Show: MTP DAILY Date: April 18, 2017 Guest: Jon Ossoff, Bob Gray, Carol Lee, Ed Royce, Ian Bremmer, Steve Ballmer CHUCK TODD, MSNBC: If it`s Tuesday, cue the election music.
Tonight, Democrats wanted to make tonight`s special election all about President Trump. And the president decided to help them out.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Liberal Democrats from outside of Georgia are spending millions and millions of dollars trying to take your Republican Congressional seat away from you. Don`t let them do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Plus, from Turkey to North Korea to Syria. How the president is dealing with dictators. And the owner of the L.A. Clippers is here. How he`s grabbing the ball to try to make sense of government spending.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we give people the ability to understand their government in action. And not have to hear adjectives like, we have a huge problem. We have a small problem.
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TODD: This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.
Good evening, I`m Chuck Todd here in election headquarters, right? It`s a Tuesday so why shouldn`t I be here? Welcome to MTP DAILY.
It is a special election day in Georgia`s Sixth Congressional district. The race to fill Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price`s old seat in Congress. And one of the first real competitive elections in 2017. Polls close in less than two hours.
It`s safe to say Georgia is on our mind, but it`s also been on President Trump`s mind. In the past 48 hour, the president tweeted about the race five times, including in the last 30 minutes. He also, as you just heard in the opening, recorded a robo call slamming the leading Democratic candidate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Only you can stop the super liberal Democrats and Nancy Pelosi`s group and, in particular, Jon Ossoff. If you don`t vote tomorrow, Ossoff will raise your taxes, destroy your health care, and flood our country with illegal immigrants.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: The president`s late interest may be a double-edged sword for Republicans. His tweets and the robo call are aimed at driving up Republican turn out. But the moves may turn the race into a referendum on the White House, perhaps one they don`t want just yet. And it could motivate Democrats and the anti-Trump independence.
Democratic ads for the front-runner, Jon Ossoff, in the district have tried to frame the race just this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON OSSOFF (D), GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I`m Jon Ossoff and I approve this message because I`ll work with anybody to do what`s right for our country. But we can`t let Donald Trump put us at risk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Ossoff will be joining us on the phone in just a minute. Last week on this program, he was asked if the election was a referendum on President Trump. And, at the time, he gave a mixed answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OSSOFF: Well, there are certainly people in the community who have serious concerns about the direction of things in Washington right now and the administration and I share those concerns. But, fundamentally, my campaign is positive one about a vision for our local economic development and about values that bring people in the community together, instead of division and fear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Until President Trump got involved, Republican attacks on Ossoff were mostly what they`ve been running on for years, taxes, Obamacare and Nancy Pelosi, plus a few personal attacks on his background. They`re running a typical campaign, if you will. Does -- and one that was a typical Republican campaign for this district. Georgia Sixth is a -- at least on paper, a lean Republican district.
Not a Trump one though. Mitt Romney won 61 percent of the vote here but Donald Trump took 47 percent. Still not all of the Republicans are shying away from the White House. One of the top polling Republicans, businessman Bob Gray`s campaign office is plastered in Trump signs. In fact, on this program yesterday, he said the president is more popular in his district than he was on Election Day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB GRAY (R), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: And as I go across the district and knocking on doors and making phone calls, you see, I think, since November 8th election, even more enthusiasm for President Trump than you saw just a few months ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: And we`re going to be checking in with Bob Gray and his campaign in just a moment as well. So, the big number to watch tonight, though, of course, is 50, the 50 percent mark. If the Democrat, Ossoff, crosses that threshold, he wins the race. No runoff.
If not, he will, then, have to face a runoff against the top Republican, most likely a top Republican in this case, in June where Democrats may not have the numbers to win. There won`t be any dynamite insight into the mid- term elections when all the votes are counted.
But it is interesting to see how the race has captured the attention of the White House. All previous presidents get involved in special elections early in their terms, but never as blatantly and openly as President Trump is suddenly doing in this last 24 hours. Especially ones in congressional districts that are not tailored made for the president and where their involvement isn`t necessarily an asset.
Kansas four made more sense if you wanted to get involved there. Here? If Ossoff crosses that 50 percent threshold tonight, it could be a referendum on President Trump.
So, joining me now on the phone is the Democratic candidate, one of the Democratic candidates in the Georgia Six special election, Jon Ossoff. Mr. Ossoff, welcome back to the show. I know you`re campaigning.
OSSOFF (via telephone): Hey, Chuck, thank you for having me.
TODD: Let me just ask this. Last week, you were sort of back and forth on the idea if this is a referendum on President Trump. Him tweeting against you today. Do you think this makes this a referendum on President Trump?
[17:05:02] OSSOFF: Well, the national coverage of the race has focused on the national implications and the implications for the administration. I have spoken to the serious concerns that many in the community have here with respect to the administration. I`ve spoken openly and forcefully about them.
