basil, donna edwards, david jolly and most of all to you. "mtp daily" with my friend, kasie hunt in for chuck, starts now. if it's tuesday, divide and conquer. the white house offers up a few changes to the famous statue of liberty poem about immigrants, putting the spotlight once again on the president's campaign to stoke racial division. plus, smaller field, bigger stakes. democrats are poised to have the field cut in half in a matter of weeks, if not days. what the looming shakeup means in their battle plan to take on trump. and, one of the world's busiest airports descends into violence. the latest flare-up in hong kong's pro-democracy protests once again raising questions about just how pro democracy this administration is.
if it's tuesday, it's "meet the press daily." i'm kasie hunt in washington in for chuck todd. there is no longer any question about what kind of campaign the president is running. he is staking his re-election on stoking racial divisions with megaphones and with dog whistles after just yesterday announcing a plan to penalize legal immigrants who rely on public benefits like medicaid or food stamps. a top immigration official suggested a rewrite to the poem on the statue of liberty. >> would you also agree that emma lazarus' words etched on the statue of liberty, give me your tired, your poor, are also part of the american ethos. >> they certainly are. give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge. >> president trump, when asked today about changing the poem on the statue of liberty, defended his administration's new hard-line policy for legal
immigrants. >> well, i don't think it's fair to have the american taxpayer, you know, it's about america first. i don't think it's fair to have the american taxpayer pay for people to come into the united states. so what we've done is institute what took place many, many years ago at our founding. we were just reinstituting it and i think it's long overdue. >> as "washington post" points out, the president is dialing up the culture wars in a divisive play for 2020 votes. the president is following much the same strategy that he pursued in 2016, inserting himself into the issues his supporters are already discussing and using blunt us against them language without regard to nuance or political correctness. we have seen that strategy again and again in just the past month. whether it was telling four freshmen democrats to go back to where they came from or attacking congressman elijah
cummings for representing a quote, rodent-infested district or rejecting that his rhetoric played a role in the el paso shooting, or defending the massive i.c.e. raids on undocumented immigrants. the strategy worked for president trump in 2016. the question now, will it work in 2020, and what are democrats doing to fight against it? i want to welcome in now our panel is here. it's a great team of experts. anne gearan covers the white house for "the washington post." mi former house speaker john boehner and neara tanden, a former senior advisor to president obama. anne gearan, the question we know this is no secret, the president ran on calling mexicans rapists and criminals and calling for a muslim ban
back in 2016. the big difference is he's actually implementing policies that are following up on that rhetoric. is it something that -- is this too much for americans or might it work? >> well, the president is banking on the fact that it has been working and will continue to do so. the white house view of this is largely that the president has a fix on what his supporters and people who could be persuaded to support him really want to hear from him. and it's more of the divisive rhetoric and the policies to match that you laid out. the immigration question has been a constant. you listed a couple of things that he focused on on the immigration front from the very beginning. that has never changed. what he has been unable to do is to get some kind of wholesale change at the border or in congress. so you see him tinkering around
the edges. this change announced this week is more tinkering. it is one that really gets people much more motivated and angry on the other side because of what it suggests is the real motivation here. try to prevent people from coming to the united states to begin with or giving the government tools to kick out people who are here legally and have so far committed no crime but could now be penalized going forward if they use government services that have been here to for perfectly legal and available for them to use. >> michael steel, this is such a far cry from the republican autopsy after 2012. you know, a campaign you worked on and that i covered where there was so much concern about hispanic voters and essentially marginalizing the republican party forever. has trump proved that that theory of the case is totally wrong, or are we going to see the opposite?
