tv MSNBC Live MSNBC March 2, 2017 11:00am-12:01pm PST
that wraps up this hour of "msnbc live." i'm craig melvin. for now my colleague katy tur picks things up. >> thank you so much. for you at home this hour, we'll hear from president trump. dominating the day, not what he's going to say to sailors in virginia. new questions about whether trump's attorney general and first senate supporter lied under oath about meetings with russia's ambassador during the campaign. right now the president is aboard the "uss gerald ford" in newport news. will he answer a series of questions about ag jeff
sessions. "the washington post" reporting, sessions met with russian envoy twice last year in encounters did not disclose. this morni sessionses insides there's no there there. >> i have not met with any russians at any time to discuss any political campaign and those remarks are unbelievable to me and false. >> so, what comes next for sessions? if you're a democrat, it's recuse or resign. if you're a republican, well, it's more complicated. >> if he himself is a subject of investigation, of course he would, but if he's not, i don't see any purpose or reason to do this. >> i do think he needs to clarify. i think he should recuse himself, absolutely. >> should he recuse himself? >> no. >> if there is an investigation, probably shouldn't be involved in it. >> the american people served him. >> could jeff have been more clear in what he said? yes. the underlying meeting is a nothing burger. >> nbc's hallie jackson is at
the white house, msnbc's kasie hunt is on capitol hill, hans nichols is with president trump in newport news, virginia, and nbc news justice correspondent pete williams is in our washington news room. hallie, let's start with you outside the white house. we'll hear from the president in about 30 minutes. so far, how is the white house explaining this one? >> well, very much in line with what you have heard from not just attorney general jeff sessions himself when he spoke exclusively with nbc news this morning but with what his spokesperson has said to "the washington post," nbc and others and what republicans and others are saying. this is what sean spicer had to say about all of it just this morning. >> i think senator sessions did his job. he was asked very pointedly whether or not there had been any contact with the trump campaign in any capacity as him being a surrogate. there was not. he was 100% straight with the committee. he did acknowledge that he met in his capacity as united states senator on the armed services
committee with the ambassador on a couple occasions. one being after he had given a speech and someone approached him. as you've seen senators like ted cruz have come out and said, this is a perfectly normal course of business, so i think this is democrats continuing to push a false narrative for political purposes. >> reporter: republicans trying to spin this as a political witch hunt, if you will. democrats pushing back strongly on that. >> republicans aren't all on the same page about this, are they? >> not quite, katy. there's been a lot of back and forth up here on capitol hill and key republicans saying, hey, jeff sessions should recuse himself if there is an investigation. notably rob portman, a senator from ohio. yes, he's just one person but he's a good example because he represents a moderate swing state and somebody who's largely steered clear of the trump tweet wars, if you will. president trump's tweet wars. he has tried to kind of stay out of the spotlight, not comment on every day-to-day controversy. he's out there saying, look, he
needs to recuse himself from any investigation. the loudest calls are coming from democrats who have been unified in calling for senator sessions -- excuse me, attorney general sessions to resign, going beyond recusal. take a look at house minority leader nancy pelosi and senate minority leader chuck schumer both talking about this earlier today. >> the attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer of the land. and already his integrity and independence has been questioned. it would be better for the country if he would resign. >> i would remind you this congress impeached a president for something so far less having nothing to do with his duties as president of the united states. >> reporter: pelosi went much further than schumer saying sessions perjured himself when he testified before the judiciary committee during his confirmation hearings. senator schumer wouldn't go that far. he stopped short of saying, he
did mislead the committee and that's why he thinks he needs to resign. there are also increasing calls for independent investigations into this coming from democrats. that's something we're not really hearing much right now from republicans. but i have to tell you, katy, there is a fissure, there are cracks. jason chaffetz, another republican who said sessions needs to recuse himself. you have ongoing investigations in the house and senate intelligence committees into what has been going on. director kocom comey of the fbip on capitol hill meeting with the house side and adam schiff told me that comey would not tell them whether or not this investigation was even going on and that they are demanding that they go at least that far as news reports continue to put out new information into the public that, frankly, the committees up here sometimes haven't even
