tv MSNBC Live With Alex Witt MSNBC October 28, 2017 9:00am-9:30am PDT
good day everyone. i'm alex witt and msnbc world headquarters in new york. it's high noon in the east, 9:00 a.m. in the west. here is what's happening. report of an indictment in the robert mueller investigation. big questions this hour about who is being charged and what it means for the white house. a new poll on president trump is affecting the u.s. political system and how this country is divided. >> congressman al green on word of a mueller indictment and his much-talked-about exchange with hud secretary ben carson. we begin with the key development in the robert mueller investigation. the special counsel has reportedly filed his first set
of criminal charges, although at this point it is unclear what they are. the charges are part of a sealed indictment which could be revealed as early as monday. at that point the defendant or defendants could be taken into custody. nbc news has not yet independently confirmed this report. tom steier, a major donor to the democratic party told me this morning this development merely bolsters his impeachment campaign against the president. >> i think the mueller investigation doesn't really change anything. it throws fuel onto a fire that's already burning and shows the kind of lawlessness this administration has exhibited from the very beginning. we really can't wait for the investigation because he's already a danger and he's met the basis for impeachment. >> there is a lot to get to on all this with nbc national security reporter ken dilanian, kelly o'donnell at the white house and "time" magazine contributor jay newton-small and
jeremy peters with "the new york times." we'll start with you, ken, from nbc's investigative unit. as you know, nbc news has yet to independently confirm these reports. let's start with what we don't know. what don't we know here about the details? >> well, alex, as you said, we haven't confirmed there is an indictment so we don't know one will be unsealed on monday ch. what we do know is who the targets are. we know who the grand jury has been taking testimony from, a wide-ranging cast of characters, everyone from the russian american lobbyist who attended the trump tower meeting to paul manafort's virginia realtor. when you look at the landscape of this investigation, it begins with paul manafort and mike flynn. paul manafort who is briefly donald trump's campaign manager before he was fired has been paid as much as $60 million according to some reports by a
russian oli' lig gark. his home was searched by mueller's agents. every legal expert we talked to believes he has some exposure. mike flynn, former national security advisor, on the hook for not telling the truth according to the attorney general about his conversations with the russian ambassador. also retroactively register the foreign lobbyist for the government of turkey also believed to have criminal exposure. there's also the possibility if someone is charged it's an ancillary figure, some tangential person we haven't heard of as a way for mueller to send a message to the main defendants in the case, this is what happens, this is what putting handcuffs on somebody looks like. >> i'm going to throw three other names in there as folks who have spoken with members on capitol hill, carter page, jared kushner, donald trump, junior as well. as you know, ken, this all began as an investigation into russian meddling in the 2016 election. what is the range of charges that could be filed based on your reporting around the grand
jury hearings? >> as you know, in past special counsel investigations it's often that charges result that aren't as a result of the main investigation. when patrick fitzgerald who leaked the name of a covert cia officer, an aide to the president of the united states was charged, not with that crime but with perjury and obstruction of justice. in this case we believe a range of charges is being examined, everything from money laundering to tax fraught to failure to fill out security clearance forms properly to lying to investigators. there is no crime of colluding with russia. there is a legal theory that help from russia to the trump campaign koush construed as an illegal campaign contribution. that's never been tested in court, alex. >> ken, as you said, the report says the indictment is sealed at least until monday when the target can be taken into cust many. is that a potential flight risk. >> legal experts are telling me that's common. the cast of characters in this
case would tend to be white collar defendants who would not be deemed a flight risk and probably would only be taken into custody briefly and granted bond, alex. >> ken dilanian, thank you. while president trump has yet to comment publicly, the president did leave the white house a couple hours ago wouithout speaking to the media. kelly o'donnell is at the white house. kelly, do you think the president is likely to address this today? have you given any heads up about the president addressing anything? >> the expectation from white house officials is that there isn't anything for them to comment on because the nature of the early report from cnn and the "wall street journal" does not give a lot of specifics about who would this person be or persons if they are charged, what would the crime be as you just laid out with ken. so not much for them to say. at the same time they've been using some of their megaphone to try to point into an area that
more of interest to them. we've seen sarah sanders, the press secretary, speak about this and tweet about it having to do with part of the russia investigation that has drawn a lot of attention, something called the steele dossier, named for christopher steele, a british covert operative. the white house is pointing out that was paid for in part by the dnc and the clinton campaign as a part of opposition research, which every campaign does. in this case it became very much a part of the narrative of the russia investigation because the details in it which have not been corroborated are about donald trump the candidate, things that might have been used sort of against him politically. so that's where the white house has put its attention when it comes to the russia investigation to say, collusion if there was any, was with the democrats and the russians through that. it's perhaps misdirection. it's perhaps changing the subject or choosing to focus on
