MTP Daily, Transcript 3/17/2017

Guests: David Ignatius, Hallie Jackson, Dan Balz, Chris Van Hollen, Aditi Roy, Bruce Cannon Gibney, Jennifer Palmieri, Dan Balz, Robert Traynham

Show: MTP DAILY Date: March 17, 2017 Guest: David Ignatius, Hallie Jackson, Dan Balz, Chris Van Hollen, Aditi Roy, Bruce Cannon Gibney, Jennifer Palmieri, Dan Balz, Robert Traynham   CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Yes, it`s Friday.

It`s President Trump against the world.  Tonight, President Trump defends, again, his wiretap claim.  This time, on the world stage with Germany`s Angela Merkel. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  As far as wiretapping, I guess, by, you know, this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  Plus, hold the line.  As the president`s Supreme Court nominee heads for hearings, can Democrats afford to become the party of no?

And the big boom theory.  Are the politics of the baby boom generation destroying America?

This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now. 

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

It`s the end of another week, and there is a single thing that hangs over everything the Trump White House wants to accomplish.  This administration is struggling from a crisis of credibility, one mostly the president`s own making.  And today that crisis was displayed on the world stage.  It`s President Trump versus the world.  And no one knows when to take him at his word.

A couple of hours ago, President Trump wrapped up a meeting and a joint press conference with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.  An event that could only be described as tense. 

The German chancellor came to town with the aim of talking about NATO and trade.  Once again, President Trump decided to defend his now widely debunked claim that former President Obama wiretapped some parts or surveilled Trump Tower.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  From time to time, the tweets, did you regret in inside --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Very seldom.  Very seldom.

We said nothing.  All we did was quote a certain, very talented, legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television.  I didn`t make an opinion on it.  That was a statement made by a very talented lawyer on Fox.  And so, you shouldn`t be talking to me.  You should be talking to Fox.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  And to take another dig at his predecessor, awkwardly brought up the Obama administration`s approval of surveillance of the German government. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Wiretapping, I guess by, you know, this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  Actually, none of it`s been proven true at all.  Not sure who`s laughing there.  Folks, the president just will just not let this go and it`s overshadowing everything and maybe that`s the point.

On Capitol Hill, the House has set a date for the vote on the Obamacare replacement bill.  But that bill has been politically unraveling and bleeding support from within the GOP all week long.  The same can be said, by the way, about the president`s first ever budget blueprint, which the White House sent to the Hill this week.  It`s bold, brash, boisterous, and, right now, not going anywhere.

This week summed up everything we know about President Trump, his agenda on health care, the budget, interaction with allies.  Right now, it`s all stuck in the mud. But, boy, is his foot plowed on the -- on the gas.  But the wheels are spinning but not going anywhere.  And at least Republicans in the world leaders visibly uneasy.

Time to let the wiretapping claim go, perhaps.  But maybe the White House doesn`t want to.  Bipartisan leaders in the House and Senate are now united.  There`s no evidence whatsoever that the president`s tweet was accurate.

And, on Monday, FBI director James Comey will testify publicly for the first time before the House Intelligence Committee, likely to say the same thing.

Bear in mind that there`s another big hearing on Monday.  The first for President Trump`s Supreme Court justice.  Neil Gorsuch is in jeopardy of being overshadowed, to say the least.  This is the first big win the White House is likely to get and they may not get a lot of attention.  The White House could, of course, fix this thing, turn the page, change the narrative.  Instead, they keep doubling down.

Just yesterday, the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, defended the president`s claim, playing verbal gymnastics for 20 minutes.

So, what happens when a president cannot be taken at his word?  Here`s what House speaker Paul Ryan told me yesterday on this show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TODD:  If he`s not credible on this, how is he going to be credible selling these important proposals to you? 

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Look, I`ll say what I`ve said for months now.  It`s going to be an unconventional presidency.  Twitter is new.  Twitter and Facebook and all of these things -- we, as Americans, as a society, haven`t fully processed this new system we have.  And the president`s, you know -- he`s going to --

TODD:  (INAUDIBLE.)

PAUL:  No, no.  Let me just say, it`s going to be unconventional presidency.  I`m not going to go out there and start to justify and defend every tweet that`s out there.  Heck, there`s 20 a day, for all I know. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[17:05:00] TODD:  The president is trying to sell some major things right now, health care reform, an ambitious budget proposal, based on his own campaign promises, many of which aren`t entirely conservative.  He needs some expendable political capital.  But while he keeps this wiretap story going, he`s leaving his own party members a bit in the lurch.

Joining me now is David Ignatius, foreign affairs columnist and associate editor for "The Washington Post."  All right, David, a lot of times folks can overread body language, overread certain phrases, when it comes to these bilateral meetings.  But there did seem to be some discomfort between President Trump, Angela Merkel, not surprising.  She played diplomat.  He less so. 

DAVID IGNATIUS, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST":  He really needs to have a good relationship with Germany.  He doesn`t seem to realize that.  I think many people would agree with Trump that it`s important that Germany and other European allies increase their defense spending.

It`s my understanding that Chancellor Merkel has signaled that if she wins reelection, if she`s back and in a strong political position, she intends to raise German defense spending.  Instead of taking that as a fact for the future, Trump seems to have decided on a much more distanced posture.

