MTP Daily, Transcript 5/30/2017

Guests: Michael McFaul, Morgan Brennan, Cornell Belcher, Yamiche Alcindor

Show: MTP DAILY Date: May 30, 2017 Guest: Michael McFaul, Morgan Brennan, Cornell Belcher, Yamiche Alcindor

NICOLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: Thank you for joining our panel today.

That does it for this hour. I`m Nicole Wallace. "MTP DAILY" starts right now. Hi, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicole. I`m still trying to picture the Putin family in the kremlin. That is -- that is -- that was a great visual. I appreciate that. That`s how -- that`s when they turned on my hearing aid.

WALLACE: That`s what I left you with, yes.

TODD: That`s nice. Anyway, thanks, Nicole. All right.

WALLACE: There you go. From me to you.

TODD: If it`s Tuesday, another long-time Trump confidant is now part of the Russia probe.

(voice-over): Tonight, more new questions in the Russia investigation as the White House fights charges of back channeling against Jared Kushner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, U.S. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Your question assumes is a lot of facts that are not substantiated by anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Plus, fallout from last week`s presidential trip. Has Russia already won the messaging war against the west?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL MCFAUL: They`re laughing at how easy it is and how our president, unfortunately, is helping with their agenda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: And can you hear me now? Why the gun lobby is taking aim at legislation concerning hearing aids?

This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.

(on camera): Good evening and welcome to MTP DAILY. I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington.

If it feels like Deja vu, we understand. Welcome to another day of the Russia investigation. This time, creeping a bit closer to the president, personally. Not only includes a member of his family, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, but now another extraordinarily close associate is part of the probe.

Today, NBC News confirmed the Senate and House Intelligent Committees want information from President Trump`s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Cohen is a long-time Trump ally and defender. He`s been with the Trump Organization since 2007.

Really, anytime he`s been needed to respond to anything political since 2007, it`s Michael Cohen that has been the spokesperson for President -- for then Donald Trump even if Trump, himself, wasn`t.

Cohen is also the one that was named in that controversial and unconfirmed dossier by the former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steel. Now, Cohen told NBC news today that he declined the Congressional invitations to testify.

And Cohen`s involvement now not only brings the case closer to home, it could complicate the president`s own legal defense team since the lawyer he trusts the most is now caught up in the storm.

Now, folks, the Russia investigations have placed this administration and this president in a permanent crisis mode. When "The Washington Post" first reported on Friday that Kushner allegedly proposed setting up a secret communication`s channel with the Russians.

"The New York Times" reported the idea was to have former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, discuss Syria with Russian officials. But what`s been interesting in the days since that story broke, members of the White House have not used the Syria talking point anymore.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KELLY, SECRETARY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: You know, there`s a lot of -- a lot of different ways to communicate back channeled, you know, publicly with other countries.

GENERAL H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Generally speaking, about back channeled communications, what that allows you to do is communicate in a discreet manner.

SPICER: And I think Secretary Kelly and General McMaster have both discussed that, in general terms, back channels are an appropriate part of diplomacy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, does the White House dispute that that happened?

SPICER: I`m not going to get into it. But your question presupposes facts that have not been confirmed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Spicer`s defense today was stunning and it`s a phrase we`ve used before. But he repeatedly said the president is frustrated. But he didn`t offer any counter narrative or explanation for why the communication channel had to exist.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m wondering, Sean, if you can tell us whether the president knew at the time that Jared Kushner was seeking to establish back channeled communications at the Russian embassy to the Russian government? And if he didn`t know at the time, when did he find out?

SPICER: I think that assumes a lot and I would just say that Mr. Kushner`s attorney has said that Mr. Kushner has volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the president discuss it, though?

SPICER: I`m not going to get into what the president did or did not discuss. But it -- what your question assumes is a lot of facts that are not substantiated by anything but anonymous sources that are, so far, being leaked out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does he approve of that action?

SPICER: Again, you`re asking if he approves of an action that is not a confirmed action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: In other words, your story is wrong, but I`m not going to tell you what part is right.

Folks, in the case of Kushner, the slow drip of information and shifting defenses are leaving the impression of wrong-doing, period. And with each day, Russia seems to be preventing the administration from getting anything else done. It`s becoming difficult for the White House to even function with rumors, leaks and potential staff shake-ups consuming, it seems like, every news cycle.

In fact, today, the White House communications director, Mike Dubke, officially made it public that he`s out. And you know what? The president seems to know it.

He tweeted today, calling for an end to legislative filibuster in the Senate because he`s desperate to see something get done on Capitol Hill. Quote "The U.S. Senate should switch to 51 votes immediately and get health care and tax cuts approved fast and easy."

But, at this point, getting health care and tax reform passed this year, seems like a pipe dream. And, oh, by the way, he already has the ability to get it with 51 votes. So, his issue there is with Senate Republicans.

We do have a new development in the Russia investigation every single day and there`s no sign that that drip, drip, drip is going to let up anytime soon.

[17:05:00] Joining me now is Andy Card, the White House chief of staff for President George W. Bush. He`s now an NBC News political analyst. Mr. Card, welcome back to the show.

