Show: MTP DAILY Date: January 3, 2018 Guest: Jennifer Palmieri, Michael Steele, Mark Warner, Mike Rounds
STEVE SCHMIDT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, I think what was inevitable is that they would all turn on each other. That`s happening.
Who knows? Is Steve Bannon going to be up in New Hampshire running against Donald Trump in the Breitbart primary? We`ll wait and see.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: Pop some popcorn. All right. My thanks to Steve Schmidt, Zerlina Maxwell, Elise Jordan, and Joel Benenson.
That does it for our hour. I`m Nicolle Wallace. MTP DAILY starts right now. Hi, Chuck.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. You can`t make it up. This was quite the season premiere.
WALLACE: Did you read it all? My eyes are burning.
TODD: It`s like -- I don`t think "House of Cards" could have concocted a better season premiere.
WALLACE: Truer words.
TODD: Or the season premiere of "The Apprentice." Anyway, if it`s Wednesday, is this any way to run a country?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Tonight, the Bannon betrayal.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Furious, disgusted would probably certainly fit when you make such outrageous claims.
TODD: In a new book, President Trump is portrayed as unserious and only semiliterate. And Steve Bannon accuses the President`s son of treason.
SANDERS: That is a ridiculous accusation.
TODD: Fighting back, President Trump says Bannon has lost his mind.
Plus, the President`s bigger button insult to Kim Jong-un is raising questions about Mr. Trump`s judgment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s a taunting tweet to say that he has a larger nuclear button.
SANDERS: I think it`s just a fact.
TODD: And weapon of mass distraction. After the President`s big button tweet, we talked to about expert on the brain and language about what`s really behind President Trump`s serial tweeting.
This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Good evening. I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington. Real nonfiction Washington, I swear. Welcome to MTP DAILY and welcome to a five-alarm dumpster fire for the White House. Or should we call it Bannon`s rebellion?
The Russia investigation has been blown open in dramatic fashion. Not by the fake news media, not by the deep state Justice Department, but by Steve Bannon. And in response, the President is now trying to destroy Bannon.
In a new book, Bannon is quoted as calling the Trump campaign, quote, treasonous and unpatriotic. He says Trump Junior and Jared Kushner could face money laundering charges.
He says there`s no way the President did not know about that infamous Trump Tower meeting where the campaign thought it was getting Russian access dirt to incriminate Hillary Clinton. Bannon says he told the President to his face that his defense of that meeting was, quote, insane.
And Bannon said it using words I can`t say on live television. I don`t know if I can even say it on tape delay.
And in response, President Trump went nuclear today on Bannon in ways that were both jaw-dropping and laughable and oddly, weirdly predictable as far as this President is concerned.
In a statement, the President said the following: Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve doesn`t represent my base. He`s only in it for himself.
Guys, Steve Bannon was the President`s chief political strategist and the Trump campaign`s chief executive, so it is beyond ludicrous to argue that he has nothing to do with Mr. Trump or his presidency.
But the White House made it clear again and again at this afternoon`s briefing, that statement is their story, and they`re just simply going to stick to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: I think the President`s statement is extremely clear what his position on Mr. Bannon is.
Once again, I think the President`s statement fully addresses what his position and what his relationship with Mr. Bannon is.
Once again, I think the President and his feelings toward Mr. Bannon are very clear.
Look, these were the President`s words. I think they`re very clear, and there`s not much to add beyond that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: And there`s no controlling legal authority either. And, folks, of all of the people to blow up the President`s narrative that the Russia investigation is some kind of hoax or that investigators won`t find anything, who could have predicted it would be the guy who runs Breitbart?
In Michael Wolff`s new book, "Fire and Fury," Bannon is quoted as saying this about the Trump Tower meeting.
Even if you thought that this was not treasonous or unpatriotic or bad -- you know what -- and I happen to think it`s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.
No one in the campaign did contact the FBI about it. Bannon also recounts a confrontation he had with the President.
The President said to me, everybody would take that Don Junior meeting with the Russians. I said, everybody would not take that meeting. I said, I`m a naval officer. I`m not going to take a meeting with Russian nationals and do it in a headquarters. Are you -- insane?
I think you can guess what the expletive was there. Then Bannon goes on to implicate Mr. Trump himself.
The chance that Don Junior did not walk these Jumos -- meaning the Russians -- up to his father`s office on the 26th floor is zero.
By the way, go ahead and do Jumos in the Urban Dictionary, and you`ll see what it is.
Both the White House and the Russian lawyer in that meeting say there was no contact with Mr. Trump. But Bannon does not stop there. He goes on to say this about the Russia probe.
You realize where this is going. This is all about money laundering. Their path to -- Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Junior, and Jared Kushner. It`s as plain as a hair on your face.
It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner -- you know what. The Kushner -- dis -- is greasy. They`re going to go right through that. They`re going to roll those two guys up and say, play me or trade me.
