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MTP Daily, Transcript 4/28/2017

Guests: Trent Lott, Tom Daschle, Lanhee Chen, Jennifer Palmieri, Chris Hill, Richard Branson, Michael Abramowitz

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST:  Plus, alternative energy, can political and Hollywood stars help power climate change revolution?  I talk exclusively to sir Richard Branson ahead of tomorrow`s climate march right here in D.C.


RICHARD BRANSON, FOUNDER, VIRGIN GROUP:  It is up to business leaders worldwide to step in.


TODD:  And sky high fears, why some members of Congress are obsessed with the combination of marijuana and nuclear weapons. 

This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.  Good evening, I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington and welcome to MTP DAILY.

Folks, when a president says something like this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, there`s -- there`s a - - there`s a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea.  Absolutely. 


TODD:  The reaction from the press is usually something like this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Professor, without knowing precisely what the danger is, would you say it`s time for our viewers to crack each other`s heads open and feast on the goo inside? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I would, Kent. 


TODD:  Look, in humor there is truth but let`s be serious here.  It seems like if any other president said there was a chance of a major, major conflict with a nuclear power.  There would be wall-to-wall coverage, special reports, my colleague, Lester Holt, would already be flying to Seoul.

Don`t get me wrong, the conflict with North Korea is, as Joe Biden might say, a big deal.  But let`s face it, we`ve been conditioned to discount the president`s words already.  And that`s a big deal, too.

Folks, this might be the biggest story of the first 100 days, the loss of the power of the president`s words.  First off, the president himself just admitted that this is not the job he thought it was. 


TRUMP:  This is more work than in my previous life.  I thought it would be easier.  I thought it was more of a -- I`m a details oriented person.  I think you would say that.  But I do miss my old life.  This -- I like to work so that`s not a problem.  But this is actually more work. 


TODD:  Which perhaps explains why we`ve seen so many radical and sometimes instantaneous reversals from the president.

He told "The Washington Post," I was all set to terminate NAFTA.  I was going to do it.  That announcement was going to happen tomorrow.  Until his agriculture secretary informed him of the potentially disastrous effects it would have on the country and on Trump voters, even brought a map.  Canada and Mexico pushed back, so did the chamber of commerce.  So, he didn`t do it.

The education of President Trump compared to candidate Trump has, at times, seemed jaw dropping.  Take health care for instance. 


TRUMP:  You`re going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost and it`s going to be so easy.

Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated. 


TODD:  On foreign policy, consider his reversal on NATO.  As a candidate, I said NATO`s obsolete, not knowing much about NATO.  Now I know a lot about NATO.  His position now, it`s not obsolete. 

Let`s go back to North Korea.  Here`s candidate Trump. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What would you do to deal with that reclusive country? 

TRUMP:  I would get China to make that guy disappear, in one form or another, very quickly. 


TODD:  Then, he talked with China`s president.  And he said this.  After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it`s not so easy. 

President Trump has radically changed his positions on everything from China, intervention in Syria and health care, to presidential travel and golf.  Trying to figure out when to take him at his word or not feels like an exercise in futility, because the president, himself, seems to be grappling with who he is and what he believes.

For example, if there was one constant in the campaign, it was this. 


TRUMP:  Hillary Clinton is the chief emissary for globalism.

Hillary wants to surrender America to globalism.

Hillary Clinton`s a representative for globalists.  You know what globalists are?  They all support the same ideology of globalism that makes them rich while shipping your jobs, your factories and your wealth all the way out to other countries. 


TODD:  Today in "The Wall Street Journal," President Trump said, hey, I`m a nationalist and a globalist.

Which brings us to his agenda.  If you`re a member of Congress trying to negotiate with the -- with this president on the border wall, health care, tax reform, et cetera, it would seem a risky proposition to take him at his word.

But then, again, it would seem just as risky not to.  It`s a dilemma seemingly everyone is facing after this first 100 days. 

I`m joined now by two former senators who`ve seen it all, done it all, probably done too much in their minds.  Republican Trent Lott and Democrat Tom Daschle both were Senate majority leaders.  They are the co-chairs of the bipartisan policy center`s commission on political reform.  And what better way to talk about the first 100 days.

Welcome, gentlemen. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you, Chuck. 

TODD:  I`m going to give the point of privilege to Senator Lott here.  It`s a Republican president we`re dealing with.  I`m focused on this issue of his words.

Is -- how problematic is it that we actually now discount -- and I say collectively Washington discounts his declarations already on day 99. 

FMR. SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), MISSISSIPPI:  Well, a lot of presidents, and I worked directly with seven of them, learn when they get here it`s not quite like they expected.  It is important that your words matter.  I think maybe he`s learning about how to handle that. 

Sometime, I think it`s -- you know, it`s by design.  Sometime, I think it`s a bluff or a feign.  I thought that`s what I thought happened on NAFTA.

I don`t think he really was ever going to pull the trigger there.  I think he was trying to get the leaders of Canada and Mexico to say, oh, yes, look --

TODD:  I thought so, too.  But I didn`t -- but I also didn`t think he went through the motions that he did. 