ANDY CARD, POLITICAL ANALYST, NBC NEWS: Good to be with you. Thank you for having me.

TODD: Crisis management 101 usually says, get the facts out. That is not what has been practiced today by this White House with Jared Kushner. And you saw what, to me, was a painful moment there where Sean Spicer emphatically was decrying what he said was wrong information and then not providing any corrections from their point of view. Just trying to ignore it. How does that help their cause?

CARD: Sean has a tough job. First of all, now that there is a special counsel, I think it`s right for the White House to say, we`re not going to comment on any of this. But let the special counsel do their work. We`re going to cooperate. We`ll see where it goes. But we`ve got a job to do.

So, I actually think the discipline at the White House should not be to answer the questions on this Russia investigation, now that there`s a special counsel. Let them find the answers. Don`t get into the he said, she said, this happened, this didn`t happen.

TODD: All right, let`s --

CARD: Let the facts go where they go.

TODD: I had -- OK -- but just -- that -- say --

CARD: Stay down and do your job.

TODD: You`re giving an operational view of what the world used to look like. But this is not how the White House operates and it`s not how this president operates.

I mean, the president, himself, put Sean in a horrible position when he`s ranting about anonymous sources and retweets an article that`s based on one anonymous source that seems to back up this narrative about Syria and a back channel. But left Sean to not be able to comment on that, too.

So, look, the fact is they`re not -- if the president is not going to take the advice you just said, then you`re not -- you can`t expect the staff to do that.

CARD: I agree with that. The president should not be tweeting about things that Sean is going to have to comment about where Sean will be told, make no comment. If the president says something, yes, it is credible that the White House would be expected to comment on what the president said.

So, I listened to that press briefing that Sean gave and I ached for him. But it is what it is. I just think the discipline at the White House is more important today than almost ever. Have the discipline to do your job. Don`t comment about the job that everybody else is doing. And don`t comment about the jobs that people did in the past.

Focus on the job on the day. And try to do that. Keep your head down, focus. You know, stay in your lane. Don`t leak. The leaks have got to come to an end at the White House and see what happens.

TODD: Well, all right --

CARD: It`s out of your control now.

TODD: Yes, I was just going to say --

CARD: The special counsel is now going to dictate this thing.

TODD: That all seems a bit Pollyannaish. Let me reverse things and just say, what would your advice be for, you`re a Senate Republican. You know, look, you`re nervous about what`s going on here. You`re nervous about the White House. But you have some work you`d like to see get done on Capitol Hill. How do you function in this environment when you don`t have the White House as a bully pulpit?

CARD: Well, first of all, I hope that the White House is reaching out to every Republican senator and saying, how can we help you? How can we demonstrate that we`re working in concert? It actually should come from the White House. It doesn`t have to -- it can be back channeled. Even that would be OK.

Say, we understand that the White House is not helping you right now. How can we help you? So, I think that if the White House were to do that, then the senators would be -- start to believe that maybe the White House will help them, when it comes down to doing the tough job of, kind of, finding a solution to a legislative challenge.

And there are many solutions that have to be found in the Senate right now. So, --

TODD: Let me ask you about this. Oh, sorry.

CARD: -- I think the job is for the president to actually reach out to the senators and say, look, I put you in an awkward position. Believe me, I don`t want to be in the awkward position. I know you don`t want to be. Let`s work together and get something done. I think this should be a little bit of sympathy and empathy coming from the White House.

TODD: Yes. Well, again, those are things that I think, in the alternative universe we live in, you would have that. I don`t know if in this one.

Let me ask you this. The war room idea, people have talked about it and modelling it after how the Clinton folks did it. Given what we`ve talked about, about the lack of discipline sometimes with the president`s own Twitter feed, do you think it`s a good idea having this war room in the -- inside those gates or do you think it`s better off outside those gates?

CARD: I think -- personally, I think it`s better outside the gates. I think it should be done by the lawyers and a team that is not part of the team that`s responsible for helping the president lead not only the nation but the world.

But a war room in the White House implies that it`s a White House job. This is not a White House job today. This is a job of a special prosecutor, a special counsel trying to discover if there were problems, what the nature of the problems were and was there anything that was illegal done?

[17:10:10] And we don`t the answers to any of those questions yet. We have things that look bad but we don`t know all the facts and we shouldn`t know all the facts. Right now, they should be inside a lane that goes to the special counsel.

And don`t leak about them, whether you are in the intelligence community or at the White House. Let the -- you know, help Bob Mueller do his job. Let the White House do their job. I don`t think I would have a war room in the White House around this topic of the Russian investigation.

TODD: All right. Andy Card, we`ll see how much of their advice they`ll take from you. It`ll be --

CARD: Not much.

TODD: -- fascinating. Fair enough. Fascinating to follow.

I appreciate you coming on here, though, and sharing your views.

Let me bring in tonight`s panel.

CARD: Thank you, Chuck.

