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updated 7/14/2013 12:41:56 PM ET 2013-07-14T16:41:56

ANNOUNCER: From NBC News in Washington, the world’s longest running television program, this is MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.

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DAVID GREGORY:

And good Sunday morning. A lot of news this Sunday morning.

After deliberating for 16 hours and 20 minutes, "not guilty" says the jury in the george zimmerman trial ... A trial filled with 12 days of emotional testimony and conflicting versions of what happened the night 16 months ago when trayvon martin was shot and killed.

For reaction to the verdict, remaining questions and what it all means -

First, we want to go live to sanford, florida to nbc's kerry sanders who has been covering this case from the beginning.

For reaction to the verdict, remaining questions, and what it all means, first we want to go live to Sanford, Florida, NBC's Kerry Sanders, who has been covering this case from the very beginning. And, Kerry, there was concern about negative reaction to this verdict perhaps spilling into the streets. The good news this morning, people just waking up, it has not been a violent night. Is that right?

KERRY SANDERS:

That is correct. Peaceful here, peaceful in south Florida where Trayvon Martin was from. I was in the courtroom when the six female jurors entered the courtroom. As they walked in, not one of them looked over towards George Zimmerman sitting at the defense table. He stood up, they sat down.

Then, as the verdict was actually read in the court by the clerk of the court, again, not one of those jurors looked over at George Zimmerman. They were then polled by the attorneys, as it custom, whether they had a unanimous decision, and then they left, again, not looking at George Zimmerman.

This was a jury of six, six women, five of them mothers. Five of them white; one of them described by the prosecutor as either black or Hispanic. Two of them, gun owners. After they left, outside there was a fair amount of noise outside the courthouse that could not be heard up on the fifth floor. The jurors did not hear that.

The rally was primarily, at those who were most vocal were those who were disappointed with the outcome, complaining that they felt that the system had not delivered a verdict that they wanted. This is a community here of about-- well, if we do the breakdown here, it's 78% white, it's 17% Hispanic, and it's 11% black.

And the complaints have been, since the very beginning here, primarily from the African American community that the system did not seem to represent them from the very beginning with the police department. There have been changes over time: The police chief has been removed. The lead detective, who was strongly criticized at the beginning, he remains on the police department. He is the one who had put together an arrest affidavit; well, they never actually executed that arrest affidavit. He was eventually put back in uniform, working occasionally on the night shift, but he's still here with the police department.

Looking forward for this community, they now, David, have to continue to see if they can make the community more inclusive. And part of that is waiting for a report from the Department of Justice. The F.B.I. Civil Rights Division has launched an investigation here to see whether this community can move forward together. David?

DAVID GREGORY:

All right. Kerry Sanders in Sanford for us this morning. Kerry, thanks, as always. Let me widen the discussion a little bit. Joining me now, the president and the founder of the National Action Network and host of MSNBC's Politics Nation, the Reverend Al Sharpton; the mayor of Sanford, Florida, Jeff Triplett is with us; and Savannah Guthrie, who of course is a co-host of The Today Show; she's also NBC's chief legal correspondent. Welcome to all of you.

Reverend Sharpton, this is how The Huffington Post described it, a banner headline as the verdict came in: "Not Guilty," with an asterisk, "But not innocent." That's how you view it. Where does it go next?

REV. AL SHARPTON:

It goes to the Justice Department. Clearly there are grounds for civil rights charges here. The mother and father of Trayvon Martin and I, with their lawyers, met with the U.S. attorney in Florida the day I went down there to organize the first national rally there.

And we always said there would be a plan B, but there needed to be a plan A. There would never have been protests if there had been an arrest and if the police department there did what it was supposed to do.

DAVID GREGORY:

You wanted Zimmerman to have a fair trial. That's what you were pushing for before charges were ultimately filed. Was this not a fair trial?

REV. AL SHARPTON:

The trial happened, the verdict came in. That does not exhaust the legal options of this family, and the bigger community issues of civil rights. We now have a position on the books, in the State of Florida, where an unarmed teenager who committed no crime can be killed and the killer can say self-defense.

That is dangerous. That is an atrocity. And I think that must be addressed. I think every American ought to be afraid that, "My child can do nothing wrong and be killed, and you can use self-defense," and tell four or five different stories that end up being inconsistent, and still walk away.

DAVID GREGORY:

But you don't question-- you disagree with the verdict, but you don't question that it was a fair trial. If you wanted him to have a day in court, that happened. That part of the process worked.

REV. AL SHARPTON:

I question the state law; I question-- yeah, there could have been some things done differently at trial. But the real object now is to move forward on dealing with the state law under civil rights. And as we mobilize-- as you know, Martin Luther III and I are having this march on Washington on his father's "I Have a Dream" speech.

How do we have this country deal with Dr. King's dream 50 years later, and you can't walk an innocent child through a neighborhood without the child being harmed, let alone killed? And nobody can say-- I watched the whole trial. No one can say what Trayvon Martin did wrong. "They always get away it," Zimmerman said. Who is "they" getting away with what? That's the basis of a civil rights inquiry.

DAVID GREGORY:

Mayor Triplett, down in Sanford, one of the reasons I wanted to talk about this this morning is the political element to this, going back to the shooting and Trayvon Martin's death initially. President Obama weighed in at that particular time, and his comments were striking. This is what he said then.

[VIDEO: PRESIDENT OBAMA]

But my main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon. And I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and that we're going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.