>> there were two strains of thought going into the 2016 presidential election. those of us who worked for more mainstream candidates believed that we needed to revive the george w. bush coalition, win in the intermountain west and prove the party showing with latinos and that was the path to winning both in 2016 and the future. there was another theory that the president espoused that there were still enough older, less well educated white voters in the upper midwest to allow us to win one more presidential election through that route. and our response would be that, yes, you can win one more election doing that but you will cost the party its future for a generation and we may both have been right. >> neera, how do democrats fight against this? this is an incredibly challenging landscape on which to have to run a presidential campaign. every single day -- clearly the president is ready to wager race war. >> absolutely. i think this is -- i actually think it makes the distinctions between the candidates very
minimal compared to the distinction with donald trump. you saw all the candidates really talk about how this is an assault on essentially american values. not progressive values, american values. the idea that you're literally going to rewrite the statue of liberty to say it means something entire low different is essentially saying american core principles of being a beacon for immigrants and a place of rule of law is thrown out the window. i think the issue we have before us is that this actually -- i think a lot of people in 2016 could rationalize that trump was actually talking about undocumented immigrants and it wasn't actually about race. but everything we've seen in the last month actually makes it crystal clear. the president is not focused on even undocumented immigrants or some group of people or criminal undocumented immigrants. he wants to rewrite the immigration laws so that certain groups from europe, white immigrants are okay and he can
yoz t use the laws to get rid of legal immigrants. i actually applaud what you said, michael, but it's unfortunate that we can't hear from more political leaders who would decades had a particular perspective on the republican side of being more welcoming and actually repudiating some of this. but i actually think it's pretty easy to reign for democrats because the majority of the country does not agree with this. we saw in 2018 the president used these tactics, the caravan and other tactics and still lost the suburbs and lost a lot of core constituencies of the republican party. >> michael steel, what's keeping more republicans in washington from talking about this more loudly? >> i think they're caught in a very difficult situation where the president remains extraordinarily popular with the base of the republican party. the president's ratings among republicans are as high or higher as president obama's were in his first term. that means particularly if you're more concerned about a
primary challenge than losing a general election, publicly crossing the president is a terrible idea for your political future. it's also counterproductive. the people who believe they have steered the president in a better direction at various times believe they have done it by not picking a fight publicly and by using their influence behind the scenes. >> i just have to say, though, when we say it's been counterproductive, he's getting worse. so it's not they have been effective in actually making him less racially divisive. so i don't see how they have been more effective by holding their fire. it seems like at least on the country -- for the country they have been less effective. >> i think that we're dealing with a whole different scenario right now than we were the first two years because they lost the majority in the house of representatives. what we're seeing with these executive actions on immigration are, a comparison that will please neither man, the equivalent of president obama's pen and phone strategy. i'm not going to get anything done on capitol hill so i'll do
what i can do within my executive authority to try to move toward the goals that i've espoused. >> and they are counting on his supporters being able to read between the lines. it's not terribly difficult to do, right, when you prioritize more -- essentially impose a wealth test and prioritize wealthier and better educated immigrants over those who are thought, you end up prioritizing those either from european backgrounds, asian backgrounds, other backgrounds other than -- >> wealthier nations. >> and people who are not primarily black and brown. >> so the president spoke a little bit about his opponents recently. joe biden and elizabeth warren and her potential comeback. let's watch how he framed that. >> she's staging a comeback on sleepy joe. i don't know who's going to win, but we'll have to hit pocahontas very hard again if she does win. but she's staging a little bit
of a comeback. what a group. pocahontas and sleepy joe. >> to be clear, that was earlier today, pocahontas, again, a racially charged attack on elizabeth warren. how do you -- what kind of atmosphere are we heading into with this, neera? >> i think the president is going to be racially divisive. he thinks that the way for him to win is only to destroy the democrat, whoever the democratic candidate is and he's not going to wait. he's going to spending the next year attacking every single democrat to lower their standing. the fact is you see both elizabeth warren and joe biden doing pretty well in head-to-heads. in fact over the last month she's improved her head-to-head, her ability to beat donald trump in the public polls. it's very early, but these are two candidates that he's very weak, particularly in the midwest, a place that he's -- one could argue he's making
