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tv   MSNBC Live With Craig Melvin  MSNBC  March 31, 2017 10:00am-11:01am PDT

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peter @peteralexander. craig melvin is next right here on msnbc. good afternoon to you. craig melvin here. we are just moments away from today's white house press briefing. a live look there at 1600 pennsylvania. when that press briefing starts, sean spicer will most certainly be asked about the developments on president trump and russia. first, congress weighs in on michael flynn's offer to tell all in exchange for immunity. the senate intel committee says no, thanks. also, late word that he also offered to do the same thing for the house committee. we've got nbc news reporters spread across the country. halle jackson is at the white house, kelly o'donnell is on capitol hill. and david brody covers the white house for the christian broadcasting network. kelly o., let's start with you
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on capitol hill. walk us through these fast-moving developments, if you can. doesn't sound like a lot of support for an immunity deal for general flynn on capitol hill, safe to say. >> right now is important, because we have been told by those lawmakers in the middle of these investigations on both sides of the capitol, the senate and the house, that it is fairly early in their investigations. part of what they want to do is by reviewing a lot of documents, including raw intelligence, doing a series of different interviews where they gain information and details that would help them formulate a series of questions for someone as central as michael flynn pears to be. as the former national security advise tore the president, someone who lost that job very quickly over issues of his own credibility and ties to at least meeting with the russian ambassador, if not more. so timing is important. could they ever get to a point where immunity could be considered? they also want to be mindful of
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what the justice department is doing and to not interfere with that. so we've got different sort of spheres of influence and authority that are considering this. but the top democrat on the house intelligence committee has issued a statement a short time ago and he hit a few different points, pointing out from his sort of corner of all of this that he finds it striking that a former national security adviser would seek immunity. in the most benign reading of this, a could lawyer might advise any client to seek immunity to protect him or herself against legal exposure, especially if you have been at the center of all of this, at least in the news reports, as well as some facts that have been established. in addition to that, what adam schiff of california, the ranking member on house intelligence is saying, they would want a very detailed proffer before granting immunity. that is telling the committee what you would be able to talk about, a road map of what your testimony might be, and key in that might be identifying
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others, if there are stories to tell about others. they would want to know that first before considering immunity. so it's a case of michael flynn getting ahead of where this investigation is going. on the one hand trying to appear cooperative by offering to testify. and at the same time, using this legal tool that may be eventually at misdispo his did . we just don't know yet. but it causes those on the committee to say hold on, we're not yet. >> halle, what's been the white house response so far? >> so far, reaction from president trump, he tweeted about this right as the news was coming out on the early morning television talk shows. the president was essentially giving some backup to mike flynn, saying he should ask for immunity and that this is a witch hunt by media and dems by historic proportion. that's a different tune from what we heard from president trp on the campaign trail when it cam to hillary clinton and
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her staffers looking for immunity in the fbi server investigation. it was a concern for not just president trump but for mike flynn himself who told chuck todd some six months ago that he believed people who sought immunity had done so because they probably committed a crime. a different story now. i expect this is something we will see sean spicer pressed about, in about 25 minutes from now when that briefing begins. >> josh, hally jackson was just talking about it. i want to play precisely somewhat she was talking about for our viewers and listeners and we'll talk about this on the other side. david, also listen up. here it. >> five people around her have been given immunity, to include her former chief of staff. when you are given immunity, you have probably committed a crime. >> have you ever seen anything
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so corrupt in your life? >> so josh, it would seem as if the questions right now, at least one of the questions or a few of the questions i should say, do you give general flynn immunity to figure out what he learns or do you not and try to make a case against him assuming there's something untoward here? >> that depends on what palestinian knows and whether there are bigger targets to make a case against. but it's hard to think who is a bigger target than michael flynn other than the president himself. i think what kelly said is important, that the -- you don't want to get ahead of the fbi as a congressional committee. this happened during the iran contra scandal where grants of immunity were given out interfering with the criminal prosecutions done there. so whether or not flynn had something that was of interest to the committees, that might be a reason that they were delaying here. but yes, i would think that the fbi is really the one conducting the most important investigation here. even though there's so much
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focus on the congressional committees. it's the fbi investigation that could lead to criminal prosecutions. >> david, in terms of the white house response so far, it continues to be variations of there's nothing to see here, there's nothing to see here. this is much ado about nothing. at what point, david, does the white house become legitimately concerned? >> we, i think this is all in flux, so we don't know the answer to that, craig. i think what we're seeing is "the art of the deal," or at least the "art of the lawyer deal." look at president trump's tweet this morning. he talked about of course michael flynn needs immunity, because if you're going testify and give information in donald trump's world, you've got to get something back. quite frankly, in lawyer 101 world, it's the same thing. why in the world would you not seek immunity to cover yourself from what you believe or perceive to be your critics out there that may take something that may be close to a dangerous
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legal line and run with that? so there may be some murky issues here legally that's why immunity comes into lay. >> hallie, let's talk about another threat in this ever-developing russian authority. devin nunes, three white house officials now have been named as having past on that information. what do we know about these three folks? >> a couple of things. named by "the new york times" and "the washington post." nbc news not independently verifying that reporting. and two, not necessarily having past on the information, but having some role in the ultimate revelation when devin nunes came here within the last couple of weeks and talked about incidental collection. so you've got some named ezra cohen, two lawyers, john eisenberg and mike ellis, one who has connections with devin nunes.
