Meet the Press – December 17, 2023


KRISTEN WELKER:

This Sunday, targeting Biden.

REP. JAKE ELLZEY:

The resolution is adopted.

KRISTEN WELKER:

The House votes to formalize an impeachment inquiry of President Biden.

REP. JIM JORDAN:

I think the evidence is compelling.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Even though Republican lawmakers have yet to present any evidence linking the president to a crime.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN:

We don’t know what the crime is.

KRISTEN WELKER:

While the president’s son defies demands he testified before Congress.

HUNTER BIDEN:

My father was not financially involved in my business.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Plus, border battle. Republicans call for major changes to U.S. border security in exchange for sending more aid to Ukraine.

PRES. JOE BIDEN:

Putin is banking on the United States failing to deliver for Ukraine. We must prove him wrong.

SPEAKER MIKE JOHNSON:

The border is an absolute catastrophe and this is because of the policies of this White House.

KRISTEN WELKER:

How far is President Biden willing to go to get a deal? And, reluctant voters. Some Democratic voters in Michigan say if 2024 is a Biden-Trump rematch they’ll grudgingly support Biden

SHELLY WHITEHEAD:

There’s no way I’m going to vote Republican but reluctantly, yes, I will vote Biden.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Why reluctantly?

KRISTEN WELKER:

While others tell us they aren’t sure who they’ll vote for on election day:

KRISTEN WELKER:

Why are you still undecided?

JESSIE KELLY:

Because I want the candidate I vote for to earn my vote.

KRISTEN WELKER:

My guests this morning: Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan. Joining me for insight and analysis are NBC News National Security and Pentagon Correspondent Courtney Kube, Geoff Bennett, co-anchor of PBS NewsHour, former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Republican strategist Matt Gorman. Welcome to Sunday. It’s Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, the longest running show in television history, this is Meet the Press with Kristen Welker.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Good Sunday morning. In just hours there will be more urgent talks on Capitol Hill between Republicans, Democrats and White House negotiators as all sides aim to reach a deal to ramp up security at the border, a part of a larger package that would also provide more aid to Ukraine and Israel. Bipartisan talks have zeroed in on GOP proposals including those that would make it more difficult to claim asylum, seek parole and a return to a Trump-era policy that could trigger mass expulsions at the border. On Saturday, the White House met with leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who expressed concerns Democrats are poised to cave to Senate Republicans.

[START TAPE]

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO:

I want to speak quickly to the Democrats in the Senate and others who are considering supporting this proposal. If you do so, you will be surrendering to right-wing racism. And more than that, you will be enabling it.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL

Senate Democrats and the White House must not agree to these extreme demands

[END TAPE]

KRISTEN WELKER:

It’s a sign of how far the issue of border security has shifted to the right and how politically fraught it’s become for a president who on his first day in office proposed a bill overhauling the U.S. immigration system with a path to citizenship. And another challenge for the president: the House voted to open a formal impeachment inquiry into him this week citing the goal of investigating any financial links between President Biden and his son Hunter, who was recently indicted on tax charges. So far, Republicans have not provided any evidence of a crime. This marks the fourth impeachment proceeding in the last 25 years. House Speaker Mike Johnson denies the move is political.

[START TAPE]

SPEAKER MIKE JOHNSON:

We’re following the Constitution. And I’ve made this very clear. Remember my background is constitutional laws. We have no choice to fulfill our constitutional responsibility, we have to take the next step. We’re not making a political decision. It’s not. It’s a legal decision.

[END TAPE]

KRISTEN WELKER:

But four years ago, as former President Trump was being impeached, Johnson warned a party-line impeachment would cause “irreparable damage” to the country.

[START TAPE]

SPEAKER MIKE JOHNSON:

The founding fathers – the founders of this country warned against single party impeachments. This is the first time in the history of this nation, in 243 years, that a president has been treated in this manner, when one party has – has followed and pursued a predetermined political outcome.

[END TAPE]

KRISTEN WELKER:

And this week, one Republican congressman was even clearer.

[START TAPE]

REPORTER:

Representatives, what are you hoping to gain from an impeachment inquiry?

REP. TROY NEHLS:

All I can say is Donald Trump 2024, baby.

[END TAPE]

KRISTEN WELKER:

And joining me now is Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Senator Graham, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Happy holidays.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Happy holidays. Thank you for being here.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Yeah.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Let’s start with the border –

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Sure.

KRISTEN WELKER:

–negotiations.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Okay –

KRISTEN WELKER:

There is so much focus on that.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Right.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

You have been so focused on that. Can you bring us up to speed? What’s the very latest? Do you think –

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Okay.

KRISTEN WELKER:

– there’s going to be a deal before the new year?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

No. I think this will go into next year. I’ve been talking to the people at the table. The White House got engaged five days ago. They sent over a supplemental with border security provisions that did nothing to change policy. We’ve been talking to them since September. Five days ago, they finally sat at the table. Senator Lankford’s doing a good job. The bottom line here is, we feel like we’re being jammed. We’re not anywhere close to a deal. It’ll go into next year. And let me tell you why it’s important to get a good border security deal. What Congressman Castro said was pretty offensive. According to the FBI director, last week, he’s never seen more threats to the homeland than he does today. Wherever he looks, he sees blinking lights. The border has been obliterated since January ’21 until now. We’ve had 6 million people come to date. There are 3.6 million on schedule to come this year alone. The policy choices of the Biden administration has made the border a dangerous place to come to. America’s under threat. According to the FBI director since October the 7th, jihadist groups want to attack us because we’re helping Israel. I’ve never been more worried about a 9/11 than I am right now, and our border has been obliterated. And we’re not going to give in on some Band-Aid fix.

