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MTP Daily, Transcript 3/23/2017

Guests: Michael Hayden, Ramesh Ponnuru, Yamiche Alcindor, Carl Hulse, Kevin Brady, Kasie Hunt, Mike Lee, Carl Hulse, Ramesh Ponnuru, Yamiche Alcindor

Show: MTP DAILY Date: March 23, 2017 Guest: Michael Hayden, Ramesh Ponnuru, Yamiche Alcindor, Carl Hulse, Kevin Brady, Kasie Hunt, Mike Lee, Carl Hulse, Ramesh Ponnuru, Yamiche Alcindor

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Nothing better to watch right now than "MTP DAILY." It starts right now.

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

The House pulls the plug on a health care bill vote tonight. (voice-over): Tonight, what`s the deal?


REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: We have not gotten enough of our members to get to yes.


TODD: Can life imitate the art of the deal or not?


BRADY: And I think there is 95 percent agreement on this conservative bill in the House. But in Washington, the last five percent matters.


TODD: We`ll talk to Republican lawmakers for and against the president`s health care bill as tonight`s planned vote hits a delay. Plus, source code.


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA, CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Look, not -- on this committee, we are not going to ever reveal sources.


TODD: How the battle of the leaks is flooding the Russia investigation.

And Supreme Court filibuster or bluster?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK, SENATE MINORITY LEADER: My vote will be no and I urge my colleagues to do the same.


TODD: How far will Democrats really go to block President Trump`s Supreme Court nominee?

This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.

(on camera): Good evening, I`m Chuck Todd in Washington. Welcome to MTP DAILY. And guess what? If you`ve covered the Republican Congressional majority since they took over in 2010, today is not a surprise. Having to pull a vote, not the first times these guys have had to do that. So, welcome to a potentially, though, devastating one-two punch for the White House. Earlier in the week, the FBI went public with an investigation into Trump`s campaign operation and now this mess. Right now, Republican leaders, the president and his White House team are reeling after both conservative and moderate Republicans, essentially derailed a vote that was supposed to be happening just a few hours from now on the White House-backed plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. It`s a stunning rebuke, perhaps not that surprising if you followed the week. After President Trump lobbied conservatives and moderates hard in an attempt to get them on board, warning them that they could lose the House majority if they rejected his plan. This afternoon at the White House, President Trump acknowledged the drama surrounding this vote, just before the plug was officially pulled.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s close not because Obamacare is good, it`s closed for politics. They know it`s no good. Everybody knows it`s no good. It`s only politics because we have a great bill and I think we have a very good chance. But it`s only politics.


TODD: Well, is it only politics or is it policy? According to GOP leadership, President Trump made his final offer to hold out in the House Freed Caucus today when he met with them at the White House. But that offer was rejected. Here`s what the chairman of the Freedom Caucus told reporters just moments ago after news of the vote being postponed was made public.


REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA, CHAIRMAN, HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS: Does this bill actually lower premiums significantly enough to make a real difference for people that are struggling to pay for health care? And I think that we have that at the very core of where we are. I am still a no at this time. I am desperately trying to get to yes.


TODD: The Freedom Caucus is meeting with Speaker Ryan right now in his office. Today has been a furious day of lobbying behind the scenes. After meeting with conservatives, the White House said it will meet with the moderates. So, what now? Before this vote blew up, the White House was adamant. There`s no plan B.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any sort of plan if the bill does not pass tonight?

SEAN SPICER, U.S. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No. It`ll work. It`s going to pass. So, that`s it.


TODD: Whoops. The White House says conversations are ongoing and they intend to hold this vote tomorrow morning. It`s only the White House that`s claiming this. They`re now blaming the delay on scheduling. Folks, here`s the bigger picture. Right now, President Trump wants a win and his White House appears to be desperate to cut a deal. They floated conservative changes in an effort to get conservatives on board and now they`re meeting with moderates. How`s that going to work? They`ve tried to play nice with the conference. They`ve tried threatening the conference. The art of the deal president appears to be ignoring his own advice. In his book, Trump wrote, quote, "The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. That makes the other guy smell blood. And then you`re dead." Hmm. As Mr. Trump himself once tweeted, no when to walk away from the table. I`m joined now by Republican Congressman Kevin Brady of Texas, who`s chairman of the very powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Mr. Chairman, is this vote going to happen tomorrow morning?

REP. KEVIN BRADY (R), TEXAS, CHAIRMAN, HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE: I don`t know about the timing but what`s clear about today is the votes aren`t here yet, but no one is walking away from the table. Conservatives, not moderates, not President Trump, certainly not House Republicans. Intent on repealing and replacing Obamacare. We`ve got some more work to do.

But, look, this isn`t unexpected. This is a huge measure. It`s normal to hit bumps in the road. We`re going to stay at the table. And at the end of the day, we`re going to repeal Obamacare.

[17:05:08] TODD: You know, look, it`s not the first time, since you guys have been a majority, that you`ve hit these road blocks. You`ve come back and you make changes in your path. So, I get that part of it.

But let me ask you this. Why should some of these conservatives take you guys at your word at some of these changes before they know what can pass the Senate?

