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Journal Editorial Report

The Trump-Ryan truce: What's genuine and what's theater?

This is a rush transcript from "Journal: Editorial Report," May 14, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

PAUL GIGOT, FOX HOST:  This week on the "Journal: Editorial Report," Donald Trump goes to Washington.  A look at his meeting with Paul Ryan and where they're likely to agree and disagree.  

Plus, Bernie Sanders will take it to the convention after polls show he will be the stronger candidate in November.  So will Hillary be saved by the super delegates?

And in the battle for campaign cash, Trumps turns to big-money donors.  Can he compete with a Clinton money machine?  

But first, these headlines.  

(FOX NEWS REPORT)

GIGOT:  Welcome to the "Journal: Editorial Report."  I'm Paul Gigot.  

"A positive step," that is how presumptive GOP nominee, Donald Trump, and House Speaker Paul Ryan described their meeting on Capitol Hill Thursday. In a joint statement, the two said they were totally committed to unifying a divided Republican Party ahead of the November election, but both men acknowledged that the process could take some time.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WIS., SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  This was our first meeting. I was encouraged with this meeting.  But this is a process.  It takes a little time.  You don't put it together in 45 minutes.  

DONALD TRUMP, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION:  I don't mind going through a little bit of a slow process.  It's a very big subject.  I mean, we have a lot of things.  And I think, for the most part, we agree on a lot of different items.  And we're getting there.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT:  Joining the panel this week Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; Potomac Watch columnist, Kim Strassel; associate editorial page editor, James Freeman; and Best of the Web Today columnist, James Taranto.  

So, James, how much of this sweetness and light is real and how much tension is still existing behind the scenes?  

JAMES TARANTO, BEST OF THE WEB TODAY COLUMNIST:  I think the real tension is the tension between the supporters of these two men, the Trump supporters who can't stand Washington, and the Ryan supporters who are --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  Can't stand Trump.  

(LAUGHTER)

TARANTO:  Right, can't stand Trump, think he isn't a real conservative and so forth.  So I think this is a negotiation between the two of them, that is whose ultimate objective is to bring their followers along reluctantly. And from that standpoint, it's important the negotiation not take place too quickly.  Imagine if Ryan came out last week and said, well, Trump is the nominee, I endorse him.  He would have been viewed by these conservatives as a sellout and his endorsement would be worth a lot less.  

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  Well, they have to -- well, wait, I take your point.

But there's some philosophical differences here, James, profound between Ryan and Trump on trade, foreign policy, immigration.  We can't -- is that going to emerge later on?  

JAMES FREEMAN, ASSOCIATE EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR:  I would argue that there are not deep philosophical differences because I think what you have with Ryan is a philosophical conservative for limited government.  I think with Trump, you have a non-ideological candidate.  So where they do have things in common, they both think Washington needs to get off the back of business.  That means lower taxes, less regulation.  Obviously, they have a lot of differences, on trade and immigration.  I would hope that this discussion allows --

(CROSSTALK)

FREEMAN:  -- Ryan to pull him a little bit that way but they agree on the fundamental idea, which is you've got to get the American economy growing like it used to.  

GIGOT:  But also on political style, Dan.  

DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR:  Yeah.

GIGOT:  Ryan is -- has rhetoric that's inclusive.  He wants to reach out and to expand the party, reach out to minorities.  Trump, what we know, his caustic style, his attack style.  I mean, you know, we know in private that Donald Trump can be very charming.  

HENNINGER:  Right.

GIGOT:  Because we've met with him in private.  And no doubt he was in that meeting.  But do you ever think there's going to be a Ryan/Trump condominium?  

HENNINGER:  Well, one would hope so.  I think the short answer of what they said after that meeting is the Republican Party, a major political party, is not unified, all right?  

GIGOT:  Right.  

HENNINGER:  I think it goes beyond merely the supporters out there in the country.  Paul Ryan represents all the members of the House that have to stand for re-election and about seven Republican Senators whose seats are at risk.  And their position is now either, I'm behind Trump, I'm against Trump, or I don't know whether to support him or not.  That's a confused Republican party running against Democrats who are going to be united and energized running against Donald Trump.  So I think the Republicans are on their back feet right now because of this disunity.  

GIGOT:  Kim, what about the point that James Taranto made that some of Paul Ryan's supporters are inclined -- are already saying, "sellout, how dare you, you're damaging your reputation by even associating with Donald Trump," and appearing to say, you know, things are moving forward.  

KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST:  Look, I mean, I think this is a very Paul Ryan thing he has done.  You look back over his entire history in the House as speaker, this is a guy known for bringing along members of his conference to issues that are difficult sometimes for them to get behind. He's a very reform-minded politician.  And my view is that probably part of this was set up as an opportunity to get to know Trump and maybe potentially at the first opportunity to present to Trump -- who, by the way, has run a fairly isolated campaign, outside of Washington.

