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tv   Andrea Mitchell Reports  MSNBC  March 28, 2019 9:00am-10:00am PDT

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the time and costs it took their investigators to put a case together and he will send him a bail in the mail, he says he not only wants him to pay it but to acknowledge his guilt. >> miguel almaguer, following the smollett case for us, thank you, sir. that will wrap up this hour of "msnbc live." see you tomorrow morning on "today." for now, my colleague kasie hunt is picking things up. >> craig, great to see you. right now on "andrea mitchell reports," comey speaks. lester holt sat down with fired fbi director james comey for his first reaction to his long time colleague robert mueller's report and the fact that the special counsel didn't reach a conclusion on obstruction of justice. >> mr. mueller decides not to make a judgment on that particular issue. does that alone surprise you? >> it does. coming up, lester holt joins us with more on his exclusively interview with james comey. schools. secretary of education betsy devos comes back to capitol hill
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to face growing outrage over her department's proposal to cut all federal funding to the special olympics. >> did you personally approve this? i think a yes or no will do, the $18 million cut to the funding for special olympics. >> no, i didn't personally get involved with that. >> whoever came up at that idea gets a special gold medal for insensitivity. and bad medicine. republicans warn president trump not to kill obamacare until the courts without a plan to replace it. as democrats see an opportunity. >> the trump administration radically expanded its war on america's health care this week. hard to explain, but who knows? good day, i'm kasie hunt in for andrea in washington where president trump is getting ready to take his total exoneration message on the road. traveling to michigan this
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afternoon for his first prime time rally since attorney general william barr released his 4-page summer of the more than 300-page mueller report. the fbi director who the president fired back in 2017 tells lester holt in an exclusive interview that there may be damning details that mr. trump still isn't aware of. >> the language was pretty clear, there is nothing between this campaign and russia. on that basis should he be breathing a sigh of relief? >> i don't know that i read the letter from the attorney general that way. i read him as saying the special counsel didn't find that the evidence established that there was any conspiracy between the americans and the russians. what evidence there is, what evidence there might be that falls short of that standard, i have no idea. >> "establish" is the word you're honing in on there? >> correct. so i don't know what the special counsel found. i'm prepared, i hope everybody is, to wait and get the transparency we need. >> lester holt joins me now,
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lester, it's an honor to have you. it was a fascinating interview. what were your integrations, your takeaways of comey, now two years after his firing? >> this isn't a 30,000-foot-view, he was in the middle of this. he started the russia investigation. he of course was fired. he was witness to things that he thought were obstruction of justice by the president. for him to be able to stand back and say he was not shocked by this outcome was not necessarily what i expected. his view was that the system worked, the fbi, the special counsel were allowed to do their work, and sometimes investigations go in different ways and this one happened to land in a place where it appears there was no collusion between the president's campaign and the russians. he says he certainly defends the fbi's rationale to go after this in the first place, there was plenty of smoke and they had to chase it down. >> speaking exactly of that, i thought the way that he
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explained why they needed to do this was pretty interesting. here is a little bit of what he told you about that. >> the president says this should never, ever again happen to an american president. what do you think about that? >> close your eyes, again, change the names. let me make one up for you. the iranians -- this is totally made up -- the iranians interfere in the election to help elect barack obama because they think they'll get a better nuclear deal from him. and during that election, an obama aide meets with the iranians and talks about the dirt they have that will help obama get elected, and the fbi finds out about that. we should not investigate that? and then president obama's national security adviser lies to the fbi about his contacts with the iranians. and then the president, obama, asks me to drop an investigation of that. and then fires me and says, i was thinking of the iranian thing. and then he invites the mullahs to the oval office and tells them, that fbi director was a real nutjob, i lifted a lot of pressure by firing him. who on earth doesn't think the
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fbi should investigate that? >> it's an interesting alternate narrative that he plays out there. >> he's essentially saying, it seems to me, lester, to all the people who viewed this as political and people who set the fbi up as a political entity, to say, hey, look, we would have done this no matter which party the president belonged to. >> he's a fierce defender of the fbi and he clearly misses his job and totally feels the fbi was doing its job, and that's why he laid out that example, how could he not, how could they not pursue these threats. and of course everything changed when he lost his job and it turned to the hand of the special counsel. but he thinks, once again, their work was honorable and that they carried it through to whatever conclusions they came to. and it's interesting to note, you know, several times in his answers he pivots to the fact, we don't have full transparency. and while sometimes you might see that as a dodge, i think we're all to some respect here working in the dark here because we have not seen this entire report.
