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tv   The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell  MSNBC  July 22, 2017 5:00pm-6:00pm PDT

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that is how they used to do it when he was in charge. now that the white house has hand-picked someone to take over that job, apparently we get the kushner forms 7:00 on a friday night. that does it for us tonight. we'll see you again on monday. now it's time for "the last word." ari melber sitting in for lawrence tonight. good evening, ari. >> good evening, rachel. sometimes the news breaks late and people ask why, and there's no reason. and then sometimes it feels like maybe there's a reason. >> that's right. and, you know, some of these things, i just feel like it's because we're all cursed, and we don't get real weekends. so fridays just end up being a busy day. but there are some things in the news tonight that feel like legit, deliberate friday night news dumps that are supposed to be burying these things. >> right. and your reporting on what outgoing former director shaub said adds context to that. i am ari melber in for lawrence o'donnell this evening. it seems attorney general jeff sessions' week did go from bad
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to worse. we have this breaking news tonight among several stories. first from "the washington post," that current and former u.s. officials are saying u.s. spy agencies intercepted these conversations of russia's former ambassador to washington, sergey kislyak. a source saying, kislyak told his superiors in moscow that he did discuss campaign-related matters, including specifically policy issues that are important to moscow with, yes, jeff sessions, smack dab in the middle of the ongoing 2016 campaign. the post cites a u.s. official that says this means jeff sessions was misleading the public. >> i never had meetings with russian operatives or russian intermediaries about the trump campaign. and the idea that i was part of a, quote, continuing exchange of information during the campaign between trump surrogates and intermediaries for the russian government is totally false. >> and, quote, a former official
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said the intelligence indicates sessions and kislyak had substantive discussions on matters including trump's positions on russia-related issues and prospects for u.s./russia relations in a trump administration. now, the post makes an important point that we all obviously have to keep in mind here. the officials acknowledge that the russian ambassador could have mischaracterized, exaggerated, even made up some of the nature of these interactions. the russians obviously may have their own motivations in how they discuss these meetings, even on their private lines. s as for these anonymous u.s. officials, we don't know at this hour and the post doesn't say whether their sources there were trying to, say, blow the whistle on potential misconduct by jeff sessions or others, or if the sources are pro-trump, trying to hurt jeff sessions in the very same week president trump criticized him with the kind of
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language that really, in any other administration, would be a prelude to dismissal. we do know the president says he's unhappy with jeff sessions. and according to the president, think about it. the reason is not immigration enforcement, which was the biggest doj focus in trump's campaign. the reason that trump is unhappy with sessions has nothing to do with cracking down on gangs or drugs or mortgage fraud or really anything related to the attorney general's vast powers and influence over the lives of everyday americans. no, according to the president's own words, the big reason he is losing confidence in jeff sessions is all about the attorney general's impact on donald trump himself. let's get right to this big story tonight. i'm joined by john mclaughlin, former acting director of the cia, max boot, a senior fellow for national security studies and adviser to mitt romney back in 2012, and reporter david corn. mr. mclaughlin, the intercepts that are described in "the washington post" story, what do
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they mean to you, and how much more would you like to know about them? >> well, ari, to be frank, i mean if this came to me in my old job, if someone walked into my office and told me this story, the first question i'd have would be i want to see the intercept. in other words, i would like to know all of the details in it and make some judgment about the way it's characterized and so forth. obviously if there's truth to it, it's appropriate to think about -- smart to think about whose agenda is being served here, and i think you already talked about the possibilities there. but the final thought i would give you on what it means to me is if this is true, it's obviously very sensitive intelligence. so someone throwing it out has to have an agenda that's pretty important to them. >> max, do you see the same potential agendas? >> absolutely. i mean to me, this is a little bit like choosing between iran, iraq during the iran/iraq war
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because you have donald trump versus his own attorney general, and neither one inspires a lot of confidence. i mean certainly it's huge news if this "washington post" story is accurate that jeff sessions had discussions with the russians about the campaign and then lied about it, including possibly perjuring himself before the senate. but then you have to wonder as john mclaughlin just said, why is this coming out? there's a lot of speculation that it's being leaked by the white house because just a couple of days ago donald trump unloaded on his own attorney general, and there's a lot of speculation that he's trying to force jeff sessions out so he can appoint somebody else who will fire bob mueller for him. so bad as sessions' conduct may be, it may actually be in the interest of the republic for him to stay where he is so that trump can't put a yes man in that position. >> sometimes we ask big, complicated questions. i have a very simple question for you building on the comments here of our colleagues. how could it be that there is no russia collusion or russia problem according to donald trump, but the one reason he would fire or be unhappy with
