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Meet the Press - August 7, 2016

Meet the Press - August 7, 2016

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, is the bottom dropping out for Donald Trump? In just one week, he fought with a Gold Star family--

DONALD TRUMP:

And I was viciously attacked on the stage of the Democratic National Convention.

CHUCK TODD:

Claimed to see a video that didn't exist--

DONALD TRUMP:

Iran provided all of that footage, the tape of taking that money off that airplane--

CHUCK TODD:

And said this about a Purple Heart--

DONALD TRUMP:

I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.

CHUCK TODD:

Even Trump himself admits it was a bad week.

DONALD TRUMP:

Well you know, maybe I would have done a little bit less.

CHUCK TODD:

I'll talk to two supporters about how Donald Trump can recover. Plus, renewed questions about Hillary Clinton's trustworthiness after she says this twice:

SECRETARY HILLARY CLINTON:

Director Comey had said that my answers in my F.B.I. interview were truthful.

CHUCK TODD:

This morning, my interview with Clinton's running mate: Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia.

How do you govern if the public doesn't trust you?

Finally, Poll Vault. Clinton surges into the lead. But there are warning signs for her in our new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll.

Joining me for insight and analysis this Sunday morning are: Hugh Hewitt, host on The Salem Radio Network, Joy Reid, host of AM Joy on MSNBC, Mark Halperin, managing editor of Bloomberg Politics, and Yamiche Alcindor of The New York Times. Welcome to Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, this is Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. This time does it feel different? It might. Time and again throughout the primary season, we in the media thought we had seen the beginning of the end of the Trump campaign. And time and again, we were wrong. Republican primary voters would bail him out, either with a win in the primary or a boost in the Republican primary polls.

But the primary is over. And after a head-shaking week for Donald Trump, it may be safe to pull out an old political bromide. You can't win the presidential race in August, but you sure can lose it. Our new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll out this week gives Clinton a nine-point lead, 47-38.

What's more, Clinton still leads by nine points even in the four-way match up when you include Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein. Just this morning, a new Washington Post-ABC poll puts Clinton ahead by eight points, 50-42. And her lead remains eight points in the four-way race.

These national polls are hardly alone. This is what the Real Clear Politics graph of polls looks like. Beginning in July, you can see Trump did get a bump from his convention. That's the little red hump there. But Clinton now leads by an average of seven percentage points. And you can actually see the graph open up.

The news is bad for Trump in state polls, too, where Clinton has pulled ahead in battleground states, double digits in a couple of 'em. But the biggest news came on Friday: This Georgia poll that had Clinton up four points. Democrats haven't won Georgia since 1992. I can report this morning, by the way, Clinton campaign is now expanding its staff. In Georgia and in Arizona, likely means T.V. ads are coming there, Arizona another vulnerable red state. By the way, this is a week they pulled out of Virginia.

Perhaps no one is happier to see the Olympics begin than Donald Trump. The Olympics have a way of taking voters' minds off of politics for a while. And maybe, just maybe, Trump uses that time as a chance to reset.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

If you don't like me, that's okay. Vote for Pence. Because it's the same thing.

CHUCK TODD:

For months, Trump has been teflon. Now "unraveling" is an understatement. Trump's campaign appears to be one gap away from a full implosion. Trump began the week with an attack on Gold Star parents.

DONALD TRUMP:

I was viciously attacked on the stage of the Democratic National Convention by Mr. Khan. And I responded.

CHUCK TODD:

Refused to endorse the top Republican in Washington, Speaker Paul Ryan--

JAY WEBER:

Does Trump's non-endorsement jab signify some lingering resentment or divide between the two of you?

SPEAKER PAUL RYAN:

Heck if I know, Jay. I'm not going to try and psychoanalyze this stuff.

CHUCK TODD:

Then there were reports that Trump had asked why the U.S. can't use nuclear weapons.

DONALD TRUMP:

And I'll be the last one to use nuclear. I'd be the last one. Believe me.

CHUCK TODD:

Trump told U.S.A. Today that if daughter, Ivanka, were sexually harassed, "I would like to think she would find another career or find another company if that was the case." He claimed again and again to have seen a secret video of a U.S. cash shipment to Iran that does not exist.

DONALD TRUMP:

I don't think you've heard this anywhere but here. Iran provided all of that footage, the tape, of taking that money off that airplane.

CHUCK TODD:

Finally backtracking on Friday. It's all adding up to talk of a political intervention, which the campaign has denied.

DONALD TRUMP:

It's a totally false report. We're doing well.

CHUCK TODD:

And Trump wasn't happy when his campaign manager pointed the finger at Trump.

PAUL MANAFORT:

The candidate is in control of this campaign.

CHUCK TODD:

The worst news for Trump: The polls. He's dipped below 40 percent nationally and he's losing ground in the swing states he needs to win, down nine points in Michigan in a four-way ballot test, 13 points in Pennsylvania, 15 points in New Hampshire. Even Georgia suddenly looks competitive. Some swing state Republicans are defecting, running against him on the air.

REP. MIKE COFFMAN

People ask me, what do you think about Trump? Honestly, I don't care for him much.

CHUCK TODD:

Others even saying they'll vote for Hillary Clinton. At the highest levels of the party, and even among Trump's allies, there's a feeling of desperation.

HENRY BARBOUR:

Donald Trump is the one person who can fix his campaign. And if he's going to be the issue, we're going to lose.

CHUCK TODD:

Trump is trying to turn the page.

DONALD TRUMP:

Paul Ryan. (CHEERING)

CHUCK TODD:

Reading an endorsement of Ryan, John McCain, and Kelly Ayotte at a rally on Friday, planning a Monday speech on the economy in Detroit. With the odds of replacing Trump on the ballot very slim, some Republican leaders are telling their House and Senate candidates, "It's every Republican for themselves."

