Show: MTP DAILY Date: January 30, 2018 Guest: Savannah Guthrie
JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Whatever he says tonight is going to have zero connection with what happens over the course of the next year. So, theater, great, but in terms of real consequence, zippo.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: Zippo! That`s Heilemann`s last word. My thanks to Steve Schmidt, Kim Atkins, John Heilemann, and Governor John Kasich.
That does it for our hour. I`m Nicolle Wallace. MSNBC`s special coverage of tonight`s State of the Union continues now with my friend, Chuck Todd.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. I got a lot of fun friends over here. We could get you down here. It`s a blast here.
WALLACE: Well, you know --
TODD: Come on down. All right.
WALLACE: Have fun.
TODD: Well, if it`s Tuesday, the state of our union is increasingly fragile.
Oh, it`s the music! No, it`s not election night, but it is a Tuesday night. So good evening. I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington and welcome to MTP DAILY.
As we count down to President Trump`s first official State of the Union, his second speech to a joint session of Congress, the state of our republic is in a bit of trouble.
The leader of our democracy seems intent on at least trying to corrupt part of the Justice Department, either wittingly or unwittingly, in an attempt to, well, deal with the Russia probe. And all of it is happening under the party that used to call itself the party of law and order.
Folks, it sure looks like there has been a systemic effort to destroy people or institutions around the Russia probe and around Special Counsel Bob Mueller.
The President fired FBI Director James Comey because the President claimed, quote, this Russia thing was a made up story. He went after the FBI`s Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, publicly maligning him and privately, reportedly, calling his wife a loser. McCabe resigned yesterday.
The new FBI Director, Christopher Wray, reportedly threatened to quit if McCabe was fired. Wray has been forced to defend the FBI against the President`s claims that it`s, quote, in tatters.
Mr. Trump has publicly blasted Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia probe. Sessions reportedly, at one point, offered the President his resignation.
And then there`s the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein. He has been publicly attacked by the President, called -- referred to, internally, as the Democrat from Baltimore for appointing Mueller as Special Counsel in the first place. And the President reportedly considered firing Rosenstein too.
And now, Trump allies are set to release a memo that are already using to at least undermine Rosenstein.
And at the center of all these attacks at the Special Counsel, Bob Mueller, the President gave the order to fire Mueller last June. He reportedly backed down but the attacks on the Justice Department did ramp up.
So why? Seemingly because the facts that are underpinning the Russia investigation are damning. And since the facts aren`t on the President`s side, perhaps he borrowing a page from Johnnie Cochran and O.J. Simpson -- go after the fact finders.
So this is the backdrop for this State of the Union.
Joining me now is one of the President`s top advisors. He`s Mick Mulvaney. He is the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Director Mulvaney, happy State of the Union Day, sir.
MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: Chuck, are you inside and warm because I am not.
TODD: Well, I am but that is rare. Usually, it`s very cold here. Let me start very quickly with what`s in the speech tonight.
TODD: Is the President going to talk either about the Russia investigation or Russia meddling in the 2018 election?
MULVANEY: What I think you`re going to see tonight is sort of a quick look back at the successes that the administration has had over the course of the year, an analysis of where we are today, and then a look forward.
I think you will see that whole gamut of things covered this evening. I think it will be a positive speech, a bipartisan speech. I think you reported on that earlier on the day, and I think that`s fairly accurate. But I don`t think you`re going to see anything outside of policy tonight.
TODD: Let me ask about Russia and the sanctions specifically. There is a lot of mixed reporting out there that says the State Department believes some of these sanctions need to be rethought. Treasury has put together a list, apparently cribbed from "Forbes," of oligarchs.
It`s not clear whether the President intends on enforcing these sanctions as strongly as Congress intended. Can you clear this up?
MULVANEY: I don`t know if I can clear it up. I do know that I have full faith in Secretary Mnuchin, that he`s going to be taking the time necessary to do this properly.
We sign the bill, the bill is the law, we will enforce the law. I would not misinterpret a brief delay by Treasury as an indication that we have anything but an intention to follow the law.
TODD: But when you have that as well as all of the other stuff that appears where any time we talk about Russia, the President assumes it`s about himself, is -- does the President take what CIA Director Mike Pompeo said seriously in that Russia is intent on meddling in the 2018 elections?
MULVANEY: Yes. I mean, if the question is, does the President of the United States take the CIA Director, Mike Pompeo, one of the most highly regarded members of the cabinet, seriously? The answer is absolutely yes.
So, again, if you -- I`m more than happy to talk about the speech, but you know I`ve done this before. I`m not involved in the Russia investigation.
MULVANEY: I`ve never talked to the President about Russia, so you`re not really talking to the best guy in that topic.
TODD: No, I understand that, but we haven`t had a chance to talk to many members of the administration, and this is a pretty -- let me ask you this. How often does the President ask potential appointees or people that have already been appointed to office who they voted for or who their spouse voted for?
MULVANEY: Chuck, he never asked me that question, and that`s all I can speak to. So, again, if you want to talk about the speech tonight, about the policies, that would be great. That`s what I was told the interview is about.
TODD: No, I understand that, but this -- a lot happened. Do you believe - - I want to ask you, does --
MULVANEY: Yes, but that last question had nothing to do with the speech --
TODD: You, as a member --
MULVANEY: -- which I -- and I thought this was a special for the speech tonight, so.