TODD: Hugh Hewitt is an NBC Political Analyst and host of the "HUGH HEWITT SHOW" on the Salem Network; Cornell Belcher, Democratic Pollster; and Yamiche Alcindor is a National Reporter for "The New York Times," and an MSNBC Contributor as well.

Hugh, I`ll start with you because you heard -- I felt like I was just in another world under normal political circumstances. All the advice that Andy Card gave, he wouldn`t have had to give that advice because political practitioners 101 would have been following that. They`re not following that today. They`re acting guilty in the way they`re dealing with Kushner.

HUGH HEWITT, POLITICAL ANALYST, NBC NEWS: Well, they`re acting certainly inexperienced. I don`t actually believe that they believe themselves to be guilty, but they do believe themselves to be persecuted. And that`s not the right attitude.

Right now, they need to put points on the board in Congress. They need to go back and work on legislation, not respond every day to that which they cannot control which is the Mueller investigation.

Go and sit down with Ryan and McConnell and say, we need a tax bill in a hurry. A small one, just put some points on the board.

We have 15 vacancies on the Circuit Court of Appeals. Put some nominations into play. Do some of the normal blocking and tackling of governing. Get out of crisis mode.

TODD: What can they -- you -- your beat is, in many ways, sort of, the substance of what they`re trying to get done. You know, you`re not -- you`re not normally covering the characters. You`re trying to get at the policy substance. What`s -- what point on the scoreboard can they get?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, here`s what -- Andy Card said something that I thought was really interesting. He said that this is not a White House problem, except it is a White House problem.

When I talk to so many Republicans, when I talk to people who are interested in poverty, legislation, interesting in housing legislation, they all want to get something done. Except that they have a president that is continuing to tweet about things that are -- and that are being handled by the special prosecutor.

And then, you have Sean Spicer not saying what Andy Card said which is, you know what? This is being handled by an outside group. We`re going to let them do their job. Instead, he`s saying, I`m not going to confirm this right now but I`m also not going to give you the facts.

So, really, it is a White House problem. The White House, itself, is in crisis mode, and they`re not handling this crisis very well. So, Republicans that I`ve talked to are super frustrated that they aren`t getting anything done. And this is the moment where they should be getting -- able to get things done.

TODD: This is the window, yes.

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: You know, not saying anything is not tenable, right? We are at a different place in our politics right now with this investigation. Look, 101 here, you have to get out the facts and you do have to get in front of a narrative.

I don`t know what the White House`s narrative is right now. And that`s unbelievable to me that all this time, you have a press secretary standing up and saying, you know what? I don`t want to talk about that. I don`t want to talk -- you can`t do that in Washington. It only -- the feeding frenzy gets crazier.

Look, the president`s new numbers, he is plus 20 points underwater right now in honesty. And every time they stand up in front and they, sort of, say, oh, we don`t want to talk about this, the hole gets deeper and deeper and deeper.

TODD: And they`re in this bad place, Hugh, where now you have -- remember, the White House staff who is made up of people who mostly went out on the campaign.

HEWITT: Yes.

TODD: And, by the way, Russia has not come into the White House outside of Jared because many of those folks weren`t on the campaign. You know, it hasn`t touched Kellyanne. It hasn`t touched Bannon. Because most of it, if it happened, the assumption is it happened before they ever came in. Do you get the sense that the staff is frustrated because they don`t know the full story?

HEWITT: Well, I saw a senior staffer on Saturday night. They`re not. They actually believe they had a very, very good trip. I do believe that crisis will set in if Reince Priebus is, as Axios tips today, Axios.com, about the leave. I think that would be a crisis point, an inflection point where people just flee the ship. Because he --

TODD: Do you think that -- because he -- well, is that mostly because Reince seeded the place with people that he hired?

HEWITT: Yes, anyone with a connection to McConnell and to Speaker Ryan. So, he is their (INAUDIBLE.)

TODD: So, that blows up Washington.

HEWITT: That blows up Washington and then I think I come back here and say, what a nightmare. (INAUDIBLE) --

TODD: And you are trying. You are -- you give them more, you know --

HEWITT: Trying. Graham Allison said the show today, we have a slow-motion Cuban missile crisis on the Korean Peninsula. We have a real crisis going on and we ought to be focused on that and on the legislative and analytics, not on the Russia probe. That`s Mr. Mueller`s. Leave it to Mr. Mueller.

TODD: Yes, but the problem we have a president here who also seems to be - - he doesn`t trust the people he doesn`t know, including H.R. McMaster. That`s -- how concerned -- I mean, you know, that`s -- that continues.

BELCHER: It should be very concerning.

And, look, I`m a Democrat, but I pray that Priebus doesn`t leave, right? Because it`ll be disastrous for the White House. We`ll see the White House in free fall. That`s not good for any American right now, especially with the troubles that are brewing overseas.

[17:15:07] I`m actually rooting for this White House, and I`m a Democrat.

TODD: It does feel like, Yamiche, this ultimately comes down to, does Donald Trump have the ability to compartmentalize the Bob Mueller investigation or not?

