MTP Daily, Transcript 7/13/2017

Guests: Corey Lewandowski, Bill Cassidy, Shane Harris, Ruth Marcus

Show: MTP DAILY Date: July 13, 2017 Guest: Corey Lewandowski, Bill Cassidy, Shane Harris, Ruth Marcus

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: All right, thank you to my panel. I`m Stephanie Ruhle in for Nichole Wallace.

MTP DAILY starts right now. Good evening, Charles.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Awe, Ruhle, look who is ruling the 4:00 hour.

RUHLE: Trying.

TODD: Nice work. Thank you, ma`am. Nice to see you.

If it`s Thursday, here`s the question would President Trump have taken that meeting with the Russian lawyer?

(voice-over): Tonight, the president defends his son.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s very standard where they have information and you take the information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: But wait until you hear what Mr. President Trump`s former campaign manager has to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER MANAGER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: If anybody, and I mean anybody, did something with a foreign government that materially impacted the outcome of this election, that person should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: I sit down with the first person to run the Trump campaign, Corey Lewandowski.

Plus, the Senate`s latest shot at Trumpcare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This bill is better than the other bill. I don`t know if it`ll get 50 votes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Is it enough to bring in the holdouts?

And why all of Washington should be obsessed with what the first President Bush told his family about how to behave at the top of the political world.

This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.

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

Tonight, you`re going to hear my exclusive with Corey Lewandowski. And as you just saw in that clip, you`re going to want to stick around.

Lewandowski was Trump`s campaign manager when Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner had that bombshell meeting with that Russian lawyer who they were told was giving them or perhaps had information as part of a Russian government effort to support the Trump campaign and, quote, "incriminate Hillary Clinton."

Today, President Trump spoke to reporters publicly on camera for the first time about the controversy after he met with the French president in Paris.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think, from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting. It`s called opposition research or even research into your opponent.

I`ve had many people -- I have only been in politics for two years, but I`ve had many people call up, oh, gee, we have information on this factor or this person or, frankly, Hillary. That`s very standard in politics.

Politics is not the nicest business in the world, but it`s very standard where they have information and you take the information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Did you catch that last line there, folks? The U.S. president perhaps seemed to acknowledge that he would have knowingly used info from a Russian government backed effort to incriminate his opponent if it was delivered to him. That is not an insignificant piece of information if you`re an investigator.

Also, by dismissing the Russian meeting as standard opposition research, he`s arguably inviting foreign intervention in future elections or at least it could be an unintended consequence. Let that sink in for a moment.

Here`s more of the president`s defense today in Paris.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nothing happened from the meeting. Zero happened from the meeting. And honestly, I think the press made a very big deal over something that really a lot of people would do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: By the way, it is significant. While the president criticized the press, notice he backed off. He didn`t go full fake news or any of that business.

But the president`s argument is that nothing came out of it. But if something had, so what? Is that a preemptive defense if another shoe drops? We`ll leave that to others to decide.

Then, the president turned his attention to the Russian lawyer who his team met with.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Somebody said that her visa or her passport to come into the country was approved by Attorney General Lynch. Now, maybe that`s wrong. I just heard that a little while ago, but I was a little surprised to hear that. So, she was here because of Lynch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: I have no idea if this piece of information is true, but what if it is? But the point is this. If there was nothing wrong with taking the meeting, why is that detail even relevant?

Mr. Trump also wanted to make it known that the other people in the meeting, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his campaign chief at the time, Paul Manafort, either left early or weren`t paying attention.

What`s interesting, he never used either -- never mentioned either gentlemen by name. But he did note, supposedly, what they were doing at the meeting that others have testified to.

Now, it`s worth noting, we only found out about this meeting because Jared Kushner`s lawyers amended a security clearance form. A person close to Kushner confirms to NBC News that he updated the list of foreign contacts three times.

And he has added more than 100 names to his foreign contact list to update those forms for his security clearance. By the way, "The New York Times" did first report that news.

I`m joined now by Corey Lewandowski who was actually Mr. Trump`s campaign manager at that period of time when Donald Trump had that meeting. Mr. Lewandowski, welcome to the show, sir.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER MANAGER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Thank you.

TODD: All right. You were the campaign manager there. You weren`t in the meeting. Do you know why?

LEWANDOWSKI: You know, I don`t know the reason I wasn`t invited to the meeting. As you know, I wasn`t on the e-mail chain. I wasn`t even made aware of the meeting.

[17:05:06] And what I do remember, on that particular day, was that was a day that Donald Trump was doing a rally in the state of Florida.

So, I traveled with the president that day. We overnighted that day down in Mar-a-Lago.

And then, we get up the next day and actually did some fund raising in Florida before we went on to do some more events.

So, look, you have to remember, at that time in the campaign, the campaign had basically been divide between myself and then the chairman of the campaign, Paul Manafort. And we each had our own responsibilities at that time.

Paul`s job, at that time, because the nomination had basically been wrapped up, was to look at budgeting issues and policy issues. My job was --

TODD: Was there delegate fight?

LEWANDOWSKI: No, we -- well, officially, yes. But, basically, that was a number of days after the New York nomination. And, clearly, it was the -- what they called the (INAUDIBLE) primary. Donald Trump had won most all of those states that day so statistically he had enough.