REP. TOM COLE:

If I were advising a candidate, and I used to do that for a living, the first thing I'd tell them is, "Don't put yourself in the middle of other people's races."

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

I'll talk to a couple of Trump supporters in a moment. But on Friday, I spoke with the Democratic nominee for vice president, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, who was campaigning in Milwaukee.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with our poll and a lot of other polls. Essentially, if you look at our poll, this race would be over right now but for one giant issue that the American public has. And that is a trustworthiness issue with Secretary Clinton. How do you-- how do you govern if the public doesn't trust you? And if they don't trust you, how do you restore the trust?

TIM KAINE:

Chuck, you know, I'm not assuming that's going to be the case even a month from now. I think we came out of the convention with a real positive momentum. The convention, as you know, started off with some churn on the Democratic side on Monday. But by Thursday night, we were together and pulling the same direction.

Hillary Clinton did a great job telling her story. And others talked about how she had helped them. And I think the reason that we're doing better in polling since last week is folks are getting reintroduced to that story in a positive way.

The other thing that I have the ability to do as her running mate, I can brag about Hillary in a way that she's not going to brag about herself. We're both Midwesterners who are a little reticent to talk about ourselves. But I love talking about other people. And I love talking about Hillary Clinton's life of service, especially her work to empower families and children, which has been a consistent theme throughout her life.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, but she didn't really help herself last weekend when, on another Sunday show, she was asked about the e-mail situation and what Director Comey said. And I want to play, actually, a back and forth for you to listen to and get you to respond on the other side. It's both Secretary Clinton and Director Comey. Here it is.

(BEGIN TAPE)

HILLARY CLINTON:

I had not sent classified material nor received anything marked classified.

CHRIS WALLACE:

FBI Director James Comey said none of those things that you told the American public were true.

HILLARY CLINTON:

Chris, that’s not what I heard Director Comey say.

REP. TREY GOWDY:

Secretary Clinton said, “I did not email any classified email to anyone on my email. There is no classified material.” Was that true?

JAMES COMEY:

There was classified material emailed.

HILLARY CLINTON:

Director Comey said that my answers were truthful and what i’ve said is consistent with what I’ve told the American people.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ:

Did Hillary Clinton lie?

JAMES COMEY:

To the FBI? We have no basis to conclude she lied to the FBI.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ:

Did she lie to the public?

JAMES COMEY:

That’s a question I’m not qualified to answer. I can speak about what she said to the FBI.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you, Senator Kaine. She seems to be conflating the true-- what she said to the F.B.I. and what she said to the American public. Can you conclude here whether or not Secretary Clinton lied to the American public about sending and receiving classified e-mails?

TIM KAINE:

Chuck, let me just say this. I'm going to jump right to the punch line. I have heard Hillary Clinton say over and over again when I've been sitting next to her and when I've watched her on T.V. that, with respect to the e-mails, "I made a mistake, and I've learned something, and I wouldn't do it again." And I've heard her apologize.

I did hear that back and forth. And I think Chris Wallace and Hillary were sort of talking past each other last week. She was saying what Director Comey acknowledged to be true, that, when she spoke to the F.B.I., when she was talking to the F.B.I., the F.B.I. thought her answers in that setting were truthful. Chris might have been asking her a different question. But the bottom line is this. She made a mistake and she said over and over again, "I made a mistake, and I've learned from it, and I'm going to fix it, and I apologize for it."

CHUCK TODD:

You know, in fact, in an interview the other day, you said she told you she's going to do it differently. What does that mean? Are you guys going to be more transparent? What does that mean?

TIM KAINE:

It's the same thing that she has said. "Look, knowing what I know now, I wouldn't have done the private server in that way." She said it was a mistake. I am not presumptuous enough to start thinking about how I'm going to do things after November. But I know that this is something that she's learned from, and we're going to be real transparent, absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I want to move to a bunch of national security issues. President at a big press conference.

TIM KAINE:

Yup.

CHUCK TODD:

Want to ask you about this Iran issue. Obviously, there's been some concern that the payments that the American government owed the Iranian government, going back in the '70s, were essentially made right at the same time as the hostages that they had were released. The president swears it's not ransom. But how can-- do you understand why the American public looks like that it was some sort of connection that Iran wasn't going to budge until the U.S. started giving back money it thought it belonged to them?

TIM KAINE:

You know, Chuck, here's the only thing new about this. This arrangement, the settlement of a claim with Iran, the payment of a portion of that settlement, hostages coming home, thank God, this was briefed to Congress and the American public months ago.

The only thing new this week, the only thing new, is Donald Trump's claiming to have seen a nonexistent video of cash being delivered to the Iranians. That's the only thing new that's happened this week. He persisted in making that claim again and again until he finally got shamed into acknowledging that--

CHUCK TODD:

Well, but Senator--

TIM KAINE:

--there was no such video.

CHUCK TODD:

--that wasn't my question. My question is, I understand, fine it was six-months-old news. It doesn't mean-- do you understand why it looks like a ransom?

TIM KAINE:

Well, I understand--

CHUCK TODD:

Donald--

TIM KAINE:

I understand why Donald Trump's trying to make something out of it. But look, you have two important issues. The first one is there was a legitimate claim against the United States. The United States bargained it down to a fraction. We're making claims in international tribunals, and we're having claims made against us all the time.

We bargain it down to a fraction and paid a portion of the claim. And we got hostages home. Both of those things are appropriate. And I understand why Trump's trying to make something out of it. But there's just no 'there' there.

CHUCK TODD:

You don't believe it looks like a ransom?

TIM KAINE:

Nope, absolutely not. We don't--

CHUCK TODD:

Alright.

