MTP Daily, Transcript 7/20/2017

Guests: Susan Li, Chris Murphy, Daniella Gibbs Leger, Susan Glasser, Matthew Continetti

Show: MTP DAILY Date: July 20, 2017 Guest: Susan Li, Chris Murphy, Daniella Gibbs Leger, Susan Glasser, Matthew Continetti

WALLACE: All right. That`s it for today. Thanks to our panel, Vianna Rodrigo, Michael Steele, Michael Steele again. (INAUDIBLE) I forgot to thank earlier.

That does it for our hour. I`m Nichole Wallace. MTP DAILY starts right now with the fabulous Katy Tur in for Chuck Todd. Hi, Katy.

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: I think you mean Michael Steele squared, Nicole.

WALLACE: Yes. I`m not good at math. I never know how that works.

TUR: Great show today, as always. Thank you, Nicole.

And if it`s Thursday, President Trump`s red line and red meat amid a red scare. You ready?

(voice-over): Tonight, President Trump tightens his circle of trust.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Essentially, he should have never recused himself.

SESSIONS: We love this department and I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUR: But why is he repeatedly taking aim at his own?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, U.S. WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY SECRETARY: If he wanted somebody to take an action, he would make that quite clear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUR: Plus, where do the Russia investigations go from here?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they don`t voluntarily come, they`ll be subpoenaed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUR: And later, John McCain`s toughest battle. The senator promises to be back soon following his cancer diagnosis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: John is a fighter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUR: This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.

(on camera): Good evening, I`m Katy Tur in New York in for Chuck Todd. Welcome to MTP DAILY.

Senator John McCain is on our minds, and he`s in our prayers right now. And we`re not alone when we say, give them hell, Senator. And as fate would have it, there is a favorite saying of his that is the perfect way to tee up tonight`s take on Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, as I`ve said many times in the past, there`s another shoe that will drop and there will be other shoes that will drop.

Every few days another shoe drops.

It`s the centipede that the shoe continues to drop.

This is a centipede and there will be more shoes to drop.

Every time we turn around, another shoe drops from this centipede.

It`s turning into a centipede like these things have a tendency of doing and another shoe seems to drop every few days.

In fact, I think there`s a lot more shoes to drop from this centipede.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUR: We begin tonight with a president who`s likely very worried about how many shoes there really are. As the Russia probes continue to balloon, he seems intent on tarnishing anyone who`s connected to the investigation, even his own appointees. His Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Mr. Trump told "The New York Times" that maybe he never should have hired him.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sessions should have never recused himself. And if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.

It`s extremely unfair, and that`s a mild word, to the president.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TUR: His deputy attorney general, who he also hired, the president seemed to say he can`t be trusted anymore. Rod Rosenstein is from Baltimore. There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any.

He gave me a very strong letter about firing Director Comey and now he`s involved in the case. That is a conflict of interest. A special counsel should never have been appointed by Rosenstein in this case.

What about his acting FBI director, Andrew McCabe? McCabe`s wife got 700 grand from folks connected to Hillary and he`s at the FBI. I mean, how do you think that?

Special counsel Bob Mueller, maybe he`s out to get the president because he didn`t get the FBI job.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Did you know Mueller was one of the people that was being interviewed?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did, actually.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He was sitting in that chair. We had a wonderful meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The day before, right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he want the job?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The day before. Of course, he was up here. Mueller wanted the job. I said, what the hell is this all about? Talk about conflicts. But he was interviewing for the job.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TUR: Then came this morning from the president.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances unrelated to Russia, is that a red line?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would say yes. Yes, I would say yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he was outside that lane, would that mean he would have to go?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I think that`s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would you do?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can`t -- I can`t answer that question because I don`t think it`s going to happen.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TUR: So, whether it`s the A.G., the deputy A.G., the acting FBI chief, the former FBI chief or the special counsel`s office, the president`s message seems to be that all of their motives should be questioned.

In other words, the entire Justice Department can`t be trusted at best or it`s carrying out a conspiracy, at worst.

If you`re the attorney general or his deputy, how do you react to these stunning statements?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SESSIONS: I have the honor of serving as attorney general. It`s something that goes beyond any thought I would have ever had for myself. We love this job. We love this department, and I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate.

[17:05:03] ROD ROSENSTEIN, U.S. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I was proud to be here yesterday. I`m proud to be here today. I`ll be proud to be here tomorrow. And we are spending every minute working to advance the interest of the department.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUR: The White House today said that President Trump has not lost confidence in Sessions. It should be noted, however, that the White House said the president had confidence in Michael Flynn on the same day he was later fired.

I`m joined now by NBC intelligence and national security reporter Ken Dilanian, and MSNBC`s Chief Legal Correspondent Ari Melber who will fill -- who will soon be our neighbor as the host of the 6:00 p.m. hour. Looking forward to that, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Katy.

