MTP Daily, Transcript 6/6/2017

Guests: Noah Rothman, Harold Ford, Jr., Jeh Johnson, Beth Fouhy, Chris Collins, Joe Manchin

Show: MTP DAILY Date: June 6, 2017 Guest: Noah Rothman, Harold Ford, Jr., Jeh Johnson, Beth Fouhy, Chris Collins, Joe Manchin

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

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicole. Thank you. Much appreciated.

If it`s Tuesday, Republicans tell President Trump, when it comes to Twitter, can you just say no?

(voice-over): Tonight, the fog of Trump. Is the constant chaos turning into Republican fatigue with the president? Plus, a top Democrat says there`s a lot we don`t yet know about Russian hacking of the election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The extent of the attacks is much broader than has been reported so far.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Former Homeland Security secretary, Jay Johnson, joins me.

And if President Trump is so concerned with alleged fake news, why did he try to pull one over on all of us yesterday? This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.

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

Folks, President Trump seems to have gone a bit rogue ahead of Thursday`s likely blockbuster testimony from ousted FBI Director James Comey. And this isn`t the first time we`ve seen this from the president.

The president is stuck in a cycle of tweet storms and petty fights which seem to get worse when there`s a crisis. He`s stepping all over his own administration`s message.

Remember, this is infrastructure week. He`s making a mess of the Russia issue. His governing issue is simply to feed the base. He still has his affection for conspiracy theories which he`ll talk about on Twitter. The multiple conflicts of interest still are sitting out there, and that`s just, like, on the sidelines.

And, of course, there is bipartisan concerns about the dysfunctional nature of the west wing right now. It`s a mess which seems to be getting worse.

And, right now, it feels as if there`s a growing cross section of conservatives, in addition to a growing chunk of the general public who seem to be, quite simply, just fed up with the president`s behavior right now.

Here`s the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee today, John McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s your reaction to the president going after the London mayor on Twitter just days after this terrorist attack in their own city?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: You can`t make it up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: All right. So, that`s McCain. But here`s somebody who`s much closer to the president. Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: I can only say what I`ve said before. I`m not a fan of the president`s tweets. And that still remains my view.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: And here`s Senate Foreign Relations Republican Chairman Bob Corker who went golfing with the president on Sunday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: It probably is best to refrain from communicating with 140 characters on topics that are so important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Those are rather diplomatic ways of going about it. This isn`t. President Trump is just a dumb, bleep, with a Twitter account who cannot help himself. That was conservative activist, Erick Erickson.

Even George Conway, the husband to White House counselor, Kellyanne Conway, seems to have had enough after the president tweet shamed his own Justice Department for watering down what he is describing as a travel ban, which is right now held up in the courts.

Conway tweeted this. These tweets may make some people feel better, but they certainly won`t help the office of the solicitor general get five votes in the Supreme Court which is what actually matters. Sad.

Now, the White House responded to the president`s Twitter critics today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, U.S. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It`s the same people who are critiquing his use of it now, critiqued it during the election and it turned out pretty well for him then.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: But it`s not just the tweets. "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board is growing tired of the president`s blame shifting. They write this today. The buck stops everywhere else. Some people with a propensity for self-destructive behavior can`t help themselves. President Trump apparently among them. The most effective opponent of the Trump presidency is Donald J. Trump.

And there are signs that the general public is starting to grow a little more fed up. The president`s approval rating is now consistently in the high -- mid to high 30s for Gallup. It`s at 38 percent today.

And while his eroding base might love his decision to exit the Paris Climate Agreement, the general public doesn`t by a two to one margin, according to the new "Washington Post" ABC News poll.

Bottom line, the president`s -- many parts of the president`s (INAUDIBLE) - - not that deep seeded base, but many other parts of it, they`re in danger of ditching him, at a time when he arguably needs them the most.

I`m joined now by Republican Congressman Chris Collins of New York, who was, of course, the first member of Congress to endorse then candidate Donald Trump. He was also an advisor on the transition as well. And he joins me now -- Congressman Collins.

REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: Good to be with you. Nice to be with you, Chuck.

TODD: Look, I`ve heard you all day today in a couple of interviews being very open and welcoming to the president`s tweets. And then, at the same time, saying, well, I might not have worded, for instance, a tweet at the London mayor the same way.

[17:05:08] Can you be for the open and unfiltered tweet storms that he does as a citizen and, at the same time, as a lawmaker, realize how bad --how bad it is for the -- for your ability to actually get anything done on Capitol Hill?

COLLINS: Well, a couple of things here, Chuck. I do know that, because I`m pretty much ground zero of Trump supporters in the Northeast, his supporters do want to hear from him as directly as his tweets allow him to do. It`s honest. It`s unfiltered. And I try to make sure people realize it`s not necessarily policy.

Policy gets filtered, you know, six ways to Sunday and the lawyers are looking at it and the political advisers. And, to a big extent, his supporters love the fact that this is Donald Trump unfiltered. It shows you, you know, where his heart`s at, where his head`s at.

