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Meet the Press - May 29, 2016

Meet the Press - May 29, 2016

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, a rough week for both likely nominees. For Hillary Clinton, it was that report contradicting her statements old and new about her emails.

SEC. HILLARY CLINTON:

Well, it was allowed. And the rules have been clarified since I left.

CHUCK TODD:

For Donald Trump, it was an unprovoked attack on a popular Republican Latina governor, Susana Martinez of New Mexico.

DONALD TRUMP:

She's not doing the job. Hey, maybe I'll run for governor of New Mexico.

CHUCK TODD:

This morning, my interview with the only candidate still viewed favorably by the voters, Bernie Sanders.

Would you take the call if Hillary Clinton asked you to be her running mate?

Plus, we've seen the Clinton/Trump polls tighten. But how tight will they be if and when Sanders gets out? We have a first look at the true state of the presidential race. Also, before Donald, there was Arnold, the celebrity candidate who shocked the political world by running in California. Arnold Schwarzenegger one on one, on the state of the Republican party in the age of Trump.

And joining me for insight and analysis are Robert Costa of The Washington Post, Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, Jerry Seib, Washington bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, and Neera Tanden, president of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress. 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 on this Memorial Day weekend. In a moment, we'll bring you my interview with Bernie Sanders. But this holiday weekend, we're going to pause to take a look at this head-scratching presidential race. Let's admit up front, that every year, some people are upset at the major party choices that they have for president.

And it's always this hold-your-nose business, lesser of two evils, and we push through it. But how did we get here? How did we get to the point where on one side, Hillary Clinton would be the most unpopular nominee in history if not for the fact that Donald Trump is even more unpopular.

There are many possible answers to that question. But it's undeniable that this week, both candidates seem to be doing whatever they could to make matters even worse. And while we're all asking what does this mean for November, maybe we should start asking what does this mean for January.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

Thank goodness for emails. I love emails. Frankly, what Hillary has done is criminal, folks. It's criminal.

CHUCK TODD:

Donald Trump harping on the Clinton email scandal that just won't go away. This week, a State Department inspector general said, Hillary Clinton did break the rules, that she never asked for permission to use a private server and would have been denied if she had. The report contradicts what Clinton has said before and since.

SEC. HILLARY CLINTON:

Well, it was allowed and the rules have been clarified since I left about the practice.

CHUCK TODD:

The problem for Trump, he has his own transparency issue.

SEC. HILLARY CLINTON:

My question is really simple. If you have paid federal income tax, show us.

CHUCK TODD:

Just 19 percent of voters give Clinton good ratings for being honest and straightforward. But even fewer say Trump has the right temperament to be president. Trump is putting Clinton's vulnerabilities on display.

DONALD TRUMP:

Hillary is a disaster, folks. She has bad judgment. That was said by Bernie Sanders. He's given me a lot of my best lines.

CHUCK TODD:

And Trump is trying to drag the Clintons back into the '90s, reminding voters of Bill Clinton's affairs and sexual misconduct.

DONALD TRUMP:

Nobody, nobody, perhaps in the history of politics was worse to women or abused women more than Bill Clinton.

CHUCK TODD:

But Trump has had his own affairs.

DONALD TRUMP:

Can you imagine how controversial I would be? You think about him with the women, how 'bout me with the women?

CHUCK TODD:

This week, Trump exposed Republican divisions, mocking his party's most prominent Latina politician, New Mexico Governor, Susana Martinez.

DONALD TRUMP:

She's not doing the job. Hey, maybe I'll run for governor of New Mexico.

CHUCK TODD:

And infighting within his own campaign, firing his recently-hired political director. Still, so far, Trump appears to be a candidate coated in Teflon. Not so much for Clinton. One difference is how each candidate deals with their vulnerabilities. Trump almost embraces the attack.

DONALD TRUMP:

I end up with a lawsuit and it ends up in San Diego, in federal court. And I figure, "What the hell? Why not talk about it for two minutes? Should I talk about it? Yes?"

CHUCK TODD:

While Clinton struggles to explain.

HILLARY CLINTON:

The information that we had is out there, it's been clearly public. And my email use was widely known.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Bernie Sanders of course is presenting himself as the more acceptable alternative to both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I got the chance to talk to him yesterday just after he held a rally in Santa Barbara, California, in advance, of course, of the June 7th California primary. And I began by asking him about his difficult path to the Democratic nomination.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with a simple question, but maybe a complicated answer. How do you win? Senator Clinton has basically declared herself the nominee, the math is certainly very much in her favor. Explain to me how you're the nominee in July in your head.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Fair question. And I think there are three paths to victory. Number one, I want to go into the convention with more pledged delegates than Secretary Clinton. And that's going to be an uphill fight. Because for 270 or so delegates, and we've got 46 percent of the pledged delegates. What I want to do, and I think we can, is win California here, and win under the big vote, do very, very well in the other five states.

And I believe going into the convention, if we can do this, with the majority of pledged delegates, is a very symbolic victory. Second of all, we're going to talk to those superdelegates in states where we have won landslide victories, 60, 70, 80 percent of the vote, to say, "Do what the people in your state want. They voted for Bernie Sanders, you as the superdelegates should follow their wishes."

