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September 27, 2018

STAY TUNED: Kavanaugh and the GOP’s Women Problem (with Nicolle Wallace)

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Nicolle Wallace is the host of “Deadline: White House” on MSNBC, and advised George W. Bush and John McCain. She talks with Preet about the chaos of the Kavanaugh nomination, what it means for the midterms, and compares Donald Trump and Sarah Palin.

Plus, Preet assesses Rod Rosenstein’s job security.

Do you have a question for Preet? Tweet them to @PreetBharara with the hashtag #askpreet, email [email protected], or call 669-247-7338 and leave a voicemail.

Kavanaugh and the GOP’s Women Problem (with Nicolle Wallace)

Air date: 9/27/18

Preet Bharara:

Nicolle Wallace, thank you for being here.

Nicolle Wallace:

Thank you for having me.

Preet Bharara:

We are sitting in the NBC, what do you call this building?

Nicolle Wallace:

Thirty Rock.

Preet Bharara:

Thirty Rock.

Nicolle Wallace:

Right? Like the TV show?

Preet Bharara:

Like the TV show. Great TV show, late Tuesday morning. Who knows what the hell is going to happen?

Nicolle Wallace:

Well, that’s what I said to you when we walked in, are we going to be okay?

Preet Bharara:

And I said, I don’t know. And I asked you the question, what did you say?

Nicolle Wallace:

I said, I don’t know.

Preet Bharara:

This is not what the listeners want to hear. You were very nice to me when I left my last job involuntarily and gave me some advice on what am I do? So, thank you for that. It ‘was nice of you to take the time.

Nicolle Wallace:

It was as a fan and a groupie wanting to hear more of what you had to say about this time.

Preet Bharara:

That we will not be editing out.

Nicolle Wallace:

You better not.

Preet Bharara:

We raised the level.

Nicolle Wallace:

The world is cruel, you got to leave the warm fuzzies in there.

Preet Bharara:

So, I had your friend and colleague, Steve Schmidt, on the podcast a few weeks ago. He very dramatically renounced his membership in the Republican Party, left the party, and you did the same.

Nicolle Wallace:

I’m a nonpracticing Republican.

Preet Bharara:

Collapsed republican.

Nicolle Wallace:

Yeah, a collapsed Catholic. I know a lot of them.

Preet Bharara:

What was the thing that brought you to that point?

Nicolle Wallace:

I didn’t put myself on the couch and examine whether I was still a republican. I sort of became a republican out of loyalty to the people that I’ve worked for Jeb Bush, George W. Bush and John McCain. But I haven’t always voted for republicans. I didn’t vote for John McCain in 2008 because I didn’t think Sarah Palin was qualified to be president.

Preet Bharara:

We’re going to get back to Sarah Palin.

Nicolle Wallace:

Yeah. I knew a lot of republicans who thought, “Oh, was so hard. But in the end, I voted for Hillary.” It was one of the easiest votes I’ve ever cast and I voted for Romney in 2012. But the Republican Party has lost its mind. I mean, they’re like on a bender.

Preet Bharara:

Was your vote for Hillary a positive vote for her or because you didn’t like Trump?

Nicolle Wallace:

Yes. Not even close. I mean, I couldn’t stand Trump. But if Ted Cruz had been the nominee, I still would have voted for her. I thought her foreign policy was very measured. I have written three novels about a female president. I thought that the idea that things were so broken, why not see what female leadership looks like in that job. I thought that the nature of the problems we face made a former secretary of state particularly well-suited for the job and it was a vote for her.

Preet Bharara:

Do you consider yourself a conservative, a moderate, a centrist? What kind of label would you apply? Or do you not like labels?

Nicolle Wallace:

I am just a very moderate person. And sometimes that’s led me to vote for republicans or work for republicans like George W. Bush, and other times it’s made it really easy to vote for democrats.

Preet Bharara:

Is there a center?

Nicolle Wallace:

Oh, it hasn’t held. I mean, I think there’s centrist people. Actually I think most people are pretty pragmatic and moderate in their views. And I think for a lot of people, there’s a lot of gray area around a lot of the big debates, and I don’t think our politics serves up anything nuanced anymore. I think it’s all black and white.

Preet Bharara:

Well, you were saying before we started taping that you did a special on there are actual human beings like this, which might surprise folks who think that everyone’s doctrinaire, who voted for Bush than Obama, than Obama than Trump. There are lots of people like that. How do you explain that?

Nicolle Wallace:

I mean, I think there’s such a disdain for the Trump voter that we stopped trying to. But I think anybody, democrat or republican who wants to beat Trump in 2020 should go have dinner with all these folks. I have most of their numbers. I spent about 15 months embedded with a group of voters in Erie, Pennsylvania, Bay City, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, and Ohio from right after the election through the one-year anniversary of the inauguration.

Nicolle Wallace:

We picked two-time Obama voters to sort of weed out. I mean, there are elements of the Trump base who are sympathetic to the racist messages that he condones and spews himself, but we wanted to find the voters that weren’t part of that base. But they were union households. One was a dairy farmer. A bunch of them were women, a waitress from St. Pete, Florida.

Preet Bharara:

Was there a common thread among them?

Nicolle Wallace:

So funny, if you find two-time Obama voters who voted for Trump, every one of them told me that they voted for Trump for the same reason they voted for Obama the first time for change.

Preet Bharara:

Yeah. And do you think that those folks now, this far in, would vote for Trump again?

