By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Saturday, June 10, 2017, NPR broadcast its “Weekend Edition Saturday” from Birmingham’s Lyric Theater. State Auditor Jim Zeigler was the only Republican invited on the show. Zeigler said afterwards that he was also the only guest interrupted and booed by the largely Democratic live audience.
Show host Scott Simon asked Zeigler if Donald Trump was good for the brand?
Zeigler replied, “Yes, he is. His base is still with him. And those that were against him are still against him. They’re a lot louder against him, but on Friday, the President proved that he is able to move forward with his agenda. He went into his infrastructure agenda and his plan to cut out some of the regulation and new projects going forward. And this can be huge for America, both businesswise and getting our infrastructure repaired. So the President’s going forward and is not going to be distracted by this issue or any other.”
Simon asked, “Widely divergent views on Jim Comey’s testimony this week, and whether or not it did damage to President Trump. How did you see it from outside the news bubble?”
Zeigler answered, “Well, the people of Alabama that I have heard from since, actually, Wednesday afternoon, when the written version of Mr. Comey’s direct testimony was released, and then on Thursday when the actual hearing was held, I’m going to use a Shakespearean term that was told to me by some of the people who heard it: ‘Much ado about nothing.’ Much ado about nothing. And that is generally the viewpoint. The people of Alabama basically see this as a sideshow; a distraction to moving forward.”
That triggered an interruption and boos, prompting a request by NPR moderator Scott Simon for respect and allowing Zeigler to speak. “Please let Mr. Zeigler speak. He’s been kind enough to come here, I suspect sensing that he wasn’t necessarily walking into a welcomeing crowd. Let’s give him the respect that he’s due.”
Simon asked, “Speaking of Shakespeare, what about the idea that when President Trump, according to Mr. Comey’s testimony, said – I hope you can see your way clear to do this; Mike Flynn’s a great guy, and – that he wasn’t in a way saying – and when he asked for his loyalty, he wasn’t saying, who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?”
Zeigler responded, “Absolutely not. My take from the hearing – well, No. 1, there was no evidence of obstruction of justice. It is not there. No prosecutor would go forward with an obstruction of justice. And secondly, no other federal offense was evidenced in that hearing. A third thing – as it turns out, the leaker was Jim Comey. The director of the FBI turned out to be the leaker… The fourth thing is when he did the leak, he conveniently failed to leak the part that Donald Trump was not under investigation. Isn’t that interesting? He leaked the adverse parts about Donald Trump but left out that Donald Trump was not under investigation. And that is the final point and perhaps the big thing that came out from the hearing.”
Simon continued, “Well, let me ask you, though – follow up if I may, Mr. Zeigler. You’ve got a Republican President who’s got a public approval rating that – only about a third of the American public supporting him now.”
Zeigler joked, “And they all live in Alabama, I think.”
Simon continued, “Well – we – and if that’s the case, that’s not good. That’s not a broad-based party, is it? You have the former head of the FBI, who worked for three presidents, who just called him a liar. As you note, Alabama voted overwhelmingly for President Trump.”
Zeigler said, “First of all, I do not think he’ll be fired by President Trump. But if, worst-case scenario, that happens, he has missed the qualifying deadline to run in the Republican primary August 15. It has passed. He could only get on the ballot – and this was discussed earlier.”
Zeigler was a vocal critic of former Alabama Governor Bentley who filed an ethics complaint that contributed to the resignation of former Governor Robert Bentley. Auditor Zeigler is exploring running for Governor of Alabama in 2018.