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tv   The 11th Hour With Brian Williams  MSNBC  October 31, 2017 1:00am-2:00am PDT

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the russians saying, hey, we have dirt on your opponent, i think our first reaction would be, oh, i got a call on the other line. hit hold, and call the fbi. after all, that's what happened with al gore in 2000 when he got bush's tape. and so, you know, the lack of judgment here is astounding. and i think apart from all these legal technicalities, that's what i think will ultimately resonate with the american people. >> that's great point. neil, thanks for joining us. that is all in for this evening. rachel mad owe show starts now. good evening. that's tonight's "last word." brian williams will have much more on the president's reaction to today's three indictments and a guilty plea. "the 11th hour" with brian williams starts now. the breaking news tonight, a guilty plea and two indictments. a former campaign staffer admits to lying about contacts with russia. plus, donald trump's former campaign manager paul manafort and associate rick gates charged with 12 counts in a 31-page indictment. tonight, what we're still learning about robert mueller's sprawling investigation and where it's headed next. and new reporting this evening on the reaction from
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inside the trump white house from the president himself. "the 11th hour" getting underway on a monday night. on a monday night, good evening once again from our nbc news headquarters here in new york. day 284 of the trump administration and the special counsel robert mueller has his first guilty plea and he has handed down his first indictments in a case that is clearly just getting started. and today came the most serious charge yet, that a foreign government, russia, had information damaging to hillary clinton in the form of thousands of stolen e-mails not yet known to the world and a member of the trump campaign worked to put the russians in touch with the trump campaign inner circle. the day started with news of two people being indicted, former trump campaign chairman paul manafort and his longtime business associate rick gates, shown here prior to the republican convention. both men are facing 12 charges,
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including conspiracy against the united states, money laundering and being an unregistered foreign agent. both pleaded not guilty today in court. manafort took over the trump campaign as chairman, running it for much of 2016, including ator for mentioned gop convention. today his lawyer called the indictment ridiculous. >> i think what you all saw today that president trump donald trump was direct. there is no evidence that mr. manafort or the trump campaign colluded with the russian government. mr. manafort represented pro-european union campaigns for the ukrainian, and in that he was seeking to further democracy and to help the ukraine come closer to the united states and the eu. those activities ended in 2014, over two years before mr. manafort served in the trump campaign.
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>> let's back up earlier in the day. tonight's reporting is indicating the administration was relieved by this morning's initial news the president himself wrote on twitter, sorry, but this is years ago before paul manafort was part of the trump campaign. but mueller was not done when the president wrote that. "the washington post" reports the president's celebration was short-lived. a few minutes later, court documents were unsealed showing that george papadopoulos, an unpaid foreign policy adviser on trump's campaign, pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the fbi about his efforts to broker a relationship between trump and russian president vladimir putin. the case provides the clearest evidence yet of links between trump's campaign and russian officials. before today, george papadopoulos was a largely unknown, unpaid trump campaign adviser.
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though the president did talk about him when he discussed his campaign foreign policy team with the "washington post" last year. >> george papadopoulos, he's an oil and energy consultant. excellent guy. >> it turns out papadopoulos was arrested in july when getting off a plane at washington dulles airport and he's been cooperating with mueller's team. all of it kept quiet for months until today. and today the white house tried to distance the president from him. >> sarah, can you just explain what george papadopoulos' role with the campaign was? >> it was extremely limited. it was a volunteer position, and, again, no activity was ever done in an official capacity on behalf of the campaign in that regard. >> what about the outreach that he was making to campaign officials to try to put together this -- >> you mean the outreach that was repeatedly denied and pushed away and said we're not going to take any action on that?
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>> can you explain what happened with his outreach? >> he reached out and nothing happened beyond that, which i think shows, one, his level of importance in the campaign, and, two, shows what little role he had within coordinating anything officially for the campaign. >> one answer back you heard her say, his outreach was repeatedly denied. here's what the court paperwork says on that. after several weeks of further communications after a potential off the record meeting with russian officials, the unknown campaign supervisor told defendant papadopoulos that, quote, i would encourage you and another foreign policy adviser to make the -- adviser to the campaign to make the trip if it is feasible. press secretary sarah huckabee sanders also repeatedly said the real scandal here is about hillary clinton. >> but, look, today's announcement has nothing to do with the president, has nothing to do with the president's campaign or campaign activity.