LOTT:  Yes.  But I do think he needs to be careful about that.  And, you know, it`s -- it is a distraction.  And trying to get things done and it causes concerns, frankly, in the Congress. 

But I want to say this, too.  All these presidents come to town whether they come from California, Arkansas, Georgia, Texas, they all bring a bunch of home state people here. 

TODD:  Right. 

LOTT:  And their attitude is, we`re coming to Washington and we`re going to drain the swamp. 

TODD:  And we`re smarter than you.

LOTT:  Yes.

TODD:  Don`t forget that. 

LOTT:  And we`re going to be the boss.  Well, after they leave, the alligators are still in the swamp.  But -- and they learn pretty quickly.

But it usually takes a few months to realize, hey, there is a co-equal branch of government.  It`s called the Congress.  And you have to work with them.

And it`s not easy because you don`t just snap your fingers and pass an infrastructure bill or tax bill or health bill.

So, you know, I think he`s learning as he goes.  I certainly hope and pray so. 

TODD:  You know, Tom Daschle, he brought up that first 100 days.  You know, Bill Clinton had a rough first 100 days, too, because of what he just described.  But he learned pretty quickly. 

FMR. SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D), SOUTH DAKOTA:  Yes.  Well, Chuck, there`s always a lot of on-the-job training for any president.  I mean, Barack Obama learned the same thing.

I think this president has a steeper learning curve than most because he started farther back.

And he started with a lot of assertions about policy that, really, I think didn`t reflect reality, number one, and probably didn`t even reflect necessarily his views.  He was -- he was messaging to a base audience that he thought would resonate in many respects.

Now, he`s learning.  Unfortunately, it`s created a lot of complications for him as he tries to make that transition from candidate to office holder and president of the United States.  That on-the-job training for him has been a very difficult experience. 

TODD:  Look, I wanted to actually pivot to some -- to an institution you guys know even better.  Because the more things change this first hundred days, there were some things that remain the same.

I mean, my running joke to folks wondering how -- what`s Washington is like?  I said, if you`ve liked governing over the last eight years, you`re going to love the next three or four. 

Congressional gridlock is the same is the same and there`s one party in control.  What`s your explanation, Senator Lott?

LOTT:  Well, I`m going to say first, I think that the Senate has handled themselves pretty well.  They have, finally, although it was a slow process which I didn`t like, but they`ve gotten their cabinet confirmed.  It`s taken, you know, 100 days, really, to get his cabinet in place.

TODD:  Is that the Senate`s fault or is that President Trump?  They`ve been very slow with their nominations which (INAUDIBLE.) 

LOTT:  Well, in that case, I do think that, you know, it was the Senate`s fault.  The Democrats are still walking.  And he did get his cabinet recommendations, for the most part, up there pretty quickly.

Now, they have lost a lot of ground in getting deputies and assistants done.  And I think that`s a mistake.  I know -- I have a relationship with some of these cabinet members are some of them are home alone and they need to move that.

But the Senate has gotten them done.  They -- I thought, you know, his choice, the president`s choice on the Supreme Court, Judge Gorsuch, was a good one.  And the Senate, while it was difficult, they got through that process.

And the other thing they`ve done that has been smart, they kept quiet.  They have not been sticking their nose into the health care effort or on the tax issue.  They are saying the House under the Constitution goes first.

TODD:  Right.

LOTT:  We`re not going to weigh it into this until we get a product. 

TODD:  I guess the way I ask -- I`ll ask it to you this way, Senator Daschle, which is health care, tax reform, renegotiating big trade deals.  None of it happens without Democratic support.  I think he`s learning this.  And he`s got to find a way to work with Democrats.

Right now, Democrats have no incentive to work with him. 

LOTT:  If I could just jump in briefly.

TODD:  Yes.

LOTT:  They are negotiating, now, with the Democrats on the appropriation - - on this appropriations bill. 

TODD:  All right but not on the big stuff.  Spending, everybody -- by the way, you guys always know how to negotiate with each other when you get to spend the money.

DASCHLE:  Yes, it`s a lot easier. 

TODD:  It`s a lot easier.  But go into that.

DASCHLE:  You`re absolutely right.  There`s no legislation that will ever be permanent unless it`s bipartisan.

TODD:  Yes.

DASCHLE:  I mean, we`ve learned that lesson.  We shouldn`t have to relearn it again.

In order for it to be permanent, it has to be bipartisan.  There`s all kinds of opportunities on infrastructure, on tax, on trade, on health even.  But it has to be bipartisan.

And Trent`s right.  I think we`re making more progress, not as much as I think he and I would like, but we`re making some progress on the Senate side.  I haven`t seen any indication that there`s that recognition of the need for bipartisanship so far in the House. 

TODD:  What is it -- look, both of you are bipartisan senators, and so, in hindsight, it`s always easier to be on the outside and say, this is how you do it to fix this problem.

But it does seem polarization is worse.  Gridlock is only going to get worse even if it incrementally gets better for a few minutes at a time.

