Show: MTP DAILY Date: December 27, 2017 Guest: David French, Beth Fouhy, Chris Kofinis
DAVID GURA, MSNBC HOST: -- Apple for Bloomberg News. That does it for this hour. I`m David Gura. MTP DAILY starts now.
I was talking planned obsolescence and the need for an upgrade. Katy Tur is in for Chuck. Hi, Katy.
KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: What? I -- what?
TUR: I feel like there was an insult in there.
GURA: There was no insult.
TUR: No? Wait, hold on. Are you saying I`m an upgrade?
TUR: To the 4:00 p.m.?
GURA: Exactly. So it`s self-deprecating.
TUR: I can stack my papers better than you do.
GURA: I -- well done. I can hear it.
TUR: David, thanks very much. Let`s get on to the news.
If it`s Wednesday, to embrace or to impeach? That is the question.
Good evening. I`m Katy Tur in New York, in for Chuck Todd. Welcome to MTP DAILY.
Guys, when it comes to the big battles facing Congress next year, everything is going to be viewed through a Trump lens. Whether it`s DACA, infrastructure, government funding, Russia or -- you name it.
And we end 2017 with Republicans warming to Trump and Democrats warming to the idea of his resignation -- or his impeachment. Republicans are heading into 2018 with most of their Trump critics purged from the party or converted to Trump allies or both.
Take Senator Bob Corker, for example. He called the White House an adult daycare center. He said he wouldn`t support the President`s tax plan if it raised the deficit by a penny. He said he was leaving the Senate. Then he voted for the tax plan and talked about his newfound empathy for the President.
Or take Lindsey Graham. He went from calling Mr. Trump a kook who is unfit for office to now complaining when people call the President a kook who is unfit for office. You can`t make this stuff up.
Or take the Trump love fest after the GOP passed the tax bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE: It has been a year of extraordinary accomplishment for the Trump administration.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Exquisite presidential leadership.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), CALIFORNIA: We would not be standing here today if it wasn`t for you.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: This is one of the great privileges of my life, to stand here on the White House lawn with the President of the United States who I love and appreciate so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Moments ago, President Trump made an impromptu visit to the West Palm Beach fire station where he touted the tax bill as part of a historic first year on the job.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have signed more legislation than anybody. We broke the record of Harry Truman. And I was saying, if we get this big tax break -- because that`s the legislation of all legislation.
We have more legislation as -- including the record of Harry Truman. That`s a long time ago, and we broke that record.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: We`re not sure where this comes from because he has not broken the record for signing bills in his first year. Forget Truman! He trails Clinton, Bush, and Obama in their first years.
But as the President touts his agenda, there`s a wave building against it from the other side. Because if Republicans have learned to stop worrying and embrace Mr. Trump, the evolution in the Democratic Party has dramatically gone the other way, much to the frustration of its leadership.
Fifty-eight House Democrats voted to advance impeachment. A few were even suggesting he is mentally unfit. And many of the party`s rising stars in the Senate want the President to basically self-impeach by resigning, but Democratic leaders don`t want to talk about the President`s impeachment or his resignation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: The left of our party is still annoyed with me for not impeaching President Bush for going into Iraq. What could be worse than that? It`s not some place that I think we should go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: So when you think about the enormous to-do list facing Congress in an election year, think about these three questions. How desperate is the GOP to stand with the President? How motivated is the Democratic Party to stand against him? And what do their bases want because, often in politics, if the people lead, the leaders will follow.
We`re going to talk with members on both sides of the aisle. Joining me now is Kentucky Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D), KENTUCKY: My pleasure, Katy.
TUR: What exactly does the Democratic Party stand for in 2018, working with Donald Trump or impeaching Donald Trump?
YARMUTH: Well, we don`t stand for impeaching President Trump. I think there are a lot of us, myself included, who believe that Donald Trump has committed impeachable offenses, but that doesn`t mean that impeachment is a reasonable thing to pursue.
Particularly, we`re not in the majority so we`re not going to get it passed in the House. It takes two-thirds in the Senate. We`d never get close to that if we`ve got an impeachment resolution passed, so it would just be a waste of time.
On the other hand, I think it is appropriate for us to keep talking about the fact that this man deserves to be impeached. And he has -- I mean, in my case, the one thing that stands out for me is when he threatened to revoke T.V. licenses over questionable -- content that was questionable to him. To me, that`s an abuse of power that rises to an impeachable offense.
But that doesn`t mean that we`re going to spend any time talking about it - -
TUR: Well, hold on. Hold on.
YARMUTH: -- because, again, it can`t work and we end --
TUR: I`m -- I want to --
TUR: I`m trying to follow you here. You introduced Articles of Impeachment but then you tabled them. So are you saying that you need --
YARMUTH: Actually --
TUR: -- to introduce --
YARMUTH: Actually, I didn`t.
TUR: You didn`t?