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the real collusion scandal, as we've said several times before, has everything to do with the clinton campaign, fusion gps and russia. >> george papadopoulos -- about the campaign. it is specifically about the campaign. >> it has nothing to do with the activities of the campaign, it has to do with his failure to tell the truth. that doesn't have anything to do with the campaign or the campaign's activities. >> that was the public message from the white house podium. behind closed doors, the "washington post" reports this, quote, the walls are closing in, said one senior republican in close contact with top staffers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly. everyone is freaking out. the white house also repeated today they think this investigation will be over soon, but this is what one of mueller's attorneys has told the judge about this case. your honor, the criminal justice interests being vindicated here is there is a large-scale ongoing investigation of which this case is a small part.
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to our leadoff monday night panel now, robert costa, "washington post," national political reporter, moderator of "washington week" on pbs'. ashley parker, white house reporter for the "washington post." both are co-authors, by the way, of "the post" piece we quoted earlier. headlined "upstairs at home with the tv on, trump fumes over indictments." both cia and pentagon, former council to the house intelligence committee. welcome to you all. counselor, you get the lead question because i need legal ease translated into english. three people today mentioned. who has been charged with what? >> manafort and gates were charged, indicted by a federal grand jury with multiple counts, 12 counts of money laundering, tax evasion, conspiracy to defraud the united states. all linked to a covert russian influence operation to lobby washington and other capitals, secretly hide the payments and exert influence over policy.
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manafort has been doing this for about a decade. let's go to the other legal case, that was a case against george papadopoulos in which he pleaded guilty so he is now a convict. he's been convicted of a crime. 18 usc 1001 lying to the feds. you can't do that. he did that in two interviews to the fbi. he was picked up as dulles airport in july. he has been cooperating with the feds, possibly wearing a wire, telling all he knows and he pleaded guilty in secret on october 5th. and that's given the feds and bob mueller's investigation multiple opportunities to learn further what he knew. and importantly about him, he's the one who was offered, quote, dirt on hillary clinton in that april 2016 meeting with russian intelligence. >> just to follow up quickly, manafort was the name sky written for us all today because that was the name most people know. papadopoulos, though, was the headline from today because of the potential damage he could cause to the trump circle.
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>> and he was in the trump campaign -- again, let me just unpack the russian intelligence angle. russian intelligence through a cutout, a handler, they spotted, they assessed, they recruited him, they offered him information to, quote, dirt on hillary clinton to support trump and to interfere in the election. did he cut off ties? he told the supervisor, did they report to the feds? no, they didn't. they actually continued the conversation. they used skype, in-person meetings and tried to see whether or not this relationship would go further. >> robert costa, you and ashley and our friend phillip rucker have published this fascinating piece tonight on what started as the drama in the residence portion of the white house and spilled out into the corridors of the west wing. you quote 20 sources talking about the president's reaction. how did this go over in the residence? >> what we learned, brian, during the course of our reporting that the president spent much of this morning up in his residence at the white house playing legal analyst as he digested these bombshells of
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news stories about people who have been affiliated with his campaign. he, of course, is unhappy being associated with this kind of investigation. but it's really telling when we talked to our sources that he's listening to his lawyers, but he's really listening to his own instincts as much as anything to try to guide him through this thorny process and this difficult moment in his presidency. >> ashley parker, muscle memory took over perhaps after the first two indictments. reached for his phone. tweeted out what he wanted to be his message. problem is, the story changed when we learned about papadopoulos. and it will be interesting referencing robert's point to see if lawyers or reflexes win out by, say, tomorrow morning. >> that's exactly right.