Nicolle Wallace:

The Russia investigation was something they wanted to see how it ended. So, it wasn’t eroding their support. But people like Stormy Daniels, especially among the women, really offended them because they liked Melania as much as they liked Trump. And I think because Melania has such a low profile, we don’t always think of her as being someone that his voters feel connected to. But I found that that his voters thought that all of the stories about hush money paid to women were really humiliating for her and her young son.

Preet Bharara:

And they believe it to be true?

Nicolle Wallace:

They didn’t really find him to be denying a lot of the sexual affairs and the Stormy Daniels stuff and the Karen McDougal stuff.

Preet Bharara:

So, one thing that has gotten Trump a lot of support, at least among republicans and keeps his ratings high with his own party is the Supreme Court. So, you heard of this guy, Brett Kavanaugh? He’s in the news a bit. And I don’t know what’s happening in the immediate future and the podcast comes out on Thursday morning, and we’re taping this on Tuesday. Do you know him personally? Do you have a view of him as a person?

Nicolle Wallace:

I said on our program when we first started covering the nomination and in light of the account told by Professor Ford that I did not know two finer people than Brett and Ashley Kavanaugh in my six and a half years working for George W. Bush. And I found the account as described by Professor Ford to The Washington Post credible.

Preet Bharara:

I resolve that in the head.

Nicolle Wallace:

I think we’re so trigger happy to resolve everything to square circles. I don’t know that you can. I think the Me Too Movement has collided with another cherished belief in due process. And I think it’s a wave that’s stronger than anything else. And I think if we are sort of correcting some of the ways that women have been treated in the past, we give an accuser the benefit of the doubt. And so, I think at best, putting this on pause until we can get to something resembling the truth is probably the best scenario for everybody.

Preet Bharara:

Do you think there should be an FBI investigation?

Nicolle Wallace:

I think we should, yeah. And I think the Kavanaugh should call for one. I think he in-

Preet Bharara:

Why isn’t he?

Nicolle Wallace:

Well, he insists upon his innocence. And if that is his position and the people around him want to honor his position, then help him prove it. Do an FBI investigation, throw everything at it, pull people off … Investigate that out like you would a cold case. People investigate old crimes all the time.

Preet Bharara:

We had some experience doing that.

Nicolle Wallace:

Yeah. So, go and investigate the hell out of it.

Preet Bharara:

Do you think he’s being advised poorly?

Nicolle Wallace:

I think either he’s made a bad decision to not welcome an investigation or he’s being advised poorly.

Preet Bharara:

Your advice would be welcome it?

Nicolle Wallace:

Welcome it, help it, facilitate it and encourage an investigation into … If I were accused of a crime and I believed I were innocent, I would want everybody to investigate it. And if I wasn’t satisfied with the investigation, I would you hire a private … If you believe in your innocence, then the truth is your friend. And if the truth is your friend, then why not have somebody with credibility come in and get it the truth?

Preet Bharara:

That’s true, unless you don’t have faith in the investigators and you-

Nicolle Wallace:

Well, he’s not Donald Trump. I mean, as far as I know, Brett Kavanaugh is not at war against the FBI. I don’t know where he stands on an FBI investigation. I know where the White House stands. They view Kavanaugh as confirmation as a cheat in the midterms. And so, I actually think he’s the victim of the President’s political ambitions.

Preet Bharara:

But if you’re a member of the senate and you have his record on the one hand and then you have these credible allegations on the other hand, how is the senator like Collins or Murkowski or Flake or even republican senators who have already announced their support, how are they supposed to decide this?

Nicolle Wallace:

I mean, you wouldn’t ask them to vote on a military intervention without a report from the CIA and the Pentagon and they wouldn’t take any other vote on any other significant piece of legislation without-

Preet Bharara:

So, there’s no investigation and none takes place now by the FBI and you’d have this hearing that we’ll all watch on Thursday with Professor Ford and Brett Kavanaugh. And let’s say, it’s sort of uncertain at that point. Is the fact that no investigation was called for and happened a reason for a senator to vote against Kavanaugh?

Nicolle Wallace:

They’re going to have to make those decisions between themselves and their own gods. I mean, I don’t know who else you consult. You’re believing a man with a fine professional and personal reputation, or you’re believing a woman who seemingly has no incentive to lie, and whose life has clearly been roiled by what she describes as a sexual assault when she was 15 years old.

Preet Bharara:

What do you make of the republican reaction to the allegations by her and this other woman who is described in an article by Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow about an incident when Brett Kavanaugh was an undergrad at Yale, that I don’t feel like describing right now, on the program. There have been accusations that she’s making it up, that it’s orchestrated by democrats, that there are lies being told, especially by male senators, do you have a reaction to that?

Nicolle Wallace:

So, here’s what I would say to the republicans. They are giving the journalists covering the accusers more power by refusing to investigate through the FBI. So, they don’t like what is being turned up by investigative journalists and they should investigate it themselves.

Preet Bharara:

What do you think of Mitch McConnell’s approach to the allegations?

Nicolle Wallace:

Well, Mitch McConnell hasn’t exactly been a lighthouse for women coming out of the woodwork and accusing men of sexual misconduct. I think he ultimately came to the right place on Roy Moore, but it wasn’t reflexive. I don’t think he has a reflexive understanding of these things. I don’t think a lot of Republican men have a lot of sensitivity or awareness of what it’s like for a victim of sexual assault come out and have to talk about it.