And yet, I -- if I speak to all 100 current United States, about 97 of them would lament the state of the United States Senate.

LOTT:  Absolutely, yes.

TODD:  But if there is -- then why doesn`t something happen?  Why is there such fear of leadership from standing up and doing something about this? 

DASCHLE:  I think there`s a lot of base pressure.  That`s where it starts.

LOTT:  I think so, yes.

DASCHLE:  There`s a lot of base pressure.

LOTT:  On both sides.

DASCHLE:  On both sides, dare you to come to the middle these days and I think that`s really unfortunate.

And money, to a certain extent, drives all of that.  But I think -- you know, I think the other thing is they don`t spend enough time in Washington.

LOTT:  Yes.  In our book, "Crisis Point" that Tom and I wrote together, that was one of the points we really emphasized.  They are not here.  Their families are not here.  Forty-seven of them sleep in their offices.  Their chemistry is not there.

DASCHLE:  That`s right.

LOTT:  Tom and I had a relationship.  We were friends.  And, you know, we come from different backgrounds, philosophically, but we were able to work through that, most of the time, to get something for the country.

There`s too much concern now about your party base.  When are people going to stand up and say, we need to find a way to get things done for our country?  Even if it makes our party a little mad which it did.

TODD:  The problem -- the problem is there`s no political incentive.

DASCHLE:  That`s right.

TODD:  No political reward to do that. 

DASCHLE:  That`s exactly right.

LOTT:  It`s more of a punishment.


TODD:  That`s right.

DASCHLE:  They don`t want you to.

LOTT:  And of course, in the Republican Party, and I think probably, to a degree but a lesser degree, and maybe more in the future in the Democratic Party, your concern is not losing in the general election.  Your concern is losing the primary. 

DASCHLE:  Yes, and that`s got to change. 

TODD:  Are you more pessimistic or optimistic about the next two years in the state of American politics, not the Trump presidency. 

LOTT:  Look, I`m a hopeless optimist.  I think they`re going to find a way to get things done.  The tax bill should, can be and always was bipartisan.

TODD:  Yes.

LOTT:  Health care is probably the toughest nut to crack and infrastructure.  And, you know, I just feel like senators will go across the aisle and say, what can we do to make this good for New York as well as for Texas? 

DASCHLE:  I`m an optimist with an asterisk.


DASCHLE:  And the asterisk is they`ve got to be more pragmatic, more bipartisan.  If they can do that, we`ve got a real opportunity here. 

TODD:  Well, you two senators when you first got into politics, you were, sort of, in the minority of politics in your own states.  That mattered a lot, I think, in your own political education.

Senators Lott and Daschle, always a pleasure. 

LOTT:  Thanks, Chuck.

DASCHLE:  Thanks, Chuck.

TODD:  Folks, every president does have a learning curve in his first 100 days, but this president`s perhaps stands out more because he ran on the idea that being president would be easy. 


TRUMP:  So, a lot of politicians said, you can`t get Mexico to pay for the wall.  I said, oh, it`s going to be so easy.

There`s never been a country that`s lost jobs like we do.  So stupidly, so easy to solve.

Yes, I got into this because of the border and the terror, but because of the border and because of trade.  And the trade is so easy for me.  It`s so obvious what`s happening. 

Boom, everything goes in.  They get everything.  We get nothing.  We get unemployment.  We get clothes factories.  It`s going to stop.  And it`s so easy.  It`s so easy. 

Presidential is easy.  Do you know what presidential is?  I walk up.  Nobody knows the system better than me which is why I alone can fix it. 


TODD:  Well, let`s bring in the panel.  NBC`s Katy Tur who, earlier today, was ordered the Walter Cronkite award for excellence in television political journalism, which means she has to speak like that the rest of the show.  Lanhee Chen, an advisor to the Rubio campaign and he was also Mitt Romney`s chief policy adviser in 2012.  And Jennifer Palmieri, you may know her from such programs as the Clinton campaign and the Obama White House.  Welcome, all.

Lanhee, I`ll let you take first crack at this.  You were a Trump skeptic during the campaign.  First 100 days, more skeptical, less skeptical? 

LANHEE CHEN, FORMER MANAGER, MARCO RUBIO PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN:  I think I`m less skeptical, in part because I think the direction he`s come in on things like foreign policy are directions that I happen to like.

So, as I`ve told others, it`s of no consequence how he got there.  But he did get there.  I think, particularly on North Korea and Syria, he struck the right tone.

I think on the regulatory administrative reform stuff he`s done, that`s been impressive.  Gorsuch obviously was a big win.  But there`s some big incompletes out there too, Chuck, health care and tax reform being the two biggest ones. 

TODD:  Katy, obviously, you spent more time with him as a candidate than any of us at this table.  That easy remark, versus what he said yesterday to Reuters, about how difficult this is.  Clearly, he -- it`s been disruptive to his habits.


TODD:  That, I know, really bothers him.  But behind the scenes, he was also very confident that this wasn`t going to be a hard job. 