Third point and most important point, as you know Chuck, there are over 400 superdelegates who came onto secretary Clinton's campaign eight months before the first ballot was cast. Before anybody else was in the race. Before they could get a sense of what the campaign was about.

Right now, in every major poll, national poll and statewide poll done in the last month, six weeks, we are defeating Trump often by big numbers, and always at a larger margin than Secretary Clinton is. We're going to make the case to the superdelegates, "Your job is to make sure that Trump is defeated, that Bernie Sanders, in fact, for a variety of reasons, not just polling, is the strongest candidate.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator, in your answer there, you're basically contradicting yourself on the issue of superdelegates in this way: you're saying you want them to respect the vote in their state, then at the same time, you say, "But oh, by the way, for those of you that are a superdelegate in a state that Clinton won, why don't you think about the general election?" It's a little bit hypocritical to be on both sides of those issues.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

No, no, no, that's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is, there are over 400 superdelegates who made a decision to vote for Secretary Clinton before anyone else was in the race. Before they got a sense of what the campaign was about. And all that I am saying is for those superdelegates who came onboard before I was even in the race, you have got the very grave responsibility to make sure that Trump does not become elected president of the United States.

Vote for the strongest candidate. And it's not just the polls, Chuck. If you look at the momentum and the energy and the enthusiasm of our grassroots campaign, it will result in a higher voter turnout. And Democrats and progressives do well when the voter turnout is high. Republicans do well when the voter turnout is low. I think our message of income and wealth inequality, the fact that we're the only major country on earth not to have healthcare for all people is resonating. It will win the general election.

CHUCK TODD:

Is it fair to say then if you don't win California, you believe your campaign is over?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

No, that's what you said. I didn't say. What I said is obviously California is very, very important, 475 superdelegates. Obviously, if we don't do well in California, it will make our path much much harder. No question about it. But I think we have a good chance to win in California, maybe win big, and maybe win four or five of the other states that are off on June 7th.

CHUCK TODD:

But without a California victory, you can't win a majority of pledged delegates. And obviously, you will once again not succeed in a big state with a diverse population. It's going to be hard for you to convince Democrats to go with you without a California victory. Fair?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Hey, look, Chuck, California is the big enchilada, so to speak. Obviously it is enormously important, and obviously we want to win it. But let me just tell you something. You know, my campaign has been written off from before we started. Nobody thought we would do anything. We've now won 20 states, primaries and caucuses, and I think by the end of the process, we may win half of the states. So we're going to fight till the last vote is cast and try to appeal to the last delegate that we can.

CHUCK TODD:

Last week with me, Secretary Clinton said when it comes to party unity, she's doing her part, she's going to do her part. But that there is a responsibility that falls on you as well. If she's the nominee, that you have a responsibility to do what it takes to bring your supporters onboard with her. Do you accept that responsibility?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Well, the responsibility that I accept in a very, very serious way is to do everything that I can to make sure that Donald Trump will not become elected president of the United States. Donald Trump, for a dozen different reasons, would be a disaster as president. I will do everything that I can to make sure that does not happen.

But at the end of the day, whether it's Secretary Clinton of Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump, anybody else, the way you gain support is through the candidate himself or herself. So my job is to make sure that Trump does not become president. And I will do that. But if Secretary Clinton is the nominee, it is her job to reach out to millions of people and make the case as to why she is going to defend working families and the middle, provide healthcare for all people, take on Wall Street, deal aggressively with climate change. That is the candidate's job to do.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that. But you just said you want to do whatever it takes to stop him. You don't believe you need to be out there telling your supporters, "You may not be happy with Hillary Clinton, but she's better than him"?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Well, no question about that. No question about that. But where my mind is right now is to do everything that I can in the remaining caucuses and primaries to try to win them and make the case. But if your question is do I think that Secretary Clinton is significantly a better candidate for America than is Donald Trump, that is not a debate. Of course that is true.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think Hillary Clinton needs a clean bill of health from the F.B.I. before she accepts the Democrat nomination?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Well, I have said many, many times that I'm trying to run a campaign based on the needs of the American people. And that is raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, paid family and medical leave, making public colleges and universities tuition-free---

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that--

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Those are the issues, by the way, that the American people are deeply concerned about. But so I have not gotten into the email situation at all. There is a process unfolding. There's an investigation that is going on. It will play out and we'll see what happens.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that. But do you think for the Democratic party and for superdelegates, do you think it's important for them to find out what the F.B.I.'s going to do before the vote in Philadelphia?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Well, that's not the decision of superdelegates or anybody else. That's the decision of the F.B.I.. I have no idea when they are going to make their report public or come up with their conclusions. But do I think that whenever that happens, if it happens, that that will be an issue that Donald Trump and the Republicans will seize on? I think there is little doubt about that.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, you told The Wall Street Journal in November that if Clinton's email practices foiled public records requests, or compromised classified information, that those were valid questions. Well, the State Department I.G. Report said just that. What was your reaction to that report, and does that trouble you? Does that add to your list of issues that you believe she has a judgment problem then?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Well, again, you know, these are areas that I have stayed away from. There is a process, people will draw their conclusions from the inspector general report. But again, you know, I think the American people are tired of that type of politics. And I think the media and the candidates have got to talk about why the middle class is in decline and why we have massive levels of income and wealth inequality.

