Show: MTP Daily Date: April 6, 2017 Guest: John McCain, Jennifer Palmieri, Brad Todd, Eli Stokols
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Our coverage is going to continue. You`re not going to want to miss this. Next, John McCain is going to sit down live with Chuck Todd. I think you know what the subject is. "MTP DAILY" starts right now.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Yes, it`s Thursday.
We`re playing who`s the boss at the White House. (voice-over): Tonight, in a divided west wing and a divided Washington, who holds the power? First, Bannon demoted. Now a Trump ally steps down as head of the Russia investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Chairman Nunes wants to make sure that this is not a distraction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Plus, striking Syria. The Pentagon is preparing military options for the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Assad`s role in the future is uncertain. We are considering an appropriate response for this chemical weapons` attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Senator John McCain will join me this hour. And nuclear fallout.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA, CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: This result was preordained.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We simply do not trust each other anymore. (END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: What happens when bipartisanship becomes a dirty word and compromise gets punished? This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now. (on camera): Good evening, I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington. A very busy day, that`s for sure. There is infighting. There are power struggles. And after just 77 days, there really is a major shake-up in the president`s orbit, both inside the west wing and on Capitol Hill. This drama could have profound implications from everything, from the U.S. response to Syria to health care imperia. Aboard Air Force One this afternoon, the president was asked about the state of his White House. And he told reporters he`d, quote, "already shaken things up," adding, "I think we`ve had one the of most successful 13 weeks in the history of the presidency." We should note, he has been president for 11 weeks. But, folks, the apparent turmoil inside the west wing contradicts Trump`s boast. Steven Bannon`s removal from the National Security Council has exposed a bit of a civil war inside that west wing. Bannon reportedly threatened to quit over the demotion, a charge he is denying. Some inside the president`s orbit are blaming Bannon for the current chaotic state of the White House. One source described it, to NBC News, as a war between the globalists, led by Trump`s son-in-law, Jared Kushner and the nationalists led by Bannon. By the way, the travel ban and its problems, internally, is all being placed -- that blame is being placed at Bannon`s feet. Then, there`s Capitol Hill. Today, the president`s embattled ally, House Intelligence Committee Chair, Devin Nunes, stepped aside from the committee`s probe into Russia. Nunes is now under investigation, by the way, by the House Ethics Committee for possibly leaking classified info. Complaints have also been filed against Nunes for congressional -- with congressional ethics` watch dogs. Now, Nunes said he said he didn`t want to be a distraction to his committee`s work and Republicans leaders echoed that today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: It is clear that this process would be a distraction to the House Intelligence Committee`s investigation into Russian interference in our election. So, chairman Nunes has offered to step aside as the lead Republican on this particular probe and I fully support his decision.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), CALIFORNIA, MAJORITY LEADER: He wanted to make sure there was no distraction in the Russia portion of the probe. And so, Devin decided to move forward that way (INAUDIBLE) chair of the committee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: And here`s the White House`s full statement on the matter. This is an internal matter for the House. End of release.
Folks, the news episode seems to show that there is such a thing as trying too hard to defend the president. And it`s an important tipping point moment. In mid-March, there were reports that Bannon and Kushner intervened to save a White House intelligence operative from being ousted.
A week later, that same White House intelligence operative reportedly helped give that information to Devin Nunes that helped defend president. Was that episode the tipping point? Well, consider everything we`ve seen since then. There`s evidence of a dramatic west wing realignment. We don`t know the whole story yet. But we do know is that Bannon and Priebus` orbit seem to be weakening and Kushner`s star seems to be rising. Jared Kushner`s wife, Ivanka Trump, has expanded her role and now has a west wing office. Kushner has become the president`s Mr. fit it. Reince Priebus` top deputy was reassigned. Bannon was demoted from the National Security Council. Nunes has stepped aside from the Russia probe. All of that has happened in the last 12 days. I`m joined now by Andy Card who was chief-of-staff to President George W. Bush. He`s also an NBC News political analyst. Mr. Card, first of all, welcome to the team and welcome aboard. ANDREW CARD, POLITICAL ANALYST, NBC NEWS: Thank you. I`m thrilled to be part of the team and I enjoy being with you on the air. So, -- TODD: Well, let`s start with this. CARD: -- thank you for having me.
TODD: I remember when you came in in 2001 and there was the I think it was called an iron triangle. There was you. There was Karen Hughes. And there was Karl Rove.
And we`ve talked about this before. But it seemed that everybody made sure there were clear lines of authority. And the buck, besides stopping with the president on staffing, it stopped with you. It seems as if that wasn`t taking place the first two and a half months of this administration. Perhaps are we seeing it now?
CARD: Well, I do think that the chief-of-staff should be empowered by the president to have the responsibility for managing time and process at the White House.