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cohen had been a flynn protege, who was protected from apparently being let go from general mcmaster when he came in to lead the nsc. it is not clear how the passage of information went, like how the information got from these staffers or et cetera. but here's why it matters. think about last week and sean spicer said to members of the media, this doesn't pass the smell test. why would devin nunes come to the white house and brief the president on something if his sources had come from the white house? now, there are increasing indications that perhaps these sources did come from the white house. so the question to be posed to sean spicer and has been supposed, doesn't that then not pass the smell test that you're talking about? so it does raise more questions than answers in this situation, and it has critics raising questions of some sort of political protection for president trump, given all this.
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>> kelly, i understand during the course of our conversation, you've come across some new information regarding general flynn and this investigation. >> reporter: just learning from a source close to devin nunes, they are taking exception with adam schiff's statement. so there is discourse in the house between the chairman and ranking member. what i'm being told is the preliminary conversations with michael flynn, the former national security adviser, were so preliminary in nature that immunity was not discussed. the distinction here, devin nunes' team says that there has not been a formal request from flynn or his counsel to seek immunity. they're saying what adam schiff is talking about are the public reports. so i think that this is just another small wrinkle in what is already a very hard-to-follow story for many of our viewers. but they're saying flynn has not made the specific request to the chairman.
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that would normally be the route they would take. so again, trying to pump the brakes on this. it's important to highlight the division between the house's two top leaders, such a contrast on the senate side, where they're trying to do everything they can to be arm in arm to show unity and cooperation and to try to portray a lack of partisanship in what they're doing. so even on the issue of is a prime potential witness seeking immunity, there's another way of looking at the same set of facts with different interpretations. >> hallie, meanwhile all of this going on amid a bit of a staff shakeup. what do we know about that and how much do we know -- or do we know if this is connected to that failed health care bill? >> that's the speculation, that somebody's head has to roll because of the health care bill
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fallout. kate walsh, long-time right hand man of reince iebus, she's been here in the westin and is going to be leaving to shift over to the political arm, the outside group that is working to sort of help president trump promote his policies and agenda out in the rest of america, out in the real world, similar to what former president obama had during his tenure. so it is a bit of a shakeup, the question is how much is this going to resonate or develop as far as other dominos that now may fall inside the west wing? this is a little bit -- i've got to say, craig, a little inside baseball, unless you live in d.c. or have connections to the city here, what does it matter? but it is an indication that there is some reassessment happening inside the west wing about leadership, about the way the direction is that they've been going, as well. >> josh, let's talk about what's expected to happen later today
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with regards to president trump signing these executive orders related to trade. next week, of course, he's got the meeting with chinese president xi jinping. the eos this afternoon, what are they expected to be related to? >> i don't think this is going to be that important. with the exception of the immigration executive order that caused that big mess, most of the executive orders that have been coming out of the president has been for show. this will direct the commerce department to generate a report why the u.s. has trade deficits, identifying the reasons, trying to figure out if we can do about it. that will come back in three months. there's also an effort to tighten up on import duties that we're supposed to be collecting and we're not. it's about sending a message to the chinese that the u.s. is serious about trade and we're sick of the trade deficit we have with china. the problem is, these things are not as simple to fix as the
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president makes them out to be. china's currency, they used to manipulate it in a way to create a trade surplus, now it's about china's weak economy. it's not like they're doing something they can just stop doing. and then the president has a lot of other requests to china. it wants china to be helpful with north korea. the president has tried to stake out a hard line with china and wling blinked when he he said china and taiwan are one country. to even get on the phone with china, the president had to say he did support the one china policy. so this is definitely an effort to move the conversation. >> currency manipulation, jobs, trade, david, these are the kinds of populist messages that really resonated with a lot of voters during the campaign,
