tv Presidential Address to Congress Preview MSNBC February 28, 2017 5:00pm-6:01pm PST
moore, kathy griffin, bratly whitford, a real all-star cast to react to a big trump night. this crowd will certainly speak their minds and that's why we'll be there eastern time to hear all of them. that's "hardball" for now. thanks for being with us. stay tuned for the complete coverage of president trump's address to a joint session of congress. good evening, president trump at the white house at this hour preparing for what is easily the most consequential speech since his inaugural address. tonight for the first time, donald trump will be introduced by the sergeant at arms as the president of the united states. not so much a state of the union as a road map for what he wants to accomplish in the remaining 47 months or so of his term on
this rainy night. congress is in session and in a short time the president will make the short motorcade ride from the white house to the capitol. brian williams with r rachel maddow, chris matthews, our entire political team in one room. speaking of rooms, how interesting -- >> what if there's a survivor? >> it will be so interesting to see what he looks like in the room, in the context of the chamber surrounded by 535 give or take politicians. >> you have moments like that every once in a while where you see him on the colonnade walking towards the oval office or the east room, one of these places that is iconally and only and uniquely a presidential thing and it's like, oh, yeah, right, this really happened. for a country that did not expect him to win, i think up to including the president didn't expect him to winner with still,
i think, mentally adjusting to the fact that it's him, he's going to be there for four years. so if you ask him, he'll be there for eight. tonight this is an unquestionably presidential environment. we'll have mike pence and paul ryan sitting behind him showing the republican -- basically unified control in washington but the backdrop is turning out to be an interesting and complex thing. we've got unified republican control in washington, we've also got unprecedented energy in what's emerging as an anti-trump movement, mostly among democrats but i don't know how else you could characterize broadly these huge demonstrations we've seen across the country. we've also never had a president this unpopular, he had to withdraw his army secretary, his labor secretary, this is a senate where his party is in control and they only need 50
votes to confirm anyone. this is an interesting, rich complex time in american politics with this unbelievably controversial new president and he had made any effort as president to keep everybody happy, surprise everybody, be magnanimous. this is the first night we'll see that attempt. >> chris matthews, this is going to be the night he strikes a tone of optimism, rule 1, if you're a politician or an aide to a politician, is to say the politician -- fill in the blank -- worked on the speech and wrote it his or herself. if you're a journalist your job is to say "yeah, we get it." to rachel's point, he comes to the podium a highly divided country but with a political base himself that seems to know no floor yet. >> and i was going to say what you were saying rachel -- you're doing going to see the reality.
he's going to walk into the room and somebody will yell "mr. speaker." and i think a lot of us are still wishing we got the wrong envelope. >> we're having a warren beatty. >> a warren beatty and faye dun -- dunaway got the wrong envelope. this isn't a gag reel, this is three months of reality and we'll talk about it. we all know the country is divided and you'll look at the democratic side, especially from very 100% big city districts you'll see nobody applauding. they don't want that i can picture taken, they don't want a primary challenge, it will be frowns. on the other side, a kind of a p.o.w. you better stand up and applaud because they're watching. a little bit of fingers crossed but they'll be applauding, we've seen these numbers. on that side of the aisle, 88%, 86%, solid support. you'll see republicans showing tremendous support but mystified
by this guy. he's broken every rule in politics, this guy trump, and they don't get the new lingo so they're waiting to see. he's going to have programs. he's going to introduce an immigration bill. he's going to legalize people that have been here and broken the law, he's going to do all that? you can do that? i didn't know you could do that. but the real thing tonight is division and it will be sad because i think with all the talk about compromise you'll see democrats sitting on their hands, republicans applauding without enthusiasm but i don't think we'll ever in our lifetimes hopefully see such divisions as we'll see tonight. >> chris, do you think he'll say anything to get democrats off their hands? to say to democrats, i know you hate me but you have to applaud this. >> there's three issues he ran on -- illegal immigration, losing manufacturing jobs and stupid wars. i agree on the stupid wars stuff. on immigration if he says i want to start enforcing the law but everybody here stays here. let's start with that. this is something down the road. we'll make sure nobody comes in illegally, we'll have a regular
immigration system but we won't throw anybody out of the country unless they've broken the law. >> is someone going to call it nixon to china. >> freeing algeria. >> the freedom caucus would get up and walk out on the republican side. >> that's in my close tonight. i said the problem today is it's so zero-sum that if he does something truly mystifying and what most of us would say is good for the country, not throwing people out by the millions, his own people would say "you can't do that." they're more hawkish -- >> i disagree. i've been to four of the states he flipped. his -- democrats who supported him in michigan, democrats who supported him in pennsylvania, democrats who supported him in ohio and florida are so sbu enthusiastic about him that now is the moment that he has the room with his own base of voters to do that. >> so it's fifth avenue. like shoot somebody on fifth avenue? >> yes, that was the truest thing he said. >> but would republicans in congress go along with him? >> the gang of eight already --
what's interesting is if he says this, if he's -- if he's been briefed by enough people to understand that the only way to fix immigration is comprehensive, that's where george w. bush arrived with the late ted kennedy and john mccain. he couldn't get it done because of his own party''s resistance, that's where president obama arrived with the bipartisan gang of eight. if donald trump has already arrive at the place where he understands that comprehensive is -- it's impossible to deport -- someone would have done it already. >> the republicans will be against it even if he's for it. >> we'll see, i think his base of support will give him the latitude to do something like that. >> what i'm hearing is the triumph of hope over experience at this table. [ laughter ] so i'll believe it when i see it. but what were his two big set pieces so far like.