ALCINDOR: I don`t think he`s going to have the -- I mean, as a reporter who`s covered him for more than a year now, there`s no way that he`s just going to stop tweeting. He`s going to stop -- he`s going to stop talking about Russia. He`s going to stop feeling the seize. Because I think he`s taking this super personal.

But the narrative, really, is that they`re out to get me and they`re treating me unfairly. And look at how terrible Washington is treating me. That is the narrative that`s coming out of the White House right now.

And that`s not how presidents are supposed to act. And also, that`s not how his own party wants to act. I talk to so many people who really want to pass legislation. The Republicans for eight years had a laundry list of things they wanted to get done. And they have people that voted for Donald Trump who are, like, I need a job. I need you to give me better health care. I don`t like Obamacare. There are all these other things that are going on.

Being out -- I was just out in rural Mississippi, riding around with people who don`t have running water and no electricity. Those people need this nation to pass legislation to help their lives and that`s just not happening right now.

TODD: Hugh, do you understand the motivation even behind this tweet about 51 votes which is already the case for both issues?

HEWITT: Yes.

TODD: Or was it just, sort of, him grasping to show, hey, I want to pivot?

HEWITT: No. Lots of people on the left, during President Obama`s tenure, wanted the legislative veto -- the legislative filibuster to go. Many people on the right wanted it to go. It`s not going anywhere. Mitch McConnell has said, it`s not going anywhere. It`s gone for personnel. Harry Reid --

TODD: But on these two actual topics, it is gone.

HEWITT: It is, technically.

TODD: Technically, it is. That`s what made it so odd.

HEWITT: You can move through on reconciliation a lot to be done, but you cannot -- you can`t gain say the fact that with 15 circuit court judge vacancies and a 51-vote margin, that you haven`t moved those names. To a certain extent, it doesn`t add up.

What`s more important and I want to go back to something Yamiche just said. A lot of people are waiting for a lot of things. And they are different constituencies. They have to move the ball forward for some of these core constituents.

You were in Mississippi. I was in Cleveland, Detroit and Pittsburgh. Those people want a health care replacement bill. And they -- and some of the people in California want a corporate tax cut cut.

Immediately, these are thing that are doable. They`re doable with 51 votes. They just have to focus and execute.

TODD: All right. We`re going to pause here. You guys are sticking around for the rest of the hour.

Coming up, why Russia could be winning the messaging war against the west and what it means for the United States standing on the world stage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back.

The White House continues to send some mixed messages on one of the president`s key campaign promises worth drawing from the Paris climate accords. Here`s candidate Donald Trump in October.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), THEN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But the power of steel supported by Hillary will cost our country another $5.3 trillion over a period of time. We will cancel this deal so that our companies can compete.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[17:20:03] TODD: With four months in, President Trump still has not pulled out of the agreement, at least not yet. He didn`t endorse the Paris accords alongside G7 nations in Sicily on Saturday, even though the others six leaders did. That may be a hint.

That same day, the president tweeted, I will make my final decision on the Paris accord next week, hint-hint, here in the United States. I think it tells us which direction he`s going.

Now, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Sunday, President Trump was, quote, "wide open" on the issue of whether to stay in or get out. But the new political Web site, Axios, reported late Sunday that the president had already told confidantes, including the EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, that the U.S. will, indeed, quit the climate deal. We`ll find out later this week.

That`s a lot to keep up with but we think it`s safe to assume the U.S. probably will withdraw from these accords. If President Trump, he likely would have announced it while he was where it would`ve been well received.

Back with more MTP DAILY in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How much of a threat to global security do you consider the Russia President Vladimir Putin?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think he`s a premiere and most important threat, more so, than ISIS. I think ISIS can do terrible things, and I worry a lot about what is happening with the Muslim faith. But it`s the Russians who are trying -- who tried to destroy the very fundamental of democracy and that is to change the outcome of an American election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: That was some strong language from Arizona Senator John McCain. He was talking with an Australian T.V. station yesterday about the threat posed by Russia`s President Vladimir Putin.

And the fallout from President Trump`s first trip to Europe begs a question, is Russia already starting to win on foreign policy? Just this afternoon, a senior U.S. intelligence official told NBC News that German intelligence officially notified its U.S. counterpart that they do not need America`s help with safeguarding Germany`s elections.

Later this year, alleging that Germany already has a comprehensive counter- hacking operation and that there isn`t a lot of trust in the Trump administration, when it comes to the elections. That comes after German Chancellor Angela Merkel followed the G7 meetings by calling the days when Europe could completely count on others, quote, "over to a certain extent," referring a bit to U.K. and the United States. Saying, quote, "where Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands."

And after describing their tense handshake, France`s new president, Emmanuel Macron, lumped President Trump in with the leaders of Russia and Turkey. He told a French publican that President Trump, the president of Turkey and Russia`s President Putin all see world relationships as a balance of power.

And then, there`s President Trump delaying the decision on endorsing the Paris climate accord. You can make the argument that Russia would applaud these breakdowns as they relish in sewing discontent and discord among other western world powers and institutions.

