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Meet the Press - May 5, 2024

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Vaughn Hillyard, Maria Teresa Kumar, Sara Fagen and Cindy McCain
/ Source: #Mydenity

KRISTEN WELKER:

This Sunday, campus clashes.

PROTESTORS:

Why are you in riot gear?

KRISTEN WELKER:

President Biden calls for calm as protests over the war in Gaza overwhelm college campuses across the country.

PRES. JOE BIDEN:

There’s the right to protest, but not the right to cause chaos.

KRISTEN WELKER:

While Donald Trump and the GOP try to capitalize on the unrest.

FMR. PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

We’re not letting the radical left morons take over this country.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Plus, uncommitted. As his criminal trial continues in New York,.Donald Trump refuses to commit to accepting the 2024 election results and won’t dismiss the possibility of violence if he loses.

FMR. PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

We have to watch the cheating, keep your eyes open, watch the cheating.

KRISTEN WELKER:

The Biden campaign calls Trump’s comments “a threat to our democracy.” I’ll talk to Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, a potential VP pick on the 2024 GOP ticket. Plus, battleground Arizona. From abortion to immigration, democratic Senator Mark Kelly joins me in the critical border state that could decide the 2024 election.

SEN. MARK KELLY:

It's close right now. I don't think it's going to be close on election day.

KRISTEN WELKER:

And, fighting spirit.

CINDY McCAIN:

There is famine – full-blown famine in the north and it’s moving its way south.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Cindy Mccain, executive director of the World Food Program speaks out on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and her husband’s legacy. Joining me for insight and analysis are NBC News Correspondent Vaughn Hillyard, María Teresa Kumar, president of Voto Latino and Republican strategist Sara Fagen. Welcome to Sunday. It's Meet the Press

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, the longest-running show in television history, this is Meet the Press with Kristen Welker.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Good Sunday morning. As we come on the air, election day is exactly six months away. And dominating the headlines – those campus protests over the war in Gaza. President Biden spoke out about them on Thursday after days of silence aiming to strike a balance between defending free speech and denouncing violence.

[START TAPE]

PRES. JOE BIDEN:

We are not an authoritarian nation where we silence people or squash dissent. The American people are heard. In fact, peaceful protest is in the best tradition of how Americans respond to consequential issues. But – but neither are we a lawless country.

[END TAPE]

KRISTEN WELKER:

More than 2,000 people have been arrested or detained in the last two weeks on campuses across the country, as the humanitarian situation in Gaza worsens into what World Food Program Executive Director Cindy McCain told me is now a "full-blown famine" in the north. Some top democrats, now stepping up their warnings of the potential political price.

[START TAPE]

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

I am thinking back and other people are making this reference that this may be Biden's Vietnam. I worry very much that President Biden is putting himself in a position where he has alienated, not just young people, but a lot of the democratic base, in terms of his views on Israel and this war

[END TAPE]

KRISTEN WELKER:

Republicans have tried to use the protests as a political weapon including former President Trump who was back on the campaign trail in Michigan and Wisconsin this week for the first time since his criminal trial began nearly two weeks ago.

[START TAPE]

FMR. PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

To every college president, I say remove the encampments immediately, vanquish the radicals and take back our campuses for all of the normal students who want a safe place from which to learn

[END TAPE]

KRISTEN WELKER:

Mr. Trump falsely insisted again that he won the state of Wisconsin – he did not – and this week he would not commit to accepting the 2024 election results. In an interview with time, Mr. Trump also said he would consider pardoning every one of the more than 800 people who have been sentenced for their roles in the January 6th Capitol insurrection, many of whom have pleaded guilty. And he wouldn't rule out political violence if he loses, quote, "if we don't win, you know, it depends. it always depends on the fairness of an election." This weekend, Republican donors and potential running mates gathered at a donor retreat at Mr. Trump's private club in Palm Beach. NBC News has obtained audio of the closed-door event where Mr. Trump railed against prosecutors and baselessly accused President Biden's administration of orchestrating the indictments against him, saying quote, "these people are running a gestapo administration. And it's the only thing they have." Meanwhile, earlier this week Trump said the search for a running mate is still in its early stages.

[START TAPE]

FMR. PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Usually it's done right around the convention. so it's going to be done and maybe it'll be done before you because here we are in Wisconsin. We'll be making that decision I think closer to Wisconsin time if you want to know the truth. It's very early right now.

[END TAPE]

KRISTEN WELKER:

Among those under consideration to be former President Trump's running mate, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, who joins me now. Senator Scott, welcome back to Meet the Press.

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

Good morning, Kristen. I hope you're doing well.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Well, we appreciate your being here. I want to start with those protests that we have seen on college campuses all across the country. We know that some universities have called in the police for reinforcement. Do you think that's the right move? And for those who are protesting peacefully, do you respect their right to peaceful protest, senator?

