Show: MTP DAILY Date: June 19, 2017 Guest: Kate Rogers, Tammy Duckworth, Ken Dilanian, Kristen Welker, Beth Fouhy, Rick Tyler, Pete Williams, David Wasserman
KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST (voice-over): Under investigation for obstruction of justice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY, DONALD TRUMP: The president is not and has not been under investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Plus, floor exercises, as the GOP health care bill comes together behind closed doors, Democrats demand transparency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a very small group in the Senate that have actually seen the bill.
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TUR: Senator Tammy Duckworth joins us as Dems kick off a seven-hour talk- a-thon and the dollars and cents of the Georgia Sixth.
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STEVE STIVERS, CHAIRMAN, NRCC: We can`t spend that sum of money on every race.
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TUR: As voters there finally head to the polls tomorrow, who will get a return on the most expensive race in Congressional history?
This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.
(on camera): Good evening, I`m Katy Tur in New York in for Chuck Todd and welcome to MTP DAILY.
Can the Republican Party survive a president under criminal investigation or deeply unpopular health care overall or a toxic political climate? We`re going to start to get some answers tomorrow when voters head to the polls for a surprising nail-biter special election in deep red Georgia.
Georgia Sixth has become a Senate spectacle because of what it might tell us about the current political climate. The president is tweeting up a storm on this context right now. We`re going to dive into the race in just a moment.
We`re also going to dive into the big issues that are shaking up the race, including health care and the rancid political atmosphere.
But we begin tonight with perhaps the biggest story nationally. The president`s legal crisis. Things have taken a bizarre turn as the president`s outside counsel twists itself into knots to explain the president`s statements.
After the president said he was being investigated for firing the FBI director, a lawyer from his outside counsel, Jay Sekulow, flooded the air waves to say the opposite.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEKULOW: I want to be very clear here and very direct. The president has not been and is not under investigation.
The president has not been and is not under investigation.
The president is not under investigation.
And I`ve been crystal clear that the president is not and has not been under investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Those statements raise a lot of questions, perhaps the biggest is how was he so sure? Here`s three more from those interviews.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEKULOW: The president is not and has not been under investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you know?
SEKULOW: Because we`ve received no notice of investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don`t know that he isn`t under investigation now, do you?
SEKULOW: Well, no one`s notified us that he is so I can`t read people`s minds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: And those answers raise another big question which Sekulow addressed today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEKULOW: We`ve not been notified. No, the president`s not under investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any duty for them to tell you?
SEKULOW: No duty to tell in the sense of an obligation to tell but you know how it works in Washington. If you were a target, if you were being investigated, you would be told really quickly into the investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Well, that was quite a pause. Special Counsel Bob Mueller has no obligation to tell the president he is under investigation, especially for an inquiry in its early stages like this one. Because of that the fact that special counsel has told them nothing doesn`t prove anything.
Sekulow had more to tell us about the president`s Twitter statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEKULOW: Here`s what you have, the president issued that tweet, that social media statement, based on a fake report, a report with no documented sources from "The Washington Post."
I want to be crystal clear here. The president`s response was as it related to "The Washington Post" report. He cannot, in a Twitter statement, include all of that in there. But "The Washington Post" statement came out that morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: "The Washington Post" story he`s actually referring to came out Wednesday night, not Sunday. The president`s statement came out, excuse me, Friday morning, that`s what I meant.
Ultimately, here`s what the president`s lawyer is seemingly telling us. When the president says he is being investigated for firing the FBI director, he actually means the opposite. And by never mentioning a "Washington Post" report from two days earlier, the president`s statement confirming the story is actually his way of pointing out how wrong it is.
Confused yet? I`m joined by NBC`s intelligence and national security reporter, Ken Dilanian, and NBC News` White House correspondent, Kristen Welker.
So, Ken, help us. Let`s put this to rest. Is the president under investigation?
KEN DILANIAN, INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Katy, NBC News has reported that he is. And we base our report on our source, a former senior intelligence official familiar with the matter, who is aware that Bob Mueller, the Special Counsel, is planning to interview two senior intelligence officials, DNI Dan Coats and Mike Rogers, the Head of the NSA, about conversations that Donald Trump had with them seeking to get them to say there was no inclusion with Russia.
He`s doing that in the context of an obstruction of justice inquiry. And, by the way, our report was confirming "The Washington Post" story that you referenced that had many more sources.
[17:05:00] So, that`s really not in dispute. And, in fact, there is no obligation and no standard practice for the Justice Department to notify somebody that they`re under investigation until they`re about to be indicted. Then, they may get a target letter. But that`s way down the line and that`s not where we are right now.
But there`s no doubt Donald Trump is under investigation.
TUR: In addition to Coats and Rogers, what else will Robert Mueller be doing to investigate this?
