Seconds after President Trump concluded a White House address on Friday rightfully touting strong economic growth, Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd joined NBC live special coverage to immediately throw cold water on the news and accuse the president of having “over-hyped” the 4.1% increase in the gross domestic product.
Anchoring the special report, Today show co-host Savannah Guthrie emphasized negative headlines for the president: “A good economic story to tell, the president wants to highlight it amidst, obviously, the Russia investigation and facing the midterm elections as well.” Todd sneered: “You know, Savannah, you can tell there was sort of an urgency in the president’s voice that bordered on – of almost pulling a muscle trying to pat yourself on the back.”
Like her, he touted:
He was – you could feel that he knows there’s all these other headlines out there that are not good, especially this morning involving Michael Cohen, involving the Russia investigation. Frankly, even on the economic front, he got a lot of grief about trade from even fellow Republicans while traveling in the Midwest.
Todd lamented that the president “kept veering from his remarks and then going back to the remarks and extending them even longer. But all in a sense of trying really hard to say, ‘Hey, please pay attention to the economic story and ignore all the other stuff.’”
The Sunday show host concluded: “I get it. Politically, he needs to do this, Savannah. But I can tell you, there’s a sense of where you over-hype something, and there were so many times in those remarks that it felt over-hyped in how he was talking about the economy.”
Todd’s statements echoed comments made by left-wing Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus on MSNBC’s Hardball on Thursday, in which she implored viewers not to give Trump any credit for the good economy.
Prior to the president’s remarks, Guthrie and correspondent Peter Alexander spent several minutes hyping the Russia investigation over the economic news. At one point, Guthrie proclaimed: “So the Trump economy is something he wants to highlight, but as you mentioned, there are these lingering questions about the Russia investigation.” Minutes later, Alexander declared: “All of this really, Savannah, gets to the heart of what’s been a widening scandal that the president has tried to stomp out, the fire at his feet. But it just continues to grow.”
After admitting that “we actually are on the air just kind of stalling, waiting for the president,” Guthrie reiterated: “White House advisers wanting to shift the focus to something they want to talk about, which is a very strong economic report. And yet, as we wait for the president, you can’t help but talk about this investigation...” Alexander agreed: “Yeah, Savannah, you’re exactly right. These are two competing national story lines.”
Clearly NBC wasn’t really interested in talking about the economy, reporters simply seized on the presidential address as another opportunity to trash Trump.
NBC was the only broadcast network to break in with live coverage. Neither ABC nor CBS bothered to give the president’s speech any air time.
Here are excerpts of the July 27 special coverage:
9:33 AM ET
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Good morning everybody, we come on the air with an NBC News Special Report because the president is about to make some public remarks we believe to be about the economy. New figures released just this morning showing the economy is growing at its fastest pace in years. NBC’s Peter Alexander’s at the White House. Peter, good morning, there are a lot of headlines to talk about from the White House this morning, but this is one that the president wants to emphasize.
PETER ALEXANDER: Yeah, that’s why, Savannah, this was a previously unannounced set of remarks. The White House walking up to us and saying, “Hey, the president is going to say something in 30 minutes, we’ll see you on the south lawn.” So this came together very quickly. The president’s going to be focusing on the growth of the American economy in the second quarter wrapping up, the second three months of the year, that the economy grew by 4.1%. As you know not, that is the fastest pace it’s grown since back in 2014. The first quarter was about 2.2%, so it’s certainly going in the direction that the president wants to tout.
The real questions now are, how long this boom will last? Some economists concerned it might slow down later this year. And of course, the president is facing headwinds as they relate to the retaliatory tariffs, as he likes to speak about, from China right now. And some of the benefit in the economy may be from a lot of those farmers in the Midwest trying to get ahead of those tariffs earlier this year, quickly selling off their soy beans to foreign countries.
The backdrop to this obviously, Savannah, as we await the president, are these new questions, the president doubling down on his denial that he knew anything about that 2016 meeting at Trump Tower that his son, Donald Trump Jr., was at, promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. Some Russians were there with Trump Jr. at the time. Both the president and his son basically said they did nothing wrong. The president reiterating that point again today. But Michael Cohen, his former lawyer, is telling – is prepared to tell a different story. A source with knowledge of this information telling NBC News that he’s prepared to say to Robert Mueller’s investigators that Trump did know about that meeting ahead of time. So that will certainly be one of the questions the president is faces if he sticks around for reporters’ questions at the end, Savannah.
GUTHRIE: Yeah, a little bit of lack of clarity as to whether these are just remarks, just a speech from the president, or whether he will take reporters’ questions. And there’s no doubt, Peter, that he wants to focus on this positive headline, clearly a big spurt in growth in the GDP, which had been at around 2%, I think you mentioned. There’s been a tax cut across the board, there’s also been, of course, deregulation. So the Trump economy is something he wants to highlight, but as you mentioned, there are these lingering questions about the Russia investigation. And now, Michael Cohen – if you could just, while we have the moments waiting here for the president to come out – Michael Cohen, was once inseparable from the president, and now appearing to spill the beans on what he knows.