YARMUTH: Go ahead, I`m sorry. No, I voted to --
TUR: You did not?
YARMUTH: I voted to table, yes.
TUR: Yes, but you also --
YARMUTH: I`m sorry.
TUR: -- introduced them.
YARMUTH: Right. I co-sponsored it, a different resolution.
TUR: Yes, so here`s my question. Here`s my question.
TUR: So if you`re co-sponsoring a resolution to introduce them and you`re also tabling them, is this trying to have your cake and eat it too? Are you trying to say, yes, we should talk about impeachment, which you just were talking about a moment ago, but at the same time, it`s not worthwhile to even try impeachment? It seems like those are in conflict with each other.
YARMUTH: Well, we don`t have the power to do it, and we don`t have the votes to do it, so we`ll never get an impeachment resolution to the floor. Now, if we take the majority back, that may be a different story with the power to get one to --
TUR: Well, do you think maybe you should run in 2018 on trying to impeach the President? Is that your goal?
YARMUTH: Well, that becomes a tactical consideration, and I think most of our leadership in -- at least in the House side have said, we don`t want to rile up the Republican vote.
Right now, we have a huge energy advantage. And you know, the -- our voters are telling us every day, our base is saying, go after him, impeach him. Please do.
YARMUTH: But -- yes. But that`s not going to help us win back control of the House.
TUR: Well, four in 10 --
YARMUTH: So that`s a political tactic.
TUR: Well, four in 10 of Democratic voters --
YARMUTH: That`s a political tactic.
TUR: -- want to impeach Donald Trump. Seven in 10, I`m sorry, Democrats want to impeach Donald Trump.
TUR: That`s a lot of Democratic voters. If you are -- if you`re looking to ride this wave, do you disagree with the leadership when they say we shouldn`t be running on this?
YARMUTH: No, I agree with the leadership. We shouldn`t be running on it.
YARMUTH: We should be running on how we make lives better for the American people. And we ought to be running on things like clean air and water and the fact that this administration is trying to undermine that.
We ought to be running on making voting expanded, not constricted. We ought to be running, again, on a fair tax code, not one that benefits the very wealthiest Americans.
We ought to be running on infrastructure because that`s how you do create jobs. We ought to be running on doing something about student debt, which is one of the greatest impediments to a dynamic economy we have right now.
And these are all things, by the way, that we could have done with that $1.5 trillion worth of borrowing that we`re going to do because of this tax bill.
TUR: Are you also going to run on the idea that Congress can work together, can have bipartisanship, can bridge the gap between the two parties and not just do this ping-pong effect that we`re seeing where one party controls Congress and rams through their legislation without any support from the other side?
YARMUTH: It would be wonderful we had -- if we had that kind of environment. And I understand you`re going to have Charlie Dent on later. And Charlie is one of those people who is easy to work with across lines. Unfortunately, he`s leaving the House. But there are a lot of us who talk with --
TUR: Well, but you have some time. You have some time in the next year and that leads to the next question.
YARMUTH: Right. Right.
TUR: Before 2018, is there anything that you see your party being able to work with Donald Trump on, any compromise you can make?
YARMUTH: Well, I think infrastructure is the perfect opportunity for us to do that. And, of course, immigration reform as well.
I was on the -- part of the gang of eight in 2013 that worked on comprehensive immigration reform. I know we can work on a bipartisan measure to do that because we actually did it. But -- so there is -- there are plenty of opportunities for us to do that.
You know, this tax bill was bizarre because, unlike the Affordable Care Act when we begged Republicans to work on it with us, they wouldn`t let us work on tax reform with them.
And it is unfortunate because to have the sustained confidence of the American people and to build confidence in Congress, we`re going to have to do things in a bipartisan way. It can`t be to the victor goes the spoils all the time.
TUR: Congressman Yarmuth, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
YARMUTH: Thanks for having me. Thanks for having me.
TUR: Happy New Year.
YARMUTH: Happy New Year to you.
TUR: Thank you. Let`s turn to Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Charlie Dent.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. Let`s talk about the Republican Party. On ABC "This Week," you said that the party -- the loyalty for -- to President Trump is now the litmus test for 2018. If that is the case, do you still consider yourself a Republican?
REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, absolutely. I`m a member -- Katy, I`m a member of the Lincoln wing of the Republican Party. You know, we`re the party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, the Bushes. So, no, I`m a proud Republican.
But I do think the party has got to -- has to basically take stock of itself right now. I am concerned that both political parties are taking on these isolationist, protectionist, and, at times, nativist inclinations, which I believe is very unhealthy.
I mean, right -- and I have always said, too, you know, prior to Donald Trump, you know, we had a litmus test for the Republican Party. It was those who were -- there was -- there were people out there, the chiefs of the purity police, who are always trying to enforce some kind of doctrinaire conformity. You had to be ideologically pure. And I was always part of the pragmatic wing.
