Show: MTP DAILY Date: July 3, 2017 Guest: David Folkenflik; Brian Karem; Daniella Gibbs Leger; Shane Harris
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: If it`s Monday, it`s a special edition of MTP DAILY, and it starts right now.
Good evening, I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington, and welcome to MTP DAILY. We`re about halfway through the year, and on the eve of Independence Day, we`re going to focus on a specific kind of freedom this country affords us. It`s the freedom of the press. Usually around here, we actually try to avoid this kind of naval gazing, but we do often focus on the creeping lack of trust in institutions in this country and, of course, one of the institutions is the media.
By now, everyone has seen the President`s tweets and heard his campaign rhetoric. We knew he was hard on the press on the trail. And since he has become president, the language has only gotten tougher.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me just say, the press is very, very dishonest, and I think people are wise to the press. The media isn`t just against me. They are against all of you. That`s really what they are against. I`m not going to give you a question. You are fake news.
The press has become so dishonest that if we don`t want talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk about it and to find out what`s going on, because the press, honestly, is out of control.
The public doesn`t believe you, people, anymore. Now maybe I had something to do with that. I don`t know. Never be intimidated by the dishonest media corporations who will say anything and do anything to get people to watch their screens or to get people to buy their failing papers.
A few days ago, I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are. They are the enemy of the people. Even our enemies back there. Look at all that press. Among the most dishonest people in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Folks, let`s call this what it is. The President and the White House is waging a war on the media and their fight has only just begun. The Trump White House is already limited on camera briefings and cut back on presidential press conferences, limiting the amount of time he takes questions.
In fact, President Trump has only held one solo press conference since he was sworn in. And last week, reporter got in what could be considered a shouting match with Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders after she attacked CNN for doing the right thing and their handling of a retracted story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think --
RICK PERRY, SECRETARY OF ENERGY: We`re here to ask you questions.
PERRY: You`re here to provide the answers, and what you just did is inflammatory to people all over the country who look at it and say, see, once again, the President is right and everybody else out here is fake media. And everybody in this room is only trying to do their job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Then there are the tweets. President Trump has slammed the media on Twitter at least 60 times since January 20th, that`s 60. Here is just a smattering of some of the ways the President has spoken about the media since inauguration day. You see it there disparaging, demeaning, failing, false. You know, sometimes they`re a little lighter in humor. I get the sleepy eyes treatment.
But some of the words are pretty, pretty nasty. Folks, if these actions and this language was being used by a leader in a different country, our state department, not just we in general, our state department would be saying, hmm, that country is inching towards authoritarianism because that`s usually the first sign when you try to delegitimize a free press. But it has to fair.
U.S. presidents have always warred with the press. It`s in our interest to push their agenda and there should be an adversarial relationship between the White House and of course the state. That`s fine. It`s our duty to find the truth and that truth can sometimes hurt. And yes, sometimes the media does get things wrong. But this time feels different and here`s why. While a lot of presidents have come to blows with the press, they have usually recognized the vital role. Sometimes reluctantly, but they do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY, 35TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it`s invaluable, even though it may cause you some -- it`s never pleasant to be reading things frequently that are not agreeable news but I would say that it`s an invaluable arm of the presidency as a check, really, on what`s going on in an administration.
GEORGE W. BUSH, 43RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. That we need an independent media to hold people like me to account. I mean, power can be very addictive, and it can be corrosive, and it`s important for the media to call to account, people who abuse their power. Whether it be here or elsewhere.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I spend a lot of time on my -- in my farewell address talking about the state of our democracy. It goes without saying that essential to that is a free press. That is part of how this place -- this country, this grand experiment of government has to work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: So the world of post truth and post substance, where do we go from here?
Joining me now is David Folkenflik, media correspondent for NPR, I had this conversation with him few times and Brian Karem, executive editor for The Sentinel Newspapers. He was the reporter I just showed you a few minutes ago who got into that back and forth with the Deputy White House Press Secretary last week. Gentlemen, welcome to both of you.
David, let me start with you. It is -- we talked about this in New Year`s, and before the President got into office and sort of trying to figure out, OK, how is this relationship going to go? Well, it got off to a horrendous start in day two with the Sean Spicer business, and the crowd sizes, and it`s just gotten worse. And I guess the conversation I want to have with the two of you is this. What should the press do?
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, NPR: You know, in some ways, it was worse than we might have hoped, and at least as bad as we might have feared. It`s not as bad in a sense that you haven`t seen actions taken against the press to as then-candidate Trump promised to go after the libel laws, which would have been complicated in (INAUDIBLE). There are other things he could have done. But you`re seeing a hostility transparency, to accountability and even to the rhetoric that -- you showed and I think impressively not montage (ph), that`s three paths (ph) president that whether or not they feel it every moment, they acknowledge that the press is an important constitution that helps our democracy to function.
