Show: MTP DAILY Date: March 20, 2017 Guest: Ken Dilanian, Kristen Welker, Michael McFaul, Eric Swalwell, Deirdre Bosa, Mazie Hirono, Susan del Percio, Beth Fouhy, Jonathan Alter
KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: Yes, it`s Monday.
A historic moment at a hearing on the Hill deepens. The president`s credibility crisis.
(voice-over): Tonight, tapped out. FBI director, James Comey, shoots down the president`s wiretap claims.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, DIRECTOR, FBI: I have no information that supports those tweets. And we have looked carefully inside the FBI.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: And confirms a probe into a possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Plus, supreme pick, a battle 13 months in the making begins today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CORY GARDNER (R), COLORADO: I`m dying to hear somebody over there tell me why he`s not qualified to be sitting here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: And how today`s hearings on the Hill took a page from this 1980s classic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN STEIN, ACTOR, "FERRIS BUELLER`S DAY OFF": Bueller. Bueller. Bueller.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: 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.
We begin tonight with a stunning rebuke of a sitting president by his intelligence chiefs. Today, both the FBI director, James Comey, and NSA director, Mike Rogers, both holdovers from the Obama administration, testified publicly in front of the House Intelligence Committee. And questioned the White House`s credibility as it continues to defend President Trump`s unsubstantiated statements that President Obama wiretapped Trump during the campaign.
First, here`s what FBI director Comey told the committee`s ranking member, Congressman Adam Schiff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (R), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Director Comey, was the present statement that Obama had his wires tapped in Trump Tower a true statement?
COMEY: With respect to the president`s tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets. And we have looked carefully inside the FBI.
The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all of its components. The department has no information that supports those tweets.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: And here is NSA Chief Mike Rogers` response to a follow-up question on the subject.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: The president and his spokesman, Sean Spicer, have suggested that British intelligence, through its NSA or GCHQ, wiretapped Mr. Trump on President Obama`s behalf. Did you ever request that your counterparts in GCHQ should wiretap Mr. Trump on behalf of President Obama?
ROGERS: No, sir. Nor would I. That would be expressly against the construct of Five Eyes` agreement that`s been in place for decades.
SCHIFF: Have you seen any evidence that anyone else in the Obama administration made such a request?
ROGERS: No, sir, and again, my view is the same as director Comey. I have seen nothing on the NSA side that we engaged in any such activity nor that anyone ever asked us to engage in such activity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: And in even bigger news, the FBI has now confirmed its investigation into the sitting president`s campaign operation. Here`s FBI director Comey going public with the news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government`s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia`s efforts.
As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: The White House tried to put the best possible spin on today`s hearing as it was happening. Tweeting the NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process. Press Secretary Sean Spicer repeated that point during today`s press briefing.
But, again, the White House`s credibility seemed to take a hit when director Comey knocked down President Trump`s tweets after a Congressman read it to him on live T.V.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REP.: Here`s the tweet, as I read it to you, the NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence the electoral process. Is that accurate?
COMEY: Well, it`s hard for me to react there. Let me just tell you what we understand that the state of -- what we`ve said is. We`ve offered no opinion, have no view, have no information on potential impact because it`s never something that we looked at.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: We begin tonight with NBC`s intelligence and national security reporter, Ken Dilanian. Ken, let`s take the 30,000-foot view of this in the beginning. The FBI is now saying that they are investigating a sitting president`s campaign. Where does it go next?
KEN DILANIAN, INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Well, Katy, first of all, that in itself is a bomb shell. I mean, it`s extraordinarily rare for the FBI to ever confirm, publicly, a criminal investigation.
[17:05:00] So, you have the FBI director telling the American public that there is a criminal investigation into whether Trump associates and Trump campaign colluded with a foreign power. It`s one thing for NBC News and other news organizations to report that, based on anonymous sources.
But now, the FBI has confirmed it and it creates an expectation that we`re going to find out one way or another whether it`s true.
Now, we have reported, and others have reported, that as part of this investigation already the FBI has reviewed intercepts and is looking at contacts and conversations between Trump associates and Russians.
One can presume that they`re going to be reviewing thousands of documents and interviewing hundreds of people, as part of this counterintelligence investigation. And, you know, generally, the playbook in these probes is they try to flip a little fish. They try to prove a crime against a smaller figure, get the cooperation of that figure to testify against the bigger fish.
TUR: So, what do you --
DILANIAN: So, that`s the kind of thing we can expect.
TUR: -- what do you make of the president -- the White House`s argument that there is no evidence there? They`re investigating so the evidence is still being looked into, correct?
DILANIAN: Of course. And, you know, a number of people, senior lawmakers, have said, hey, we`ve been briefed on this and we`ve heard of no evidence of collusion.
