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MTP Daily, Transcript 2/6/2017

Guests: Pete Williams, Norm Eisen, April Ryan, Robert Traynham, Nathan Gonzales, Chris Van Hollen

Show: MTP Daily Date: February 6, 2017 Guest: Pete Williams, Norm Eisen, April Ryan, Robert Traynham, Nathan Gonzales, Chris Van Hollen


This hour, we expect new developments in the legal wrangling over President Trump`s travel ban.

(voice-over): Tonight, testing the limits. How far reaching is the power of the presidency? We may be about to find out.

Plus, under obstruction. Does harnessing the power of the protest mean Democrats should give up on governing?

And super surprise. Why last night`s game gave us a strong sense of deja vu.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a wonderful election, didn`t we?


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

(on camera): Good evening, I`m Peter Alexander in Washington in tonight for Chuck Todd. Welcome to MTP DAILY.

President Trump`s Department of Justice is facing a 6:00 p.m. court ordered deadline as it fights a federal judge`s order temporarily halting the president`s travel ban. This is a legal showdown that could ultimately find its way to the Supreme Court. It sounds increasingly likely.

This case marks the first real test of the limits of this administration`s executive authority. Just moments ago, speaking to reporters on Air Force One, there you see it, White House press secretary Sean Spicer repeatedly argued the administration would win this appeal because of what they say is the broad discretion the president has to keep the American people safe.

This afternoon, President Trump spoke to troops at U.S. Central Command headquarters at MacDill air force base in Florida, where he appeared to address the legal showdown over his immigration order.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will defeat radical Islamic terrorism and we will not allow it to take root in our country. We`re not going to allow it.

You`ve been seeing what`s going on over the last few days. We need strong programs so that people that love us and want to love our country and will end up loving our country are allowed in. Not people that want to destroy us and destroy our country.


ALEXANDER: In this fight, the White House has launched an all-out campaign defending the ban while also seemingly attempting to railroad the judicial branch by arguing that our court system is a threat to national security.

Mr. Trump is slamming Judge James Robart, a Bush appointee, for halting his immigration order, saying, quote, "the opinion of this so-called judge which essentially takes law enforcement away from our country is ridiculous and will be overturned.

President Trump is also preemptively blaming the court system if there is an attack on his watch. He tweeted, just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens, blame him and court system. People pouring in, bad!

In reaction, we`ve seen Democrats, Republicans, security experts and former DOJ officials slam the president`s attacks on the judicial branch.

But in arguing before Judge Robart, the Department of Justice had an opportunity to defend President Trump`s argument that the country was in peril and it struggled to do so. Watch.


JUDGE JAMES ROBART, UNITED STATES COURTHOUSE: You`re from the Department of Justice, if I understand correctly?


ROBART: So, you`re aware of law enforcement. How many arrests have there been of foreign nationals who are those seven countries since 911?

BENNETT: Your honor, I don`t have that information. I`m from the civil division if that -- if that helps get me off the hook any.

ROBART: Well, let me tell you the answer to that is none, as I can best tell. So, I mean, you know, you`re here arguing on behalf of someone that says we have to protect the United States from these individuals coming from these countries, and there`s no support for that.


ALEXANDER: President Trump is also bashing public polling on this issue, saying any negative poll showing disapproval of his actions should be characterized as fake news.

On top of that, nearly 100 tech companies and 16 state attorneys general have filed legal briefs opposing this temporary travel ban. Ten former senior U.S. diplomats and security officials, mostly Democrats, co-authored an affidavit, arguing that the president`s orders make this country less safe.

We are joined now by NBC News justice correspondent, Pete Williams. Pete, thanks for being here.


ALEXANDER: Walk us through, if you can quickly, where we are headed with this. Presumably the Supreme Court, at least it would appear as such. But how often does the government win a challenge like this?

WILLIAMS: Well, this is difficult because we`re kind of in no man`s land here. This is a temporary order. What the states did is they said to the judge, we to want have a trial on whether this is legal and constitutional.

But until we get to that, give us a temporary order that stops the government from enforcing this travel restriction because they`re -- we are going to be harmed more than the government if you don`t. We`re going to be harmed because our universities can -- our students and faculty are stranded. Our high-tech companies can`t recruit the best and the brightest. So, we would be hurt more than the government would.

[17:05:06] The government says, no, we would be hurt more, for just the argument that the president was making there of the potential for letting potential terrorists come into the country.

So, that`s the question, who gets hurt more, at this stage? The Appeals Court will make that decision tonight at some point, probably very early tomorrow morning. And then, whoever doesn`t prevail can ask the Supreme Court for the same relief.

ALEXANDER: So, broadly speaking, because this is not the only case that we`ve been witnessing, with different rulings, orders, frankly across the country from Boston to the west coast right now.

So, how long will this executive order likely be tied up? When do we get that overall legality issue resolved on this, broadly speaking?

WILLIAMS: Around the time you retire from NBC News.

ALEXANDER: Yes, it may well be.

