PETE WILLIAMS: Terrorists strike in Turkey, the Supreme Court issues a big ruling on abortion, and political fireworks before the holiday weekend all making for a busy week.
I’m Pete Williams, in for Gwen Ifill, tonight on Washington Week.
DONALD TRUMP: (From video.) She hasn’t done anything about what’s going on, all right? (Jeers.) ISIS was formed during her tenure. ISIS is now worse than ever.
FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: (From video.) Every day Donald Trump proves he’s not in this for the American people; he’s in it for himself.
MR. WILLIAMS: Acrimony between the candidates this week, and hot-button issues flare up over waterboarding, Benghazi, Trump anxiety and Clinton’s emails.
Terror in Turkey. As authorities investigate who was behind the airport attack, lingering concerns back home.
DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE JOHN BRENNAN: (From video.) It would be surprising to me that ISIL is not trying to hit us, both in the region as well as in our homeland.
MR. WILLIAMS: And as the Supreme Court wraps up with a key ruling on abortion rights –
AMY HAGSTROM MILLER: (From video.) You don’t mess with Texas women.
MR. WILLIAMS: – the term ends with eight sitting justices. The effect on this past session and going forward.
Covering the week: Michael Scherer, Washington bureau chief for TIME Magazine; Robert Costa, national political reporter for The Washington Post; Yochi Dreazen, managing editor of Foreign Policy; and Joan Biskupic, legal affairs editor for Reuters.
ANNOUNCER: Award-winning reporting and analysis. Covering history as it happens. From our nation’s capital, this is Washington Week with Gwen Ifill. Once again, from Washington, sitting in for Gwen Ifill this week, Pete Williams of NBC News.
MR. WILLIAMS: Good evening.
As Cleveland prepares to host the Republican convention, the city has been forced by a court decision to redraw the boundaries for the protest zone, but inside the convention hall there may be protests of a different kind. With just over two weeks to go, it’s far from settled that the convention will be the kind of coronation the Trump campaign is hoping for. And Donald Trump may announce his choice for vice president even before the opening gavel, hoping to add some momentum. So, Robert, late-breaking news? Who are the contenders?
ROBERT COSTA: For vice president, Trump is looking at Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker. He is being fully vetted by the campaign’s attorney, A.B. Culvahouse. You also have New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. And then there’s a wider list of people on Trump’s radar, people like Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a top surrogate, a populist conservative. And Paul Manafort, the campaign’s chairman, he really wants to see perhaps a senator, someone with Washington experience, come on – Bob Corker is a favorite of his. So is Richard Burr of North Carolina.
MR. WILLIAMS: Michael, what does Trump want, and what does Trump need in a running mate?
MICHAEL SCHERER: Well, what he’s said is he wants somebody with Washington experience. He doesn’t have a lot. He wants someone with connections to show him around town – I think New Gingrich, someone who has known the city for years and has a lot of success, although he’s been out of official office for a long time.
I think he also – he needs somebody who knows policy and government. You know, he’s – he, by his own admission, is an instinct guy. He goes with his gut. But he doesn’t know a lot about the details of legislation, and he needs somebody nearby him to help guide him through this.
I think what’s interesting about Bob’s list is you have in Christie and Gingrich two very different people, one who – Christie’s become actually very close to Trump over the last few months, become a real adviser, talking on the phone very regularly.
Newt, on the other hand – I think they admire each other from afar – Newt says very positive things – but they’re not personally close. And I think one of the things Trump’s going to have to decide is whether he wants, you know, a Cheney-like vice president who’s really involved in the day-to-day, or Joe Biden-like, or whether he wants a(n) Al Gore-like vice president, who kind of goes off and does his own thing while Trump does it himself.
MR. COSTA: You’re spot-on about Trump not being that personally close to Gingrich. But you know how Trump digests so much information. He’s on his airplane, his Boeing 757, and after events he sits back and he watches Fox News on his big screen, and he sees Newt Gingrich and other conservative politicians on there, and that’s how he’s – he’s seen Gingrich as a real surrogate.
Real quick, on the VP list, two other names to think about: You have Mike Pence, the Indiana governor, and even Senator Ted Cruz, not that he’s on the short list, but Pence and Cruz both reflect some of the Trump high command. They believe Trump has a vulnerability with conservatives. He needs to do something to shore up these never-Trumpers, these people who may come to the convention in Cleveland and try to have a protest, and if they could bring out a Pence, who used to be in the House, as a conservative leader there, now the Indiana governor, maybe they think they could bring some of them along.