But I`m suspicious, I mean, this investigation would be closely held. The FBI agents involved in this are not necessarily going to brief these facts to Congress. It`s not their habit to brief a criminal investigation to Congress.
In fact, the investigation started in July and Congress only heard about it very recently, Comey said today. So, there may be a -- there may be a lot of evidence. There may be no evidence. But, you know, you should be suspicious of people saying they`re not aware of any who may or may not have been briefed -- Katy.
TUR: And we also have NBC`s white house correspondent, Kristen Welker, who is in Louisville ahead of President Trump`s rally there this evening.
Kristen, it`s been a couple hours since this briefing has wrapped up. How is the White House absorbing what they learned today?
KRISTEN WELKER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Katy, there is no doubt the White House is in defense mode. They are trying to tamp down what we heard on Capitol Hill today, making the point -- Sean Spicer said this during the briefing.
I`ve had conversations in the wake of that briefing. White House officials saying, look, this investigation has been going on for quite some time and hasn`t turned up any actual evidence. And so, there`s nothing to see there. Take a listen to what Press Secretary Sean Spicer had to say earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, U.S. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: When the people who have been briefed by the FBI about collusion between individuals, the answer is continues to be no. And at some point, take no for an answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WELKER: Katy, there`s another part of this strategy. The White House is trying to distance itself from some of the campaign associates who are coming under sharp scrutiny in this investigation, folks like Roger Stone, Carter Page, calling them hangers onto the campaign. Essentially saying, look, they never really had any significant influence over the campaign.
The challenge for the White House, though, Katy, is that this comes as the president is trying to push through a key part of his agenda. The plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. The House set to vote on the bill on Thursday.
That`s part of why he`s here in Kentucky. He wants to push for that bill to get passed. This, by the way, is a success story for Obamacare. So, he`s gotten an uphill battle, terms of making an argument.
But all of this overshadowing his broader agenda -- Katy.
TUR: And they were even saying -- Sean Spicer even saying that the former the campaign manager chairman, CEO, and, essentially, the campaign manager for a time, Paul Manafort, Kristen, only played a very limited role in the campaign.
WELKER: And that statement raised eyebrows, Katy. I pressed the White House on that statement. I said, how can Sean Spicer argue that he only played a limited role in the campaign when he was, in fact, the campaign manager? Their pushback on that is. look, we`ve cleaned that statement up a little bit. He was referencing the amount of time that Paul Manafort actually served as the campaign manager.
Also worth noting, Manafort has consistently said that he had no ties to Russia throughout this process. Nonetheless, this is the issue that more than any other continues to cast a cloud over this White House -- Katy.
TUR: And Paul Manafort served longer in the campaign than Steve Bannon did.
One last question for you, Ken. Talk to me about what you saw in the introduction with the ranking member, Congressman Adam Schiff, in his introduction, when he referenced some of that dossier. That dossier that was gathered by the British intelligence agent, Michael Steele (ph).
DILANIAN: That`s right, Katy. Some of the names that Kristen just mentioned were names that Adam Schiff mentioned today as he made a series of allegations. Some of it were in that dossier written by that former British intelligence operative. Carter Page, Paul Manafort, Mike Flynn, Schiff laid out a series of meetings and contacts that among these people during the summer when the Russian campaign to hack and leak and interfere in the election was picking up speed.
And, you know, Schiff is a very careful former prosecutor. He`s also a member of the gang of eight which means he gets the most classified intelligence briefings.
[17:10:03] It`s hard for me to believe that Schiff read that stuff into the Congressional record without some indication, at least in his own mind, that there`s some truth to these allegations -- Katy.
TUR: Ken Dilanian and Kristen Welker, thank you, guys.
DILANIAN: Thank you, Katy.
WELKER: Thank you, Katy.
TUR: Now, I`m joined by Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California who was at the center of today`s hearing. You might have recognized -- you might recognize him now from being in that hearing. He`s also a member, as I said, of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thank you for joining us. First off,
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thank you, Katy.
TUR: -- do you have full confidence in FBI Director James Comey?
SWALWELL: I do.
SWALWELL: Well, today he came before and broke, you know, traditional precedent which is you don`t talk about what you`re doing, why you`re doing it at the FBI. And only one other time prior did he really brief Congress on what they were doing with respect to an investigation.
And so, he came to Congress. He said that the president of the United States campaign is under investigation with respect to an attack that a foreign adversary carried out. That was pretty powerful and surprising, frankly, for us to hear.
And now, I think the American people are just wondering what are we going to make sure never again are we are in a mess like this, where another country messes with our elections. And then, we`re having hearings to try to figure out, you know, whether a campaign worked with a foreign adversary. We don`t ever want to be in this position again.