seen. >> by our account, 31 senators -- 31 lawmakers, both republicans and democrats r calling for jeff sessions to recuse himself. pete n a bizarre twist today, we saw lock him up chants outside the doj. the question is, did he lie while he was in those confirmation hearings and if yes, are those chants warranted? >> it's a big if. the definition of perjury is you are misleading or lying intentionally, knowing that what you're saying isn't true. what sessions people are saying that when he was asked this question at the confirmation hearing about whether he had contact with the russians, he was thinking about it in terms of the context of the question. contact with russians about the campaign. in answer to that question and a written question that he got later from senator patrick leahy, he said the answer was no and that he wasn't even -- his
spokes people say he wasn't even thinking about the meeting with the russian ambassador in december. he was thinking about this in context with the mpaign. he had the meeting with the ruian ambassador ang with 22 other ambassadors that he talked with throughout the year in his capacity as a member of the senate armed services committee. they say he wasn't trying to mislead the senate committee in his answer to that question. >> and the ap is now reporting donald trump says he has total confidence in his attorney general, jeff sessions. we'll find out if he does mention anything when he is in virginia, when he takes the podium. a reminder for you at home, here is what attorney general jeff sessions said under oath during his senate confirmation hearing. you just heard pete williams reference it. >> if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the trump campaign communicated with the russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do? >> senator franken, i'm not aware of any of those
activities. i have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, i did not have xhuctiondz with the russians. >> kasie, i want to ask you quickly about senator lindsey graham. there's talk he'll meet with fbi director james comey today as well? >> reporter: i was just looking at that, katy. looks like our team that's been outside of graham's office did speak to him briefly. he would not comment at this point about his meeting with jim comey. we are expecting a statement from him later today. he was saying and was quoted as saying earlier that he wants to know whether or not the fbi is investigating trump ties, trump campaign ties to russia and that he's tired of reading about what is going on in newspapers. so, i think he's been channelling -- there's a lot of frustration up here on capitol hill about these leaks. not necessarily -- sure, you have people who are concerned about leaking classified information, who are focused on investigating it. quite frankly, there are also a
lot of members who are simply frustrated they're learning all these things from public reports and not because they are, you know, have a good understanding of what's going on behind the scenes. now, normally, and i know pete can speak to this, you wouldn't normally talk even acknowledge in public that you have an investigation going on. obviously, that was not what happened in the investigation of hillary clinton's e-mails, for example. that's a point that democrats have made repeatedly. but it is interesting to me now that you are starting to see republicans call for comey to tell them simply whether or not this investigation is even going on. >> hallie, nbc's first read suggests that the white house has three option. one, have sessions testify to answer more questions. two, appoint a special prosecutor or, three, dig in. my sources have been telling me that it's likely going to be dig in. what are you hearing? >> well, we don't -- we have information from president trump himself. while kasie was speaking, in the last 45 seconds or so, president trump is telling reporters he has total confidence in his
attorney general jeff sessions. the president is set to speak in about 20 minutes or so in virginia. these are comments that the president made to that small group of reporters who travels with him on the road. so, we will see if he repeats this sentiment more publicly in front of that audience that has gathered in virginia about the idea that he he does have full confidence in his attorney general despite these swirled questions that have come out now. not just from democrats. as kasie noted as well, some republicans calling for the attorney general to recuse himself. >> hans, this trip that the president is taking down to virginia is supposed to be something of a victory lap. he's touting increased defense spending. he had a relatively good, well-received speech the other night in front of the joint session to congress. is it now all being overshadowed? >> reporter: well, katy, i only do meta media predictions from the decks of aircraft carriers, not from the hangar base. from inside this hangar to about
the 5,000 sailors and ship builders, it's not really much of an issue. what they want to hear about is donald trump's plan to build and spend more on the military and what percent of the pie they're going to get. yes, clearly donald trump is going to grow the pie. federal contractors, ship builders, everyone's salivating, but everyone wants the biggest slice they can possibly get. one thing the navy knows how to dough, they know how to treat dvs, distinguished visitors. we saw trump land on the deck of the aircraft carrier. he's getting a tour. maybe he'll head up to vulture's row where he can look across the horizon. when you're on a carrier like this, this is the first in its class, they need to work out the kinks. you get a sense of the awesome power they can on america's adversaries. this comes in at $13 billion, that's billion with a "b," came
