Show: MTP DAILY Date: August 4, 2017 Guest: Charlie Dent, Matthew Continetti, Ruth Marcus, Carol Lee, John Carlin, Contessa Brewer, Mazie Hirono
NICOLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: That does it for this hour. I`m Nicole Wallace. "MTP DAILY" starts right now. Hi, Chuck.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicole. But as you know, as well as anybody, when you`re president, don`t assume August will be nice to you.
WALLACE: That`s right.
TODD: August can be very cruel to sitting presidents.
Thank you, Nicole. Happy Friday.
Well, if it`s Friday, it`s the best of times, it`s the worst of times. It actually just depends on who you ask.
(voice-over): Tonight, President Trump throws out red meat in a red state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Russia story is a total fabrication. It`s just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: But while the base cheers, the president is facing push back from his own party`s leading lawmakers.
Plus, the latest White House staff, the Trump base loves to hate. Why the knives are out for the national security advisor.
And August, it`s the cruelest month. Why the dog days of summer so often dog U.S. presidents.
This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.
(on camera): Well, good evening. I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington and welcome to MTP DAILY.
Happy Friday or should I say unhappy Friday? Because, right now, everything is awesome and awful. It just depends on who you ask.
Politics is all about messaging, right? Well, folks, you are witnessing an epic battle between two versions of reality for this president. Wait a minute, you might say, everything is awesome. Jobs, jobs, jobs, the economy is humming and stocks are booming.
There`s no upside on being anti-Trump either, just ask West Virginia Governor Jim Justice who`s switching from a D to an R, or ask Republican Senator Jeff Flake which direction his poll numbers are heading right now after bashing the president.
And you`ve got the Justice Department finally cracking down on those leaks. Awesome.
But hold on a second, you might also say everything is awful. Those leaks might be trying to bring down a highly-respected national security advisor because he won`t back the president`s conspiracy theories on unmasking. Do you hear anyone in the president`s inner circle complaining about those leaks? Not that guy.
And forget jobs, jobs, jobs. What about Russia, Russia, Russia? Special counsel looks like he`s hot on the president`s trail. The White House`s credibility is totally shot. So, is their relationship with this Republican Congress.
You`ve got a rotating cast of exasperated Senate Republicans, like these ones who torpedoed the president`s health care agenda, or this one who says he`s turning democracy upside down, or this one who is writing legislation to prevent him from firing Mueller, or this one who basically called him a (INAUDIBLE.)
Oh, and there`s this one who sent everyone home just like the president`s threats not to leave town until health care was done. Awful.
So, which do you believe? The president says the economy is awesome but he just got through an entire campaign trying to convince us that this very same fundamental economy was awful.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our real unemployment is anywhere from 18 to 20 percent. Don`t believe the 5.6. Don`t believe it.
I actually saw a number of 42 percent unemployment. 42 percent. And it could be. On the only thing that looks good is the stock market, but if you raise interest rates, even a little bit, that`s going to come crashing down. We are in a big, fat ugly bubble.
The terrible jobs report that just came out --
You see these phony numbers about five percent.
The unemployment number, as you know, is totally fiction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: And according to the president all that smoke on Russia which is awful is just proof of just how awesome his movement is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Russia story is a total fabrication. It`s just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics. That`s all it is.
We didn`t win because of Russia. We won because of you. That I can tell you. Have you seen any Russians in West Virginia or Ohio or Pennsylvania? Are there any Russians here tonight, any Russians?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: And the leaks, which the president thought were awesome when preceded by the word Wiki, are now totally, totally awful.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We are taking a stand. This culture of leaking must stop. And I have this warning for would-be leakers. Don`t do it.
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Understand this. If you improperly disclose classified information, we will find you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Let`s dive in. I`m joined now by Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. And, Congressman, I was thinking about how we were putting this together, the fact that there are, I think, two realities, and I knew I had you on. I thought, boy, your district truly is, sort of, two realities all in one district.
So, let me ask you this. Which reality is it?
REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Which reality? The reality is this. I think that my constituents are not obsessed with the Russian issue. I would say they are concerned with it, very concerned with it. And certainly they`re paying attention to the investigation.
[17:05:04] But I think most people are still focused on other issues, jobs, the economy, health care is an issue I hear more about than anything else to be perfectly candid.
TODD: What -- and let me ask you this. What`s working? Do they -- do your constituents go to you and say, OK, boy, why aren`t we getting a bunch more stuff done or do they say, huh, things are doing all right. He`s doing all right. And why don`t you support him? What kind of feedback are you getting right now?
DENT: Most of the feedback I`m getting from my constituents, Chuck, has been pretty favorable. Most of my constituents expect me to be a check, you know, against the president if he`s moving in a bad direction. But they also expect me to work with him and support him if he`s on the right track. I mean, that`s always been my view on this thing.
