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Meet the Press - June 5, 2016

Meet the Press - June 5, 2016

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, he is more than just a boxer or celebrity or even great.

MUHAMMAD ALI:

There is one hell of a lot of difference in fighting in the rain and going to war in Vietnam.

CHUCK TODD:

Muhammad Ali paved the way for a sports star to speak out on politics. And this morning, we'll focus on that part of his legacy as we remember the man, the athlete, and the icon with Bob Costas, Bryant Gumbel and football great Jim Brown. But statements like these from Donald Trump--

DONALD TRUMP:

Come on, this judge is of Mexican heritage. I'm building a wall. Okay? I'm building a wall.

CHUCK TODD:

--are leading to statements like these from other Republicans--

SPEAKER PAUL RYAN:

This comment about the judge the other day just was out of left field, for my mind. It's reasoning I don't relate to.

CHUCK TODD:

Are Donald Trump supporters simply supporters in name only? I'll ask a man who may be one, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Also, with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's favorable ratings setting record lows, could this be the year that an Independent candidate makes a difference? Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson is with us.

And joining me this morning for insight and analysis are Ron Fournier of The National Journal, Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News and Lanhee Chen of the conservative Hoover Institution. Welcome to Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

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

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. There are so many things you can say about Muhammad Ali. He was brash, charming, loud, funny, rude, brave, occasionally cruel, uniquely talented, eternally fascinating, always original, and ultimately, the most famous person on Earth. As much as any athlete, Muhammad Ali erased the line between athlete and activist. He made it easier for other prominent African-American athletes to speak out about politics, race and religion during some tumultuous times, men like basketball's Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and baseball's Curt Flood.

He paved the way for moments like this during the 1968 summer Olympics in Mexico City. Ali famously refused induction into the Army during the Vietnam War, a move that cost him three and a half years of his career in his prime.

(BEGIN TAPE)

MALE REPORTER:

Just how far would you go to keep from taking up arms?

MUHAMMAD ALI:

I'll die. If anything that's against my religious beliefs, I'd rather face machine gun fire before I deviate from the teachings of Almighty God and the religion of Islam.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

And Ali was in it to the end. Just this past December, he put out this statement after Donald Trump's proposed Muslim ban, following the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino: "Speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people's views on what Islam really is.

Well, to remember the man, we're joined now by three people who knew Ali well: Bob Costas of NBC Sports, Bryant Gumbel, the host of HBO's Real Sports, who will be one of Ali's eulogizers this week, and Jim Brown, Hall of Fame running back for the Cleveland Browns. Bryant, let me start with you. You have the awesome responsibility of putting Ali's life in perspective later this week. And nobody, I think, envies you. But let's be realistic. We wouldn't be leading the show here today if we were just talking about Ali the boxer.

BRYANT GUMBEL:

No, we wouldn't, you're absolutely right, Chuck. And yes, it is terribly daunting. I confess it's intimidating. But you noted some of the roles that he played. He was so much more than a boxer. I thought Wesley Morris said it very well in this morning's New York Times.

He said, "Every one of his fights seemed like a referendum on the country." And if not the country at large, certainly on black America. You know, he came at a time when so many of us of a certain age were convinced that our views were right. And he was our flag bearer for those views. And so when he got in the ring, if he won, we felt we were on the side of what was just and what was right. And on those few occasions when he did not prevail, it was as if we had been personally insulted, or misled, or misguided. And he was just a remarkable man. I know that's an overly simplistic way of putting it.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

BRYANT GUMBEL:

But it is, for me, the best way. He was quite remarkable.

CHUCK TODD:

Bob?

BOB COSTAS:

Well, his life was so textured. If he didn't have all the qualities that Bryant just referred to, then he wouldn't be what he was. But then there's just the superficial stuff. But also, it mattered. Because if you can't pull it off, if you can't compel people, if you can't bring people to the stage or--

BRYANT GUMBEL:You've got to win.

BOB COSTAS:

Yeah. A), you've got to win. But also, he was physically beautiful. He was graceful. He was funny and charming as well as provocative. I mean there was a tremendous texture to the man's life and to his personality. To say that he was any one thing sells him short. He was so many things. And the combination of those things made him unique.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me bring in Jim Brown. In many ways, Jim Brown, you and Muhammad Ali were attached at the hip at those tumultuous times. And in many ways, supported each other during times when you'd be attacked by the media, you'd be attacked by political leaders.

JIM BROWN:

That's absolutely true. But the greatest thing about Muhammad Ali is that he represented himself as a great American. Because Americans will stand up for freedom, equality and justice. And it has nothing to do with color.

He also loved people. But he loved good people. And he hated discrimination. And so where I join forces with him is that he was a good American, I was an American, but we would not accept second class citizenship. And people were always trying to get us to become second class citizens. And that was a no-no in his life and in my life.

CHUCK TODD:

Jim Brown, how much pressure did you receive sometimes from others, sometimes from other civil rights leaders, to say, "Hey, let's not speak out today on this or on that," back then?

JIM BROWN:

Well, Muhammad Ali set the standard. He set the bar. And we had a summit in Cleveland to really find out just where he was coming from, and to support him if we believed in his sincerity. And that bar that he set impressed every one of those individuals: Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Carl Stokes, the first black mayor of a major city. All of these individuals were impressed with him. And we came out of that meeting as a unit of individuals that would support him at the risk of everything that the federal government would throw at us.

CHUCK TODD:

You know Bryant and Bob, at that time, there was some skepticism early on about Ali, how much of this was just hype? Did he really believe it? And then he sat out. He went ahead and sat out, and he fought the government on Vietnam.

