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MTP Daily, Transcript 8/3/2017

Guests: Jack Reed, David Ignatius, Jennifer Palmieri, Lanhee Chen, Ken Dilanian, Kristen Welker, Tom Davis

Show: MTP DAILY Date: August 3, 2017 Guest: Jack Reed, David Ignatius, Jennifer Palmieri, Lanhee Chen, Ken Dilanian, Kristen Welker, Tom Davis


CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicole. So, the 4:00 breaker, rather than 5:00 breaker, news.

WALLACE: You`ve got to get a little bit of news sometimes.

TODD: Fair enough.

WALLACE: Come on.

TODD: Good work and a good start to this.

Good evening, I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington and welcome to MTP DAILY.

And that right, obviously we all know, another whirlwind day in this city. Lake breaking news on guess what? Russia.

"The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that Special Counsel Rob Mueller has impaneled his own grand jury in Washington for the Russian probe. Not just using somebody else`s grand jury, but impaneling his own. That`s a significant deal.

The paper calls the move a ramp-up in the investigation and a sign of the investigation`s growing intensity.

That news is breaking on the same day Republicans on the Hill produced legislation to make it harder for the president to fire the Special Counselor -- Counsel Bob Mueller.

Let`s get right to the breaking news here. Let me bring in our NBC News intelligence and national security reporter, Ken Dilanian. So, Ken, I want to clear one thing up right at the top. Have we confirmed that Special Counsel Bob Mueller has impaneled his own grand jury? Because this would be unusual so let`s get down to that fact first.

KEN DILANIAN, INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, NBC NEWS: We haven`t confirmed that, Chuck. And you`re absolutely right. That is the most crucial question here.

"The Wall Street Journal" seems to be suggesting that he impaneled his own grand jury, a special grand jury that would hear only this Trump Russia case. That is not normal.

Typically, prosecutors use whatever grand jury happens to be sitting in the federal district at that time to issue subpoenas and to take testimony from witnesses.

Now, in looking back, it seems that the Watergate case had its own grand jury, at least a grand jury that was devoted substantially to Watergate. It`s not clear that other special counsel`s in the past have had their own grand juries. They just simply used whatever grand jury was available.

And so, if he is, in fact, impaneling his own special grand jury, that would seem to indicate a special significance to this -- Chuck.

TODD: And there`s two things -- it`s my understanding here, there would be two reasons why he might feel the need to do this. Reason number one, volume in the amount of subpoenas perhaps that he needs to issue.

And number two would be because we`re dealing with classified -- some deep classified stuff and maybe they need to impanel this grand jury in that sense so that they have some classify -- so they can have access to this classified information.

Is that -- is that likely one of the two reasons?

DILANIAN: That seems likely, Chuck.

But, in terms of volume, it`s hard to imagine -- I mean, there`s so much we don`t know about the pace and the scope of this Mueller investigation. But it`s hard to imagine that there would be enough volume, in terms of subpoenas and witnesses, to keep a grand jury busy full time.

But, then again, you know, this case is so complex that it may be that Mueller doesn`t want to have a grand jury that`s, you know, indicting a murder suspect in Washington, D.C. one hour and then the next hour dealing with complicated transactions involving Russia. So, we just don`t know, at this point.

TODD: Now, I want to -- I want to go through the nuts and bolts of what he would be using a grand jury to do now. I know some -- I think some people in the audience hear grand jury. Then, they hear -- then, they assume, oh, am I going to hear indictment and then charges? That`s not always what grand juries are used for. Explain.

DILANIAN: No. I mean, commonly it is. That`s normally how they work.

But a federal grand jury can consist of up to 23 members. They tend to serve for a term of up to 18 months. And they can sit for very lengthy investigations.

The most powerful tool that a grand jury affords a prosecutor is the ability to compel testimony, because a person does not have to go and sit for an interview with the FBI. You can decline to do that. But you have to answer a grand jury subpoena to appear.

You can take the fifth amendment and decline to testify on the grounds that your testimony may incriminate you, but if a prosecutor has granted you immunity so that you can`t be prosecuted for your testimony, you are compelled to testify.

And that is a great tool to get reluctant witnesses to provide testimony. And it`s also a tool to issue subpoenas for documents and records, which is -- we believe has already been happening in the Mueller case. Because we believe Mueller has already been using grand juries in Virginia to obtain documents -- Chuck.

TODD: And our assumption is he`s been using a grand jury probably for months?

DILANIAN: Yes, that`s our understanding. In the -- in the investigations of Paul Manafort and Mike Flynn, we have reported that grand jury subpoenas have been issued in those cases.

TODD: All right, let me move over. Stick around here a minute, Ken. Let me move over to Kristen Welker at the White House. I know we`ve got some early reaction, both from the president or from the president`s legal team. Kristen, what do you got?

KRISTEN WELKER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Well, Chuck, first of all, the president just left for West Virginia. And a number of reporters, including our own Monica Alba, shouted questions at him to try to get reaction from the president, himself. Not clear if he heard those questions, but no response from the president.