But Paul was in charge, at that point, of policy issues and finances. And I was in charge of the schedule and the rallies and the political side of things.

TODD: Explain the role of Donald Trump Jr. in the campaign. Like, how involved was he?

LEWANDOWSKI: Well, not -- you have to remember, you`ve got a family that, for the first time in their lives, they`re going through a campaign. So, it`s very rare.

Most of the time, when individuals are running for president of the United States, they had sought a previous office.

And so, the family had been used to the campaign life. And this family, what had -- what they had come to find out was things are very different from the business world.

And so, on a regular basis, the family, and by that, I mean the grown children, Ivanka, Don, Eric, were briefed by senior campaign officials, myself, Paul Manafort, on what was taking place.

They also served very candidly and very openly and very well on behalf of their father as full-time surrogates. They would be on the road. They`d be travelling. They`d be talking to people.

Don spent a lot of time in Iowa. He spent a lot of time with hunters and fisherman and people that he has a close connection with.

Erik would also be out in the business community. Ivanka the same.

TODD: All right. As surrogates, were they involved behind the scenes in the campaign? Did you feel as if -- I mean, was it clear, you know, when you were campaign manager, were you calling the shots or did the family also, sort of, have a -- is it -- was it, sort of, almost like a travel council type of thing with the family?

LEWANDOWSKI: Well, it would be a relationship that developed over time. You have to remember, when the campaign started, and just think of the launch date in June of 2015, there weren`t a lot of people around to have a council of. So, I was calling the shots.

As the campaign progressed and we were winning in New Hampshire, in South Carolina, in Nevada, the family became more and more involved, particularly around the delegates` fight. So, they were out.

And when you have a multi-state operation taking place at the same time, the family is more involved. So, they were involved in fully understanding what the role of the campaign was going to do, helping them understand what the schedule their father was going to be, some policy initiatives. They were part of those discussions.

TODD: Did you or the campaign lawyer ever brief the kids on the idea that, hey, people are going to come at you, maybe foreign governments are coming? Was there any -- was that conversation ever had that you are aware of that just be careful, be alert? People may try to curry favor with your father.

Because, you know, there`s been a letter that`s been circulated that George H. W. Bush sent around to his kids and family. Hey, people may come to you either looking for favors or trying to do something. Be careful.

LEWANDOWSKI: I never had that conversation. I was never privy to if that conversation took place. That would have been between the campaign council, potentially, and the family members. So, I can`t speak to if that took place. That would be a question for the campaign council.

But in my understanding, there was never a formal memo that was put out that said, be careful of duplicitous individuals.

TODD: Now, help me out here. The president seemed to say, today, nothing came of this meeting but so what if it had? Is that the sort of mind-set that was on the campaign? That, hey, whoever wants to help, I don`t want to know where they got the info. But we`re going to use the info.

LEWANDOWSKI: I think what the president is talking about is that when you`re in the middle of a campaign fight, and you have individuals -- and, look, this happens all the time. They called -- people would call with great ideas and bad ideas and they just want someone to share that information with.

And what I think happened, in this particular instance, was a former colleague or friend of Don Jr. said, hey, I know someone who`s going to be in New York City. Would you take a courtesy meeting with this person and hear what they have to say? And Don obviously took that meeting.

TODD: Yes, but it was spelled out. Just so you know, they`re representing the Russian government`s efforts in to help your father get elected.

LEWANDOWSKI: Look, Chuck, you have to remember in June of 2016, nobody thought of Russia.

TODD: But this is -- it doesn`t matter. It`s a foreign government. That did not ring an alarm bell? Why do you think that didn`t sound an alarm bell?

LEWANDOWSKI: Look, again, I wasn`t on the e-mail chain. I didn`t know about the meeting. But what I do know is this. Our own central intelligence agency did not brief the Obama administration until August of 2015 that it looks like Russia was trying to metal in the elections.

So, this notion that a person who is Russian decent -- does not work for the Russian government but is of Russian decent.

TODD: This e-mail said she was representing the Russian government.

[17:10:03] LEWANDOWSKI: But what we`ve now found out is she had no formal role with the Russian government. She`s of Russian decent. She`s an attorney. So, she had no role with the Russian government whatsoever.

TODD: What don`t know that.

LEWANDOWSKI: We don`t know she did. We don`t know she -- what we do know is she was a private citizen.

TODD: She was represented, though -- it was represented that she was going to be somebody connected to the Russian government. And that`s why Don Jr. took the meeting, no?

LEWANDOWSKI: I think Don Jr. took the meeting because he wanted to understand that if there was information out there that was potentially damaging to Hillary Clinton, that said that Russians are giving money to the Democratic National Committee or other sources to impact the outcome of this election and it`s illegal, he wants to know about it. Look, I think you get offered meetings all the time. I don`t even work for the president.

TODD: Would you have taken this meeting?

LEWANDOWSKI: Look, I don`t know. And I`ll tell you why. I get -- today, every day, people will call me. Corey, I`ve got an idea to save a trillion dollars if you can just get this to the president. Can I sit down with you for five minutes, 10 minutes?

The difference is -- and this just happened to me two days ago. A former colleague from the campaign called and said, hey, Corey, can you sit down with this individual? He`s going to be in Washington D.C. for 15 minutes. I said, sure. I don`t know the individual. We had a nice conversation.

