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RNC Chair Reince Priebus on the Republican Convention Last Week, and the Mess That Is the Democrat Convention This Week

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The audio:


The transcript:

HH: That story will develop during the day, I’m sure overshadowing, if it is terrorism, overshadowing the chaotic opening of the Democratic National Convention, which is in sharp contrast to the magnificent week in Cleveland just concluded. I’m joined now by the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus. I have three things to say to you, Mr. Chairman. One, congratulations on a great convention, two, I told you that Cleveland would be a great place, and three, why don’t we just decide now to take the RNC back there in four years?

RP: Well, first of all, the situation in Fort Myers, I mean, here we go again. It’s just another tragedy. Obviously, we don’t want to, just have to pray for our country and the people there and everywhere.

HH: Yeah.

RP: I mean, it’s just unbelievable. And in regard to the convention, it was a success. I mean, you look at, there’s a lot of ways you can measure conventions. You can look at viewership, which we had record-breaking viewership. You can look at just the logistics, the staging, the transportation, the hotels, the safety, success across the board, one of the safest conventions in the history of conventions. The other thing you can look at is the bounce. You know, did you get a bounce, which is traditionally what people look at for a convention. That’s that the bump comes, and certainly since the first time since 2000, a very measurable bounce came out of the convention. And it came in to Donald Trump’s favor. It was a great place, the people in Cleveland were phenomenal. And I’m just saying it was very noticeable, and everyone said from the waitresses to the cab drivers to the folks in the hotels, everyone there was so grateful and ready for this, unlike a city like, you know, a huge place, which is a beautiful place, like Philadelphia and other places, they’re used to this kind of thing. But in a place like Cleveland, they were overly grateful and hospitable, and it was just fantastic from start to finish.

HH: It really was, and the weather cooperated, 75 degrees and sunny, one thunderstorm. They’re going to have a nightmare in Philly on the weather. I hope they have enough water so no one gets hurt up there. Let me ask you, Chairman Reince Priebus, I called it the Baja 500 convention. It went off road, it was rocky and bumpy, a hell of a ride. You and your team, Sean Spicer, would get the wheel back on, but sometimes, it seemed like Yosemite Sam was driving. But it got to where it needed to get. It got the bump, right?

RP: Right. It did.

HH: And now you’re sending a platoon of people to Philadelphia. What are these 36 coms people going to be doing in Philly?

RP: Well, for one thing, we’re bracketing everything they do. So whatever they do, whatever news conference they do, we’re going to have someone on the front end and the back end, and we’re bracketing them so that our position, our response, is part of every single story this week that gets out there. The second thing we’re doing is we’ve got our own research operation here and rapid response team in south Philadelphia in an office so that every statement they make can get quickly fact checked, and then that fact check and research can then be sent out to every single news outlet that’s here, so that when people say things about either Donald Trump or the Republican Party, the truth of that issue can be send immediately in the inboxes of reporters so that they don’t just take whatever the Democrats say at their word, but they have a response. I’m here today. I was here yesterday. Some folks from the Trump campaign will be here all week as well. This is what a competent national party does. This is what we’re doing. The Democrats didn’t have much of anything like this in Cleveland, but we’re here in Philadelphia, and we’re going to have a good time.

HH: Now it seems to me obvious that the story of the day is the corruption inside the DNC. And if you had resigned on the first day of Cleveland, as Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is about to resign, the media would have basically picked your bones clean, and Trump’s at the same time. They would have gone into a feeding frenzy. Here, it’s assumed it was corrupt. I’ve got to play for you, it’s a little bit long, Chairman Priebus.

RP: Okay.

HH: But it was not played in the 60 Minutes interview last night. It was in their extra audio that they posted on their website. This is Secretary Clinton and Senator Kaine responding to the email and DNC scandal. Let’s listen to it.

SP: Did you know anything about any of that?

HRC: No, and I didn’t know anything about it, and I haven’t read any of those, but I am adamantly opposed to anyone bringing religion into our political process. I mean, the Constitution says no religious test, so that is just absolutely wrong and unacceptable.

SP: But maybe the point, Madame Secretary, is you have people in the Democratic National Committee who are supposed to be, if you will, agnostic about who the nominee is going to be. And they seemed to have their thumb on the scale for you. They seemed to be working against Bernie Sanders, their fellow Democrat.

HRC: Again, I don’t know anything. I don’t know anything about these emails. I haven’t followed it. But I’m very proud of the campaign that I ran, and I’m very proud of the campaign that Senator Sanders ran.

SP: In your view, any effort in the DNC to favor one candidate or another would have been improper?

HRC: Again, I don’t have any information about this, and so I can’t answer specifically. We ran our campaign. We ran hard. We worked to have as many successes as possible. I’m very proud that we got more votes than anybody else running, including Donald Trump. And I am very grateful for the campaign that Senator Sanders ran, because we ran a campaign based on issues, not insults. So I can’t speak to what people who were not working for me, who were saying whatever they were saying, I can’t speak to that. I can only speak to my campaign.

HH: Now Reince Priebus, that’s simply not believable, I don’t know anything about this. It was a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Hillary Clinton campaign. They punked the Sanders people. They took their money. It was a fraud.

RP: Yeah, there’s just no way. I mean, you have, you know, three, four debates scheduled between October and the end of January all on weekend-holiday type things. There is no way all of those senior staffers who aren’t, well, first of all, you know they were communicating with senior staffers on the Hillary Clinton campaign. There’s no way that on a bus or an airplane or talking about the DNC and the heat they were getting at the time for not having more debates. And you remember all those things? This is not just a controversy that just happened. This has been going on for a year. There’s no way Hillary Clinton was never told anything about any part of any bit of this. It’s not possible. So…

HH: That’s why her, that’s why she has a 68% negative on honesty. Nobody believes her. But when they, when Scott Pelley says did they have a thumb on the scale, they had a ham hock on the scale.

RP: Yeah.

HH: And if you had done anything like that, you would have been out in about, you ran a fair game. I mean, the table was level.

RP: Well, yeah. We wouldn’t, well, plus, you know, we had 16 candidates, and you really didn’t know what was up or down on some days. And you know what? I had 16 opinions coming at me a lot. I mean, that’s the thing I would tell you is, I mean, I definitely had candidates calling me and telling me their opinions on either the debates or the moderators or research or data. I talked to all of them. So the idea that Debbie is not talking to Hillary Clinton or, you know, and I know that Bernie Sanders and her never got along, but I just find that not believable since I was talking to 16 of them. It just doesn’t work that way.

HH: Now Donna Brazille is a friend of mine. I know she’s a friend of yours. She’s very competent.

RP: Yeah.

HH: In fact, I’m kind of sorry to see Debbie Wasserman-Schultz go. Nevertheless, it’s chaos there. And it’s going to be chaos all week, because more emails are coming. And last night, Robbie Mook tried to blame Trump for the Russians hacking the DNC when in fact, I think the Russians are sending a message that they’ve got her personal emails from her private server. What do you think the Russians are doing with this, Reince Priebus?

RP: Well, I don’t even know if, I don’t know who has the emails of the DNC. I mean, I don’t know if we can definitively say who has them and who’s taken them. But the point is, the Russians didn’t write the emails. And neither did whoever else, the Wikileaks people didn’t write the emails. The DNC wrote those emails So they have to answer for what those emails say and why paid staff and donors to the DNC were adding an arm to the Hillary Clinton campaign during the primary season. I mean, it just is, it was ridiculous. And so this is the issue they have to face this week. And so they have about, you know, 40% of all the delegates, maybe 45% of all the delegates that are here in Philadelphia, are here for Bernie Sanders. And what they’re learning today and this week is that the committee that they’re sort of partly celebrating took their person down, and they did it in a very dishonest and fraudulent way.

HH: Now Chairman Priebus, going forward, money is going to matter a great deal, although I saw statistics today that nearly 95% of Americans have made up their minds on this election already. How do you reach that 5% between now and October when early voting starts?

RP: Well, for one thing, you’ve got to do it on the ground. You’ve got to do it door to door. You’ve got to do it through a lot of data, a lot of people, and what messages will work with them. You need to know everything that people buy and don’t buy, and you need to know what beer they drink and what car they drive. And you put all that together, and about 5,000 points of consumer data on every single person in America, and you’d be surprised how accurate your targeting can be when you have that information. And you go after each individual, and you go after them with people in the community from where they’re from, who are either employed or committed volunteers to get this job done. And then you get an absentee ballot in their hand when you’re convinced that they’re going to vote for your candidate. And then you make sure you chase that absentee ballot into the box. And if you can do those things, and you do them effectively, you can win a tight election. And I think it will be a tight election. But I also think that Donald Trump has a much bigger upside than Hillary. Once people decide that Donald Trump can be president, and they see him in the White House, when that happens, and they trust him, the bottom will fall out of Hillary Clinton, just like it did with Jimmy Carter in 1980.

HH: And do you expect, Mr. Chairman, that we will see leaked from somewhere some of Hillary Clinton’s personal emails from her server in the course of this campaign?

RP: Boy, I don’t know, Hugh. I mean, certainly, it seems like we hear these rumors that they have these emails. And I, quite frankly, if it’s national security, you don’t want to see that happening. You know, Hillary Clinton put our country at grave risk. And hopefully, we don’t get to the point where those are released. But her sloppiness could lead to something very bad.

HH: Reince Priebus, congratulations again. I’d like to say I told you so about Cleveland, but you told me it would come off, and it did. I appreciate it, a great convention, thank you, Chairman Priebus.

End of interview.


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