Meet the Press- September 23, 2018

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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, supreme battle: Brett Kavanaugh's nomination in jeopardy over an accusation he sexually assaulted a girl when he was a teenager. Republicans are divided.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE:

I would think, if the incident occurred as she described it, that would be disqualifying.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL

Don't get rattled by all of this. We're going to plow right through it and do our job.

CHUCK TODD:

But President Trump is standing by his man.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

He is a fine, fine person.

CHUCK TODD:

And now, there's an apparent agreement for Kavanaugh's accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. My guests this morning, Republican Senator David Perdue of Georgia and Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington state. Plus, how serious was Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about secretly recording President Trump and trying to remove him from office? And does this give the president more ammunition in his fight with Robert Mueller?

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

There's a lingering stench. And we're going to get rid of that, too.

CHUCK TODD:

Also, my sit-down with Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. Have the North Koreans have been honest about their nuclear program? Finally, our brand-new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll on President Trump and the battle for control of Congress. Joining me for insight and analysis are Chris Matthews, host of Hardball on MSNBC; Helene Cooper, Pentagon correspondent for the New York Times; Jonah Goldberg, senior editor at National Review; and Eliana Johnson, national political reporter for Politico. 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 Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. It was in 1991 when Clarence Thomas' apparent glide path to confirmation was interrupted by Anita Hill's claim of sexual harassment in the workplace. What followed was the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee's callous treatment of Hill, helping to usher in 1992's Year of the Woman at the ballot box. As Time Magazine illustrated, "The specter of the Thomas-Hill hearings now hang over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh," now that psychologist Christine Blasey Ford has accused him of sexually assaulting her at a party, when they were teenagers. Late yesterday, Ford and the Judiciary Committee tentatively agreed that she would testify on Thursday. They're still working out the details for what could be one of those national stop-what-you're-doing events and watch. Of note, as of last night, four people that Ford has said were at the party with her, including Kavanaugh, have said they have no recollection of being there. The Kavanaugh nomination is issue one for conservatives and evangelicals. And there is a gnawing fear among some Republicans that, if Kavanaugh goes down, Republican candidates could pay a steeper price in November than they're already facing, which brings us to our NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll out this morning, which indicates Republicans already have good reason to be worried about November. Our poll found that, among registered voters, they prefer Democrats by a whopping 12 points, 52% to 40%. And if you are a close follower of the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, you know that's a significant margin for our poll. It's the largest one we have ever had during the Trump presidency. Last month, the margin was eight points. And by the way, a month before that, it was six points. As for President Trump, his numbers are remarkably steady. 52% of registered voters disapprove of his performance. 44% approve. It's exactly where he was last month, 52%-44%. As one of our pollsters, Bill McInturff put it, these numbers are, quote, "beyond weak" for Republicans and that Americans are trying to send the signal that they're not satisfied with the way things are going in Washington, all of which helps explain why many congressional Republicans are watching the unfolding Kavanaugh story with one eye on his prospects and another on their own in November.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Brett Kavanaugh, fantastic man. He was born for the U.S. Supreme Court. He was born for it. And it's going to happen.

CHUCK TODD:

With Judge Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hanging in the balance--

REPORTER:

Brett Kavanaugh, are the allegations true?

REPORTER:

Do you have any response to Christine Ford?

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Trump abandoned his uncharacteristic restraint, tweeting, "I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would've been immediately filed with local law enforcement authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward, so that we can learn date, time, and place." Republican senator, Susan Collins, a crucial swing vote, fired back.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

I was appalled by the president's tweet.

CHUCK TODD:

California professor, Christine Blasey Ford, alleges that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a house party in the early 1980s, telling the Washington Post he pinned her to a bed, groped her, and tried to pull off her clothing. When she tried to scream, he put his hand over her mouth.

FEMALE VOICE:

She clearly considers this an attempted rape. She believes that, if it were not for the severe intoxication of Brett Kavanaugh, she would've been raped.

CHUCK TODD:

Kavanaugh has denied the allegations, saying, "I have never done anything like what the accuser describes to her or to anyone." And Senate Republicans are pressing forward with his nomination.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL:

Don't get rattled by all of this. We're going to plow right through it and do our job.

CHUCK TODD:

But McConnell does not yet have the votes.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS:

By the way, there are, like, seven of us that are undecided. It's not just me.

PROTESTERS:

We believe Dr. Blasey.

CHUCK TODD:

Privately, many Republicans worry the party's push to put Kavanaugh on the court could come at a steep political cost. In the NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll, opposition to Kavanaugh is growing among suburban women, women over 50, and independents. 1992 became the Year of the Woman. A wave of Democratic women won office, after Anita Hill's grilling on Capitol Hill.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH:

There's still a lot of holes in her testimony.

CHUCK TODD:

Now, some Republicans worry history is repeating itself.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH:

I think this woman, whoever she is, is mixed up.

CHUCK TODD:

On Friday, the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport became the number-one trending topic on Twitter. And already, some Republican candidates are stumbling.

REP. RALPH NORMAN:

Ruth Bader Ginsberg came out that she was groped by Abraham Lincoln.