If you came back to me two months from now and said, hey, this guy is a bad hombre as we call them, I wouldn`t have known. It was a friend -- it was a favor of a friend and that`s all it was.

TODD: So, you might have taken a meeting.

LEWANDOWSKI: I think if it was a friend that I had respected and known and had a personal relationship with, and they said to me, Corey, would you please sit down with someone who is going to be in New York for a brief period to discuss some information that might be helpful to the campaign, I`d sure think about it.

TODD: Let me as you this. There`s been -- there was another report in "The Wall Street Journal" about a Republican consultant named Peter Smith who`s now deceased. And he implied that he had both a connection. He was wanting to look for Hillary Clinton`s e-mails and look in the dark Web. And he implied that he had a connection to Mike Flynn and Mike Flynn, Jr.

What role did Mike Flynn Jr. play on the campaign? Was it voluntary? Was he with his dad? What can you tell me about that?

LEWANDOWSKI: I spent a lot of time traveling on the campaign. I know General Flynn well. May have potentially met his son on one occasion. I had never seen him in the campaign office.

To the best of my knowledge, when I was on the campaign, he never traveled on the campaign plane. So, any role that he would have played, that I`m aware of, would have been a support staff to his father but no official capacity on the campaign.

TODD: And how often would a surrogate like General Flynn or others come to you and say, hey, I think I have some -- I might have some access to some good oppo? Was that a regular thing that might happen? Was General Flynn one of those folks?

LEWANDOWSKI: No, I mean, it didn`t really work like that. And, remember, as -- let me be -- let me be very clear about this. During the primary campaign, we did not do opposition research on our opponents. We never pitched an oppo story and there was no media outlet that could ever tell you, I picked up the phone and called the -- and tried to pitch a negative story on our opponents.

TODD: You had a candidate that would say the oppo.

LEWANDOWSKI: Well, but no --

TODD: He didn`t have to -- I mean, you had a candidate that was comfortable just saying it. He didn`t have to have somebody else do it.

LEWANDOWSKI: Chuck, it`s a complete dichotomy of what every other campaign has done. So, for the general election, right, you have to remember, at that point, the Republican National Committee had a massive opposition file on Hillary Clinton.

All of this information was already well-known, for the most part. They had a massive dossier that they put together because this is what they do at the RNC.

And as such, any information that the campaign would have wanted to use, primarily against Hillary Clinton, was contained on a flash drive somewhere, I would guess.

TODD: So, why have a meeting with this -- why have a meeting looking for more Hillary Clinton opposition from a foreign source?

LEWANDOWSKI: That meeting took place prior to the RNC sharing the information with the Hillary Clinton -- because we were not -- you remember, the RNC was a neutral entity. Not until we secured enough delegates, but until he actually received the nomination at the convention in July which is a different metric, a different standard than they had for Mitt Romney.

When Mitt Romney received enough delegates, he just decided he was the presumptive nominee and took over the party. Donald Trump had to wait until he was officially nominated at the convention in July. This meeting took place a month before that.

TODD: So, are you implying that you guys had nothing and so you were trying to hurry up and find as much information as you could and this is what this was about?

LEWANDOWSKI: Yes. What I`m saying is we didn`t do any opposition research, and I know this is going to stun people, on our primary opponents.

TODD: Right.

LEWANDOWSKI: We didn`t need to do that.

And so, as we now are almost the presumptive nominee -- in our minds, we`re the presumptive nominee. The RNC has not determined that. So, we`re now trying to gather information. This is literally days after we have secured enough delegates to officially be the nominee.

So, my guess is people are trying to gather information, as much information as they can, and find out what is real and what is not real on Hillary Clinton. And this was one of those individuals who thought that they could share information.

Clearly, it was no information to share.

TODD: So, the meeting happens June 9th. The setup for the meeting takes place basically a week earlier. On June 7th, you were traveling with the president. You were down in Florida. He talks about making a speech. He`s going to make a speech the following Monday to tick through Hillary Clinton`s crimes. Now, he never makes that speech. Where did that come from?

LEWANDOWSKI: Look, the president has said things on many occasions to a list of responses from his opponents and from the media so that they cover this. And the president is a master at --

[17:15:03] TODD: So, he had no intention of giving a speech on Hillary Clinton when he said it?

LEWANDOWSKI: Well, here`s what I can tell you. I can tell you that when the president made that statement, it was the first time I had been aware that the president was going to make a speech the following Monday which is not uncommon. And we would, of course --

TODD: Not uncommon in Trump world.

LEWANDOWSKI: -- have accommodated his requirements if that`s what he wanted us to do.

But when he made that statement, it wasn`t that we were forward thinking a week out and we had this planned. It`s not like the announcement that took us six weeks to plan.

When the president made that statement, it was the first time I had heard it and we had not done -- we had not started the process of planning for him to make a major speech the next Monday.

TODD: Given now this is now stretching in -- this first contact took place while you were campaign manager. Have you been contacted by the special counsel?

LEWANDOWSKI: I have not been.

TODD: Have you been contacted by is the Senate or House Intelligence investigation?

LEWANDOWSKI: Chuck, I have nothing to hide. And let me say this. Let me be very clear. I have never colluded, cooperated or contacted any Russians that I`m aware of. Nobody contacted me that I`m aware of and asked to help solicit or fix a presidential campaign.

