Show: MTP DAILY Date: April 11, 2017 Guest: Andrea Mitchell, Hans Nichols, Hallie Jackson, Catherine Rampell, Azi Paybarah, Nathan Gonzales, Hakeem Jeffries, Catherine Rampell, Azi Paybarah
KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: If it`s Tuesday, the Trump White House focuses on message to Bashar Al Assad and Vladimir Putin.
(voice-over): Tonight, tough talk as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson begins his meetings in Moscow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Assad made the Russians look not so good.
SEAN SPICER, U.S. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Someone who is as despicable as Hitler who didn`t even sink to using chemical weapons.
JAMES MATTIS, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE SECRETARY: Even in World War II, chemical weapons were not used on battlefields.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: How will it all play behind closed doors at the kremlin?
Plus, the tax man --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is just the beginning. We`re going to reduce taxes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Why some on the left are already fighting against the White House plans to tackle taxes.
And blue wave. Can Democrats seize on a ground swell of energy as voters head to the polls for special election.
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.
Today, the Trump administration is focusing its messaging on Syria with more -- with a more unified front. Moments ago, Defense Secretary James Mattis and General Joseph Votel, commander of the U.S. Central Command, finished their briefing at the Pentagon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTIS: The goal right now in Syria and the military campaign is focused on accomplishing that and breaking ISIS, destroying ISIS, in Syria. This was a separate issue that arose in the midst of that campaign, the use by the Assad regime of chemical weapons, and we addressed that militarily. But the rest of the campaign stays on track.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: And now, all eyes are on Moscow. Secretary of State Tillerson who has touched down in the Russian capital. The kremlin says there are no plans for the secretary of state to meet with President Vladimir Putin.
And a meeting that is on the books for Tillerson`s counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, could be quite contentious based on what we`ve heard from both sides over the past 24 hours. White House officials say Russia is trying to cover up the origins of Syria`s chemical weapons attack. Now, the Russian foreign ministry says, quote, "Russian-American relations are in the worst period since the end of the cold war."
Ahead of his arrival, Tillerson told reporters that Russia needs to pick a side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TILLERSON: Stockpiles and continued use demonstrate that Russia has failed in its responsibility to deliver on the 2013 commitment. Russia has really aligned itself with the Assad regime, the Iranians and Hezbollah. Is that a -- is that a long-term alliance that serves Russia`s interest or would Russia prefer to realign with the United States?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: But Tillerson does not enter today`s meeting with the wind at his back. The message coming out of the G7 meetings lacked cohesion. The group unanimously condemned the chemical attack but the foreign ministers were divided over the possible next steps and refused to back a U.K. call for fresh sanctions.
White House officials today shared declassified intelligence saying it is confident that President Bashar Al Assad used sarin gas on his own people, but there`s no consensus on any Russian involvement. Vladimir Putin attempted to swat away these conclusions about Assad. He says it reminded him of 2003, the weapons of mass destruction claims that prompted a military action in Iraq.
Noticeably, President Trump has not spoken out widely since last week`s strike on the Syrian air field. Administration officials stress that Russia needs to rethink its alliance with Syria. But, today, Press Secretary Sean Spicer stepped in it when he struggled to clarify why the president believed Russia would pull back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPICER: We didn`t use chemical weapons in World War II. You know, you had a -- someone who is as despicable as Hitler who didn`t even sink to the -- to the -- to using chemical weapons. So, you have to, if you are Russia, ask yourself, is this a country that you and a regime that you want to align yourself with?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Of course, millions of Jewish people were gassed in World War II. Spicer clarified his comments three times after that. And the latest he says, quote, "In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the holocaust. However, I was trying to draw a contrast of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on population centers."
[17:05:05] Notice to the White House, you should probably avoid invoking Hitler.
Let`s get the latest from our team. Andrea Mitchell, NBC`s Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent and host of "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS." NBC`s White House Correspondent, Hallie Jackson, is at the White House. NBC`s Hans Nichols is at the Pentagon.
Andrea, let`s start with you. It is much tenser situation for the secretary of state than initially people would have thought.
ANDREA MITCHELL, CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: And, in fact, for him to be the first official to come to Moscow after the chemical attack after the air strikes. With people here saying, as you reported, that the foreign ministry said, only hours before he arrived, that relations with the U.S. are at the worst than any time since the cold war. When I first started coming here, all the way back when nuclear weapons were pointed at each other and the Reagan-Gorbachev summits were taking place.
And for Putin and the foreign ministry to be saying that is really teeing this up. And what`s most remarkable is that the hardest line coming out of the administration, after weeks of mixed signals on what to do about Syria even before the chemical attack, is coming from Rex Tillerson.