Nicolle Wallace:

And so, I think they talk about it from a place of ignorance and real political expediency. I mean, they all want the Kavanaugh confirmation as a midterm message because they know they’re in pretty deep doo-doo otherwise.

Preet Bharara:

Do you think it’s a republican male problem, not just a male problem?

Nicolle Wallace:

What? The Me Too Movement?

Preet Bharara:

Yeah.

Nicolle Wallace:

Listen, I think it’s a political issue that hurts the republicans more than the democrats because the republicans, by and large, at least the republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are all white men. I think you have to be around different people, different genders, different ages. I also think it’s generational. I mean, I think most of the republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are what, 70 or 80?

Preet Bharara:

I think we have 105.

Nicolle Wallace:

Yeah. I just think there’s a generational hurdle to being able to speak with ease about these issues. I think when you look at any sort of cultural phenomenon with fear, that’s often because you don’t know enough people who’ve been lifted up by it. So, that maybe is the gender piece. I think the generational pieces ignorance. But I think the Me Too Movement is something that republicans in congress are very uncomfortable with. They don’t know how to talk about it. And they don’t know how to deal with it in their own ranks.

Preet Bharara:

The generational issue is true. And people of a certain generation are often excused in their behavior because they’re a little older. But some of these gentlemen, who are republicans on the Judiciary Committee have the benefit of experience through age. And one of those experiences-

Nicolle Wallace:

Anita Hill.

Preet Bharara:

… in fact, Anita Hill, 27 years ago and the same guys, Grassley, Hatch and some others, they went through an experience. Did they learn nothing from that?

Nicolle Wallace:

Clearly. They clearly learned nothing.

Preet Bharara:

Why are they still in office?

Nicolle Wallace:

I don’t know. I don’t know. And look, Anita Hill, I think you have to wonder and I wonder if she wonders if Clarence Thomas would be on the bench if that happened now.

Preet Bharara:

What do you think?

Nicolle Wallace:

I don’t think so. You think about Anita Hill, I mean, she didn’t have to go looking for her voice and how he showed up with her voice, it seems like the letter that Professor Ford sent last night, there’s a lot of, understandably a lot of anxiety about testifying on Thursday. If Anita Hill felt that anxiety, it did not show. So, I certainly think that somebody like Anita Hill accusing with credible accusations against a nominee, I think that might have ended differently if it were happening right now.

Preet Bharara:

What do you make of how Brett Kavanaugh has responded to the allegation? So, there was an interview he did with his wife on Fox News yesterday, where there was intimate discussions of things that maybe a lot of people wouldn’t want to know about, someone who might be on the bench from the highest court in the land. What did you think of that interview?

Nicolle Wallace:

So, as a press person, I have a lot of PTSD with press critiques being about a press performance. I think he had a substance problem. I think that his message would have been enhanced by being an advocate for an FBI investigation into the allegations. So, I think if he’d been able to say all these allegations of disturbing, I have daughters, if someone accused someone of doing any of those things to my daughters, I would want the full weight of the FBI and any local law enforcement agencies to investigate that, if he’d been able to say something different that showed he was confident and innocent instead of saying it over and over again, they go to strengthen the interview.

Preet Bharara:

Did you keep detailed calendars from the time you were in high school, going back to the ’80s?

Nicolle Wallace:

I don’t keep detailed calendars now. I’m a working mother who’s never sure of their school or not school or baseball?

Preet Bharara:

Did you know anyone who kept calendars like that?

Nicolle Wallace:

Yeah. I mean, I’m old. So, I had friends with Hello Kitty calendars and people wrote stuff on them. So, I’m calendar agnostic.

Preet Bharara:

Do you know if Brett Kavanaugh’s calendar was a Hello Kitty?

Nicolle Wallace:

I doubt it. I doubt it. But listen-

Preet Bharara:

I think that might humanize him.

Nicolle Wallace:

Here’s the problem with the calendars, the calendar suggests that if investigated, he has evidence to prove his innocence. So, if you want to turn over your calendars, why not turn them over to the FBI? I mean, this is where I think the press-

Preet Bharara:

Or the White House documents too.

Nicolle Wallace:

Sure. The press has an outsized role in this because they’re filling a vacuum created by the White House and Judge Kavanaugh. If they were to turn this over to federal law enforcement, who they’re independent, but by the way, run by republicans, Chris Wray is a republican FBI director, I think they’d be on stronger ground when they go out to do interviews like the one they did this week.

Preet Bharara:

Your colleague, Elise Jordan, tweeted the following, “Most obvious statement of the week, the comms operation supporting the Kavanaugh nomination is especially terrible.” What do you think she meant by that? And you agree with it, basically the past experience-

Nicolle Wallace:

I don’t have the judge or the jury for anyone’s press shop and I work for a president with plenty of vulnerabilities politically and policy wise and in the press area. I was the communications director, who brought you Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq war. So, I wasn’t perfect.

Preet Bharara:

You didn’t bring us those things, in fairness to you.

Nicolle Wallace:

I didn’t always convey … We didn’t always support the president conveying clearly around this thing. So, I generally believe that communications problems are usually message problems, which are usually policy problems. And I think that the Kavanaugh nomination has a policy problem on the question of an FBI investigation. They are on the wrong side.

Preet Bharara:

You look guilty if you don’t want an investigation.

Nicolle Wallace:

And the opposite is true. You give people more reason to believe you might be innocent if you do. So, I also think that we’re losing the forest to the trees. We’re staring at the trees of the Fox interview, or this story by the New Yorker, or this story by the New York Times. The forest is four votes in the senate. It’s Collins, Murkowski, Corker and Flake. So, the Fox interview really, I mean, he could have just Skyped into four homes. I’m not sure why go through all that.