BRYANT GUMBEL:

Yeah. I mean as everyone knows, I mean he was so highly principled. I mean by today's standards, there's no comparison.

BOB COSTAS:

No.

BRYANT GUMBEL:

I mean not just the money he could have made, but in terms of his public image. And really, that's one of the more remarkable things about the arc of this man's life is that millions of those who came to love and revere Muhammad Ali were among his fiercest critics early on. You and I will remember Dick Young leading the charge of the press.

BOB COSTAS:

Yes.

BRYANT GUMBEL:

But it wasn't just the press. It was much of middle class America that found him too loud, too "arrogant," in quotes, too brash, too this, too that, too black, Muslim. And these people, because he was so principled, came to revere him. And even if they didn't love him, had to say, "Wow."

BOB COSTAS:

Yeah.

BRYANT GUMBEL:

You know, "Mad respect."

BOB COSTAS:

Without compromising who he was, he won so many people over by the weight of the evidence. The people who doubted him, as Bryant said, you couldn't doubt, whether you agreed with him or not, you couldn't doubt the honor and the integrity behind stepping away. He didn't know that it would only be three and a half years. And that was enough. At the peak of his athletic career? It could have been his entire remaining life that he would never step through the ropes again, millions of dollars, the platform. He was obviously a vain and egotistical man. That was among his qualities. He could have given that up. He was willing to do it. That was a stand of principle.

He could have gone to prison. He was actually sentenced to five years in prison. He was out-- while it was being appealed. And then eventually, the Supreme Court sided with him. You had to respect that.

And then there were those who said, "Aw, you know, he's all flash and dash. He's not a real old school fighter." But that's where he owed a debt to Joe Frazier. And I think in the end, they came to respect each other, because they elevated each other. Frazier forced him to reach deep. And even the old school boxing people had to say, "This is a hell of a man. He's tough. He's got guts."

BRYANT GUMBEL:

In purely a sports way, it's absolutely unusual. Because when he began, his best skill was his ability to avoid a punch.

BOB COSTAS:

Yes. Yes.

BRYANT GUMBEL:

And towards the back end, he was revered because he could take a punch.

BOB COSTAS:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

Jim Brown, you were in Zaire at the time, or what was known as Zaire at the time, for that Foreman fight. And I love, there was some references that, as he was doing Rope-a-Dope, he's winking at you ringside to let you know, "Hey, everything's okay. I know what I'm doing here." Take us back to that scene of the weeks in the run-up there that you were with him.

JIM BROWN:

Well, I was the color man. And David Frost was the play by play announcer. And I had gone to George Foreman's camp to spar with him. And I saw Forman hit the heavy bag. And I refused to spar with him, because the way he hit the heavy bag, I thought, "My goodness, if he hits me, he'll break my ribs."

So when I went to Ali's camp, I told Ali, I said, "Look, man. You're my friend. But I don't know about that George Foreman. He hits awfully hard. You know, I'm with you, but I don't know if you can beat him." And when he started to win in the ring, he came over and said, "Big fella, what do you think now?"

And I thought, "This guy's unbelievable. In the middle of a fight, he's going to tell me how wrong I was when I said Foreman was going to beat him." So he had the ability, at the dramatic moment, to be a humorous standup comedian. And I loved him for it. But the one thing, and I want to say this, I want to say thanks, Lonnie, for looking out for the champ. But this man was a man and a great American.

BOB COSTAS:

Yep.

JIM BROWN:

Because America did not take a back seat to anybody. So why would you want to have an African-American heavyweight champion that was not like Muhammad Ali, a great American?

CHUCK TODD:

Hey Bob, you know, that moment in the '96 Olympics?

BOB COSTAS:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

It is one of those just-chills-up-your-spine moment, goose bumps, everything. But I guess was that the moment when everybody in America realized, "Oh yeah, we all love him now?"

BOB COSTAS:

Yeah, it was a tremendous moment of reconciliation. We can't forget how provocative and, to many people, frightening a figure he was at the height of his boxing career. And we shouldn't say that, "Well yes, he became a lovable person because of his affliction and he wasn't so threatening."

It was a combination of things. His life had an extraordinary arc. But at this point, you had a moment of reconciliation. And you could sense, even in the moment, not just a fond reflection, you could sense that everybody in the stadium that night and everyone around the world kind of had the same thought: no matter how anyone felt about any particular chapter of his life, you had to say that, in the big picture, this is a person of abundant humanity and of essential decency. And everyone admired and respected him, just about everyone.

CHUCK TODD:

Bryant, was there a point in time, you were, I felt like, the chronicler of him in the '80s in that first period of his retirement. When was the moment that you thought, "Boy, white America has embraced Muhammad Ali now?"

BRYANT GUMBEL:

I don't know if I ever thought of it in those terms, to be honest, Chuck. I mean I really didn't. You know, as Bob alluded to, I mean the arc of this man's life was just amazing. So I'm not necessarily sure I ever took a temperature of it and said, "Oh wow, this is when it's turned the corner."

But you could see it incrementally with every time he took to the world stage. I mean it was amazing. You spoke earlier about him being the most famous man of his time. I would make the case that, by sight, by voice and by name, he may have been the most famous person of our-- certainly of our lifetime, maybe of all time, in that you could go anywhere in the world and say his name or show his picture or play a recording of his voice, and people would instantaneously know who he was. That's amazing power and amazing platform that he seemed intelligently to never misuse.

BOB COSTAS:

I remember an article that Bob Green wrote in The Chicago Tribune. Bob had spent some time with Ali. And they were aboard a plane, descending into some American city. And Muhammad said, just kind of matter-of-factly, "You know, look down at all those houses with their lights on. I could walk to any door--

BRYANT GUMBEL:

And he could.

BOB COSTAS:

--knock on the door, and not only would they know who I was, they'd invite me in."

BRYANT GUMBEL:

Yeah, they'd love him.

CHUCK TODD:

Jim Brown, I want you to give you the last word here. Obviously, he's made it easier for today's athletes to speak out and not be attacked and not be marginalized. What should today's athletes, what lesson should today's athletes take from you and Muhammad Ali and the things you did for them in the '60s?

JIM BROWN:

That money is not God, and human dignity is very, very important. Your integrity is way up there. And as a single human being, if you carry yourself in a certain way, you can defy all evil that comes at us.

And I'd like to make one thing very clear: Muhammad Ali loved people. And he had white friends as well as black friends. And the thing that he hated was discrimination and racism. And so that's the way that I look at him. And that's how I'd like to close out my talking to you today.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I appreciate it. Jim Brown, I appreciate you coming on and sharing your memories of him. Bryant Gumbel, Bob Costas, always a pleasure. And Bryant, I don't know how you're going to do it next Friday, but good luck.

BRYANT GUMBEL:

If you've got any suggestions, let me have them, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

I appreciate it. All right, thank you all.

JIM BROWN:

Helping all you guys.

BRYANT GUMBEL:

Take care, JB.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. In a moment, the presidential campaign. Yes, we're still talking politics here, and the emergence of a new breed of Trump supporter. I'm calling them SINOs, Supporters In Name Only. The term could apply, perhaps, to my next guest, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who joins me.

And could Gary Johnson's candidacy on the Libertarian line make a difference in this year's presidential election? With two deeply unpopular major party candidates, it just might. Gary Johnson joins me later in the show.

(BEGIN TAPE)

MUHAMMAD ALI:

My intention is to box, to win a clean fight. But in war, the intention is to kill, kill, kill, kill, and continue killing innocent people. (CHEERING) That's what the criticism was.

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. At first glance, it would appear the Republican establishment is starting to rally around Donald Trump. Add an endorsement from House Speaker Paul Ryan this week to the list of reasons why it appears that way. But the problem for the presumptive Republican nominee, those backers might just be what I like to call SINOs, Supporters In Name Only. It's a riff off of RINOs, Republicans in Name Only. And yes, they say they'll vote for Trump or oppose Clinton.

But when Trump steps in it, as he did this week when he insisted a judge couldn't be fair to him simply because the judge is Hispanic, Trump's so-called supporters suddenly became uncharacteristically camera shy. Joining me now is Senator Major Leader Mitch McConnell. He's also author of a new memoir and a pretty honest one and blunt one called The Long Game. Senator, welcome back.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL:

Chuck, glad to be here.

CHUCK TODD:

Before I get to the politics, you're a Louisville native.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL:

I am.

CHUCK TODD:

In fact, I believe you were heading into college when Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, came back as an Olympic gold medalist. And it wasn't the greatest reception, was it?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL:

Well, in the early days, I think he was pretty controversial. But he clearly outlived all of his enemies. He's the most interesting man in the world. And we were proud of the fact that he was from my hometown, Louisville, Kentucky. We were all proud of that.

CHUCK TODD:

When did it feel as if Louisville truly embraced-- I mean you go now to Louisville, and it feels like an homage to Muhammad Ali. When did that happen? You said he outlived his enemies. At what point do you think like Louisville really sort of said, "Boy, he is our favorite son?"

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL:

Well, I think about the same time your previous segment indicated. He sort of moved beyond some of the controversial positions he took early in life. And he had to be the most interesting man in the world. And we were proud of the fact he was from Louisville.

CHUCK TODD:

Let's move to politics. You've been on-- I noted you have a new book. You've been on a book tour. I'm not the first person to interview you and ask you about Donald Trump. So I want to play an array of comments you've made about Donald Trump in the last week. Here they are.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL:

Donald Trump is certainly a different kind of candidate.

I don't agree with everything Trump says or does. But I do know that we now have a choice, a choice between two very unpopular candidates, very unpopular.

Do I agree with a lot of things Trump says? No.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

I know you're voting for him. If there weren't a Supreme Court vacancy, would you be?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL:

Yeah, absolutely. I think eight years of Barack Obama's administration's enough. And one thing we know for sure is that Hillary Clinton will be four more years just like the last eight, all the slow growth, the lack-- America's clearly under-performing. And I think we need to go in a different direction. And whatever you think about Donald Trump, he's certainly a different direction. I think that's what the country needs.

CHUCK TODD:

But, you know, in your book, you spend a lot of time talking about your mentor in the Senate, and how he stood up against Barry Goldwater. You voted for LBJ. He went ahead and supported The Civil Rights Act. You worried that Barry Goldwater would leave a stain on the party. Are you worried that Donald Trump's going to leave a stain on the party the way Goldwater did?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL:

I am concerned about the Hispanic vote. America's changing. When Ronald Reagan was elected, 84 percent of the American electorate was white. This November, 70 percent will be. I think it's a big mistake for our party to write off Latino-Americans. They're an important part of our country, and soon to be, if not already, the largest minority group in the country. And so I am concerned about that. And I hope he'll change his direction on that, certainly.

