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Meet the Press - October 25, 2015

MEET THE PRESS -- SUNDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2015

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday the new frontrunner in Iowa. Ben Carson surges ahead of the pack, shocking the pundits and getting under Donald Trump's skin.

DONALD TRUMP:

I'm Presbyterian. I mean Seven Day Adventists I don't know about.

CHUCK TODD:

My sit down with Ben Carson who isn't holding back.

BEN CARSON:

That people can come up with a reasonable explanation of why they would like to kill a baby, I'll listen.

CHUCK TODD:

Plus, did Republicans fumble their moment at that Benghazi hearing.

TREY GOWDY:

I don't know what ya'll were doing Thursday, I had a rough Thursday.

CHUCK TODD:

We'll talk to the leading figures of the Benghazi committee, Republican Trey Gowdy and Democrat Elijah Cummings.

And Clinton's big week. The Democratic debate, won. Joe Biden, out. The Benghazi hearing, over. The 10 days that could've vaulted Hillary Clinton to the Democratic nomination.

HILLARY CLINTON:

It's been quite a week hasn't it?

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me for insight and analysis this Sunday morning are CNBC's John Harwood, Pulitzer Prize winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin, and Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press.

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. We've just come through perhaps the most significant ten days in the 2016 campaign to date. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton reestablished herself as the clear front runner. She won last week's Democratic debate. Two of her lesser opponent, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee dropped out of the race. Joe Biden decided he had no path to victory.

And on top of all that, Clinton was almost universally seen as having survived, and some even thought she might've thrived at that House Benghazi hearing. On the Republican side, the candidates that are struggling are really feeling the pressure. Here's Jeb Bush unplugged yesterday.

(BEGIN TAPE)

JEB BUSH:

I've got a lot of really cool things that I could do other than sit around being miserable listening to people demonize me and me feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Wow, a lot to dig into there, which we will later in the show. And now, not one, but two polls show Ben Carson leading Donald Trump and all the rest of the Republicans in Iowa. And guess what? We are now just 99 days away from that snowy Monday in Iowa where we'll find out who wins the caucuses. And Carson's under-the-radar rise has bewildered the smarty-pants crowd here in Washington. And I caught up with Carson in Ames, Iowa yesterday, and began by asking him to respond to these comments from Donald Trump.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (ON TAPE):

We have a breaking story. Donald Trump has fallen to second place behind Ben Carson. We informed Ben, but he was sleeping.

CHUCK TODD:

How do you respond to Mr. Trump?

DR. BEN CARSON:

You know, everybody has their own personality. And if he'd like to do that, that's fine. That's not who I am. And I don't get into the mud pit. And I'm not going to be talking about people. I will tell you in terms of energy I'm not sure that there's anybody else running who's spent 18 or 20 hours intently operating on somebody.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think that people mistaken your soft-spokenness with a lack of energy?

DR. BEN CARSON:

I think so. I have plenty of energy. But, you know, I am soft-spoken. I do have a tendency to be relaxed. I wasn't always like that. There was a time when I was, you know, very volatile. But, you know, I changed.

CHUCK TODD:

When was that?

DR. BEN CARSON:

As a teenager. I would go after people with rocks, and bricks, and baseball bats, and hammers. And, of course, many people know the story when I was 14 and I tried to stab someone. And, you know, fortunately, you know, my life has been changed. And I'm a very different person now.

CHUCK TODD:

Why do you so easily go to Nazi metaphors? You refer to, when you were talking about health care, you referred to a Gestapo. A lot of times, the minute you talk about the Nazis, the minute you talk about the Holocaust, people stop listening.

DR. BEN CARSON:

Although interestingly enough, you know, in the last several weeks, I've heard from many people in the Jewish community, including rabbis, who said, "You're spot on. You are exactly right." And I think, you know, some of the people in your business quite frankly who like to try to stir things up and try to make this into a big, horrible thing.

If I say something about something that we don't want to become and we never even want to get close to it, then I'm comparing it and I'm saying we're there. That's what they do. And, of course, for people who aren't really thinking deeply, you know, that resonates. But, you know, the fortunate thing is a lot of people really do think for themselves, as you can see, you know, from the poll numbers here.

CHUCK TODD:

You talked about, you said a lot of Jewish people reached out to you about, saying you were spot on. So you believe if the Jewish citizenry were armed during the Holocaust, during the '40s, that they would have been able to stop the Nazis?

DR. BEN CARSON:

Well, look at the whole context in which I have said that and which I have written about it. I wrote about societies, before tyranny was able to take root, that the tyrants tried to rid the people of the mechanism to defend themselves. So it was said in that context. And I think it is generally agreed that it's much more difficult to dominate people who are armed than people who are not armed. You know, some people will try to take that and, you know, make it into an anti-Jewish thing, which is foolishness.

CHUCK TODD:

On your position on guns, a little bit of a contradiction. In one article in Breitbart, you indicated that there really shouldn't be a line about what types of weapons. That the second amendment, you know, if the government can have, you know, an automatic weapon, then the citizenry should have the right to buy an automatic weapon.

And then at the same time, you have said in places where there are a lot of crowds, referring, I think, to cities, you don't want a crazy person ending up with the wrong type of weapon. So you seem to be open to limiting that. What is your stand on this?

