Show: MTP Daily Date: March 9, 2017 Guest: Chris Coons, Deirdre Bosa, Michael Allen, John Podhoretz, Nick Confessore, Bill Cassidy
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: OK. Former Senator Max Baucus. Thanks for taking a few minutes. We appreciate it.
That`s it for us. "MTP DAILY" starts right now.
KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: Yes, it`s Thursday. Conservatives declare Trumpcare is dead on arrival.
(voice-over): Tonight, fast times on Capitol Hill. Can Speaker Ryan rally Republicans on health care with his now-or-never strategy?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), KENTUCKY, HOUSE SPEAKER: The time is here. the time is now. This is the moment. And this is the closest this will ever happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Plus, WikiLeaks damage control. The administration hunts for answers on who exposed CIA secrets.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, U.S. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There is grave concern that the president has about the release of national security and classified information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: And another brick in the wall. How the White House is moving forward on its border barrier. This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.
(on camera): Good evening, I`m Katy Tur in New York, in for Chuck Todd. Welcome to MTP DAILY and welcome to March madness.
Congress is broken. WikiLeaks is targeting the CIA. And the cloud of Russia continues to darken over this White House. Faith in these three American institutions -- Congress, the CIA, the White House may be a breaking point, at a moment when the country faces a daunting combination of domestic crises and foreign threats. We`re going to spend most of this hour diving into these three major story lines, the escalating chaos surrounding Congress` battle over health care, the White House`s credibility crisis on Russia and the CIA`s scramble to contain the damage from the latest WikiLeaks document dump.
We begin tonight with the mess in Congress as the Republican civil war rages over the current plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. A growing number of conservatives both in the House and Senate, are hardening their resistance to the current White House-backed plan, calling it dead on arrival.
This comes amid an outpouring of criticism against the plan from groups like The American Medical Association, The American Hospital Association, The American Nurses Association and the AARP. The White House is not giving in. President Trump is holding a campaign rally next week to fire up the base in Tennessee. Vice President Pence is going to deep-red Kentucky to pitch the health care bill. Republican leadership is not giving in either. Today, Paul Ryan had a clear message for conservative critics who want to go back to the drawing board.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: This is the closest we will ever get to repealing and replacing Obamacare. The time is here. The time is now. This is the moment. And this is the closest this will ever happen. We told people in 2016 what it would look like when we had the chance to replace Obamacare. That was our better-way plan. That`s what this is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: And in the last 24 hours, we`ve seen supporters of the Trump-backed plan change their pitch to wary conservatives. Their argument is that this bill is just the beginning. In other words, support this bill now and we will fix it later.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you confident this can get through Congress before April 7th when Congress goes on recess?
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), CALIFORNIA, MAJORITY LEADER: Yes, very confident. And, remember, this is one of three phases to repeal and replace Obamacare.
TOM PRICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: There are three phases and that`s how we`re going to move forward. And what the three phases do, in their entirety, is to incorporate all of the things that we wanted.
RYAN: So, we have three-pronged approach -- three-pronged approach to repealing and replacing Obamacare.
MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: First of all, and importantly, this bill is just the first part of a three-phased plan.
TUR: I`m joined by Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who is a member of the Finance Committee. Senator, thank you for joining me. SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: Thanks, Katy. TUR: Let`s start here. Did Republicans go about this all wrong? And the reason I ask this, I want to take your colleague`s tweet from earlier today. Senator Tom Cotton tweeting, House health care Bill can`t pass Senate without major changes. To my friends in the House, pause, start over, get it right, don`t get it fast. Do you believe that Senator Cotton is right or wrong?
CASSIDY: I don`t know who Senator Cotton has spoken with but there is obviously concern. It`s gone through the House but there`s not a score yet. Folks from the Senate want to see a score. That`s going to be important.
I`m a doctor. I like to have all the facts I can possibly have and then make a decision. And sometimes you alter something before you, but you need those facts to make that alteration. I look forward to getting that score.
TUR: Are you prepared to take a position on this after that score comes out?
CASSIDY: Absolutely. One, I want to see what amendments have been placed on committee. I haven`t reviewed those yet. What amendments come on the floor and then with reason -- with reasonableness, what amendments will be allowed on the Senate floor. Looking at that plus the score will all go into my decision.
[17:05:02] TUR: I want to play a little bit of what another one of your colleagues, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, said a little bit earlier about the health care plan. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Some initial analysis suggests that as many as six to 10 million people could lose their health insurance.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, do you agree with Senator Rand Paul that this bill, this House bill, is DOA but you believe it`s DOA for a different reason?