So the battle is between the purists and the pragmatists. Now that Donald Trump is President, you know, he is not ideological, and now that -- the litmus test has really moved towards loyalty to the man.
TUR: So is it pragmatism versus --
DENT: And it`s not just loyalty to the President --
TUR: -- versus the cult of personality?
DENT: Yes, although, you know, you can make a case that Donald Trump is, you know, pragmatic to a fault. Practically. So, yes, this --
TUR: Is he pragmatic to a fault? Is it pragmatic to go after leaders of your own party when they`re trying to get legislation through?
DENT: No, no. That`s just --
TUR: Is it pragmatic to demonize --
DENT: No, that`s --
TUR: -- Democrats and make itself --
DENT: No, that`s just --
TUR: -- impossible then for them to work with them?
DENT: No. No, going after leaders of your own party is just stupid. It`s not pragmatic.
DENT: But the point is that -- I guess that I`m trying to make is that, really, right now, though, I`ve said that people felt -- people will say you need to be loyal to the President who doesn`t always inspire party loyalty. Let`s face it.
You know, he`s nominally Republican just as Bernie Sanders was -- well, he`s not even a Democrat, and he, more or less, has taken over the Democratic Party.
So that`s where we are in this country. I do think that the parties are re-aligning as we speak right under our feet. I mean, nobody is really sure how this is going to sort itself out, but this will realignment may --
TUR: Is there going to room for those -- I`m sorry to interrupt. Is there going be room for those who might disagree with the President going forward in the Republican Party?
DENT: Well, I don`t know about that. I mean, look, we`re going to have a midterm election. That`s going to settle a lot of things. The President is still very popular among the Republican base -- or at least recently popular among the Republican base.
The challenge is, for a lot of members who represent districts like mine, I`ll say swing districts or marginal districts, you know, it`s -- you know, attaching yourself to the President is really not going to be a very smart thing to do in the midterm election in these swing marginal districts in the northeast. And I can find suburban districts in California and Chicago and Minneapolis where I wouldn`t either.
But, you know, the President will probably be an asset to candidates who are representing ruby red districts, but then again, those seats aren`t going to be really heavily contested. So that`s the lay of the land.
TUR: Let`s talk about the future of the Republican Party. You said last week also -- last weekend that the Republican Party is alienating minority voters, Hispanics, African-Americans. Also alienating women voters. Is there a way for the Republican Party to lure them back in, to entice them to vote for the GOP if Donald Trump is still at the top of the ticket?
DENT: Well, often, the President`s incendiary rhetoric, you know -- we had, you know, the Charlottesville situation. Some of the comments he had made previously about Hispanics and Mexicans were, obviously, very unhelpful. There are obviously issues with women.
I think, right now, what we can do as a party, we should move forward aggressively on this Dreamer/DACA issue, you know, attached to some reasonable border security measures. That would do -- that would show that, I think, we are sincere in trying to work with many folks. That`s something.
I also happen to believe we should probably reauthorize the Voting Rights Act to conform with the Supreme Court decision from a few years ago.
There`s things like that that we can do to show that we are a party of inclusion, not exclusion, and that we`re about addition and not subtraction. I worry that there are too many voices in our party.
When I hear that nativist, isolationist, protectionist movement, that really speaks to exclusion, and I think that is very unhealthy for our party. And to be fair, I see that same thing happening with Democrats at times too.
TUR: Had your party voted on DACA or had Congress voted on DACA before the recess, do you think your party would have voted it up or down?
DENT: Well, I believe we`re going to vote on DACA shortly in the -- early in the New Year. I now believe it will have --
TUR: So you`re going to vote it up?
DENT: Oh, I believe it`s going to -- I believe it will pass. I believe there are 300 votes to pass some kind of relief for the so-called Dreamers or DACA individuals, children. I believe they`ll be 300 votes for that. I`m not saying there -- I`m not saying it will be a majority, the majority of Republicans, but I think they`ll be one hell of a lot of Republicans who will vote for that.
TUR: I was talking to Marc Caputo, who used to be with the Trump campaign, a little bit earlier today, and I asked him whether or not there was a deep state or whether Donald Trump believes there is a deep state. He`s going after the FBI a lot. He`s going after the DOJ.
And Marc Caputo said yes, that he believes there`s a deep state -- I`m sorry, Michael Caputo. My mistake. He believes there is a deep state and so does the President. Do you believe there`s a deep state?
DENT: No, I`ve never really bought into that. It strikes me as a bit of a conspiracy theory. You know, everybody`s got to take a deep breath. You know, you just had my friend, John Yarmuth, and you`re talking about impeachment.
I remember going through issues now with George Bush, when Dennis Kucinich would go to the floor with impeachment articles and then we had Republicans going to impeach -- with impeachment articles to the floor over the IRS Commissioner. And now we have Democrats coming to the floor over Donald Trump.