Joining me now, NBC contributor and former U.S. ambassador of Russia, Michael McFaul. Ambassador, I -- welcome back. Maybe I`m -- this question would preach to your choir here. but given what the president -- the message he sent to NATO allies, what he didn`t say, things like that.

No matter what your view is on Russian interference on this election, I assume they`re happy with the United States` stances now, officially, at least when it comes to relationships in Europe?

MICHAEL MCFAUL, NBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I mean, it`s just pretty matter of fact, Chuck. I mean, you know, these are our clubs, remember, NATO and the G7. These are our communities. This is the western world. And the result of this trip is that there is discord and disarray in the clubs.

Nothing could be better for Mr. Putin. Especially, I would add, that the bar was low, in terms of unity. It would have taken very little from the president because everybody had such low expectations for him to say a few comforting things to those two groups to reaffirm unity. The fact that he did not is a victory for the Russians.

TODD: What -- is there any part of this where if you`re Angela Merkel or you`re Theresa May or you`re Annie - or Emmanuel Macron and you`re not happy with things about President Trump. But you know long term, where you -- but you still -- well, I guess, maybe not. Are they no longer making the bet that long-term post-Trump, the United States is still going to going to be their most important ally?

[17:25:09] MCFAUL: They`re thinking about that bet. That`s a great point.

And let`s remember, this is not the first time that Europeans have criticized American presidents. You go back to the 1980s, there were lots of European leaders that said critical things about Ronald Reagan. Let`s also not forget that Angela Merkel is running for office. She`s in an election year. And it`s easy and convenient and important for voters to hear her criticize President Trump.

And, third, you know, nobody should count America out. We`ve been through these periods before in our history and we have come back. And so, I think it would be premature to say this is the beginning of the end of the NATO alliance or American leadership. It`s just one president.

That said, people are nervous in Europe because the president seems so disinterested in things that have been rock bed Democrat and Republican principals about American foreign policy, really for 70 years. So, he represents a radical departure, as an individual. However, I think, in the long-term, America will be a part of NATO, will be a part of the G7, and, eventually, will repair these relationships.

TODD: Is this tough love against NATO. Could it backfire? Could these countries say, you know what? President Trump doesn`t seem that interested in NATO anyway. No matter what we do, he`s not going to not appreciate it so forget it. It`s every country for themselves.

In some ways, that seemed to be the message Angela Merkel was saying which I thought, boy, in -- there`s a part of me that thinks that`s exactly music to Donald Trump`s ears because, hey, he believes it should be every country for themselves.

MCFAUL: Well, A, if the president believes that, he`s wrong. When is it ever in any country`s interest to not have allies? I beg, you know, to tell me that historical period where it was better to go it alone. That makes no sense to me.

And just some simple historic facts. When we went into Afghanistan, our NATO allies went in there with us. NATO -- soldiers from NATO countries died in Afghanistan to fight our common enemy. Let`s remember that when we`re debating about GDP percentage points, 1.5 versus 1.7.

But, secondly, every -- almost two dozen countries in NATO increased their spending -- their military spending last year. They were on the -- they`re on the right track to make it to that two percent. And I don`t think it helps them, both domestically or even personally, to be hectored about that. I think you`re better off to show some love and say, thank you for being on track. We look forward to you meeting your targets.

TODD: Have you ever participated in developing a back channel with Russia?

MCFAUL: I have participated in developing back -- I don`t like the word, backchannel, because backchannel infers, like, some kind of secret or nongovernmental.

TODD: Right.

MCFAUL: But do -- have we, in the Obama administration, established channels of communications with the Russians? Yes, absolutely.

TODD: Would they -- what -- when you establish those channels that are not direct, what are the -- what are they like? Is it business to business? Is it academic? What are you -- what are you describing there to me?

MCFAUL: Well, I think I know what instance you`re talking about so let`s talk about how we didn`t do it. During the Obama transition, I was part of the transition team. I was in charge of Russia. Back in 2008, we had no contact with any Russians, not Kislyak, not Magettif (ph), not anybody. Because we were focused on putting together our national security team. Bringing people to the NFC, hiring an assistant secretary for European affairs, for instance.

Number two, I`ve never heard of anybody saying, you know, we need to establish a backchannel and make it so secret that I want to use the Russian communication systems to do that. That`s very odd to me.

Number three, I know Mr. Gorkov. He`s not some abstract figure. I knew him when he worked his bear bank (ph).

TODD: Sergei Gorkov --

MCFAUL: You (ph) can go out and make my list.

TODD: That`s the second person that Jared Kushner reportedly met with. We don`t have full confirmation or denial from the White House through that press briefing today. But that`s who Mr. Gorkov is. Go ahead, sir. I`m referring to him.

MCFAUL: Correct. And thank you for adding those footnotes there.

But, again, I can imagine some other people in Moscow who you might want to reach out to establish some kind of communications. Gorkov would not be on my list, given his job. (INAUDIBLE.) He`s not as -- sorry, Chuck, running a --

TODD: If you are a real estate developer running a real estate company, is he somebody you reach out to?

