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David Brooks: Trump Practicing ‘Madman Theory’ With North Korea; “Both People Could Actually Be Crazy”


PBS NEWSHOUR: New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week's news, including President Trump's tough words for North Korea over its nuclear threat, as well as his thanking Russian President Vladimir Putin for expelling hundreds of U.S. diplomats, plus his attacking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Transcript, via PBS NewsHour: JUDY WOODRUFF: And to the analysis of Brooks and Marcus. That's New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus. Mark Shields is away. And we welcome both of you. So, you just heard two very different views from our earlier expert guests on North Korea. You heard the president again commenting, David, and now Senator Risch. How do you assess the president's management of this North Korea situation? DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: Unusual, I guess. (LAUGHTER) DAVID BROOKS: It will come after the war in Venezuela, apparently, we just learned. I don't know what that was all about. Listen, there's been a consensus of how to deal with this extremely knotty problem. And that is, at least on the rhetorical level, the North Korean regime is extremely fiery, extremely insecure, sometimes hysterical. And when you're around somebody who's screaming and unstable, the last thing you want to do is add to the instability with your own unstable, hysterical rhetoric. And so most administrations, Republican and Democrats, when the North Koreans say they're going to Seoul into a lake of fire, whatever their rhetoric is, have just ignored it and relied on some underlying sense that the North Koreans don't want to commit national suicide. Donald Trump has gone the other way. Now, I think that is still — that sense that neither party wants to go into a war is still there. But the psychological probabilities that you're going to enter into some August 1914 miscalculation certainly go up when both people are screaming at the top of their lungs… JUDY WOODRUFF: I mean, David, people are — we have heard from world leaders, the Russians, the Chinese. We heard from Angela Merkel today. We hear from U.S. politicians. Not all Republicans, but some Republicans, are joining the Democrats in saying, tone this down. But the president, no sign that he's going to do that. DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, it could be that he thinks the North Koreans are undeterrable, and that this is not a usual regime, maybe because they have this new leader, and that you actually do have to take action. He could be — he believes that. It could be he just likes to blunder. It's always dangerous to overinterpret what Donald Trump says at any one moment. And it could be he thinks the madman theory is right theory here. And the madman… JUDY WOODRUFF: Remind everybody what the madman — because it sounds scary. (LAUGHTER) DAVID BROOKS: The madman theory is that you can be a successful deterrer if you — if they think you could be crazy. And so I think it can be very effective, so long as you're not actually crazy. And so we have a North Korean, we're not really sure. We have a president who has his moments. And so the madman theory, when both people could actually be crazy, is actually a very dangerous situation… DAVID BROOKS: Yes, the only thing I would say to that is, we have all been — and interviewed or been around people who have been in combat. They never actually raise their voice. If they have a message to send to the Chinese of that sort, they do it in a calm, serious way: I have been through this. I know what it is. You know who I am. The people who raise their voices and say lock and load and say fire and fury, those are the people who have never actually been in combat. And he just reminds you so much of one of those people… JUDY WOODRUFF: Which is what all the — quote, unquote — "experts†are saying, just calm the rhetoric down and start thinking about how we have this dialogue that's already been started. It's still there. The president's going to hold a news conference, David, they just announced, on Monday. But