Wow. Let`s bring in tonight`s panel. Carol Lee is a national political reporter with NBC News.
Michael Steele is an MSNBC political analyst and former RNC chairman.
And Jennifer Palmieri was communications director for both the Obama White House and the Clinton campaign and is probably -- I can`t believe she`s going to find herself saying things like Steve Bannon is right.
JENNIFER PALMIERI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I`m not sure.
TODD: There was so much, you would say. You never thought how wise Steve Bannon was, did you?
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: He was. How wise.
TODD: Michael Steele, so let`s --
STEELE: Yes. Happy New Year.
TODD: Yes. All right. There`s a level of absurdity to this, but, wow, it`s explosive. And if you`re dealing in the 30 percent of this country that is -- basically believes whatever the President says and whatever Breitbart says, and now the two parents are arguing, what happens?
STEELE: I think what happens is, in large measure, Trump has the upper hand relative to the base because they bought into him, not Bannon. And Bannon was, in many respects, his -- he is Trump`s muse at times.
TODD: Do you think Bannon knows this?
STEELE: Bannon does not know that. It was very clear that there is a separation here. But like every pot that you put on the stove and turn the flame underneath it, even if there`s no water in it, it can burn some stuff up, right? And that`s what`s happening here.
All of the stuff inside this administration that has been reported over time, largely dismissed as fake news by the administration, has been confirmed or is being confirmed by Bannon.
How that plays for the base, I think, all depends on how the President comes out. The first salvo today in his retort was a way to hold that base in place.
TODD: You know, Carol, you`ve done a lot of reporting, and I kind of want to unpack some of these things.
Let`s go back to this Trump Tower meeting. Do you get the sense Steve Bannon knows what happened here or Steve Bannon is looking at public reports and spouting off?
CAROL LEE, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I think it`s a little bit of both. He obviously knows a lot because he was there, and --
TODD: But where was he?
LEE: Well, he wasn`t there --
TODD: He wasn`t in the campaign in July.
LEE: No, but he was -- I mean, he was there after. He was there when --
TODD: At the White House, in the aftermath.
LEE: Right, in the whole aftermath. He was there as these things have come up in the last year, so -- but he said -- look, he is score-settling. Everyone knows how much he hates Jared Kushner, and --
TODD: That`s who this is focused on more than anybody else, right?
LEE: And that`s what this is about. He`s almost, in some ways, obsessed with him and just continues to go after him and Ivanka. And there`s parts in the book where he talks about where Jared is like, hey, what happened to Steve when they`re in the White House and how they -- he just had this kind of change.
So, you know, he -- and the book, though, as you were saying, fits with this narrative that was coming out of the White House for the first year and just underscores not just that there was this infighting but things that people believed about the President, that he is distracted, that he can`t focus on meetings.
And it paints a picture of chaos at a level that I don`t even think we fully understood when we were all covering it.
TODD: It`s -- I can`t imagine how you feel looking and watching this.
PALMIERI: Well, a couple of things occurred to me. One was that I wonder how much Bannon knows about where Mueller is going and if he`s just trying to distance himself from that, right?
TODD: Explain. So like meaning --
STEELE: That`s right, yes.
TODD: Like you think there`s something there? Like he wants to make sure --
PALMIERI: He wants to make sure that he`s, like, hey --
TODD: Everybody`s about to go down and I have some distance here since I didn`t join the campaign until August and yada, yada, yada.
PALMIERI: And said I`m not getting a lawyer.
PALMIERI: I don`t need to.
STEELE: Yes. But --
PALMIERI: And he said --
PALMIERI: And he`s putting -- he`s painting all of these things in very -- in a very negative -- all these activities in a really negative light. And I think by distancing himself from that, he`s -- it`s suggesting to everyone, I had no part in whatever happened.
I see that. I see the President -- I don`t -- I think this is probably why the President did the "New York Times" interview, right?
PALMIERI: They probably knew this was -- they had a sense this book was coming. It`s going to be bad. Chris Ruddy says you got to -- you should talk to somebody else. You should get ahead of it.
He says collusion, you know, however many dozen times -- there`s no collusion -- in the interview.
PALMIERI: He says Bob Mueller is going to be fair to me in that interview, which I found was a very odd thing, surprising thing, for him to say. And I suspect they had an inkling that this book was going to start getting into this territory and hoped to lay down some markers ahead of time. But I think Bannon is trying to distance himself.
TODD: All right. But, Michael, when we see the immediate pushback on Donald Trump -- and I take your point here. I think that first statement was about keeping the pace.
TODD: They`re like, OK, let`s try to separate Bannon here. But it seems as if the other aspect here is the President -- this is getting to him.
TODD: And he is -- his tweets are becoming more outrageous. The Kim Jong- un tweet is obviously one that comes to mind with the button business and all that craziness. Are members of your party going to say enough is enough at some point? And I say this --
STEELE: I hope they do.