Now, they seem to be on the same page. He and General Mattis at the Pentagon where Hans is working together. We have a new security adviser. Mike Flynn is out of the picture. Steve Bannon has been taking off -- taken off the NSC.
And so, he seemed to have a new confidence that he can take this hard line. And coming here, after he once received the friendship medal from Vladimir Putin, when he was the head of Exxon-Mobil and doing mega billion dollar, you know, oil deals here. It`s pretty much a remarkable change.
We don`t even know whether or not he`s going to see Putin tomorrow. Nothing was officially on the schedule, although people here in Moscow say it was planned. But now, it`s up in the air.
TUR: And, Andrea, the U.S. is confident that Syria planned this and they carried it out. But now, Vladimir Putin is saying that it reminds him very much of 2003 and the U.S.`s reasoning for going into Iraq the reasoning of WMDs. What is Vladimir Putin trying to do here and how does Rex Tillerson deal with that?
MITCHELL: Well, he is certainly muddying the waters. He is throwing it up in their face that the Bush administration in 2003 falsely claimed that Saddam Hussein had WMD. And he`s using this as an excuse and that is a very potent message, not only here where Putin is so popular but around the world. Because people have not forgotten that the Iraq War was fought on false claims and false premises.
So, he is undermining the U.S. claims and recall that this White House now putting out declassified intelligence to make the claim of sarin gas, it is widely believed around the world, it was certainly believed at the G7 where Tillerson was earlier today in Italy.
But this is coming from the White House led by Donald Trump who has been disparaging the intelligence agencies for all of those weeks and months during the campaign, the transition and even after he was sworn into office. Although largely under the influence of Mike Flynn who`s now gone so we don`t here that quite so much.
But the other thing I should quickly point out is that Tillerson had planned to come here and make the case also about the Russian hacking of the election. He was going to confront them with that. And now, is that much harder to do given the stakes in Syria? It`s also something that President Trump has never acknowledged.
So, Tillerson is buying into the U.S. intelligence on that as well. And he was going to raise all of these issues when he meets with Sergey Lavrov. He is at least confident about having the meeting with his counterpart who is not an easy customer. As you know, he was very tough with Hillary Clinton and tough, at time, with John Kerry. And now, his second meeting with Rex Tillerson.
TUR: Hans Nichols, you were at that briefing a little bit earlier with General James Mattis and General Joseph Votel. James Mattis, the defense secretary. What was the latest to come out of that?
HANS NICHOLS, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Well, I think the certainty that these officials have that Bashar Al Assad was behind the chemical weapons` attack on April 4th, mixed though with the ambiguity that almost seemed intentional, almost seemed studied by both Mattis and Votel on whether or not chemical weapons, chlorine weapons will constitute a chemical weapons` attack. There is that tension saying that, yes, this is a one-off thing. This will not affect, in several points they said, the overall ISIS strategy.
And then, Katy, when we get to the question of Russia on whether or not the red lines that Russia is talking about are going to collide with the red lines that President Trump has talked about. You can have an escalating conflict. I asked Secretary Mattis about this and he seemed pretty confident that we weren`t heading for a tit for tat.
TUR: And Hallie Jackson, we haven`t heard from President Trump on Syria since --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[17:10:00] MATTIS: As you know, Secretary of State Tillerson is in Moscow. We maintain communications with the Russian military and with the diplomatic channels.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you so confident that this isn`t going to spiral out of control?
MATTIS: Well, I`m confident the Russians will act in their own best interest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NICHOLS: You know, all that is predicated on this assumption, Katy, that Russia is a rational actor. If not, then the Pentagon has miscalculated -- Katy.
TUR: Hallie Jackson, Donald Trump hasn`t spoken that much about Syria at all since those missile attacks that he launched last week, Hallie. But I hear he did just do an interview with Fox News.
HALLIE JACKSON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Yes.
TUR: Did he say anything about Syria?
JACKSON: He did, Katy. This is Fox News network`s "Mornings With Maria," Maria Martiromo, and when was asked about Syria. We don`t have the clip just yet but I want to, sort of, paraphrase what the president is saying. He said, are we going to get involved with Syria? Sort of posing the question to himself. No, he says.
But if I see them using gas, he says, and things that -- and then, he interrupts himself and says, even some of the worst tyrants in the world didn`t use the kind of gases that they used. He says, and some of the gases are unbelievably potent.
So, when I saw that, I said, we have to do something. He says, when he saw some of these images, as we know, Katy, from our reporting, of the youngest victims of the chemical weapons` attack on April 4th, he says, I immediately called Genera Mattis. I said, what can we do? And they came back with a number of different alternatives and we hit them very hard.