in over budget and a little too late. we still don't expect this one to be operational until some time 2018-2019. a lot more testing. boy, president trump is getting a tour of this carrier. we'll see what he says here when he speaks just behind me. just a quick little thing, we're here in the hangar bay. there are elevators all around us. normally there would be bombers and fighters in this hangar bay, not to be confused with the bomb farm, which is one level up. we'll get you an embark and give you the 101 on aircraft carriers. >> is anyone out there talking about the attorney general? >> reporter: i have not found anyone talking about the attorney general. but that's partly because it's been so loud and they've been blasting led zeppelin all day. my reporting has been a bit, let's say, subpar. not quite subterrain but subpar. >> a taste of what it was like on the campaign trail at trump rallies. they normally had 95 to 100
decibels. kasie, i want to go back to you and talk about what the argument jeff sessions is making in his defense. he says he met with at least 25 ambassadors last year. is this just something that was routine? >> reporter: look, the meeting itself is not the problem. meeting with ambassadors happens all the time on capitol hill. kind of no matter which -- some committees, yes, you're more likely to have a higher number of these type of meetings, foreign relations, but there can be a host of issues. claire mccaskill got into hot water when she said she never met with a russian ambassador but she tweeted she did, in fact, meet with him on the issue of adoption. these are things that can cross many different topic lines. the issue is not whether or not the meeting occurred but whether or not he misled congress about the meeting. and now there are a lot of members of congress who want to know who was discussed in that meeting because the sort of
severity of jeff sessions' crime here could potentially depend on what was said because, of course, the question revolved around, did you talk to russians about the campaign? as pete has reported, justice officials are defending sessions and saying, look, that's not what this was. this was not a campaign. this was innocent his capacity as a trump surrogate. this was in his capacity as a senator. but, you know, at this point we don't know exactly what was said in that meeting, what was said behind closed doors. there are obviously questions, were there others in the meeting, are there notes? we don't know if that kind of evidence exists. the root of it is, did he tell the senate judiciary committee the right thing or dp he mislead them? did he do it, you know, knowingly and actually perjure himself? pete made the distinction between perjuring and misleading a committee. that's the issue here. for members of congress, this is the quickest way to get on the wrong side of members of congress, to make them feel like they were lied to or misled.
>> it was certainly a controversial confirmation hearing. it last aid long time before he was voted to be confirmed for attorney general. it does raise a lot of questions about why, given all the controversy surrounding russia that it was so loud at the time, has been so loud, why he wouldn't go out there and immediately make it clear that he had met with the russian ambassador but it was part of his routine -- it was routine. it was part of his job. it's what he did as a senator. hallie, the white house is sensitive to this stuff. is there any more indication? are you learning anything more from what is going on down in virginia about how they plan on defending themselves? >> reporter: yeah. it's coming from the president himself. as you know, he is somebody who -- in instances often likes to come out and be the one speaking on his own behalf. we saw that as president at that news conference recently. he was asked. now, reporters are pressing the president on this. he was asked if the attorney
general should have testified truthfully about his contacts with the russian ambassador. the president's response was, i think he probably did. and then when asked if sessions should recuse himself, the president said, i don't think so. so, there you have the president backing up his attorney general, somebody who has been by his side on the campaign trail since, i believe, the spring of 2015. senator sessions, the first senator, one of the first members of congress to come out and back donald trump during the campaign. so, the president now defending his attorney general very clearly, arguing he doesn't think he should recuse himself. remember what sessions told nbc news exclusively this morning, that when appropriate he has said that he would recuse himself in certain instances. not speaking specifically about this case. the backup there on the contacts with the russian ambassador, the conversation that the attorney general had as a senator, as his team would point out, a member of the senate armed services committee as well, the president saying i think he probably did
answer truthfully. democrats likely to take issue with that, katy. >> it's fair to argue at this point that asking everybody affiliated with donald trump, either on the campaign, the transition and now in the administration, it is fair to ask them whether or not they have had any contacts with russia, russian ambassadors, russian intelligence officers, russian government officials, anyone, period, given we have gotten so many contradictory answers so far. hallie jackson, kasie hunt, hans nichols and peetd williams, who had to run, thank you so much. another look at the stage in virginia where president trump will speak in a few minutes. will he talk about jeff sessions as he just did to reporters who are following him? after the break we'll discuss what could happen next with a former aide to ag eric holder as well as a former ethics lawyer for george w. bush. tion you ask, but one i think with a simple answer. we have this need to peek over our neighbor's fence. and once we do, we see wonder waiting. every step you take, narrows the influence of narrow minds.