DR. BEN CARSON:

Well, my point being we should never compromise the Second Amendment. It's therefore a very, very important reason. And Noah Webster said that America would never suffer under tyranny because if people were armed. So we need to keep that in mind. Of course, we should be thinking about what can we do to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of mentally unstable people. The two things are not incompatible. But--

CHUCK TODD:

So you're not saying there should be a limitation on what type of weapon a sane person should be able to buy?

DR. BEN CARSON:

Of course not. You know, when we put this amendment in place, you know, state-of-the-art weapon was what? A musket? But the principle was that the citizenry should have, you know, access to whatever they needed in order to protect themselves from an overly aggressive government.

CHUCK TODD:

What's the line? I mean, should somebody be able to have one of these surface-to-air missiles?

DR. BEN CARSON:

I don't think you can get a surface-to-air missile legally in this country.

CHUCK TODD:

And that's okay? I mean, that's my point. Like, you're okay with having, you know, anything you can hold, you know, there is some limitation on what somebody--

DR. BEN CARSON:

There is. And we have laws that, you know, take care of that.

CHUCK TODD:

Does life begin at conception?

DR. BEN CARSON:

I believe it does.

CHUCK TODD:

Does that mean, whose right, I guess, should be superseded? The mother or the unborn child? Whose rights, who has greater rights?

DR. BEN CARSON:

In the ideal situation, the mother should not believe that the baby is her enemy and should not be looking to terminate the baby. You know, things are set up in such a way that the person in the world who has the greatest interest in protecting the baby is the mother. We've allowed the purveyors of the division to make mothers think that that baby is their enemy and that they have a right to kill it. Can you see how perverted that line of thinking is?

CHUCK TODD:

What if somebody has an unwanted pregnancy? Should they have the right to terminate?

DR. BEN CARSON:

No. Think about this. During slavery-- and I know that's one of those words you're not supposed to say, but I'm saying it. During slavery, a lot of the slave owners thought that they had the right to do whatever they wanted to that slave. Anything that they chose to do. And, you know, what if the abolitionist had said, you know, "I don't believe in slavery. I think it's wrong. But you guys do whatever you want to do"? Where would we be?

CHUCK TODD: Definitively, do you want to see Roe v. Wade overturned?

DR. BEN CARSON:

Ultimately, I would love to see it overturned.

CHUCK TODD:

And that means all abortions illegal? Or is there still an exception that you would have?

DR. BEN CARSON:

I'm a reasonable person. And if people can come up with a reasonable explanation of why they would like to kill a baby, I'll listen.

CHUCK TODD:

Life and health of the mother?

DR. BEN CARSON:

Again, that's an extraordinarily rare situation. But if in that very rare situation it occurred, I believe there's room to discuss that.

CHUCK TODD:

Rape and incest?

DR. BEN CARSON:

Rape and incest, I would not be in favor of killing a baby because the baby came about in that way. And all you have to do is go and look up the many stories of people who have led very useful lives who were the result of rape or incest.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to move to health care. You have, I think a lot of people don't realize this. You believe we should get rid of Medicare and replace it with sort of a, I think, from birth to death plan where you would, the government would give you $2,000 a year. Explain how--

DR. BEN CARSON:

No--

CHUCK TODD:

--you would-- okay, I may have--

DR. BEN CARSON:

Not--

CHUCK TODD:

--misinterpreted it. Explain how you would--

DR. BEN CARSON:

Not correct.

CHUCK TODD:

--replace Medicare.

DR. BEN CARSON:

First of all, what I have said is that the system that I would put in place would largely negate the need for Medicare or for Medicaid. So I'm not talking about getting rid of those programs. And the way that I generally see things, entitlement programs, et cetera, is we create a mechanism that allows people to ascend the ladder of success to the extent that they don't need those programs anymore. That's what I'm talking about. Now, people will always try to reinterpret that to say, "Carson wants to get rid of this. He wants to get rid of that. And he wants to leave all these people in a terrible situation." That's propaganda.

CHUCK TODD:

How do you, but you, how do you implement this?

DR. BEN CARSON:

Well, the way you do it is we make health savings accounts available to people from the day that they are born to the day that they die, at which time they can pass it on to their family. We pay for it with the same traditional dollars that we pay for our health care with. Recognize that in America we spend twice as much per capita on health care as many other countries.

And yet we have these horrible access problems. So we have adequate resources. We just don't use them in an efficient way. And then we give people the ability to shift money within their health savings account within their family. If you're $500 short, your wife can give it to you out of hers. Or your daughter, or your uncle, or your cousin. It makes, It gives you enormous flexibility without a middleman.

CHUCK TODD:

So you're basically you would eliminate insurance companies? Health insurance companies?

DR. BEN CARSON:

I'm not finished.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

DR. BEN CARSON:

Okay, that'll take care of the largest number of incidents that you're likely to occur. Now, it doesn't take care of catastrophic health care. But you can buy a catastrophic health care policy. And it's going to cost you a lot less now because the vast majority of things are coming out of your HSA.

So the only thing coming out of your catastrophic insurance is real catastrophic health care. It's sort of like having a homeowner's policy with a big deductible versus a homeowner's policy where you want every scratch covered. Two completely different animals.

