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tv   The 11th Hour With Brian Williams  MSNBC  December 14, 2018 1:00am-2:00am PST

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and ensure that everybody has health insurance. >> that's a god clear answer. i want to get everyone running on this very question. i think that's going to be very important should that come about. julian castro, thanks. >> thanks for having me. >> tonight several sources say the president is alarmed at his own he impeachment and new reporting says he was in the room when hush money payoffs to women were discussed. plus "the wall street journal" out with a block buster. the trump inauguration is now also under federal criminal investigation because of questions about all the money they raised and where it went. and could it be serious? this new reporting tonight that the president's son-in-law jared kushner is a serious candidate for white house chief of staff. as "the 11th hour" gets underway on a thursday night. well, good evening once again from our nbc news headquarters here in new york. day 693 of this trump administration, and we have new reporting tonight on a number of fronts, from the president being concerned about his own impeachment to the reporting
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that he was in the room during hush money discussions in 2015. a source telling nbc news that donald trump was, in fact, in the room when michael cohen and the "national enquirer" publisher david pecker discussed ways to so-called catch and kill stories about trump's alleged relationships with women, in effect, hush money, to make damaging stories go away. the meeting took place in august 2015, just two months after trump announced his presidential run. on wednesday, the "national enquirer's" parent company, american media, inc., entered into a prosecution agreement with the feds in the statement of fact section attached to that agreement, a.m.i. as it's known admitted it paid $150,000 in hush monday toy silence damaging allegations against trump just before the 2016 election. also says that in august of 2015, pecker met with michael cohen and, quote, at least one other member of the campaign.
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"wall street journal" first reported, nbc news has since confirmed that the president is that, quote, other member of the campaign. this comes as the president is working overtime to try to distance himself from his former personal attorney. on wednesday, michael cohen was sentenced three years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to a number of charges including campaign finance violation that's cohen said were carried out at donald trump's direction. one of those violations, cohen's role in the aforementioned payments from american media, inc., to former play boy model karen mcdougal. the other was a payment to silence stormy daniels over her alleged relationship with trump. earlier today, during an interview with fox news, trump repeatedly said he has done nothing wrong. >> number one, they say it's not a campaign finance violation. number two, or it's not even under campaign finance. number two, if it was, it's not even a violation. number three, it's a civil matter. it's campaign contributions
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that, if it were even a campaign contribution, is totally legal. you look at stories one after another, they're all legal. the great lawyers that do that stuff are saying, there's nothing illegal. >> we'll talk about all of it. president trump also pushed back hard on michael cohen's allegations that trump had directed him to carry out these campaign finance violations. >> let me tell you, i never directed him to do anything wrong. whatever he did, he did on his own. he's a lawyer. a lawyer who represents a client is supposed to do the right thing. that's why you pay them a lot of money, et cetera, et cetera. he is a lawyer. he represents a client. i never directed him to do anything incorrect or wrong. >> few hours before sitting down for the interview, the president took to twitter to slam the russia investigation and michael cohen. trump said cohen only agreed to the campaign finance violations plea to, quote, embarrass the president and get a much reduced prison sentence. trump continued making that argument on fox news.
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>> what he did was all unrelated to me, except for the two campaign finance charges that are not criminal and shouldn't have been on there. they put that on to embarrass me. they put those two charges on to embarrass me. what happened is either cohen or the prosecutors, in order to embarrass me, said, listen, i'm making this deal for reduced time and everything else. do me a favor. put these two charges on. what he did is he made a deal to embarrass me. in order to embarrass me, they cut his term down. how many people, when they say, listen, if you embarrass the president of the united states, we'll give you a deal. your father-in-law, your wife, we'll cut you a deal. that's all it is. >> however many uses the word embarrassed, we'll get into this later. but the assertion this is a civil matter is wrong. this is a criminal matter. nbc news is also reporting today that this president is growing increasingly concerned about his own impeachment. our own carol lee, kristen welker and nicolle wallace wrote together, quote, despite
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president donald trump's public declaration that he isn't concerned about impeachment, he has told people close to him in recent days that he is alarmed by the prospect, according to multiple sources. trump's fear about the possibility has escalated as the consequence of federal investigations involving his associates and democratic control of the house sink in. then there was this headline from "wall street journal" this afternoon. reporting prosecutors here in manhattan are investigating whether donald trump's inaugural committee misspent some of the record $107 million they raised from donations and we quote, the criminal probe, which is in its early stages, also is examining whether some of the committee's top donors gave money in exchange for access to the incoming trump administration. policy concessions, or to influence official administration positions. earlier tonight on fox news, white house press secretary sarah huckabee sanders was asked about that.