BRADY: Well, obviously, there are huge conservative wins in this bill already. A trillion dollars of tax relief. More than a trillion dollars of spending cuts. The first Medicaid reforms, frankly, in history. And no longer funding Planned Parenthood.

Before -- that`s before we start returning control to the states. So, this is a hugely conservative bill. Their idea is they want to make sure we get as many marker reforms as we can into this bill. We are constrained because we`re playing by the Senate rules all throughout this. But, look, we`re all united here. Let`s do the reforms and make the most affordable health care available, directed not by Washington but by the states and by the communities.

TODD: I got to ask you something here because there`s a new CBO score out. It just hit the tables. I would assume the good news for you is that it saves more money on the deficit but the coverage number here is -- might be of concern to you.

The increase in the number of unissued people relative to the number under current law would reach 21 million in 2020, 24 million in 2026.

And in 2026 an estimated 52 million people under the age of 65 would be uninsured compared with 28 million people who would lack insurance that year under the current law. So, that number goes up a bit.

BRADY: Well, that`s no surprise, though.

TODD: I understand.

BRADY: The question is -- you know, Chuck, the question is why? Why uninsured? And the answer is, CBO, in their estimates, gave us that answer which is most Americans, forced on Obamacare today, when given the choice, choose no thanks. This is health care we can`t afford.

So, they are choosing -- in fact, CBO estimates next year, with no changes in Medicaid or Obamacare other than you`re not forced into it, 11 million people have washed their hands and say no thank you. So, the bulk of that is just the freedom not to be forced into these plans they can`t use and don`t want.

TODD: What about people that do want the plans but feel as if the coverage that they get, they weren`t going to -- they can`t afford the coverage that they want. They may be able to afford a new, lower insurance policy with very little coverage -- take all the mandatory.


TODD: I understand that. But if they want better coverage? (CROSSTALK) BRADY: Yes. So, that`s available to them. In fact, states will be able to approve a broad range of products that aren`t available in Obamacare today. Some of them will be very robust, comprehensive all the way through. Others will be more targeted to regions, to populations, to age groups, to people who may need some of those essential benefits but not all. And see, that`s where CBO has, I think, a nearly impossible job, not just estimating coverage but price increases as well. I think they`re doing their best modeling on this. TODD: Yes. BRADY: But, in truth, it is really hard to know the products the states will approve.

TODD: One last question on this, though. When -- in any sort of economic model, when you ask an industry or sector to provide more choices that somehow it`s going to bring the overall cost down?

BRADY: Well, two right off the bat.

TODD: The costs go up over time.

BRADY: Well, -- TODD: And everybody has to pay for that. If you narrow the amount of choice, sometimes you can bring costs down.

BRADY: Yes, boy, that is just the opposite. Look, you have two huge health care plans right in there. Now, Medicare Advantage, a Republican idea, and the Medicare Medicine, a prescription drug plan.

Both of them free-market oriented. Give seniors dramatic choice. Medicare Advantage is the most popular plans -- are the most popular plans for seniors.

And the Medicare prescription drug plan, not only is that hugely popular, it has cost 40 percent less than what was estimated. And the premiums, 10 years later, still haven`t hit even the minimum Democrats propose. So, yes, the free market, lots of choices, targeted and tailored toward individuals, not Washington, are already proven to work for Americans.

TODD: And you believe this bill, with a few changes, over time, will it cover more people or fewer?

BRADY: I think it`s going to have more access than the health care today and here is why. In two out of three Americans, forced into Obamacare and with generous subsidies, have said no thank you. They`ve found a way to get out of this.

I keep thinking in states like Texas, we have so many people who want health care they can use and can afford, that they`re going to look at these plans tailored to our communities and our regions and say, this is what`s important to me.

[17:10:06] TODD: All right. Kevin Brady, Chairman of House Ways and Means. We`ll be watching tomorrow. Will this vote happen tomorrow or is it more likely next week? What`s realistic?

BRADY: Well, so we`re going to meet tonight at 7:00 to talk about the state of play, how we continue to work forward. And then, our leader, Kevin McCarthy, will ultimately schedule the vote.

TODD: Fair enough. I will leave it there. Sir, thanks for coming on and sharing your views.

BRADY: You bet.

TODD: Quickly, joining me now from Capitol Hill to give you more detail on the CBO score -- I got it out there to get at least the coverage number there. A slight increase overall in what they think coverage. But a savings in the deficit. Fill in the blanks for me, Kasie.

KASIE HUNT, CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Well, Chuck, I`m just digesting this right along with you. But, basically, what you say is correct. This is a score for the manager`s amendment.

Which for those who have been following the intricate twist and turns, was a bill that was negotiated initially by leadership and included some changes to Medicaid to help bring some moderator members along, who were concerned particularly about how this bill would affect the elderly. People who are under the age of 65, not eligible for Medicare. And how high those premiums could be.