[17:05:07] And I don`t think that Reince Priebus has been given as much authority as the chief-of-staff should have. And so, that`s an invitation for others to play there an inappropriate way in the system. And I think you`re finding the fallout from that happening right now. I do think that it`s also a reality that, you know, the team has come together but they weren`t -- they didn`t have the benefit of spring training. They went right to the major leagues -- TODD: Right. CARD: -- without understanding if they could even get along. So, it`s not unusual to see changes taking place, even in the first hundred days, with some of the people working in the White House. Maybe not as dramatic as what we saw in the last 12 hours, but changes normally take place as people understand personalities aren`t working the way you expected or the expectations that others had of their job can`t be lived up to because it`s not the job at the White House.
So, I think that these changes demonstrate that the White House is finding its sea legs. It`s finding how to work. And that means that they are making changes and some of them -- TODD: Right. CARD: -- are painful changes. Some are awkward changes. But I think this is a normal process and it`s happened with every president who comes in for the first time and tries to understand, how do you get people to get along and work together -- TODD: Right. CARD: -- that haven`t even worked together before.
TODD: Now, the speed of these changes -- we went back. The first major shakeup in Obama world, they changed their White House Council in November of the first year. You guys changed treasury secretaries in December of 2002. Bill Clinton changed chiefs of staff in June of 1994.
So, this is a little faster than normal. But let me ask about, to me, what might be the elephant in the room. CARD: But look at the other levels at the White House. TODD: Yes. CARD: It`s -- it had changes happening at the White House all the time and some people don`t like the job and want to leave. TODD: Right. Let me ask about the advice of -- the advice you might give the president, at this point. You have your son-in-law there that seems to be somebody you`ve hired that you really can`t fire. Now, he`s -- CARD: Right. TODD: -- not the chief-of-staff but he seems to be the power center. At some point, do you just -- there -- look, there`s a lot of potential conflicts in there and let`s set that aside for a second and just say, if you`re the president, is it better, at this point, because staff is not sure who`s really in charge, the chief-of-staff or Jared Kushner. Do you just make Jared Kushner the chief-of-staff?
CARD: That would be a solution. I`m not sure it`s the best solution. I do think that the president should maybe tell Jared, look, I want you to respect the chief-of-staff. He`s responsible for the time that I have to give to issues. Make sure that you keep him well informed so you don`t intrude on the domain of the president`s time and space in the president`s head.
Jared, he can`t be fired. I agree, he can`t be fired. But he could be put in a position where he should respect the process that the chief-of- staff is responsible to maintain in the White House. And that process requires discipline around time and discipline around what is going into the president`s head at what time so that he can make decisions that have to be made at the time they have to be made. Rather than preoccupied with extraneous things that he shouldn`t be worried about right now. But it`s up to the president to do it. It`s something the chief-of-staff can`t do. TODD: Right. CARD: The president has to empower the chief-of-staff. And if Jared should be the chief-of-staff, make that tough decision and do it. I would also say that Jared has to be careful that he doesn`t try to implement the president`s policies. He makes -- helps the president make policies, helps communicate those policies, but departments and agencies are the ones that have to implement policies. And I would just caution anyone who works at the White House not to fall into the trap of thinking that they can implement the policy. They really just guide others and motivate others to follow-up on the president`s plans and live up to his expectations.
TODD: All right. Andy Card, I`m going to leave it there. Former chief- of-staff to George W. Bush, former cabinet secretary as well. Anyway, glad to have y6ou on the NBC team and thanks for giving us some time.
CARD: Thank you.
TODD: All right, let me bring in tonight`s panel. Jen Palmieri, former Communications Director for the Clinton campaign and, of course, inside the Obama administration; Eli Stokols is White House reporter for "The Wall Street Journal;" and Brad Todd, a Republican Strategist.
All right, Eli, I want to start with you. This is your beat. Look, George W. Bush was a man of precision, right. He liked order. And so, it`s not surprising to hear Andy Card essentially reemphasize the need for order. But you kind of need it in the White House. Is there a sense that President Trump understands this and that`s why we`re seeing some of these moves?
ELI STOKOLS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, I think he`s beginning to understand it because he understands that this has not gone well so far. And he`s not going to admit that publicly.
But he has been making a lot of calls to people outside the administration, people who he trusts, saying, what do you think of this team? What are we doing wrong? What do we need to fix?
[17:10:04] And, you know, you can make Jared Kushner the chief-of-staff if you want to. But it doesn`t really matter what the title is. He`s already effectively running the show in the White House. Think back to the campaign. Everybody`s title was not exactly -- didn`t describe exactly what they did. Jared Kushner, whatever his title is, he`s the one that people in the White House fear. The one whose name people sometimes don`t even want to say out loud because it`s that, sort of, politicized. It`s that game of thrones inside the west wing. And so, that`s problematic. And, yes, it`s true that Bannon and him were close. Not as close anymore as they`ve sort of drawn back to their corners over some of these policy fights.
TODD: Brad, come at this from -- you`ve got a bunch clients on Capitol Hill. I`ve heard this from Republicans. Just tell me who I`m supposed to go to to talk about tax reform? Tell me who I`m supposed to go to to talk about health care? And you -- they get different answers and that has been frustrating.
