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that the american people ought to understand and that we all have to talk about. the first is what is at stake? what are the stakes in afghanistan? and the second is, what is the strategy that secures an outcome consistent with the vital interest of the american people and an outcome that is worthy of the sacrifices that our servicemen and women are making and the tremendous efforts and the risk that they take. so that's the answer that you'll hear, the answer you've heard in pieces. what we're endeavoring to do is pull this altogether in a regional strategy that makes sense, so our secretary of state has laid a very strong foundation for this. what we've had in afghanistan for years is a kiss connected strategy. what we're doing military li is disconnected from what we're doing politically. you say to the taliban, let's see what we can do to accommodate some of your concerns so we can end the violence, and by the way, we're leaving. how does that work? how does it work when your
enemies believe they're ascendant militarily if you're trying to negotiate some kind of agreement? it doesn't work. how does it work you're not connected inside of afghanistan to what you want to achieve regionally and in particular to engage other countries in the region to play a more productive role or less destructive role in some places. >> i've talked to secretary rumsfeld often, former president bush, vice president cheney about their years in the white house, and the failure to communicate, over communicate about what the hell we're doing and where we're going. is that going to be a problem with team trump as well, what you just said elaborated by secretary mattis, by you. i appreciate you doing this because that's part of the solution. is that going to be part of the problem, the inability of the public to understand what we're going to and for? >> i think the american public understands what's at stake there.
it's etched in our memory, the mass murder attacks from september 11, 2001. the taliban gave safe haven to al qaeda. there's a recognition that our efforts to enable afghan forces -- americans don't realize the afghan army suffered 6,700 soldiers killed in action? who is doing the bulk of the fight? the afghans are. the question the president has asked us is what more can we do to enable them. he doesn't want to take the war over. the afghans are fighting a war for their country. what more can we and others do -- what burdens, responsibilities can the united states and allies and partners share such that the afghan government, the security forces can succeed against this enemy
of all civilization. >> when we return i ask general mcmaster about russia, the president's understanding of russia, about the arrival of john kelly as white house chief of staff and about a famous book about how military men and officials owe the president candor and their best advice. a book h.r. mcmaster wrote. you got next? chase. helping you master what's now and what's next.
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welcome back. now for my final segment with general mcmaster, the focus is the effectiveness of sanctions on russia given its takeover of crimea. >> what you see is a kbrood range of destabilizing behavior on the part of the russians, provacative behavior, not just in europe but elsewhere. what the president has asked us to do, and the secretary of state is doing, is to counter russia's destabilizing behavior where it affects our interests, to take actions to deter any escalation of conflicts or
anything that could lead to a confrontation, because this is what we've been avoiding since 1945 with first the soviet union and now russia. what the united states has done since 1945 from a defense and national security perspective is prevent great power conflict for really unprecedented period of time. but the third thing he's asked us to do is look for areas of cooperation with russia. there are areas -- this relationship is at the bottom, right, at its nadir. but there are still areas where interests overlap and to look for areas of cooperation. >> those sanctions that russia is in the eastern ukraine and there's a package according to the "wall street journal" of armaments coming to the president, have you reviewed that of the proposal to arm the ukraines against the rebels? >> we're already giving support to ukraine. the question is what kind of support do they need to further
prevent further invasions of their territory, to prevent aggressive action against ukraine. >> weapons though? >> what's useful to talk about is defensive capabilities. does ukraine desire, need, based on the situation there greater defensive capability? it doesn't matter what it is specifically. that's one of the things we're looking at, what form of support yo ukraine needs that consistent with our interest and ensuring that russia doesn't take further destabilizing or offensive action that could lead to a much broader conflict. this is a dangerous situation. i have to recognize, it's a a dangerous situation of russia's creation. and so what we're endeavoring to do with our allies is to do everything we can to prevent that conflict from growing. >> does the president have a
clear-eyed understanding of the nature of his counterpart in russia and the nature of the regime. >> nature of the russian regime? i think everybody is clear on that. the nature of the russian regime is one person, isn't it? i think you have an autocratic regime and an individual who has done an extraordinary effective job at consolidating power. you have i think someone who has acted in a wray that -- i'm not the best judge of this maybe. it is not in the interest of the russian people. you see that with the reaction from the world in terms of the sanctions that are placed on russia and a recognition that russia must play a much more responsible role in the world if it's going to be a full-fledged welcomed member of the international community. we're talking obviously about the annexation of crimea, the invasion of ukraine here. >> the attack on our election.