REP. KEVIN CRAMER:

These are teenagers who, evidently, were drunk, according to her own statement, that they were drunk. Nothing evidently happened in it all, even by her own accusation. Again, it was supposedly an attempt or something that never went anywhere.

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now is Republican Senator David Perdue of Georgia. Senator Perdue, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

SEN. DAVID PERDUE:

Good morning, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with a basic question here. What do you hope to learn from Thursday's hearing of both Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford?

SEN. DAVID PERDUE:

Well, first of all, I think Senator Grassley has done a great job of trying to accommodate Dr. Ford and getting this new information before the committee. I hope that we will get to the truth. And I think that's what the American people deserve. And that's what we're trying to do this week. I hope that both Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford get an open hearing. I fully expect that this week.

CHUCK TODD:

How are you going to decide who's telling the truth, if it really is just the testimony of Dr. Ford, the testimony of Judge Kavanaugh? We don't have anything else to work with here. How are you going to determine credibility, in your mind?

SEN. DAVID PERDUE:

Well, you actually do have other information. You have four other people who claim they have no recollection of the event. But what I have always done in a situation like this, Chuck, is look at it in a holistic manner, look at the pattern of behavior over a period of time, and look at the individual information from the people giving that information and decide my own personal belief in their credibility. And I think that's what each senator is going to do this week, hopefully, as we get this information before us.

CHUCK TODD:

Is there anything Dr. Ford could say that would change your mind about supporting Judge Kavanaugh?

SEN. DAVID PERDUE:

Well, look, these are serious allegations. I hope Dr. Ford can be put in a comfortable situation, where she can provide the information. Look, this is a democracy. We have a judicial system. But we also have innocent until proven guilty. And so my view is that we need to hear from both parties and make sure that we do it in a timely manner. We've already waited three months to get this information, since the information was provided to Senator Feinstein. So it's time to have this hearing and get it before the American people.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, it's interesting you brought up innocent until proven guilty. The standard here, what should be the standard? Should it be -- this is about a lifetime appointment in the Supreme Court. This is about somebody who has to decide the constitutionality of laws that impact all of Americans. Do you think the burden of proof, in some ways, should be higher or lower, when you consider the job that Judge Kavanaugh is interviewing for?

SEN. DAVID PERDUE:

I think the burden here, Chuck, is to find the truth, just like it is in any courtroom in our land. And that's what we're about to do. You know we have people -- this man has had six investigations, six F.B.I. investigations. This isn't the first time he's been fully vetted.

CHUCK TODD:

But not, not one on this specific charge. Do you think, there should be one on -- do you think, at this point, though, you would want, at least, the comfort of the F.B.I. having looked into this, even if it's for a ten-day period, at this point?

SEN. DAVID PERDUE:

Well, they've already done that. I mean, their job is not to determine who's telling the truth but to make sure that the issue is brought before the body looking at it, and that's the Judiciary Committee, at this point. This information was made public through Senator Feinstein. And so the way I look at it is the F.B.I.'s already done it. They’re not -- their role in this case is not to determine who's telling the truth. It's to make sure that the Senate has the information.

CHUCK TODD:

So you don't think there should be an additional investigation to at least establish if the party happened and establish some more facts, have an F.B.I. agent interview, perhaps, some of the other people that Dr. Ford says were at that house party?

SEN. DAVID PERDUE:

Part of what the F.B.I. is supposed to do is to make sure that they determine that this is an issue and to make sure that they bring it before the committee. We've had precedents on this before. And in this case, they have done their duty. And right now, the only people that are going to determine who's telling the truth in this issue are the United States Senators.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, you were in the private sector before you joined politics. You were -- you ran Fortune 500 companies. I have no doubt you've faced similar issues, perhaps, in leadership. How did you handle those? How did you determine truth? Because sometimes, it is an allegation. And a person, you may think they're telling the truth, but they can no longer manage their, you know they can longer fulfill their duties at a job, because maybe they've lost credibility, fair or not. So how do you handle a situation like that? How did you handle it, when you were in the private sector?

SEN. DAVID PERDUE:

Well, I did have situations like this. And as long as 30 years ago, we started having training programs inside our companies to make sure that people's individual rights were protected and so forth. But when we had situations of allegations like this, we primarily made sure that the information, as best we could determine, was presented to the people making the decision. And in there, again, you looked at the credibility of the people giving the information. You looked at the pattern of behavior. And you tried to take a more holistic view of this to get to a heart-level, gut-level determination in your own mind about who was telling the truth. And that's what will happen in each one of the Senator's cases, as they listen to this information this coming week. I really expect we'll get to a decision this week and move on, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Does public opinion matter to you? If more people oppose his nomination, or more people don't believe him, should that factor into your decision making on this?

SEN. DAVID PERDUE:

Well, there are two issues there. First of all, I don't put a lot of confidence in these polls. These, these are the same polls that had me losing by as much as 10% in my race, three or four years ago. And we won by more than eight points. It had Trump losing. So I'm not sure these polls clearly reflect the opinion of the American people. The other thing is that I believe that, right now, the information that the American people are getting is somewhat limited. Because it's coming through this central media in Washington. And not all of this has really come out yet. We will get all the information in the Senate this week, hopefully. We'll hear from both sides. We'll take that into consideration. And we'll make our adjudication.