TIM KAINE:

--pay for hostages. We don't negotiate for hostages.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

TIM KAINE:

Absolutely not. But we are a nation of laws. And if there's a claim that we think we owe something on, we try to bargain the best deal we can. And that's what we ought to do.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, when this week began, there was an announcement of new airstrikes against ISIS in Libya.

TIM KAINE:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

In 2011, you were a little bit critical of the administration, the Obama administration--

TIM KAINE:

Absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

--while you were running, saying, "They needed to get authorization for the initial intervention into Libya." Do you believe--

TIM KAINE:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

--do you believe the President made a mistake here by going into Libya now, again, against ISIS, without Congressional authorization?

TIM KAINE:

I do not think we should be in an offensive war against ISIL without Congressional authorization. That's been my long-held position. And Secretary Clinton has said Congress should do its job instead of hiding under their desks, and have a debate, and have a vote on military action against ISIL. If we do that, I'm confident that Congress would support military action.

But what we see is a Congress that doesn't want to vote yes or no. So I really put the fault of this more on Congress's shoulders, Chuck. But I don't think the current legal authorities are sufficient to wage this war against ISIL.

And even though there's some legal dispute about that, I also believe what our head of our Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dunford, said. He said, "Our troops deserve to know that Congress supports this mission, because they're out risking their lives, and some have lost their lives already."

CHUCK TODD:

So it's fair to say you and Secretary Clinton disagree on this issue. Because she believes the current war authorization does provide the legal justification to do this. You, in 2014--

TIM KAINE:

But--

CHUCK TODD:

--disagreed with that conclusion. So you guys are on opposite sides of this issue.

TIM KAINE:

I have very grave doubts about whether the legal authorities currently in place allow us to wage an offensive war against ISIL. But Secretary and Clinton and I get to exactly the same spot, in that Hillary has said, now this probably goes back six or eight months now, that Congress should finally own up to its responsibility, that is the most solemn responsibility in Article One of the constitution, that authorizes military action. Our troops deserve it. Our allies need to know it. And our adversary needs to know it.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you about going one more when it comes to Syria. Do you believe--

TIM KAINE:

Absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

--it was a mistake, in hindsight now, not enforcing that red line?

TIM KAINE:

You know, I actually think that what the president did was he brought a war authorization request to Congress. On the Foreign Relations Committee, I voted for it. And after the Foreign Relations Committee voted yes, we were able to broker a deal to have Syria get rid of one of the largest chemical weapons stockpiles in the country. That was a positive. If you go to Israel or other neighbors in the region right now, they say the destruction of that stockpile was very, very good.

But where I do think there were some challenges is there was a mixed message sent about whether or not Assad must go, one the President said, "Assad must go." And then we chose, and I actually think wisely, we chose not to make the deposing of the leader of another country the priority. That raised some expectations that was probably unfortunate. So yeah, when you think back, retrospect, we could do things differently. But it was a very, very difficult situation, and it remains so.

CHUCK TODD:

Couple final questions here. I know we're running out of time. If you win this election, or lose, you're going to be participating in a lame duck session of Congress. Number one--

TIM KAINE:

Yep.

CHUCK TODD:

--are you now committed to fight TPP in that lame duck now that you've essentially switched your position on this with Secretary Clinton? Is that going to be your position in the lame duck, as well, on TPP?

TIM KAINE:

Yeah it is. But I haven't switched my position. I was a strong supporter a year ago of giving President Obama the ability to negotiate a trade deal. But I said at the time, when that deal was done and on the table, I was going to look at it very carefully. And I even expressed a very serious concern I had with how it was developed, which is that companies were given rights to enforce provisions, but the labor and environmental provisions could not be effectively enforced.

That was never fixed. I've asked again and again to understand this piece of the TPP. And I've never gotten a good answer. We can't have a deal that cannot be enforced. And so, for that reason, yeah, I'm going to oppose it in the lame duck if it comes up after election day.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you believe that Merrick Garland's nomination should be taken up during the lame duck, regardless of whether you guys win or lose?

TIM KAINE:

Absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

So if Secretary Clinton wins--

TIM KAINE:

He is--

CHUCK TODD:

--he should be taken up as the nominee?

TIM KAINE:

This will be for the president and the president-elect to decide. But look, if it comes up for a vote in the Senate, Merrick Garland gets so far over the hurdle of the fitness and character test that is supposed to be the legitimate question for nominees, of course I'd vote for him.

CHUCK TODD:

So it's not 100 percent, though, that his nomination stays if your ticket wins?

TIM KAINE:

You know, I think the Dems may well take the Senate. In fact, I think we're going to. But it will be the Republican majority that will be running the floor until the next Senate comes in place. I have no idea whether they will allow the nomination to be taken up. They pledged that they won't. But if it does, I'm going to vote for him.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Senator Kaine, I will leave it there. Be safe on the campaign trial. Thanks for coming on.

TIM KAINE:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

You got it.

CHUCK TODD:

Panel is here: Mark Halperin, managing editor of Bloomberg Politics, Yamiche Alcindor of The New York Times, Joy Reid, host of AM Joy on MSNBC, and Hugh Hewitt, a host, of course, on The Salem Radio Network. Hello all. I want to dig in to a couple things in the Kaine interview. But before we do that, simple state of the race, Mark Halperin. You've seen campaigns lost in August. Obviously, we know they're not quote unquote, "Won" in August. Maybe in hindsight we will. Is this that kind of week for Donald Trump?

MARK HALPERIN:

He has so many problems now, not just in the horse race, but in certain demographic groups. It was always going to be challenging for any Republican against any Democrat, to build a demographic coalition to get to 270 electoral votes. Donald Trump's performance over the last ten days has made that harder.

