MTP Daily, transcript 3/7/2017

Guests: Jennifer Palmieri, Hugh Hewitt, Dan Balz, Mo Brooks, Hugh Hewitt, Jennifer Palmieri, Dan Balz

Show: MTP DAILY Date: March 7, 2017 Guest: Jennifer Palmieri, Hugh Hewitt, Dan Balz, Mo Brooks, Hugh Hewitt, Jennifer Palmieri, Dan Balz STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST:  We appreciate that.  That`s going to do it for this hour.  Again, hearing from the House speaker there.  Much more to come on this.  MTP DAILY starts right now.

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

It`s repeal, replace and apparently Republican rebellion.

 (voice-over):  Tonight, health care mutiny. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 REP. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA:  Let`s not lower the bar on what we believe simply because of Republicans in the White House. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  The Republican plan to replace Obamacare is under attack, from Republicans who are trashing it as Obamacare light. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I`m proud to support the replacement plan. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 TODD: Plus, in the hot seat.  The nominee to be number two at the Justice Department and number one on the Russia investigation, on call for a special prosecutor.

 (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 ROD ROSENSTEIN, U.S. ATTORNEY, MARYLAND, NOMINEE TO THE U.S. COURT OF APPEALS:  I`m willing to appoint a special council center whenever I determine it`s appropriate.

 (END VIDEO CLIP)

 TODD:  We`ll talk to one of the Republican nominee`s Democrat supporters, Senator Ben Cardin. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND:  I am confident of his judgment. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 TODD:  And California love.  Why I`m obsessed with an east coast-west coast political rivalry as the nation`s second largest city heads to the polls.

 This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now. 

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

 Yes, by the way, it`s a Tuesday and people are voting somewhere.  I`m going to have that later for you in the show.

 But let`s focus on this.  Republicans have been waiting for six years for a Republican president to join with a Republican Congress to unveil a plan that would, once and for all, repeal and replace Obamacare.  That day is today.  And Republicans may have something of a mutiny on their hands from within their own ranks.

 Right now, it`s a full court press from Republican leadership and the president.  House Speaker Paul Ryan just wrapped up a news conference attempting to get the entire Republican conference on board.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  This bill, the American Health Care Act, it keeps our promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.  It delivers relief to Americans fed up with skyrocketing premiums and fewer choices. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 TODD:  And we just heard from the president, as he met with Republican lawmakers at the White House today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And I`m proud to support the replacement plan, released by the House of Representatives and encouraged by members of both parties.  I think, really, that we`re going to have something that`s going to be much more understood and much more popular than people can even imagine. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 TODD:  Meanwhile, some of the plan`s fiercest Republican critics just wrapped up their own news conference and they ripped into the plan. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 REP. TIM RYAN (D), OHIO:  There`s the leadership plan that was brought forward, which I believe when you look through it, is Obamacare in a different form.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY:  Let`s vote on what we voted on before, a clean repeal.

 SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH:  What`s been introduced in the House in the last 24 hours is not the Obamacare replacement plan, not the Obamacare repeal plan we`ve been hoping for. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think amidst the harsh (INAUDIBLE), we can find a pony around here somewhere. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 TODD:  Ah, Mr. Domer (ph).  Anyway, moments before that press conference, HHS Secretary Tom Price made his pitch for the legislation from the White House briefing room.  But oddly, he seemed to dodge questions about his support, personally, for the legislation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you support everything on the bill on the table, sir? 

TOM PRICE, SECRETARY, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES:  This is a work in process.  And we`ll work with the House and the Senate in this process.  As you know, it`s a legislative process that occurs.  I`m glad you pointed out the bills on the table there. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 TODD:  Vice President Mike Pence said he was confident that the bill will be passed in a matter of weeks.  Here`s what he told my colleague, Casey Hunt about GOP opposition to the plan. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 KASIE HUNT, AMERICAN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS:  Why are conservatives so opposed? 

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I think we`re very early in the legislative process.  And as the president has made very clear, we`re open to working with members of the House and Senate about ways to improve the bill.

 But we believe the American Health Care Act is the right framework for replacing Obamacare.  And in the days ahead, the president and I both look forward to making that case to members of Congress and to the American people. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 TODD:  An important phrase the vice president just used there, don`t forget it, framework.  In some ways, they`re already creating just enough distance there from this bill.  That`s just the beginning of this.

 Anyway, the White House says this is merely the start of a negotiation.  It seems they have a lot of negotiating to do.  Conservative Republicans, you`ve been hearing from the House Freedom Caucus there, and Republican groups, including The Heritage Foundation and Club for Growth, they`re slamming the plan as Obamacare light.

 And they`re unhappy with what this law keeps intact.  Like Obamacare, there`s a penalty for folks who don`t have continuous insurance.  Like Obamacare, there are subsidies, and two core Obamacare provisions, preexisting conditions and staying on your parent`s plan are basically left untouched.  So, that`s the part that you can make the Obamacare light argument.

 [17:05:00] But then, other Republicans seem unhappy -- seem to be unhappy about what this law takes away.  At least four Republican senators appear to be balking at the plan`s rollback of Obamacare`s Medicaid expansion.

 Look, we`ve seen others, like Republican Senator Mike Lee, rip the process as well.  The law is being marked up tomorrow without any public hearings and without any guidance from the Congressional Budget Office.  Where`s regular order?  What happened to that phrase?