CHUCK TODD:

Are things being rushed a little bit, because of the November election deadline? I only ask that, because I know you have said you want to see this moved on with. We are on day 75 since his nomination. I want to put up a chart here of the current members of the Supreme Court. Three of them, actually, the confirmation process went on longer than where we are now: Sam Alito, 82 days; Clarence Thomas, 99; Elena Kagan, 87. What's wrong with taking a couple of extra weeks here to make sure we get this right?

SEN. DAVID PERDUE:

You know, Chuck, if you're going to cite that statistic, you really ought to cite the fact that Ginsberg was confirmed in 42 days and got 96 votes, as well.

CHUCK TODD:

That was up there, that was up there in my chart, as well. But I'm just saying, we have three members that are on the court that it took longer. So we're not, we’re not in an unusual situation yet.

SEN. DAVID PERDUE:

No. And there's no rush here. I mean, we're following this very similar timetable that we did in earlier situations, where similar allegations were made. Look, if we don't get all the information this week, I have total confidence that Senator Grassley will take his time and make sure we get all the information we need. There is absolutely no rush to judgment. I think any objective person, Chuck, looking at the way Senator Grassley has handled this, they would walk away thinking that he has done everything he can to make sure that this information comes before the Senate and that this person is treated with all the respect she is due.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Senator Perdue, I'm going to leave it there for now. Senator, Republican from Georgia, thanks for coming on and sharing your views. Much appreciated.

SEN. DAVID PERDUE:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, joining me now with another perspective is Senator Patty Murray of Washington State, number three in Democratic leadership. Senator Murray, welcome to Meet the Press.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY:

Great to be here, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

You have -- I remember covering your race and it was the reason you had stated for running was your reaction to the Anita Hill hearings. And I remember, at first, a lot of people didn't give you much of a chance and you've now been a United States Senator since 1992.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY:

Correct.

CHUCK TODD:

You said this about the Republicans 27 years later: that "the Judiciary Committee is leading us down the exact same path and, in many ways, an even worse one." How are things worse?

SEN. PATTY MURRAY:

Well, I think that one of the things that I remember from the Anita Hill hearings was the way she was treated by United States senators, that she was presumed that she was lying, that it was a fantasy, that she was making it up. That's how the questions came from the United States senators and she was never given the full opportunity to be believed from the start. I sense that again, as I hear a number of the comments, the, the majority leader saying, "We're going to plow right through this," like it's this petty, little thing over here. People saying, "Well, she's got the votes. We're just going to get her through. We've got to deal with this ‘hiccup.’" That kind of conversation is exactly what leads to many people in this country, women and men, saying “they don't get it,” particularly now, in the #MeToo movement, where women have felt that they can speak out, that it doesn't have to be a hidden thing in their past, that they don't have to not tell anybody. The message that it's a “hiccup,” or "We're going to plow through this," is exactly what they don't want to hear today.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, it's interesting that you word it that way. Because I'm curious of your reaction of this TV ad that's being run by Demand Justice, which is a group on the left that is opposing Judge Kavanaugh. I want to play for you this ad because it presumes him guilty. And I want to play it for you and see if, what you think of this. Take a look.

[TAPE BEGINS]

FEMALE VOICE:

When 15-year-old Christine tried to scream, her attacker covered her mouth, so no one could hear her. Will Susan Collins listen to her now?

[TAPE BEGINS]

CHUCK TODD:

I play it now, because what you just described were -- it was presuming her not to be telling the truth. This is presuming him to already be guilty. It seems as if we're in a bad situation, no matter your point of view.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY:

Well, here's how I see it. For a very long time, in the history of this country, when women spoke out about allegations of sexual assault or abuse, they were presumed to be making it up or culturally not talking or told to be quiet. So I think it's really important, in this time, in this day, that we recognize when women speak out, that we should presume that they are innocent. Look, if someone says, "My car got stolen," you don't presume they're lying.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY:

But if someone says, "I was sexually abused," people today sometimes presume that they're making it up, that they're whatever. That, it should be a presumption of innocent and then have a fair process to go through to determine the truth.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think a hearing, where it's really his word, her word, we're not going to have anything else. We're not going to have any other witnesses, it appears. There's not going to be an F.B.I. investigation. That’s a tough -- it's the same question I asked to Senator Perdue. You're a human being. How are you going to determine this? How do you determine who's telling the truth? Because it's going to be your own gut, is it not?

SEN. PATTY MURRAY:

Well, the way the Senate Republicans have now set this up, that is what we're going to have is, do you believe her, or do you believe him? That is exactly why we have been pressing for an F.B.I. investigation that should only take a few days, so there are other facts out there, that there are other witnesses. In fact, I have said many times, that the Anita Hill hearing was a disaster, but they did have an F.B.I. investigation. They did have other witnesses. There were other ways to judge this. The Senate republicans have predetermined the outcome of that this will be a he says, she says by taking that away.

CHUCK TODD:

It -- this was interesting. But Anita Hill wrote the following on Wednesday and she sort of had a suggestion for the Judiciary Committee. She wrote, "Today, the public expects better from our government than what we got in 1991 … That the Senate Judiciary Committee still lacks a protocol for vetting sexual harassment and assault claims that surface during a confirmation hearing suggests that the committee has learned little from the Thomas hearing, much less the more recent #MeToo movement." It is actually, what she's suggesting, there is no protocol, right, on the Judiciary Committee on how -- is there a protocol anywhere in the United States Senate of -- you guys deal with a lot of advice and consent when it comes to nominees, of when there is an allegation like this? Is there any protocol in the Senate for this?

SEN. PATTY MURRAY:

Well, clearly not. And, and this is what I have been saying since the beginning of this, a week ago now, is that the Senate, Congress, failed the test in 1991 with Anita Hill, that they could deal with this kind of allegation. And they have to be able to deal with this kind of allegation if we're going to be putting people on the highest court of the land. And here we are today. How the Senate handles this and the Senate Republicans handle this will be a test of this time, of 2018, in the #MeToo movement. Can we do better? And I fear we are failing that, if we don't do it correctly.

CHUCK TODD:

If there is no F.B.I. investigation, I want to show you something that Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said to me and a, and a warning that he had for Republicans. Take a listen.

[TAPE BEGINS]

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE:

Sooner or later, I, mark my words, there will be an investigation into this. It may be in a subsequent Congress. But you can't get away with having something like this take place.

[TAPE ENDS]

CHUCK TODD:

He was, and I followed up with him, and he said, "Yes, if there is a Democratic Senate, that maybe, that this needs to be taken up again, if this doesn't feel fully investigated, and he's on the court." Do you support something like that?

SEN. PATTY MURRAY:

Well, in fact, I understand that there could be allegations filed in Maryland still on this, if he was on the court. So it's important that we get this right. And I am really focused on that.

CHUCK TODD:

Should this affect his current judgeship?

SEN. PATTY MURRAY:

His current judgeship? I, I don't know. I don't know the facts. I don't know the, the end of this. And certainly, that is something that is possible, but I, I don't know the facts yet. And we all would like it. That's why we want an F.B.I. investigation. That's why we want this done right. But here's what I do know.

CHUCK TODD:

Ok.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY:

If the Senate plows through this, if it's a hiccup, if they don't do it right, there will be a tremendous backlash again. I was in the airport yesterday and a woman came up to me, an older woman, and she said, "I was told 40 years ago, when this happened to me, 'Don't say anything,' by my parents." What a horrible message to young girls today. What a horrible message to young men today, that they can get away with this. Let's get this right.

CHUCK TODD:

Would we be in this situation, this sort of point of, where it feels like we're never, we’re, we’re so divided, if the filibuster were still around?

SEN. PATTY MURRAY:

Well, certainly, what the filibuster did, with a Supreme Court nominee forward, that there had to be more of a consensus, that we would have more --

CHUCK TODD:

A cooling saucer.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY:

It would. And it would mean that we would have people on the highest court of this land that needed to have more broad partisan support.

CHUCK TODD:

Democrats get the majority back, are you going to advocate for changing, getting the, bringing the filibuster back?

SEN. PATTY MURRAY:

You know, that's a really good question and one that, you know philosophically, I agree with. But I will tell you what. What if we did? What if Democrats put the filibuster proof back in, and turned around, the Republicans got the majority and took it away? I mean, we have to ask that question. And that, to me, is extremely troubling.

CHUCK TODD:

And welcome to our fractured democracy. Anyway, Senator Patty Murray, Democrat from Washington State, the other Washington, as you guys always like to remind us.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

In that way.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY:

Absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you for coming on and sharing your views.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, this week, Supreme Court testimony: the Republicans and what it all could mean for their majorities in November. Panel is next.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. It's panel time. Chris Matthews, host of Hardball on MSNBC, author of Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit, coming to paperback very quickly; Helene Cooper, Pentagon correspondent for the New York Times; Eliana Johnson, national political reporter for Politico; and Jonah Goldberg. He's an LA Times columnist, senior editor at National Review. And Suicideof the West is your book.

JONAH GOLDBERG:

That's right.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Let me begin. Let me begin. There it is. Because we're doing it right now, everybody. Let me – I think Caitlin Flanagan at The Atlantic, David French at National Review sort of, I think, set up the conversation pretty well for us. Let me read you from Caitlin Flanagan in The Atlantic. "The least we should do is put this confirmation on hold until we can learn more about what happened. If it's not true, Kavanaugh should be confirmed without a cloud of suspicion. If it is true, we'll have to decide whether you get to attack a girl, show no remorse, and eventually become a Supreme Court justice. My own inclination is: No." Here's David French. "[I]f there isn't any corroboration or external evidence outside of Christine Ford's three-decades-old recollections, that's simply not sufficient basis for derailing the nomination of an outstanding jurist — no matter how fiercely they're believed." What's going to be the standard of believability, Eliana? Where are we?

ELIANA JOHNSON:

I think it's tremendously difficult. You have partisans on the left, including a democratic Senator, saying that we must believe the testimony of a woman, and it is anti-woman to challenge the accusations. And partisans on the right throwing out the names of other potential assailants without much proof. But what I think the difficult position Justice Kavanaugh – Judge Kavanaugh, excuse me Freudian slip but – is being put in is that, in the current climate, it is tremendously difficult for him to defend himself without being accused of being anti-woman. And he, I think, does need to be able to offer a defense.

