Donald Trump has only been doing Fox News these days,* but on Wednesday night his new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, gamely ventured into the unfriendly confines of Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show. What followed was a fascinating, lengthy back-and-forth over the importance of policy to Trump, among many other topics.
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MADDOW: It is special occasion night here tonight on the "Rachel Maddow Show." We are going to start right off at the top of the show, not with me talking for 17 straight minutes, but rather with "The Interview."
I have had the opportunity on this show this year to interview Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton a handful of times. I have not yet had the pleasure of interviewing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. I live in hope that that interview will happen here and sometime soon.
But in the meantime, I'm very excited to say that I've got what I think of as the next best thing. We are joined tonight for "The Interview" by Donald Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway.
Kellyanne, thank you so much for being here.
CONWAY: My pleasure, Rachel. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: I have to ask you, self-consciously, off the top, if it is a hard decision to do a show like this with liberal commie pinko like me. Or do you guys have a …
CONWAY: I've never described you that way. No, it's a real pleasure. I did want to pass along a hello from Donald Trump. I talked to him this evening and I told him I was coming on your show. He said, that's such a terrific idea. And I said I hope that I'm just like your warm-up band, your B-band, and that you'll come on the show sometime too. So maybe you convince us in the tower.
MADDOW: Well, I would love to do that. Let's — I don't want to spoil it, so maybe we should just call it off right here and say, that's the end of the interview. No.
Let me start actually by saying, congratulations. This is your first presidential campaign manager gig, obviously.
CONWAY: As a manager, yes.
MADDOW: But it's also the first time any woman has ever managed a Republican presidential campaign ever, so you're in history for that.
Can I just ask you, how you got the gig? Did you interview? Did other people interview? How did this come about?
CONWAY: Well, first of all, thank you. I didn't even know I was the first female Republican presidential campaign manager until someone pointed it out to me on Twitter. They pointed it out for me and I said, that can't be true.
And then I realized, I said this must be such a small group of women. And right away I know them all, Susan Estrich and Donna Brazile and Beth Myers, and I respect them enormously. And it took me about two seconds into the job to see how much is on your shoulders, when you are the campaign manager.
And they did it far longer than I did. I'm coming in toward the end of the campaign. So hats off to them.
I think I got the job through the way Donald Trump has promoted women in the Trump Corporation for decades, through merit. And he saw the way I move. He knows I don't sugarcoat things, but I'm very polite in delivering them.
And I felt like we had been losing for a couple of weeks. And I just — instead of going in there and saying, we're losing and if you have another week like this, you're done, I just said, you know, we're a little bit behind and I think it's good to be the underdog.
You always say, I never lose, I'm not accustomed to losing, fine. But we are a little bit behind and we're really behind in some places. And so let's at least bring it to a slightly new direction.
I think once you have a buoyant candidate who feels comfortable doing the so-called pivot on substance, where he has gotten so many people giving him the advice, solicited, unsolicited, from both sides of the aisle to pivot on style, he's so comfortable going out and telling everybody, here's my 10-point plan to reform the Veterans Administration.
We as a nation — I hope it's a completely nonpartisan issue, that we as a nation share the goal of treating our veterans fairly and with dignity and in a timely fashion for their health care needs.
If he goes out and he says, here's my four-point tax plan, or here's my three-point way to defeat ISIS, and he actually has specifics, he's so comfortable and he so enjoys doing that.
And you can look at the specifics, Rachel, and you can say, I disagree with them, I think this will never work, I think it's cockamamie, but at least you can see them. And …
MADDOW: When you say pivot on substance, do you mean that he is changing some of his policy positions?
CONWAY: No, no, I meant the pivot has been more to substance. Because I think, my own view as a voter and as an old hand politically, Rachel, is that so much of this campaign and the campaign coverage, but so much of the campaign has been content-free cacophony, like no substance being discussed.
And I think that's a shame for the voters. I don't know a billion things about a billion things, but I know consumers, and I know voters. I've been doing this for decades. And when I talk to voters and I look down in the focus group, at their household income, and I look at the unemployed status and I hear them, and I know that they deserve to at least have a full debate on the issues this time.
And why do we have to wait for the actual debates for that? Let's have a debate on his vision for the next steps after the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, and Secretary Clinton's.
Let's compare them on energy independence. Let's compare them. She referred to — in her convention speech to — I assume she meant ISIS, but she called them our "determined enemies." He calls them ISIS. He calls them radical terrorists.
I was offended last year when she referred to pro-life Republicans as terrorists. I didn't think that was nice or true, but she won't refer to the terrorists as terrorists. So my point is …
MADDOW: Do you think she doesn't recognize ISIS as terrorists?
CONWAY: I sure hope she does. And I think she does, but why doesn't she say it?
MADDOW: Wait, hold on …
CONWAY: Why "determined enemies"?
MADDOW: She's never called ISIS terrorists? Or she didn't in that instance?