DAVID GREGORY:

Has that been achieved, Mayor? Did we get to the bottom of what happened?

MAYOR JEFF TRIPLETT:

You know, we said from day one that we were seeking justice when the demonstrations came to the City of Sanford, that they wanted Mr. Zimmerman to sit in front of a jury of his peers. That's what's taken place. And they have spoken. They've listened to both sides of it.

You know, we've done a lot within the City of Sanford to make it a better place. Through tragedy comes an opportunity is kind of the way we're looking at it. We've set up blue-ribbon panels; we've set up community panels; we've set up conversations, walk-and-talks with our police department and our community. And we're moving towards a trustful relationship between city hall, the police department, and our community.

DAVID GREGORY:

But, Mayor--

MAYOR JEFF TRIPLETT:

So we're a better people.

DAVID GREGORY:

But to Reverend Sharpton's point: Did Trayvon Martin do anything wrong? Can you address that point, and the tension that comes with that in this situation?

MAYOR JEFF TRIPLETT:

That was for the prosecution and for the defense to fight out in court. We saw it. We really didn't have a dog in that fight, so to speak. You know, our biggest concern was for the safety of the people, the citizens of Sanford.

DAVID GREGORY:

And, Savannah Guthrie, the legal part of this is important because ultimately it's the question of whether there was too much pressure brought to bear, by Reverend Sharpton and others, to bring charges that some have said amounted to over-charging George Zimmerman.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE:

I mean, some people think it's an over-charge, that the prosecutors didn't have sufficient evidence for second-degree murder conviction. But the fact of the matter is the jurors were able to consider the full range of options. They could look at second-degree murder; they could look at the lesser charge of manslaughter.

And ultimately, this came down to not any particular peculiarity of Florida law, but basic self-defense principles that are enshrined in every state in this country. Which is, look, if somebody fears reasonably that they are in danger of great bodily injury or harm, it's the prosecution's burden basically to disprove self-defense.

This comes down to that concept of reasonable doubt. It's not necessarily that jurors, by their verdict, are saying, "We believe George Zimmerman acted in self-defense." What they're saying is, "We don't believe that the prosecutors proved he didn't act in self-defense." And that's basically what this verdict comes down to.

DAVID GREGORY:

And quickly, Savannah, the news here from Reverend Sharpton this morning. They had met, he and the family, with the U.S. attorney. There will be pressure brought to bear to pursue civil rights charges. We've seen that before in the case of Rodney King and the officers there. Do you think that there's much grounds to move forward there?

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE:

Well, look, the reason why some people thought second-degree murder was an over-charge was because they didn't think there was sufficient evidence to establish that mental state, depraved mind, hate in the heart, spite, ill will. That would be the key element of a hate crimes charge. So the federal government will look at it; that investigation has been on hold. Whether the Department of Justice pursues charges, obviously we'll have to wait and see.

There's still an option, David, of a civil suit by the parents. The standard of proof is a lot less. George Zimmerman could be forced to testify and be cross-examined, so you may see a different result there. But that's not an issue of whether he would go to jail; that would ultimately be an issue of whether he had to pay money damages.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, thank you all very much.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

DAVID GREGORY:

We want to switch gears here this morning, talk about politics and the war of words here in Washington. On the Senate floor, a pretty tension-filled day on Friday over Republicans using Senate filibuster rules to block the confirmation of several Obama administration nominees. Some nominees particularly important to organized labor in this country and particularly important to the administration. The minority leader speaking on Friday.

[Tape: McConnell/Thursday]

“What the majority leader has really been saying here all along is he wants the confirmation process to be speedy and for the minority to sit down and shut up. He believes that ‘advise and consent’ means to ‘sit down and shut up.’ Confirm these nominees when I tell you too.”

DAVID GREGORY:

And we're going to hear from the minority leader, Mr. McConnell shortly. But we want to start with the majority leader of the Senate, Harry Reid. Both are here exclusively this morning. Leader Reid, always good to have you here. Welcome back.

HARRY REID:

Thank you very much, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

First, before we get to the Senate business and the debate there, the Zimmerman trial, the verdict. Was justice done here? You spoke out about it after the shooting.

HARRY REID:

David, I am a trial lawyer, have been. Over 100 cases to juries. (NOISE) I don't always agree with what the jury does. But that's the system. And I support the system. Now, I may have f-- feel differently. But I wasn't sitting as a juror, or a prosecutor, or a def-- defense attorney. So I'll accept the verdict and take a look at the-- the law that they have in Florida that is so-- unusual. And--

DAVID GREGORY:

The Stand Your Ground law--

HARRY REID:

Yeah, yeah.

DAVID GREGORY:

Self defense law--

HARRY REID:

I-- but, you know, I think that's up to the state. I think they-- they should revisit that.

DAVID GREGORY:

Is there a new racial wound that you think needs to be addressed and healed as a result of this in this country?

HARRY REID:

I heard the mayor. I think that he should continue on a path that he outlined.

DAVID GREGORY:

And the President? Does have he have a role in speaking about it as he did after the shooting?

HARRY REID:

Well, yeah, of course. And-- and I think the Justice Department's going to take a look at this. They're-- you know, this isn't over with. And I think that's good. That's our system. It's gotten better, not worse.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right. Let me switch gears to what's happening in the Senate, in this war of words between you and the minority leader. There's a lot of-- minutiae about the rules that people may not follow. It basically boils down to whether the minority party can and should be able to stop the majority party from getting something done. And what-- and when-- as we talk about it, what-- what's striking to me, Leader McConnell was on this program nearly two years ago. This is what he said about the concept of divided government then.