MR. WILLIAMS: You had a piece this week about the chaos heading in the convention. Tell us a little about that. Is it gelling?
MR. COSTA: There’s – there is going to be a protest at the convention among conservatives, but this is not going to be a contested convention in the way you usually think of another candidate, a horse coming along. What we’re going to see is, on the Rules Committee, a push to maybe change the rules, to try to stop Trump from getting the nomination, but the party leadership, Reince Priebus at the RNC and others, are trying to stop that.
Trump campaign’s also getting ready. They have Bill Palatucci, who worked with Governor Chris Christie. He’s working on the Rules Committee to try to stop any kind of movement.
But so many conservatives feel morally obligated to take a stand against Trump. That’s why it’s going to be wild.
And the thing about Cleveland is, it’s pretty unconventional for a convention, with – (laughter) – the Trump program’s still being thought through – celebrities, sports stars. It’s going to be different than anything we’ve ever seen.
JOAN BISKUPIC: Well, I was going to ask you about the timing of the announcement of his vice presidential choice. Is that a way to motivate some of the party elders to actually show up, not just give some stability to the ticket but to probably get out ahead of what could be even more chaotic than you understand it to be now?
MR. COSTA: A couple months ago, when I spoke to Trump’s top advisers and Trump himself, there was a sense that Trump was going to reveal his vice presidential pick at the convention or a couple days before, to have the political theater of it all. But now, a few weeks before the convention, and there’s a lot of party unease, there’s a thought: Maybe do it next week, maybe have it 10 days from now, so the party – the thought is, get the party behind the ticket before Cleveland, well ahead of Cleveland.
YOCHI DREAZEN: It seems like that most cycles you have people either leak their own names as being on the short list or have their friends do it – (laughter) – so that you have this wide array. This time, with Trump being as toxic as he is, do you see people sort of doing the reverse, trying to tamp down – (laughter) – we are not on the short list; we do not want this job?
MR. SCHERER: Well, it’s not only on the short list they’ve said that but just attending the convention – I think one of the defining features of this convention is that it won’t really be Republican in the classic sense. You know, the former president, George W. Bush, won’t be there. The former nominees, Mitt Romney and John McCain, won’t be there. A bunch of swing state – or swing senators who are up for re-election, from – including John McCain, Kelly Ayotte, will not be there. You know, the governor of Ohio is going, but almost like he’s being dragged against his will, because it’s in his home state.
MS. BISKUPIC: Right.
MR. WILLIAMS: Well, Trump himself, during the campaign, angered a lot of those potential Republicans when he made some comments that angered people who are in the Republican establishment about international trade agreements. He attacked them and he said –they of course are widely supported by the business community
MR. TRUMP: (From video.) Our politicians have aggressively pursued a policy of globalization, moving our jobs, our wealth and our factories to Mexico and overseas. Globalization has made the financial elite who donate to politicians very, very wealthy. I used to be one of them. (Applause.)
MR. WILLIAMS: Is this – is this hitting the Republicans where they live?
MR. SCHERER: Yes, and I think that – that speech was the most remarkable political event of the week. To have the Republican nominee come out and so forwardly rebut decades of Republican tradition – actually, bipartisan tradition – embracing these free trade agreements – he was calling there for renegotiating NAFTA, ending TPP – even if there was a vote on TPP, he said he would pull out of it – starting a trade war with China on a number of different fronts, and then he was calling for higher taxes. I mean, I can’t remember a time when a Republican candidate was calling for higher taxes, this time in the form of tariffs.
But really what he is calling for, if it came to pass, would be a whole dramatic reorientation of the way the globe – global economy works. To have the U.S. pull back so dramatically and to make this a nationalist project would be – would be really quite dramatic.
MR. WILLIAMS: Well, Hillary Clinton’s campaign, of course, got a big boost this week from a fellow Democrat, one not too long ago who had been holding back on an endorsement. Now Senator Elizabeth Warren has become the Trump attacker in chief.
SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): (From video.) You want to see goofy? Look at him in that hat. (Laughter.)
But when Donald Trump says “great,” I ask, great for who, exactly? (Applause.) Great for the guys who don’t care how much they’ve already squeezed from everyone else, great for the guys who always want more.
MRS. CLINTON: (From video.) I do just love to see how she gets under Donald Trump’s thin skin. (Cheers, applause.)
She exposes him for what he is: temperamentally unfit and totally unqualified to be president of the United States. (Cheers, applause.)
MR. WILLIAMS: So, Robert, how big a deal is this?