TUR: A lot of colleagues and a lot of voters out there, who might have -- who did vote for Hillary Clinton, criticized FBI Director Comey for his handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. Criticized him for coming out and unveiling that and confirming it during the campaign. And not for confirming that there was an investigation into the Trump campaign and its potential ties to Russia.
If -- on the one hand, there`s criticism for him doing something against Hillary Clinton or in regards to Hillary Clinton and not to Donald Trump. Do you retain full confidence in him for everything? For all of the -- all of the -- all of the things that he`s doing?
SWALWELL: I do. And, Katy, you know, that`s the past. It actually seems like it`s the distant past considering how much has happened since that occurred. Right now, what we want to be assured that that there`s a full investigation underway. That evidence will be followed and that all leads will be pursued.
And, for most Americans, I think it`s quite disturbing that another country would attack us. And they`re wondering, do these deep, political, personal and financial ties that Donald Trump and his team have with Russia, do they extend to working with Russia as they were attacking us? Basically, were these coincidences or was it a convergence?
TUR: What did you learn today?
SWALWELL: Well, we learned that an investigation is taking place. We also learned that the president`s claim that former President Obama wiretapped him was a deceitful smoke bomb rolled into an investigation only intended to obstruct. Because now we know that an investigation indeed is underway.
So, I think President Trump`s credibility has completely devastated, with respect to Russia. Which is unfortunate, Katy, because we need our president to be credible on national security issues.
TUR: Your Democratic colleague in the Senate, Richard Blumenthal, said today and during the Gorsuch hearing, the Neil Gorsuch hearing, that he believes that Donald Trump, the President of the United States, could be subpoenaed. Could your committee subpoena the president and would you consider it?
SWALWELL: Yes, well, we should hear from any witness that had ties to Russia, especially any witness that was talking to Russia while the interference campaign was being run.
So, if that includes the president, people on his security team, people in his family and people in his businesses, then I think the American people want us to get to the bottom of this. So, that would be yes.
TUR: So, yes, you would subpoena the president of the United States.
SWALWELL: Well, also, his tax returns, Katy. Because after learning about all of these extensive ties, I don`t think an investigation would be complete unless we are able to review the president`s tax returns.
TUR: Well, given that, I want to play a little bit about what you were asking FBI Comey -- FBI Director Comey about tax returns. Let`s play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SWALWELL: With respect to you counterintelligence investigations, would it be important for you if you were concerned that a U.S. person had financial entanglements with a foreign adversary to see that person`s tax returns?
COMEY: That`s the hypothetical I really want to avoid answering. But the answer is it would depend, really. It would depend upon a whole lot of circumstances.
SWALWELL: That would be one of the pieces of evidence that you would consider looking at?
COMEY: Maybe. Maybe. You might be able to get the picture you need from other financial records that are more readily available.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TUR: Congressman, what do you make of Director Comey`s answer?
SWALWELL: Well, I hope they`re looking at all of Donald Trump`s financial holdings, because I also laid out a number of ties that he has from tenants in Trump Tower who are associated with Russians, oligarchs, to a home sale in Florida where he bought the home in 2004 for $40 million and sold it for about $98 million in 2008 at the peak of the financial collapse and in this country to a Russian businessman.
[17:15:05] So, there are a number of ties that he has to a foreign adversary.
And, Katy, it was also important to make the point today that these are not business ties with the French or the Germans or the Australians. These are business ties with the foreign adversary.
And never, in the history of our country, have we seen a presidential candidate and his team have such extensive ties to a foreign adversary which also, I think, is quite concerning.
TUR: Back to subpoenaing the president of the United States. Have you spoken to Chairman Nunes about this or will you speak to Chairman Nunes about this?
SWALWELL: And, of course, Katy, you know, there are different privileges that they may try to assert to prevent that. But I think we need to hear from all witnesses and the dots that continue to connect in this investigation tell us that we want to hear from the president. We want to hear from his family. We to want hear from people on his team.
And I think an investigation is only complete if we hear from those individuals. So, I hope my Republican colleagues would welcome that.
TUR: And will you make that request of Chairman Nunes?
SWALWELL: Oh, we`re going to request to speak to all relative witnesses. So, our team`s going to meet again this week and go through what we learned today and also, I think, go forward with what documents and witnesses we to want receive.
TUR: Thank you, Congressman Swalwell.
SWALWELL: Thank you, Katy.
TUR: Coming up, will today`s political gut punch knock the wind out of the White House during this pivotal week? Stay tuned.
TUR: Welcome back.
