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Transcript 1/26/18 MTP Daily

Guests: Bill Kristol, Eugene Robinson, Anne Milgram, Lamar Alexander, Kara Swisher, Carol Lee

Show: MTP DAILY Date: January 26, 2018 Guest: Bill Kristol, Eugene Robinson, Anne Milgram, Lamar Alexander, Kara Swisher, Carol Lee

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

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: How are you doing, Nicolle? There is so much smoke around these days. I just can`t get through it all, huh?

WALLACE: Where is the fire? Bring the fire.

TODD: Billowing and billowing and billowing.

(LAUGHTER)

TODD: Oh, I think we`re searching for that fire. Anyway, thank you, Nicolle. Happy weekend.

If it`s Friday, where there is smoke, you`re fired?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Tonight, how serious was the President when he ordered his Counsel to fire Bob Mueller? Will Republicans now push to protect Mueller from a firing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want to fire Robert Mueller?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fake news, folks. Fake news.

TODD: Plus, President Trump`s immigration plan hits a wall on both sides of the aisle. Can a bipartisan group of senators break through the impasse, or will a bipartisan group kill the bill? We`ll talk to one of the lead Republican negotiators.

And in the wake of the Larry Nassar trial, Congress takes aim at the Olympics and USA gymnastics.

This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Good evening. I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington. Welcome to MTP DAILY.

By the way, did you know that Monday was the government shutdown?

Anyway, Republican leaders made it seem impossible. They told us that they could not believe it because it would end the Trump presidency, so they didn`t have to actually do anything about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I cannot imagine a serious conversation taking place in the White House about firing Mueller. That would be a major mistake.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I can`t believe they would think of such a thing. Tell me what he`s done that would, in any way, intimate that this guy is not one of the most trustworthy people in America.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency unless Mueller did something wrong.

If there were some effort to do it without a good reason, there`d holy hell to play.

HUGH HEWITT, MSNBC HOST: Do you think Congress has any role in legislating about the Special Counsel right now?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER OF THE SENATE: I don`t think so. I don`t hear much pressure to pass anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Well, if Vin Scully were watching this Republican caucus, he might tell them that in a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened. The President gave the order to fire Mueller. So now, what do they do?

"The New York Times," "Washington Post," NBC News, and a lot of other news organizations are all reporting that President Trump did move to fire Bob Mueller last June, but the White House Counsel, Don McGahn, refused to follow through on it.

He threatened to quit if forced to do it. And the President then, ultimately, backed down.

The President`s lawyer, Ty Cobb, did not have a comment about these reports, but the President had a fairly predictable reaction earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you want to fire Robert Mueller?

TRUMP: Fake news, folks. Fake news. Typical "New York Times" fake stories.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: And then, of course, he decided to attack the press while speaking on the world stage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: And it wasn`t until I became a politician that I realized how nasty, how mean, how vicious, and how fake the press can be. As the cameras start going off in the back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: As you saw, around the same time President Trump gave the order to fire Mueller, Republican leaders were warning the President that an order like that would blow up his presidency. But that was then.

Since then, the FBI and the Justice Department have been the subject of countless attacks by the President. His allies are warning him that Mueller is setting a perjury trap just by interviewing him. And, of course, the conservative echo chamber is blasting out allegations and conspiracy theories that Mueller is part of a so-called deep state to overthrow this President.

Last year, when there was speculation that the President might give the order to fire Mueller, Republican leaders sent a clear message to the President: don`t do it!

Well, we now know that the President actually gave that order, and the Republican reaction, so far, has been muted, to say the least.

Folks, if all of this was a coordinated leak -- which is what it looks like when all of these news organizations can independently confirm the same story so quickly -- you have to wonder if someone wanted to send a warning to either to President Trump or about President Trump.

But if that`s the case, where are the Republicans warning him? Is it because it`s a Friday? Is it because the President is overseas? Or is it because so few people were actually surprised by this news?

But, folks, to put it bluntly, if the GOP remains silent on the news that President Trump gave the order to fire Mueller, why would we think they`ll speak up if he follows through on that order the next time he decides to do this?

Let`s bring in tonight`s panel. Carol Lee is a reporter for NBC News; Eugene Robinson, a columnist for "The Washington Post" and MSNBC political analyst; and Bill Kristol, "The Weekly Standard`s" editor-at-large.

Carol, I want to start with you because, last June, all of us were pursuing this story. It was -- Christopher Ruddy, the President`s personal friend who happens to be a publisher of the news organization, openly said the President is contemplating doing this.

CAROL LEE, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Very candidly, yes.

TODD: The White House kept denying, no, no, no, he didn`t order it. Now, those same people that were telling us no are saying yes. What happened?

LEE: It`s unclear exactly what happened, but I think you hit on a very important point, which is this investigation is just getting tighter and tighter and tighter. And the President is in the White House and seething and continuing to seethe and see it quickening and getting closer, and now there`s questions about him, you know, perhaps sitting down with the Special Counsel`s office.

And so it`s very possible that people are nervous that he may try to do this again. He is impulsive. He lashes out. And there`s people in the White House who could not be clearer that this would be a disaster for him, and so you could see how they would want to move to try to cut that off.

TODD: But, Bill Kristol, you saw this as a leak meant to be as a warning. You tweeted the following.