CONWAY: Of course she has. But here she was in front of millions of people, her largest audience ever.
MADDOW: But — okay, so but you're talking about — you're just saying let's keep it on substance, it shouldn't necessarily be this cacophony that's just about the campaign itself.
CONWAY: It's a great word, isn't.
MADDOW: It is. But some of the cacophony has been because your candidate has picked some unusual fights, because he has conducted himself as a candidate in a way that really other campaigns haven't.
Right after you started, he gave this remarkable set of remarks, where he said that he regretted some of the things he'd said because they caused personal pain, and he has repeatedly refused to say which of those things he regrets.
But I guess I want to know whether or not any of those things are going to be put to bed because he'll apologize for them. Like when he said that Judge Curiel — Judge Gonzalo Curiel essentially couldn't do his job as a judge, he would be inherently biased, and couldn't do that job because of his Mexican heritage, that is something that I imagine caused great personal pain.
Did Donald Trump ever apologize to the judge for that?
CONWAY: I don't know that he has.
MADDOW: Do you think he will?
CONWAY: But I — well, here's what I do know. I think that his now running mate, Governor Pence, when he wasn't his running mate, put it best about the Judge Curiel situation. He said, I know what Donald Trump meant. And here's what it is.
Every American deserves a fair trial with an impartial judge, but we do not question one's impartiality based on their ethnicity, race, and a whole host of other …
MADDOW: Which Mr. Trump did, explicitly, for this judge.
CONWAY: And I thought — it's funny, I don't even know if Mr. Trump noticed that response at the time, but I thought, well, that's really somebody who has worked with other countries, that really captures it. And that's the way I feel.
But I do hope, Rachel, that people who feel that they have been caused personal pain by Donald Trump, looked at his regrets last week in a very public form. And it's very unusual for anybody who is running for political office to — frankly, to ever say that they regret causing personal pain.
And I hope that anybody who feels that way will at least see that contrition and take that and at least accept his regret. And …
MADDOW: But there's no apology. I mean …
CONWAY: Well, that would be done in private anyway.
MADDOW: And you're saying it may have been done and you don't know, or you know that it hasn't been done?
CONWAY: I don't know either way.
MADDOW: Okay. And with the Khan family — I mean, with Mrs. Khan, I mean, in terms of personal pain, he said about her that he didn't — I can tell you exactly what he said. He said: "She had nothing to say. She probably — maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say."
She rebutted that by saying, listen, she didn't speak in that moment because she's so grief-stricken by the death of her son that cannot speak about him without crying. I mean, talk about personal pain.
What an incredibly painful thing for him to have accused her of. And, again, he said that he regrets causing it. Do you know if he's apologized to the Khan family directly?
CONWAY: I don't know. And I certainly hope that they heard him last Thursday in Charlotte when he said that.
Rachel, let me just say how I feel, if it's at all relevant. I think that the Khan's son is a hero, and I'm glad he's in Arlington National Cemetery, and I think he made the ultimate sacrifice, as did they, and they deserve our respect and our gratitude.
I have four small children, including a son. I can't even put my mind where their hearts are, because that is a very painful thing to even think about.
But I also think people should look at the full measure of each of these candidates and not always judge that — well, not just judge him by one or two things that he has said here. I just feel like we with should look at …
MADDOW: To be fair, though, I think those things that he's getting consistently judged for, and people are not letting them go, is because they're so unusual. I mean, for any presidential candidate, for any politician to get into a personal fight with a gold-star family is so strange, it's so unusual.
I mean, not just as a political miscalculation, it's just — it almost — it's humanly shocking and I think that's why he is the only one who can ever put that to rest. I think as his campaign manager, you're going to get asked about those stories again and again and again all the way through November unless ...
CONWAY: And I can't speak for him on that, I really can't speak for him on that, because it's very personal, I can speak for me.
MADDOW: Let me ask about policy then. Is it still the policy of the Trump campaign and of Mr. Trump that there should be a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on. That was his statement on that matter.
Is that still the policy of the campaign and the candidate?
CONWAY: What he has said, and he repeated it, and again, people can pull it up for themselves if they'd like, Rachel. What he said recently, when he was delivering his entire fighting radical Islamic terrorist speech …
MADDOW: The Ohio speech, yes.
CONWAY: The Ohio speech, that's right. A week ago Monday. Seems so long ago.
MADDOW: I know, every day is a …
CONWAY: Yes, they're like dog years, in politics, I've decided.
What he said there was that we are going to ban people from entry here from countries that are known exporters of terrorism, which we can't sufficiently vet. So that is not every everybody, that's not every continent.
MADDOW: But does that statement rescind the earlier statement? Does that mean that — I mean, it was very clear what he said in December, and he put it in writing, right? A total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States. It was very clear. Is that now no longer operable as the statement of the Trump campaign?