neither was an expansive kumbaya piece is. both were angry speeches in which he portrayed the united states as a horrible dystopia. >> gene, this is in his speech tonight "the time for small thinking is over. the time for trivial fights is behind us. we just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts." >> okay, okay. >> we didn't know he had a heart. >> it's a start. >> i'm much more interested in the substance of the speech than theater because i think you're right about the theater. the democrats will be sour and afraid to move or twitch and the republicans will be nervously but enthusiastically clapping because they have to. but what is he going to say about health care? >> you're too much of a
columnist. >> it's going to be great. what know the way he talks. >> the republican party is totally divided on what to do with the replace part. repeal, yes, but replace it with what? what's he going to say about health care? is he going to take this huge step on immigration? i have my doubts but we'll see. he's thrown budget ideas out there that are not being warmly received by the majority in congress. he's got nuts and bolts to take care of. >> thanks, by the way, where are my manners? eugene wallace aand nicolle wal. chuck todd has been listening in washington, our political director. chuck, you've heard our brief preview of what the president is likely to say. anything you want to add? >> no, i will say this. i want to throw a whole heap of caution on the immigration stuff. i was in the room there.
it felt a little more him than a pl plan. i don't know if he was trying to play to the room, play to a questioner, play to whatever but i think that's where he eventually wants to get. he's like i may put in the the speech but it wasn't a plan to do it so i think on all of this -- i'm with eugene, you have to wait to hear if he's serious about this and the fact of the matter is in the same way that i think it's going to take a democratic president, if you're going to mess around with social security or medicare you're going to need a democratic president and if you're ever -- maybe their argue system if you're ever going to do comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship, you may need a republican president, its may be a trump. i think the nixon to china parallel makes sense. the question is are they prioritizing this now? that's the reality of how we should watch this speech tonight. they've got health care to deal
with. that's the biggest challenge facing them. they may someday look back and say boy did they blow it. they should have started with infrastructure first, they should have sequenced this as a way to win over early democrats. pass a bill where chuck schumer and bernie sanders might have been at the signing ceremony and it was something you could have done first by sequencing health care, very divisive, tax reform, very divisive, then getting infrastructure and immigration. i think that's the way i want to listen to the speech tonight. that's the order of how they're setting about things and i think that with health care, is he going to lean into a particular replacement path or be generalizing? the guidance we seemed to get was is more going to talk about principles and not lean in yet to a direction? but i can tell you, as much as paul ryan and the president want to make it seem as if they're on the same page when it comes to replacement on health care, it
looks like there's a lot of potential gulfs coming and coming very quickly. so i would take eugene's advice here. let's see what he puts in the speech, how much substance he gives. because the more time he spends on a particular topic, the more we know it's a true priority. >> chuck, at the top of your remarks you said you were in the room today. other than quoting from "hamilton," explain to people what you meant by that. today was the traditional -- i guess we used to call it off-the-record lunch with the president and select broadcasters and journalists at the white house. i know there were ground rules. what can you describe and what was it like? >> i think this trump white house was a very much more realistic set of ground rules for what it's worth, brian. i know you've done this before. which is, you know, as the president himself said, background off the record, whatever, it all probably gets out so the point was he was sort of very -- i give him credit. there was more news organizations represented in
that room than before. >> and fewer. >> fair enough, duly noted, chris. there were a couple of us in there. i have a show on msnbc, i'd like to think we had a lot of representatives in the room but overall i would say he's in a very upbeat mood. you heard the word "unity" a lot from him. rachel is on point here. i think this is the speech. they're certainly telegraphing it. this is the speech where he's going to make his first true ask for unity. the question is, is it an ask for unity or is it something he's going to do to sort of take a step himself? besides hoping for unity? and i think that's what i think is unknown and what we don't know. while he calls for unity, does he make a gesture? a lot of people have been wondering that he's been short of a gesture at the inauguration speech, there was no gesture to
