Chuck Todd joined me for our regular Thursday morning chat, most of which concerns what Donald Trump said and didn’t say Wednesday:
HH: In and out of both arenas over two weeks, Chuck Todd, indefatigable, he has been both at the Q and in Philadelphia. I think he’s living at the arenas. Chuck Todd, good morning from Meet the Press, good to have you.
CT: Good morning, sir. Day 14 on the road here.
HH: Let me begin, objective question, nothing to do with politics. Logistically speaking, who’s putting on a better convention for someone like you who has to go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth between hotel and a thousand different points of standing in the convention hall?
CT: Look at you. You’re just, you’re an Ohio guy and you know what I’m going to say here.
CT: Look, I was, my hotel was walking distance from the Q. And the Q was downtown. Philadelphia is modeled after other cities that put all their stadiums in one part of town, which for city planning was smart, perhaps, for traffic, but it does mean you’re constantly always having to drive to the arena and back to where you’re staying. And that’s where I think you just get a little bit, we’ve been lucky. I mean, the logistics aren’t too bad. Part of it is it’s sort of like, it’s like a basketball or a football game. You either leave early, or you either leave before everybody goes, or you leave after everybody leaves.
CT: And in our business, I get to leave after everybody leaves, so I haven’t hit the traffic mess.
HH: Well, you’ve been doing great work. I’ve just been feeling for you, because I also walked to the Q, and it was wonderful, and the security was easy, and the weather was beautiful. Philadelphia has not been cooperating, but you’ve been there. Let’s get to the serious stuff. I already told people many times this morning that Katy Tur, who I met last week, is a terrific reporter. I disapprove greatly of Donald Trump telling her to be quiet.
HH: It is wrong when Donald Trump says I know you want to save her. That’s simply rude and wrong, and Donald Trump should stop that. But I want to play the two quotes about the email so we can talk about them. I think you and I disagree on this. First exchange with Katy Tur, it’s actually the second exchange with Katy Tur, but it’s the first one about the emails, cut number 16:
DT: What do I have to get involved with Putin for? I have nothing to do with Putin. I’ve never spoken to him. I don’t know anything about him other than he will respect me. He doesn’t respect our president. And if it is Russia, which it’s probably not, nobody knows who it is, but if it is Russia, it’s really bad for a different reason, because it shows how little respect they have for our country, where they would hack into a major party and get everything. But it would be interesting to see. I will tell you this, Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens. That’ll be next.
HH: And here is the follow up with Katy Tur, cut number 15:
DT: That’s up to the President. Let the President talk to him. Look, here’s the problem. Here’s the problem, Katy. Katy, here’s the problem, very simple. He has no respect…
DT: Well, they probably have them. I’d like to have them released.
KT: Does that not give you pause?
DT: No, it gives me no pause. If they have them, they have them. We might as well find…hey, you know what gives me more pause? That a person in our government, crooked Hillary Clinton, here’s what gives me more, be quiet. I know you want to, you know, save her, that a person in our government, Katy, would delete or get rid of 33,000 emails. That gives me a big problem.
HH: All right, so Chuck Todd, put aside the fact he’s rude and she’s doing her job and he invites it and he can’t just turn it on and off. Put that aside. Nick Kristof this morning writes it seems scandalous to me that Trump on Wednesday effectively invited Russia to hack into Clinton’s computers for deleted emails from when she was secretary of State. He did not do that. It’s been misreported. He said find them, and that’s like telling our NSA to go and find the tapes we’ve got and publish them. And I want them to do that as well, because it will, I think, disqualify her as she should be from the president. Am I wrong?
CT: I just think that to conflate the email server with what Putin is doing with the DNC, and that’s what he did, and I think politically, I get what he did. He’s trying to deflect and trying to make it all so that it becomes where you’re having this dilemma that you’re having here. And I just sit there and think it’s like forget the conversation about her emails for a minute. There is apparently a lot of evidence, Hugh, that the Russian government was involved in hacking one of our political parties. That’s like, that should be denounced, no questions asked. And what I don’t understand is why he’s not denouncing this, no questions asked. This is beyond what you personally think about Hillary Clinton or anything like that. If a foreign government has hacked into one of the headquarters of one of our two major political parties, that’s an invasion of our sovereignty.