It's hard to see, right now, where he gets, again, the demographics to add up to 270. It is August. He does have debates. But on the trajectory he's on, this would not be a close race.

CHUCK TODD:

Hugh Hewitt, where's the point of no return?

HUGH HEWITT:

Not until September. I-- I-- I don't applaud it. I don't endorse it. But the fact of the American electorate is that, if Donald Trump walked out on September 6th, the day after Labor Day, and announces, "Trump: A new season, the candidate," and says that, "That was last season and I have completely changed and I'm running now," then a lot of Americans in a reality mindset-- reality T.V. mindset, will accept that and give him a second chance.

They're very cheered by the Reuters Ipsos Poll, which we talked about. A lot of people don't put credibility in it. It's 3 percent. They're not beleaguered, like the 15 percent Marist poll. So it's far from over. And September will tell.

JOY-ANN REID:

I think the problem with that is, if it was one thing, if it was just that the candidate's temperament is difficult to manage, if it was just that they don't have a ground game in the swing states, don't have resources deployed in key states, and if it wasn't that the bad week came immediately what it was supposed to be the golden week for any campaign--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

JOY-ANN REID:

--right after your convention, Donald Trump actually stepped into Hillary Clinton's convention time--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

JOY-ANN REID:

--to make himself the issue. So the fact that he immolated in that very important ten days after the conventions, and that now you're going to have this long August where people are not necessarily top-of-mind thinking about the candidates, and now the image of him has been ingrained, he's going to come into September with that image already baked in, in the electorate. And he doesn't have a ground game with which to sort of fix his campaign in an important state.

CHUCK TODD:

Yamiche, there's always a "but," though when we talk about-- in fact, this week, there's always been a "but." And the "but" is Hillary Clinton, trustworthiness in e-mails. And before, because you've been reporting on this, want to play Hillary Clinton's response. It would have been part of the montage that I used with Senator Kaine, except it happened right when I was interviewing Senator Kaine. Here's what she said about e-mails on Friday:

(BEGIN TAPE)

HILLARY CLINTON:

I have said during the interview, and many other occasions over the past months, that what I told the FBI was truthful is consistent with what I’ve said publicly. So, I may have short-circuited it and for that I will try to clarify.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Yamiche, she cannot seem to-- she's got to clarify-- I mean she herself just said, "I've got to clarify again." This is a year now.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

If you're Hillary Clinton, the last words that you want to be saying this summer are, "I have to clarify," or, "I'm short circuited." The idea that she's still talking about this and it's still mushy and people are still wondering how you haven't come to a kind of clear answer on this, to me, goes to the fact that she has real credibility issues.

Look, of course the issue here is that Donald Trump, the demographics that Donald Trump needs to win this election, are the constituencies that I think are going to have a real problem, even if he comes out after Labor Day and says, "I'm a new Donald Trump." You already had a track record of really offending some of the main people that you need to win this election.

And I was just having a conversation with Republican strategists just last night, because I went to the convention for the National Association of Black Journalists, and said, "Well, do you have some secret formula that I don't know about that maybe doesn't include those key constituencies in Florida, in Ohio?"

And they said, "No, we were pushing him to talk in front of the NABJ. We were pushing him to talk in front of The National Urban League. And he just didn't want to do it. He felt like it was a hostile group." So I think that that's going to really go to the problems that he's going to have.

JOY-ANN REID:

Can I just say, on the emails, I think the blessing and the curse for Hillary Clinton is that the e-mail story is complicated. So the curse for her is that trying to explain it, her answers are so detailed and complicated that, when you're explaining, you're losing.

CHUCK TODD:

Sounds like a lawyer.

JOY-ANN REID:

But it's also so complicated that, when you talk to voters about it, they don't really get it. What they do understand is that they have Gmail, so that it doesn't sound like it's something criminal, so that when Donald Trump goes over the top and tries to say that it's something criminal, he kind of loses his audience, too.

HUGH HEWITT:

Two problems with that.

JOY-ANN REID:

So it's a blessing and a curse.

HUGH HEWITT:

"Short circuit" is Portuguese for "I did not tell the truth." And they understand "short circuited" meant "I'm sorry, I did not tell the truth." Her problem is trustworthiness--

CHUCK TODD:

I thought Short Circuit was a bad '80s movie.

HUGH HEWITT

So she reinforced her worst thing. Trump's worst thing is he's got a Sulla problem. Sulla, the Roman dictator, had on his tomb, "No friend has done me a favor nor enemy an injury that I have not repaid in full." And he lives that every single day. So her dishonesty and his-- enemies list are the two competing narratives.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Mark, I do get the sense, though, that we may be getting to a point where Hillary Clinton gets in the, "I'm done answering e-mails, and I'm not going to do it anymore." And I'll be curious to see how that plays out.

MARK HALPERIN:

I believe that's where her campaign has her is they do feel they need to clean up what happened last Sunday. But for now, they don't think they're going to lose on trustworthiness. Trump's trustworthiness numbers aren't much better. They're roughly--

JOY-ANN REID:

They're much worse.

CHUCK TODD:

Trustworthy numbers, honesty and trustworthiness--

MARK HALPERIN:

They're about equal. I mean she's narrowed the gap there. I believe, as superficial as a lot of this election has been, this is going to come down to the economy and who people think will make their lives better. And on that score, both of them still have a lot of work to do.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, they do. All right, want to pause here. We're going to talk more about the campaign. But when we come back, we're going to hear from two of Donald Trump's strongest supporters, Lieutenant General Mike Flynn, retired, who was a candidate to be Trump's running mate. And we'll hear from Florida Governor Rick Scott, who head's Donald Trump's Super PAC.

