Show: MTP Daily Date: April 13, 2017 Guest: Roger Stone
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: -- 5:00 on the east coast and that can only mean one thing. "MTP DAILY" starts right now.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: If it`s Thursday, Roger Stone tells us what`s not in his bag of tricks. (voice-over): Tonight, one-on-one with the self-proclaimed dirty trickster of.
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ROGER STONE, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL OPERATIVE: This is a bare-knuckle exercise in American democracy.
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TODD: I`ll talk exclusively with Republican strategist and long-time adviser to President Trump, Roger Stone.
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STONE: Nobody puts words in Donald Trump`s mouth. I know because I tried to do it.
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TODD: We`ll cover it all from Russia collusion --
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STONE: At the end of the day, proof is what matters.
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TODD: To the palace intrigue around White House strategist and sometimes stone ally, Steve Bannon.
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STONE: Now, he is alone and he`s surrounded.
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TODD: And later, what`s being called the mother of all bombs. The U.S. drops its largest non-nuclear bomb ever in Afghanistan.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And what I do is I authorize my military. We have the greatest military in the world.
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TODD: This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.
(on camera): Good evening, I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington and welcome to MTP DAILY.
The political world is still reeling from a barrage of what some are calling flip-flops from President Trump. Others might say it`s evolution or, apparently, people changing their positions to Trump. But we do know this. He`s changing his mind on China as a currency manipulator. The importance of the export-import bank, fed chair, Janet Yellen`s, performance and the role of NATO among other things. And these policy changes are extraordinary and yet, at the same time, not that shocking. In fact, many predicted some of these shifts throughout the campaign. Many campaigned against Donald Trump saying, he`s going to flip on X, Y or Z. I think some of them didn`t think he`d flip on X, Y and Z. And not this quickly into his presidency. We`re going to get into all of that shortly. But, tonight, we have a special guest, Roger Stone. A Republican provocateur, strategist and long- time adviser to President Trump, who has been at the heart of allegations of ties between Trump campaign and Russia. Here`s a quick primer on just who exactly is Roger Stone. He`s been involved in Republican politics and pulling electoral high jinx since the Nixon era. He also ran the high-powered political consulting firm, Black, Manafort and Stone, of course along with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. They were big -- very much involved in the rise of Ronald Reagan in the 1970s and 1980s. As for Donald Trump, Stone first met him in the late 1970s and acted as a close advisor in the years following. Stone was the director of Trump`s presidential exploratory committee in 1999 when he ran for the reform party nomination. And Stone was a part of his most recent campaign before departing over unclear circumstances before the primaries began. Stone kept fighting for Trump after leaving the campaign, pushing hits against the Republican field and eventually, of course, against Hillary Clinton. Stone`s most prolific line of attack on Clinton was peddling stories on Bill Clinton`s history with women and alleging that Bill Clinton fathered a child as the result of an extra-marital affair.
But as of late, Stone has been under fire for alleged connections with the Russian DNC e-mail hacker, Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. Here`s what we do know about their contacts with Mr. Stone. Stone has acknowledged exchanging Twitter direct messages with Guccifer 2.0 but says their contact was limited to benign pleasantries.
With Assange, Stone once said he was in contact with him as he did here at a Florida Republican meeting in August of last year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CILP) STONE: I actually have communicated with Assange. I believe the next (INAUDIBLE) of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation but there`s no telling what the October surprise may be.
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TODD: But, recently, Stone characterized his contact with Assange as merely communications through an intermediary with no direct contact. Stone has offered to testify before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to tell his side of the story. And, by the way, he wants that testimony televised. He doesn`t want it behind cameras or with no cameras allowed. I spoke with Roger Stone this afternoon and asked him about his role in the Trump campaign and the allegations of Russian involvement.
TODD: Let`s talk about your role in this campaign a little bit. First of all, you`re known as a self-proclaimed dirty trickster. STONE: You know what? TODD: How`d you earn the -- why do you think you`ve earned that reputation?
STONE: I think Democrats may have hung that on me --
TODD: Well, you -- STONE: -- and I didn`t (ph) fight it.
TODD: -- embrace it sometimes.
STONE: But I`ll say this. TODD: Why did you get the reputation? STONE: Because politics ain`t bean bag. Because this is a bare-knuckle, you know, exercise in American democracy. They said Lincoln had, you know, African-American bastard children. They said that they attacked Cleveland for having an out of wedlock mama and papa. TODD: Right. STONE: So, politics has always been rough and tumble in this country. But I`ll tell you one trick that`s not in my bag. Treason. See, that crosses a line. So, I resent the inference that I have colluded with the Russians to elect Donald Trump because it`s patently false.
[17:05:06] TODD: Why wouldn`t you be a suspect though? If you were in the position of investigators or journalists and here`s a guy, Roger Stone, a reputation for some dirty tricks. Some that you say, you know, are childish or buffoonery back when you were 19 or 20. But even more sophisticated over time. Why wouldn`t -- why wouldn`t you think of yourself as a suspect?
STONE: Oh, I think -- I suspect that`s why some are trying to imply that I`ve done things that are -- I`m a perfect --
TODD: Do you think your reputation brought you here?
STONE: Perhaps. Perhaps. But at the end of the day, proof is what matters. Evidence is matter, not conjecture or supposition or projection.