MR. COSTA: This was a significant moment for Secretary Clinton, because you still have Senator Sanders in the presidential race, and there are some progressives who are reluctant to sign on full-throated – in a full-throated way for Secretary Clinton. And you have another hero, Senator Warren, there, throwing her political weight behind the secretary. I think as she turns toward the convention in Philadelphia, this is the kind of person she wants at her side, perhaps as an ally and maybe as a vice presidential pick.
MR. DREAZEN: I mean, it seems with Senator Warren that she really does know just how to get Trump. She calls him “insecure” and “small” and “petty” and a “bully.” I mean, do you think that she will cause him say something that even by his standards goes too far? (Laughter.)
MR. COSTA: I mean, she has provoked him already on social media. He has gotten in some political hot water for referring to her as someone who’s of Native American descent. And we see with Trump he loves the fight, and sometimes he is easily provoked.
MS. BISKUPIC: Can I ask about a kind of a late-in-the-week piece of Clinton news? And that was related to the emails. Attorney General Loretta Lynch had a very casual meeting in Phoenix on the tarmac with Bill Clinton, and right afterward, after certain furor from Democrats and Republicans, said that whatever comes out of the FBI in terms of the investigation of the emails, that she will defer to – you’ve got –
MR. WILLIAMS: Or at least whatever comes out of career prosecutors at the Justice Department.
MS. BISKUPIC: Right, she’ll – that she will defer –
MR. SCHERER: I think it was a remarkable moment, in that the Clinton campaign has been incredibly successful this cycle in keeping Bill Clinton on message, not – as an asset, not as someone who’s harming them. It was very different in 2008, if you remember then.
This was just an obvious mistake on his part. And there’s a blind spot here, I think, for both Clintons in that they often don’t – they underestimate the damage that can be done by creating the appearance of impropriety, even when there is none. And there’s no indication that there was any lobbying on the plane, but to have –
MS. BISKUPIC: Yeah, they were talking about grandchildren, supposedly –
MR. SCHERER: – yeah –
MR. COSTA: And golf.
MS. BISKUPIC: Yeah. (Chuckles.)
MR. SCHERER: – and golf. So – but at the same time it clearly looks inappropriate. It’s just not something that should be happening, and arguably not only does it bring up the email issue again, it drives the news cycle for a couple days, but arguably it has restricted the attorney general from what she might be able to do or chooses to do.
MR. WILLIAMS: Robert, let me just – let me just ask you one thing about Bernie Sanders, speaking of Bernie Sanders.
MR. COSTA: Right.
MR. WILLIAMS: Vice President Biden seemed to say this week that he’s going to endorse – that Sanders is going to endorse Clinton, and then what happened?
MR. COSTA: When I talk to Sanders’ confidants and his advisers, they say he’s going to wait until Philadelphia. He wants to ensure that the Democratic platform has progressive ideals; that it – on – especially in economic and trade policy; that it goes – tilts toward his own campaign’s platform; and that he’s in no rush to do it, that he’s willing in Philadelphia to do it; and that Tad Devine, a Sanders adviser, is in constant touch with the Clinton people.
But Sanders is in his mid-70s, this has been the pinnacle of his career, and he’s not ready to just walk away before every box is checked.
MR. SCHERER: It’s really interesting to see how much progress he’s already made in the platform fight. You have in there now – you know, it – the Democratic Party will recognize states who want to legalize marijuana. There’s a push now to officially make $15 as the minimum wage standard. He’s still pushing for a ban on fracking and stronger language on TPP. But this platform will have his mark on it. It’s clear at this point.
MR. WILLIAMS: All right. Thank you both very much.
All signs are pointing to ISIS as the terror group behind the deadly bomb attack this week on the airport in Istanbul, Turkey, that killed 44 people and injured scores of others. It was a reminder that the military pressure has not stopped the group’s ability to inspire and direct terror attacks.
DIR. BRENNAN: (From video.) We’ve made, I think, some significant progress, along with our coalition partners, in Syria and Iraq, where most of the ISIS members are resident right now. But the – ISIS’s ability to continue to propagate its narrative, as well as to incite and carry out these attacks – I think we still have a ways to go before we’re able to say that we have made some significant progress against them.
MR. WILLIAMS: So, Yochi, what’s the best way to understand why Turkey was the target?
MR. DREAZEN: Turkey is a central part of the U.S. coalition that’s trying to fight ISIS. Their – Turkish airbases are allowing U.S. planes to fly. Turkish planes are flying into Syria and carrying out bombing campaigns. So for ISIS, if they’re trying to hit a powerful country, Turkey is the one that they could and should hit. They’ve talked about hitting it. There’s personal language, interestingly, between President Erdogan of Turkey, who sort of pounds his chest and says, I’m coming after you, ISIS. And they say the same to him. There’s been something brewing between them and Turkey for quite some time, and it comes when Turkey’s been hit for weeks now by bombings in Ankara, other bombings in Istanbul, so this is not the first and won’t be the last.
MR. WILLIAMS: And is there something different about this campaign in terms of the people who carried it out – where they came from, who was behind it?
MR. DREAZEN: It’s very striking. Typically, the attacks ISIS has carried out have been either Arabs or, in some cases, others who might have been part of the caliphate, their caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Here was very different. Here as a Russian, an Uzbek, someone from Kyrgyzstan. These communities already exist in Turkey. They’re not communities that the Turkish security forces had paid much attention to. They’re not Kurdish. They’re not Arab. They’re not the people Turkey has seen as possible enemies. And if these communities are now radicalized, or if somebody comes and disappears in those communities, it’s a threat Turkey’s not prepared for.
MS. BISKUPIC: Let me ask you about the target itself. This was not a café in Paris. This was a heavily secured airport. It seems rather audacious. How do you understand why this airport?
MR. DREAZEN: So the Ataturk Airport is one that I’ve personally been through about a dozen times, and the only airport I’ve been to in the world as secure is Ben-Gurion Airport in Israel. There are heavily armed Turkish security throughout the airport. The fact that they were able to make it in, kill as many people as they did, is really remarkable. And I think what it shows is, this was a well-planned attack. This wasn’t somebody who walked into a nightclub in Orlando, where there was nobody he had to worry about, and killed 50 people. These were people who walked into a heavily secured place, knew where to go, knew how to hit it and did.
MR. SCHERER: These bombings are happening in the U.S. – or these mass attacks are happening in the U.S. – they’re happening overseas with a lot – considerable regularity. Is there a point at which it just becomes too much and the Western world changes its policy with regards to what’s going on in Syria or its policy in terms of how they’re dealing with security? I mean, where is the breaking point if this continues?
MR. DREAZEN: I think it’s a great question, and you know, underlying, like, the Brexit vote and frankly the move towards other similar votes in other countries in Europe is Muslims equal ISIS equals terror, and we don’t want Muslims in, because they will bring with them ISIS and they will bring with them terrorism. So I think you’re already seeing it, politically and in some of the value systems of the countries. In a really sad irony, the Pentagon put out a report this week saying that ISIS had lost 47 percent of its territory in Iraq and Syria. That’s now half of what it once had. And they were saying, hey, this is great news. We’ve kicked them out of half of what the – of the caliphate. Well, then turn around and suddenly they’ve hit the Istanbul airport.
MR. WILLIAMS: Well, you mentioned the security at that airport. Of course it’s very different here. Is this attack going to change the approach that American airports take in their security?
MR. DREAZEN: To be honest, I don’t know how it could, really. I mean, you could have more security guards outside of an airport who are heavily armed, but that just leaves train stations open, or that just leaves bus stations open. You know, we are so massive a country, and there are so many airports, we don’t have the personnel really to do it. And the fear in some ways here is less that ISIS will get someone on a plane from Syria to come to the U.S. The fear is Orlando. The fear is somebody will pick up a gun, kill 50 people and say, I did this in the name of the Islamic State, even if they had no connection whatsoever to the Islamic State before.
MR. COSTA: What has been the political response across Europe? There’s been a lot of concern over the past few years about Turkey’s proximity to Syria and the way migration works in Turkey and perhaps coming into Europe. Just how are people responding throughout the continent?
MR. DREAZEN: It’s interesting. Right before the Brexit vote there were leaflets in England that showed Turkey and its border with Syria. That’s all it showed. And it was – the message was clear. The message was, let in – if we stay in the EU, Turkey will join the EU, and then suddenly you’ve got this flood of terrifying Syrians coming into European countries. And so it was a subtext in some places, and then in England, before the Brexit vote, it was just the text, the literal text.
MR. WILLIAMS: Yochi, very briefly, I think many people were impressed and really quite surprised at how fast they got the airport going again. What – is that an intentional message they’re sending, or is that just the way those folks are used to it?
MR. DREAZEN: In some ways, it’s that they needed to. And this airport is the biggest airport in Turkey. But Turkey is like Israel in that respect. They’ve been hit by terror attacks before, for decades. Usually it had been Kurds. But this is not new to them, and they pride themselves on the fact, as the Israelis do, that life does not stop. Turkey, when something was hit in the middle of Istanbul, it was cleaned up and it was open again to tourists the next day.