And you and I as reporters and as journalists, we don`t always talk about that every day on the air but it under-encouraged what we do if we`re doing our jobs right. I think that there has to be the effort by journalists and by the companies and corporations that employ them to open up transparency, to fight for accountability, to seek ways to enlarge in our aperture, to understand the workings of government. And to do that in a somewhat symbolic room of the White House briefings, and at the same time, do your job outside of the White House press room. That is the most of the most important news that we`ve gotten about the Trump administration. It has been broken far away from that room.
I think it`s important. I think both elements should happen, but I think that that you have to be aggressive. You know, CNN has beefed up, has gotten in a world of hurt lately and beefing up its investigative crew. Well, it had a misfire in recent days and three -- relatively distinguished inexperience journalists left the network. Two is a not long after joining. One of them, a former Pulitzer winner for the New York Prize -- for the New York Times, because of a misstep involving associate of President Trump who is been reportedly being considered for a position there, questions about his ties perhaps to a Russian fund.
Well, I`m not sure those people deserve to be fired for misstep. The CNN team they take it seriously, it retracted, it apologized and, you know, how a news organization responds to such things is I think is very much the measure by which people get to judge them for fairness. But I think they have to be able to press on. The question is, are you going to behave like a corporation and say, you know, we need a show difference. Do you behave like journalist and say, respectfully, we`re going to keep on keeping on?
TODD: You know, Mark, what impressed me about what you did, and what I think is always actually the first step and actually -- yes.
BRIAN KAREM, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE SENTINEL NEWSPAPERS: Brian.
TODD: Brian, I`m sorry.
KAREN: That`s all right.
TODD: No, no, no. The mark on the brain. Brian, what impressed me about what you did is it`s this rehumanizing the press versus dehumanizing the press? I mean, what the President does with these tweets, and I`ve had this conversation with him, I said, don`t personalize it. Attack into this all you want, but when you attack individuals, you have dehumanized, and you gave voice to this, when you said, hey, we`re trying to do our jobs here. What are you talking about?
KAREM: Well that`s what it boils down to. And from day one, you start out by telling me I`m the enemy of the people. You start out by telling me that I`m fake media. And I`m sure you know as I know, people who have been injured trying to do this job. Me and there about 12 other people on the planet have actually gone to jail for the first amendment and that`s a sobering experience. There are people who have died, been shot at, covered wars, and we`re the enemy of the people?
And to not have a press conference or a press briefing for a week on camera, and then in your very first press briefing on camera, you start out by bashing CNN in general and all of us, you know, as seen in specifically, and all of us in general, that`s just a little too much to take.
TODD: Here`s the, I think, challenge and David, I want you to weigh in on this as well. But, look, two generations of us as reporters. We`re trained and conditioned to don`t show emotion. We`re the umpires, we`re the referees. We are not to show emotion. Don`t take it personally. Cover it, dispassionately if you can.
KAREM: Don`t be the story.
TODD: Don`t be the story. When somebody is insisting on making you the story, what do you do? And I think, you know, this has been a struggle for all of us. I struggle with it.
KAREM: It`s a struggle for me.
TODD: How do you handle it?
KAREM: Well, I handle it this way. To me, that day, and how I handled it that day, was as I said before, I feel like he was not Sarah, but -- because we know where the words come from and where everything flows from this, from the President of the United States. He was trying to bully us. And I told, you know, my kids and I was taught by my father and mother, you try to make a friend of a bully, turn the other cheek, and at some point in time, you`ve got to wake him up and say, I`m not going to take the bullying anymore.
So, it`s a constant struggle every day. Do I not say anything, or do I say something? And at that point in time, I felt like I had to say something. Would I do it again? Yes. Do I want to do it every day? No. As you said, you work behind-the-scenes, I don`t think there`s a hard and fast rule. I think you`re going to have to approach each day anew, and figure out on that day, all right, what have I done, what have they done, and has it reached the point where I have to say something?
TODD: You know, David, somebody tweeted during the mess of the President`s horrendous attack on a colleague of mine using horribly graphic terms, somebody tweeted that journalists today were never trained to cover moral failings very well. And in some ways, this is what makes this more difficult. We`re not good with having to say what`s right and wrong sometimes because, again, we`ve been trained to be dispassionate in the umpire.
FOLKENFLIK: Well I think, you know, every generation supposedly tries to unlearn the mistakes of the past and so doing makes their own. You and I were trained very much in the idea of being down the middle and being scrupulously impartial, and I you`ve seen recalibration to the idea that doesn`t always capture not only the facts in front of you, but the truth of those facts assembled to become. And I think there`s more of an emphasis among sophisticated, thoughtful journalist trying to make sense of the world for their readers and their audiences that we have to be scrupulously fair, very transparent about the journalism we do. But the idea of saying, well, this is one hand, this is the other hand, and therefore we capture the journalistic fairness is often a deep disservice.
