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tv   Meet the Press  MSNBC  January 17, 2016 11:00pm-12:01am PST

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this sunday, the this sunday, the democratic showdown. that object in hillary clinton's rearview mirror is closer than she appears, she now knows she's in a dead heat in iowa and new hampshire. >> if he has a plan he should roll it out and explain it to people so you can make an informed decision. >> hillary clinton and bernie sanders join me this morning. plus, the republicans. donald trump opening an even bigger lead. while the trump/cruz bromance comes to an end. >> bank loans from goldman sachs, bank loans from citibank folks. >> this morning, two republicans hoping to benefit from the trump/cruz fight, senator marco rubio and former florida governor jeb bush. and my sit down with amal clooney, the human rights lawyer and wife of george clooney trying to rally america to save
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an island paradise from the threat of isis. >> you're a woman lying on the beach in the maldives you might want to know that a kilometer away another woman is being flogged. joining me are republican strategist steve schmidt, msnbc's joyan reid, president obama's 2012 deputy campaign manager stephanie cutter, and radio talk show host hugh hewitt. welcome to sunday, it's "meet the press." good sunday morning and what a sunday morning it is. it's crunch time. four presidential candidates are joining us. and with just two weeks to go until the first voting, we have some truly head-snapping developments in both campaigns. in just a few hours, the democratic candidates will gather in charleston, south carolina, for the final debate before iowa and it airs right here on nbc at 9:00 eastern time. but there's also big news
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overseas involving iran, its nuclear program and its prisoner swap. and for that we go to nbc news chief foreign correspondent richard engel from vienna. >> it has been confirmed the five american prisoners held by iran have been freed, some of them, including the "washington post" reporter, leaving tehran this morning. it was not exactly part of the nuclear deal but the nuclear deal certainly opened up a dialogue that allowed for this prisoner release to happen. that nuclear deal was brokered and announced here in vienna yesterday. it was an enormous breakthrough. this is what people are calling implementation day as the terms of the agreement are starting to take effect. after iran, it has been certified, lived up to its obligations, put checks in place to make it very difficult for iran to develop a nuclear weapon. so what does iran get from this deal? first of all, it gets access to international markets. it can bank.
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iranians can move money into and out of the country. iran can now sell oil legally. also it unfreezes tens of billions of dollars. effectively an economy of 80 million people is now being welcomed back into the international community. chuck? >> richard, thank you very much. now, let's get back to the presidential campaign. in a few minutes we'll get to my interviews with two men who hope to grab the establishment lane in the republican race, senator marco rubio and former florida governor jeb bush. but we start with the democrats and a hillary clinton/bernie sanders race that has turned out to be much closer than the experts thought, especially the clinton campaign. in fact, we have brand new nbc news/"wall street journal" poll numbers out that has some good news for the clinton campaign. nationally we still have her with a big lead over bernie sanders 59%-34% but in iowa the story is different. three polls out this week showing neck and neck race including our own nbc news/"wall
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street journal"/marist polls. quinnipiac found sanders up by 5% and the "des moines register" had clinton up by just 2%. bottom line, it's too close to call. with a closer race, it has become a more aggressive race against sanders, so we begin with hillary clinton who joins us from charleston, south carolina. >> good morning, chuck. >> let me start with the iran deal. yesterday in response to it you immediately said that iran is still violating u.n. security council resolutions with its ballistic missile program which should be met with new sanctions, designations and firm results. so my question is what do you tell the american public that says "you want new sanctions against iran, they're violating agreements but what did we do? we just handed them $100 billion and we just did a prisoner exchange." would you have done that considering your concerns about their missile program? >> absolutely. look i have said for a long time that i'm very proud of the role that i played in getting us to the point where we could negotiate the agreement that puts a lid on iran's nuclear
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weapons program, but i've also said the way we'll hold them accountable is to have consequences when they do anything that might deviate from the agreement or continue to flot the kind of sanctions and mandates that the u.n. security council has put on, including on missil missiles, so i see this as mutually reinforcing, chuck. i was delighted that the prisoners are on their way home. that's a good sign. we still don't see bob levinson coming home, there's more work to be done, but if the implementation of the agreement which is being done today is to be successful in the way that i expected we're going to watch iran like the proverbial hawk. when it comes to the missile program, they are under u.n. security council sanctions and if they are violating it -- which the evidence seems to suggest -- they should be held accountable. they need to knows that that this is a good step forward with
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respect to the nuclear weapons program, but there are other areas of their behavior that we're going to continue to be focused on. >> do you consider iran a national security threat to the united states? >> well, certainly we have lowered that threat because of the nuclear agreement but they continue to be destabilize governments in the middle east. they continue to support proxies and terrorist groups like hezbollah, they continue to threaten israel, there are a lot of concerns. but what i've said for sometime now is i'd rather have the nuclear weapons program off to one side and work to make sure they abide by the agreement and then turn our attention to some of these other behaviors that are threatening. certainly in the region and therefore cause concern for us. >> let me move to the campaign. to try to figure out why this race has gotten closer in iowa, why your lead has shrunk in iowa, we spoke to a number of voters.
