During an interview with Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake about his harsh criticism of President Trump, on Wednesday’s NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer wondered if, for the sake of “protecting democracy,” it would have been better for Hillary Clinton to have won the 2016 election.
Claiming to want to “test” the retiring Senator’s “newfound freedom,” Lauer launched into his Democratic Party talking points arguing that Clinton would have spared America and the world from Trump: “I know you disagree with her on just about every major policy issue facing this country. But in terms of protecting democracy, protecting respect for the Office of the Presidency and protecting our image abroad, is it possible in your mind to consider that it would have been better if Hillary Clinton won this election?”
As Flake attempted to dodge the question, Lauer pressed: “Would it have been better if she had won the election?” The GOP lawmaker replied: “I would love to have a Republican president, but not at any cost. I didn’t vote for this president last November. I didn’t vote for President Clinton, either – or Secretary Clinton, either.”
Lauer smugly asked: “Second thoughts on that?”
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Here is a transcript of all the questions Lauer and fellow co-host Savannah Guthrie put to Flake in the October 25 interview:
7:06 AM ET
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And that brings us to Senator Jeff Flake, who joins us live now. Senator, good morning to you.
MATT LAUER: Good morning.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE [R-AZ]: Thanks for having me on.
GUTHRIE: One of the parts of your speech that really caught my eye, Senator, is when you talked about your fellow senators, your colleagues in the Senate, and you said – and I’m paraphrasing here – “If you’re waiting for President Trump to turn a corner and grow up and become more responsible and start to get things done, your wait will last forever. That’s not going to happen.” My question to you is, when you stepped off the Senate floor, what did you hear from your colleagues? Did they whisper in your ear and say, “I feel that way, too”? Or did they say, “Listen, I disagree with you and I can’t stand with you”?
MATT LAUER: Senator, is there a difference in your mind, between a president who – and these are your words – “undermines our democratic ideals and has a flagrant disregard for the truth and decency,” and a president who is unfit to hold the office?
LAUER: Does it bother you that this – your moment, your sacrifice, if you will, is being seen as a victory by the White House? Who basically said good riddance, and Steve Bannon came out and said, “Another day, another scalp.” In essence, they’re saying, by quitting, they win and you lose.
GUTHRIE: But Senator, I have to say. I mean, there will be plenty of people watching right now and saying, “Amen, I agree with you. And there will be a significant number of people that will think, “That’s just more talk from an establishment senator.” As Matt pointed out, they might say “good riddance.” The audience you need to reach are the people that believe President Trump. They believe in him, they believe he’s a change agent. If you have 30 seconds to make that pitch, what would you say to them to try to persuade?
LAUER: Senator, let me test your newfound freedom for a second. I know you disagree with her on just about every major policy issue facing this country. But in terms of protecting democracy, protecting respect for the Office of the Presidency and protecting our image abroad, is it possible in your mind to consider that it would have been better if Hillary Clinton won this election?
LAUER: Would it have been better if she had won the election?
FLAKE: I would love to have a Republican president, but not at any cost. I didn’t vote for this president last November. I didn’t vote for President Clinton, either – or Secretary Clinton, either.
LAUER: Second thoughts on that?
GUTHRIE: Well, Senator Jeff Flake, it’s good to have you here, sir. Appreciate you sharing your perspective. Thank you.
LAUER: Thank you, Senator. Appreciate it.
FLAKE: Appreciate it.