost that this is going to make permanent is Medicaid expansion.

Is that a -- I know there`s a third option that if you don`t want to expand Medicaid, you don`t have to in your state.  But it seems as if the incentive is, you can expand Medicaid under the rules -- the old rules of ACA Obamacare.  You could expand Medicaid under this new -- your bill or you don`t have it at all.  But it sounds like the motivation is expand Medicare. 

CASSIDY:  I think it`s better to say that it would make permanent the society helping those who are middle income and a little bit lower purchase insurance.  We give states the option to take the dollars currently used for Medicaid expansion and to mold it, if you will, to combine it with the dollars going for those who are on so the-called exchanges.


CASSIDY:  And to have a single benefit that`s for all.  One of the criticisms of Medicaid is that a -- is that a person who`s on it doesn`t want to take a higher paying job because she loses her benefits.

We would give the state the option of combining it so as she makes more money, she makes more money and her benefit remains the same.  It`s a little bit richer for the middle income, a little bit less rich for the person who is lower income, except that it is a very positive, in terms of upward social mobility.

So, it isn`t Medicaid expansion, per say.  But rather is a commitment for those who are middle income and lower income to be able to purchase insurance. 

TODD:  So, Medicaid is no longer just for the poor under this plan?  Is that the idea?  Is Medicaid the new Medicare under this situation?  Or --

COLLINS:  No, not really.

TODD:  I`m just trying to clarify here. 

COLLINS:  Right.  What we`re trying to do is give more options because there are nearly 30 million people in this country who still lack health insurance, despite years of the Affordable Care Act.

TODD:  A lot of -- well -- but a lot of it is because a lot of states didn`t expand Medicaid under --

COLLINS:  That`s part of it.  And that`s why, we believe, that if we give more flexibility to the states and designing health care plans for those who are uninsured, that we can pick up a lot of these people.  I`ve always felt that it was unfair that if you`re under the regular Medicaid program, you`re going to be covered.  If you`re above a certain income level, you get the subsidy.  But those in between --

TODD:  Right.

COLLINS:  -- aren`t getting any help in states that did not expand Medicaid. 

CASSIDY:  And let me say, we actually don`t want -- I personally don`t want those Medicaid rules expanded.  So, pushing back a little bit on is Medicaid the new Medicare?  I sure hope not.  Because the Medicaid rules that come out of Washington, D.C. are often very cumbersome to address.  It drives up costs and it limits what states can do.  And it ends up costing the states more.

We want to give the state the options to take the dollars and do something different. 

TODD:  Now, one of the chief complaints about Obamacare from some citizens was the taxes and the fees.  Your plan would keep most of these taxes.  I`m not saying keep all of them but most of them.  What do you say to the critics who say, well, geez, so you`re just calling it -- this is just Obamacare by another name.  Because you`re certainly keeping all of the taxes that you ask -- that Obamacare got. 

COLLINS:  Well, I doubt that we`ll end up keeping all of them, because some of the taxes under Obamacare actually increase the cost of health care.  And I don`t think that makes a lot of sense.

For example, the tax on durable medical equipment is an example of that. 

TODD:  There`s been bipartisan support to get rid of that far long time.  I understand.

COLLINS:  Correct.

TODD:  But you are keeping a lion`s share of the revenue. 

COLLINS:  Well, we recognize and we`re taking a realistic approach that we are going to have a substantial commitment here.

[17:25:01] But the important change that we have done is we`re returning power to the states to set the insurance roles, with the exception of vital customer protections which we`re retaining. 

TODD:  Is there a concern -- Senator Collins, you have this concern that you may end up having, essentially, blue state health care and red state health care.  And I -- you know, where the -- where the ideology of the state government is going to determine, essentially, what benefits you have in your insurance options. 

COLLINS:  First of all, I think putting the power back into the state`s hands is the right way to go, because state citizens have different needs.  And what`s right for Maine may not be right for California.