CHUCK TODD:

I've heard a lot of Republicans say, "I hope he'll stop this. I hope we'll do this." Whatever it's been on, whatever he has said about a specific ethnic group or somebody else. But he hasn't. At what point do you stop hoping and realize it's not going to happen?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL:

Look, I think he's a very competitive candidate. I think America's looking for a different direction, somebody entirely new. But this is a good time, it seems to me, to begin to try to unify the party. And you unify the party by not settling scores and grudges against people you've been competing with. We're all behind him now. And I'd like to see him reach out and pull us all together and give us a real shot at winning this November.

CHUCK TODD:

You know what he has said about this federal judge that's overseeing the Trump University lawsuit. He has essentially said he cannot be impartial because he's Hispanic. Is that not a racist statement?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL:

I couldn't disagree more with a statement like that.

CHUCK TODD:

Is it a racist statement?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL:

I couldn't disagree more with what he had to say.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. But do you think it's a racist statement to say?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL:

I don't agree with what he had to say. This is a man who is born in Indiana. All of us came here from somewhere else. Almost all Americans are either near term immigrants, like my wife, who came here at age eight, not speaking a word of English, or the rest of us is ancestors were risk takers, and who got up from wherever they were and came here and made this country great. That's an important part of what makes America work.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to read you something that Erick Erickson, a conservative commentator, wrote for The Resurgent. He wrote it yesterday. "The attacks are racist. To claim someone is unable to objectively and professionally perform his job because of his race is racism. And damn the GOP for its unwillingness to speak up on this. ... [T]he party of Lincoln intends to circle the wagons around a racist. Damn them for that. What do you say to Mr. Erickson?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL:

I think the party of Lincoln wants to win the White House. And the right-of-center world needs to respect the fact that the primary voters have spoken. Donald Trump has won the nomination the old fashioned way, he got more votes than anybody else. Is he the perfect candidate for a lot of us? He isn't.

But we have a two-party system here. And Hillary Clinton is certainly not something that I think would be good for the country to continue, basically, the Obama administration for another four years.

CHUCK TODD:

If you end up with a President Clinton, do you imagine you'll be able to work better? You write in your memoir, "It wasn't easy working with President Obama." It's pretty clear that you and he see the world very differently politically. But also, the back and forth that you had you didn't find very helpful. Do you imagine you would have a better working relationship with a President Hillary Clinton?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL:

I'd rather be working with Donald Trump. For one thing, I know he's going to appoint the right kind of person to the Supreme Court. He's already put out a list, I think it's a very good list, of the kinds of people he would consider for the high court. We know that, even if he differs with us on some issues, he's going to be right of center. I'd rather be working with Donald Trump. And I think that's the opportunity I'm going to have.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this, then. If you're a Republican running for reelection in a seat, you're not comfortable with Donald Trump, what do you say to the voter that isn't comfortable with Donald Trump and worries that it's a reflection on the Republican Party? What do you say to the voter that may punish a Republican Senate candidate because of Trump?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL:

Well look, I don't think that's going to happen. Senate races are statewide races. They're big races. They have a lot of money spent, great opportunity to paint your own picture of how you're representing the people in your particular state.

I'm very confident that these Senate candidates who we have, and we do have a lot of exposure this year, 24 Republicans up and only ten Democrats. We'll rise or fall on our own merits.

CHUCK TODD:

You don't believe the presidential race-- do you believe that you can hold the Senate if Donald Trump loses the presidential?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL:

The year Bill Clinton got reelected we gained two seats in the Senate. The year that Reagan carried 49 out of 50 states, we lost two seats in the Senate. So we don't know what's going to happen at the presidential level. I hope America's going to choose to go in a different direction. But these Senate races are big enough to stand on their own two feet. And that's how we're going to stay the Senate majority.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, thanks for coming on. Congrats on the book. And we'll see you soon, I hope.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL:

Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

You got it. Coming up, when Hillary Clinton thumped Donald Trump in a big speech this week, Trump seemed to have little to say in response. So how bad was Trump's week? We're going to look at that when we come back.

(BEGIN TAPE)

MALE REPORTER:

Why do you insist on being called Muhammad Ali now?

MUHAMMAD ALI:

Because that's the name given to me by my leading teacher, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad. That's my--My original name, that's a black man name. Cassius Clay was my slave name. I'm no longer a slave.

MALE REPORTER:

What does it mean?

MUHAMMAD ALI:

Muhammad means "worthy of all praises," and Ali means, "Most high."

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Panel is here. Ron Fournier of The National Journal, Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, who of course covers the Clinton campaign for us, and Lanhee Chen from the conservative Hoover Institution, lecturer at Stanford University, and of course was one of the main policy advisors to Mitt Romney in 2012. Lanhee, welcome to the table, sir.

LANHEE CHEN:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Congresswoman Edwards, welcome, as well.

REP. DONNA EDWARDS:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Andrea, let me start with this issue of all things having to do with Trump and this federal judge. First of all, he has been attacking this judge based on ethnicity since February. Take a look.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

I believe he happens to be Spanish, which is fine. He's Hispanic, which is fine. I think he's been very, very unfair with us. I think the judge has been extremely unfair. The judges in this court system, federal court, they ought to look into Judge Curiel. Because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace. He's a Mexican. We're building a wall between here and Mexico.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Just to get this on the record, his attorneys have not filed a motion asking the judge to recuse himself.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Exactly.

CHUCK TODD:

So the rhetoric doesn't match the actions.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

You have to think that what he's they'd to do, perhaps if there's a strategy here, is to force the judge to take himself off, saying that this has now become too political. The judge, under the ethics rules, is not allowed to argue back. He can't defend himself in the public arena. He can hold Donald Trump in contempt. He's got a lot of other weapons.

But people in the judicial conference, people in the judiciary, are horrified by this. Constitutional scholars are concerned. People who have not criticized Donald Trump are saying that this questions the separation of powers, and it is blatantly racist. There is no other way to describe going after this judge-- based on his ethnicity.

RON FOURNIER:

Of course this is not a legal strategy, it's a political strategy. He's moved beyond the dog whistle. This is a racist bullhorn to tell the rest of America that, "If you're not white and you're not a Christian, you can't judge me."

REP. DONNA EDWARDS:

Well, and the fact is that the lawyers haven't filed a motion for recusal because there is no basis to file that motion. You cannot move to recuse a judge because the judge is of Mexican descent. He's an American. He's a judge. And Donald Trump is trying to litigate his case in the public on the presidential--

LANHEE CHEN:I think--

REP. DONNA EDWARDS:

And it's ridiculous.

LANHEE CHEN:

I mean I think, at some point, the Republican Party has to begin to look past just one election. And it seems to me that this sort of focus on a single election and winning a single election is one thing. But we're only thinking about where is the party headed? What does rhetoric like this do to a party that, in 2012, after the 2012 elections, that tried to assess how successful they could be with minority voters.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

LANHEE CHEN:

And I mean it's a formidable question.

CHUCK TODD:

You know who tried to assess this? Donald Trump. This is Donald Trump in November of 2012, right after, November 26th, 2012 to NewsMax; "The Democrats didn't have a policy for dealing with illegal immigrants. But what they did have going for them is they weren't mean spirited about it. They didn't know what the policy was. But what they were is they were kind. Romney had a crazy policy of self-deportation, which was maniacal. It sounded as bad as it was. And he lost all the Latino vote. He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who was inspired to come into this country." Where is that Donald Trump, Ron?

RON FOURNIER:

Well, we just heard it. Senator McConnell just told you. The party of Lincoln wants to win the White House. That's how cynical this is. It's just about winning the White House. To your point, it's a short-term strategy, not a long-term strategy.

REP. DONNA EDWARDS:

Oh, and this is a party that is going to lose not only-- they've already lost a generation of African-Americans, multiple generations. They're going to lose a generation of Latino voters. And they are going to lose the American public, because, you know, they're not willing to call out. And for Senator McConnell to say that the party of Lincoln is only interested in winning is pretty shameful statement--

ANDREA MITCHELL:

The fact that John McCain, because of the Hispanic vote, is at risk of losing the election after five terms in the Senate, and of being the party standard-bearer, and being someone universally admired in many quarters, Republican and Democratic, because of the top of the ticket. And this would of course also contribute to losing the Senate.

I think the metaphor here is what Jim Brown just said about Muhammad Ali saying, "Money is not God. Human dignity and integrity matter." Winning is not everything. And that's what Muhammad Ali would also say--

CHUCK TODD:

Well, speaking, though, of winning is everything, is like there is a new Trump Super PAC out, one that appears to be, they have their first ad they're going to debut later in the week. We have an exclusive first look at it. And as you can see, it's going to be nothing about Donald Trump in it now. Here it is.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRES. BILL CLINTON:

But I want to say one thing.

SEC. HILLARY CLINTON:

We turned over everything.

PRES. BILL CLINTON:

I want you to listen to me.

SEC. HILLARY CLINTON:

I did not.

PRES. BILL CLINTON:

I did not.

SEC. HILLARY CLINTON:

I did not send classified material.

PRES. BILL CLINTON:

Not a single time.

SEC. HILLARY CLINTON:

And I did not receive--

PRES. BILL CLINTON:

Never.

SEC. HILLARY CLINTON:

--any material that was marked or designated classified.

PRES. BILL CLINTON:

I never told anybody to lie.

SEC. HILLARY CLINTON:

That's all I can say.

PRES. BILL CLINTON:

These allegations are false.

REPORTER:

Did you try to--

SEC. HILLARY CLINTON:

I don't know how it works digitally at all. I do not--

NARRATOR:

Rebuilding America Now PAC is responsible for the content of this message.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

All right, this ad's going to start on national cable later in the week. It's going to follow the priorities. This is going to be the Trump Super PAC. Ron, it's obvious they're the message. They're not going to be doing pro-Trump, they're going to be doing-- okay, now whatever you think of him, remember the Clintons.

RON FOURNIER:

Right. Well, this is an election of negative partisanship. They know Americans are not going to vote aspirationally for who they want, they're going to vote against who they hate the worst. And so this is effective. Trust is the gold coin of politics. It's supposed to be, anyhow.

And the Clintons, for all their strengths, have a history of squandering trust. And this was, again, a cynical strategy by the Clinton people. They gambled that trust was not going to matter, that they could get away with this e-mail business, and that the public would forgive them, or they would draw a candidate, even worse, more untrustworthy than her. And it looks like she--

CHUCK TODD:

It's trust versus temperament. Last words Lanhee--

LANHEE CHEN:

This is going to be a race to the bottom. And that's very clear. I think an ad like that will be effective. The question, at some point, do either of them try to rise above? The answer probably is no. But I think it would serve Trump well to start to articulate a little bit of an agenda, don't you think?

REP. DONNA EDWARDS:

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have been running a campaign that's based on issues and that's based on substance. This is not.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. We're going to pause it there. We'll be back. You'll have more bites at this apple, I promise. But we'll be back in a moment with a man who just may have a bigger impact on the presidential election than you may think. Libertarian nominee and former Republican governor, by the way, of New Mexico, Gary Johnson. Could he win enough votes to swing the election to one candidate or the other? Or could he be the surprise?

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRES. BILL CLINTON:

He made decisions and he lived with the consequences of them. And he never stopped being an American, even as he became a citizen of the world. And he inspired people all over the world.

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. There have been two presidents named Johnson. The first, Andrew Johnson, took office when President Lincoln was assassinated, was eventually impeached and avoided conviction in in the Senate by one vote. The second was Lyndon Johnson, who also gained the White House as a result of an assassination. Johnson's ambitions for his great society ran up against his unpopular support for the Vietnam War and he eventually chose not to run for reelection in 1968.

My next guest, Gary Johnson, hopes to be the third President Johnson. He just won the nomination of the Libertarian Party. Sure, it's a long shot, but his candidacy could at a minimum swing the election one way or the other. So he joins me now, Governor Johnson, welcome to the show sir.

GOVERNOR GARY JOHNSON:Great being here, Chuck. Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:Actually, welcome back. I know you were here eight years ago with one of my predecessors, so it's good to have you back on my show.

GOVERNOR GARY JOHNSON:Yeah, yeah.

CHUCK TODD:All right, you say you believe the great middle of this country is Libertarian. How do you convince the great middle of this country that they are?

GOVERNOR GARY JOHNSON:

Just the notion that most people I think are fiscally conservative and socially liberal. And most people I think recognize that our military interventions, for the most part, are having the unintended consequence of making things worse, not better.

CHUCK TODD:Are you comfortable with the idea that you might be the spoiler?GOVERNOR GARY JOHNSON:

I don't think I'm going to be a spoiler in this. I think really, it's a draw from both sides and--

CHUCK TODD:Do you believe that though? Do you think you're going to draw equally, or do you think ultimately you're going to become the weigh station for Republicans who can't support Trump?

GOVERNOR GARY JOHNSON:You know my name has appeared in three national polls. 10 percent, 10 percent, 11 percent. And in those polls they did a bit of analysis and actually determined that I took more votes away from Hillary. But, at the end of the day, I think it's going to be a draw from both sides.

CHUCK TODD:How much have you reached out to people like Mitt Romney and others who have been steadfast in their Never Trump beliefs?

GOVERNOR GARY JOHNSON:You know Chuck, I never found it-- I've never found it effective to reach out to anybody. When they reach out to your side, that's when it's actually effective. And that's what we're finding. People are actually reaching out to us, and I'm talking too about my running mate Bill Weld, I think it's terrific that he joined this ticket. Two republican governors serving in heavily blue states that got reelected by wide margins.

CHUCK TODD:I want to ask you a little bit about your governing philosophy. Obviously you're known for being-- You were known for all of those vetoes I think about 750 of them when you were governor of New Mexico. You were overridden only a handful of times, although one of them was a big override, it was the budget.

GOVERNOR GARY JOHNSON:Which the republicans at the end said hey, we give up. You're not going to be around, we'll deal with it.

CHUCK TODD:But I've heard you talk about all of the agencies you would eliminate. Let me ask the question differently. As a libertarian, I think you want to eliminate some seven cabinet posts if you become president. What is the role of government in your view?GOVERNOR GARY JOHNSON:Well, less government. Smaller government. I think government tries to do too much and at the end of the day it taxes too much, and that's money out of your and my pocket--

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, but let's get specific. What should it regulate? What should the federal government be in--

GOVERNOR GARY JOHNSON:

Protect us against individuals, groups, corporations, foreign governments, that would do us harm. So at the end of the day, I'm looking to get elected President of the United States. I'm going to sign off on any reduction in the federal government, agencies-specific. I can't wave a magic wand and make those things happen. But yeah, smaller government is a good thing. If you're looking for the smaller government guys, it would be the Libertarian ticket.

CHUCK TODD:

But what should it be regulating, I guess? That's what I'm trying to get specific there. What is it that the government should be involved in? You say, for instance, health care. Should it have a role in health care?

GOVERNOR GARY JOHNSON:

Well, I think that we should provide a safety net. I just think that we've gone way over the line with regard to defining those in need. And that if we don't reform Medicaid and Medicare, we're going to find ourselves without being able to provide that. I think, at the end of the day, as a result of government spending, at some point we're going to have really horrible inflation in this country.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you, on defense, when would you use the military? When would you--

GOVERNOR GARY JOHNSON:

Whenever we're--

CHUCK TODD:

What is that line?

GOVERNOR GARY JOHNSON:

When we're attacked, we're going to attack back. And I reject the notion that Libertarians are isolationist. Look, there should be diplomacy to the hilt. But with regard to our military interventions, boots on the ground, dropping bombs, flying drones that are killing thousands of innocent people, I think that it's had the unintended consequence of making the world less safe. Let's involve Congress in declaration of war, something that they have abdicated that responsibility to the executive and to the military.

CHUCK TODD:

So you do not believe in any military engagement that would be done on a humanitarian basis, for instance?

GOVERNOR GARY JOHNSON:

Well, no. And you can't exclude that. You don't want to sit by and watch some sort of humanitarian crisis go down, either. But so much--

CHUCK TODD:

Were you in favor of Bosnia, the intervention there?