They all need to take a deep breath. Let Director Mueller do his job. We should respect and support the FBI. There are members of the -- there are agents in the FBI with political opinions. They should try to keep them to themselves, but the point is they`re good, professional people.
And I don`t like all these attacks on the FBI. I don`t buy into all this conspiracy theory out there that some are advancing. We shouldn`t be doing that as Republicans.
TUR: Congressman, with all due respect, you`re leaving. You`re not going to try to get re-elected. You`re one of the moderate Republicans. How do you expect things to get better, for everyone to take a deep breath, when folks like you, the moderate wing of your party, the ones who say, let`s take a deep breath, are leaving?
DENT: Well, you know, like I said, I`ve been in the arena now for 28 years. I did 14 years in my state legislature -- it was a pretty tough place there -- and, you know, 14 years in Congress. Twenty years is a long time, but I think I can advance many of the issues I believe in from a different place. And I intend to continue to bring voice to these issues.
I`m not going to get out of the game entirely here, but, you know, I -- you know, I`ve run for office 13 times. No sane person should run for office more than 13 times, but it does seem like the right time for me not just on a professional level but on a personal level.
TUR: Where are you going?
DENT: That`s a good question. I`ve been, you know, talking to a number of folks, and I continue to, you know, just, you know, feel it out. All I can say, there`s a lot of opportunity out there in this world. And, you know, a lot of people talk to me, and there`s plenty of opportunities. That`s all I can really tell you.
TUR: OK, all right.
DENT: I don`t have anything definitive set up yet, but when I do, I`ll let you know.
TUR: Please do. Congressman Charlie Dent, thank you so much. Happy New Year.
DENT: Happy New Year.
TUR: And coming up, dramatic revolutions about sexual harassment in the Department of Justice. Is the government handling the cases properly?
And here`s your MTP DAILY weather update. It snowed in Erie, Pennsylvania. Snowed a whole lot.
Parts of Pennsylvania and upstate New York were pummeled by more than five feet of lake-effect snow, shattering the record. And it`s still not over. Forecasters say another five to 10 inches are expected by tonight. Back in a moment.
TUR: There`s new attention today on an Inspector General report from May that found, quote, potential systemic issues in the way the Department of Justice deals with sexual harassment complaints.
The DOJ says it is looking at the issues outlined in the report and that a working group will be issuing recommendations for action soon.
The Department`s response comes after a "Washington Post" report today highlighted the Inspector General`s findings, including 19 substantiated allegations of sexual harassment made in recent years.
The "Post" highlighted additional examples of misconduct including, quote, a U.S. attorney who had a sexual relationship with a subordinate and sent harassing texts and e-mails when it ended, a civil division lawyer who groped the breast and buttocks of two female trial attorneys, and a chief deputy U.S. Marshal who had sex with approximately nine women on multiple occasions in his U.S. Marshal`s service office.
The Inspector General report also says that supervisors have mishandled harassment complaints and that perpetrators are often not being punished appropriately.
We`ll be right back with more MTP DAILY in 60 seconds.
TUR: Welcome back. Let`s get right to tonight`s panel. David French is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute. Beth Fouhy is senior political editor right here at MSNBC News. And Democratic strategist, Chris Kofinis.
Guys, welcome. I don`t know if you were paying attention -- I hope you were -- to the A block and the two congressmen that I was interviewing, but doesn`t that just sum it up?
The Democrat staying in office says Donald Trump has done impeachable things, and the Republican leaving office says he says stupid things -- Donald Trump says stupid things and that he believes in conspiracy theories. Where do we go from here, David?
DAVID FRENCH, SENIOR FELLOW, NATIONAL REVIEW INSTITUTE: Well, you know, I think what we`re -- what we`ve got is a situation where increasing numbers of Americans are looking at a president who is sitting on top of peace and a degree of prosperity, with some economic growth, the defeat of the ISIS caliphate, and are sick to death of him, are tired of him.
His approval ratings are historically low, and it -- I don`t think it`s because if you look at the policy record. I think it`s if you look at who he is.
He is such a polarizing figure. And while he`s got a degree of base support, right now, we`re going into 2018 with an election that may be a referendum on a man sitting on peace and prosperity but that voters just are tired of dealing with and may want to send a message.
TUR: So, Beth, we have a humming economy as David just alluded to. We have a tax bill that will put money in people`s pockets -- maybe not as much for most people as the rich are getting but will put money in people`s pockets. The caliphate is no longer as large and dangerous as it once was. Maybe it`s still pretty dangerous, though.
And yet there -- this President has historically low approval ratings. So which party would be rather be going into 2018, the Republicans or Democrats?
BETH FOUHY, NBC NEWS SENIOR POLITICS EDITOR: Yes. I mean, pollsters, Katy, will tell you they`ve never seen this before, that sitting on all of that good news that you just outlined, why this president has such low approval ratings. We know, you know, Political Science 101, if the economy is good, the President is popular. That is not the case with this President.