Preet Bharara:

But do you think it was important for his wife to sit with him? And that’s a tableau that we’ve seen for many, many years. Man gets in trouble, man brings wife alongside him to microphone. Does that still have power?

Nicolle Wallace:

Well, I don’t know how the public processes those things. I know that it’s usually the case that any family member, a spouse or a parent and I remember when I went through some of my most violent political fights. It was my family, my parents, people around me that felt even more upset and angry and protective than I did. And I would imagine the same is true for Professor Ford. I imagine for all the pain she’s in, her husband and her kids and her family is in even more.

Preet Bharara:

Do you think the democrats are engaging in some gamesmanship here, too?

Nicolle Wallace:

I think everyone is doing less than they’re capable of. But I think at this point, with all these lives on the line and all this carnage at this point, we know so much about the trauma that Professor Ford has endured from whatever this event was 35 years ago. It is hung over her. It has haunted her relationships, if you believe her notes from therapy and whatnot. And now you have Judge Kavanaugh, whose life will never be the same. So, I think there’s so many lives on the line. This is not about the midterms. This is not about one confirmation battle for the Supreme Court. This is about the lives of Professor Ford and her family and the lives of Brett Kavanaugh and his.

Preet Bharara:

So, what do you think will happen?

Nicolle Wallace:

No idea.

Preet Bharara:

Zero no idea.

Nicolle Wallace:

No idea.

Preet Bharara:

There’s no pool here at NBC?

Nicolle Wallace:

It’s too big. It’s too big to bet. I don’t-

Preet Bharara:

Let me ask you this, has your prediction about what might happen in your own head because you’re not going to share it with us-

Nicolle Wallace:

I don’t know.

Preet Bharara:

… fluctuated from day-to-day given allegations coming forward?

Nicolle Wallace:

I will tell you something I haven’t told anybody because you’re wearing me down here and truths come spilling out. I haven’t been as disoriented by a story since I’ve been doing this.

Preet Bharara:

The Kavanaugh story?

Nicolle Wallace:

I can’t hear an account like Professor Ford’s and not find it credible. And I can’t look at Brett Kavanaugh, who I knew for 20 years and not believe him. So, I’m completely disoriented by the story. I don’t know how anyone makes a decision without an FBI investigation.

Preet Bharara:

Yeah. What has bothered me a little bit and I see it sometimes on social media and I haven’t said this before, is there are some people maybe because they care a lot about the court so, it’s mildly explainable, but there’s a little bit of glee on the part of some people when allegations come out and I think that’s a terrible place for us to be in.

Nicolle Wallace:

It’s a terrible place and listen, the Me Too Movement isn’t about glee for the victims. They don’t feel gleeful when their voice is heard. It’s finally a place to put their pain. There’s no glee. So, to feel glee is to misunderstand the women and the men. I’ll tell you this, I’ve never told this story either. But when Harriet Miers was nominated to the Supreme Court, there was nobody more upset about questions about our qualifications in Brett Kavanaugh.

Nicolle Wallace:

His reverence for the Supreme Court is something that I … I’m a press person. I was a local TV reporter. I didn’t really understand what legal people think of when they think of the Supreme Court. It’s like church and I know he’s a Catholic, but I’m guessing that the Supreme Court is sort of as sacred to him as some of the most important things in his faith.

Nicolle Wallace:

And again, and I’ve said this over and over again for Professor Ford, if you believe the accounts, this was a trauma that shaped the rest of her life. She thought about leaving the country when Donald Trump won. So, there is so much emotion on both sides that I find it sheer insanity. I find that the insanity of the times prevailing that we can’t hit pause and get to the bottom of what happened or try to get close to it, but to not even try seems like the real political crime.

Preet Bharara:

Well said. So now, let’s talk about the effect on the election.

Nicolle Wallace:

Yeah.

Preet Bharara:

You can’t divorce this issue of attempted rape, sexual assault from the political circumstances that surrounded because of what to stake on the court, what’s at stake with checking the balance in the Trump presidency. So, it’s very hard for people to be pure about what they think about what one man is alleged to have done against one woman when they were both teenagers. What do you think happens if there’s no super clear resolution of the allegation? And Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed? What’s the effect on the electorate and on the election?

Nicolle Wallace:

I think that people who voted in the Supreme Court, they’re already going out and voting their team in the midterms. So, if you’re a republican animated by the Supreme Court, I think you’re going to vote. If his nomination is not successful, you’re going to vote because you’re angry. If it’s successful, you’re going to vote because you’re grateful and you’re fired up.

Preet Bharara:

Do you think the democrats would be more angry and turnout? There’s an increased democratic turnout?

Nicolle Wallace:

But my point is, is that the opposite is also true. I think if you’re a democrat and Kavanaugh is confirmed, it just reups your rage at the fact that Donald Trump is nominating people and that Mitch McConnell is helping him steamroll a process through where people aren’t fully investigated and vetted. And then if the nomination doesn’t go through, I think democrats are highly motivated to take over the senate and have a bigger role in that process.

Preet Bharara:

I think they win the senate, if Kavanaugh gets confirmed, given the nature of the anger that’s out there.