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argue wably those are some of t major reasons donald trump is in the white house today. how real is the worry that all of that is getting lost amid the incessant conversation about russia and ties to russia and things oh of that nature? >> not much and here's why. this is like donald trump was able to win the presidency of the united states, because what's happening within washington and new york and some of those above the fold headlines in "the new york times" sound great and just kind of juicy. but how this plays in peoria and the rust belt, those states that donald trump won, they're worried about other things. the challenge for the president, he made a lot of campaign promise and has delivered from an executive standpoint. but on the legislative front, he has to learn the process. >> it's as though you're
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saying -- we talk about it but folks don't talk about it. >> pretty much. >> david, thank you. josh, hallie, kelly, a big thanks as always. this bringing us to the pulse question of the day -- >> that is the question. the pulse is live. we are once again keeping a very close eye on the briefing room. sean spicer expected to hold that daily briefing 15 minutes from now. when it happens, we will bring it to you here hillarclinton also back in the spotlight, blasting the white house's budget, warning cutto diplomacy could have devastating effects. i'll talk to two former advisers right after this.
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hillary clinton continues her return to public life today. the former presidential candidate talked this morning at ab an awards ceremony, her first public appearance in the nation's capital since president trump's inauguration. in her speech, she called president trump's proposed budget cuts shortsighted. >> this administration's proposed cuts to international health, development, and diplomacy would be a blow to women and children and a grave
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mistake for our country. turning our back on diplomacy won't make our country safer, it will undermine our security and our standing in the world. >> let's bring in republican strategist joel benson, and now an msnbc political analyst, and karen finney, a spokesperson for hillary clinton's campaign, also now at msnbc. good to have all three of you. joel, let me start with you. this is the second time we have seen hillary clinton in public this week. is she easing her way back on the national political stage? >> i think she's easing her way back into the public spotlight. i don't think anybody ever expected that hillary clinton would disappear from the national or world stage. she's one of the most recognized, respected women in the world. she's got a world of -- a lifetime of experience working on women and children. and her experience as secretary
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of state, she knows how these things work. so when there are threats to how we're going to conduct diplomacy around the world and our role in the world, and the issues she's always cared about, she's going to speak out. that's a proper role. she understands that it takes more than just diplomacy from the top, that these cuts a t the state department that they're talking about would be very damaging to keeping america as a strong leader in the free world as the world gets more complex. >> karen, i'm certain you listened or read part of that speech from secretary clinton this morning. no mention of any of the controversy surrounding this trump white house so far. no criticism of any of those contro verse yvers controversies. she did take aim at some of policies. but why not talk about the sketchy stuff around this administration many >> why should she? this is a person, who joel mentioned, cares very deeply
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about these issues and understands that some of the types of cuts that we're talking about, the damage that that would do. think about you have andrea mitchell over there in brussels, and we're trying to reassure nato, and keep our allies on board and in the same place. i mean, that is the realm in which hillary clinton has a great deal of experience and understands quite well the danger to our country that some of these cuts would potentially bring. there's no need for her to weigh in on any of these controversies. heaven knowshere's plenty others willing to. it's more important for hillary to use her voice and stature to talk about these other very important issues where she does have the expertise, where she does have the credibility and the respect. i mean, let's be clear about something, craig, these things we're talking about.
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this is not about sour grapes, whether or not the russians -- the impact the russians may or may not have had, the role they may or may not have had, the various figures in the trump campaign who may or may not have been involved. this is about the national security of our country. there is a place for that conversation and a place for those investigations. hillary instead is trying to speak out on issues she cares about that are also about the core values of our country. but let's not try to, you know, create a new narrative around sort of sour grapes in that conversation. we need to focus on the need for an independent investigation into what happened with russia. >> noelle, let's talk about that in the news of the day with regards to general michael flynn. one of the things that continues to strike folks as ironic, this was the general flynn a lot of folks saw on the campaign trail. here he is.