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national security official in the white house, in the administration, has had to resign because of contact wts russians and lying about them. now we have the attorney general who is in the middle of a scandal because of contacts with the russians and not telling the truth about them. so, this is a big thing. >> that's a familiar face. hillary clinton's former running mate, tim kaine talking to my colleague kasie hunt. we're waiting for president trump to speak aboard the "uss gerald ford" in virginia. president trump telling the
press pool in virginia that he has total confidence in jeff sessions. the trump administration facing fresh strut any over alleged ties about russia. what has jeff sessions said about russia and when? sessions endorsed donald trump for president and days later named to the national security advisory committee. they confirmed sessions made contact with the russian ambassador at the national republican convention. by december the two had met in sessions' washington office in d.c. he denied he made contact with the russians at his confirmation in january. at the time the attorney general was under oath, raising the question, is sessions guilty of doing the same thing he accused bill clinton of back in 1999? we're going to play a sound bite about that later, but straight we go to newport news, where you see president donald trump taking the stage right now. ♪
♪ proud to be an american where at least i know i'm free ♪ ♪ and i won't forget the men who died who gave that life to me ♪ >> while we wait for president trump to take the microphone, we'll see if he does, let's go to a couple of our guests. matt miller, former justice department spokesperson, and ethics lawyer under george w. bush, richard painter. richard, you sent out a tweet getting quite a bi of attention. misleading the senate uer sworn testimony about one's o contacts about the russians is a good way to go to jail. explain that. >> well, you can certainly get in a lot of trouble for lying under oath. and i think anything having to do with the russians is going to be subject to extra scrutiny because the russians have been
conducting espionage activities within the united states since the 1920s. they supported far-left parties, communist parties and others to try to destabilize western democracies for years. and now they've turned to supporting the far right, the alt-right and so forth. we saw in 2016 a lot of russian spying going on in the united states. and at a bare minimum, we expect our leaders in government to be candid with both the executive branch and with the united states congress about any and all communications that they have had with the russians. senator sessions was asked about communications with the russians and he said that during the political campaign, he had no contacts with the russians. that just wasn't true. apparently, he had two meetings with the russian ambassador. this is very, very disappointing. and i am concerned that this administration is not taking the threat of russian espionage seriously when administration
officials are willing to lie to each other, which is what we saw with general flynn's misrepresentations to the vice president. now we see lack of candor to the senate from one of their own colleagues, former senator sessions. i'm very, very concerned about this. >> and, matt, at the time sessions was meeting with them, there were a number of headlines about the campaign and whether it had ties to russia. also russian interference into the u.s. election. so, what is jeff sessions' defense here? >> you know, the defense he's made is that he wasn't talking about his capacity as a trump surrogate and as a member of the trump campaign. but that wasn't the question he was asked. he was asked if he had any meetings. i think the real problem -- >> he was asked if anybody in the campaign had meetings. >> anybody in the campaign had any meetings. that's going to be his defense. the problem is, they would have expected this question. this is something -- all these questions were swirling during his confirmation. they would have expected it,
they would have prepped for it. so -- -- he made the problem worse. i can tell you having been in hearings before with a witness, i answer gives an answer and you as a staffer figure out how to clean it up and clarify it later. they got that chance to clarify when they got a question from senator leahy. they didn't clarify. in fact, they doubled down. that's created a problem. if it's perjury that's a very high standard to prove. you better have a better standard for that. the standard for the attorney general of the united states isn't just did he commit a criminal act, it ought to be, is he forthright and honest? that's a question all the way into how he's handling the underlying russian investigation. >> i'm confused. considering how much of a cloud russia was hanging over this administration's head, on the tip of everybody's tongue for so long, for so many months, and you can see the headlines during
the time jeff sessions was meeting with the russian ambassadors on your screen right now, a number of headlines, how could they not expect this question and how and why, would could motivate jeff sessions not to say, hey, yeah, as -- in my role as a senator, i met with a number of ambassadors and the russian ambassador was one of them? it's part of my job. >> it would have been a simple, easy answer. there's no good explanation for why they didn't give that answer other than they were trying to hide it. >> richard, why would they be trying to hide it? >> well, i don't know what's going on here, but we are not going to be parsing words here and playing language games when it involves the russians. he specifically said that he had not had contacts with the russians. that's what he said. that was not true. we're not going to look at the question and say, what is the meaning of the word "is," et
