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Transcript 1/19/18 MTP Daily

Guests: Michael Gerson, Jennifer Palmieri, Ben Cardin, Kimberly Atkins, Bill Cassidy

Show: MTP DAILY Date: January 19, 2018 Guest: Michael Gerson, Jennifer Palmieri, Ben Cardin, Kimberly Atkins, Bill Cassidy

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: MTP DAILY starts right now. Hi, Chuck.


WALLACE: You pulling an all-nighter?

TODD: Well, what`s that? I missed that one.

WALLACE: Are you pulling an all-nighter? You`re going to be up all night?

TODD: I guess. We`ll see.

WALLACE: All right.

TODD: I have a feeling I`m not.


TODD: No. I think someone is blinking.


TODD: There is a flashing light. I`ll have it in a second.

WALLACE: I`m going to go run to my T.V.

TODD: If it`s Friday, there is still no deal to avert a shutdown, but are we seeing Chuck Schumer about to blink?

Good evening and welcome to MTP DAILY. I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington.

There are only seven hours to go before the government has to shut down. House members were supposed to go home. They haven`t. The President was supposed to go to Florida. He hasn`t.

And the Senate has yet to even schedule a vote on the short-term bill to keep the government open. It`s because if they voted right now, it probably would fail.

Although, just moments ago, Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana broke ranks and announced that he is willing to vote yes on the four-week deal that the House passed, the short-term funding bill.

And he is now the second Democrat up for re-election in a state President Trump won who is coming out and saying he does not want to vote to shut down the government. West Virginia`s Joe Manchin was the first.

This could very well be the start of a trend, possible cracks in the Democratic coalition in the Senate, and we may see things start to move very quickly this hour. But before this latest development, and at least for a little while this afternoon, it seemed as if maybe there was some progress being made and a deal was in the works.

Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer went to the White House to meet with the President. But about 90 minutes later, he left without publicly disclosing a deal.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER OF THE SENATE: We had a long and detailed meeting. We discussed all of the major outstanding issues. We made some progress, but we still have a good number of disagreements. The discussions will continue.


TODD: Folks, if the art of the deal President can`t strike a deal, tomorrow will be both the one-year anniversary of his inauguration and the first time in modern history that a party in control of the House, the Senate, and the White House has shut down the government.

Now, let`s be clear. Shutdowns happen when both sides in the argument believe they can win the argument. But shutdowns are averted when both sides have an incentive to find an exit ramp.

For Democrats, the biggest reason to strike a deal on a temporary funding bill is that they could have more leverage to get what they want on DACA in a few weeks ahead of a debt ceiling deadline in March. So you`d have government funding and debt ceiling.

For the President, his biggest reason to get this done is that he`s turning one tomorrow -- his presidency. And he`s got a big fundraiser tomorrow night at Mar-a-Largo. And you all -- we all know he doesn`t want to miss that. At all.

If he could strike a deal tonight, he gets to take credit for brokering a compromise on the anniversary of his inauguration and take a victory lap at his party tomorrow night. That`s pretty big incentive.

Our correspondents are covering this from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. So we got NBC`s Capitol Hill correspondent and anchor of "KASIE D.C." on Sunday nights, Kasie Hunt, on Capitol Hill; and our chief White House correspondent, Hallie Jackson, at the White House. She, of course, anchors the 10:00 a.m. hour right here on MSNBC.

So let me go to the Hill. Kasie, we saw the Joe Donnelly news. I know Nancy Pelosi has been briefed on Chuck Schumer`s meeting. I know the -- we know the White House has briefed Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan.


TODD: Obviously, Schumer has an offer that he`s pondering. What do you know about it?

HUNT: At this point, they are keeping their cards very close to the vest, but you are right. There is something going on.

There are conversations going on among Democrats primarily -- I think, is where we`re focusing our energy and attention. Schumer huddled with Dick Durbin, with Nancy Pelosi after he came back from the White House.

I think the question is -- did they get enough of a potential off-ramp to avoid a shutdown? Right now, the body language indicates that they didn`t seem to get what they needed. Schumer came back and if you kind of read between the lines there, you can see his tone a little bit on the grimmer side.

They are saying that they always expected Joe Donnelly to come out and say that he, as you pointed out at the top of this, was not going to side with his own party and vote against this C.R. That he was going to say, hey, we want to keep the government open. But I think the question is going to be -- does he become the canary in the coal mine?

And these negotiations are literally minute-to-minute. We have been hearing that there was, potentially, going to be a vote early afternoon -- or, I`m sorry, late afternoon, early evening. But so far it`s, as you know, 5:00.

TODD: Right.

HUNT: That has yet to materialize. So that`s a pretty strong indicator that there is still something going on behind the scenes. And I think that you are right, this is a definitive shift from where were we this morning when both sides were really dug in.

TODD: Yes. No, I was just going to say, when you put together that the House is sticking around, the President is sticking around, Chuck Schumer`s meeting with fellow Democrats -- you know, I`m hearing rumors that the exit ramp for Chuck Schumer is, maybe, a three-week C.R. so they sort of kind of split the difference to get through the State of the Union.

The question is -- can the Democratic base handle that? Have they raised expectations too much with their base, Kasie?

HUNT: You know, I actually think that they might have. And I would actually argue, too, Chuck, that it`s a broader version of the base than what we typically think of. You remember when Ted Cruz did this back in 2013.

TODD: Right.

HUNT: It was very much -- it was Heritage Action, Ted Cruz. The bulk of the party didn`t want to go along with him. That`s not the case here. I would say it`s pretty broad and deep --

TODD: Right.

HUNT: -- the fact that Jon Tester is out there saying, look, we got to take a stand here. You know, the Obama guys that ran "Pod Save America" have this chart going around that has the fight club versus the waffle house.

TODD: Yes.

HUNT: I mean, that`s how Democrats across the board are feeling about this. And that`s a real squeeze for Chuck Schumer here between the progressives who are, basically, already running for president and the guys he needs to keep, you know, to potentially fight for a majority.

TODD: My guess is Chuck Schumer is willing to take bullets for Claire McCaskill and Joe Donnelly with the base, but we shall see.

Let me go to the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue. Thank you, Kasie.

Hallie, the ocean air of Mar-a-Largo, the jet fumes of Air Force One.


TODD: How much could --


TODD: Yes.


TODD: Is this going to lure him into cutting some -- giving Schumer something to sort of split the difference here?

JACKSON: Right. So here is the thing, Chuck -- and I think you`re right. Obviously, Donald Trump wants to be in Mar-a-Largo to celebrate his inauguration.

But I think more than that, too, is the understanding that a shutdown, a government shutdown, on the anniversary of the inauguration -- it isn`t on inauguration day if actually goes into tomorrow and the government does shut down, is just bad optics for Donald Trump no matter how you cut it.

No matter how the White House wants to say it`s not our fault, it`s the Democrats fault, you know that that clip from 2013 in which the President said, essentially, the buck stops with whoever is in charge and that`s the President, is going to get played again and again and again right as Donald Trump wants to be celebrating one year anniversary of the day that he was sworn into office.

TODD: Right.

JACKSON: He wants to be talking about all the accomplishments. He`ll point to, obviously, Justice Gorsuch. He`ll point to the tax law. He`ll point to the economy. He wants to be talking about those things and not a shutdown.

So I don`t think you can underestimate sort of the incentivization of Mar- a-Largo and sort of what it means on this specific day, on January 20, 2018. That`s part of it.

The other part of it, though, is that this White House understands that nobody is going to win in a shutdown. And, again, they are confident.

I have had people all week long privately say to me, we`re going to call the bluff. We`re going to the Democrats` bluff. They have felt like, listen, this is truly the Democrats problem now. That`s where we are, meaning people inside the West Wing there.

But I do think something changed this morning. I think you saw a lot of that this morning. And then right around 10:00, 10:30, I`m told, right when that briefing was supposed to begin with Mick Mulvaney, Marc Short, and others, they huddled in the Oval Office with the President -- I`m told by an aide who was briefed on this -- and said, listen, call Chuck Schumer.

The President wanted to show he was engaged. He wanted to show he was trying to be helpful here.

TODD: Right.

JACKSON: That`s when the Schumer call went out, and that`s when all of this started to go down. Then you saw Mick Mulvaney and Marc Short come out and then the rest of the day`s events proceed as they did.

TODD: I think what`s interesting, Hallie, is it`s been a muted Twitter feed from the President. That also tells you that --


TODD: -- he is not interested in blowing anything up right now.

JACKSON: And neither is -- and I know you got to go, Chuck, but neither is John Kelly. And I think that`s one of the most interesting parts of this.

TODD: Yes.

JACKSON: We have seen John Kelly take a much more prominent, much more public-facing and outsized role in these entire negotiations than we`ve ever seen in his tenure as Chief of Staff. I am told by multiple sources that that is because the President deputized him to do so and said, I want you to play this role for me.

TODD: Got you.

JACKSON: Part of it, too, there is a sense that Stephen Miller, who normally would be the immigration guy on this kind of thing, is not quite as politically palatable as John Kelly over on the Capitol Hill.

TODD: That`s interesting point there. Something seems afoot. Kasie and Hallie, thank you very much.

Joining me now is Louisiana Republican Senator Bill Cassidy.

All right, Senator Cassidy, our reporters are reporting and seems to think what was a probable shutdown this morning looks more only like a possible shutdown today. Do you have to vote for something that is what the House did, or are you comfortable shortening it a little bit so that you -- government funding runs out, say, in early February?

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA: If we shorten it, that`s -- I`m OK with that. I think it`s better for a variety of reasons than the current deadline we have, but if we shorten it that`s fine.

The crux of it, though, is -- do we keep the government open and do we keep the Children`s Health Insurance Program funded? By the way, authorized for six years.

And that`s the choice between us since refunding the -- reauthorizing the CHIP program is my number one priority.

TODD: Right.

CASSIDY: And keeping the military going is my number one priority.

TODD: Right.

CASSIDY: I`ll accept the change in in date.

TODD: Let me ask you this on the CHIP front. It was your number one priority. What took so long? I mean, I know -- why did your leadership just save this for now when this was a deal that, frankly, had bipartisan support weeks ago? What took so long?

CASSIDY: Theoretically, it still has bipartisan support.

TODD: Right.

CASSIDY: And the issue has always been, how do you get it funded? Now, recently, CBO came out and decreased the cost of funding it from like $8 billion to $800 million.

TODD: Right.

CASSIDY: No one knows what CBO`s mind is, but that`s what the score is. And that became easier for Democrats to accept our funding mechanism.

TODD: Right.

CASSIDY: It`s there now, though. And in Louisiana, I`m told they`re beginning to shut the CHIP program down because they`re out of money.

TODD: Right.

CASSIDY: If Democrats vote not to keep the government open, in my state, kids will lose coverage. That`s an important thing.

TODD: No, the easier way -- actually, the easiest way to get CHIP passed, though, is to make it stand alone. Why not make it stand alone?

CASSIDY: I suppose you could, but we could also talk about doing this and doing that. The reality is what is before us and what is before us is keeping the government open, keeping the military funded, keeping CHIP funded. That`s the deal before us, and I think it`s a no-brainer. Democrats should be supporting it, not threatening to shut it down.

TODD: Well, look, I think you -- both sides have valid arguments here. Why shouldn`t the Democrats be saying -- why shouldn`t they be fed up?

For five months, the President promised to negotiate on DACA before the end of the calendar year of 2017. It didn`t happen. Democrats gave -- extended it another month. It didn`t happen. In their defense, haven`t they given you plenty of time to do this?

CASSIDY: The deadline for DACA is March the 5th. You could argue that Democrats have not yet shown what their final position will be on border security. We can go back and forth.

TODD: Do you know the Republican --

CASSIDY: My point is --

TODD: Do you know the President`s position on DACA?

CASSIDY: I think the President`s position on DACA will evolve once he knows where Democrats are on border security. It has to come together.


TODD: That`s a --

CASSIDY: But that has nothing to do with what`s before us.

TODD: Well, I understand, but isn`t that --

CASSIDY: That deadline is March 5th --

TODD: Right.

CASSIDY: -- and the deadline tonight for the CHIP reauthorization is midnight.

TODD: Well, it`s not. The CHIP reauthorization can be done separately. I mean --

CASSIDY: So my point is, in Louisiana --

TODD: Whether --

CASSIDY: -- they tell me they`re shutting down the program because they`re out of money. So this is no longer a theoretical.

TODD: I understand that, but, Senator --

CASSIDY: In my state, I`m told --

TODD: But, Senator, what I`m trying to figure out is, why is it shameful that the Democrats want to use DACA to sort of shame the Republicans on government funding, but it`s OK that you`re using CHIP to shame the Democrats in government funding?

Do you see my point? You`re both playing political games here with two other programs that are not part of the government funding.

CASSIDY: The key difference is that we have an acceptable deal for Democrats on CHIP. We can all agree, six-year reauthorization is fantastic.

TODD: Right.

CASSIDY: And people are losing their coverage next week. What we cannot - - what we`ve not decided on is where Democrats will be on border security and where the final deal will be. So one deal is ready, the other is not.

TODD: Right.

CASSIDY: And if we don`t get the one that`s ready, children lose their coverage next week. That`s the issue before us.

TODD: No, I understand that, but government funding doesn`t have to be tied to it. You guys just chose to tie it to it.

CASSIDY: Well, right now, it`s the bill before us. We can all wish that we had something different to consider, but that`s the bill before us.

TODD: Let me go to the DACA situation. If the President`s position were clear, do you think we would be on the brink of a shutdown?

CASSIDY: If the President`s -- whatever the President decides has to also get through the House and has to get through the Senate. And so everybody says, why don`t you strike a deal on DACA? Well, we have to make sure it would pass the House and therefore, it will pass the Senate.

And as I said earlier, we don`t yet know where the Democrats` final deal will be on border security, and so it`s more than the President. It`s also these other factors. That`s why that deal is not yet mature. And by the way, the deadline is not until March the 5th so it does not have to be mature now.

TODD: Let me ask you another question I asked Senator Rounds yesterday. And he is now voting yes on this C.R., but he was not happy about it at all. And in fact, I think, politically, he seemed to concur with sort of my analysis here which is, why do you think Republicans will have more leverage in a month?

Aren`t you actually giving Democrats more leverage? You got the debt ceiling in March. Now you have DACA expiration and government funding. How does that make your position on immigration better in a month?

CASSIDY: Chuck Todd, you are probably right, man.


CASSIDY: Because if you`re just talking politics and process --

TODD: I understand that, yes.

CASSIDY: But on the other hand, frankly, that`s not my focus. My focus is, how do we keep funding the military? How do we keep those military families getting their support? And in my state, they tell me they`re shutting down CHIP.

So on policy and on process, you`re probably right. Maybe we should say, OK, Democrats shut it down because we want more leverage later. I`d rather look at the human side of this and our military security side of it. In which case, we should be voting to keep the government open.

TODD: So would you have supported a clean C.R.? Should this have been a clean C.R. and separate the politics from government shutdown?

CASSIDY: Oh. Oh. I would have to think that through because I`m not sure a clean C.R. could have passed, and --

TODD: Well, that goes to the process argument we`re just having.

CASSIDY: And I think the reason they put in a six-year reauthorization of CHIP is that they thought the Democrats would care enough about CHIP, that maybe that would bring them on board. I actually think it was a pretty good faith effort because, obviously, both parties care deeply about CHIP.

TODD: Right.

CASSIDY: So deeply that I think that was thought that`s how we`d get it through. Obviously, they`ve done suddenly don`t care about it as much.

TODD: Well, we shall see. I`m still -- it smells to me like you guys aren`t shutting this government down, but we`ll find out.

Senator Cassidy, thanks for coming on, sir. Appreciate it.

CASSIDY: Thanks, Chuck.

TODD: Well, as you could tell, things are changing minute by minute in Capitol Hill. We`ll have much more on this looming government shutdown in just a moment, including the view on the Democratic side of the aisle.


TODD: Welcome back. We`re going to get back to the drama unfolding on Capitol Hill in just a moment. And in the midst of all that drama, this afternoon, President Trump addressed the March for Life gathering of anti- abortion activists this afternoon in the Rose Garden.

Well, he was in the Rose Garden. The March for Life folks were about a thousand yards away on the National Mall. The President spoke to the crowd via a video feed.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Under my administration, we will always defend the very first right in the declaration of independence, and that is the right to life.


TODD: It`s something of a recent Republican presidential tradition to put some distance, both literally and figuratively, between the White House and the March for Life crowd. Previous Republican presidents have opted to just phone into the rally even though, again, the rally is yards away from the White House.

The Trump White House is touting the historic nature of the President`s remarks being live via satellite as evidence of his commitment to the pro- life movement. But again, 2,000 yards. That I don`t get.

We`ll be back with more MTP DAILY in 60 seconds.



MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: OMB is preparing for what we`re calling the Schumer shutdown.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER OF THE SENATE: To hold the entire country hostage -- hold the entire country hostage -- until we pass an immigration bill they haven`t even written yet. This is completely unfair.

MARC SHORT, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: It appears, unfortunately, that Senate Democrats are entrenched in forcing a shutdown.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: I hope the President can talk some sense into Senator Schumer so we can avoid the Schumer shutdown.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: The problem starts from the top and it has to get solved from the top. The President is the leader and he has to get everybody in a room and he`s got to lead.


TODD: Welcome back. Let me bring in tonight`s panel.

Kimberly Atkins, chief Washington reporter from the "Boston Herald" and MSNBC contributor.

Michael Gerson is a "Washington Post" columnist and former speechwriter for George W. Bush.

And Jennifer Palmieri, former White House communications director for President Obama, Hillary Clinton`s presidential campaign and has been involved with a shutdown or two and so knows shutdown politics very well.

Kimberly, let me start with you. Look, it does appear as if we`re waiting to see how Schumer`s responding to whatever happened in that White House meeting. Is there a CHIP included or not? Is it shortening it to three weeks?

Five days is off the table, but something is afoot. We just don`t know the details.

KIMBERLY ATKINS, CHIEF WASHINGTON REPORTER, BOSTON HERALD: Yes, something is afoot. And it makes sense because, look, regardless, at the end of the day, shutdowns are terrible. They are unpopular, and parties on both sides will get blamed. Although I think, in this case, the Republicans will bear the brunt of it.

But I think, what you said, the important thing here is this rests with the President. This is why Chuck Schumer went to the White House. This is why, you know, members of Congress who, you know, have been saying out loud, including Mitch McConnell, well, if we knew what the President wanted, we could put something on the floor.

I think that`s really incredible. So I think the onus right now is on President Trump to come forward and move this needle one way or another.

TODD: Look, Michael and Jennifer, you both have been in these brinksmanship moments. You`ve been in these -- and it seems as if shutdowns happen when both sides think they can win an argument, and shutdowns get averted when both sides want an exit ramp, perhaps, for different reasons.

This morning, it looked like both sides thought they could win in the argument. Now it looks like, for different reasons, there`s some exit ramp looking.

I think Chuck Schumer would like a red state Democratic exit ramp here. And we know -- I think President Trump wants to celebrate his one-year anniversary in Mar-a-largo.


MICHAEL GERSON, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, I think that could be. You said that you get shutdowns when both sides think they can win. There are actually questions on both sides in this case.

I mean, the Democrats are trying to add a nonspending item to a spending bill. It`s, you know, inherently difficult. Trump, though, blew up the agreement earlier in the week.

TODD: Right.

GERSON: I mean, he could have had a broader agreement, I think, a real achievement earlier in the week. He undermined his own allies in Congress. They don`t -- didn`t know why he did that. There was no strategy involved other than watching Fox and reacting, evidently. And so, you know, he could be rational in this moment, but he hasn`t been before, so.

TODD: Jennifer?

JENNIFER PALMIERI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Right. So where to start? So the -- I mean I think that the people who blinked today, Trump is the one who picked up -- who got nervous. Trump did two things that are very telling.

TODD: Right.

PALMIERI: One, canceled Mar-a-largo. That`s a very --

TODD: He had it postponed.

PALMIERI: Postponed, OK.

TODD: Yes, let`s --

PALMIERI: That`s a very conventional thing to do.

TODD: Yes.

PALMIERI: Donald Trump normally says I play by my own rules. And when Donald Trump goes conventional that tells me they`re getting nervous. And the second thing --

TODD: No way you walk away from a shutdown government and not be in Washington. That seems to be like a suicidal --

PALMIERI: Right, but --

TODD: That`s political suicide.

PALMIERI: But it`s just the kind of thing that he would say, no, you`re wrong. It`s a position of strength.

TODD: You`re right.

PALMIERI: I`m going to Mar-a-largo and I`m going to win. And the other thing is Mitch McConnell hasn`t put the bill on the floor. I mean that is -- this is -- it is -- this is the story.

The story is that Mitch McConnell doesn`t have 50 votes for anything, and he doesn`t want to put something on the floor that a Republican is going to vote against. And that`s the position they are in now. And Donald -- you know, Donald Trump created this problem.

TODD: Yes.

PALMIERI: He created the DACA problem. And there is a -- and he asked Congress to fix it.

TODD: Yes, the irony is --

PALMIERI: That is a bipartisan fix.

TODD: The irony -- to build off of what you said, the irony is we`re here now. And the idea of connecting DACA and the budget was Chuck and Nancy --


TODD: -- and the President.


TODD: Back in September, right?

PALMIERI: He asked them to do that.

TODD: Yes.

ATKINS: That is right, that is right. I mean, really, latecomer here is the CHIP part of the component because the DACA was sort of in the works before.

TODD: Oh, this was Ryan and McConnell desperately looking for a way --

PALMIERI: Correct, correct.

ATKINS: Right.

TODD: -- to fix what, Michael, I think, you said, the President messing it up.

ATKINS: Right, right. It was the only bargaining chip, no pun intended, that they had and that was brought in at the late hour.

And I think it`s worth -- important to point out that with CHIP, CHIP expired at the end of September. This isn`t some new exigency that came up. This is something that is being used politically.

But, look, I think what Jen said is absolutely right. This is a problem created and perpetuated day after day, week after week, by Donald Trump. There could have been a deal reached on the policy. I don`t think that they were so far apart.

The Democrats would`ve given up more border security, and, you know, we could`ve given something that was maybe something -- a longer path to citizenship or something. They could`ve gotten there on policy. The politics torpedoes this day after day after day.

GERSON: And I think that`s the broader message here. I mean, we have a broken system for a decade that goes from crisis to crisis on the budget, but you need a president to try to overcome that.

ATKINS: Right.

GERSON: To actually make it better.

TODD: Right.

GERSON: And this is a case where the President brought chaos to the process instead of trying to lead in the process. And I think that`s part of his legacy at a year in all this.

TODD: You know, Jennifer, it feels as if -- and the danger -- the political danger here feels like it is -- generally, it feels like Republicans will probably take more blame nationally. Trump probably will take more blame as this sort of the guy who was supposed to be "Art of the Deal." But the red state Democrats could take a hit on this too. Is there a way it becomes lose-lose for everybody?

PALMIERI: I don`t think -- I think that what we`ve seen in this Trump era, when the Democrats make principled arguments and they fight back and they`re on -- you know, in my view, they got right on their side, they do really well. And they have a lot of energy and they have a lot of support behind them.

And I think that that`s why you see -- you know, Joe Donnelly breaking the way he did is not a surprise. You know, that`s --

TODD: Right.

PALMIERI: You know, Chuck Schumer is very clear about who he has that`s going to will stand with him and is willing to vote against a C.R. And that is why Mitch McConnell hasn`t put a bill on the floor yet.

TODD: That`s true, but do we think, though, that voting -- being able to vote -- being able to, well, I didn`t vote for the shutdown even though my party did.

PALMIERI: It`s hard but, you know, I just --

TODD: I was just going to, does that work?

PALMIERI: You got -- you know, this is not -- you know, these are difficult times.

TODD: Yes.

PALMIERI: This is a -- there are some really serious, literally life and death, matters at hand here when you`re considering both CHIP and DACA.

And I think the reason why you see Democrats hanging tough on what something -- a few years ago might have seen like a difficult political issue is because they know what all of that`s at stake. And they know that the -- I mean, look at what`s happening in the elections in this year.

TODD: Well --

PALMIERI: They know what`s at their back. The support is at their back.

TODD: It was funny, you know, Republicans quietly keep saying, I actually feel for Democrats here. We did the same thing to our base in 2013. Kimberly?

ATKINS: Yes. I mean --

TODD: I mean, we riled them up, and we said -- we made a pledge on something we would never do and then suddenly we were like, uh-uh, we -- all right, are we going to stick to our rhetorical guns?

ATKINS: Right. I mean I think, in this sense, it`s a little different. I mean what led up to 2013 was a smaller contingency of people within the Republican Party that were pushing for that. And here, I think you have much broader support among Democrats.

I think Democrats also know that, look, if there is a shutdown for a period of time, it will be bad. It will be unpopular.

It will end, and then the news cycle will go on and people will forget about it largely. And I think the long-term damage they think may not be that big.

GERSON: But you can`t also forget that DACA is an 80/20 issue in America.


GERSON: I mean, Democrats should feel some confidence here that they can make the case. And the winners in these conflicts are often ones that bring message discipline, that really make their case, and you know -- and that`s something that Trump doesn`t have.

TODD: Meanwhile, whatever they agree to here, they still have to figure out how to do DACA. And I`m starting to wonder how there is ever going to be a Republican -- a way that Donald Trump`s going to be a supporter.

Take a listen to Lindsey Graham`s shot at Tom Cotton, which, to me, is symbolic of what may be a larger issue inside the Republican conference. Take a listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The Tom Cotton approach has no viability here. You know, he`s become sort of the Steve King of the Senate.

COTTON: The difference between Lindsey Graham and Steve King is that Steve King can actually win an election in Iowa.


TODD: Wow. Tom Cotton doing his best Trump. That was like Trumpian in that response. I also saw Mark Meadows claim that, of the Freedom Caucus, that he has the President`s word that he will not agree to a DACA deal that Tom Cotton can`t vote for. How does a DACA deal happen then if that`s the circumstance?

Michael, let me start with you.

GERSON: Yes. It couldn`t under that circumstance. I mean, the President is surrounded by some radical voices when it comes to DACA, and -- but he has proven that he`s often -- you know, takes the advice of the person who was last in the office on this.

TODD: I mean, like White House Republicans panicked today when they found out it was just a one-on-one with Schumer and the President.

GERSON: Right.

ATKINS: Right.

GERSON: Because of that reason, that anything could happen under those circumstances. He knows very little about the policy on these things. He has very little investment in the policy, but he does react impulsively sometimes as he did earlier in this week on the DACA deal, the possible DACA deal.

He undermined his own people that were in the meetings, you know, for the DACA negotiations that were sandbagged by the President himself in the tweets. So I think he has a lot of leeway in a certain way because he doesn`t have any consistency.

TODD: Yes, perhaps. Jen?

PALMIERI: Yes, so I think he has a lot of leeway in a certain way because he doesn`t have any consistency. TODD: Perhaps. PALMIERI: I think that is how it comes together because in one day he can -- one day he can get in a room and decide that`s the the thing he`s going to do, he can do it administratively. He could say -- he could see how attractive a deal is --

TODD: Yes.

PALMIERI: -- and go for it. He can triangulate against his own party. There is a lot of ways. TODD: Watch him sign an executive order that protects the "dreamers" until 2020.

PALMIERI: Yes, that`s exactly true.

TODD: I think nothing is off the table on that front. You guys are going to stick around. We`re staying on top of the rush to avoid a government shutdown. Will more democratic senators line up behind the House`s temporary fix or will there be a counter offer from Chuck Schumer and the Democrats?

We`re going to talk to Maryland senator, Ben Cardin, straight ahead. Hopefully he`ll have some new updates on the Chuck -- on where Schumer is right now.


TODD: A very big show coming up this weekend. We`re going to be talking shutdown politics and we look at the Trump administration one year later. President`s dramatic impact on Washington and what could happen next. We`re not going to shutdown at all because if it`s Sunday, it`s "Meet the Press." We`re open for business and we`ll be back in a moment.


TODD: Republican on the potential government shutdown deal or no deal. Now let`s hear it from the other side of the aisle. Joining me now is Maryland Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, also ranking member on Foreign Relations.

Senator Cardin, how are you, sir?

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: Chuck, it`s good to be with you. Obviously there is a lot of tension here in Washington as we approach the deadline.

TODD: So, all right, Senator Schumer, it`s my understanding he`s at least talking with a lot of you on the democratic side of the aisle right now, briefing folks of his meeting with the president. What is your level of flexibility here? Are you open to a three-week C.R.? That is one of the rumors circulating.

CARDIN: We`re clearly open to keeping government open. We want government to stay open, but we want to resolve these issues. We`ve been now four months into the fiscal year without a budget. You have to have a budget. We`ve already heard from the Defense Department that they can`t operate on another continuing resolution.

Four weeks ago they said give them four weeks and we`ll have the answers. Well, it`s four weeks later and we`re no closer. So, what we`re asking is let`s have a short-term C.R. and let`s stay here, let`s stay here and resolve the budget issues --

TODD: Right.

CARDIN: The budget caps, let`s --

TODD: Define short-term. I mean, to me, four weeks is short-term.

CARDIN: Well, no, four weeks means we`ll delay the issues and we`ll come back to it four weeks from now. Let`s stick with the issues. We`re close. We got a lot of progress on the immigration issues --

TODD: Right.

CARDIN: A lot of progress on the health care issues. A lot of progress on a lot of the appropriation issues on opioids and disaster relief. Let`s bring that together so that we can have results in the next week.

TODD: All right, but let`s be realistic here. You`re basically arguing over how much time do you need to negotiate. Is that worth shutting the government down over?

CARDIN: No. We are not negotiating. What we`re arguing over is whether there is going to be a real bipartisan effort to resolve these issues and whether the republican leadership will work with all of the members of the Senate and let`s get something done. That is what we`re arguing over.

This strategy has been a partisan strategy by the Republican leader rather than working with the Democrats. We want to work with the Republicans. We want to get these issues resolved, and we certainly want to keep government open.

TODD: So, what I`m -- so, look, four to five days you`ve heard and Senator McConnell made a good argument, the way that Congress works, it takes that long to write a bill. So, that seems like an unrealistic amount of time. What is wrong with three weeks?

CARDIN: First of all, it doesn`t take four weeks. Look, four weeks ago when they asked us for the last C.R. --

TODD: What is wrong with three weeks or two weeks? CARDIN: I don`t think there is any magic to a particular number. What we need to have is -- is a way in which we stay here and get the matters resolved. That we don`t take a break even for one week before we get on to these issues. These issues are urgent.

Our Defense Department needs a budget. Listen to what Secretary Mattis is saying. They can`t operate on a continuing resolution. Where is the urgency? So I guess what I`m suggesting to you, we see the urgency, we all stay here, we work to resolve these issues --

TODD: Right.

CARDIN: We can get work done. Let`s do it.

TODD: Can`t you keep the government open and stay there for -- what is five days versus three weeks? How does that prevent you -- I don`t understand how that prevents you from staying in Washington to resolve the issues.

CARDIN: Look, I would love to negotiate the issues on your show, but you`re asking good questions. Democrats are open to those discussions. Let`s sit down and figure out how much time you want to have, but let`s keep the members here negotiating, don`t send them home.

TODD: Let me ask you this about DACA and the president`s desire to say he`s getting funding for his wall. Could you give him 700 miles of more fence, essentially double the amount of fencing than has been proposed, in exchange for his support on a significant "dreamer" package?

CARDIN: Chuck, I`ve been to El Paso, I`ve been to the border, I understand the needs of border security. We`ve been doing our nation a favor if we invest in border security and not worry about a physical wall.

There are areas in which a physical wall just does not work. I think the president understands that. So let`s work on a sensible way to improve border security. Democrats are fully prepared to work with the White House on that issue.

TODD: All right. But it is -- you know, one person`s wall is another person`s fence and Democrats have supported fencing before. It is semantics. If the president wants to call it a wall, does that bother you, if you are not getting more money for fencing? Do you see my point here? We`re arguing over semantics sometimes.

CARDIN: You see I`m smiling because the president would characterize things differently than I would characterize things.

TODD: Right.

CARDIN: I`m sure that is going to continue in the future.


CARDIN: I have no control what the president is going to say. I think from the congressional point of view, it will be a win-win situation. We get the "dreamer" resolved, the TPS issues be resolved, at the same time we have sensible improvements in our border security, all that is a win-win situation.

TODD: Let me ask you this. If the government does shut down tonight, in 2015 when a Democrat was in the White House, you lamented the idea that Republicans were using federal workers as pawns. The same argument could be put to the Democrats here since DACA isn`t directly a spending bill. How would you answer that criticism?

CARDIN: First of all, federal workers are going to be hurt badly by a government shutdown. So will government contractors. So will taxpayers. So will those who need government services. This should not be a political pawn for anyone.

The people in this country and government workers are not looking for Democrats or Republicans to point fingers. They are looking for us to resolve the issue so they can get their paychecks, so they can pay their mortgages and they can their expenses. Let`s stop with the blame game and let`s get our job and work done.

TODD: All right, Senator Cardin, I`m guessing the blame game, that is what the two parties do best.

CARDIN: I hope we know how to resolve and talk to each other, work together, listen to each other, keep government open and resolve these issues.

TODD: I think a lot of people want to see that instead of just hear for sure. Senator Cardin, Democrat from Maryland, thanks for coming on and sharing your views. I appreciate it, sir.

CARDIN: Thank you.

TODD: Up ahead, why the shutdown countdown is reminding me of Seinfeld. Serenity now.


TODD: Tonight I`m obsessed with Seinfeld and the shutdown countdown. Jerry Seinfeld once observed that we root against a player when he is on the other team and for him when he`s traded to our team. The player hasn`t changed, only his clothing has. As Seinfeld put it, we`re just rooting for laundry.

That is essentially what our politicians are doing right now. Take House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Ready to shut down the government. Here she was in 2013 in the face of a Republican shutdown.


NANCY PELOSI, MINORITY LEADER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: You do not use the threat of shutting down government to try to advance your policy agenda. That is just not the way it works.


TODD: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer could hold his ground today and force a shutdown. Chaos, you say, so did he in 2013.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: We could say we`re shutting down the government. We`re not going to raise the debt ceiling until you pass immigration reform. It would be governmental chaos.


TODD: Meanwhile, President Trump said if the government shuts down, it won`t be his fault. Very different from where he was when the president was named Obama.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The president in all fairness, he`s the leader. He`s the one that has to get everybody in a room and get it done.


TODD: And then there is Vice President Mike Pence. He was all for a shutdown in 2011, when the tea party wanted it.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If liberals in the Senate would rather play political games and force a government shutdown instead of accepting a modest down payment on fiscal discipline and reform, I say shut it down.



TODD: Even chants. Funny what happens when the laundry changes. We`ll be right back.


TODD: Time for "The Lid." On the same day that the White House touted the president`s moral leadership, In Touch Weekly published their full interview with Stormy Daniels. This is an adult film start who detailed her alleged 2006 sexual encounter with a married Donald Trump.

Panel is back. Kimberly Atkins, Michael Gerson, Jennifer Palmieri. All right, I got to play -- let me play the vice president of the United States today talking about President Trump and his moral leadership. Take a listen.


PENCE: This president has been a tireless defender of life and conscience in America. And today, President Trump will do even more to defend the most vulnerable in our society. With president Donald Trump in this White House and with God`s help, we will restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law.


TODD: And then In Touch Weekly, you hear about Stormy Daniels and this, Michael Gerson, look, you write a lot about morality in politics and values in our leaders. It`s no secret you`ve eviscerated President Trump before.

But this juxtaposition, Mike Pence trying to sell the president as sort of a moral figure for the life movement, which is the pro-life movement, filled with people who claim morality and values, and then there`s this Stormy Daniels thing and there seems to be -- no one seems to care.

GERSON: I agree, there`s kind of a numbness. Maybe it`s just that there`s so many charges, maybe it`s just the velocity of all the news. But people seem numb to it. This would be a massive boulder in another presidency. It seems like a pebble in an avalanche in this current presidency.

But, you would think that evangelicals in particular would bring some moral seriousness to this debate. But how many of his advisers on his as advisory counsel are resigning? None of them are resigning.

TODD: Right. There was one. I remember one did resign.

GERSON: But not on this issue.

TODD: Not on this one. You`re right.

GERSON: And they are essentially making morality a function of partisanship. That is not just hypocrisy, that is really corruption. And so Donald Trump has this affect on people around him. He lowers standards. People abandon their views.

You know, a lot of these evangelical leaders have argued for family values for decades. That`s been their main argument and now they can`t even find their voice.

TODD: You know, it`s interesting, Jennifer, I do find while Donald Trump isn`t getting punished, you do see when another Republican commits a morality problem this year, they have been quick to throw him out. The congressman that was forced to resign in western Pennsylvania, they`re doing a special election because he made his mistress get an abortion.

How about the governor of Missouri right now where you have Republican lawmakers calling for his resignation? So, it is interesting for some reason they are just giving Trump the pass.

PALMIERI: They do. And you certainly noticed there was the "Me Too" movement which I think was spurred in part by Trump`s election because women felt like they needed to do something to show their power. And yet he`s the one that remains and I have to tell you, it still gals me. I still have the capacity to be galled when I hear -- when I hear Mike Pence, laud him as a moral leader.

But I think that Trump -- he makes the issues a bigger issue for others, but people make their peace and it`s really disturbing. They make their peace with his lack of morality to advance what they want. And that`s going to leave a mark on our country for a while.

TODD: Kimberly, I had a viewer who I trade emails with very frequently say I didn`t vote for him to be a role model. I am my kids` role model, OK? I am going to make sure they are moral people. I elected him to shake that place up and do a little disruption in Washington. Now, that`s clearly the president`s base.

KIMBERLY ATKINS, CHIEF WASHINGTON REPORTER AND COLUMNIST, BOSTON HERALD: It is, and I think that`s the root of all of this, the sort of we got what we bargained for. The Trump that we are seeing and what`s being revealed that he was before the election is exactly the Trump that he laid himself bare to be during the election and somehow that makes it OK.

But I still think that it`s a major problem, not just for evangelicals, who have to somehow find their moral base, but also for Republicans who are giving cover to all of this. At some point or another, they will have to answer for it.

TODD: The Stormy Daniels, we all agree that the event, that the affair isn`t going to hurt the president, per se, where I think his actual vulnerable is on the legal front, Michael and Jennifer, which is this news in the Wall Street Journal that Michael Cohen, the president`s personal attorney, had a dummy corporation, there was payoffs.

As Nicolle Wallace, my colleague in the previous hour, put it, if a porn star can blackmail the president, then suddenly that puts this in Mueller`s lane a little bit, does it not?

GERSON: Well, I agree with that. I mean, he just opened himself up through his own behavior, to leverage from other people. And the question is, do other people have leverage? I mean that`s a valid question. When you see a case like this, do other people have leverage?

TODD: And if I were the president`s attorney, I would be very scared that suddenly Michael Cohen is a way for Mueller to get into the Stormy Daniels story. I think there is a lot going on here on that front. Anyway, guys, thank you very much.

Up ahead, New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez prepares for battle, two times over.


TODD: Well, in case you missed it, New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez is facing a very long 2018. The Justice Department just announced that it does intend to retry the bribery and corruption case against him.

Menendez is accused of trading political favors for perks and campaign donations. His first trial ended with a deadlocked jury. This is obviously not good news for Menendez, because now he`s going to be fighting to keep his job while fighting to stay out of prison.

He is seeking a third term in the Senate, but the numbers are not working in his favor. Recent records at university poll found only 26 percent of New Jersey voters say he deserved to be reelected.

But Menendez remains defiant. A statement released a short time ago, his office said, quote, we regret that the DOJ after spending millions and millions of taxpayer dollars and failing to prove a single allegation in a court of law has decided to double down on an unjust prosecution. Senator Menendez fully intends to be vindicated again.

It seems this senior senator from New Jersey is gearing up for a fight. The question is, is he ready for two at the same time? Does this new trial suddenly invites some Democrats to decide to primary him in New Jersey?

Do Republicans find a retiring member of Congress and say, hey, if he does, why don`t you run for the Senate or some other moderate Republican? All of a sudden, keep an eye on Jersey politics.

That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back Monday with more MTP Daily, and of course, if it`s Sunday, we`ll be open - Meet the Press on NBC.


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