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MTP Daily, Transcript 7/21/2017

Guests: Ruth Marcus, Matthew Continetti, Dan Balz, Joshua Green, Peter Alexander, Peter Baker, Rosalind Helderman, Nathaniel Persily

Show: MTP DAILY Date: July 21, 2017 Guest: Ruth Marcus, Matthew Continetti, Dan Balz, Joshua Green, Peter Alexander, Peter Baker, Rosalind Helderman, Nathaniel Persily

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: That does it for this hour. I`m Nichole Wallace. "MTP DAILY" starts right now with Katy Tur in for Chuck. Hi, Katy. You`ve had a long day.

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nichole. I`m ready for my vacation which starts --

WALLACE: I`m sure.

TUR: -- in one hour. But until then, if it is Friday, what we`ve got here is a failure to communicate.

(voice-over): Tonight, Sean Spicer steps down as White House press secretary as Sarah Huckabee Sanders officially steps in.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, U.S. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He understood that the president wanted to bring in and add new people to the team.


TUR: And another long time Trump ally steps up.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, DIRECTOR, U.S. WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS: If you want to eat an elephant, you`ve got to eat it one bite at a time, and Sarah and I are going to do that together.


TUR: How will Anthony Scaramucci change the messaging out of the Oval Office?


SCARAMUCCI: It has been a very successful life experience for President Trump to be President Trump. Let`s let him do that.


TUR: Plus, the palace intrigue.


SCARAMUCCI: I don`t have any friction with Sean. I don`t have any friction are Reince.


TUR: How is it all shaking out across the borders of the west wing?


SCARAMUCCI: We are a little bit like brothers where we rough each other one once in a while which is totally normal for brothers.


TUR: And pardon me, does the president believe he has the power to pardon himself?

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.

We begin tonight with chaos at the White House. Press Secretary Sean Spicer had has quit so has the spokesman for Mr. Trump`s personal legal team.

The president said yesterday that he maybe should never have hired his attorney general.

And a constitutional crisis may be brewing as the president looks for ways to potentially discredit or block Bob Mueller`s metastasizing investigation.

This afternoon, the White House`s brand-new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, tried to pull off a reset of epic proportions on his first day at the podium.

When he spoke with reporters today on camera, he made it clear that his mission is to let Trump be Trump.


SCARAMUCCI: I think we`re -- I think we`re doing an amazing job. The president, himself, is always going to be the president.

I was in the Oval Office with him earlier today, and we were talking about letting him be himself, letting him express his full identity. I think he`s got some of the best political instincts in the world, and perhaps in history.

When you think about it, he started his political assent two and two -- two years and two months ago, and he`s act -- he`s done a phenomenal job for the American people.


TUR: This White House arguably need today`s reset because no one there has been able to effectively restrain this president`s impulses.

Scaramucci insisted that the White House is on course. It isn`t. He said the president is beloved. He`s not. He said there`s truth to the president`s claims of massive voter fraud. There are not.

And he claimed there`s no friction between him and Sean Spicer. Even though our reporting indicates his hire is why Spicer is leaving.

But with answers like those and like this, it isn`t hard to see why the president likes this guy.


SCARAMUCCI: I`ve seen this guy throw a dead spiral through a tire. I`ve seen him at Madison Square Garden with a top coat on. He`s standing in the key and he`s hitting foul shots and swishing them. OK, he sinks three-foot putts.

I don`t see this guy as a guy that`s ever under siege. This is a very, very competitive person. Obviously, there`s a lot of incoming that comes into the White House.

But the president`s a winner, OK, and what we`re going to do is we`re going to do a lot of winning.

TUR: Scaramucci would not answer questions about the president`s escalating attacks on Special Counsel Bob Mueller. This comes after "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" had separate reports that the White House has begun to investigate the investigators.

They`re looking for potential conflicts of interest to use against Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team to sully their work or, perhaps, build the case to have Mueller fired.

"The Washington Post" reports that President Trump asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and, potentially, himself in connection with the probe.

Today, the president`s outside counsel, John Dowd, called "The Post" reporting, quote, "nonsense." He also insisted that his legal team is not trying to discredit Mueller`s work. But in some White House -- but some in the White House, they sure seem like they are.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELER, PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: A lot of conflicts. And, look, I think that`s in -- that`s information that the public should have, Maria.


CONWAY: They should at least know transparency, accountability, who are these folks, the money they donated, the conflicts they may have.


TUR: Newly named White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said today that she has no reason to doubt that the president has confidence in Mueller and his investigation -- has lost confidence, I should say.

[17:05:10] Even though the president, just two days ago, attacked Mueller`s credibility in an interview with "The New York Times."