The idea that the media doesn`t acknowledge when it has become part of the story or plays a role in a story, I think is a disservice to our audience. You know, I think the journalists should probably avoid trying to become the story, but they need to acknowledge that they are apart of it. And when you think of Donald Trump, you think of a, you know, president who became essentially, 100 percent name recognition throughout the country by virtue of his media presence, by virtue of being a television star, to be honest, on your sister network, NBC in major part but also through his prominence on Fox News.
Well, that`s something that`s important to understand in who he is and the media, covering the media, understanding his interactions with the media directly and through social media is not sort of a sideline that gives you some additional instinct. I think it`s very much part of the main story of our time right now with this presidency.
KAREM: I think -- we are part of the story whether we want to be or not. And that`s a fact that we have to face. So how do we deal with it is where do we go from here? You can`t sit back and say, I`m not a part of it. He is making us a part of it. And if you sit there and take it and take it, there is a good section of the American public. When I did what I did, I was surprise. That`s not the most viral moment I thought I had in the White House.
I called Mick Mulvaney a soup not featuring (ph) during one briefing because he wanted to take food away from poor kids, and it`s just flabbergasting me. I thought, you know, that mean is going viral with that. I really didn`t anticipate this. And what happened afterwards, it clued me in, that it`s not just us in that room that are frustrated. The American public is frustrated with us for not stepping up and holding him accountable for that moral failing. People want to see that, and at the same time, it`s almost -- I don`t want to be his parent.
At some point in time, what do you do? As you said, you said don`t make it personal. Well, he has made it personal. I can`t pretend that he hasn`t. I can`t walk away from that.
TODD: Can`t unring the bell.
TODD: Yes. Now, here`s a good cliche. David, Brian I`m going to leave it there, but there`s like 10,000 things I would want to follow up on.
KAREM: There are.
TODD: But unfortunately, I have a space time continuing issue. Happy Independence Day. Thank you very much. Happy Freedom of the press day.
KAREM: That was 27 years ago today.
TODD: There you go. All right, thank you both.
Coming up, we`re going to try to turn the focus in 2018. Democrats think they`re going to make some big gains. Republicans have to grapple with how to campaign in the Trump era. We`re going to look at the stakes next.
TODD: Welcome back. Capitol Hill is empty with Congress on recess for the Fourth of July, so there`s no better time to take out the crystal ball and wildly speculate about the 2018 midterm elections.
Yes, there are 16 months before Election Day and we`re still waiting to hear about some potentially big retirements. The amazing thing is we don`t have any. We already have a good idea of what to watch for in November 2018 is the upper chamber. The big story is the Democrats playing defense for 10 seats they hold in states won by Donald Trump in 2016. President Trump won five of those seats by more than 20 points. Thus pick up possibilities for the Democrats. Jeff Flake seat in Arizona, Dean Heller seat in Nevada. After that, though, they don`t have a third defined which means they probably can`t get the majority, at least that`s their mindset.
In the House, 24 looks to be the magic number of seats to flip for Democrats to take control even after some special election defeats, the DCCC is steadfast that the House is indeed in play for Democrats, and frankly 24 seats it is. To take control, Democrats will need to thank on a few Republican health seats and districts Hillary Clinton carried over President Trump for 2016. In fact, there are 23 of those such districts, including seven alone in California.
And regardless of what happens over the next few weeks, 2018 looks like it will be the third consecutive midterm election where the issue of health care is front and center. The exhaustion of health care.
Let`s bring in our panel. Hugh Hewitt, host of the Hugh Hewitt Show on Saturday mornings right here at 8:00 a.m. on MSNBC. Shane Harris, senior national security writer at the Wall Street Journal, and Daniella Gibbs Leger, senior vice president for Communications and Strategy at the Center for American Progress.
I`ll start with the most shocking development to me when it comes to the United States Senate in 2018, is that we are at the fourth of July, and not a single incumbent has retired. And I think, Daniella, I`m going to start with your side here because on paper, with Democrats looking like they cannot get control, that was a recipe for Claire McCaskill to say, and I think I`m done. Joe Manchin may be to say, you know, I`ll run for governor, you know, all these -- and none of them are retired. It`s probably the single best news Chuck Schumer has had.
DANIELLA GIBBS LEGER, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: That`s probably true. And actually I`m not surprised given the climate that we`re in and everything that`s happening on the hill, and with the White House and with Donald Trump being president. I`m not surprised that people maybe want to stay in power a little bit longer and see if they can be that bull (ph) work that wall against the, you know, the Trump craziness that`s happening.