Today kicked off the most consequential week of Donald Trump`s presidency, and it began with his approval rating at an all-time low. The Gallup daily tracking poll has President Trump with a 37 percent approval rating, roughly two months into his term. And 58 percent of Americans disapprove of the job that he is doing.
Just a week earlier, President Trump had a 45 percent approval rating. The high watermark of his presidency so far. It remains to be seen whether public opinion has changed as a result of President Trump`s wiretapping accusations against President Obama and the hard slog over his health care bill or if these low marks are merely an outlier.
Putting the president`s approval rating in context though, his three immediate predecessors all had numbers that were above 50 percent two months into their presidencies.
We`ll be right back.
TUR: Welcome back to MTP DAILY.
FBI Director Comey warned the House Intelligence Committee today that this threat from Russia isn`t going away. And while the investigation is ongoing, it`s important to make sure what happened in 2016 cannot happen again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: And they`ll be back in 2020. They may be back in 2018. And one of the lessons they may draw from this is that they were successful because they introduced chaos and division and discord and so doubt about the nature of this amazing country of ours and our Democratic process.
It`s possible they`re misreading that as it worked. And so, we`ll come back and hit them again in 2020. I don`t know, but I think we have to assume they`re coming back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Joining me now is Michael McFaul. He was the U.S. ambassador to Russia. He`s also an NBC News contributor. Michael, thanks for joining us.
First off, --
MICHAEL MCFAUL, CONTRIBUTOR, NBC NEWS: Yes, thanks for having me.
TUR: -- you heard Director Comey, right there, saying they could do it again. And we should expect them to do it again, the Russians. But it`s important, also, not to make it look like we -- like they were successful in doing this. What do you make of that?
MCFAUL: Well, first of all, just, analytically, they were successful. Let`s just be clear that they did attack us. They did steal data from one side. They published it in a way this affected the election. I think there`s lots of agreement about that. And that was very clear today in the hearings that there was lots of agreement about that.
What I don`t think we`ve done is move on to the prescriptions, right? So, we`ve had some conversation about the diagnostics, although I think there`s a lot more to be said about that, in term was what they have the capacity to do that they did not do in 2016.
But then, we have to take some measures to protect ourselves. And so far, we haven`t had that policy debate at all.
TUR: And talk to me about cooptees. FBI Director Comey saying that people could have coopted and not known about it. Explain what he meant.
MCFAUL: Well, that is people that think they`re dealing with Russians and a business venture, but those Russians are actually, you know, FSB officers or SVR officers, intelligence officers that have an alterior motivation for having those activities.
Obviously, I can`t speak about specifics. But this is something that they do well. They cultivate these kinds of relationships for Russia`s national interest.
And it was deemed by Mr. Putin and his associates that it was in Russia`s national interest to, A, disrupt the Democratic process. And they did that wonderfully, including today, by the way. They`d love to see us debating these things and calling and making these kinds of accusations, partisan accusations.
And, number two, to help the candidate that they think would have been most helpful for their national interest. And in this case, in 2016, that was Donald Trump.
TUR: There was a lot that Director Comey could not answer today and refused to answer today. And he warned viewers and members of the committee not to read into too much for what he would not comment on and what he would comment on.
He would not comment, though, on anybody that the committee named. Any of Donald Trump`s associates.
TUR: So, at risk of doing exactly what he asked us not to do, did you read anything into that?
MCFAUL: Well, first of all, you know, for me, just to echo what others have said on your program, one that he laid to rest, the fact that the president of the United States accused the former president of the United States falsely of a crime. He was very clear, crystal clear on that. And I hope that there will be some response from the White House from that.
But number two, I didn`t expect him to say what he did say. I, having dealt with these matters when I was in the government, was surprised at how much he did say. He said there was an investigation about contacts between the Trump camp and Russian officials.
He wouldn`t name names, but he made it very clear that that`s an ongoing investigation. That is -- that is incredible news. That he was willing to say that on the record.
TUR: Michael McFaul, thank you for joining us.
MCFAUL: Yes, thanks for having me.
TUR: Now let`s bring in tonight`s panel. Beth Fouhy is a senior politics editor for NBC News and MSNBC. Jonathan Alter is an MSNBC Political Analyst and columnist for "The Daily Beast." And Susan Del Percio is a Republican strategist.
Beth, let`s start with you. The White House is not backing down from Donald Trump`s wiretapping claim. At the same time, they`re also saying that reporters should take their no for answer when it comes to whether or not there was any collusion between the Trump campaign or anybody that Trump knew and the Russians.
BETH FOUHY, SENIOR POLITICS EDITOR, NBC NEWS: It`s just so bizarre, Katy. I mean, there was a way for Donald Trump to get out of this with his dignity intact. He could -- when the -- when the Senate Intelligence Committee came out with their statement, saying they that found no evidence of this -- of any -- of any wiretapping, the guys on the House Intelligence Committee did the same thing.