In terms of what his legal counsel was saying, let`s start with Ty Cobb who, of course, has been on the job for just a couple of days. He`s a Washington, D.C. attorney who is no stranger to these types of battles.

[17:05:09] He says grand jury matters are typically a secret. The White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of Mr. Mueller`s work fairly. The White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller. This from Jay Sekulow who`s another attorney for the president.

With respect to the impaneling of the grand jury. We have no reason to believe the president is under investigation. This seems to be the strategy, Chuck, to really focus on that nugget.

The fact that the president has said, James Comey told him he was never under investigation. Now, of course, that was a different time. That was when James Comey was the FBI director.

TODD: Right.

WELKER: That`s no longer the case. And a number of news outlets, including NBC News, have invest -- have reported that Bob Mueller is looking into whether the president obstructed justice.

No reaction on Twitter from the president. But, of course, he heads out to the very friendly territory of West Virginia, so he could perhaps say something about this this evening.

But we`ve talked about for months the fact that this is the issue that hangs over this administration like no other -- Chuck.

TODD: Look, I say this and I don`t know if Jay Sekulow has this information. Maybe he would know, maybe he would not. But his statement, by acknowledging with respect to the impaneling of the grand jury, he says it as fact. It almost sounds as if the president`s legal team is confirming the fact that this happened.

WELKER: Well, and important to point out Ty Cobb has said that he has not been made aware of that. And that`s why you have that part of the statement, grand jury matters are typically secret.

And, again, they seem to really be focused on the president`s --

TODD: Right.

WELKER: -- past conversation with James Comey.

But the mere fact that we got these very swift responses, Chuck. The fact that they`re very coordinated would speak to your point, that this is something that they`re aware of.

TODD: Well, I was just -- well, they`re either -- but they`re coordinated but they actually are in conflict here, in that specific fact of whether the grand jury has been impaneled or not.


TODD: Anyway, Kristen Welker, I`m going to let you go. I know you`ve got to run. Thanks very much.

WELKER: Thanks.

TODD: We`re seeing -- this is the president and Pat Andrews. So, he just got there from coming from the White House on Marine One. We will see him walk up. Trust me, the press does not get close enough to shout questions, at this point, on Andrews. In fact, the press is probably already on the cabin.

I`m joined by someone who knows his way around a government investigation, Tom Davis, a long-time Republican Congressman from Virginia. And he was chairman of the House committee on government reform. Essentially, the watchdog committee of Congress on all things having to do with government.

Tom, thank you for being here. We were going to have another topic here, but you`re pretty good on this stuff. You`re very familiar with these grand jury processes, frankly because you represented the part of Virginia that would sometimes be roped into this.

What do you see here? What should be of concern to the president?

FMR. REP. TOM DAVIS (R), FMR. CHAIRMAN, NRCC: Well, number one, it`s really not unexpected. To some extent, this is inevitable that you`re going to impanel a grand jury whether he goes through Virginia or gets his own.

But it tells you they`re ramping it up. It`s serious. And these things tend to consume White Houses once you get this and start moving people in and out under oath. People start lawyering up.

So, you know, it`s going to be a few tough months. It doesn`t mean anybody end up with indictment. But I think it tells the American people that Mueller is very serious to get the bottom of this.

TODD: What does this do to the Congressional investigations? Because I sit here and think, geez. If I was a Congressional investigator -- and you`ve been one and, yes, you have subpoena power. But, man, Mueller has power. Mueller`s got power to compel. Mueller`s got some things that Congress doesn`t have.

DAVIS: Congress has subpoena power. But perfecting a subpoena power, you`ve got to go to the floor, then you have to have the Justice Department enforce it. Mueller has his own enforcement powers. So, it`s, you know, in triple what Congress can do, in terms of his ability to get to the bottom of this.

TODD: What`s the point of the Congressional investigations, at this point?

DAVIS: Well, because they go after policy. They`re looking at Russia and the interference of Russia in the probe and what does this mean in the future. And so, they have a separate role. But it`s not going to be the juicy kind of things that the media thrives on.

TODD: When this happens -- look, you were government reform. There was major investigation going on.

DAVIS: We did a lot. We investigated the Clinton campaign.

TODD: But let me ask you this. How much harder does it make it for Congress to do what it wants to do if you have this special counsel over here? I mean, does it -- or can you really work in tandem?

DAVIS: Well, you can work in tandem but you`ve got to get a rhythm. And you don`t want to step on the investigation.

So, whatever Congress does, they`re going to be checking with Mueller to say, are we getting in the way of your investigation, at this appointment? Are we outing witnesses that you don`t want to testify, at this point, or are you through with them?

So, there`s a rhythm to this and they`re going to have to find it.

TODD: One of the reasons -- the reason we had you on today. We were going to talk about this -- we`re seeing a growing comfort level of Republicans on Capitol Hill willing to push back at the president`s powers, whether it`s the sanctions bill or whether it`s a bill actually to guarantee Bob Mueller`s investigation lives.

DAVIS: Right.

