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MTP Daily, Transcript 6/1/2017

Guests: Mike Lee, Christine Todd Whitman, Anne Gearan, Jay Newton-Small, Dan Balz, Abbe Lowell

Show: MTP DAILY Date: June 1, 2017 Guest: Mike Lee, Christine Todd Whitman, Anne Gearan, Jay Newton-Small, Dan Balz, Abbe Lowell

NICOLE WALLACE, MSNBC: That does it for our hour. I`m Nicole Wallace. MTP DAILY starts now. Hi, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: How`re you doing? Well, look, you coastal elites can go root for -- I`m going to be with the working men and women of northeastern Ohio.

WALLACE: The Warriors have heart. Talk about elites. LeBron and all of his -- oh, please. We`ll have this fight tomorrow.

TODD: You got it. Thanks, Nicole.

All right, if it`s Thursday, I guess we`ll always have Paris? Yes, maybe not.

(voice-over): Tonight, climate control. President Trump pulls out of the Paris Accord, for now.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But we`re getting out. But we will start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that`s fair.


TODD: Plus, the Russia investigation and executive privilege. Can the president use executive privilege to prevent James Comey from testifying about their interactions?

And Biden time, a major new sign that the former vice president has his eye on a new address in 2020.

This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.

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

We`ve been trying to figure out Mr. Trump since he declared his candidacy. He`s taken 32 new stances on 13 different issues since his election and counting, after taking 141 policy positions on 23 issues as a candidate.

What actually guides him? Perhaps the 45th president does seem to have one consistent philosophy. He`d like to dismantle the legacy of the 44th president.

But even those decisions show telltale signs of at least some indecisiveness, like the one he just announced moments ago from the White House about our involvement in the historic 195-nation climate agreement forged under President Obama.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. But we will start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that`s fair. And if we can, that`s great. And if we can`t, that`s fine.


TODD: So, are we out? Could we go back in? What would a better deal look like? Are we leaving now or not? Are we upholding the agreement`s exit terms which actually mean we can`t formally exit for a number of years.

The president didn`t offer any actual specifics on those fronts. Reporters are actually getting briefed right now on some of the specifics. As we get clarity, we`ll share it with you.

But the bigger message was clear. This was a wake-up call, I would say, to environmentalists. The president framed this withdrawal as a boon for jobs which will play well with his supporters. And, frankly, it`s not necessarily factually true if the jobs will come back, but that`s how he framed this. And it could be a successful political frame.

Because as we`ve seen in the past, the battle between jobs in the environment, jobs will often win out politically. This was Trump back on message in a way we haven`t seen him in a while, returning to his America first mantra and his mantra of economic populism.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Paris accord is very unfair, at the highest level, to the United States. The agreement is a massive redistribution of United States wealth to other countries. I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh not Paris.


TODD: And as we mentioned, this president is often spurred into action when it comes the undoing President Obama`s achievements. Mr. Trump has pushed to -- has been pushed to repeal Obamacare. Unwind Dodd Frank. He withdrew from Obama`s TPP trade agreement. He`s expected to reverse Obama`s policies on Cuba. He might also return two Russian compounds that President Obama effectively seized as punishment for Russia`s meddling in our election.

Mr. Trump has also deflected controversies about everything from Russia to Michael Flynn to nationwide protests by finding ways to blame them on Obama. Yes, all new presidents who hail from a different political party typically break from their predecessors as use their predecessors as a punching bag when necessary.

But what makes this president a bit different is that he hasn`t really outlined a better way on a lot of these big issues. Simply making his decision and saying, well, if Obama did it, we`re undoing it.

So, what`s his alternative to Obama`s policies on Cuba? What`s his alternative on Wall Street regulation, Russia, trade, climate change? You get the picture.

[17:05:00] We`re not entirely sure because he hasn`t entirely told us. He has backed a substantive (ph) Obamacare replacement but the public doesn`t like it. And he`s even saying, oh, yes, we need to put more money into it.

And we`re not even sure if the president, himself, likes the policy or if he simply likes what the policy represents which is undoing a signature legislative achievement by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Joining me now, Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah. Senator Lee, welcome back to the show, sir.


TODD: Let me start with the president`s decision here and this idea of negotiating back in. One of the reasons why three of your colleagues -- while there wasn`t any come being supported being in it, three of your colleagues in the Senate didn`t want to get out.

He`s saying -- and I think Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, said, look, there`s really no obligation that comes from this accord. It doesn`t require us to do anything. I think they may take a little time to assess whether pulling out makes sense now.

What was the urgency of doing this now?

LEE: Well, first of all, it does contemplate (ph) the global climate fund which involves sending 10s of billions of U.S. dollars to Cronies (ph) interests controlled by the United Nations. There are a lot of people in the United States of America who aren`t exactly comfortable with that.

And, in any event, it does contemplate long-term framework. One in which the United States would be subject to targets long before many of the other member nations would be subject to them.