>> but also the attack on our election, the very sophisticated campaign of subversion and disinformation and propaganda that is on going every day in an effort to break apart europe and that pit political groups against each other, to sew dissension and conspiracy theories. the support for this murderous regime in syria and support for iran's objectives in the middle east. i think obviously for this range of destabilizing behavior there has to be consequences. does that prevent us from cooperating with them to maybe begin to resolve the syrian civil war and end at least a portion of that human suffering or where else do our interests align? certainly they should align on north korea. >> let me conclude, general mcmaster, and thank you for the time, by talking about your role in the white house and the white house generally.
reset, according to administrator shul couple said there was a reset at the cabinet meeting and general kelly's arrive as changed the nature and tone of the white house? do you agree with that? >> general kelly's arrive means you have an extraordinarily talented leader with a broad array of experience. people see a retired marine corps general and they realize he has an extraordinary record of accomplishment within the military. but he also has a broad range of experience now outside the military as in homeland security where he took over a very complex organization and made tremendous progress advancing the president's agenda and our national interests as the cabinet secretary. also, he's someone who has had extraordinary experience overseas in complex environments which entail operating with people from all departments and agencies, with indigenous leadership, with ally, and he also has a lot of experience on the hill as well.
in terms of experience level, to meet the leadership ability, i think it will be great for all of us in terms of improving our ability to operate as a team. a lot of the conventional wisdom, it's chaotic over there and everything else. i'll tell you i'm very proud of our national security team overall, and that's with here -- >> you've seen real chaos commanding in northern korean, you've seen the chaos of war. compared to that, it's not a chuckling matter, when you hear stories of chaos, isn't that kind of absurd compared to the right thing? >> right, right. what we're doing is delivering the greatest strategies based on the president's guidance. what we had -- and i don't mean this in a pejorative sense, but the white house and the national security as part of that became very tactically focused, became very operational, supervising troop numbers and specific authorities and what we've been able to do is involve
authorities back to where they belong and instead of thinking about tactics, the next little move, we've been trying to view problem sets and opportunities for the legs of our vital national interests, establish goals -- imagine that, establish goals for our foreign policy and national security strategies and then to find more specific objectives and then orient our efforts, political, military, economic, toward accomplishing those objectives. >> your famous book "dereliction of duty." i read the last chapter last night where you talked about mcnamara, ball and dean rusk. you were very critical for them not giving the president candid, straightforward advice. were you naive at the time? would you rewrite that chapter now that you're living that life? >> no. i wouldn't rewrite a word of it. i any actually my experience has amplified i think to me the importance of doing our duty,
all of us doing our duty, to give the president our best advice. so what we do here in the national security council is we integrate the efforts of all the departments and agencies and sometimes efforts of our multinational partners to provide options to the president. once the president makes a decision, we help drive sensible and effective execution of his decisions. so i had the tremendous benefit. it was a real gift to me to have the opportunity to research, read and write about the previous difficult period in history from the lens of the president and his key advisers, civilian and military advisers. so i think that's helped. doesn't give any answers, but it's helped me ask the right questions and to give it my best shot, do my best for the president and the nation. >> general h.r. mcmaster, thank you for your
time. >> thank you. pleasure to be with you.
thank you. >> that concludes my interview with national security adviser general mcmasterment when i come back, bloomberg's eli lake joins me to discuss what we just heard. boost. it's about moving forward, not back. it's looking up, not down. it's being in motion. in body, in spirit, in the now. boost® high protein it's intelligent nutrition with 15 grams of protein
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welcome back. i'm joined by bloomberg's eli lake, a columnist and one of the country's most respected national security analysts. welcome, eli. open-ended, what did you hear mcmaster say that is interesting. >> a couple things. i didn't hear a ringing endorsement of the iran agreement. there were people from the last administration looking at the certification to see if it works. i think they need to watch this interview and see somebody who is saying, look, we're trying to counter their other behavior. for now we see them crossing that line. we go through the iaea and he said don't be surprised if in
six months we're not in it. that's a pretty telling time since particularly hr mcmaster is seen as one of the people restraining the president who doesn't like that iran deal. that was really significant. also significant, calling out russia and china for supporting the maduro regime right now in venezuela where we're in a crisis moment. i think he stated the obvious, that is no longer a legitimate government. he said that's already happened. we've seen that violence in the streets. but also saying there isn't a panama plan right now for u.s. forces to actually go in -- >> are you surprised by that, that we're so reticent? >> i think the idea that you want to try to have a regional approach to it and having other latin american countries handle it is consistent with recent administrations. i think there could be aftereffects if you were to be more aggressive there. but still, this is a big deal.