TODD: If he gets fired, having it codified in Congress.

How do you see that? Is this just Republicans a little -- to having some distance here or is this about re-establishing the legislative branch`s authority?

[17:10:06] DAVIS: So, well, I think the Russia thing is very much about establishing the legislative`s branch`s authority in foreign affairs which has been nil for a long, long time. But part of it`s also putting some separation from the president who some -- who appears erratic to some and members wanting to put some distance.

We don`t know what the atmosphere is -- will be a year from now. But I will tell you, in every Republican`s mind, it`s, you know, are they going to face a large headwind? And if so, how do I distance myself from that? And that may mean distancing themselves from President Trump.

TODD: So, being able to have things like, look, I`ve been strong on making sure we had a thorough investigation. But on policy areas, I agree with him on X.

DAVIS: Right.

TODD: Is that -- is that the type of thing that some Republicans are -- that maybe --

DAVIS: In a --

TODD: -- in a semi-swing district.

DAVIS: -- in a swing district, that`s golden. You`ve got to be able to walk both. You`ve got to be able to hold the Trump supporters, but you can`t let those swing or independent voters that have voted for you in the past leave you. And it`s a -- it`s tough.

Now, the other part of this is you have a lot of Republicans that are still in solid Republican districts where that Trump base is dispositive in a primary and they can`t get too far away from it. I mean, that`s a majority of the conference.

TODD: Now, look, you`re here. We`ve totally glossed over something that also happened today, a unique thing, you`re a political junky, which is a sitting governor is switching parties.

That`s one of the reasons why the president is going to West Virginia to celebrate the party switch of that -- of the governor, who was elected as a Democrat becoming a Republican.

When you look at West Virginia`s politics, that`s not surprising. What is surprising that he would do this after going through the painful aspect of having to win as a Democrat while Trump was winning by 40 points.

DAVIS: Right, and he`s got three years left in his term. So, he was -- now, he has a Republican legislature he`s got to deal with.

But I think it tells you that in Washington, as we pay attention to certain things, out in the hinterlands, there`s still a lot of support for the president. We have alignments, realignments going in these parties. And I think the West Virginia governor has picked up where the winds are rolling in West Virginia.

TODD: Do you think we`re in the middle of one? You`ve -- you know, there`s nobody I know living that could tell me what county voted which way going back to 1948. That`s you, Tom Davis. You`ve seen plenty of realignments. Are we in the middle of one, beginning of one, end of one? What --

DAVIS: Yes, we`ve been in an alignment. The Republican Party base has moved from the country club to the country. This has been going on. Part of it`s there were social issues. Part of it`s the environmental issues and the oil patch and the coal patch.

And we see the opposite taking place in places like my old county of Fairfax. So, we`re in a realignment. We don`t know where it ends up. I think if President Trump lost, it might have been an asterisk. But this has, I think, moved the alignment further.

TODD: And if your -- do we start seeing -- you know, the same week that we have Jeff Flake, sort of, not comfortable with the direction of the Republican Party. You have the governor of West Virginia not comfortable with the direction of the Democratic party. Is that not in itself the picture of realignment taking place, one`s happening in this border state that`s diversifying. One`s happening in a state that`s homogeneous (ph).

DAVIS: A lot of contradictions out there and a lot of people, kind of, caught saying, where am I going to be in five years as the parties move around? But we have certainly seen a realignment in a lot of these rural states, certainly in places like Arkansas and West Virginia. In western Pennsylvania, it`s been precipitous.

And in these higher income, higher-educated suburban counties that used to be the Republican base, they`ve been moving in the opposite direction. And I don`t see anything stopping that in the near future.

TODD: All right. I got a little politics in here (INAUDIBLE.) Tom Davis, I appreciate it. Thanks for coming in and doing double duty for us.

We`ve got a lot more on this. We`re going to be following today`s late- breaking news. The Special Counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly impaneled his own grand jury to solely focus on the Russia investigation. It would be a huge development if that`s the case. We`ll have much more coming up on this in a minute. We`ll be right back.



TODD: Welcome back.

As I hinted earlier, President Trump is on his way to a campaign rally in West Virginia. Ever the showman, the president dangled a big announcement to come at that rally during a White House appearance this morning.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re going to West Virginia tonight, by the way. We`re going to have a very big announcement which will be very exciting, I think, for the media and everyone else.


TODD: Well, thanks to our good friend Jonathan Martin at "The New York Times." As we just said, we think we know what that announcement will be. "The New York Times" reports the West Virginia governor, Jim Justice, will be changing his party affiliation from Democratic to Republican. Hardly a traditional Democrat. Justice won in the election in November by seven points, while President Trump carried the state by more than 40.

This is not the first party affiliation switch for Governor Justice. In the past, he`s been registered as both a Republican and an independent. The switch also furthers Republican control of governors` mansions nationwide.

The Republicans now hold the governorship in 34 states. The most states they`ve held since 1922. So much power and they don`t know what to do with it. The last governor to change parties while in office, by the way, Rhode Island`s Lincoln Chafee who went from independent to a Democrat in 2013.