The U.S. needs German support for all reasons in Europe.  If this was not a good meeting, that`s too bad. 

TODD:  Who`s the most influential western leader in the world? 

IGNATIUS:  Well, I think you can argue that it`s Chancellor Merkel. 

TODD:  Over the American president? 

IGNATIUS:  She needs to be reelected right now.  In terms of confidence among our traditional allies, I think Merkel`s at the top of the list.

Donald Trump is still a question mark for many leaders around the world.  They still don`t understand the difference between his tweets and his policies.  They`re not sure where he`s going. 

TODD:  What -- somebody -- Ryan Lizza, a reporter from "The New Yorker," who`s, I think, a bit ingest but noted that between the questions about the wiretapping where the president seemed to double down on, of sorts, or at least not yet pull back his belief in a Fox News commentator on this stuff, also seems to have insulted an important ally`s intelligence agency.

So, here we are, he`s beaten up a little bit on the Germans and beaten up on the British.  These are two of America`s most important allies. 

IGNATIUS:  You don`t to want blow off all of your key traditional allies.  One thing we`ve learned about Donald Trump is that if he`s cornered in public, if he`s questioned about being cornered --

TODD:  He feels cornered. 

IGNATIUS:  -- if he feels cornered, he`s going to double down.  He`s going to react badly.

I think an interesting counterexample is China.  Trump came out, during transition, with this very provocative --

TODD:  Right.

IGNATIUS:  -- questioning of our traditional One China Policy.  The Chinese said, look, unless you clarify that, make clear that you support the traditional American view, we`re not going to have conversations.  And Trump, I`m told in private, said, so clarify.  Let`s get it done. 

TODD:  Right.  Is that Donald Trump the businessman, all the sudden?  Because if you look, pragmatically, and you see what`s more important to America`s economy, a good relationship with China or a good relationship with Europe, for the economy, it`s probably a good relationship with China comes first.  So, does that -- maybe he is transactionally thinking?

IGNATIUS:  They both -- they both come pretty high on the list.  Our trade with Europe is enormous.

I think the difference is that, in a case with China, Trump was able to do this in private.  He wasn`t doing it --

TODD:  He didn`t feel cornered. 

IGNATIUS:  -- on Twitter.  He didn`t feel cornered.  He instructed his aides to set up a phone call in which he did give President Xi Jinping the reassurance that, yes, the One China Policy continues.  And he got it done and opened the way now to was a crucial U.S.-China dialogue about North Korea.

But I think that`s really the difference.  He was able to do it quietly, in private.  Come away not looking like he folded his hand like it was a loss but that he was a winner. 

TODD:  All right.  That personality, that temperament is going to get tested now, apparently, potentially, with Korea and with North Korea and what`s going on there.  And I know that, first of all, very surprised that nobody asked a question today based that.  And based on the what Secretary Tillerson said that maybe diplomacy is done.

Is it done or is this a rhetorical threat at the -- at the Koreans or was that a message he was sending to the Chinese?

IGNATIUS:  I think he`s sending a message both to Pyongyang and to Beijing.  Rex Tillerson, the quiet man, the unseen secretary of state, was not so quiet today in Seoul.  He said the policy of strategic patience, is what Barack Obama called it, toward North Korea`s nuclear missile programs is over.  All options are on the table.  This happens to be a moment --

TODD:  In fairness, all options are always on the table.  You know, some people read that as, oh, they`re putting the military option on the table.  It was never off the table by President Obama or President Bush.  Right?

IGNATIUS:  Not off the table.  Every year we have a big exercise of troops and other military gear.  With the (INAUDIBLE), we have an especially big one going on right now.  I think it`s no accident that Tillerson made a fairly provocative statement, at a time when the USS unusually large military power in Korea and the -- and the area.

[17:10:05] I think the crucial visit now will be Tillerson`s trip this weekend to Beijing in which he will talk with the Chinese.  And, basically, say either you help us solve this diplomatically, you put pressure on North Korea, or we`re heading toward a confrontation the United States is ready for. 

TODD:  How stable is Kim Jong Un in North Korea?  I have been talking to some, sort of, Korean criminologists, to use a horrible metaphor there, who seem to think the assassination of the half-brother, that`s a nervous leader sitting in Pyongyang.

IGNATIUS:  You don`t -- you don`t kill your half-brother who, as it happens, has been under effective Chinese protection in Macau for years.  Chinese has maintained body guards for him.  I`m told a year ago, doubled the body guard.  You don`t -- you don`t assassinate that person unless you`re nervous.

North Korea is a complete mystery to outsiders, so we don`t know what`s going on internally.  But we do see signs of anxiety from the leader.  These very brash, provocative statements.  In a race, I have to say, a race to complete their missile testing and nuclear armaments so that they can threaten the United States with a nuclear weapon. 

TODD:  Is it too late?  Is the military -- is it too late -- you know, look, Israel famously took out a nuclear -- a potential nuclear reactor before Iraq could really get it going?  Is it too late in North Korea to do something like that? 