But here we are, once again, in totally uncharted waters.

If, and, yes, it is a big if, but if the president is serious about threatening Mueller`s investigation, and if he`s serious about rendering Mueller powerless by pardoning anyone implicated, and if his communications chief is going to encourage this president`s brash impulses, then what real consequences will he face? What would the Republican Congress do, if anything?

And if we`re veering towards a constitutional crisis that pits Mueller against Trump, whose side are they going to be on?

Let`s bring in some people who have been following all of the developments, NBC`s Peter Alexander from the White House, Peter Baker; Chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times," he interviewed the president this week; and Rosalind Helderman, Political Investigations Reporter at "The Washington Post."

Peter, let us start with you. How did we get up to this point? Bring us behind the scenes of the White House.

PETER ALEXANDER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Assuming Peter means Peter Alexander versus Peter Baker, --

TUR: Yes, it does, it does, it does.

ALEXANDER: I`ll take this one and defer to my colleague at the New York Times in just a moment.

I think the bottom line here is that today, sort of, punctuated what was an escalating feud that existed between different factions associated and around this president.

Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus, frankly, were very upset. They have, for weeks, expressed their dissatisfaction with the idea of Anthony Scaramucci even joining this team.

It, sort of, came to a conclusion today with Spicer basically at that 10:00 meeting that took place in the Oval Office where Scaramucci was there. And he offered the job, accepted the job.

Sean Spicer had said it was a job he didn`t think Scaramucci, in effect, was ready for. He had no communications experience.

And Spicer was, frankly, concerned about what his own status would be in this system going forward.

So, what it does, though, is it quickly shifts the narrative here, in terms of the wrapping paper, who`s, sort of, delivering the message of the day.

But what it`s unable to fix, Katy, is their ability to, sort of, come up with a singular message and the stick to it which has been the challenge that has existed. It`s a fundamental challenge for this White House, which is coming up with the product that the messaging team, the communications team is supposed to be delivering.

So, while today a lot of the focus will be on the smoothness, --

TUR: Yes.

ALEXANDER: -- the capability (ph), as it were, of Anthony Scaramucci, the bottom line here is the fundamentals did not change. And what remains to be seen is how truthful Anthony Scaramucci and his teammates will be, as they try to represent the president going forward. And, frankly, whether he`ll allow them to speak on his own behalf.

TUR: Peter Alexander at the White House. Peter, thank you very much.

Let`s go to Peter Baker and Rosalind. Peter Baker, talk about whether or not this president realizes that even the idea of floating around whether he could pardon himself could be potentially extraordinarily problematic for his reception for his -- for his dealings with the Congress?

Even there were some Republicans today that said, you know, if he tries to fire Bob Mueller, he`s going to have a serious problem on Capitol Hill, and that`s not just with the Democrats.

PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, I know, that`s exactly right. I think Mike McCaul, the Republican Congressman, was on Andrea Mitchell earlier today --

TUR: Yes, exactly.

BAKER: -- on your -- on your channel saying exactly that. That`s a pretty stark message from a sitting Republican member of Congress.

And I think that is one of the red lines right now that many members in Congress have set, at least in their own minds. Whether they would do something in that eventuality, we don`t know.

There have been a lot of lines crossed, I think, in this administration so far, things that have been done that aren`t normally done by most presidents.

But, you know, whether he would pardon himself, I mean, you know, we don`t know whether this -- how serious this was.

TUR: Yes.

BAKER: You know, he`s been characterized as just, sort of, out loud thinking, what are -- what are the rules? How did it work? You know, curiosity.

What President Trump doesn`t understand it seems like is that when a president asks questions, it is seen as being serious whether it is or not. We can sit around the water cooler and say, hey, how does that work? What`s the deal with that? What`s the -- what`s the limit of a pardon power? And it doesn`t really matter very much.

When a president asks, even in a casual way, it`s taken as a signal. It`s taken as a sign. And it is, in fact, sending a message across town right now that`s not being well received.

TUR: Rosalind, the installation of Anthony Scaramucci, how much does that change the dynamic and does it affect how the White House deals with this ballooning Russia problem?

ROSALIND HELDERMAN, POLITICAL INVESTIGATIONS REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, you heard Scaramucci get asked a question about that in his first briefing today. And he said, you know, I haven`t been briefed yet by the White House counsel`s office about how to handle questions like that, and so I`m not going to answer that.

And I think that is, in fact, the answer the lawyers would probably advice that he give from that podium. They have been trying and trying over the last few weeks to divide the whole Russia investigation out into the -- you know, give it to -- full responsibility to the president`s personal legal team and take it out of the White House.