Donald Trump could come out, in a tweet, he didn`t even have -- wouldn`t even have to come out publicly and say, I asked the committees to do their investigation. They did. They brought back this information. Thank you very much. Now, we`re going to move on to health care and tax reform.
There was a very easy way for him to get out of it and, yet. they will not. We still had Sean Spicer in that briefing room today saying, wait a minute, we`re just at the start of the investigation. We`re not -- we`re not saying anything`s over at all.
Why do they continue to back themselves into this corner, making it about the media, raising questions about what`s to be believed, who`s to be believed? It`s so confusing and it`s so maddening and it`s so undignified for them.
TUR: And the broadening, the definition of wiretapping now to mean all surveillance, and that seems to be their excuse. And they, you know, said that they`ll likely take that hearing and say, well, they were talking specifically about Trump Tower.
SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, yes, and they will probably find out that at some point that they were tracking the ambassador of Russia and he met with General Flynn in Trump Tower. They`ll probably pick up a conversation. It will come out in the hearings that that meeting happened. They heard the conversation or something to that affect.
And Donald Trump will say, you see, they were surveilling Trump Tower. Of course, that couldn`t be further from the truth.
But what`s really interesting about these hearings, they were everything but the hearing topic. You had hearings into -- on the Republican side into leaks. And hearings on the Democratic side into punishment of Trump officials.
TUR: Well, that`s exactly what I was going to get to, John. I mean, we -- this started off, it could not be more partisan. Nunes was talking about, you know, did the Russians affect the election outcomes in Michigan and Pennsylvania?
Obviously, where the votes were closest and where Donald Trump -- that`s why his victory became decisive. Gowdy -- Trey Gowdy going after the leakers and even seeming to endorse the idea of reporters getting prosecuted for publishing those leaks.
Meanwhile, the Democrats are all going after the content of those leaks and whether or not Trump or his team had any relationship with Russia, any nefarious relationship with Russia.
What do you make of the fact that something like this is just so clearly divided on partisan lines?
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST, COLUMNIST, "THE DAILY BEAST": Look, when they started talking about the press possibly reporters going to jail, that got really dangerous for our democracy. We have a history of putting leakers in jail or prosecuting them, but we have a tradition, a very long tradition, that the recipients of this information about how our government really works, the media, is protected.
And so, now, if we`re going to start talking about the Espionage Act, as it applies to reporters, which in some ways are a last line of defense for our democracy, that`s a very dangerous road.
As far as trying to say that, oh, the election, the outcome, wasn`t affected by this in Michigan and Wisconsin, that`s beside the point. The question is whether there was any collusion with the Russians and whether they influenced the election and -- or attempted to influence the election. That was established today.
So, the question is, what happens from here? You have a credibility crisis that the president has which is going to make it very hard for him on other issues like North Korea. And you are increasingly having a legitimacy crisis. Comey cannot be fired.
He and Mike Pence are the only ones who are, essentially, unfireable in this administration. Which means that he will take this investigation to where it leads, including, I think, Donald Trump`s taxes.
TUR: You know, it makes you think about that kiss that Donald Trump blew to him right after -- right after the inauguration and whether or not he would still do that.
FOUHY: Comey goes in and out of favor constantly with -- depending on which side you`re on.
TUR: Well, what do you make of that? I mean, is -- do we live in a time where nothing can be seen through a -- through a bipartisan lens? Nothing can be seen through a nonpartisan lens?
FOUHY: The days of the Watergate Committee where everybody banded together as one to look into what happened and whether President Nixon was involved in a criminal enterprise is long gone.
And Comey, the interesting thing about him, is he has been so central to everything in politics since last summer. He has been like Forest Gump, basically. He shows up everywhere where it matters.
And here he was again today and maddening one side or maddening the other side, depending on what he says.
ALTER: But you can get back to some bipartisan as Trump`s poll numbers drop and drop. So, if these members start seeing in their districts collapsed support for the president, they`re going to start acting in a more bipartisan way.
TUR: I also want to point out, and we`re going to have to go before I can get into this, but that this -- in the remarkable turn of events, this hearing started with FBI Director Comey rebutting a president`s -- the president`s tweet. And it wound down with him rebutting another Donald Trump tweet which was that they were saying that there was no effect on election outcomes which they say they were not looking into.
Beth, Jonathan and Susan. Stay with us.
Still ahead, the battle over President Trump`s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, begins. Do democrats have the stomach for a filibuster? Stay tuned.