The president of the United States did the right thing by pulling us out of this agreement today.

And I want to be clear about something that you said a minute ago. You referred to this as an accomplishment by President Obama.

It`s significant to remember that President Obama never submitted this to the Senate for treaty ratification. He didn`t do that because he knew there was no chance of getting the necessary two-thirds super majority in order to get it ratified.

And so, in that respect, this wasn`t binding anyway.

TODD: Right.

LEE: It wasn`t binding because it had never been ratified as a treaty which it needed to be under the U.S. Constitution.

TODD: Let me ask you this. Should there be rules of the road when it comes to emissions for the world to follow?

LEE: Look, the United States is the world leader in cleaning up the environment. We are the world leader, in terms of the rule of law. We`re not perfect but we`ve done a lot to clean up our air, our environment. And we shouldn`t have other nations lecturing us on how to clean up our environment, when we`ve done a really good job of it.

We have seen emissions` rates go way down, in terms of stationary sources like powerplants and mobile sources like automobiles. And they`ve come down in spite of fact that there hasn`t been something like the Paris Agreement in place as a treaty. It`s coming down as a result of innovation that results from the free-market economy.

TODD: No, I understand that but you didn`t answer the basic question. Do you think there should be international rules of the road or when it comes to the environment that a minimum here? Do you think that should be in place since, you know, we all share the planet?

LEE: Sure. Look, there are international rules when it comes to environmental issues. There are international rules that take the form of treaties that have been adopted in decades past. The question is not whether there should be those things but what they should be and whether this presented a good opportunity for the American people.

The president of the United States concluded today that it didn`t and that it needs to be Pittsburgh before Paris. And I support him in that decision. I think it was the right thing.

TODD: Why do you think so many members of corporate America have been so publicly supportive of this? I`ll highlight Wal-Mart, for instance , who is a huge employer in Utah.

LEE: Look, it`s become politically fashionable to make statements like that. I completely understand that. But the fact is that we have a federal government that currently imposes $2 trillion in regulatory compliance costs on the American economy every single year.

Now, contrary to popular belief, this is not borne by the corporate fat cats who run Wal-Mart or who run General Motors or (INAUDIBLE.) This is borne disproportionately, overwhelmingly by America`s poor and middle class who pay for these regulatory compliance costs, in terms of higher prices on goods and services, diminished wages, unemployment and underemployment.

So, look, that`s fine that these corporations and their corporate leaders have every right to come out and speak on a matter of public concern to support this approach to governing. But they are not the American people. The American people elected Donald Trump to be their president and he made a decision today. A decision I believe was right for them.

TODD: When should the concern -- you know, look, a lot of scientists have said where it`s something, like, 95 percent agreement around the world when it comes to this issue. That the idea that man can help pull back this warming of the planet.

When should that be taken into account? When should that balance, when should the United States be worried about this as a global partner?

LEE: First of all, Chuck, whenever you have people coming up with a framework, a regulatory framework, whether a domestic one or an international one, they can promise only a chance of a few hundredths of a percent of a reduction in global temperature, as a result of a very aggressive regulatory intrusion on our economy. One that could have devastating effects for America`s poor and middle class.

[17:10:05] I think we`ve got to take a close look at it and not be too eager to jump headlong into it and say, yes, let`s go.

If the best they can promise is that this might reduce global temperatures a tiny bit and they`re still not sure, I have grave concerns with doing that, given the certainties that we do have.

TODD: Look, I understand that making the --


LEE: -- economic opportunities will be lost.

And innovation. The kind of innovation that has reduced emissions in the United States will also be lost.

TODD: Why pooh-pooh the temperature issue? I mean, this is a case where it doesn`t sound like lot but when you read more about it, one degree is a lot. A half a degree is a lot. It is -- it is hundreds of years of progress, if you believe the science community on this one.

So, it`s not as if a percentage of a degree is not an accomplishment. It would be considered a big accomplishment not a small one.

LEE: Chuck, you continue to speak as if the science community were a monolith. One that speaks with entirely one voice. Now, I know that many people on the left are very enthusiastic about doing that. Very enthusiastic about claiming the banner of saying all scientists agree and anyone who doesn`t agree with us on this is an idiot.

Well, that isn`t true and it isn`t fair. We have seen lot of manipulation, political manipulation, that has occurred. The fact is there is some disagreement. As long as there is some --

TODD: In fairness, there`s political manipulation -- I mean, the jobs` argument against environmental regulation has been used for years and it doesn`t always -- it isn`t always true. I mean, coal is not going away because of climate issues. Coal is going away because there`s another private sector industry that has gone -- that has gone like gang busters. And natural gas.

LEE: Fair point. But if that`s the case, Chuck, why do we need another regulatory framework? Why do we need an international agreement? Why do we need to enter into an agreement that`s very favorable to other nations and their political ambitions and their political world view that has some potential to further erode American job opportunities?