And as David was pointing out, he is -- President Trump is just very divisive. He is picking fights all the time. He has really weaponized Twitter in a way that is just making people completely exhausted.
Plus, some of these scandals are really starting to take their toll on him, despite the fact that he casts the Mueller probe as fake news and such. People are starting to really wonder what went on in this campaign, why he is trying to demonize FBI agents.
They are seeing something in him that they don`t like, and it goes beyond his management of the economy or his management of foreign policy. You`re seeing a character question --
FOUHY: -- that`s bothering them, and that`s why they started to look at other options.
TUR: I will say, over the weekend, I took off the notifications on my phone.
TUR: Then I went back and read Donald Trump`s tweets all at one time in one sitting from the -- from three days yesterday, just read through them all.
And it was surprising the amount of -- when you see it all in one place, the amount of look over here and blame that guy and everyone is out to get me and the victimhood that he exhibits just on Twitter alone, let alone with his statements. And I wonder how that reads to just the average American who is curious about what the President cares about on a daily basis and goes to his Twitter feed.
That being said, the Democrats have got to run on something, Chris. And 2018 is going to be difficult even if they have this momentum because of what`s going on with gerrymandering and just difficult because we just can`t tell where the polling is really going in any of these places. Reliably, at least.
So do Democrats need to try and work with this President to show that they are not just obstructionists as the Republicans would like to paint them?
CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That`s a tough one because I think you have a certain segment of the Democratic Party that doesn`t want to work with Trump under any circumstances. You have some others, more so in the Senate, more on the center side that, I think, are open to, you know, selectively working with him when there`s a piece of legislation that can be made better.
But I think the problem that Democrats have, you know, if you take, you know, for example, my old boss, Senator Manchin from West Virginia -- here is someone who actually wanted to work with the Republicans on the tax bill and was completely shut out by Senate Republicans and the President. So at some point, there`s no use working with the other side if the other side doesn`t want to work with you.
I think the big challenge for Democrats going into the midterm elections is they can`t just simply be anti-Trump. That will, I think, excite enough of the base, and you`re seeing that play out, I think, in Alabama, in Virginia, in other races. But you also have to offer an alternative.
I think the good thing is the tax bill, I think, plays right into the narrative that Democrats want to run on, which is, here is a party and here is a president that when all of the rhetoric and politics of the last election were put aside, what did he do? He made -- he created a tax bill that benefited corporations and the very wealthy again.
And so, that, I think, will be kind of the tip of the iceberg for that kind of debate going into `18.
TUR: Well, look at infrastructure and look at DACA. There might be a large segment of the Democratic population that does not want to work with Donald Trump regardless, but when you have something like the Dreamers, Beth, with the 800,000 or so young people in this country that their status is up in the air, what`s going to happen to them?
Do Democrats find themselves between a rock and hard place? If they`re going to protect those Dreamers, if they`re going to stand up for their rights as they have said they will, are they going to have to make some concessions to this President like, say, funding for a wall?
FOUHY: Well, your guest in the previous block, Congressman Dent, the Republican, he seemed very hopeful that there could be some agreement around the fate of the Dreamers, that the Democrats and Republicans could come together with some givebacks as you described, Katy. You know, whether it`s the wall, I don`t know, but some form of border security.
Most Democrats would be happy to go along with that. That would be a great opportunity for a bipartisan win that people -- that everybody can be happy with.
There`s certainly a segment of the Republican base that is very anti- immigration under all circumstances, and it really animated Trump`s base as he was campaigning. But generally speaking, that is an issue that`s pretty much a win-win for both parties.
Infrastructure, though, that`s a tougher one. Where is the money going to come from? There`s no money.
They just gave away a $1.5 trillion tax cut, so the amount of money that would be required to rebuild roads, bridges, as Trump has said he wants to do, is going to be very hard to find without cutting social programs and entitlement programs which Democrats will never agree to.
TUR: Charlie Dent was saying that the litmus test to be a Republican right now, David, is loyalty to the President. What do you say to that?
FRENCH: You know, I think that`s a litmus test in one area only, and that`s in the ruby red districts where, as the Congressman said, everyone is safe.
The problem that Republicans have right now, looking in the long term, is the vanishing suburban voter, the vanishing college-educated voter. And for those folks, a litmus test for Trump is not a plus. It`s a minus.
And so what Republicans have to do is reach out to these suburban voters, reach out to this college-educated voters, and say, look, what we`re doing is we`re sending responsible legislation to the President`s desk. Thankfully, he`s signing it.
We`re getting good things done. You can hang with us through this personally toxic presidency, and we`re going to still salvage from -- some good things from it.
But right now, you know, I think there`s actually an opportunity for Democrats to work with Trump because he`s become so personally toxic that they can actually -- they -- there could be some policy compromises and some legislative wins that both sides agree on.