TUR: Still ahead on "MTP Daily," Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch faces major resistance from democrats. Senator Mazie Hirono joins me next to discuss the democrat`s end game, but first, here`s Deirdre Bosa with the "CNBC Market Wrap." Hey, Deirdre.
DEIRDRE BOSA, TECHNOLOGY REPORTER FOR CNBC: Thanks, Katy. Mixed bag for stocks today with investors looking to what the FED will do with interest rates next. The Dow is down 8 points down, the S&P off by 4, the Nasdaq up half a point. Apple stock hitting a record high ahead of the release of the iPhone 8.
Apple is also investing heavily to build augmented reality glasses that will work with the iPhone. Target is looking to revamp it`s food section. The company have hired an executive from Kroger, the nation`s largest supermarket chain. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.
TUR: Welcome back. It`s rare when a confirmation hearing for a Supreme Court justice plays second fiddle to anything on Capitol Hill. But today was just that busy. The Senate Judiciary Committee kicked off what`s expected to be a four-day hearing for Judge Neil Gorsuch. After hours of opening statements, we heard from the nominee for the first time since the president announced his pick back in January. (START VIDEO CLIP)
NEIL GORSUCH, JUDGE OF THE U.S. COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT: Sitting here, I`m acutely aware of my own imperfections, but I pledge to each of you and the American people if I am confirmed, I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the constitution and laws of this great nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TUR: Democrats set up how they plan to grill the nominee, questioning his views on corporate rights, abortion, and his willingness to stand up to the president. And even though this was Gorsuch`s hearing, democrats weren`t quite ready to let go of that last nominee. They brought up Merrick Garland quite a bit. But how will the democrats resistance take shape and how far will it go?
Joining me now from Capitol Hill is Hawaii democratic senator, Mazie Hirono, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and was in the Gorsuch hearing today. Senator, thank you for joining me. MAZIE HIRONO, JUNIOR U.S. SENATOR FROM HAWAII: Sure. Aloha, Katy.
TUR: What is the goal for the democrats right now? Are they going to try and block Gorsuch`s confirmation as retribution for Merrick Garland?
HIRONO: We`re very acutely aware that this is not just a hearing about filling one vacancy in the Supreme Court because the court will be making decisions that will impact all of our lives for decades to come. And clearly Neil Gorsuch will be, should he be confirmed, will be sitting on that court for decades to come. So of course we will have a lot of questions about his judicial philosophy as it relates to a woman`s right to choose, corporate interests over individual rights, et cetera. TUR: Are you open to filibustering Neil Gorsuch?
HIRONO: We haven`t gotten to that point yet. We`re going to go through many, many hours of questioning Neil Gorsuch. As I said, his judicial philosophy is relevant because after all, it`s Justice Scalia`s judicial philosophy of originalism that led Justice Scalia to be very conservative on that court.
And so I have a lot of questions about Neil Gorsuch. And I see a pattern to his decisions where he will go to some lengths to support a corporate -- corporation`s rights over the rights of a potential injured person, for example.
TUR: If you the democrats -- if you guys decide that you are not going to accept Neil Gorsuch, and you filibuster him, are you open potentially, this is if Mitch McConnell doesn`t go nuclear, are you open to leaving this seat open for three and a half years?
HIRONO: Let`s hope it doesn`t come to that. Even though it`s -- it was very clear that the republicans are perfectly happy to involve for purely political reasons their desire not to even have meetings or hearing on Merrick Garland, but we`re not going to do the same thing to this nominee. We obviously are going to go through the hearing process. But let me just get back to the pattern that I see with Neil Gorsuch which really is troubling for me.
He made a decision, for example, or he wrote an opinion that turned on whether or not a corporation would be fined on his reading of whether or not there was a safety issue involving a hole or an opening on the floor that created a safety issue. And he said, well, the corporation didn`t need to be fined because of the way he read the requirement and the other judges on the court said his reasoning was nonsense. So he goes to some lengths to hold for corporations against individuals.
TUR: Senator, sounds like you`re leaning towards no.
(LAUGHTER) HIRONO: I have a lot of serious questions because this person is going to be on the court for decades. And he`s going to be making probably decisions that will impact a woman`s right to choose, whether or not we`re going to have unfettered campaign contributions so that the voices of individuals will be drowned out. Whether a corporation`s religious rights trumps an individual`s religious rights. These are all going to impact our lives for a long, long time.
TUR: Since it seems like.
HIRONO: . so I`m going to have a lot of questions. TUR: Since it seems like towards a no. Would you entertain another nominee?