But they do want us to be honest about situations. I don`t think they want us to try to defend the indefensible or explain the inexplicable. But, at the same time, they just want us to be honest and genuine as we -- as we deal with this administration.
TODD: It`s been interesting for me to watch this week as very Senate Republicans want to erect some roadblocks on the president. And it feels like it really is about one single issue, Russia.
If the president`s attitude on the Russia investigation was, I want to get to the bottom of this, too, how would relations be between Congressional Republicans and this president right now?
DENT: Chuck, the relations would be much better because most of us in Congress in both parties believe that the reason why we had to impose these sanctions is because of very bad Russia behavior, particularly Putin`s behavior. And that American policy toward Russia should not change until Russian behavior changes.
And we know that Russia is trying to break up NATO, undermine the European Union, you know, basically undermine our power and influence anywhere they can in the world. And that is the issue. And that`s why, I think, many of us are a bit confounded by the president`s somewhat seemingly conciliatory and accommodating view towards Putin.
So, I think that`s really a big part of our challenge. We are just a bit mystified by this. We wish the president embraced a more conventional, traditional view of Russia, which we believe his secretary of defense and certainly national security advisor embrace.
TODD: It does -- is it starting to bleed into other issues, meaning that there`s some hesitance of maybe Congressman S or senator Y? While they may agree on this issue, that they don`t feel as compelled to help this president, because they`re so upset about Russia. Has it bled that -- bled into other issues that way?
DENT: At this point, I would have to say, not too much. But there is a real concern about the lack of discipline, lack of focus and apparent dysfunction coming out of the White House.
Now, with General Kelly becoming chief of staff, we hope that some of those issues will become much better.
But I think the fact that there is so much distraction which leads to exhaustion, not just for the American people but for members of Congress, that we are constantly responding to the issue of the moment, the tweet of the day, rather than focusing on real legislative issues, agenda items like infrastructure or tax reform.
So, we`re really not talking about those issues, and it`s making it harder for us to deal with those issues because of that.
TODD: Speaking of things that are harder now. I`m curious your take on Jeff Flake`s book. Look, you`ve not been a Republican that`s been afraid to speak out.
And, look, you`re more from the center right wing of the party versus the more conservative wing. But, then again, what is a conservative these days? I think the definition is changing.
Are you concerned that the base of the party is really of more of a cult of personality on Trump and, frankly, the way, at times, the Democratic Party sometimes felt as if its base was a cult of personality about Obama?
Is that what`s happening in the Republican Party in that if you`re against Trump, then the base is -- the base going to punish you no matter what the issue is?
DENT: Yes, I have to say that prior to Donald Trump becoming the nominee, the litmus test and always been there was a battle between I`ll say the purists versus the pragmatists.
And now that Donald Trump is the president, I think the issue is a bit different. It comes down to how loyal are you to the president? And that`s how you`re being judged.
So, if you have a more nuance position, some will consider you, you know, an infidel or a trader.
And on the other side, I`ll tell you, if you -- if you -- if you agree with the president on an issue which is, I`ll say, you sold out.
So, that`s the challenge that, I think, what a lot of us are facing. And, by the way, Jeff Flake is a very good friend. I haven`t read his book. He`s my paddle ball partner. I`ve been playing with him for years.
So, we`re actually quite close. We talk -- we used to talk quite a bit when he was in the House.
TODD: Can you say definitively now that the Republican Party is a big tent party?
DENT: Well, I want it to be a big tent party. It must be a big tent party if it hopes to succeed long term. Clearly, in my view, we have to do a better job reaching out to Asian voters, Hispanic voters. I think on social issues certainly to younger voters, LGBT issues especially.
I think we have to become -- I think we have to cast a wider net than is the case at the moment.
[17:10:00] That said, I do think that people genuinely like the Republican philosophy of more limited government, strong national defense. And I think that`s something that has been, I think, well received.
But, at the same time, I feel like we`re experiencing a political realignment going on right under our feet. I would -- I would usually say that, you know, Republicans embraced open markets and free trade, but that`s obviously been tested under this administration to a certain extent.
So, things are shifting under us, and I don`t know how this is going to sort itself out over the next couple of years.
TODD: I`m with you. And, you know, who knows, maybe in 10 years, you come here and there`s a different party label next to you. And it may not be either D or R, at this point. Who knows where this realignment is headed. I`m not -- I`m not trying to get you in trouble here, left or right.
Anyway, Congressman Dent, thanks for joining me this morning, I appreciate it -- or this evening.
DENT: All right, thanks, Chuck.
TODD: You got it.
