(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are already experiencing increased ICU utilization, and some areas have basically run out of ICU beds.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is tinder waiting to explode. But I`m thinking that some of that has already been lit, and that is concerning.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is real. I`ve had patients who have come in asymptomatic, no symptoms, no cough, no fever, nothing, and just wanted to be tested, and they were positive.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: COVID does not care how old you are. It doesn`t care what medical problems you have. It doesn`t care what kind of health problems your family has. It will -- you can get infected by this virus, and it can make you very ill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You do a few easy things like wear a mask, have some social distancing, wash your hands, you can help stop the spread of this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: And we begin this show once again with a glimpse of what life is like right now for medical workers on the front lines of this pandemic. Welcome to Monday, it is MEET THE PRESS DAILY and I`m Katy Tur in for Chuck Todd on a very busy day of news. And none of it seems to be very good for the president.
The White House is battling new questions about why the president didn`t act or wasn`t thoroughly briefed on intelligence suggesting that Russia may have been paying bounties to kill U.S. soldiers. The White House right now is also struggling to explain why exactly the president re-tweeted a video showing one of his apparent supporters yelling the phrase white power.
The Supreme Court has dealt the president and his allies another defeat by striking down a law seeking to roll back access to abortion services. And as the president`s re-election support tumbles in recent polls, some of his allies are reportedly pushing him to shake up his campaign staff. We`re going to dive into all of those developments.
But we begin the show with perhaps the most difficult situation facing the White House right now, and that is the continued surge of coronavirus cases in the south. White House officials including the vice president and the secretary of Health and Human Services are striking a noticeably more dire tone as confirmed cases continue to spike. Most noticeably in states like Texas, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, and Nevada, among some others.
In a number of states around the country, local officials have paused or begun to reverse plans to reopen amid new concerns about the spread which has hit a record pace in the U.S. in stark contrast to other western nations where cases per capita are on the decline. The president`s HHS secretary, Alex Azar, told Chuck yesterday on Meet The Press, that he believes the window is closing on our ability to contain these outbreaks, and he`s urging the public to follow the appropriate safety measures.
The problem administration officials are confronting is that the president has continually downplayed the second surge of cases, and he`s flouted safety recommendations, even basic ones like wearing a mask. Yesterday, Vice President Pence visited one of the country`s hot spots, Texas, where that disconnect was pretty evident.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you`re local officials in consultation with the state are directing you to wear a mask, we encourage everyone to wear a mask in the affected areas. And where you can`t maintain social distancing, wearing a mask is just a good idea.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On the importance of wearing a mask, and you`ve all exhibited that behavior, does that need to come directly from the president, from the top? And does it undercut the message of the task force when he has implied that wearing a mask could be a political statement against him? Does he need to actively encourage Americans to wear masks as you have today?
PENCE: Well, the president tapped me to lead the White House coronavirus task force. And part of our guidelines to open up America again, encourage people to wear facial coverings where social distancing was not possible. So, our administration is promoting the practice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Yeah, but there are people out there who will only listen if the president himself says it and seems to believe it. Joining me now is my NBC news colleague, Vaughn Hillyard in Phoenix, Arizona, where Governor Ducey will give a briefing in less than an hour. And in Houston, Houston chronicle reporter Zach Despart, who`s been covering the surge in coronavirus hospitalizations over there.
So, Vaughn, three straight days of the record number of hospitalizations for Arizona, and also there is a problem with the number of tests that can be administered. Give us a reality check for what`s happening on the ground there right now.
VAUGHN HILLYARD, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Number one, the vice president`s words are a complete 180 from President Trump who was here just six days ago and held a rally with more than 3,000 folks inside of a church with hardly a sole wearing a single mask. The vice president was slated to come here to Arizona to hold his own campaign event tomorrow. That campaign aspect of the trip has been canceled. And he`s now going to be meeting just with Governor Ducey, as well as other local officials, about the spread of COVID here in the state.
And the question is, you know, in that back and forth with Monica and Vice President Pence was to what extent is the message going to change here in the state? Because it was just last week, Governor Doug Ducey has so far resisted to make any changes to policy in the state. There is no stay-at- home order. The bars, the restaurants are still open. The casinos, the pools. Life is pretty much going on as normal here in the state.