TUR:  No, he didn`t think it would.  And it`s similar to the difficulties he faced with health care.  Who knew health care would be so hard?  Well, pretty much everybody. 

Who knew the presidency would be so hard?  Well, pretty much everybody.  Who knew the presidency was going to be so hard?  Well, pretty much anybody who was talking about what it was like to be in the White House.

Donald Trump is -- we can`t say this enough.  He`s a 70-year-old man who is used a certain way of living and he is used to operating a certain way.  He`s used to saying something and it being done.  He`s used to people saying yes to him.  He`s not used to roadblocks or any sort of complications.

So, this is -- this is very different and it`s been 99 days.  We`ll see if he learns to adjust to it.  But then again, we`ll see if this is just not for him.  I just don`t know where he`s going to go from here. 

TODD:  Look, I know it`s frustrating to you as somebody who ran against him and was part of the team who ran against him.


TODD:  Many of the criticisms you`re going to get to -- you know, he`s -- that`s not true what he`s saying on this --


TODD:  -- or that`s just not a plausible this --


TODD:  -- and he`s going to find out he can`t do this.  It`s all coming true.

PALMIERI:  Yes.  I mean, I find that --

TODD:  What do you -- how do you find it?  Do you find that heartening or disheartening? 

PALMIERI:  I`ve thought about how I feel about it.  No, I am -- I am relieved to see if happening because I do think that people are paying attention to -- you have to -- you have to -- your average Americans have got to work harder to find the facts.  But people are looking for the facts and gravity is taking hold.

And people are seeing that, you know, he didn`t have an agenda.  He had a wish list.  He had a wish list of things he said he was going to do.  There is no coherence behind them.  There was no thought of how he would get any of them done, so they`re all -- you know, they are all falling apart.

I`m disturbed to see that, while on some matters of foreign policy, you know, he may be -- appear to be moderating or flip-flopping in a positive way.  You know, on immigration, going to the NRA today.  There are things that he`s definitely going to make -- keep his base happy. 

So, I think we shouldn`t lose sight of that --

TODD:  Right.


TODD:  Well, I was just going to say -- I think in this last week, as we`ve been describing, a lot of motion, no action.  But was that designed to appease the base because they were concerned that all of the hundred-day stories were about, hey, he hasn`t gotten much done? 

CHEN:  Well, there`s two elements here.  One is definitely speaking to the base.  The other is I think that the Trump machinery is very good at turning the action into seemingly something.  And I think you`re seeing that around the executive actions that they`ve done.

You know, they`ve actually had more executive orders -- Trump has signed more executive orders than any president since FDR.  And so, they`re doing a lot by executive order.  And they`re trying to make some of these executive orders which are creating commissions, they`re creating studies to appear larger maybe than they are.

But, again, it`s about selling it to the base.  That`s exactly what it is. 

TODD:  Very quickly, Katy.  When you saw the NAFTA back and forth in that tick-tock this morning in "The Washington Post", do you believe that that is what he was going to -- that they were really on the verge of saying -- the announcement would have been tomorrow night?  Or do you think some of this is smoke and mirror?

TUR:  I -- you know, that`s really hard to say.  I think that, you know, he ran on getting out of NAFTA.  He ran on making sure that, you know, without NAFTA, that that there would be more jobs.  It would -- it would create more opportunity.

I think that he wanted to get rid of it.  I don`t -- I don`t -- I don`t doubt the story that they walked in with a map and said, you know what?  Actually, these jobs are squarely in the base of support that -- support that voted for you.

So, that`s a hard one but I do buy the idea that they had to come in with visual aids. 

TODD:  All right, we`re going to pause here.  You guys are sticking around.

We have some late breaking news from North Korea.  South Korean military reports say the north has fired a ballistic missile.  We`re going to have to find out more about that in just a moment.


TODD:  So, to understand more about what is happening in North Korea right now, we have breaking news.  Tonight, being broadcast on South Korean television is a ballistic missile test reportedly from the north.  South Korean media sights the South Korean military as their source.  Information is just coming into the newsroom.  We have not independently confirmed any of this.

Joining me now by phone is Jeremy Bash, our NBC New National Security Analyst.  So, Jeremy, a test?  A -- it is -- what do you know?  What seems familiar to you, back in your days at both the Defense Department and CIA?  What can you tell us? 

JEREMY BASH, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST(via telephone):  Hey, Chuck.  It`s, obviously, too early to know the nature of this weapons` test.  It appears not to be a nuclear test as they`ve done that five times before.  They do those underground and there is seismic activity that`s detected after a nuclear test.

It is also probably not a flight test of their intercontinental ballistic missile.  That would be a major escalatory move.  They have not, to date (ph), flight tested those, including their road mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles.

This is probably -- although, again, it`s too early to tell.  It`s probably another one of their short or intermediate-range ballistic missiles which could, of course, hit our allies in South Korea and in Japan.