You can expect President Trump and the newly christened (ph) Republican governor of West Virginia to bask in the cheers of the crowd tonight.

We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency, unless Mueller did something wrong. The president`s not in the business of drawing red lines which it comes to the law. The law is above any presidential red line. This is not draining the swamp. What he`s interjecting is turning democracy upside down.


TODD: Welcome back to MTP DAILY.

The president`s been warned.

As we continue to follow tonight`s breaking news on the Russia investigation, I`m joined by tonight`s panel. Lanhee Chen, top policy advisor to both the Romney and Rubio presidential campaigns. David Ignatius is a columnist with "The Washington Post." And Jennifer Palmieri was communications director -- former communications director in the Obama White House, Clinton campaign and knows her way around a special counsel mess herself back in the late 1990s.


TODD: And a grand jury. So, we have people that are we well versed in that. Lonnie, I think you`re the one with a lot of green. So, impaneling your own grand jury is a -- is a big deal, right?


TODD: Is there any reason to have downplayed this development?

CHEN: No, no, it`s significant. I mean, otherwise, you would just use a grand jury that`s around. So, previously, the Mueller investigation was using the grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia.

Now, they`re using one that`s been impaneled -- apparently, reportedly, impaneled for this. Gives them the power to compel testimony as a reporter was saying earlier. I mean, it`s a significant deal, particularly if they`re exclusively devoted to this investigation.

TODD: You were at a White House when -- now, I wasn`t clear. Did Ken Starr always have his own grand jury or did --


TODD: -- he just use a grand jury back in the day?

PALMIERI: Well, I went to it --

TODD: Yes.

PALMIERI: -- and it was the same people on different days. I can tell you that. And I think eventually they had -- they did for a while have to get subpoenas. Had to use -- used whatever the D.C. sitting grand jury was. But I believe eventually there was one that was appointed to just manage this matter.

[17:20:03] TODD: Just explain, what did this do to the White House?

PALMIERI: To the -- well, I mean, it`s, you know, --

TODD: I mean, what does this -- what does this mean inside the White House?

PALMIERI: -- it`s like the things you never found us to say (INAUDIBLE) like found dead, grand jury impaneled.

TODD: That`s a pretty good way of putting it. Found dead is one, you`re right.

PALMIERI: Yes, grand jury impaneled. When I heard it -- when I heard this news today, it`s, like, my stomach did a flip just in memory of what it was like.

TODD: Because you had your own.

PALMIERI: And you -- I had to go to the grand jury. And what you don`t really realize until you have to go do this, is no -- the lawyer is not allowed in there with you. You know, I had my lawyer with me during FBI interviews and he would defend me and protect me and tell me what I needed to answer when I didn`t.

But it`s, like, when you`re on the grand jury, you just got to go in there. You`re on your own. You`ve just got to answer everything they ask you. And it`s a very scary situation.

And because you don`t have a lawyer in there, you`re very worried about, you know, saying anything that could possibly, you know, not be fully telling the truth. And I think that people will find in the White House, it`s a much different dynamic.

And it just gets a little graver in your own -- you know, you`re much more concerned about your own welfare in that situation.

TODD: So, you don`t get to have your own lawyer in there.


TODD: Does that mean the prosecution can`t ask you questions? It only has to come from the grand jury or can prosecution --

PALMIERI: No, no, no, no. The grand -- I mean, they -- the grand juries, they can ask questions.

TODD: They can do whatever they want.

PALMIERI: They asked me a question literally about an alien landing on the White House. They don`t ask questions on the matter at hand. But the prosecutors all ask you questions and there is no lawyer present. You can go out and talk to your lawyer, but you can`t --

TODD: You can take a break.

PALMIERI: Yes, you can take a break.

TODD: You can say, I want to confer.

PALMIERI: Yes. But you can`t have your lawyer in there. And it`s just -- you know, and everybody is under oath. And you can be -- you know, you could get prosecuted for perjury. It is -- it`s a very sobering thing. And, you know, I think we, sort of, knew we were headed here. But to actually be here, it`s a sobering day.

TODD: David.

DAVID IGNATIUS, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, I think there is a button that is on Donald Trump`s desk which is, you know, the -- this legal investigation is closing in. Every time he gets near it, he pushes it.

And I think this is going to trigger some kind of a response. You know, whether we`ll be back in the terrain of firing Special Counsel Mueller, we`ll have to see. But I think he`s going to feel cornered, angry and he`ll push back.

TODD: You know, it`s interesting and I want you to pick up on this because before this news happened, one of the things I was going to highlight today is the discipline, at least in week one, that I think John Kelly has been able to instill in this White House.

But one of the -- but was going to be, how will he handle his first Mueller induced news cycle?

IGNATIUS: He did one, you know, interesting thing reportedly. Last weekend, he called Jeff Sessions and said, this talk about you being fired, you being forced out. I`m just here to tell you that your tenure is secure, backing away from what was seen as a preliminary step toward firing Mueller.