Again, the president saying that we are not going to get involved with Syria but clearly affected by what he saw from that chemical weapons attack. I think where Hans was -- well just in the briefing room there. That was actually the strongest message that we`ve seen from this administration that was not mixed.
Because I think there has been some mixed signal sending from this administration on what they would do in Syria. And what happens if Bashar Al Assad crosses what people call a red line or which they imply is actually a red line.
TUR: Hallie, but on the point you just -- the paraphrasing of Donald Trump`s interview with Fox News. He made a mention that even the worst -- the worst dictators in the world haven`t used this type of sarin gas.
Sean Spicer stepped in it a little while ago in this -- in this briefing room, when he compared or tried to make a comparison to Hitler saying not even Hitler gassed his own people with this type of gas. Obviously, Hitler gassed many of his own people, six million Jews. Was this a coordinated line? It kind of sounds like the president saying to Fox Business that this was a line that they were planning on using.
JACKSON: Right. I think probably a lot of it is in the nuance or the subtlety of how you -- how they are describing this. And, Katy, I will tell you this. When asked directly whether this was, as you are saying, this kind of coordinated talking point that the administration wanted to push, the response from the press secretary was that it was not. His remark in that briefing that you`re talking about was off the cuff. Sean Spicer is telling us, meant to note the tactic.
As you point out and as we`ve been talking about this afternoon, there have been a series of clarification. One in person and on camera. And then several more written statements from Sean Spicer attempting to, you could say, walk back or clarify or say what he really meant to say about this implied comparison, a really explicit comparison between Bashar Al Assad and Adolf Hitler.
But it is certainly something that has created quite a bit of buzz. And, again, raising some questions about the messaging strategy, specifically when it comes to Syria. We are watching to see what more the president is saying in this interview, specifically about Syria, given that it is, obviously, the dominant headline here.
TUR: And in that fourth clarification that Sean Spicer made, they just added one line to the bottom of the third clarification. And that was any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable.
Hallie Jackson at the White House. Hans Nichols over at that Pentagon briefing. And Andrea Mitchell in Moscow. Thank you very much.
The panel is here with me now. MSNBC Political Analyst Elise Jordan; Politico New York Senior Reporter, Azi Paybarah; and "Washington Post" columnist, Catherine Rampell.
Gosh, you know, they`re not -- they`re saying it wasn`t a coordinated line, but it sounded similar to what the president was trying to get out in that Fox Business report. And even General James Mattis talked about how chemical weapons were not used in World War I. Was it just that Sean Spicer got himself a bit tripped up on how he was trying to deploy that message?
ELISE JORDAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I`ve been wondering about the messaging coordination when you have either Nikki -- you have U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley saying one thing that`s just diametrically opposed to what Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is saying.
And so, I wondered, is there any kind of -- the National Security Council should be playing this role of bringing together all the players and giving guidance on what the message should be. So, I wonder if, perhaps, they decided, oh, we do need to put together some inner agency guidance. This was in there and it has become the most mangled talking point of all time.
TUR: And so, Katherine, Sean Spicer says, you know, even Hitler didn`t do things that are as bad as what Assad is doing to his own people. But we`re not going to put troops on the ground. And we`re not going to take in their refugees. That`s quite a way to set up an argument.
[17:15:02] CATHERINE RAMPELL, OPINION COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes. I mean, it`s a very strange perversion of God wins law. You know, the idea that all arguments end in comparisons to Hitler or, in this case, a favorable comparison to Hitler.
There has been a lot of mixed messaging, as Elise notes, coming from the various stake -- various important people in this administration. I would differentiate between a lot of the clashes from this weekend and what happened today. In that it seemed that they were all taking their ques from the president. That once the president weighed in and made this statement, maybe that`s why --
TUR: Is that what they have to do? Because they don`t know what the president thinks about anything and so --
RAMPELL: It sort of -- it sort of seems that way. I mean, I don`t know. I`m not in the room. But it does appear that way to outsiders.
And to your question about what is the red line here, and although that`s a very toxic phrase I realize these days, there has been equally mixed messaging on that. You know, you have Tillerson, on the one hand, for example, saying that we`re not going to be the world`s policemen anymore. But then, on the other hand, saying something to the effect that any killing of innocent civilians will be held accountable.
So, there`s some tension, right, between these kinds of messages, even from the same person.
TUR: I`m trying to figure out where the moral high ground is here and how this administration can hold it, given the fact that they are saying that Assad is terrible. He`s gassing his own people. He`s killing innocent children. But we can`t let any Syrian refugees in.
AZI PAYBARAH, SENIOR REPORTER, POLITICO: Oh, I mean, we`re long past the point of trying to apply logic and consistency to Donald Trump`s rhetoric or policies. And I think that gets to the problem of people trying to guess, in his own administration, what he`s thinking and what he`s saying and what he`s trying to do.