cetera. we have a serious problem. russian espionage within th united states, we need the colete truth about everything people know -- >> richard, i'm going to interrupt you. i'm so sorry because the president has now taken the microphone. let's listen in. >> thank you. [ cheers and applause ] >> thank you. thank you very much. what an honor. you know, they just gave me this beautiful jacket. they said, here, mr. president, please take this home. said, let me wear it. and then they gave me the beautiful hat. i said, you know, maybe i'll do that. we have a great make america great again hat. i said, this is a special day. we're wearing this, right? so, i have no idea how it looks but i think it looks good. it's a great looking hat. just like this is a great looking ship. thank you. i'm privileged to stand here today with the incredible men and women of the united states
navy. american sailors are the best war-fighting sailors anywhere in the world and it's not even close. and susan, i am so glad you could be with us. i know how hard you worked. 17 visits. and she wanted things done right. i will tell you. they told me, she wanted this one done right in honor of both of her parents, who were great, great people. we wanted to introduce this beautiful vessel to the american people. i wanted to be here. i wanted to be with you. susan, and to your family, unbelievable job. unbelievable. [ applause ] the soon-to-be commissioned "gerald r. ford uss," what a place. it feels like a place. you stand on that deck and you feel like you're standing on a very big piece of land. this is better than land. it will not only be a great
symbol of american strength but a great legacy for your father and our former president, gerald ford. president ford was a navy man. by the way, he was also a great athlete. for those of you that didn't know. you saw action in the south pacific during world war ii. he served this country with honor and the military, in congress and the white house. the proud dignity of this ship is a fitting tribute to gerald ford, the man and the president. congratulations to all of the men and women who helped build it. this is american craftsmanship at its biggest, at its best, at its finest. american workers are the greatest anywhere in the world. this warship and all who serve on it should be a source of shared pride for our nation. we're joined today, better
believe, it right? better believe it. better believe it. [ applause ] by the way, we're going to soon have more coming. we are joined today by general mattis, now secretary mattis. where is he? who will be charged with overseeing this great rebuilding of our military might. we will give the men and women of america's armed services the resources you need to keep us safe. we will have the finest equipment in the world. planes, ships and everything else. we are going to have very soon
the finest equipment in the world. we will give our military the tools you need to prevent war, and if required, to fight war and only do one thing. you know what that is? win! win! we're going to start winning again. admiral john richardson, chief of naval operations, is with us today as well. great gentleman. admiral, we're going to ensure our navy has the resources, personnel training and equipment, the kind of equipment you need. so, congratulations, admiral. and a lot more is coming. [ applause ] let me congratulate captain richard mccormick, commanding
officer of the gerald r. ford. this ship will make an extraordinary addition to the fleet, like no other, no other. anywhere in the world, there's nothing like this. it represents the future of naval aviation. i have no greater privilege than to serve as your commander in chief and the commander in chief of the men and women of the united states military. great people. grashgts great people. i salute you and i salute our sailors. i will always support y and your mission. i will never, ever let you down. and i also have to recognize president and ceo of huntington engels industries, along with matt mulharan, president of
newport news shipbuilding. they won't let you down either. they're not going to let you down either. to those who serve our nation in uniform and to those who build the instruments of our defense, i thank you on behalf of our nation. i agree. i agree. our carriers are the centerpiece of american military might overseas. we are standing today on 4 1/2 acres of combat power and sovereign u.s. territory. the likes of which there is nothing to compete. there is no competition to this ship. it is a monument to american might that will provide the strength necessary to ensure peace. this ship will carry 4,500
personnel and 70 eric and will be a vital component of this defense. this carrier and the new ships in the ford class will expand the ability of our nation to carry out vital missions on the oceans to project american power in distant lands. hopefully its power we don't have to use. but if we do, they're in big, big trouble. this great aircraft carrier provides essential capabilities to keep us safe from terrorism and take the fight to the enemy for many years in the future. the great admiral nimmitz once said, it is the function of the
navy to carry the war to the enemy so that we'll not be fought on u.s. soil. true. and it was under admiral nimmitz's command, 75 years ago this june, that the navy did just that. at the battle of midway. you've all known about the battle of midway, where the sailors of the u.s. navy fought with the bravery that will be remembered throughout the ages. storied bravery throughout the ages. the backbone of the american fleet at midway was three beautiful aircraft carriers. the yorktown, the enterprise, and the hornet. all three were built with american hands right here at the newport news shipyard. [ cheers and applause ]
at minudway, america was greatl outnumbered by, i mean, a lot. and its fle badly damaged, but the heroic deeds changed the course of history. many brave americans died that day and through their sacrifice, they turned the tide of the pacific war. it was a tough tide. it was a big tide. it was a vicious tide. and they turned it. countless other americans in that war, some of them parents and grandparents to people in this room today, came home thanks to their very heroic deeds. the sailors at midway are part of a long line of american heroes, and unbroken chain of patriots from each generation to the next who rose to defend our
