Donald Trump’s Twitter volcano didn’t erupt until late Sunday afternoon.
But the rumblings were felt early in the morning when his surrogate, Kellyanne Conway, complained bitterly about the recount of votes in Wisconsin as well as possible recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Deliberately conflating this issue with the possibility of prosecuting Hillary Clinton, Conway took to the Sunday shows to imply with Trumpian menace that the Democratic challenger should be grateful that her Republican conqueror Trump no longer seeks to “Lock Her Up!” as his chanting mobs demanded during the presidential campaign.
“He said he wouldn’t rule it out,” Conway referred to Trump’s debate vow to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state.
Speaking with Dana Bash on CNN’s State of the Union, Conway said Trump would not undermine the authority of the FBI, the Justice Department and Congressional committees to investigate Clinton. Then she segued to her real point.
“He has been incredibly gracious and magnanimous to Secretary Clinton at a time when—for whatever reason—her folks are saying they will join in a recount,” Conway said.
Although Trump won the Electoral College by 290-232, Clinton leads in the popular vote by more than two million ballots. The recount was requested by Jill Stein, the Green Party candidates. Last week, some computer scientists suggested uncharacteristic voting patterns in these states.
Perhaps to steer attention away from a New York Times investigation of Trump’s conflicts of interest in global business that appeared on the front of Sunday’s editions, Trump Tweeted a lie that came from right-wing fringe media.
“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” Trump wrote at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
Conway wasn’t the only Trump mouthpiece to complain about the recounts. Another was Reince Priebus, who will be Trump’s White House Chief of Staff.
Priebus told host Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday that Stein’s electoral appeal is “ridiculous. This is a fund-raising, notoriety-driven fraud . . . a total waste of time . . . a total and complete hypocritical joke.”
These over-the-top reactions raised a question: Why does the Trump team fear fair and honest vote counts? Among those asking were the progressive Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks, the conservative Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute and the neutral Mara Liasson of NPR.
“Recount is a perfectly normal part of the process,” Uygur told Martha Raddatz on ABC’s This Week. “I don’t know why they’re so nervous. They’re just so jittery. ‘No recount! No recount! Whatever you do, don’t do a recount!’ Just calm down. If you think you won, the recount will show the same thing.”
Pletka, on NBC’s Meet the Press, told host Chuck Todd: “I don’t understand why anybody is so excited about this. The constitution allows for this. Each state allows for this.”
Liasson, appearing on Media Buzz, told Fox host Howard Kurtz that Trump “tweets about this a lot, trying to make Hillary look like a hypocrite, ridiculing Jill Stein. Why is he spending so much time on this? Is he worried about something?”
‘We can’t keep running the same plays, Chris. We’re not winning. Winners win.’
Hand me the remote . . .
MEET THE PRESS Another of Conway’s agenda items was her campaign against Trump naming Mitt Romney as secretary of state. She has been attacking him on Twitter for trashing Trump in the primaries by calling Trump a con artist and a fraud, among other things.
NBC host Chuck Todd asked her about it directly.
TODD: “Why are you campaigning against Mitt Romney as secretary of state?”
CONWAY: “I’m not campaigning against anyone. I’m just a concerned citizen.”
Conway said she was merely expressing the “volume and intensity of the backlash” of Trump supporters who “feel a bit betrayed” by Trump’s courting of the 2012 Republican candidate.
Pletka discussed Trump’s conflicts of interest. His relatives control his businesses while advising him on White House hires and meeting with foreign leaders.
“He needs to detangle himself,” she said. “This will distract from every single thing he does.”
Another guest was Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio, who hopes to upset California’s Nancy Pelosi in Wednesday’s vote for House Minority Leader. Should he win, his head-to-head rival would be another Ryan, Republican Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the Speaker of the House.
The Ohioan senses a wedge his team might exploit.
“This is a unique President and a unique situation with a divided Republican Party,” Ryan told Todd. “And that’s going to reveal itself as we get into the legislative proposals.”
On the pundit panel, Helene Cooper of The New York Times discussed Trump’s ever-changing positions and enemies lists.
“There is a Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde quality to President-elect Trump,” Cooper said. “I worry that somebody as thin-skinned as he is, who is as quick to react to any kind of criticism—he’s going to get a ton of it. “
THIS WEEK Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz—nicknamed “Lyin’ Ted” by Trump in the primaries—told host Martha Raddatz that Republicans have no excuse now not to inflict their will on the nation because they control all branches of government.
“We can’t blow it, we’ve got to deliver,” Cruz said. “If we don’t deliver, I think there’ll be pitchforks and torches in the streets and I think quite rightly.”
After playing a video in which Cruz called Trump “amoral” and a “liar” last spring, Raddatz asked him “Do you still think Donald Trump is a liar?” Cruz answered that he didn’t want to re-litigate the past. (He didn’t say “No.”)
When Conway made her appearance on this show, Raddatz asked if her Twitter attack on Romney was all by herself or if Trump wanted her to tweet that.
“I won’t discuss that,” Conway said, adding later “I don’t think a cost of admission for party unity has to be the secretary of state position.”
The most serious guest on the show as retired Admiral Mike Mullen, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told Raddatz that one global trouble spot for Trump to watch is North Korea, which will soon have the capacity to put a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the United States.
