JUDY WOODRUFF: We return now to the top story of the day, Donald Trump Jr.’s release of e-mails showing he met with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 presidential campaign, in hopes of gaining damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
For a closer look at the political fallout from all this, we turn to Karine Jean-Pierre, a senior adviser to MoveOn.org and a veteran of the Obama administration. And Matt Schlapp, he’s the chairman of the American Conservative Union and the former deputy political director for President George W. Bush.
And it’s great to have you both back on the program. Thank you for being here.
So, Karine, to you first.
How damaging is all this information about the Donald Trump Jr. meeting?
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, MoveOn.org: I think it’s pretty damaging.
We finally have evidence, e-mails, that were not fake news, because it was actually delivered, released by Don Jr., that shows that a foreign — he met — he and Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner met with a foreign agent in the sole, sole purpose of trying to get information given by a foreign adversary, intelligence from a foreign adversary.
And I think that’s pretty damaging. I think, for a long time, Republicans have been moving that goalpost, right? They have been saying, oh, there’s no meeting. Oh, well, if there’s no meeting, there’s no proof of collusion. Nobody on the campaign knows any — or have any Russian connections.
Well, now we’re at a point where, yes, there’s a meeting. It looks like there potentially could have been collusion. And now what? Now what do Republicans do?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Matt, how do you see the damage, or not?
MATT SCHLAPP, American Conservative Union: Well, you know, my — what I have said continually is, is that my guess is, in the presidential campaign, they will have e-mails or phone conversations or meetings with people that were trying to be helpful to the campaign.
So, this doesn’t come as a big shock to me. I think the big mistake they have made is whenever you’re involved in one of these investigations — and I was in a White House that had a special counsel — you search your e-mails immediately. You go through — if you have phone logs, and you look through all your information, and you just fully comply, you’re as completely as transparent as you possibly can be.
Actually, the reason we know this is because Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort updated the disclosure to the government, and they were much more fulsome in the information they gave, which was the right thing to do. It just would have been better if that could have done as soon as possible.
It’s the drip, drip, drip that gives the press the ability to write another story and another story.
But the underlying facts still prove absolutely no criminality.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Absolutely no criminality? We had a discussion about this a few minutes ago with two lawyers.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Yes.
Well, we don’t know that for sure. I mean, look, to me, it looks like textbook collusion. It looks like campaign finance violation, at least for me, someone who worked on campaigns and, just like yourself, worked in the White House.
MATT SCHLAPP: Yes, but you guys were never under investigation.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Right. We were never under investigation. Thanks goodness, Obama, no investigation.
MATT SCHLAPP: Because we were pretty nice. We were pretty nice.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: But, look — but I think this is the problem.
If they want true transparency — this is they, the Trump administration — why don’t just they put it all out there?
MATT SCHLAPP: That’s why Donald Trump Jr. did this, because it’s the right thing to do.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, but the only reason they do it is because you have The Washington Post out there and The New York Times doing the work and putting out the information in piecemeal. Then the drip, drip, drip stuff happens.
MATT SCHLAPP: Or maybe they’re being leaked inside the White House or inside the apparatus.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Well, then that’s Donald Trump’s problem.
MATT SCHLAPP: Can I go, Judy, to this question of an FEC violation?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes.
MATT SCHLAPP: Because I saw the conversation in the show as well.
And the FEC has put on their Web site …
JUDY WOODRUFF: This is the Federal Elections Commission.
MATT SCHLAPP: Right. You can go on their Web site and check it out.
But they already said that the idea that you could prove criminality unless there was cash that went directly to a candidate is almost impossible to prove. So I think the FEC violations here are absurd.
The idea that this is treason, that this was taking up arms against your own country, I think, is absurd. Then you have this question of collusion, which isn’t really a legal term. And then I love this, potential collusion, and I don’t even know where you go on that.
Look, the bottom line is, we want to know this. Did anybody on team Trump do anything illegal with the Putin government that somehow subverted the elections?
That’s a pretty big charge, but an easy charge to eventually answer. And I think we all just want to get that answer and close the books on this. The American people are fair, and let’s move on.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Is the standard of legality, Karine, going to be the only standard that matters here?
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: So, I think that matters as well.
But we do have — we cannot forget that Russians actually attacked our country. They tried to undermine our democracy. And that is actually still happening. There was a Washington Post recent reporting that showed that Russians were currently trying to hack into our infrastructure.
And so this is what I’m not understanding why Republicans aren’t just standing up and saying something and keeping Trump administration and his associates accountable.
MATT SCHLAPP: I agree with this.
I think what Russia has tried to do in this most recent election and previous elections is wrong. I think it’s wrong what the DNC was doing with the government of Ukraine to try to help Hillary Clinton. I think these things really should be…
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Not the same. Not the same.
MATT SCHLAPP: Well, but it is — if you shouldn’t deal with a foreign national, then you shouldn’t deal with a foreign national.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Russia is a foreign adversary. It’s not the same.
The DNC denied it. But Russia is not — is a foreign adversary.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to come to something, because there …
MATT SCHLAPP: Sure.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What has struck me, Matt Schlapp, is the comments from conservative commentators in the last day or so about what’s happening, Charles Krauthammer, who said last night: I have been defending this White House, this administration for months. Now I find out what they were doing, and I’m left basically hanging out to dry.
Are you seeing some Republicans, some conservatives feeling as if the administration hasn’t been straight with them?
MATT SCHLAPP: Of course.
What you’re seeing from Republicans and conservatives, when you see the drip, drip, drip, and with this revelation that there was a meeting, it does get people concerned. They say, well, I didn’t think there was going to be a meeting. I thought I would have learned this by now.
That’s why getting all the information out is awfully important. Get it all out. My advice is to anybody listening on the Trump team, get the e-mails out, get the calendar items out. Get everything out.
If you have nothing to hide, just put it all out there. I think that’s what now they have done with the refiling of their disclosures, which is why we know about this meeting. So, it was their disclosure that is the reason we know this.
Donald Jr., yes, he put out his e-mails, but it was also true that the media had gotten them. So, having full disclosure will calm people down, because all really conservatives care about at the end, Judy, is, was there wrongdoing?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Karine, we are seeing, in poll after poll — I haven’t seen polls since this latest information came out — but the conservative — Donald Trump’s voting base, they are sticking with him. They’re saying, we don’t care about Russia, for the most part.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I’m making a bit of a blanket statement here.
But they’re saying, what we want to see is, we want to see something done about health care, we want to see jobs.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: I think that’s exactly right.
But here’s the thing. Voters didn’t care about Watergate, until they did. And the issue that I have with that is, these elected officials on the Hill have a duty, they have a responsibility, regardless if voters care or not. They took an oath to protect the Constitution, to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign or domestic.
And so, therefore, they should care that there was an attack on our country. So, I think that is what is really kind of getting under my skin, is, this is truly, truly important.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you do have the committees doing the investigation.
MATT SCHLAPP: Yes, the only thing I would say to that is, is that what Russia tries to do with our cyber-security in our society on a daily basis with espionage is a big problem. I agree with you on that.
I actually the Obama administration — he was in charge during this period of time — he actually left us vulnerable. He left our potentially — if you’re making the charge that they had something to do with our election system, he was the sheriff in town.
The DNC was hacked. I think that what we need to do is make sure that we work in a bipartisan way to make sure that they can’t affect our society this way.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: But Republicans are making this a partisan issue. They’re not being bipartisan.
MATT SCHLAPP: I think there is a little bit of that to go around.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Mitch McConnell hasn’t stood up basic rhetoric, not real conversation about it, and Paul Ryan. They need to stand up and speak louder.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right.
We may have another chance to talk about this again. It may not be the last chance.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Sorry, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Karine Jean-Pierre.
It’s all right.
Thank you both for being here.
MATT SCHLAPP: I’m hopeful for a new topic.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I bet you are.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.