But let me be clear as I can be. If anybody, and I mean anybody, did something with a foreign government that materially impacted the outcome of this election, that person should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law, whoever that person is. Because we cannot have individuals who are meddling with foreign governments to potentially impact the outcome of an election.

TODD: Why isn`t the president as definitive as you were just now?

LEWANDOWSKI: Look, the president has been very -- here`s the -- here`s the thing. It`s very clear. This campaign did not -- I spent 18 months next to the president`s side, seven days a week, 18 hours a day. Never, and I mean never, did he raise the issue of Russia to me, Russian investigation, Russian cooperation, Russian coordination.

Chuck, we ran a five-person campaign for a presidential race on a fracture of a budget of everybody else and we didn`t even get the credit for that until we started growing.

And so, this notion that we were colluding with the Russians but couldn`t remember the proper mailing address of our campaign in Pennsylvania, it`s just preposterous. I mean, you have to remember how lean and small this was.

And as a person who was at the top of this campaign for a significant period of time, never ever, ever, ever, ever was Russia mentioned. And never was there any coordinated, cooperation or collaboration.

TODD: Are you confident that people in the president`s orbit, he has even talked about it, that maybe some satellites, whether it`s a Roger Stone, people that worked for him at one time but didn`t before. Are you confident they had nothing to do with, say, WikiLeaks or any of this stuff before it happened?

LEWANDOWSKI: Look, I don`t know what these guys. You know what I know? What I know is that some of the individuals that you`re referring to are the master of writing the post memo.

So, if and happens, they write a memo after it happens. They submit it and say, I predicted this two weeks ago. Right? This is how these guys have operated in Washington, D.C. for 30 years. Most of them have no real relationships.

And what we do know is those that claim to have a back-door access to Assange and all these other people, when questioned by the FBI, you know what they said? Well, I didn`t really have that. I was just talking about that as if maybe I have it. Because this is what they do to perpetuate themselves --

TODD: You`re referring now to Roger Stone.

LEWANDOWSKI: Well, I --

TODD: And, obviously, he`s no fan of yours. He makes that clear.

LEWANDOWSKI: These individuals who claim things that are factually inaccurate and this is how they get themselves in trouble. Because they go out and say, well, I`ve got a back door and I know how this happens and expect this to happen.

And then, when questioned under oath under the penalty of perjury, they say, oh, well, I really didn`t have a back door. I really didn`t know what I was talking about. That`s not surprising.

TODD: All right. Corey Lewandowski, I`ll leave it there. If asked, you`ll testify on anything that`s asked?

LEWANDOWSKI: 100 percent.

TODD: All right, we`ll leave it there.

LEWANDOWSKI: Thank you.

TODD: Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

That`s a lot to unpack. We`re going to unpack that later in the show because we`ll have more on what we know and what we don`t know right now about the latest twists in the Trump-Russia story later this hour.

But next, we`re going to turn to the other big story today in Washington. Republican leaders unveiled their revised healthcare plan with zero room for error. Are the changes enough to win over the party`s skeptics? We`ll dive into that. That`s just ahead.

[17:18:57]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back.

Time for another try. Just hours ago, Senate Republicans introduced a revised version of their health care bill. It includes a number of changes aimed at showing up support from both moderate and conservative members.

Here`s what`s new. A version of an amendment by Senator Ted Cruz that would allow for cheaper but much skimpier insurance plans in the individual market, if the insurer also offers a plan compliant with Obamacare standards, there are $45 billion to fight the opioid addiction issue. $70 billion more for states to reduce premiums. That`s $182 billion extra in this bill for that fund.

Now, people could use health savings accounts to pay for premiums. That`s another addition. And there`s a few different Obamacare taxes on the wealthy that actually would be extended.

Now, the new bill does keep the original Medicaid cuts in place or slower growth of Medicaid growth. If you want to go back on that, we`ll debate that later, which could be an issue for a number of the Senate`s moderates and, of course, especially from states with Republican governors who want to expand.

Reaction has been fast and furious. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: The bill they put forward keeps the majority of the Obamacare taxes, keeps the majority -- the vast majority of the Obamacare regulations, keeps the majority of the Obamacare subsidies, and creates a brand-new insurance bail-out fund.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: President Obama, in my view, made a major mistake when he passed the Affordable Care Act without a single Republican vote. I don`t want to see us make the same mistake.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Who would say, with health care being such an issue to people back home, they don`t want to move to a bill to debate it or offer amendments? I just can`t imagine it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If this is the bill, are you on board?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Yes. I think today was a very important day. It was a productive step in the right direction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: A lot of Republicans who were on the fence before today say they`re waiting for a CBO score on the bill which we expect to see very early next week, perhaps Monday.

Mitch McConnell needs at least 50 out of 52 senators to support this bill. We`ll talk with one of those Republicans in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS, MINORITY WHIP: Lindsey and I have talked about this and Bill too. I mean, what we are waiting for is for Mitch McConnell to decide to let this be a bipartisan, rational process that`s transparent so everybody in America knows what the choices are.

So far, it`s always been behind closed doors. But if these Republican senators want to sit down and make this health care system stronger and better, count me in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Welcome back.

That was the Senate`s Democratic whip saying he`s spoken with two Republicans about working on health care. Well, those two Republicans, they`re Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. They introduced their own separate health care proposal today, just as the Senate leadership unveiled their new Republican bill.