Those issues are more important to the American people than some of the issues you have been talking about. And those are the issues that I focus on. I just gave an hour speech right here in Santa Barbara, it wasn't about emails, it was about the future of the American middle class and how we deal with the fundamental problems that they are facing.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you have a problem when some of your supporters are quoted in The New York Times saying they're sort of rooting for an F.B.I. indictment when it comes to Clinton? Do you tell your supporters not to talk that way?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

I'll tell you, I have a real problem with The New York Times, which from day one, has been trying to be dismissive of our campaign and be very negative about our campaign. You can go out and you can talk to millions of people and you any get response that you want. Our campaign is about defeating Secretary Clinton on the real issues.

I want to break up the Wall Street banks. She doesn't. I want to raise the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour. She wants $12 an hour. I voted against the War in Iraq. She voted for the War in Iraq. I believe we should ban fracking. She does not. I believe we should have tax on carbon and deal aggressively with climate change. That is not her position. Those are some of the issues that I am campaigning on that The New York Times goes around, when they talk to a handful of people and do a front-page story, that's a problem for The New York Times, not for my campaign.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I want to ask you a little bit about the platform and the Democratic party issues platform that's coming up. A couple of your appointees, when it comes to the issue of Israel, including Cornel West, he refers to the Palestinians as "the plight of an occupied people." Do you agree with his characterization?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

What I believe is that the United States is going to be playing on a level playing field in dealing with Israel and the Palestinian people. I am 100 percent pro Israel in the sense of Israel's right to exist, I lived in Israel, I have family in Israel, Israel has the right to live not only in peace and security, but to know that their very existence will be protected by the United States government.

On the other hand, I think if we're looking at lasting peace in the Middle East, the United States has got to respect the needs of the Palestinian people. They cannot be pushed aside. So that is my view. And, you know, other people can say whatever they want. That is my view.

CHUCK TODD:

What do you want the platform to say? Do you want to refer to the Palestinians as an occupied people? Do you want to say that Israel is occupying Gaza?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Well, we're a little bit early about worrying about the wording of what the Democratic platform will be. We've got some good people on our platform-writing committee. But I think at the end of the day, there will be a general recognition by the entire Democratic convention, that of course Israel's right to exist in peace and security is not in debate.

But on the other hand, the Palestinian people's needs must also be respected. I have the feeling that while the media wants to make this into a great conflict, I think there's going to be broad consensus within the Democratic convention on that issue.

CHUCK TODD:

Fair enough. Final question, on Friday, you warned Secretary Clinton that if she ends up the nominee, that her running mate essentially better not be a conservative or moderate type of Democrat if she wants to win over your supporters and certainly have your enthusiastic support. Do you consider someone like Tim Kaine falling into that category, the Virginia senator, that he's too conservative or moderate to be on the Democratic ticket?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Again, Chuck, I don't want to shock you, but I think we are once again into a little bit of speculation. I have known Tim Kaine for years. I really like him very much. My point was, and let me repeat it, that for Democrats to win, they're going to have to address the needs of working people. They're going to have to address the needs of the middle class.

And that means standing up to Wall Street, standing up to the greed of corporate America. Even now and then, standing up to the media. And that means having a candidate who can excite working families, excite young people, bring them into the political process, create a large voter turnout.

And when we do that, we're going to win the election. So I would hope, if I am not the nominee, that the vice presidential candidate will not be from Wall Street, will be somebody who has a history of standing up and fighting for working families, taking on the drug companies whose greed is doing so much harm, taking on Wall Street, taking on corporate America, and fight for a government that works for all of us, not just the one percent.

CHUCK TODD:

Would you take the call if Hillary Clinton asked you to be her running mate?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Well, right now, again, here we are in California, I'm knocking my brains out to win the Democratic nomination.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes you are.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

That's where I am right now. What happens afterwards, we will see. But right now, my focus is on winning the nomination.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, that was a very political type of answer that says you're not answering the question. Fair enough, you're not ruling it out.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

What I am saying right now is our focus is on winning the Democratic nomination.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Senator Bernie Sanders from Santa Barbara, California, thanks for coming on. Stay safe on the trail, sir.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Thank you very much.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

And later in the broadcast, my interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger, on the state of the Republican party in the age of Trump. Meanwhile, throughout the morning on this Memorial Day weekend, we're going to honor the men and women in uniform who have died in the past year in service to our country, starting with conflict zones like Afghanistan.

* * *COMMERCIAL BREAK* * *

CHUCK TODD:

And we are back, panel is here. Jerry Seib, Washington Bureau Chief with The Wall Street Journal, my partner with the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, Neera Tanden, president of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress and a member of the platform committee for Hillary Clinton.

Republican pollster and strategist Kellyanne Conway, and Robert Costa of The Washington Post. Welcome all. Neera, since you are somebody that the Hillary Clinton campaign has appointed to this, Bernie Sanders, is that still an opponent, an aggressive opponent of Hillary Clinton? The Bernie Sanders you just heard?

NEERA TANDEN:

I thought he made a lot of great points about Democratic unity. I welcome that. I mean, he does seem to really focus on the general election, which will be against Donald Trump. And I think he made clear that that is the paramount concern for Democrats. We face a person who's sort of unprecedented in history in this general election. And I think he'll be clear about that when this primary's over into June.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Yeah, that sounds great, but it's not true. I mean, he is running--to me Senator Sanders is the most aggressive against Secretary Clinton he's been in the year he's been running here--

NEERA TANDEN:

I just disagree.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Okay, well, he's won 20 states, ten million voters and counting.

NEERA TANDEN:

Sure, sure.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

And he now wants to kick off your platform committee, members like Barney Frank, and former congressmen and Governor Malloy. He's in open warfare with the Democratic National Committee.

NEERA TANDEN:

He didn't look like open warfare there to me, I must say.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Then why doesn't he drop out?

NEERA TANDEN:

Because he wants--

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

He said he promises a messy convention in Philadelphia. And look, so look as Bernie Sanders is playing Robin to Donald Trump's Batman, these guys are waging a two-front war, street fight against Hillary Clinton--

NEERA TANDEN:

Absolutely. I hear that. I hear that. And that is definitely why her negatives are where they are. But--

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Unity--

NEERA TANDEN:

But the point here is that I was on Hillary Clinton's campaign eight years ago, and it was a hard-fought campaign at this point. And then just as the primary ended, Hillary endorsed Obama and was a strong champion for him and united the party.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

But--

NEERA TANDEN:

And there's nothing in what he said--

JERRY SEIB:

I thought what I heard in that interview was the terms of the merger being negotiated. You know, here's what it's going to take. You've got to be respectful of me--

CHUCK TODD:

Very Wall Street Journal of you, by the way, in terms of the merger.

JERRY SEIB:

We all play to stereotypes, don't we? Got to be respectful to my people, you've got to give me some things on the platform, and you've got to pick a vice presidential nominee that I can say that I can live with. But what he didn't say when you asked him, "Do you have some responsibility for making your supporters back Hillary Clinton ultimately," he wouldn't go there. Now maybe it's too early, but that's the real question for me, is will he tell his people, "You've got to go there," or will he back off?

NEERA TANDEN

I think he's already doing that. I think he's already doing that by what he said here.

ROBERT COSTA:

And he seems pretty confident, the senator, when it comes to the platform, that he's going to get some of his people on this committee. But the way he answered the Tim Kaine question, he praised Senator Kaine, but this was not an enthusiastic embrace. I think he's still waiting to spend his political capital on the running mate. He wants a progressive in there. He thinks this is the way he shaped the campaign. It's not just about the platform. It's about who's on the ticket, should he not win the nomination.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, part of this week though, by the way, is there is now handwringing in Democratic party world. And I will give Robby Mook his quote, the quote of the day this morning, the campaign manager for Hillary Clinton, "It wouldn't be a general election without some early bedwetting from Washington insiders." But there's a reason.

JERRY SEIB:

Present company excluded.

CHUCK TODD:

Exactly. There's a reason for it, Jerry Seib, and it's how she's dealt with the email controversy. Here's a compilation of just Thursday.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SEC. HILLARY CLINTON:

I know people have concerns about this. I understand that. But I think voters are going to be looking at the full picture of what I have to offer.

You know, the fact is, people have official accounts, they have personal accounts, and when it comes to personal, people don't want their personal email accounts made public.

It was allowed, and the rules have been clarified since I left about the practice.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

The New York Times editorial board, Bernie Sanders' favorite newspaper these days, "[T]he nation should not be judging leadership as a measure of who is less untrustworthy. Mrs. Clinton has to answer questions about the report thoroughly and candidly. That is her best path back to the larger task of campaigning for the presidency." They don't want to do this, Jerry.

JERRY SEIB:

No, they don't. I mean, and I think that the hope is that it would go away. But I also think the belief is that the candid answers continue to get her into trouble. But I tend to agree that with the word candidly in there, the best way to approach this probably is to just say, "Look, here's what happened. You all know what happened. There's no mystery left in this. I did this because I did want some privacy for my email accounts. It was a mistake, let's move on."

Now, that probably won't be sufficient. Look, we all know the big issue yet to come isn't what the inspector general of the State Department said, it's what the Justice Department says ultimately. And what happens when she's interviewed by the F.B.I., which is almost certain to happen.

ROBERT COSTA:

But it's not just the answer, it's how Secretary Clinton answers. And what we saw this week was her insert herself more into the national political conversation. Maybe taking a cue from Donald Trump. She's appearing on different programs, she's calling into shows. She's trying to not just have some rote answers. She knows this is going to be a combative general election and she has to be in the arena.

CHUCK TODD:

But I have to say, and I'm curious what your guys' take on this is, the two different ways they deal with their baggage. Here's Donald Trump who actually decided to talk about Trump University and he attacks the judge. Here he is.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump. A hater. He's a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curiel. They ought to look into Judge Curiel, because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace, okay? But we'll come back in November. Wouldn't that be wild? If I'm president and I come back to do a civil case?