TODD: Hugh, on your side? Very few House Republicans who I think -- who are more precarious, we`ve had basically two, right? Elena Rosellen (ph) and in some ways Jason Chaffetz, he`s not -- he, I think, doesn`t want to be here in the Trump years. I think Elena Rosellen (ph) then want to have to run in a district that she might not be able to win, but there`s been -- again, same phenomenon? The Republicans feel just as --
HUGH HEWITT, MSNBC HOST, "THE HUGH HEWITT SHOW": A little bit different. Republicans have waited their whole life to be able to legislate. They had never been able to legislate. Right now, they can`t going to legislate either, but at time, right --
HEWITT: They are near legislating. And in the Senate, you don`t lose power when you are in the minority. You have blue slips, you have vetoes, you have filibuster so you can be a 48-46 Senate party and still have incredible power. In the House, as long as there`s a good shot and they`re putting at risk of this health bill, but as long as there`s good shot of staying in the majority, these guys and gals want to legislate.
TODD: Shane, I`ve been surprised at this phenomenon that we haven`t seen many retirements.
SHANE HARRIS, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, and I think in to your point Daniella, I mean, the Senate has this institutional role that it is playing and nowhere that might be on the national security that you`re seeing that more the Senate Intelligence Committee which is leading this vast, really trying to be thorough when you probe into the Russian meddling and the interference in the election.
There`s a real sense among Republicans and Democrats that they have a constitutional obligation to do this. And we were skeptical and even cynical at times in Washington about lawmakers and not taking their role seriously and not wanting to legislate, but people I talk to on that staff and members they really do want to see this through. And so I there`s something about the moment that they feel like they are in right now of having to play this institutional role even separate from the politics of the situation.
Or any of you confidently know what the 2018 elections going to be about?
HARRIS: I think I`m out of the predictions business.
TODD: You know, I mean, like -- are there been being nationalized? You concur that weighing (ph) nationalize referendum type of --
LEGER: I will guess health care will be, you know, a topic but --
HEWITT: We have no idea what it will be. It will occur in the last 75 days. It could be a national security -- I think we`re on the brink of a major war with North Korea, with the confrontation with Iran and the Gulf. And I think that will change the calculus completely. And so --
RODD: For about a day. And then it changes the --
HEWITT: It`s like million light years away until we get to this election.
TODD: I guess I asked this because there`ll be a couple of forms of nationalization of the selection, right. We did get a hint at what the Republicans -- like just trying to nationalize, this is how they are going to try to hold onto the House and we play an Ossoff ad from that Georgia 6th special.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nancy Pelosi`s liberal agenda put American $22 trillion in debt, and Jon Ossoff is on her side. Pelosi supports higher taxes and Jon Ossoff is on her side. Pelosi supported the Iranian nuclear deal that weakened our national security, and Jon Ossoff is on her side.
TODD: Daniella, I think we`re going to see a lot of those ads and I think we`re going to see similar ones from the Democrats that say its also voted 98 percent of the time with Donald Trump. And so voted, you know, we`ve seen that.
TODD: Is this going to be Trump versus Pelosi?.
LEGER: No, I don`t think so. Because at the end of the day, I think it`s going to matter who the candidates are, and it`s going to matter what those congressional districts look like. I think all the post mortems from Georgia`s 6th have been driving me insane. Like Tom Price won that district by how many points and Ossoff lost it by a very small point. Yes, Democrats do need to have some victories coming up, but looking at these four special elections that were in heavily red districts, I don`t think we can extrapolate from that, that we`ll tying a bit in Nancy Pelosi is going to be, you know, a horrible thing.
TODD: That definitely will work in a Republican district
LEGER: I think --
TODD: The question is does it work to anti-Trump (ph)?
LEGER: And does it work in a Republican health district that Hillary Clinton won.
TODD: All right, the Pulitzer (ph) that you miss, can Democrats win on the back of the anti-Trump?
HARRIS: Well, that`s what they`re hoping on, obviously, right? I mean, that`s the momentum that they want. But this is -- and you talked about this issue before. Our politics have becoming tribal. I mean, there`s this nationalization of the election which seems like that`s a pretty safe that it will be kind of proxy election and a referendum on Trump.
But even in national security, the extent to which -- if you mention Russia to somebody who was and aren`t Trump support, it is everything that represents fake news, conspiracy, and trying to take down the President. That`s an astonishing kind of the tribal reaction if you want to think about it that way, that we`re talking about, inarguably, an American adversary here that everybody agrees, tried to interfere with the election in some way.
Forget about whether you think he was trying to help Trump or they`re trying to hurt Hillary. You would think that it`s something that Americans would get behind and say Russia, that`s bad. Interference, that`s bad. That`s not what`s happening. You`re seeing this reflected in polls where there`s a reflexive kind of instinct to go ahead and dismiss that story somehow trying to take down the President rather than something that`s a threat to national security.
HEWITT: Everybody is mobilized. Chuck has said on my radio show up number of times, if you don`t get a way of election unless one side is energized and the other size is demoralized. No one`s demoralized yet. But special counsel Mueller cannot be fired. That would be a disaster. If he comes up with even one indictment of someone in the satellite orbit of President Trump, the Democrats have something to run on.
An impeachment will be in the 0:00:21 amplification of the extremes to continue.