So, I am not troubled by different states coming up with different approaches.

TODD:  Right.

COLLINS:  And it may well be that there`s a new approach out there that helps to bend the cost curve more on health care costs.  Because one of the problems of the Affordable Care Act is there`s nothing affordable about it. 

TODD:  How are you going to -- now walk me through the coalition that you`re going get to 60 on this.  Why do you think it`s the way forward? 

COLLINS:  First of all, we are the first senators to put a concrete plan out there, and we expected it to be shot at by both sides.  But it`s so important if we`re going to get to a solution that we advance specific proposals.  Then, they can be refined, amended, and ultimately enacted.

We`re talking to members on both sides of the aisle.  And it`s attractive to people who realize that premiums have gone through the roof in their states.  It`s also attractive to people who like the system and who want to keep it.

And that`s the beauty of giving back the power to the states and not taking away the funding.  We`re putting choice back into the system. 

TODD:  Final question.  Either of you troubled by Congressman Price and these -- the stock issue and these ethic issues?  Do you think that`s enough to derail his nomination?  Senator Cassidy.

CASSIDY:  I don`t.  Somebody stopped me earlier and asked about something that came out last night which I had not seen. 

TODD:  I understand. 

CASSIDY:  But I`ll just say it.  Right now, we have families that can no longer afford their insurance.  Premiums aimed (ph), deductibles and co- pays, that are skyrocketing.  I`m more concerned about having somebody like Price who understands that dynamic, who can work with Congress to make that better.

That is the -- and to implement President Trump`s vision of everybody having insurance, those with preexisting conditions having their needs met.  I want Price to affect that.  I think it`s a more important issue. 

TODD:  Senator Collins, do you have any --

COLLINS:  If there`s new information, I, of course, want to review that.  But the chairman of the Ethics Committee in the Senate, Johnny Isakson, introduced Congressman Price.  He went through that issue in a way that satisfied me.  If there`s new information, I`ll take a look.

I think it`s going to be really helpful to have a physician as the head of this important department. 

TODD:  All right.  Senators Cassidy and Collins, good luck. 

COLLINS:  Thank you. 

TODD:  Nice to dig into some policy. 

CASSIDY:  Thank you. 

TODD:  All right, appreciate it. 

By the way, I did that interview earlier today.  I also asked the senators how they`re plan deals with insurance companies raising rates.  And the fact that there is no way to control that.  But they`re hope is that the state insurance commissioners are robust in their regular -- using their regulatory power state by state.

By the way, the entire interview is on our Web site,, unedited, unfiltered, et cetera. 

Still ahead, the fight for the future of the Democratic Party is beginning to heat up.  I`ll talk with one of the candidates vying for DNC chair.  He doesn`t spend much time in Washington.  He`s the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.  Stay tuned.




CHUCK SCHUMER, SENIOR U.S. SENATOR FROM NEW YORK: Today, we senate democrats are unveiling a blueprint to rebuild America`s infrastructure and create 15 million jobs. And we`re challenging President Trump to support our plan. He campaigned on a promise of bigger and better infrastructure. This plan, this plan, is the way to make it happen.


CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR, "MEET THE PRESS DAILY" SHOW HOST: That was democratic leader Chuck Schumer earlier today unveiling the democrats version of an ambitious infrastructure plan. It`s price tag, $1 trillion. It actually matches the amount President Trump pushed for during his campaign. Last week, infrastructure spending was top of the agenda at the U.S. Conference of Mayor`s Meeting here in D.C.

I had an interview that I would have brought to you last week, but we were interrupted by breaking news. I have spoken with conference president, Mick Cornett, mayor of Oklahoma City, and Tacoma, Washington mayor, Marilyn Strickland, about what they are looking for from the new administration and congress when it comes to infrastructure spending.


MARILYN STRICKLAND, MAYOR OF TACOMA CITY, WASHINGTON: Our agenda really hasn`t changed, so infrastructure has always been at the top. But I would say also too given this last election cycle, a lot of us are concerned about immigration reform and also the Affordable Care Act.