Chuck, they have been trying to perfect a couple of capabilities with these missiles, including what`s known as a cold canister launch, basically a solid fuel rocket on that missile.  That prevents them from having to take a lot of time to fuel the rocket with liquid fuel.

And it allows them to launch these things in a hurry.  That`s important because when spy satellites can stare down at these launch pads or these submarine bases and foresee these launches, it obviously gives us much longer reaction time.  It`s -- North Korea can really condense the amount of time in which they would shoot these missiles.  They could gain the element of surprise.

Now, as you recall, Chuck, on April 15th, they fired one that exploded about five minutes -- excuse me, several seconds after launch and it was considered, basically, a dud.  We don`t know if it was sabotaged or bad engineering or some other factor.

In March -- March 6th, they fired four ballistic missiles.  Three of them fell into the Japan Sea.  Actually, close to Japan.  And then, February is when they shot missiles when Abe was down at Mar-a-Lago.  So, this is, potentially, a continuation of that -- of that escalatory policy. 

TODD:  All right.  All right, Jeremy Bash, I`ll let you go and see if you can gather more information.  Thank you very much.

Now, joining me by phone, a former ambassador to South Korea for the United States, Chris Hill.  Ambassador Hill, let me as you this.  The timing of this, it`s hard not to wonder if this is a response to President Trump`s comments to Reuters when he said that it`s possible a major, major conflict could occur with North Korea. 

CHRIS HILL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SOUTH KOREA (via telephone):  Well, I would say President Trump said a lot to Reuters, including a rather odd segment where he talked about somehow Kim Jong-Un is under a lot of pressure, well, with taking over his -- from his dead dad, et cetera, et cetera.  So, I`m not sure it`s really a response to what he said.

But I think, in a broader sense, it`s a response to the fact that the U.S. has, kind of, ratcheted up pressure across the board.  And talked about the fact that, you know, we`re not going to allow the North Koreans to keep going on this.

So, now, the question is, what is the U.S. going to do?  From -- we don`t know a lot about this test yet.  It`s, of course, not an underground nuclear test.  It`s probably just a continuation of the testing program they`ve had.

But I think what we`re going to see is a flurry of activity, in terms of the U.S., going back to the Chinese.  And they`ll be an effort to work with the South Koreans and the -- and the Japanese.

But I`m not sure that we would be in a position to retaliate in any way, shape or form beyond what Secretary Tillerson said today which is that we really have got to, kind of, put the screws to them on the economic side. 

TODD:  Well, South -- do you think, very quickly, South Korea and Japan, will they have an ask on this?  When they see this, will they say, you know what?  We want missile defense from the United States here.  And we know China doesn`t like that idea.  But could that be the response? 

HILL:  Well, already, the missile defense that we had planned to deploy by the end of the year is actually being deployed, as we speak, in South Korea.

The Japanese have been much more amenable to missile defense.  The South Koreans feel it`s very much, kind of, making them a bigger target than they already are.

I don`t think they`re going to be asking for more of that.  I mean, in the South Korean case, they`re in the middle of a rather contentious presidential election, including one candidate who says they ought to think about this -- think about these missile -- anti-missile deployments and, you know, maybe study them and decide whether they want to do them.

I suspect this kind of provocation from the north has the effect of the, sort of, softer candidate in South Korea being, kind of, hurt by it.

TODD:  Interesting.

HILL:  So, we`ll have to see.  And those South Korean elections are coming up in just a week and a half. 

TODD:  Well, a reminder that maybe he`s playing a little politics on the other side of the DMZ there.

Ambassador Hill, thanks for joining us by phone and giving us your perspective.  Appreciate it.

We`re continuing to follow this breaking news and we`ll bring you any more developments as it happens.

We`ll be right back.


TUR:  Welcome back.

For the second straight weekend, you`ll see demonstrators will be marching on Washington, D.C. and this time also under the banner of science.  Tomorrow, organizers expect 10s of thousands of protesters at what`s called the people`s climate march.

The group held a similar march in 2014.  But this time, the focus is opposition to the Trump administration and its environmental policy.  Former vice president Al Gore, actor Leonardo DiCaprio and billionaire philanthropist Richard Branson are all expected to be on hand, to be the leader for tomorrow`s march. 

Joining me now is the founder of the Virgin Group, sir Richard Branson.  Sir Branson, welcome back to the show, sir. 


TODD:  You`re here in Washington working with Al Gore on the climate march tomorrow.  Obviously, one of the goals is to bring attention to this issue.  But what`s the message to President Trump?  Obviously, if you`re here, you`re hoping he, at least, receives some of the message of these climate marches.  What`s the message? 

BRANSON:  Just to listen to scientists.  I mean, 98 percent of scientists are completely convinced that the world has a problem.  One hundred and ninety nations met in Paris and agreed to head toward carbon neutrality by 2050.

And it`s very, very important that America doesn`t diverge from that.  And I think it`s in the interests of America.

I mean, even for those people like President Trump who are climate skeptics, create a clean energy revolution for the benefit of your children and your grandchildren.  Where you can have clean air.  Where you can create hundreds of thousands of jobs.  And where you can bring the price of fuel down to a level which would be half of what it is today forever. 

TODD:  Obviously, the president is trying to decide whether to pull out of the Paris agreement or not.  What`s the case for him to stay in, even if he`s skeptical of the goals and of the -- what he believes is a negative tug on the American economy?  What`s the -- what would be the case to still make the stay in? 

BRANSON:  You know, it absolutely isn`t a negative tug on the American economy.  I mean, the worst thing you can do is let China and other countries move forward with clean energy in the -- in the rapid speed that they are moving and give -- you know, give up what could be one of the biggest --

TODD:  So, you just make a business case saying, hey, you do you this, China is going to --

BRANSON:  Well, look, they already are.  And, you know, Americans should be -- you know, and, obviously, I`d like to see other countries in Europe should be as well, the innovators in this area. 

TODD:  Let`s say the president does pull out of Paris.  And, essentially, this administration is sending the signal, look, we`re not going to take a lead on climate.  That`s not a priority.  What can the private sector do to fill in that -- fill that vacuum?

BRANSON: It is up to business leaders worldwide to step in and make sure that we do fulfill the 2050 climate obligations. Because if we don`t, you know, we have a world that`s gonna be a very sad world later on this century.

TODD: It seems like business leaders are. If you look at the Fortune 1000 companies, it seems like many of them have decided, even if it is in words, to say they`re trying to.

BRANSON: Yeah. Pretty well.

TODD: . shrink their carbon footprint.

BRANSON: Pretty well every rational businessman has said, we have to deal with this. We`re talking about the biggest companies in America. Almost every single one have come out and said we have to deal with this. And overseas, I can`t think of any businessman that is not committed. But look, if you have an administration that is supportive, it is likely that this will get double (ph) much quicker.

TODD: Let me ask you. As a former airline owner, this United and this treatment of customers, obviously, there was a social media backlash and all this. It does seem as if, is it that hard to run an airline anymore and make a profit in this day and age? Can you do it? Is that why, is it the fear of not being able to make money in an airline causing essentially worse customer service?

BRANSON: I think a lot of airlines are just very, very badly run. We set up three airlines. Virgin America, Virgin Australia, and Virgin Atlantic. And they`ve all made very good profits. And they`ve made profits because we have had a wonderful group of people who work for them, 100 percent believe in what they`re doing, who would never, ever, ever do anything like what happened on United.

TODD: What would have happened if an employee of yours had done that?

BRANSON: It just wouldn`t happen. I can be so sure that would never happen in a Virgin company that I would never even have to worry about it.

TODD: What would be your recommendation right now to the United CEO?

BRANSON: I think they`ve got too big. I would most likely break the airline up into five smaller airlines and get five managing directors and five deputy managing directors and five marketing people and have five different brands and make them much smaller again. These enormous airlines they`ve been allowed to create, they just.

TODD: The bigger you get, the farther you get from your customer?

BRANSON: Yes. It just becomes completely impersonal and everybody who works there becomes numbers. Yeah, so I will break them up.

TODD: Do you think there will be a point though in the U.K. that there is regret in starting what is could be the break up of the entire European Union?

BRANSON: I personally believe there will be enormous regret. And I think it is one of the saddest things that`s happened in my lifetime. Churchill helped set up the European Union to make sure that we didn`t go to war with each other again. I`m the first generation out of many, many generations going back that hasn`t been to war. And I think there will be great regret.

I think also there is going to be a big regret financially if we went for a hard Brexit. So I think the sad thing is that three newspaper owners whose average age of their readership is over, I don`t know, 55, because these people were sort of set in their ways, they campaigned rigorously for it.

TODD: Three newspaper owners.


TODD: Are you singling out?

BRANSON: Yeah, obviously, Murdoch, Rothermere, and Daily Express. And they just thumped home a lot of untruths.  I mean like 350 million more per week will go to the NHS. There was just a lot of mistruths that were put out to the public. And I`m afraid that it is sad for Europe and I think it is sad for Britain.

TODD: Sir Richard Branson. A lot more I would love to discuss, but I`ve run out of time.

BRANSON: Thank you.

TODD: Always a pleasure, sir. Thank you. And actually, you didn`t get to see the whole interview. I have more of it. Go see the entire interview with Sir Richard Branson on our website, We`ll be back in a moment.


TODD: Back now with more of that breaking news out of North Korea. Joining me now from the Pentagon with a few more details is our own Hans Nichols. So Hans, it looks like South Korea is reporting that the test like most of them has failed. What more do you know?

HANS NICHOLS, NBC NEWS PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, a U.S. official here is confirming that. Chuck, I should stress, we don`t know a whole lot about this other than the fact the South Koreans usually when the military there confirms it, it is clear that a test took place. What they`re saying at the Pentagon, what they`ve been saying here for the last couple weeks, almost couple months, is that North Korea possesses the ability to surprise United States intelligence. They simply don`t have the lead time that they used to have.

