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Meet the Press - September 18, 2016

Meet the Press - September 18, 2016

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday an explosion in New York City injuries dozens. Another device is found blocks away.

MALE BYSTANDER:

It sounded like a million pianos just dropped or there was just like a big thunderstorm.

CHUCK TODD:

We'll have the very latest. Plus Donald Trump ends one false claim.

DONALD TRUMP:

President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.

CHUCK TODD:

And embraces new ones.

DONALD TRUMP:

Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the Birther controversy. I finished it.

CHUCK TODD:

Did he end it? Or did he just revive an issue that's bound to hurt him? I'll talk to Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine and Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway. And “margin of panic.” With the polls tightening, that's one way to describe what Hillary Clinton's supporters are feeling. What's behind Clinton's sinking numbers? Joining me for insight and analysis are Republican political strategist Alex Castellanos, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher and NBC News correspondent Katy Tur. Welcome to Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

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

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. Americans woke up with yet another reminder that we're all living under the threat of violence and terror these days. An explosion rocked lower Manhattan around 8:30 last night, wounding more than two dozen people. Later, a second pressure cooker device, a pressure cooker bomb like the one used in the Boston Marathon attack, was found just four blocks to the north. NBC News chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, who happened to be on the scene last night, joins me this morning. So Richard, what can you tell us what we've learned about this incident this morning?

RICHARD ENGEL:

Well, it was a loud explosion. It didn't cause a great deal of damage. It shattered a lot of windows and apparently went off inside a dumpster. Some windows up as high as the fourth story of nearby buildings were shattered. But we're not seeing a lot of scorched ground. We're not seeing a huge crater. It seems to have been quite a crude explosive device.

And then just a few blocks from where I am, that unexploded device was located in a pressure cooker, looked very homemade, the kind of thing you could find a recipe for online. The investigation right now is focusing on the linkages. Who may have been responsible? Was it a group of people? Is it linked to a pipe bomb explosion that went off earlier yesterday in New Jersey?

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

RICHARD ENGEL:

But so far, it doesn't seem to have caused many casualties. About half of those two dozen people or so who were injured have already been sent home.

CHUCK TODD:

Given that your beat usually takes you to the Middle East, and obviously, you spend a lot of time in Turkey, any of your international sources finding any claims? Anybody taking credit for this outside the United States?

RICHARD ENGEL:

I haven't seen any credible claim, just talk and chatter. But I haven't heard of any connection to international terrorism or anything on that level. And unfortunately, it is not just the Middle East. The last year or so, I've been covering a lot of scenes like this all across Europe, as well. And that's what the immediate concern was, did something happen in the United States.

But I will say, this doesn't seem to be the kind of attack that one would stage if you want to kill many people. Putting a bomb in a dumpster or putting it with a timer by a race, it is not the kind of-- similar to the attacks that we've seen where people open fire with assault rifles and things like that.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Richard Engel happened to be on the scene last night when this happened. Richard, thanks very much. That explosion last night in New York, as Richard was referring to, was not the only event yesterday. They may be unrelated, they may not be. But there were incidents where a pipe bomb style explosion along a 5K route in Seaside Park, New Jersey during a race there that Richard was just talking about, it is being investigated as a potential terror incident. But no one was hurt there.

Plus eight people were injured at a mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota, where a man dressed as a security officer and armed with a knife reportedly made references to Allah before he was killed by an off-duty police officer. Let me bring in our justice correspondent, Pete Williams. So Pete, let me start first with the New York City incident. Mayor Bill de Blasio specifically, essentially, said it's not clear this is a terror incident. Okay. What did he mean by that? But it was an intentional device. That seems like we're parsing words.

PETE WILLIAMS:

Well, I think that's right. I think when he was speaking he literally meant we don't have enough evidence to say whether it's a terrorist incident or not. But there's a considerable amount of luck involved here, Charles. First of all, the bomb went off in New Jersey before the race started. So that was apparently a timer. The race was delayed. That's luck number one.

Secondly, that device in New Jersey, which was three pipe bombs taped together, didn't go off entirely. So a lot of evidence was left behind. That's the second piece of good luck. Third piece of good luck, the second device in New York, the pressure cooker, also didn't go off. So there's a lot of evidence for the investigators to look at. And one big question is what do they see in common with the two devices, the one in New Jersey, the one in New York, assuming they can ultimately--

CHUCK TODD:

So investigators are working, New Jersey and New York--

PETE WILLIAMS:

Oh yes.

CHUCK TODD:

--as potentially one person or one group.

PETE WILLIAMS:

Well, they want to know whether there's a connection. They want to know if it's the same person or group. Broadly speaking, there are some similarities. Electronic timers, probably cell phones, in both those things. But on the other hand, these are instructions that are, unfortunately, widely available. The al-Qaeda magazine Inspire for years has run articles about how to build similar devices. So they're going to look at the very microscopic level, how were the wires connected together, that kind of thing.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, now tell me what we know about Minnesota. Is that also definitely unconnected, or is there some thought that there could be a--

PETE WILLIAMS:

Well, there's no reason to think that they're connected at all. It's just that appears to be a coincidence of timing. Nothing similar at all. They'll be looking at the man's past that was shot and killed in the Minnesota incident, looking at his residence, seeing if he was inspired by ISIS propaganda or whatever.

