Morning Joe: Trump White House Is Like the ‘Daily Show’

Thursday on Morning JoeTime magazine editor Michael Duffy proceeded to compare the White House to the Daily Show. This comment arose from discussing a crowded White House during an interview with Donald Trump. 

Glenn Thrush, a political correspondent for The New York Times, scoffed, “It was really amazing, at some point in the middle of the interview, Mike Pence and Reince Priebus just drift in. And they're sort of standing off to the side, you know, watching this like it's– you know- like it’s a live TV show.” Co host Mika Brzezinski added in her usual melodramatic commentary: “Good Lord”

Host Joe Scarborough replied, somewhat contradicting himself:

It– reminds me, Michael Duffy, of what I heard about the Clinton administration . . . we heard people that worked for Bill Clinton complaining about, they would be in there with him and people would just wander in and out, that it was more like grand central station. There was no discipline, there was no minder at the gate, that it was chaos and that is the same thing with Trump. You will be in the Oval office and there will be you know– a gang of people just kind of wandering through standing there staring, going and leaving, coming back- bizarre. I’ve never seen anything like it.

At this point Duffy came in with his colorful comparison:

Yeah, you need to really think of the White House at the moment as the kind of Daily Show, and if you’re trying to imagine what today will mean for tomorrow, you are probably wrong. It's just a —  it’s a performance and everyone wants to be on stage.”

Continuing, Duffy began to explain the different between the Clinton and Trump White House:

There is an element of fear to this one. And I think to Mika's question a few minutes ago about, where is Tillerson? Where is McMaster? Where is Mattis?...They're there, but my sense is, talking to other folks, they're waiting. They're not quite ready to step in and say, we’re in charge now. Because there is a definite feeling that if you get too far out in this White House house and Bannon was a part of this, you will you get swatted. You’ll get- if you get too much attention, too much control, too much– that's why McMaster has been very hard to find. Tillerson as you pointed out, has not exactly been breaking a lot of cover. A lot people are waiting for these men to step up. But I think they're – waiting to make sure that the coast is clear.

Brzezinski chimed in to ask:

"You are not saying they’re fearful are you?” Immediately Duffy answered: “I am– Yeah I think a little.” Scarborough interjected: “That's exactly what happened, you know, after the first executive order, where you had people rushing to the front of the line, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller rushing to the front of the line, letting everybody know that it was their executive order, a very wise lesson was learned after that blew up as terribly as it blew up. Suddenly two weeks later everybody was stepping back and if they had an idea, they'd turn and look and go, what do you think of this idea? So it became a more traditional bureaucratic White House...I mean Michael Duffy may be exactly right. That's why everybody is keeping their head down . . . And I have been saying it for a little while. I believe it's the case. Bannon is going to leave, I think Reince Priebus will probably survive Steve Bannon.

Later on, at the end of the show, the panelists discussed Susan Rice. Brzezinski began this conversation with: “You know Joe, I think it's important to point out the difference between unmasking and leaking, very different things...I think it's fair to say that the President is trying to conflate things as much as possible and again has lobbed out information with absolutely no credibility trying to, I think, put a shiny object out there.”

After Brzezinski shared her extensive knowledge on the subject, Scarborough added:

So there are two completely different things here and Susan Rice was right bringing them up... reporters, journalists, editors need to figure out how to sort this out. Unmasking, even if The Wall Street Journal calls the unmasking troubling and highly unusual. Some civil libertarians may consider the expansive unmasking if, in fact, it is proven to be more expansive, troubling. Susan Rice says it is not. But even if it is, Susan Rice and any national security adviser, including the current one under Donald Trump's administration, is given such broad authority and needs that broad authority, that there's just not --That is not going to be where any crime is found. I— I'm almost dead certain of that

He continued, pulling Ned Price, the Security Council spokesman from the Obama administration, into the discussion: “ But Ned Price . . . If you leak classified information then, yes, of course you are going to -- you're going to possibly be in legal trouble, but there -- but just like the past, you know, 44 administrations, it's going to be hard to prove it in the 45th administration.”

Price agreed: Well it certainly can be hard to prove and as I've said before, leaking is a serious crime and in most cases it is a felony–And this administration as others have need to continue to try to root out leakers...What there is a problem however with trying to as you said equate leaking with unmasking. These are two very separate things. What you heard, what your colleague Andrea Mitchell heard from Ambassador Rice earlier this week is that she did not nor would not unmask requests that any identities be unmasked for political purposes.

