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tv   Washington Week  PBS  March 1, 2019 7:30pm-8:01pm PST

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robert: president trump returns from vietnam with more challenges than when he r left. obt costa. welcome to "washington week." -- i'm robert costa. welcome to "washington week." president trump follows criticism following a report that he secured a top security clearance for his son-in-law jareder kus overseas -- >> they wanted the sanions lifted in their entirety and we couldn't do it. robert: the president walks away from kim jong-un. and on capitol hill -- >> i own mistakes. i own him. >> remarkable testimony from president trump's former lawyer. >> the president of the united states wrote a check for the payment of hush money as part of a criminal schemeat to viol
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campaign laws. robert: we cover it next, next on "washington week." >> this is "washington week. funding is provided by -- >> i was able to turn the aircraft around and the mission arou and was able to save two men's lives that night. >> my first job helped me to grow up quickly that will happen when you're asked to respond to a coup. >> i signed for the air force. two days later, 9/11 happened. >> battle, a language program that teaches real life conversations in a new language such assh spa french, german, italian and ball's 10 to 15 minute va lessons is ailable as an app or online. more information on --
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>> funding is provided by ku and patricia you win, committed to bridging cultural differences in communities. the corporation for public broadcasting and by courributions to pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again fro washington, moderator robert costa. robert: good evening. president trump arrived from his summit in vietnam with kim jong-un with his presidency troubled by the collapse of the talks with the northorean leader. the "new york times" and "washington post" are now reporting that the president last spring overred concerns flagged by intelligence officials and ordered top white house aides secure a high-level security clearance for his son-in-law and senior advisor jared kushner. just one month ago the president denied ever getting involved.
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joining me tonight peter baker chief correspondent for thew " york times." carol leonnig for "th p washingtt." susan page washington bureau chief for "usa today." and manu raju seniorng wasn correspondent for cnn. carol, whawere the experience about kushner that led to all of ? >> so you'll remember, bob, as everyone else atdehis wul table will remember that jared kushner had an interim clearance. and the c.i.a. and the f.b.i. were looking athould he be able to get a permanent security clearance for top information that is always embeded in the predential daily brief? and long about february 2018, you discover as a result of another scandal involving anr advi in the white house that a bunch of people have interim clrances without having the
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permanent decision and jared was one of them. and at that d momen mcgan eputy d rosenstein the attorney general were discussing the fact that the c.i.a. wants to hold backhis information from jared because we havets interc in which foreign officials are talking about how easy it would be to manipulate him for a host of reasons, his financial debts, his inexperience in foreign policy, and honestlyis attempts to try to get financing from foreign banks. robert: peter, you sat with your colleague ang with maggie haberin just about a month ago. wasn't dent said he getting involved at all in the clearance process. yet, he does have the authority to do so. >> yeah. robert: why did the story hachange? >>s a really interesting question. the president is the ultimate decider when it comes to things asecurity clearances. if he wants to overrule the
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recommendations of the people below him he's entitled to do it. we asked about this. and my colleague asked about this dururg interview, did you have any involvement in your son-in-law's security clearance? and why he didn't choose to say it, i don't know. it's a good question. he could have simply said, yes, i did and he could have owned it. but he chose n to. he chose to say something not true. it's interesting and telling that his ownhi of staff john kelly felt the need to put it down in writing in a memo thath president had ordered him to do this because clearly he felt e needo memorial this record. there are two elements to the story, the decision itself. was it wise or not? and the decision not to tell the truth about him. robert: ru wereing from the capitol. where congressional house democrats now in control be able to get those documentshe memo from john kelly and john mcgann? >> they're going to try.