Nicolle Wallace:

I think it helps them either way, because I think democrats can make a cleaner argument and I think when you’re explaining, you’re losing. So, I think democrats have less explaining to do. They either slowed down the process to the point where I mean, it’s a lifetime appointment. He’s a young man, why not hit pause? I mean, we used to hide political cravenness of the Supreme Court nominating process. It’s now out in the open. That’s another byproduct of Trump.

Preet Bharara:

And for people who wanted to get done, every day that goes by, some other thing can come up and you just want to get on the bench. And then you look at the Clarence Thomas example, nothing can be done. He’s on the bench. So, we’ve been talking about these issues that relate to women and the GOP. Do you think the GOP has larger issues with respect to women that go well beyond the Me Too Movement in reaction to that?

Nicolle Wallace:

Yes.

Preet Bharara:

What are they?

Nicolle Wallace:

Well, I mean, I think Donald Trump … I have a fight with Whoopi when I see her about whether he’s a bigger racist or a misogynist. And republicans have given-

Preet Bharara:

Whoopi Goldberg?

Nicolle Wallace:

Yeah. We’ve been having this fight since after the Access Hollywood tape came out and she thinks he’s a bigger racist than misogynist. I think he’s a bigger misogynist than racist. And I guess after Charlottesville, it’s about a tie. But this is the Republican Party where you can play a drinking game over whether he’s made more racist comments or misogynist comments.

Nicolle Wallace:

And this is, the republicans have locked arms with him. And they have been incredibly weak in condemning the blatant misogyny, his treatment of people who have accused him of misconduct is one thing but just the daily conduct would be stunning if we weren’t all drinking out of a firehose of news, calling a female reporter good looking in front of the press. I mean, there’s no shame that way treats women and dealing with the hush money payments and the case that came out of the southern district, his wife standing right there. “I don’t think I paid her. It was a pastor.”

Nicolle Wallace:

I mean, in any normal climate, those would be mega scandals. And instead, we just sort of … The day that Michael Cohen pleaded guilty and said that the President directed him to pay hush money porn stars, we also had to cover the man for conviction. So, every single installment that gives us a proof point of Trump’s use on women has to compete with all the other chaos of his presidency, so we don’t focus on it as much as we should.

Preet Bharara:

And yet, Donald Trump got 53% of the white female vote. He always says his rally is 53% of women.

Nicolle Wallace:

Yeah.

Preet Bharara:

I guess not believing that minority women, women of color are women.

Nicolle Wallace:

Also married women, he didn’t … So, I went out and interviewed, we call it the mom vote. And so, married white women make up a big group of swing voters. I mean, they’re usually decisive in elections. We’ll see if with all the information they have over the course of his presidency, we’ll see if they’re still there for him in 2020. I think it’s a known unknown.

Preet Bharara:

So, one of the things we’ve been talking about is how few women republicans there are. There are no women republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Two of the women republicans in the senate have an outsized I think influence on some issues, including reproductive rights and on whether or not Kavanaugh will get through. Murkowski and Collins we’ve talked about. So, they’re not that many pioneers.

Preet Bharara:

There was one who you mentioned at the beginning named Sarah Palin. I believe you’ve written and said, and you worked on that campaign for McCain in 2008, that Sarah Palin hated you. Is that true?

Nicolle Wallace:

I mean, you’d have to ask her, but it certainly appeared that.

Preet Bharara:

You’re smart. You know when someone hates you.

Nicolle Wallace:

She hated-

Preet Bharara:

You can tell that I like you.

Nicolle Wallace:

Yeah, she hated me.

Preet Bharara:

Did you hate her too?

Nicolle Wallace:

No.

Preet Bharara:

Don’t you always hate people who hate you?

Nicolle Wallace:

No.

Preet Bharara:

I do.

Nicolle Wallace:

Most people don’t.

Preet Bharara:

They don’t?

Nicolle Wallace:

No. I mean, I think anybody-

Preet Bharara:

If someone hates me, that’s definitely a demerit.

Nicolle Wallace:

No, I’m like a dog. I want to wag my tail and win them over like a Golden Retriever.

Preet Bharara:

Did you try to win over Sarah Palin?

Nicolle Wallace:

Oh, I did. I did. And listen, even now-

Preet Bharara:

Tell me about the wooing.

Nicolle Wallace:

Well-

Preet Bharara:

I just want to say wooing.

Nicolle Wallace:

I didn’t know she hated me until she started leaking to the press that she hated me. And listen, she didn’t pick herself. John McCain picked her. So, there was plenty of responsibility to go around for the situation she found herself in. And sometimes, she tried really hard to rise to the occasion. Other times she did other things. But I think that in hindsight, watching Trump’s meteoric rise in the last presidential campaign, she was sort of Trump before Trump. And I think an open question is whether or not if she were a man, she would have been more successful because Trump knows less than she did about North Korea. Trump knows less than she does about Iraq.

Preet Bharara:

Wait a minute. That’s saying a lot.

Nicolle Wallace:

I promise you, she knows more about foreign policy than Trump does now, a year and a half in. And she didn’t know much.

Preet Bharara:

I’m just recovering from this statement.

Nicolle Wallace:

Because UN is going on right now.

Preet Bharara:

Yeah. Because Steve Schmidt said on the podcast, I’m sure he said this on other occasions, that there came a moment when he realized, because he hadn’t realized at first.

Nicolle Wallace:

Because I called him.

Preet Bharara:

That she knows nothing.

Nicolle Wallace:

So, I called him. I was in her hotel-

Preet Bharara:

So, what’s less than nothing?

Nicolle Wallace:

Trump.

Preet Bharara:

Right. What does it mean? He has negative knowledge?