“This has to go through Beijing,” Mullen said, referring to a possible diplomatic solution. “The world is very unforgiving.”
Among the pundits was Carol Lee of The Wall Street Journal, a conservative newspaper that has urged Trump to sell his business assets to avoid conflict-of-interest allegations.
Otherwise, she said “You’re going to see a ‘Drip, drip, drip.’ This will be a distraction.”
FOX NEWS SUNDAY Wallace asked Priebus about leaks from the Trump camp that suggest Romney may have to humble himself in public, for all he said about Trump, if he is to become Trump’s secretary of state.
WALLACE: “Is Romney going to have to apologize?”
PRIEBUS: “Listen, I’m not going to do the play-by-play.”
Continuing the sports theme was the burly Democratic Congressman Ryan of Ohio who, in his Buckeye way, compared Democratic political strategy to football.
“We can’t keep running the same plays, Chris,” he told Wallace. “We’re not winning. Winners win.”
FACE THE NATION Host John Dickerson of CBS asked Julia Sweig of the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas about the death of Cuba’s Fidel Castro and how Trump might react.
“President-elect Trump has a choice to make,” Sweig said. “Does he want to go back to the Cold War and pick a fight and punish 11 million people for the trespasses of two guys named Castro? Or, does want to take the opportunity coming in 2018, when Raoul Castro says he will step down, to really shape the direction of the two countries’ relationship?”
Referring to Trump’s management style during the transition period, Molly Ball of The Atlantic said “He creates competing power centers and pits them against one another. He likes to have underlings squabbling for his favor and he bestows his favor arbitrarily, capriciously and haphazardly.”
Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post found preposterous the claim by Trump that the President can’t have conflicts of interests even if he holds on to his business while letting his family run it.
“Um, well, let me tell you this: They can and he does,” she said of presidents and conflicts. “This is a very dangerous road he’s going down. He’s remarkably unprepared for this and he’s been remarkably obtuse since being elected . . . He’s piling conflict on conflict, inviting his children into both the government and the business.”
Ball added: “We’ll see if he gets away with it when this becomes about basically massive state corruption.”
STATE OF THE UNION Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders—who lost in the Democratic primaries to Clinton—said he is open to re-evaluating the Electoral College system in that two Democrats in the last five elections have won the popular vote but lost the election.
“On the surface, that’s a little bit weird,” he said.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida—defeated in the primaries as “Little Marco” by Trump—was shown on a video calling Trump an “erratic individual.”
Host Bash asked Rubio if he still had that concern. He didn’t answer, saying only that “the people” had voted for Trump.
BASH: “So, do you feel comfortable now with Donald Trump in charge of the nuclear arsenal?”
RUBIO: “I feel comfortable that the voters have chosen him commander-in-chief.”
Conway continued her anti-Romney complaints but said she would abide by the decision of her Great Leader.
“I respect the brilliance and judgement and sheer instincts of President-elect Trump,” she said.
When asked about how Trump is reported to have declined intelligence briefings, Conway danced around the question, vaguely suggesting Vice President-elect Mike Pence and others can handle that.
Bakari Sellers pointed out the absurdity of Trump acting as if he is an emperor who can decide with thumbs up or thumbs down the prosecution of Clinton or anyone else.
“Nonsense,” he called it. “You do not have the authority to single-handedly launch investigations and lock up your political rivals.”
RELIABLE SOURCES Much of Brian Stelter’s theme was spelled out in the all-caps headlines at the bottom on the screen. He showed video of Trump supporters flashing Nazi-style salutes (“Hail, Trump!”) at a meeting in Washington.
“Did media miss the rise of hate?” said one banner.
“Is media normalizing the escalation of hate?” said another.
Ezra Klein of Vox told Stelter “there has been a real uptick in hate that we see,” and that includes anti-Semitic words and imagery of people being shoved into ovens.
Charles Cooke of National Review said “I accept the Trump campaign has brought out some of the worst instincts in the United States but these people have always been here and almost certainly it’s been worse” in the past.
Walter Isaacson of the Aspen Institute added “One of the most devastating things about this election is the amount of hatred and just despicable biases against blacks, women, immigrants, whatever, that was unleashed.”
Klein discussing the alt-right radicals pushing that hate and how Steve Bannon of Breitbart News has become one of Trump’s top confidantes.
“You have a pretty immature movement that has come to prominence and even power very quickly,” Klein said. “And its boundaries are not well-understood.”
“He’s willing to push everything to an extreme,” D’Antonio said of Trump. “Further down in the gutter than we’ve ever heard before . . . to expect him to clean this up is a little extreme.” He added that Trump knew he could provoke “dark corners of the American psyche.”
O’Brien predicted Trump will choose who he pleases as advisors and “He won’t really care too much about the consequences.”
Editor Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation said the Trump presidency will require “quality watchdog accountability journalism . . . deep fearless reporting.”
“Find those writers that have a spine,” she said.
MEDIA BUZZ On Fox, where media criticism is much more simplistic, Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist told Kurtz about everything that was wrong with how the media covered Trump’s election campaign.
“They need to repent, basically,” she said.
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.