So, if that`s the course that Kelly is taking, he potentially is on a collision course with his president if the president gets angry.


TODD: Yes. This, to me, is going to be the big test.

CHEN: Yes, I mean, it seems to me the best he can do. Because this is out of his control, largely, what`s happening with the proceedings. So, he can only control what`s in front of him which is the execution of the strategy on a day-to-day basis.

TODD: That`s been the mind-set for six months that he`s not been able to do it.


CHEN: But he had -- well, but John Kelly hasn`t been the chief of staff. And I think that`s -- he brings a different level of discipline to that team. He brings a different level of experience to that team and a different relationship with the president.

PALMIERI: Yes, that will -- that will be tested. I think if John Kelly hadn`t been appointed, we would be talking about Republican support for the president getting very weak, like you saw in the wake of the health care vote last week and people starting to bristle about what he was saying with Sessions, not voting for the healthcare bill.

And that -- Kelly staved that off, right? So, now, he`s shored up some support but it`s very tenuous.

TODD: You know, David, this also comes at a time -- we were just discussing this and you`re going, you know, the president may be right in his signing statement on the sanctions bill when you think about the office of the presidency. The politics of the Russia investigation and the tools that you want to have for do -- you know, for doing diploma -- I mean, they`re running in conflict here.

IGNATIUS: So, I do think there was more merit to the president`s position on the signing statement in the way in which his freedom to operate as chief executive has been circumscribed by this law that says, basically, the president can`t take off sanctions without a congressional review. I think he`s right to say that that`s an unusual step.

The problem is that he has so completely alienated his normal sources of support, that people are taking positions on this that they would not have taken. I mean, George W. Bush repeatedly had signing statements making the same point, Barack Obama had signing statements similarly defending his executive prerogative on foreign policy.

TODD: I had a Democratic senator, very prominent, say to me, not too long ago, I never thought I was going to be a Russian sanctions hawk. And was uncomfortable with it but felt like almost -- trapped is not the right word but boxed in. Understanding that it`s not the best policy. At the same time, they had to do something. That was the mind-set.

[17:25:06] IGNATIUS: You should be careful about taking positions now in this, sort of, fever that they wouldn`t take otherwise.

PALMIERI: They were worried that he would undo it otherwise, right? There were -- they had to do it. They had to do veto proof more than they had to protect --

TODD: When you were in the White House, you guys were fighting Congress from putting --


TODD: -- from putting restrictions on the Iran sanctions when you were doing the Iran deal for the same --

PALMIERI: Yes. If that is the domain of the president and it was greatly infringed upon by this bill.

CHEN: Yes. I mean, look, arguably, more has come to light about Russia. So, to the extent that people are changing their positions or evolving their positions on Russian sanctions.

It`s because they`re discovering that, as it turns out, Russia does stand in opposition to American interests repeatedly. And that it wasn`t just a talking point from the 2012 campaign. Not that we want to go back there.

But the point simply is I think people are now realizing that Russia is a serious challenge, and we do need to do something about it. And these sanctions, frankly, don`t go far enough, in my mind. And so, there is still further to go and this ended up being a consensus --

TODD: Well, you say it`s not far enough. What more would you do?

CHEN: Well, I think -- I think the economic element of it has to be much tougher. I think there has to be a -- there has to be some real bite to those. I mean, talking about the, sort of, diplomatic element of this is something totally different, I think, from something that really gets at the economic --

TODD: Do you buy this?

CHEN: -- nature of this.

TODD: You`re -- I feel you`re not fully --

IGNATIUS: I think the idea that you can sanction Russia into fundamental submissions is probably wrong. The Russians, as they have demonstrated through their history, are pretty good at suffering.

I think the point that Secretary Tillerson has been making in this debate seems right, that we`re going to need to have serious discussions, negotiations with Russia. They`ve begun on Syria. And it`s time when a president does need some room to maneuver.

I`m reminded of Nixon during Watergate. I mean, we had a foreign policy crisis. We`ve got a war in the Middle East. The president needed to be strong enough to maneuver in that. And, you know, this is a very damaged president right now.

TODD: Congress gave you guys more room to maneuver on foreign policy than you thought you`d have in the late 1990s, right, when it came to Bill Clinton.


Mostly because -- during the investigation. Because -- is that because he was better at compartmentalizing?

PALMIERI: He -- I think that he was -- he was better at understanding what`s in his control and what`s not in his control. And he was better at putting aside the investigation and how that was proceeding. And understood the way that, you know, he was doing his job. And the way that the, you know, American people continue to support him is because they saw him doing his job.

But we always, always maintained a relationship with the speaker, even as they were prosecuting the impeachment case against him where there was an open line to talk about -- you know, there was a bombing of Iraq that was going on during the impeachment vote. And having that and everybody was just able to do the job that they understood that they had to do in both institutions.

TODD: All right, I`m going to pause the conversation here. Boy, you turned out to be a great panel for this and we weren`t even planning that. The first-person account of a grand jury. That`s something else.

PALMIERI: That was scary.

