Pulitzer Prize winning author Anthony Doerr talks about his new novel, "Cloud Cuckoo Land," and why he says his job as a writer is to reveal our interconnections as people, and as a planet.
Guest Host: Indira Lakshmanan
Snipers in Dallas kill five police officers and wound five others along with one civilian. This at the end of a protest that had gathered in reaction to the fatal shootings of African-American men by police in Baton Rouge and Minnesota. Also this week, Congress questions the FBI director about his decision not to recommend charges against Hillary Clinton over an email server. And we get the latest job numbers. A panel of journalists joins guest host Indira Lakshmanan for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.
- David Rennie Washington bureau chief and Lexington columnist, The Economist.
- Damian Paletta National security and intelligence reporter, The Wall Street Journal
- Jackie Kucinich Washington bureau chief, The Daily Beast
MS. INDIRA LAKSHMANANThanks for joining us. I'm Indira Lakshmanan columnist for The Boston Globe sitting in for Diane Rehm. A peaceful demonstration in Dallas turns deadly as snipers kill five police officers and wound several others along with a civilian. Demonstrators had gathered to protest two fatal shootings by police of African-American men whose deaths were recorded on video this week. President Obama condemns the killings of the Dallas officers as despicable. As nationwide protests against bias in policing continue, the president says racial disparities and treatment by law enforcement is not a black issue, but an American issue.
MS. INDIRA LAKSHMANANMeanwhile, the FBI finds Hillary Clinton's email use careless, but not criminal. Donald Trump slams the FBI, praises the former Iraqi dictator and tweets a controversial image. Here to talk about these and other top national news stories of the week on our Friday News Roundup, David Rennie of The Economist, Jackie Kucinich of The Daily Beast and Damian Paletta of The Wall Street Journal. Welcome.
MR. DAVID RENNIEThank you.
MS. JACKIE KUCINICHThank you.
MR. DAMIAN PALETTAHello.
LAKSHMANANAnd thanks to all of you for being here to help us understand a week of very difficult news that is not over yet. And as always, we want to hear from you, our listeners. We'll be taking your comments, your questions throughout the hour. You can call us on 1-800-433-8850. You can send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can join us on Facebook or Twitter. And because it is the Friday domestic news roundup, we are doing a live video stream of this hour and you can tune in and watch us as well as listen to us any time at drshow.org.
LAKSHMANANAll right. David, I want to start with you. Absolutely devastating, the news from Dallas last night. Tell us, what is the latest.
RENNIEThe latest is that the suspect, according to the press conference we've had from the Dallas police chief and the Dallas mayor, the suspect, they think, acted alone. He's dead, the suspect, after a long standoff with the police. And the motive, as far as it's understood at the moment, appears to be that he wants to kill white people and specifically, police officers. So in addition to the unbelievable human tragedy and the tragedy for the people of Dallas, it is incendiary in political terms and kind of the worst possible news that we could have at this moment.
LAKSHMANANNow, Jackie, earlier, we had heard about multiple suspects and there was a picture tweeted out last night by the Dallas police department of a supposed person of interest and there were a lot of confusing reports about who was armed and who was a suspect. Clarify for us really what's the latest in the investigation that we know. What about these multiple detentions?
KUCINICHWell, what the police chief said this morning during his press conference is that they weren't really answering questions about that. He was saying that the investigation is ongoing and they are investigating a couple different leads and that they -- if there are other people involved, they want to keep them guessing, I believe, was what he said. So it's still very early. They're still in a fact gathering part of this investigation and so I assume there are going to be other press conferences later today that we're all going to be watching with great interest to find out, I mean, the question whenever this happens is always why. And it's the hardest question to answer.
LAKSHMANANAnd in terms of there was originally a woman detained, has she now been considered to be not a suspect in this shooting?
KUCINICHI don't know that that information is out there yet.
LAKSHMANANOkay. Now, tell us, Damian, why Dallas? This is a department with a black police chief. By all accounts, it's been incredibly focused on reform and community policing, had a good relationship with the people of Dallas.
PALETTARight. And by all reports, the event last night, the protest, the police was very cooperative with the protesters. They were going out of their way to clear streets to make sure the protesters had every opportunity to exercise their first amendment right to gather and to speak their mind about the police shootings in Baton Rouge and Minnesota. So I think what really shocked people was that, you know, there was this kind of cohesive environment until this sniper, apparently, just started shooting and hit 12 police officers, killing five of them, creating a sort of chaotic environment.
PALETTASo, you know, like the police chief said and like David said, the motive, according to this suspect before he was killed was that he wanted to kill people, particularly he wanted to kill police officers. He was upset about Black Lives Matter, that was what the chief said. It's a little unclear exactly what that means. And that he was upset about the police shootings this week. So I think one of the things that we've all kind of witnessed in the past few years, you know, with Ferguson and a lot of these other events is that there's this issue in this country that really divides the country, right?
PALETTAThere's been some senseless killings by police, quite frankly. There's also been incredible backlash against the police that seems, you know, unfair 'cause so many police officers are doing everything they can, putting their lives on the line to protect Americans. But this issue is not been resolved in any way. And I think one of the things that I heard last night when the president was speaking, this was before the Dallas shooting, but in response to the two shootings this week by police, you heard, like, a sadness in his voice. You know, I think he realizes, as, you know, the window is closing on his presidency that this is an issue that he's almost made no progress towards.