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Kellyanne, when you attack a federal judge that's in the middle of dealing with a case you're involved in, you might get headlines like this one in The Washington Post, "Judge bashed by Trump orders release of company records." And suddenly, in the next two weeks, there's going to be a whole lot more Trump University. Now he does handle his baggage a lot differently than Hillary Clinton does. But will it eventually catch up to him?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

No. And ask the 16 Republicans who ran against him in the primaries. And we see Hillary and her surrogates really recycling those same arguments, including Trump University. Here's something Donald Trump has mastered, which is very surprising to all of us in the political class.

For somebody who's never run for office before, he understands that old axiom, "Define yourself before you're defined." And he puts all of this out there, Chuck, himself so that when the voters hear it for the 15th time, it doesn't strike them as brand new information. The inspector general's report, brand new information. And let me just say this one other thing about Hillary and the inspector general's report.

It's a very unusual place for her because she does best when she can blame the vast right-wing conspiracy for her perils. This is the inspector general of the State Department of the Obama administration. This is his justice department looking at this.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Neera, I'll give you a chance to respond. I know you want to.

NEERA TANDEN:

Where can you respond? I mean, we did have a lot of news this week, right, about Donald Trump. And I would say you're right, that he was able to defeat the Republican primary. But that does not mean that he will do well in the general election, because he has the highest negatives of anyone.

He has, just this week, we've learned all kinds of new information about him, including what we'll learn next week, he'll never return his taxes, he was betting on the housing crisis, essentially. And I think the idea that he's Teflon is ridiculous, when he has the highest negatives of anyone running for president ever--

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Neera do you know what he's got that Hillary doesn't have? He's actually the nominee of his party. And she's not.

NEERA TANDEN:

Yes, and she will soon.

CHUCK TODD:

All right.

NEERA TANDEN:

She will be. And then we'll see how united the party--

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Tell the 10 million Sanders voters that.

CHUCK TODD:

We will take a pause, because you guys will be returning. We'll be back in a moment with a man who knows a little something about running for office as a celebrity outsider. My interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger, about Donald Trump and his new poll in advance of the June 7th California primary. And as we go to break, we continue to honor those service members who have died in conflict zones just in the last year. More from Afghanistan.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

And welcome back. This election isn't the first time someone well known for being an entertainer found himself in a position of political power. In fact, the state of California has brought a few of them to us, including song-and-dance man George Murphy, who became a U.S. Senator. And of course, Ronald Reagan, you may have heard of him.

You could say that our next guest helped prep this generation for taking an entertainer seriously as a political player. Arnold Schwarzenegger served as the governor of California from 2003 to 2011 and he joins me now. Governor Schwarzenegger, welcome back to Meet the Press.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER:

Thank you, Chuck. It's wonderful to be back.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, this has been a year for outsider candidates. It's obviously something you're familiar with. Many people have made some comparisons of your candidacy in 2003 and Donald Trump's today. What similarities do you see and what are the differences?

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER:

Well, I don't really study that much of what is the difference between Donald Trump and my candidacy. I study much more the field polls and USC Schwarzenegger polls that were just done about what do the people really think. And what is the main interest in the people's minds when you have our election now on June 6th, so that is really - or June 7th I should say.

This is really my interest. And this is why we did the poll and this is why we really came up with these wonderful studies. And they're quite interesting. I think when you look at it, the important thing that comes out of that is that 69 percent of the people want our politicians to work together. And I think this should be a message to Democrats and Republicans to work together. And this is why people are very upset about Washington today.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, I want to play something that you said in 2004 about what made you a Republican. And then find out if that still holds today. Here it is.

(BEGIN TAPE)

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER:

Then I heard Nixon speak. He was talking about free enterprise, getting the government off your back, lowering the taxes and strengthening the military. Listening to Nixon speak sounded more like a breath of fresh air. I said to my friend, I said, "What party is he?" My friend said, "He's a Republican." I said, "Then I am a Republican."

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Can you comfortably say that today with Donald Trump as the standard bearer for the Republican party?

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER:

I comfortably can say that I am a Republican and I always will be a Republican because the Republican party is a big tent and there was not always things that I agreed with or they didn't agree with me many times. But the fact of the matter is that's the philosophy, and everything that I've heard is exactly the same.

And I think that what is more important about it is not what do I think about Donald Trump. We have to talk about the bigger issue. And this is what do the people really feel. And the fascinating thing about the poll was that both Democrats and Republicans found that the most important is to really improve the economy and to create more jobs.

They were all sensing when it comes to social security, to save social security and to really take care of public schools. And they're concerned about the public education in general. And those are the kind of issues that Democrats and Republicans are concerned about. Of course they have different ways of solving this problem, and depending if they're Democrat or Republicans.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, let me just ask it straight forward. Are you ready to support Donald Trump for president? I know you're a John Kasich supporter, you went and campaigned for him. Are you going to support Trump? And will you go to the convention in Cleveland?

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER:

Chuck, as I said, to me the most important thing is now to talk about the latest poll numbers and how the people of California feel and how the people in America basically feel. Because I think it is important that we go and bring both of the parties together. The more we go to the left, the more we go to the right, I believe of what President Eisenhower said, "Politics is like the road. The left and the right represents the gutter, and the middle is drivable."

And I think this is exactly where the action is, is in the middle. I have seen it when I was governor of the state of California. I have seen it firsthand, that the only way we brought Democrats and Republicans together, we could really solve very important issues. I remember that's how we really started rebuilding California and invested $60 billion in infrastructure.

That's when we go and created the AB 32 where we made a commitment to reducing our greenhouse gasses to 25 percent by the year 2020, where we upped our renewables and all this great stuff that is happening when both of the parties work together.

CHUCK TODD:

Governor, I can't help but notice though, you're avoiding saying anything about Trump. You're not saying you're for him, you're not saying you're against him. You're trying to stay out of it. I get it. But is that what you're trying to do here? By you not saying anything, you're actually making a statement.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER:

No, not really, because I try to stay focused. Remember, there's one thing that I've liked over the years when I've promoted bodybuilding and fitness and my movies and politics and issues and so on is to stay focused. So today I want to talk about our poll numbers. Now polls that we have taken, the field polls that the USC Schwarzenegger Institute released this last week and I want to talk about that, because that is really important for the state of California.

It's important that the people know how they feel and in which direction to go, and it also will help the candidates to listen to the people carefully, and not to deviate from that and to really talk about those very important issues, since we have the primaries coming up in California, I think the presidential candidates, whoever they are, have to address those issues.

CHUCK TODD:

And finally, I want to ask you a question about your native country Austria. Because what was fascinating is you could argue that they had an election which it came down to somebody from the far left, maybe similar to a Bernie Sanders, and someone from the far right, a nativist of sorts. And nobody was happy with their choices. All of a sudden, this country is experiencing an appeal of a socialist and the appeal of a nativist. What lessons do you think Americans should take away from this?

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER:

I think that it is pretty much in many different countries I've seen that, that they're looking for an outsider and people are dissatisfied with the status quo. And people are dissatisfied basically with the action that is being created in those capitalists. The politicians are not keeping their promises, and politicians don't solve the problems.

And this is why you see in our poll numbers that 69 percent of the people say, "The politicians have to work together." That is the most important thing. And they have to come to a compromise. And in Washington, not much is getting done. Some of it is getting done, but not much.

And I think that to spend billions of dollars on the capital, and it is the worst investment, because nothing is getting done. So therefore, the people are looking for something else. And they don't know where to turn to. And so this is what you see in America and this is what you have seen in Austria and this is what you see in Germany and this is what you see in France. And you see this all over the place.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I'm going to ask you one last time. Do you plan on publicly saying whether you'll be for Trump?

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER:

I will make an announcement before the election, you can be sure of that. But I will do it my way. Which is always an unusual way. As you remember that I announced my candidacy for governor on The Tonight Show. So that was very unusual, and I will do exactly the same thing also with the endorsement. So I will study the various different candidates, what they represent, all that stuff, and I will then make up my mind and I would make the endorsement. So I will make an endorsement, but it will not be here, because then that would be the headline.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, and I guess you're saying we're too usual of a place to do this, we're not unusual enough. Anyway, Governor Schwarzenegger, it's pleasure sir, thanks for coming on.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER:

Thank you very much for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

Appreciate it. When we come back, is the Clinton-Trump race really as close as the latest polls indicate? We've got some new data that suggests one of the candidates may soon get a very nice bump. That's next.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

And we are back. It's data download time. So how much is Bernie Sanders hurting Hillary Clinton? Democrats, of course, still locked in their primary battle. Republicans starting to get behind their nominee. And recent polls of course have shown an increasingly tight race. So the question is, is this tightness something that's going to last till November or is this a current Sanders phenomenon?

Meaning, Bernie Sanders supporters aren't coming home to the Democrats? Well if history's any guide, we think that's what it is. Clinton should pick up about 70 percent of the current people right now that say they're for Sanders against Trump but not yet ready to vote for Clinton. Call them the Sanders-only voters. We'll show you what they could mean.

Let's start with our latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. We see a close race between Clinton and Trump, 46-43, that's margin of error stuff. While Sanders, double-digit lead against Trump, 54-39. It's an eight-point gap between Clinton and Sanders, so what happens if Clinton gets about 70 percent of that difference if you leave Trump's number as is.

Well, Clinton's lead would jump five points to 51-43. Same phenomenon in other polls. CBS/New York Times, they have Clinton starting with a six-point lead over Trump, they of course had Sanders up double digits as well, 51-38. But if you shift the support from Sanders, Clinton would pick up another three points, and the lead would increase to nine, 50-41.

Finally, we'll show you what happens in the Fox News poll, where Clinton actually trailed Trump by three points, 45-42, Sanders led Trump in their poll, 46-42. Well, you do the same thing, 70 percent of those Sanders-only voters, Clinton would poll even, to 45-45. The point is, Sanders is hurting Clinton right now. By the way, in 2008, Barack Obama picked up, you guessed it, three points against John McCain in the first NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll after Hillary Clinton dropped out.