And that`s a big part of where the reduced savings number is coming from. Why this version of the bill costs, according to the CBO, about $150 billion more than the previous version of this bill. But this does say that the number of people insured, that change would basically be negligible. They said it might appear as though that were not the case because of rounding. But that it would basically be the same. So, again, when this first CBO estimate came out on this bill, those were the numbers that really shocked a lot of people. The number of people who would find themselves quickly uninsured in 2020, 2026. You`re still looking at those same numbers. I think it`s also important to note, Chuck, that our conversation about the bill has gone way beyond the policy that the CBO scored and that we are seeing right now.

TODD: Yes, it is no longer, really, a policy debate. It is a political debate. Kasie hunt, thank you.

HUNT: That`s for sure. Bye.

TODD: I`m joined now by Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah who has been calling for Republicans to ditch this health care plan and go back to the drawing board.

Senator Lee, welcome back to the show.

SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: Thank you.

TODD: Perhaps I ought to call you Nostradamus. This morning, you pretty much said, I don`t know why we ought to be rewriting the entire bill just in order to cajole a few people to come along. We ought to go back to the drawing board and come up with free-market solutions that will actually bring down costs.

Is this the drawing board moment or do you fear that they still won`t -- don`t believe they won`t get the votes?

LEE: I certainly think this could be our drawing board moment if we take it as that. I don`t think it necessarily has to mean that we have to go back to square one. But I think it does mean that we have to ask honest questions about why this went down in flames, about why it didn`t work.

And I think the simplest way to answer that is to point out that this bill didn`t take care of what`s making -- been making health care way too expensive. And we can answer that question, then we can get to the point where we can get enough votes to get this passed.

TODD: I have to say, Senator, to me, I hear you on the expensive health care. I have heard -- we have heard a lot of politicians promise bringing down the cost of health care. But I think what`s confusing about this bill and Obamacare is what costs are we aiming at? Bringing down the cost of health care itself or bringing down the cost to the consumer?

Because, right now, it seems one was focused only on consumer, but we weren`t getting the big drivers of health care. You tell me. On this bill, it doesn`t seem it did either.

LEE: Yes. That`s my point is that we do need to focus on both of those. And what this bill would have done is it would have solved, perhaps, one set of problems but created another set of problems, in part, by not solving the problems with the Obamacare regulations.

The health insurance regulations were driving up the cost of health care, of health insurance, the premiums that people were paying. And that, in turn, was reflected in the costs that the government was paying for health care across the board. I think we do have to take a step-by-step approach and one that acknowledges that we do need to repeal Obamacare, root and branch, as Republicans have been pledging to do, for seven years. And if we do that, then we`ll be in a much better position to go back and figure out what comes next.

TODD: So, lay this out. I was just going to say, let`s put you -- you`re in charge here now. You`re calling the shots. Full repeal, hard stop, then what?

LEE: OK. So, there are two ways we could go. We could go big or go small. Either one of them is fine. Going small means just repealing. And then having an iterative process to decide what comes next.

You could also go big. And in one bill, you could repeal and then expand the use of HSAs. Allow for the purchase of health insurance across state lines. And include a number of other provisions that would help bring down the cost of health care. [17:15:07] Either one is fine with me just as long as we do them. But in doing either one, we do have to do what we have said we would do for the last seven years which is repeal Obamacare.

TODD: Is it possible, though -- is it impossible to get you and, say, Charlie Dent -- OK, maybe the most moderate Republican in the House. And you, one of the more conservative, small-government guys in the Senate. Is it possible to get you to support the same bill in health care, given what`s already been passed and what the expectations are now of the voter?

LEE: Look, I think it is. Now, I want to be clear. I don`t know Mr. Dent very well.

TODD: Fair enough.

LEE: I don`t work with him in the same chamber. But if you were to analogize him to some of my Senate Republican colleagues, --

TODD: Susan Collins.

LEE: -- then the answer, I`d say, sure.

TODD: OK. LEE: I do think there is a way to get there. I do think there is a way to get a majority of the Republicans, a majority of the members of both Houses of Congress voting for the same bill. But in order to do that, we do have to do what we said we would do which is repeal Obamacare.

TODD: What do you make of the various leadership threats that have been out there? There is the -- you`ve probably heard it on the House Freedom Caucus. Hey, guys, this is going to cost Republicans the House if this bill goes down or Mitch McConnell, I would hate to be a Republican whose vote prevented us from keeping the commitment we`ve made to the American people for almost 10 years now.

It sounds like those are veiled threats. Does that -- is that an effective way to get to 50 votes in the Senate and to get to 215 in the House?

LEE: Those are two very different statements. With respect to Mitch McConnell`s statement, I think it`s true on its face. I wouldn`t want to be the person who caused us not to repeal Obamacare. I think what Mitch McConnell is saying --

TODD: What if you didn`t like the replacement?

LEE: -- is that we do, in fact, have to repeal Obamacare. Well, this bill doesn`t repeal Obamacare as completely as it needs to. And so, we do have to get there.

As to the other statement, to the statement to the effect that this particular bill has to pass. And if this particular bill doesn`t pass, then it`s going to be Armageddon here. Dogs and cats living together on the streets. Book of Revelation type of stuff. That makes no sense. That is absurd. And they know better. They shouldn`t say that.