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>> the very last thing that john podesta said is no individual too big to jail. that should include people like hillary clinton. five people around her have been given immunity, to include her former chief of staff. when you are given immunity, that means that you have probably committed a crime. >> and now general flynn is seeking immunity from the senate intelligence committee. there was some report that he's seeking an immunity deal from the house committee, as well. you've been in the political game a long time. what does your gut tell you? is this a case where you have a three-star general who clearly knows something, who is trying to protect himself? or is it as some legal experts have suggested, he's just covering his base which is the immunity request? >> we won't know until it comes out. i will tell you, i'm sure this tape has been played over and of again. i'm sure he's cringing when he hears this, because of what he said about hillary clinton and now he finds himself in the same
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hot water with the immunity deal with. that said, a lot of times it's customary. when you go before congress, you want immunity because you never know what avenues or where things are going to lead. so it's almost like a protection barrier. it's almost like it would be a natural step for an attorney to go ahead and ask for that protection. >> joel, when the flynn news broke yesterday, we had already wrapped up and hadn't had that conversation on the air. what do you make of the latest developments regarding the general and his immunity request? >> well, you know, i think as noelle said, it's not unusual for people to get that kind of advice from their lawyer. what is deserving of more attention is the notion that we have the president of the united states tweeting that he should be given immunity. i mean, this is an investigation that could ladder up very close to him. he's got to have attorneys,
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whether it's the white house counsel mr. mcgann or in the justice department, whoever is the now ranking attorney general there, advising him stay out of this investigation. this is in some way about you and you shouldn't be commenting on it. >> you're nodding no? >> joel has to realize we are used to, you know, president obama sending tweets. we are used to this -- [ overlapping speakers ] >> but this is an investigation, in fairness, into president trump -- >> you're not comparing president obama's tweets to president trump's tweets? >> no, i'm not comparing the two twitter accounts. no, no, no. but what i am saying, we should be used to president trump doing these tweets. >> should we be used to it? >> the people that supported donald trump and voted for donald trump, they want these eets.
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they want this transparency. they depend on it, because they think the rest of the news is either fake news or -- >> karen, go ahead. >> here's why there is not transparency. we saw it yesterday and we've seen sean spicer say it a number of times. when asked in a briefing, a fair question, president trump tweeted x and the phrase i think that ought to be on a tfx shirt at this point is, i'll let the tweet speak for itself. so what that means is we're not getting transparency. it means president trump gets to tweet whatever he wants unaccountable to any question, even just a clarifying question from a reporter, seeking to understand somewhat was the point behind that tweet? what was he trying to say? it's the lack of accountability that's problematic here. >> big thanks to all of you. there are a number of reporters seeking clarification in the briefing room right now, waiting on mr. spicer to do what he does around this time every day.
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and oh, look, they've got the screens up. that means we're going to get some skype questions this afternoon. that press briefing expected to start a few minutes from now. we'll take a quick break. also, breaking news, as well. the trump administration handing down some rather significant sanctions against north korea a short time ago. we'll break that down right after this. growing up, we were german. we danced in a german dance group. i wore lederhosen. when i first got on ancestry i was really surprised that i wasn't finding all of these germans in my tree. i decided to have my dna tested through ancestry dna. the big surprise was we're not german at all. 52% of my dna comes from scotland and ireland. so, i traded in my lederhosen for a kilt. ancestry has many paths to discovering your story. get started for free at
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some breaking news right now. a federal judge has approved the $25 million trump university settlement announced late last year. the trump organization admitted no wrongdoing, with some students saying they enjoyed the class. many others saying they were defrauded. pete williams is joining me now. what does this decision mean for the students and the trump organization? >> reporter: the lawsuit is officially over. the lawsuit was reached 11 days after the election. the president-elect then said it was too much of a distraction, that he didn't intend to settle but he changed his mind. about 3700 students were in a
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class action case and a lawsuit filed by the attorney general of new york. they all said they were defrauded. they didn't get faculty members hand picked by donald trump. the materials weren't what they said they wanted. the lawyers said the students will get roughly 90% of their money back. the rest of the money will go to the lawyers. this was a case preside over by judge curial. the president said he was prejudice against him. but this is merely the formalt he, the judge approving the settlement. >> pete, thanks, as swualways. you see the briefing room, so that means the press secretary is a few minutes away from taking some questions from reporters. but before we get to that, let's get to another breaking story at this hour. new action today against north