But I`ve also been focused on local economic development and trying to unite people around a message that promotes shared values, a vision for this community and the country that brings people together in Georgia rather than dividing us.
TODD: What matters to you tonight percentage wise. Obviously, you want to win out right percentage-wise. If you come up short, you know, is there a number under 45 that makes you more nervous than over 45?
OSSOFF: Well, Chuck, as you know well, special elections are notoriously difficult to poll. They`re notoriously difficult to predict. Anyone who claims to know what`s going to happen tonight is spinning. Anything can happen. We`re prepared for anything. We`re working as hard as we can to get out the vote. There`s still a couple of hours until the polls close to win if possible.
TODD: What do you say to anybody that comes up to you or others that say, you know what? This is too soon to be the first office you`re running for. Why Congress? Why aren`t you running for something else? You`re 30 years old. What do you say to the person that says, hey, you`re not yet qualified to be in Congress. What`s your answer? What`s your answer in response?
Well, I mean, it`s a reasonable question. But I think that we need some fresh leadership and some fresh ideas in Congress. And one of the things that has united Republicans, independents and Democrats in this district is the idea that with some fresh leadership, we can maybe break through some of the gridlock and partisanship, the constant negativity that has prevented Washington from delivering solutions to get things done for people back at home.
So, you know, I would encourage other young people to step up and run as well. And I`ve made the case to folks in the district that flesh blood in D.C. might be exactly what`s need.
TODD: If you win tonight, do you feel as if the message is, you`ve been sent to Washington to obstruct President Trump or you`ve been sent to Washington to go be a bipartisan leader?
OSSOFF: If I win, I will have been sent to Washington to represent this district effectively. That means working with anyone who has this district`s best interest at heart and standing up to anyone who doesn`t.
If, for example, the White House puts forward an infrastructure bill that will deliver the kind of solutions Georgia needs to grow our economy, then I`ll support it. But if the White House puts forth proposals that I think aren`t in this district`s interest or if Republicans or Democrats in Congress put forth proposals not in this district`s interest, I`ll oppose them.
TODD: All right, Jon Ossoff, I`m going to leave it there. It`s campaign day. I`ll let you go back to campaigning. Thanks for spending a few minutes with me.
OSSOFF: Thank you, Chuck.
TODD: You got it.
Well, I`m now joined on the phone by one of Ossoff`s Republican rivals, Bob Gray. Mr. Gray, happy campaign day to you.
BOB GRAY (R), GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE (via telephone): Well, thank you. Thanks for having me.
TODD: Let me ask you, what was your reaction today to having President Trump, somebody that you have embraced when it comes to appealing to Republican voters, do you welcome his new attention to the race?
GRAY: Oh, I do. And it is an important race. I think he will likely get involved as we get past the election tonight and I`m looking forward to that.
TODD: How concerned are you about Republican turnout tonight, that maybe there`s been maybe too much infighting or whatever has happened in Washington is tamp down turn out. Are you concerned about that? Do you see that on the ground today?
GRAY: No, not at all. And I think the Democrats were ahead in early voting, but we`ve pulled even if not ahead now. As I`ve been around the district today and reflecting on just the last week or two, I think the Republican turnout is going to set records.
TODD: You have embraced running on the Trump platform. What does that mean today?
GRAY: Well, it means about growing the economy. It means cutting federal spending. And it means security national security. Those are the -- I think, are the three themes. And if you reflect on the speech he made in the Joint Session of Congress, he outlined 22 promises. There`s not a single one of those promises that I disagree with but I suspect that most of the American people don`t either.
But I would put it around those 22 promises and themes that draw (ph) the economy, getting federal spending and ensuring national security.
TODD: If you win this seat, some may say it`ll be because you did embrace. You didn`t run away from President Trump. You ran toward him. You embraced him. Does that mean if he supports this health care bill, this most recent one, do you feel as if you owe it to him to sign onto it?
GRAY: Well, (INAUDIBLE) I get that question a lot. And here in the Sixth District, we have been waiting for the opportunity to repeal Obamacare and there is great expectation that that will occur. I think personally we`d be looking for the most conservative legislation that we could get.
But I`ve had -- being someone that grew up under Ronald Reagan as my first president, so to speak. When (INAUDIBLE) use this 80 percent of something is better than 100 percent of nothing. And I`d like to see a lot more of that as an operating principal in D.C.
[17:10:01] TODD: I was interested to say -- you just said what we can get. That tells me you`re not somebody that wants to have ideological fights with members of your own party?
GRAY: Well, look, if you spend your life in business, as I have, three decades all-around the world, you live in the world with putting points on the board every day. And it`s about delivering results. And the American people have clearly said (INAUDIBLE) that they`re disenchanted with the political bickering and they want to see leadership that`s focused on delivering results. Well, that`s my background and I`m looking to go to D.C. to change the way we do business in D.C.