[17:10:09] And the reason they have not been able to do that, so far, is the president, himself, who keeps talking about it again and again, including in that amazing interview with Peter earlier this week.

TUR: Yes. And, Peter, let`s talk about that interview. When you were talking to him in the Oval Office what was your sense of him, at that time? Is this a man who feels like he`s under siege? Is he a man that feels like his message is not getting out there? Does he understand the darkening cloud above him?

BAKER: No, this is not a person who seemed like he had a dark cloud over him. He -- when we saw him in the Oval Office, he had just come from lunch with the Republican senators. He talked about how to revive a health care bill that most everybody else thinks is dead.

But he seemed in a very relaxed, upbeat mood. He talked about the economy doing well, the markets doing well. He did not look like a person who was at 36 percent in the polls and he did not seem beleaguered.

However, once we raised the Russia question, and, of course, we`re going to do that, you know, he had some very sharp things to say. It wasn`t like some of the public statements that are very fiery.

But what he did talk about with his attorney general, with the former FBI director, with the current acting FBI director, the deputy attorney general and, most importantly, perhaps, Robert Mueller were very sharp things to say. And I can`t remember any president saying them quite as starkly as this one has.

TUR: And so, the president, himself, always feels like he`s his best messenger. And Anthony felt -- said today that, ultimately, Donald Trump`s instincts politically have been right on the mark. Donald Trump knew what he was doing in the campaign when he was trying to discredit anybody who criticized him.

Rosalind, is this the same thing that he`s doing with Robert Mueller, just trying to at the very least say that no conflicts of interest are found, conflicts that would, you know, necessitate the need to oust him? At the very least is all -- is what he is trying to do, does it boil down to, let`s discredit him so my base won`t believe him if he comes back with negative findings?

HELDERMAN: It certainly does feel like that and as well as laying a groundwork for, sort of, leaving options open for the future, including potentially making a move against him.

Now, I know he has said many times, I think he said it to Peter this week, that he does not plan to ask for Mueller to be relieved of his duties. But it`s worth noting that in the Department of Justice regulations that set up the special counsel, one of the reasons -- one of the only reasons a special counsel can be dismissed under those regulations is conflict of interest.

So, all of this research they`re doing about possible conflicts by Bob Mueller or his team, you know, one way to look at it is potentially laying the groundwork for making a move against him.

TUR: So, Peter, what`s next? Anthony Scaramucci is in. Sean Spicer resigns. He doesn`t say it`s in protest, but our reporting says he resigns because Scaramucci was brought in. Who`s the next to go?

BAKER: Yes, that`s a great question. A lot of eyes today on Reince Priebus for the very reasons you`ve already talked about. He didn`t particularly like this appointment. And it`s now been made over his objection that that`s a pretty untenable position for a chief of staff to be in.

But, you know, look, people have been writing Reince Priebus` political obituary for months and they`ve been wrong. So, I -- you know, be careful about making any predictions, especially in this White House.

But it does feel like it`s a staff right now that`s on edge. You know, people we`ve talked to inside talk about, sort of, the poisonous atmosphere, the tribes that exist inside the west wing, how surprised and even disappointed that they are that a team that they felt had been pretty unified, to some extent at least during the campaign, now is so driven apart like this.

So, I would expect there`ll be -- more shoes will drop.

TUR: Peter baker, Rosalind Helderman, guys, thank you very much. I`m joined now --

HELDERMAN: Thank you.

TUR: -- by Nate Persily. He`s a professor at Stanford Law School. He was the research director at the White House`s election integrity commission under Obama. He`s also an expert on constitutional crisis and public opinion.

What better voice to have today than you, my friend. So, Donald Trump is talking about a red line for Robert Mueller. And it would be a huge violation for him to look into his finances. People point out that his finances are pretty closely -- could be pretty closely tied to whether or not Russia meddled in -- whether or not Russia meant to meddle in the election in the favor of Donald Trump, why they that would do that.

So, if Donald Trump tries to push back on Mueller or tries to fire him, walk us through the consequences of that.

NATHANIEL PERSILY, PROFESSOR, STANFORD LAW SCHOOL: Well, there are several steps that the president could take in order to curb this investigation. The regulations in the Department of Justice say that the attorney general is the one that would fire the special counsel. In this case, it would be the acting attorney general or his subordinate, Rod Rosenstein.

And so, in theory, the president could fire the attorney general, fire the assistant attorney general, in order to get someone in charge who would then fire the special counsel.

[17:15:05] Now, that is reminiscent of what happened during the Watergate Saturday night massacre, but it is within his constitutional power, in order to do that.

In the event that happens, then the real check on the president is impeachment, and the question is whether Congress, particularly the House of Representatives, --

TUR: Yes.