TODD: Let me ask this. Should this be done in the Senate first? I know, technically, the House has to do a revenue bill. But don`t you need to find out how -- what bill you can get passed in the Senate before you make House members walk some ideological planks they`re not comfortable with?

LEE: Not necessarily. You could do it that way but it`s fine to start it in the House. But what you have to have is some consensus first. You have to be able to know that it can pass the House and it can pass the Senate first.

I normally don`t like the idea of shrink wrapping a legislative proposal and running it through both House of Congress and saying, this is how it has to pass. TODD: Yes. LEE: But if you are going to do it -- and there are some circumstances where that kind of thing may be the least undesirable approach but the only approach that can work. This might be one of those circumstances. You do have to do the hard work of making sure you have enough votes. It`s not enough to simply to say, we`re going to shame you into voting for this or warning people, quite falsely, if this particular iteration of this particular bill doesn`t pass that everyone`s going to lose. That`s absurd and that`s no way to run a legislative process.

TODD: I`ve got to ask you one thing about President Trump`s credibility. He did a lengthy interview with "Time" magazine on the issue of truth. Again -- this is an interview today, Senator.

Again, the president is asked about the business of Ted Cruz`s father with Lee Harvey Oswald. You said his father was somehow involved with Lee Harvey Oswald in the JFK assassination. And the president`s response was simply this. Well, that was in a newspaper. No, no, no. I like Ted Cruz. He`s a friend of mine. But that was in the newspaper. I wasn`t -- I didn`t say that. I was referring to a newspaper.

He didn`t once retract what he said. Does that bother you that his -- he is eroding his own credibility this way?

LEE: Look, I never understood the argument he was making at the outset. This is the first I`ve heard of it coming up more recently.

TODD: Right. LEE: I can`t imagine that he`s going to try to defend it. Because anyone who knows Ted Cruz`s father as I do, knows that is not a credible claim. But I`m really not sure what you are asking.

TODD: No, I guess it`s the whole idea that he`s willing to just believe anything he reads, regurgitate it, never retract it.

LEE: Yes. Are you saying that he is doubling down on that?

TODD: Is he eroding his own credibility over time, doing this?

LEE: Well, anytime anyone says something that isn`t true, and it can be proven not to be true, that tends not to be good for one`s credibility. As to why he is talking about this again, I really don`t know. You`ll have to ask him.

[17:20:02] TODD: Fair enough. Senator Lee, I will leave it there. Quite a busy day. I know you`ve got -- you`re hoping to get back to your state and do some politicking back there. Thank you for being here.

LEE: Thank you.

TODD: A lot more on the health care bill vote delay after the break. So, we`ll delay for a few seconds.

And later this hour, how a flood of leaks could change the tide of the Russia investigation. We`re going to talk to former spy chief General Michael Hayden. Keep it here.


TODD: Welcome back. In the midst of the fast-moving health care situation on Capitol Hill this afternoon, I spoke with California Governor Jerry Brown. He`s actually in Washington this week. I asked him whether his most immediate concern with the bill is that it could create a huge budget hole in his state.


GOV. JERRY BROWN (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, I`m more concerned about the millions of people who won`t have health care. That`s why I say the bill is not health care reform or repeal and replace. It`s death, disease and suffering. It`s a terrible thing.

Now, yes, it will cost money. Billions of dollars which we wouldn`t have. And around the country, we`re talking hundreds of billions. So, it`s a disaster. If it does happen to get out of the House, I imagine the Senate will take a very hard look at it because anybody with their name on this bill, in most districts in America, their name is going to be mud. No question about it.


TODD: You can catch more of my exclusive sit-down this week with Governor Jerry Brown this Sunday on "MEET THE PRESS."


TODD: Welcome back to MTP DAILY. Let`s bring in our all-star congressional panel. Ramesh Ponnuru, Senior Editor at "The National Review." Yamiche Alcindor, Reporter for "The New York Times" and MSNBC Contributor. And Carl Hulse, Chief Washington Correspondent at "The New York Times." And, of course, I like to refer to him as the mayor -- the mayor in absentia of the Capitol Hill press corps. Yamiche can`t say anything other than, yes, sir. This must be awkward when your editor is sitting here. [17:25:01] Carl, what the heck happened and did this surprise you? CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": No surprises. It`s really embarrassing for the Republicans. I mean, they were going to get off to a big start, you know, to show that they can finally govern. Instead, they, sort of, stepped on a banana peel, right? I think that -- who knew it was going to be this complicated to pass a big health care bill, right? Most of the people in Congress right now, Republicans have never had to pass a bill that they were going to be accountable for and I think some of them are honestly terrified.

TODD: It seems, guys, that there`s confusion here. Donald Trump is having a political negotiation and Mark Meadows and the Freedom Caucus and Mike Lee are trying to have a policy negotiation. Is that fair to say, Ramesh?

RAMESH PONNURU, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE NATIONAL REVIEW": I don`t think that anybody who has been talking about having been in these meetings have come away thinking that President Trump is a master of all the policy details involved in health care. And he doesn`t claim to be either. He`s never really dwelt on those issues.

