Show: MTP DAILY Date: January 15, 2018 Guest: Zerlina Maxwell, Nick Confessore, John Podhoretz, Gregory Meeks, John Podhoretz
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: I feel like you're absolutely right. And whenever I see the two of you nodding or the two of you nodding, that feels like a silver lining to me.
My thanks to Jeremy Bash, Bret Stephens, Melissa Mark-Viverito, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and Betsy Woodruff. That does it for our hour. I'm Nicolle Wallace.
MTP DAILY starts now with my friend, the fabulous Katy Tur, in for Chuck. Hi, Katy.
KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Illuminating discussion you had right there.
WALLACE: Right? With the Rev., yes.
TUR: And if it is Monday, on a day celebrating the fight against racism, we're having a fight about racism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Tonight, race and the President on this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed.
TUR: The controversy, the criticism, and the consequences.
Plus, those comments putting a DACA deal further away and a government shutdown closer.
And "The Final Year." A new film gives us an up-close look at the Obama White House and its final 12 months of foreign policy challenges.
BEN RHODES, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: I cannot stress enough. There is no back step here. I mean, I think people assume, well, there is some grown up somewhere, right, who will make sure he doesn't, you know, screw up too bad or something. There is not.
TUR: This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Good evening. I'm Katy Tur in New York in for Chuck Todd and welcome to MTP DAILY.
On this Martin Luther King Day, you're watching what happens when a president is viewed by many as a racist in an election year. The long-term consequences aren't exactly clear, but the short-term fallout is.
Right now, it seems like the prospects for a deal on DACA are going down, and the odds of a government shutdown are going up.
You've got a number of elected Democrats, some shown here, calling the President a straight up racist. One says he could even lead the KKK.
You've got the President firing back like he did last night before dining with the House Majority Leader.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you say to all the people who think you're a racist?
TRUMP: No. No, I'm not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed. That I can tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Remember, this uproar came about because of a vulgar remark the President made during a meeting about immigration policy. And that policy could be critical in avoiding a government shutdown at the end of the week.
Some Democrats are refusing to fund the government unless there is a deal on DACA. The President has already rejected one bipartisan proposal.
Now, he is blaming Democrats, tweeting this afternoon that: Senator Dickey Durbin totally misrepresented what was said at the DACA meeting. Deals can't get made when there is no trust. Durbin blew DACA and is hurting our military.
The President also blamed Democrats while speaking with reporters last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Honestly, I don't think the Democrats want to make a deal. I think they talk about DACA, but they don't want to help the DACA people. I think they have a lot of speaking points. But they are all Democrat speaking points because we are ready, willing, and able to make a deal, but they don't want to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: And to hammer the point home, he added that a DACA deal is: probably dead because the Democrats don't really want it.
All of the tweeting is once again frustrating dealmakers in his own party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Mr. President, close the deal. It's going to take you, Mr. President, working with Republicans and Democrats to get this done. It's not going to be done on Twitter, by tweeting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Guys, does the President want to close the deal? Would his base want him to compromise with Democrats that are calling him racist on a deal that will give amnesty to 700,000 illegal immigrants? Because that is how GOP hardliners will see it.
And what about Democrats? Do they want to close the deal? Will their base want to compromise with someone they think is a racist in a deal that will help him build a wall? Because that is how Democratic hardliners will see it.
And if there is no deal, it's hard to see how there is no shutdown. At some point at least. Government funding runs out Friday night.
Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York who is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Congressman, thank you for being here. Good to see you in person.
REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: Good to be with you, Katy.
TUR: What do you want the Democrats to do? Do you think that they should walk away from a deal with Donald Trump on DACA?
MEEKS: Well, I think that the President already walked away from the deal. It was a bipartisan deal that -- as I understand it, it was worked on by both Democrats and Republicans.
The President had said at a -- when he had his television show that he would just -- whatever they did in a bipartisan manner, he would sign it. They came to him with a bipartisan bill. He has rejected it.
So the President, to say Democrats have rejected something, is inaccurate. He is lying again. The fact of the matter is he is the one that rejected a bipartisan deal that was struck and that the -- in a bipartisan manner.
TUR: Is there any deal that you can make with this President when you have called him a racist?
MEEKS: Well, you know, we're getting close to that point because, now, I've got a vote of conscience. What his statements that he made clearly show that he wants to make America not great, but want to make America just White by his remarks, talking about Norway and getting away -- getting rid of diversity visas and not explaining or lying about what the diversity visa is.
So if that's his motivation, if the President's motivation is to make sure that you're locking out people of color from -- and poor people and -- you know, and the needy, then there is no deal to be had.
You know, and talking about the deal, with reference to the fence, well, if the President wasn't lying, then what are we worried about because he said the Mexicans are going to pay for it? So he shouldn't be coming to the American people for the money.
