Show: MTP DAILY Date: April 3, 2017 Guest: Mo Brooks, Susan Del Percio, Nick Confessore, Heather Mcghee, Mazie Hirono, Nicholas Burns
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: That does it for me. I`m Ali Velshi in for Steve Kornacki. "MTP DAILY" starts right now with Katy tur in for Chuck --Katy.
KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: Yes, it`s Monday.
Chaos clouds and Trump vision at home and abroad.
(voice-over): Tonight, chaos in the capital. What the Democratic filibuster of the Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination could predict about the future of the Trump agenda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will not support Judge Gorsuch`s nomination in the Judiciary Committee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UR: Plus, the art of diplomacy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re going to be friends for a long, long period of time.
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TUR: President Trump`s embrace kicks of Egypt`s controversial president kicks off a high-stakes week of international dealings.
And the Pelosi factor. How the Republican fear of the minority leader has been driving the election opposition for a decade and counting.
This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.
(on camera): Good evening from New York. I`m Katy Tur in for Chuck Todd.
Welcome to MTP DAILY.
We begin tonight with the presidency in peril that now confronts a chain reaction of chaos and dysfunction at home amid newly escalating --amid a newly escalating threat of nuclear hostilities abroad. This is the escalating state of chaos that President Trump now confronts and what is arguably his weakest moment so far as president.
Everywhere you turn, things are a mess. The U.S. Senate now stands on the brink as Republicans try on deliver the president a much need victory after a disaster ow couple of weeks. President Trump has publicly urged Republicans to invoke the so-called nuclear option to eliminate the filibuster on Supreme Court nominees, if Judge Gorsuch can`t get the 60 votes needed to overcome a Democratic blockade.
Today, the White House suggested his stance has not changed.
This afternoon, Democrats secured enough votes to filibuster the nomination which makes nuclear showdown inevitable in the Senate later this week. If invoked, the move could forever change the Senate`s identity from a body that demands compromise and bipartisan to a body where a simple partisan majority rules.
Chaos, frustration and animosity is gripping both parties. Republicans are still reeling from the revolt of their right flank which derailed their health care plan. And Democrats are fighting over whether or not to declare an all-out war on this administration.
Government funding runs out later this month, by the way.
Meanwhile, the current White House escalated its assault on the last one, as it tries change the subject away from the FBI`s investigation into Trump`s campaign.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer today highlighted a report in Bloomberg that President Obama`s national security advisor, Susan Rice, attempted to unmask the identities of certain Americans in intelligence reports who were connected to the president`s transition and campaign.
But some Republicans are urging the public not to lose sight of the big picture.
We`re having some sound issues but we will get you these sound bites a little bit later on.
So, here you have it. The Senate is at war with itself. A fractured House without a clear governing majority. And the current White House is fighting the last White House. All under the backdrop of a brewing nuclear crisis confronting the U.S.
A senior North Korean defector has told NBC`s Lester Holt that the country`s desperate dictator is prepared to use nuclear weapons to strike the United States and its allies.
Over the weekend, President Trump sounded an aggressive and confrontational tone, telling the "Financial Times" that if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.
I`m joined by Republican Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama who is a member of the House Freedom Caucus. Congressman, thank you very much for joining us.
REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: My pleasure.
TUR: Do you have confidence in President Trump`s ability and his temperament to lead?
BROOKS: Well, I think it`s too early to have a firm judgment one way or the other. There are some things President Trump has done, particularly with border security that I`m very much in favor of. You`ve got some other things dealing with regulatory reform that hopefully will free up the American economy to explode and increase wages for American citizens, while improving the labor participation rate which is pretty much at a low since the 1970s.
So, there are some things I`m very encouraged about. But as in politics, you`re going to have some agreements and disagreements on public policy issues. That`s the nature of where we are.
UR: I understand disagreements but the president has been singling out members of your Freedom Caucus, saying that they were the ones that derailed this health care plan, saying the Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don`t get on the team and fast. We must fight them and the Dems in 2018.
That`s in addition to him saying that if they don`t do that, if they don`t get on board, that he`s going to work with the Democrats. How do you feel about him going after your colleagues?
BROOKS: Well, I`m proud to have helped take in whatever credit I`m deserving of for having help kill a bad piece of legislation that was going to significantly increase health care premium costs by 15 to 20 percent over and above Obamacare.
So, if the president wants to give me credit for helping to keep health insurance premiums lower they otherwise would be, I`m more than happy to accept that responsibility.