TODD: All right. Bob Gray, I know you`ve got some campaigning to get to. I appreciate you taking a few minutes with me and stay safe on the trail.
GRAY: Thank you very much.
TODD: All right, let me bring in tonight`s panel, "Wall Street Journal" White House Correspondent Carol Lee. MSNBC Political Analyst and former Bush White House staffer Elise Jordan. And Joan Walsh at "The Nation." She`s also an MSNBC Political Analyst. Full disclosure, Joan`s daughter is working as an organizer in the Georgia election. Just so we get that out of the way.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
TODD: Elise, let me start with you. As a Republican operative, when you woke up this morning and saw President Trump tweeting about Georgia Six, what went through your mind?
ELISE JORDAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANLYST: Wow. Why doesn`t he just stay out of this. Don`t give it any more attention. You are not helping the cause. You are galvanizing people for --
TODD: You truly believe this?
JORDAN: I think so. But I think, at this point, it is wreaking desperation that President Trump has been all over Twitter this afternoon, trying to mobilize in these final waning hours. It makes me wonder if the organizing efforts of so many Democratic activists who descended on the district are -- had the White House pretty nervous.
TODD: Let me put up this tweet. At 4:38 this went up. So, he`s been in Wisconsin. This is after he gave the speech in Wisconsin. Donald Trump tweets, just learned that Jon Ossoff, who is running for Congress in Georgia, doesn`t even live in the district. Republicans get out and vote.
Again, Joan, it`s the Republicans get out and vote. Somebody got to the president.
JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, but he is unpopular in the district. As Elise said, he barely hung on to win it against Hillary Clinton. This is a really interesting district for Democrats nationally, too. Because it has the highest education of any district that`s represented by a Republican in the country.
TODD: Let me put that up. By the way, I`m going to put up -- I have a nice little graphic that can support that. We`ve been -- our own (INAUDIBLE) I think both in "The Wall Street Journal" and NBC has been putting up this. I think we have a graphic to show that. Of the top 10, it is 10. And the only one that`s Republican. Here`s the list of the others. Mostly coastal.
WALSH: Right, right. And so, that makes it a really interesting place and not a friendly Trump place. So, it may help Bob Gray. I mean, that`s an interesting thing to think about. He`s been -- he`s in the teens. He`s trailing Karen Handel, all through the race. But -- so, maybe he gets a little bump and he finishes second. That`s good for him. But it`s terrible. This is really motivating Ossoff voters for sure.
TODD: Carol, you cover the White House. You`re in that press room every day. Obviously, President Trump is somebody that`s well aware of what`s going on in politics. He loves to be more. President Obama likes to pretend. Special elections, I don`t deal with politics, you know. Why are they so intent on, basically, going ahead and embracing this referendum idea?
CAROL LEE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, it`s all about blocking them from getting -- they just want to buy some time. The president does not need right now, given everything else that he -- all the other headwinds that his presidency is facing, a referendum that rejects everything that`s he`s done for the last three months. And so, they`re involved just to keep them from getting 50 percent and to buy time.
What I thought was really interesting about your interview was both candidates were talking about compromise.
LEE: Which is not something that we`ve heard from Washington.
TODD: But the -- (INAUDIBLE) goes to Joan`s point. This district is a suburban district in the old school way we used to think of suburban districts.
JORDAN: And they both played up being outsiders in their different ways, but Ossoff in the way of being this young, exciting, fresh, new face. And then, Gray, you know, in the sense of being a businessman in the script that we heard from Donald Trump for so long.
TODD: When Scott Brown won that Senate race, it had such an impact, it derail -- oh, it didn`t derail healthcare. But the assumption was it was going to. But it was a precursor to what, 2010.
TODD: Could this derail his legislative agenda or does it just put a massive speedbump, Elise?
JORDAN: I think that his legislative agenda is dead just because he, himself, has just shown from the White House, they are not doing anything to draw in Congress the health care bill. I think it`s just a microcosm of what`s going to follow there. They had these unrealistic expectations --
JORDAN: -- that they simply cannot fulfill when it comes time to get down and dirty and actually do something.
TODD: All right, go ahead, final word.
LEE: Well, he needs momentum and it`s not going to give him any if he lose -- if this race goes to Democrats.
TODD: All right. You guys are sticking around. We`ll do more of this in a little bit.
Coming up though, foreign policy, a fumble? President Trump faces some criticism for what appears to be a congratulatory phone call to the Turkish president, Erdogan.
[17:15:07] And it`s also tax day. So, where are your tax dollars really going? The owner of the L.A. Clippers, you might know him as a former Microsoft founder, Steve Ballmer, he`s launching a new project to bring transparency to government spending on all levels, not just the federal government. It`s an interesting idea.
TODD: Welcome back.
It`s tax day. So, for all of you procrastinators out there, you`re going, wait a minute, April 15th was a few days ago. Well, guess what? We, sort of, set it anytime after April 15th when it`s a weekday.