WILLIAMS: Because here`s the reason. This is -- this is just the very early stage. We`re still going to have a trial, at some point in some district court somewhere on whether the Trump program is legal and constitutional.

That will then be appealed. That`ll take another year, year and a half. Then, it`ll go to the Supreme Court.


ALEXANDER: You made a point about President Obama`s immigration order as well.

WILLIAMS: It`s still on hold. It`s still on hold because of a similar order from a judge. And the court in the -- in the federal district court in Texas where they case came from has yet to rule on whether President Obama had the power to do what he was doing.

So, we`re in for the long haul here. But in the short term, the question is while all this is being duped out in court, can the government restore this immigration restriction or not?

ALEXANDER: The bottom line is within the next 12 to 24 hours, we should have some resolution for the near term from this Appeals Court.

WILLIAMS: Yes, I would think to step two and then we`ll get to step three.

ALEXANDER: All right, Pete Williams, thank you.

WILLIAMS: You bet.

ALEXANDER: We appreciate it.

I`m joined now by Norm Eisen. He`s a former U.S. ambassador under President Obama. He was also President Obama`s ethics czar.

Norm, nice to see you. Thanks for joining us. I want to talk about the power of the chief executive, if I can, and get your sense of where you come down in this debate over President Trump`s travel ban. Do you think the president is abusing his authority with this executive order?

NORM EISEN, PRESIDENT OBAMA`S ETHICS CZAR: Peter, thanks for having me.

And as one who had the privilege of advising a president in these grave questions of executive power. I definitely believe that President Trump has abused his power. He has gone over the line. He`s violated the constitution and statutory law in this Muslim ban, immigration executive order.

And you`re seeing that not just in the Washington federal court but in federal courts, for the most part, across the country that are enjoining the exercise of the E.O.

ALEXANDER: Then, Norm, I`m assuming you supported President Obama`s executive actions on immigration before. Those were viewed by some as an abuse of power on the other side, the DACA program was halted in the courts, still unresolved.

So, if you`ve seen President Trump as having wide reaching power to shape immigration, and President Obama having had it, why is this any different under President Trump?

EISEN: Well, President Obama struggled, himself, with the limits of his executive power. For example, famously, with the Syria red line, he announced a red line and then he decided it would going too far into Congress`s prerogative and he pulled back.

And without -- you can`t really compare the president`s -- executive -- President Obama`s executive orders because none of them featured this extraordinary penetration. You have a violation of the establishment clause of religion.

You have a violation of the due process rights of these folks, including green card holders. And you have a violation of Congress`s own statute, the Immigration and Nationality act, that holds that you shouldn`t make these determinations in a discriminatory way on national origin.

What Trump has done here is way over the line. And I think the outcry from courts, and other otherwise, demonstrates that.

ALEXANDER: But to be very clear, President Obama, obviously, protected roughly five million Americans with his executive order. While this one is preventing individuals from entering this country. I mean, isn`t there some similarity there in terms of the potential for an overreach of executive authority?

EISEN: There`s no question. Whenever you are at the outer bounds of presidential decision making -- in President Obama`s case, Congress failed to act repeatedly on immigration. These matters need to be very carefully assessed, both the Constitution and statutory law.

I believe that what President Obama did in protecting those migrants was within the parameters. It was near the edges, but not over the edge of executive power. Out of the humanitarian need to protect those millions, I think it was right to go as far as you legally and constitutionally could.

[17:10:14] That is not what President Trump has done here. He`s harming individuals keeping them out of the country. We already know of examples of lost lives because of this.


EISEN: And he`s gone over that constitutional and statutory line here.

ALEXANDER: We know of examples of lost lives because of this?

EISEN: Yes, there`s one case where you had a -- you had a family. You had the mom in the hospital. She was not able to get back to this country. And according to press reports, she perished.

ALEXANDER: So, let me ask you, then, one final question. I guess, in simplest of terms, has the executive branch, in your opinion, become too powerful? Not just under this president but, frankly, under the last?

EISEN: Well, I do believe, without reference to the previous president or for that matter to this one, that there are cycles in American history of ups and downs of executive power. I think we`re about ready for a retrenchment of executive power back to the legislative and the judicial branch.

And I think this is not the last time the courts are going to check President Donald Trump. I believe the judicial branch is going to reassert its proper place in our separation of powers system.

ALEXANDER: Norm Eisen joining us right now. Norm, thank you very much. We appreciate your insights.

We to want bring in tonight`s panel. April Ryan is White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks. Robert Traynham is a former Bush-Chaney advisor, now with the Bipartisan Policy Center. And Nathan Gonzales is the editor and publisher of "Inside Elections" which you may know of. It used to be known as "The Rothenberg and Gonzales Political Report." Now renamed. Nice to see you, Nathan. Appreciate your being here.

So, let`s talk about this conversation a little bit. April, I start with you, broadly speaking. We are now officially testing the limits of presidential power. Is what Donald Trump is doing right now going to prove effective or reckless?

APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: It depends upon what part of the spectrum you`re talking to. For those who are Democrats, those who are in the rights` community, it`s reckless. For those who are in the national intelligence community, it`s reckless.

They`re saying, look, what it does is enflames, once again, a part of the world that we are trying to work with, to prevent another 911, to prevent something from happening.

And I`ll go back to George W. Bush, the last Republican president before this one. He said, it`s not about if but when something will happen. But when you say radical Islam, you`re fight fights against radical Islam, that`s a direct attack against a religion. It`s not about fighting terrorism. It`s about a religion. And there are people in the rights community who -- that are saying that this is unconstitutional as there is an amendment, the first amendment.

ALEXANDER: Well, this gets into language, to some degree, the argument of whether this is or is not a Muslim ban. But broadly speaking, my question to you about the executive`s authority right now. Donald Trump has given great authority by the Constitution when it comes to securing and controlling our borders, isn`t he?

ROBERT TRAYNHAM, VICE PRESIDENT OF COMMUNICATIONS, BIPARTISAN POLICY CENTER: No question about it. And your question is accurate, too, Peter. But it`s also a rhetoric powerful issue here, too.

Look, the president is pushing and pulling the Constitution at its seams. The real question is whether or not the judiciary branch is going to reign him in.

It reminds me, a little bit, of FDR during World War II, where Franklin Roosevelt, as we probably remember from our history books, really reimagined the Constitution when it came to the Japanese internment camps. Really reimagined whether or not you could pack the Supreme Court.

And so, what the president`s -- I`m not suggesting that he`s reimaging things. But what I am suggesting is that he`s making us think a lot. And he`s also making us feel very, very uncomfortable about where we`re going.

Here`s what we know. A Republican president who`s a judge -- I`m sorry, a Republican judge who is very thoughtful ruled against this president. In my understanding, he is a judge`s judge -- go ahead.

ALEXANDER: No, I was going to let you finish that thought.

TRAYNHAM: And my understanding is he really does interpret this as, hmm, this was pushing the envelope way too far.

ALEXANDER: Yes, it`s certainly due to a mainstream Republican, according to folks who know him. Let me -- we were talking about the judge right now. Let me put up, Nathan, a tweet from yesterday. Here`s what Donald Trump said. Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. We spoke about this earlier. He writes, if something happens, blame him and court system. People pouring in, bad.

What are the political consequences of saying something like that? It appears that Donald Trump, to some degree, thinks he`s sort of reigned supreme over the other branches of government.

NATHAN GONZALES, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, "INSIDE ELECTIONS": I think this is just a continuation of the campaign. I mean, Donald Trump came into office with a minority of American voters but an enthusiastic group. That is they will trust Donald Trump above political establishment, politicians. And I think that`s -- you know, he`s playing that out on Twitter once again.

And so, as the lawsuit progresses and what you and Pete were talking about, it`s just going to continue to be the campaign. And as much as he attacks all of these establishment folks, that`s just going to keep his base intact.

[17:15:01] TRAYNHAM: But, Peter, my question is where are congressional Republicans on this issue, particularly the Senate? You know, where is Mitch McConnell? Where is Orrin Hatch? Where is Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Judicial Committee? I mean, those are -- those are the bell weather people that I actually listen to.

RYAN: And that`s a tell-tale sign, when they are not stepping out, particularly McConnell.


RYAN: Yes. He`s not stepping out as much.

And on this -- again, this is a very delicate situation. Donald Trump believes he has a mandate. Yes, he is the commander in chief. He`s supposed to keep us safe. But where are the boundaries? You know, he`s skirting around Constitution to say, I want to protect the nation. And he`s going after -- he`s saying, radical Islam.

ALEXANDER: And he`s found his foil right now, Nathan, let`s be clear. When he talks about bad any news, he refers to it as fake news. He tweeted about this -- the latest poll numbers basically and said, hey, these polls are off that suggest this Muslim ban, temporary ban, whatever kind of ban you want to say it is. He says those are all way off. Obviously, if they were right, I would have lost this thing. Right? Americans support me right now.

So, I guess the bottom line is right now how much capital does he have in this argument?

GONZALES: Well, I mean, since he didn`t even win the popular vote, he`s not starting with a lot of the capital when talking about the country at large. But he believes that he is --

ALEXANDER: (INAUDIBLE) like he`s got it.

GONZALES: He is believe -- he is delivering on campaign promises. I think, in his mind, that, all right, I won. This is where we`re going to go forward. And, you know, that`s why we have these checks to see how much he can ultimately do. But, politically, I don`t know if he`s in any different position than he was in November.

TRAYNHAM: He`s governing like he has a 60 percent mandate. He is governing as if this was a huge landslide. Part of me kind of applauds him if for that because, look, he`s the president.

But the reality is, as I think to your point, is -- and I don`t know the answer to this, is whether or not the American people are behind him. We talked about this in the room. I don`t believe the polls anymore because, obviously, the polls were wrong, leading up to this man`s election.

ALEXANDER: He succeeded and undermining those numbers.