TODD: Here`s my sort of frustration hearing about this infrastructure. Everybody in Washington, democratic or republican, agrees on this.


TODD: Okay. They agree that we`ve got to do this. Why hasn`t it happened? Give me your explanation why. You came on two years ago, and, you know, one of the things I remember you were asking for more spending then and everybody was promising more spending. What`s happened? Is it there? We don`t see it yet. What is it?

MICK CORNETT, MAYOR OF OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA: Well, it`s expensive for one thing. And I think this administration really spent a lot of time on the social issues and social programs. And infrastructure is obviously not one of those things. I believe this administration is going to put a job filter in front of almost every decision they make. I think if they`re going to ask themselves, does this policy create jobs in the United States? And if it does, I think it has a better chance than if it doesn`t.

TODD: That`s an upside of infrastructure spending, right? If they see it as a job initiative.

STRICKLAND: But I`m going to push back because I think the previous administration did want to spend on infrastructure, but they couldn`t get congress to pass a large enough package. But infrastructure needs are important in every American city and it`s not going to go away. One of the most important priorities as a conference is to ask the administration, give money directly to the cities. We do the work and we get it done.

TODD: How could that be done? Explain how could that be done.

CORNETT: The states have their own inventory of infrastructure.

TODD: No doubt. That`s right.

CORNETT: I have 8,000 lane miles of roads in my city that we are responsible for. So if you give money to the states, it`s not going to help my inventory. And somehow I think congress and the last administration were under the concept that if we give money to states, it will make it`s way to cities. Very little of it did with the stimulus package and I`m concerned they`ll make that mistake again.


TODD: Interesting there. We`ve been talking about giving power back to the states. Now, the mayors want power back directly to the cities. This on transportation funding, anyway. After the break, I`m going to talk with a mayor. This one is a mayor of South Bend, Indiana. It`s not about infrastructure spending. He wants to be the head of the democratic party. But first, here`s Hampton Pearson with the the CNBC Market Wrap.

HAMPTON PEARSON, REPORTER, CNBC: Thanks, Chuck. We have stocks rallying led by a surge of materials. The Dow jumping at 112 points, the S&P up by 14 to a new record, the Nasdaq adding 48, also hitting a new high. Alcoa shares are higher after hours. The company`s earnings fell short of estimates when revenue came in ahead. The stock has been up more than 4 percent.

Existing home sales slumped in December, falling to the lowest levels since 1999. Sales dropped 2.8 percent. Economists were expecting a much smaller decline. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.


TODD: Welcome back. As democrats work to capitalize on the energy from women`s marches across the country, the party is still looking for the leadership to harness that intensity. The seven candidate field gathered in Washington last night for a forum, moderated by MSNBC`s own, Joy Reid. And while concerns are still simmering over the Sanders-Clinton proxy fight that some are saying is taking place, the candidates seemed largely on the same page.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the communities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That grassroots operation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Revolutionize state parties.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Old fashion organizing.



TODD: So in a crowded race, how does a candidate stand out? Well, for starters, only one of those candidates was actually at the women`s marches on Saturday. And we have him here. Pete Buttigieg, I hope I get that right, Mr. Mayor. He is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana and himself a candidate for DNC chair. I know that -- were your ancestors are from -- Buttigieg, it`s like Smith. Am I got that right, Mr. Mayor?

PETE BUTTIGIEG, MAYOR OF SOUTH BEND, INDIANA, DNC CHAIR CANDIDATE: Yes, a common on the island of Malta. Unfortunately, not really anywhere else, so around here, they just call me Mayor Pete.

TODD: Well, Mayor Pete, let me start with this. Why do you want to be chair, Pete?