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

Well, we certainly respect the right to peaceful protest. What we're seeing on college campuses, however, is too often not peaceful protest. There's a reason why there's been more than 2,000 arrests and detainments on college campuses. It's because people are being hit. They're vandalizing and they're breaking into buildings. What we have to understand is the antisemitism that we're seeing on college campuses today is akin to what we saw in the 1960s. What we should be saying as a nation, the American people, they're saying it loud and clear. They support eliminating antisemitism from college campuses. They're being very clear. There's no space for hate in America. What's not clear is why it took so long for President Biden to come to a microphone and condemn antisemitism. The reason, in part, is because his base refuses to let him do so. He's pandering to politics as opposed to standing up for fairness and standing against antisemitism. I would simply say this to every college president and university in America: Your federal funding is a privilege. It is not a right. A right is for every Jewish kid on campus to walk to class safely. What is a right is for every Jewish kid to study in a library peacefully. We need to make sure that every student feels that kind of security on every campus in America. And I thank God, Kristen, for Ben Sasse and what he's done at the University of Florida. He has said it very simply: "We are not going to coddle 20-year-old toddlers. We are going to enforce the laws of this campus." And he's done a brilliant job of doing so.

KRISTEN WELKER:

And of course, senator, we did hear from President Biden this week who condemned antisemitism. He's going to be delivering a speech on antisemitism on Tuesday. You have spoken out about the fact that there's antisemitism in your own party as well, all the way back to what we saw after Charlottesville and after Donald Trump's dinner with the Holocaust denier. But I do want to move to the fact that you were with former President Trump this weekend –

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

Well, Kristen – Kristen, let me just say this though, Kristen. One of the things that we should make sure that we do is continue to focus on the issues that we are seeing faced by those students today. This is bigger than politics. This is the kind of scourge on our nation, the thing that scars the soul of a country as in we don't stand up for the vulnerable. We should make sure we do that today, tomorrow, and every day going forward.

KRISTEN WELKER:

All right. Well, let me ask you about what happened over the weekend. Of course, you were there for what is being described as an audition to be a potential VP pick with former President Donald Trump. So let me just ask you: did you discuss with the former president the possibility of being his running mate, senator?

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

No, ma'am. What we talked about this weekend was how bad the economy is for single parents like the one that raised me. We had a lot of conversations around the room about the importance of eliminating Bidenomics, about the importance of getting inflation back down to 2%. We were just better off under President Trump. Inflation, Kristen, was at 2% and we had the lowest unemployment rates for African Americans, for Hispanics, for Asians, a 70-year low for women. We had the highest funding for historically Black colleges and universities in the history of the country under President Trump. So we were excited to have a conversation. We had no conversations about the VP pick, to be honest with you, to be clear. But we had a lot of conversations about the failures of Joe Biden and the success of Donald Trump.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Couple of points on the economy. Of course the inflation rate has come down significantly from its high in 2022. In terms of Black unemployment, it was actually at its lowest rate last year, 4.7% in April of 2023 as compared to 5.3% –

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

But it's 6.4% now.

KRISTEN WELKER:

– under 2019 with Donald Trump. But just to be very clear. It didn't come up at all? Do you think you're on the short list?

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

No – no, ma'am. It did not come up. African American unemployment rate is 6.4% today –

KRISTEN WELKER:

But what about being – what about being VP–

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

There's no doubt that it would be –

KRISTEN WELKER:

– What about being President Trump's VP? Did it come up at all? Do you think you're on the –

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

Yes –

KRISTEN WELKER:

– short list?

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

I hope that the president will choose a person who helps the country unite and heal. I certainly expect to have a decision from President Trump in the next 60 days or so. But he did not bring it up. I certainly didn't bring it up. I'm excited that in this nation a poor kid from South Carolina can rise to the level of being a United States senator. It just tells me that all things are possible for kids growing up in poverty today. Listen to this show and know that all things are possible for your future.

KRISTEN WELKER:

All right. Well, let's talk about some of the headlines this week. In an interview Mr. Trump this week again would not commit to accepting the election results of 2024 if he loses. He still hasn't conceded the last election. You of course did vote to certify the 2020 election results, and you've said, quote, "It was not stolen." Why would you join a ticket with someone who believes the exact opposite on this critical point?

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

Well, I think we have to listen to what President Trump said and not what the reporters said that he actually said. Here's one of the things that he's been very clear, and even talking about the situation in Wisconsin, what he said was he expects there to be an honest election. He expects the results will be clear and for him to be successful. I expect him to be successful as well. There's no doubt that when you look at the polls across our country the one thing that is crystal clear, that the American people now having a contrast between four years of Joe Biden versus four years of Donald Trump. They're really excited to get back to the Trump years. And so I expect the election to be fair, and I expect Donald Trump to be our next president.

KRISTEN WELKER:

In terms of what he said, he specifically said, "If it's not,” if it’s not fair, as you're saying, "you have to fight for the right of the country." And just this week he said that he won Wisconsin falsely, senator. So again, to the point, you voted to certify the election results of 2020. It's the exact opposite of what you said and did after 2020. Why would you want to be on a ticket with someone where there's such a fundamental difference?