Especially when we have been the global leader in innovation. We have laws on the books already environmentally that are a standard for the developed world. And we have a system that believes in the rule of law. We actually enforce our laws, unlike many of the countries who are parties to this agreement.

TODD: Are you confident that we`ll probably hit -- that you think we will hit the goals that we`ve agreed to in the Paris Agreement? Do you think we`ll end up hitting the goals individually as a country anyway?

LEE: I think it is entirely possible we will. Entirely outside of this agreement. That`s why I struggle a little bit with this doomsday series of predictions that we`ve had from people, saying that, you know, we`re going to have the stars falling from the skies. Dogs and cats living together in the streets. Book of revelation kind of stuff.

This is nonsense. This is absolute nonsense. The president did the right thing. He did the right thing by the American people.

TODD: Are you concerned at all that China may be seen as, sort of, the global leader when it comes to bringing countries together, more so than the United States? Does that bother you?

LEE: Chuck, that`s absolutely laughable. I mean, that is -- that is completely laughable. I assume you asked the question in jest. The fact that China would become the global leader on environmental regulation, on air quality is absolutely ridiculous.

That`s not going to happen. It`s certainly not as a result of this but it`s not happening anyway.

TODD: I ask many questions to many people that are in jest. But one thing I don`t do is let people know which questions were meant in jest or not. Anyway.

LEE: Very well said.

TODD: Senator Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, who I always appreciate you coming on and sharing your views. Thank you, sir.

LEE: Thank you.

TODD: Let me turn to another Republican but one who is against the president`s decision of pulling out of the accord. Christine Todd Whitman was the EPA chief under Bush 43 and, of course, a former governor of New Jersey.

Governor Whitman, good to see you.


TODD: So, let me start with the president that -- the president`s decision that included a caveat. Do you -- the but in there that he`s at least open to coming in under different terms. Does that -- do you take him at his word on that? Is that -- is there new terms that are worth negotiation? Is that a feasible caveat?

WHITMAN: I don`t think so. Not at all. I mean, you have almost 200 nations that have signed onto this. This is a -- this has been a process that has been ongoing for years. You`ve seen major commitments made by countries all around the world. We joined a very exclusive group.

I mean, when you consider Nicaragua and Syria or North Korea, the only -- along now with the United States, the only ones who didn`t sign, won`t sign. That`s a very exclusive group. I`m not sure it`s one with which we want to be associated but that`s where we are now.

So, I don`t think there`s going to be much appetite. And, certainly, we`ve already seen the doubling down by the Chinese reaching out to the European Union, saying we`re negotiate even more. That they`d like to see more in making their agreement very real.

TODD: Let`s -- look, the president framed his decision under the jobs argument. And this is not the first time that the issue of jobs is pitted against environmental concerns. And you and I have both been around long enough to know that when given the choice, the voter is usually going to side with the jobs argument over the environmental argument.

[17:15:06] WHITMAN: Sure.

TODD: I guess, let me ask you this. What`s your advice to climate change advocates who believe there is -- they don`t have a -- there is no sense of urgency on the right on this issue, period. How do you develop that sense of urgency?

WHITMAN: Well, there are a couple things here. First of all, that`s just the wrong argument. We have proven over time, from 1990 to 2008. We were able to see our population grow 20 percent. Our electricity demands grow by 35 percent. We more than doubled our GDP and, at the same time, reduced the six criteria pollutants by over 67 percent.

So, this idea that you can`t have a healthy, thriving economy with a clean and green environment is just wrong. I mean, that`s one of the few things that I agreed with what was said today. Scott Pruitt said that I we have been doing a wonderful job, actually, of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions voluntarily. We have.

But there are a lot of players on the field who are not complying with that. And, you know, I`d also go -- for me, they are jobs. There are jobs to be made in the green sector.

And take one of them, for instance. If you talk about energy and you want to reduce pollutions, nuclear. Nuclear energy calls on -- the average nuclear reactor full-time employment of, some, 3,000 to 5,000 people at jobs that pay 30 percent more than the average.

TODD: Are you going to take us -- are you going to take us down the nimby, though, rabbit hole, not in my backyard? I mean, you know, the nuclear debate opens up a whole other can of worms.

WHITMAN: Well --

TODD: But I take your point.

WHITMAN: Yes. No, I agree. There are challenges there. But, right now, it`s because of the low cost of natural gas which gets back to one of the things Trump harped on today which was the coal miners. Coal is not being phased out because of environmental regulations. It`s because of the low cost of natural gas and economic decisions made by the utilities. And Trump is all for expanding natural gas exploration and extraction. That`s not going to help coal.

TODD: Given the number of states, including our country`s largest state, California, who plans to -- want to enact policies as best they can that abides by the accord. And given so many multi-national companies that are headquartered in this country, but essentially realize that, hey, they`ve got to do business around the world so they`re going to abide by, sort of, a global set of rules.