TUR: Ken, let`s start with you, though. Trump was warning Robert Mueller, don`t look into his finances. He called that a red line, a violation. Is that where this investigation is headed?

KEN DILANIAN, INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, NBC NEWS: It`s already there, Katy. I mean, as we`ve been reporting for some time, this is, in some ways, a follow-the-money investigation.

Because don`t forget, one of the main allegations in the dossier that we know fueled, in part, the FBI investigation was that the -- was that the Russian government was trying to ingratiate itself with Donald Trump and his team through sweetheart financial deals. So, of course, that is a matter that has to be looked into.

And we already know, for example, that the Senate is now pouring through thousands of documents from fin sin (ph), the Treasury Department`s money laundering arm. (INAUDIBLE) are Trump family business documents.

TUR: Wow.

DILANIAN: And everyone I`ve talked to believes that Mueller has the same stuff.

TUR: So, how far back do they --

DILANIAN: So, it`s an investigation --

TUR: I`m sorry, Ken. So, how far back do they go in Trump`s finances? How many years back?

DILANIAN: So, I don`t have that level of clarity but it`s many years. I mean, for example, we know that, back in 2008, a Russian oligarch bought a Palm Beach estate from Donald Trump for $95 million, more than twice than he paid for it. It`s hard to imagine that that isn`t something that investigators want to at least take a look at to make sure it was on the level.

TUR: So, talk about these comments, in general, though. The president saying that there are conflicts there. Saying that it`s a red line if Robert Mueller ends up looking into his finances. How are these comments viewed by investigators? Do they see them as potentially attempts to interfere with their work?

DILANIAN: Sorry, is that for me, Katy?

TUR: Yes, it`s for you, Ken.

DILANIAN: Yes. So, you`ve already seen Senator Richard Blumenthal tweet today that these comments are inappropriate, bordering on obstruction of justice. I`ve talked to a couple of legal experts.

I mean, it`s obstruction, what they say is it`s extremely politically inadvisable. It looks like the president is trying to pressure investigators, threaten to fire Mueller. It`s just -- he`s a defense lawyer`s worst nightmare, in this respect, because he`s sending the impression that he`s trying to interfere with the investigation -- Katy.

TUR: Ken, so what can they do? Do they just ignore him?

DILANIAN: They have to just ignore them and keep on doing what they`re doing. You know, Robert Mueller, don`t forget, is a Republican who`s one of the most respected professional investigators in Washington for years.

And he has a group of people around him, both Democrats and Republicans, who have terrific reputations (INAUDIBLE.) And they are backed up by hundreds of FBI agents. And I think they`re just going to follow the evidence where it leads and eventually we`ll see a report on this case -- Katy.

TUR: So, Ari, he, the president, is questioning the motives of the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, the FBI, the special counsel, all because of Russia.

So, what sort of control, really, does the president have over those departments and what can he do? Can he end up firing all of those people that he`s naming in that "New York Times" interview?

MELBER: No, he doesn`t have the lawful authority to remove all of those individuals, though he does over some.

I will say one thing in fairness to Mr. Trump and then one thing about what`s so wrong about his comments. In fairness, when you play, as you fairly did, the entire context of some of those comments, what you hear are reporters pressing him on what are commonly called hypotheticals.

TUR: Yes.

MELBER: And then saying, well, what are you going to do about it? And he showed some fairly unTrumpian restraint in saying, well, I don`t think it`s going to happen. I`m not going to answer that. He did not actually go as far as to say what he would do about this so-called red line. And so --

TUR: Most people wouldn`t put themselves in that position, though.

MELBER: No, they wouldn`t. And he is who he is. But I just want to be fair to the White House that this is not some situation where he did tweet or go give a speech, raising a red line about family finances.

He`s being asked repeatedly from reporters which is our job. I`m not even saying this to criticize the reporters.

TUR: Yes, yes yes.

MELBER: I`m just noting, what are you going to do about it? And he said, well, I don`t think it`s going to happen.

TUR: Yes.

MELBER: Now, the problem for him is what you said and showed in your terrific open here where you showed the six different faces of people. Are they all in on the take? All these Republicans, two people he personally hired, one of whom Sessions was one of his first endorsers, Rod Rosenstein, who he hand-picked to be deputy attorney general.

Everyone is mysteriously in on this conspiracy, this crookedness to get Donald Trump. It doesn`t make any sense because there`s no evidence for it which means, at this juncture, it does not appear true. And it is problematic to have a president who does seek to, as you put it, undermine the Justice Department.

TUR: Take a look at something he said about the FBI. The FBI person really reports directly to the president of the United States which is interesting. You know, which is interesting. And I think we`re going to have a great new FBI director.