TRAYNHAM: Yes, yes. And then, when you -- and I hate to say this, but when you take a look at his Twitter feed and when you take a look at how many likes and dislikes and so forth, he is up there in the 10s of thousands. So, I`m not suggesting that`s a scientific poll. But I --

ALEXANDER: He`s the president and has like 20 million people who follow him. That`s true there. He has a small percentage of folks who like it.

RYAN: But, you know, I think he`s actually governing as someone who doesn`t know what he doesn`t know. And going back to the Twitter feed, for him to attack this judge, I mean, there`s checks and balances. There are three branches of government. You`re not supposed to do that.

So, I believe he`s learning. There`s a learning curve. But, unfortunately, this -- the stakes are too high right now. And things could happen, you know, if this learning curve is not corrected fast.

ALEXANDER: All right.

GONZALES: But I think the polling -- there`s enough in the polling. It depends on how you word it and exactly how you`re characterizing the people that are being affected and excluded. You can kind of concoct whatever you -- concoct whatever you want.

RYAN: But that`s the same thing that happened -- that`s the same thing that happened after 911. The -- how we had to go around to get into Iraq and do that and go after those who were not government people, government soldiers or what have you, or government who are going after terrorists. So, this is the same issue, different day, different people.

ALEXANDER: I share the briefing room. You learn you never cut off April Ryan. (INAUDIBLE.) You guys come back in a second.

Coming up right here next, progressives put pressure on Democrats to block President Trump`s agenda. But do leaders on the left have the will or the way to be the party of obstruction? Coming up next, we`ll talk with Senator Chris Van Hollen.

And with Democratic opposition on the rise, will Republicans go nuclear to get the president`s Supreme Court nominee confirmed? That is next. Stay tuned.



ALEXANDER: Welcome back.

President Trump`s nominee for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, is back on Capitol Hill today, meeting with Democratic senators who could be important to his confirmation.

This afternoon, he visited Montana Senator John Tester, a more moderate Democrat up for reelection next year in a red state. Tester hasn`t decided yet, but said after that he`d be open to supporting Gorsuch.

He also met with California Senator Diane Feinstein, the ranking Democratic senator on the Judiciary Committee which will Gorsuch`s testimony. Gorsuch needs 60 votes to be confirmed by the full Senate. But if he can`t get there, President Trump`s already made it clear that the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, should use the nuclear option and force a vote with a simple majority instead. Senator McConnell says he doesn`t think it`ll come to that.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY, MAJORITY LEADER: That is up to our Democratic friends. Any one senator can require the entire Senate to cast 60 votes to stop a filibuster and move to what we call an up or down vote. If we have to get 60 votes, I`m confident we will.


ALEXANDER: Still, Democrats may not see it the same way. I`m going to ask Senator Chris Van Hollen about the Democrats dilemma over the Supreme Court pick in just a minute.


ALEXANDER: Welcome back.

Congressional Democrats are facing a dilemma as they work to figure out the most effective tactics to confront President Trump`s agenda. They`re being increasingly pressed by a frustrated progressive wing.

You`re looking live right now at the Senate floor. That`s where Democrats are at this moment voicing opposition to education secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos, ahead of her confirmation vote scheduled for tomorrow.

Some protests continue, though, through the weekend with many demanding their elected officials take a firm stance against President Trump`s nominees and against his agenda.

Progressive activists are flooding phone lines at the capital, organizing on the ground in some states, and looking a lot like they`re borrowing from the Tea Party playbook.

Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland is the chairman of the Senate Democrat`s arm. He will face that daunting 2018 map directly. And he is joining us right now. Senator Van Hollen, thanks for being here.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Peter, great to be with you.

ALEXANDER: You know well, the Democratic base right now is angry, simply put. How do you harness that in a productive way and not just become the constant opposition party?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Peter, as you can see from the floor of the Senate right now, Democrats are absolutely united in preventing Donald Trump from doing bad things and putting nominees in charge of agencies when they`re going to undermine the mission of those agencies.

And Exhibit A in that is Betsy DeVos who President Trump nominated to be head of secretary of education. She has a history of attacking public education, of trying to take resources and diverting them into voucher programs, failed voucher programs.

So, that`s actually a very good example of where Democrats are united. And, in fact, have support from at least two Republican senators right now.

ALEXANDER: So, broadly speaking, you talk about the Betsy DeVos, the talk- a-thon that`s taking place right now in opposition to her nomination. By all accounts, it appears you`re still going to lose this one. So, the question is, is losing loudly and spectacularly more helpful than losing quietly?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I think it`s important that the American people see a thorough vetting of these nominees and candidates. They want transparency and accountability. We`re still hopeful we will pick up another Republican senator.

But at the very least, Peter, we will have sent a signal that we`re not going to go quietly into the night. We`re going to fight President Trump`s plan to take $20 billion and put them into voucher programs which would devastate neighborhood public schools around the country and deprive them of resources.

[17:25:12] So, we`re going to fight really hard to win this. It`s going to, at the very least, require the vice president to come down and cast a deciding vote.


