Guest Host: John Donvan

The sign outside the National Security Administration (NSA) campus in Maryland. A contractor for the National Security Agency has been arrested on charges that he illegally removed highly classified information and stored the material in his house and car.

The sign outside the National Security Administration (NSA) campus in Maryland. A contractor for the National Security Agency has been arrested on charges that he illegally removed highly classified information and stored the material in his house and car.

Latest polls show Trump struggling as we approach the final month before the election…a worry to Republican members of Congress hoping to hold on to their seats in November. But might this morning’s disappointing jobs numbers do them a favor? Reaction is still bubbling over the VP debate this week – the one widely expected to be a snooze, but wasn’t. We learn that the FBI secretly arrested an NSA contractor suspected of stealing secret intelligence. The Supreme Court starts a new term, still without a ninth justice. And all eyes are on Hurricane Matthew as it barrels down on the coast of Florida. A panel of journalists joins guest host John Donvan for analysis of the week’s top national news stories.


  • Molly Ball Staff writer, The Atlantic
  • Olivier Knox Chief Washington correspondent, Yahoo! News
  • Eliana Johnson Washington editor, National Review

Live Video


  • 10:06:54

    MR. JOHN DONVANThank you for joining us. I'm John Donvan moderator of the Intelligence Squared US Debate sitting in for Diane Rehm who is on a station visit to WYPR in Baltimore. Well, Donald Trump slips in the polls again, but there is a debate coming up, round two this weekend, a second chance versus Hillary Clinton. The Supreme Court opens its fall term, but still short one justice which means what sort of paralysis? And the FBI arrests another NSA contractor on suspicions of secret-stealing.

  • 10:07:24

    MR. JOHN DONVANJoining us for the domestic hour of our Friday News Roundup, let's welcome Molly Ball, staff writer at The Atlantic.

  • 10:07:30

    MS. MOLLY BALLHello, good morning.

  • 10:07:31

    DONVANAnd Olivier Knox, chief Washington correspondent, Yahoo! News.

  • 10:07:34

    MR. OLIVIER KNOXGood morning.

  • 10:07:35

    DONVANAnd Eliana Johnson, Washington, uh, editor for National Review.

  • 10:07:40

    MS. ELIANA JOHNSONHi. Great to be here.

  • 10:07:41

    DONVANWell, let's -- we're at the point now, one month, one day from the climax of the last year and a half of political drama, Election Day. Eliana, where do things stand?

  • 10:07:54

    JOHNSONYou know, we saw the race stay in a pretty stable spot from when Donald Trump clinched the nomination in May, at the beginning of May, through the Republican Convention in the middle of July. And that state, Hillary Clinton held about, you know, a five to seven-point advantage and then, we saw things change. Hillary Clinton had a health scare. She made a comment about deplorables, lots of people compared it to Mitt Romney's comment about the 47 percent and the race really did seem like a tossup going into the first debate.

  • 10:08:27

    JOHNSONIt seems like we've reverted to the initial state of the race, once again advantage to Hillary Clinton by, you know, about five to seven points nationally. But what's changed are the underlying number of undecided voters. There are fewer and fewer undecided voters now and the third party share, most notably Gary Johnson's share of voters, is declining. And what that means is the state -- that underlying state is more and more baked in and it's much harder, I think, for Trump going forward to move the needle going into this second debate, barring some unforeseen circumstance or spectacular performance.

  • 10:09:10

    DONVANMolly Ball, to the degree that undecided voters have been making up their minds over the past few weeks, which are those voters? Do we know?

  • 10:09:19

    BALLWell, you know, having watched the polls and sat in on some focus groups with undecided voters, it's actually a different phenomenon this year than you usually see normally. As the campaign comes down to the final stretch, the undecided voters, the ones that haven't been paying very much attention and so they just start to tune into the race and maybe they haven't yet made up their minds. In this case, because the two major party nominees are the first and second most unpopular major party nominees in history...

  • 10:09:49

    DONVANThat means people are paying attention?

  • 10:09:50

    BALL...a lot of people who are paying attention are still undecided. And I think Eliana's right, that more and more they are moving to a decided position and they seem to be gravitating largely to Hillary Clinton. But because there are a lot of people who just don't like their choices, there are some who've been having a hard time deciding, even if they know a lot about the candidates. So you know, I think Eliana's right about the state of the race.

  • 10:10:15

    BALLAnd the underlying factors that we're watching in these last several weeks have more to do with sort of turnout, enthusiasm, different demographic groups, are they going to decide to vote, how does early voting look, and do the campaign organizations do a good job of turning out the voters that they've identified.

  • 10:10:34

    DONVANOlivier Knox, take us a little bit through the electoral math on this at this point, how things are looking as these undecided voters figure out how to decide.

  • 10:10:43

    KNOXWell, as a responsible reporter, I'll steer everybody away from national polls, which are, you know, entertaining, but don't really mean much because we don't have national elections in this country. We've got state by state. I think that both of my colleagues are right to say that on balance, you'd rather be holding Hillary Clinton's hand than Donald Trump's at this point because she's leading in a lot of -- leading or has a tossup in a lot of the important battleground states.

  • 10:11:06

    KNOXYou know, she's been regularly up in Pennsylvania. She looks to be up, according to Real Clear Politics averages. She's up in Florida. There's a new poll that shows that she's up in Ohio. So it seems like it's -- she's edging him out in places where he needs to win.

  • 10:11:21

    DONVANAnd the narrative behind that, in other words, what is the thing that is turning things in her favor?

  • 10:11:26

    KNOXWell, some of it is a natural Democratic coming home to the party, people who may have been on the fence. I don't -- I actually don't -- to one of Molly's earlier points, I don't know how volatile the electorate still is. I don't know how baked in these are. I don't know if some of these undecideds are coming off the fence, but might go back on the fence depending on what happens in the next couple of weeks.

