Show: MTP DAILY Date: January 4, 2018 Guest: George Will, Amy Walter, Eugene Robinson, John Hickenlooper
STEVE SCHMIDT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: This White House doesn't function like FDR's did. It's a disgrace, and we all see it. We know it, and this is what the book proves.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: All right. My thanks to John Heilemann, Jonathan Lemire --
JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Right? Please. It's right in there.
WALLACE: -- and Steve Schmidt. That does it for our hour. Heilemann is still talking, but we're going to sign off.
I'm Nicolle Wallace. MTP DAILY starts right now. Hi, Chuck.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: I'm trying to figure out how Schmidt just said FDR. I think he could've meant --
WALLACE: Steve Schmidt --
TODD: I'm saying William Henry Harrison either, you know.
WALLACE: -- in one answer --
TODD: I know. I love it.
WALLACE: -- can work in three wars and six presidents.
TODD: I love it.
WALLACE: It's a miracle.
TODD: I love it. Thank you, Nicolle. If it's Thursday, is Bannon banished?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Tonight, the Trump/Bannon divorce.
SARAH SANDERS HUCKABEE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not aware that they were ever particularly close.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't talk to him. I don't talk to him.
TODD: The President gets the kids, but can he control them? We'll talk to a longtime Trump adviser quoted throughout the new bombshell book, "Fire and Fury."
Plus, the war on weed. Jeff Sessions just says no to state marijuana laws. What the new crackdown really means for legal pot use.
And do not adjust your television sets.
SANDERS: And we have a message from a special guest.
TODD: The surreal optics of the President's special appearance at today's White House briefing.
This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Ah, a good, cold evening to you. I'm Chuck Todd here in Washington and welcome to MTP DAILY.
We begin tonight with the fire, the fury, and the fallout from Michael Wolff's explosive book. We're going to speak in just a minute with one of the President's longtime advisers who is at the center of that fallout. He is quoted as calling Mr. Trump an idiot and an expletive fool.
And we're going to break down what this all means for an epically dysfunctional White House staff. And perhaps more important, what it means in this epically dysfunctional political environment.
The President's lawyers are threatening legal action against Steve Bannon for allegedly libeling the President. They're threatening action against Michael Wolff and his publisher, too, in case they didn't want to help book sales even more.
The White House, this afternoon, unloaded on this book this afternoon, calling it every name in the book.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: There are numerous examples of falsehoods that take place in the book.
Complete fantasy and just full of tabloid gossip.
Disgraceful and laughable.
It is absolutely laughable.
I mean, that's one of the most ridiculous things.
This book is mistake after mistake after mistake.
Tabloid gossip. Full of false and fraudulent claims.
It is full of false and fake information.
A book full of lies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: However, Steve Bannon is not disputing anything of his quotes, as saying in the book. Perhaps as a bit of damage control, he did sing the President's praises on his radio show last night.
And the President, today, made sure that point that out even though he told us yesterday that Bannon had lost his mind. Here's Mr. Trump at the White House earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did Steve Bannon betray you, Mr. President? Any words about Steve Bannon?
TRUMP: I don't know. He called me a great man last night, so, you know, he obviously changed his tune pretty quick.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: And with Mr. Trump, you might wonder how banished Bannon really is. But you can't ignore the toxic atmosphere around this Trump/Bannon war which only adds to the toxic atmosphere facing Republicans as we turn towards the midterms.
Folks, Steve Bannon has been consumed by the monster he created. As conservative radio host Charlie Sykes points out, Bannon created a pro- Trump media ecosystem that demanded loyalty, not ideological consistency.
So what happens to the Bannonites now? Or to put it another way, in a Trump/Bannon divorce, who gets the kids? Who can handle the kids?
The GOP establishment is celebrating Bannon's banishment with gleeful gifts like this one, but the monster he created remains. Bannon said it himself: there's a special place in hell for Republicans who aren't loyal to the President. And that should still terrify the establishment even if Bannon's gone because, folks, this is the most unpopular president in modern history after year one.
He has already dragged down Republican candidates everywhere you look in 2017. Some still survived but barely. And four in 10 Americans want Congress to consider impeaching him. That's the political landscape.
Bannonesque loyalty to the President could cost the GOP in tight races, but so could Bannonesque disloyalty. And if GOP candidates are hoping to make their races about the issues, think again.
If the start of 2018 proves anything, it's that 2018 is going to be about one thing. Trump.
Joining me now is Sam Nunberg. He's the off again/on again longtime Trump adviser and a frequent persona, I guess, in the explosive new book, "Fire and Fury." By our count, he is in there at least 10 times.
SAM NUNBERG, FORMER CAMPAIGN AIDE TO DONALD TRUMP: Really?
TODD: Mr. Nunberg, welcome back to the show. We've already counted --
NUNBERG: Thank you.
TODD: Yes. I don't know if you've seen the full book yet.