[17:10:08] So, is he, effectively could you say, warning Chris Wray, you`ve got to be loyal to me? Ultimately, they do serve at the pleasure of the president, but they also serve the Constitution.

MELBER: That`s correct. They have a duty to uphold the Constitution and the law. And while he does higher and fire the FBI director, so in that broad sense he overseas him, the FBI director, as a matter of the chain of command, formerly reports to the deputy attorney general.

And with regard to Mueller, who is going to be protected from all of this to a certain degree because of the role of the special counsel, just to be clear, neither the new FBI director nor the president has any ability to remove the special counsel.

TUR: Can he undercut him?

MELBER: Well, I mean, the question is, how cooperative or uncooperative or obstructive is he being?

TUR: Yes.

MELBER: But if you -- if you do run the hypothetical I was talking about earlier, which, in fairness, the president has not reached yet, and you say that he is seeking the dismissal of the special counsel, the short answer is, no, Mr. President. We have rules here that codify what it takes and the president doesn`t directly do it and he can only be dismiss -- be dismissed for cause. Unlike the FBI director who can be dismissed for any reason.

TUR: Ari Melber, thank you very much.

MELBER: Thank you.

TUR: Look forward to your show. Ken Dilanian, thank you as well.

I`m joined now by "New York Times" White House correspondent and MSNBC Contributor Glen Thrush whose colleagues conducted that blockbuster interview. Along with tonight`s panel, Daniella Gibbs Leger of the Center for American Progress. Matthew Continetti is the editor-in-chief for "The Washington Free Beacon." And Susan Glasser is with "Politico."

Glen, I want to start with you, because it`s "The New York Times" reporting that was a -- just an incredible interview by your colleagues. But talking about this red line and whether or not Donald Trump thinks that Bob Mueller would be in violation of something if he went into Donald Trump`s finances.

Listen, Michael Schmidt, who pressed him on that, is not a -- I mean, he`s a savvy guy. He`s a savvy reporter. Can we take that to mean that maybe this investigation is already headed in that direction, as Ken Dilanian is reporting?

GLENN THRUSH, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I have to say, I`m a little upset that I was literally the only member of "The New York Times" Washington Bureau that was not allowed in on this interview.

TUR: Yes, why was that, Glenn? Why was that?

THRUSH: But, look, I think we`ve seen reports, over the last couple of days, indicating that things might move in that direction which, I think, is why Michael asked the question. That is a really dangerous area for the president.

But, look, we`ve had Jay Sekulow, one of the president`s attorneys, overtly say that the president ought to consider sacking Bob Mueller if he gets too close to this sort of thing.

And, you know, the president has two models for leadership, when it comes to running an organization. The first is George C. Scott portraying George Patton in the movies. And the second is his father, Fred Trump, in running the family real estate empire. Neither of those two are particularly attuned to the needs of people who are working for them. They view people as employees.

Trump, after all this time, and I think this is the main thing that this interview proves, views Rosenstein and Sessions --

TUR: Yes.

THRUSH: -- as employees and is angry that they`re not behaving like employees.

TUR: So, this is a hypothetical right now, and the president refused to comment on this. But, Matthew, if he does try and block Robert Mueller and his team from going into the Trump Organization`s finances and his family`s finances, is that a firestorm that will eventually ensue out of that? Is that something that he can survive?

MATTHEW CONTINETTI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "THE WASHINGTON FREE BEACON": I really don`t know. And, of course, I agree with Ari Melber, Katy, when he said that the president never actually said he would do this. He was responding, as he often does in interviews, that reporters and even advisers, who talk to the president, often remark about how you can raise an idea with him and he`ll say, oh, that`s an interesting idea. Even though he has no intention of following up on it or doing anything about it.

So, obviously, if President Trump were to fire special counsel Mueller, it would ignite a crisis in Washington, D.C. I don`t think we`re there yet, though.

TUR: Hold on, though. This president is extraordinarily sensitive about his finances. That`s part of the reason why we have not seen him release his taxes. This is not any old issue for him. It`s an issue that he thinks about, certainly. And it`s also important to remember that he did fire the FBI director, so there is some precedent for these questions.

Susan, what is your take on this?

SUSAN GLASSER, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS COLUMNIST, "POLITICO": Well, you know, I`m glad you brought it up, Katy, because it seems to me that, actually, it was one of those classic Donald Trump interviews that was shocking but not really surprising.

He and his advisers have been telegraphing for quite some time that he was very dissatisfied with Attorney General Sessions for recusing himself. And also, floating this notion that if Bob Mueller tread too closely, that he might go ahead and fire him, too, because he already fired the FBI director and maybe he would risk it.