TUR: Well, what about -- I'll extend that. I mean, if you think maybe this is not the President to make a deal with because you got to vote your conscience, are you going to continue on with that? Will the Democrats or should the Democrats, do you think the Democrats, should be trying to shut down the government?
MEEKS: Oh, the Democrats are not trying to shut down the government. It's not the Democrats that's shutting down the government. It's clearly the President.
The President already had an opportunity to make sure that we could work collectively together. If the President thinks he's going to have all of his way and just do it the way he wants to do it, then he, in fact, wants to shut down the government.
So I'm not going to allow the President to try to flip it and say the Democrats are shutting down the government. It's not the Democrats at all. It is the President who is shutting down the government.
TUR: Can you vote for a government funding bill if no DACA is included in it, no deal for Dreamers?
MEEKS: No. I think that we've got to take care of this. The America that I believe in and why American is the greatest country in the world is because of its diversity. And those young men -- young boys and girls who've grown up to be men and women, they've got to be a part of this country because they are a part of this country.
TUR: So you will shut down the government if there is no DACA deal?
MEEKS: Again, I'm not shutting down the government. There was a deal that was done. There was a deal that included DACA and others. And this is how the government and how we work collectively.
TUR: But so you will not vote for the government funding bill if there is no Dreamers included in it?
MEEKS: The Dreamers have to be included in it.
TUR: And if that results in shutting the government down, are you going to feel --
MEEKS: It's not me shutting -- the President has said --
TUR: No, it's not you I'm --
MEEKS: No, no, no. Because --
TUR: Whoever it is shutting it down, if it results in shutting the government down --
MEEKS: If the government --
TUR: -- are you going to be prepared to go to your constituents and say this is the right thing to do?
MEEKS: Yes. The government can be shut down by the inaction of the President and the President continuing to say he would do one thing and does another. He thinks he can manipulate the minds of the American people as well as Democrats to make us think that it's us shutting down the government when, clearly, it is not.
And if you talk to Lindsey Graham, for example, and other Republicans, they want a deal. They came to the President in a bipartisan manner, and he is the one that rejected it.
TUR: As I was reading the open, I mentioned a congressman that said he could be the leader of the KKK. That was Congressman Gutierrez. I saw you react out of the corner of my eye. Do you agree with him?
MEEKS: Well, you know what, what I say is you judge an individual by their words and their deeds. The words and their deeds.
And the words and deeds of this President has inspired members of the Ku Klux Klan. It has made them forget their hoods when they were in Charlottesville. It has taught David Duke to say he agrees with the President. It has empowered those who are neo-Nazis.
So the words of this President has inspired individuals from the Ku Klux Klan and other racist organizations.
TUR: So how do you think Democrats should run? Should they run on the President being a racist? If you feel --
MEEKS: Well --
TUR: If you feel like that -- and that's feeling pretty strongly, voting your conscience, talking about the words and the deeds and inspiring the KKK. Should the Democrats be running in 2018 on a different platform, on a platform that says we don't believe in a president who we think is a racist?
MEEKS: Listen, what we should run on is the truth. The President is running on lies. So that's part of the platform. We're going to run on issues. We're going to talk about how we're going to make the American people's lives better.
When we think about -- This President, not only is a racist, but when you look at the policies that he's putting forward, he's hurting people. And we're going to talk about it.
He's not -- when you look at health care, nutrition, and education, he's hurting people. So we're going to run on issues, creating jobs. We're going run --
TUR: Are you able to pars that, though, because Hillary Clinton ran on all of those things in 2016? Why would that be a winning strategy for 2018, to lump all of those things together at once?
MEEKS: Because, you know what, Barack Obama won twice. That gives me my hope in this country. That those 15 to 20 percent that might have taken a chance on Donald Trump, that they understand that he is not the way to go, and they'll come back to their senses. And we will -- and so I think we need to focus on that.
Because I think that though there's 30 percent or so of Americans that no matter what, as Donald Trump said, whatever he does, they will vote for him, there is 15 to 20 percent that I believe of Americans who made a mistake. And we all make a mistake in life. They made a mistake, they will realize that mistake, and not vote that way again.
TUR: One last question quickly. You pushed back on advancing articles of impeachment. Do you feel differently now?
MEEKS: No, I think that when you do --
TUR: Do you think he's a racist?
MEEKS: Oh, there is no -- well, by his actions.
TUR: But if you think he is a racist, do you think that he is somebody that should be in power or somebody that Democrats should try to impeach?
MEEKS: I don't think that is a person that is fit to be president. I didn't think that before he got elected but he did. Now, I think that if Mr. Mueller comes up with some evidence or, you know, and some charges and there is grounds, I think that, then, he should be impeached.