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korea by the united states. the treasury department just announcing some new economic sanctions on 11 north koreans and one north korean company, as well. pentagon correspondent hans nichols is following that story. hans, what more do we know here? >> reporter: there are a couple of important things going on here. this gives you an indication that diplomacy is still taking place. they're talking about sanctions. sometimes the pentagon, there's talk of potentially what you might do on the military side. diplomacy is still working. number two, these are against mostly individuals, not against the chinese banks or banks that have a footprint in china that could potentially being doing business with north korea. you see such push on capitol hill with that in increasing sanctions. twin all this together with what we heard from secretary mattis this morning in london, where he was cheer he walear he wanted i
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diplomatic pressure. >> we're working with our allies and working diplomatically, including with those that we might be able to enlist in this effort to get north korea under control. but right now, it appears to be going in a very reckless manner in what its conduct is portraying for the future, and that's got to be stopped. >> reporter: it's got to be stopped could be taken as a little bellicose. the fact that he talked about the importance of working with allies, a clear message they want to work more closely with the chinese how to constrict north korea's behavior. craig? >> hans, these 11 individuals in north korea, what do we know about them and what do they have in common? >> rorter: they all have north korean passports. flipping through, one was born in vietnam. but they're north korean
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nationals. most appear to be heads of major companies. but again, the issue with companies in north korea, how do you shut them off from the international banking community? to do that, this is why you hear calls for escalated sanctions, you need to go after banks that are in china. china is the go between bank. a bank offshore that does business in north korea but has access to international capital markets. so yes, this is a slight escalation of sanctions, but this isn't the big step change you're hearing some calls on from capitol hill, that if you want to increase sanctions on north korea, you need to go after the banks doing business there. >> hans nichols for us at the white house. hans, thank you. here's another story we're following closely. again, as we wait for the press secretary to take to the podium. a former obama administration official selling nbc news that key classified documents
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regarding the russian probe were given serial numbers to make them hard tore bury. the administration was concerned about the fate of the documents. nbc's intelligence and national security reporter is standing by with more on this. what are you hearing about this story? >> reporter: this is exclusive new information from the nbc news investigative unit. exactly right. this obama administration official is telling us that an index of classified documents related to the russian investigation was created with these serial numbers, and it was hand carried over to members of the senate intelligence committee. the reason is obama officials were concerned about what would happen to this intelligence when the trump administration took office and wanted to make sure it couldn't be buried. this is consistent with "new york times" reporting that talked about the obama administration spreading bread
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crumbs, and the trump adnistrationpuicans have been very critical of this and suggested somehow it was inappropriate. but democrats and obama administration officials say look, this stuff was there. it was serious intelligence. we wanted to make sure other people knew about it, that it wasn't just sitting at a safe at the cia in langley. >> how many documents are we talking about, or do we know? >> reporter: we don't know. 234 gener in general, there are hundreds, if not thousands of intelligence reports related to the circle of information about the russian hack. >> how can we or can we at this point characterize the nature of these reports? what do we know about what was in this stuff? >> reporter: we know very little. just that it was based on classified intelligence, very sensitive intelligence about the russia hack. which, as you know, the investigation includes into whether trump officials colluded
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with the russians. >> ken, thank you. again, all eyes on the briefing room here. we are expecting that briefing to start any moment. for now, let's take a look at what we're seeing about microsoft's pulse question. should general michael flynn get immunity in exchange for testimony about potential trump campaign ties to russia. so far, 89% of you say no, there is still plenty of time to weigh in. it's you can continue to vote. we were given the two-minute warning a short time ago for that white house daily briefing. they are clearly running behind on this friday afternoon. so we're going to take a quick break. look closely. hidden in every swing, every chip, and every putt, is data that can make the difference between winning and losing.