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one thing that was so striking is we learned that the president and the white house today were following along with this just as sort of we were and the rest of america was trying to make sense of it in realtime. the white house didn't have any heads up other than the news reports on friday that said that indictments were likely coming monday. as you saw even monday, the president didn't really know what to expect. when he sent that tweet, that was a tweet, you know, our sources told us where he felt vindicated. he felt the indictment against manafort and gates, you know, it didn't mention him, it didn't mention any possible collusion between russia and his campaign and that was sort of the end of it. so what was striking to see him tweet that out and then just moments later the president learns, again, just like the rest of us that, uh-oh, there is more and it looks a lot worse for him. >> jeremy bash, if you are on the president's legal time, how did your world just change? as opposed to friday, what are you preparing for now? >> well, you have multiple people now who can basically turn the state's evidence and
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testify against members of the trump inner circle, members of the trump family and maybe even the president himself. not just manafort and gates, but also this individual, papadopoulos, who is going to go for a more lenient sentence. i think the other thing on the table, brian, are pardons. very much there are discussions tonight about whether or not they should pardon the individual who's were indicted and pardon or commute the sentence preemptively of the individual who is convicted. >> what happens if that happens? because mueller's not going to stop. i don't assume he'll be intimidated by threat of pardon on his work product. what happens? because that's an absolute power we give our president. >> it is. and i think if the president does use the pardon power to pardon these individuals who so clearly violated the law, violated the trust and violated national security, think it provokes the ultimate
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constitutional crisis. and i think it's up to the congress of the united states to determine whether or not our commander in chief remains fit for office. >> so, robert costa, that brings us to what has normally been your beat, and that is the building, the dome behind you. how is -- i know it's early yet, but how is this going to play with the lawmakers with an "r" after their names on capitol hill and what of the trump presidency as of tonight? >> you see two camps emerging within the republican party. one is more combative. they're urging the president privately and their allies within the white house to be more confrontational with the special counsel, to question his team's credibility as this process moves forward. and the other camp, brian, is those who think this process has to move forward on its own and the republicans should stay away from politicizing the special counsel. focus more on trying to pass a tax cut package. that really seems to be the split that i see in my reporting. i'm not sure yet based on my conversations today which side will win out in the gop. >> ashley, i don't know if you've seen this. it will be the first time we're seeing it. john kelly sat down tonight with laura ingraham on fox news and apparently engaged in some
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perhaps wishful thinking regarding the timeline of mueller's effort. we'll watching to and talk about it on the other side. >> it should wrap up soon. i mean, it would seem that they're towards the end of the witness pile. and i don't know how much longer it could possibly go on, but we're in great hopes that it wraps up. it is very distracting to the president, as it would be to any citizen, to be investigated for something while at the same time trying to carry the weight of what being president of the united states means on his shoulders. >> ashley, i am quite certain it is distracting to the president,
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but when you think about the fact that no one was talking about papadopoulos on friday or saturday, and this is the new thing, it does indicate the percentage of the stuff we all know. >> i think that's right. i think it is a little bit of wishful thinking on kelly's part. i will say it's wishful thinking shared by a number of west wing staffers. i heard that a lot today. i heard that ty cobb, the president's lawyer, also has been telling the white house that he expects and hopes that this will be over soon. but i think what you saw with mueller, these indictments was an opening salvo. it was very forceful and he's clearly done a lot of research and is well into his investigation, but this was -- as much as these indictments were indictments in their own right, it was also sending a message to other people who he's yet to talk to potentially that he's not messing around. if you especially look at the manafort and gates charges, russia and collusion is not mentioned, but one of the theories we've heard is that he is sort of getting them on other issues like for instance money laundering with the hope of flipping them or getting them to cooperate in a manner that they
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haven't so far. which, again, could lead to more people and more questions and more sort of surprises like papadopoulos we saw today. >> hey, robert, right quick, you guys wrote today they were relieved it wasn't flynn. why is that? >> because, brian, general flynn remains under investigation with his own grand jury at the moment and he was the national security adviser. albeit briefly in this administration. he was also someone who was a true confidant of then candidate donald trump. so they believe he was part of the inner circle in a way that manafort and rick gates and george papadopoulos were never part of the trump orbit. so they were on edge today about what's next with general flynn? what's his level, if any, of cooperation? you never want to speculate about a grand jury, but it still sits out there ominously for many people in the west wing. >> and finally, jeremy, i want to talk about a public servant, someone whose salary we all pay as taxpayers and that's sarah huckabee sanders. do you have any problems with the answers coming from that
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podium and that room? >> she's a u.s. government official. she swore an oath to uphold the constitution. she stands in front of the seal of the white house and that important podium communicating on behalf of the american people. she should say very clearly that what russia did during the election was intolerable, deplorable and we will cooperate with the investigation, period. >> our thanks to our first segment guests here tonight. a lot to react to. and journalists are -- have been busy this evening. put it that way. robert costa, ashley parker, jeremy bash, thank you all. our first break. and still ahead, what does today's news mean for a twitter-enabled president who likes to be in control of his own message? might have heard us refer to that earlier. and next, what could be the legal exposure for the president now that one of his campaign advisers has pleaded guilty. we'll talk about mueller's investigation with two veteran attorneys when "the 11th hour" continues on a monday night.