 Anyway, what does this mean?  It means we don`t have a nonpartisan estimate of how much this plan will cost, how much it will impact the deficit, nor how many people it will cover.  And, oh, by the way, they`re supposed to mark up the bill now.

 On top of all of that, there`s the fog of Trump`s own position on any of this.  The president has been all over the map on health care.  Just a few weeks ago, he was vouching for universal coverage. 

 I`m joined now by Republican Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama who is a member of the House Freedom Caucus.  But without making an assumption of where you stand on this bill, let many ask you.  Where do you stand on the House leadership repeal and replace bill, sir? 

REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA, HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS:  Well, good to hear -- see you this evening, Chuck.

 TODD:  Good to see you, sir.

 BROOKS:  I`m undecided.  I am still trying to examine it and trying to figure out if there`s more pros or cons and where it is on balance.  Some key issues to me.  How does it affect the solvency of the federal government?  As you know, we`re headed to debilitating insolvency and bankruptcy.  As we soon blow through the $20 trillion debt mark.

 And then, there`s a provision in it, according to a summary that I got from the Ways and Means Committee, that suggests that American taxpayers are going to be responsible for giving away money to foreign nationals and qualified aliens.

 Whatever that phrase, qualified aliens, means.  We help them for their health care.  Well, why should American citizens be absorbing that additional cost when we have such a hard time paying for the health care of American citizens much less people who are not American citizens?

 So, there are a lot of things that have to be looked through.  In short, though, it appears to be the largest welfare program ever proposed by Republicans in the history of our country. 

TODD:  Well, Congressman Brooks, you called yourself undecided at the beginning of your answer.  And then, to quote you, "It`s still the largest welfare proposal that a Republican has ever introduced."  So, Congressman, let me ask you again.  Are you in favor of this bill or not? 

BROOKS:  Well, you probably have a pretty good idea from my remarks as to where I`m leaning.  But I don`t have a Congressional Budget Office scoring of the bill, for example, that tells me what they think the impact on deficit and debt will be.

 If, all of a sudden, I`m surprised and this is going to save taxpayers a lot of money, reduce our deficit, make us more solvent as a country, that could persuade me otherwise.

 And as you know, with this administration and this president, it`s the art of the deal.  If suddenly the packages change considerably to make it more palatable, well that can change my opinion somewhat where I stand.

 So, right now, I`m keeping my options open.  But there are some major problems with the bill, major hurdles for me to overcome before I can support it. 

TODD:  What do you think the long-term impact could be on, sort of, where health care goes in this country if a form of this bill is enacted?  Because, right now, the replacement bill does look like it`s going to leave a lot of the Obamacare architecture in place.  And --

BROOKS:  Well, if --

 TODD:  Yes?

 BROOKS:  -- you believe in socialized Medicine, then you ought to be for Obamacare and you ought to be in favor of this replacement.  Because, ultimately, this is a huge step in favor of socialized Medicine and that`s where we`re going to end up.

 If this legislation passes by way of example, we`re going to have a continual debate from here until eternity on how big the subsidies should be and that`s going to be a campaign issue every year.

 And, over time, I think the subsidies are going to continue to get bigger and bigger and bigger.  Which, in turn, means that you`re going to have larger and larger deficits.  Which, in turn, means that our debt`s going to become less and less manageable.  Which will accelerate the day that our country goes through debilitating insolvency and bankruptcy (INAUDIBLE) we really ought to do everything we can to avoid. 

TODD:  I have -- you know, I have -- I have been to your district.  I`ve seen you.  You are -- you are a fiscal conservative and nobody would say otherwise.  I`m curious, hearing your concern about the debt.  Are you concerned that there`s now a Republican in the White House that doesn`t have that same concern about the debt as you do? 

BROOKS:  Well, last week, President Trump gave an excellent address to the United States Congress.  But the one thing that disappointed me was that there was not one word mentioned about our deficit and our debt and the threat that that poses to our country.

 And I really wish that that stage opportunity had been used to impress upon the American people the precipice that we face.  A precipice that can`t undo what it took centuries of our American ancestors to build. 

TODD:  But does it concern -- if he didn`t even bring it up in his speech to Congress, doesn`t that tell you where it is on his priority list?

BROOKS:  Well, I`m hopeful that we`ll be able to change that as a priority on the list as it stands right now.

 [17:10:03] But you`ve got the secretary of defense, Mattis, you`ve got a former chairman, a Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, who both have testified or publicly stated --

 TODD:  Right.

 BROOKS:  -- that it`s our deficit and debt which is our nation`s greatest national security risk.

 So, it`s incumbent upon people like myself and Mick Mulvaney, who I believe is a -- is going to be an excellent director of Office of Management and Budget, to impress upon the White House that this is an issue that we can no longer set aside.  That if we`re going to save our country from that debilitating insolvency and bankruptcy, it needs to be the number one issue, with respect to every subject matter that we address.  And hopefully --

 TODD:  What --

 BROOKS:  -- we can educate the White House and impress upon them the seriousness of the situation. 

TODD:  All right, let me button up health care here in this respect.  Is there one major change that House leadership could make that would say, all right, I`ll accept some of these provisions getting in there.  It`s not my first choice.  But what`s to -- what`s to you -- what is the biggest thing you`d like to see fixed in this initial proposal? 

BROOKS:  Well, if we`re going to have a Christmas list major change, --

 TODD:  Yes.