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jeff sessions is a meeting with a russian ambassador that the president himself still maintains is of no significance? >> you know, i cannot answer any question about what donald trump thinks. you know, he is highly situational. what he says, i think, is only meant to stand for the nanosecond he says it. it doesn't matter whether it's logical, consistent with anything else he's ever said. to me, you know, a big way of looking at what's coming out tonight, assuming "the washington post" report is accurate, is that why does this matter so much? well, what matters is if you have really one of the top surrogates for donald trump, you know, in the spring of 2016 talking to the russians kind of as they're beginning to figure out how to do information warfare against the u.s. election to help trump and to hurt hillary clinton, but if he's telling the russians, you know, if we get elected, you'll get a better deal with us. we want to revisit sanctions. donald trump likes putin, wants
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to sit down and talk to him about doing things differently. if that message is being conveyed by jeff sessions to the ambassador from russia, he is giving putin incentive and motivation for going ahead with this far-ranging information campaign, warfare campaign that included the hacks and the release of e-mails but went much further than that. he is helping the russians by letting them know that if they do this, there may be a big payoff for them in the end. >> david, the president complains about leaks a lot. he doesn't seem to be complaining yet tonight about this leak. >> well, we'll see what tweet comes out at 5:00 in the morning, 6:00 in the morning. i mean he complains about anonymous sources yet he goes off the record with "the new york times" himself and of course white house people go off
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the record all the time. so, you know, the way this white house leaks, we may know by the time this show is over who is behind the leak. but it's even amazing that we're thinking for a moment that a president might be leaking information that hurts his attorney general and makes his own campaign look bad just to get rid of the guy because he didn't recuse himself. >> max boot, the flip side of all this would be absent a russia problem and absent what may be misleading testimony, the underlying meeting itself, even if they did discuss policy and in the potential trump administration, is that problematic too? >> i think taken in isolation, if this had been, you know, a number of romney campaign meeting with the russian ambassador and assuming he didn't lie about it afterwards, it could be perfectly proper. but you have to take it in a larger context. remember, this is not even necessarily the biggest news
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story of the week. remember, the week began with news that donald trump had a quote, unquote, secret meeting at the hamburg g20 summit with vladimir putin where they talked about, quote, unquote, adoptions, which is code words for sanctions. then shortly thereafter, trump ended u.s. aid to the moderate syrian rebels, which is a key demand that the russians have been making for a long time. we're every single day learning more about this meeting that occurred in 2016 between donald trump jr. and the rest of the trump campaign hierarchy and these russian representatives, including the fact that we learned today that the lawyer who was involved there on the russian side represents the fsb, the russian intelligence service. so if you put all this into the context and you see all of these russian connections, there's a new one every single day, and increasingly benign explanations for what they're up to, benign explanations are just not incredible. >> right. you mentioned the disclosures on the meeting alone and how outnumbered the trump folks were with these russian officials. john mclaughlin, here was jeff sessions -- i would say the crescendo of his testimony when he clearly decided to try to lay
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down a gauntlet and appeal to his former colleagues in the senate with the idea that he couldn't possibly have done something wrong on russia. >> the suggestion that i participated in any collusion, that i was aware of any collusion with the russian government to hurt this country, which i have served with honor for 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process is an appalling and detestable lie. >> john mclaughlin, as someone who has sifted evidence your whole life, at this hour, is it still operative, that kind of blanket denial from him, or do you see anything in public here that casts doubt on that? >> well, if there's truth to this report we've just been talking about, everything that jeff sessions said doesn't stand. and he says it in such an affirmative way that it's been a
