The beating death of Tyre Nichols has renewed calls for reforming the police. But can anything really change?
Congress has just over a week in session before it takes nearly two months off for the national conventions and August recess. Few people expect this divided legislative body to end the gridlock and accomplish a lot. A bill to provide more money to combat Zika was voted down but will be up for reconsideration. Congress also will consider bills on defense spending, guns and a ban on funding for cities that don’t enforce immigration law. In other news, Hillary Clinton was interviewed by the FBI over her private email server and Donald Trump is in trouble again over a Tweet. Diane and her guests discuss what Congress could potentially accomplish and also what’s been happening in the presidential campaigns.
- Ron Elving Senior Washington editor, NPR News
- Karen Tumulty National political reporter, The Washington Post
- Charlie Cook Columnist, National Journal; editor and publisher, "The Cook Political Report"
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I’m Diane Rehm. Congress is back in session after the July 4th holiday, but lawmakers will be out again soon for the national conventions and their annual August recess. We look at what Congress could potentially accomplish and also what's been happening in the presidential campaigns. Here in the studio, Ron Elving of NPR News and Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining us by phone from Maine, Charlie Cook of National Journal and the Cook Political Report. You are always a welcome guest on the program so give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to email@example.com. You can follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. And it's good to see all of you.
MR. RON ELVINGGood to see you, Diane.
MS. KAREN TUMULTYGreat to be here.
MR. CHARLIE COOKGood morning.
REHMCharlie Cook, Hillary Clinton was interviewed by the FBI on Saturday morning for about three and a half hours. We hear this morning that FBI Director James Comey is going to make a statement and take questions at 11 o'clock this morning. Talk about what you have heard as to what he might be saying.
COOKWell, I haven't heard anything more than what you just said we heard just a few minutes ago, but my guess -- this doesn't sound like an indictment. It's coming too soon after that interview. It sounds to me like they wanted to get the interview out of her say before they announce whatever they were going to announce, which my guess would be a slap on the hand or, you know, poor judgment, but doesn't rise to criminality, something like that.
COOKI mean, I think it's a fair bet that the public integrity section, the national security sections, the justice department, they had sort of too much just to drop, but not enough to go ahead with and kind of waited and waited and waited and now it was time to call it a day. So I'd be surprised if it was an indictment, but you know, my guess is they will say that she exercised poor judgment in setting up the email server.
TUMULTYOne thing that is a possibility is that there could be legal consequences for not necessary Secretary Clinton, but perhaps, someone around her, an aid. The legal responsibility for handling classified material is with the person who sends the email, not somebody who receives it. So there could also be some -- as I said, some kind of consequences, but yes, this interview was, in fact, widely read and interpreted -- the interview of Secretary Clinton -- one of the last things that the FBI would do before closing all of this up.
ELVINGIf we had any kind of intelligence at this hour, if somebody had told us what they thought was going on, I would be extremely skeptical and dubious about it because there's such so much weight. And we can certainly endure another 50 minutes of suspense because there is so much weight attached to this.
REHMAll right. Now, let's take the other side for just a moment. What could be the outcome if Hillary Clinton were indicted, Ron?
ELVINGThis would open a question that we have not seen really before in our politics, which is what do you do with a nominee, presumptive nominee, there's no question she's going to be the nominee at the convention, being indicted just three weeks before that convention. That is not something we've had to deal with and with all the problems that we have had with various people who were being nominated for president, we haven't had something that was quite that much of a punch in the nose, quite that much of an apparent disqualification.
REHMWould it disqualify her technically?
ELVINGNo. It would not because she would not have been convicted of anything. She could be indicted and she could be tried and she could exonerated. It's also possible she could be indicted and then some sort of a plea agreement could be reached without a trial. That would not involve her actually going to jail and she might very well even be able to be president of the United States. The problem is a political problem, which is what do you do with a candidate who already has a problem with people telling pollsters, at least, they don't trust her and they consider her to be less than trustworthy, suddenly being indicted by the justice department on the recommendation of the FBI.
TUMULTYIt would also open up a lot of intrigue around the scenario I might call Biden Ex-Machina, the you know, the search for perhaps someone else. But, again, I mean, she's got the delegates going into the convention.
REHMNow, USA Today is saying that if the indictment happened before the convention and Clinton withdrew...