Let me bring in tonight`s panel. Matthew Continetti, Editor-in-Chief of "The Washington Free Beacon," Carol Lee, our newest NBC National Political Reporter. Welcome, Carol. And Ruth Marcus, Editorial Page Editor for "The Washington Post." Welcome, All. Matthew, you had a column today that you gave conservative an epitaph, I think, 1945 to 2017. It was fascinating to hear Charlie Dent`s last answer there where he admitted, I don`t know where this is headed. We`re in a political realignment. On one hand, I get it. But are we -- have we really realigned or are we organized around a cult of personality? MATTHEW CONTINETTI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "THE WASHINGTON FREE BEACAN": I think we`re realigning. I mean, look at West Virginia where President Trump was yesterday.
TODD: But that was a cultural shift more than it was a policy shift.
CONTINETTI: Well, it`s a policy shift in terms of attitudes toward free trade and protection and the place of, kind of, the working man and woman in the Republican Party. A country club party is changing into a Sam`s Club coal miner party. And Donald Trump saw that transition, and he exploited it.
TODD: The two narratives, it is -- I mean, you look in Trump world and they say, hey, look at all this. You guys are obsessed on Russia. You go on the other side, Ruth, and you`re, like, wait a minute, nothing is working here in Washington. It`s on fire. And everybody is, like, you know, we are living two realities.
RUTH MARCUS, EDITOR-IN-CHEF, "THE WASHINGTON POST": And both realities have some truth to them, right. The Dow is where the Dow is, a bubble or not.
MARCUS: Unemployment is where unemployment is. Fake numbers or not.
TODD: Although, I will tell you, it`s the same economy we`ve had for the last two years. It is what it is.
MARCUS: So, one of the things that I think is amazing is that Donald Trump`s poll numbers, fake poll news numbers, are so low, given the good state of the -- sort of, the positive side of the ledger has a lot of positives in it. A president in an economy like this should be doing better than Donald Trump is. And I think all of that goes to the realities on the other side of the ledger.
TODD: Go ahead.
CAROL LEE, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Well, I was going to say not just Russia but the dysfunction and the questions about whether or not he`s trust worthy, whether or not he`s honest.
That`s really going to hurt. That is partly why I think he is not doing as well in those poll numbers, because people give the president some leeway, in terms of it`s been six months. We`ll give him some time to get some things done but it just looks chaotic.
MARCUS: And the core stays where the core is, though it is -- the numbers suggest that it is dwindling somewhat.
TODD: But only somewhat. I would not sit here and --
MARCUS: A few points, yes.
TODD: Yes, it`s not a lot yet.
MARCUS: But the folks -- there`s a lot of anxious folks in the middle who were Trump cure curious, right. Trump eccentric.
MARCUS: And they`re now Trump anxious.
TODD: Yes. I mean, the approval number is interesting because it`s not really judging job performance. It`s judging the man.
CONTENETTI: It feels character, right? It feels like a character ends (ph).
TODD: I agree.
CONTINETTI: And what Representative Dent was saying, I think, is very real, just in conservative and Republican circles.
TODD: You`ve been experiencing yourself sometimes.
CONTINETTI: It`s -- he is the most polarizing figure in American politics in decades, and so it`s really measuring what -- do you approve of him as a person or not?
CONTINETTI: And the second you begin to try to distinguish -- because I think, actually, a lot of voters, especially in districts like Representative Dent`s, feel -- they try to distinguish between, well, I don`t like certain aspects of his personality or certain actions he takes when it seems off is the wall.
On the other hand, I agree with him on his agenda, then you start getting very mixed reactions.
TODD: But, look, he`s not the first polar -- yes, he`s the most polarizing figure. He was the most polarizing president we had, since President Obama, who was the most polarizing president we had, since President George W. Bush, who was the most polarizing president we had since President Bill Clinton.
I mean, it is this cult of personality mind-set that I feel like politics is organized right now Because what are the Democrats other than anti- Trump right now?
MARCUS: That`s a good question. And I think they are struggling to figure that out. And they are struggling to come up with someone who can lead them out of the Trump wilderness.
But I think that two things can be happening simultaneously, right. We are polarized and polarizing. And as we do that, we are going through this realignment that may be -- may have been happening with or without Trump.
[17:15:08] And we are engaged in this cult of personality. So, the two of those together are what has us so, kind of, perplexed and confused.
I think that one -- you were talking about a lot of this as Trump`s Russia problem.
MARCUS: And Trump does have a Russia problem on many different levels, including with Congress on his, you know, absolute refusal to acknowledge the reality that the intelligence community has said.
But even if Trump didn`t have Russia, Congress would be having a Trump problem with Trump.
TODD: I hear you a little bit. But it is interesting (INAUDIBLE.) Charles Krauthammer wrote today that the Trump presidency is a stress test. But he says America is passing and he went through it in various points.
He went through various bullet points and I -- we shortened them here. Number one, military says no to Trump on the transgender ban. The Senate saves Sessions. Senate Republicans reject the Obamacare repeal. The Boy Scouts protest the police chief`s chide.
