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Trump’s tweets and conspiracies redefine what’s presidential

As Democratic candidates and the lone Republican challenger to President Trump raced to event after event in Iowa, the president took to the internet to retweet conspiracy theories linking the Clintons to the death of Jeffrey Epstein. NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield joins Hari Sreenivasan to put the week in politics in perspective.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    This weekend's Democratic presidential candidates and even the lone Republican challenger to President Trump, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, racing to event after event in Iowa. Meanwhile the president reportedly raised $12 million at fund raisers on Friday night and then began his vacation at his golf club in New Jersey. A vacation that includes a barrage of tweets and retweets.

    NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield is here now to talk about all that and more political news.

    To say that the president retweeting a conspiracy theory connecting the Clintons to the death of Jeffrey Epstein is a surprise, not so much…

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    I mean in one sense you could say what else is new? You know, he was the birther conspiracy guy. He said millions of illegal aliens cost him the popular vote. He thought Justice Scalia's death was fishy. But still, when you read something like that — this president accusing another president of complicity in murder, you know that's what we think other countries were like when they would jail or execute political opponents.

    And the barriers that are not just pushed, but crashed, combined once again with the massive silence of his own party. In one sense I think just leaves you as though you've been pole axed. Did I really read that? Am I really hearing this from the president of the United States? The sheer overreach in some sense protects him because you almost literally can't believe it. It's that we don't know how to get our heads around it.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Well let's get our heads around actual news that did matter this week that was substantive and oftentimes is ignored by the tweet stream and these kinds of spectacles.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    I think one of the big stories was the fact that Sue Gordon, the deputy DNI, Director of National Intelligence was forced out of her job by her boss who is himself being pushed aside. Dan Coats. Because the president doesn't trust the intelligence he gets. He doesn't like it when it contradicts his ideas. Now Sue Gordon is the kind of person that a government should embrace. Both party intelligence experts really respect her. They wanted her to get the chief job. And for her to be brushed aside as a part of a piece.

    We also saw a scientist in the Department of Agriculture quit because he wasn't permitted to present evidence that climate change was having an effect on nutrients like rice. And we heard the FBI saying you know we really want to focus on domestic terrorism by which they mean white nationalist terrorism but we're really uncomfortable if that's going to affect somehow people in the president's base.

    And what's the common theme? That people in power don't want to hear facts that challenge their premises and whether it's been Vietnam or Iraq or God knows how many other examples, when people in power don't want to hear evidence that may force them to change your mind, you've got a problem.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    This weekend we also saw every Democratic candidate running around and obviously Bill Weld as well. You know they're eating turkey wings at the State Fair and whatever else they have to do in Iowa. But you also see a steady drip of stories over the past few days on Joe Biden and their verbal gaffes again in the context of the tweets and so forth that we were just talking about these pale in comparison. But what's the net result?

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    The problem and I think normally I'm inclined to say come on, you know this is hype. But there are times when these events have a political impact and that is when they tend to reinforce a stereotype anyway. So for instance, when Gerald Ford, the most athletic president we ever had, a Pro football player, had a few trips and Chevy Chase of Saturday Night Live turned it into I guess a meme that all of a sudden he became, he was a klutz. Dan Quayle, the question about him was was he really up to the job and so when he misspelled a word it was well you know there it is!

    So for Biden, you know what's the dilemma? He's old. And otherwise unmemorable slip particularly if there are a couple, begins to raise that question since it's there anyway in the political firmament. And so I hate to sound superficial about this with those things can matter.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    All right Jeff Greenfield thanks so much.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Thank you.

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