BRAD TODD, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It has. You know, I think Mike Pence is a pretty comforting presence to the Capitol Hill. I mean, they`re comfortable with him. They think he does have the president`s ear. I think he is, sort of, the default channel of communications for --
TODD: They don`t want to get involved on the staff side and they say, you know, we`ll talk to the vice president.
BRAD TODD: That`s right, correct. And to his credit, the vice president has been very hands on. You see him come over to the capitol late at night and meeting with groups of members. He`s -- TODD: More often than he was at the start of -- BRAD TODD: No question. It`s happening more as time goes by. I think that that, sort of, hands-on feel has been a pretty important bridge. But this is just the start of this. The American people are not in a hurry for this to get right. They`ll hold people accountable if they don`t get it right. But I think that they knew that they were sending a president who was very different from what we had. A president who was going to change a lot of things and that change is sometimes not always smooth.
TODD: To me, Jen, it was inevitable that he was going to surround himself with his family. That`s who he trusts.
PALMIERI: Right. TODD: Don`t you, at some point -- and this is where I was -- at some point, just say it. Just give him the job because it would at least create certainty.
PALMIERI: Well, I think that the -- I think what`s hard, and I`ve been in the White House -- in the Clinton White House at different times where there were --
PALMIERI: -- where it wasn`t really clear --
TODD: When there were competing power centers?
PALMIERI: Competing power centers for a little bit. Dick Morris had a, sort of, operating as the shadow chief-of-staff for a while. And it`s very destabilizing.
TODD: That must`ve gone really well with Leon.
PALMIERI: It went -- yes. Leon took credit and didn`t put up with it for very long and it didn`t last for very long. But it`s very destabilizing when it does. So, when people they don`t know -- if -- you know, it is emasculating to Reince Priebus and the staff know where to go. So, that`s the problem. I think a problem with the son-in-law, though, it`s -- I can`t imagine -- you know, Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky are both smart, political people who I would sometimes talk to during the campaign. But I can`t imagine walking into a staff meeting every day.
TODD: By the way, I`ve got to highlight something here.
PALMIERI: Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky there, you can`t -- the staff can`t be real in front of the family. You just can`t do it.
TODD: You feel uncomfortable doing it.
But this was interesting. CivicCall.org, David Frum shared this around -- passing it around here. Imagine this scenario. President Hillary Clinton quietly sent son-in-law to Iraq, added, (INAUDIBLE) White House office of innovation and managing U.S.-China summit and ending the opioid crisis to his portfolio to Marc Mezvinsky. Meanwhile, long-time Clinton confidant and political advisor Sydney Blumenthal has been removed from his brief stint as a member of the National Security Council. I mean, they went on and on.
PALMIERI: That`s a parallel universe.
TODD: It`s not a parallel universe where I`m at. What would Republicans be saying right now under that scenario?
BRAD TODD: What are Republicans saying now, what are you talking about? It`s a -- it is definitely a different administration. And I think that -- again, I think the American people and Republicans in Congress are going to give him a little room.
PALMIERI: I accept this point on Brad`s part. I mean, it is -- you were - - you were right about. Like, it is -- it`s -- I think it shows that the White House is operating badly and that`s a problem.
It also shows that they`re giving into conventional wisdom though because it used to be Trump would say -- Trump wouldn`t care about any of this criticism. He`d be happy to let the dysfunction happen.
STOKOLS: The decision maker was great executive. I don`t know how many voters I talked to have said, I feel confident because I watched him make those decisions in the board room, the T.V. board room. And right now, it`s completely mismanaged. You have all the senior scurrying around to every photo op. They`re not actually doing their jobs. That`s a symptom of this problem where proximity to the president is power, the only power.
TODD: I had -- I had somebody in that White House note, all of us are afraid of not being on Air Force One. That`s a -- that`s not a good place to be.
BRAD TODD: Yes, but there`s -- even when presidential campaigns were on buses and stage coaches, that still was the case. You know, I mean, the lead advisors of the presidential campaign always stays fairly close to the body. You know? And so, that`s not that unusual, right? And I think once you see a little bit more structure and stability emerge over time, --
TODD: But there is a real --
PALMIERI: Yes, I think it`s devolving -- it`s devolving though from where he -- from where -- his strength has always been, he doesn`t care what the public say -- what the press say. He doesn`t care what political snipers say? And now, they`re reacting. They`re, like, getting rid of Bannon. They`re trying to -- you know, Nunes has been side lined. They`re trying observe some rules of convention that can work for him.
TODD: But if you look at it, results may matter as president. He doesn`t have health care. He puts it on Reince. That travel ban hasn`t been implemented. He puts it on Bannon.
[17:15:00] PALMIERI: Right. But his --
TODD: So, it could be that. PALMIERI: -- collusion doesn`t mean it`s going to solve his actual problem.