NUNBERG: I have not.
TODD: Fair enough. Let me start with what was in, actually, the "Hollywood Reporter" today.
TODD: Let me put it up and get you to give us some explanation about it.
Everybody in the West Wing tried with some panic to explain him -- meaning Trump -- and sheepishly, their own reason for being there. He is intuitive, he gets it, he has a mind-meld with his base.
But there was palpable relief of an emperor's new clothes sort when longtime Trump staffer Sam Nunberg -- fired by Trump during the campaign but credited with knowing him better than anyone else -- he came back into the fold and said widely, he's just an expletive fool.
All right. Explain.
NUNBERG: Well, first of all, I don't remember exactly saying that, but those are, certainly, sentiments I have said sometimes. I mean, look, the President acts on his own tune, Chuck, and you've known this. You've covered him.
He's somebody who is not going to follow normal procedures. He is somebody who will meet with a foreign leader, and he's not going to do a regular briefing. He is somebody who will go to a debate, and he doesn't want to be briefed on all the issues. He is going to do it his own way, and he is very, very stubborn.
I would say, Chuck, though -- and I've told you this privately -- he is --
NUNBERG: That's the way he got there. In terms of my language, I mean, you've hung out with me before. We've had dinner.
NUNBERG: And you know I'm a colorful guy and I'm in New York.
NUNBERG: And I could tell you, too, I've been sued by him, and I'm sure he's said much worse about me. With that said, as you know, I'm a supporter of his. And he's a very, very difficult person to work for.
TODD: It's interesting, by the way, speaking of lawsuits because I'm curious. How serious should Michael Wolff take the lawsuit that President Trump has just threatened at him? Given that you've been sued before, have you --
TODD: Does he follow through?
NUNBERG: You know, this is going to be interesting because the President is from the Oval Office, and it would certainly be something historic. We've had a lot of historic instances here.
I think the issue -- and I think Steve, by the way, deserves to -- should give an apology to Don Junior and, frankly, to the Trump Organization for what he said to Michael in terms of money laundering and in terms about that meeting, which I disagree that it was treasonous. I disagree with the fact that Steve characterized the meeting as treasonous.
I think that Steve may have crossed a line there and probably, Steve regrets it. I know I've spoken to Steve, and Steve says that that was kind of out of context.
And, by the way, Chuck, that's Michael Wolff's -- you know, that's the way I feel about Michael Wolff and some of the things that he has quoted me on. I'm not disputing what I said.
NUNBERG: I'm not disputing the semblance of it, but I think what Michael does is -- is Michael is almost like a screenwriter.
NUNBERG: He creates a narrative. He takes certain instances that you've talked about, and then he combines them all into a paragraph.
I mean, look, as you know, I was not with the campaign formally from September of 2015, yet he puts me in a paragraph going -- he puts me in a paragraph with Roger Ailes, which goes into 2016, and goes into the fact that the President said I could be the most famous person in the world. That was from a conversation, Chuck, that I had with the President in 2014.
So I think that Steve and the President eventually will, as history has shown, they're going to talk, and they're going to figure --
NUNBERG: -- figure this out. But I think Steve did cross a line there in terms of what he said about Don.
TODD: No, but I want to go back to this lawsuit threat. Does he follow -- you know, this is not the first time the President has threatened to sue things. Is this something that people should worry about? Should Steve Bannon worry about it? Should Michael Wolff?
Obviously, Steve Bannon signed an NDA.
TODD: You've signed an NDA, which is the supposed basis of an attempted lawsuit. Are these frivolous or not?
NUNBERG: Well, you know, NDAs, especially with public figures, are very, very hard to enforce, and I think that this is probably a -- I think that this was -- he was trying to send a message to Steve here.
He was trying to say, look, I don't want you going around saying things, as if the excerpt that was put in "The Guardian," that are going to make the Mueller investigation -- give it credence to last longer.
And by Steve saying something along the lines of that this deals with money laundering and this all goes back to Don Junior and calling that meeting treasonous, that gives a lot of impetus for people on the Hill, including Republicans, by the way, Chuck, that want this investigation going on.
TODD: Right. I'm curious. Can you decode what the President said earlier today when asked about Steve Bannon? Right? And the President shot back, well, he called me a great man last night.
TODD: Which tells me, Sam, that he's obviously -- number one, he was up late watching television because every cable channel, I think, was recording the Bannon radio show to see what he would say.
TODD: So he saw that. I don't think he was listening to SiriusXM last night, but maybe he was.
NUNBERG: Yes, maybe.
TODD: But does that mean it's inevitable Bannon is back in the fold, or is this a bridge too far?
NUNBERG: I think that it was a bridge too far for Steve to comment on Don Junior and the Trump Organization. If you want to comment on Jared or even Ivanka, look, they're in the arena. They decided to go to the West Wing. That is all fair game.