Look, the polls between Clinton and Trump are tight right now. That's not a surprise. But it gives you an idea that if Democrats do rally around their nominee, what the race may look like just before the conventions begin. We'll see if that actually happens though. Sanders supporters don't seem ready to move just yet. We'll be back in a moment.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Let me bring the panel back. You know, the biggest political story of the month may be taking place right now in Orlando, the Libertarian Party Convention. Don't laugh, I know, because their place on the ballot, they could be "none of the above," if that's possible. And in fact, we noted, we actually put a battleground map together of what would happen if you have a third-party candidacy like the Libertarians who can get 10 percent.

So here's the initial battleground map, here the states that we know will be in play no matter what, those are in purple there, ten states in there. If the Libertarians can get ten, we think these three red states, Arizona, Missouri, and Indiana, suddenly come into play perhaps for Clinton. And then we've got two blue states to put in Minnesota and Maine, under the same scenario that those are states that suddenly get put into play for Trump. Jerry, do you think the Libertarians are going to make a splash this year?

JERRY SEIB:

I think they could. As you know, in our polling, Wall Street Journal/NBC News, or NBC News/Wall Street Journal as you call it, we found that there were so many respondents asked about a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump who were responding, "I won't vote in that race," that we had to create a new answer. If those people find someplace else to go, even if it's only to make a statement, it could be a significant enough number to tip some states. And that matters.

CHUCK TODD:

Kellyanne, are you nervous about the Libertarians hurting Trump?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Yes, because I think Hillary Clinton can get to 43, 44 percent before she gets out of bed in the morning, but getting her to 51 percent in a two-person race seems to be roiling her. So yes, if they grab some votes. But this convention, based on the public reports, I mean, Bill Welds as vice president running mates has had a hard time," he's confusing Libertarian with liberal Republicans. So I think the party--

CHUCK TODD:

What's interesting--you do that. You gave me a segue. Let me first show you, there is a primary of sorts that is taking place. They had a debate last night. First let me give you a little of Gary Johnson, the 2012 nominee, former New Mexico Republican governor, who is trying to be the mainstream Libertarian nominee this time. Here was him yesterday.

(BEGIN TAPE)

GARY JOHNSON:

The Libertarian Party is growing. What I'd like to do is I'd like to fill up your current weekly meeting that's occurring in the treehouse to an auditorium. Here it is, we're at a threshold here, a real threshold to grow this party and to make it better.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

So that's Gary Johnson's argument. Here's a compilation of some of his opponents that were on that debate stage.

AUSTIN PETERSEN:

I believe in a world where gay, married couples can protect their marijuana fields with fully-automatic machine guns, baby.

MARC ALLAN FELDMAN:

As a physician, I think it's a very good idea to have two separate bathrooms, one for people who wash their hands, and one for people who don't.

DARRYL W. PERRY::

Everything should be as legal as tomatoes. I think people are smart enough to know not to give heroin to a child unless under the direct supervision of a doctor.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Robert, there actually is a real chance what Kellyanne was bringing where Gary Johnson could get rejected by his party, and the Libertarians then suddenly are not a factor.

ROBERT COSTA:

He could. When I was on Capitol Hill this week, he talked to some members of the House and Republican senators. And they were inching close to the idea of maybe supporting the Libertarian ticket. But then they watched these candidates, they watched this convention, and they realized it's an imperfect vessel. And this is a problem for many of these never-Trump Republicans. They're considering Libertarian but they just don't fit into that culture.

CHUCK TODD:

Neera, where do you think this sort of neither, the none-of-the-above vote goes? Does it go to greens and Libertarians and sort of split? Do they not show up? Does turnout actually go down, not up?

NEERA TANDEN:

I think actually a lot of the negativity of this race is designed to lower turnout. And I think that's actually Trump's strategy, to be so negative about everything that he actually lowers Democratic turnout. But I think, look, going into this race, it's a crazy year. So if it's not Johnson and somebody else, I think that still could attract some Republicans, even though you would think that some of these statements would disqualify them.

JERRY SEIB:

You know, we shouldn't forget, there's another place the none-of-the-above vote can go, and that's to the Green party. And that some of the Sanders voters could drift there, just again, to make a statement. That's a potential problem.

NEERA TANDEN:

Yeah, we have a history there with Democrats, which is Ralph Nader. And a lot of people feel like Ralph Nader actually is turning the election towards--that Republicans don't have.

ROBERT COSTA:

Because you look at Trump as a non-interventionist on foreign policy, and some of those Ron Paul, Rand Paul supporters have drifted toward Trump because they see the main Republican party as too hawkish.

CHUCK TODD:

Actually, Kellyanne, I could make an argument he's more -- Trump would be more comfortable in the Libertarian party than he would in the Republican.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Well, but that's because the Libertarians are comfortable with Trump as their nominee. And I think they will be. Look, none of the above, this year is no more outsiders, it's who is the change agent. And I don't think there's a single hidden Hillary vote in the country. I think there are many hidden Trump votes. People who just don't want to engage at the cappuccino counter or water cooler --

CHUCK TODD:

It's a fascinating debate. I've had people swear to me there's hidden Hillary votes on the right.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

There aren't.

