Panel: W.H. starting build to ‘punch aid for the major time’ over classified documents


Joining me now to discuss all of this is the great panel that we have here NBC News White House correspondent Mike memley who's been all over this story also with us is Atlanta Journal Constitution Washington correspondent Tia Mitchell Democratic pollster and NBC News political analyst Cornell Belcher and Republican strategist and NBC News.

Political analyst Rick Tyler thanks to all of you for being here Mike I want to start with you we have been reporting for days on the frustration that President Biden feels and also the frustration among his allies did we see a tiny change in strategy today it's interesting Kristen because we saw the White House do something today which.

They hadn't done and I know it's only been a week but it feels like a lot longer a lifetime in politics which has really punched back for the first time yes we had Karina at the podium with that frustrating and familiar script about what she can't answer but we did hear from the White House council's Office Ian Sam's spokesperson both.

Offering a more fulsome explanation for why they can't answer the questions that we've been asking them now for five days but also to point the finger back at the Republicans to accuse House Republicans who are now launching additional investigations in addition to the ones they were already mobilized for to say that they didn't say a peep when.

President Trump had a similar but in their view also very different situation involving classified documents and so it's taken a while but it's very clear that the white house now at least is comfortable engaging in a political fight where the legal fight is one that they're still keeps keeping very hands off for at the moment Cordell you have.

Your finger on the pulse of this as well in your conversations with Democrats what are they saying to you about what the response has been so far and as Mike is pointing out they're punching back today that is not insignificant do you think that it's a forceful enough and aggressive enough strategy though well you'll see it unfold over the next week.

Or so right this is such a classic um uh storm of a story Washington Insider storm of a story because out in Middle America they're not they're not having this conversation at all right so we're we're making a storm of a story for political purposes and I get it because I'm look I'm a political hack I get the political purpose behind this.

But the but the ideal that these are equivalent is just flat out wrong they might not be equivalent but here you have two similar headlines they're now both under invested and who's and who's creating the headlines right we know they're not at all equivalent one one group took documents knowingly took documents defied a subpoena around these.

Doctors wouldn't give these documents in fact the other ones like oh we have these documents let's give them back that no one's they weren't asked for these documents they gave these documents back and they're trying to and and but but look the drip drip drip drip of documents is is a is a problem I get it but these stories are not at all.

Equivalent and I think over the next couple of weeks you're going to see the White House and allies talk about the differences between the two yeah I think it's true they're not the same but there are people at home that are paying attention and to them the root of the issue is the same president Trump had classified documents that he shouldn't.

Have had now they're hearing President Biden also had classified documents in his possession when he was out of office that he shouldn't have had so for them it is a headache no it's not the number one story that's you know keeping them up at night but for them they're saying what is President Biden doing it's the same thing we were angry at president.

Trump about just a few months ago now it looks like he was doing the same thing and that's the issue because that's what people at home are saying well then isn't it our job I mean I mean I play media guy sometime I'm a poster but then isn't it our job as the media to his fact and in fact explain what the differences are and I think quite.

Frankly we have not done a very good job the media has tried to bend over backwards trying to explain the difference I I have to say I do think there has been an effort to and the White House has been very clear let's make the distinction to to give the White House it's due when they make that argument but Rick Tyler Republicans.

Wasted no time jumping all over this do you think that they run the risk of looking hypocritical because they did not go after former president Trump's handling of classified documents and we're talking about again hundreds of documents of course they look hypocritical as Biden looks hypocritical as I think his quote was how could.

Someone how could this happen how could someone be so irresponsible referring to Trump and then here he is in the same situation and I do have to disagree somebody removed documents that were found in Mr Biden's possession in his uh school office and at home where they weren't supposed to be that is not fundamentally different than what.

Happened with with Trump I'm not defending either one of them uh classified documents should be handled uh well but it it shouldn't be well they're completely different because Mr Biden had him or Mr Trump had him they are at its root the same they were among personal possessions that Trump was you know among Burger King rappers and.

Bubble gum and and Biden's was next to his Corvette in a garage no subpoena makes them different a subpoena and obstruction that's after the fact but that's after that well but we can compound the crime no well again I'm glad you went to Crime because because when you got a subpoena for something and then you defy that subpoena then you.

Hit then then it's obstruction of justice there's none of that here so no I'm not going to allow the anyone around this table to sort of put out this equivalency when it's when it's fundamentally wrong yeah there's there is a chance that Republicans overplay their hand here because there are differences the volume of documents the.

Perception that President Trump did not cooperate when he was asked to turn over the documents that he had that is a difference with President Biden that doesn't negate the fact that at the core we're still talking about classified documents that neither one of them should have had in their position but that's where Republicans have to be.

Careful with these investigations in these inquiries Mike and you have some new reporting on yeah we have some new information because one of the key differences as well between the Trump team and the Bible team is just how careful the Biden team is being you're not seeing you know flipping tweets talking about what is being potentially.