TODD: Now, I have a fear, thesis, whatever you want to call it, that the person most interested in making 2018 referendum on impeachment will not be the Democrats, but it will be Donald Trump.
TODD: Because it will -- the threat of losing him will make folks that are not happy with him -- you make it a -- you essentially do -- you make it a recall race, right? How did Scott Walker successfully win that recall at the time? He had a whole bunch of Obama people said, no, no, no, no, we don`t do this this way. Maybe they don`t like Scott Walker but this is not how we do it. It might be in affect to strategy, and it could rip the Democratic Party in half.
LEGER: May be. I don`t think it would rip the Democratic Party. And I think if he comes -- if Mueller comes back with some actual evidence as a wrongdoing, then Democrats will, you know, be unified behind that and seeing that through the end. I am curious about your point when you say that everybody is energized and no one is demoralized. Are moderate Republicans not demoralized? I mean, Trump`s base is --
HEWITT: I`m a moderate Republican Party and I`m considered a squishy conservative by --
LEGER: Honestly, you`re a Republican.
HEWITT: Well, that`s -- you just kind of --
TODD: I think ideologically, you`re pretty conservative. I think your demeanor is more moderate.
HEWITT: That`s it. I`m a general (ph) department and Republican, right.
TODD: Conservative with a smile.
HEWITT: And we are not upset with anything yet. If health care craters and they don`t deliver, there are three core promises. The Supreme Court, of Justice Gorsuch and Justice Scalia, who ray. That national defense, the repealed sequestration, that will be very important, and then health care. If the ship is on fire, if they don`t deliver something, my side will be demoralized.
HARRIS: And talking to my favorite Trump supporter, (INAUDIBLE) which is my father. That`s exactly where he is on these kinds of things. Like if he doesn`t get down what he said he was going to get down by 2018, I`ll stay home and he doesn`t have my support anymore. It is transactional I think for some people. And like you said, if you don`t make good on the promises that we put you there, we`ll find somebody else to do it.
TODD: Just very fast. The chances Democrats do take control of the Senate on a percentage. Nothing is zero, what do you think of that.
HEWITT: 25 percent because I think Ted Cruz could -- there could be an upset that no one sees --
TODD: Higher than you think basic is what you`re saying. I`m with you.
LEGER: Yes, I agree with that.
TODD: Yes. Now, I think it`s a more in play than the handicappers like to admit. All right. You guys are sticking around.
Still ahead, Republicans hold the power in Washington, so why is one prominent House member walking away from it? Now former congressman, Jason Chaffetz explains some of his personal reasons for leaving what he calls the crazy train.
TODD: Welcome back to MTP DAILY. One of the rising stars of the Republican Party in Capitol Hill stepped down at the end of last week. Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah left the house and will start a role as a political commentator.
Before resigning, Chaffetz of course made a name for himself as the chairman of the house oversight committee where he conducted extensive investigations into Hillary Clinton and the 2012 Benghazi attack. Here are some of his most memorable moments.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: We paid $9 million to tax payers to get a report. You started flailing around saying, here it is, it`s printed. This is a slide deck, it`s not a report. Who are you holding accountable?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re going to wait. We`re not going.
CHAFFETZ: You`re going to wait. That`s the problem. Our people are under attack. There are people dying. What is the military doing? If you want me to start issuing subpoenas on the DCCC, I`m probably not going to do it, but go ahead and suggest it. I just think. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about some of the FBI.
CHAFFETZ: The gentleman`s time has expired.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You asked me a question. CHAFFETZ: No, I did not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: I sat down with Chaffetz during one of his last days in office for a pretty free-willing and candid interview, I think. Find out why he calls serving in congress the crazy train. It`s fascinating. More of it when we come back.
TODD: Welcome back. As I mentioned before the break last week, I sat down with outgoing Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah. His last day on the hill was Friday. We had a wide range of conversation about why he made the decision to give up such a prominent role in the middle of his term. Arguably at the peak of Republican power. And then, he said he just did. And then we talked about all of the problems he sees in congress today.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: You got elected in 2008, so you came in, unusually, you were a freshman with a Democratic house. You were in the minority. Within two years, you get to the majority, and now you finally get to be a Republican member of congress with a Republican White House and you walk away. From the outside, it looks like a huh?
CHAFFETZ: Yeah, it doesn`t make a lot of sense to people.
TODD: Politically, in your public persona, it doesn`t make sense. Explain.
CHAFFETZ: Well, you work hard to get to this point, where Republicans control the levers, but it`s not necessarily everything I thought it would be. First of all, the toll on the family after eight plus years -- I have spent nearly 1,500 nights away. I got kids and expenses and everything else and I make a handsome salary but.
TODD: In 2008, you were elected in 2008, how old are your kids in 2008?
CHAFFETZ: Well, my youngest, you know, she was 7 years old. Now, she is taller than her mom, and going ready to.
TODD: Getting ready for college.