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long time since i've seen such a stark contrast between the statements of a public official and what in this case may be true in this "washington post" article. i'm certain in any event that there's a core of truth to it. so i think it casts considerable doubt on jeff sessions' staying power in this position. i think that's probably the next shoe that we'll see drop here will be some discussion of whether he should stay or leave. so once again we see intelligence -- this is a common theme in this administration throughout its six months so far, is that intelligence is used by various factions in the administration as a political weapon. whether we're talking about leaks from the hill or leaks from within the white house, just another example, i think, of what is evidently a chaotic situation in which they do not yet have across the board the
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kind of team work established that's required to really move our government and our interests forward. t. kind of appalling from all of those points of view. >> how would you, if you were back in your role running the cia, how would you deal with something like this? is there any effort to get the intercept if not out to the public, to the gang of eight or to some respectable process body that can look at it, or does that just make a bad problem worse? >> well, the first thing, of course, is you would probably know who had this intercept if it's an intercept as described. you would know who had received it, and you would be running down your list of potential sources for the leak. if someone in the congress had not seen it -- and this may have been a restricted document -- this may have been an extremely sensitive document that not many people will have seen. so you would be getting calls from your two oversight committees for the document and any background information on it. you'd be briefing it. you'd be answering questions about it.
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you would be talking -- you would be -- as i said, the first thing i would do is say, let me see that document if it appeared in the press like this, if i hadn't seen it up to that point. and i would want to look at it from the standpoint of what are the motives of kislyak here. i met him quite often when he was head of the a americas department in the russian foreign ministry. he was capable of embellishing to americans but i don't think he does that with his superiors. he's actually a rather professional guy speaking just from an espionage point of view. and also i would say a really outside possibility here, just to put every conceivable idea on the table, is that the russians could send something like this through in a form that they expect it to be intercepted just as part of their covert action operation to throw more chaos into our system, which they've succeeded in doing.
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>> i appreciate your point. i think that's very much on the table of possibilities given the recent conduct and how much work they've done to sow chaos. we know parts of the misinformation campaign were just to create some independent coo of confusion, which is different than other parts that were designed to explicitly reach strategic objectives like blunt any momentum of hillary clinton. we've seen both patterns in the intel community, and your former colleagues have spoken to that. david corn, i want to read the denial here from sessions' spokesperson, which also seems to have a problem in it. but here it is. quote, i obviously cannot comment on the reliability of what anonymous sources describe in a wholly uncorroborated intelligence intercept that "the washington post" has not seen
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and that has not been provided to me. >> david -- >> can we play, can you spot the problem? >> i was going to say, number one, in fairness, it is true we don't have the intercept, so there's a fair point i think they make. then the problem, i think, is she's zeroing in here on a quote regarding only meddle, which is not actually a denial to the rest of the piece. go ahead. >> this is a quite common device used in washington and elsewhere, which is you deny the charge that isn't really made. you know, he never talked to the russians about collusion or meddling. that's not what this intercept, you know, says according to "the washington post" report. it says that he talked to kislyak about the trump campaign and policy positions that trump would presumably adopt should he become president. and he had specifically denied that any of his contacts with kislyak, which first he denied
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totally happened, but then when he conceded there were contacts, he said it had nothing to do with the campaign. it was just maybe in his senatorial role and he exchanged pleasantries, but nothing about the campaign. so it's not hard to come up with the essence of the charge here and deny it straight on. they chose not to do that. >> absolutely. john mclaughlin, thank you. other folks stay with me. coming up, president trump has said to be especially irritated if special counsel mueller is going to investigate the president's business dealings. and some white house aides say they're stunned attorney general sessions hasn't already resigned. we'll explain next. >> we in this department of justice will continue every single day to work hard to serve the national interest, and we wholeheartedly join in the priorities of president trump. he gave us several directives. one is to dismantle transnational criminal
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organizations. that's what we're announcing today, a dismantling of the largest dark website in the world by far. i congratulate our people for that. i have the honor of serving as attorney general. it's something that goes beyond any thought i would have ever had for myself. we love this job. we love this department, and i plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate. where are we?