the western hemisphere is our hemisphere traditionally. in the cold war we did a lot of things to try to keep the soviets out when they tried to take over cuba. it was a focus america, it was of our national security. are we seeing a repeat of that? and it seems like that's at the top of mcmaster's mind at this point. >> so explain what happened. i talked to him on wednesday. on thursday and friday, a full frontal assault on hr mcmaster was launched by a tiny slice of the alt-right, but compounded by russian botts. the russians don't want hr mcmaster to stay as national security adviser and they have some willing accomplices in that. what's going on here? >> what do we see? first, when you asked him about russia, he mentioned the use of contacts in russia, and it drives him crazy when he reads particularly the blogger, mike certainovich, who does have sources that are giving him accurate information. i've heard it drives mcmasters nuts. and i can sort of understand.
i was a journalist, i've had plenty of people being upset when they get stuff they don't want to see out. so there's an element there. but john kelly is a four-star marine corps general. and you have an active serving general. general to general, mcmaster said, reince priebus made it really difficult to bring in my people. i need to be able to hire and fire my own staff. that in the military, you're the commander. you get to choose your own staff. that's understood. i think kelly said, yes, two generals can understand that. and that is why we've seen these firings of some of the people who i know are, you know, the president likes, and i know that people around the president likes. and it doesn't necessarily mean they're out of the administration. but i think that, you know, mcmaster is trying to keep the people who he believes are loyal to him and are the no going to go around him in the internal white house wars and so forth, and that's where that's coming from. >> the president put out a tweet
last night, "he's my guy," that's my condensed version of a condensed tweet, mcmaster is my guy. will that stop this? because it's sort of like, you know what, nixon not going along with kiss linger when they're working as a tandem. does it shut down the attacks on mcmaster? >> it's hard for me to know if it shuts down the attacks on mcmaster. i can tell you there are a lot of people around trump that really felt particularly with the firing of asra cohen watnick, the senior director for intelligence, and david harvey, a legendary intelligence analyst, those two did cause some consternation. and there is an effort to get them jobs in the administration and so forth, but the way in which that was done, i know, ruffled feathers. i've heard that the president was unhappy about that. that's hard to sort of figure out in the sort of palace gossip, so to speak. but -- >> last question, should everyone read "dereliction of duty"? >> absolutely. here's the thing. the irony is that mcmaster
understands it's very important that we cannot let the elected ghani government fall in afghanistan. he wants these afghanistan troops to lead. and he wants the u.s. to be advisers. well, doesn't that sound like something like we might remember from the early 1960s in the kennedy administration and the beginning of the johnson administration with vietnam. that can escalate very, very quickly, when you're fighting a longer kind of insurgency, as the afghan have been doing now for, what, 16 years? so that right there is really, really important. read that book to understand that. i think mcmaster is in a position where he, as a scholar, might be thinking of himself as a national security adviser, and that tex must nsion must be rea interesting. >> eli lake, i appreciate you coming in on a saturday morning. follow eli lake on twitte twitter @elilake. makes it easy. i'll be right back. rethink your allergy pills. flonase sensimist allergy relief
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good morning, everyone! i'm alex whit here at msnbc world headquarters in new york. it is 9:00 a.m. here in the east, 6:00 a.m. out west, and day 198 of the trump administration. a new report today on special counsel robert mueller, and a request he's making directly to the white house to hand over records. we'll tell you why this is a new wrinkle. >> it really comes down to how loyal are you to the president? and that's how you're being judged. >> the fine line republicans have to walk, as the president tries to energize his base. one congressman describes the dilemma perfectly, and you're going to hear that. a late statement from the office of the president last night. why did he feel the need to come to the defense of one of his closest advisers? plus, new polls suggest eroding support for the president and why the