Show: MTP DAILY Date: June 23, 2017 Guest: Bill McInturff, Fred Yang, Neera Tanden, Ron Wyden, Greg Miller
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: That does it for this very busy hour. I`m Nicole Wallace. "MTP DAILY" starts right now. Hi, Chuck.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Hi Nicole. Good to see you. Happy Friday.
WALLACE: You too, happy Friday.
TODD: All right.
Well, if it`s Friday, 38 is our number of the day.
(voice-over): Tonight, he`s all about that bass.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`ve done in five months what other people haven`t done in years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: President Trump`s support sits at a mere 40 percent. But in a deeply divided country, could that actually be enough to get what he wants? Plus, can Democrats sway enough ambivalent Republicans on health care to kill the Senate bill`s chances?
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SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: (INAUDIBLE), I will not support it.
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TODD: Senator Ron Wyden joins us on what, if anything, Senate Democrats can do next week.
And another stunning, new report on Russia`s election hacking. Did the Obama administration sit on its hands?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, we actually know, yes, Putin directed it. He had a specific goal. That was to defeat Hillary Clinton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.
(on camera): Well, good evening and welcome to MTP DAILY. I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington.
Tonight. we begin with a question of trust. Senate Republicans continue to try to overhaul health care and new questions are arising about the Obama administration`s handling of Russia`s meddling in the election. And the political tunnel, the American people remain deeply divided as evidenced in our brand new NBC News-"Wall Street Journal" poll.
We talk a lot on this show about the lack of trust in institutions. Americans don`t trust politicians. They don`t trust the two parties. They don`t trust the media. The president, himself, is constantly raising doubts about the intelligence community.
Folks, the 2016 election is over but you actually wouldn`t know it yet. Apologies if you still think the calendar hadn`t changed. And our poll, though, suggested the distrust is so ramped (ph) that we now don`t even trust each other.
We asked respondents about last week`s shooting of Republican majority whip, Steve Scalise, among others at that Republican baseball team`s practice field. Political leaders on all sides called for unity after that incident. And many hoped it would be a turning point or at least a pause.
But the reality, our poll shows a deeply divided electorate. Swift to point blame at the other side and unlikely to even believe at someone with differing views.
When asked if extreme rhetoric from some in the media or political leaders was an important contributor to the incident or if it was an isolated incident, more about a mentally disturbed individual, the responses were actually pretty much mixed. 46 percent overall felt it was an isolated incident. 41 percent blamed rhetoric.
But when you break it out by party identification, the responses are strikingly different. Among Republicans, just 37 percent said it was an isolated incident. A majority of Republicans blamed extreme political rhetoric. Not too surprising since it was revealed the shooter was a Sanders` supporter.
For Democrats, just the opposite. 55 percent of Democrats said the shooting was just an isolated incident. 32 percent blamed heated rhetoric.
Folks, if 2016 was the year of post truth. It`s almost like 2017, we`re living in a post-substance world. Neither side is listening to the other. Tribalism rules the day. And what matters most is a win or a loss for your side. And we heard it directly from the poll respondents who blame political rhetoric.
We asked them why they chose the political rhetoric. A Republican woman from Texas in her early 50s told us this. Quote, "They keep stirring the crap. The Democrats don`t seem to care who they`re lying to. They just keep lying and the media keeps reporting the lies which keeps stirring the crap."
And then, there was this from an Indiana Democrat in his early 60s. Quote, "People are very gullible and if they only listen to one side of the story, then that`s what they belief. The right-wing media and the conservatives only give the public half the truth so people don`t question the government."
And then, there`s an independent woman in her late 50s from North Carolina. She ended up blaming everybody. I think extreme political rhetoric has gotten to a very irresponsible place. I think people were desperate on both sides to get their candidate in office and they became very irresponsible in the ways they communicated.
And the aggression was too much and when you have people on the edge to begin with, it just takes enough to send them over. It has emboldened people on the right and emboldened people on the left.
Folks, the Democrats don`t trust Republicans and the Republicans don`t trust the Democrats. And the Independents are stuck in the middle, saying, well, that`s why I`m not a member of either party.
And our political leaders are following their voters` lead as evidenced in the health care vote. But there`s one other thing. Stuck inside our poll numbers is a magic number for President Trump. Hovering between 38 percent and 40 percent in his approval rating, it`s the percent who believe the economy has improved and that he deserved credit. Another 38 and the percent that want the repeal and replace effort to continue, 38.
Those numbers may seem small. They`re not a majority but they`re mighty. And, right now, it`s keeping the president and this party afloat.
Let`s dive into those numbers with my pollsters. We`ll do that in a minute.
But it`s important to remember. If the health care passes, it will be without any votes from Democrats and Congress. And some Republican members are being asked to decide between dismantling the law that works for their state in the name of party loyalty or they could vote against the GOP health care bill in order to do what they think is best for the constituents and then face a loss in the primary.