hillary clinton, there was later that day but he's missed moments where you would have naturally made that attempt. tonight he clearly wants unity but let's see how he does it. >> chucke ed ttodd, we'll talk u along the way. greta van susteren is talking to us, too, greta, what can you tell us? >> i talked to somebody at the white house and i was told he is not going to go off script. we're not going to get the campaign type speeches we've mean? the past. i don't know if you can tie up donald trump as president and hold him to the prompter but the speech the going to be very detailed-oriented. i don't know what to expect tonight. i'm smart enough not to predict what president trump is going do and i'm smart enough not to underestimate him because he's surprised us all. he is the president of the united states and that has
surprised many people, especially many people with the press corps. i think just like chuck said and everyone is expecting, this is his chance breathlessly waiting. typically he speaks to an auditorium or coliseum full of people who are his supporters. tonight he doesn't have that. half that room doesn't want him to be there. maybe a little less than half. they don't want him there. he doesn't have that warm audience -- he doesn't have a full warm audience he might otherwise and he plays off the audience when he speaks, of course that's when he tends to go off script and off prompter and says more colorful things but i think he's going to stick to the prompter is what i've been told, stick to the script. but i do think he's going to be clever and smart. he's clever that way and i think he'll say things sort of to force the democrats to stand up and applaud. things they -- like "make america great again." they can't sit there when he's talking about making america great because then they might look like they don't want america to be great. he'll be clever that way.
but that's my guess having watched him for the past couple years. i think the white house is taking this to be not a campaign speech but a policy speech. but donald trump the president never ices to amaze us. we have to wait and see. >> greta, thank you. we'll check in with you as well. >> i want to bring into the conversation congressman adam schiff from california. in this new era in american politics, on the democratic side of the aisle all sorts of people you may not have expected are becoming high profile democrats because this is a different time in capital "d" democratic politics. one of the members becoming a very high profile member is congressman schiff, the senior democrat on the intelligence committee. congressman, thanks for making time for us tonight. appreciate it. >> good to be with you. >> so you have talked about the office of the presidency being one that deserves respect. you have also been very critical of the president on some ethics and intelligence-related issues.
broadly in terms of what you are hoping for and expecting from this president tonight, are you thinking there are going to be things he could say tonight that could have you and your democratic colleagues applauding him? feeling like you're pulling in the same direction with this new president? >> i guess anything is theoretically possible. first off, i would hope he did not write this speech because he has trouble enough with 140 characters. i think the fpitfalls if he wroe the whole thing would be tremendous for all of us. is it theoretically possible there will be things for democrats to applaud? sure. if it's just a matter of his changing his tone, however welcome that would be, that's not going to win over anyone. if it's a kinder tone but the same divisive policies, the same round 'em up deportation build the wall make mexico pay for it kind of thing, the same repeal the affordable care act without any plan to replace it, that will go over like a lead balloon so it will have to take more than tone. i think as chuck was mentioning,
he is going to have to not just make a gesture, i think he's going to have to propose something to bring the country together and, look, it would be welcome even if rhetorically he changes his tone but he'll have to do a lot more to win over more than half the country that did not support anymore that election and still hasn't found a reason to warm up to this president. >> congressman, one of the elephants in the room tonight is that this president is starting his term amid almost unprecedented very serious national security related allegations concerning him and his campaign. he lost his national security adviser less than 25 days into the new administration over concerns and scandal involving his contacts with the russian government. you're the senior democrat on the intelligence committee, which is one of the two intelligence committees that is investigating the trump campaign and the trump administration and its links and ties to the russian government.
do you feel like the american people should have confidence in the intelligence committees heading up these investigations? there have been concerns raised both on the senate side and the house side about whether the republican chairman of these committees should be entrusted with something this serious. >> you know, i think it's too early to say whether we can have that confidence in these investigations. it's part of the reason why i think we ought to have an independent commission look at this. but the bottom line is we can't have either chair of either committee continue to act as a surrogate for the president. you either have an independent investigation or you don't, and those roles, i think, are in direct conflict with each other. we are pressing to do as independent and thorough an investigation as we can. the real push will come to shove when we have to issue subpoenas, when we have to bring people before the committee who may not willingly want to participate and the other big question mark is will the fbi support this investigation? will they be forthcoming and as
of yet we don't have the answer to that question. so i have yet to be assured i think by the fbi director that he will fully cooperate with the investigation and if he doesn't, that severely calls into question whether we can do our jobs. >> congressman adam schiff, the ranking member, ranking democrat on the house intelligence committee, democrat of california, thanks, sir, appreciate having you here tonight. >> you bet, thank you. >> let's watch these pictures as they come into us live as we mentioned. it's a very rainy night in washington and we looked at the radar not too long ago, it looks like it's going to rain all through the evening as well. this is the south side of the white house. the rain canopy out to the limousine and waiting motorcade as the president, aides and the first lady make their way down to capitol hill. nicolle wallace part of our conversation. nicolle, i know you were on the phone today talking with a lot of different people most of whom with an "r" after their name,
most of whom in washington. what have you been able to gather about where we stand here after this first month? >> you have to really speak to the never-trump republicans, the open to trump and hoping for the best republicans and then the white house trump officials to get a real sense of where the republican party is. but from the white house official i spoke to today -- and they were very forthcoming -- i'm told president trump was adding large sections to this speech as late as 4:00 and it might have been, in his estimation, the first time they weren't able to produce a prepared copy of the speech. that usually even president clinton, who was known for tweaking it to the last minute, they were always able to prepare a draft. i was told i didn't think they would be able to do that for tonight's address. >> we don't have anything yet. >> we don't have anything and i'm told this white house official thought that might be the first time that was the case. i'm also told that everything you just talked about and everything you've been reporting on your show, the white house is so aware of the fact they are on the defense and they do view
this as possibly an opportunity to get on offense and even president trump's close confidantes will acknowledge that this is a white house adrift. one of them used the word "lost." he's lost and they're lost. so i think they're pinning too much hope on the ability of a single speech to turn things around for them but that's their mind-set tonight. >> nicolle wallace with the result of her informal telephone pole poll of people with "rs" after their name. chris matthews has a special guest. >> joining us now is dan donovan, he represents new york and staten island among the new york precincts and bay ridge, i believe. congressman, what do you think is the latitude of the new president to deal with immigration issue? will he give us the outlines of a deal. >> i hope so, chris. i was saying throughout his campaign and his first 40 days of his presidency that we are not a country are going to break up families, we're not going to throw 20 million people out of
our country. there are people who have followed our immigration laws who have waited a long time to be a citizen of this great nation, we should take care of those. for those who are here illegally but have broken no other law, there should be some kind of earned path to citizenship and i think we've seen a shift in the president's position on immigration today and i hope we hear more about it tonight. >> do you think democratic colleagues of yours in new york state, for example, would go along with a compromise which included stronger enforcement? i see that's in the president's speech. he talks about finally we're going to enforce immigration laws? could you marry together stronger enforcement -- whether it's the wall or e-verify or whatever about illegal jobs -- and put that together with a path to legitimate living in this country if not citizenship? >> i think so, chris. the first thing we have to do is stop the flow of illegal immigrants and the people who
ought to be deported are the ones who have committed serious crimes in our country. we had an i.c.e. operation and the rumors were five people in my district were torn from their homes. actually, it was two people who were arrested, one who had a serious assault conviction and the other who raped the 13-year-old girl. so democrats and republicans don't want those people in our country and i think we could come to common ground on how to deal with people who are here who haven't committed any other crime other than being here illegally and separate those from those who have committed violent crimes in our communities. >> let's talk health care. he said today it was complicated. of course it is. any congress person like you knows it's complicated. you deal with people coming to you with problems. how do the democrats and republicans in your case, how do they deal with fixing obamacare without causing all kinds of trouble with people depending on it? >> i think we have to be careful, chris. in congress we talk about the law of unintended consequences where you think you're helping group of people and in the meantime you're hurting another group. we have to be very, very careful. new york happens to be one state
that took the expansion from medicaid so we have many, many people who are dependent on that. we have people also who are working families who have paid $20,000 a year in premiums and have $6,000 deductibles who no lo longer go to their physician anymore. we have to help those people with these astronomical costs and make sure we don't pull out the rug from underneath the people who need government's help in providing health care. >> should i take the bridge or ferry to staten island. >> the ferry is free and the bridge is $17. >> good republican thinking there. congressman dan donovan of new york. >> staten island ferry, one of the great boat rides in this country. they got terrible for just about anything tonight in washington. we see this young aide with what appears to be perhaps -- >> a seven-sided binder, maybe? >> loose leaf binder we they are the text of the speech or the president's detailed schedule, wrestling with an umbrella.
as we look at this vehicle, just for a moment of car talk -- >> i knew you couldn't resist this. how much does it weigh, brian. >> this is too much. i was just going to say it is such a massive vehicle. it has the stance and shoulders of an suv but it's easy to forget that it's a sedan. >> brian has talked about the doppler and the size of the car at 8:26. >> and i had 8:25 in the pool. >> how many of you had "moonlight." [ laughter ] we're going to take our first break, we'll be back with live coverage of this address to a joint session of congress right after this.