Should we see this new statement about countries that have a history of exporting terrorism, should we see that supplanting that earlier statement?
CONWAY: Well, I don't think it supplants it at all.
MADDOW: So they both exist?
CONWAY: I think that — well, yes, they do, because I think it clarifies it, in terms of, well, what does this actually mean?
MADDOW: So what about a Muslim who wants to emigrate here from Australia?
CONWAY: Well, it depends. Do they have a record of terror? Are they tied to any groups? Are they — I mean, we — look, his entire point is very simple, Rachel, if I may.
Whether it's an American-born lone wolf terrorist in Orlando who shoots up 49 innocent people in a nightclub, or it's folks coming in on a fiancee visa that federal agents I've talked to didn't even know existed, in San Bernardino, to kill 14 innocent co-workers, or it's what happens in Nice, in Brussels, in Paris, and so many other places around the globe, this has to stop.
And the fact is we have to do a better job as a government, because somehow we're not doing a great job.
MADDOW: Do you stop it by stopping all Muslims?
MADDOW: Okay. So that policy is no longer …
CONWAY: Well, you look at his speech from last Monday and I think you find your answer, where he says, look, we are going to stop allowing countries that export terrorists, that we can't get a good vetting system with them, and frankly ...
MADDOW: I've got the quote. He said he would suspend immigration from "regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism."
CONWAY: That's right.
MADDOW: So on 9/11, four airliners were hijacked. Three of the four were piloted by men who had most recently lived and operated their cell in Germany. Right? We all know this, right? Hamburg, Germany. So is Germany a country from which we will not allow immigration anymore?
CONWAY: No, not wholesale. Because there are so many other ways that we could have at least captured, or I should say, known that those — that that particular al-Qaeda cell was here nefariously.
I mean, who were the people teaching them how to fly a plane in Florida that they never had an interest in learning to land it? You know, we — after 9/11, it was see something, say something.
But before that, we had them — you know, they could have been monitored in a way, if there was a reasonable suspicion that they had, that they were tied to terrorism. So in that particular instance, with the 9/11 terrorists, it's very hard to believe it has been 15 years, Rachel.
But with that particular instance, I'd have to go back and review what we knew about each of them at the time before I answer your question completely. But the general policy is what he says it is, which is ...
MADDOW: What he says is a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.
CONWAY: That was — and now it's …
MADDOW: Before. But you are saying that's no longer operable.
CONWAY: I'm saying that you should see what he said last Monday, where he is saying suspend it from regions or countries that are known exporters of terrorism.
MADDOW: Like Germany, which makes no sense.
CONWAY: Well, no, no …
MADDOW: I mean, there's a reason that we keep, again, not moving on from this stuff. This was how — in December, when made this statement, right, on December 7th it was like every political firework in the country went off all at once, because nobody could believe that somebody who was running for president of this country by promising that if you are of a specific religion, you're no longer allowed to come here.
MADDOW: If that's no longer the case, that would be a really big deal. But it can't be that we're not supposed to hold him accountable for that statement anymore, but he hasn't rescinded it.
In the same way that his statement of regret, if it's meant to apply to the Khan family or the Curiel family, we can't give him credit to that unless he actually tells us, and tells us that he has communicated that to the Curiel and the Khan family.
The thread that ties these things together is this is all stuff of his own making. And if you want the campaign to not be about this stuff anymore, it seems to me like he's the one who has to end all these controversies by telling us what he really means.
You're in a position of trying to defend what he said last week, and not refer to what he said in December, but only one of them can be true.
CONWAY: Well, Rachel, I have memorized the list of 22 flip-flops that Hillary Clinton has made on policy, and they have nothing to do even with the corrupt Clinton Foundation State Department pay-to-play connection, they have to do with policy.
And I think Bernie Sanders was right on many of those things when he was calling her out for them. And we will call her out for them if others won't. So we feel that it's legitimate …
MADDOW: But your own campaign is about your own candidate, right?
CONWAY: Well, no, no. There's a choice in this country.
CONWAY: Yes, this campaign in totem is about two candidates. And if I can say one thing about the coverage, it's not that it's biased or slanted. It's incomplete. It's almost as if it's a referendum on Donald Trump, it's as if you're going to go into the ballot box on November 8th, Rachel, and it's going to be a big picture of Donald Trump with a light like you either put a black X over him, or you say yea. That's not the case.
MADDOW: But that's obviously what happens …
CONWAY: She's running too.
MADDOW: When one candidates running is planning on banning people from the United States …
CONWAY: And the other is hiding. And the other is hiding.
MADDOW: Okay. But not doing press conferences is one thing. But proposing a ban on people coming to the United States from people who are of a specific religion, it's always going to be a referendum on that candidate.
CONWAY: And she wants total — well, I think that's unfair, actually. I think it's actually a disservice to the voters in that he is now giving speeches, several a week, where he's laying out specific policy prescriptions, including on the matter of which you asked me.