TODD: Let me ask this. You, as a member of Congress, railed against executive overreach at the Justice Department. Do you believe the President tweeting about who the Deputy Director of the FBI is -- how does that not come across as meddling in the Justice Department?
MULVANEY: Chuck, again, I think the speech tonight is going to be on policies. The speech is going to be the accomplishments that we had during the year.
The speech is going to give him a chance to talk about what he accomplished in the first year that we were denied by the Democratic shut down last week and talk about how we can move forward on a bipartisan basis.
I don`t think any of the things that you had mentioned in the first five minutes of this interview have anything to do with the speech this evening.
TODD: All right, fair enough. Let me ask you about the speech and immigration.
TODD: Is the President going to present his plan as "this is my plan" or "this is my starting point for negotiation"?
MULVANEY: No, I think he -- we offered those ideas earlier this week with the compromise idea that we`ve given to Congress, which has been fairly well received, as I understand it from talking to folks who`ve been on the Hill on a regular basis, Marc Short and others.
There`s folks on the hard left who don`t like. There`s folks on the hard right who don`t like it. And that tells me that the President has picked a sweet spot right down the middle.
I don`t think you would see him come back and say, well, I know I gave you one thing two days ago, here is something different. I think, if anything, we`re waiting for the Hill to come back to us and say, look, we can work within these parameters. Here`s what we`d like to accomplish.
So I think the negotiation is moving forward, and I absolutely believe -- number one, I know for a fact the President wants to do something about DACA.
MULVANEY: He has told everybody in the team to get something done on DACA and that we will get something done on DACA.
TODD: Do you believe a budget -- does DACA have to get done before you get your permanent budget deal, or are we going to have another continuing resolution? Some Republicans already, on the Hill, are talking about yet another continuing resolution.
MULVANEY: Yes. It`s a good question. Again, I don`t want to get too far in the weeds, but I think you understand this as well as anybody. It`s that what happens is, now, they`re sort of talking about this larger spending bill which would be an omnibus appropriations bill.
There`s no chance -- there is no chance -- they would have the opportunity to do an omnibus appropriations bill between now and February 8th. There could be agreements on what the caps would be between now and February 8th, but no way that final hundred-page (ph) bill --
TODD: So we`re depth (ph) out punting?
MULVANEY: I think we definitely --
TODD: Maybe a week?
MULVANEY: We are but the question --
TODD: Two weeks, something like that?
MULVANEY: I think that`s fair but the question is this, are you punting knowing what the deal is on the -- at the end of that punt?
MULVANEY: Or are you punting because you haven`t reached a deal? And that`s why I don`t we`ve got a definitive answer on that yet.
TODD: Let me ask you this. If there is an amendment in the budget deal that has a protection for the Special Counsel in there, will the President still sign the budget deal?
MULVANEY: Oh, I have not talked to the President about that. We want a deal. I think you saw the President not want a government shutdown. We worked hard to prevent a shutdown, hard to get out of the shutdown once we got in it. So I think the President wants to run the government, and we`ll do everything we can to do that.
TODD: One of the things the President, I know, wants to talk a lot about is the stock market. It took a real hit today. I assume that something -- the President likes to talk about it a lot. How is he going to explain that tonight when he wants to talk about, hey, look at what I have done for the stock market, and on the day he wants to tout it, it obviously took a hit?
MULVANEY: Yes. I saw, I think, something that said that yesterday and today were the first time the S&P had dropped more than 0.6 percent in the last hundred days. So we`ll take two bad days out of a hundred, I suppose --
TODD: But is this the danger with trying to connect the stock market with his policies?
MULVANEY: Listen, we talked about that and here`s what we think about the stock market, is that we have made fundamental changes to the American economy. You and I have talked a little about the tax policy. We`ve not talked as much about the deregulatory agenda that we put in place.
But those two things, we think, have fundamentally and structurally changed the ability to create wealth, both by corporations and by individuals -- people -- in the United States of America and that will flow through to the stock market. And we think that if you`re betting against the stock market in this country, you`re making a bad mistake.
TODD: All right. Mick Mulvaney, I know you are on some limited time with us.
MULVANEY: You`re heaters are --
TODD: So I will let you go.
MULVANEY: I think they should be --
TODD: We do have heaters there, I think, but they usually just fry your legs, so --
MULVANEY: That`s probably what it gets down to.
TODD: Exactly. You`ll have barbequed legs when you`re down with that. Anyway, Director Mulvaney, thanks for coming on and sharing your views, sir.
MULVANEY: Thanks, Chuck.
TODD: Let me bring in tonight -- it`s the all-star panel. It`s the man who needs no introduction, David Letterman -- oh, no, no, that`s his new Netflix show. It`s Tom Brokaw, a good friend of Mr. Letterman.
"TODAY" show co-anchor, Savannah Guthrie, and NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent and anchor of MSNBC`s "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" --
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Hey.
TODD: -- Andrea Mitchell. Well, Mr. Mulvaney had a -- you had a similar experience with Ms. Sanders today. They don`t like talking about Russia.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: They don`t and they like to use it as a cudgel and say, you know, you guys are obsessed with Russia. And, of course, the question is -- everybody is talking about Russia because there is a criminal investigation into the President for obstruction of justice.
I mean, as we look at the first State of the Union of the year, I don`t think we can emphasize it too much. It`s so extraordinary. He is the subject of a criminal investigation and he is the sitting President.