flag and our freedom. that legacy continues today as american warriors protect our people from the threat of terrorism. on tuesday in my address to a joint session of congress, i asked congress to eliminate the defense sequester and to support my request for a great rebuilding of the united states military and the united states navy. after years of endless budget cuts that have impaired our defenses, i am calling for one of the largest defense spending increases in history. and by eliminating the sequester and the uncertainty it creates,
we will make it easier for the navy to plan for the future and, thus, to control costs and get the best deals for the taxpayer, which, of course, is very important, right? got to get a good deal. we don't make a good deal, we're not doing our job. the same boat for less money. the same ship for less money. the same airplanes for less money. that's what we're doing. that's what we're doing. means we're going to get more of them and we can use them. our military requires sustained, stable funding to meet the growing needs placed in our defense. right now our aging front line strike and strike fighters, the whole aircraft, many, many aircraft, are often more likely to be down for maintenance than they are to be up in the sky. our navy is now the smallest it's been since, believe it or not, world war i. don't worry. going to soon be the largest it's been.
don't worry. think of that. think of that. in these troubles times, our navy is the smallest it's been since world war i. that's a long time ago. in fact, i just spoke with navy and industry leaders and have discussed my plans to undertake a major expansion of our entire navy fleet, including having the 12 carrier navy we need. [ applause ] we also need more aircraft, modernized capability and greater force levels. additionally, we must vastly improve our cyber capabilities. this great rebuilding effort will create many jobs in virginia and all across america. and it will also spur new technology and new innovation.
america has always been the country that boldly leads the world into the future. and my budget will ensure we do so and continue to do exactly that. american ships will sail the seas. american planes will soar the skies. american workers will build our fleets. [ applause ] and america's military will ensure that even though the darkest nights and throughout, a grit and glowing sun will always shine on our nation and on our people. our navy is great. our navy is great. our people are great. great. [ applause ] our republic will meet any
challenge, defeat any danger, face any threat. and always seek true and lasting peace. may god bless our military. may god bless our navy. may god bless the wonderful gerald ford family. and may god continue to bless the united states of america. thank you very much. >> president donald trump speaking there in hampton roads at the shipyard. talking about how he is going to support the military, support the navy specifically as well. he's already planning on increasing defense spending to $54 billion. just a few minutes ago you saw him say, i will always supported you. i will never, ever let you down. however, none of these things happen in a vacuum.
some might consider it striking considering a few days ago he seemed to leave the blame of the death of a navy s.e.a.l. on his generals. to talk more about this and the day's top headlines, i'm joined by retired general wesley clark, kevin barron, msnbc national security and military analyst and executive editor of "defense one" and marcel, former undersecretary of defense for intelligence under president obama. in a few minutes we'll get our own hans nichols, who is at that event. general clark, i would like to start with you. the president is on the "uss gerald ford." he's addressing sailors. he is trying to enjoy the optics of that. he's increasing defense spending. is that all being overshadowed by this drama that is only ratcheting up about his attorney general? >> that's certainly a concern. i happened to be in washington today. i'm hearing a lot about the drama. i'm happy to see him down there with the sailors. we love our men and women in
uniform and the families. it's a great technology that we have. nobody else has got what we have there. i'm glad to see that recognized and, you know, presidents will play politics. this is a move that's got good timing for him. he's out of washington at a critical time. >> but, marcel, is this enough to get him out of washington, to get him on an aircraft carrier, to have him taut defense spending, to tell naval officers he supports them, is that enough to tamp down with what is going on with attorney general jeff sessions? >> well, it is important that the president talk about the need to increase our defense spending. i'm glad he's doing that. i would also say that as important as is talking about more spending is talking about how we do our military spending better, to generate better capabilities. so, we do need cyber capabilities, better intelligence capabilities and better capabilities in space. but at the end of the day, we do need to keep returning back to
the topic of russia and its interference in our election, our election cycles. frankly, the broader challenge russia has posed over the last couple of years under vladimir putin. as we looked at it from the pentagon angle over the eight years i was there, we increasingly saw an aggressive russia across europe and the middle east that was posing a challenge to us. it's important that we think our way through how to address that threat. >> on the topic of russia and on the topic specifically on what happened in the final days of the obama administration, you were there. there is that "new york times" report out that says the obama administration officials there not acting at the behest of president obama but acting on their own, trying to disseminate as much intelligence as they possibly could around washington to make sure that it was preserved. were you involved in that in any way? >> in january, i did sit next to director of national intelligence, jim clapper n