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>> this didn't have anything to do with the president. the president was focused on the transition and building out a new government. the role he had in the inauguration was to raise his hand and take the oath. same thing for the first lady. she wasn't engaged in this process. >> with that let's bring in our lead off panel. peter baker, chief correspondent for "the new york times." mya wiley, professor at the new school, daniel goldman, former attorney with the southern district of new york. mia, i'd like to begin with you. all we talk about are consequential developments, std story putting donald trump in the room where it happened? >> it's pretty dang consequential. >> that's a legal term. >> so, remember that yesterday when the story broke that a.m.i. had made the no prosecution
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deal, it had said that there were discussions with the trump campaign. but it was not clear who in the trump campaign. and then today we hear that that "who" is donald trump. which makes it a little difficult to track donald trump's argument with any -- and think that there is any credibility to this argument that he is not somehow subject to the potential crime of a campaign finance violation if he had asked -- right, he said he didn't direct. even if he didn't necessarily say, i want you right now to go do the following things, he has been told by an attorney that he's going to create a shell company, and then he's going to hide the fact that donald trump is repaying him the loans in order to pay the hush money to these women by sending false invoices to the trump organization to be paid for
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legal fees. now, we don't know how much of these details trump knew or didn't know, but putting him in that room suggests, one, he may have infact directed it. but certainly the fact pattern we know to date suggests a criminal -- absolutely that he may be involved in the crime. this is the president of the united states of america. >> daniel goldman, the president keep uses -- keeps using that word "civil" to describe this. basically same question to you. how does this david pecker meeting add to the known record? >> right. so, many things that he said today on fox news are flat-out wrong. the first is that michael cohen has a deal. he doesn't have a deal. and, in fact, that's a significant problem to making a case against donald trump. but what makes that criminal case a lot better is the fact that david pecker and a.m.i. are cooperating, and they clearly are going to say that they made
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the karen mcdougal payment in order to influence the election. now you have on top of it the closest that donald trump will ever get to be to alexander hamilton. he's the man in the room where it happened. and what happened was a year before any of these access hollywood or any of the other affairs that came out was a meeting where they discussed a scheme to conceal his affairs from the voters. so on two fronts you have -- it's a very significant development. you have another person in addition to michael cohen pointing a finger at donald trump himself, not just the campaign. and it now seems to be a very premeditated, orchestrated scheme. not some kind of reaction to the access hollywood tape that we have to mitigate the damage any further. this was really a designed plan from the get go. >> peter baker, of all the consequential stories and consequential nights when you
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and i speak at this hour, where, in your view, does this one rank? where does this story rank? where are we on the temperature scale? >> well, that's a great question. i think, look, the president and his lawyers are spent the last few months focused on discrediting the russia probe. he says again and again there's no collusion. this is all a witch-hunt. they go after bob mueller. they say he's conflicted. they offer attacks on his staff. then out of the left flank comes the michael cohen case not run by robert mueller, not run by any of the people he's been attacking, but run by the career professional prosecutors in the southern district of new york who answer, by the way, to donald trump's justice department in washington. and they hadn't basically prepared the public for this. now, we don't know that it's necessarily going to change the political dynamics. you have not yet seen a lot of republicans, you know, reacting with great alarm to this. we talk about, you know, the consequence of this. we're talking about whether or not it changes republican minds,
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not democratic minds. the democrats have made up their minds about president trump. for the moment he's managing to hold onto his base. that's one of the things carol lee and the others talked about in their story. he knows the important thing for him at this point is to stay tight with his republicans in the senate. that's the thing that will ultimately keep him in office if it ever comes to a battle over impeachment the way it did 20 years ago with bill clinton. the last president who was accused of breaking the law to cover up sexual improprieties. >> daniel, i want to play for you -- this was notable in the fox news interview -- two distinct definitions by the president of his former attorney, michael cohen. >> why did you hire michael cohen? he was the fixer -- that was his title, a fixer. >> he did low-level work. he did more public relations than he did law. you'd see him on television, he was okay on television. let me tell you, i never directed him to do anything