BUTTIGIEG: I want to be chair because I think our party needs a fresh start. I just don`t believe that the solutions of the Democratic Party needs are going to come from Washington. And I think my experience in the community at a local level both from a governing perspective, turning around a city that was on the ropes, and from a political perspective running campaigns and winning elections is the kind of experience we need to lead the DNC forward.

TODD: On one hand, you got some parts of a biography that the Democratic Party in general would say would need. You come from a red state in Indiana. You`re a mayor, not sort of tied into the federal government. But, a lot of the Democratic Party coalition is on the coasts. A lot of the Democratic Party coalition -- I`m not saying South Bend is not diverse, you have a big university there, otherwise known as Notre Dame.

I`m sure there`s some level of diversity, but not in the numbers that the Democratic Party is nationally. So are you -- you know, why you in this case? Why is your biography better and why is your experience better than some of the other candidates?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, we`re proud of being close to the University of Notre Dame, but you ought to know that our city didn`t grow up around the university. Our city is an auto town. We`re about 40 percent non-white. Our per capial personal income is about $19,000 right now according to the Census Bureau. We are a city that in many ways is typical of some of the challenges and struggles, but also some of the successes that can happen in the middle of the country.

And the very part of the country where we`ve struggled as a party to connect. It can be done. I`ve done it. I got reelected with 80 percent of the vote last year. And we were able in 2015. And we`ve been able to support and run and win other democratic candidates in this area too, even in districts that are far from strongly democratic.

But it starts by really speaking to people`s lived experiences and connecting with people in every part of the country. That`s part of why I`m running. I think somebody who has the kind of experience that I have in a community like ours, letting a community like ours know, look, the old economic patterns aren`t going to come back, that`s okay. There`s a way forward. And I guess that`s my message for the party too.

TODD: Let me ask you this. Why do you think Hillary Clinton did so poorly in the Rust Belt?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, I think we really need to be speaking to the concerns of the people who live there in our every day lives. You know, we got into an election cycle where so much was the candidates. First talking about themselves and then increasingly talking about each other. And there are a lot of people at home saying that`s great, but who`s talking about me?

You know, we democrats, we`re like Charlie Brown running after the football with Lucy there, thinking we finally had the moment, the piece of evidence, the latest outrage that will finally demonstrate that Donald Trump is not a good guy. And what a lot of people don`t seem to realize is, around here, there are a lot of folks who already know that he`s not a good guy. They voted for him anyway. And we got to make sure that never happens again.

TODD: Well, why do you think they voted for him? Let me ask it another way. What are you going to learn -- what have you learned from Donald Trump that you`re going to apply to your next campaign? Whether it`s head of the DNC, running for mayor or whatever it is, or volunteered for somebody else?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, first of all, the importance of showing up and talking to everybody. And just to be clear, I do not think that the way forward is to emulate Trump, not in any way, shape, or form. I do, however, think that we need to be sure that our vocabulary is touching down with people in their every day lives.

Take ACA, which seems to be the topic of the day. We`re still talking about it in terms of numbers. Numbers like 20 million Americans which is certainly an important number, but we`re not talking about it as much as we could be in terms of lives. You know, for me, this is personal. My partner`s mother`s life depends on chemotherapy that she buys through ACA.

There are a lot of people in this community who really have been tugged in both directions politically, whose lives are depending on something like ACA, whether they understand it or not. That`s our job to communicate.

TODD: Very quickly, should democrats fight Trump full stop or should, you know, for instance you may have heard a little bit of the potential health care replacement bill that two republican senators are working on that, frankly if it ends up the vehicle and it may be the best vehicle democrats can find if they want to preserve some parts of the ACA or Obamacare, where are you on this? Should democrats just fight tooth and nail to get their way 100 percent or think about compromise?

BUTTIGIEG: Look, we`ve got to fight. We`ve also got to be fighting for our values. For far too long, democratic strategy and policy has been organized completely around republican strategy and policy. And all we do is take the yardstick of what they`re doing and then fight over how ferociously to oppose it or how many parts of it to take up.