TODD: You made that clear. (INAUDIBLE) to say.

Anyway, stick around. We`ll have more reaction from today`s breaking news from Capitol Hill in just a minute.



CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS DAILY SHOW HOST: Welcome back. Another day, another leak, and it ends in why. "The Washington Post" today published what they say are transcripts they obtained from President Trump`s January calls with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Now, some of the major moments in these calls came out months ago, literally I think within a week of the calls happening. But now the full transcripts have somehow been leaked, and they have more interesting nuggets that also give us more insight into the tone the president used with these foreign leaders and how they reacted to the American president.

For example, Mexican President Pena Nieto said this, my position has been and will continue to be very firm saying that Mexico cannot pay for that wall. President Trump responds, but you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that and I cannot live with that. I cannot negotiate under those circumstances.

President Trump is also under fire for a comment he made about New Hampshire when he was with the Mexican president. While talking about drugs entering from Mexico, he said, I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den.

Now, if you remember, President Trump`s conversation with the Australian prime minister centered on a deal President Obama made to take a number of middle eastern refugees that were detained near Australia. President Trump said of the deal, this is going to kill me. I am the world`s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country.

Frustrated with the Turnbull call, President Trump referenced how good his calls with other world leaders that day went, including Vladimir Putin. The president said, look, I spoke to Putin, Merkel, Abe of Japan, to France today, and this was my most unpleasant call.

Well, there you go. Interestingly, there`s been a lot of people who have left the White House in the last two weeks, and we have more leaks on what happened inside that White House. Coincidence?

Up next on "MTP Daily," another perspective on this evenings breaking news. A grand jury reportedly has been impaneled in the Russia investigation, solely for the Russia investigation. But first, Hampton Pearson, CNBC Market Wrap.

HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Chuck. We had stocks finishing mostly lower on Wall Street as the Russian investigation heats up. But the Dow bucked the trend hitting its seventh straight record close. The Dow gaining 9 points, the S&P losing 5, the Nasdaq shedding 22 points.

Shares of Apple lost one percent a day after the tech giant push the Dow over the 22,000 mark for the first time. Shares of Viacom surging nearly four percent after earnings beat expectations. The company`s stock is still down for the year. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.



JAY SEKULOW, PERSONAL LAWYER OF PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The president is not thinking about firing Bob Bueller, so this is -- this speculation that`s out there is just incorrect. I mean, that was --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And would you advice him even regardless of a grand jury that that would be a bad idea?

SEKULOW: Look, my job is to deal with what? I got to deal with the facts as we have them and the case as we have it. The decision that the president were to make on Bob Mueller is a decision that I`m not involved in.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: Welcome back. We`re going to get some early reaction from Capitol Hill. Joined now by Senator Jack Reed Rhode Island. He is an ex officio member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and if you have been a watcher of these hearings, you know what that means. It means he still gets to participate in those meetings and questions. Senator Reed, welcome, sir.

SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: Thanks, Chuck. Thanks very much.

TODD: Let`s start with the caveat that we have not yet confirmed that Bob Mueller has impaneled his own grand jury. What does that potential development, though, mean to you? What does that say to you?

REED: Well, it says that the case is proceeding forward, and it also, if in fact there is a grand jury impaneled, means that Bob Mueller has more powerful investigative tools at his disposal. The grand jury can subpoena records, call witnesses. Those witnesses can invoke the fifth amendment, but they are not represented by an attorney.

Essentially it`s the government prosecutors who are controlling the grand jury proceedings. So, it`s a very powerful investigative tool and it seems in keeping with very thoughtful, very thorough, very deliberate way that Bob Mueller is proceeding in this investigation.

TODD: What does this do to the intel committee`s investigation? And I understand that, you know, we had Tom Davis (ph) on earlier and he said, look, a congressional committee does an investigation to decide if there needs to be better policy. But is there a point where the intel investigation is just limited because Mueller has got all the tools and he can do things more thoroughly?

REED: Well, I think that`s the reality, frankly. A congressional investigation, I must say both Chairman Burr and Vice Chairman Warner have been doing a very good job on a bipartisan basis, but we do not have the means to compel people as the grand jury does.

We don`t have the detailed investigative staff and the resources that Bob Mueller has. So, just for the nature of the resources and the law, he has a decidedly more effective and efficient way to proceed to find the facts and that`s what he`s doing.

TODD: There`s been some movement on this idea of I guess codifying Bob Mueller`s ability to continue this investigation if for some reason the Justice Department decides they don`t want him anymore. How likely is that legislation going to pass?

REED: I think it expresses a strong sentiment on a bipartisan basis since many of the sponsors are Republicans that Bob Mueller should be allowed to proceed in his investigation. That`s the only way we`re going to resolve this to the satisfaction of the American public.

And I think that sentiment is very strongly held. Getting legislation through is complicated in any case, and I don`t think that will happen immediately. I think what it does, though, is send a very strong signal that on behalf of the American people, this investigation has to go forward, has to reach a conclusion, and I`m confident I think many people are that Bob Mueller is the right person to do it.

