Kaine Crumbles When NBC Actually Presses Him on Hillary E-Mail Scandal

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During an exclusive interview aired on Wednesday’s NBC Today, Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine struggled to respond to Hillary Clinton’s ongoing e-mail scandal as co-host Savannah Guthrie actually grilled him on the topic. She pressed: “This is something that dogs Hillary Clinton, whether or not people trust her. If you look at what she said over the past year or so about her e-mail, I can count at least four statements that just turned out not to be true. Has she earned that mistrust?”

Kaine lamely replied: “Savannah, if you ask somebody a question 150 times or 200 times, you're going to be able to find that they don't use exactly the same word every time, and there's going to be variations and then people are going to play on those, but – ” Guthrie interrupted him with a dose of reality: “In point of fact, though, she did use the same verbiage, it just happens to not be true.”

He asserted: “Well, here's what I've heard her say. I've heard her say, ‘I made a mistake and I've learned something from it, and I wouldn't do it again and I apologize.’” Guthrie didn’t let him off the hook: “She has acknowledged mistakes with respect to the e-mail practices. She hasn't acknowledged a mistake with regard to what she has told the American people.”

Kaine repeated: “The bottom line is this, you know, this is an area where she says, ‘I made a mistake and I've learned from it and I've improved and I'm going to do differently.’”

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Guthrie failed to use the word “lie” to describe Clinton’s dishonest statements, instead opting for gentler phrases like “turned out not to be true” or “just happens to not be true.” In her first question to Kaine on the topic, she actually teed him up to deflect from the controversy and hit Republicans:

GUTHRIE: Do you support the public release of the FBI notes and notes of interviews regarding the e-mail investigation?

KAINE: Savannah, you asked the question really well, “Do you support public release?” Yes. Anything that the FBI gives to Congress, they should give to the public. Because what we've seen is this lengthy, multimillion dollar congressional investigation that has been highly partisan, where they've wanted to leak out this or that to try to make their case against Hillary Clinton. Let the public see what the FBI decides to let Congress see.

While Guthrie did put Kaine on the spot with a few challenging questions, there were plenty of softballs as well:

> I remember the President saying that Democrats ought to run scared....Is there any danger of overconfidence here?...Do you expect it to tighten up?

> Donald Trump gave a speech yesterday. One of the things he said is that Hillary Clinton lacks the mental and physical stamina to be commander-in-chief. What did you make of those remarks? How do you interpret that?...What do you think is really going on, if he questions her physical stamina?

> Trump is now calling for an ideological test and so-called “extreme vetting” of immigrants into this country. Do you consider that a softening of his Muslim ban, his previous position?

Turning to Kaine’s wife, Anne Holton, Guthrie wondered:

> Secretary Holton, you, up until recently, were a Secretary of Education in Virginia, a former judge, an attorney. Was it hard to leave your post as Secretary of Education? And why did you decide to do that?

> Well, if the Democratic ticket is successful, your husband becomes vice president, there will be an opening in the Senate. And the Governor of Virginia appoints the senator. Are you interested?

In contrast, during an interrogation of Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence on August 5, nearly every question from Guthrie was a hardball in which she encouraged the Indiana Governor to attack Donald Trump.

Here is a full transcript of the interview with Kaine aired on August 17:

8:02 AM ET TEASE:

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Also ahead from here, politics, our exclusive interview with Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine and his wife Anne. Senator Kaine opening up about Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton’s e-mail investigation, and the perception among some voters that his running mate can’t be trusted. Our exclusive interview and all the news just ahead, guys.

8:18 AM ET SEGMENT:

MATT LAUER: Let’s got back to New York, Savannah’s got more – or has more of her exclusive interview with Hillary Clinton's running mate, Tim Kaine, and his wife, Anne Holton. Savannah?

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Hi, guys. Well, we caught up with them Tuesday on the trail in North Carolina, we talked about a number of hot topics in the presidential race. But we started with the Democratic ticket's growing lead in the polls.

[TO KAINE] I remember the President saying that Democrats ought to run scared.