And when you look at the trajectory of things, it`s far from going in the right direction. You`re continuing to see a spike. In just the last two weeks, Katy, the number of hospitalizations have increased by 84 percent, nearly doubled in just the last two weeks. It`s a record for hospitalizations, record for ICU beds in use, record for ventilators in use, record number of cases. All of that, whether it continues to be a serious problem with testing to even begin to understand the true scope of COVID here in the state.
TUR: Zach, let`s go on that point that Vaughn was just making about Arizona and apply it to what`s happening in Texas. You`ve been following the hospitalizations there. And there was some sort of disconnect between what one hospital in Texas was reporting a few days ago and then what they started not reporting over the weekend. Walk us through what`s happening there, and then also what was going on with that hospital and the reporting of the ICU beds?
ZACH DESPART, HOUSTON CHRONICLE REPORTER: Sure. So my colleague, Mike Morris and I did a story yesterday about how on Thursday the Texas Medical Center which is -- comprises the largest medical system in the world, hit 100 percent base ICU capacity for the first time on Thursday. After that for a period of three days, the hospital system stopped reporting that ICU capacity data. I know that alarmed some public policymakers because they rely on that data to make decisions about how to shape the future of the pandemic here.
We published a story about the lack of data yesterday morning. By yesterday evening, the Medical Center had republished most of that data. It`s formatted a little bit differently, and we`re glad that it`s back. But it`s still at sometimes a little bit more difficult to read. Now here in the Houston region, as well as in Texas, we have continually set hospitalizations` records for coronavirus since Memorial Day, 16 of the past 18 days including today we set a hospitalization record for COVID cases in the Houston area. Today we just passed 2,800 for the first time.
Now unlike in states like Arizona, our governor, Greg Abbott, on Friday started to scale back the reopening of Texas. He closed bars for the first time since he had reopened them. And he also limited the ability of hospitals to do elective procedures in hopes of freeing up more ICU space.
TUR: Zach, I want to talk in a minute about the delay between the rolling back and what it might mean for the rise in cases. We`re going to talk about that with Dr. Richard Besser in a moment. But Vaughn, I want one more question -- I want to throw one more question to you which is that Governor Ducey is going to be holding a briefing. Any indication that he might follow suit with what California, Texas, and to some extent Florida is doing by shutting down bars, places where young people are congregating, and spreading the disease in droves?
HILLYARD: For nearly a month and a half, this governor has been defiant saying that we should proceed with caution. But you haven`t seen that on the streets. We should note schools, a lot of schools in Arizona, there`s this concept of year-round schooling in the state, are slated to open, some in two weeks, some in three weeks. That`s a question mark. He had suggested just a few weeks ago that he planned to go forward with the school year. But that`s the big question mark is what will he actually announce here ahead of the vice president`s arrival.
TUR: Vaughan Hillyard, thank you very much. And Zach Despart, thank you, as well. Let`s go now to Dr. Richard Besser, former acting Director of the CDC. So, Dr. Besser, let`s start with where I ended off with Zach. So, you have Texas starting to roll back or put a pause on some of the reopening.
What we saw in New York was between the shutting down of the city here and the peak in cases. It took three weeks before the number of cases here started going down. What are we likely to see in Texas, in Arizona, in Florida, even in California, as the days go on, even as some of the rollbacks begin?
DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR OF THE CDC: You know, Katy, I think what you`re going to see is what you`re predicting. And that`s an increase. You know, what we`re hearing from so many of these places is that the big rise in cases is among young people. And thankfully most young people but not all will do well with this infection.
But young people don`t stick with young people. They have contact with elderly people, they have contact with essential workers who may be at greater risk of having severe infection. And so there`s a lag. From the time that someone gets an infection, it may be a couple of weeks before they infect somebody else.
A couple of weeks more before that this individual gets sick enough that they`re in the hospital. And then a couple of weeks from then, in terms of when someone will either recover or succumb to this. So what I expect is that these hospitals are going to continue to see big pressure.
TUR: Well on that point, so if people like Governor Abbott is saying let`s shut down the bars, is that going to be enough, or are we going to be in a situation a week from now as things get worse and worse where he says, hold on, maybe we should roll back gyms that are open or maybe we should roll back x, y, and z in order to tamp down on the curve? Is it going to be too late if we are playing catch-up with the spread of the virus?