IGNATIUS:  We don`t know.  The difference is that Seoul, the South Korean capital, lies under a threat of North Korean rockets 30 miles away.  It`s certainly the case that will soon be too late.  North Korea soon will have a nuclear missile that can strike the United States.

At that point, you really can`t go in and just -- and just take it out.  So, if you`re going to think about military options, the time to do that is now, not later. 

TODD:  Is Angela Merkel the leader of the free world? 

IGNATIUS:  Angela Merkel, I think, is certainly seen in Europe as the leader of this group of nations.  Donald Trump can reclaim that position, but he has to speak to the traditional concerns of what we call the liberal international order.  The maintenance of that, of that world that has existed now since the end of World War II, Donald Trump has to care about it and show he cares about it to have that leadership. 

TODD:  The question is does he believe that that order should say in existence?  And that`s wish, I think --

IGNATIUS:  As the French say, (INAUDIBLE.)  We`ll see. 

TODD:  David Ignatius, always a pleasure, sir.  Thank you. 

Let me bring in tonight`s panel.  Dan Balz, chief correspondent for "The Washington Post."  Robert Traynham, he`s an MSNBC Political Analyst and a former senior advisor to President Bush and Vice President Cheney.  And also joining me is NBC correspondent, Hallie Jackson.

Hallie, let me just start with you quickly.  All the descriptions of this meeting appear to be that it was very tense, that it`s clear they don`t see eye to eye on a lot of issues.  But it is one of America`s most important allies. 

HALLIE JACKSON, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS:  Yes. 

TODD:  Did the White House give at all?  It seems like Merkel came and tried to meet him more than halfway.

JACKSON:  Right. 

TODD:  I don`t -- I didn`t see Trump trying to meet her half way on anything. 

JACKSON:  Particularly when the first, sort of, informal read out, private readout, that we got from an administration official of this meeting was that he went after her pretty hard, when he it came to paying their fair share, when it comes to NATO.  That that was, sort of, the first significant piece of reporting that we got, I think tells you something about this meeting.  Which is that it wasn`t about being, sort of, necessarily a gracious host to this very important ally.  It was about trying to get it done.  Trying for the negotiator in chief to do some negotiating with an ally that he slammed again and again on the campaign trail -- Chuck. 

TODD:  All right.  But the biggest part of this press conference has to be this bizarre wiretapping allegation --

JACKSON:  Yes.

TODD:  -- that the president continues to want say.  Dan Balz, we set it up as it, sort of, encompasses what I think is they seem to be allowing his credibility to be eroded, when they`re going to need his credibility down the road to twist an arm or two to get health care passed, twist an arm or two on the budget.  It seems to be a head scratcher as to why they continue to double down on this. 

DAN BALZ, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST":  Maybe they don`t think that the two are that interconnected.  I mean, maybe they think that there`s the issue of the wiretapping and the degree to which nobody believes that.  But they can`t let go of it.

And their belief that the Republicans are so determined to use him and have his help to get health care and other things through that they`re going to just try separate them.

I don`t know.  I mean, there is -- there`s a huge credibility issue, as you say.

TODD:  Right.

BALZ:  But they don`t seem to act as if they think that`s the case. 

TODD:  That`s what I think is striking to me is they don`t perceive as having a problem here. 

ROBERT TRAYNHAM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Right.  Well, if I could step back far second.  This is the master of the deal who is a big negotiator.  And when you say my word is my bond, when you say, you know, Chuck, we have a deal here, can you believe him?  And I think members of Congress are saying, I`m not exactly sure.

But I think Donald Trump and his advisors have this supreme self-confidence about themselves, and maybe -- and maybe it`s going to be true, that they don`t need members of Congress to negotiate.  They know what they`re doing.

[17:15:07] I think they think they have a huge mandate going into the first 100 days and that they don`t need any type of compromise or any type of deal making.  I think it`s very naive but I think that`s what they think. 

TODD:  Hallie, I mean, do they accept at all that they have this credibility issue with many, many Americans and many people on Capitol Hill? 

JACKSON:  I think that if I had to predict an answer, Chuck, the answer is no.  And here is why.  You heard Sean Spicer when he was pressed about that all week long.  Flipped the narrative around and tried to say, well, it`s the media who`s not credible.  It`s not our problem.  It`s your problem because you`re fake news, essentially.  That`s been the line without actually addressing, I think, some of the substance of this.

I`ll tell you this, I spoke with Cathy McMorris Rogers, for example, earlier today about whether or not this president has a credibility problem.  Does she still believe he`s credible?  She, twice, responded by answering a question that, frankly, I hadn`t been asked about the evidence in this case.  But said she does trust the president, absolutely, she says.  And that echoes something you heard from House Speaker Paul Ryan yesterday.

Publicly, that is the answer, I think, you`ve got to say.  When you`re talking about the president and you`re a member of House Republican leadership.

But it is significant that Republicans publicly are continuing to back the president, say that they trust him, despite the developments that we`ve seen around this tweet. 

TRAYNHAM:  And I have a theory.  I think the reason why members of Congress still trust the president or take him for his word.  They are scared to death to be primaried. 

TODD:  Well, they`re afraid of --

TRAYNHAM:  They`re afraid of his (INAUDIBLE.)

TODD:  -- his supporters.