GIGOT:  Right.

STRASSEL:  To say, look, these are our concerns, this is what we're facing as an electoral pressure out there, we need you to be aware, and these are some of the issues that our followers have, and maybe try to sort of pull him along in an optimistic way.  

GIGOT:  And the self-interest of Ryan, James, here, political self- interest, is what?  

TARANTO:  Well, he doesn't want to throw the election, as some conservative intellectuals would like the Republicans to do.  He wants the Republican Party to be unified to win.  He's going to do better under a President Trump even if they don't agree on everything than he would do under a President Hillary Clinton, which would be, as he put it, another four years of Obama.  

GIGOT:  And he wants to prevent a wipeout, a Republican wipeout.  If Trump does as poorly as the polls suggest, some polls suggest he might, then you don't want to lose the House because it's the only barrier against progressive government like 2009 and 2010.  

FREEMAN:  Right.  And along the lines we were talking about, I think conservatives can get comfortable thinking about what a Ryan/Trump partnership would lead to.  But, hey, this blow-out stuff, we've looked at Trump's sky high negative ratings over the last year.  All of a sudden, you look at some of these polls, Quinnipiac, he's ahead in Ohio --

(CROSSTALK)  

GIGOT:  One poll.  Yeah, OK.  

FREEMAN:  But this may be, all of a sudden, a much closer race than people expected.  

GIGOT:  When we come back, Bernie Sanders promising to fight on to the convention after new polls show trouble for Hillary Clinton in some key battleground states.  So will she be saved by the super delegates?  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT:  Fresh off a double-digit win in West Virginia, the Sanders campaign said Wednesday the Democratic Party would be courting disaster by nominating Hillary Clinton.  In a fundraising e-mail, campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, cited what he called a scary new Quinnipiac University poll showing Clinton virtually tied with or losing to Donald Trump in the battleground states of Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio.  That same poll shows Sanders running stronger against the likely Republican nominee.  In the e-mail, Weaver told supporters, quote, "Because we must do everything we can to defeat Trump in November, our mission is to win as many pledged delegates as we can between now and June 14th, then we're going to have a contested convention."

So, Kim, I think most people agree that, barring an act of God or an act of FBI Director Jim Comey, Hillary Clinton will be the nominee.  But how much trouble can Bernie Sanders cause her between now and the convention?  

STRASSEL:  If you look at the number of pledged delegates out there now, there is only a difference of less than 300 between Bernie -- between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.  And also, Paul, the momentum has been with Sanders.  You know, we have a handful of primary contests and caucuses left.  If he were to run the table on those, which, by the way, is possible that he could, he will have won 19 of the 25 last primaries and caucuses in this race.  

GIGOT:  Wow.  

STRASSEL:  So, yeah.

GIGOT:  Wow.

STRASSEL:  Exactly.  That number is real.  And he'd have won about 55 percent of the delegates since Super Tuesday.  So her claim isn't necessarily as strong, especially if it's a claim based entirely on super delegates, which increasingly it is.  

GIGOT:  Dan, what is this?  Is this buyer's remorse among Democrats, recognizing she may be a weak candidate?  What's going on?  

HENNINGER:  It's definitely recognizing that she could be a weak candidate. They probably should have seen that from the beginning, but here we are. They thought she was just going to waltz to the nomination.  Bernie Sanders comes in, you know, from left field, literally, and suddenly, he's got all the support from young Democratic voters.  And now they don't know how to deal with these people.  And now we're going to go to the convention in Philadelphia, the Sanders people are all going to get into a battle with the Democratic National Committee.  Debbie Wassermann Schultz is stiffing them on committee chairmanships for the convention, and they're talking about not accepting that, and they're going to want a role in the platform in Philadelphia, they're going to want a role in prime spiking engagements, and it's all going to be Bernie's message, which Hillary is trying so hard to get away from so she can run to the center in the general.  

GIGOT:  James, I know you hang with the Sandersistas.  

(LAUGHTER)

So what I want to know is do they want -- other than the things Dan suggested -- do they want Bernie on the ticket?  Is that a possibility?  

FREEMAN:  Well, I think when you look at it now, I think they still -- I think the dream lives that he will be the nominee.  I think that dream is alive, and those polls hearten them.  I think also, if you think about it, if he managed to run the table here and actually came into Philadelphia with a delegate lead among the delegates actually chosen by rank-and-file voters, which could theoretically still happen, you have an implosion in the Democratic party because I do not think you can sustain a Clinton nomination on the idea of pledged or super delegates, the party insiders putting their thumb on this.  