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>> and lester, did he have any doubts about the attorney general's decision to make a declaration about whether the obstruction of justice question was one that they could prosecute? >> yeah, as he said, i mean, the whole idea of the independent counsel is to give a little space from the politicals, i think as he called it, that would be the attorney general. he also -- and i asked him about this, about rod rosenstein's role in all this, because as you know, he is cited in this decision to not prosecute, to not to go after obstruction of justice. and he noted that of course rosenstein's name was on the memo that the president initially used to justify the firing of comey. and so the argument being that here you have a potential witness to what could have been an act of obstruction of justice essentially ruling on that question. he didn't open ll lly criticize. he says it's unusual. he says it might be that mr.
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rosenstein consulted with ethics experts and came to that decision. but it's clearly something he's given a lot of thought to. >> lester holt, an excellent interview, of course, congratulations. thank you very much for being here. tune in to lester every night on "nbc nightly news." president trump's tweetstorm this morning included a message to house intelligence committee chairman adam schiff, the president writing, quote, congressman adam schiff who spent two years knowingly lying and leaking, should be forced to resign from congress. house republicans on the committee took it to the next level at a hearing this morning. >> we have no faith to your ability to discharge your duties and consistent with your constitutional responsibility we urge your resignation. >> you have chosen instead of addressing the hearing to simply attack me consistent with the president's attacks. my colleagues may think it's okay that the russians offered dirt on a democratic candidate for president as part of what
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was described as the russian government's effort to help the trump campaign, that the campaign chairman of a presidential campaign would offer information about that campaign to a russian oligarch, that the president himself called on russia to hack his opponent's e-mails if they were listening, that the president's son-in-law sought to establish a secret back channel of communications with the russians, that the national security adviser designate secretly conferred with a russian ambassador about undermining u.s. sanctions. you might say that's all okay. you might say that's just what you need to do to win. but i don't think it's okay. >> let's bring in nbc white house correspondent kristen welker, msnbc political analyst robert costa, national political reporter at "the washington post" and moderator of "washington week," and msnbc justice and security analyst matt miller. bob costa, i am just struck
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watching that unfold in public at the house intelligence committee. this committee used to be the definition of bipartisanship in past congresses, going back just a few years. and now this nonstop drama, first with devin nunes under republican control, and now with adam schiff, what's your take on all of it? >> chairman schiff has become a political target for republicans. but he also has real support among democrats including the most important democrat in the country, speaker pelosi. so expect him to continue to lay out a case about russian interactions with the trump campaign in 2016 to try to underscore that in the democrats' belief there are still issues out there, even if robert mueller, based on the attorney general's summary, did not find any conspiracy. >> kristen welker, walk us through what we've seen from the president on this question over the past couple of hours and
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days. and i'm just struck by, you know, what happened with devin nunes in this committee versus, you know, now they're sort of trying to flip that around on adam schiff in a way that makes a lot of us who have covered this go, huh? >> and of course devin nunes had some behavior that some of his democratic colleagues called questionable, when he got information from the white house and then proclaimed that he had gathered this information and tried to use it against the investigation. so now to the point of adam schiff, you do have the president emboldened in the wake of the mueller report, taking a victory lap and taking aim at his perceived enemies. on twitter this morning, kasie, calling on adam schiff to step down, saying congressman adam schiff who spent two years knowingly and unlawfully lying and leaking should be forced to resign from congress, reiterating that type of language overnight during that interview he had on fox news. so we are seeing the president