But I think there is a problem here because people have these specific concerns. They`re interrelated. You pull on one thread, it affects everything else. And it`s very hard to negotiate under those circumstances.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Add to the idea of what Carl said with this idea of all these people who have not passed a bill. And then, you have a president who really ran on vagueness, who really ran on the fact that he had a good reputation, the fact that he could make deals.

And now, he`s -- now, he`s focused on this idea that he actually has to know the intricacies of different bills and he has to somehow satisfy two warring groups. And to me, what`s amazing today is that you have the head of these two groups talking and Paul Ryan, at least from what I`ve heard, has yet -- has yet to really come out as forcefully as the -- as the leader of the Freedom Caucus or the Tuesday Group. But I think that that is remarkable.

TODD: Here`s what I don`t get, Carl, though, is -- and it`s the question I had for Mike Lee. Why are we expending all this energy on a bill that has no chance of passing the United States Senate?

And if I were a House member, I`d be, like, sorry, guys. I saw what happened to House Democrats who did BTU tax or cap and trade. I`m not walking a plank until you walk the plank.

HULSE: So, here`s -- I think that what`s -- you were right with Mike Lee when you said, this is now a political fight. To me, what`s going on now is just let`s get this out of the House. We don`t -- it`s not about politics.

TODD: No, it`s clear that`s what it became.

HULSE: Let`s just get it out of the House. Dump it on the Senate.

TODD: Right. HULSE: See what they can do with it.

TODD: I don`t want it. You guys take it.

HULSE: And maybe they can do nothing with it but this is now -- they have to show they can do this. It`s just going to be a huge embarrassment. As she said, he`s the deal closer, and not going to close his first big deal?

PONNURU: And initially, they had a strategy that worked to move quickly. We were going to repeal first, and then later on, you delay.

TODD: Move quickly.

PONNURU: They got so criticized. They realized they couldn`t do that. They had to have some replace elements. And you could -- you can`t do that quickly. That`s the problem.

ALCINDOR: And, I mean, I think this idea that you have -- and I`ve sat in some of those Freedom Caucus meetings where they`re, like, well, we should pass what we passed in 2015.

It`s just that that`s not going to fly anymore. The people now expect you to govern. They expect you to have a bill.

And you`re dealing with people who are saying, well, we don`t need to -- we don`t need to do all the replacement stuff. We can just repeal. That`s just not going to work.

TODD: Well, and, Carl, this is not old school. It used to be. If you can`t pass the bill, make it bigger. Right?

HULSE: Right. Right. TODD: You just -- now, you`re going to make this bigger. Now, they`re going to -- but the irony here is you need sweeteners for Charlie Dent and you need to get rid of -- you need to give it a diet for Mark Meadows.

HULSE: Right. I think -- you know, I`ve seen Mark Meadows saying, well, I`m trying to get to yes. But the closer he gets to yes, the further to no Susan Collins and Charlie Dent get.

TODD: Yes. HULSE: This is just not the way to put this together. And I think they`re going to have a hard time selling it. They`re going to keep the pressure on.

TODD: The irony here is, of course, Donald Trump got caught in the worst possible position for mister art of the deal. He got -- he`s in the position of he needs the deal more than they do, doesn`t he?

ALCINDOR: I think so. This idea -- because this is a really big test. I wouldn`t say it`s the first big test because there have been so many tests. But this is a huge test to his presidency to say, he brought all these people in at the White House. You have your photo-op. You`re saying this is definitely going to happen.

You have Sean Spicer out there saying this is definitely going to get done this afternoon. And then, now, it`s a very easy thing to understand, if you -- if his presidency is on the line in this way. But it`s a very easy to understand that you made a promise and it`s not happening.

PONNURU: House Republicans who are saying they`re no on this bill do not feel they are taking a risk in saying no on it.

TODD: I was just going to say there`s no political risk to know, is there? PONNURU: The risk they are taking is with Trump, not with their own political fortunes.

TODD: OK. But this is where I think the unpredictability of Trump is going to be fascinating. He doesn`t have a lot of patience. He could easily say, you know what? I`ll make as many changes as I can from HHS. I want to go to tax cuts, Carl. I`m out of here. I`m done with health care.

HULSE: I think that`s, sort of, the dream of Republicans. Like, you know what? We can walk away. And Obamacare is going to collapse. And President Obama and Nancy Pelosi are going to get the blame.

Guess what? That`s not going to happen. If -- what goes wrong now is in the hands of the Republicans and Donald Trump. They`re going to be blamed for whatever goes on.

So, you know, they need to get something done here or else the rest of their year is going -- it`s going to be a big struggle.

PONNURU: And things (ph) with the tax are an easy win. It`s ridiculous.

TODD: Well, let`s pause there. Neil Gorsuch. We`ve got Gorsuch. That`s what I always hear. Hey, we got Gorsuch. [17:30:01] Anyway, we`ll talk about that in a minute. You guys are sticking around. We have a lot to unpack. There`s a few other stories out there, including the one I just mentioned which we`ll talk about right after this.