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wrong. whatever he did, he did on his own. he's a lawyer. a lawyer who represents a client is supposed to do the right thing. that's why you pay them a lot of money. he's a lawyer. i never directed him to do anything incorrect or wrong. >> so, daniel, you can choose low level stuff, mostly p.r. and was okay on television. the ultimate faint praise. or you can choose lawyer/client relationship and a high rate of pay. why would any of those comments in the public square matter? >> well, they're obviously conflicting as you point out. he's either a lawyer and you're getting advice or he's your p.r. guy. there is some curb appeal saying he's my lawyer, and if he did it, then i thought it was okay. but that is an actual technical defense to make, that donald trump would have to show that he sought out specific legal advice
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from michael cohen on whether or not this payment was okay, and michael cohen told him it was when, in fact, it wasn't. i'm confident that's not the story that we're going to hear. and, by the way, if you do make that defense, you have to waive attorney/client privilege. so all of a sudden all of your communications with michael cohen lose their privilege. and then you're laid bare, all of your conversations with cohen. so it's going to be a loser for a variety of reasons. but one of which is that michael cohen is likely -- would likely, if he were to testify, contradict that. and that would be corroborated by the recording between the two that we know of as well as other recordings that we know are out there that the southern district has, and we have not yet heard. >> and, mia, as if we have the bandwidth for another story, along comes "wall street journal" with reporting on this $107 million, a record raised for an inauguration. a process question first.
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why would this initiate from the southern district of new york, again, those career prosecutors? >> well, first of all, any time prosecutors are looking at a potential crime and investigating it, they're not limited. they don't say, oh, wait, blinders, we might have another crime here, but we can't look at it because we're only investigating this one. that's not how it works. anything -- any evidence you uncover of additional crimes you're going to investigate. remember that michael cohen himself was actually selling access to the white house, right? essentially he was saying, hire me, i'm close to the administration. we already know that from the public record. it's likely -- and then there are lots of news stories around, folks actually -- including russians, right, actually giving to the inauguration and then coming and being guests of the inauguration. well, why? why? the short answer must be that there are conversations they want to have and access they want to have.
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so it's not really surprising that in a southern district that's looking at michael cohen, that's looking at the trump organization, that they might be uncovering additional potential crimes. that's totally -- but the michael -- just to go back, remember donald trump also publicly denied making any payments to stormy daniels. so in addition to the record that we already have that daniel has gone over, we've talked about, he's lied publicly about it. why would he lie about it if he actually was relying on legal advice from an attorney, believing it was perfectly legal? >> this is why you guys are lawyers and former feds and the rest of us are lay people. and to the other layperson on this panel, peter, save me here. first of all, obviously the president tried to exude calm and confidence today, a lot of in effect nothing to see here. what is your best reporting tonight, 11:15 eastern time, on what it is like inside this
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white house? >> now, i don't think it's calm inside this white house. this is a white house having multiple problems all at once. look what happened in the last few days. we've got the cohen situation. we've got michael flynn about to head back to court. we've got manafort in trouble once again. we've got the russian maria butina in court today. it's like robert mueller and the southern district of new york prosecutors are suddenly freed up from whatever, you know, restraints they had been under to wait until after the election and wait until after thanksgiving, and they're suddenly going to court day after day after day, and this drum beat of bad news, the deal with the "national enquirer's" parent company, all this stuff, i think, is just coming at him left and right. at the same time he's about to -- democratic house with subpoena power, which is going to look into a lot of these things in a very public way and a whole lot less discrete way. and he's got a big budget fight looming and no chief of staff.