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take his grievances to a whole new level. remember, he has an event in michigan, our colleague peter alexander will be there, and i think you'll hear a lot more of this type of rhetoric, again taking aim at his enemies and taking a victory lap. he sees this as advantageous politically particularly as he's about to enter a re tough reelection battle, kasie. >> matt miller, as you watch this unfold, we know that jerry nadler, chairman of the judiciary committee, is pretty frustrated with the process around trying to get the attorney general, bill barr, to come up and testify. we're also learning the mueller report exceeds 300 pages. at this point what's the obligation of the justice department to move quickly on all of this? >> the justice department absolutely needs to move quickly if for no other reason that that's what the attorney general said he would do, he said he would be as transparent as possible and do it as quickly as possible. the chairman of the judiciary committee is trying to give him
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some room, trying to negotiate a voluntary appearance, and as long as you see him diligently working to get that report released, he will continue to do that, but if it looks like he's dragging his feet, chairman nadler has that subpoena power in his back pocket. i guarantee you, people up on the hill are wondering now why is it that the attorney general made the decision to insert himself into the process when he didn't have to, he could have just waited, done a redacted version of the report and released that at the same time as he made whatever conclusions he wanted to make. that's what they're going to want the attorney general to come up to explain in addition to releasing the underlying report. >> as this all unfolds in washington, robert costa, kristen mentioned the rally the president has in michigan. what's your reporting on how much the mueller report, what we've seen unfold over the last two years, will play into the
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president's reelection strategy? does his campaign feel that's something for exciting the base or does he need to make arguments over the economy and other areas where they feel the president has succeeded as president? >> the word all over reporters' notebooks this week when talking to white house officials is "vindication." they keep using that word in background and on the record interviews. they feel vindicated by the attorney general's summary despite not seeing the report itself. when the president goes to grand rapids thursday night, he will be a president unbound, using grievance style politics as a way to rally his core voters ahead of 2020. will some conservative ideas like a conservative push on health care still animate the trump campaign? certainly they will to some extent. but at its core, it's that populism, that grievance politics, that's what's underscoring it all. >> kristen, who yhow do we expee
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crowds to be at this rally? over the course of the campaign there were certainly some pretty tough crowds, if you will. it seems as though this really has been for president trump's cor core supporters, possibly the best week of his presidency. >> i think that's a fair point, kasie. i was with the president in el paso, i can tell you his supporters seem just as fired up as they were on the 2016 campaign trail. i anticipate it's going to be that, amplified tonight, because he feels as though he's on the other side of this mueller report. and as bob is laying out, he's going to talk a lot about that tonight. we've seen him take this visiting victory lap over the past several days. tonight is the first forum where it's not just an interview. he'll have a live audience, you'll have that give and take. this is his element. he's going to take the ball and run with it tonight. you'll see very energized crowds. the health care debate, those are the types of things his base
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likes, those are the types of things that really fuels that type of energy. now, of course on that point of health care, important to point out, it also energizes the democratic base. >> the president is tweeting about the fbi and doj reviewing what he calls the outrageous jussie smollett case in chicago. and he calls it an embarrassment to our nation. is this how we use the fbi and doj? >> it's never been how we've used it before. it's hard to understand what the fbi would be doing here. we know they were investigating the letter that was sent to jussie smollett, investigating whether he sent it himself. but i've never heard of the fbi investigating a declination decision by a local prosecutor. that's not what the fbi does unless there's evidence of corruption, someone declining to
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receive a case because they've 150e received a bribe or something. i hope the president isn't pressuring the justice department to do that because that would be an inappropriate use of power. we've seen him try to pressure the justice department to go after enemies of his. i would hope the fbi would resist that very much. >> thank you all so much for being here today, we really appreciate it. coming up, an education. betsy devos back on capitol hill today defending her proposal to slash federal funding for the special olympics. one of the senators who questioned her joins me next right here on "andrea mitchell reports." when considering another treatment, ask about xeljanz xr a once-daily pill for adults with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis or active psoriatic arthritis for whom methotrexate did not work well enough. it can reduce pain, swelling, and significantly improve physical function. xeljanz xr can lower your ability to fight infections, including tuberculosis.