REHMIf. It could lead to a scenario where delegates could be unbound and switch affiliations. What do you think, Charlie?
COOKWell, I mean, first of all, I think Rick Perry can probably tell us what happens if an indictment, no matter how flimsy it might be, happens while you're running for president, that it may not be a legal disqualifier, but it could very well be a political. Again, I don't expect to see that -- this happen. But there is a good conscience clause in Democratic delegate selection rules and I think most interpretations would be that even if you were a bound delegate to someone, if they came under a federal indictment, that they would be free to do whatever they wanted to do under the free conscience clause.
COOKBut, again, I don't expect this to happen. I think they just were waiting for the interview to put the final -- to close the book on this thing.
REHMCharlie Cook, he's columnist for the National Journal and editor and publisher of the Cook Political Report. Ron Elving of NPR, give us an overview of what to expect from the Congress in the next few days.
ELVINGIf I could add just one last thought about the convention...
ELVING...before I do that. You would certainly, first, have to deal with Bernie Sanders, who's going to have 1800, 1900 delegates who believe that he is their best chance to beat Donald Trump in November. Not just that he's their man, not just that they support him, but that he is the best way to beat Donald Trump. You would first have to deal with them at the convention before you could bestow the nomination on Joe Biden or any other Democrat. But certainly, quickly to Congress.
ELVINGWe have just a very short period of time before the conventions begin and in these two weeks, Congress is going to try to do all the business that's been backed up for weeks and months and they're going to, first of all, I think, try to get something resolved with respect to the Zika virus money. The president wanted about $2 billion. They've been talking about giving him about half that much and they've also attached, both in the House and the Senate, they've attached a lot of other extraneous issues having to do with Planned Parenthood, having to do with environmental control of pesticides and that has bollixed things up pretty well so that now the Democrats don't want to vote for it and the president says it's not adequate even if they do.
ELVINGThat's one thing. Now, we also have, on the House floor, the renew of -- and I do mean on the House floor, the renewal of the sit-in on the rug in the House well by some members of the House.
REHMThey are going to renew that sit-in?
ELVINGWell, they're coming to the chamber at noon today and some of the leaders of Congressional black caucus have intimated that they want to begin again the John Lewis-lead sit-in that lead the House to actually talk about having some sort of vote on some sort of gun legislation.
REHMNow, John Cornyn's bill is still under consideration, Karen.
TUMULTYI think nothing is going to happen.
REHMBecause it's much weaker, is it not?
TUMULTYRight. And it's also -- there's just not the will or the time to get basically anything done. There's a real possibility that the Senate, this year, is going to be in session the fewest days it's been in session since 1956.
TUMULTYWhen they come back, they're going to have seven days in session before they break for the conventions. After that, it's the August recess. And then, basically, then you come back with everybody wanting out by October 1st.
REHMBecause they want to go campaign.
TUMULTYAnd because -- yeah. I mean, the Senate is up -- the control of the Senate is very much at stake in this election and the control of the House may well be as well. So all of this -- I think the calendar is really arguing against anything significant getting done beyond perhaps something on Zika. They've got to reauthorize the Federal Aviation administration before July 15 and they've got to pass, as always, those funding bills that keep the government from shutting down.
COOKYeah. I mean, that -- we've got fewer than 20 days of Congress in session where it leaves both -- both the House and the Senate would be in session, which is really kind of breathtaking when you consider there are over 100 days between now and the election. But, you know, I think there will be a lame duck session and a lot of business that should be done before then will probably be done after the election.
REHMAnd when you think of the fact that they're only in session three days a week, I mean, this is really remarkable.
ELVINGThree days a week when they do a week, when they're here at all, which is less and less. And as Karen was saying, we have really dialed back to another era in terms of defining how often Congress is in town. Some people think that's just fine. Some people think that the less the legislature in their state meets, the better. Many legislators only meet once every two years so maybe the Congress should go home. Maybe the Congress should not come to Washington very often.
ELVINGWe are already in a culture where members of Congress don't buy homes or even rent homes while they're in Congress.
REHMHere in Washington.
ELVINGThey just come and stay in hotels or they team up in houses. And basically, they maintain the main part of their life and certainly all their family back in their home state and district.
TUMULTYIt does seem there's only one person in town who has any incentive to really get some stuff done and that's President Obama who has some legacy items still out there, sentencing reform, trade legislation. But nobody else has the motivation, at this point.
