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NBC's Todd Warns: If GOP Investigates Obama Scandals, 'The Voters Will Punish Them'

On Thursday's NBC Today, in a desperate attempt to deflect from the scandals engulfing the Obama administration, co-host Savannah Guthrie wondered: "I read a headline yesterday that said Republicans see blood in the water. That they see a president who's very vulnerable politically. Is there a danger that they will overreach?" [Listen to the audio]

Chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd agreed with the slanted premise: "There is. I mean, that's what happened to Republicans in 1998 with Bill Clinton. And if all of Congress is focusing on hearings to do scandals, the voters will punish them. They've done it in the past."

So according to Todd, if Republicans in Congress investigate misconduct in the Obama administration, the Republicans are the ones who will suffer politically? Only if Todd and his media colleagues try to push that narrative to defend the President.  

By the way, the "punishment" House Republicans faced in the 1998 midterm elections was to lose a handful of seats but maintain their majority, hardly a political sea change.

Throughout the segment, the headline on screen made clear what NBC was most concerned about in regard to the scandals: "White House Damage Control; Is Obama's Second Term Agenda in Danger?"

After Guthrie observed that White House officials "seem to be genuinely concerned" about the impact of the controversies, Todd fretted: "The story they're the most concerned about is the IRS....This is a government that's trying to implement health care, trying to reform the immigration system. If the IRS is not trusted, it actually could undermine all of his plans."

Guthrie hopefully suggested Obama's firing of the acting IRS commissioner might quell the story: "Do you think the steps that were taken yesterday are sufficient to stem the furor?" Todd replied: "Not with Congress....Congress isn't satisfied and they shouldn't be. There are a lot of – that IG report didn't answer certain questions, like why did these rogue individuals in the Cincinnati office do what they did?"

Notice how Todd accepted the notion that the scandal was limited to "rogue individuals."

On the administration releasing a hundred pages of Benghazi emails, Guthrie parroted White House talking points: "Do those e-mails reveal anything about whether or not this is a sideshow, as the President has called it, or something more substantive?"

Again Todd assumed a conclusion: "Well, I think we know campaign politics wasn't involved, but agency politics was."

In a report prior to Guthrie's exchange with Todd, White House correspondent Peter Alexander announced: "This White House has been facing days of intense scrutiny. And this morning, they're really hoping that they may have stopped the bleeding....now they've launched what you might describe as a three-front war, hoping to try to halt the political damage."

Here is a full transcript of the May 16 segment:

7:06AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: We want to bring in Chuck Todd, NBC's chief White House correspondent, political director. Chuck, good morning.

CHUCK TODD: Good morning.

GUTHRIE: Wonder what the thinking is inside the White House. You and I both know that often they look at things like this and they say, "Oh, this is a faux Washington scandal, it will blow over." It seems to be different this time, they seem to be genuinely concerned.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: White House Damage Control; Is Obama's Second Term Agenda in Danger?]

TODD: Well, it was typical Obama White House reaction, right? Which is they under-react, under-react, under-react, and then they over do it all in one day and try to get this behind them. The story they're the most concerned about is the IRS. They don't think any other story will penetrate with the public. The IRS gets at credibility of the government. This is a government that's trying to implement health care, trying to reform the immigration system. If the IRS is not trusted, it actually could undermine all of his plans.

GUTHRIE: And it's easy to understand. You can explain what happened here in one sentence, which is powerful ammunition for the administration's critics. Do you think the steps that were taken yesterday are sufficient to stem the furor?

TODD: Not with Congress. And I think that that is, you know, the President showed more anger yesterday than he did in either of the early days. I think that was as much about politics as anything else with the public. But Congress isn't satisfied and they shouldn't be. There are a lot of – that IG report didn't answer certain questions, like why did these rogue individuals in the Cincinnati office do what they did?

GUTHRIE: Meantime, the administration at long last releases a series of e-mails covering the debate that went on within the agencies of the administration over what to say about the September 11th attacks on the consulate in Benghazi. Do those e-mails reveal anything about whether or not this is a sideshow, as the President has called it, or something more substantive?

TODD: Well, I think we know campaign politics wasn't involved, but agency politics was. I think that this raises more questions about what was the argument going on between the State Department and CIA? One of the most intriguing e-mails is at the end from David Petraeus, then-CIA director. He goes, "Why are we even bothering with these talking points? They've become so watered down." But it had to do with what State wanted to have done.

GUTHRIE: And very quickly, I read a headline yesterday that said Republicans see blood in the water. That they see a president who's very vulnerable politically. Is there a danger that they will overreach?

TODD: There is. I mean, that's what happened to Republicans in 1998 with Bill Clinton. And if all of Congress is focusing on hearings to do scandals, the voters will punish them. They've done it in the past.

GUTHRIE: Alright, Chuck Todd, more to come on this, thank you very much.