Is it possible that while the United States government is not signing onto it, there are enough entities in the United States that we hit some of the goals or we make progress simultaneously with the Paris Accord? Or does our lack of presence in it give carte blanche to other countries to bail?

WHITMAN: Well, those, I think, are two questions. One, yes, we will continue to make progress and the president was right when he said that we have done more than many. We have in reducing our greenhouse gas and emissions. We could do more. It would be better if it were something that the entire country was committed to.

But, right now, the private sector states and localities, municipalities have made commitments. Because they understand this problem is real and there are things we can do about it but don`t hurt their economy. So, that part is, kind of, off the table.

Will other countries bail? There`s a possibility but I don`t think so. I know there are some who think, yes. India, for instance, might bail on this.


WHITMAN: I don`t think so. I really think there`s enough pressure. There`s been enough blood put into this to getting to this stage that it would be very difficult for them to bail.

And the things like the green fund that the president cited. We`re not required to spend billions or put billions in there. There`s no actual requirement for a specific amount of money. It just calls for the developed countries to put more in and that`s to -- that`s, actually, to enable to us to provide money so that the developing countries can get new technologies which we could export if we were at the forefront of developing them. But we seem to be cutting back on that.

And I`ve said it before but trade wars work both ways. And I think they`re going -- even though our companies may be setting their own goals that are very aggressive, I think you`re going to see some nations say, hey, we`re going to put some tariffs on things that come from the United States because you`re not part of this agreement.

TODD: Well, that would be an interesting game changer there and something to watch for.

All right, Governor Christine Whitman, an interesting way to end.

WHITMAN: Always a pleasure.

TODD: Thanks for coming on and sharing your views. I appreciate it.

WHITMAN: OK. Always a pleasure.

TODD: You got it.

Coming up, what does this decision mean in the larger scope of President Trump campaign promises? We`ll talk about that plus the international fallout. We`ll be right back.


TODD: Welcome back.

[17:19:25] Vladimir Putin is the name on everyone`s lips these days as the Russian investigations continue here in Washington.

And tonight in St. Petersburg, the Russian president hosted my new colleague, Megyn Kelly, for dinner, along with the prime minister of India tomorrow.

Megyn Kelly will have an exclusive interview with Putin, the man everyone wants to talk to. And it`s the first interview with him since we have learned of the special counsel decision to investigate the president and his Russian ties.

You can see that interview during the premier of Sunday night with Megyn Kelly. It`s this Sunday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on NBC. Don`t miss it.

We`ll be back in 60 seconds.


TODD: Welcome back.

In withdrawing from the climate agreement today, the president gave himself an exit strategy or maybe we should call it a re-entrance strategy, a way back into the agreement if he sees fit. And that seems to fit a pattern with the president and it`s developing one of -- you could argue, a bit of indecisiveness.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You`re going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost. And it`s going to be so easy.

It`s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.

I don`t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC.

As far as hacking, I think it was Russia.

It`s very hard to say who did the hacking. With that being said, I`ll go along with Russia. It could have been China.

We have NAFTA which was a total and complete disaster.

I was going to terminate NAFTA as of two or three days from now. I decided rather than terminating NAFTA, which would be a pretty big, you know, shock to the system, we will renegotiate.

We`re going to stand up to China.

Can you imagine if I say, hey, by the way, how are you doing with North Korea? Also, we`re going to announce that you`re a currency manipulator tomorrow.


TODD: Let me bring back tonight`s panel or bring in tonight`s panel. They`re not back yet. Dan Balz, the Chief Correspondent for "The Washington Post." Anne Gearan, "The Washington Post" Correspondent as well. And Jay Newton-Small, Contributor for "Time Magazine." Somebody who (INAUDIBLE) get a paycheck from Jeff Bezos (ph). Welcome to the table.


There you go.

Dan, let me start with this. You know, doesn`t this headline deserve the but? He pulled out of Paris climate deal but. Because it does seem as if this is almost classic Trump. He actually doesn`t want to be definitive on anything, always leaving himself some wiggle room.

DAN BALZ, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": This seems like pretty definitive decision. I think --

TODD: Do you think so (ph)?

BALZ: Yes. I think that the notion of a but -- I don`t know what the way back in actually is. I don`t know what countries are going to say, OK, let`s all sit down.

[17:25:06] TODD: Yes, France and Germany already said, no thank you.

BALZ: Right. They`ve already -- they`ve already indicated you can`t renegotiate this. Once you`re out, you`re out.

I mean, it`s a little bit like Britain and Brexit. You know, once -- you know, once you`re out, you`re out. And you can`t suddenly say, well, I want to be, kind of, half back in.

So, I think -- I think that was a rhetorical phrase meant to try to appease --

TODD: Make Gary Cohn happy --

BALZ: Right.

TODD: -- and Ivanka (INAUDIBLE.)


BALZ: But I don`t think it carries any weight.

GEARAN: I think it`s more that it`s a very Trumpian thing to do to say, well, that might be a better deal, and I`d be the guy who could make it.

