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MTP Daily, Transcript 2/15/2017

Guests: Richard Haass, Kate Rogers, Nick Confessore, Chris Coons, Michael McFaul

Show: MTP Daily Date: February 15, 2017 Guest: Richard Haass, Kate Rogers, Nick Confessore, Chris Coons, Michael McFaul

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: Yes, it`s Wednesday.

New fallout from Flynn`s firing.

(voice-over): Tonight, questions of collusion and credibility. Two reports that Trump officials had contact with Russia during the presidential campaign.


MALE: Any Trump person who collaborated with a Russia -- with the Russians, if they did, they should be punished.


TUR: Plus, the president blames the media for his firing of national security advisor Mike Flynn.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton. I think it`s very, very unfair what`s happened to General Flynn.


TUR: And did President Trump just change decades of U.S. support for a two-state solution in the Middle East?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.


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

(on camera): Good evening, I`m Katy Tur in New York. Welcome to MTP DAILY.

We begin tonight with the unprecedented storm enveloping President Trump`s White House. The firing of national security advisor Michael Flynn has reignited serious questions about the kremlin`s ties to the Trump administration.

These storms, the Flynn fallout, a long-standing FBI probe and calls for more investigations by Congress have led to an extraordinary array of unanswered questions about White House conflicts, chaos, allegations of collusion, and questions of credibility and competence, a cacophony, if you will.

Today at the White House, President Trump fired back. He aggressively defended General Flynn, less than 48 hours after firing him from misleading the vice president about his conversations with Russia.

President Trump responded to the escalating fallout first by attacking the press, then by alleging a political conspiracy inside his administration.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: General Flynn is a wonderful man. I think he`s been treated very, very unfairly by the media, as I call it the fake media, in many cases. People are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton.

I think it`s very, very unfair what`s happened to General Flynn, the way he was treated, and the documents and papers that were illegally, I stress that, illegally leaked. Very, very unfair.


TUR: The president, earlier in the day, blasted intelligence leaks published by "The New York Times" after it ran this potentially explosive report, citing current and former U.S. officials, that Trump aids and informal advisors were in repeated contact with senior Russian intelligence officials during the campaign, amid Russia`s efforts to hack the election process.

NBC News has not confirmed that story and it should be noted that "The New York Times" says officials have, so far, found no evidence of collusion between Trump`s team and Russia.

For our part, a senior U.S. official tells NBC News that investigators have determined that some Trump campaign aides and Trump business associates were in contact with Russians.

But current and former U.S. officials say they know of nothing to indicate contact between Trump associates and Russian intelligence.

But, at the very least, this story raises new questions about denials made by the president, the vice president, and his top aides on this question.


CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR, FOX NEWS: Was there any contact in any way between Trump or his associates and the kremlin or cutouts they have?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All the contact by the Trump campaign and associates was with the American people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you still say definitively that nobody on the Trump campaign, not even General Flynn, had any contact with the Russians before the election?

SEAN SPICER, U.S. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don`t have any -- I -- there`s nothing that would conclude me that anything different has changed with respect to that time period.


TUR: And the president, himself, has denied allegations that members of staff were in contact with Russian officials during the campaign.

On Capitol Hill, we`ve seen several top Republicans appear to grow increasingly uneasy with the situation facing the White House.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE, CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Now that this issue has occurred, I think coming before us and testifying if that can be done, will be a very appropriate thing for us to have happen.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: If there were Trump officials, campaign officials, collaborating with the Russians, that is a big-time, bad move on their part.

And I want to punish Russia for interfering in our campaign even more aggressively than I do today. And any Trump person who collaborated with the Russia -- with the Russians, if they did, they should be punished.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The latest information in the media is -- requires questions to be answered.

[17:05:01] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think there`s any evidence of coordination between the Trump campaign and --

MCCAIN: It`s too early. I think it`s too early. But it raises serious questions.


TUR: And joining me now, Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, he sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Thank you, Senator, for joining me.

First question. Mitch McConnell says he doesn`t want an independent investigation into this. The Democrats do. So, how far should the Democrats go in order to force this issue?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE, SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, Katy, initially, we need to rely on the Senate Intelligence Committee which is already underway in conducting an open investigation, that will be classified, into materials and information that really shouldn`t be reviewed in an open setting.

I am optimistic that the Intelligence Committee will be allowed to move forward to subpoena General Flynn, to subpoena and secure a lot of e-mails and documents they need to review.

I also think two committees on which I serve, Foreign Relations and Judiciary, should be holding public hearings. Into what this means for our next election, for our relations with our vital allies in Europe who also face Russian aggression against their elections in Germany, in France, and elsewhere, and on judiciary, into what this means for cybercrime and for Russia`s interference in our election.