I`m also more than happy to accept responsibility for helping to stop what would be the largest Republican welfare program in the history of the Republican Party that, in turn, would put some 10s of millions of Americans who are not now on welfare, on welfare. With the political dynamics associated with that and long-term elections and the outcome of those elections coupled with the tax increases that would be necessary to pay for this new welfare program.
TUR: Well, put the --
BROOKS: So, I`m quite comfortable accepting that kind of responsibility.
I would say, though, that I think it`s counterproductive for the Republican president to be attacking, on one occasion, the speaker of the House. To be attacking, on another occasion, the Tuesday Group and Charlie Dent. On another occasion, the Freedom Caucus members. And I think that`s reflected by his polling numbers which have been on the decline.
It`s one thing to have a disagreement between a Republican president and Democrats. I think the general public expects that and it really doesn`t change your standing with the American people.
But when you start attacking your own folks, in addition to the opposition party, well, you would expect and you`re now seeing some sort of deterioration.
UR: Well, given that, the Freedom Caucus wasn`t afraid of this president. The Freedom Caucus is not afraid of him. Who -- why should anybody else be afraid of him? Why should world leaders be afraid of him?
BROOKS: It`s not a matter of us and the House of Representatives being afraid or not afraid of the president of the United States. With us, it`s a matter of whether legislation is good or bad.
So, we`re approaching this strictly from a public policy standpoint. And I`m quite confident that we can do much better with health care reform than we`re doing. And the bill that we, at least temporarily, have successfully been able to put off.
TUR: You`re going to be --you`re going to --
BROOKS: I`m very proud of that accomplishment.
UR: I`m sorry to interrupt. So, you`re going to be voting to stop a government shutdown later this month. Are you confident the president will be able to work with Democrats in order to keep that from happening? And do you even want him to work Democrats on that?
BROOKS: I`m comfortable with the president working with whomever he believes is necessary to work with to further his belief in what is best for our country.
Now, the nature of politics, again, is that we have disagreements over what is in the best interest of our country. And so, I would expect President Trump to act as he believes is necessary to accomplish the goals that he wants to accomplish.
Similarly, my job, as a United States Congressman, is to be somewhat independent of all other political elected officials here in Washington, D.C. and to exercise my own judgment on what I think is best for the people that I represent in the state of Alabama and also for the United States of America.
So, that kind of tension, that`s normal in a political process. It sure is a lot better than what you see being resolved in some of these other countries that resort to violence.
UR: Congressman, there`s infighting within the Republican Party. There`s infighting within the Democratic Party. There`s infighting in Congress as a whole. The president is going after the Republican Party. He`s going after the Democrats. He`s also going after the past White House.
If were you somebody looking at this from the outside, would you think that this president has the credibility to lead on a world stage?
BROOKS: Well, I can`t answer for the perceptions that world leaders and other countries may have of the United States, generally, or this president, or the previous president, or the previous president to that.
Different world leaders are going to have different kind of perceptions. It depends, in part, on what the crisis of the moment is and whether we`re helping a nation or hurting a nation from the perspective of that world leader.
So, I`m quite confident, though, that faith in the United States is still very good around the planet. And that`s because of our involvement over decades, and even centuries for that matter, in doing what is right rather than wrong.
So, in that --in that nature, that`s what`s made America a great nation. And I`m also proud of our armed services and what they have done at the request of so many nations around the world to help protect freedom in those nations, to help stop barbarism in those nations.
So, you know, you`re going to have, again, disagreements around the world. But our role, the United States of America`s role, in helping to preserve freedom, to promote democracy, and individual rights, I think that`s to the credit of our country.
UR: Do you believe, though, that this president is going to be able to further that? And, secondly, would you trust a president who was under FBI investigation, his campaign or her campaign?
BROOKS: Well, I don`t know the details of that FBI investigation. And, at some point, I hope that FBI Director Comey will share with the American people what the details are.
For all we know, all this may exonerate the president of false claims. So, that`s a possibility. Let`s wait and see. And once we know what those results are, then I think we`re in a better position to evaluate how that impacts the president`s ability to lead not only domestically and abroad.
At this point in time, he is the president of the United States. And I think it behooves all Americans to give the president of the United States the benefit of the doubt, particularly in so far as we`re talking about international relationships.
UR: Congressman, if this president was named Hillary Clinton, would you have the same opinion?
BROOKS: Well, Hillary Clinton has a longer track record in public policy and we saw her misrepresent the truth with respect with what happened in Benghazi --
TUR: Respectfully, --
BROOKS: -- and Libya. We also --
UR: Congressman, respectfully, President Trump has misrepresented --
BROOKS: Wait a minute. Wait a minute.
TUR: -- the truth so many times I can`t count them on my two hands.