Where people can go and look and they can say, I don't believe that, or I don't like that, or wow, I didn't realize that. Let me try to digest this.
And this is the stage in the election cycle where voters start to want to hear your specifics and your solutions.
MADDOW: Let me ask one more specific on that. There's this one from the Ohio speech, the terrorism speech, which I thought was just a fascinating turn, and it was on this issue of extreme vetting. What he's describing as extreme vetting for people who want to emigrate to this country.
And what he said was, in the Cold War, we had an ideological screening test. The time is overdue to develop a new screening test for the threats we face today. What is that about? What's the Cold War precedent for this extreme vetting that he's talking about?
CONWAY: He's basically saying, this is not the first time the country has done this, or that it has been done. That we've done this before, but for some reason, we've become lax. We don't do it.
MADDOW: When did we do it before?
CONWAY: Well, he's just saying, there's a Cold War precedent. And …
MADDOW: But what is the Cold War precedent?
CONWAY: For vetting. And he's saying that in this case, it's that we — past is not necessarily prologue, but that when you are talking about vetting, people shouldn't comment like, oh, my God, that's a new situation.
What if we did vet people based on their ties to terrorism, if we did that a little bit better? I mean, is anybody arguing that we're not letting people in the country right now who do have ties to terrorists?
MADDOW: The Cold War precedent for what he's talking about was an ideological vetting. He's saying we want ideological vetting of people. That did exist in the Cold War, in the early '50s, it was called the McCarran Act, which I'm sure you know.
MADDOW: And Truman vetoed it and then Congress was able to pass it some other way. But what survived very famously was thrown out by the United States Supreme Court because it was ruled to be unconstitutional.
So there is a Cold War precedent for ideological vetting of immigrants. In that case, it was to stop communist front groups. But it didn't pass constitutional muster, and we've never had anything like that since that ever has passed constitutional muster.
So what he's asking for is a new extreme vetting system, which has previously been tried and ruled unconstitutional and we abandoned it half a century ago.
CONWAY: Sixty-some years ago, right?
MADDOW: Yes. So that's a hard case — so I want the pivot on substance to happen too. I really do. But the substance …
CONWAY: Like four issues a week now though that he's talking about. He really doesn't …
MADDOW: But he has to make sense. He has to make sense when he makes these policy pivots in order for them to be successful.
CONWAY: Well, it sounds like you disagree with the policy, and that's fine. And …
MADDOW: No, you can't have a McCarran Act now, it's unconstitutional.
CONWAY: But that's my point too. People can look at it and say, this is ridiculous, that's unconstitutional, you can't have that, or they can say, that may work, and I'd like to hear more about it.
But either way, I feel very confident that our campaign is the one of the major two now, Rachel, that actually respects the voters, and what they tell pollsters they want, which policy prescriptions, a conversation about substance.
I said this before, but I'll say on your show, I would rather lose a campaign about style, than — or who said what today about whom, than not — than lose it on substance. Because I feel like the issue set favors us.
I mean, people in the last 200-some polls taken on Obamacare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act, you have many people who still have problems with — you have many millions of Americans uninsured, you have people still looking for work, you have some schools that are failing our students.
And the fact is, Hillary Clinton, from what we're told, is going to give a speech tomorrow about none of that. Her speech is going to be about Donald Trump.
MADDOW: She's going to give a speech about you guys, that's right.
CONWAY: Well, but that's odd. And I watch — it's odd for this reason. Again, it's not — she's running for president of the United States. And presidents have to have vision and show leadership in a way that you make the election about the future, not the past.
And you make it about your own beliefs and your own values and vision, not just trying to make the other person look like he takes the wings off of butterflies. It's an odd construct. I watched Robby Mook. I watched Robby Mook in your interview last week. I said, oh, I hope I get to do that, I watched him interviewed my first day on the job. And I really did want to come.
Robby is such a smart guy. He's very loyal to Hillary Clinton. He knows what he's doing. He's a great competitor. And yet most of his — much of his interview was about Donald Trump. And I keep looking at that and saying, when are we going to hear from you?
I mean, scarcity is their strategy. Politico ran a headline today that said Hillary Clinton's strategy to run out the clock to November. I think that's a disservice to voters. I think she just ought to lay it all out and say my policies on X, Y and Z are right, and yours are wrong.
MADDOW: Kellyanne Conway is our guest. She is the campaign manager for Donald Trump's campaign, the first woman to ever be a campaign manager in a Republican presidential campaign. And I have just secretly chained her to the desk. So she'll be here when we get back from the commercial break. Hold on.
MADDOW: We're back with Kellyanne Conway, campaign manager for the Donald Trump for president campaign. One week ago tonight she became the first woman to ever run a Republican presidential campaign.
Kellyanne, thanks again for being here.
CONWAY: Thank you.