And so the administration doesn`t want to talk about it. The President wants to tweet about it. He certainly wants to talk about it. He is not happy about it. And the more he takes action and the more he does things such as fire the director of the FBI, the more he finds himself in the thick and at the center of the Russia investigation.
MITCHELL: And arguably, if he had not fired James Comey, there would be no Robert Mueller. So a lot of this is self-inflicted.
And now we see the pressure on Andrew McCabe, the Republicans uniting to release a memo that has been questioned by their Justice Department and CIA and FBI. So you`ve got a breaking down of norms and that is something that makes this State of the Union so unusual.
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I would be interested to see whether tonight he tries to extend what he has to say in Davos where it was a more bipartisan speech, more concentrated on the economy, and a more reasonable speech from the President of the United States.
Then he comes home and he finds out that his Republican friends on the Hill think that they have got the FBI in the crosshairs and they`re going to let him make the decision about whether they release that or not.
Mr. Mulvaney just said it`s going to a bipartisan speech tonight. I think the bipartisanship is in the eye of the beholder. I mean, it`s going to be interesting to see if he does reach across the border -- across the lines in some fashion.
But the fact of the matter is both Andrea and you and Savannah are all right. Hovering over this town and this country and the White House is the fact of the matter that Mr. Mueller, who is a highly regarded former FBI Director in this city, who was widely praised when he was appointed by, among others, Newt Gingrich and those people, is in the midst of an investigation.
People already have been pulled in. We know that they`re singing --
BROKAW: -- before the investigators. So there is a reality here that, however much they want to talk about, it cannot be ignored.
TODD: It is extraordinary that this is a party that railed -- Mick Mulvaney was one of them -- railed against what they thought was too cozy of a relationship between Eric Holder and the President, Savannah.
I mean, this is unbelievable. If a Democrat were doing this or if Donald Trump were a Democrat, there would be hearings and the judiciary committee investigating.
GUTHRIE: Well, everything is topsy-turvy. I mean, this isn`t Washington. This is Alice in Wonderland. I mean, you have --
BROKAW: Well, that`s Washington.
GUTHRIE: Yes, exactly. It is, it is!
GUTHRIE: What`s top is down, what`s left is right. I mean, Republicans always circled the wagons around law enforcement, and now there`s a sustained attack on the premier law enforcement agency in this country.
And you have Republicans talking about civil liberties. They are concerned about the FISA application process. I mean, everything, the shoes are on the other feet and, you know, I think that`s because they feel the pressure.
I think the President is putting pressure, either directly or through his tweets, on his counterparts in the Republican Party to say, carry my water.
TODD: And they are.
GUTHRIE: You know, attach to me here, and they are.
TODD: And they are, Andrea, very comfortably here. Look, Paul Ryan did -- apparently, he is trying. He is saying, don`t oversell the Nunes memo. Like, he is trying to dial it back. I think it`s too late. He`s still --
MITCHELL: But he is protecting Devin Nunes.
MITCHELL: And Devin Nunes has been an embarrassment to his colleagues, Republican and Democratic.
He was in the transition. He went to the White House with a completely fraudulent claim about the Obama administration national security team, which was discredited, disproved by the Ethics Committee.
And yet he is asserting himself here and challenging what a FISA judge had renewed involving an intercept that picked up, collaterally, a Trump campaign aide. Not an important aide but a campaign aide who was picked up talking to a man convicted of spying for Russia or Russians.
BROKAW: Oh, and we`re not the only ones talking about the issue. We have to remember, first of all, the wide band of social media. There is so much activity that you can get online.
And then the President`s famous commentator -- favored commentators on another channel are some of the most prominent ones. They`re saying, this is going to be the greatest scandal in the history of this country. And they`re --
TODD: Are they succeeding in sowing the seeds of doubt here? Like, I keep coming back, you had a front row seat to Nixon. And were there moments like you -- where you thought, boy, Nixon is actually doing a good job of undermining this investigation, but it turned out he wasn`t, right?
BROKAW: Well, it was a different time, for one thing. He didn`t have the constant play that was going on across the wide spectrum of everything.
TODD: If Nixon had Fox News, does he survive?
BROKAW: Well, he didn`t have Fox News. And also, you know, I`ve often said that I had worked real hard for the "NIGHTLY NEWS" and I`ve tried it all for some fresh information. And at 7:00 a.m., I would get on the phone and work for the "TODAY" show the next morning.
BROKAW: Now, if I were doing a 7:00 a.m., quick, you`re armored truck, you know.
TODD: I know.
BROKAW: And you got a --
TODD: Click again, yes.
BROKAW: -- you got to have your commentary going on.
TODD: Seventy news cycles before --
BROKAW: So it was a different pace of things, and -- but there is a lot of similarity here. We just saw it earlier today, the President said -- President Nixon saying one year of Watergate is enough.
BROKAW: That`s how he opened the State of the Union speech, trying to shut it down. And there was a fair amount of support for him out there.
GUTHRIE: I think --
BROKAW: At the very end, I went to Phoenix for a huge rally for him. And I -- the White House press corps was in a little tiny corral. We thought they were going to ride in and lynch us in some fashion.
BROKAW: That was about three weeks after.
TODD: Final point now and I`m going to sneak in a break.
