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MTP Daily, Transcript 5/19/2017

Guests: Thomas McClarty, Michael Gerson, Anita Dunn, Francis Rooney, Chris Van Hollen, Mack McLarty, Michael Gerson, Andrew Card, Anita Dunn

Show: MTP DAILY Date: May 19, 2017 Guest: Thomas McClarty, Michael Gerson, Anita Dunn, Francis Rooney, Chris Van Hollen, Mack McLarty, Michael Gerson, Andrew Card, Anita Dunn

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST (voice-over): Tonight, hot off the presses. A new round of reporting on what`s been going on behind closed doors at the White House.

Plus, justice on the Hill, the deputy attorney general gives members of Congress new insight about Mueller`s investigation.


ROD ROSENSTEIN, U.S. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: There were questions well outside the Russian scope.


TUR: And America first goes global.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has done things which undermine the confidence that our allies have in us.


TUR: How will the world receive President Trump during his first foreign trip?

This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.

(on camera): Good evening, I`m Katy Tur in New York in for Chuck Todd. Welcome to MTP DAILY and welcome to the unknown. Because we`ve never seen a week quite like this and it isn`t even over yet.

It`s been another afternoon of major breaking news. "The New York Times" reporting this afternoon that President Trump told the Russians last week during a meeting at the White House that the firing of FBI Director James Comey eased pressure from the Russia investigation. I just fired head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job, Mr. Trump said. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That`s taken off.

The White House, notably, is not disputing that account. And "The Washington Post" is now reporting that the Russia probe, which is now in the hands of a special prosecutor, has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest. The White House isn`t disputing that report either.

These two bomb shells cap off a week of sheer chaos.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why won`t you just explain whether or not there are recordings?

SEAN SPICER, U.S. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has made it clear what his position is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s not a question.

SPICER: I understand that. Because that`s what the president`s position is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The story that came out tonight as reported is false. Their national security has been put at risk by those violating confidentiality.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Watergate took many months and this thing seems to be taking hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The special prosecutor is doing an investigation of criminal allegations.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The entire thing has been a witch hunt. Believe me, there`s no collusion.

REP. AL GREEN (D), TEXAS: I stand for impeachment of the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you, at any time, urge former FBI Director James Comey in any way, shape or form to close or to back down investigation into Michael Flynn? And also, as you look back --

TRUMP: No. No. Next question.


TUR: Well, we have never seen a week quote like this. We`ve also never had a president quite like the either. Throughout this hour, we`re going to try to make sense of the chaos. The president is on his way, right now, to Saudi Arabia.

Just hours ago, he boarded Air Force One for his first presidential trip abroad. He`ll hit five countries in eight days. His supporters are desperately hoping it`ll be a chance to reset an out of control narrative.

Before the president departed, his Facebook page seemed to address the chaos. It said, they are trying to sabotage us.

Meanwhile, we`re seeing distress signals from inside the Republican Party.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Clearly, it`s my hope that he does -- that he does right the ship, that he -- that he improves.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House on a lot of things.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Obviously, they`re, you know, on a downward spiral right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, the president, I wish we could take Twitter away from them.


TUR: With the White House combatting chaos on multiple fronts, we`ve put together an incredible panel, as we try to chart a way forward. We`ve got my colleague, Steve Kornacki, who is a NBC News National Political Correspondent.

Also, joining us are four White House titans who have worked hand in hand with the -- with the -- with four presidents in the past. Andy Card was Bush 41`s deputy chief of staff and Bush 43`s chief of staff. Mack McClarty was President Clinton`s chief of staff. Michael Gerson was Bush 43`s director of speech writing. And Anita Dunn was Obama`s communications director.

Guys, damage assessment. How bad are these new developments? We`ve got "The Washington Post," Steve. We`ve got "The New York Times." Is -- does this make it worse than it was for him on Monday?

STEVE KORNACKI, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think you have the two there that you`re talking about, "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post." I think one brings a lot more specificity. That`s "The New York Times" and the reporting of what Donald Trump said to the Russians in that meeting the other day.

And the key element of that entire story is that, essentially, the White House isn`t disputing it. So, then, it becomes a question of I suppose the White House Trump defenders eventually coming up with an interpretation of this that they will try to offer as more benign than what I think it sounds like to a lot of people.

But here, you`ve got a very specific account of words that were said to the Russians and you don`t have the White House saying no, that didn`t happen.

TUR: Not denying it.

KORNACKI: "The Washington Post" one, I put it more in the category of it is potentially explosive. It`s potentially blockbuster. But that term they`re using in there is giving me a little bit of pause when they say person of interest just because that is such a broad term. That`s such a nonspecific term. That could be something devastating to the White House. That could also be something that falls more in the benign end.