PALETTAThe first African-American president in U.S. history and this race issue is really tearing at the country right now. And I think that's something that's going to continue to the next president.
LAKSHMANANIf anything, it's sort of come even more to the fore, is even more present in our national consciousness than it was before President Obama became president. But, you know, you were talking about how in Dallas, there was a good rapport when the protest was peaceful. I read that even some protesters were posing for selfies with police and the police were going along with that, having their picture taken. And then, this comes in and throws an entire wrench in it. As you say, Damian, of course, this suspect, as far as we know, said he was angry about the killings by police of black men earlier in the week.
LAKSHMANANDavid, fill us in. Two black men were killed by police in Louisiana and in Minnesota this week. Their deaths were actually captured in real time on video by witnesses. What has been the nationwide reaction to those killings?
RENNIESo as ever, you know, all of these killings are -- the nature in which they're discussed, the way in which the news breaks for the American people has been transformed by technology, the fact that the second of these two killings, Philando Castile, you actually had someone streaming, his girlfriend, from the passenger seat of the car in which he was shot, streaming on Facebook live her response immediately after what appears to have been a fatal shooting. You also heard -- and I think it's important here, I think it's fair to say, the policeman who had just shot her boyfriend terrified, clearly, so himself distraught at what had happened.
RENNIEIn the case of Alton Sterling, the gentleman killed in Baton...
LAKSHMANANAnd remind us, in the case of this man in Minnesota, apparently he was pulled over for a supposedly broken tail light.
RENNIEA broken tail light, yeah.
LAKSHMANANAnd he was told to take out his ID and the girlfriend says that he was explaining to the police officer at the same time that he had a permit to carry...
RENNIEA concealed carry permit, yeah.
LAKSHMANAN...a concealed weapon?
RENNIESo these two different cases. So the first killing in Baton Rouge was somebody who had a -- had been selling CDs outside a kind of corner store. He appears to have had a long criminal record. The police maybe knew him. There is grainy video, phone video, of him, you know, scuffling with the police and being forced to the ground and then, being shot dead several times. And then, at least the owner of the store saying that, at that point, and only at that point, did the police take a gun from his back pocket. They had had a call saying that he was menacing people with a gun. So that's that circumstance in Louisiana.
KUCINICHBut I think one of the things that happened in both of these incidents that I think has caused, in addition to the shooting, a lot of outrage is that there was no medical attention for either of these men, once they were shot, which is not protocol. There should've been medical attention right away after they were...
LAKSHMANANMeaning the officer himself should have administered first aid.
KUCINICHYes, exactly. There should've been -- or there should've been an ambulance called. There should've been something to take care of these people, even though they -- even though a police officer thought they were a threat. That has been something I've heard over and over again. Where was the medical attention, particularly for the -- excuse me...
KUCINICH...for Philando Castile, thank you. His girlfriend was asking, you know, where are these people and he just...
LAKSHMANANHe died in a matter of minutes.
KUCINICH...he died right there on camera, yeah.
LAKSHMANANOn camera as it was being live streamed. I think more than 2 million people watched the video on Facebook, which is quite incredible. I mean, that is also amplifying the sort of import of all this and amplifying how people are reacting to it. I want to talk more about that after the break, but we're going to take a short -- okay. But I want to also hear about -- a little bit more about how that footage went viral and why it's important.
PALETTAWell, I think one of the things that's interesting is that, you know, there's been so many of these police shootings. The reason that there's been so much outrage is because they've been videoed and broadcast on social media.
KUCINICHWhen you can see it, it's different.
PALETTARight. And I think, you know, who knows if this is a recent phenomenon or if this kind of think happened a lot before, but these iPhones and whatever have made others be able to see with their own eyes what exactly is happening. And so I think that's one of the reasons that there's been so much outrage. People have been able to see this. And one of the things, like I was mentioning earlier, you know, obviously, a lot of African-Americans don't feel safe when they get pulled over, right? I mean, it's just a fact. And, obviously, a lot of police officers don't feel safe in these encounters, either.
PALETTAThat is also a fact. And I think the real challenge is that this has not gotten better in any way. This has only gotten worse. And it's been several years. And I think, for whatever reason, this country -- no one seems to have a solution. And, you know, it's really -- I think we saw the attorney general when he was there, Holder, tried to make a difference and he didn't have any success. President Obama seems to not have had any success. I don't think Attorney General Lynch has had much success with this either. So it really -- now with President Obama in this lame duck status, I think it's going to come to either Secretary Clinton or Donald Trump to try to offer something that either -- heals the narrative.
LAKSHMANANDavid, quickly, this is all happening as the trial is open for the highest ranking Baltimore police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray. Gray was a black man who died in police custody of a spinal cord injury last year. How significant is the outcome of that?
RENNIEIt's clearly, you know, we've had -- this is the fourth of six trials of police officers. There's a lot of tension in the city of Baltimore because two of those trials -- three of those trials have ended in acquittals and one in a mistrial. So I think that's, you know, it further adds to the tension in already a very tense city.
LAKSHMANANAll right. We'll talk more about that when we come back. You can watch the live stream of our guests at drshow.org. Stay with us. We'll be right back.