And I really think, Chuck, when you get into Congress here, what we`re watching, obviously, and what we`re seeing what`s happening but we`re busy. You know, tomorrow, I`m in hearings and the Energy and Commerce Committee doing mark-ups. We`re getting ready next week to vote on, basically, the repeal and replacement of Dodd Frank that has been devastating to our community banks and credit costs in the U.S.

So, I can just assure everyone, Congress is busy working as we should through our committees and through mark-ups and will bills and legislation. And we`re not letting the tweets distract us, from that standpoint.

And, hey, it`s President Trump. It`s not going to change. Many of us actually enjoy it. I know his supporters do. So, I don`t believe it`s going to change so you might as well enjoy it.

TODD: Well, if his support -- that`s fine if his supporters do. But if he`s sitting at a -- you know, you have two-thirds of Americans that believe he shouldn`t be tweeting as much as he does. Some believe he shouldn`t be tweeting at all. Many members of Congress wish he wouldn`t. He, himself, said he didn`t.

The reason I ask is, for instance, look at today. He seemed to confirm that the United States is OK with all of the Gulf -- sort of, the Saudi Arabia, Egypt and various other Gulf state countries in the Persian Gulf region to, essentially, cut all ties with Qatar. A country where there`s a whole bunch of American men and women service members right now. That seemed to be an irresponsible use of Twitter. Was it not?

COLLINS: Again, I`m not the president. I would not -- I don`t even tweet myself. But I don`t disagree that there will be and there have been and I`m sure in the future be some issues. And I guess it`s fair to say Qatar is one.

So, in that situation, there could be consequences. But, at the end of the day, by and large, certainly his supporters do like him tweeting. And, you know, we`ll see where all this goes. But I don`t disagree with your comment, in that particular instance.

But it`s not policy. I guess that`s the nuances.

TODD: But why are -- let me ask you this. You keep saying that, and I heard you saying that earlier. OK, but who`s that for -- this is the president of the United States. His words matter whether he says them from the Oval Office or whether he`s tweeting them. Are you saying they shouldn`t matter the same?

COLLINS: Yes, I`m saying they should not matter the same. Donald Trump being Donald Trump the human being who happens to be our president and tweeting was at the -- on the top of his mind. Then, subsequently, you know, again six ways to Sunday, it gets filtered and it gets nuanced by attorneys and by other policy makers.

And we have certainly seen in those situations where the ultimate policy does not necessarily go in lock step with a tweet, even though fundamentally it may be a similar policy.

But, certainly, Trump tweeting and Trump policy are nuanced differently. And I know that some people just can`t accept that.

TODD: You`re asking a lot. In all fairness, you are asking a lot of the American people to discern --

COLLINS: Maybe I am.

TODD: -- between the two and do you understand if they don`t?

COLLINS: I do. I completely understand. I can discern between the two. I do understand others may not. And I accept that, Chuck. And that`s just my take on it.

TODD: I want to ask you about the Director Comey`s testimony. What`s the line for you where you start to have trouble with the story that`s being told at the White House? Director Comey, people have said, that -- close to him have indicated that there seem to be the president was trying to get him to lay off the Michael Flynn investigation. If that, indeed, turns out to be the facts, does that meet obstruction of justice for you?

COLLINS: Well, so let me you -- and, again, I don`t know what`s going to be said. I`m not on that particular committee. But certainly, if I look back at the timing of this and, you know, we know that Michael Flynn resigned on February 23rd that evening. I just remember that because I was on the next morning talking about it.

[17:10:10] And from what I understand, the meeting that we`re talking about happened very shortly after that. It was a February meeting. And my particularly thinking on that is, you know, I know how close General Flynn was through the campaign -- with Michael Flynn, a very good friend.

And, at some point, you do say, he`s resigned. He is stepping aside. Let`s let it be. Let`s not pile on. You see this a lot. He`s gone.

And I wouldn`t be the least bit surprises, from what I`ve read, that that may have been the conversation. Michael Flynn has resigned. Let`s not pile on. Let it just be gone. And if that was done a day or two after the resignation, well before some other things came to light. I think you`ve got to cut President Trump a lot of slack on that and because of the timing. This wasn`t a discussion that he had in May.

TODD: I understand that. But do you think it would have been a -- I mean, it`s not appropriate for somebody to, hey, stop investigating whether they broke any laws because we fired him. Is that appropriate?

COLLINS: It`s different than saying, leave the guy alone. You know, we`ve seen all too many cases, in New York state especially. You know, I think half our leadership`s gone to jail. But, in many cases, that`s when they stop it. Like, all right, he`s paid the price. He`s resigned.

And, in this case, the resignation occurred, like I say, on February 23rd. It`s my understanding the conversation may have been the 25th or even the 24th. And it wouldn`t be uncommon for Donald Trump, President Trump, a very loyal individual to his friends to say, isn`t this enough?