TRAYNHAM:  That`s right.  That`s right.  And so -- and so, the real question is whether his base thinks he has a credibility issue.  I think if you asked the White House, they would say absolutely not. 

TODD:  Right.  Right.  I guess it`s -- so, they say they trust him even if they don`t. 

TRAYNHAM:  Right.  Because they`re scared to be primaried in 2018.  A legitimate threat. 

TODD:  Let`s talk about the world stage, Dan.  You and I have been here, watched many a presidents -- you know, Merkel, you know, I -- when it comes to the liberal Democratic order, it does seem as if Merkel`s the defender of it, not Trump.  That also is a credibility issue on the world stage with America`s most important allies. 

BALZ:  Absolutely.  And Xi seemed to press that case, at least gently if not explicitly, at -- through that joint press conference.  I mean, she`s the one who stood up for globalization and the -- and the -- and the E.U. and the kind of order that has existed for decades, that has kept the world where it is.

Donald Trump does not articulate that in any way.  He reaffirmed his support for NATO.  And, as Hallie said, in the private meeting then pushed hard and he spoke more at the press conference about the defense spending inadequacies of all the NATO allies.

So, he`s -- he is not prepared to take the role that, traditionally, the United States has taken on our world stage. 

TODD:  Hallie, very quickly.  We heard the president cheerlead that he somehow flipped all those Republicans from nos to yeses.  Was that a set-up or was this legit? 

JACKSON:  Why do you got ask me these loaded questions, Chuck?  Look, I don`t know, right, because what we`ve seen now is people come out.  So, for example, Congressman Palmer who was a noble in the Budget Committee.  We`ve got a statement from his folks saying, after some concessions were agreed to, he supports the bill now.  You`ve got Congressman Meadows, for example, as well, who is in that meeting.

So, I think there is some -- whether or not they had agreed to it and the president said it or the president said it and then you, kind of, --

TODD:  Right.

JACKSON:  -- fall in line.  A little bit of (INAUDIBLE.)

The bottom line is he`s doing what the House Republicans need him to do --

TODD:  It`s a big deal.

JACKSON:  -- which is close some deals.  Yes.

TODD:  Right.  They`re making a political case, though, to these guys now.  Not a policy case, Dan Balz.

BALZ:  But that`s -- I mean, that`s the case they have to make. 

TODD:  That`s the only one that`s going to get --

BALZ:  I mean, the contents of the bill, as introduced, weren`t making it, and we don`t know the alternative is going to be.  But in a sense, they can`t fail on this. 

TODD:  (INAUDIBLE), House Senate Republicans are probably secreting wishing the House does fail. 

(CROSSTALK)

TODD:  They don`t want -- they don`t want (INAUDIBLE.)  Nobody wants it.  And I think this is -- House Republicans are going, hey, shove this at the Senate. 

TRAYNHAM:  And the Senate say, please die.  Please keep (INAUDIBLE.) 

TODD:  All right, guys.  You guys are sticking around. 

Coming up, Neil Gorsuch prepares for his day on the Hill, but will Democrats put up a fight against the Supreme Court nominee?  Can they afford to?  Can they afford not to?  Senator Chris Van Hollen joins me for that discussion ahead.

[17:19:13]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD:  If it`s Sunday, "MEET THE PRESS" will look at the major opposition facing President Trump and his agenda.  Office Management director, Mick Mulvaney, joins me to discuss their new budget proposal.  And Congressman - - California Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, will join me exclusively to discuss what he knows about potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

And we`ll also hear from Republican Senators Susan Collins who just came out against the president`s new health care bill.  All of that, this Sunday on your local NBC station.  We`ll be back in 60 seconds with more MTP DAILY.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD:  Welcome back.

Judge Neil Gorsuch confirmation hearing is set to start Monday.  But the vacant Supreme Court seat has fired up the base of the Democratic Party.  Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says he`s prepared to answer calls to oppose the president`s pick but is becoming the party of opposition.  The party of no at all costs, a gamble Democrats can afford or is that actually smart politics?

Republicans are stuck on defense.  Their health care effort is struggling, some would say unraveling.  President Trump`s travel ban has been blocked in the courts.  His budget hits some of the biggest -- some of his biggest supporters.

His travel ban, obviously, it`s had trouble and he`s facing personal credibility issues from those wiretap claims that still lack evidence.

Politically, Republicans are caught on their back feet right now but their precarious position translate to momentum for Democrats?  Keep in mind, in 2018, Democrats must defend a lot more Senate seats, including 10 of which were carried by president -- in states that were carried by President Trump.

With a debt ceiling height looming and the Gorsuch confirmation hearings ahead, are Democrats willing to go down as the new party of no?

Joining me now, Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.  He is the chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and leads the charge in defending those vulnerable seats.  Senator, welcome. 

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND, CHAIR, DSCC:  It`s good to be with you, Chuck. 

TODD:  Let me start with the Gorsuch confirmation hearings.  Obviously, that`s going to have to play out and see what it goes.  But there are a lot -- he`s well respected on both sides of the legal aisle.  And, certainly, I think, his personal meetings, apparently, have gone very well.  It doesn`t seem as if this is going to -- not going to change the make-up of the court.