9:39 AM ET
ALEXANDER: All of this really, Savannah, gets to the heart of what’s been a widening scandal that the president has tried to stomp out, the fire at his feet. But it just continues to grow. Among the latest reports right now, that Robert Mueller’s investigators are scrutinizing some of those tweets that the president wrote, specifically tweets that were attacking his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from the Russia investigation, as well as James Comey, the FBI director that the president fired.
You know, the president over the last 17 months has described this investigation as a witch hunt on Twitter 92 times. But one of the things that Mueller’s team is looking at is whether or not that sort of public pressure on Twitter that the president did, combined with the private pressure he may have had against Sessions and against James Comey to effectively back away from the investigation or to interfere, perhaps intimidate the witnesses, whether that could amount to obstruction of justice.
GUTHRIE: And of course we should mention, as people are looking at this shot on their screen there, we await the president, who, as Peter reported this morning in somewhat hurried fashion, announced that he was going to be making some kind of remarks. We expected him about five minutes ago, so we actually are on the air just kind of stalling, waiting for the president. He wants to talk about the economy and a very positive economic report that just came out that showed the highest growth in the U.S. economy since 2014. And yet, he does face these headwinds, as we’ve been discussing with Peter.
And this is kind of – it’s almost like we’re watching an example unfold, Peter, of White House advisers wanting to shift the focus to something they want to talk about, which is a very strong economic report. And yet, as we wait for the president, you can’t help but talk about this investigation, where there are all these developments going on right now with the president’s former close confidant and lawyer Michael Cohen and the Russian investigation going on and on.
ALEXANDER: Yeah, Savannah, you’re exactly right. These are two competing national story lines. Just minutes ago, the president, on Twitter, said, “Great GPD numbers just released.” He wants to take a victory lap today. But only moments before he made those comments on Twitter, he was complaining about the Russia investigation. So he’s certainly adding fuel to that fire as he tries to focus on it agin to try to sort of undermine the credibility of Robert Mueller, the man who is overseeing this investigation, and so many others who are apart of it. Including, as we just noted, James Comey here.
I mean, one thing to keep in mind as we talk about the economy right now, is that this is really what President Trump thinks will be his sweet spot. We are told by aides here at the White House, aides to the president, that he intends to ramp up the campaign stops over the course of the next several months leading up to the midterms. By all indications, all prognosticators saying right now they believe that the Democrats – according to the latest polls – that the Democrats have a good chance to win back the House of Representatives. The president is doing everything in his power to try to stop that from happening, Savannah?
GUTHRIE: And Peter, we’re seeing members of the cabinet and others coming out, so we expect the president at any time to come out. He obviously believes he has a great story to tell on the economy and it’s one he wants to tell live before the cameras. So we can see, I don’t know if you have a monitor there, I see the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, I see Wilbur Ross, the Commerce Secretary. And then my eyes fail me, Peter, but you see some of the various economic advisers getting ready for the president to make his remarks.
Just in case, we’re waiting here, I’ll briefly go to Dominic Chu, who is a markets reporter for CNBC. So just, we’re going to hear what the president has to say about it, Dominic, but in a word, is this report is good as expected?
DOMINIC CHU: This report is as good as expected, and the reason why the president may be taking a victory lap on this is because it is the consumer that’s driving a lot of it, as well business spending. And the reason why we highlight it is because in this GDP report, a good amount is due to increased consumer spending. Now the president may come and say that’s because of tax cuts, that’s because of unemployment, that’s going to be all kinds of stuff. That’s why the president’s taking this lap.
GUTHRIE: Dominic, here is the president, thank you.
[PRESIDENT TRUMP’S ADDRESS]
10:00 AM ET
GUTHRIE: We have been listening to the president delivering remarks on the good report on economic growth. The gross domestic product going up 4.1%, that is a rate that hasn’t been seen since 2014. Let me turn to Chuck Todd. A good economic story to tell, the president wants to highlight it amidst, obviously, the Russia investigation and facing the midterm elections as well.
CHUCK TODD: You know, Savannah, you can tell there was sort of an urgency in the president’s voice that bordered on – of almost pulling a muscle trying to pat yourself on the back. He was – you could feel that he knows there’s all these other headlines out there that are not good, especially this morning involving Michael Cohen, involving the Russia investigation. Frankly, even on the economic front, he got a lot of grief about trade from even fellow Republicans while traveling in the Midwest.
So today felt like an attempt – and you could even hear it – he kept veering from his remarks and then going back to the remarks and extending them even longer. But all in a sense of trying really hard to say, “Hey, please pay attention to the economic story and ignore all the other stuff.” I get it. Politically, he needs to do this, Savannah. But I can tell you, there’s a sense of where you over-hype something, and there were so many times in those remarks that it felt over-hyped in how he was talking about the economy.
GUTHRIE: Well, it is a tried and true White House strategy, if you have good news, trumpet it, get out there, make a news event. And clearly, that is what the president he is trying to do, own the conversation and have it on his terms. Chuck, thank you so much. We’re going to have more right now on NBCNews.com, also MSNBC, tonight on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt. Most of you will return to the Today show. I’m Savannah Guthrie in New York, this has been an NBC News Special Report.