TODD: Well, we`ll -- that`s -- that is a fair point.
I will pause here. We`ll have more of this. We have a lot more to get to. Coming up, the zero-sum governing game that led to an historic moment today in the Senate. And a lot of Americans are just shrugging their shoulders.
Democratic Senator Michael Bennet and Republican Senator John McCain join me later in this hour. And tonight at 9:00 Eastern, Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intel Committee, will join Rachel Maddow to talk about the Russia investigation shake-up on the House side. Stay tuned for that.
We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) TODD: Welcome back. President Trump is now veering away from candidate Trump`s foreign policy stances, at least when it comes to Syria and China. We`re going to go dig deeper into the president`s first foreign policy tests up ahead with Senator McCain. And right now, in Mar-a-Lago, both President Trump and Chinese President Xi are preparing for their first face-to-face meeting. The two are set to have dinner in about an hour. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) TODD: Welcome back, folks. Today likely signaled the end of the Senate as we know it. We watched a historic moment on the Senate floor today as the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees crumbled. Majority leader Mitch McConnell and Republicans invoked the so-called nuclear option, that had been nicknamed, changing the threshold for Supreme Court nominees from 60 votes down to 51, to advance President Trump`s nominee, Neil Gorsuch. These are, of course, uncharted waters. It could have far-reaching implications for the future of the Senate and the future of the courts, in general. And yet, for such a monumental moment in our history, at least in the history of the Senate, it all happened without masses of Americans up in arms. That`s because the Senate may simply be catching up to the politics of today. We are a polarized nation. The Senate is an institution that was supposed to guard against this tendency, the cooling saucer, if you will. But the growing instinct of both parties is to retreat to their respective bases. And it`s helped condition the country, perhaps, against compromise that we`re in a zero-sum game. [17:20:00] And guess what? Politically, it`s hard to find a reward for any politician these days for crossing the aisle anymore. So, the result in some cases was inevitable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRASSLEY: This result was preordained.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I`m sorry, because I love the Senate and I`ve spent a good part of my life here, that we`ve reached this moment.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK, MINORITY LEADER: Today`s vote is cautionary tale about how unbridled partisan escalation can ultimately overwhelm our basic inclination to work together. (END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: We can argue forever about where this slippery slope started. But, tomorrow, the Supreme Court will be full again when Neil Gorsuch is confirmed as its ninth member. But the Senate has been altered forever and, perhaps, how judges are put on the bench. Up and down the judiciary branch has been changed. There`s only one 60-vote threshold left, by the way. The filibuster for legislation. Joining me now is Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, one of only four Democrats who opposed the filibustering of Neil Gorsuch. Senator Bennet, welcome. SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D), COLORADO: Thanks for having me, Chuck. Great to be with you. TODD: So, you were, in fact, the only Senator to, essentially, split your vote, meaning you voted for bringing Neil Gorsuch`s nomination to the floor. But you had said you will -- when the nomination comes up, vote against him. Explain your decision for voting -- for not filibustering him. Is it -- is it only because he`s from Colorado or was there more to it? BENNET: No, there`s much more to it than that. I`m proud that he is from Colorado. But he`s a very conservative judge. The reason I voted the way I did on the filibuster is I think it was not the right fight because we knew we were going to end up -- one way or another, we were going to end up with Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court either through the normal process or by the use of the nuclear option. And if he got on with the nuclear option, it would mean that Donald Trump will likely have one or two more, at least, Supreme Court nominees that he`s now going to be able to put on with not a single Democrat able to object and with the need of only 51 Republicans. And I think that will drag the court in an extremely conservative direction. TODD: It was interesting -- BENNET: And I don`t think it was necessary. You know, it was interesting to me to listen to the -- to the comments from the floor of people working in a human institution, who were decrying the partisanship and then unable to come together to actually solve the problem. There isn`t anyone else in America to o do it. I know you`re having John McCain on later. I can tell you -- I`m sure if you ask him, he`ll tell you, that he was one of the people that wanted to try to see if we could fix it.
TODD: Well, but let`s -- isn`t the problem that the political bases of both -- that their -- voters in the middle don`t reward you for being bipartisan anymore, because those voters, I guess, are no longer courted. And that the political bases are who you respond to these days. Is that a fair -- is that a fair observation?
BENNET: I think that is -- I think that`s true. I think that the parties have a difficult time saying no to their base, even when there are institutional equities at stake, that, in the long run, are going to be to the benefit of their party.
And sometimes, it`s very hard for people to break through that, I think. Certainly, my office has gotten calls all week. People very disappointed about the position that I`ve taken. But I`m not sure people understand that when we wake up on Monday morning, the next appointment could be the judge that redecides Roe versus Wade and it`s on a -- on a 51-vote margin. And there`s no way to stop it, at that point.
TODD: You know, that was interesting. One -- it seems to me what you`re saying is one of the reasons you`re voting against Judge Gorsuch -- because you call him a qualified judge who deserves an up or down vote.