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i want to play three sound bytes from iowa voters about potential pause they have regarding your candidacy. i'm going to play it and get you to respond on the other side. >> you get the impression from her that she believes maybe the rules don't apply to her. or the same rules don't apply to her that apply to everybody else. >> she's worked really hard and done some amazing things. i just feel that bernie sanders is kind of -- has a little bit more fire lit up in people. >> well, i hear people talking about questioning her honesty. and i don't necessarily do that but i think that's one thing people are kind of not sure and they've felt that way about bill clinton, too. so i think some of that rubs off. >> madam secretary, how do you answer that pause? it's just from democrats, some pause that they have. >> well, first of all, chuck, i always thought this was going to be close and i can't speak for anybody else but i've worked as hard as i can to build an organization in iowa to be out there listening and talking with iowans as they move toward
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making the first in the nation decision in the caucus on february 1st, and i've also been very consistent over the course of my public life. if i tell you i'm going to fight for something, i will do my very best to get results. i think that's why i have such strong support and i feel very good about where we are but we're just going to keep working until the very last caucus is decided on february 1st. >> another problem in iowa is you don't ideologically fit. this was in the "des moines register" poll this week. 43% of likely democratic caucus goers identified as socialist. only 38% of likely democratic caucus goers identified themselves as a capitalist. you in the last debate said you were in a capitalist. bernie sanders calls himself a democratic socialist. if you don't win iowa, do you think that's the reason? >> oh, i don't know how people take all this information.
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but i support a free market economy. i support the competitiveness that has created the greatest economic engine in the history of the world. what i am worried about is that it's not continuing to do what it used to do which is to give the vast majority of americans a chance to get ahead and stay ahead. that's why i've got a very vigorous jobs agenda. that's why i put raising incomes at the center of my economic policy and i think what i know will work is to get back the good old-fashioned job opportunities that will help people get ahead through manufacturing, through infrastructure, through clean energy, through the kinds of plans that i've been putting out. look, when we have a democrat in the white house -- a democrat -- we do better economically. we saw that when my husband was president, we saw president obama dig us out of the ditch republican policies put us into, so i'm very confident that i know what will work if we have a -- the right commitment as a nation and that's what i want to do as president. >> let me ask you about
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whether -- going in chicago, right now, mayor rahm emanuel has been under fire for what he may have known about a shooting incident. do you think he still has the credibility to heal the wounds in chicago between the african-american community and law enforcement? >> look, like everybody else who watched that video on television i was just outraged by what happened to laquan mcdonald. i was one of the first to call for a complete department of justice investigation and in fact urged that it include the entire chicago police department. this is not a problem that is unique to chicago, unfortunately, and we've got to do a lot more to deal with the systemic racism and the problems that policing has demonstrated. mayor emanuel has said he is committed to complete and total reform and i think he should be held to that standard. >> but do you think he still has
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the credibility to do this? >> that's going to be up to him and up to the people of chicago to prove. >> very quickly, the movie "13 hours" about the incident in benghazi. i know there's a lot of chatter about the movie itself. let me ask you. the controversy involves whether or not everything was done that night to rescue ambassador stevens. looking back, do you believe everything was done that night that could have been done to save his life? >> based on everything i know and based on a republican-led intelligence committee investigation, a republican-led arms services committee investigation, the answer to that is yes. that people were scrambling trying to figure out what could be done, if anything, and i can't speak to a movie, but i know people have raised questions about some of the dramatization. i testified for more than 11 hours, as you know i answered every question i was asked. my real focus, chuck, is what do