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today's announcement has nothing to do with the president. happens nothing to do with the president's campaign or campaign activity. it has nothing to do with the activities of the campaign, it has to do with his failure to tell the truth. that doesn't have anything to do with the campaign or the campaign's activities. >> what leads you to believe that this will conclude the mueller investigation? have you been given a heads up?
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what? >> those are the indications that we have at this time. i can't go any further than that. >> indications from who and where? >> as i just said, i can't go any further. >> we still expect this to conclude soon. >> i still intend that we believe that it will be concluded soon. >> it is called the nothing to see here defense, and if you only watch the white house briefing every day you indeed may think there is nothing to see here. sarah huckabee sanders today trying to make two things clear, there is no connection between the trump campaign and russia and robert mueller's investigation is inconsequential. the "washington post" is reporting today, however, this, quote, with a guilty plea and a 31-page indictment, special counsel robert mueller spoke volumes more than months of heated public debate about the russia probe. without saying a word, mueller's message was clear. according to veteran lawyers, he isn't bluffing and witnesses are talking. here with us just happen to be two veteran lawyers. during the scooter libby case during the bush 43 administration.
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and sal eisenberg. all so many year ugg. he conducted grand jury questioning of president bill clinton. i say that because i was around for both of them and reported on them at the time. sal, can you go first and tell us what you learned today about the mueller investigation? >> well, that it's what we always suspected, that it's very serious, that it's here to stay, that it's ruthlessly efficient in doing really substantive work. that manafort indictment, even though the press secretary is correct it didn't mention the president at all, it's a very substantial alleged crime. it's the kind of indictment that any u.s. attorney's office in any district in the country would make a very big deal of. there would be a press conference from the u.s. attorney, and that would be true
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irrespective of who the defendant was. this is a very serious indictment with very substantial allegations. >> peter, same question to you. and what does it mean that papadopoulos was nowhere on anybody's radar when we left work on friday night? >> well, what it says is the special counsel has been working appropriately under the radar, and it's both the ethical way to do his job without leaking, but it's also extremely effective in that -- for the other defense counsel, for other witnesses not knowing what's going on makes it much easier for the prosecutor to make his case. papadopoulos being under the radar means that the investigators were able to go out and question persons one, two and three, the senior campaign advisers that were identified in the plea agreement, and they were completely unaware that there is already an accounting in the record under oath from this guy george papadopoulos. >> so, sol, the feds walk into dulles airport at the height of
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summer in july. somehow quietly they grab an adult male and get out of there. nobody knows nothing. he goes back to his work and life, we are to presume. today he is called a proactive cooperator. does that mean, as has been speculated all day, that he was wearing a wire? >> it certainly is possible that he was wearing a wire. peter makes a very good point about the other individuals who would have been questioned not knowing that papadopoulos was cooperating but also he could have very easily called them and done consensual monitoring. wouldn't even need a court order for that. keep in mind, he's arrested in >> it certainly is possible that he was wearing a wire. peter makes a very good point about the other individuals who would have been questioned not knowing that papadopoulos was cooperating but also he could have very easily called them and done consensual monitoring. wouldn't even need a court order
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for that. keep in mind, he's arrested in july. the plea is not signed -- finally signed and filed under seal until october the 5th. that's plenty of time to do undercover work for them. and, by the way, the actual plea itself and the information is very, very simple. it wouldn't have taken long to finalize that. it's a simple one-count information to a false statement. very simple plea agreement. >> peter, there is something in your line of work called a superseding indictment, where basically it's an add-on, it's a bolt-on with more charges. how are they coming after manafort? do they say, look, this was just
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to get you in here, get you in the criminal justice system. we have this many things we're looking at. how would you like to make our job easier? because if you get nicked on some of these charged, you're going to die in prison. >> well, it's entirely possible, but i don't personally think it's likely. the indictment that has already been brought doesn't need any extra weight in terms of an inducement to plead guilty and cooperate. it's extremely detailed and it -- the amount of money involved is what drives the sentence under the sentencing guidelines, so he is looking at many years if not decades in prison, and, frankly, in looking at that indictment, i don't think it's defensible. i think most defense attorneys would look at that indictment in they had a client come in and say we're going to have to make a deal. you can't try this case. so is a superseding indictment possible? yeah, it's possible, but i don't think it's necessary in order to flip paul manafort. >> wow. that focuses the mind. and, sol, how are -- how are flynn's lawyers looking at what happened today?