Clearly, there was an effort to make a comparison by the use of chemical weapons and how bad it is. Sean Spicer completely ruins it. Donald Trump, sort of, goes back to it.
And you`ve seen before that there is this, sort of, echo chamber. You know, the president watches cable news. He thinks he hears something. He says it. The people around him try to apply facts to it, even when it doesn`t fit. And then, they try to walk it around.
It is very complicated. And especially when you have -- when you have a president that undermines the U.S. intelligence agencies. And he starts -- and you have Putin, sort of, picking up on that criticism, trying to undermine Trump`s White House. You start seeing the result of Trump`s rhetoric. And it`s sewing down in confusion among the people around him.
TUR: What about the motivations for this attack. You have Eric Trump giving an interview to the U.K. press, saying two things. One, that this proves that there was no coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, which seems to imply that this was a politically motivated attack in order to make his P.R., essentially, better here at home and deflect from this Russia investigation.
And also, saying that President Trump`s decision to bomb a Syrian air base came from Ivanka. So, this quote, it was to punish President Bashar Al Assad for a nerve gas attack that, last week, was influenced by the reaction of his sister, Ivanka, who said she was heartbroken and outraged by the atrocity.
JORDAN: Yes, you know, they have -- they clearly have a big messaging problem here. But I`m not going to say that Sean Spicer, Eric Trump, everyone being completely off the reservation. But it all comes back to a huge policy problem.
In politics, one thing is always true. This is the -- maybe one of the only truisms I`ll hold firm in. Whenever everyone`s complaining that there is messaging issue (INAUDIBLE) problem, it`s always the underlying policy that really is just completely non-existent. And that`s what we are seeing here with Syria. There is no strategy. There is no Trump grand strategy for what he wants with his foreign policy. How is the plan to keep --
TUR: There`s no Trump doctrine.
JORDAN: There`s no Trump doctrine. He -- this was -- and General Mattis said, just today, that this was a one-off exercise because of chemical weapons. But there`s no limiting mechanism. And now, I think that there is going to be a huge potential for mission creep in Syria going forward.
TUR: What does America first mean?
RAMPELL: Who knows. That`s the problem, right? I think it implies that if Americans direct -- national interest is not at stake, then we don`t get involved. We don`t lecture. We don`t bomb. We don`t put troops on the ground. We don`t care about humanitarian interests, right?
I mean, one could argue that humanitarian interests are in the U.S.`s indirect or longer term interest as well. But the implication, I got anyway, throughout the campaign was, no, if it doesn`t affect us directly now, we don`t care about it. Which is why it`s hard to make heads or tails of what we just experienced over the last week.
TUR: You never know what to expect on a day-to-day basis with this administration. You wake up in the morning and you check your phone. What has happened? What did I miss?
RAMPBELL: Well, Trump said he liked unpredictability.
TUR: Well, this is more like incoherent.
RAMPBELL: But certainly, unpredictability is very dangerous in foreign policy.
TUR: Unpredictable, incoherent, dangerous, lots of -- lots of scary words. Elise, Azi, Catherin, stay with us. We`re going to come back to you later a little bit later in the hour.
[17:20:00] Coming up, we`re tracking some high stakes special elections. We`ll look at why Kansas Republicans could be in for a shock.
Plus, how the race for Tom Price`s seat in Georgia could have a big impact on mid-term momentum for both parties nationally.
TUR: Welcome back.
As we say here at MTP DAILY, if it`s Tuesday, somebody is voting somewhere. And that somewhere is Kansas`s fourth Congressional district. It`s the race to fill the seat vacated by now CIA director. They are vacated by Mike Pompeo. President Trump took the district by 27 points in November, but Democrats think they can score a Wichita state shocker today or at least keep the race close.
Their candidate is civil rights attorney, James Thompson, whose campaign has benefited from donations and volunteering from Democrats mobilized nationwide by President Trump. Democrats are also hoping unpopular Kansas Republican Governor Sam Brownback nudges some voters in their direction.
Republicans are going all out behind their candidate, Ron Estes, to make sure that they win this one by a comfortable margin.
Ted Cruz gave an updated version of his presidential stump speech in Wichita yesterday. Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump both recorded robocalls.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On Tuesday, Republican Ron Estes needs your vote and needs it badly. Ron is a conservative leader who is going to work with me to make America great again.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
TUR: And President Trump sent up this Twitter (INAUDIBLE) from the White House this morning. Ron Estes is running today for Congress in the great state of Kansas. A wonderful guy. I need his help on health care and tax reform -- excuse me, tax cuts. (INAUDIBLE) reform.