BESSER: You know, when you think about what you want to do to reopen, you want it to be slow. You want it to be careful. You want it to be based on the best public health science so it`s sustainable. And you want to do it at a rate so that as there are new cases, your public health system is able to investigate each case, identify contacts, and then ensure that everyone who`s infected or in quarantine has what they need to be able to isolate for 14 days or until they`re better.
What happens when you go in the other direction is you can`t be as incremental. You`re going to have to do some bigger steps if you really want to nip this in the bud. You know, here in New Jersey, they just announced that restaurants will not be opening for indoor dining as was planned later in the week.
And that`s a reflection of what`s going on around the country. And the need here within our state to go slowly, carefully, so that we don`t have what`s happening in so many other states happen in this area, too.
TUR: But we have open borders between states. There`s free movement between states. And you have places like New York and New Jersey, Connecticut and some other places that have really tried very hard to decrease the number of cases. We went through really stringent lockdowns for weeks and months on end here.
What needs to be done to make sure that these places don`t see a surge in cases from people who might travel from Texas, from Florida, from California, from Arizona, Georgia? Is saying please, voluntarily quarantine, we hope you do, it`s your responsibility enough?
BESSER: Well, yes, I don`t think it`s enough. I think the big challenge is that we`re seeing a clash of messages. Every single public health leader in the nation is saying we`re in the early days of this pandemic, and what we do really matters. When I wear a mask, it`s because I respect your health, and I`m trying to keep you healthy. When I keep six feet away, it`s because I`m concerned about my health but your health, as well.
If we don`t have a unity of message and a national move to try and get everyone to do the right thing, this is not going to be successful anywhere. Because you can`t have a system where in certain areas the right thing`s being done, in other areas, it`s not. And you know, you see red states and blue states that are being careful and slow. And then you see states that are saying let`s get back to work, let`s get back to our social life -- there`s` nothing to worry about. And that`s a really dangerous situation.
TUR: The spread is surging among young people who are going out. What needs to happen in order for everyone, young, old, blue, red, nothing, in this country to get the message that wearing a mask doesn`t just protect those around -- I mean, wearing a mask protects those around you, that you can more safely go outside and do things if you wear a mask. That social distancing works. What -- is there one thing that can happen right now to get the message to people who are in intransigent?
BESSER: Well, I think we have to think about the messengers and where people turn for their information. Because if 60 percent, 70 percent of people are wearing masks and doing social distancing and washing their hands but 30 percent, 40 percent aren`t, it`s not going to work. We need to be together. And the other point I want to make Katy, is that, you know, when you see these numbers and these surges, they are hiding even far greater impact on certain communities.
When you think about essential workers, black Americans, Latino Americans, Native Americans who are going back to work at higher rates, they are at greater risk here. If we`re not collecting data down by race and ethnicity, by neighborhood, then we`re going to be missing problems that are even far greater, and we`re not going to be addressing the specific needs of each community so that people can be safe.
TUR: Dr. Richard Besser, doctor, thank you so much for joining us, we appreciate all of your expertise.
BESSER: Thank you, Katy.
TUR: And ahead, new reporting on the Trump campaign`s scramble to get the president back on message as support may be falling even among some of his strongest supporters.
Also, later, as lawmakers are pushing for pushing for answers, both President Trump and Vladimir Putin are pushing back on reports that Russia put a price on the heads of American service members in Afghanistan. Don`t go anywhere.
TUR: Welcome back. The White House is insisting today that the president did not hear the racist remark that was eight seconds into a video he re- tweeted this weekend. It featured an apparent Trump supporter shouting the words white power. The tweet was later deleted from the president`s feed. It comes as the Washington Post reports Trump advisers are privately pushing for major campaign changes as a way to get the president to stay on message as polls have him trailing Joe Biden.