I don`t believe he said, you shall do this. I think it would more have been, why don`t we just let this go? And I think there is something there. It certainly doesn`t, in my opinion, meet the threshold of obstruction of justice.

TODD: Congressman Chris Collins, I`m going to leave it there.

COLLINS: OK.

TODD: As always, appreciate you coming on and sharing your views.

COLLINS: Very good, Chuck. Always good to be with you.

TODD: Good to talk to you, sir. Thank you.

COLLINS: OK. Bye now.

TODD: Joining me now is Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat from West Virginia, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and somebody that a lot of Americans are going to be watching question Director Comey on Thursday. Senator Manchin, welcome, sire.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good to be with you, Chuck. How`re you doing?

TODD: I`m OK. First, let me get your take here on the president and tweeting. You share something with Chris Collins. He`s a Republican from western New York who says he`s in the heart of Trump country. You represent a state that the president did very well in. What do you hear about the president`s tweets. Do they want more or less?

MANCHIN: I don`t -- I don`t hear much about it, to be very honest with you, Chuck, as far as the people like or dislike. Some people are saying now they wish that we`d just calm down just a little bit and maybe give it a break.

And let`s get on with the business of this country. And we got to get confidence back to the American people. People in West Virginia, you know, confidence that we can do our job and that we weren`t compromised whatsoever. And this Russian concern is very much concerning to all the people.

TODD: Well, you talk about confidence. I`m curious of the confidence right now -- how much confidence do you have in this president handling intelligence information? How much confidence do you have in this president on the foreign policy realm, now that you heard that he took out 27 words in a speech to NATO that would have reaffirmed the United States` commitment to NATO?

MANCHIN: Yes, that`s concerning to me. You know, and I`m hoping he gets more confident and more comfortable with the intelligence community. I`m very comfortable. I`ve been on Armed Services for six years. Now on the Intel Committee, Chuck. I`m seeing the qualified and the quality of the people that we have that are qualified to do the job they`re doing.

And I just would hope that the president and this administration would see the quality of people we have, given 24 seven how they keep us safe and the things that they they`re -- that they can do is unbelievable. That confidence, there`s something missing there. We`ve got to connect the dots there and there`s got to be an understanding. We are the best of the best. And we have the best.

TODD: Does that lack of confidence give you a lack of confidence in him as commander in chief?

MANCHIN: It`s concerning from -- it`s -- my concern is this. If anybody at a high enough level and having the clearances that we have, being on Intel Committee, and, of course, the president and some of his staff, they need to go to some of the places we`ve been going to. They need to see some things that our people are doing and how they`re working every day to keep them safe.

And then, how -- just how good they are, Chuck. That`s what I`m hopeful. And then, they`ll build that confidence level and the trust level. So, that`s my concern is they haven`t taken the time or maybe put forth the effort to understand the capabilities and the quality of people we have.

TODD: How are you preparing to -- for the Thursday hearing? How are -- what are you doing to be better prepared as a questioner of Director Comey?

[17:15:00] MANCHIN: Well, we`ve been going through -- we`ve been going through all the different records, all the -- you know, whether I -- I don`t think we`re going to get Comey into a closed meeting in our skiff, so we can go at it on what intel we have above the open source. The open source --

TODD: You`re speaking a lot of -- you`re speaking a lot of Washington words here. Basically, places where you can see classified materials.

MANCHIN: Places where we can see it and talk about it --

TODD: Right.

MANCHIN: -- and be able to ask questions that the public is never going to hear. But we are satisfied in representing the public that we know, factually, what`s going on and what`s not going on. That`s not, I`m understanding, going to happen. It`s going to be open source. It`s an open meeting that you`re going to be televising, everyone is going to be seeing Thursday.

I`m preparing, by going through open sources that I can, to connect the dots. Also, I did something different, Chuck. I sent out to all West Virginians on my Web site. Let me know what questions you want to make sure are asked.

TODD: You saw that on social media.

MANCHIN: That`s unbelievable. I just went through. They`re very, very good, very articulate. I was very, very pleased. And we`re going through and sorting them out now. And we have 20 of the top ones that are just unbelievable. They`re really good.

TODD: Yes. Have you -- does the committee have former Director Comey`s memos that he is supposedly going to be referring to during testimony?

MANCHIN: We do not. I`ve asked that question. I have not seen that nor do I think we have them.

TODD: You don`t think the leadership -- you don`t even think the leadership has it? It`s one of the things they may let you see on Thursday?

MANCHIN: Well, I`m not sure if with all the gang of eight which is going to be our chairman and vice chairman and our leaders. If they have them, I can`t even speak to that.

TODD: If Director Comey testifies to what all of his friends keep saying he may testify to, which is the president asked him to essentially stop the investigation into Mike Flynn, does that meet your definition of obstruction of justice?

MANCHIN: Well, Chuck, here was that -- it was funny. One of the questions I got most frequently from West Virginians was if Director Comey, at the time, was meeting and having a dinner with the president and he felt that there was crossing the line, if you will. Why didn`t he act upon that?

TODD: Yes.

