American Greatness Publisher Chris Buskirk appeared on “Hardball” this week with guest host Steve Kornacki to discuss Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion by Trump campaign officials with the Russians. Watch the segment and read the transcript.
Steve Kornacki: Joining me now is Chris Buskirk. He’s a Trump supporter as well as the editor and publisher of the website, American Greatness. Chris, thanks for joining us.
Let me get your reaction to this. And I think you just heard Carol sort of spelling out there, why this particular angle is being watched so closely. You know you have that plead to the lying charge about the context, post-election. That plea from Flynn, she’s saying look, one felony count of lying, recommended sentence here of zero to six months. A lot of people saying, this is leniency and there’s reason for Trump to be nervous about what Flynn might say. How do you feel about that?
Chris Buskirk: Well, the same way I feel about the Mueller investigation in general, which is that there’s sort of this predetermined conclusion and that all the facts around it are kind of force-fit together in order to support a conclusion that everybody who sort of dislikes the president has already come to. That’s the issue with this bit of reporting. It’s great reporting, but it’s also, and Carol said this, it’s also not a surprise. If the president’s going to maintain, and his legal team is going to maintain he did nothing wrong, then if Michael Flynn makes allegations against him, of course, they’re going to say he lied.
That’s part of it. I think the other part of the story that’s really interesting here though Steve, is this, is that we have on the one hand, we’ve got the president saying in public on a number of occasions, I support Michael Flynn. I think he’s gotten a raw deal. All these sorts of things, things that are publicly supportive. I think that’s sort of the carrot. This is a reminder to Michael Flynn, the president has the power to pardon. And in this reporting, we see that there’s a stick, too. Which is to say that if you make false allegations, then your reputation is at risk, too.
Steve Kornacki: Does it give you pause though, just to watch this. And again, look, we’re all doing this sort of from a bit of distance, here. We don’t know exactly what’s going on inside that Mueller investigation. We do know it’s a pretty serious deal. You’ve got some pretty serious pleas and some charges that we’ve seen out there already, but does it give you some pause as a supporter of the president, that somebody he selected to be his National Security Advisor, somebody who was in that role, albeit for a brief period of time, is now pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI? And again, does it give you some pause when you look at the apparent leniency here, of what the prosecutors are looking for? Does it give you concern that he might have knowledge that would change our understanding a bit of this administration?
Chris Buskirk: Well look, there’s always … Remember what Don Rumsfeld liked to call the . . . there’s the known unknowns, and there’s the unknown unknowns. So, we don’t, of course, know the unknown unknowns and then, I guess is always a cause for a bit of concern. But, I can tell you my top 100 things to worry about, it just isn’t there.
One of the things that people don’t seem to think about when they look at the Michael Flynn plea deal, is number one, is that there is the possibility that they didn’t charge him with other things, because they didn’t think they could prove them. That just never seems to factor into the equation. That’s a possibility. The other element with Flynn is that, this is somebody who just was not part of the administration that long. I think the legal team around the president understands exactly what they have to deal with on the defense side, and that they feel like they can go the distance on this.
Steve Kornacki: You mentioned that, that prospect there, that everybody’s been chattering about too, does this end? Does this or any other phase or aspect of this investigation ultimately end with the president issuing some kind of pardon? Two weeks ago, the president refused to rule out the pardon for Flynn. Let’s watch that.
Reporter: What about Michael Flynn? Would you consider a pardon for Michael Flynn?
Donald Trump: I don’t want talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet. We’ll see what happens.
Steve Kornacki: That was two weeks ago. Now Flynn’s brother Joseph Flynn is making a public appeal to the president. In a tweet yesterday, which he later deleted, Flynn’s brother wrote, “About time you pardoned General Flynn who has taken the biggest fall for all of you given the illegitimacy of this confessed crime, in the wake of all this corruption.” He later took a more conciliatory approach, writing to the president, “I personally believe that a pardon is due to General Flynn. Thank you and keep up the good work.”
Chris, you raised this sort of interpretation game. When the president’s talked the way he did two weeks ago, people were wondering, is this going to lead to a pardon? When you see a report like this about possibly casting him as a lier, you wonder if the White House is thinking in different terms here. I wonder though, in terms of the president’s credibility on this issue, if he were to issue a pardon to General Flynn here, and sort of cut off Flynn’s involvement in this investigation, what would that do to Trump’s credibility on this question?
Chris Buskirk: I think that, that’s a great question. That is the calculus and the calculation that they need to be going through in the White House, because that becomes not so much a legal question, but a political question. The President may believe in his heart that General Flynn does in fact deserve a pardon, but there’s a political aspect of it that plays out as well, so that affects the whether to do it or not to do it. And then also of course, the timing if he decides to do it.
I think the president needs to be careful here about when he does it, if … I mean obviously I have no information as to say whether he would or not, but I think if he’s going to, he needs to be very careful about when and how he did so and structured in such a way, and presented in a way that he was only doing the right thing. But then he’d have to make the case to the American people. Ultimately these are political questions that I think get decided politically, and not legally.
Steve Kornacki: All right. Chris Buskirk, a Trump supporter, editor of the site American Greatness, thanks for joining us.
Chris Buskirk: Thank you.