So, joining me now is Senator Cassidy. Senator, welcome back to the show.

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: Thank you for having me.

TODD: So, are you competing against leadership with this bill? Explain why you and Senator Graham put this out today? And then, I`m curious, what happened to Senator Collins?

[17:25:07] CASSIDY: So, this is an amendment to the underlying bill. It would keep the -- for example, the revenue that comes from the pharmaceutical companies and the health insurance industry that they agreed to pay in the negotiations for Obamacare, it would keep that money. Increase the amount of money available for states.

And then, block grant the cash to the states to take care of patients. It doesn`t replace this bill. It adds to it.

Susan Collins, of course I don`t speak for her, although we`ve worked so closely together, but she has concerns. I think this might address some of those concerns.

Again, not being able to speak for her, but block granting the extra dollars to the states may address her concerns.

TODD: All right. So, let`s -- help me with an example here. You`re a state that has expanded Medicaid. Let`s take your state of Louisiana and you`re obviously -- you expanded a little later than most states. You had a Democratic governor than some of these others when it happened.

So, what does this mean for Louisiana? Does this mean you get to keep your Medicaid expansion? You get to keep your rate of growth? Explain what your amendment would do.

CASSIDY: So, our amendment would give our state the dollars that it`s currently receiving, minus the amount for the individual mandate penalties and the employer mandate penalties. It would give the state that money, and it could continue the expansion if it wished. It could --

TODD: What, with federal dollars or not with federal dollars?

CASSIDY: It would take the federal dollars it`s currently receiving. It would then receive it as a block grant. The state would then continue a maintenance of effort, putting up its share, if you will, and take that sum total to come up with a solution that`s pick particular for Louisiana.

TODD: But would the federal government continue to increase its share or no --

CASSIDY: There would be an --

TODD: -- over time with that block grant money?

CASSIDY: There would be an inflation rate built into the amount of money the state received. But the state would also be given additional flexibility.

We know, from experience, the federal government sometimes puts states into straightjackets, gives them a lot of money, but the straight jacket makes it -- makes the money used inefficiently.

This would allow the state to, kind of, come up with solutions adaptable, better use of the dollars, more bang for the buck.

TODD: Why didn`t your bill get off the ground? Why was this -- is it -- did your bill have to be the bipartisan vehicle? And is that why, and since this is going to be a reconciliation process, it doesn`t work?

CASSIDY: So, our Patient Freedom Act that I did with Senator Collins, so many aspects of it are in this bill. In fact, Ted Cruz`s amendment allowing people to buy insurance from Health Savings Accounts was in the Patient Freedom Act.

Other aspects of this, for example, what Senator Graham and I are doing now in which we would, effectively, block grant the dollars, albeit in a different way but nonetheless in a similar way, is part of the Patient Freedom Act.

So, I think more and more components of the Patient Freedom Act are being incorporated. Would I wish that it would have been bipartisan? Yes. Is there evidence that Democrats made a political decision not to cooperate? Absolutely articles to that affect.

So, I`m doing the best I can.

TODD: Well, in fairness, if Senator Mitch McConnell decides to do something via reconciliation, isn`t that also a way of saying, Democrats, you`re not invited to the party, we don`t need you?

CASSIDY: It could be. But I will still say, if two to three to four Democrats walked into Mitch McConnell`s office and said, we`re willing to deal. This is what we want. It would happen. It would happen.

If they had come to Susan Collins and me and said, listen, we are willing to get on your bill. We want this or we want that. That would have given such momentum.

TODD: Well, Dick Durbin -- Dick Durbin just said he would. Have you sat down with Dick Durbin? The three of you, Graham, Cassidy, Durbin? Does it become the Graham Cassidy Durbin bill?

CASSIDY: Cassidy sat down with Durbin. As you mentioned, Durbin spoke to that. And without giving away a confidential conversation, obviously it still was Cassidy Collins or it`s now Graham Cassidy. Unfortunately, not Senator Durbin.

TODD: Do you think if Senator McConnell took reconciliation off the table and allowed it to be, you know, force the 60 vote, do you think you would have more Democrats that would be willing to work with you?

CASSIDY: That political article that was written a couple weeks ago in which it basically quotes Chuck Schumer, saying that he was going to keep everybody in line.

Debbie Stabenow saying, every time I wanted to do the right thing, I was told don`t do so.

Someone else saying, I couldn`t speak with Republicans unless given permission. That indicates kind of a solid front.

Again, I`m frustrated by that. This should be an American solution, not a Democrat or Republican. I`ve done my best and I`m still going to do my best.

TODD: Where are you on this bill if your amendment doesn`t pass?

CASSIDY: I have started reading the bill. It`s -- I`m on page, like, eight, because I`m flipping back through the Obamacare bill. I`ll know hopefully by the end of the weekend how this bill affects my state and the patients whom I represent and whether it fulfills President Trump`s campaign promises.

TODD: So, what was your biggest concern with the last bill that you hope this bill fixes?

CASSIDY: There was a provision that stuck it to Louisiana, a big $1.8 billion just hit to us like no other state. That was not good.

You can`t have your state singled out for almost punitive --

TODD: Is this because you didn`t expand Medicaid in time, right? Is that what you`re referring to?