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>> well, there is nothing directly related to flynn, but, again, it's consistent with the way that mueller has always operated and the way andrew weisman has always operated. these are very serious people who are extremely aggressive. so i would say they're going to be very worried if they weren't already worried. i think it is worth mentioning that there is absolutely nothing in the manafort indictment about trump or the administration, and that even in the papadopoulos criminal information, even though the press secretary is wrong, it clearly talks about the trump campaign and campaign officials. there is nothing whatsoever implicating the president himself. >> an important point that we need to note. thank you both.
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gentlemen, so much for being on with us and explaining a lot of what happened today. peter, sol, our thanks. coming up, as we continue, the white house has repeatedly said the president has no plans to fire robert mueller. did that change at all today? we'll look at that question, among other things, when we come right back.
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president trump has repeatedly dismissed the russia investigation and robert
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mueller's investigation as a witch-hunt or a hoax, but as today's "new york times" put it, mueller's first indictments send a message to trump. their chief white house correspondent peter baker writes, quote, the first charges filed by robert s. mueller iii, the special counsel did not implicate mr. trump but collectively amounted to a political body blow to a president who has spent months insisting that mr. mueller's investigation was nothing more than a witch-hunt based on a hoax invented by democrats and the news media. that author, peter baker of "the new york times" is with us now. peter, to borrow of a bumper sticker phrase, today is the first day of the rest of his presidency. but put a finer point on that. how did president trump's life change as of today? >> well, you played the clip earlier of john kelly, his chief of staff, saying how distracting this was for him. imagine how much more distracting it's going to be now that we have indictments. now that we have, in fact, a possible trial of his former campaign chairman.
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now that we have the knowledge that witnesses are in fact talking to robert mueller and they're telling him things we didn't know publicly before. you've already said on your show tonight that george papadopoulos' indictment and guilty plea, you know, came as a shock, a shock to most of washington and certainly even to the white house, which had thought that they were going to get off today with just these financial charges against paul manafort and they'd be able to say, well, this has nothing to to with the president. what george papadopoulos admitted today in that statement offense that he signed is, in fact, he did make an effort on behalf of the campaign to get dirt on hillary clinton and kept top campaign people advised his of his progress.