something that's more advantageous to them. so knowing that this president often comments through his twitter feed, anything is possible. the sense i get from those advising him and working at the white house is the nature of this initial report as it is today before we know any of the specifics would not likely draw a response. of course, the white house being that they're trying focus on the government side, also the president has outside counsel and so forth that they have always directed legal questions to. they're trying to wall it off as much as they can as this investigation, which by its nature, happens behind closed doors on the hill and at the grand jury, goes on for months and months now. alex? >> excelly o'donnell at the white house, thank you for that. joining me, jane newton small contributor for "time" magazine and jeremy peters of "the new york times," also an msnbc contributor. jair me, what are you hearing about this and how significant is it? >> well, i think the most immediate concern politically speaking is going to be just how
much of a distraction this is for the white house as it tries to actually make progress because there is -- there have been babe bip steps made over the last two weeks towards tax reform. they accelerated the timeline on capitol hill and it looks like they may have something done even before thanksgiving. we haven't really been talking much about russia and the mueller investigation over the last few weeks. now that's about to change in a pretty dramatic fashion. i can't speak to who is going to be indicted or what the likely fallout from that will be, but i do know that this is one headache that the trump administration doesn't need just as it was looking like it was getting its sea legs on capitol hill. >> jay, as you know, there's been this renewed effort to try to steer the whole russian probe toward hillary clinton. is it far fetched to say someone may have known this was coming and wanted to muddy the waters? >> it's not far fetched.
the uranium one incident is something that donald trump during his campaign used to push. this is something that again this week has come up. you saw this sort of meltdown on the right wing media and media about uranium one pretty much last night into this morning, as soon as the idea that mueller was going to press charges was announced, you saw all of a sudden, uranium one, uranium one, all over the place. that's because they're trying to say, wait a minute, people are talking about this russia investigation with donald trump, but what we should be talking about is investigating hillary clinton and barack obama for selling part of a company, an american-owned company, that actually creates uranium to a russian entity. that was a sale that was actually approved in 2010, very little likelihood the secretary knew about it. it doesn't usually rise to the level of a secretary of state's
approval. it was vetted by nine different agencies when it was tuflly done. there's a lot of mainstream media organizations that have said this is debunked. it's not really a big deal, not something that's serious, yet it is being pushed hard on the right by saying there is something there, b something we should be looking at. that's of watergate level as donald trump himself has said, offense that we should be looking at rather than this investigation into donald trump. >> okay. so jeremy, look, you said you can't speak to who is being charged specifically here by mueller, but would you expect this to be a big fish or a little fish? is there any informed speculation supporting one or the other? >> i don't think at this point it looks like it's going to get close to the inner circle in the white house. certainly you're not hearing anything along the lines of any type of obstruction of justice charges against the president, the kind of things that the democratic party have been salivating over. i watched your interview with tom steier earlier who has said
the president has already passed the threshold of impeachment. i don't think there's going to be anything in this indictment that approaches that. but certainly this is going to be another reminder for people that there are questions about the kind of conduct that this campaign, the trump campaign engaged in last year and potentially improper collusion with the russians. that's something that the white house desperately wants to move past, something personally that is a source of tremendous irritation to the president. so i think looking at the response from the white house next week, whether or not trump is able to suppress his impulses to tweet and to lash out and to say that this is just a witch hunt. the biggest political witch hunt in history as he said before. i would watch that. in the past trump has made these things worse through his
reaction. it's almost like the investigation itself -- the investigation itself appears to be focusing not only the -- any actual -- not on -- it's more the coverup than it is the crime itself. the coverup becomes the crime. often that's the case as weave seen through all political scandals at this level. >> absolutely. okay you guys, we're going to have you back. we'll talk about comparisons between today and vietnam times according to poll numbers. they don't look good for today. we'll talk about that after a couple breaks with you. meantime, is it too soon for a possible indictment in the mueller investigation timingwise? will we see somebody in custody on monday? i'll ask a democratic member of congress about what he thinks in just a few moments.