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we do to make sure that we send americans into harm's way -- military or civilian, diplomats or soldiers -- we take every precaution to the best of our ability in what is an unpredictable and dangerous world to make sure they can discharge their duties and be safe while doing it. >> all right. secretary clinton, i've got to leave it there. we look forward to seeing you tonight on stage in charleston for the democratic debate here on nbc. thank you. >> thanks a lot. >> you got it. just a few minutes ago i interviewed bernie sanders and i began by asking him about the issue of gun safety. >> let me start with one of the issues that's likely to come up tonight at the debate and that's the issue of gun safety. last night in what the clinton campaign is referring to as a debate-eve conversion you came out in favor of essentially repealing immunity for gun manufacturers when it comes to being held liable for gun deaths. that is a switch of your positions. what brought you to this conclusion? >> well, not really. you know, i understand that
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secretary clinton and her campaign understand that, you know, they're losing ground. we started this campaign off at 3% in the polls, we're closing in in iowa and we're doing really well in new hampshire. so i think in the next few weeks you'll see a lot of nonsense thrown around. >> but you did change your position on this. >> what i said several months ago, having a d-minus voting record from the nra, voting to ban assault weapons in 1988, yeah, that was a piece of legislation i wanted to relook at. and what that legislation had among other things is a prohibition on armor-piercing ammunition designed to kill peace offers, it had language for a child-lock safety for our kids, important provision. there were things i do not like and i was willing to rethink. we have rethought it. there's a bill apparently being introduced, i like that bill, it
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makes good changes and we will be supportive of it. >> another thing that will come up on the issue of gun safety is the issue of a waiting period. the clinton campaign is hitting you on not being supportive of something longer like a five-day or seven-day window. and the reason this is being brought up is if dylann roof, the man who killed those nine folks in charleston last year, if there had been a longer waiting period, he might have been prevented from buying a gun. >> look, what we saw in charleston is a tragedy of unspeakable dimensions. a guy did prayer with people then takes out a gun and shoots nine people. i believe very strongly in instant background checks. i think we have to expand it and make sure 100% that we keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have that, people with criminal backgrounds, people who are mentally unstable. that has been my view from day one. but you know, chuck, i think the
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reason the clinton campaign is getting defensive is they see that we have the momentum. they see the issues that we are talking about are disappearing, middle class and almost all new wealth and income going to the top 1%, a corrupt campaign finance system where people like secretary clinton can raise millions of dollars through the super pacs, those are the issues they don't want to discuss, so tonight we're going to be discussing a lot of issues. and the main issue is why the rich get richer, almost everybody else gets poorer, and the fact that we have got to stand up to the billionaire class and change those dynamics.
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>> so you're in favor of a longer background check? a five, seven-day background check? >> we are willing to look at anything that makes sense, that keeps guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. but i'm not going to be defensive on that issue. i lost an election in 1988, probably lost an election because i had the courage back then to say assault weapons should not be sold in america. >> let me ask you quickly about the iran deal. is iran still an enemy of the united states given what's going on? the improved diplomatic relations? >> it's funny. if you think back to 2007 during the campaign in which secretary clinton ran against barack obama she was critical of him, a question was asked to obama and said "would you sit down and talk to the iranians?" and he said "yeah, i would." point blank in you talk to your adversaries, you don't run away from that. secretary clinton i think called him naive. turns out that obama was right so clearly we have many, many issues and many concerns with iran but clearly also we want to improve our relationship with this very powerful country. i think the agreement to make certain iran does not get a nuclear weapon was a huge step forward. the fact we have the prisoner release was a good important step forward. so i hope we can continue to go forward to improve relations with iran. >> senator sanders, i'll leave it there. we'll look forward to seeing you, secretary clinton and
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martin o'malley on stage on nbc thank you, sir. it's going to be a humdinger of a debate. you just heard senator sanders there mention hillary clinton in almost every single answer. back in a moment with the republicans. trump and cruz are finally going at it and nobody may be happier about that development than my next two guests, marco rubio and jeb bush. they join me right after this.