Scarborough then asked Senior correspondent of MTV news to add her thought:

Ana Marie Cox, they haven't been able to since the first Trump tweet claiming that Barack Obama tapped the phones at Trump Towers. But tapping the phones at Trump towers and unmasking, even if you assume the worse case scenario for Susan Rice, and let's say they unmasked more than usual and they spread it across the government more than they did, even that is not what Donald Trump claimed now five, six, seven Sundays ago which is set his approval ratings in a tail spin.

Following suit, Cox replied: Right. None of that is illegal which is the important part of this, right? I mean Donald Trump is no stranger to accusing people of crimes with no basis from the central park five to Hillary Clinton...What I find interesting about this is his like constant, you'll find out more, you'll find out more, it is a tune in next week presidency, you know? Like I mean it's all like sort of paced like a reality show which is of course what he probably thinks this all is. And that's why his approval rating is tanking.

Brzezinski added: “Right. And they don't think it's funny . . .  On the final note, Ana Marie Cox, it's a hopeful sign, is it not? A hopeful sign...” Cox answered: “It is a hopeful sign. We all hope that there are adults in the room if McMaster is the last person left standing--That is positive and I hope and pray that, you know, this is going to turn out to be a good thing.”

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This is the full exchange that took place on April 6:

MSNBC - Morning Joe
7AM TEASE
7:18:34 - 7:21:48

GLENN THRUSH: I have been in the oval a couple of times. I have never, never been in such a crowded oval office in my entire life. There had to be aggregate 12, 15, 16 people moving in and out. It was really amazing, at some point in the middle of the interview, Mike Pence and Reince Priebus just drift in. And they're sort of standing off to the side, you know, watching this like it's– you know- like it’s a live TV show.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Good Lord

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Michael Duffy, it– reminds me, Michael Duffy, of what I heard about the Clinton, the first couple years of the Clinton administration the frustrations, that–  and I we heard people that worked for Bill Clinton complaining about, they would be in there with him and people would just wander in and out, that it was more like grand central station. There was no discipline, there was no minder at the gate, that it was chaos and that is the same thing with Trump. You will be in the Oval office and there will be you know– a gang of people just kind of wandering through standing there staring, going and leaving, coming back- bizarre. I’ve never seen anything like it.

MICHAEL DUFFY: Yeah, you need to really think of the White House at the moment as the kind of Daily Show, and if you’re trying to imagine what today will mean for tomorrow, you are probably wrong. It's just a– it’s a performance and everyone wants to be on stage. But I think there is a difference between the Clinton White House and the Obama and–  excuse me the Trump White House. There is an element of fear to this one. And I think to Mika's question a few minutes ago about, where is Tillerson? Where is Mcmaster? Where is Mattis? The voices in foreign policy who would- might- converse on stability on what the U.S. is doing overseas, they're there, but my sense is, talking to other folks, they're waiting. They're not quite ready to step in and say, we’re in charge now. Because there is a definite feeling that if you get too far out in this White House and Bannon was a part of this, you will you get swatted. You’ll get- if you get too much attention, too much control, too much– that's why Mcmaster has been very hard to find. Tillerson as you pointed out, has not exactly been breaking a lot of cover. A lot people are waiting for these men to step up. But I think they're – waiting to make sure that the coast is clear.

BRZEZINSKI: You are not saying they’re fearful are you?

DUFFY: I am– Yeah I think a little.

BRZEZINSKI: Joe?

SCARBOROUGH: That– Exactly. That's exactly what happened, you know, after the first executive order, where you had people rushing to the front of the line, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller rushing to the front of the line, letting everybody know that it was their executive order, a very wise lesson was learned after that blew up as terribly as it blew up. Suddenly two weeks later everybody was stepping back and if they had an idea, they'd turn and look and go, what do you think of this idea? So it became a more traditional bureaucratic White House, where people were covering themselves. And Mika, they all know a shakedown is coming. Everybody knows a shakedown is coming. Donald Trump has been telling friends for two weeks that he's going to change things in the White House and that may be– I mean Michael Duffy may be exactly right. That's why everybody is keeping their head down. They are going to see how this all shakes out. And I have been saying it for a little while. I believe it's the case. Bannon is going to leave, I think Reince Priebus will probably survive Steve Bannon.

BRZEZINSKI:  That would be something.        

(...)

MSNBC- Morning Joe
4/6/17
8AM TEASE
8:53:30 - 8:59:58

BRZEZINSKI: You know Joe, I think it's important to point out the difference between unmasking and leaking, very different things.

SCARBOROUGH: Right.

BRZEZINSKI: And, you know, I – I think it's fair to say that the President is trying to conflate things as much as possible and again has lobbed out information with absolutely no credibility trying to, I think, put a shiny object out there.