Why would Trump have returned to the idea of firing Mueller now? Well, he may recently have learned how much Mueller now knows. He also, soon, has to agree to be interviewed or not. He may have decided not and thinks firing him might be better than refusing to talk or taking the Fifth.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes. I think there is, in a way, a little there is too much -- well, just two things. When the story broke when the press went out and, you know, have said this might be happening, the White House denied it. Trump denied it. And people sort of believed it.

That`s a mistake, generally -- it turns ow. You really shouldn`t believe what Donald Trump says. I think we do know that.

But it turns out there are a lot of people at that White House -- this is something reporters have learned, I think, a little bit. I mean, reporters are trained to be suspicious and skeptical --

TODD: Right.

KRISTOL: -- but not to deal with this level of just flat out lying, either just lying about things people know about, staffers -- or staffers may not know about it, but then they just go out and deny something when they don`t know either way.

TODD: By the way, this is the --

KRISTOL: And now, it`s pretty clear. I mean, we know from many sources that Trump gave the order, you might say. Don McGahn threatened to quit, the White House counsel. And so it was a real thing, a real story.

But the main recent thing I would say is -- I mean, is it -- of course, it would be a political firestorm. But compared to what? It`s not because Trump is irritable. Trump is scared of Bob Mueller.

TODD: Yes.

KRISTOL: Trump is scared of what he would discover.

TODD: But by the way, just --

KRISTOL: Trump will not testify to Bob Mueller, and Trump wants this investigation to be stopped or slowed down or impeded or made more difficult or discredit it as much as possible. So you got to put yourself in Trump`s mind here and say, is it irrational for him to think that he should do anything he can to disrupt this investigation?

TODD: Gene, before you weigh in -- I know you want to -- I want to just put a button on this point here of how the President has been so openly misleading about this. Here he is in August, now claiming denying any of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, have you thought or thought about or considered leading the dismissal of the Special Counsel? Is there anything that Bob Mueller could do that would send you in that direction?

TRUMP: I haven`t given it any thought. I mean, I`ve been reading about it from you people. You say, oh, I`m going to dismiss him.

No, I`m not dismissing anybody. I mean, I want them to get on with the task, but I also want the Senate and the House to come out with their findings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: So that was his way of denying it. But, boy, when you hear him say it -- when you read it, it reads like a denial. When you hear him say it, you realize he is fudging it.

EUGENE ROBINSON, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. Yes.

TODD: That`s his way of fudging it.

ROBINSON: Right. He is --

TODD: Yes.

ROBINSON: I mean, he is -- that did not sound like Donald Trump trying to be serious or be honest, frankly. And look, at this point, his credibility is in the negative numbers. You can`t believe him especially on --

TODD: Especially on this issue in particular.

ROBINSON: Well, on many issues.

TODD: Yes.

ROBINSON: But on this issue especially, you can`t take what he says at face value. You know, these kinds of leaks -- and obviously there was a leak somewhere -- are the way that people in the Trump White House often --

TODD: Speak.

ROBINSON: -- communicate to each other and to him. Especially to him. And this looks to me the way it looked to Bill, like a message to him, a brushback.

TODD: The reaction from Capitol Hill today has been somewhat muted. Orrin Hatch`s office re-tweeted a headline from a comment he made in October that said that it was supported -- he offered his support for Mueller.

James Lankford said the following, according to BuzzFeed, the White House and the President have said repeatedly, most recently yesterday, that they will comply with the Special Counsel and investigative committees, so I think we should take the White House at their word.

It was interesting he said White House, not the President.

And Chuck Grassley said, according to CNN, I just don`t think the President, as unpredictable as he is, would fire Mueller. And I take the view -- and I said so maybe not directly to the President, but indirectly to the President -- just let this work its course.

LEE: I would say he -- they hope that he`s not going to fire Bob Mueller.

(LAUGHTER)

LEE: But the Republicans, all those clips you played, they have been on the record about what they think about this. And I think there is this -- what you`ve seen today is a little -- they just don`t want to kind of poke him at all on this, and so they`re -- they`ve been, a little bit, playing games with their wording on this.

KRISTOL: But think how it`s changed from six months ago when he just --

TODD: Right.

KRISTOL: I mean, what has he done in the six months in between? In his own, you know, whacky, kind of impulsive way, he is not stupid, Trump. He has managed to get lots of Republicans on the Hill, especially in the House, to attack the inquiry, attack the FBI --

TODD: Even credible Republicans like Ron Johnson.

KRISTOL: Right.

TODD: Yes.

KRISTOL: What we would`ve called the normal Republicans who are not on the fringes and not conspiratorial to be talking about conspiracies in the FBI.

He`s got the conservative echo chambers you put at the beginning echoing the notion that the deep state is out to get Trump in a way that was -- would have been incredible if you told me six, seven, eight months ago some of the people who are saying that routinely day after a day. So he has made progress in his effort to lay the groundwork for firing Mueller.

ROBINSON: Yes.

TODD: And I want to pick up on another point that Bill was implying here. Donald Trump -- which is the idea of -- we might think firing Mueller, that`s crazy. Donald Trump has lived his whole life on one way of conducting business. Buying time, right?

ROBINSON: Yes.

TODD: He files a lawsuit -- you file a lawsuit against him.

ROBINSON: Yes.

TODD: He files a counter. Why? Buy time. Buy time.

ROBINSON: Buy time, yes.

TODD: He knows that doing this would be terrible for him, but what would it do? It would set the investigation back at least a few weeks.

ROBINSON: Yes.

TODD: A few months maybe. It buys more time. He is the king of buying time.