As part of our Meet The Press county-to-county project, NBC news is talking to voters in the 2016 Trump strongholds of Beaver County, Pennsylvania. And some folks there say the president`s tone on race has them reconsidering their support.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In 2016, did you vote for Donald Trump?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now looking at the last few years, do you know what you`re going to do in November yet?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t either. I mean, I was sure that I was going to vote for him again, but now I`m rethinking it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is your perspective on how the president has handled these protests and this uprising in America right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I would like to see him be more compassionate, more understanding, more willing to have a discussion.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So last time we spoke, you were most likely going to vote for Trump in November. Are you less certain now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you think the president is handling this national uprising over racial inequality?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t think he`s doing a really good job. I feel like he`s just taking a really harsh and aggressive attitude about it, and I think he -- there`s a different approach that I would personally like to see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: Joining me from Beaver, Pennsylvania, is my NBC news colleague, Dasha Burns, she`s the one who spoke to those voters there. Also with us is Robert Costa, national political reporter for the Washington Post and a MSNBC political analyst. He was of the reporters on today`s Washington Post story about the president`s re-election trouble.
Dasha, I want to start with you. I think it`s so interesting what you`re doing. There is one Trump supporter out in Pennsylvania that I met at a rally five years ago who I get in contact with every few months or so to find out how they`re thinking about this election. They`ve never wavered. And I think it`s interesting that you`re finding people out there in deep red part of Pennsylvania who say that they`re rethinking their support. Talk to me about what you`re finding.
DASHA BURNS, NBC NEWS REPORTER: Yeah. Katy, you know, there`s been so much speculation about whether it`s the coronavirus pandemic that might change some people`s minds about their support for Donald Trump. And I was here six weeks ago talking to people about that very subject, and most people said to me they were pretty happy with the job that the president was doing.
They were more frustrated with their Democratic governor for keeping businesses shut down. But it does seem to be this conversation about race that is moving the needle a little bit, and it`s surprising to see that here, because Beaver is more than 90 percent white. It`s only 6 percent black. And yet you heard the conversations that are happening here. And some voters are telling me that they`re actually having these conversations for the very first time.
That they`ve never really engaged with race on this level before. And now that they have, it is impacting them personally and also politically. I asked Kristen there, one of the women you just heard from, about why now because the president has used divisive rhetoric on race in the past. And she told me that she could sort of ignore past comments, not pay attention, but the George Floyd video was so shocking that she can`t turn away this time around, Katy.
TUR: That was exactly the question I wanted to follow up with you on, which was why now. Because the president has been -- has said some questionable things, that`s putting it mildly in the past. Bob, let`s talk about his campaign. There are Trump allies who say that the president needs to change his tone. But then they also admit that the president`s not capable of changing his tone. So what`s happening in the campaign right now?
ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER THE WASHINGTON POST: There is some talk of possible personnel changes, yet they have not happened. There`s been some shifting around. Jason Miller and others from the 2016 campaign have come aboard to try to help the president. People who can be his confidante in political conversation. But there`s no real talk about changing the tone in a serious way.
There`s a hope that the core Trump voter will come out not because they love his personality or his style, though some of them may do that, but because they are united around his agenda and they want to see conservatives on the court. But there`s some disappointment and deflation in conservative ranks.
You look at the recent decisions by the Supreme Court, I spoke to former Senator Rick Santorum. He said the White House has to be concerned about evangelical voters getting a bit fatigued about how this is all playing out with the Republican president.
TUR: Bob, what about the prospects for who is going to turn out for the president? You said his core group of supporters are going to go out. I remember in 2016 they were very concerned about white suburban women. And the talk has always been, well, if he loses white suburban women, then he has a real problem in 2020.
It`s not just white suburban women that the campaign and allies are worried about. Its older voters from a lot of the polling. It shows that older voters are peeling away. The voters that Dasha has been speaking to in Pennsylvania who are rethinking things because of his tone. And you say he`s tones is not going to change, but his tone on race relations.
COSTA: When you talk to the Trump campaign and his advisers, there`s an acknowledgement that suburban women, independent voters, are slipping away in 2016 in the closing weeks, to appeal to those voters they sent Ivanka Trump around the collar counties of Philadelphia. This time around, there`s not so much enthusiasm about the idea that those voters can suddenly be won back.