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u.s. trade representative to examine every ford of trade that are currently contributing to the united states' large and persistent trade deficit, which was the largest of any major nation in 2016 at $500 billion. within 90 days, the department of commerce and the u.s. trade representative will submit a comprehensive report to the president on the causes of our unduly large trade deficit. it's the first time in modern history that an american president has called for such an investigation and our findings will allow us to make smarter decisions on behalf of the american people about the trade policy going forward. that's why the aflcio, the united steelworkers union and others came out to applaud the order. the second executive order addresses the current lack of enforcement of one of our strongest tools in fighting unfair trade practices.
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countervailing duties were put in place to address the problem of other countries dumping undervalued goods into american markets, making it impossible for american businesses to compete with artificially low prices. this is a problem in countries whose governments subsidize exports into our country. so the u.s. customs agency has a mechanism for assessing these transactions and imposing financial penalties known as countervailing duties when it's determined that this dumping has occurred. we could do a lot about maximizing this enforcement for our country. so we need to do a better job on what have of the american worker. if a foreign company is able to flood american markets with an artificially cheap steel, for
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example, they price american companies out of the system. say you're the owner of a steel company in ohio. you can't compete with some of these below market prices. so you have to find other ways to meet the bottom line, like closing down a factory or laying off workers. we're costing americans who work in so many industries, not just steel but in agriculture, chemical, machinery and other manufactured goods in particular. president trump was elected to do everything he can to support american workers and american manufacturers. together, these two executive orders are a significant step in accomplishing the president's promise to end unfair trade practices once and for all. we're pleased to see that senators manchin of west virginia and hidecamp announce their support for neil gorsuch.
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we hope their praise leads to additional support. it's hard to find any reason except for obstructionism to see why fellow democrats have not been able to join them. as i said yesterday, judge gorsuch is highly regarded, having received a rating of well qualified from the american bar association and demonstrated an unprecedented level of transparency, including the release of 75,000 pages of documents, and 70 pages of written answers about his personal records and has demonstrated a main stream judicial record, with all of his decisions being joined by democratic appointed judges. democrats have fudged the facts, tried to mislead the american people, essentially claiming a nonexistent 60-vote standard. as i said before, should chuck
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schumer get his way, this would be the first successful filibuster of a nominee to join the supreme court. this would make history in a very bad way. they've also forgotten their own words. i've cited previously this week the rhetoric of senator schumer, hillary clinton, the regrets of invoking the filibuster by president obama, then senator obama. and the words that many other senate democrats, unlike blocking a vote for a judge, having gone through the process has no precedent and is irresponsible. let me cite one more argument democrats have recently made. current members of the senate reject the notion of a supreme court operating with eight, not nine justices. these include senator schumer, dick durbin, diane feinstein, disaster, ben cardin, and martin hendrik. each of these democrats need not listen to me or the president, but their own words just recently as last year. the president told the american
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people today why it is. again, we call on senate democrats to end this unnecessary obstruction and confirm an imminently qualified jurist for the bench. less also last night, an appeal was filed dealing with protecting this country. moving on to some of the events of today and this morning, the president met with condoleezza rice, former secretary of state. hey had an opportunity to talk about regional threats, current foreign affairs hot spots, our attempt to defeat isis and many more areas. it was a great meeting where they discussed many of the challenges facing our country. and the president sought her opinions on a variety of suects. he also signed joint resolution 32, and h.r. 1362, naming a v.a.