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that's a big, big set of issues confronting this president at this time. he's very, very nervous about it. >> two lawyers and a reporter, our big three tonight with our great thanks to peter baker, mia wiley and daniel goldman. appreciate it. coming up, our next guest says when it comes to donald trump and law breaking, it's not drip, drip, drip, it is a constant torrent. he will tell us what he has written for tomorrow morning's washington post. and later, from russia with love, a love of firearms and republicans for starters, the foreign agent who is now cooperating with the feds. "the 11th hour" just getting underway on a thursday night. this isn't just any moving day.
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>> there's another one. michael cohen pled guilty to something that is not even a crime. these are campaign -- nobody exceptor for me would be looked at like this. what about congress where they have a slush fund and millions and millions of dollars is paid out each year? they have a slush fund. millions. they don't talk about campaign finance anything. have you ever heard of campaign finance lists? have they listed that on their campaign finance sheets? no. >> some more of president trump's interview today on fox news during which he repeatedly insisted he had done nothing wrong when it comes especially to campaign finance violations. it's all part of a very busy 48 hours for this president. his former lawyer was sentenced to three years in prison, after all, his long-time ally, american media, inc., has entered into a nonprosecution agreement as they call it with
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the feds. just hours ago, "the wall street journal" is out with reporting that trump's inaugural committee is under criminal investigation, and "the new york times" is on the board with another story on that topic tonight. so, who better to talk about all of it than this man, attorney neal katyal. he served as the government's top lawyer before the supreme court as acting solicitor general during the obama administration. in that job, he argued 37 cases before the supreme court. he is these days a professor of law at georgetown university. counselor, you asked that we begin with an exchange with the president. i'm going to do just that. show our audience, we referenced this in the first segment. this is on board air force one, april 9th. >> did you know about the $130,000 payment to stormy daniels? >> no. >> then why did michael cohen make it if there was no -- >> you have to ask michael cohen. michael was my attorney, and you'll have to ask michael.
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>> do you know where he got the money to make that payment? >> no, i don't know. >> april 5, my mistake. neal, first of all, thank you for coming on the broadcast. second, why is that important? the president wasn't being deposed. it was a toss-off comment to cover something embarrassing on a moving aircraft. >> yeah, so it's a real privilege to be here with you. i think the reason why that's so important is it really shows the kind of bait and which strategy of the trump defense is crumbling. i've taught the criminal law course about 20 times, and i think what i teach my students is the technical legal term for how the president is feeling right now is wigging out. and the reason for that is that he doesn't have a defense any more. so, you know, we teach in criminal law that when you're the boss and your subordinate goes to jail for carrying out your orders, that you'll get a punishment usually 3 x, one x to 3 x, double the subordinate got.
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here the subordinate, michael cohen, has been sentenced to three years, and the president now has to trot out a variety of defenses all of which seem really weak. the first was that videotape. i had nothing to do with it. oh, oh, michael cohen has tapes showing that you did and a.m.i., the "national enquirer," has also found -- has also said that you did and that the principal purpose of these payments was to influence the election. and then today, your own network reporting that trump was actually in the room with "national enquirer" and michael cohen when the hush money payments were made. so that defense is now crumbling. so he's going to move to another defense. it's teased out by rudy giuliani, and tomorrow in the washington post i have a piece with the former republican federal election commission chair who, together, we look at this edwards defense and say, does he have anything there? and the answer to that is undoubtedly no. it's very, very different than edwards, and indeed the edwards
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prosecution boom ranges on him because the judge there did decide, as long as one of the reasons why you're making these hush money payments to a mistress is to influence an election, that is a felony, and that is what cohen has said happened. that is what the "national enquirer" has said happened. and cohen's got the tapes to prove it and the career prosecutors in the southern district of new york are saying, we have other corroborating evidence as well. >> president spent the day yet again today calling this a civil and not a criminal matter, and then there are his surrogates. tonight former pennsylvania senator rick santorum, who was a full-on moralist during his time in the u.s. senate, was saying, in effect, this is a violation of federal election commission rules, and this is not a felony. >> yeah, so i actually tweeted the statute out on my twitter page. it is a federal felony. there is no question.
