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Face The Nation’s John Dickerson On Press Conferences: The One Chris Christie Did And The One Hillary Clinton Hasn’t Done (And Won’t/Can’t Do)

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Face The Nation’s John Dickerson joined me this morning:




HH: John Dickerson, though, will be working on Sunday on Face the Nation. Hello, John, welcome to the show. Who’s on Face the Nation this Sunday?

JD: Hello, Hugh, happy early Labor Day to you. We’ll have Chris Christie. We’ll talk to him about the Trump campaign. Also, you know, he’s running the transition for Donald Trump. So I want to talk to him about that as well underway. I mean, meetings with White House officials and kind of what they’re thinking through as the new President Trump, if that should come to be, how he hits the ground running. And then we’re also going to talk to Jeff Flake about Arizona and immigration, and Donald Trump’s week. As you know, the Senator is not a fan of Donald Trump’s, but has still left the window open to be convinced, what happened this week that might convince him. And then I’ll be talking to Alberto Gonzalez, who has a new book out about his time serving George W. Bush, which…

HH: As Attorney General.

JD: Yeah, that’s right.

HH: It’ll be interesting. A good question for him, I’m planting one here, as James Comey gave the press conference, that was unprecedented, actually, for an FBI director to make a recommendation regarding a referral, or a non-referral. I’ve gone back and done my homework. Not with Louie Freeh, not with Mueller, not with anyone ever has an FBI director made a public statement. And in most of their referrals to U.S. attorneys, they never make a recommendation. They just present. They hint and they nod. It would be interesting to know what Alberto thinks about that. Let me ask you about Chris Christie. You just reminded me of something. I think he gave the most famous press conference in recent political history, right?

JD: Yes.

HH: The two and a half hour Bridgegate.

JD: That’s right.

HH: Do you think Hillary Clinton, today’s New York Times has a story on another pay for play. Bill Clinton calls Huma, get the Dow president a meeting with Hillary so that I can get a plane to North Korea. That happens. Politico had a story yesterday that the Times of London picked up today about Bill Clinton and the former presidents fund. The L.A. Times had a story on Gilbert Chagoury last Sunday. These are, and today has a story on a referral from the FBI to State about the Records Act. Do you think Hillary Clinton could to a two and a half hour Chris Christie press conference with this kind of hurricane of stories around her?

JD: I mean, she could do one. Would it be as useful for her as that one was for him? I mean, as you know, and you heard him describe it, and he’s described it to me, the point of that press conference, and it worked pretty well for him, was basically to just keep standing there and taking questions until people ran out of questions, and to use the performative aspect of that, plus the answers he gave, to try to drain what was an incredibly charged moment of some of its energy by saying basically, I’ve got nothing to hide, and I’m just going to keep answering these questions. The big question there, and it worked out pretty well in the moment, and then the big question was okay, but is there another shoe going to drop, because he made a lot of claims about how he didn’t know anything about the bridge scandal. And his opponent said okay, fine, he says that now, but what’s going to happen after the investigation? And that’s, of course, the real challenge for Hillary Clinton, is not just standing there taking two hours of questions, which is hard enough, but is saying things that then are not undone by future revelations either in emails that are discovered, and obviously, we’ve seen that happen with what she said at the press conference she did at the United Nations when she first addressed the whole server issue. So I don’t think, and obviously, as we’ve seen, they haven’t done a press conference in 260-some odd days. So I think that’s not likely, we’re not likely to see a two hour press conference.

HH: Yeah, every one of her claims in that U.N. press conference undone, and a lot of her testimony before Congress undone and contradicted by Comey. Let me walk through a couple of these things. Gilbert Chagoury is my particular pet peeve, and the L.A. Times put him on the front page, because I think his donations and Bill Clinton showing up at his project violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Now it is not illegal to give access, as the Supreme Court has said, to domestic political operators and donors. That’s simply okay. That’s part of the deal. But it is on the foreign side. Do you think that’s too complicated for Americans to get that distinction, John Dickerson?

JD: No, I don’t think that’s too complicated. I think, but I think, so the question, though, is what’s more politically damaging? And I wonder if what’s more politically damaging is not the fact that basically this, the claim from the Clinton campaign is basically that nobody who donated to the Foundation got any kind of special favor about anything at all, which is different from saying they got policy changes. They’re saying they didn’t even get access to a meeting, and that’s just not believable. You know, even Donna Brazille, the chair of the Democratic National Committee said you know, what we’ve seen in the emails between the Foundation and the State Department is just the way Washington works. You know, somebody gives money and they get a meeting, but the meeting is just a meeting. It’s not, you know, affecting policy. Now you can dispute whether that’s the case or not, but even that position is different than the one the Clinton campaign asserts, which is there was no influence and no access at all. And that just, you can’t, that goes to the trust question, which I think is more a part of this election than the influence of a foreign national on U.S. policy.

HH: Now I know you’re not a lawyer, and you didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn, but let me just ask you as a very, very well-informed journalist. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits the giving of a thing of value to any foreign official. Bill Clinton appears at the Gilbert Chagoury island. He charges, we learned from the Times of London today, he made $230 million dollars since he left the presidency, he and Mrs. Clinton did. $230 million dollars is a lot. He charged a lot for speeches. He doesn’t charge to go to the Chagoury island. Chagoury is, among other things, the ambassador of St. Lucia to the Vatican. He’s a foreign official. Do you think that qualifies as a thing of value, an uncompensated Bill Clinton appearance?

JD: And on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the thing of value, it doesn’t matter whether the person is acting in an official U.S. capacity, right?

HH: No, that’s what you get.

JD: It’s all businesses, all corporations, so forth and so on?

HH: All individuals. Everyone is covered by it, yeah.

JD: Yeah, right. Right, I mean, it feels like you could make a case. You got me out of my depth here, Hugh, but I think it’s an interesting, it’s a valid and really interesting question.

HH: Yeah, maybe ask Chris Christie that, John Dickerson. I’ll watch that with great interest. That is going to be fascinating, not only on the transition, but on he’s been there and done that on corruption stories. John Dickerson of Face the Nation, thank you, my friend. Follow him on Twitter, @JDickerson.

End of interview.


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