[Tape: McConnell/2011]

“You know divided government -- that’s when neither party controls the entire government -- is the perfect time to do big stuff.”

DAVID GREGORY:

"The perfect time to do big stuff." So what's happened? Why hasn't it worked the way he thought it would?

HARRY REID:

Mitch is going to be on a little later. And I am-- he is going to defend the status quo. Is there anyone out there in the world, the real world that believes that what's going on in the Congress of the United States is good? Our approval rating is lower than North Korea's.

It is really, really difficult. And-- and, David, let's talk about what is happening. We're not doing anything that affects lifetime appointments. We're doing nothing that affects legislation. Here is what we're doing. A President, whether it's President Obama, the new President Clinton, or the new Bush, whoever is President should be able to have the people on their team that they want.

Now, the-- the sky is falling. I have been leader for about the same time-- Lyndon Johnson was. During the time he was leader, one filibuster. Me, 420. During the time that President Obama has been President, he has had 6 filibusters against his g-- nominations. During the entire history of this country, the country, there has only been 20. And-- and changing the rules is like the sky is falling. We have done it. During the last 36 years, we have done 18 times. We did just a year ago.

DAVID GREGORY:

But here's--

HARRY REID:

So Pres--

DAVID GREGORY:

--but here's--

HARRY REID:

No, no, no, listen. I want-- I want everyone to hear this. The changes we're making are very, very minimal. What we're doing is saying, "Look, American people. Shouldn't President Obama have somebody working for him that he wants?" The 15 people that we filed cloture on that are pending, they've been waiting an average of nine months.

Nine months, is that good? Is that-- do we want to continue that? So we're going to make a simple change. What we're going to do is say in the future, just like the Constitution outlines. The Constitution is pretty specific. If you want a supermajority vote, look at what a veto is or a treaty. But if you want to look at a nomination, you know what the s-- you know what the founding fathers said? Simple majority. That's what we need.

DAVID GREGORY:

But that's not what you said in the pa-- you wrote in your own book in 2008, with regard to the potential rule change over judicial nominees, which is not at-- at play here. In 2005, you wrote, "In a fit of partisan fury, they were tryin' to blow up the Senate. Senate rules can only be changed by a 2/3's vote in the Senate or 67 Senators." The Republicans were goin' to do it illegally with a simple majority of 51. You were--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

--saying the--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Hold on. Let me just finish the question. You are saying the sky is not falling. When the Republicans did it, you said it was illegal to do--

HARRY REID:

You've answered m--

DAVID GREGORY:

--what you want to do--

HARRY REID:

--but you've answered my question. We're not touching judges. That is what they were talking about. This is not judges. This is not legislation. This is allowing the people of America to have a President who can have his team, to have his team in place. This is nothing like went on before.

Remember-- remember what's going on. This President has had 16 executive nominations filibustered. We have now 15 pending and with average-- we-- we have an average-- we have an average of-- I lost my number there for a second. But they have been waiting an average of--

DAVID GREGORY:

But is--

HARRY REID:

--nine months. Nine months. We-- we-- the peo-- the three that you talked about all the time. Cordray, this wild-eyed ib-- liberal that they don't like, you know how-- you know who he worked for? Bork. He was a clerk for Judge Bork, a clerk for s-- Supreme Court Justice Kennedy.

It-- they don't have-- they have nothing against the qualifications. They don't like the jobs these people have. Qu-- qualifications. Consumer protective against Wall Street. That's what Cordray is. We have the Secretary of Labor. They don't like that-- created during the Depression.

They don't like that because this man, Perez, who has worked so hard-- he was a garbage man during-- during the time he was going through school. Perez, you see, wants to be Secretary of Labor. He has been waiting for months and months. Finally, two secretaries-- two members of la-- National Labor Relations Board.

What does this do? It protects American workers from the abuse of the employers. They have been waiting two years. How do you like that one? And we-- we-- we're-- we're making big changes? All we're doing is doing what the Constitution says, elect these peo-- appoint these people by the President and let us approve 'em with a simple majority.

DAVID GREGORY:

Another issue that is dividing Congress is whether-- we're goin' to get immigration reform. The Senate has acted. It now moves to the House. Do you see this being acted upon by the House or dying a slow death?

HARRY REID:

David, the legislation has been hard to come by because of the destruction of the Republicans. I am very happy and I think we are so fortunate as a country that one big issue we have had eight very wise Senators, four Republicans and four Democrats, work together to come up with a bill. You know, my friend, the Republican leader again said, "We have been able to do the farm bill. (NOISE) We did immigration," as if we should be celebrating. It used to be we did big legislation all the time.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, but I'm not getting--

HARRY REID:

We-- we do nothing now--

DAVID GREGORY:

--on his case. Will the House act?

HARRY REID:

Yes. They will act. They have to. This is something that-- the vast, vast majority of the Republicans, Democrats, and Independents support. And John Boehner should let the House vote. That's all he has to do. If the House voted, it would pass overwhelmingly.

DAVID GREGORY:

But the specific complaint by House conservatives distilled by William Kristol and Rich Lowr-- Rich Lowry, who will be on the program a little bit later in the National Review on Tuesday. And they write this about the Senate bill. "The bill's fatal deficiency is that it doesn't solve the illegal immigration problem. The enforcement provisions are riddled with exceptions, loopholes, waivers.