So, at this moment, I look at "The New York Times" one and I say, that one is a lot more immediately troubling for the White House.

TUR: Yes, on that note, Mack, does it seem to indicate, without -- you know, I mean, we`re getting more and more every day. Does this indicate only further that Donald Trump was trying to impede the Russia investigation?

THOMAS "MACK" MCCLARTY, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF, CLINTON ADMINISTRATION: Well, I think we need to let the process play out, Katy. I mean, clearly, you`ve got a lot to work with. A lot of impressions that are -- that have been made. But I think we`ve got processes in place and we need to let those work.

My real concern, if I were in the White House, it`s hard enough to move your agenda forward without all of these distractions, controversies and just stresses on the White House. It`s going to be even more difficult now.

TUR: Michael, if your president had said something like this, had been at the Oval Office with the Russians and denigrated a former FBI director, what would your reaction have been?

MICHAEL GERSON, FORMER DIRECTOR OF SPEECH WRITING, BUSH ADMINISTRATION: Well, first of all, I would have been shocked. That`s not the man I worked for. You know, he built loyalty by showing loyalty. He would never have done such a thing.

But I think what we`re seeing is an extraordinary high-stakes contest between the leaks that are coming from intelligence and from law enforcement. And the president here, that is -- that represents something just extraordinary. Something that I haven`t seen.

It`s a fraying of the relationship between institutions in our -- in our country. And it`s not good. You know, even on the face of it, it`s not good.

TUR: Anita, let`s just line some of this up. He has publicly criticized the subject of the FBI investigation, calling it fake news and a total hoax. He said he asked Comey for his loyalty, according to "The New York Times." When he talked to Donald Trump -- excuse me, when he talked on Lester Holt, he said he was thinking about the Russian investigation when he decided to fire James Comey.

We`ve got this news today, calling him a nut job. We have the memo Comey wrote afterwards, saying that Donald Trump asked him to end the investigation into Flynn. What more do people need, other than that, for there to be evidence that Donald Trump was trying to get involved, and, at the very least, influence the investigation?

ANITA DUNN, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Well, you know, Katy, in many ways, this has been the farthest thing from a cover-up since Donald Trump, last week, went on your network to actually say that this was why he had fired Director Comey or come as close as you possibly can.

And this is now the second report. It almost makes you nostalgic for earlier in the week will the worst they know he had done with the Russians was to share intelligence from a trusted ally who didn`t know we were doing it.

I think that there are significant problems for this administration. All - - you know, all four of us worked in different administrations. But, you know, when you are trying to do anything in this town, to have the alignment of enemies, that this White House has managed to line up very quickly, and to have so few allies. So few people that are going to look at you and say, it`s -- you know, we`re going to stick with you down the line.

I mean, Richard Nixon, you know, three years into the Watergate investigations, still had a fairly solid block of support on Capitol -- two years in, on Capitol Hill. And only when that crumbled did he resign. But people hung in there with him.

This is a president who ran against his own party as well as my party when he ran for president. Who took on the intelligence agencies and basically said he didn`t believe what they were saying. Who, you know, has basically attacked the press who has come into town -- and, yes, he has shaken things up. But I think he is about to find out how shaky his own ground is.

TUR: Andy, give me a, you know, 30,000-foot damage assessment.

ANDY CARD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, the challenges that President Trump has he invited on himself. And there`s been a lack of discipline from him which means there`s a lack of discipline seen as permission around the executive branch.

So, we`ve got to find more discipline. The president should exercise more discipline that`ll invite more discipline from people who work in the government for him. They do work in the executive branch. But that`s -- it`s critically important.

This is a new stage. We now have a special counsel that is going to be reviewing all of this. People should find the discipline to do what is right.

I hope that Reince Priebus convenes a meeting of all the people who work in the White House and says, we`re going to cooperate with this special counsellor and the work that has to be done. If you cannot cooperate, go see the White House counsel or come see me, the chief of staff.

And then, I would say President Trump should demonstrate that he has called for people who work at the White House to cooperate with the special counsel effort to understand what happened. It would be good if this could be done quickly so that this review doesn`t go on for years and years and years. I think it should be done well.

And I have great confidence that Bob Mueller will do that. But we should work to cooperate with them and find a solution so that we can get back to doing the job of running the country.

And that`s the real job at the White House. President Trump must invite people to work with him, so he can continue to do the job and not be distracted, especially now that we have a special counsellor who is going to be reviewing all of this.