[17:15:00] So, where we really -- we were stunned yesterday because the president, once again, sort of, bucked the advice that any lawyer would give him and gave this. So, I would not rule out that Trump is seriously are considering firing Mueller.

On Sessions, it seems very interesting. It`s almost as if he wanted to back Sessions into a corner and see if he could get Sessions to quit rather than being forced to fire him.

TUR: Yes. And we`ll see what happens with that and whether or not he`s going to feel like he`s going to have to do that, at some point. But, today, he said not.

Daniella, take a listen -- I want to talk about the political aspects of this and how Republicans are reacting. Take a listen to Orrin Hatch a little bit earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s your reaction to that? I mean, he says the FBI director basically works for him. He says Mueller could cross red lines. He`s kind of all over the place on the Justice Department there.

ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Well, I don`t really have any comment on it other than that I think he needs to be a little bit more careful about what he says.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUR: The GOP viewed the tarmac meeting between Bill Clinton and Loretta Lynch last year as highly inappropriate. Now, it seems like their response to things that a lot of people consider to be inappropriate is just, mick (ph), Daniella.

DANIELLA GIBBS LEGER, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Exactly right. You know, that seems to be the reaction, generally speaking, from Republicans when it comes to Trump. They`re willing to let things slide that if a Democratic president had tried to do it, there is absolutely no way that Republicans would not be howling at the moon and saying how inappropriate it is.

You know, Republicans are willing to look the other way, when it comes to what Trump is doing because they want to pass their ridiculous policies through Congress and they think they need him in the White House to do that. You know, I`m really waiting to see when Republicans are going to put the country before their party.

TUR: What does this mean for conservatives, Matthew? How does this play with conservatives?

CONTINETTI: Well, I think, actually, Trump`s base and his fans quite enjoyed this interview.

TUR: But they`re not really conservatives.

CONTINETTI: Well, they think they are.

TUR: They`re more -- they`re more Trump voters. They`re like Trumpians.

CONTINETTI: I mean, there`s another segment of -- there`s another segment of -- there is another segment of conservatives who don`t like Donald Trump. And they would find the same thing for this interview. They would have plenty of ammunition not to like him.

On Trump`s people, though, who, in many cases, view themselves as conservatives, they saw the president, kind of -- they -- do exactly what they like him to do, which is just mouth off on a variety of issues. And, kind of, give his impression about the world and even crack some jokes. At one point, even Maggie Haberman was -- kind of burst into laughter at what the president was saying.

So, I don`t think this interview is going to -- you know, no offense to "The New York Times." I loved this interview. It`s not going to affect the world course of history here.

TUR: I`m not talking about necessarily his supporters, though. I`m talking about the people that are -- that work on Capitol Hill, the lawmakers who view themselves as Republicans, as conservatives. They don`t really view themselves as Trumpists, whatever you want to call Trump`s followers as. People who said that they upheld a certain set of ideals. And they`re going against them, especially when it comes to Russia. I mean, Donald Trump`s position and posture towards Russia is just so not Republican, traditionally.

CONTINETTI: No. And I think Orrin Hatch`s comment that you played reflects the views of many Republicans, professionally in Washington, D.C., which is they just don`t really pay attention to what Donald Trump tell us the press.

And, of course, this is a problem for President Trump because when he`s trying to lobby Congress, for example, on his healthcare policy, they don`t really pay attention to him there either. So, it`s a political problem.

TUR: Yes.

CONTINETTI: But I don`t think Republicans are going to wake up, you know, tomorrow morning thinking about this "New York Times" interview.

TUR: Glen, something he did admit in "The New York Times" interview was about that G20 conversation with Vladimir Putin where he said, yes, we talked about adoptions. That`s not very veiled language for sanctions.

THRUSH: Yes, adoptions equal sanctions because it`s part of the -- it was his retaliation for legislation that was passed in the U.S.

Here`s what`s also really interesting. Remember the initial press release, which was much wrangled over that was put out by Don Jr. after he took this meeting, said all they did was talk about adoptions.

So, here`s something interesting.

TUR: Yes.

THRUSH: You have a -- you have a person that Don Jr. met with -- people that Don Jr. met with that they say are not associated with the Russian government, yet they`re talking about exactly what Vladimir Putin brought up during a 15-minute conversation with the president directly.

Those two statements don`t jive and I suspect we`re going to have to see a resolution of that.

TUR: Glenn Thrush, thank you very much.

THRUSH: Thank you.

TUR: Daniella, Matthew and Susan, stay with us.

Coming up, we`re going to talk to a key senator about the current state of play on the healthcare bill.

Plus, does the president think he`s above the law? We`ll talk to a legal expert who calls the president`s New York Times interview, quote, "chilling."

[17:19:48]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TUR: Welcome back.