TODD: Well, two things out there that hits you hard. Number one has to do with Guccifer --
STONE: Yes. TODD: -- and your communications -- STONE: Yes. TODD: -- with him. STONE: So, what`s -- TODD: So, let`s address that. Let`s address Guccifer.
STONE: So, the inference that my brief and now entirely public Twitter exchange with Guccifer 2.0 --
TODD: The only -- in fairness, it`s entirely public because you`ve told us it`s entirely public.
STONE: Well, I -- TODD: How do I -- how do we verify that?
STONE: I`ve released everything I have. If, in fact, I`m under surveillance, as "The New York Times" reported on January 20th, well then I`m not the only one that knows.
TODD: Do you own the surveillance or people that you`re talking to own the surveillance?
STONE: Yes, well, either way, I would have been surveilled. I mean, "The Times" story, I believe the headline is Wiretap Data Utilized in Probe of Trump Aides. They changed the headline in the online edition.
TODD: Not clear that you`re the target.
STONE: Well, it says three aides were under surveillance. It names Carter Page, whoever he is, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone.
So, I would say based on three things. One, the content of the exchange which I`ve released, the timing of the exchange, six weeks after the release by WikiLeaks of the DNC documents, and the circumstances. Who would conduct espionage on Twitter? No one.
TODD: Let me ask you this.
STONE: And I -- and I don`t concede that -- TODD: If you`re Guccifer -- if you`re Guccifer --
STONE: -- and I don`t concede that Guccifer is a Russian asset. I just don`t concede that. If you go to the Internet and look around, there`s more theories about that than there are, say, the Kennedy assassination.
TODD: You can go to the Internet and find a lot of theories.
But let`s talk about Guccifer. Why -- let`s say you`re not -- you don`t know he`s Russian. But he`s looking the pass this information up to the Trump campaign. Why wouldn`t he contact you? Wouldn`t that be pretty smart of him?
STONE: Yes. But, in this case, he didn`t contact me. I contacted him only in the sense that --
STONE: Because I read that he had been banned on Twitter, and then I read he`d been reinstated. I`m against censorship. I think everybody should have a voice, regardless of their political point of view, where they are on the spectrum.
So, in a completely innocuous exchange, I congratulated him for being returned to Twitter. The rest of this exchange is like the classic Washington belly rub. There`s nothing there of any substance.
TODD: All right, that would be one and you could pass that off as circumstantial, the Podesta tweet.
STONE: Yes. TODD: It would be time in the barrel. STONE: Yes. TODD: It was done before anybody, in the public square, knew that Podesta`s e-mails were in the hands --
STONE: And I didn`t -- and I didn`t know it either. In fact, no place --
TODD: We only know that from your denial.
STONE: No. But nowhere on the public record anywhere do I say anything about --
TODD: No, I understand that. STONE: -- Podesta`s e-mail where I say Podesta`s time in the barrel will come. And it`s based on my knowledge, based on research documents I`ve seen about his business activities in Eastern Europe. And it`s clear that they are going to become public, meaning public scrutiny which is what I meant. And between the time I tweet that in the election, there`s over a hundred stories on his business dealings in the region, including "The Wall Street Journal" and Bloomberg and others. So, to say this means Stone knew that his e-mail would be hacked and released, no, it doesn`t mean that at all.
TODD: No, but if you`re an investigator, and you know the Russians interfere -- you`re pretty confident the Russians interfered, you`ve had two, now, innocuous attacks. One investigators believe, to Guccifer, is a Russian. I understand you don`t believe that. And, second, is this Podesta thing. And it turns out the Podesta e-mails end up being a gold mine of political theft --
STONE: Yes. TODD: -- in the history of presidential policies. STONE: Right TODD: Do you understand why you`re a suspect?
STONE: No, I understand why I have been blamed but there`s no evidence. You have -- in this case, you don`t even have fire, never mind smoke. So, to claim that I knew about the hacking of Podesta`s e-mail in advance because I predicted that his business activities would come under public scrutiny, that would be supposition, conjecture.
TODD: How do you explain your conversations with Mr. Assange?
STONE: I`ve never had any conversations with Mr. Assange. I do have a source who accurately predicted two simple limited things, that WikiLeaks had a treasure trove of documents, information I should say, about Hillary Clinton and that they would release them in October. Well, they did and they did.
I never made any claim beyond that. I did speculate that they -- that they had to do with the Clinton Foundation and that was even -- that was only partially true.
[17:10:01] TODD: If you look at all of these little circumstantial evidences, right, with Paul Manafort`s work with various folks. Yes, you had the limited work but you had some ties. And you have the conversations that you had on Twitter. This source that you have that talked to Julian Assange. Again, one or two pieces of this could be tossed away as coincidental. We`re now at four or five different (INAUDIBLE.)
STONE: It`s a brilliant --
TODD: What is wrong with this? STONE: Well, first of all, there is no evidence of actual collusion to affect the election, number one. Number two -- and I give John Podesta credit for this. It`s a brilliant strategy for him to distract people from the fact that it`s he and his brother and Bill and Hillary Clinton who are in bed the Oligarchs around Putin. The gas deal. The Uranium (ph) deal. The bank deal. Not much of that got pressed because we`re so busy trying to find out whether Donald Trump and his associates were colluding with the Russians which they were.