 BROOKS:  -- it would be to repeal, in total, Obamacare.  Then implement market reforms, interstate competition for insurance carriers.  Eliminate the exemptions from the anti-trust legislation.  Things of that nature.  To competition forces pricing to be something more reasonable that people can afford.

 And then, send it to the states and let the 50 states, as incubators, decide for themselves what kind of health care system they want.  If they like Obamacare, New York, Massachusetts, California, they can pass Obamacare provided they can pay for it. 

TODD:  Congressman Mo Brooks, Republican from Huntsville, Alabama.  As always, sir, thank you for coming on and sharing your views. 

BROOKS:  My pleasure, Chuck.

 TODD:  All right, let me bring in tonight`s panel.  Hugh Hewitt, of course NBC News Political Analyst, host of the "HUGH HEWITT SHOW" on Salem Radio Networks.  Jennifer Palmieri was the communications director for the Clinton campaign and the Obama White House.  And Dan Balz is the chief correspondent at "The Washington Post."  Easily the best title here.

 Hugh, there it is.  We were talking in the green room in this respect.  Does the Republican leadership here, do they have more of a problem on the right of their party?  House Freedom Caucus, Mo Brooks, I think we know where he stands on this bill.  Or do they have more of a problem on the left of their party?  Say, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman.  What say you after hearing that interview?

HUGH HEWITT, POLITICAL ANALYST, NBC NEWS:  The critical path to passage is in the Senate.  And there are four Republican senators who said you have to save the Medicaid expansion.  And so, they`ve got to get the bill to the Senate.  And they`ve got to get it from the Senate back to the House so it is on the left side of the party that they have to deal.

 TODD:  I`m sorry.  Dan? 

 DAN BALZ, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST":  You`ve got a problem on the left and you`ve got a problem on the right.

 TODD:  I was just going to say, I don`t know how they do this.  Because here`s what I do know.  Maybe Jennifer will correct us.  I can`t think of any Democrats that are going to help the Republican Party in this one and replace too many Mo Brooks` votes if they lose them.

BALZ:  No, I agree -- I agree with that.  I mean -- I mean, there are senators, as Hugh knows, on the right who stepped up today and criticized.

TODD:  Mike Lee who was at that press conference. 

BALZ:  Right.  Among them.  So, they`ve got that problem.  Rand Paul is another one.

 JENNIFER PALMIERI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR:  Yes.

 BALZ:  So, they`ve got that problem on the right.  And they`ve got the problem with the Medicaid expansion group, the four on the left.  I don`t know -- I don`t know yet.

 But, you know, as everybody says, we`re at a very early stage of this.  It`s not as though this is going to somehow sail through quickly. 

TODD:  What`s amazing is how much, though, that the House Republican leadership is trying already to sell this --

 PALMIERI:  Yes.

 TODD:  -- so hard, which tells you --

PALMIERI:  Without -- but without the White House, really.

TODD:  First of all, is -- do you think Obamacare light is a fair description of this plan?

 PALMIERI:  Yes.  That is -- I mean, it is -- it is the same -- it`s the same -- it`s the --

TODD:  Just the Paul Ryan (INAUDIBLE.)

 PALMIERI:  -- I`m sure we`ll help so many -- yes.  I`m sure we`ll help so many House Republicans for me to say so.  But it does -- it is keeping a -- I mean, it would do a lot of damage and a lot of people would lose coverage.  And it`s probably not, ultimately, sustainable fiscally speaking.

 But it is -- I can see why -- I can see why, you know, Congressman Brooks has the problem that he does.  I mean, a member of the Freedom Caucus just said it was socialized Medicine.  This thing is not going to become law.  This Congress is not going to be the Congress that rolls back a -- you know, that rolls back a benefit like this.

 TODD:  And here`s the --

 PALMIERI:  It`s never happened in history.

 TODD:  Well, --

 PALMIERI:  And, like, look at the -- look at the --

 TODD:  Yes.

 PALMIERI:  -- look at -- and the White House is hanging back.  I understand it`s also hard -- it`s also hard, the position the White House is in.  Do we lead and, you know, do we lock ourselves into supporting a particular bill?  Or do you let the debate play out?  But it seems dangerous (INAUDIBLE.)

TODD:  Here`s the problem for the -- I think here`s the problem for the base and the Republican Party, Hugh.  Let me play this montage of what`s been said about Obamacare the last four years. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Obamacare is nothing more than the largest tax increase in the history of the world.

SARAH PALIN, AMERICAN POLITICIAN:  Many Democrats had recently come out against Obamacare saying specifically they understood now about the death panels and other things.

[17:15:00] BEN CARSON, SECRETARY, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT:  Obamacare is, really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.  And it is in a way -- it is slavery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Obamacare is the single biggest job killer in this country. 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Everything about Obamacare was a lie.  It was a filthy lie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 TODD:  This is why -- I understand why Mo Brooks and Mike Lee are sitting there -- Rand Paul are going, we`ve been saying this is the worst.  Not saying we disagreed with how they did it on the margins.  This is the worst plan ever created in the history of mankind.  Stop. 

HEWITT:  I believe that the bill that was put forward is a major retooling of the health care delivery system of the United States in that it devolves Medicaid to the states and would allow for a genuine capping for out of control entitlement.  That`s the center of this reform, as is getting rid of the appeal, the taxes and the mandate.