But to target Don the way that Steve did, I think that that was a barrier that Mr. -- that President Trump is not going to force. I've often said to people, you can say things about Donald Trump, and he will wash it over. Eventually, you can make up with him. But if you attack his family, you attack his business, that is a bar too far.
NUNBERG: On the other hand, they're symbiotic in a weird way.
NUNBERG: Breitbart, in a lot of ways, whether people like it or not, is the conscience of the Trump presidency. It's the conscience of conservative nationalism, and it's not going to go anywhere.
TODD: I want to ask about a couple of excerpts.
TODD: And for my producer's sake, I want to put up excerpt number three here.
TODD: And it's about this. It says: is Trump a good person, an intelligent person, a capable person, asks Sam Nunberg. I don't even know, but I know he's a star.
Now, you've already said -- you've confirmed these quotes, but explain further. I mean, is it the lack of intellectual curiosity? Obviously, a lot of people have had fun on Twitter with your supposed briefing on the constitution to him and things like that.
TODD: Walk us through that.
NUNBERG: Well, my point was -- to Michael, was, the point was, when I was thinking about Donald Trump -- and the first time I saw him actually in the political arena was in 2011 at CPAC. And there was just something about him that when he walked into the small conference, he was a star. He was Obamaesque for Republicans.
And was the issue whether or not he would be a good president? Was the issue whether or not he was cerebral? Is the issue, compared to Obama, was he editor of "Law Review"? Was the issue whether or not he was very esoteric? No.
But you know what he had? He had something like "it." It's something like Ari Gold from the HBO, from the HBO "Entourage" show. So we talked about the Vinny Chase about. He was a star. He was a special commodity.
It was something that Roger Stone had seen about him in a long time. And he was able to be this amazing character where, for instance, when Barack Obama said, I'm a Rorschach test, there were 45 reasons why people support me, that was the way Donald Trump was way when he first announced.
TODD: Right, right.
NUNBERG: And going back, I just want to say -- let me finish one point quickly --
NUNBERG: -- is that, that's what Steve Bannon brought back into the campaign when he joined there very late where, by all public estimates, Hillary was going to be elected president. And Steve came in there, and he brought that back in and he brought it home.
TODD: All right. I got to ask you about the last thing because --
TODD: -- Michael Wolff does it very interesting. And it's excerpt six I want to put in, where he essentially compares -- he makes the case that nobody on the campaign wanted to win. And it was sort of like right out of the producers and they didn't mean to.
As the campaign came to an end, Trump himself was sanguine. His ultimate goal, after all, had never been to win. I could be the most famous man in the world, he had told his aide, Sam Nunberg, at the outside of this race.
And, you know, in this excerpt, Michael Wolff goes on to talk about Kellyanne Conway had a job lined up. Michael Flynn had a lobbying career lined up. You know, everybody had their next act lined up ready to go and was oddly excited about it.
NUNBERG: Well, the point was, when I talked to Michael about that, it goes to a conversation I had with then Mr. Trump in 2014. Look, the minute that Barack Obama won Virginia and Florida in 2012, Donald Trump had decided he was running for president that night in 2016.
I had said to him in 2014 -- we're going to a flight in the Southern Republican leadership conference in New Orleans. I said I can't guarantee if you're going to win the primary -- by the way, Chuck, he was much more confident about winning the primary than I was. What I can tell you is you're going to do well. You'll come out well out of this.
In a hundred years from now, if you don't win the primary, even if you don't win the presidency, nobody's going to remember, nobody's going to talk about who won those. But they're still going to write about you, and they're never going to be able to say you were a perennial tease.
At that point, he said to me, that's right. I'll be famous. That will be it. My thing will be etched in stone.
TODD: Interesting. All right. Sam Nunberg, more proof yet --
NUNBERG: Chuck, thank you.
TODD: -- that you know this man about as well as anybody I have run into.
NUNBERG: Well, thank you.
TODD: Mr. Nunberg, thank you, sir. Appreciate it.
NUNBERG: Thank you, Chuck.
TODD: Joining me now is conservative commentator and MSNBC contributor Charlie Sykes.
Mr. Sykes, welcome, sir.
CHARLIE SYKES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you.
TODD: I want to go into the point you made about Bannon at the beginning and you -- sort of the irony, and you compared him, I think, Robespierre. You know, he essentially got swallowed up by the very revolution he started here.
TODD: What does this mean? "The Wall Street Journal" is already out with a report -- you may have already seen it --
TODD: -- in the last hour that says, Bannon -- Breitbart board members are considering ousting Bannon if they can figure out a way to do it. Is Bannon headed to Alba?
SYKES: He certainly could be and, you know, you look back on this and how incredibly tone deaf he was.
You know, he created this vast media ecosystem on the right, but it was never really about ideas. It was increasingly about, you know, the tribalism and then increasingly about this cult of personality. So, you know, in retrospect, yes, you know, Steve Bannon created this, you know, this echo chamber that, you know, frankly, you know, makes any of his criticisms, you know, impossible.
SYKES: I mean, and you see what's happened now. You know, to the extent that there is a Republican civil war, it is incredibly one-sided. You notice how few people are lining up behind Steve Bannon?
TODD: It is, but I guess the question I have, Charlie, is this. On one hand, OK, Mitch McConnell is very happy today because he's been able to drive a wedge between Bannon and Trump, but there's still an anti- establishment fervor out there.
TODD: It was out there before Donald Trump was on the scene. It was out there, frankly, before Steve Bannon was a household name. I think what Bannon did was marshal these forces. If Bannon's not there to do it, who picks up the anti-establishment, anti-McConnell wing of the party? Is it a Mark Levin, is it that world, or who can tap into that?
SYKES: You know, that's an excellent question because there are still two problems here, you know. This is the vulnerability that Donald Trump has. He ran as a populist nationalist who was going to pay attention to the forgotten man, and Steve Bannon still has that visceral connection with that base. But, you know, in the presidency, he's really created this new gilded age.
I mean, this is a presidency that's more Steve Mnuchin than it is Steve Bannon. So if somebody wants to come at Donald Trump from the populist right, there is some vulnerability there.
And then, you know, before the Republican establishment gets too giddy about this, remember, you know, as influential as Steve Bannon was, this presidency was never shaped by Steve Bannon.
SYKES: This presidency is shaped and defined by Donald Trump, and he is not changing.
TODD: You know, in the epilogue of this book, there are quotes that muse that supposedly Steve Bannon has been telling people instead of "if I was president," "when I am president." Is that a notion to take seriously in the populist wing of the party?
SYKES: No, that is completely delusional. I mean, and it's so delusional it makes you wonder, you know, maybe that was some of the definity -- the affinity between Donald Trump and Steve Bannon.
I have to tell you, though, Chuck, that as I was reading through the excerpts, I had a reaction that I was not expecting.
I actually found myself hoping that this account was inaccurate, hoping that it is exaggerated because as many stories as we have heard about the dysfunction and the sort of the clown cart presidency, when you start to think through the implications of what the people who are close to Donald Trump think about him, what they have seen him do and their evaluation of this presidency, it's genuinely scary.
And I say that as somebody who is, you know, pretty critical of the President. I just -- you know, can it really be this bad and how bad can it get?
TODD: Well, you know, there's part of me, it's funny you say that, that this book, at times, you sit there and you're like -- you want to make sure you're not using confirmation bias.
TODD: But as Jim Fallows from "The Atlantic" said, there is -- this has that, quote, open secret feel to it. He didn't write anything in here that was unusual if you followed closely the last -- the first year of this presidency.
SYKES: Yes, and that's right. I mean, you read some of the reporting that's been going on. You know, Maggie Haberman and others, what they have been doing. They have been painting this which is why, as you read this, it's consistent with that other reporting, but it really gives you this sort of nightmarish sense.
And, I mean, even listening to Sam just a few minutes ago. I mean, these are people who have pushed and have, you know, supported Donald Trump, and yet, apparently, in their heart of hearts, they look at him, and they think this is not a man who is capable of doing the job, who is fit for this office, who commands the world's greatest nuclear arsenal. And yet, you know, they're looking at each other going, can you believe this guy is the President?
TODD: Charlie Sykes. Anyway, Robespierre. And I have to say, I give you the Steve Mnuchin than Steve Bannon characterization. That was a pretty good one too there, buddy. So you're having a pretty good 24 hours in terms of phrases.
Anyway, Charlie Sykes, much appreciated.
SYKES: Thank you.
TODD: And quick note, "Fire and Fury" author, Michael Wolff, will join me live in-studio to talk about his bombshell book. Don't miss it this Sunday exclusively on MEET THE PRESS.
Up ahead, President Trump is sending a message. His surreal video appearance in the White House briefing room while he was just likely yards away. We'll be right back.
TODD: Welcome back. President Trump appeared at the White House press briefing this afternoon. And I say appeared because, well, that's what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: We have a message from a special guest that I'd like to share with you. That I'll ask you to tune in to the screens and then I'll continue from there.
TRUMP: Thank you for being with us today. The historic tax cut I signed into law just two weeks ago before Christmas is already delivering major economic gains.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Look, the reason it was a pretty surreal moment is President Trump is physically at the White House today. He could have simply walked down the hall from the Oval Office to give the statement, but the White House opted to pre-recording message instead.
Perhaps his staff didn't trust that his ability to stay on message? And in this case, that message was touting the real world impact of the tax package and thanking companies like MSNBC's current company, Comcast, that have announced bonuses or pay raises for their employees.
But the whole thing -- he's just yards away -- to open with a video press release. Very odd. More MTP DAILY right after this.
TODD: Welcome back. "Fire and Fury" and a whole lot more. Let's bring in tonight's panel.
Eugene Robinson, columnist at "The Washington Post" and, of course, an NBC News contributor; Amy Walter, national editor at "The Cook Political Report"; and George Will, also a columnist at "The Washington Post" and an NBC News contributor as well. Welcome.
AMY WALTER, NATIONAL EDITOR, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Thank you.
TODD: I'm just going to start with one excerpt today and then let you guys go nuts. Here's Jim Fallows over "The Atlantic." He writes a very interesting piece about the Michael Wolff book, and he says this.
The details of Michael Wolff's new book, "Fire and Fury," make it unforgettable and potentially historic. We'll see how many of them fully stand up and in what particulars. But even at a heavy discount, it's a remarkable tale. But what Wolff is describing is an open secret.
GEORGE WILL, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: A religious skeptic in 19th Century England wanted to have carved over the portals of all the churches of England the three words, important if true.
This book is unimportant if true, even if true, in the sense that, as Mr. Fallows says, Mr. Trump, himself, is an open book who has been reading himself to the country for 30 years. This is not news.
Now, this excites a lot of people and a lot of chatter about the 25th Amendment and all the rest, but the behaviors and attitudes and the persona that have people talking about him being unfit for the presidency are the behaviors, attitudes, and persona that got about 63 million people to put him in the presidency.
TODD: What's interesting, as Fallows points out, though, this temperament issue that George is getting, that was the reason why every newspaper editorial in American came out against him. Not always for her but came out against him, some of them simply on temperament.
WALKER: Except we do also remember that on those 63 million people, some of them voted for him despite his temperament, not because of his temperament, and thought that, as president, he was going to be a different kind of person, that he would be changed by the office. A whole bunch of people didn't want him to be changed by the office.
I think the interesting thing, too, Chuck, when -- was talking about sort of where the Republican Party now goes from here with the Breitbart and Bannon world, and what's really fascinating to me is not just -- because I completely agree with you that there is still a market for an anti- establishment sort of --
TODD: It was there before Bannon.
WALKER: It was there --
WALKER: -- since Barack Obama was elected.
TODD: I don't remember Steve Bannon in the Todd Akin race.
WALKER: Absolutely not.
TODD: I don't remember Steve Bannon in the Richard Mourdock, you know.
WALKER: Absolutely not. But there is a new center too which is the disgruntled, sort of moderate suburban voter who voted for Donald Trump. Again, not just the never Trumpers, not the folks who had been in the establishment crowing against him forever.
This group of voters that we're going to be spending a lot of time with in 2018 and beyond are the people that voted for Donald Trump. Either they are independent-leaning or Republican-leaning. Maybe they even voted for Barack Obama before.
WALKER: But that this temperament issue is no longer just one of those, like, well, we'll get over it, but is defining how they view this president, and they may want to see Democrats in Congress as a check on the President.
EUGENE ROBINSON, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, just on the book. I mean, it is -- George is right, it is not an open secret in that it wasn't a secret at all, right? It was just open.
But the thing about the book is that to read it from the inside, from all this voice, you know, from Bannon, from -- you know, it opens with Kellyanne Conway -- I mean, the people who were right there, on election night, on various days during the early administration, it still is shocking. It still gets to you, to see it narrated from up close and personal, just how chaotic it is.
TODD: I guess then the question that Fallows then asks is, if it's an open secret, then the pressure now is not on Democrats if they win. It's on Republicans currently in Congress. What do they do, George?
WILL: Just what they've been doing so far. They said, well, we have an agenda and we have to -- the constitution is rather picky about this. You pass something, he has to sign it.
WILL: And therefore, we're going to put as much as possible on his desk. And they tried to kind of hermetically seal themselves off from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
TODD: Can they keep doing that?
WILL: Of course not.
TODD: Right. So I guess --
TODD: And it feels like at least the first year of the presidency, it was an off year, you know. In a campaign year, you can't.
WALKER: You become defined -- they are defined by the President.
WALKER: Now, it is pretty remarkable, though, that, you have seen on Capitol Hill, there is a lot going on. This Gang of Four sitting down and they're going to put together some sort of continuing resolution. They're going to figure out this funding issue of the government, and maybe we'll - -
TODD: I could make that this chaos actually makes Republicans have to deal quicker.
WALKER: They have to do deal quicker, and you can cut a lot of deals when not a lot of people are paying attention. I mean, without this intense focus on what's going on. Because if it weren't for this, we'd all be on Capitol Hill on what is going on.
WILL: And Paul Ryan says, next year, we're going to take this issue.
WILL: Now, we're going to take on the entitlement system.
WALKER: Yes, let's not.
WILL: Mitch McConnell says --
WILL: -- not going to happen.
ROBINSON: Yes, not going to happen.
WILL: But it's certainly the sort of thing that does not happen without presidential buy-in.
WILL: And one of the things this President has been clear about is that the great entitlement crisis that should motivate conservatives is the one thing he will not touch.
ROBINSON: He won't touch. But, you know, earlier this week before the book, the President of the United States taunted the leader of North Korea about who's nuclear button was bigger, right?
ROBINSON: That sort of thing is going to continue, and the constitution says that, hey, Congress, you have a role to play here. You know, you're supposed to decide matters of war and peace. You can constrain a runaway executive, and they're going to have to make decisions. They have to do their job.
TODD: I want to you, though, about this question. I have to admit, I was stunned that a bunch of Democratic senators decided to bring in a psychiatrist to try to -- and I thought, look, to me there's two ways of separating this, and I think if Democrats go down this road, they could make him a martyr.
Have the temperament conversation. Maybe he's cracking under the pressure. That is something that all of us wondered about, how could he handle the multiple incoming when it happens? But is there a disservice that we do when we go down too far this psychiatric road though?
WILL: Look, it's malpractice on the part of the psychiatrist. In 1964, 1,189 psychiatrists at the behest of "FACT" Magazine -- happily deceased -- analyzed Barry Goldwater, for whom I voted cheerfully, without ever having met him. And they diagnosed him a schizophrenic, as this and that, as like Hitler in so many ways.
Of course, it's an abuse. And this guy meant to -- this Yale psychiatrist, who I have a hunch didn't vote for him and I have a hunch has never met him --
WILL: -- to come down here and lecture a receptive audience of gullible Democrats to medicalize their political differences.
WALKER: Yes. And this is exactly what Republicans are hoping for, right? That Democrats, of course, overreach. Now, when you look at democratic candidates running in congressional districts that are swing districts or Republican leaning, they're not talking about psychiatrists, they're not talking about impeachment, at least at this point.
But if what you see is the national Democrats pushing this message, Republicans go, thank you very much, we're going to take that and run with it.
TODD: And you get pushed -- where are you on this? EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think that's a very good point, and also probably the political ramifications. However, if the president is baying at the moon, right?
I mean, if he is doing things that are clearly unbalanced, that call into question whether or not he is stable and fully in touch with his responsibilities, what are you going to do? Now, are you just going to ignore that or not? And how do you make that judgment? TODD: I guess I make the argument, is that the temperament issues that everybody is observing, temperament issues that all of us have observed for 40 years with Donald Trump. It's not like this idea that he's cracking or supposedly -- this has been the same guy I've covered. ROBINSON: Well, you know, there are people who have known him for a long time who make a slightly different argument. Slightly different. Now, there's more incoming now, right? There are pressures that you could never have unless you're president of the United States, and anyone would be a bit frazzled under such pressure.
TODD: I think the line's got to somewhere be on that temperament line versus mentally unfit line. Whatever that line is when we have this conversation. Anyway, I'm going to stop it, pause it here. You guys are free to come back. Stick around.
Up ahead, Attorney General Jeff Sessions' blunt message on marijuana. The Department of Justice is taking on blue states over pot.
TODD: Up ahead, Jeff Sessions, weed killer. The attorney general renews his fight over marijuana. We'll talk to the governor of Colorado, next.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CORY GARDNER (R), COLORADO: What has changed the president's mind? Why is Donald Trump thinking differently today about what he promised the people of Colorado in 2016?
The reverse course today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Welcome back. That was Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado earlier today railing against a reversal by the Trump Justice Department of an Obama era policy. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is doing away with a hands-off approach to enforcing federal marijuana laws in states where it has been legalized.
In 2013, the Obama administration said the feds would look the other away, choosing to only focus on things like distribution to minors, drug gangs, and sales beyond state borders. With today's change, federal prosecutors can decide how aggressively to enforce federal anti-pot laws themselves.
The DOJ says this is directive (ph) to go after marijuana dealers or users in states where it's legal. Rather they claim it's about freeing U.S. (INAUDIBLE) from restrictions. But it could still be a major buzz kill for the multibillion dollar industry and yes, it is now B.
Joining me is the Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper of Colorado. He is of course one of four governors who sent a letter in April to Sessions and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin to uphold this policy. Governor Hickenlooper, welcome back to the show, sir. GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), COLORADO: Glad to be back.
TODD: All right. Has anything changed because of this directive in the state of Colorado regarding the sale of recreational use of pot?
HICKENLOOPER: No. I don't think anything has changed today and I don't think it's going to change. You know, I think maybe General Sessions was sending a shot across the bow or continuing to express how much he disagrees with increasing any consumption of any drug, marijuana included, but, you know, I mean, I've talked to so many people that the Justice Department has high priorities. Heroin, sex trafficking, all of that stuff. TODD: There's been an argument that says that this is a meaningless change in this respect. A U.S. attorney in the state of Colorado, for instance, because maybe the idea of legalized pot is popular, may have his own -- his or her own political ambitions and isn't going to target an industry that the state that is popular with voters.
Is that what you expect and how that this law won't -- this new directive essentially won't get enforced?
HICKENLOOPER: I think what the directive said was that U.S. attorneys can in certain occasions go outside the boundaries of the previous restraints. I don't think it's directing anyone to do that. Again, they've got much bigger priorities.
If you look at it, 66 percent of the people of America live in a state where some form of marijuana has been legalized. So that's two-thirds of the country. I can't imagine it's to the benefit of the Trump administration or the Justice Department to thumb their nose at two-thirds of America.
TODD: One of your early challenges had to do with essentially what do you do with the money, right? For early-on, I think many banks were uncomfortable working with businesses, doing transactions involving marijuana, so it was very much cash based.
That's since loosened up. Are you concerned that banks are essentially going to freak out again and not do business with marijuana companies?
HICKENLOOPER: No. I am concerned about that. And banks are by nature, they're skittish. I don't mean that in a bad way. But if that's what happens, I will speak loud and firmly in that, you know, we're working as hard as we can to make sure that we diminish and ultimately eliminate the black market.
Drug dealers don't care who they sell to. If we're pushed back into a cash- only situation, that's putting out the red carpet to the criminal elements, to the black market, hey, open house again. Come get back involved.
TODD: At this point, does the Justice Department sort of memo change today? That's what it was. It's a reminder that just a change in party affiliation in the executive branch can change a directive like this.
Is it time, since many billions are at issue, have you talked with the Senator Gardner? Is it time to codify this, pass a law through Congress, so that the Justice Department can't decide whether to reschedule marijuana as a drug or whatever? Shouldn't Congress take the lead here?
HICKENLOOPER: Well, I have not talked to Senator Gardner today, but we have had a number of discussions on this. And maybe it's time for Congress to take that next step just as we did when the Volstead Act was repealed and alcohol became legal, in those states that chose to do it.
And maybe this -- this is going to be a huge nationwide experiment. It already is a huge nationwide experiment. Maybe now if states are the laboratories of democracy, maybe they pass a law that allows states, when they choose to, with certain guardrails to go out and see what medical and recreational marijuana, what does that look like, and let it be banked, let it be done more safely.
Again, two-thirds of America is living in a state where some form of marijuana is legalized. I think Congress, again, could be as cautious as they feel they need to be, but maybe we've reached that point where we become reckless by our inaction. TODD: I'm curious. You've been very careful. You want to go incrementally here and I get that. Do you think it is time to just pass a federal law that legalizes it?
HICKENLOOPER: No. Because I think this is -- even in Colorado, some people I greatly respect are still adamant that this is really a bad thing for the state and a bad thing for America.
I think that we've got to, as we implement our rules, our regulations, our enforcement procedures, we've got to make sure that we demonstrate we can digest this and that the old system, we all know how bad the old system was, we got to demonstrate that the new system is going to be significantly better. I think that comes in time.
TODD: So, are you saying -- are you not ready to declare legalized marijuana in Colorado a success?
HICKENLOOPER: Well, I have not urged other governors to follow our model, except where their voters have displayed that intention and that envision. I think it is -- we have eliminated many of the problems that we had. I think many of our worst fears have not come to be.
We haven't seen a jump in teenage consumption, we haven't seen a lot of the evils that we fear. But I'm not willing to say -- I still want a little more time to keep examining the data and looking for unintended consequences. This is a big deal. Let's not go rush into it. We don't have to change everything overnight.
TODD: Right. Before I let you go, are you still in the -- I'm thinking about a category for president in 2020.
HICKENLOOPER: Yes. I guess you'd say -- I get -- somebody asks me that pretty much every week --
TODD: I figured I'd be today's reporter to ask you.
TODD: You're in the "I'm thinking about it" stage?
HICKENLOOPER: Yes. Still just thinking about it.
TODD: All right. Governor John Hickenlooper, Democrat from Colorado.
HICKENLOOPER: Thanks, Chuck.
TODD: Thank you, sir. Appreciate your coming on. Up next, if President Trump really wants to change the way Washington works, I know something that really needs changing. We'll be back in a minute.
TODD: Welcome back. Tonight I'm obsessed with the new story that is dominating Washington today. The one everyone's talking about. The one all over TV. The one that has affected every single person in this area. Snow, of course. All one inch of it. One inch of snow.
There are cities where one inch of snow would barely be worth a mention on the local news. Here, it's the lead story. Here in the capital of the greatest country on earth, one inch of snow is a life-altering event. Schools are closed, meeting is canceled, and driving warnings issue, oh, the humanity.
Fortunately there are people here who are not from here who have some perspective. Here's a tweet from Senator Heidi Heitkamp, in North Dakota, we don't call it a snowstorm, we call it Thursday. If you skid through the snow, you can probably make out the U.S. capitol there.
House Speaker Paul Ryan shoot a photo with fellow Wisconsin lawmaker Senator Ron Johnson, quote, Washington, D.C. may be frozen from a bomb cyclone but in Wisconsin this is perfectly good working weather.
And then there is Senator Steve Daines who tweeted some cold weather comes to the east coast and it's called polar vortex and bomb cyclone. In Montana, we refer to it at as January.
Good to know that Washington has a sense of humor after all and here's a headline in The Washington Post website, dear northerners, we get that this weather is no big deal for you. Now, please, shut up.
Hopefully we'll dig out of flurries and have everything back to normal, well, at least a two-hour late start by tomorrow.
TODD: Time for "The Lid." Panel is back. Eugene, Amy, George Will. All right, Amy, Rebekah Mercer is out with a statement. It just came out a few minutes ago and essentially says, my family and I have not communicated with Steve Bannon in many months and have provided no financial support to his political agenda, nor do we support his recent actions and statements. I support President Trump and the platform upon which he was elected.
The Mercers are very important to Breitbart. The Mercers are very important to, you know, if Bannon wants to help Kelli Ward in Arizona, that's who you want funding your super PAC. What does that tell, Amy?
WALTER: Well, for somebody who already, at least when it comes to his political influence, has not proven to have a whole bunch of money behind his rhetoric, there's one last place he can go to try to get some of that money. He's very good at getting attention. He's very good at getting himself in the news media.
He really doesn't deliver much in terms of of what candidates need which is cash. And, you know, I don't think he's going to be able to do it. He wasn't going to be able to do it whether he had the backing of these folks, whether he was part of this or not.
TODD: I said this before about him. Is he all -- WILL: He's erected this enormous scaffolding of fame on the basis of no achievement so far. He is what the late historian of library of Congress Daniel Burston (ph) defined as a celebrity, that is someone well known for their well knowness.
TODD: That's Steve Bannon to you?
WILL: That's it. TODD: He's a Kardashian.
ROBINSON: He is a Kardashian but he had the ear of the president of the United States, right? He presumably doesn't have that anymore quite the way he used to.
ROBINSON: Although you never know with Trump. You know, people become enemies one day and friends again the next day. TODD: But you know, he did provide an important -- Sam Nunn (ph) brought this up. You know, the president can dismiss Bannon all he wants. Bannon brought a message focused to Trump at a moment when the campaign was off the rails. Not going off the rails, off the rails.
ROBINSON: He understands how to sort of codify that populous message, right? And how to hammer those issues, immigration, for example, you know, the wall, so he has his finger on something. It's not as if Steve Bannon is the kind of guy who is -- he's not a charismatic candidate. He can't go out and run. TODD: He's now a vacuum, right? Somebody is going to pick up the anti- establishment mantle. Is it President Trump?
WILL: It's the president.
TODD: It is the president.
WILL: Even before Bannon came on, they were talking about the big beautiful wall that the Mexicans would pay for. Immigration, all that stuff. He focuses -- focus is not the first adjective that springs to mind --
WILL: -- when we are talking about Donald Trump.
TODD: I guess galvanized maybe.
ROBINSON: Galvanized is good. WALTER: It does raise an interesting question about when the debate with DACA begins and where the Breitbart wing is in terms of making a public declaration.
TODD: So weak, a weak Bannon right now at a moment when they're negotiating DACA.
WALTER: I think that's very interesting.
TODD: Jeff Sessions' war on pot, does he win it or lose it, George?
WILL: Oh, he will lose this eventually. On states rights ground, federalism grounds. Mr. Hickenlooper before he became governor was a engineer. He went into the recreational drug of choice. He went into microbreweries in Colorado.
I'm leaving here to go home to have four parts gin to one part vermouth. That's my recreational drug of choice, called a martini, and much more dangerous drug by history's carnage --
WILL: -- than marijuana has proven to be. TODD: One of my favorite questions that we remind people is, what's more dangerous? A cigarette, a joint or a booze? And you could -- some would say all of the above, but pot wouldn't be number one.
TODD: All right, guys, thank you. Thank you all. Up ahead, another twist in a very twisty election.
TODD: Well, in case you missed it, we have a saying around here, one of my favorite. If it's Tuesday, somebody is voting somewhere. And if it's Thursday, somebody is pulling film canisters out of a stoneware bowl to decide control of the Virginia House of Delegates.
That's right. Republican David Yancey was officially declared the winner today of the most closely watched state House election we can remember. Today's tie breaker drawing comes after a recount and court challenge and a revoked concession by Yancey.
A Republican win preserves the GOP's razor-thin majority in the House of Delegates, but, in case you missed it, today's spectacle is not the end of this saga as the loser of the name drawing, Democrat Shelly Simons is allowed to request a second recount.
So I'm going to say she is not conceding and that all options are still on the table. So stay tuned for the next episode of win, lose or draw.
That's all we have for tonight. We'll see you later tomorrow for more "MTP Daily." "The Beat" with Ari Melber though starts right now.
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