LAKSHMANANWelcome back. I'm Indira Lakshmanan, a columnist with the Boston Globe, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Joining me today to talk about this week's top stories, David Rennie, Washington bureau chief and Lexington columnist for The Economist magazine, Damian Paletta, national security and intelligence reporter for The Wall Street Journal, and Jackie Kucinich, Washington bureau chief for The Daily Beast. You can tune in to watch the live stream of our show at drshow.org. You can send us a tweet at @drshow or an email to email@example.com. And of course you can always call us on 1-800-433-8850.
LAKSHMANANSo, Jackie, you know, we've been talking so far all about the terrible killings of police in Dallas, about yet more, two more killings of black men at the hands of police. And I want to ask you, has anything changed since Ferguson? It's been two years since all those demonstrations began and it feels like we're reliving this month after month.
KUCINICHWell, certainly there's more awareness since Ferguson in the national conscience that this is happening. But I think the other thing, I mean speaking from a political standpoint, the Black Lives Matter movement has really become a force both, you know, on the streets and politically. They have had an impact. You've seen, I mean, the Democratic platform, the conventions are coming up, has language in it that came from Black Lives Matter. So in terms of a movement that that has created, that seems to be one of the most lasting impacts of the whole, you know, Ferguson incident.
LAKSHMANANDamian, let me ask you, now that this Dallas shooting has happened, what does it mean for tensions between police and civilians and all the efforts that are underway nationwide, especially in departments like Dallas itself, at healing?
PALETTAI think tensions are as high as ever. I think it feels like a tinder box kind of environment. Jackie mentioned the conventions. I think a lot of people are going to be holding their breath, quite frankly, because there's going to be such an opportunity for troublemakers to make trouble there. I would say there's a lot of planned protests at the conventions. There always are and that's kind of the nature of America. But there's also going to be this kind of tension running through the air that anything, you know, anyone could be a suspect, anyone could be planning something bad.
PALETTAAnd, you know, obviously we've spent so much time focusing on the Islamic State in the past year with San Bernardino and Orlando and what they could do domestically, but I think this kind of tension, I think, it's resonating with everyone. Everyone feels so uncomfortable. Everyone feels so anxious about how this is going to keep developing. Especially because really we've made no progress. And I think it's going to be up to either the president, the attorney general, someone's got to step in and try to, you know, resolve this.
LAKSHMANANWell, you make an excellent point, comparing it to the fear about Islamic State terrorist attacks, when, in fact, in the United States we have something like a hundred people killed by guns in this country every day that don't have to do with terrorism and violence. So, David, I want to ask you, this sniper, if it was only one person, of course had a weapon or weapons, plural. Philandro Castile, the man who was killed in Minnesota, had a legal permit to carry a weapon. We don't know if the sniper was legally carrying a weapon or not. Does all of this bring any more chance of a vote on major gun reform legislation before the House after, you know, more attacks by guns?
RENNIESo here's the thing, and this may not make me very popular with some listeners, I don't believe that this will make gun control legislation happen. I don't believe there's going to be any meaningful gun control. But people who believe that it's fine to have this many guns in America need to know this has consequences. This makes America unique among rich, developed, Democratic countries.
RENNIESo I pulled the numbers just for comparison with the U.K. and with the U.S. And bear in mind that, you know, essentially the difference in population is about five to one, because America is five times bigger. But in the last year we had figures, so it's very dangerous being pulled over by the police in some circumstances in this country. We've seen that. It's very dangerous being a policeman. In both cases, in Minnesota and in Baton Rouge, the policemen knew that the other guy may have had a gun. So that played into their terror.
RENNIESo in the U.S., the most recent year, 94 policemen were killed in the line of duty, of whom 42 were killed by guns. So far this year, The Washington Post tally is about 500 people killed by the police so far this year in America. So 500 killed by the police, about 92 policemen killed last year. In the U.K., the last year we have figures, 2 policemen -- 2 policemen were killed in the line of duty. In the U.K., in the last four years -- in the last four years, the British police shot one person dead in four years. And, in fact, in the last year, British police fired their weapons in the line of duty, at all, six times in the most recent year, compared to 500 dead already this year.
RENNIEThis is not to criticize America. It's not to say America is an awful country. I love America. I've lived here for many, many years. But because you have all these guns, it is uniquely dangerous to be a policeman in this country and uniquely dangerous to have contact with the police. It doesn't happen in other rich, democratic countries.
LAKSHMANANSo you're drawing a direct line between the availability of guns on the streets in America, you know, legally and illegally...
RENNIEHow can you not?
LAKSHMANAN...versus in other countries.
RENNIEHow can you not?
LAKSHMANANSo, Jackie, let me ask you, you know, David has said he still is pessimistic. We had Newtown, the -- that didn't cause a change in gun legislation. Do you think anything is going to happen in the House? Or, in fact, are they going to take the opposite tack and punish Democrats who had a sit-in trying to get gun legislation through?
KUCINICHSo, I mean, I think that determination is going on right now. Dallas happened last night. And I wonder if that does change the calculation. But even the gun legislation that was -- that they were talking about wasn't something that Democrats were happy with. It wasn't something that some of the activist groups that are for gun control were happy with because it essentially put a three-day waiting period on, if you were on the terror watch list, for getting a gun. And if they weren't -- if the government isn't able to prove probable cause, then you still end up getting the gun. So it really is kind of -- it wasn't really a fix anyway.