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welcome back. we have more on this friday night breaking news. "the washington post" reporting that according to a u.s. intelligence intercept, then russian ambassador kislyak reported to moscow that he and jeff sessions did indeed discuss the trump campaign and trump's position on policy matters that were important to russia in two conversations. this is a reference to the conversation at the mayflower hotel and the other at the rnc convention after the russian effort to influence the u.s. election for donald trump was indeed under way. and all of this comes, of course, with some context. donald trump lashing out at the man at the center of this article, jeff sessions, over what? well, over the recusal from the russia inquiry and that very odd "new york times" interview, donald trump did not apparently clear it with his legal team. then there was thursday's remarkable report in "the washington post" that donald
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trump has been asking about his presidential power to pardon his staff, family, and even himself. the post reporting, trump has been fuming about the probe in recent weeks as he has been informed about the legal questions that he and his family could face. he's told aides he was especially disturbed after learning that mueller would be able to access several years of his tax returns. the focus on the president's family comes in the wake of donald trump's confirmation that he had that meeting in 2016 with jared kushner and paul manafort and a kremlin-linked lawyer who promised the dirt on hillary clinton. kushner has now agreed as well to be interviewed by the staff of the senate intelligence committee. this is going to happen on monday, and then right over to the house intelligence committee the next day, tuesday. donald trump jr. and paul manafort are also working with the judiciary committee to be interviewed, at least behind closed doors. all of this is in the front. this is the important stuff. then you have the other stuff, this shake-up in the west wing on who is going to speak for the white house.
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sean spicer resigning and anthony scaramucci taking over today as communications director. >> i'm close personal friends with jay sekulow and with john dowd. and i'm making sure that we're on message and handling ourselves in the most aprop pree eighty way possible. i haven't been briefed yet by the white house counsel about what is appropriate to talk about from this podium. therefore, i don't want to take any questions related to russia. >> a source close to kushner said while he doesn't have an exact plan for an overall russia response, he's been angry there wasn't a more robust effort from the communications team. an outside adviser says spicer has publicly griped about the demands from kushner. joining us now is matt miller and david corn is back with us. and matt miller, as a
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spokesperson, you know what i mean when i say, pay no attention to the man in front of the curtain because the big substantive story here does not seem to be who is giving out the talking points but rather this is a white house that is moving towards the compliance and as the president himself seems to be "the new york times" interview and potentially other actions moving to undermine the action. your view? >> i think you're absolutely right. i think one of the things we've learned about this white house now six months into this administration is that you can't trust what the spokespeople come out and say from the podium. you have to look at what donald trump does and what donald trump says. he made very clear this week that the most important thing to him is stopping this investigation.