GIGOT:  Oh, I think you're wrong.  I think they can -- Democrats will try to do that.  

But here's the question, James.  Would Bernie Sanders actually be a better candidate you think against Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton?  

TARANTO:  It's hard to say.  I mean, I still tend to think he's probably too left wing when people really think about it.  But he's a much more likable person than Mrs. Clinton is.  

GIGOT:  He's more authentic.  

TARANTO:  Yeah.  We talk about what a weak candidate she is -- she is turning out to be.  Well, you don't need these recent polls to tell you that.  She was a weak candidate in 2008 when she was inevitable and she lost to Barack Obama.  

GIGOT:  Right.  

TARANTO:  This year, they cleared the field of everyone except the fringe nobodies and --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  Who became a fringe somebody.  

TARANTO:  And one of these fringe nobodies became a somebody.  

(LAUGHTER)

You know, Sanders is a man who has won 10 times statewide, in an American state, running as an avowed Socialist.  Granted, it's Vermont, but still, that's quite an accomplishment.  He has something going for him as a politician.  

GIGOT:  Kim, let's talk about the news story, a very good story in the "Wall Street Journal," news site reported this week about a donation that the Clinton Global Initiative, which is a relative of the Clinton Foundation, made to a private for-profit company and which stretches the rules of what non-profits are supposed to do.  Tell us about that story.  

STRASSEL:  Well, this is -- it's important to say they arranged it, so in this role, CGI acted as a matchmaker.  What they did is they get wealthy people who make commitments to good causes and then they help place that money with the good causes.  But, as you say, in this case, they had a wealthy individual step forward with money and they funneled that money to a for-profit company that is owned and operated and shares are held in by a bunch of Clinton cronies, a neighbor of theirs in Chappaqua, people who are high up in Democratic politics, who had helped out on Clinton campaigns, and, by the way, had made other donations themselves to the Clinton Foundation.  So it's the kind of classic Clinton sleaze that everyone is used to hearing about and it really puts people off.  And this is certainly not going to help Mrs. Clinton with all of those favorability and trust --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  The argument in the Clinton Foundation is saying this is just standard business.  We do this all the time, facilitating donations, but it's really -- is that right?  

STRASSEL:  No, they facilitate donations between philanthropists and do- good organizations out there.  This is very different.  This was facilitating a wealthy individual who would underwrite a company owned by their friends.  And, by the way, if they thought there was nothing wrong with it, they wouldn't have scrubbed it from their website, which, by the way, they did, and they admitted they thought it might leave a kind of bad taste out there if people saw it.  

GIGOT:  All right.  Thank you, Kim.

When we come back, as the battle for campaign cash heats up, Donald Trump turns to the high-dollar donors he once attacked.  So can he compete with the Clinton fundraising machine?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT:  The race to raise campaign cash is heating up and Donald Trump is now courting the very same high-dollar donors he once attacked, facing what could be a $1.5 billion campaign against Hillary Clinton.  Trump said last week that he will not self-finance his general election run, and plans are reportedly in the works to kick off an aggressive schedule of fundraising beginning in Los Angeles at the end of the month.

So, Kim, you wrote a very good column this week, very informative about Donald Trump's money issues.  So is it possible, could it be that this billionaire is actually cash poor for a general election run?  

STRASSEL:  You have to ask that question.  I think there's a good argument that his decision not to release his tax filings, he says they're under audit but they're probably other reason.  One is that they probably contain a lot of very complicated tax maneuvers that might make him look like he's not paying the taxes everybody else does.  But the other issue is this question of how liquid wealthy he is.  No doubt, a lot of his money is tied up in real estate and investments.  Not something that's easily accessible.  

He had a lawsuit back in 2006 in which a reporter ended up getting hold of his tax forms, made it sound like he isn't as flush as he possibly -- may not have been released.  They're under seal.  But the reporter suggested that one reason he might not want to release those things is because you would know then what his net income was.  

GIGOT:  So, sign on former Goldman Sachs employee, Steve Mnuchin, to raise money.  But will the fundraisers come?  Some are coming around.  Sheldon Adelson, but others, like Paul Singer, said they're not going to give to Trump.  What do you think his prospects are?  

HENNINGER:  I think they're doubtful at best.  Ken Langone gave an interview this week in which he said this was his last round in politics. I'm out of this after this.  I've had enough.  I've served my time in hell.  

(LAUGHTER)

Sheldon Adelson wrote a piece for "The Washington Post" in which he said, "I disagree with Donald Trump on a lot of things but he has business experience and so I'm going to support him."  

Boon Pickens is holding what he calls a reception for Trump down in Texas.

So this doesn't add up to a tremendous amount of enthusiasm.  But to get people to donate up to a billion dollars, you'll require a lot of donor enthusiasm.  It's not there yet.  