MANCHIN: And they asked -- that was the question they were asking. Why wouldn`t he have acted upon that? He`s still the head of the FBI, head of investigations. And -- or just coming back to his office and writing memos and putting them in the file. That was the question that was really unbelievable how many times we got asked that question. So, that`s one of our questions.

TODD: And that -- is that something that concerned you before?

MANCHIN: Sure it concerns me. That does concern me. You know, if it was at that level to where you thought something had been breached, and you felt that the line had been crossed, and the obstruction of justice was something that had been done, then why didn`t you act upon it?

TODD: You kept saying this was an open-source hearing. So, set expectations here. A lot of people think that they`re going to hear -- does this mean you won`t hear much about this -- the current Russian investigation? This is only going to be basically about the director`s interactions with President Trump and maybe the director`s actions, involving the initial decisions with the Clinton e-mails?

MANCHIN: I would just -- the only thing I would say to the public that`ll be watching, you`ve seen other high-profiled hearings here in Washington. The high-profile hearings, when you get to a certain level, they say this is something I can`t really talk about in this setting. And that`s because it`s classified.

So, I think you might be hearing that quite a bit, but it won`t stop them from asking the questions.

TODD: All right. Senator Joe Manchin.

MANCHIN: It`s going to be interesting, Chuck.

TODD: Democrat from West Virginia. Yes, it is. I think this is one of the rare occasions where we will gather together as a country. We may not agree but we will gather.

MANCHIN: We`ve to come together as a country, really, and quit playing politics.

TODD: Good luck with that, sir.

MANCHIN: OK.

TODD: Coming up, what we just found out about what we know and don`t know about Russian election hacking.

[17:19:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back.

If it`s Tuesday, somebody is voting somewhere. And today, that somewhere is New Jersey. Primary contests and the race to replace terminated (ph) Governor Chris Christie.

Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno is the likely Republican nominee. She had a lot of responsibilities in the state while Christie was on the presidential campaign trail. But she does have a primary challenge and it`s going to be an extraordinarily low GOP turnout.

Former Goldman Sachs exec and former U.S. ambassador to Germany, Phil Murphy, is the Democratic front runner with former treasury undersecretary Jim Johnson and Assemblyman John Wisniewski trailing but ahead of the rest of the pack. Murphy`s Goldman Sachs ties are the biggest story on the Democratic side. Wisniewski recently told me that Wall Street experience doesn`t translate to state politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), ASSEMBLYMAN, NEW JERSEY CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR: In a state as complex and diverse as New Jersey, coming in from Wall Street with a -- perhaps a stellar record of what you`ve been able to accomplish on Wall Street, doesn`t necessarily mean anything about being able to actually govern New Jersey.

And I think that`s the problem we`ve seen in the past and that`s, potentially, the problem we`ll have in the future. Because the lessons learned on Wall Street are not the lessons about how to govern a state like New Jersey.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Well, given the popularity of Corzine and Goldman Sachs, that`s why this is an issue. I also did talk to Murphy who said New Jersey needs a leader from outside the state capitol to move on from Governor Christie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHIL MURPHY (D), NEW JERSEY CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR: Listen, we`re a state that`s been failed by special interest politics. There`s a bubble in the state capitol at Trenton. Everybody inside that bubble seems to be doing just fine, and it`s at the expense of everybody else.

We need real leadership, break the glass, reimaging the state leadership that understands how you grow the economy, how you make the economy and society fair again, how you get back for standing for the -- for the -- for the right things again.

TODD: You can catch my full interviews with the two front-runners online at meetthepress.com.

We`ll be back in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: We`re back now with the panel. Former Democratic Congressman Harold Ford Jr., NBC senior editor for politics Beth Fouhy, and "Commentary Magazine" associate editor, Noah Rothman. Welcome to you all.

Noah, I`m going to start with you. You`re -- you guys aren`t shy about critiquing the president in his tweets and all of this and the way he messages. It seems as if there is -- we think there`s a -- it appears to be some Trump fatigue on the right. Not among his core supporters, as Chris Collins sat there and said it. But among, sort of, the folks that decided to tolerate Trump and vote for him. And they`re the ones struggling here.

NOAH ROTHMAN, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "COMMENTARY MAGAZINE": Yes. Well, I guess I can only speak for myself when I say that there -- that fatigue is something that I`ve come to terms with. I mean, it`s, sort of, just a general atmosphere that we all exist in.

But in a macro level, there was -- there`s some evidence that even Trump voters are beginning to jump off. We had a post today in "The Wall Street Journal" that was informative, working off the Gallop poll of citizens` project, I forget what it`s called.

But it suggested that the excerpts, military community communities are beginning to fall off, a big drop off. And that`s not the Trump base. That`s the Republican base. They have been voting Republican since 2000. So, that`s something Republicans should be very concerned about it.

[17:25:06] TODD: That`s from our boy Dante Chiney (ph) who also works over here at NBC News.