MADDOW: Why — don't take this the wrong way.
MADDOW: Why on earth is your candidate in Mississippi tonight if everything you could possibly imagine that was bad for your candidate happened between now and November and everything great for Hillary Clinton happened between now and November, your candidate is still going to win Mississippi by double digits.
CONWAY: That's right.
MADDOW: Why is he in Mississippi?
CONWAY: And Hillary Clinton is still going to win California by double digits and she has been there raising money ...
MADDOW: But she's raising money, he's doing a rally.
CONWAY: Oh, no, he had fundraiser before that.
MADDOW: Right, but then they're just doing the fundraising and then booking out to a swing state. He does a rally, which means you're spending money to keep him down there. You're paying the opportunity cost of him being somewhere else. You're paying money to rent the venue. You're having him do this rally.
Again, don't take it the wrong way.
CONWAY: And it's on national news here in a non-swing state in New York.
MADDOW: Here he is in Mississippi, but you're wasting your donors' money. I mean, the best possible outcome of this is that he might win by extra double digits. Why is he there?
CONWAY: He was there because he wanted to do a rally in Jackson, Mississippi, because he — the governor has been talking to him about coming down and he had — I don't know if your audience is aware, but he had Mr. Farage, the leader of Brexit, on the stage with him tonight and basically gave his big old epic Brexit speech on American independence.
MADDOW: Isn't it a little weird to have the like secessionist guy give a speech in Mississippi.
CONWAY: But in Jackson, Mississippi …
MADDOW: Yes, you get why that's weird, right?
MADDOW: Go to a Union state next time.
CONWAY: But I will tell you that I think the people who came before me developed a very sound infrastructure. But we have inherited a schedule that we are taking better control of in terms of I'm a very focused person and I see which states we're going into with candidate appearances, that's both for Governor Pence and Mr. Trump.
Our ground game, our data operation, our field really focusing on the states that get us to 270-plus in a couple of different ways.
MADDOW: You can't get out of Mississippi because it was already planned.
CONWAY: Well, no, it was already planned. And honestly, when I first asked about that rally, to give you a little inside peek, when I first asked about that rally in a scheduling meeting last week, they said, well, it went live this morning, you know, too bad we didn't have this conversation — it went live this morning. And the venue was already three-quarters full.
MADDOW: Right, it's Mississippi.
CONWAY: … but it's national news. You're covering it, the rest of you are covering it. So — and he'll be home tonight.
MADDOW: So let me ask you another one. New York. Home for Donald Trump. The national political director for your campaign is …
CONWAY: Jim Murphy.
MADDOW: Jim Murphy, yes. Jim Murphy quoted in The New York Post two days ago that there's going to be an all-out, full steam ahead, top speed effort in New York, a full plan, ground game, media, Internet, direct mail, maybe phone banks for New York.
And then the reason I'm asking you about this, is he then told The New York Post he was acting at your behest specifically and named you, in saying that this is why there's such a focus on New York State, where you are on a good day, behind by 17 points. That doesn't sound like you. That doesn't sound like your kind of focus.
CONWAY: It wasn't me. But it would be exciting to challenge Hillary Clinton here, just on her Senate record in New York alone. I hope you get an opportunity to interview her. I hope if she comes and enjoys her time in this seat, Rachel, as I am tonight, that you'll ask her the question, you know, why was your Senate record here in this state so unremarkable?
But I have a 3:30 call tomorrow with Jim and I'll ask him about that article that I had not seen.
MADDOW: Sorry, Jim, I didn't mean to get you in trouble.
CONWAY: But I'll say something else, Jim is onto something very important that I think is missed in the non-conversation conversation politically, Rachel, which is, we have great teams in different states.
We may not be competing at this moment. And we're going to start moving people around to these swing states. And that's very typical of campaigns, they do that. You decide where are your strengths, where do you want to sew up some of these poll numbers.
Which, you know, even in a place like North Carolina today, we're behind by 2, according to a public poll. Arizona, we're ahead by 5. You know, things are starting to look a little bit better. But these battleships turn slowly.
But if we have a fabulous state director somewhere where we end up not competing as hard, and they're talented, we'll move them around because that's what smart campaigns do. You say, how do we refocus our talents and where do we put our candidates?
And we've been working with Governor Pence's staff as well in trying to do that, because he's an incredibly strong speaker in some of these swing states. He gets large crowds. They want to hear his message. They connect with him.
And I told Governor Pence, you're like the golden child, you eat your vegetables, you do your homework in homework club, he's just done a phenomenal job for this ticket. And he keeps his own schedule.
I think every 10 days or so, we're going to try to get Trump and Pence together in one place as well. But you'll see some changes. You're going to have a post-Labor Day bonanza of a new type of schedule. Promise.
