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be there with each other, it's -- it's the greatest heart break that anyone can ever experience i think. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline," thank you for watching. good morning. i'm dara brown in new york. headquarters, 7:00 in the east, and 4:00 out west. here's what's happening. on the road, president trump is on the first leg of the critical trip to asia, and why the white house said there was a positive side of the president's rhetoric about north korea. who met with who in the mueller probe? what it means for the president and a member of the cabinet. new reaction on key developments in the russian investigation as
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they threaten to overshadow the first trip to asia. in an interview airing tomorrow, president trump had this reaction when asked if he'd fire special counsel robert mueller. >> well, i hope he's treating everything fairly, and if he is, i'll be very happy. when you talk about innocence, i'm truly not involved in any form of collusion with russia, believe me. that's the last thing i can think of to be involved in. >> you've been told to expect to be questioned by the special counsel. are you prepared for that. >> no. nobody's told me. as far as i'm concerned, i'm not under investigation. >> meanwhile, former trump adviser revealed for the first time he, in fact, met with russian government officials during a july 2016 trip he took to moscow. coming clean in the closed door testimony before the house intelligence committee thursday confirming the meetings to the "new york times" last night and revealed yesterday that he told then senator jeff sessions he was traveling to moscow ahead of
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the trip. >> yeah. i mentioned i'm headed over there, and totally unrelated to the campaign. it's in passing. >> is he the only one in the campaign that knew about the trip? >> i mentioned it to a few people. >> who else? >> it will come out. things keep leaking. >> nbc is traveling with president trump and has more on the fallout over the surprise indictment of the campaign adviser. president trump sounding off before taking off on his landmark trip to asia. >> i think we're going to have great success. >> but unable to leave behind the russia probe after two revelations about this march meeting with george who pled guilty to lying to the fbi about his contacts with russia. now, a former trump adviser who was in the room tells nbc news, then candidate trump floated the idea of a meeting between trump and putin. jeff sessions immediately shot down the idea.
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mr. trump, who just last week, boasted about his great memory -- >> one of the great memories of all time -- >> says he has little recollection of this encount ir. >> mr. president, do you remember that march meeting? >> i don't remember much about the meeting, very unimportant meeting. >> in february, the president insisted he was not aware of any campaign adviser's contacting russian officials during the campaign. >> no, nobody that i know of. >> reporter: asked if he stands by the words -- >> all i can tell you is this, there was no collusion. there was no nothing. it's a disgrace, frankly. >> reporter: also, under mounting scrutiny, jeff sessions who testified before congress he was not aware of any trump advisers communicating with russians. that is contradicted by george, and now former trump adviser carter page who testified on capitol hill thursday he told sessions about a july trip to moscow. he said the trip had nothing to do with the campaign. adding pressure, the president
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ramped up on calls on his attorney general to investigate hillary clinton and the democrats. will he fire sessions if there's no action? >> i don't know. i'm really not involved with the justice department. i'd like to let it run itself, but, honestly, they should be looking at the democrats. >> reporter: nbc news, the white house. let's bring in alexa, deputy manager, great to have you here this morning. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> scrutiny over sessions what he told congress and what george reveal about contacts with russia. sessions shot down a pitch for trump to meet with putin, but sessions never mentioned this asked in testimony whether any trump campaign folks had contacts with russians. how big a problem is this? >> it's a big problem because this is the first time we have concrete evidence that both jeff sessions and donald trump knew about explicit connections between russian officials and people on the trump campaign.
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so it's kind of confusing why jeff sessions says in the testimony you mentioned that he had no idea, that, you know, he knew this didn't happen, especially considering not only there he knew, but that he reportedly shot the meeting down, so he could have said, yes, i knew about this, but i thought it was not in our best interest, and i shot it down, but instead, he misled the committee, looking like they were lying or looking to hide something. >> another adviser said there was a passing meeting with a russian official visiting moscow in 2016. these stories keep changing. how damaging might this be to the president? >> this could potentially be very damaging to the president. so carter paige is a bit of an interesting character in the saga of the trump investigation. he's one of the characters in the saga that's more vocal than the others doing media appearances. there seem to be a lot of leaks surrounding him, so, basically, what carter paige has done is confirmed what trump and
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sessions, especially sessions, has denied in that he was in contact with russian officials during his trip to moscow. he also said yesterday that he told jeff sessions before he left for moscow in july of 2016 that he was going there in the first place. paige dismissed that as a bit of a brief comment, nothing major, but just as he's said his comments to russian officials were just a brief blow, however, we can see that this can have major implications because it contradicts what sessions said. >> alexi, is there any conventional wisdom on what the most potentially damaging aspect if he cooperated with bob's investigation here? >> well, the court documents revealed this week by mueller's investigation showed he was promised thousand of e-mails containing information about hillary clinton and bragged about his connection to the london ambassador to be connected to putin and other russian officials to connect him
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with the trump team. again, that is the most damaging information because it shows, you know, with no questions asked that this was a concerted effort for collusion with russia between the trump campaign and the kremlin. that's something that donald trump said is a hoax, a witch hunt, no collusion, but this evidence proves otherwise. it will be increasingly more difficult for trump to say otherwise. there was a concerted effort for collusion on the part of his campaign. >> julia, how much did the developments weigh on the white house preparing for the asia trip? >> yes. so, these developments are going to follow trump on this trip, and i think the goal of the white house right now is to make this trip overshadow these developments, however, i don't think at this point that will happen. i think trump on the trip wants to focus on, you know, reaffirming his america first policy and reaffirming foreign policy of asia.