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lot of cautions tonight to wait and see the speech as delivered. though with that in mind, we're joined by chris hayes to talk about immigration and, chris, if reality matches these projections tonight, we're talking about something like a path to legalization. >> right. i mean, i think the caution here, which i think eugene and chuck have sounded and sam stein at the huffington post has been tweeting headlines from previous moments in the campaign of donald trump softening, donald trump open to amnesty. i remember a meeting he had with dreamers when they came out of the meeting and said i'd like to see them stay in the country. javier palomara came in with donald trump saying he thought he was opening to a softening on immigration. so we've seen this time and time again. two things i would note here. one is, of course, legal status and citizenship are two different things and there's a big gulf on that. that has been one of the core
kind of parts of the legislation that's been hard to get to. the gang of eight bill had citizenship. there are not many democratic votes for a path to something short of citizenship since it would be enshrine ago semiperm meant to permanent class of workers who have no voting rights. that would be a new thing in american modern life and something that hasn't worked very well in countries like germany, for instance, that have tried to do that. the second of all is it's important to keep our eyes on what's happening on the enforcement side. congressman dan donovan talked about it. i.c.e. raids in staten island. they are doing quite a bit everyday in directives, in the executive ordered changing the way enforcement happens in this that country. on the ground among the folks i'm reporting with, immigration lawyers, their clients, there is a real change that's happening and it is changing the contours of how families, american citizens, travelers abroad, serve thinking about what it means to come to and live in
this country and it's going to be interesting to see how that plays with whatever kind of peace offering he may or may not offer on the legislative side. >> absolutely right and it helps to make up the backdrop for tonight's speech. chris hayes is part of our team tonight as well as we've seen select members of the. >> i want to note three things
we'll hear that i haven't heard mentioned -- defense spending which is infrastructure spending when it comes to building ships. i think he may call for supplemental but definitely a rebuilding of the hollowed-out military. i think he's going to call on the senate to move rapidly to confirm judge gorsuch so he'll be there for the april sitting of the spouperior court and he' talk about regulatory rollback. he directed the environmental protection agency to withdraw a ridiculous rule put forth in the last days of the obama administration. and if we get immigration nixon and china move, he'll be immune from criticism, he's bulletproof on this. no one except the far fringe of the anti-immigration movement call him soft or an amnesty giver if he delivers on the wall. so i'm looking for president promise keeper tonight and, of course, the repeal of obamacare. i'm quite the optimist about the speech tonight and i like the fact that we've got some drama about it as opposed to it being leaked out before the speech. >> i can tell, something about your remarks tells me you're an
optimist about the speech tonight. thanks, we'll check in. the man hugh hewitt just called bulletproof is now on board -- >> he just turned his light on so we could see him. >> the giant bullet-proof sedan and as soon as the camera for the television pool can zoom into the man lit by the dome light presumably reading through his speech -- >> or his twitter feed. >> there we go. >> come on, we can do it, all the way in there. here we go, here we go. >> this is a great shot. >> screen or paper? looks like paper. >> he's lipping it. he's doing it. look at that. >> well, practicing. >> but he's voicing it. >> we can read lips we can get the whole speech previewed right now. [ laughter ] >> this is great. i have never seen this before. a president on the way to giving his -- well almost state of the union and practicing it on television. >> well, reading it outloud to the other people in the car? we don't know. >> he has no idea he's on
television. >> no idea he's on television. they just haven't been around the machinery of media, the mechanics of the south lawn, that kind of thing, long enough to know that this kind of thing is always televised and we're under way. >> look at this. you dirty dog, you let them take my picture. look at this. melania. >> it will take them a few minutes to get there and then we expect that it will be -- they'll sort of reset at the capitol and then there will be the great walking in of people who we recognize and who we endeavor to name correctly which is always a dangerous thing on television. we'll see the supreme court justices, members of the cabinet, we'll see leadership and rank-and-file members of congress. it's interesting, you know, at the inauguration democrats made a little bit of a splash at the inauguration, dozens of them, by deciding they would not attend. we've heard of no such boycott
movement by democrats to say they wouldn't attend this evening. i think that's in part because he's coming to their house. he's coming to the house chairman fwoer chamber to do this. >> our camera just came up live. we've been waiting for the cue from congress to show you the pictures inside the house chamber as you see mcconnell and pence coming down the main aisle. >> i was talking to people at the white house and they say beyond the policies tonight, tone matters, whether it's believable or not, that's up to the people of this country but they know at the white house that it's been somewhat chaotic first few weeks, a confrontational politics has enveloped the white house and tonight they hope the president
can show if not a bipartisan tone at least a tone that can be interpreted as presidential. >> and on the issues, on the issues like defense spending which hugh hewitt just raised, on the issues like immigration, i guess we won't know till we know? >> trump's -- the president is going to be try dog a lot of things tonight. he has to reassure the skittish conservatives in the house and senate that on health care and tax reform those are their bread-and-butter issues that he's with them. he'll he'll let leader mcconnell fill them in on those issues but he has a nationalist agenda on trade and immigration, hard line policies on immigration. but as one white house official put it to me, it could be a nixon to china moment tempting the democrats to work with him on immigration, an issue he's so far to the right nonmany of their eyes. >> i know you'll be watching with us, robert, thanks, as we see the two republicans, the vice president and the speaker
of the house embrace. >> they saved on the outfit, they bought two at once. >> yeah, look at that. i hope your tv is good at blue. also i hope you're good at lip reading. this is a lip reading bonanza tonight and there will be many versions of bad lip reading available on the web no doubt by the end of the evening. watch with us, they're telling us we're going to take one more break and when we come back we'll take you the rest of the way.