TODD: -- not trying to like --
TODD: -- stir the pot. I mean, each man are under the (ph) amendment --
TODD: -- but somebody`s got to go to him and say this is no way to run a country.
PALMIERI: That`s right.
STEELE: This is no way to run a country because that should be first and foremost in front of every Republican on the Hill, particularly in leadership, about that very question. How are we perceived running the country?
Because now that you have the House, the White House, and the Senate, it is all about governing. And what has happened over the last year has been anything but.
And I think what you see through the tweets is an escalation by the President that`s more reactionary. Partly because he knows what`s coming down the pike, partly because he`s blindsided by certain things.
And that`s a moment, I think, for the leadership to step in and sort of calm those waters down and to get the President focused on the things that they call agenda, whether it`s infrastructure or some other things.
Even though we know that there are big political fights there, Chuck, that is an opportunity for, I think, Mitch McConnell especially to sort of move the conversation for the President in a better direction.
TODD: Yes. I want to go to two places here. One is Russia and one is that Mitch McConnell point. I`m going to go with the Russia point here.
Bannon also sort of toys with the idea that if he fires Mueller, it isn`t going to protect him. But then there`s almost this idea that says, well, you know, if he`s going to do it, he`s going to do it. And maybe it speeds things up to find out where this is heading.
LEE: Yes, he is --
TODD: It was odd motive of -- but that gets in --
TODD: -- to the idea that Bannon likes to light things on fire.
LEE: He -- that`s -- yes.
LEE: Yes, that`s the thing. Bannon, if anything, he is just somebody who just wants to kind of blow things up. I mean, there`s part of this where he talks about -- where he talks about he wanted to roll out the travel ban on that Friday to create the maximum amount of chaos.
TODD: Chaos! He wanted chaos.
LEE: And that when people who were on the White House were like, whose brilliant idea was this? He was like, well --
TODD: Why do this on a Friday?
TODD: We would really screw up airports. And he`s like, yes!
LEE: He`s like that`s the point, you know.
STEELE: That`s right.
TODD: And you`re like, he embraced the idea.
TODD: We kept saying he wants to burn it down. He`s a political nihilist. This book confirms he`s a political nihilist.
LEE: Right. The question though is, what is his end game? What is this leading to? And this is coming out in this separation. I`d say it`s more of a divorce than just two parents fighting.
TODD: Oh, yes, it`s a divorce.
LEE: But, you know, that it`s happening after he`s had a series of blows to his political stature, that he was going to be this, you know, kingmaker, and he`s not. He`s lost these elections and so he has that. And then he has this.
And then he has Donald Trump and his own website, Breitbart, is leading with the President`s statement saying that Bannon not only lost his job, he lost his mind.
TODD: By the way, buried in here is Steve Bannon for president.
STEELE: Oh, yes.
TODD: I mean, that isn`t like Bannon muses about it. I mean, is that worth --
STEELE: It has -- certainly, that thought crossed his world, yes.
TODD: Look, I remember people laughing in 1991 when people floated Pat Buchanan, Michael Steele.
STEELE: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
TODD: Nobody quite believed it. Anything is possible now.
STEELE: Well, anything is possible because Donald Trump has created the space for that to happen. And so Bannon knows that and how he takes advantage of that becomes the play that we`re seeing play out right now.
TODD: Well, there is a lot to unpack on this book. We have spent most of our time on Bannon and Russia. More Russia in a minute. You guys stick around.
Look, we got much more on this Bannon attack on the President, including what this bombshell book means for the investigation going forward. You don`t want to miss my next interview after this.
TODD: Welcome back. Steve Bannon delivered a clear warning to the White House in Michael Wolff`s new book, "Fire and Fury."
The White House insists Mueller`s investigation will end quickly and quietly, but Bannon believes they are in for a storm of epic proportions, quote, they`re sitting on a beach trying to stop a Category 5.
Much more on that Russia hurricane and in the fallout from the Wolff book when we come back in 60 seconds.
TODD: Welcome back. Joining me now is Virginia Senator Mark Warner. He, of course, is the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee looking into the Russia probe.
All right, Senator, let me just dive right into the big bombshell allegation from Steve Bannon. He called the infamous Trump Tower meeting that included Donald Trump, Jr. treasonous and unpatriotic. What say you?
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), VICE CHAIRMAN, SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: Well, I don`t normally agree with Steve Bannon and I wouldn`t call him a reliable source, but he also said, in light of that meeting, the Trump folks should have gone to the FBI. And on that account, I fully agree with him.
There was a report over the weekend from "The New York Times" that said the Trump associate, Mr. Papadopoulos, who is offering, knew about the Russia e-mails when he conveyed that information to the Australian Ambassador. That the Australian Ambassador, when those e-mails started to appear, knew enough to report that information to the FBI.
WARNER: If the Australians knew enough, then I clearly think the Trump officials should have known enough as well to report that kind of meeting where that was that same kind of proffer of dirt on Hillary Clinton. They should have gone to the FBI if they were being true patriots.