MCFAUL: Because I`m not an expert on real estate development, I`m not at liberty to comment on that. But he most certainly wouldn`t be the guy that I would want to talk to, to talk about Syria or Iran or counterterrorism. In other words, the interests of America. He`s not the right guy. And so there must be some other explanation to this alleged and you importantly pointed out this alleged meeting that those two gentlemen have.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR, "MEET THE PRESS DAILY" SHOW HOST: Ambassador McFaul, as always, sir, thank you for coming on and sharing your views. Appreciate it. Helped us educate us a little bit.

MCFAUL: Thanks for having me.

TODD: Still ahead, the mayor who was single-handedly working to change the image of his city`s southern heritage and not everyone is happy about it.

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TODD: Up next, removing confederate era monuments. Why some people say New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is trying to rewrite history and why others say he is doing exactly the right thing. But first, here`s Morgan Brennan with the "CNBC Market Wrap."

MORGAN BRENNAN, GENERAL ASSIGNMENT REPORTER FOR CNBC: Hey, thanks, Chuck. The S&P and Nasdaq snapped a seven-day win streak. Stocks closed lower today. The Dow lost 50 points, the S&P down 7, and the Nasdaq off by 7 points. Personal incomes and personal spending in U.S. both increased 4 percent in April, easing concerns about second quarter economic growth.

It`s the biggest bump in consumer spending since December. U.S. hone prices climbed nearly 6 percent in March. That`s according to Case-Shiller index. It`s the biggest year over year gain since July of 2014. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.

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TODD: Welcome back. Last week the city of New Orleans finished the controversial process of removing four confederate era statues from public spaces around the city. As the final statue Robert E. Lee came down, Mayor Mitch Landrieu spoke about why he believed it was time for these monuments to be moved.

In a speech viewed and read by hundreds of thousands across the country, it went viral as a text, Mayor Landrieu offered an honest look at race relations as far as he would use it in his city. (START VIDEO CLIP)

MITCH LANDRIEU, MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS: Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African-American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth-grade daughter why Robert E. Lee sat on top of our city. Can you do it? Can you do it? Can you look into the eyes of this young girl and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? (END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: The move was not without significant protests. The first three monuments were removed late at night because of death threats against the crews doing the work. Recently, I spoke to Mayor Landrieu and began by asking him why this was an important speech for him to give at this moment.

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LANDRIEU: Well, really it was a speech to the people of New Orleans. As you know, we are getting ready to celebrate our 300th anniversary and of course we`re coming off of the worst man-made/ natural disaster that any city has gone through. As we began preparing for the 300th anniversary, I began asking the people of the city of New Orleans, does the city really reflect who we are as a people?

As we rebuilt our schools, rebuilt our hospitals, rebuilt our airport, those monuments that sit on the most prominent spaces sat out like a sore thumb in a way that didn`t reflect our true history. And so the speech was designed to get the people of New Orleans to think about that and to give them the context of why I thought it was a good idea to take them down.

TODD: Obviously, the statues have been the big symbolic move that you made. There are a lot of streets. There are a lot of buildings. There are a lot of other confederate symbols throughout the city. What is your plan on that?

LANDRIEU: Well, actually they are not that many. These four particular monuments were put up for a specific purpose at a specific time for a specific message. And so these were the ones that I thought that fit into the category of things that should be remembered and should not be revered. I will leave it to future mayors and future city counsels. I have 321 days left.

As I have told you, we have rebuild all of our schools, all of our recreation centers. We rebuilt our airport. We rebuilt the entire city. And now I hope that this provides a framework so that the people who come after us really have an opportunity for the city of New Orleans to take its place where it should be as one of the great cities in the country in the world.

TODD: You draw a line between confederate symbols and those of American historical figure who were slave owners?

LANDRIEU: Actually, I think there is. And I think this is worthy of discussion. You know, historians can debate this all the time about how far you go back, where you begin and where you end. But it`s a discussion that we should have. Some people say oh, my gosh, I don`t know where it will lead and let`s not have the talk. I think that`s completely wrong.

I think on the issue of race, we are going through a very painful time in this country. You have to confront it. You have to deal with it. You have to work through it. That`s what communities should do, on a community by community basis, so again, this speech was directed to the people of the city of New Orleans.

In some issues in a narrow way, this was a property dispute, which is that the people of New Orleans have a right to determine what goes on their public space and they don`t need to be told by the state or by anybody else. Every community needs to walk through this because it`s not just about the monuments.

If we take down the monuments and don`t take away the attitude that put the monuments up or allowed them to stay there, we really wouldn`t have done much as a country. And so hopefully, the people of New Orleans will use this as an opportunity to reach into our past and tell our whole history and then prepare for the future in a way that makes sense to us. TODD: Do you believe that folks that have been arguing to keep the statues in place and protesting among the arguments and say hey, you don`t erase history, you acknowledge it, and use it as a teaching moment. Do you think those folks that have been fighting to keep these monuments up, does that make them racist?

LANDRIEU: No, I don`t think so. I don`t think anybody has anything to feel guilty about. I think people have a lot of different reasons why they do things. We all come to the issue of race in a different way. But there is a reasonable argument to be made.