TODD: Welcome back. The senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, officially announced today what we have known since President Trump named Judge Neil Gorsuch as his nominee for the Supreme Court. The democrats would like to try to filibuster his nomination, forcing republicans to get 60 yes votes to advance Gorsuch to a final confirmation vote. That means eight senate democrats would need to join all 52 republicans to move Gorsuch to confirmation.

These are 10 democrats that are ones to watch. They`re the folks who are up for reelection in 2018 in states Donald Trump carry. But the real drama in this vote isn`t going to be the filibuster, it`s what these 10 people do. Will democrats force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to use the so- called nuclear option and blow up the senate rules for good so that Gorsuch would only need a simple majority to be confirmed?

Both sides claim they would like to avoid that option. For that reason, some democrats may vote with republicans to bypass a filibuster but then oppose Judge Gorsuch in the final vote. If you are a red state democrat, you may be looking for something to claim that you voted for Trump on something and Gorsuch may be it as well. We`ll be watching. And we`ll be right back.



SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well aware. I read it yesterday. But the point that I am making is when you use a term like associate and you use all of these subjective terms, there is a reason you are doing it, which is because you don`t have anything concrete. If you do, come back to me and ask does anyone in the White House, is anyone in the transition, but when you throw out a vague term like that, it`s a catch-all.


TODD: Welcome back to "MTP Daily." It was an amazing almost laughable moment in the White House briefing today. Press Secretary Sean Spicer keeps trying to distance the administration and the president from his former campaign manager and campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. But in reality, the story is not going away and it seems like we are heading to an escalating contest of leaks on both sides of the aisle at the states and congress.

Just yesterday, the ranking democrat on House Intel Committee, Adam Schiff, told me on the show that there is direct evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. That happened just after the top republican on the committee came out with his own information citing a, quote, source, that the intel committee incidentally collected information about members of the Trump transition, therefore proving President Trump right.

Folks, we are in a slippery slope. It could do lasting damage. Joining me now, General Michael Hayden. He is the former director of the CIA and the NSA. And for people that are in conspiracies, they are assuming you leave here on a black helicopter, right?


TODD: You travel always on black helicopter.

HAYDEN: That`s right.

TODD: General Hayden, let me start with this issue of the leaking issue that we are sure going on. Obviously, this is -- we are at a point where can we have faith in congress to investigate this story fairly?

HAYDEN: I think yesterday was actually a dark day. And I know both the chair and senior member of the committee like and respect them both. But what we saw yesterday, I think, was the committee chairman and perhaps a little bit from the senior member as well undercutting the legitimacy of at least this committee to conduct that kind of investigation. One hopes that the senate committee can actually maintain this bipartisanship and more objective view. But we`ll have to see. TODD: Walk me through raw intelligence here. Look, it seems like the most logical explanation that happened yesterday with Devin Nunes is this. Somebody wants to help out President Trump and said, just go find me something that can give a grain, a kernel of truth to what he said about some sort of wiretapping of associates or something. And they may have found raw intelligence. What does it look like? HAYDEN: Yeah, first of all, to your concept, I can even see a thin ray of light there to give the president an off-ramp. So we just get this behind us because what he said is certainly not true. So what I think happened -- and I watched Chairman Nunes` comments very, very carefully and even read the text. He was very careful. It`s lawful. It`s court ordered. It`s foreign intelligence. So it has nothing to do with any of the investigations. He talked about it in November, December, January. And so, Chuck, my lights kind of lit up. I think I know what this is. I have got no doubt. I am trying to surmise.

TODD: Your experience.

HAYDEN: What he said. I have been director of NSA during two presidential transitions, right? Foreign embassies in this town who might actually be legitimate targets of surveillance, they light up after the election. And I think they really lit up after this one because they were surprised as you and I were that the outcome was what it was. And so you probably had this rich dialogue between embassies here and national capitals where the capitals want to know what`s going on, who`s up, who`s down, what`s supposed.

TODD: We got to know.

HAYDEN: Right.

TODD: Who is that person? Who is that person? So all of a sudden names get mentioned.

HAYDEN: So you`ve got this -- you`ve got this information. I am speaking illustratively here. I am not seeing anything.

TODD: Fair enough.

HAYDEN: But you`ve got this information and now you have to balance the U.S. person privacy right which is actually the reason you are doing this in the first place. Watch the intelligence. It does no good, Chuck, to send out a message saying, embassy X talked to capital X, discuss things going on here, they like some, they don`t like other stuff, and report. You need to put flesh in there. TODD: What`s your obligation when you were at NSA? What if you failed your obligation once if you inadvertently essentially found yourself with information about a U.S. person that wasn`t part of the target?

HAYDEN: So I`m going to pull you through a theological knot-hole here, okay.

TODD: Right.

HAYDEN: Inadvertent means in our language that you shouldn`t have been on the conversation. Incidental.

TODD: (inaudible).

HAYDEN: Means that you`re fine on the conversation, but you incidentally picked up information about a protected person. TODD: You may be talking to somebody that you had no idea was secretly spying for another government. HAYDEN: Sure. TODD: But the investigators know this.

