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MTP Daily, Transcript 2/22/2017

Guests: Glen Bolger, Chris Clayton, Eliana Johnson, Jefrey Pollock, Aditi Roy, Janis Mackey Frayer, Chris Hill, Chris Clayton, Eliana Johnson

Show: MTP Daily Date: February 22, 2017 Guest: Glen Bolger, Chris Clayton, Eliana Johnson, Jefrey Pollock, Aditi Roy, Janis Mackey Frayer, Chris Hill, Chris Clayton, Eliana Johnson

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

Well, town hall tension equal political trouble for the GOP?

(voice-over): Tonight, those angry town halls. Are Republicans making the same mistake Democrats made in 2009? Denying the real frustration and fear on the ground.


SEAN SPICER, U.S. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: People are clearly upset, but there is a bit of professional protester manufactured base in there.


TODD: Plus, the Kim dictator dynasty mystery. Bizarre new details on the murder on the oldest son of North Korea`s ruling family.

And brave new worlds. It turns out there may be lots of planet earths out there.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Finding a second earth is not just a matter of if --


TODD: Well, if anyone on earth two, three, or whatever is listening, we have some advice for you.

This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.

Good evening, I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington and welcome to MTP DAILY.

It`s hard to beat something with nothing. And right now, Republicans across the country are feeling the burn from an energized and angry segment of the electorate which is descending on GOP town halls and these folks want answers.

But what`s going to happen, really on one issue specifically, to their health care, among some other things. And right now, Republicans don`t have any legislative details or much in the way of answers, yet.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, we should all have good health care.

CROWD: Do your job. Do your job. Do your job. Do your job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don`t appeal Obamacare. Improve it, for god sakes.

REP. SCOTT TAYLOR (R), VIRGINIA: I`m not for universal health care. That`s not what I`m for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ever since the election, I have felt like a passenger in a car that`s being driven by a drunk driver.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The veterans are sick. The veterans are broken down. They`re not getting what they need.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is effectively a death tax. Yes, they do.

REP. DAVE BRAT (R), VIRGINIA: The anxiety`s real and people want real solutions and so we`re going to have to pay attention to that, right?


TODD: The White House is dismissing these town hall fireworks as AstroTurf movements which means it`s the opposite of a true grass roots movement. And I remember when the left argued that some eight years ago.

Anyway, here`s the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, today.


SEAN SPICER, U.S. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: When you look at some of these districts and some of these things, it is -- it is -- it is not a representation of a member`s district or an incident. It is a loud group, small group of people disrupting something, in many cases, for media attention, no offense.

It`s just -- I think that`s -- that necessarily just because they`re loud doesn`t necessarily mean that there are many.


TODD: Spicer`s message echoed what President Trump tweeted last night. The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad. But underneath those dismissals, lies and urgency inside the White House to figure this out, and quickly.

Today, at the White House, President Trump said he`d be submitting, quote, "something on health care next month." Which he assured, quote, "people will be very impressed by."

Folks, some of these town halls are clearly organized. But, regardless, there are potential warning signs that Republicans perhaps shouldn`t ignore.

We heard Democrats dismiss this anger at their town halls back it 2009 as, oh, that`s right, AstroTurf movements. And then, they lost the House in a big way.

To break it down, here are the four buckets that Republicans, right now, are falling into. Some are probably safe amid the noise. Others not so much.

So, if you`re in a safe Republican district, say Congressman Bilirakis, who is -- whom we saw in that clip up top, you probably don`t have much to worry about which is why you can get away with talking about death panels.

But if you`re in a Republican district that is leery of President Trump, say Congressman Brat of Virginia who was also in that clip. Brat won big but Trump didn`t in his district. Then, you might feel a little bit more exposed which is, perhaps, why we heard him heed some of those warnings.

Of course, if you`re in a swing district, then this town hall tension has to worry you which is why we haven`t seen many Republicans from swing districts actually hold these kinds of town halls.

And then, of course, if it you`re a senator from say, oh, Iowa, and we saw moments from town halls hosted by both Iowa senators in that montage of clips, you always have to worry about this stuff, because you can`t gerrymander an entire state.

So, the big question, will these town halls translate into votes and how serious should they take them?

I`m joined by Republican pollster and strategist, Glen Bolger, of public opinion strategies which is the Republican side of our bipartisan NBC-"Wall Street Journal" polling team.

Let`s take a look at the issue of health care, Glen. In general, we`ve seen -- and that was always the warning sign to Republicans. Democrats owned it so Democrats got the blame.

[17:05:08] And now, its voters are discovering, OK, Republicans want to mess with health care so now we`re going to be looking to you. Do the lawmakers know this yet?

GLEN BOLGER, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER AND STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, Chuck, thanks for having me on.

Secondly, if not, they`re -- you know, look, they`re finding out really quickly. And keep in mind, even when you had a majority of voters opposing Obamacare, there was still 40 percent plus who supported.

TODD: Yes.

BOLGER: And there are people who are helped by it. There are also people hurt by it. And you have to understand that once you give people something, it`s a much harder to take it away than it is to not give it to them in the first place.

TODD: Let me put up this little graphic here, as we`ve seen as the Affordable Care Act, good idea, bad idea. This is just from our NBC-"Wall Street Journal" poll. And it has been -- you see there, red, bad idea. And for the first time in our polling, in early January, late December, good idea overtook bad idea for the first time.

Now, part of it, as my executive producer likes to say, it`s the first time Democrats have made a positive argument in a long time for it, instead of them being defensive about it.

But what should the Dave Brats, the Darrell Issa, guys that are sitting in Republican-leaning districts or semi-swing districts, how should they look at this?

BOLGER: Well, first thing is they should not look at the protests and say, oh, that`s just AstroTurf because it`s not. You know, people don`t get this worked up over something just because they get an e-mail.

TODD: You can organize one town hall, maybe two, when you`re seeing it this way.

BOLGER: But you can`t have this kind of -- right. Because it is very similar to 2009. You know, now, what they do with it -- by the way, Sean Spicer is right about one thing which is it`s not exactly representative of the district. But, at the same time, it doesn`t matter.

History is grabbing us Republicans by the lapels and saying, you`ve got to learn from 2009. And one of the lessons is, the Democrats took their base for granted in 2010. They just assumed that because they had this wonderful turnout operation in 2008, the same thing would happen in 2010. And you can`t make up in turnout what you lose on message.

But we have got to communicate with our base and get our base just as activated as they were and just as activated as the Democrats are now.

TODD: It seems that if I were a lawmaker right now, facing these questions about health care, I don`t have anything to tell them yet. How much harder is that make these town halls?

BOLGER: Right, that`s part of the problem. It is clear from the surveys that you can`t just repeal Obamacare. You`ve got to have something to replace it. And, you know, that is something that a lot of voters believe that these politicians would have had by now. And the fact that they don`t I think shakes confidence a little bit, even among the base.

TODD: Is there -- look, obviously, the more this is out there, the more you`re going to have.

I mean, I don`t know what you thought of the buckets that we created there. That you sort of have, you`re going to have a Republican conference divided into three, some of who are going to be -- they need to repeal because they`re -- the primary voters expected a repeal.

And then, you`re going to have the swing district ones go, whoa, whoa, whoa, I`d like to repair, not repeal.

How`s that going to come together?

BOLGER: Well, the first thing is we`ve got to make sure we don`t kick the bucket, politically. And, you know, you`ve got those three buckets that you talked about in the House seats.

And in those swing districts, keep in mind, there`s over 20 that Hillary Clinton won as well as a Republican. So, they are kind of teetering on the knife`s edge.

It doesn`t mean they can`t win again. I mean, if they won in 2016, when she was winning the district, they certainly have their own political strengths.

But, at the same time, there is a lot at risk and that we have to handle this in a very smart fashion. At the same time, we can`t do nothing. We have to repeal and replace Obamacare.

TODD: How important is Tuesday, messaging wise, for all of these Republicans on the front lines, these elected Republicans, to hear from the president something a little more concrete on health care? Nobody`s expecting the full plan. But does he have to have something that`s more than just, it`s going to be a great plan, trust me?

BOLGER: Yes, I mean, I think there has to be, here are the outlines of what the plan is going to accomplish and do for the American people. Here`s how it`s going to stop hurting small businesses, like it is right now. Here`s how it`s going to be affordable, unlike it is to a lot of people right now, in terms of the premiums and all of that.

TODD: I remember, Democrats, the White House thought, they`re going to get this passed by July, maybe August. Right? That was their whole goal. Get it done. Maybe if you had to, finish it in September. It took them all the way to the election year, itself, in March before they got it done. And that was after a bad special and all of this stuff.

What is your nightmare scenario? Is it not having the replacement before the end of the calendar year? This summer? What do you think has to happen on that?

BOLGER: I think the biggest challenge, besides, obviously, the specific policy,--

TODD: Right.

BOLGER: -- the replacement, is that we never stop selling it. The Democrats kept saying, oh, once we pass Obamacare, it`s going to be popular. Once it -- you know, they see this. Once it goes into effect, it`s going to be popular. And it never became popular.

[17:10:00] I mean, even now, 45 --

TODD: It takes taking it away before you start getting some of that.

BOLGER: Right. And even that`s not like -- you know, 45 percent is not overwhelming support.

TODD: Right.

BOLGER: It just has some plurality support. So, we can`t just do this and say, OK, check that off the list.

TODD: And walk away.

BOLGER: Move on to the next thing. You always got to go out there and make sure that those who supported repeal from the get go say, yes, this is a good thing and I`m glad they did that. They kept their promise.

TODD: All right. And you don`t think timing matters here? Like how long it takes?

BOLGER: No. Obviously, the problem with it taking too long -- first of all, the more important thing is to get it right.

TODD: Yes.

BOLGER: Secondly, you know, if you take too long, yes, it can be a problem because it also bogs you down on other things as well.

TODD: All right. Glen Bolger, I`m going to leave it there. Always good to see you, sir.

BOLGER: Thank you.

TODD: Thanks for coming in.

The White House is dismissing these fiery town halls as the result of professional protesters. Well, that`s exactly how President Obama team`s and Democrats dismissed the 2009 town halls and Tea Party protests. In fact, take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it your contention -- is it the White House contention that the anger that some members of Congress are experiencing at town hall meetings, especially over health care reform, is manufactured?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think some of it is, yes. In fact, I think you`ve had groups today, conservatives for patients` rights, that have bragged about organizing and manufacturing that anger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t believe that some of the angriest, most strident voices we saw during the summer were representative of the thousands of town hall meetings that went on around the country that came off peacefully, that were constructive, people voicing their points of view.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: This initiative is funded by the high end, we call it AstroTurf. It`s not really a grass roots movement. It`s AstroTurf by some of the wealthiest people in America.


TODD: Boy, that just speaks for itself, doesn`t it here?

Let`s bring back the panel. Eliana Johnson, National Political Reporter with Politico; Michael Steele, MSNBC Political Analyst, former RNC chair; and Chris Clayton is our eyes and ears outside the beltway bubble. He`s in town this week doing some ag policy work, because he is, of course, an editor at the -- agricultural policy editor with DTN. Chris, welcome back to Washington.


TODD: Eliana, how about that? There was a mustache on Axelrod. Actually, there was less gray hair on Tapper and I. Other than that, it sounds like deja vu all over it again.

ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: It does. And I think, you know, Axelrod and Robert Gibbs, they weren`t lying. But it`s not mutually exclusive. These things can be AstroTurf and activists and voters can be genuinely angry.

And I think that was true in 2008, 2009 and it`s true now. And I think that this White House, just as the Obama White House, had to -- is going to have to reckon with the real anger among voters even if some of that anger is pushed to the front pages of the news by Democratic activists` organizations.

TODD: Rich Lowry in "The National Review" wrote the following. The partisan temptation in this circumstance is always to dismiss the passion of the other side which is what Democrats did to their detriment in 2009 and Republicans are doing now.

Michael Steele, do you agree?

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I agree wholeheartedly. It is like deja vu all over again. I remember sitting in a lot of those early meetings between March and June, looking at what was unfolding in 2009. And asking the question, what do we do with this? What does it mean?

And I came to the conclusion, using two words and understanding what they meant to the voters. One was cooperation. Then one was co-option. And you have -- that`s a path that you have to take as a party. You can either co-op this movement or you can cooperate with it. Co-option is not an option because they will resist that and they will fight back. If that should -- if that -- if you go down that road, you`re going to lose that battle every time.

TODD: Chris, I remember the last time you were here. You made it basic point. He says, hey, many of the people in Iowa that didn`t like Obamacare didn`t like the cost. But they sure liked it. I mean, I love -- there was the one guy at the Grassley town hall said, just repair it. Make it better.

How much -- what do you see the difference between 2009 and today in just Iowa?

CLAYTON: And that guy`s a farmer I know who was raising that point.

The big difference now is -- you know, and what isn`t talked about actually with Obamacare is the risks to hospitals. And, you know, we always talk about the insurance side of it. The hospitals right now, you know, rural hospitals, we`ve lost about 80 of them since 2010-2011. And what -- who -- what has been lost has been the hospitals in the states that did not increase their Medicaid expansion.

And now, you`ve got about nearly 700 rural hospitals that are tremendously at risk if you make major changes to Medicare and Medicaid without, you know, making some protections for them.

TODD: And this complicates the Congressional Republicans here. Right, they`re constituents. They`re not on the same page anymore, Eliana, on everything when it comes to this health care issue. Or at least it doesn`t look like they might be.

JOHNSON: You know, the Republican conservative policy wonks, who I`ve talked to, have stressed that disruption and fear of change, it`s the same thing on tax reform, it`s what has stymied reform in these areas. And --

[17:15:09] TODD: And, by the way, they`re not wrong, right? Fear of change is how you stop reform, left or right.

JOHNSON: And I think it`s noteworthy, you know, a majority of people opposed Obamacare when it was passed I think for some of the same reasons that that fear of change that people are opposing, repeal now.

And I think for Republicans, it`s incumbent on them to communicate some of these complex policy issues because nobody I think in their Republican conference or very few Republican Congressman, conservative policy wonks, want to take away --

TODD: Right.

JOHNSON: -- something that somebody has. But that`s not, I think, how people, who have been benefitted from Obamacare, are understanding the propose the changes.

TODD: Michael, I thought one of the more interesting things that Glen Bolger said is the thing he fears the most was not how long it would take.

STEELE: Right.

TODD: And I thought that would be a concern. It was that once it`s done, they`ll walk away and stop selling it. Because that`s, to him, the lesson he took away from 2010.


TODD: And, by the way, I`m sorry, I do not picture the GOP wanting -- after as painful as this is, for the same reason the Democrats were, like, oh, my God. This was awful. We`re done. I don`t want to have to talk about it anymore.