This would be a major upset if Democrats pull it off. But even a close loss could drive blue momentum for other races nationwide. We`ll talk more about growing Democratic energy in just 60 seconds. Stay with us.
TUR: Welcome back.
Historically, the greatest electoral Achilles heel for Democrats and nonpresidential races is turnout. In the age of Donald Trump, Democrats are trying to turn energy and enthusiasm in the party base into momentum to drive voters to the polls.
And there is some evidence that it`s working so far. "The New York Times" reports Democrats made up 41 percent of the electorate in Iowa`s 45th Senate district in November and 58 percent of the electorate in the special election in December.
And the top Democrat in the special election in Georgia`s 6th Congressional district announced a huge cash haul this month. John Ossoff raised $8.3 million for the raise for Tom Price`s old seat. An astronomical sum for a race of this type.
Remember, money is just money and "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution" is reporting 95 percent of that money came from outside the Georgia six. But Democrats are hoping that that capital can be used to drive turn out. The situation in Georgia is starting to seem reminisce of the first six special election in the Obama administration.
You might remember this. Republican Scott Brown`s upset victory in Massachusetts for the seat left vacant by Ted Kennedy. In that case, Republicans were able to turn energy into money into turnout.
Joining me now is Nathan Gonzales, the editor and publisher of "Inside Elections." So, Nathan, taking a look specifically at what`s going on in Georgia. $8.3 million is quite a bit of cash. But 95 percent of it is coming from outside groups. Can that affect turnout in a really significant way, enough to get us off into the seat without any runoffs?
NATHAN GONZALES, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, "INSIDE ELECTIONS": Sure, absolutely. Well, $8.3 million, just for a little bit of perspective, that`s more than some what we thought were top tier Senate candidates raised in an entire cycle. And John Ossoff raised that in three months. He`ll probably get to $10 million, at least by the time this race is over.
And I think Democrats are using it effectively. One of the things that we haven`t talked about recently about this race is a couple key things. First of all, I think credit has to go to daily coast, the liberal blogging community, for, kind of, getting the fund-raising ball going and showing that Ossoff could be a viable candidate.
But also, the DCCC put field staff on the ground and helped the Ossoff campaign build an infrastructure so that when this money came in, they were able to do something with it.
I remember, back in 2008, a couple weeks before the election, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann went on "Hardball." She -- it was a disaster of an interview and all this money went to her challenger, Elwyn Tinklenberg. But he just didn`t have the infrastructure to take advantage of it.
But right now, Ossoff is running basically a luxury campaign that most candidates just dream of and including turnout. Democrats have been leading in the early and absentee voting in a district that Republicans have generally had the advantage. But they are turning out some voters who are not their low propensity voters. They have not voted in the past.
And that is key because if this district of everyone who normally votes votes, Republicans are going to win. But they are changing -- it looks to me like they`re changing the shape of the electorate in having more Democrats come out. They`re using that enthusiasm. And if they can change it enough, that`s the recipe for victory.
TUR: What about what`s going on in Kansas and what should be and normally is a ruby red district?
GONZALES: So, we`ve had all of this -- we started with the march after the inauguration and there were these town hall protests. Everyone in the -- kind of the Democratic community started to focus on Ossoff.
But on the way to Georgia, Kansas pops up. And, all of a sudden, there was a little bit of -- there was some panic on the Republican side and excitement on the Democratic side, saying maybe we can challenge here. Some of the fundamental differences are that Donald Trump won Georgia`s sixth district by just a point. He won the Kansas fourth district by 27 points. That`s a huge --
TUR: So, is this more of a Sam Brownback backlash than you can say Donald Trump backlash?
GONZALES: I think it`s a little bit of everything. I think it`s -- I think Donald Trump is driving enthusiasm in the Democratic base. Sam Brownback is one of the least popular governors in the country, and that includes some Republicans in Kansas.
I think Ron Estes, from the sources that I`ve talked to, has run an underwhelming campaign. Maybe he`s trying to be something he`s not, trying to be, sort of, a Tea Party candidate, when he`s really an establishment Republican. And he`s -- so, I think it`s a mixture of factors.
And we also have to remember that James Thompson has really been ignored by Democrats until the last few days. I -- there was a clip a couple weeks ago where he was asking for $20,000 from the local party for mailers and couldn`t even get that.
GONZALES: And now -- and now, everyone is focused on, well, what`s going to happen in the fourth district tonight?
TUR: You know, how effective is it for Ted Cruz to some out and give just a slightly modified version of his presidential stump speech?
GONZALES: Well, this is a district that Ted Cruz did well in the primary. I think it helps draw attention to the district. You know, for people who aren`t really paying attention. Ted Cruz -- within the party, Ted Cruz is a notable name. And so, I think it could help with the combination of the robocalls. If Republicans can get up to normal turnout, they will be okay. But if there is any sort of apathy combined with democratic enthusiasm, it gets to be a problem.
TUR: Do Democrats need to win in both Kansas and Georgia or just one win in Georgia and maybe a close call in Kansas or they lose both? Tell me what do the Democrats need in order to call it a win.
GONZALES: That`s a great question. I don`t -- let`s pray. If Democrats win in Kansas today, there will be panic on the Republican side like we haven`t seen before. There will be panic if they lose Georgia. But these results -- let`s say Democrats win both, it actually doesn`t necessarily mean that 19 months from now, they are going to automatically take the house. It will be a good sign.
TUR: Good point.
GONZALES: Let`s say if Democrats lose both and also lose in Montana, then that doesn`t mean that they`re not gonna do well in 2018. Let`s remember in May of 2010, Democrats held a special election in Pennsylvania. Six months later, they lost 63 seats in the house. TUR: Good point. That is a lifetime, an absolute lifetime in politics. Still regardless we will be keeping an eye on the polls because we always love to find out what`s going on in the polls of course. It will be an interesting race, period. Thank you, Nathan Gonzales, appreciate your time.
TUR: John Ossoff, Democratic candidate for the congress from Georgia`s sixth district will join us here tomorrow on "MTP Daily." You`re not gonna want to miss that. And still ahead this hour, the Trump administration pursues a major overhaul of the tax code. Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries joins me to explain why he says he needs to see Trump`s taxes before he looks at any new tax legislation. Stay tuned.
TUR: Still ahead, as tax day approaches, everyone still wants to see Donald Trump`s tax returns. But first, Courtney Reagan has the "CBBC Market Wrap." Hey there, Courtney.
COURTNEY REAGAN, GENERAL ASSIGNMENT REPORTER FOR CNBC: Hi, good evening to you, Katy. Stocks closing lower with investors sticking to safer bets. The Dow is down by 6, the S&P off by 3, and the Nasdaq falling 14 points. President Trump is no longer a threat to the economy according to credit rating agency, Fitch.
The company reversed earlier warning and now predicts moderate economic growth over the next two years. The price of gold hits a five-month high as geopolitical tensions rise. The precious metal had a year to date gain of more than 10 percent. That`s it from CNBC, we`re first in business worldwide.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We asked and answered that several times and the president has been under audit. I think the American people are -- frankly the middle class in particular, companies that are trying to grow here in the United States are much more concerned about tax reform.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TUR: Welcome back to "MTP Daily." That was White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer this afternoon responding to a question about President Trump`s tax returns. After the health care bill supported by the White House went down in flames last month, the president repeatedly declared how he excited he was to take on tax reform.
Our Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said he wants to see a tax overhaul by August, that time line is looking increasingly unlikely. The Associated Press reports Republicans are considering including a drastic cut to the payroll tax aimed at appealing to Democrats. But it might not be so easy to woo blue lawmakers.
Democrats in congress are trying to push back against the president`s agenda on a number of fronts and they feel taxes could be a little bit personal to the president and that`s all the more reason that they need to start by saying that Donald Trump needs to hand over his tax returns before they work with him on any sort of tax legislation.
One of those Democrats, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York, is arguing that changes to the tax code shouldn`t be adopted until members of congress have the chance to review the president`s own taxes to see how any changes might affect him personally.
Congressman Jeffries is a member of the house Democratic leadership team. He is here with me now. Congressman, welcome. Here`s the question for you. Donald Trump was elect. He didn`t release his tax returns during the election. Clearly his voters did not see that as a priority or as a mandate for him to get to the White House. Why do you think this is an issue that Democrats should be championing now? HAKEEM JEFFRIES, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE OF NEW YORK`S 8TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: Well, Donald Trump is now the president and so there is a higher standard in terms of the way in which he should conduct himself. Every president, Katy, since Gerald Ford, Democrats and Republicans have released their taxes. Ronald Reagan did it. George W. Bush did it. Barack Obama did it. Bill Clinton did it. TUR: Yeah, you`ve been making that argument now though. Everyone is making that argument. Democrats have been making that argument for months. The White House said it`s not going to happen. Is this the best way for Democrats to use their political capital to just force him to release his taxes? Is it going to work? JEFFRIES: First of all, I think that Democrats are engaging in a public policy debate on a wide variety of fronts. Many throughout America are interested in the tax question right now as they themselves, everyday Americans have to prepare their taxes consistent with their responsibilities as citizens in the great United States of America. And so the fact that yes, every president since Gerald Ford has done this, this is a presidential standard that should be kept. Why does Donald Trump that he should be held to a different standard?
Anything, the fact that he is a supposed billionaire, he`s got conflicts of interests all across the variety of different business entanglements, different countries that he has done commerce with over the years, the American people deserve to see his tax returns to figure out if Donald Trump has our best interest at heart or does he have the best interest of some of his cronies or other business friendships and partnerships that he has throughout the world. The only way to figure it out is to look at his tax returns.
TUR: What do you think the American public wants more right now? To see Donald Trump`s tax returns or to have some sort of tax reform put in place?
JEFFRIES: First of all, the tax reform that Donald Trump has proposed would benefit millionaires and billionaires. I don`t think that the everyday average American working families, middle class folks, those that I represent in Brooklyn and Queens and many people throughout the county represent want the type of tax reform that is only gonna benefit the top 1 percent in the United States of America.
What we want actually is job creation and the ability to deal with the wage stagnation problem that has impacted this country for the last 40 plus years, put people back to work, meaningful employment, strengthen social security, deal with the high cost of college education. I think that`s what average everyday Americans want.
They don`t want the type of tax reform that house Republicans Paul Ryan and Donald Trump are trying to jam down the throats of the American people which is designed to benefit corporations as well as the wealthy and the well off.
TUR: What if there was a tax reform package that was laid out between the Republicans and the Democrats, I know this is idealistic thinking, that did not just cut for the rich and cut for the poor as well, wold Democrats still demand Donald Trump`s tax returns in order to get that passed? JEFFRIES: With respect to his tax returns, I am speaking for myself, as it relates to what I think my constituents would expect me to do as it relates to the information before me before proceeding with any comprehensive tax reform, ultimately house Democrats and senate Democrats are gonna have to make that decision on their own.
We are of course completely I think in sync as it relates to being concerned with the absence of transparency and the fact that Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp, but he has turned into a living breathing conflict of interest as he relates to a host of issues which is problematic here in Washington D.C.
TUR: Congressman, why not focus your efforts on trying to find a better tax reform policy or find better legislation rather than force an issue that you are not going to get anywhere with ultimately if the Republicans are not on board? JEFFRIES: Members of congress should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. We can demand transparency and we`ve got those democrats like Richie Neal and others on the house Ways and Means Committee who are working through the nuts and bolts of trying to create a more progressive meaningful tax system that benefits working families and middle class folks and seniors citizens. I don`t think one can be done to the exclusion of the other. You can do both.
TUR: Thank you, Congressman Jeffries. Appreciate your time. Coming up in "The Lid," Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the Trump era quarter policies. Stay tuned.
TUR: Welcome back to "MTP Daily." A win this week for voting rights activists as a U.S. federal judge rules a Texas voter I.D. law was enacted to intentionally discriminate against black and Hispanic voters. The law which was passed in 2011 required voters to present one of seven state approved photo IDs.
The judge also found that the law needlessly restricted certain forms of I.D. such as student or employee IDs which are permitted in a number of other states. More than two years ago, the same judge made a similar ruling but after Texas appealed her decision, a federal appellate court she needed to reexamine the case.
This ruling is significant because it could put Texas back on the list of states that need federal approval before changing their voting laws. A 2013 Supreme Court ruling that invalidated parts of the voting rights act, removed Texas and other states with a history of discrimination from that list. We`ll be right back.
TUR: Welcome back. It`s time for "The Lid." The panel is here. Elise Jordan, Azi Paybarah, Catherine Rampell. Let`s talk a little bit about Jeff Sessions and the border. He gave these immigration remarks and let`s take a listen to them.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: For those that continue to seek improper and illegal entry into this country, be forewarned. This is a new era. This is the Trump era. The lawlessness, the abdication of duty to enforce our laws and the catch and release policies of the past are over. (END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: He didn`t use one word there that was in the prepared remarks. And I`m going to read it to you. It is here on this sliver of land where we first take our stand against this filth, referencing criminal organizations like cartels. The word filth is getting a lot of attention even though he did not say it. It was in his prepared statement.
ELISE JORDAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, Jeff Sessions I assume has a speech writer, and that speech writer`s job is to capture his voice. So either this is a really twisted and warped way of the speech writer actually trying to capture Jeff Session`s voice which he didn`t deliver in fairness. So it must, you know, so he deemed that it didn`t hit the mark or this is the ideological underpinnings of the people who surround Jeff Sessions. TUR: Are we changing policies here? There was that Washington Post piece a couple weeks ago and an update just over the weekend with the wife who voted for Trump and whose husband then ended up getting deported because he was an illegal immigrant. We`re seeing more deportations. Are we seeing a new policy change across the board?
CATHERINE RAMPELL, OPINION COLUMNIST AT THE WASHINGTON POST: As with foreign policy, it does feel like what`s going on with immigration policy feels very incoherent at this point. And this administration has gone back and forth about saying oh, we`re only going to deport people who have broken other laws. No, we`re just going to deport the bad hombres. But what constitute that.
TUR: What is about hombre? RAMPELL: Well, I mean, the example that you were talking about where the wife voted for Trump. Her reasoning when she was interviewed was that oh, I don`t think my husband would be affected because he`s not a bad hombre, Trump was going to get rid of the bad guys, and my husband hasn`t broken any laws other than, you know, not being here with authorization, initially with authorization although he did actually have work authorization.
He had lots of other documents, you know. His immigration status was not up to code, of course. So, it`s not clear, and I think that the very fact that it`s unclear has caused lots of fear and panic in immigrant communities because they don`t know what the rules of the road are. TUR: Beyond immigrant communities, how much concern should there be across the country that there`s no cohesion in messaging coming out of this White House on a whole host of issues, not to mention the fact that there`s still so many positions in senior levels of government that are unfilled? Is it hundreds of positions? RAMPELL: Oh, hundreds. I think.
JORDAN: Like 500.
RAMPELL: That require senate approval.
(CROSSTALK) TUR: That`s at the top level.
JORDAN: And so you consider that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is going into a diplomatic fight right now with Russia, he`s half unarmed. He doesn`t have anybody to back him up. AZI PAYBARAH, SENIOR REPORTER FOR POLITICO: This is what happens when you have a candidate who confuses, you know, a slogan with a policy. He thinks standing in front of a crowd and getting a reaction is an affirmative and therefore he should just go and keep doing that. There is no intellectual underpinning to most of what is coming out of this White House. TUR: I find it fascinating, fascinating that he stood out there, that new campaign rally that he had a few weeks ago and said, promises made, promises kept. I mean, he was like barely two months into his presidency and he already has his campaign slogan for 2020. Put that aside for the moment. Let`s talk about the taxes.
I was just talking to Hakeem Jeffries. You guys were watching it. Is this something that the Democrats should be using their political capital on? Yes, people want to see Donald Trump`s taxes. Yes, it is relevant. But is there a chance that anybody actually is going to see Donald Trump`s taxes? JORDAN: I think it`s, you know, a drum that they have to keep beating, they have to keep their troops energized. But at the end of the day, people, the electorate didn`t care that much about the taxes. It shocked me so many voters.
TUR: Trump supporters. JORDAN: Over the course of -- but a lot of people know that the tax code is unfair and they kind of, you know, a little bit like oh, he didn`t pay taxes, draining the swamp.
TUR: Another one of those promises, the slogan that doesn`t really amount to much? PAYBARAH: It`s not. It`s a signal to the democratic base that they are not getting off this fight. It is keeping them engaged. And it`s trying to increase the cost of compromise. Trump, if he hadn`t, you know, gotten his Supreme Court nominee and when the senate didn`t even give Garland a hearing, if Trump hadn`t offended so many people with comments about immigrants and border wall and all this stuff, Democrats might have been in a position to say, you know what, we can work with this guy.
We agree on certain issues. Okay, tax code is going to affect a lot of people, let`s work on this. That is not the mood that Democrats are in right now. If they can point to his inconsistency on taxes, that`s it.
RAMPELL: My fear is that they are so beholden to -- the Democrats, they are so beholden to trying to give the base what they want that they may not actually be thinking strategically. TUR: That is a good question, whether or not the base wants to see things get done, whether or not the American public wants to see things get done. After all, that is why so many people voted for Donald Trump, or if they want him just to stop, I want Democrats just to stop him at all costs. Elise, Azi, and Catherine, thank you, guys, for being here on this Tuesday. After the break, the economic impact of the winter White House. Stay tuned.
TUR: In case you missed it, President Trump really likes his Palm Beach estate, the one he calls the winter White House, but is really just a private club that he charges 200 grand for people to join. Well, he may like being home and his well to do members may enjoy the face time with the president, but the city of Palm Beach isn`t so thrilled. Now, county lawmakers are weighing a special tax against the Trump`s Mar-a-Lago estate to pay for the cost of his presidential visits. The county spends $60,000 each day that President Trump is in town on assorted protection costs. The county`s toll since January is $2 million and counting.
As a private club, Mar-a-Lago pays lower property taxes than a hotel and it also receives a tax break in exchange for Trump`s surrendering development rights on the property in the 1980s. A county commissioner floated turning Mar-a-Lago into a special taxing district to recoup some of those costs and the federal government does not reimburse the county. Not to be deterred, Trump is heading back down this weekend to celebrate Easter. It will be his seventh visit since taking office.
That`s all for me tonight. "For the Record" with Greta starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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.