It`s an impossible choice. But if our poll is any indicator, it`s more risky to stray from the party line than from what could be best interest of the constituents.
I`m joined now by pollsters, our pollsters from behind the NBC-"Wall Street Journal" poll. Fred Yang, on the Democratic side. He`s with Hart Research. And Bill McInturff on the Republican side with the Republican Opinion Strategies. Welcome to you both.
Fred, I want to start with you because you were the inspiration for why I wanted to, sort of, set up the poll this way, when you said, yes, I`ve got a thousand pages of cross tabs for you. But these quotes are emblematic of where our politics stands today.
FRED YANG, PARTNER, HART RESEARCH ASSOCIATES: Well, you said not only Republicans and Democrats don`t trust other, what the verbatim show is we don`t even listen to each other anymore. And so, how can you get trust if you`re not even willing to listen to the other side.
And, look, I think, you know, that`s where this country is and, as you noted, that`s where politicians follow the voters.
TODD: Bill, it is interesting. When you go through this poll, I keep -- I keep counting -- I keep seeing 38 percent. I keep seeing 38 percent. And it struck me, the public has organized itself as if we`re a parliamentary system.
And right now, the biggest faction in American politics is that 38 percent that is sticking by the president and the Republican party. And they stick by it, lock -- and while it`s not a majority, it`s bigger than any other faction. And that is the guiding light right now for the Republicans. Fair?
BILL MCINTURFF, POLLSTER, REPUBLICAN OPINION STRATEGIES: Yes. Actually, I`ve said this before. I`ve said, we`ve become a parliamentary system without the nicety of a prime minister that each party is voting 90 or 95 percent for their own candidates.
And the middle has, sort of, evaporated. And part of that`s because of our congressional districts. There are just no really competitive seats. The seats were drawn to either be very Republican or very Democrat. So, each party has a and each member has a smart political filter. How do I not lose a primary?
TODD: I think it makes -- I guess the question is -- I feel like it now makes interpreting polls different now, right? I mean, we used to -- you know, it used to be 50 was the new 60. I think with Obama, 45 was the new 50. He has 40. We have the president sitting at 40. There was really no change.
If you look -- if you would have said, five years ago, 40 percent is a disaster for that party`s running in a congressional race. But 40 percent was good enough for the Republicans to win a swing district (ph).
YANG: And -- I mean, look, you know, we had our discussion over the poll yesterday. Bill and (INAUDIBLE) Riley pointed out one of the reasons why President Trump is in the high 30s, low 40s is because virtually no Democrats will give him any oxygen.
And that`s very different from in the past. It`s usually taken a year or a year and a half for an Obama or Clinton to reach those levels.
TODD: By the way, I`m -- I couldn`t -- I had forgotten that Obama could get the 30 percent job approval rating from Republicans. I did not realize that Obama gotten to 30 among Republicans.
MCINTURFF: Well, that was at the beginning of his administration. But I think it`s important to communicate this. We live in two worlds. Do you live in a congressional district that`s run by Republicans or one that`s run by Democrats?
If you`re in a Republican direction, and you say you approve of President Trump by two points, if you live in a Democratic district, you disapprove of the president by 40 points. That`s a 42-point difference.
And so, when you say, how come Republicans are not losing Republican open seats? They`ve been drawn to stay Republican.
TODD: This split is all over. Let me just throw up a whole bunch of them and let you just see it. The president -- approval rating of the president`s decision to fire James Comey. OK, overall, it was 27-46, approve to disapprove. But among Republicans, 55 percent approved of it. Among Democrats, 75 percent disapproved of it.
How about, did the Russian government interfere in the 2016 election? Something that 17 intelligence -- this is not about collusion. This is simply about, did the of the Russians interfere? Overall, a majority believe that they did, 53 percent.
But look at the party splits. 65 percent of Republicans saying no. 70 percent -- I mean, we can keep going down the line here.
It`s not a belief system anymore. We now disagree on facts.
MCINTURFF: Well, I think it`s -- I think part of the Republican response is that they`re pushing back and they`re saying there was not interference that, in their mind, affected the results of the election.
And so, for example, we`ve got 24 -- about one out of four people in the country say, I believe that Hillary Clinton would be president were it not for the Russians. And that`s the thesis totally rejected by the Republican base.
YANG: I think some of this is, like, a decade ago, maybe the average person`s first response, would be, maybe they could be right. Maybe there`s some truth (ph) to this.
And I think now, the default position, on either side, --
YANG: -- is they`re wrong and I`m right.
TODD: This plays out on health care. You guys both have plenty of clients that are going to be on the ballots in 2018.
What`s amazing here is 10 years ago, if you would have said -- well, maybe 15 years ago, if you were to have said to me, boy, Fred, Democrats, do they risk alienating -- looking like they`re not wanting to do their job by not working with the Republicans?
But is there an argument to be made that Democrats -- Democratic voters would punish any Democrat by a greater margin if they worked across the aisle than not? And the same question vice versa.