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they had a discussion with the white house staff to t to get the memo that john kelly wrote and another one that the white house council wrote. and according to the democrats, ey said that the white house would not confirm or deny the existence of that mem now, elijah cummings is the chairman of the committee has gatually sent -- he's been trying to inves this when he was in the minority. the white house ignored him for the past two years. now he's thehairman. he sent a letter at the beginning of the congress demanding a whole hos of documents and the issues that carol was referring. to why some people didn't get security clearances and jar kushner that deadline was february 6th. it's now the beginning ofarch. he's saying if he doesn't have the documents now in the wake of monday rting, then by then it's going to be subpoena time. we'll see how the white ultimately decides to comply or not. robert: i'm so looking forwardbo to you on barbara bush, the matriarch, you've been a
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student and reporters on presidents and their families for a long time. you understand those complicated dynamics. is this situation with jarednd kushnerresident trump unusual in history or not? >> it is unusual. and this is an example of why presidents often choose not to have tir relatives in jobs as senior officials. now, there are exceptions. robert kennedy was a exception. attorney general. but remember when he put his fe. they had questions about how he was proceeding. he was unable to fire her. it meant that people were more a reluctant t she's making a mistake we need to take a different course. it's complicat to be president. these issues are big. and when you're relatives are st involved, it makes them more complicated. robert: a quick follow-up. red kushner is going to the middle east and working on the
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peace process. what does it mean for di plow -- diplomacy? >> he's in charge of the middle east peace -- and he's been eting with leaders trying to pitch the idea -- the idea isca bay let's put the money forward and try to rebuild the palereinian and make some political concessions to the inally come up with an agreement. i don't know how much they watch the security process or it matters. in general they wat these investigations broadly. and obviously it has an impact on theiriew of the administration's ability to deliver. that's what really matters. c they done whether he did the right thing. they want to know can he deliver on what he or jared kushner is promising. >> they want to know is fis presidency is under threat. another vexing issue was the testimony of his former lawyer michael coe wen before the house oversight committee. cohen leveled a number of accusations against mr. trump and talk about his businesses
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practices. >> to your knowledge did the president provide inflated assets to an insurance company? >> yes. >> who else knows that the president did this? >> allen wieslberg and andrew calamari. >> do you think w need to review his financial statements and his tax returns in order to comparm? >> yes, and you'd find it at the trump org. robert: carol, the cohenim tey, a reminder that the president faces so much beyond the mueller investigation southern district of new york congressional investigations into his finances. how much of a chall that be for him moving forward? >> well, a emotionally mentally, it's a significant challenge. as for his presidency, we'll see. remember the report from robertp mueller isted any day. but the southern district of new york is bearing down. and we d't know every -- every avenue that if they'reav
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ing. clearly they're talking to michael coe wen because several times he references, i can't talk about that because it's part of an open investigation with the southern district. there are several prosecutors that i've sn to that have in new ld alumni pal york and they say this is is the most serious threat to the presidency and it's off in the horizon. we don't know what will happen. but they view it as the most dangero thing. robert: republicans said michael coe wen was incredible. >> and they made a criminal refeal, two of the very close allies to the president, jim jordan, mark meadows and other close allies to the president, they said l hed under oath again to congress. this time they cited a number of instances, one of which is whether or not he sought a white house job. he was ptty adamantn the hearing that he did not seek a white house job. but they're reporting or
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suggested he did. plus the sthern district of new york had seen text messages saying he was interested in the jo he disputes how the prosecutors chrize that but nonetheless there are a number of allegations they have raised. their whole tactic is attack his credibility. attack him as a witness. we're not defending the president's actions, but i'll tell you, bob, afterwards, i talked to a number of republica leaders rank-and-file members in the senate and the hse, very few are willing to go after the present for what what was a pretty blatant scandal paying a check michael cohen provided a copy of to the committee keeping these ff extramaritalrs right before the elections. republicans notaising any concerns really. this is all going to be driven by thera dem. elijah cummings was going to move forward on a hush moneyin
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stigation. but at least five or six house committees led by democrats are going to look at all the different allegations that came out wednesday's testimony. robert: let's remember, cohen are lurn for more closed door hearings. he will begin serving a may. year sentence in one of the things that came out in the testimony was a warning to republicans who say cohen said if you continue to go down lhis path of defending president trump, yound up where i am right now. >> i thought it was a sign of the weakness that republicans feel at the ment that attacked his credibility without defending the president's honor. there was virtually -- i don't moment who as a said this is outrageous, the president i know would not have done any of thesehings. th only attacked the credibility of the witness before them. e problem they're goingo have, this is not going to be last explosive testimony in public in congress t year. we're going to have a series of hearings with trump organization officials possibly. robert: what aboutis children?