Stop talking about it. Focus on the job at hand. And that`s the discipline that has to come from the White House. And, hopefully, it will then go into all of the intelligence agencies and they`ll start to do their job rather than talk about their job or the job that somebody else is not doing well. And talking to the press.

I think they have to get back to discipline. The special counsel is an excuse now for the White House to say, we`re not going to talk about this anymore. The special counsellor is going to handle all of this and let`s see what happens and we`ll go from there.

TUR: You know, that is -- Andy, that is the near universal advice that people are giving Donald Trump. And I don`t think there`s much doubt that those within his staff would like that to be the case.

But Donald Trump is not somebody who listens that. He`s somebody who will send out a measured statement about the counsellor and then watch cable news in the morning and wake up and tweet angrily.

So, I think Reince Priebus going out there and trying to give a stern lecture to the staff is futile if the president of the United States refuses to get on board. What do you do when the commander in chief is not somebody that you can convince to put down his phone?

CARD: Well, I would think that the White House counsel and the chief of staff should sit with the president and just outline the consequence of having a special counsellor assigned to conduct an investigation. He will take it wherever it goes.

And that means that you have to have discipline and you probably shouldn`t talk about the past, publicly, if it relates to it. If it`s -- if it`s going to invite you into the process of being distracted by having a special counsellor call you as a witness and want you to appear before grand juries or anything else. That`s very disruptive to the operation.

And the president has a job to do. He`s an impossibly difficult job to be president of the United States under any circumstances. He doesn`t need to complicate it now by trying to second-guess what`s going to happen in an investigation that he has no control over.

So, it is what it is. I think you should find the discipline to follow the recommendations of his White House counsel and his chief of staff and invite greater discipline on the whole process, including in the White House staff.

TUR: Anita made a good point, a moment ago, Steve, that the president ran against the Republican Party. He ran against the Democratic Party. That is 100 percent true. He only embraced the Republican Party after they embraced him. And even then, it was touch and go. And it seems that even now if they decided to back away from them, he would, you know, go out guns blazing against the Republicans.

Because of that, because he was not -- he doesn`t have a real allegiance to a party and his supporters didn`t really have an allegiance to a party, they have an allegiance to him. What does he have to listen to anyone in Washington for?

KORNACKI: Yes, I mean, that`s what -- I look at this from a -- from a different angle actually because I look at it from the standpoint of the Republican members of Congress, the Republican establishment in Washington.

On paper, this is their president. And they still have -- still, I think, harbor a lot of hopes that, hey, he can calm down and they can pass this agenda. And they also recognize that, look, as long as Donald Trump has that R next to his name, their fate is tied to his, in a lot of ways.

And it`s such complicated thing because I think so many of them didn`t embrace him in the campaign. Some of them even ran away from him in the last month of the campaign when that "Access Hollywood" tape came out. They believed he was going to doom them. He was going to their party.

The fact that he won their nomination last year and the fact that he then survived those October revelations and won the presidency, I think has, in the back of the mind of just about every Republican member of Congress is the thought, wait a minute. Does this guy know my party`s base better than do I?

TUR: Yes.

KORNACKI: Is he more in touch with them? Are they more in tune with him than they are with me? And I think that`s what`s given them so much pause to come out and break with him.

And I`m looking at the calendar. What I got circled right now is next Thursday. Next Thursday, Montana. Don`t ask me why it`s on a Thursday and not a Tuesday. But there is a special election in Montana next Thursday. And if the Democrat ever won that thing, I do wonder if that would scare Republicans into a possible red state (ph).

TUR: And you made a good point the other day, Steve, that Nixon, the support for him started to break after a special election.

KORNACKI: Special election, yes.

TUR: Michael, I want to get you in on this quickly. Does Donald Trump know the Republican base better than the Republican Party?

GERSON: Well, not if he`s in the mid-30s in the polls coming up. I mean, I think that members of Congress are looking at those numbers to see his strength, remaining strength, where his floor is in all this. You know, it makes a difference if it is low 40s or mid-30s, as far as intimidation factor, about going against the president. The stronger he is, the more difficult that is for members.

And, Anita -- I`m sorry. My producer was in my ear for a second. I didn`t realize you stopped talking.

Anita, do Democrats -- do they understand how to capitalize on this or are they just going to fall into the same trap they did during the election which was criticize Trump. Say that he`s a horrible person. He`s not fit to be president. Are they going to present their own ideas? Are they going to be able to turn out at the polls? What do you think?