BROOKS: We also saw -- we also saw the Clintons get payment of $500,000 at approximately the same time that the secretary of state`s office is approving the sale of American uranium to Russian interests.
UR: That had to be approved by seven different agencies, including an independent agency.
BROOKS: OK. Well, I -- Hillary Clinton has been in the public sphere much longer than Donald Trump has. Donald Trump has been in public office now, a governmental office, for two months.
TUR: Congressman, --
BROOKS: And Hillary Clinton was in office --
TUR: -- I understand he`s been in office for two months.
BROOKS: -- for years and years and years, in fact decades. And it`s that kind of track record that allows me to form a judgment.
UR: But he`s also --
BROOKS: If you ask me that same question a decade from now, and I`ll be able to share with you my viewpoint about Donald Trump. But right now, he`s been there for two months.
UR: Respectfully, in the two months that he has been there, he`s brought up a number of things that just don`t have any evidence to support it. And that includes voter fraud, that includes President Obama wiretapping his phones. I mean, he has said, certainly, a lot of things that are not true, a lot of things that are not true.
So, it doesn`t seem like your argument holds water in that respect.
BROOKS: Let`s wait six to 12 months and both of those issues will have been more fully explored and we`ll know more.
UR: Do you think there was voter fraud?
BROOKS: But there needs to be --
TUR: Massive voting fraud that changed the election. He would have won the popular vote without this voting fraud?
BROOKS: I`m not personally familiar with evidence that would support that to the degree that is claimed. Has there been voting fraud? Definitely.
And I can give some examples by way --but one example, the state of Alabama was forced to disregard our voting policies that required proof of citizenship before you could register to vote in the state of Alabama. That was done by a federal court in the Washington, D.C. area.
And because of that, that inhibited our ability to limit our elections to American citizens. How many illegal aliens voted in our elections in Alabama because of that? I don`t know. But it certainly opened the doors very, very broadly not only Alabama but in Kansas and other states for registrations to vote by illegal aliens.
TUR: Congressman, --
BROOKS: And, unfortunately, we don`t have enough data and evidence to be able to actually get into the details, more so than what we have already. But in the state of Virginia, there have been plenty of studies that have concluded that a number of illegal aliens have participated in -- large numbers have participated in elections in the state of Virginia, where they have analyzed it on a county-by-county basis, often dealing with who can serve on juries and who cannot serve on juries. Those same people having been registered to vote, even though legally they`re not supposed to have been.
UR: Congressman, to be clear, Donald Trump said that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally in this election. And that would have changed him for winning the popular vote. So, that is quite a large number. But I have -- I have to leave it there, sir.
BROOKS: I think that`s probably on the high side. But that`s not the same thing as to say that there is no voting fraud.
UR: Thank you, Congressman Mo Brooks. I really do appreciate your time, sir.
TUR: Let me bring in my panel. We`ve got Nick Confessore, a "New York Times" political reporter and an MSNBC Contributor. Susan Del Percio is a Republican strategist. And Heather McGhee is president of Demos, a progressive think tank.
Susan, I`m going to start with you. The Congressman was trying very hard to try to say that Hillary Clinton would be in a different category than Donald Trump because she served so long and, in his words, has lied so frequently. This president has been in office now for a little over two months and -- or is it three months now? I`m --
SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Seventy-one days.
UR: Seven-one days, a little over two months. And he has --he has lied a number of times. So, what will it take for the Republican Party to say, listen, enough is enough. We can`t keep doing this. We can`t keep allowing him to go off on these rants.
SUSAN: Well, it`s very difficult for Republicans right now because they do want to support a Republican president who does share a lot of their common goals. And whether it is --you know, granted the reform of health care didn`t go the way everyone wanted it to but at least he brought it up.
The current Supreme Court justice pick is another thing that Republicans were looking for. And when it comes to the economy, the president has an agenda that is lock and step with the Republicans.
Now, we just have to deal with the personality and the trends of this president and his behavior trends which is very difficult because Republicans never know when he`s just going to drop another tweet on their head. And that`s what they most fear, as they`re going forward. Whether it`s with the budget, whether it`s with infrastructure. They just don`t know which way they`re going to go.
And they just have to figure it out. But it`s really time for Republicans to start realizing that they are going to have to force their own agenda and work -- the House and the Senate are going to have to work together. And hopefully that the president will see fit to move forward on some of those ideas.
UR: Is this chaos sustainable, especially when we are facing the threat of North Korea?