HIRONO: I would entertain whatever nominees, you know, I look at each nominee as that person comes before us. And each nominee should be subjected to the kind of questions and raises the concerns that we have. TUR: If Neil Gorsuch were to in effect just replace Scalia, become another Scalia, would that be acceptable for you? HIRONO: We have too many (inaudible) decisions as it is. These (inaudible) decisions have very much reflected. The Roberts Court has very strong leanings towards supporting corporate interests over individual rights even to the extent of supporting corporation rights to keep people from even filing a lawsuit because they support all these mandatory arbitration provisions.
So this is more than a drift on the Roberts Court and I would not be doing my job if I simply rubber stamped yet another person who are going to continue that drift that does not protect individual rights or minority rights.
And that`s something that I was really happy that Judge Gorsuch told me when he visited with me. He said Title Three courts are there to protect minority rights. So of course I looked at his cases to see whether his decisions, his opinions reflected a concern for minority rights, and I did not see that and that`s why I have a lot of questions.
TUR: So if you don`t find him acceptable, potentially don`t find the next nominee acceptable, if there is a next nominee and you get to that point, would you be open to leaving this seat vacant for three and a half years?
HIRONO: Well, I have a feeling that, you know, that may -- regardless of whether or not we`ll get another nominee or not, I will continue to do my job as I see fit to question every nominee on their judicial philosophy and where they are going to come from on issues that are really important to people in this country. TUR: Senator Hirono, thank you for joining us.
HIRONO: Thank you.
TUR: Coming up, President Trump hits the road again to settle the health care bill. But even members of his own party aren`t buying into it. Stay tuned.
TUR: Welcome back, republicans on Capitol Hill are aiming to vote on the health care bill on Thursday. And ahead of that critical vote, President Trump is hitting the road to sell the bill. He`ll take the stage in Louisville, Kentucky in less than two hours to rally support for the GOP plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Vice President Mike Pence was also in Kentucky earlier this month. And it`s no coincidence the Trump administration is targeting the state.
Kentucky is the home of Senator Rand Paul, one of the republican senators opposed to the health care proposal and arguably the bill`s most vocal critic. And Kentucky is also one of the states that has arguably benefited the most from the passage of Obamacare. According to Gallup, more than 20 percent of the state`s residents did not have health insurance in 2013, fast forward to 2015, after the law took effect and that number was down to 7.5 percent.
The key beneficiaries of Obamacare in Kentucky were older, poorer, and more rural residents. Those are some of the key demographics that helped elect President Trump, but they`re also the ones who would suffer the most under the republican plan. We`ll be right back with whether the president can breathe life back into his health care bill coming up.
TUR: Welcome back, it`s time for "The Lid." Our panel is back to talk everything that is happening this week. Beth Fouhy, Jonathan Alter, Susan del Percio. Susan, talking about this in the break, what do you think Donald Trump is going to say tonight when he takes the stage in Louisville? SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST AND FOUNDER OF SUSAN DEL PERCIO STRATEGIES: I don`t think there is any way that he will not talk about the hearings today. Probably his first shot against Director Comey will be for not being a patriot`s fan, but once he gets past that, I think he actually really will go and we saw a little sneak peek in Sean Spicer`s press conference today -- not press conference...
DEL PERCIO: Thank you. With his briefing today. But I think Donald Trump is going to double down on everything. And he will fight -- you mentioned earlier in the show, his poll numbers are down. When his back is to the wall, he gets very scrappy. TUR: Well, no. Sometimes when his back is to the wall, he stays on a teleprompter and does not leave that teleprompter. That`s gonna be notable. Is he going to stay on the teleprompter and just read what has been prepared for him or is he going to need to punch back? And if he does, is it the media? Is it democrats? Is it the leakers? Is it Comey? Is it a combination of all four?
DEL PERCIO: Yes. BETH FOUHY, NBC NEWS SENIOR POLITICS EDITOR: I think the whole thing is so counterproductive. I don`t disagree with you that he probably will do that. But he`s allegedly there in Kentucky to sell his health care plan. Now, how is he going to convince all these members of congress not happy with the health care plan as it its written to walk the plank for him when he`s down the 37 percent popularity and he`s under criminal investigation?
So it`s already kind of a dicey proposition. If he then goes out and start attacking people and reminding everybody about what was discussed in those hearings today, he`s sort of pushing those persuadable republicans further and further away. The ones that he needs to get on board before Thursday when the vote is scheduled.
TUR: There was a moment right after the hearing where Chairman Nunes came out, addressed reporters, and he said something that`s dropping a lot of jaws. Stay with us because the video is a little wonky but you can hear the sound. Take a listen.
(START VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You haven`t heard of Carter Page and all these other people?
DEVIN NUNES, CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, there were about five names mentioned by the democrats.