TODD: Do you believe an American helped Julian Assange?
STONE: Say again. TODD: Do you believe an American -- some American with -- familiar with American politics helped Julian Assange curate those e-mails? They were awfully well organized.
STONE: I have no knowledge of that and I don`t --
TODD: I wasn`t asking if you have knowledge of that.
STONE: Yes, I don`t -- TODD: Do you think it is likely?
STONE: Not necessarily.
TODD: Do you think the Russian government could have done this on their own?
STONE: They haven`t --
TODD: Do you think Julian Assange could have done this on his own? STONE: Based on the record, I think the Russians understand American politics the least. It`s not something they`re terribly adept at so I doubt it. And I reject the idea that Assange is a Russian asset. I understand our intelligence agencies like that narrative. But even FBI Director Comey, in front of House Intelligence Committee says, well, we`ve assessed that he`s used some kind of cut-out. That seems pretty loose to me. By the way, when they say assessment, that means they don`t know. TODD: Well, that`s not -- STONE: It means it`s a projection. TODD: But in Assange`s case, he did change what he does. When he first started, the idea was, hey, we`re going to dump it all. You decide what`s relevant. We`re not here to curate information. Then, he became a curator. And the minute you become a curator, that`s when you introduce a filter. And that`s when it introduces some level of sophistication. And this had the next level of sophistication, did it not?
STONE: I couldn`t -- I really am not sure that you`re right. I read the material as it -- as it came out. The Clintons, of course, had been in government for 30 years.
TODD: Right. STONE: And even Mrs. Clinton serving in the most recent Obama administration. Donald Trump has not been in government. He`s also not a user of e-mail. So, Assange could have released material on Donald Trump if there were any material to release. I suspect there was not.
TODD: What -- at the end of the day, if some effort was proven that the Russians were trying to do this, were trying to help Donald Trump get elected, that Donald Trump didn`t know, what should be the consequence?
STONE: You`re asking me to answer a hypothetical question which the first thing I learned in politics was not to do that. There`s just no evidence of it. If somebody produces evidence that someone on the Trump campaign acted illegally to collude with the Russians to affect the election, that person should be punished. But I have no knowledge of that and it certainly doesn`t describe my activities to help Donald Trump.
TODD: Why do you think the Intelligence Committee is so sure that something nefarious happened here with at least people who had associations with Donald Trump?
STONE: I actually don`t think they`re sure. I think they`re hysterical to find some -- a shred of proof or some case they can make. Otherwise, it would become pretty clear that the surveillance on some was politically motivated. That`s Watergate types 10. The only difference is, in this case, they used the government to do the spying rather than a small band of misfits.
TODD: How much do you -- do you feel bad at all for pushing the Ted Cruz story so much?
STONE: Which Cruz --
TODD: The Ted Cruz assassination story that his father was somehow (INAUDIBLE)?
STONE: If you have read my book, --
TODD: I did --
STONE: "The Making of the President 2016," --
TODD: -- I did read it. STONE: -- there`s a whole chapter. I think I make a pretty good case. Ted Cruz is a slippery guy and he has a (INAUDIBLE.)
TODD: You really believe -- you believe this is true.
STONE: The photograph that was featured in the "National Enquirer" came from the Warren Commission. Yes, I think he has -- I think Ted`s father has CIA connections. I think he`s a shady character.
TODD: How often is the "National Enquirer," when they report on Trump stuff, getting source material from folks that know Trump?
STONE: Some of their stuff is so off base that I don`t think it`s true. Other of their stories seem to be right on the money. They, of course, did break the John Edwards story when the main stream media --
(CROSSTALK) STONE: I`ve never met the man. I`ve never spoken to him.
TODD: Have you ever been a source for "National Enquirer"?
STONE: A source, yes.
TODD: You have?
STONE: Yes, because I know reporters who work there.
TODD: Successful story --
STONE: I know one reporter who -- TODD: -- meaning something that you believed was true, you got it out there and it proved to be right?
STONE: Something that was true, yes.
TODD: Have you ever knowingly pushed a false story?
STONE: No. But you don`t ignore a media outlet that has 6 million readers even if it`s the "National Enquirer." Not in America today.
TODD: Yes, but that`s one thing but at what point do you trust a news organization 50-50 whether they`re right or wrong?
[17:15:03] STONE: That would put them in the same will realm as "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post," as far as I`m concerned. They occasionally get it wrong, too. It`s -- some people -- sometimes they`re honest mistakes. Other times they`re ideologically driven mistakes.
TODD: What is the -- is there any part of this story that concerns you? Do you -- are you concerned that had the Russians did try to infiltrate the American election?
STONE: I still haven`t seen any evidence of it, not evidence that would hold up in a U.S. court of law. I don`t know General Flynn. Never met the man. Had no interaction with him at all. I don`t think I would have gone to an R.T. banquet if I had been invited. But I`ve been on their program because I`ll go to any outlet that will let you speak and not say, wait a minute, you can`t say that.
TODD: I haven`t said that (ph).
STONE: I don`t mean you. TODD: And I understand that. STONE: I mean generally speaking. So, I can`t tell you what he may or may not have done. I still don`t see any evidence of actual collusion. TODD: Given all of the legal problems you may be facing in the next six months, any regrets -- STONE: I don`t think I`m facing -- TODD: -- over the last year? STONE: -- I don`t think I`m facing any legal problems. TODD: You don`t? STONE: No, I absolutely don`t. There is no evidence whatsoever that I had any collusion with the Russians to affect this scandal.