KUCINICHSo, no, there isn't -- you talk about the U.K., this is a whole different country and it's a whole different set of rules and it's apples to oranges at this point when you talk about gun laws. I'm -- it's part of our constitution, for better or for worse. And that -- but the balance has -- this Congress doesn't really want to strike a balance. It doesn't really want to change anything. So that's where we are right now. There is the political will, even from Democrats, there are red-state Democrats who don't want to alienate their constituents by trying to, you know, enforce more gun control. So it's -- we're just not there now.
KUCINICHIt's, I mean, and not to throw up my hands, but it's the political will and the political want just isn't there with the majority of folks in Congress.
LAKSHMANANAll right. We have an email from a listener, Jonathan, in Whispering Pines, N.C., who says, with this latest killing of law enforcement in Dallas, we need a national forum on what to do and what not to do and have more citizen involvement with local folks able to air grievances they have. We need a new Kerner Report. And he's referring of the findings of a commission that was established by Lyndon Johnson to investigate the causes of race riots in the late '60s. Damian, do you see any possibility for what this listener is talking about?
PALETTAYou know, I was actually thinking about this exact thing when I was coming in today. This is not the kind of thing that's going to be fixed easily, right? There's not -- you're not going to pass a law and this isn't going to happen again. This is -- there's -- this is something that's going to take probably years to try to address. And it's going to take, you know, the police working more closely with the community. It's going to take people in inner-city neighborhoods or elsewhere to work more closely with police.
PALETTAIt's going to take a national conversation. People are going to have put down their biases on all sides and sort of try to understand where the other side is coming from. Because right now there's just too much shouting, too much pointing of guns and fingers and it's just getting worse and worse.
LAKSHMANANShouting and pointing of guns and figures -- fingers. It's a good image. All right, let's take a call from Gerick in Tampa, Fla. Gerick, go ahead. You're on the air.
GERICKHi there, everyone. Thank you for having me.
LAKSHMANANThank you for calling.
GERICKSo I would say that a considerable amount of blame rests upon the now 20-year-old Dickey Amendment that really takes the power out of the CDC in researching gun violence and gun statistics. You know, there are study after study from different universities that really draw a link to the nuances of human behavior once firearms are added to the mix. And really, to make it brief, I think Americans are addicted to violence and the first step is admitting that we have a problem.
LAKSHMANANSo, Gerick, you're saying that we need better gun control and the Centers for Disease Control should be able to research gun violence, something that I believe Congress has blocked.
GERICKDefinitely. I agree with that. You know, it's not for me to say what type of gun control is right for our nation, you know, our sensibilities as a populace. Obviously there's an agreement with gun control as a, you know, as a whole. But at least let's table the conversation...
GERICK...and that should start with the CDC.
LAKSHMANANLet me quickly ask you, what is your relationship to this issue? Are you, yourself, a gun owner? Have you worked with firearms yourself?
GERICKVery closely. I'm active in the military. I've deployed several times, so I know exactly, I guess, the meaning of violence in an intimate way.
LAKSHMANANAll right. Thank you very much for your call, Gerick. Jackie.
KUCINICHHmm. It' -- no, it's a good point.
LAKSHMANANWe have someone from the active-duty military who's saying he's worked with violent -- with weapons and he sees how they have a violent effect on people, calling out for gun control. You still think it's not going to make a difference on Capitol Hill?
KUCINICHAt this point, it's just not there. And, yeah, I've heard other people in the military say, you know, the rifle I carry in Iraq isn't something that should be on the streets. But, you know, again, the fact of the matter is, our laws allow that right now.
KUCINICHBut there is some talk about mental health legislation going through, authored by Congressman Tim Murphy. Paul Ryan was talking about that yesterday. But there's a lot of privacy concerns there. So there's -- there -- this is one of those issues that is so complex and they're so -- so emotional on both sides that it makes it extremely difficult to get through Congress right now.
LAKSHMANANWell right now we're seeing a live news conference by Representative Butterfield in Congress, Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, it says, who's calling on the GOP to have a debate over gun control. So obviously we'll continue to watch that throughout the day. We have an email from Joey in Texas, who says, watching the local Dallas news last night, I was appalled that an amateur video was playing, showing an officer murdered by one of the suspects. Are we really at the point where news producers throw caution to the wind for ratings and show raw, unvetted, viral videos that show the worst of our gun culture.
LAKSHMANANDavid, what do you think about that? Because these videos are playing a role both in terms of being filmed by victims and being filmed in this case, you know, the shooting of the police officers.
RENNIELook, I think Joey makes a legitimate point. I think that sets -- any responsible news organization knows that sometimes you have to edit. I mean, if you see the raw photographs -- if you work in a newsroom and you see the raw photographs that come in after any act of violence from the photographers, two-thirds of them are unusable and should be unusable. So I think, clearly, people have to be careful. But as the other panelists have said, the power of some of these videos, if you can be responsible, has been extraordinary, has been remarkable.
LAKSHMANANI'm Indira Lakshmanan and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." If you'd like to join us, you can call anytime at 1-800-433-8850. You can send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find us on Facebook or send us a tweet to @drshow. And don't forget, you can watch us on our live video stream at drshow.org. All right, folks, it's hard to break away from that conversation because it is so important, but a lot of other things happened this week, including on Thursday, FBI Director James Comey made his first appearance before Congress since saying that the FBI would not recommend filing criminal charges against Hillary Clinton over her email. What did we learn, Jackie?