PERSILY: -- would stand up to the task.

TUR: Well, on that, will Republicans draw a red line? And if they do, where is it? Is it pardoning an aide or a family member or is it something like trying to fire like Bob Mueller?

PERSILY: Well, it`s very hard to read the tea leaves, in part because they`re changing every day. And so, we have no idea what`s coming down the pike.

But, you know, it`s perfectly conceivable that he might end up pardoning either his family members or other people who are involved in the -- and subject to the investigation.

When he does that, however, then those folks are not able to claim the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

So, that if, for example, Don Jr. or Jared Kushner or any of the other people in the administration or campaign are pardoned, then the special prosecutor could force them to testify and get information from them because they won`t be threatened, say, with going to jail.

TUR: So, if he pardons them before any results are found and before he comes to any conclusions, he can -- Donald Trump does that before Bob Mueller comes to his conclusions. Bob Mueller can say, hey, listen, Don Jr. or Jared Kushner, whomever, I want to know everything you know about your father, and they would have to be compelled to testify honestly?

PERSILY: That`s right. I mean, because they`re not going to face legal jeopardy, at that point. Because, essentially, they can`t incriminate themselves because they won`t be subject to any --

TUR: Got it.

PERSILY: -- kind of punishment as a result.

TUR: OK. So, the Republicans are not necessarily sending a lot of signals right now that they feel like he needs to back off. We did hear from one Republican Congressman today but that`s about it.

So, there`s talk about what that -- why that is. What is Donald Trump`s magic power here, and ultimately people come back to his base and how his base never moves against him.

So, is this the issue? Are you seeing Republicans potentially putting party over country, at this point, in order to maintain a Republican president?

PERSILY: Well, right now, we are living in extremely polarized times. And so, Democrats and Republicans have completely different views of this president and the presidency and how it`s performed.

So, you get somewhere in the range of 80 to 85 five percent approval among Republicans, even though the aggregate opinion is only in the high 30s for presidential approval. He still has a considerable number of Republicans in the mass public and he still has Republicans in Congress behind him.

And, really, the thing to look for is to see if there are mass defections among members of the House of Representatives who are Republicans and to see what Paul Ryan may draw as his red line in the sand, depending on what happens with the Mueller investigation.

TUR: In a peer battle, who wins, Donald Trump or Robert Mueller?

PERSILY: Well, they`re going to win with different people. There are people who are supporting the president and I would expect them to continue to do so. And those who oppose the president are going to side with Director Mueller.

TUR: Nate Persily, thank you very much for joining us.

PERSILY: Thank you.

TUR: And will there be more aftershocks from the shake up? Our panel weighs in as the new communications head takes aim at reports of west wing chaos.


SCARAMUCCI: We are committed, as true professionals, to the team (ph) and the process of getting the administration`s message out.



TUR: Welcome back. In his first appearance in the White House briefing room, the new White House communications director was effusive in his affection for, well, seemingly everyone.

Take a listen.


SCARAMUCCI: The president has really good karma, OK, and the world turns back to him. I think there`s been, at times, a disconnect between the way we see the president and how much we love the president. I love the president. I love the president. I obviously love the country. I do appreciate that about Sean and I love him for it. And I love the guy and I love these guys. I respect these guys. I like the team. Let me rephrase that. I love the team.


TUR: Welcome back.

What a day at the White House. So, let`s go to our panel. Dan Balz, Chief Correspondent at "The Washington Post," Ruth Marcus, Deputy Editorial Page Editor and Columnist at "The Washington Post," and Matthew Continetti, Editor-in-Chief of "The Washington Free Beacon."

Dan, I want to start with you. I want to -- I want to -- just tell me what you think of this past week. Give me the big picture.

DAN BALZ, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I mean, we`ve said it every week. But, you know, it`s hard to top this week for the kind of news that came out. I mean, we thought we had a huge week a week ago with the Don Jr. meeting.

This week, we`ve had the collapse of health care, a remarkable public interview with "The New York Times" in which the president has said things about his attorney general and the special counsel that you would never have expected a president to say.

And now, we have a serious shakeup in the White House staff operation and who knows what more to come.

So, I mean, I think the takeaway from the week, Katy, is that this is a president who, in one way or another, still does not have, what I would call, respect for the constitutional structures of government and who is constantly prepared to up end everything around him in the hope that that will change it. And that if he can put loyal people in the right positions, that that will, in one way or another, keep all these problems that so obsess him at bay.

That may be a fundamental misunderstanding of the way government works, but it`s clearly the way the president approaches these issues.