SCARBOROUGH: Well - So there are two completely different things here and Susan Rice was right bringing them up and we as reporters, I'm not talking about myself, but reporters, journalists, editors need to figure out how to sort this out. Unmasking, even if the The Wall Street Journal calls the unmasking troubling and highly unusual, some civil libertarians may consider the expansive unmasking if, in fact, it is proven to be more expansive, troubling. Susan Rice says it is not. But even if it is, Susan Rice and any national security adviser, including the current one under Donald Trump's administration, is given such broad authority and needs that broad authority, that there's just not --

BRZEZINSKI: It’s not a crime

SCARBOROUGH: That is not going to be where any crime is found. I— I'm almost dead certain of that, but Ned PRice, obviously the leaking as it would be under the Obama administration or the Trump administration, if you leak classified information then, yes, of course you are going to -- you're going to possibly be in legal trouble, but there -- but just like the past, you know, 44 administrations, it's going to be hard to prove it in the 45th administration.

NED PRICE: Well it certainly can be hard to prove and as I've said before, leaking is a serious crime and in most cases it is a felony–

 SCARBOROUGH: Right!

PRICE: And this administration as others have need to continue to try to root out leakers. There's nothing wrong with that. What there is a problem however with trying to as you said equate leaking with unmasking. These are two very separate things. What you heard, what your colleague Andrea Mitchell heard from Ambassador Rice earlier this week is that she did not nor would not unmask requests that any identities be unmasked for political purposes. The other key point, though, is one that we've heard from national security experts of all stripes, Republicans and Democrats, is that she could not do such a thing. There are a rigorous set of checks and balances on any requests for unmasking, checks and balances that were set up by the Intel community, requests that must go through individuals in each originating agency to ensure sufficient justification. And when President Trump was pressed on this yesterday, despite the fact that he had a bevy of advisors behind him, neither the President nor the army of–  minders could come up with one piece of substantiation to backup this baseless claim.

SCARBOROUGH: Well and Anna Marie Cox, they haven't been able to since the first Trump tweet claiming that Barack Obama tapped the phones at Trump Towers. But tapping the phones at Trump towers and unmasking, even if you assume the worse case scenario for Susan Rice, and let's say they unmasked more than usual and they spread it across the government more than they did, even that is not what Donald Trump claimed now five, six, seven Sundays ago which is set his approval ratings in a tail spin.

ANA MARIE COX: Right. None of that is illegal which is the important part of this, right? I mean Donald Trump is no stranger to accusing people of crimes with no basis from the central park five to Hillary Clinton. So this is -- you know, in some ways like it's horrible but not surprising. What I find interesting about this is his like constant, you'll find out more, you'll find out more, it is a tune in next week presidency, you know? Like I mean it's all like sort of paced like a reality show which is of course what he probably thinks this all is. And that's why his approval rating is tanking. It's cuz it’s one thing to string people along to see who is going to get voted off of the island next week, it's another thing to play, you know, ring around the rosies with your national security council. People want that to be taken seriously. I mean I guess duck, duck goose more than ring around  the rosies. But there’s some kind of –  They're playing with national security, they're not taking it seriously.

BRZEZINSKI: Right. And they don't think it's funny. So Ned–  I'm curious about the Steve Bannon news especially given the position you held. How important is it to be removed from the NSC?

PRICE: Well I think we need to keep what happened yesterday in perspective. The White House house issued a piece of paper, it's fourth national security policy directive of this administration. I think the proof of yesterday's move will be in the policy process. If the removal of Steve Bannon from the principals committee of the national security council results in the empowerment of H.R. Mcmaster and the broader national security council that is undeniably a welcome if long overdue step. But I think we need to be cognizant of the possibility that yesterday's memorandum was nothing more than a paper statement and Steve Bannon, although he no longer has statutory membership on the principles committee, continues to lead this small cabal, the strategic initiatives group, a group that has been called the shadow NSC and a group that has had an outside impact on our foreign policy in some ways subverting the traditional NSC. Look the – the strategic initiatives group is a group that the White House just recently denied existed but we have photographic evidence from yesterday that it is in room 169 of the Eisenhower building. So again, this is -- look I hope this is a good move for our foreign policy. I think it could lead in that direction but I think we need to be careful as to not let up our watch on Mr. Bannon and this group.

BRZEZINSKI:  On the final note, Anna Marie Cox, it's a hopeful sign, is it not? A hopeful sign...

COX: It is a hopeful sign. We all hope that there are adults in the room if McMaster is the last person left standing--

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah that wouldn’t be so bad.

COX: That is positive and I hope and pray that, you know, this is going to turn out to be a good thing.

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