 Therefore, I think getting it to the Senate allows step two to come forward.  I don`t agree that it`s Obamacare light.  I think it`s a significant evolution away from the back doors markets.  But it is mostly the Medicaid devolution.  That`s the heart of it that Republicans have to focus on.

TODD:  But tell me this, Dan.  Everything they`ve done, it seems as if, of this bill, some form of it.  And, by the way, whatever comes out of the House will be a more conservative version that whatever comes out of the Senate.

 I think we -- that is -- we know.  How is it that they`re going to be able to pass a bill that Democrats won`t be able to, essentially, if they get power again, say, well, we`re going just use this architecture and here`s - - we`re going to go back to the old Medicaid formulas.  And we`re going to go back to this -- it seems like it`s a pretty easy (INAUDIBLE.) 

BALZ:  Well, if -- I mean, if Medicaid is devolved to the states, that`s a -- that`s a significant -- as Hugh ways, that`s a significant thing. 

TODD:  You`re assuming they can pull that off.

 BALZ:  Well, I was -- I was just going to say --

 TODD:  And I don`t buy it. 

BALZ:  Republican governors have talked about that for 10 years and they`ve never been able to figure out what`s the formula --

 TODD:  Not all of them.

 BALZ:  -- that holds them relatively --

TODD:  (INAUDIBLE) say they want it until they started looking at the details and they go, wait a minute, do I really want this?

BALZ:  They want the flexibility but the pricing is always a problem.  So, that`s a major -- I mean, you`re right.  It`s a big reform.  It`s a big if, in terms of the reform and how you structure it, particularly because of what`s happened with Obamacare, with some states expanding and some states not.  So, that`s -- I mean, that, alone, is a big problem.

 But the idea that this bill is shocking to, you know, the Freedom Caucus also -- it shouldn`t be a surprise.  I mean, everything that has been said about this issue, as Republicans have tried to grapple with it, has moved it in the direction of what the House leadership has done here.

 So, the idea that this is somehow a shocking departure --

 TODD:  Yes.

 BALZ:  -- from those who say we`ve got to repeal it, what have they been watching for the last six months?

TODD:  Very quickly, Jennifer.  Is there a point where some Democrats think, why don`t I get involved in this?

PALMIERI:  I know -- I can`t imagine.

 TODD:  No?

 PALMIERI:  I can`t imagine.  I mean, this does not look like a winner.  You know, it`s, like, human nature taking -- takes over, too, at this point, where everybody believes -- nobody likes -- you know, if the popular opinion wasn`t as strong as it could be, I would say for the Affordable Care Act, until people believe you`re going to take something away from them.

 TODD:  Yes.

 PALMIERI:  You know, that`s what makes -- that`s what made it hard to pass in the first place with human nature not believing that you`re going to give them something.  But people are going to believe they`re going to lose something here. 

TODD:  You mean like all those promises --

 PALMIERI:  I don`t see the Democrats saying that --

 TODD:  -- -- like all those promises of getting rid of the Bush tax cuts - -

 PALMIERI:  Right.

 TODD:  -- that became permanent? 

PALMIERI:  These things -- they`re -- this is an unconventional time, unconventional presidency.  But some laws of gravity still apply. 

TODD:  That is.  It is amazing.  Parties come in swearing they can do things until they have the power to do it.

 You guys are sticking around for the hour.

 Coming up, did the CIA`s classified computer hacking weapons program just get leaked for all the world to see? 

Plus, President Trump`s truth telling problem.  There`s still no evidence to support his wiretapping claims.  And he still hasn`t asked to see if he`s right.  We`ll dig into the cost of these credibility problems, next.

[17:18:49]

 (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 TODD:  Welcome back.

 WikiLeaks is back and they released a trove of documents purporting to reveal CIA hacking secrets.  And if true, this could expose some of the U.S. intelligence community`s closely guarded cyber weapons.  This dump includes documents marked top secret and suggests that the CIA may be able to turn any smartphone or smart T.V.s into listening devices.  If you watched Mr. Robot, this is already in their hands. 

 In its news release, WikiLeaks says the CIA tools allow the agency to bypass popular encryption enabled apps., like What`s App and Signal.  Delete those, folks.

 NBC News has not verified the authenticity of these documents released by WikiLeaks.  And CIA spokesman declined to comment, saying only, quote, "We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents."

 But former CIA and NSA director, General Michael Hayden, told NBC`s Andrea Mitchell, we need to carefully consider the motive behind this WikiLeaks dump. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER DIRECTOR, CIA AND NSA:  Isn`t it surprising that WikiLeaks` transparency engine seems to be focused on transparency only about the United States of America and its friends, not the totalitarian regimes around the world.

 (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 TODD:  Welcome back to MTP DAILY.

 It`s been four, four days since President Trump made the most serious allegation of his presidency, the totally unproven claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped the phones of Trump Tower.  All it would take for the president to fact check this claim is a phone call to the director of the FBI.  But when White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked today if President Trump had done so, he said, no. 

Republican lawmakers and White House officials have been -- of course, been asked repeatedly about these claims and they`ve had to delicately determine how to respond.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

 SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA, CHAIRMAN, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE:  I think that the president of the United States, who has stated, categorically, that Trump Tower was wiretapped, that he should forth -- come forward with the information that led him to that conclusion. 