How important is it, though, for -- to your Democratic base to oppose him at all costs as essentially revenge for Merrick Garland? 

VAN HOLLEN:  Well, what I think is important to the country, Chuck, is that we thoroughly vet his record, that we try to understand what side he comes down in his prior decisions.  Because we, right now, have a court that too often has closed five to four decisions.  Now, it`s, of course, it`s four to four so we don`t have that situation.

Coming down on the side of big corporate interests against the rights of workers, against the rights of individuals and consumers.  And everything we`ve seen to so far indicates that Gorsuch would probably be in that tradition. 

[17:25:04] So, it`s not a question of getting revenge.  It`s not a question of simply responding to political pressure.  It`s the question of doing the right thing and having somebody who really is in the mainstream of the American legal tradition.

TODD:  To me, there`s two decisions you`re having to make here.  Right?  Decision one is whether you can support this person to be on the court.  Decision two is whether he deserves a vote to decide, right?  And I guess that`s what I`m asking.  What`s the -- what is the line for you that gets him across the line of whether he deserves a vote, essentially avoiding a filibuster? 

VAN HOLLEN:  Well, in my view, Chuck, we have a standard in the Senate of requiring 60 votes for a Supreme Court justice.  Even after the rules were changed, it was thought that that was important enough a position that a person should have to achieve the kind of consensus that you need by getting 60 votes. 

TODD:  You actually can do 60 votes to decide to bring the vote to the floor but you can have people that would vote to bring the vote to the floor and still vote against him.

VAN HOLLEN:  So, --

TODD:  That`s what I mean.  There is, sort of, two votes here. 

VAN HOLLEN:  Yes, I understand.  But I think the procedure is, kind of, less important than the ultimate question.  The ultimate question is this person should have to get 60 votes because that would reflect a consensus in the country. 

TODD:  But is it philosophy that your vote should be based on or qualifications?  Because you can disagree with every one of his decisions and still decide, well, he`s qualified.  I just philosophically disagree with him.  That, sort of, to me -- that`s what I`m asking here.  There`s two different ways of judging it. 

VAN HOLLEN:  Well, I think if you -- I understand, but if you look at his philosophy, and you decide that it tilts consistently in a particular direction, that you don`t think necessarily reflects the tradition of the American Constitution and jurisprudence.  Then, my view is you have to vote no.

And remember how this came about.  I mean, candidate Trump contracted this process out to some right-wing groups and said, I want to list of judges who meet certain litmus tests.  He wanted a judge, for example, who would overturn Roe v. Wade.  He wanted a judge that met certain right wing criteria.

So, the president teed up this selection process very much on the side of ideology as you go in.

TODD:  But what president hasn`t used a litmus test?  I mean, there`s certainly been, you know, citizens united for many on the left.  It -- being willing to overturn that is a litmus test for many -- I think Hillary Clinton brought it up and President Obama brought it up. 

VAN HOLLEN:  So, look, I don`t know the record of every president, in terms of litmus tests.  What I`m saying to you is I think it`s certainly fair for senators, when they`re making a lifetime appointment at the Supreme Court, not only to see whether this person`s a good lawyer -- you know, lots of good lawyers around the country.

TODD:  Right.

VAN HOLLEN:  Lots of them.  The question is for someone who`s going to be there for a very long time, is there legal thinking in line with what we think is the tradition of the Constitution which has been, over time, trying to make sure that we --

TODD:  Right.

VAN HOLLEN:  -- meet the promise of equal rights and equal justice and equal opportunity for individuals. 

TODD:  But there is a cost if you force a filibuster, in this respect is that Mitch McConnell may decide, you know what?  The agreed upon rule on this -- on the nuclear option that, sort of, kept the Supreme Court nominees out of it, they could erase it for that.

And that could become problematic for you down the road if there is, suddenly, an opening that could actually change the makeup of -- the ideological makeup of the court.  Where are you on that?

VAN HOLLEN:  Well, as I said, I think that the 60-vote threshold has to be met.  That`s the tradition that we`ve set.  You`re right that, you know, Republicans could decide to change the rule.  But they also know that that comes with great risks as well.  Because, you know, when Democrats retake the Senate, whenever that may be, --

TODD:  Right.

VAN HOLLEN:  -- you know, they`re going to face the same situation.

And so, you have lots of Republican senators who do not want to change that threshold because they know they could be on the other side of the (INAUDIBLE.)

TODD:  I guess, is Gorsuch worth that?  Is this fight worth risking that or is it -- is this a political tool to be held off on using until down the road? 

VAN HOLLEN:  No, I understand your question.  I think -- I think -- and I think the answer, though, is that let`s look at Judge Gorsuch record and make a determination about whether or not he is going to consistently side with corporate special interests.  If you look at a lot of his opinions, that is the fear many of us have.

Now, we`re going to have the hearings coming up and he`ll have a chance to answer. 

TODD:  I want to talk, also, about budget issues, but I also want to talk about the debt ceiling because we hit it today.

VAN HOLLEN:  We did.

TODD:  Yes, congratulations us.  Yay, America, we hit the debt ceiling, again.  Obviously, there`s the extreme measures that treasury secretaries use.  We all, unfortunately, now know this well over the past few years.