TODD: You have spent a lot of time questioning folks that were either aware of this meeting or were in that meeting. Steve Bannon says -- also said this: the chance that Don Junior did not walk these Jumos -- and it was sort of a slang word he was using -- up to his father`s office on the 26th floor is zero.
Do you have any evidence to support that allegation that everybody in that infamous meeting with Donald Trump, Jr. -- that more -- one or more of those folks were taken to see Donald Trump himself?
WARNER: I`m not going to talk about what went on in terms of the testimony. I am going to say, though, it`s -- you know, Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, Michael Cohen, they`re a host of individuals that I believe we need to have back before the committee, and if possible, in public, where the members themselves get to ask the kind of follow-up questions that you just asked.
TODD: So you just feel as if you haven`t had that kind of access to anybody from that meeting?
WARNER: Now, listen, we have had -- our staff has done a great job of doing the first round of questions. And I`m not going to make comment about what they learned or didn`t learn in those interviews, but I`ve made very clear from the outset -- and I think members on both sides of the aisle -- before our investigation is finished, we need to see the principals as members and ask them questions.
TODD: Well, by our account, we don`t believe you have interviewed Steve Bannon. Why not? If that`s true, why not? And if so, should you?
WARNER: Well, clearly, Mr. Bannon`s comments are going to be subject to, I think, of interest from our committee. I`m sure from Mr. Mueller. How did he know all of these facts if they`re true?
Again, I don`t usually call on Steve Bannon as a source, but some of his comments are pretty explosive. And I think before this is all over, they`re going to have to be proven or disproven.
TODD: All right. Do you think Steve Bannon needs to come before your committee?
WARNER: I think that the comments that he has made in this book have to be proven or disproven.
TODD: All right. That doesn`t answer the question. Can that be done without him, or do you think he has to be --
WARNER: I think we`re going to --
TODD: -- he has to be to answer some questions?
WARNER: Well, you know, we`re going to follow the facts wherever this leads. The truth is, we`ve got not just Mr. Bannon`s comments -- and he made comments about, for example, about Deutsche Bank.
WARNER: There have been a series of other entities who have raised questions about that. There are a host of individuals and questions we still got to get answered -- answers to as well as, obviously, a whole host of items that fall under the criminality bucket, where I hope and believe that Bob Mueller is pursuing.
TODD: All right. I want to move to Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm both hired by a Republican donor and major parts of the Democratic Party. The two principals wrote an op-ed today, saying they would like to see the House Committee release their testimony.
Your counterpart, the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, indicated that he`d be willing to have a public hearing with them.
Where are we on that? Is that something that`s coming soon? I assume he talked with you before he tweeted that?
WARNER: Listen, I think that whether it`s the folks from GPS Fusion coming back in a public setting or whether it`s Donald Trump, Jr. or Jared Kushner or Trump`s lawyer, Michael Cohen, or a number of the other principals, I think the more we can get this out into the public so the American public can then make their own judgment and, I believe, confirm the consensus of the intelligence community that the Russians intervened and intervened with the effort to help Trump and hurt Clinton.
I think the more we can get that into the public, the better off we`ll be. Not just in terms of looking back but also making sure that we`re better protected going into the next election cycle.
TODD: What is this investigation at this point? Is this about Russian interference? Is it about money laundering now as Steve Bannon seems to indicate, at least as the Mueller probe is concerned? How would you characterize it?
WARNER: I would say this -- our investigation is still about counterintelligence, what happened in terms of what the Russians did and how do we prevent it from happening in the future, as well as what -- did that effort of intervening in our election include contact and some level of collaboration or collusion with any particular campaign.
And what we`ve seen, we know they intervened. We know they used social media in a way that was unprecedented.
WARNER: And we`ve seen those companies take action. We know we`ve got to better guard our electoral systems, and we`ll have more recommendations there. And we know that there have been a host of contacts from Russians to officials in the Trump campaign.
WARNER: Many of those contacts were not related to the FBI. We know that a former British Secret Service agent, Chris Steele, showed this evidence as well.
WARNER: And we`ve got to decide where that all leads. I`m not going to reach a final conclusion until I get all the evidence. I think we`ve exposed a lot --
TODD: Is there a difference in your --
WARNER: We`ve exposed a lot, though.
WARNER: And I think we still got more questions to get answered.
TODD: Is there a distinction in your mind between collusion and cooperation?
WARNER: Yes. Listen, I went to law school but I never practiced law. I`m not going to find -- you know, make a legal distinction.
TODD: Well, but it does seem --
WARNER: But I think, at the end of the day, if there`s criminality, Bob Mueller will determine that.
If Russians intervened in a way to try to tip the scales of the election in a way that involved some level of collaboration or collusion -- and clearly, we have evidence that they, at least, offered so-called dirt on Clinton. You know, I think the American public needs to see that and hear that and make sure, again, on a going forward basis, it never happens again.
