GWEN IFILL: A huge week in politics, a history-making turn for Hillary Clinton, and stumbles and setbacks for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. We examine the fallout tonight on Washington Week.
FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: (From video.) Thanks to you we’ve reached a milestone, the first time in our nation’s history that a woman will be a major party’s nominee. (Cheers, applause.)
MS. IFILL: Hillary Clinton seizes the gold ring. She collects big endorsements.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From video.) I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office.
SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): (From video.) I am ready to get in this fight and work my heart out for Hillary Clinton to become the next president of the United States.
MS. IFILL: And she immediately sets her sights on her fall competition.
MRS. CLINTON: (From video.) Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to be president and commander in chief. (Cheers, applause.)
MS. IFILL: While Donald Trump works to calm nervous Republicans.
DONALD TRUMP: (From video.) I know some people say I’m too much of a fighter. My preference is always peace.
MS. IFILL: But can he shake questions about his statements that a judge of Mexican or even Muslim heritage cannot treat him fairly?
HOUSE SPEAKER PAUL RYAN (R-WI): (From video.) Claiming a person can’t do the job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment.
MS. IFILL: Left on the sidelines, Bernie Sanders.
SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): (From video.) Well, here we are in mid-June, and we’re still standing. (Cheers, applause.)
MS. IFILL: Barely.
Covering the week, Jeanne Cummings, political editor for The Wall Street Journal; Ed O’Keefe, political reporter for The Washington Post; Michael Scherer, Washington bureau chief for TIME Magazine; and Alexis Simendinger, White House correspondent for RealClearPolitics.
ANNOUNCER: Award-winning reporting and analysis. Covering history as it happens. Live from our nation’s capital, this is Washington Week with Gwen Ifill. Once again, live from Washington, moderator Gwen Ifill.
MS. IFILL: Good evening. This week was nothing less than extraordinary. And it’s possible the political world will never be the same. But is it because there is a likely woman nominee? Is it because Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren now have liberal leverage? Is it because Republicans are beginning to worry they are stuck between a rock and a hard place with an unpredictable presumptive nominee? Or is it because no matter what happens next we are in for a crazy, volatile slide into the conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia?
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were both in Washington today, speaking to groups at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum – Clinton at Planned Parenthood and Trump at the Faith and Freedom Evangelical meeting. But the real target audience for Clinton was Trump, and for Trump, Clinton.
MR. TRUMP: (From video.) She’s now under criminal investigation. First time ever, by the way, a president of the United States endorsed somebody under criminal investigation – interesting.
MRS. CLINTON: (From video.) When Donald Trump says, “let’s make American great again,” that is code for: Let’s take America backward. Well, Donald, those days are over. (Cheers.)
MS. IFILL: So let’s pick it all part, because nothing this year has been conventional. Jeanne, did this week alter the course of the race?
JEANNE CUMMINGS: It could have. You know, obviously time will tell. But it looks like –
MS. IFILL: (Laughs.) We’ve learned to say that whenever we cover this particular campaign.
MS. CUMMINGS: The damage Trump did to himself over the judge is significant, and I think lasting. How deep it is we will find out. But his poll numbers in a Fox poll dropped six points. His standing in the Hispanic community is rock bottom. And those are things that he now has to figure out how he can overcome and repair. And they haven’t figured it out yet. He lost one endorsement, from Senator Kirk. Others were on the fence, about to run. So these next five weeks, if it’s like this going into the convention, we could see the convention we once thought we would – an ugly, contested affair. So there’s that on that side.
On the other side, Bernie Sanders appears to be moving pretty quickly, faster than I would have thought, to go ahead and line up and align the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton got a very important boost not just from the president, but when Elizabeth Warren came out and endorsed her so quickly, because that is the signal. She was Bernie Sanders before Bernie Sanders was Bernie Sanders.
MS. IFILL: Well, let’s talk a little bit about the Hillary Clinton breakthrough because, I mean, we’ve talked so often about her bad weeks. This was a good one.
ALEXIS SIMENDINGER: It was, for her, a real high point. She talked about it as a milestone. And we all saw her on the stage in Brooklyn. Emotional. We saw her talking about her mother. We heard her talking about history and about the history of women going before. In every way it was the pinnacle of a career that we’ve watched for decades. And her effort to turn so quickly to try to bring Donald Trump down in every way that she can began with that speech – that celebratory, victorious speech. So you could see how grateful she was that she was being able to turn to that point and, you know, in every way wanted to take a victory walk, with her arms spread out and being happy to count every delegate and every vote.
MS. IFILL: Bernie Sanders wanted to do that too, but we’ll get back to that in a minute. I am curious, Michael, to talk a little bit about what it is that she – not only that she accomplished, but how she accomplished it. Usually Donald Trump manages to only fall, if he falls on his own petard, if he makes a mistake. So how much of it did she accomplish and how much of it did he help her have a good week?
MICHAEL SCHERER: Most of this year Hillary Clinton hasn’t been in control. She hasn’t been in control of the criminal investigation against her. She hasn’t been in control of Bernie Sanders, who’s been beating her. This week she ended the primary season big with winning California, which was very important. Bernie Sanders would not be acting the way he’s acting now if he had won California. That was his own marker, and he failed to get there.
And now she sees things opening up for her, and not just her the Democratic establishment – what Bernie would say the establishment – the Joe Biden, you know, Barack Obama, the Senate leadership now sees a race that they can actually control. They know how they’re going to run against Donald Trump. She’s very comfortable attacking Donald Trump. She knows how to attack Donald Trump. They focus grouped these lines. They know exactly what their playbook is. And she now controls the rollout.
I mean, so much of the good news this week was you had this very well-coordinated, incredibly well-orchestrated rollout of endorsements that kind of kept everybody captivated in the way we’re used to being captivated by Donald Trump every week.
MS. IFILL: It definitely felt, looking back on it, as if it had been planned way in advance.
Ed, you know, The Washington Post today has a story in which Donald Trump says he’s not that worried about his comments about the judge, saying he is of Hispanic heritage, even though he was born in Indiana, because, A, he doesn’t think anyone is actually paying – real people are paying attention to it. And he also says, you know, Don King endorsed him, so he’s not a racist.
ED O’KEEFE: Exactly. The idea that nobody’s paying attention is ridiculous, frankly. I spent part of this week in Las Vegas talking to voters. We sort of deployed a bunch of us out to talk to people, now that we know that that is the race. And let me tell you, everyone knows about it. And I had several notably – I had one Hispanic woman say to me: You know, he makes some interesting and some valid points, but he’s a racist so I can’t vote for him.
MS. IFILL: She just said that to you?
MR. O’KEEFE: Yes. And I had another guy who said something similar that, you know, if it weren’t for that maybe I would consider him because, yes, he’s an outsider, yes, he’s different, yes, he’s been successful himself and why wouldn’t we want to be successful. You hear that from people. And I heard it vividly this week. And the idea that this isn’t being heard – I think this one was heard much more. And why he’s hit rock bottom and will go even further with Hispanics is so many of them look at what he said about this judge.
It’s not just that the judge is Hispanic. It’s that his parents immigrated to this country and he was born here. That is every young Hispanic voter in this country who will be voting in this country for the next 60 or 70 years.
MS. IFILL: Saying my parents immigrated to this country and I was born here.
MR. O’KEEFE: Exactly. And my mother did too. So you have essentially lost any hope of winning those people, probably for the rest of their lives if he’s nominated by that party.
MS. CUMMINGS: And when he talks about nobody’s paying attention, they aren’t nobody and they are paying attention.
MS. IFILL: Who is somebody?
MS. CUMMINGS: Yes.
MS. SIMENDINGER: And the other thing – Jeanne, so rightly you were talking about the Fox poll and the drop in the six points. That’s not because Hillary Clinton was going up anywhere. It’s because Donald Trump was dragging himself down. And if you think about what you were covering out in the real world, when you have an echo chamber in the capital, as you point out, with lawmakers, Republican lawmakers, repeating this idea of textbook case of racism and over and over again, each one of them – the majority leader of the Senate, Senator McConnell, you know, trying to issue in big, bold letters: Warning, Donald Trump. Back up. Change your tune.
MR. SCHERER: I think it’s important to remember also that he doubled down on this three or four times over a four-day period before finally pulling back. And he was his only adviser on this. I mean, he was choosing to do it by himself, and he was doing it. He’ll back off this now, but even if you watch that Faith and Freedom Conference today, this instinct to pit people against each other and campaign against the other is still very much – it’s so embedded in who he is as a politician.
He made the point today in front of the Evangelical crowd that he wants to bring more money to the inner cities. But the way he would do was by taking money away – that would go to refugees. And by hammering again these outsiders, these foreigners are taking our money, these Muslims. I mean, it’s all in – it’s encoded into who he really is as a politician.
MS. IFILL: So, but at the same time he then says: I’m not out to divide. I’m out to unite. Right after – I mean, these things are right next to each other.
MS. CUMMINGS: The other thing that was interesting today, and at his last appearance, is the teleprompters. You know, clearly he gets it. He understands he has made a very big mistake. And give Newt Gingrich credit –
MS. IFILL: A mistake to use the teleprompters or not to use them, because he’s not so great at them yet.
MS. CUMMINGS: To not use – he’s not good at them, but not using them is how he got himself in trouble, where he’d wander off message. And to give Newt Gingrich credit, he went right out and said it. That was one of the biggest mistakes he’s made. And it really bothered Trump that Gingrich said that. But Gingrich was one of the few people who was trying to talk straight to the guy and say: Fix it. You have made a big mistake.
MS. IFILL: His first big mistake was that 11-minute speech in which he litigated the entire Trump University case. This judge, of course, is in charge of the Trump University case. And that’s when he began to wander way off target.
MS. CUMMINGS: Well, he had notes. He was – he did that on purpose. He did that in that judge’s backyard. He did it on purpose.
MR. SCHERER: But the flipside of that is that he is not ready to give up the free-wheeling Donald Trump. He’s going to have a rally this weekend in Tampa. It’ll be a big – I mean, he’s planning his rallies for weekends to get these massive crowds. He loves the massive crowds. He’s not going to disappoint them. He also gave – even after he sent out the statement saying his comments about the judge were misconstrued, without actually explaining now they were misconstrued, he continued to give interviews in which he, when asked, said: I’m not backing off what I said.
I mean, he’s not – he’s not going to put himself in a bottle. So there’s this tension here where we’re going to have a speech next week about Hillary Clinton which will be on teleprompter. Will be like the speech he gave on Tuesday night on teleprompter, like the speech he gave today on teleprompter. But the guy who sits in his plane and tweets about Pocahontas Elizabeth Warren is also still very much there.
MS. IFILL: Yeah. He’s still there. And that’s what’s got the Republicans so scared. And of course, Hillary Clinton is doing her teleprompter speeches, but hers – which have been well-received, are two – she attacked him on foreign policy, but not really. She attacked him on being unstable, that was really what she was saying. And she apparently is going to do the same thing on domestic, on economic issues this coming week.
But let’s go back to Hillary Clinton’s week, because in addition to getting this – to winning and to clinching and to making history, she got Elizabeth Warren. Elizabeth Warren, who has – I think is the last female Democrat in the Senate to endorse her, finally. And not only endorse her, but, like, throw her arms around her last night on Rachel Maddow. What was that about?
MR. O’KEEFE: Well, it was, as we’ve said, again, I had a voter this week say she should pick Elizabeth Warren as her running mate because she is the Bernie Sanders woman. That was the quote.
MS. IFILL: That was what she said?
MR. O’KEEFE: Yes, this is what the – it was a guy. (Laughter.) He said: Pick Elizabeth Warren because she’s the Bernie Sanders woman. She is the liberal –
MS. IFILL: Chances of that happening?
MR. O’KEEFE: – the female embodiment of what he has been running around the country talking about. And whether or not that happens remains to be seen. But getting her endorsement as quickly and enthusiastically as she did was critical, because if we had gone into this weekend with her still hemming and hawing, you know, the situation would have been much worse.
MS. CUMMINGS: Well, Elizabeth Warren, though, had signed the letter that was signed by all the female members of the Senate urging Hillary Clinton to run. So, yes, there was –
MS. IFILL: It’s not really that much of a surprise, you’re saying?
MS. CUMMINGS: Well, no, it was a letter that urged her to run, and Warren signed it. And so we should give her some credit for that, that the idea that she signs that and then rather – you know, sitting out the primary, as soon as the primary’s clear where it’s going, she’s out and she’s helping Hillary. You know, that shouldn’t be –
MS. IFILL: It has far more impact than anyone who then – than Claire McCaskill endorsed her.
MS. CUMMINGS: Absolutely. And they had a meeting this morning at Mrs. Clinton’s house. And apparently they didn’t talk about the vice presidential race. And the senator has sent every signal that she can that she is happy where she is. Now, so I mean, who –
MR. SCHERER: They all do that.
MS. CUMMINGS: Well, they all do that. But I think she actually – if you look at her out there on the campaign trail, and you look at the way she operates in her office – like, she’ll talk to her local press much, much more than she’ll go out and court the national media.
MS. IFILL: But here’s a question. Let’s not – I don’t even want to get into the VP stuff yet because, you know, there’s plenty of time for it. But I’m curious whether Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, have changed this and made it more – and given liberals more leverage in this campaign than they would have otherwise had. I mean, this is a Clinton who came from the days of the third way. So it’s not a different person, but she didn’t have to pay attention.
MR. SCHERER: Well, I think there’s no doubt that even if Bernie Sanders lost the nomination fight, he and Elizabeth Warren have the keys to the future of the party. And I think Hillary Clinton knows that. I think everybody else in Washington, the Democratic Party, knows that. And they have to figure out how to, you know, pursue what they want to pursue, recognizing that there is this populist uprising happening within the Democratic Party, much like it’s happening in the Republican Party.
I think the question we have over the next week is Hillary Clinton’s polls haven’t moved. But that poll – the Fox News poll was finished on Wednesday. If what I think is likely to happen happens, by next week when the next round of polls come out, Hillary Clinton will have gone up significantly because Democrats will be uniting. And that will set, in a week or two, you know, the starting gun for this race.
MS. IFILL: Well, there’s probably no one who was more unleashed this week than President Obama. He met with Bernie Sanders. He then dropped a Hillary endorsement. And he watched his oldest daughter graduate from high school. And in between, he slow-jammed the news on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
JIMMY FALLON: (From video.) Now, Mr. President, since you’re here, I got to ask, have you been watching all the election coverage this week about Donald Trump?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (From video.) No, but I have been watching my new favorite show, Orange is Not the New Black. (Laughter, cheers, applause.)
JIMMY FALLON: (From video.) Whoa, whoa, whoa. I’m going to need you to Netflix and chill.
MS. IFILL: I think there was a mic drop at the end of that. The president campaigns with Hillary Clinton next week in Wisconsin. And it seems like he’s just champing at the bit – to me, it seems that way. To you, Alexis, as well?
MS. SIMENDINGER: Oh, indeed. And in fact, watching President Obama talk now for, I would say, months, you could see the animation. The White House word is enthusiasm. He’s enthusiastic. I would say that’s an understatement. That he – there is a personal dynamic between the president – or, you know, a rift between the president and Donald Trump that goes back to the birther movement and the birth certificate. And President Obama is appalled at the kinds of things that Donald Trump is saying, and believes that he can be such an emblem of what it takes to be president. His own numbers – his own job approval has gone up, in contrast with what’s happening on the trail. And what we’ve seen is the president’s very formal kind of endorsement, delivered informally via social media, going on the Fallon show – we’re going to see the president do all the formal kinds of things –
MS. IFILL: The big rallies?
MS. SIMENDINGER: Big rallies. But we’re going to see a lot of this too, because he reaches that demographic and audience.
MR. O’KEEFE: And there was a tweet this week by one of the Clinton spokespeople, that I thought was important to remember. He said, now – I think he was tweeting the video of him making the formal announcement. Now, imagine her, the president, Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders, all out there campaigning for her.
MS. IFILL: That’s going to send some people fleeing, I think, into their closets. To them that sounds horrible.
MR. O’KEEFE: Well, but – yes, but sent into the right neighborhoods, sent into the right states, sent into the right places –
MS. CUMMINGS: No, he’s right, the weapons that the Democrats have are amazing.
MR. O’KEEFE: Right. Who’s going to campaign – who wants to campaign alongside Donald Trump, right?
MS. CUMMINGS: Well, ever ex-president, both Democrat and Republican, opposes Donald Trump. I mean, he doesn’t have any of the kind of weaponry that she’s got.
MS. IFILL: But if this is an outsider’s year, isn’t that an advantage?
MR. SCHERER: It might be, but Democrats are going to try and paint Donald Trump as – the frame the election outside/insider, they’ll frame it as someone who’s unfit and dangerous and out for himself, versus someone who can actually –
MS. SIMENDINGER: Or outside of reality, that’s what they’re saying.
MR. SCHERER: – yeah, can be responsible. I think for Obama, there’s a way in which Trump is the perfect opponent for him to go out of the White House with. I mean, he has staked so much of his second term on this idea that the 2012 election showed the future of America, that there’s a demographic change happening, that a younger electorate is coming of age, that a less white electorate is coming of age. And he gets a chance now. He always said in ’12, this is my last campaign. He gets a chance now to have a third campaign in which he can cement for the country – if he can turn these people out, or help turn these people out –
MS. IFILL: But isn’t – once again, the idea of a third Obama term does not thrill some people.
MR. O’KEEFE: No, but I think Michael’s right. If they can change the argument from outsider/insider to competence and incompetence, that’s a winning argument.
MS. CUMMINGS: All that being said, though, we have underestimated Donald Trump every step of the way in this campaign.
MS. IFILL: Well, that’s a good caveat.
MR. O’KEEFE: This is only one week.
MS. CUMMINGS: And he had a bad week. So, you know, we can all agree upon that. This was not his best moment. But if he gets himself back up on a roll, if he does start to discipline himself, if he can borrow from Paul Ryan some decent policy platforms so that he can make a substantive argument for his candidacy, he’ll get right back into this, and this thing will be tight.
MS. IFILL: Final thought.
MR. SCHERER: His main weapon will be trying to disqualify Hillary Clinton. So it’ll be hammering her over and over again. And she’s pretty weak.
MS. IFILL: OK. And on to the conventions. Thanks everyone.
We have a short show tonight so we can give you the opportunity to support the stations that support us. But stick around for the Washington Week Webcast Extra, where we take you behind the scenes of the 2016 campaign. Plus, online see our deep dive into the history of women running for president. Hillary Clinton made history, but she’s not the first one to try. You can find that later tonight and all weekend long at PBS.org/WashingtonWeek. Keep up with daily developments with me and Judy Woodruff when we’re on the PBS NewsHour. And I’ll see you right here around the table next week on Washington Week. Good night.