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he's angry at his attorney general because his attorney general recused himself, and the only reason you would be angry about that is if you somehow expected him, if he wasn't recused, to quash the investigation. >> right. >> i think it's the president we have to watch here, what he says and what he does behind closed doors. >> matt, when you were at doj, i'm sure there were times when where you have the president and the attorney general have words, communication, signals about the policies they want and how things are going. do you ever recall in your tenure of time where the president publicly voiced disclosure on how the attorney general's conduct personally affected the president? >> absolutely not. sometimes policy disagreements even became public, but what donald trump did was a full frontal attack not just on jeff sessions. people in washington get so caught up in personalities. it was an attack on the independence of the justice department. i think one of the most disappointing things jeff
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sessions has done is when he came out and held that press conference yesterday on an unrelated topic, he didn't stand up for the department. he didn't stand up for the department's independence, for the special counsel. he kind of took a pass and laid down and took it from the president. that is an incredible demoralizing thing to see the supposed leader of the department do when the entire agency is under attack from the head of the executive branch. >> put that in the context of the discussions of pardon because a pardon has one prerequisite, and that is that a crime occurred. >> exactly. so the fact that he's talking about pardons to his aides, for himself, for his family members, i mean it indicates to me that he believes that bob mueller poses a threat. and not that bob mueller is going to write an op-ed column or that he's going to rally the republican base against republicans and against trump. no. he poses a threat because he's looking at issues that might become criminal.
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a lot of us on the outside have been reporting on this without knowing whether or not crimes have been broken. we see, and you've talked about this, the theoretical possibility depending on the facts that come out. but donald trump is behaving as if he knows there's a real criminal risk here. one thing we do know, when if comes to people like bob mueller, we saw this with patrick fitzgerald in the scooter libby case. these folks tend to err on the side of not making things political and not indicting government officials close to the president unless they really feel they have a strong case. >> no, they're pretty careful. >> -- did not indict karl rove even though some of his fbi agents wanted him to. >> you mentioned the op-ed. a strongly worded op-ed can shake washington to its core. matt miller, before i let you go, i got to read to you senator mark warner basically says pardoning individuals who may have been involved in this would be crossing a fundamental line. he's obviously trying to draw a line, and it is possible to
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abuse the pardon power, but does that strike you as potentially an overstatement when this is a power the president has to use? >> it's a power he has to use but he can't use it inappropriately. i think what he was doing with that interview, you know, when he attacked mueller and what these leaks of him contemplating the pardon power are doing is testing the boundaries of what he can get away with. firing jim comey is a red line, and he got away with it. i think what he's doing through these leaks is testing when republicans in congress are going to stand up and say no, and say this is an impeachable offense. we've heard a lot of silence since that pardon leak floated yesterday. if you're the president, you're watching that silence and wondering, maybe i can get away with this too. if he's going to be stopped, people are going to have to speak out before he does it, not afterwards. >> right. and to your point, it is bizarre for someone to say, let me
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explore self-pardoning because that's like publicly ruminating on whether you might have committed a crime. >> right. >> it could be a lack of understanding. that's always the other possibility. but either way, it's bizarre. matt miller and david corn, thank you so much. >> thank you. coming up next, jared kushner revising yet another government disclosure form, this time about finances. and the president does not want robert mueller looking into the business dealings, but the president doesn't actually have a choice on it. that's next. boost. it's about moving forward, not back. it's looking up, not down. it's being in motion. boost® high protein it's intelligent nutrition with 15 grams of protein and 26 vitamins and minerals. boost® the number one high protein complete nutritional drink. so we know how to cover almost almoanything.hing even a swing set standoff.