TODD: Yes.

GEARAN: Right? So, I think he was leaving open the possibility that there might be a different way to address some of the same problems that he could be -- that he would be able to do later.

But, no. I mean, Dan`s right. This is -- like, this is -- this is it. It`s locked (ph).

TODD: I want to take a tag a list in two parts. I mean, bucket one is the impact on America standing in the world. And then, the other bucket is this issue of jobs versus the environment, like, domestically.

Let`s start with the standing in the world, Jay.

JAY NEWTON-SMALL, CONTRIBUTOR, "TIME MAGAZINE": Well, I mean, clearly, Europe is. I mean, Junker -- Jean Claude Junker, who`s the European commissioner, said today that he -- they`re being unwittingly pushed into China`s arms. Right? But suddenly, he`s shocked to find himself in the unwilling position to have -- to have a close relationship --

TODD: Well, that really offended Mike Lee. I said this idea that, does this mean you`re ceding the world stage to China?

NEWTON-SMALL: Exactly. And that`s -- I mean, that`s the, sort of -- the economy here, though, is the idea if we become more isolationist, if we don`t engage in the world stage, if we don`t engage in international treaties like the climate change treaty, then we are ceding the stage. I mean, China is a party to this treaty. Right? That was the whole point of getting on board with this treaty was having them involved at least. Right? And for the first time ever, here lies the Kyoto talk.

TODD: And this -- you spent -- you`ve traveled the world with Secretaries of states and it seems as if, if you hear from anybody in the American diplomatic community, in general, Republican or Democrat, they`re very concerned about this impact. How -- is it as catastrophic globally as far as American leadership?

GEARAN: Well, I mean, it is in the sense of -- in their view anyway, it is in the sense of ceding American leadership, of undermining the idea that when the United States signs on a dotted line, that it means something.

On that level, I think American diplomats are genuinely horrified. And former officials of all parties, even not diplomats, are horrified. Many other countries are horrified, too.

In terms of its practical effect, like what will it actually mean as far as how the United States conducts business in the next couple of years, probably a good deal less than some of the -- you know, the hair tearing that we`re seeing now.

But it`s real. I mean, the sense that -- of America stepping back from a commitment it made, it has unknown ramifications down the road.

TODD: Dan, domestically, though. You`re -- it was interesting to hear Mike Lee. He went down a road that, boy, I haven`t -- it used to be a Jesse Helms favorite. We`re not going to give all this money and let the United Nations decide how they`re going to spend this money. Always good red meat to throw at a Republican audience back in the 1970s and 1980s. And anytime on that front, even in general with conservatives today.

BALZ: I think that`s right. I think that there is a -- there is a strain within the U.S. population. It`s been there for a very long time. That is a kind of an isolation string. The idea that we should not, in any way, cede sovereignty to any kind of international body. That we are the United States of America. We ought to do it the way we want to do it. And the degree to which some of these agreements seem to put constraints on us, we ought to -- we ought to throw those off.

So, you know, there is a portion of the American electorate that will cheer this in the same way that the people in the Rose Garden were applauding when the president made the announcement.

NEWTON-SMALL: It`s striking, though, to see two things. One, the amount of time that Trump says, well, now, they`re not going to laugh at us anymore. Right? Like, it`s this, sort of, sense of American pride.

And then, two, how he`s, really, unifying Europe, making Europe great again. Because Europe is now saying, well, the United States is ceding leadership on the world stage. We`re going to take control. We`re going to -- we`re going to be a leader here.

BALZ: There`s another aspect domestically, though, and that is -- I mean, just the general forces that have been moving in the direction of doing things about climate. And that`s not simply because government was forcing it. You know, private industry has made decisions. Individuals have made decisions.


BALZ: And they`ll continue to do so.

TODD: Do you know what`s striking about this? Here`s something that`s considered very pro-industry, whatever you want to define what industry is, right? And the White House is sending out supportive statements, all the people that are praising him for this decision.

And, essentially, 90 percent of them, if they`re not elected Republicans, they are people that Donald Trump appointed to positions. Do you know what was not on there, Anne Gearan? Any company. Any corporate CEO.

GEARAN: Right, because --

TODD: There`s sort of a -- and some would argue -- I think Mike Lee argued, well, it`s not good politics for them.

GEARAN: Right. Well, and he lost one CEO. I mean, Elon Musk said, forget it. I`m out. I`m not -- I`m not --

TODD: I don`t want any other issues.

GEARAN: Right, exactly. I mean, I think -- to pick up on something you said a moment ago, Dan, about domestic forces. I mean, I think this is, clearly, playing to a different set of domestic forces. Right?

This is, you know, we`ve had several instances in which Trump basically bowed to, you know, the status quo once he got in office on.


GEARAN: . effect (ph) to that, that he clearly viscerally today was pushing back on.

TODD: Yes.

GEARAN: I am doing this because I want it.