There`s always -- so, it`s, on one hand, to the off -- to the folks that think everything is awful, Carol. Look, we -- there are guard rails. It`s a messy process. But there`s a reason we had, frankly, so many guard rails and so many aspects of our government.
LEE: Right. And the -- it`s been fascinating to watch. This president has not had that, kind of, honeymoon that -- even with his own party that you would expect. And it goes to what we were talking about earlier.
LEE: That it`s cult of personality, yes. Yes. It`s also the loyalty that the congressman was talking about.
But it`s been -- it`ll will be -- I think the key is going to be to see how this plays out in the fall. Because what you`ve seen is you`ve had six months of the Congress that really hasn`t faced any must-do tough things. And they really couldn`t get their act together, except this certain way, to oppose the president.
And now, they`re heading into the fall where they all really need each other. And --
TODD: Well, you`re absolutely right. This legislation they have to pass just to keep the (INAUDIBLE.)
LEE: Right, exactly. They`re -- that when they`re -- and they have. And it`s right in September. It`s immediate.
MARCUS: I think that the guard rails have been impressive and I would put into those the courts, the media. The reason why we`re having all of these leaks, keep them coming, has to do with the concern that people inside the government have.
But the real guardrail is Congress. And while we`ve seen some, sort of, glimmerings of revolt, we haven`t seen a willingness to say -- to really, other than threaten and cluck, to say this -- we will really not tolerate this.
TODD: I really think that depends where you stand.
MARCUS: And to follow through on it.
TODD: I`m in -- I am impressed with the number of people that are standing. I mean, (INAUDIBLE.)
MARCUS: Well, they can -- Jeff Flake, yes. But, you know, they can tut- tut. They can warn. Let`s see what they do if a line is crossed.
CONTINETTI: (INAUDIBLE) wanted to stand up to Trump, they couldn`t. Because, again, these trends that predated Trump and they`re continuing through his presidency, the dysfunction of Congress is one of them. Right?
And when you -- I mean, is it a Trump problem? Yes, partly. But it`s also a congressional problem. And the fact of the lack of the power of the committee system, lack of the power of the leadership, all of these predated Trump.
His unique political identity make them all worse. We have three parties, the Democrats, the Republicans and the party of Trump. And figuring out how the Republican Party relates to the party of Trump is kind of the defining issue of our time.
TODD: We may get a test -- a stress test on that in the Arizona Republican Senate primary, that I think could be the single most important election of 2018, oddly enough.
Anyway, let`s pause here. Thanks very much. Matthew, Carol and Ruth, stay with us.
Coming up, Special Counsel Bob Mueller may be accelerating his Russia investigation. I`m going to ask his former chief of staff about how running this investigation is going for him under this mounting criticism from the White House.
We`ll be right back.
TODD: Welcome back. It seemed today like Attorney General Jeff Sessions was holding a press conference for an audience of one, President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: This nation must end this culture of leaks. We will investigate and seek to bring criminals to justice. We will not allow rogue anonymous sources with security clearances to sell out our country.
These cases to investigate and prosecute are never easy, but cases will be made and leakers will be held accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Attorney General Sessions and the director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, said they`re taking new steps to plug leaks of classified information. And they say the administration has tripled the number of investigations involving illegal disclosures.
President Trump, of course, frequently rails against leaks. But the truth is the leaks that bother the president the most aren`t the ones of the classified information. Frankly, they`re the water cooler leaks, the staff infighting leaks, the who`s at dinner with whom leaks.
Those leaks may be embarrassing with the White House. They have nothing to do with classified information. Leaking classified information is actually a crime and it remains a crime.
You know what`s the best way to prevent leaks for any organization? Be a leader that inspires loyalty among staff. Run a tight ship. Cut out the staff infighting. That`s the best way to stop leaks.
The worst way to stop leaks, threaten to stop leaks.
We`ll be right back.
TODD: Welcome back.
As we mentioned at the top of the show, one of the things that appears to be awful for the Trump White House today is the thing they have no control over. The ongoing and apparently expanding Russia investigation.
"The Wall Street Journal" reported last night that Special Counsel Bob Mueller had impaneled his own grand jury here in Washington to focus solely on the growing Russia investigation.
Now, we, here at NBC News, has not confirmed that he has his own panel, but we do know Mueller has been use -- making use of active grand juries in multiple districts, including here in the city of Washington and in northern Virginia.
And those multiple districts are issuing subpoenas for records and documents that are tied to Mueller`s investigation.
Joining me now is John Carlin. He`s a former assistant attorney general and was Special Counsel Bob Mueller`s chief of staff when Mueller was director of the FBI.
Mr. Carlin, thanks for coming in.
JOHN CARLIN, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thank you, Chuck.