these plays around. his public approval ratings in wisconsin, in michigan are relatively low for an incumbent who's going to face an election in 18 months. >> i would point out those remarks were made today at a taxpayer-funded official event about energy in western pennsylvania. >> yes, thank you, very important context. >> because you can see that connection right there, right? it's very clear. >> totally. >> crystal clear. >> look, i don't think it will surprise anyone that the president doesn't intend to elevate the discourse on important issues facing the country. he has always kept approval ratings somewhere in the mid-40s. never dropping below that floor of 40 or so. so he has to render the democratic alternative illegitimate, unacceptable and out of the mainstream in order to win. in order to recreate that narrow electoral path that led to his surprise victory in 2016 and is his only hope given the way he's governed. he could have done a lot of
bipartisan things. he could have done a big infrastructure package. he could have done all kinds of things to bring the country together. he hasn't. he won't. his only path to winning, and winning is the only thing that matters to him, his only path to winning is recreating that very narrow electoral path. >> you guys are all going to stick around and we'll continue our conversation. still ahead, the challenge for democrats in 2020 is of course countering the president's campaign of division. and as live into the message tht president trump is sending to china's leaders and authoritarians around the world. . a wealth of perspective. ♪ a wealth of opportunities. that's the clarity you get from fidelity wealth management. straightforward advice, tailored recommendations, tax-efficient investing strategies, and a dedicated advisor
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video from inside the airport appeared to show the demonstrators beating two people that they suspected of being undercover police officers. the protesters have been demonstrating in hong kong for months now, triggered by a bill that could have extradited anyone arrested in hong kong to mainland china. the chinese government has called the protests, quote, signs of terrorism. president trump reacted this way today. >> well, the hong kong thing is very tough situation, very tough. we'll see what happens. but i'm sure it will work out. i hope it works out for everybody, including china, by the way. i hope it works out for everybody. i think it will work out, and i hope it works out for liberty, i hope it works out for everybody, including china. i hope it works out peacefully. hope nobody gets hurt, i hope nobody gets killed. >> not exactly the full-throated support for democracy that you
might typically expect from a president of the united states. that is not only -- not the only place where this white house is choosing not to send a forceful message to an authoritarian leader. in moscow, more than a thousand pro-democracy protesters have been arrested in recent days. so far the trump administration has largely remained silent. here with us now, former u.s. ambassador to china and former u.s. senator, max baucus, and evelyn farkas. evelyn was also the deputy assistant secretary of defense for russia, ukraine and eurasia. what message is this president sending to china, and frankly to the protesters that are, you know, supporting what we would typically think to be -- what should be the natural american position here by essentially saying -- staying out of it?
>> well we, frankly i've been i hong kong a couple of times the last eight weeks, i've spoken with the men and women on the street, cab drivers, i spoke with carrie lam, the chief executive. i can tell you that up until now, the people on the street are quite sympathetic with the protesters. obviously it's that proposed extradition statute which has caused great angst because it's seen as representative of mainland china exercising even more control for hong kong than they have in the past. you have to remember that the conditions in hong kong are very, very tough. costs will be extremely high. housing is almost unavailable. it's a very difficult situation for a lot of people. my sense, frankly, is that china, mainland china will continue to play a waiting game. that's their basic strategy. they're going to hope frankly that perhaps the protesters make a mistake. the protesters i think are
getting close to that with continuing shutdown of the airport. that's going to disrupt the city and that's going to cause the business community and tycoons to say, hey, enough's enough here. so this is basically up to carrie lam, the chief executive, the people. it's up to xi jinping. to be honest, i don't know what we could really do if we try to get into it there. of course america stands up for human rights. we've been the beacon on the hill. >> right, but is this president acting that way? i don't see that. >> to be honest, no, he's not. i've got to tell you, i was at a summit in 2014 between president obama and president xi jinping. one of the first questions president xi raised, he accused you americans, you're fomenting unrest in hong kong. it really got under his skin and
very much bothered him. president obama to his credit said we're americans. we're bill of rights. we're declaration of independence. human rights is virtually in our dna. he explained that. i won't go chapter and verse what the subsequent discussion was but we didn't do a lot more, the united states did not, even under president obama. it's a very, very touchy situation. we could do more than we are doing but it's risky to go too far. >> evelyn farkas, what role do you think the president's words play, though, in this because as the ambassador points out, even if the obama administration's policies didn't take a step farther, the public posture was different. >> i would actually argue that the policy was to tell the chinese government to exercise restraint under the obama administration. i say that without actually knowing that for a fact. i don't know what president obama said or what my colleagues were saying at the time. but clearly if the united states says to the chinese government keep your word, remember, what
they're upset about, these people in the streets, they're upset because when hong kong was turned back to china by the united kingdom in 1997, the deal was, the chinese said you, hong kong, can have semi-autonomy. it means you can rule your economy, you can have your own economy, your own rules there. >> local government. >> it's not a total democracy, but they seem to have stepped back from that deal big-time, first as the ambassador mentioned in 2014 there was an attempt by the chinese to move in more heavy handedly and just recently with this extradition law. and so the hong kong citizens got really nervous because they think now the government in beijing ruled by this relatively new president, xi jinping, is try to clamp down and take away that deal, take away that semi-autonomous status. i was in hong kong in april and in june i was in taiwan. in taiwan, if you think they're nervous in hong kong, they're also nervous in taiwan. >> mr. ambassador, the president
tweeted that chinese troops are heading for the border with hong kong. what kind of an escalation does that represent and what does it tell you that the president is putting that kind of information out on twitter? >> well, first, i think that the chinese are a little heavy handed when their propaganda machine cranks up and says they're moving troops along the border and to some degree into hong kong. chinese are very conservative. they are not very nimble when it comes to public policy. they have never had a history of doing so, they're very authoritarian. so frankly i think the solution here is for carrie lam and beijing to show that they're listening to the concerns, the legitimate concerns of the people of hong kong. that would mean probably shelving or repealing, get rid of that proposed extradition statute and even begin an investigation into police
brutality. there are a lot of questions about the police in hong kong. and frankly if carrie lam herself would resign, that would help but begs the question who would replace her. but the protesters will have to show they're not going to keep moving the goal posts. there's a real risk if they have got victory in their mouth and they have gone way beyond trying to address the usual legitimate complaints they have in hong kong. for this to work, there's going to have to be some kind of -- frankly, it tests beijing to see whether they can be a statesmanlike country or not or whether they're going to be authoritarian and jam something down people's throats. if they try to put troops in hong kong, that's going to be disaster and they know that. chinese leadership knows that. carrie lam knows that. so they're trying to find a way and it looks like they're trying to wait out the protesters. i think they think the protesters are starting to get a little too far with all the
violence and essentially shutting down the city by shutting down the airport. >> evelyn, do you agree that this is the potential way out? >> yes. i think, look, you have to make the chinese understand they have to abide by their agreement. the problem is the president is silent on the 1997 agreement. i don't know where boris johnson is, because the united kingdom was the other party in this and where's the u.n. secretary general. there are actors who can just use their voice to create sort of a negotiating process. and yes, i think if carrie lam and beijing were able to stand side by side and say, okay, we hear you, as the ambassador said, address the concerns about police brutality and overuse of force and also say and we will abide by the 1997 agreement, it will go far. >> what's your sense, evelyn, of how, if at all, the president's trade war is related to his rhetoric on this topic and how that relates to chinese domestic
politics and whether or not bijib beijing is able to make a move on this. >> my sense is this is not our president's priority. he's transactional, he doesn't care about the system of government. he just wants to make big deals with big countries and tough leaders. so he's not interested in democracy. he wants to worry about the trade deal. but for the chinese, this is absolutely the most important thing on their agenda. this is more important for them than trade, i can guarantee that, because of the signal that it sends in terms of the strength of xi, how brittle is the regime. i mentioned taiwan because china asserts rhetorically and otherwise that taiwan is part of china. of course we don't recognize that, the international community doesn't recognize that. that's more dangerous because the u.s. has a security agreement with taiwan. it's not a treaty, but we do have an obligation to come to their assistance if they are challenged militarily by china. so for china this is number one. for our president it's not even on his radar, though it should
be. >> ambassador, evelyn, thank you both very much for your insights today. coming up next, what happens when the president's campaign of racial division collides with a major shakeup in the democratic presidential field? we're about to find out. more on the democrats' 2020 strategy right after this. loss related to a agen is the number one pharmacist-recommended memory support brand. you can find it in the vitamin aisle in stores everywhere. prevagen. healthier brain. better life. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪
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crunch time for the democrats in more ways than one. as we mentioned at the top of the show, the president's recent rallies, his recent tweets and his administration's latest policies have revealed a re-election strategy dependent on stoking racial divisions in this country. you could argue that these last 30 days have been something of a clarifying moment for democratic voters in terms of what they're up against heading into the election. the next 30 are going to bring a whole lot more clarity. we don't know who democrats will ultimately pick to battle trump, but we're about to find out some of those that they won't. the democratic presidential field could effectively be cut in half by the end of the month when the window closes to qualify for the next debate in september. right now only nine of the 20 plus candidates have enough support and donors to qualify. we've heard at least two candidates, bill de blasio and tim ryan signal that they are going to stay in the race even if they don't make the stage. coming up we'll have much more
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welcome back. let's dive into the democratic side of the 2020 conversation. anne gearan, michael steel and neera tanden are all back here with me. neera, let's peck ick up where left off with our last 2020 conversation. it seems to me that really democrats are grappling with just who can beat donald trump. we use electability as the code word. there was a sense after elizabeth warren came out with that dna test in the early campaign there were some early stumbles that showed she couldn't beat the president. now the focus has been on joe biden because he has been so at the top of the pack. he recently has made a number of mistakes, small or large,
depending on your perspective on this. let's show kind of how this has unfolded the past couple of days and why we're suddenly reading a lot of stories about joe biden's gaffes. >> we choose unity over division. we choose science over fiction. we choose truth over facts. poor kids are just as talented as white kids, wealthy kids, black kids, asian kids. i watch what happened when those kids from parkland came up to see me when i was vice president. if you agree with me go to joe 30330 and help me in this fight. thank you very much. >> how much of an opening is joe biden giving to donald trump in this? and is this causing democrats to feel more nervous about it? >> so i think the thing with this is that from the day he entered the race, trump has been focused on joe biden, since really that thursday morning in the charlottesville video, trump
has almost really every day attacked joe biden with sleepy joe or some other moniker. i think the challenge for trump is sleepy joe doesn't seem like that great a expression and it hasn't made a difference. we've been at three or four months for biden in this race and he's still ahead 10 or 11 points in the poll. i'd say that's helping the vice president. there's another aspect of this which is in the ways that biden is stumbling, et cetera, i think democratic voters actually just compare him directly to donald trump and think, you know, that's not so bad. his gaffes, et cetera, aren't really anything compared to the kinds of things trump says every day. so i actually think -- to your point earlier, which is trump is going to run an incredibly negative race, i think all of this is a measure of who can really take it. who can take it to trump. one of the reasons warren has come back up a little bit and is
doing a lot better is she's demonstrated she's a fighter and people think she can take on trump and that has helped kamala as well. >> biden's greatest strength is his greatest weakness. hig long public service, being a known quantity, trump can attack hem less as sleepy joe and more as swamp man. it allows the president to run the same playbook he ran to some effect against hillary clinton. a younger, fresher faced candidate doesn't have those same weaknesses. joe biden has a unique place in american society. he's simultaneously the most experienced statesman of our generation. if he doesn't trip on his own shoe laces getting on the stage, he has exceeded expectations. >> but what you said is exactly the issue. as from a democrat of donald trump attacking anyone from the swamp seems so ludicrous, it's another way his attack will falter. >> but we always grade on a
curve. anything having to do with trump is sort of set aside and everyone is at fault here, right? 2020 democrats are doing the same thing as reporters as is the electorate, right? when trump says, i don't know, pick a number, 48 things that are false or misleading -- >> in an hour. in an hour. >> in a three-day period, we all kind of go and we pick out a few, fact check them, write about them and try to do our journalistic due diligence to show people where he's factually incorrect. but when biden mistakes maggie thatcher for theresa may, everyone kind of goes nuts. >> do you think voters are going nuts? >> i think democratic voters, i don't know about the country, but it seems like the country because he's doing very well, are basically like let's compare these two people and they actually don't compare them in a
vacuum. and in comparison to donald trump, joe biden's gaffes don't seem as large scale as the kinds of crazy things that come out of the president's mouth every day and he's president of the united states. >> and the other question i have too is, one of the undertones here and the president has certainly brought this out into the open, is this is about joe biden's age and does it raise questions about him going after the president. michael steel, to your point about the shoe laces, joe biden young or old has been doing the same thing his whole political career so perhaps that insulates him some. >> since the 1970s. the president is trying the seemingly impossible task of running as an outsider against the washington swamp from 1600 pennsylvania avenue and as president of the united states. but having an opponent who is the former vice president, who was in the united states senate since the disco era makes it easier than it would be against a fresher face like mayor pete buttigieg or one of the younger
candidates. let's talk a little bit about bernie sanders because there's been some interesting, shall we say, attacks from sanders on the media that have struck some people as trumpian, although he's made some adjustments in the last day or so. let's watch what he's had to say about "the washington post." >> anybody here know how much amazon paid in taxes last year? >> nothing! >> and i talk about that all of the time and then i wonder "the washington post" which is owned by jeff bezos who owns amazon doesn't write particularly good articles about me. i don't know why. we have pointed out over and over again that amazon made $10 billion in profit last year. you know how much they paid in taxes? you got it, zero. and you wonder why "the washington post" is not one of my great supporters. i wonder why. "the new york times" not much better. >> marty baron, the executive
editor of "the washington post" contrary to the conspiracy theory, jeff bezos allows our newsroom to operate in full independence as our reporters and editors can attest. every politician is at some point frustrated with their coverage, but this is a little bit different. >> yeah. and today he did seem to actually walk back this attack line. he did say they were independent and they don't -- he still had criticism for the press, but he did take away the -- he walked back the criticism that his coverage -- >> he said it's not the case that jeff bezos gets on the phone to "the washington post." he said there's a framework what we can discuss and not discuss and that is a serious problem. >> i think he did get a lot of criticism for this because both he and trump are attacking jeff bezos. it's absolutely legitimate to attack amazon and say how outrageous it is it's not paying
taxes, but it's a separate thing altogether to say his press is derived from that. and so i'm glad he walked it back. i think it actually created a lot of anxiety amongst democrats who do see a free press as really critical in this moment when trump is attacking the press. so i saw him walking it back and i thought that was important. >> well, yeah. >> and i could have asked you about this first, my fault. >> no, no. as one of those "washington post" reporters, i can attest that we do not have some sort of, you know, edict to write or not write things from bezos or that has anything to do with amazon, as bernie sanders surely knew before he said this. bezos owns "the washington post" separately from his founding and ownership of amazon. you know, i can never get -- it's never a bad idea to quote
your own editor, but i thought it was really interesting when marty baron called this a conspiracy theory. it echos the kinds of criticism that, frankly, many bernie supporters leveled at us during the 2016 campaign and continue to level at us, that we are somehow some kind of corporate machine that is a raid against progressive ideas, which is as crazy as the idea that bezos is telling us what to write. >> i just think that if washington democrats are going to run against the president by holding themselves to a higher standard and claiming this is a fact-based, this is a truth-based campaign, they scent indulge in the same -- exactly the same sort of conspiracy theories that the president does. it's a pretty bad look. >> and i think actually he probably heard a lot of that criticism and that's why he at least walked back part of it today. >> fair enough. anne, michael, neera, thank you all very much for a great conversation. coming up next, whether it's
immigration, guns or impeachment, what will rally voters in 2020? congressman jerry connolly will join me in one of his first interviews since he changed his view on impeachment proceedings. that's next. ext. [baby cooing on baby monitor] psst.... it's 8 pm on a saturday. we gotta go, the guys are waiting. here. old spice. shhhh. bring back potato skins. ♪ mmm, exactly!ug
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the first person to survive alzis out there.ase and the alzheimer's association is going to make it happen by funding scientific breakthroughs, advancing public policy, and providing local support to those living with the disease and their caregivers. but we won't get there without you. join the fight with the alzheimer's association. i've talked to mitch mcconnell. he's a good man, he wants to do something. he wants to do it, i think, very strongly. he wants to do background checks. i do too. i think a lot of republicans do.
i don't know, frankly, that the democrats will get us there. i believe that mitch, and i can tell you from my standpoint i would like to see meaningful background checks. i think we'll have it. >> welcome back. that was president trump this afternoon once again signaling his support for background check legislation, adding he believes senate majority leader mitch mcconnell is on board. on capitol hill today house democratic leadership directed their fire at mcconnell, urging him to act on background check legislation that already was passed by the house in february. >> the senate has got to come to the table. they have got to act. we've got to start to do something so our kids can start school and not look at me and say "are we safe? why do people hate me?" >> it takes no courage to put on the senate floor a bill that is supported by 90 plus percent of americans.