TUR: Ruth, if he can put loyalists in those key rolls, loyalists who know his voice and know his thinking and maybe a little bit better than folks like Sean Spicer did, do you think that we can see something of a change coming out of this White House? Does this ultimately matter?

RUTH MARCUS, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I don`t think that`s the solution. I think the Scaramucci all you need is love approach is probably not what this president needs. I don`t think he needs another person who is going to tell him how wonderful he is, not tell him when he`s wrong.

I thought, you know, Anthony Scaramucci did a nice job of setting a less combative tone with the press than Sean Spicer.

But you do need a -- Sean Spicer is right in the sense that you do need a communications professional in that role which doesn`t just mean somebody who`s going to go out and be combative and assertive on behalf of the president, but somebody who understands how to marshal the forces that you need of surrogates out there and validators making the president`s case.

The president -- and, fundamentally, this president wants to be his own communications director, and as long as he insists on filling that role himself, we`re going to see this kind of careening car that we saw this week and last week as the administration can`t really stick to its message.

[17:25:06] TUR: Matthew, with Sean Spicer out now, that is, many believe, really undercutting Reince Priebus. And that Reince Priebus might not have a tenable position in the White House any longer.

Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, those are the liaisons mostly between this White House and Capitol Hill.

What does this mean for Republicans on Capitol Hill? Does this mean that they`re losing influence or losing allies in the White House? And their goals, their agenda might be more at risk without them there?

MATTHEW CONTINETTI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "THE WASHINGTON FREE BEACON": Well, remember, you still have Mike Pence, the Vice President and Mark Short, who is really a --

TUR: Do you think Mike Pence is really in the loop on things?

CONTINETTI: In terms of the legislating, lobbying --

TUR: Yes.

CONTINETTI: -- for the president`s agenda on Capitol Hill? I do. I think Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer were more of the RNC apparatus, definitely a tie to Republican donors and some involvement on Capitol Hill.

I was struck by Scaramucci really talking about the relationship he`s had with Priebus going back to before the 2012 presidential election. I was also struck about the answer he gave when asked about his relationship with Steve Bannon. It was -- didn`t strike me as quite as friendly as his remarks about Priebus. So, that`d be another White House staff member I`d be watching.

TUR: Yes. So, that`s a reporting I had out of the White -- out of the White House last night which is Reince Priebus is really pushing back on this, Dan, but so was Steve Bannon. Steve Bannon didn`t think he was qualified for this job.

There was also -- there is rumors and whispers about whether if Reince leaves, is chief of staff ultimately what Anthony Scaramucci is eyeing? What`s the significance of that?

BALZ: Katy, you`re several chess moves ahead of me on some of these things.

I think that there`s no doubt that even though Scaramucci and Priebus have a friendship and have gone back awhile, that his arrival does, in some way or another, undercut Reince Priebus as the chief of staff.

I mean, Priebus has now lost two key allies that he brought into the White House with him, Sean Spicer today and earlier Katie Walsh, who served as the deputy chief of staff and who was Priebus`s chief of staff at the -- at the Republican National Committee. So, he is -- he has fewer strong allies in that operation than before.

And one thing we know is that this is a White House of fierce rivalries different camps and shifting alliances. It`s not that on one day, people who are rivals are not -- you know, are going to be rivals forever.

But it does put Priebus in a more precarious position. I think Peter Baker made a good point early which is that there`s been talk about Reince Priebus being pushed out or forced out or resigning for months and he`s still there. So, I think you have to --

TUR: That`s a good point.

BALZ: -- you know, have to -- have to keep that in mind also.

But this is a volatile White House and I don`t think what happened today makes it any less so.

TUR: And so, it`s also a White House that doesn`t necessarily like playing by the norms of politics, the political rules. But, ultimately, politics in Washington will run the same way it always has, especially when is it comes to an investigation of the president.

So, if the president is going out and he`s trying to tarnish the special counsel, Ruth, what are the consequences of that? And what about those who say that this special counsel, Robert Mueller, is running amuck in the same way that Ken Starr did during the Clinton administration?

MARCUS: Well, I lived through Ken Starr and the Clinton administration, as did my friend Dan who is always many chess moves ahead of me. And let me just say this and I -- Judge Starr just wrote an op-ed for us.

But Bob Mueller is no Ken Starr. Ken Starr came to that job without the kind of prosecutorial in-the-trenches experience that Bob Mueller has.

Bob Mueller is also operating under a different statute than Ken Starr did. But it`s still -- not statute. He`s operating under Justice Department regulations. He has done nothing, so far, that I am aware of that, in any way, calls into question his legitimacy. But you see this case starting to be built by the president and his allies, his lawyer, Jay Sekulow, on Sunday, the sort of glimmerings of a case against Mueller and against --

TUR: Yes.