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clinic america samoa. the president joined the president of manufacturers, and unveiled the association's manufacturer's outlook survey. an incredible 93% of manufacturers surveyed by the national association of manufacturers now have a positive outlook for the future. this's a 20-year record high that's more than 35 points higher than that same rating last year. to quote from the survey, the rising confidence stems from the belief that the new information in washington, d.c. will bring much needed regulatory relief as well as reforms to the tax code and a significant infrastructure package. the optimism is evident across the spectrum of indicators. the dow jones is up over 12% since election day. the small business index show small business owners are the most optimistic they've been
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since 2007. it's not surprising that american industry is reacting in this way. the president has taken immediate steps to make it easier to do business in this country, and we are just at the beginning of this process. on top of these steps taken with the executive orders, he's withdrawn from the transpacific partnership agreement, cleared the way for pipelines, and signed legislation preventing the burdensome stream protection rule from causing further harm to america's coal industry. the president was glad to see this report reflecting the incredible positivity that his policies have created. back to this afternoon. the president will meet with director of the office of management and budget -- excuse me. in cabinet news today, the secretary of state rex tillerson
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is in brussels attending the nato foreign minister's meeting. there he reaffirmed the trump administration's steadfast commitment to nato. secretary tillerson stressed the need for all member countries to meet their defense spending commitments, as well as nato to take a larger role in the fight against isis. the president looks forward to meeting with partners of nato to reaffirm the united states' commitment to nato and discuss ways to strengthen the alliance to cope with challenges and national and international security. this morning, the office of the united states trade representative released the 2017 national trade estimate. the annual report, which is required by law, surveys the significant barriers faced by american exporters. it prioritizes the enforcement of the trade laws to protect american workers. the president looks forward to having the ambassador in place so he can begin his important
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work in earnest and fulfill the mission of this report. and the transportation secretary yesterday celebrated the 50th birthday of the department of transportation directed officials of transportation, today directed the highway officials to $10 million in emergency relief funds to begin repairs on atlanta's collapsed i-85 overpass. releasing these fines will ensure the bridge is repaired safely and in a timely manner. the white house office of intergovernmental affairs has already talked to georgia governors. the georgia governor and team have spoken with the governor. looking forward as promised today, we're releasing the u.s. oge financial reports filed by the commissioner in the white house. right after i'm done here, we're going to have a background briefing with compliance and ethics officers to walk you through how that process is going to go and the public release of that information, which will occur later this evening. we'll be sure to update you if there is anything further to add. this weekend the president will be here in the white
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ushousehold i holding meetings. we'll be sure to update you if there is anything to add. on sunday the world will honor autism awareness day, lighting the white house in blue for autism awareness. treating autism disorders is one of the president's priorities. as we light the white house in blue on sunday, the white house will be celebrating all families whose lives are impacted by autism. i would note it's a really interesting story how this came to be. the head of autism speaks, an organization that has done tremendous work with this, bob wright, who is one of the co-founders, a long-time friend of the president. his wife suzanne was struggling with pancreatic cancer last year, and the president made a pledge to her. he said, if i'm elected president in support of this cause you care so deeply about, i will light the white house blue. so it is in suzanne's and bob wright's honor that this will
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occur for this great cause, and i hope bob knows that suzanne is looking down proudly to see that that pledge has been fulfilled. with that, i'd be glad to take your questions. john roberts. >> sean, a couple of questions, if i could, about chairman nunes's visit to the white house. fox news has been told by intelligence officials that chairman nunes is aware of who did the unmasking of certain individuals in the transition and may be aware of who ordered the unmasking of those individuals. is the white house aware of that information? >> i don't know what he knows in the sense that that's -- and again, i've tried to make a point not to get into the specifics of that report. i will not -- i think it's not in our interest to talk about the process. what occurred between chairman nunes and coming here was both routine and proper. chairman nunes and ranking member schiff, who i understand is expected here later today,
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both possess the appropriate credentials and clearances. we've invited democrats here and i've been told that material they will see will shed light on the investigation. i know a lot of folks want to talk about the process and not the surveillancend the underlying issue. the substance, the unmasking and leaks is what we should all be concerned about. it affects all americans, our libertys, our freedom, our civil liberties. so let's talk about some of the substance. on march 2nd, the day before the president's tweet comments before the foreign policy expert dr. evelyn farkas, together with reports raised serious concerns about whether there was a widespread effort by the obama administration to use and leak highly sensitive intelligence information for political purposes. she admitted this on television by saying, i was urging my former colleagues, frankly speaking, the people on the hill. i was telling the people on the hill, get as much information as you can, get as much intelligence as you can. i had a fear that they were essentially watching the trump