TODD: So, is this more of a threat of legislation that`s designed to, OK, White House, if you do this, literally we can put this on the floor and pass it. So, it`s more of a, you know, the trigger lock is off, just FYI.

REED: Well, it`s both. It`s both a serious attempt to provide a legislative framework so that the investigation can go forward, but it is inherently also a signal on a bipartisan basis that Mr. Mueller has the confidence of many, many people here on both sides of the aisle.

And again, on behalf of the American people, we have to get answers, and we have to get answers that will be accepted. They won`t be dismissed as partisan. They won`t be dismissed as being just convenient. They have to be conclusive, and I think Bob Mueller can do that.

TODD: I want to talk about the idea of sanctions and who should have control over them. The president when he signed the bipartisan bill that added more sanctions to Russia, North Korea and Iran, he had a pretty tough signing statement that essentially not frankly something that Barack Obama also believed when he was president which is that congress doesn`t have the ability to tie the hands the way this bill does of the president.

Where are you on this in the idea should the office of the presidency have its hands tied the way you tied Donald Trump`s hands on Russia?

REED: Well, I think the first point that should be made, this was overwhelmingly supported by both the house and the senate. So this is not a faction of the congress trying to interfere with the president. But I think the president`s attitude, particularly to Russia, was such that he was losing, I think, the confidence of so many people that he would take effective steps to ensure these sanctions were in place until they could achieve their objective.

One is the recognition of their interference in our election and other elections. And also, their behavior towards the Crimea and their ongoing behavior in the Donbass region of Ukraine. So, in the Russian case, it was a very emphatic statement that we have to maintain these sanctions. And I think it would apply also to the other sanction provisions.

TODD: No. I understand that this was a reaction more to the individual in the office of the presidency, but as you know, Barack Obama complained about congressional attempts to tie his hands on Iran sanctions. Where were you on that?

REED: Every president feels that he has the authority to conduct American foreign policy without any significant interference by congress, and it is over our history a back and forth between congress` trying to assert what they think is their prerogative and presidents pushing back.

What I think is instructive is that in this case, President Trump signed the legislation. He could have refused to sign it. He could have vetoed it. He could try to test it in court, I presume, if he can find the standing to do that. But I think at the end of the day, he complained, but he recognized that this is something he had to do.

TODD: All right. Senator Jack Reed, ex officio on the intel committee and of course the ranking member on armed services as well. Senator Reed, thank you, sir.

REED: Thank you.

TODD: We`ll be back. A lot more "MTP Daily" right after this break.


TODD: Welcome back. Tonight, I`m obsessed with the president`s travel schedule. As we said tonight, he`s headed for a political rally in West Virginia. In West Virginia, that`s the same West Virginia he went to just last week. That`s the same West Virginia that gave Mr. Trump 68 percent of the vote last year, second highest in the country.

Same West Virginia that hasn`t voted a Democrat since it went for Bill Clinton in 1996. Same West Virginia where not even one county has gone democratic in a presidential election since 2008. Or consider this, Mr. Trump won West Virginia by more than 3,000 votes. That`s almost four times the margin by which Mr. Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Come on, so why the shuttle to West Virginia? One reason that we mentioned earlier is to celebrate the fact that the democratic governor of the state, Jim Justice, is expected to announce that he`s switching parties. Remember, this is the president`s third trip to West Virginia as president.

So this is also about the roar of the crowd. West Virginia loves the president, and the president loves to feel loved. Think of it as a vanity rally. And really what politician doesn`t. But we are keeping track. When is he going to the mountain and pacific time zones at some point? We`ll be right back.


TODD: Welcome back to "MTP Daily." It`s been less than six months since Mike Flynn resigned as President Trump`s national security advisor. Could we be seeing another major shake-up within the president`s top national security team? NBC News exclusively reported last night that President Trump is considering firing the top military commander in Afghanistan out of frustration that the U.S. isn`t winning.

And now, "New York Times" claims that there are reports that he`s considering moving current national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, into that role. Remember, McMaster is still an active member of the military. McMaster has recently overseen a purge of sorts, getting rid of some Mike Flynn loyalists and those who are more aligned say with the Steve Bannon wing of the Republican Party. But if the president decides to reassign McMaster, who replaces him?

Time for "The Lid." Panel is back. Lanhee Chen, Jennifer Palmieri, David Ignatius. So, David, I put this to you. Afghanistan, second straight president that is sitting there going, you know, to me it`s like, do you blame President Trump for saying, OK, wait, more troops there. The last president eight years ago said the same thing. This is not something that`s Trumpian. This is something that`s I think perplexing.

DAVID IGNATIUS, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think this is what the president should do. The military comes back in supporting their commander. General Nicholson, outstanding commander, but he`s been there two years and he`s fighting the battle as he said it. The president ought to say, wait a minute, we`ve been doing this for 16 years.