TIM KAINE: Yeah, we should.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Tim Kaine & Wife Speak Out; Clinton Running Mate Talks Trump, Emails & Campaign]

GUTHRIE: Is there any danger of overconfidence here?

KAINE: None, because I see no complacency on the team. I have been in a lot of races. This is the ninth ballot I'll be on. And I've won every race, but barely, usually. And the way I win is I say be an underdog until they call you the winner.

GUTHRIE: Do you expect it to tighten up?

KAINE: I do. Look, this has been a season of surprises, and so, there’ll be twists and turns, and I think that's going to happen. But be an underdog until they call you the winner.

GUTHRIE: Donald Trump gave a speech yesterday. One of the things he said is that Hillary Clinton lacks the mental and physical stamina to be commander-in-chief. What did you make of those remarks? How do you interpret that?

KAINE: I have no idea what he's talking about. I mean, did you see the incredible amount of work that Hillary did around the world? Her travel schedule as Secretary of State? And then look at the grueling nature of this campaign.

GUTHRIE: What do you think is really going on, if he questions her physical stamina?

KAINE: He's trying to deflect attention. The real issue is his lack of the kind of temperament to be commander-in-chief and to be president. And voters see that, they sense that.

GUTHRIE: Trump is now calling for an ideological test and so-called “extreme vetting” of immigrants into this country. Do you consider that a softening of his Muslim ban, his previous position?

KAINE: You know, it might be. He might be trying to package it and make it prettier, but I mean, this is a guy who has proposed to treat Muslims as second-class citizens, whether they're entering into the country – or he's even suggested that Muslims who are here should have to take some kind of a pledge that they aren’t going to follow Sharia law. We do not need to go down a path where we treat people differently because of their religious beliefs.

GUTHRIE: Do you support the public release of the FBI notes and notes of interviews regarding the e-mail investigation?

KAINE: Savannah, you asked the question really well, “Do you support public release?” Yes. Anything that the FBI gives to Congress, they should give to the public. Because what we've seen is this lengthy, multimillion dollar congressional investigation that has been highly partisan, where they've wanted to leak out this or that to try to make their case against Hillary Clinton. Let the public see what the FBI decides to let Congress see.

GUTHRIE: This is something that dogs Hillary Clinton, whether or not people trust her. If you look at what she said over the past year or so about her e-mail, I can count at least four statements that just turned out not to be true. Has she earned that mistrust?

KAINE: Savannah, if you ask somebody a question 150 times or 200 times, you're going to be able to find that they don't use exactly the same word every time, and there's going to be variations and then people are going to play on those, but –

GUTHRIE: In point of fact, though, she did use the same verbiage, it just happens to not be true.

KAINE: Well, here's what I've heard her say. I've heard her say, “I made a mistake and I've learned something from it, and I wouldn't do it again and I apologize.”

GUTHRIE: She has acknowledged mistakes with respect to the e-mail practices. She hasn't acknowledged a mistake with regard to what she has told the American people.

KAINE: The bottom line is this, you know, this is an area where she says, “I made a mistake and I've learned from it and I've improved and I'm going to do differently.” When has Donald Trump during the course of this campaign or his life said, “I made a mistake and I'm better and I’m going to learn from it and grow from it?”

GUTHRIE: Secretary Holton, you, up until recently, were a Secretary of Education in Virginia, a former judge, an attorney. Was it hard to leave your post as Secretary of Education? And why did you decide to do that?

ANNE HOLTON: Well, you know, yes, it was hard. I loved my job. I loved working with great colleagues to help make education better, to make better pathways for – especially for those who need them the most. And so, I loved that work. But I'm having a great time on the campaign. I'm a huge Hillary fan. And you know, her whole career has been about helping children and families, and I like to think that mine has, too.

GUTHRIE: Well, if the Democratic ticket is successful, your husband becomes vice president, there will be an opening in the Senate. And the Governor of Virginia appoints the senator. Are you interested?

HOLTON: Absolutely not. One per household, thank you very much. You can make news with that.

GUTHRIE: Our conversation a little bit earlier with Senator Tim Kaine and his wife, Anne Holton.