DUNN: Well, Katy, it`s interesting. You know, Steve just mentioned the Montana special election which is being held next Thursday. The final ad that the Democratic candidate, Rob Quist, has put on the air is about health care. And it`s very specifically about the Republican health care bill, tying his opponent to that Republican health care bill.

So -- and I think it`s an interesting dynamic because, clearly, we`re dealing with a lot of things out there when it comes to these special elections. Hillary Clinton got 36 percent of the vote in Montana so I think it`s a very tough state for a Democrat to win in.

But having said that, you know, obviously, Democrats have to go out and they have to make the case, at some point to this country, that they are ready to govern and to lead it forward. And that, in particular, they have heard from, you know, the people who haven`t done as well over the last 10 years. And that they have ideas to move this country forward.

Donald Trump ran a very good campaign, when it came to appealing to the people who felt left behind. Democrats have the challenge of coming with their economic message.

You could probably say, every day that goes by, this White House is making this mid-term much easier for the Democrats to make significant gains in the House and to at least hold their own in the Senate where a month, two months ago, everyone was talking about the Democrats losing significant numbers of seats in the Senate.

TUR: Mack, we`re going to get back to you after -- a little bit later in the hour. Sorry I didn`t get to circle back to you during in this block.

MCCLARTY: It`s all right.

TUR: But, Steve, appreciate it, Andy, Mack as well. Michael and Anita, stay with us. We`re going to -- we`re just getting started in this hour.

Next, we`ll talk to members of Congress on both sides of the aisle with reaction to today`s new round of breaking news. Keep it right here.


TUR: Welcome back.

Another day of breaking news out of Washington. In just the past couple of hours, we`ve got new reports from "The Washington Post," "The New York Times" and "Foreign Policy" magazine.

"The Washington Post" is reporting that a White House advisor close to President Trump is a person of interest in the Russia probe. "The New York Times" is reporting that President Trump told Russian officials that Comey, FBI Director Comey, was a, quote, "nut job" and that firing him eased pressure from the investigation.

And according to "Foreign Policy" magazine, Israeli intelligence is furious over President Trump`s disclosure of classified information to the Russians.

We`ll hear from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on all of this breaking news next. And we`ll go to Saudi Arabia ahead of the president`s arrival.


TUR: Welcome back.

We`re winding up about as busy a week as you could have in Congress without having any monumental votes.

Joining me now is Florida Republican Congressman Francis Rooney. Congressman, thank you for joining me, number one. And I`d be remiss not to start with a couple of breaking news stories that have come out of both "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times."

First, starting with "The Washington Post." They say their law enforcement sources are what U.S. official sources say that the investigation into the Russian probe has reached a senior White House adviser, somebody close to the president. Given that, do you still believe that a special counsel was not necessary?

REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R), FLORIDA: You know, I think as long as it`s an intelligence issue and the issues being talked about pertain to classified documents and who has the right to receive them, who should be their names disclosed, et cetera. That, yes, I think the intel committees should keep their jurisdiction over it.

TUR: If a White House senior adviser, somebody close to the president, is being investigated, do you trust that this administration is properly vetting people?

ROONEY: Well, I wouldn`t know about their internal procedures about vetting. I know the vetting procedures that the Bush administration did which were exacting. And I would assume that they`re following the same lines.

TUR: Well, I mean, Michael Flynn, they say they didn`t know about his ties to Turkey. They say they didn`t know he was under investigation. There is reporting that he alerted them early on. There`s questions about vetting of Michael Flynn. And now, another White House senior adviser being investigated by law enforcement during this probe into Russia. That`s a pretty big deal. You think the vetting is OK?

ROONEY: Well, I have to agree with the Flynn situation, now that we know some hard facts. That`s a bad deal if he was being paid by foreign governments and still working around the White House and having classified briefings.

TUR: "The New York Times" is also reporting that Donald Trump, in that meeting with the Russians, right after -- the day after FBI Director James Comey was fired, told the Russian ambassador, told the Russian foreign minister that FBI Director James Comey was crazy and a real nut job. Also, that it relieved great pressure from him. What is your reaction?

ROONEY: Well, I couldn`t understand why the president didn`t fire Comey January 20th for the way he botched the Hillary Clinton investigation. But that was his business to wait. And I think the fact that the deputy attorney general has said that the -- you know, that there was -- or that the deputy FBI director said that there was no effort to hinder the investigation under sworn testimony is good enough for me.

TUR: Do you think it`s appropriate that the president of the United States, in a meeting with the Russians in the Oval Office, called the FBI director crazy and a real nut job? Is that appropriate for the president of the United States?