GUTHRIE: No, I think that the -- but I do think that the President and his allies in the Congress have done a really good job of actually muddying the waters because this is extraordinarily complex.
MITCHELL: They do.
GUTHRIE: And I think, particularly in our political time and our political moment, you know, people who are reasonable are kind of throwing up their hands and they`re starting to --
TODD: I don`t know what to believe, right. Yes.
GUTHRIE: It`s the same old partisan food fight.
GUTHRIE: You say this, you say that. And so I do think it has been successful.
TODD: And then throw in the Dostoyevsky aspect of the Russia novel --
GUTHRIE: The Russia, yes.
TODD: -- and there`s three names for everybody, and, you know, it`s very difficult to follow.
All right. I`ll tell you what`s not difficult to follow, is the three of you. So you`re going to stick around. There`s a lot to discuss: the memo, the FBI, Russia -- oh, yes, there`s a speech tonight as well.
It`s all straight ahead as we gear up for the President`s first State of the Union address tonight on MSNBC.
TODD: Welcome back. The President isn`t the only one delivering a political message tonight. He is just the only one delivering it from a podium.
Democratic women will be delivering a message by wearing black. It`s a show of solidarity with the Me Too movement and a not so subtle reminder of the allegations facing the President.
Republican women will be wearing red, white, and blue to show support to the military.
In addition to wearing black, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats will be bringing DACA recipients as their guests. More than 20 of them will be seated in the gallery to send a message to the President on immigration.
Seemingly in response to that, Republican Congressman Paul Gosar is calling on the Capitol police to consider, quote, arresting any illegal aliens in attendance tonight.
Then there are at least a dozen Democrats boycotting tonight`s address altogether. That includes civil rights icon John Lewis. There was speculation that some Democrats would stage a walkout, but Pelosi delivered a message to her caucus tonight: if you want to walk out, don`t come in.
And then there is the President himself. He`ll be asking for unity, bipartisanship -- and cash. His campaign is asking donors to, quote, please make a special State of the Union contribution to have your name broadcast during my speech on the official Donald J. Trump for President live stream.
I`m not making that last part up. More MTP DAILY in 60 seconds.
TODD: Welcome back to MTP DAILY. Let me bring in our panelists back, Brokaw, Guthrie, Mitchell.
All right. Andrea, I think I cut you off the last time. Just to quickly pick up on this one final point.
TODD: I want to get into the FISA memo in this respect, what Nunes is alleging. How many different people will have had to be in on this? You have the judge, multiple members of the FBI, Department of Justice.
TODD: Something like 18 different people have to be involved in this conspiracy.
MITCHELL: And it was an extension. It was a renewal of a warrant that had been repeatedly renewed because they had, for quite some time, been following what we know now is Carter Page. Carter Page, an energy consultant, was picked up coincident to an ongoing FBI probe, a counterintelligence probe, of three -- three -- Russian spies.
Two escaped back to Moscow; one was tried, convicted, and jailed. And he was writing and talking in a secure facility in the Russian consulate in New York, the U.N. Mission, about this man, Carter Page. And that`s how Carter Page got swept up on it, long before any dossier, long before anything else. This was a really legitimate, high-powered, top-secret investigation.
GUTHRIE: I mean, we haven`t seen the memo. So let`s just say that. But a FISA application is this thick. It doesn`t rely on one dossier --
TODD: The renewal application, too. Like that --
GUTHRIE: And I think the idea about the renewal application is that it`s such -- as I understand the reporting on this, is that it`s like the fruit of the poisonous tree. That the initial application was problematic according to Republicans and the Republican memo because it relied in part on the Steele dossier.
And as I understand it, the complaint is that it wasn`t disclosed in the FISA application to the FISA judge, the provenance of the Steele dossier and that it came -- that was commissioned initially by Democrats.
Fair point, perhaps, but likely, this FISA application and the basis for which -- by which the judge granted the warrant was not just this but a host of things. You have to present a lot of evidence before the FISA judge to get the application granted.
And so we`ll see what it is, but there`s a lot more here.
TODD: And, Tom, this is what the President is counting on. Almost all of this -- look at how long it takes to explain what happened.
BROKAW: Getting lost on the weeds, yes. Yes.
TODD: It`s why it`s so easy to make this, oh, these -- they keep going on that rabbit hole or that rabbit hole. It sounds like rabbit holes even when they`re not.
BROKAW: Well, I remember being in the small town of Wyoming this past fall. I was doing some reporting. There was a fellow out there.
And a woman came up to me on the street, a big Trump admirer. She said, the Russians, I know, yes, they`re probably involved. Why shouldn`t we think they were involved? But I don`t think it made any difference in the election. And walked away.
I think a lot of people feel that way. I think it`s indisputable in the highest levels of the intelligence committee, on law enforcement committee, and even among Republicans that Putin wanted to put his hands around this election as much as he possibly could. And he was encouraged by the President along the way, if you remember.
MITCHELL: And the bottom line for me is that Mike Pompeo, his CIA Director who briefs him every day, said this week to the BBC that Putin is doing it. He`s still doing it.
MITCHELL: He wants to do it in 2018. This is not John Brennan or Clapper or any of the formers who had worked for Republicans but also for Barack Obama. So if Mike Pompeo believes that it`s true, this is the ongoing belief of the CIA.
GUTHRIE: But the problem is that the President personalized it so much, so -- and the issue that the intelligence agencies agree on is that Russia did in fact attempt to meddle.