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it is an imprisonment term of five years, so i have no idea what mr. santorum is talking about. it is a felony through and through, and one of the points why we make -- why we are writing this piece tomorrow is say this is a really serious crime. this is not like some technical reporting violation or something. this is shrouding very significant payments just days before the presidential election. and, you know, one of the things that's been so disturbing over the last couple weeks is seeing republican senators whom i held with reverence, like orrin hatch saying it doesn't matter if it's a federal crime. people commit these crimes all the time. oh. and you know, the president saying today on fox news, oh, i get looked at more than anyone and it's unfair, which is really rich coming from lock him up, mr. trump. so, you know, i don't actually think a different standard is being applied. i think no matter who, if anyone had the audacity to engage in shell corporation payments, any
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citizen would be looking at a felony indictment. the only thing protecting the president now is this constitutional card he's got that a sitting president can't be indicted. >> i heard someone say yesterday, if this is the only thing they ever have on him, this could be big enough to be ball game, as this person put it. do you concur with that? and as a general rule, do you think there is too much talk at this stage of impeachment in the media every day? >> well, look, i think the president is right to be worried and your reporting suggests that he is about impeachment. i think he's got both indictment concerns and impeachment concerns. these are really serious things. i mean, and if the president is going to say what he keeps saying, which is a sitting president can't be indicted, every scholar who takes that view, including the two justice department memos that say that, also say if you can't indict, then you have to launch the
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impeachment proceedings in the case of a serious allegation of something because that's the only way to indict, which is impeach first, remove from office and then indict. and this is something i fleshed out in "the new york times" a couple months ago. the argument that you can't indict a sitting president is actually a set up for congressman nadler running the judiciary committee to say i've got to look at impeachment. nadler has said time and again he doesn't want to do it unless he really has to. but these trump arguments which are like, i'm above the law because i'm the sitting president, i think they're going to force nadler's hand. i am convinced there will be an impeachment inquiry by the house of representatives in the new congress. i don't see how it can be anything else given all the serious accusations against the president and his constant lying in trying to defend himself. >> duly noted. neal katyal is hours way from a piece going up on the washington
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post website. thank you very much for staying up with us and coming back on our broadcast. we appreciate it. and coming up for us, the guilty plea from maria butina. it's rare when a foreign agent decides to flip, and this particular russian appears to have been very good at her job. we will talk about her brief stint as the heavily armed red-haired darling of the n.r.a. when we continue.
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we learned more today about this first russian convicted of attempting to influence u.s. politics ahead of the 2016 election. as part of a plea deal, this 30-year-old maria butina pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government. she's agreed to cooperate with investigators. the feds say that with the help of a russian official -- that's believed to be this guy, aleksandr torshin -- and u.s. person one, which is identified by law enforcement officials as this guy, paul eriksson, her american boyfriend who is also a gop operative, butina, quote, sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with americans having power and influence over u.s. politics for the benefit of the russian federation. court documents outlined how she used her experience as a gun rights advocate in russia to gain access to n.r.a. and republican officials here in the u.s., and it worked.