But no matter what time zone you`re in, there are only a handful of hours before the deadline hits. Democrats have been tweeting at the president all day to release his taxes, reminding folks that he`s the first sitting president in modern history not to disclose them.
And as Republican set their legislative sights on tax reform, some Democrats are now saying they will refuse to cooperate until the president releases his own taxes so the public would know how changes in the tax code would impact the president`s personal wealth.
But when asked, yet again, about the president`s taxes yesterday, the White House made it clear, they don`t plan on releasing anything any time soon.
We`ll be back in 60 seconds.
TODD: Welcome back.
It`s been another chaotic day of swirling foreign policy crisis facing President Trump. "The Guardian" reports that the U.S. military is considering shooting down North Korea missile tests. Defense Secretary Mattis has reportedly briefed Congress on that option.
The president today is also facing criticism for taking the unusual move of personally congratulating a world leader for consolidating power by weakening his country`s small d (ph) Democratic system.
Now, the White House said that Trump congratulated Turkish President Erdogan yesterday for winning a referendum that essentially brings Turkey, which is a key U.S. ally and NATO member, closer to an authoritarian government by granting the presidency sweeping new powers.
Although the White House insists today that Mr. Trump did not mean to suggest that he supports these changes in the government and Turkey.
[17:20:02] Mr. Trump`s congratulatory phone call comes amid protests in Turkey as international monitors who partner with the United States issued a scathing assessment of the referendum`s legitimacy.
The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce, put out a statement this afternoon which reads, in part, Turkey`s creeping authoritarianism continues. All who value democracy, pluralism and Turkey`s key role in the region should be concerned about the elimination of important checks and balances in the Turkish system.
I didn`t just put up that press release for nothing. I`m joined now by that Congressman, Ed Royce, who`s chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee. Mr. Chairman, welcome to the show, sir.
REP. ED ROYCE (R), CALIFORNIA, CHAIRMAN, HOUSE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Thank you, Chuck.
TODD: Let me start with the statement you put out in Turkey and what President Trump did. How do you view what he did? Do you believe that was a learning mistake or do you worry that it was something more?
ROYCE: Well, I have some concerns about it simply because here`s what I would observe. You have issues raised by election observers who had concerns about this very close election. So, that would be concern number one.
But concern number two would be the fact that the model that Turkey sets for the Muslim world is one in which you had a secular Democratic Turkey with checks and balances. And I think anything that moves us away from those checks and balances probably moves Turkey away from the interests of the Turks themselves who have done quite well under this more Democratic model. As well as the capability of Turkey to work more closely with the United States and other allies.
TODD: Let me play devil`s advocate. Somebody`s going to hear you say, you know what, Congressman, I get what you`re saying but why is it our problem?
ROYCE: Why is our -- why is it our problem, though, presumes sort of a short-term look at this. If we look at Turkey long-term, it`s obviously in the interest throughout the Middle East to have stability. It`s obviously in our interest to have a model there that works, not just in order to show that stability is in other countries` interest, but that democracy and political pluralism and intolerance in the interest of others. And that was the original concept behind a more secular Turkish state.
TODD: You know, it`s interesting. Your statement and what you`ve been saying to me just now, the statement out of the State Department is in sync. What`s out of sync is President Trump`s statement. I guess, does he need to -- do you think he needs to publicly, sort of, almost back off of the congratulatory phone call and maybe publicly make a statement lecturing Turkey about this decision?
ROYCE: My assumption is that maybe part of this response is concern that Turkey is an ally, obviously, in this fight against ISIS. And so, I think the impulse for many of our policymakers is to look more short term. Well, let`s continue to engage. You know, in -- but real friends, I think, can be more direct and honest.
And I think if we are going to be -- if we`re going to acknowledge the importance of Turkey long term, then we should speak frankly with the Turkish government about the consequences of this kind of a push.
And so, what I`ve seen, in terms of what`s happened to the opposition in Turkey as well as what has happened with respect to this election and the suggested irregularities, I think it was too soon to make. I think there should be an investigation on those irregularities.
TODD: You know, Chairman Royce, there`s another thing I`m curious about. Did -- in hind sight, did the western world not put enough attention on this to Turkey? Did the western world not raise enough alarm bells about some of the step-backs and Democratic reforms? I know, individually, many folks were talking about this Turkish referendum. But do you think there should`ve been a more speaking with one voice? Maybe it`s the G7, maybe it`s the U.N., maybe it`s NATO.
ROYCE: You know, it`s a tough question because, in theory, you know, these are decisions to be made by the Turkish people, right? But, at the same time, you did notice that when the Turkish government or when the president of Turkey began to campaign outside of Turkey across Europe, then those voices were raised because Turks could vote in those elections.
And so, as a consequence, you do see that European leaders in countries across western Europe did raise this issue, did attempt to provide some sort of platform. But the other thing you`ll notice is that in a society where all of the news and media virtually becomes under the control of the head of state, it is very, very hard then to have a balanced, fair election.
[17:25:06] And, perhaps, that`s where our efforts should have been, more of a radio-free Europe, radio liberty type of a program that would have at least given a platform for those who would try to defend the existing constitution and explain the full consequences long term to the Turkish population.
TODD: And before I let you go, can you confirm whether Secretary Mattis has briefed you guys on this idea of preemptively striking, I guess, the -- any missile tests out of North Korea. Can you explain?
ROYCE: No. And I have not been briefed on that. And I`d be surprised by that. I`m the author of a sanctions bill that has a different approach. Sanctions worked on South Africa. And what our sanctions would do, which is not -- was signed into law by the former president.
The -- those sanctions, if deployed by the financial institutions in China, would cut off all of the financial support that, right now, sustains the nuclear weapons` program in North Korea. That`s the approach. Financial pressure and diplomatic leverage is what we should be doing right now.
TODD: Is it fair to say, if Secretary Mattis is briefing Congress -- if he was briefing Congress, you would have been in that briefing as chairman of House Foreign Relations?
ROYCE: That is fair to say and I have not been briefed on this, no.
TODD: All right.
ROYCE: So, I do not presume it to be correct.
TODD: Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of House Foreign Relations, thanks for your time. Appreciate you coming on.
ROYCE: Thank you, Chuck.
TODD: Let me bring in Ian Bremmer who, of course, is president of the geopolitical consultancy (ph), the Eurasia Group. Mostly, Ian, you`re not here. You`re usually traveling around.
So, let`s go first -- you heard Congressman Royce. What I thought was striking is he didn`t give President Trump any leeway on this.
IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, THE EURASIA GROUP: No.
TODD: He seems very concerned.
BREMMER: You know, on Turkey, yes. But, at the same time, we`ve heard very consistently from Trump that when the United States is telling other countries the way they should run their internal affairs, we`re being hypocritical. We should look at ourselves first.
And this is -- for all of the flip flopping you`ve seen on things like X and Bank (ph) from Trump and China being declared a currency manipulator. On this issue, he`s been remarkably consistent.
And so, even though his own State Department is whacking the Russian`s on Ukraine and Crimea and hitting the Turks on this referendum, he is not. And that doesn`t surprise me one bit. I think, you know, his view is going to be, why am I going to make that statement when I have so many skeletons in my own closet?
TODD: What was interesting about Turkey is the same -- we saw the same -- look, and let`s assume there aren`t voting irregularities, at least macro view wise where you had an urban-rural split, just like in Brexit.
TODD: Just like in this country over Donald Trump.
BREMMER: Just like you see in France.
TODD: It -- this urban-rural split is real everywhere in the western world and even Turkey is sort of a -- who`s at the crossroads?
BREMMER: Germany is the exception because in Germany, you actually haven`t had the negative hit on the German working in middle classes with globalization. Because the European structure works for the German middle class.
BREMMER: But everywhere else in Europe, this is what you`re seeing. Where you`re not seeing it. You`re not seeing it in China. You`re not seeing it in India. The places that still see themselves as being major beneficiaries of globalization, free trade, all of that sort of thing.
But if you look at what just happened in Turkey, there is no question if this -- maybe it was a free election. It might not have been (INAUDIBLE) in the OCE.
BREMMER: But it clearly was a fair election because after we saw the failed coup, Erdogan simply destroyed the free press. Erdogan simply took 10s of thousands of his opponents, you know, (INAUDIBLE) wow opponents and detained them.
TODD: And this is where I don`t under -- I mean, this is where you wonder -- and I get what Congressman Royce was saying is look, everybody is looking at the short time. Turkey is a necessary ally --
TODD: -- to deal with what`s going on in Syria, to deal with this. But where was -- I mean, look, individuals spoke out about what Erdogan was doing.
TODD: But there was not a -- I have a feeling that the previous president would have, perhaps, been more vocal. And should President Trump have been more vocal?
BREMMER: Look, I think it would have been nice if we had been more vocal. But what would have happened is just like us being vocal in the Arab Spring --
BREMMER: -- (INAUDIBLE) came in Egypt. No, it actually undermines your relationship with Sisi which is what we saw in the last, you know, sort of, year of the Obama administration.
Look, the problem here, fundamentally, was not that the United States wasn`t saying anything. The problem is that the Europeans invited Turkey to come in and be members of the Europe Union. They got candidate membership status and no one in Europe ever really meant them to get in. And the Turks knew it.
So, as a consequence, they weren`t good enough, underdeveloped, Islamic, conservative. They weren`t good enough to be Europe. And you know, after a couple of decades of hearing that, they ended up, you found a leader, a charismatic leader who actually ran this referendum on the us versus the west. Us versus those European capitals. And we`re going to get all those Turkish folks in Germany, in the Netherlands because those countries don`t want us. That is a real thing.