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however, the white house is grappling back here in washington with the developments that continue to be coming out. >> might be a little bit difficult. alexi, this week an article in vanity fair painted a a gloomy scene in the west wing. is that because aides feel they are targeted and in trouble, or the concern is the russian investigation is closer to the president? >> you know, i would imagine it's a little bit of both, right? i think that mueller's investigation so far, although there's just a couple indictments and charges against three folks, shows it's far-reaching, right? people are saying that because it has nothing to do with russian collusion explicitly and more about financial dealings, that suggests the investigation is widespread and could come for anyone for things not related explicitly to russian collusion, but at the same time it's getting closer to donald trump because it's getting closer to people close to him, right? he says in that interview played earlier that he's not under investigation, and that he has
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nothing to worry about, but i think that everyone in the white house is worried, and they should be because mueller's investigation will continue and he'll be thorough in what he's doing. >> any sense how long the investigation goes on and if new indictments drop soon? >> yeah. we expect new indictments, especially in the future. we're not sure when the indictments drop, but these are the beginning of what's going to be a slew of additional environments. >> stay with me. taking taxes later. low approval ratings hang over the president. can he turn things around while away from washington? 8:30 a.m. today, mueller's most wanted, who the special counsel could be targeting next. the latest on the "time" magazine article coming up.
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tomorrow, a special series, on assignment with richard engel, exposing new details of maniford's new details with a kremlin associated billionaire. that's tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. eastern on msnbc. president trump is ready to head to japan today launching a five nation trip to asia. this is his first official trip to the asian pacific region as president. he arrived in hawaii yesterday ahead of his departure and visited the memorial at pearl harbor. nbc's kelly o'donald is in honolulu. kelly, good morning. this is amid heightened tensions with north korea, but it's overshadowed by developments in the russia probe. >> good morning, dara. parallel tracks, so, certainly, there's a lot of attention on the important business the president will conduct while overseas, but at the same time,
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there will be those issues related to the russian investigation in some of the troubles he has with domestic politics. that doesn't always happen when a president travels overseas, but in this era when there are so many pending developments, it is expected that the president will be asked about this along the way, and we have seen he has a tendency to want to talk about these issues, not only when asked, but in reflecting what's on his mind. we saw that play out on the south lawn before he made the trip here to hawaii where he was asked a few different questions about his recollection about meeting involving the now defendant in one of these cases, george, who served as an adviser to the trump campaign, said he didn't remember much about the meeting. the president was also quick to volunteer his frustration with the department of justice, saying it should be more focus the on doing investigations that look at democrats and hillary clinton. here's the president. >> i'm really not involved with the justice department.
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i'd like to let it run itself, but, honestly, they should be looking at the democrats, looking at podesta, that dishonestly, a lot of things, and a lot of people are disappointed in the justice department including me. >> reporter: so the president expressing his own frustration at the same time where he makes clear he understands that as president, it is part of his role to let the justice department operate on its on. we'll see how that plays out in the days ahead. here in hawaii, the president also had an opportunity to do a couple very important things, for him and the first lady. it was a first trip to the memorial at pearl harbor. they were able to pay their respects there. they were also laying a wreath at the site at the uss arizona. that, for the president, was something he said he read about and studied about, and was very much looking forward to seeing in person. in addition, he had a chance to meet with some of the military leaders from the pacific
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command. they are not only an important part of the u.s. military for his role as commander in chief, but very critical as he's about to head to asia because it is their line of operation, their duty to be a part of the north korea strategy where the president tries to get allies in the asia to work more closely with the u.s., and for the need of military action, defensive or otherwise, that the pacific command plays a huge role. they got face-to-face time with key military officials there. dara? >> thank you, kelly, live in honolulu. joining me now, a former deputy national security adviser to president george w. bush and msnbc national security analyst. good morning. >> good morning, dara. >> president trump venturing to a region on edge here, and has he contributed to the attention? >> there's no doubt there's tension in the region surrounding the north korea problem with a sense of urgency around this that president trump and the administration added to,
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and, certainly, some degree of belligerence happening with north korea and advancement of the nuclear program. part of the purpose of the trip is to reassure allies, south korea, japan in particular, work with china more aggressively on containing the problem in north korea, and then demonstrating to other allies, especially in the trip in southeast asia and the summit that the president will attend, that the u.s. is present, that it's a reliable ally, and that it is a partner in the 21st century. i think there's a lot of question about that in the region, whether or not the u.s. isolationists, and certainly what happens after the u.s. pulled out the transpacific partnership when president trump took over, but north korea's top of the agenda, not just for the administration, but key allies in the region. >> and white house national security adviser, hr mcmaster, set the tone for president trump's 12-day trip, defending the president's north korea