  • 10:11:46

    KNOXThe debate didn't much rattle the race. That was important. You know, Donald Trump still needs to -- needs something to change the race significantly.

  • 10:11:55

    DONVANEliana, if we're going to look at something that could significantly change the race, what is it that could, significantly, at this point, change the race? I mean, what variables are still out there?

  • 10:12:06

    JOHNSONI think Trump's debate performance could change the race in a small way. If you're talking about something significant, I think it would have to be something on the level of a terrorist attack. And interestingly, I think there's the perception that a terrorist attack would advantage Donald Trump because people seem to trust, at least in polls numbers, people trust Donald Trump on matters of national security more than Hillary Clinton. But there's a lot of political science research that in events like that, in crisis events, people actually gravitate toward the candidate with more experience and more, you know, the more level-headed candidate who's been on the national scene longer.

  • 10:12:42

    JOHNSONSo I could see a terrorist attack actually advantaging Hillary Clinton, but I think it'd have to be something catastrophic on that level, some major unforeseen circumstance.

  • 10:12:51

    DONVANWell, it's something that nobody wants to happen. But could a -- well, you know, what do you think, Molly?

  • 10:12:57

    BALLI was just going to say, you know, it's possible to take a step back from the entire sort of year and a half -- past year and a half of this election and see a very boring race. One candidate lead the entire time, basically, in the Republican primaries and that candidate went on to win. One candidate lead the entire time in the Democratic race and that candidate went on to win. One candidate has been ahead in the general election pretty much since it began. There was a point at which Donald Trump narrowed Hillary Clinton's national lead and in some of the battleground states, but if you look out across the electoral map, Hillary Clinton, I believe, is ahead in every single battleground state, on average, except for Iowa.

  • 10:13:31

    BALLAnd Trump needs to win all of the state that Mitt Romney won, all of those battleground states, plus some more, because Mitt Romney lost the election. Currently, he is behind in almost every swing state and so it would take a very dramatic unforeseen set of events and I think it would take more, probably even, than simply an adequate debate performance. And the fact that his first debate performance was not very good and despite his vice presidential nominee having a pretty good outing, doesn’t seem to have moved people toward him.

  • 10:14:04

    DONVANSo you're not actually on the edge of your seat about this.

  • 10:14:07

    BALLOf course, I am. I want -- I always think these things are interesting. I never predict outcomes and I think, you know, there are a lot of underlying questions for both candidates. But let's not make this more interesting than it is.

  • 10:14:22

    DONVANOlivier, we were talking about variables, potentially, everybody's talking about something catastrophic.

  • 10:14:27


  • 10:14:28

    DONVANBut Molly has just said a second debate performance that would be much better for Donald Trump wouldn't be much of a game changer. What do you think of that? We're three days away -- two days away from the second debate. Is it something -- could Trump have such a moment where he would reverse this dynamic?

  • 10:14:44

    KNOXWell, it would also depend on whether something big happens between now and the debate and he gets to amplify it on the debate stage. And I'm thinking of something like -- and I have no indication that this is the case, but a bombshell revelation about Hillary Clinton's state department or the Clinton Foundation or the nexus between them, something that he could amplify on the world stage, something terrible happening...

  • 10:15:04

    DONVANBut let's say it's not that. Let's just say it's the chance to play it better than he did the first time out.

  • 10:15:10

    KNOXI don't think that would -- I mean, unless he really played it significantly well and she fell down, physically, I don't see the debate changing a lot.

  • 10:15:17

    DONVANHow come?

  • 10:15:18

    KNOXBecause, as we've been saying, there's been this natural coming home of voters. There are fewer and fewer undecided voters. It's not clear that just one debate outing versus, you know, a year and a half of campaign coverage is going to swing these people one way or another.

  • 10:15:30

    DONVANThat said, Eliana, what do you think that Trump is doing in terms of preparing for this debate?

  • 10:15:36

    JOHNSONYou know, I think last night, we saw Donald Trump hold, you know, a town hall that he said, and many people thought, was going to be sort of a practice run at the debate and his performance really suggested otherwise and the way his campaign set it up suggested otherwise. He had a friendly moderator who posed questions from the audience. He didn't actually take questions from individuals in the audience. And his responses, I think, were self-indulgent, undisciplined, he took the opportunity to mock and deride journalists and reporters.

  • 10:16:08

    JOHNSONAnd I don't think presented himself as -- or would've quelled people's reservations about having a presidential temperament, which is the number one concern among voters -- undecided voters about him.

  • 10:16:21

    BALLHe's also now scheduled an event for Saturday night in Wisconsin and the debate is on Sunday. So at a time when, I think, the people who want him to win would like him to be sort of sequestering himself in the Tower and reviewing briefing books, you know, a problem that people who are close to Donald Trump will tell you he's always had is his attention span and his ability to focus. And he seems to, much more, just want to go out there and talk to the voters, which he's good at, than to buckle down and practice for the debate.

  • 10:16:49

    BALLHe actually, last night at his town hall, mocked Hillary Clinton...

  • 10:16:51

    JOHNSONI was going to say.

  • 10:16:52

    BALL...for preparing for the debate and said, oh, you know, she doesn’t have the energy, the stamina, she's resting. And the people who want Donald Trump to win hear things like that and sort of sigh because they would like him to prepare more and he just doesn't seem interested.

  • 10:17:08

    KNOXThe other thing you hear from a lot of Republican folks who do campaigns is that he's not just talking to the voters. He's talking to his voters and he's not broadening his appeal very much.