he's already been talking to the press. Yesterday, he made some statements that I guess are still being dissected, one of them about President Putin of Russia, thanking him for kicking out over 700 U.S. diplomats and saying, this is going to save the United States taxpayers money. This is something — what Putin did has been criticized by everybody else we have heard of, including Republicans. How do we read this? DAVID BROOKS: Yes. And, of course, the White House press office said it was sarcasm. Whenever Trump says something unusual, it's always a joke. DAVID BROOKS: And the — I think the significant thing here is that Russians monkeyed with our election. And a lot of people in Congress, even Republicans, are upset by this. A lot of people around the country are upset by this have done — the Russians have done a lot of things to threaten the world order. And at every step along the way, including this little comment, Donald Trump always wants to walk that back, always wants to ratchet it back. He's willing to tweet angrily about members of his own party, about members of his own government, about anybody around the world, except for one person. And we can all either… JUDY WOODRUFF: And that's Putin. DAVID BROOKS: And that's Putin — and psychoanalyze or maybe political analyze. But it's a consistent pattern with this guy… JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, someone who has gotten under his skin is the Senate majority leader, as we just mentioned. I just asked Senator Risch about it, David. The president has gone out of his way three or four times in a row now to go after the majority leader, the Republican leader in the Senate, for failing to get health care reform passed. Does he — he's venting. He's clearly unhappy and frustrated. But does he run the risk of jeopardizing some of the other things he wants to get done this year? DAVID BROOKS: Well, clearly, politics is a team sport. Trump is not so much of a team player. Politically, I think it helps him. Republicans really do not like Republican leaders in Congress. So I understand, politically, why he's doing it. But if he wants a legislative agenda, it's crazy. To me, the interesting question is … (CROSSTALK) JUDY WOODRUFF: Wait a minute. I want to go back. You said Republicans do not like Republican leaders, meaning Republican voters? DAVID BROOKS: If you talk to Trump voters around the country, they're not… (CROSSTALK) RUTH MARCUS: Right. Right. Certainly his base. DAVID BROOKS: His base, yes. RUTH MARCUS: Right. Right. DAVID BROOKS: But the question for me is, how is McConnell going to respond? You don't want to get in a Twitter war with this guy, clearly. I think what you want to do is ratchet up some of the cost. Like, some of the other bad leaders around the world, Trump responds to pressure. And can McConnell say, hey, I'm not going to get in a war with you, but if you do this, we will hold up your nominees, if you do this, we will start an investigation into this or that I think that you have got — McConnell has to defend his institution. He has to defend the Republicans in the Senate, who are extremely annoyed at Donald Trump. He's got to defend his own standing. And he can't let the leader of his own party walk all over him without some kind of actual response… JUDY WOODRUFF: And, David, you hear from Republicans that the White House wasn't engaged in this health care — we talked about it on this program — in the health care… DAVID BROOKS: Look at how Obama worked to pass Obamacare, what, 28 national speeches, touring around the country. Look at 1986 tax reform, which was also a major legislative accomplishment. The Reagan White House was involved in that for two years, closely aligned. You have got — this really is a team sport. You really have to work the whole system to get somewhere down the road. And from what I heard when the senators were going to the White House, they would meet with Vice President Pence, and they would be having a normal conversation. Trump would walk in the room and set them back hours, just because of — his interventions were so irrelevant or unhelpful. So, casting aspersions to others is probably not good history of him.