KUCINICHWell, I mean, we learned that Comey is very good at testifying before Congress. And we've seen him do it before in 2007 and he proved again that he is -- he's quite apt at this. But we learned that we -- we learned a lot. I mean, we didn't learn as -- I'm sorry, excuse me. Let me start again. Quite a bit but yet I don't know that it changes anything. Because he just sort of reinforced a lot of the things that he said in his press conference, that there -- what was it -- reckless, that she was carelessly reckless with sending classified information. But he doesn't think that, you know, that anyone would prosecute it. And you saw a lot of frustration from the Republican side.
KUCINICHThe House Oversight Committee does tend to be a little bit of political theater. So it -- there was quite a bit of back and forth on that front as well.
LAKSHMANANAll right. He did say that Clinton did not lie to the FBI, and that the...
KUCINICHTo the FBI.
LAKSHMANANTo the FBI, that's right. And the Republicans were asking in this hearing, whether she lied to the public, whether she lied to the Benghazi Committee. I think he said that wasn't under his purview. Let...
KUCINICHBut he did say that Jason Chaffetz was going to request that the FBI look into whether she lied to the Benghazi Committee, as they were going to -- that -- I mean, they actually have to request that. And Jason Chaffetz said to Comey, I'm going to send you a request. So that might be something that they will look into.
LAKSHMANANDamian, let me ask you, Comey was defending himself against the accusation that his decision was partisan. We know Comey himself was, at least before, a Republican, a career prosecutor. Some Republicans, including Donald Trump, are drawing parallels between this case of Hillary Clinton's emails and David Petraeus, the former CIA director's use of email. Tell us, what are the similarities and what are the differences?
PALETTAIt's -- we've heard that a lot. Donald Trump actually brought up that comparison immediately after Comey said he wasn't going to be pushing for charges. One of the main differences in the Petraeus case is that he'd lied to the FBI. And, you know, you can't do that. And so that was one of the things that was, you know, obvious for them to sort of get a misdemeanor charge on him. Secretary Clinton, according to Director Comey, did not lie to the FBI in her interaction with them.
PALETTAAnd also, he said that this essentially, law, this 99-year-old law that the Republicans wanted the FBI to hit her on, had only been enforced once in 99 years and it was a really kind of loosely understood law. It has to do with gross negligence and apparently that's a real kind of subjective measurement that a lot of people feel uncomfortable with. So one of the things that was interesting about Comey, he -- obviously the meeting between Bill Clinton and Attorney General Lynch at the Phoenix airport last week put him in an incredibly awkward spot because it did raise this cloud of inappropriate, you know, influence.
PALETTAAnd so I think the reason that he did what he did on Tuesday morning by spelling out exactly all the things that she did wrong, that she sort of went to the edge of criminal behavior but didn't cross over it, I think he did that in order to prove to people that he was, you know, taking this very seriously and that they did a real thorough, independent, apolitical investigation.
KUCINICHAnd he also said that yesterday.
KUCINICHHe was very explicit, saying, you know, there was -- no one knew what I was going to say that day. And he said that over and over again yesterday.
LAKSHMANANThat he went out to those press conference while that -- without...
LAKSHMANAN...having briefed Justice Department or anyone else first.
LAKSHMANANI mean, quickly though, he did say that in the case of David Petraeus, he was clearly, intentionally, knowingly passing on classified information to his biographer, who was also his lover. Whereas, in the Clinton case, he said, there was no evidence of intentional mishandling of classified information. Even though, apparently, as he said, it was very careless and very reckless. So, David, let me ask you, what is the likely fallout from this? I mean, I heard GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan saying the director of National Intelligence should deny Clinton access to classified briefings.
RENNIESo here's the extraordinary thing, I think it's yet another reminder that for an awful lot of American voters, when they go to the ballot box in November, assuming the two names on the presidential ballot are likely to be Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump at the top for the major parties, for a lot of people, for an increasing number of people maybe, that's a really unattractive choice.
RENNIEAnd I think one of the extraordinary things about Director Comey's, sort of, press conference and that his testimony before the House was -- when you listened to it, you thought, if Hillary Clinton were being confirmed for ambassador to NATO or she was trying to get a job in the NSC, this would probably now disqualify her. This would probably now wreck her government career. Because she was extremely careless. But she's running for a different job and Americans don't have the choice of saying, bring me another candidate or another nominee. And that's looking incredibly, you know, unappealing to a lot of people I think.
LAKSHMANANStriking, all of this. All right. We're going to talk more about it after a break. Coming up, your calls and your questions for our panel. Stay with us.
LAKSHMANANWelcome back. I'm Indira Lakshmanan, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Joining me are Jackie Kucinish, Washington bureau chief for the Daily Beast, Damian Paletta, national security and intelligence reporter for The Wall Street Journal, and David Rennie, Washington bureau chief of The Economist. We are talking about the fallout from the Hillary Clinton case and the FBI not recommending criminal charges, the Justice Department saying that it would -- that the case was closed.
LAKSHMANANBut in fact, Jackie, the State Department has decided that it will reopen an investigation into her use of email is what we heard yesterday.
KUCINICHThis is never going to go away. It means that she's going to have to keep answering questions about this. And I will note she has not answered questions about this herself since Tuesday, when Comey came out with these findings from the FBI. So we're waiting. We're waiting for a press conference because until Hillary Clinton herself answers to this, there are still going to be so many questions. Go ahead.
LAKSHMANANWell Damian, I wanted to ask you because you've written about the possible implications if Hillary Clinton is elected. Would her aides, who apparently unknowingly mishandled classified information, could they be denied security clearance?