ROONEY: Well, we all have our different personalities. And, certainly, this campaign was laden with a lot of them and each of us looks at it differently. I don`t know that I would say something like that but I`m not the president.

TUR: So, as he also said that it relieved a great pressure. He told Lester Holt that he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he decided to fire FBI Director James Comey. Does that not look suspicious to you?

ROONEY: Well, I`d like -- I want to see some evidence, you know, the -- Mr. --

TUR: The president of the United States said he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he decided to fire the FBI director.

ROONEY: Yes, but the deputy attorney general said that Comey should be fired for reasons he set out in his letter. So, what do you believe, you know? I mean, we have an intel investigation about what may or may not have happened with intelligence with the Russians. And I would like to see the two committees do what the taxpayers hired them to do.

And if the people aren`t happy after that and they`re not satisfied, then, perhaps, take it to another level.

TUR: What did you learn from deputy A.G. Rosenstein today?

ROONEY: Well, I think that he stands by his story that Comey needed to go.

TUR: Anything else?

ROONEY: No. Is there something else I should have known?

TUR: No, I mean, did you learn that it was leaning more towards a criminal investigation? Were you happy --

ROONEY: Oh, no, --

TUR: -- with the attorney general, deputy attorney general? Do you agree with his decision to appoint a special counsel now even though you didn`t agree with it beforehand?

ROONEY: No, no. I would just as soon not have a special counsel and let the intel committees do their job first. What happens with these special counsels is you get mission creep. You get a lot people trying to build careers off these things. And who knows where it could go.

TUR: Do you think that Bob Mueller is trying to build a career off of this? Bob Mueller, the special counsel is trying to --

ROONEY: No, not Director Mueller. He`s done everything you can do and that`s important in the world. But there will be some people he hires that might want to build a career.

TUR: So, do you think that this is an investigation that has an agenda, even though someone like Bob Mueller is leading it?

ROONEY: I`m not going to criticize a person with a distinguished service record like Director Mueller. I just would rather see the intel committees do their job first and see if the people are satisfied with their work.

TUR: Given all the news that`s coming out of this White House, and given the fact that there are multiple investigation into it, does anything coming out of this White House, anything at all right now, Congressman, give you pause about this president?

ROONEY: Yes, there are some things that give me pause.

TUR: Like what?

ROONEY: I think the Flynn -- the Flynn situation is not good. And I think those facts that the Department of Defense is investigating need to come to full life. But I also would like the see them speed up their appointment process and go ahead and fill out the posts of the government so they our administrative agencies can do their jobs.

TUR: Congressman Rooney, thank you very much. I hope you have a great weekend, sir.

ROONEY: Same to you. Thank you for having me on.

TUR: Thank you.

Let`s turn now to Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. Senator, thank you for joining us. And I`m going to warn --

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Good to be with you.

TUR: -- you right now, I`m going to throw a bunch news at you. We have tons of --

VAN HOLLEN: All right.

TUR: -- breaking news that has been mounting by the moment.

First off, McClatchy is reporting that a number of congressmen seem to infer from Rod Rosenstein today. That they were also investigating a cover-up. Did you get that indication yesterday in your meeting with Rod Rosenstein?

VAN HOLLEN: Oh, I don`t think there`s any doubt that the special counsel has been charged to look into not just collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians during the election, but into obstruction of justice and a potential cover-up.

I mean, that is clearly one of the reason why Rod Rosenstein did not answer the questions about conversations that were had with respect to the memo, whether he met with the president, his view of the Comey memo. All of that now is in the purview of the special counsel, with respect to potential obstruction of justice.

I should point out that in order to appoint a special counsel, under the regulation, Rod Rosenstein had to make a finding, a determination that a criminal investigation into a person or matter was warranted. And, at some point, clearly, something tipped the balance from his decisions not to appoint a special counsel to appointing one.

TUR: But did he tell you that?

VAN HOLLEN: He was very clear, in his comments, that a criminal investigation was part of this and part of the purview of the special counsel. And it`s right there --

TUR: Did he use the words, were you looking into a cover-up?

VAN HOLLEN: I`m not sure if he used the word, cover-up. But the word obstruction of justice was used and that is announced to the same thing.

TUR: Got it.

"The New York Times" is reporting that Donald Trump, in that meeting with the Russian officials in the Oval Office, he called FBI director a nut job. That being said, leave that alone. He said that firing him eased pressure. What does that say to you? What`s your reaction to the president, saying firing his FBI director eased pressure to the Russians in a meeting in the Oval Office?

VAN HOLLEN: I think that`s going to be of great interest to the special counsel. Because at the heart of this investigation, of course, is the question of collusion between the Trump campaign and the elections. And if, in fact, the firing of Comey was done by President Trump to try to prevent Comey from getting to the bottom of things, that is something the special counsel is going to want to look into in the context of the obstruction of justice.

Again, we don`t know exactly what he`ll find. But that is clearly something that is going to be on his radar screen. I mean, that`s going to make his antenna go up. As is the news about the Comey memo where Trump told him not to pursue the investigation into Michael Flynn who, clearly, is, you know, over his head, with respect to his connections with the Russians, both before and after the campaign.

TUR: Senator, "The Washington Post" is also reporting that the law enforcement investigation now reaches as high as the White House, saying that a current White House official is a person of interest. Any idea who that could be?

VAN HOLLEN: I do not. I do not have any idea who it could be. What it tells me is that in addition to the counter intelligence investigation that`s going on, I think that this very likely falls under the purview of the criminal investigation. As we know, even before the appointment of a special prosecutor, there were grand jury proceedings.

Subpoenas had been issued in this case. Clearly things were heating up and that seems be the the motivation for President Trump making the decision to fire Comey. I mean, the irony, of course, is that the result is a special counsel who is now going to be very focused on this.

And I should say that despite what Trump said the other day about how this is dividing the country, for the most part, a few members of congress excepted, there`s broad bipartisan support for this move by Rod Rosenstein.

TUR: In your roles, heading the DSCC and DCCC, what do you think? If Democrats cannot win the two special elections that are coming up, one in Montana, one in Georgia, what does that say? If they can`t win right now, what does that say? VAN HOLLEN: Let me make an important distinction. I believe that the questions regarding collusion and the ongoing investigation are things that really do rise above party politics. One of the things that we`ve called upon our Republican colleagues to do is come together as patriots and not partisans. I do believe as I said that the appointment of Rod Rosenstein is an example where people came together outside the White House, of course. With respect to the special.

TUR: But if the Democrats can`t win under those circumstances, I don`t want to bring it back into politics, but does that mean the American people don`t care? Or does that mean that even despite all of this, they trust Republicans more with getting things done? It has to mean something. VAN HOLLEN: With respect to the special elections, I think it was Anita Dunn who mentioned the fact that the ads being run in Montana focus on the Republican support for the Trump care, the Republican health care plan, which is a total betrayal of the Trump voters when you actually get under the hood and look at what it does, right?

It strips 24 million Americans of access to affordable care while providing huge tax cuts to very wealthy people and powerful special interests. That is why that kind of issue that shows the broken promises of the Trump administration has been a powerful motivator. And yes, you`ve seen people coming out to town hall meetings, making phone calls, marching in the streets.

All of that is really important in special elections and off year elections because it is the energy of voters. But I think what is motivating those voters is the fact that Trump came in promising a lot of things. He said he is going to use American-made steel in pipelines. He said he was going to find China currency manipulator.

The reality is it is a campaign where a lot of members of the Trump family have financial interests tied up with what the president is doing, and he has got a budget coming up which we already know from the preliminary glimpse is going to be a total betrayal of what he told the forgotten Americans. He is forgetting the forgotten Americans and going after them.

TUR: Senator Chris Van Hollen, I appreciate your time. Happy Friday, sir.

VAN HOLLEN: Happy Friday to you.

TUR: Still ahead, still our panel of White House insiders gives President Trump their advice for traveling abroad. We`ll be right back.


TUR: Still ahead, amid all of the breaking news, President Trump takes America first abroad. Also this weekend, don`t miss the premiere of "Velshi & Ruhle" Saturday on MSNBC. Join business journalists Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle for their new show at 12:30 p.m. eastern. Not going to want to miss that. Right now, here`s CNBC`s Hampton Pearson with the "CNBC Market Wrap." Hi, Hampton.

HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Katy. We had stocks basically ending the week in positive territory. The Dow up 141 points. The S&P gaining 16. The Nasdaq ending up 28 points higher. Today, Ford motor company announced it is adding 800 jobs outside Detroit. The $350 million investment in Dearborn follows a cut of 1,400 jobs in its global workforce earlier this week. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.


TUR: Welcome back to "MTP Daily." Amid all this breaking news in Washington, President Trump is on his way to Saudi Arabia on his first foreign trip. So can the Trump administration use this time overseas to change the conversation? Let`s go to my colleague, NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker, who is in Saudi Arabia. Kristen, what does the White House hope to do with this?

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Katy. Well, the stakes couldn`t be higher. They are hoping that this will help President Trump reset the narrative after what has been arguably the rockiest period of his young presidency. This is going to be a historic five nation nine- day trip. It starts right here in Riyadh.