TODD: Let me first start with just some facts to help people understand what a grand jury is and what it isn`t. And why a prosecutor needs the tool of a grand jury to do an investigation.
CARLIK: So, a grand jury serves two primary functions. And one is really it is a tool that is used for the investigation. It is how. It is in the name of the grand jury that when subpoenas, documents. And that is the life blood documents of the records like that are the life blood of a complex, white collar investigation.
And, secondly, you use it to lock in the testimony of potential witnesses and find out what happened or what didn`t happen so people testify secretly, under oath, before their peers in front of the grand jury.
And, at the end of the day, the second core function of the grand jury is to determine whether or not you`ve met your burden of probable cause.
[17:25:02] TODD: Right.
CARLIN: And whether indictment is returned.
TODD: Is it fair to say that -- I feel like, in this news, oh, my god, Robert Mueller is impaneled his own grand jury. It would have been news if he wasn`t using a grand jury, correct?
CARLIN: That`s absolutely right. People should take a breath over the fact that someone who`s been assigned, explicitly and openly, one of the most complex type of investigations. If there`s any contact or collusion between Russians and anyone involved in the Trump campaign, as natural as breathing, that a trained prosecutor would use a grand jury to aid them in that investigation.
TODD: All right. I`m not -- well, we haven`t confirmed the idea of impaneling your own. What -- I was told there`s, sort of, two potential reasons why he might want his own. One is just simply volume of work that needs to be done, whether it`s interviews, subpoenas, et cetera.
The other is because of the sensitive nature. And perhaps you don`t -- you kind of want to just protect one grand jury when it comes to dealing with classified information and not have to worry about multiple locations.
What`s the -- what -- is that -- is there any other reason why you would want to have your own, as opposed to using what`s already there?
CARLIN: No, those are the two main reasons. And it`s often -- grand juries, if you`ve ever served on one or had a relative who served on one.
TODD: I haven`t been on one or been interviewed by one, but any way. Yes?
CARLIN: These are -- you know, these are everyday citizens. You get a notice tomorrow in the mail.
Instead of serving on the petite or small jury, which is the one everyone is used to on T.V., you serve on the grand jury. It`s usually for an 18- month period. You don`t meet every day. And for a busy district, they`re hearing a lot of different types of cases simultaneously.
And so, in order to ensure that you have enough time to move quickly on a complex investigation, you might impanel your own.
TODD: All right. Let me ask you about Bob Mueller. He is coming under a lot of public scrutiny. And a lot of attacks coming from just inside the - - from the person he`s investigating. It`s -- it can`t be a comfortable place to be. How`s he holding up?
CARLIN: Well, without talking about any -- I`ll talk generally.
TODD: Fair enough.
CARLIN: Bob Mueller, former Marine, a lifelong prosecutor who, after having one of the highest positions you can have in the Democratic of justice, went briefly to private practice. Didn`t like it. Chose to return to the line to do local homicides here in D.C.
TODD: I`ve heard that story. Literally, he said, no, I`ll go in the back of the line. I don`t need to do that. I just want to be here. It was a remarkable part of his career.
CARLIN: I served in that same office. We all heard about him when we were doing homicide prosecutors. And almost every day, when I was chief of staff, at least once a day, he said, I wish I was back doing that. Where you`re just going after the facts, figuring out who did it and trying to hold them accountable.
This is not someone who cares a lot about what`s going on with the whispers and rumors in Washington.
TODD: All right. But let me ask you this. Can it take a toll? Can it take a toll on your investigation with the grand jury? Can -- do you know what I mean? It`s, like, you can`t -- I get that it may not impact him, because you just outlined his nature.
But it -- you must be concerned, as a former prosecutor, how this stuff can impact just as a whole?
CARLIN: Well, look, I think there are career investigators and prosecutors that are working on this type of case. And the subject matter, the idea that Russia tried to undermine our core democracy by interfering in this election is very serious. And something that has nothing to do with what party you`re in, but everything to do with what it is to be American.
And make no mistake, Putin ultimately -- he hates democracy. He views it as an existential threat to the Russia regime. And that`s consistent with what he`s tried to do here in the United States, what he`s been trying to do to our European allies.
And so, one thing I think you`ve seen more recently is it`s nice to see, in a bipartisan way, that people -- for people to say, hey, we may have our debates as American over -- as Americans over policy, et cetera. That ends when it comes to an adversary like this.
TODD: We think.
Anyway, Mr. Carlin, I appreciate you coming in and sharing your views.
CARLIN: Thank you.
TODD: Coming up later this hour, we`re going to look at whether H.R. McMaster is getting the Reince Priebus treatment right now from the Trump team.
Plus, why August can be the coolest month for politicians and why this year may be no exception.