Looked at here and our colleague kendallanian is now reporting on an interesting Dynamic here because the White House explanation today for why they can't be more transparent is because they would they see it as interfering in an ongoing Justice Department investigation well Kim Delaney is now reporting based on a law.

Enforcement source that there has been no directive from the justice department from the special counsel's office telling them that they can't answer some of the very basic questions that we at the White House are trying to ask on a daily basis and so this is I think the White House both by convenience but by their interpretation of what.

Interference would look like and the firewall that President Biden has been clear about since before when he was a candidate that he's going to have Independence between the doj and the White House and now doj saying well you can say more if you that's not insignificant I mean Cornell hearing that from doj Because by the way we've.

Been saying to the White House almost on a daily basis are you not answering these questions because the justice department has told you not to answer these questions I mean what could the potential impact of that be particularly as we are talking about the possibility of President Biden announcing he wants to run for reelection sometime soon I.

Think I think if we've watched the last couple of speeches that President Biden has given especially to what an Ebenezer I think he's already lost his residential that's a fair play but look the drip and and we we know this it's it's it's the drip drip drip drip drip right and but the court that's in a.

Tough place because because it because you know if they held back and said well let's wait till we get all the documents and see if all the documents are there well then guess what we'd be doing today we'd be attacking why didn't you put them all out why didn't you let us know when you did so it's really a no-win situation here uh I think again we're.

Gonna have to push back on the on the being with being these these things being the same but it's a tough situation that the White House is in all right I want to go to Capitol Hill and Ali Vitale and just get the reaction there to all of these latest developments and just to underscore what Mike just said the justice department.

Now coming out and saying look they haven't told the White House that they can't answer some of these very basic questions Ali you've been tracking the strategy in Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill what are they telling you at this hour where does this controversy stand look my question Kristen and I did pose this on the call that we did with.

The white house today with Ian Sam's a spokesperson for the council's office is okay I see the way that you guys are dealing with the Press questions on this but what does it mean when it comes time to either go along with the request that Republican committee heads are already making or are you going to Stonewall on that front I didn't get a clean answer.

There was sort of this this comment about we do want to work with Congress when it's done in good faith but then a lot of work to show that these inquiries are not being made in good faith I think it's really important that you guys point out that they are now going into a sort of offensive posture on this against the Republicans who are trying.

To lead the investigations and I think that's probably the dynamic that we're going to see here over the course of the next few months this White House I know that you guys around the table who cover it know this well they were prepared for this Congress to be one where oversight and investigation were the main focal points and that they were going to be.

Facing a lot of inquiries from republicans in Congress they did not anticipate that this was going to be the first inter lewd of that and that this was going to be the focus but nevertheless they were staffed for this they were ready for this you can see it in the ways that they're already attacking the people who are doing the.

Letter writing and the question asking from a committee perspective going after people like the oversight chairman James Comer Jim Jordan and others it's going to be really important because we're going to try to watch them add the context around each of these inquiries time and again and I do think that the point that Cornell makes is an important.

One which is that there are distinctions here but for Republicans the more that they can muddy the waters and equate these two instances of document having the better for them I think the catch and you guys have alluded to this to around the table is that when Republicans go at Biden for having these documents and being lacks with where he.

Kept them they inevitably will have to engage on the Trump of it all the fact that he did that and of course we also don't know the intent behind this yet either that's going to be one of the really important questions what did Biden know about these documents versus we know that former president Trump has gone so far as to say well I.

Declassified these documents which does sort of imply that he knew they were there in the first instance so that's one of the key questions too that we're going to have to watch as we get more information on this hopefully yeah a great perspective from Capitol Hill Ali Vitale thank you and Ali mentioned uh James Comer I want to play a little bit.

Of what he had to say and just get everyone's reaction on the other side take a listen with respect to investigating president Trump there have been so many investigations of President Trump I don't feel like we need to spend a whole lot of time investigating president Trump because the Democrats have done.

That for the past six years so no one's been investigated more than Donald Trump who hasn't been investigated Joe Biden and that's why we're finally launching an investigation of Joe Biden the house oversight committee one investigation and I hope to have it wrapped up as soon as possible Rick what do you make of that answer that we heard from Comer.

Does it muddy the waters I don't know I think it's worrisome but I think most people as we started this conversation with is that this is not on the top of people's agenda and people worry that uh what is Congress going to do about very significant issues about uh inflation gas prices jobs stability in the economy 401ks.

Um the the recent economic Outlook which is very terrible and instead we're just gonna we're gonna put the Republic Republicans in charge of Congress to investigate a democratic Administration in response to the Democrats had just finished and I just it's I think it's very worrisome uh and and it's not sustainable well to your point about.