CHUCK TODD:

Going back to New York City, New York City, there are probably more cameras in New York than any city in the world.

PETE WILLIAMS:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

I assume, I've got to think, they may even already think they might have some suspects in mind or persons of interest.

PETE WILLIAMS:

Well, they have some video. It appears that the device that did go off in New York was dropped into this dumpster outside the buildings there. So that's another difference between New York and New Jersey, Chuck, there are cameras everywhere in New York. Not so lucky in New Jersey in finding surveillance video beforehand. But that's another very productive line of inquiry for them.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Pete Williams, I know you'll be working this story to get more. We'll share. Thank you, sir. Both presidential candidates responded to the news last night. In Colorado Springs, as the news was just breaking, Donald Trump called it a bomb, a description that still isn't technically being used by officials in New York.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

Just before I got off the plane, a bomb went off in New York. And nobody knows exactly what's going on. But, boy, we are living in a time, we've got to get very tough, folks. We've got to get very, very tough.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Later, after an event for the Congressional Black Caucus, Hillary Clinton also responded.

(BEGIN TAPE)

HILLARY CLINTON:

I think there's always wiser to wait until you have information before making conclusions.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

News in the explosion comes after the new, more controlled Donald Trump has looked more like the old, unscripted Donald Trump in the past 48 hours. First Trump finally dropped his false suggestion that President Obama wasn't born in the United States and then immediately made another one.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the Birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

For what it's worth the so-called "Birther controversy" did not start with Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign, though there were-- there is some evidence some supporters did go rogue in spreading around the rumor. It did start on the fringes and was perpetuated on the far right. And has been promoted and nurtured by Donald Trump for the past five years. Second on Friday night, Trump against raised the specter of violence against Hillary Clinton. And he did it while arguing, again, falsely that Hillary Clinton wants to abolish the Second Amendment.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons. They should disarm. Let's see what happens to her. Take their guns away. Okay? It'd be very dangerous.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Clinton campaign immediately condemned those remarks, but also hopes that they will help slow Trump's momentum in the polls.

(BEGIN TAPE)

And joining me now is Democratic vice presidential nominee, the Senator from Virginia, Tim Kaine. Senator Kaine, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SENATOR TIM KAINE:

Good to be with you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Before I get into the campaign, I want to get your reaction to the events that happened yesterday, the explosion in New York City. You also had incidents both in Minnesota and New-- New Jersey, all unrelated. Now let me ask you this. It certainly creates concern, this idea that terror now is an everyday part of life that we have to worry about. What can a president do? What should a president do to try to deal with this threat that is now hitting the homeland?

SENATOR TIM KAINE:

Well Chuck, it's really important. And I would say experience really matters. As you know, Hillary Clinton was New York Senator on 9-11 and was there at The World Trade Centers. They were still looking for survivors. And she's been through this. It's been a searing experience in her life. And she was part of the national security team that worked together to revive the hunt and wipe out bin Laden.

And so it is an important time where you have to have experience. You've got to support the military. That's really important. But on these instances, whether they're in our cities or in European cities, the key is having intelligence and having strong alliances where you can share intelligence. That's the way you stop one-off attacks is through intelligence sharing. And you don't get the intelligence sharing unless the alliances, like the N.A.T.O. Alliance, are strong.

CHUCK TODD:

But this is a new normal that Americans just have to deal with?

SENATOR TIM KAINE:

Well look, I don't accept that. I don't accept that it's a new normal. You know, we don't know yet about the cause of these incidents. But we're not allowing it to be a normal. We're trying to destroy ISIS right now. And the second news from yesterday is, you know, the punishing campaign that we're waging against ISIS is shrinking ISIS on the battlefield. That's good news. But the challenge is, as ISIS realizes that they're losing ground, then they see whether they can exploit weaknesses elsewhere.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SENATOR TIM KAINE:

So military strength to shrink ISIS and beat them on the ground. But then the intelligence sharing to stop attacks, that's what we have to do.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator, let me move to the campaign. You know, in New Hampshire the other day, you called the choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton "near existential." Is that hyperbole? Do you believe that our existence is at stake here?

SENATOR TIM KAINE:

I think the fidelity to our values is at stake, Chuck. And let me just say I do think it's a contrast in vision. One of the things I've been doing on the trail the last couple of days is just showing these two books. Hillary has a book filled with all of our campaign platforms and policies. We call it "Stronger Together."

Donald Trump wrote a book when he decided, "I want to run for president." And the book is called Crippled America. And that is the vision choice that Americans have in this election. And let's just use one example. The equality principle. Donald Trump, for five years, was pushing the completely false notion that President Obama wasn't born in the United States and wasn't an American citizen.

And Chuck, it's really important to know how painful that is to so many people. Because, as you know, from the time African-Americans came here to Jamestown in 1619, through the Dred Scott decision in the 1850s, if you were African-American in this country, you could not be a citizen. Whether you were slave or free or born here or born elsewhere, you could not be a citizen. And we had to fight a civil war and change the constitution to change that.

So when Donald Trump, for five years, has been promoting the notion that an African-American president is not a citizen, that is extremely powerful and painful to African-Americans and to others who know this painful chapter in America's history.

CHUCK TODD:

Then Senator, why is this election so close? Why is, all of sudden in the last three weeks, this election's gone from where you guys had a durable lead, and we can debate the margin of it, to now where he now has a viable path to the presidency that, frankly, didn't seem to exist? How did this happen?