  • 10:17:16

    BALLThat's right. And if I could add to the conversation about what could change this election, the thing that I'm most interested in, the thing that I think could be the X factor is not about anything that happens between now and Election Day. It's about a change in the electorate that we've somehow not perceived. If, you know, because pollsters are building their models off of the last few elections and it is possible that we are going to see an entirely new electorate, that Donald Trump has galvanized a new sector of particularly the white working class vote and former Democrats and people who haven't voted in recent elections and the Obama coalition of young voters and minorities is not as excited about Hillary Clinton as she needs them to be.

  • 10:17:55

    DONVANAll right. More when we come back. We'll be look at the jobs report. We'll be taking a look back, also, at the vice presidential debate and see what difference it made. Our guests Molly Ball, Olivier Knox and Eliana Johnson. This is the weekly news roundup, I'm John Donvan and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 10:20:02

    DONVANWelcome back. I'm John Donvan sitting in for Diane Rehm. We are having our weekly news roundup. Our guests, Molly Ball, Olivier Knox and Eliana Johnson. And we're spending a fair amount of time on the election, given that we're a month and a day away from the day of the vote. And we did have an interesting blip in interest, I would say, this week in the vice presidential debate. It was predicted to be probably a little bit bland and boring and second tier. It was actually very, very high topic of conversation, partly because the energy that Tim Kaine brought to the debate caught a lot of people's attention and it sounded like this.

  • 10:20:39

    GOV. MIKE PENCEIt was in Ukraine or now their heavy-handed approach.

  • 10:20:41

    SEN. TIM KAINEYou guys love Russia. You both...

  • 10:20:43

    PENCETheir heavy-handed approach.

  • 10:20:45

    KAINE...have said Vladimir Putin is a better man than the president.

  • 10:20:46

    MS. ELAINE QUIJANOGentlemen, we're going to get to Russia...

  • 10:20:47

    PENCEWell, hang on a second.

  • 10:20:48 just a moment.

  • 10:20:49

    PENCEShe had a Clinton Foundation accepting contributions from foreign governments and foreign...

  • 10:20:54

    KAINEYou are Donald Trump's apprentice. Let me talk about this issue of the state of the world.

  • 10:20:58

    PENCESenator, I think I'm still on my time.

  • 10:21:00

    KAINEWell, I think, isn't this a discussion?

  • 10:21:02

    DONVANMolly Ball, those were a couple of excerpts that we put together. But there were famously 72 episodes of Tim Kaine interrupting Mike Pence throughout that debate, making him something of the great interrupter. And the analysis almost immediately was that Kaine hurt himself by breaking in so much. What's your take on it?

  • 10:21:25

    BALLI definitely think voters did not get a good impression of Tim Kaine. His -- he came across as very grating, very sort of high strung and he seemed nervous. And he didn't make much of a positive case for Hillary Clinton. But he was very focused on Donald Trump. And so the question is more about did he help Hillary Clinton than about did he hurt himself. And, you know, that was -- that clip that you just played is a perfect synopsis. Because, on the one hand, you have this jumpy and kind of annoying Tim Kaine, constantly, obsessively wanting to turn the conversation back to Donald Trump. On the other hand, Mike Pence seems to be operating in a different universe...

  • 10:22:04


  • 10:22:05

    BALL...than the person he's running with, and is saying -- and is denying a lot of things that are completely true, that his running mate has said. And So you have Mike Pence articulating a completely different stance on Russia from Donald Trump. And Tim Kaine's sort of going, can we get back to reality here, the real world where Donald Trump likes Russia?

  • 10:22:22

    DONVANEliana, did that work?

  • 10:22:24

    JOHNSONWell, I would say, you know, there's been -- the conventional wisdom has sort of jelled around this idea that Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine need to make a positive case for a Clinton presidency. I actually think that's completely wrong. We're seeing that they don't feel the need to make a positive case. And she's doing well in the polls. Because Donald Trump has continued to not run a very effective campaign, and simply making the case that he's unpresidential and unqualified to be president seems to be working actually pretty well for them.

  • 10:22:56

    DONVANWell, one thing that the Democrats did with that Tim Kaine performance was they cut it up and edited it in a very, very interesting way, where they've strung together Tim Kaine breaking in with an accusation that Trump said such and such, Mike Pence denying such and such was said, and then sound of Trump or Pence saying the thing that Pence said that they didn't say. Here's an example of that.

  • 10:23:20

    KAINELet's start with not praising Vladimir Putin as a great leader. Donald Trump and Mike Pence have said, he's a great leader. And Donald Trump has his...

  • 10:23:27

    PENCENo, we haven't.

  • 10:23:29

    MR. DONALD TRUMPPutin's been a very strong leader for Russia.

  • 10:23:30

    PENCEVladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country.

  • 10:23:36

    DONVANOkay, they're -- that particular, now, that's part of an ad. I mean it goes on and on and on, cut out of the debate. What about that?

  • 10:23:44

    KNOXWell, people forget how important the post-debate spin struggle can be for either -- for the campaigns.

  • 10:23:54

    JOHNSONThey'll know it now, thanks to Donald Trump.

  • 10:23:55

    KNOXYeah, but also people -- right. But for example, the -- in 2000, Al Gore sighing was -- we all remember that now. But we actually didn't remember it in real time. That was the work of about a week's worth of aggressive spin by the Bush campaign and the Republican Party. And it's continued through every campaign I've ever covered. The post -- the first three or four days after the debate are really important for jelling people's impressions. Hillary Clinton did the same thing in her debate with Donald Trump, when she sprang that Miss Universe story...

  • 10:24:22


  • 10:24:23

    KNOX...toward the end of it. And they clearly had a whole arsenal of Miss Universe-related materials ready to go. So the Clinton campaign's done a really pretty solid job of taking the post-debate spin cycles, plural, and really molding them to her advantage.

  • 10:24:41

    DONVANLegitimately, do you think? Or is it just a question of whose side you're on?