TODD: I want to bring in this last point here, and I want an end on this which is I think today should be a wake-up call for the environmental community a little bit. The fact is there is a good 40 to 45% of this country that does not believe there`s urgency to this issue. Not just, forget the skepticism argument, they don`t see the urgency and the jobs argument wins every time. JAY NEWTON-SMALL, TIME MAGAZINE WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It is still the Rust Belt argument that elected Donald Trump president and people are still suffering economically particularly in Detroit, Rust Belt, and Wisconsin, all these places where we were surprised where Trump won in the election.

At the same time, the withdrawing from the Paris Treaty actually doesn`t change the situation in Pittsburgh at all. Like he had already deregulated. He had already rolled back the Obama regulations which (inaudible) has no impact.

TODD: (inaudible) in the way of this debate. But though this issue of -- I mean, this environment, do they need to change their, you know, their messaging on how they sell the urgency of this problem?

DAN BALZ, JOURNALIST AND POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT AT THE WASHINGTON POST: I think it is very difficult for them to do it. I mean, inn every thing we look at, when we look at public opinion, jobs just trumps environment, trumps almost everything else. So, you can`t make an either or argument. You have to couple. TODD: To be careful polling because generally people are in favor of pro- environmental policies.

BALZ: Absolutely.

TODD: But then when it becomes a choice and the people are at most (inaudible) about it, that`s where this gets lost. GEARAN: I have a suggestion for them. Call the next one the Pittsburgh Treaty. What do you say?

(LAUGHTER) TODD: Hey, what about the Paris-Texas, Paris-Kentucky? All right. We will let people decide how many Paris there are in this country. Dan, Anne, and Jay, stick around. Still ahead, the date is set for former FBI director, James Comey, to head back to the hill, but could the president actually throw a wrench in that plan? I`ll explain next.


TODD: Up next, it`s a phrase you may hear a lot of soon. Executive privilege. We are going to give you the primer on that phrase in just a moment. But, first, Hampton Pearson with the "CNBC Market Wrap."

HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Chuck. The Dow and S&P hit record highs. Stocks at Wall Street advancing from stronger than expected data on private sector hiring and manufacturing. The Dow gaining a 135 points. The S&P adding 18. The Nasdaq finishing 48 points higher. More signs of an improving job market.

Private sector businesses added 253,000 jobs last month, beating economy`s expectations. The government releases a more comprehensive hiring report on Friday. Shares of Hewlett-Packard fell 6.5 percent after reporting weaker than expected quarterly results. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.


TODD: Welcome back. Mark your calendar, folks. A week from today the world is going to stop, Washington is going to stop, because the public is going to hear, we think, from former FBI Director James Comey himself for the first time since he was fired. He is set to testify in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee next Thursday on Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 election.

A source close to Comey has told NBC News that it is reasonable to expect Comey`s conversations with the president could come up. The former FBI director`s allies also tell NBC he has been eager to testify since his firing which they believe was part of an effort to thwart the bureau`s investigation into Russia. This hearing promises to be must-see T.V. and quite the political moment assuming it happens though.

It is possible President Trump could try to invoke executive privilege to prevent Comey from appearing by arguing that the president has the right to keep his conversations private. White House has not indicated whether they plan to do that just yet. So exactly is executive privilege and how exactly would this work?

Well, joining me now is Washington super lawyer, Abbe Lowell, who is the chief counsel of the house to Democrats during the impeachment of Bill Clinton. He is now the head of Chadbourne & Parke Litigation Department. Our pal, Tony Kornheiser, said you are the smartest man in Washington so you better prove it.


TODD: So let`s talk about the issue of executive privilege. Explain it. What does it mean?

LOWELL: So phrase you`ve heard, executive privilege, is a very important concept and it really should exists. It is not explicitly stated in the constitution. The Supreme Court has basically said it arises out of the most important notion of separation of powers. We all know it.

TODD: When was it invented eventually? When did the Supreme Court sort of create this? LOWELL: Actually the Supreme Court didn`t invent it. The Supreme Court mostly recognized it during the famous case of President Nixon, we`ll come back to that. It was first invoked by George Washington. It was involved by George Washington in 1796 in order to stop congress from messing around with what was happening behind the scenes when he was negotiating the Jay Treaty with the United Kingdom. It was next invoked by President Jefferson.


LOWELL: . who wanted not to testify in the treason trial of Aaron Burr. And it was invoked various times. People probably don`t know. It is bipartisan. Eisenhower did it for the McCarthy hearings. President Clinton did it 14 times.

TODD: Right.

LOWELL: President Bush, seven times. President Obama, once or twice.

TODD: So, in this case, how would -- if you are the president`s lawyer and he was asking you, I want to invoke executive privilege here, not to prevent Comey from testifying, but it would be to prevent Comey from testifying about their personal conversations. LOWELL: So now you know where it comes from.

TODD: So, could he invoke it in this sense?