CHUCK TODD:

Where – how are we going to resolve who's believed here, Jonah?

JONAH GOLDBERG:

I'm not sure that we are. I do think that the preponderance of the evidence that we have, which is almost entirely circumstantial, witness testimony and the like, is in Judge Kavanaugh's favor. The four people who were – as you brought up, the four people who were alleged to be there all say, they didn’t – not only did they not know about the attack, which is understandable, since it was allegedly done in secret, they don't know about the party. One person, who's a friend of Ford's, doesn't even say that she knows Kavanaugh.

CHUCK TODD:

She did say she believes Ford --

JONAH GOLDBERG:

Yeah. That's right –-

CHUCK TODD:

–- for what it's worth. But yes, you're right, she did.

JONAH GOLDBERG:

But one thing that's very difficult for people on the right and the left to get their heads around is that even if what Dr. Ford is saying is true, at least as far as she sees it, the long-term precedent that we may be setting that says, you can issue a not-under-oath allegation with no other corroboration for it and destroy a man’s or a candidate’s, a nominee's character and reputation to destroy a nomination, that is a problem for both parties and for this country. And everyone on the left is saying blocking Merrick Garland justifies anything that the democrats do. Well, if they do this to Brett Kavanaugh, you're going to have republicans, for a generation, saying, the destruction of Brett Kavanaugh justifies whatever they do. And everything will get worse.

CHUCK TODD:

Chris?

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

Well, let's start with the basics. Dr. Ford has the right to petition Congress. It's in the Constitution. You have a right –- she had a right to bring her complaint, to bring her information. Number two, didn't she also have a responsibility? If she has this recollection, if she told her husband about it when they were getting married. It was a marital problem for them. She went to couples therapy about that. There was that early establishment of her recollection, among other people. If it happened, and I believe it did happen, from her recollection, shouldn't she have brought it forward? Imagine if she had had this experience, had this memory and never told anyone about it, and this guy became Supreme Court justice. Is that a responsible citizen? No. I think she did the right thing so far. This is going to be tough. Two people in a room. But it's very hard to accept I think Kavanaugh's description of not having been at that party, without having to say which party it was. It's a total denial. I mean it's a good lawyer position. “I've never done anything like that, been anywhere near that person. I've never been there.” And she says, “Let me tell you what happened. These two guys rammed me into a room, closed the door behind us." I assume that was part of it. "Corralled me," was the term, "Throw me on the bed. When I tried to cry for help, covered my mouth." This does sound like assault. This isn't romancing or a little drunken whatever or romancing. It's just assault. And if she hadn't brought that to the public, I think that would have been a failure of her citizenship.

HELENE COOPER:

The very nature of this sort of thing always ends up being he said or she said. That's why it's so hard. But it also is –- it also is so incredibly difficult for a woman to come forward and say that, "I have been sexually assaulted," for the very reasons that we see with Dr. Ford are going through –- is going through right now that I sort of do agree with Senator Murray, that you owe these women, I think, the presumption of innocence or at least to assume that they're telling the truth. They are not making this up, which means that it is the Senate's obligation to take this seriously and to do a lot better job than they did with the Anita Hill hearing. I mean, I went back, and I think a lot of us, this past week, went back and looked at that Anita Hill hearing. And I was reminded again of why I was so angry, which is why I think that President Trump's tweet, when President Trump came out and said, "Why didn't they call the police? Why didn't she report this to her loving parents? Why didn't they report this?" –- it’s so appalling.

JONAH GOLDBERG:

I completely disagree with that. I'm sorry, in terms of the crucial point. Women who come forward and make these accusations, they deserve to be heard. They deserve to be taken seriously. The idea –- and Senator Murray says, "We never doubt anybody when someone says, 'My car was stolen.'" That was a really clever line, and it misses the point entirely. We give the presumption of innocence to people. If I say, "Chuck Todd stole my car," you have to prove that. And if we're going to say that women, as a class, are always going to be believed, no matter what, well, first of all, I want to see how democrats deal with Keith Ellison. But second of all, that means that we are throwing out over 1,000 years of really important law that says we presume the innocence of the accused.

C

HUCK TODD:

And can I bring up a crass political point here? If Mitch McConnell thought republicans were going to hold the Senate, would he be pushing for withdrawal of Kavanaugh and, "Just give me somebody more confirmable"?

ELIANA JOHNSON:

I agree with you that both parties are acting politically. Democrats are clearly pushing delay tactics. It's obvious. And republicans clearly want to confirm him before the November elections.

CHUCK TODD:

They fear November, both of them.

ELIANA JOHNSON:

Oh, absolutely, and it's patently obvious. And they're using this woman, who has come forward and is going through an excruciating emotional trial, for political ends. But I agree with Jonah. And I do find it somewhat insulting to women that they have to be presumed to be telling the truth and acting in good faith, and that their accusations –- they're presumed not to be able to back up their accusations or shouldn't have to back up their accusations with evidence –-

HELENE COOPER:

How do you begin to back up an accusation of something that took place 40 years ago? That's impossible. And the idea that you're going to go and ask people who were at a party, I can't remember parties that I went to 40 years ago. None of us can. But she –- it makes much more sense that she would remember, because she was the one who was sexually assaulted.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

There's a big line between what Jonah said, which you don't accept this absolute fact, when somebody charges. But there's something in the republican conversation in the last week which is different than that. There's sort of an I Love Lucy-era thinking about women in the way they are portrayed on television. First of all, "plow through it," no, it's a person. And this idea that they're ditzy or confusing, I like the way that Nikki Haley the other day, when somebody called her confused, she said, "I don't get confused." I think this idea that women are confused or mistaken, as Orrin Hatch put it, is really a problem for the republicans, for women.

ELIANA JOHNSON:

But for precisely that reason, I think the idea that women can't back up their claims or that their claims can't stand some sunlight is insulting.

CHUCK TODD:

And this is why Thursday is going to be an impossible moment for this country and our politics. I just fully believe that, unfortunately, left or right. When we come back, my sit-down with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. We discuss North Korea, Iran, Syria. And behind every hot spot, there's a Russia angle. Stick with us.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. President Trump travels to New York today to host world leaders at the United Nations' General Assembly, UNGA week, as it's affectionately called. Well, yesterday, I sat down at the State Department with Mike Pompeo for his first appearance on Meet the Press since becoming Secretary of State.

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Secretary, welcome back to Meet The Press.

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

Chuck, it's great to be with you. It's great to host you here.

CHUCK TODD:

Yes. It's very nice to be here. Let me start with the issue of the FISA warrant and what the president was asking to get declassified. He seemed to say, in an interview on Thursday night, that a few allies had complained about the potential declassification of these, of these FISA documents that have to do, potentially, with Carter Page. What more can you say? I assume it's the Five Eyes. Is it the U.K.? Is it that group of nations that are trying to keep us from making this stuff public?

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

Chuck, I can't add much more to that, other than to say this. In my previous role as C.I.A. director and now as the Secretary of State, we are committed to making sure that we classify information properly. We try to get information out that shouldn't be classified. It's an historic problem in the United States government. And second, we will always make sure that we protect our sources, our methods, information that comes in from partners that share with us. We understand how important that is and President Trump and our team will always make sure that we do that right.

CHUCK TODD:

Has that order been fully rescinded or put on hold? It’s, it’s -- has he pulled back on it, officially?

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

I'll leave it to the White House. That -- it's not my neck of the woods these days. But I want the American people to know that we will always protect information we need to. And then we'll do everything we can to be as transparent as America demands, as well.

CHUCK TODD:

If you could give yourself advice when you were head of the intelligence committee, what have you learned, both being at the C.I.A. and here at State, that you would tell yourself, "Boy, now I -- that's something I didn't understand. And I could have been a better House Intel Committee Chair on accountability, because of X"? What advice would you give yourself, going backwards?

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

You know, one of the things you get to see, when you actually get to run the organization, is the enormous depth and breadth of the capacity of American -- whether it's in our intelligence community or our diplomatic forces. I think you underappreciate that when you're a member of Congress. You get to see glimpses. But you don't get to see the whole of the body, the sum of the greatness.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think, if some of these members saw what you saw, they would be a little less conspiratorial?

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

I do.

CHUCK TODD:

And is there a way to -- do you think members of Congress should see more of this stuff, so that maybe they wouldn't be so conspiratorial and really get the -- calm the public down a little bit?

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

So I've tried to do that both in my previous role and this one. I try to be as open, on my front foot, sharing information as I could possibly be, proactive in communicating so that, so that there is a better understanding. Look, sometimes being conspiratorial’s appropriate too. Sometimes asking hard questions -- it's their job, their oversight role. So I, I don't begrudge them that in any way.

CHUCK TODD:

But the tone, you think they could change that a little bit?

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

I would hope that the tone would be one where we're trying to all get at the same end, which is achieving America's foreign policy objectives.

CHUCK TODD:

This, of course, all has to do with Russia. And I say this, and I was preparing for this interview. And questions I had about North Korea, there was a Russia angle. Questions I had about Iran, there's a Russian angle. Questions I had about Syria, there's a Russian angle. The Russians don't seem to be helpful on any front here. Is that a fair assessment?

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

It’s a pretty fair assessment, and it's, it's most unfortunate because there are places where we have shared interest. I worked with them closely on counterterrorism issues. There's a handful of other places in the world where we do have overlapping interests, although certainly not values. They're a country that's very different from ours in that respect. They have not proven helpful in the Ukraine, in Syria. You've shown it. We, this week, sanctioned -- put sanctions on China as a result of the CAATSA law that passed. Again, trying to push back against Russia's malign activity around the world. The president's tried to develop a relationship and change that, but we've not been successful, at least to date.

CHUCK TODD:

It seems like it's a good cop, bad cop. You're being bad cop. Secretary -- or maybe realistic, when it comes to Russia, and the president's been trying to play good cop. Is that not working?

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

I don't think that's the situation at all. I think the predicate of your question is just --

CHUCK TODD:

You don't accept it?

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

-- just, just wrong. I think we're all trying to be cops that are protecting America and I think we've actually achieved that, Chuck. I do believe America's fundamentally safer today than it was when President Trump took office for a host of reasons.