Every indication is that-- f-- for-- they are for show and will be disregarded just as prior national requirements to build a fence or an entry/exit visa system have been and just as President Obama has recently announced he is ignoring aspects of Obamacare that are inconvenient to enforce on schedule." Why won't he waive a requirement for the use of e-verify in the workplace just as he has unilaterally de-- delayed the employer mandate?

HARRY REID:

If we were in the courtroom, I would object to-- your question. 'Cause there are so many different questions. But I'll try to answer. First of all-- Obamacare, whatever comes up, the Republicans throw that at me. You realize, they have voted to repeal it 40 times? What's happened? 40 times, of course, it's failed.

Obamacare has been wonderful for America. 6 million seniors have h-- wellness checks now. 3.1 million young people are now-- now have insurance. Insurance can't rip off people anymore. That's why people got millions of dollars of refunds last year. If you have a preexisting disability, you're covered. They should just get real and understand this is a m-- law that's important. And we-- we nee-- they need to work with us to improve it.

DAVID GREGORY:

To narrow--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

--the question to the specific charge on immigration though.

HARRY REID:

Immigration, we have the chamber of commerce. Conservative groups all over America are running ads s-- s-- ag-- telling Republicans, "Vote for this." This is a good bill. It gives us security on our border. And it gives people who are here le-- a pathway to citizenship. And-- and-- and, David, finally, it saves the country a trillion dollars. It's good for the economy. Not a billion. Not a million. A trillion.

DAVID GREGORY:

All of these issues could play out in the mid-term race, including abortion. You n-- now have states voting to ban abortion after 20 weeks. Will this come up? Is it reasonable for it to come up in the United States Senate? You have described yourself as pro-life-- in the past. Is it not reasonable to put some restrictions on late term abortion as we're seeing in the states?

HARRY REID:

David, we had a transportation, infrastructure, construction development bill so important that it was agreed upon. Chairman Boxer, ranking member Inhofe. One of the most liberal, one of the most conservative. You know what happened when he brought that to the floor? It was filibustered because they wanted to prevent women from having contraceptives. It took us-- a month to get that off the floor before we could vote and defeat that. So they can offer them. It's-- it's the Senate. And we'll take it up.

DAVID GREGORY:

I'm asking--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

--on the subject--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

--is that reasonable or unreasonable?

HARRY REID:

I think we should deal with the problems that affect this country. We-- we need to do something to help the American working class and stop worrying about fringe issues.

DAVID GREGORY:

Is-- is unreasonable to put restrictions on abortion after 20 weeks?

HARRY REID:

I'm happy to take a look at this. I repeat, let's do things that the vast majority of the American people think we should deal with.

DAVID GREGORY:

All Right. Leader Harry Reid, thank you very much. More to come on all of these things. (LAUGH) Appreciate you being in.

DAVID GREGORY:

Now to respond, the leading Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Senator, welcome back to you. Having a difficult time hearing you; we'll try to establish that. Let me get my first question out. Your reaction to hearing your colleague say, "Look, this is different. Changing the rules here is not like it's been in the past, with regard to judicial nominations. It is appropriate for the majority to be able to get the work done at once."

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

Yeah. The reason we call it the nuclear option, David, is because it's breaking the rules of the Senate in order to change the rules of the Senate which majority leader, as you've pointed out, in his book indicated was something we should never do.

Rather than getting down in the weeds on the rules, what is the problem here? The president has had 1,540 of his nominations confirmed; only four defeated. He's not lost a single member of the cabinet. He's getting them faster than President Bush was at the same time in his second term. The majority leader needs to bring these nominees up; most of them are going to be confirmed.

It really kind of comes down to three appointments that the federal courts have told us were unconstitutionally recess appointed. Two members of the N.L.R.B. and the C.F.P.B. We need to talk about that. And we're going to talk about it at a rather unusual joint session in the old Senate chamber, on Monday, of all senators. And we need to start talking to each other instead of at each other, and see if we can't resolve this in the same way that we did ten years ago when Republicans had genuine provocation.

We had had five of President Bush's circuit court nominees defeated by filibuster. Here, nobody's been defeated. They've all been confirmed. And that's why we're wondering why the majority leader's thinking about the nuclear trigger when all of the president's nominees are being confirmed.

DAVID GREGORY:

But just as there were past statements that Senator Reid made that speak to sort of the folly of Washington in a lot of people's minds, here you are, back in March of 2005, on CNBC, advocating for the thing that he's talking about now. This is what you said.

[Tape: McConnell/2005]

“What they did last Congress was change 200 years of history during which we had never killed an executive branch nomination by use of the filibuster. They introduced that. It’s a terrible precedent. The Senate with 51 votes, not 60, reversed that precedent. And I believe that it’s time to do that. I believe we will go forward with that at a time of the majority leader’s calling.

DAVID GREGORY:

So you were for it then; you think it's outrageous now.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

Look, I'm glad we didn't do it. The provocation was that five circuit court nominations had been defeated with a filibuster for the first time in American history. The Democrats invented that. We went to the brink and we pulled back because cooler heads prevailed, and we knew it would be a mistake for the long-term future of the Senate and the country.