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can i ask you, did you personally approve this -- just i think a yes or no will do -- the $18 million cut to the funding for special olympics? >> no, i didn't personally get involved with that. >> whoever came up with that idea at omb gets a special olympic gold medal for insensitivity. >> let's not used disabled children in a twisted way for your political narrative, umm, that is just disgusting and it's shameful. >> amid mounting bipartisan criticism, education secretary betsy devos is back on capitol hill today defending her department's proposal to kill federal funding for the special olympics. this as key republicans vow to
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protect the nearly $18 million for special olympics which is the world's largest sports organization for people with disabilities. joining me now, democratic senator jeff merkley, member of the appropriations and budget committees. senator, let's start with a reality check on this. what is the final budget going to look like for the special olympics, and if this cut isn't actually going to happen, why is the trump administration fighting this fight? >> well, they're fighting it because they're laying out their priorities. a budget is a vision that says, here is what we care about and here is what we don't care about. this budget is about what they care about, let's have tax breaks to let rich people be richer, people like betsy devos. and what they don't care about is children, letting them be in a setting where they can receive public applause and support,
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which is something so missing in many of their lives. >> senator, andrea spoke yesterday on this program with mark shriver about just what the impact of this $18 million cut would be. i want to show you a clip of that and then ask you about it. >> what does the loss of $18 million mean? >> it means closing down what we're doing in schools to end social isolation, as the congressman says. it means ending our commitment to creating unified sports programs in schools for all children who want to participate in sports. it means ending our youth leadership work to promote ideas of tolerance, what we call an inclusion revolution. >> of course tim shriver, quite a significant impact for these kids. >> it's an enormous, enormous impact. and anyone who doubts that should visit their school and see what the kids are doing in one of these programs. you mentioned these are
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inclusive programs, there is leadership involved in these programs. i must say when betsy devos said it was twisted to fight for this program, i must say the opposite is true. it is twisted to slash these programs in favor of tax cuts for the richest americans. >> now, when you had a chance to question the education secretary, you asked her about loan forgiveness for public servants. let's take a look at that. then i would like to hear from you as to why this was at the top of your mind. >> are you serving the public servants you were tasked with, to protect and assist, or are you serving the powerful financial companies profiting off of this malfeasance and incompetence? >> senator, the department is forgiving all of the lines that qualify under the public service loan forgiveness program and we will continue to do so. >> and so you say, but every study shows otherwise.
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>> sir, why is this program so important, and was she telling you the truth? >> no. she's absolutely wrong. these are for-profit servicers. they are turning down 99% of the applicants. teachers, police officers, individuals working as nurses in the public sector. they were promised the following, you make 120 payments and the rest of your loan will be forgiven, that's ten years, the rest of your loan will be forgiven as a thank-you, a thank-you for your public service. but for all those people who signed up and said, okay, if i can stay the course, this will really help, and in fact 99% of them are turned down. and she shows no interest in getting to the bottom of the bureaucratic tangle that she facilitates.
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>> and those students are struggling in this economy with wam wages that are stagnating. senator, a political question, you supported bernie sanders in 2016, one of the few elected officials to do so. he's near the top or at the top of many of the early polls, having done this before. in 2016, he stayed in until the convention. he didn't concede to hillary clinton before that even though it was clear he wasn't going to win the primary. with so many people in the race in 2020, it's conceivable a scenario like that could play out again. do you think it's important for the democrats to unify if it's clear that there is a consensus nominee ahead of the convention? >> well, i do think that that's an important conversation for us to have and see what the lay of the land looks like. the condition you laid out, i guess it depends on how strong that picture is. here is the thing. there are three things that are very clear to me, we are so far
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off track on. one is a democracy crisis. yesterday, to mean usm udall an introduced a for the people act to take on the corruption in our government. a second big factory is climat. a third is investing in our families. these are huge challenges where we're failing the country. i want the candidates to lay out their suggestions for putting it back on track. >> senator jeff merkley, thank you for being here. >> thank you. ahead, study up. that's the message from two former top cia officials who prepared a briefing book for 2020 candidates on the biggest national security threats facing the country. one of them joins me right here on "andrea mitchell reports." m on "andrea mitchell reports. i'm working to keep the fire going
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every candidate running for president is getting an unclassified briefing book on the major security challenges facing the united states. the 37-page report, written by two former acting cia directors, covers ten topics including china's expanding power, u.s.-russia relations, and north
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korea. joining me now, one of the authors, john mclaughlin, former acting cia director and an msnbc global affairs analyst. sir, always great to have you on the program. >> great to see you, kasie. >> why did you and mike morrell decide to write this report? >> we gathered ten former cia officers to do the actual articles. the idea was to put out a fangs of fact and analysis for candidates as the campaign is getting under way, during a time when there is such partisan discussion and debate in washington, we thought this would be a good way to maybe raise the level of debate or at least give people a jumping-off point as they begin to think about where they stand on foreign policy. >> how much -- >> and by the way, we don't have policy positions in here. we describe the issue, how it got to be where it is, where it's going next. but we're not making policy recommendations. >> so it's up to them to come up with their own policies. >> it's up to them. we're trying to find the starting point for them. >> how much of this do you think is necessary because of the way
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the president has attacked and undermined the intelligence community? >> well, that's in the backs of our minds, but i would emphasize, we haven't done this as an anti-trump operation or for or against anyone, but clearly the way the president has operated has contributed to the partisan atmosphere and also contributed to the whole discussion about fake news and what's real, what's true. one of the most frequent questions i get from people in congress is, how can i get reliable information these days, because things come at you from so many different angles. and in a partisan time, people are spinning everything. and so we're trying to slow down the spin. >> or stop it, if you will, sure. so what at this point do you think is the biggest challenge for the field that's running against donald trump? a lot of them don't have a lot of foreign policy experience.