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she also helped co-host the so-called friendship dinners where, according to court papers, wealthy and influential americans discussed u.s./russian relations, and where butina was able to meet with individuals with political capital, learn their thoughts and inclinations towards russia, gauged their response s to her and adjust her pitch accordingly. her work rewarded her with photo ops with gop-leading lights, including but not limited to scott walker and rick santorum. she got to meet donny junior and the president called on her early on in his run to the white house. let's talk about what she was up to. from providence, rhode island, we he welcome back to our broadcast, tom nichols, specialist on russian affairs. with us from d.c. julia ainsley, national security and justice reporter who was in the courtroom today. and so, julia, i'll start with you. what struck you, being in that courtroom today? >> it's really interesting,
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brian. she was very stoic when she came in. she was in her clothes from jail where she's been kept in solitary confinement. she answered the judge in a quick, almost sticcato like fashion. she was aware she was pleading guilty and said she was pleading guilty even though she knew the judge could not keep her from being deported. the judge could obviously take her cooperation into account when she's sentencing her, but not being deported. she's not a u.s. citizen, she's a russian citizen. she could face danger there if she is sent back to russia after cooperating. so that struck me a lot today. also, just going through this plea agreement, it's so interesting to hear everything that these prosecutors lay out. this is not mueller's team laying this out. that is important to realize. this, of course, could have big implications for mueller's investigation if there are people who she worked with within the gop, within the trump
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campaign to facilitate those russian relationships you laid out. but right now she's cooperating in the district of columbia with the u.s. prosecutors here. but the plea agreement does say that she could be interviewed for other things. but part of those friendship dinners that you talked about that really jumped off the page to me as the fact there is a well-connected and wealthy u.s. person who helped co-host those dinners with her. that's aside from aleksandr torshin or paul eriksson who you laid out. a number of people who are unnamed in here who had ties to the trump campaign and to the gop who we still don't know about. so i think the story is just beginning. >> tom, i am tempted to say with some certainty, this can't be the best the russians have. but i'm tempted to say just as quickly, it isn't, but it was so cost-effective. this is all it took to rise to the top of the republican party and the n.r.a., what's going on here? >> yeah, setting her loose among
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republicans in washington was kind of like fishing with dynamite. i think what's really interesting about the butina case, because as you say, she's not their best. this isn't a 007 movie. i think it shows you had, though, that the russians -- and i should add that i don't represent the views of the u.s. government here. but i think it shows the russian government has identified the conservative movement in the united states as the exposed flank of our society. and this is a real change from the cold war days where the old soviet regime thought that movements on the left, unions or peace movements or anti-nuclear movements, were potentially their entry into american civil society. it's very clear the russians have decided that conservative and right wing organizations like the n.r.a. are the way that they're going to penetrate american civil society. and be the cat among the pigeons here. >> tom, this is your life's work, a lot of it anyway. does this make you sad at any level that we have become, to synopsize your views, an easy mark?
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>> i'm sad about that because i think sending butina to do this, it was almost lazy on the part of the russians. as you say, it was a cost-effective, low-risk operation for them. but also it's very alarming because this is really the russians crossing some lines that i think they were even reluctant to do during the cold war. and they're just brazen about it. and we don't seem -- at least the american public at this point doesn't seem to be very alarmed by that and they should. the public should be really worried about this, that the russians believe that they can influence not just our elections, but the course of our society by penetrating institutions, not just government institutions, but social institutions. this is worrisome, and yes, it's saddening particularly seeing the republicans abandoning the mantle of having been the national security party.
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the conservative and republican reaction to this has been a kind of shoulder shrug and i think that makes me sadder than anything. >> and that's impactful to hear. and, julia, a few moments to repeat a point you made for folks watching. this is not the mueller case. there are u.s. attorneys throughout the united states. the justice department is a big place. could this turnout to be fundamental, elemental to our problems in the 2016 election? it could be a component of that, but it's not designed that way, correct? >> it could be. i'll pull from something tom said. this is sort of a low-level campaign. they're throwing anybody at this. this might not be the level that robert mueller is investigating, but it definitely trickles from the same vein. she had the same goals as the people robert mueller is investigating now. she talks about trying to set up back channels of communication. >> uh-huh. >> she talks about the fact of going through unofficial channels to reach these people is an easier way because they don't want to be seen out in
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public supporting russian policies. all of this is supposed to be done behind closed doors in a way that is, frankly, illegal, especially if you're not registered as a foreign agent. that's why she pleaded guilty today. a lot of this is the same patterns we're seeing robert mueller investigate. even if she is someone who falls far down the tree of what he's investigating, she could have connections back up to the top, especially when you consider that she's getting her orders from someone like alexander torsion, a known russian official and part of the central bank. >> i can't thank you both enough for coming on tonight and talking about this. it's a troubling case. most of them get deported. at least she is sharing somewhat with u.s. authorities, too. tom nichols, to julia ainsley, our thanks. and coming up, jared kushner reportedly up for another white house job which he would presumably wedge in between negotiating criminal justice reform and brokering middle east peace, when we continue.