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

There is clear facts here. President Trump himself said he expects this election to be fair, he expects it to be honest, and he expects to win. That's what the presidential candidate should expect, and I expect the exact same thing. And frankly the American people agree with him. This is an issue that is not an issue, so I'm not going to make it an issue.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Well, senator, will you commit to accepting the election results of 2024, bottom line?

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

At the end of the day, the 47th president of the United States will be President Donald Trump, and I'm excited to get back to low inflation, low unemployment –

KRISTEN WELKER:

Wait – wait, senator, yes or no? Yes or no? Will you accept the election results of 2024 no matter who wins?

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

That is my statement.

KRISTEN WELKER:

But is it – just yes or no? Will you accept the election results of 2024?

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

I look forward to President Trump being the 47th president and Kristen, you can ask them multiple times –

KRISTEN WELKER:

– Senator, just a yes or no answer.

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

– but at the end of the day – so the American people, the American people will make the decision. And the decision will be –

KRISTEN WELKER:

But I don't hear you committing –

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

– for President Trump. That's clear.

KRISTEN WELKER:

I don't hear you coming to the election results.

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

– Here's the deal. This is why so many –

KRISTEN WELKER:

Will you commit to accepting the election results?

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

This is why so many – this is why so many Americans believe that NBC is an extension of the Democrat party. At the end of the day, I said what I said. I know that the American people, their voices will be heard. And I believe that President Trump will be our next president. It's that simple.

KRISTEN WELKER:

But senator, as you know, the hallmark of our democracy is that both candidates agree to a peaceful transfer of power. So I'm asking you as a potential VP nominee, will you accept to commit to the election results in this election cycle, no matter who wins? Just simply yes or no.

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

I expect President Trump to win the next election and listen I'm not going to answer your hypothetical question when in fact I believe the American people are speaking today on the results of the election and if it continues – if it continues for the next six months, we find ourselves in a great position where we get back to another degree of American prosperity. I'm looking forward to that.

KRISTEN WELKER:

All right. Let me ask you about the issue of abortion. As a candidate for president you said very clearly that you supported a 15-week federal ban, you said it was necessary. This week, Donald Trump is saying, quote, he's “not signing a national abortion ban” and that the issue should be left up to the states. Is Donald Trump wrong to leave that issue up to the states, senator?

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

Well, there's no doubt that the Dobbs decision sent it back to the states. So, the Supreme Court has ruled, the leading candidate, our Republican nominee, has made it very clear that this is a state's issue. That is the decision that will be made and we will see how the states handle it. But there's no question that President Trump has been very clear that he wants to issue left to the states, with three exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.

KRISTEN WELKER:

You have been very clear, though, as well, as a candidate, and your message is the exact opposite. You said – you said back in August, quote, “We must have a President of the United States who will advocate and fight for, at the minimum, a 15-week limit.” Do you stand by that or have you now changed your view?

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

I have certainly not changed about my position whatsoever. Here's what I'm telling you. The fact of the matter is that every single Democrat in the Senate and in the House have voted for abortion up until the day of birth. The former governor of Virginia has said – he was a pediatrician – even infanticide. So, stopping late term abortions is something that 90% of Americans actually believe in –

KRISTEN WELKER:

– Hold on. Democrats don’t support – that’s false, senator. Democrats don’t support –

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

– Kristen –

KRISTEN WELKER:

– Infanticide.

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

– Kristen, they’ve already voted for it, Kristen –

KRISTEN WELKER:

– Senator, no, no, no. Senator, but as you know, late term abortions are exceedingly rare.

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

– They voted for abortions up until the day of birth –

KRISTEN WELKER:

– As you know, they are exceedingly rare –

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

Listen, I’m just telling you what they voted for –

KRISTEN WELKER:

– and almost always in the state of a medical health crisis.

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

– I’m just telling you how they voted. Kristen, you cannot deny the fact that the Democrats have voted – not talked about, but voted – for abortions until the day of birth. That is a fact. You can look that up in the records of Congress. So, I’m not talking about hypotheticals. You continue to bring me hypotheticals. The truth is, and I got to say, this is kind of – kind of interesting, the truth is simple. The Democrats are radical. 90% of Americans don’t agree with them.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Senator –

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

Let’s get back to following what the Dobbs decision created, which is an opportunity –

KRISTEN WELKER:

Senator –

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

– for the states to make their decision.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Senator, just – just very quickly, though, it’s important to point out –

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

Yes, ma’am.

KRISTEN WELKER:

– abortions in later term pregnancies are exceedingly rare. Have you changed your position, though? Do you still support a national abortion ban?

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

I support having the next president of the United States be the most pro-life president we've had –

KRISTEN WELKER:

Yes or no? National abortion ban, senator?

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

– and that would be Donald J. Trump.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Do you support a national abortion ban?

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

Here’s – here’s what we know. It will never get to the president’s desk. President Donald Trump will continue to reinforce the Dobbs decisions, which puts the decision back to the States.