COLLINS: Yes. I do not think it would be well received in the Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Do you share any of Senator Collins` concerns or are you of the mind that the CBO -- the CBO rating will, ultimately, come back a little bit better than what she is predicting?
CASSIDY: I don`t make guesses about the CBO. But I will say my concerns are more about those working folks. And if you take someone who is 64 years old, I think the $4,000 credit`s probably not generous enough. That may have been bumped up but it`s not bumped up, you know, the last time I looked at it.
So, we want to make sure that that person actually has access to care. Again, as a physician, I know that having, kind of, first-dollar coverage to pay for the management of things like high blood pressure and diabetes can make all the difference in the world. That`s our criticism of Obamacare. It had $6,000 deductibles. Folks could not afford that. We have to make sure that we also do something that they can`t afford the care they need.
TUR: I get the impression that you`re saying that this is a negotiation, that there will be amendments, as you just mentioned a moment before. But that`s not exactly the position that Speaker Paul Ryan is making. Earlier today, he basically said, this is it. This is our chance. We have to take it right now and this is the bill.
I`m not sure the speaker meant that everything is frozen in amber. We`ve been told, time and again, that there would be amendments allowed both on the House floor and the Senate floor. Speaker -- Senator Tom Price has mentioned how it`s somewhat of a work in progress.
I think that the fact that Senators Cotton, Collins and others are concerned means that there probably should be some evolution.
TUR: Do you believe that the freedom caucus is going to support the changes that, say, you want to make?
CASSIDY: I don`t -- again, you`re asking me to guess what`s on other people`s minds. I don`t do that. All I know is that we`re working through a process, hopefully to come to common ground. We do want to repeal and replace Obamacare.
And the things I can say about this bill, it gets rid of the individual mandate, the employer mandate. It gets rid of the mandated benefits, forcing a woman who`s 60 with a hysterectomy to purchase obstetrical services. Women hate that. They tell me that time and time again.
And so, as we address that, we must also address the fact that folks do need coverage and that 64-year-old man or woman would need the ability to purchase the kind of chronic care management that he or she needs to stay healthy.
TUR: So, what is your bottom line for this bill? What is, essentially, your test for this bill? If it doesn`t cover as many people, would that mean that you do not support it? If it does not lower premiums, does that mean that you would not support it, if that`s what is found out when the CBO comes back?
CASSIDY: You`re asking me to describe a context. And within the context, what decision will I make?
TUR: Well, I`m asking you to describe some -- just a baseline of where your support lies. I think that`s --
CASSIDY: Yes. TUR: -- a question that you can answer.
CASSIDY: Yes, I can`t answer -- I can`t answer that. I want to make sure that someone who is vulnerable, Tom Price has called -- Tom Price calls them the vulnerables. The folks who are above the Medicaid expansion population but really don`t reasonably earn enough to pay for insurance out of pocket. That their needs are cared for.
The advanceable tax credits are a good start. We just have to make sure that they are generous enough that someone can get the care they want. Now, there is different things about that. We can assume that the cost of care will decrease somewhat. We can -- we can assume that credible coverage, meaning perhaps a health savings account and high deductible health plan, can actually provide the needs. It doesn`t have to be all the mandated benefits of Obamacare. That we can assume but it`s better understood kind of when it`s before you as a context as opposed to hypotheticals. I don`t mean to duck your questions, Katy. I`m just trying to answer it as fully as I can.
TUR: My question is also about President Trump. He has said, repeatedly, on the campaign trail, he`s even said recently that he believes in universal health care. He wants everybody to be covered. He doesn`t want people dying on the streets.
So, if this is a plan that doesn`t align with that, doesn`t actually cover everybody, is there a concern that the Congress, the GOP Congress, is not on the same page as the Republican president?
CASSIDY: Let me say something that I think is plausible. A plausible reading of the House plan, that in the State Innovation Grants, they would give the opportunity for a state to do what the Cassidy-Collins Patient Freedom Act does. A state could say that all who are eligible are enrolled in the private insurance plan unless they choose not to be.
And the State Innovation Grant gives them money to pay -- sufficiently to pay for a year`s worth of premiums. By doing so, you bring the young immortals back into the pool.
Now, I think that is within the House plan we`re looking at. I haven`t determined it yet. It was very much a part of the Cassidy-Collins Patient Freedom Act. And that is the way you get a broader coverage without mandates.
[17:10:05] Then, the next question is, is there sufficient money to pay for that annual premium for a young immortal who`s really inexpensive to insure. But you`d like to have them in the pool because, again, it levels off the cost for the more expensive. That`s something else I`m looking at.
And we`ve been digging into this since it came out. But despite our digging, digging, digging, it`s complicated. We`ve not yet come to a conclusion yet. Those are the conclusions I`m looking for.