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well, we are back and as you can tell by the brief but foreboding music and animation, as they often do, "the new york times" is on the board, as i mentioned, with another news story about tonight's new topic, and that is the inauguration. they are adding to the reporting that's already out today from the journal with this headline, trump inaugural fund and super
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pac said to be scrutinized for illegal foreign donations. three-person by line, and they say, federal prosecutors examining whether foreigners illegally funneled donations to trump's inaugural committee in a pro trump super pac in hopes of buying influence according to people familiar with the inquiry. here's the important part as they say. the inquiry focuses on whether people from middle eastern nations including qatar, saudi arabia and the u.a.e. used straw donors to disguise their donations to the two funds, federal law prohibits foreign contributions to federal campaigns. political action committees and inaugural funds. we lay that out there as we bring in two returning veterans. jim warren, veteran print journalist who covered the clinton impeachment trial for the chicago tribune, serving as their washington bureau chief. he is the executive of the news guard that rates the veracity of news and information sites.
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also back with us tonight, tamara keith, white house correspondent for npr. tamara, we'll begin with you. this is clearly the next front in this never-ending parade of reporting, that this would be some kind of original sin for the trump presidency that, as it's getting started, as he is placing his hand on the bible, there were foreigners trying to hide donations to this effort to buy access, kind of a large pay for play. >> what we know about the early days of the trump presidency and also the transition is that it was kind of a free for all. that there were a lot of foreign governments and others who were trying to figure out how to reach people in the trump orbit. you know, the president trump was new to politics. there wasn't an infrastructure of people who had strong connections to him. and so a lot of these foreign
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governments were sort of scrambling to find lobbyists or other -- people were just like setting up lobbying shops who had some connection to president trump. and this fits into that -- you know, this is very early reporting from "the new york times" matching ""the wall street journal"." this is the beginning of us knowing about this. but it fits with what we knew about that time, which was that all of these countries were just trying to figure out how to even reach out to the new president or the incoming president of the united states. >> jim, tamara just had the quote. this is the beginning of us knowing about this. but you know the financial crime experts who work -- the career prosecutors who work for the department of justice. if there is a lot here, we'll be hearing a lot about this. >> although variation on the theme, if you think of all the influence peddling we've been privy to as journalists or seen
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from afar, when it goes to inauguration, i always wondered about that. the people in the fancy seats up front, how much did those cost them? it's all about influence peddling. why are you giving 10 or 20 or $50,000 for an inaugural party? this is arguably taking it to maybe a slightly more dramatic extreme. but there are a lot of folks, even maybe someone watching, some folks watching us now in their big fancy northern virginia homes paid for lock, stock and barrel by big fat monthly or yearly retainers from foreign governments with probably not very nice guys running them. and maybe some of them have just forgotten to even register as foreign lobbyists. so the fact that washington has been open for business dramatically of late is vivid, but it's a variation on an old theme. >> we sure appreciate them paying their cable bill. hey, tamara, this is just tonight's headline -- this is on top of the day when we learned
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of the reporting that put the president in the room for the initial conversation. >> that's right. and that reporting, nbc matching "the wall street journal," again, "the wall street journal" has been all over these various investigation stories and deserves a lot of credit for this. in this case, you know, the reporting is that the person or persons from the campaign that were mentioned in documents related to the "national enquirer," a.m.i. its parent company, and michael cohen to make the karen mcdougal payments and sort of arranging this, there was this arrangement between the "national enquirer's" parent company and david pecker who headed a.m.i., and president trump apparently, and michael cohen, to have sort of an arrangement, if there was something that came up, if the "national enquirer" came upon the story of women who could
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injure the president's campaign, that they would help put those stories away. >> uh-huh. >> and if president trump was the individual from the campaign in the room, as nbc and "the wall street journal" are reporting, that is significant, and makes what he had been saying about not knowing anything even less credible than it was before. >> and, jim, because we're old, we just riffed through an ad-lib list of chiefs of staff that we have known in our time vis-a-vis this story. huffington post, cbs news both reporting kushner is on the list. what would a kushner chief of staff mean in your view? >> i was thinking of that before i came here. i went to a broadway play with my news guard colleagues. the life-span of the fact, aged 29 years old of harry potter fame playing young magazine fact checker with an unruly hyperbolic writer who has a
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tenuous relationship to reality and the truth. oh, my gosh, bringing organization to chaos. are there any jobs like that? yes, chief of staff. for those not as wizzoned as us, 17 chiefs of staff since 1988. reince priebus, josh bolton, jack lu, chicago lawyer sam skinner. three chicago ans right now who could have lunch tomorrow. bill daly, rahm emanuel. it's an awful job. jim baker, one-time chief of staff for ronald reagan, secretary of state later on called it the worst expletive deleted job in washington. >> thankless job. >> that's if you have cerebral guy not watching cable television every day, such as barack obama.
