Chairman Reince Priebus joined me today to discuss the run-up to Cleveland and the general election:
HH: As we come up to the California primary, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are locked in a death battle, a cage match. But the Republicans are getting organized for a great convention in Cleveland. I’m joined by the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus. Chairman, welcome back. Aren’t you glad you didn’t do it in June, because you’d be running smack dab into the Warriors-Cavaliers epic series.
RP: Well, that’s one of the reasons why we couldn’t do it in June. I actually wanted to. And sorry about my voice. I think I’m losing it a little bit. But we couldn’t. And so now I’m just hoping that the Cavs just sweep, because that’s, you know, it gets us into the arena quicker so that we can build out the stage. So what we really don’t want is a Game 7.
HH: We don’t want that, either. We’ll take the sweep, and by the way, that’s the right line to take with Ohio in play in the fall.
RP: Well, of course. Of course, Hugh.
RP: No, believe me, I think the Golden State Warriors have a pretty cool team, and there’s a lot of inspiration there. But at this point, we’ve got to build the stage and win Ohio, so I’ve got to just do the expedient thing and go with the Cavs. I’m sure people understand.
HH: Well, Mr. Chairman, let me ask you about news reports. There appears to have been a mind meld between Team Trump and the RNC led by Reince Priebus and your able spokesman, Sean Spicer. How close is the cooperation between the two organizations now?
RP: I would say, you know, well first of all, extremely close. You know, I thought that the coming together of Romney and the RNC four years ago was pretty good, but I have to say, and it’s not just to say it here to make some kind of nice situation, but I think it’s even easier and better now than it was even four years ago. In other words, I don’t think it could be going any smoother. Now you know, we have a lot more resources here than we used to have, too, though. Four years ago, we had basically about four full-time people in Ohio. And today, we’re pushing 53. I mean, it’s just, it’s a different RNC. We’ve got, we’ve put over $100 million dollars in data. We have hundreds and thousands of people across the country. We didn’t have that four years ago. It wasn’t, it’s not a good thing that we didn’t have it four years ago, but we do now. And I think the Trump campaign really appreciates that, and they’re working with us, and we’re raising money together. I think you saw that we released the Trump Victory Leadership Team last week. And you’ve got people on that leadership team that are, it’s remarkable that they’re there. We’ve got, you know, Lou Eisenberg, a guy named Ron Wiser, who was my finance chairman four years ago, Ray Washburn was our finance chairman two years ago, and even people like Woody Johnson, who was Jeb Bush’s finance chairman is now helping out Trump Victory. So that’s important. People want to see that, I’m sure, to show that people are coalescing to get the job done.
HH: So the French bubble, the David French bubble, how do you view that?
RP: I don’t know, I don’t really know him. I think it’s a little bit of a, look, I don’t want to say anything disparaging against the guy, because I don’t know him, and I’m sure he’s a good person. But I think it’s also just the sort of suicide mission and a huge distraction. I don’t see it going anywhere. I don’t, I think in order to be a viable third party candidate, I think you have to have a national name ID and a ton of cash in order to get even a blip on the radar. So I just, I don’t really even think about it, Hugh. I think it’s sort of silly, to tell you the truth.
HH: Okay, I spent two hours…
RP: And I think, I think, and I have to say, I think the people involved with it are embarrassing themselves.
HH: I spent two hours with Leader McConnell on Monday talking about his new book, The Long Game, which is a terrific read, by the way, Reince Priebus, and he is so on board with Trump because of the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court, and then again, he mentioned the Supreme Court. And so it is, it sort of does the prospect of having a judicial hanging in the morning does concentrate the mind, to borrow from Samuel Johnson. Let’s talk about the RNC and get out the vote in Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, the standard seven that you worry about coming up to, and of course, the great state of Ohio, where I will be appearing at the GOP dinner with Kasich and Portman on Saturday. How goes that effort? You mentioned 53 people in Ohio. What about the other seven?
RP: Well, it’s the same thing everywhere else. I mean, we’re building, and that’s just political people, by the way, Hugh. I mean, we’ve got hundreds and thousands of others that are going through something we call the Republican Leadership Institute, where you have 5,000 people going through six weeks of training to be put in the field. And these are not just volunteers that show up on Saturday for a couple of hours. These are people committed to putting in 30, 50 hours a week on the ground. It’s a program that we’ve never seen before at the RNC all embedded into those battleground states. But here’s what’s important, I think, for the listeners, which makes it, drives the point even more home. The battleground states, for the most part, include battleground Senate races, too. So if you think about Rob Portman in Ohio, and Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, and Burr in North Carolina, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, and we’re going to have, we have an open race right now. We’re not sure if Marco Rubio gets back in, in Florida. But my point is that everywhere we’re putting field staff in huge concentrations are typically states that have a major Senate race in them as well. We can’t win the Senate if we don’t do well at the top of the ticket. It just doesn’t work that way. People can’t just decide that well, we don’t want to participate in the presidential, but we do care about winning the Senate. You can’t do it. You have to be competitive at every level, on the Senate side, on the presidential. So our focus is on the mechanic. I know for people it’s the boring stuff, but it’s what wins these elections. We are in a divided country. It is very close. Look at the polling evens today. I mean, Trump/Clinton, it’s tied. And winning by a field goal is usually what happens in these races, and you can’t win by a field goal unless someone today is registering voters in Ohio and Florida. So if you don’t put your money in and time in on the mechanic, we can’t win. That’s what we do. That’s what the RNC does.