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new questions surrounding the criminal charges special counsel robert mueller has reportedly filed, a first for his investigation. we can learn what these parent charges are as well as the identity of the person or persons being charged as early as monday when the sealed indictment is revealed. let's bring in democratic congressman al green of texas, member of the house financial services committee. representative green, thank you for joining me, sir. i want to get your reaction to what we're learning. first of all, are you surprised it's come so quickly? mueller has been on the job about five months. >> i am a little surprised. i thought it would take a little longer. i think it's something that's appropriate. the investigation has been done somewhat meticulously it seems. but i do have a concern. if this is a federal indictment we already know this president has been investigating whether or not he can pardon himself. of course, he can pardon others.
so i think he's september a signal already to persons that, if you are indicted, if you're convicted, worry not, i will have the last word. that would be quite unfortunate. >> interesting point there, sir. i know you're a former trial attorney. could a potential environment be used as a bargaining chip to catch bigger fish? how would that work? >> of course it can. if you are aware that a smaller fish has some intelligence about the larger fish, of course you can use that as leverage. but you can also simply use this to let people know you're serious about what you're doing and you are going to come after small fish and you'll work your way up the ladder. i think when you do this, you do have to make sure that you have something that speaks to some of the issues that have been before the public. i think you can do this by indicting persons on issues related to the investigation. for example, lying to the fbi. this in and of itself is an
offense. if there's been a question posed about some aspect of the investigation related to the campaign and some person has fabricated an answer, then, of course, that can be an offense. >> would it be your feeling, your gut instinct, sir, that this is one of those smaller fish, one of the more ancillary characters or a main player with this indictment? >> my guess is that it's someone who was at that meeting at trump tower. you had three significant actors there, the president's son-in-law, the president's son and mr. manafort. i think it could be any one of them. but this is all speculation at this point. my belief is that it could also be a lesser person who might have some intelligence that can be of benefit. mr. flynn, of course, is not off the table because of his many activities with the russians that were unreported. >> absolutely. all right, sir. i want to switch gears and ask about the exchange you had with
secretary carson in a hearing on hud budget cuts that's drawing a fair amount of attention here. i want to play for our viewers a portion of your exchange. >> how much from housing vouchers, mr. carson? >> rather than go through a quiz on all the numbers. >> it's not a quiz. i have the time to ask you questions about things that you should have some knowledge of. if you have no knowledge of them, you can say so. >> let's move on and say that i don't want to offer a number because it's subject -- >> why would the secretary of hud not give the number, the amount you're cutting from housing vouchers, mr. carson? you're the secretary of hud. you're making the cut. >> because we've already talked about the total amount of the cuts. >> the total amount does not help me when it comes to the housing vouchers. i have people who use housing vouchers, and i need to be able to explain to them, mr. carson, how much the cut portends for
them. how much, mr. carson? >> let's hear your number. >> you're the witness testifying today. if you want a moment to ask someone behind you, i would afford you that moment. >> i don't want to look at the book and see the numbers. >> i see. >> did you get anymore answers from mr. carson's team after that hearing? >> i have not received any additional intelligence, but there were other statements that i made that i'd like to iterate, reiterate if i may. i indicated that poor people are not poor because they want to be poor. i wanted mr. carson to know by cutting these programs, there seems to be an assumption that, if you're poor, you can do more with less. if you're rich, you need more to do more. if poor people can do more with less, then there would be no poor people. poor people are poor because of circumstances most of the time that they have very little
control over. and that's very unfortunate. i want to see everyone extricate themselves from poverty, but i also understand there are factors beyond the control of many people that cause them to be in poverty much longer than they would like to be. >> duly noted, sir. may i ask you about what secretary carson said at the end when he said he didn't want to open the book and look at the numbers. how do you make sense of that? >> i really can't make sense of it. i can simply tell you that he should have simply asked someone, if he didn't know. that's permissible. or he can refresh his memory with documents that he might have within his hands. i have a document in my hand now, and he could simply have read off the numbers. what i have now indicates there were $6.8 billion in cuts, $1.8 billion from public housing, $2.2 billion from housing vouchers, $3 billion from community development block