I asked Speaker Ryan about it yesterday and he said it would not -- likely not be a, quote, "clean debt ceiling raise."  Will Senate Democrats be willing to support a debt ceiling raise if there`s amendments attached to it, it`s not clean?

VAN HOLLEN:  That -- well, obviously, it always depends on what.  But, in recent times, we`ve seen Republicans try to load up the debt ceiling with what we consider some very bad policy.  And some call them poison pills.

TODD:  Poison pills.

VAN HOLLEN: I mean, they try to get through by attaching something to the debt ceiling. Things that they couldn`t get through under the ordinary process. And we saw what happened a number of years ago when they nearly took us over the brink. And we actually saw very negative economic consequences. In terms of, you know, what happened out there to businesses. So look, I would suggest to them strongly that they not play politics with the debt ceiling. After all, I think the country has learned these are debts that congress and the country have already incurred. These are like bills that are already.

TODD: Are you concerned they may almost corner democrats and almost dare democrats who had been saying hey, you`ve got to put the debt ceiling over party. Are you worried that they`re gonna try to corner democrats and bailing them out if they can`t get the votes?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I think that if they want democratic support for debt ceiling, then they`re gonna have to work with us. And that`s going to true on the appropriations process as well. So we invite the republicans to join us on these issues. We just -- you were talking a little bit beforehand about the Trump budget.

TODD: Yeah.

VAN HOLLEN: I think we all agree that the Trump budget was dead on arrival, a lot of republicans attacked it. So they`re going to have to work with us because on these issues in the senate, you do need 60.

TODD: A lot of votes.

VAN HOLLEN: And so while the house can continue to jam stuff through and try and do it under the cloak of darkness and without getting the congressional budget office report, at least in the early stages, they don`t have that ability in the senate.

TODD: That`s something you`re now learning a lot.

VAN HOLLEN: Glad to be there for that reason.

TODD: Anyway, Senator Chris Van Hollen, democrat from Maryland, nice to see you. Thank you for coming in and sharing your views.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.

TODD: This Sunday here on MSNBC, our chief legal correspondent, Ari Melber, will be hosting a two-hour special on the battle over Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. Supreme Confirmation Clash airs this Sunday at 5:00 p.m. eastern. Still ahead here at "MTP Daily," the baby boomer bust. I`ll talk to the author behind a new book that says the baby boomer generation is the most powerful force in Washington. That might not be a good thing. Stay tuned.

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TODD: Up next on "MTP Daily," are baby boomers using their political power for the greater good or just for their own good? An interesting take on that ahead. But first, Aditi Roy with the "CNBC Market Wrap."

ADITI ROY, GENERAL ASSIGNMENT REPORTER FOR CNBC: Thanks so much, Chuck. There were gains for utilities and industrial stocks today alongside declines in the financial and health care sectors. The Dow down nearly 20 points, the S&P falling by 3, the Nasdaq inched up a quarter point.

The housing market is at the hottest it`s been in a decade.  A typical home is selling eight days quicker than it did last year according to real estate firm, Redfin. Walmart continues to expand online, announcing the purchase of ModCloth, which caters to curvy women. It`s Walmart`s fourth digital acquisition. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.

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TODD: Welcome back. One could argue the most powerful group in Washington isn`t Big Pharma or the environmental lobby, but actually baby boomers. 69 percent of congress this year was born between 1940 and 1964, down from the peak of 79 percent in 2007. Those numbers reflect a population that`s been dominated by boomers for decades. 31 percent of the voting age population is a baby boomer, down from a peek of more than 50 percent in the `80s, still, a large voting block.

As in 2016, that 31 percent number is now similar to the size of the millennials. But they don`t turn out to the polls at the clip that boomers do. The sheer size of baby boomers as a voting block has had a profound impact for almost half a century. Beginning with the constitutional amendment that lowered the voting age, essentially four boomers to 18 in 1971, pandering to them, letting them vote early.

This new book, "A Generation of Sociopaths: How Baby Boomers Betrayed America," Bruce Cannon Gibney argues that boomers use their political powers selfishly. They are unwilling to invest in programs benefiting the future like education, infrastructure, and climate change, but treat social security as a sacred cow, unable to be changed. Mr. Gibney joins me now. All right. Sociopath is a rough word.

BRUCE CANNON GIBNEY, AUTHOR AND VENTURE CAPITALIST: Thanks for having me.

TODD: An extraordinarily rough word.

CANNON GIBNEY: Sure.

TODD: So, obviously it`s in, you know, it`s there to get attention. It got my attention. That`s why you`re here. So make your case that this is a sociopathic generation.

CANNON GIBNEY: Certainly the political policies they have chose to pursue are sociopathic. So sociopathic is just the sort of uneasy word for antisocial personality disorder. And but they`ve created as an antisocial society. A society that doesn`t really care about the future especially the young and we can see this manifest in their policies or absence thereof with respect to environment, with respect to debt, with respect to old age benefits, research and development, infrastructure.

All these things have been allowed to sort of rot away. And the reason why the boomers have tolerated this is because all of those investments if made today would be profitable from a social perspective in the 2030s after the medium boomer is dead, and so it`s a nonstarter for them.