  • 10:24:45

    KNOXLegitimately in the sense that, well, I mean, in the Tim Kaine, Mike Pence, Donald Trump sequence that we just heard...

  • 10:24:50


  • 10:24:51

    KNOX...this is one of the easiest things ever, right? Tim Kaine said Donald Trump said X. Pence said, no, he didn't -- or some variation of no, he didn't. And then they show the video. It's very simple. It's easy for voters and the press to understand. And so legitimately, I mean, sure. Simplistically but legitimately.

  • 10:25:09

    DONVANMolly Ball, years ago, Ronald Reagan was debating Walter Mondale, and Mondale put some charge or other behind -- before him. And Reagan's response was, there you go again. And it was seen as a very effective deflection. And there was hints -- there were hints about him in Mike Pence, when Tim Kaine brought up Donald Trump's comments about Mexicans. Pence's response was, well, there you've whipped out that Mexican thing again, which very quickly became a hashtag. Was it -- did it work for Pence the way it worked for Reagan?

  • 10:25:38

    BALLI think, to a certain point, it did. And then it started to be too much. He literally did say, there you go again at one point and sort of paused for effect, for everybody to get the joke. But there's only so many times you can do that. And he -- and by the end of the debate, there was that awkward phrasing where he said that Mexican thing. And you did have a lot of people on social media who thought that was hilarious. I thought it was a sort of silly, you know, verbal gaffe.

  • 10:26:06

    BALLBut I think that for a lot of the types of voters that Hillary Clinton is trying to activate, and in particular Latino voters, that came across as dismissive to say, oh, you know, why do you keep harping on the fact that he insulted Mexicans? Well, to Latino voters, it's very important that Donald Trump insulted Mexicans. And they don't see that as a sufficient explanation, that it ought to simply be overlooked or glossed over. So I think that's the significance of that particular moment.

  • 10:26:32

    DONVANEliana, based on everything you've said so far in this conversation, I'm doubting that you think this debate was much of a game changer, one way or the other.

  • 10:26:39

    JOHNSONI don't think it was too much of a game changer. I don't usually think vice presidential debates change much. I do think the debate was important, number one, in shifting the media narrative. In that sense, I think it was good for Donald Trump in that it got the media away from talking about the Alicia Machado, Miss Universe thing.

  • 10:26:57


  • 10:26:58

    JOHNSONNumber two, I do think it was significant in kind of exposing the crisis within the Republican Party, in that Mike Pence, in denying Trump had said what he said and in defending positions that Trump hasn't actually taken on Russia, for example, and on criminal justice reform -- Mike Pence advocating criminal justice reform, Donald Trump has repeatedly taken a law-and-order line, you know, 180 degrees away from that -- I think really exposed, you know, the rift between the presidential and vice presidential nominee on the Republican ticket, which is just a microcosm of the crisis happening within the party. And I think it was significant in that regard.

  • 10:27:35

    DONVANAll right. Let's move on from that debate. And I do want to mention, we have this hurricane situation taking place, Hurricane Matthew. And at this moment, we're informed that President Obama is being briefed by Homeland Security and by FEMA, and that he will be making a statement from the White House shortly on that. Now I want to turn to some of our listeners and bring in Alex from Houston. Alex, welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show." Alex, are you there?

  • 10:28:01

    ALEXYes, I'm here. Can you hear me?

  • 10:28:02

    DONVANYeah. We hear you clearly now. So what's your question or comment?

  • 10:28:03

    ALEXOkay. Sorry about that.

  • 10:28:04

    DONVANNo problem.

  • 10:28:05

    ALEXYes. I just wanted to disagree with you on the polling. You know, one of the examples I give on my disagreement is when -- I don't know, you all do remember when Cruz and Trump -- the primary before Ted Cruz dropped out, the polls had Cruz winning. Now, I was a Cruz supporter from the beginning. And they had Cruz, I think it was Nebraska or Kentucky or some state, or Indiana, I can't remember what state, the last primary before Cruz dropped out -- and they had Cruz winning in all the polls. And when we got the results that night, he got obliterated. I mean, he was swept out. I mean, no one saw that coming that Trump was going to win that big the way he won. And so I think the polls are showing the same thing.

  • 10:28:52

    ALEXAnd I told your call taker that one of the reasons I say that is that when I see the rallies, I see, you know, Hillary bussing in people, handing out signs to people to present at her rallies. And I see 700 at the most. And you see Donald Trump's, and I remember a couple of these...

  • 10:29:14

    DONVANWell, Alex...

  • 10:29:16

    TRUMP...he panned out and there were thousands upon thousands of people supporting him. So I don't think all those polls are accurate. I think they're a little skewed.

  • 10:29:22


  • 10:29:23

    ALEXI think they over-polled maybe some Democrats or Republicans.

  • 10:29:25

    DONVANAlex, I'm -- Alex, Alex, forgive me for interrupting you, not because I don't think you're making a good point. I think you're making a very interesting point. I just want to give a chance to Molly Ball to respond to, I think your basic point being, you distrust these metrics. And you see another metric which is the size of the crowds that show up for Trump and an enthusiasm that Alex is saying he does not see there for Hillary. And he's saying, what about these polls, now and in the past?

  • 10:29:48

    BALLYeah. It's important to remember that thousands of people can attend a campaign rally, but more than 100 million people will vote in this presidential election. And it is very easy for campaigns to get the wrong signal from the crowds that they see in front of them, which represent the smallest sliver and the hardest core of their enthusiastic support. And we've repeatedly seen Donald Trump citing the size of his crowds as a sign of the enthusiasm there is for him. There absolutely are a lot of people who are very enthusiastic about Donald Trump. But that absolutely does not mean that they are the majority of the electorate.