HAYDEN: Yeah. But actually in this case, it`s pretty clear to me -- the chairman was pretty careful with his language once he got questions from your kinds of folks. I think this is overwhelmingly not information from or to an American. I think it`s overwhelmingly information about an American. TODD: Foreign to foreign conversation. HAYDEN: Foreign to foreign in which they`re doing what you would expect them to do. What`s going on here? TODD: It`s interesting. He said, there is FISA warrants all over the place. This has nothing -- none of these have anything to do with Russia.

HAYDEN: Right.

TODD: Okay.


TODD: Are there hundreds of FISA warrants out there? HAYDEN: I`m not gonna answer that. But FISA is a routine tool.

TODD: Are there more than a few?


TODD: Okay.

HAYDEN: Of course. I mean, there are legitimate foreign intelligence targets who might be in the United States. And because of that, I mean, it`s not a heavy lift to prove Sergey Kislyak is the agent of a foreign power.

TODD: Right.

HAYDEN: But you got to do it because he`s in America.

TODD: All right. Let me ask you the other part of this. We have gotten to another conspiracy theory, thanks to the Fox News commentator, which of course the president reiterated. This idea of this -- what is our relationship with the British spy agencies? And, you know, has that -- could that even be used as a circuitous route? The NSA wouldn`t hand transcripts over somehow to President Obama, but somehow the British would.

HAYDEN: Of course not. The relationship is deep, historic, and actually quite emotional. I will share with you, having been the head of both NSA and CIA. NSA is closer to the GCHQ than it is to the American Central Intelligence Agency.

TODD: Okay.

HAYDEN: That relationship is very, very deep. But there are absolute rules. You saw Mike Rogers in the testimony. The timber in Mike`s voice changed when he was responding to that question. That would be a violation of the Five Eyes Agreement. Chuck, I can`t ask them to do anything that`s illegal for me or illegal for them and the reverse is also true. TODD: One final question here. It has to do with who knows what. Because we`ve heard, you know, NSA people might say nothing, CIA people might say something when it comes to the Russia investigation. But ultimately, this is an FBI-led investigation. HAYDEN: Oh, yes, absolutely.

TODD: How much is CIA and NSA out of the loop when it comes to an active FBI investigation, even when it involves international espionage? HAYDEN: Very much out of the loop. Even when it intimately involves us. I`ll give you an example. Let`s say we actually do have a counter intelligence investigation going on and the FBI has a subject.

TODD: Yup.

HAYDEN: And they`re narrowing in on him. The sharing of information about that is very thin and very infrequent. Only when you have information, at CIA or NSA, that they need for their investigation. TODD: There is only one conduit technically now, right? That is supposed to be the director of national intelligence, correct? Isn`t that the official conduit that there actually isn`t at that point as an only go through, does only DNI know these things?

HAYDEN: No. There can be sharing between the agencies. But it`s on a strict need-to-know basis. The bureau needs to tell you because they need you to answer all these questions.

TODD: So the CIA director could not confirm nor deny what was going on at the FBI?


TODD: Because they wouldn`t know. HAYDEN: No. I would never attempt to do that. TODD: General Michael Hayden. Appreciate you have give us a tutorial here.


TODD: Inadvertent and.

HAYDEN: Incidental.

TODD: Incidental. That is your vocabulary lesson of the day when it comes to spy agencies. Thank you, sir. When we come back, telling the truth and President Trump.


TODD: Welcome back. Tonight, I am obsessed with President Trump`s interview with "Time" Magazine. It is an astounding interview. And it`s parade of misleading statements, evasions, and outright falsehoods. He did it this week. It`s quote to a great Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride. Let me explain. No. There`s too much. Let me sum up. On wiretaps, the president says, "when I said wiretapping, it was in quotes." That`s true, except for the times that it wasn`t.

On FBI Director Comey`s denial of the president`s wiretap charge, "I have articles that say it happened." Then "Devin Nunes had a news conference." Both actual quotes from the interview. The article is from the pro-Trump Breitbart website. And Congressman Nunes` news conferences yesterday did nothing to actually back out Mr. Trump`s claim that President Obama had him wiretapped. On this claim that 3 million people voted illegally, all incidentally for Hillary Clinton. Trump, well, I think I will be proved right about that too.

President went on to say twice he is forming a committee to investigate. There is no evidence to support the charge, and it`s not clear how much progress has been made in forming a committee. On his claim that Muslims celebrated 9/11 in New Jersey, well, if you look at the reporter, he wrote the story in "The Washington Post." In fact, there is no evidence that any such celebrations occurred, and it was an accusation that was being looked into.

On whether Senator Ted Cruz`s father was with Lee Harvey Oswald, "well, that was in the newspaper." Well, if by newspaper, you mean the "National Inquirer," then yes. Finally, there was one statement by President Trump we can`t dispute. He told "Times" interviewer, quote, hey, look, in the meantime, I guess I can`t be doing so badly because I am president and you`re not. You know? No Pinocchio there. We`ll be right back.