That's what I hope is going to happen here, David. We have an opportunity to pull back from the brink in this joint meeting that we're going to have of all senators in the old Senate chamber Monday night. I hope we'll come to our senses and not change the core of the Senate. We have never changed the rules of the Senate by breaking the rules of Senate in order to diminish the voices of individual senators. We've never done that, and we sure shouldn't start it now, particularly since every one of the president's nominees that would be subject to this rule change have been confirmed.

DAVID GREGORY:

Do you really believe that your old friend and colleague Harry Reid is the worst Senate leader ever if he goes forward with this?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

No, he won't be if he pulls back from the brink, as we did ten years ago. We had much more serious provocation then than he has now. He's a reasonable man, he's a good majority leader. And we're going to have a chance to air all of this out in a joint conference with all of our members Monday, and I'm hoping we won't make this big mistake.

DAVID GREGORY:

One more on this. Secretary Napolitano of Homeland Security is now stepping down. Do you now see a nomination fight over a key security post, secretary of homeland security, depending upon who the president puts forward? Particularly with the immigration debate, a key component of what the secretary of homeland security does.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

Well, guys in your line of work tend to use the word "fight" when we're having a debate. Some of the president's nominees have been quite controversial. I mean, that's what we do in the Senate: We have big debates over big issues. They've all been confirmed.

We'll have to take a look at whoever the new secretary of homeland security is. I can't guarantee you there won't be a spirited debate. Look, we've got over 300 million people in this country. We don't all agree on everything, and they elect all of us to come to Washington, and we have some big disagreements and big debates. But sooner or later, when it comes to nominations, as I've indicated, the president hasn't lost anybody. He hasn't lost anybody.

Are they saying they don't want us to even debate these nominations? And C.R.S. says they're getting them more rapidly than President Bush got his. That's why we're wondering why this threat to blow the Senate up, when the president's getting his nominees.

DAVID GREGORY:

On the issue of immigration, which I just referred to a moment ago. How important is it to you to act this year to get some kind of reform?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

Well, I hope we can. As you know, David, I'm the proud husband of an immigrant. A young girl came here at age eight, not speaking a word of English. In fact, her parents didn't have enough money for a plane ticket. They came over on a freighter with the freight. And my wife, Elaine Chao, became secretary of labor, and was in President Bush's cabinet.

Look, I'm a big fan of what legal immigration has done for our country. I hope, even though the Senate bill, in my view, is deficient on the issue of border security, I hope we can get an outcome for the country that improves the current situation. I don't think anybody's satisfied with the status quo on immigration. And I hope the House will be able to move forward on something and we can get this into conference and get an outcome that will be satisfactory for the American people.

DAVID GREGORY:

How do you deal with 11-12 million illegal immigrants in the country now without a pathway to citizen? Is that dead on arrival--

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

Well--

DAVID GREGORY:

--if that remains?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

Well, you know, I think the stickiest issue actually is border security. The question is can we actually get the border secure and not have this happen again? That's the stickiest issue. And I think the House will concentrate on that, I hope they will. We need to seriously beef up the border security part. I think that's the key to getting a final outcome.

DAVID GREGORY:

I want to talk about Obamacare and the implementation, which of course is controversial. A lot of senators on your side talking about repealing Obamacare. As they've tried to publicize this law and getting people familiar with what is possible, as they're setting up exchanges around the country, this is a letter that you wrote to the NFL commissioner, one of the leagues that were going to help in publicizing this.

You wrote: "Given the divisiveness and persistent unpopularity of this bill, it is difficult to understand why an organization like yours would risk damaging its inclusive and apolitical brand by lending its name to its promotion."

I read the letter, Leader McConnell, and it was striking how political it was, that letter you wrote to them. You refer to it as a bill; it's actually the law of the land, which has even been affirmed by the Supreme Court. How can you write such a letter at a time when don't you feel the need for people to understand what the new law is?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

Well, the president himself seems to not think parts of the law ought to be implemented. I mean, he is selectively delaying parts of it as if it's all just kind of a smorgasbord of options for him to figure out, you know, which ones to execute, and which part of the law--

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, but a delay--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

--is not a failure to execute. A delay is not a failure to execute.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

Well, for example, they just decided to say "never mind" on the employer mandate. Well, what about the individual mandate? Does the president get to decide which parts of the law to comply with and which parts not? It's a massive, complicated, unpopular bill. Obviously, if we had the votes, we would repeal it. But the president--

DAVID GREGORY:

But, Leader, it's not--

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

--himself--

DAVID GREGORY:

But you support the democratic process. This is not a bill. This has--

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

-- the law.

DAVID GREGORY:

--been passed; this is the law of the land. You refer to it--

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

Yes.

DAVID GREGORY:

--as a bill. Doesn't that undermine? I mean, if the shoe were on the other foot and it were a law that was passed by Republicans in Congress, would you not refer to it as the law of the land and want to see it implemented as best it could be, despite the fact you disagree with it?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

Well, of course it's the law of the land. And I wonder why the president himself is delaying various parts of it. He, you could argue, is not executing or implementing the law that he thinks is such a wonderful thing for the country. Look, this is a big, controversial issue. It's not going away. It's, in all likelihood, going to be the premiere issue in the 2014 election. The American people dislike it even more now than they did when it was passed. And they hope that the Congress will respond to their desire to stop this train wreck before it happens.