We already hit the are major headlines from "The New York Times" interview with President Donald Trump. But buried in the details are at least a few none truths or exaggerations by the president. First, on his meeting with GOP senators yesterday, the president said, it was a great meeting. We had 51 show up, other than John.

Actually, 49 Republican senators were at that meeting. Georgia`s Johnny Isakson and North Carolina`s Richard Burr did not attend, in addition to John McCain.

President Trump also said he signed more laws than any other president at this time in office. That is also not true. President Trump signed 42 bills so far. Just among his recent predecessors, Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, well, they all signed more at this point.

And one more. The interview the president -- in the interview, the president paraphrased French President Macron telling him that Napoleon designed the layout of Paris. That is false. And may be a case of mixed wires.

Napoleon`s nephew, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, or Napoleon III, commissioned the redesign of Paris about 30 years after the first Napoleon died.

We`ll be back in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TUR: Welcome back to MTP DAILY.

As we said at the top of the hour, President Trump is seemingly dead set on destroying the credibility of every single person involved in the Russia investigation. But what does it mean for the credibility of our federal law enforcement when the president threatens to interfere with an investigation into himself and his own campaign?

Joining me now is Benjamin Whit, he`s editor-in-chief of "Lawfare" and a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. Ben, thank you very much for joining us. You have quite an editorial in "Lawfare" today and I want to read a little bit from it. You said, it`s the president versus federal law enforcement. Trump attacks everyone.

And we are in a dangerous moment, one in which the president with his infinity sense of grievance feels entitled to publicly attack the entire federal law enforcement apparatus and that apparatus, in turn, lacks a single person with the stature, the institutional position and the fortitude to stand up to him.

[17:25:08] You`re basically saying here that A.G. Jeff Sessions, Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein, they both need to quit to show the president that he can`t behave this way.

BENJAMIN WITTES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "LAWFARE": Well, so, I -- look, I think any time, as the attorney general, you have the president, at whose pleasure you serve, announce in highly disparaging terms that he regrets having appointed you. He thinks you treated him unfairly. He thinks you didn`t handle yourself well in your confirmation hearings and answered questions that should have been simple in a fashion that wasn`t simple. And that you`ve basically blown it.

I think, under those circumstances, I don`t know under what basis you continue serving. And so, it`s not with any particular glee that I think - -

TUR: Yes.

WITTES: -- Jeff Sessions should resign. But I just can`t imagine -- I mean, leave aside the president. Let`s just take any boss and any employee. If my boss said that about me in public, I wouldn`t show up for work the next day.

TUR: But what happens if they don`t resign?

WITTES: Well, so, look, what we have right now is a highly dysfunctional situation at the Justice Department, where the president not only blasts the attorney general, but he publicly questions the fairness of the deputy attorney general, who is, in fact, now responsible for the Russia investigation. And suggests that the deputy attorney general is, you know, sort of, part of this, kind of, weird left wing rear guard action against him.

He publicly attacks the acting FBI director, having fired the real FBI director. And he attacks the special counsel who`s responsible for the Russia investigation. And not merely him, but the career and staff level members of his team.

And so, you know, under those circumstances, I think you really have to ask, what is the mechanism by which who is going to defend the integrity of federal law enforcement? It`s not going to be the attorney general. It`s not really going to be the deputy attorney general.

The special counsel can`t do it because it would be inappropriate for him to talk about things in public. The acting FBI director is just an acting -- he`s been really courageous and he`s done a --

TUR: Yes.

WITTES: -- he`s been a first-rate individual. But he`s just the acting FBI director.

So, who is it who is supposed to speak for federal law enforcement and for the integrity of the men and women who carry out our laws every day?

TUR: Ben, you`re really close with James Comey. There was an interesting portion of "The New York Times" interview where it seems -- it seems like the president is saying that James Comey was trying to blackmail him by revealing the dossier to him privately. Take a listen to that portion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn`t know what to think, other than this is really phony stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you think he -- why do you think he shared it?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As leverage?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I think so. In retrospect. In retrospect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUR: So, was James Comey trying to blackmail the president?

WITTES: So, obviously, I don`t speak for Jim Comey. But I will say this. When Donald Trump makes a suggestion like that, the word that comes to mind is projection. And Jim Comey did testify under oath that he felt like the president was trying to exercise leverage over him.

And so, you know, you have two people --

TUR: So, you think he just turns everything around. You`re a puppet of Russia. No, you`re the puppet of Russia. You`re not qualified to be president. No, you`re not qualified to be president. That sort of thing?

WITTES: I will just say this. One of them is under oath. The other of them is not. And last week, before the president said this, I ran a little Google poll which people can find on "Lawfare." It`s -- you know, Google surveys. It`s actually a scientific poll, albeit a very simple one, about who people believe about their interactions. President Trump or Jim Comey, 17 percent of Americans believe the president.