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>> two or three top news organizations are reporting tonight that bannon is urging his old boss donald trump to go after mueller more aggressively. if you want to reduce it to math, donald trump's at between 33% and 38% in available polling. it would be interesting to see after today where mueller is on approval polling. but what is fraught about mr. bannon's calculus? >> well, look, you know, president trump tends to do better when he has somebody to attack. that's the way he conducts his politics. it's -- he feels more comfortable and more confident when he has an enemy. that's why he is so frequent on twitter creating new ones even when he didn't have one at the beginning of a day. whether that would actually work with the public is a different thing. you know, we've seen this script before. attacking a prosecutor is something politicians tend to do when they're in trouble. you saw what not just steve bannon is saying but roger stone and sometime adviser to the president saying he should create an investigation that would get robert mueller
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conflicted out. you sow some conservative activists saying the president should fire robert mueller, he exceeded his mandate. others saying that he should pardon paul manafort or others to try to short-circuit this investigation. think any of those tactics would inflame a pretty flammable situation and definitely cause a storm on capitol hill, not just among democrats but certainly among at least some republicans. >> peter, use a wider lens and tell me about washington. what happened to the trump administration, the trump agenda as of today, and wider still, he leaves at the end of this week for the most consequential trip of his presidency, and, by the way, it may include a visit to the democrat dmz. >> right. that's exactly right. "the new york times" report, i think some others report as well he made a choice for who is going to be the chairman of the federal reserve. that may be the most consequential appointment he makes in his first term of his presidency, and yet it becomes overshadowed by controversy and scandal. he wants to have this tax reform bill introduced to committee on wednesday. that's the biggest legislative initiative he has left in the first year of his presidency, and as you say he leaves friday for asia.
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these are big things. these are things that any president would want to pounce on and instead the focus of this week will almost certainly be on this russia collusion and what we've learned now and what these various indictments and legal issues hanging over him will really mean. he won't let it go. other presidents might find a way to move the topic back to taxes, back to the federal reserve or other things. president trump is unlikely to sort of not mention this for the rest of the week. that's not his style. >> peter baker, fresh from creating so much of what we read during the week. we thank you so much for coming on the broadcast after such a busy day for all of us. thank you, peter. another break for us. coming up, trump warned a president hillary clinton would face investigations. remember? and a protracted constitutional crisis. that was during the campaign. we'll contrast it to now. that and more when we continue.
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>> a year ago this week, then candidate trump was delivering his final pitch to voters about why a clinton presidency was bound to run into legal troubles and then some. while republicans in congress look to move forward with their agenda, questions remain about whether or not the white house can give lawmakers any kind of assist. writes in a "new york times" opinion piece, quote, i encourage you to keep in mind
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just how weak a president donald trump already is. he's probably weaker than any first-term president in more than a century. based on his standing with the american public, his own party members in congress, and even his own cabinet officials. just today, news broke that the gallup tracking poll taken over a three-day period prior to today's news had president trump earning a new low in his approval rating, 33%. even before those numbers, pew research found that global confidence in the u.s. president plummeted at the beginning of donald trump's term. with us now, cornell belcher, a democratic pollster, worked on both of president obama's campaigns and with a number of house and senate democrats. and david jolly. former republican member of congress from the great state of florida. congressman, i'm going to begin with you because we looked something up, we looked up a quote from you the day you were appointed. you were on the air with us -- >> that's right. >> and you said donald trump's done. he's done. there is no question about that. he's done. i do want to show you the front
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page of tomorrow's "washington post," and this is bracing. you don't see this kind of tall typeface. you don't see that much of a newspaper front page, especially that newspaper, given to one story. it is day 284 and that is the headline of this administration. i'm guessing, congressman, you didn't see anything to dissuade you from your conclusion? >> no, look, this is a president that will continue to survive week by week, if you will, but his presidency in the long lens of history is crippled. we know that. bob mueller is six steps ahead of this president. we saw that with the papadopoulos agreement or indictment. listen, this president is going to be subjected to the tightening of the noose, into this investigation. some republicans might think he won today because there was no smoking gun. this is really just the very beginning and his agenda is crippled. it's crippled on capitol hill. the leverage that bob mueller has right now is remarkable in
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terms of the presidency itself, but that leverage will be excruciating for republicans to deal with on capitol hill in the weeks and months to come. this is a president whose agenda is over. >> well, that gets our attention, as it did the first time back when mueller was appointed. cornell, some will argue that the real issue the whole time that we're not focussing on is hillary clinton. witness the next piece of video. corey lewandowski, fox news, cornell, some will argue that the real issue the whole time that we're not focussing on is hillary clinton. witness the next piece of video. corey lewandowski, fox news, saturday morning. we'll talk about it afterwards. >> the speculation is so insane right now. what we should be focussing on are the continued lies of the clinton administration. the continued fallacies that they perpetuate.
