Show: MTP Daily Date: February 13, 2017 Guest: Chris Collins, Susan Page, Adam Schiff, John Garamendi, Susan Page, Michael Steel
PETER ALEXANDER, MSNBC HOST: It is Monday.
Is the new White House headed for its first staff shake-up?
Tonight, national security advisor Mike Flynn`s job is in jeopardy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR, DONALD TRUMP: General Flynn does enjoy the full confidence of the president. He`s asking me based on hypotheticals that are nonfacts.
I`d have to know what the full example is, what the facts are, to be able to answer the question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXANDER: Plus, testing President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea is a big, big problem and we will deal with that very strongly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXANDER: The rogue nation issues the first major national security challenge to the new White House.
And Democrats are fired up but are they ready to go?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: You`re here to work for us. You`re here work for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXANDER: This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.
Good Monday evening, I`m Peter Alexander in Washington in for Chuck Todd. Welcome to MTP DAILY.
We begin this evening with another manic Monday, covering the Trump White House as it battles instability, policy confusion, a brewing international showdown with a nuclear North Korea and calls for a staff shake-up at the White House`s top national security post.
Also, some news just in. A senior administration official tells me that national security advisor, General Michael Flynn, called Vice President Pence to apologize for misleading him about his communications with the Russian ambassador. Even though Flynn`s most recent statement on the matter was that he couldn`t recall if sanctions were discussed.
This afternoon, President Trump held a news conference after hosting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House where he was asked about, well, none of these issues.
Specifically, the president took questions from a conservative Web site, The Daily Caller, and a local outlet owned a media group that White House advisor Jared Kushner reportedly negotiated with in an effort to secure better media coverage, according to Politico`s reporting back in December.
In the president`s defense, he gets to call on whoever he wants at these events. But it seems clear that this is a White House trying to move past difficult questions about, say, the trust worthiness of the president`s top national security advisor, following a missile test bay rogue nation.
But it is hard, of course, to avoid these questions for too long. Just moments ago, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was asked by my colleague, Steve Kornacki, if national security advisor Flynn has the full confidence of the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONWAY: General Flynn does enjoy the full confidence of the president.
KORNACKI: By saying he enjoys the full confidence of the president, are you saying you`re satisfied that he did not have those conversations? That he did not mislead the vice president?
CONWAY: No, those are two different questions. You asked me and I`ll repeat the answer. If does he have the full confidence of the president? Yes, he does. And then, you`re asking me, what did he talk about with people when I wasn`t on the phone?
So, the only way for me to answer that is to tell you what he has said which is that he can`t recall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXANDER: So, there you have Kellyanne Conway saying the president has full confidence in Flynn, even though Flynn has now admitted to, in effect, misleading the White House, according to administration -- an administration official.
Conway also pushed back on some of Steve Kornacki`s questioning about the appropriateness of a private citizen discussing Russian sanctions before Mr. Trump took the oath of office. She said she would not engage in a, quote, "hypothetical" set of non-facts.
A White House official tells NBC News several aids have been encouraging President Trump to fire national security advisor Michael Flynn, although multiple White House sources say a move is not eminent.
So, an administration official tells "The Washington Post" that there is broad consensus inside Trump`s White House, that he lied to the White House about conversations he had with Russia.
On Sunday`s "MEET THE PRESS," the White House senior policy advisor, Stephen Miller, would not say if the president has confidence in Flynn. Flynn`s not the only one under fire right now.
A confidant of President Trump, a Newsmax CEO, Christopher Ruddy, is publicly blaming White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, for botching the travel ban`s rollout. Ruddy is also questioning Priebus` ability to handle the job, although a source tells NBC News that Priebus` job is, at least for the moment, safe.
All of the staff and chaos comes amid policy chaos on multiple fronts. As "The New York Times" reports, there was growing turmoil at National Security Council over national security policy. Council staff members get up in the morning, read President Trump`s Twitter posts, and struggle to make policy to fit them. Not exactly how the founders drew this up.
Meanwhile, an embattled White House team is confronting a major test on the international policy front as North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan this past weekend.
That prompted a scramble at president`s private club at Mar-a-Lago and pictures surfaced on social media, appearing to show Mr. Trump and aids huddled in the middle of a party with members of the public nearby, perhaps discussing what to do.
Although NBC News has not independently verified the timing of these photos.
I`m joined now by the Republican congressman, Chris Collins, of New York who was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump, then candidate Trump, for president. He`s also a key advisor to the presidential transition where he served as the main liaison between members of the House and the transition. He also advised the transition on hiring and staffing.
Congressman Collins, thanks for being here.
REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: Peter, good to be with you today. Happy Monday.
ALEXANDER: And to you.
On this Monday, I want to ask you about Michael Flynn. You`ve advised this administration on all sorts of staffing issues. If he misled the White House, should he go?
COLLINS: Well, it`s my belief, and I certainly agree with Kellyanne Conway, he has the full confidence of the president. And as people would look back, say, a year ago, there were two individuals that were at the president`s side, the candidate then Donald Trump. And it was General Flynn and it was Senator sessions.
Those two individuals were on the plane. They were going to every rally, every stop. So, when you look at the loyalty factor, and we all know that President Trump is -- he judges loyalty, first and foremost. And Mike Quinn -- or Mike Flynn, General Flynn certainly has that tie with the president.
So, I think other people are making something that I don`t frankly sign on to. I think he has the full confidence of the president.
ALEXANDER: So, to be clear, do you think the loyalty should, for lack of a better word, trump the idea that he potentially lied or misled the vice president of the United States?
COLLINS: Well, I don`t accept as a given. And, again, it`s a hypothetical.
I think it`s clear that he, as the national security advisor elect, if you will, getting ready to come in, had conversations with numerous people as a jump start to his new position. I don`t think there`s anything wrong with that. It would be expected.
COLLINS: And he`s certainly a professional. I don`t know the details of any conversations, but --
ALEXANDER: Understanding all of those things.
ALEXANDER: So, let me just --
COLLINS: I don`t --
ALEXANDER: So, in the simplest of terms --
COLLINS: -- care of the narrative.
ALEXANDER: I`m sorry to interrupt you. I apologize.
ALEXANDER: So, in the simplest of terms, if one of your staffers misled you, would you let them go?
COLLINS: Well, you`re using a definitive statement that he was misled.
ALEXANDER: No, I`m just asking --
COLLINS: I guess I --
ALEXANDER: -- I`m just asking as a separate topic. If one of your staffers misled you, if that were the case, would you let that person go?
COLLINS: Probably not. I would sit down with that individual. We would talk through what the issue is. Again, I`m not somebody -- I would be someone that would accept, at face value, a good, loyal employee, saying maybe if they misled me in some way, let`s talk through that. And I would tell you, a very, very small chance I would let anyone go.
ALEXANDER: So, just to -- so, then to be clear, why is Mike Flynn apologizing to Vice President Pence, as was just confirmed to me by a senior administration official?
COLLINS: Well, I don`t know that that`s the case at all. That`s a conversation between General Flynn and Vice President Pence.
But I do know that this country is safer with General Flynn as national security advisor, then we would be without General Flynn as national security advisor.
ALEXANDER: Broadly speaking, for all Americans sake, do you, then, support the idea that there should be an investigation, at least clear up this issue, for the sake of Americans?
COLLINS: No, I would not put this into some area of investigation any more than I would do, you know, an investigation of Kellyanne speaking about Ivanka, you know, in a very light-hearted fashion.
ALEXANDER: Are these the same, do you think? Do you think there`s parallelism between these things or, in joking, as you suggested?
COLLINS: No, no, no, I don`t mean to say that. I`m just saying, people jumping and using words, like let`s investigate this or that. These are internal matters between the president, his staff. I think it should stay right there. There`s no need for any kind of investigation, when it comes to the president and the staff that he relies on and the inter-workings within the staff.
COLLINS: That`s something that the president of the United States has to be comfortable with. He`s a decisive individual. And I have every confidence that whatever he feels is best for his administration is the road he`ll travel.
ALEXANDER: So is -- I guess the question then is, from what you have seen from this White House, do you have full confidence in the White House team that President Trump has assembled around him to this point?
COLLINS: Oh, a hundred percent. It`s just frustrating that Senator Schumer and some of the others in the Senate have delayed the full team coming in. We just got Congressman Price confirmed as secretary on Friday. We`re just getting Steve Mnuchin confirmed today as treasury. We`ve still got interior to go. We`ve got energy and others.
By this point in time, Obama`s cabinet was effectively full. Here we are three weeks in. We`ve still got six or more cabinet officials to place.
It`s disgraceful what the Democrats in the Senate, especially Senator Schumer, have done to slow walk these great individuals from coming to work and getting the country moving in the right direction.
ALEXANDER: To be clear, and a lot of examples as "The Associated Press" members have reported, out of approaching 700 different posts, the president has only, I think, even nominated 600 -- like -- or shy of 40 of them. There`s like 660 vacancies in that front. So, there`s still a lot of nominations that they are waiting on.
ALEXANDER: But let me ask you specifically about the president`s team right now. This was the senior White House policy advisor, Stephen Miller, on some of the Sunday shows this week, and talking about the travel ban. The president`s agenda questions about White House ethics and debunked claims of massive voter fraud.
Here`s what Stephen Miller said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE POLICY ADVISOR: Our opponents, the media, and the whole world will soon see, as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the presidency to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.
The bottom line is the president`s powers in this area represent the apex of executive authority.
I do want to say that Sean Spicer, as always, is 100 percent correct. We have a president who has done more in three weeks than most presidents have done in an entire administration.
And I am prepared to go on any show, anywhere, any time, and repeat it and say the president of the United States is correct 100 percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXANDER: To say the president is correct 100 percent of the time, is that representative of a team that you think`s capable of handling criticism or adjusting policy or owning up to facts that looks representative of a team, sort of, dispatched to speak directly to the president. Doesn`t it?
COLLINS: Oh, you know, Peter, I think the job that President Trump and his team have done is exceptional. Especially given the fact that he doesn`t even have his full team put together.
You know, you take one step at a time. In this case, a judge ruled on the executive order on the travel ban. Pointed out some ambiguities, that he thought were ambiguities, easy enough to fix, easy enough to come forth with a new executive order that addresses that.
Call that a very small bump. We move on. We keep the border secure. We keep the country safe.
What the press is saying is, you know, disarray or confusion or whatever they may want to say. I don`t think it`s that at all.
We just continuous improvement. We move forward. I think we may see a new executive order coming forward --
ALEXANDER: This week, as I understand.
COLLINS: -- addresses those concerns.
And then, we just -- again, we move on.
And I just don`t see the disarray. I mean, President Trump`s been in three weeks. He doesn`t have his full cabinet. And it`s true, what he`s been able to accomplish is extraordinary.
ALEXANDER: So, let me -- let me ask you, just to punctuate this thought in conclusion, I guess. Do you agree with what Stephen Miller said, suggesting that the powers of the president, in his words, will not be questioned? Isn`t that the job of the other two branches of government, including the one in which you serve, Congress? To check his power.
COLLINS: Well, when it comes to the president`s authority to secure our borders and decide who does or does not come into this country, he does have absolute powers. And there`s no question about it. The ambiguity surrounded green cards and maybe visa holders.
ALEXANDER: Just to be clear -- just to be clear, Congressman. You said, absolute powers. You`re telling me the president has absolute powers on issues regarding our borders?
COLLINS: When it comes to immigration, I think if you read it, he does have. That is a power that rests in his hands and the judge knit picked green card holders and visa holders. That can be easy addressed.
But the president of the United States, clearly, has the authority to close the borders to people that he does not believe should be coming in that would put our nation`s security at risk. And that is not to be questioned.
ALEXANDER: All right, we`ll let the judiciary be the judge of that as well.
Congressman Chris Collins, I appreciate your being here. Thank you very much.
COLLINS: Good to be with you, Peter.
ALEXANDER: Let`s bring in tonight`s panel. Michael Steele was a senior advisor to Jeb Bush`s campaign. He was also the press secretary for the former speaker of the House, John Boehner. Maria Teresa Kumar is an MSNBC Contributor and president of Voto Latino. And Susan Page, go you northwestern, the Washington bureau chief for the "USA Today." Northwestern, big win. We`ll talk about that soon.
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": Yes.
ALEXANDER: I know you were thinking about it.
Let me just start with you guys broadly. And then, Maria, get your take on what we just heard in that conversation. In effect, Chris Collins is defending what we heard Stephen Miller say which is the president has absolute power on the issue of immigration in Americans borders.
MARIA TERESA KUMAR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Peter, there is so much to that interview that I want to dissect. But let`s go -- let`s go back for when President Obama had tried to extend DAPA AND DOPA for families of undocumented immigrants through executive order. There was a rule that was being -- the judge basically ruled the fact that that was overreach on his part.
So, conversely, you can argue if it was overreach for the president to allow more -- to extend protections --
KUMAR: -- for undocumented, you could conversely argue that the president does not have the authority. Because basically the overreach, at the end of the day, actually is -- for immigration purposes, actually coming from the -- from Congress. The body that this individual -- that Collins -- excuse me, that the senator that you were just talking to just serves.
ALEXANDER: Yes, Congressman Collins. Your take on that conversation?
PAGE: We know that the president has a lot of authority, when it comes to immigration. But he does not have unfettered authority on anything. He does not have the authority to violate the Constitution. He also hasn`t the authority to violate congressional laws, including a 1965 law that said you cannot discriminate on immigration on the basis of national origin.
So -- and I think that the whole -- our whole system of checks and balances says, no branch of government has -- cannot be questioned about what they`re doing. All the branches of government face some checks and balances. That is, in fact, the genius of the system.
ALEXANDER: So, the question is, does the White House get that? Does the White House believe that the president has absolute power on these issues as communicated by Stephen Miller, presumably to an audience of one, and right here to Chris Collins as well?
MICHAEL STEEL, FORMER JEB BUSH CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: Well, substantially certainly if not absolute.
I think what`s frustrating here is that the desire to hit the ground running, have, kind of, a shock and awe campaign, has led to a situation where changes which are, in some cases, otherwise very popular, have not been vetted with Congress, have not been vetted appropriately with the appropriate departments. And so, it`s more difficult to enact an enduring change in policy if you don`t dot the Is and cross the Ts.
ALEXANDER: So, you serve closely with these folks. You serve closely with these Republicans in Congress right now. What is the reaction privately? What are the whispers that you hear from Republicans right now in the way this is being governed by the president?
STEEL: Well, I think they`d like them to take a deep breath and make sure these things are done right. Because there are big things coming up. Repeal and replace of the Affordable Care Act, tax reform, et cetera, that have a huge impact on 10s of millions, hundreds of millions of Americans. And it needs to be done in a thoughtful, step by step fashion rather than through, kind of, slap dash seaming executive orders.
ALEXANDER: Let me ask you about Kellyanne Conway. On the topic of Michael Flynn today, she said that Michael Flynn still has the full confidence of the president.
Right before we got on the broadcast, a senior administration official confirmed to me that Michael Flynn had, effectively, apologized on Friday to Vice President Pence for -- and this was not the word provided to me. But as they answered, yes, the affirmative to, for misleading the vice president, related to the communications he had with the Russian ambassador.
So, if Flynn can`t recall the conversations on whether he discussed Russian sanctions with the Russian ambassador, what is he apologizing for?
KUMAR: Well, I think that`s -- one, that`s an entirely fair question. The fact that you are seeing fractions even within the Republicans not feeling that they could trust Flynn. Just an hour ago, Senator Collins said if he is -- if it`s true that basically he lied under oath, then we`re not going to be able to take him seriously in his position.
But I think that we have a broader problem right now. And that is that you`re seeing a lot of Republicans on the -- in the House and in the Senate, falling in line behind the administration, giving them unfettered access. And basically saying, we actually do not have a role when it comes to checks and balances.
ALEXANDER: To be clear, there`s no evidence he lied under oath.
KUMAR: No, there is not.
KUMAR: Right. And that`s basically what Susan Collins says. It was basically -- she was, like, if it is true, then I -- as an individual, as a member of the Senate, I feel uncomfortable being able to actually pull my information from him if, at the end of the day, he did lie.
ALEXANDER: So, what do you make of this Mike Flynn? Are we knit picking this conversation with Michael Flynn?
PAGE: I think that the Trump administration is very lucky that the Republican has control of both houses in Congress.
PAGE: Because it means the idea of an investigation to what he said and what he did and whether it violated the law is -- as Congressman Collins made clear, is not going to happen.
And that is a traditional check and balance. We`re just not going to see, at least that the point, with the Congress under Republican control.
ALEXANDER: And just to conclude on this topic, I think the way that President Trump handles Michael Flynn will say, as much as anything, about the guy who was formerly famous for the phrase, you`re fired. It may indicate if he circles the wagons and they protect this guy, a real aversion to actually firing an inner circle member.
STEEL: Well, they`re competing loyalties here. The president is, obviously, loyal to General Flynn. He is, obviously, also loyal to vice president who is, apparently, misled.
At the same time, the biggest part of this decision has to be what`s best for the American people, our national security, and keeping them safe. Thus far, the president has decided that General Flynn being in this position is the best thing for our national security. And Republicans on the Hill are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on that.
ALEXANDER: Michael, Maria, Susan, stay with us. We`ve got a full plate ahead coming up right here.
Also coming up, the top Democrat on the House and Intelligence Committee is weighing in on General Flynn`s future in the White House.
Stay tuned, you`re watching MTP DAILY.
ALEXANDER: Welcome back to MTP DAILY.
Republicans are pushing back against the White House after a top Trump official, again, repeated false claims about ramped voter fraud of the 2016 election.
Here`s what White House senior policy advisor, Stephen Miller, said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MILLER: This issue of bussing voters into New Hampshire is widely known by anyone who is working in amateur politics. It`s very real. It`s very serious. This morning on this show is not the venue to lay out all the evidence.
But I can tell you this. Voter fraud is a serious problem in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXANDER: So, the bottom line is people who work in New Hampshire politics disagree. New Hampshire`s deputy secretary of state told NBC News, quote, "We have seen no evidence to support a claim that busloads of Massachusetts residents have come into New Hampshire to vote in our elections."
And a former New Hampshire Republican Party chair, who is a Trump critic, tweeted an offer to pay a thousand dollars to the first person who can prove even one out-of-state person took a bus from Massachusetts to any New Hampshire place last election day.
He told NBC News later, quote, "So far, no takers." The White House has provided no evidence of busses or of any wide-scale voting fraud in New Hampshire or, frankly, anywhere else.
We`ll be right back.
ALEXANDER: Welcome back to MTP DAILY.
We just heard from White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, moments ago, about Lt. General Mike Flynn`s future as national security advisor. Spicer just told reporters the president is evaluating the situation ad that he`s speaking to Vice President Pence about the conversation the two of them had.
And joining me now, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff. He is the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Congressman Schiff, thanks for being here.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: It`s great to be with you.
ALEXANDER: We heard from Kellyanne Conway, one of the president`s advisors, moments ago. She said that Mike Flynn, his national security advisor, President Trump`s national security still, still has the president`s full confidence right now.
Are you confident in the job that Mike Flynn is doing right now and should Americans be?
SCHIFF: No, I`m not at all. And, of course, this comes on the heels of a troubled past when he was the head of the DIA.
But if this is someone who can`t remember what they discussed with the Russian ambassador, sanctions that the president placed on Russia that very day, that really strains credulity. It`s very hard to believe. And we need a national security advisor that the president can trust, that the American people can trust. I really think it`s time for him to step down.
ALEXANDER: You`ve said that if Mike Flynn lied or intentionally misled the vice president, that he would have to go. Have you spoken to your Republican colleague, the chairman of your committee, Congressman Devin Nunes, about possibly investigating Mike Flynn? And where does that stand right now?
SCHIFF: Well, we have certainly spoken about the investigation that we`re doing of Russian covert influence operations in the United States. That`s a bipartisan investigation in the committee. And I think this ought to be within the scope of what we investigation.
Certainly, if there are contacts between Flynn as a chief surrogate for the Trump campaign and the kremlin during the campaign, that`s well within our per view.
If those contacts continued after, and indeed the subject of sanctions was raised, and then Flynn was misleading about it, now that ought to be something that has to be investigated.
ALEXANDER: But, Congressman, specific to this issue here, regarding the conversations, the communications that may have taken place, in that window after President Trump was elected but before he was inaugurated, between the Russian ambassador and Mike Flynn, do you know whether the FBI is investigating or is there any other inquiry taking place in that regard?
SCHIFF: You know, I can`t comment on what the FBI may or may not be investigating.
But I can say this. We need to request if the FBI or any of the other intelligence agencies have recordings or transcripts of these conversations. We need to see them. We need to listen to them. We need to find out whether the national security advisor was misleading the public. And that I -- ought to be something that is very easily subject to proof.
In my view, that`s why you haven`t seen a really full-throated defense of General Flynn. Because the administration may understand if those recordings exist, they can very well write them off to being fake news.
ALEXANDER: On Mike Flynn, is the bigger issue here that he may have communicated with the Russian ambassador about U.S. sanctions or that he may have covered it up? Is it the communication or the cover up that most concerns you?
SCHIFF: Well, with respect to the conversation on December 29th, it`s the cover-up, I think, that would be most concerning.
And the Logan Act violation, that statute may be very unenforceable. It`s never, obviously, been prosecuted.
If there were communications between Flynn and the kremlin during the course of the campaign, and there was any collusion between the kremlin and the Trump campaign, that would be the most serious allegation and mean the most serious trouble for General Flynn.
ALEXANDER: Do you have evidence that General Flynn was using encryption in these communications? You think that should be reviewed but do you have any evidence of that?
SCHIFF: I don`t have evidence of what he used to communicate. All we know is what the administration has said. Sean Spicer did say early on that General Flynn texted the Russian ambassador. I don`t know what kind of platform he may have used for that.
But I think we ought to explore all the communications General Flynn had with the Russians, had with this ambassador or had with anyone else tied to the kremlin. And, of course, it goes back at least to that dinner where he was seated next to Putin some time ago.
SCHIFF: But we ought to look at the full scope of communications in any medium that General Flynn used.
ALEXANDER: Are the problems of dysfunction, that you and others see within the national security apparatus right now, bigger than Michael Flynn? What is your paramount concern right now about the way the national security is being handled by this administration?
SCHIFF: Well, I have two concerns. First is the role of Steve Bannon. I think you can see a lot of his fingerprints on some of the dysfunction in the National Security Council and it`s a role he should be playing -- he should not be playing, with respect to the NSC.
But beyond that, I think you see the influence of a president who may very well be in over his head who begins the morning generally by tweeting things that the national security staff then has to try to make sense of, justify, irrationalize.
So, it is a very dysfunctional presidency from the top on down. The NSC, I think, is only one part of the dysfunction.
ALEXANDER: So, let me ask you about that. You say the president may be, quote, "in over his head." Some Senate Democrats have begun to question President Trump`s mental health.
Let me play you what we`ve heard from some of them. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": Is it true that Republican colleagues of yours express concern about President Trump`s mental health?
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: A few. He lies a lot. He says things that aren`t true. That`s the same as lying, I guess.
That is not the norm for a president of the United States or actually for a human being.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (R), VERMONT: We have a president who is delusional, in many respects, a pathological liar. Somebody who is trying to --
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Those are strong words.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXANDER: So, do you have concerns about the president`s mental health and is that an appropriate question for Democrats or Republicans to be asking?
SCHIFF: Well, I`m not a mental health expert, but there does seem to be a pathological quality to the fact that he cannot accept facts that are adverse to him.
And to give you the best illustration, the fact that he cannot accept Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. He has to invent millions of undocumented immigrants voting. The fact that he cannot accept that the Russians helped his campaign, as to deny effectively what all of the intelligence agencies were telling him week after week. That does, I think, speak to a significant problem with this president.
Now, whether that has a clinical diagnosis or not, I`ll leave to the experts. But I think it is more than fair to point out that this is outside the range of what I consider either normal, acceptable, certainly questionable activity. Whether it has a clinical diagnosis, I`ll leave to the experts.
ALEXANDER: All right. Congressman, last question. "The Washington Post" has been reporting that the dining room at Mar-a-Lago, the president`s private estate, became sort of an open-air situation room on Saturday night as they were watching closely the crisis taking place in North Korea with that midrange missile launch.
Does that concern you? The idea of an open-air situation room where citizens, private citizens could watch?
SCHIFF: Of course it does. As well as we don`t know what documents they were examining with cell phones that may or may not have been compromised. And it`s all the more appalling when you consider that this is a crowd that castigated Secretary Clinton for how she handled classified or confidential information.
This is a crowd that castigated Susan Rice saying quite falsely and unjustifiably that she had somehow misled the country about Benghazi and here you have Flynn misleading about context with the Russians and you have the president and others at Mar-a-Lago having what should be confidential discussions in a skiff out in the open with patrons.
And that of course doesn`t get to the question of the jacking up of fees at this private country club that in order to be Trump family benefit. All of this is not exactly what I would call draining the swamp.
ALEXANDER: Congressman Schiff, we appreciate your time. Thanks very much.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
ALEXANDER: Still ahead right here on "MTP Daily." We have the latest out of California as more than 100,000 people are forced to evacuate the area around the Oroville Dam. Congressman John Garamendi will join us next to discuss the situation and a lot more. You`re watching "MTP Daily."
ALEXANDER: Welcome back. More dramatic scenes this weekend as we saw more republicans being confronted by their constituents. In Wisconsin, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner`s town hall was filled to capacity and more than 100 more wanted to get in. They waited outside while he was pressed on the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.
And staying away from town hall, certainly didn`t mean you escape the spotlight. Last week, Senator Steve Daines of Montana told Elizabeth Warren to take a seat while reading Coretta Scott King`s letter opposing Jeff Sessions for attorney general. This week, a group of constituents confronted Senator Daines at the airport. They say he`s been too silent. They want a town hall.
(START VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When can we expect a town hall?
CROWD: You work for us! You work for us! You work for us!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXANDER: Just one of those dramatic scenes over the course of this weekend. And coming up right here, can the democrats turn those protests, that energy, into political power? We`re going to dig into that question. But first, Hampton Pearson has your "CNBC Market Wrap."
HAMPTON PEARSON, JOURNALIST, CNBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Peter. We had U.S. stock indexes finishing the day in record territory for three trading sessions in a row. The Dow rose 142 points, the S&P up 12, the Nasdaq finishing 29 points higher. Apple closing at an all-time high, finishing at $133.29 a share.
Shares of ZELTIQ Aesthetics rose more than 13 percent, after news the company will be acquired by Allergan, the makers of Botox. Investors are looking ahead to Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen`s testimony tomorrow on Capitol Hill. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.
ALEXANDER: Welcome back. We want to take you to California right now where a dangerous situation at the nation`s tallest dam appears to be improving. Officials there say the water levels at the Oroville Dam, that`s north of Sacramento, are dropping. Nearly 200,000 people were ordered to evacuate on Sunday after a spillway serving that dam developed a hole that threatened to release uncontrolled flood waters.
The water has now stopped flowing down the spillway, reducing at least for the moment, the risk of flooding in nearby towns. Local sheriff said repairs may be needed before residents can return to their homes, but there is still no timetable for how long they would take. According to to the weather channel, no rain fortunately is expected until later in this week, likely on Thursday.
And joining me now from California is California democratic Congressman John Garamendi. He is near the dam in Oroville, California. And congressman, I know many of your constituents are among those evacuated right now. So we`re thinking of them at this time. What is the situation right now on the ground and how are those constituents and those evacuees doing there?
REP. JOHN GARAMENDI, D-CALIFORNIA: Well about 200,000 of which 150,000 are from my cities, Yuba City, Marysville, about 20 miles down river. At the present time, it`s stable. But there`s still an enormous rescue, still have 29 feet of water against that damaged emergency spillway. And we know that there was significant erosion below the spillway.
Exactly what and how dangerous it is is now in the process of being determined. The engineers are out there. You can probably see behind me, those sacks of -- those big sacks, they`re filled with rock. They intend to take those rocks probably by helicopter and shore up the outside of that emergency spillway.
Hopefully, that will stabilize the situation. Simultaneously, yes, indeed, the water is going down. They want to take it down at full 50 feet below the spillway so that there is no water pressure against it at all. But a new storm coming on Thursday.
ALEXANDER: Congressman, give me a sense obviously in times like this, crisis like this, our attention is focused there. In New Orleans, we focused on the levees. In Minneapolis, we focused on the bridge. Does this dam need more infrastructure spending, more regulation, would you work with a Trump administration to get more help for that dam specifically? What is missing there? GARAMENDI: Well, I think we ought to start at 2005 when this dam was up for relicensing from the federal government. A part of that relicensing application made by the Sierra Club and friends at the river was to provide a concrete apron down from the emergency spillway. They were concerned about contamination in the river.
Turns out that they didn`t get that. And the state decided not to put concrete in place. Now payday has arrived. And so, we`re going to have to rebuild this spillway, both the initial spillway as well as the emergency spillway. And that`s going to be probably a couple hundred million dollars.
ALEXANDER: Would you work with the president on an infrastructure deal, congressman?
GARAMENDI: Well, I certainly want to see what his proposal is. We had an infrastructure deal that`s now in place, we need to do far more. It`s not just this reservoir, it`s the levees downstream here in California, and across the nation, the bridges and the rest. I want to see what he`s proposing.
Thus far, he has proposed that private entrepreneurs and investors will do it. That doesn`t work in a situation such as this. So, we need to really put up the money and we need to do it right away. Not just here, but all across the nation.
ALEXANDER: Congressman, I want to ask you quickly about some politics if I may very briefly. We witnessed plenty of protesters at these town halls across the country against republican congress members. How did democrats harness that energy of these protesters at town halls and at that women`s march here in Washington? Are you willing to work, you know -- how do you accomplish that? How do you get that done? GARAMENDI: Very interesting and very, very important question. It`s really not within our control. This is an organic. These are people taking to the street. Yesterday, I did a town hall in Davis, California. We had seven, almost 800 people in the auditorium standing room only, and more outside. There was enormous power and energy and determination in that crowd.
Fortunately for me, it was a friendly crowd. And they`re supportive of what I`m doing. But really it is in the hands of these people, reaching out all across the nation, putting pressure on all of us, democrat and republican alike to deal with the issues at hand.
And they are numerous -- they`re all way from the affordable care act to what are we going to do about a wall? By the way, if you`ve got $30 billion, I`ve got a place where you can spend it. You can spend it here in California, repairing this reservoir, repairing the levees, and building the infrastructure here and all across the nation. So these are things that we must deal with.
GARAMENDI: . and the energy comes from those people. We will respond to that. It`s not a matter of us harnessing it, it`s a matter of the people of the United States saying we will not tolerate this.
ALEXANDER: Congressman, we know the DNC right now debating who the next chair should be for the party right now. Broadly speaking, what direction do you think the party needs to go? How do you successfully capitalize on this energy when it comes to votes and elections?
GARAMENDI: Well, the issues are being put forward not only by us as we look at an infrastructure, the health care issues, how to deal with the international issues that are being created by this president, and we want transparency. We want to know what is going on. Everything from his tax returns to the communications with Flynn and others. These are important critical issues that need to be out there.
But the DNC, I think, has an infrastructure issue of its own. We need to win the governorships and the state legislatures because in 2020, it`s going to be a new census and then redistricting immediately following that. That`s critical. We cannot continue to have the kind of gerrymandering that has so skewed the American political scene.
GARAMENDI: . and that is -- that is a principle task in my view of the DNC dealing with the 2018 election and then again in 2020. ALEXANDER: Congressman John Garamendi in California, we are thinking about the people of that community on this night. We hope everybody`s safe.
GARAMENDI: So am I. And I was at the emergency shelters earlier today. They are concerned and rightly so. Hopefully they`ll be home soon.
ALEXANDER: Thank you very much, congressman. We`re going to talk more about the future of the Democratic Party ahead in our lead as democrats look for their next leader. Can they avoid making the same mistakes that cost them in 2016? You`re watching "MTP Daily."
ALEXANDER: Back now. President Donald Trump is on track to get two more cabinet confirmations this evening. The democrats are still doing all that they can to kick up dust around treasury secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin. They`re about to hold a news conference speaking out against Mnuchin.
The other big vote before the senate is confirming the first veteran`s affairs secretary who is not a veteran. That is David Shulkin. Both nominees are expected to clear the senate votes tonight. Currently less than half of President Trump`s cabinet nominees have been confirmed. We`ll have much more "MTP Daily" after this.
ALEXANDER: Welcome back to "MTP Daily." Time now for your "Lid." We are here with Michael Steel, Maria Teresa Kumar, and Susan Page. In the course of this conversation, there was a little bit of news the hour before me on Steve Kornacki. Kellyanne Conway, the senior counselor to the president, said that right now, Michael Flynn has the full confidence of the president.
As the broadcast began, we heard from Sean Spicer, the press secretary, who said the president is evaluating the situation regarding Michael Flynn right now. So I will just ask you, Susan, about that sort of disconnect in terms of messaging where things stand with Michael Flynn.
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF FOR USA TODAY: Well, if this were a traditional White House, I should that Kellyanne Conway got out there (inaudible) and that Sean came out to walk it back. Now, this is not always a traditional White House, but that would be the traditional interpretation.
ALEXANDER: Not always, yeah.
MARIA TERESA KUMAR, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF VOTO LATINO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Actually, they let to build off of that, that we are seeing two camps within the administration. One is the Steve Bannon camp that has the ear of the president and this is Kellyanne Conway.
Spicer is the most traditional established republican (inaudible). One of the reasons why they brought him in is that they actually are the ones that have a connection on how government works, they are the ones that have the ear of folks in congress. And I think this is a very physical sway of what`s happening behind close doors of who actually does have the ear of the president.
ALEXANDER: And just moments ago when this happened, Sean Spicer was speaking to reporters when Donald Trump passed by in the upper press area behind closed doors, the area where we`re allowed to go, and he basically said of Reince Priebus as well that he wasn`t doing a good job but a great job right now. So what do you make, Michael, as you look at the sort of behind the scene situation where everybody is picking their corners?
MICHAEL STEEL, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY FOR SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE JOHN BOEHNER: I think this is an unusual and (inaudible) campaign. I think it is an unusual and (inaudible).
STEEL: I think the minute by minute tweets and re-tweets and counter tweets are less important than whether they can get real results for the American people. And that`s in week three or four what remains to be seen. ALEXANDER: So broadly, Susan, what is the path forward for democrats right now? There is sort of the similarity in 2009, the Tea Party, the advent then the origins of that movement. Right now, we`re hearing from the democrats the energy. We played some of the clips from these town halls around the country. Jason Chaffetz has it in Salt Lake City for heaven`s sake. So what do they do with this?
PAGE: It`s an opportunity but it`s also a risk as the Tea Party movement was for republicans because you got all the energy that you want to tap with democrats who want you to be oppositional in every single case when it comes to Donald Trump.
PAGE: They got a lot Americans in the middle that you don`t want to repel. It seemed like you are not willing to compromise on anything. And that was something republicans often had trouble handling and that is going to the task for the democrats.
ALEXANDER: The takeaway is a lot of democrats right now are expressing as Monday morning quarterbacks concerns that Hillary Clinton spent too much energy focusing on the other guy and not enough energy focusing on their own message which is the risk again right now.
KUMAR: Exactly. I think a lot of that quarter backing is that if you ask the majority of the American people, they don`t feel that the democrats are the party of the people, of the working class. And as a result, you have someone this time, you know, going to take a risk with Donald Trump. It`s fascinating to me, it`s not the fact that you have democrats going into congressional districts, but you have the republicans going into the congressional districts and saying, let`s shake this up.
Let`s just go back to this piece that you said of what the president said about Reince Priebus (inaudible) from the president when -- Air Force One, remember, where he basically said, what should I say about my enemies, like he`s too close to his enemy. It was very strange. And the president has a tendency in quoting Hollywood a lot now is just what came to mind.
STEEL: The difference between the Tea Party uprising and what democrats are facing today is that this is fundamentally a center right (ph) country. Donald Trump won the popular votes in 230 congressional districts. Hillary Clinton won 205. He won the popular vote in 30 states. She only won 20. Republicans can win majorities in the house and senate by consolidating the majorities, consolidating their own territory.
Democrats in order to win have to go beyond their natural territory. And that`s what they did successfully in 2006. You know, democrats in Washington, New York, and California probably thought he sure was a brain dead redneck, but he was somebody who could win in a red state and a red district. And that`s what they had to do to get that majority in the first place and that`s what they will have to do to win it again.
ALEXANDER: So the question, do you subscribe to the police (ph) system that a lot of these democrats, these voices there were paid to show up to these town halls? STEEL: I think that anyone who goes into a town hall scenario right now is probably facing a lot of organized demonstrations. The extent to which those are volunteers, whether there is union activist, other sort of activists are paid is impossible to discern.
ALEXANDER: Michael, Maria, Susan, thank you all very much. We`re gonna be right back.
ALEXANDER: So in case you missed it, well, a couple of copy editors apparently did too. It has been a tough few days for the typos. The Department of Education posting a quote from W.E.B Du Bois, education must not simply teach work, it must teach life. It`s a powerful message but the messenger`s name was spelled wrong.
And there was this from the library of congress. They were selling inauguration prints which included the quote, no dream is too big, no challenge is too great. The one problem is they used the wrong "too" as you can see.
But perhaps the most (inaudible) over the last few days came from a case of mistaken identity. A newspaper of Dominican Republic has apologized to its readers after publishing a report on U.S.-Israel relation where they mistakenly used the picture of Alec Baldwin playing President Donald Trump on SNL instead of the real President Donald Trump. An honest mistake. You decide. That`s all for tonight. "For the Record with Greta" starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END