And later in the broadcast, in honor of the Olympics, we'll hang gold, silver and bronze medals for what are the best of, call them worst, gaffes of this gaffe-filled week. Here's one contender.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Trump's team has been slow to fill out the roster of advisors and surrogates that usually accompany a presidential campaign. But our next guest is a retired three-star general who's been briefing Donald Trump on foreign and national security issues since at least February.

Lieutenant General Michael Flynn spent 33 years in the military, culminating with his position as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 through 2014. His influence can be heard in some of Trump's thinking on global security and the fight against terrorism. And he was vetted to be Trump's running mate. Flynn, who just this year released The Field of Fight. It's his book on how to tackle international terrorism. And he joins me now. General Flynn, welcome to Meet the Press.

LT. GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN:

Thanks for having me, Chuck, appreciate it.

CHUCK TODD:

As you know, this week there have been questions raised about Donald Trump's temperament when it comes to national security issues. The Clinton campaign wants to make it a big issue. I want to play you just a quick excerpt of a new video they have hitting them today. Take a look.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER:

The prime objective of the foreign policy of Putin has been to destroy NATO

DONALD TRUMP:NATO is obsolete and it’s extremely expensive to the United States.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

This gets at this issue of Putin, Russia and NATO.

LT. GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you unequivocally, where is he on NATO? Does he believe in it as a robust, important institution?

LT. GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN:

Yeah. I mean I'm going to state, just like the current Supreme Allied Commander just recently said: What NATO needs to be done with is it needs to be modernized. The organizations, the nations, that are part of NATO, they need to understand what their capabilities are. And they need to understand what their responsibilities are.

And one of those responsibilities, when you become a member of NATO and you sign up for the responsibilities that not only come with providing capability, but also, being able to have others respond for you in time of need, is to pay your bills. And I mean that's a big deal. So this doesn't mean that we're not going to support our responsibilities as America. But this means people have to realize--

CHUCK TODD:

He actually said that he might withhold, that you have to think about those things. I mean was that a responsible thing to say?

LT. GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN:

Yeah, I think what we have to do is we have to make sure that we understand what our responsibilities are in an alliance like N.A.T.O.. And I think that, again, I'm going to go back to what I have seen our previous, particularly our military commanders, but also, others that are part of this system, if you will, this alliance, that have said that they understand that they need to do more.

CHUCK TODD:

This issue of Russia, though, does keep coming back with Donald Trump. Mike Morrell, former acting director of the C.I.A.--

LT. GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN:

Yeah, I know Mike.

CHUCK TODD:

--I'm guessing, somebody you worked with.

LT. GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN:

I know Mike.

CHUCK TODD:

Putin of Russia, he called him, he said, "Was a career intelligence officer," this is what he wrote in The New York Times Friday, "trained to identify vulnerabilities in an individual and to exploit them. That is exactly what he did early in the primaries. Mr. Putin played upon Mr. Trump's vulnerabilities by complimenting him. He responded just as Mr. Putin had calculated. In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation."

LT. GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN:

So is Putin treating the Global Clinton Initiative as a witting, as a participant? I mean there-- so I mean what you're asking is something that is a hypothetical versus what we know is going on with the Clintons and their relationships with Russia and Russian organizations. I mean not just in Russia. So and I think that's something that-- there has to be a give and take on this, on all of these comments and all of the things that are out in the media right now.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, but there's a feeling of a close relationship with Putin. And let me go back to NATO. Do you believe NATO, I mean in its current capacity--

LT. GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN:

Here's what I would say about NATO--

CHUCK TODD:

-- is a check on Russia? It was created to be a check on the old Soviet Union.

LT. GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

Does it still need to be a check on Russia?

LT. GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN:

The assumptions that NATO was built upon, post-World War II, they need to be revisited. Because there is a highly complex threat environment that we are facing. And NATO needs to come to grips with sort of the modernization, the resources, the types of capabilities that we need. And I think that there's been some recent changes and some recent things that have been taken by NATO.

But this is really not so much about NATO, but it's about how we, as Americans, and how we, as America, decide how we are going to operate in the 21st century. We're already into the second decade, Chuck. And we are behind the power curve in so many ways.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, all right. Let me ask you this, though. When we were talking about he was asked about Ukraine, he was asked about Crimea, and he sort of implied that, "All right, that's over and done with. The Russians can keep Crimea," it was an-- and he didn't say it directly, but he sort of implied that.

LT. GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

Is that--

LT. GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN:

To be specific about how you-- I think for all the media, how they address the things that he is saying, and what it is that we have to do as America--

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this.

LT. GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN:

--to think about what it is that we're doing.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you believe the Russians are illegally--

LT. GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN:

I'll tell you.

CHUCK TODD:

--have illegally taken away Crimea?

LT. GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN:

I mean I appreciate you highlighting my book. I take Russia on in my book. And I do believe that Russia has an anti-U.S. view of the world. You have to read Russia's national security strategy. And I'm not even sure what ours is. But I know what Russia's is. And they have a view of the United States that is not in our best interests.

CHUCK TODD:

Does Donald Trump understand that?

LT. GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN:

Donald Trump clearly understands that. He gets it.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you one final thing on this issue of nuclear weapons. Does he believe that you can use nuclear weapons tactically? Because that seems to be where this idea that, "Why can't you use nukes tactically," he was talking about ISIS, for instance, in one of the interviews.

LT. GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, why would you take that off the table? Does he believe in a tactical use of them?

LT. GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN:

Yeah. I mean I would say that's really not the issue as much as understanding all of our capabilities and understanding what it is that we bring to bear. And also, this notion about being predictable or unpredictable, I mean we have become the best enemies around the world by continuing to tell our enemies exactly what we're going to do.

