People For President Svante Myrick talks Trump indictments and presidential elections during a panel discussion on NBC Meet the Press NOW. Originally aired June 15, 2023.
Kristen Welker: Joining me now is our panel Betsy Woodruff Swan, national correspondent for Politico and an NBC News political contributor, Svante Myrick, former Democratic mayor of Ithaca, New York, and president of People for the American Way, and Sarah Chamberlain, CEO of the Republican Main Street Partnership. Thanks to all of you for being here on a busy Thursday.
Betsy, I want to start with you. I mean, here we go again. This is yet another week where former President Trump is sucking up all of the oxygen and where his Republican rivals are struggling to figure out how to respond to him, but how to break through themselves.
Betsy Woodruff Swan: It’s really an extraordinary situation where your political opponent getting indicted is a problem for you, but that’s where so many of these Republicans are now finding themselves, what are we supposed to do about this? And part of the reason for that, of course, is that the Republican primary voting base is not even sort of a microcosm of the American electorate as a whole.
It’s just very different. And you have all these niche issues and intense loyalties that really, really matter in this contest that all of a sudden are likely to become huge liabilities once the general turns up. That’s a broader problem for the GOP as a whole. But right now, it’s also a problem, of course, for Mayor Suarez and the host of other Republicans running who aren’t really sure what to say about the fact that their main competitor just got charged with a bunch more crimes.
Kristen Welker: Yeah, well, Sarah, talk about Mayor Suarez’s entrance into the race, because in some ways, look, he is a Latino entering the race, so that makes this a significant moment. On the other hand, here we are with all of these candidates in the race, everyone saying this feels like 2016 all over again, where there are so many candidates, they’re just going to pave the way for a Trump nomination.
Sarah Chamberlain: That is the fear. It is wonderful. He’s Hispanic. He jumped in. But now I think we have twelve. And you’re exactly right, it is the same thing. Trump has his base. There’s no doubt about it. So do the other eleven candidates split what’s remaining, and Trump ends up coming through it again as an indicted individual?
It’s scary. And it’s also a big unknown. The Republican means your partnership members aren’t really sure how to handle that.
Kristen Welker: Well, and I think a lot of the candidates don’t know how to handle this moment. But Chris Christie has been very clear. He’s arguably the person who’s had the clearest message as it relates to former President Trump. Let’s take a listen to something he had to say.
Chris Christie: Not one of them mentioned his name. They would say cute little things like, we need new generational leadership. Oh, I get it. Trump’s old, you’re younger. Oh, I should vote for you. Or we need a leader who looks forward, not backwards. I get it. You’re talking about the way he still thinks the 2020 election was stolen. And you won’t say it wasn’t stolen, but you won’t say it will.
Kristen Welker: Svante what do you make of that? Because. The counterpoint to that. Trump’s Republican rivals will say, we have to walk a fine line right now because we don’t want to alienate his supporters. We need them if we want to win the nomination. Is that misguided who’s right here?
Svante Myrick: Well, they are right. But first, forgive me. My mom would kill me if I didn’t say congratulations.
Kristen Welker: Thank you.
Svante Myrick: You’re the first black journalist to take that seat, we are just so thrilled and excited for you. Great.
Kristen Welker: I am honored. Thank you. I really appreciate that.
Svante Myrick: So, Trump? Well, it depends on if they want to win the nomination, right? And I think with these twelve, there’s a real question, how many of them intend to win? How many are auditioning for vice president, and how many are just hoping he gets indicted, put in prison, and then they can swoop up his voters? But Chris Christie is following a playbook that look, let’s be honest, Trump is a tremendous political talent. He has beaten every generational talent of Republicans and a couple of Democrats.
There’s only been one person who’s ever beaten Trump in an election, and that was Joe Biden. And he did it by taking it directly to him and making it a referendum like Chris Christie is doing. So I think if you want to beat Trump heads up in a primary, I do think you have to do what Chris Christie is.
Kristen Welker: You have to do the Chris Christie approach. All right, well, speaking of candidates who are kind of being on for potential VP nominees, let me play something that Senator Tim Scott had to say.
Tim Scott: Americans must have a justice system where the lady of justice wears a blindfold. We cannot target Republicans and protect Democrats. As President of the United States, I would restore confidence and integrity in the Department of justice, because you cannot be the city on the Hill if you cannot trust law and order in our nation.
Kristen Welker: Betsy, what do you make of what we’re hearing from Senator Scott? Some people say he would be great as a presidential nominee. Others say we could see a Trump Scott ticket in the end. I mean, is he running to be president or is he running to be vice president?
Betsy Woodruff Swan: Trump himself has said that he likes Tim Scott and thinks he’s doing a nice job running. So it seems like that’s perhaps a one read on it. And the fact, of course, that Tim Scott is pushing out this boilerplate DOJ is unfair language is very much consistent with the kind of thing that whoever might become Trump’s running mate would need to say.
Of course, there’s a huge irony here, which is that Trump is already receiving much better treatment than just about anybody ever charged under the same crimes, because he’s not in prison. He hasn’t had his passport confiscated. In fact, part of the reason that his case is likely to still be underway once we get into the early nominating contests at the soonest is that classified procedures are so involved and it just takes a long time.
But it’s going to be easier for Trump because he’s not in jail. It’ll be easier for him to look at the relevant classified material. He’ll be able to walk into a skiff with his lawyer, other people charged under the same crime do not have that privilege. And these arguments that he’s being treated unfairly, harshly, just disintegrate.
Kristen Welker: Pretty quickly, Sarah, what do you make of what we’ve heard from Nikki Haley, who did sharpen her tone this week and then just one day later said, yes, she would potentially consider pardoning former President Trump.
Sarah Chamberlain: So talking about people who I think are running for vice president, I would put her at the top of my list. And I think she is a little bit all over the place. She tries to take the temperature of the audience where she’s speaking, but I do think she’s running more for vice president, and she would love to be Donald Trump’s vice president.
Kristen Welker: I talked to a source kind of inside Trump world this week who said their real concern and what they’re bracing for is that they’re going to be more indictments, and that that actually starts to become a drag, that voters start to get worried at that point. Svante, what do you think? Can you see that happening? Or do voters start to go numb?
Svante Myrick: No, they know it’s possible because they watched it happen to Hillary Clinton in 2016. They watched voters who were open to her message. Maybe they were undecided. They watched the FBI combing through her emails, just say, Enough with this. It seems messy. Maybe I’m not following every beat of it, but it seems messy. I don’t want that kind of cloud hanging over the White House. Now, why those voters voted for Donald Trump is beyond me. But they did. And so Trump’s campaign knows that’s possible too, that Republicans, even in the primary, are starting to say to themselves, can we afford multiple indictments? Can we afford this heading into a general election?
Sarah Chamberlain: But he has such a base. It’s really hard. I mean, a couple of years ago, and I laughed when he said it, he said he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and people wouldn’t leave him. Maybe he’s right. I mean, it’s shocking. And I also think it’s unfortunate they went with that. New York indicted him first.
Kristen Welker: Other people have expressed concerns about that, that the federal charges seem to be weightier. Betsy, to that point, are there votes for the getting in this primary? Obviously, you have states where unaffiliated voters like New Hampshire can vote. Maine, I mean, there are some voters to be gotten here still.
Betsy Woodruff Swan: Yeah, I think most of the polling shows Trump getting 40 to 50 ish percent, depending on which contests that you look at. So that’s a lot of Republican primary voters who don’t support him right now. Part of the challenge for Trump opponents is that now there are so many folks running against him, it’s all getting divided up into very small, little sectors. And of course, as we noted with Trump’s wild fundraising hall, he’s going to have a lot of money.
Kristen Welker: Very quickly, Svante, one Biden supporter said to me, we need Trump to win. Actually, what do you make of that, do you think? Is that the view inside the President’s orbit?
Svante Myrick: Look, I can’t speak to the President’s thinking, but I can tell you that Trump is the ideal candidate for us to run against. Even Mayor Suarez, who I happen to know. We’re in the same fraternity of mayors. Had a fun night out of Miami once. I’ll tell you about later. He is photogenic. He’s inspiring. He’s charismatic. I’m not going to vote for him because he’s leading a party that intends to ban abortion nationwide, but I think he and a few others could win a ton of moderate votes. So, yes, the best possible outcome if you are a Democrat is Donald Trump winning this primary.
Kristen Welker: All right, great conversation, you guys. Thank you, Betsy, Svante and Sarah.