DAVID GREGORY:

Final point here, another divisive issue, and that is a potential part of the Republican agenda this year, and that is tax reform. Are you for tax reform? Or might you even support some in the Republican caucus, and others, who are calling for an abolishment, to get rid of the Internal Revenue Service?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

What I would like to see is the same kind of premise that Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill, a Republican and a Democrat, had back in the '80s. And the premise was this: We're going to do tax reform but it will be revenue neutral to the government. In other words, the government doesn't gain revenue for itself. It's for flattening out the tax rate, making our country more competitive.

If we can agree, in advance, that the exercise will be conducted within those parameters, that it's not a tax increase for the federal government, then I think it would be a very good thing for our country to do comprehensive tax reform, lower the rates, and make America more competitive in the global economy.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right. Leader McConnell, a lot of debates on a lot of issues that will continue. Appreciate your time this morning.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

Thank you.

DAVID GREGORY:

And we are back. Joining me now, former governor of Mexico, Bill Richardson; president of the Center for American Progress, Neera Tanden; editor of National Review, Rich Lowry; president and founder of the National Action Network, host of MSNBC's Politics Nation, Reverend Al Sharpton; and Republican strategist and MSNBC contributor Steve Schmidt.

Welcome to all of you. Wow. So much to get to. Steve Schmidt, Washington dysfunction. Again, you can talk about the rule change and all the minutiae. It's about whether the minority can and should block what the majority wants to do. What are we seeing here?

STEVE SCHMIDT:

Well, that's right. One of the fascinating aspects of it is the fact that when-- Leader McConnell was in the majority, of course, his view was completely different, as was-- Leader Reid's. And these are complicated issues. The dysfunction you saw play out this morning is why the Senate, why the Congress has such a low approval rating with the American people, who view this as an institution almost completely removed from dealing with anything that's relevant to their actual lives.

DAVID GREGORY:

Neera Tanden, McConnell making a point and saying, "W-- w-- what are they so upset about? The President's gotten most of what he's wanted. These are particular nominations that the-- that-- that legally we have-- a right to challenge." We also know it's ideological as well.

NEERA TANDEN:

Yeah. No, I think what people are concerned about is that there are a number of agencies, not just the ones that-- Mitch McConnell-- Senator McConnell was talking about. E.P.A. It is C.P.F.B., Consumer Financial Protection Board. But it's also the Department of Labor. It's also-- it's-- it's a range. N.L.R.B.

It's a range of-- agencies that actually protect consumers against large special interests. And I think the issue here is really that the Congress is-- is really unpopular because it's not dealing with the country's problems. And I think people really want a functioning Senate.

DAVID GREGORY:

And-- and if-- it can't function. Even though it passed immigration reform, we see another area where we get nothing done. And that gets to the issue of immigration, Rich Lowry, which-- as I-- as I referenced to-- Senator Reid, you and Bill Kristol, prominent conservatives, said, "Kill this bill." Is it going to be killed in the House? Will it die a slow death? Will they do nothing?

RICH LOWRY:

It's definitely in trouble in the House. I wouldn't say it's dead because there are still powerful interests in the Republican party who want this thing--

DAVID GREGORY:

Right--

RICH LOWRY:

--to happen. I think that-- that--

DAVID GREGORY:

Former President Bush didn't-- didn't-- approve the-- the-- the particularities of it. But he certainly wants something done.

RICH LOWRY:

Sure. But I-- I think the Senate bill is fundamentally flawed. If you believe the C.B.O. analysis and believe their optimistic assumptions that the enforcement in this bill will actually happen the way it's written, which never happens, we're still going to have, depending on your estimate, 6, 7, 8 million more illegal immigrants here in ten years.

That means this bail fails on its own terms. It fails on the terms Marco Rubio set out on-- on it. He says, "I don't want to have to deal with this problem again." He will have to deal with this problem again if his own bill passes. I think the House should pass incremental measures. And if the Senate wants to take them up (NOISE) and pass them, great, we have bipartisan consensus. If not, wait until after 2014.

DAVID GREGORY:

Our western border-- Governor formerly, how do you respond?

BILL RICHARDSON:

Well, I-- I think that the bill is in trouble. And-- and I regret it. Because I think the true conservative position on immigration reform-- here is legislation that improves the gross-- domestic product. It reduces the deficit. It creates jobs. More Social Security rolls.

It's a path to legalization that takes 13 years. There is a lot of steps that need to be taken. Employer sanctions. I was a border governor. Illegal immigration has gone down. It's gone down. The border fence that has been created, it's not going to do much. But if it gets some Republican votes, it makes sense.

My view is the Congress is totally dysfunctional. It's not just immigration. It's the farm bill. It's nominations. It's the National Labor Relation Board, consumer bills. The farm bill, an example. No food stamps for poor people. (NOISE) And what we have is subsidies for the big farmers.