CHUCK TODD:

But you are advocating for the government to sort of spend this money and just allocate it in a different way.

DR. BEN CARSON:

Well, yeah. The money from Medicaid, it's going to take care of those health savings accounts, yes.

CHUCK TODD:

Final question. You would not, I'm guessing you would not hire somebody to be a doctor if they didn't have experience in the medical field. What do you say to folks that say, "Why should we hire you as president when you have no experience in government or the political field?"

DR. BEN CARSON:

I would say that there are a lot of people who like to believe that whatever they do is the end-all and that nobody could absolutely do things better than they could. It's sort of like the Constitution. People say, "What are you doing talking about the Constitution? You're not a constitutional lawyer."

Well, the Constitution was written at a eighth grade level for a reason. They wanted the people to be able to understand how they were being governed. And our government was set up for citizen statesmen, not for career politicians. And, you know, common sense is a lot more valuable than many years in the political arena.

Witness the fact that in Congress we have 8,700 years of political experience. Where has that gotten us? And I think the people are willing to open their eyes and say, "Let's talk about common sense." Now, that doesn't mean that if someone like me were to get in, that we wouldn't have plenty of people around us who were well-seasoned in what was going on in Washington and in various parts of the world.

CHUCK TODD:

So you're going to surround yourself with experienced people is what you're saying?

DR. BEN CARSON:

I think you have to do that. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said in Proverbs 11:14, "In a multitude of counselors is safety." If the wisest man who ever lived thought that, I certainly believe that. I think you're a fool if you think you know everything.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

You can see my complete interview with Ben Carson, unedited. We get into Syria, the debt ceiling, a few other issues. That's on our website, MeetThePressNBC.com. Coming up, you remember this scene from Thursday's Benghazi hearings?

(BEGIN TAPE)

TREY GOWDY:

The survivors? Even their names? You want that? You want that released?

ELIJAH CUMMINGS:

Let me tell you something. No. You know, but let me tell you something.

TREY GOWDY:

The only one you've asked for is Sidney Blumenthal. That's the only one you've asked for. That and Miss Mills.

LINDA SANCHEZ:

Cheryl Mills.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

The top two members of that select House committee on Benghazi. That, when we return.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. It's not hard to find Democrats who think Republicans are out of the mainstream, or Republicans who think it's Democrats that are out of the mainstream of American opinion. So which party really is in the mainstream? Well, in our latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, we asked Americans which political party is in the mainstream on these six issues: gay marriage, abortion, climate change, immigration, fiscal issues, and guns.

Well, not surprisingly, Democratic primary voters believe they're in the mainstream on all six of those issues, from gay marriage down to guns. And Republican primary voters believed they're in the mainstream on all six issues. Somebody's got to be wrong here, right?

So who do we go to figure this out? Well, yes, independents. And there's good news here if you're the Democrats. Because among independents in our poll, they believe the Democratic party is in the mainstream on three of the six issues: gay marriage, abortion, and climate change. On the issue of guns, they believe it's the Republicans that are in the mainstream.

The only issue that they say the Republicans are in the mainstream. By the way, on the two big fiscal issues here, immigration and economic issues overall, independents believe both parties are more out of the mainstream. So what are we to conclude from this? Well, number one, look, the independent voter came to reflect the total electorate better than either party.

But this is what it's going to mean a year from now. In October, three or four weeks before election day, it means Republicans are going to use the gun issue as a wedge in some of these swing states. Think Colorado, think Iowa, think Virginia. And Democrats are going to use the issues of marriage, abortion, and climate change as wedge issues in other parts of those same swing states.

Probably in the suburbs. You saw it in '12, you're going to see it again in '16. What you won't see is either party arguing about the two issues that both are out of the mainstream on. Coming up, where do we go from here on the Benghazi investigation? I'm going to ask the top Republican and Democrat on the committee when we return.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. For months, many Republicans look to Hillary Clinton's testimony before the House Benghazi Committee as the moment where she would be exposed for failing to protect American lives, and frankly, potentially, even lying about it. More recently, many Democrats look to the hearings with similar anticipation, hoping this would be the day Clinton came off as the adult in the room and exposed the committee as a partisan charade.

While judging by these headlines from The Washington Post, Time, and Politico, it looks like perhaps the Democrats got their way at least on the PR front. Joining me now this morning are the chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, Republican Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, and the ranking Democrat on that committee, Elijah Cummings of Maryland. Congressman Cummings, we will get to you in a moment. We're going to start with Chairman Gowdy. Chairman, good morning sir.

TREY GOWDY:

Good morning to you and to Mr. Cummings.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with playing a clip of something, you are asked on Thursday evening after the hearing. Here it is.

TREY GOWDY (ON TAPE):

Well, when you say new today, we knew some of that already. We knew about the emails. In terms of her testimony? I don't know that she testified that much differently today than she has the previous time she's testified. So I'd have to go back and look at the transcript.

CHUCK TODD:

All right? Simple question, you looked at the transcript I imagine in the last 72 hours, what have you come up with?

TREY GOWDY:

Well, I think there's some new information, Chuck, and some clarifying information in all three charges of Benghazi. If you look at the tranches that I think Secretary Clinton has the most information on, it's that first tranche that before, when she's asked, whether she takes responsibility, she says, "Yes."