GOVERNOR GARY JOHNSON:

You know, not having been involved in it at the time, I don't want to misspeak. But how about having a skeptic at the table with regard to these military interventions? And yes, if we are going to make a difference, then count on me to step up. But skeptical of our military interventions, like I say, we've got treaties with apparently 69 countries where we are obligated to defend their borders? And these were treaties that were executive treaties, not authorized by Congress.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me final out question here for you. The results come in on election night. You have had an impact. Will you be more comfortable if your impact elects a President Clinton or a President Trump?

GOVERNOR GARY JOHNSON:

You know, Chuck, I would not be doing this if there weren't the opportunity to win. But the only opportunity that I have of winning is to be in the presidential debates.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that--

GOVERNOR GARY JOHNSON:

And to be in the presidential debates, I've got to be in the polls. Right now, I've been in three national polls. But in the meantime, there have been another 40 polls where my name has not been included.

CHUCK TODD:

No, I understand that. But if your candidacy helps elect Donald Trump, would that make you feel as if you had a successful candidacy?

GOVERNOR GARY JOHNSON:

Well, a successful candidacy will be talking about issues that aren't being talked about right now. And that combination, that unique combination of being fiscally conservative, smaller government, and individual liberty and freedom, a person's right to choose, always come down on the side of choice. And then, when it comes to the military, look, let's have some skeptics here. Hillary Clinton arguably is the architect of our foreign interventions. That's a unique combination that neither party offer.

CHUCK TODD:

All right.

GOVERNOR GARY JOHNSON:

And at the end of the day, you know, they're not going to just pay lip service. If I'm on the stage, they're going to have to do more than that.

CHUCK TODD:

But if you could not win, do you have a preferences of which of the other two major party candidates you'd like to see win?

GOVERNOR GARY JOHNSON:

Well, I would vote Libertarian. I know that there would be a Libertarian. And it's important also, and I know you know this, but I'm the only third party candidate that's going to be on the ballot in all 50 states. So all this talk about third party, well, I'm it.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. Gary Johnson. We'll be watching.

GOVERNOR GARY JOHNSON:

All right, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Thanks for coming on the show. Appreciate it.

GOVERNOR GARY JOHNSON:

Oh, thank you so much.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, Hillary Clinton's take-down of Donald Trump this week seemed to leave him with no answer beyond some familiar tweets and insults. But it seems as if there was another victim of that speech, Bernie Sanders, whose candidacy feels a little smaller today. The Democratic race when we come back.

(BEGIN TAPE)

MUHAMMAD ALI:

It's going to take a good man to whup me. You look at me, I'm loaded with confidence. I can't be beat. I've had 180 amateur fights, 22 professional fights, and I'm pretty as a girl (LAUGHTER)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. We're two days away from the last big primary day of the election season. Six states will hold primaries or caucuses on Tuesday. Big prize, of course, is California, the so-called "big enchilada." Apologies for the cliché. Our latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal /Marist poll gives Clinton just a two-point lead over Bernie Sanders, 49-47 among likely Democratic voters. Other polls also show a close race.

Inside the numbers, though, you see some problems there for Sanders. But the California fight is less about delegates than it is about momentum. Clinton will likely go over the top in delegates even before the polls in California close on Tuesday. So what does matter from California is momentum. She wants to rid herself of Bernie Sanders and focus entirely on unifying Democrats against Donald Trump leading up to the Democratic convention.

She got a bit of a start on that this week. Panel is back. But before we get into Bernie a minute, I want to play for you a little back and forth we had which essentially was the 24-hour period of Clinton going after Trump and Trump responding. Here it is.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SEC. HILLARY CLINTON:

Donald Trump himself is a fraud. He is trying to scam America the way he scammed all those people at Trump U.

DONALD TRUMP:

I think Hillary is very weak. I think she's pathetic. I think she should be in jail for what she did with her e-mail.

SEC. HILLARY CLINTON:

I will leave it to the psychiatrist to explain his affection for tyrants.

DONALD TRUMP:

Remember I said I was the counter puncher? I am. After what she said about me today in her phony speech, that was a phony speech.

SEC. HILLARY CLINTON:

Dangerously incoherent.

DONALD TRUMP:

She is a liar.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

We also had a Trump voter get egged and harassed.

ANDREA MITCHELL

In San Jose

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, it's June. One candidate says the other is a lunatic. The other one is saying the other candidate is a criminal and belongs in jail. Where are we going?

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Well, not in a very good place. I just came back from California, and am heading back there tonight. The fact is that there is tremendous antipathy right now around this whole race. Yet, when they closed the registration for California on Friday night, Sacramento Secretary of State announced, "It is unprecedented, historic, almost 18 million people now registered. Seventy-two percent of those eligible have registered to vote." And this is, I think, really generated by the concern that Hispanics and others have about Donald Trump, that awful, awful egging of the--

CHUCK TODD:

The Trump voter.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

--Trump supporter in San Jose is, I think-- I think you can't separate it from the egging on, no pun intended.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

In North Carolina and elsewhere that he did at his rallies. And what we've--

RON FOURNIER:

Yeah.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

--come to is a really bad place. I do think that Hillary Clinton elevated her attacks--

CHUCK TODD:

No doubt.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

--in a way that he did not have an answer for.

CHUCK TODD:

So Ron--Go ahead, Donna.

DONNA EDWARDS:

I think Hillary both elevated her attacks, but she also elevated herself in two very compelling back to back arguments on a fraudulent Trump University and a dangerously incoherent national security framework from Donald Trump. And I think that that puts her, you know, up above.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. But I put that out there because it's more of-- I'm concerned what October's going to look like, Ron.