REHMKaren Tumulty, national political reporter for The Washington Post. I look forward to hearing your questions, comments. Do join us. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. With me here in the studio, Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post and Ron Elving of NPR. On the line with us from Maine is Charlie Cook. He's a columnist for National Journal and editor and publisher of "The Cook Political Report." Back to what Congress may or may not do, Charlie, there are two bills dealing with immigration issues. One seeks to bar funding to cities that don't help enforce federal immigration law. Another seeks to increase maximum prison terms for immigrants who repeatedly cross the border illegally. Where do you think these bills might go?
COOKWell, I think a general rule of thumb is it's always easier to kill something than to pass something and particularly things with -- where the passions are as enflamed as they are on both sides of this issues. So I think a safer bet will be nothing happens, that neither one will get signed into law or probably passed in either. That there's just going to be, as we were saying earlier, very, very, very little getting through this Congress. And, you know, there's just -- there's a fundamental lack of trust in both sides and both sides employing poison pills and legislative hostage taking. So I think it would be best if people kept their expectations very modest about anything of any consequence getting pushed through.
REHMOn the other hand, you seem to have a more positive expectation about what could happen with the next Congress. How come?
COOKWell, I think there are two things that I think give us some hope. And you could -- let me qualify this by saying, you know, someone can really like President Obama or not and they could agree with his policies or not, but one thing you have to say is, this is not a president that enjoys interacting with members of Congress, either face to face or on the phone and he does it as little as possible.
COOKI -- my expectation is that while the presidential election will be fairly close, but that Hillary Clinton will win. I don't think there's any doubt in my mind that Hillary Clinton would have a better working relationship, talking more, meeting more, just simply interacting more with Congress than President Obama did. And I think that typically is good for the system.
COOKThe second thing is, you watch the two Senate leaders, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, it's like watching two scorpions in a bottle. I mean they just despise each other and it's almost better when they don't speak. I think just switching out Harry Reid, who's retiring, for Chuck Schumer, who is going to be the Democratic leader, whether it's majority or minority, I think Schumer, you know, is he a partisan? Yes. Is he an acquired taste? Yes. But I don't think there's any question that Schumer will work better with McConnell, better with Republicans, and that the working relationship in the Senate will be at least somewhat better...
COOK...switching out Schumer for Reid.
REHMBut then you get to Paul Ryan in the House, Ron.
ELVINGThat's right. And the question then becomes, assuming that the House remains Republican, how Republican does it remain? And if, in Charlie's scenario, the Democrats were winning the Senate, would there be a narrow enough margin in the House that Paul Ryan would be willing to compromise a little bit with the Democrats and possibly with the White House to see some kinds of legislation go through and that there would be some sort of tit for tat, where he would get some of the things that he would like to see done, done, and he would also be willing to cooperate somewhat with the Democrats.
ELVINGBut I don't necessarily think he'll be able to do that given that with inside his Republican numbers, his Republican majority, there is a group of 25, 30, 35 who are so irreconcilable to anything the Democrats could accept that it'll be difficult for him to control.
TUMULTYThat's right. Even if the Republicans do hold on to the House, it's likely to be with smaller numbers. And the people who are going to get wiped out are likely to be the more moderate Republicans. So Paul Ryan, who we know is very, very interested in policy, very interested in getting things done, is going to be dealing with a House Republican conference that is likely to be smaller and further to the right.
REHMCharlie, you've said Republicans may lose as many as a dozen seats. That's roughly the same number Democrats lost in 2014. So if you look at where those dozen seats could be lost, what happens?
COOKYes. Our -- "The Cook Political Report" house editor, David Wasserman, his model shows right now Republicans losing about 13 seats which, as you say, is exactly the number that Democrats lost in 2014. So it just puts it straight back to where it was in 2012. And I think Karen's point is absolutely dead on, that, you know, there may be a Freedom Caucus or a Tea Party hard-right person or two leave, or there will. Overwhelmingly, it would be more establishment, conventional-oriented Republicans that would lose, because they're the ones that are in more competitive seats. So it would be members that did support Speaker Boehner and do support Speaker Ryan.