VAN HOLLEN: But in doing so, we`ll have sent a strong message on an important issue.

ALEXANDER: From a messaging, sort of, perspective, isn`t there a risk right now of falling victim to the criticisms that Hillary Clinton faced that you`re simply against something and not for something else?

VAN HOLLEN: No, I don`t think so. Because while we will oppose these nominees who, again, are undermining the missions of these agencies and while we will certainly oppose any efforts to destroy the Affordable Care Act without a comparable replacement, we, the Democrats, actually put on the table a plan to modernize America`s infrastructure. This is something, you know, Trump mentioned. In fact, it`s the only thing he mentioned the night of the election. And, yet, instead of --

ALEXANDER: There`s a lot of Democrat support.

VAN HOLLEN: It`s got a lot of Democrat support which is why we put something on the table to invest a trillion dollars in doing something that we think we need to do in this country to make it more competitive. And it`s not just roads and bridges and highways. It includes expanding --


VAN HOLLEN: -- broad band for rural areas and many other important investments.

So, Peter, we have put on the table a plan --


VAN HOLLEN: -- that we think meets issues that, you know, Trump talked about during the election. And we`re saying come and join us.

ALEXANDER: Senator, one of the dilemmas right now in being a minority party, as you know well, you have 10 Senate seats up in states that Donald Trump carried. How do you keep your base energized and not give up those seats? I guess, how worried are you about primary challenges to sitting senators from the left?

VAN HOLLEN: Yes, I don`t think we`re going to see that, Peter. I think we`re in a good -- a very good position for this reason. We have voters who are energized around the country. And we saw that in the women`s march which was an incredible gathering and outpouring of support. I`ve gotten 17,000 calls in my office just on the Betsy DeVos nomination. People are shutting down the Senate phone system. There`s such a volume and outpouring of the support.


VAN HOLLEN: So, Trump`s election has really awakened a sleeping giant, and it`s not just the Democratic base. There are also other people.

And, finally, our senators from those tougher states, they will always been on the lookout for the people in their states. They understand that their job is to be senators for their states.

But that means, also, opposing people, like Betsy DeVos, which is why every Democratic senator is doing that.

ALEXANDER: Well, speaking of opposing people like Betsy DeVos, do you support a possible filibuster against Trump`s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Gorsuch?

VAN HOLLEN: Oh, I think he`s got to meet the 60-vote test. The reason there`s still a 60-vote effective requirement for Supreme Court justice, is this person is going to wield an incredible amount of power over all aspects of American life.

So, I hope he gets a -- and will get a very thorough vetting. I can tell you my early investigation into his record shows that he sides almost always with a corporate power, big corporations against the rights of workers and against individuals. But I can tell you everyone`s going to do their job --

ALEXANDER: Have you made up your mind yet?

VAN HOLLEN: I have not made up my mind because I think it`s important to continue to look at the record. But what I`ve seen so far is very troubling.

ALEXANDER: The last question I want to ask you right now. We talk about the support and you hear that sleeping giant being awoken right now. Senator Cory Gardner referred to paid activists flooding his phone lines. Marco Rubio`s office made similar comments. President Trump referred to paid protesters in a tweet.

So, let me play you something from White House press secretary, Sean Spicer. Take a listen.


BRIAN KILMEADE, HOST, FOX NEWS: Do you sense that there`s an organized pushback and people are being paid to protest?

SEAN SPICER, U.S. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Oh, absolutely. I mean, protesting has become a profession now. They have every right to do that, don`t get me wrong. But I think that we need to call it what it is. It`s not these organic uprisings that we`ve seen through the last several decades. You know, the Tea Party was a very organic movement. This has become a paved Astroturf-type movement.


ALEXANDER: I have heard that phrase before. Astroturf movement is contrasted to a grass roots, a true movement. So, your reaction to the accusation that this movement, this momentum is bought?

VAN HOLLEN: You know, Peter, this is a White House and a president that has mastered the art of disinformation of fake news of alternative facts. And I can tell you that the granddads and the grandmas and the sons and daughters and the kids who joined us at the women`s march in Washington, they were really upset.

Nobody had to suggest to them that they better be out there marching. They were angry. But they wanted to turn that anger into some constructive movements. So, this is a movement that`s here to stay. And it is true that, in the past, that the Koch brothers have financed a lot of the Republican efforts.

But this is a home grown organic effort despite the alternative facts coming out of the White House and this president.

ALEXANDER: We`ll have to leave it there. Senator Chris Van Hollen, thank you for your time.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.

ALEXANDER: As we mentioned at the top of the segment, Senator Van Hollen`s colleagues are holding this talk-a-thon in opposition of education secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos. We`re going to keep an eye on that during the course of this hour. Still ahead, we`ll have more from Chuck`s exclusive interview with House Speaker Paul Ryan. His advice for President Trump on dealing with Russia and a lot more. Stay tuned.


ALEXANDER: There`s a lot more "MTP Daily" ahead. But first, Hampton Pearson has the "CNBC Market Wrap."