The only thing that could win them back in the eyes of the Trump campaign is a reopening of the economy and a boost to the economy. What you really see Katy, is a push to get the numbers even higher among the Republican base, to tick up among white working class voters in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, by seizing on the culture wars, and to be sure these racist statements and videos that like white power, that`s a sign to many people in this country that the president is at least open to racially incendiary views. He has not apologized for those comments or that video.
TUR: Not wanting to alienate even a single potential Trump voter. We saw the same thing in 2016. He would never apologize, even equivocated on David Duke`s support. Dasha, when you`re having these conversations with Trump supporters in these counties, and I know you`re going to counties -- key counties all across the country, and you talk about some of the racially insensitive, again, that`s a very nice way of putting it.
The inflammatory racist remarks that have been re-tweeted by the president or have come out of the president`s mouth, have -- has anybody been concerned about that? Is it really going to change with George Floyd, and is it a sustainable change in his support? Are they looking for an opening to vote for him again in November?
BURNS: Katy, that`s a great question because it`s not clean cut and simple, right. These voters didn`t wake up one day and decide they have blue fever and they`re gung-ho about Joe Biden all of a sudden. It`s far from that. These are just the beginnings of these conversations. People that I`ve talked to say they have a lot of priorities. There`s the issue of life that is -- the pro-life stance that`s a sticking point for a lot of people that might prevent them for voting for a Democrat even if they find that this issue of race is also a priority for them.
So the voters I`m hearing from are being pulled in multiple directions. I did hear from people this week that they want to hear more from Joe Biden. They feel like he`s been sort of in the shadows a little bit. And they want him to come out and be more present and target them more in the way that Donald Trump has, Katy.
TUR: Dasha Burns, doing the on the ground reporting that we all need so much right now. And Robert Costa, with all of your sourcing. Robert, thank you very much.
And when we come back, we`re going to turn to the other big story of the day -- that the U.S. has intelligence that Russians offered to pay the Taliban a bounty to kill Americans. First, Mississippi is on the verge of making history. On Sunday, state lawmakers voted to remove the state flag with the confederate emblem.
The bill now goes to Governor Tate Reeves who said he will sign it into law. The measure would order all current state flags to be lowered within 15 days. It would also establish a commission to design a new flag by September which will not include the confederate battle flag but will include the words in god we trust. Mississippi voters will approve or reject the flag in the November election. We`ll be right back.
TUR: Welcome back. We have new information right now on the reports that Russian operatives offered the Taliban cash to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Two White House officials tell NBC News that the U.S. received raw intelligence based on limited sourcing that suggested Russia was offering bounties for the deaths of American troops and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
There was disagreement, though, within the Intelligence Community about whether that information was valid. President Trump tweeted last night that the Intel Community did not find the information credible and, therefore, did not brief him on the matter. As for Russia, a spokesman for Vladimir Putin told our NBC News`s Keir Simmons that he dismissed the idea of bounties entirely.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DMITRY PESKOV, SPOKESMAN FOR VLADIMIR PUTIN: This is really ridiculous to spread this kind of information.
KEIR SIMMONS, NBC NEWS SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You don`t think that -- if it did happen, do you believe it would --
PESKOV: You know, maybe I -- I can sound a little bit rude, but this is 100 percent (bleep). It`s non-diplomatic thing. But it`s (bleep).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUR: With me now is Courtney Kube, who covers national security and the Pentagon for NBC News, along with Charlie Savage, national security reporter for The New York Times who helped break their story on this. He is also an MSNBC contributor. So Courtney, why is it so hard to discern whether or not there were any fatalities based on this bounty?
COURTNEY KUBE, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY AND PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: So, that`s a really difficult thing to prove, period. And what I keep reminding people of is after Bowe Bergdahl was captured, you will remember that in the weeks and months after that, there were several U.S. soldiers who were killed, and they were killed on things like route clearance missions or they were going in to clear a village or whatever it was.
And at the time, there was a lot of reporting and actually in the months and years afterwards, that those soldiers were killed on the mission to find Bowe Bergdahl because most of the U.S. Military that time was fixed on trying to find him.
The U.S. Military, the army, they will not say that in fact they were killed on that mission though because they were actually doing route clearance or something, even though the ultimate goal was to look for Bergdahl.