He is going to be meeting with King Salman when he arrive here on Saturday as well as the number of leaders in the region. His message to them is going to be that he wants to be a partner to the Muslim world despite controversial comments that he made as a candidate, despite his travel ban that has been held up in the court.

I can tell you that he is being welcomed with optimism and excitement. He is staying at the Ritz-Carlton just behind where we are, Katy, and there`s a huge image of President Trump and the king as well as their hands clasping. So there`s a lot of optimism. They see this as a possibility to reset relations in the wake of former President Obama.

There was a lot of criticism of former President Obama in part because he secured things like the Iran nuclear deal. Iran, they say one of the enemies of Saudi Arabia. He then of course heads to Israel, the Vatican, and Brussels, Sicily. It is a long trip, a chance for him to reset, Katy. But you can bet all of the scandals you`ve been talking about throughout the hour will follow him here. Katy.

TUR: Kristen Welker in Saudi Arabia, appreciate it. Now let`s go back to my all-star panel of west wing alumni. Former White House chief of staff Andrew Card and Mack McLarty, Bush 43 director of speech writing Michael Gerson, and Obama`s communication director Anita Dunn.

Mack, let`s start with you. Do you think that this can be a reset for this White House?

MACK MCLARTY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF FOR PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: It can certainly help in that regard, Katy. It does give him a chance to change the narrative. The narrative he has got at home is not good. You got to be strong at home to provide leadership abroad. I think he is set up to have a good trip to Saudi Arabia as Kirsten outlined. I think he`ll be well received by Mr. Netanyahu in Israel, despite the recent flap.

NATO is going to be considerably more complicated, how he squares America first with NATO where he`s been very critical. But there`s no question when the U.S. president steps on the world stage, if he can handle it in a thoughtful, serious skillful manner, it will help him reset the narrative. And he needs that at this point.

TUR: Michael, words matter when you`re visiting these sorts of countries. Donald Trump`s speeches are being written by Stephen Miller, the same adviser that wrote -- the travel ban adviser who wrote many of the speeches while Donald Trump is on the campaign trail. Many that were accused of being Islamophobic. What does that say to you?

MICHAEL GERSON, SPEECHWRITER OF PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, COLUMNIST FOR THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, it`s difficult in one way because he has to repudiate his previous positions in order to communicate what he wants to communicate in this circumstance. He has identified Islam as part of the problem. You cannot fight war on terror by alienating the Islamic world. That`s not possible. All of our allies on the ground are Muslims in this fight. And so he is going to have to change his position.

The question is, is the speech writing department a voice of reason and moderation in this to frame this? Or are they part of the problem? I mean, they are the ones who produced the inaugural address, which is one of the most divisive in our history, America first message. And so that I think is going to be difficult. He has to repudiate his previous positions, and the speech writing staff will have to do something it hasn`t done before.

TUR: And Andy, we`re just getting a report about Israel and the intelligence out there being furious with American intelligence officials screaming at American counterparts for the leak of highly classified information from Donald Trump to the Russians. He goes to Israel right after Saudi Arabia. By all public accounts, it looks like things are going to go well. At least the Israeli ambassador said things will be fine. But what is it going to be like behind the scenes? How tense could it get?

ANDREW CARD, FORMER BUSH 43 CHIEF OF STAFF: First of all, I think President Trump does have a good relationship with Netanyahu. I think he expects to have a good meeting and Netanyahu wants to have a good meeting. I think it will go well. Yes, the intelligence services have friction. They`ve had friction in the past so this is not the first time.

But we`re allies and we have the best ally that Israel has. Netanyahu knows that. President Trump knows that. He is certainly standing up and demonstrating that he wants to be a good ally. I think it is going to be a good visit to Saudi Arabia and a good visit to Jerusalem and Israel.

So I think President Trump is actually going to be standing on stage at the right time with the right message. But he does have a problem back home and we should recognize that it is important for all of America to say he is our president now. He is speaking for us when he visits these other countries. TUR: Anita, speaking of being back at home, Vice President Pence is not on this trip. He is somebody that our NBC News reporting is being shown to at the very least being kept in the dark on some of the more momentus things that are happening inside the White House. What does that say to you? Are White House officials purposely keeping him in the dark to protect him? Or are they purposely keeping him in the dark because they don`t trust him?

ANITA DUNN, OBAMA COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I don`t know, Katy. I think that Vice President Pence was never a member of the Trump inner circle during the campaign. He has done what the president has needed him to do. I want to go back to something that Andy said in the earlier segment which is about the need for discipline and for the president to show discipline.