And I would also add that if you are counting on President Donald Trump to lean on his Chinese counterpart, remember they had that big wine and dine moment down in Mar-a-Lago earlier this month, earlier in April, if you are counting on the Chinese and therefore lean on the North Koreans, it doesn`t look like that`s working out. If you are putting any stock on that Mar-a- Lago summit to really be something that could really be a game changer, we haven`t had a test since then. Now we`ve had a test. Chuck?

TODD: All right. Hans Nichols with the latest there. As our folks have confirmed, it failed, correct?

NICHOLS: Yes. Correct.

TODD: Okay. That`s what I thought there. You said it the last second. I just want to get that. Hans, thanks very much. We`ll continue to monitor the situation and bring you any updates if we get them. We will be right back.



TRUMP: I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth.

It doesn`t represent the people. It never will represent the people. And we`re going to do something about it.

You are fake news.


TODD: In his first 100 days in office, President Trump has repeatedly lashed out at the media. And Even though that hasn`t stopped him from talking to reporters, the president`s apparent outward hostility toward the press could have serious implications to press freedom around the world. That`s according to the watchdog group, Freedom House, which just released their report on freedom of the press around the world.

After looking at 199 countries and regions, Freedom House found that global press freedom is at a 13-year low. That 13 is a magic number here. Only 13 percent of the world`s population lives in areas with a free press. We are one of them, by the way. And Freedom House says that President Trump`s attacks on the news media though could create further setbacks for press freedom both here at home and around the world.

Michael Abramowitz is the president of Freedom House, and he released this new report today. Michael, welcome to the show, sir.


TODD: So let`s start with, look, you obviously track press freedom globally. But you say these attacks on press freedom here, attacks by the president on our news media have an impact. How does that impact freedom of the press outside the United States?

ABRAMOWITZ: Well, I think the point is that freedom of the press is the hallmark of American democracy. As long as I`ve been around, and I was a reporter for 25 years, I think other countries look to the United States as the aspirational model of how the press should be treated. And obviously, there have been fights between presidents and the press before, but we haven`t really seen the kind of rhetoric against the press that you highlighted in your opening segment.

TODD: You know, in my experience traveling with President Obama and other reporters who traveled with other presidents, when you go outside of the United States.


TODD: . the number one advocate for press access has been the president.


TODD: President Bush would fight for access if China`s government was trying to restrict things or Russia`s government, all this stuff. I don`t know if President Trump will do that. If say, there`s a trip to Turkey and Erdogan who has cracked down on press freedoms does that. How much of an impact would that have on press freedom around the world?

ABRAMOWITZ: I think Erdogan is a good example. Erdogan is the leading jailer of journalists around the world. By last count, 80 journalists.

TODD: The leading jailer.

ABRAMOWITZ: The leading jailer.

TODD: Of any country. Not just of any.

ABRAMOWITZ: That`s according to our brother (ph) organization, CPJ. And the point is a week ago, after his referendum, which base is (ph) gonna cement his authoritarian rule for another 20 years, the president of the United States called him. And so I think people like Erdogan, Putin, even smaller countries that are authoritarians like Cambodia, they look to the president of the United States as a model. If the president of the United States can treat the press this way, I think it gives them more ammunition.

TODD: What about the issue of fake news? What does that impact when it comes to your study of quote, press freedom. If the free press is not believed, thanks to fake news infiltration and confusion and all of this stuff, that erodes press freedom, does it not?

ABRAMOWITZ: Absolutely. I think one of the major things ever report this year is the effort by the Russian government to export its propaganda efforts beyond its own borders. Obviously, President Putin has been a major violator of the rights of journalists, but he is now -- and we saw it in their efforts to interfere with our election, trying to export that propaganda effort abroad, beyond Russia`s shores.

And I think the point is that they are trying to undermine the idea that there is an independent media with an independent set of facts and independent objectives that assist a competing set of narratives and there is no one truth. And I think that`s the antithesis of a free press.

TODD: What is your recommendation to news organizations to fight back on this perception that our press freedoms are being taken away? What do you think we should do?

ABRAMOWITZ: I think the most important thing for journalists is to do their jobs and to do it objectively and to pursue the truth wherever it can. The  accountability function is the most important thing. Democracy could not survive without journalists doing their jobs. I think journalists need to have thick skins. They need to -- I mean, every president that I`m aware of has attacked the media in some form or another, needed to do their job. That`s my advise to journalists.

TODD: Just deal with the fact that some people will hate you simply because of the job you do.

ABRAMOWITZ: Absolutely.

TODD: Michael Abramowitz, it is an important report. I hope folks take a look at it online and get more of it. Thank you, sir.

ABRAMOWITZ: Thanks for having me.

TODD: You got it. We`ll have more "MTP Daily" right after this.


TODD: Well, this Sunday is the first day of the next 100 days for the Trump presidency. I will have an exclusive interview with Vice President Mike Pence, just back from Asia. We will have a lot on Korea, a lot on health care. I hope you join us. We will be back in a moment. More "MTP Daily."