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welcome back. president trump's son-in-law, jared kushner, has revealed he inadvertently omitted 77 assets from his personal financial discloser form filed with the office of government ethics. the previously undisclosed assets were revealed in this revised financial disclosure. this came out tonight, and it was first reported publicly by "the wall street journal." now, in isolation, updating a form like this is not that big a deal. but this is not an isolation, and with jared kushner, it is fitting a larger pattern. the journal reporting back in may that he did not disclose his business relationships with goldman sachs or billionaires george soros, a major democratic donor, or billionaire peter thiel. that was all in the first round financial disclosure. then in june the post reported cushier did not disclose a $285 million loan from deutsche bank that he received when, oh, just before election day. then a report in "the new york times" that kushner supplemented
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the list of foreign contacts on his security clearance form three times, adding a total of 100 more names. i'm not done. this week, nbc news learned that robert mueller is gathering the financial records which we don't know but could include all of these kinds of records, and the business dealings of people close to the trump campaign. bloomberg reports mueller's looking into the business dealings of trump himself, something that trump basically says this week he believes would cross a red line. >> if mueller was looking at your finances and your family's finances unrelated to russia, is that a red line? >> i would say yes. >> joining me now is david cay johnston, who founded a nonprofit news organization focused on the trump administration. i'm also joined by joyce vance, a former u.s. attorney for the northern district of alabama. as a prosecutor, she has dealt with many evidentiary requests. your view of whether this is a
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significant or in any way concerning update? >> well, pattern is exactly the right word. you know, if you have very large, complicated finances, and you forgot that next door to an apartment building you own, you bought a house so you wouldn't get complaints from the owner anymore, okay, fine. we understand that. or a brokerage account you forgot you had somewhere. this is way, way too much. it is again and again, it's meetings. it's money. this is clearly indicative of bad behavior. >> joyce, how do prosecutors look over these kind of records, and why is it important to an investigation? >> well, these patterns that we're seeing and this cumulative failure to disclose piece after piece of information will start
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to give prosecutors some sense of whether witnesses and other people that they're looking at in this investigation are being truthful with them. and so when you see one small mistake or even a few small mistakes in the middle of a large portfolio, that's not as troubling as this ongoing pattern that i think will be very illustrative of the type of information mueller is looking to extract from financial records. >> when you do an investigation, you have sometimes what's considered contraband, something that's automatically bad if somebody's got it. and then you have other evidence that could be good or bad depending on what happens. consider what don trump jr. said publicly way back in 2008, a different context or maybe he wished he wouldn't have said it. quote, russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets. we see a lot of money pouring in from russia. but, joyce, the special counsel is not going to treat just those assets as automatically bad or potentially criminal, right? it has to be finding those records plus what else? >> so i think that that's an
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important point. people shouldn't be quick to rush to judgment and condemn the behavior that they see here. your tax records will give a picture of who you deal with and what kind of dealings you have, and many of those business dealings may be legitimate. there's also the possibility that some of these business dealings, even those that occurred decades ago, may begin to put together a story and lay a backdrop for events that occurred more recently. so prosecutors will look through that entire network of transactions. i'm not very impressed by these complaints that special counsel is beyond the scope of his mandate. he really needs to get this full picture and put into context more recent events. >> david, the other line here in that "washington post" report that hits your expertise, trump has told aides he was especially disturbed after learning mueller would be able to access several years of his tax returns. you know, david, there's talk on some college campuses about trigger warnings and something really disturbing, you have to be warned out before you hear
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about it. why does it seem, at least according to "the washington post" report, quoting trump's own aides, that his tax returns require some kind of trigger warning? >> well, this is because donald's real vulnerability has always been his financial transactions, whether there's money laundering involved, whether he's been compromised, whether he was overpaid for properties when he was in trouble as part of an effort by the russians to make sure he would be their friend. and this has been his deep concern from day one about his finances. remember, the tax return is the beginning point of an inquiry. it's the books and records behind the tax return that will be really valuable. and by the way, back in may when mueller was appointed, one of the things i predicted was we would see trump complain that mueller was stepping outside his authority, and i felt the charter should have been more broadly drawn by rosenstein at the time so we wouldn't face
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this issue. >> david cay johnston and joyce vance, appreciate it, both of you. coming up, this nbc exclusive interview. if you haven't seen this, when we first got it in our newsroom this morning, it's amazing. russian ambassador lavrov proving why it is so hard to get a straight answer about anything involving the putin/trump relationship. you've got to see it. this is next. whoa! you're not taking these. hey, hey, hey! you're not taking those. whoa, whoa! you're not taking that. come with me.