That is not a strategy that is derived from our own values and our own principles. And if we`re talking about our values before we even bother talking about the republicans, then we can do things like talk about what`s right for the country, and dare Donald Trump to either do it or fail to do it.

TODD: All right. Mr. Mayor, let me try your last name again, Pete Buttigieg, did I get it okay? How am I doing?

BUTTIGIEG: Close enough.

TODD: Well, it took us a while, ask Reince Priebus, it took everybody.

BUTTIGIEG: Just call me Pete.

TODD: . it took a while for him as well, but that doesn`t mean it`s any sort of impediment to getting there. We`ll follow the race closely, good luck, sir, appreciate it.

BUTTIGIEG: Thank you very much.

TODD: Still ahead, I`m obsessed with some Oscar worthy political drama. Keep it here.


TODD: Welcome back. On this day when the academy award nominations were released, I found myself obsessed about the press relationship with the White House. Frankly, when President Trump`s press secretary, Sean Spicer, insists as he did today that the president believes there was massive voter fraud in the 2016 election, a lot of people think the White House is living in la la land.

Perhaps that`s a harsh assessment. President Trump clearly cares about his numbers. But I can assure you, there are no hidden figures anywhere to suggest such a thing happened. Believe me, if any evidence of voter fraud exists, we`ve dedicated ourselves to find it. Come hell or high water. And we`ve looked. We`ve looked for it all day. We`ve looked for it all night. We`ve even looked for it by moonlight. And we have found nothing.

I know many of our friends on the right will think we`re lying about this. But I assure you we`re not. Until the arrival of such evidence. We`re going to have to remain skeptical. Yes, the press and the White House clearly are going to have to mend fences. That much is clear. We`ll definitely want to do it before the 2020 election when everyone heads up to Manchester, New Hampshire.

Perhaps, we can go that way to that other Manchester, the Manchester by the sea. And when we`re there, maybe we can all go to a movie together, something for conservatives and liberals for both hawks and doves. Maybe something like Hacksaw Ridge. I hear that just got nominated for an Oscar. We`ll be right back.


TODD: Time for "The Lid." Let`s bring back the panel to digest a couple of interviews that we just did. Steve, Molly, and Robert. I`ll start quickly with DNC. Steve McMahon, you and your family, basically the last time there was an open seat for this fight, you guys got Howard Dean into the chairmanship.

STEVE MCMAHON, LAWYER AND MEDIA CONSULTANT, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Howard Dean did. But there`s a lot of buzz about Mayor Pete. Even though people can`t say his name, they understand what he stands for, what he represents.

TODD: He is a legitimate shot in winning this thing.

MCMAHON: Absolute legitimate shot. And he is growing. The momentum is growing behind him. As you know, Chuck, in this race, what you want to do is you want to be everybody`s second choice. That`s what he is becoming. I don`t think the front runners are going to win.


TODD: Keith Ellison, Bernie Sanders. Tom Perez, basically Clinton-Obama.

MCMAHON: That`s a proxy, right? (ph) If you want to compromise, you want somebody to go up the middle, you got it.

TODD: What did you make of him?

MOLLY BALL, STAFF WRITER AT THE ATLANTIC: He came across as very polished. He did not come across -- you know, the wrap on him is that he`s very young and he doesn`t have a lot of national exposure, but I think he showed in that interview that he is very capable of being the good national spokesman for the party.

TRAYNHAM: He doesn`t speak Washing speak. He comes across as your best friend or your brother. And I think as a democrat, I`m not one, but I would assume democrats would say.

MCMAHON: You got room.


TRAYNHAM: I would assume democrats will say -- you know what, there`s something here.

TODD: The Rust Belt thing seems like the best.



BALL: On the other hand.

MCMAHON: All the candidates are great candidates, but he could be the (inaudible) candidate.

BALL: As you pointed out to him, the constituency of the Democratic Party, the members of the Democratic National Committee are not the people of the Indiana, are not Rust Belt necessarily.