So, how that applies to this scenario here? It would be very difficult for the U.S. Military to determine that money that was handed from Russia to the Taliban was directly used in an attack on Americans or coalition service members.
What would be more likely for them to prove is the idea that because Russia provided, may have provided money to the Taliban and then the Taliban attacked Americans that they were complicit or they had some kind of culpability in those deaths.
TUR: Interesting. And do we know for sure if any of those bounties were paid regardless of whether if we can connect them to the killing of an American serviceman? Do we know if the bounties were paid in the first place?
KUBE: There is some conflicting reporting on that. There are some officials who are saying that in fact they do have evidence that at least one bounty was paid and there are others who are saying that it is not that clear cut.
The one thing that`s become very clear since, you know, Charlie and The New York Times excellent reporting last Friday is that there is a lot of conflict about this intelligence. There are people within the Intelligence Community and the U.S. Military who have varying degrees of confidence in the information and how cooked this plot was.
And I think that`s why we are seeing a lot of conflict about it in what we`re hearing from whether it`s intelligence or military officials about this story is there are some people who believe that, in fact, the Taliban was actively pursuing this for some time, and there are others who just aren`t quite that sure about it, Katy.
TUR: So Charlie, flesh that out for us, the differing accounts of how solid this intelligence is.
CHARLIE SAVAGE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. The backdrop of why this is the focus is that the White house is trying to explain its claim that no one ever briefed the president on that, which is contradictory to our reporting that it was briefed at the highest levels and that it was in his written presidential daily brief document.
And some other news organizations -- the Associated Press has also been told that he was briefed. But that aside, they`re trying to say, well, we didn`t tell him. And why wouldn`t you tell him? Well, because there was not a consensus that this was real.
And we think that there`s a little more complicated than that and that there are different aspects of the evidence that came to light. There was some -- it started with a find of a huge amount of cash, much larger than what normally be found in a raid. That had raise questions of what this cash was doing there, that that led to some detainee interrogations of captured militants.
And criminals that work with the Taliban sometimes apparently get commissioned by the Taliban to carry out attacks and they in this case had been commissioned by the Russians instead or at least told interrogators they were. And then down the road, there may have been some signals to intelligence.
Different agencies have different confidence levels and different types of intelligence. Notably the National Security Agency is notoriously skeptical of human intelligence and wants to see surveillance intelligence, whereas other agencies like the CIA have more confidence.
There were different things that came in at different times, different confidence levels among different agencies in that. And the White House is trying to use that lack of high confidence among every analyst in every agency to explain its claim that they never told Trump about it.
Now, I just talked to a former intelligence briefer who said that at least in previous administrations that doesn`t make any sense, it was normal in the intelligence world for there to be some fog, intelligence judgments do not always have unanimity and high confidence level from everyone who looked at it.
That`s the nature of the murky world of trying to figure out what`s going in the shadows or behind closed doors. Previous presidents would want to know that and say, well, what are the analysts (inaudible) so they can make the judgment for themselves? But that`s what the White House is doing and that`s why they`re pushing very hard.
TUR: That was going to be my next question, which is under normal circumstances, would this -- even though there are differing accounts of this, would this be normally intelligence that would be shown to the president of the United States? You say the highest levels of the White House, according to your reporting. Is there any scenario where the highest levels of the White House do not include the president?
SAVAGE: Well, it`s evocative phrase. I mean, that`s a source who said the highest levels. You can impute what you think that means. We`ll see the presidential daily brief which is a written document that is put in Trump`s hands. So does that mean he actually read it? He`s kind of notorious for not reading all of the materials that are put in his hands.
SAVAGE: So if he receives a written briefing but he doesn`t look at it, is that how they are saying he wasn`t briefed? They keep (inaudible) during the question about whether it was in the written briefing when they claimed that he "wasn`t briefed." However, they`re defining that term.
But this is the fog now and, of course, this has become politicized and perhaps inevitably. They`re defending themselves by putting out this sort of, well, it wasn`t briefed to him, we won`t tell you what that means exactly, and maybe it wasn`t vetted because some agency didn`t agree with the other agencies about it.
That doesn`t seem to line up with historically how administrations have functioned and intelligence of this magnitude has reached the president even when it`s not 100 percent consensus about it. But of course, this is not a normal administration, so perhaps historical patterns don`t bear. We don`t know yet.