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you are being hit every day and now in an age with a couple hundred e-mails hearing from top executive folks on the hill, cabinet officers who all want to get on the schedule. and so there's a reason that folks don't want the job. and ultimately, you do it out of a sense of obligation, not opportunity which is why maybe there is a petia of possibility of jared kushner. i don't think on the face of it he'd be ready for primetime. it's too tough a job. >> okay, tamara, from that petina for you to teach us civics, we have roughly 60 seconds for brilliance. what remains for the congress of the united states, house and senate, and how many days work have they left for themselves, including but not limited to a possible government shutdown? >> so, possible government shutdown would come next friday night. the house is out now and will not be back until 6:00 p.m.
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approximately on wednesday, unless something changes. it doesn't give them a lot of time. there is a thing called thursday magic in washington, d.c., especially on the eve of a holiday where sometimes magic just happens and things get done. but there is no clear path out of this deadlock right now. there is no clear path away from a government shutdown, but that doesn't mean it will happen because it happens, not that often, and there's always a continuing resolution, you know, kicking the can as they say, as a potential option. but right now, democrats say no wall. president trump says he wants wall funding. and it's not clear that republicans -- i mean, it's pretty clear they don't in the house have the votes to give it to him on their own. >> civics in 60 seconds with our thanks to our friends jim warren and tamara keith. really appreciate it, guys. and coming up, it's the season of farewells, and that would include the senate floor, when we come back.
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last thing before we go tonight, it's that time of year for farewells, especially in the u.s. senate where they like their time off, and tomorrow is supposed to be their last workday in 2018, and then they're done for the year, though there is that business of averting or triggering a government shutdown. before the new senate arrives, the departing senators, some
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departing by choice, others not so much, are giving their farewell speeches from their senate desks. >> as i stand here today, i am optimistic about the future, but my optimism is due more to the country that my parents gave to me than is due to the president condition of our civic life. i believe that we all know well that this is not a normal time, and that the threats to our democracy from within and without are real. and none of us can say with confidence how the situation that we now find ourselves in will turnout. >> peter morgan, an author, said no family is complete without an embarrassing uncle. we have too many embarrassing uncles in the united states senate. the united states senate is no longer the world's greatest deliberative body. and everybody needs to quit saying it. until we recover from this period of polarization and the fear of the political consequence of tough votes. but with all the problems i've
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outlined, know that i love this place and you, almost all of you. [ laughter ] you have filled my life with interesting work and unforgettable memories. we have argued, we have sang, we have fought, we have cried, and we have laughed together, just like family. you are family, and i will miss you terribly. >> i leave this senate today, filled with hope for the future and the fondest memories of my fellowship with great friends here. but i admit it is hard to leave the friends and the work that i love. >> senators flake, mccaskill, and nelson, three of the 11 senators departing from the chamber and being replaced in 2019. that is for us our broadcast
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for a thursday night. thank you so very much for being here with us. good night from nbc news headquarters here in new york. i sort of remember back in april him also saying this. >> did you know about the $130,000 payment to stormy daniels? >> no. >> right. first it was i never had sex with those women. then it was i never paid those women. now it's i assumed it was legal to pay those women. president trump's legal troubles continue to pile up with the very latest reporting on the national

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