RON FOURNIER:

Oh, it's going to be--

CHUCK TODD:

I am concerned about half the country not accepting the result in November, and not in a 2000 type style response, where everybody laid down their arms.

RON FOURNIER:

I'm concerned not just about November in the way you are, but I'm concerned about the next Novembers, the next two or three cycles. We're in a time, much like we were at the beginning of the last century, when the public doesn't trust its institutions, doesn't trust the validity of elections. And when that happens, people do dangerous and totally improper things like egging a supporter from the other side.

CHUCK TODD:

There are no rules, Lahnee.

RON FOURNIER:

This could devolve into a really serious violence, and in further destruction of our trust in the system.

LANHEE CHEN:

Yeah. You know, I think the big question, though, with Hillary Clinton is can she continue and sustain this tone and this attack, right? She gave her speech on Thursday, foreign policy speech. Not really a foreign policy speech.

CHUCK TODD:

It was a temperament--

LANHEE CHEN:

It was a take-down speech. And the question, though, is then on Friday, she kind of went back to the same old rhetoric again. And I think for her to be effective, I do think she has to be at that level with Trump. But I think Ron's right, that really does put the nation in jeopardy in the sense that it puts us in a very, very difficult place, come October, come November.

CHUCK TODD:

And I know--

REP. DONNA EDWARDS:

Hillary Clinton is still running two races. I mean she's got to close out the Democratic primary, and then stay in a general election mode, and really articulating to the American people both her vision, but also, why it is that Trump will be dangerous for the country.

LANHEE CHEN:

Bernie Sanders just looks small now. Let's be honest. He just looks small now.

RON FOURNIER:

And you know who looks small this week because of Hillary Clinton is Donald Trump. She did what you do to a bully. You bully a bully. You mock a bully. You get him to--

ANDREA MITCHELL:

That was so important with the tone, as Donna was just pointing out, by making it as calm as she did, it was not, you know, a rally where she was screaming. I was there. It was a very calm, deliberate take-down. And also, by using humor.

CHUCK TODD:

Donna, you're somebody on here, you have extra powers. You're a super delegate. You're not just a delegate, you're a super delegate. Should there be superdelegates? Are you going to be somebody that supports getting rid of them at the Democratic convention?

REP. DONNA EDWARDS:

Well, you know, can I just say? First of all, I didn't even know I was a super delegate. But now that I know, I feel extra powerful-

CHUCK TODD:

Do you feel so powerful? Yeah.

DONNA EDWARDS:

But what I do know is that these were the rules going in.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

DONNA EDWARDS:

All of us knew these rules going in. And I think it is time for us to rethink them. But you don't do that in the middle of the game.

RON FOURNIER:

The irony that a populist candidate wants to--

CHUCK TODD:

I know.

RON FOURNIER:

--convince the elite to give him the election against the people's will is rich.

CHUCK TODD:

You can't make it up. All right. A quick programming note here. Tonight, the heroin epidemic, and a New England police chief with a controversial approach, giving addicts who ask for help a big dose of compassion. Our own Josh Mankiewicz reports for On Assignment. That's tonight at 7:00 Eastern, 6:00 Central on NBC. Back after this with Endgame and some personal stories from the panel about Muhammad Ali.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with our Endgame segment. And frankly, it was interesting, you guys have some interesting Muhammad Ali stories. Andrea, tell me yours.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Well, he was in Cherry Hill, New Jersey at the gym with Angelo Dundee. I was a young intern, and then a young reporter at the NBC station in Philadelphia. He'd come into the sports-- he'd come into the newsroom. And at first, as an intern, I'd be escorting him in. He was larger than life.

I mean this was '67, '68. You know, and when you think about 1968 and the Mexico City Olympics, and how controversial it was with the Black Power salute, and Muhammad Ali was there so much before that, with the dignity and the courage of his convictions.

CHUCK TODD:

Donna, you have a really interesting memory of him.

DONNA EDWARDS:

Well, I don't know how much people remember about when they were five or six years old. But Muhammad Ali visited my kindergarten classroom at Barnard Elementary School here in Washington D.C..

CHUCK TODD:

Wow.

DONNA EDWARDS:

And I just remember he was really big. He got down on his knees, he looked us in the eye, and he wanted to shake our hands, and his hands were very big. (LAUGHTER)

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Ron, being a Detroit guy, a lot of people, before there was Ali, there was Joe Louis, who, in his own way, helped break down some barriers.

RON FOURNIER:

Right. And in his own way, that was a lot more quieter than Muhammad Ali took it. Muhammad Ali took it to another level. And, you know, I agree with everything anybody was saying today. You know what strikes me is, five decades after Muhammad Ali was in his prime, we now have the leader of a major party who looked out in the audience today and said, "There's my African-American. I hope he--

ANDREA MITCHELL:Unbelievable.

RON FOURNIER:

I hope he behaves himself."

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And I was at the White House when he received the Medal of Freedom. I was there for other reasons, because it was a group gathering.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, yeah.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And it was just extraordinary. Watching George W. Bush and the eloquence of Bush's tribute to him.

CHUCK TODD:

Lanhee?

LANHEE CHEN:

It's amazing, though, you know, that we live in a country where sports stars aren't just sports stars, they don't have to just be sports stars, right? They can talk about all sorts of issues.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, you know what?

RON FOURNIER:

One might be president someday.

CHUCK TODD:

We're all citizens.

LANHEE CHEN:

Absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

And with that, that's all we have for today. We're back next week, because if it's Sunday, Meet the Press.

***END OF TRANSCRIPT***