KRISTEN WELKER:

I want to talk about the proposals that are under discussion. But, just to be very clear, you say you’re not close to a deal. But it sounds like there has been some measured progress –

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Definitely. Definitely.

KRISTEN WELKER:

– like both sides are coming closer together –

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Definitely progress, yes –

KRISTEN WELKER:

How would you characterize that progress?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Oh, the only way we’re ever going to get a security border is we’ve got to make them do things they don’t want to do, but they’re getting there. It was a choice by the Biden administration to change policy that led to this debacle. But there is progress on asylum. There’s a ways to go on parole. You tell me Ukraine’s important, and I agree with you. To all the national security experts, when you say, “If we don’t help Ukraine, they could lose, and the world would fall into chaos; Putin will keep going,” I agree with you. But if you’re a national security expert, you should have the same energy and vigor to fix a broken border.

KRISTEN WELKER:

And of course, the Biden administration has argued there are a complex set of factors which have led to the migrants –

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

I don’t buy that. I don’t buy that.

KRISTEN WELKER:

– who are crossing the border –

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

I don’t buy that.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Let me ask you – one of –

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Can I just comment on that? You chose to undo Trump policies. You gave in to people like Mr. Castro. You’ve created a nightmare. It’s bitten you in the ass, and you need to change policy. This is not unseen factors. This is a policy choice that’s led to the border being obliterated, and we’re not going to take a Band-Aid approach as a solution.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Let me ask you, because Democrats are also saying that what you are proposing would effectively shut down the border to families who are seeking asylum, who are running for their lives, Senator –

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Yeah.

KRISTEN WELKER:

What do you say to that criticism?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

I would say asylum is being gamed. They’re playing – remember the guy who said, “Thank you, President Biden,” went to New York? He says, “I’m not here to leave oppression. I’m here to have a better life.” Under the Biden administration, the asylum system has become a joke.

KRISTEN WELKER:

But – but, Senator, just very quickly, would these proposals effectively shut down the border to asylum seekers –

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

No, it –

KRISTEN WELKER:

– to people who are running for their lives?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Ninety percent of the people who claim asylum are denied. So, the initial – they’re coming here for economic opportunity. They’re not fleeing oppression. Under international law, you’re supposed to apply for asylum in the first safe third country. Seventy percent of the people would be denied asylum under international law, but Biden chooses to ignore the law. This is not people running for their lives. They’re running here because the border’s wide open. They think if they get here and make an asylum claim, they never leave.

KRISTEN WELKER:

And, of course, the administration’s argument is that they are trying to have tougher protections at the border while also –

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Well, it ain’t working. It ain’t working.

KRISTEN WELKER:

– trying to have a humane response to those who want to get here –

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

11,000 people, Friday.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Let me ask you about Ukraine, because you just mentioned Ukraine as well. Obviously, if you break through this logjam at the border –

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Sure.

KRISTEN WELKER:

– you’d get a deal on Ukraine, as well. The last time you were on this program, here’s what you said about the need to fund Ukraine. Take a look.

[START TAPE]

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

To my House colleagues, if you strip out Ukrainian aid, Russia will keep going. There will eventually be a war between NATO and Russia. And it will be a green light to China to invade Taiwan.

[END TAPE]

KRISTEN WELKER:

Senator, this week, you said, quote, “I’m more worried about our border than Ukraine, 100%.” If you don’t get a deal on the border, are you willing to walk away from aid to Ukraine? Or is that not still essential?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

I am willing to help Ukraine. The package sent over by the president was pretty robust. The package sent over by the president to help Israel I’m 100% for. The package sent over in September to help Taiwan, count me in. The border provisions sent over in September are a joke. October the 7th is a game changer. The FBI director said he’s never seen more threats to the homeland than he does now. We’re helping Israel, and jihadist groups want to hit us to punish us for helping Israel. I will not help Ukraine, Taiwan, or Israel until we secure a border that’s been obliterated. You see from Mr. Castro, Congressman Castro, the attitude here, “Anybody who wants to secure the border’s a racist.” That’s BS.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Let me just get your sense on how critical Ukraine is, though. Do you still see –

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

One-hundred-thousand percent.

KRISTEN WELKER:

– getting aid to Ukraine as critical to U.S. national security –

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Absolutely. Let me tell you what will happen if we pull the plug on Ukraine. Putin will keep going. We’ll be in a war with NATO. China will see that as a green light to go into Taiwan. It would be a national security nightmare for Europe. If you don’t help Israel destroy Hamas, if Hamas is still standing when this is over, God help us all. I get everything. Now, where are the same people lecturing me about Ukraine on our border? Our border is a national security nightmare. They chose bad policies. It’s bit them in the ass, and we’re not going to continue these stupid policies. We’re going to change them.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Very quickly, do you think what is under discussion right now in the Senate can get through the House, where they’re asking for some even tougher measures?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

If we make asylum really asylum, if we enforce international law and stop blanket parole, yes, I think it will get through. There will be some people in the House who will never vote for a Ukraine package. But if you have real border security, and I’m not asking for H.R. 2. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I know what works and what doesn’t. They have made policy choices to obliterate the border. They need to reverse these policy choices. Yes, the package

can get through the House if it has real border security.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Tells talk about Israel, which, obviously –

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Yes.