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>> so now, cornell, it's an administration. you may not have noticed it, but there was a clinton administration involving hillary clinton who was not elected. i kid, but what do you do now? what do democrats do now? >> well, i think it's kind of startling at how over the bait and switch routine that they're playing is now. it's kind of frightening, right? i mean, they're clearly trying to sort of this bait and switch and it's all about hillary, but to the congressman's point and to the front page of the "washington post," this is real serious, right? i would argue that his -- most of his agenda was already in trouble from repealing obamacare, which he didn't have a majority in favor of repealing obamacare and you certainly don't have a majority of americans in favor of the current tax plans. so you have a very unpopular president, you know, putting forth -- trying to push forth things that are, quite frankly,
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broadly unpopular. i think there were problems from that. democrats have to be careful not to overplay their hand too much, right? at this time, frankly, democrats probably need to step back and let some of this unfold and not get too aggressive and overplay their hand and look too political in all of this because i think that could possibly hurt them. the thing that's playing for democrats right now is when you look at the latest polling out there right now, you know, democrats are now preferred to take over congress by seven points. i think that will continue to grow. in some of the battleground states, the democrats' numbers are holding up and improving. i think democrats have to be careful to not look too overly political and overplay their hand in this thing. so i think, you know, caution, but it's looking like a midterm with an unpopular president, house and senate that hasn't accomplished very much. it's looking like, you know, perhaps 2006 again for democrats, although i think democrats do have some work to
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do around talking about what they plan to do for the country. >> hey, congressman, when do congressional republicans start sounding more like you, more serious and perhaps more concerned? >> there will be a fatigue that sets in as mueller continues to move on with this investigation, but the big question is whether or not this administration moves to cut mueller's authority. we saw the administration today say the president does not intend to do that, but if the president of the united states, or, frankly, if republicans in congress begin to rally around this idea that they are going to cut off mueller's authority or even the president might fire him, not only would that be likely the end of this presidency, it could be the end of the modern gop. there is a reason that jimmy carter swept in after watergate and it had much to do with president nixon's handling of the investigation. listen, there are very fair questions about hillary clinton and the democrats.
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we saw the investigation move potentially to podesta today, but it is not a binary choice one or the other, and the reality is no distraction by the republicans about fusion gps and hillary distracts from the fact that mueller's playing chess while the president's playing on twitter and eventually mueller's going to get this president. >> cornell, do you have any doubt that the parties would come together -- forget everything else, in an effort to save the job of robert mueller because of the crisis that would pose? >> i would hope they would. i will say one cautionary thing is that, you know, the bannon stuff, i take that seriously. i think there is a real sort of rousing in the base of the republican grassroots, anti-establishment, anti-mitch mcconnell, anti-speaker ryan that they're going to challenge some of these cats and some of these members in the primaries and some of them could possibly lose. so i hope they do the right thing but i think the political calculation is a little different. >> a serious conversation tonight because today it seemed to take a serious turn. gentlemen, thank you.
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cornell belcher, david jolly, appreciate you both very much being on tonight. coming up after our next break, the white house was asked about the president's promise that his administration would have the best people. steve schmitt weighs in on that when we come back. building a website in under an hour is easy with gocentral...
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...from godaddy! in fact, 68% of people who have built their... ...website using gocentral, did it in under an hour, and you can too. build a better website - in under an hour. with gocentral from godaddy. he promised to hire only the best people. is this an example of the best people to hire?