But when you ask responsibility for what, I can't tell you what she's taking responsibility for. And my main fear there is how are we better prepared to avoid the next Benghazi if we don't fully understand who made the errors and where the errors were made last time. So with respect to responsibility, with the placing of the mission, with the request for more security, I have a perspective which is rooted in the previous ARB that the Secretary of State, himself or herself, should do that personal review.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes.

TREY GOWDY:

Her position is that there are people and processes in place and she relies on security experts. We've got to get that reconciled. Because I think Mr. Cummings and I both agree that the penultimate objective is to avoid the next Benghazi.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you, we did a little calculation here on the number of words that you used during the hearing. You said the word "Benghazi" 17 times, "Blumenthal" 35 times, "emails" 76 times. You have made a promise that you were keeping the focus on Benghazi. Do you feel as if you did as much or, you know, even some Republicans were wondering why you were going down the Sidney Blumenthal, what some call the rabbit hole.

TREY GOWDY:

Well, I don't think it's a rabbit hole, Chuck, and I'll tell you why. I mean, I respect the fact that other people have different perspectives. But to me, those are not Sidney Blumenthal's emails. They are Secretary Clinton's emails to or from Sidney Blumenthal. And every one of them relates to Libya and Benghazi.

So I'm not reading Blumenthal emails about bridesmaids dresses or wedding plans or yoga. These are all about Libya and Benghazi. And to the extent that he was one of the more prolific emailers to her on the subject matter, how do you not ask? How does this person who has no formal role in government and no expertise in Libya or Benghazi, how does he have unfettered access to you, but the ambassador, there is not a single email to or from him? So I get that people want to refer to these as Sidney Blumenthal emails. They're Hillary Clinton emails that she received from him. And frankly, I think it'd be a dereliction of duty if you didn't ask about them.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, nobody is questioning whether to ask about them. I think it was the amount of time spent on it. It seemed like a larger portion of time was spent on that. For instance, I didn't hear as many questions that I expected to hear on the Libya policy in general. You know, the vacuum that was left that ultimately created the security situation that we had in Benghazi that led to the death of four Americans.

TREY GOWDY:

I think Peter Roskam and Mike Pompeo both ask, maybe all of their series of questions on the tick tock memo and I remember Susan Brooks having a stack of emails in 2011 versus 2012. And 2011, there was a heightened interest in Libya and Benghazi, in 2012, it appeared to dissipate at least according to the emails.

So, I mean, Chuck, as you know, but when you go into hearings, each of the seven members has his or her own lane. That's what they're going to ask on. And I do think it is relevant on two different levels. Whether or not his emails were solicited or unsolicited, you could certainly argue is irrelevant. But she said they were unsolicited. And I do think credibility is always relevant. If they were truly unsolicited, then she wouldn't have changed her testimony on Thursday.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this, you said this the other night on FOX with Greta Van Susteren. You said, "Part of what I saw yesterday, Greta, wasn't all that constructive. And for the American people to just tune into a nine-hour food fight, I would err on the side of a private one before I would do that."

It was in response to a question about future witnesses that you would bring on, whether it would be on TV or not. It sounds like you may regret how you went about questioning Secretary Clinton, that maybe you should've done some of it off camera and only some of it on camera. What do over do you want?

TREY GOWDY:

Well, Chuck it was a voluntary interview. I didn't send the subpoena to Secretary Clinton. It was a voluntary interview, and she wanted it to be in public. I wrote a letter several months ago giving her an option. And she chose public. And that's well within her right.

I can just tell you that of the 50-some odd interviews we have done thus far, the vast majority of them have been private. And you don't see the bickering among the members of Congress and private interviews. You don't see any of that. So the venue that is most constructive--

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think TV camera adds to the grandstanding on both sides of the aisle?

TREY GOWDY:

What do you think, Chuck? I mean, you've been following Congress for a long time. I can just tell you in the private interviews, there is never any of what you saw Thursday. It is one hour on the Republican side, one hour on the Democrat side. Which is why you're going to see the next two-dozen interviews done privately, because it is, I mean, look at the other investigations that are being done right now. The Lois Lerner investigation that was just announced, was that public or private? How about Comey's investigation? Is that public or private? The private ones always produce better results.

CHUCK TODD:

Very quickly, Secretary Clinton, was she a cooperative witness?

TREY GOWDY:

She answered the questions. And I would note, I don't think I ever cut her off. She was given ample opportunity. So she answered the questions, yeah. If that's your definition of cooperative, yes.

CHUCK TODD:

Is that yours?

TREY GOWDY:

You know, I've always also injected an element of wholeness and completeness and also truthfulness in the definition of cooperative. And I'll give you one example. I gave her an opportunity to tell me where the 90% to 95% figure comes from. She's wrong about that. So did she cooperate in answering the question? Yes. Was it an accurate answer? No.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Congressman Gowdy, I will leave it there. Thank you very much. Let me bring in the ranking Democrat on the Benghazi Committee from Maryland, Elijah Cummings. Congressman Cummings, welcome back to Meet the Press.