TUR: Is this a plan that would allow --
CASSIDY: By the way, --
TUR: I`m sorry. Is this a plan that would allow --
CASSIDY: -- if they can do that -- if a state can do that, it would meet Trump`s test of making sure all who wish to be covered would be covered.
TUR: Is this a plan that would allow for people to stay on Obamacare if they choose to do so?
CASSIDY: Yes, I don`t believe it allows a state to elect a stay within status quo. I`m pretty sure it does not do that.
Although the state could use the innovation grants they get in order to provide the extra coverage for that to occur. The state also -- let me just, again, praise it. I`ve got some reservations about the bill. But there are some good things to say about it.
Maine, for example, has done high -- what is called an invisible high-risk pool in which those who have higher costs get supplemental payments from the insurance company. States could use these innovation grants to do those invisible high-risk pools.
So, although I have some concerns about the bill, I also have to credit it because I think it allows states to do that sort of innovative thing. And that`s what states are supposed to do.
TUR: It seems like you`re saying, yes, that if the state did decide so, they could stay on Obamacare.
CASSIDY: A state would have to be able to come up with the funds. It would have to reimpose individual mandates and penalties and probably enough taxes to pay for the difference between the two.
We don`t have a score. So, I can`t tell you how much is being provided to the states through this mechanism. Again, some of this is in the context which is not completely known yet.
TUR: Senator Cassidy, thank you for joining us this Thursday.
CASSIDY: Thank you, Katy.
TUR: Appreciate it.
Now, let`s bring in the panel. There is MSNBC Joy Reid, Host of "A.M. JOY." John Podhoretz. Did I get that right?
JOHN PODHORETZ, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK POST": Podhoretz.
TUR: Podhoretz. I knew I was going to get that wrong. Columnist with "The New York Post" and editor of "Commentary" magazine. And Nick Confessori, a political correspondent with "The New York Times."
Guys, let`s react a little bit to what Senator Cassidy said. He was talking about high-risk pools, indivisible high-risk pools. Nick, try and parse that for us.
NICK CONFESSORE, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, it actually doesn`t really matter that much. You know, health care is complicated but it`s also very simple. If you want to expand coverage, you have to pay for it. Somebody has to pay for it.
You can pay for it with your taxes or you can make people who don`t have insurance, currently, buy insurance and cross-subsidize the other people. That`s it. And you can squeeze some money out with efficiencies and maybe with the state lines` thing.
But, really, if you want to have more insurance, more people, it costs money. And you can`t both deliver a huge tax cut to people paying those taxes and keep the expanded coverage in the same place. It`s impossible. It`s math.
TUR: And he also seemed to be saying that young people are going to want to be a part of it even if they`re healthy because that is just the -- I don`t know. I guess a --
PODHORETZ: I`m not sure that`s --
TUR: -- best case scenario?
PODHORETZ: -- I`m not entirely sure that`s what he said. The central feature of all insurance is that you have to have a broad span of people, people who don`t get sick, whose payments help defray the cost of people who do, whose payments don`t cover the entirety of their coverage.
If you were in a position where young people don`t get insurance and you insist on having as broad a national market as possible with everybody in it, it can`t work.
So, the whole question is, do you force young people to buy insurance? Do you bribe young people to get insurance? Do you tempt them to get insurance?
And, philosophically, where -- what`s interesting about what everybody is talking about here is that the conservative position on health care is that Obamacare was a problem, a philosophical problem.
Because in a society of liberty, adults should be free to make their own choices and take their own risks. If you don`t want to buy an insurance policy because the $4,000 you would spend you want to do -- you want to start a business.
TUR: You want to buy an iPhone.
PODHORETZ: Or you want to start a business. OK? You are -- as a free person in a free society, a self-governing citizen, you have the right to take that risk.
And then, if you get hit by a car and have to go to the emergency room, you pay the bill. Obamacare said, no. Obamacare said, you have to be -- everybody has to have insurance or pay a fine. Be punished if you don`t go into the pool.
And that was the philosophical objection to Obamacare, that it was an assertion of the right of government to force Americans to do something that they might or might not want to do. No Republican from Trump to Ryan to Cassidy to anybody is taking that line or making that argument.
That -- the fact that they are not gives a sense that a Rubicon has been crossed here where Republicans are essentially signing onto the primary philosophical idea of Obamacare which is that we should have national health insurance.
[17:15:13] TUR: And now, they`re trying to figure out --
PODHORETZ: That is a huge, --
PODHORETZ: -- huge shift on the right. Huge.