If these investigations are not allowed to move forward, if there`s squelched, then we should proceed to an independent commission and an independent investigation outside of Congress.

TUR: Well, if that does happen -- I`m not saying it`s going to because we don`t know yet. If that does happen, as the minority party, what can you do to force the issue, in a word, could you go nuclear on this?

COONS: Well, Katy, you`ve already heard a number of Republican senators expressing concern. They were quoted just a few minutes ago on your show, Senators Corker and Blunt, Graham and McCain, among others.

That said, that if there really was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence, that`s an issue of national security. That`s an issue of a direct assault on our democracy. And if a number of Republicans and Democrats work together, we can confront this important challenge to our democracy.

TUR: Do that you believe that you`re going to get the Republicans support you need to, though, to have a full investigation? One that gets to the bottom of all these issues? And also one that the American public is going to be privy to. One where the American public knows you were able to fully investigate it and fully become confident that there were not serious breaches here?

COONS: Well, Katy, that`s the key issue, is will the American public know that we`ve been able to get to the bottom of this? You could be confident that I, and many of my colleagues, will fiercely follow this wherever it goes.

And if we are blocked in our intention to proceed with these investigations, then we`ll be calling on the American public to reach out to their Republican senators and insist that they support our moving forward with an independent commission.

We can`t create an independent commission or a select committee without legislation. And that legislation would have to come through a majority of Republican Congress.

So, at some point, Republicans also have to stand up and say, this is an issue vital to our national security. And join with Democrats, here in the Senate, to make sure that we`re doing our constitutional duty of effective oversight.

TUR: Senator, it seems right now that all the Democrats can do is talk loudly about this. If it does come to the point where the Republicans are not going to get on board with an investigation that does lead to the full answers, are the Democrats willing to do things, like block Neil Gorsuch`s vote? Or with the -- excuse me, the debt limit expiring next month, could you threaten to default on it? Essentially, hold it up in order to get the Republicans to take this more seriously, if it comes to the point where they are not?

COONS: Yes, Katy, there`s a range of things that we could do. But I don`t think we should get there yet. We should try to proceed, in the near term, in a deliberate and bipartisan manner.

The intelligence committee is making progress. I am optimistic, with what I`ve heard from chairman Corker of Foreign Relations, Senator Graham who chairs one of the subcommittees of Judiciary on which I serve. They could also investigate this. Let`s see if we`re able to make progress.

And if not, you`ve just laid out a number of leverage points that we might be able to use to get the attention of the White House and of Republicans in the Senate.

TUR: So, there are ones you potentially could use if you need to.

COONS: Yes. It is troubling that, today, President Trump is trying to change the subject and somehow blame the media for the fact that he had to fire his national security advisor for lying to the vice president.

The reality here is that Russia did interfere with our election and we need to get to the bottom of whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with Russian intelligence in doing that.

TUR: Do you believe this is a national security crisis?

COONS: Yes. I think this is an important issue of national security. It affects not just our last election, but our next election. And it could affect our allies throughout the world.

So, I do think that it`s important, for all of us, in the best interest of our country, to move forward deliberately and thoughtfully in a bipartisan way, and try to minimize the prospects for a genuine constitutional crisis as we investigate this issue.

[17:10:12] TUR: Thank you, Senator Coons.

COONS: Thank you.

TUR: I`m joined now by Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia and an NBC Contributor. Ambassador, thank you so much for joining me.

Number one, there`s a lot of questions right now swirling about President Trump and his ties to Russia. Some people are saying this is nonsense and this is just conspiracy theories. This is an attempt at a political assassination, if you will, against the president.

What is your -- what right now are the biggest questions for you?

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, it`s not a conspiracy theory. We have overwhelming evidence that the Russians intervened in our election to tip the scales and for one candidate. We know that. That`s been documented. There is no debate about that.

What`s new, over the last 24 hours, is that we now know that Trump officials in the campaign had conversations with Russian intelligence officers. The same Russian intelligence that intervened in our election also had conversations with those officials.

What we don`t know, of course, as you were just talking about, we don`t know the content of those conversations. We don`t know if there was collusion, if there was coordination. And that`s what we need to know. That is the ultimate thing we need to know and that needs to be investigated.

TUR: Just to be fair, that is "New York Times" reporting. That`s nothing that NBC News has been able to independently verify.


TUR: We did, however, speak to Paul Manafort, who`s Donald Trump`s former campaign chairman, and he gave us this statement, saying, I had no contact knowingly with Russian intelligence officials. I don`t think it`s possible I could have inadvertently had discussion with Russian officials. It`s not like they wear badges. This story is not true.