I hope there is a filibuster change. I think the nuclear option needs to be exercised. I don't-- I don't go anymore, even though I served 15 years in the House-- for this. We're going to sit on Monday and d-- and discuss Senate traditions and hope nothing happens. I think the American people want change. And a real change could happen if there is filibuster reform. (NOISE) There can be a stoppage to some of these huge blockages of major legi-- (LAUGH)

RICH LOWRY:

Governor--

(OVERTALK)

RICH LOWRY:

--on immigration, the-- according to C.B.O., unemployment will be higher when this bill passes between 2014--

BILL RICHARDSON:

Oh, well--

RICH LOWRY:

--and 2020--

BILL RICHARDSON:

Wait--

RICH LOWRY:

Look it up--

09:41:34:00

(OVERTALK)

RICH LOWRY:

Wages will be lower--

DAVID GREGORY:

Stop--

RICH LOWRY:

--until 2024--

(OVERTALK)

RICH LOWRY:

Read the C.B.O.--

(OVERTALK)

NEERA TANDEN:

--influx of jobs of-- of 122,000. Rich--

RICH LOWRY:

It says--

NEERA TANDEN:

--for someone-- for someone who has advocated so strongly for deficit reduction when it's a Democratic president--

RICH LOWRY:

There is no--

NEERA TANDEN:

--and that you are-- attacking for not doing enough, here we have $800 billion in deficit reduction. And here, you're saying, "No, we can't take it." It doesn't make any sense--

DAVID GREGORY:

Can I get Steve Schmidt in on this? Because one of the-- beyond this particular issue is Rich's other point, which is you're going to have to come back and deal with the fact that you've got a significant number of illegal immigrants still here. You will have to address this again. Is that what's motivating conservatives, Steve? Or is it pure politics, not wanting (NOISE) new Democratic voters, in their view, coming into the country?

STEVE SCHMIDT:

Look, I think the bill is in trouble. And I do think that that is part of the motivation for conservatives, the notion that it doesn't fix the security problems on the border. But what we have today is a de facto amnesty in this country. And we've had it for a long time. We have an utterly broken, completely uncompetitive immigration system.

And the Senate bill does a lot to move this country towards a sane immigration policy. Now, what the House should do is pass a version of this legislation that can be conferenced together. And the country can take a step forward in fixing this problem, which is an enormous one.

We have a permanent underclass that lives in the shadows in this country. And we oughta fix it. And what ha-- this has always been premised on is the notion that there is a path to legalization, and then there is a final, at the end of the day, solution-- for the border security issue, that we are able to secure the border.

(OVERTALK)

STEVE SCHMIDT:

And-- and-- and this bill does in fact make great progress in the securing of the border.

DAVID GREGORY:

Reverend Al, your comments?

REV. AL SHARPTON:

I think that we can have different opinions. We can't have different facts. I think clearly it reduces the deficit-- this bill. I think that-- clearly, it creates jobs. And I think that it is very conservative for many of us that have been in the immigration movement and have said, "Let's be fair."

I don't know how more fair you can be to-- for it to take 13 years to make people natural citizens. The dysfunction of this Congress around this, and around blocking appointments, and taking-- food stamps out of the farm bill, I mean, is any wonder that the public has any kind of respect for them at all.

DAVID GREGORY:

We'll get a final point on this, Rich, before we break. (NOISE)

RICH LOWRY:

Well, look. The structure of this bill is exactly the same in 1986, when we were told all the same things. "Oh, you're going to get the amnesty first. And there will be all this great enforcement--"

(OVERTALK)

RICH LOWRY:

--off in the future--

BILL RICHARDSON:

That was Ronald Reagan--

RICH LOWRY:

It never happened--

BILL RICHARDSON:

Your hero--

RICH LOWRY

And if you want to cut the deficit, there are other ways to do it. And the C.B.O. says there is no deficit reduction in the first ten years. And unemployment--

(OVERTALK)

RICH LOWRY:

--will be elevated until 2020. You can look it up, Governor.

BILL RICHARDSON:

Rich--

RICH LOWRY:

It is a fact--

BILL RICHARDSON:

Rich, Rich--

(OVERTALK)

NEERA TANDEN:

There is $200 billion--

(OVERTALK)

BILL RICHARDSON:

You're--

(OVERTALK)

BILL RICHARDSON:

--a respected conservative. But you know what--

RICH LOWRY:

Thank you very much--

BILL RICHARDSON:

--happened?

RICH LOWRY:

I feel something--

BILL RICHARDSON:

The Tea Party--

RICH LOWRY:

--bad is coming up-- (LAUGHTER)

(OVERTALK)

BILL RICHARDSON:

The Tea Party-- there is a political-- side to this. And here is the utmost politician. The Republican party is going to become a minority party. Maybe all of those Tea Party Republicans in the House will keep their seats. But you're going to continue to lose Presidential elections. You're going to lose the Hispanic voter even more than you did in the last election. And it's political suicide what you're doing--

RICH LOWRY:

What happened after the 19--

(OVERTALK)

BILL RICHARDSON:

When this country is fixed--

RICH LOWRY:

--that Reagan signed? Did the Republican share of the Latino vote go up?

BILL RICHARDSON:

It did. George--

RICH LOWRY:

No, it didn't--

BILL RICHARDSON:

--Bush--

RICH LOWRY:

No, it-- H.-- H.W. went--

BILL RICHARDSON:

George--

RICH LOWRY:

--down--

BILL RICHARDSON:

--George--

RICH LOWRY:

H.W. went down.

BILL RICHARDSON:

When--

(OVERTALK)

RICH LOWRY:

Republicans need to appeal--

(OVERTALK)--

RICH LOWRY:

--to Latinos--

(OVERTALK)

BILL RICHARDSON:

--40%--

RICH LOWRY:

But amnesty is not the way to go--

NEERA TANDEN:

Will these issues change? And this is a gateway voter. Senator McCain--

(OVERTALK)

NEERA TANDEN:

--has said this is a gateway issue for Latino voters.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me get a break in here. We'll come back and talk about-- a little bit more about-- the political reaction to the Zimmerman verdict. A couple of other issues as well on politics (NOISE) when we're back with our roundtable after this.