And, of course, if it`s Sunday, a special edition of "MEET THE PRESS." We`re going to take a closer look at our broken politics. More of the root causes of why every week seems insane right now in Washington. Republican Senator Jeff Flake and California`s Governor Jerry Brown will be among my guests.
We`ll be right back.
CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS DAILY SHOW HOST: Tonight on MSNBC, don`t miss the latest installment of "On Assignment with Richard Engel." Richard will have an exclusive interview with a former top American diplomat to Beijing, who quit because of President Trump`s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.
You can check that out at 9:00 Eastern right here on MSNBC. Still ahead on "MTP Daily," one senator on our health care fights on Capitol Hill and at home. But first, it`s jobs Friday. Wow, I was told there was a surprise. Contessa Brewer.
CONTESSA BREWER, GENERAL ASSIGNMENT REPORTER, CNBC: Are you surprised?
TODD: First of all, welcome back to the family. Great to have you.
BREWER: Yes. You know, I wasn`t really gone. I was just visiting elsewhere.
TODD: I know you were. It means I get to run into you again, and that`s good news for me.
BREWER: Yes. Nice to see you, Chuck. I feel like I should take a selfie right now of the split screen and just capture. Let me get you updated on what`s the market is doing today, finishing higher following today`s strong jobs report. The Dow gained 66 points, reaching a record high for the eighth straight day. The S&P added four. The Nasdaq is up is 11. Cannot keep it down.
Across the board a positive reaction to a better than expected jobs report. And the economy added 209,000 jobs in July. The food service industry saw the biggest gains, adding 53,000 jobs. The unemployment rate ticked down to 4.3 percent. That`s the lowest since March 2001. The U.S. trade deficit dropped almost 6 percent in June bolstered by the highest levels of exports in two and a half years. And that`s a wrap up for me at CNBC, first in business worldwide.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: We`re trying to convey to the North Koreans we are not your enemy. We`re not your threat, but you are presenting an unacceptable threat to us. And we have to respond.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Welcome back. Amid North Korea`s growing nuclear ambition, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson this week made a bold diplomatic offer suggesting the U.S. is ready for direct talks. But at the same time, the U.S. military successfully test launched their own ICBM from California. If things ever went very sour, one state that potentially could sit in the crosshairs first is Hawaii.
They`re actually now the first state to publicly begin preparing for the possibility that a missile could hit the state. In fact, the state`s emergency management agency recently released new guidance on what people should do in case this happens. And they`re starting to test a new warning system that could alert people to an attack through sirens. Now, officials there are clear, however, that right now there is of course no need to panic.
Well, joining me now is Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. Senator, thanks for being here.
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: Good to be here.
TODD: I know you are on your own health journey here.
TODD: I want to talk about that in a little bit. Let me start with the threat from North Korea. As Hawaii senator, do you feel as if North Korea is a direct threat to Hawaii right now?
HIRONO: Believe me, I have had many conversations with Admiral Harris, the pacific commander as to really, you know, what is the danger that Hawaii faces. But the danger that Hawaii faces is a danger that our entire country would face, not to mention Alaska.
And so of course we have to make sure that we have a really good missile defense system in place. We`re putting together a radar system for Hawaii and we`re going to do everything we can to make sure that we are protected.
TODD: What do you want to see happen? It was unclear this week, what is the United States policy? Is it regime change? Is it, you know, Rex Tillerson said not regime change. But not everybody believes that that should be the policy. Where are you on this?
HIRONO: I don`t know how a regime change would be effective. As you can see, we don`t have a very good track record doing that. And so I don`t think that should be our policy. But clearly, North Korea is very complicated, and I don`t think we have a meeting of the minds because Kim Jong-un thinks that we`re going to attack North Korea, whereas we haven`t given no evidence of that.
We think that they`re going to attack us so, sure, I think Secretary Tillerson saying that why don`t we come together and try to have a meeting of the minds, that`s good. At the same time, diplomatic route, I think, is really the way to go. We still have some sanctions that we can apply.
TODD: Well, I was just going to say though, on the military front, yes, there`s a lot of some would call it saber-rattling. Where you had some that say, whether we have a military response or not, we need to prepare to have a military response. Why are you on that when it comes to North Korea?
HIRONO: You can`t say that any option is off the table, but I very much agree with Secretary of Defense Mattis that clearly the military route is the last thing we ought to do, that we should pursue all other routes including sanctions, including encouraging China to do more, including possibly even Russia, although our relationship is not so good.
But nonetheless, every other avenues because if we take military action, I think that would result in the death of thousands and thousands and thousands of people.
TODD: I`ve got to ask about Hawaii state government has been on the front lines of challenging this president`s authority and initiative when it comes to -- particularly when it it comes to some immigration policy.
TODD: Explain why it has been -- why there`s more unity in Hawaii against some of these proposals than there are in say other states.