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staff and he was worried about the trump administration. that's what's out there and i know nbc news has just reported something very similar about information that was used by the obama white house to spread this information and this politically sensitive information. dr. farkas' add migtmissions ale devastating. on march 4th, the president, as you know, raised question of serious monitoring, if they were being improperly monitored for purposes of the obama administration. national security council staff discovered information that may support the questions raised by the president and dr. farkas' claim. these are serious issues. they raise serious concerns, and if true, the issues would be devastating. we're committed to working with the house and senate committees, as we've said multiple times, to get to the bottom of what happened here, why it happened and who was involved. for this reason, we're in the process of ensuring that the
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reports that the nsc staff discovered in the normal course of business are made available to those committees investigating to ensure that all of the facts come to light. and if everyone was treating the president of the administration fairly, you would ask a series of much different questions about the substance than the materials. as we've said before i mean, when you talk about russia in particular, everyone who has been briefed on the subject, from republican to democrat to cia, former obama administration's clapper, brennan, you name it, all of the people come back with the same conclusion. i think that is important that there's been no evidence of the president's campaign and russian officials. in fact, as you heard me state before, it was hillary clinton of the last administration's failed reset policy. she told russian state tv that it was designed to strengthen russia. that was their goal, to strengthen russia. she used her office to make concession after concession, selling off one-fifth of our country's uranium. paid speeches, paid deals,
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getting personal calls from vladimir putin. i think if there is really one to talk about a russian connection and the substance, that's where we should be looking. that, not there. >> i wasn't expecting to tap quite such a deep well with that question. >> it's friday. >> intelligence officials also tell us that chairman nunes knew about the documents that he viewed at the white house back in january but ended up looking at them at the nsc skiff only because he could not get access to those same documents through other intelligence agencies. basically it was a last resort to come here to the white house to view them. do you know if that is the case? >> i don't. i do know it tracks everything that's been -- i saw a couple tweets the other day where people were saying the nsa was trying to get documents. from a narrative of what's out there -- again, we've been trying to be very careful about this and tried to be consistent about how we want this handled. but everything that he has said, when he came out initially and
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talked to the media, he made it very clear that he had been looking into this, he had stated this much earlier than the president ever raised this issue about surveillance and the unmasking of individuals for areas that had nothing to do with russia, nothing to do with substantive intelligence or surveillance. so i think that as we continue down this path, if you actually begin to focus, really, on the substance, i think we see more and more a very troubling and devastating path. >> just one more thing to clear up on process, if i could. we're also being told by intelligence officials that the two individuals who were identified yesterday, watnik and michael ellis, were not the source of the information for the intelligence chairman. they did play an ancillary role in terms of finding some extra evidence here at the white house and helping to sign him in so he could view the intelligence. do you know -- >> again, john, i'm not -- if i start commenting on every one of these stories, i can't -- that's
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not our practice. again, part of it is if we confirm some things and not others, we're going down a very slippery slope. i can say we've continued to say the substance of this matter and what continues to come to light in terms of obama officials admitting either off the record or, frankly, on the record consistent with what dr. farkas says, that there was clearly an attempt to do something politically motivated with the intelligence out there. and the question is why. who else did it? was it ordered and by whom? i think more and more the substance that continues to come out on the record by individuals continues to point to exactly what the president was talking about that day on march 5th. jonathan? >> sean, we heard from the president this morning saying mike flynn should ask for immunity. we also know the president has longstanding views on what immunity means. back in december he said if you are guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for?
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so does the president think mike flynn is guilty of a crime? >> he believes mike flynn should go testify. he thinks he should go up there and do what he has to do to get the story out. >> without immunity? >> that's up to him and his lawyer to decide. i'm not going to give mike flynn or anyone else legal advice from the podium, but i will tell you the president's view is he should go up there, he should testify. >> but the president gave legal advice from his twitter account -- >> i understand -- >> and he said in the past the only reason you ask for immunity is if you commit a crime. >> the underlying point you're missing is what he's asking is go testify. get it out there. do what you have to do to tell congress and tell everybody exactly what we've been saying for a long time. i get your point, but i think that the interesting thing is if you actually stop for second and realize what the president is doing, it's that he's saying do whatever you have to do to go up to make it clear what happened, take whatever precaution you want or however your legal counsel advises you. but again, the -- you know, i've
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heard in some legal circles that the president could have exerted legal authority with him and sally yates and others, it's quite the opposite. again, i think compared to the narrative you hear from a lot of folks in this room all the time is a little bit opposite. here you have a president who is telling mike flynn and others to go up there, make sure -- in fact, we talked the other day with members of the administration we volunteered. the administration is doing everything it can to get to the bottom of this in an appropriate way. that is an important distinction that's been lost on a lot of you, that every action we've taken, we've gone up here and talked about russia and the lack of connection. we've talked about the fact that every single person who was briefed came away and said none exists. yet at the end of the day, the narrative still comes to us, and now we're going to the point where we actually encourage people to go talk to the house and senate committee and the appropriate investigators so they can continue to get to the bottom of this. i think that's quite the op


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