So, Beth, it got real today with, I think, some of these tweets where it`s going to become problematic. He tweeted about the Qatar news in the Mideast. He said, during my recent trip to the Middle East, I stated that there can no longer be funding of radical ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar. Look. There`s a lot of American service men and women in Qatar right now.

BETH FOUHY, SENIOR POLITICAL EDITOR, NBC NEWS: And President Trump met with the Amira Cutter when he was on his big overseas trip a couple of weeks ago and talked about his great friendship with that country.

Look, Chuck, I think -- I think the Twitter issue is a bigger thing for his base than what Chris Collins on your show just said.

I`ve been out in a lot -- in Trump country quite a bit this year and talking to voters. And a lot of them, Trump voters, the folks that, you know, formed his base, will bring it up, even unprovoked will say, I really wish he wouldn`t tweet so much.

It makes people uncomfortable. It doesn`t look presidential. It looks a little bit unhinged. And even if you were a supporter of this president and you like his goals, it seems like not a very presidential way to communicate.

TODD: No one is comfortable with sending a tweet that attacks the mayor of London the day of a terrorist attacks. That`s the issue. You saw that in John McCain`s face. You saw that -- Bob Corker went golfing with the president on Sunday and he couldn`t bring himself to really defend this.

HAROLD FORD JR. (D), TENNESSEE, FORMER CONGRESSMAN: You have to wonder if the mayor of London`s name is not Sadiq Khan, would he have criticized the mayor as he did.

Look, for the first time, I didn`t hear the confidence in Chris Collins` voice that you normally hear when he`s defending the president and making the president`s case. There is no doubt that polling data will continue to show it, but we`re leading up to, I think, the most pivotal thing to happen for this president. This Comey testimony.

I`m not a fan of Jim Comey. I`ve stated that publicly. But one thing you can say about Jim Comey, he`s going to protect Jim Comey. So, I think he`s going to present a more formidable, more compelling and more dynamic information than we`ve seen, up to this point. And the president said he may tweet during it. We may get an opportunity to see how he reacts to it.

TODD: That`s the part of me I just don`t get. He looks as if he is consumed by Russia. He claims we`re all -- the media is consumed by Russia. He`s the one that`s consumed by this. It seems as if his tweeting gets harsher, more negative, more defensive when Russia is in the news.

ROTHMAN: And to Beth`s point, which was really fascinating, is that it`s the press that really eats up these tweets. His supporters want action and they believe that these are obstacles to -- and impediments to legislative action.

But it`s media that is really entertained by these tweets and they move the ball forward. And then, they press people like Bob Corker on this guitar issue which happens to be a real strategic setback, I think. And it seems to be he thought the same. So, it really is a problem with just leadership.

TODD: Well, and I want to dig in on this because I don`t want to get stuck just on the tweets. Beth, you -- two days ago, Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State, talking about trying to mediate this while he was halfway around the world, literally, with the Defense secretary, Jim Mattis. And, all of a sudden, the president just cut his -- cut him off at the knees.

FOUHY: Yes, I mean, this is --

TODD: How does the United States mediate now?

FOUHY: This -- I mean, this a consistent problem that Trump is out for Trump, basically. He`s not there protecting his staff. He`s not there protecting his team. And it`s starting to really show, in big ways and small.

It`s one thing to undercut staff. It`s another thing that if a diplomatic mission by your secretary of state is in peril. This is why we`ve learned in the last couple of days, our White House team here at NBC News and others have reported that the whole idea of a war room fell apart.

(INAUDIBLE) how can you really strategically, you know, isolate and protect this guy and form a flank around him if he`s then going to go out and say and do whatever he wants? It`s, sort of, an untenable situation.

TODD: And, by the way, the reason, the reason I want to get back to the idea that Russia is consuming him, was there a more loyal soldier than Jeff Sessions to Donald Trump`s campaign? When nobody else took him seriously as a candidate, one United States senator did, Jeff Sessions.

And, my God, the guy cares enough about the appearance of the Justice Department to do what was clearly the right thing to do, legally and ethically. And, apparently, the president is furious with him over the Russia decision.

FORD: You said it better than I could say it. You know, George Conway, Kellyanne`s husband, who is a respected and capable and confident --

TODD: That`s (INAUDIBLE), right? Even Kellyanne Conway`s husband (INAUDIBLE.)

FORD: For him to tweet to say, you`re putting your team in a -- for him to feel the necessity to tweet says a lot about everything. I`m sure the press is intrigued and consumed with this material because it`s really him speaking in an unvarnished way.

But he now has his own team, members of the own team, coming up and say, you`re hurting yourself and you`re hurting all of us as you do this. Finally, on Russia, and cutting off his -- cutting his team at the knees.

You have to wonder, there was a time when people said, well, because he chose Kelly and Mattis and McNees (ph), they may have the courage of going in and to quit if they want. We`re now rooting for them to stay regardless. Because you have to be curious on what -- who might take this job if you`re concerned about it? (INAUDIBLE) that they`re there at least.