HIRONO: Hawaii is definitely a state that really made up of waves of immigrants that came to work on our plantations. And yes, we do have the native people there, and that`s the cultural underpinnings of the state of Hawaii.
So we understand the importance of immigration policies. That`s why I`m really proud that our attorney general went ahead and filed one of the first challenges to the president`s executive order, which we call and characterize as a Muslim ban.
TODD: Is there any part of what he`s trying to do in restrictive natures in vetting that you do support?
HIRONO: I can`t think of any, really, because I think most of his policies are very ill thought out, the ramifications of it. I think it shows a real bias against minorities, and that`s not ever anything that I could support.
TODD: When -- a lot was made when Senator McCain came back with his health challenge. Got a lot of attention. At the same time, you`ve been dealing with your own challenge and you had to make an extra effort and disrupt your own care in order to get back in time for this health care vote. You know, both -- give me an update here. I know it`s kidney cancer.
TODD: How is it going and where are you headed next?
HIRONO: Well, I`m really glad that I was able to be diagnosed with it. It was totally (INAUDIBLE) because my diagnosis came out when I was preparing for a whole another surgery for which I have to get a full exam, physical exam.
TODD: In a weird way --
HIRONO: I would never have found out about it if I wasn`t for another surgery.
TODD: It would have been too late.
HIRONO: It could have been too late because my cancer is already stage four, which meant that it went from a primary site which is my kidney to my rib. And I think if it had -- if I had left it longer, it could have gone to other parts of my body and that would have been really bad.
So, I`m grateful that it was discovered although I have to say that having a cancer diagnosis threw me for a loop because I thought major illnesses only happened to other people. I truly thought that because I had never been hospitalized in my life except for age 17, and that was a false alarm.
TODD: Going through this, have you learned something about our health care system that says, OK, now I think we got to go -- you know, when you go through it yourself --
TODD: -- does it give you a different agenda when you come back when it comes to health care?
HIRONO: I`ve been a vocal supporter of health care as a right, not a privilege for years and years and years. And I mean, for my own life as an immigrant and then growing up in this country with my mother who didn`t have health insurance and, you know, she had a low paying job, so my greatest fear growing up was really that she would get sick. And how could we go to the doctor, so from a very early age, I knew the importance of staying healthy and being able to have care when necessary.
But, yes, my own diagnosis lent a tremendous immediacy to the debate. Hearing from literally thousands of people from Hawaii, 20,000 people or so contacted me to say don`t take away my health care. It is important to everybody. But as I said, certain immediacy to what so many people in our country are going through.
TODD: Thanks for coming in and sharing your view.
HIRONO: Thank you.
TODD: Be safe going home. Just ahead, T.S. Eliot said April is the cruelest month, but T.S. Eliot wasn`t a politician. Try August, buddy. We`ll be right back.
TODD: Welcome back. Tonight, I`m obsessed with the idea that August is a slow news month. No, wrong. August is the month where presidents dreams go to die. The August 2011, debt ceiling fight leads to a downgrade in the U.S. credit rating and President Obama`s approval rating hits a new low.
August 2009, Tea Party protests sabotage support for Obamacare. August 2005, President Bush`s sluggish response to hurricane "Katrina" permanently damage his standing with the public. August 2001, President Bush receives a classified review of intelligence entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." August 1998, President Clinton testifies before grand jury. August 1974, President Nixon resigns. August 1968, police attack protesters outside the democratic national convention in Chicago.
So sure congress can go home. Psychiatrists can disappear for a month. You can head to the beach, but don`t be surprised if the political world gets turned on its head again, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water. We`ll be right back.
TODD: Welcome back. Time for "The Lid." It seems that National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster has become the administration official that the Trump base and the far right media loves to hate right now. Why? Well, McMaster has ousted three national security council staffers in recent days, and he`s concluded that Susan Rice did nothing wrong in terms of unmasking.
Well, that was enough to bring the (INAUDIBLE) out. The same forces who consistently went after Reince Priebus seem to now see -- they would like to see McMaster go. And we`ve even heard talk that President Trump is considering moving McMaster, whose only been in that role for six months, to Afghanistan to oversee the war there. Hey get his fourth star is the way it`s talked about.
The panel is back. Matthew Continetti, Carol Lee, Ruth Marcus. Carol, how precarious is McMaster`s position right now in the White House?
CAROL LEE, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, NBC NEWS: It`s very unclear. It`s precarious in the sense that it`s just not clear where this is headed because he for the first time since he came in, his status is -- he`s openly being questioned. The leaks. There`s when this rumor started to really heat up a few weeks ago that McMaster may replace the commander in Afghanistan. His folks knew and thought it was coming from Steve Bannon.
LEE: They were really irritated. You know, he -- this goes back to, you remember, McMaster came in and made the early decision to revoke Steve Bannon`s permanent seat on the national security council.