And then Trump himself will step on the news cycle, you know, nine hours later with a tweet and go back to reminding people of how he`s often intentionally divisive and intentionally exploiting divisions in this country. So we`re in a very strange political environment right now.
TUR: Yes. No doubt about that. David, Beth, and Chris, stay with us.
Ahead, a gunfight between three major U.S. cities and the Pentagon. Why local governments are taking the U.S. military to court over guns.
KATY TUR, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Coming up, three big U.S. cities are suing the Pentagon for failing to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. We`ve got the details on that lawsuit ahead, but first, we asked member NBC News colleagues for word or phrase they use to describe 2017. Here`s what they said.
PETER ALEXANDER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: If I`m to describe 2017 in a word, I`d say covfefe. Isn`t that just obvious?
BRIAN WILLIAMS, CHIEF ANCHOR AND HOST, MSNBC NEWS: 2017 was relentless.
TOM COSTELLO, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Exhausting. I`ve never lived through a year in which every day there was so much news to stay on top of. It was like drinking out of a fire hose.
NICOLLE WALLACE, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST, MSNBC AN NBC NEWS: Surreal. Every day feels more surreal than the day before. KASIE HUNT, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: There are two, three, four stories. And then you get up in the morning and there`s a tweet.
ALEXANDER: One hundred forty characters. For better or for worse, President Trump`s tweets have routinely dictated our national discourse. ALI VELSHI, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: We are covering things that I never thought I`d cover, and we are explaining things that I never thought I`d have to explain.
GADI SCHWARTZ, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: It`s hard to know what`s real. It`s hard to know what`s fake. There is so much information, disinformation.
ARI MELBER, CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT, MSNBC: As Kendrick says, salute the truth.
ANDREA MITCHELL, CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Fire and fury and not in a good way.
CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS DAILY SHOW HOST, POLITICAL DIRECTOR FOR NBC NEWS: Disruption. That`s about the best word to use to describe President Trump in this first year. No other word describes it better. STEPHANIE RUHLE, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Justice. It motivated both sides of the aisle. JO LING KENT, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Accountability. This has been the year where more companies and individuals are being held accountable for bad behavior. JACOB SOBOROFF, CORRESPONDENT, MSNBC: Hectic. From the wildfires to hurricanes and everything going on back in Washington. It`s hard to describe how crazy the news have been.
SAVANNAH SELLERS, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: "Me Too" campaign, the hurricane, the earthquakes, the fires. The news out of the current White House. Nobody was getting any sleep, but guess what? It`s over.
TUR: Welcome back. Three major U.S. cities, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco are suing the Pentagon in response to last month`s mass shooting where 26 people were killed at a church in Texas. The shooter was a former member of the Air Force who bought a gun despite being convicted in military court for domestic violence.
That conviction went unreported to the national background check system. The lawsuit claims that because of that, the Department of Defense is putting American lives at risk. Of course, the month before the Texas church shooting, a shooter who had no major criminal history opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas, killing 58 and injuring more than 500.
Guys, two of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history happened in 2017 in a span of just over a month. In both instances, the White House and Congress called for talks and prayers, but many lawmakers said it was not the time to talk about guns. So two days after Las Vegas, Chuck called them out.
TODD: In the wake of Las Vegas, tonight I`m obsessed with timing. We hear it after every incident like this, and we`ve heard it again today. Now is not the time to talk about how to deal with gun violence. Now is not the time. Think about that.
Why is now not the time? When the planes flew into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, did we say now is not the time to talk about terrorism or homeland security? When our banking system nearly collapsed in 2008, did we say now is not the time to talk about financial regulation? When we learned that 140 people`s records have been breached at Equifax, did we say now is not the time to talk about cyber security?
When we learned about Russia meddling and fake news and cyber bots, did we say now is not the time to talk about regulating Twitter and Facebook? When North Korea launched longer range missiles and claimed to have exploded a hydrogen bomb, did we say now is not the time to talk about nuclear proliferation?
The point is, this is exactly the time to start talking about any issue, gun violence included. If we wait until cooler heads prevail on any of these, we never talk about it. And if fact, if we apply the same logic to every other debate and every other crisis that this country faces that we do to the gun debate, we never would have focused on any of those issues either. Then again, maybe that is the point.
TUR: Joining me now to discuss the lawsuit against the Pentagon is MSNBC legal analyst Danny Cevallos. He is a criminal defense attorney. Danny, thanks for being here. The cities are claiming that they rely on these background checks in order to make sure that guns don`t get in the hands of the wrong people. Do they have standing?
DANNY CEVALLOS, LEGAL ANALYST, MSNBC: That`s a good question. I mean, the law that they`re suing under is the law of the administrative procedure act, which allows a person to sue a federal agency to basically make them do their job when they`re not doing their job and courts have held that cities count as a person under the law.