CASSIDY: Correct. It was a severe disadvantage. So we lost in one way then we lost in the other way. That has been addressed. Now, I just have to look at the other features.

TODD: I`ve got to ask you though on that specific feature. So, somebody could say, okay, now you`re voting for it because it`s better for Louisiana. Does this come across as okay now they`re finding a way to make you happy with that and make Capito (ph) happy with opioid funding, make Portman happy with that (inaudible)? Is that what this is looking like right now?

CASSIDY: Not to me. First, I haven`t committed to voting for it, number one. Number two, it was like putting a gun to Louisiana`s fiscal head and pulling the trigger. It is just a prize for admission that you don`t put a fiscal gun to my state`s head and pull the trigger, period. On the other hand, I also want to point out the opioid funding is important to Capito (ph), important to Portman, is important to Cassidy.

TODD: Sure.

CASSIDY: People are dying from opioids across the nation. So I think that`s actually a positive thing that we`re addressing national needs in this legislation.

TODD: What`s your sense about voting for this bill to just simply proceed. I know not every Republican senator is ready to do that. Are you?

CASSIDY: I would like to -- when Nancy Pelosi said we have to pass this bill to know what`s in it, I want to read the bill to make a decision about voting to go forward. And so I want -- if you have the opposite of Speaker Pelosi at the time, I want to know the bill. So those kind of questions I`m deferring my answer until I`ve read the bill.

TODD: And in the CBO scoring, what`s going to matter to you more, number of people covered, premiums? What specifically are you going to be looking for in the new CBO score?

CASSIDY: Yes. President Trump ran saying he wanted to continue coverage care for pre-existing conditions, eliminate mandates, lower premiums. We are eliminating mandates. How it addresses those other three are important. Their methodology weighs heavily upon the individual mandate and so the fact that we eliminate mandates, the American people want those gone means that the CBO score will not be as good in coverage numbers. So I want to look at how they discuss their methodology and then make my own decision as to the adequacy of coverage.

TODD: All right. Senator Cassidy, Republican from Louisiana. You`ve been all over this issue. Appreciate you coming on and sharing your views as always, sir.

CASSIDY: Thank you.

TODD: You got it. Coming up, health care, the Russia connection, lots for the panel to dig into. That`s just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Still ahead, will Donald Trump Jr. testify before congress on his meeting with a Russian lawyer? And will the revised health care bill gain traction with its Republican detractors? We`ll discuss all of that with our panel coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER, POLITICAL OPERATIVE AND COMMENTATOR: Let me be as clear as I can be, if anybody, and I mean anybody, did something with a foreign government that materially impacted the outcome of this election, that person should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law, whoever that person is, because we cannot have individuals who are meddling with foreign governments to potentially impact the outcome of the election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Welcome back. Panel is here. Shane Harris, senior national security writer at the Wall Street Journal. Ruth Marcus, columnist at the Washington Post. Robert Traynham, vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center, former advisor to George W. Bush, and of course MSNBC political analyst. Hello.

ROBERT TRAYNHAM, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hello.

TODD: Welcome all. Shane, I`m going to start with you. You are doing as much digging on this. Let`s start with Corey. First, I want to get something. There`s still some confusion about where Donald Trump was on June 9th.

SHANE HARRIS, SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY WRITER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Right.

TODD: He said we`re down in Florida on June 9th. He still believes they were. He`s checking his records. Our records indicate they were in New York on June 9th. There was a June 7th Florida speech, and he was in Florida, we believe two days later.

Look, we can give Corey the benefit of the doubt a little bit. He`s traveling. He`s the one traveling all the time. He was not in that meeting. That`s for sure. That is something that everybody agrees to. So we`re trying to clear up that date, confusion there. What did you learn here? What do you think is going on?

HARRIS: What I was struck by is his saying that he might have taken the meeting. He holds out the possibility maybe I would do that. You get opposition research all the time. But they said, we weren`t trying to do opposition research on Hillary Clinton, so I don`t know how you square those two things.

To read that letter though, with the explicit over tour that it is making from a Russian government connected source, if somebody had sent me that e- mail as a reporter, I would have thought it might be fraudulent. It hit so many of the notes that are being alleged in this conspiracy. To see that message come across and say well, maybe I`ll take the meeting, I found that really quite--

TODD: Let me say that it would have felt hoax (ph).

HARRIS: Yes, exactly. It looks too perfect.

TODD: Ruth, in fairness, we didn`t know how big Russia was truly doing at that point in time publicly. Is it possible they saw this more innocently than we think?

RUTH MARCUS, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, at that point in time, the U.S. intelligence community had not come forward, and let`s give the Trump campaign the benefit of the doubt. They were not aware of incipient Russian effort to help.

However, at that time, the Trump campaign like everybody else in America knew who Russia was, knew that Russia is not just some other country like a good friend, like the United Kingdom or France just to take a random one. This is Russia, okay. Remember during the fund-raising scandal, there was a big back in `96 with the Democrats.

TODD: Yes. Chinese money.

MARCUS: Chinese money and it was why is it a problem to do this at a Buddhist temple and they wrote on it because it`s a temple, you idiot. That`s kind of how I feel about this one, because it`s the Russians. Any reasonable campaign, whether or not we knew anything about Russia in advance, would not have taken that meeting. And I have to say, I was shocked that Corey Lewandowski said he might have taken that meeting. No reason for him to need to go there.