NICK CONFESSORE, POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Look, this is important because North Korea is an example of a challenge he hasn`t had before which is an externally imposed crisis. What we`ve seen so far, for the most part, is Trump creating his own chaos here and there, his own tweets, his own fights, his own squabbles. And there`s always a theory that he`s doing it on purpose to create a distraction.
But North Korea is not someone else`s problem. It`s his problem. And he can`t do those things to deflect from it. It`s really on his lap to figure it out. And it`s going to be a real test for the people, I think, who like that he, kind of, messes with Washington and messes with the press to see if they also enjoy the same kind of behavior when nukes are on the line.
UR: But, you know, we -- what we`re seeing right now is the Democrats were fighting with each other about how exactly to go about fighting this president, potentially, or working with them if he needs to. The Republicans are fighting. The president, as Nick was pointing out, is tweeting to see how everyone`s going to react. Who`s the adult in the room right now, Heather?
HEATHER MCGHEE, PRESIDENT, DEMOS: I think the adults in the room --the adults in the room are the American people, right? Hundreds of thousands of whom have, like, showed up at town halls, right? That is a -- not that entertaining thing to do with your Tuesday night. And said many of the people who voted for President Trump or who are independents who`ve said, I`ve actually looked at what`s in this health care bill. I`m actually following what`s going on in Russia. I`m putting my country ahead of any, sort of, partisan allegiance I might have.
And I`m saying that what`s going on from the Muslim ban to the deportations which are, frankly, not even popular in red states for there to be a deportation only approach to immigration. There is a common sense center in this country that is far outside of what the partisan squabbling is showing. 91 percent of Trump voters wanted him to nominate someone to the Supreme Court who would be open to reversing citizens united and putting big limits on big money in politics. 91 percent of Trump voters.
But, of course, he went the, sort of, far right, even farther right than Scalia on this issue of corporate power, chamber of commerce, federalist society lawyer. There`s actually, I think, a ground swell of people who wanted a populist vision, who wanted the establishment in Washington to be on notice about the inequality in this country. And they`re not being served right now by the Republican Party or by this president.
UR: Well, however, the president did say who he was going to nominate. He gave out a list and he picked somebody from that list. So, it was a campaign promise that he was able to live up to.
But Nick, Susan, Heather, please stay with us. We`re going to come back to you a little bit later in the hour.
Coming up, the Senate showdown gets underway over what we were just talking about, Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. Could this be the end of the filibuster as we know it? Senator Mazie Hirono joins me next.
TUR: Welcome back to MTP DAILY.
As we mentioned at the top of this show, there could be frightening new developments out of the Korean Peninsula. A high-profile North Korean defector tells my colleague, Lester Holt, that Kim Jong-Un is prepared to use nuclear weapons to strike the U.S.
The defector, Thae Yong Ho, says North -- the North Korean dictator views his country`s nuclear capability as the only way he can guarantee his hold on power. He says Kim is obsessed is obtaining nukes after seeing what happened to Saddam Hussein and Libya`s Muammar Gaddafi.
Meantime, later this week, President Trump will host the Chinese president at Mar-a-Lago. And President Trump told "The Financial Times" he will discuss North Korea and its nuclear threat during Xi`s visit. Since Kim Jung Un came to power in 2012, North Korea has conducted more missile tests than the rest of the country`s history combined, including three of the country`s five nuclear tests.
Lester Holt will anchor NBC Nightly News from South Korea tonight and tomorrow night with much more on the North Korean threat.
We will be right back.
TUR: Welcome back.
The U.S. Senate is charging straight for a, quote, "nuclear showdown" this week, legislatively not literally. With actions that are likely to impact their own body and the U.S. Supreme Court for the foreseeable future.
Just this afternoon, President Trump`s Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, advanced to the Senate Judiciary Committee with all Democrats on the committee voting against him.
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SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I oppose his nomination.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I cannot support this nomination.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I cannot support advancing his nomination.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: That`s why I will not be supporting Judge Gorsuch`s nomination to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: This afternoon, the full body of Senate Democrats passed their number needed to sustain a filibuster. That is now at 42. While four Democrats have, so far, said they`ll vote to break a filibuster. Gorsuch needed eight votes from the Democrats.
Now, it`s up to Senator majority leader, Mitch McConnell, to decide if he wants to use the so-called nuclear option and blow up Senate rules to push Gorsuch through with an up or down vote. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee today chocked all this up to Democratic partisanship.
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SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: No, today, the filibuster of a U.S. Supreme Court justice is, once again, largely the invention of Chuck Schumer and the far left.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA, CHAIRMAN, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: There isn`t any justice that a Republican will put forth that they would get his -- that they would support.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Our Democratic colleagues will not accept the fact that President Trump won. He did. And when you win the White House, you have the ability to appoint people to the Supreme Court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: And never before has there been a partisan filibuster attempt of a Supreme Court nominee. And never before has the so-called nuclear option been used to try to pass one through.