We`re in stalemate after all that time and you`re asking me for more troops. I don`t get it. That`s what he`s done. I think there is interest on the part of Trump and some of his advisers in turning (INAUDIBLE) CIA saying, you`ve had ideas about making this a covert action. How do we do that? And so I think asking that question is good. Again, as I said, General Nicholson, he is a superb commander. If he can`t do it, nobody can.

TODD: It is literally eight years to the month that I feel as if President Obama -- maybe he worded it differently, but it was essentially the same frustration. You`re offering three choices, increase troops, increase troops, or increase troops. JENNIFER PALMIERI, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: It was status quo, the option they wanted and certain nuclear war.


PALMIERI: Those are the three options that you would get in the room. Yes, let`s go back in (INAUDIBLE). I understand that. But there are two other telling things about his inclination to go to McMaster is it`s all whoever is in front of him, right? His universe is only as big as the people in his family or the people in his immediate vicinity. He can`t seem to think that there`s other people with knowledge that might be good at this.

TODD: You know, the pressure that a president can face from generals or from the Pentagon establishment can be quite intimidating. Right, Lanhee?


TODD: He`s surrounded by generals. CHEN: Not only that, but it`s clear that the president likes to listen to generals. He likes to be surrounded by generals. He likes to take advice from generals. So, the national attention that you might expect, some of that push back, that`s got to be even more difficult.

What was really interesting to me about this national security team and the question really has to be where is the juice coming from? If you look at those transcripts from the call from Pena Nieto call and the call with Turnbull from Australia, what was noteworthy was the person that keeps coming up is Jared Kushner.

It`s not Mike Flynn who is the national securty advisor I think so at the time. It`s not General Mattis. It`s not Secretary Tillerson. It`s Jared Kushner. And that is the figure that keeps on coming back in all of those transcripts. This is really interesting to think about.

TODD: Look, we may be jumping too far ahead, David. Let`s say, it`s clear the president and General McMaster, they don`t have chemistry. That doesn`t mean they don`t agree, but clearly there`s a chemistry issue here. Then again, you don`t want to go through national security advisers in nine months.

IGNATIUS: You don`t. Another shake-up surprised me this early in the Kelly --

TODD: This is the way that sort of make that not look like a shake-up? Oh no, McMaster (INAUDIBLE) in Afghanistan. We got John Kelly as chief of staff and he --

IGNATIUS: President Obama sent David Petraeus (ph) to Afghanistan after doing McChrystal laugh (ph). You know, it`s a big bold move like that. I could see that.

One thing I think to remember about the way this White House works, the president may not have chemistry with McMaster, but he and Jared Kushner, his daughter Ivanka, from what I`m told, have real chemistry with Dina Powell, who is McMaster`s deputy, who is experienced in the Bush administration, one of those people who is good at dealing with people.

So, you know, I can see the team of McMaster kind of getting through this period despite whatever tension there is with the president.

TODD: What I find interesting, Lanhee, is if you`re John Kelly, you probably think, well, all right, I`m not a political guy but as chief of staff, I know my way around national security. If you`re replacing a national security advisor, seems to me maybe he wants somebody a little lower profile.

CHEN: It could be. It could be because he could make the decision that look, at the end of the day, I`m able to bring to the president what he needs to see.

TODD: Right.

CHEN: But ultimately, you know, like I said earlier, I think he`s in a good position to restore order where order hasn`t existed previously. The big wild card is the president. TODD: That`s for sure. Well, another one of those days. PALMIERI: Yes, and it`s August. Only August three. TODD: Never say it`s only August. That`s the worst phrase to say. Thank you very much. Quick note, quick apology to Senator Jack Reed, who to my understanding on our banner, he was identified as a Republican from Rhode Island. He is of course a Democrat from Rhode Island. Guess what? Typos happen. Our apologies. We wanted to make the correction.

After the break, President Trump dumps on Sports Illustrated. What`s up with that? We`ll be right back.


TODD: In case you missed it, Sports Illustrated is fake news now or at least according to president, or at least according to the president today. Sports Illustrated did a lengthy feature that came out this week on President Trump and the game of golf. In it, the president is quoted as saying, that White House is a real dump. Now, the president tweeted a response last night, quote, I love the White House.

One of the most beautiful buildings, homes, I`ve ever seen. But fake news said I called it a dump. Totally untrue. So SI added to the list of fake news, not so fast. In a podcast, the author of the piece said, the president`s remarks were not just from one person. They were overheard by many people at his New Jersey golf course. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not a lie that the president said this in front of eight or nine members and staffers at Bedminster. It was his first visit to the club after he had been residing in the White House. It was a moment of candor.


TODD: In front of eight or nine staffers at his golf club. That will be a lot of potential collaborators there. Then again, maybe if we ask the president, he`ll want to mull again on his original comments.

That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with a lot more "MTP Daily." "The Beat with Ari Melber" starts right now. Boy, Ari, good thing you got that law degree tonight. You`re going to be using a lot more I thin this hour than usual.

ARI MELBER, THE BEAT HOST, MSNBC CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Chuck, I have a J.D. on me and I have a lot of J.D.s in the building. Good to see you as always.

TODD: Nice. All right.