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Transcript 1/12/18 MTP Daily

Guests: David French, Andrew Card, Charlie Cook, Sahil Kapur, Tom Perez, Carol Lee

Show: MTP DAILY Date: January 12, 2018 Guest: David French, Andrew Card, Charlie Cook, Sahil Kapur, Tom Perez, Carol Lee


REV. AL SHARPTON, FOUNDER, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK:  One, I think, the trip -- the foreign trip America needs to be concerned about is his going to Davos.  I mean, can you imagine this man with his intellect, with his insecurities, sitting there with the elite?  I mean, the whole country is going to be embarrassed. 

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST:  You and I should go. 

SHARPTON:  I`ll take you up on that. 

WALLACE:  It`s a date.  All right.  My thanks to Evan, Philip Bump, Jen Palmieri, and the Rev.  That does it for our hour.  I`m Nicolle Wallace. 

MTP DAILY starts right now.  Hi, Chuck. 


WALLACE:  Happy Friday. 

TODD:  Yes, that`s about what we can say.  At least it`s Friday. 

WALLACE:  Right? 

TODD:  That`s right.  Well, if it`s Friday, an expletive spurs a new existential crisis. 


TODD:  Tonight, President Trump and race.  The country is now openly debating whether the President of the United States is a racist. 

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS:  I couldn`t imagine it.  Nor did I ever imagine that I would be sitting in the Oval Office and hear those words from our President. 

TODD:  Plus, base politics.  Can Democrats still work with President Trump without being punished by their own base? 

And finally, the President`s first physical exam in office. 

This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now. 


TODD:  Good evening.  I`m Chuck Todd hear in Washington and welcome to MTP DAILY. 

What are the consequences of having a president who is viewed by many as openly racist?  What are the consequences of having a Republican Party that, to some, appears to be empowering him with its silence? 

Folks, you can debate all you want about the President`s recent language, but you cannot debate what it seemingly reveals about his core beliefs.  That White Europeans are good and Brown immigrants are bad. 

That is why yesterday`s Oval Office meeting with lawmakers has exploded.  Not because the President used naughty language to embrace immigrants from Norway while rejecting immigrants from Haiti and Africa.  It exploded because, for many, it confirmed their view that this President sees everything through a racial prism and may even have his own racist beliefs. 

The President has denied the language.  Two Republicans in the meeting, Tom Cotton and David Perdue, say they cannot recall the language.  Republican Senator Jeff Flake criticized the language.  Republican Senator Bill Cassidy is urging his colleagues to ignore the language. 

The language is not the point.  It`s what it confirms that is.  It confirms the view of a businessman who was sued for discrimination, who became a celebrity ranting about President Obama`s birthplace, who became a candidate calling Mexicans rapists, lobbying for a ban on all Muslims, and a wall attacking -- and then attacking a federal judge because he was a, quote, Mexican, who became a president equating Nazis with counter- protesters, calling his rivals names like Pocahontas, and backing immigration policy that favors White Christians over ethnic minorities. 

And, folks, the political reality is that Republicans are now finding it harder and harder to defend this President`s beliefs.  This is what Paul Ryan had to say. 


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:  I read those comments later last night.  So the first thing that came to my mind was very unfortunate, unhelpful. 

We`ve got great friends from Africa in Janesville, who are doctors, who are just incredible citizens.  And I just think it`s important that we celebrate that. 


TODD:  Sometimes, you need to see -- see -- how Speaker Ryan says something and not just read it in a script.  You could see his body language there only reinforces his discomfort with all this. 

This is what one of the President`s staunchest allies, Gov. Rick Scott, had to say. 


GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA:  If the reports are true, you know, he should take them back.  I disagree with him completely. 


TODD:  And as for the language, which the President tried to deny, that is not based on anonymous sources alone.  Someone in the room went public.  We should warn you that some of this may not be appropriate for some of our younger viewers. 


DURBIN:  And then he went on when we started to describe the immigration from Africa that was being protected in this bipartisan measure.  That`s when he used these vile and vulgar comments, calling the nations they come from shitholes. 

You`ve seen the comments in the press.  I have not read one of them that`s inaccurate.  He said these hate-filled things, and he said them repeatedly. 


TODD:  Senator Lindsey Graham was also in the room, and he put out a statement saying, quote, I said my piece directly to President Trump yesterday. 

And two sources tell NBC News that President Trump was working the phones last night to gauge reaction to the fallout from the comments he now denies. 

Today, he would not answer shouted questions from the press after he signed a proclamation honoring, of all people, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. President, are you going to add to your comment, sir? 

RYAN:  Mr. President, will you respond to these serious questions about your statement, sir? 


RYAN:  I`m talking to the President, not you, sir. 

SCOTT:  I`m talking to you. 

RYAN:  Mr. President, are you a racist? 


TODD:  Joining me now from Nashville is "National Review" senior writer David French.  And, David, let me start with the first question that I started the show with.  What are the consequences of a president that many people view as racist now in this country? 

DAVID FRENCH, SENIOR WRITER, NATIONAL REVIEW:  Well, I`ll tell you one thing right off the bat.  One of the consequences is you take the polarization we already have in this country, and you dial it to 11 because what -- the context and the greater context that you went through because this is not just about this one word in isolation. 

It`s not just about this one conversation in isolation.  It`s about all of these conversations taken together since the beginning of his campaign, since the conduct of his business. 

And what it tells entire -- an entire class of Americans is there is now an extraordinary amount of evidence that he does not view you in the same way that he views many members of his core constituency, that he is not necessarily for you in the same way that he is with the members of his core constituency. 

And it says to an awful lot of Americans that he is doubling down on identity politics, and he is tagging identity politics to nationality and to race. 

And that takes polarization and that magnifies it.  And that magnifies it, I think, to an even more dangerous level. 

TODD:  So what are the consequences for the Republican Party?  For many leaders who are trying to do the -- I think Mario Diaz-Balart said something like, I`m trying to avoid distractions, I`m trying to protect the Dreamers.  Do you empower it by the silence? 

FRENCH:  Well, you know, at this point, I don`t think anybody has a good answer to that.  Nobody knows what to do. 

People in the White House beg him, beg him, not to tweet crazy things.  They beg him not to say crazy things.  He does what he wants to do.  He says what he wants to say. 

And at the same time, you`ve got Republicans who want to push through policies that, you know, conservatives like me believe are good for this country.  And so there`s this real fear, if we burn all those bridges, can we get these policies through you?  If we don`t come out strongly and attack him, is there -- you know, are there greater consequences? 

At the end of the day, though, I think you have to -- if you have to just default back to, what is the right thing to do here?  And the right thing to do is to condemn any effort to divide this country by race, any effort to divide the immigrant community by race because that is so incredibly toxic.  And not just morally, but it`s toxic, especially toxic given the unique history of this country. 

TODD:  You know, it`s interesting in politics.  You`ll ask any pollster, and they say -- give me the result of one question.  Cares about people like me.  Right?  At the end of the day, cares about people like me. 

Do you think now -- we know the President probably flunks that test with the majority of the country.  You`re sitting at a 35 percent job approval rating.  I think that`s pretty obvious. 

What does that do if you`re a generic Republican Senate candidate in 2018?  Generic Republican gubernatorial candidate?  How much of this is, now, you have to fear as rubbing off on your brand? 

FRENCH:  I mean, I think you absolutely have to fear that it`s rubbing off.  And, look, conservatives should understand this instinctively, that question, cares about people like me. 

Why is it that so many millions of conservatives held their noses and voted for Donald Trump, is because they believed the answer, for example, to Hillary Clinton cares about people like me was, no, she`s opposed to people like me. 

TODD:  Right. 

FRENCH:  So conservatives should understand this instinctively.  And I think that all other things being equal, what you might end up having is Republicans looking at a vanishing window, almost no matter what they do in these next 10 months, because the revulsion of the 65 percent is going to swamp the support of the 35 percent. 

TODD:  It seems -- and there`s, to me, another challenge here because I feel like you correctly pointed out that Republicans are running out of ways to, I guess, contain this President. 

He seems to not be reacting the way other political leaders react when their polling is in free fall, right?  He seems to be clinging to those that are still with him rather than trying to figure out how to get back the people that lost him -- that he`s lost. 

FRENCH:  Well, right, but you have to remember the unique history of this presidency.  I mean, this is a president who came into office in part because the firm belief here was that the polls were all wrong.  That in the one poll that mattered, he, in fact, won. 

You know, the reality is that the national polling numbers were pretty close to right.  But it is locked in with an awful lot of Republicans that all of these polls you`re talking about, all of these approval rating numbers, don`t mean a thing because we`ve heard it all before.  And all we have to do is keep our people together.  Keep our people together and we can shock the world, like happened in 2016. 

Forgetting that this is, in many ways, apples and oranges and forgetting that 2018 is going to be very different from 2016 for a million different reasons.  There`s a lot of unwillingness and inability to believe bad polling news because of what happened before. 

TODD:  I would like you to address another thing.  As somebody who`s trying to instill character and morality into my own kids, this way of rationalizing him -- I`ve had plenty of people say, he`s only saying what many people think. 


TODD:  Address that, will you?  I mean, address it to our friends that are -- that watch another cable channel, that host other shows that -- that was their rationale last night, David. 

FRENCH:  Yes.  I mean, look, what works politically is a completely different question, and I`m debating whether this works politically.  But what works politically, which is what people defaulted to, is a completely different question from what`s right and what`s wrong. 

Like you, I`m raising kids.  I try to teach my children that they live for an audience of one.  There`s only one opinion that matters, and that`s the opinion of a holy God.  Not of pollsters, not of a population.  And in that context, it begins to make things far more clear, doesn`t it, when you`re thinking about what`s right and what`s wrong? 

TODD:  Right. 

FRENCH:  Whereas, in this case, again and again, what we`re being told by apologists for the President, is it`s OK because he wins.  It`s OK because maybe he`s doing just what`s been done to us.  That turnabout is fair play. 

TODD:  Right. 

FRENCH:  No, that does not make it OK. 

TODD:  Yes.  I think the phrase, two rights -- or is it two wrongs are never -- are -- don`t make a right, and yet it is amazing to me how often the President`s supporters cite another wrong to rationalize his wrong. 

Anyway, David French, I`m going to leave it there.  I know you drove through a snowstorm.  Good grief, man.  Tennessee and snow?  Wow! 

FRENCH:  A third of an inch.  It was horrible. 

TODD:  A third of an inch!  Well, it`s a good thing the Titans have to go to New England, yes. 


TODD:  Anyway, David, thank you very much. 

FRENCH:  Thank you. 

TODD:  Let me turn now to Andy Card.  He`s a former White House chief of staff under President George W. Bush. 

And, Andy, I hesitate to know what to ask you on this front because, conventionally, I think we know what you would suggest to do, but you`re dealing with an unconventional president. 

I guess, put yourself in John Kelly`s shoes right now.  You go, in a week, from appearing to acquire more leverage in your negotiations on DACA and immigration to, essentially, losing all of that leverage with one comment. 

ANDREW CARD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF:  John Kelly has a huge task, and he`s meeting the responsibilities.  Actually, he`s doing a very, very good job, but, look, President Trump is not speaking as a Republican. 

Republicans are the party of inclusion.  I`m offended by what he said.  I`m offended by what he must think. 

And you`ve heard me say many times, you know, taste your words before you spit them out.  I don`t think he tasted his words before he spit them out.  My fear is that he also didn`t second-guess his own thinking before he even started to think of a word to spit out. 

So I`m a Republican because I think the Republican Party has been famous for being inclusive.  It was the Republican Party that is the party of Lincoln.  Ed Brooke.  Condoleezza Rice.  We`ve great leaders in our party.  Tim Scott. 

And President Trump is either tone deaf or he chooses not to recognize the value that comes from every American, and that he is the leader of every single person in this country.  And the truth is he`s the leader of our great democracy that we want the rest of the world to see so that they can emulate. 

We want them to experience the terrific nature of a democracy, and the United States has been the gold standard.  I don`t want that tarnished. 

TODD:  You`re 25 years old.  What evidence do you have that Donald Trump`s Republican Party is a party of inclusion? 

CARD:  The Republican Party is a party of inclusion. 

TODD:  What evidence, if you`re --

CARD:  I`m not sure that Donald Trump reset --

TODD:  I understand that, but if you`re 25 years old right now and you`re a millennial, essentially -- you`re trying to make a case that the Republican Party is a party of inclusion.  I know its history well.  I know what you`re trying to say. 

How do you, with a straight face, tell that to people today, right now, as Donald Trump`s the head of the party? 

CARD:  Well, Donald Trump is not the one who invites people to be involved in our party.  We have the capacity to make our own decisions. 

If you look at the policies that the Republican Party believes in, government closest to the people governs best.  Not Washington, D.C. but the government closest to the people.  That`s why I`m talking to you from New Hampshire where they have grassroots democracy.  They work every single day led by a Republican governor. 

They also recognize that it`s OK to make challenges and make mistakes and lift yourself up and take care of yourself, take care of your neighbor. 

Take care of your neighbor.  Don`t expect the government to have to take care of your neighbor.  Step up yourself and help take care of the neighbor. 

Be careful with any dollar that you spend in government because it`s not your dollar.  It belongs to the taxpayers.  It`s not the government`s money, it`s the people`s money.  Pay attention how you spend it. 

Those are Republican principles, and I think that most millennials will understand.  They want to have more say in what they do.  They don`t want to be told by the government what to do.  And that`s a Republican principle. 

So I think there`s a good reason for people to be -- want to be active as political activists.  I just don`t want people to be turned off, so they don`t play at all.  I think the great cancer in a democracy is when people say, I`m not going to play.  I`m not going to vote.  I`m not going to participate.  I`m not going to run. 

I want people to get engaged.  And if they do get engaged, there`s not a doubt in my mind that they`ll want to be engaged in a role that has them speaking as if they can help to empower other people, they don`t have to lift them up themselves.  They can create a climate where they are lifted by the opportunity that comes by living in this great nation. 

So that`s the Republican Party I believe in.  And I`m proud of the presidents I worked for.  They understood that.  I don`t think that President Trump -- really, I don`t think he is a racist --

TODD:  You don`t?  Michael Steele, the former --

CARD:  -- but I don`t want him to even give the impression that he might be. 

TODD:  -- the former RNC chair threw in the towel, and he called him a racist. 

CARD:  Well, he certainly has sounded like a racist in his repetitive comments that are insensitive, invite that label, and I just don`t want it to be the Republican label. 

Please, Donald Trump, don`t allow that label to become the Republican label.  It`s not who the Republican Party is. 

TODD:  Andy, your passion on this is impressive, but you know you`re in the minority right now.  Not a lot of elected Republicans are, frankly, expressing the anger that you`re expressing at him right now.  Why do you think that is? 

CARD:  Well, they`re sensitive to the ramifications in a primary process, and that`s not what they should be doing.  They should be grounded in values and stand up for what is right. 

Look, I like the Republican principles that are being established by performance in the House of Representatives right now.  I think Tim Ryan is doing -- I mean, Paul Ryan is doing a very good job helping to lead this country, and I want them to produce something that the President can sign. 

I think a president -- the President will sign legislation that`s produced by this Congress.  They don`t have to produce the legislation the way the President wants it every day.  I`m convinced that he would say, I understand.  You pass something, I`ll be glad to sign it.  I think he would sign it. 

I want them to come to a deal on DACA.  I want them to come to a deal on immigration reform.  I want -- I was pleased to see the tax reform happen.  The economy is booming, and we`re feeling good about it.  Let`s celebrate those things and continue them. 

And that`s what we should be doing.  So this is not a time for the Republicans to run away from their core values.  They should be embracing their core values. 

TODD:  So it sounds like you think more members of the party --

CARD:  And do it with more enthusiasm. 

TODD:  It sounds like you think more members of the party need to step up and publicly tell the President, this is not the Republican Party.  Stop speaking for the Republican -- I mean, what it is that you think needs to be done to --

CARD:  Well, no --

TODD:  -- to sort of --

CARD:  Well, there are things that Donald --

TODD:  -- to sort of fix --

CARD:  Donald Trump`s view of regulations and strengthening our economy, bringing jobs back to America, or creating a climate of opportunity, I think those are true values, that are Republican values. 

I don`t like the insensitive way that his -- he tweets messages that are not kind.  He says things that are not inclusive, and that`s what troubles me. 

But in terms of his policies, I like his policies.  I think he wants to see a vibrant economy that is one where people will have the opportunity to prove for themselves that they can make a difference and not be punished for taking risks.  And after all, taking risks in our economy is what allows our economy to grow. 

And that`s what I think Donald Trump has been doing, is to try to create a climate where we are more empowered to do better, rather than having the government do it for us.  I like that, but, please, don`t claim that our party is going to be manipulated by someone who is latently a racist. 

TODD:  But how do you --

CARD:  Don`t do that, Donald Trump. 

TODD:  Let me ask you, if there`s no -- what you`re describing has no consequence for Donald Trump.  I mean, I think that`s been part of the issue here for him, is that he`s never experienced a consequence for his actions or words that have been racially hateful.  Right?  There`s been no political consequence. 

And is that the issue?  He thinks he can get away with it because, at the end of the day, he`ll sign the tax cut bill? 

CARD:  I`m hoping that Congress will come together on its own to create a model of immigration reform that the President will sign.  Do it without the President.  Do it by cutting a deal with the Democrats in the House and the Senate. 

TODD:  So you`re saying cut him out? 

CARD:  Produce something. 

TODD:  Cut the President out at this point?  Cut him out? 

CARD:  If the President is not going to create a climate where you -- what he says will produce a viable coalition that can get something done. 

TODD:  Right. 

CARD:  Do it without the President.  I think he`ll sign a bill if it`s put on his desk. 

TODD:  All right.  And, well, it`s what he said on Tuesday, anyway.  He`ll sign whatever comes out of that room. 

Andy Card.  As always, sir, thank you for coming on and sharing your views.  Stay warm in New Hampshire if you can. 

CARD:  Thank you. 

TODD:  All right.  Up ahead, much more on what President Trump said and what it says about him. 


TODD:  Welcome back.  Astonishingly excellent.  Those were the words used to describe candidate Trump`s health in 2015.  That assessment, though, came from his personal physician, Dr. Jacob Bornstein who proclaimed Donald Trump would be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency. 

Well, today, President Trump had his first physical exam since taking office on Thursday.  He offered a prediction for how it would go. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How do you think the physical will go tomorrow? 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I think it`s going to go very well.  I`ll be very surprised if it doesn`t. 


TODD:  Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson is the lead White House doctor who supervised today`s checkup at Walter Reed.  He will compile results over the weekend and take questions at a White House briefing next week. 

The exam is voluntary and President Trump can choose what information is even made available to the public.  The past three presidents have disclosed their height, weight, and cholesterol and blood pressure levels.  It`s not clear how much President will share. 

We`ll be back with more with the President`s -- on the President`s other comments in 60 seconds. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)               

TODD:  Welcome back.  We use the phrase "what a week" so often here.  I guess we might as well just say, ah, just another week.  So let`s bring in in tonight`s panel. 

Charlie Cook, editor and publisher and founder of "The Cook Political Report."  Carol Lee, reporter right here on NBC News.  And Sahil Kapur, national political reporter for Bloomberg News. 

I want to get right to, Carol, this sort of the two interviews we just heard there, which I feel like you have David French trying to be the moral compass of the conservative movement versus Andy Card who sort of put a political explanation as to why things are. 

And I think you have -- for viewers, you have, that`s why we are in this sort of -- or even David French said, I don`t know what more we can do. 

CAROL LEE, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  Yes, you saw Andy Card try to almost quarantine Trumpism.  You know, just to kind of put it over here and it`s not affecting things over here. 

TODD:  To will it away almost. 

LEE:  Yes.  And it`s just --

TODD:  Yes. 

LEE:  And you`ve seen this before and it just doesn`t work and, clearly, that`s not what`s happening.  He`s in -- he`s President of the United States.  He`s in the White House.  He`s the leader of the Republican Party.  He`s having an influence. 

And whether the Republicans like it or not, he is branding the party, and potentially for the long term.  And you can -- so you see this, time and again, Republicans try to distance or rationalize or talk around it and act like he`s an "other" but he`s not.  He is the leader of the party. 

TODD:  Charlie? 

CHARLIE COOK, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT:  But, I mean, I think my job isn`t to defend Andy, but what President Trump says and a lot of what he does doesn`t represent the entire Republican Party. 

And there are plenty of Republicans, like Andy Card, who are deeply, deeply troubled by the President`s behavior and statements.  And as he said, there is some odd policy things he likes, but -- so that it isn`t fair to tarnish the entire party by some of these things that President Trump says. 

TODD:  That may -- you know, politics ain`t fair. 

COOK:  It`s --

TODD:  Politics is war sometimes. 


COOK:  Yes, I know. 

TODD:  And the fact is, what is the public going to see, Sahil?  It doesn`t --


TODD:  I take your point, I agree.  I know what`s in Andy Card`s heart.  I`ve known that guy a long time.  I know what`s in the Bush family`s heart. 

KAPUR:  I understand the inclination of Andy Card --

TODD:  Yes. 

KAPUR:  -- and many old-school Republicans to say don`t -- you know, don`t let this stuff, these kinds of things you say tarnish the Republican Party.  I think --

TODD:  By the way, there`s also ideological consistency here, right?  If you don`t believe, you know, in affirmative action and things like that, you -- true conservatives are truly colorblind all the time. 

KAPUR:  It`s a little late for that, though.  I do think there was a debate in between 17 Republican candidates on the stage in the 2016 election.  President Trump was the only one who fed this instinct, who actively, and not dog whistle terms but with a bullhorn, fed the fears of the demographic changes in this country.  That it`s becoming less White, that it`s becoming more ethnically and racially diverse. 

A lot of Americans with European ancestry are threatened by this.  They are not comfortable with it.  And President Trump spoke to that very directly. 

His immigration policies whether it has been ending temporary protected status for Haiti and El Salvador, the Muslim ban, killing DACA, stepping up deportations, cutting off what he calls chain migration, this fits this pattern of people thinking we want fewer immigrants and we don`t like the way this country is changing. 

That is the essence of what the Republican Party is standing for now, even if all of its adherents don`t believe that. 

TODD:  Yes, and I guess, short-term, politically, I understand why so many Republicans are hesitant to criticize this President.  But I want to use the metaphor that a producer, this morning, used, which is when a bankruptcy happens, it seems quick but, actually, it happens over time. 

COOK:  No, I think that`s true.  But I think if President Trump -- forget what`s in his heart.  What`s in his self-interest? 

And every time he says something like this, it just makes it a little bit tougher for Republicans to hold on to the House, and it increases a little bit the chances of losing majority in the Senate.  And how much -- he`s not having fun now.  How much fun would that be? 

So even just out of self-interest, he shouldn`t be doing this.  Forget the moral bankruptcy of so much of it. 

TODD:  And, Carol, you know, his instinct is unlike any other politician in this.  I mean, Charlie and I have seen politicians, as soon as their polls start crating, they figure, how do I get these people back?  The President`s instinct is, how do I hold on to the people I have? 

LEE:  He just doubles down on what --

TODD:  Yes, like I`m just going to cling to what I got, you know. 

LEE:  Right, on --

TODD:  Give me my teddy bear of base. 

LEE:  Right.  He is --

TODD:  My base teddy bear. 

LEE:  He keeps going to, right, his comfort place and what he feels has worked for him, despite the growing, mounting evidence that he`s his own worst enemy in so many ways. 

I mean, if you just look at the court decision this week on his DACA decision, citing one of his own tweets for the reason why the judge decided that way.  And so -- but that`s just not in his nature. 

And he thinks that the way he won is how he won, and everyone told him it wasn`t going to work then.  And so they`re saying the same things now, and he will succeed in the end. 

TODD:  That he`s never paid a consequence. 

LEE:  No. 

TODD:  And he`s never --

LEE:  He has not. 

TODD:  And he has never had a campaign consequence. 

KAPUR:  Exactly. 

LEE:  Right. 

KAPUR:  He is in his 70s now.  He became President and did all of these things that people said he couldn`t possibly do by being himself completely. 

TODD:  Don`t do the birther movement.  That will ruin your political career. 

KAPUR:  By listening to his impulses and it worked for him.  And, frankly, this is one of the reasons that Republicans are wary of standing up to him. 

You saw Speaker Ryan.  We know he`s uncomfortable with this stuff from what he said in the past before Trump became president, but I think they have made their bargain.  They know he is the leader of the party now. 

TODD:  Yes. 

KAPUR:  They know the base likes him, and if they stand up to him, then they`re going to pay a price in the primary. 

TODD:  All right.  All of us have a job of trying to figure out what`s going to happen in the next week?  I thought Rich Lowry made a really good point earlier today.  I was on a program with him. 

And, Charlie, he said, you know, the President has inadvertently made a clean DACA bill more likely, not less likely, because everything now is so -- that maybe a whole bunch of Republican, well, fine, just clean DACA and let`s punt everything else. 

COOK: These things are going to pass. The question is, what price really will President Trump have to pay for it? And the price just went up.

TODD:  Yes.

COOK:  I mean, but --

TODD:  That`s a good way of putting it.

COOK:  -- the government is not going to shut down and DACA is going to happen, but he is not going to get such a great deal.

TODD:  Yesterday, he a deal that Democrats helping to fund his wall. Not by much, but get Democrats to vote. And the great showman of Donald Trump could have a ceremony. He could have a shovel ceremony. It`s odd.

KAPUR:  Can I just say I`m told by sources that President Trump was initially warm to the proposal, that Senator Durbin and Graham presented to him in the morning, both spoke to him separately on the phone. And then later on, something happened when he was supposed to meet with them.

TODD:  Right.

KAPUR: And there ended up being a number of other Republicans including several hardliners in the room. And along with members of Congress like Bob Goodlatte and Tom Cotton who have a different view on this. And from there, it went south.

TODD:  It is.

KAPUR:  They actually thought they had a DACA deal.

TODD:  Yes, we`ve heard similar. It is our understanding that Durbin and Graham felt sandbagged, when they physically went in there.

All right, guys, stick around. Up ahead, the man waxing his surfboard for what he hopes would be a big blue wave in November is DNC Chair Tom Perez. He`s next.


TODD:  Don`t forget. We do five shows a week and a big one on Sunday. If it`s Sunday, it`s "Meet the Press." We`ll take a deep dive into the uncomfortable debate we are having as a country right now. Is the president of the United States a racist? Among my guests will be Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado. We`ll be back in a moment.


TODD:  Welcome back. As we said last night, Democrats have a lot to be excited about this year. They seemingly have the wind at their backs, the prospect of a wave election on the horizon, but can they maintain the momentum all the way to November?

Joining me now is the man who will get the credit if Democrats do take over one or both houses of Congress and will get the blame if they don`t, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez. Mr. Chairman, welcome back.


TODD:  Do you believe the president is a racist?

PEREZ:  Well, you know, when you say that someone from Haiti and African nations are what he said, and then you contrast it with Norway, I think that`s by definition a racist statement. And it`s not just what he said now, it`s what he`s said about Mexicans.

TODD:  Sounds like you are hesitant. You are not ready to believe he`s a racist.

PEREZ:  I think, I mean, John Lewis is on to something. I mean, there`s such a pattern of insensitive racist comments that you can`t help but wonder that he has malice in his heart, but I think -- you touched on it in an earlier interview.

I think what`s more noteworthy, the notion that Donald Trump made a racist remark again is a dog bites man story. Unfortunately, it`s conduct unbecoming a president. It`s reckless. But to me, what`s really remarkable is the appalling silence of Republican leaders.

Dr. King once said that to ignore evil is to become an accomplice in evil. And when you hear people like Paul Ryan saying, it`s unfortunate. I mean, it`s unfortunate when it rains before a nats game and you got to have a rain delay.

It is an abdication of moral leadership when you say what he said. And when you see -- and God bless Andrew Card, he is a good man and was a great public servant. But the party of Lincoln is dead. The silence of the Republicans in the Senate and the House is because they understand that Donald Trump is enabling them to do this.

TODD:  If you vote with Trump on any legislation, you`re enabling him?

PEREZ:  Hey, if Donald Trump wants to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, I would vote for that if I were a member of Congress.

TODD:  Even if you believe -- even if you believe all the things you just laid out about him? Even if you believe he`s a racist. If he agrees with a -- if he agrees to do something you want him to do, you`re like, well, I better support him?

PEREZ:  My job is to focus on the issues that matter most to people, Chuck. What is unconscionable about where we`re at now is that this is not only divisive, it distracts us. It prevents us from tackling the issues we should be tackling.

We should be talking about the DREAM Act and passing a clean DREAM Act. We should be talking about making sure that the CHIP program is reauthorized. We should be talking about helping Puerto Ricans and folks from the Virgin Islands with the relief package.

Forty percent of Puerto Ricans are still without electricity. We should be talking about job creation. The level of growth in jobs in the last year is slowed from previous years. It is the slowest rate since 2010. That is what we should talk about.

TODD:  So if it`s OK for Democrats to vote with Trump if Trump comes to them, do you absolve some of these Republicans who say, I don`t like his comments, but he`s supporting some things that I want to support, so that`s why I`m with him, I`m not enabling him?

Do you see -- like, I mean, if you continue to support, willing to vote with him on things just because he agrees with you on a specific position, aren`t you enabling him or not? This to me is the dilemma of governing right now.

PEREZ:  First of all, the question you asked me has turned out to be a hypothetical question, because Donald Trump has never brought anything to the table that was anything but the Republican proposal.

TODD:  Proposes on DACA. He is willing to do a deal on DACA.

PEREZ:  It is the DREAM Act that I will support, a clean DREAM Act. I think it is important to understand, you know, Democrats have had their moments in history, where they had to confront racism. And they`ve said to people like George Wallace, you are no longer welcome in the Democratic Party.

Republicans are having this moral leadership moment and they are failing miserably. What do you say to your children time after time when you see the president engaged in such reckless and childish behavior? And when you`re reckless, you`re not making America stronger, you`re not making America greater, you`re making America weaker.

TODD:  So, how should Democrats in Congress work with this president? Do you continue to try to work with him? Would that be your recommendation? Or do you say, halt it, let`s go to the ballot box?

PEREZ:  Hey, I`d say, let`s bring back the 2014 immigration bill that passed in a bipartisan fashion in the Senate. Let`s bring it up for an up or down vote in the Senate and the House. Let`s see where it goes. Let`s take up issues like the minimum wage, which again, I bring these two issues up because they historically enjoyed bipartisan support.

The DREAM Act enjoys the support of over 70 percent of American people. The children`s health insurance program was a creature (ph) of my former boss, Ted Kennedy, and Orrin Hatch. If we bring those issues up, these are pocketbook issues that enjoyed bipartisan support and would command a majority in both houses. But the problem is, Paul Ryan is kowtowing to the far-right and that is why our politics are broken.

TODD:  Very quickly, believe it or not, it hasn`t even been a week since the president Oprah boomlet. You want Oprah to run for president as a Democrat?

PEREZ:  Oh, that would be up to Oprah to run. I think we`re going to have a robust field of candidates. If she wants to run, one thing she would be able to say is, unlike Donald Trump, who was born on third base and thought he hit a triple, she ran her way around the bases because she`s had a lifetime of achievement.

I think there`s going to be a bumper crop of candidates and I think we`re all going to be leading with our values and our job is very quickly, you know, we need to make sure that the process is fair to everybody and then we need to make sure that whoever wins has a great infrastructure of organizing and technology to win.

TODD:  We look forward to the first 25 person debate. Tom Perez, chairman of the DNC, thanks for coming on and sharing your views.

PEREZ:  Thank you.

TODD:  I appreciate it.

PEREZ:  A pleasure.

TODD:  Up ahead, something you may not have known about President Trump, but he`s happy to tell you about it.


TODD:  Welcome back. Tonight I`m obsessed with something President Trump said yesterday, and no it has nothing to do with Haiti or Africa or immigrants. The president gave an interview with The Wall Street Journal. You may have missed that one.

In addition to saying Mexico would still pay for the wall and that he probably has a quote, very good relationship with Kim Jong-un of North Korea, he also bragged, surprise, about how successful he`s been. At everything. And you`ve heard some of it before. School, business, branding, television.

And then he said this. I was always the best athlete. People don`t know that. But I was successful at everything I ever did and then I run for president. First time. First time. Not three times. Not six times.

He ran for president in 1999.

I ran for president the first time and lo and behold, I win. And then people say oh, is he a smart person? I`m smarter than all of them put together, but they can`t admit it.

This is all in a transcript. I`m not making it up. By the way, the "they" Mr. Trump is referring to is NBC, which he says is bitter that he didn`t re-sign for more years on "The Apprentice." As Politico`s playbook put it this morning, come on, who cares about the athletic prowess or college education?

He`s the president of the United States. You won, dude! Just imagine how the right would have reacted if President Obama was obsessed with his Columbia and Harvard pedigree and bragged about his jump shot? No doubt President Barack Obama had the best jump shot ever. Swish, swish, swish! He never hits the rim. We`ll be right back.


TODD:  Time for "The Lid." Panel is back. Charlie Cook, Sahil Kapur, Carol Lee. Charlie, when you`re on this table, (INAUDIBLE) little more midterm politics. Today actually, in this week, we actually had a lot of developments on midterm. What was interesting is how different candidates are trying to handle Trump. Here`s Martha McSally today handling a question from a reporter, our own reporter Gary Hick (ph), on the S-hole comment. Here it is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When the president talks about immigrants from shithole countries, is that racist? Is that acceptable to you?

MARTHA MCSALLY, MEMBER, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:  Well, let me must say I speak a little salty behind closed doors at times as well and so I`m not going to throw the first tone on using any language.


TODD:  And she even, I think, earlier today say, yes, I speak like a fighter pilot. What was interesting is Jim Renacci, who now just moved from the Ohio governor`s race to the Senate race, he was asked about it.

And he goes, you know, I always have somebody following me. I have to be careful with my words. It seems like everybody is trying to figure out how to compartmentalize Trump.

COOK:  Well, they have primaries they have to win and you`re looking at a president that is getting 80, 82, 83 percent job approval ratings among Republicans. So, you know, once they get past primaries, they could probably have a tiny bit more flexibility.

But we`re talking during the break. Self-preservation is a very strong thing and these people to -- they have to survive primaries.

TODD:  And Carol, Martha McSally is running against the ultimate sort of Trump (INAUDIBLE) potentially in Joe Arpaio.

CAROL LEE, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, NBC:  Yes, and so in that sense, you can see even more so why that would be important to not really try to alienate the president. But also, you know, I talked to somebody on the Hill in Republican leadership who today said, thank goodness, he`s at the doctor.

We get a couple hours with nothing new. And so if any of these people win, like, welcome to the party. This is what you`re going to be doing for the rest of the time while you`re in Congress because this is what Republicans have to do every day.

KAPUR:  And the midterms loom large over DACA as well, I would say, any deal, just to being it all back home, because these Republicans in the House in particular are going to be dealing with small electorates who are very passionate, in many cases anti-immigrant.

TODD:  She herself has to vote on this.

KAPUR:  Exactly. That`s why the president`s vote is so critical. There is no scenario where the president doesn`t give House Republicans cover, actively push back against the idea that this is amnesty, what they`re all afraid of. It is going to be very difficult to get someone to the House. The Senate will probably be a little bit easier. We`ve seen they`re more willing.

COOK:  Just talking about McSally specifically. I mean, first combat female fighter. Flew A-10`s in Iraq. I mean, that`s awesome. But the thing is, if she`s the Republican nominee, Republicans have a, you know, 50/50 give or take chance of holding the seat. If one of the more exotic Republicans win the nomination --

TODD:  You call them exotic.


COOK:  You know, that goes down to 10 percent.

TODD:  You know what`s interesting about Martha McSally, is it -- I look at the Tennessee open race too, and it is very likely, if Republicans have their druthers, that they have a woman nominee there. Look, Martha McSally has to get through a tough primary and Marsha Blackburn who ideologically is better positioned to get the primary.

But it is interesting to me that Mitch McConnell has realized this early. He`s actually been targeting women candidates. I think he knows to save the Senate, it may be on the backs of women nominees.

LEE:  Yes, for a number of reasons. You know, women are, you know, we also have a whole sexual harassment issue that`s looming over Congress as well and potentially could take down more people. So you have that and then you have what is the best inoculate in terms of President Trump and the things that turn voters off.

And women often embody some of those things and clearly McConnell (INAUDIBLE). And they need to put up for all the reasons you were talking about, better candidates or else they`re really going to lose in November.

KAPUR:  Suburban women and white college educated women are two key demographics to watch. A lot of people expected that they would flip and turn against the Republicans with Trump on the ballot. Did not happen. They ended up supporting Trump.

We will see what happens. If the theory of President Trump wasn`t enough to make them Democrats or make them vote for democrat, maybe the reality will be.

TODD:  I think the Doug Jones-Roy Moore is a reminder. Even to a lesser extent if you look at Barbara Comstock. She somehow survived in a year when Trump got clobbered in her district, right, Charlie? So there`s something there that you can maybe salvage some of these suburban Republican women.

COOK:  You know, these candidates, they all want to win the presidency. They all want their party win the presidency. But in fact is, if you`re in a competitive state or district, you`re always better off if the other side has the White House.


TODD:  Look how good Claire McCaskill`s polls two years ago. Looked like she was a dead duck, now (INAUDIBLE).

COOK:  Remember when Bob Dole once said, if we had known we are going to win and control the Senate, we would have run better candidates.


TODD:  It`s a good way to close. Very quickly, Eric Greitens is the governor of Missouri, can he survive the scandal?

COOK:  If he just toughs it out, just hunkers down and toughs it out.

TODD:  I think he know more, right?

COOK:  If there is no more. But --

TODD:  Yes. It`s tough. Charlie, Carol, Sahil, it`s just another week in American politics 2018. Up ahead, Norway or no way.


TODD:  Well, in case you missed it, Mr. President, maybe Norway just isn`t in to us. In a meeting that has overwhelmed the news cycle for the past 24 hours, President Trump reportedly said he wants more Norwegians to immigrate to the United States. Do they want to come?

Norway is one of the richest countries in the world per capita. Also, it is the happiest, according the world happiness report, which is really a thing, not making that up, it is not even just a U.S. news thing. I`m kidding about that part. The same ranking puts the United States at number 14. That`s not bad. There are some 200 countries. I`ll take that.

They have universal health care in Norway. A slew of other social benefits that we don`t. The murder and incarceration rates are each incredibly low compared to the rate in the United States. And Norway`s life expectancy is better than ours for both men and women.

So with that kind of hard data, maybe we should be the ones joining for the (INAUDIBLE), because Norway sure doesn`t seem to be pining for us. One conservative Norwegian politician sums up the respond to President Trump tweeting, on behalf of Norway, thanks, but no thanks.

So which group of people would have good reason to just stay put? To misquote, the Beatles, it seems Norwegians would. That`s all we have for tonight.

We`ll be back on Monday with more "MTP Daily" and if it`s Sunday, it`s "Meet the Press" on NBC. "The Beat" with Ari Melber starts right now. Good evening, Ari.



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