If the city has only a couple of wonderful spaces, they ought to reflect the whole history of New Orleans and not just of four-year aberration and we certainly have the right to make that determination in a way that makes us feel good as a people and prepares our way for the future.

TODD: As you know, some of the folks that have led this movement that pushed New Orleans and as you note the decisions that were made on a very legal basis to remove the statues, they would also like to see Andrew Jackson removed. Some of these folks that take them down have him on the list. What do you say to those folks?

LANDRIEU: I think they are wrong about that for a couple of different reasons. First of all, these four particular monuments were put up to honor individuals that fought against the United States of America, not that they fought for the confederacy. Andrew Jackson was the president of the United States. Andrew Jackson led the battle of New Orleans and basically saved the city of New Orleans as we know it.

So actually I think he is being honored at the right place for the right reason. This is not a historical revision of his entire life ought to declare that he was a wonderful human being. So I would actually argue the other side of the case as it relates to that particular statue. But every community should go through how they adorn the cities and their public spaces and make the decisions based on what they think is right.

TODD: Finally, you know, there have been plenty of people trying to examine the other motivations or your political future based on this and one of the analysis said well, if Mitch Landrieu ever wants to run state-wide again, he is never going to be able to do it because his decision while popular in the city of New Orleans is extraordinarily unpopular in the state.

This is a long winded way of me asking, there still -- this is a divisive move to many southerners. What do you say to them? That this is divided, this debate has become more polarized.

LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, I didn`t start the civil war and I certainly didn`t start the racial divide that this country has had. I simply recognized for the people that we still have it and that the monuments that were in place were really signs of oppression for 67 percent of my city that is forced to walk by them.

And I found that morally offensive. And so it didn`t make any sense. This didn`t have anything to do with politics. You made a perfect point. What a silly political decision to make for a politician that lives in the south to take on an issue that he knows most of the people in the south disagree with. TODD: Have you thought of the speculation that has been out there that says hey, this Mitch Landrieu, maybe he can run for president in 2020. What do you say to that?

(LAUGHTER) LANDRIEU: Nobody who is a really dear friend would say that to you. You know, it`s nice that people recognize the work that the city of New Orleans has done. I don`t intend to run for president. That is speculation that, you know, you guys talk about all the time, but this was for the city of New Orleans and the people.

I hope that this city that I love so dearly and unconditionally uses it so we that can heal and be one people and reflect the totality of our history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: You can watch my entire interview with Mayor Landrieu on our website, meetthepress.com. Up next, why gun rights group is feeling targeted over new legislation about hearing aids.

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TODD: Welcome back. Tonight, I`m obsessed with I can call the Carly Simon rule of politics. They are so vain they probably think this legislation is about them. As I tell you this, see if you can catch the two key words in this story that help explain what really may be badness on this one. A piece of legislation co-sponsored by senators Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Grassley, Democrat and Republican, that would allow a category of hearing aids to be sold over the counter.

So who would oppose (inaudible) hearing aid industry? You know, that seems natural because maybe they don`t want more competition. Maybe they like the way things are. But the legislation is also opposed by -- ready for this? By the gun owners of America, a group that is to the right of the NRA by the way. They argue that this bill would hurt hunters who buy hearing devices that let them track animals.

And so they say it`s an infringement on their constitutional rights. Boy, that`s a slippery slope somewhere over there, I guess. We are not sure exactly why making hearing aids more available hurts hunters. It remains a mystery to most of us. Did you catch the two key words on this? It`s Elizabeth and the Warren.

In other words, if you take a bill designed to reduce government interference, add the ingredients of Elizabeth and Warren to it and you will find a group that will conclude that it increases government interference on the right. Never mind that conservative supporters like Senator Grassley or Republican Congressman Marsha Blackburn are for it. A slippery slope. Anyway, somewhere, Warren Beatty is smiling. We`ll be right back.

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TODD: Welcome back. Time for "The Lid." Hugh Hewitt, Cornell Belcher, Yamiche Alcindor. Before I get back to the substance of what happened in Europe, but very quickly, The Mitch Landrieu decision, how he`s handled this.

CORNELL BELCHER, PRESIDENT OF BRILLIANT CORNERS RESEARCH AND STRATEGIES, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Courageous. I mean, I got to tell you, I praise Governor Haley when she came out on this. It`s not a parson thing to me. He is someone who has taken his integrity. Let`s be clear, Chuck. This kills any chance of him -- running statewide. So, he acted sort of on his integrity and what he thought was right and we need more politicians doing that.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, NATIONAL REPORTER FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think he spoke to a moment where we`re having this conversation, I would say nationally, what is America? Who are we going to be?

We obviously have a president who says make America great again. That slogan means a lot of things to a lot of people. What Mitch Landrieu was saying is we can`t go and somehow look at the past, look at slavery, look at racial division, say there were some good people in this, that we should still have honor on our courthouse steps.