  • 10:30:21

    BALLYou know, I think the caller was referring specifically to the polls in the Indiana primary. Cruz was ahead early on and then he fell behind. And by the time the primary was held, Trump had been enjoying a sizable lead in the primary polling for more than a week, because the electorate had shifted behind him. The polls are usually right. And it's always a very bad sign for the campaign when they start to believe the polls are wrong.

  • 10:30:43

    DONVANJust a thought experiment for the three of you who are political reporters. If there were no polls, if the technology did not exist to take polls, what would you all be talking about? What would we what would you be doing for a living?

  • 10:30:55

    BALLI think we'd be talking about the same things that we are talking about in addition to the polls, which is the issues and the debates between the candidates and Donald Trump's outrageous statements...

  • 10:31:02


  • 10:31:03

    BALL...and Hillary Clinton's, you know, support with various groups. And, you know, I think...

  • 10:31:08

    DONVANBut I guess my point is, does it matter to know that, at this particular date, one candidate is leading in this place or that place? Does it matter? You know, as the argument often made by the candidates themselves when they're behind in the polls, is the poll that matters is on election day. And...

  • 10:31:23

    KNOXI'm just going to say, let's trot out that cliché, right? Let's...

  • 10:31:24


  • 10:31:25

    KNOXBecause it's true, right? I mean it is true.

  • 10:31:26


  • 10:31:27

    KNOXThese are snapshots. These are moments in time in a campaign. And they are helpful but they're not dispositive. You can't look at a poll even in mid-October and say that's it.

  • 10:31:34

    DONVANSo why do we talk about them so much?

  • 10:31:36

    KNOXBecause we're trying to track the evolution of the race.

  • 10:31:37


  • 10:31:38

    KNOXWe're trying to get a sense of where it's going.

  • 10:31:39


  • 10:31:40

    KNOXWe're trying to reduce uncertainty for our listeners and our readers and our viewers. And one of the ways to do that is to figure out who the voters are and what they think of the race at a given moment.

  • 10:31:48

    JOHNSONBut I think what we've learned from history, if we had no polls, is that the intensity of the candidates' support is not the same thing as breadth of support. And there's no question that Donald Trump has more intense, excited, enthusiastic supporters...

  • 10:32:04


  • 10:32:05

    JOHNSON...than does Hillary Clinton. But I think it's probably the case, and again we'll see on election day, that her -- she has a wide -- larger volume of supporters, even if they're less enthusiastic. And we've learned that in the past. Mitt Romney had, you know, huge rallies, very enthusiastic supporters. But when you go into the voting booth -- when a voter goes into the voting booth, it doesn't matter how excited or enthusiastic that voter is to pull the lever for a candidate. What matters is how many of those voters there are. And I think, at the end of the day, if Donald Trump fails it will be because -- not because he didn't excite particular voters enough but because he didn't reach enough of them, communicate with enough of them.

  • 10:32:44

    DONVANMolly, we have a jobs report out today of the Labor Department with rather disappointing numbers, given that it was expected that there would be 172,000 jobs added in September. It was 156,000, so it came short by nearly 20,000. And then the numbers for July were revised downward. And the unemployment rate has ticked up from 4.9 to 5 percent. And relating this, once again, to the campaign, Hillary Clinton has been running on her message that actually, under President Obama, things have been -- have evened out and been pretty decent. So how does this jobs number play into what's going on?

  • 10:33:19

    BALLIt's always a bit of a Rorschach test, especially in the heat of a campaign. And you do have the two sides telling different stories about the state of the economy overall. And that applies to this jobs report. On the one hand, the top-line number did fall a little bit short, though not dramatically. And you did have the unemployment rate tick up. Some people will tell you that that is because there is more confidence in the economy. More people who are looking for jobs are getting jobs and that has spurred more people who were out of the labor force to enter the labor force. And so it's actually sort of the denominator that is causing the increase in the unemployment rate.

  • 10:33:50

    BALLOn the one hand, wages are growing. On the other hand, growth is still sluggish. So I think we do see increased confidence in the economy. And I see this anecdotally talking to voters, that the sense of sort of shell shock and uncertainty and feeling like they don't know where their next paycheck is going to come from has mostly vanished and people are feeling a little bit more secure. But there's still a lot of uncertainty about the future. And there is definitely not a sense that we are on a path upward.

  • 10:34:17

    BALLAnd so, you know, I think Trump has tapped in to a lot of voters' sense that things are out of control and that nobody has a plan to make things better. But to the extent that people would like to stay the course and see things get gradually better, I think Clinton is hoping that more people feel that way.

  • 10:34:39

    DONVANI'm John Donvan and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's bring in Robert from Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Robert, welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 10:34:48

    ROBERTHello. It's a real treat to be on the Friday News Roundup. I was wondering if you could do be a quick favor and encourage Diane Rehm to stay on for a few years. Because I think, no matter what happens in the election, we're going to need her. I want -- I had a question about down-ballot issues. Here in Maine, we're voting on recreational marijuana and background checks on personal gun sales. And that might drive out particular constituencies. And I was wondering if the panel knew of any other state that had these kind of citizen initiatives that might drive out voters? Thank you.

  • 10:35:23

    BALLYeah. There's a lot of fascinating issues on the ballot across the country. You have marijuana on the ballot in several states, including California and Arizona, I believe, and several others. And appears to be leading in both of those states at least. There are gun-related ballot initiatives. And I think it will be interesting to see what effect those have. You could see that kind of an initiative galvanizing voters on both sides, because there are such strong feelings on both sides of those kinds of issues.

  • 10:35:54

    BALLI think these -- because the presidential contest has been such a sort of attention-sucking contest of personalities, there's been less attention to these down-ballot currents. But I think we're all going to wake up the day after election day and see how these things have turned out. And ballot initiatives tend to tell us about sort of major shifts in public opinion on specific issues that maybe we didn't know were coming. For example, in 2012, we sort of woke up the day after election day and saw that gay marriage had won in four state, which had never happened before. And that sort of signified a shift in public opinion and ratified a shift in public opinion that had been percolating beneath the surface. So those are important things to watch.

  • 10:36:36

    DONVANAll right. We're going to come up and take a break. When we come back, we're going to talk a little bit about what's happening with the Supreme Court, where we are down one justice as a new session begins. And also the issue of this new case of potential NSA spying, which is profoundly alarming. Our guests are Molly Ball, staff writer for The Atlantic, Olivier Knox, chief Washington correspondent for Yahoo! News, and Eliana Johnson, Washington editor of National Review. I'm John Donvan and you are listening to "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 10:40:01

    DONVANWelcome back. I'm John Donvan, host and moderator of the Intelligence Squared US Debates, sitting in for Diane Rehm. It's our weekly News Roundup. Our guests, Molly Ball of The Atlantic, Olivier Know of Yahoo! News and Eliana Johnson of the National Review. And I want to remind our listeners that of course we have the second presidential debate coming up Sunday night. And our colleague Robert Siegel will be anchoring live coverage, airing on many NPR stations, beginning at 9:00 o'clock Eastern time, along with live fact-checking at

  • 10:40:30

    DONVANWe have a Supreme Court session beginning -- the fall term beginning today. Olivier, we have eight justices. And we still have eight justices. It's been a while.

  • 10:40:42

    KNOXAnd we will still have eight justices.

  • 10:40:43

    DONVANYeah, yeah.

  • 10:40:44

    KNOXAnd we're not gonna have nine justices until some number of months into the next president's term, by all accounts from Senate Republicans.

  • 10:40:52

    DONVANWhat does that say for decision-making by the Court?

  • 10:40:56

    KNOXWell, it's obviously problematic because you have the impact of 4-4 tie on the Supreme Court. And you have a lot of cases that may not be -- that may end up being stalemated in a fact. And they would uphold the lower court's rulings, by virtue of having a tie, as opposed to by virtue of having a clear majority opinion. And we've got issues of racial bias in criminal justice, voting rights redistricting and, of course, the thing that keeps those of us that cover the 2000 election up at night, the possibility of, you know, another electoral meltdown that ends up before the Supreme Court.

  • 10:41:37

    DONVANRight. Say there's a tie, like there was in 2000…

  • 10:41:39

    KNOXI mean, let's be clear, we don't want that. Please, please.

  • 10:41:40

    DONVANWe don't want that. But it seems to me that would, you know, that would be the one that breaks the Constitution, if we have a tie in the Electoral College, Molly Ball, and it goes to a Supreme Court that splits 4-4, then what?

  • 10:41:53

    BALLI have no idea what would happen in that case. I think that's the problem, is that there is no recourse beyond that. And it is -- it would be a completely unprecedented situation.

  • 10:42:03

    DONVANWe really don't know?

  • 10:42:04

    BALLWe really do not know what would happen. I do think it is far-fetched, but it is a possibility. And I think it gives a lot of people pause. And it points up the problem with having, you know, a 4-4 Supreme Court. And the reason that there is such urgency around trying to get that ninth seat filled.

  • 10:42:25

    DONVANEliana, I mean, there is a nominee, Merrick Garland. He's been waiting for his day before confirmation hearings all year, which have not happened. Is there any scenario in which you would see, if Hillary Clinton were to win, that there would be a lame duck session confirmation process for Merrick Garland on the thought that at least he's somebody who would be palatable to more Republicans than -- in the imagination of Republicans Hillary Clinton might later nominate?

  • 10:42:52

    JOHNSONYou're already hearing that argument. However, it's coming, I think, mostly from Democrats and liberal columnists. The people you're not hearing it from are even moderate Republicans. I think Republicans really, in the Senate and in the House, believe that there's no substantive difference between Merrick Garland, who has characterized himself and I think is perceived to be a judicial moderate, you know, center -- on the center left.

  • 10:43:22

    KNOXAnd, you know, the furthest left-wing judicial activist that Hillary Clinton might moderate. And I think in that sense Republicans want to get the credit with voters for sticking to their guns on this one, given that they don't believe that on judicial matters that there will be any huge difference. So no, I don't see him getting confirmed in a lame duck session.

  • 10:43:42


  • 10:43:43

    KNOXYeah, remember what we're talking about when we're talking about lame duck session. We're talking about maybe three weeks of work, at a time when they need to do really basic things that they haven't been able to do very easily in the past seven years. We're talking about funding the government, things like that. There are a couple of very basic priorities that need to be addressed. The Senate just does not have the bandwidth to do those things and to take -- to do the kind of confirmation hearings and vote that a Supreme Court confirmation would require.

  • 10:44:08

    DONVANLet's bring in Rich, from Seminole, Fla. Rich, welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 10:44:12

    RICHThank you. Good morning, everybody. Let me say this, I disagree with what I just heard because my feeling is that, assuming that Hillary swamps Trump and the Democrats take the Senate, I think Mitch McConnell would break his arm to get Merrick Garland appointed, let's say confirmed, because if he waits until January 20th, Hillary might and probably will appoint a more liberal justice. And if that's the case, then the Republicans only recourse is to filibuster. And I don't think that's gonna work.

  • 10:44:57

    DONVANRich, I'm seeing skepticism on the faces of all three of our panelists. Molly Ball?

  • 10:45:01

    BALLNo. I do think that's a possibility.

  • 10:45:02

    DONVANI mean, it makes sense, what Rich is saying.

  • 10:45:04

    BALLIt makes sense on paper. I think that what Olivier said about the logistical hurdles is actually probably more of a factor. You know, no Republican can say, particularly publicly, before the election that they would ever contemplate doing such a thing. But after the election, particularly as the caller says, if they've been absolutely shellacked, the -- it might seem like a more attractive possibility to get this done. But it would just be very, very difficult, as Olivier said. It would be just very, very difficult to get all the hearings in, in a session that might last no longer than nine work days.

  • 10:45:39

    BALLAnd what I am hearing from Republicans, some of whom work on the Judiciary Committee, is that this simply is not happening. Not only because of the time constraints, but because I don't know if people have noticed, but Republican voters right now are not particularly receptive to practical cases being made.

  • 10:46:01

    BALLLike, listen, this guy is slightly better than the guy slightly to his left, who Hillary Clinton might nominate. They want credit for sticking to their guns on this. Mitch McConnell wants credit with voters, and he will likely get it. And meanwhile, he's paid no price for being an obstructionist on this.

  • 10:46:16

    KNOXAnd there's some appeals on both sides to starting Hillary's term with a Supreme Court confirmation fight there. Where Hillary wants it to clarify some of the ideological issues there and the Republicans want it because it would be, you know, an all-consuming type of activity for several months.

  • 10:46:30

    DONVANLast weekend The New York Times comes out with this story suggesting that Donald Trump took such a huge tax deduction for losses back in 1995, that he probably hasn't paid personal income taxes in 18 years. With no suggestion whatsoever that that's illegal. In fact, Trump has said it's legal and I played the law the way that I could. And he's -- and his ally Rudy Giuliani has called that a stroke of genius. I'm wondering, where does that -- where does the arithmetic come out on that? Does it -- since he broke no law, Molly Ball, since everybody understands you do what you can to avoid paying taxes legally, what's the big deal?

  • 10:47:10

    BALLWell, anecdotally, in my conversations with voters and certainly in a lot of polls you do see that this is a concern for people. Even a majority of Republicans believe that Trump should have released his taxes so we could get a better picture of his finances. And we heard Hillary Clinton hammering Donald Trump on this issue repeatedly in the first debate. That wasn't a coincidence. She's pulled every single attack line to a fair thee well, and she has an idea of what it is about Trump that gives voters pause, particularly swing voters or conservative leaning independents who might be on the fence because they have doubts about Trump's temperament.

  • 10:47:44

    BALLAnd we've seen it's also a very effective way to get under Donald Trump's skin, to raise questions about his finances. And that's exactly what happened in the first debate. Look, people's basic sense of fairness is -- seems to be offended by this, whether or not that's legitimate. There was a poll before this story came out, asking people -- asking voters, do you think that everybody has a civic duty to chip in and pay taxes?

  • 10:48:10

    BALLOr do you think that people should pay as little as possible? And you can quibble with the wording of the poll, most people are probably somewhere in between, but 86 percent of likely voters in this poll said they think people have a sort of civic responsibility to chip in and pay taxes. So I think on just a gut level of I pay taxes and this rich guy doesn't, it does offend people on some level.

  • 10:48:35

    DONVANEliana Johnson, we all know the name Edward Snowden. We have since 2013, leaked a critical amount, large amount of critical NSA documents after he swiped them as an employee for Booz Allen Hamilton, it's an organization to which NSA outsources some of its work. And now we have a man named Harold T. Martin III, who works for Booz Allen Hamilton. Who is he?

  • 10:49:01

    JOHNSONHe is another Booz Allen contractor who was working in the National Security agency who appears to have taken home many highly classified documents. But at least on the surface, and I would add a cautionary note that we don't know the full story, yet. He has taken home highly classified documents in violation of the law. But his wife has told The New York Times that he was more likely to be a hoarder than somebody who, like, Edward Snowden took these documents with the intention of leaking them and exposing a highly-classified program.

  • 10:49:36

    DONVANI don't quite understand the distinction between a hoarder -- I mean, what's a hoarder -- what motives does a hoarder have for hoarding?

  • 10:49:43

    JOHNSONThat he was very likely simply to have taken the documents, left them at home. He was a highly patriotic person. And that she would be shocked had -- if he had taken these documents home with the intention of leaking them, exposing them, violating national security to do damage to the United States.

  • 10:49:59

    DONVANBut any indication of what he did intend to do with them by bringing them home?

  • 10:50:02

    JOHNSONSimply working from home. And so, but I would add, we don't know. It is possible that he could have shared them with another country. We simply don't know right now.

  • 10:50:12

    DONVANOlivier, how worrying is it? I mean, given the fact that after Snowden, the whole point was we're never gonna let anything like this happen again. And, again, we're taking Eliana's point that there's a lot that we don't know.

  • 10:50:21

    KNOXYeah, it's too early to say…

  • 10:50:22


  • 10:50:23

    KNOX…exactly what his motivation was and whether -- the big crucial question is was Mr. Martin behind any of the non-Snowden leaks of the last couple of years. And they're still working to figure out whether that's the case. There seems to be some skepticism, certainly from his wife, and from some of the investigators who were quoted anonymously in news stories that he's the source of leaks. Working from home, I think there was an early report that he might be using it as part of his Ph.D. studies.

  • 10:50:49

    KNOXThere -- we just don't, yeah, it is obviously worrying, especially if you're in the NSA. This is another blemish on the -- this is the, supposedly, the most highly technically skilled intelligence agency, you know. And they're finding that, once again, someone inside their ranks has absconded with classified information.

  • 10:51:07

    DONVANMolly Ball?

  • 10:51:08

    BALLYeah, it's always the case that in national security humans are the weak link in the chain. And there's only so much you can do to prevent humans from exploiting their position. Obviously the reason it's illegal to do things, even like work from home from classified information, is that that does create vulnerabilities in the system that can be exploited by bad actors. And, you know, but as Eliana and Olivier said, we don't know at this point what the motives of this person were.

  • 10:51:33

    DONVANI'm John Donvan. And you are listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're getting a lot of tweets that relate back to the beginning part of our conversation, the election, obviously. One from Darrin, actually in the form of an email, asks, "Would you address the issue of Trump saying that the only way that he could lose if there is voter fraud? That statement scares the hell out of me," I'm quoting Darrin. Eliana, impact of Donald Trump saying he can only lose through voter fraud?

  • 10:52:03

    JOHNSONYou know, Trump's case, the whole time, has been that the system is rigged. And it's been a very compelling case, I think, to the segment of supporters who have gotten behind though strongly. I think it's a dangerous case to make to the American people. If he does lose, he said at the first debate that he would accept the outcome of the election. And I think that that statement flies in the face of it and is dangerous. I don't think it's good for the country to have a presidential candidate saying that. And I think he should, you know, he should be called on it.

  • 10:52:34

    KNOXAnd you heard echoes of it in, I think, it was Alex from Houston, saying the polls are B.S. because Trump's drawing a lot of supporters to his rallies. And Trump's really tapped into this. The question is whether he can kind of turn it off. He's got people very excited about this, very worked up about this, you know, come vote for me or else the system, this rigged system, is gonna win. The question is what happens the day after if he loses.

  • 10:52:58

    DONVANI, yeah, Molly Ball, I've been thinking back to 2000 when the Supreme Court essentially decided the election and there were supporters of Al Gore who had a strong sense that they had been robbed. But Gore's position, basically, was to say it's over, that's it. I may not be happy, but the process has reached its conclusion. How important is that kind of reception of a loss in -- especially if it were to turn out to be close?

  • 10:53:22

    BALLIt's very important. And, you know, you didn't see the supporters of Al Gore take to the streets or march on the courthouses or anything like that. And I think a lot of that was because he said the things that he did and encouraged people to, you know, keep faith in democracy and accept the results of the system. I don't think anybody has confidence that Trump would be that kind of cooler head prevailing. And…

  • 10:53:43

    DONVANAnd the consequences could be what?

  • 10:53:44

    BALLThe consequences could be massive and very worrisome. You know, just this morning Trump was speaking to, I believe, the border patrol union and say -- and accusing the Democrats on no evidence of bringing people illegally over the border in order to cast illegal votes. That kind of thing undermines people confidence in the system and sets up the possibility for really kind of scary reactions to the election after it occurs.

  • 10:54:09

    JOHNSONI would add, you know, we saw this with Nixon and Kennedy in 1960, where Richard Nixon had a real case that electoral fraud actually did undermine his victory. And he gave the election to Kennedy without challenging it. And I do think in this election we've seen a real fraying of some of the civic ties that bind people together, including a belief that we have a great system, that the system works. And I think that's critically important to presidential -- not only presidential elections, but all of our elections and American civic life.

  • 10:54:40

    DONVANLet's bring in Henry from Yellow Springs, Ohio. Henry, welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 10:54:45

    HENRYYes, please. Thanks. I have thought, one, I don't think Trump really wants to win this. He's not, you know, I mean, beyond not preparing, he's saying a lot of things that -- again, I think he does not want to win (unintelligible)…

  • 10:55:07

    DONVANAre you -- Henry, are you suggesting he's sabotaging himself by things like, I don't know, his debate performance?

  • 10:55:11


  • 10:55:12

    DONVANInteresting question. Let's take it to Olivier.

  • 10:55:14


  • 10:55:15

    KNOXYou know, that's been a recurring refrain I've heard. I've heard this mostly actually from Republicans over the past year or so, every time there's a significant what we would have called in a previous cycle, a significant Trump gaffe. They ask themselves and they ask rather publicly on Twitter and other social media, does Trump really want to win, is he really out to lose and destroy the Republican Party.

  • 10:55:37

    KNOXIt's interesting also to me that he has spent so much time on the stump countering this. Right? He keeps saying if I'm not really in it to win it, then this is the biggest waste of time and money ever. And it's fascinating to me that he feels the need to sort of counter that argument. But I would tend to think that this is a guy who wants to win. He wants to win so much that he'll get tired of winning, as we know. And I would be, frankly, stunned to find that he was actually not interested in winning.

  • 10:56:06

    DONVANMolly Ball, it's such an interesting question. What's your take on it?

  • 10:56:09

    BALLWell, it's not, because it's impossible to resolve. Right? I mean, none of us live inside Donald Trump's brain. So we can't ever really know the answer, if he has some motivation that we don't know about. But if there's anything that we can conclude from the entire trajectory of Donald Trump's life and career it's that he's obsessed with winning. Winning is the only thing he cares about.

  • 10:56:27

    BALLIt's possibly his only ideology. And so I think he has been making so many blunders that some people conclude that he can't possibly be trying, he must be doing this on purpose. But, you know, he's a 70-year-old man. He's been doing things his way his entire life. And this is his way.

  • 10:56:46

    DONVANWe have about 45 seconds, Eliana, for you to answer what I think is a good sit-down question from Matt, via Twitter, asking if the course you're all talking about, leading to a Trump loss is fulfilled, what happens to the GOP? Are they figuring -- trying to figure that out now, or are they gonna wait to see what happens?

  • 10:57:03

    JOHNSONI think people have -- Republicans and conservatives started thinking about this when Trump seized the nomination, certainly when they found he had a following in the Republican Party. The real reckoning will come after November 8th. And I do think there will be reckoning. We've heard, I think, liberals and Democrats starting to say Republicans are gonna pretend Trump never happened. I do not think that will be the case. I think the reckoning will be vigorous and very acrimonious.

  • 10:57:27

    DONVANEliana Johnson, thanks for joining us. Olivier Knox and Molly Ball, thanks to all of you for joining us on "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm John Donvan, host and moderator of The Intelligence Squared US Debates. I've been sitting in for Diane Rehm. And thank you so much for listening.

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