YANG: The polls I`ve seen would suggest Democratic voters are more open than Republican voters, just, sort of, that working across party lines argument. I think that is true.
So -- but, still, I think, depending on, you know, the location and the district, right now, one of the big factors for Democratic voters is, how much are you leading the resistance of Trump?
TODD: And the Republican side, there`s no upside, as far -- unless you`re truly in a swing district. There`s not a lot of upside of working across the aisle, is there?
MCINTRUFF: No. The -- look, here`s the thing I want to make sure, though, we understand. That is a generational change. Political scientists measure polarization by my party rates my president -- my own president this way. I rate the other party this way.
Bill Clinton was our most polarizing president until George Bush, who was the most polarizing president until Barack Obama. And he`s the most polarizing president until Donald Trump.
And so, we need to look back at the Clinton era and say, this is not out of the blue. This took 20 years to get here. And it`s -- and this is a long- time step-by-step process to create this lock that you are talking about between these two political parties.
TODD: Well, every time we think we`ve hit bottom, as you just said, we go, this has to be bottom. And who revolts? Like, do the independents revolt, at some point? Do the soft Ds and soft Rs revolt what happens and do they revolt in time or not?
YANG: Well, I actually thought that the Trump victory was, in some respects, a revolt. Because he really is -- he wasn`t Democrat, not really a Republican.
TODD: Somewhat of a conservative.
YANG: Yes. Yes. And, sort of, you know, our partner, Peter Hart, has been saying for 25 years. This country is right for third party.
YANG: But Trump had that opportunity allaying (ph) and now it`s, sort of, been furthered away.
TODD: Yes. I mean, that does seem to be -- there was an opening here where you had a group of people in the middle so sick and tired of gridlock in Washington that they were willing to -- you know, let`s try something, anything. That may -- that opening may be gone.
MCINTURFF: Well, actually, you know, we have to go back to where we were election night. And you asked us then, how did this happen? And we said, look, there`s one out of -- one out of five people did not like either candidate but they voted Donald Trump by a two to one margin.
Because at the end of the day, if I didn`t like both, to hell with it. Let me try something new. And I still think the president -- (INAUDIBLE) in our own poll. A plurality of people say, I still think Trump represents a positive change, that`s 41 percent of Americans. 23 percent, I think he presents a change I think would be bad.
I think we`re underestimating Trump`s strength in the element of change still. And this is a very good economy. And the Republicans over the Democrats are the party where they think the economy is going to get better. And if you`re the party, Republicans, who represent change and the strong economy, today, those are pretty two powerful playing cards on the table.
TODD: Obama used it in 2012.
YANG: I think it got used in 2012 but unlike those years, we are going to have a Republican Congress repeal a health care law that`s been in place.
So, look, there are always issues with Obamacare. Obviously, it was -- it was a big issue of 2010. But it was never about taking something away from the public, and I think that`s the added layer of vulnerability Republicans have heading into 2018 and 2020.
TODD: All right. Fred and Bill, I will leave it there. It`s quite the poll. And it`s, unfortunately, a bit depressing. That`s the day of our politics. But thanks.
So, let`s bring in tonight`s panel. Chew on this. Neera Tanden, President and CEO at the Senate for American Progress. Hugh Hewitt, Radio Host and NBC and MSNBC Political Analyst, whose new show premieres here on MSNBC tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. And Sara Fagen, she was a senior aide and White House political director to George W. Bush. She`s now an CNBC contributor.
Let`s deal with the news at the top here. Sarah, I`ll start with you. Heller, Dean Heller, one of the probably most vulnerable Republicans up for reelection in 2018.
SARA FAGEN, CNBC CONTRIBUTOR: There`s a few Republicans, yes.
TODD: They`re the handful that have to worry about it in a state that Hillary Clinton carried. He now is saying he`s no on the bill as it`s written now which we all know that --
TODD: -- there`s senator posturing and then there`s real no. He seems to be in a real vice grip. There is no good answer for him politically.
FAGEN: Well, there`s not a great answer for him politically today.
But, you know, I think, look, part of what makes people successful in politics is when they take something and they own it.
And so, you know, we`ll see where this bill ends up. I suspect he will probably ultimately be for it. We`ll see.
But then, he`s got to own it. And that`s going to be what his campaign is about. It`s going to be about, he voted to save health care in America. Because, as we know, these big companies are pulling out every week in states.
And this thing is collapsing. And Republican senators are going to have to make sure that they are talking about what they`re doing to provide health care for people.
TODD: You know, Neera, reluctant -- supporting something reluctantly. Being dragged to support something. That didn`t go so well for Democrats in 2010.
NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Yes, they --
TODD: It`s not as if voters say, oh, you were a reluctant supporter of something I didn`t like? It doesn`t matter.