ELIJAH CUMMINGS:

Good to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start quickly with I guess the one issue that a lot of people had with how the Democrats handled themselves. We tallied up 68 total questions to Secretary Clinton. Sixteen of them at best could we call "challenging." Why did you guys choose a strategy of shield rather than a strategy of really what Tammy Duckworth did, probably the one Democrat that did it the most, of conducting the hearing, asking questions about the security situation?

ELIJAH CUMMINGS:

From the very beginning, Chuck, I said we were looking for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And in many instances, we found ourselves having to not defend Secretary Clinton, but to make sure that the record was complete.

And I'm glad that the public had an opportunity to see all of that. And I mean, when you're looking at what we were asking about, they were the things that went to Benghazi, the things that we were supposed to be dealing with from the very beginning. And when the families came in, many of them with tears in their eyes, they asked us to only do three things. One, they asked us to make sure that we made sure that this did not happen again.

They wanted us to look for the facts, more facts than we already had. And they asked us for one final thing. They asked us to make sure that we did not turn this into a political football. So all we were trying to do is make sure that we defended the truth.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, there was one new fact I think that a lot of people came away with. And that was the characterization of the attack itself. And there's always been this controversy that the White House was conflating the video issues that took place versus what happened in Benghazi that night.

One of the emails said, that was turned up was an email Secretary Clinton, I'm going to put it up here, to her daughter Chelsea Clinton, who, by the way, used the pseudonym "Diane Reynolds" in her email, and on September 11th, that night, Secretary Clinton classified it as a terrorist attack by an Al Qaeda-like group. Three days later, Secretary Clinton said this:

HILLARY CLINTON (ON TAPE):

We've seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We've seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful internet video that we had nothing to do with.

CHUCK TODD:

Did that trouble you, that there were two stories here? And does that deserve an extra line of inquiry?

ELIJAH CUMMINGS:

No, not at all. As a matter of fact, I thought the secretary explained it very well. Remember what she said during the hearing, and she said this over and over again, that on the night of the incident, Ansar Al-sharia said that they had committed this offense. So when she was writing a note to her daughter, emailing her daughter, and making those statements, that was one thing.

The next day, and then by the way, they were getting intelligence from a lot of folks. And some of it said it was with regard to the video. Others said that it was an attack. And so therefore, the information was flawed. And the information that she got even from the intelligence community was a little bit mixed.

So she was basically talking about what she knew at those moments. And I've got to tell you, Chuck, one of the things that we have to give her credit for is when she was turning over her emails, that email to her daughter, you could've easily considered that personal. But because she mentioned the attacks, she included that in the stacks of emails that she turned over to the committee. And that just goes to show you that she was trying to do the right thing.

CHUCK TODD:

There's been some talk that you and the rest of the Democrats might resign from the committee and not see this through. Where are you on that this morning?

ELIJAH CUMMINGS:

We have decided to stay on the committee because somebody has to be in the room to defend the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And if you think about it, if you listen to the questions that were being asked by Republicans and the way they tried to attack her, you really did need to have Democrats in the room to give the other side of the story.

Not so much as to defend her, but to try to make sure that the complete picture was painted. One of the things that I have asked Chairman Gowdy to do is release all the transcripts with appropriate redactions for sensitivity. Because I want the public to actually see what's in these transcripts.

Because I believe that once they see what's in the transcripts, they will have a pretty good idea of what this is all about. And it will verify what Congressman McCarthy said, it will verify what Congressman Hanna said and the self-described Republican conservative employee, what he said.

CHUCK TODD:

Very quickly, are you running for the U.S. Senate in Maryland?

ELIJAH CUMMINGS:

I'm going to meet with my family and we're going to make that decision. When I'm not even in the race, by the way, and I'm leading by 13 points, it does give me an idea of how I would do. So we'll figure that out. But right now, I didn't want this to have anything to do with politics. So I said that I would wait till Benghazi was over. Hopefully it will be over and I'm hoping that Chairman Gowdy will give us a date certain to end this. After all, we've now spent close to $5 million on this.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Congressman Cummings, let the record show, you are paying attention to your polling in a race that you're not yet in.

ELIJAH CUMMINGS:

Oh yeah, you've got to do that.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Congressman Cummings, thanks for coming on Meet the Press. When we come back, who's laughing now? The ten days that some may believe just handed the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

It would be hard to imagine a campaign stretch that could've gone better for Hillary Clinton, a debate win, Joe Biden deciding not to run, and then Clinton coming out on the other side of the Benghazi hearings looking politically a lot better than the Republican committee members. Substance is another story perhaps for the general election debate. At the very least, Clinton won by not losing, a capstone to a ten-day period during which she tightened her grip on the Democratic nomination.

(BEGIN TAPE)

HILLARY CLINTON:

Did any of you see our debate in Las Vegas?

CHUCK TODD:

Last night, a victory lap.

CROWD:

I'm with her! I'm with her!

CHUCK TODD:

Capping ten pivotal days. If Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination--

HILLARY CLINTON:

Will you all caucus for me on February the 1st?

CHUCK TODD:

--October will go down as the month she secured it.

HILLARY CLINTON:

It's been quite a week, hasn't it?

CHUCK TODD:

In September, Clinton was licking her wounds, leading Bernie Sanders in national polls by just seven points. Forced onto TV to explain the growing storm over her emails.

HILLARY CLINTON:

You know how much I love being interviewed.

