The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 8/24/2016
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: August 24, 2016
Guest: Kellyanne Conway
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC`S “ALL IN” HOST: That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
It is special occasion night here tonight on the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.
We are going to start right off at the top of the show, not with me talking
for 17 straight minutes, but rather with “The Interview.”
I have had the opportunity on this show this year to interview Democratic
presidential candidate Hillary Clinton a handful of times. I have not yet
had the pleasure of interviewing Republican presidential candidate Donald
Trump. I live in hope that that interview will happen here and sometime
But in the meantime, I`m very excited to say that I`ve got what I think of
as the next best thing. We are joined tonight for “The Interview” by
Donald Trump`s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway.
Kellyanne, thank you so much for being here.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, CAMPAIGN MANAGER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: My pleasure, Rachel.
Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: I have to ask you, self-consciously, off the top, if it is a hard
decision to do a show like this with liberal commie pinko like me. Or do
you guys have a –
CONWAY: I`ve never described you that way. No, it`s a real pleasure. I
did want to pass along a hello from Donald Trump. I talked to him this
evening and I told him I was coming on your show. He said, that`s such a
And I said I hope that I`m just like your warm-up band, your B-band, and
that you`ll come on the show sometime, too. So, maybe you come visit us in
MADDOW: Well, I would love to do that. Let`s – I don`t want to spoil it.
So maybe we should just call it off right here and say, that`s the end of
the interview. No.
Let me start actually by saying, congratulations. This is your first
presidential campaign manager gig, obviously.
CONWAY: As a manager, yes.
MADDOW: But it`s also the first time any woman has ever managed a
Republican presidential campaign ever, so you`re in history for that.
Can I just ask you, how you got the gig? Did you interview? Did other
people interview? How did this come about?
CONWAY: Well, first of all, thank you. I didn`t even know I was the first
female Republican presidential campaign manager until someone pointed it
out to me on Twitter. They pointed it out for me and I said, that can`t be
And then I realized, I said this must be such a small group of women. And
right away I know them all, Susan Estrich and Donna Brazile and Beth Myers,
and I respect them enormously. And it took me about two seconds into the
job to see how much is on your shoulders, when you are the campaign
And they did it far longer than I did. I`m coming in toward the end of the
campaign. So hats off to them.
I think I got the job through the way Donald Trump has promoted women in
the Trump Corporation for decades, through merit. And he saw the way I
move. He knows I don`t sugarcoat things, but I`m very polite in delivering
And I felt like we had been losing for a couple of weeks. And I just –
instead of going in there and saying, we`re losing and if you have another
week like this, you`re done, I just said, you know, we`re a little bit
behind and I think it`s good to be the underdog.
You always say, I never lose, I`m not accustomed to losing, fine. But we
are a little bit behind and we`re really behind in some places. And so
let`s at least bring it to a slightly new direction.
I think once you have a buoyant candidate who feels comfortable doing the
so-called pivot on substance, where he has gotten so many people giving him
the advice, solicited, unsolicited, from both sides of the aisle to pivot
on style, he`s so comfortable going out and telling everybody, here`s my
10-point plan to reform the Veterans Administration.
We as a nation – I hope it`s a completely non-partisan issue, that we as a
nation share the goal of treating our veterans fairly and with dignity and
in a timely fashion for their health care needs.
If he goes out and he says, here`s my four-point tax plan, or here`s my
three-point way to defeat ISIS, and he actually has specifics, he`s so
comfortable and he so enjoys doing that.
And you can look at the specifics, Rachel, and you can say, I disagree with
them, I think this will never work, I think it`s cockamamie, but at least
you can see them. And –
MADDOW: When you say pivot on substance, do you mean that he is changing
some of his policy positions?
CONWAY: No, no, I meant the pivot has been more to substance. Because I
think, my own view as a voter and as an old hand politically, Rachel, is
that so much of this campaign and the campaign coverage, but so much of the
campaign has been content-free cacophony, like no substance being
And I think that`s a shame for the voters. I don`t know a billion things
about a billion things, but I know consumers, and I know voters. I`ve been
doing this for decades. And when I talk to voters and I look down in the
focus group, at their household income, and I look at the unemployed status
and I hear them, and I know that they deserve to at least have a full
debate on the issues this time.
And why do we have to wait for the actual debates for that? Let`s have a
debate on his vision for the next steps after the Affordable Care Act,
otherwise known as Obamacare, and Secretary Clinton`s.
Let`s compare them on energy independence. Let`s compare them. She
referred to – in her convention speech to – I assume she meant ISIS, but
she called them our “determined enemies.” He calls them ISIS. He calls
them radical terrorists.
I was offended last year when she referred to pro-life Republicans as
terrorists. I didn`t think that was nice or true, but she won`t refer to
the terrorists as terrorists. So my point is –
MADDOW: Do you think she doesn`t recognize ISIS as terrorists?
CONWAY: I sure hope she does. And I think she does, but why doesn`t she
MADDOW: Wait, hold on –
CONWAY: Why “determined enemies”?
MADDOW: She`s never called ISIS terrorists? Or she didn`t in that
CONWAY: Of course she has. But here she was in front of millions of
people, her largest audience ever.
MADDOW: But – OK, so but you`re talking about – you`re just saying let`s
keep it on substance, it shouldn`t necessarily be this cacophony that`s
just about the campaign itself.
CONWAY: It`s a great word, isn`t.
MADDOW: It is. But some of the cacophony has been because your candidate
has picked some unusual fights, because he has conducted himself as a
candidate in a way that really other campaigns haven`t.
Right after you started, he gave this remarkable set of remarks, where he
said that he regretted some of the things he`d said because they caused
personal pain, and he has repeatedly refused to say which of those things
But I guess I want to know whether or not any of those things are going to
be put to bed because he`ll apologize for them. Like when he said that
Judge Curiel – Judge Gonzalo Curiel essentially couldn`t do his job as a
judge, he would be inherently biased, and couldn`t do that job because of
his Mexican heritage, that is something that I imagine caused great
Did Donald Trump ever apologize to the judge for that?
CONWAY: I don`t know that he has.
MADDOW: Do you think he will?
CONWAY: But I – well, here`s what I do know. I think that his now
running mate, Governor Pence, when he wasn`t his running mate, put it best
about the Judge Curiel situation. He said, I know what Donald Trump meant.
And here`s what it is.
Every American deserves a fair trial with an impartial judge, but we do not
question one`s impartiality based on their ethnicity, race, and a whole
host of other –
MADDOW: Which Mr. Trump did, explicitly, for this judge.
CONWAY: And I thought – it`s funny, I don`t even know if Mr. Trump
noticed that response at the time, but I thought, well, that`s really
somebody who has worked with other countries, that really captures it. And
that`s the way I feel.
But I do hope, Rachel, that people who feel that they have been caused
personal pain by Donald Trump, looked at his regrets last week in a very
public form. And it`s very unusual for anybody who is running for
political office to – frankly, to ever say that they regret causing
And I hope that anybody who feels that way will at least see that
contrition and take that and at least accept his regret. And –
MADDOW: But there`s no apology. I mean –
CONWAY: Well, that would be done in private anyway.
MADDOW: And you`re saying it may have been done and you don`t know, or you
know that it hasn`t been done?
CONWAY: I don`t know either way.
MADDOW: OK. And with the Khan family – I mean, with Mrs. Khan, I mean,
in terms of personal pain, he said about her that he didn`t – I can tell
you exactly what he said. He said: “She had nothing to say. She probably
– maybe she wasn`t allowed to have anything to say.”
She rebutted that by saying, listen, she didn`t speak in that moment
because she`s so grief-stricken by the death of her son that cannot speak
about him without crying. I mean, talk about personal pain.
What an incredibly painful thing for him to have accused her of. And,
again, he said that he regrets causing it. Do you know if he`s apologized
to the Khan family directly?
CONWAY: I don`t know. And I certainly hope that they heard him last
Thursday in Charlotte when he said that.
Rachel, let me just say how I feel, if it`s at all relevant. I think that
the Khan`s son is a hero, and I`m glad he`s in Arlington National Cemetery,
and I think he made the ultimate sacrifice, as did they, and they deserve
our respect and our gratitude.
I have four small children, including a son. I can`t even put my mind
where their hearts are, because that is a very painful thing to even think
But I also think people should look at the full measure of each of these
candidates and not always judge that – well, not just judge him by one or
two things that he has said here. I just feel like we with should look at
MADDOW: To be fair, though, I think those things that he`s getting
consistently judged for, and people are not letting them go, is because
they`re so unusual. I mean, for any presidential candidate, for any
politician to get into a personal fight with a Gold Star family is so
strange, it`s so unusual.
I mean, not just as a political miscalculation, it`s just – it almost –
it`s humanly shocking and I think that`s why he is the only one who can
ever put that to rest. I think as his campaign manager, you`re going to
get asked about those stories again and again and again all the way through
November unless –
CONWAY: And I can`t speak for him on that, I really can`t speak for him on
that, because it`s very personal, I can speak for me.
MADDOW: Let me ask about policy then. Is it still the policy of the Trump
campaign and of Mr. Trump that there should be a total and complete
shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country`s
representatives can figure out what is going on. That was his statement on
Is that still the policy of the campaign and the candidate?
CONWAY: What he has said, and he repeated it, and again, people can pull
it up for themselves if they`d like, Rachel. What he said recently, when
he was delivering his entire fighting radical Islamic terrorist speech –
MADDOW: The Ohio speech, yes.
CONWAY: The Ohio speech, that`s right. A week ago Monday. Seems so long
MADDOW: I know, every day is a –
CONWAY: Yes, they`re like dog years, in politics, I`ve decided.
What he said there was that we are going to ban people from entry here from
countries that are known exporters of terrorism, which we can`t
sufficiently vet. So that is not every everybody, that`s not every
MADDOW: But does that statement rescind the earlier statement? Does that
mean that – I mean, it was very clear what he said in December, and he put
it in writing, right? A total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering
the United States. It was very clear. Is that now no longer operable as
the statement of the Trump campaign?
Should we see this new statement about countries that have a history of
exporting terrorism, should we see that supplanting that earlier statement?
CONWAY: Well, I don`t think it supplants it at all.
MADDOW: So they both exist?
CONWAY: I think that – well, yes, they do, because I think it clarifies
it, in terms of, well, what does this actually mean?
MADDOW: So what about a Muslim who wants to emigrate here from Australia?
CONWAY: Well, it depends. Do they have a record of terror? Are they tied
to any groups? Are they – I mean, we – look, his entire point is very
simple, Rachel, if I may.
Whether it`s an American-born lone wolf terrorist in Orlando who shoots up
49 innocent people in a nightclub, or it`s folks coming in on a fiancee
visa that federal agents I`ve talked to didn`t even know existed, in San
Bernardino, to kill 14 innocent co-workers, or it`s what happens in Nice,
in Brussels, in Paris, and so many other places around the globe, this has
And the fact is we have to do a better job as a government, because somehow
we`re not doing a great job.
MADDOW: Do you stop it by stopping all Muslims?
MADDOW: OK. So that policy is no longer –
CONWAY: Well, you look at his speech from last Monday and I think you find
your answer, where he says, look, we are going to stop allowing countries
that export terrorists, that we can`t get a good vetting system with them,
and frankly –
MADDOW: I`ve got the quote. He said he would suspend immigration from
“regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism.”
CONWAY: That`s right.
MADDOW: So on 9/11, four airliners were hijacked. Three of the four were
piloted by men who had most recently lived and operated their cell in
Germany. Right? We all know this, right? Hamburg, Germany. So is
Germany a country from which we will not allow immigration anymore?
CONWAY: No, not wholesale. Because there are so many other ways that we
could have at least captured, or I should say, known that those – that
that particular al Qaeda cell was here nefariously.
I mean, who were the people teaching them how to fly a plane in Florida
that they never had an interest in learning to land it? You know, we –
after 9/11, it was see something, say something.
But before that, we had them – you know, they could have been monitored in
a way, if there was a reasonable suspicion that they had, that they were
tied to terrorism. So in that particular instance, with the 9/11
terrorists, it`s very hard to believe it has been 15 years, Rachel.
But with that particular instance, I`d have to go back and review what we
knew about each of them at the time before I answer your question
completely. But the general policy is what he says it is, which is –
MADDOW: What he says is a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering
the United States.
CONWAY: That was – and now it`s –
MADDOW: Before. But you are saying that`s no longer operable.
CONWAY: I`m saying that you should see what he said last Monday, where he
is saying suspend it from regions or countries that are known exporters of
MADDOW: Like Germany, which makes no sense.
CONWAY: Well, no, no –
MADDOW: I mean, there`s a reason that we keep, again, not moving on from
this stuff. This was how – in December, when made this statement, right,
on December 7th it was like every political firework in the country went
off all at once, because nobody could believe that somebody who was running
for president of this country by promising that if you are of a specific
religion, you`re no longer allowed to come here.
MADDOW: If that`s no longer the case, that would be a really big deal.
But it can`t be that we`re not supposed to hold him accountable for that
statement anymore, but he hasn`t rescinded it.
In the same way that his statement of regret, if it`s meant to apply to the
Khan family or the Curiel family, we can`t give him credit to that unless
he actually tells us, and tells us that he has communicated that to the
Curiel and the Khan family.
The thread that ties these things together is this is all stuff of his own
making. And if you want the campaign to not be about this stuff anymore,
it seems to me like he`s the one who has to end all these controversies by
telling us what he really means.
You`re in a position of trying to defend what he said last week, and not
refer to what he said in December, but only one of them can be true.
CONWAY: Well, Rachel, I have memorized the list of 22 flip-flops that
Hillary Clinton has made on policy, and they have nothing to do even with
the corrupt Clinton Foundation State Department pay-to-play connection,
they have to do with policy.
And I think Bernie Sanders was right on many of those things when he was
calling her out for them. And we will call her out for them if others
won`t. So we feel that it`s legitimate –
MADDOW: But your own campaign is about your own candidate, right?
CONWAY: Well, no, no. There`s a choice in this country.
CONWAY: Yes, this campaign in totem is about two candidates. And if I can
say one thing about the coverage, it`s not that it`s biased or slanted.
It`s incomplete. It`s almost as if it`s a referendum on Donald Trump, it`s
as if you`re going to go into the ballot box on November 8th, Rachel, and
it`s going to be a big picture of Donald Trump with a light like you either
put a black X over him, or you say yea. That`s not the case.
MADDOW: But that`s obviously what happens –
CONWAY: She`s running too.
MADDOW: When one candidates running is planning on banning people from the
United States –
CONWAY: And the other is hiding. And the other is hiding.
MADDOW: OK. But not doing press conferences is one thing. But proposing
a ban on people coming to the United States from people who are of a
specific religion, it`s always going to be a referendum on that candidate.
CONWAY: And she wants total – well, I think that`s unfair, actually. I
think it`s actually a disservice to the voters in that he is now giving
speeches, several a week, where he`s laying out specific policy
prescriptions, including on the matter of which you asked me.
Where people can go and look and they can say, I don`t believe that, or I
don`t like that, or wow, I didn`t realize that. Let me try to digest this.
And this is the stage in the election cycle where voters start to want to
hear your specifics and your solutions.
MADDOW: Let me ask one more specific on that. There`s this one from the
Ohio speech, the terrorism speech, which I thought was just a fascinating
turn, and it was on this issue of extreme vetting. What he`s describing as
extreme vetting for people who want to immigrate to this country.
And what he said was, in the Cold War, we had an ideological screening
test. The time is overdue to develop a new screening test for the threats
we face today. What is that about? What`s the Cold War precedent for this
extreme vetting that he`s talking about?
CONWAY: He`s basically saying, this is not the first time the country has
done this, or that it has been done. That we`ve done this before, but for
some reason, we`ve become lax. We don`t do it.
MADDOW: When did we do it before?
CONWAY: Well, he`s just saying, there`s a Cold War precedent. And –
MADDOW: But what is the Cold War precedent?
CONWAY: For vetting. And he`s saying that in this case, it`s that we –
past is not necessarily prologue, but that when you are talking about
vetting, people shouldn`t comment like, oh, my God, that`s a new situation.
What if we did vet people based on their ties to terrorism, if we did that
a little bit better? I mean, is anybody arguing that we`re not letting
people in the country right now who do have ties to terrorists?
MADDOW: The Cold War precedent for what he`s talking about was an
ideological vetting. He`s saying we want ideological vetting of people.
That did exist in the Cold War, in the early `50s, it was called the
McCarran Act, which I`m sure you know.
MADDOW: And Truman vetoed it and then Congress was able to pass it some
other way. But what survived very famously was thrown out by the United
States Supreme Court because it was ruled to be unconstitutional.
So there is a Cold War precedent for ideological vetting of immigrants. In
that case, it was to stop communist front groups. But it didn`t pass
constitutional muster, and we`ve never had anything like that since that
ever has passed constitutional muster.
So what he`s asking for is a new extreme vetting system, which has
previously been tried and ruled unconstitutional and we abandoned it half a
CONWAY: Sixty-some years ago, right?
MADDOW: Yes. So that`s a hard case – so I want the pivot on substance to
happen too. I really do. But the substance –
CONWAY: Like four issues a week now though that he`s talking about. He
really doesn`t –
MADDOW: But he has to make sense. He has to make sense when he makes
these policy pivots in order for them to be successful.
CONWAY: Well, it sounds like you disagree with the policy, and that`s
fine. And –
MADDOW: No, you can`t have a McCarran Act now, it`s unconstitutional.
CONWAY: But that`s my point too. People can look at it and say, this is
ridiculous, that`s unconstitutional, you can`t have that, or they can say,
that may work, and I`d like to hear more about it.
But either way, I feel very confident that our campaign is the one of the
major two now, Rachel, that actually respects the voters, and what they
tell pollsters they want, which policy prescriptions, a conversation about
I said this before, but I`ll say on your show, I would rather lose a
campaign about style, than – or who said what today about whom, than not -
- than lose it on substance. Because I feel like the issue set favors us.
I mean, people in the last 200-some polls taken on Obamacare, otherwise
known as the Affordable Care Act, you have many people who still have
problems with – you have many millions of Americans uninsured, you have
people still looking for work, you have some schools that are failing our
And the fact is, Hillary Clinton, from what we`re told, is going to give a
speech tomorrow about none of that. Her speech is going to be about Donald
MADDOW: She`s going to give a speech about you guys, that`s right.
CONWAY: Well, but that`s odd. And I watch – it`s odd for this reason.
Again, it`s not – she`s running for president of the United States. And
presidents have to have vision and show leadership in a way that you make
the election about the future, not the past.
And you make it about your own beliefs and your own values and vision, not
just trying to make the other person look like he takes the wings off of
butterflies. It`s an odd construct. I watched Robby Mook. I watched
Robby Mook in your interview last week. I said, oh, I hope I get to do
that, I watched him interviewed my first day on the job. And I really did
want to come.
Robby is such a smart guy. He`s very loyal to Hillary Clinton. He knows
what he`s doing. He`s a great competitor. And yet most of his – much of
his interview was about Donald Trump. And I keep looking at that and
saying, when are we going to hear from you?
I mean, scarcity is their strategy. Politico ran a headline today that
said Hillary Clinton`s strategy to run out the clock to November. I think
that`s a disservice to voters. I think she just ought to lay it all out
and say my policies on X, Y and Z are right, and yours are wrong.
MADDOW: Kellyanne Conway is our guest. She is the campaign manager for
Donald Trump`s campaign, the first woman to ever be a campaign manager in a
Republican presidential campaign. And I have just secretly chained her to
the desk. So she`ll be here when we get back from the commercial break.
MADDOW: We`re back with Kellyanne Conway, campaign manager for the Donald
Trump for president campaign. One week ago tonight she became the first
woman to ever run a Republican presidential campaign.
Kellyanne, thanks again for being here.
CONWAY: Thank you.
MADDOW: Why – don`t take this the wrong way.
MADDOW: Why on earth is your candidate in Mississippi tonight if
everything you could possibly imagine that was bad for your candidate
happened between now and November and everything great for Hillary Clinton
happened between now and November, your candidate is still going to win
Mississippi by double digits.
CONWAY: That`s right.
MADDOW: Why is he in Mississippi?
CONWAY: And Hillary Clinton is still going to win California by double
digits and she has been there raising money –
MADDOW: But she`s raising money, he`s doing a rally.
CONWAY: Oh, no, he had fundraiser before that.
MADDOW: Right, but then they`re just doing the fundraising and then
booking out to a swing state. He does a rally, which means you`re spending
money to keep him down there. You`re paying the opportunity cost of him
being somewhere else. You`re paying money to rent the venue. You`re
having him do this rally.
Again, don`t take it the wrong way.
CONWAY: And it`s on national news here in a non-swing state in New York.
MADDOW: Here he is in Mississippi, but you`re wasting your donors` money.
I mean, the best possible outcome of this is that he might win by extra
double digits. Why is he there?
CONWAY: He was there because he wanted to do a rally in Jackson,
Mississippi, because he – the governor has been talking to him about
coming down and he had – I don`t know if your audience is aware, but he
had Mr. Farage, the leader of Brexit, on the stage with him tonight and
basically gave his big old epic Brexit speech on American independence.
MADDOW: Isn`t it a little weird to have the like secessionist guy give a
speech in Mississippi.
CONWAY: But in Jackson, Mississippi –
MADDOW: Yes, you get why that`s weird, right?
MADDOW: Go to a Union state next time.
CONWAY: But I will tell you that I think the people who came before me
developed a very sound infrastructure. But we have inherited a schedule
that we are taking better control of in terms of I`m a very focused person
and I see which states we`re going into with candidate appearances, that`s
both for Governor Pence and Mr. Trump.
Our ground game, our data operation, our field really focusing on the
states that get us to 270-plus in a couple of different ways.
MADDOW: You can`t get out of Mississippi because it was already planned.
CONWAY: Well, no, it was already planned. And honestly, when I first
asked about that rally, to give you a little inside peek, when I first
asked about that rally in a scheduling meeting last week, they said, well,
it went live this morning, you know, too bad we didn`t have this
conversation – it went live this morning. And the venue was already
MADDOW: Right, it`s Mississippi.
CONWAY: – but it`s national news. You`re covering it, the rest of you
are covering it. So – and he`ll be home tonight.
MADDOW: So let me ask you another one. New York. Home for Donald Trump.
The national political director for your campaign is –
CONWAY: Jim Murphy.
MADDOW: Jim Murphy, yes. Jim Murphy quoted in The New York Post two days
ago that there`s going to be an all-out, full steam ahead, top speed effort
in New York, a full plan, ground game, media, Internet, direct mail, maybe
phone banks for New York.
And then the reason I`m asking you about this, is he then told The New York
Post he was acting at your behest specifically and named you, in saying
that this is why there`s such a focus on New York State, where you are on a
good day, behind by 17 points. That doesn`t sound like you. That doesn`t
sound like your kind of focus.
CONWAY: It wasn`t me. But it would be exciting to challenge Hillary
Clinton here, just on her Senate record in New York alone. I hope you get
an opportunity to interview her. I hope if she comes and enjoys her time
in this seat, Rachel, as I am tonight, that you`ll ask her the question,
you know, why was your Senate record here in this state so unremarkable?
But I have a 3:30 call tomorrow with Jim and I`ll ask him about that
article that I had not seen.
MADDOW: Sorry, Jim, I didn`t mean to get you in trouble.
CONWAY: But I`ll say something else, Jim is onto something very important
that I think is missed in the non-conversation conversation politically,
Rachel, which is, we have great teams in different states.
We may not be competing at this moment. And we`re going to start moving
people around to these swing states. And that`s very typical of campaigns,
they do that. You decide where are your strengths, where do you want to
sew up some of these poll numbers.
Which, you know, even in a place like North Carolina today, we`re behind by
2, according to a public poll. Arizona, we`re ahead by 5. You know,
things are starting to look a little bit better. But these battleships
But if we have a fabulous state director somewhere where we end up not
competing as hard, and they`re talented, we`ll move them around because
that`s what smart campaigns do. You say, how do we refocus our talents and
where do we put our candidates?
And we`ve been working with Governor Pence`s staff as well in trying to do
that, because he`s an incredibly strong speaker in some of these swing
states. He gets large crowds. They want to hear his message. They
connect with him.
And I told Governor Pence, you`re like the golden child, you eat your
vegetables, you do your homework in homework club, he`s just done a
phenomenal job for this ticket. And he keeps his own schedule.
I think every 10 days or so, we`re going to try to get Trump and Pence
together in one place as well. But you`ll see some changes. You`re going
to have a post-Labor Day bonanza of a new type of schedule. Promise.
MADDOW: OK. You used the phrase “golden child” there, which I have to
quote back to you, because that is one of the phrases that was used
ironically, or sarcastically by the new chief executive of the Trump
campaign, Steve Bannon, to describe Paul Ryan.
He has called Paul Ryan a liar, he has called him a golden child, and he
didn`t mean it in a good way. He said –
CONWAY: I did, by the way.
MADDOW: You meant it in a good way, exactly, when you were talking about
Governor Pence. But that`s not how he meant it about Paul Ryan. He once
said of Paul Ryan recently that Paul Ryan was raised in a Petri dish at the
So Breitbart, under Steve Bannon`s leadership, has been the biggest media
cheerleader on the right for the resignation of John Boehner, for the
defeat of Eric Cantor, and for this year`s challenge to Paul Ryan, who is
the current Republican speaker of the house. How`s it going between
Speaker Ryan and your campaign?
CONWAY: It`s going well.
MADDOW: Since Steve Bannon came on board? In the past week, you and Steve
Bannon came on at the same time.
CONWAY: That`s right, nothing has changed in terms of Speaker Ryan having
endorsed Donald Trump and Donald Trump having endorsed Speaker Ryan.
I did tease Mr. Trump, Rachel, by saying, hey, you went and endorsed him,
and he won his primary with 84 percent of the vote, you didn`t take the
credit. Had I been here, we would have taken the credit. Paul, you went
from 82 to 84.
MADDOW: If you really need Paul Ryan down the stretch, he has a certain
amount of power and sway.
CONWAY: Yes, he`s the speaker of the house.
CONWAY: And he would be the speaker of the house in a Trump presidency.
MADDOW: So you`ve now got his chief political antagonist from the
conservative media with you, running the Trump campaign. Steve Bannon has
been not just a provocateur on the right, not just a controversial guy, he
specifically set his sights on trying to destroy Paul Ryan.
He`s after John McCain. He`s after Paul Ryan. He stood up and cheered
about John Boehner, and about Eric Cantor. The way that he celebrated Eric
Cantor losing his seat. I understand, if you`re a Republican insurgent why
that must be very exciting. But if you`re the Republican Party, if they`re
going to be responsible for a lot of the ground game and all of this stuff,
how could they work with him?
CONWAY: We had Sean Spicer in our shared office just the other day. So
it`s – that`s the chief strategist working on the –
MADDOW: They`re just swallowing it. They`re just –
CONWAY: No, they`re not swallowing it. In fact, I talk to Chairman
Priebus once or twice a day now. And I really like the way that the
official – you know, the Republican Party nationally, Rachel, is treating
us and working with us.
I`m really pleased with that. And I think it comes on the heels of this –
letters people are writing, please put the resources down-ballot and
please, don`t destroy the Republican Party.
Chairman Priebus doesn`t feel that way and Speaker Ryan doesn`t. And I`ll
tell you what, in a Trump presidency, I`ll be the first one to go up and
thank Speaker Ryan and work with him. We both worked for Jack Kemp at
different points in our career.
MADDOW: How about Steve Bannon?
CONWAY: Oh, he`ll do it too. Steve, yes.
MADDOW: After doing everything he could to destroy him, calling him a liar
and all that?
CONWAY: Well, and they both have really big jobs now. So there you go.
True to say, they both endorsed Donald Trump.
MADDOW: But do you have to wear chain mail when you go to work? This
environment that you work in, it`s like actively on fire every day.
CONWAY: Come and visit us, Rachel, bring your camera.
MADDOW: I absolutely will.
CONWAY: Come visit us in the tower. I just invited you. I just got my
first piece of hate mail to my home –
MADDOW: Oh no, I`m sorry.
CONWAY: No, I`m just saying, it`s a crazy time, but it`s very rewarding
and I`m telling you, I really think that the case for change that so many
Americans are making, that they say, 70 percent is saying, take us in a
different direction, that`s a change election.
You know, you see the polls, including NBC`s polls, Rachel, that a vast
majority of Americans dislike Hillary Clinton, distrust her. And I
certainly hope that we`re not now inured to that because it has happened
for so long.
I mean, there were some serious revelations this week. And I saw someone
on TV, like someone I respect enormously from the other side of the aisle
last night say the following, while the Clinton Foundation scandal
unfolding seems serious and we`ll take a look at it, but the next time
Donald Trump says something crazy, then we`ll forget about this.
And I thought, if it`s worthy of examination, if the allegations of pay to
play and these visits from people, and these foreign donations are actually
bothersome, then – and actually worthy of examination on a show like
yours, Rachel, then that doesn`t wash away because Donald Trump said
something that day.
And that`s my point about full coverage.
MADDOW: On that issue of the Clinton Foundation, the very strong statement
from your campaign two days ago, saying the Clinton Foundation is the most
corrupt enterprise in political history. If it`s such a vehicle for
corruption, why did Donald Trump donate so much money to it?
CONWAY: He donated $100,000, and certainly didn`t donate for the same
reason these foreign donors did, apparently. He didn`t ask to get a
meeting with the secretary of state to talk about donating to the Clinton
Foundation, like apparently 85 other people did.
MADDOW: Well, asking and getting is not –
CONWAY: To the tune of $156 million.
MADDOW: Asking and getting is not the same thing.
CONWAY: But the Clinton Foundation does some good work. I mean, there`s
no question about that. They do very important work.
MADDOW: But they`re the most corrupt enterprise in political history,
that`s your statement.
CONWAY: Apparently you can be both.
CONWAY: Apparently you can be both. So we see the good work they do
around the globe. And, you know, Rachel, I was thinking about this today,
they could do much – they could do even better, more good work, if you
will, if some of those donations weren`t – you know, weren`t, I guess,
received as a way to, in the State Department, and why are you giving it
any – did we need to have meetings in the State Department with foreign
donors and then pretend all that money is just for vaccinations and –
MADDOW: Well, there`s no indication that the money went for anything other
than back to the Clinton programs.
CONWAY: Well, let`s find out. I think Governor Christie had this right.
I think Governor Christie had this right yesterday. He said, look, we
actually don`t know the facts. And three different FBI divisions asked the
DOJ to investigate, and they did not – either did not return their calls
or refused to investigate.
But Governor Christie is right, Rachel. He said yesterday, look, we as
Americans have the need to know what the facts are before we cast a vote.
I think there`s something to that. We already know how America feels about
The lack of transparency, the lack of accountability, the corruption, the
rigged system that helps insiders. This doesn`t look good for someone who
is already distrusted and disliked by a majority of Americans.
MADDOW: But then to the same point, I don`t want to go tit-for-tat on the
Clinton Foundation, and I hear you, absolutely, but to that same point, I
mean, every presidential candidate in the modern era has released his or
her tax returns, including – I mean, back to Nixon, right?
And when Nixon set that precedent he was under audit. So it`s not – being
under audit is not an excuse to not release your tax returns. The IRS says
if you`re under audit, you`re totally allowed to release your tax returns.
And previous presidents and presidential candidates have.
Donald Trump is running for president in part on the basis of his financial
acumen and saying that the system is rigged. And there has been a lot of
really troubling reporting about his business practices, as well, you know,
I mean, a lot of stuff that may or may not been followed all the way to its
But talk about raising questions, there has been stuff. Why should this
audit out only apply to him? I mean, everybody else has released their tax
returns, why shouldn`t he?
CONWAY: Well, that`s the conclusion that his lawyers and accountants have
made and the advice they`ve given him and he`s respecting that advice.
But I also don`t –
MADDOW: Do you respect it? Do you think that he should release his tax
CONWAY: Well, I do respect it only because I once thought, oh,
transparency, release your tax returns. But the fact is now that I`m
there, I hear what the advice that the lawyers and the accountants have
But I don`t think that we need to see his tax returns to verify his
financial acumen. I walk into the Trump Tower every day and I`m like, this
guy did pretty well for himself before I got here.
MADDOW: I want to know if he pays taxes.
CONWAY: And he – well, like you know what you want to know, Rachel, we
all want to know what taxes we would pay under his tax plan. That`s a
MADDOW: No, no, trust me, I really literally want to know if he pays
taxes. I have two more things to ask you. Do you mind staying?
CONWAY: No. Oh, another break.
MADDOW: Another break, sorry. Kellyanne, campaign manager for Donald
Trump, I promise just one more break and we`ll be right back.
MADDOW: We`re back with Kellyanne Conway, who is the first woman to ever
be the campaign manager for a Republican presidential campaign. It is her
first presidential campaign management gig. And she has been in it for
precisely one week, most of which you`ve spend here in the studio with me
MADDOW: I know it feels like I`m never going to let you go. I have two
MADDOW: One is about this health issue, and I have a very specific
question about this. So Mr. Trump personally and members of your campaign
have repeatedly now raised this question of Secretary Clinton`s health.
Now the only testimony we have of Mr. Trump`s health is this letter from
his gastroenterologist saying that his lab results were astonishingly
excellent and the letter ends by saying: “If elected Mr. Trump, I can state
unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever be elected to the
And that`s really funny, but as a doctor`s letter, it`s a little bit
absurd. It`s a non-serious letter. It`s full of typos. It`s hyperbolic.
It`s unprofessional. Most of the letter has no medical meaning. It links
to a website that doesn`t exist.
If he was elected, Donald Trump would be the oldest person to ever be sworn
in as president. Whether or not he`s going to try to make Hillary
Clinton`s health the issue, doesn`t he owe it to the American people to
release an actual medical report, a more credible, more complete statement?
CONWAY: Perhaps. But I want to say something about Hillary Clinton`s
health. It`s not an issue that I care to comment on, because I`m not a
doctor. She`s not my patient. And I can just tell you what I see with my
own two eyes which is I don`t see someone who really enjoys campaigning the
way he does.
I can only tell you about him, because I`m with him practically every day,
which is, he keeps such a crazy, ridiculous pace for a man his age, that
it`s very difficult for the younger staffers, of which I`m not one, to keep
up with him, Rachel.
I mean, it`s really insane. I mean, he called me yesterday and said, I
need more rallies, are we doing a rally here? What are we doing? I`m
like, you know, he doesn`t just show up and do the rallies. He prepares
for them. You have to travel. He`s always reading, he`s always thinking,
he`s always talking.
I confess, I don`t know when he sleeps.
MADDOW: Yes, but both you, here as his campaign and him talking about
himself have made his physical vigor actually part of what he brings to the
campaign, part of what he offers, and they`ve made it a contrast issue with
But Hillary Clinton released a normal doctor`s statement. What we have got
from Donald Trump, that letter really is absurd. And we`ve actually
contacted the doctor who wrote it to try to get some background. It turns
out he was using a medical credential on his name that he`s no longer
entitled to use.
Like there`s a lot of really not upstanding things about what we know
there. And so, I mean, for one, why is – a gastroenterologist is a
digestive specialist. Why has Donald Trump been seeing a
gastroenterologist for 35 years?
CONWAY: Oh, that I don`t know for sure. There are certain things I just
haven`t learned in the last week, Rachel, I promise.
MADDOW: As the campaign manager, can I please make a request?
CONWAY: Yes, please, absolutely.
MADDOW: That we get a more substantial medical –
CONWAY: I will pass on the request. And I assure you that he does have
doctors – he has doctors and physicians. And I want to also add one more
thing. I was told by a different anchor last night on a different network,
that Hillary`s doctors have released her part of her medical information,
her health history, and that she`s in good health.
And I say great, because I want her to be in excellent health. In other
words, that`s just not – I think stamina is different than health. You
know, vigor on the campaign trail.
But I look at Hillary Clinton not being out there more as a strategy. It`s
scarcity as a strategy. It`s that we don`t want to put her out there,
because when we do, people are reminded that she doesn`t meet the 70
percent of Americans who want a change election, a new direction.
She is the person who has earned a majority of Americans, Rachel, saying, I
dislike her and I distrust her, but – I can`t imagine what comes after the
“but.” What do you mean, but? But I think I`ll vote for her, I think I`ll
give it a whirl.
MADDOW: I think she`s – I mean, as just a political observer, I think the
reason that she`s not out on the campaign trail as much doing visible
events is because they think they`re winning and they don`t want to
interrupt the narrative.
CONWAY: And I think that`s terrible and I`ll tell you why. If we were
winning just because Hillary Clinton was failing or tripping over her
words, or messing up by not doing – you know, or she was down in the polls
for whatever reason, let`s say the Clinton Foundation investigation helps
her go down in the polls, we`re not going to disappear, I promise you,
because that`s not what the voters want.
They want to see the candidates. They want to hear the candidates. They
want to digest their proposals that we`ve been discussing tonight, Rachel.
And they want to be able to see what the contrast is between these two.
Not contrast in style, not even contrast in stamina, contrast on substance.
I`m telling you, we`re going to fight her on substance. And I`m very
disappointed, from what I know publicly, that her speech tomorrow in Reno,
MADDOW: Is going to be all about you.
CONWAY: It`s not about substance.
MADDOW: Yes, well, it`s going to be – it`s about the Trump campaign, and
this is my last question for you. And I`m asking it just because I feel
like I shouldn`t have to ask you, but I don`t have any access to anybody
else with the campaign. So I have to ask you. It`s a factual question.
Is Roger Ailes working as part of the Donald Trump campaign?
CONWAY: No. He is not a formal or informal adviser. They`re old friends.
I mean, he`s Donald Trump. He talks to a lot of people. Something is
MADDOW: So that meeting at the Bedminster golf club in New Jersey on
Sunday, August 14th, that wasn`t – that didn`t happen? Like, this is what
The New York Times reported in terms of him coming on board to help Donald
Trump prepare for the debates, and becoming a formal or informal adviser,
that didn`t happen?
CONWAY: I was not there on August 14th. So I didn`t see who was or was
not there. But I will tell you that they`re old friends and they talk.
I`m sure they talk, and I`m sure – but he talks to many different people
from every side of the aisle –
MADDOW: Roger Ailes, no role in the campaign though?
CONWAY: Roger Ailes has no formally or informal role in the campaign, no.
But he is a marketing genius.
MADDOW: And just resigned his job under a cloud of terrible sexual
CONWAY: Thank you for having me, Rachel. I just wanted to say, thank you
for having me. I mean, I know you work hard, I work hard. But not every
woman gets what we got, which is our shot. And for that I`m most grateful.
And I feel most blessed.
I`ve watched you for years on “Scarborough Country” and Tucker`s show –
CONWAY: – and I said, she should have her own show. And indeed, you have
for a long time. And I respect that enormously. I know you disagree with
us perhaps philosophically. But I hope Mr. Trump will take the seat one
day. But thank you for having me on.
MADDOW: Thank you. And back at you. You know, I think it is – you have
made history and I think women breaking glass ceilings in politics is
always important wherever it happens. And good luck to you.
CONWAY: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks, Kellyanne, really nice to see you.
See, that was fine. Everything went OK. We can talk to each other. It`s
going to be all right.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: So, that was kind of awesome. I mean it was awesome in this exact
sense. That was an in-depth conversation over multiple segments with
Donald Trump`s brand-new campaign manager Kellyanne Conway. And we still
have a show with lots of other things to say.
The reason I`m glad that happened is because Kellyanne Conway and I could
not be more different ideologically, right? And she`s working on this
project, she`s the campaign manager for the Donald Trump campaign, which I
find endlessly fascinating and in lots of ways endlessly scary and I`ve
talked about that here on this show. But to be able to have a conversation
that covered that many different topics and was that substantive and that
didn`t devolve into a shout fest and that wasn`t mean toward either of us,
makes me feel good about this as a medium.
So, if you felt disappointed that we didn`t kill each other, I`m sorry we
didn`t kill each other, I`m really glad that we didn`t and I hope it can be
the start of even more dialogue. And to that point and to that end, I
would like to say – Donald Trump you have not yet done an interview on
this show. And I think if you would bring yourself to do it, you would not
regret it. I think it would be substantive and helpful and a different
kind of conversation that we`re usually getting. Come on, it will be fun.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Earlier today, Republican vice presidential nominee, Governor Mike
Pence wrapped up an event in Wilmington, North Carolina, but then real
quick right after he hopped a plane back to his home state of Indiana.
It`s not necessarily an unexpected move. His schedule did have him plan to
be traveling back to his home state today. But what mike pence had to head
home to is decidedly unplanned. Central Indiana has been dealing with
tornadoes for much of the day today. As of right now, there are no reports
of any deaths, but thousands of Indiana families and businesses are without
power. We`ve seen images in some cases of significant structural damage.
A tornado watch had been in place for 25 different Indiana counties and was
supposed to expire at 9:00 Eastern tonight. But it`s now been extended
until 11:00 p.m. Eastern as new tornado warnings and take cover alerts are
still being issued across central Indiana.
Tomorrow, Governor Pence is expected to visit Kokomo, which has taken a
pretty severe beating. Tonight, Kokomo declared a state of emergency after
these storms. We`ll keep you updated on any further developments.
MADDOW: One other big political event still unfolding right now. Senator
Bernie Sanders right now is speaking live to supporters at over 2,600 house
parties across the country. It`s the live-streaming launch of a new
political project he`s calling Our Revolution, to recruit and train and
fund progressive candidates down ballot all across the country.
And honestly, the fact that Senator Sanders went through with tonight`s
event is notable itself. Yesterday, it emerged that over half the staff of
this new project resigned en masse over the weekend. That walkout came
before they could fully promote tonight`s event, leading to doubts about
how many people would show up tonight.
Well, tonight we now know. A spokesperson for the project tells us that
they got RSVPs from 30,000 people. We`re going to get a live report on how
it went and how it`s going, next.
MADDOW: Alex Seitz-Wald is a political reporter for MSNBC who`s been
covering the launch of Bernie Sanders`s new political organization tonight.
He`s also been reporting recently on a little bit of turmoil in
Alex joins us now live.
Alex, thanks very much for being with us tonight.
ALEX SEITZ-WALD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: How is this launch going?
SEITZ-WALD: Well, Rachel, I just came from one of these launch events just
down the street from our studio. People were happy about it. They`re
pretty excited about 30,000 people watching the live stream. But not an
ideal way to start.
As you mentioned, about 2/3 of the staff quitting over Jeff Weaver being
brought back in. He`s Bernie Sanders` former campaign manager, a lot of
turmoil over the structure of the group. It was set up in a way that could
collect larger donations and hide the donations. It`s not what people
And they say this contradicts Bernie Sanders` whole message about getting
out the millionaires and the billionaires from politics. They want to use
this group to support candidates up and down the ballot but the way it`s
structured it`s going to make it difficult. They can`t coordinate directly
with those candidates. And looks like Bernie Sanders can`t himself be a
face of this group.
So major questions going forward, Rachel.
MADDOW: In terms of money, obviously when they talk about supporting down-
ballot candidates it`s organizing but it`s also money, particularly when
you can`t coordinate with a campaign.
Do we have any dollar signs attached to the size of the effort in terms of
understanding how big this is?
SEITZ-WALD: Yes, I learned that today before these staffers quit that they
had raised about a million dollars directly for this group and another
$600,000 directly for those candidates. You know, kind of a lot, the power
of that Bernie Sanders fund-raising list, but they say they could have
raised a lot more with a different structure. They had raised about a
million dollars directly for this group and another 600,000 directly for
You know, kind of a lot, the power of that Bernie Sanders fund-raising
list, but they say they could have raised a lot more with a different
MADDOW: Alex Seitz-Wald, political reporter for MSNBC, covering this
ongoing event tonight.
Alex, thanks a lot for being here. Appreciate it.
MADDOW: All right. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again
tomorrow. Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O`Donnell.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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