On Sunday morning, NBC’s Chuck Todd sat down for an interview with the man who’d probably be the next Vice President of the United States, if the election were held today: Virginia senator and former governor Tim Kaine.
And he walked into the interview at a rather strange moment for the Clinton/Kaine ticket, following up a solid week of devastatingly bad coverage from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, but also some self-inflicted wounds on Hillary Clinton’s part, too.
Namely, Clinton's repeated insistence that FBI director James Comey deemed her public statements on her private email server truthful, which she attempted to explain away as a “short circuit” this week, insisting she meant that she’d been truthful in her statements to the FBI.
Todd started off the interview by coming straight at Kaine on Clinton’s low trustworthiness ratings, which have remained abysmal throughout her 2016 campaign. Specifically, Todd asked Kaine how that trust can be repaired, and whether it would pose a governing problem if the Democratic ticket were elected. Kaine did not grant that Clinton’s public trust problem would still be a big story in a month, however. He insisted that the American people were finally getting reintroduced to Clinton in a positive light, and promised that he’d “brag” about Clinton in a way she’s more averse to.Addressing the Comey controversy―or, rather, the brouhaha about Clinton’s repeated claims about his comments about her truthfulness―Kaine followed along with the same line of argument Clinton made during an appearance earlier this week, suggesting that she was “sort of talking past” Fox News anchor Chris Wallace when she initially made the remarks:
“I have heard Hillary Clinton say over and over again, when I’ve been sitting next to her and when I’ve watched her on TV, that 'with respect to the emails, I’ve made a mistake and I learned something and I wouldn’t do it again…' I think Chris Wallace and Hillary were sort of talking past each other last week. She was saying what Director Comey acknowledged to be true, that when she spoke to the FBI, when she was talking to the FBI, the FBI thought her answers in that setting were truthful.”
For the record, Clinton has been insisting for days that Comey deemed her claims to the FBI “truthful,” when in actuality, he said the agency had “no basis to believe” that Clinton had lied to the FBI. These may seem equivalent, but it is nonetheless a relevant distinction―not unlike how an acquittal means a person is found “not guilty,” but not “innocent.”
Kaine pledged that he and Clinton were going to be “real transparent” going forward. Todd then raised the issue of a $400 million repayment to the Iranian government that coincided with the release of American prisoners earlier this year, which has recently been characterized as a “ransom” by the American right. Kaine also mentioned Trump’s own bizarre escapade over the issue, when the GOP nominee repeatedly insisted he’d seen a non-existent video of the cash hand-off, before offering his analysis of why the criticisms are wrong.“I understand why Donald Trump’s trying to make something out of it, but look, there are two important issues,” Kaine explained. “The first one is there was a legitimate claim against the United States, the United States bargained it down to a fraction, we’re making claims in international tribunals and having claims made against us all the time… I understand why Trump’s trying to make something out of it, but there’s just no there there.”
When Todd again asked Kaine if he believed the repayment looked like a ransom, Kaine didn’t cede anything, replying “absolutely not.” Kaine also affirmed his support for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, who the GOP is trying to block in the hopes of Trump getting to make the pick.
Kaine wasn’t the only politico who weighed in on Clinton’s week in the press on Sunday, although he offered perhaps the most unabashedly positive analysis. Over at Fox News, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich attacked Clinton over her answers regarding Comey and her email server, and her otherwise innocuous claim to have suffered a “short circuit.” Specifically, Gingrich dubbed the “short circuit” excuse to be a “very dangerous” way for Clinton to “lie about lying.”