So, I think you can say, look, one of them is under oath and the other is somebody who 17 percent of Americans believe about his interactions with the FBI director.

TUR: Ben Wittes, members -- Ben Wittes, thank you very much. I appreciate your time, sir.

WITTES: Thanks.

TUR: And members of Congress are reacting to the president`s comments on the DOJ heads. Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy -- sorry, my mouth, it`s not working today -- joins me next with his take. Stay with us.

KATY TUR, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: . Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, sorry, my mouth is not working today, joins me next with his take. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TUR: Next on "MTP Daily," Senator Chris Murphy joins me to talk about the possibility of a bipartisan solution to the health care debate. But first, Susan Li has the "CNBC Market Wrap." Hi, Susan.

SUSAN LI, GENERAL ASSIGNMENT REPORTER, CNBC: We have a 10-day winning streak for the Nasdaq as market ended the day mix. The Dow losing 29 points, the S&P dropping less than a point, and the Nasdaq gaining five. Jobless claims falling more than expected last week with 233,000 claims being filed.

That is the lowest number in almost five months. And certainly retailer Sears is teaming up with Amazon to sell its Kenmore branded appliances online. The brand will also add a line of smart appliances that can be synced up with Amazon`s voice assistant, Alexa. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TUR: Welcome back. Reaction on Capitol Hill today that the president`s "New York Times" interview has been all over the place.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Well, I don`t really have any comment on it, other than that I think he needs to be a little more careful about what he says.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: The president can`t start drawing red lines. Mueller has a right to investigate this, and he was given that authority by the Justice Department, and he reports to the Justice Department and not to the president of the United States.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: As I know Mueller over 13 or how many years he was head of the FBI, he`s going to do his job, and that`s all that matters.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I think the FBI, as far as I know, does not need the president`s approval to carry out an investigation or even his knowledge.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I would be very glad for Jeff Sessions to quit and to get someone else in as attorney general of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUR: This news, of course, comes just as senate leaders are grappling with whether they can move forward on health care. The Congressional Budget Office this afternoon released scoring on the latest revised bill in the senate, but it does not include an analysis on a version of the amendment proposed by Senator Ted Cruz. And right now that latest version of the bill doesn`t have enough support to move forward anyway.

Joining me now is Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Senator, we`re going to get to health care in a moment, but I first want to start with "The New York Times" interview and Donald Trump saying that he wouldn`t have hired Jeff Sessions, appointed him, if he knew what he knows now. Where is the oversight for comments like this?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: What the president is basically saying is that had he known that the attorney general was going to make ethical decisions, had he known that the attorney general is going to follow the law rather than to follow a path of political loyalty to him, he wouldn`t have hired him.

It`s not a surprising set of comments given the fact that he has essentially admitted that he fired James Comey in part because he was not happy about the direction of the Russia investigation. But, you know, ultimately, you know, this is all part of a pattern of deeply, deeply troubling behavior here, and to the extent there`s accountability. Right now it lies in making sure that Bob Mueller and his operation continue to be walled off.

I think a lot of Republicans are willing to forgive these comments so long as they know that Mueller can proceed with this investigation on his own without interference. And if that changes, you know, then maybe Republicans will ultimately are the bearers of the accountability sword here will join us in asking some tougher questions.

TUR: Do you have confidence in Jeff Sessions?

MURPHY: I didn`t support Jeff Sessions, but I do think you probably have to be a little careful of what you wish for here. If Donald Trump fires Jeff Sessions because he has not been 100 percent loyal and replaces him with Donald Trump Jr., I`m not sure you`ve come out on the positive.

So, I from the beginning have opposed Jeff Sessions because of his history on civil rights, because of the damage that he`s going to do to people`s ability to vote. But on this issue, you might get a lackey in his place who would make some trouble for Bob Mueller.

TUR: Well, no one is suggesting that he would do that, at least at the moment. Your colleague Elizabeth Warren says she`d be really happy if Jeff Sessions ended up quitting.

MURPHY: Well, listen, I think it`s all a matter of who replaces him. I mean, I`m probably 20 percent joking about being replaced by Donald Trump Jr., but the point I`m making is that he`s telegraphing to you that he wants the attorney general --

TUR: You`ve got to be a little bit less than 20 percent joking about that, really.

MURPHY: I don`t think you can put anything past --

TUR: OK. Sure. All right.

MURPHY: Here is my point. My point, Katy, is that he wants someone in place who is going to be 100 percent politically loyal to him. And if that`s the case and that person also shares Jeff Sessions` beliefs on voting rights and immigration, then you just have to measure the alternative against what you have today.

TUR: Do you think that means if he were to have a new AG that he thinks that that would negate the need for Robert Mueller and that the AG, because he did not have to recuse himself, would be able to be in charge of this Russia investigation?