What does he mean when he says, it`s not like they wear badges?

MCFAUL: Well, it`s a fair point. And I think Mr. Manafort should be given the benefit of the doubt. And that is to say, when you`re walking the streets of Kiev, which he used to do often because he had a major client there, President Yanukovych, and you bump into somebody at the breakfast table who works for the Russian government, they`re not going to tell you that they work for the FSB or the SVR. They post the organizations that came after the KBG.

So, you don`t know that. He doesn`t know that. That -- I think that`s what he`s claiming. But we should know that. We can know that. We can know that through investigation. We can know that through our intelligence community.

That`s most certainly what was eluded to in "The New York Times" reporting. And with a more comprehensive expansive investigation, we can uncover some of these anonymous sources and these names that were not known.

I know a lot of KGB agents, for instance, right? Because of my time in the government. And if those names were exposed in an investigation, we might be able to connect the dots and then really understand whether there was collusion or not.

And I would think Mr. Manafort would want that investigation, if, indeed, what he said to you is true. Let`s get it documented so we can move on.

TUR: Let`s get back to something more concrete and that`s General Mike Flynn. The conversation that he had with the Russian ambassador during the transition. In your diplomatic experience, how likely is it that he was freelancing during that phone call where they -- where he discussed sanctions, at length, with the Russian ambassador?

MCFAUL: Well, first of all, General Flynn, of all people, should have realized that the high likelihood of that conversation being recorded. And so, he should have known that somebody else was going to know about it.

And most certainly when his president -- when he was in national security advisor, when President Trump sat down to call President Putin, General Flynn had to have known that Ambassador Kislyak would have briefed President Putin about the content of their conversation.

With respect to what he did. You know, I can`t speak for this transition or this administration. But I did work in the Obama transition and the Obama administration. I can`t imagine anybody making policy on their own of such a magnitude. Lifting sanctions on Russia, that`s a pretty big policy change. Unlikely that that would be just made on the fly by one individual.

TUR: Thank you, Ambassador McFaul.

Now let`s go to tonight`s --

MCFAUL: Thanks for having me.

TUR: -- panel. Nick Confessore, Political Reporter for "The New York Times" and an MSNBC Contributor; Elise Jordan, NBC News Political Analyst and former adviser to Senator Rand Paul; and Jamil Smith, Senior National Correspondent for MTV News.

Guys, another busy day. Another busy day. Donald Trump got on a -- got on -- took the podium today. Was asked, at least in a roundabout way, about General Flynn. And he gave another answer which seems to muddy the water even more. It`s the media`s fault for General Flynn getting fired.

[17:15:11] NICK CONFESSORE, POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Correct. Well, you can`t have it both ways, right? He`s saying it`s fake news, but real leaks, apparently, because they`re criminal leaks. So, if they`re real leaks, it`s not fake news. And if it`s fake, how come he fired Flynn for the whole thing in the first place? He can`t -- he can`t do both.

TUR: And so, the Democrats are making a lot of noise about this, very clearly, Elise. And they have some support among Republicans. They`ve got McCain. They`ve got Roy Blunt. Senator Lindsey Graham as well is getting aloud about that this.

But if they can`t get an independent investigation and McConnell blocks them, do they have the wherewithal and the appetite to go nuclear? To, you know, stop the Neil Gorsuch nomination?

ELISE JORDAN, POLITICAL ANALYST, NBC NEWS: I think that`s unlikely. But I think so much is going to depend on what`s actually in the transcripts of the call with General Flynn and the Russian ambassador.

I think that if it is more overt in how he`s speaking about the sanctions and what actually happened and what was actually said, that could really rally more Republicans to come together and have some kind of extended investigation.

TUR: The Republicans have always been very good at getting in line when they want to stop something. They were successful at it during the Obama years. They were successful at wielding their leverage even as the minority. Why would the Democrats not have the appetite to do that?

JAMIL SMITH, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, MTV NEWS: I can`t think of a reason. Considering the fact that their voters are coming out, millions of them protesting on the first weekend after the inauguration, continuing to make noise and indicate that they have the appetite for this fight.

The Democratic people, you know, Congress people need to really understand that they are serving a people that are voting for them. They`re not serving the people who voted for Trump. They need to understand that their voters are not -- are the ones to be scared of, not Trump voters.

TUR: Yes, but they are serving the American public. It`s not just, like, I`m going to serve my own -- my voters and you`re going to serve your voters. That`s what brings Congress to a complete standstill. That`s where we`ve been now for the last eight years. So, if Congress stays another standstill for four years, who ultimately benefits from that?

CONFESSORE: Probably Democrats actually, if the past eight years are any indication.

I will say, though, that there`s an important distinction here, right. There`s a fourth player in the room, besides the House and the Senate and the White House, which is the intelligence community. There was, obviously, (INAUDIBLE) intelligence officers who want this information out, who want people to know about it.

So, if there`s no investigation, if there`s a stone walling, there`s going to be a set of actors there who are going to push this stuff out to the American public, out to people like you, reporters.

TUR: But do they actually have the intelligence right now? Or is this -- is this slow leak trying to get -- trying to smoke out more information? How much there is there, at this point?

JORDAN: That`s what I wonder about. And you know, you look at the dossier that BuzzFeed published, and it was specular -- and it was a speculator story for so long, until readers were able to actually assess what was in the document for itself.

And the issue kind of died away. It didn`t have as much impact because people knew what was there and kind of thought, like, oh, well there`s not much there there.

And so, I wonder what`s actually in the transcripts. What is the hard evidence that they have? And I do think that it`s -- you know, it needs to move beyond just speculation.

TUR: Well, talking about General Flynn for one. The intelligence community was out to get him before day one. They`ve been out to get him now for quite some time. They weren`t happy during the campaign when he took the stage at the convention and said lock her up. He`s been an unpopular character now for years.

Do the Republicans and does the administration have a point when it says, hey, listen, they came after -- they came after him. This was a political assassination.

SMITH: I don`t -- I think it`s certainly dangerous when we talk about putting too much unfounded intelligence and sourced intelligence into the public sphere. That said, people have a right to understand what`s going on. And it`s not as though he did not have these conversations with the Russian ambassador. It`s not as though he wasn`t inappropriate in doing so.

So, the idea that he was somehow, you know, resigned or was fired because the media published these reports is insane. So, I think that, you know, really, the president needs to understand what accountability is and he needs to start practicing it within his own administration before it has to be done from without.

TUR: Are these leaks or whistle blowers? It`s an important distinction.

It depends on the end game. Right? It depends if they`re legitimate, if they`re accurate, if they`ve been characterized properly to reporters and to investigators. I think there`s always that question. You know, whistle blower is someone whose leaks you like. And a leaker is someone whose leaks you hate.

TUR: Well, that`s the irony. Donald Trump, on the campaign trail, loved WikiLeaks. He couldn`t get enough of WikiLeaks. He said, I love these WikiLeaks. He talked about, you know, Russia finding Hillary Clinton`s e- mails. And now, this is illegal. Now, it`s very dangerous. And now, he`s very upset about it. Can you have it both ways?

JORDAN: I don`t think you can. But at the end of the day, these leaks exposed wrong doing. Someone was doing General Flynn something he shouldn`t have been doing and that`s what really matters.

[17:20:03] And so, I do think that some principle civil servants decided that the American public deserved to know they were being lied to.

TUR: Nick, Elise, Jamil, stay with us.

Coming up, state of confusion. Did President Trump discard decades of American support for a two-state solution in the Middle East? That`s next.


TUR: Welcome back.

President Trump is in need of a new cabinet nominee today. Andy Puzder, the president`s pic to lead the Labor Department, withdraw his name from consideration this afternoon, after a number of negative headlines and a reported lack of support for multiple Senate Republicans.

Puzder tweeted, I am withdrawing my nomination for secretary of Labor. I`m honored to have been considered and I`m grateful to all who have supported me.

NBC News reports Puzder didn`t have the votes on the Hill because of policy issues, although he also had some potential baggage related to his personal life and his business ties. No word yet from the White House on a timeline for a new nominee.

And a new hiccup for another Trump nominee, Senator John McCain just announced he will vote against President Trump`s nominee for OMB director, Representative Mick Mulvaney, who will be getting a final vote in the Senate tomorrow morning.

McCain says his opposition is due to moving his desire to cut defense spending. McCain`s opposition will likely not sink the Mulvaney`s nomination. But if Democrats stand united against him and if one more Republican defects, Vice President Pence would need to, once again, break a tie.

We`ll be back in one minute with a potentially historic moment today at the White House.


TUR: Welcome back.

President Trump welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House today. And seemed to back away from decades of bipartisan diplomatic precedent on Middle East peace.


[17:25:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, I am looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I`m very happy with the one that both parties like. I could live with either one.

I thought, for a while, the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two. But, honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians -- if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I`m happy with the one they like the best.