(COMMERCIAL NOT TRANSCRIBED)

DAVID GREGORY:

We're back with more of our roundtable. We spoke to Reverend Al Sharpton earlier on in the program. A new push after the Zimmerman verdict for civil rights charges perhaps to be brought against Zimmerman. Rich Lowry, you've written about this as well. You think this has been an overreach by civil rights leaders like Reverend Sharpton and others, both in reaction to, and even in the lead-up to the charges being brought.

RICH LOWRY:

Yeah. I think obviously this was a fair trial. In fact, you can argue that the judge actually hated one of the defense attorneys, if you saw the way she treated him. And initially, when this case came to national prominence, I thought it was wrong that he wasn't charged. I thought it was right for people to draw attention to the case for that reason.

But the more we learned in the trial, the more clear it was that the police judgment initially was probably correct, and that this was a case of self-defense. And certainly, it was always absurd to compare this case to Emmett Till or the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, as the reverend did. That was always putting way too much social and political baggage on what was just a terrible tragedy.

REV. AL SHARPTON:

I don't think any of us compared it to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. I think we compared the reaction of the fact that these police made no arrest. We would never have known what we've known if the country hadn't watched this trial.

Clearly the police should have made an arrest. The story he told the police we found to be inconsistent, some of it outright lies at trial. So just because the jury says he wasn't guilty does not mean he was innocent, and that they should not have tried him.

And it has nothing to do with civil rights charges. You must remember the State said this has nothing to do with race. Race was not in this trial, which means that it can be tried by the feds to see if bias was involved. They clearly stated, "We're not talking about race in this trial." Well, the civil rights case of the federal government would be around whether race was involved.

DAVID GREGORY:

Governor Richardson, to hear, as we played earlier in the program, the president talking in such, you know, personal ways about Trayvon Martin, "He could been-- if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin." Is there a racial wound to be healed here? What are the ramifications of this verdict?

FMR. GOV. BILL RICHARDSON:

I believe there is a racial wound to be healed. I worry about the aftermath. I was disappointed in the verdict. It seemed like a sound legal process, although the standard seemed very high for the prosecutors. But I worry about the aftermath.

I worry about all those young, black kids out there that see a system of justice that maybe doesn't respond to them. I think a national dialogue is needed, I think the reverend is right. There's a legal process too. But a conversation is needed because there's a lot of simmering resentment over this trial.

Obviously, we didn't see any big demonstrations, but it's out there, and we should talk about these things. Because, you know, here's a young, unarmed 17 year old who's shot. All right, the system of justice, we respect it, but that doesn't mean we don't have a dialogue.

DAVID GREGORY:

Neera, I want to switch slightly; a couple of political notes. Some of the gun laws at work here in Florida could be fodder for what's happening in the legislature and for 2014; also, abortion. We were speaking about it at the break. Were you struck by Leader Reid saying that he would take a look at late-term abortion bans in the Senate? We've head that Marco Rubio might advance that legislation.

NEERA TANDEN:

Look, I think if the U.S. Senate wants to take on this issue, you know, anyone who wants to take on this issue, I think it's really going to motivate progressives and liberals. You've seen this in Texas. These laws are really just efforts to undermine abortion, by another name.

And what's been surprising about these debates is how much it's energizing women across the country. I'll remind my conservative friends that we did see a giant Latino gap; you know, there was a huge vote in favor of the president. We also saw a historic gender gap. And I think on a range of issues, the Republican Party is moving out of step with the rising coalition of women, Latinos, and others. And this will help seal the deal.

DAVID GREGORY:

Prominent woman is Hillary Clinton, in the news this week for the lucrative deal that she signed with regard to speaking around the country. Might she like the private sector more than running for president, given all that she's making? Or is this the kind of platform that could actually help her reach the grassroots, by speaking across the country?

NEERA TANDEN:

Look, you know, she has 30 years of history as talking on a range of issues, and I'm sure people are fascinated by her substantive conversations on these issues. She's had a range of experiences, both in domestic and international. So I think this will be a great opportunity for her to get her views out to people around the country.

DAVID GREGORY:

Steve, your assessment of where Hillary Clinton now stands now in the Democratic Party.

STEVE SCHMIDT:

She'll be a very formidable candidate for the nomination. If you look at it right now, it's tough to see who in the Democratic Party beats her. But she's also someone who has no illusions about what it's like to run for president. She's been around it for a long time. And it may be, as she thinks about this very brutal process that lies ahead, if she does it again, that maybe she doesn't want to do it. And I think we'll just have to wait and see.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right. We're going to leave it there. We’ll take a break and be back in just a minute.

(ADS/TEASER NOT TRANSCRIBED)

DAVID GREGORY:

We've been talking about Obamacare a couple of times during the program. I want to correct something that I said last week in our discussion about it. I made the observation that people getting a paycheck would observe that they were all subject to a Medicare surtax. I was not right about that.

The only people who are subject to it are those who make $200,000 or more, or a couple filing jointly making more than $250,000. That's the only time that that surtax applies. So I was mistaken in my conversation about that, and I apologize.

That is all for today. Be sure to watch this week's Press Pass conversation. This week I sat down with former Obama speechwriter, Jon Favreau, and former national security spokesman, Tommy Vietor, on the challenges the Obama administration faces now at home and abroad in a second term. That's on our blog: MeetThePressNBC.com. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

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