PODHORETZ: And bad, in my view.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Except that not everyone has made that choice. I mean, that`s also the philosophical objection to seat belt laws and auto insurance.
PODHORETZ: It`s not. But I -- it`s not.
REID: No, but it is. It is.
PODHORETZ: It`s not. It`s not. It`s not.
REID: No, it is. And as a free person -- because I remember these arguments even when I was in high school. As a free person, if you don`t want to wear a helmet when you`re riding on your motorcycle, the government should not be able to mandate enforce you to put one on. Or if you buy a car, you have to have auto insurance.
PODHORETZ: No, you don`t have a right --
REID: Therefore --
PODHORETZ: -- to drive a motorcycle.
PODHORETZ: No, that`s the mistake here. Auto insurance, car insurance is about -- you don`t have -- there is no -- you know, the government doesn`t have to give you a driver`s license. It can -- it can mandate a series of responsibilities for you to drive a car. However, insurance is you.
REID: Then, if you get --
PODHORETZ: You can`t smash up somebody else.
REID: Hold on. If you get -- if you`re in that car, you`re uninsured motor -- you`re an uninsured motorist and you get hit by a bus or you hit a bus, you go into the emergency room, and you still end up having your health care paid for by the community because the emergency room is going to treat you.
PODHORETZ: No, you should pay for it yourself.
TUR: Let`s talk about --
PODHORETZ: That`s what I just said.
TUR: Before the philosophical argument on where the Republicans stand, let`s look at the politics of it. The Republicans are taking out ads against -- or some Republicans against Republicans who are not on board with this bill. Thirty separate senators and congressman are being targeted. Are they at risk of eating their own on this issue?
REID: Well, I mean, you have essentially two sets of Republicans who are now arguing about the bill. You have the Republicans who believe it`s too cruel to allow them to be reelected because their own constituents will lose their health insurance, (INAUDIBLE) million who will, then, lose their insurance.
Or you`ve got the freedom caucus side, the side we`re hearing here. Well, this is not cruel enough. We need to -- we need to tell people, if you can`t afford insurance, too bad. Figure it out. And if you run into trouble, throw yourself at the mercy of the church on that.
PODHORETZ: I don`t know how you can accuse me of being cruel.
TUR: Let --
PODHORETZ: I`m sorry, I am not going to be accused of cruelty. I was summarizing a philosophical --
REID: You said, if you cannot afford health insurance, figure it out and pay for it yourself.
PODHORETZ: No. No, I`m saying that is the --
REID: Isn`t that --
TUR: Last word and then we`ve got to leave it here. You have four seconds.
PODHORETZ: That`s not what I said. That`s my last word.
TUR: We will continue this conversation, don`t you worry, a little bit later in the hour. So, stay with us, guys.
Coming up, a major claim by WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. He says the CIA has lost control of its cyber arsenal.
Plus, what do we know about what FBI director James Comey told Democrat and Republican senators today?
TUR: Welcome back.
The CIA is scrambling to discover how its purported classified hacking secrets were released to the public and what could be one of the worst intelligence breaches in modern history. This week, the organization, WikiLeaks, posted thousands of documents that include suggestions about the tools the agency uses to gather information.
A senior intelligence official tells NBC News that the trove includes authentic, top-secret material. Investigators are rushing to figure out how this happened, whether it could come from a mole inside the CIA, a related contractor, hackers in Russia or even a combination of all of these.
And today, WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, made the explosive claim that the CIA has lost control of its cyber weapons arsenal.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer this afternoon would not confirm nor deny it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: There is grave concern that the president has about the release of national security and classified information that threatens and undermines our nation`s security. Obviously, he believes that the systems at the CIA are outdated and need to be updated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: And coming up, we`ll dig into all of this, including who could have been behind the release and how concerning this bombshell really is. And Democratic Senator Chris Coons joins us right after the break.
TUR: Welcome back to MTP DAILY.
FBI director James Comey was on Capitol Hill today meeting with members of the Senate`s gang of eight, the bipartisan group of eight members of the leadership who receive the highest level of intelligence.
A Congressional source familiar with the ongoing Russian invest -- investigation into Russian meddling into the election told NBC News he was there to discuss matters related to Trump Tower.
Of course, Comey`s appearance on the Hill comes amid a week of fallout from President Trump`s incendiary Saturday morning tweets, accusing former President Obama of wiretapping his phone.
Senator majority leader Mitch McConnell today was asked if he has seen any evidence behind that claim, and he said he had not.
Meantime, a bipartisan pair of senators, Republican Lindsey Graham and Democratic Sheldon Whitehouse, sent a letter to the FBI and Justice Department yesterday, requesting information on a possible wiretap of President Trump, the Trump campaign or Trump Tower.