I think this is courageous. I think politically in terms of the nation, in terms of the Democratic Party, they need people that are going to stand up and say, look, this is what I think even if it`s not popular.

TODD: Did he strike the right balance, do you think? HUGH HEWITT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST WITH THE SALEM RADIO NETWORK, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANAYLST: I do. I think it will be an issue in the Virginia governor`s race with the confederate soldier who stands in the middle of Alexandria, Virginia who has decorated this Memorial Day. I went by him. And I think the Virginia race will be the next beach front in this.

TODD: Do you think in the primary it will? HEWITT: Yeah.

TODD: I want to go to Europe a little bit and more on the substance here, and that is, you`re fracturing before our eyes and is Donald Trump contributing to it, Vladimir Putin contributing to it? What is happening? What is this moment? How do you not read it as everything that is exactly what Putin would want? Hugh, you follow.

HEWITT: I watched this guy in the debate last night with Jeremy Paxton (ph) as the moderator, most annoying man in journalism on both sides of the Atlantic. And Theresa May did a wonderful job, she`s a terrific prime minister. But there is a problem at the heart of it which is that most of Great Britain didn`t want to leave upon reflection, but they are leaving.

Therefore, there is a break up in Europe underway, not the post war order. And Merkel did not help things yesterday on our Memorial Day by chiding Americans for their lack of support for her country. So there is great tension in the alliance.

BELCHER: Well, I think when you look at what the president has done, it`s hard to see that our influence isn`t eroding, right? I think whether you`re Democrat or Republican, for decades American presidents have said, it`s important for us to have a leadership role in Europe. It is in our best interest, in fact, to be a part of Europe and leading Europe.

With this pull back, it doesn`t make us safer. When Merkel says, we have to go out on our own, we can`t depend on Americans, I think that`s a slap in the face to decades of American diplomacy and what Americans have said. You know what? We need a leadership role in Europe because it makes us safer.

ALCINDOR: I think about -- I just came back from Paris a few weeks ago and I think about how much Europe is changing and how much that is influencing people, the way people think. I talked to someone there who is kind of into terrorism and into fighting it there, and he was talking to me about the idea that they have this problem where you can kind of go to all these different countries. You can maybe set off something in Paris and be in a completely different country within hours.

And Paris is trying to figure out and other people in Europe were trying to figure out how do we maintain open borders, how do we have this? All of a sudden it`s changing the society where we need to figure out how to also fight these things better. I think it is a weird dynamic there. I think in some ways it`s also what`s happening in America. America is changing and we`re trying to figure out who should be here. TODD: It seems this is where you`re sort of in conflict with itself. It`s like they have to -- if they`re going to deal with this problem, they have to work together. But right now, they`re at odds on everything. They`re at odds on the Russian relationship. They`re at odds on whether terrorism is a police action or a military issue and there is a split on that in Europe.

HEWITT: You can`t throw down against Great Britain on day one and demand $100 billion and a hard Brexit and on day two try to get Britain to encourage Donald Trump to stay in the Paris Agreement along with -- you can`t have it both ways if you`re Angela Merkel. She`s the most important person in Europe. She has got to play the role of being both an American ally and sometimes.

TODD: But in her defense, the president is not making it easy. HEWITT: I think the president spoke for America. I do not believe the Paris Agreement is in our best interest. TODD: I`m not talking about Paris. I`m talking about this trashing of Germany.

HEWITT: Again, she started that yesterday, and I think the president`s remarks this morning were.

BELCHER: It doesn`t make us safer, it does not make us safer. I know we`re wrapping.

TODD: Yeah, we are wrapping.

(LAUGHTER)

TODD: Yamiche is a good citizen here as always. Women follow directions better than men. All right, that`s all. Thank you guys. After the break, check. Please, we`ll be right back.

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TODD: Well, in case you missed it, it`s national spelling bee week. That`s special time of year when a third grader can end up on ESPN on the same day as Lebron. In honor of the spelling bee, Google Trends mapped America`s most misspelled words by state. In case you missed it, this map is rife with multiple layers of irony.

For example, Iowa, the first in the nation caucus state, created its own political vacuum, but can`t quite spell it, despite the fact that Herbert Hoover has his presidential library in Iowa. Then there is the grand state (ph) presidential primaries can get rocked by a single gaff by verbal diarrhea or just the word "diarrhea" apparently trips up New Hampshire spellers.

Five states misspelled the word "beautiful" regularly. No wonder America the beautiful is not our national anthem. And then here in D.C., apparently we can`t spell "ninety" correctly. But here`s the trick. Neither can Google. They misspelled that word when they put it on their original map.

In fact, Google had to reissue the map three different times this afternoon before they finally corrected all their corrections, but there was one misspelling that we were sure had to be the mistake but stayed the same in all three versions of the map. According to Google, people in Wisconsin can`t spell "Wisconsin". So in case you missed it, everyone makes mistakes, even Google.

But I`ll tell you somebody else who can spell Wisconsin. Because we`re done for the day. We`ll be back with more MTP Daily.

For The Record with Greta starts right now, and she can spell Wisconsin, I`ll grant you that.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END