LOWELL: That`s a very sort of narrow finding of definition. Not everything that comes out of the president`s mouth when he talks to somebody in the executive branch would be covered by executive privilege. But a conversation with somebody about a job interview like how would you like to be the FBI director, what do you think about our law enforcement priorities, what do you think we should do about X, Y or Z subject, in the deliberative process of a president making his, in this case his decisions, is within the realm of executive privilege.

The most powerful assertion of executive privilege requires there to be something about the president`s seeking information for which to make a decision. And if that`s the case, then it fits within its definition. It is most powerful, Chuck, when it is the congress trying to invade the executive branch`s deliberative process. It is the least powerful in a criminal investigation as we learned in the Nixon tapes.

TODD: I`m not the lawyer, you are. A lot of people like to play lawyer on Twitter. And one of the favorite things you see on social media is not only the president tweeting, but specifically this idea that because the president publicly said, James Comey, you better hope there are no tapes.

There is this idea that hey, that is a version of waiving any claim at executive privilege. What do you make of that? He said that in his tweet publicly. Is that correct?

LOWELL: Okay, so, executive privilege has the last name privilege, has the first name executive. And we are tried and true in the blah about what a privilege is and what it means to a certain when it`s waived. If they exist, privileges exist, they can be waived.

But in some cases, very difficult to waive them. A president saying what that statement was doesn`t waive executive privilege. To waive it, a president would have to say, I, A, think that this would be covered because it was a conversation about my deliberative process.

TODD: Right.

LOWELL: And B, I hereby allow it to happen and it has happened. We have allowed it. I gave you the Jefferson.

TODD: Right.

LOWELL: So, Jefferson gave his letters up to the trial of Aaron Burr but did not testify. In the Clinton years when he was trying to invoke privilege to prevent aides from testifying about what his relationship was with Monica Lewinsky, there were some that were able to go and some not.

So there are always sort of compromises. At the end of the day, executive privilege becomes something really that gets negotiated most of the time and very few people take it to court. TODD: I was just going to say though, if it is taken to court, there is only one place to go.

LOWELL: It is.

TODD: Is it straight to the Supreme Court?

LOWELL: It is not straight to the Supreme Court.


LOWELL: No, it is not straight to the Supreme Court.

TODD: Even though this is a decision between the two branches? LOWELL: It can get there very quickly. And here`s a sort of ironic little small factoid in the executive privilege nerd land (ph). As far as I know, it`s basically two times it has been really litigated to the end, that the president has asserted it. Both times they`ve lost. Everybody knows the most famous one, United States versus Nixon tapes where the Chief Justice Burger wrote an opinion 9-0. The second time was President Clinton.

TODD: If I ask you, what about this, he may know that in trying to invoke the executive privilege to at least prevent the questioning of what happened in their private conversations, does, if he doesn`t invoke it here, if he doesn`t ask to essentially try to make the case that this should fall under executive privilege, does he lose his right to invoke in it other aspects?

LOWELL: No. Each event has its own event again with privilege. Now, there are in privileges, something called, this is going to be so nerdy, people is going to like fall out of their chairs. There is something called subject matter waiver. So like if Comey and he were talking and the president said, I`m going to allow some questions in that conversation, he might be said to have waived the subject of whatever it was.

So if he and Comey were talking about, I don`t know, what do you think we need to do to have our law enforcement priorities about X and Y, you can`t selectively do it. But yesterday`s conversation with Director Comey, if you let it go forward, doesn`t necessarily waive it as to the one that happened two weeks before. Each are individual events.

TODD: Politically, I think it is hard to see how this is a good idea and how it would play. Legally, if you were advising the president, should he try to invoke it here?

LOWELL: I think you and I are missing some part of the equation which is only he knows what was actually he said. So, it depends on what it was and whether he thinks the notes that.

TODD: But is there a part of it that says, hey, if he doesn`t invoke it here or if he does invoke it here, he is drawing a line?

LOWELL: I think think it really does depend. As I said, people don`t recognize that the whole term of President Clinton, it was invoked 14 times. President Bush invoked it to try to prevent two things, his White House counsel from testifying and Kark Rove about the firing of the prosecutors.

TODD: Abbe Lowell, once again proving, maybe Tony Kornheiser is right about one thing, smartest man in Washington. Thank you, sir.

LOWELL: Thanks, Chuck.

TODD: Up ahead, a presidential statistic that surprised me today and now I`m obsessed about it.


TODD: Tonight, I`m obsessed with presidential ages and surprising statistic. What was the last time a Democrat over the age of 60 became president? Think about it. If you thought it was Lyndon Johnson, you would be wrong. LBJ was 55 when he became president after the death of President Kennedy. Okay, so if not LBJ, it has to be Truman, right? Not close though.

He was 60 when Roosevelt died. If you said Woodrow Wilson, you still missed the mark, he was 56. You have to go all the way back to 1857 to find the last time a Democrat over the age of 60 became president. It is when James Buchanan was sworn in at the ripe old age of 65. Why do I care about this? It is not a great track record if you say Joe Biden, former vice president, who launched new political action committee today.

He would be 78 by the time he was sworn in if he run and won the White House in 2020. Need I mention Hillary Clinton? Need I mention Elizabeth Warren? Need I mention Bernie Sanders? You get my point. After the break, we`re going to talk about Biden.


TODD: Welcome back. Fire up your speculation machine. Do you have 2020 vision? Former Vice President Biden thinks he does. He just launched a new political action committee and it is of course sparked the -- you don`t do that unless you`re running for something, right, Joe?

Meanwhile, President Trump is said to head a reelection fund-raiser later this month more than three years before voters head to the poll. That bring us to "The Lid." I can`t remember the last time an actual president -- it was every other president -- we did this, has waited at least two years before doing an in-person fund-raiser, Dan Balz. Every other president. BALZ: We`re in a time war. Everything is speed up.

TODD: Everything is speed up. So, you guys heard my obsession on age. We see Joe Biden. He wants in. There`s no doubt he wants in this conversation. The question is, can he sustain it?

BALZ: Well, he wants in the conversation and he can stay in the conversation, but at some point he`s going to have to make a decision about whether he`s going to run. I don`t think this is about he`s got his eye on running. I think this is a necessary step to fund the travel that he wants to do. He`s in significant demand to be all around the country. He enjoys that. And as you say, he wants -- he has something he wants to contribute.

TODD: Interestingly enough, Anne, I would say he is the most accessible senior statesman in the Democratic Party. I say this in that, you know, Barack Obama seem to -- he`s the ex-president. You can`t have him as the party leader.

Hillary Clinton polarizes the Democratic Party, let alone the country. I noticed that yesterday just in the conversation, it was sparked by her. Bernie Sanders, feels the one aspect. Biden seems to be the one figure in the party that does have this cross-appeal. GEARAN: Yeah, I mean, he has had that for a while and has used it, right? Uncle Joe, grandpa Joe persona, which he tried to use on Clinton`s behalf. Even as you could tell he very much wanted to be the candidate up there last time and clearly had a hard time reckoning with the fact that he wasn`t. I mean, he has said himself he`s unlikely to run again.

There are so many reasons that make it unlikely. But you don`t make this step without knowing that there is going to be an enormous amount of speculation and squirrel. And to your point, it`s really early. He clearly like that. He wouldn`t be doing it if he didn`t. TODD: No, there is no doubt. You say it`s really early, but he is obviously running for president. Jay, going back to the point we made about age, it is -- I was on one hand surprised. On the other hand, though, there is a message there. Democratic Party does best when they actually go find somebody young that meets the generational moment.

Whether that`s -- whether they succeed or not as president, but there is a pattern here. Obama, Clinton, Kennedy, Carter was younger at the time. I mean, there is something to be said there.

NEWTON-SMALL: There is and it`s the turning of the page, the next generation, sort of moving beyond the inspiration, the hope, and certainly one of the things -- one of the groups that Hillary lost was the millennials, right? So, the person that can capture those millennials and bring them back is the one that`s the best position I think I would argue to lead that party into the next generation.

TODD: A lot of this is going to be based on Trump, right? I mean, what does the party want, is it a desperation to beat Trump? That`s great news for Joe Biden. Or has it become fixated on a purification test on the primary? That`s tough for Joe Biden who has not always been pure enough on abortion or voted on the Iraq war. I mean, you can nitpick him to death in the Democratic primary.

BALZ: Yeah, but it`s also very hard at this point to game out what that nomination process is going to look like. Again, because we don`t know what the Trump presidency will look like by the end of the mid terms in 2018. That`s when people have to make hard decision about what they`re going to do and what kind of campaign they`re going to run.

Are they going to run as an outsider, insider, new candidate, whatever. We have decisions that have to be made in the absence of knowing what the conditions are going to be.

TODD: This is simply saying, hey, just save my place at the table.

BALZ: Right.

TODD: I may be coming.


TODD: Thank you very much. After the break, say cheese.


TODD: Well, in case you missed it, it`s been a week of some pretty tough headlines for Wisconsinites. We told you on Tuesday, Google Trends reported many folks in the state who can`t spell the state name. Now, we find out the land of self-proclaimed cheese heads has just gotten around to making cheese the state`s official dairy product.

I mean, come on, man. Come on, man. I mean, is there any state more identified with a food than Wisconsin and cheese? The Georgia peach has been the state fruit since 1995. Idaho has potato, their state vegetable since 2002. In Florida, my home state, it is claimed the orange is the state fruit since 2005. Orange juice is the state beverage since 1965.

You would get off at a rest stop and you would be handed free glasses of orange juice when you cross the border. Wisconsin declaration came after a group of fourth graders made their case to legislature early this year. It took fourth graders. Good for you, fourth graders. That`s all we have for tonight. We`ll be back with more "MTP Daily" tomorrow.