TUR: The president sounded confident that he could produce an agreement that has eluded his predecessors, calling Prime Minister Netanyahu a smart man and a great negotiator.

In an unusual sequence of events, the president and prime minister spoke just 15 minutes after his arrival, rather than after the bilateral meeting which could explain why they weren`t exactly on the same page.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as settlements, I`d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit.

Doesn`t sound too optimistic.

Good negotiator.


The great opportunity for peace comes from a regional approach from involving our newfound Arab partners.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn`t know you were going to be mentioning that, but that`s -- now that you did, I think it`s terrific.


TUR: To dissect this, I`m joined by Richard HAASS who is currently the president on the Council on Foreign Relations and former adviser to secretary of state Colon Powell. He also has a new book out. It`s called "A World in Disarray." Richard, congratulations on the book.


TUR: Let`s talk about this two-state solution. That`s been the protocol and the policy now for decades, going back decades of a number of presidents. What`s going to mean for Donald Trump to be apathetic about it today? What sort of alarm bells are being rung across the Middle East?

HAASS: Well, a couple things. One is, along with a lot of other people, we`ve looked at all the possibilities. And whatever the flaws are of a two-state solution, it`s the least bad or arguably best approach that`s out there.

Two, it`s the only approach I know that helps Israel stay Jewish, stay Democratic, stay secure, and stay prosperous.

And, thirdly, the idea that we would unilaterally suggest that maybe we`re open to other ideas, it reinforces the sense that this new administration is willing to jettison (ph) orthodoxy of every sort and every part of the world. And that`s dangerous because American predictability and reliability and steadfastness are really important attributes you don`t want to give up lightly.

TUR: What about those who say a two-state solution just hasn`t worked? No one`s ever got there. We keep having Middle East peace talks that don`t actually come to fruition. We need to try something else.

HAASS: Well, they`re right. We`ve had these talks and they haven`t come to fruition. There`s been degrees of progress. Obviously, you know, you had other things in the Middle East that worked out.

And right now, I`ve got to tell you, Katy, the situation is about as far from poised for success as you can get. The Palestinians are clearly divided between the -- Hamas and Gaza and the people who run the west bank.

This Israeli government is not a government for peace talks. It would fall apart at the slightest sign that compromises were going to have to be made.

So, I`m not going to sit here and tell you the two-state solution is a good idea. But there are things that can easily be done in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians. And it`s not clear to me how jettison this idea actually help you -- helps you to accomplish certain things that you might or avoid things that you clearly want to avoid.

TUR: Donald Trump also campaigned on this idea of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Today, he sounded a little different though. Let`s play that sound bite.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as the embassy moving to Jerusalem, I`d love to see that happen. We`re looking at it very, very strongly. We`re looking at it with great care, great care, believe me. And we`ll see what happens.


TUR: We`ll see what happens. Is he just doing what so many past presidents have done before him which is promise something, look at the reality of it, and then say, oh, I don`t know if we can do this?

HAASSS: Well, I sure hope so. This would be a move with virtually no upside. Tremendous possible downside. Right now, the Israeli-Palestinian issue is not at the center of all the mayhem, all the instability, what I would call disarray or worse in the Middle East.

But what worries me, if we were to move this, it would spark protests. You then could have violence in Jerusalem. And violence in Jerusalem is the sort of thing that could go viral in the region and, indeed, the world very, very quickly. It just simply isn`t worth it. It`s a symbolic action. We should focus on substance.

TUR: You know, there were some really odd moments in this press conference today. I think that partially is because they had the press conference before they were able to sit down and get on the same page. There was a side where Donald Trump looked and said, I want you to hold off on the settlements. How unusual is it to have two foreign leaders stand next to each other and talk about what they are going to talk about?

HAASS: Unusual doesn`t begin to capture it. It was bizarre and the exchange there was odd. Look, the good news is that the Israeli and American president, Israeli prime minister and the American president seem to have a good relationship, at least comfortable with each other.

This is a relationship that seriously needs to be repaired. Given all that`s going on in the Middle East, it`s important that the United States and Israel are on the same page. There could be a crisis in Jordan, something worse in Syria, Saudi Arabia, who knows, so they`ve got to be comfortable.

I thought it was good the president said that, you know, we do not ever want to see Iran with a nuclear weapon. But obviously the two governments have ways to go on what we used to call the peace process which again is about as far from being right, about as far from being position for progress as you can imagine.

TUR: The optics couldn`t have been more different with this president and President Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu. It almost felt like Bibi may have gotten the memo that said if you compliment Donald Trump, he`s more likely to be amenable to your ideas. He was pretty complimentary, am I wrong?

HAASS: Absolutely. It`s interesting because Barack Obama essentially started the opposite way. He wanted to tell Bibi Netanyahu there was a new sheriff in town, he was much tougher on settlements and things never recovered from that point. This is starting off well. The question is whether you can essentially follow it through and add real substance to the happy talk.

And, you know, I certainly hope so because again, Israel and the United States could be confronted and likely will at some point with some terrible crisis either in Jerusalem or in Jordan or somewhere else in what is the single most turbulent part of the world.

TUR: Richard Haass, thank you so much for joining me.

HAASS: Thank you, Katy.

TUR: And we`re going find out soon who will run the Democratic Party, and one of the leading candidates is joining us next. You`re watching "MTP Daily."


TUR: Welcome back. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had some tough talk for fellow defense ministers during a closed door meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels. He warned that the United States could, quote, moderate it`s commitment to NATO if other member nations did not step up contributions by the end of the year.

Mattis told the group no longer can the American tax payer carry a disproportionate share of the defense of western values. Only five of the NATO`s 28 member nations contribute at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product to the organization.

Mattis`s commitment echoes sentiments President Trump made on the campaign trail and last month in the times of London when he said countries weren`t paying what they`re supposed to be paying while discussing his concerns about NATO. More "MTP Daily" just ahead, but first, Kate Rogers has today`s "CNBC Market Wrap." Kate?

KATE ROGERS, CNBC REPORTER: Thanks, Katy. Stocks finish in record territory for a fifth straight trading session. The Dow rose 107 points, the S&P close up 11 points, while the Nasdaq gained 36 points. The consumer price index rose a more than expected .6 percent in January, the largest monthly gain in four years.

Retail sales saw a 0.4 percent rise in January, also beating analysts` expectation. And the latest batch of economic news, strengthening the case for the federal reserve to hike interest rate this year. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.


TUR: Welcome back. As the Democratic Party tries to find it`s identity and figure out how to harness the ground swell of frustration coming out of protests in town halls across the nation, they`re also looking for a new leader. The Democratic National Committee is holding election for a new chair. There are seven leading candidates and the top two contenders each have some prominent democrats behind them.

Congressman Keith Ellison in Minnesota was endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

While former U.S. secretary of labor, Tom Perez, has the support of former vice president, Joe Biden, former attorney general, Eric Holder, and former agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack. Perez sat down with Chuck Todd yesterday to talk about everything that`s at stake in this race. Take a look.

(START VIDEO CLIP) CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR, "MEET THE PRESS DAILY" SHOW HOST: What is wrong with the party that you believe you`re the man to fix it?

TOM PEREZ, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF LABOR: Well, I think the Democratic Party is suffering from a crisis of both relevance and confidence right now. And we need someone who can take the fight to Donald Trump, someone who can communicate our optimistic message of inclusion and opportunity, someone who can talk to every stake holder group in the party and people who should be in the party, and then someone who is a turn around specialist.

Because we need to change the culture of the Democratic Party and that`s what I`ve done at the Labor Department, that`s what I`ve done at the Justice Department before that. And when you can put your values into action every day, I think we can translate those democratic values of opportunity and inclusion into votes. TODD: What is the next DNC chair? A spokesperson for the party, the challenger to President Trump, or the mechanic for the party?

PEREZ: Well, I think in a way, it`s all of the above and then some. I think we need the chair to be the organizer in chief because I think we need to get back to basics, we need to organize, organize, organize, and we need it to be a 12-month strategy. TODD: And you need to be in the DNC. I saw that you were critical, you thought that the Obama for America or organizing for action or organizing for America, whatever name they came up with, none of it was Democratic National Committee. And that was the problem.

PEREZ: Ended up hurting the party.

TODD: Yeah.

PEREZ: That was the impact. And so we need to organize and develop that capacity with our state partners.

TODD: Can I get you to react to something? I had the former democratic senator, Jim Webb, on "Meet the Press" last Sunday, and he had some tough words for where he thinks the Democratic Party is today. I want you to take a listen and respond to it.

JIM WEBB, FORMER DEMOCRATIC SENATOR FROM VIRGINIA: The democrats have not done the kind of self-reflection that they should have starting in 2010. And I was talking about this in the ten elections. You`ve lost white working people. You`ve lost flyover land.

And you saw in this election what happens when people get frustrated enough that they say, I`m not going to take this aristocracy. It`s got to be broken somehow in both parties. And I think that`s what the Trump message was that echoes so strongly in these flyover communities. TODD: What do you say to that?

PEREZ: I think the Democratic Party does need to make house calls. We have to be the party in all 50 states and the territories and for democrats abroad. And I think we need to communicate that message of economic security.

TODD: How concerned are you that this campaign is turning into a proxy fight between sort of the Obama-Clinton wing which people say you represent, and the Sanders wing that many people believe Keith Ellison represents. And that this is -- this is going to hurt both of you if this is how this breaks down? PEREZ: Listen, every candidate -- we have a great relationship with each other. Congressman Ellison is a fantastic member of congress and we`ve worked together. And when I talk to voting members and when I talk to, you know, folks out there, rank and file democrats, what they tell me is we need to focus on the future. We have the existential threats of Donald Trump.

We have every single day you have chaos and carnage coming out of this administration, whether it`s attacks on the Affordable Care Act. You see the latest with General Flynn and his resigning is the tip of the iceberg. There needs to be a prosecution because I have a feeling that they`re going to unfold -- the facts are going to unfold that he`s a liar and he lied in many contexts. And so, what people want to focus on is, these existential threats. We need to come together because Donald Trump does not stand for our values.

And what excites me the most, Chuck, is that, yes, January 20th was an important day, but January 21st and beyond have been more important because millions of Americans have come out and said Donald Trump, you did not win the popular vote, you did not stand for our values, and we need to translate that moment into a movement.

TODD: Let me ask you this, is there enough -- let me go back to one of the criticisms that Jim Webb had in general for the democrats, not enough self- reflection, almost there`s too many democrats who believe outside forces cost the election, and not enough acknowledgment, and you`re acknowledging it that -- hey, you know what, it was a lost -- there`s lost touch when it comes to middle America. Do you think not enough democrats are accepting that?

PEREZ: Here`s the reality. I mean, did the Comey letter have an impact? Absolutely. Did the Russian hacking have an impact? Absolutely. Did mistakes that were made not just in 2016, but forces involving the party that were many years in the making, our failure to be present in rural America, taking too many voters for granted, you can`t show up at a church every fourth of October and call that organizing.

TODD: Right.

PEREZ: And so all of these forces are at work, and if I have the privilege of being the chair, we need to make sure that we are redefining our party so that we`re not only electing the president, but we`re building strong parties everywhere, so that we can elect folks from the school board to the senate so that we can make sure that we have an organizing presence there.

That we`re taking advantage of this incredible momentum and saying to folks who are at the airports, like I was, you may not be a democrat, but we have the same values. And when we lead with our values, I think that translates into votes.

TODD: All right. Tom Perez, former labor secretary, candidate for the DNC chair, quite the campaign we`re following here.

PEREZ: Thank you, Chuck.

TODD: Another couple weeks to go anyway. Thanks very much.

PEREZ: Take care.


TUR: Still ahead in "The Lid," searching for clarity in the fog of Trump. Stay tuned.


TUR: Welcome back. An update now on the future of President Trump`s immigration order. A senior Trump administration official tells NBC News that both the attorneys general, attorney general`s office, and the Department of Homeland Security are working with the White House to draft a new immigration executive order.

The original order is currently on hold after the ninth circuit court of appeals ruling last week. A number of states sign on to briefs arguing against the travel ban. And today the first state came out in favor of it.

The Texas attorney general filed a friend of the court brief, an Amicus brief today with the ninth circuit arguing it is within the powers of the president to practice quote, discretion with respect to who can come into this country. No word yet on when the new order will be released, but it could come out as soon as this week.


TUR: It`s time for "The Lid." "let`s bring back our panel one more time. Nick Confessore, Elise Jordan, and Jamil Smith. Guys, foreign policy had a great term that it coined for what`s been going on for the past month. The fog of Trump. And they describe it like this. I want to put -- I think it`s perfect. They describe it like this. Let`s put it up on the screen.

"Where do we direct our outrage when this is the record of just three weeks? Where do we begin? How do we even remember what to be outraged about when there is a new scandal every six hours or so? It is hard to remember what happened four scandals ago or what we used to call "yesterday." That is the fog of Trump."

It`s so perfect, you ask me, you know, you ask me to run down what`s going on in the Trump`s White House right now, I will get to one and two things and then my mind will go blank.

NICK CONFESSORE, POLITICAL REPORTER AT THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yep, 25 days in, right? Twenty-five days in.

TUR: We`re not even a month in, actually. CONFESSORE: Back in the election, there were all these countdown clocks of how many days left in the campaign, now it`s how many days into the administration. Forget scandal, it`s, you know, who`s writing policy? Who`s in charge of the NSC? Who`s in charge of the bureaucracy? No one seems to know.

ELISE JORDAN, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: There are staff positions that aren`t filled, still, all across government. The state department is barely functioning. Really you have.

TUR: They`re not even holding.

JORDAN: . Secretary Tillerson. They don`t hold press briefings. They haven`t filled the head of various departments. We don`t have ambassadors.

TUR: Tillerson meeting with Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, from Russia. JORDAN: Exactly. From the Kremlin.

CONFESSORE: They`re posting their own copies of their own executive orders.

JORDAN: . the readout of the Putin phone call more quickly than the White House press office.

TUR: We`re all spinning around about this. I can`t believe this is happening. Look at this scandal, that scandal. There is so much of the country -- a lot of the country that hears it and sees it. There is so much of the country that does not. JAMIL SMITH, MTV NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right.

TUR: I mean, if there`s a certain noise level, if you`re up here all time.

SMITH: Right.

TUR: . what`s going to break through?

SMITH: Well, here`s what`s going to break through. When there`s a natural disaster. I mean, hurricane season is coming up. This administration has already shown with the tornadoes in the southeast and tornadoes in Louisiana that they are pretty slow to respond with regards to, you know, signing off on federal aid or sending help.

You had governors and mayors writing the president begging for help in three states that voted for him. So, let`s see what happens when hurricane season comes up. Let`s see what happens when there are other tornadoes or earthquakes or situations like you had with the dam in California.

TUR: The basis of governing.

CONFESSORE: Or basic policy. Look, a tax reform bill is one of the hardest things you can do in Washington ever. You have to cajole and coordinate with all these members. It`s incredibly complex and difficult. I can`t imagine this White House even beginning that process in its current state. And, you know, with any other, you know, kind of big policy, Obamacare repeal, the same deal. It`s so hard to do on the best of days. TUR: Yeah, but they look like they`re doing something because Donald Trump is signing an executive order. He`s showing those round tables that he has every single day, there`s a, what we call a pool spray, where the cameras come in, you can see Donald Trump talking to leaders.

He`s going to go to Melbourne, Florida this weekend to hold a rally where you`re going to see on TV, I`m sure, I`m sure of it, thousands of people show up to cheer for him. It appears as if he is doing something. And is appearance enough?

JORDAN: Well, when you look at a lot of the crisis that has happened under Donald Trump so far, it`s all self-inflicted mostly. When something happens that`s a real crisis such as North Korea this last weekend and how he deals with it, that`s really going to be the test and that`s what people are going to judge by.

And I think that the self-inflicted chaos for now, Trump supporters are okay with that to a point, but then six months passes by, nothing is done, their lives have it, nothing`s changed for the better, they`re going to start looking at the competency level of this White House and judging it a little more harshly. TUR: Or are they going to blame somebody else? Which is what we saw, when something went wrong, they blame somebody else.

SMITH: When the water is more polluted because they, you know, weakened the restrictions on companies polluting water supplies or, you know, perhaps, you know, maybe when their schools aren`t improving because they have Betsy DeVos in charge of them. All these things do actually add up. People do want results from government. It`s just that, you know, this White House has internalized the personality of its president. TUR: How much longer, this is a different story, how much longer can the democrats continue to keep the Flynn controversy in the spotlight?

CONFESSORE: I`m not sure democrats have to do anything to keep it in the spotlight. If the intelligence committee keeps leaking, if any of these investigations get under way, it keeps itself in the spotlight.

TUR: He -- this administration, the campaign had a knack for changing the subject to some other controversy when they needed to.

CONFESSORE: Yeah, that was during the campaign. I think it`s a very different.

TUR: It`s been during the presidency, too. CONFESSORE: He is in charge. He has to govern. I think for a certain amount of time, people who are core Trump supporters will see sort of chaos and outrage in Washington and feel fine about it. When it comes time to actually delivering on his promises, if his chaos prevents him from doing that, it`s bad for him. TUR: Nick, Elise, Jamil, I love talking to you guys. SMITH: Good to be here. TUR: I love doing it. We`ll do it more often. Come on the 2:00 p.m. show which I get to anchor every day or when I fill in here. Thank you, guys. After the break, Joe Biden`s -- you heard that right, Joe Biden, his next political fight. Stay tuned.


TUR: In case you missed it, Joe Biden couldn`t stay off the campaign trail for very long. The former vice president is back on the political stage, though it is a slightly smaller stage this time around. If democrat Stephanie Hansen loses the upcoming special election, democrats will lose control of the state senate for the first time in 44 years.

So Democrats brought out the biggest name in Delaware politics, Biden. Will it work? We`ll find out more later this month. That`s all for tonight. I`m Katy Tur. Chuck is back tomorrow. For The Record with Greta starts right now.