HH: Oh, it is, but…
CT: This could mess with our democracy. So you know, let’s, I’m just like, politically, he’s trying to conflate it with Hillary’s emails. I get the political, what he’s trying to do politically, but it masks this over, other issue here with Putin. And I have to say I’m kind of blinded by it until everybody’s going wait a minute, like it should be unequivocal, Hugh, unequivocal about this idea of flirting with Putin right now in Russia.
HH: Well, let’s not conflate two things. I don’t like his policy with Putin, but there’s a Geico commercial out there that says it’s what they do. This is what the Russians do. I want to play for you Mike Morell, former acting director of the CIA, deputy director, a year, in May of last year talking to me about this, cut number 29, long version.
HH: What did you make of the Secretary of State having a private server in her house?
MM: So I don’t think that was a very good judgment. I don’t know who gave her that advice, but it was not good advice, and you know, she’s paying a price for it now. Yeah, it was, it was not good.
HH: As a professional matter, do you believe that at least one or perhaps many foreign intelligence services have everything that went to and from that server?
MM: So I think that foreign intelligence services, the good ones, the good ones, have everything on any unclassified network that the government uses, whether it’s a private server or a public one. They’re that good.
HH: So that’s a yes?
HH: Yup, and so Chuck Todd, I denounce it, but I also know it’s the reality of the situation, and we do it to them, and so Trump is calling attention to, rightly, that if we know what’s in those 33,000 emails that were deleted, I don’t want Russia to release classified information. That would be very bad. But it would be good for the country to fully grasp the extent of the damage she did to us, because they’ve got them. Now what’s your reaction? That’s my assessment. I denounce it.
CT: Boy, I think, doesn’t Comey have, I just, I don’t, I mean, Hugh, I guess I don’t get your question here. I mean, this is, this is, we’re not talking about Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails here. We’re talking about the Russian government invaded our sovereignty. I mean, I just, I don’t, I mean, I just, to me, they’re two separate issues here. She’s got a massive credibility problem because of what she told us about her emails. All of that is factually true, hard stop. The Russian government has gotten involved in our elections. This is a crisis.
HH: I agree that the Russian government…
CT: Explain, I mean, I just don’t…
HH: But you…
CT: I don’t, I don’t, these are, to me, these are two separate issues, Hugh.
HH: I can’t, they are.
CT: I’m sorry, I’m just not, I’m not, I don’t think we should be conflating them.
HH: I want to distinguish them. I denounce the Russian government meddling in our elections. That’s ridiculous. It’s terrible. So should Trump. However, Trump has a perfectly legitimate and very important point to make that her 33,000 emails are in their possession, and this disqualifies her. Marco Rubio used to make this much more eloquently when he would say she’s disqualified because of the server, and I am upset with media that is not calling, that is in fact conflating everything and not saying okay, point number one, as you just did, Russia should not be involved in our elections. We should not be involved in their elections. What they did is over the line. Bad. Number two, Hillary’s server endangered the national security, and Trump is not only right to call attention to it, it’s his obligation as a candidate to do so.
CT: Hard stop. Right.
HH: Hard stop. Exactly. Hard stop between these stories. And I think what he did yesterday, if inelegantly delivered, is what he ought to do every single day, which is remind people of what she did. Would that be good politics?
CT: It could be good politics, but I think he’s playing with fire here by flirting with Putin, and flirting with these Russian contacts. And it’s just, I don’t get it, I don’t know what the pro-Putin constituency is.
HH: I agree with that.
CT: …that he’s appealing to.
HH: I agree.
CT: I don’t understand this praising of Putin.
HH: I agree with you.
CT: I just don’t. And he is letting the cloud linger over his head. This isn’t, you know, this is, you know, four years ago, the Republican nominee for president of the United States called Russia the number one geopolitical threat to the United States.
CT: And now the Republican nominee is basically saying wouldn’t it be great if you elect a president who knows how to get along with Russia?
HH: I agree.
CT: I am old enough to remember when people like you lectured President Obama and Hillary Clinton for thinking you can do a reset with Russia and Putin.
HH: I agree. I still do. I just think that the fact that she’s put us, that she’s compromised outweighs that for me. Quick, you’re back in D.C., Chuck, on Sunday. Who’s on Meet the Press?
CT: We are. Well, in a convention week? I’ll tell you tomorrow. Trust me.
HH: (laughing) Chuck Todd from Philadelphia, stay cool, Chuck. You’re doing great work.
End of interview.