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David Brooks: Republicans Need To Accept Fact That Americans Decided Obamacare Is A Right


PBS NEWSHOUR: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week's news, including President Trump's firing of White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and what it means for relations with the Republican Party, the Senate's rejection of a "skinny repeal†of the Affordable Care Act and Anthony Scaramucci's obscene tirade. Brooks said Priebus would fail a lie-detector test for his outgoing praise of Trump. The columnist said with the fall of Priebus it is now apparent Trump is moving away from the Republican Party and joining "the Bannon Party." On the Obamacare repeal failure, Brooks said, Republicans need to wrap their minds around the fact that Americans have decided that universal health care is "a right." Brooks also apologized "on behalf of 8 million New Yorkers" for the "blood-curdling" language Anthony Scaramucci used in a phone conversation with Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker. Transcript, via PBS NewsHour: JUDY WOODRUFF: It's been another head-turning week in Washington, from the Republican failure on health care, to the president's surprising statement on transgender military members, and a flurry of profanity from the new White House communications director and then, to cap it off, today's announcement from Mr. Trump that he is changing his chief of staff. Here to help make sense of it all, Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks. So, I thought we had a lot of things to talk about, David, before about an hour ago, when we learned that the president was changing his chief of staff. Is this — I guess we knew that this might happen. Reince Priebus has been in trouble with this president, we think, for a while, but what do you think? DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: Well, he was never given the chance to do the job. Every other chief of staff we have ever seen sort of controls the schedule. They control the tempo in the White House. They're the alter ego of the president. They are given some clear sign of respect that they speak for the president. And Priebus never had that. And so he was wounded and stabbed before Scaramucci came along. He was stabbed like a pinata. And so he was sort of a pathetic figure hanging out there. And so this doesn't come as a total surprise, except for maybe the timing. As for General Kelly taking the job, I sort of question his sanity there. He's been a loyalist, but I really — with all due respect to the Marine Corps, I don't see how someone who's been trained in pretty orderly chain of command is going to survive this mess. If he can control the schedule, it will be one thing. I just don't think that's going to happen, given all the independent power figures all around him… JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we should say that Reince Priebus, just in the last few minutes, David, put out a statement saying it's been one of the greatest honors of his life to serve this president. I guess that's what one expects, maybe. DAVID BROOKS: Gracious. I'm not sure he would pass a lie-detector test. (LAUGHTER) DAVID BROOKS: But one of the things that's happening here is that the president is moving away from the Republican Party. Priebus was a link to the Republican Party. The congressional Republicans were — had some sort of relationship. Jeff Sessions was a key to the link between congressional Republicans and Donald Trump, and he's been under assault in the most humiliating way imaginable. And so you're beginning to see an administration — I don't know what party they're joining, maybe the Bannon party, but it's not the Republican Party. And if you want to pass legislation, you probably need your allies on Capitol Hill. If you want to survive investigative committees, you probably want some friends in your party. And this administration seems to be moving the other direction… JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, which leads us to another — I mean, David, you said they have had a struggle anything passed, getting legislation passed. This was a flame-out for them. DAVID BROOKS: Yes, this was a bigger thing than Donald Trump, though. It was only one bill that lost. It was four bills that lost. And it wasn't only a six-months effort. It was a seven-year effort. MARK SHIELDS: I agree. DAVID BROOKS: And you could say you could go back to Newt Gingrich. Think of all the ways the Republicans have tried to trim entitlements like Medicaid or cut government. Name a signal victory. There's not a victory. They haven't been able to trim one agency, cut back one entitlement. They failed every single time. And that suggests isn't an electoral failure. It's not a failure of whether Mitch McConnell had the right strategy or not, though that was lamentable. It's a failure of trying to take things away from people. People are under assault from technology. They're under assault from a breakdown in social fabric, breakdown in families. They have got wage stagnations. They just don't want a party to come in and say, we're going to take more away from you. And so Republicans have to wrap their minds around the fact that the American people basically decided that health care is a right, and they figure, we should get health care. And our fellow countrymen should get health care. It doesn't mean you have to do it the way the Democrats want to do it with single-payer or whatever. You can do it with market mechanisms. But you have basically got to wrap your mind around universal coverage… JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you think the prospects are, David, that they are going to be able to work with the Democrats, or is that just something people are saying that's never really Going to happen? DAVID BROOKS: I think that there is a potential there. If the Republicans get to the point we're going to expand coverage, let's talk about how do it, I think you could do some pretty market-friendly reforms. President Bush did it with the prescription drug bill a number of years ago. But they're a long way from that right now… JUDY WOODRUFF: It does raise the question. People are watching this, David, and they have to be asking, is anything going to get done in our nation's capital, with the White House in some measure of chaos? Yes, there have been some changes, but where's the — you know, what are people to look forward to now? DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I don't think much is going to get done. I don't think they're going to do tax reform. Tax reform is super hard. It's potentially as hard or harder than health care reform. And it seems very unlikely that that is going to get done. And what hasn't happened is, you don't have people waking up thinking, how creatively can I come up with some piece of legislation that will do somebody some good? When I started covering Congress in the 1980s, there were a bunch of entrepreneurs. Jack Kemp was there. Bill Bradley would have something on the gold standard. There was a guy named Jim Courter who always had defense reform ideas. And so you had start-ups in the back rows of the House. And then they would finagle their way through the committees. Now you have very few entrepreneurs. You have few people thinking creatively. I rarely get e-mail. I rarely calls. There's a guy named Ro Khanna from San Francisco or from Palo Alto who is a Democrat who thinks this way. But there is not as much as entrepreneurship. And the main cause is because the leadership of the body has taken control and destroyed creativity throughout the ranks. And that's a fault of both Nancy Pelosi probably and Mitch McConnell, who just centralized everything. And so the committee system is broken and the start-ups are broken… JUDY WOODRUFF: And the White House is having its own share of problems. We have alluded to this, Mark, a lot of attention this week about this profanity-laced phone conversation that the new White House communications director — he hasn't actually taken the job yet, but he's been named by the president — had with a New Yorker reporter. It seems that everywhere we look, there is conflict, there is screaming, there is discord. You know, where do we see hope and something positive?… DAVID BROOKS: Yes, it is offensable. I'm from New York City. Mark's from Boston. And on behalf of eight million New Yorkers, I want to apologize for our language. Scaramucci and Trump, I just want to say that, even though they're from Queens and Long Island, I'm pretty sure they're Yankee fans. They're not Mets fans. (LAUGHTER) DAVID BROOKS: We don't talk that way. MARK SHIELDS: No, Mets fans. DAVID BROOKS: No, it's — I agree. Blood-curdling would be the word.

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David Brooks: Trump “An Anti-Mentor,” “He Takes Everybody Around Him And He Makes Them Worse”


PBS NEWSHOUR: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the week's news, including Republicans' failure to pass a health care reform bill, President Trump expressing his anger at Jeff Sessions to The New York Times, the abrupt resignation of former White Press Secretary Sean Spicer and a cancer diagnosis for Sen. John McCain. Citing Rex Tillerson, Jeff Sessions and Sean Spicer, Brooks called Trump the "anti-mentor. "So he's like an anti-mentor," Brooks said. "He takes everybody around him and he makes them worse. And so that's what Spicer had to face. And he will have to live with that and live with the reputational damage that he's incurred." Brooks criticized Trump's involvement in the White House policy making process. "Everybody in the Senate has problems with the president," Brooks said of Trump. "But if you begin to have, oh, he's just the crazy uncle, like an attitude of contempt, then relationships between the Republicans on the Hill and the White House really do begin to change." "It's not some guy, oh, he has some political magic. It's some guy who really just is annoying and gets in the way," Brooks said of Trump's impact on people. Transcript, via PBS NewsHour: DAVID BROOKS, NEW YORK TIMES: I think, from what I hear, they're leaning on Mike Lee, the senator who has been a no vote who is the decisive no vote, to change his mind, to buy him out with something and offer him something. And then they figure, once they get him on board, there are probably another Republican 15 senators who would like to vote no, but they don't want to be the one person who kills it. And so the feeling, if you can get Mike Lee, you can get some of the others. And they might pass it. I wouldn't say it's likely, but I think — I just think it's too early to say it's dead now. The second thing to say is, Mitch McConnell has two parts of his job. The one is to create a process where reasonable legislation gets promoted. And the second is to whip for that legislation. I think he did an abysmal job on one job and a pretty good job on job two. As Mark said, you have got a plan with 16 percent approval. Nobody in the Senate likes it, including the Republicans. They all hate having to vote for it. And he still got 48 votes. That's kind of impressive. But the underlying problem is, you have a chance to change, to reform health care. There are a lot of conservative ideas to reform health care. And it would solve some problems. You could pick some things that a lot of people would like. You could have catastrophic coverage for the 20-odd million people that are still uninsured after Obamacare. You could do a lot of — offer a lot of things to a lot of people and do it in a conservative way. But that's not what this Republican Party does. They just say, we want to cut Medicaid. And they're unwilling to talk about anything positive, though there are some things in the bill. It's just, what can we take away from you? And what can we take away from the poor and the needy and the children? And it's a publicity and a substantive disaster area that they're just trying to live with… DAVID BROOKS: I thought something important happened with the Republican views with the president. They were having all these meetings in the White House. And, apparently, they'd have these substantive meetings with Mike Pence or with somebody else, with staff. And they would talk through things. They would try to make some progress. And then the president would dip in and do something, say something extremely stupid, extremely ill-informed. And then they would all groan and live through it and wish he would leave. And then he would go. And so that could be a change in psychology. Everybody in the Senate has problems with the president. But if you begin to have, oh, he's just the crazy uncle, like an attitude of contempt, then relationships between the Republicans on the Hill and the White House really do begin to change. It's not some guy, oh, he has some political magic. It's some guy who really just is annoying and gets in the way. HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR: Let's talk about the interview that he gave to, some people would call it the paper of record, and the President Trump calls it the failing New York Times. In this conversation, which is worth reading in its entirety, it's just fascinating, he lashes out at lots of his supporters. He undermines his own attorney general. He goes after almost a broadside to Robert Mueller. He talks about blackmail and Comey. What did you glean out of that? DAVID BROOKS: First, our subscription levels have been way up since the Trump era. And one of our journalists tweeted out, we even fail at failing. That's how bad we are. (LAUGHTER) DAVID BROOKS: And there are a couple things to say about the interview. One, I was shocked by the lack of just articulateness. We all hate it when we read a transcript of ourselves. It's always embarrassing, but not that embarrassing. These really are random — they're not even thoughts. They're just little word patterns, one following another, about Napoleon, about this and that. It's a disturbing level of incoherent thinking. Second, it is — you know, people who work for the White House work for the guy 16, 20 hours a day, And Jeff Sessions in the administration among them, and to dump over everybody. And then what is interesting to me psychologically, usually, when someone is corrupt or — they are clever. They try to dissemble. They mask their corruption with some attempt to be dishonest. Donald Trump, give him credit, he's completely transparent. He basically said in that interview, my corruption can be found in my tax returns. If you look into my tax returns, I will fire you. He transmits everything that he's thinking out in public in an incredibly transparent way. So we're looking at a fact where Bob Mueller will probably go to the tax returns. Donald Trump will probably fire Bob Mueller. And then we will be in some sort of constitutional crisis. And it's all telegraphed right there out in the open… HARI SREENIVASAN: Does it give you a glimpse into the state of Twitter? DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, that's the exact point I was going to make. Yes, I can't think of anybody whose reputation has been enhanced by going into the Trump administration. Rex Tillerson was a serious businessman, well-respected. Jeff Sessions was a serious senator, pretty conservative, quite serious. Sean Spicer was a normal communications guy in Congress — or in Washington. So he's like an anti-mentor. He takes everybody around him and he makes them worse. And so that's what Spicer had to face. And he will have to live with that and live with the reputational damage that he's incurred. Scaramucci is a very interesting case. He's a guy from Long Island. Trump is from Queens. They made it big financially in the big city. They have some sort of parallel careers. Scaramucci is a very friendly guy. Everybody is sort of like a fun game to him. And I thought his performance today was quite good, actually. And so it could be that he will flourish in this White House. He's very smart. He's not to be intellectually underestimated. It could be he's chief of staff before long. And we will see. But he's someone who has a much more deft personal manner, as well — while being kind of a wild guy, than anybody else in there right now.

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David Brooks: Trump Healthcare Plan “Obamacare Lite,” Recipe For A “Death Spiral”


PBS NEWSHOUR: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the debut of the controversial Senate Republican health care bill, the high-profile Georgia special election and why Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was invoked by Republicans during the race, plus President Trump's clarification that he had not taped former FBI Director James Comey. Brooks called the Trump healthcare plan a "cheaper version of Obamacare," adding, "it's possible to be a conservative and to support market mechanisms basically to redistribute wealth down to those who are suffering." Commenting on the string of Republican special election wins Brooks said, "It's first a sign that there are limits to being anti-Trump, second, that the Trump phenomenon was not just a fluke, that it's based on some deep structural things in the economy that are driving people to support the Republicans, some deep structural things in the country, that people are extremely distrustful of government and extremely distrustful of Washington." DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: I'm a little surprised. First, it's sort of Obamacare-lite. It's not going to work. It's functionally nonoperational, because it will encourage, when they're healthy, to exit the system and then go back into the system when they're sick. And that's a recipe for a death spiral in a lot of places. So I think, functionally, it's not going to work. Politically, I have to say, it's kind of canny. Mitch McConnell had these two wings of his party. And I think he steered as well as is possible to steer down the middle to give the right, the Ted Cruz folks the cuts in Medicaid and Medicare and stuff like that. He gave the center basically the structure of Obamacare with some of the rules about preexisting conditions. So, I think, politically, it's an act of skill. And as I look forward, is this thing going to pass, I still think probably not because I don't think you can get the whole Republican Party behind this thing, but I'm reminded not to underestimate Mitch McConnell. HARI SREENIVASAN: Have the Republicans made the case that this is something better or just that this is not Obamacare? DAVID BROOKS: It's not Obamacare. What it does — you ought to start with, what kind of country are we in? We're in a country where — widening inequality. And so I think it's possible to be a conservative and to support market mechanisms basically to redistribute wealth down to those who are suffering. This bill doesn't do that. It goes the other way. So, I think, fundamentally, it doesn't solve the basic problem our country has, which is a lot of people are extremely vulnerable. And so I do think, as a solution any the range of health care problems, I don't think it's it. I don't even think repealing Obamacare. It's a cheaper version of Obamacare. ### HARI SREENIVASAN: He brought up the special elections. We have had five now. The Republicans seem to be holding, if not winning. Is this trouble for the Democrats? DAVID BROOKS: I think so. I think the Georgia loss is a big loss. I don't think it's, oh, this is always a Republican district, it's not such a big deal. If the Democrats are going to pick up seats, it is going to be in upscale, highly educated suburban seats. And this was tailor-made for that, a seat that Trump barely won. And so if after all that's happened in the last four or five months, they can't pick up the seat, that to me is an indictment. It's first a sign that there are limits to being anti-Trump, second, that the Trump phenomenon was not just a fluke, that it's based on some deep structural things in the economy that are driving people to support the Republicans, some deep structural things in the country, that people are extremely distrustful of government and extremely distrustful of Washington. There's also a sign that the Republicans, despite all that's happened, are still considered the party of change. And if they want change, they're still likely to go to the Republicans. And, finally, it's a sign the Democratic Party is too coherent. They have got a Bernie Sanders, which is strong and coherent, but that's not the kind of wing that's going to work in this district. And the Democratic center, aside from the one candidate they had down there, is meager. And without that, there are going to be just a lot of districts you're not going to do so great in. ### DAVID BROOKS: I do think — I would be curious to hear Mark's view on this — I do think, on net, Nancy Pelosi can be a very masterful leader again inside, but I do think she's become a central liability for people around the country. Now, the question will be, OK, if they got rid of Nancy Pelosi as party leader, would the next person be just as unpopular? And, potentially, but I think potentially not. And I do think, if you're a Democrat, you do have to think about, who is currently the face of our party? ### HARI SREENIVASAN: Finally, some of the statements that have been coming out of the White House, more specifically from Donald Trump, yesterday saying he didn't know that there were any tapes or any recordings, that he didn't make any, this follows a dozen false statements at the rally that he had in Iowa this week. And then you kind of just go right back to how President Obama bugged Trump Tower or the millions of illegal votes for Hillary or the size of the crowd at the inauguration. Any structural consequence to the office of this? Because it doesn't seem to be having an impact on him. DAVID BROOKS: Right. And I wonder, what's going to happen to our debate? After Trump leaves, whenever that is, do we snap back to what we consider the normal standards of honesty, or is this the new norm? And that's why, even though it doesn't seem like Trump to point out, as my paper did, in a long list today, the definitive guide to the lies of Donald Trump, I think it's still worth making that case, because a lot — the thing we have to fear most is essentially a plague of intellectual laziness, a plague of incuriosity, a plague of apathy about honesty. And once the whole political system gets affected by that, then we're really sunk. And so I do think keeping his feet on the fire, no matter how little he pays a price for it, is still worth doing.

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Sen. Lankford: Flynn Accusations “More Open To Interpretation” Than What We’re Being Led To Believe


PBS NEWSHOUR: Current and past U.S. government officials including former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson testified Wednesday before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees in order to offer more accurate picture of how Russia meddled in the 2016 elections. Hari Sreenivasan speaks with Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) about his key takeaways from another round of hearings. Lankford said people need to take a deep breath and not try to "revise history of what was actually going on." LANKFORD: HARI SREENIVASAN: This also seems to — from an outsider's perspective, even when it comes to intelligence-gathering, there's a layer of politics on it and a layer of distrust, because you would think that by the time the information filters up to the head of the CIA, that whoever is coming up with that information is putting country first and not party. SEN. JAMES LANKFORD: Correct. And you would also assume that there is a way to be able to interpret that information. And at times, you see an accusation that may be released out, for instance, with Michael Flynn, to say he might have been compromised, he might have been vulnerable to blackmail. When you actually see that information, I think a lot of Americans will look at it and go, what in the world are they talking about? One analyst will look at one thing and see it one way. Another analyst will look at it and see it an entirely different way. There's more open to interpretation here than what the Americans are being led to believe in this by that story. I would just tell people to take a deep breath. Let's not try to revise history of what was actually going on in literally the very first week of a new administration as they were getting organized.

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David Brooks: When Trump “Lashes Out” Self-Destructively, He Is Not “Projecting Mental Stability”


Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week's news, including the latest developments in the Russia probe and how President Trump has been reacting to reports that he is being investigated for possible obstruction of justice, plus the state of political polarization in light of a shooting targeting GOP lawmakers. DAVID BROOKS: To me, we have had this — the idea that there has been collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign has been investigated for a long time. And so far, we have had no really serious evidence that they did collude, and everything else seems to be leaking out. So, I begin to be a little suspicious — and maybe I'm wrong — we will see over the long term — whether there was any actual act of collusion. There were certainly conversations maybe about some building and some investment, but so far, no evidence of an underlying crime. But this, to me, is not a criminal story. It is a psychological story. And it's a story about a president who seems to be under more pressure, under more threat, lashing out in ways that are painfully self-destructive, but also extremely disturbing to anybody around him. And so whether it's the North Korean Cabinet hearing that he held recently, where they all had to praise him, or the tweets as late as this morning, this is not a president who is projecting mental stability. And the idea that he will fire somebody, whether it's Mueller or anybody else, seems very plausible. And so, to me, if there is something really damaging here, it's something that has not yet happened caused by the psychological pressure that he apparently feels.

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Mark Warner: Russians Aren’t Republicans Or Democrats; “The Russians Are For Their Own Interests”


The Senate Intelligence Committee met behind closed doors this week with three key figures in their expanding Russia investigation, including special counsel Robert Mueller. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., vice-chair of the committee, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the distinctions between the Senate's investigation and the probe led by Mueller, as well as his wish for more help from the White House. JUDY WOODRUFF: Just one final quick question. Vice President Mike Pence, it was announced today, has hired his own private counsel to address any issues arising out of the Russia investigation. Do you have a comment on that? SEN. MARK WARNER: No, I don't have a comment, but I just — other than the fact that it would be helpful if the administration actually collaborated and cooperated with all of us. What the Russians did in 2016 in the United States, the Russians have also done in the French elections, they will do in the German elections. And, as a state that has statewide elections this year, I'm concerned about their ongoing efforts to try to, frankly, sow chaos in our democratic process. And let me be clear. This is not about relitigating 2016. JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. SEN. MARK WARNER: It's not about the Russians being for Republicans or Democrats. The Russians are for their own interests. And we have to be careful about this new form of conflict. JUDY WOODRUFF: But just very quickly, Senator, so I understand, you're saying the administration is not collaborating right now with you? SEN. MARK WARNER: I wish there was closer cooperation. There are a number of members of the administration who volunteered to come forward. There are a number of individuals that work on the Trump campaign. But I don't see what value is added by the president's constant dismissal of the seriousness of this threat. JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, we thank you.

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Schiff: Sessions Cannot Use Privilege To Hide Potential Illegality, “We May Have To Go To Court”


PBS News: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) joins Judy Woodruff to react to Attorney General Jeff Sessions' first public testimony on the Russia investigation. Schiff says what was most notable to him was what he saw as Sessions corroborating former FBI Director James Comey on details of meetings with President Trump, as well as Sessions' refusal to answer many of the senators' questions. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, how do you get beyond his refusal to answer, though? If he's saying these were privileged communications that I had that stand on precedent at the Department of Justice, whether they're written down or not, how do you get through that? REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Well, I think the process, if we're going to live up with our institutional responsibility in Congress, is to go back to the White House and say, we want answers to these questions. Are you invoking the privilege? And, if they're not, we need to bring the attorney general back before either our committee in the House or before the Senate committee and demand answers to those questions. If they do invoke privilege, then we may need to litigate the contours of that privilege. The privilege cannot be used as a shield to protect or hide potential impropriety or illegality. So, we may have to go to court to pierce that privilege, but we do need to get to the bottom of this. We have the powers and institution to do it, and I think we have an ethical obligation and a responsibility to the country to do it.

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Trump Confidant Chris Ruddy: President Considering Firing Special Investigator Mueller; I Advise Not To


Close friend of President Trump and NewsMax founder Chris Ruddy told PBS's Judy Woodruff Monday that Trump is weighing whether to fire special investigator Mueller. "I think he's considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. I think he's weighing that option,†Ruddy said when asked by Woodruff whether the president was prepared to let the special counsel pursue the Russia investigation. "I think it's pretty clear by what one of his lawyers said on television recently." "I personally think it would be a very significant mistake," he also said. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you mentioned the special counsel, Robert Mueller. And you suggested — I think I heard you suggesting that there is a question about the purpose of his investigation. I want to ask you about that, because there are some Republicans out there saying that Robert Mueller shouldn't be doing this job. Is President Trump prepared to let the special counsel pursue his investigation? CHRISTOPHER RUDDY: Well, I think he's considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. I think he's weighing that option, I think it's pretty clear by what one of his lawyers said on television recently. I personally think it would be a significant mistake, even though I don't think there is a justification, and even though — I mean, here you have a situation… (CROSSTALK) JUDY WOODRUFF: You don't think there is a justification for? CHRISTOPHER RUDDY: For a special counsel in this case. But also — I mean, Robert Mueller, there are some real conflicts. He comes from a law firm that represent members of the Trump family. He interviewed the day before, a few days before he was appointed special counsel with the president, who was looking at him potentially to become the next FBI director. That hasn't been published, but it's true. And I think it would be strange that he would have a confidential conversation, and then, a few days later, become the prosecutor of the person he may be investigating. I think that Mueller shouldn't have taken the position if he was under consideration and had a private meeting with the president and was privy maybe to some of his thoughts about that investigation or other matters before the bureau. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you know for a fact that Robert Mueller was offered another position before he became special counsel? CHRISTOPHER RUDDY: I know for a fact that he was under consideration and that the president did talk with him in the days before he was named special counsel. I think there's a conflict there. Look, my position is that Mueller is a man of integrity, but we all know in the history of these special investigations, they go far and wide, and they go well beyond what the original jurisdiction was. He's bringing in some of the top prosecutors that have worked in the Justice Department. This is not going to be rosy for the White House. And I have to look at — when you say there's no — Judy, I think we both have to agree, so far, there's been no evidence of wrongdoing. There's been no allegation that the president engaged in wrongdoing or any member of his staff did. Full interview:

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David Brooks On Trump’s First Foreign Trip: “The Trip Was, By Competence Standards, A Success”


PBS: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join PBS NewsHour to discuss President Trump's first trip abroad and views on NATO, plus dramatic domestic cuts in the White House's budget proposal, a new CBO assessment of the Republican health care bill and whether an alleged assault by a political candidate suggests growing hostility toward the press. DAVID BROOKS, NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, I thought Melania had a very good week. I thought a lot of good moments for her. There was a lot of good judgments, actually. He, by the standards of some of the competence of the previous week, I would say you would have to say the trip was, by competence standards, a success. He did what he wanted to do in Saudi Arabia, at NATO, at various other places. I do think, as Mark suggested, the chief oddity of the entire trip is that we seem to be mean to our friends and kind to our foes. And so, Saudi Arabia — Fareed Zakaria had a very good column on this — we're supposed to be against terrorism, and Trump loves to talk about Iranians — Iran's influence on terrorism, but the main source of terror funding for both the ideas and sometimes the organizations is Saudi Arabia. It's not Iran. And so — but, somehow, we're super nice to Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, we're super mean to Germany and France and some of our NATO allies. And so there's just been a perversion of American foreign policy, which is sort of based on the idea that character doesn't matter, and you can — whether the leaders from Russia or the Philippines or Saudi Arabia, that people of bad character are people we can ally with. And, somehow, I think there is a consistency between the government here and some of the governments the Trump administration likes around the world.

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