TODD: So, everything here was just happenstance?
STONE: Yes, absolutely. And I`m very anxious to appear before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees which I will do voluntarily without a subpoena.
TODD: Under oath? STONE: I`m ask -- under oath. TODD: On television? STONE: I`m asking for no immunity. No, it must be on television. We`re not doing this behind closed doors. There`s nothing better than waking up in the morning and seeing two freshman congressmen kicking your testicles around like a football. I should have the right to respond in the same, you know, venue, the same forum.
TODD: We`ll have more of Roger Stone ahead, including what he thinks of President Trump`s many flip-flops just this week. Stay tuned.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TODD: Coming up, President Trump has changed his position on NATO, on China and currency, on the future of health care, on the federal reserve. That was just this week alone. What does his long-time friend Roger Stone think about all this? How should it be interpreted? That`s coming up in just 60 seconds. [17:19:10] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) TODD: Welcome back. Now, more of my exclusive conversation with Roger Stone from earlier today with news this week on President Trump changing his mind on key policy issues. I asked Stone, someone who knows Trump better than almost anybody alive. I asked Stone for his take on the president altering his positions on and on his significance of the infighting in the west wing.
TODD: You speak Trumpese. So, explain all the flip-flops this week. On one hand, they seem to be shocking to some of his supporters. And, at the same time, for me, totally expected. What say you?
STONE: I guess I`m not seeing the flip-flops. That -- and the president puts leveraging the Chinese when it comes to the North Korea nuclear threat above, you know, taking the task for currency manipulation and trade irregularities. It`s not surprising. It doesn`t mean he`s not going to do those things. It just means that the North Korean problem has a greater priority.
On NATO, he never said he wanted to end NATO. He said, since 1988, that he thinks that our -- that our partners should pay their fair share. After all, NATO was founded at a time that we were wealthy and they were broke. Now, we`re broke and they`re wealthy. They should pay their fair share. TODD: Yes, but he was pushing back more of, like, what is the purpose of NATO, just a couple months ago. And now, he says, you know what? No. STONE: And on Syria, what we have here is a very limited surgical strike. Controversial, yes. If that extends itself to a broadened, you know, boots on the ground conflict, then that would be a violation of Trumpism. TODD: I don`t want to overreach your body language here. But when you said Syria, you were, like -- it kind of had an eyeroll there. You`re not happy about that, are you?
STONE: Well, I have supported Donald Trump because I honestly believe that he`s a noninterventionist. And that he is a break with the Bush-Clinton, Bush-Obama tradition of the neocons to go out looking for, you know, endless foreign wars where our inherent national interests may not be clear.
Perhaps in the case of Syria, because of the important that it sent the North Koreans, the Iranians, the Chinese, it may have been irresistible. Whether it will really change the outcome in Syria is not clear. Now, if the president were to go to a wider war, were to take the advice of General McMaster and, presumably, General Mattis, to send 150,000 troops into the next quagmire, that would be a mistake.
TODD: There seems to be a battle inside -- - STONE: But the president doesn`t seem to be inclined to do that.
TODD: There seems to be a battle inside the west wing to influence the president`s ideology, if you will, or some would say he doesn`t have an ideology so the battle for staffing posturing is all that more important. How do you read it?
STONE: Well, nobody puts words in Donald Trump`s mouth. I know because I tried to do it for 40 years when I worked for him. It doesn`t really work that way with him. He`s not operating off of talking points prepared by somebody else or polling or focus groups or round tables. He really does speak from the heart and he chooses his own path.
Some people who work for him may not know that yet but he`s his own man and he`s going to make his own decisions. That said, he has, for whatever reason, chosen to surround himself with a number of establishment Republicans who, I don`t think, really understand Trumpism, don`t understand the larger currents that got him elected. For example, his position as a noninterventionist. TODD: Right. STONE: And, therefore, they may be trying. But, at the end of the day, Donald Trump is very accessible. He`s very inquisitive and he makes up his own mind.
TODD: So, what do you make, though, of Steve Bannon being a -- you`re a Bannonite.
STONE: Well, I`m a friend. TODD: You`re a friend of his and you, I think, share a little bit more of his ideology than, perhaps, -- STONE: That would be fair to say. TODD: -- Mr. Kushner or Mr. Priebus. If he`s getting elbowed out, what does that tell you?
STONE: Well, it tells me a couple of things. First of all, I think Steve made an error by not spending any of his political capital to bring other Trumpites and non-globalists into the White House circle. So, now --
TODD: He didn`t do a good job staffing the White House?
STONE: He`s alone.
TODD: Reince Priebus and Jared Kushner did. STONE: Yes. And so, therefore, now he`s alone and he`s surrounded. I think, unfairly, perhaps, he takes the wrap for the fiasco surrounding health care. Maybe Reince should be wearing a bit more of that. TODD: This is your advice on health care. By walking away, you thought that was a bad decision. STONE: Well, I would`ve come out the next morning and said, gee, I`m really disappointed that Paul Ryan`s bill failed and I`ll have my bill ready in a couple weeks. It just makes no sense to me to have him attacking the Freedom Caucus. These are his most natural allies. He`s the outsiders of the Republican Party. Their world view is close to Trump`s world view.