STEELE: Moving on.

TODD: But he`s probably not wrong.

STEELE: No, he`s not wrong and that`s the problem. The Democrats allowed their opponents, the Republicans allowed me to go out and wrap Nancy Pelosi all around that bad boy. And the same thing is being set up right now.

If you let the other side define the argument, you lose it. And so, if you`re going to make these types of changes -- and this is a real problem. We`ve had eight years, folks. I mean, Obamacare, kind of, came up in 2009. And then, all the sudden, you know, you`re in it in 2010. You have eight years to talk about a replacement or repair. And if you don`t show it right and do it right, it`s a problem.

TODD: Chris, let`s go real local for you. Chuck Grassley, he was really moved by the town halls in 2009. And he literally moved his position. He stopped working for the Obama administration. He basically goes, message received. I want to work with them but I`m not going to.

Will these move him in another direction?

CLAYTON: Well, the problem with that is he just got reelected for six years. You know, --

TODD: So, you get a free.

CLAYTON: -- the town halls, for him, are five months too late because he`s already been reelected. And Senator Ernst in Iowa, there was a big rally pushed at a town hall against her the other day. Well, she doesn`t come up for reelection in four years.

So, you know, there`s plenty of time for them to deal with other issues and work this out. So, it`s interesting, you know, there`s a lot of passion on it.

TODD: Right.

CLAYTON: And, frankly, I think part of it of the fact is you have Democrats without any real leadership out there. They`re looking for something. They`re actually just venting out their frustration because they really have no power anywhere.

TODD: Right.

CLAYTON: In Iowa, we don`t -- they don`t control the legislature. They don`t control any of the Congress any longer. So, they`re just venting essentially.

TODD: And we got to remember, Iowa is still basically a swing state that just has --


TODD: -- half the -- half the people right without a leader.

CLAYTON: All right. I`m going to pause it here. You`ll (INAUDIBLE) again. I promise. You guys are sticking with us for the hour.

Coming up, we`re going to hear from someone who`s giving advice to Democrats about how to keep the energy in the town halls going into the midterms and how to avoid the biggest mistake the Clinton campaign made.

And stay with MSNBC tonight for Trump the first month. Brian Williams, Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews will host a live, two-hour special, examining the first month of the Trump presidency. That`s tonight at 10:00 Eastern right here on MSNBC.

We`ll be right back.



TODD: Welcome back to MTP DAILY.

In the last hour, vice president Mike Pence visited the St. Louis area Jewish cemetery. It was the victim of two acts of vandalism earlier this week. More than 180 headstones were toppled over or damaged on Monday.

The same day, 11 Jewish community senators around -- centers around this country received bomb threats. After earlier condemning the, what he called, quote, "vile act of vandalism," the vice president toured the cemetery with Missouri`s governor and then took a moment to speak about what happened there.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: From the heart, there is no place in America for hatred or acts of prejudice or violence or anti- Semitism.

I must tell you, the people of Missouri are inspiring the nation by your love and care for this place, for the Jewish community in Missouri and I want to thank you for that inspiration. For showing the world what America`s really all about.


TODD: And we are back.

In the 1990s, there was Clinton derangement syndrome. Then, we had Bush and Obama derangement syndromes, back in the first 16 years of this century.

And now, we might be seeing Trump derangement syndrome? By that, we mean this. The feeling that no matter what the president does, the left or right or whoever is out of power, is alarmed, outraged and distraught and they`re going to let you know no matter what.

They`re showing up at those town hall meetings we just talked about and holding demonstrations every weekend of the Trump presidency.

The Democratic lawmakers are still trying to figure out how to capitalize on this new wave of leftist anger, if you want to call it that.

So, a Democratic strategy firm is trying to help them out. They did a new poll from -- it`s a global strategy group. And they did a poll of both base Democrats and swing voting Democrats, trying to determine how to best harness this energy. And maybe more importantly, how to message it.

Essentially, how do you go after Trump to have a real shot of taking back control of Congress in 2018? Democrats will need to energize not only their base, but also pick up actual swing voters who could be turned off from President Trump.

And this new poll tested how to do just that. And what they found is that it`s about people, not politicians. How do the president`s policies impact me and my family? It seems simple. But it is the opposite of what Hillary Clinton did in 2016 when it was all about character, character, character, and all about Trump, the individual.

Joining me now is Jefrey Pollock, founding partner and president of Global Strategy Group. The Democratic research firm behind this new survey. Mr. Pollock, nice to see you, sir.


TODD: So, you -- it was interesting, you had some different ways to do it. Let`s do the baseline here. Is the intensity of different issues, the idea of what concerns you most about -- and we`ll go here on Trump`s temperament, this first one. Trump`s reckless approach could lead to war. That really resonated with Democratic swing voters here. Oh, the temperament to be commander-in-chief is the first one up here.

POLLOCK: Yes, that works.

