Howard Dean Accuses Matt Lauer of Using ‘Republican Talking Points’ on Hillary E-Mail Scandal

Interviewing former Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean on Thursday’s NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer wondered if Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal would have a lasting impact on the 2016 campaign: “You don't have to be a Republican operative to find trouble in the headlines surrounding Hillary Clinton. Any time you put the words ‘Hillary Clinton, e-mail, top secret, and FBI’ in the same sentence, you’ve got a problem. Do you see any sign that this is gonna go away soon?”

Dean dismissed the question as a right-wing smear: “Look, this kind of coverage is what the Republicans want. The only thing you didn't say that’s in the Republican talking points is using the word “criminal.” There's nothing criminal about any of this....I think she’s been completely truthful and this is an attempt by the Republicans to smear the front-runner early on.”

Lauer followed up by citing polling data that showed the opposite: “But you know that if you look at polling, Governor, there are people who say that trust is a problem when they look at Hillary Clinton. How does she convince them that this isn't just another example of exactly what they fear?”

Dean maintained his assertion the damaging controversy was just a GOP conspiracy: “Another example of exactly what they fear is exactly what the Republicans are trying to do. They've been doing this to Hillary Clinton back since before her husband was president....this, in fact, is nothing but a partisan witch hunt. And that’s what it is and I think it's too bad, but I think we'll get through it...”

Here is a full transcript of the August 13 interview:

7:10 AM ET

MATT LAUER: Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean ran for president back in 2004 and served as chair for the Democratic National Committee. Governor Dean, good to see you, good morning.

HOWARD DEAN: Thanks, Matt.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Trump & Sanders: New Poll Positions; Howard Dean on Candidates’ Unlikely Surges]

LAUER: You don't have to be a Republican operative to find trouble in the headlines surrounding Hillary Clinton. Any time you put the words "Hillary Clinton, e-mail, top secret, and FBI" in the same sentence, you’ve got a problem. Do you see any sign that this is gonna go away soon?

DEAN: Well, look, I think it's great that the servers are in the hands of the Justice Department. It's a lot better than having it in Trey Gowdy's hands, which is of a partisan investigation committee. Look, this kind of coverage is what the Republicans want. The only thing you didn't say that’s in the Republican talking points is using the word “criminal.” There's nothing criminal about any of this. She never did mail classified information – not labeled as such. She’s been – I think she’s been completely truthful and this is an attempt by the Republicans to smear the front-runner early on. It's a classic – this has been going on since White Water and Vince Foster. And this is just another version of this.

LAUER: But you know that if you look at polling, Governor, there are people who say that trust is a problem when they look at Hillary Clinton. How does she convince them that this isn't just another example of exactly what they fear?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Hillary Clinton on the Defense; Howard Dean on How She Should Handle Email Scandal]

DEAN: Another example of exactly what they fear is exactly what the Republicans are trying to do. They've been doing this to Hillary Clinton back since before her husband was president. I think this is going on the right course. I think having the server in the hands of an impartial investigator, which is the Justice Department of the United States, is going to be fine because it's going to show that there was no criminality. That there was nothing that she sent that was identified as classified or top secret, and that this, in fact, is nothing but a partisan witch hunt. And that’s what it is and I think it's too bad, but I think we'll get through it and I think it’s heading in the right direction.

LAUER: If I had told you six months ago that Bernie Sanders would be leading Hillary Clinton in a poll in New Hampshire by about seven or eight points, would you have believed me?

DEAN: No. Look, I'm a Hillary supporter, but I think it's great what Bernie’s doing, I really do. He had for his whole political career talked about economic justice. Economic justice has to be the biggest issue for Americans on both sides of the partisan divide this election season. I think it's about time. I think the country’s in trouble. And I think that is why Bernie is doing well.

LAUER: And let me end on this, if Joe Biden were to come to you and say, “Howard, as a former leader of this party and a guy who ran for president in 2004, I'm considering getting in. Should I jump in? Do I have a chance to win?” What would you tell him?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Biden Close to Announcing 2016 Run?; Report: VP Talking to Allies About Possible Run]  

DEAN: Well, look, I have a lot of respect for Joe Biden and he's been a terrific vice president. The problem is that Joe Biden is a very good guy and probably has no appeal whatsoever to people under 35. People under 35 elected Barack Obama President of the United States. That is a key part of the Democratic coalition, along particularly with Latinos and African-Americans and Asian-Americans. So I think it makes sense to have a candidate, and I think Hillary is one, I think Bernie is another, who really can turn on the under 35 set. And I think that would be a problem for Joe. So, you know, he's served us incredibly well. I just think that it's probably too late for that.

LAUER: Alright, Howard Dean. Governor, it's always nice to have you. Thanks very much for your time.

DEAN: Thanks very much for having me on. I appreciate it.

LAUER: Alright, and we should mention Chuck Todd’s going to have an interview with Republican front-runner Donald Trump, that’ll be this Sunday on Meet the Press.

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