And White House press secretary Sean Spicer said, again today, in the press briefing that the administration is not aware of any intelligence probe into President Trump.
But as we said at the top of the hour, the cloud of Russia has not lifted from the White House. And with the newest WikiLeaks dump, some Democrats are, again, pointing to the Kremlin skeptical of the timing and still blaming leaked e-mails, at least in part, for Hillary Clinton`s loss.
Joining me now is Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. He hits on the Judiciary Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator, thank you for joining us.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Thank you, Katy.
TUR: I`m sure you saw this, James clapper on "MEET THE PRESS" the other day said that he hasn`t seen the evidence, hard evidence, of any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, at least up until January 20th. You said that you haven`t seen any hard evidence. Without anyone having seen this hard evidence, should there still be an investigation?
COONS: Well, I think, Katy, this is a critical investigation for the defense of our democracy. And I`m encouraged that the Senate Intelligence Committee members this week have begun to get access to the intercepts, the transcripts that are out at Langley CIA headquarters that will begin to provide some insight into whether there is a fire here.
There`s a lot of smoke. There`s a lot of concerning allegations of or evidence of some ties between the Trump campaign team and Russia. But there`s no hard evidence or proof yet. That doesn`t mean that it doesn`t exist.
And in order for us to get to the bottom of this, Katy, in order for us to resolve this cloud that`s hanging over the Trump administration, I think it is important that it be fully, fairly and promptly investigated. And if there is no proof, that we move on. And if there is proof, that we move forward with taking the next steps.
[17:25:05] TUR: Senator, isn`t that the same argument that you`re making against -- and Democrats are making against Donald Trump, when he comes out and he says that President Obama was wiretapping me and then not offering any evidence? Without evidence, should there be an investigation?
COONS: Well, there`s a lot of circumstantial evidence that`s very disconcerting. So, for example, when the "Access Hollywood" tape came out late this summer in the course of the campaign, it was one of the most devastating developments in the entire campaign against Donald Trump.
It was within a matter of hours, I believe, that the John Podesta e-mail dump happened through WikiLeaks. Very disconcerting timing. There`s other things that have happened, such as the national security adviser being forced to resign, frankly being fired, for lying about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the vice president.
Just today, there was even more alarming developments about the national security adviser not having been truthful about being a foreign agent on behalf of Turkey. He made a filing today to the Justice Department that he had done half a million dollars` worth of lobbying on behalf of Turkey.
There`s other complicating relationships and meetings between senior Trump campaign officials and Russian officials that I think deserve to be investigated, because there is indisputable proof, a conclusion by the intelligence community, that Russia was trying to interfere in our election.
And that Russia had concluded that Trump was their preferred winner in our presidential election. There is no comparable circumstantial evidence, Katy, to provide any sort of buttress for President Trump`s Saturday morning tweet.
Let me also just remind you how unusual, how bizarre it is, to have the sitting president of the United States make such a remarkable claim, that his predecessor had him wiretapped, not in a press conference, not in public, not in the light of day, not with any significant evidence, suggesting circumstantial evidence as I just did about the alternative claims, but to do it by a tweet early in the morning on a Saturday.
TUR: And I will say this. My colleague, Hallie Jackson, asked the White House just the other day, if Donald Trump has the evidence, since he said so definitively, why he would -- why would he not pass that evidence along to Congress instead of asking them to investigate to find the evidence. The White House -- their answer to that was they didn`t want to violate any separations of powers.
But moving on, though. If it turns out -- you say there is a lot of smoke here. And you say there are a lot of unanswered questions. And it is inarguable that the Trump campaign hasn`t and the Trump administration hasn`t been entirely clear about conversations that folks have had with the Russian ambassador and there are all sorts of other questions out there.
But if it turns out there is nothing there, that there is no there there, as they suggest, do the Democrats -- are they concerned about losing their credibility on this issue and losing their credibility with the American public and only seeming like they are battling Trump just for the sake of battling Trump?
COONS: Well, Katy, that depends on what course of actions we take. I`ll remind you that Republicans in the House held not one, not two, not three, but more than a dozen hearings about Benghazi over several years. They refused to let it go even when it was clear that they had investigated it absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt as thoroughly as it was humanly possible.
If we`re still doing investigations into allegations of some tie between the Trump campaign and Russia three or four years from now with not a shred of compelling evidence, I do think the American people would get tired of it and would say that we are simply doing it for partisan ends (ph).
I`ll remind you, Donald Trump hasn`t even been president two months, at this point. And the shocking allegations that led to his attorney general recusing himself and the national security adviser being fired happened just a matter of days ago. And the Senate Intelligence Committee has just gotten access to the underlying intelligence this week.