CHUCK TODD:

If Assad uses chemical weapons, are you going to hold Russia accountable for this?

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

The president is very clear. We will go to the source of the bad behavior.

CHUCK TODD:

Who is the source of that bad behavior, though: Assad or the Russians?

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

Well, we'll have to ,we’ll have to analyze once the activity takes place. We pray that it doesn't. But we'll do our intelligence, our forensics. We'll do our hard work. And we will hold accountable those that are responsible for violating this fundamental principle, this idea that chemical weapons are fundamentally different than other types of weapon systems.

CHUCK TODD:

So Russia needs to know that it could be held accountable here, if they're not careful.

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

We sanctioned, we’ve sanctioned Russia for chemical biological weapons use, what they did in Skripal. The president is deadly serious to make sure that chemical weapons don't become the norm in the way nations act around the world.

CHUCK TODD:

Are we afraid to use -- are we rule -- would you rule -- have we ruled out using a military response, if we see something like that?

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

We're not going to rule out a single thing, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me move to Iran here. You've said it isn't about regime change. So let me ask you this. If Rouhani wants a pull-aside with President Trump next week at the UN. Is it going to happen?

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

I think the president's been pretty clear about that. He's happy to talk with folks at any time.

CHUCK TODD:

So no precondition on that.

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

If there's a constructive dialogue to be had, let's get after it.

CHUCK TODD:

Is there one right now with the Iranians?

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

We'll have to see. It doesn't seem likely. Their behavior wouldn't indicate any intention to change the fundamental challenge that Iran presents to the world.

CHUCK TODD:

How do you make sure that the United States doesn't look like it's taking sides in Sunni versus Shia here? You guys are going to get tough on Iran this week. The president's going to chair this general assembly meeting. But it does look like the United States is on every Sunni side of an issue. How do you sort of make sure that the United States isn't sending that message?

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

I don't think the members of ISIS would share your view. We've been incredibly hard on terror, from wherever it comes, whether it's Shia, whether it's the Sunnis, or whether it's anyone else engaged in terror around the world. Our objective is to protect American interests. And we will protect them, no matter who it is perpetrating them, whether they come from a religion, no religion, or the Shias, or the Sunnis.

CHUCK TODD:

Are the Russians helpful at all in Iran?

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

They've not been, to date.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think they can be?

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

I always live in hope, Chuck. And indeed, it's my mission. As America's most-senior diplomat, it is my task to convince the Russians, too, that, you know, firing rockets from Yemen into major Gulf states, arming Lebanese Hezbollah, Kata'ib Hezbollah, all of these activities, these aren't in Russia's best interest, either. And just coming, just coming to America to poke us in the eye is not a foreign policy objective. That's being a nuisance. And what I'd hope they'd do is they'd come to understand that we do have places where taking down terror matters to each of our two peoples.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I know I'm short on time, so I want to make the final issue North Korea. You may end up meeting with your counterpart. I believe there's an invite there. Kim Jong Un seems to want to have another summit with President Trump. Any preconditions before that could happen again?

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

We have to make it work. That is we have to --

CHUCK TODD:

What's make it work, though?

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

We have to build it out. We have to set up the logistics. We've got to set the right conditions. But President Trump very much is prepared to meet with Chairman Kim at the right time. And we, and we hope that'll happen in the not-too-distant future.

CHUCK TODD:

Have the North Koreans been honest about their nuclear program, compared to what we know of their nuclear program? Have they been honest yet with the world?

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

Here's what I'd say about North Korea. We came in. There was the risk of war. We've taken that threat down by taking the temperature down, by beginning this set of discussions. They have stopped missile firings and nuclear testing. That's all to the good. We got back the remains of some of our soldiers. That's to the good. We have our eyes wide open. There is a long ways to go to get Chairman Kim to live up to the commitment that he made to President Trump and, indeed, to the demands of the world in the UN Security Council resolutions to get him to fully denuclearize. But our team is fully engaged. And there are lots of conversations taking place. There's lots of work being done. It isn't all visible to the public. But we are fully engaged in the process. We understand the objective. And economic sanctions will remain in place, until we get there.

CHUCK TODD:

Sounds like you're saying that, yes, he hasn't been fully honest yet.

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

Nope. You shouldn't take anything away --

CHUCK TODD:

No?

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

-- from what I've said, only that there remains a great deal of work to do. And we have the patience and determination and the president's mission statement to us at the State Department to make that happen.

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Secretary, I'm going to leave it there. Thanks for coming on.

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Appreciate it.

SECRETARY MIKE POMPEO:

You bet.