Joining me now is Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator, thank you for joining us.
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: Aloha.
UR: Aloha. Why do this now? Why decide to filibuster Judge Gorsuch? Is this the place you want to expend this political capital?
HIRONO: We have to fight battles that are worth fighting and Judge Gorsuch is not going to be a justice should he be confirmed for all the people. Because he is going to be right in there with the Robert`s court supporting corporate interests over individual rights.
So, we can`t support this person. Try as we might to ascertain his judicial philosophy, he basically said it`s irrelevant --
UR: Do you believe, --
HIRONO: -- how he`s going to decide cases.
TUR: -- do you believe, though, that this is going to change balance of power that was already on the court while Justice Scalia was alive, if he does get confirmed?
HIRONO: I think that he`s going to be a very, very conservative justice. This is why the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation not only had him on their list but they spent over $10 million getting him confirmed.
And so, he is just going to continue to bring -- take the court to a far right kind of a posture. And that is not good for minorities in our country, be it women, Muslims, LGBTQ community, children, you name it. Any minority population should be very, very concerned about the continual move of the Supreme Court to support not our individual rights but corporate interests.
UR: President Trump was pretty transparent about this during the campaign process. He gave out a list of the number of judges that he would consider if he were to win for the Supreme Court. And that is what, in a large part, got him --or at least in part, got him elected.
When we were on the campaign trail, his voters said that they were very concerned about the Supreme Court. This is him following through on a campaign promise. Republicans say that Democrats get their choices when they`re in charge and it`s time for a Republican to get their choice when they`ve got a Republican president.
HIRONO: I find that how they can say that with a straight face after they totally blocked Judge Garland`s nomination is beyond me. They run around saying that this is the first time anything like this has happened. Well, they completely and unilaterally --Mitch McConnell just said, we`re not going to even give Judge Garland the time of day.
UR: Are you ready -- if you block this and if Mitch McConnell does not use the nuclear option, are you ready to have this court sit vacant for years to come --that court seat sit vacant for years to come?
HIRONO: Well, there are some who have said that they`re willing to keep this seat vacant if Hillary Clinton would get elected. Let us hope that cooler heads will prevail. And we care about the institution of the Supreme Court. That this is a court that will be making decisions on important cases that come to court for decades to come. Let us hope that cooler heads and minds will prevail.
UR: Senator, respectfully here, what I`m hearing from you is very similar to what I hear from Republicans which is, well, they did it first and they did that over here and what about Merrick Garland or what about these judges that we already said yes to? And just a lot of finger pointing back and forth.
One of your colleagues, Senator Heitkamp, even said, two wrongs don`t make a right when it comes to invoking the nuclear option. Do you feel like maybe it`s time to move past these partisan fights and to find a way to come together in Congress in order to get things done for the American people, especially at a time when the presidency is so chaotic and disruptive?
HIRONO: I`m not taking the position I am against Judge Garland because he is nominated by President Trump. It`s because of what his positions are, as I can glean from his cases and the positions he`s taken.
And when --there is, really, a pattern to his decisions where he will go out of his way to provide really, really narrow ways of viewing a case such as the young boy who needed a special education and he interpreted the IDA (ph) law that`s supposed to enable kids like that to get adequate education so narrowly that even the Supreme Court, even the Robert`s court could not accept that.
So, this pattern of narrowly confining legislation or laws in ways that do not protect individual rights a clear pattern of Judge Gorsuch. That`s why I am against him. This is not a matter of two wrongs making a right.
UR: But if Mitch McConnell invokes the nuclear option because Democrats are filibustering this, that will break the deliberative process of the Senate. It will break the bipartisan nature of the Senate. The founding fathers` hope that there would be compromises there. That`s why 60 votes were needed to pass anything.
If he does that, are you going to feel comfortable forcing him to do so?
HIRONO: Nobody is forcing him to do anything. Just as nobody forced him to unilaterally decide that Judge Garland was not even going to get a hearing nor have meetings with Republican senators.
UR: Well, are you comfortable playing a game of political chicken? How about I put it that way?
HIRONO: Well, you know what, that`s up to the Supreme Court. He has already said that no matter what happens, he intends to get Judge Gorsuch confirmed. But we still have a lot of other processes which require 60 votes in order to move legislation along. That`s why the senate is what it is.