TUR: And like so many other stories, it does raise a lot of questions about the president`s treatment, his relationship with Vladimir Putin. Charlie Savage, thank you very much. Courtney Kube, thank you, as well.
And ahead, Republican members of Congress have been briefed about this intelligence on the bounties. We are going to ask Democratic congressman and Afghan war veteran Jason Crow whether his party will be getting the same briefing. Stay with us.
TUR: Welcome back. Eight Republican House members were briefed at the White House this afternoon on the intelligence behind the reporting that Russia may have paid the Taliban bounties to target American troops. Democrats who asked for similar intelligence have not yet been briefed.
Joining me now is Democratic congressman from Colorado, Jason Crow. He also served two tours in Afghanistan. Congressman, thank you very much for joining us. There`s late-breaking reporting from Jake Sherman at Politico that the Democrats will be going to the White House, at least some of them, tomorrow for their own briefing. Can you confirm that?
REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): I can`t confirm that. I sit on the Armed Services Committee. I do a lot of work overseeing Afghanistan. I led a congressional delegation to Afghanistan in October. That should be in a bipartisan effort now to force the administration to engage Congress more on troop levels in the path forward in Afghanistan. I don`t have any confirmation of any briefing.
So, you know, the substance of the allegations regarding the Taliban and Russian bounties is disturbing enough. But the way this has been handled is equally disturbing as the administration continues to politicize the Intelligence Community about holding briefings just for Republican members, Freedom Caucus members and others, and not including everybody in the briefing process.
TUR: Why would the White House hold -- if the Democrats are going tomorrow and that`s still an if because we haven`t confirmed the reporting, but why would they hold separate briefings for Republicans and Democrats?
CROW: Well, the question kind of begs itself. It`s a great question. I think it`s telling that they`ve done this a couple of times. Why would a senior member of the Freedom Caucus who doesn`t sit on either the Intelligence Committee or the Armed Services Committee receive a briefing before key members of both of those committees?
And why does the administration continue get rid of longtime civil servants of both parties, Republicans and Democrats, but long histories in the Intelligence Community and replace them with people that do not have the experience but instead are political loyalists? It`s a very dangerous situation when this administration continues to politicize intelligence matters like this.
TUR: And just as we`ve been having this conversation, Leigh Ann Caldwell, part of our Capitol Hill reporting team, confirmed that Democrats will be going to the White House tomorrow. It would mean that Republicans would have a roughly 12-hour head start on this information, whatever they`re getting out of the White House, over what the Democrats might get out of the White House.
A moment ago, we were just having a conversation with Charlie Savage and Courtney Kube about the murkiness surrounding this intelligence. You`re on the Armed Services Committee. How does this intelligence normally get filtered into your committee? How does it normally come out?
CROW: Yeah. There absolutely is a vetting process, right? There are a lot of things that happen in Afghanistan and throughout the Middle East all the time. That information has to be vetted. It has to be verified. It has to have multiple sources. There is a process for doing that.
What disturbs me beyond, again, just the allegations of these bounties which is disturbing enough as I think about my brothers and sisters that I served with in Afghanistan and the thousands that are still serving there, is just the process or lack thereof.
This president has a long history of not wanting to hear information, not reading briefings, not sitting through entire briefings, telling people that he doesn`t want to hear certain things.
There is a chilling effect within the Intelligence Community right now that our civil servants, our intelligence agencies don`t want to deliver information to the president if it has to do with Russia for fear of his response and for fear that they could be fired if he doesn`t like what they`re telling him.
That`s a very dangerous mix, when the president has to hear information, particularly in the context of what was happening. Let`s not forget what`s been happening in the last couple of months. The president has been actively lobbying for Russia to join the G7.
We in Congress imposed sanctions on Russia that the president only grudgingly signed because we passed it in a veto-proof majority. There`s a lot that`s going on in the context of Russia and our diplomacy that we have to look at. The president and those around him have to have information, but so does Congress.
TUR: What do you make of Russia`s denial? Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin`s spokesperson, spoke to Keir Simmons and called these allegations, called this intelligence B.S.