I think that what we need to do is to make sure -- because the most important election, as far as I'm concerned, is 2018. Our institutions is what makes us strong. So in 2018, if we can win back the House and the Senate, then you have the check and balances within the government that was intended to make sure that no one had too much power.
And we will not then be able to have some of my Republican colleagues, whose silence is shocking to me, to just go along to get along with the President. And you'll have someone to make sure that they have that balance. And we will focus on making a difference in 2020.
TUR: Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York.
Congressman, thank you very much for being here. We appreciate your time on this Martin Luther King Day, of all days.
MEEKS: My pleasure.
TUR: And on this Martin Luther King Day, we've heard some elected officials sound off on President Trump's recent comments. One called him out by name and one did not have to.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: The discourse right now is pretty low. We're producing some pretty good policy, but those of us in my business need to up their game. It's pretty embarrassing when you have to take your children out of the room just to report the news.
So the only thing I can do is control me. I can't make anybody change but me. And I told the folks here today, the best way to honor Martin Luther King in 2018, for me, is to make sure that we don't go backward.
JOY BEHAR, HOST, "THE VIEW": I said that Trump wouldn't have won if Dr. King were alive. Do you think that's true?
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Oh, I agree with you.
BEHAR: You agree?
LEWIS: If Martin Luther King --
LEWIS: -- had been alive, no. Dr. King would have been able to lead us to a different place, and our country would be different.
LEWIS: And the world community would be different.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Now as our panel, "New York Times" political reporter and MSNBC contributor, Nick Confessore; former Clinton campaign adviser and current director of progressive programming for SiriusXM, Zerlina Maxwell; and "Commentary" magazine editor, "New York Post" columnist, and MSNBC contributor, John Podhoretz.
Let's react to Congressman Meeks. He thinks the President's a racist and they're talking -- or he's talking about, if there is no deal for Dreamers, not voting to fund the government. Good idea, bad idea?
JOHN PODHORETZ, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: Probably a really bad idea, I think, bringing in ancillary issues as opposed to dealing with this problem specifically and individually because there is a hard deadline of March 5th. We have to get this solved and resolved so that 800,000 people don't immediately lose their status and find themselves having to move into the shadows.
TUR: Well, but he is saying, if there is no DACA deal, there is no deal for Dreamers, then, yes, there should be some consequences for funding the government.
PODHORETZ: Well, the deal for Dreamers is on two sides. I mean, that -- so the --
TUR: But isn't there a concern that without putting it in some -- in a mandatory bill, that it's just going to fall to the wayside? I mean, that's -- I think that's some of the worry that Chuck Schumer has.
ZERLINA MAXWELL, DIRECTOR OF PROGRESSIVE PROGRAMMING, SIRIUSXM: Yes, I definitely think that there is a calculus there where Democrats are worried about governing, right? And so a part of that is making sure that the government is funded.
On the flip side of that, the base of the Democratic Party right now absolutely thinks that the President is a racist based on his words and actions, as Congressman Meeks said. And I think that the base is pressuring Democrats right now to not make deals with this President at all because they don't see him as the legitimate president.
And I do think that part of the calculus here is protecting Dreamers, yes. So there is actually a conflict in the base of the Democratic Party right now which is why you're getting different answers from different Democrats.
TUR: Is this a recipe for success for our democracy when you have the base -- the hardline base of the Republican Party refusing to budge on any sort of immigration deal and you have the hardline base of the Democratic Party saying this man is a racist, we cannot work with him no matter what?
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, POLITICAL AND INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It's not great. And it's also not great that we can't actually have a regular process for funding the government, and we're constantly seeing this being held hostage to people in both parties who want to use their leverage to make a deal.
But there are outlines for a deal on immigration if you just count the votes. What there, you know, possibly is not is a majority in either party alone for a deal. But if you just take the votes or bring it to the floor, it can probably pass.
TUR: I mean, you have -- you had a deal with Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin. They presented it to the President, and he found it unacceptable because, I believe, the wall wasn't funded enough.
The President is out now with a new nickname, saying, Dicky Durbin. Is the President somebody that seems like he really wants to make a deal on this?
PODHORETZ: To be honest? I mean, as you know, I'm not a fan of his. I do think that he wants to make a deal, and I think that he feels pressure. He -- the one thing that he promised as a solid campaign promise, as far as I can tell, was that there would be a wall. So he wants --
TUR: But there was funding for a wall, wasn't there?
PODHORETZ: There was no money for the wall in there. There was like $2 billion for the wall, or something like that. He wanted --
MAXWELL: I thought Mexico was going to pay for the wall.
PODHORETZ: Fair enough. But he wanted $18 billion, they came back with $2. So in a conventional negotiation, right, you would say, OK, I'm 18, you're a two. We're going to come somewhere around 10 or 11.
But then the whole question of whether he -- of the s-hole thing arose and the entire conversation went into an entirely different direction.
TUR: But doesn't that blow out any ability to really come to a compromise --
PODHORETZ: I don't think so.
TUR: -- when you have the President of the United States saying -- and it, unfortunately, called some --
PODHORETZ: There is no choice.
TUR: But it's also like --
PODHORETZ: He's the President, they're Congress.
CONFESSORE: The next thing to a wall (ph) --
PODHORETZ: There has to be a bill that he can sign. That's how our system works.
CONFESSORE: A simple compromise is for the Democrats to give the President a wall that isn't a wall, and for the Democrats to pretend that he got a win. And it doesn't actually have to be a wall because he already said, in principle, well, it can be sort of a wall with high-tech security measures.
MAXWELL: Maybe-see through.
CONFESSORE: So part of the weird thing is that it depends on the ability of one party so that the other have the appearance of a win.
TUR: What happened to Mexico paying for it?
MAXWELL: Well, that -- did we -- did you believe that during the campaign?
TUR: I know.
MAXWELL: I mean --
TUR: I mean, I heard him say it a number of times, but how is he let so easily off the hook for that by his base --
PODHORETZ: He said last week, we'll renegotiate NAFTA --
TUR: -- when they're going --
PODHORETZ: He said last week, we'll renegotiate NAFTA. There will be money that Mexico will have to give us in the renegotiation.
PODHORETZ: And I'll say that was for the wall, so I'll win.
TUR: Who will believe that?
PODHORETZ: He cynically said he would repurpose whatever money we would get from Mexico and the NAFTA renegotiation, say that it was for the wall, and his base would believe him. He said that publicly in an interview. So he doesn't even believe it.
TUR: Is the GOP going to accept, though, any deal for Dreamers? I mean, after all, they voted for this President because they wanted him to build a wall. And they wanted him to get rid of illegal immigrants, these 700,000 illegal immigrants.
CONFESSORE: Republicans are smart. They will strike a deal because the Dreamers are the soft -- or I'll be -- you know, the easiest part of this debate.
CONFESSORE: Right? It's the one that most Americans will prefer to see resolved. There are harder questions and tougher questions to resolve on immigration. This is not one of them. It shouldn't be, rather.
TUR: It seems like they're all pretty hard right now with, you know, the President calling --
PODHORETZ: But polling said that Republicans support DACA. They support this.
CONFESSORE: Most of the country wants it.
TUR: But hardline -- I'm talking about the hardline voters who voted for Donald Trump.
TUR: Two different things. Stay with me, guys. Nick Confessore, Zerlina Maxwell, John Podhoretz, you're going to be here.
Up next, we're going to talk more about that deeply uncomfortable question: is the President a racist? It's a question that's being discussed across the country while Americans are paying tribute to the legacy of Dr. King.
The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change held a tribute in Atlanta this morning where the politics of the moment took center stage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. RAPHAEL WARNOCK, SENIOR PASTOR, EBENEZER BAPTIST CHURCH: What makes us different is not nearly as important as what makes us human. And so we remember. Stop this madness. Stand up to this madness. Dr. King said silence is betrayal. Speak out against this madness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Welcome back. Federal offices, the stock market, and businesses all over the country were closed today in observation of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
On Friday, President Trump and Dr. King's nephew suggested celebrating Dr. King's life with acts of community service.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Encourage all Americans to observe this day with acts of civic work and community service in honor of Dr. King's extraordinary life. And it was extraordinary indeed.
ISAAC NEWTON FARRIS, JR., NEPHEW OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: It's not a day to hang out in the park or pull out the barbecue grill. It's a day to do something to help someone else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: But as far as we know, President Trump has not participated in any service events today. The traveling press followed President Trump from Mar-a-Largo to Trump International Golf Club this afternoon where he remained for a few hours.
He is currently on the way back to D.C. The White House hasn't released any additional details from the President's holiday schedule.
This morning President Trump's Twitter account re-tweeted a video of the President's weekly address on MLK.
We're back with more MTP DAILY in 60 seconds.
TUR: Welcome back to MTP DAILY. Let's bring back our panel: Nick Confessore, Zerlina Maxwell, and John Podhoretz.
Zerlina, do you care about the s-hole comment?
MAXWELL: I do not. And if he had said, I don't want people from the African countries and I want people from Norway, it would still be just as bad, and it would still have the same meaning because the problem is not the use of vulgar language.
I don't care if the President curses in a meeting. We all curse in a meeting sometimes. I think the important thing here is that he said he would prefer White people over Black people.
And all over his actions and policies, because that's where this becomes really important to me and other people who look like me, is that his policies also show that he would prefer White people and not Black people.
TUR: Is that really the issue, that he said why can't we have more people from Norway? I mean, he said that in public, John. He said it at CPAC -- why can't we have more Europeans -- back in 2013.
PODHORETZ: Sure, it's the issue. It's the only issue. I mean, yes, it's terrible because he's the President of the United States. And, you know, I have three small children. I would rather that he not curse and use vulgarisms I have to explain to them.
But of course -- of course -- the issue is whether or not he presents a vision of the United States and an idea of the United States that is exclusive rather inclusive and is dismissive of minorities as opposed to accepting of minorities. That is way more important than any -- you know, any off-hand remark that he might have made.
TUR: The President himself says he is the least racist person you will ever interview. His supporters are going out on television and saying he's not a racist. Anthony Scaramucci said to me a couple of hours ago at 2:00 p.m.
But the reality is, you know, it lines up with a lot of the public statements that he's made that we've had on record now for many years, not just during the campaign, going back much further. And regardless of what the President says or his surrogates might say, there is a lot of folks out there who do believe he is a racist.
What sort of efforts is the White House making, if any, to try and push back? I mean, and not just saying he's not a racist, but actions to prove that.
CONFESSORE: I'm not sure. Look, the President traffics in these pernicious prejudices and stereotypes, including on immigration, that people from Black and Brown countries are bad and people from White countries are good.
It is part of his appeal to his own base, this group of Americans who are truly fearful of the idea of the country becoming a country that is not dominated by people who are White. It is the source of part of his strength. So I don't think they can do much until the President decides to change his own language and ideas.
TUR: Do the Democrats run on this that Donald Trump is a racist?
MAXWELL: Yes! Yes, I think so. And I think that the base --
TUR: You don't think it's going to -- that's going to -- people are just going to think to themselves, oh, you're piling on too much, and just --
TUR: Should they focus to -- more on just a straight economic message? That was the criticism for 2016.
MAXWELL: There is an intersection between race issues and economic issues. I think that when you're talking about an issue like immigration, when you're talking an issue like healthcare, for example, that impacts communities of color more than White communities. And so race and economics intersect in a way that Democrats can message on economic issues.
The economy is doing really well and that's why, I think, his approval ratings are somewhat inflated right now. But I think Democrats have to say, we're the party for inclusion and opportunity for all people, no matter what color you are, no matter who you love, and, you know, the list goes on and on.
But I think that the problem is the fact that I live in a country where my -- the person who is the leader of that country thinks that I'm less than you or someone that is White. And that, I think, is a fundamental issue with this presidency.
And that is very dangerous because when you have Jeff Sessions in the Department of Justice implementing policies that are impacting communities of color in a really negative way -- drug policy, making prosecutors essentially charge low-level drug offenses in a way that the Obama administration had stopped doing because it was impacting Black and Brown people predominantly -- you're going way backwards, decades, in terms of the civil rights and equality for people of color.
And that is the problem. That's a national security threat, actually.
TUR: Do you agree with that, that this President feels and thinks that White people have more value than Black people, than Latinos, or anybody who is not White?
PODHORETZ: Let me put it this way. It is an arguable proposition that is horrifying that it's an arguable proposition.
For 20 or 30 years, conservatives like me reared in anger and upset when, I think, irresponsible liberals in the left and some Democrats would hurl charges of racism when we had disagreements on policy, disagreements about Affirmative Action, disagreements about certain things, types of schooling, things like that, that we believed were -- it was important for those policies to change because they would be helpful to everybody and would be more helpful to African-Americans and minorities than the current status quo or than the -- wishes to change policy in ways that were too race conscious.
Now, it's very hard for me to argue. I can't sit here and say this is totally unfair to Donald Trump.
I could certainly say that Joe Biden was insanely unfair to Mitt Romney when he said Mitt Romney wants to put you all in chains. That was disgusting and uncalled for and untoward.
But if we're going to have --
MAXWELL: But the Black people that he said it in front of at the NAACP --
MAXWELL -- because I remember him saying that, clapped. And there is a specific reason why. It's because we're under no illusions when we're -- the Republican Party that you're talking about essentially spoke in dog whistles. That's what's changed because that --
PODHORETZ: Well, I don't agree with you about that.
MAXWELL: It's not --
PODHORETZ: I understand what you're saying. I am telling you, I was not - -
MAXWELL: Self-deportation is not that far off from this current conversation.
PODHORETZ: I was not speaking in dog whistles, and I don't speak in dog whistles.
But so when it comes to Donald Trump, if you say to me, is Donald -- if you say to me, is Mitt Romney a racist? I say, no, and it's disgusting you would say those.
You say to me, is Donald Trump a racist? I can't answer that question. I mean, it is an arguable proposition that he is.
The fact that we are existing in 2018 at a moment in which I, as a conservative, can say that about the President of the United States, who supposedly is a conservative, is a pretty terrible thing.
TUR: We're going to have you, guys, back in just a couple moments. Stay with us. Nick Confessore, Zerlina Maxwell, John Podhoretz, appreciate it.
Ahead, the big blue wave appears to be building. How the President is planning to fight back ahead of the midterms.
KATY TUR, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Welcome back. Just days into 2018 and Democrats are already licking their chops about the prospect of taking control of Congress in November's midterm elections. As we have been saying here on "MTP Daily," Democrats are optimistic that a big blue wave is coming. And it seems now the questions are how big and how blue will it be and how many congressional Republicans will get swept away by it.
According to The Washington Post, Republicans' concern about the electoral wave prompted House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to give President Trump a slide presentation on the difficult midterm landscape. A congressional aide described the presentation as, quote, sobering, but the Post also reports that President Trump has told advisers the wave won't be as bad as others are predicting.
President Trump reportedly reminds advisers that he remains popular in some places and he is taking a hands-on approach to some races, including planning to give campaign for the Republicans in the upcoming special House election in Pennsylvania.
Democrats are definitely happy with their electoral posture right now, but the problem is that the midterms are in November, not January. We're back with more "MTP Daily" right after the break.
TUR: Welcome back. A new film called "The Final Year" follows members of President Obama's national security and foreign policy teams as they rush to achieve a number of huge priorities before leaving office.
All of them believe they are preparing for an incoming President Hillary Clinton and they are as shocked as anyone else when that is not the outcome.
(START VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have a responsibility morally to make judgments that are based on facts, not fiction. So now I'll do everything in my power to put that kind evidence in front of them as they come in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are thinking about things that we work on, Cuba, Iran, climate, you know, what is going to happen to those things. And I can't stress you enough. There is no backstop here.
I mean, I think people assume -- well, there is some grump somewhere right who will make sure he doesn't, you know, screw up too bad or something. There is not. There is no -- this is it. Like you are in the office. You decide whether to take a strike to kill somebody.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TUR: Chuck spoke with former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, former Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, and filmmaker Greg Barker last week and he began by asking how the film changed after election day.
GREG BARKER, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: By the time we made the film, clearly everything that they worked on in the last year and, you now, previous seven had -- was suddenly called into question by this election, which I think in the film you could argue they didn't see coming at all.
So -- and so the film, we constructed it quite deliberately. It is like, you know, you're on board the Titanic --
BARKER: -- and everyone is having a great time. Falling in love and doing stuff and then suddenly -- it creeps along and then suddenly --
CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS DAILY SHOW HOST: So the last year of the Obama White House is the titanic. Who is playing the music?
BEN RHODES, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: You -- you didn't pitch the twist ending.
BARKER: No idea. You know, then this thing comes out of left field and which called into question everything they stood for. And dramatically, as a story teller and as a filmmaker, that is very powerful. TODD: Well, let's talk about the stuff now, obviously hindsight is 20/20. It is fair to say you are on the opposite side of this area. I assume you - - I think I know where you are headed. I think you wanted to be more aggressive and do more to get Assad and you were channeling sort of caution. RHODES: What is interesting is --
TODD: Am I unfair here?
RHODES: No, you're not. I started in the same place -- Samantha and I --
SAMANTHA POWER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: That is always what you say when you want to show that you have the right view. RHODES: No, no, no.
TODD: Be magnanimous. So which one evolves?
RHODES: I think that -- I mean, well, look, I think we all -- or I start from the proposition that in something that catastrophic, you can't know when you are dealing with kind of factuals, if we had done X or Y would have happened.
I don't claim to sit here and say I have the right answer or I end up in the right place. I think what I'm conveying in the film is where President Obama came down essentially, which is he'd wrestled with this.
You know, the film is kind of showing things after -- you know, 2012 and 2013, the peak deliberative years on intervention. And that's actually when I was an advocate for that. And what I saw President Obama do is test, can this work and he went to Congress.
Can I get a congressional authorization? No. Can I get U.N support? No. Can I get international support? Well, only the French, the Brits opted out. And can I look at my military and see what is the option that can really affect a change on the ground and without us being like being right in the middle of this war and a repeat of the type of thing we had in Iraq.
And I think he came to the judgment that he couldn't see the option -- all of the risk he'd be taking on of getting us into a middle of a conflict like that, he couldn't see how the circumstances were aligned to make that work.
POWER: We know the risks of air strikes, let's say after the chemical weapons use and Ben is completely right in painting the picture of how isolated we would have been in carrying that forward. We just have to weigh those risks about the status quo extended forward.
More foreign terrorist fighters, more refugees, you know, how will the countries in the region withstand the influx of more refugees? At some point, the dam is going to burst. The dam burst. But, you know, hindsight is 20/20. I think at the time, it was very hard to mobilize domestic political support for military action so soon after Iraq.
TODD: All right, another place where there was caution in this White House was on the Russia interference. How much do you go back over that in your head? How often have you replayed things that you guys saw early? You know, I've had these questions with John Brennan and some others.
RHODES: Well, I really don't say. I actually wasn't as much in the room on that because -- and for -- but for a specific reason, which actually does point to what I think we might have done differently, which is it was treated as kind of a cyber security threat. So the people talking about this from kind -- TODD: You put it in a box over here. RHODES: It was a cyber lane because rightly we wanted to defend the election infrastructure. And then there is this issue of do we alert the public to this? And we did. And I think we thought (INAUDIBLE) huge deal. We are saying that a foreign power is meddling in the election. TODD: Julian Assange had something else to say about it.
RHODES: And the Access Hollywood.
TODD: And so as Billy Bush, right?
RHODES: And the door clings and I look at my blackberry and there is this weird thing about an Access Hollywood tape. And then Julian Assange (INAUDIBLE) e-mails. And so, you know, I do think you could overplay the notion if Barack Obama talk about this more.
RHODESL: I think Trump would have said it was rigged back and forth. What is interesting, Chuck, with the U.S. government which is not designed to handle was the fake news. Because actually we don't have a lever to pull to say to someone, hey, that stuff on your Facebook feed about Hillary's health is fake.
And what was really missing is a sense of how does the U.S. government and Silicon Valley and media platforms, how do they adjust to a reality in which Russia is weaponizing information? And there we didn't have any capacity because --
TODD: We also haven't figured out how to retaliate.
POWER: There are tools that are available, but I think what we did is we rolled out, you know, a huge number of sanctions and expelled a bunch of diplomats and sanctioned a bunch of entities. And I think there was a question whether if you front loaded a lot of those actions prior to the election, would that feed the narrative -- TODD: That you were -- tipping the scales.
POWER: That we were tipping the scales in some way or the other. You know, one interesting question now is, you know, do we learn anything about how the Russia investigations are progressing? About how -- had we done more in the political lane in October? How that would have been greeted? I mean, right now, the divisions over the election don't -- as it were, auger backward. TODD: Seeing where we are today, it shows you how bad it could have been.
POWER: Yes, it worries you. And to Ben's point about the things that we didn't do and the extent to which the Russia playbook, that they already tried out in Ukraine, in Estonia, in Bulgaria, and they brought home to the United States, people should be sitting around 24/7 in the White House.
Certainly the Department of Homeland Security, but in parts of our government that have not really been part of this conversation, which shows that people on Capitol Hill with the stake holders who can help us think this through.
And instead because of the tie with so many Trump administration officials, the core issue of protecting the American people's vote and their will is now caught up in a whole kind of Russia-Trump thing instead of being national security priority number one.
TUR: You could hear Chuck's full interview with Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes, and Greg Barker. Download our "Meet the Press" 1947 podcast. It is available wherever you like to listen.
Ahead, panic in paradise. How Hawaii is making big changes after that terrifying false alarm.
TUR: Welcome back. An investigation is underway after human error triggered a terrifying false alert throughout the Hawaiian islands, warning of an imminent nuclear missile attack.
On Saturday, cell phones and TV flashed an ominous warning. Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.
(INAUDIBLE) visitors ran for cover. Here you can University of Hawaii's students running in a panic. Phone lines reached capacity as callers flooded 911, or tried to reach loved ones.
The warning sirens never sounded and within minutes the U.S. Pacific Command was able to confirm that there was no threat. But it took 13 minutes for the Hawaii Emergency Management to tweet that it was a false alarm.
And it wasn't until 38 minutes after original warning that cell phones got the follow-up that it was a false alarm. Workers at Hawaii's Emergency Management Agency were supposed to be conducting a routine internal test, but an employee accidentally initiated an actual missile alert warning. That employee has been reassigned.
All of this of course is happening as tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have increased fears of a possible nuclear strike. And just moments ago, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said there is no indication North Korea reacted to the false alert. We'll have more on that after a quick break.
TUR: Time for "The Lid". The panel is back. Nick Confessore, Zerlina Maxwell, John Podhoretz. Guys, let's talk about Hawaii, a pretty terrifying 38 minutes over the weekend after that alert went out. The president is basically saying it's Hawaii's fault.
ZERLINA MAXWELL, DIRECTOR, PROGRESSIVE PROGRAMMING FOR SIRIUS XM: Of course he is because he can't actually take any responsibility. I think on the one hand, he is right. It was a mistake made by somebody working for the state.
However, the reason why the people in Hawaii were so freaked out is because the president is tweeting about the size of his button, and the tensions have been escalated since he took office in a way that there wasn't that tension before.
And so I think that, you know, it's unfortunate, because you've heard stories today about people who were, you know, hiding with their children in bathtubs -- TUR: Yes.
MAXWELL: -- and essentially thinking that they were going to die any moment. And it's also concerning that it took 40 minutes and FEMA approval to call the report false. TUR: I (INAUDIBLE) and -- sorry, our camera operator got in the way of the camera just then. (INAUDIBLE) and he hid in the bathroom with his kids. He was terrified. He didn't know what was going on.
He took the opportunity on television to go off on the president and say, this is not OK. Your fire and fury rhetoric has got the entire world -- it got people panicking, saying their prayers and saying good-bye to their loved ones.
I mean, does he have a point? The president is talking a big game.
NICK CONFESSORE, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It was state of Hawaii's mistake. They should do better. Look, personally, as an American, I'm glad this happened now in the way it did because it exposed a problem without doing actual harm in the end.
We clearly have a problem here, a cold war fear and social media speed, and we need better systems in place. I'm not sure somebody in Hawaii should be in charge of sending out an alert on a nuclear attack. We already have systems in place for that.
JOHN PODHORETZ, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: Right.
TUR: Hold on.
PODHORETZ: I want to defend Trump here.
PODHORETZ: Sorry. Because there are two things. One is, we know how this happened. It was totally a state of Hawaii error, and it was the clarification of it. He had nothing to do with the event.
The fact that some guy hit the wrong thing on a pull-down menu, the fact that it only took one guy somewhere sitting there who can send an alert out to an entire state is already troublesome, because that kind of centralized ability --
TUR: And there's suddenly the full effect.
PODHORETZ: And that centralized ability to send out a terrifying message should not be in in the hands of a low-level employee. That just doesn't make any sense. The second thing is, I know everybody wants to say that Trump is escalating tensions.
Kim Jong-un is escalating tensions. Kim Jong-un is testing ballistic missiles, intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach the United States. Kim Jong-un is testing nuclear weapons. President Trump is attempting to respond to provocations by the North Koreans.
You may think that he doesn't in a responsible fashion, but the provocations are the North Koreans. They're not the United States. And his belief, and there are other people who agree with him, is that you have to respond to this in the most, you know, in an extreme manner in order to make it clear to Kim Jong-un that we take this seriously and don't look at him as just a joke.
Trump does sort of both, right? Because he says we're going to respond with fire and fury, and then he calls him rocket man. That I think is the problem. But in this case, the United States is not the aggressor. North Korea is the aggressor.
TUR: Take this as an example or as a question. This was floated on social media. What if this happened, this Hawaii missile alert happened at 7:00 a.m. on a weekday? When the president was watching "Fox and Friends" and "Fox and Friends" reported that?
That sounds alarming, but we know from watching and listening and seeing the tweets, the president listens to what "Fox and Friends" says. I mean, are you confident that he listens to his own advisers and not what the anchors might be telling him?
CONFESSORE: No, I'm not confident because he often listens what the anchors were telling him. This president has got to take the good advice he can get in the people who are right around him and I certainly hope he would think to them when it comes to a warning of nuclear attack.
TUR: Let's hope so. Guys, how are we supposed to sleep at night after that, Nick? That is terrifying.
CONFESSORE: Not so soundly, but you will sleep.
TUR: All right, guys, thanks so much. We appreciate you being here on this Monday. Nick Confessore, Zerlina Maxwell, John Podhoretz, I'll see you soon.
Ahead, wholly unintended consequences, batman.
TUR: In case you missed it, a lot of of us are living with secret recording devices in our homes. Yes, I am talking about the Amazon Echo, Google Home, your iPhone, et cetera.
Well, in case you missed it, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders apparently owns one. She tweeted over the weekend, quote, Alexa, we have a problem if my 2-year-old can order a batman toy by yelling batman over and over again into the Echo.
Let's ignore the fact that she tweeted that from an official White House Twitter account. We are more concerned that someone who has a pretty high profile job is publicly acknowledging she has got one of those passive recording devices in her home. Isn't that a national security issue?
(START VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy one track bat computer mind. I guess we'll have to figure this one out for ourselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Luckily, her Echo seems more interested in super heroes than espionage, at least we hope. But just remember citizen, you can turn off, off, off, those microphones with a click of a button.
That's all for tonight. Chuck will be back tomorrow with more "MTP Daily." "The Beat" with Ari Melber starts right now. Ari, I'm going to give it to you a beat early. I hope you don't have an Alexa or an Echo.
ARI MELBER, THE BEAT SHOW HOST: I don't use either. I think that's just signing up for surveillance, right.
TUR: I think it is. I mean, it just seems completely whacky and crazy to me.
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