GIGOT:  What does this say, James, about his decision to go to big-dollar donors about his argument earlier that fundraising is inherently corrupt? Apparently, not?  

FREEMAN:  Yeah, he's moved on from that.  

(LAUGHTER)

I don't think it's going to hurt him because the comparison is Hillary Clinton.  

(LAUGHTER)

So I also think he's not going to have the money that she's going to have, but maybe, in this unconventional campaign, in an unconventional year, it's not going to matter, just like it hasn't mattered to this point.  And I think it has to do with maybe his ability to make a lot out of earned media or free media.  Now, I don't think now that he's running against Clinton the media is going to be as friendly to him.  

GIGOT:  You don't think?  

(LAUGHTER)

FREEMAN:  They're not.  But there's a fundamental problem for Mrs. Clinton, even though she's going to have a lot of money.  He is good on TV.  She is not good on TV.  

TARANTO:  Right.  And the media were not terribly friendly to Trump during the primary.  They just gave him a lot of air time.  And, you know, I suppose the media could start ignoring Trump now and hurt him, but I don't see that happening.  

GIGOT:  What about the issue of his tax returns, OK?  We advised him early on, get them out.  You know, we said Republican voters would want to know if there's any potential vulnerabilities, like Kim suggested there could be.  Now, of course, Hillary Clinton's making an issue of it.  Mitt Romney is making an issue of it.  And will it hurt him, James?  

TARANTO:  I don't know.  The question is, do voters care about this?  I don't know.  It has become a matter of -- it's become a political norm that presidential candidates show their tax returns.

GIGOT:  Right.

TARANTO:  It started with the Checkers speech where Richard Nixon called on Adlai Stevenson and his running mate to release their tax returns to show that they had nothing to hide.  Since then, it became a norm.  But I think it may be something that people in the media and good government-types care about more than --

(CROSSTALK)

HENNINGER:  And if so, why isn't he releasing the returns?  I mean, so he doesn't pay taxes in.  He's in real estate, and probably his charitable contributions are minimal.  I think James is right.  It's not that big a deal.  What else might be in them?  

GIGOT:  But -- exactly.  The reason that he -- the Republicans should care about this and Donald Trump should care about this, if Democrats make this an issue, they'll invent things.  I mean, that's what Harry Reid said.  

FREEMAN:  Right.

GIGOT:  Mitt Romney just invents --

(CROSSTALK)

FREEMAN:  I don't think it's going to matter one way or the other because it's not 2012.  They had spent a year or two defining Mitt Romney as this evil, rich guy.  He wouldn't stand up for himself, wouldn't defend his business career.  Trump's appeal is different.  He reaches middle class people.  He reaches working class people.  I don't think they care about this issue.  And the comparison, again, to the Clintons.  

GIGOT:  All right.  That's the fallback, the comparison to the Clintons.  

We have to take one more break.  When we come back, our "Hits and Misses" of the week.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT:  Time now for our "Hits and Misses" of the week.  

Kim, start us off.  

STRASSEL:  Ever since the server scandal broke for Hillary Clinton, her campaign team has been insisting and dismissing this as nothing more than a routine security inquiry.  So this is a hit to FBI Director James Comey, who this week stomped down that nonsense.  Asked about it, he said he was not familiar with the term "security inquiry" and said that all you needed to know about his organization was contained in its name, i.e., it was the federal bureau not of inquiry but of investigation.  Let's hope that he is as blunt with the findings as he is with terminology.  

GIGOT:  All right.  

James?  

FREEMAN:  Paul, this is a hit to Chick-Fil-A for graciously opening its new New York location just a block from our office.  

(LAUGHTER)

We appreciate that.  And also a hit for defying our mayor here in New York, Bill de Blasio, who doesn't like the restaurant chain because its owners have political beliefs different from his own.  Terribly --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT:  On same-sex marriage.  

FREEMAN:  That's right.  But the good news is we've heard New York values knocked a lot this year, but New Yorkers know a good chicken sandwich and they have been lining up.  

HENNINGER:  And speaking of which, I'm giving a miss to the Food and Drug Administration, which has decided it will redefine the word "healthy." That's right.  You may not know it, but the Food and Drug Administration has the authority to decide whether you can put the word "healthy" on your food based on things like fat content.  Under the old definition, Frosted Flakes and Pop-Tarts qualify as healthy.  Avocados do not because they have too much fat.  I personally am going to continue to eat avocados, fat and all.  

GIGOT:  All right.  Dan, thank you very much.

And remember, if you have your own hit or miss, be sure to tweet it to us at JER on FNC.  

That's it for this week's show.  Thanks to my panel and to all of you for watching.  I'm Paul Gigot.  Hope to see you right here next week.  

END

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