MADDOW: Okay. You used the phrase "golden child" there, which I have to quote back to you, because that is one of the phrases that was used ironically, or sarcastically by the new chief executive of the Trump campaign, Steve Bannon, to describe Paul Ryan.
He has called Paul Ryan a liar, he has called him a golden child, and he didn't mean it in a good way. He said …
CONWAY: I did, by the way.
MADDOW: You meant it in a good way, exactly, when you were talking about Governor Pence. But that's not how he meant it about Paul Ryan. He once said of Paul Ryan recently that Paul Ryan was raised in a Petri dish at the Heritage Foundation.
So Breitbart, under Steve Bannon's leadership, has been the biggest media cheerleader on the right for the resignation of John Boehner, for the defeat of Eric Cantor, and for this year's challenge to Paul Ryan, who is the current Republican speaker of the house. How's it going between Speaker Ryan and your campaign?
CONWAY: It's going well.
MADDOW: Since Steve Bannon came on board? In the past week, you and Steve Bannon came on at the same time.
CONWAY: That's right, nothing has changed in terms of Speaker Ryan having endorsed Donald Trump and Donald Trump having endorsed Speaker Ryan.
I did tease Mr. Trump, Rachel, by saying, hey, you went and endorsed him, and he won his primary with 84 percent of the vote, you didn't take the credit. Had I been here, we would have taken the credit. Paul, you went from 82 to 84.
MADDOW: If you really need Paul Ryan down the stretch, he has a certain amount of power and sway.
CONWAY: Yes, he's the speaker of the house.
CONWAY: And he would be the speaker of the house in a Trump presidency.
MADDOW: So you've now got his chief political antagonist from the conservative media with you, running the Trump campaign. Steve Bannon has been not just a provocateur on the right, not just a controversial guy, he specifically set his sights on trying to destroy Paul Ryan.
He's after John McCain. He's after Paul Ryan. He stood up and cheered about John Boehner, and about Eric Cantor. The way that he celebrated Eric Cantor losing his seat. I understand, if you're a Republican insurgent why that must be very exciting. But if you're the Republican Party, if they're going to be responsible for a lot of the ground game and all of this stuff, how could they work with him?
CONWAY: We had Sean Spicer in our shared office just the other day. So it's — that's the chief strategist working on the …
MADDOW: They're just swallowing it. They're just …
CONWAY: No, they're not swallowing it. In fact, I talk to Chairman Priebus once or twice a day now. And I really like the way that the official — you know, the Republican Party nationally, Rachel, is treating us and working with us.
I'm really pleased with that. And I think it comes on the heels of this — letters people are writing, please put the resources down-ballot and please, don't destroy the Republican Party.
Chairman Priebus doesn't feel that way and Speaker Ryan doesn't. And I'll tell you what, in a Trump presidency, I'll be the first one to go up and thank Speaker Ryan and work with him. We both worked for Jack Kemp at different points in our career.
MADDOW: How about Steve Bannon?
CONWAY: Oh, he'll do it too. Steve, yes.
MADDOW: After doing everything he could to destroy him, calling him a liar and all that?
CONWAY: Well, and they both have really big jobs now. So there you go. True to say, they both endorsed Donald Trump.
MADDOW: But do you have to wear chain mail when you go to work? This environment that you work in, it's like actively on fire every day.
CONWAY: Come and visit us, Rachel, bring your camera.
MADDOW: I absolutely will.
CONWAY: Come visit us in the tower. I just invited you. I just got my first piece of hate mail to my home …
MADDOW: Oh no, I'm sorry.
CONWAY: No, I'm just saying, it's a crazy time, but it's very rewarding and I'm telling you, I really think that the case for change that so many Americans are making, that they say, 70 percent is saying, take us in a different direction, that's a change election.
You know, you see the polls, including NBC's polls, Rachel, that a vast majority of Americans dislike Hillary Clinton, distrust her. And I certainly hope that we're not now inured to that because it has happened for so long.
I mean, there were some serious revelations this week. And I saw someone on TV, like someone I respect enormously from the other side of the aisle last night say the following, while the Clinton Foundation scandal unfolding seems serious and we'll take a look at it, but the next time Donald Trump says something crazy, then we'll forget about this.
And I thought, if it's worthy of examination, if the allegations of pay to play and these visits from people, and these foreign donations are actually bothersome, then — and actually worthy of examination on a show like yours, Rachel, then that doesn't wash away because Donald Trump said something that day.
And that's my point about full coverage.
MADDOW: On that issue of the Clinton Foundation, the very strong statement from your campaign two days ago, saying the Clinton Foundation is the most corrupt enterprise in political history. If it's such a vehicle for corruption, why did Donald Trump donate so much money to it?
CONWAY: He donated $100,000, and certainly didn't donate for the same reason these foreign donors did, apparently. He didn't ask to get a meeting with the secretary of state to talk about donating to the Clinton Foundation, like apparently 85 other people did.
MADDOW: Well, asking and getting is not ...