CHAFFETZ: Going into junior in high school, and two of our three kids are now married and moving off. We`re faced with the reality of being empty nesters. I don`t want to spend the rest of this congress two plus hundred nights away while my wife is by herself in Utah. That`s -- we have been married 26 years.
That`s not what I signed up for, and then you add to it a dose of reality that the things you have been fighting for and hoping to pass and bring to the floor, even when you get something as bipartisan as my immigration bill, which has 230 co-sponsors, it has no prospects of coming to the floor. At some point, you just got to say, you know what? I got to get off this crazy train. When your attitude kind of sours, it`s time to hang up.
TODD: Are you cynical?
CHAFFETZ: I am a bit, and I have changed. I was very optimistic.
CHAFFETZ: I was working 16, you know, hours a day.
TODD: You were the first member that I dealt with that was loved texting with folks. You were sort of.
TODD: You seemed to really love this job. It was startling to see you -- if you would have said you were quitting to start running for the U.S. senate, that would have made sense, but that was what made it surprising.
CHAFFETZ: Well, I love to work, but I love my family more. It`s hard for a lot of people to understand that, but there`s also a lot of frustration in this job, in this work, in this role, and I just -- I never -- I always admire those athletes who got out at the top of their game, and I kind of thought about that. I look at the reality of what we`re going to be able to get done and get passed. How much I`m missing my family.
TODD: You`re walking away. It`s a midlife crisis?
CHAFFETZ: I didn`t buy a red corvette or anything. TODD: Did you feel pressure not to bring your family here because of how often you had to go back to the district, or was it the age of your kids?
CHAFFETZ: At the time, you got kids that are in grade school, about to go into high school. And I just didn`t want this to be disruptive to them. There was one point where I remember I left on Monday and I came home on a Friday night and I told our youngest daughter, Kate, I said, Kate, hey, I`m back. She said, I didn`t even know you were gone.
TODD: She got used to you being gone.
CHAFFETZ: It stabbed me in the heart and I just thought, you know, I got to get more balance in my life. And some people, I`m afraid, don`t get that balance and it`s not healthy for them.
TODD: You brought up something recently about -- there has got to be some way to fix this housing issue here in Washington. And I know 50 other states aren`t going to care. Most people don`t care. But I have always said, if people ask me if members of congress are underpaid or overpaid, I say, they are woefully underpaid. And I say this, I challenge you to figure out how to have two households on an income of $175,000 a year.
CHAFFETZ: Yeah, this is.
TODD: Anywhere and any business.
CHAFFETZ: Washington D.C. is one of the most expensive cities. A beautiful city. I like being here. But the reality is I have a mortgage at home. I got kids in college. I can`t afford both, and so you are faced with that reality. I do think there should be a stipend, a $2,500 a month allowance for housing. We make a very handsome salary.
Nobody is going to vote for a pay increase, certainly not in this atmosphere. But they also have no idea how many dozens of people who are family-minded or in a financial reality that they can`t afford two mortgages and two sets of payments. I have a bicycle here and a metro pass and I can get around, but I can`t afford the $2,500 that it takes to have proximity to the capitol.
TODD: So, the -- I guess the way to pitch this to the public that is if you don`t do this, then congress only is for the so committed they are willing to do it instead of have their own life or the super wealthy.
CHAFFETZ: Yeah. You have a lot of very wealthy people here, and I pat them on the back and say, hey, congratulations.
TODD: Fun to visit them at their house here. Great houses and condos?
CHAFFETZ: Yes, but this is not representative of America. If you want people who truly aren`t the mega-wealthy, then there got to be a way for your average person to serve. Again, you get a handsome salary, but at the same time, I challenge everybody to try get two mortgages and have two sets of expenses and the air travel. I`m out west, I`m in Utah. It`s expensive to fly back and forth.
TODD: Let me add something else here. I don`t want you to take personal offense, but you are surrounded by mega mega-rich people a lot, aren`t you?
TODD: Whether it`s asking for donations, lobbyists that walk into your office, everybody got an issue.
TODD: You are surrounded and I have no doubt that that has an impact on people as well, is it not?
CHAFFETZ: People have no idea that -- look, I do my job, you know, 14, 15 hours a day. But when the staff gets to go home on the weekend, guess what I get to do. I get to go beg rich people for $2,500, and that means going to Florida or New York or California or Phoenix and saying, do you have $2,500 for me? I got nothing to give you, but will you -- and so that`s something I will not miss. I promise you that. Is begging people for money.
TODD: Let`s look at your job. You were a very aggressive oversight guy on one hand, and you were tough on Hillary Clinton. And there is a joke around congress that says, nobody likes to be the chairman on the oversight committee when their party is in the White House. Is that true?
CHAFFETZ: Yeah, I think in many ways it is tougher because you are bugging one side or the other. Democrats don`t like it when you are not perceived as being aggressive enough, and when you actually do pepper the administration and it`s your own.