TODD: Now, there were base voters 63, swing voters 57. We have another one about Trump`s reckless approach could lead to war, Democratic base voters 78 percent, swing voters 60 percent. But it`s a consistent gap in both of them between what the base -- the base almost views anything as evil doing.

[17:25:01] POLLOCK: Anything, that`s right.

TODD: Swing voters, obviously a bit more tempered.

POLLOCK: Yes, and -- but what they are worried about is recklessness, right? They are worried. There is this massive concern when you think about it. And even your own poll has some data on this as well from the NBC poll about, sort of, getting into war. That this is a guy who`s going to be reckless enough to get us into war.

The thing that Democrats need to remember, when talking to swing voters and what we forget too often, is it has to be about them. And the them is the voters. Too often we`re talking about Donald Trump the person and he`s going to profit and the mysteriousness of Russia.

But that`s not what matters. What matters to the voters is how is this thing going to impact me? And war impacts me because the reckless policies could mean my sons and daughters going to war.

TODD: What struck me about the way Republicans went after Obama in 2011 and 2012, and what you`re seeing early on right now, and really what -- how the Clinton campaign went after Trump in 2016 and what you`re seeing early in 2017, is that when you -- when you go after him as the person and you`re trying to win over a swing voter, you forget the swing voter voted for that person.

POLLOCK: Many of them, yes.

TODD: Yes. So, you`re telling them -- in a weird way, you`re insulting their own judgment --


TODD: -- when you`re criticizing them in that way, right?

POLLOCK: Yes. Now, of course, we know that now because they voted for him. Where hope before going into the election was that they wouldn`t. But many of them did. And so, you can`t do that, right? You can`t say that your vote -- you know, you`re vote didn`t matter or you voted for this, sort of, nincompoop, even that`s what -- even though that`s what he is.

You have to make it relevant to the voter, in terms of what they care about. So, when it comes to tax policy, for example, I know that Democratic colleagues are going to want to go nuts about tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. That`s the wrong language. We need to talk about the fact that those tax cuts means that the burden is going to be shifted to the middle class.

TODD: Well, it`s interesting you do that. So, let me put that up because that`s the wording you used. First, you did it on this, how do you frame tax policy? The concern is the GOP tax policy will burden the middle class or concern the GOP tax policy cuts takes the -- cuts taxes for millionaires and billionaires. It was a much more resonating message when you talked about the middle class.

POLLOCK: That`s right. And look at it. The swing voters and the base voters are actually identical, right? Because you talked about that gap on those other things. This is a place where there isn`t a real gap on these things. And so, tax policies is a place where, for example, we have to talk about that. Don`t talk about millionaires and billionaires.

Look, the same thing relates to his conflicts of interest. We all want to talk about this guy. He`s got conflicts of interest. He`s going to make lots of money. Again, that`s the wrong thing. It`s how those conflicts of interest then relate to me as a human being. What`s the impact that it`s going to be?

So, that -- those conflicts of interest could threaten my national security or those conflicts of interest mean that big businesses are going to tax breaks instead of me.

TODD: Well, let me put up the number three and number four here. Number three, it has to do -- you asked it this way. What concerns you more about President Trump? Trump`s foreign policy will be driven by his business.


TODD: That really upset swing voters here more than it did base voters.


TODD: Then, when you worded it this way. Could lead to major corruption unlike anything we`ve ever seen. Sounds very Trumpian by saying that.

POLLOCK: Yes, it does.

TODD: The base voters loved that language.


TODD: Swing voters --

POLLOCK: Not so much.

TODD: Less so.

POLLOCK: Yes. Well, the other thing about swing voters that we know is that hyperbole isn`t working with them anymore. They like Donald Trump, in terms of the things that he would say he was speaking truth to power. But they still don`t like hyperbole things that are over the top.

So, talk about their values. Talk about what matters to him. Don`t talk about his lavish lifestyle. Don`t talk about how much, sort of, money he can make. They don`t care. They do care about what it means for them.

TODD: Very quickly, Russia. What concerns you more about President Trump? Dangerous alliance with Russia. This was not moving that many voters.

POLLOCK: That`s correct.

TODD: 31 percent of Dem base voters, 35 percent of swing voters.

POLLOCK: It`s just not there.

TODD: Does that surprise you?

POLLOCK: It does surprise me. And the reason that we think -- and we don`t know for sure. But Russia, at this point, is not seen as the kind of evil that ISIS and some of the other, sort of, threats that Americans feel, sort of, much more --

TODD: They`ve seen ISIS kill Americans.

POLLOCK: They`ve seen that. That`s exactly right.

TODD: They haven`t seen -- they don`t think Russia (INAUDIBLE.)

POLLOCK: The Russians were at a distance.

TODD: Right.

POLLOCK: And I think that`s real. And that doesn`t mean that that`s going to be the case for the next year, particularly as we explore all of these, sort of, really crazy things that have gone on, in terms of dealing with Russia. It may become more resonant. But I think that`s why it is not resonant, as resonant today.

And, again, bring it back to the voters. Not about, sort of, big, mysterious things and what`s going on in Russia. What does it mean to me?

TODD: Why is it so many political parties never learn that lesson? When we`ve seen it. I`ve shown the examples. There was an obsession on the right to get Clinton. There was an obsession on the left to get -- frankly, look at -- look at the liberals in the early 1980s with Reagan. They got so caught up in the personality that they couldn`t see the forest.

POLLOCK: Because it`s easy for us to get caught up into it. And, by the way, having conversations with reporters is different than having a conversation with the voters. And the reporters, of course, are also much more interested, as they rightfully, in those characters and base conversations.

But when it comes to talking to the voters, which we`ll get to in the midterms, and I think we`re going to be able to take advantage of, that`s when we better be focusing this language in the right way, Chuck.

TODD: All right, we shall see. There`ll be a whole new DNC chair for you to pitch on this, apparently at the end of the week.

Jef Pollock, Democratic Pollster of Global Strategies. A very interesting, survey. Thanks for coming on the show to share it.

POLLOCK: Thank you.

TODD: Still ahead, an international murder mystery. Who`s behind the brazen daylight assassination of the half brother of North Korea`s dictator? Stay tuned.


TODD: Welcome back. The Trump administration is set to rescind guidelines that were issued by the Obama administration regarding the rights of transgender students in public schools. According to our draft document prepared by the departments of justice and education, the Obama administration directive that allowed transgender students to use the bathrooms matching their gender identity will be rescinded. The move would mean individual states can decide whether to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice.

Now, the Supreme Court is set to hear a case next month on whether protections in Title IX extend to transgender students. Regardless of this new decision by this White House, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the issue was not a priority for this White House and that the president believes it is best left up to the states, but the Title IX interpretation still is going to matter long-term. So pay attention to that Supreme Court case still. More "MTP Daily" up ahead. But first, here`s Aditi Roy with the "CNBC Market Wrap."

ADITI ROY, GENERAL ASSIGNMENT REPORTER FOR CNBC: Thanks so much, Chuck. Stocks ended the day mixed, the Dow rising 32 points, the S&P lost 2, the Nasdaq dropped 5. And interest rate hike could be in the works. Notes from the latest fed reserve meeting show fed officials discussed changes that could come from the new Trump administration including the impact of lower taxes and regulations and higher domestic spending.

And existing home sales surging to a ten-year high in January, rising more than 3 percent. Analysts say a strong labor market is improving job prospects and boosting demand. And that`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.


TODD: Welcome back. The mystery behind the murder of the half brother of North Korea`s dictator just keeps getting stranger. Ten days ago, in something seemingly out of a bad spy novel, Kim Jong-nam was killed at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Investigators there say they have two women in custody who allegedly poisoned him using needles, spray or perhaps a chemical soaked cloth. A family member of one of those female suspects said she thought she was on a prank TV show. Police though are now rejecting that story.

(START VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These two ladies were trained to swab the face. They were instructed to clean their hands. And they know it is toxic.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: Well and the investigation keeps growing. Today, police named a North Korean embassy official and an employee of North Korea`s (inaudible) airline as quote, persons of interest. Officials believe both men and a fifth suspect are still in Malaysia. While four other North Korean men who are suspects are believed to be already back in Pyongyang.

Our own Janis Frayer has been following every turn of the story. She joins me now from Kuala Lumpur. And Janis, let me start with it seems that the basic struggle here Malaysia is having with a lot of things because of the North Korean aspect of this, but walk me through this issue of DNA and family DNA that Malaysia needs for identification. JANIS FRAYER, CTV ASIA BUREAU CHIEF: The DNA continues to be the key issue for police. They need that DNA sample in order to prove the identity beyond a doubt that this is the body of Kim Jong-nam. Remember, at the time of his death, he was carrying a diplomatic passport thought to be fake in the name of Kim Chol. So they need a family member to come forward to try and set the record straight.

The problem is that the family is believed to be in hiding. Kim Jong-nam had been living in Macao presumably with Chinese protection. Hospital officials have told us that failing a DNA sample, they could turn to fingerprint or dental records for the identity. But the other consequence of the family not coming forward is that the body of Kim Jong-nam could eventually be returned to the North Korean Embassy and eventually to Pyongyang if somebody from the family doesn`t come forward to claim it. TODD: Well, explain that to me. Why would it automatically be -- if there is nobody to claim it, they don`t get the DNA, so they don`t have 100 percent confirmation of who he is, why is he automatic -- why would the automatic decision be to give him to the North Korea Embassy? FRAYER: The North Korean Embassy has been pushing for this all along. They`ve wanted a joint investigation because they believe this is all a big conspiracy to try and harm the reputation of the regime. They say that Malaysia is colluding with outside forces or a third party and now gone as far as to say that Malaysia is to blame for his death.

This has caused a real deterioration in relations between the two countries which is not something that North Korea can really afford because Malaysia is one of it`s few allies.

TODD: Right.

FRAYER: The problem of course is that according to protocol, they will have to turn the body over to somebody.