NUNES: I don`t know those people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`ve not heard of Carter Page or Roger Stone? NUNES: No. I`ve heard of Manafort.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`ve never read any stories about any of these people? NUNES: I`ve heard lots of stories, but there was more names than that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Chairman Nunes, the head of the House Intelligence Committee, also a member of Donald Trump`s transition has not heard of Roger Stone, has not heard of Carter Page. He knew about Paul Manafort from the convention. What do you make of that?
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: To use a word that is being used a lot, now is in reference to President Trump, that`s not credible.
ALTER: He has clearly heard of these individuals. He`s doing the same thing that Sean Spicer and the rest of them are doing which is backing and filling, you know, trying to finesse these issues. And the problem is in today`s media environment, you can`t finesse them forever. Eventually you have somebody with great credibility like Comey coming forward and saying, look, we got to call a spade a spade. The president was not correct. His tweets were not accurate. And then so eventually facts are as we`ve heard stubborn things.
They can be held off for a certain amount of time and then they find their way in. And I think that applies to the president in Kentucky tonight too because the people down there really know a lot about health care because Kinect which is what their health program is called has been very, very successful in getting huge numbers of them insurance. They are not going to be happy with a plan that throws them off their insurance. It`s a big political problem for Donald Trump.
TUR: But Chairman Nunes is not a member of the White House. He is not a member of Donald Trump`s administration. This is not somebody trying to defend at least -- allegedly not trying to defend the president. He is.
ALTER: He was on the transition team. TUR: . he was on transition but -- I mean, do you think that.
DEL PERCIO: I do believe -- I believe that you saw Chaffetz (inaudible) and him being quite fair and.
TUR: Do you believe that he didn`t know who Roger Stone is? DEL PERCIO: I find it very hard. I think Roger Stone will be extremely upset if that`s the case. (LAUGHTER)
TUR: That`s true. FOUHY: And the other thing, let`s not forget, the republicans had a very deliberate strategy in that hearing today. They were talking about leaks and they were talking about did this affect the vote in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. For him to then go down the route of do you know who these people are, could it be possible that they actually engaged in this behavior, that would completely take him off the message of all the republicans in that room. And he was running that room. So he really for self-preservation and to protect the strategy, he couldn`t engage. ALTER: They`re sticking with their talking points. What worries me is that Trump tonight is going to go after the press big time because that is what they were talking.
TUR: That was their point. And Gowdy made it clear that he thinks the press should be prosecuted.
ALTER: Yes. And Rand Paul has also said that over the weekend. So if we get into a situation now where reporters just doing their jobs, you know, if somebody brings you a leak and it`s news and it`s in the national interest, you publish it. If that is suddenly going to send you to jail, we`re really in a different America.
TUR: We should also note that the only reason we`re talking about this is because people were leaking to reporters and reporters were putting it out there. The only reason that Mike Flynn got -- it seems he got fired from his job as national security advisor is because there were reports out that said he misled the vice president. That`s why he doesn`t have his job. Oftentimes we are learning that the Trump team was not truthful because there are leaks that are showing that the Trump team was not truthful.
DEL PERCIO: And he is going after the press and trying to destroy them in essence has made enemies of them. So what`s going to happen with reporters? They`re going to go out and get their own story. So on top -- not in retribution, but because they have no -- there`s no other way to get information, so you go after those stories differently. And that`s clearly what we see in some of that reporting. TUR: Reporters will go after any story that they can get their hands on that is going to make news. It`s not the matter of being the enemy of one administration to the other. Reporters are guardians -- guardians of the truth. We are guardians of the truth.
ALTER: George W. Bush is now one of our biggest defenders. TUR: There you go. Beth, Jonathan, Susan. Guys, thank you. After the break, bueller, bueller. Bueller? Stay tuned.
TUR: And in case you missed it, we learned some stuff about FBI Director James Comey today. There`s a lot of things that he wouldn`t talk about.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, DIRECTOR OF THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: It`s not something I can comment on. I don`t think I should comment. I can`t. That`s not something I can comment on. TUR: But he did open up about a few surprising things. For example, he has very strong feelings about a certain winning football team. COMEY: I hate the New England Patriots.
TUR: And even a steely eyed guy like Comey sometimes needs a time-out during an hours` long hearing. COMEY: I`m not made of steel, so I might need to take a quick break.
TUR: But perhaps our favorite thing we learned about Comey today is that he may be a fan of a certain classic `80s film.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you engaged in McCarthyism, Director Comey?
COMEY: I try very hard not to engage in any isms of any kind.
(LAUGHTER) COMEY: . including McCarthyism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible) or any for that matter. Isms in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an ism. He should believe in himself.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TUR: We appreciate these moments of levity although we cannot confirm or deny that they made this last. That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more "MTP Daily." "For the Record" with Greta starts right now. Hey, Greta.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2017 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2017 Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.