MURPHY: I don`t know. I mean, I can`t get into his head. What I can imagine is that the president spends a lot of time thinking about how he can put an end to this investigation. I think Bob Mueller makes it very hard for him to do that, the way in which Rod Rosenstein has set up. This investigation makes it hard for him to do that. But I think it`s likely that the president thinks about ways in which he can put an end to the investigation.

TUR: So you got into a bit of a Twitter spat with the vice president and you said there`s real evil in the epidemic rate of lying that is going on when they`re talking about health care. Real evil. Is that language that you stand by?

MURPHY: Listen, it`s strong language. I don`t deny it. But here is my point. The vice president is a very smart person. He went out and gave a prepared set of remarks in which he claimed that the Republican health care bill strengthened and secured Medicaid for the most vulnerable in America.

He knows that`s not true. I mean, there is zero basis for that claim given the fact that 15 million of the most vulnerable Americans will lose their Medicaid coverage and not be able to afford anything else because of this bill. And so I use that word because this looks like a knowing, intentional fabrication, someone that --

TUR: Evil, though? Evil?

MURPHY: Well, listen, I mean, it is not just -- it`s not just the line that`s coming from the vice president. It`s the continued claims that the president makes about this bill lowering deductibles and providing good insurance for everyone when all he has to do is read the summary of the CBO report to know that`s not true.

I don`t normally trade-in words like good and evil, but there is something really nefarious about an administration that continues to put out these knowing lies about a bill that the American public hates.

TUR: Ultimately the Democratic Party is saying that they want to come to the table with Republicans to find a fix for health care. So when you use language like that, is that helpful to bring both sides to the table?

MURPHY: The only thing that brings both sides to the table is the failure of this bill. Mitch McConnell has made it very clear that he is going to keep this bill on life support for as long as possible. And so if the Trump administration gets away with these lies about what the bill does and public approval of this bill increases, then it will never be a chance for Democrats and Republicans to sit down and get together.

So I use strong language about what the administration is doing. I use strong language about what a train wreck of a bill I think this is because I`m convinced that the only way that we actually get a bipartisan negotiation is if we do everything in our power to kill this deeply harmful, malevolent piece of legislation.

TUR: What is the one issue that you think you can find to compromise on with the Republicans?

MURPHY: So, here is where I think the sweet spot is. Republicans are going to have to set aside the tax cuts and the deep cuts to Medicaid. But they`ve made it really clear that they want more flexibility of benefit design on these exchanges. The most extreme version of that is the Cruz amendment. I don`t think that Democrats should be totally averse to having a conversation with them about that.

Maybe there is a plan between the catastrophic plan and the bronze plan that`s offered on these exchanges that has a lower actuarial value, maybe less requirements about what`s covered that we could talk to them about. Now, that`s not what I want, but if they were willing to give us some stability on these exchanges, take away from the president the power to pull these insurance payments that he threatens, then we should be willing to talk to them about flexibility. And I think there`s a deal to be had, but it would probably be more narrow to the exchanges.

TUR: Chris Murphy, thank you so much for giving me an answer to that question. I really appreciate it. It`s nice to hear somebody come up with some solid language when it comes to where you can compromise. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Thank you very much.

MURPHY: Thanks, Katy.

TUR: And just ahead, Capitol Hill`s outpouring of support for the maverick of the senate. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TUR: Welcome back. Senators are reacting today to the news that their colleague John McCain was diagnosed with a brain tumor after doctors removed a blood clot above his eye last week. The senior senator from Arizona received warm wishes from both sides of the aisle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: He`s a tough guy. He wants to be back here. We need him here.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: He`s very tough, but this is serious business. And I know so as one person going through the process to another, I just -- you know, my heart and my thoughts are with him. KLOBUCHAR: He made that greatest decision to stay as a prisoner of war and not knowing if he would ever get out. And you think about that kind of courage and bravery, and that`s why he`s going to be -- fight this to the end.

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: He is relentless. He`s a warrior. I`ve traveled outside the United States a number of times with him, and I`ve seen him work guys half his age into the ground. He is a remarkable individual.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I can`t think of anything I`ve done since 1999 politically in many ways personally that was worth doing without John. So that`s sort of hit me last night. And that just -- I can`t think of anything I`ve done, any fight I`ve been in that I haven`t been there with him or he`s been there with me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUR: Senator Graham also said McCain called him three times yesterday. McCain is currently recovering from a surgery in Arizona, but he`s still flashing his whip. He tweeted this morning, I greatly appreciate the outpouring of support. Unfortunately for my sparring partners in congress, I`ll be back soon. So stand by. We`ll be right back with the panel next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TUR: Welcome back. It`s time for "The Lid." Let`s bring back our panel. Daniella Gibbs Leger, Matthew Continetti, and Susan Glasser. I hope you guys were listening to that Chris Murphy interview I did just a moment ago. Daniella, I want to start with you on it. That is the first time I heard a senator on the air tell me one way in which the Republicans and the Democrats can really work together.