TODD: All right. Janis Mackey Frayer, on the ground for us in Kuala Lumpur. Janis, thanks very much. I`m now joined by Ambassador Chris Hill. Of course, he`s a former U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Korea. He`s now at the University of Denver. Chris, I don`t know where to begin. This is right out of a spy novel. But explain why do you believe it was so important for Kim Jong-un to assassinate his half brother? CHRIS HILL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR FOR REPUBLIC OF KOREA: First of all, I want to make the case of the Malaysian police. They`re going to do this pretty straight. That whole country, Malaysia has a history of telling other countries back off, we`ll do our business.

TODD: Right.

HILL: They`re pretty stubborn bunch of people. So they will do what they have to do. As for Kim Jong-un, first of all, he tried to kill his half brother in 2012, and according to South Koreans, the half brother, Kim Jong-nam actually wrote a letter to Kim Jong-un pleading with him not to do that anymore. But apparently there was just standing instructions. So what is this all about?

I mean, it`s pretty clear, first of all, Kim Jong-nam was originally the choice.

TODD: Right.

HILL: . to be the third in succession. I mean, replacing Kim Jong-il. He really screwed up back in 2001 with his crazy trip to Disneyland and Tokyo on a Dominican fake passport. So, Kim Jong-il basically washed his hands of him, but his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, very close to the Chinese, made sure that he was taken care of and in particular going down to Macao.

But he continued to say anti-Kim Jong-un things, you know, he would speak out against Kim Jong-un, and it`s pretty clear that Kim Jong-un was going to come after him and he did so in a country that really doesn`t like foreigners to do that kind of thing. And so I think this will all come out. I think the Malaysians will be pretty clear about it. But as for the reason for it, it`s just one of these -- when you have a cult dictatorship.

TODD: Right.

HILL: . with no clear lines of succession, this is how it works.

TODD: How -- how many estranged family members are around the world and how at-risk are their lives?

HILL: Well, I would say they are at risk. Kim Jong-nam has a son who has also spoken out. He studied in places like France and Switzerland. I think there are a couple of sisters as well. And, for example, when the uncle, Jang Song Thaek, was murdered by on the orders of Kim Jong-un, his wife said, why did you do this to my husband? She then got assassinated. So, you know, there`s no end to the brutality of this regime, but it`s pretty clear this Kim Jong-un is not quite consolidated in power quite yet. TODD: Right. Look, this is medieval stuff at this point. When you`re going out and assassinating and all this stuff. It`s a question I`ve asked you before and you`ve been asked on it. Where is China? I mean, what are they going to do with this? You know, it`s their satellite state whether they want to admit it or not. At some point, everybody keep saying at some point they`re going to be so embarrassed they might actually do something about this. This is embarrassing.

HILL: We`re not going to outsource this issue to China, but we`ve got find a better way to work with them on this. And the Chinese as you suggest really needs to step up on this had. I think the fact that this was a essentially a person under their protection and the North Koreans went and assassinated him, this made be the straw that really does it. And as you know, just a couple of weeks ago, the Chinese stopped all coal imports from North Korea.

So there are signs that are getting serious. I guess from the policy perspective from the U.S., I mean, we got to decide what`s important to us with China? Do we to want trade war with them right now? Do we want to argue about One China Policy? Or do we want to try to get together with them and try to work things together to go after this hideous regime which is a threat to everybody? TODD: I was just going to say here, you know, it gets mocked sometimes, I mean, the South Park Boys did a movie that mocked Kim Jong-un`s father and we don`t want to laugh at North Korea, but if this guy is this brazen now to do what he did to his half brother, is it not -- is it crazy to think that this guy will use his weapons? HILL: I don`t think it`s crazy to think he would use his weapons or certainly to use the weapons to try to get his, get his neighbors to do something they don`t want to do. I mean, he is not above blackmail. I think it`s a very serious situation. And you know, it`s got a certain unattended comedy to it, bit I really thinks it`s a very dangerous situation frankly.

And I think we`ve got to really get serious. And I`d put it right up there, the next four years, we are gonna get a deliverable nuclear weapon. And what is our president going to say that he did about it?

TODD: All right. Chris Hill, former ambassador to the Republic of Korea, and now at the University of Denver. Always good have you on, sir. Thank you for sharing your views. Up next, an out of this world obsession, and some advice for our extraterrestrial neighbors. Stay tuned.


TODD: Welcome back. Tonight, I`m obsessed with something that`s out of this world. NASA announced today that it has discovered seven earth-sized planets all orbiting a single star. All of them could have liquid water which means they could potentially support life. In fact, here`s NASA`s illustration of what the surface of one of the planets could possibly look like. It`s a nice little sunrise there.

But while I`m obsessed with the discovery itself, I`m more obsessed with asking the potential residents of these new planets, some questions, and perhaps we could offer some advice. So space friends, if you guys are ahead of us in the space time continuum, some questions, we know it`s going to be 40 years from now before you get this.