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conversations with attorney general jeff sessions. this morning we were learning about another russian official's take on american politics. this was an exclusive interview with nbc's keir simmons. sergey lavrov talking about how many times president trump and vladimir putin really met during the g20. >> we know about president putin and president trump meeting three times at the g20. they met obviously for the bilateral -- they met at the dinner and -- >> maybe they went to the toilet together. that was a fourth time. >> maybe they went to the toilet together. that is how the kremlin lets you know they do not respect the question you're asking or, more importantly, these issues. and in this exchange, lavrov continues his combative tone by suggesting the undisclosed meetings were really no different than children waiting in a hallway. >> when you are brought by your parents to kindergarten, do you mix with the people who are waiting in the same room to
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start going to a classroom? >> it's the g20, though, not a kindergarten. >> well, but there is also a room where they get together before an event starts. they cannot arrive all at the same time on the bus. they arrive with their own motorcades, and then they are ushered in the room, which is a waiting room. so they might have met even much more than just three times. >> much more than three times. you can see the theme here. if lavrov seems smug about this whole line of inquiry, maybe that's because russia got what it wanted. as for the u.s., the a.p. is reporting that this whole dinner conversation raised red flags with advisers already concerned by the president's tendency to shun protocol and press ahead of outreach towards russia. the same report going on to say that national security adviser general h.r. mcmaster was warned that putin's not to be trusted. sergey lavrov gave his version of what he says happened when president trump brought up russian election hacking during the official meeting.
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>> president trump raised the issue. president putin confirmed that we never did anything to interfere in the american elections and that he, president putin, got an impression that president trump accepted this explanation. he never -- putin never said that trump was happy about something he said on this. >> the issue, of course, is not whether he people in this meeting were happy or even sad. the issue of course that continues to hang over the trump administration regardless of the ultimate outcome of these domestic investigations, regardless of any culpability that may or may not exist inside america, is the larger national security question of whether russia will get away with what u.s. intelligence agencies say was meddling and what some observers have likened to cyber war. are we at the end or the beginning of dealing with that
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interference? evelyn farkas and max boot tackle the problem with me next. ♪ the opioid my doctor prescribed for my chronic back pain backed me up-big time. before movantik, i tried to treat it myself. spent time, money. no go. but i didn't back down. i talked to my doctor. she said: one, movantik was specifically designed for opioid-induced constipation-oic- and can help you go more often. number two? with my savings card, i can get movantik for about the same price
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the energy conscious whopeople among usle? say small actions can add up to something... humongous. a little thing here. a little thing there. starts to feel like a badge maybe millions can wear. who are all these caretakers, advocates too? turns out, it's californians it's me and it's you. don't stop now, it's easy to add to the routine. join energy upgrade california and do your thing. nobody got suspicious of the fact that actually the entire that putin spent with madam trump, the first lady, because the german hosts arranged the table that way. then after the dinner was over and i was not there, president trump apparently went up to pick
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up his wife, and spent some minutes with president putin. so what? >> so what? i'm now joined by evelyn farkas, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense responsible for russia policy. she's also an msnbc national security analyst. and foreign policy expert max boot back with us. evelyn, tell us about the russian officials you've worked with and what prism that gives you on what we're seeing in this interview. >> yeah. yeah, ari, well, i did work with a -- i met foreign minister lavrov in my three years that i worked at the pentagon. of course i met the minister of defense and the deputy ministers of defense. this was a quintessential opportunity that lavrov did not waste to basically mess with america. he did it on three counts. first of all, he started to muddy the waters. how many times did they actually meet? how many times meetings did they have?
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did they stand at the urinal and talk about substantive issues? we don't know. number two, he said president trump accepted president putin's denial of the meddling in our elections. we don't have a definitive authoritative readout of that meeting. it's one government's word against another. and then the third thing is, throughout the interview, he was disparaging the news media and the intelligence community using themes we hear a lot here in the u.s. it was disturbing on many levels but not surprising. >> evelyn, you nail it there there are the striking overlaps. and we all know the term talking points in domestic politics. but it seems that russia has the appearance of providing the talking point to sort of thread a needle on meddling because trump himself, prior to the interview we just aired last week, had basically said, well, i don't think putin said i said i accepted it. there's a difference.