HH: Richard Burr, you just mentioned, is being tipped by some sources close to Team Trump as a possible vice presidential candidate, would be a Lieberman rerun of 2000 when he ran simultaneously. What do you think about that?
RP: Well, I think Richard Burr, I mean, obviously, he’s very talented. I don’t know who the VP nominee’s going to be. I think that we’re a ways out from that, but I know the vetting process is going on, and I think there’s a lot of folks on that list. And I also think that, you know, in the case of Donald Trump on his decision making, I think he is very open to a lot of different ideas. I do think that experience in Washington, maybe a little foreign policy experience is something that he’s most interested in. But we’ll wait and see.
HH: Now let me, I could talk to you about important things like hotel rooms for journalists coming to Cleveland, but let’s talk about Libya and Hillary Clinton.
RP: I’d bet you’d like to talk about hotel rooms.
HH: I know. Always like to know…
RP: Are you looking like within a block, right?
HH: That’s what I’m looking for. I’m looking for that.
HH: And I just think I got the Chairman to commit to that.
HH: Hillary Clinton is giving a foreign policy speech today. Hillary Clinton is giving a foreign policy speech. And at the same time, the tragedy, I mean it’s a massive tragedy, 1,050 refugees in the Med this week from Libya fleeing from Libya.
HH: How does she give a foreign policy speech, Reince Priebus, without everyone calling, you know, throw the flag. We’ve got to talk about the Russia reset button, Syria, genocide, Libya meltdown, Egypt in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, the failure of the Status of Forces Agreement, the server that compromised national security. How does she do that?
RP: Bergdahl. You know, I don’t know, and I think that’s going to be her Achilles Heel. Her problem is that her record stinks when it comes to foreign policy. Any sort of recommendation she makes now, I think the question will be then if these are such great ideas, why didn’t you do them when you actually were the person as Secretary of State to implement these things. I think she’s just in a box, because her record’s no good. And any ideas she has now are too late. And in many cases, you just rattled off a bunch of them off the top of your head. Each one of those issues that you talked about, whether it be Libya, whether it be Bergdahl, whether it be Benghazi itself, each one of those things has a story in and of itself which would in most cases disqualify someone from even being considered to be president of the United States. And so she’s got a lot to answer for. She’s got the FBI all over her, and I just think that we haven’t seen the end of that, either. And she’s been lying, she hasn’t been telling the truth, and on MSNBC, on their own sort of word cloud, when they do polling, the biggest word on the screen is liar and dishonest. And that’s not me talking. It’s the Democrat talkers on their own programs saying the same thing. And I think she’s got huge problems. Here’s one other quick thing. This is an anti-Washington year. It’s an anti-everything year. But I will tell you, we’ve, we’re picking the candidate that embodies that. The Democrats aren’t. They’re not picking the movement candidate.
HH: Let me, let me give you the shortcut I use, Reince Priebus. The line is Every Liberal Really Seems So Sad. E is for Egypt, L is for Libya, R is for Russia reset, S is for Syria, S is for Status of Forces Agreement, S is for server. That’s my way of remembering how to run through the Hillary Clinton foreign policy failures. Let me play Chris Hayes talking to Secretary Clinton two nights ago.
CH: I need to ask you have you been contacted by the FBI about an interview regarding the email situation?
HRC: No, we do not have an interview scheduled.
HH: Now Reince Priebus, that is not responsive. She simply did not answer the question. And you say she’s got the FBI all over her. I have to assume on the basis of that evasion that you are absolutely correct.
RP: Well, and you know, you’ve seen reports. Anyone can Google these reports, it’s all over the place, that Comey and the FBI have actually talked about bringing her in for an interview. It’s been out there for a week. I would say, you know, I’m nowhere near a guy like James Comey, but I was a litigator for 14 years. I wouldn’t bring in the CEO of a company for a deposition unless I had a darn good reason. And you’d fight over it. You wouldn’t just do it. Can you imagine that James Comey, and it’s out there, talking about interviewing the Secretary of State, former First Lady, Democrat nominee for president of the United States. He is going to bring her in for an interview? And it’s not a big deal? Of course, it’s a big deal. That’s why they’re talking about it. That’s why they’re immunizing employees. And so look, I’d prefer that they do all this after their convention, personally. But I’m not sure I’m going to get my wish.
HH: Reince Priebus, always a pleasure to talk to you, Mr. Chairman. I’ll see you in Cleveland, if not before. Follow him, @Reince, on Twitter and @RNC. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
End of interview.