KRISTEN WELKER:

– is also a piece of this. Another week of just devastating headlines out of the Middle East –

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Yeah, terrible.

KRISTEN WELKER:

– including revelations that three hostages were killed by IDF soldiers. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was in the region this week. His message, the White House’s message, is Israel needs to do more to protect civilian lives. Do you agree with how the Biden administration is handling this moment and this crisis?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Generally speaking, yes. And the Biden administration went to Saudi Arabia. The idea of normalizing relationship between Saudi and Israel is still the big prize. I think the attack of October the 7th was orchestrated to stop a march toward normalization. Iran’s biggest fear if the Arabs reconcile with Israelis. So, give Israel the time and space to destroy Hamas. That’s non-negotiable. But we need to be thinking about the day after.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Is Israel doing enough to limit civilian deaths, though, Senator?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

I would hope they could do more, but here’s the problem. Hamas is under schools. They’re under hospitals. But let’s talk about the day after. The Biden administration is trying to revive the normalization efforts, and I think they’re right to do so. If you want to really hurt Iran long term, don’t let them get away with destroying efforts to reconcile between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

KRISTEN WELKER:

But think that’s possible, Saudi Arabia on board with that –

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Yeah. Yeah, I do. Here’s what’s changed after October the 7th. Israel will demand security buffers they’ve never demanded before because they can’t afford another October the 7th. And to my friends in Israel: you do whatever you think is best for the state of Israel, but I can tell you, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries cannot normalize with Israel if they’re seen – if they’re having been seen as throwing the Palestinians under the bus. We have two choices: continue the death spiral, or use October 7th as a catalyst for change. I think the Arabs are going to demand some form of two-state solution to recognize Israel. I think Israel’s going to demand security buffers different than before, and they need to make those demands. I don’t know how this ends, but I’ll tell you this. If we don’t get this right this time, we’re talking about another generation of just tit-for-tat death.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Okay. Let’s turn to the other big story on Capitol Hill: the impeachment of course – the impeachment inquiry – into President Biden. Your colleague, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, said that he does not see any evidence, quote, “That the president is guilty of anything.” Do you agree with him? Is there any evidence so far?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

You know, I haven’t really been paying that much attention to it. They have to prove that President Biden somehow financially benefited from the business enterprises of Hunter Biden. We’ll see.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Have they done it yet, in your mind?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

If there were a smoking gun, I think we’d be talking about it. But, you know, the narrative that Hunter Biden presented is falling apart. The idea that Joe Biden knew nothing about the business dealings is falling apart. I’m not worried about impeaching the president right now. You know what I’m worried about? Helping the president bring the Mideast to a better spot, trying to convince the Arabs and the Israelis to not let Iran get you off track, give Israel the space to destroy Hamas. I’m trying to find a way forward to secure our broken border before we’re attacked. That’s what I’m more worried about than anything. I’ve never been more worried about an attack on our homeland than I am right now. And there’s an opportunity in the Mideast, in the middle of all this carnage, rape, murder, torture, heartbreaking visuals. There’s a chance to change things. That’s what I’m working on: changing things for the better at home and abroad.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Before I let you go, I do want to get your reaction to something that former President Trump said overnight. He was in New Hampshire. He was talking about the need to keep immigrants out of this country. Here’s what he said. I’ll get your response.

[START TAPE]

FMR. PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

They’re poisoning the blood of our country. That’s what they’ve done. They’ve poisoned mental institutions and prisons all over the world, not just in South America, not just the three or four countries that we think about, but all over the world. They’re coming into our country from Africa, from Asia, all over the world.

[END TAPE]

KRISTEN WELKER:

The Biden campaign has accused former President Trump of, quote, “parroting Adolf Hitler.” What is your reaction? Are the president’s comments representative of how you and other Republicans feel?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Seventy-six percent of the American people, not Donald Trump, believe the border is broken. They’re worried about fentanyl coming over and killing their kids –

KRISTEN WELKER:

But what about his language, senator?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Well –

KRISTEN WELKER:

Just that language, that “poisoning the blood.”

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Yeah. I’m worried about an outcome. He is right to want – he had the border secured the lowest in 40 years in December of 2020. To the Biden administration, you’re talking about Donald Trump’s language as you sat on the sidelines and allowed the country to be invaded. 172 people on the terrorist watch list have come on your watch. Fentanyl’s killing more Americans –

KRISTEN WELKER:

Senator.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

– than any time in history –

KRISTEN WELKER:

Senator, just on the language, just on the language, though. You have endorsed former President Trump. Are you comfortable with him using words like that?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

You know, we’re talking about language. I could care less what language people use as long as we get it right.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Even if it’s –