DILANIAN: Well, if he -- so, he`s looking at obstruction of justice. He`s already had, from James Comey and his testimony, a textbook example. I mean, Comey laid out all the elements of obstruction of justice in public.
Now, Bob Mueller has to go and corroborate Comey`s story. So, presumably, he`s going to want to interview numerous people inside the White House and the FBI. Anyone who was in a meeting with Donald Trump, he`s going to want to interview.
Obviously, Coats and Rogers and anyone else that Donald Trump talked to about the investigation. He`s going to look at documents and, at the end of the day, he`s going to decide, do they have a provable case here?
TUR: Sometimes the forest gets lost for the trees in these circumstances. But the larger issue at hand, Ken, is the Russia investigation and what this country is doing to stop Russia from trying to interfere in our election.
So, what`s going on with that?
DILANIAN: Precious little, Katy, as far as I can tell. It`s an important question. And I`ve been doing some reporting on it, and there`s going to be some hearings on it in Congress this week.
There is no whole of government initiative from the Trump administration to deal with this problem. There are two fronts, right? One is, has Russia paid a price? Has Russia been deterred to not want to hack the U.S. again? The answer to that appears to be no.
Secondly, what are we doing to shore-up the state election systems and to look at how fake news traverses our social media platforms. There is very little going on there.
DHS is doing a few things but the state election officials are resisting because they don`t want federal interference in their elections. And sometimes it breaks down along partisan lines.
But that`s a really interesting question that you raise and the answer is, not much is happening.
TUR: Wow. Kristen Welker, does the White House think that the president is under investigation? I ask because they`re lawyering up like it sounds like they do think he is.
KRISTEN WELKER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: He`s got a legal team of four different lawyers, Katy, so there`s no doubt he`s preparing for a protracted legal issue.
The White House will not answer questions about the Russia matter at all. They refer all questions to the president`s outside counsel.
But there is no doubt, Katy, this is looming over this White House. It is something that is impacting not only their messaging but, of course, the agenda that the president wants to carry out.
And it`s creating a lot of mixed messaging. As you pointed out at the top of the show, and that is creating even more difficulties. The press secretary today held an off-camera briefing with no audio, so we were able to ask him questions. But none of that, of course, was broadcast out live to the American public.
I can tell you, though, that he didn`t answer a whole lot of questions about that. What he did say, though is that the president continues to have confidence in his entire administration, when asked specifically about Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
And he also allowed that everyone here serves at the pleasure of the president, so sort of leaving that opening, that potential caveat. If President Trump does, in fact, at some point, think that it`s time to dismiss another top official here.
But, again, this is creating a real messaging challenge, I think, for this White House and this entire administration -- Katy.
TUR: And the fact that they did an off-camera briefing with audio only but audio that cannot be broadcast, in effect -- or is in itself quite remarkable and some have likened (ph) it to stonewalling.
Kristen Welker, thank you very much. Ken Dilanian, thank you as well.
Let`s bring in tonight`s panel. Beth Fouhy is NBC News senior politics editor. And Jon (ph) is an MSNBC Political Analyst and "Daily Beast" columnist. And Rick Tyler is an MSNBC Political Analyst and former communications director for the Ted Cruz campaign.
Guys, the president`s lawyering up. It seems like they may not want to say, yes, he is under investigation. But they`re erring on the side of caution right now.
BETH FOUHY, SENIOR POLITICS EDITOR, NBC NEWS: Well, they should. I mean, but four lawyers, as Kristen said, is a remarkable number of lawyers. This isn`t just a protective measure.
Vice President Pence, last week when he was asked about getting his lawyer, he said something, like, it was purely procedural or something that was done all the time. He, sort of, started to dismiss it.
Jared Kushner now also has a lawyer. He may be getting a new lawyer who`s a more aggressive criminal defense lawyer than Jamie Gorelick, the one that he has.
They`re clearly very nervous. They`re girding their loins and they`re getting ready for battle. It, I guess, makes sense for Jay Sekulow to go out and, you know, mix it up on the shows. I mean, perhaps they haven`t been formally notified of an investigation but that doesn`t mean that the investigation isn`t underway.
TUR: And Donald Trump`s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has also gotten a lawyer.
Let`s talk about Jay Sekulow and his twisting himself into a press hold to try and explain away Donald Trump`s tweets. Who do we -- who do we trust here? If he is saying you can`t trust the president in what the president says, it feels like both their credibility is really getting eaten way.
[17:10:06] JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean Sekulow on Sunday did what we call the full Ginsburg. This is an old Washington expression that relates to Monica Lewinsky`s lawyer back in the day when Bill Clinton was under impeachment. It means you go on all of the Sunday shows and spin on every one of them.
And just because you do it over and over again doesn`t make it more effective. The fact that he hasn`t been notified that he`s being under investigation does not mean he`s not under investigation.
And the wheels of justice grind slowly. These investigations take time and Mueller is so experienced at this. He`s doing it in a methodical way. We may not hear about very much for a while. We might be going into a quiet period now because he`s not a leaker and it might be weeks, if not months, before we learn much more substantive about this.
TUR: Can you argue this is an effective political strategy? Muddying the waters, saying this is all about leaks, saying that people are out to get my client. Donald Trump tweeting about -- you know, referring to a deep state. Is this -- does this work for his base and is that enough?
RICK TYLER, FORMER CAMPAIGN ADVISOR, TED CRUZ: I think it does work for his base but I don`t think it`s enough. Mike Pence may have been right. It`s not unusual to hire a lawyer when you`re under investigation.
And I think the one thing that the president wanted Jay Sekulow to say on every single show is that he wasn`t under investigation. But Jay Sekulow ran into what every single person who`s tried to go out and talk -- speak for the White House or for Donald Trump, in particular, is Donald Trump is going to contradict you. So, I mean, he literally says -- I mean, if he didn`t want people to know that he`s under investigation, why did he tweet, I`m under investigation?
Now, some Trump supporters who have told me, they knew what he meant.
TUR: And did he mean?
TYLER: I don`t know -- that he didn`t mean that. That he was responding to "The Washington Post" story and said, well, when he said to vote for Karen Handel tomorrow, what did he mean? So, it gets very confusing. I mean, these words mean things.
ALTER: There were two things in that tweet that were lies. I mean, he said, you know, I`m under investigation from the man, Rod Rosenstein, who first recommended that I fire Comey.
Well, first of all, Rosenstein is not conducting the investigation so that`s untrue.
ALTER: And he didn`t recommend that he fire Comey because he decided to fire Comey by his own admission.
TUR: He may have recommended to fire Comey but Donald Trump`s mind was already made up.
ALTER: Who -- so, he didn`t fire him at his behest.
ALTER: That was just a memo to, kind of, cover them.
TUR: Do you think that he could be baiting Mueller to come out and say something publicly?
FOUHY: Perhaps. I -- there`s been very little sign that Donald Trump is all that particularly strategic and it certainly -- knowing his reputation, he doesn`t do that. He`s quite methodical and everyone says he`s -- you know, he`s just going to plow ahead, based on everything that he`s ever done in his past career.
But to your point to Rick, I mean, I`ve been out a lot in the field, talking to Trump voters and other voters as well. But when I talk to Trump voters, overwhelmingly what you hear is a distillation of the message that they`re getting from Trump on Twitter. That everything would be going great. You know, health care would be moving along, tax reform, getting the economy back in shape, if for not this Russia investigation that is a e-fiction (ph) propelled by his enemies, by Democrats who are still sick over losing last November.
TUR: It`s the foundation he laid very effectively during the campaign. Don`t listen to anybody. They`re just out to get me because I`m the one who will come change things in Washington. And they`re going to fight like hell to stop me from doing that.
ALTER: For it to work, he has to undermine Mueller. And Mueller has the best reputation of any law enforcement official in this country in the last 40 or 50 years.
TUR: Everybody might have a great reputation but Donald Trump has gone in and he`s just -- he`s wiped the floor with everyone. He`s attacked anyone. It doesn`t matter who it is. He called John McCain not a war hero. John McCain.
ALTER: Yes. Well, it`ll work for 20 percent, maybe 30 percent. He needs -- he needs --
TUR: My question is why are we so sure now that it`s not working? And why are we so sure now that he needs more and that his base is not enough? These were all the same things that people were saying, you know, on November 7th.
TYLER: Because Hillary Clintons was a terrible candidate. Now, it is enough for him to hold his base and I think he will hold his base. And I think we`re stuck with him for four years. But I think he has to expand his base to beat the next Democrat that`s going to come along and run for the 2020.
I also think this is -- and, listen, I`ve said over and over for independent candidates to run, it`s a disaster. We`ve seen a million of them come and go and they always lose.
This is an actually unique time. And if you look at what Macron has done in France, it`s a very unique time where someone could come in who`s not on either hyper partisan end of the spectrum and say, let`s just get rid of all these guys.
ALTER: Tomorrow`s a big day.
TUR: A big day and we`re going to talk about that. Don`t blow our lid.
TUR: Rick Tyler, Jon Alter, Beth Fouhy, stay with us.
[17:15:00] Coming up, why Tuesday`s special Congressional election could be the biggest political test yet of the Trump presidency.
Plus, the Supreme Court takes up a case that could have a major impact on future elections. We`ll have the details for you next.
TUR: Welcome back.
The Supreme Court today agreed to consider, for the first time ever, whether the long-standing political tradition of gerrymandering violates the Constitution.
NBC`s justice correspondent, Pete Williams, has more from the Supreme Court.
PETER WILLIAMS, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Katie, it`s a case that could change the face of politics. It comes from Wisconsin where the Republicans gain control of all the machinery of state government in 2010, both Houses of the legislature and the governor`s office. And then, they began to redraw the maps for state legislative districts.
Some Democrats sued and said it was, basically, an unconstitutional political gerrymander. And a federal appeals court agreed. For the first time in decades, a court reached a ruling like that. It`s coming to the Supreme Court where the justices in the past have been very skeptical of these claims about political gerrymandering.
We`ve had cases in the past where Congressional districts, legislative districts are struck down because they`re racial gerrymanders. So, the question for the court is, what`s the test? How do you know when a state has gone too far?
The challengers here say, easy. You look at something they call the efficiency gap. You look at whether so many members of a minority party are jammed into one district, that they`re more than they need to elect the candidates in their choice or broken up and spread out in the other districts that they have no power.
The court will hear the case in the fall -- Katy.
TUR: Thank you, Pete.
The Supreme Court`s decision to take this case comes as Democrats are ramping their effort to propose for 2020 when states will redraw the boundaries of their legislative and Congressional districts for the first time in a decade.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder is leading the effort at the request of former President Obama. Holder joked that his job is to, quote, "make redistricting sexy."
We`ll be back with more MTP DAILY in just 60 seconds.
[17:20:04] TUR: Welcome back.
Tomorrow could be the biggest political test yet of the Trump presidency and it`s happening far away from Washington in Georgia`s Sixth Congressional district.
Tomorrow`s special Congressional runoff pits Republican Karen Handel against Democrat Jon Ossoff for the seat vacated by HHS Secretary Tom Price.
The latest polls show it is a tossup. Democrats must win in districts like this where Republicans won the House seat but the president struggled if they`re going to take back the House.
The stakes could not be higher. If Ossoff wins, it gives Democrats a tangible victory for the anti-Trump resistance. It would be a warning shot to Senate Republicans on health care which has been a big issue in this race. And it would give Democrats momentum heading into the 2018 midterms.
If Handel holes the seat for Republicans, it gives the GOP confidence their candidates can win even in a challenging environment. A green light to push on with health care and a demoralizing blow to the Democrats.
Regardless, it is all costing a fortune, more than $50 million according to "The Atlanta Journal Constitution." The most expensive House race ever.
Joining me now is the expert, when it comes to the House races, David Wasserman, House Editor at the "Cook Political Report. So, David, you are the expert. What are you hearing down on the ground? What`s your sense of things? Where is this going to go?
DAVID WASSERMAN, HOUSE EDITOR, "COOK POLITICAL REPORT": Well, look, not only is it the most expensive House race in history, but you`re going to see a historic turnout for a House special election. We`re looking at probably 250,000 votes being cast in the district by tomorrow night when all is said and done. And that would be a higher turnout than we`re likely to see in most districts in the 2018 midterm elections.
And that high turnout may be keeping Karen Handel in this ball game, because Republicans are the ones who are less angry with what`s happening in Washington. And the fact that they`re turning out in greater numbers than in the first round when Ossoff got 48 percent, it really keeps this race pretty close.
And I still think Ossoff`s the favorite by a point or two. But it`s a tossup.
TUR: So, if Democrats don`t win it, how bad is it for him? What happens to their -- for them? What happens to their narrative?
WASSERMAN: Well, if Democrats fall short here, you know, they`ll still have a good shot at the House in 2018, in my opinion, because this district`s right at about the center of the types of districts that they would need to win to win the House.
Hillary Clinton got a higher share of the vote in 26 districts currently held by Republicans, and so this is right, kind of, at the median of House control. But, still, it would be embarrassing for Democrats because they`ve poured so much money into this election.
WASSERMAN: And they came so close in the first round. And Donald Trump`s approval rating is in the mid to high 30s.
TUR: Yes. And the question there is, if they can`t win in this environment, what environment can they win? And will they be able to raise as much money for future races if they can`t prove themselves here?
WASSERMAN: Well, it`s a great question. Look, hey, they`ve poured so much money that Jon Ossoff has been able to afford, I think, four Spanish language ads in a district where the electorate is likely to be less than five percent Latino. And they`re not going to be able to do that in every district in 2018.
But for every action in politics, there tends to be an equal and opposite reaction. And Democrats may have generated some Ossoff fatigue in Georgia Six and that could explain why this election is still very, very close or could potentially explain if Karen Handel pulls it out, why she`s able to win.
But I think you`ll see Democrats with an even wider enthusiasm edge in House races in 2018 when turnout is a little bit lower than it is in the special.
TUR: I wouldn`t normally ask this, but since there`s just a truly revolting ad out that invokes it. But do you think the Scalise shooting is going to affect this race any way? I don`t want to show the ad, because it`s just, frankly, too -- it`s just too terrible. But do you think that that is going to somehow affect voters?
WASSERMAN: I don`t see it having an impact. And voters already had pretty firm ideas of who they would support before this last-minute ad. Everyone agrees that this is a tragic event.
And I think if there`s one thing driving the race, that`s not in ads in this race, it`s Donald Trump. You`re not seeing his name come up in paid communication in the district. But he is on the minds of voters more so than Nancy Pelosi is.
And even though Republicans are trying to make her the issue, Democrats` biggest advantage, when it comes to Congressional races right now, is that they don`t have a clearly identifiable leader --
WASSERMAN: -- as a port for Republicans to uses a foil. And we know that Donald Trump does really, really well when he can beat up on one opponent.
WASSERMAN: And Democrats don`t have that clear opponent.
[17:25:01] TUR: Talking about health care, Jon Ossoff has been focusing on it in the race. Karen Handel, on the other hand, told Breitbart that it hasn`t been that much of an issue on the ground for voters in the Sixth. The biggest issue is that Jon Ossoff is from outside the district.
The president himself has been tweeting about that very same thing. But give us some reality. How much does health care matter in Georgia Six right now?
WASSERMAN: Well, it`s a big reason why Democrats are fired up, both in terms of pre-existing conditions, lifetime caps. You know, Democrats around the country are really animated because they feel under threat.
And, at the same time, you`re seeing -- you`re seeing -- you`re seeing health care come up very little in the race. Democrats have tried to attack Karen Handel`s stewardship of plan -- of the Susan Komen Foundation, as it relates to her position on Planned Parenthood. That`s barely moved the needle in the district. But Democrats haven`t hammered home the AHCA as I might have expected they would have several months ago.
TUR: The House race expert, David Wasserman. Thank you very much.
WASSERMAN: Thanks so much, Katy.
TUR: And still ahead, all talk, no action. Any moment now, Senate Democrats will take to the floor to try and stall the GOP`s health care plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration`s completely one-sided deal with Cuba.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Welcome back.
President Trump`s announcement on Friday rolling back some of the Obama administration`s Cuba policies was crafted in large part by Senator Marco Rubio.
The collaboration comes despite the bitter rivalry between then candidate Trump and Rubio during the 2016 campaign and also as at least 55 senators from both parties are calling on the White House to remove all travel restrictions to Cuba.
Chuck spoke to Senator Rubio on Sunday from "Meet the Press." Here`s a part of their conversation on Cuba.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR, "MEET THE PRESS DAILY" SHOW HOST: I want to ask you about the president`s decision on Cuba. A lot of reporting indicated that you were very much involved in the writing of this policy.
Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, came on my show earlier this week and essentially said if this -- you know, that there`s a majority in the senate, perhaps a super majority in the senate that would vote to lift all sanctions, to lift the travel -- excuse me, lift that travel ban for Americans going to Cuba.
Why not put your policy here that you pushed for up for a vote in the U.S. senate to see if it has the support of the United States senate?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLORIDA: Well, I mean, any senator has a right to offer that sort of amendment. Here`s what I would say to you, you guys are analyzing this change in the wrong way. This is not a punitive measure against Cuba as much as it is certainly has a punitive aspect with regards (ph) to the military. This is about empowering individual Cubans.
Everybody including the people you just mentioned who advocate for this opening that Obama made to Cuba have all said that one of the best by- products of it was this growing private sector. There`s dispute about whether it`s growing. That`s fine. Americans can now continue to travel to Cuba and there is misreporting that they have to do so as part of the group.
You can go through the category of support for the Cuban people as an individual. The only thing is, you can`t spend money at military facilities. You have to spend money primarily with individual Cubans. You have to stay at Airbnb. You have to eat at the private restaurants that they are running. It is up to the Cuban government now to allow individual Cubans to do more of that activity.
This is about empowering individual Cubans to be free from government economic control of their lives. That`s the purpose at the core of this measure. All it says is no more money for the Cuban military run entities, why should Americans be funding and supporting the Cuban military who is behind enormous amounts of instability in the region including what we see now in Venezuela.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Up next, Senator Tammy Duckworth joins me to discuss what, if anything, Democrats can do to shape the senate health care bill. But first, Kate Rogers has the "CNBC Market Wrap." Hi, Kate.
KATE ROGERS, REPORTER FOR CNBC: Hey there, Katy. Thanks so much. The Dow and S&P closed at record highs as text tax rebound today. The Dow jumped 144 points surpassing last week`s all-time high, the S&P gained 20 points, while the Nasdaq added 87 points.
Apple, the world`s most valuable publicly traded company rose another 2.9 percent today. Google parent company, Alphabet, gave 1.7 percent. And also, Time Warner announced $100 million deal to produce scripted content for Snapchat and Snapshare rose on that news. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.
TUR: Welcome back. Democrats in the senate have had it with the secrecy surrounding the Republican health care bill. Tonight they are staging an hour`s long talkathon on the senate floor in protest. The bill is being crafted behind closed doors and without any public hearing scheduled, but we could still be speeding toward a vote.
NBC`s Capitol Hill team says we could see some kind of outline of the bill as soon as this Wednesday with a marathon of votes starting next week. So Democrats are now trying to do whatever they can to slow the process including planning to use procedural tactics this week to stall senate business. But the fact remains Republicans control the White House, the house, and the senate.
And Democrats don`t have any seats at the negotiations. And they let consensus among themselves over what changes if any they would be open to making on Obamacare.
Joining me now is Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois. Senator, thank you for joining us. What have you heard, if anything, about what is in the senate health care bill?
SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH, D-ILLINOIS: I have not heard a single thing about what`s in the senate health care bill. All I can do is based on what came out of the house, and if anything, it`s going to be tragic for so many Americans, as many as 23 million Americans across this country will lose health insurance.
TUR: You know, we asked this of every Democrat that comes on. We really want to get to the bottom of what they believe needs to be fixed about the Affordable Care Act, about Obamacare. What in particular would you want to fix if you were given that opportunity?
DUCKWORTH: If I were given the opportunity, I would want to make sure that we can keep more insurers in the marketplace, there are parts of the country where there is a single insurer. I think that we need to make sure that we make it a little bit easier for people to have options within the marketplace and greater competition.
I do know that, you know, I voted against a medical device tax, for example, and that temporary fix is coming back, the medical device tax actually would be a tax that would have passed costs onto consumers. So there are things that we can do to fix it but certainly scrapping it and getting rid of health insurance for 23 million Americans which is what the Republicans are trying to do is not the fix. TUR: What about those in your party who want universal health care? Are they wasting their time by suggesting that?
DUCKWORTH: Well, you know, I think that we`re not going to be any place in the near term to pass universal health care. I do think that one of the things we could look at is a buy-in to Medicare, some sort of a version of public option that would certainly put someone else into the marketplace that would make it more accessible for Americans.
But, bottom line, the solution is not to put 13 men in a room and not allow anybody to look at what they`re drafting. And, by the way, they`re so secretive about it. They won`t even tell us what room they`re meeting.
TUR: Let`s get realistic. What power do Democrats have on their own to craft legislation?
DUCKWORTH: Well, the power that we have is a power to people. We are not just on our own. The American people are making their voices heard. That`s why you see people.
TUR: But what about in the senate specifically? What power do you have right now to craft your own legislation?
DUCKWORTH: We can certainly delay. That`s what we`re going to try to do. We are going to try to delay to force them to come to the table and show the American people what is in this bill. There needs to be a committee hearing. They want to bring this to the floor for a vote without even a committee hearing. So we don`t even know what`s in it.
From everything that I see here, they`re going to be bringing it to the floor just within hours of forcing us to vote on something that no one will have had a chance to read. And so what we can do is we can delay, we can force them to have a time crunch and an exchange of what we will say is we`ll then bring it out and let the public take a look at this bill.
TUR: So it is the best strategy for Democrats` obstruction? Is that the only strategy that you have?
DUCKWORTH: Well, the strategy is to pressure them to bring this out into the light of day and certainly slowing things down. Forcing them to be open about the process is important. Allowing the American people to rise up which they did with the house bill in the first version. And as I travel around Illinois, I hear it from everyone. Tell us what`s in it. This is what I`m asking Mr. McConnell, tell us what`s in it.
TUR: Sounds a lot like obstruction, senator.
DUCKWORTH: Well, it is, but it`s one of the many things we are trying to do. But destruction is not just to obstruct. Destruction is to make sure that they bring it out into the light of day. We`re not going to let them just fast track this thing onto the floor with no votes, with no discussion, so that they`re going to have people vote on something that will haunt the American people.
We are talking about 23 million Americans who will be thrown out on the streets without health insurance. There will be a tax increase on veterans. As many as 7 million veterans will see a tax increase after having served this country. This is a bill that takes health care away from the working core in order to give tax cuts to the very rich. I will step up and I will fight it every step of the way.
TUR: And most Democrats like you are very passionate about this subject. But if the Republicans do come to an agreement, they do come forward with a bill and send to the house and house signs it and the house goes and passes it on to the president. What can Democrats do to stop it? Is there any path whatsoever? Is there any strategy?
DUCKWORTH: Well, I don`t think there`s much we can do to stop it, but can certainly make it clear to the American people what has happened to them. We will see that all those Americans who will lose health insurance. People like myself with a pre-existing conditions who will suddenly find they can no longer afford health care insurance.
They are going to back to the battle days. People will die without access to health insurance. We are going to see children who will suffer. We will see the elderly who will be thrown out of their nursing homes because of the cuts to Medicaid. What we can do is make sure the American people understand what is happening here.