TODD: All right. Senator Mark Warner, I`m going to leave it there. Thank you very much and happy New Year.
WARNER: Thank you.
TODD: Thanks for coming on and sharing your views.
WARNER: Happy New Year.
TODD: You got it. Joining me now for some perspective on the other side of the aisle is Republican Senator Mike Rounds of South North Dakota.
Senator Rounds, first of all, happy New Year, sir. Welcome back to the show.
SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: And to you as well. Thanks for the opportunity.
TODD: All right. Let me ask you this. You`ve heard the bombshell about Steve Bannon calling the infamous Donald Trump, Jr. meeting a treasonous affair. What do you make of his description of that meeting, and do you concur with it?
ROUNDS: Well, I was curious as to whether or not he was in the meeting or not or whether or not it`s secondhand. Most certainly, this is a surprise to a lot of us that Mr. Bannon would come out the way that he has and make these accusations. Excuse me. But at the same time, they need to be followed up on now.
ROUNDS: And if he`s going to make accusations like that, hopefully, he`ll be able to substantiate them.
TODD: What did this do to this whole campaign, it seemed like, that was taking place on the -- with some of your colleagues on the House, amongst some House Republicans that were trying to discredit the investigation or the whole idea of the investigation? Is it fair to say this sort of blows up that narrative attempt?
ROUNDS: No, I think in the Senate, we`ve had -- you know, the intelligence committee has been following this thing through. They`re not trying to make lots of headlines. They`re trying to do their work.
And I think you just got a sample of that with, you know, the Vice Chairman Warner making it very clear that they`re going to do their job. They`re going to follow through.
That`s the same message we get on a consistent basis from Chairman Burr. And that is, they`re going to follow it through. They`re not going to let things slip through the cracks. They`re going to ask all the questions they can.
ROUNDS: They`re going to try to get everybody involved in it because that`s their job. And what that allows the rest of us to do is our job because they`re taking care of following through on this investigation.
TODD: I`m curious. Look, you come from a state that supported the President in big numbers, in South Dakota. Is there a point where the President`s temperament or behavior here starts to become a problem for your constituents?
If you think about just the last 48 hours, sir, we got the bizarre nuclear button, mine is bigger than yours, Huma Abedin needs to go to jail -- this is the President of the United States talking about a private citizen that`s never held elected office, by the way.
I`m probably leaving some stuff out. He wants to do the most dishonest and corrupt media awards of the year. This is the President of the United States in the last 48 hours. Is this any way to run a presidency?
ROUNDS: Within our state, what most people will tell you is they disagree with some of the things he says, but they agree with the policies that he is promoting.
They agree that defense should be increased. They agreed that we had to have tax policy. They wanted to see a Supreme Court justice in place who was a conservative. They wanted to see conservative judges. They`re getting that, and they`re very happy with that.
They are not happy with the tweeting. In some cases, they think it`s humorous. But in other cases, they think it makes his job harder. And what they want is more results in Washington.
So where it hurts his ability to get his job done, they`re not happy with it. And at the same time, in terms of the policies that he is promoting, they believe in those same policies and they believe that they are getting some results. They`d just like to see more results, that`s all.
TODD: Where are you on his behavior? You spoke about your constituents, but where are you? At some point, does this behavior trump -- no pun intended there.
Does his behavior and values and how he`s performing in the audience -- in the office trump his ability -- just trump the accomplishments that he`s signing into law in your mind? What does that happen?
ROUNDS: I think he could do more if he wasn`t doing some of the behavior that he`s into right now. I disagree with the tweeting. I know he likes it because he`s got the opportunity to talk with the American people every single day --
TODD: Do you think --
ROUNDS: -- but I think it makes his job tougher.
TODD: Let me interrupt you there. Do you think he understands that you can make a case that one of the reasons he`s so unpopular with a large majority of the country is his personal behavior in the office?
ROUNDS: I think he has a sense that there are people out there that are very loyal to him because he`s in constant communication with them, and he thinks that they appreciate the fact that he`s different and that he`s a disrupter and that he`s not going through and having regular news conferences where everything is interpreted.
But I think, also, when he continues the way that he is right now with one message after another after another, some of which are not presidential in stature, I think that hurts his ability to get the job done.
I think this man has got the right focus in terms of policies. I think the defense and the taxes and so forth, he`s right on. But when it comes to using the Twitter, I wish he`d quit.
TODD: Yes. All right. But let`s take what`s happening with North Korea. Do you think that somehow the President`s tweets have actually created distance between the United States and South Korea?
Because here you have -- he`s in a playground taunt with Kim Jong-un. Kim Jong-un is the one playing diplomat here, opening a channel of communication. And the South Koreans are saying, we`re here to talk, and the United States is left out in the cold.
Do you worry -- you`re in the Armed Services Committee. I know that the North Korean issue is front and center for you. Are you worried that we`ve actually messed up our relationships with our biggest ally there because of these tweets?
ROUNDS: Well, first of all, we have not had a relationship with North Korea. With South Korea, I think our relationship is still very strong.
With North Korea opening a door, just a crack, I think it`s very fair for the folks, the diplomats, in South Korea to try to explore that possibility, even if they`re not doing it or if it looks like they`re trying to do it without our support.
If that`s what North Korea wants it to look like, that`s fine. Let them find out how far he`ll go. I don`t he`ll go very far. I think this ploy. Like, this a North Korean ploy, and I don`t think it`s going to get very far at all.
But I think South Korea has to do everything they can to appear to be trying to get along with North Korea at this stage of the game, and I think they have to explore that possibility. If there was a chance that North Korea would somehow be involved in those games in South Korea, I think that`s a positive for South Korea.
TODD: And that you don`t believe it`s a reflection on their relationship with the United States at this point?
ROUNDS: Look, the relationship with the United States can`t get much worse, and --
TODD: I`m talking about with South Korea, though. I`m talking about South Korea.
ROUNDS: Oh, I`m -- OK. No, I don`t. I think -- right now, I think we`ve got a good working relationship with them. I don`t know what the relationship is between the two leaders, but I can tell you within the military organizations and so forth, we have very good working relationships. We get along. We train together. We understand how serious it is there and the commitments are firm on both sides. TODD: All right, Senator Mike Rounds, I`m going to leave it there. Again, happy new year. Thanks for coming on and sharing your views. I appreciate it.
TODD: You got it. Up ahead, decoding the mysterious world of the Trump Twitter feed. There might be a lot more strategy behind them than you might think.
TODD: Up ahead, dissecting the anatomy of a Trump tweet, plus, the best words, the best montages, the best segments. They`re all coming up. They`re the very best. Here`s Deirdre Bosa with the very best "CNBC Market Wrap."
DEIRDRE BOSA, TECHNOLOGY REPORTER, CNBC: You know it, Chuck. Thank you. Stocks on Wall Street rising to all-time highs for a second straight session in 2018. Technology stocks climbed and strong economic data also gave markets a boost. The Dow adding 98 points, the S&P ended 17 points higher closing above 2,700 for the first time ever, the Nasdaq didn`t do too shabby either gaining 58 points.
Energy stocks surged after U.S. crude oil prices topped $61 a barrel. That`s the highest level in two and a half years. The Federal Reserve release the summary of its December meeting. The minutes showing the changes to the federal tax code push the Central Bank to raise its economic forecast.
That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.
TODD: Welcome back. Plenty of people had plenty of things to say about the president`s tweets. We hear from a lot of you about it. Cognitive linguist George Lakoff sees the tweets as the president`s way to shape the news and says that they fall into four buckets.
He calls it preemptive framing, diversion, deflection, and trial balloon. Diversion via tweet is one of the president`s signature tactics such as when President Trump tweeted that many people booed the NFL players who knelt yesterday, just as the Graham Cassidy health care bill was dying in the Senate and the candidate he was backing was about to lose the Alabama Senate runoff at the time.
Folks, President Trump sent 16 tweets yesterday and another one this morning, including one that suggested jailing crooked Hillary Clinton`s staff aide Huma Abedin. One taking aim at the, quote, most dishonest and corrupt media. And one taunting North Korea that he has a much bigger and more powerful nuclear button.
Joining me now is the creator of this Trump tweet taxonomy. He`s a cognitive linguist and a U.C. Berkeley professor, George Lakoff. Mr. Lakoff, been a while. It`s good to see you, sir. Thanks for coming on.
GEORGE LAKOFF, COGNITIVE LINGUIST AND PROFESSOR, U.C. BERKELEY: Pleasure to be here, Chuck.
TODD: All right. Let me start with your taxonomy here and ask you sort of in light of, you put all of this out, and this was before the Bannon explosion that took place later today.
And now I look at this tweet storm that he went on over the last 48 hours and I ask you, how do you -- what you don`t categorize here in your taxonomy is -- is there something that when he goes on a tweet storm when a tweet storm itself is actually one of the buckets, is the fifth bucket, which is just throw anything at the wall and see what sticks and diverts?
LAKOFF: That`s the fourth. That`s the trial balloon. But it`s basically a diversion in many cases as it was in this case. But it`s mainly his way to control the media. When the media talks about his tweets and repeats what`s in them over and over, he is controlling the media.
Whether it`s by framing first and framing things his way, then the media repeats his frame, or by sending a diversion, then the media accepts the diversion and doesn`t do what the real news is.
TODD: You seem to ascribe a lot of strategy behind these tweets. Many people who know this man personally and this new book by Michael Wolff actually seems to confirm what a lot of us have concluded in our dealings with him.
There`s never strategy. It`s immediate, it`s reactionary. That there is no grand strategy about it. Are you -- do you worry you`re ascribing too much strategy here?