TODD: All right. But let`s look at the essentially the adult age, you know, go from 1970 to 2000 as far as with boomers as adults, boomers helping to run and drive the economy on paper, pretty good for the American economy? Quite the expansion of wealth.

CANNON GIBNEY: Well, I don`t agree. And the way which I don`t agree is that economic growth from the 1980s to 2000 was actually somewhat slower on a per capita basis than in the 1970s which were regarded by then as a horror show from which the boomers never psychologically recovered apparently. And they were nowhere near as good as the 40s, 50s, and `60s. And how that growth was achieved was not sustainable. There was over-leverage. It was all depended on credit, it was depended on asset bubbles.

It wasn`t really driven by productivity growth, by investment in human capital and so on. And the result was, after 2000, we`ve been stuck in the sort of near stagnation where growth in the 2000s was about .7 percent per capita and now it`s about 1.3, 1.4 percent for this decade. So, that`s not a success. You can`t detach what happened after 2000 from the policies of the baby boomers started pursuing in the 1980s.

TODD: Is it that you just are -- that all of this has happened because too many politicians have essentially pandered to boomers starting with getting them the right to vote three years earlier than everybody else that this is just been a constant pander? Because the leaders that made decisions in the `80s, they weren`t -- they were from the greatest generation. That`s who was running this country, not the boomers.

CANNON GIBNEY: That`s right. And they did pander and that was a mistake, but it wasn`t quite as aggressive as the pandering that the boomers self- created once they were in Washington. So, you know, Bush and Reagan were entirely trustworthy on matters that were important to the boomers, and this problem was resolved by ushering in Gingrich and Clinton in `92 and `94 respectively, and the policy environment degraded from there. But always in ways that were favorable to the boomers.

So, there`s this narrative of red and blue American unable to agree on anything but whenever boomer interests were at stake, somehow this dysfunctional gridlock machine was always able to, you know, grind into action, and explains a lot of the heterodox policies that we`ve seen starting in the 1980s. So it was Reagan who lowered income tax rates, that seems perfectly normal, and raised them on capital gains.

But of course the boomers didn`t own stocks or homes at that time and they were (inaudible).  So, that was something of a pander. And then Clinton who was a democrat lowers taxes on capital gains, expands consumption for housing, and starts ramping up the estate tax exemption. That`s again sort of heterodox as a democratic position, but entirely aligned with the life cycle of the boomers.

Then you have Bush the Second who was not sort of famously progressive enacting Medicare Part D just in time for boomers to benefit will also launching unseemly attention on the state tax just as the boomers` parents were about to die. So, when the system needs to work for the boomers, it does.

TODD: Well, what does this mean then -- are we going to see history repeat itself? The boomers are the largest voting block right now. Millennials are the largest late block in the labor force. They will in at least two election cycles probably become the largest voting block. Are we going to see history repeat itself with millennials where there`s such a pander to millennials by leaders, perhaps by Gen-X leaders who need votes of millennials that we create another cycle of this?

CANNON GIBNEY: That`s possible, but the millennials are much more heterogeneous than the boomers. So, they are much more ethnically diverse. Their economic experiences are much different. Their educational history is much different. Even if, you know, people were cynical enough to punch the millennials, it`s much harder.

TODD: To pander.

CANNON GIBNEY: It is harder to pander. If you want to pander, you actually really need to put effort into it. And I`m not sure the present political class has figured them out quite yet.

TODD: All right. I hope you`re on speaking terms with your parents now at this point.

CANNON GIBNEY: Yeah, the book is dedicated to them.

TODD: There you go. All of our baby boomer parents who may be watching today are probably wondering, okay, thanks for calling me a sociopath anyway. Congratulations with the book. Good luck.

CANNON GIBNEY: Thank you so much.

TODD: Thanks for coming on and sharing your views. Up ahead in "The Lid," are President Trump`s biggest supporters the ones with the most to lose under his budget agenda? Stay tuned.

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TODD: Welcome back. Our obsession tonight. The cardinal sin that certainly everyone on social media can be guilty of from time to time. Apparently someone at the White House sent out an article after only reading the title. Not it`s content. White House says a news letter that they call 1600 Daily, to send out upcoming events, snippets of President Trump`s appearances and things like that. It also includes favorable press clips. White House uses to show positive coverage of it`s agenda.

One such link today was this piece that ran in "The Washington Post" entitled "Trump`s budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why." Sounds like some good press. But at cursory glance of the article would reveal it is satirical. A satirical piece by "The Washington Post" Alexandra Petri. It supports the Trump budget cuts with lines like, environmental protection agency. We absolutely do not need this.

Clean rivers and breathable air are making us soft and letting the Chinese and Russians get the jump on us. And then this, affordable housing is a luxury, and we are going to get rid of it. Donald Trump does not live in a affordable housing and neither should you. Just another reason to adopt an old carpentry idiom to the internet. Read twice, share once. We`ll be right back.

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TODD: Time for "The Lid." Dan Balz, Robert Traynham are back. And I`m bringing in Jennifer Palmieri, former Obama and Clinton communications director. She was scheduled to be here. Thanks, D.C. traffic, but that`s all right, she joins us now. Jen, I`ll give you the first crack here. This is what -- Mick Mulvaney when he talked about the budget, this idea and its impact on Trump voters.

JENNIFER PALMIERI, FORMER DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS FOR HILLARY CLINTON`S 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Yeah.

TODD: He sort of pushed back and said this, look, we went back and pulled lines out of speeches, out of interviews, talked to the president and turns his word, his policies into numbers, so folks who voted for the president aren`t getting exactly what they voted for. Ironically, that was a message and I know during the campaign you kept trying to send.

(LAUGHTER)

TODD: . which was saying, hey, take the president at his word. Here`s his budget director saying it. But his voters if they take a hit on the budget, they don`t seem to care?

PALMIERI: I don`t really accept that that is actually what his voters probably thought, that they were voting for. Yeah, it was in his speeches and it was on their websites and we pushed you all to pay attention to the policy and campaign and what he said he was going to do, but I do believe that they thought they were voting for him, they thought that they were voting for somebody who was going to -- was so committed to change that would even blow up the system to accomplish it, and was somebody who was just going to fix everything and take care of -- repeal Obamacare but replace it with something better.

And I just don`t think they actually thought they were voting for those kinds of cuts, particularly in the budget, let alone the kind of scheme that the republicans come up with on health care. What we see now is conservative orthodoxy. This is Paul Ryan`s agenda, and I don`t think that`s what Trump voters thought they were voting for.

TODD: What`s interesting here though, Dan, is somebody posited this in one of my meetings -- show meetings which was simply hey, his voters don`t believe that what they have been getting from the federal government, that they`ve been getting from the federal government, that some of them don`t believe they`re getting some of the services that they`re getting.

DAN BALZ, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT AT THE WASHINGTON POST: I don`t think that their vote was predicated on the continuation of this program or that program or that program. They want jobs, and he will argue that there`s other things he`s doing to create an environment in which jobs will result. They wanted something done about the border, and he`s going to build a wall and that`s in that budget.

They wanted him to deal with threats of terrorism and he`s going to argue that there are things like that. I mean the budget priorities are quite orthodox republican in the discretionary spending, but I`m interested to see whether that really does ripple through and we -- lastly, how much of this will survive the budget process?

TODD: Robert, you`re a veteran on Capitol Hill. You worked on the republican side of the aisle and watched as republicans tried to make a large argument only to get beaten up politically.

ROBERT TRAYNHAM, VICE PRESIDENT OF COMMUNICATIONS AT BIPARTISAN POLICY CENTER: Big time.

TODD: . on specifics.

TRAYNHAM: Yeah.

TODD: Oh, you`re against school lunches. Oh, you`re against Meals on Wheels.

TRAYNHAM: Yeah.

TODD: Forget the rest of the budget.

TRAYNHAM: Right.

TODD: Hearing that for six straight months isn`t good for the party.

TRAYNHAM: I look at Hal Rogers. Hal Rogers, republican from Kentucky. He said and I quote, Donald Trump, my district voted for Donald Trump 80 percent, but I can`t take this budget literally. Here`s why. Regional airport cuts, cuts to Appalachia, those are jobs in many ways in terms of national infrastructure. So the question becomes is when the Trump -- and I agree with you, this budget is not going to go anywhere, but let`s assume for a second it did.

If, in fact, those $69 billion in cuts actually goes through, I think that`s when you`ll see a lot of Trump supporters say, oh, I didn`t realize that, I didn`t realize this was in my backyard, I didn`t realize this is my neighbor`s job or perhaps my job. And I think a lot of republicans are going to push back on this budget and say, dead on arrival.

TODD: So Jen, this means that democrats are going to start making a policy argument against Trump, not a character argument anymore?

PALMIERI: I think what you have to do I think is to do both of them. I think that -- I mean what we found in the campaign was what most concerned people actually was making a character argument. But now that -- I mean I think if you look at where this week started where we thought what was supposed to happen this week, the house is supposed to pass their repeal and replace bill on health care. They were supposed to have a budget that was well received because it`s conservative orthodoxy.

And, you know, the end of the week and quite a mess. If they actually enact the health care bill that they say they`re going to, I think they`re not going to be able to do it. Then I think you have a real policy argument to make to Trump voters. Some of them are so committed to him. I don`t think it will matter, but it`ll probably -- it`s going to matter to enough of them that you could beat them next time.

TODD: Very quickly to everybody, gentlemen, I start with you. Is it a good strategy for democrats to just oppose Gorsuch no matter what, force the filibuster vote or should the democrats focus on health care and other issues that they are making, actually maybe some progress on?

PALMIERI: I think that they -- I think that when you have so much on the line as you do with Gorsuch that you have to force the vote.

TODD: Interesting. You think the filibuster.

BALZ: I`m not sure the democratic base will allow anything other than tough.

TODD: Okay.

TRAYNHAM: Hold their fire. They should go to health care.

TODD: The U.S. senate will be broken even more. Dan, Robert, Jennifer, thank you all. More "MTP Daily" right after this.

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TODD: We`ll be back Monday with more "MTP Daily." I`ll see you Sunday on "Meet the Press." "For the Record" with Greta starts right now.

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