CONWAY: To the tune of $156 million.
MADDOW: Asking and getting is not the same thing.
CONWAY: But the Clinton Foundation does some good work. I mean, there's no question about that. They do very important work.
MADDOW: But they're the most corrupt enterprise in political history, that's your statement.
CONWAY: Apparently you can be both.
CONWAY: Apparently you can be both. So we see the good work they do around the globe. And, you know, Rachel, I was thinking about this today, they could do much — they could do even better, more good work, if you will, if some of those donations weren't — you know, weren't, I guess, received as a way to, in the State Department, and why are you giving it any — did we need to have meetings in the State Department with foreign donors and then pretend all that money is just for vaccinations and …
MADDOW: Well, there's no indication that the money went for anything other than back to the Clinton programs.
CONWAY: Well, let's find out. I think Governor Christie had this right. I think Governor Christie had this right yesterday. He said, look, we actually don't know the facts. And three different FBI divisions asked the DOJ to investigate, and they did not — either did not return their calls or refused to investigate.
But Governor Christie is right, Rachel. He said yesterday, look, we as Americans have the need to know what the facts are before we cast a vote. I think there's something to that. We already know how America feels about Washington.
The lack of transparency, the lack of accountability, the corruption, the rigged system that helps insiders. This doesn't look good for someone who is already distrusted and disliked by a majority of Americans.
MADDOW: But then to the same point, I don't want to go tit-for-tat on the Clinton Foundation, and I hear you, absolutely, but to that same point, I mean, every presidential candidate in the modern era has released his or her tax returns, including — I mean, back to Nixon, right?
And when Nixon set that precedent he was under audit. So it's not — being under audit is not an excuse to not release your tax returns. The IRS says if you're under audit, you're totally allowed to release your tax returns. And previous presidents and presidential candidates have.
Donald Trump is running for president in part on the basis of his financial acumen and saying that the system is rigged. And there has been a lot of really troubling reporting about his business practices, as well, you know, I mean, a lot of stuff that may or may not been followed all the way to its conclusion.
But talk about raising questions, there has been stuff. Why should this audit out only apply to him? I mean, everybody else has released their tax returns, why shouldn't he?
CONWAY: Well, that's the conclusion that his lawyers and accountants have made and the advice they've given him and he's respecting that advice.
But I also don't …
MADDOW: Do you respect it? Do you think that he should release his tax returns?
CONWAY: Well, I do respect it only because I once thought, oh, transparency, release your tax returns. But the fact is now that I'm there, I hear what the advice that the lawyers and the accountants have given.
But I don't think that we need to see his tax returns to verify his financial acumen. I walk into the Trump Tower every day and I'm like, this guy did pretty well for himself before I got here.
MADDOW: I want to know if he pays taxes.
CONWAY: And he — well, like you know what you want to know, Rachel, we all want to know what taxes we would pay under his tax plan. That's a question …
MADDOW: No, no, trust me, I really literally want to know if he pays taxes. I have two more things to ask you. Do you mind staying?
CONWAY: No. Oh, another break.
MADDOW: Another break, sorry. Kellyanne, campaign manager for Donald Trump, I promise just one more break and we'll be right back.
MADDOW: We're back with Kellyanne Conway, who is the first woman to ever be the campaign manager for a Republican presidential campaign. It is her first presidential campaign management gig. And she has been in it for precisely one week, most of which you've spend here in the studio with me tonight.
MADDOW: I know it feels like I'm never going to let you go. I have two more questions.
MADDOW: One is about this health issue, and I have a very specific question about this. So Mr. Trump personally and members of your campaign have repeatedly now raised this question of Secretary Clinton's health.
Now the only testimony we have of Mr. Trump's health is this letter from his gastroenterologist saying that his lab results were astonishingly excellent and the letter ends by saying: "If elected Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever be elected to the presidency."
And that's really funny, but as a doctor's letter, it's a little bit absurd. It's a non-serious letter. It's full of typos. It's hyperbolic. It's unprofessional. Most of the letter has no medical meaning. It links to a website that doesn't exist.
If he was elected, Donald Trump would be the oldest person to ever be sworn in as president. Whether or not he's going to try to make Hillary Clinton's health the issue, doesn't he owe it to the American people to release an actual medical report, a more credible, more complete statement?
CONWAY: Perhaps. But I want to say something about Hillary Clinton's health. It's not an issue that I care to comment on, because I'm not a doctor. She's not my patient. And I can just tell you what I see with my own two eyes which is I don't see someone who really enjoys campaigning the way he does.
I can only tell you about him, because I'm with him practically every day, which is, he keeps such a crazy, ridiculous pace for a man his age, that it's very difficult for the younger staffers, of which I'm not one, to keep up with him, Rachel.