we are back over the live pictures of folks arriving down the main aisle, folks taking their seats. tonight's civics review will be painless and short. there are two chambers in the u.s. capitol, one where the senate meets, one where the house meatets. the house being the larger body of 435 souls, it's the larger chamber used for events like tonight. you see the vice president and the speaker. we'll probably have all of the joint chiefs, probably some of the justices of the supreme cou court. >> and we have members of the cabinet, that's rick perry in the second row there. we'll see distinguished guests, people brought both to be referenced in the speech by the president, people sitting in the first lady's box, we'll also presumably see some of the people brought as guests by individual members of congress
and senators. one of the interesting dynamics you get here is that this is the house chamber as you were saying so you get the members of the house there first but then the senators parade in and you see the members of the house and members of the senate who may or may not know each other very well greeting each other like this is a very awkward cocktail party where you have to get somewhere before the food is gone. but you know it's actually -- on the democratic side it's been interesting to see keith ellison who lost the race for dnc chair, will be deputy chair of the dnc standing right next to debbie wasserman schultz who left as chair of the dnc under a wikileaks cloud during the democratic convention. debbie wasserman schultz, we saw her warmly greet senator john mccain from arizona just moments ago. this is sort of an equalizing moment for elected officials. this is one of my favorite things to watch in our civics calendar every year. >> one thing that you will notice when you see the
televised coverage, when everyone is in and seated, and that is a movement tonight among democratic women office holders to wear white. the president still has the dome light on. there he is coming in under the portico at the capitol building. and the wearing of white is a symbolic -- >> yeah, the suffragettes wore white as a unifying symbol and identifying symbol and that has been revived as a sort of feminist statement over the last six months it's not -- i think it's mostly house democratic women doing it, not a huge number of them but it's striking. we'll take a wide shot in the room and you'll see a big swath of house democratic women and maybe some senators wearing white basically as a sign of support for women's rights. >> you know, it's interesting, because i once wrote a piece about the house because you get to sit where you want, there's no assigned seats in the house and i wrote a peace for "george" magazine, john kennedy's magazine, it's like high school,
there's the jock cliques, all kind of different groups, the chess team if there is one. i watch how they pair off. i watched kirsten gillibrand of new york, i think she wants to sit with elizabeth warren, she was tailing her. that's a good shot because she wants to be on tv. if you're on the democratic progressive side you want to sit next to her. i was watching wyden and al franken sitting next to each other. it's interesting that people that know each other or are friendly with each other choose to sit together. it isn't just a cold body. here we go. >> the joint session will come to order. >> the chair appoints as members of the committee to escort the president into the chamber, the gentleman from california mr. mccarthy, the gentleman from louisiana, mr. scalise, the gentlewoman from washington ms. mcmorris rogers, the gentleman from indiana mr. messer, the
gentleman from georgia mr. collins, the gentleman from missouri, mr. smith. the gentlewoman from california ms. pelosi, the gentleman from maryland, mr. hoyer, the gentleman from south carolina, mr. clyburn, the gentleman from new york, mr. crowley, the gentlewoman from california, ms. sanchez, the gentleman from new mexico, mr. ben ray luhan and the gentleman from california mr. swalwell. >> all in keeping with tradition and rules. >> the president and the senate appoints the following senators. >> the senate and house are putting together these honorary delegations to escort the president in the door, basically, and this happens every year. as we said at the top of the broadcast, this isn't a state of the union so much as an address to a join session. steve kornacki is at the big board with how a divided nation will be watching this. >> let's look at where the
president stands as he makes his first major speech here. you have to headline this week, this is our nbc news/"wall street journal" poll showing 44% approval rating, 48% disapprove. the headline this has generated, the lowest number at this point in a new president's term we've ever seen but there might be something else to keep in mind here and it's this. remember in the campaign how many times we had record low numbers for donald trump. we use that sometimes as the basis for saying well, the guy can't win, so many people think he's unqualified, he doesn't have the temperament, they don't like him. it turned out there was a deeper connection that trump had with a big chunk of the electorate so with that in mind, let's take a deeper look in these numbers and see where that bond may still exist because this looks like an election-day divide right now. first of all, check this out. the right track/wrong track numbers. is the country headed in the right direction? 40% in our new poll say it is. the significance of that, think back just before the election. that number was under 30%. this was in october last year