TODD: Now, Erdogan --
BREMMER: It`s just as real as Trump talking to the rural communities in the U.S.
TODD: And what Erdogan has now done, --
TODD: -- is he has been in power it looks like at least 12 years?
TODD: Twelve more years he could stay in the power by these new rules.
[17:30:00] BREMMER: Yes.
TODD: So, basically, he`s now the life time leader of Turkey.
BREMMER: That`s so interesting. When you look at different heads of state, presidents around the world, every single one in power today that has been in power for more than 10 years has changed the rules, manipulated the rules to be able to stay in place with the exception of the president of Liberia, the one female.
TODD: What are about Angela Merkel?
BREMMER: Chancellor. I meant president.
BREMMER: Fair enough. But still, it makes the point, right? It`s shocking how few people have been able to have this kind of run unless you change the rule set. The changing rule set happens a lot. All over Africa and now, you know, Erdogan decided that he (inaudible). His model is not European. His model is what happened post (inaudible).
TODD: Ian Bremmer, always a pressure, sir.
BREMMER: Thank you.
TODD: Thank you. Good to see you. Still ahead, I`m obsessed with the special election and it`s not the one you are thinking of. Stay tuned.
TODD: Up next, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer launches a new project aimed at bringing government data right to your fingertips. Think of it as sort of a taxpayer receipt. First, here`s Hampton Pearson with the "CNBC Market Wrap."
HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Chuck. We have Goldman Sachs under performing, ending a string of gains for U.S. banks. The Dow falling by 113 points. The S&P off by 6. The Nasdaq down by 7. Apple will release three new iPhone this year according to Bloomberg. iPhone camera engineers have been working on an augmented reality feature as well. The world economy is gaining momentum. The international monetary fund today is upping the forecast to 3.5 percent, but also warning against relaxing banking rules. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.
TODD: Welcome back to "MTP Daily." Today is officially tax day. And when most Americans file, they wonder along the way where does all this money go? Well, one American decided to find out. Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, the owner of the L.C. Clippers, set out to find the answer. The result is something called USAFacts.org.
It`s a data geek stream potentially. It wants to be the online database that compiles all publicly available government data, state, local, and federal to tell you where U.S. revenue is going and what it is really being spent on. It`s not only about the money.
It wants to be able to answer questions like how many people work in the swamp that President Trump wants to drain and even what percentage of Americans talk to their neighbors at least a few times a week. Well, the person behind this, Steve Ballmer, joins me now on set. Mr. Ballmer, welcome.
STEVE BALLMER, FORMER CEO OF MICROSOFT: My pleasure to be here. Thanks.
TODD: All right. USAFact.org. It sounds like a great idea. It also sounds like an impossible task. I mean, I`ll be honest with you. The ultimate facts site. Explain.
BALLMER: It is a little bit of both. About three years ago, right after I retired from Microsoft. My wife said to me, come on, you got to get involved in philanthropic stuff. We`re focus on disadvantaged kids. I said, come on, the government does take care of the poor, the sick, the old.
She said A, we can do some things on our own, so stop that. B, it got me to think okay, where does government money really go? Who pays how much taxes? Where does it go? What kind of outcomes do you get? I was hoping there was a thing like an SEC 10-K report.
BALLMER: Couldn`t find it.
TODD: You are speaking a little out of it, SEC 10-K for a company as well.
BALLMER: A company has to file these reports that objectively no hyperbole, no emissions, no big adjectives, just talk about how they`re doing and how they`ve done and how they`re organized so they can report on various products. Microsoft office did this well, but Windows is separate. But there is no way to see that for government. I said, look, I`m a numbers guy. This would be a fun project for me.
I`m gonna see what I can do. And we are launching USAFacts.org today. But, we know there is a lot of things we`ll need to add. The key insight for us is we know our mission for the government now. We took it from the constitution. We are there to establish justice and ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure these blessings for the future.
TODD: What do you think -- what is the biggest beneficiary now? Do you think of having this idea, not just the federal government, because federal government spending, there is plenty of people that have taken that data, downloaded themselves, slice it in a million different ways. But we haven`t had somebody to try to do it across the board. What`s the biggest advantage you think is going to come from that?
BALLMER: Well, take education. Some education dollars come from local governments, some come from the state, some dollars come from the feds. The truth is as a citizen, I don`t care where the money comes from, I may care how much taxes I pay, but what I really care about is what is my child receipt? What does it mean for me as a lower income person? Do I get reduced and free lunch?
What does that look like? Do we get special education resources if my child is disabled? Do we get extra attention if we grow up in a poor neighborhood through $1? What does that all really look like? What does it mean for graduation rate or a fourth grade reading proficiency and the like?
TODD: Are you hoping that -- are you the organization that is auditing the government investment? I say this because I was thinking about like, okay, is that the role that you guys may be playing here?
BALLMER: We`re organizers of data. We`re not auditing. Whether the numbers are correct, we can`t.