TODD: You have no ideal blow back.
CHAFFETZ: Then you`re getting a lot of blow back. I tend to think that didn`t bother me so much. I am bothered by the fact that I felt like we as Republicans aren`t playing enough offense. That we weren`t able to follow through on the investigations that we had done previously. And I`m very bothered that we were unable to build coalitions and pass bipartisan pieces of legislation. I just don`t understand that.
TODD: What is it? Everybody has a reasoning for it, that there is this fear, the base of the two parties will punish you if you work with the other side. There is some of that in there?
CHAFFETZ: There`s a perception of that. Something mine experienced. I mean, Elijah Cummings and I have done literally hundreds of letters together. It`s never hard for me. In fact, I think it actually helps me, but, you know, going into a primary, you`re not out there touting your credentials on working with the other side of the aisle. That`s true for either party.
TODD: What would you do to fix that? How do you get more votes? Utah is a one-party state in some ways. It has had its competitiveness in the past. Look. If you believe in -- I assume you believe in free markets and the best thing for free market is competition. Right now, the market is not working in elections.
CHAFFETZ: You need members who can answer their own questions, talk on camera, who can actually stand up in town halls and answer difficult questions and be able to stand up on principle and say, this is why I believe this. And if that person isn`t able to do that in your own district, then get rid of them.
I mean, it`s something like 98 percent of the people get re-elected. Are you kidding me? I mean, I walk around this body sometimes and I would look around and I think, did anybody ever meet you? Because there`s no way anybody could possibly vote for you if they met you.
TODD: Well, I`m glad to hear a member say that. Well, 48 hours ago, I can say that, yeah.
TODD: All right. There`s a lot of bad rumors that say you`re headed in the media. Why? What interests you about it? You don`t have to confirm anything, and I get that you have a contract, but what interests you about our side of the fence?
CHAFFETZ: Look. When I first got here, I invested heavily into going into New York. I realized and felt that Republicans were doing a very poor job of communicating. And so I have always felt like, hey, if nobody else is going to go out and spend the three minutes explaining our position, I`ll go ahead and do it. And so I have always felt like there is a great opportunity to talk to millions of people at a time and actually truly make a difference.
And I`m excited that this next phase, I think will give me more and more of an opportunity to go out and talk about the conservative values that I believe so strongly. I like the debate. That`s what we`re supposed to come and do. We do very little debating. A lot of showboating and a lot of single-handed speeches, but not a lot of actual debates.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: It`s amazing what you hear from a member of congress as they are leaving out the door. Anyway, you can hear my entire interview with former Congressman Jason Chaffetz on the "Meet the Press" podcast. Call 1947. I know you subscribe and if you don`t, go ahead and do it.
Still head, why I`m obsessed with independence as we get ready to mark Independence Day. And in "The Lid," where things stand nearly six months into the Trump presidency. We`ll reassess some of our early predictions. Ahead, we`re better than you think.
TODD: Welcome back. Every night on this show, I`m obsessed with something. Usually it`s something that has had me fired up all day. From too many e- mails to something sports or TV and not surprisingly usually something in politics. In honor of Independence Day, I want to talk about why there are more independents in politics. Get it? Bear with me.
I do this almost every 4th. Think about it. It`s increasingly clear that two major parties can`t get anything done. They can`t work together on bipartisan legislation. You just heard former member complained about that. In fact, their basis don`t necessarily want them to. Of course there are few independents in congress.
You know the most famous one, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. And the one we sometimes refer to as the most interesting man in congress, Maine Senator Angus King. Who doesn`t love the name Angus? But both of them caucus with the Democrats. Does that really count? In the U.S. house, all of the members are either Republicans or Democrats.
Folks, with all these gridlock, maybe it is time for more independent lawmakers. Talk about this idea in the 4th of July. Do you really want to upend American politics? Are you a disruptor? Run for office as an independent. Knock on doors. Get your friends and families volunteer (ph). And come to D.C. and blaze your own path and truly disrupt things.
Maybe we just need a real outsider or group of them to break through the gridlock and bring the grand old party and the party of FDR (ph) together. Imagine, if you can deny both McConnell and Schumer the number 50 in the senate, those three or four independents could become the most powerful block and you force compromise. Just an idea if you really do care about gridlock. We`ll be right back.
TODD: Welcome back here on MTP DAILY. We closed out the end of last year by daring to make some predictions for what would happen in the Trump presidency, just where would the administration stand by the 4th of July? Well, Independence Day is upon us. We can finally check how well we expected the unexpected, which brings us to "The Lid."
Panel is back. Hugh Hewitt, Shane Harris, and Daniella Gibbs Leger. All right. The big one, first one was over Trump job on 4th of July, 45 percent. Hugh, you were on that panel and everybody agreed under, here we are. Shane, under 45.
TODD: Is it 40 in the last NBC News Wall Street?
