Indiana Governor and GOP VP Nominee Mike Pence joined me on this debate morning:
HH: Joined now by the Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, the Republican nominee for vice president. Governor Pence, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt show, good morning to you.
MP: Hey, Hugh, great to be back on with you. It’s an exciting day.
HH: It is. Where will you be watching the debate tonight?
MP: I’ll be seated right there. I’ll be at the event. My wife and I are looking forward to cheering on my running mate. I know it’s going to be a great night for Donald Trump and a great night for America.
HH: Let’s talk a little bit about the specifics of the debate tonight, Governor Pence.
HH: Do you think Mr. Trump should bring up Secretary Clinton’s server?
MP: Well, I think look, I think that the choice in this election could not be more clear, whether it would be on the way that people have carried themselves in public life or their agenda for this country. And so I think everything, everything should be on the table. And her years as Secretary of State, the fact that she had a private server that we now know she was actually getting emails from the president of the United States, a private server where classified information was actually being trafficked, that’s all fair game at this or any future debate. The American people have a right to review her record and her conduct in public life, but I expect tonight’s going to be about a whole bunch of issues. And I think you’re going to see in Donald Trump a candidate who’s going to continue to focus on the issues that matter most to the American people – national security, economic growth and jobs, the Supreme Court of the United States, and I’m just telling you what, I’m just counting the hours.
HH: Well, I want to focus on national security and the server for a couple of question and go to the other ones.
HH: In your opinion, Mike Pence, you were in Congress. You had all the clearances. You’re the governor of Indiana. You’ve dealt with emergencies. Does her server represent a national security disaster to you?
MP: Say again? You broke up for one second.
HH: Do you believe her holding on to an unclassified, unsecured private server is a national security disaster, in other words that foreign hostile agencies easily could breach and probably did breach?
MP: Oh, right, right. Well, there’s no question that the fact that Hillary Clinton, while she was Secretary of State, had a private server, and actually trafficked in classified information on that server, represented an irresponsible act that placed classified and sensitive information about the United States of America potentially within reach of foreign governments and foreign powers. It’s simply no question about that. And the fact that she did that, the reasons for doing that, and the fact that she then used high technology, this BleachBit program to attempt to erase and eradicate those, you know, I’m old enough to remember a president who erased 18 ½ minutes of audio tape and he was run out of Washington, D.C. And here, we have in Hillary Clinton someone who actually used high technology to attempt to erase nearly 18,000 emails. And as I said, that doesn’t, that doesn’t sound like politics. That sounds like obstruction. And these are all issues the American people ought to be willing to deal with and weight in their decision. But I think it’s one of the reasons why the polls are so tight. And I couldn’t be more excited. A new Bloomberg poll this morning, and this is a wheel to wheel race. We’re leading in some key battleground states around the country, close, even, in Pennsylvania. And I think it’s because the more people focus on this race, the more they can see that Donald Trump has the right vision for America, and has the right brand of leadership during these challenging times.
HH: Only the governor of Indiana, which is home to the Brickyard, would use that analogy, a wheel to wheel race. I like that. Let me ask you one last, Liz Cheney was just on, future Congresswoman from Wyoming and daughter of the Vice President.
HH: She brought to my attention part of the FBI document drop on Friday I had not seen, which is it was revealed that Secretary Clinton received a thousand emails between and by David Petraeus when he was in charge of United States Central Command. Those were not turned over when she allegedly turned over her work emails. At what point do the American people just say, Governor Pence, we cannot trust a thing she says?
MP: Well, I think it just, all of it, the cumulative weight of it, and this story last week that we found out that the President himself had sent emails that had been, had gone to her private server. It just all continues to contribute to the conclusion by the majority of Americans that Hillary Clinton is untrustworthy. And I think all of that, all of that is going to bear upon the decision that we all make as a nation later this fall. But I do think that at the end of the day, you know, the backdrop of her untrustworthiness, which you know, I continue to hear the pundits say that that’s what she’s going to try and take on tonight, the American people are still, Hugh, focused on the things that are impacting their families. You know, we began last week with terrorist attacks in New Jersey and New York and Minnesota. We ended the week with five Americans losing their lives in Washington State. We still don’t know the motivation for that, but it was someone who was in this country under the law, but was an immigrant from Turkey. And I just think that focusing on security, focusing on economic growth, focusing on, as you do so well, focusing on the fact that the very balance of the Supreme Court and our core Constitutional liberties are literally on the ballot this year, I think are all issues that will come to the fore, and will continue to give great, great momentum behind the campaign of Donald Trump.