BENNET: Yes. TODD: You say he`s too -- a bit too conservative for you. And you seemed to be more concerned about his place on the court if more conservatives get added. Why should that be a factor? Why shouldn`t it just be about him? At the end of the day, you`re dealing with a Republican president. He`s going to nominate somebody that`s probably more conservative than you want to have him nominate?
BENNET: That`s absolutely true. In this case, that very conservative justice, potential justice, I guess tomorrow he will be, is replacing the seat of a very conservative justice, Justice Scalia, who died.
The next one could change -- could transform the Supreme Court and the one after that, if it is a conservative, would transform it even further. My concern, Chuck, is this. That this has been a very strategic move by Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader of the Senate. And the result, unhappily, because we weren`t able to get a deal because we -- of the partisanship that you were talking about. Because of that, we may have a very conservative court for two generations of Americans` lives. And I think that is a terrible outcome.
TODD: Well, at the -- at the end of the day, this is now about Senate elections. Is it not? Is now every Senate election now about judges and is this -- obviously, that`s more of a motivator on the right than the left.
[17:25:02] BENNET: You`re right. TODD: Is that really what Senate elections should be about?
BENNET: Yes, I know. Senate elections should be about so much else. There`s so many other issues that we -- that we can fight.
And the other piece of this that just drives me nuts, Chuck, is that the - - when you don`t need the other party to do something, the pressure on your party to pick the most extreme person or have the most extreme legislation becomes routine. And what I -- you know, a lot of the criticism of Judge Gorsuch was about how he was attempting to obscure his conservative credentials. That`s not what you`re going to see in the future. What you`re going to see in the future is people saying, I will -- I`m the most conservative judge there is in America. Put me on the court. Or people saying, that`s the most liberal judge in America. Put me on the court. And I don`t think that`s going to be good for the court. So, now, what we`ve done is we`ve corroded the Senate. We`ve corroded the judiciary. And I don`t think any of that is good, you know, for the country. And to your point, a needless distraction when there are plenty of other issues that we need to be focused on to move families ahead in this country and to figure out what our role in the world is supposed to be.
TODD: You know, many in the Senate point to you as one of the more moderating institutionalist types. Do you think you could have done more, in hindsight, to stop this? That should you have gotten more Democrats on your side, McCain found more Republicans on his side? Come up with a new gang of 10 or 12 that might have prevented this? Prevented what happened last year? Prevented what -- prevented what happened in 2013? Do you regret that vote?
BENNET: I do. I do. And I`ve said that on the floor of the Senate. I think that that vote became an excuse. Mitch McConnell knew when we took that vote what he was going to use that vote as a pretext to do. We saw that happen today.
So, I do regret it. And I think we worked very hard over the last several weeks to try to to head this off. We weren`t successful. We now need to come together, I think, and make sure that we don`t lose the legislative filibuster which is the next step. And people that are saying now, that`ll never happen. TODD: Right. BENNET: But mark my words, we heard this about the Supreme Court. When we changed the 2013 about judges, people have said, nobody would ever do that to the Supreme Court. Well, this building may still be standing but the nuclear option has been invoked and -- on the justices. And the next step could be legislation and that would be horrible for our country.
TODD: How many Democrats that were there in 2013 are like you and now regret going along with Harry Reid`s decision?
BENNET: There are people who do, I think. And I know there are a lot of Democrats and Republicans who deeply regret what happened today.
And I think we need to stop treating that like talking about it in the passive voice as if it`s happening to us. This is something that the 100 members in the Senate are responsible for. In fact, or indeed, there is no one else that can take responsibility for it.
TODD: It was surreal. It was all -- it was like -- as if you guys were looking for Roberts Rule -- the guy -- Roberts from Roberts Rule of Order to fix all this for you.
BENNET: Yes. Yes. Any little green man would`ve done, I think.
TODD: Fair enough. Well, we`ll look for those green men later.
BENNET: All right. TODD: Senator Bennet, thanks for coming on and sharing your views, appreciate it.
BENNET: OK. Say hi to my friend, John McCain. He`s one of the good guys. He really is.
TODD: I will do that. I will do that. I think you`ll be seeing him in a second.
Anyway, still ahead, as the White House is preparing military options in response to Syria`s apparent chemical weapons` strike, we will talk to said Senator John McCain about that as well as what happened today in the Senate. Stay tuned.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR, "MEET THE PRESS DAILY": Up next, Senator John McCain joins to discuss the Trump administration`s response with their weighing to the apparent chemical weapons attack in Syria. Much more on that. But first, Hampton Pearson with the "CNBC Market Wrap."
HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Chuck. We had stocks closing well off season high as ahead of the latest job numbers tomorrow. The Dow up by 14 points, The S&P gaining 4, the Nasdaq rising 14 points as well. Amazon continued to hire. The company plans to add 30,000 part-time jobs in the U.S. over the next year. Most of those will be warehouse-based. Ride hailing start-up Lyft has raised $500 million in funding, as Uber continues to face scrutiny. Uber is still worth about nine times more than Lyft, however. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think what Assad did is terrible. I think what happened in Syria is one of the truly egregious crimes and it shouldn`t have happened. And it shouldn`t be allowed to happen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think that Assad should leave power in Syria?
TRUMP: I think what happened in Syria is a disgrace to humanity and he`s there and I guess he`s running things so something should happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Just to reiterate, I guess he is there and there is something, something should happen. That was President Trump on Air Force One this afternoon on his way to Mar-a-Lago. Asked about whether Assad should go now. Those comments come of course after the president said yesterday that the apparent chemical attack in Syria changed him and acknowledged that dealing with it is now his responsibility. And in a rare appearance today Secretary of State Rex Tillerson answered reporter questions about the the attack. Tillerson called it a serious matter that requires a quote, serious response.
(START VIDEO CLIP) REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The process by which Assad would leave is something that I think requires an international community effort.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you and President Trump organize an international coalition to remove Assad? TILLERSON: Those steps are underway.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: There you go. Joining me now is Senator John McCain of Arizona. Senator, welcome, sir.
JOHN MCCAIN, SENIOR U.S. SENATOR FROM ARIZONA: Thank you, Chuck. Good to be back with you. TODD: I want to start with, I know you told some reporters today in Capitol Hill, you spoke with the president last night on this topic. What can you share?
MCCAIN: Yesterday morning, after the, all the information came out. He said he was very concerned about it. That he was having meetings with General Mattis, with the secretary, with General McMaster. And they would be providing him with the advice and counsel that frankly, I think, is appropriately right to address the issue. But he was certainly very concerned.
TODD: You have said you believe Assad needs to pay the price. Previously you have said potentially one way to do this is ground the air force, take their air force out. They cannot fly again. If they fly, they go down. Is that still your recommendation of sort of the initial response? MCCAIN: That`s my initial response. Also we need to establish the safe zones, where refugees can be and where we can train and equip the free Syrian army. I would just add one point to that. The pilots. You know the number of trials after World War II, carrying out orders was not a sufficient excuse when they tried the Nazis. Carrying out orders is not a sufficient excuse for dropping nerve gas on innocent civilians. We all saw the pictures and we`re appalled and shocked and angered and sorrowed. It`s just incredible. TODD: Is this a reminder that there is a belief that a moral compass matters in foreign policy at the end of the day that, you know, candidate Donald Trump said, hey, there are too many quagmires. We`re getting involved in too many foreign affairs. It`s tragic. But at the end of the day, we can`t do everything. Do you get the sense that President Trump now realizes there is no other policeman in the world? MCCAIN: I think he is realizing our moral responsibility and it was graphically demonstrated to him with the picture of the father holding the two dead babies. It`s so -- I think he is getting it. I think he realizes that`s America must lead. And by the way, America has not led in the last eight years. And by the way, whatever happened to the much trumpeted removal of all of these stuff that the agreement with Russia and Bashar al- Assad that Obama and Kerry were so proud of.
TODD: I want to talk about that. What responsibility does Vladimir Putin have for this attack? Nikki Haley, the ambassador of the United Nations, essentially said this is on Putin`s hands too. It was his responsibility. His pledge in this deal, granted. I know you thought it was naive to do a deal with them. But the Russians have publicly committed to removing this chemical weapon. Is Putin, should he be held responsible for this? MCCAIN: I think absolutely he should be responsible because by announcing this grand agreement, which would remove any chemical weapons, they obviously didn`t keep their end of the bargain. Also, you know, Chuck, the Russian aircraft used precision-guided weapons to hit hospitals in Aleppo, killing wounded people, in gross violation of every international law under a normal standard. And Vladimir Putin is responsible for it and I hope that we will hold him responsible.
The best way to do that is increase sanctions, give the Ukrainians defensive weapons with which to defend themselves, and recognize it`s the old piece of (ph) strength. Look, this is an opportunity for this president, who is clearly being tested, okay, clearly being tested, to stand up and frankly make a name for himself, which I think could be very helpful to him and the nation.
TODD: Do you connect -- Senator Rubio believes that it wasn`t a coincidence that one week after Secretary of State Tillerson essentially changed American policy on Assad that this happened. Do you think it was a coincidence? MCCAIN: I think a lot of it has to do with Vladimir Putin and Assad thinking that they could get away with this. Statements that were made obviously by the president during the campaign and by Secretary Tillerson. By the way, I was very pleased to hear a statement today. You know, some of these people, as highly credentialed as they are, Chuck, they`re in a learning experience.
MCCAIN: So I think what we that what we heard from the secretary of state today was very helpful. We need to increase sanctions on Iran, on Vladimir Putin, and understand what kind of a competition we`re in. TODD: Two more questions. One, any military strike that the president considers, he doesn`t need congressional approval. Do you think he should get it?
