RUSH TRANSCRIPT:

Tonight, brand-new NBC polling just out about the president and his handling of all things Russia in light of the historic summit. And senator Richard Blumenthal joins us as Paul Manafort’s trial gets ready to start and Michael Cohen drops his first mix tape. Plus this time last Sunday we were talking to bill broader about the summit with Putin. He’s going to join us live tonight after the Russian president name chikd him on the world stage.

>> And later states of play. Democrats are serious about taking back the Senate. Heidi high camp will have to hold on to North Dakota. We have new reporting on why it could be tariffs, not Russia, that make the difference there. But first it’s hard to believe that this time last week we were previewing the president’s meeting with Vladimir Putin. But, of course, we are apparently living in a different space time continuum here in 2018 where even gravity works differently. But more on that in a moment. All of that happened before Friday when “The New York Times” dropped that bombshell report about Michael Cohen and his recording of President Trump. Then came Saturday when the D.O.J. Made the documents about surveilling former trump campaign aid Carter Page public. And don’t forget about Paul Manafort whose trial begins this week in Virginia. Along with a reminder that the president’s former campaign chairman has been sitting in jail for over a month as he prepares to face a jury. But back to that part about gravity. The president’s approval rating is ticking up, not down. A brand-new poll from NBC news and the “Wall Street journal” conducted before and after the Helsinki summit shows the president approval rating at 45%. That is up 1 point from June. Among Republicans, that number is 88%, the highest ever his entire presidency.

>> With that, I would like to welcome in my panel. Joining me on set national NBC news Julia Ainsley. Bbc world America and MSNBC contributor katty Kay. And principal at cogent strategy Kevin Mclaughlin. Thank you all for being here. Kevin, I would like to start with you.

> Yes, ma’am.

> I would like you to explain why it is 88% of Americans approve of President Trump considering what saw contradicts Republican orthodoxy for years.

> President Trump has shown throughout his campaign and polling what I took away from the 2016 election is the American people authenticity. May not like what authenticity is, what he’s saying or how he’s doing it, but he doesn’t back down from it. When he goes out and does these events, I will call them, it actually helps him in fly over country. The outrage you see is in the corridor where we all live and work. When we get out of here people say he’s a knuckle head and stuff like that. We understand what he’s doing can hurt us personally, but we have to make sacrifices.

> When he says he could walk down 5th avenue and shoot somebody —

> He defies political gravity. I was thinking the exact same thing.

> The poll number that struck me was the poll that came out earlier last week, reuters poll that said only 32% of Republicans believe Russia meddled in the 2016 election. They do not agree with the assessment of the intelligence community. For Republicans to say we don’t believe the CIA, FBI and NSA, we are siding with the president on this is fairly remarkable. I think the one thing that is the divergence, the prospect of tariffs. You see signs Republican voters are still not comfortable with that and the Republican Party is still not comfortable with that. If the tariffs start hitting the president, it’s not going to be Russia, it’s going to be the economy.

> I would say that’s very true. When you look at tracking, Russia doesn’t register on the radar for what people care about. It is literally not even close to the top 15 issue.

> Julie, this is the strategy the Trump campaign has been running as well, to cast doubt on whether this meddling ever happened.

> Absolutely. We’re used to seeing Republicans go to war with Democrats but not their own justice and intelligence community. What you’re talking about, the polling, reuters poll, is showing that people are not trusting the intelligence community. They’re not trusting the justice Department.

> They’re trusting the president’s tweets.

> Exactly. They’re trusting that instead. They think they’re living under a new time when it comes to the Justice Department. I hear that sometimes. What happened to the justice Department we used to know? The majority of those career investigators are still there and they’re continuing the same investigations. But we are looking through it through a different prism now. We’re looking at it through trump’s prism, at least a lot of Republicans are who believe they have a president who wants to meet with people, reach across to people who used to be adversaries like Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin because they think it can help them in the end without actually looking at how this president is able to stand up to someone like Vladimir Putin amid all of these accusations — not just accusations, documented evidence of 12 Russian intelligence officers and the specifics and how they hacked into the Democratic Party.

> It strikes me that this is sort of the “End game” for talking about fake news and casting doubt repeatedly on the media, right? This is a situation where he has created a universe where nobody believes anything any of the fact checkers say.

>> Every single time the president tweets fake news or witch hunt, all of the polling suggests it’s working. This is a very smart strategy from the president’s point of view. He is leading public opinion in a different direction. One of the more startling shifts in public opinion that we have seen — we haven’t seen it on tariffs, but we have seen it on general attitudes with Russia, with more Republicans generally more favorable — take the Mueller investigation aside, take election meddling aside. Views have changed in the Republican Party. That is almost entirely due to Donald Trump.