TODD: We want other organizations to use your data to do that perhaps.
BALLMER: And I would love the government to continue to focus on audited financial statements. We want to make sure we accurately report what is and we give people the ability to understand their government in action, and not after adjectives like we have a huge problem, we have a small problem. One guy is looking at a number 10.5 and calling it huge and the other guy is calling at the number 10.4 and calling it small. That`s not okay.
TODD: How is this gonna look everyday? Is the goal, you`re gonna like change it up so that`s an active website or is it just a database?
BALLMER: We are launching passive. It`s a database. What we plan here in the near future is to tweet out on or otherwise disgorge through social media data around things that are in the news. So is the budget comes more and more or tax policy, here is interesting stuff. You might want that for analysis, go to the website. I think one of the great places we can get is to have somebody who is liberal and somebody who is conservative come in and debate an issue. We are like the arbiter.
BALLMER: Are you really using the same numbers, come on, that`s not okay.
TODD: You have an editorial staff?
BALLMER: We don`t right now because we don`t want to be partisan in a sense. We prefer there to be other people with editorial staff who can debate, and we at least try to keep grounded. I feel like we are more like a referee. We try to make sure that the rules, i.e. the numbers are correctly used and interpreted.
TODD: I want to ask you one way where tax dollars and sports ownership come together. And that is that idea of taxpayer funded stadiums. Maybe your database will show us this. How often it is? What is the case for it? And you understand why there`s more and more folks against it.
BALLMER: Yeah. I think the case is, if you have a taxpayer-funded arena, there will be more business and commerce in the community. That increase in business will more than pay off the investment that got made in the stadium. We were -- I participated in a group in Seattle, trying to put something like that together. I understand the argument. If you look at the convention centers.
BALLMER: Cities do finance them for the same reasons. In California, stadiums are not government-finance.
BALLMER: The new Warrior (ph) Stadium, the new Round (ph) Stadium. We are looking according to the newspapers that had said this. We are looking whether it makes sense for us to do our own.
TODD: We talk about San Diego, without it, it hurt them.
BALLMER: It hurt.
BALLMER: We are looking at this now and we are not assuming we get any taxpayer funding if we did a new arena. And that`s okay. That would be okay for us.
TODD: Well, Steve Ballmer, this is a very -- I cannot wait to mess around this database. I think it`s something that we could use. I`m just curious to see -- accumulating this data is gonna be difficult.
BALLMER: Thanks. We will do our best.
TODD: All right. Mr. Ballmer, thank you very much.
BALLMER: Thanks, Chuck.
TODD: You got it. Appreciate it. A few more extra editions to the interview is available on our website, meetthepress.com. He made no predictions about tonight`s game two other than of course the Clippers apparently are going to win, right? Up next, why I`m obsessed with the special election that is not happening today. Stay tuned.
TODD: Welcome back. Look, it`s Tuesday. I will be obsessed about elections if I can be. I`m obsessed with the new special election, not the one that is happening today, it`s the special senate election coming up in Alabama. That`s right, folks. It is rare. Special elections for U.S. senate seats held in off years and not in November? These are rare finds, folks, for your political junkies.
The kinds of things that we geeks get really excited about. Going back to 1992 when I first started covering politics, we only had six of them across the entire country that have not happened in their scheduled November even numbered year. Wow. This will be the seventh. Go back to November of 1991. Pennsylvania special. These special elections are like little islands to themselves and they tend to be extraordinarily competitive no matter the state, how blur or red it is.
Turned out steeply a little lower. There`s always unique dynamic at play. Today, the new governor of Alabama set the dates for the special election to fill the senate seat formerly held by Jeff Sessions. The primary is on August 15th, the runoff will be on September 26th, and a general election on December 12th. The guy holding the seat right now is the state`s former attorney general, Luther Strange. He was nominated by the former governor, Robert Bentley, for the spot in February.
Folks, this is gonna be a fun one. So far, Strange is the only declared candidate. But when you get appointed by somebody who had to resign as governor, you are going to get primary, and he`s expecting it. Alabama is still reeling from the that resignation of Robert Bentley in order for him to avoid being impeached over a sex scandal and criminal investigations that follow.
So this special election. Yes, it`s deeper at Alabama. But in 2010, Scott Brown was in deep blue Massachusetts. We know what happened. The dynamics at play here make it worth watching. Plus, you got a guy named Strange. Stranger things have happened, right? We`ll be right back.
TODD: Time for "The Lid." Panel is back. Joan Walsh, Carol Lee, Elise Jordan. Carol, this Turkey situation. Sarah Huckabee Sanders sort of tried to walk it back today saying the president wasn`t congratulating him per se, but, boy, Congressman Royce was really tough on the president here. This was not -- he didn`t give him any leeway on this.
CAROL LEE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: No, and that`s how republicans feel and democrats feel and the previous administration felt about President Erdogan. It was a very strange thing to watch, that the president would call the president of Turkey and congratulate him. There are many ways in which they could have done that phone call and read out that phone call.