MARCUS: -- his legitimacy because of Comey. And that makes me very nervous. I think it should make Republicans on the Hill very nervous. Because they know Bob Mueller is a reasonable person who is going to do a reasonable investigation.

And I wonder when the president fired Jim Comey, it had more of an effect than he expected, more of a firestorm. But I`m wondering if he`s under estimating, really, seriously, the impact of firing of Bob Mueller.

TUR: Well, Matthew, what would Republicans do if he did try to fire Robert Mueller?

CONTINETTI: Well, I think a lot of Republicans would protest very strongly. The question is what they would do after they registered their protests.

TUR: Yes.

CONTINETTI: And the truth is they don`t really have many tools at their disposal to check the president.

TUR: They have impeachment.

CONTINETTI: Right. And I don`t think that`s the tool they`re going to use in this case.

TUR: What would be the line for impeachment, Matthew? What do you think?

CONTINETTI: For Republicans?

TUR: Yes.

CONTINETTI: It`s very hard to say. As long as they`re in charge of the congress, you know, I mean, as one of your earlier guests was saying in these polarized times and Republicans are sticking together, they also agree with Trump in some respects in the sense that the Russia investigation is a distraction.

So he has kind of support among Republicans, and certainly his voters on that case. So, I think there would be major protests. I think a lot of Republicans would caution the president not to fire Bob Mueller. But after that, I don`t think they have many tools at their disposal.

TUR: Dan, last question to you. If they don`t do anything if the president tries to fire the special counsel, where does that leave this democracy?

DAN BALZ, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I mean, it depends on when and what circumstances would provoke that. I mean, if it were to happen today, there would be one reaction. If it happens in six months, there might be another reaction, depending on what more we know about what has come out through the investigation, not just Bob Mueller`s, but what`s come out through the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation.

You know, I think that the issue really then begins to fall on the political impact on the country, what kind of reaction there is particularly among Republicans that could affect the 2018 elections. If Republicans were to lose the house of representatives, then you`ve got an entirely different situation here politically that the president would have to face. So, you know, there`s so many unknowns, Katy, it`s just -- I`m loath to jump too far ahead.

TUR: Yes.

BALZ: But he would be certainly playing with fire in all sorts of ways if in one way or another he tried to provoke a clash with Mueller in what looked like a way to shut down the investigation.

TUR: Bathing himself in fire maybe. Dan Balz, Ruth, and Matthew. Stay with us, guys. Still ahead, we`re going behind the scenes at the White House. How will today`s White House shake-up impact Steve Bannon`s influence?


TUR: Next on "MTP Daily," Bloomberg`s Joshua Green joins us with an inside look at what`s happening behind the scenes at the White House, and where things stand with chief strategist Steve Bannon. But first, Hampton Pearson has the "CNBC Market Wrap." Hi, Hampton.

HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Katy, thanks. Markets finished the day mostly flat. The Dow down 31 points, the S&P off by a single point, the Nasdaq losing two. Exxon Mobil is suing the U.S. government over a $2 million fine levied by the treasury department. The treasury says the company`s joint venture with Rosneft shows reckless disregard of U.S. sanctions on Russia.

Exxon Mobil calls the fine unlawful. And Delta customers can now use their fingerprint as a boarding pass at Reagan National Airport. Biometric verification system is open to SkyMiles members who are enrolled in the CLEAR program. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.


TUR: Welcome back to "MTP Daily." Today`s sudden resignation of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is only the latest breaking news headline out of a west wing in near constant turmoil. Over the last six months we`ve become accustomed to leaks, back stabbing, and high profile exits. One of the names that`s off in a topic of intrigue is Steve Bannon. Some days he`s hailed as the wizard behind the curtain. Other days sources swear he`s been cut of the president`s orbit and is bracing for an ouster.

Just take a look at this headline from Politico today. Steve Bannon`s disappearing act, while he`s stepping back in an effort to save his job in the White House. Joining me now is the Bannon expert, Joshua Green. He`s a senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Business Week and also the author of the new book "Devil`s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency." You laughed, Josh, but that`s why you`re the expert on Steve Bannon right there.


TUR: Great book, first off. Congratulations. I know how hard it is to crash something like that and get it out as quickly as you did. Talking about today`s headlines first, Spicer`s resignation, is this good news or bad news for Steve Bannon?

JOSHUA GREEN, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG BUSINESS WEEK: I think it`s bad news for Steve Bannon, because Bannon had fostered -- despite all the early drama and headlines, Bannon had fostered a pretty good working relationship with the RNC crowd of Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus who he was supposedly battling early on. So the fact that this move was made apparently over his objections, I think is definitely bad news for him.