That`s why the senate is not the house. That so many other things, the other work of the senate precede on the basis of 60 votes. And I doubt very much the senators want to get rid of that for everything. That will make the house -- that will make the senate the house with all due respect to the house.
TUR: Senator Hirono, Hawaii, we appreciate your time. Thank you.
HIRONO: Thank you.
TUR: Still ahead, we`ll dig further into how President Trump`s leadership crisis impacts America on the world stage. Stay tuned.
TUR: Welcome back. Today, President Trump made good on a campaign promise regarding his presidential paycheck. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced the president is donating his first quarter salary to the National Park Service. Spicer presented Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke with a check for more than $78,000.
Secretary Zinke said the money will be put towards maintenance of the country`s 25 national battlefield sites. More "MTP Daily" just ahead. But first, here`s Hampton Pearson with the "CNBC Market Wrap." Hey there, Hampton.
HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Katy. Stocks closing lower across the board. The Dow falling by 13 points. The S&P down 3. The Nasdaq off by 17 points. Tesla has beaten Ford, becoming the second largest U.S. automaker in investor value. Although sales were down, the electric car maker is now worth $47 billion. General Motors still leads the pack.
Rising home prices have allowed many owners to tap into the growing equity in their homes. $570 billion was pulled last year with millennials leading the pack. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.
TUR: Welcome back to "MTP Daily." As we mentioned President Trump`s practice of leadership by chaos isn`t only affecting his agenda here at home, but also impacts the way he is viewed around the globe. And today kicks off a week of diplomacy for the Trump White House amid escalating tensions and a number of international hot spots. Just today President Trump hosted the controversial Egyptian president at the White House.
A leader accused of human rights abuses and a leader of the Obama administration never even invited to Washington. But someone who President Trump said today is doing a, quote, fantastic job. Meantime, his son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner is in Iraq on behalf of the president, traveling with the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.
That is happening before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visits the country. More than 70 days into the Trump presidency, there are still a lot of unknowns about the president`s foreign policy. And the White House isn`t giving any impression that that will change any time soon.
Joining me now is former ambassador, Nicholas Burns. He was under secretary of state for political affairs and is a former ambassador to NATO and Greece. He served in the George W. Bush, Clinton, and George H.W. Bush administrations. Ambassador, thank you very much for joining us.
NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO NATO AND GREECE, PROFESSOR OF THE PRACTICE OF DIPLOMACY AND INTERNATIONAL POLITICS AT HARVARD: Thank you.
TUR: I want to read you a little something that Donald Trump said to the financial times. It just came out yesterday. We know he believes in governing by chaos but here`s what he told them. "I am not the United States of the past where we tell you where we are going to hit in the Middle East. Where they say I used it in the speeches." "We will be attacking Mosul in four months." A month later, "we will be attacking Mosul in three months, in two months, in one month." "And why are they talking? There is no reason to talk." He ran on this idea that he would be unpredictable. His voters certainly like that. They parroted it when it you interviewed them. But give me reality check. Does that sort of strategy work on the world stage?
BURNS: You know, I think in a certain situation, unpredictability with our adversaries or enemies like Al Qaeda and the Islamic state, that`s a good thing, not to telegraph your moves as President Trump has said. With our allies, they count on American reliability and credibility. So with the Germans for instance, Angela Merkel is looking for solidity in her effort to counter Russia and contain Putin.
She hasn`t gotten that from the Trump administration which has been trying to meet with the Russians and meet them halfway in a way that wouldn`t represent U.S. interests. I think with China too, with this big summit in Mar-a-Lago at the end of this week, China is looking for a sense of how they can work with the Trump administration. The signature issue was climate change between President Xi Jinping and President Obama.
Now President Trump has taken that off the table because he has vitiated the U.S. commitment to Paris climate change accord. So I think with allies and with other big powers in the world, reliability, consistency, dependability, the credibility of your word, that`s what makes American president successful. If you don`t have that, sometimes unsuccessful. TUR: Does he have the credibility of his word? Especially when we get after tweet after tweet that lacks any proof. BURNS: I think it`s a major problem for President Trump because for instance, he has made this outlandish claims that President Obama somehow ordered the wiretapping of President Trump and the Trump organization. It seem to be absolutely untrue. That story has been knocked down by James Comey and everyone else. And yet he keeps making that assertion.
And so you have to wonder, in a true international crisis, when the American president has to stand up and ask the world for assistance or to be understood, will people believe him? I think that`s an early casualty of this presidency, his personal credibility.