TODD: Robert, the other thing that intrigued me is Corey is pretty confident of everything that happened on that campaign.

TRAYNHAM: Yes.

TODD: Through June 20th.

TRAYNHAM: Right.

TODD: Which is his last day on the payroll.

TRAYNHAM: Right.

TODD: Ironically, in that period, he may have been relieved he ended up not CC`d on that e-mail.

TRAYNHAM: Absolutely.

TODD: That period, that is when the entire Trump children`s orbit was trying to get rid of Corey--

TRAYNHAM: That`s right.

TODD: -- and bring on Manafort full time.

TRAYNHAM: In a strange way, he`s probably thanking Donald Trump Jr. and Coleman -- Manafort for not--

TODD: For pushing him out.

TRAYNHAM: -- pushing him out. But, can I go back for a second? I want to start with a positive. I thought Corey Lewandowski did a very good job of speaking very declaratively about things that he knew, and he seemed to be very genuine and very sincere. There was no halting in his voice. He appeared to be very sincere.

I also think he`s got two people that he`s trying to serve. One is the president still. I still think they`re very close. I still think the president probably would be watching this program or recording of this program.

TODD: Right.

TRAYNHAM: And I probably -- and I think Lewandowski wants to say, Mr. President, I defended you. But you also was, I thought, very declarative by saying, no matter who it is should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, which I believe means everyone including maybe even the president.

MARCUS: Okay.

TRAYNHAM: So I think he did a very good job of threading the needle there.

MARCUS: Well, he may have threaded the needle, but I thought he misstated the law. The notion that the test is whether you engaged in conduct that materially impacted the outcome of the election, that kind of sounds like law, but it`s actually not the law. That is not the test.

HARRIS: There`s something less than that that might also be very serious.

MARCUS: Indeed.

HARRIS: It becomes grounds for impeachment or a political --

TODD: I want to go to the president`s statement today. What was intriguing to me about it was less what he said. It was the tone. It was not defiant. It was not blustery. It was sort of like, yes, we know this one looks bad, but it`s still not what you think it is.

TRAYNHAM: It`s not -- it`s very unnatural for his tweets.

TODD: Un-Trump.

TRAYNHAM: Right. It`s uncharacteristic for him and strange. He seemed very calmed, very relaxed. A friend of mine said, I went traveling with him, e- mailed back and said, he`s fatigued. It`s a lot of jet lag. OK, maybe that`s what it is.

TODD: By the way, it could legitimately be so. He just came back from a trip and now you`re going back.

TRAYNHAM: That`s right. Correct. So it could be that or perhaps maybe even his gut is telling him, oh, my goodness, this is a big deal.

TODD: Yes, or he`s been humbled a little bit. But the other thing I would point out, Ruth, he went out of his way to put distance between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort. What did you make of that?

MARCUS: Well, he said one was playing with his phone, right, and one walked out of the room pretty quickly.

TODD: Right. Information that I believe it`s the lawyer that has said that to us.

MARCUS: Right.

TODD: The Russian lawyer in the interview with Keir Simmons. That`s not necessarily verified information, but suddenly the president is using it as his own.

MARCUS: And the other is a good boy.

TODD: Yes.

MARCUS: A good boy who happens to be like the same age as the president of France who he`s meeting with.

TODD: (inaudible).

MARCUS: OK. Well, that`s the big difference. My husband does that to me too.

TODD: Oh, great. God, I am going to get a lot of tweets on that.

HARRIS: When you see all the various camps in here separating from each other, right, and the question of course has been who was it that actually leaked this e-mail? Was it somebody in Kushner`s camp? Was it someone else? The way that everyone is sort of pushing each other off into their corners here, that really struck me about the way this has played out this week, is you don`t see any kind of rallying of the troops or the forces.

Everyone has their piece of the story and is sticking to it. The president did not come out swinging on this one. It involves his son. I`m sure he`s very sensitive to that. But that e-mail is so explicit. What could you really say about it?

MARCUS: I`m sorry. I think you guys are being way too nice to the president. I think sure he didn`t sound Trumpian and blustery, but most people who read this understood that this is a very bad idea to have this meeting. This is a really disturbing thing. I agree exactly with what Shane said. It was so inculpatory. So incriminating that you would have made it off if that was what you did and --

TODD: It`s almost like saying, just so you know, if you take this meeting, you are saying, yes, we know, Russia is helping. Almost felt that way.

MARCUS: I know I`m imaging a president that`s different than the one that we had, but this meeting was inappropriate, and that`s what should be said.

TODD: We`ll make that the last word of this segment. When we come back, we`re going to talk a little health care. But up next, some timely presidential father-son advice.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back. Tonight I`m obsessed with family ties. The White House and the proper way to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest or actual conflict of interest. Awhile back, "The New York Times" republished a letter from George H.W. Bush as he ran for president in 1988. The letter is addressed to his son, George W. Bush, about how Bush family members should conduct themselves during the presidential campaign.

In the letter, the future president warns that as November draws near, Bushes will find they have a lot of new friends. He then goes on, they`ll ask for things. Do you know anyone at commerce? Can you call Joe Doakes at state? Listen more from Bush. My plea is this, please do not contact any federal agency or department on anything.

A call from a Bush will get returned, but there is a great likelihood that it will be leaked, maybe deliberately misrepresented. If there is a legitimate inquiry, call my office. It is certainly appropriate to contact your own government, but let`s do it through my office so no one can accuse any of the family of trying to use influence.

No matter where you stand on the presidency of George Bush the elder, it`s hard not to take note of the grace, foresight, and simple decency of that letter. Let`s hope this letter is read in every corner of Washington. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Time for "The Lid." Shane Harris, Ruth Marcus, Robert Traynham. All right. I think, Ruth, you put it best. Washington -- everyone in Washington tries to pretend it`s normal. And our normalcy moment of the day has to do with the health care.

TRAYNHAM: Policy.

TODD: Yes, with what`s going on in health care.

MARCUS: I`m normal.

TODD: It`s not being done in the normal ways of Washington but at least it`s an issue and not espionage.

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS: We`ll take it.

TODD: Robert, Rand Paul is still a no. Susan Collins, very skeptical. Capito, skeptical.

TRAYNHAM: Right.

TODD: None of us know how Dean Heller can ever support this bill considering what he said the first time. But Cassidy looked like he felt like he had some --

MARCUS: Portman is still a little skeptical.

TODD: Capito and Portman, I think, are going to be a team on this.

TRAYNHAM: But the question is, is this new bill dead on arrival? And it appears that it is as of right now.

TODD: You think it is.

TRAYNHAM: I think so.

TODD: Wow.

TRAYNHAM: Yes. I think this is yet another attempt to appeal to the base but also appeal to the moderates in the party but not going anywhere.

TODD: What do you say, Ruth?

MARCUS: It`s not over until it`s over. I never underestimate Mitch McConnell. And you know you`re playing with very small margins. But that also means you can -- you need to get very small numbers. So, you only need to be able to count to 50. It is not looking good.

I find it just incredible and not normal at all that we`re talking about an amendment from Senator Cassidy that I don`t understand, that I haven`t seen in writing, that would met, you know, really remarkably change the contours of the legislation at this late date. And, you know, this is not a minor piece of legislation. This is all that hearing stuff.

TODD: Yes, all that hearing stuff.

MARCUS: And CBO scores of the Cruz amendment and everything. So I think you`re right. I hope you`re right. I`m not sleeping until that`s done.

HARRIS: Until the groundhog day maybe with the CBO score coming next week, right? That provides people their out that they want. I agree with you about McConnell, like magic Mitch, see what he can pull out of the hat. But it does feel like they are trading over degrees here. That is what lawmakers do. That is how they legislate, so maybe they pull it off.

TODD: I think their most -- the CBO part -- the CBO analysis that I think that they can`t debunk the easiest is the idea of will premiums go up or down.

TRAYNHAM: Right.

TODD: Right. And they`ll fight about coverage. Premiums go up and down. The last two CBO scores, one for the house and one for the senate bill. All noted. While they go down at first particularly for older folks, they are going to go up and up fast. If this CBO score does the same thing, then I think you`re right, it is dead.

MARCUS: The attack on CBO, the way to argue against CBO is not to argue whether they`re right or wrong on this and that, but simply the attack, it`s credibility.

TODD: Yes, that`s what they`re trying to do, I think.

MARCUS: Yes.

TODD: Although I don`t think Senator Cassidy, he was --

MARCUS: No, no, I`m not --

TODD: He was (inaudible) on one specific --

MARCUS: Right. Senator Cassidy was not doing that. But I think for the proponents of this bill in order to get it over the finish line, they are going to have to try to convince some of those people that CBO is not a credible score. In which case you have to say, OK, you got a better one, or are we just kind of throwing up legislation and hoping for the best.

TODD: Yes. I think the cost -- the premium issue is what`s going to drive Flake, Portman, Cassidy, Capito at the end of day.

HARRIS: Right. And this has been the complaint of the bill from Republicans all along, right, is that you can get health insurance but nobody can afford it.

TODD: Right.

HARRIS: (inaudible) once you have it.

MARCUS: The interesting thing is nobody wants to be the third vote.

TODD: I know.

MARCUS: To peel off, you have to get a bunch.

TODD: It will not go down by one vote. It`s going down by 15 or pass. Thank you, guys. After the break, in our "In Case You Missed It," an op-ed that really missed it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: In case you missed it, two of President Trump`s top advisers wrote a fascinating op-ed today in "The New York Times." It was praising the president, quote, vision for America abroad. Gary Cohn and H.R. McMaster essentially chief domestic guy, chief national security guy in the Trump White House touted all the meetings Trump had with world leaders last week in Europe.

There was the meeting they wrote about with 12 leaders from the three C`s nations. The dinner with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan. Another meeting with President Joko Widodo of Indonesia also talked about in the op-ed. But in case they missed it, didn`t they forget someone? Someone kind of relevant? President of a country that is kind of big, semi-important in today`s geopolitical climate?

Yes, the president`s meeting with that guy, Vladimir Putin of Russia. And not just any meeting. A meeting that lasted for over two hours. Somehow, I don`t think McMaster and Cohn just forgot to mention Putin or Russia in the entire op-ed. It`s pretty hard to forget. But somehow, every part of the trip was mentioned, except that 2-1/2 hours. That`s all we have for tonight.

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