TUR: Senator, you told WHHY Radio that Democrats don`t want to shut down the government but they might if they have to. So, what circumstances would Democrats consider shutting down the government for? Would it be to save Obamacare? Would it be to force an outside investigation into Russia? Would it be to prevent the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch?
COONS: Well, Katy, let`s just put that back into some context. On that interview, I was being pressed for, do you have any leverage at all, given that Democrats are in the minority, in both the House and the Senate? The interviewer was saying, well, how can you possibly stop the repeal of the Affordable Care Act? How can you possibly compel an investigation if Republicans refuse to cooperate and you become more convinced that there is evidence that justifies really pushing it to the outer limit?
And recognizing that at the end of the day, the leverage that was used by Republicans in the previous administration was to compel shutting down the government. I simply recognize that that`s a tool that`s been used over a number of years, in order to force some resolution.
I don`t support shutting down the government, Katy. I think it`s a very reckless, even destructive thing to do. That the government was shut down for 17 days, I think in 2013, in a misguided attempt at using that leverage to repeal the Affordable Care Act I think caused real damage to our reputation around the world and to our effectiveness of our government here at home.
Democrats want a party that want government to work. So I think it is a very remote possibility that we would do that. But it was in the course of an interview where I was being pressed about do you have any tools at all in the minority that I made that point. It is an extreme tool that`s been recently used by the other party and that I really truly hope we don`t consider using or get compelled to use at some point here in the near future.
KATY TUR, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Senator Chris Coons, the democrat from Delaware. Thank you very much, sir.
COONS: Thank you, Katy.
TUR: Still ahead, some startling things we learned today about WikiLeaks and the CIA from someone who should know. WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. Stay tuned.
TUR: Up next, Julian Assange talks about the CIA`s shortcomings. But first, here is Deirdre Bosa with the "CNBC Market Wrap." Hey, Deirdre.
DEIRDRE BOSA, CNBC TECHNOLOGY REPORTER: Hey, Katy. Today is the eighth anniversary of the bull market. Stocks didn`t celebrate much. The major indexes ending the day pretty much flat. The Dow, S&P 500, and the Nasdaq coming losses and eking out tiny gains. Oil also in focus, extending the previous session`s slump and falling through the $50 a barrel level. The same cannot be said of gas prices. They are not coming down.
Experts say they could actually continue to climb higher over the next few months. In corporate news, JCPenney saying that is going to be expanding into home services by testing six new programs in 100 stores. On CNBC, CEP Marvin Ellison saying that it was a $300 billion market where they see opportunity. That`s your CNBC business news update.
TUR: Welcome back. We could be looking at one of the most serious intelligence breaches in modern times. As we mentioned earlier, counter intelligence investigators are working to find out how thousands of purported classified documents, including suggestions about how the CIA gathers information, ended up in the hands of WikiLeaks. Just today WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, accused the CIA of, quote, devastating incompetence, claiming they lost control of their cyber weapons arsenal. It`s an explosive charge.
The CIA released a statement saying Julian Assange is not exactly a bastion of truth and integrity. Despite the efforts of Assange and his ilk, the CIA continues to aggressively collect foreign intelligence overseas to protect America from terrorists, hostile nation states and other adversaries. So how concerning is all of this?
Let`s bring in Michael Allen, the managing director of Beacon Global Strategies, a firm that advises and defends cyber intelligence and homeland security. Michael, you are the perfect person to talk to today. And my first question to you is, if you were looking for how this happened and who compromised the CIA, where would you be looking?
MICHAEL ALLEN, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF BEACON GLOBAL STRATEGIES: Well, I mean, I would consider two things up front. One, I would consider what we call here an insider threat. Someone inside the government who has access to this documentation and for whatever reason was either sloppy with it or intentionally made it available to WikiLeaks.
I mean, the other second possibility that I don`t think we can discount just yet is that perhaps Russia is behind the interception or the exploitation of these documents and may well have shared them with WikiLeaks for the purposes of, you know, for their own purposes of causing confusion here in the United States about what the intelligence mission of the CIA is and perhaps even to advance their own interests and so discord among the United States and its allies. TUR: Talk to me about what intelligence was compromised and why it could be so potentially significant.
ALLEN: Yeah, well, look, Let`s take a step back and talk about the purpose of intelligence. I mean, this is the way I think about it. It`s, one, to provide early warning to the United States so we don`t have another 9/11. It`s for our policy makers to be able to make better decisions, and it`s to be able to protect our troops in the field. That`s why we spend, in many cases, up to $80 billion of money each year to get in and receive and analyze intelligence, because it`s the life blood of our national security decision making process.
So, to the degree that the Central Intelligence Agency`s efforts overseas have been compromised be it by the Russians or an American who did this of his own accord, that`s very dangerous because it prevents the ability of the Central Intelligence Agency to do the job that the American people are demanding of it.
TUR: Does it put anyone in harm`s way? ALLEN: Yeah, well, potentially it puts people in harm`s way. I think, in this case, it`s probably -- ruins our ability in dozens of instances to be able to get the same kind of access that we have had overseas on foreign intelligence targets so that the United States can make better decisions as it hunts Al Qaeda or ISIS or tries to figure out what Putin is up to, as he expands his activities into eastern Ukraine.
And so it potentially does. The more you degradate (ph) the intelligence capabilities of the United States, the more likely as we saw in the 1990s and then in 2001 with September 11th, the more likely it is a catastrophic attack could occur in the United States.
TUR: How does the CIA recover?
ALLEN: I think, look, any computer -- any kind of programming device that enables us to eavesdrop on does have some shelf life. Obviously, in the digital age, things are evolving quickly. So we are always trying to develop new tools. But I think this really sets us back. It`s gonna cause a huge triage effort that might be going on right now or across the river here in Langley, Virginia.
And I think, over time, just like with the Edward Snowden disaster, it`s gonna take a long time for the United States to one, assess the damage that`s been done and, two, rebuild the capabilities that the citizens have asked the government to take on on their behalf, which is to give them protection here in the United States.
TUR: A lot of folks out there don`t really see the Edward Snowden situation as a disaster. A lot of folks call him a patriot. Is there an argument to be made that releasing this sort of information is something the public needs to know, needs to know what the CIA is capable of, if it potentially -- they are able to listen in on devices or through your television or any of the other allegations that were made in that document? ALLEN: Look, I think -- look, I understand Americans have got different views about this. It`s about where we put our priorities, where I put the priority is keeping the country safe. And to do that, to prevent future 9/11s, we need great intelligence to give us early warning of such attacks. That`s where I would put the emphasis on. I think there were other ways for Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks, if they had sort of an honest disagreement with what the United States is doing, they could have done this in a less harmful manner.
But instead, in both cases, it ended up on the internet for our adversaries to see. And we`re not even sure yet, I believe, how much damage Edward Snowden did because all of those documents are presumably in the hands of at least the Chinese and the Russians.
TUR: Thank you, Mike Allen. Appreciate your time. ALLEN: Hey, thanks a lot.
TUR: Is big data destroying the U.S. political system? It`s a topic Chuck will exploring next Tuesday at south by southwest in Austin, Texas. And guess what guys, I`m gonna be there too, I`ll be there on Thursday discussing the war between the president and the mainstream media. Check out south by southwest`s website to get all the details. Up next right here, the new EPA administrator feeling the heat after his latest climate change comments. Stay tuned.
TUR: Welcome back. Science and environmental groups oppose Scott Pruitt`s nomination for head of the Environmental Protection Agency for among other things his reputation as a skeptic of human caused climate change. And this morning, he said something on CNBC that has some of the groups calling now for his dismissal.
(START VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that it`s been proven that CO2 is the primary control knob for climate? Do you believe that? SCOTT PRUITT, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY: No. I - - no. I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there is tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. So no, I would not agree that it`s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay.
PRUITT: But we don`t know that yet as far as -- we need to continue to debate, to continue to review the analysis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: We need to continue to debate. NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the EPA`s own website all point to human activities as the most likely cause for climate change. Pruitt, on the other hand, says that more debate and analysis are needed.
But the EPA`s own ability to carry out the research might be limited. According to Science Magazine, the Trump administration wants to cut the EPA`s office of research and development by more than 40 percent. Coming up, the panel is back for "The Lid." Stay with us.
TUR: It`s time for "The Lid." Let`s bring back our panel. Joy Reid, John Podhoretz, and Nick Confessore. We`re going to leave health care to the side. They did not have an agreement off camera unfortunately. We`re not going to eat up this entire panel.
JOHN PODHORETZ, NEW YORK POST COLUMNIST: I try (inaudible).
JOY REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You`re a terrible negotiator.
PODHORETZ: A terrible negotiator.
TUR: Let`s talk about about the former NSA, Michael Flynn, back in the news, because he registered with the DOJ as a -- I guess a foreign agent essentially for lobbying for Turkey during the campaign. Donald Trump had said over and over again that part of the draining the swamp was making sure that lobbyist for foreign countries were not going to be affecting the American government.
In fact, when you leave the government, you cannot ever register as a lobbyist for foreign government. What does it mean? I`ll start with you, Nick. What does that mean for his national security advisor to now be registering I guess as a foreign agent?
NICK CONFESSORE, POLITICAL REPORTER AT THE NEW YORK TIMES: It means his top security adviser on the campaign was working for an autocrat who is also an (inaudible) which seems counter to the principles of the Trump campaign and the presidency. We also don`t know who else was this guy actually working for. So he admitted yes, in fact, I was working for a group that could be construed as being part of a foreign regime. Who else is on that list? Who else? We don`t know. TUR: Joy?
REID: It is not unusual for Michael Flynn unfortunately to take checks where he can get them, when he needs to, when he was pushed out of his previous job in government because apparently his management style did not work, right, when he was DNI. He went out and he took quite a healthy check from RT which is viewed by United States government as essentially the propaganda arm of the Vladimir Putin regime, which to me compromise him so thoroughly that it`s shocking to me that he would be anyone`s choice to be national security advisor in the first place.
I mean, this is someone who now we know famously sat at Vladimir Putin`s table, great affinity for Russia seem to have some very questionable choices that he made in terms of chatting with the ambassador before Donald Trump was sworn in as president. So he is somebody who I think has always been problematic for the Trump team because he is the embodiment of their weird fixation into Russia.
Now, to find out that there is another autocrat, he also has warm feelings towards is not surprising, but you know, this actually could be very serious. There is someone who, the leader in Turkey wants extradited that he claims try to perform a coup against him, and so having the former NSA adviser lobbying on behalf of that government is actually concerning if he could impact an extradition that could wind up with somebody in prison or killed.
PODHORETZ: I think you have to look at this and see just what an outsider - - what kind of outsider Trump was that Flynn got into in major position. Trump was not a person who had contacts or connections to or interested in being connected to the standard issue republican foreign policy establishment. They didn`t like him. He didn`t like them. He attacked all conventional republican foreign policy for the past 20 years.
Flynn was an Obama administration appointee to high office who was fired claiming that he was fired because his views of Islam and radical Islamic terror were an aftermath to the administration. Flynn`s personal feelings are have to be put to one side. You have to understand that for Trump, Flynn was as good as he was going to get.
TUR: Certainly during the campaign. But what about after he is elected? He is the president of the United States. I understand this desire from the Trump people not to have anybody that criticize him in the past, but by doing so, they alienated and they locked out some top talent when it comes to intelligence..
PODHORETZ: It doesn`t matter. Because.
TUR: . and keeping this country safe.
PODHORETZ: . when he was with him early, Trump is a person who believes in loyalty, Trump is a person who believes in.
TUR: He believes in loyalty.
PODHORETZ: No, I do say, Flynn -- he -- Flynn and Sessions and a couple of other people went with him early when other republicans, when other conservative did not, and he rewarded them. TUR: Well, that untangle his presidency. That loyalty to people who would align themselves with him early on who now might be having (inaudible) in memories.
CONFESSORE: Look, if a person was with him from the beginning, except for Chris Christie, that person got an important job in the administration -- so he is tied to his people. He values their touch in him. I do think that the connections and undisclosed issues not were not brought up in vetting for these people because there was not vetting of their appointees are gonna be an open sore for months and months until all of the rope plays out.
PODHORETZ: To say though that Flynn is no longer the national security advisor, so.
TUR: He is no longer but that was because he was found that he had a conversation that he lied about having to the vice president. So whether or not he would have stayed in that position, if the media didn`t find out about it, it`s still an open question. We have leave this here for the moment because we`re running out of time. Guys, thank you for a spirited conversation. Joy, John, and Nick, see you again soon. After the break, the border wall funding battle continues. Stay tuned.
TUR: And in case you missed it, President Trump is still committed to his plan of building border wall. Right now, the Department of Homeland Security is accepting bids on prototype walls. But the big question remains, how will the government pay for it? President Trump maintains Mexico will pay the bill. But even members of his own party don`t see that as likely. Here is senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell`s take on it today.
(START VIDEO CLIP) MITCH MCCONNELL, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I think the president picked an outstanding person to be in charge of homeland security and my suspicion is we will take his advice. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that Mexico will pay for it? MCCONNELL: No.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TUR: No, in case you misunderstood that. "The Washington Post" reports the White House is considering cuts to FEMA, TSA, and the coast guard to pay for the wall. Today, Wisconsin democratic congressman, Gwen Moore, is moving to block any federal funding with no tax-payer funding for the wall bill. Another issue where President Trump may get some push back from congress.
That`s all for tonight. FOR THE RECORD with Greta starts right now.
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