CHUCK TODD:

What a difference a month makes. From October 13th, when Clinton quieted Democratic nerves at the first debate, with an assist from Senator Bernie Sanders.

BERNIE SANDERS:

The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.

CHUCK TODD:

To October 21st, when Vice President Joe Biden bowed out of the race.

JOE BIDEN:

I believe we're out of time.

CHUCK TODD:

Ending 82 days of speculation about his own presidential ambitions.

BILL CLINTON:

We're old friends, we had a good talk.

HILLARY CLINTON:

If I know Joe, he'll be right there with us on the front lines.

CHUCK TODD:

To October 22nd, when Clinton survived an 11-hour hearing largely unscathed.

HILLARY CLINTON:

I'm sorry that it doesn't fit your narrative, congressman. I can only tell you what the facts were.

CHUCK TODD:

A string of successes has persuaded Democrats that she's worth rallying behind. At that Benghazi hearing, Clinton was good, not great. But her opponents made her look polished and presidential by comparison.

REP. PETER ROSKAM:

I can pause while you're reading your notes from your staff.

REP. MIKE POMPEO:

And I'm happy to bring breakfast in. But when you're asking and answering a question, it'd sure be helpful if we could get to the answer.

CHUCK TODD:

On Friday, the nation's largest public employee union endorsed Clinton. Progressive blogger Markos Moulitsas tweeted, "Hillary was meh, with a significant portion of the activist left. Thanks GOP, for helping change that."

TREY GOWDY:

I don't know what y'all were doing Thursday, I had a rough Thursday.

CHUCK TODD:

Clinton's challenges are hardly over. As she was testifying, F.B.I. Director James Comey was answering questions in the building next door about the ongoing investigation into her use of a private server.

JAMES COMEY:

I'm confident we have the people and the resources to do it in the way I believe we do all our work, which is promptly, professionally, and independently.

CHUCK TODD:

But Clinton has comforted Democrats who needed persuading that their front runner is determined to win.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Back in a moment with the growing uncertainty in the Republican race. Wait till you hear what Jeb Bush said about all the cool things he'd rather be doing than running for president in this cycle.

* * * COMMERCIAL BREAK * * *

CHUCK TODD:

And we are back. Let's bring in the panel. John Harwood, CNBC's Chief Washington Correspondent, he'll be co-moderating the third Republican Presidential debate this Wednesday. Pulitzer prize winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, she's starting her Trump biography Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn column for the Washington Post. And Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press, you are here to represent the entire outside of the beltway.

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

That's right.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to start with a truly remarkable moment from Jeb Bush, let's see this whole thing again.

(BEGIN TAPE)JEB BUSH:

If this election is about how we're gonna fight to get nothing done then I don't want anything-- I don't want any part of it. I don't want to be elected president to just sit around and see gridlock just become so dominant that people are literally in decline in their lives. That is not my motivation.

I got a lot of other really cool things I could do other than sit around being miserable, listening to people demonize me and me feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Doris?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

Woah.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

I mean, compare that with how McCain handled himself in a similar situation in '07. He was cutting staff as Mr. Bush has, his poll numbers had gone down, he was in a bad place. And he said, "It's how you face a challenge politically and physically that determines your character and your courage." And he said I'm going to be going on a bus, I'm going to be lean and mean, and he said I'm going to go out among the people. And eventually, Mac was back.

I mean you have to take these moments of adversity, and you have to show strength and courage and forward optimism. You can't blame the process. You're it-- you're in it.

CHUCK TODD:

John, every presidential--every president has that political near-death political experience this is Jeb's.

JOHN HARWOOD:

Right he hopes it's a near-death experience

CHUCK TODD:

Right, fair enough.

JOHN HARWOOD:

Look he set out on this race saying he was going to run only if he could do it with joy in his heart. That was an upset candidate right there who doesn't understand what is happening in the race. I think his whole family is a little taken aback by what is this Republican party, what's happening here, why?

He's raised so much money, and I think he's gonna have to figure out a way. His staff says that the cutbacks were a way of adjusting to reality, becoming a new Jeb Bush campaign, we'll see if he can pull it off.

CHUCK TODD:

Jennifer, I want to play for you the first ad Ben Carson put up this week, and then I'm gonna show you Jeb Bush's-- sort of the first ones-- one of the early ads the Super PAC put up. It's two different takes on this year, take a look

(BEGIN TAPE)

BEN CARSON:

Washington is broken. The political class broke it. Together we can drain the swamp, and protect our children's future.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Pretty obvious that message, here's a Right to Rise, the Jeb Bush Super PAC, intro ad for Jeb.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SAM ARD:

If he didn't like a project, it was going to be vetoed.

WILL WEATHERFORD:

It didn't matter if you were Republican. It didn't matter if you were his best friend.

TONI JENNINGS:

He said, "This is where we're going. This is how we're going to reform state government."

BOB BURLESON:

Every politician comes in talking about making change and clearly, there's not much change. But Governor Bush made a lot of changes.

TONI JENNINGS:

He got the nickname "Vito Corleone."

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Ben Carson has read the poll numbers this year.

JENNIFER RUBIN:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

I don't know if Jeb Bush's team has.

JENNIFER RUBIN:

What strikes me is not only the outsider/insider, but how backward looking Jeb Bush's ad was. He's talking about what he's done. His family has an esteemed record, one of the great political families of our era. And it's not enough this time. I'm also struck in that opening segment that you showed, how small he seems. How petty, how put upon.

You have to rise above this. The presidency is about being bigger than life, not smaller, about being optimistic. I think he is so befuddled and so unhappy with this race, that the worst elements in him, rather than the best elements, are coming forward.

CHUCK TODD:

Stephen, I think the last time you were on, Jeb Bush had been in Detroit.

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

Sort of introducing himself. You saw him in March. What do you see now?

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

Well, we actually were starting to look at fundraising numbers for both Bush and Carson. Carson leads Republicans in Michigan, leads Bush dramatically. But what's more interesting is how he's leading. He's leading with small contributions in large numbers throughout the state. People in the upper peninsula of Michigan are giving to the Carson campaign. Bush's support is concentrated in wealthy suburbs of Detroit, Grand Rapids--

CHUCK TODD:

They're obvious places.

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

He's got institutional support. The trick is, neither one of them can win with that strategy alone. They've got to blend the two. Jeb Bush has got to connect with individual voters better. Carson has got to get more institutional support. Who knows what we'll see by March.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, we got to bring in Donald Trump in here. Because Jeb Bush clearly a little bit rattled by what's going on. But so is Donald Trump. My gosh, he's losing in two polls, and apparently the sky is falling. First he attacked the pollsters, it was a Bloomberg/Des Moines Register poll that had it in it. Listen to what Trump said on Saturday attacking the pollsters:

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

I'm number two in Iowa. I said, "I don't believe it." One's Bloomberg, they hate me. The other one is a super liberal newspaper, the Des Moines Register which is third rate, totally third rate, not respected in Iowa. It's a third-rate, crummy newspaper. So I've got these two polls. Bloomberg hates me, don't forget, Michael did want to run for president. Remember that.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Now the same poll, of course, used to have Trump ahead. But then, he decided to take aim at Ben Carson.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

I'm Presbyterian. Can you believe it? Nobody believes I'm Presbyterian. I'm Presbyterian. I'm Presbyterian. Boy, that's down the middle of the road, folks. In all fairness, I mean, Seventh Day Adventist I don't know about.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

He took that little shot, Doris, on the Sabbath for people that are Seventh Day Adventist. So adding insult to injury here.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

Well, I mean, I think the same thing we were saying about Jeb Bush is now important for Mr. Trump. He's in a moment of adversity. How do you handle it? I mean, the wonderful thing that Adlai Stevenson, my old friend said, my old friend, he said, "how do you, but the challenge is not how to win an election, but how you win without proving yourself unworthy to win?"

These kind of comments are going to hurt not just the process, they're going to hurt him, they're going to hurt the general election. And he's got to figure out right now, he's in trouble. And even if it's not big trouble. And he can rise above it. That's what he's going to have to do. You can't just give into it again.

CHUCK TODD:

But this stuff hasn't hurt him yet, John.

JOHN HARWOOD:

No, it hasn't. I do think though the question we've had about Trump is how long is he going to stay in this race, and is he only in it as long as it feels really good? If he loses a caucus or a primary, is that going to be the moment where he says, "I've had enough of this"? It is unusual that at a time when he's still leading national polls, still leading in New Hampshire, still leading in South Carolina, he would be so unnerved by simply falling behind in a poll in Iowa. And so it's got to raise questions about how long he wants to do this.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, I mean, you know, Jennifer, it's not surprising that he's losing in Iowa. Trump shouldn't win it. But Trump could still be the nominee, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum won it, and they weren't nominees. What's he complaining about?

JENNIFER RUBIN:

Well, his entire schtick is built around his invincibility. Everybody else is a loser. He's the only winner. Everybody in government is stupid, he's the only smart person. So as soon as he's not winning everywhere, then his aura of invincibility, that thing that drives him to be a winner, to be the alpha dog, is destroyed. So there is a real question, I think, John. I think you're right, whether he's going to stay in this if he isn't leading everywhere in every poll. That's an expectation game that no one can possibly match.

JOHN HARWOOD:

And I want to defend the Des Moines Register.

CHUCK TODD:

One of the Midwest's great newspapers

JOHN HARWOOD:

I suspect that Donald Trump thought it was a better newspaper when he was leading.

CHUCK TODD:

And there's no doubt. You know, Stephen, for what it's worth, Donald Trump refused to apologize for the knock on Dr. Carson and his religion because he's never apologized for those things.

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

Right. Well I mean, I think this is the scary part of his campaign, this sort of strain of really awful divisiveness. Much of it cloaked in religious terms that we've heard during this campaign. And that's not American. It's not the thing that I think is going to get someone the nomination. But it's playing for some reason among the electorate.

CHUCK TODD:

You know what's interesting here, John Harwood, is if you read today's op-ed page in The New York Times, you were told that the frontrunner might really be Marco Rubio. It's a person we didn't just talk about at all. Do you buy that, very fast?

JOHN HARWOOD:

I think you could make that argument. Look, it's probably going to come down to an outsider candidate and an establishment candidate. And the establishment candidate is likely to win in the end, once a one-on-one matchup occurs. Who's best positioned at this moment to claim that? Maybe Marco Rubio.