and in fact you have to go back till december, 2012, to find this number over 40%. before donald trump. so it has been a while. how about this question. do you expect the economy to improve over the next year? 40% right now say yes. again, the significance? look at this, just before the election that number was 25% again to be getting 40% plus you have to go all the way back to when president obama was reelected in 2012. there is more optimism right now. how about this? this is a very unique dynamic with donald trump. i want to look at one specific number here. people who do not like the president personally but who approve of his policies. that's 16% of the country. put that in some perspective here. past presidents, people who didn't like the president but liked the policies, we've never seen a number as high as the number for donald trump, the only thing that comes close was bill clinton. you remember certainly plenty of scandals and character issues around bill clinton. otherwise single digits. that's one other factor and the final one is this. we talk so much about how
unpopular donald trump is. and these are not good numbers for a president, do you have a positive or negative view. but look at this, donald trump more popular than the democratic leader of the senate, than the democratic party as a whole and the democratic leader in the house. his opponents are less popular than trump is. those are all things to keep in mind when you see a 44% approval rating. >> steve kornacki at the big board for us. steve, thanks. over here at the desk, steve schmidt has joined us while nicolle wallace spreads her wisdom with our friends at the broadcast network. steve, we've yet to hear from you. how many of the previews do you believe? >> well, what i think is interesting about this speech tonight is that you have a unified democratic congress, unified in their opposition to donald trump. you have a divided republican senate and house. and so on some of these issues, tax reform, big differences, big divisions, and how will he address these divisions between the anti-trump or the
conservative wing of the republican party and the populist nationalist wing of the party? i think we'll get an indication of that tonight and when we look at the policy come to life tonight, whether it's on tax reform, whether it's on obamacare, we're six weeks into this administration, we just have no idea about the progress of any of these things. so i think that's going to be an interesting part of the drama tonight. >> you know, thinking about what's happened thus far in this administration, steve, you're exactly right. we don't have an obamacare plan. we do not have anything introduced in terms of taxes. we have nothing introduced in terms of infrastructure. we have no -- i mean, what this administration has done thus far is they've upped deportations, they've caused chaos and arbitrary madness around travel to the united states. they've ordered a disastrously failed and fatal military raid in yemen. and today the president signed legislation to allow seriously mentally ill people to have
easier access to guns. they didn't have cameras in there while he was signing it, but that's sort of the substantive work that has been done of this administration thus far. so he'll get up and talk about how accomplished he is and how much they've done already but that's basically the list of what they've done and that excludes having to fire the national security adviser in scandal. so the idea that the most important thing here is whether or not he's able to put a shine on what's coming next, look at what happened thus far. it's a smoldering wreckage so fa far. >> mr. speaker, the dean of the diplomatic corps. >> the dean of the diplomatic corps. we should mention we have a little news in about the supreme court. we are not expecting all eight justices of the supreme court to
be there to want. in fact we're expecting justice ginsburg to stay home, john roberts, anthony kennedy, ste n stephen breyer, sonia sotomayor, elena kagan will all be there. apparently justice clarence thomas and samuel alito are not planning to attend. that's not unusual, that's past practice. it's unusual justice ginsburg won't be there tonight and we'll read into that what we may but that will be something to watch for when we see the justices of the supreme court filing. >> if previews hold, we'll have a mention of justice scalia. his widow is in the chamber and we're anticipating the president to recognize her and touch on his life. justice scalia in his life never liked coming to these and for the last years of his life just stayed home. he thought they were pep rallies and he did not think it was the business of a supreme court justice to attend.