PALETTARight, so it looks like what the State Department is doing is they're going to review the practices of some of these aides of hers and to see if they should essentially have their security clearances revoked. And obviously they're former State Department employees at this point, so it would be kind of a moot point if they revoked them, but there could be a point where if she wins the election and goes to be the president, and she tries to bring some of these former State Department aides with her to the White House, it's actually the FBI who is in charge of doing the background check to see if they're qualified to have a security clearance.
PALETTASo the FBI could recommend that these people not be, you know, given a security clearance. She could, as the commander in chief, overrule the FBI and still grant them a security clearance. I mean, she could obviously say they didn't do anything that I didn't do, they didn't do anything that I didn't tell them to do, so obviously they're qualified, but this could set up a real nasty public debate in her first weeks in office about whether she or the FBI knows better how to handle classified information.
LAKSHMANANWell, David I've got to ask you, are Republicans busy making attack ads out of FBI Director Comey's press conference, where he called her extremely careless? And Donald Trump has jumped all over what he said.
RENNIEWell, it's interesting, we've seen, you know, Republicans of course are going to make as much hay out of this as they possibly can, led by Donald Trump but also people in Congress, too. It's interesting that they haven't been using Comey as the stick with which to beat Hillary Clinton. It's been mostly about they don't understand how Director Comey didn't end up wanting to prosecute her. And I think that's kind of potentially sort of tricky territory for Republicans because somewhere in there, they're sort of accusing Comey of being soft on her.
RENNIEAnd he comes across on TV as quite -- you know, he's a Republican, if people know that sitting at home, but certainly he comes across as a pretty kind of tough prosecutorial kind of figure. And so it's interesting seeing that they've been raising all these kind of -- mystifying that he hasn't pressed charges after he laid out such a devastating critique or confusing that he hasn't. So they're kind of trying to sort of raise this bubble of suspicion.
RENNIEMaybe one of the things that helps Hillary Clinton in this awful election season we're in is because everyone hates everyone so much, the number of Americans whose minds are ready to be changed one way or the other is probably vanishingly small. Those people who already loathe her loathe her just a little bit more, with a little bit more kind of conviction. Those people who have decided to vote for her, either because they're enthusiastic or because they hate Donald Trump, they're still in that boat.
RENNIEIt's such a kind of a locked-in election season.
LAKSHMANANWell, Donald Trump called the system rigged. He also made -- so that seems like an attack, in a way, on the FBI. He also, though, praised Saddam Hussein at an event in North Carolina.
LAKSHMANANAnd he tweeted out an image about Hillary Clinton with a six-pointed star, it looked like the Jewish star of David. What has the reaction to all of that been?
KUCINICHOh my gosh. I mean, well, Republicans are just shaking their head and doing one of these, like just hitting their forehead at this point, because Donald Trump, he -- that tweet was taken down initially, and yet he went to a rally, and then he doubled-down on it, referencing how a similar image was on a coloring book for the Disney movie "Frozen." I mean, this has just gotten -- I can't believe we're talking about this in an election year because it's that insane.
KUCINICHBut a lot of people saw that star as being anti-Semitic. It came from a Twitter user who was -- who has tweeted a lot of anti-Hillary things but also, you know, a lot of racist things. So it's not completely beyond the realm of imagination that that's what that person meant. And then he had his social media editor or social media person come out and say that he made it, which is also sort of beyond the realm of possibility.
KUCINICHSo it just -- but I think when you come down to it, Donald Trump wasn't spending his time talking about Hillary Clinton and her email this week. He was spending time talking about Saddam Hussein and who was great at killing terrorists and whether or not he was an anti-Semite. That is not good for the Republican Party, and they know that.
KUCINICHHe also went up to Capitol Hill and proceeded to insult other Republicans, other -- Republican senators. So going into the Republican convention, which is in two short weeks, there's not unity, and there's a lot of fear that he's just tanking.
LAKSHMANANDoes he have anyone scheduled to speak for him yet, Jackie, at the convention? He was supposed to give out that list this week. Now people are talking about his family members being the ones to speak for him.
KUCINICHRight, well we know Ted Cruz and he spoke yesterday. He offered him a speaking position. Ted Cruz said yes. Joni Ernst is supposed to be speaking there. She is the senator from Iowa. And also Don King. So...
LAKSHMANANDon King the boxing promoter.
KUCINICHYes, exactly. So it's going to be an eclectic group of people from lots of different backgrounds for sure.
PALETTAOne of the things that was remarkable, I mean, Hillary Clinton was incredibly vulnerable this week, right. She had a really bad week. I mean, obviously it could've been worse, she could've been indicted, but, you know, the FBI director, who a lot of people from both parties respect, really, really laid into her. And Donald Trump had an incredible opportunity. I mean, he already has his based locked up, right, he's going to get 40 percent of the vote no matter what. Right now he's in a position where he needs to start kind of pulling some of those...
LAKSHMANANHe can get 40 percent of which base?
PALETTAProbably 40 percent of Americans are going to vote for him at this point no matter, I think. And so what he needs to do and win is to get more, to get more voters, and he can't -- he can't go and have one of these rallies where he talks about Saddam Hussein and mosquitoes and defend the star of David thing. I mean, he really had her on the ropes.
LAKSHMANANThe mosquitoes is a reference to a mosquito flew up to him on the podium, and he slapped it.
PALETTARight, he slapped it.
LAKSHMANANAnd he said, speaking of mosquitoes, let's talk about Hillary Clinton. Basically his speech degenerated into what seemed like a stream of consciousness rant, according to his critics.
PALETTAI just felt like he had an opportunity right there to really act presidential and really put it out there for independent voters to come to him, and he just decided, you know, this is what's worked from before, let's just keep with it.
LAKSHMANANWell David, let me ask you. President Obama went out and stumped for Hillary Clinton this week. That was the first time they campaigned together. What did he say? Was he a huge net positive for her?
RENNIESo they went to North Carolina. This replaced an earlier rally that was supposed to happen in Wisconsin. It was called off. So, you know, people were sort of -- the good news for Hillary Clinton was that he was on good form, he was all fired up, he had some sort of scathing comments to make about candidates who think because they send out tweet all day, they can sit behind the big desk in the Oval Office, and that was all great.
RENNIEIf you're kind of pessimistic, you say that he slightly overshadowed Hillary Clinton because he was frankly more energetic and more interesting speaker, as often the case, than she was. What was interesting was the briefing from sort of the Hillary campaign to the press was that the key message is that people at home know that President Obama ran against her in 2008, didn't always like her and then came to realize that she was a good thing. So he went through a kind of conversion.
KUCINICHAnd you can, too.
RENNIESo he went through a conversion. So he's kind of -- he's kind of a super-endorser because he's the endorser who didn't get her at first and now realizes that she's a kind of swell, stand-up person with a long record of fighting for kind of good things and sort of scrappy and doubty and all those sort of things. So that...
LAKSHMANANIn a way, won't Bernie Sanders eventually be that same kind of super-endorser? And we saw a move towards that this week with him praising her for her new college tuition plan. Isn't that right, Jackie?
KUCINICHI don't know. I don't know if -- it depends on how effusive Bernie Sanders is about his praise for Hillary Clinton because in normal situation, when you lose the nomination, you concede a long time ago, and Bernie Sanders has held on because he wants certain parts of his planks inserted in the platform. But you also have -- I mean, I think some of Bernie's sunshine was taken by Elizabeth Warren. Elizabeth Warren endorsed Hillary Clinton. She's been out on the trail with her. And I was at one of the rallies.
LAKSHMANANAnother big progressive who appeals to the same base.
KUCINICHAnother big progressive, and a lot of people, a lot of Bernie Sanders people, really like Elizabeth Warren. So I think she stole some of his thunder. I'm sure, I mean, in my opinion, just talking to people in the crowd and watching his movement sort of diffuse, I do wonder if he sort of missed his moment on this.
LAKSHMANANInteresting. Well Hillary Clinton has not only taken advantage of campaigning with Barack Obama, campaigning with Elizabeth Warren, she's also going after Donald Trump. She's gone after his business record. She made a speech in Atlantic City about his handling of casinos. Has any of this had any effect on the campaign?
PALETTAYou know, I think it has. I think we're seeing a side of her that we didn't know, and quite frankly we're seeing a side of her that no Republicans in the primary were able to sort of channel, this, you know, go toe to toe with him, hurl insults and kind of strike a nerve. Obviously he seems to get rattled by this stuff. He responds in kind. And so I think she's proven that she can kind of play in the mid pit with him.
PALETTANow the question is, is she going to keep doing this as we get closer to the debates, as she gets a vice presidential candidate. Is she going to let, you know, that person be more of the proxy.
LAKSHMANANThe attack dog.
PALETTARight, for these fistfights. But I think she's proven that she can kind of, you know, knuckle up and throw a punch at Trump.
RENNIEAnd Damian makes an excellent point which is that you get under his skin. I mean, this is a very unusual election for a whole bunch of reasons, but one of the things is when you attack Donald Trump as Hillary Clinton, it's a two-fer because not only do you make voters think worse of him, but you also -- you get to him visibly because he has an incredibly thin skin. And then he starts saying, you know, crazy stuff.
LAKSHMANANAll right, let's take a call from Eddie in Raleigh, North Carolina. Eddie, you're on the line.
EDDIEYes, with the Comey interview and the announcement yesterday with him testifying in front of Congress, it proves two things. Doesn't it prove that she was completely negligent or completely clueless as to what her responsibilities were as far as keeping her servers secure? And also doesn't it prove that she's a complete liar?
LAKSHMANANAnd so I take it you're going to be voting for Donald Trump?
EDDIEWell, I'm not a -- he wasn't my first choice, but, I mean, whether it comes from someone who was completely negligent in her duties or completely incompetent in her duties and has been proven to be a complete liar, I would take him over Hillary, yes.
LAKSHMANANAll right, thank you for your call. So it seems like, you know, we're hearing a view from someone who said that Trump wasn't his first choice. It doesn't sound like he was going to vote for Hillary in the first place, either, though. David, you know, walk us through. Again, do you think that this is going to affect what happened this week, closing it up? I mean, the Clinton campaign could say in a way it was a good outcome because no criminal charges, and it's done, the Justice Department said it's over.
LAKSHMANANBut, you know, is it going to change anyone's opinion on the margins?
RENNIEIt'll clearly change some opinions, but I think -- this is the point that I was sort of referring to earlier. We have this very odd situation now that if she were one of several candidates for a government job, this would probably disqualify her. And Eddie in North Carolina is right that, you know, America takes secrets seriously, and even if, you know, it was only eight emails with top secret information, you could -- you could have your military career wrecked for that, you could have your career in the NSC wrecked for that.
RENNIEBut here's the problem. Everyone faces a binary choice when they get into that ballot box in November. Who do they think is the better person to be commander in chief and to have their finger on the button? And when you weigh Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton, I think a lot of voters are going to say -- I mean, I met a guy who used to do Russia policy in the first Bush administration who said to me, I can't stand her, but I'm going to vote for her. And there's a lot of national security people in that kind of world.
RENNIEAnd I said to him, you know, that's the bumper sticker. You should stick that on your car.
LAKSHMANANI'm Indira Lakshmanan, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. All right, we have an email from a listener, Tom in Chapel Hill, and he's directing this to Jackie's earlier comment. He says, how can your panelist claim that legislators don't want to alienate their constituents by voting for gun control? It's commonly noted that about 68 percent of Americans favor gun control. That is a large majority. Legislators are reticent about alienating the NRA and its campaign contributions. What do you say to that, Jackie?
KUCINICHWell, I mean, the NRA is part of this because they are very good at scaring legislators into, you know, voting their way and making bills that might not, in action, affect guns seem really scary and as like a slippery slope to, you know, taking everyone's guns away and registering them. So that -- it's just, it's a reality, particularly in red states, particularly in a Heidi Heitkamp --Senator Heidi Heitkamp is someone who pops into my head.
KUCINICHShe is someone who won't vote for something like this because she's pro-gun and because she comes from a pro-gun state. And so, yeah, well...
LAKSHMANANBut is it possible that legislators are somewhat out of step with the overall general population?
KUCINICHHere's the -- no, but here's the thing about those, about polls like that. The devil is in the details. You can say do you want gun control. Sure I do. But when -- okay, well, do you want to ban assault weapons? Okay, what about this weapon? And if you change it, it actually will still comply with the law. There a lot of -- you can just ask a broad question like that, but when you actually drill down to the legislation that is presented, you know, when it comes down to it, it's -- it gets harder for some of these Congress members to support.
RENNIEIt's also about intensity. It is true that you can ask these broad questions and get, you know, a majority of Americans, but it's a passionate minority for whom it's their number one issue.
RENNIEI would disagree with the listeners who says it's the NRA's contributions. Actually the money that the NRA hands out is relatively small. I think their power comes from the fact that in red state America, if you want to run as a Republican, and you want to call yourself a conservative, the box you need to tick is the approval of the NRA. So they control that box, which gives them veto power over any elected Republican's career who wants to call themselves a conservative, and that's the root of their power.
LAKSHMANANAll right, very quickly, Damian, last month's job report was surprisingly dismal. The job numbers just came out an hour and a half ago. What do we see this month?
PALETTAYou know, it's a much stronger month, 287,000 jobs added. That's good, although it's -- I don't think anyone's, you know, breathing a sigh of relief. This economy we thought was going to be really strong this year, we thought it was going to really help Hillary Clinton going into the elections. It's not. I think wages are still frustrating for a lot of Americans. The unemployment rate is 4.9 percent. You know, historically that's pretty good. But I think a lot of Americans are anxious about kind of what's to come.
PALETTAWe saw with the Brexit vote there's a lot of volatility in the market right now, and so I think, you know, obviously the economy is much better than it was at the beginning of the Obama administration, but no one feels like, you know, we're in really good shape.
LAKSHMANANSo given today's strong numbers, was last month's jobs report a blip, or how do you explain that?
PALETTAIt might have been a blip. I think we'll have to see a couple more months to determine whether, you know, what direction we're really heading. You know, no one, I think, really thinks we're in recession territory here. The economy is growing. But it's not growing in a strong way. And so I think the question is, you know, which industries are going to really step forward, and is all this political uncertainty going into November going to make everyone kind of wait and see.
LAKSHMANANDavid, this is the last jobs report before the conventions. Could this affect Republicans and Democrats using it to shape their economic message?
RENNIEHere's the thing is -- so much of this is about perceptions because if you ask Americans do they think we're in a recession, a substantial number of Americans thinks that we are in recession. But the unemployment numbers, you have Donald Trump standing up and saying that the unemployment number of 4.9 percent should actually be -- you know, he's come out with, like, 30 percent or something.
RENNIEWhat he's tapping into there is an awful lot of Americans may not show up in those unemployment numbers, but they've stopped looking for work, and there is a kind of real crisis of people working fewer hours than they'd like. People have just given up on work. And so there's a danger that, you know, you can wave a cheerful number around, but if people don't feel that matches their reality, you just sound insensitive.
LAKSHMANANAll right, well, I want to leave us with a few thoughts from our listeners. George in Centerville, Virginia, says Nixon was impeached over deleting tapes. Hillary should know how to use emails. Why is she still a candidate? And then a couple of reflections on the police shootings and the violence, a tweet from Kim, who says, I remember 1967 and 1968 race riots. Right now feels like that moment updated. Hate is being fueled by dangerous rhetoric.
LAKSHMANANAnd I'm struck by this email from David in Arlington, Virginia, who says no one person, president, attorney general, governor will solve this problem of tension between police and communities. It's our responsibility. If we do nothing, nothing will be done. David Rennie, Washington bureau chief of The Economist, Damian Paletta of The Wall Street Journal, Jackie Kucinich of The Daily Beast, thank you all so much for joining us. I'm Indira Lakshmanan, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thank you all for listening.
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