But the real question is whether or not the agencies are not doing their job. Well, in this case at least as alleged in the complaint, they essentially admitted it. They admitted that we failed to do our job this time. We have been failing to do our job for a while. And we don`t really have any plan for not failing to do it in the future.
So that`s why you have laws like this so that people or municipalities can sue and make them -- make the federal agencies do their job with court oversight. TUR: So is there a question the Pentagon would not do this? Is that what the cities are saying, that they can`t trust the Pentagon to comply with this law?
CEVALLOS: That`s exactly what the complaint alleges. I mean, in so many words, it says that you have this tragedy where the Air Force failed to report a person that should be reported to -- federal law requires that these agencies report somebody who has a disability, who is prohibited from owning a firearm at least quarterly. And if they don`t, they`re violating that law.
So, this is an action basically saying, hey, court, the agencies, not only did they admit that they violated that law, they showed no sign of changing their plan. So court, please, oversee them, monitor them, let`s create an action where they are supervised by the court.
TUR: But these agencies, the Department of Defense, the military, the Pentagon, they are all so insular, they are all so secretive, they don`t like outside hands getting in there. If this lawsuit did go through and if they were victorious, what would it mean for oversight?
CEVALLOS: It`s interesting because just like you said, these agencies are not accustomed to the kind of oversight that a private company would be. A private company would be sued into oblivion if it made an admission that it completely fell down on the job and that`s why a gun got into the wrong person`s hands. But because these are government agencies --
TUR: Financial penalty. Who knows what would happen to the company. CEVALLOS: Right. As we know, it`s a lot harder to sue the government, particularly a government agency. There are exceptions where, as here, a federal law says, you have permission to sue the agency in this instance. Not for money damages but for what we call injunctive relief where the court will force the agency to do its job.
And the real question going forward is going to be assuming this lawsuit isn`t dismissed for some reason is, how does a court do this? Injunctive relief is very hard to accomplish in a case where a federal court would be supervising a federal agency and asking it not to do anything extra, as the complaint says, just its obligations under current law.
TUR: Can critics argue that this is just cities playing politics?
CEVALLOS: They could, but at the same time, this is exactly what the administrative procedure act was created for. Most of these agencies, regular folks can`t sue them.
And at some point Congress decided that we need some vehicle when the agency is not doing its job, and that`s demonstrated so that a citizen, another private -- some private entity or even another municipality can bring suit and say, hey, court, it`s time for you to make sure that this agency does its job, because for the most part, unlike private industry, these agencies are immune.
TUR: Danny Cevallos, thank you so much for being here and explaining all that to us. Still to come, Prince Harry and President Obama. Two men, two microphones, one table, and a whole lot of burning questions.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do I have to speak faster because I`m a slow speaker?
PRINCE HARRY, MEMBER OF BRITISH ROYAL FAMILY: No, not at all.
OBAMA: OK. Do I need a British accent?
(END VIDEO CLIP) TUR: Get this. Former President Obama gave his first interview since leaving office to the BBC. Yes, to the Brits. And the interviewer was none other than Britain`s Prince Harry. I guess we can forgive him. The wide range of interview was recorded back in September, but it wasn`t broadcast until today.
In it, President Obama didn`t mention his successor by name, Donald Trump, but he did talk about a topic that`s dear to President Trump`s heart, social media. Obama called on leaders to be careful on platforms like Twitter.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA (voice over): All of us in leadership have to find ways in which we can recreate a common space on the internet. One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be just cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: The former president said social media is a powerful tool for connecting people, but that users also need to log off and build bridges in person.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA (voice over): It`s also, by the way, harder to be as obnoxious and cruel in person as people can be anonymously on the internet.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TUR: Cue my Twitter trolls. We`ll be back with more "MTP Daily" right after a quick break.
TUR: Time for "The Lid." The panel is back. Beth Fouhy, David French, Chris Kofinis. Guys, there`s new Washington Post report out that says Donald Trump might -- his administration and lawyers might end up painting Michael Flynn as a liar if Michael Flynn ends up telling things to Robert Mueller.
They are readying an attack on Flynn`s credibility. When you see a headline like that and when you read an article like that, David, what`s your first -- what`s your first reaction?
DAVID FRENCH, SENIOR FELLOW, NATIONAL REVIEW: I mean, that`s what defense lawyers do when a witness flips, because what did Michael Flynn plead guilty to? Lying to the FBI. That has branded him officially as a perjurer, somebody who lies unlawfully. So, this is an expected attack. And guess what? When a guy has lied to the FBI, it is an attack with some credibility. So, if Mueller -- TUR: Here`s the thing though. Here`s the thing that strikes me about this, David, is that this president has gone, bent over backwards to not criticize Michael Flynn even after he knew that he lied to the FBI. He`s been saying nothing but nice things about him for months. Much to the puzzlement of many folks.