CHUCK TODD:

We'll see. It's always been maybe with him. It's always been a lot of maybes. We'll see. When we come back we're going to talk more about the Democratic side of the aisle. Quick reminder here, a little plug for John. The Republican debate in Boulder, Colorado, will air on CNBC on Wednesday. The undercard is at 6:00. The big main event is at 8:00 Eastern. MTP Daily, we'll be out there in Boulder, live as well. Maybe we'll make John come on. Back in just 45 seconds with our Endgame segment. Did Mitt Romney really mean to say ObamaCare was a good thing after all?

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Time now for Endgame. The panel is back. Last night was a big Democrat event, the J-J dinner. Bernie Sanders is now going after Hillary Clinton more directly than he ever has before. Take a look.

(BEGIN TAPE)

BERNIE SANDERS:

Some are trying to rewrite history by saying they voted for one anti-gay law to stop something worse. That's not the case. The Trans-Pacific Partnership. That agreement is not now, nor has it ever been, the gold standard of trade agreements. I listened carefully to what Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld had to say. And I said, "No, they're not telling the truth."

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Stephen, he ticked it off there, Iraq war vote, the Defense of Marriage Act, TPP. Hello, Clintons--

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

Where was this guy during the debate? That was what we wanted to hear him say during the Democratic debate. And he didn't. He didn't step to any of those challenges. I think that some of this is about Bernie Sanders trying to change the internal dynamics in the party rather than hurt Hillary Clinton's chances in the national election. Speaking to Jeff Jack, he is all over her. Speaking on a national stage, he's way more conciliatory.

CHUCK TODD:

What do you make of Bernie, Doris? Is he Gene McCarthy? Or could he be a little Barack Obama and actually take it to the next step?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

Well, I think what he's arguing, and it was interesting when you saw him at the Jeff Jack last night, coming with marchers behind a thing as if he was in an outside movement. I mean, his greatest strength is to say that change comes to America when the outside and the inside come together. And I'm bringing these people from the outside.

It's the way the abolitionists worked, it's the way the anti-slavery people worked, it's the way the women's movement worked, the gay movement. And he's trying to say, "That's the only way Washington is going to change is from the outside. And I'm that movement." And there's a strength in that but then once you get inside, you have to be able to make something happen. I think the interesting thing in watching him last night was that you have to decide after that debate what happens to you internally. And he's decided to become more of a fighter. Hillary, on the other hand, will have that confidence, more important than the polls, more important than the money she's getting she can wake up in the morning now and feel, "I've done something." And maybe that whole sense of entitlement that she had at the beginning, where people thought she's just dynastic, by having a rough patch as she did for so long, she now looks like the new fighter. So it's a good narrative for her campaign.

CHUCK TODD:

Very quickly, Jennifer, does the, do Republican Primary voters change their thinking the stronger she looks?

JENNIFER RUBIN:

I absolutely think so. I think that's one of the reasons that Marco Rubio is looking better. They are not going to be able to nominate just anyone. They're going to have to have someone who's articulate, who knows something about the issues. Chris Christie likes to say, "I can prosecute the case against her." I think that has new resonance after we saw them not prosecute very well at the hearing.

So I think Republican voters, as they get closer to the first elections, are going to say, "Who can we envision on that stage against Hillary?" It's going to be Hillary. It's not going to be Biden and it's not going to be a weak Hillary--

CHUCK TODD:

--Well.

JENNIFER RUBIN:

So who can we get to stand toe-to-toe with her?

CHUCK TODD:

Some people think if it goes to Cleveland, it could be Mitt Romney. But let me tell you what Mitt Romney said about health care. He was quoted, let me read you something here, he was quoted in an obituary for a good friend of his, the founder of Staples, Tom Stemberg.

And he was quoted in the obituary as saying this. This is Governor Romney. "Without Tom pushing it," referring to health care in general, getting more people health care, "I don't think we would've had RomneyCare, and without RomneyCare, I don't think we would've had ObamaCare. So without Tom, a lot of people wouldn't have health insurance." Sounded like pretty much like an endorsement--

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

He's back to his original position on that.

CHUCK TODD:

And then social media caught fire and he writes--

JENNIFER RUBIN:

No, I didn't mean that.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah well, this is what Romney wrote on Facebook a few hours later, "Getting people health insurance is a good thing. And that's what Tom Stemberg fought for. I oppose ObamaCare and believe it has failed, it drove up premiums, took insurance away from people who were promised otherwise and usurped state programs as I said in the campaign. I'd repeal it, replace it with state-crafted plans. What do you make of it, John?

JOHN HARWOOD:

Perfect encapsulation of his great flaw as a candidate. He was not comfortable being himself, owning up to who he was, what he had done. That did not go over well at all.

CHUCK TODD:

And yet, it's almost he's still worried about his own politics.

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

Right, he's not running for anything--

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

Right.

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

What difference does it make?

CHUCK TODD:

Are you sure?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

Well, well. Yet.

CHUCK TODD:

Well are you sure?

STEPHEN HENDERSON

I'm sure.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. That's all we have for today. We'll be back next week with Mitt Romney's announcement-- No, no, no, I'm kidding. We'll be back next week, because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *