Show: MTP DAILY Date: January 5, 2018 Guest: Jay Inslee, Anne Gearan, Matthew Continetti, Anita Dunn, Jim Jordan, Matthew Continetti, Anne Gearan, Anita Dunn
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: MTP DAILY starts right now. Hi, Chuck. I cannot wait to see that.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: I appreciate the plug. I can`t wait to conduct it. Live on Sunday morning right at this table. It will be great. Thank you. Well, if it`s Friday, the White House getting devoured by a Wolff.
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TODD: Tonight, author Michael Wolff fights back against President Trump`s criticism of his book, "Fire and Fury."
MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, "FIRE AND FURY": My credibility is being questioned by a man who has less credibility than perhaps anyone who has ever walked on Earth at this point.
TODD: Plus, targeting Sessions. The Attorney General is facing escalating pressure on all sides. We`ll talk to one of the Republican members of Congress calling on Jeff Sessions to resign.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: It`s the Attorney General`s job to do his constitutional duty.
TODD: Finally, the Trump administration squares off with the states on everything, from offshore oil drilling to onshore pot smoking. So whatever happened to the "Don`t Tread on Me" GOP?
This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.
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TODD: Good evening. I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington and welcome to MTP DAILY.
Folks, you can debate the accuracy of individual anecdotes of Michael Wolff`s book all you want, but you cannot debate the portrait it paints of this President because everyone around him is seemingly painting the same portrait.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: According to your reporting, everyone around the President, senior advisers, family members, every single one of them, questions his intelligence and fitness for office?
WOLFF: Let me put a marker in the sand here, 100 percent of the people around him.
The one description that everyone gave, everyone has in common, they all say he is like a child. They say he`s a moron, an idiot. I will quote Steve Bannon: he`s lost it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: The President and the White House say Wolff`s reporting is a, quote, book of lies. But look around. Because seemingly everywhere around the President is treating him like the President in Wolff`s book, which, frankly, a lot of people in this town say looks like the President they know as well.
It`s hard to ignore because everywhere you look, it seems like the people around this President have adopted a two-part strategy of containment and appeasement in dealing with him. Appeasement from Republicans to get him to sign seemingly whatever they want and containment from White House staffers to prevent him from seemingly doing whatever he wants.
The appeasement is obvious whether it`s the party fawning over him for their tax plan or cabinet meetings that begin by paying homage to his greatness, like some religious benediction, or the pretzels that they tie themselves into to defend everything he says.
Or the leads they pursue seemingly at his request. For example, the very first Congressional criminal referral in the Republican investigation into Russian interference is against someone who tried to expose Russian interference.
Republican Senators Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham have referred Christopher Steele to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation. Steele is the author of the so-called Trump dossier, which the President has blasted as, quote, Crooked Hillary Clinton pile of garbage that proves Democrats colluded with Russia, not the Republicans.
Or what about today`s other big headline that the FBI is investigating the Clinton Foundation again, which the President has been angrily demanding despite initially saying he did not want to pursue charges to, quote, hurt the Clintons because, quote, they`re good people. But that was before Bob Mueller.
And, folks, it seems like the goal of appeasing the President is seemingly to contain him. You want to see appeasement and containment in action? Take the "New York Times" report about the President`s struggle to contain the Russia probe.
It says the President instructed his top lawyer to stop Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Russia investigation. And when that failed, the President erupted in anger.
And one of the President`s lawyers went so far as to mislead the President himself about his authority to fire the FBI Director. Why? Out of fear the President would actually do it.
The President recently said he can do whatever he wants with the Justice Department, but, folks, is that really any way to lead a Justice Department that cares about the rule of law over partisanship?
Joining me now is NBC News intelligence and national security reporter Ken Dilanian.
And, Ken, I know you`ve been working on some of that -- we have what the "New York Times" report about this idea that the White House -- that the President ordered Don McGahn, the White House Counsel, to work with him, but you say it wasn`t just Don McGahn. And we`re now reporting that there has been efforts to get Jeff Sessions to unrecuse himself?
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: No, not necessarily, Chuck, but what I was able to confirm is that it wasn`t just -- this is in February before Sessions has announced his recusal but he had already decided.
TODD: He`s already done it essentially.
DILANIAN: Unbeknownst to the White House.
DILANIAN: But it wasn`t just Don McGahn he called over. It was other senior White House officials as yet unnamed. We`re trying to learn the identity.
So it was a full-court press to get Sessions not to recuse himself apparently because Donald Trump really wanted what he viewed as a protector in charge of the Russia investigation. And his instincts were right about that because nothing good, from his perspective, happened from Jeff Sessions` recusal.
TODD: No, the minute a special prosecutor, it`s no longer in his hands. He doesn`t have the same type of control. The Clinton investigation, what has been opened up? What are they -- this -- it seems as if the FBI investigated this before and determined there wasn`t enough to bring charges?
DILANIAN: That`s right. And now it appears they`re taking another look at it. The Clinton Foundation --
TODD: Do they have new evidence?
DILANIAN: It`s not clear. We know that the FBI office in Little Rock is in charge of this investigation because there apparently is a Clinton Foundation satellite in Little Rock. But, you know what, they`re also looking at the Uranium One matter again.
This is all -- this comes from congressional Republicans demanding a special counsel in this case, and Jeff Sessions is saying, look, we`ll look at all these other matters. And Democrat view that as seriously improper.
Now, there is precedent for this. When Eric Holder came in, you know, there were some allegations that the CIA had broken the law in torturing detainees. And that had been looked at by career prosecutors. The case was closed.
Eric Holder asked that it be reopened. He had a special counsel examine it. No charges were filed. But it really makes people nervous when it looks like politics is intruding on criminal investigations.
TODD: All right. And then I want to ask you about the referral on Christopher Steele, a criminal referral. What I don`t understand is Christopher Steele never testified before Congress, so why does Congress have the authority to ask for a criminal investigation in this sense, or a referral?
DILANIAN: Well --
TODD: What is their -- what is the standing here? What is their evidence?
DILANIAN: Our understanding is they have a lot of documents that they have demanded from the FBI about how the FBI dealt with Steele, so they know what Steele told the FBI at certain points. And apparently, they have detected a misstatement about when Steele said he talked to certain reporters.
He told the FBI one thing. Maybe he -- they have some documents that suggest another thing. They`re not saying, by the way, that he intentionally lied. They`re not alleging that at all. What they`re saying is there was a material misstatement in a criminal investigation.
DILANIAN: And as you`ve seen, Democrats are slapping their foreheads over this, saying this is a transparent attempt to go after the dossier and something that`s at the heart of the Trump investigation.
TODD: What surprises me, Chuck Grassley and Lindsay Graham referred it. There was no Democrat. Usually, in something like this, you want to try to have a bipartisan -- and certainly Lindsey Graham, I know, supposedly wanted to make -- keep everything bipartisan in the Judiciary Committee. Is that no longer the case?
DILANIAN: No. This aspect of the investigation has broken down along partisan lines because the Senate Judiciary Committee has made a mission of taking apart the dossier.
For whatever reason, Senator Grassley really is angry about the way that it`s handled. He`s made allegations that it`s infected with Russian propaganda. He wants to expose this to the world.
TODD: All right. Ken Dilanian, as always, a busy Friday.
DILANIAN: Good to be with you, Chuck.
TODD: And it`s going to be probably a busy Friday night as well.
DILANIAN: I think so.
TODD: Thank you, sir.
Joining me now is Ohio Republican Congressman Jim Jordan who is a member of the House Judiciary Committee.
Congressman Jordan, welcome back to the show, sir.
JORDAN: Good to be with you.
TODD: All right. I want to start with your call for Jeff Sessions to resign because one of the things that you cite is his inability to control leaks.
TODD: And I have to say, for members of Congress to complain about others leaking to me is laughable, no offense. Are you going to tell me you`ve never leaked or nobody from your staff`s ever leaked or nobody from the Judiciary Committee`s -- JORDAN: Well --
TODD: -- ever leaked anything to reporters?
JORDAN: Yes, but this is the FBI supposedly in an ongoing investigation, so come on. You know, that`s -- there`s a little bit of a standard there.
TODD: You`re the U.S. Congress.
JORDAN: Yes --
TODD: You guys are the U.S. Congress, the House Intelligence Committee. Devin Nunes has been caught leaking stuff.
JORDAN: Yes, they will tell us all the time. They will tell us --
TODD: This isn`t new.
JORDAN: They will tell us all the time, oh, we can`t answer your question, Congressman. When I had Jeff Sessions on the witness stand a few weeks back, he wouldn`t answer a fundamental question, like did the FBI pay Christopher Steele, the author of the dossier? Did they reimburse him?
He wouldn`t answer the question. He said there`s an ongoing investigation, but then we`re going to leak to the "New York Times" four unnamed sources?
Or forget about the last year on the dossier. It`s really Papadopoulos in a bar in Great Britain shooting his mouth off. That was the catalyst for the Russian investigation. Come on!
So I think there`s a host of concerns we have with Attorney General Sessions. If he does his job, if he was to, you know, appoint a second special counsel, stop the leaks, actually give us the documents we`ve requested -- there looks to be some movement on that this week, thank goodness.
JORDAN: And if he would answer our questions, then fine. So do your job and everything is fine. But if you`re not, then maybe it`s time for someone else.
TODD: Do you think --
JORDAN: That`s all we said.
TODD: Do you believe the Russians interfered in the election in 2016?
JORDAN: That`s what who been said, but do I think there`s any course --
TODD: You don`t believe it and you don`t think there`s any evidence?
JORDAN: No, no, no. The intelligence community has told us that, but what Special Counsel Mueller is looking into is, did the Trump campaign coordinate with the Russians to influence the election? To date, zero evidence on that.
But, of course, some people and some of my colleagues on the Democrat side want to forget the fact that we know: the Clinton campaign paid the law firm who paid Fusion who paid Chris Steele who paid Russians to do what? Influence the election. So we know that happened.
What we`re saying is let`s have some equal treatment on all this and get all the answers for the American people.
TODD: Right. It does seem, though, that you`re more concerned about the investigators than perhaps the more alarming allegation which is foreign interference.
JORDAN: Chuck, who wouldn`t be concerned about the investigators? Well, think about what we`ve learned in the last eight weeks.
TODD: It`s not --
JORDAN: That the DNC and the Clinton campaign, one and the same, paid for the opposition research, paid for the dossier, which was likely used as the basis to secure the FISA warrants to private Americans --
TODD: Here`s -- why do you -- here is the --
JORDAN: -- and to keep --
TODD: You keep saying likely used. There`s no facts.
JORDAN: If you think about what we learned about Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr, all that stuff we`ve learned about --
TODD: All right.
JORDAN: -- in the last few weeks, and you said you`re not concerned about the investigators? I`m concerned about all of it. That is why I said let`s get the answers to all of these questions.
TODD: So why not actually find a fact that somehow these investigators made up? I mean, you`re assuming that they`ve made this stuff up. Do you believe that these investigators are just making stuff up and making up allegations about the Russians` attempts --
JORDAN: No, I --
TODD: -- to influence the campaign?
JORDAN: I think it`s highly unusual that peter Strzok and Lisa Page exchanged text messages where they say we need an insurance policy because we can`t let the American people elect Donald Trump president. We can`t have that happen. And he`s the guy on the Mueller team.
I think it`s highly unusual when, normally, the investigators say, oh, we can`t make information public ongoing investigation, when they say, you know what, we`re going to release 375 texts. Why did they release any texts and why only 375 of the 10,000?
I think that`s all -- I think it`s unusual that Bruce Ohr, a top lawyer at the Justice Department`s wife was working for Fusion GPS on the dossier project. I think all that`s unusual, so I would like to get answers to why all that was going on in the midst of all these investigations that we have.
TODD: Right. Does it, at all, not make you feel better that Robert Mueller got rid of these FBI investigators from his team before you and others pointed this out? This is only known after the fact.
JORDAN: No --
TODD: He got rid of these investigators before. They found it themselves. This was their own internal --
JORDAN: Well, actually --
TODD: Does that not give you any sort of confidence that --
JORDAN: No, that`s fine.
TODD: -- you know what, he is policing his investigators?
JORDAN: That`s fine, but they didn`t tell us why they got rid of him. And never forget, Lisa Page left two weeks before Peter Strzok. Two weeks before the FBI and Bob Mueller even knew about this.
Why did she leave early? I don`t know the answer to that question. I think that`s important. I think that could be relevant.
So there`s all these questions -- we did a whole list of them, 18 key questions in 2018 that we need answers to. That`s why we think we need the documents, we need access to the witnesses.
Frankly, many of us and a growing chorus of members is calling for a second special counsel, so this is no way partisan. This is about just let`s get the answers for all these questions. And what I`d like to see is the same kind of intensity to answer the questions I`m raising that so many people have for Bob Mueller and his investigation.
TODD: Is the --
JORDAN: Just a fraction of the intensity would be good.
TODD: Is the -- well, I think because one is about potentially a treasonous allegation and one feels like political gamesmanship.
JORDAN: How is it political gamesmanship when the guy who ran the Clinton investigation, ran the Russian investigation, interviewed Mills, interviewed Abedin, interviewed Clinton, interviewed Mike Flynn, when that guy is exchanging text messages where he says we need an insurance policy, we can`t let -- we can`t run the risk that Donald Trump`s going to be president? How is that --
TODD: So you`re assuming --
JORDAN: That --
TODD: So what you`re saying is --
JORDAN: That`s important to know -- get to the bottom of.
TODD: Then why should you be a credible investigator on Congress? You`re a partisan. You`re a Republican. You`re a conservative Republican. Why should --
JORDAN: No --
TODD: I mean, what you`re saying is that somehow this FBI agent, because he may have had a personal opinion about Donald Trump, was somehow going to skew his investigation? You believe that?
JORDAN: Chuck, he wasn`t just any FBI agent. He was a top official, seventh-floor official. He was running the Clinton investigation --
TODD: Right. Do you have evidence that he`d ever skewed an investigation --
JORDAN: -- running the Russian investigation. He was deputy head of counterintelligence. This is not just intelligence (ph). This is the guy who based --
TODD: I understand that. Do you think he would have gotten those jobs --
JORDAN: This is an important guy, and he`s in both of these investigations --
TODD: Do you think he would have gotten those jobs if he weren`t an ethical person in the FBI?
JORDAN: All I know is he`s --
TODD: Do you believe the FBI is this --
JORDAN: I know he was -- I know he was --
TODD: Do you believe the FBI is this corrupt?
JORDAN: I know he was kicked off of Mueller`s team when it was discovered what was in his text messages. I know he ran the investigation of Clinton, ran the Russian investigation, with that inherent bias that was displayed in those text messages. We need to know what the insurance policy -- you don`t think we should interview this guy? You don`t think we should ask questions?
TODD: Nobody is saying that.
JORDAN: You don`t think we should put him on the witness stand?
TODD: Of course, you should. Why not?
JORDAN: Of course.
TODD: No, no.
JORDAN: That`s what we`re getting too. We need the documents first, and that`s finally -- thank goodness, Devin Nunes -- Chairman Nunes has been pushing.
TODD: Let me --
JORDAN: Finally, it seems like the Justice Department is going to start giving us the information that we`ve been asking for, for the last six months.
TODD: Let me ask you this. You want Jeff Sessions to resign because you feel like he`s not controlling the FBI but he recused himself. Isn`t it --
JORDAN: I want him to do his job.
TODD: Well, but isn`t it ethical -- isn`t he taking the ethical route here by saying he abided by career attorneys who told him, you know, look, you were involved in the campaign, you made a pledge during your confirmation hearing?
He is abiding by his pledge. How is he supposed to, quote, get control of the leaks of the FBI and the Russia investigation if he`s recused himself?
JORDAN: He is still the Attorney General. He still shouldn`t be leaking information in an ongoing investigation. We`ve called for him to appoint a special counsel -- a second special -- Lindsey Graham has called for it. A number of people have called if for him. Let`s do that until we get --
TODD: He has recused himself, so why should he --
JORDAN: We asked --
TODD: Are you saying because of his position on the Russia investigation, he`s incapable of carrying out the functions of being Attorney General?
JORDAN: No. I`m saying there are four big concerns we have, and that`s why we say deal with these four big concerns. And if you can`t deal with those four big concerns, if you can`t do your job, then we need to look at someone else.
What we wanted to do is -- I like Jeff Sessions. I want him to do the job, but I want that to happen. I want him to stop the leaks. I want him to give us the documents. I want him to answer our questions.
Why couldn`t he answer the question, did the FBI pay Christopher Steele? Was -- were the taxpayers actually paying the guy who wrote this dossier at the exact same time the Clinton campaign was paying this guy? That`s an important question.
And if the answer to that question is, yes, I think that is -- that is troublesome in my mind and, frankly, should be troublesome for any American if that, in fact, happened.
TODD: What I`ve never quite been able to put together on this theory that the Clinton campaign is somehow -- I don`t know, I guess you may believe they were trying to entrap Trump or whatever -- is if they had this oppo, why do you think they didn`t use it during the campaign?
JORDAN: You have to ask them that. I don`t know.
TODD: Well, see? I mean, this is why it doesn`t --
JORDAN: Maybe it was all recompense.
TODD: Do you see why this doesn`t --
JORDAN: Maybe they thought they were going to win.
TODD: Do you see why this doesn`t make a lot of sense? I mean, if they -- if this was this -- if this was as aggressive of an attempt as you`re laying out here, that the Clinton campaign was somehow sort of manipulating things behind the scenes --
JORDAN: Well --
TODD: -- then they were pretty stupid --
JORDAN: But that`s not -- no.
TODD: -- not to use it during the campaign.
JORDAN: No, they did try to use it. They -- I mean, this -- everyone, every news outlet, had this dossier. No one printed it because it was ridiculous.
It was -- David Corn was the first one to print it on October 31st, a week before the election in "Mother Jones." I want to know who his source was, by the way.
So everyone had this but it was so ridiculous that no one was going to print it. And it didn`t get legitimacy until, who? James Comey, on January 6, 2017, briefs President-elect Trump in New York. And then someone leaks that. Maybe Comey, who knows?
Someone leaks the fact that that briefing was about the dossier. Then the press runs with it. Then it becomes this big thing. So, yes, the press, y`all had it beforehand.
I don`t know why they didn`t use it. I don`t know why the Clinton campaign didn`t push it more. Mostly, I think, because the press said this is ridiculous.
TODD: Well, I have to say, if you`re going to call for people to resign because they leak, who`s going to be left in Washington?
JORDAN: About to see.
TODD: Congressman Jim Jordan, I`ll leave it there. Thanks for coming on and sharing your views. Appreciate it.
JORDAN: You bet, Chuck.
TODD: All right.
JORDAN: Thank you.
TODD: Up ahead, how the President`s allies handle him: a policy of appeasement and containment. That`s coming up.
TODD: Welcome back. John Kelly was brought in as White House Chief of Staff to bring discipline to the West Wing and keep President Trump focused. And if you believe the reports at the time, that meant Kelly was also in charge of curtailing tweets originating in the Oval Office.
Well, it turns out Kelly has been buried in a Twitter storm. A new study, courtesy of major Washington operative Bruce Mehlman, notes that President Trump sent just under six tweets per day while Reince Priebus was running the West Wing.
Now? It`s roughly 8-1/4 with John Kelly in charge. How about that? More tweets with Kelly than Priebus.
If this week taught us anything, a presidential tweet can derail the White House agenda, spark international confusion, and put the President`s private frustrations on public display.
And with 37 tweets from the President since 2018 began, it seems like Kelly has either given up or he needs to re-examine his strategy.
More MTP DAILY after this.
TODD: Welcome back. Happy Friday, I guess. Plenty to get to with our panel so let`s bring them in.
Anita Dunn is a former White House communications director under President Obama and an NBC News contributor; Matthew Continetti, editor-in-chief at "The Washington Free Beacon"; and Anne Gearan, national politics correspondent at "The Washington Post." Welcome.
Matthew, I`m going to use your column to set this conversation going. Your lead.
It says this: shows you what I know. If the final days of December, I told friends that 2018 might turn out to be a year of normalcy and economic boom, a President with a win in the form of a tax bill, a Russia investigation stumbling towards its inevitable conclusion. It took less than 72 hours for 2018 to prove me wrong.
MATTHEW CONTINETTI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON FREE BEACON: I guess the missing factor there was President Trump.
And what strikes me about the past few days is all of the work that John Kelly had -- has done since coming in in July, to kind of impose order and organization, a more traditional White House structure on this White House, has been forgotten, thanks to President Trump`s tweets and then, of course, this blockbuster book by Michael Wolff.
We`re now thrown back into the early days of the Trump administration when everything was disorganized chaos.
TODD: And, you know, I`ve had somebody ask me. It`s like, all right, sort of the best spin they could put on the Michael Wolff book in defending the President is, well, isn`t he really painting a portrait of that six months versus, oh, the last three months?
And it thought, well, that`s a hopeful attitude, I guess. But the President`s own behavior this week sort of shot that theory down, Anne.
ANNE GEARAN, NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right, and you`d have to ask what was so different about the last, you know, eight weeks of last year versus the beginning? And not really that much, except, of course, for the legislative win in the form of the tax legislation which was supposed to be the kickoff to a number of other successes that the White House has been telling all of us they were lining up.
I mean, look, the book paints a relentlessly unflattering portrait.
GEARAN: Not only of the operations of the White House which appear to be chaotic and not -- really not having people directly in charge, confusing lines of authority, but of the President himself. And that, apart from the specifics that the -- that they`re taking issue with, that really seems to be the heart of the criticism.
TODD: And, Anita, you were on -- you`ve been on book duty before at the White House.
ANITA DUNN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I have been.
TODD: You know, I`m familiar with how a White House usually operates when trying to deal with a book that creates -- sometimes hurt feelings personally, all sorts of people looking over their shoulder.
Critique how the President`s handled this in the last two days. Forget the book itself, but how they`ve handled it. What would you be advising this president to do?
DUNN: Well, Chuck, I think every White House learns, although this President doesn`t seem to be that interested in precedent or in norms. But every White House learns that the more you attack a book, the more you draw attention to precisely what you don`t want to draw attention to, which is the book.
And that, you know, by second terms -- and we can only see if that is the case if there is a second term here -- you know, a White House has generally learned to let books come and go with a minimum amount of drama.
You know, maybe you need to correct a few things, maybe you need to put it out, but that, just let the book come, go. Things move so quickly today.
I would be remiss. I have to say something about it, which is the process by which this book was not managed during its, shall we say, writing, as --
TODD: You`re insulted as a communications professional, aren`t you?
DUNN: I`m insulted as a -- but I`m also just sitting there thinking that there is no better. There is no better illustration of how bad process leads to disastrous outcomes than the fact that you would let someone basically sit on a bench in the West Wing. It`s just -- it`s extraordinary.
TODD: Well, Matthew, how about -- I don`t know if you saw this tweet, back and forth. Gabe Sherman, who is --
TODD: -- a contributor here at NBC News, noted. He goes, why didn`t somebody at the White House call Rupert Murdoch to find out what did they think of Michael Wolff as a biographer? And then Michael Wolff responds. He goes, yes, I was waiting for that phone call to be made --
TODD: -- assuming it would torpedo him.
CONTINETTI: Well, there`s one person we haven`t mentioned so far, and that`s Steve Bannon, who, I think, is integral to all three pieces of these stories, not only the backbiting and chaos --
CONTINETTI: -- of the initial administration. Not only the writing of this book, for which it`s clear he`s one of the main sources.
CONTINETTI: But also, thirdly, President Trump`s response. And it`s clear in President Trump`s, again, thermonuclear statement about Bannon that this became personal in a way. And that`s, of course, the missing ingredient between how earlier White Houses have dealt with things like this and how the Trump White House has dealt with this expose.
TODD: But do you think -- I mean, David Stockman.
TODD: When he did his book, it was personal. George Stephanopoulos. I mean, the Clintons didn`t --
DUNN: That was personal, yes.
TODD: That was personal, too. So other president --
CONTINETTI: But precedents didn`t take it personally.
TODD: Oh, no, no, no.
CONTINETTI: So that --
GEARAN: Well --
DUNN: Oh. Oh.
TODD: They did. They just didn`t tell us how personal they took it publicly. I would -- Bill Clinton --
TODD: Bill Clinton is still angry about it.
GEARAN: They didn`t have --
DUNN: They actually did not send cease and desist letters either, OK?
TODD: By the way, how many authors now are going to ask for it?
TODD: Please, Mr. President, can you send a cease and desist letter to my book, you know?
GEARAN: Yes, or he -- I mean, he took to -- the author took to Twitter and Facebook yesterday --
CONTINETTI: Said thank you to him.
GEARAN: -- and said, thanks, Mr. President.
DUNN: He went from 48,499th on the Amazon list to one. And I -- that is the power of Donald Trump, one way or another, I guess.
TODD: No, it`s an -- it was Donald Trump, the marketer, and in this case, reverse marketing.
DUNN: Yes. Yes.
TODD: You wanted to jump in, I`m sorry.
GEARAN: No, no. Every president, of course, takes these things personally. Not only are there -- you know, it`s all -- nobody ever likes to see themselves in the pages of anything, right? You never recognize yourself.
So every president does take it personally. Every president does not have Twitter. Every president does not manage his staff the way Trump manages his, which is basically the way he managed his company.
TODD: I was just going to say, I`ve talked to a few people who are still friendly with this President, been with him a long time, who say, well, the portrait is -- this assumption that somehow the President is undisciplined, this is how he likes it. That the chaos is a part -- and so their warning was, be careful criticizing the chaos. That`s what he demands. He almost inspires chaos.
CONTINETTI: And it is clear since "Art of the Deal" was published 30 years ago, and he says it right there in the opening chapter. He likes his time unstructured. He likes to improvise. He goes with his gut.
These are the qualities that have brought him to this point with stops in entertainment and real estate along the way. The problem is when they crash into the kind of very disciplined, organized institutional culture of Washington, we have these great earthquakes.
DUNN: And I`m going to point out, I think some of us have been in rooms with politicians who read stories and seen things and said we have to sue these people, right? And everybody is sitting around saying, yes, they`re terrible. I can`t believe they wrote that, blah, blah, blah. And then somebody will say, but, you know, here`s why we can`t do it.
It`s very clear, both from the book itself and from this week, there is nobody in the White House who can have that conversation with this President to say, no, here`s why this is a really bad idea.
TODD: Here`s the problem, I think, that they have, though, and it`s that the reason why this book`s not being dismissed so easily is, if you just read the clips, the coverage, day to day throughout 2017, there`s -- and frankly, there`s nothing unfamiliar in there. What shocked me about the book is that it was on the record.
GEARAN: Yes! I mean --
TODD: That was the shocking part. I`ve heard those same quotes. I just heard them off the record.
GEARAN: Yes, and that`s a good switch --
CONTINETTI: And maybe they were given off the record.
TODD: Well, that`s possible. Absolutely.
CONTINETTI: I`ve heard that from people.
GEARAN: Yes, that`s right. I mean --
TODD: Look, had somebody said Michael Wolff is a shark.
GEARAN: Bannon is not disputing the -- what he is --
TODD: Easiest to do is dispute a quote.
GEARAN: Yes, what he is quoted as saying on the record. I mean, that tells you a lot.
TODD: Yes, it does. All right, guys, we`ll pause here. Anita, Mathew, Anne, stick around.
Coming up, whatever happened to the "Don`t Tread on Me" GOP? Ah, Democrats love state`s rights when Republicans are in charge, and Republicans love state`s rights when Democrats are in charge. We`ll talk about big government and who defines it after this.
TODD: Quick reminder, "Fire and Fury" author Michael Wolff will join me live for an exclusive interview on "Meet the Press" this Sunday. You don`t want to miss it. The Wolff in the White House hen house. Back in a moment.
TODD: Republicans have campaigned for years on few guiding principles. Among them, small government, less oversight, and the idea that states are the laboratories of democracy. We`ve heard it louder than ever since the rise of the Tea Party in 2010.
People don`t want bureaucrats in Washington controlling their lives. Leave decisions up to the state. Give them the flexibility to make their own laws.
Folks, Republicans have seemingly change their tune now that they control the Washington bureaucracy. Just look at what the Trump administration has done in the last few weeks. They`ve opened up nearly all offshore waters to drilling even in states that don`t want it.
They`re targeting so-called sanctuary cities and they`re telling states with legalized marijuana, sorry, we`re still going to crack down on federally illegal pot if and when we see fit. It seems we have come a long way from the "don`t tread on me, GOP."
Joining me now is one of those blue state governors who is dealing with all of these issues, Democratic Governor Jay Inslee of Washington. His state not only has legalized marijuana, but also has offshore drilling on a number of sanctuary cities and saw some major state deductions acts in the Republican tax bill that just passed. Governor Inslee, welcome back to the show, sir.
GOV. JAY INSLEE (D), WASHINGTON: Thank you. Thanks for (INAUDIBLE) job. TODD: Let me start with the offshore oil decision, because I`ve not thought of the waters off the coast of Washington state as potentially water -- potentially places to go drill. Is this something that has been in the works before? Has the state passed its own laws? Walk me through what you`ve done in the past to prevent offshore drilling in Washington state.
INSLEE: This is one of the most unifying beliefs in Washington state. That it`s just insane and grossly irresponsible to go chasing some last drop of oil, exposing our beautiful beaches that we depend on for so many things, including tourism and enjoyment for virtually no benefit for the United States or Washington state.
So this is a bipartisan revulsion for this action by the president. To me, the only thing I can see is the president has understood that there is chaos and trouble in the White House so their knee-jerk response is attack the west coast on oil and attack the states moving forward in marijuana.
TODD: Do you think -- do you really believe it`s a political vendetta decision? I mean, it`s not like the president didn`t campaign on drill everywhere. I man, he was -- he was somebody that was wanting to unleash -- as he would say, time and again, the oil and gas, you know, the reserves that we have here.
INSLEE: Well, I just have to say the timing of this is curious. And what they`ve done is curious. Take marijuana. They`ve had a year to announce some policy and they haven`t done it. All of a sudden, we`re in the middle of chaos. All of a sudden this alleged policy comes out which is really not a policy, because they actually have not directed prosecutors in my state to actually prosecute anyone.
And at the moment, we don`t think anything is going to change, probably in our state. We are moving full-speed ahead. We`re not changing course. This has been very successful. We haven`t have the youthful use of marijuana go up. We haven`t have criminality go up. They have not ordered any change.
On oil offshore drilling, there is marginal interest in the industry of doing this, frankly, in part because of the massive expansion on land. So, yes, I think there is reason to be asking serious questions about the fact that these are not only horrible policies for the environment.
They`re really not economically necessary and you bet I think everything in this administration is justifiably suspect from a political standpoint. So that`s what I believe. TODD: Let me ask -- let me go on the marijuana front. I mean, one of the responses the Justice Department has said in -- when we`ve queried on this and when Senator Gardner, the Republican senator from Colorado, pushed back heavily on this. They simply said, hey, the Justice Department doesn`t make the law. They enforce the law. Congress is in charge of making law.
Where is the demand by you and other governors to your members of Congress? Will you go codify this? Go codify this experiment, if you will? Governor Hickenlooper yesterday couldn`t quite say what the federal -- what he wanted from the federal government on this beyond a Justice Department ruling. What do you want from Congress?
INSLEE: Well, I would be happy to go further than my colleague, because clearly Congress ought to act on this. They ought to look at the clear evidence that this is working in the states where it has been well regulated.
They ought to act with the desires of the American people and codify legalizing of this product, both in the medical and recreational context, because we have proven in our state and Colorado, for that matter, and I believe California will be openly ultimately successful, that when we regulate the market, here is what you get.
No increase in youthful use of the product. Less chasing criminals for this when we should have prosecutors and sheriffs chasing real criminals. No increase of sort of scandalous behavior and some revenue benefit for your states. That`s just the reality.
We need leaders including in Washington, D.C. to make decisions based on evidence rather than ideology. The evidence is it doesn`t make sense to go backwards on marijuana. The evidence is it doesn`t make sense to go backwards on oil drilling when we have a climate change crisis on our hands.
We have a president still thinking that climate change is a hoax and an attorney general who has had this bee in his bonnet, which would have us dragged back decades. This is a country that ought to move forward. And I would encourage my colleagues in other states, other governors, to, in fact, lead their states on this path.
TODD: If you were --
INSLEE: That actually works.
TODD: If you were president, would you advocate full legalization of marijuana?
INSLEE: With the same regulatory and disciplined system that we have, yes. Now, you have to have a disciplined system. You have to have an educational program to educate your children that this -- that these drugs can have bad effects. And you have to have a system to make sure it`s not diverted out of state or in criminal behavior.
You have to have a system to make sure the money isn`t just turned into a money laundering operation. Our state has proven, Colorado has proven, if you do those things, you will end up with less criminality and a population that is accepting their personal decision-making and individual decision- making.
So, yes, I would. This is a nation now that has shown we can change. Changed on gay marriage. We are changing rapidly on this issue. Very, very rapidly. And we are moving forward. And we are moving forward with this oil drilling issue. We have to decarbonize our economy over time. This is going backwards in this regard.
TODD: I got you to accept my hypothetical about being president. Let me ask you about 2020. Are you somebody that we should be making room for on our list when wondering who`s running?
INSLEE: I think I`m someone that would welcome your invitation on your show anytime, regardless of the answer to that question. I`m focused on being governor.
TODD: Democratic Governor Jay Inslee, I appreciate that answer. I appreciate your coming on and sharing your views. Thank you, sir.
INSLEE: Thank you.
TODD: All right, up ahead, why it`s getting harder to take politicians in Washington literally or seriously.
TODD: Welcome back. Tonight I`m obsessed with how the Washington spin control game is corrupting our ability to have meaningful conversations about policy. Here`s what I mean. The Labor Department reported today that the economy added 148,000 jobs in December. Now keep in mind 148,000 is actually a disappointing number.
Hat tip to The Daily Beast`s Sam Stein. Here is what House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, a republican, said about that job growth under President Trump. Quote, our economy continued to make progress last month rounding out a steady year of job growth for hardworking Americans.
OK. But here is what Brady two years ago said when the economy added 292,000 jobs in December, with a different president from a different party, Barack Obama. Quote, "we know that millions of more Americans would be working today if the Obama administration spent less time growing Washington and more time growing the economy.
And just to show you that this goes both ways, here`s House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi today. December`s lackluster jobs report shows that Americans continue to suffer under Republicans` corporate and special interest agenda.
And here she is one year ago, after almost the same number, 156,000 jobs created last December. The economy continues to move forward. To be fair, Pelosi does point out that more needs to the done. Do you get it?
For Republican Brady, 148,000 jobs under President Trump is progress. Nearly twice as many jobs created at 292,000 under President Obama means millions are being left behind. For Democrat Pelosi, 148,000 jobs under Mr. Trump is lackluster, while 156,000 under Mr. Obama is moving forward.
Keep in mind, what success under my guy is failure under your guy? It is hardly limited to Brady and Pelosi. I want to pick on those two, because it is a routine part of the Washington spin game. It makes you wonder why politicians and their communications even bothered putting up these ridiculous press releases. And frankly, you know why most of us don`t even pay attention to them anymore. We`ll be right back.
TODD: Time for "The Lid." Matthew Continetti, Anne Gearan, Anita Dunn. All right, Jeff Sessions. Does he have a friend in Washington left? Anne Gearan, it is amazing. Jim Jordan, he wants him out. Donald Trump wants him out. I think Chuck Schumer wants him in still, I don`t know. But Jay Inslee is angry at him. Who hasn`t he ticked off?
ANNE GEARAN, DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: I was going to say Chuck Schumer, right? I think at this point people are lining up to say outright or to suggest that Sessions should leave, that Trump should fire him. And, you know, then obviously, Democrats say, well, you know, that`s completely transparent.
GEARAN: The only reason Republicans would want him out is so that the president could pick a new attorney general who wouldn`t be bound by the same recusal rules.
GEARAN: Could fire Rosenstein, could fire Mueller, game on.
TODD: Kyle Whitmire is a political columnist in Alabama. He wrote this. Not always a very friendly as he writes, here he goes. Jordan and Meadows put me again in the position of defending someone I disagree with 90 percent of the time. Sessions recused himself out of professional principle and a dedication to the rule of law and God bless him for it because it seems he`s the only person holding the line between democracy and a Banana Republic autocracy.
A rough word from somebody who admittedly as he says is on the other side of the aisle. But, Matthew, it does seem as if Jeff Sessions is a man on an island. MATTHEW CONTINETTI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, WASHINGTON FREE BEACON: I`m surprised there aren`t more Republican defenders and Sessions considering he is well liked as a senator --
TODD: On policy.
CONTINETTI: On policy, certainly he`s a man of great principle. I was struck with this marijuana decision. Actually the debate within conservative and Republican ranks. There`s a lot of annoyance at the Justice Department for this because even for the more libertarian-minded Republicans and conservatives, legal pot is something they want to embrace. That might be one reason why there is not as much defense of him.
TODD: By the way, I challenge them. I said I have yet to find a Republican senator who has been supportive of the Sessions marijuana decision. We`ve seen some that have come out and criticized it. I have not -- nobody has embraced the decision he made. I`m not finding any high profile support for that. Am I missing it?
ANITA DUNN, POLITICAL STRATEGIST, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I haven`t seen anything. No. I want to pick up on something Anne said because Chuck Schumer did put out a statement yesterday basically saying Sessions can`t resign. He can`t go. Which was markedly different from his statement of March 2nd, calling on him to resign.
TODD: People want Holder and Sessions to resign.
TODD: I think at some point, Jim Jordan might have called for the last five attorney generals to resign. I don`t know. I`m being facetious here but --
DUNN: Only because he wasn`t around for the last six, probably.
DUNN: But, you know, Chuck, Jeff Sessions committed what is apparently the cardinal sin of listening to the career people of his department. And that is -- you know, if you believe Michael Wolff`s I want my own Roy Cohn kind of thing. This is one norm that I think a lot of people in a bipartisan way in Washington are very concerned about, the Justice Department, the FBI piece of this.
TODD: I was just going to say, I mean, is this recoverable? I have to say, look, you had plenty of Clinton partisan, Anne, who really believed that there were FBI agents in the New York field office leaking all the time Rudy Giuliani, stoking the fires on the Clinton e-mail investigation.
And now you have partisans on the right who believe that the FBI is, you know, messing around and mucking with the Russia investigation and Trump. You know, the fact is, that`s not healthy for the FBI, period.
GEARAN: No. And it is something that Comey was very aware of and worried about. I mean, they hadn`t gotten anywhere near as far as --
TODD: One could say almost over-worried about it. That was part of the problem.
GEARAN: Yes, right? I mean, he also was operating on the principle of, you know, we have a way to do this. We may not like the outcome --
GEARAN: -- but we have a way to do this and we`re going to stick to it. I mean, obviously, that all sort of seems like ancient history now and slightly quaint.
TODD: You know, Matt, I`m waiting to see -- are we going to get to the point where we should treat the head of the Department of Justice the same way we treat the Federal Reserve chair? Meaning, they`re five-year terms.
Meaning, we sort of try to create at least the potential and maybe you stagger the top three appointees at justice so that their terms expire at different times. I only say this because it seems as if we just -- as partisans, there`s no trust in Washington or either Justice Department. CONTINETTI: That`s an interesting idea. I think support for it, which isn`t out there right now, would probably hinge (ph) on what happens in the next two years. I mean, we`re kind of living in a state of suspended animation. We`re just waiting for Robert Mueller.
CONTINETTI: We really don`t know what he`s doing. We get these little snap shots.
TODD: You`re right. We don`t know what he knows. DUNN: We don`t know.
TODD: We don`t know if -- he may have a deep throat in the west wing right now.
CONTINETTI: We don`t know what he thought about various aspects of this investigation, whether he decided to pursue them or not. So, until he actually comes out with his report, a lot of these questions about the role of the Justice Department, its response and such and how to perform it in the future, I think are going to be left open.
DUNN: Chuck, one quick note on the Sessions has to go thing, that is a 51- 49 Senate at this point, OK? And the idea that somehow this gets rubber stamped through very easily, there are few Republicans who might want to ask some questions as well, right?
DUNN: Even though they`ve walked away from their bright line, you can`t fire Mueller, I think this is a problem.
TODD: All right, guys, I have to leave it there. Good luck getting a new attorney general confirmed in this political environment.
TODD: Yes, exactly. All right, guys, great weekend. I hope you have. Up ahead, when there`s nothing to be proud of, is there really something to celebrate?
TODD: In case you missed it, sometimes, nothing really is something. Just ask the good old people of Cleveland, Ohio who are about to host a parade for their beloved Browns. Their beloved 0-16 Browns. Tomorrow, the city will kick off a perfect season parade honoring a football season devoid of a single victory.
They`re going to march around the FirstEnergy Stadium in downtown Cleveland with pride wounded but heads held high. Let`s be frank. This has been an awful run for the Browns and their fans. One and 31 over the last few year, more presidents than wins for the Browns over the last two years.
But do you know who won big this season? Paper bags. It was the mask of choice for a number of Browns fans. Chances are we`ll see a few more at the parade this weekend. In all seriousness, kudos to Cleveland and their hearty fans.
They`re turning their misery to a kind of civic pride. And guess what? Proceeds for the parade are going to the local food bank to help people in need. So maybe Cleveland really is winning after all. By the way, go get to know Sam Donald (ph).
That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more "MTP Daily." "The Beat" with Ari Melber starts right now.
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