MCCAIN: I don`t think he needs congressional approval. One of the precedents for that was after the bombing of the disco in Berlin.
MCCAIN: Ronald Reagan as you know struck Libya.
MCCAIN: But the larger picture, we need an AUM authorization for the use of military force. We got to update it, we got to make it realistic, and we got to have congress, the representative of the American people, involved in some of these decisions. So I`m gonna work Senator Tim Kaine and other to try to come up with one.
TODD: I got to ask you though, let`s say this military strike is taken out and let`s say it`s successful enough to ground the Assad air force and really weaken Assad. Then what? Because that has always been the conundrum, right?
TODD: Then what?
MCCAIN: I think then you establish the safe zone. You arm and train and equip the free Syrian army. You do not stop your efforts to retake Raqqa. You can do two things at once. And we have to obviously try to hold people responsible and make them pay a price for it. Both Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin.
TODD: And are we going to be in the rebuilding effort of Syria? MCCAIN: We have to, Chuck. Look at what happened in Libya after we talked away, after getting rid of Gaddafi.
TODD: It`s gonna be a tough political sell. It`s gonna be a tough domestic sell. MCCAIN: It was very tough after World War II, my friend. I believe in the goodness and decency of the American people. We have to make it clear to them why it is in our national interests. TODD: I want to ask you about the senate today. Michael Bennett was just on. He said to say hi. He said he thought if there -- that you and he at least had talked about trying to find a way to stop this. Were you guys alone? Is that the problem? MCCAIN: No. We had several others with us that were in a room in my office and we discussed this. Frankly, as opposed to the last couple of times where we were able to avert this, the leadership was not interested. And there was more of a polarization, which is reflective of the attitudes of the country, in my view, which made it different from the last couple times, where we were able to divert it. Have no doubt, Chuck, we`re on a slippery slope.
TODD: What does this mean for the courts? More polarized courts? Do you think it will gonna end up having Americans distrust the courts if all of our courts are filled with far left and far right?
MCCAIN: I think it`s gonna harm the fairness of our judicial system and the consequences of that obviously are not necessary right now with the very cynical public that we have. Look at the approval rating of congress. TODD: Yeah. If it wasn`t for you, (inaudible) media would be what people were talking about. It`s just friends and family for both of us these days, Senator McCain.
MCCAIN: I`m afraid it is, my friend. We`ve known each other for a long time. You`ve gotten worse over the years I might add. TODD: I understand that. I know. Both of us have. Going right downhill, sir. MCCAIN: You`ve been hiding your own Easter eggs.
(LAUGHTER) TODD: Senator McCain, on the day that we mourn Don Rickles, we get a little Rickles from you. I appreciate it. Thank you, sir.
MCCAIN: Thank you. Good to see you.
TODD: All right.
TODD: He is also going to be joining a special edition, by the way, Senator McCain will be on a special edition of "Morning Joe" tomorrow, live from Capitol Hill. You will see some more of John McCain there. Maybe he`ll have a few more Rickles jokes in him. Still ahead, why I am obsessed with what President Trump won`t be doing tomorrow with President Xi. Stay tuned.
TODD: Welcome back. Tonight I`m obsessed with one of President Trump`s obsessions, golf. If you haven`t seen pictures of the president golfing, it is not because he doesn`t golf, probably golfs more than any president since Woodrow Wilson, but it`s because White House takes special care to not show Mr. Trump golfing. That may be in part because as a private citizen, Donald Trump burned a lot of oxygen for criticizing President Obama for golfing a lot, less than Mr. Trump does now. But there`s no chance that you`ll see President Trump golfing with President Xi of China this weekend.
It turns out the Chinese Communist Party has declared golf a rich person`s game which is not entirely true but it is not entirely untrue either. The official contempt for golf in China goes back in 1949 when Mao declared it the "sport for millionaires." And you don`t want to get on Mao`s bad side apparently even if he has been dead for 40 years. So guess what, president Xi is not going to be golfing with President Trump because he can`t be seen golfing. So no golf for them. Maybe table tennis, anyone? We`ll be right back.
TODD: Welcome back. Time for "The Lid." Panel is back. Jennifer Palmieri, Eli Stokols, Brad Todd. Jen, you were in the White House when we had this - - looked like we were on the brink of essentially punishing Syria for using chemical weapons. President backed down, wanted to go to congress. Arguably that was a way to get bipartisan approval to back down and not do this. JENNIFER PALMIERI, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Arguably (ph) to get bipartisan approval. TODD: Fair enough. But it was -- it certainly was the way to kill it. PALMIERI: Not anyone in congress -- most in congress.
TODD: But the president chose not to do it himself. Why?
PALMIERI: Because he did feel that he wanted to have the support of congress. This was crossing a new line and that was, you know, how he had run in both `8 and `12. It was not a territory he was going to take us into without some clear buy-in from the public via the congress as their representatives.