TUR: So you say our allies are looking for stability. Right now, what are our enemies thinking? BURNS: Well, I think first of all, we have very few enemies in the world. But the Islamic state is one, Al Qaeda is second. The United States has been very vigorous in Mosul with the Iraqi army. And I hope soon will be in Syria, going against the Islamic state there. That`s mainly a military battle. It is important that the American president, President Trump, have a good relationship with the Iraqi leadership.
And I think the Trump administration has done okay on that so far. I think it has been less solid with our allies in Asia and our allies in Europe. The president has tended to downplay our alliances when in my judgment and the judgment of many others, that`s the basic source of American strength in the world, our alliances.
So I think the Trump administration needs to reassure the allies, and not just keep focusing on the terrorism issue. But on some of the other issues, for instance, the survivability of the European Union where the Trump administration has been very weak.
TUR: Well, let`s talk about what`s happening in North Korea briefly. How does Donald Trump navigate that? I mean that seems to be one of the biggest existential threats that the world faces right now.
BURNS: No question. I think one of the most difficult problems he faces. The meeting with Xi Jinping will be critical. President Trump has already tweeted and let people know that he wants Chinese cooperation on this sometimes and diplomacy rather than pressuring a strong leader or country publicly. Xi Jinping to retreats or pressuring Angela Merkel on the NATO defense spending issue in an election year.
Quiet diplomacy sometimes works better. I think that President Trump would be well advised to dial back many of these tweets, engage in more traditional diplomacy through phone calls and meetings, through relying on his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, to carry these tough messages privately. He`ll be much more successful I think in that fashion. TUR: Thank you, ambassador. We appreciate your time.
BURNS: Thank you.
TUR: Up next, play ball. Stay tuned.
TUR: Welcome back. In honor of baseball`s opening day, go Dodgers, we took a dive into our NBC News archives. We look at some of the first presidents to throw out the first pitch on opening day.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was William Howard Taft in 1912. Taft was a semi- pro pitcher in Cincinnati. When he started getting knocked out of box too often, he quit and went into politics. Here`s Woodrow Wilson in 1913. Great to see, isn`t it? Warren Harding here with Babe Ruth. He owned a baseball club himself in Ohio. Herbert Hoover in 1929. Good arm, Mr. President.
Franklin Roosevelt. He threw out the opening game ball eight times in river stadium in Washington, but he never threw it very far. Harry Truman. He was also a pitcher as a kid. A south paw. Then his eyesight failed and he need thick glasses. So Truman became an umpire. Figures, doesn`t it? Good toss. Dwight Eisenhower, Ike.
Ike once passed up opening day for a round of golf. Caused a great political stir. Another good toss. John Kennedy. He was a Red Sox fan. Watch this. Kennedy really has them shagging after the ball. LBJ. He always took a crowd of politicians with him to the ballpark. Watch now. You`ll see why the Washington senators usually wound up in the cellar. Good gloves, guys.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Time for "The Lid." The panel is back. Nick Confessore, Susan Del Percio, and Heather McGhee. Guys, let`s talk about Neil Gorsuch. And is it a good idea for Democrats to spend other political capital blocking this judge, when essentially it is not going to change anything with Scalia? CONFESSORE: Well, Democrats haven`t got a choice. I think their base demands that they show some spine on this by their ways.
TUR: Does their base demand it?
CONFESSORE: Yeah, absolutely.
TUR: Do democratic voters really care about this in particular right now? CONFESSORE: Absolutely. Citizens United, abortion, all these issues. They can`t stop him. I think they have to show they tried as hard as they could. And if they nuke the filibuster, it will be good for Democrats and for Republicans in the long term. TUR: Why would it be good for Democrats, to nuke the filibuster?
CONFESSORE: Because the filibuster is an instrument of blockage. It`s not in the constitution. It is an Arcane Senate rule. It has become used in routine, you know, kind of instances, legislation it wasn`t meant to over the years. It prevents accountability in a sense.
Actually a pretty good case for getting rid of it. If you`re in the majority, you get your chance to do something and try and do it. If voters like it, you stay in the majority and if not, it`s their turn. TUR: A simple majority, Susan. I mean, 51 votes. DEL PERCIO: The fear is they become the house then and you don`t have legislation that requires true bipartisan support. I mean a 51-49 is not really necessary. I mean that`s where you really see strong support. Just kind of -- exactly.
CONFESSORE: We`re already there. We`re already there.
DEL PERCIO: I know we are. CONFESSORE: (inaudible) party at 50 votes in the past (inaudible).
DEL PERCIO: I get that, and you know, I respect your point of view on that. But I just think right now, I think it`s a mistake for the Democrats to force this issue especially now. Because I understand what you`re saying about the left. At the same time, this is early. This is early 2017.