His proposal was interesting. Take the Ted Cruz amendment, don`t go that far with it, but find a middle ground between that and the Bronze Plan currently in place for Obamacare. Maybe there is something that they can do to make it less restrictive. Is that something that you can see Democrats saying yes, we can find a way to compromise on that?

DANIELLA GIBBS LEGER, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, COMMUNICATIONS AND STRATEGY AT AMERICAN PROGRESS: Yes, I think there definitely are ways that Democrats and Republicans can come together on the bill. I mean, look, you won`t find a Democrat that will say that Obamacare is 100 percent perfect including President Obama himself.

They have always acknowledged that fixes need to be made and they are willing to come to the table if Republicans are willing to meet them halfway and not just talk about an outright repeal and replace with something that is catastrophic. You know, we at Center for American Progress, released a report last week talking about some what we think are bipartisan fixes that if Republicans really were concerned about stabilizing markets that they would take a serious look at this proposal.

So I`m not surprised that Chris Murphy said this. It remains to be seen if Republicans really do want to improve health care for everybody or they are just really making this about this ideological fight about government shouldn`t be involved in delivery of health care at all.

TUR: Susan, what about the politics of this? Ultimately, if they do come to the table and do the passing, it`s going to be labeled Trumpcare. If it`s something that is successful, if they help get some sort of health care legislation passed even if it is a fix, is that something the Democrats are willing to be a part of?

SUSAN GLASSER, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS COLUMNIST, POLITICO: You know, Katy, I think you put your finger on it. I mean, just like labeling it Obamacare, made it almost politically toxic for Republicans. Imagine what Democrat facing any kind of re-election ever is going to want to put her or his name on something called Trumpcare. So, you know, that being said, I do think -- I was talking with Chris Murphy in the green room before his interview with you, he made the point, he doesn`t think it`s gone entirely even though this current iteration might be going away.

But that both parties have a real imperative at some point to have this come back. I think it`s going to be a war over labeling it and war over the narrative that determines whether there`s a real political viability for either party in actually negotiating with each other. Right now, Democrats don`t have much incentive really to sit down with Republicans, it seems to me. TUR: I say this a lot. Politics is all about semantics. Matthew, John McCain not being there. How much does that affect the health care debate?

MATTHEW CONTINETTI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON FREE BEACON: I think it affects it greatly because the Republican Party needs every vote they can muster and they have two committed hard nose in Susan Collins and Rand Paul and and then of course, this week we had the additional defections from Mike Lee and Jerry Moran.

Any hope of a senate passage of repeal and replace plan, you would have to bring Lee and Moran back on, you have to find some way to get McCain involved or even take away Paul or Collin`s opposition. It very much complicates the senate math and makes a tricky political problem, even trickier for Mitch McConnell.

TUR: Matthew, Susan, Daniella. Thank you, guys, for that lightning round for our last panel. I appreciate it. After the break, why we`re hyped up over Elon Musk`s latest pipe dream.

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TUR: In case you missed it, it`s about 225 miles from New York City to D.C. It takes four hours to make the drive in really good traffic conditions. If you take Amtrak Acela Express, you can get from New York to D.C. in about two hours and 45 minutes, three and a half hours if you take the slower regional train. Flying time, in theory, is about an hour but in practice the lines and what not it`s a lot longer than that.

But billionaire Elon Musk said today that he can do it in 29 minutes. Twenty-nine minutes! Musk tweeted today quote, just received verbal government approval for The Boring Company. Yes, that`s what this very exciting company is called. To build an underground New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, D.C. hyperloop. New York to D.C. in 29 minutes. Twenty-nine minutes!

I could anchor my 2:00 p.m. show right here in New York, get on the hyper loop, and be in D.C. in time to fill in for Chuck at 5:00 p.m. with time to spare. Folks in D.C. could pop up to New York for dinner, a long distance relationship would suddenly become nothing really. It sounds amazing. It also sounds too good to be true. A couple of hours after that first tweet, Musk added, still a lot of work needed to receive formal approval, but I`m optimistic it will occur rapidly.

That will occur rapidly. I miss the word. So, no green light yet. And while I am hyperexcited about the whole New York to D.C. in 29 minutes thing, I`m less excited about the part where you get to be loaded into a pod inside an underground tube that moves 700 miles per hour. Maybe if it was going to Paris, that might be a little bit better. We`ll see. That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more "MTP Daily." Have a good night, everyone.

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