In your previous segment, you mentioned a red line. Why do we state any red lines? We just had the Secretary of Defense on the other day, telling the world essentially which towns we were going to conduct an enveloping movement against Mosul. I mean it's just insane. We keep telling people who many troops we're going to send in, where they're going to go. I mean we're the best enemies in the world. Our enemies love when we telegraph what we're doing.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, General Flynn, I'll leave it there.

LT. GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN:

Yeah, thanks for--

CHUCK TODD:

Thanks for coming on.

LT. GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN:

Thanks for having me on.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I appreciate it. When we come back, despite her rising poll numbers, there are some bright red flags for Hillary Clinton in our latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll. We'll show them to you. And she gives us our second entry into our Olympic style gold, silver and bronze competition for the worst or best gaffe of the week, depending on your point of view. You heard this one a little earlier, but here it is again in case you missed it.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SECRETARY HILLARY CLINTON:

What I told the F.B.I., which he said was truthful, is consistent with what I have said publicly. So I may have short circuited it. And for that, I, you know, will try to clarify.

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. It's that time again, our weekly Data Download. And a deep dive into this month's NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll. As we showed you earlier, Clinton leads Trump by nine points among registered voters, 47-38. But this poll is not all good news for Clinton. There are some significant weaknesses for the Democratic nominee, and surprising areas of strength for Donald Trump.

On personal characteristics, Trump leads Clinton by 13 points on the issue of being honest and straightforward, 35-22. More than half of voters, 56 percent, gives a negative rating on this. In fact, it's where she's consistently struggled this entire campaign.

And on the issues that concern voters the most, Trump's attack on the Khan family really is no bigger of a concern than Clinton's email controversy or her paid speeches. In fact, all three of those controversies rang higher for voters than concern over Trump's failure to release his tax returns. And we should note, both of Clinton's issues were bigger concerns to independent voters than either of Trump's.

So why is Clinton so far ahead? She dominates in two key characteristics: Knowledgeable and experienced to do the job. She leads 57-23. And having the right temperament to be president, look at this: She leads by more than 30 points over Trump, 48-16. A nine point lead for Clinton is significant. But overall, both candidates are heading into the fall with the same problems they've each been struggling with throughout this entire campaign. And right now, the voters are saying they care more about temperament than honesty. Can Trump turn that around? When we come back, we'll hear from one of Donald Trump's most vocal supporters, Governor Rick Scott of Florida.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. At times, it hasn't been easy to find Republicans eager to come on and support Donald Trump. But one elected Republican who has been a forceful supporter of the GOP standard bearer is Rick Scott, who's now in his second term as Governor of Florida. Governor Scott is the national chairman of the Super PAC that is dedicated to electing Donald Trump. And of course he's also in the middle of dealing with the arrival of the Zika virus in his state. Governor Scott joins me now. And Governor, welcome back to Meet the Press.

GOV. RICK SCOTT:

Good morning, Chuck. We have a new ad coming out, so it's gonna be exciting.

CHUCK TODD:

I hear you. And before I get to politics, I want to do a quick update from you on Zika. The CDC issued a travel warning to this neighborhood that's basically right next door to downtown Miami, the Wynwood neighborhood. Is it safe now to go into the Wynwood neighborhood?

GOV. RICK SCOTT:

Absolutely. We were there-- I was there on Thursday. I talked to local businesses. I had breakfast at Zack The Baker. We are doing a very good job of working to get rid of the mosquitoes. Our Department of Health at the state and local level are doing a very good job. We have 16 cases. We've been able to reduce the area that we had a concern about by ten blocks on Friday. So we are working hard. We're making sure everybody pregnant has their opportunity to get an assessment and a test if they want it. And we're keeping everybody informed.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

GOV. RICK SCOTT:

So what we're doing is working.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, you said earlier this week, that the federal government failed the state when it came to Zika. But you also cut some state mosquito control money back in 2011 by 40 percent. In hindsight, do you regret making that cut? And do you want Congress to go back into session in August and get this funding passed?

GOV. RICK SCOTT:

Sure. What we've done is allocate the dollars better. We reduced some funding in one area, but we dramatically increased the funding over the last five years or last six years I've been in office. We have very good mosquito boards. I've allocated $26.2 million for the state funding.

The feds need to become a partner. I asked on Friday, on Thursday, when I met with the C.D.C., Director Frieden, I asked for 10,000 more Zika preparedness kits. We still need the federal government to show up. The President and Congress have to work together. This is a national, international issue. It's not just a Florida issue.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Governor, now let's move to politics. You talked about, you're on here, you guys got a new attack ad that's hitting Secretary Clinton. I want to play an excerpt of it and ask you more about it on the other side.

(BEGIN TAPE)

HILLARY CLINTON:

We came out of the White House not only debt-broke but in debt.

ANNOUNCER:

It didn’t last long. The foundation was created and money started to roll. Speeches, connections, and donations. Misogynistic regimes. Wall Street insiders. Corrupt dictators. They all had one thing in common, their check cleared.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

That the new ad-- Let me ask you this, though. It's only airing in three states, and you guys only have a budget to compete in three states. Are you going to be able to compete state for state with the Clinton campaign?

GOV. RICK SCOTT:

Well Chuck, we've got to work it out for us. The Clinton campaign has already committed, I think, a little over $100 million in ads. This starts tomorrow. It will be in three states: Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida. We need to continue to raise money.

You can go to RebuildingAmerica.com to look at the ads that we've had up, and this new ad. But we still have to-- we're out there working every day to raise money to set the record straight. We've got Donald Trump, a business person, versus Hillary Clinton, a career politician, somebody that knows how to create jobs. Hillary Clinton has never created private sector job. That's the election. It's all about jobs.