CHUCK TODD:

Hidden Trump votes on the left. We'll find out in November.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

We'll see.

CHUCK TODD:

We'll be back, 45 seconds, endgame segment, with a look at what a Trump/Sanders debate might have looked like had it happened. And a quick programming note, my colleague Richard Engel got rare access into America's drone warfare operation. And a sit-down with the C.I.A. Director John Brennan to talk about our country's drone strategy. You can watch that report on On Assignment, which airs tonight at 7:00 Eastern, 6:00 Central on NBC. We'll be right back.

* * *COMMERCIAL BREAK* * *

CHUCK TODD:

Endgame time, panel is here. You know, there was another player in the Trump/Clinton campaign this week, and it was President Obama, overseas in Japan, historic visit, by the way, to Hiroshima. But he was asked about what foreign leaders at the G7 meeting are saying about Donald Trump. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

It's fair to say that they are surprised by the Republican nominee. They are not sure how seriously to take some of his pronouncements. But they're rattled by it. And for good reason.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Jerry, there's a couple of unusual things about that statement. Number one, that he did it overseas. And there was some criticism was that appropriate or not. At the same time, Trump embraced the attack.

JERRY SEIB:

Yeah, exactly, well, which is what Donald Trump does. But A) you do hear that a fair amount from people who go overseas, U.S. officials and business leaders, frankly, do tell me that they get the same thing. B) it also suggests to you that Barack Obama is raring to go to campaign for Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump. He does not want his legacy to be named Donald Trump.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Well, except I thought the most remarkable thing President Obama said later on there was that the quote "eventual Democratic nominee," leaving open the possibility that it may not be Hillary Clinton. So I didn't hear him say that he's campaigning for Hillary Clinton and he's endorsed her. He said the eventual Democratic nominee, why?

NEERA TANDEN:

We'll see in a few weeks. I think he went through his own experience, which is we had a long Democratic primary eight years ago, and then Hillary was really unified with him. And I expect President Obama to be campaigning, and the fact that his numbers are up now is going to be very helpful.

CHUCK TODD:

That's what's--

ROBERT COSTA:

We talk about the Bernie Sanders bump in the polling, and once President Obama gets and the campaign trail--

NEERA TANDEN:

Endorses Hillary. No question.

ROBERT COSTA:

And you see the Republican party, the elders in the Republican party are just not with Trump in a significant way.

CHUCK TODD:

And that's been amazing, as President Obama, nobody maybe has benefited more from this topsy-turvy primary campaign than Barack Obama.

NEERA TANDEN:Or Donald Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

JERRY SEIB:

And the Clinton campaign people, you know this Neera, will tell you that most of the Trump rise in the polls in the last few weeks has been consolidation of the Republican vote. That's the biggest portion of his rise. And she will get her share of that when there's a consolidation on the Democratic side. How big, we'll find out.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

NEERA TANDEN:

You might see Donald Trump's high-water mark, 42 percent, 43 percent, 44 percent. She has a lot more room to move. But it may be the case.

CHUCK TODD:

We do have two conventions. And it's like, you know, I think we know where the race will be right before the convention, the question is where is it going to be after. But we're not going to get Trump/Sanders debate, but we thought we'd put together a facsimile. Here it is.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

We're going to run against crazy Bernie.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Donald Trump is toast.

DONALD TRUMP:

This socialist-slash-communist.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

It is not a wild, socialist idea.

DONALD TRUMP:

He's a crazy man.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

But he claims, he claims to be a billionaire.

DONALD TRUMP:

A lot of the Bernie Sanders people have said they're voting for Trump.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

We defeat Donald Trump by very large numbers.

DONALD TRUMP:

Big, big, huge victory.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

A huge voter turnout.

DONALD TRUMP:

Huge victories all over the place.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

Huge, and I mean huge.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

09:57:37;06 Pay-per-view, would you have paid?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Oh yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Oh yeah.

JERRY SEIB:

In a minute.

CHUCK TODD:

Whatever it's worth, 25 bucks?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

I think so. And Hillary would have been the odd man out.

NEERA TANDEN::

But yet it didn't happen. I wonder why it didn't happen.

CHUCK TODD:

I don't understand, Robert, why didn't Trump say yes to this?

ROBERT COSTA:

Trump's explanation is that he doesn't want to go against someone he thinks is going to come in second in the Democratic race. But Trump's a showman. I'm surprised it didn't happen.

CHUCK TODD:

I was stunned.

NEERA TANDEN:

Sanders is a good debater. Maybe he recognized that he couldn't handle it.

JERRY SEIB:

A lot of downside in that for Donald Trump I think.

CHUCK TODD:

I don't know. The only person that was the loser was going to be--

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Hillary Clinton.

CHUCK TODD:

Hillary Clinton.

NEERA TANDEN:

No, I don't think so. I don't think so--

ROBERT COSTA:

--But doesn't it show you the kind of populism that's popular out there?

CHUCK TODD:

Well, we shall see. Oh well. Maybe for another campaign here. That's all for today though. We'll be back next week, because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *