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First Read: Trump's weaknesses overshadow Clinton's

For every Clinton weakness, Trump often has an even bigger one.
Donald Trump speaks at a rally on May 25, 2016 in Anaheim, Calif. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty)
Donald Trump speaks at a rally on May 25, 2016 in Anaheim, Calif.

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

Trump's weaknesses overshadow Clinton's

Yesterday's stinging State Department inspector general report on Hillary Clinton's email practices should have produced one of the worst 24 hours for Clinton's campaign. Instead, it's been a political flesh wound -- blood, but nothing more. Why? Because almost all of Hillary Clinton's weaknesses are overshadowed by Trump's. Consider:

  • Clinton gets dinged -- rightly -- over a lack of transparency for her email practices, except that Trump is a presumptive presidential nominee refusing to release his taxes because he's under audit by IRS (even though Richard Nixon released his taxes while under audit).
  • The Clinton campaign has engaged in spin and some misinformation about the email story, except that Trump is someone who said he gave $1 million of his own money to a veterans' charity back in January -- but didn't make the contribution until the Washington Post discovered he hadn't cut the check yet.
  • Democrats are divided during the still-ongoing Clinton-vs.-Sanders race, except that Trump has criticized his party's most prominent Latina politician (New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez), as other GOP governors have taken Martinez's side.
  • Just 19% of all registered voters gave Hillary Clinton good marks for being honesty and straightforward in our April 2016 NBC/WSJ poll, except that just 12% gave Trump good marks for having the right temperament to be president.
  • Clinton is the most unpopular likely presidential nominee in the history of our NBC/WSJ poll (34% positive, 54% negative), except that Trump is even more unpopular (29% positive, 58% negative).
  • The Clintons are vulnerable to litigating Bill Clinton's extramarital affairs and sexual misconduct, except that Trump has been married three times and has battled his own allegations of sexual misconduct.

None of this is to say that Clinton will beat Trump in November; our own NBC/WSJ poll shows it to be a three-point race, and we have many twists and turns left over the next five-plus months. But for every Clinton weakness, Trump often has an even bigger one.

Past NBC/WSJ poll: Public divided over Clinton's emails

NBC's Andrea Mitchell has more on the inspector general findings on Clinton's email practices. "The scathing report" took "aim at Clinton for using only a private home email server as Secretary of State," Mitchell reported on "Today" this morning. "The key findings: No evidence Clinton requested or obtained permission to use a private server. And the report says Clinton violated federal rules by not turning over all official emails before she left office - concluding "...sending emails from a personal account to other not an appropriate method of preserving...emails." Yet back in Oct. 2015 -- before Clinton's testimony before the House Benghazi committee -- our NBC/WSJ poll found 47% of voters (including 76%) of Republicans saying that Clinton's email practices were important to them, versus 44% of voters (and 70% of Democrats) saying they weren't important. So back in October, Republicans were in one corner on this; Democrats in another.

Obama: World leaders are "rattled" by Trump

At the G7 Summit in Japan, President Obama was asked a question about what the gathered foreign leaders were saying about Trump. His answer was blunt: "They are paying very close attention to this election. It's fair to say they're surprised by the Republican nominee," he said. "They are not sure how seriously to take some of this pronouncements, but they're rattled by him -- and for good reason, because a lot of proposals he's made display either ignorance of world affairs or a cavalier attitude or an interest in getting tweets and headlines instead of thinking through what it is that is required to keep America safe and secure and prosperous and what's required to keep the world on an even keel."

Important "Meet the Press" programming note

Due to NBC Sports programming, "Meet the Press with Chuck Todd" will air at different times this Sunday than its regularly scheduled times in many markets. Revised broadcast times for this coming Sunday to be announced soon. The show may be pre-empted in some markets but will be available On Demand with video available online at

On the trail

Donald Trump delivers a speech on energy in Bismarck, ND at 2:00 pm ET before holding a rally in North Billings, MT at 6:00 pm ET… Hillary Clinton gives a speech to the United Food & Commercial Workers Convention in Las Vegas at 1:00 pm ET before campaigning in California… And Bernie Sanders stumps in Ventura, CA. Don't forget to check out the political unit's rolling minute-to-minute coverage of all the latest 2016 developments at the On the Trail liveblog at

Happy Memorial Day!

Finally, a note that your First Read morning column won't return until Tuesday. Have a great Memorial Day weekend!