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donald trump and ted cruz definitely ended their mutual non-aggression pact this weekend with a flurry of charges and countercharges and while trump and cruz fight it out at the top, many republicans are desperate for someone to emerge as the establishment candidate. now they're not the only ones beating each other up. yesterday i spoke with two candidates vying for a role, senator marco rubio of florida and former florida governor jeb bush. let me begin with rubio. in thursday's republican debate he took on ted cruz directly, accusing him of serially changing his positions. >> ted cruz, you used to say you supported doubling the number of green cards. now you say that you're against it. you used to support a 500% increase in the number of guest workers, now you say that you're against it. you used to support legalizing people who were here illegally, now you say you're against it. you used to say you were in favor of birth right citizenship, now you say you are against it. and by the way, it's not just on immigration. you used to support tpa, now you say you're against it. i saw you on the senate floor
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flip your vote on crop insurance because they told you it would help you in iowa and last week we saw you flip your vote on ethanol in iowa for the same reason. that is not consistent conservatism, that's political calculation. last night i began by asking rubio whether he wasn't also guilty of changing his positions many times, particularly on immigration. >> if circumstances change or you learn something along the way, it's reasonable to say maybe a different approach will work better. so for example on immigration it's clear no comprehensive solution to immigration is going to pass but don't pretending you never do and don't go around telling everyone like ted cruz does that he is the only consistent conservative running for president. the fact of the matter is, that ted has shown a propensity throughout his career in the u.s. senate to take one position in front of one audience and then change his position in front of another. so he raises money in new york and then criticizes new york values. on the policy issues, he used to be in favor of legalizing people who are here illegally and he said so in front of one audience
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but then he portrays this sort of notion that he's the harshest and hardest when it comes to that issue. that's not been his regard. and if you recall, that was response to an attack from him in the debate and i think it's important to point out that on the issue he was attacking me on his record used to be something very different from what he makes it sound like. >> let me ask you on the 11 million, are you still for finding a way for them to legally stay in the united states? >> if you're a criminal alien, no, you can't stay. if you're someone that hasn't been here for a very long time you can't stay. >> define "criminal alien." >> a felon. >> so not -- >> under immigration law. i've said that before, that's been -- a felon, someone who's committed a crime, a non-immigration related -- obviously -- and that's what i've talked about in the past. so i don't think you'll round up and deport 12 million people. it is very clear now more than ever that we're not going to be able to do anything on people who are here illegally until we
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first prove to people that illegal immigration is under control and america is safe. and isis poses a very unique threat, unlike anything we have faced in the past. >> very quickly. you brought up ted cruz and his use of the phrase "new york values." what does that phrase mean to you? >> i've never used that phrase. i think we're all americans. i'm campaigning on behalf of american values and i don't seek to divide people against each other. that's the problem we have with the current president. i think the bigger problem is ted has raised a lot of money out in new york. he didn't say that when he was raising money. he says that in one state and says something different in another and time and again he's proven the level of political calculation that voters are only starting to find out about now as the campaign gets deeper and and more heated. >> finally, last question. let me talk about the global news of the day having to do with iran. do you think these americans would be coming home if it wasn't for the iran nuclear deal? >> i don't think these americans should have ever been in prison. they didn't do anything wrong. they are hostages. and so now we have a president
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that has traded hostages in exchange for prisoners who did commit a crime and were convicted after due process and a trial and everything of that sort and what the president is now doing, not just with this but what he did with the castro brothers and what he did with bergdahl is he's put a price on the head of every american abroad. our enemies now know if you can capture an american, you can get something meaningful in exchange for it. i'm glad they're coming home and by the way the case of bob elev levinson remains unresolved. the iranians know where he is and they're not cooperating. we need to continue to remember about him. that said it doesn't -- at the end of the day when i am presidentially repeal the deal with iran. it will end when i am president. we'll reimpose sanctions and if iran tries to build a nuclear weapon program, we will stop. >> if under president rubio, you would not have negotiated any sort of prisoner exchange for those four american hostages? >> when i become president of the united states, our adversaries around the world will know that america is no longer under the command of someone weak like barack obama and it will be like ronald reagan where as soon as he took office the hostages were released from iran. we would impose additional sanctions, not just congressional sanctions now --
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>> you wouldn't have given iran anything? you wouldn't have given iran anything even if it meant that iran -- >> we would have gotten them home. >> without giving them anything? >> well, we would have given them sanctions, crippling sanctions. in fact there never would have been a discussion on these deals until they were released. iran needs more from us than we need from them. we need to remind ourselves of that and at the end of the day, these are people that view these sorts of things as weakness. that's why this week they captured our sailors, tried to humiliate them on video, putting their hands behind their back and putting them on their knees and videotaping them apologizing. that doesn't happen when i'm president because they will know we have a strong president, unlike the weak one that we have now. >> senator marco rubio traveling in iowa, stay safe on the trail. thanks for coming on, sir. >> thank you. joining me now is the former governor of florida, jeb bush from the snowy state of new hampshire this weekend. governor, welcome back to "meet the press." >> thanks, chuck. >> hey, i want to start with something you said to kathleen parker two days before thursday's debate.
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you said to her -- referring to donald trump -- "i'm going after him, the problem is there's too much low hanging fruit." then you tick off that you'll highlight trump's multiple bankruptcies, company's massive layoffs, people, quote, getting stiffed" including a widow by the name of vera coking whose house trump attempted to replace with a parking lot referring to eminent domain issue. it was detailed. governor, i don't remember that happening on thursday night. what happened? >> we talked about the 45% tariff he has been advocating that would create a global depression and lay people off and create hardship. retaliated by chinese, the chinese and making sure we couldn't sell our boeing planes that are being made a mile away from where the debate took place. i had my chance and i was the only person that goes after trump on these issues. he's not a conservative and should the opportunity come up
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in the next debate to talk about bankruptcies, i'll do it. four times he went bankrupt and he claims he was just using the law but a lot of people got wiped out because of that. and the imminent domain issue is really a symbol of conservatism. conservatives believe we should use it for public use, not private purpose. >> there's been an outside group called for growth that has been hammering donald trump on this on the air waves in both iowa and new hampshire. none of this stuff sticks. how does this guy have teflon? you've gone after him hard. i could argue you've probably gone after him more than any other candidate on that stage. you're on the air with a tv ad hitting him. but he's got a teflon about him. what do you make about it? >> well, there's a lot of anxiety, people are so angry with washington and so frustrated about their own lives. i saw a survey that 63% of people can't afford a car repair of 500 bucks and more than half of americans have less than a thousand dollars in savings. and the big guy comes in and offers the moon and the stars and people are latched on but the reality is he's not offering anything to lift people up and i think the cumulative effect of pointing that out -- respectfully, look, the guy is entertaining for sure but his
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ideas aren't going to help people and he doesn't have the skills to bring people together and he has no proven leadership skills in the public domain so my path is to say i do. i've got a proven record. i don't run away from the fire. i don't blame other people. i don't disparage people. i try to unite around a common purpose. i got to do that as governor and the ideas i'm laying out would help america and that's my path. >> right when you announced in july you said the following, you argued that finding a way to reweave the web of stability before progress on substantive issues can be made. essentially you said that has to be first, second, third, fourth priority because after you get stability then you can deal with these other issues. obviously this is not a civil time in this republican primary debate and i guess i'm wondering, do you just have the wrong temperament for what republican primary voters are looking for in 2016? >> no, look, i'm talking about washington, d.c. the reason why people are angry in the republican primary is there's no stability in washington. the president's first impulse is
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to push someone away and down to make himself look bigger and higher. we have to have a president that begins to solve problems. >> about a month ago when it came to donald trump there was leaks from your campaign that you were looking for a way to say "you know what, i can't support him if he becomes the nominee." you've since backed off in some of your harsher criticism on him. is that a fair way to read this that you decided no, i can support him if he's the nominee, even if i'm not happy about it? >> look, the prospects of hillary clinton or bernie sanders to be the president of the united states is pretty chilling to me. i'm going to win the nomination, that's my focus, that's what i'm trying to do but anybody would be better than hillary clinton or bernie sanders. so i'm critical -- >> so you here in on trump if it's him? >> he's not going to win the nomination and i am going to continue to be critical of him when he doesn't advocate conservative principles. he's running for the
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conservative party's nomination. he should be a conservative and he hasn't shown it. >> is there a point where you think it's important for more mainstream conservatives to unite around one candidate at some point to stop a ted cruz or donald trump because you don't think they can win? >> the point is that we're running for the presidency right now and new hampshire and iowa and south carolina and nevada will shape the election in march. we're on every ballot. we have the resources to go the distance and i'm going do it. >> we have a lot to chew over. when we come back, we deal just that. the new york state of mind for the front-runners on the republican side. ted cruz apologizes -- not really -- for his new york values comment and donald trump is hitting back and hitting back and hitting back. later human rights attorney amal clooney who happens to be george clooney's wife on the small island pair -- paradise that has become a breeding ground for isis.
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>> if you're a woman lying on the beach in the maldives you might want to know a kilometer away another woman is being flogged. >> i sit down with amal clooney during her trip to washington. all that coming up.
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welcome back, you just heard hillary clinton and bernie sanders trying to frame tonight's showdown at the debate in charleston, south carolina where the two frontrunners will go at it in just two weeks in iowa. as soon as this show is over, i'm jumping on a plane with lester holt and andrea mitchell to be part of the news team. just before the debate start, tune in on your local nbc station a few minutes before 9:00 and we'll have more coverage. we'll be back with the republican race in just a moment.
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well, you're well, you're right. donald trump, hillary clinton, and andrew cuomo and bill de blasio have all demanded an apology and i'm happy to apologize. i apologize to the millions of new yorkers who have been let down by liberal politicians in that state. >> a lot of people do not like ted, to put it mildly, i kept saying am i the only person who thinks he's a nice guy? as it turned out, he finally went off the wagon a little bit and went a little crazy. welcome back. the two frontrunners, donald trump and ted cruz, are no longer playing nice. panelist steve schmidt republican strategist and former senior advisor to john mccain in '08. joy-ann reed, author of "fracture," stephanie cutter, deputy campaign manager for president obama in 2012 and hugh hewitt, host of the hugh hewitt show. let's start, trump versus cruz, hugh, is this the fight the establishment has been waiting for? >> well, it's certainly got jeb bush's attention.
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i heard jeb tell you the big guy from new york. the last time a big guy from new york took aim at a would-be president born outside the country was july 11, 1804 with aaron burr and alexander hamilton. it was not good for either man's career and i don't know this fight is good for either man's career. >> steve? >> look, right now you look at trump's strength across the country in the national polls, all these establishment candidates -- kasich, rubio, bush, christie -- they need ted cruz to beat donald trump in iowa. if ted cruz doesn't win the state of iowa, donald trump is gone. he's going to win new hampshire. and he's going to be very, very tough to catch as this race moves south and into the bigger states. >> i think the problem is for the establishment wing of the party is that the lane is closing quickly. i think even if you saw all of the establishment candidates consolidate around one person, our polling and other polling is showing that in a three-way race between trump, cruz, and fill in the establishment candidate "x" trump still wins in a two-way
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race, we have rubio. >> let me put up the numbers. you're helping the producers, i love it. let me put the numbers up, the three-way race that those trump/cruz/rubio, then the two way pairing. cruz versus trump, cruz wins. trump versus rubio, trump wins. >> what does that tell you? the establishment can't win? >> that's right. i don't think there's enough strength -- not being at the "republican" at the table, there doesn't seem to be much more room in the lane for establishment candidates. i think cruz is as bad a scenario because he sent his entire career blowing up his home team's court. >> who do democrats want to run against, trump or cruz? >> there's pathways on both. but back to the polling. i think it's interesting if you look at these polls, as many as half of both cruz and trump support say that they're open to persuasion to other candidates. it's sort of soft support these two have so what they're doing to each other could provide an opening. >> i disagree with steve because i think the knife fight is
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bleeding them both. ted cruz is going to win iowa. donald trump is going to win new hampshire, but i think that does allow consolidation to happen. i think we're going to cleveland, we'll have an open convention because it's too much fun to stop. it really is. >> we're going to cleveland but if donald trump wins iowa, couldn't he be the nominee before hillary clinton? >> i think he'll absolutely be the nominee before hillary clinton. look, winning early matters in these contests. this is a momentum business and past is prologue here. you win iowa, you win new hampshire, it puts you in good position going into south carolina, ultimately to florida, ultimately to the primary on march 1st. so if donald trump wins in iowa, give me the scenario by which anyone catches him in new hampshire and south carolina, and at the end of the day the person who gets the most votes, they win.
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the chances of an open convention, brokered convention, i think, are very, very minimal. >> i think when the son and brother of former president is conceding you're the big man in the race, that's a concession you cannot walk back from. >> you brought it up. i have to say that was -- >> that was a big line. the takeaway of the morning. >> it was a little surprisingly deferential. >> it's unconscious, in fact, an admission against interest that there's a big guy in the race you can't bring down. >> that's how he feels. and it's shining through everything he says and does. he feels like trump has taken all the oxygen, he's untouchable and while jeb has good ideas and, you know, has been effective as a governor, he can't understand why trump is winning. >> steve, you were -- you cut your teeth being a guy that knew how to push a negative message, i say this as a compliment. you have rubio trying to paint cruz as a flip-flopper. is that possible? ted cruz is a guy that i don't think if you watch -- nobody's going to -- are people going to think he's some sort of establishment finger in the wind politician? that's going to be tough to sell, isn't it? >> i think it's very tough to sell and misses the point about what the race is about. you have an exasperated jeb bush
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this morning wondering how is it that the big guy is ahead in the race? well, he's ahead because he sucked up the oxygen. that's not the case. his base, non-college educated, blue-collar, no wage growth in 25 years, these people and republicans in general believe that barack obama has won, he has changed america, and that he did it over a complicit, feckless, corrupt republican congress when donald trump says "make america great again" that's a powerful message for that republican electorate. >> i do think on cruz, however, these arguments that rubio is making, they happen to have the virtue of being true on ted cruz. i don't think it's going to hurt him in the primaries, but if he becomes the general election candidate, he will get decimated. >> and the flip-flopping has occurred in rubio's own career. i mean, marco rubio's raison d'etre in washington was to get reform done. he's been walking himself back
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and he keeps changing the reason why. >> team cruz is happy with what happened over the last 48 hours, they read this as consolidating iowa. team cruz is very happy so is team rubio. >> i'm going to play very quickly, i want to show you the cruz campaign pushing out this hit on donald trump. it's donald trump praising hillary clinton. i'm just going to play a quick piece of it. i think we have it here. >> hillary clinton i think is a terrific woman. i'm a little biased because i've known her for years, i live in new york, she lives in new york. i know her very well and i know her husband very well. >> jeb bush tried this with donald trump six months ago and it didn't work. with ted cruz doing it, can it work? >> yes. ted cruz is messaging into the iowa caucuses -- >> he can message this better? >> yes, i believe that. >> do you believe that? >> this is the time to be doing it. this is how you want to close the race. >> this isn't news to anybody. in fact, it allows donald trump to sell a virtue, which is honesty that, hey, i was in
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business and when i was in business, i needed to be friends with everybody. it's what people tend to believe and he's not penalized for these relationships. he's credited with the honesty in describing the relationship. >> by the way, the people supporting donald trump are not necessarily the hard core conservatives. those people are with ted cruz. i don't think he pays a penalty with them. >> some of them probably voted for bill clinton back in the '90s. we'll take a pause. we've got the big take on the democratic race from you guys. but up next, something different. my sit-down with amal clooney, she's a human rights lawyer and has a famous last name because she's the wife of george clooney. we talked about her efforts to win freedom for a key political prisoner. right after this. oh remotes, you've had it tough.
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welcome back. amal clooney was a prominent international human rights lawyer long before she acquired a famous name from her husband, hollywood actor george clooney. this week, nbc news followed her in washington as she met with lawmakers to discuss the plight of her client, mohamed nasheed, he's the former democratically elected president of the maldives. the maldives are known as an idyllic vacation destination but they've become a top recruiting ground for isis. this former president was thrown into prison in what he describes simply as a coup, and he was sentenced to 13 years. suddenly the government announced it would allow nasheed to travel to the united kingdom for back surgery but it's not clear that will happen now and
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it may have been a pr stunt, timed for clooney's trip to washington. i sat down with her this week and began by asking what she was hoping to accomplish on this trip to washington. >> you have an increasing authoritarian regime where protesters are being rounded up and arrested. where lawyers are being attacked, tv stations are being closed down and every opposition leader in the country is now either behind bars or being persecuted by the government. so my client is one of them. he was subjected to a political show trial, as has been recognized by the u.n. and others. since i've been in washington, i've been meeting with members of the administration and members of congress to discuss the imposition of targeted sanctions against members of the regime. >> let me ask you a basic question that many in america when they hear stories like this it's tragic but they say "why is this america's problem?" >> i understand the question. maldives is not usually top of anyone's political agenda. it may be on the short list of holiday destinations. i think there are two reasons. first of all, u.s. values are at
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stake. we just had the president's state of the union address and he said american leadership in the 21st century means rallying the world around causes that are right. and that -- and he gave an example of the u.s. supporting ukraine's fight for democracy and that's what we're asking for, too, in this case. the people from maldives have a right to democracy and their democracy is under threat at the moment. there's another reason which is also not very well known. just last month, the european parliament issued a report saying that at the moment the maldives has the highest per capita rate of recruitment for isis in the world. and this is really shocking. so the figures that have been released by the state department say 200 fighters have gone from the maldives to iraq or syria. >> is this a country you feel is enabling isis and is serving as a breeding ground for isis? >> the president has made speeches saying there's only room for islam in the maldives and sharia punishment should be imposed. you've had fighters who've gone
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to isis come back to the country and not be prosecuted. also last year you had a rally on the streets of mali where people were waving isis flags and the police did not crack down on those, there were no arrests that took place so you certainly have a regime that could be doing a lot more to minimize the terrorist threat. >> because of your last name you were attacked by one of the -- at the time vice presidents that helped end the coup. he chalked you up to being just part of the hollywood fictional world that is trying to make up things about the maldives. >> yes. >> and what happened to this gentleman? >> so his attack was that i didn't let facts get in the way when i was saying nasheed had been subjected to an unfair trial and there were political prisoners in the country. what's happened since then is that he himself was arrested because the president is now increasingly paranoid, i think, and is going after members of his own party having dealt with his opposition in its entirety. he now sits in a jail cell and penned a very different op-ed and said "what are these lawyers talking about?" he now says -- and i believe this is a direct quote "i join the swelling ranks of political
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prisoners in the maldives, including president nasheed." and he also adds "any casual observer of the judicial system? the maldives knows it's impossible to get a fair trial here." >> is this a case where your connection to celebrity, is it an asset or liability in something like this? >> i think it's easy to dismiss criticisms on that basis. i think the kind of attacks i got from that vice president just smacked of desperation and was easy to dispose of, so it's not something worrying. on the other hand, if in representing this client and trying to secure his release and the release of other political prisoners, if people are made aware of the situation in the maldives that's a good thing because there are thousands of tourists going every year and i think if people know what's going on, they might find they don't want to support that regime, either. if you're a woman lying on a beach in the maldives you might want to know a kilometer away another woman is being flogged and you might want to find your own way to protest that. >> next time you're around, give us a call. amal clooney, thanks for coming.
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>> thank you. we should note, the maldives government still insists that mohamed nasheed return after his surgery in the united kingdom and that, as of now, he has not left the country. when we come back, our end game segment. how much should hillary clinton be concerned about the surging bernie sanders? coming up, meet the press end game.
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end game time. the panel is here. we turn to the democrats. stephanie cutter, there is a feeling of some democrats of deja vu all over again with hillary clinton and iowa. we spent the week talking to iowa voters about hesitance -- iowa democrats but the hesitance for clinton. here's a little compilation. >> she comes from a wealthy, privileged family. so for me it's a bit -- do you understand really what individuals like us, we're underrepresented, may have come from low-income families, are you really going to understand our standpoint and really defend us? >> her ties on wall street and connections there which are very good for running a government are -- may be exciting for people to view wall street in the negative. >> i don't want to harp on the e-mail thing but that's a barometer. first of all there's this kind of denial and oh, well, yeah,
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and, then oh, well, we paid the guy. it's not like you're getting the whole story all the time up front right now. >> it's not one thing. that's what we found out. it's a little bit of something but they found something and they can't figure it out. >> we've always known this. this is -- there's not much about hillary clinton that people don't know. and people have very strong opinions. but let's not mistake this. she still has very strong support on the ground in iowa and even more important than that she has a terrific ground operation which, as you know, in a caucus atmosphere, is critical. >> she thought she had a good ground operation eight years ago. >> not as good as obama. >> joy, i had a flashback of the "new york times" does this what's wrong with the clinton campaign, here we go, the blind quotes are coming and all this stuff. the flashback i had was not to clinton '08, it was to al gore, 2000, to george w. bush '88 when you're running for the third term, you're passionately fighting for continuity. bernie sanders is passionately fighting for change. >> but at the same time there is a flashback to '08 that the clinton team has the talent for
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a combination of underestimation and overcorrection. they underestimate the threat, they did so with barack obama. and when they realized it belatedly they overcorrected and overattacked. and this defcon 1 response to everything in the clinton world is a bit of a throwback. >> steve, you absolutely captured this the other night during state of the union coverage. it was right after sanders interview. you said it's remarkable that she's made a 74-year-old former gadfly senator popular. >> absolutely. much of this is about hillary clinton as a candidate but it's also about the democratic party. and we've talked about on the republican side the rise of the tea party and the drift right. but remarkable polling numbers. 43% of iowa democrats identify as socialists not as capitalists so what hillary clinton -- what hillary clinton in this race has found herself in is an ideological fight with the challenger to the left. and i don't think anybody should doubt that had elizabeth warren gotten into this race she would
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have been the likely democratic nominee for president. >> or deval patrick. >> so hillary clinton has a formidable challenge now from her ideological left, and he has every capacity to win in iowa and new hampshire. >> iowa has always had -- whether they call themselves socialists or liberal democrats has always had this tremendously liberal strain in the democratic party. >> just like really conservative on the republican side. >> it was there in '08 and there in 2012 which is why, as an obama campaign official we never pushed too hard back on the socialist arguments that people in your party were making. >> because it helped in iowa. >> i think hillary clinton has done everything right. she has run a good campaign. she has outperformed in debates. she's raised money. she's got a great ground game. what she can't control is this string of anger that is connecting both parties right now. it's what's given rise to trump
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and it's what's given rise to sanders. >> i agree with stephanie here. >> the republicans haven't figured out how to handle it. >> it has impacted the democrats. >> and that's the right of bernie sanders and it struck me when i was watching the two interviews that he's got this sense of anger and injustice about the economy and she's talking about advanced manufacturing and there's a difference in that when you're two weeks out from an iowa -- >> her weakness -- her ten minutes with you, chuck, was her best and worst i've seen thus far. she was very good at the top on iran, she dodged the rahm emanuel question, she did not answer the "13 hours" question, i hope tonight you follow up and ask if she's seen the movie and "groundhog day," the day after the night of the iowa caucuses she is going to have the bill murray experience of living the same thing that you did to her eight years ago. >> voters will vote for her. >> that's all right. but a "groundhog day" reference, you win the end game segment. [ laughter ] that's all for tonight. don't forget to tune in to tonight's democratic debate. our coverage will begin at nbc
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news and nbcnews.com. just before the debate starts tune in a few minutes before 9:00, our i'll be there, lester and andrea, if it's sunday, it's "meet the press." who do we want? >> trump! >> when do we want him? >> now! >> trump is right and americans know he's right. >> when mexico sends its people, they're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. they're rapists. >> trump is acting in a very old and shameful american tradition. every so often, like a fever, anti-immigrant feeling arises. >> i have -- >> excuse me, sit down. you weren't called. sit down. >> what you see is what you get. he's genuine. he's the real deal. >> he has tapped into a part of the electorate that is, i think, deeply angry about the state of the economy. >> how stupid are the people of iowa? how stupid t

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