With Special Counsel, Lauer Worries Dems Won’t Be Able to ‘Drive Headlines’ Against Trump

Today co-host Matt Lauer worried on Friday that appointment of a special counsel to investigate the Trump administration could be “bad news” for Democrats because it may prevent liberal lawmakers from being able to “drive headlines” against the President. The NBC morning show anchor was apparently eager for Trump’s opponents to make a spectacle of the Russia investigation with public congressional hearings.

Talking to National Political Correspondent Steve Kornacki about the subject, Lauer fretted: “Appointing a special counsel, good news, bad news, I think, for Democrats....you wanted a lot of key witnesses to come in and raise their right hand in public hearings and you wanted to drive headlines with that. You have less of an ability to do that now.” The “good news” Lauer saw for Democrats was that the special counsel “ramps up the pressure on the White House.”

Kornacki agreed: “Yeah, no, I think they were counting on having some of these highly public hearings and it looks like a lot of it’s going to play out behind the scenes right now.”    

Given the wall-to-wall media coverage of the Russia investigation, it’s laughable that Lauer would be concerned about a sudden lack of “headlines.” However, it was quite telling that he identified Democrats as being the ones in the driver’s seat when it comes to writing the press narrative.

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Kornacki looked for a silver lining in the form of two special elections coming up in the next few weeks, predicting a big boost for the left:

At the same time, if you’re a Democrat, you’ve got two dates circled on your calendar coming up. You’ve got a special election in Montana next week and in Georgia a few weeks later, both Republican seats traditionally. If the Democrats can pick off of those, they’re going to feel that things are working very much in their favor politically.

Here is a full transcript of the May 19 panel discussion:

7:05 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Let’s turn to our panel. Nicolle Wallace hosts MSNBC’s 4 p.m. Eastern hour Deadline: White House. She’s with us, along with NBC News National Political Correspondent Steve Kornacki. Guys, good morning, happy Friday. Six months of news stashed into a week, as Matt likes to say.

MATT LAUER: Maybe ten days.

GUTHRIE: Yeah, exactly.

NICOLLE WALLACE: Groundhog Day.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: President Trump Calls Russia Probe “Witch Hunt”; How is He Handling Appointment of Special Counsel?]

GUTHRIE: So yesterday we were talking, Nicolle, and you were saying this appointment of a special prosecutor in some ways could be seen as an opportunity for the White House because it could be a page turner. They could say, “Look, the special prosecutor is doing his work, we won’t get involved in that, now we’re going about the people’s business.” But that’s not what happened yesterday.

WALLACE: Well, it’s not what happened because it’s not what the President seems capable of doing. It’s what his advisers would like him to do, it’s what Republicans like Marco Rubio were able to do on the Hill when he was asked about the appointment of a special counsel. I mean, it’s sort of textbook politics. When it’s taken out of your control, turn that into a virtue. But this President seems incapable of letting things go.

LAUER: Let’s stay on that subject. Appointing a special counsel, good news, bad news, I think, for Democrats. On the one hand, it ramps up the pressure on the White House. On the other hand, if you’re a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee or Senate Intelligence Committee, you wanted a lot of key witnesses to come in and raise their right hand in public hearings and you wanted to drive headlines with that. You have less of an ability to do that now.

STEVE KORNACKI: Yeah, no, I think they were counting on having some of these highly public hearings and it looks like a lot of it’s going to play out behind the scenes right now.

At the same time, if you’re a Democrat, you’ve got two dates circled on your calendar coming up. You’ve got a special election in Montana next week and in Georgia a few weeks later, both Republican seats traditionally. If the Democrats can pick off of those, they’re going to feel that things are working very much in their favor politically.

GUTHRIE: Well, yesterday, when the President said at his news conference there was no collusion, which he has said consistently, and then he added, “I can speak for myself.” Was that an ominous line if you’re someone like a Paul Manafort or a Carter Page or a Roger Stone, or other names that have been bandied about potentially in connection with this investigation?

WALLACE: It was a Trumpian line. I mean, I think Donald Trump walks into every setting thinking about how things affect him. And I’ve been really suspicious of this idea that loyalty is what keeps him connected to Michael Flynn, because he’s not known to be loyal. He let Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich take all the bullets as campaign surrogates and they ended up – not that they were owed anything – but he didn’t feel any loyalty to bring them into the administration. So it’s what makes the Flynn affinity so suspicious.

LAUER: You know the expression “There’s no place like home”? Donald Trump taking off now on a nine-stop – nine-day, five-stop trip. Is he thinking there’s no place like the road to get away from something?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: President Prepares for First Foreign Trip; What’s the Best Case Scenario?]

KORNACKI: You know what, I think we have seen this with presidents in the past. When they hit real turmoil domestically, that is a good time to have some sort of overseas international trip. And certainly with Donald Trump, it raises the possibility of changing the subject. On the other hand, Donald Trump, we have seen, as violated a lot of conventions of the White House. Let's see what he does overseas right now.

LAUER: We just want to – you know, another headline of the week was that Roger Ailes, the founder of Fox News and a guy who turned it into a force not only in news, but in politics, died at the age of 77 yesterday. Just your thoughts?

WALLACE: Listen, if you were a victim of his alleged sexual harassment, there was nothing redeeming about the man, full stop. But if you worked in Republican politics over the last two decades, there was no one with more influence. The advice I once heard him give to a politician for the presidency was you either hunt or you’re hunted. I mean, he was just a cut-throat sort of relic of an era that defined Republican politics for two decades.

GUTHRIE: Well, former President Bush actually tweeted about him, too. Said he wouldn’t have won election without Roger Ailes. So of course it’s a complicated story. But Nicolle, good to have your thoughts on it. And, Steve, good to see you as well. Thank you.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is the Senior News Analyst for MRC