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA:  I don`t know why the president believes this, the current president believes it about the former president.  But I`m sure there`s a reason and it`s up to him to explain.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK:  I wish that the president had not done via tweet because this is such a serious issue. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I`m assuming that in a -- in a tweet, he`s probably not as accurate as we`d like him to be. 

SEAN SPICER, U.S. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  I think the president`s tweets speak for themselves.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

 PALMIERI:  They do.

TODD:  Yes.  Well, OK.  Yes, that is a fact.  They do have a -- they do have a voice.

 Dan Balz, this -- we are getting to the point -- and I had this happen a few times on Sunday, where everybody is, like, well, you can`t take the president at his word all the time like this.  And I just -- are we in that position now?  That we`re all conditioned -- that we all have to be conditioned that not everything he says or tweets is not true?

BALZ:  I don`t think so.  And I think that the reaction to those tweets is evidence that people are not calloused to the idea that we shouldn`t pay attention to this.  He`s the president of the United States.  He made a shocking accusation.  The White House has run away from it since then.  The administration, as a whole, had run -- has run away from it.

 [17:25:00] I mean, they are -- you have to wonder whether there is anybody around the president who believes there is any veracity to this tweet. 

TODD:  Hugh, it seems to me -- if nothing else, the one thing I take away from this is there`s still nobody in that White House that can tell him, no.

HEWITT:  Where there`s the only piece of evidence supporting any kind of an assertion, it doesn`t support the one he made, is that General Flynn was subject to some sort of surveillance, because that was leaked --

TODD:  Was he the subject or was it Kislyak that was being (INAUDIBLE.)

HEWITT:  Right, some kind of surveillance existed.  However, my first job in the executive branch was as a special assistant to two attorney general that would review a foreign intelligence surveillance application to the court.  The President has nothing to do with that ever.  President Obama would have nothing to do with a counterintelligence division application.

 So, someone -- no one exists, you are right, yet, to say, Mr. President, may I review the tweets with you before you put them out?  That`s the person that needs to be there because that tweet would not have gone out with even a curser review with anyone who has any kind of intelligence background.

 TODD:  Jen, and I know that President Obama and Hillary Clinton are -- were different media consumers than this president.  This president wants more.  You worked for two people that hated the press.  And so, but --

 PALMIERI:  Does Trump love the press?

 TODD:  I think he loves the press.  He loves to hate -- I don`t know.  He`s obsessed with the press.  But how often would you give him reading material that you knew was potentially untrue but you thought it was important that he see it was out there? 

PALMIERI:  He -- President Obama read a lot of -- read a lot of press.  You know, he famously had it on his -- on his iPad.

 TODD:  Yes.

 PALMIERI:  And he wouldn`t get clips.  He would --

 TODD:  Don`t admit he has a political app.  I remember that was such a thing.  Don`t want Politico to know that he actually read it.

 PALMIERI:  I might have seen that there was -- there was a political app.  There was also an Atlantic app and a New Yorker app.  There were times where we would say, you should not -- or give to him and say, you should be aware of this, that this is out there.  It`s not true but you should be aware of it.  You may hear about it.  It may come up. 

TODD:  But you would say it`s not true? 

PALMIERI:  Well, sure, we would say -- we would say it`s not true. 

TODD:  Are we confident that if somebody is putting this in this clip and say, look, Breitbart is writing this.  You`re going to be hearing about this from your donor friends.  Maybe you`re going to hear this at Mar-a- Lago, it`s not true.  Do you think there`s anybody that says that to him?

BALZ:  There`s no evidence that there`s anybody who says that to him. 

PALMIERI:  I think that`s in the direction.  I think they`re telling Breitbart what to put in. 

BALZ:  I mean, everything we`ve seen in the way he operates is that that`s not the case.  And that he absorbs information that he sees on T.V. and accepts that no matter what the source as credible if it fits his view of the world. 

HEWITT:  He`s a voracious consumer of different information flows.  He might be watching this as we speak.  He watches Fox and Friends in the morning.  It is not -- I don`t know what your system was.

 I know in the President Reagan`s White House, there was a very disciplined system for information flow and the president stayed within those barriers.  I think that`s gone because of social media now.  I think it`s completely gone.

PALMIERI:  It`s very hard.

 BALZ:  I commend to everybody the piece that my colleague, Jenna Johnson, wrote today, connecting what was being said on Fox and Friends with the tweets that the president put out over that several hour period.

PALMIERI:  Yes.

BALZ:  I mean, it`s -- they track.

TODD:  But let me say, we`ve kept a running list of all the different, like -- he`s thrown out a conspiracy theory that hasn`t been walked back.  You know, Donald Trump calls the raids a military operation.  John Kelly says no.  Repeat, no use of military force.  Nikki Haley had to contrast Trump on the two-state solution.

 McMasters said don`t use Islamic terrorism and he`s defied that.  Mattis had to go to Iraq and say, no, we`re not taking the oil.  I mean, this is turning into -- at what point, Hugh, do Republicans feel uncomfortable apologizing for this? 

HEWITT:  Well, he`s got 90 percent approval in the Republican Party.  90 percent of the country that voted for him in the first place believe that he is speaking truth to power and they don`t care about the niceties that, perhaps, the Manhattan beltway elites care about.  They care about shattering what is a --

 TODD:  No doubt.

 HEWITT:  -- being protected class.  So, this discussion does not penetrate into the blue state wall that collapsed.  And until it does, I don`t think any Republican is going to say, Mr. President, stop. 

PALMIERI:  I think it does.  I mean, it may not penetrate into his supporters, although that seems to be a diminishing group of people but it goes beyond just Manhattan and Washington.  I mean, this is a part of the reason, I think, why his approval rating is so low.  And I think it`s important that the press do treat each tweet seriously and chase it down.

 But what I`m glad to see is that people are not -- the general public does not seem to be losing their capacity to be shocked or outraged by what he does.  Instead, there appears to be a pile-on impact.  It`s not diminishing any one act.  I think the cumulative impact about all those things --

 TODD:  Right.

 PALMIERI:  -- that you cited that are not true is hurting him. 

TODD:  I think over time.  That`s going to be the issue.  Quick word. 

BALZ:  I was just going to say I think the one key is elected Republican officials. 

TODD:  Yes. 

BALZ:  In a sense, more than Trump loyalists in the states.  If they, eventually, and you have to believe they will, become so uncomfortable with that style of leadership, with those accusations, then he`s got a big problem. 

TODD:  But Hugh`s right.  Until then, they also see the poll numbers. 

BALZ:  Exactly.

 TODD:  And we see that, too.

 All right, you stick around.

 Coming up, the president`s pick to be number two at the Justice Department, who would be number one on the Russian probe.  He got a grilling today on the Hill.  Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, who wants a 911-style independent commission on Russia, will join me as to why he believes this man is the right man for the number two post.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back. The most memorable moment of today`s hearing for President Trump`s pick to be number two at the Justice Department didn`t involve the nominee at all. It was between senators Al Franken and Chuck Grassley. Franken brought up that now notorious exchange he had with then Senator Jeff Sessions during his confirmation hearing. Here it is.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK GRASSLEY, SENIOR U.S. SENATOR FROM IOWA: If I was going to ask you a gotcha question, I was going to tell you about it ahead of time and I consider what Senator Franken asked Sessions at that late moment that that story just come out is a gotcha question.

AL FRANKEN, JUNIOR U.S. SENATOR FROM MINNESOTA: It was not a gotcha question, sir.

GRASSLEY: It was, from the standpoint that he didn`t know what you were asking about.

FRANKEN: But I said that as I was asking the question, I said you don`t haven`t heard this, and I don`t expect that you have heard it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: We`ll have more on that hearing and where the investigation into Russian meddling in the election is headed right after this. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back. On Capitol Hill today, questions on Russian attempts to interfere with the 2016 election and potential contacts between Russians and people in the Trump campaign orbit dominated the hearing for President Trump`s nominee to be the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.

That`s because he`s the one who will be in charge of any investigations involving Russia and the Trump campaign, since Attorney General Jeff Sessions has officially recused himself. So that upped the stakes for this hearing. Democrats are calling for a special prosecutor, but Rosenstein would not commit one way or the other.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK LEAHY, SENIOR U.S. SENATOR FROM VERMONT: Are you willing to appoint a special counsel to examine Russian interference in our elections and other criminal activity?

ROD ROSENSTEIN, U.S. ATTORNEY IN MARYLAND, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: I`m willing to appoint a special counselor, senator, whenever I determine it`s appropriate based upon the policies and procedures of the Justice Department.

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, SENIOR U.S. SENATOR FROM CONNECTICUT: How can you investigate your boss?

ROSENSTEIN: If there`s evidence, senator, that the attorney general and president have information relevant to a criminal investigation in this case as in previous cases that I`ve handled, I`ll make sure they`re questioned.

You view it as an issue of principle that I need to commit to appoint a special counsel in a matter that I don`t even know if it`s being investigated and I view it as an issue of principle that as a nominee for deputy attorney general, I should not be promising to take action on the particular case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Senator Ben Cardin, who introduced Rosenstein at the hearing today, said he`s confident in Rosenstein`s judgment on the Russia issues. Cardin by the way according to "The New York Times" was also the recipient of a cash of documents marked secret sent from the state department in the days before the January 20th inauguration quote, detailing Russian efforts to intervene in elections worldwide.

Senator Cardin joins me now. Senator, let me first start with today`s hearing. You introduced him, you vouched for him, you`re a democrat vouching for a republican president`s nominee to be number two. Why?

BEN CARDIN, SENIOR U.S. SENATOR FROM MARYLAND: Chuck, it`s good to be with you. Rod Rosenstein is a professional prosecutor. He has the confidence of all the stakeholders in Maryland. He has been U.S. attorney for a number of years. He is a person who basically is a professional. He`s a public servant. We trust his judgment.

He has shown by his leadership, going after gangs, unifying us on our attack against terrorism. He`s been a person who has called it the way it should be. He has not been partisan, and we believe this was a welcomed nomination by President Trump.

TODD: What do you believe should be the trigger for a special counsel? And I know you want a special commission and there`s a separate debate there. But what should be the trigger for a special counsel in your opinion?

CARDIN: Well, there are two separate issues here as you point out. One is getting all the information about what Russia was doing. The contacts made in the United States, its intent and interfering of our election. How we can protect ourselves against these attacks? In my view, that requires an independent special commission that devotes its full time to figuring out what happened.

Similar to what we used when we were attacked on 9/11. In regards to any criminal investigations, it is very clear, if there`s any criminal evidence about the involvement of the Trump administration or the Trump campaign, then a special counsel would be necessary.

TODD: Let me go into this -- the cache of documents, the sort of the spreading of this information and your office got name checked, I`m sure you love that. Because everybody then said, hey, Senator Cardin, what do you got, what do you got?