grants, from the home program about $950 million, from section 811 which deals with persons with disabilities about $24 million. this was not an effort to embarrass him, to be very candid with you. i have great respect for persons who come before the committee. this was an effort to allow the persons i serve in congress to know what they can expect in terms of cuts that will impact their lives. we're talking about people, we're not just talking about programs. too often we confuse programs with people. these are people who benefit from programs that are needed. they're not programs capriciously, arbitrarily and hab hazardly produced. a lot of thought those into these programs. >> congressman, i'm going to ask you to stay with me. for all of you, we are confirming breaking news, our top story. nbc news has now independently confirmed special counsel robert mueller has filed charges in his
investigation. although, again, at this point it's unclear what those charges are. let's go right to nbc's ken dilanian standing by with more on this. what have you heard with the confirmation? >> a u.s. official with firsthand knowledge of this process is telling nbc news that the special counsel will, in fact, hand up an indictment on monday. as you said, we don't know the target of the indictment, we don't know the charges. we have a second source who is also telling us to expect an indictment on monday. this is a hugely significant milestone in this investigation. as you've been saying robert mueller was appointed more than five months ago. don't forget, as james comey told congress, the fbi has been investigating the matter of russian interference in the u.s. election since as far back as july 2016. there's a lot of investigation that's been going on before mueller. mueller inherited it. now we're reporting he's going to file his first charges on monday. >> jay newton-small and jeremy peters rejoin the broadcast.
jeremy, i know you spoke with a justice department official earlier. what were you told? >> he said to see indictments or charges come down this quickly six months into the investigation says to him this is most likely going to be a tiered investigation, kind of like the way they would indict the mafia and do it in little pieces because the investigation is so sprawling and they would start with the lowest hanging fruit. the smaller fish that are tangentially related to the investigation and build up to the biggest fish, at least in that kind of mafia investigation. he also noted that doing it this way, doing it so publicly rather than completing an entire investigation and then indicting everybody all at once also ensures it's a lot harder for donald trump or republicans to end the investigation, to sort of say preemptively, we're going to stop this, the justice department can't continue to do it and essentially fire mueller. by doing it publicly like this, it means everybody is going to watch what's happening and it's
harder to fire him. >> your interpretation of this based on what jay is saying to us, jeremy? >> i think there's a lot more to go. we also haven't talked about the senate investigations that are going on into this. you have these parallel tracks here that are going to consume an awful lot of oxygen and media attention. this is not going to get any easier for the trump administration any time soon. looking back at past investigations of this nature, alex, watergate was two-plus years. valerie plame -- white water was six years, valerie plame was something like four years. so i would sit tight and maybe get some popcorn because we're going to be here a while. >> congressman, jeremy brings up a good point here. do you have any sense, congressman al green, how long these investigations will continue on the hill? >> i think they'll go on for some time. much of what's happening on the hill is sort of caught up in a little bit of politics.
that's not unusual. but i do think it will go on for a while. my hope is that we won't allow what's happening with mr. mueller to influence the investigation that can lead to impeachment. here is why. mr. mueller is investigating crimes to be taken before the judiciary. impeachment is an offense that is brought before the house of representatives. good example, if mr. mueller is looking for obstruction of justice against mr. trump, president trump, if you will, that is laudable. but when mr. trump, the president, interfered with the investigation by firing fbi director comey that, in and of itself, was an impeachable act and it does not require a crime to be committed. a president can beism peechd who has committed no crime. if this were not the case, then andrew johnson would not have been impeached in 1868, article ten which did not allege a crime. it merely alleged that he was bad mouthing the congress, saying ugly things about
congress and he was impeached for it, never convicted. >> thank you for all of this breaking news and staying with us. appreciate it, ken, congressman, jay and jeremy. i'm alex witt, thanks so much for watching this particular hour. vel chi and rooul are next. this guy isn't sure he can take it anymore. unwavering self-confidence. stuck in a 4-door sedan of sadness. upgrade your commute. ride with audible. dial star star audible on your smartphone to start listening today. us. it's what this country is made of. but right now, our bond is fraying.
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gop lawmakers are one step closer to enacting president trump's tax overhaul. it promises big breaks for businesses and the wealthy, but the question is at what cost to the middle class? >> robert mercer is a hedge fund tycoon, a friend of the president and a big supporter of his agenda. never heard of him? his money, influence and of all things his tax disputes make him a controversial figure in washington. i'm ali velshi. >> i'm