One, does your version of the Buffalo Bills ever win the Super Bowl? Do you have Scott Norwood as a kicker? Two, what do you use to play music on your planet? Does that mean I have to buy another white album again? Three, what version of your iPhone are you using? Just got to understand those things. Now, if you`re behind us in time, we may be able to give you some advice.

One, new Coke, bad idea. Two, when a real estate billionaire turned reality TV star decides to run for world leader, take him seriously. And three, I`m just going to say one word to you, one word, are you listening out there our space friends? Plastics.


TODD: Time for "The Lid." One more go around with our panel. Eliana Johnson, Michael Steele, Chris Clayton. Chris, I imagine hearing a pollster say, hey, if you`re going to talk about Trump, talk about policies, not the person. Because you were telling us that that`s what people kept hearing during the election.

CHRIS CLAYTON, DTN AG POLICY EDITOR: Yeah. And, you know, you don`t really hear much. I think democrats have done a lousy job in rural America talking about policy with rural citizens and that has been, you know, something that they really lost on in not just in the presidential race, but in congressional races around the country as well. TODD: It`s always a simple theory, and everybody always are like of course, people want to hear about policy than personality, yet whether it was the base of your party, with Obama, the base of the democrats with W., with Reagan, I could go back, Clinton, it is amazing how the derangement syndrome does sort of impact that. MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It sets in early and it sticks and it becomes a thing that sells the easiest. I mean, look, if you`re going to have -- talk about a 14-page -- point page thing thesis on health care, or do you just say, you know, that`s bad, or because Obama did it, it`s even worse.

I mean, if you personalize it, it makes it easier to carry the narrative than getting in the minutia of detail on policy. And the parties have figured that out. What the public has also figured out is at a certain point, at least they want to get an inkling about what you`re talking about.

TODD: Right.

STEELE: Share some thought. Give us some clue about where this ends up. Yeah, we don`t like the person you`re talking about or love the person, but policy still kind of bubbles beneath the surface.

TODD: I mean, this is -- republicans wanted -- the base made them feel good. It feels good.


TODD: On the other hand, you still got to win over those voters or swing voters. They didn`t come to them in `12 because of that. That`s what Hillary ran into a little bit in `16. ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER AT POLITICO: Absolutely. People said, oh, she should have talked more about the economy. I think this is not only a problem for democrats but it`s also a problem for republicans who need to talk about issues as well, and not just about Trump. They`re struggling to do it. You can see, they want to do it, but they`re struggling to do it.

The media is a bit of a problem with this because we`re also obsessed with Trump. He`s a personality who tends to suck up all the oxygen in the room. And then he himself personalizes every issue and brings it back to him. So I think, you know, it is a real struggle to get around that, talk about issues, and sort of refocus and redirect the conversation. TODD: Hey, before I let you go, because we were talking about this before the show started, this issue of where are the nominees? And not just talking about the cabinet nominees, but you covered the Ag policy. How vacant is the Ag department?

CLAYTON: It`s very vacant. You know, you -- not only do we not have the agriculture secretary, we don`t have any idea who`s going to be the deputies. We don`t have any idea on undersecretaries or leaders of all. USDA has almost 20 different agencies. No leadership in any of those agencies right now. So, you know, you have over 200 different positions at least that need to be filled, and we have no idea on any of them.

TODD: You haven`t even heard names in many cases. CLAYTON: I`ve heard names and, like, oh not that guy, but.


TODD: Eliana, you`ve been covering state, same thing. JOHNSON: I mean, the state department right now is essentially a ghost department. There`s still no deputy state. There are hundreds of political positions that have not been filled over there. And I think you see Rex Tillerson sort of increasingly marginalized a little bit in this administration. Defense Secretary Mattis is close friends, not only with the national security adviser, but with the homeland security adviser. And part of it is the fact that these positions haven`t been filled. The department is empty. TODD: All right. Michael, when does this become a problem? Real quick. STEELE: Yesterday.

TODD: There you go. Eliana, Michael, Chris, all good. After the break, how the eagle has landed in the war on terror. Stay tuned.


TODD: Welcome back. We`re going to take you to the limit one more time. In case you missed it, could eagles be the next big weapon in fighting terror? Eagles versus drones. No, it`s not the Sunday night football game on earth 2, or the plot of a bad sci-fi movie. It`s real, or at least a real idea. Both the French military and Dutch police are training eagles to catch and bring down weaponized remote-controlled drones. Here`s why.

Drones are getting easier and easier to come by these days, as we`ve all heard, so there`s more concern that terrorists or bad actors could get them and fly them into crowds or high-security areas. So how do you take out a drone in a crowded area without shooting it down and putting people below in danger?

That`s where screeching eagles with Kevlar-clad talons come in naturally. Dutch national police who released this video are training eagles to see drones as prey and then snatch one right out of midair. We`re talking small drones here. It`s not like an eagle could take out a Predator drone although that would make an excellent sci-fi movie. Maybe you put in Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse "The Body" Ventura and - nevermind.

That`s all for tonight.

FOR THE RECORD with Greta starts right now.


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