These foreign trips, a nine-day trip, five countries, is a grueling trip for anybody. That is a really tough, long foreign trip. The discipline that is required of this president to really take advantage of those individuals, of his being presidential, of his meetings, of changing the narrative, it is discipline that says do not get in these meetings and free lance.

Do not get in these meetings and decide that you want to talk one more time about how nobody thought you could win Wisconsin (ph). You know, it is really important for him to go into these meetings as the president of the United States, but also to exercise the kind of discipline that I think Andy was talking about earlier in order to really maximize all of this.

TUR: If anybody knows about the need for presidential discipline, it is you guys. So happy you`re joining in this conversation. We are going to pick this up in just a moment. You are all going to stick around with me, so keep it right here.


TUR: More breaking news rolling in this hour. "Politico" is now reporting that two days after firing Micheal Flynn as national security advisor in February, Donald Trump told several aides and friends he should have kept him instead. You will get more "MTP Daily" right after this.


TUR: It`s time now for "The Lid." It`s a lightning round. My west wing friends are back. Andy Card, Mack McLarty, Michael Gerson, and Anita Dunn. Guys, you`re going to get the same question, you have to give it to me quickly. What is the story, Mack, that will still be in the headlines as of next week?

MCLARTY: I think there will be two stories likely. I would not be surprised President Trump`s encounter with the pope could bring forth some unexpected new stories. But the stories here, the controversies will continue. And as Anita noted, that will be hard to deal with on a long foreign trip.

TUR: Anita, your name was invoked. What about you?

DUNN: Jim Comey, and why he fired Jim Comey, because at some point Jim Comey gets to talk, too.

TUR: Andy?

CARD: Comey, Bob Mueller, the new FBI director. That will be very interesting to America. But this trip could also generate some commentary depending on how well the president does. And this is the chance for the president to be standing on the world stage as the president of the United States and I think that will make a difference, too.

TUR: Michael?

GERSON: Special counsel just guarantees that Russia is going to be important. And, you know, we have White House leaks all the time. We have intel leaks. We`ve got FBI leaks that have guaranteed this story stays in the headlines, and I`m not sure that`s going to change. TUR: And Michael, since we have some more time, you guys were so quick, who do you think the next FBI director is going to be, is Joe Lieberman a good choice? GERSON: I think Democrats are not very happy about the possibility of Joe Lieberman on the argument that they want a nonpolitical FBI director. I think a more consensus choice would -- I like Joe Lieberman a great deal, but a more consensus choice would be a consummate professional. That`s I think what members of congress maybe on both sides are looking for.

TUR: Mack, it looks like they want to get Lindsey Graham and John McCain on board. If they do that, do they stand a chance of being able to pass this by a Republican majority only? Is that politically smart?

MCLARTY: Well, I think both senators McCain and Graham will support Senator Lieberman if he`s nominated. I have great respect for Joe Lieberman. In this case, I`ll show some bipartisanship. I think a consensus candidate might be the better choice here.

TUR: And, Anita, are you surprised that Donald Trump didn`t want to fire Michael Flynn?

DUNN: You know, it`s very hard for Donald Trump to surprise me at this point.


TUR: That is true.

CARD: He`s surprising all of us.

TUR: Andy, yeah, he definitely is surprising all of us. Certainly surprising his aides when he says that sort of thing. Guys, thank you so much for being here. It`s wonderful to have such an an all-star panel. People who really know what it`s like to be in the White House instead of us folks like me who just pontificate about what it could be like. Thank you guys very much. Next, why a traditional political neutral safe space may be disappearing soon. Keep it right here.


TUR: In case you missed it, the role of FBI director seems like it`s one of the last apolitical bastians in Washington. At least for now. Since long- time FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover died in 1972, the senate has voted on seven nominees to lead the bureau. In all, seven of those votes, there`s only been one no vote. And it came during James Comey`s confirmation in 2013.

And if you follow the senate, you may be able to guess who was the lone dissenter. That`s right, it was Kentucky Republican Rand Paul. He cast a nay vote because he said he wanted more information on the FBI`s use of drones. In addition, Oregon two Democratic senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden voted present on Comey.

That`s not exactly a yes, but Senator Paul`s time as a trivia answer is probably coming to an end. It is quite likely that we`ll see more than a handful of democratic no votes on whomever President Trump nominates to run the FBI. That will do it for me this week. Remember you can catch me any time at 2:00 on MSNBC, 2:00 eastern, 11:00 a.m. pacific, and "For the Record" with Greta with special host Chris Jansing starts right now. Hi, Chris.