HARRIS: And 45 Rasmussen (inaudible) celebrated that of course. But, yeah, that`s about where people thought he would be and I think you`ve seen the polls too. His base is with him, right? That base is still holding, that seems to be keeping him up. But not shocking that he would be right about where we thought he was. It didn`t seem like he was going to move much from that number and he has fulfilled expectations.
TODD: Hugh Hewitt, how many cabinet picks would make it? We said would he lose any of them? We said -- the assumption was he would lose one somehow, someway. But we didn`t get the right one. We talked Sessions, Tillerson, and Mnuchin.
HEWITT: It was Andy Puzder.
TODD: And it ended up being Andy Puzder.
HEWITT: They did not go quickly to obtain Andy Puzder`s defense. As a result, last one was the one behind (inaudible) went down, and it was Andy Puzder.
TODD: Daniella, the other topic that I want to bring up is Reince Priebus, the over/under, would he still be chief of staff? We were correct that this would be a constant theme of the Trump White House, but he`s still there.
LEGER: He`s still there for now. I think it remains to be seen how long he stays. You know, Trump gives very mixed messages about how he feels about him and how he is running the White House. So, I wouldn`t be surprised if he`s not there much longer.
TODD: How much is health care`s fate and Reince Priebus`s fate tied? I feel like the president constantly brings up the fact it was Reince Priebus, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and Mike Pence who decided on the scheduling of sequencing, doing health care first then trying to get to everything else. And Trump every once in a while doesn`t like that. And he blames Reince.
HEWITT: (inaudible) story in Politico about Tillerson exploding and a meeting with Jared Kushner, Reince Priebus, and John DeStefano, the head of presidential personnel. And it`s very un-secretary of state-like to meltdown in the oval or near the oval. I don`t think Reince is the balancing wheel in which many interests are spinning and the president recognizes that. I really don`t think he leaves because I don`t know anyone else who could actually step into that.
LEGER: Do you think the president recognize that?
HEWITT: Yes, I do.
HARRIS: That brings up the question too, now the question for predictions is who in the cabinet resigns before the end of the year?
TODD: Well, he just brought up the name.
HARRIS: I would not be surprised at all. LEGER: Yeah, after that article.
LEGER: You heard it here first.
TODD: Let me -- we just all listened to that Jason Chaffetz`s interview and all of you were surprised at various moments, but I want to bring up an idea that he mentioned to me off-camera. I said we talked about this issue, the oversight, and he told me, he said in Japan, they make the oversight committee permanently headed by the head of the minority party, always. It is -- the chair is always the minority party. That seems like a nice elegant solution, Shane.
HARRIS: Right and how efficient would that be, right? It`s an idea that goes right to the heart of our constitutional system. It`s supposed to work in the majority rules with respect to the minority. We talked earlier about the Senate Intelligence Committee.
You`ve seen those two heads of the committee really fight to keep that a bipartisan effort to show that this is not about politics, the counter example that is the House Intelligence Committee, where it became totally partisan and undone. There`s something to this idea though, giving that minority party the voice, right? I mean, this is how it is supposed to work with respect to the people who are out of power.
LEGER: I think it`s a great idea. I don`t see it happening anytime soon here, but I totally agree.
HEWITT: I think you can adapt it for 2022 in kind of way where no one knows where they`ll be in the perfect state. We don`t know if a Republican would be sitting in judgment of Democrat or a Democrat in judgment of a majority Republican Party. The only way to get something adapted like that is to make sure there are no immediate winners or losers but downstream you get an idea that makes sense. I think that makes a lot of sense.
TODD: All right. Let me close with -- how about Jason Chaffetz just dumping on the whole place?
HEWITT; I`ve held three fundraisers in my life that actually helped them. One for Jason Chaffetz, one for MiKe Lee, one for Doug Ducey. Common denominator, decency. I don`t think it`s a good time for people who are fundamentally decent. I think it wears them down and they leave.
LEGER: Well, that`s so depressing. TODD: So what does that mean?
LEGER: We`re trying to encourage people to come and run for office and make it.
TODD: More -- that means you have to have the gruffness of a Trump?
HEWITT: I think they love the time at home too much. I think they don`t want to miss the college years. They don`t want to wake up at 70 not having passed anything and having on their tombstone, yeah, he was one of 5 million legislators.
TODD: How do we become a representative democracy? That was the bigger point he and I were both trying to make here, frankly, which is this idea that if you don`t figure out how to allow middle to upper-middle class people to be here.
HARRIS: Listening to him talking remember thinking like, truly is there not like a Capitol dormitory we could build? Is there not a way to help these people survive in this town? It`s not easy.
TODD: All right. Until we meet again. Let`s go shoot off some fireworks.
HARRIS: Happy fourth.
TODD: All right. Happy fourth. Hugh, Shane, Daniella, thank you. That`s all for tonight. Don`t burn yourself. At least do it properly, and have a good time on the fourth.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END