You can come back from a vote and yet not blow up the whole tradition of the senate and work it gets done. I understand. What`s worse about this when it comes to Gorsuch is that -- I am someone who thought Justice Garland should have been given hearing and an up or down vote. So I understand how the Democrats are still really upset about it.
But he is imminently qualified. And Republicans voted for Sotomayor and Kagan. Some didn`t. But at least they got a fair -- they said President Obama won, he gets to pick, and the same thing should be held for Donald Trump.
TUR: Heather, you did testify against Neil Gorsuch, but do you think that it`s a good idea to do away with the rules that essentially would force this body to work together? MCGHEE: So I testified against Neil Gorsuch and had the honor to do so. And I did it basically on one topic. There are a lot of different topics that could be talked about with his record and how sort of out of the mainstream he is. But I focused on the issue of money and politics. This is what I want to just give a little bit of a pause, what we`re calling bipartisan.
We call a lot of things very partisan because the Republicans in congress and Democrats in congress don`t agree. So often, on the core issues, there is a bipartisanship that sort of outside of the congress that is much stronger than what we`re talking about here in Washington. For example, money and politics.
The whole time it was crazy, I was talking to a set of Republican senators whose own constituents were against them on this issue of being pro Citizen United and pro corporate money and politics. We even have just the day before the hearing that I was at, the Supreme Court unanimously strike down this stingy standard of education that Judge Gorsuch went out of his way to rule for, for a child with autism.
I had his dad on the panel next to me. These kinds of issues that Gorsuch`s nomination are raising, basically workers` rights, corporate rights, money and politics are ones where there is a bipartisan majority, just outside of the lobbying of the federalist society and heritage.
TUR: Is there hope that if he does -- if they don`t use the nuclear option and the president does nominate somebody else that it`s gonna be somebody that`s gonna be more acceptable than maybe Neil Gorsuch was? MCGHEE: Well, I mean that`s the idea, right, that you could have the response not be we are forced to do the nuclear option, but what about we change the nominee? There are a lot of Republican nominees.
DEL PERCIO: That`s never going to happen.
MCGHEE: I think there could be Republican nominees who are more kind of, you know, old school Republicans. DEL PERCIO: That will never happen. What I think is interesting is if they go nuclear now, it`s what does Donald Trump do, if he gets another Supreme Court justice pick. TUR: And who does he pick? DEL PERCIO: And who does he pick? If they do it right, he gets 60, and they don`t have to go through this process. He may be a little more responsible in his next choice. TUR: Nick, what do you think?
CONFESSORE: He meets the constitutional standards for the office, so did the guy Obama nominated, right? What we are having right now is basically a situation where it requires a party control of the senate to approve court nominees. We have gone a very long way from the constitution. It`s basically now a patriot`s job, being on the court. If your party is in power, you can get it. It`s not the way it should be, but maybe simpler. We should acknowledge that and say, that`s how it works on that one.
TUR: And a reminder that Donald Trump campaigned with a list of Supreme Court nominees that he promised to choose from should he get the office. There`s nothing to indicate whatsoever that he would deviate from that list if he had to choose somebody else and it could potentially be someone with a voting record that Democrats like even less than they did.
I`m going to leave it there because we ran out of time. I want to talk about fake news. We ran out of time. We`ll do it next time. Thank you, guys, for being here. After the break, who`s afraid of Nancy Pelosi? Stay tuned.
TUR: In case you missed it, every hero needs a villain. In case you missed it, Nancy Pelosi is still that villain for Republicans. For the last 10 years, the GOP has used Leader Pelosi to nationalize races. Congressman Mark Sanford famously debated a cardboard cutout of her on a comeback tour and he won. Well at work then, Republicans help work again in the upcoming special election in Georgia.
Democrat Jon Ossoff is making head way in the solidly Republican districts. Even President Trump senior advisor, Steve Bannon, says, quote, Ossoff is running a smart campaign. That has Republicans worried and running this ad against Ossoff in the conservative Atlanta suburb.
(START VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s using dishonest ads to hide his liberal values. The truth is Nancy Pelosi`s friends are bank rolling Ossoff`s campaign because Ossoff will rubber stamp her liberal agenda.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TUR: Trump won this district by less than two points. As he struggles with record low approval ratings in a rocky outlook for his agenda, Pelosi remains the recognizable liberal figure Republicans are happy to attach to any Democrat regardless of their ideology. That will do it for me this hour. You can always follow me on Twitter. You can find me on Facebook. We will be back tomorrow with more "MTP Daily." "For the Record with Greta" starts right now. Hey there, Greta.
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