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he said that he thought it. they seem to be sort of landing on that gray zone. is that what you're hearing? >> maybe but i'm also hearing, ari, they're hinting they can control the narrative if they want. maybe they can blackmail the president. maybe they can convince the public that they're right. unfortunately, you know, some americans don't understand the full threat and intent that this government in the kremlin poses. >> max? >> well, i think ari the larger picture is we have a president who acts when he meets the russian president like a guyedy school girl meeting brad pitt or zach zac efron. he says it's an honor to meet you. rex tillerson talks about the chemistry they have. he spends an undisclosed time with no other americans president with putin. in and of itself, it makes you
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wonder. but when we see the history of allegations of collusion between the trump campaign and the russians in the last election and we now have solid evidence of that inclusion in the meeting that trump junior had. and then you see the way that trump is now humble before putin. think about the summit where lavrov is the not usually credible but i accept what he is saying that trump more or less accepted putin's denials of russian involvement in the cyberattack. because if trump didn't accept that, he could come out and say that. he hasn't said so. he hasn't said, russia is responsible just as the intelligence community says. he hasn't said that. so his silence basically suggests that lavrov is right, that trump did not push that hard on this russian attack on america. we know that after this meeting he cut off the syrian rebels and he agreed to a cease-fire and a small part of syria because it's entrenching iranian and russian
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control in that area and the most farcical thing of all is the fox guarding the hen house. so -- >> right. and the half life of that tweet was three hours. evelyn, the domestic political point is that it would be easier for president trump to talk tough on russia but he won't even do that with regard to the meddling. >> right. right. and i think it tells us, for some reason he's obviously enamored with president putin but also afraid to be too tough. i spent the day here with msnbc at the aspen security conference and we heard senior former officials, former cia directors, former dni talk about the fact that withholding that assistance to the syrian rebels, that those
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who are moderates is actually going to create more terrorists. it's not in america's interests and this seems like if it was a secret deal, it must be a secret because we haven't heard the president in the white house come out and explain this to the american people. >> wow. it's a lot to chew on. i'd love to talk to you all about it again. evelyn farkas and max booth, thank you. i have a little announcement to make and that's next. and we covered it, july first, twenty-fifteen. talk to farmers. we know a thing or two because we've seen a thing or two. ♪ we are farmers. bum-pa-dum, bum-bum-bum-bum ♪
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all right. listen, i am here to say thank you, you've done an incredible job over these nine weeks. that's not just me talking. that's everybody on my twitter feed, that's everybody who's been watching the show. i could not be more grateful to you to let me do this, to take
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this time to get ready to come back. you've been incredible. >> that was a surprise at the time. lawrence o'donnell popping up on the show back when i was filling in for him while he was recovering from a car accident three years ago. lawrence said he was grateful to me at the time. let me say i am grateful to him and the whole last routine because i spent more time learning how to anchor here than on any other show. and with that in mind, i'm excited to officially announce my new nightly show "the beat" which premiers this coming monday night at 6:00 p.m. eastern. i will need plenty of help from the viewers. i hope you will tune in. and i'll need plenty of advice. i do still have to pick out my tie for that first show. i am thinking -- i'm thinking of this one. could we get a close-up of that? i recall that it's an audience favorite. it's a good one. we'll see what happens. you guys can let me
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know @arimelber. and "the 11th hour with brian williams" starts right now. breaking news tonight about attorney general jeff sessions and his contact with the russian ambassador. plus, sean spicer's out, anthony scaramucci is in. tonight, can a new york banker change a communications strategy that sometimes is only as good as donald trump's cell phone? and as jared kushner prepares to answer questions on the hill, we're learning more about his finances and what he didn't disclose before as we get under way on a friday night. the friday night edition, day 183 of the trump administration, a year to the day since donald trump accepted the republican party's nomination. exactly six months to the day since our introduction to sean


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