Why would you say nice things about a man that you had to fire because he lied to the FBI or lied to Vice President Pence, as we initially saw the president say. So, given that, Beth, do you think that there`s something a little bit more sinister here? That they need to discredit him because they`re worried about what he might say?
BETH FOUHY, SENIOR POLITICS EDITOR, NBC NEWS: Well, they`ve been working on discrediting Mueller too. So, the fear seems very real that Mueller is closing in on some bad information about Trump or at least folks close to Trump. We have no idea what that is. But to David`s point, it makes sense that his lawyers, President Trump`s lawyers would attempt to do this, to discredit Flynn.
But as you said, Katy, we have ample opportunities over the course of the Trump presidency and actually before he became president where he was very, very defending of Flynn and spoke up for him when almost no one else would. Speaking to his heroism as man of the military.
He of course was very loyal to Trump and one of the first people in the national security world to kind of climb aboard the Trump train. Trump has been nothing but complimentary, so it is going to be very hard for the lawyers to then go back and say, you know that guy who the president has been complimenting all these months? Well, actually he has no credibility whatsoever. It`s a very strange message.
TUR: Yes. But also, I mean, he`s already cooperated. He`s been cooperating with the Mueller probe now for at the very least, that the president has known of, for a few weeks. So, Chris, why now? Why today?
CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think there -- this is clearly another, you know, example of the concern they have over this investigation.
I mean, if you think about it over the last many weeks alone, they`ve attacked the FBI, they consistently are attacking Comey, they are using surrogates attack Mueller, and now they are attacking Flynn, you know, through the lawyers or others.
I mean, you don`t do this if you have confidence in your case, if you will.
KOFINIS: I think this is the problem the Trump administration has. This is not going to go away any time soon. TUR: But, David, is it going to work with the voters that they need in 2020? Is it going to work to say the FBI is partisan? This is a witch hunt. Is it going to work to say Bob Mueller isn`t fair and that Michael Flynn, this man who you cheered on at these rallies, who yelled out lock her up with you, my voters? Is it going to work with them?
FRENCH: I think it works with his base. I don`t think it works with the people who are already, as the polls are showing overwhelmingly, already sick of this drama. They`re already sick of this roller coaster. I don`t think this works.
But here`s one thing that you have to bear in mind. If Mueller is building a case and he has got a witness who has been convicted of lying to the FBI and that witness is telling stories on Donald Trump, he is going to need corroborating evidence or Trump is going to be able to make a pretty decent public case that you don`t listen to somebody who lies.
TUR: Let`s take a sharp turn and talk about tech companies in 2018. Are they going to be the punching bag, Beth? Are we going to see both sides of the aisle, that tech companies are no longer working in the best interests of the American people? Democrats saying that you`re not doing enough to fight against Russian interference. And Republicans saying, you`re a bunch of liberals out there and you`re only directing us to liberal information.
FOUHY: Actually that`s one of the biggest stories of 2017. The turn of public opinion and certainly political opinion against these tech giants. We`ve suddenly -- we`re seeing Facebook and Twitter now basically, you know, being used as a tool by the Russian government to influence the election in 2016.
Very little accountability from the leadership of either of those companies to take control or to take responsibility for what they did. They claim they`re not media companies. They`re just tech platforms which nobody believes at this point. Yes, Republicans are also trying to paint them as liberal.
But just from a consumer perspective, we`re also seeing that there`s now many, many studies showing that this is the effect of Facebook and Twitter on everybody`s brain that`s starting to make people anxious and make people addicted. That`s just not a good name for what these companies are seeing themselves being portrayed as.
This next year, they really got to do a lot of work to repair their image in the eyes of consumers. Republicans in Congress are not going to regulate them, but they`re losing in the court of public opinion and that is disastrous for them. TUR: I got to say, I had those notifications on my phone for over two years and I have turned them off and I have never slept better. And by that, I mean, I haven`t slept better since 2015.
Guys, thanks so much for being here. David, Beth, and Chris. See you next time. Next stop, the President Donald Trump train station. You heard that right. The President Donald Trump traini station.
TUR: In case you missed it, infrastructure spending is moving forward and President Trump has his name all over it, at least in Israel. The nation`s transportation minister announced plans to dig a railway tunnel in Jerusalem right underneath the old city.
The project would create a high-speed line from Tel Aviv all the way to the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism. And the minister said he is planning on naming the train station at the Western Wall after President Trump. He is proposing the name after the president announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel`s capital.
The president has his name on a lot of things, but not an Israeli train station, at least not yet. Jerusalem is literally layered with thousands of years of history. Layered with it. Excavating a tunnel without damaging relics of the past will take a huge amount of planning. So when could we actually see a Trump train station in Israel? Dig in, folks. It could be a while.
That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more "MTP Daily." "The Beat" with Ari Melber starts right now. Ari, have you been to Jerusalem?
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