(LAUGHTER)

TODD: But obviously you`ve been through this material. Is it a definitive - - is this material that you got, is it definitive in your mind that it points the finger right at Russia and what they were doing? Or is it a circumstantial -- is it a list of circumstantial evidence?

CARDIN: First, let me make it clear, I requested documents and my role as the ranking democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (inaudible) function on U.S-Russian relation. The information was made available to both the democratic and republican staff. It was marked classified, so I`m not at liberty to talk about the specifics.

But I can tell you that prior to receiving this information, there was clear indication that Russia was engaged in attacking our country. That`s been substantiated in a public release from our intelligence agencies. So it`s clear that Russia was interfering with our elections, trying to compromise the integrity of our election. To me that was actionable and I`ve called for action.

TODD: Okay. But what -- the material that you got sent, did it reinforce this conclusion? Does it add evidence? Does it give -- I mean, I guess the question is this -- the thing that`s missing here is how did they do it? Right? We don`t -- there is a full explanation of how they did it and who helped them do it. How far away are we from answering that question?

CARDIN: Well, I think we know some of the methods that they`ve deployed. There were some briefings and some methods that they used in order to get information. We know what we have to do as far as protecting ourselves against cyber attack. But we don`t know everything and all of our vulnerabilities. That`s one of the reasons why an independent commission to me is necessary so that we can protect ourselves.

Let`s be clear, Russia is going to try this again. They`re already, we believe, engaged in western Europe trying to influence elections in Netherlands, in Germany, in France. We need to take steps to protect our democratic institutions. Russia is using our democratic institutions to compromise our way of governance.

So, we know what they did. We know how they got some of the information. We know some of the methods they deployed in order to do a cyber attack successfully. And we know how they use that to create in some cases fake news and then use social media in order to bolster the importance of that news.

TODD: You called it an attack on our country. What`s the proper way to respond to an attack like that? Is sanctions enough?

CARDIN: No, I believe it was an attack. I believe it was an attack -- may not done by a mig (ph), it was by a mouse, but it was still trying to compromise our system. It requires a response. Now, first and foremost, I think we need to take the strongest steps we can to isolate Russia through the use of sanctions. Sanctions are working. They are hurting Russia`s economy.

We imposed sanctions because of their incursion into Ukraine. We have imposed sanctions that President Obama did in regard to the cyber attack. We need to call Russia out on this. We need to get all the facts before we decide how we can best protect ourselves.

TODD: Do you think we just haven`t done that -- does there need to be a moment at the U.N.? Is it like -- what is this leading to, all this evidence? What more needs to be done?

CARDIN: There are two bills that I filed in congress with republicans in order to take further action. One would impose more sanctions against Russia. It would set off a democracy initiative in Europe to protect our democratic institutions. It would authorize to counter their propaganda. I think there are steps that we need to take.

But I would be the first to acknowledge I would like to get more information that`s why I support the independent commission, reporting to not only congress but the American people exactly what Russia was doing.

TODD: All right. Senator Ben Cardin, democrat from Maryland, a ranking  member on foreign relations. As always, sir, thanks for coming on and sharing your views.

CARDIN: Thank you, Chuck.

TODD: Up next, it`s election day in L.A. and apparently I might be the only one obsessed with this. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Tonight, I`m obsessed with east coast bias. New York City or Washington, D.C. or Baltimore or Boston or Philadelphia are holding a mayoral election today, you can bet, you already have heard about it by now. But I bet you didn`t know that voters in America`s second largest city in this country, the city of angels, they`re at the polls right now. East coast bias isn`t totally to blame though.

It turns out people in Los Angeles might not know they`re supposed to vote today. The headline in "The L.A. Times," morning news letter today was election, what election? Apathy abounds as L.A. votes. And there was this one, too. What if Los Angeles held an election and 80 percent of voters didn`t care? So what`s on the ballot today? Incumbent Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti, is running for re-election along with the hosts of city counsel and school board members.

Plus, there is a controversial ballot initiative, restricting certain types of new development in L.A. Angelinians are notoriously bad in turning out in extraordinarily local elections, almost as bad as they are for turning out for the first pitch of a dodgers game. In the both of the last two mayoral elections, just about 20 percent of registered voters showed up.

There was even talk for a time of offering cash prizes for voting and it gets unconstitutional. But polls close at 8:00 p.m. local time. So if you`re watching in L.A., get out and vote, both of you. Just guessing. Traffic is probably not a nightmare near the voting ballot boxes anyway. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Time for "The Lid." The house intel chairman, Devin Nunes, today announced the first public hearing regarding Russia. It will be Monday, March 20th. Let`s bring back tonight`s all-star panel. Hugh Hewitt, Jennifer Palmieri, Dan Balz. By the way, L.A. as we were -- it is -- they`re running for five and a half year term because the apathy was so bad.

They are moving their election to the even numbered year. So that will be now in the midterm year and the primaries will be the same day in L.A. for governor and mayor so they will get accidentally get a 5 percent boost.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A bump.

TODD: You were a former Californian. You used to vote out there back when they cared a little bit more about politics.

JENNIFER PALMIERI, FORMER OBAMA AND CLINTON COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I did, but Santa Cruz County is not the most political part.

TODD: Let`s talk about Russia.

PALMIERI: (inaudible) congressman.

TODD: There you go. Too happy, it`s too nice. (inaudible) nobody cares. (inaudible) peninsula. We really got off the rails. Hugh Hewitt, let`s go to the Russia, Devin Nunes. How much longer -- how much patience do you think republicans in Capitol Hill will have for having an investigation in congress?

What point do they want a pundit (ph)? Democrats basically got tired of white water after about a year, and finally (inaudible) said just do a special (inaudible), get out of congress. Tired of it. When does that happen?

HUGH HEWITT, SALEM RADIO NETWORK HOST: I think it happens soon. I have a piece at washingtonpost.com today about the history of special prosecutor.  I think we will come to the point very, very quickly where the deputy attorney general with the support of the White House, actually not the opposition, but the support of the White House, say, segregate, aggregate, remove.

TODD: (inaudible) it, right? I mean, what do you make of that? You were in those early White House stay. They made that and obviously had President Clinton not shall we say slipped up in the middle.

PALMIERI: Uh-huh.

TODD: . they might have compartmentalize white water over here. They may not have gone anywhere.

PALMIERI: You mean into the.

TODD: The special prosecutor had (inaudible) never been.

PALMIERI: The wall was different then. You know, a special prosecutor -- I am all for a special prosecutor, but the special prosecutor does need to be insulated from -- even a special prosecutor in a current role can be impacted by political pressure from political appointees. They can stop certain people from being interviewed. They can direct questions. That`s what we need to go to but it needs to have special protections.

TODD: It seems the commission though is another popular -- there`s so many people so leery of the special prosecutor because people are having bad memories from both sides of the aisle.

PALMIERI: Sure. Like (inaudible). That was a good model.

HEWITT: And dissent.

(LAUGHTER)

TODD: How about Bob Gates and Mitt Romney heading up the special commission on this?

DAN BALZ, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT AT THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think either way you go if that`s the way you end up going. It puts the Trump administration into probably a minimum of two years of this kind of investigation with uncertainty as to where it actually would lead. TODD: But how is it different if they don`t have this?

BALZ: Well.

PALMIERI: I think this is a reality.

(CROSSTALK)

BALZ: I`m not saying yes or no. I`m saying that the idea that this is preferable, I think in one way or another.

HEWITT: If you believe the president, there`s nothing there. So if there`s nothing there, go get it done.

TODD: That`s the (inaudible) and I play the (inaudible). Nothing to hide, and he says, yep, yep, nothing to hide. Special prosecutor just have it, let it go.

PALMIERI: I just believe.

BALZ: If there is nothing to hide, he would have -- somebody would have.

TODD: Called for this already.

BALZ: Well -- and or reveal what is behind his tweet about.

PALMIERI: What`s behind his tweet. You know, I believe that there is collusion. I believe that the Trump staff (inaudible) from were at a minimum (inaudible) with WikiLeaks and the time (inaudible) leaks -- they were just way too prepared. I mean.

(CROSSTALK)

PALMIERI: We have not -- we don`t have direct evidence of that, but I`m just saying, like, I believe this is particularly happening live through it. When WikiLeaks have come out with their leak (inaudible) in the morning, the Trump campaign was ready to go with their statement about that, whatever that leak was.

BALZ: But James Clapper told you.

TODD: None.

BALZ: None. As of the time they put that report out in January, there was no evidence of that. I`m not saying there.

PALMIERI: Right. There was no evidence -- I`m not saying -- he said there was not evidence at at time or that he knew of.

BALZ: Correct.

PALMIERI: But what I am saying is I think that`s -- I just -- I`m saying that`s why I think there needs to be a further investigation.

BALZ: I think there will be.

PALMIERI: That is what I just think -- that is when the Trump administration is in a whole other universe.

TODD: They have to prove that.

(CROSSTALK)

HEWITT: I want to go back to the Obama years though. Republicans demanded special councils for the Irish. They demanded special councils for "Fast and Furious." They demanded special councils on the server. They got none. So there`s a very high standard. I`m saying it`s in the president`s interest to ask for a better -- if republicans on the hill say no, they will have a lot of history behind them to back up the no.

TODD: But I wonder if -- I guess I go to this theory which goes they cannot get health care tax reform and a budget passed and investigate Russia. The politics -- it over loads the circuits. If you take Russia out of it. That`s what I`m wondering here, when do the circuits get overloaded?

BALZ: The point I was trying to make was put aside congress`s ability to do things, you need the president and the White House involved in those things as well. They are gonna be distracted no matter where the investigation is.

TODD: Well, that`s true. All right. You guys are great as always. Thank you very much. After the break, I want to get the most out of the new health care bill. Here`s a hint, don`t win the lottery. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: In case you missed it, the republican health care proposal doesn`t address what happens if recipients get strike by lightning or bitten by a shark. But it does spend some time explaining something with even less of a chance of happening. In case you missed it, the republican plan contains a section devoted to making sure people receiving government health care assistance who win the lottery are removed from the program in an orderly fashion.

In fact, six pages of this bill is devoted to letting states dis-enroll high dollar lottery winner. The American health care act is 66 pages long. So that means nearly 1/10 of the proposal is devoted to what happens to Medicaid recipient who win the lottery. A scenario that is extraordinarily unlikely to impact any American. But as they say in the ads for the New York lotto, hey, you never know, or, as Marilyn said, it could be you.

That`s all for tonight.  FOR THE RECORD with Greta starts now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END