front of the armed services committee. and as part of that team, testified to the intelligence agency's collective view that intelligence indicated that russia had sought to interfere in our elections. intelligence leadership can always be counted upon to play it straight and call it as they see it. and i think they did so in this case as well. it is important that all of the data that is available be reviewed, that an impartial investigation continue so that we can pull together the full story about what russia did to interfere in our election and also what russia continues to do to be aggressive in its actions across the globe. at the end of the day, that impartial investigation is necessary to reassure the american public that we understand what the nature of the challenge is, we can learn lessons from it and prevent it from happening again. >> kevin, one administration passing off intelligence in order to preserve it because they don't trust the next administration to give it a full hearing, is that normal?
>> good question. you may ask marcel what it was like when he came in. you know, i think we might be making more of something here with trump being in norfolk. you know, this was planned a couple days ago, before the sessions story broke, but it does, once again, just keep russia on the spotlight instead of what trump has been talking about in the military and his plan for, you know, rebuilding as he keeps saying, decimated military. you know, i just heard him go down to norfolk and stand on a carrier and proclaim it to be this perfect weapon that cannot be touched by anybody else and how great the navy is and how great the military is. that's the pentagon's problem all along. you can't out of one side of your mouth say it's the best military you've ever known and on the other side say it's decimated and hurt and you can't do your job. what the military is assigned to do, is how much is trump going to use the military, including when it comes to russia. there are thousands of troops and tanks and new units pushed to russia's bordner europe.
if trump was somehow in collusion with russia he would pull that down or lower the u.s. nuclear arsenal unilaterally. there's a lot of double-talk going on. we have to wait and see what happens and judge him by his actions. i think a lot more than his words, which we keep saying a lot about president trump. >> let's bring it back to the news of the day. that is attorney general jeff sessions. what do you make of his testimony on the hill saying that he had no contact with the russians or that he didn't know of anyone in the campaign having contact with the russians when he himself and his role at the very least as a senator did have a meeting or two meetings with russian ambassador sergey kislyak? >> as others have said today, it's a routine thing for senators and elected officials to have meetings with international diplomats and ambassadors here in washington. it would not be that unusual for
senators to be meeting with diplomats from -- ambassadors from russia as well. it does seem, according to "the washington post" data they've collected so far, that meetings by u.s. senators with the russian ambassador were fairly infrequent. that does cause this one to stand out a little bit. i do think it is a key question as to why the meetings would have happened and denial they happened would have then followed. that just reminds us at the end of the day, this russia issue does cut to the integrity of our political systems. an impartial investigation of all aspects of the russia issue is really necessary at this point. >> general clark, marcel, kevin barron, thank you for joining me. after the break we'll talk more about the news of the day. reminder, donald trump, you're seeing him right there, meeting with naval officers. he was just aboard the "uss gerald ford" there in newport news, talking about his increase
in defense spending. he's going up to $54 billion. this was supposed to be a good day for the president. second day that was supposed to be a good day for the president after his joint address to congress. but yesterday, last night and today, completely overshadowed by news that his own attorney general had two meetings with russian ambassador kislyak during the campaign and did not disclose them to capitol hill while he was testifying -- or while he was being confirmed in his confirmation hearings, even though he was asked if anybody in the campaign had had contacts with russia, if he knew about them. he did not disclose his own contacts. we'll talk about this more after the break with our own hallie jackson at the white house and hans nichols, who's down there in newport news with the president. help you take on a n, or fill a big order
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trump was getting a tour of the u schs gerald ford. it's a $12.9 billion flattop, the most expensive ship ever built. donald trump down there touting his increase in defense spending. also telling naval sailors he will always support them and never, ever let them down. let's get back to the news of the day. that is surrounding attorney general jeff sessions and his contact with the russian ambassador. so far, 43 lawmakers are calling
for jeff sessions to resign. all of them democrats. one an independent, that is bernie sanders. there are only 31 other lawmakers calling for him to recuse himself from any investigation into russia. that includes republicans and democrats. let's go now to nbc's hallie jackson and hans nichols, back with me to talk more about this. does the white house feel the pressure right now? >> reporter: listen, i think that the white house has been under pressure since the day that president trump got inaugurated. i'm sure the obama administration felt that way during moment like this, during the past president's tenure in office, when administrations came under intense scrutiny. i think what you're seeing from the president is defense of his attorney general. intun who's been loyal to him, by his side for close to two years now. again, the news of the day came not on that stage, on that sort of platform where we saw the president speaking on -- in
virginia where hans is, but came inside the ship itself, where despite the bad wireless signal and internet reception, we were still able to get a readout from the small pool of travelers that travel with the president, he said he does not believe the attorney general should recuse himself. he believes the attorney general essentially answered truthfully when asked about his contacts with the russian ambassador at his confirmation hearing. >> we have that sound. we just got tape playback of it. let's play it for our audience. >> mr. president, do you still have confidence in your attorney general? >> total. >> we have some other stuff we would like to take you back to.