LAKOFF: Not at all. He`s a master salesman. He`s been at it for 50 years. Everything he does is strategic to sell himself, to market himself. And this is one way that he markets himself by controlling the media. TODD: Is there a way -- you can make an argument that his tweeting is actually why he`s so unpopular. That the reason he`s sitting in the low to mid-30s and not in the low to mid-40s or even higher than that, due to this economy, shall we say, if you went by conventional metric, it is due to the tweets.
So on one hand you seem to say he`s controlling the narrative, but it also seems to be doing serious damage to his brand? LAKOFF: Not at all. His brand has never gone that high. His brand has been 37 plus or minus two the whole time, which is standard for a right-wing conservative since the -- TODD: Even a negative? Even a negative brand?
LAKOFF: It`s a brand that is really strong with 37 plus or minus two people and can pick up another 10 or 12 points with people who are partly of that view. It`s what I call strict father morality. And there are a lot of people in this country who have it.
TODD: You -- you seem to think that he sort of has words that he knows how to sort of strike a cord with a certain part of that 37 percent, that they`re trigger words. What are some examples?
LAKOFF: Well, almost everything he talks about. Winning is one example. Putting down people who seem to be below him or, you know, not doing what he sees as the right thing in the world. And there`s a whole moral hierarchy that he has that he shared with his base.
Attacking immigrants, for example, is one of them. Putting the wealthy above the poor is another, and so on. There are many, many triggers, not just by words but ideas.
TODD: And you seem to get into the debate here and, frankly, we have this debate ourselves every single day in our own newsroom which is how much coverage to get these tweets?
LAKOFF: I think --
TODD: And you would like to see less coverage of the Twitter feed. You have made that abundantly clear. How? How do you do that with the president?
LAKOFF: Let`s take it right now. Right now, President Trump is in a noose. It`s the money laundering noose that`s tightening around his neck. It shows up not just in Bannon`s point about money laundering and also in the fusion point about money laundering in the New York Times op-ed today, but also in the fact that the main money launderer, Irakly Kaveladze (ph), was at the Trump Junior meeting in Trump Tower. He`s the eighth man there.
He is the major person who has been responsible for money laundering from Russia and other Soviet countries. And in addition, he set up over 2,000, you know, phony shell corporations with bank accounts and helped use that money in the bank accounts for the people doing the money laundering from Russia to get luxury apartments and luxury condos.
The fact that he was invited by Trump Junior to that meeting indicates that Trump Junior knew him well. TODD: Right. So what you`re saying is on the tweet, not covering the tweets, so you wanted to take an example. You`re saying you believe all of the tweet storm in the last two days is all about providing air cover to distract from this money laundering news? LAKOFF: The whole thing is distracting from money laundering, and from the fact that Kaveladze (ph) has been summoned both by Mueller and by congressional committees. TODD: Fair enough. George Lakoff, a linguist professor, wish to have on quite a bit we you are on this side of the coast at (INAUDIBLE), but I see you`re enjoying the west coast. Thanks for coming and sharing your views. I appreciate it.
LAKOFF: My pleasure, Chuck. Take care.
TODD: You got it. All right. Up ahead, it`s the biggest story ever. It may be the best. It is certainly the greatest 90 seconds of your life.
TODD: Welcome back. Tonight I`m obsessed with something cable news and Twitter was obsessed with all last night and this morning, before news of the Michael Wolff book hit, was President Trump`s tweet last night about the impressive size of his nuclear button.
(INAUDIBLE) aside that we will never find out who`s nuclear button or belly button is bigger or do we ever want to. It`s hardly the first time President Trump has bragged about size or that something is the biggest, the best, the greatest, the whatever. So the staff of "MTP Daily" did some digging and here now are some of the president`s greatest hits --
(START VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It will be the biggest tax cut in the history of our country. Biggest tax cut.
Biggest tax decrease. The biggest tax cut.
Fastest growing economy. The fastest and the greatest -- The highest and the closest. The finest and bravest.
The best and the brightest.
My highest privilege and greatest honor. One of the great memories of all time.
Greatest missiles, the greatest military equipment. The greatest planes in the world. Greatest infrastructure. Greatest forces. Greatest defenders. Greatest people. The greatest country.
The greatest hope.
The greatest parade.
The greatest legislation.
Greatest political document in human history. (END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: We did it without showing our hands. We`ll be back in a moment with the greatest segment ever. It`s the best. And it`s right after this incredible, smart and savvy commercial break.
TODD: Time for "The Lid." Here`s another bombshell for Michael Wolff`s "Fire and Fury," candidate Trump never wanted to win.
Quote, once he lost, Trump would be both insanely famous and a martyr to Crooked Hillary. His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared would be international celebrities. Steve Bannon would become the de facto head of the tea-party movement. Kellyanne Conway would be a cable news star. Melania Trump, who had been assured by her husband that he wouldn`t become president, could return to inconspicuously lunching. Losing would work out for everybody. Losing was winning.