(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD: So, that was just a portion of my discussion with Roger Stone. You can see the full interview on our Web site, unedited, MeetThePress.com. It`s going to be on our podcast site and you can download all the audio today at 1947. We`ll have that ready for you. [17:25:09] And, of course, we`ll have reaction to Stone`s comments just ahead with our panel. So, keep it right here.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TODD: This afternoon, the president reacted to the first-ever combat use of the weapon that is dubbed the mother of all bombs. MOAB even painted on the side there. The U.S. dropped the military`s largest nonnuclear bomb, the GBU43, on an Islamic state target in Afghanistan on Wednesday. Pentagon officials say U.S. forces dropped the 21,000-pound explosive on ISIS fighters in a network of tunnels and caves the terrorist group has been using in Afghanistan`s Nangarhar Province. Presidential authorization is not required for this massive bomb. President Trump briefly commented on the mission, though, today.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everybody knows exactly what happened. So, -- and what I do is I authorize my military. We have the greatest military in the world and they`ve done a job as usual. So, we have given them total authorization. And that`s what they`re doing. And, frankly, that`s why they`ve been so successful lately. If you look at what`s happened over the last eight weeks and compare that, really, to what`s happened over the last eight years, you`ll see there`s a tremendous difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Was President Trump saying that the -- on some of this stuff, he has said the military leaders can make the decision on the details. Military officials do not immediately know how many ISIS fighters were killed or if any civilians died.
We`ll have more on the use of that bomb later in the hour, but first, here`s Josh Lipton with today`s CNBC Market Wrap.
JOSH LIPTON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Chuck. J.P. Morgan and Citibank posting strong gains. Still, the Dow falling 135 points after the U.S. dropped that had bomb in Afghanistan, the S&P off by 15. The Nasdaq down 31 points.
Humans are a flying blind when it comes to the impact of robots on jobs. New study says the government should partner with digital companies like Uber to better graph changes in employment.
And homes are selling faster than ever, jumping at 9 percent over this time last year. That`s according to red vint (ph) . That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.
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TOOD: Do you understand why you`re a suspect?
ROGER STONE, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: No, I understand why I have been blamed but there`s no evidence. You have -- in this case, you don`t even have fire, never mind smoke. So, to claim that I knew about the hacking of Podesta`s e-mail in advance because I predicted that his business activities would come under public scrutiny, that would be supposition, conjecture.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Welcome back. A lot to digest for my interview with the Republican operative, Roger Stone. So let me bring in my panel tonight for their thoughts, Washington Free Beacon`s Matthew Continetti, The Cook Political Report`s Amy Walter and The Washington Post columnist and MSNBC political analyst, Eugene Robinson.
Look, I`ll admit. I was bemused half the time.
AMY WALTER, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Well --
TODD: I don`t -- Amy, I don`t quite know what to make about there.
WALTER: Well, I think that`s the point.
TODD: I don`t quite know what to make of it.
WALTER: I think that`s exactly the point.
TODD: But he seems emphatic with his denials.
WALTER: As they all are --
TODD: People would how to be denial --
EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: So silly and not be (inaudible), right?
TODD: That`s right, you`re going to go, go ahead.
WALTER: And the amount of time that has been spent, I mean, I`ve seen and listened to Roger Stone now more in the last two weeks than I did during most of the campaign. And he`s spending an incredible amount of time defending himself against this. In a way that I think is more so than folks are paying attention to how important he was in all of this.
TODD: What`s the comment we all say every once in a while when we see somebody not defending themselves enough?
Matthew will sit there and say, "Jeez, if that happened to me, I`d be screaming from the rooftops that I didn`t." This is, I guess, to take you, but Roger Stone is trying to scream from the rooftops. Wait a minute, I know I have this crazy reputation, but I wouldn`t have done that.
MATTHEW CONTINETTI, WASHINGTON FREE BEACON: Well, Roger knows how to wage campaign.
TODD: Well, that`s fair enough.
CONTINETTI: You know, a brilliant innovator of public relations. So I think he understands that his name is being besmirched. And so he wants to defend against it. I like it, this is one conspiracy theory that Roger Stone doesn`t believe in.
Usually, you know --
CONTINETTI: -- and there`ve been others that he brings up. But this is one where I think he`s right. There has been no evidence that literally connects him with some type of coordination with the Russians in order to influence the campaign.
TODD: But boy, did he stumbled -- that he stumbled into a ton of coincidences.
ROBINSON: Yes, yes, he certainly did. Look, there is plenty of smoke. I mean, there`s a lot of smoke.
TODD: What if it is all smoke?
ROBINSON: Well, then, if it is, it is, right? But, we got to find out, we got to find out.
And as you said, right, the irony of Roger Stone just rejecting a conspiracy theory and then saying, "What, this thing about Ted Cruz` father", you know, that could be -- because the "National Enquirer or what, they`re just like the "New York Times" or the "Washington Post." For the record, the "National Enquirer" is not like the (inaudible) --
TODD: No. Look, it is true on the Janet Brent (ph) story. They pursued it in ways that other reporters --
TODD: -- sleeping in the Beverly Hills, whatever.
ROBINSON: They did. But --
TODD: You know, Amy, what I did understand is, why the full denial that Russia tried to infiltrate the election. When -- boy, that -- there`s literally two people that shared that view.
WALTER: Right, I mean --
TODD: Roger Stone and --
ROBINSON: And Donald Trump, yes.
WALTER: Right, right. I mean, we`ve -- it`s been pretty clear. Even the secretary of state yesterday came out and said, it`s clear that the Russians hacked the 2016 election.
WALTER: Right? So, even members of the administration admitting to this at the same time. But, again, I just think we look at somebody who has been a long time operative to your point. He`s been in and around lots of creative campaigning. Like --
TODD: It`s an (inaudible) thing. What`s the most -- if somebody in Trump world were to be a conduit, who would be the first suspect?
CONTINETTI: I don`t think it would be Roger. I mean --
TODD: Te wouldn`t be suspect one.
CONTINETTI: No. I mean, when you consider, he said in his interview with you, I mean, General Flynn sat at a table next to Vladimir Putin.
ROBINSON: That may be so.
CONTINETTI: Yes, Paul Manafort worked in Ukraine for politicians connected to pro-Russia parties, right?
This guy Carter Page, whoever -- again, Roger says, whoever he is. No one seems to know who he is. He never met with Donald Trump. But yet we know that actually the Russian spy agencies cased him out, right?
And what did they conclude? Carter Page was too stupid to spy for Russia.
TODD: What --
CONTINETTI: So, those would be the people, though, that you look at first before you got to Roger Stone.
ROBINSON: But they didn`t, you know, they didn`t reject the proposition that he could be a useful idiot potentially, so.
TODD: Yes, the whole -- the side story to me is a side story.
WALTER: But that tweet of John Podesta has it coming for him is the link. And you`re right, there`s not a direct evidence but to say, "Well, it`s about his business."
WALTER: We knew that that stuff was going to come down. That seemed to be stretching --
TODD: But the single -- I`ll tell you, I obsess over one -- the part of this that I obsess on the most has to do with who helped Assange secure the e-mails. That`s why I asked him that question, Matthew, because it was well coordinated.
Somebody -- this is very un-Assange-like and it was something WikiLeaks hadn`t done before. To me, that`s the key to the whole thing. Who helped assort these e-mails? Somebody did, because they had a lot of knowledge about small details of how Washington works. Forget American politics, little like the Salon Dinners of Washington. That took a sophistication that Julian Assange does not have.
CONTINETTI: Well, and I think your point was interesting. I also noticed Stone`s reaction to that which he said, "I don`t know what you`re talking about." In fact, I`m -- this is the first I`ve heard about the possibility of an American helping --
CONTINETTI: -- WikiLeaks and curating those e-mails is -- was today, so there might be an angle. I`d like to know your sources, Chuck, because I`m sure if that`s something that the committees are exploring, that will be a crucial part of any investigation.
But I think Stone and myself, as we were looking at the e-mails at it came out, simply assumed that they were just flooding the zone over a period of time.
TODD: But when you realize, every day, it was the perfect e-mail --
ROBINSON: That`s right.
TODD: -- that developed the story they wanted to drive that.
ROBINSON: Exactly, yes. These e-mails were curated. This was -- this perfect timing, the whole way through. It was amazing.
TODD: And it was interesting, he kept saying there was just no collusion, no coordination. What`s the definition of that?
WALTER: You made a deal, right? You said, if you give me this, I`ll give you that. There is a -- that the assumption is there`s a quid pro quo there. There was -- that you actually made an agreement with somebody to do something for them. That is the official thing we would say, the official definition of what collusion is.
TODD: He`s aware.
WALTER: You know, that --
WALTER: -- and he may be correct. It may not have come out as distinctly as that.
TODD: Here`s -- to me the challenge of Roger Stone, character witness here. Which is, is he a dirty trickster? Or is that overblown? Does he take too much credit in the past for these things that gave him a reputation for these things, or is this right up his alley? What do you believe?
CONTINETTI: About Roger Stone?
TODD: Yes, that`s what to me as part of the panelist.
CONTINETTI: He`s one of a kind. I mean, anyone who`s followed his career overtime is -- ends up being kind of amazed at the various things, projects he`s involved with. And how he gets up to it.
WALTER: And the -- well, the conspiracy theories and the blogs about the conspiracy theories.
CONTINETTI: But he also is a very canny analyst in politics. And I assume we`ll talk about that later, because I think it would be wrong to only focus on the Russia angle.
ROBINSON: That`s right, but --
TODD: And I do want to get to that. You`re right, because I thought his take on the west wing was spot on.
ROBINSON: But somebody who revels in this image of being this sort of med`s (ph) svengali of politics for years and years and years. And then, now to say, "Oh, but it was overblown and, you know, and I got this reputation, I don`t know how I would have gotten such a reputation." Well, you helped cultivate it and you did that stuff actually (ph).
TODD: Look, Roger Stone was a success in this town because he was a sheer political --
TODD: -- savvy guy. And I thought his take on Steve Bannon in the west wing was spot on. He who controls staffing controls the White House.
WALTER: And he didn`t bring enough loyalists in and around him. He tried. But it wasn`t enough. And he`s --
TODD: You`re speaking in the past tense. It`s not over yet.
WALTER: No, and I don`t know believe that. Although, honestly, I don`t know that anybody has been able to be particularly successful given that it is like Lord of the Flies in there every single day. The fact of the matter and that you have 21 people quoted in a "Washington Post" story, I mean, that is complete and utter dysfunction.
TODD: But wait --
WALTER: That is not about --
TODD: -- all of us have reported on this White House.
TODD: Is it -- does that shock you that there are 21 different people? You can get different takes from, trust me. I`m not surprised at that total.
WALTER: Yes, but that`s the whole point. So it`s not just that it`s Bannon`s problem that he didn`t enough loyalties around. It`s that entire place is dysfunctional regardless of whether it was him at the center.
CONTINETTI: One reason Bannon didn`t get a lot of loyalists and this -- there are just not many people who subscribe to the Bannon philosophy or even the Trump philosophy. And this is an oddity of this election. You know, when Ronald Reagan was elected president, we had 15 years, 25 years - -
CONTINETTI: -- of a conservative movement, if you date it to national review.
CONTINETTI: Donald trump elected, there`s no real movement.
TODD: Only now were people --
TODD: There is now a political -- there`s even like a political science wing. And that you`ve written about this very much so that`s popped up in Manhattan (ph).
ROBINSON: But there wasn`t before. And, you know, there wasn`t --
CONTINETTI: So how does he going to fill the White House with loyalists --
CONTINETTI: -- when you don`t have that infrastructure in place? And it`s something that Trump and people like Roger Stone who really believe in what Trump is trying to do have to grapple with. The people, they`re not there.
TODD: I just wondered, does this intervention aspect catch up with him, because, boy, Roger seemed distraught about it.
ROBINSON: He did.
TODD: More so than on any of the other.
ROBINSON: You know, one-time strike maybe. But he did seem terribly bothered by it. And it`s interesting, I mean, is that in some sort of fracture between the administration and the Trumpers that are out there.
TODD: The lesson from Middle East intervention -- and when you -- there`s no dipping your toe in. Once you`re in it, it`s usually harder. And what happens to Trump space if he ends up getting caught into something larger in Syria?
WALTER: Yes. I think that is important piece. Look, I think that the challenge for Trump always with the ideology piece and you`re exactly right, is that everybody projected on to him what they wanted him to be. Every voter who felt he was going too far on one issue found a way to be mollified by something else, right?
And so if you -- you could believe what you wanted to believe about him because he was a blank slate. Now, he`s starting to fill in some of those. And it`s going to mean that there are people every day who are going to feel like they`ve been disappointed.
TODD: Well, we shall see. All right, next thing around, get to the rest of today`s big headlines.
Up ahead in The Lid, but up next, remembering a man worthy of an obsession today. Stay tuned.
TODD: Welcome back. We want to take this moment to mark the passing of Dan Rooney, chairman of Pittsburgh Steelers and a man worthy of an obsession today. Rooney, basically, grew up around the Steelers. His father, Art Rooney, founded the franchise and Dan Rooney became chairman after his father`s death in 1988.
He was also named U.S. ambassador to Ireland by President Obama in 2009, a post that he held until 2012.
No team has won more super bowls than the Steelers, but Dan Rooney might be best remembered for what`s known as the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and executive positions. It is a legacy that will leave a well pass in any super bowl triumphs.
What`s been amazing is how it has transformed the NFL coaching ranks in ways that many people wonder, when is that transformation going to come to the college football ranks, let alone other major sports.
And with that, Dan Rooney was quite the intermitter (ph) on that front, let alone so many other things. Dan Rooney was 84.
TODD: Time for The Lid, the panel is back, Matthew Continetti, Amy Walter, Eugene Robinson.
Correction, M-O-A-B does not stand for mother of all bombs. It stands for Massive Ordnance Air Blasts. But yes, it is nicknamed the mother of all bombs and it`s where we will start our conversation here.
Eugene, OK, the use of this, it`s an interesting case that they`re making. It`s in some -- it`s in the, basically, the unwalkable, unnavigable part of that --
TODD: -- Afghanistan and Pakistan and all of that.
But this week, the noninterventionist Donald Trump, the headlines are about the use of the military in ways that we didn`t think he would be doing this. The overall messaging, is that going to be helpful to him or not?
ROBINSON: Well, you know, in the long term, I actually don`t think this is helpful to him at all. But you remember eight years ago, there was another president who came in who was going to get us out of wars and it was all going to, you know --
TODD: And his greatest military accomplishment is getting them out.
TODD: I mean -- you know, no, I mean, it`s sort of like -- it is aa military mission.
ROBINSON: Exactly, yes. And he found that, you know, the world has an inconvenient way of changing your plans. And I think that seems to be what has happened to Donald Trump. The very interesting thing is to contrast that with the Roger Stone interview and are his supporters going to feel betrayed if he essentially acts like a conventional president and does things like this.
TODD: What`s the risk, Matthew?
CONTINETTI: Well, I think it`s important to distinguish between being a noninterventionist Donald Trump and then the Donald Trump who said he was going to kick the stuffing out of ISIS, right?
CONTINETTI: And clearly, dropping the MOAB is the latter group. I think the redline for Trump`s base is regime change, and that`s what made Roger Stone nervous. I think there`s a nationalist feeling that if you`re going to go to war against terrorists, you`re going to use every means at your disposal to do it. And that is certainly what Donald Trump has done since he`s been inaugurated. I mean, air strikes up, we`re loosening restrictions on human rights in terms of the weapons we give to people. You can see --
TODD: Which by the way is, what he was saying himself, which is, "Hey, look, I have given them -- I am essentially giving them these orders that they can do with what they want.
CONTINETTI: When he loses his base is when he orders a ground invasion or some type of regime change in the Middle East that typically in the past has destabilized the region, right?
So, I think he hasn`t reached that point yet. I also think that there`s a lot of signaling going on. Not only with this bomb being dropped, but also the Syria strike. And so, the military or Trump, at Trump`s direction is using these strikes to convey to regimes like Iran and North Korea that, you know, this is a different president and hard power is really going to play a role in this president`s foreign policy.
TODD: And do these flip-flops matter? I mean, they were so -- I`m not shocked by any of them.
WALTER: You know, first of all, in order to have a flip-flop, it means that you have an ideological core or a voting record that you`re actually - -
TODD: What do you call them?
WALTER: This is the essence of who he is. As I said before, I think that for so many voters, they came in already acknowledging that he`s been all over the map on things, right? He`s going to fight for the working class despite the fact that he outsources his work to China for his clothing.
You had people -- you and I talked to part of the establishment who were convinced that a lot of this was an act. Once he got into office, he was going to be the New York businessman. But what they all agreed on was he was going to be somebody different and he was going to be competent in a different way. That I think is a bigger problem for him right now.
WALTER: Isn`t that he`s all over the map ideologically, except there aren`t any Ws on the board.
ROBINSON: If they`re going to be all over the map, it can be --
WALTER: Then at least that`s what voters wanted, right. I don`t care how you do it, just do it.
TODD: I guess I`d go to the fact that all of us --
ROBINSON: You`re not getting it done.
TODD: But all of his flips have been a flip to the conventional.
ROBINSON: Yes, they have.
TODD: That`s all. I would say, "Oh, no, no, no, no, it is what the group think was on NATO. Oh, no, no, no, no, it is what the group think was in China. Oh, no, no, no, no, it is what the group" -- I mean, it`s all moving in the same direction. Is it just him getting up to speed?
CONTINETTI: Well, it`s also kind of an acceptance of reality. I mean, the truth is, you know, NATO is not going to go away and his comments were destabilizing the alliance. And indeed, he need to bring up his own rhetoric to the line established by his advisors like Tillerson, Mattis, Haley and Pompeo who`ve been very pro-NATO, right, on currency manipulation. That`s a really big weapon to pull with the Chinese, especially when you`re trying to get them to work against North Korea.
So -- and, you know, they`re also upset, the base is also upset that he`s not repealing the DACA for the DREAMers. No American president is going to take away that for the kids. So, I think it`s kind of he`s just accepting --
TODD: Amy, what if you`re Jeb Bush right now? You`re going, "I told you, he wasn`t --
ROBINSON: He wasn`t going to do this, this, this.
TODD: I told you he`s going to do it, you know.
WALTER: But what`s going to happen when NAFTA isn`t repealed?
CONTINETTI: Good (inaudible) --
WALTER: Yes, that`s going to be to me --
CONTINETTI: Is it repealing or renegotiating? That`s the key.
WALTER: Good question.
TODD: All right. I will leave it there.
Quite an hour. After a few days off, feels good to be back here. Thank you, guys.
After the break, it seems President Trump isn`t in a New York State of mind. Stay tuned.
TODD: Welcome back. In case you missed it or been wondering what President Trump has against New York City, now you`re probably wondering, "President Trump has a problem with New York, really?" After all, the guy spent decades making millions in New York real estate and serving himself up as candy to the city`s hungry tabloids.
But since his inauguration, the president has traveled quite a bit as presidents generally do. He`s been to Detroit, he`s been at Atlanta and (ph) Michigan, at Al Fayed (ph), Dover, Delaware and Newport News, Virginia, Sterling, Virginia, home of the Trump National Golf Course. Nashville, Charleston, Louisville, Orlando, Melbourne, Florida, Tampa, West Palm Beach and, of course, to Mar-a-Lago.
But the one place he has not been, New York, New York. So nice they named it twice. New York just like I pictured it, skyscrapers and everything. That was for you, Stevie Wonder fans. But he hasn`t been back. Why? Maybe it`s the hassle of being president in the United States in a big city. President Obama rarely went back to his house in Chicago. One time he did, he realized how much of a disruption he was.
Maybe it`s because Hillary Clinton beat him in his home borough. Manhattan by March of `91. Maybe it`s the cold weather. Whatever the reason, for now, Mar-a-Lago seems to be his home away from home. He`s heading there later.
And really, if you own a place like Mar-a-Lago, wouldn`t you want to spend more time there than in a tower on Fifth Avenue? We`ll see, though. Snowbirds return to New York soon. Will he be coming?
That`s all we have for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MTP Daily. Among our guest, award-winning actor of screen and stage and, of course, of television`s homeland, Mandy Patinkin, Saul Berenson is here.
For the Record With Greta, though, starts right now. Chris Jansing is filling in for Greta. Chris, take it away. I`m still fired up about tomorrow`s Saul Berenson anyway. Go ahead.
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