TANDEN: Yes, it doesn`t -- it doesn`t really matter. I mean, I think the issue with Sandoval -- I mean, with Sandoval, the governor, and his pressure on Heller is --
TODD: The Republican governor.
TANDEN: The Republican governor -- is that I don`t think Heller can make that argument in Nevada because his own governor says this bill is a disaster. And his language today was very clear. I mean, you can make a pretty easy ad against Heller for what he said about this bill. You can make slight improvements here and there.
But, at the end of the day, given what they`re doing to Medicaid, hundreds of thousands of people in Nevada, there are children with disabilities, women with breast cancer are going to lose their health care because of this bill.
FAGEN: That`s a completely false statement. That is a completely false statement.
TANDEN: No, it is not a false statement.
FAGEN: It is a false statement.
TANDEN: We`ll see on CBO when -- CBO is going to score it on Monday and we`ll see what they say.
FAGEN: They`re bad about numbers and we all know that.
TANDEN: OK. Are you right about the numbers? Why -- where are (INAUDIBLE)?
FAGEN: I didn`t say it was --
TANDEN: And doctors` groups have come out against this bill. And he has come out against this bill.
FAGEN: States have the ability to reshape this in a way that is more efficient, that`s more effective, and that provides the coverage that the people in the states need.
TANDEN: Then why is Governor Sandoval against it? If he thought this was such a great bill for the people in Nevada, he would be supporting it. He`s come out against it. Governor Kasich has come out against it.
FAGEN: Because all these states -- many of these states have budget challenges and this is going to provide some short-term paying for states. Every --
TODD: Let me go to the political side of this for Mitch McConnell, Hugh Hewitt, which is this. Who should he worry about moving this bill toward, Rand Paul, Ron Johnson, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Dean Heller, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, Shelley Moore Capito, Susan Collins?
HUGH HEWITT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I spent three hours on the radio this morning talking about this. Dean Heller is an ex-senator if he votes against this bill. It is that simple. OK?
TANDEN: He`s an ex-senator if he votes for it.
TODD: He could be an ex-senator either way?
HEWITT: He may be either way, but it is a certain thing if he --
TODD: You really believe --
HEWITT: I really believe he --
TANDEN: Why? Why? Republicans (INAUDIBLE.)
HEWITT: Because I talked to the base every day.
TANDEN: Yes, and they`re just not going to vote for him because (INAUDIBLE.)
HEWITT: They will not vote for him.
FAGEN: There`s another angle here where he`s able to improve it and now it becomes something he did and he (INAUDIBLE) for Republicans all along and he was able to get it passed. But he`s got to own it. The thing with (INAUDIBLE) is he`s got to own it.
TANDEN: He has made a huge (INAUDIBLE.)
TODD: What do you do, though -- OK. The problem is that moves it in one direction. And while I think we all believe, Hugh, that Rand Paul`s a definite no. He feels more no than everybody else. He actually -- he has set a bar that --
HEWITT: This can`t meet.
TODD: -- you -- that he isn`t going to.
TANDEN: And so has Heller. Actually, what he said today is exactly what he said. That`s what he said.
TODD: I think Heller is too. So, I guess what --
HEWITT: So, what I want to do is for Republican (INAUDIBLE) --
TODD: So, where do you find your (INAUDIBLE)?
HEWITT: -- and do exactly the opposite. Lisa Murkowski and Dean -- and Rand Paul are nos. And maybe you get Lisa Murkowski with enough money. I doubt it. Everybody else has to be made comfortable with the bill. I believe that Senator Capito can be done. I can believe Senator Collins can be got. I believe Senator Heller has to come back.
But it can be done and I think Mitch McConnell knows that sweet spot, for Rand Paul and Lisa Murkowski.
TANDEN: Senator Collins is a great example. She has defended her statements on Planned Parenthood. To fix it with Planned Parenthood for her definitive statements. I get it people -- their word can be meaningless. But assuming their word means something, her statements on Planned Parenthood make it virtually impossible for the conservative -- the vast majority of conservatives to (INAUDIBLE.)
TODD: Let me ask this. If McConnell and it comes Thursday. And this is the day he wanted to get the vote out --
TODD: -- and he doesn`t have the numbers. The last thing he wants to do - - I think he believes prolonging the debate only makes it worse. This is not wine. It does not get better with age.
TODD: Do you pull the plug right then and force the vote, get everybody on the record. If it goes down, you say, I`m out. Let`s go to taxes?
FAGEN: Look, I don`t subscribe to that view because I think you have to get the bill done. Republicans --
TODD: Worst outcome if you vote, something`s better than nothing.
FAGEN: First of all, they`ve got something that is an improvement on what exists and they can run on that and champion it. And, look, I`m not saying we`re --
TODD: But what if we don`t know if people will think it`s an improvement, for what it`s worth?
FAGEN: -- I`m not saying Republicans are running the P.R. war, at the moment. But they have a long time to win the P.R. war.
HEWITT: It is the most important opportunity to involve (ph) an entitlement in our lifetime --
HEWITT: -- since the great depression.
FAGEN: And if Republicans --
TODD: Well, we have to remember when Democrats thought, well, if they`d just get time to sell health care, it will go well.
FAGEN: No, I`m not saying it`s easy. And I think we`re behind the curve, as a party, on selling this bill. And there`s a bunch of reasons for that which we could spend all show debating.
But, nonetheless, Republicans spent seven years talking about this. They simply cannot present themselves on the ballot in 2018 without health care.
TANDEN: I guess -- can I just say quickly. I mean, from the political mindset, I would say -- you know, Democrats should say, you will own the health care system. You will own this bill.
It will -- people will lose coverage. They will start losing coverage this year. There will be ads against every Republican and every House district who did this. Because it`s already unpopular. It`s not going to get more popular. It`s already unpopular.
So, I mean, there is a political argument if they pass this. I believe in keeping health care and not destroying people`s health care.
So, I don`t think it is the right thing to do for the country. But I would also say in all these polls, even yours, people -- Republicans want them to continue working. Cassidy and others have called for a continued working.
TODD: I don`t know if they can afford to keep this debate going. I don`t know.
HEWITT: It`s the art of the possible and McConnell will figure it out.
TODD: We shall see. All right, you guys are sticking around. We`ll just pause this debate. Trust me, it`s a pause.
Coming up, another Republican, we just told you about, pulls the support from the Senate health care bill. We`ll talk to Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and whether the growing Republican resistance ends up helping Democrats decide whether they want a seat at the table or not.
TODD: Welcome back.
We have some good news to report. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise is out of the Intensive Care Unit at MedStar Hospital. Scalise left the ICU late Thursday, eight days after he was shot in the hip during a practice for the congressional baseball game. On Wednesday, the hospital updated his condition to fair.
Also, Matt Mika, the lobbyist who was injured in last Wednesday`s shooting, he, too, is out of the ICU at George Washington University Hospital. He is now listed in good condition.
And Mika also got a visit yesterday from Washington Nationals` outfielder, Jason Werth. Not too bad. Look at that. He even cleaned up. Combed his hair. He looks good out there.
Good job, Jason. Good job, Matt. And good to see you up and smiling.
We`ll be back in 60 seconds with more MTP DAILY.
TODD: Welcome back.
Reaction has been swift since Senate Republicans unveiled their version of a health care bill. And as we mentioned at the top, Nevada Senator Dean Heller who probably has the toughest reelection fight of any Republican senator that`s up in 2018, came out against the bill, as it`s written, this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DEAN HELLER (R), NEVADA: This is why. First, it doesn`t protect Nevadans on Medicaid and the most vulnerable, the vets, the elderly, Nevadans struggling with mental health issues, substance abuse and people with disabilities. The biggest lie in health care in the last 10 years, was if you like your doctor, you can keep them.
If this bill passes, the second biggest lie is that premiums are going down. There isn`t anything in this legislation that will lower your premiums.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Folks, this is yet another blow to the bill`s prospects it adds now. Now, you`ve got someone on the moderate end of spectrum saying no.
With no Democrats on board, Republicans need 50 votes. So, they can afford to lose two Republicans but not more. But President Trump this morning was optimistic about convincing the four conservatives who came against the bill yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, they`re also four good guys and they`re four friends of mine. And I think that they`ll probably get there. We`ll have to see. I`ve done in five months what other people haven`t done in years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Joining me now for the Democratic perspective on this, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. Somebody who`s been working on health care issues for quite some time. I actually want to bring those up.
Senator Wyden, thank you for coming on.
WYDEN: Thank you, Chuck.
TODD: Look, I know that Democrats are not supportive of this bill. Hard stop. Explain to me what your goal is next week during the amendment process of this bill. Do you really want to fix this bill or is it -- are the amendments of the Democrats` offer going to be about making political statements?
WYDEN: We want to defeat this bill. This bill would be a huge setback for millions of Americans who depend, for example, on Medicaid as a lifeline for nursing home.
And the fact is, Chuck, what we`re with here, and Americans hate it, is a big con job. The Republicans said after this horrible House bill passed, they were going to start fresh.
Instead, they`ve doubling down. For example, the H tax that was in the House bill that says that you can charge people between 55 and 64 five times as much. It is still in the Senate bill. It`s been a con job
TODD: All right, that`s pretty tough words. So, it does not sound like you want to do any -- you don`t think this bill is fixable.
Let me ask you this, why -- is it just, politically, too hard for either political base to tolerate the two parties working together on an issue this polarizing right now?
WYDEN: Chuck, I have dedicated my professional life finding common ground on health care. I`ve written bipartisan laws and have been signed by presidents of both political parties.
Look, the point is we`ve said from the very beginning that if Republicans said that they wouldn`t go with a partisan our way or the highway approach which is known as reconciliation, we`d work together. The first thing we`d do is we`d stabilize the private insurance market. I have some ideas. And, by the way, in my bipartisan health reform bill, some Republicans went along with those.
Then, we`d move to prescription drugs. One of the things we ought to be doing is going after the middlemen. For example, these pharmaceutical benefit managers. We don`t know what they put in their pocket and what they put in the consumers` pocket. Those can all be bipartisan. But you can`t do it if have a partisan process which, in Washington lingo, as you know, is called reconciliation.
TODD: You know, I -- it struck me. In 2011, you and Paul Ryan worked on a Medicare bill. And you got a lot of grief from Democrats for working on that bill. Tell me about that experience?
WYDEN: Well, of course, you get flack (ph). But what I can tell you is out of that experience, I came up with an approach that liberals and conservatives liked that would update the Medicare guarantee.
Now, Medicare, when it started, was about broken ankles and a bad case of the flu. Now, Medicare is about cancer and diabetes and heart disease and strokes.
And we have launched a very significant bipartisan effort to update the Medicare guarantee. We can find common ground on it. Unfortunately, that`s not what the Republicans want to do, with respect to the Affordable Care Act.
With respect to the Affordable Care Act, I think they`ve had two goals. One is you give a massive tax cut to the well to do. You look, for example, at the capital gains break. We`ve got people who are going to get hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax breaks with that capital gains provision.
Well, we`ll see (ph) baby boomers who`ve had a stroke and can`t afford health care. That`s not fair.
TODD: If the bill goes down, because of some changes that HHS has made under President Trump, there is more insurers pulling out of this market. And again and I know each side is using -- there is -- many of the insurers have pointed to this decision by HHS which some Republicans argue was illegal, the guaranteeing of sort of some stabilization funds in order to encourage folks to come in.
I guess my question is this, what do you have to do if this bill goes down, what do you have to do with the health insurance exchanges in order to stabilize the market this summer if this bill goes down next Thursday?
WYDEN: Chuck, the first thing we are going to do and I hope this bill goes down, we are digging in to make that possible, is we are to stop pouring gasoline on the fires of uncertainty in the health insurance marketplace. This is the private sector. There are poor uncertainty.
And the fact that the Trump administration constantly plays Russian (inaudible) with the idea of making these payments means the private insurers don`t have a realistic way to price the products. The first thing we will do is stabilize the private insurance market. We got ideas on how to make it more efficient. I would like to get more people into these insurance networks in providing ways to better spread cost and risks.
If we can take this down, the first thing we are going to say is we are going to come up with some ideas and we have already suggested them with Democrats so we can pursue it on a bipartisan basis.
TODD: Let me ask you this. Why did Obamacare do that?
WYDEN: As you know, that was not my first choice. I had a bill with several Democrats and several Republicans.
TODD: I remember it. You and Bob Bennett, if I remember it right. It was Wyden and Bennett.
WYDEN: What we got was one of our key provisions. We had 14 senators evenly divided between both political parties saying that we absolutely have to have airtight loophole free protection so that people with preexisting conditions don`t get discriminated again. We got that into the Affordable Care Act.
One of the reasons I feel so strongly about rejecting this Republican proposal is I don`t want to go back to the days where there are loopholes in the protection for people with preexisting conditions. Lets not go back to the days when health care was for the health and wealthy.
TODD: I guess I go back to -- why did Obamacare struggle to stabilize the market?
WYDEN: My sense is when they constructed the exchanges, there are probably too many of them. For example, it was not efficient as it ought to be and clearly you need more incentives to make it attractive for young people to get into the pool, get into this insurance. You can`t help people buying coverage after they got sick. Now in the bipartisan bill that I have, we are able to avoid those kinds of problems.
I think that was one better approach than Affordable Care Act. But the bottom line was what made me convinced that we have to pass the Affordable Care Act is that if you don`t have protection for people who have preexisting conditions, the insurance companies can constantly clobber the millions of people who face those kinds of problems and you do have care just for the healthy and wealthy. That`s not America.
TODD: Senator Ron Wyden, I`m going to leave it there, Democrat from Oregon. You too sticking around a little bit late. I know most of your colleagues took off. Thanks.
WYDEN: We are digging in. We are digging in for the fight.
TODD: All right. We`ll see you next week.
WYDEN: Thanks for having me.
TODD: Still ahead, new details about what the Obama administration knew about Russia`s election interference and about what it did and did not do.
TODD: On Sunday, we`ll look at where things stand on health care. We`ll talk exclusively to Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin about the changes he is insisting need to be made before he will support the bill.
We will also speak to Senator Bernie Sanders who has said the Republican senate bill will literally cause people to die. That`s this Sunday on your local NBC station. Next on MTP Daily, why one Obama White House official says they choked on their response to Russia`s election interference. Keep it here.
TODD: Welcome back. A former senior Obama administration official who remained nameless told The Washington Post "I feel like we sort of choked" after deliberations on Russia. It is part of a bombshell report from The Washington Post today. The new story details how President Obama weighed the critical intelligence that Vladimir Putin personally instructed Russian operatives to damage Hillary Clinton and specifically attempted to help elect Donald Trump.
The Post reports that last August, President Obama and a handful of aides began receiving eyes only briefings on Putin`s attempt to interfere in the presidential election. It was that same month that then candidate Trump re- upped the rigged election rhetoric. So by September, key members of congress were briefed on Russian attempts to interfere. But the meeting of course we know know ended with partisan disagreement on how to publicly respond.
In that same month, candidate Trump was telling the Kremlin back television network RT that was "probably unlikely that Russia was behind interference." The White House reportedly weighed a number of responses and after months of what it turns out months of secret debate, the former president landed on a modest package that even those who helped design them described their impact as largely symbolic.
That`s what led to this sort of choked comment from that senior administration official who chose to remain nameless. Greg Miller is one of the key reporters that helped break this story for The Washington Post. He joins me now. Greg, thanks for coming on.
GREG MILLER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Sure, thank you.
TODD: So, you know, after reading your story, I`m starting to wonder, will we look back in 20 years and say the eyes only briefing that was handed from the CIA to the president, the eyes of I`m assuming say, Dennis McDonald (ph), Susan Rice, and probably one or two others, is that going to be -- will we look at that -- is that the equivalent of that famous August 6, 2001 presidential daily brief that said bin Laden determined to attack like we will look back and say, ah, there was the red flag.
MILLER: Yeah, that`s interesting. I hadn`t thought of that. That actually kind of works. I mean, in this case, there were already some signals from pretty clear ones that Russia was mocking around in the election. This piece of intelligence though, the significance of it was twofold. One, it confirmed that this operation was being run by Putin himself.
Secondly, that he had a preferred candidate. That he had instructed Russian intelligence services to work, to benefit Donald Trump and try to help to beat Hillary Clinton. That intelligence came right at the beginning of August, I mean, much earlier than we had known and long many months before the Obama administration gave any glimpse of that to the public.
TODD: So with this whole debate on what to do, all of it was, it seems like caller by the issue of perception.
MILLER: Oh yeah, big time. So, there were two main things. One was the White House before the election was reluctant to take action in part because they worried about escalation with Russia leading to chaos on election day, really worried that Russia might mound some serious cyber assault on November 8th that would disable voting machines or something like that.
But you`re right, there was this sort of perception in politics, also an important layer in all of these considerations. The Obama team throughout this period was just really paralyzed by concern that it would be accused of politicizing intelligence, that it would be accused of using this Russian intel, using its response to that in ways to try to help Hillary Clinton.
TODD: It is a good thing that hasn`t happened because none of that has happened on that front. I am curious, some Obama administration officials have made the claim to me that, yes, you can criticize them for not acting publicly faster. They claimed that the action they took based on this intelligence did slow the Russians down.
That maybe there was a plan to infiltrate the election data, try to mess up election day itself, and that the response whether it was President Obama`s personal appeal of Putin at the G-20 or whether it was the sanctions or whether it was the fact that they got outed that that did stop the program, do we know that for sure?
MILLER: Well, we don`t really know what the Russian objectives or intentions were on election day. There were certainly indications that they were probing state voting systems and databases. That was seen as a really troubling sign. But there is no really clear cut intelligence that we know of that that was the plan that they then backed away from because Obama confronted Putin in China and the administration sent other warnings to Russia.
TODD: Why didn`t they after the election do something stronger?
MILLER: I mean, I think that`s a really good question. I think that the election outcome was such a shock to the system that it took them a while to recover and regain their footing. When they did and they returned to these deliberations over measures toward Moscow, I mean their political standing had changed. They were now looking at adapting measures that maybe would or would not be supportive by a Trump administration.
So I think they were trying to calibrate those in a way that would design to survive that transition. I mean, all along their assumption was a Hillary victory which meant that they felt they had time to work with whatever they did not finish doing, the Clinton administration would complete. All of a sudden they are looking a Trump administration that wants no part of sanctions on Russia.
TODD: All right. I wish I have more time for this. Greg Miller, fascinating reporting. Good work. Thanks for coming on. Appreciate it.
MILLER: Thank you.
TODD: All right. We got a lot more. We will discuss a little about Russia right after the break.
TODD: Well, that solid intelligence about Putin convinced more Republicans that this was real. We`ll talk about that and the role the Obama administration played in all right after this, so keep it here.
TODD: Time for "The Lid." Panel is back. Neera Tanden, Hugh Hewitt, Sara Fagen. Let me read something here from Tim Kaine, Neera. He wrote this for magazine. It looks like a bit in response to the Obama administration and what it had on Russia.
"Obama once said his national security strategy was don`t do stupid stuff. But sometimes not doing stupid stuff became an excuse for not doing stuff it was stupid not to do. The lack of a clear strategy led to a lackadaisical response to Russia`s cyber attacks and its unprecedented interference in the 2016 election." I understand why Tim Kaine is upset.
TANDEN: Don`t we all.
TODD: In hindsight, I think it`s a fair criticism. But in the moment, do you understand why the Obama administration was nervous about how to handle this?
TANDEN: I think what you see from the response today, you have Donald Trump visibly attacking the intelligence agencies now so obviously and Republicans falling in line. So I think their concern was that Republicans would use it as an attack against the administration and nothing would have happened differently. I think that`s a mistake.
I think they still should have done it. You see in the election in France, actually conservatives all came together when the French government said Russia was trying to hack, it was a different response from the country. We seem even more polarized than the French. Look, I think the Obama administration should have done more.
I think what`s more important is that today, in issue after issue, Donald Trump, we still have this problem with Russian hacking. He is actually trying to undermine Russian sanctions and has expressed no interest, not any interest in this issue. In fact, the intelligence sources tell us he has been trying to stop the Russia connection.
TODD: Hewitt, do you think it becomes a political problem at all if the president works overtime to weaken Russian sanctions?
HEWITT: Republicans are passing sanctions. I spent a long time with Mike Pompeo today, the interview for tomorrow. There is a lot of news.
HEWITT: The danger of assumptions in the intelligence community. They assumed Secretary Clinton was going to win. They treated the information and the context of that assumption as deadly to the effective functioning of the intelligence agency at the assumption of weapons of mass destruction being in Iraq. You can`t let assumptions handle -- determine how you are going to handle your material. They did its on team Obama that John Brennan.
TODD: What do you mean by that when you say -- I know that they just assumed they had more time? HEWITT: No, they assumed that Secretary Clinton was going to win. They did not.
TODD: They didn`t see the urgency.
(CROSSTALK) FAGEN: It makes total sense. I think to your question, you`re in a no win situation if you`re the president of the United States. You come out, you point out Russia interference. Doesn`t make it look like you are trying to somehow help Clinton. doesn`t make it look like you are trying to somehow (inaudible) yourself in the election because of all these alleged Trump connections to Russia. I mean, I don`t think he could have won. He was cautious and that was probably what.
TANDEN: It`s outrageous that Mitch McConnell basically squashed this. I mean, I think in all these stories, it really looks like people instead of putting the country for.
TODD: You are referring to the whole idea that they briefed the gang or the so called gang of eight which is the leadership of congress.
TANDEN: Gang of eight and the Republicans -- I mean, when the Republicans won`t even return the CIA director`s call.
HEWITT: The difficulty of that is Director Brennan called Bortnikov, FSB counterpart, on August 4th and did nothing with the information having after gone in this Washington poster which I asked Pompeo about directly. He would not confirm what they said to have. But he talked about -- he wouldn`t confirm not talking to Bortnikov. This is crucial that when you talk to Bortnikov and say stop interfering with our election, you have to go public and tell American people.
TANDEN: He went -- I`m sorry, he went.
HEWITT: It`s not McConnell`s call.
TANDEN: No, it was McConnell`s call to stand up.
HEWITT: It is not McConnell`s call.
TANDEN: Okay, the president -- I agree, the president should have without McConnell, I agree with that.
TODD: President Obama, not Trump.
TANDEN: President Obama should have gone to the public without McConnell. The fact that McConnell and the Republicans wouldn`t stand with the president and Democrats on this issue did mean they put partisanship over country.
TODD: All right. Sara, one in four Republicans, only one in four Republicans believe Russia interfered in this election. They are not asking about the collusion, only one in four, that`s striking.
FAGEN: They are clearly taking a Trump position on this. This is about really checking the box that they support Donald Trump more than -- the Russians have been interfering in our elections since the `60s.
TANDEN: Not like this.
TODD: Not like this.
FAGEN: Not like this, but they`ve been doing this all over the world for a very long time.
TANDEN: And some countries are better at fighting it.
TODD: All right. That was a lively panel. Thank you, three. don`t forget to tune in the premiere of Hugh`s show right here on MSNBC. Congratulations. Quite the powerhouse on Hugh Hewitt, your good friend Joe Reid after you. That -- that`s what about here on MSNBC, we like all perspectives. After the break, the White House gets grilled for something spotted at yesterday`s picnic.
TODD: In case you missed it, the president and first lady hosted a congressional picnic on the south lawn to ring in the summer and of course grilling up some hot dogs and hamburgers, the most American way to have a picnic. The White House is getting skewered on Twitter for its choice of charcoal. A reporter from associated press snapped this photo at the picnic.
It`s Lazzari mesquite charcoal, a product of Mexico. Ouch. Can the Trump White House afford to do that? We`ll see. That`s all for now. Maybe this is the way Mexico is paying for things. We`ll be back on Monday with more MTP DAILY.
If it`s Sunday, catch "MEET THE PRESS" on your local NBC station. "FOR THE RECORD" with Greta though starts right now. Take it away.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END