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is that another reason for doing this? >> one of the reasons is exactly that. one of the issues, as you can tell from daily life here, on the domestic side, health care and so forth. a lot of them don't have that experience, they haven't made up their minds about foreign policy yet. but inevitably, it always happens, something will rear its ugly head overseas and i think anyone reading this book can pretty much see those things coming. that's what we're trying to do here, is to in a sense warn people. each of these articles has a similar structure. what's the background of the issue, how did we get here, and what's happening next between now and the election in 2020. so it's designed very much to help a candidate get their heads around these issues. >> all right. john mclaughlin, former acting cia director and msnbc analyst, thank you so much for being here, always wonderful to have you. tonight on msnbc, kirsten gillibrand joins ari melber for
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the trump administration's move to kill the affordable care act, making it a key 2020 campaign issue as republicans remain divided on how to replace president obama's signature health care law. this as "the washington post" reports white house chief of staff mick mulvaney was a key factor in persuading president trump to back the legal effort to strike down obamacare despite objections from some in the trump administration and from republican leaders on capitol hill. joining me now, charlie sykes, msnbc contributor. eugene scott, "washington post" political reporter, and shannon pettypiece, white house reporter for bloomberg news. charlie, republicans that i talk to on capitol hill, this is the last thing they want to fight. this war has already been waged once in an all-republican washington and they couldn't get there. why on earth does the president want to do this now? >> well, no, i mean, those republicans that i've talked to really regard this as their worst nightmare because in 2018,
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this was an issue that absolutely killed them. taking away coverage and protection for preexisting conditions was a dagger the democrats used to win maybe half of the seats that they gained. so also, health care is an issue that touches people's lives. we talk about things in a washington bubble that people in the country don't care about. they care about this issue deeply. so donald trump apparently was persuaded he needed to do this because this was his promise and he needs to kill it. unfortunately i think he's given democrats at least from the republican point of view, he's given democrats a huge talking point. >> shannon, the president has mick mulvaney in his ear on this according to "the washington post." they write that his pitch came during scheduled policy time with trump on monday and spanned several meetings. this seems like a remarkable consequence to the president's tendency to go along with whatever was the latest thing he heard from someone in his ear
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that day. >> right, and i'm not sure how long this fight will last, if this is going to be a real focused, sustained battle. before this, when we talked about priorities for 2018 with his political advisers it was things like prescription drug prices and opioid abuse when we talked about health care. nobody was talking about that we need to get back to repealing obamacare, because clearly they can't at this point. there's this court battle, and if they win, great, but then they'll have to replace it with something. and democrats are in control of the house, so this white house won't get anything through the house. however, this is one of his key campaign promises as charlie points out. health care consistently polls as one of the top issues that voters care about, health care, the economy, and immigration. so he's got to find a way to address that. >> susan collins was on the hill yesterday, saying she was very disappointed and vehemently opposed to the administration seeking to invalidate the entire affordable care act. she's arguing that the
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department shouldn't change its position based on who is in the white house. >> absolutely. that's in part because when the federal government made a decision about the affordable care act previously, it did it based on believing everything that was presented was legal and worked best for the american people. this judge in texas is coming back and saying something different. there hasn't been a lot of support around it saying that this is actually where the next step from the republican party needs to go in responding to the challenges that do exist in the affordable care act. many people in susan collins' state of maine really do support obamacare despite the fact that the president himself ran on repealing it, and primarily ran on dismantling obama's legacy as a whole which is what people who backed him wanted him to do. >> the challenge, charlie, is on replacing this law. do republicans have any kind of consensus around policies that would actually offer health care and is there any realistic path
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to getting them through congress? >> well, no and no. we saw that when they actually controlled both houses of the congress, that they could not get it done. now of course with the democrats in charge of the house, you know, nancy pelosi has the veto power over it. i think this was one of the most revealing things about 2017, that after railing against obamacare for all of these years, when they actually -- like the dog that caught the car, when they had a chance to repeal it they realized this is much, much more difficult, even more difficult. what the president has done is create a scenario where there's no good outcome. i think it's unlikely that they will win in the courts. this is kind of an outlier, the texas judge. if in fact they did win in the courts then they have the nightmare of having to come up with something and there's no consensus and no path to getting anything approved. >> and shannon, i covered the passage of the affordable care act, and to say that health care is hard for a legislature to