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>> look, again, this goes back to these were activities that took place outside of the scope of the campaign. i can't comment on anything they did -- >> are these the best people to hire? >> look, the presidential hired paul manafort to handle the delegate process, which he did, and he was dismissed not too long after that. >> sarah, just to follow up on the point of hiring the best people, the top, top people. does this not at the very least raise questions about president trump's vetting process and judgment when it comes to bringing on these people? >> i don't believe so. >> paul manafort was chairman of the campaign, by the way. after campaigning on the promise of, as you heard, hiring the best people, the trump administration is now publicly, as you saw, downplaying the connections and importance of people like manafort, gates, and papadopoulos. "washington post" opinion author michael gerson, famously the former speechwriter for bush 43, wrote today, "to what circle of
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hell are republican officials about to consign themselves? it would be useful for members of congress to declare that they will never enter the fourth circle, the demolition of the integrity and independence of the fbi, if only to deter trump from forcing a constitutional crisis." to speak to that very point i am joined tonight by our friend steve schmidt, a veteran of the bush white house and the mccain campaign, also an nbc political analyst. steve, what changed today in your mind? >> well, the investigation has borne fruit. we have a conviction with a guilty plea. we have two indictments. and the two indictments and the guilty plea move this story much closer to the white house than it was yesterday. and not for nothing, brian, i think it's important to remember that paul manafort indicted for conspiracy against the united states is one of the parties in the room meeting with officials of the russian government for
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the purposes of receiving dirt on the democratic nominee for president of the united states. and of course also in that room are the president's son and the president's son-in-law. and we know that the president was directly involved in an effort to mislead the american people materially about that meeting. donald trump jr. lied about it. today is the accumulation of all the lies over the first months of this administration about the campaign's dealings with russia. and we see the first tangible evidence, the first links today. >> steve, what would have happened back when you were with the mccain campaign if i'd come to you and said i've got buddies overseas and they have some dirt on barack obama and i really don't like this obama character and i'm looking to defeat him, would you be interested? >> yeah, i would have called the director of the fbi. >> that simple? >> that simple. any loyal american does that. this meddling which is
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acknowledged by our intelligence >> that simple? >> that simple. any loyal american does that. this meddling which is acknowledged by our intelligence services, this attack on our election systems, it seems so difficult for so many republicans to understand this. but this was not an attack on the democratic party. this was an attack on the united states of america. if a foreign adversary reaches out trying to interfere in our election process by trying to deleverage, to hurt the nominee of one of the two parties, in this case i'm a republican so it would be the democratic nominee, you call the fbi. full stop. >> steve, this calls for total speculation, but i'm curious how you'll answer. how does this end? does this end with a two-term
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79-year-old president relaxing enjoying the rest of his life at one of his golf resorts? but does it -- or does it end earlier than that, and how? >> look, i think that if you were just to bet, one, i think there's a much greater likelihood for a lot of different reasons that he finishes sooner than he signed up for. that being said, the chances are still much greater that he'll serve out his full term. we don't know what's going to happen in the future. we don't know, for example, what will be of general flynn. is he already cooperating with the investigation for the purposes of speculating openly? we do know this. the president goes to china as weak as he possibly can be. his legislative agenda completely stalled. no members of his party out there defending him today. the white house engaged in a misinformation campaign supported by media allies the likes of which we've never seen in the united states of america, sheer propaganda.
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the chinese leader after the chinese communist party conference is now the most powerful chinese leader since mao. the threat of the situation in north korea continues to escalate. donald trump is the least popular president this early into his term in the history of polling in the united states. so there are many, many issues to be concerned about. what we do know about this investigation is robert mueller is holding it close. we're going to find out what's happening on his terms and nobody else's. >> steve schmidt, who has a way of summing up what is right in front of us. steve, thank you so much for joining us. and for your voice on our broadcast tonight. the last thing before we go this evening, not the most important development from today but certainly a curiosity. today's 12-count indictment of
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paul manafort alleges that he laundered tens of millions of dollars through foreign entities to enjoy what they called a lavish lifestyle here in the united states. and because a federal indictment can have the effect of a living autopsy of your life, we know what he's alleged to have spent on certain things. like over $900,000 at an antique rug store. like the $600,000 plus spent with a new york antique dealer. and the staggering $1.3 million on clothing. all of it spent at a men's store in new york and another one in beverly hills. again, 1,369,000 and change on menswear. there are other things, not one but three range rovers and a lot of real estate, including a house in suburban virginia outside washington, which could be where manafort will be spending his time under house arrest for the charges he was indicted on today. that is our broadcast on this
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eventful monday as we start a new week. thank you so much for being here with us, and good night from nbc news headquarters in new york. trump's former campaign manager, paul manafort was charged with money laundering and tax evasion. >> are we clear the trump campaign has no relationships are trump oligarchs. >> that's what he said. that's what my position is. >> ladies and gentlemen, is that the way someone guilty talks. >> this morning, three associates of president trump facing charges. paul manafort and one time

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