HAMPTON PEARSON, JOURNALIST, CNBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Peter. Stocks full back to start the week. The Dow sheds 19 points, the S&P is off by 4, the Nasdaq slips by 3 points. GAP shares are moving higher after hours. The company`s full year earnings are on track to beat annual`s estimates. However, January seems to our sales fell slightly short of expectations.

And Hasbro has had a happy holiday season. The toy maker reported revenue and earnings that easily beat targets. Thanks to strong sales of princess and frozen items. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.


ALEXANDER: Welcome back. President Trump is drawing criticism from both sides of the aisle for seeming to compare political violence under Russian President, Vladimir Putin, to violence involving the United States.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you respect Putin?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do respect him. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you? Why? TRUMP: Well, I respect a lot of people, but that doesn`t mean I`m going to get along with them. Will I get along with him? I have no idea.


TRUMP: We have a lot of killers. We have a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?


ALEXANDER: Speaking with Chuck on "Meet the Press," Vice President Mike Pence defended those comments.


CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR, "MEET THE PRESS DAILY" SHOW HOST: Are you comfortable with that moral equivalency? MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Again, I don`t accept that it`s a moral equivalency. I really don`t. TODD: You think he misspoke?

PENCE: No, I truly believe -- look, President Trump has been critical of American policy in the past, and I expect he`s always going to continue to be candid with the American people.


ALEXANDER: Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell called Putin a thug and tried to put some distance between himself and the president on the issue.


MITCH MCCONNELL, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER, SENIOR U.S. SENATOR FROM KENTUCKY: I don`t think there`s any equivalency between the way the Russians conduct themselves and the way the United States does. I`m not going to critique every utterance of the president. I obviously don`t see this issue the same way he does.


ALEXANDER: Relations with Russia was one of several topics that Chuck discussed in his exclusive interview with House Speaker Paul Ryan. Here`s what you missed.

(START VIDEO CLIP) TODD: What would be your advice to this administration? He`s getting tough on Iran, but Russia is just as destabilizing in the region. Do you agree with that first of all, that Russia is just as disable?

PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Yes, well, no, I wouldn`t say just as Iran. Nobody holds a can up to Iran`s destabilization. So I think -- I don`t think you could equate those two, but remember why we are here. The policies of the last administration were horrible with respect to Syria.

I think because of the Obama administration policies in Syria is why we have both Russia and Iran in Syria. So now the question is on a go forward basis, what`s the best way to resolve this? And I think that`s what this new administration is trying to figure out.

TODD: I saw you say something the other day to politico that you still (inaudible) must go. If you say he must go, you`ve got to find a policy that does that. How do you get him out?

(CROSSTALK) TODD: He should go because a lot of people think he should go. How do you do it? RYAN: You know, I think -- I think the Obama administration missed an opportunity to follow up their words with actions. And I think the credibility of our country took a big hit especially when the red line was not enforced.

So I think we sustained some damage on our credibility with them. So we have to assess where we are right now, what`s the best possible outcome we can achieve going forward, and that`s what the analysis I think this administration is going through.

TODD: Do you think it`s a false choice? The issue of ISIS in Syria and Assad in Syria? I mean, this is what.

RYAN: They should not be seen as mutually exclusive. You have an issue where you have people fighting for their homes and their own homeland who don`t want ISIS also, but are preoccupied with the fight against Bashar al- Assad. Then you have ISIS more in the west which is a problem that is probably primary concern of ours.

Because ISIS is, you know, exploiting terrorism. So, they ought to be on the same side, meaning the people who want to free Syria, the people who want to live in peace, the people who don`t want to export terrorism, they want neither forces in their own country, but both forces in their country makes it a much more complicated situation.

TODD: You know some prominent (inaudible) and conservative folks who are -- I guess you put them in the never Trump category, David Brooks and David (inaudible) this week both had some really harsh comments and warnings to the republicans. David Brooks writing many republican members of congress have made a Faustian bargain with Donald Trump.

They don`t particularly admire him as a man, they don`t trust him as an administrator, they don`t agree with him on major issues, but they respect the grip he has on their voters. They hope they`ll sign their legislation and they certainly don`t want to be seen siding with the inflamed progressives or hyperventilating media. But then he goes the deal they struck with the devil comes at too high a price. It will cost them their soul. RYAN: I just don`t agree.

TODD: What do you tell David Brooks? How do you calm David Brooks and David (inaudible) who both believe this is going to end badly?

RYAN: Look at what we`re doing to rescue this health care collapse that is occurring in this country to replace Obamacare with patient-centered health care. That is one of the most important things we can do to avert our future budget crisis and fix health care in this country. Tax reform to get economy growing to help American companies stay in America.

They had better jobs, higher wages. Look at what we`re trying to do with getting people from welfare to work. Look at what we`re trying to do to secure our country, to rebuild our military, to harness the energy potential in this country. All of those things will help make us a stronger country, but help people, that`s what we`re focused on.