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Data Download time. Over the past year, you've been hearing a lot about the democratic enthusiasm for the midterm elections, which are just six weeks away. Well, this year's primary turnout shows it's more than just bluster. In the House primaries, in the 49 states that have held them, there have been over 36 million ballots cast overall. That is up 54% overall from 2014 primary numbers. And it's up 24% for republicans and a remarkable 89% for democrats. So if history is any guide, that big edge for democrats in the primary vote tallies could actually have real significance come November. Consider 1998 and 2006. Democrats had the turnout advantage in the primaries by 1.2 million votes cast in '98 and 3.1 million in '06. Both of those midterms resulted in democratic gains in the House. '98, democrats picked up five seats. It was remarkable for a President's party to actually gain seats in a midterm. 2006, that 3 million-vote edge yielded a democratic wave, as the party gained 30 seats in the House and took advantage of the Senate. Similar story for republicans in 2010 and, to a lesser extent, in 2014. It was the GOP that had a massive edge in primary turnout in 2010, which turned into a huge wave for the GOP. They picked up a whopping 63 seats in the House that year. That momentum carried through in 2014, as well, where they had a smaller primary-vote lead but still gained 13 more House seats. So for the record, we're skipping the 2002 primary season. That was in the wake of 9/11. Didn't really follow any standard patterns for midterm elections. So what do all of these numbers say about 2018? The raw primary vote shows there is a clear advantage for the democrats, even bigger, perhaps, than they've had before. Through the primary season, democrats have cast 20.6 million votes, while the republicans have cast just 16.3 million, giving the democrats a 4 million-plus-vote advantage. And it's that number that means something. That's in line with numbers from '06, in fact, bigger. And that's the last time democrats flipped the House and flipped the Senate. When we come back, End Game and the president versus the press.

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with End Game. And joining us with the panel is Marvin Kalb. He's, of course, a former moderator of this esteemed program. And he's author of a new book called Enemy of the People: Trump's War on the Press, the New McCarthyism and the Threat to American Democracy. Marvin, always an honor, sir.

MARVIN KALB:

Thank you. Pleasure to be here.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Let me just read a quick excerpt from your book. Because you basically connect the Trump and McCarthy eras this way. "How stunningly similar," you write. "Spineless republicans cowering before McCarthy in the early '50s and today's senior republican leadership turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to Donald Trump's unsubstantiated accusations. The parallels are powerful and disturbing." And we saw the fight of the Justice Department versus the president rile up again this week.

MARVIN KALB:

Yes. And I think at the heart of it was the role of the press and the role, centrally, of Edward R. Murrow at CBS. Because Murrow was the leader of the pack. He was the best, most well-known journalist of his time. And he was afraid that what McCarthy was doing was undermining our democracy. And he decided that he would take on this man. And he was unafraid in the way he did it. Because there was a lot of pressure on him: corporate pressure, different kinds of pressure. But Murrow decided, based on his experience in Germany in the '30s, that a democracy can be undone. Democracy is a fragile thing. It's based on ideas. It's based on people. And if people lose faith in the ideas, the democratic structure itself can be undercut. And Murrow was concerned that McCarthy was doing just that. And my gut feeling, at this time, is that President Trump is, essentially, doing the same thing.

CHUCK TODD:

Jonah, fair argument?

JONAH GOLDBERG:

Yeah. I'm not going to get into an argument about Edward R. Murrow. I have different opinions about all that. But I've made this comparison about Donald Trump and McCarthy to the extent that he plays this populist, red-shirt stuff, where he insinuates things he can't back up, where he plays passionately to his base, arouses passions devoid of being tethered to facts. I think, many times, the press helps Donald Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

The press helped McCarthy.

JONAH GOLDBERG:

Yeah, that's right. And I think that the press often makes it easier for Donald Trump to make these arguments stick. But in terms of irresponsibly engaging in demagogic rhetoric, I don't think you can exonerate Trump from that.

MARVIN KALB:

It's only up to a certain point that the press helps, where it helped McCarthy and is now helping Trump. There is a point at which the heart and soul of the press, in a free society, comes into play. And I think that there are many illustrations right now of the press taking a role and fighting back. For 60 years as a reporter, I was quite happy to cover the news and go home and not intrude my opinion into it at all. But I've changed my mind now. And I think that, because Trump is essentially taking steps that undermine our democracy, in my view, when he demeans the press and cuts into the press and humiliates the press, he is doing that to the essence of our democracy. And it has to be changed.

CHUCK TODD:

Eliana, I mean, this is a case of, if you're standing up for the democracy, is that bias?

ELIANA JOHNSON:

Well, I think I have a bit more faith in the durability of American democracy and the constitutional system. And I think we're seeing that in the midterms, where the objective facts of the economy, job growth, wage growth are being overshadowed by the president. And it's not benefitting his party, which is slated to lose a tremendous number of seats. Trump seems to be the single issue in the midterms. And it's not good. And if you look at what, really, the issues are, from Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen to Omarosa and the Woodward book, those are the issues voters seem to be going to the polls and ready to pull the lever on. And it's going to hurt the Republican Party.

CHUCK TODD:

Running low on time. Helene?

HELENE COOPER:

I remember, when I first got a job, I'm not going to say how long ago, with the Wall Street Journal. And we were told, at the time, that as a reporter, when you're presenting your stories, you should have a point of view. You should not have bias. But your stories should actually say something. You've reported it out. And now, it's your turn to speak to the reader and lay out the facts the way you do. And I think that that is probably the best way to define what we should be doing right now. I think you can go too far to, on the one hand, this, on the other hand, that. But I think, today, journalists should still have a point of view.

CHUCK TODD:

I have to land this plane. Marvin, you know this better than most, that I'm running out of time. The book, though, Enemy of the People. Literally getting flashcards here. I'm in trouble. That's all I have for today. As always, thank you for watching. Have a great week. And remember, if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

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