CHUCK TODD:

Now, it was interesting, your ad is hitting her, though, on personal stuff when it comes to paid speeches, and implies on some transparency issues and things like that. Let me ask you this. Why did you release your tax returns when you ran for governor of Florida the first time?

GOV. RICK SCOTT:

I figured, you know, my view is give everybody all the information and let them make good decisions. As you know, every candidate does things differently. Not everybody releases their tax returns. I release tax returns, I released my balance sheet.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

GOV. RICK SCOTT:

I've been blessed, Chuck. I started in public housing, going to school. And I had the opportunity to build businesses.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I understand that. You did that. So would your advice to Donald Trump be to be more transparent, especially if you want to make attacks on Hillary Clinton stick, don't you want the high ground here?

GOV. RICK SCOTT:

Well, every candidate's going to do something different. But let's think about this. They said they walked out of the White House broke. You start a foundation. And now they're worth over $100 million. There's something that doesn't pass the smell test. That's our concern. Publics-- you shouldn't be getting rich because you're a public servant. You know, if you want to go take the risk and build a business, that's totally different.

CHUCK TODD:

But I guess the question with the tax return issue when it comes to Donald Trump is don't voters need to know-- you released it because your integrity was being called into question, conflicts of interest. There were legitimate reasons, attacks being made against you. You said, "I'm putting out my tax returns so everybody can see if there's a conflict of interest or not." You did a blind trust. That's what voters are wondering about Donald Trump. Doesn't that eliminate those questions if he releases these returns?

GOV. RICK SCOTT:

Chuck, I can tell you my case, I released my tax returns, I released basically the list of assets that I had. I want to make sure no one knows I have a conflict. I don't take income, I don't take a salary. I paid my own way to fly around the state. That's what I do.

Every candidate's differently in what they're going to do. But Chuck, this election is about jobs. Donald Trump knows how to create jobs. Hillary Clinton, a career politician, has never created a job. She had a chance to destroy ISIS, she failed. Donald Trump has said he will focus on destroying ISIS. That's why I support Donald Trump. I want jobs, I want somebody to defend this country.

CHUCK TODD:

If you were running for president, you would be releasing more information, though?

GOV. RICK SCOTT:

Well, I mean my track record is I've always been as transparent as I can. Everybody knows that I'm not making any money in this job. But every candidate's different. But remember, Chuck, this is about jobs. This is about who's going to create jobs. I need a partner in DC. We've done a good job. But I need a partner in DC.

CHUCK TODD:

Governor Rick Scott from Florida, thank you for your time. Appreciate you coming on.

GOV. RICK SCOTT:

Come to Florida, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Oh, I do all the time. Got to see Mom, that's for sure.

GOV. RICK SCOTT:

All right.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you, Governor. We'll be back in a moment with Republican worries about Donald Trump. Are they going to start running away from them in Congressional races? And later, we'll reveal our panel’s gold, silver and bronze gaffes of the week. Yes, we have Olympics fever, too. Here's one more candidate.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

Actually, I was only kidding. You can get the baby out of here.

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

We're back. The panel is here. There was something that happened this week among all of the different headlines that kind of got lost. Paul Ryan, fundraising email, said this: "If we fail to protect our majority in Congress, we could be hanging President Hillary Clinton a blank check." Mark Halperin, “President Hillary Clinton a blank check,” that was not too subtle of a signal that says, "Republicans, you're on your own."

MARK HALPERIN:

1990 and 1996, the Republican Party basically abandoned their president, said, "We've got to run on our own." Why does a Congressional wing stay loyal in tough times? One is, if you think you have a confluence of interests. Right now, they still do. But Paul Ryan's hinting that, perhaps by the fall, they won't.

The other is personal loyalty. Most members of Congress don't know Donald Trump. The reason picking Mike Pence was a good idea, amongst other things, is they do know Mike Pence. And I think Mike Pence will keep them loyal personally until and unless they decide you've got to tell voters don't give Hillary Clinton a blank check. We've seen the party do it before.

CHUCK TODD:

Yamiche, you've been doing a bunch of reporting on this issue. What are Republicans telling you?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

Republicans are telling me that, as of right now, that they want to try to wait for Donald Trump to pivot. We've been waiting for that pivot, or they've been waiting for that pivot, for a long time. But really, they're seeing that they're vulnerable in these places that, even though they have this big lead in the House, the Senate is very vulnerable.

And at some point, you say, "How do we stick with this candidate? How do we stick with this message?" And I think, within the Republican Party, people are trying to pressure Donald Trump to say different things and to do different things and to try to be unifying. But even just this week, with the fact that he was holding out endorsing--

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

--Paul Ryan, that shows that he's not as interested in party, in some ways, as people want him to be.

JOY-ANN REID:

And keep in mind that it's a high risk strategy the longer you wait. Because we now live in a world where you do have early voting. So there's a possibility that, if Donald Trump is still being Donald Trump well after Labor Day, that you get into October, and people are already voting. So he could be day to day, losing voters in real time.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Hugh, though, the risk is both ways. This is what Glen Bolger, Republican pollster, sort of one of the best in the business, partner in POS, they do one half of our poll, he says this in The New York Times today: "Do we run the risk of depressing our base by repudiating the guy? Or do we run the risk of being tarred and feathered by independents for not repudiating him? ... We're damned if we do and damned if we don't."

HUGH HEWITT:

The good news is Speaker Ryan, who is really the leader of the party, Donald Trump is the nominee and leads part of the party, and Leader McConnell's in there. But Leader Ryan is really the guy who leads. He's talented enough to walk between Scylla and Charybdis.

He is able to thread this needle. I think he does it by directing fire, not at Donald Trump, but at President Obama, his presidency is six words: "Leading from behind, red line, JV."