HH: Governor Pence, you’re a very gracious man. It’s the Mid-Western built into us. If Secretary Clinton coughs tonight, what would you advise Mr. Trump to do – be gracious or, I mean, what would you suggest his approach be to her well-known, you know, she’s recovering from pneumonia, but she has these coughing fits because of allergies. What would you advise him to do?
MP: Well, of course, do what we’ve all done, and that is continue to wish her well and you know, literally, we’ve prayed for her recovery. We’re glad to see her back out on the campaign trail. But you know, all of these things, all these things, I think, in large measure, are not the issue in the debate tonight. The American people are really focused. They’re focused on the issues that impact their future – having a president they can trust, having a president who has a vision for a stronger, more prosperous America. That’s where you’re going to see Donald Trump focused tonight, and I’ve got to tell you, I just think as people see this debate unfold, as they see these two people on the stage, it’s going to become more and more clear that Donald Trump is the right choice at the right time to be the 45th president of the United States.
HH: On that trust issue, Governor Pence, how far back, do you think, Mr. Trump goes? We can go back to her service on the Watergate Committee which ended unhappily. We can talk about the Rose Law Firm records mysteriously appearing, the cattle futures, or we can come to the present and the server. How far back does he go, because I believe, I stated on Meet the Press yesterday, she has a Nixonian problem, and the durability of her unlikability now extends to three decades.
MP: Well, that’s right, and you know, I’ve often said on the campaign trail at rallies, and I’ll be in New Hampshire later today before the debate, you know, most of the national media spends more time talking about what Donald Trump said in the last 30 minutes than they do focusing on what the Clintons have been up to for the last 30 years. But look, I think it’s all fair game. But in the time that is allotted, I think that what you’re going to see Donald Trump do tonight is really lay out a vision for this country, a vision to get this economy moving again, to have America standing tall in the world again, to end illegal immigration once and for all, to promote the safety and security of the American people. And these other issues are fair game. I expect they will come up. You know, the number of years that are talked about will probably be a result of spontaneous decisions that arise, but I think Donald Trump is coming to this debate to talk to the American people about his vision to make America great again.
HH: Now I know you don’t have a lot of time to watch television, but I’ve been referring to the mass infantry of elite media bombarding Donald Trump. And yesterday, Joy Reid, my opposite number on MSNBC where she is of the left and I’m of the right, she actually modified it to call it the elite media armada has been firing pretty much non-stop 96 hours at Donald Trump. Does it actually now redound to his benefit, that they’ve been just covering him with you know, hostile fire from the media for 96 hours?
MP: Well, I just, it’s just breathtaking, but Hugh, I mean, you know, what’s new? I mean, from the very time I joined this campaign, it’s been two on one, I mean, with the media doing most of Hillary Clinton’s work for her. But the remarkable thing, and you see it in the polls this morning, the Bloomberg poll has this race tied nationally. I mean, you see in battleground state after battleground state, we’re either ahead or tied. And I think it’s that Donald Trump has given voice to the aspirations and the frustrations of the American people like no leader since Ronald Reagan. And if memory serves, you know, you and I have the same color hair, and we’ve been around just about the same amount of time.
MP: Ronald Reagan, you know, endured the withering assault of the liberal media in his day. But the remarkable thing is that Donald Trump continues to rise, that he’s winning more and more hearts and minds every day, and I think it’s because he’s got the right message, and he literally, the man literally embodies the American spirit, you know, strong, freedom loving, independent, willing to fight for what he believes in, and I think that spirit is drawing more and more support every day, despite the constant barrage of the liberal press.
HH: Earlier today, Mike Allen said he’s got all the right enemies, and that’s enough for many people. Let’s go to the Supreme Court. Yesterday, Ted Cruz endorsed Mr. Trump, and they were very opposed to each other and words were sharp and harsh throughout the presidential primary season. I explained that on Meet the Press as being my view that Senator Cruz is an originalist, and he knows that not just the Justice Scalia vacancy, but 80 federal court vacancies are waiting on Day One for nominees for the next president.
HH: How important are the courts, and specifically, the Supreme Court to the argument Mr. Trump must make tonight?