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

I believe in legal immigration. I have no animosity toward people trying to come to our country. I have animosity against terrorists and against drug dealers. But I understand why people want to come to America. But we have chaos, and we need to create order. If you think you’re going to win the debate on illegal immigration by picking a line out of the Trump speech, most Americans understand the game has to change, that we’re under threat, that we’re going to get attacked, that our border has completely been obliterated. So, if you’re talking about the language Trump uses rather than trying to fix it, that’s a losing strategy for the Biden administration.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Do you think he would appeal to more people, though, if he chose different words on that argument?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

You know, I think the president has a way of talking, sometimes, I disagree with. But he actually delivered on the border. People are looking for results. If the only thing you want to talk about on immigration is the way Donald Trump talks, you’re missing a lot.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Just finally, is it the position of the Republican Party that African and Asian immigrants are “poisoning the blood” of the people in this country?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

No, it’s the position of the Republican Party that we’ve lost control of the border, that terrorists are coming, that there’s never been a higher threat to the United States from a terrorist attack from a broken border. But immigrants, people coming to America, we are many people coming to be one. We’ve lost control of our border. There are people coming here who are selling drugs. There are people coming here raping and murdering. There are people coming here trying to have a better life. The terrorists are coming here to kill us. After October the 7th, how easy is it to get into our country through a broken border and kill a bunch of us? To my Democratic colleagues, you’re not going to get away with keeping this border broken. If you can’t commit to securing our border, we’re not going to have a deal.

KRISTEN WELKER:

All right. Well, we’re going to watch those negotiations closely –

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Thank you.

KRISTEN WELKER:

We hope you’ll come back to update us in the new year –

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

I will.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Senator Lindsey Graham –

KRISTEN WELKER:

– thank you. Happy holidays to you –

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Thank you.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Really appreciate it. When we come back, President Biden is trailing Donald Trump in key battleground states. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan is warning the president he needs to do more to turn things around. She joins me next.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Welcome back. Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, who has warned fellow Democrats President Biden’s blue wall could be in trouble. Congresswoman Dingell, welcome back to Meet the Press.

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL:

Kristen, it’s great to be with you.

KRISTEN WELKER:

It is great to have you here. We really appreciate it. I do want to start with what’s happening in Michigan, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Let’s talk about the other big news on Capitol Hill — I was just talking about it with Senator Graham — which is the decision by House Republicans to open an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. Do you now see a full impeachment as inevitable?

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL:

No, I don’t because they’ve still got to get facts. So in order to have the House pass impeachment, you’ve got to have facts. And I’ve talked to numerous Republicans who have publicly and quietly said, “There’s no there there.” They can’t find anything. There were a lot of arms broken. I’ve talked to those members whose arms were broken about even voting for this on the House floor. And I think it will be much harder to get the number they will require to have an impeachment if they don’t find something. And they’ve been looking for something for a year and have not found it. If it had, it’d be headlines. And instead, the headlines are, “Republicans” — not Democrats — “Republican senators and House members saying there isn’t anything there. We can’t find it.”

KRISTEN WELKER:

Let me ask you about something that did get some attention this week. President Biden has of course repeatedly said that he’s never spoken to his son about his overseas business dealings, but Hunter Biden — who held a surprise news conference outside of the Capitol — had this to say this week.

[START TAPE]

HUNTER BIDEN:

Let me state as clearly as I can: My father was not financially involved in my business.

[END TAPE]

KRISTEN WELKER:

Now, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jim Jordan, seized on that moment. He said the language suggests that President Biden has been involved in his son’s business dealings but just not financially. What do you make of that? How do you respond to that?

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL:

Look, I’m going to – I’ve been very clear. I don’t care if you’re a Republican, a Democrat, who you are. Nobody is above the law. There have been constant investigations since Joe Biden was president and vice president. I think that he should have these hearings. They should be transparent and open, which Hunter Biden said he would go. I think the Donald Trump court hearings should be open and transparent because I don’t want — excuse me — even people like you, Kristen. The media shouldn’t be interpreting it. American people should see all of this straight up, and see what’s there and not there, and not have all of us commenting.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Hunter Biden did defy a subpoena request. He said he would testify openly but not privately. But do you think he should have defied that subpoena request? Should he have gone and testified?

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL:

I think he’s got a right to say, “I’ll do this. Be transparent. Make it open.” Because I think too many people are coming out of this and implying things that aren’t true. And I think all of us have a right to know what the truth is.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Big picture, Congresswoman. Are you comfortable with a politician’s family member profiting off of their last name in any way?

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL:

Look, I to – I had my own career my whole life. I was working before I ever married John Dingell. And I had to work ten times harder than any other person I knew just to show I could do the job. So you’ve got to be careful. We have to be open. We have to be transparent. You’ve got to work hard, and you’ve got to prove you can do the job. But if you’ve got a last name that people know, does that mean you can’t work? So you’ve got to be open and transparent. And I think that’s the most important thing. And you’ve got to deliver for those you’re working for.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Let’s talk about the negotiations over the supplemental. I just talked about them with Senator Lindsey Graham. Obviously, Republicans proposing some tough new measures at the border that would limit asylum, would limit parole, things that progressives say just are too extreme. Would you vote for legislation that included some of those tough new measures?

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL:

I’m not going to tell you what I’m going to vote for until I see exactly what’s there. We have needed comprehensive immigration reform in this country for decades. And because it’s so hard and it’s so emotionally charged, we never get it done. We don’t get it done under Republican presidents; we don’t get it done under Democratic presidents. And I will remind people watching and my dear friend, Lindsey Graham, 9/11 happened under George Bush. People came into this country. It is – our national security is something that we need to worry about every single day, and I share Lindsey Graham’s worry about our national security. I’ve had family members that have died from fentanyl. The president has been trying to get more border – Custom and Border Patrol, more law enforcement orders. We need to do something on immigration, but we need to do it in a right way that keeps compassion there but protects our national security. So let me see what comes out of this, and then I’ll tell you what I’m going to vote on.

KRISTEN WELKER:

What is your response when he says that the border is broken under President Biden?

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL:

Border has been broken. It was broken under Donald Trump as well. Our immigration reform – we have needed comprehensive immigration reform for decades. Let me also say you’ve got small businesses clamoring for people. We’ve got caregiving, which is in desperate shape, and we need to bring some of these people – immigrants, but we don’t want illegals. We don’t want other people coming in. We don’t want drugs coming across our border. We need a balanced, comprehensive immigration policy.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Just very quickly: Would you support whatever the White House agrees to if they strike a deal?

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL:

I don’t ever say I’ll support something categorically until I see what it is.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Okay, fair enough. This week, I did have a chance to talk to some Michigan Democratic voters who supported President Biden in 2020. Now, two out of five of the voters I talked to say they’re not so sure. They cite the economy as one of the reasons. They say, “Hey, we can see that inflation is coming down, but we don’t feel that in our pocketbooks.” What do you say to those Michigan voters? Why should they vote for President Biden when they say they’re struggling still to buy groceries?

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL:

First of all, I know they’re struggling. Because I’m – when I’m home and I’m out and about, I’m at the farmers markets. I’m in those grocery stores. I’m in the labor halls. And people are having a hard time. Now, gas prices are coming down. Food prices are coming down. But we’re going to have to do – there are a lot of things we’re going to have to do. First of all, people know that Michigan’s a purple state. I can’t always convince people of that. This year, these polls are saying, “Hey, Debbie’s right this time.” I was right back in 2015 and 2016 too. But Donald Trump, we have to look at not words but actions. When he was president, he gave the rich tax cuts and increased prices, too. So we’ve really got to talk about the economy, the jobs that have been created, the kind of investments that are going in and show what’s been done. We have to show and remind them of the actions, not the words.

KRISTEN WELKER:

One of the big issues for voters in Michigan is the issue of how President Biden is handling the war in the Middle East, with some calling to, quote, “abandon Biden” over his handling of the Israel-Hamas war. Of course, Michigan has one of the largest Muslim populations in the country. Is there anything President Biden can do to win back those voters?

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL:

So there’s a lot that has to be done. And this is a very serious issue. I lived in Dearborn for 40 years with the man that I loved. I moved last year because of redistricting. I know this community. They are hurting. All of us in this country need to understand what’s happening in Gaza right now. You can fight about how many thousands of people have been killed, but 6,000 to 8,000 children have been killed. 85% of the people in Gaza have had to leave their homes. They’re living in shelters. Disease is going up. There’s one toilet for 220 people, one shower for 4,500 people. They don’t have food. They don’t have medicine. They don’t have utilities. And I can’t tell you the number of families that I’ve spoken to who’ve lost entire families, entire families. We’ve got to show some empathy and compassion. A Jewish baby and a Palestinian baby are babies. I don’t want to see any baby die. So, first of all, we’ve got to take that on. We’ve got to get a cease-fire. This has to stop. And we – I agree with Lindsey. If anything good comes out of this crisis, we need everybody to come together and get a strong two-state solution.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, thank you so much for your time this morning. I really appreciate it. So good –

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL:

Thank you.

KRISTEN WELKER:

– to be with you. Thank you. And when we come back, Steve Kornacki is here with a look at the key counties to watch in 2024, plus my conversation with those Michigan Democratic voters.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Welcome back. This morning, something we are so excited about. We are rolling out The Deciders. It’s a new county-level initiative featuring in-depth, on-the-ground reporting from a team of nearly 20 journalists, focused on the 2024 presidential race, in seven key counties all around the country. I’m joined by our National Political Correspondent Steve Kornacki, who has more. Hi, Steve. What do you have?

STEVE KORNACKI:

Hey, Kristen. Yeah, I love this too, because there are more than 3,100 counties across the United States. But we have got seven, and you see them on the screen here, as you say, that we’re going to drill down on between now and Election Day ’24. I think they’re going to help us tell the story through next year. And put a pin in all of them, because on Election Night next year, they are all going to loom large for different reasons. So, this morning, just as a preview, a little taste, let’s take you through three of them, and why they’re on this list, and what we’re looking for in each of them. And we’re going to start here in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania. Erie County here is as close to Cleveland or Buffalo as it is to Pittsburgh, and it is the ultimate blue-collar swing county. Just give you a sense here of how Erie County has moved, go back here to 2008, when Barack Obama first won – run and won. Look at this. Landslide for Obama in Erie County. 2012, Obama’s reelection, landslide. Then, Donald Trump shows up in 2016. Look at the shift. One of those Obama-Obama-Trump counties. We saw them across the country. They’re the reason Trump won in 2016. Large white population, very blue collar, lower college degree percentage than you see statewide, and Trump really capitalized here in ’16. And then, in 2020, when Joe Biden won Pennsylvania and the presidency, he carried Erie County – barely – but it was one of only two counties in the state of Pennsylvania that Joe Biden flipped. It was a big reason Biden was able to win the election. So, how Erie goes in Pennsylvania in 2024 could well tell you how the state of Pennsylvania’s going. Let’s go south now and take a look here at Miami-Dade County, Florida. This is a massive county. Nearly 3 million people, nearly 70% Hispanic. We say we’re looking for the Latino vote here, because, again, the Latino vote – we’ve talked about this since the 2020 election. Trump made big inroads, none bigger than in Miami-Dade. In 2016, he lost by nearly 30 points in this county to Hillary Clinton. In 2020, you could see it right here, Joe Biden only won Miami-Dade by seven. And then, in 2022, Ron DeSantis, running for reelection as governor of Florida, he won Miami-Dade by more than 11 points. He won the Hispanic vote statewide in Florida. We are asking the question, heading into 2024, those gains Republicans have made with Hispanic voters, have they locked them in? Are they giving them up? Or are they expanding on them? Miami-Dade is one of the first counties in the country, on Election Night ’24, we’re going to get results from. I think we’re going to start to get an answer to that question very early in ’24. So, that’s why we’re looking closely at Miami-Dade. And then, we’re going to land in Wisconsin. Look, the swingiest of swing states. Biden won this by 20,000 in 2020. Trump won it by a small margin in 2016. Where did Biden’s win come from? A few places here, but one that stands out is Dane County. See the biggie here in the middle of the state. College educated. It’s the core Democratic base. University of Wisconsin is here. And what you see in Dane County, it’s long been a Democratic county, but now, activation, motivation, interest in elections is absolutely sky-high with this demographic: college educated, Democratic-leaning voters. In the 2020 election, the turnout in Dane County was nearly 90, nine-zero percent. Joe Biden won this overwhelmingly. It used to be that Milwaukee was where Democrats looked in Wisconsin for their big margins. Now, they look as much, if not more, at Dane County. Every election, Democrats seem to get bigger and bigger margins out of Dane County, because the enthusiasm and the turnout of their base is so much in this Trump era. We’re going to be looking here for clues not just to see how Wisconsin goes, but there are a lot of counties like this across the country. Are Democrats getting that sky-high turnout from their core base of college-educated voters? Just a few things we’re looking for in this exciting project, Kristen.

KRISTEN WELKER:

It is exciting. Those counties are going to keep our correspondents and us very busy. Steve Kornacki, so great. Thank you so much for joining us. And this morning, as we just heard from Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, there are startling new warning signs for President Biden from Democratic voters in battleground Michigan. We went to Macomb County and spoke to a group of women who supported Mr. Biden in the last election but are now reluctant to commit to supporting him again. The question for these Democrats is not Trump versus Biden. It’s, “Will they show up or stay home?”

[START TAPE]

KRISTEN WELKER:

Show of hands, who is decided on who they’re going to vote for in 2024? Okay, so three out of five of you. Why are you still undecided?

JESSIE KELLY:

Because I want the candidate that I vote for to earn my vote.

TERI BAZZI:

I will probably agonize again, once I’m in the ballot box, about what to do. How do I do this?

ASHLEY MITSCH:

I’m not going to vote for a Republican. I’m trans. I feel like that’s almost like – it’s almost like a death sentence. But when it comes to Democrats, I just don’t really see anyone who really feels like they’ll be a strong pick who is running.

KRISTEN WELKER:

So are you saying that you, at this point, are planning to vote for President Biden but reluctantly?

ASHLEY MITSCH:

Very reluctantly.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Are you going to vote for President Biden again?

JACQUELINE KELLY-SMITH:

Yes.

TERI BAZZI:

Why?

JACQUELINE KELLY-SMITH:

I may not be as enthusiastic about him as a candidate, but I am by some of the things that he’s done. Reducing insulin down to $35. Also, finally repairing our infrastructure. The American Care Act. I mean, it’s a lot of things that he’s done.

SHELLY WHITEHEAD:

There’s no way I’m going to vote Republican. But reluctantly, yes, I will vote Biden.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Why reluctantly?

SHELLY WHITEHEAD:

I don’t – I really don’t agree with his dealings with the Middle East right now. Also his age.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Jesse, what about you? Would you support a third-party candidate, or consider supporting a third-party candidate?

JESSIE KELLY:

It would depend on who that candidate is. However, I don’t think that a two-party system is working for America anymore.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Terry, would you consider voting for a third-party candidate?

TERI BAZZI:

I – I don’t know. I feel as – I feel compelled to, but I really feel as though my vote will be just wasted. And my vote counts.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Shelly, what about you?

TERI BAZZI:

The power? Yeah, that’s the problem.

KRISTEN WELKER:

How do you see a third party?

SHELLY WHITEHEAD:

As a dream but not a reality. I mean, in my ideal world, I see it as – as a party that is truly for the people, by the people. And I don’t see people having that power, that respect.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Let me follow up with you on that, Jackie. Are you concerned that people are going to stay at home and not vote in 2024? What are you hearing from the community around you?

JACQUELINE KELLY-SMITH:

Pretty much of what I say: That they’re not enthusiastic about either candidates, but they don’t want one or the other to get in. So, they’re going to vote against someone moreso than voting for someone.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Shelly, what are you hearing? Are you concerned that people are going to stay at home?

SHELLY WHITEHEAD:

I’m concerned that people are going to stay home.

ASHLEY MITSCH:

There are a lot of people who I know who are just completely checked out of the game. It feels like it’s already lost. It doesn’t feel like we’re getting the progressive change that we were all sort of promised.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Where does the economy fit into how you are viewing 2024? How do you feel about the economy?

SHELLY WHITEHEAD:

I mean, I don’t feel great. I was, today, even more shocked, because sometimes I think I put my head in the sand with the economy. I don’t like my car. So I was like, “Oh, maybe I’ll just get a new car.” And I saw these car rates, and I’m like, “Okay, I’m not getting a new car.”

JACQUELINE KELLY-SMITH:

Our economy, I think, is better than what it has been. Is everything affordable? No.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Why –

JACQUELINE KELLY-SMITH:

Everything is going up quicker than our checks are.

KRISTEN WELKER:

If you could come up with one word to describe President Biden, what would it be? And I’ll start with you.

TERI BAZZI:

Tired.

ASHLEY MITSCH:

One word? He just seems out of it. Honestly.

JESSIE KELLY:

Status quo.

TERI BAZZI:

Caring.

SHELLY WHITEHEAD:

Honestly, it doesn’t have to do with politics. Family. When I think of him, I think he cares a lot about his family.

[END TAPE]

KRISTEN WELKER:

Our thanks to them for that revealing conversation and you can see more of my conversation with Michigan voters at MeetThePress.com. When we come back, the House has only voted to impeach a president four times in history. What are the political lessons of what was once the most rare form of punishment for a sitting president?

KRISTEN WELKER:

Welcome back. This week, House Republicans voted to formally open an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, though they have not yet produced any evidence showing the president profited off of his son’s business dealings. This is the fourth impeachment proceeding in the last 25 years, raising the question, “How is all of this impacting the country?” In 1998, President Clinton was impeached on charges of perjury and obstruction. He was acquitted in the Senate, but many saw a process that deepened America’s polarization. Republican congressman Henry Hyde was the chief impeachment manager for Clinton’s Senate trial.

[START TAPE]

TIM RUSSERT:

Mr. Chairman, what’s all this done to our politics?

REP. HENRY HYDE:

I think our politics has suffered. I hope not a mortal blow, but certainly a serious blow. The name calling, the negativity, the throwing of mud, the institution of the White House, the presidency, and Congress itself. People are looking at this in horror. We have got to conduct ourselves appropriately, with some dignity, with some purpose. And that’s my aim. I am not trying to stretch this out. I’m not trying to take political advantage of it. This helps nobody.

[END TAPE]

KRISTEN WELKER:

And when we come back, the panel is next.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Welcome back. The panel is here: NBC News national security and Pentagon correspondent Courtney Kube; Geoff Bennett, co-anchor of PBS NewsHour; Matt Gorman, former senior communications advisor for Tim Scott for America; and Jen Psaki, host of Inside with Jen Psaki and the former White House Press Secretary. Thank you all for being here. So, Geoff, let me have you kick it off. You heard from those voters in Michigan. Two of them are undecided.

GEOFF BENNETT:

Yeah.

KRISTEN WELKER:

How concerned should the Biden campaign be? How concerned are they?

GEOFF BENNETT:

There is legitimate reason for concern. President Biden’s reelection hopes hinge on his ability to resurrect the coalition that elected him in 2020. And as we saw from your conversation with those Michigan voters, that coalition is softening and, in some cases, splintering. And I think you could make the argument that the biggest hurdle this president faces is that Democratic base voters in battleground states give him low marks for his handling of the economy. And that’s a conundrum, because even as the economy gets stronger, historically low unemployment, high consumer confidence, inflation in this country is easing faster than it is in other parts of the world, there are parts of the electorate that don’t feel that. And they’re not seeing it. So, President Biden has to find a way to sell his agenda, to soften a lot of the discontent, the disillusionment, the questions about his age. Bottom line, though, I can tell that you campaign officials believe that if it’s a choice between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, voters will break for Joe Biden because of Donald Trump’s authoritarian impulses, the GOP’s position on abortion. That might not show up in the polls, but it has shown up, it’s been born out in previous elections.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Jen, what about that? I mean, you heard Congresswoman Dingell say, “Hey, I sounded the alarm bells in 2015 and 2016, and I’m sounding them again.”

JEN PSAKI:

Yeah, look, I think that if you’re in the Biden campaign right now, you need voters to feel a couple of things. One, you need them to be scared of Trump being reelected. It’s actually good for them for these polls, in some ways, to instill some fear in Democrats and wake them up. But you also need people to be energized. And what we saw in that fascinating focus group you just did in Michigan is that people are a little scared. I’m thinking of the trans woman who was talking about the impact of a Republican being reelected, of Trump being reelected. But they’re not energized. And this fear of people staying home is something I hear from Democrats over, and over, and over again, of young people staying home, of base voters staying home, of people not being energized. So, yes, the economy, they need to run it to a draw. That’s what the Biden campaign needs to do. But they also need to get people energized around issues like abortion, around the threat of a Trump second term, around a range of things that’s going to get people off of their couches and out to the polls.

