Meet The Press’ Chuck Todd joined me this morning:
HH: On an epic day of news – Jerusalem, there are riots in Ramallah at this hour, Al Franken likely to resign, the Senate Majority Leader’s comments on that and others coming up, Chuck Todd joins me from NBC’s Meet the Press. Chuck, I fear that by the end of the day, our colleague, Jacob Soboroff will have the biggest story, because unprecedented wind levels today with four major fires already burning. I see that Jacob has said that he’s already out and about. I just pray it’s not the story of the day by the time you come on.
CT: No, and this fear of the city of Los Angeles feels like it’s in the path for the first time, like you know, they’ve been always watching these wildfires. They get close, and now this one feels like good grief, it’s creeping closer and closer. But you know, Hugh, it’s funny you say this about all these headlines that we’ve been dealing with over the last 48 hours. When I try to figure out, whenever you’re in one of these moments and there’s so much, I say myself, okay, when you’re trying to figure out what to lead with, what’s the story that in five years we will look back on. And here’s the thing. All of them have that five year leg. You know, it feels like they’re of significance – the Senate Democratic women ganging up and saying you know, enough is enough on Franken. That’s a moment we’re going to remember five years from now. The President’s decision on Jerusalem – well, that’s a moment that could have impact five years from now. Donald Trump, Jr. testifying is…that, you know, that’s how everything, never mind the natural disaster taking place in Southern California. The point is we’ve got a lot of these stories that we’re dealing with that you’re like, have sort of, these are impactful stories. These aren’t just shiny metal objects that are interesting on a given day.
HH: Absolutely true. And last night, I was helping out at the Jack Kemp Foundation dinner. I moderated a panel with Anquan Boldin and Jeff Kemp and J.C. Watts. But before they spoke, Senators Lankford and Scott spoke. And before they spoke, the Vice President spoke. And he paused to say hey, we just, we are on the verge of passing tax reform. It hasn’t happened since ’86. It impacts every single American. It is an enormous deal. And you know, Chuck Todd, in your list of things that we’ll be talking about in five, guess what? We’ll be talking about this tax code for 30 years until they change it this way again, and it’s almost over the goal line.
CT: It is, but by the way, let’s emphasize the word almost.
CT: This conference, this conference is going to be difficult. You know, they could lose Susan Collins’ vote in this if the House, you know, puts the demands on some parts of the Senate bill. Now they could afford that, right? They could afford losing one vote, one more vote. They can’t afford losing two more, and it does seem as if the sticking points between the House and the Senate, which I thought weren’t that sticky, might be a little stickier than we thought. And I have to tell you, Hugh, this is where I’m trying to figure out the bandwidth issue here. How are they going to try to keep the government, I mean, they’re struggling to just do a two week continuing resolution. And they’re going to try to get tax reform done and keep the government open before Christmas? Explain to me how this is going to happen? And what universe has this happened before?
HH: I had the Majority Leader on yesterday, and Mitch McConnell said almost certain, just like when you just emphasized almost, because of the complexity. But the cost of collapse now have gone up even higher than they were of inaction before. And so I do think it gets done. I don’t suppose you’re going to count the Cleveland Cavaliers record-tying franchise win streak among your things that we’ll look back in five years.
CT: Sorry, buddy, regular season. Regular season. Come on, man.
HH: You were in Cleveland this week.
CT: I was.
HH: I just wanted to ask, what were you doing in Cleveland?
CT: I was doing something for the JCC Book Festival.
HH: Oh, terrific.
CT: They invited me out there, and I have to tell you, man, I had never been to Slyman’s, and I know this is a thing.
HH: Yeah, it is a thing.
CT: Little did I know, but I have to say, it was great corned beef. You cannot get good corned beef in Washington. It drives me crazy. You cannot get good corned beef in D.C.
HH: I am not a corned beef aficionado, but everyone’s been telling me about this forever. Let’s turn to Al Franken before we run out of time, because I think a major deal is happening today. We’ve seen senators retire and resign in tears on the floor before – Bob Packwood.
HH: But we’ve never seen one do it for acts committed before joining the Senate. Does this open the door, Chuck Todd, to a completely new standard of behavior?
CT: Well, your wonderful EP and I were just discussing that before I came on the show. I mean, I, that is the way Senate Republicans should view this. I found it fascinating last night, Hugh, that so it was about 5:10 that Chuck Schumer became, I think, the 35th Democrat to say it’s time for Franken to go, right, which of course you could argue Schumer, once Schumer said publicly it’s time to go, you knew the deal was done, right? He wouldn’t have done it if he didn’t know the outcome. All of a sudden last night, a whole bunch of Senate Republicans wanted to get on the record to call on Franken to resign. And it was clear to me why they were doing it, right? They wanted to be able to say if Moore got elected, hey, well, we called for Franken to get out. We decided he wasn’t worthy of being a United States Senator. And that’s what the senators are saying, right? That’s what these Democratic women are saying. You know, it was interesting about, like, somebody said well, why now, and it was sort of a bunch of Democratic senators are sitting there going we don’t want to deal with this every week of the drip, drip. It’s just like forget it. Get out. Clean house. Get rid of this. But I have to tell you, I do think that they put some real pressure on Republicans here, and I do believe that the worst outcome now for the GOP is a Roy Moore victory.
HH: I agree.
CT: Because if Roy Moore wins…
HH: And I agree.
CT: He becomes the famous U.S. Senator in America, period.
HH: And I…
CT: And that’s not a good thing for the GOP.
HH: The first day that the Washington Post story broke, I was on Meet the Press Daily with you, and I convicted Roy Moore that day on the basis of the Post reporting. I would not vote for him. Powell V. McCormack, though, says if the people send him, the Senate doesn’t have to keep him. It doesn’t end it. And I would argue that the people of Alabama…
CT: They can expel him, yeah.
HH: They can expel him.
HH: And I think that what the Majority Leader said yesterday is a predicate to moving it to Ethics quickly, to expel him based upon evidence both already in the record and forthcoming.
HH: And no one should be shocked by that if that happens. That’s what, I just don’t want people to be to shocked, that his winning an election doesn’t, after winning a nomination without this information, doesn’t immunize him. And Powell V. McCormack did not hold that. It just simply says you cannot add, you cannot refuse to seat him. You can seat him and expel him, though.
CT: Oh, I tell you. It all sounds simple, but you know, you have Steve Bannon, who is going to be very, feel very emboldened if he wins, if he pulls Moore over the finish line. Look, let me just get on the record here. I’m still skeptical Moore can win.
HH: I agree.
CT: All right, I look at all the fundamentals. If you looked at Jones and Moore as stocks, okay, I just binged Billions, so forgive me here a little bit. I’m in that mode. But if you’re, if you look at them as stocks, you wouldn’t buy a Moore stock. You’d buy a Jones, you’d buy Jones shares right now.
CT: Right? You’d buy Jones shares.
HH: And there is this social desirability bias that Sean Trende has educated me on. I think people are more inclined to lie about this election than any other one in Alabama history for a variety of reasons. So I am prepared to be surprised. However, let me go back to the people who signed these agreements. I believe after Franken quits today, everyone, and Conyers quit yesterday, everyone who signed one of these hush money agreements, they’re doomed.
HH: They’re all doomed. Do you agree?
CT: Well, yes. And how is, what is Paul Ryan waiting for on Blake Farenthold? What he, like, what is, I have no idea how, and by the way, Ryan himself, if you’re calling on Conyers to resign, Farenthold got due process. He settled. I mean, if you want to make a due process argument, he got to go through a process.
HH: There is no argument here. He should have been gone last week.
HH: And it’s only because of the press of business. I really do believe that many of these events move in tandem with the media.
HH: And the media is not paying much attention to the goofball from Texas, and he is a goofball, Chuck. Everybody knows he’s a goofball.
HH: But they’ve been paying attention to Franken. They’ve been paying attention to Moore.
HH: The zone is flooded. That’s all it is. He’ll go.
CT: No, I agree, which is also why, though, they ought to be proactive in cleaning their own house, right? You know, go sweep out the stalls while people aren’t watching. Don’t make us tell you to go sweep out the stall.
HH: So the obvious question is, other than the Cavs winning streak, what is the lead on Meet the Press on Sunday and who is the guest?
CT: It’s funny you say that. Well, I can tell you what I’m doing. I’m going down to Alabama for tomorrow. I’m going to spend part of tomorrow and Saturday there and come back on Sunday and report back on that front. Look, it’s, we also, we didn’t even talk about the government shutdown threat.
HH: Oh, true.
CT: …which is, you know, which we’ll, I think, by 3pm today will know how serious it is.
HH: I just hope it’s not Los Angeles.
CT: Look, I think if the President, I think if Moore loses, I think a government shutdown threat goes up, because I think the President’s going to feel as if he’s got to stay strong on DACA and stay strong on immigration issues.
HH: Oh, interesting.
CT: He’s going to just, even if it’s just a one day shutdown, that he wants to show that he’s willing to do it, especially if Moore loses. I think that will have an impact on the President’s willingness to negotiate on DACA.
HH: Quick question. Hillary Clinton told me two weeks ago you can hold two thoughts at one time. I’m one of those people that believes leave Mueller alone, Mr. President, but the Department of Justice has got to look at Mr. Strzok. I think that’s a very disconcerting story. Is it too complicated for the American public to understand, yet?
CT: Well, look, I mean, we do have, I would ask you this. Is the IG’s report enough? Or do you, what, who do you go to if you don’t want to, if you don’t want to use the Inspector General on this front?
HH: I think you appoint a new special counsel. I really do think that there is such a corrosive quality…
CT: A special counsel for the special counsel?
HH: No, no, a special counsel for Mr. Strzok. Mueller’s fine. He’s a straight arrow. Everybody knows…
HH: I mean, he’s just completely a straight arrow. But I don’t know…
CT: Look, I thought you were asking on whether Mueller’s job is safe. I don’t think Mueller’s job is safe. I don’t.
HH: Ooh. What a disaster.
CT: I think that walls are closing on the, I don’t think there’s certain parts of the President’s businesses that the more it gets closer, I think, I don’t know, I don’t think Mueller’s safe.
HH: Interesting. It’ll be a disaster if that’s the case. Let’s hope we don’t have a disaster in Southern California. Chuck Todd, thank you. We’ll watch you on Sunday. If it’s Sunday, it must be Meet the Press.
End of interview.