KRISTEN WELKER:

All right. Senator, Tim Scott. I have a lot more questions. I'll have to bring you back on and we'll have part two of this conversation. Thank you –

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

Let's do it, Kristen –

KRISTEN WELKER:

– very much. Let's do it –

SEN.TIM SCOTT:

Okay.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Thank you for joining me.

SEN. TIM SCOTT:

Yes, ma'am.

KRISTEN WELKER:

When we come back, Democratic Senator Mark Kelly tells me he's very concerned there will be another attempt to overturn the election results in Arizona in 2024. My conversation with the Arizona senator is next.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Welcome back. This week I traveled to the battleground state of Arizona, which President Biden narrowly won in 2020 by just over ten thousand votes turning the state blue for the first time in nearly three decades. Arizona is also ground zero for fights over abortion, immigration, democracy and the economy. I sat down with democratic Senator Mark Kelly at the McCain Institute's Sedona Forum and began by asking him about campus protests over the war in Gaza and whether the police response has been appropriate.

[START TAPE]

SEN. MARK KELLY:

Some of these protests have become very violent, and students – especially Jewish students – have the right to feel safe on a campus, and they've gotten out of control. Everybody has the right to protest peacefully. But when it turns into unlawful acts – and we've seen this in a number of colleges and universities including here in Arizona – it's appropriate for the police to step in.

KRISTEN WELKER:

I want to get your reaction to how some Republicans are describing these protesters. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik said Columbia leadership, quote, "has lost complete control of the pro-Hamas/antisemitic mob." Senator Marco Rubio called the protesters "antisemitic zombies." Senator Tom Cotton referred to the protesters as "pro-Hamas sympathizers, fanatics, and freaks." What is your reaction to hearing those descriptions of the protesters?

SEN. MARK KELLY:

Well, some of these protesters aren't even students, right? I mean, we know that, they're showing up on campuses and they're becoming involved. And when they cross a line and when they commit crimes, they should be arrested. That's the appropriate thing to do. We saw that in Tucson, Arizona at the University of Arizona, where Gabby and I live, just the other day. I don't think it's helpful for anybody, especially in a leadership position, to say things that are escalatory. I'm not suggesting that every one of those things were. In some cases, I think I agree with some of that sentiment.

KRISTEN WELKER:

What do you agree with?

SEN. MARK KELLY:

Well, you have some individuals, a certain group of them, that show up to peacefully protest. And then you have others that want conflict. And in some cases, they've even assaulted police officers. And those individuals need to be dealt with appropriately. And students on campus should be able to go to classrooms, get their education, not be intimidated. And the rising antisemitism that we've seen is of great concern for me, and I think it should be for everybody in elected office.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Last week, Congress, as you know, passed an aid package that's going to send about $15 billion in military aid to Israel. You voted to support this. It does not come with conditions. My question, Senator, is: How can Israel be held accountable if the United States doesn't use the leverage that it has in the form of giving aid with conditions attached?

SEN. MARK KELLY:

Well, October 7th was unprecedented for the country of Israel. They have not been attacked like that from a terrorist group. I went there a week later. I've watched over an hour of video of what happened on that day. It was brutal. It was barbaric. And Israel has every right to respond in a appropriate way. And they've been trying to deal with this terrorist organization that literally is embedded in tunnels, a very complicated thing to deal with. I used to fly, in my previous life off of an aircraft carrier, flying in combat over Iraq and Kuwait. What they're dealing with in this dense urban environment is challenging, to be able to go after a target when it's near civilians. And we never want to see innocent women, children, old people getting killed. That has happened at a pretty high rate here. I brought this up with Netanyahu a number of times and with Yoav Gallant, the defense minister. They have to do a better job. I want to see some changes here, and I've talked to the ambassador – the Israeli ambassador, Michael Herzog – about this specifically: That if we don't see some changes, I think it is appropriate to put conditions on some of this aid.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Do you think that Prime Minister Netanyahu has made mistakes as he's conducted this war?

SEN. MARK KELLY:

He's absolutely made mistakes. A lot of them. I've talked to him about some of those specifically. These are hard problems. Any kind of combat action, especially in an urban environment, is very challenging. If it was the U.S. military conducting this, I think you would see this would go much differently than it went. So, sure, he's made a lot of mistakes. And that's why I have expressed that to him, I've expressed it to the defense minister, to the ambassador, that they have to do better.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Let's talk about what is happening in your state, Arizona, is now effectively ground zero for the national fight over abortion rights. Just this week, the state legislature voted to repeal Arizona's ban that went all the way back to 1864. Do you think the repeal minimizes the urgency that some voters will feel to get out and vote for Democrats?

SEN. MARK KELLY:

I think women in Arizona have been through a really tough time, and it all goes back to Donald Trump's election and what he said he wants to do to Roe v. Wade. He recently said he broke it. This is all on him, that women in the state of Arizona don't have the rights that they previously had. Women cannot get the health care they need in this state right now. We have an opportunity in November to sort of fix this at the state level with a ballot initiative. What we really need is national legislation to codify a woman's right to make these decisions. And that's only going to happen and get signed into law if Joe Biden is reelected president.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Would you support getting rid of the filibuster in order to support abortion rights, to codify Roe v. Wade into law?

SEN. MARK KELLY:

Yes.

KRISTEN WELKER:

You would?

SEN. MARK KELLY:

Yeah, I would. Yeah. When we were looking at voting rights legislation, I voted for that as well. I spent 15 years at NASA flying the Space Shuttle. If NASA had the rules of the United States Senate, the rocket ship would never leave the launchpad. So, at times, at the appropriate time –I think this is one of them – I would consider changing those rules to make sure that women can get the health care they need.

KRISTEN WELKER:

I want to talk to you about another critical issue in your state: The issue of immigration. The number of illegal border crossings dropped since their record high in December. As a senator of a border state, do you still believe that the situation at the border is a crisis, as you have said in the past, as President Biden has said in the past?

SEN. MARK KELLY:

It's been a crisis for most of the time that I've been in the Senate.

KRISTEN WELKER:

And it's still a crisis?

SEN. MARK KELLY:

Yeah. And we had the opportunity to fix it. And it's the most frustrating thing I have dealt with while I've been in office, probably in my entire adult life, since I graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, at work, what happened on that border security bill. We had an agreement. This was negotiated over a long period of time. Democrats and Republicans and the administration working together – including the secretary of Homeland Security – on something that was going to provide more border patrol agents, more CBP officers, more machines to detect fentanyl, the money to build facilities to be able to hold more migrants so you could adjudicate their claims. And if they didn't meet the appropriate level to receive asylum, they could be sent back to their country or sent back to Mexico, if they crossed the border. There were policy changes in there. We were so close. And, again, one person, one individual, stopped that from happening. And that's the former president.

KRISTEN WELKER:

I want to ask you about something that just happened here in Arizona. The attorney general just indicted 18 people for their role in a fake elector scheme, and this week former President Trump, yet again, said he would not commit to accepting the results of the 2024 election. How concerned are you that there will be another attempt to overturn the results here in Arizona, if Donald Trump doesn't win this state?

SEN. MARK KELLY:

Oh, very concerned. We have Kari Lake on the ballot in the Senate race, who is also talking about how the 2020 election was stolen here from Donald Trump. Clearly wasn't. Same thing in 2022 when she ran for governor. She's on the ballot again. These folks have been indicted. I trust our judicial system, that they're going to go through a process. And however this turns out, we all have to accept what that process is.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Republican Senate Candidate Kari Lake, who you just referenced, recently told her supporters to “strap on a Glock” to prepare themselves for what she called an intense election period ahead. Mr. Trump-told Time Magazine that whether there will be violence around the election, quote, "depends on its fairness." You've obviously experienced political violence firsthand. Your wife, then Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, survived a shooting at a constituent event. What's your reaction when you hear language like that?

SEN. MARK KELLY:

It's dangerous. What Kari Lake said could result in people getting hurt or killed. Same thing with the former –

KRISTEN WELKER:

You think words can translate into violence –

SEN. MARK KELLY:

Absolutely words, especially when they come from somebody who is in a leadership position. And Kari Lake's never been elected to anything. I don't expect her ever to be elected to anything. But when you're a candidate for the United States Senate, you need to be careful with your words.

KRISTEN WELKER:

I want to ask you about 2024. And let's talk first about the Senate race here. Obviously Senator Sinema, as we've talked about, is not running for reelection. Did her decision to leave the party and the Senate make Democrats more vulnerable in 2024? How do you assess the state of the race?

SEN. MARK KELLY:

I've worked very closely with Senator Sinema over a three-and-a-half-year period. And her service to the state of Arizona, it was significant. At the same time, we now have an open Senate seat, but Ruben Gallego is going to win that Senate seat.

KRISTEN WELKER:

It's a close race.

SEN. MARK KELLY:

It's close right now. I don't think it's going to be close on Election Day.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Senator, I talk to Democrats in this state, all across the country, and they say they are really worried about President Biden's prospects for reelection. Not just because of the polls –

SEN. MARK KELLY:

It's going to be a close election. It was close in 2020. President won Arizona by 10,000 votes. My election in 2020 and 2022 were close elections as well. Statewide races here tend to be close. We're a purple state. It's a battleground state. It's also going to be a state that could decide who has a majority in the United States Senate. We know that. We know how to win tough races here. I imagine we're going to see the president and the vice president back here again, telling the story about what this administration has done and the option of Donald Trump, who again wants to take our country backwards.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Senator Kelly, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.

SEN. MARK KELLY:

Thank you for having me on.

[END TAPE]

KRISTEN WELKER:

When we come back, after being found in contempt for defying a gag order this week, Donald Trump once again refused to commit to accepting the election results in November. The panel is next.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Welcome back. The panel is here: NBC News correspondent Vaughn Hillyard, María Teresa Kumar, president of Voto Latino, and Republican strategist Sara Fagen. Thank you to all of you for being here. Vaughn, let me start with you. You've been covering Donald Trump's criminal trial. And you've also been covering veep-stakes and a lot of movement on that front over the weekend. He had this forum at Mar-a-Lago. We have this incredible shot of him with all his, what we presume are potential VP picks. Obviously, Tim Scott's there, J.D. Vance, Doug Burgum, and the list goes on and on; Vivek Ramaswamy. Where do you think things stand? And – and what were your takeaways from listening to Tim Scott?

VAUGHN HILLYARD:

Right. He still has a litany of names. There were two individuals who he welcomed up on onstage and made – made direct references to being potential VP picks. That was Elise Stefanik, congresswoman of New York, as well as Florida Senator Marco Rubio. I talked to two people in the room last night. And, notably, they mentioned that J.D. Vance, Ohio senator, was welcomed up on stage and praised, but he also made reference to the fact that J.D. Vance had made past statements about him that were bad, right? If you go back to 2016, right, he said that he may hold his nose and vote for Hillary Clinton because he called Donald Trump an idiot. He called himself a never-Trumper, which hits at the part that, you know, eight years may go by, but Donald Trump doesn't forget. When we’re talking about loyalty, he had Mike Pence, who was not loyal to him on January 6th, in his mind. And that's why your question to Tim Scott there about certifying election results, despite him voting to certify himself, now is not committing to ultimately believing the results of the 2024 election.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Vaughn, it's such an important point because the word "Loyalty," Sara Fagen, is really one of the, if not the top factor, for Donald Trump as he makes this decision, right? What did you make of the exchange that Vaughn is highlighting that he would not commit to certifying the election results, despite the fact that he did so in 2020?

SARA FAGEN:

Well, I think a safe response would have been, assuming the election is fraud-free, I – I will support it. That would have given him a clear way to move past your question. But the reality is this is a litmus test for Donald Trump. And, you know, these candidates who hope to be VP don't get to set the rule book by which the person at the top –

KRISTEN WELKER:

Yeah.

SARA FAGEN:

– of the ticket is deciding. And so you're going to see a bunch of them dance, right or wrong.

KRISTEN WELKER:

We saw that on his abortion answer, as well, where he was walking a very fine line. He did not lean into his national 15-week ban.

SARA FAGEN:

Well, I mean, the interesting thing about Tim Scott's position on abortion is he is where the country is. Seventy percent of Americans are for a 15-week ban or something more restrictive. That includes 50% of Democrats. So I think his position actually helps Donald Trump. Donald Trump has the Conservative position: go to the states. Tim Scott has a more mainstream position. Together, that's powerful.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Maria, what did you make of that piece of it, abortion, which is going to be such a big factor in this election. And – and, as Sara is saying, look, yes, Tim Scott didn't necessarily completely abandon his position, but he certainly gave space for what Donald Trump is saying.

MARÍA TERESA KUMAR:

Well, and let's remember – let’s remind ourselves what Donald Trump is saying. He's saying, most recently in the Time Magazine interview, that states can monitor women's pregnancies. I mean, you can't get more extreme than that. But I do want folks tuning into the show to take a pause. You asked him a very simple question, "Will you certify an election result?" He wasn't able to do it. Instead, what he did was take on a piece of Donald Trump's tropes and try to – you belabor it and say, "No. It's actually the media's fault. It's the fourth estate that is pinning me down." And they continue doing that. When you – you are asking tough questions to the millions of the Americans that are now watching –

SARA FAGEN:

What he was actually saying –

MARÍA TERESA KUMAR:

And I think that is incredibly important because, at the end of the day, we need to make sure that our democracy is dependent on that transfer of power and legitimate elections. And we have been able to demonstrate, over and over again, that every single one has been certified.

SARA FAGEN:

Though, to be fair, what Tim Scott was actually saying is, "This isn't going to be an issue." That's what he was saying, so –

VAUGHN HILLYARD:

But also, Elise Stefanik and J.D. Vance, in last weeks, have said that they would not have certified the election results of 2020, like Mike Pence did. So to the point, this is a litmus test.

KRISTEN WELKER:

It goes back to exactly what you were saying, loyalty, Vaughn. Let's talk about the protests, which of course we've seen on college campuses across the country. We know that the Democratic National Committee is concerned about that. In fact, we have new reporting that they're making preparations for this summer's convention to prepare for protesters. But, politically speaking, Vaughn, how do you think this plays?

VAUGHN HILLYARD:

Right. We've got three months until the convention here –

KRISTEN WELKER:

Yeah.

VAUGHN HILLYARD:

– at this point. Joe Biden is going to be going, speaking at Holocaust memorial services next week, talking about antisemitism in the country. And this is where, when we talk about the speech, and the line, and what the protests are, we're talking about a fine line being drawn and Joe Biden being a steady hand through the chaos. Yet, at the same time, legitimate concerns, thousands of civilians being killed, famine. We're also talking about, for Joe Biden as the president here, you’re talking about somebody here who has to balance that, allowing those concerns to be vented, and opened up, and discussed while also being a steadfast hand in making sure that that sort of hate speech does not have a place in the United States.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Sara Fagen, the issue of what is happening in the Middle East, a prominent issue in – in battleground Arizona, as is immigration, as is abortion. I interviewed Senator Mark Kelly, who talked about the fact, "Yeah. It's going to be close, again.” But he's bullish. What are you hearing on the ground?

SARA FAGEN:

I think of – of the states that Donald Trump lost, last cycle. Arizona's probably the one he's most likely to win. And if you look at the folks who have moved into the state of which there's been significant migration, they're more Republican. Republicans now have a 100,000 voter registration advantage over Democrats, compared to 2020. So he – he – between immigration, the economy, and the advantage Republicans have in registration, you would look at Arizona as a pretty good bet for Republicans this fall.

KRISTEN WELKER:

What do you think, María Teresa?

MARÍA TERESA KUMAR:

So the only reason that Arizona became a purple state was because of Sheriff Arpaio going after Arizonan families who happened to be Latino. And since then, for the last 13 years, there's been base building. Mark Kelly should not be senator, had it not been for the influx of young Latinos becoming eligible voters. And, guess what? There's 163,000 Latino youths waiting in the wings, who were not eligible in the last election, who are now eligible. And if you want to see how you talk about voter registration, the majority of voter registration is going to start happening over the summer. So the fact that they are paying attention –

KRISTEN WELKER:

Yeah.

MARÍA TERESA KUMAR:

– and they're hearing that they want to do massive deportations internally, that gets everybody on edge. I was with the president –

KRISTEN WELKER:

Yeah.

MARÍA TERESA KUMAR:

– just on Tuesday. And on Tuesday, he said, "We are going to try to figure out how do we actually talk more to the undocumented folks?" And that's going to be huge.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Vaughn, no one knows Arizona better than you. What are you watching?

VAUGHN HILLYARD:

Kari Lake, Donald Trump have to win over conservative voters that they lost here. You can only juice your support in the rural parts of the state so much. I was talking to a long-time GOP activist in Kari Lake's home district. She met up for her, a couple months ago, after not voting for Kari Lake, the Republican, in 2022. And she told me that she never even mentioned the John McCain. There has to be a reckoning here that Donald Trump and Kari Lake may not be prepared to do. And that is what could ultimately cost them, yet again, in the state of Arizona.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Well, fantastic conversation. Thank you all so much. When we come back, he holds the record for the most Meet the Press appearances in history. Our Meet the Press Minute is next.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Welcome back. As we mentioned, this week we traveled to the McCain Institute's Sedona Forum, an annual event where world leaders gather to talk about solutions to real-world problems. It's a gathering in the spirit of the late Arizona senator John McCain, political maverick and war hero who was elected to the Senate six times and ran for president twice. McCain was also the most frequent Meet the Press guest, with 73 appearances on this broadcast. In an interview with Tim Russert, during his first presidential run, McCain reflected on how his experience as a prisoner of war prepared him to pursue the highest office in the land.

[START TAPE]

TIM RUSSERT:

How did five and a half years in a prison cell in North Vietnam, as a prisoner of war, prepare you for the presidency?

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

I think it helped me define the principles that I already held. And I think it gave me a better understanding of the value of commitment to a cause. I think it made me appreciate that my individual strengths were not sufficient to help me do the things that I needed to do. And it was through the example and encouragement of others that I was able to do better than I otherwise would have, although still not good enough.

[END TAPE]

KRISTEN WELKER:

When we come back, director of the World Food Program, Cindy McCain, says parts of Gaza are experiencing “full-blown famine.” My “Meet the Moment” conversation with her is next.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Welcome back.The Kerem Shalom crossing between southern Israel and Gaza is currently closed to humanitarian aid trucks, after an attack which Hamas has claimed responsibility for. Israel has faced growing pressure to allow aid into Gaza after its military killed seven international aid workers from World Central Kitchen in an airstrike. Now Cindy McCain, executive director of the World Food Program, tells me northern Gaza is experiencing a “full-blown famine” that is rapidly spreading south. While an Israeli official disputes that characterization to NBC News, McCain is the second top aid official to make that assertion. McCain joined me for a “Meet the Moment” conversation, as part of the McCain Institute's Sedona Forum.

[START TAPE]

KRISTEN WELKER:

Let's talk about the World Food Program, that you have provided aid to 1.4 million people every month since the start of the war, but the war is nearly in its seventh month. How dire is the humanitarian crisis on the ground right now in Gaza?

CINDY McCAIN:

Well, whenever you have conflict like this and emotions rage high, and things happen in a war, famine happens. And so what I can explain to you is that there is famine, full-blown famine in the north. And it's moving its way south. What we're asking for and what we continually ask for, is a ceasefire and the ability to have unfettered access to get in – safe and unfettered access – to get into Gaza at various ports and various gate crossings.

KRISTEN WELKER:

I just want to be very clear, because what you're saying is significant, and I believe it's the first time we've heard it. You're saying there is full-blown famine –

CINDY McCAIN:

Yes.

KRISTEN WELKER:

--in northern Gaza?

CINDY McCAIN:

I am. Yes, I am.

KRISTEN WELKER:

And there has not been an official declaration that there is famine--

CINDY McCAIN:

No.

KRISTEN WELKER:

– but you –

CINDY McCAIN:

No.

KRISTEN WELKER:

--are saying that based on what you've seen?

CINDY McCAIN:

Yes. It is. Based on what we've seen and what we've experienced on the ground. Yes. Yes.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Which is?

CINDY McCAIN:

It's horror. You know, it's so hard to look at, and it's so hard to hear also. I'm so hoping that we can get a ceasefire and begin to feed these people, especially in the north, in a much faster fashion, but also including, as I said, water, sanitation, medicine. It's all part of the famine, the famine issue. And it's also something that we need to make sure that the world understands. We can't let this happen. In this day and age, when the world has the ability to feed itself ten times over, nobody should starve. Nobody should starve for whatever reason it may be.

KRISTEN WELKER:

The Defense Secretary said something that caught a lot of people's attention this week. He was asked if U.S. soldiers could potentially be targeted while trying to get aid into Gaza. And he didn't rule that out. He said that it is a possibility. What do you make of that? And within that context, how do you keep your people safe?

CINDY McCAIN:

Well, that's what keeps me up at night is whether or not I can, or if, they are safe. Can I keep them safe? Are they safe? What's happened? The morning routine for me is to look at my phone and see what's happened during the night. It's something – I can't guarantee their safety, because, as you know, we don't work with militaries. We work with sources on the ground that help us get through. So it's very, very dangerous. As far as U.S. troops, I don't know what the plans are for that. But anybody who's on the ground in that region is in danger.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Well, it's anticipated that the United States will finish building that pier, which will help aid to be distributed soon, in the near future. That's the anticipation –

CINDY McCAIN:

That's what I'm told too.

KRISTEN WELKER:

What are your expectations, in terms of the timeline, and how will that change the situation and your ability to get that critically needed aid into Gaza?

CINDY McCAIN:

Well, WFP welcomes any ability to get aid, in any way, whether it's a port, whether it's a gate, whether it's air drops, whatever it may be. We support all of that. And we're grateful for this pier that's being built. That's another way to get aid in. But we need more than one pier.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Well, you take me to my next question because Human Rights Watch has said Israel is violating an order from the U.N.'s top court by actually blocking aid to Gaza. Now, Israel has said Hamas continues to intercept aid, which is complicating the distribution. Do you believe Israel is doing enough to help get aid into Gaza?

CINDY McCAIN:

Well, I hope so. I've spoken to Netanyahu myself, and he has reiterated to me several times that it's important, that they want to make sure aid gets in, that these crossings are going to be open, and somewhat are open now. So, I believe in good faith that they are doing the best that they can.

KRISTEN WELKER:

To the extent that you can, Director McCain, take us inside your conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu. What has your message been to the prime minister?

CINDY McCAIN:

We need more access. We need access. We need more ability to be able to get more trucks in. We have, right now, a mass on the outside border about enough trucks and enough food for 1.1 million people for about three months. We need to get that in. And we can't dribble it in a few trucks at a time. We need, you know, hundreds of trucks.

KRISTEN WELKER:

The world is bracing for what Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to say will be a full-scale ground invasion into Rafah. Obviously, there are discussions for a potential ceasefire deal. But how would a ground invasion into Rafah complicate the humanitarian crisis that is already growing on a daily basis?

CINDY McCAIN:

It doesn't just complicate it. It causes such agony. I'm hoping that better senses prevail here and that this does not happen, for the sake of the people that are stuck there and don't have enough food and have no place to go. So, I'm hoping that something will prevail in these next few days to stop this invasion. But, I mean, if it does happen, this is a terrible thing. This is really, really dreadful, the things that could happen there.

KRISTEN WELKER:

If Senator McCain were still with us, what would he say right now with all of the unrest that we're seeing, what you and I are talking about, the work that you're doing, the unrest we're seeing on college campuses? What would he say right now, do you think?

CINDY McCAIN:

Well, I think he'd be very upset. And I think he'd be doing everything he could to help mitigate what's going on in the world, because that's what he was famous for. That's what he was good at. People listened to him. And I have had instances, throughout my career, this brief career right now with WFP, world leaders around Africa, around the world say, "Gosh, we miss John McCain. We miss him. We miss his leadership and we miss his voice." And I think that's very true. I think it's a fair thing to say.

[END TAPE]

KRISTEN WELKER:

Really appreciate our conversation with Director McCain. That is all for today. Thank you so much for watching. We’ll be back next week because if it’s Sunday, it’s Meet the Press.