Wanting to get something done one of the things that the treasury secretary says they have to get done is raise the debt ceiling um Kevin McCarthy was asked about this the White House has said they're not going to negotiate this is something we have to get done here's what Kevin McCarthy had to say we're six months away why wouldn't we sit down now.

And change this behavior that we would put ourselves on a more fiscally strong position it would make the future generation make our nation stronger make the economics and uh Stronger for this country let's sit down he's the president we're the majority in the house the Democrats are the majority in the Senate and less exactly the way the.

Founders designed Congress to work find the compromise and find the common sense compromise that puts us back onto a balanced budget Tia we've covered debt ceiling fights before is this moment different and what do you hear when you listen to the speaker say that I mean what I hear the speaker saying is what I think a lot of Americans believe and.

Think and you know let's get government spending in order let's reduce our national debt let's bring down the deficit all those things sound great but it's easier said than done so I think what the Democrats and probably even the Republicans and the Senators say is okay go ahead Kevin McCarthy get your Republican majority get it together get.

With your freedom caucus members get with your moderates and see what you can handle that is the true test Kristen the White House may not have been prepared for this fight over classified documents that they're engaging now they've been ready for this one for some time President Biden in the midterm stump speech that he was delivering out across.

The country was attacking Republicans preemptively for wanting to slash Social Security entitlement programs all of which are going to be potentially on the menu of what Republicans say they want as casual as Kevin McCarthy looked at it just a few minutes ago this morning very relaxed that's I think part of the strategy for the White House here too.

Which is hey we're not negotiating at all they remember what it was like in the Obama Administration to try to have this be a negotiating point but secondly they don't want to negotiate on their own because they know Kevin McCarthy is going to struggle mightily to your point to get 218 votes behind something to as an attachment to the debt ceiling.

Increase and so they're going gonna they feel like they have the political upper hand for now but this is going to be very real crisis potentially this summer it really could be Cornell what are you hearing in terms of the level of concern that this time is different that this time the country could go over well I mean look no further than what what you.

Hear from Wall Street right and you hear what's coming out of Bank of America like they're real concerns that we're going to get to the brink on this and it could collapse our economy right so the ideal that we're gonna that that Republicans are now going to try to extort uh things that for that they want out of.

Our government by by this means by which they could not do politically is I think it's really problematic I think this does give the White House an opportunity to go on the defensive along the offensive with with House Republicans in a way that that I think is going to be catastrophic especially as we come closer to this debt selling especially.

As Wall Street gets more jittery and their 401ks begin to sort of sink again it's gonna be real problematic this is the first critical test for speaker McCarthy Rick how do you see it playing now I think it's definitely a critical test and I disagree with using the debt ceiling to negotiate decreased spending.

Which I would like to see for certain and the Republicans would argue there aren't many I think chip Royce did today there aren't many leverage points and this is what is one of them I I remember the the raising the debt ceiling is is simply raising the money that Congress has already spent this is not not new spending but there are a lot of things.

That are not correct about this debate one is this would not be the first time America has defaulted on instead it would actually be the fifth time America is defaulted onstead and I believe in checking with constitutional Scholars uh that it doesn't matter if the Congress passes the debt limit or not that the treasury secretary is obligated by the.

14th Amendment section four to recognize and pay debt so the amount the Biden Administration has a responsibility in this too if the Congress does nothing which would be uh uh derelict uh the the treasury secretary still must pay as a first obligation uh debts and interest payments and bonds she cannot decide not to pay those that.

Would be unconstitutional we're at time but just I just think that still has a lot of risk it destabilizing the financial markets and we saw that during uh former President Obama's administration when they got so close to the cliff that actually the countries arguing constitutional law conversation from beginning to end thank.

You all Mike Tia Cornell and Rick really appreciate it thanks for watching our YouTube channel follow today's top stories and breaking news by downloading the NBC News app

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3 thoughts on “Panel: W.H. starting build to ‘punch aid for the major time’ over classified documents

  1. Biden in September, Trump modified into once entirely irresponsible in going by these paperwork. Biden now, we've turned all the pieces over, but we didn't turn it over till it modified into once leaked to the press. We made certain and didn’t inaugurate the guidelines till after the mid terms since it’s going to furthermore maintain influenced balloting, we would rather talk about Trump acceptable up till the mid terms.

  2. The selection of paperwork in Biden’s possession is unknown and unknowable since it’s simplest self reported. Biden’s violation is worse because he modified into once no longer president at the time. Indirectly, the contents of the paperwork would determine the severity, no longer the raw numbers. What if it modified into once simplest one doc, but that came about to be the nuclear codes, vs. 300 paperwork about Venezuela

  3. You media folks are most regularly senile. Trump boxed the paperwork himself and ordered the paperwork to be moved. In Biden’s case, it modified into once packed by the staffers and the vp wasn’t conscious that it modified into once packed.

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