I don`t think there`s any intelligence agency that has purported to say that that meddling was successful or because of that, Trump was elected. And yet the President takes it that way. He thinks that that is what is being alleged and that`s what angers him so much.
TODD: I think people --
GUTHRIE: He`s thinking, I won fair and square, and they`re trying to say it`s the Russians.
TODD: I think people close to the President, Tom, try to say to us, look, you`re -- stop doing this to him. He just views it -- it`s not like he was helping the Russians. It`s just he views it personally.
And you`re like, well, why can`t he -- why is it on us to compartmentalize it? Why can`t he?
BROKAW: Well, I`ve been watching him for a long time, long before he got involved in politics. You know, I kind of grew up with him in New York.
BROKAW: The first interview he ever did on television, he did on the "TODAY" show. He was 34 years old at the time, and he`s just built the Trump Tower at that point. And so, you know, from kind of arm`s length, I`ve been watching him.
And the fixed fact about Donald Trump is he doesn`t like any kind of criticism, and he doesn`t work for anybody except for Donald Trump. He didn`t have a board of directors. I mean, he had all kinds of tangles with banks. And once they said, you owe us some money, there it is, and he`d walk away and then sue them.
So that`s kind of how he thinks he ought to be as President. He believes everybody works for him and that they have to answer to him. He doesn`t believe that there are three divisions of the government here, that he is in the White House and we`ve got the executive branch.
BROKAW: And then the other two branches.
GUTHRIE: But the Greek tragedy aspect of it is the one that Andrea mentioned earlier, which is but for him being so, you know, fixated on this Russia investigation -- and I`m not saying he doesn`t a right to be.
GUTHRIE: I mean, it obviously touches on the campaign and the allegation that --
TODD: And his personal business, too.
GUTHRIE: Of course, it`s personal. And their -- and the allegation or the accusation was that someone in his campaign was colluding with the Russians, that`s serious. He has reason to get as backed up in that.
But only because of his own actions in firing Comey and the Twitter trail of evidence does he now face himself an obstruction investigation, which is far simpler than Russian collusion business. Far simpler.
TODD: Oh, yes. I have to bring up Scott Pruitt, the now-EPA director, who, as Attorney General of Oklahoma in 2016, Andrea, said the following.
MITCHELL: Yes. Right.
TODD: I believe that Donald Trump at the White House would be more abusive to the constitution than Barack Obama, and that`s saying a lot.
Donald Trump has said many, many times, Day One, I`ll do this, I`ll do that, and those things that he`s mentioned cannot be done. I think executive orders with Donald Trump would be a very blunt instrument with respect to the constitution.
He has --
MITCHELL: He was working with Jeb Bush then.
TODD: Yes. He has since talked about, now that he has worked with this President, he has seen up close how good he is. This was actually a critique because the President believes he has all power. I think that he mistakes his power in an --
MITCHELL: I was talking to a number of Republicans who were in town this weekend and retired military at a very high level. And they were saying -- and business executives, CEOs. The CEOs, they love the corporate tax cut, they love the fact that he is breaking down regulations, that Scott Pruitt is killing the EPA.
They are still profoundly disturbed -- these are conservative people profoundly disturbed that he is breaking down norms, that he talks about his Justice Department, that he`s talking to the people who are investigating him and criticizing them. They are really concerned, and these are at cabinet levels.
TODD: Well --
BROKAW: And I talked with one very active member of the Republican leadership in the Senate, and I said, so what is it like when the White House comes up to the Hill? He said it, oh, it`s just rah, rah, rah, you know.
And then he said, we`re on the right track. There`s no kind of interplay that goes on about how we`re in this together or how we`re going to work this out. You know, he just sends up his message and then turns around and goes home.
So it`s not just the President that`s at stake here. If this doesn`t play out, the Republican Party has been now bought in to Trump place.
TODD: They`re all in. That`s right.
BROKAW: We`re all in. And those are -- that is very consequential.
TODD: This is Trump`s party. It was actually a point of pride for him --
TODD: -- at the eco launch today.
TODD: Point of pride that the Republican Party hasn`t been this united in a long time. He`s very happy about that.
All right, I`m going to stop it there. You guys are coming back one more time. I promise.
Up ahead, how much does the State of the Union speech matter when you can see, hear, and read the President all day every day? I`m going to talk to a couple of former White House insiders, Josh Ernest and Andy Karr about this challenge in the saturated media environment.
MTP DAILY special coverage of tonight`s State of the Union address continues after this.
CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS DAILY SHOW HOST: Welcome back. It`s countdown clock because hey, we love them here, and it says we`re two and a half hours away to our special state of the union coverage. NBC News is going to be everywhere. I`ll be on with Lester Holt on your local NBC station tonight. That begins tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
You can also join Brian Williams, Rachel Maddow, and Chris Matthews for live coverage and analysis on MSNBC. That begins at 8:00 p.m. And then you can check out Katy Tur and Steve Kornacki streaming live on You Tube at NBCNews.com. So many options. Stream us wherever you want, whichever view you want, whatever you need. We`ll be right back.
TODD: Welcome back. What`s the shelf life of a state of the union speech these days? How long will the president`s message resonate? Mostly likely the answer is not very long. State of the union used to be a major moment for an administration to outline its policy, objectives particularly in an election year.