Nicolle Wallace:

I mean, it would appear from the reporting and Woodward’s book and other places that that’s what Mattis thinks. They locked him in the tank to tell him about NATO. Yeah, I was in her hotel room. I don’t remember if [inaudible 00:45:53] were there and just not in her suite. They were down at the bar. They might have been down at the bar. And I was briefing her on some basic foreign policy stuff. And just it became apparent that her baseline knowledge was really not even where people assumed it would be.

Nicolle Wallace:

So, where they thought they would go in and talk about McCain’s support for Russia’s neighbors, she didn’t know why Russia didn’t like their neighbors. So, that instead of going in and talking about what did and didn’t work with the six party talk, she didn’t know there was a North and a South Korea. So, we showed her the image. I mean, just that as someone who was a working mom who’d worked in local politics, she hadn’t been a part of these debates. And she was mortified by her own ignorance. And this gets lost.

Preet Bharara:

She was. She was self-aware.

Nicolle Wallace:

She’d fall asleep every night with a highlighter in her lap and she’d wake up with the highlighter all over the pages. She studied. She worked so hard to try to bridge the gaps in her knowledge. So, the idea that we need to fight with her to teach her things is wrong.

Preet Bharara:

Do you think John McCain had picked Lieberman, the result would have been [inaudible 00:46:54]?

Nicolle Wallace:

I don’t know. I would have loved to have worked on that campaign.

Preet Bharara:

Yeah. Did you ever make up with Sarah Palin?

Nicolle Wallace:

No.

Preet Bharara:

You never got along?

Nicolle Wallace:

No.

Preet Bharara:

How do you handling communications for someone who you thought at some point you came to the view, I can gather from the way you’re talking about this, you thought she was unfit to be vice president?

Nicolle Wallace:

Correct.

Preet Bharara:

So, she’s unfit to be vice president and she hates you. I don’t mean to keep harping on this, but I find it difficult to understand. But you have to go out there.

Nicolle Wallace:

I buy multiple packs of therapy these days, it’s good. You can keep saying it. She hated me.

Preet Bharara:

Can I borrow some of yours? But how do you go out there, because I want to get to how you sort of do communications when you don’t agree with things? How did you go out there during the campaign and defend Sarah Palin from her detractors? As just as a person, how do you do it?

Nicolle Wallace:

Yeah. When she became so distrustful of me, I largely removed myself from her orbit. She had her own staff and I was really only with Sarah Palin from the time she was picked through the convention through the Charlie Gibson interview, which was the week after the convention. And I never went back on our plane. And I really never saw her again until her debate. I was at her debate and then I saw her on election night.

Nicolle Wallace:

But I think she projected on to me all of her hatred and distrust of establishment operatives. And in hindsight, she has a point. I mean, we were trying to project on to her knowledge. Trump didn’t need knowledge to win. So, we were hostage to these conventions of what we thought a candidate needed mostly because John McCain cared a lot about these things.

Preet Bharara:

What do you think is the long lasting effect if any on the prospects for women in politics, and particularly the Republican Party based on her candidacy and how she’s viewed-

Nicolle Wallace:

I’ll tell you this, people talk about women even women in this administration in relation to Sarah Palin. Is she Sarah Palin? And I’m going to say who they ask that about, but they’ll say, “She seems great. Does she have a Sarah Palin moment?”

Preet Bharara:

Give us one example.

Nicolle Wallace:

I know.

Preet Bharara:

Okay. Give us three examples.

Nicolle Wallace:

I think any woman, I mean, people ask the question, but I think our politics are pretty brutal right now on everybody.

Preet Bharara:

Is there more misogyny and sexism in politics than any other field?

Nicolle Wallace:

Well, I think in the Republican Party, we forgive more misogyny than in any other field. I mean, I’ve worked in professional sports. I’ve worked in media. I’ve never seen anything like what you see from the Trump White House, where Trump attacks Mika Brzezinski, says she had a facelift and was bleeding and no woman quits, where Roy Moore gets an endorsement and then Trump reups that every day and no woman walks out the door and says, “You’re disgusting.” I have kids. He sexually assaulted 13-year-olds, I can’t work for you. I’ve actually never seen misogyny given such a warm welcome as it is by today’s Republican Party.

Preet Bharara:

But also, who you think of latent racism?

Nicolle Wallace:

Yeah. I mean, I think, again that nobody leaves, I can’t answer the question, why do they stay after Charlottesville? Why do they stay after Roy Moore? I have no idea.

Preet Bharara:

Yeah. Well, somebody left after the tariffs.

Nicolle Wallace:

Right, right. Because he get to see it.

Preet Bharara:

And thought about it.

Nicolle Wallace:

Because he didn’t get a bigger job is what I heard.

Preet Bharara:

Did you report that?

Nicolle Wallace:

I think he wanted to be considered for CIA director. I think that was reported.

Preet Bharara:

So, you did communications work for George W. Bush, how do you compare the operation that you have with George W. Bush to the current operation from Sean Spicer up through Sarah Huckabee Sanders?

Nicolle Wallace:

I have no idea what it is they have to work with. So, I can’t-

Preet Bharara:

Give some idea.

Nicolle Wallace:

But I can’t analyze the operation without knowing how he interacts with them.

Preet Bharara:

Are you saying you have to grade them on a curve because they have a degree of difficulty?

Nicolle Wallace:

I mean, he needs a straitjacket, not a press secretary. I mean, he seems so unstable and seriously, you look at the revelation that Rosenstein talked about the 25th Amendment, whether he was joking or not about the 25th Amendment, he said he was joking about the wire. He didn’t say he was joking about the 25th Amendment.

Preet Bharara:

He was definitely thinking it.

Nicolle Wallace:

I worked in the White House for six years and I didn’t know what the 25th Amendment was.

Preet Bharara:

If you were in this White House and doing communications and what you have to work with is what you expect that Trump doesn’t know a lot about policy and doesn’t stick to his guns on various things, and you’re not fully riden on what the truth is, would you go to the podium every day?

Nicolle Wallace:

I mean, what you just described are circumstances in which I would never take a job. I mean, I can’t imagine there was ever a scenario where the people speaking for Obama didn’t have all the information. I don’t know how you do that job.

Preet Bharara:

So, someone like Sanders, I’m just trying to understand this because she’s obviously … People don’t like her and I get that. And a lot of it is because they don’t like Trump. But should she be viewed as an impressive person because she’s able to go to work every day and do that job and know it’s difficult or is she right to be maligned because she’s part of the problem in perpetuating an assault on truth.

Nicolle Wallace:

I don’t read her press club, so I don’t I don’t know how she’s covered. We have banned her clips from our program because they’re pure lies.

Preet Bharara:

I saw that.

Nicolle Wallace:

We don’t air Sarah Sanders clips on our show. So, we don’t think she does a public good. We don’t think she has any public service. We think she debases the presidency in the podium.

Preet Bharara:

Explain to people how a political office and I work in senator’s office for a period time, wrote a particular view on how to deal with the press and then I had to deal with the press in a completely different circumstance as US attorney, but you worked in the White House and worked on communications for a campaign. Is it helpful to the principal and to the cause that you’re working for to have a deeply adversarial relationship with the press?

Nicolle Wallace:

I would guess that some of the adversarial nature of that relationship is for the showman in chief. I would guess. I would hope that there are some reporters that she talks to like a human being. I mean, she sits right there. But I have no idea. I mean, it’s a real blind spot for me.

Preet Bharara:

I guess what I’m getting at is, and I learned this over time, most of the time like in life, whether you work in an office that does accounting work or you’re doing communications for someone, if you’re nice to people, they’re likely to be be nice back and they’re likely to give you the benefit of the doubt. So, when they write the story, it’s less likely to be a hit piece because people are people. You’ve seen people who yell at the press and scream at them and take their heads off all the time. Have you ever seen that to be an effective strategy?

Nicolle Wallace:

No. And people don’t always understand that a White House press corps works in the White House. They think they have offices somewhere else. They go to work in the White House and they sit behind and underneath the briefing room. And when they travel with the President, the President and the White House staff is responsible for their safety, for their hotel, for their meals. You have to take care of them and you view that relationship no matter what they’ve written about your boss that morning, or that whatever they’ve said in their live shot on the network news.

Nicolle Wallace:

They are your press corps. And so, even if we didn’t like what people wrote, we knew when people had babies. We knew when people’s moms or dads died. The President wrote people notes. There was lots of off the record time spent to invest in those relationships. And I have no idea if that happens at this White House. If it does, I don’t know about it, but it could.

Preet Bharara:

If someone wrote something that you thought was unfair or terrible, what was your approach to that?

Nicolle Wallace:

I mean, I spent like 6:00 AM to noon dealing with all these people. There were lots of them. We didn’t expect positive coverage, especially after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan became mired in a lot of controversy and setbacks and political headwinds, but we wanted an opportunity to make our case and if we got that, we were usually okay.

Preet Bharara:

When you’re doing communications work in the Bush White House, did you think about this distinction that we talked about now amidst the criticism of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the distinction between being someone who is hired by the President and should have reasonably some loyalty to the President, but also having loyalty to the truth and responsible-

Nicolle Wallace:

The word loyalty was just never tossed around. And I think Trump has sort of corrupted the word. He asked for loyalty from Comey. He asked for loyalty for this. The word loyalty was never tossed around in the Bush White House. I mean, people like Mike McCurry or the people that I held out and George Stephanopoulos, and people that had been in communications or press roles in White Houses before ours seem to find a good balance.

Nicolle Wallace:

And I felt like the press always understood that they could beat them you know what out of me, I used to podcast, beat the shit out of me. But they knew that once I walked back inside the West Wing, I was their best hope of getting an interview, of getting an answer, of getting access to Condi Rice, or Steve Hadley or Karl Rove. There was an understanding that as rough as things got with the reporters who covered us, when I went back inside, I was the one that would fight for them to get more access or more information. And so, there was always a mutual respect.

Nicolle Wallace:

And even when we fought over a story or I remember David Gregory on the Supreme Court nominations, we just call. We just call over and over again and my assistant, Amy Violet will say, “Oh, for the love of god, I just talked to Gregory.” We knew, but we couldn’t tell him. So, even if we picked up, we’d say, “David, we can’t tell you. We can’t leak. We can’t get ahead of the President.” So, even when it was tense, even when we couldn’t give them what we wanted, we always had open lines of communication.

Preet Bharara:

What do you think is the role of decency in legacy of a President? And I asked that because George W. Bush, who you worked for, not very popular by the end of his presidency. I had a lot of problems with the things he did, as did a lot of Americans. And he went out office and Obama won in part as a repute to the bush later White House years in particular.

Preet Bharara:

And I haven’t seen the polling, but I think he does pretty well. And I wonder if you think that over time, Jimmy Carter had a disastrous presidency in a lot of ways, one term, and he’s revered. And Bush paints well and I guess people like that. It shows him and I think people think he raised a good family. How important is the decency aspect of that?

Nicolle Wallace:

Well, everyone gets to decide for themselves. I mean, it matters to me, which is why I’m appalled by Donald Trump, but to his 38% of the electorate, they don’t care about it at all. So, it’s to everyone to decide. And I think you’ll have the answer to that question, the outcome of 2020.

Preet Bharara:

And how do you think, in 10 years we’ll view Trump in the presidency?

Nicolle Wallace:

I mean, I think he’s a stain on the office. I think his personal … Take aside the whole Russia question, which I guess at this point is still question, it seems like we have a lot of answers. Just his personal conduct, if people in the White House call sometimes through intermediaries and say, “Why is she so mean to us about me.” And I’ll say, “You call him back, you tell him I’m gutted by the President’s conduct in office.” And two people have called back and said, “Tell her so am I.”

Preet Bharara:

Yeah. What are your other friends and sources in the White House say about why they serve if they’re also gutted by the President’s conduct?

Nicolle Wallace:

I can’t answer that.

Preet Bharara:

Are they being martyrs?

Nicolle Wallace:

I think the picture that’s coming out from the time story about Rosenstein, the anonymous op-ed and the Woodward book is that as Anthony Scaramucci said, his famous 10-day tenure, they’re there to protect the country from Trump.

Preet Bharara:

Yeah, that’s-

Nicolle Wallace:

Other than Stephen Miller, who’s there to protect the country from, I don’t know, being who they are. I don’t know why he’s there.

Preet Bharara:

Did you know him?

Nicolle Wallace:

No. I never heard of most these people.

Preet Bharara:

Right.

Nicolle Wallace:

I never heard of Sarah Huckabee Sanders or Stephen Miller. I really don’t know any of these folks.

Preet Bharara:

Do you think Rod Rosenstein is going to be fired?

Nicolle Wallace:

No.

Preet Bharara:

What did you make of the craziness of yesterday when people in the media began to report that Rod Rosenstein was resigning, then it was reported he was going to be fired, then it was reported that it was unclear.

Nicolle Wallace:

I think we have no idea how excruciating these jobs are. You might from your job in the way you left it. But I think people don’t understand how excruciating these jobs are, how someone like Rod Rosenstein exists on the edge of a knife, always afraid of slipping and cut by it.

Nicolle Wallace:

And so, I think he reached a breaking point and the fact that he didn’t deny Friday’s account just said it was … Those things were said in a different tone suggested that he resigned because he’d been caught. He’d been revealed for having these feelings about Donald Trump, that he was so concerned in May of 2017 about his conduct the offer to wear a wire in rally. He didn’t just talk about the 25th Amendment. He offered to round up votes from Jeff Sessions and John Kelly.

Preet Bharara:

And you believe that?

Nicolle Wallace:

I believe that and I think if he really thought it wasn’t true, he wouldn’t have offered to resign over the weekend.

Preet Bharara:

Yeah. Do you think he should have offered to resign or insist on being fired?

Nicolle Wallace:

I think he should stay and try to protect the country from Trump as long as Trump will let him.

Preet Bharara:

What do you think the legacy of John McCain is?

Nicolle Wallace:

I think that John McCain put it in his own words in an interview with Jake Tapper where he said he loved his country and he served honorably.

Preet Bharara:

There was a delicate question. I know you worked for John McCain and I was on vacation, but I watched as millions of Americans watched the funeral service in various aides, close aides to the former candidate, John McCain were not at the funeral. Were you surprised by that? Were you upset by that?

Nicolle Wallace:

Steve Schmidt and I were not invited to the McCain funeral. Sarah Palin wasn’t invited either. Donald Trump wasn’t invited. So, it might be the only carpool full of people, only scenario where I would end up in the same car as Sarah Palin, Donald Trump and Steve Schmidt. I think that if telling the truth about Sarah Palin resulted in sort of bringing out so much pain for the McCain family, that not having any of us there made that better, then it’s an honor to do something to make that event better.

Preet Bharara:

Were you surprised by how many people were moved at the time of McCain’s death?

Nicolle Wallace:

I think it just speaks to what everyone is collectively hungering for. And it gets back to your question about decency. I think there was such a decency and a humanity to John McCain. Even if you didn’t agree with them, a lot of his closest friends in the senate were democrats and independents. Joe Lieberman, he was very close to, Joe Biden, to the late Ted Kennedy. And so, I think this idea that people used to be friends with people they didn’t agree with or vote with is something we have a lot of nostalgia for.

Preet Bharara:

True. Last question, I’ll let you go. Are you writing a new novel?

Nicolle Wallace:

I have just started writing a new novel?

Preet Bharara:

I don’t know how you find time for it, congratulations.

Nicolle Wallace:

Thank you. [crosstalk 01:01:26] It’s about a woman who kills.

Preet Bharara:

What?

Nicolle Wallace:

Yeah.

Preet Bharara:

Okay, Tarantino going to do the film?

Nicolle Wallace:

No, she she’s actually a senior justice department official. She gets justice for moms who feel like the justice system failed them.

Preet Bharara:

So next time, we’ll talk about your fiction writing. Nicolle Wallace, thank you very much.

Nicolle Wallace:

Thank you.

STAY TUNED WITH PREET

STAY TUNED: Kavanaugh and the GOP’s Women Problem (with Nicolle Wallace)

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