>> joining me now is virginia democratic congressman jerry connolly, a member of the house oversight committee. congressman, great to have you on the show. >> great to be here. >> let me start with this to be >> let me start with the very question about house passed bill. we don't have indication that mitch mcconnell will put that version of the legislation on the senate floor. my question for you, can you trust mitch mcconnell enough to potentially vote yes on a background check bill that his senate sends back to the house? >> well, i think mitch mcconnell is a political realist if not opportunist of the first order of magnitude. if he sees it in his interests, his party's interests in controlling the senate after 2020, he'll move something. and if he doesn't, if he thinks he can get away with doing nothing, he'll do nothing. he's proven that time and time
again. we did, as you point out, pass legislation about universal background checks back in february. and he sat on it for six months. meanwhile, multiple tragedies have ensued and he still hasn't acted. >> so, but do you have confidence that the policies that might be included in a background check bill that enough republicans in the senate could support would be good enough for democrats? >> we want to see universal background checks. we think that's a minimum. in providing for public safety. there are other measures, as well including reinstating the assault weapons ban that proved effective. so no, we're not going to settle. we want to make sure that this comprehensive public safety legislation helps prevent and deter the kinds of tragedies we just saw in el paso and in dayton. >> and chuck schumer has
essentially said that they don't want to do these so-called red flag laws which would address people whose family members or others say they may not be fit to have a weapon, something that lindsey graham said he wants to do. chuck schumer says i'm not going to do that unless you also do background collection. is that a line in the sand for you, as well? >> i agree with chuck schumer. red flag laws are the last resort in addition to do nothing by republicans. and so they're falling back on experienced. >> so you recently came out in favor of beginning impeachment proceedings which i think a lot of us who have covered and worked with you for a while found notable considering that now a majority of democrats are supporting opening those proceedings. what was the straw that broke the camel's back for you? why did you decide now that this is something that is necessary?
>> you know, i've racial been wrestling with this for some time, as you point out. i decided to wait to hear what robert mueller had to say, now how he said it, but what he said. and what he said confirmed and then some what he found in his written report, which is a deeply disturbing report about the president of the united states. no american could be comfortable reading that report and robert mueller confirmed all aspects of that report and as i said and then some in his testimony, and for me, that was the kind of final straw. but i got to tell you, i frame this question not politically but in terms of the oath i take to protect and defend the constitution. and when i frame it in those terms, how can i not move to protect the country by initiating impeachment proceedings against this president who in so many ways has debased the office of the
president and has probably violated the law. >> how much did the president's rhetoric in recent days, i mean obviously we've seen all kinds of rachelly divisive statements from this president throughout his campaign and his presidency but the last month as we've laid out today on the show has been a particularly heightened time and, of course, your committee chairman elijah cummings represents baltimore which the president called rodent infested. how much does that piece of this overall narrative about the president play into your decision on impeachment? >> you know, i had four categories of concern that i think could be translated into articles of impeachment, and one of them is that, the debasement of the office with overtly racist language, you know, debasing and degrading whole communities from mexicans to the city of baltimore. to belittling members of
congress, not even understanding where in fact they were born or where they came from telling them they should go where they came from, that kind of behavior is simply not acceptable in the chief executive of this republic. and that's why the founders to protect the republic put the provision of impeachment in the constitution. >> to put a finer i don't want on it, when you put your statement out about this, you hit the president for racism, xenophobia and bigotry. is there any way to, you know, setting impeachment aside, is there any way to work with the president if you feel that those are characteristics that he holds, even if it's on legislation like gun legislation that you might support or is it just not possible to work with somebody who holds those views? >> certainly, you know, business is business. if we can find common ground to the benefit of the public, i have an obligation to do that. but this president is so
erratic, you can have an agreement in the morning and he disabuses it and renounces it in the afternoon. because somebody's gotten to him or sean hannity said something negative on fox news. and so he's a very unreliable negotiator and a very unreliable partner. we can't really count on his word being his bond. >> all right. congressman gerry connelly, thank you for your time today. >> my great pleasure. thank you for having me. >> we'll be right back. pleasure thank you for having me. >> we'll be right back ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪
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thanks for watching. that's all for tonight. chuck will be back tomorrow with much more "meet the press" daily". but right now "the beat with ari melber"". good evening, ari. >> thank you so much. we have a lot in the show. a provocative new 2020 add linking donald trump's rhetoric to yes that, horrific el paso massacre. attorney general bill barr under pressure with new details emerging what happened in the jail that the trump administration ran where jeffrey ep speen died. an activist demanding gun control from mitch mcconnell. all of that tonight. the trump administration defending its plan targeting low income legal immigrants. it's basically become a new flash point, a full defense of this rather unusual cha