TODD: Let me move to health care. Politically, Collins-Cassidy looks like the vehicle if you want to actually get 60 votes in the senate. The question is, I don`t know if (inaudible).

BALL: Yeah. I mean, I have been following with a lot of interest, the sort of way that the Trump presidency may or may not scramble the ideological lines. And, you know, the ideological conservatives are going to squawk if something like this becomes the plan that people get be kind (ph) because it is exactly the kind of thing that republicans a few years ago would have said was socialize medicine.

MCMAHON: That would have (inaudible).

BALL: It`s way less conservative than what Mitt Romney did in Massachusetts. But, it`s all going to depend, what if anything Trump gets behind and what if anything Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan decide.

MCMAHON: Speaker Ryan.

TODD: I want to say Robert, Donald Trump says one thing that Senator Cassidy made very clear, hey, this meets Donald Trump`s -- President Trump`s criteria that there`s basically got to be a floor for everybody.

MCMAHON: Right, right.

TODD: And that`s what this bill is trying to write in, and that`s where I think they are going to realize they may have no choice but to go this route.

TRAYNHAM: And I think Donald Trump is not a idea log. He doesn`t have strong belief. I think he is going to go there. I think he is really going to put a wedge between Speaker Ryan, to your point, and also some other conservatives. What Donald Trump are you? Are you the ideological.

TODD: Mitch McConnell state, really like version of this, and this would allow them to preserve it. Steve McMahon, very quickly, there are two ways to look at this if you`re democrat, right? Chuck Schumer immediately denounced it. Maybe he immediately denounced it because if you praise it quickly, it dies.

It can`t look like it has democratic support early or maybe he killed it because he is truly afraid of it. But democrats are going to have to get on board for anything to get written. How do you expect them to proceed?

MCMAHON: I thin Chuck Schumer is going to hold the republican`s feet to the fire. Donald Trump made representations. And Chuck Schumer is going to say, okay, let`s meet the test of Donald Trump and then we`ll talk. And until they do that, until they can assure the people having coverage are not going to lose it, and all the other things that we know he promised, I don`t think Chuck Schumer is going to go along it at all.

TODD: This is going to be fascinating. Very conservatives potentially. You got to get 15 democrats. This is going to be fascinating.

TRAYNHAM: And the 2018 as well.

TODD: Absolutely. It`s going to be fun politics to watch but it`s some serious business. Thank you, guys. After the break, the wait for Supreme Court pick is almost over. We have a few stats that you should have read. Stay tuned.


TODD: In case you missed it, the supreme court has been operating with only eight justices for almost a year now. But today, President Trump offered a time frame for when we can expect him to make his pick to run the high court.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sometime next week, I`ll be making my decision. This week, we`ll be announcing. Next week, we have outstanding candidates. And we will pick a truly great supreme court justice.


TODD: It`s been 346 days since the passing of Justice Antolin Scalia. Senate republicans declined to hold any hearings on a pick by President Obama. That pick of course with Merrick Garland. In July, Garland claimed the title of the U.S. Supreme Court nominee with the longest wait to get a hearing. Louis Brandeis waited 125 days for his hearing. Obviously, Garland never got his.

But today`s wait fails in comparison to some of the longest U.S. Supreme Court vacancies of the 19th century. According to our friends at the Pew Research Center, there were five vacancies in the Supreme Court in 1800s that lasted more than 500 days. That`s nothing. The longest gap was 841 days after Justice Henry Baldwin`s death in 1844. There was heavy animosity between President John Tyler and the wing-controlled senate.

They actually expelled Tyler from the their party and they refused to act on any of these nominations. And then when the one term wonder James Polk took office, the senate rejected his first nominee, his second didn`t accept the job, and his third was finally confirmed. Well, over two years after the vacancy. So you can see the current political climate is far from unprecedented. That`s all for tonight. "For The Record With Greta" starts right now.