MP: I think it may be, when you think of the impact that the next president will have on the course and direction of the Supreme Court, it may be the most important issue in this election. And Donald Trump has made it clear. With a new, and an additional list of conservative luminaries that came out last week, that he is committed to appoint jurists to every level of our federal court who will uphold our Constitution, or strict constructionists in the tradition of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia. And those men and women are out there, and we’ve identified them. And we just couldn’t be more grateful for Senator Cruz’ support. I spoke about it when I was in Iowa on Saturday night. We expressed our heartfelt appreciation. I talked to Senator Cruz on Friday, and to have him join us at this point in the campaign is evidence, it’s literally what we’re seeing all over the country, Hugh, that this party is coming together, this movement is coming together, and I truly do believe the polls reflect it, and that this, Donald Trump is going to be the next president of the United States, because he has the right message, and he’s the right leader at this time in our national life.
HH: Now Governor Pence, I love this list, including people like Judge Ryan of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Services. She is a Notre Dame law grad. She is a Marine. She was an aide to the Commandant of the Marine Corps. She is a Judge Luttig clerk. She is a Justice Thomas clerk. She’s 49 years old. She’s just perfect. But my conservative NeverTrumper friends say to me you can’t trust Donald Trump to make these picks. Now Donald Trump answered that on my show saying yes, you can, and Mitch McConnell can filibuster me, and the Senate, if I don’t make them. Is that an adequate response? How much to you trust the list?
MP: Oh, I absolutely trust the list. And as you know, Hugh, I served for ten years on the Judiciary Committee, and my running mate has asked me to counsel with him when those decisions come to the fore. And I’m honored to be asked to play that role. Look, this is, the list speaks for itself. I think the fact that Hugh Hewitt is enthusiastic about the list is a great endorsement. But look, this is, this is a candidate in Donald Trump who is committed to appoint jurists to the Supreme Court and the rest of our federal courts that will uphold the Constitution. And as you can see from that list, which members of the Federalist Society helped us to develop as well, and gave great input, as did other conservative thought leaders, that Donald Trump is going to keep his word, because this is a time, I think, where with the passing of Justice Scalia, literally the balance of the Court is on the ballot. And that, you know, there may be something altogether fitting about that, that the American people in this election are going to decide the direction of the Supreme Court not for the next four years, but likely for the next 40 years. And they can rely on the fact, I can assure you, that when Donald Trump is president of the United States, we’re going to appoint judges to every level of the court, including our highest court, that will uphold the Constitution.
HH: Now Governor Pence, a new president brings 3,000 political appointees with him or her. How different do you believe those 3,000 appointees of a Trump-Pence administration would be from the 3,000 appointees of a Clinton-Kaine administration?
MP: I think it would, the personnel associated with these administrations will be as different as the vision between these two candidates. Look, every time you hear Hillary Clinton talk, that what you can believe is that virtually every answer to every challenge facing America can be found in the federal government, I mean literally, whether it’s, you know, her economic plans to raise taxes, increase regulations. She sees Obamacare as a good start. She wants to expand the war on coal. All of it is centered in government. And you and I both know that personnel is policy. And her administration will be peopled with folks that share her view that the center of America’s prosperity and strength is in the government. In Donald Trump and I, you have people that believe the strength of this country is found in the American people. And we’re going to fill this administration with people that will implement his vision to make America great again through less taxes, less government. We’re going to end the war on coal. We’re going to advance the kind of policies that’ll unleash the boundless potential of the American people. And I can assure you that we’re already beginning the process of identifying people that can fill those roles, and I just, it’s very humbling for me to be a small part of this effort. But I truly do believe Donald Trump is a man that has the right vision, the right policies, and he’ll surround himself with the right people to make America great again.
HH: Last six minutes. Let’s focus, Governor Pence, on the hardest issues. Elite media and Clinton surrogates are pushing that Donald Trump is inappropriately enamored with Vladimir Putin. I say Vladimir Putin is an evil man who is successfully prosecuting Russia’s historic ambitions to dominate the Middle East by reintroducing Russians into Iran. They fly from there now, strengthening their presence in Syria, having General Sisi, now-President Sisi go to Russia. How important is it that Trump articulate correctly his view of Putin as just what I described?
MP: Well, I think tonight, you’ll hear Donald Trump reflect on a view on the world stage that is a view about American strength. And the simple fact is that the last seven and a half years under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have weakened America’s place in the world, and weakened American credibility. Look, we, you know, any statements made by Donald Trump or myself about the small and bullying leader of Russia are not an endorsement of Vladimir Putin. It’s an indictment of the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. And this is not about, you know, it’s not about failing to recognize what we’re dealing with there. It’s just recognizing that on the world stage, Vladimir Putin has been advancing the interests of Russia, you know, in the invasion of Ukraine, in Crimea, the new alliance and new activity both in Syria and in Iran, all give evidence of the fact that we’ve had a weakened position in the world. And Donald trump from the get-go as president of the United States is going to have a completely different posture on the world stage. We’re going to rebuild the arsenal of democracy, and projecting American strength and standing up for America’s interests will again be the order of the day.
HH: I expect when your debate comes up, this issue will arise. I heard a Hofstra student on MSNBC last night call you, Mike Pence, homophobic. I personally know that not to be true. But how are you going to respond to that when it comes up inevitably in your debate with Tim Kaine?
MP: Oh, I don’t believe in discrimination against anyone because of who they are or who they love. And anybody that knows me knows that to be the case. But you know, I understand that these accusations, you know, have been leveled at us from the hard left, but we’ll look forward to our debate a week from tomorrow night. But you know, the focus today is on tonight, and I’m just very confident that Donald Trump’s going to present a compelling image and compelling message that’s going to connect with people from every walk of life in this country. Look, there’s very challenging times in the life of our country…
HH: Last questions, Governor…
MP: …and people want new leadership. They want strong leadership at home and abroad. They’re going to see that tonight on the stage with Donald Trump.
HH: Last two or three questions. A first one, who’s playing Tim Kaine opposite you in mock debates? And how much time are you spending in mock debates?
MP: We’re spending a little bit of time. We’ve done a couple of those and done a little bit of studying along the way. Scott Walker’s been helping me out in playing that role, and he’s a great friend and a great debater, and we’re going to do our level best to be ready. But you know, for me, after the last four years and up to this very moment, my focus has been here in the state of Indiana as the governor of Indiana. But I’ve been brushing up on all those issues you deal with every day that I dealt with for 12 years in the Congress. But we’re going to do our level best to be ready. But I know the main even tonight, Donald Trump’s going to walk on that stage. He’s going to bring a lifetime of experience to that stage, and people are going to see in him a leader that’s ready on Day One to be president of the United States.
HH: And last question, Mike Pence, what do you make of this debate over whether moderators like my NBC colleague, Lester Holt, or others ought to “fact-check”? What do you think of that debate? And what role do you think the moderator ought to play?
MP: I think the moderator ought to be, ought to ask questions and allow the participants to answer the questions, and frankly, to take issue with one another where they feel inclined to do that. I know that you know, four years ago, when Mitt Romney made an assertion about Benghazi and about things the president of the United States had said, the moderator at the time challenged him on it, and she was wrong. But you know, I don’t think we, I don’t think we need to have the moderator also playing a role in the debate. My hope and my confident hope in the debate tonight and our debate and the other two presidential debates, the moderators will ask the questions, and they’ll allow the candidates to answer the questions. And then the rest of you people afterwards can do all the commentating, and they’ll let the American people decide.
HH: Governor Pence, there’s really only 45 seconds, but the anguish of Charlotte, Tulsa and Seattle is shared widely.
MP: It is.
HH: Does Donald Trump address that tonight?
MP: Well, I think obviously, our, in the wake of any loss of life in a police-involved shooting, you know, we mourn with those who mourn, and we pray for the families of those who lost their lives in Oklahoma and in Charlotte. People are entitled to a full and thorough investigation, but at the same time, Donald Trump and I believe that all this talk that you hear about, from Hillary Clinton and others about implicit bias in law enforcement, is demeaning to the men and women who wear the uniform of law enforcement each and every day. I think the reason why Donald Trump has been endorsed by the largest police officers union in the country is because they long to have leadership at the nation level that will stand with law enforcement. And we don’t have to choose between accountability in cases of tragedy or standing with the people who serve with law enforcement. And I think you’ll hear Donald Trump, given the opportunity, to reflect on that tonight.
HH: Governor Mike Pence, thank you so much.
End of interview.