if you want to follow us here. >> here you go, sir. >> mr. president, should sessions recuse himself from the investigation of the campaign in russia? >> i don't think so. >> when did you first plan the meeting with the russian ambassador? >> i shouldn't -- >> when were you aware he spoke to the russian ambassador? >> i wasn't aware at all. >> do you think he should have spoken to you truthfully about whether he spoke to them. >> he probably did. >> a bit of a run-up to hear donald trump actually speak to reporters. you heard him say, i don't think he should recuse himself. he did not know he was talking to the russian ambassador. donald trump also saying he has complete confidence in his attorney general. hans nichols, you're down there in newport news. presumably you can hear yourself think now because the music isn't quite as loud. tell me what it was like in that room and was there any expectation or desire from anybody there to hear the president mention jeff sessions?
>> reporter: katy, it takes a great deal of concentration when you're landing on aan aircraft carrier. speak in front of an audience like this it takes concentration to not get veered off course. that's exactly what donald trump did upstairs talking to the press pool, that small group of reporters. his message here below deck was very focused. he's talking about building more ships. on several occasions, he was very clear on that. he said they want to have a more ships, then later said a lot more ships. he wants to get to a 12-carrier navy, which means two more $13 billion ships. you can do the math but that's a lot more spending. yes, it was very loud here. we just heard a gate close here. i hope that wasn't a sound to general quarters. we heard a robust and really sort of striking telegraph for the united states navy. i think the only people whose ears are hurting more than the whales within 100 nautical miles is the united states army. what you heard was a president intent on building the navy.
let's not pretend that the pool of money they want to spend, even if it's $54 billion, even if it's another $30 billion, that's finite. when you put together the wish list of admirals, generals across the board, they start fighting over things. today i have to say it looks like the navy has the upperhand. army will be wondering what they're going to get, same with the air force. army won the football game this year, but they might wanted to have the first presidential visit. >> hans nichols, always making me laugh when you're on tv. thank you for that. hallie jackson, thank you to you as well. i will note for those of us who oftentimes did go on prompter, stayed on prompter and didn't tweet so much when he was under fire. this seems to be what is going on right now. somebody got in his ear, told him to stay on message and to not lash out on twitter. we will see how long that lasts and if it lasts. that's all for me this hour. i'm katy tur. kate snow picks things up right
now in new york. >> nice to see you on a very busy news afternoon. i'm i'll pick up coverage on our breaking news. as we continue with the president this afternoon, voicing total confidence in his attorney general, jeff sessions. you just heard him say that again as some democrats call for his resignation. all of this after "the washington post" reported then-senator sessions met with russia's ambassador twice last year while sessions was a key adviser to the trump campaign pop a fast-moving day it request be hard to figure out what's going on. kasie hunt joins me live from capitol hill. give me the update at this moment. we just heard the president on that carrier speaking to journalists, saying he's confident, he doesn't think jeff sessions should recuse himself. what are they saying on capitol hill? where are we at? >> reporter: well, kate, at this point we are -- we still have a small but still growing slowly pile of republicans who are saying that jeff sessions should recuse himself from