>> and that tradition continued from clarence thomas and samuel alito. >> look at that. a former congressman from florida. who. >> who's that guy? >> one of the things we will see tonight, it happens every time, is that when either both sides of the chamber or one side of the chamber is standing up and raucously applauding, no matter what sells happening in the room -- you can see kamala harris, the new california senator, you will never see the joint chiefs or supreme court justices react in any way, positively or negatively with the one exception of one time that samuel alito muttered under his breath at president obama and never came back to another one of these thereafter. >> that was memorable, wasn't it? >> it was. >> you brought up a number tonight, chris about right track/wrong track, the traditional kind of benchmark number that pollsters take measure of every few weeks, every few months. for folks who just now may be
tuning in and were looking for the backdrop, what kind of nation is watching the first of its kind speech for this new president, what should we know? >> well, historically, political reporters have tried to figure out which way the wind is blowing, you can't get there by asking about people because people like trump aren't going to come out and say i love trump. but if you ask them how's it going, what direction is the country going in, it's a wonderful gut check on the need for change and before we went into this election, look at the number before, 29% happy with the direction of the country before the election. my god, whoever has the name on the bat, the country is going to vote for change. and this's where we're seeing now. i do think trump underpolls but i think that measured and shows now that a majority of the people are not happy with the way the country is going but there's more people happy with it than have been for something like eight years so something's going on that isn't showing in the poll numbers on trump but trump is an unpopular president. probably the least popular we've had coming into office.
but that number is a great number to check. >> we can report we have enough for a 5-4 decision. we have a simple majority of justices, five of them of the supreme court right after we were discussing them they were ushered into the chamber. >> i was going to ask the control room if we know who the guy is who was not in a judicial robe. you always see people mixed into this who are either part of the process or some government official we don't recognize which is part of the reason that makes this particular procession or lack thereof -- >> as a top staffer to the speaker i loved these nights. it was like the whole family is together. there's a wonderful feeling of american togetherness on these occasions. both sides are there, everybody's there, and i used to stand where these people are along the wall there, that big mace. i used to eat it up. >> it's like class picture day. >> and the lighting is ballpark.
you can see every face. >> it is. >> it's fantastic. you can see 15, 20 people right now. you can look at them. >> and note the journalists with their laptops above the clock, above on the left-hand side of your screen. >> he's cuffing -- look, he's getting his flashes. look at him. he's getting that cuffs out. >> what is that? >> that's called cuff flashing into. >> really? >> he wants to show the white. show the white. nightclub. >> i have no idea. >> of course. >> so i'this will all be part o pence/ryan collection. >> i don't have a white shirt, but you have to show your -- >> i love that you are an authority on this. >> veteran nightclub goer chris matthews. >> brian, you don't have to go to know. >> steve schmidt, part of our conversation on our broadcast
last night i asked nicolle wallace true or false, this administration will be at minimum -- there's the first lady. at minimum distracted and at most consumed by investigations. >> well, they well could be consumed by investigations and they will certainly be distracted by them. i mean, when you think about it, we just came off an eight-year presidency where not a senior member of the administration was indicted. one of the first times in modern history. this administration is already consumed with investigations from the counselor to the president under ethics investigation for her comments about ivanka trump's clothing line to the very serious questions and russia, russian interference, contacts with the campaigns. when a former chairman of the house oversight committee darrell issa calls for a special prosecutor you have calls for a joint committee, select committee on these matters. it could be overwhelming and these stories are just
beginning. when we look at this spectacle tonight, i think to some degree you can make the argument that it's the opening act in the 2018 midterm elections and only three times in the last 100 years has the incumbent president's party picked up seats in that election. really the clock starts ticking on tax reform, on obamacare, on all the many promises the president made. and he could well end this year without accomplishing any of them. >> sustained applause there for melania trump. admittedly a very -- as we watch members of the cabinet come in. a very non-traditional relationship. the first lady spending most of the week in new york with young b barron trump who will finish out the school year. you see the secretary of state followed by the secretary of the treasury, transportation, justice, education and then we start getting a little -- >> defense. >> general mattis. then health.
united nations. >> rex tillerson is part of an interesting story. the state department has not set up shop, rex tillerson has been out traveling and fulfilling his duties, large questions as to how much communication is going on with the mother ship. and the relationship between foggy bottom and the white house. it's one of those things that are still working on. >> they're not talking. >> everyday since the 1950s the state department has done a daily briefing. they have not done a single one since tillerson took over, since trump was inaugurated. there was only two daily white
house briefings in washington. the white house, which they're doing, and the state department, which they're not. they've said they're going to restart them in march but that's a deafening silence in terms of america's role. >> yes, the u.n. has been more of a policy voice than rex tillerson. >> exactly. it will be interest, we've heard so much about the plan of the president that calls for eviscerating the state department and usaid and parts of our civilian force. it will be interesting to see whether he talks about that tonight, whether he tries to turn that into an applause line for republicans or avoids that subject. >> remarkable story according to news reports when the president announced we were no longer in favor of a two-state solution, the secretary of state rex tillerson was caught flat footed, had no idea and on background a white house aid