TODD: Time for "The Lid." Panel is back, Katy Tur, Lanhee Chen, Jennifer Palmieri. We were talking about foreign policy in the abstract. In between, we had this missile test. Lanhee, I will let you start with this. Everything North Korea has done is not new.

CHEN: Right.

TODD: We`re treating it new. Should we be treating it new?

CHEN: I don`t think so. This problem has been around for a very long time. We`ve allowed the Chinese frankly to take care of the problem for a while. They clearly have not been able to handle it. So the question now is what do we do going forward? Do we leverage the Chinese more? Or the U.S. do what Rex Tillerson suggested they might do, which is to put a military option more directly on the table or directly negotiate with the North Koreans. And I think we have to go in a different direction if we want a different result.

TODD: Jennifer, when you were in the Obama White House, North Korea would pop up. Look, there would be times where President Obama intentionally always wanted to don`t react.


TODD: Some would say he under reacted, but there`s been no right answer with the North Korea problem. Let`s be realistic.

PALMIERI: I think that the Obama administration had a better answer. America shouldn`t know every time -- we shouldn`t all be living our lives by the test schedule of North Korea missiles and how we are with their lives. It is.

TODD: What do you mean by that? That if they`re doing that, you`re giving North Korea victory here?

PALMIERI: You`re giving them platforms. We are all paying attention. We know that now they`re just shooting them off. There were times before where they would say when they`re going to happen and everyone is watching with baited breath. We should not be giving them this kind of attention. I think in the Obama White House, you also understood that the United States is the biggest kid on the playground and when you`re the biggest kid on the playground, that means that you`re the one that has to act with a lot more restraint than we`re seeing now.

TODD: Katy, interestingly it was President Trump who said it was President Obama that told him the number one problem he`s going to face short term is North Korea.

TUR: Yeah, it was. That was apparently the conversation they had going in. And it`s not just President Obama who said this. Intelligence experts said North Korea is going to be the biggest threat that this administration faces. Donald Trump, on the one hand he`s asking for more diplomacy, on the other hand he`s talking about an armada that`s not really going to the Korean peninsula.

And yesterday telling Reuters that we should prepare for a major, major conflict. And that is a scary and dangerous thing when you`re talking about a nation with nuclear capabilities. What does that look like? What are you doing? what sort of message does that send to the North Koreans? Is that the sort of saber rattling they`re going to brush off or are they going to take that as some threat of a first attack?

TODD: Lanhee, why -- our Pentagon correspondent Hans Nichols said it reminded us of something that`s been true. Our intelligence inside of North Korea has gotten worse, not better.

CHEN: Yeah.

TODD: Now, most of that is a South Korean problem. Why has it gotten worse?

CHEN: I think part of it is because Kim Jong-un, believe it or not, has become more repressive than his father and his father before his grandfather before that, right? So the part of it is because Kim Jong-un -- North Korean leaders have been irrational. Kim Jong-un perhaps may be even more irrational in some ways, if you can believe it or not. That is why I think so many analysts believe this is such a huge threat to the U.S.

That and the fact that you can argue our intelligence cooperation has degraded a little bit with the South Koreans to your point, also reason why we just don`t seem to know as much about what is going on.

TUR: It doesn`t help that Donald Trump is in South Korea, now have to pay for the missile defense system that President Obama helped put in place.

CHEN: Let`s skip the trade deal.

TODD: That was the whiplash I had. On one hand I thought it was intriguing of him giving some weird praise to Kim Jong-un, which maybe pay a little respect, maybe that will calm him down. But then the South Korea is threatening the trade agreement in the same interview.

PALMIERI: That did not -- I mean, that appear to be an instinctive, I don`t like anything that Barack Obama did. That`s really.

TODD: It sounded like a turrets response.


TODD: I don`t like trade agreements anywhere even if I don`t want.

PALMIERI: Particularly Obama ones.

TODD: Right. We`re talking about Korea at the time oh, by the way, I don`t like trade agreement. South Koreans doesn`t want to hear that.

CHEN: No, they definitely don`t. By the way, the agreement was first negotiated by President Bush.

TODD: Maybe another reason why Donald Trump doesn`t like it either.


TODD: Anyway, Katy, Lanhee, and Jennifer, thank you. After the break, why Richard Branson ended up doing a double take on our set today. I`ll explain.


TODD: Well, in case you missed it, our earlier guest here today, Sir Richard Branson`s stunt double, actually works here at "MTP Daily." Okay, not really. But this photo does make it kind of look like Sir Branson was trying to take out his evil twin, right? Or maybe Branson`s evil twin. It`s actually our jib camera operator Michael Higgins. He gave as good as it got, all in good fun. Check this out. Let`s do the side by side comparison.

Look at it. Yeah, they definitely share a style. The hair, the go-t which of course is mandatory in any show I do. And they even wore the blue shirt today. Tune in next week. You never know who else`s doppelganger we got behind the scene. We`ll be back Monday with more "MTP Daily." Don`t forget to catch "Meet the Press" this Sunday, special day 101, Mike Pence and everybody.

"For the Record" with Greta though starts right now.