TUR: One of your colleagues, Bernie Sanders, was at a progressive people`s summit gathering in Chicago the other day and he was talking about the Democratic strategy saying, the current model and current strategy of the Democratic Party is an absolute failure. Do you agree?
DUCKWORTH: Well, you know, I just got elected to the senate and all I can say is I`m doing everything I possibly can. I don`t know that there is an outright strategy that the party is crafting to move forward. All I can tell you is that every tool at my disposal, I will use. I will protect the people of my state and of this country. I will protect people who are a part of the working poor who need health insurance.
I am going to protect people with pre-existing conditions. I am going to protect veterans. I am going to protect the elderly. I am going to make sure I do everything that I can and whatever tool I have left in my toolbox, I`m going to use it to make sure that I serve the people of Illinois and the people of this country. And I`m not going to let Republicans do this to the American people.
TUR: Do you want the party to be more moderate or more progressive?
DUCKWORTH: Look, I voted against the medical device tax. You know, I`m a pretty moderate Democrat but I`m also a very progressive one when it comes to things such at making sure that working American, hard-working folks have access to health insurance. You don`t get rid of something before you have a fix for it and that`s what we`re faced here.
And, you know, I`m open to allowing people to buy into Medicare, for example, so that we can get more folks covered and that`s certainly an option that is more progressive, but it`s also more realistic and we`re actually offering real solutions to the issues that we`re facing as opposed to pushing something through that will put people into the streets without health insurance.
TUR: Some of your colleagues down in the house, some Democratic colleagues, are bringing up the word "impeachment." Do you think it`s helpful right now to be talking about impeaching the president of the United States?
DUCKWORTH: I personally don`t think that it`s helpful. What I`m focused on is the very fact that Russia attacked this nation, this nation that I wore the uniform to protect and defend for 23 years of my adult life. We were attacked in cyberspace, but an attack nonetheless and stole the entire voting file for the state of Illinois. And they have yet to be punished.
They have yet to punished. I want to know what connections people that are in the White House have to Russia that is doing this. And, you know, we still haven`t punished Russia. And we should allow this independent investigation to move forward and whatever they find out, they find out.
Let`s make it nonpartisan. Let`s former Director Mueller do his job and get out of his way. You know, he may find that there`s nothing there. If he does, great. But if he does find that something is there, we need to hold those people accountable because you are colluding with the enemy.
TUR: Senator Tammy Duckworth, appreciate your time. Thank you.
DUCKWORTH: Thank you.
TUR: Still ahead, tensions rise between the U.S. and Russia over the conflict in Syria. Details next.
TUR: Welcome back. The heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia are now playing out in the skies over Syria. Russia is warning the U.S. military that Russian forces will shoot down planes and drones operated by U.S.-led coalition forces spotted west of the Euphrates. The Russian defense ministry also cut off a communication channel designed to help prevent mid-air collusion over Syria.
It comes a day after the U.S. military shot down a Syrian air force jet after the aircraft dropped bombs near U.S. backed coalition forces on the ground. It`s the first time American forces have downed a Syrian aircraft since the start of the country`s civil war back in 2011.
General Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the downing of the aircraft was done in self-defense and that the U.S. will work diplomatically and militarily to re-establish deconfliction. We`re back with "The Lid" right after this.
TUR: Time for "The Lid." The panel is back. Beth Fouhy, Jonathan Alter, Rick Tyler. So, is Georgia 6 going to be the canary in the coal mine, Beth?
BETH FOUHY, NBC NEWS SENIOR POLITICS EDITOR: Oh, my gosh. I`m out of the predictions business. I will say -- I was there for a few days over the weekend and what we reported and what I saw was a huge amount of enthusiasm for Jon Ossoff, the Democrat. 12,000 volunteers, all the suburban moms who had never been involved in politics before out there doing their thing, really excited about this campaign and wanting to flip that seat.
Very little enthusiasm on the other side for Karen Handel. She is not a very compelling candidate. Nonetheless, it is a very Republican district. And I think the chances that Ossoff is going to win, it`s going to be very, very, very close.
TUR: Are the voters for Ossoff as excited? Are these volunteers, people who are from that district who can vote in that district?
FOUHY: I found on both sides that each -- Republicans didn`t even know that much about Karen Handel. But the ones who are going to come out and vote for her were going to do it because they are going to pull that Republican lever and keep that seat in Republican hands.
On the other side, it was very much, we`re going to fight back at what we we see happened in November. We`re not going to let that happen again. And Jon Ossoff is our vessel to make sure that we can change things.
TUR: So Ossoff isn`t entirely focusing on Donald Trump. He is away from that and talking more about health care, getting into the substance of an issue rather than just painting Trump as the devil, as some Democrats and liberals have been doing. Do you think that is going to be an effective strategy for him?