COOKAnd while, yes, I agree that Ryan can reach over and deal with Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi and pull some Democratic votes from time to time. But if he does that too many times, then that really exposes him to an insurrection on the Republican time -- side, that -- among his own conference, that, you know, this with -- Hastert Rule, which isn't a rule and I think is one of the worst things that's ever happened in the House of not wanting to move anything to the floor that doesn't have a majority of the majority, but it is a custom on the Republican side and it can't be violated very often without that speaker incurring the wrath of the party base.
ELVINGWell, we used to think that there was one vote for speaker every two years, but that is no longer a guarantee. And Paul Ryan knows well that he could go down the same way John Boehner did if he reaches across the aisle too many times.
ELVINGSo this is the result, ultimately, of the kind of redistricting science that we have perfected in the last 20 years, so that districts now are created that are impossible for one party or the other to lose. And in that district, oftentimes, you find the very most doctrinaire or orthodox Republican or Democrat is the person who gets the nomination and then holds a seat that is absolutely impregnable for as long as they want to be there. Those people then feel responsible to those back in the district who gave them that nomination, who conferred on them the status of being the most orthodox, most doctrinaire and, therefore, they serve them and they are doing their bidding.
REHMNow, Charlie, you've based what you said on the notion that you believe Hillary Clinton is likely to be elected. How do you see the Congress if Donald Trump is elected?
COOKWell, I -- first of all, I just have a very hard time getting there. But I think the probabilities are very high that Clinton wins but just not by a huge margin. I don't know what it would look like. In some ways, I think you would just see four years of complete stalemate, where you would have an overwhelming majority of members on both sides of the aisle holding him in something not far short of contempt, if not contempt.
COOKAnd that I think you'd just have sort of complete paralysis. I mean, he -- yes, he would come in with the idea of being a wheeler-dealer type. But I just have a very, very hard time seeing how that could be a good outcome.
COOKI mean, you could have a, you know, you could have had a Mitt Romney, you could have a Ted Cruz, you could have a Jeb Bush -- I mean, there are so many scenarios where you could have had someone that -- there could have been somebody that they could work with on Capitol Hill. But I don't see how this works. But, you know, who knows? Maybe I'm wrong.
TUMULTYAlthough one of the running storylines of this election has been, you know, how hard it is to pin Donald Trump down on anything that resembles core principles. I mean he's a liberal on some issues. He's a conservative on others. He's a liberal one day and a conservative the next day on other issues. So, you know, I think that would be sort of the best hope for actual -- paradoxically enough -- for some kind of progress. That maybe he would be just constantly wanting to get to the deal.
ELVINGIf you are Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, or another person who feels responsible for the establishment view of the Republican Party, what you hope for is that, at this point, Donald Trump can win the presidential election and then sit down and listen to the congressional leaders and sign their bills, whatever they pass on the Republican side.
ELVINGAnd we're assuming that the Senate would remain Republican if Trump were elected and, of course, the House would remain Republican as well -- that they would then bring back the legislation repealing Obamacare and a number of other things, defunding Planned Parenthood, you know, the long list that they would present themselves and say, here you go, Donald Trump, these are our bills and we want you to sign them. And that, by and large, he has indicated at least, at this point, and I think will continue to indicate at least through Cleveland, he will be inclined to sign most of that. And that's much more than they would get from Hillary Clinton.
REHMHmm. All right. Let's turn to the state of terrorism in this world. A series of horrendous ISIS-connected terrorist attacks, the Istanbul Airport, Bangladesh, Iraq. How might those kinds of attacks shape voters' thinking about Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump? Karen.
TUMULTYWell I think, at this point, neither one of them has much by way of a strategy that would make people feel much safer, given what they've -- what they see going on, not only in this country but especially around the world. Bangladesh, for instance, was, you know, there's been a lot of violence over there. But up until this most recent incident, it was primarily carried out by very small groups of people with machetes. And the government would try to write it off as, oh, these are just, you know, disaffected, domestic, political opponents. What we have seen is ISIS is reorienting itself. It's able to carry out much bigger, much more coordinated actions on the one hand. And on the other hand, we have apparent lone actors, like what we saw in Orlando.
TUMULTYIt's a very scary situation for rational people. And, you know, at this point, I don't think either candidate has kind of addressed it. Hillary Clinton argues, I've got experience. I've got judgment. Donald Trump argues, I would eradicate them. But I don't think we've seen a lot by way of specific plans for doing that.
ELVINGThe assumption would be that Hillary Clinton would pursue with the national security team and the Department of Defense and CIA and so on, more or less the strategy that we have been pursuing, which is to slowly try to strangle ISIS at its base of support and then stamp it out wherever it rears its ugly head. Part of the problem is that, while it is a real organization with a real territorial ambition, establishing the caliphate and so on, it also is a state of mind. It's the furthest extreme of nihilism in the world, if you will -- at least in the Islamic world.
ELVINGAnd if you have a grievance or you have something that you want to blow up about, literally, if you're ready to kill yourself and many other people in your moment of volcanic expression, if that is how you feel, you identify with ISIS and possibly even at the last moment you identify yourself with ISIS.
REHMI wonder, Charlie, whether we're going to see an increase in the kinds of security that we already have here in this country, but stepped up by a great deal.
COOKYes. I, you know, listening to the conversation the last few minutes, it made me remember of a friend of mine who is a foreign policy expert and former government official. And he had a -- someone with a foreign ministry of a Middle Eastern country say to him one time, you know, the problem is you Americans think there is a solution to any problem. And if Americans just think of it long enough, they will come up with that solution. And some of these problems, there aren't clear-cut solutions. And you just have to slug it out and you just have to do what the U.S. government has been doing for a while. And it may not be a miracle cure.
COOKAnd there may not -- a miracle cure doesn't really exist or can't exist. But you just have to keep doing what you're doing, be a -- make yourself as hard a target as you possibly can, and just keep plugging away. But, you know, I don't know what anybody expects President Obama or Secretary Clinton or Donald Trump to say that they would do that would solve the problem with terrorism, because I don't think this is a problem that has a solution.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We have a number of listeners who'd like to be part of the conversation. Let's go first to Ann Arbor, Mich. Hi there, Eleanor, you're on the air.
ELEANORGood morning. You know, early in the discussion, there was a conversation about the number of hours that Congress is in session recently, and how few relative to past years. For 35 years, my husband and I ran a small consulting firm. And we had anywhere from 8 to 12 people, counting the two of us. I could not afford to have somebody come into my office and simply waste time without accomplishing something, let alone have them not show up to work. They wouldn't be on my payroll. This is my tax money going to pay the people who are serving in the Congress.
ELEANORIt amazes me that there hasn't been some kind of outcry from either side, that nothing seems to be getting accomplished.
REHMSo, Eleanor, how might that affect how you might vote on November the 8th?
ELEANORI will be looking at who is doing what and who is attempting to do what.
REHMInteresting. All right, Ron Elving.
ELVINGThis is a question that's arisen for many years, obviously, about Congress. But we have reached an extreme point where it appears that Congress would just as soon adjourn for the year if they possibly could and just not even make an appearance of coming to Washington. But the fact it, over history, Congress is usually not here and busily beavering away at passing legislation Monday through Friday on a 9:00-to-5:00 scale.
ELVINGMost of the time that they spend working -- and I believe they do spend a lot of time working -- is spent with respect to their constituencies, meeting with their constituents, meeting with their fundraisers, meeting with the people who give them money -- which is a very essential part of being a congressperson, because otherwise you don't get elected -- and also going back to the district and just being there and doing things. Now people didn't used to want to do that so much. But the kind of people who come to Congress nowadays understand they're going to be spending a lot of their time back in Pocatello. They're not just going to come here and turn into some sort of Potomac resident. That is not the paradigm of Congress today.
REHMWhen did members of Congress stop living here in Washington, Karen?
TUMULTYYou know, I think that it really accelerated during the 1990s. And this whole crop of people who came in, in 1994, a lot of them -- part of the contract with America was term limits, since I'm not going to become part of this. You might recall a young congressman named Dick Armey got in trouble for sleeping on his office couch. A lot of them do that now.
ELVINGWell it isn't even remarkable anymore.
COOKOh, I think a part of it was that Newt Gingrich gave advice to new members back in the '90s, don't move your families to Washington.
REHMAll right. And we'll leave it right there. Short break. Your calls, comments, when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMAnd a number of our listeners have asked that we speak about Bill Clinton's meeting with Loretta Lynch, the attorney general. Charlie Cook, what did you make of it?
COOKWell, you know, in some ways this is an enormously gregarious person who has always sort of acted impetuously, and oh, that's -- that's Loretta Lynch's plane, let me go over and say hi. But on the other hand, I think it was terrible judgment, I mean, that it -- and sometimes I wonder whether President Clinton is as top of the game as he used to be, that this was -- it was a really, really bad decision. I'm not sure he thought it through. And I think Bill Clinton vintage 20 years ago, 15 years ago, would not -- would have known better than make that decision even if it was something he kind of wanted to do that would be fun. But I think it was an awful decision.
REHMRon Elving, what about Loretta Lynch's decision?
ELVINGOne has to -- one has to assume that somebody said to her, you know, the president is heading over here to your plane, and he wants to talk to you, and it would be difficult, I think, for most people to say no, I'm not going to speak to the president. I mean, there they are, far from Washington. It probably seemed for the moment that maybe it would be just, you know, a five-minute greeting, or maybe he had some terribly important thing to impart to her.
ELVINGBut either way, she, too, like Clinton himself, should have thought a little bit ahead to say oh my God, the optics of this are awful. And what if he actually were coming to pressure me in some way or another on his wife's behalf? That would be outrageous, and I don't even want to be exposed to it. But what are you going to do? Are you going to bolt the door to your plane? You're going to say -- you know, you're going to send word out, no, Mr. President, who appointed me to the U.S. attorney job that, you know, began my political career, I can't possibly speak with you?
TUMULTYYes, yes, you do exactly that.
ELVINGBut you can see why -- you can see why that was a question mark for her.
ELVINGYou're absolutely right, the answer to that question is yes.
COOKI bet she had 30 seconds or less notice.
ELVINGThey probably could see him out the window walking up.
TUMULTYI don't know, this just reminds me of the old joke about the Clintons, they will do whatever they can to avoid the appearance of propriety. It's -- you know, it's -- the optics were horrible, as has so often been the case. And what the Clintons tend to do is spin this as oh, this is just our enemies are after us again. But, you know, again, we've seen this in...
REHMJust really poor judgment.
TUMULTYYes, yes, I mean, going to back to I think the campaign finance scandals of the '90s.
REHMAll right, let's go to Mark in Jacksonville, Florida. You're on the air.
MARKHi. With regard to Secretary Clinton and the emails, she's been saying none of the things that I sent on that server were marked classified at the time that I sent them. Some of them were subsequently marked classified by others, but they were marked classified when they sent them. Well, as someone who had a top secret security clearance when I was in the Marine Corps, I'm certain, as worded, that statement is true. She's the one who's writing the emails. She's the one who would have marked it classified. Of course she didn't mark it classified because she's not permitted to send classified material over that server.
MARKThe first thing they tell you is what classification to give each thing that you write and for each level of classification what the permissible means are of transmitting it. So since she would not have marked them classified when she sent them, the people she told to send her stuff on that -- to that server knew not to mark it classified because it's not a permissible means of transmitting classified materials.
MARKShe's not denying that she had an obligation to mark them classified or that she sent material that was classified when she sent it. Merely she's saying she didn't -- it wasn't marked classified when she sent it because she didn't mark it classified.
TUMULTYAbsolutely correct, and don't forget, these are people who sit in classified briefings, top secret briefings all the time. And, you know, the way they communicate is not necessarily just among, you know, exchanging documents. They have material in their heads that is very, very secret. There is a continuing tension between the intelligence communities and the State Department over what should be marked classified, but in the end if you send a piece of classified or secret material that should not be on this server, it's almost irrelevant as to whether it was actually marked classified.
REHMDon't I recall at the beginning of the Obama administration an effort to downgrade classification, saying that there were far too many items labeled classified?
TUMULTYThe State Department has always made that argument, that if you were just to leave it up to the CIA and the NSA, they would classify the phone book. But again, this is a tension that works its way out through the agencies, and it is, you know, probably a healthy tension.
REHMAll right, so help us understand, though, Karen, if she perhaps, or one of her aides, were sitting in a meeting, and classified material was being discussed, if she emailed some of that, would she be obligated then to label it as classified?
TUMULTYWell, she shouldn't be emailing it if it's -- if it is something that she would feel obligated to label as classified. Now there have been, for instance, one of the pieces of material in question, the State Department claims was something that was actually in the newspapers. Again, this is the argument these two agencies have constantly, which goes back to the basic misjudgment of doing any of this on a private server and in a private email account.
ELVINGIndeed, and that is the judgment question that, no matter what, Mr. Comey shares with us here in a few minutes, at 11:00, when we assume he's going to tell us something about where the investigation stands. No matter what he tells us, the issue is going to remain of whether or not she showed the sort of bad judgment that people need to weigh in deciding whether or not they make her the president of the United States.
REHMAll right to Larry in Hebron, Indiana. You're on the air.
LARRYThank you for taking my call.
LARRYMy question is about the Federal Records Act violations, which could disqualify her if she was found guilty of -- for the way she handled these emails, and two inspector generals have already found that she did violate the Federal Records Act. And no one is talking about that.
COOKWell, I wonder how many more inconsequential acts are there than the Federal Records Act. I mean, you know, what we're talking about is what Ron and Karen were talking about a few minutes ago. Was national security violated? And those are broader judgment things, and that's sort of -- the Federal Records Act, I mean, this has -- to me that's a parking ticket compared to, you know, sort of the larger question, did she exercise poor judgment in setting this email server.
COOKBut the Federal Records Act is probably one of the least consequential statutes that's involved in this whole thing.
ELVINGWell, there's a question of internal rules, to a large degree, too. I mean, clearly the State Department IG has established that she was outside the permissible behavior of any official of the State Department, including the secretary of the State Department, who was not empowered to make her own rules about handling internal matters. And so, you know, there we have it. We have the rules violation. Is that an indictable offense in and of itself? Probably not. But that is one of the reasons that this is going to have a life beyond whatever Jim Comey has to tell us.
REHMAll right, we've been talking a lot about Hillary Clinton and these emails. What about Donald Trump and the trouble he got into over the weekend because of a tweet he posted. What happened, Ron?
ELVINGThere was a tweet that Donald Trump re-tweeted that showed a picture of Hillary Clinton sitting on a pile of money and called her the most corrupt candidate for president ever, not a new accusation really, especially not from Donald Trump, but sitting on a pile of money and alongside a bright star, which was a six-sided star that looked like a star of David. I don't think anybody who has ever been familiar with the uses of that star of David to demark people historically would ever miss that resemblance.
ELVINGNow of course immediately the Trump campaign said no, it's a sheriff's star, we're just putting a sheriff's star on this meme of her being corrupt, money-grubbing, et cetera, et cetera, and that has nothing to do with the star of David, and it's not anti-Semitic in any way. But quite a number of people who are sensitive on this subject felt differently, and then of course we learned that the meme apparently had previously appeared on a very hard right neo-Nazi kind of website, where if you went to look at that website over the weekend, among other things, you saw an article trashing the just-departed, late Elie Wiesel.
TUMULTYI think the basic issue here is -- we're back to judgment. I mean, there's no evidence that Donald Trump himself is anti-Semitic. In fact his daughter converted to Judaism. He has Jewish grandchildren. But there is a significant -- and it is a significant element of his support that is anti-Semitic, that has taken out after reporters who have names that they think to be Jewish with incredible anti-Semitic slurs, and Donald Trump has done nothing to denounce this among his own supporters.
REHMCan you give me a specific example of where that happened?
TUMULTYCertainly. Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic has written about it extensively. The first thing I think big incident of it, and pardon me if I mispronounce her last name, Julia Ioffe wrote a profile of Melania Trump and just got horrific, horrific anti-Semitic slurs hurled her way. So I think that again, and when Melania Trump was asked about this, and when Donald Trump has been asked about this specifically with regard to this article about Melania, they essentially indicate, you know, well, she wrote an inaccurate article.
REHMCharlie, do these things help or hurt in a presidential campaign?
COOKI think Donald Trump's supporters are with him no matter what and that there's nothing -- and like you said, he could shoot someone on Park Avenue, and they will not abandon him. But I think it does make it harder for him to win over anyone that's in that undecided column, any of the conflicted people in the middle, and that's, you know, one of the reasons why I think, you know, it's going to be close because his base is high, and her negatives are extremely high, but I just have a hard time seeing Donald Trump win over undecideds given what he says and does on a regular basis.
COOKBut on this larger question, and this is something coming -- over 60 years old, I personally don't think any presidential candidate ought to be tweeting, and -- or if they are, I know Mitt Romney, they had a 20-something-person approval process for any tweet. And to be honest, as absurd as that sounds, I think it's a heck of an idea because I don't ever remember one of his tweets getting him into a lot of trouble.
ELVINGI don't remember any of his tweets, which is probably a good thing, which is probably a good thing. You know, in this instance, the amateurism of this, the clumsiness of this happening over the weekend, at the very minimum, it is a distraction when the big story ought to be that your opponent, in this case Hillary Clinton, is being interviewed by the FBI for three and a half hours at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., and that story to some degree got supplanted the last couple of days, insomuch so that Politico this morning...
REHMBy this tweet.
ELVINGThe top six stories on Politico this morning, three of them were about Donald Trump's tweet.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. And another call, this one from Matt in Austin, Texas. Hi, you're on the air.
MATTHey, Diane, I'm a red-state Republican, but I do enjoy your show very much.
MATTAnd so I hope you will be as open-minded as I've been as a listener, as a guest, and to these two comments and question. My first comment is I think an indictment might actually help Mrs. Clinton, as strange as that sounds. I think Bernie Sanders made a mistake not going at emails, and some of the supporters of his, when they see that an indictment, a lot of times, like we saw with Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinski thing, the more bad news that came out about him, the higher his approval ratings went. When there's something tangible to focus on, I think sometimes it raises sympathy for a person, and people that might have been thinking about supporting her might say man, she really needs my help now.
MATTAs a Trump supporter, obviously it doesn't really matter to me. I know who I'm voting for in November. But I think it could have an odd impact on the trajectory of the election cycle if she is, in fact, indicted. And then finally my comment I hope you'll address as well, is with NPR and the Washington Post represented on this panel, I am curious why these well-knowns news organizations are ignoring the story in Twin Falls, Idaho, of that five-year-old disabled girl that was attacked by three Muslim immigrants. Thank you so much. I'll listen off the air.
ELVINGI'm not aware of the story from Idaho, and obviously we will look into it, but I don't know the facts of that, and this is the first that I've heard of it. It's also the first I've heard the theory that she would be helped by an indictment, but that is a stimulating thought, and the analogy of course that the listener draws is to the astonishing rise in the poll approval for Bill Clinton at the time that the worst revelations were being made about his behavior with Monica Lewinsky in the White House.
ELVINGThis was something -- I was at USA Today at the time. We were doing a lot of polling with the Gallup organization. And people would call and say where in the world are you doing these polls. Where are you finding people who like him better now because of these things? And I think in that case, what it was was, to some degree, sympathy with the president and a lack of sympathy with his pursuers. Whether you're talking, you know, about Ken Starr, or you're talking about the Congress and particularly some of the leaders of Congress, it was not very popular the way that they pursued impeachment. Clearly it cost them seats in the House, it clearly cost Newt Gingrich his job later that year, and this was not a popular impeachment in the United States, and so that to some degree was the explanation, if there ever were an explanation for why he went up in the polls.
COOKThe other thing is it wasn't an indictment.
COOKI mean, he wasn't indicted. You know, I mean, so that it was -- you know, it was -- the country was doing pretty well, he had some really negative stories. Some people thought that it showed poor judgment but did not reflect on the performance he was doing. But bottom line is it wasn't an indictment, so I don't think it's analogous.
COOKI think an indictment, I mean look at -- I mean, Rick Perry, that was a completely bologna indictment, but it was -- you know, it was a couple of torpedoes to the engine room for Rick Perry's candidacy, and even though it had no basis and was eventually thrown out.
REHMAll right, last quick question for each of you. Who do you think Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are going to select for their vice presidents, quickly, Charlie?
COOKI think she'll do something really boring like Tim Kaine, the Hippocratic oath, do no harm.
REHMOkay, and how about you, Karen?
TUMULTYI think Tim Kaine is probably most in line with everything that we know about Hillary Clinton, and heaven only knows with Donald Trump.
ELVINGWith Donald Trump I think he really is very seriously interested in either Newt Gingrich or Chris Christie, although there are huge negatives for both of them. I doubt that Mike Pence made his case over the weekend. Joni Ernst is the latest flavor of the week.
REHMRon Elving of NPR News, Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post and Charlie Cook of The Cook Political Report. And thank you all so much for being with us. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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