TUR: So is he in jeopardy right now?

GREEN: Everybody is always in jeopardy in Trump`s inner circle.

TUR: That`s a good point.

GREEN: It seems like to me. But I don`t think he`s directly in jeopardy. And the odd irony of this move as the news started to break last night and I thought about it, Scaramucci is actually more of a Bannon guy than you might think. He`s an outsider with a chip on his shoulder. He`s not a Washington figure. Evidently Bannon didn`t want him coming in, but he seems like the kind of guy that Steve Bannon would click with eventually so --

TUR: Hold on, Josh. He`s also a Wall Street guy and a bit of a globalist.

GREEN: Well, he`s a globalist, though, who has morphed into like a Trumpist and there`s a difference there, that`s an important difference. And as we saw on the podium today, he made this elaborate show of obeisance to Trump and kind of took his punishment and ribbing for having called Trump names in the past. So he is a guy who is very much with the Trump agenda despite the fact that he has Wall Street background, which by the way Steve Bannon does too.

TUR: Family, so the family was behind the ushering in of Anthony Scaramucci. He`s really close with Ivanka. He`s close with Jared. He`s close with folks that have been in Trump orbit for a long time. Bannon`s relationship with the family, where does that stand right now?

GREEN: I never know for sure. It`s been hot and cold. It was pretty wonderful during the campaign when Trump was under attack and I tell all the stories of the various ways that Bannon allied with them to help defend and help him win the race. But after the election, once Trump got inaugurated and things went off the rail a bit, I think Jared Kushner in particular held Bannon to blame for the misfortunes that befell Trump early on in his presidency and kind of turned against him.

But the fact that Kushner and Ivanka were pushing this move and were successful in making it happen over Bannon`s objections show that they`re the ones very much back in power right now, and at least today Steve Bannon isn`t.

TUR: Let`s talk about your book. You really lay out why Donald Trump was drawn to Steve Bannon, why Steve Bannon was drawn to Donald Trump. Give me a brief explainer for our audience.

GREEN: Well, Bannon basically was this outsider, populist. He worked at Breitbart News. Very passionate taker of sides who was never taken seriously by anybody in Washington because as chairman of Breitbart, he attacked politicians in both parties and nobody really liked him. But for Trump, who was this outsider and a punchline early on in this campaign cycle, he didn`t really have a lot of people to choose from when it came to political advisers, but Bannon was more than willing to do it.

And every time Trump got in trouble during the campaign, even before Bannon was his manager, Steve Bannon was the guy who kind of ran to his rescue and fought his battles. So, after Trump made his announcement speech in which he called Mexican rapists and drug dealers and came under all sorts of attack, Bannon was the guy who helped organize a trip to Laredo, Texas, to the Mexican border --

TUR: I remember that well.

GREEN: -- so that Trump could double down. And Bannon`s advice in the campaign always was keep going further, don`t ever apologize, don`t listen to the establishment, and that was a winning formula for Trump as a candidate, if not Trump as a president.

TUR: Don`t back down. Josh Green, the book is incredible. I suggest anyone who wants to understand Donald Trump and what`s going on in this White House right now, in this relationship, pick it up. It`s certainly worth a read. Congratulations, buddy.

GREEN: Thanks so much, Katy. I appreciate it.

TUR: And coming up, there`s Republican chaos on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue today. We`ll explain next.


TUR: Welcome back. As chaos and confusion grip the west wing, there`s not much more clarity at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Senate Republicans are scrambling to reach a consensus on health care, but without really knowing what they`re supposed to be agreeing on. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says a vote will happen next week, maybe as early as Tuesday.

But it`s unclear if they will be voting on a straight repeal of Obamacare or a repeal with a replacement or something else entirely. But no matter what they`re voting on, it doesn`t seem like Republicans have the 50 votes they need to pass anything.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: You know, it`s a little bit dynamic. And frankly, the story has changed over the last 24 hours as things have changed. And so I can`t comment on that because we haven`t had our group meeting. I would just have to wait until then to sort it out.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I`m prepared to vote for a vote to repeal. I`m prepared to vote for a bill to repeal and replace.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: We`ve probably got I would say 45 or 46 yeses now. We`re close. And it`s just -- it`s a handful of nose right now who I think that they`re going to get to yes.




REP. MIKE MCCAUL (R), TEXAS: I think if he fired Bob Mueller, I think he`d see a tremendous backlash response from Democrats but also house Republicans.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TUR: Welcome back. Time now for "The Lid." The panel is back. Dan Balz, Ruth Marcus, and Matthew Continetti. That was Congressman McCaul talking to Andrea Mitchell a little bit earlier today. So, Dan, do you think he`s a bellwether for Republicans?