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rhetoric. let's take a listen. >> well, i don't think the president really modulates his language. have you notice him do that? he's been very clear. what's inflammatory is the north korean regime and what nay are doing to threaten the world. i think there would be grave danger if the regime did not understand our resolve, the president's resolve, to counter north korean aggression. >> so has the heightened rhetoric paid off so far? a winning strategy? >> well, i think it's a bit of a mixed bag. i think there's the danger that heightened rhetoric creates greater tension, potential for miscalculation, perhaps, force north korea to be more aggressive than they would otherwise. on the other hand, there's value, to be honest, with the president demonstrating a tougher line. it's moved the chinese to be more serious in terms of what they've. willing to do, though that the u.n. in terms of sanctions, as
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well as pressuring north korea more directly, so some of the rhetoric actually had value, i think. i think the trick here on the trip is that the president's rhetoric, tweets, however he communicates, not overshadow what will likely be opportunities to demonstrate common interests and purposes with allies, japan and south kor korea. there's going to be major opportunities there with the leaders, president abe, with whom he has a good relationship with, president moon, and president xi. there's opportunities to demonstrate american power, strength, and unity with the allies. i hope those the opportunities he takes opposed to trying to raise the rhetoric during this trip. >> well, you talk about that, because president trump is going to be seeking further cooperation from china and allies, but pyongyang has not been responsive. down they have the power to convince un to change course on nuclear weapons? >> well, i'm not sure the u.s. can do it alone.
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certainly, the u.s. has a major stake in this, the ability to pressure with financial sanctions, diplomatic pressures, the threat of military force. remember, on the eve of this visit, you had u.s. bombers as well as south korean and japanese fighters flying near north korea, but the real trick here is can we convince china it's in their fundamental interest to pressure north korea more directly, with more urgency. keep in mind, china controls 80-90% of trade with north korea. they are the diplomatic backstop, in particular, at the u.n., and they have political pressure to apply on pyongyang. the trick here is can the u.s., in alliance with china, pressure north korea so that we can slow, if not stop and reverse the missile and nuclear program. that's the real trick here, and i think the trip will be focused on trying to achieve that. >> thank you so much for spending more saturday morning with us. >> my pleasure, thank you, dara. president trump calls it a
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now back to politics and key democrat pushing back on the bomb shell revelations about the clinton's come pain of the control of the dnc of the 2016 primary. here's hillary clinton supporter in an interview with my colleague, chuck todd, last night. >> it's regretle that donna thought it was the thyme to come out with this complaint? >> bad timing for tuesday? >> very bad timing. just got to knock it off. if you really want to say something, come in, help us, let's do get out the vote this weekend in virginia. this is the biggest race in the country. >> let's bring back in alexi, deputy news editor, and julia manchester, reporter at the hill. what are you seeing in the gubernatorial elections in virginia and new jersey? >> hearing from various democrats that they are worried
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about the gubernatorial race. it would be surprising if they loss, but donna brazil op-ed and the book you mentioned in "politico" is making them worried creating a further divide in the democratic party they think had not only hurt them in virginia, but looking ahead to 2020. >> julia, turning to the president's asia trip, what are you looking for over the next 12 days? >> for 12 days, we look for president trump's attempt, i guess, to reaffirm american foreign policy in the region. we've seen that president trump has really wraratcheted up rhetc with north korea and the leader, and created a conflict with china when it comes to issues such as getting them to do more on north korea and trade, so those are the two things that i would look out for at this point. in addition to a possible meeting with russian president
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vladimir putin in vietnam. the gop tax plan, is there sense of what aspects president trump pushes for in the end? what's his role going to be, calling the gop health care day lean days after he applauded it. >> as you mentioned, gop tax plan is considered a christmas president or miracle for the gop, and that's because he knows that we're about a year out from the midterm elections in which republicans are now poised to go into with almost no legislative victorie victories, right? if they pass tax reform, which they desperately need to do, there's better chances in 2018, and trump knows that and does whatever it takes to get this pass. that said, it's incredibly difficult to pass. ambitious plan. there are already republicans like rubio against it, the home builders union against it, and paul ryan wanted a vote by nank give i thanksgiving. they will rally, and we'll see
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trump behind them. >> thank you so much for being here. >> thank you. >> that's all for me. i'm dara brown. thank you for watching at the top of the hour, first, it's your business with jj rapburg. stay with us. so we sent that sample off to ancestry. my ancestry dna results are that i am 26% nigerian. i am just trying to learn as much as i can about my culture. i put the gele on my head and i looked into the mirror and i was trying not to cry. because it's a hat, but it's like the most important hat i've ever owned. discover the story only your dna can tell. order your kit now at ancestrydna.com. ...has grown into an enterprise. that's why i switched to the spark cash card from capital one. now, i'm earning unlimited 2% cash back on every purchase i make. everything. what's in your wallet?
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