TODD: Time for "The Lid." Panel is back. Ramesh Ponnuru , Yamiche Alcindor, Carl Hulse. I want to talk about the president`s credibility here. Because, Ramesh, we just went through this "Time" magazine, it is an astounding interview. Number one, I am shock that he did it. Because the premise was about truth. You got to give him credit for doing the interview. But, if he can`t get this health care bill passed, we got Monday which was a devastating thing with the Russia thing, is this -- is he already losing whatever political capital he had in Washington? RAMESH PONNURU, COLUMNIST AND SENIOR EDITOR FOR THE NATIONAL REVIEW MAGAZINE: Well, he still got the approval of most republicans and republicans control both chambers, so that is something that is gonna take a while if it fades at all. But there is no question that he has taken a hit with the public at large. A lot of the things he has done have helped him with his base a little bit, but repelled everybody else. And he doesn`t seem to even care about that. YAMICHE ALCINDOR, NATIONAL REPORTER FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean the premise of this interview and what I took away from reading it was that he is really just doubling down on the campaign trail. And because he feels like he is being rewarded for being able to spread these untruth, maybe lies, that he can just continue to do this.

TODD: What`s the reward? I always keep hearing this. What`s the reward?


TODD: Is that how he views the reward right now? Because his approval rating is slowly going down, even if you look at Rasmussen, they can`t even dial it up any more than I think 47, 48 percent these days. CARL HULSE, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES: You know.

TODD: And it`s down to 30s or 40s.

HULSE: This is interesting to me though. I think people on the hill are willing to accept a lot of this from Trump, because, you know, we`re going to get stuff done, we`re gonna get our stuff done. Now, if they`re not going to get their stuff done, what`s their tolerance for these kind of things? What jumped out at me in that interview was the fact that he just says, well, you know, I just read that in a paper, even though some of it is fake, I just I read it and I am going to repeat it. That is totally new for us for the president. Most presidents would never admit they`re getting their information from the media.

TODD: There is a lack of -- look, there was a reason why many, Ramesh, of the conservative intellectual crowd never got behind Trump. It had nothing to do, I always thought with ideology, it was a lack of intellectual curiosity. I thought that bothered.

PONNURU: And character.

TODD: Yeah, that bothers the right intellectuals as much as anything.

PONNURU: That`s right. But, you know, we were talking about how his standing has declined, he had two years of lousy polls and became president of the United States. Now, he doesn`t have Hillary Clinton as a foil anymore. And I do think that that changes things because it was his dishonesty versus her dishonesty.

TODD: We`re the foilers.

PONNURU: I don`t know. I don`t know if the press is enough. I don`t know if it`s quite as good as having a head-to-head comparison.

ALCINDOR: What`s remarkable is he saying that it`s in the newspaper, this is the media, I`m just repeating what I have, it`s also going at the legitimacy of the media. In this way, he`s kind of pointing out that, if I`m wrong, it`s because these people who are so critical of me are also wrong. And that to me can be really in long term I think that can really degrade us. TODD: Carl, he doesn`t -- that`s I think the question and what I find fascinating in Washington is how many people want to believe it`s all planned, it`s all (inaudible). Look, I think the most honest thing he said other than I`m president is, you got to go by instinct. HULSE: Yeah, I think that it was undiluted Trump if that`s the right word. This is actually how he thinks and processes. What I took away is we are never going to get Donald Trump to admit that he was wrong about anything. TODD: That just won`t happen. HULSE: He was presented with the list of I don`t know how many fact, where there has been pretty verifiable evidence showing that he was wrong. He just will not. He will be terrible to have to interview as a witness. TODD: He has done plenty of that position in the past. ALCINDOR: And that`s been a problem. TODD: You know, the one thing quickly on the voter fraud, he is now saying it is more than 3 million.

HULSE: Right. He said that and that it`s just the registrations and.


TODD: Legal votes, illegal registrations.

HULSE: And his permission is gonna get through, but we haven`t seen much movement there actually.

PONNURU: Such a fish story (ph).

ALCINDOR: He feels like, oh, I`m be proven right at some point, so I can just continue to say this.

TODD: One voter fraud in Tennessee, aha.

ALCINDOR: Exactly.

TODD: Told you so. Thank you, guys.

PONNURU: Thank you.

TODD: Good day. Again, we say that almost every day around here. We`ll be right back with a big win that went way too much under the radar last night. Stay with us.


TODD: Well, in case you missed it, and there is a good chance you did, team USA won it`s first ever World Baseball Classic last night, blowing out Puerto Rico, 8-0 in the tournament final at Dodgers Stadium. By the way, whoever would have won, America would have won, just a reminder there. But you may have missed it because it was on so late. First pitch was scheduled for 9:00 p.m. eastern time.

And because of all the pageantry, things didn`t gets under way until 9:21. Look, World Baseball Classic is a great idea and a very big deal in many of the participating countries. Not the U.S. yet, and it`s not going to be fully successful until Americans are into it. So don`t start things so late. We got four years until the next World Baseball Classic. So let`s tweak it so it`s more accessible to fans.

A kickoff for the best season of all of the baseball season. Maybe you come up with ways you do preliminaries in February, and then wouldn`t it be cool to have all-star week? I love the idea of all-star week, being the semi- finals and finals for the WBC, baseball that matters in the mid-summer night classic. How about that? That`s all we have for tonight. "For the Record with Greta" though starts right now.


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