SENATOR TIM KAINE:

I think--

CHUCK TODD:

If everything you're saying is true, how did this happen?

SENATOR TIM KAINE:

I think it's because we're a close nation. Chuck, you know I come from Virginia. I am used to only the close races. And I encouraged Secretary Clinton to run in April of 2014. But I told her, "Look, you're going to be the underdog until they call you the winner." We went into the conventions and it was essentially tied.

We did come out of the Philadelphia conventions with a good lead. But it settled back down and it's close. And we think it's going to be close. And we just have to make our case every day about the basic pillars of the campaign: an economy that works for all, being safe through stronger alliances, and building that community of respect rather than disrespect.

CHUCK TODD:

Well clearly one of the problems, though, that you guys have is you're struggling to rebuild the Obama coalition, particularly voters under 35. I want you to take a listen to some voters we talked to yesterday who were Bernie Sanders supporters, who are struggling to support Hillary Clinton. Here it is.

(BEGIN TAPE)

JAKE, 22-YEAR-OLD VOTER:

I think it's a lack of trust. You know, I mean she, you know, from releasing transcripts with big speeches on Wall Street, you know some of the things that Bernie brought out himself in the debates and other things like that, I think that's what people are still holding onto. That's what I'm still holding onto for little bit.

FEAGIN, 23-YEAR-OLD VOTER:

I think a lot of people who were so supportive of Bernie during the primaries feel offended, feel betrayed. And I think it is going to take a little while to earn that trust back with her.

HARSHA, 19-YEAR-OLD VOTER:

Her message wasn't really directed towards millennials and those who are in college. And I definitely think Bernie can help her with that.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

The numbers are clear, Senator Kaine. Voters under 35 are not enthusiastic about her. They're as interested in Gary Johnson as they are Hillary Clinton. And if you don't have them, you don't carry North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Virginia. I think you know that.

SENATOR TIM KAINE:

Yeah, we've got to win them, Chuck. And let me just lay it on the line. Do you believe in climate science or don't you? Millennials do, Hillary Clinton and I do. Donald Trump doesn't. Do you believe women should be able to make their own healthcare decisions or don't you? Millennials do, Hillary Clinton and I do, Donald Trump doesn't.

Do you believe in immigration reform or don't you? We do, millennials do, Donald Trump doesn't. Do you believe in LGBT equality or don't you? We do, millennials do, Donald Trump doesn't. And finally, do you have a plan to deal with college affordability? We have one. Millennials need one. And Donald Trump, with Trump University, has ripped off students. So look, it's on our shoulders to make the case. But on at least five litmus test issues, the differences between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are vast.

CHUCK TODD:

But you didn't mention one thing, and that is this issue of trust and transparency. And one thing I've noticed, with all of the policies that the Hillary Clinton campaign and your ticket has put out, there is nothing on government reform, there's nothing on transparency, there's nothing on how she would -- it's a big difference between her and what Senator Obama promised. He talked about bans about lobbyists working in the executive administration. Look, some of his proposals, they didn't all go through. But he made some pledges and he created some transparency, made some decisions that were necessary and a lot of people wanted to see. Why nothing from that, from Secretary Clinton? Trust is her biggest problem. And yet, there's no pledge about what's she's going to do to conduct a transparent White House.

SENATOR TIM KAINE:

Two things on that, Chuck. First, I think it's understandable that young voters and others want to get into this question. And they need to also assess a Donald Trump who won't release his tax returns, and who has ties with foreign governments that he refuses to reveal. But let's go to Hillary Clinton.

She has said one of the first three pieces of legislation that she's going to push in the first 100 days of her administration is to dramatically change the way campaigns are financed. This is fundamentally about reform and transparency. As you know, we've allowed our campaign finance system to go to a dark money Super PAC, non-transparent system.

CHUCK TODD:

All right.

SENATOR TIM KAINE:

And Democrats support significant reform. We view that as at the heart of the reform of government--

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think she's credible on this issue, though, considering how associated she is with big fundraising and things like that?

SENATOR TIM KAINE:

Absolutely. Because we disclose our donors. We disclose them in the campaign. The foundation discloses the donors. Remember, it was the Trump Foundation that was just caught making an illegal campaign contribution and trying to cover it up. We're all about disclosure and transparency. And we really do think that reforming the way campaigns are financed is the most important transparency government reform that the nation needs right now.

CHUCK TODD:

Senator Kaine, I have to leave it there. I know we're pressed for time. I appreciate you coming on this morning. Thank you, sir. Be safe on the trail.

SENATOR TIM KAINE:

You got it, Chuck, thanks.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, we're going to hear from the other side, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway will join me.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. It’s been a whirlwind 96 hours. That’s pretty much the description you can do for any 96 hours during this campaign. But joining me now is the campaign manager for Donald Trump Kellyanne Conway. Kellyanne welcome back to the show.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Hi Chuck, thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, let me start with Friday's news first. How and when did Donald Trump conclude that the President was born in the United States?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

You’ll have to ask him that. That’s a personal decision. But we heard very clearly the three things he said on his own timeline in his own terms on Friday. Number one, that associates of the Clinton campaign started this Birtherism question in 2007. Mark Penn, in a famous memo questioning President-- Senator Obama's American roots, the Iowa volunteer coordinator, and then of course, as the McClatchy DC bureau chief at the time, now former, Chuck, has confirmed that Sid Blumenthal, big Clinton confidante, on the payroll for the Clinton Foundation, went and told him that President-- Senator Obama was born in Kenya. And in fact, they sent somebody to Africa to check it out.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

So this, you know, Donald Trump is not running for president against Barack Obama in a very bruising, vicious primary in 2008. That was Hillary Clinton. Number two, Donald Trump said he put this to rest. Hillary Clinton couldn't close it, get the information, he did.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

And number three, you heard him say that President Obama was born in this country, period, and he's moving on to all the things he talked about this week, tax reform, child care, tax credits. We got the endorsement of the FOP, the Fraternal Order of Police, huge endorsement. They did not endorse anybody four years ago. They endorsed the more popular, more likable Clinton in 1996. And so we're very happy with developments like that.

CHUCK TODD:

So I guess what I'm curious about, though, is who cares about the Clinton incident? Donald Trump, for five years, perpetuated this. This has been, arguably, part of his political identity for the last five years. So what difference does it make whether Clinton does it? Why do two wrongs make a right in this case? That's what I'm-- forget the Clinton incident for a minute. Why did he perpetuate it for five years after some associates from Hillary Clinton, in your words?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Well, respectfully, Chuck, I disagree. And I disagree with the use of Hillary Clinton famous words, "What difference does it make?" It makes a huge difference as to who started this. Hillary Clinton never saw Barack Obama coming in 2008. That was her campaign. She was going to win. He beat her in the primary fairly and squarely.

Then they never saw Bernie Sanders coming. And they certainly haven't seen our comeback of the last month coming. So she's just not nimble, she's not resilient. She just, it's expected, she deserves it, she's next in line, it's her turn, darn it. And so I do think it matters where it started.

And frankly, on this, as he's been running for president of the United States this year, Donald Trump has talked about every policy issue that there is. We have a few more to go. But if people want to hear what he thinks about policies that affect--

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

--the economy, radical Islamic terrorism, but let's be fair. Tim Kaine, Senator Kaine, just told you before this segment, "Hey, if you want to see what we think about policy, we just wrote a book. Go to our website." Really? We're out there every single day--

CHUCK TODD:

But-- but Kellyanne--

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

--taking the case directly to the voters.

CHUCK TODD:

--hang on a minute. You guys, in a press release on Friday, called Birtherism a smear. You used the word "smear." So for five years, and you were doing it to try to attack Hillary Clinton, does that mean for five years Donald Trump was perpetuating a smear? So if he was, why didn't Donald Trump apologize to the president? Why didn't Donald Trump apologize to the family of somebody who died in a plane crash where he tweeted out innuendo that this person somehow was involved in some cover-up with the birth certificate? If your campaign believes it's a smear, shouldn't Donald Trump apologize to the president?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

We were reminding people where this started. It was used as a smear against Senator Obama by Clinton campaign associates. And by the way, not a bunch of summer interns who just got it all wrong and were a little bit too ambitious. These were chief strategists, pollsters, long-term confidence-- confidantes, who were pushing this.

In 2007 and 2008, Chuck, Donald Trump wasn't running against Barack Obama for president. He wasn't smearing him about this. He was building buildings. He was being his successful self, a job creator. He was revitalizing communities. He was doing economic development everywhere that he had a new project. So let's be fair as to where-- I think it does matter.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

I respectfully disagree, it does matter where it started.

CHUCK TODD:

But Kellyanne, in-- in 2012, when he was thinking about running for president, he tweeted things like this: "An extremely credible source has called my office and told me that Barack Obama's birth certificate is a fraud." Also in 2012, "When I was 18, people called me Donald Trump. When he was 18, Barack Obama was Barry Soweto. Weird." Those are just a number of examples, when he was running for president, where he was bringing up this issue. So how can you just totally dismiss this as part of his political identity?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Chuck, I think the only people less obsessed about this are those still covering it. Mr. Trump made very clear, and we hardly get any kind of clarity from the Clinton campaign on very much. And he took to the podium and took maybe a minute or less to state three very crisp things. And now he's moved onto the issues people care about. I mean it just-- I have to say it's remarkable to me, to be out there with people and hear what they want covered, I'm looking at NBC's poll this morning, Chuck, and I don't see this issue anywhere in the top 40. So I mean top 20.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, look.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Is what I see, and you know--

CHUCK TODD:

I get what you're deflecting. And if I were in your shoes, I understand why you're deflecting.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

I'm not deflecting.

CHUCK TODD:

You are deflecting.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

But why--

CHUCK TODD:

This was five years--

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

You know --

CHUCK TODD:

But hang on. This was five years of his political identity. And by the way, let me ask this. Now that he believes the president was born in the United States, I think he has made a $5 million charity offer or a $50 million charity offer. Is he going to pay up on that front?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

You'd have to tell me the details of that before I can answer that question. However, I do have to say, I want to get back to the poll. I know nobody wants to talk about the polls because they're tightening and were up in many of these swing states--

CHUCK TODD:

After we're talking about it throughout this show. But--

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Well, but let's be fair.

CHUCK TODD:

--I want to talk about Friday.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

The other thing-- okay, we could talk about Friday all you want. I really appreciate-- I can't believe so many in the media were upset that they had to give 25 minutes of coverage to these incredible veterans and military heroes who took the stage to them. Don't they deserve 25 minutes of coverage? I mean everybody's stomping their feet again because people get themselves up in this tizzy and they project onto our campaign what they think--

CHUCK TODD:

Alright.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

--is about to happen. And they keep on being dissuaded--

CHUCK TODD:

Well, wait a minute, though. Why--

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

--of that.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to talk about the Friday event. Why is he so comfortable using the presidential campaign, using, teasing out this announcement where he called, "I want to keep the suspense going?" He talked about that, "Keep the suspense going." Why did he feel so comfortable using this event on Friday to promote the opening of his new hotel? Is that how he's going to conduct himself in the White House?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Our campaign event wasn't the opening the hotel. Our campaign event were military generals and heroes. Frankly, real heroes.

CHUCK TODD:

First words out of his mouth were nice--

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

--showing their support.

CHUCK TODD:

--"Nice hotel." I mean it's pretty clear he was there to promote the hotel, as well.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Because, unlike Hillary Clinton, he doesn't read everything from a binder that somebody has prepared for him. He's a funny guy. He went on Jimmy Fallon this week and showed America his lighter side, Chuck. He just got up and said, "Nice hotel." He can't-- he has gone to other people's hotels and said, "Nice hotel, nice crowd, nice baby in the front." I mean seriously?

So look, I'm sorry that the media thinks that it was going there for something-- they didn't need to go there. They don't need to cover it at all. But they want to cover him. And by the way, you know, if you look at people's Twitter feeds after that event, I think it was they were not profiles in courage. People are supposed to be covering our candidate, not slandering him consistently on social media. And I would say there's a lot of cleaning up to go there.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask, though, another way of asking this issue on whether he truly believes this or whether this was just him looking at the election 15 days away and you telling him, "Hey, you've got to soften your image." Because he has been on now both sides of the following issues: Birtherism, taxes for the wealthy, the Muslim ban, minimum age, Iraq invasion, the Libya intervention, abortion, self-funding his campaign, accepting Syrian refugees, the issue of Japan and nuclear weapons. He's been-- totally changed his position on all of these issues within the last year. Why shouldn't voters look at this and, including the Birtherism comment on Friday, and say, "He's just another politician who will say and do anything to get elected in the moment?"

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

So first, let me address something you said earlier in the question, Chuck. Let me put to rest everybody's presumption that I have ever, ever a single time told Donald Trump, quote, "Soften your image." I walk into Trump Tower every day and I'm quickly reminded this man did very well for himself before I got here. He is his own person. His instincts are excellent. He is a people person. He been successful in T.V., he's been successful in business.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Secondly, to answer your question, this is a man who's running for office the first time. And he's the nominee for president why? Because people do not see him as a politician. You want to take statements he made, positions he took as a private citizen when he was not running and conflate them with-- people see who he is now.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

And Hillary Clinton has changed her mind. You just told her running mate, this woman, you very legitimately said to Tim Kaine. Hillary Clinton has these twin pillar problems of transparency and trustworthiness. And she's done nothing to put to rest either one with all these days to go. I would argue that somebody who is not particularly liked and not particularly trusted by the public, as Hillary Clinton is not, really has nowhere to go.

I mean don't they feel trapped that the polls are tightening now that we're out there giving our message directly to the voters and they're running $22 million of ads, according to Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings, quoted in The New York Times in the last couple days, Chuck, saying "$22 million of ad was a waste." And so she's nowhere near where President Obama was in among some of these coalitions.

CHUCK TODD:

Before election day, are we going to get a definitive explanation from Donald Trump on how, if he's elected president, that he will wall off his corporation, wall off his kids, so that foreign policy decisions don't somehow get intertwined with his international business dealings? Doesn't he owe the voters a detailed explanation of how he's going to do this?

Oh, it looks like we lost the feed there. This was not on her or anybody. We will figure that out. It's been a busy morning. Our apologies for that. Our apologies to Kellyanne. That is not-- we will figure out this technical difficulty in a moment, and we'll be back in a moment with the panel to break everything down of what we just heard. And Later, we're going to discuss the other issue for Clinton. Where have all her supporters gone? Clinton voters, that is. We'll look at one group that may be slipping away from her.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Well as you know we do tape this live and in a few minutes as soon as we can get Kellyanne Conway back, we will let her answer that last question. But let me bring in the panel. In fact, I’m going to go to her right now. Kellyanne Conway, I understand we have you back. I want to give you an opportunity to answer that last question that I have and then we’ll end the interview. And that question is: Is Donald Trump going to present the American public an explanation of how he’s going to wall off his business so that there are not even illusions or any sort of cloud that would hang over foreign policy decisions and his international business dealings?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

So Chuck, thanks for the opportunity to answer the question. So his son-- one of his sons-- Don Jr. addressed this is part on a different network on Friday and of course we will consult with experts on what must be done and comply with the laws and what is needed. Let me just say I hope the same question is asked of Secretary Clinton now. I mean they’ve said they’ll shut down the Clinton Foundation or they’ll get away from it, the family will get away from it if she’s elected, why not now when we know the foundation was using the State Department,which you and I pay for as taxpayers, as a concierge for foreign governments who came in with wads of cash asking for favors. They were given seats at state dinners, they were given favors. You’ll see in emails that folks were talking, dropping the “friend of Bill” --

CHUCK TODD:

So Donald Trump’s not going to do any -- he is going to make a pledge that he will never do any business even remotely related to the Trump Organization while in the White House?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

I don’t make pledges on behalf of him, but as I said he complies with the law and he will ask-- we will ask experts at this campaign what needs to be done, and we will follow the law accordingly. When he is president, he is going to be president for all Americans and he’s going to be-- it’s going to be a full time job for him.

CHUCK TODD:

All right so Kellyanne Conway I think the good news here is there are no conspiracy theories now, either on our end or your end about that little satellite blip there.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

I would never feel that way. Thanks for having me Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

You got it, thanks for your patience.

Alright so the panel is here. Alex Castellanos, political strategist now working for a Trump Super PAC, Building America Now. NBC News campaign correspondent Katy Tur, who’s been covering the Trump campaign. New York Times Columnist Maureen Dowd, whose new book is called The Year of Voting Dangerously. She loves being-- hawking a book, huh? And a first-timer-- Cornell Belcher, one of President Obama’s pollsters in 2008 and 2012. Well, he, live television, it’s all good.

Katy, let me ask you, I do find it interesting Donald Trump, over the last 48 hours has been a lot different than the Donald Trump you covered for the last three weeks.

KATY TUR:

Yeah, he was on prompter quite a bit. He's been off prompter more. Certainly that campaign event or hotel promotion on Friday was a lot different. He did try to give the cameras only, no editorial presence, a tour of his hotel. So that doesn't jive with what Kellyanne was saying.

But he was off-script when he was talking about Robert Gates over the weekend, trashing him, off-script when he was talking about calling it a bomb in New York before any of the officials were calling it a bomb in New York.

He's been going after people on Twitter quite a bit lately. Maureen, you know about this. So this is the Donald Trump that we were seeing more in the past. And I think it's because he is getting more comfortable with the polls. He's rising in the polls and he feels like he can do it.

CHUCK TODD:

Alex, are you getting-- it's like you must have been happy for the three weeks, and then suddenly you're like, "Oh, there's old Donald Trump again, undisciplined Donald Trump." Is he cocky?

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

I don't think you're seeing that. I think you're seeing Donald-- you know, he's always going to be Donald Trump. There is no other Donald Trump, I think as we've learned in this campaign. But I still think this long-term trend has been longer than three weeks, that Donald Trump is moving up in the polls, Hillary Clinton is moving down in the polls.

Donald Trump is strength in an uncertain world. And he is change where we're heading in the wrong direction. And I think sometimes we get lost in the minutiae of the campaign, all these small issues that aren't really central to anyone in making a decision about picking a president.

CHUCK TODD:

Maureen, you know him a little bit better than anybody at this table, I think, even more so than Alex. He loves members of the media. So he does spend a lot of time talking to members of the media, even as he simultaneously hates on them. What are you seeing from him?

MAUREEN DOWD:

Well, I started covering him when he made his first foray in 1999. So a lot is the same because it's all his ego arithmetic. So I said, "Why would voters vote for you?" And he said, "Because I got great ratings on Larry King, and because X number of men hit on Melania." And it was these numbers as sentinels of his success. He said he was going to put his name X number of times on a building he had just built.

So in that sense, he's exactly the same. He's judging himself by these numbers. But in another sense, he's completely the opposite because he was this New York, bon vivant kind of white rapper bling king, and liberal. And now he is an alt-right conservative, women should be punished for abortions, you know, completely different guy. So which guy would he be as president?

CHUCK TODD:

Let me bring up the Birtherism issue, Cornell. Does this-- what happened Friday-- did it put an end, as Donald Trump wants to say? Or did it suddenly give the Clinton campaign a way to motivate President Obama more to help?

CORNELL BELCHER:

Thanks for poking me with the stick with the birther issue.

CHUCK TODD:

I know.

CORNELL BELCHER:

I mean it is something that we've been tracking ever since 2008, through the campaign and it is -- and I'm going to be hawking a book next month, myself. That sort of tracks sort of what has been happening with racial aversion and how it's been impacting the electorate.

And look, I'm not going to play nice games with this. This birtherism stuff is a soft place for racism to land. It is a soft place for racism to land, plain and simple. We've had a couple hundred years of presidents now. And none of them have had this attack on them. The "othering" of the president, the making him not a real American, it is--

CHUCK TODD:

Let me, by the way, Cornell, let me ask you. You were on the '08 campaign with Barack Obama.

CORNELL BELCHER:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you want to clear up what you guys thought about what the Clinton campaign and Sidney Blumenthal? What did you guys believe?

CORNELL BELCHER:

If-- if the-- It's news to us that this was coming in. It’s news that --

ALEX CASTELLANOS:Oh I don’t think so.

CORNELL BELCHER:

Well, I was on the campaign. So for us on the campaign, we never saw this as something being driven by the Clinton campaign.

CHUCK TODD:

You never thought Mark Penn was trying to--

CORNELL BELCHER:

You can’t-- you can’t

CHUCK TODD:

You said “otherness.” Mark Penn wrote about other. Did you think he was toying in that world?

CORNELL BELCHER:

Well, I--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Before you answer, I have it here, from his memo, which Mark called "lack of American roots," in which Mark Penn says, quote, "I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not, at his center, fundamentally American in his thinking and values." Now, if Donald Trump had said that in 2008, we would all be sitting here saying, "Well, that was the start of Birtherism."

CORNELL BELCHER:

But no, he's been saying it for several years--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

But Mark Penn said this in her campaign--

CORNELL BELCHER:

That never--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:The Hillary Clinton campaign--

CORNELL BELCHER:

--never came from Hillary's mouth. And I--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Just her strategist.

CORNELL BELCHER:

Well, it's di--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Just her strategist.

CORNELL BELCHER:

Well it’s coming from your candidate.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

It did come from--

CORNELL BELCHER:

It's been coming from him for quite a while.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

But it did also come from Hillary Clinton on the 60 Minutes interview, where it said he was born in America, he was a Christian, as far as I know. So the otherness of--

CORNELL BELCHER:

Well, that's further than Barack Obama has gotten.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, answer that part of it, Alex. Answer that part. When do two wrongs make a right? Why-- He did it for five years after the fact. How do you explain that away?

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

I would explain it this way. Being on the Trump team that I think these two candidates are being treated very differently on this very issue, because this is something that Hillary Clinton's campaign started when it was convenient for her. But the media covers it as if it is only Donald Trump who has taken the--

CORNELL BELCHER:

Alex, I've got to tell you that--

KATY TUR:

That's not really an answer, Alex.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

And by the way, well, there isn't-- there's an answer here. I think the big question about Obama is not where he was born or his faith. The big question about Obama has been-- has he considered himself more of a globalist than an American? There is an otherness to this president. And people have tried to exploit that politically in different ways. The Clinton campaign tried to exploit it this way, the way their strategists said, by saying his lack of American roots is an issue.

CORNELL BELCHER:

To make what Donald Trump has been doing for five, six years--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

I don't think that's racism--

CORNELL BELCHER:

--comparable to what--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

I don't think that--

CORNELL BELCHER:

Alex, that's not fair. It's not fair at all. It's not even close to being the same.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Then you should take that up with Mark Penn and the Clinton campaign.

CORNELL BELCHER:

I know, I can take it up with Hillary Clinton, and it's something that she's done, it's not something that she's pushed. And it's not the same.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, I'm going to pause the conversation here. We're going to come back, talk a little bit about the campaign and demographics after this. When we come back, in fact, it is headlines like this one from the weekend's Wall Street Journal that may be keeping the Clinton campaign up at night. We'll look at why Clinton's troubles with millennials could play a big role this November.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

And we are back. It’s time for Data Download.Is Hillary Clinton’s problem with millennials enough to cost her the election? Look at this recent national poll that shows Clinton struggles with this age group. In a four-way race, Quinnipiac has Clinton’s advantage among voters under 25 dropping from a 24-point lead in August to only 5 now here in September. Fox news poll also only has her up single digits among this group.

So, now you may know why Democrats are worried. Why? Because both of these polls show her lagging far behind President Obama’s performance among younger voters. In fact, among voters under 30 he won them by 23 points nationally in 20-12.

Let’s look at the battleground state of Michigan, for instance, where a Detroit Free Press poll shows Clinton’s lead among voters under 35 plummeting. A 24-point lead in August, now just 7. Not good news for her. President Obama won voters under 30 in Michigan by 28 points in 20-12.

We can look at Wisconsin. A recent Marquette Law School poll shows Clinton’s advantage among voters under 30 dropping from 30 to 23 points in the month of August. Despite the drop, this poll still shows her with the same margin Obama won by in 20-12. But, she can’t afford to keep falling with that group.

So, what do we learn from this? Where are the millennials going if they’re leaving Clinton? Well, in many cases, it’s Gary Johnson who has gained. In others, those voters are simply moving to the undecided column. Now, Clinton is trying to deploy surrogates across the country in an effort to try to yank these voters out and rebuild this Obama coalition. And among those surrogates is President Obama himself. In fact, we’re going to get to him when we come back in a moment.

(BEGIN TAPE)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

I will consider it a personal insult. An insult to my legacy if this community lets down its guard and fails to activate itself in this election. You want to give me a good send off? Go vote.

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Let’s bring back the panel, New York Times, I think it was Saturday, Maureen had a lead that said, basically interviewing all these upper west siders panicking now. And in fact I think referred to it as ‘The polls are showing a “margin of panic” for Clinton supporters.’ Describe this east coast freakout that I feel like you’ve seen among the elites this week.

MAUREEN DOWD:

Right. Well my friends, one of my friends, Leon Wieseltier, calls it a national emergency. And my friends won’t even read, if I do interviews with Donald Trump, they won’t read them. And basically they would like to censor any stories about Trump and also censor any negative stories about Hillary. They think she should have a total free pass. Because as she said at that fundraiser recently, ‘I’m the only thing standing between you and the abyss.’ Oh, and they’re taking-- Democratic strategists are taking antacids. In the Times today.

CHUCK TODD:

Well there you go. Cornell, though, there is-- Let’s talk about the numbers behind this concern.

I have pointed out the millennial issue. You have noted some of your work appeared in the New York Times. You haven’t noted that there is an enthusiasm issue with the Obama coalition. It’s voters under 30, it’s young African Americans, it’s young Latinos. What is the concern here? What hasn’t she addressed?

CORNELL BELCHER:

A couple things. One is, look, Obama was a great love affair for these young voters and in 2008 11 percent of the electorate were new voters. 62 percent of those voters were under 35. We brought in a whole cadre of new voters and expanded the electorate. That’s part of why he won. But there were Obama voters, Chuck. They weren’t necessarily democratic voters. They are more with us than they are with republicans on the issues. And so, to frame this conversation, does she have to expand and get that vote? Yes. But at the same time, you see Trump right now. He’s probably going to get the lowest percentage of millennial voters of any candidate in the last decade. And this will be three elections now where republicans have lost young voters in a way that does not bode well for them in the future.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me show the importance of it, though. I want to put up these battleground states. In 2012, Barack Obama lost voters under thirty in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. But he carried all four of those states Alex, because he clobbered Romney among voters under thirty. This is a double-edged sword for Trump. On one hand, you must be excited that she has an enthusiasm issue. But Trump is not getting these voters, Gary Johnson is.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Well, Trump’s voters are excited. They are, you know, Reagan democrats. The excitement is there in the Trump campaign. Where is the excitement in the Clinton campaign? Usually it’s in young voters, black voters in a Democratic Presidential Campaign. It’s not there. The democratic establishment candidate is Hillary Clinton. If Obama was a love affair, this is “nana Clinton.” Nobody’s excited about more of the same continuity in the democratic party. And by the way, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Obama even can campaign all they want for her, and they're pouring enthusiasm into a leaky bucket.

CORNELL BELCHER:

Let me--

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

It does not work. Referred enthusiasm does not work in politics.

CORNELL BELCHER:

Let me rejoin real quick with this, Chuck. I've got to tell you, in two months out in 2012, we were wringing our hands over young voters, as well, because a lot of my Republican friends say, "Cornell, you're never going to get the turnout again from those voters." But when you look at the issues that lock in with where she is and where he is, it's not a contest there.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Those issue are there today, and they're not excited now. Look, if referred enthusiasm does not work, if you were to ask me, "Am I really excited that Cornell is going to have sex with Sofia Vergara," I'd say no. I’d be more excited if I were.

CHUCK TODD:

Well you got everybody’s attention with that one.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

Elizabeth Warren. Bernie Sanders, you can't excite Hillary Clinton voters.

CHUCK TODD:

Katy, talk about what you see at a Trump event. There is excitement at Trump events. But there was excitement at John Kerry events on '04, too.

KATY TUR:

There's a lot of excitement at Trump events. And I will say this about what Alex is mentioning. We would see Trump voters wait in negative 5 degree snowy temperatures in Iowa for hours on end, six hours, to go see Donald Trump at a rally. My question is, are they going to wait in line to vote for Trump if there are long lines at the polling stations? Yeah, I think so.

Are Hillary Clinton voters going to take a day off work and wait in line? And that is the big question. The excitement level is a little bit different on the Trump side because they are so enthusiastic about him.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me sneak in another quick break. We'll be back in 45 seconds with a little Endgame. And what makes running for president these days so different than it used to be?

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

We are back now with Endgame. I did mention the great Maureen Dowd is here. But you’re here because you also have a book. And you wrote something interesting in the introduction about just covering presidential candidates in your life. You yourself have come to the conclusion that there are different things that go into what makes a good presidential candidate. And then you noted the whole resume argument. That just because you have the longest resume doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to make a good decision, and you refer to Rumsfeld and Cheney. But you were noting that you thought this was not necessarily the best argument for President Obama to make on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

MAUREEN DOWD:

Yes. Well, I think we learned a lesson with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld that you can have the longest resume, the most qualifications, and still make the biggest mistake in American foreign policy history.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Cornell, I wonder looking back on what we’ve seen with Clinton, I wanted to bring this up in the last part of the conversation. Has she spent too much time bashing Trump?

CORNELL BELCHER:

I think over the next, you know, 50, 60-some days we have there I think you’re going to see from the Clinton campaign a focus to sort of turning her attention to talking about who she is and what she’s going to fight for. Younger voters, we’ve been talking about earlier, to a certain extent they still don’t know her they still don’t know her history and sort of what she’s fighting for. I think you’re going to see a laser-like focus on--

CHUCK TODD:

It’s September 18th, man.

CORNELL BELCHER:

Again, we were nervous about these younger voters, too, in 2012, but they came out, Alex.

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

It’ll be tougher this time.

CHUCK TODD:

No, I guess-- so then go to how does Donald Trump deal with this temperament problem? If she’s got this trustworthy problem, how does he deal with this temperament problem? And what has he done in the last few days to make this temperament problem go away?

ALEX CASTELLANOS:

I think it’s all the same question we were just discussing. Which is, if this campaign is about Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump and their character, temperament, then it stays the way it does now this jumpball. What Donald Trump does well when he makes his campaign not about either of them but about the American people and their future and is there something better than we have now? She has a problem with that. Hillary Clinton has made this campaign about her and still-- she can’t find a vision or a message. Trump has “Make America Great Again.” I think ultimately that’s what might blow this up.

CHUCK TODD:

Alright, well, as we proved to you we do this live not pre-taped, that’s for sure. Before we go, a quick programming note. Amal Clooney is at the United Nations this week. She’s fighting on behalf of prosecuted Yazidi minorities at the hands of ISIS. And the international human rights lawyer will appear tomorrow on The Today Show for an exclusive interview. That’s all we have for today. We’ll be back next week, the Sunday before the first debate, because if it is sunday it’s Meet The Press.

***END OF TRANSCRIPT***