ROBINSON: Yes. Well, maybe that`s what he`s after. This is -- this would be a pyrrhic purchase, I think.

TODD: It would be too.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON: You know, if there is such a thing. You know, you read this in biographies. You know, one -- apparently, one of the jobs of Bob Haldeman was to listen to the crazy things Nixon said and ordered and then not do them. Pay no attention to them and look right past them. Maybe somebody is afraid that Kelly is going to actually take him seriously.

TODD: Right. Well, let me pause the political side of this conversation because I have some legal questions here, and as smart as all of you guys are, you`re not as smart as my next guest here.

Let me add a former federal prosecutor to the mix here. Anne Milgram was the Attorney General for the state of New Jersey. She had been a federal prosecutor at the Justice Department and an Assistant District`s Attorney in Manhattan.

Ms. Milgram, thanks for coming on the program again.

ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL OF NEW JERSEY: Thank you.

TODD: Let me start with a legal question. If you order a hit and the order is rejected, you still ordered the hit. Does that make it an obstruction of -- does that feed the obstruction of justice case in this scenario?

MILGRAM: So I think the answer here is absolutely yes. The way it would work, even though -- the President ordered that Mueller be fired. Even though that wasn`t carried out, you could still have a claim for attempted obstruction of justice. That would be equal under the eyes of the law in terms of the punishment.

But more importantly here, Chuck, I think when you look at this with the other evidence we have related to the President firing Comey, the comments that he made, it certainly strengthens that part of the case as well.

And so I think it`s important when we think about obstruction to think about all these individual acts as one piece of an obstruction of justice potential claim.

TODD: Well, let me put -- let me button that up. You mentioned Comey.

He asked Comey for loyalty, asked him to drop the Flynn probe. He pressured Sessions not to recuse himself. He pressured Wray to fire Andrew McCabe. He pressured Coats and Rogers and Pompeo and members of the intel community to lean on Comey to lay off of Flynn. Now, we know the failed attempt to fire Mueller.

So what you`re saying is you put all of that together, no individual piece you can -- you might be able to explain away, all of that together, there`s only one conclusion?

MILGRAM: Yes. And in addition to the fact that you put it all together and also remember that you have Trump`s specific words asking Comey to see past Flynn, to basically stop the investigation into Flynn explicitly, but now you also have a pattern.

And I think what that means and why this is so problematic for the President and his legal defense team is that if there is one instance of it -- and again, you just went through a lot of the comments and conversations, so there isn`t just one piece. But if there were just one or two pieces, it`s a lot easier to defend against or explain.

Here, now you have another really strong piece of evidence showing that the President was trying to stop the investigation by eliminating the chief prosecutor, Bob Mueller.

TODD: All right. So you`re Bob Mueller and you found out the guy you`re investigating wants to -- wanted to -- was trying to fire you. Now, you`re a professional, but you have to -- that information is going to have an impact.

It`s going to have an impact on your -- you said a good point, he really doesn`t want me to finish this investigation. Boy, I was suspicious of X over here and now I`m more suspicious of X.

I mean, as an investigator, what does this mean to him?

MILGRAM: So, you know, Bob Mueller, I think, is one of the best prosecutors in the country, one of the best investigators in the country. And he is as cool as can be and would take this in stride, and so I know someone like Bob Mueller wouldn`t take it personally.

But I think what he would take it as, he would want that evidence from the people who have now come forward to understand what was said, who said, you know, who did what. And again, it really goes to this question of what was the President`s intent when he fired Comey, when he tried to stop Sessions from recusing, all of those pieces.

And so I think, you know, Mueller is -- he`s extraordinarily good at what he does. He will take this in stride. And, you know, I almost believe that he probably expected this or something like this.

TODD: Sure.

MILGRAM: But, yes, it`s obviously strange to be the lead prosecutor and find out that the President of the United States has been trying to fire you.

TODD: Given that maybe it`s possible this is a warning flare from somebody inside the White House, if you`re Bob Mueller and you want to have this interview with the President, do you speed up that process and basically say, all right, let`s just subpoena him now and get this over with?

MILGRAM: I wonder. I mean, I think that all of the theories that have been offered tonight are very plausible as to why this has come out. I also wondered if it`s possible that the President is about to be interviewed soon and that it will come out as part of that interview.

And so people have told that to Mueller. They understand that that information will become known to the President as soon as the President walks into an interview because this clearly is something that Bob Mueller would ask about.

I don`t know if that`s right, but there does seem to be -- it was a very quick number of a large number of sources that came out saying it.

TODD: Right.

MILGRAM: If I were Bob Mueller, I would want the President tomorrow because there is so much information, and I would want to be able to sit and go through it all really methodically. That being said, the one caveat is that we don`t know what else Bob Mueller is doing.

TODD: Right.

MILGRAM: And so what you want before you go in with the President, who is the subject of this question of did he obstruct justice and potentially, also, will be questioned on the campaign and Russian interference in the election, you want to have all your ducks in a row. So you want to have --

TODD: I was just going to ask, you want one interview? You would want to do it all at once? You wouldn`t want to split this and basically do obstruction now, campaign and Trump organization later?

MILGRAM: I see a lot of reasons why you would want to split it and do multiple interviews. And so if you and I were talking about your sort of garden variety case, I think the short answer is you might do that.

TODD: Got you.

MILGRAM: I think it`s a lot more complicated when it`s the President of the United States, and you already have his lawyers pushing back on having him come in.

TODD: All right.

MILGRAM: So if I were Mueller, I would assume I`d get one bite at the apple, and I would try to do everything I need to do during or -- and particularly prioritize the things I know I need to touch on.

TODD: All right. Anne Milgram, I appreciate your perspective there.

MILGRAM: Thank you for having me.

TODD: Let me quickly go to the panel. Bill, you wanted to chime in on what you heard there?

KRISTOL: I just think the President is not going to give Mueller one bite at the apple. He`s going to give zero bites at the apple. I don`t believe him saying, oh, I want to -- that`s --

TODD: That`s pretending that he (ph) -- it`s not the President`s choice.

KRISTOL: Well, it is because then he can say no -- first of all, they can have endless -- they can drag out the negotiations.

TODD: Right.

KRISTOL: As you said earlier, buying for time. Secondly, they can appeal to, if they wish to try, that the President shouldn`t be compelled to testify. Third, I gather they could then subpoena him before a grand jury. Then he might have to take the Fifth.

And everyone will all say, are you -- can you imagine the President taking the Fifth? I don`t think that`s what Donald Trump thinks.

LEE: No, he`ll be angry.

ROBINSON: Yes.

KRISTOL: Donald Trump thinks, you know what, it might be a lot safer for me to take the Fifth than possibly have to testify and here`s all these things.

ROBINSON: It would be --

KRISTOL: So he`ll take the Fifth.

ROBINSON: It would be a lot --

KRISTOL: So he`ll take the Fifth.

LEE: But he --

KRISTOL: And he`s conditioned Republicans on the Hill to say, well, I don`t know. You know, this was a pretty unsavory investigation.

TODD: Or I don`t trust Bob Mueller either.

LEE: Right.

TODD: Yes.

KRISTOL: What about those --

LEE: Exactly right.

KRISTOL: What about those FBI agents?

LEE: He has laid the --

KRISTOL: He has to take the Fifth.

LEE: He has completely laid the groundwork for saying something like that. Why would I sit with -- it`s clearly politically motivated. Look at the bias. Why would I sit in front of those?

ROBINSON: Look, you know, the only thing that militates against that is Trump`s ego and the fact that he might see it as humiliating --

TODD: To plead the Fifth.

ROBINSON: -- and belittling to take the Fifth.

TODD: He did --

ROBINSON: And he`d think --

TODD: He belittled the Hillary Clinton staffer that took the Fifth.

ROBINSON: Exactly, yes. And by the way, he thinks he can talk his way out of anything.

TODD: Yes, an important point there.

Again, Anne, you got to do the legal stuff, my panel here got to have fun with the politics stuff. Anne, thanks very much. I know we have to let you go.

You guys get to come back.

Up ahead, we are on the brink of a bipartisan DACA deal. Ah, maybe not. The White House, though, thinks so; the Democrats not so much.

We`ll break down the proposal with Republican Senator Lamar Alexander. That`s just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back. The reckoning over alleged sexual misconduct is now focusing on casino magnate and RNC finance chair Steve Wynn.

"The Wall Street Journal" reports dozens of current and former Wynn Casino employees accused the billionaire of sexually aggressive and inappropriate behavior that goes back decades. Some workers say they were pressured into sex acts with him.

Wynn strongly denies the allegations, saying, in part, the idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous.

We`ve been trying to get in touch with the RNC all day for their response to this story. So far, our e-mails and calls have gone completely unanswered, unresponded to, not even an off the record "no comment."

We`ll have more MTP DAILY in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back. While the Russia headlines piled up this week, the White House had one big P.R. triumph. It was able to announce an immigration plan last night that seems to have bipartisan support at least for now. And also some bipartisan opposition.

While achieving a number of the President`s very conservative priorities, the proposal would require a number of big concessions by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, including a limit on family-based migration, what Republicans call chain migration.

But Schumer told "The New York Times" podcast, "The Daily," in an interview recorded yesterday afternoon that the White House plan, quote, will never pass.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER OF THE SENATE: In the process Leader McConnell presented, we`ll have our own amendment that will be much less of an excruciating choice and has a much better chance of passing.

We have a whole bunch of Democratic and Republican moderate senators right now working on a compromise position that won`t be the extreme kind of stuff that you just mentioned that the White House might put out, and I think that has a very good chance of passing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Of course, we`ve seen this rodeo before. What can pass the Senate may not be able to pass the House.

I`m joined now by a member of the bipartisan group of senators trying to find a solution out of this, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.

Senator, welcome back to the show, sir.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R), TENNESSEE: Thank you very much.

TODD: Let me start with the White House proposal. How should we look at it? Is it an opening bid in negotiations or their endpoint?

ALEXANDER: It`s what a president ought to do. I mean, the job of the executive is to lay out some suggestions and our job is to consider them, show respect for them. I hope we can do -- what we can do is, as Senator Schumer was just saying, have our own process.

Senator McConnell puts a bill down on the floor on the 8th. We offer our amendments. Hopefully, we`ll have 70 votes. Hopefully, the President can support it. If he does, the House is likely to pass it or more likely to pass it, and the President will sign it.

So that`s -- the President is doing what he -- if a president didn`t start the process, the process usually doesn`t work.

TODD: All right. Let me restart with the sticking point that Chuck Schumer brought up which is the family sponsorship issue.

The White House wants to, essentially, change immigration law for everybody. I believe the previous Graham-Durbin proposal was just to have these limits put on the DACA population. Where are you on this?

ALEXANDER: Well, where I am on -- you`re starting at the hardest part of the problem to solve. I would start at --

TODD: Yes, I am.

(LAUGHTER)

ALEXANDER: I would start at the easiest. I would start by saying --

TODD: Well, OK.

ALEXANDER: Let`s start with two things. One is the Dreamers which can be defined as 700,000 or maybe 800,000, the White House said, a pretty generous estimate of people who were brought here through no fault of their own. Find a way to give them legal status.

And border security. Something the Senate did in 2013 in a big-time way with 20,000 new border agents -- I voted for this -- 700 miles of barriers, et cetera.

TODD: Right.

ALEXANDER: So let`s start with the smaller part, things we actually can agree on. Let`s have amendments about the harder part which is the -- which is how do we define what a family can do to bring other family members into the country. That`s a hard set of issues.

TODD: It does seem, though, that if that`s not there, then the White House isn`t on board with citizenship for those Dreamers.

ALEXANDER: I don`t think the White House has said that. But I think the President said here is what I think we ought to do, and I think that`s welcome.

As I said before, I mean, the job of the executive is to say, I propose this. Our job is to say, thank you, Mr. President. We respect that, and now we`ll go to work and see if we could come up with something you can support.

TODD: Well, it`s interesting, though. This is going to be a tough vote for some because of primary politics. It`s going to be tough on the left for some. It`s going to be tough on the right.

I use your home state of Tennessee. Marsha Blackburn, the Republican front-runner for that now open Senate seat there, the one that Bob Corker has given up.

She said this yesterday about the immigration proposals in general, there is more conversation about a path to legalization and this is why.

She goes, but we do not want to see anyone get in front of people that have been going through the legal immigration process.

I went down the line here. We haven`t been able to find many Republicans running in primaries in 2018 comfortable with supporting the President`s proposal. How much could that derail this if you have conservatives who feel they can`t get through primaries supporting any form of so-called amnesty?

ALEXANDER: It will be an issue in primaries. I voted for the 2013 bill which created a legal status for 11 million people who were here illegally, said they had to pay a fine, and it didn`t put them in front of anybody. It did say, eventually, they could get a legal status; eventually, they could dream of becoming a citizen.

And it also solved the border problems. If we would`ve passed the 2013 bill and made it law --

TODD: Right.

ALEXANDER: -- we wouldn`t be even having this discussion today. We had so much border security in there people were joking about it. I mean, they were saying that there are so many border agents, they could hold hands across the border.

So I think, yes, it`s an issue in primaries. But with appropriate border security, I think we can solve it.

And as far as a path to citizenship, I don`t want millions of people in this country on a permanent basis who never have an opportunity to dream of pledging allegiance to the United States. I don`t want them always dreaming of pledging allegiance to Russia or Mexico or Canada or Afghanistan. I want them to think, one day, they can be a citizen if they`re legally here as a permanent person.

TODD: Do you trust that the House will -- or, look, the Senate has -- Mitch McConnell has agreed to a fairly open process on this basically allowing this bill to almost organically happen. That doesn`t happen very often in the Senate these days, but he seems to be more open to have as open of a process as we`ve seen on a bill for quite some time, Democrat and Republican.

That isn`t the way the House is going to work. Do you think -- are you just hoping that as long as the President supports the Senate bill, it will get a vote in the House?

ALEXANDER: Yes. That`s as a short -- my experience is that we shouldn`t worry about the House. We should show respect to the House and respect to the President.

TODD: Right.

ALEXANDER: But we need to do our job. We should pass a bill with border security, solve the DACA problem. I would start with the most limited bill that will do that, allow amendments.

And I would make the objective 70 votes. Not 60 because if we get to 70, we`ll have a lot of Republicans supporting it, the President is more likely to support it. If he supports it, I suspect the House will pass it.

TODD: By the way, you sound like you`re in the Marco Rubio camp now that says, don`t try to make this bill bigger. Just do Dreamers and border security.

ALEXANDER: Well, get -- you know, one step in the right direction is a good way to get where you want to go because you might take a second and a third. And then, certainly, the bill that Senator McConnell puts on the floor on February 8th, I hope it`s limited so that it could pass even if it -- even if the amendments don`t succeed.

TODD: Right. All right. I want to ask you a couple of housekeeping political issues. Bob Mueller.

ALEXANDER: OK.

TODD: You`ve heard the reports. Your reaction to the reports that the President actually ordered the firing of him and then the White House Counsel threatened resignation. Where are you on this, sir?

ALEXANDER: I`m going to be a little disrespectful. You know, there are about a half million people obsessing over these investigations, and I`m not one of them. I`m not going to --

TODD: I understand.

ALEXANDER: I`m not going to be commenting on what hasn`t happened. We`ve got a bipartisan Senate committee. We`ve got a respected counsel. We`ve got the President say he is going to cooperate with the Counsel. Let`s see what happens.

TODD: Well, let me -- so does that mean you`re not interested in legislation -- last June, you had Thom Tillis and Chris Coons introduce legislation that would, at least, have some sort of protection or fallback status if the President did follow through on firing Mueller. Do you think that`s something the Senate needs to think about?

ALEXANDER: Well, maybe. I think what the Senate ought to think more about is how to solve the immigration problem, how to make getting into higher education simpler, and how to lower insurance premiums. That`s what I`m working on and that`s -- there are other senators doing other things.

TODD: Do you have full confidence in Bob Mueller?

ALEXANDER: I think Bob Mueller is a very well respected person or the Trump administration wouldn`t have appointed him. He has a good reputation.

TODD: And you have confidence in him personally?

ALEXANDER: So far as I know I don`t point, but everything I know about him gives me confidence in him.

TODD: Do you -- does the RNC has a finance director named Steve Wynn? There is some horrible reports about some just horrific behavior that he has been accused of. I assume the RNC shouldn`t be keeping him as finance chair if these reports are confirmed?

ALEXANDER: I assume that we all have to wait and see what the reports are and whether they are true or not before we start making comments on him.

TODD: Fair enough. Senator Alexander, I will leave it there. I appreciate you coming on as always, sir.

ALEXANDER: All right and thanks very much.

TODD: You got it. Up ahead, the hill versus the valley. After last year`s election meddling fiasco, are online giants prepared to do better in 2018? the high stakes for high tech, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: If it`s Sunday, it`s "Meet the Press" and if it`s Friday, we promote "Meet the Press." We`re going to get into the immigration debate and go in depth inside the Russia investigation as well.

We`ll talk exclusively with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, plus West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat, who will also join us. We`ll be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back. We`re learning a lot more about activity from Russian operatives during the 2016 election. The Senate Intelligence Committee released a memo on Thursday detailing 129 phony political events connected to Russian troll farm.

The fake events publicized on Facebook took place in United States and drew nearly 340,000 RSVP from users. Facebook has revealed just 150 million American users received Russian-backed content during the 2016 election.

This newly disclosed detail users -- that users` willingness to take physical action at Russia`s direction is on another level. While Facebook shared details on a particular political event created by Russian operatives, the volume of these instances has not been previously disclosed.

Tech giants from Google, Twitter, and Facebook who testified before Congress in November say they do not believe Russian operatives interfered in the 2017 gubernatorial elections in Virginia, New Jersey.

The lawmakers have been largely unsatisfied with the responses from the tech companies and remain concerned about how they plan to combat state- sponsored meddling as 2018 mid-term elections loom.

Kara Swisher is the executive editor of Recode. She joins me now. Kara, let me start with --

KARA SWISHER, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, RECODE: Yes.

TODD: -- one aspect of the last year, Twitter, Facebook, in particular, which is everything -- you know, I mean, they`re worst than politicians.

SWISHER: Yes.

TODD: I`ll be honest. First it was -- first it was no --

SWISHER: Not fake.

TODD: Fake news had nothing.

SWISHER: Yes.

TODD: That`s what Mark Zuckerberg said within the first month. And then --

SWISHER: No impact.

TODD: Right. And then it became no impact. And then it became, well, now we hear they`re like hey, there were events, but it still feels like they are holding back. What are they afraid of?

SWISHER: You know, part of this feels like, the slow rolling is something that is very common among internet companies. They`ve done it before in the past. Oh, this battery isn`t this, oh, well, maybe this. Some of it is they don`t know.

TODD: The breaches too, right?

SWISHER: Right.

TODD: Oh, it only affected these accounts.

SWISHER: Not really blowing up their suitcase.

TODD: Yes, right.

SWISHER: But I think one of the issues is they don`t know. I think you imagine that these -- they put themselves as geniuses of all time. I think it is hard to discover and hard to figure out.

What I think the problem is, when they built the system in the first place, they didn`t anticipate this. And so they -- everyone thinks of opportunity and not problem. And so when you talk about any of their products, they are always not thinking something bad could be used.

TODD: You know, I had a -- (INAUDIBLE) Republican consultant who does a lot of digital work in campaigns. She noted how -- when Facebook was facing an early issue with child pornography --

SWISHER: Right.

TODD: Basically Facebook was being used to pass it around and to sell it and to advertise all this stuff. They had ways to quickly sort of shut that down.

SWISHER: Right.

TODD: Her point was they have the technology to root -- if they could root out the child pornographers --

SWISHER: Or the scammers.

TODD: They can root out the trolls from Russia and from state sponsors. Is she right?

SWISHER: Presumably, yes. But it think it is a little more -- it is not quite as easy as that because this stuff goes back a long way, any time there has been a tech -- AOL had the same problem with pornography and all kinds of issues. It`s just wasn`t being used in quite the same way. And no one had the impact of Facebook.

I think that is what is really -- it is billions of people with trillions of transactions all the time. I think that is the problem. It is so enormous. But they should have been focusing on it. They should have had tools in place for a lot of their products.

That is -- you know, now they`re completely aware of it and focused on it and they`re trying to find all kinds of ways to solve it. You can`t solve it in human way because there is not enough people on the planet --

TODD: Right.

SWISHER: -- because of the amount of transactions. A.I. is still not where it needs to be. And they haven`t been monitoring the platforms. You saw it with not just Russian troll. It is like anti-semitic or (INAUDIBLE) advertising all kinds of things.

TODD: Well, there is another aspect of this. Her other theory was, they could root it out but they don`t because it is a much bigger part of their revenue than they want to admit.

SWISHER: Well, I don`t know if that is the case. I think the problem is that their -- all their businesses, all these businesses, not all of them, not Apple, for example, are based on advertising and attention.

And it is a slot machine of attention. So, they want you to always be paying attention and engaged. Now, my argument is that you are engaged on things that make you feel bad and it creates a real cesspool. I mean, anyone (INAUDIBLE) Twitter sometimes, doesn`t it feel, you don`t feel good --

TODD: Sometimes?

SWISHER: (INAUDIBLE) great.

TODD: Yes.

SWISHER: That at the same --

TODD: Let me know where the great stuff is these days. SWISHER: It seems like if they`re thinking about their businesses for the long-term, they have to (INAUDIBLE) this stuff out. They have to make it a priority.

TODD: I remember during the great recession and the attempt after -- after the Wall Street crash, and the attempt of Congress to try to regulate Wall Street.

SWISHER: Right.

TODD: And the fact of the matter is they don`t know what the hell they were doing.

SWISHER: Yes.

TODD: OK? They don`t understand what Wall Street did. They know it was bad. OK. I feel like we`re in the same territory as it is clear there needs to be a way to regulate these internet companies.

SWISHER: Right.

TODD: But Congress doesn`t -- it is not that they have a big issue, they don`t understand it. And it is OK that they don`t.

SWISHER: Right.

TODD: But if you don`t understand it, how do you regulate it?

SWISHER: They can`t. And they are not going to, by the way. I think it is going to be a very slow thing. Everyone said there got to be sort of a digital Armageddon for it to happen, but you had Equifax.

TODD: What is it? We have a digital Armageddon. It is happening.

SWISHER: In so many ways, not just -- in privacy, in manipulation platforms, in tech addiction, all kinds of things. The issue is can the regulators -- I mean, they passed many times on regulating these companies.

Not in Europe, not like (INAUDIBLE) and others, are very firm around data privacy and all kinds of things. It is just the will of government to do something about this and the knowledge to do something.

TODD: I had somebody suggest to me that they ought to use the super fund model. Meaning, you basically -- you tell an Equifax, OK, you got to pay a gigantic fine every time you have a breach.

SWISHER: Right.

TODD: So that, boy, you`ve got to spend whatever it takes to prevent breaches and financially it is not crippling but it is painful.

SWISHER: Right.

TODD: Because then it is -- it creates some self-regulation because maybe Washington isn`t up to speed actually to create regulation.

SWISHER: I think the problem here is this is one of our greatest industries. It is an American-born industry. It is still controlled by American companies. All of the big tech companies are American companies.

There are strong contenders from China and elsewhere in the world, but one of things that they push back on is, we can`t innovate if we are regulated. Well, that happens to everyone.

TODD: Every business claims this.

SWISHER: And so I think they are welcoming regulation by not monitoring the systems properly. Now the question is whether it is going to happen now. I don`t know. It seems to me that people in Washington can`t agree on lunch and so I don`t know if they are going to get to these people. And they are spending a lot of money.

TODD: But you know what? They will have hearings.

SWISHER: They will have hearings.

TODD: All right. Kara Swisher, thank you very much. By the way, be sure to join Kara and Ari Melber this Sunday for a special town hall event. They are sitting down with CEOs of Google and You Tube to talk about how we deal with all of the challenges we were talking about, the rapid pace of change taking place. So watch "Revolution: Google and You Tube Changing the World" this Sunday, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, MSNBC.

Up ahead, when sentencing a sexual predator to up to 175 years in prison is not enough.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back. Tonight, I`m obsessed with Dr. Larry Nassar and the stench of the scandal surrounding U.S. gymnastics. Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison this week with more than 150 people coming forward to a sentencing hearing to accuse the former USA Gymnastics team doctor of sexual abuse.

But this should not be the end of the story. The problem is not just one predator. The problem goes all the way up to the top. The United States Olympic Committee. Olympic gold medallist Aly Raisman wrote this week, the USOC is still not acknowledging its own role in this mess. Zero accountability. It`s like none of us were ever abused.

If the USOC thinks it is enough for Nassar to spend the rest of his life behind bars, they are wrong. If USA Gymnastics thinks it is enough for Nassar to spend the rest of his life behind bars, they are wrong. If the USOC thinks it is enough for the entire board of USA Gymnastics to resign, which they did today, they are wrong.

Today, the bipartisan with the House Commerce Committee announced it would investigate sexual abuse in organized sports, including the USOC and USA Gymnastics. It is a positive first step, but this is just the beginning of the story, not the end. Remember, the USOC exists because of an act of Congress. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(START VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDER: There are about a half million people obsessing over these investigations and I`m not one of them. I think Bob Mueller is a very well respected person or the Trump administration wouldn`t have appointed him. He has a good reputation.

TODD: And you have confidence in him personally?

ALEXANDER: So far as I know I don`t point, but everything I know about him gives me confidence in him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Bill Kristol? I was surprised by -- it was -- I don`t want to say he had distance, he just wasn`t going to lean in.

KRISTOL: No, and he wasn`t going to just say, you know, I want to say here that President Trump who might be watching, as he comes back from Davos, do not fire Bob Mueller. And if it looks like he is going to, I would support legislation that might stop that. He could have said that.

TODD: If I were President Trump, I would feel like --

KRISTOL: Lamar Alexander (INAUDIBLE) I mean, (INAUDIBLE) Republican.

TODD: Who would be one that you wouldn`t think that would be there to have Trump`s back --

KRISTOL: Right.

TODD: -- on this. All right. I want to switch to this Steve Wynn allegation. Carol, after reading the story in the journal, your former employer, it was sort of -- it was the closest things we have seen yet to Harvey Weinstein.

CAROL LEE, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Exactly.

TODD: You know, but Harvey is in a class by himself.

LEE: Right.

TODD: But Steve -- these allegations against Steve Wynn and the specificity of them are very difficult to read. LEE: Yes, and I was listening to the senator earlier talk about, you know, will we have to see the stories and look at that. I have worked at The Wall Street Journal, I know what it takes to get a story like that through that process, I know those reporters.

The stories are so detailed. They said they talked to 150 people, there were dozens of different instances that they cite. And to see -- and the reaction has been from the RNC --

TODD: Yes.

LEE: -- to candidates who have taken money from him, just silence.

TODD: Well, one interesting aspect of this, he`s RNC finance chair --

LEE: Right.

TODD: The RNC winter meeting comes up next week. My guess is that this is a President Trump decision --

EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes.

TODD: -- on Wynn. Pure and simple. And they`re close. And I have no doubt Steve Wynn is probably begging him not to dump him.

ROBINSON: Exactly. He probably is. So who knows what he`s going to do? Clearly, the politically right thing to do would be to make sure that that Steve Wynn doesn`t make it to that meeting. I mean, you know, I think the party and ultimately I think the party is going to have to get rid of him, but I don`t know what President Trump will do.

TODD: Let me put up a list here of Republicans who gotten Wynn money here. You got the RNC, the NRSC, Rubio, Portman, Toomey, Flake, Cruz, Johnson, Scott, Murkowski, Dean Heller is up for re-election. By the way, interestingly enough, Steve Wynn also is a donor to Hillary Clinton for America. He was a donor to her as well as well as Jeb`s campaign.

KRISTOL: A lot of the Vegas casino owners.

TODD: They usually do. They play mostly on one side and then they`ll do the other.

KRISTOL: I have gotten to the RNC meetings this week. The Republican National Committee is a legal entity. It is run by, I think, by 165 members. President Trump, of course, the incumbent president has a lot of sway, but there is a republican chair of the committee, Ronna Romney McDaniel, and there is the committee.

And someone should stand up at that meeting, whatever President Trump thinks, I should think, and say this man should not be our finance chairman. Is that really that hard?

TODD: In a normal political world, I would assume Steve Wynn is not going to be at this meeting.

KRISTOL: Right.

LEE: But here is the thing. Every time an allegation like this comes up, President Trump sees himself in that person. And so you can`t separate that from this. And so it will be very interesting to see what he does in this particular case, but he just feels like he`s been in their shoes, he`s been on that side. We saw it with Roy Moore, even.

TODD: By the way, speaking of reckoning, this is one of those days where we feel like we`re back in December, where every hour, there was a new person caught up. Now, we have a former Hillary Clinton aide, Burns Strider, and the story of this one is that Hillary Clinton was presented with sexual harassment allegations against Burns Strider in her 2008 campaign.

The campaign manager said we got to dump him, and she said no. Maybe -- it is not --Hillary Clinton having a blind spot for men behaving badly is not news.

ROBINSON: Look, time`s up. I mean, you know, you can`t -- you know, that shouldn`t happen. And so if that indeed happened, I would like to know why. I would like to know why -- KRISTOL: They moved him to another entity, that was an ally of the campaign, where he harassed --

TODD: By the way, he instagrammed --

KRISTOL: And eventually fired.

TODD: -- pictures with him having lunch with her earlier this year. And, you know, I feel like -- I don`t know how the Clintons function as an entity inside the Democratic Party right now. I feel like they`re becoming more and more toxic for Democrats.

LEE: Largely because of this issue, distancing from Bill Clinton and not defending him anymore. But this is what really frustrates some women about Hillary Clinton is this stuff, is that, you know, that she`s seen as someone who presents herself as this advocate for women but really when it comes down to it, that she will do more for her political ambitions than necessarily the --

TODD: But let me present --

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: -- this is 2008. And she -- it`s possible that going through their head as well, you fire him for sexual harassment, then I`m considered a hypocrite for sticking by my husband. Like, now, you could argue that that`s been the trap Democrats were in with the Clintons for the past 10 years.

ROBINSON: Yes, well, look, at some point, that does not matter. At some point, you have to do the right thing. And if -- did you know in 2008 that it was a bad thing to sexually harass women? I knew it was a bad thing. It was a bad thing and it should have been dealt with.

TODD: Yes. This certainly puts a wrinkle -- she has hopes of being sort of the galvanizing force for this movement these days. All right, guys, happy Friday. Again, the government shutdown was a Monday. Think about this week.

All right, up ahead, a potential game changer for young athletes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Well, on the day we found out that the NFL had more concussions recorded than ever before, it`s worth telling you about this, you may have missed. Illinois is considering a game changer to protect kids on the field. The state legislature has proposed a ban on tackle football for kids younger than 12.

It is called the Dave Duerson Act, named after a Chicago Bears player who died in 2011. Duerson was later found to have suffered from CTE, the brain disease linked to concussions. At a news conference Thursday, Duerson`s family said, this legislation could save a lot of lives from very early on.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

TREGG DUERSON, SON OF DAVE DUERSON: The research on my father`s brain and others, we now know with certainty that part of the solution is to guard young children`s developing brains from the dangers of tackle football.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Keep an eye on this bill. If it becomes law, many other states can get on board too, all in the name of keeping young athletes safe. Do you think 12 is now -- we may not see tackle football until high school.

That`s all we have for tonight. We`ll be back Monday with more "MTP Daily." And if it`s Sunday, it`s "Meet the Press" on NBC.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END

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