TODD: How many of the cabinet secretaries read that "Times" story on Sessions and thought, what have I signed up for?

ROTHMAN: Yes, I mean, I`m not entirely sure whether Jeff Sessions had any option there. I mean, it wasn`t just because of the Russia thing. He was a campaign operative.

(CROSSTALK)

HAROLD FORD, JR., FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: . confirmation hearing.

ROTHMAN: He was a campaign -- essentially campaign surrogate. So, he didn`t really have much of an option there. So, why get angry at something that was forced upon him? You chose a campaign surrogate for your attorney general.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR, "MEET THE PRESS DAILY" SHOW HOST: I think.

FORD: You have to ask the question no one was asking. What is Rosenstein going to say tomorrow? Remember, he is going tomorrow.

TODD: Yeah.

FORD: And then Comey sees Rosenstein, happy to answer the question about when did you write this memo, were you instructed to write the memo, how much Sessions involved in all of this.

TODD: I`m not going to speak for Noah, I`m going to speak for the three of us today. We`re old enough to remember this ad that, remember, sure, the deodorant, never let them see you sweat.

(LAUGHTER)

TODD: The president is letting all of us.

ROTHMAN: I appreciate your thinking.

TODD: Yeah. The president is letting all of us see him sweat when it comes to Russia. All right. Stick around. Still ahead, what we just learned about the extent of Russia`s meddling in our election. We will talk to former homeland security chief Jeh Johnson.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Up next, did President Obama know more about Russia`s attempts and election interference than what we were told? I will ask chief former homeland security chief Jeh Johnson. Keep it right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back to "MTP Daily." We got new details about Russian government efforts to hack the U.S. election after a top secret national security agency document on Russia hacking was leaked by an intelligence agency contractor. The leaked NSA report published by the online news site, The Intercept, is dated just last month.

It shows analysis of a month`s long Russian state hacking effort with penetrated U.S. voting systems. The NSA`s analysis doesn`t say the hacking had an effect on the election`s outcome, but it does say there is still a lot they don`t know about the extent of what the Russians were able to accomplish.

Folks, some of these we did know, but some of it seems to directly contradict with some officials seem to tell us in the days after the election. Such as in December when President Obama said his biggest concern was a potential Russian hacking that could impact the vote counting.

(START VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, 44TH UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: In early September when I saw President Putin in China, I felt that the most effective way to ensure that that didn`t happen was to talk to him directly. And tell him to cut it out. In fact, we did not see further tampering of the election process.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: According to the leaked NSA document, the tampering did continue far past September. So was the Obama administration unaware at the time that the intelligence not exists yet or were they not being fully truthful? Here`s Mark Warner, top Democrat in the Senate Intel Committee with USA Today`s Washington bureau chief Susan Page.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

MARK WARNER, SENIOR U.S. SENATOR FROM VIRGINIA: I don`t believe they got into changing actual voting outcomes, but if the extent of the attacks is much broader than it has been reported so far.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Joining me now is former homeland security secretary Jeh Johnson from the Obama administration. Secretary Johnson, good to see you, sir.

JEH JOHNSON, FORMER SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Chuck, nice to see you again. Nice to be back.

TODD: All right. Help me out with the timeline.

JOHNSON: Yes.

TODD: The president in September -- excuse me, in December said in September he went to Vladamir Putin and said cut it out. He said his concern was with the hack and the campaign, that was a separate issue, but this had to do with the integrity of the election process itself.

Now, this NSA document indicates that as late as late October or early November, there was hacking attempts. We don`t know how successful just yet, but there was hacking attempts. Did you know that then? And if so, why not tell us?

JOHNSON: Well, Chuck, I`m going to disagree with your pretext here about there being something new. I obviously can`t comment on a classified report of any type even one that has been leaked publicly. But I will say this. As a general matter, we were very concerned last fall about what we saw and we said this publicly several times about what we saw as Russian efforts to scan, probe state election officials systems. We said that.

Jim Clapper and I said that on October 7th. He said that publicly on January 6th. We saw efforts by Russian intelligence at scanning and probing voter registration databases, and we were concerned about it, which is why I encouraged all throughout August, September, October state election officials to come to us for cyber security assistance in the Department of Homeland Security.

And for the most part, they did. And I was pleased with that. I uncovered a number of vulnerabilities which we helped them correct. It is the case that we see and we saw no actual altering of voter counts.

TODD: Do you know that for sure? Do you know that for sure? Can you say -- because I say this -- in state of Florida, there has been some follow-up reporting on this because the company and I know you say you can`t speak to the classified memo.

JOHNSON: Yeah.

TODD: But the company is based in Florida, based in Tallahassee, and it was masking themselves as an e-mail from this company essentially sending fishing e-mails. And at least two county election officials were aware of this email, now that didn`t happen to click on it. But we are just finding this out now.

JOHNSON: Two things.

TODD: That`s two counties. We don`t know how many thousands did this.

JOHNSON: One, I know of no such evidence, okay?

TODD: Okay.

JOHNSON: And I have not been.

TODD: This is as of January 20th.

JOHNSON: I have not been privy to classified information since January 20.

TODD: Right.

JOHNSON: At 7:32 p.m.

TODD: Fair enough.

JOHNSON: Okay, so it has been four and a half months. I know of no such evidence that actual counts were altered by any type of cyber attack. I will say this though. We were very concerned that a bad actor could infiltrate voter registration databases. This is where a lot of our effort was focused and I think rightly.

And perhaps wipe out a list, wipe out voters registration from the rolls in key places. We saw this activity around a number of states which is why I was so anxious to get the states to come to us and why in January we declared election infrastructure to be critical infrastructure.

TODD: Did you leave on January 20 with open election infrastructure investigations going on?

JOHNSON: I would say that we -- after the election, the president wanted us to do sort of an after action report which we did. That meant there was a public version of that that went out on January 6th. I would very much encourage officials in the chair now to continue looking at this issue and continue to look at how the cyber security around state election systems can be improved.

TODD: Do you, looking back and you have been asked this question multiple times in the transition process. This is the first time I have talked to you post election. We are about six months removed, more and more Russia (inaudible) coming on.

Do you and I know you and Secretary Clapper came out with your own warnings about the Russian hack. Do you believe in hindsight the Obama administration, president, yourself, all of you should have told the public more about the extent of this?

JOHNSON: Well, we told the public a lot on Friday, October 7th. And in very blunt terms.

TODD: There was something else that happened that day.

JOHNSON: There was.

TODD: I mean, I hate to say it, but there was a very big story that day.

JOHNSON: When I issued that statement on October 7th, intel report usually not in such blunt terms. I thought to myself, we just accused a super power of trying to interfere with our election. This is big news. But it was below the poll news that day because it was the same day as the "Access Hollywood" video which got everyone`s attention. And so.

TODD: You take exception with the criticism that`s out there that you guys didn`t tell us enough.

JOHNSON: I take issue with the criticism. We were very anxious to tell the public what we saw pre-election so that the voters could be informed about what we saw and the opinion of a lot of us including the president would have been unforgivable to sit on this information pre-election and not tell the voters what we saw.

TODD: So you`re confident there is nothing that is going to come out that you are unaware, whether it`s done by a whistle blower investigator or whatever that will make people think gee, we should have put out more information at the time, that you put out everything you could put out.

JOHNSON: Well, there are always lessons learned and I cannot foreclose the possibility that there would be greater knowledge around what happened. I definitely can`t foreclose that possibility just based on past experience dealing with these kinds of national security matters. But what the Russians did was very serious.

They very definitely interfered with our political process during the election season. I know of no intel that they actually altered vote counts or election reporting. What they did was very clearly something very significant, very serious. We have to make sure it doesn`t happen again.

TODD: Before I let you go, is there any upside you see in a president that is so comfortable on social media?

JOHNSON: Let me just quickly tell you one thing. Every time I see one of those early morning tweets, when I was secretary, I would get up at 5:00 a.m. every morning, I look at the news, and once a month, there would be something that would really infuriate me. And I come to work and sit down at my desk.

Before I even took my coat off and had my coffee, I would type out a statement. Then I would take a deep breath. I would show my staff. I would show my press people, and say look at this. And 90 percent of the time, they said, boss, you know you can`t say that publicly. At the very least clean up the typos.

TODD: Yeah.

JOHNSON: And then, you know, I go about my day and move on to 10 other issues.

TODD: You with your rational ideas that others have also passed on to the west wing. Jeh Johnson, former department of homeland security secretary, thank for coming on, sir.

JOHNSON: Thanks, Chuck.

TODD: Good to see you. We all saw President Trump signed something very important at a televised event yesterday. What exactly it was on that piece of paper?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back. Tonight I`m obsessed with fake news and not the kind you are thinking of. We have now experienced three stages of fake news. Stage one, Russians and other provocateurs these days mostly from the right, pedaling phony stories during the 2016 campaign that got Trump voters riled up and made the online (inaudible) lots of money.

Stage two was President Trump falsely labeling any story in the main stream media. He doesn`t like fake news. It`s not to say it`s real news. The president now owns the term. Maybe in a way he won`t like because that brings us to stage three. Yesterday, President Trump made a big show with his plans to privatize our air traffic control system.

You can be for that or against it, but there was Mr. Trump signing two documents. Here is the problem. Nothing he signed would have any real effect on what he just proposed. The White House says the president signed a quote, decision memo and letter transmitting legislative principals to congress. In other words, he told congress this is what he hopes to do.

Congress still has to vote on the issue. My obsession today, if you are truly worried about fake news, don`t hold fake news events and sign fake documents. If you got an idea for congress, sent it over. You don`t need to give them your autograph. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(START VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As head of the FBI, James Comey put politics over protecting America. After the FBI banned terms like radical Islam for political correctness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Well, it`s "Lid" time. You don`t have to shake your head. There is a super PAC, not any super PAC. President Trump, one of President Trump`s super PACs with an ad that they`re going to run on Thursday attacking James Comey. Panel is here. Harold, Beth, and Noah. Wow. Is James Comey running for something?

BETH FOUHY, NBC NEWS SENIOR POLITICS EDITOR: What`s the point of that? What is the point of that?

TODD: Well, I guess they`re trying -- they`re worried about the credibility Comey has. He has more credibility than President Trump. They know it. FOUHY: Yes, he does.

TODD: So, if you make him into a political actor, then he`s just another politician.

FOUHY: Yes, but as we were just saying before we came back here, he is also the reason that Donald Trump is the president. So, it`s all through the looking glass.

TODD: Which, by the way, the ad itself, while terror attacks were on the rise last year, Comey was consumed with election meddling. This is.

FORD: I believe that meddling helped President Trump get elected. TODD: I guess you can give them credit for having a sense of humor for that line.

FORD: James Comey is one of the most dramatic story tellers in politics. He -- I don`t think will disappoint come this week. I think as Noah and us were talking, there may be some high expectations. I think he`s going to meet some of that. I`m also curious to see what Rosenstein says tomorrow. But two questions, no doubt. Did you tell him three times that he was not under investigation?

Two, I think Joe Manchin, his constituents said it best. If you thought that this was obstruction of justice, did you feel corrupt? And the legal standard of that, we`ll see where it does. If Marco Rubio or some Republican asks that question or those questions, I think it takes on a different level of meaning.

ROTHMAN: The president is punching down at a private citizen. I don`t know how this reflects poorly on James Comey more so than it does Donald Trump`s political apparatus. This is the president who feels embattled and is acting embattled and is under a lot of pressure from his own actions.

So, this is just really directing attention to the Russia investigation, to president Trump`s problems, and not to, again, his legislative agenda and the people who are hanging on desperately for some sign of success out of this administration.

FOUHY: And that`s, you know, to that point, if they had a really good counter programming plan this week, they could have done a good job of talking about it. This is supposed to be infrastructure week, talking about roads and bridges and all things that all people want theoretically.

They have no legislative plan. The first thing he came out with was privatizing the air traffic control. And it`s not exactly something that is -- we`re discussing around the dinner table, most families. He`s going to Ohio tomorrow to talk a little bit about infrastructure, but again, no plan for pushing something forward.

So, had he had this sense of moving an agenda, that may be could have taken a little bit of the attention off of this, a little bit. They`re not doing it well.

TODD: We keep hearing all they want to borrow a book from the Clinton playbook. Clinton was stewing every night. He couldn`t stand Ken Starr, couldn`t stand what congress was doing. Maybe it`s a good thing Twitter didn`t exist. He did events. He would sit there and sometimes stubbornly pretend that he was focused on some, you know, ribbon cutting ceremony. FORD: National matter.

TODD: Yes.

FORD: They`re doing the exact opposite. This president is consumed. Not only is he consumed, he`s talking about it. He`s leading the charge. You wonder why they can`t do what you`re saying, which would be smart?

Because the president won`t allow it. If he were tweeting about a bridge falling down in Pennsylvania they`re going to rebuild, tweeting about a road in Ohio that needs to be rebuilt, people would say, let`s focus there, but he is not doing that.

FOUHY: Exactly.

TODD: He like tweets, how disastrous. ROTHMAN: He`s trying to counter program. He`s going to Ohio.

FOUHY: Not well.

ROTHMAN: Yeah. It will probably be weird. I don`t know if it`s going to be disastrous, but it`s going to give cable news something to focus on that is not the Comey hearing. I think that`s the point. Where are you aligned with?

TODD: All right. I know we`re all trying to figure out graphically how to have Comey and Trump tweeting at the same time. Interesting television. FORD: That would be.

TODD: Says you. After the break, stop me if you`ve heard this one before.

(START VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congressman, if the Comey memo turns out to be true, will you call for an impeachment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have nothing further to add.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you stand by your comments that you would call for an impeachment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have nothing further to add. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whose word do you trust more, President Trump or former FBI director James Comey?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have nothing further to add.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Earlier today, you said that the president should be impeached if the Comey memo is true. Do you see him by that comments?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have nothing further to add.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think the president may have obstructed justice?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have nothing further to add.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you still have full confidence in the president?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have nothing further to add.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: In case you missed it, President Trump told a joke today about his son-in-law.

(START VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Jared`s actually become much more famous than me.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: I`m a little bit upset about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: And in case you missed it, the president has told the exact same joke before about someone else back in January.

(START VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: He has become more famous than me.

(LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: That`s right, the president said that 107 days before he ended up firing FBI Director Comey. Listen as a daddy tells lots of bad jokes, all of it, but I sometimes do repeat my punchlines. I`m just wondering, if you`re Jared, are you suppose to take this as all in fun or you`re a little bit nervous that that joke is a precursor to something.

That is all for tonight, For The Record with Greta starts a few seconds late. My apologies.

Greta the show is yours.

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