All the Democrats' Men (Plus Nancy)

All the Democrats' Men (Plus Nancy)
AP Photo/Evan Vucci
All the Democrats' Men (Plus Nancy)
AP Photo/Evan Vucci
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This week, the Democratic leadership in Congress held an impromptu strategy session in a Capitol Hill restaurant. Present were Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Whip Dick Durbin. From the lower chamber was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Majority Whip James Clyburn. RealClearPolitics obtained a surreptitious recording of the meeting, which begins with Schumer talking about President Trump’s interview Wednesday with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News. The meeting was believed to have taken place Thursday. We don’t know who recorded it or why it was leaked -- or even whether it is 100% authentic -- but we made the judgment that it was newsworthy. Here is a transcript of the recording: 

SCHUMER: Did you see what President Dumb-Dumb said yesterday? 

DURBIN: I’m not president. I was only presiding over the Senate for a little while yesterday. I know they called me "Mr. President," but... 

SCHUMER: Not you, Dick. I meant The Donald. President Trump. 

DURBIN: My bad. What did he do now? 

SCHUMER: You’re not going to believe this. George Stephanopoulos asked Trump -- on camera -- whether he’d take opposition research from a foreign country to help win an election. 

NANCY PELOSI: I was at Wednesday mass and missed it. Did he call George “Shorty” or some other bad name? Did he point out that George worked for Bill Clinton? 

SCHUMER: Nope. Trump said, “There’s nothing wrong with listening.” 

HOYER: He also said, “They have information, I think I’d take it.” 

DURBIN: Who would have information? 

SCHUMER (laughs): Well, the country he mentioned was Norway. 

DURBIN: Why would the Norwegians want to help Trump? They’re in NATO. 

HOYER: I don’t think that’s the point, Dick. 

SCHUMER: Steny’s right. The point is: How can we use this against the president? Comey said we could count on him to get a special prosecutor -- and that he had just the right guy in mind -- then Mueller let Trump off the hook just because he couldn’t actually find a conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign. But now, thank our lucky stars, Trump is feeding the collusion narrative himself! On ABC television. What a gift this man is. We have to milk this for everything it’s worth. 

DURBIN: Milk? Yeah, we could play the race card. Milk is white. So are Norwegians. We could get the media to go with this angle: Trump would never take dirt on Democrats from a country of color. (Smiles proudly). 

HOYER: Get a grip, man.  (Mutters under his breath): Jesus H. Christ…  

PELOSI: Steny! Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. 

HOYER: Sorry, Nancy. 

SCHUMER: Guys, guys. Let’s keep focused. How do we get more attention on Trump’s statement about taking oppo research from foreign countries? 

CLYBURN: I can tell you what the DNC’s Rapid Response Team came up with.  They said we should introduce legislation. 

SCHUMER: Legislation that does what? 

CLYBURN: A new law that says if a foreign government offers compromising material on a presidential candidate, the campaign they offer it to has to call the FBI. 

SCHUMER: What millennial shirt-bird came up with that witless idea? 

PELOSI: Charles! (Raps Schumer on the knuckles with a ruler) You know I dislike that kind of language. 

SCHUMER: Sorry, Nancy. 

HOYER: But hold on there, Chuck. This idea might not be that bad: We can put the Republicans over a barrel -- like they keep trying to do to us on infanticide. They either have to repudiate Trump publicly or say it’s okay to let a foreign power smear a U.S. presidential candidate. What a choice! (Cackles diabolically). 

CLYBURN: It’s perfect. 

PELOSI: We could do it in the House, too, Jim. Our conference will pass it. 

SCHUMER: Hmm. Maybe I was being hasty. This might work. Okay, let’s get some language drawn up. (Everyone gets up and starts to leave except Dick Durbin) 

DURBIN: Um, guys.  Aren’t we forgetting something? 

SCHUMER: Oh, Dick, I’m sorry. I forgot you were there. What is it? 

DURBIN: Two things, really. First, wasn’t it top FBI officials -- the same ones trying to keep a lid on the Hillary Clinton email fiasco -- who were caught texting that they were determined to “stop” Trump from being elected? That they had “an insurance policy” to defeat him? 

CLYBURN: So what? 

DURBIN: Well, I figure the “insurance policy” was the Christopher Steele dossier. 

HOYER: It might not have been the dossier. It could have been the informants the FBI kept using to try and set up Trump supporters. 

PELOSI: Or the wire-tapping they used to trap Michael Flynn. 

CLYBURN: Or that loose-lipped Australian intelligence official. 

DURBIN: That’s my point! 

HOYER: What’s your point? 

DURBIN: Won’t people laugh at us for trying to pass a law saying that Trump should have reported to the FBI attempts by foreigners to influence the election? You know, to the same agency that was working against Trump’s election by trying to entrap some of his lower-level people? Could we at least say that a campaign has to tell the Secret Service instead? I think that makes more sense than the FBI. 

SCHUMER: Am I going mad? Did the word “think” escape your lips? Do you want me to take you back where I found you, unemployed in--

PELOSI (cutting him off): Now, now, Charles, don’t be mean to your brother. And quit quoting “The Princess Bride.” Dick is just trying to help us figure this out. 

DURBIN: Thanks, Nancy. I don’t know why they pick on me. And one more thing… 

PELOSI: What it is, now Dick? 

DURBIN: Wasn’t the FBI itself paying a foreign agent, Christopher Steele, who in turn was himself soliciting dirt on Trump from Russian agents in 2016? 

CLYBURN: What are you getting at? 

DURBIN: What I’m getting at is this: If this law you’re talking about was in effect in 2016, President Obama would have had to report what the FBI was doing…to the FBI. That seems silly. Do we really believe the media is stupid enough to fall for this? 

PELOSI: Now, Dick, let’s not use words like “stupid.” We don’t want to belittle people. Let’s just say “partisan.” And, yes, we do believe they’re partisan enough to fall for it.

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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