In fact it differed from what the State Department said was also unusual. But I will say that President Obama and President Trump are both -- Turkey is the kind of place where we are willing to make bargains and trades, right? You have -- it`s a key ally in the fight against Islamic state. They need Turkey. And so they are willing to -- increasingly starting with the previous administration willing to overlook certain things.
TODD: Carol is right on this, in Erdogan, they`re always been -- he`s been a necessary evil is how he`s been described.
JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT FOR THE NATION, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. We have a lot of necessary evils. I just don`t see President Obama picking up the phone after the world is in mourning about what happened in Turkey and saying, good job, congratulations, bro.
ELISE JORDAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s very hard for the White House to walk this back considering they led with -- in their press release, the first sentence was he called to congratulate. So, how do you put another spin on that when you yourself put out the message that it was congratulatory?
TODD: To me, doesn`t it show no coordination? Who is handling this? What`s going on in the communications world?
LEE: It raises a lot of questions. The one thing that we saw in the way that President Obama and the Obama administration handled Turkey with that, they wouldn`t necessarily embrace what he was doing and they maybe didn`t criticize certain things. I went with Vice President Biden the last time when he visited Turkey after the attempted coup. And he made a point not to criticize some of the crackdowns. But they didn`t then embrace him in the same way.
TODD: What you`re describing is how basically every president has treated China, Joan.
TODD: When you go there, don`t say anything.
WALSH: About human rights.
WALSH: We know there is trouble, but we`re here for a reason. We have things we want to get. We have things we`re willing to give and one of them is silence about a lot of that. No, I mean, no one is pretending that the president has inherited an easy situation.
TODD: That`s right.
WALSH: . whether there or Syria. It`s just that there`s no overarching policy that seems to be emerging and there`s all these gestures, whether it`s a nice phone call or 59 tomahawk missiles without any, anything filling in the blanks.
JORDAN: We haven`t seen any discipline with the inter agency process emerge at all. And I think that, yes, it is a messaging problem, but I just always go back to at the end of the day this is about policy and the entire administration is confused about what is actually the policy that they`re trying to implement and get -- actually get results from around the world.
LEE: This is where some of the pressure comes from the Hill is that people want a strategy and a policy and something broader and none of these pieces -- look, many of them are still -- they`re still doing an Islamic state strategy review. That is not finished. They`re doing a Russia review. There are a number of different policies where they haven`t sorted it out.
TODD: Ed Royce is not a component of President Trump.
LEE: No, not at all.
TODD: Okay. He`s somebody that would work with President Obama, but was tough on him on the Iran deal. He was very skeptical. This is somebody who wants to be an ally.
TODD: And it sounds to me like the Trump administration is making it hard for a guy like Ed Royce.
WALSH: I think he`s making it hard for a lot of republicans. I think the people are going to be start being out blowing horns like that. Because they really -- they see this lack of certainty about what we really believe in and what we`re trying to accomplish.
TODD: Elise, let me do 30,000 foothill. There is a troubling moral authority. If the United States doesn`t speak out about regression and democracy, who does?
JORDAN: No one. I think that we are -- you have -- like France will pickup the Baton. The U.K., western Europe, Australia. You have various countries stand up, but that`s also we surrender our vantage point as being a force of moral authority around the world. The idea of American exceptionalism on many levels, I really do think with President Trump American exceptionalism, suffered a far greater blow than ever with Barack Obama.
TODD: That`s a tough statement, but I know some conservatives that would agree with you on that. All right. Thank you all, Joan, Carol, Elise. After the break, we`re headed into overtime. Stay tuned.
TODD: In case you missed it, these days you need insomnia to be a hockey fan. If you tuned into the playoffs last night, you were rewarded with all four NHL nail-biters going into overtime. You were rewarded that is if you could stay up late enough to see the ending. In regular season hockey, there is no set time for intermission between the regular periods and overtime. Pretty much as soon as the ice is cleared, it`s game on.
Playoffs, whole different story. The overtime intermission rockets up from an estimated two minutes after the regular play period to 15. The playoffs overtime periods jump from 5 minutes to 20. That makes for a long night. And for the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs, each of their three playoff games so far has ended in overtime. One of those games went into double overtime.
It`s been over 30 years since four NHL overtime games win an overtime in one night. Kids have bed times to obey, number one. Bigger kids have work in the morning. Fans and players need a break. But here`s what`s most frustrating to me. Every other sport, you wait a couple minutes and you start the overtime. You make me wait 20 and I fall asleep. I`ve now missed three straight overtime endings.
Anyway, maybe that`s on me. But come on, NHL, can we shorten these final to overtime? That`s all we have for tonight. My little in case you missed it rant is over. We`ll see you tomorrow with more "MTP Daily." "For the Record" with Greta though starts right now. Greta.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END