MR. WILLIAMS: All right. Thank you very much.
Finally, the Supreme Court justices handed down the final decisions of the term this week, including the most important ruling on abortion in a quarter century. The Court struck down a Texas law that caused more than half the abortion clinics in that state to close.
So, Joan, does this ruling simple restate the law on abortion, or does it take it further?
MS. BISKUPIC: No. What it does – for the first time since 1992, when the Court had affirmed Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to end a pregnancy, it actually clarifies what judges below should do, what should state legislatures be able to pass in terms of restrictions on a woman who wants to end a pregnancy. And what the justices said, in a pretty strong opinion for a short-handed Court, by 5 to 3 – that lower court judges should actually do their own search in the evidence, they should take depositions, they should look at the effects of a restriction on women who are trying to get an abortion, rather than just go with what the legislature says.
Here Texas had said that it needed to pass two key provisions. One put – required physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals – a very tough standard for physicians who would only be doing abortions. So that closed – out of about 40 clinics in Texas when this law was passed, it closed about half of them.
Second standard, which hadn’t been put into effect yet, would have required hospital-grade facilities and staffing at clinics that perform abortions. And the legislature said, we need to pass this to help maternal health. Some of you might remember, when it was passed in July of 2013, then-Texas State Senator Wendy Davis did this all-night filibuster, so it got a lot of attention. And a lower court then struck down these laws, saying, look, after taking a lot of testimony, these things aren’t necessary for maternal health. The legislature’s putting an undue burden, under the Casey standard from 1992 that Pete just referred to, and it’s unconstitutional. Fifth Circuit reversed, but in what I think was a rather stunning decision by the Supreme Court, with Justice Anthony Kennedy on board, said no, this is unconstitutional.
MR. COSTA: What have – what have we learned – you called it a short-handed Court.
MS. BISKUPIC: Yeah.
MR. COSTA: What have we learned about the tilt and makeup of this short-handed Court, especially on these kind of issues?
MS. BISKUPIC: Well, tilting to the left more than when Antonin Scalia, who died in February, was there, in – on this abortion ruling and also on an affirmative action ruling that we had last week, certainly tilting that way. Anthony Kennedy, who’s always been our center conservative justice, has moved over.
Now there have been some cases that went conservative just because they had to – they broke 4 to 4 – for example, in immigration – and let’s – upheld a lower court ruling against President Barack Obama. But that was more because of where the lower court was, not where they ended up, as they were divided.
MR. WILLIAMS: And in terms of what we can expect for the next term, obviously it’s going to start out with eight justices; seems unlikely that Merrick Garland, if he gets a hearing, would be confirmed by the first Monday in October. So how does it look for next term?
MS. BISKUPIC: You know, Pete, we might even be into calendar 2017 by the time we have a ninth justice. And you can tell that the remaining eight are wondering how many cases to take and how many hot-button cases to take. They’ve taken several business disputes that they’ll resolve. You know, they want to take cases where there are conflicts in the circuits. They want to standardize the law across the nation. But you can already feel in some areas, especially on social policy, that they might be a little bit gun-shy. On the last day of their regular business this week they rejected an appeal from a pharmacist out in Washington state who was challenging a state law that said that his business had to provide emergency contraception, and he said his religious beliefs, you know, would be impinged if he did that. That’s the kind of case that with Scalia and – they probably would have taken, because you only need four votes to grant it, and three of the conservatives dissented and said we should be taking this.
MR. SCHERER: What does this mean for the legacy of John Roberts? He’s still very early in his time as chief justice, but has the loss of Scalia had a real impact on what he’ll be able to do?
MS. BISKUPIC: Well, during his first 10 years, Michael, John Roberts had five conservatives. He was – he was sort of at the height of his power during his first decade because of Scalia’s vote. And now here we have a conservative chief justice leading a Court that seems to be getting liberal by the day, and we haven’t had anything like that in decades, where the chief wasn’t in as much control.
MR. WILLIAMS: All right. Joan, thank you. Thank you all.
And before we close tonight, a shout-out and congratulations to one of Washington Week’s own. Greg King is retiring after nearly 44 years here at WETA. Greg has been with WETA in a variety of technical capacities, working with this broadcast and the PBS NewsHour. We thank him for his dedication, wish him a well-deserved set of Friday nights to enjoy in the future. Long live the King!
And to all of you, a very happy and healthy 4th of July weekend. I’m Pete Williams. Be sure to come back again next week on Washington Week. Good night.