But these days, we hear the president`s thoughts on Twitter multiple times a day. Tonight seems like just another speech unless, of course, he doesn`t stick to the teleprompter. So let`s turn to a couple of people who have dealt with a few state of the union addresses themselves.
Andy Card, former White House chief of staff under President George W. Bush and an NBC News political analyst, and Josh Earnest, a former White House press secretary under President Barack Obama and also an NBC News political analyst.
So Josh, let me start with you because I think you guys started to feel this early on. This is not just a Trump phenomenon. The state of the union resonates less and less every year that we saturate our media. Now it feels like we are in a gas pedal now. But it was a challenge for you, guys. How did you address it?
JOSH EARNEST, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: One of the things we did in the last couple of years, Chuck, were two things. One is, we started doing it earlier in the year. You recall in 2016, we actually did the state of the union on January 13th, and the idea was let`s get the year off to a good start.
The other thing we started to do, Chuck, was we actually started to release policy proposals in advance of the speech, so we can start talking about things that the press would talk about later and try to get the one --
TODD: There is no more post spinning the speech anymore, is there?
EARNEST: Not really, I mean, we would still travel, but you will recall that in 2016, President Obama did do a little travel. We tried this idea of going to red states and promoting him going to red states to talk about his vision for the country. We went to the town hall meeting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
It was really an interesting opportunity. Just being a bunch of Obama supporters who showed up to this town hall meeting in a Republican city and a Republican state. It didn`t have the desired effect.
TODD: Andy, you were probably in the last administration where state of the union still had some host impact where it had legs the day after.
ANDY CARD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF, NBC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: There was a state of the union plan that included a slight rollout before.
CARD: Teasers, and then the speech, and then it would be a cadence of every week for about four weeks.
TODD: The goal was you want four weeks out of this.
CARD: Four weeks.
TODD: How about that? Can you imagine 24 hours?
CARD: And then you would kind of build it, you would have hearings on Capitol Hill around some of the policies. And there would be families involved, you know, tax cuts for everybody, and so there was a plan.
TODD: I feel like the unique challenge for this White House is the president -- he is everywhere, right? This is not special tonight. It is special in that it is a ceremony and there is some pomp and circumstance, but we hear from him constantly.
CARD: It`s not -- it may not be special for him. The truth is it is very special for our democracy. And the world watches us to see how our democracy does it. That`s why I hope that tonight is not going to be a protest night. I don`t want the world to see our democracy one where people are rude on the floor of the House.
TODD: It`s inevitable that it seems as if there is an expectation that somebody is going to pull a Joe Wilson on him, the way Barack Obama --
EARNEST: It seems more likely this year to probably not come from the members and more likely to come from the gallery. It seems to be in that direction. But I do agree with Andy, that the kind of media attention that had previously been showered on, they say union address isn`t there anymore, but this is still a special night.
You know, Chuck, I believe we have the White House a year, so I still have good memories of 5:30 on the night of the state of the union address sitting in the map room of the White House on the ground floor with the president, sits there with the podium in front of him, the blue goose podium, and running through the speech, practicing the timing, factoring an applause, practicing pronunciations of names.
TODD: You both have been through state of the unions not like quite like this but state of the unions where another story was cropping up and the other story was going to haunt the speech no matter what was said in the speech. Do you just say don`t mention it and just plow through and talk over us?
CARD: Yes. Don`t allow someone else to control the agenda that you have worked so hard on. Stick to the plan, stick to the speech, don`t be disconnected.
If there were crises where America and the world are paying attention to, you don`t want to look disconnected for that, but I would not recommend inviting a debate about something that you`re involved in that does not relate to the U.S. state of the union -- TODD: Even if it is a subtle message, we`re all going to jump on it.
EARNEST: That`s right. But look, it`s opportunity, you have the state of the union. This is also something we would be doing the night before or the evening before state of the union address. It`s trying to pick up excerpts of the speech that we would release early.
That was a rare opportunity that you would have to try and get 20 or 30 seconds on the nightly news that you guys would run that excerpts. That is a real unique opportunity. You don`t think that nightly news will -- TODD: Run an excerpts, but tonight there is a talk of giving so much other news.
EARNEST: It may not lead the news the way it has in the past, you`re probably right.
TODD: Let me ask about the state of the union response. Never easy. Look, you know --
EARNEST: People only remember it when you screw it up.
TODD: That was just -- has there been a good one? I mean, you know, I`m trying to remember. I guess it`s a Jim Webb -- Jim Webb gets some credit because he sort of resonated it at a time when you guys were -- but you guys were not popular at the time, so maybe anyone would have resonated.
CARD: I agree with that. I think the responses are kind of yesterday`s way of doing business and we don`t need them anymore. You don`t need the response. I think most of the response will end up being a social media- type response. TODD: I am about to touch on this a little bit. There isn`t one response tonight. There`s a lot.
EARNEST: There are several of them. I do think that there is something -- I do think it is worth rethinking the way these responses put together. Because too often these responses look like just watered down version of the state of the union.
The truth is if you are going to do an effective response, what you are going to do is capitalize on the outside advantages of the response.
EARNEST: And the democratic response should be delivered somewhere other than Washington.
EARNEST: Outside in front of a cheering crowd.
TODD: But every time -- however, I remember Christie Whitman trying this against Bill Clinton. I remember, this has been tried, it always looks because you always watch it, you`re like, oh we`re on, and it looks like (INAUDIBLE).
EARNEST: Yes, but it feels more like a rally than a speech, I guess, is my point. Because you`re trying to get the speech to respond to a speech that is really uninteresting. But if it was a rally and there was cheering crowds, it would have a different feel, but I think it would actually serve as a pretty effective contrast.
CARD: I actually like allowing the state of the union address to be the demonstration of article one, article two, and article three of the constitution all coming together. And words can be spoken -- TODD: So let`s have -- you want John Roberts to give state of the future - -
(LAUGHTER) CARD: I think it is good to have them coming in. I think it is good to see that, see the generals come in. It is good to see the cabinet come in. That`s a good thing.
TODD: I`m with you on the pomp. I do think it is an important moment. Frankly, I just go back and my father used to educate me. That`s the attorney general. That`s this person. That`s that person. So, I think it is great as a civics lesson. There is no doubt. But it does feel like it is a messaging that is harder and harder.
CARD: It is getting harder and harder. And it is also anachronistic in today`s social media world, but remember, the state of the union address today is very different than it was when George Washington just said a letter up there.
TODD: I think some presidents some day is going to give the state of the union not in Washington.
EARNEST: It will be a good news.
TODD: Did you guys think about that?
CARD: Congress is the host. Congress is the host. EARNEST: Look, I think the other value is that it does set it apart as a different speech. It is not just another run of the speech. This is a time when the people who are sitting in that room are different. And it is a cue to the news media and the people watching at home that this actually something they should pay attention to. The question is, do they actually do that?
CARD: And the world pays attention to it.
TODD: Earnest and Card. You guys, you`re a card and you`re very earnest. Anyway, thank you both. Up ahead, as I just mentioned, when it comes to the democratic response to the state of the union tonight, you get to choose your own adventure.
TODD: Tonight, I`m obsessed with the democratic response to President Trump`s state of the union address or should I say responses? Yes, Congressman Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts will give the official democratic response. But there is more. A lot more.
English language version. There is Elizabeth Guzman who just won a seat in Virginia`s House of Delegates in the recent democratic landslide there. She will give the Spanish language response. That is an official response. Those two. Kennedy and Guzman.
Then there are the unofficial responses by the progressives. First, Bernie Sanders. He will do something rare. He will watch the president`s speech and actually respond to what President Trump has to say unlike the official versions which the speech just got written before.
Then, you got Congresswoman Maxine Waters. She will offer her official response on BET. And former Congresswoman Donna Edwards. She will be addressing the working family`s party and doing the official response for that party.
What do they all have in common? They might not have enough in common. Because if you have five plans, five chances, trying to respond to this president, you could argue you have no plans.
The one thing the Democrats can agree on is that they oppose President Trump. But that alone isn`t enough to win election. You have to be for something, too. Just ask Hillary Clinton. We`ll be right back.
TODD: Welcome back. Time for "The Lid." The all-star panel is back. Tom Brokaw, Savannah Guthrie, Andrea Mitchell. All right, we were talking earlier about how does this state of the union have legs?
I don`t think it`s possible anymore especially in the age of Trump, but it`s not just Trump. This thing is going to get forgotten by the end of tomorrow. I mean, a government shutdown happened last Monday and we didn`t even talk about it on Sunday.
TOM BROKAW, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: I know. That is a condition of our times unfortunately. We have been for a lot of things. Here are two events that I believe have disappeared from the landscape and I`m going to surprise you what those two events are, but stop and think about it for a moment.
The Las Vegas mass shooting and the Texas shooting. We don`t talk about them any more. Those are two of the worst shootings in this country`s history, and they`re off the grid. We`re not even discussing them. What should we do about it? It`s gone.
TODD: Is that the era of Trump or is it more about the gun issue?
BROKAW: I think it`s the era that we`re living in. It`s all of the things coming at you 24/7 and we move on. I mean, the Las Vegas shooting went away in about two weeks, quite honestly. Stop and think about that. We had a terrorist attack, conducted by an American. TODD: The largest in the history of this country.
TODD: But not even by a dozen. I mean, it wasn`t even close. BROKAW: Signature resort town where people were at a concert. And I wonder what they`re thinking. Those who survived and the families who lost people. What about us? ANDREA MITCHELL, CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: We had a report last week on one these valiant survivors who is just beginning to do her rehab and it was so poignant. And Savannah, you covered Gabby Giffords. I think about her all the time. She sends e-mails and her group does, but what has happened and of course Newtown?
TODD: By the way, we are a long way away from when bipartisan dates were the state of the union.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, JOURNALIST, NBC NEWS: Oh, I remember that.
TODD: I mean, remember when there was (INAUDIBLE) at least pay some (INAUDIBLE) to Gabby Giffords, it was let`s try --
BROKAW: I don`t think there were many Democrats yelling, you lie.
TODD: Yes, well, it`s interesting Josh Earnest brings up a good point. Maybe not members of Congress but the gallery. It`s going to be loaded with activists.
GUTHRIE: Yes it is. I know. I mean, I think it is so unfortunate. You know, you heard this rant, we have been friends for a decade now. It`s like I`m always like, where is the radical middle?
TODD: I know.
GUTHRIE: When are the radical reasonable people going to rise up? And I really --
TODD: Reasonable people can`t be angry because they`re reasonable.
GUTHRIE: You don`t hold up a sign and say, I can be persuaded. That`s the problem but I feel like our culture needs it so much and the tribalism that is on both sides is so corrosive. And I hate that because, you know, the state of the union, here we are at the Capitol, these are moments that should be moments for our country.
MITCHELL: And it is also the president is so -- shall we say overexposed on Twitter and social media.
TODD: Any president will be overexposed at this point, like I think is this the new or is it he is even more so?
MITCHELL: Yes, absolutely. It`s not only that he stops and takes questions which we love, which is more often than his predecessors, but the social media aspect of Donald Trump is unique.
BROKAW: You cannot overstate the social media aspect of it all. I mean, everybody -- you know, my line is a lot of guys out there in their underwear who could not get a date for the prom and they are very good at sending out these messages out whenever they want to. TODD: In another era, if we had a young kid named Kennedy giving a state of the union response, we would be wondering, oh, is the Kennedy dynasty back?
TODD: This Kennedy won`t have a Boston accent. It will be very interesting when people realized that this is a Kennedy without a Boston accent.
GUTHRIE: You know, I was reading about this democratic responses or the counter response. And I just wonder why anyone takes the gig. This so rarely turns out well, but it is an honor and obviously he is someone that the Democrats feel is an up and comer. So, we`ll see.
MITCHELL: Up and comer, but I have been talking to democratic women who are wondering why they did not choose a woman to try to capitalize frankly on an advantage that Democrats feel they have and they are certainly not, you know -- TODD: That is an interesting decision by them that they did a young white guy. A male. MITCHELL: Democrats and Republicans have both been affected by the "Me Too" movement and by the scandals. But the fact is that they could have chosen a Hispanic, a woman, a person of color, someone to better represent, yet this is such a smart young man. BROKAW: Yes, but the fact is, folks, we`re generations away from Camelot. I mean, that was a long time ago. There has not been a prominent Kennedy on the Hill. This young man gets a lot of very good notices from Republicans and Democrats alike by doing his job.
TODD: He kept his head down. He is not trying to be superstar. He knows he got the famous last name.
BROKAW: Right. He has a winning personality, but has that ship sailed, in effect? The Kennedy draw? And I think probably unfortunately for a lot of people, you know, it saddens them to think that it has, but there is a new reality, we`re moving on now.
What`s is so striking to me about the people who are running these days, women who are veterans, women who have served in the military, women who have been out there and done really tough jobs, and now they are coming --
MITCHELL: (INAUDIBLE) running and (INAUDIBLE) Senate.
TODD: I have to say, Tammy Duckworth is somebody to respond to the state of the union. I`m surprised they didn`t do that, somebody like her.
GUTHRIE: I know. What a story. She is a sitting senator. She is a veteran. She lost her legs in combat. And she is having a baby. I mean, that`s a great story. MITCHELL: The first sitting senator to be pregnant in the Senate.
TODD: Savannah, you saw, the fact that the Democrats have multiple responses. Usually in football teams, when you have two quarterbacks, it means you have none.
TODD: And so you have five state of the union responses. Does it mean the party doesn`t --
GUTHRIE: Why are you doing football with me? I don`t know.
TODD: I understand that you`re an Eagles` fan, though.
GUTHRIE: Yes, I am an Eagles fan by marriage. You know -- and Andrea too of course, just by --
MITCHELL: But don`t mention Roger Federer.
GUTHRIE: Yes. What was that question? Oh, we have so many responses. Yes, I know. I mean, does it even really matter? I`m not sure. You`re asking about the state of the union will be remembered.
GUTHRIE: How about the response? TODD: Does it reflect the state of the Democratic Party right now which is they know it or not?
GUTHRIE: But that`s how it has been. Wasn`t it like this last year too? There was this whole, you know, fragmented vulcanize responses and maybe that`s just (INAUDIBLE).
MITCHELL: Kentucky governor (INAUDIBLE).
GUTHRIE: Yes, it`s not demonstration of unity.
TODD: Well, we`re getting in the way of (INAUDIBLE). Guys, thank you. I will be you all night. I`m looking forward to it. Up ahead, the Hawaii false alarm that sparked real panic and what lead up to it is downright bizarre.
TODD: Well, in case you missed it, the strange tale of the Hawaii missile false alarm just get even stranger. Remember a few weeks ago, the aloha state thought it was about to say aloha for good after an emergency worker sent out a false alert telling people a missile was approaching.
The sheer panic until Hawaii Emergency Management issued a correction, 38 minutes later. Well, the FCC has been investigating the incident, and they just issued a preliminary statement.
Apparently, quote, the warning officer at the alert origination terminal claimed to believe, in a written statement provided to Hawaii EMA, that this was a real emergency, not a drill.
So, this person did not hit the mass hysteria button by accident. It was on purpose. But there was a safeguard in place. Before the officers selected the message to send out. The computer system did put up a prompt that said, quote, are you sure that you want to send this alert?
I think it goes without saying that the protocol for sending mass emergency alert about incoming missiles should probably be more complicated than something like a Microsoft word. Might we suggest an additional prompt like something like, are you really, really, really sure?
Anyway, we`ll be back tomorrow with more "MTP Daily." Yes, the whole eyesore got weirder on this. MSNBC`s coverage of the state of the union continues now with "The Beat" with Ari Melber. Good evening, Ari.
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