JOY-ANN REID:

But he's at fifty--

CHUCK TODD:

Fifty-two percent job rating.

CHUCK TODD:

That’s a tougher guy to run against, this week isn’t it?

HUGH HEWITT:

The red line, which you brought up earlier with General Flynn, that empowers everyone, from Donald Trump on the way down, to do whatever they need to do to remind people that you can change your mind again and again.

JOY-ANN REID:

But here's the problem. If you try to run on national security issues, first of all, as you said-- President Obama is the most popular politician that we've discussed, right, this morning. And secondly, Donald Trump's main gaffes this week have been on issues that touch on national security, saying, "Why can't we use nuclear weapons?", undercutting our support for NATO, this affinity for Vladimir Putin.

The mistakes he's making now go to actually the core of what Republicans used to be strong on, issues of military, issues of national security. So you're not going to win over that suburban security mom with a candidate who seems so unstable that, in the new ABC-Washington Post poll numbers, more than 70 percent say that he actually-- it gives them anxiety to think of him as being the president of the United States.

MARK HALPERIN:

Rick Scott's exactly right about the issues Republicans want Donald Trump to talk about: Jobs and strong on national security. The problem is Trump did not come out of his convention convincing voters that he was a serious person, qualified to be commander-in-chief, with the right temperament. He's got to work on that now. If voters don't see him as someone qualified, if voters don't see him as having the right temperament, they're not going to take his ideas on jobs, his ideas on ISIS, seriously.

JOY-ANN REID:

But how does a 70 year old man change his entire personality? How does he change his temperament? He's 70 years old. This is who he is. He's not pretending to be this way, he actually is this way. You can't change your fundamental nature.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

But part of the frustration with the Republicans that I'm talking to is that he really isn't capitalizing on the fact that Hillary Clinton is also having issues, she's also having gaffes. She walks out of her interview with the F.B.I., you have footage, you have this moment, and you, again, have a gaffe. She has this issue with emails.

HUGH HEWITT:

I'll just--

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

--and again, here you are with this whole week. So I think Republicans are sort of deeply frustrated. Because you look at that Data Download segment, it's key. It shows that they have as much issue with her issues as they do with his issues. But he can’t--

HUGH HEWITT:

But flip the script. How does a 70 year old woman start persuading people she's telling the truth?

JOY-ANN REID:

Well, first of all, she isn't 70.

HUGH HEWITT:

Well, okay, 69. So how does she persuade people that she's going to tell the truth when we have a lifetime in Washington doing exactly the opposite?

JOY-ANN REID:

And I think it goes back to what Yamiche said, is that if you have issues with Hillary Clinton, the Republican nominee isn't bringing those up, he is triggered instantly by Mr. Khan. He is triggered instantly by anything he perceives as a personal slight. His narcissism outweighs his ability to do the baseline of politics.

CHUCK TODD:

Would you--

JOY-ANN REID:

So what you do is you have Donald Trump continually making the argument about Donald Trump in the worst way.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. I've got to pause here, because we've got medals to hand out. We'll do that in just 45 seconds. Gold, silver and bronze. It's Olympic scoring here. I don't know the results. We'll be right back.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Time now for Endgame. And since we're NBC, we don't get in trouble for using the Olympics logo. We've decided to come up with our gold, silver and bronze gaffes of this past week. Out staff polled the panel. And we're ready to reveal the results. I do not know the winners, and neither does the panel. Because, as Ed McMahon might have said to Johnny Carson, the results have been in a hermetically sealed envelope kept in a mayonnaise jar on Funk and Wagnall's porch since midnight this morning. So here are the results. Beginning with the bronze medal:

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

A man came up to me. And he handed me his Purple Heart. I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Hugh Hewitt, that was cringe-worthy because you get a Purple Heart when you get injured.

HUGH HEWITT:

Yeah, there's a-- there's a lack of understanding of how to receive that highest of honors. I'll tell you, you don't want to be Kerri Walsh Jennings in these medals. You don't want to win every year.

CHUCK TODD:

No.

HUGH HEWITT:

Well, we'll see who wins next here.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Let's go to the silver medal.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SECRETARY HILLARY CLINTON:

What I told the F.B.I., which he said was truthful, is consistent with what I have said publicly. So I may have short-circuited. And for that, I, you know, will try to clarify.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Short Circuit, bad '80s movie.

JOY-ANN REID:

Well, yeah. And I mean, again, it's the over complicated explanation, that she's an attorney, and in those answers, you don't want to come across as an attorney.

CHUCK TODD:

No, that's for sure. All right, and now gold.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

I was viciously attacked on the stage of the Democratic National Convention by Mr. Khan. And I responded.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Yamiche, I have to say, that I think ended up with the gold after you read the profile of the Khans today in your publication, The New York Times.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

And I think this goes back, again, to this idea of national security, this idea of alienating a family, this idea of showing to be presidential. Even if you disagree with this family, how do you go after them? So I think voters are having a hard time. The polls show that something like over 70 percent of people feel like he handled this poorly, even if they didn't agree with the Khans, they feel like he just handled it so poorly.

MARK HALPERIN:

The key to his having a chance to win is to convincing voters he cares about people like them. And his failure, to this day, to express empathy for the Khans--

CHUCK TODD:

Empathy has been a huge issue--

MARK HALPERIN:

--has hurt him.

CHUCK TODD:

--overall, in general, for him. Thank you all. Before we say goodbye, a quick programming note. As you get ready to watch the Olympics right here on NBC, remember that there will be Olympics coverage all week on MSNBC, as well. But after the Olympics coverage ends at 5:00 PM, you get to catch MTP daily every weekday on MSNBC beginning at 5:00 Eastern. That's all for today. Enjoy the Olympics. And remember, if it's Sunday, Meet the Press.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *