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tv   MSNBC Live  MSNBC  February 1, 2017 7:00am-8:01am PST

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moments from now, president trump's supreme court nominee neil gorsuch will make his first official visit to capitol hill with republicans praising the president's pick and some democrats promising to put up a fight. so is going nuclear the only option? finally, bandemonium. a war of words over what to call his extreme vetting executive order. we're covering all of the fast-moving action with kasie hunt on the hill, pete williams, peter alexander. the whole team is here. kasie, just in the last 20 minutes, we're prepping for the show and we have this breaking news. this vote now to move forward on stephen mnuchin and tom price even with no democrats in the room. how unusual is this? put this into context. >> i was just talking to the chairman orrin hatch. he said it's never happened before. particularly thicommitte has a really strong tration of bipartisanship, of having kind
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of that geniality we've come to know. and, really, it underscores how divisive and intense the fomoods right now among democrats to try and oppose donald trump in absolutely any way they can. it was striking to see all of the chairs in this committee room on the democratic side empty today. they used that tactic to delay these votes from yesterday by saying -- using an obscure rule in the committee that requires at least one democrat be present. essentially the republicans flipped farther into the rulebook and found another rule that would allow them to change the rules and did so, and so then they went ahead and voted to approve these two nominations out of committee. they were approved 14-0 because there were no democrats present to object. so now tom price, steve mnuchin will be moved out of the finance committee and to a full vote on the senate floor. at this point, no indication that they won't have the votes to move forward in the full
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senate. at this point we anticipate they will be confirmed. i did talk briefly to senator pat toomey of pennsylvania. he's typically known as a more moderate republican. take a look at what he had to say to me earlier today. >> we did this completely consistent with the rules. one of the rules contemplates a unanimous consent request to suspend the rule that defines a quorum. there was no objection so we proceeded. it's just unbelievable to me the democrats refused to even show up and cast their vote. but that's where they are, i guess. >> i'm just going to let you listen here to senator ron wyden, the ranking member and why this boycott happened today. >> i am just coming from a meeting on rural health care in the capitol, so i don't know all the details of what just transpired, but it seems to me the basic proposition of
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breaking the rules so that you can in effect look the other way in the face of strong evidence, serious ethical problems for two nominees is exceptionally troubling. senator hat said he gave you notice at about 9:00 a.m. this morning. can you confirm that? >> i believe the staff did. i was in a meeting, as i said, that begin at 9:00 a.m. in the capitol talking about rural health care and the rural health care providers, talking about the problems that they would face on a day-to-day basis if they saw repeal and run which seems to be the strategy. >> senator, what does this is a about how toxic the mood is here among democrats, as far as what the president's been doing over the course of the past few days, as well as these nominees? >> first of all, what we have always said is that there is a strong tradition of
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bipartisanship in the committee. and as i noted yesterday, and sent the letter to the company in australia late last night, when we get answers to the questions, we are ready to go. and what we did after yesterday morning, because of the time difference in australia, is pulled out all the stops to get the letter to them so it would be sent in a timely way. my colleagues on the democratic side laid out what our concerns were as well. so we made it clear throughout yesterday that when we got answers to these questions, we were ready to move ahead. and i want to highlight one point that i touched on yesterday. this was new evidence that was in effect posted at 7:30 in the evening the night before the committee was to vote. "the wall street journal"
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published a story that their words, not mine, contradicted what congressman price told the committee. >> is there anything else you doon to delay tom price from becoming the hhs secretary? >> what we're going to do now is focus on getting the answers to our questions. that has always been my interest. that's the public interest. and that's what we're going to focus on. >> at this point there's n really anything else you can do procedurally, is there? >> what we're going to do, and it may sound like a quaint idea is follow up, which is what you do when you are serious about vetting rather than short-circuiting the process. >> democrats last night about -- >> hallie, i'm going to give you a quick recap here. senator wyden, the ranking member on the finance committee, and he is the one who has led this boycott from democrats of these votes on steve mnuchin and tom price. and, of course, they were successful yesterday in delaying
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this by another 24 hours, but republicans kind of flipped the rule book around today and passed these nominations through the committee. and the reality, as you just heard there from senator wyden is there's not a lot more that democrats can do to delay these nominations from going to the senate floor and ultimately being confirmed. they have a few more tacts they can employ that will extend this process out over the next couple of weeks. at this point it looks like tom price and steve mnuchin are headed for confirmation. >> right. hang for a second because you heard senator wyden there call it a quaint idea they'd follow up. republicans have the numbers. i want to be clear about what we're seeing over these last few minutes with you grabing folks in the hallway there. the hearings were set to go off. the committee votes were set to go off for price and mnuchin. they planned to boycott again today but republicans flipped the rule book, blew up the rules and voted this through so it goes to a full senate vote. is this in your view, and i'm
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looking at the statement from orrin hatch as well, is this a total breakdown of the norms and processes that we've seen on the hill? >> it's not normal for how this particular committee operates, frankly. this -- the senate finance committee has, and both senator wyden and senator hatch have said this in the last 20 minutes that it has a strong tradition of bipartisanship. it's one of the places where typically, they are able to get things done. but, frankly it pretty much broke down completely over the course of the last two days. it's a little bit of a preview of how things might start to go over the course of the next couple of months. there was, to a certain extend, a great period up here on capitol hill. you had some democrats saying, okay, we'll work with donald trump on infrastructure. we'll try to -- we're not going to do what they did to president obama. we're not going to oppose everything just because it has president trump's name on it. the last few hours coupled with the stakes at hand for the supreme court nomination have
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made pressure on the democrats so intense from their liberal base that they are reluctant to be seen as cooperating with donald trump in any way. so much pressure right now. ron wyden, one of the more liberal members of the senate bup you'll really start to see some digging in on the parts of the democrats, even more than we've already seen. >> kasie hunt, thank you, following the drama there. obviously, plenty of drama where we are on the hill, particularly as it relates to the president's pick for the supreme court. i want to bring in our justice correspondent pete williams who had a late night and an early morning. thank you for being with us. let's talk about this pick. is there a sense in your view, your conversations with folks, that this was intended to essentially -- the selection of neil gorsuch to get through the senate in what could be this very sort of tricky political climate? was that part of the calculus? >> i think so. many things went into this.
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his relative youth. many qualified nominees they looked at, potential nominees that were older, late 50s, early 60s. these day presidents seem to think they're too old. they want someone that can hang around for a while. that was a factor. his record. he approaches the law the way antonin scalia did. the confirmability issue comes in between him and, say, william pryor, a federal appeals court judge from alabama, who was considered. had some more difficult to explain to members of the senate from the democratic party, his views on abortion. one of the worst decisions ever in supreme court history. so you look at all those factors. his confirmability was definitely an issue. >> pete, when you look at, if he is to go through the confirmation process and end up installed on the court is he going to have an impact or is is
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he coming in too late? >> you cannot vote on cases that were argued before you got there. you must be present to win at the supreme court. so he'll probably -- if the normal rules follow, the typical -- if you look at that confirmation time for the current members of the court, it averages about 11 weeks. that would put him on -- some time in mid-april, the last two weeks of argument in the supreme court term are the last two weeks in april. so there's, what, six -- 12 cases maybe, a dozen or so. so he would get involved in some of the more controversial cases of the court, but not a lot of them, kasie, no. >> which ones might those be, pete, if you can tick them off for us. >> we don't have the calendar for april but still pending are the transgender case, the rights of religious schools, meaning how much money can communities give them without violating the separation of church and state,
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class actions, some other issues like that. but i don't know how many of those he'll be able to vote on. >> pete williams for us at the bureau, thanks. i want to go to the other peter. peter alexander at the white house, where donald trump has set up some scotus meeting after the near perfect pull-off of the gorsuch announcement. the start of black history month. on a different topic, let's get to peter alexander. walk us through the president's activities today and this full-court press they'll push now to try to get gorsuch through. >> so in terms of the activities today, one thing just added to the calendar that was communicated to us is the fact the president will dine today with his secretary of state designate rex tillerson at the white house. that's one of the items we'll be watching today. this full-court press begins. it's under way. mitch mcconnell hosting a meeting on the hill.
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vice president mike pence there with judge neil gorsuch. for all the chaos and the controversy that some have accused the trump administration of having -- >> peter, we have the president now, some tape from moments ago. let's listen in. >> -- >> clearly reracking the tape there from donald trump. coming into us off of our pool camera. we'll get to that asap because we know the president talked about his scotus pick. let's try this again. go. i hope peter alexander is still on the white house north lawn because we want to talk about what the president is discussing. he touched on the need to address violence in chicago and other things. we're going to take this for a third time. cross your fingers with us.
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>> -- of the african-americans throughout our country, throughout the world, if you really think about it, right, and the story is one of unimaginable sacsacrifice, hard work and faith in america. i've gotten a real glimpse during the campaign. i'd go around with ben to a lot of different places that i wasn't so familiar with. they're incredible people. >> absolutely. >> i want to thank ben carson who will be heading up hud. that's a big job. and it's a job that's not only housing. it's mind and spirit. >> exactly. >> and you understand that. nobody is going to be better than ben. last month we celebrated the life of reverend martin luther king jr. whose incredible example is unique in american history. you read all about dr. martin luther king a week ago when somebody said i took the statue out of my office and it turned out that was fake news. fake news. the statue is cherished.
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it's one of the favorite things in the -- and we have some good ones. we have lincoln, jefferson and dr. martin luther king. but they said the statue, the bust of dr. martin luther king was taken out of the office. and it was never even touched. so i think it was a disgrace, but that's the way the press is. very unfortunate. i am very proud now that we have a museum on the national mall where people can learn about reverend king, so many other things. frederick douglass as an example of somebody who has done an amazing job that is being recognized more and more i noticed. harriet tubman, rosa parks and millions more black americans who made america what it is today. i am proud to honor this heritage and we'll be honoring it more and more with folks at the table in almost all cases have been great friends and
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supporters. i met darrel when he was defending me on television. and the people that were on the other side of the argument didn't have a chance, right? and paris has done an amazing job and a very hostile cnn community. all by himself with seven people and paris. i'll take paris over the seven. but i don't watch cnn, so i don't get to see you as much. i don't like watching fake news. but fox has treated me very nice, wherever fox is. we're going to need better schools and we need them soon. we need more jobs. we need better wages. a lot better wages. i'm going to work very hard in the inner city. ben is going to be doing that bigly, big time. one of his big things we'll be looking at. we need safer communities, and we're going to do that with law enforcement. we're going to make it safe. we're going to make it much better than it is right now. right now it's terrible.
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i saw you talking about it the other night. you did a fantastic job the other night on a very unrelated show. i'm ready to do my part. i'm ready to do my part, and i will say this. we're going to work together. this is a great group. this is a group that's been so special to me. really helped me a lot. if you remember, i wasn't going to do well with the african-american community, and after they heard me speaking and talking about the inner city and lots of other things, we ended up getting -- i won't go into details, but we got substantially more than other candidates who ran in past years and now we're going to take that to new levels. i want to thank my television star over here amarosa. she's a very nice person. no one knows that, but i don't want to destroy her reputation. she's a very good person. she's been helpful right from the beginning. i appreciate it. very special.
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and so i want to thank everybody for being here. could we maybe just go around the room and we'll introduce ourselves and the press can stay for that, and i'm sure they have no questions about last night because it was such a good launch. we have a fantastic, hopefully, new justice of the supreme court and hopefully that will be -- he'll be approved very, very quickly. he's outstanding in every way. academically. he did almost as well as you did, darrel, in college. not quite, right? he's a great man. i think he'll be a great, great justice and he's being very well received. it was a very big evening. so, paris, why dont we start with you. go ahead. >> pleasure to be here, mr. president. honored to be here. paris. i'm a thurgood marshall, represents the 47 publicly supported historically black colleges and university which i know you are very much in support of. it's a pleasure to be here, sir. >> i'd be all -- i'd be in the wilderness without you. you are so effective.
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i appreciate it. >> bill cleveland, retired capitol police officer, former vice mayor city of alexandria and substitute teacher in alexandria school system. glad to be here. thank you. >> bill is also the -- i'm earl matthews. i work at the department of defense. i was sworn in an hour after you. also a veteran and longtime supporter of yours. i worked for you since late summer. happy to be here. >> good job. it's a good job. >> daryl's wife, revival center from cleveland, ohio. pastor of new spirit. great amount of suppo in the african-american community where we are. we love the lord. we love our new president, and we are praying for our president on a regular basis. >> the one thing i didn't
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understand about belinda, i thought they were married maybe five or six years. should you say how many years you've been married. >> 35. >> been together 38. >> but in the lord. >> 38. >> amazing. >> can i say this? i am so grateful that our president gives us an ear. to listen to the community, to listen. and people like us are just here to constantly put that message out in the community. >> thank you. >> and we love you for that. we love you for listening, and we thank you for that. >> daryl scott, pastor new spirit revival center and black trump supporter. but speaking of the community, let me just say this. amarosa, i told you, i was recently contacted by some of the top gang thugs in chicago
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for a sit-down. they reached out to me because they associated me with you. they respect you. they believe in what you're doing, and they want to have a sit-down about lowering that body count. in a couple of weeks we're going into chicago -- >> what a great idea. >> we've got to lower that body count. we don't want to talk about anything else. get that body count down. they agreed the principals that can do it. these are guys straight from the street. they are going to commit to lower their body count, we'll come in and do some social programs. >> they'll not solve the problem. what you are doing is the right thing. we're going to solve the problem for them because we'll have to do something about chicago because what's happening in chicago should not be happening in this country. >> but they want to work with this administration. >> good. >> they want to. they reached out. i didn't reach out to them. they reached out to me. they want to wark in this adnistration. they didn't believe in the prior administration. they told me this out of their mouth but they see hope. >> i love that. >> mr. president, i am a member of the what we call the media,
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where we try to be fair and objective. not all media seems to be the opposition party. there are those that see good that you do and we report and i'm honored to have a seat at the table. >> a lot of the media is the opposition party. they are so biased and, really, it's a disgrace. some of the media is fantastic and fair. but so much of the media is opposition party. and knowingly saying incorrect things. it's a very sad situation. but we seem to be doing well. it's almost like in the meantime, we won. so maybe they don't have the influence they think. but they have to straighten out their rack. they are very dishoechbt people. >> professor james davis. we've been a support er of your from the beginning alongside mr. michael cohen and dr. daryl scott and helped to bring out a huge number in the black community with respect to the vote. we're still happy to be in
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support as we go forward. >> you've been great. >> and lynn -- >> hi, mr. president. yes, i am, as you know, the former vice president of the wonderful charity that your son founded, the eric trump foundation. i've been with your family for about eight years now, and i will -- i was an rnc speaker, and i will be land with dr. carson at hud as one of the senior advisers, director of the office of public liaison. >> that's great. you did a fantastic job. >> thank you. >> gerard rob onson. a resident fellow at the american enterprise institute and proud to be the leader of the education policy for trump. >> ashley bell behind you and some others. >> mr. president, i'm ashley bell. help run african-american outreach for your campaign.
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i'm glad to support omarosa. >> a star at the inauguration. >> i'm tucker davis. ran your campaign in west virginia. working for you in -- >> you did well in west virginia. >> coal miners love you. >> we love the coal miners. put them back to work. >> absolutely. >> i was at the rnc and i helped launch the video series every week. the midweek message that reached out to millennials and college students and help launch the college republican chapter at howard university. >> you did a great job. >> howard university. >> i heard that. good job. >> we snagged her. >> great job. >> mr. president, monica alexander. executive in the office of public liaison. spellman grad. >> mr. president, jerron smith with the domestic policy council and i will be focussing on urban
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a affairs and revitalization. >> and howard graduate. >> howard graduate. >> press, thank you. >> thank you, everybody. >> and that was donald trump and his listening session with african-american leaders as black history month begins. this is pa of a push to showcase diversity inside the administration by the president and his team. and as we were listening in to that, you saw a couple of headlines. the president talking about a need for a speedy confirmation process from newly named supreme court pick neil gorsuch. also he has become a bit of a tradition, hit what he calls the dishonest media, the opposition party. as that was all playing out, we were getting breaking news on my phone here. a source familiar with the thinking inside the white house is telling nbc news the chief of staff reince priebus will begin to exert more influence as this source puts it over making sure
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there's an effective way to get executive orders and other information out. the source saying that while steve bannon is an ideas guy, priebus is being tasked with implementing the strategy. we are told kellyanne conway, and i'm reading this in now from kristen welker at the whourks that she'll be tasked with making sure there's a strong messaging component around all of this. this is not a restructuring but, rather, the chief of staff pushing his influence a bit more to make sure the roll-out process is a little more streamlined and planned out given what even house speaker paul ryan acknowledged was a confusing roll-out, regrettable roll-out of his executiveored friday. let's bring back in peter alexander at the white house to talk through all of it with us here. peter, you mentioned, and i hear -- is it a protest outside the white house? seems pretty noisy out there. >> no, it's washington, d.c., some sirens going by. >> we heard in that listening
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session with some of the african-american advisers, members of his administration, people that have come in, familiar faces from the campaign trail. he's got that lunch with rex tillerson. by the end of the day, could see a new secretary of state in place if the senate votes to confirm tillerson today as expected. what else is popping on your radar and what do you make of the session we just heard? >> the only thing i'd add is what you just said about the, not restructuring but reince priebus may take a more firm role in terms of implementation and the roll-out of future policies going forward as i think what it does is demonstrates what we've been focused on. a lot of the last 24 hours was sort of that failure. the mixed messaging surrounding the travel ban that donald trump and his press secretary referred to as a ban on several occasions before yesterday the press secretary insisted this is not a ban. it certainly is a temporary travel ban for the next 90 days related to those seven countries where citizens of those countries can't come to the u.s.
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120 days for refugees. but as emphasis on that just this morning, donald trump tweeted about this very topic and basically said it doesn't matter what you call it. you can call it a ban or what you like. we're trying to keep bad people out of the country. they recognize there is value in having a simple message that they do a good job in communicating because it will avoid the potential for the protests we saw over the course of the last several days. even if the policy is potentially problem 80. the implementation allowed for more chaos and confusion going forward. to underscore all of this, speaking to a senior white house official, one of the challenges of messaging in this white house is the guy in charge has access to twitter and he can redirect that message in a moment. >> as we saw this morning. peter alexander, thank you, over at the white house on the north lawn. we're joined by former george w. bush economic speechwriter. david you have a big headline, the cover of "the atlantic" coming up calling it the
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authoritarian playbook for donald trump. i want to get your take on a lot of different things here. walk me through. pick up where peter left off that donald trump can flip messaging with a single tweet, can flip the narrative despite his administration's best laid plans. troubling to you or do you see it as a sign of the times? >> well, the president always has the power to command the nation's attention. that's not new. what is new about donald trump is that he uses this power to target specific companies and even specific individuals. that when the head of a union local and midwestern state says something that displeases him, donald trump can conjure up death threats against that person. he can take money -- millions, even billions of dollars off the valuation of a company with a tweet. i wrote those words for president myself. and one thing you become conscious of is the enormous power of presidential speech. there isn't a difference between speech and words. and i think donald trump does understand that but he uses it
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to bully and threaten as well as to command attention. >> you write the part of the danger is republicans in congress will essentially roll over for trump. we've already seen people like john mccain, lindsey graham, marco rubio to come out with objections to some of his cabinet picks, his relationship with russia. do you not expect that to continue? >> i don't expect it to continue, and i don't think it's really happened. what i'm talking about here, when i talk about authoritarianism, i don't mean a strong and effective president. we've had strong and effective presidents and their opponents say ouch but the system balances itself. something different is happening here. which is because of the precarious position of this president, his lack of real democratic mandate and because of his overwhelming focus on enriching himself and his family, that he is using his power in ways to shut down normal check and balances. and congress, because of its special vulnerability to donald trump because it wants to get things done and needs his signature is not just rolling
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over for himp. there's actually a deal being done. the president gets to use power in new ways in exchange for congress getting an agenda through that could never pass because, after all, republicans have won only one of the past seven elections on a popular vote in the national basis. >> you talk about and you are alluding to it now that there's this disintegration of the norms and processes on capitol hill that have been part of the conversation over the last 24 hours with members of congress privately about the way the system is such complete gridlock n shutdown. do you see the president, are the executive branch, able to take advantage of that? is that the idea you're getting at? >> the house oversight committee, i think yesterday or the day before, announced its 43 investigations for the next two years. not one of them has to do with the extraordinary acts of self-enrichment and blurring of lines between president trump and his business and his family. donald trump's sons who are supposedly sequestered off running the trump organization
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are meeting senators at official functions and acting as members of the president's official family. the thing i'm most concerned about is we are in an era of democratic recession. fewer democracies in the world today than in 2005. standards of governance are declining and a lot of the techniques that i observed from hungary and slovakia, you can see donald trump learning from them and emulating them and imposing them here. >> david, as we are talking, we're going to bring up a picture of the hearing now, the committee vote for jeff sessions who is like lie to become the next attorney general. you'll see that in the corner of your screen as that room fills up on capitol hill. before i let you go, i don't want to get naval gazing here. what you just heard president trump talk about as the opposition party, what do you see as the obligation then for the media moving forward, and can it be effective to not just -- you called the elite, but to a broader american population?
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>>well, i quote a south african jourmist who described the decline of democracy in south africa since the death of mandela. this is a standard technique when you are trying to silence unwanted information. there's a job here on the media but also on the public to be better consumers. spend less time with the kardashians, please. spend more time knowing what's happening in your country. >> david frum from the atlantic. thank you for joining us. we appreciate it. your piece out, the cover of "the atlantic" now. thank you very much. we'll take a quick break. when we come back, more on this jeff sessions hearing and much more on all of the news, the avalanche of it, from capitol hill and beyond.
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[ alarm weather.eping ] ♪ [ laughter ] cartoons. wait for it. [ cat screech ] [ laughter ] ♪ [ screaming ] [ laughter ] make everyday awesome with the power of xfinity x1... hi grandma! and the fastest internet. [ girl screaming ] [ laughter ] breaking news on capitol hill. the start of the confirmation vote for alabama senator jeff sessions set to become potentially the next attorney general. we're going to listen in here. >> we need only look back to attorney general gonzales' resignation to recall what can happen when an attorney yields to political pressure.
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the attorney general also makes policy decisions about where and how to direct the department's $27 billion budget and when and how to advise congress to recommend new laws and modify existing policies. policy choices an attorney general makes can have a profound effect on individuals, communities and theric of our nation. and they allow the attorney general wide discretion. this is not just a matter of saying that he will follow the law. americans should be able to trust that their attorney general will not only enforce the laws with integrity but stand up for americans are all stripes and fight on behalf of their rights. that's the prism through which i evaluate senator sessions' nomination. i've known the senator for a decade and i've enjoyed working with him on legislation but the standard by which i evaluate an attorney nominee is whether rhode islanders can trust his commitment to doing justice and ensuring equal protection of all americans will be real and
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lasting and not just a matter am nomination etiquette. i reviewed senator sessions career as an attorney and senator and his testimony before the judiciary committee. i've reflectod my duties and experience as attorney general and u.s. attorney in rhode island. i've also listened closely to very strong and serious concerns from rhode islanders who have made it clear they fear what senator sessions would do as head of the justice department. for every constituent of mine who has expressed support of his nomination, 15 have expressed opposition. senator sessions' record is clear. he fought against fixing our immigration system at the leading opponent of bipartisan legislation which had it passed would have spared us the current debate over an ineffectual $16 billion wall. senator sessions fought against our bipartisan criminal justice and sentencing reform. senator sessions opposed reauthorizing the violence against women act, a bill which is so important to the rhode island attorney general's office
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and the anti-domestic violence groups in our state. i suspect if senator sessions' opposition related to the bill's inclusion of protections of gay and lesbian couples and his support is alarming to many rhode islanders. public statements and confirmation testimony by senator sessions suggested he brings a religious preference to the department. that secular attorneys would be, to him, a spect class compared to christian attorneys. from the state of roger williams founded on freedom of conscience, this is an alarming consideration. he has on numerous occasions used racially charged or downright offensive rhetoric to belittle broad groups of americans including rhode island's wonderful dominican community 3 saying that dominicans come to this country basically to sponge and be useless. tell that to big papi david ortiz and red sox fans of new england. he walked those statements back a bit in the nomination's process but again one must
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wonder if this is a true conversion rather than a nod to nomination etiquette. acain to justice roberts howler about being a neutral judge that would just call balls and strikes. we've been burned by nomination etiquette before. senator sessions has a long history of demonstrated open hostility for bedrock civil rights laws and has failed to distance himself from hate groups that hold him up as a champion of their perverse ideologies. senator sessions has called breitbart news a bright spot. breitbart has published countless, baseless and inflammatory articles with titles like birth control makes women unattractive and crazy. there's no bias against women in tech, they just suck at interviews. and gabby giffords the gun-control movement's human shield. senator sessions has promised that as attorney general he'd work diligently to ensure all americans receive equal protection under our laws but
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his record creates justifiable alarm among many rhode islanders that has promise is more a product of nomination etiquette than a nomination epiphany. in fairness, i should disclose that senator sessions nomination carries additional baggage with me as the nominee of this president and this white house. on the campaign trail, the american people witnessed donald trump glorify sexual misconduct, mock a disabled reporter and make disparaging remarks about immigrants and minorities, all with no pushback from senator sessions. we all witnessed chants of "lock her up" which senator sessions did not fight back against and even excused as a humorously done. in mass rallies that also featured beatings and the press caged and vilified, this didn't seem very humorous to many americans. americans know that the good guys in the movie are not the ones in the mob. the good guy is the law man who stands on the jailhouse porch and sends the mob home. that chapt was un-american and
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across the country made honest prosecutors stomachs' turn. not surprisingly, many americans are worried about what the trump administration will mean for their and their families and their country. senator sessions had so many opportunities to push back n he availed himself prior to his nomination of none. the problems did not end with the campaign. president trump and his family have brought more conflicts of interest to the white house than all other modern presidents and families combined. the proposed trump domestic cabinet is an unprecedented swamp of conflicts of interest. failures of disclosure and divestment and dark money secrets. the trump white house traffics in alternate facts, operates vindictively and is a haven for special interest interest and they are just getting started. none of this is good. all of this suggests that there will be more or less constant occasion for investigation and even prosecution of this administration. in recent history, only attorneys general gonzales,
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meese and mitchell have been as politically close to their president as senator sessions would be. n the gonzales, meese and mitchell tenures did not end well. i fear that unless publicly boxed in, attorney general sessions' default position would to be protect the administration. the department's public corruption work is ordinarily done within the secrecy of investigative privilege, particularly in the early stages where the fateful go no go decisions are made. so the pressure of publicity will not ordinarily be available. let me add a word about climate change which is a matters of grave concern to me and rhode island, our ocean state. climate change presents readily discernible truths on one side and a massive polluting industry that wants to deny them on the other side. senator sessions has rsisntly refused to discern those readily discernible truths d unfailingly lined up with that massive polluting industry. as a signal about how as
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attorney general he would handle conflicts between truth and power, this is an ominous one. recent events put these concerns in particularly sharp focus. the refugee order that the president has issued highlights the problems we face over senator sessions' nomination. on a bipartisan base, i experts have concluded this will harm our national security. as has been reported in the media, a group of more than 100 former national security heavyweights from both political parties protested president trump order on refugees in a letter last monday. this order not only jeopardizes tens of thousands of lives, they wrote it has caused a crisis right here in america and will do long-term damage to our national security. simply put, they concluded this order will harm our national security. in addition to being a substantive backfire, the order
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was a procedural botch as reporters have disclosed, trump and his aides kept gop congressional leaders almost completely in the dark about the most consequential act of his young prrks a temperature rare ban on refugees and anyone from majority muslim nations. they had been caught unaware. it became evident the roll-out of the executive order bordered between clumsy and dysfunctional, even on "morning joe," joe scarborough said the weekend was a disgrace. on capitol hill, many republicans close to leadership were frustrated they received little to no guidance or advanced notice about trump's immigration and refugee directive. the opening days of this administration have been a gong show but a gong show with a nuclear button. this dangerous state of affairs puts all of president trump's nominees in a new light.
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as conservative columnist david brooks has written, many have made a bargain with mr. trump. they don't admire him as a man, orrust him as an administrator but respect the grip he has on their voters. but if the last ten days have made anything clear, it's this. the republican fousts are in an untenable position. the deal they've struck with the devil comes at too high a price. it really will cost them their soul. even if trump's ideology were not noxious, his incompetence is a threat to all around him. to say that it is amateur hour at the white house is to slander amateurs. the recent executive orders were drafted and signed without any normal agency review or even semicoherent legal advice filled with elemental errors that any nursery school student would have caught. i'm continuing with david brooks' words here. it seems the trump administration is less a government than a small click of bloggers and tweeters in communicado with the people who actually help them get things done. things will get really hairy
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when the world's problems are incoming. third, it's become inl crease league clear the aroma of bigotry aligns too closely. it's hard to think of any administration in recent memory on any level whose identity is so tainted by cruelty. the trump administration is often harsh and never -- >> and you are seeing on the other side of your screen, moments ago, supreme court pick neil gorsuch walking in with vice president pence. kelly ayotte there who has been tasked with shepherding gorsuch through the sort of capitol hill confirmation process speak with senator majority leader mitch mcconnell. let's listen in. >> my honor to escort judge gorsuch to capitol hill for his first meeting. we look forward to members of the united states senate discharging their constitutional duty and having an opportunity to get to know this judge. they'll come to understand the enthusiasm the president of the
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united states has for ha pointment to the supreme court of the united states. make him available to members of the senate and, it's, again, grateful for the warm hospitality of leader mcconnell today. >> some democrats are already saying judge gorsuch is out of the mainstream. >> thanks, everybody. appreciate your time. >> thank you, everyone. >> so that is the scene inside mitch mcconnell's office. you heard no questions taken from neil gorsuch, from senator mcconnell, from vice president pence or kelly ayotte. that was meeting one. in the meantime, my colleague here at nbc news and msnbc,
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kasie hunt is saying chuck grassley said the confirmation hearings for neil gorsuch will begin in roughly six weeks. i'm here with congressman lew who is sitting patiently with us. we've been watching this sessions hearing. we'll keep that oup the screen because we expect a confirmation vote at some point. you've been watching some democrats speaking. that's al franken there. let's pick up on this. was this the right move for democrats to essentially push off what to many appeared to be the inevitable given the republican numbers they have? >> if jeff sessions is confirmed, i hope he shows the same backbone that sally yates did because the oath that sessions would take is to the constitution, not to president trump, not to anybody else. i fear sessions would not do that, though, because he is extreme person who has extreme views, and that shows a president trump instead of
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reaching out to the overwhelming majority of americans who did not vote for him, he's doubling down on the extreme elements of his campaign and that's very unfortunate. >> so why boycott? why would democrats try to delay this even further? is this political nighter essenti theater? >> this is to send a sign this is not normal. it's not normal to have all these extreme cabinet picks be nominated. it's not normal that we have a country where more than 8 million people voted for a candidate other than donald trump. and for the president to make no effort to try to unify this nation but extreme -- instead extremely double down on his views. so it is good, i think, to continue to show that what's happening now is not normal. we can't normalize donald trump. >> we're going to listen in to senator al franken speaking at this hearing. give us a moment here. >> the records do not show that there were 20 or 30 actually filed cases. he said the record does not
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justify it. i then moved on to questioning him about four cases that he listed on his questionnaire which asked him to list the, quote, ten most significant litigated matters he personally handled. among those ten cases that he listed on his questionnaire were three voting rights cases and a desegregation case. now that surprised me. and that's because i know senator sessions, and i know his record on voting rights. he's no champion of voting rights. he called the voting rights act inclues of and complained about states with a history of discriminationing. but here he seemed to be trumpeting his personal involvement in three voting rights cases and one school desegregation case. and i guess it just seemed to me that given his previous experience before this committee, and given the concern the civil rights advocates had expressed about his nomination,
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that perhaps senator sessions or the transition team was attempting to revise some of that history and to recast him as a civil rights champion. and as it turns out, that's exactly what was going on. three attorneys who worked on three of those four cases wrote an op-ed stating that senator sessions had no substantive involvement in the cases that he listed as being among the top ten that he had personally handled during his entire career testimony to that, i fect. one of them, jerry heeber, spent 21 years in the justice department's civil rights division. during time which he litigated cases in alabama and met senator sessions. mr. hebert also provided testimony to this committee in 1986, and much of it served as the basis for republicans on
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that committee choosing to reject senator sessions' nomination to the federal bench. now after i questioned senator sessions about his claim of personally handling these four civil rights cases, senator cruz decided to weigh in on my line of questioning. he said i had intended to undermine the nominee's character and integrity and that my questioning was, not backed by the facts. senator cruz then proceeded to discharacterize and attack mr. hebert whom he described as, quote, an individual who testified falsely before this committee. let's talk about that back in 1986, mr. hebert and his supervisor at doj were called to the hill without advance warning to be deposed. mr. hebert's supervisor
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incorrectly stated that when he was a u.s. attorney, senator sessions pressured the fbi to stop a voting rights investigation. now that was not the case. it wasn't senator sessions who did that. mr. hebert's supervisor got it wrong. he misremembered. when committee staff next deposed mr. hebert, he was asked whether he observed senator sessions interfere with doj cases. and mr. hebert replied, quote, i only know what happened with our conoco county case but my supervisor is in a better position to talk about that than i am. mr. hebert continued. he and i both have a very fuzzy recollection about conoco county. it was my supervisor's case primarily. then senator biden asked mr. hebert about this testimony the next day, and mr. hebert repeated the error. but after they testified, which
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again happened o very short notice, mr. hebert and his supervurd to doj and pulled the records from the case, from those cases. they themselves discovered their error and they both immediately filed sworn declarations making clear that they were mistaken and that senator sessions did not interfere. it was senator sessions predecessor who had interfered. mr. hebert and his supervisor did not recant their testimony. they simply corrected their testimony in writing in advance of the committee's vote on senator sessions. and mr. hebert's case, that meant he submitted a declaration in which he corrected three lines of testimony in what was a 24-page deposition. three lines. the rest of the testimony mr. hebert's 24-page deposition was unaffected. but just to be safe, just to make sure that the committee didn't misunderstand the purpose of his declaration, mr. hebert
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made it crystal clear. he wrote, quote, this revelation concerning the noninvolvement of mr. jefferson sessions in the interfering in any voting rights investigations in the southern district of alabama does not affect in any way my other testimony rendered before the senate judiciary committee on march 13th, 1986. mr. hebert's supervisor who was the one responsible for originally getting the facts wrong also testified in person to correct the record. that's what happened. those are the facts. but when describing this history, senator cruz misrepresented what happened. so i'd like to take this opportunity -- >> mr. chairman, i object to -- i object to the senator disparaging a fellow member of the committee here in his absence. i would think -- >> well, he should be here, first of all. and secondly -- >> let him make his case and
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then we'll go back to you. >> sure. >> we're here to talk about the president's nominee, not a colleague. and i object to disparaging -- >> don't take this from my time. >> disparaging a colleague on this committee and particularly in the colleague's absence. it's just not -- it's untoward and inappropriate, and i object. >> can i speak to that? >> you can speak to it, but i think that we'd be better off if we just let it go at this point. >> you mean let me continue my speech? >> yeah, would you do that, please? >> i will. thank you. but just to be safe, just to make sure that -- okay. i did that paragraph. this is what happened. those are the facts. when describing this history, senator cruz misrepresented what happened. so i'd like to take this opportunity -- >> chairman -- >> the senator can't get the message from the chairman that this is over the top
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inappropriate. >> i think the senator from texas doesn't get the message from the chairman. >> you put the chairman in an awful bad position at this point because i'm not sure that i know where i'm going. i don't disagree with anything senator cornyn said but'm not sure i want to rule anybody out of oer but could you please leave personalities out of it? >> senator cruz did the very thing that senator cornyn is accusing me of doing. in my absence, he misrepresented me. he misrepresented mr. hebert. he personally went after me. he personally imputed my integrity. you didn't object then. >> i'm not sure i was here and i'm not sure -- >> i wasn't here. >> let me continue, sir. >> it would be a decent and honorable thing to do to do it in the sarntenator's here. >> get him here. allow me to read from the hearing transcript. this is senator cruz talking to
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senator sessions. and what i'm dog here is clarifying senator sessions record. senator cruz. now earlier in this hearing, senator franken engaged you in a discussion that was intended to try to undermine your character and integrity. in particular, senator franken suggested that you had somehow misrepresented your record. it is unfortunate to see members of this body impugn the integrity of a fellow senator with whom we've served for years. it is particularly unfortunate when that attack is not backed up by the facts. now let's talk about who is trying to impugn the integrity of another senator. i would suggest senator cruz was trying to impugn mine. but if you take the time to really examine the evidence, you will see that he's not making his case at all. instead he deliberately allies the truth and this is about senator sessions.
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let's go back to the transcript. senator cruz. senator sessions based his attack on an op-ed written by attorney gerald hebert. there's an irony on relying on mr. hebert because as you well know in 1986 during your confirmation hearing, mr. hebert testified then and attacked you then making false charges against you. and indeed i would note in the 1986 hearing, two days later, mr. hebert was forced to recant his testimony. to say that he'd given false testimony to this committee and indeed to say, quote, i apologize for any inconvenience caused mr. sessions on this committee by my prior testimony. so an individual who has testified falsely once before this committee, his op-ed is now the basis for senator franken's attack on you. let's unpack this. mr. hebert was not, quote, forced to recant his testimony. he voluntarily corrected an
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error that he discovered himself. the committee did not catch him in a lie. he did not try to pull one over on the united states senate. that's not what happened. as i noted, mr. hebert originally testified that he had, quote, a fuzzy recollection about the incident in question. upon refreshing his recollection, he immediately and voluntarily corrected the record. but if you didn't know better, after listening to senator cruz, you'd think mr. hebert was caught lying and that the entirety of his testimony was discredited. again, this is just nothat happened. mr. hebertidhat a good lawyer does when he discovers he made a mistake. he forthrightly admitted his error n expeditiously corrected the record. but back to the transcript. senator cruz. indeed the basis of senator franken's attack is he claims you were uninvolved in several civil rights cases that were


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