LEE: And so that -- there`s the root. And then it just kind if went from there and you`ve seen the president, yes, he withdrew from the Paris agreement, but, you know, they convinced him to re-certify the Iran nuclear deal and other things that where he`s won and where it`s really the (INAUDIBLE) really is right now is Afghanistan.
TODD: Check out though just in the last 24 hours what some conservative media that are very sympathetic to Bannon had done to McMaster. His Breitbard. Multiple stories going after him. Who was the last editorial director there? Steve Bannon. So unloading on him.
The leak of this letter that McMaster wrote to Susan Rice that allowed her to keep her security clearance so she could refer to memos that she wrote. Sort of standard book writing stuff. Matthew, what is going on here in that community? Is this a Trump base like McMaster is now -- being seated by the Bannon world?
MATTHEW CONTINETTI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, WASHINGTON FREE BEACON: Personnel fight, but I also think Carol is right to say that there is actually a policy dimension to this. We understand that, you know, President Trump seems very concerned about the American position in Afghanistan. Upset about the status of our forces there and almost approaching the 17th year of war. What is the end state?
TODD: Perfectly reasonable. I mean, two presidents in a row have not liked that.
CONTINETTI: He`s hearing from foreign policy professionals the necessity to stay there. It`s also Iran deal, also China. Remember, we`re supposed to have an announcement of a more aggressive trade foster towards China. That was delayed. And so the friction is not only inside the west wing, it`s also between the president and the national security advisor.
TODD: Personnel policy.
RUTH MARCUS, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think that`s exactly right. I think McMaster`s biggest problem isn`t with Bannon and isn`t with outside forces gunning for him. It`s that he and the president are not really working together well. There`s a terrific piece by colleague, Paul Rocker (ph), about this. That`s online right now.
He talks about, he quotes somebody talking about how the president has a two-minute attention span and McMaster is somebody who is providing the president with information someone told me in ways that it`s not comfortable for the president to gather it and take it in. So, the president is frustrated I`m told with the way McMaster is delivering information to him. That`s a problem.
TODD: Carol, I don`t think John Kelly would like to see McMaster go.
TODD: OK. I don`t think anybody would advise the president that he want to be on his third national security advisor before the end of the year either. This is a tricky problem for them.
LEE: It`s a very tricky problem. How it shakes down, I think -- I know referring back to this Afghanistan -- but I think what`s really significant is going to continue to be significant. If McMaster can survive that, then I think he`ll be OK. But, you know, yes, it would be unusual to have your third national security advisor but with this president, I don`t think that would be such a surprise.
MARCUS: Worse than unusual, really destabilizing and just about the last thing that -- what Trump would like right now are all of us to do stories and columns that say it`s a whole new happy world in Trump land now and General Kelly has come in and everything is stable. That would not go with that narrative.
TODD: That said, if you`re going to make change I think because you just brought in a chief of staff, you`re still in the oh, I`m assessing how things are working window.
LEE: I also would say that even if the president was to get rid of McMaster, there`s a bunch of loyal people to McMaster now in the National Security Council. You still have this divide. They are not only are loyal to him, but they also agree with the policies that he`s putting forward. You would still have the same problem.
TODD: Matthew, discuss your point.
CONTINETTI: There`s a divide.
TODD: There`s actually a policy divide.
CONTINETTI: This is the president you remember who rebels against structure, right? So, now he has General Kelly trying to impose some discipline in terms of actually who has access to the oval office. The structure of the NSC may be too much structure for President Trump.
TODD: All right. I`m going to leave it there. Another crazy week. After the break. Thank you. After the break, a totally outrageous election result. Wait until you see this one. We`ll be right back.
TODD: In case you missed it, maybe viewers of this show would never admit it, but a lot of people don`t vote. What if your town had an election and no one showed up? Well, in case you missed it, McIntire, Iowa had a zero percent voter turnout in their special election on Tuesday.
That was not misstatement, zero. McIntire, just a 140 miles away from Des Moines, has a population of 110. Their 70 registered voters had two ballot issues to decide on last Tuesday. Proposition A, change the mayor`s term from two years to four years. Proposition B, change the council members` term from two years to four years.
County auditor had to issue a document with a blank tally because no one showed up to vote. Yes, that means not even the current mayor or the council members in question made their way to the polls. We know this for a fact because we called the county to check because we were worried this might be fake news.
As for the poll workers who did diligently manned their post for nine hours, they were from the next town over and couldn`t vote. What happens when no one shows up to vote? Well, in this case, of this special election, no one voted in favor of extending the terms of the officials. So, they shall remain the same. This is in Iowa of all places. You want to pick our president. Come on, man.
That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back Monday with more "MTP Daily." Of course, if it`s Sunday, catch "Meet the Press" on your local NBC station. "The Beat with Ari Melber" though starts right now. Ari, take it away.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END