BALZ: Well, he could well be. I mean, he`s a prominent member of the house and, you know, (INAUDIBLE) the national security issues that formed at least part of this Russia investigation. He is well aware of the consequences of trying to shut that thing down.

If he is right, there would be that kind of a backlash. But I think it goes back to what Matthew said earlier which is once the protest occurrs, then what`s the next step? What tools do they try to employ to do something in reaction? I think That`s the larger question that is still unanswerable.

TUR: Matthew, we were talking a moment ago, you said the Republicans didn`t really have anything that they could do, I brought up impeachment, but they could pass a law that would reinstate the special counsel.

CONTINETTI: And I think the chances of them doing that are approximately zero mainly because they just don`t want this -- they don`t want to do anything to jeopardize the president as the Republican Party. They think that the Russian investigation is a distraction. They think that special counsel, much less an independent counsel with broad authority could get into areas not directly related to Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The Democrats, however, and this gets back to something Dan was saying earlier, should Russia issue in combination with other issues lead to a democratic takeover of one or both houses of congress in 2018, then you`re absolutely right, Katy, the democratic congress --

TUR: Yes.

CONTINETTI: -- could move immediately to reinstate the independent counsel.

TUR: The chess board completely changes if that were to happen. Ruth, just touching on health care real fast, you just heard Ted Cruz a moment ago saying that there`s only a handful of people, Republican senators who are hold out on voting for a repeal or a repeal and a replace. How likely is it? Cruz is optimistic. How likely is it that those Republicans that handful move over and say yes to passing something?

MARCUS: I think that the pathway is getting narrower and narrower. The fact that we have not seen movement in that direction and fact probably movement away from it suggests how difficult it`s going to be to get there. Since we can only talk about Bob Mueller and the investigation, can I make one point about this?

TUR: Yes, of course, go ahead.

MARCUS: If the president were to fire Bob Mueller, that`s not necessarily the end of the investigation. I`ve been wallowing in Watergate. When Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox was fired on the famous Saturday night massacre on Monday morning, the prosecutors in his office came in to work as justice department employees. There had been an investigation going on previously.

They continued that investigation. And then a new prosecutor was named. You`d have to kill off really more than just Bob Mueller. You would have to kill off a criminal investigation that actually proceeded Bob Mueller`s appointment. That would be a very extraordinary thing for a president to do especially investigation involving himself. He might have the power to do it but it`s never happened before.

TUR: Not to mention the investigations that are going on Capitol Hill right now. There are number of investigations going on there. I like that you said wallowing in Watergate, Ruth. You know how us TV people love alliterations. Thank you for that. Dan, I do want to end on health care though. Mitch McConnell calling a vote. What does that say about Mitch McConnell`s influence at the moment?

BALZ: Well, it may say something more about Mitch MccConnell`s sensibility at this moment. He may simply be kind of at the end of his rope with his own members. I mean, he`s done everything he thought he knew how to do to try to get this to a positive outcome. So far has not been able to do it. I think he wants to put people on the record.

That would give people who want to vote for a repeal or repeal and replace whichever the opportunity to say they were able to do that. It would in other ways bring some finality to this chapter of it in the senate. Again, it could be revived, but I think he just wants some sense of closure, positive or negative right now on this whole matter.

TUR: What a remarkable turn of events. Seven years of promising to repeal and replace only to have it potentially not go through on the floor if he does call for a vote. Dan Balz, Ruth Marcus, Matthew Continetti. Guys, thank you very much. Happy Friday. And after the break, another reason to hate bringing all of that sand from the beach home with you.


TUR: In case you missed it, like sand to the hourglass, so are the days of our lives. And time is running out for one of the world`s most precious natural resources. It`s no daytime TV drama. In case you missed it, the world is running out of sand. We first heard about this from freelance journalist Vince Spicer (ph) on NPR this morning. And it will affect more than your beach vacation. Stick with us here.

Sand is used in a lot more than you think. It`s the basis for cement. Roads, bridges, and buildings. Glass is made from liquid sand and so are the silicon chips in your phone. Where does all that sand come from? It`s actually mined. And soon all the sand in the U.S. will have to be imported. Last week, the California Coastal Commission approved the closure of the last sand mine in the mainland U.S. by the end of 2020 for environmental concerns.

Here is why it matters. We`re using more sand than ever before with major construction booming in places like China and India. We`re using it faster than it can be created. If you`re going to the beach this weekend, appreciate the wonder of the sand in your toes and then do us all a favor, leave it where you found it. That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back on Monday with more "MTP Daily." Have a great weekend.