KRISTEN WELKER:

And, Matt, what are you hearing inside Republican circles? Because some folks I speak to tell me, “Look, inflation’s coming down. There’s a real chance that, by Election Day, that divide that the voters are talking about where they don’t feel that the economy is getting better could start to turn a little bit of a corner.”

MATT GORMAN:

It’s certainly possible, but at least for right now, that chasm is so big, where it’s not just cost of living and inflation. It’s the housing market. The lady talked about trying to buy a car. All those markets are so illiquid, and it’s hard to actually finance those things. You see it every day. And so, Republicans are going to press that advantage as much as possible, because in their mind, we’ve gone from, you know, Bill Clinton’s, “I feel your pain,” to Joe Biden’s essentially telling you your pain isn’t real. And I think with immigration, as we talked about there, look, coming up the trail with Tim Scott, that is such a huge issue not just in border states, not just in border counties. Debbie Dingell talked about fentanyl. This touches so many different counties in America. By Biden taking a deal if one is offered, that’s a huge general election help for him. It really means a lot.

JEN PSAKI:

I agree with Matt. I mean, this is – this is something that the base voters in the Democratic Party will hate and will be outraged by. And there will be a lot of people in the White House who will not love details of this. But in the general election electorate, there is a fear of chaos at the border, border security. It’s a real issue. It doesn’t mean it’s entirely valid, but it’s a perception challenge.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Court, let’s talk about this potential deal, because Ukraine is a big piece of it. I talked to Senator Lindsey Graham about it. President Zelenskyy was here trying to make the case. I mean, how desperately do they need this aid? Give us the reality check and what came from that visit.

COURTNEY KUBE:

They need it. I mean, in a word, they cannot win the war without this continued aid. There have been some small tactical gains. Even just this week, actually, we saw that the Ukrainians were able to push into an area east of the Dnipro River that will give them the ability to bring supplies, equipment across the river throughout the winter. Small, hard-fought, costly tactical gains. But it will take many of those before we really see any kind of a breakthrough here. And the reality is the U.S. has given $44 billion in aid and equipment since the invasion, and we’re still seeing a war of inches at this point. And it’s been a very difficult realization, but we’re even starting to see some wavering support among senior military officials. Publicly? Absolutely not. They are still all in for Ukraine, absolutely. Privately, they are starting to talk about the fact that this is a stalemated war, and even with this extensive amount of support that the U.S. has been giving them, they still are not seeing any major breakthroughs.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Such a significant revelation. Geoff Bennett, there is also, of course, this impeachment inquiry that has been opened up. Could President Biden use this moment to try to galvanize his base around him? And could it backfire against Republicans? What are the politics of this?

GEOFF BENNETT:

He certainly could. I mean, the risk for Republicans is this: Never before in the history of this country has a presidential impeachment inquiry moved forward in the absence of credible evidence. And that is what House Republicans are doing. Typically, House committees do the investigative work on the front end, they find evidence of wrongdoing, and they move on from there. That’s not what has happened here. And so, the risk for Republicans is that, come Election Day, they are seen focusing on the wrong things, not focusing so much on the economy or immigration but on what could potentially be a meritless impeachment. The risk for the White House is that it becomes a distraction.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Jen Psaki, you had this surprise press conference by Hunter Biden. Did it help, or did it hurt?

JEN PSAKI:

Look, I think if you’re sitting in the White House right now, you’re like, “Please, Hunter Biden. We know your dad loves you. Please stop talking in public.” This is not helpful to any of them for him to be out there. But, at the same time, the president loves his son. That takes precedent over anything else. That is appealing. I’m thinking of the woman in your focus group who talked about family. He loves his son. He loves his family. He’s worried about his mental health. But, yes, the White House would like him to probably go away right now.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Matt Gorman, could this backfire if Republicans don’t find the smoking gun? Lindsey Graham said there isn’t one yet.

MATT GORMAN:

I think that Republicans need to continue to take their time on this. I think they need to continue to emphasize that this is not articles of impeachment. This is merely an inquiry. The biggest difference between now and ’98 with Henry Hyde, to your point: Joe Biden isn’t elevating this. He’s not using this to rally Democrats around him. That’s a very different thing between then and now.

COURTNEY KUBE:

Not yet.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Yeah.

COURTNEY KUBE:

We’ll see.

MATT GORMAN:

We’ll see –

KRISTEN WELKER:

We’ll see. Court, the world is watching. Here we are, two foreign wars. How do allies and enemies to the United States watch the divisions play out here at home?

COURTNEY KUBE:

Yeah. And, you know, the U.S. has been increasingly more isolated on the world stage in the wake of what’s been happening in Israel. You know, October 7th, the entire world rallied behind Israel. But as we’ve seen this continuing humanitarian suffering, lack of food and water in Gaza, continuing strikes and ground offensive by the Israelis, I mean, even this week, we heard about three hostages who were killed by IDF soldiers. Israelis are going to investigate that, of course, but that is putting growing and mounting pressure on the U.S. to really call out Israel. And we saw that this week with Jake Sullivan’s visit. And we’ll see more of it with Secretary Austin this week –

KRISTEN WELKER:

We sure will. Thank you all. Happy holidays. Great conversation –

KRISTEN WELKER:

That is all for today. Thank you for watching. We will be back next week, because if it’s Sunday, it’s Meet the Press.