I mean, it's really insane. I mean, he called me yesterday and said, I need more rallies, are we doing a rally here? What are we doing? I'm like, you know, he doesn't just show up and do the rallies. He prepares for them. You have to travel. He's always reading, he's always thinking, he's always talking.
I confess, I don't know when he sleeps.
MADDOW: Yes, but both you, here as his campaign and him talking about himself have made his physical vigor actually part of what he brings to the campaign, part of what he offers, and they've made it a contrast issue with Hillary Clinton.
But Hillary Clinton released a normal doctor's statement. What we have got from Donald Trump, that letter really is absurd. And we've actually contacted the doctor who wrote it to try to get some background. It turns out he was using a medical credential on his name that he's no longer entitled to use.
Like there's a lot of really not upstanding things about what we know there. And so, I mean, for one, why is — a gastroenterologist is a digestive specialist. Why has Donald Trump been seeing a gastroenterologist for 35 years?
CONWAY: Oh, that I don't know for sure. There are certain things I just haven't learned in the last week, Rachel, I promise.
MADDOW: As the campaign manager, can I please make a request?
CONWAY: Yes, please, absolutely.
MADDOW: That we get a more substantial medical …
CONWAY: I will pass on the request. And I assure you that he does have doctors — he has doctors and physicians. And I want to also add one more thing. I was told by a different anchor last night on a different network, that Hillary's doctors have released her part of her medical information, her health history, and that she's in good health.
And I say great, because I want her to be in excellent health. In other words, that's just not — I think stamina is different than health. You know, vigor on the campaign trail.
But I look at Hillary Clinton not being out there more as a strategy. It's scarcity as a strategy. It's that we don't want to put her out there, because when we do, people are reminded that she doesn't meet the 70 percent of Americans who want a change election, a new direction.
She is the person who has earned a majority of Americans, Rachel, saying, I dislike her and I distrust her, but — I can't imagine what comes after the "but." What do you mean, but? But I think I'll vote for her, I think I'll give it a whirl.
MADDOW: I think she's — I mean, as just a political observer, I think the reason that she's not out on the campaign trail as much doing visible events is because they think they're winning and they don't want to interrupt the narrative.
CONWAY: And I think that's terrible and I'll tell you why. If we were winning just because Hillary Clinton was failing or tripping over her words, or messing up by not doing — you know, or she was down in the polls for whatever reason, let's say the Clinton Foundation investigation helps her go down in the polls, we're not going to disappear, I promise you, because that's not what the voters want.
They want to see the candidates. They want to hear the candidates. They want to digest their proposals that we've been discussing tonight, Rachel. And they want to be able to see what the contrast is between these two.
Not contrast in style, not even contrast in stamina, contrast on substance. I'm telling you, we're going to fight her on substance. And I'm very disappointed, from what I know publicly, that her speech tomorrow in Reno, Nevada …
MADDOW: Is going to be all about you.
CONWAY: It's not about substance.
MADDOW: Yes, well, it's going to be — it's about the Trump campaign, and this is my last question for you. And I'm asking it just because I feel like I shouldn't have to ask you, but I don't have any access to anybody else with the campaign. So I have to ask you. It's a factual question. Is Roger Ailes working as part of the Donald Trump campaign?
CONWAY: No. He is not a formal or informal adviser. They're old friends. I mean, he's Donald Trump. He talks to a lot of people. Something is always ringing.
MADDOW: So that meeting at the Bedminster golf club in New Jersey on Sunday, August 14th, that wasn't — that didn't happen? Like, this is what the New York Times reported in terms of him coming on board to help Donald Trump prepare for the debates, and becoming a formal or informal adviser, that didn't happen?
CONWAY: I was not there on August 14th. So I didn't see who was or was not there. But I will tell you that they're old friends and they talk. I'm sure they talk, and I'm sure — but he talks to many different people from every side of the aisle …
MADDOW: Roger Ailes, no role in the campaign though?
CONWAY: Roger Ailes has no formally or informal role in the campaign, no. But he is a marketing genius.
MADDOW: And just resigned his job under a cloud of terrible sexual harassment allegations.
CONWAY: Thank you for having me, Rachel. I just wanted to say, thank you for having me. I mean, I know you work hard, I work hard. But not every woman gets what we got, which is our shot. And for that I'm most grateful. And I feel most blessed.
I've watched you for years on "Scarborough Country" and Tucker's show …
CONWAY: … and I said, she should have her own show. And indeed, you have for a long time. And I respect that enormously. I know you disagree with us perhaps philosophically. But I hope Mr. Trump will take the seat one day. But thank you for having me on.
MADDOW: Thank you. And back at you. You know, I think it is — you have made history and I think women breaking glass ceilings in politics is always important wherever it happens. And good luck to you.
CONWAY: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks, Kellyanne, really nice to see you.
See, that was fine. Everything went okay. We can talk to each other. It's going to be all right.
* It turns out Trump will get off his Fox kick and do an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper on Thursday night.