CROW: That sounds like something Russia would say. Of course, they`re going to deny it. That`s what Russia does. But that`s also why we have professional men and women that have spent their careers and dedicated their life to finding out this information, getting good information to Congress, to the relevant committees, to the Department of Defense, and the president.
So we can make our own decisions. We should never just listen to what Russia has to say and take that at face value. I know the president has said repeatedly that Vladimir Putin has denied Russian interference in the 2016 election.
But, of course, all of our intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies, including a Senate intelligence committee run by Republicans, had confirmed that indeed they have meddled in our elections in the past. So, we shouldn`t be listening to what Vladimir Putin and all of his minions have to say.
TUR: The White House has been notoriously uncooperative with Congress when they`ve asked for information. Senator Tammy Duckworth has said there needs to be a hearing on this. Do you think it will be effective to have a hearing on what information is there, what information was given to the president, and whether the president acted when they`re so unwilling if past is precedent to comply with those requests?
CROW: Well, I do hope that Secretary Esper and Chairman Milley are going to testify in front of the Armed Services Committee soon. It`s my understanding they were negotiating and the final negotiation for that to happen in the next couple of weeks.
It should have happened a long time ago. We submitted the request after the Lafayette Square incident and what happened in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago when the military was used against peaceful protesters. So, there are a lot of questions that we still have to have answered regarding that incident. And now, there`s more information that we have to have answered, as well.
So, testimony is always important when you have sworn witnesses in front of Congress to get information out before the American people because -- listen, this is not just because we want to hear this. I mean, we have to have this information because we are passing budgets, we are doing oversight, and we are authorizing important programs.
But just as importantly, this information has to be out in front of the American people. The American people deserve to know what`s being done. It`s their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers who are in uniform fighting overseas on our behalf, and they deserve to know what is happening and what threats exist.
TUR: Congressman Jason Crow, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate your time, sir.
CROW: Yeah. Thanks for having me.
TUR: And ahead, a Supreme Court victory for abortion rights advocates. Don`t go anywhere.
TUR: Welcome back. A major ruling at the Supreme Court today as the increasingly conservative court delivered a victory for abortion rights activists. Chief Justice Roberts joined with the court`s four more liberal justices to strike down Louisiana`s top restrictions on abortions.
This is the first abortion ruling since President Trump`s two appointees joined the court. The White House issued a statement today, calling the decision unfortunate. And Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana called it disappointing. But court experts say Roberts`s decision to side with the liberals does not indicate how he would come down on other abortion restrictions.
So joining us now is NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams. Pete, explain what this means about the court`s position on abortion.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, what it means is that this law flunked the test that the Supreme Court gave four years ago to an identical law from Texas. So the court is basically saying asked and answered already. Roberts said, I didn`t agree with that decision four years ago, but it`s now precedent, so I am bound by it.
What it also means is that in theory, a state could come along with another restriction that the court hasn`t ruled on, and Roberts might be more open to that. And then on the broader question of Roe versus Wade, certainly, there are four -- I think the four more conservative justices are open to overturning Roe.
I don`t think you can read a lot into what Roberts did today. At this point, I don`t think you can say he`s open to it. But I don`t think you can say he`s absolutely against it.
TUR: Why -- if there was an identical suit brought four years ago, five years ago by Texas, why was it brought again and how did it make it all the way to the Supreme Court?
WILLIAMS: So the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals basically said, well, things are different in Louisiana, we have to look at it case by case and it wouldn`t have had the same bad result as it did in Texas. The challenger said, yes, it would have, it would have only left one doctor left to provide abortion services.
And the Supreme Court basically said the analysis is the same. It provided no health benefit and created an obstacle to abortion and is therefore unconstitutional.
TUR: OK, very quickly, the American Bar Association filed an amicus brief on the side of the plaintiffs. Why was that?
WILLIAMS: Well, frankly, I don`t remember an amicus brief. There were so many amicus briefs in this case. But I think they were very concerned that the court followed the so-called stare decisis (ph) holding, the idea that --
WILLIAMS: -- legal precedent counts.
TUR: Pete Williams. Pete, thank you so much. We appreciate all of your time.
WILLIAMS: You bet.
TUR: We`ll be right back.
TUR: That will do it for us tonight. We will be back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END