And they weren`t -- you know, I mean, you remember how that all -- that all played out. There was not a lot of interest in congress in doing this at all. And to this date, they still haven`t acted on the authority for use of military force to combat ISIS (ph) either.
TODD: There is no doubt there is congress nervousness about getting involved. Let me go to the last part about what I asked Senator McCain which is okay, you do it, then what? And he is willing to make the case, yeah, we have to rebuild the country. This is what we do. It`s worth it. This is what we did after World War II. Is there -- the politics of that seem to be very risky. BRAD TODD, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST AND FOUNDING PARTNER OF ONMESSAGE INC.: Well, look, being president is hard. Being the leader of the free world is hard. Being the beacon of freedom in the world is hard. George Bush understood that. Barack Obama shirked away from it. Trump is going to find out, we`re going to find out where he is on it.
That is the hardest part of assuming that office is you have to make those kind of difficult decisions and lead the country. Sometimes you have to take the country to a place where you convince them as you do it. And I think that George Bush would be commended. Now we see how hard it was. We`ll find out now.
C. TODD: Candidate Donald Trump was -- said to me, look, I think Assad is probably a bad guy, but essentially believing the Middle East would be more stable today with Saddam, Gaddafi and Assad. That they kept uncomfortable stability there. That was candidate Trump. He seems like he`s changed on this specific issue. Do you think -- what do you hear, is he ready for the long haul on Syria? ELI STOKOLS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER FOR WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think he`s had his eyes opened a little bit probably by the images. He does respond to pictures and images. He recognizes how awful this is. He said explicitly in the Rose Garden yesterday, my feelings on this have changed. My position has changed. He bragged about being flexible. Remember, this is a guy who criticized Obama even though at the time he was urging Obama in tweets to not go to Syria, also to go to congress.
He`s basically upset with Obama now for following exactly his advice four years ago. I mean, there is a lot of mixed messages that you get from Donald Trump. There is never going to be a Trump doctrine as it relates to foreign policy, but I think he will defer to the adult, to McMaster, to Mattis, the experienced foreign policy hands in trying to craft a response.
C. TODD: Brad, you and I were talking about this earlier. Do you get the sense that you have the Republican hawks that don`t like Putin are finding this as an opportunity to drive a wedge between Trump and Putin? PALMIERI: The ones in the administration. C. TODD: Yes, that`s what I mean. You`re seeing a concerted effort whether it`s Cotton, Graham, McCain, or McCaster, Mattis, others. B. TODD: Let`s not forget Tom Cotton and Mike Pompeo went to President Obama in 2013 and said we`ll do whatever.
C. TODD: They would support too, that`s right. There wasn`t a majority.
B. TODD: There was support and it came from the Republican side, not the Democrat side.
C. TODD: He didn`t have much.
B. TODD: He didn`t have his own secretary of state on his side in 2013. Every single day John Kerry was walking back a position on Syria, almost every single day.
C. TODD: That -- John Kerry is upset they didn`t do anything.
C. TODD: That you have -- no, he`s the one that fought. He is the one that will end up criticizing in his (inaudible) for walking away.
C. TODD: Am I wrong? On that.
PALMIERI: Those two words go together. C. TODD: Yes, on that, I think, that`s where they had disagreement. STOKOLS: It is complicated and the question for, you know, going back to last week as you talked about in the last segment with Senator McCain, the statement that Tillerson made about Assad, what the White House said earlier this week that it`s just not realistic to try to push him out right now. Things may have changed that, but how do you get there? I mean execute, you know, decide to do missile strikes is one thing. Going beyond that is where it gets even stickier. C. TODD: Oh, by the way, the president has to be dealing with North Korea right now.
C. TODD: And he`s got leverage with the Chinese and we`re out of time. I will leave it there. Jen, Eli, Brad, thank you. After the break, a final honor for an American hero. Stay tuned.
TODD: Well, in case you missed it, international hero was laid to rest today in the hallowed ground reserved for our nation`s finest, Arlington National Cemetery. In the driving rain, John Glenn, the marine pilot turned astronaut, turned United States senator, turned astronaut again was buried on what would have been he and his wife`s 74th wedding anniversary. They were married on April 6, 1943. Quite the tribute to do it today in the midst of his service, by the way, in World War II.
Glenn died in his home state of Ohio in December. The marines hymn was played as six pallbearers carry the flag-covered coffin. Both of his children, Carolyn and John David Glenn, were in attendance, and his wife, Annie, received the folded flag that covered his casket. Fitting tribute to a World War II and Korean war veteran, the first person to orbit the earth and then the oldest person to fly into space.
And now folks who live here in D.C. and those who come visit can go and pay tribute to this great American when you visit Arlington National Cemetery. I hope you`ll do it. That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more "MTP Daily." "For the Record" with Greta though starts right now. Greta, it`s all yours.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOR THE RECORD HOST: Chuck, John Glenn inspired us all, didn`t he?
TODD: Yes, he did, yeah, absolutely.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2017 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2017 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.