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deal with is an understatement. and i think politically, if you break it, you buy it. >> right. >> so i mean, what would it look like if in fact the courts actually did strike this down and republicans suddenly had to scramble on the hill? >> you would have millions of people uninsured all of a sudden, and how does that work? under obamacare, you may have a $7,000 premium, which is horrible, but at least if you get cancer you don't have a $30,000 hospital bill from your hospital stay. the trump administration could have focused early on on sort of fixing the law. they could have said, we're going to try and replace it but in the meantime let's try and fix it and prop it up as much as we can and done things to lower premiums. but instead they put it in a death spiral. i think a lot of people weren't expecting it would hang on this long. but year after year, we've seen people come back and enroll because people are so desperate for health care. it is -- and despite all the good things going on in the economy, health care premiums go up 20%, that cuts into any sort of tax rebate you got.
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>> we shouldn't forget the preexisting condition protection wasn't necessarily a given before obamacare was passed, it's become something people very much expect. charlie sykes, shannon pettypiece, and huge even scott, thank you all so much. coming up, breach. how a 26-year-old fbi agent went undercover to take down one of the country's first cyber spice. y spies. you won't want to miss this. spies. you won't want to miss this. i switched to miralax for my constipation. stimulant laxatives forcefully stimulate the nerves in your colon. miralax works with the water in your body to unblock your system naturally.
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and moments ago, senior white house adviser jared kushner was spotted leaving a senate intelligence committee meeting room. nbc's geoff bennett joins us from capitol hill with the latest. geoff, what do we know about why he was there? >> reporter: hey, kasie. as you rightly pointed out, jared kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, was seen leaving the secure committee room of the senate intelligence committee. based on what we were able to piece together, he was there for about three hours. as you well know, kushner testified before that committee back in 2017, and members of that committee had been calling four him to come before that panel once again before they release their final report. that's particularly true for the
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democratic members of that committee. it appears kushner spent his time today speaking with members of that committee. as you well know, the senate intelligence committee into russia's meddling in the 2016 election is the only bipartisan committee happening. even though the mueller investigation is wrapping up, jared kushner is obviously a key figure in all of this. he was in the room for the seminal, infamous trump tower meeting where the promise of dirt on hillary clinton was provided. we understand he did sit before that panel and we're hoping to learn more and we'll bring those details to you soon. >> a clear sign they seem to be reaching the end of their work. it has been rare for senators themselves to question these witnesses. geoff bennett on capitol hill, thanks very much. as the political battle over the mueller report continues, one fact not in dispute, the continued interference by russia in u.s. elections. one of the most damaging double agents in u.s. history, robert
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hanson, worked as a russian mole inside the u.s. government. hanson is currently serving a live sentence in super max prison for selling secrets to russia. here is nbc news' pete williams. here is pete reporting days after hanson's arrest in 2001. >> fbi agents searched the home of one of their own. robert phillip hanson, a 25-year veteran of the fbi accused of doing, quote, extreme damage to the u.s., passing on super sensitive classified information to his handler and russian soviets in washington for more than 15 years. >> this represents the most traitorus actions imaginable against a country governed by the rule of law. >> hanson, his job keeping tabs on suspected russian spies in the u.s., monitoring the soviet and russian missions in new york and their embassies in washington. among the secrets he's accused
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of exposing, the u.s. electronic spying, the very techniques he was using against the russians. more recently, hanson worked at fbi headquarters apparently unaware that in the same building a small cadre of officers was setting a trap for him. he was arrested sunday night in virginia after dropping off a package of classified information for his russian handling. investigators say he would signal a drop by putting strips of tape here on this sign. >> joining me now is eric o'neal, former fbi counterterrorism and counterintelligence operative who helped bring down robert hanson. he is the author of a new book, gray day, an undercover mission to arrest america's first cyber spy. this is -- i highly, highly recommend it. you were just 26 years old when all of this happened. and you called him america's first cyber spy.
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why? >> so hanson was the worst spy in u.s. history. he was the mole that we had been looking for for over two decades, 22 years spying for the russians. and the reason he got away with it so long is he innovated in the way he spied. he stole data, he stole from computer systems at a time when the fbi wasn't ready to protect against an internal mole stealing from those systems. >> so what message did you have to use to figure out what was going on? what tipped you off? >> we learned about hanson because a source, a former kgb officer who had stolen a fire years earlier and kept it in his attic sold it to the fbi at the very twilight of hanson's career. but we didn't have enough to arrest him. we needed to fill the case around him. so we created a room in fbi headquarters called the information assurance section and flattered him into taking the job of creating cyber security for the fbi. and they found the only other guy who knew how to hunt spies and turn that computer on and it
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ended up being me at 26 years old. >> i think we remember those days when you were the young guy in the office and you're like, hey, figure out how this computer works. did you recognize that sign in pete williams' stand up investigation? >> i do. there is a park called foxstone park. he would put a piece of tape on that sign to let his russian intelligence officers know that he was loading a drop of secrets at a foot bridge in the center of the park. he would go out on that bridge, slide the package under the bridge, set that piece of tape. later, a russian intelligence officer would come out of the embassy and go for a walk in the park and if he saw the tape on the sign, he would retrieve the package. it would be a bunch of 3 1/2 floppy disks. and it would go in the diplomatic pouch back in moscow, back to russia in moscow. they would get the secrets and then they would leave money for hanson heart. it's an old system of dead drops
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and signals. >> like the americans. how has all of this evolved in the years since? it's been incredibly rapid. how are we doing keeping up with it? >> that's the critical question. espionage has evolved. there are no hackers, there's only spies. as we took all of our information and stopped using paper and put it into data and computer systems and networked those computer systems, the spies have evolved to steal it where we have it. that's why you see the majority of breaches that happen today are sent by an e-mail phishing attack where they're attack a person. that means that spy sitting in moscow doesn't have to get on a plane and come here and recruit a source. he just sends you an e-mail and turns you into the spy. >> so does spying still happen the way that hanson did it? >> it does. the old ways still happen.
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we're in washington, d.c., the spy capital of the world. when i was a ghost for the fbi, i spent all day following them around. now, of course, not letting them know i was behind them shadowing every move. it has evolved a little bit. now you see assets sending intelligence information to officers, using everything from posting information and pictures that are encrepted on web sharing services. you might download some neat picture as your background and not know you have classified secrets in it. to what anna chapman did once upon a time who was a russian spy who would sit in a starbucks and connect her laptop to a russian io across the street and send the information straight across. so it continues to be different and evolve. >> indeed. the book is gray day. thank you so much, eric. coming up, more on the renewed fight over health care. stay with us right here on msnbc. re stay with us right here on msnbc.
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and as many of the men running for president are being asked about putting a woman on the ticket, the country's first female vice president, well, on tv at least, had this to say about our country's political future. >> do you think you'll see a female president in your lifetime? >> i [ bleep ] better, yes. >> julia louis-dreyfus gave that no holds barred response last night on the seventh and final season of hbo's "leap."
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that does it for us this hour. we would like to announce that nbc news, msnbc and telemundo will hold the first democratic debate june 26th and 27th, two back to back nights in miami, florida. here is ali velshi now. >> i'm putting that into my diary here. >> important breaking news for those of us here. >> have yourself a great afternoon. >> we also have some news to get to this morning involving jussie smollett. there was nothing on our end to request this, to do anything improper. >> robert mayo has come out and said he wants jussie smollett.


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