Panel is back. Carol, Michael, and Jen Palmieri. I thought the most brilliant comparison that Michael Wolff made, Carol Lee, was when he compared it to "The Producers," the famous Mel Brooks with the whole point, he wasn`t supposed to succeed. He wasn`t supposed to win.
I mean, literally Trump was busy plotting with Ailes about starting a network. They had this whole thing and now Michael Flynn was going, the Russia thing isn`t a big deal because we`re not going to win. Like everybody had their November 9th plans lined up because they weren`t going to win.
CAROL LEE, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Yes. And that would completely change obviously, but it wasn`t just them. I mean, everybody had their plan for Trump not to win. But this is something that they`re really pushing back on which is interesting.
I was in that meeting that Trump had with President Obama in the Oval Office two days later. And you could see the look on his face. Just the -- almost like a deer in the headlights. And so it was a huge --
TODD: Sean Spicer cleaned it (INAUDIBLE) NBC News, Michael Steele, and laid out the scenario of the 350 electoral votes that Hillary Clinton is going to carry less than 24 hours before the election. Everybody in Trump Tower believed it.
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, including the RNC, the leadership of the Hill, everybody.
TODD: Going back to this, the point here is that the worst possible outcome for Donald Trump turned out to be winning, because now his entire business thing has been exposed. Now everybody has to find out his tax returns. Now he has got a special prosecutor looking at his business dealings for 35 years. It was the worst possible outcome personally for citizen Trump.
STEELE: And for all those people who got the short end of the Donald Trump stick. It is all coming around for them because all those deals now are getting fully exposed from the university to the sexual harassment to the business deals to the whatever was going on with Russia. All of that is getting played out. And for Donald Trump, that is the worst possible kind of exposure because it is exposure he can`t control.
TODD: Jen, I want to ask you something about allowing this. When you were in the Obama White House, you had an occasional reporter or two that you would give sort of special access to. Never us in the regular press corps. I remember Michael Lewis traveled around. There`s always a risk with that. Michael Wolff got that kind of access for a while.
JENNIFER PALMIERI, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Yes.
TODD: It`s interesting. When you make a decision like that, what`s interesting, Michael Wolff and New York magazine talk about how hard it was. It was supposed to be off the record and then he would hear it. How precarious is it when you make decision to let the reporter be the proverbial fly on the wall for a while?
PALMIERI: Yes, it`s a scary thing to take responsibility for. In my job, you had to be the person to do that. TODD: My guess is Donald Trump himself probably approved Michael Wolff (INAUDIBLE).
PALMIERI: Yes. It`s definitely something that goes to the top. We didn`t do it often with President Obama but Michael Lewis did. And it has to be something that you have a lot of trust in and it has to be somebody at the top, the big boss, the president himself. TODD: OK. This book lit a fire on this White House. Forget the Bannon stuff here, Carol.
LEE: The other thing I was going to add to that is it`s also usually someone you guys think is going to be friendly and do a positive portrait. This is -- I mean, the president has made a number of decisions that have gotten in his own way and this could wind up being one of really big one.
PALMIERI: And I bet like a lot of things, it probably wasn`t that well thought through. Even though in our White House, the Obama White House, it would have taken months.
STEELE: The president sees the opportunity in the moment and what come can come for him on the other side of it.
TODD: What does your party do here? I mean, I keep coming back to that. You saw Mike Rounds, he`s trying to find the split.
TODD: Well, the agenda is there. Here is what I always tell people. Everybody has (INAUDIBLE), and we`ve seen, like, for Jeff Flake, it happened sooner than most. For John McCain, it happened at certain minute. What do you think happens to the Mike Rounds, Lamar Alexander, people like that, that group?
STEELE: I still contend for a vast majority of the folks, the freedom caucus or the caucus as whole, House or Senate, it`s when the numbers in their states or their districts begin to dip to a point where they can`t stomach it. And they can`t go and stand in front of a crowd of Republicans and justify it. And at that moment, that`s when the caravan comes from the Hill to the White House.
TODD: Thirty-seven percent (INAUDIBLE). Guys, what a day. Quite the season premier for season three of the Trump White House. Up ahead, Capitol Hill, three dips (ph) in one day.
TODD: In case you missed it, two new senators met three vice presidents on Capitol Hill today. Vice President Pence was on the Hill to do his job, which is swear in two new senators, just one of his many jobs.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and former Vice President Walter Mondale were each there to escort one of the new senators to take their oaths. All three number twos chatted before the swearing in ceremony.
When NBC asked former VP Mondale how the meeting went, he said, quote, they behaved. Anyway, you know what?
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Note: During the interview of George Lakoff, he accused Iralky “Ike” Kaveladze of money laundering. On January 30, 2018, Mr. Kaveladze filed a suit against Mr. Lakoff in the Superior Court of the State of California, for libel and slander, claiming that Lakoff’s statements about Kaveladze were completely baseless and untrue. The suit is currently pending.
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