So my focus is not on David brooks column, it`s on getting things done. And with the administration and the administration, I spent a lot of time with the president. I`ve spent more time with this president in the last three or four months than I had with the last president in the last eight years. Focused on getting things done. Focused on agenda. Focused on making sure that we make good on our promises.

At the end of the day, it is the results that will matter and that`s why I`m excited and that`s why I`m encouraged and inspired about what we have before us because all the white noise out the window, if we get these things done, which is what we are focused in doing, we`re going to make a big difference in people`s lives in this country and that`s what this is all about.

TODD: You believe the concerns (inaudible) world when it comes to Steve Bannon in particular, his role in the national security council. All of those things. You think all of this is hyperventilating?

RYAN: Well, I think there is a lot of hyperventilating. I`ve just gotten to know Steve since the election. I`ve had nothing but a good relationship with him. TODD: Is it -- his publication did not have a good relationship with you. That`s for sure. I mean.

RYAN: You get mixed critics in this line of work. The key is we have an agenda that we agree on, that we`re focused on executing and implementing. And it`s going to make a positive difference. It`s going to fix problems. That`s the whole problem of being in government and public services.

Making a positive difference in people`s lives and what I`m encouraged about is the fact that we in the house, our friends in the senate, and the new administration have agreed on a comprehensive agenda which are to make good on the promises we made. We ran or a very specific agenda to fix America`s big pressing problems in 2016.

And now we have an agreement on how to go about accomplishing that agenda. How refreshing is it that people who run for office and tell people what they`re going to do, then get elected go do it? That`s what people want to see in government and that`s what we`re in the middle of working on.


ALEXANDER: Up next, did President Trump admit that repeal and replace is hitting a roadblock? We`ll be right back.



TRUMP: We are going to be submitting as soon as our secretaries approved, almost simultaneously, shortly thereafter, a plan. It will be repeal and replace. It will be essentially simultaneously.


ALEXANDER: That was then president-elect Trump last month promising a seamless plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. That would follow the confirmation of HHS secretary nominee, Tom Price, who could be approved as early as the end of this week, but then this weekend, when asked whether the administration will roll out a new health care plan this year, the president seemed to extend his time line.


TRUMP: In the process and maybe it will take sometime into next year, but we are certainly going to be in the process. Very complicated. Obamacare is a disaster. You have to remember, Obamacare doesn`t work. So we are putting in a wonderful plan. It`s statutorily takes a while to get. We`re going to be putting it in fairly soon. I think that, yes, I would like to say by the end of the year, at least the rudiments, but we should have something within the year and the following year.


ALEXANDER: The republicans remain divided on when and how to dismantle the law. So we all stay tuned. We`ll be right back.


ALEXANDER: Time now for "The Lid." Our panel is back, April Ryan, Robert Traynham, Nathan Gonzales. Let`s start with why the Falcons didn`t run.


ALEXANDER: We`ll save that conversation for a little bit later. I want to talk to you again right now, about the dilemma the democrats are facing. We see this talk-a-thon that`s happening right now, April, on Capitol Hill. What the democrats do right now to try not to be obstructionist party, trying just to be the opposition party, but try to be a party with a real message of something different.

APRIL RYAN, JOURNALIST SERVING AS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT AND WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF FOR AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Well you know, they know that their party is broken. And they are trying to fix it. They`re trying to rebuild again to start afresh. And they`re trying to show that they`re active because people were saying that they were complacent. They didn`t fight back.

They didn`t fight against the Trump machine that won the White House with the electoral college vote even though he didn`t get the (inaudible). He believes he has won all the way around. But, no, but democrats are trying to find their footing. And I`m actually this weekend going to be moderating the panel discussions with the candidates who are running for the chairmanship, the vice chair, and it`s interesting.

ALEXANDER: Of the democratic party?

RYAN: . of the democratic party in Baltimore, the place of all places, to do that. The interesting piece about that is they are trying to find their foot there. Ten cabinets running for lead. And in the midst of that, they got all the scoring on the hill trying to fight 1600 Pennsylvania avenue. It`s a hot mess.

ALEXANDER: This is the challenge for them right now.


ROBERT TRAYNHAM, BIPARTISAN POLICY CENTER VICE PRESIDENT OF COMMUNICATIONS: This reminds me of February of 2009 when a lot of folks were saying the Republican Party is dead, democrats own the town, and what the republicans do? I would make the argument that it tore the country apart a little bit, but they obstruct it. They obviously with the Tea Party. ALEXANDER: Is that the successful route for democrats?

TRAYNHAM: Well, that the perfect (inaudible). So the democrats I think have to look to themselves in the mirror. Do they want to be like the republicans back in 2009 when the first term of the Obama presidency which a obstruct, obstruct, obstruct or do they have a vision for the future? And to your point, and I think to your think that you`re moderating, I don`t see a vision coming out of the Democratic Party right now. There is no battle of idea. There doesn`t seem to be any passion in the democratic.

RYAN: There`s passion. There`s passion. TRAYNHAM: Well, okay, I don`t see that.

RYAN: They are trying to find it. They are trying to find their way -- I mean, what we`re seeing today and also they`re trying to hold up this Supreme Court.

TRAYNHAM: Where is the battle of ideas? I mean, where is their vision for the future?

ALEXANDER: Let me talk about a vision for the future right now. This is sort of the chaos that has been taking place as described by The New York Times initially inside the west wing right now. One of the advisers unnamed to you said basically liken this to D-Day, they stormed the beaches without a plan for a longer war. You watch the way new administration work right now. What do you make of this leaky White House? What do you make of what we`re seeing? NATHAN GONZALES, INSIDE ELECTIONS EDITOR AND PUBLISHER: And the dog catching the car. I mean, there`s all sorts of metaphors. I mean, I think they`re tying to -- the White House is trying to figure it out. I think we talked about it earlier. There`s not a lot of staff. I mean, they are still getting staffed up. And they`re also -- just because republican.

ALEXANDER: That matters. That allows for (inaudible). There are people there for interviews to say hey, let`s clean it up. I mean, that creates problems. GONZALES: I think the key is just because republicans control congress, they`re in the White House now, doesn`t mean they all agree on what to do. They might all agree to get really affordable care act but there`s no any agreement on how to move forward.

TRAYNHAM: But here`s the question. But here`s the question. Does the president like this conflict? Does he like this type of battle of ideas?

ALEXANDER: He says I call the shots right now. This is based on an accumulation of data. So effectively, all the craziness (inaudible) in the data and he`s the one (inaudible).

TRAYNHAM: So it sounds like the president is his own chief of staff. It sounds like he is the true -- kind of like Jimmy Carter where he kind of micromanaged the tennis courts. My point of view is that I get the sense that this president likes the conflict. He likes the clash of ideas. I also get the sense that based on what I`ve read to all these leaks, if you want to influence the president, don`t walk down the hall to the oval office, just to leak it to The Washington Post.



RYAN: No, I mean, it seems like he thrives on it, and he likes the drama, the theatrics of it all.

ALEXANDER: But how about this idea about Steve Bannon that he didn`t even recognize one of the executive orders that he signed? One of the greatest powers of this president you hold, but he signed basically putting his chief strategist and senior counselor on his national security team?

RYAN: He is trusting his staff. And again, it goes to what I said earlier. It`s what he doesn`t know is what he doesn`t know. And instead of watching TV and watching the news like former president used to do, to include the one that they like to look to as example, former president Barack Obama, take your documents, walk home with them, and read them at night. When you leave the oval office, go to the office upstairs. ALEXANDER: We know well this isn`t the way that this president works.

RYAN: Right.

TRAYNHAM: Well, that`s Rachel (ph) -- I mean.

RYAN: April (ph).


TRAYNHAM: (inaudible) really, really important here. This president consumes information differently. We know that.

ALEXANDER: This is why there`s advertising on broadcast that he watches right now because that`s the way.


TRAYNHAM: Because he doesn`t have any federal experience, I don`t think he asks the right questions because he doesn`t know what questions to ask. And to your point, that`s where a true staff comes in and says, sir, this is what you`re looking at, this is what you`re reading, any questions that you may have or take a couple of hours to think about it.

ALEXANDER: Are they correcting it, Nathan, right now? Ten-point plan in place to sort of that executive order is going forward.

GONZALES: Well, I think the process is still going on. But they don`t have as much time as what I think they have. I mean, the president wavered on when repeal or replace. I think they better start doing the tough stuff now and then explaining it.

RYAN: They got (inaudible) stepping on themselves.

ALEXANDER: April, Robert, Nathan, thank you guys. I appreciate it very much. Coming up after the break, how last night`s Super Bowl took more than a few pages from the 2016 election playbook. We`ll be right back.


ALEXANDER: So in case you missed it, last night`s Super Bowl has some of this feeling of strong sense of deja vu. As you know, the New England Patriots pulled off the biggest come back in Super Bowl history winning 34- 28. But what you may have missed, well, there were more of the few similarities between the Pats win and President Donald Trump`s improbable election victory.

In both the election and the Super Bowl, one side jumped out to an early lead and appeared to be a landslide victory. Both Hillary Clinton and the Atlanta Falcons got out to big leads but called the wrong place when they try to protect those leads. I guess you might say that they both lack an effective ground game. Both maybe started celebrating their win a bit too soon.

It`s not just the losers that had experienced deja vu. There were some similarities between the winners too. Both President Trump and New England Patriots are unpopular to a great portion of the country. One poll showed fans were pulling for the Falcons at 2-1 margin. And both President Trump and the Pats received their prize from someone they vilified on their road to the championship, Goodell, Obama.

And the original forecast warned off by too much. The final NBC News Wall Street Journal National Poll is up by about 2 points, and the final betting line in the Super Bowl was off by 3 points. I guess the thought is maybe the Atlanta Falcons should have spent a little bit more time in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Let`s where we`re going to leave it on this night. We`re gonna be back with more "MTP Daily." We`ll see you a bit later. I`ll see you tomorrow morning on "The Today Show." "For the Record with Greta" starts right now.