JONATHAN ALTER, COLUMNIST FOR THE DAILY BEAST, MSNBC ANALYST: Yes, he`s pursuing the right strategy. If you watched his debate, he moved away from attacking Trump. His advertising is not about Trump. He doesn`t want to be a referendum on Trump. He`s trying not to make the mistake that Hillary Clinton made, just running against Trump. He`s speaking up on health care and wide variety of other issues. The amazing thing about this kid is.
FOUHY: Yeah, he`s young.
ALTER: . he doesn`t live in the district. He was a documentary filmmaker and a congressional aide. He didn`t really have any experience in politics but he has played error-free ball from month after month after month which is really hard in the glare of this publicity, and not make mistakes.
ALTER: And other Democratic candidates have a lot to learn from him, whether he wins or loses.
TUR: Remarkable discipline already. Donald Trump is making that same point that he doesn`t live in the district. He`s been tweeting about it for the past -- during the past hour. Initially, he spelled Karen Handel`s name wrong. But they deleted that and fixed it.
How much of an issue is there going to be that he doesn`t live there? That`s what Handel is focusing on. She`s not really focusing on health care. She told Breitbart that`s the biggest issue.
RICK TYLER, REPUBLICAN PUBLIC RELATIONS AND POLITICAL STRATEGY ADVISOR: Well, it doesn`t make sense that he doesn`t live there. I mean, I`ve heard this excuse which is pretty pathetic, right? But, I don`t think in the end it`s going to make that big of a difference. The thing about Ossoff is that he fits the district.
I mean, Democrats and progressive particularly have to be willing to take someone like that to win those kind of seats. Will it be a bellwether? Only in that -- those are the kind of seats that Democrats need to win in order to the majority in 2018. If he wins, they can show, yes, we can pick off these kind of Republican seats. This is not a Trump district. It`s a Republican district.
TUR: But they weren`t enthusiastic for Trump in this district.
TYLER: No, Trump won it by two percentage points but Tom Price won it by 22 or some 22 or 24 points. And so you have a lot of people who are in the district who are like -- who were the progressives who are excited to work for Ossoff, but then you have people who are like -- it may be a referendum on Trump.
TUR: Say the Democrats lose by just a point. It`s very close for the Democrats. Ossoff loses. Does that stop moment them cold?
TYLER: (inaudible) live in the district.
ALTER: You know, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
ALTER: The Democrats have to win one of these things if they`re going to keep their momentum for 2018. So it`s a very, very important election for Democrats. It is not like this is being nationalized by Ossoff and his people. So the obnoxious fund-raising emails that a lot of Democrats around the country are getting, they`re not getting those inside the district in the same way.
TUR: How interesting.
ALTER: They`re running kind of two campaigns, raising money in the rest of the country. Inside the district, it`s being done by locals. They`re very conscious of not having a lot of the people coming down to help, you know, out campaigning as much as I think people assume.
It`s very skillfully run campaign. I think if he loses, it will because it has been so nationalized that Republicans who normally would have stayed home in an off-year special election, they`re not mobilized. They go, hey, what is this all about? Maybe they will pay attention.
ALTER: . if they show up in some numbers who could get upset. But he has favored in most polls.
TUR: Final thought?
FOUHY: Yeah, it`s a huge, huge turnout. Something like twice the number of people have already voted, than did in the first go-around in April. Projecting, you know, yet another huge turnout tomorrow. We`re going to see sort of an outcome that is as large as a normal congressional race would be, instead of a special election. I do think that there is some -- if Ossoff loses, there would be a significant demoralization.
ALTER: And a big impact on health care. Big impact on health care.
TUR: Jon Ossoff calling you right now.
TUR: Guys, I appreciate it. Beth, Jon, Rick, thanks so much for being here. Jon, I hope that`s a call from somebody interesting. After the break, an update on the member of the White House you might have missed lately. Stay tuned.
TUR: In case you missed it, you probably haven`t seen much of White House press secretary lately. That`s not because he`s gone anywhere. Despite another round of rumors today, Sean Spicer still has his job. It`s because in case you missed it, there hasn`t been an on-camera White House briefing since last Monday. So here are a couple things you may have missed from today`s of-camera White House briefing.
Spicer told the White House press corps he still has not had a chance to ask the president if he thinks climate change is man-made. He had the same answer when asked by a reporter earlier in the month. And those rumored White House tapes of conversations between President Trump and former FBI Director James Comey, Spicer said it`s possible the White House would have an answer on their existence later in the week.
The president recently said, you`re going to be very disappointed by that announcement. We will be even more disappointed if the answer no matter what it is, isn`t on camera either. That will do it for me tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more "MTP Daily." "For the Record" with Greta starts right now. Greta, I`m giving it to you 19 seconds early today.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END