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>> even his children could be called to testify in congress. this is not the end of this story. this is the beginning of a new face politically for the president. robert: impressions, peter, of the democrats? are they laying the groundwork for impeachment?>> hey will tell you know. the leadership is very weary of that idea. they made very clear that they think -- there's not a basis for it right now to go forward politically. that there are -- there is a basis to make an argument that the president committed a crime. elijah cummings said that after the hearing. unless they feel they can get republican support is sort of a wasted effort and it may backfire on them. the question is whether what susanut was talking a may change that larger dynamic. today's hearing probably didn't itself. does a succession of it change anybody's mind? does it change the mind of 20 republican senators? because if you don't do that, you're never going to convict him and get removal from office and t ot raises the questiof
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why you proceed in the first place. >> what stood out to you, carol on the russian front from cohen? >> much of thee hearing is value of the hearing if you're a democrat is that chairman cummings brought together all of the story of -- of one man who woed for 10 yearsor a boss. and how ethically compromised he viewed that boss. but on the russia front, there were three interesting things from my perspective. one was that in june of 2016, he sa, michael cohen says he was present when don jr. wanderedto his father's office and said, you know, that meeting, it's all set and donald trump sponsdz then the candidate says, ok, good, let me know. it's around the trump tower meet g where a russian lawyer offered dirt on hillary whereas you know, donald trump said he didn't know. ths other thing i that cohen says he was present which is a
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much more direct piece of information. he said tt i've just talked to roger stone. he just talked to julian assange and they're going to duma bunch of e-mails pretty soon. again, donald trump has said i public but also in written answers to robert mueller that he knew nothing about that. and he never talked about wikileaks with roger stone. those are two biggies. and final one last thing, but for give me buthe third -- there's a third. [laughter] i can't say three and not say the third. yes, the trump tower which is this idea that donald trump was basically telling him here's our story and i'm sticking to it. i'mhe paraphrasing all cushion discussions ended in january 2016. but a lot of text messages, e-mails and evidence that michael coe wen brought that show it went on far longerth in
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campaign. robert: a john dean momentjohen dean testified about president nixon before congress or not? >> there was a john dean moment for john dean. but you look at this and there was like 17 of them. dthere wereclosures that didn't even make the next day's paper that wouldave beenajor scandals in some previous administration. robert: president trump abruptly walked away from the talks in vietnam this week and both sides offer conflicting accounts in ma the aft. there was talk of potentially removing some of the sanctions in exchangeor dismantliart of the nuclear program but they could not agree on the terms. the president hadedlines when he was asked about the death of otto warmbier who spent 17 months in captivity i north korea. kim "tells me that he down't bout it and i will take him at his word." after t family blamed the evil
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kim junk i got otto out. the previous administration did g. of course, i hold north korea responsible. when republicans and republicans see this on capitol hill, do they see the collapse of one-on-one diplomacy? >> i'mot sure but i think they do see the handling of the warmbier conversation overshadowed everything that happened this week. the republicans have been very weary about the handling of north korea. they're concerned that he's rushing into something with a dictator. they cticized hillary -- barack obama that he would negotiate without preconditio with authoritarians the way the president is doing right now to kim jong-un. but the fact that he walked away from the talks without agreeing anything made repns want to praise him. mitch mcconnell said great j,
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mr president. but the wmbier come met completelyrs odowed what the messageas. you asked mcconnell and he said i'm going to stick what i said on the floor whias nothing to do anything about the rmbier comment. i think he hurt his message with this comment. srobert: how significant this? >> with north korea? the president hoped to get a breakthrough that would take the attention away from the cohen testimony. north korea was a failure. and back in washington almost no criticism even by democrats becausehere was so much concern that the president would make a deal that wase. unw even nancy pelosi the democratic speak oth of the hous gave him a backhanded comment saying
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at he didn't take a backhanded -- an unespecial sble deal. >> he didn't break the relationship. he didn't go straight from we're in love toir and fury again. we're not back to theti hty. he said i still want to work with this. i'm not givg up. so it's still in a better place, he would argue, anyway, than y aboutr and a half ago. it's a rare thinghere a failed summit does get you change. but for a change b people see him as having had a level headed approach. robert: stick with that for a moment. is there an upsid the region to contain north korea if you have that kind of dialogue with kim junk u.n.? >> you keep him contained by dme extent by not provoking him too provocative things no missiles over japan, no threats toward guam. at somepoint, though, you have to have push come to shove.
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what the americans walked away from that hearing in hanoi is that he's not ready. he's not ready to giv up his nuclear weapons. ironically that'shat they were told by dan coats. and the president got very mad about that. but in fact, president trump heard it with his own ears, he doesn't want to give up his program. >> back to warmbier what, a tragic story. the president's comments part of pattern, carol? >> well, it -- it really struck at how frequently the president chooses the words, you know, i take him at his word of a strong man over his intelligence a tncies. and ms of a pattern, this reminds me o helsinki with putin. he told me he didn'tnterfere in our election. i've got to believe him. or sadly for "e washington post" family and for the family of jamal khashoggi. he said he took the word of m.b.s., the crown prince of
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saudi arabia when he said he wasn't aarcipant when othering the hit of this man in a saudi embassy and cons late in turkey. et, we have him from vietnam railing and saying that michael coe wen is not -- cohen a man not to be trusted. -- >> he said that his remarks were misinterpreted. he beliefs kim jong-un at his word. an while he tried t clean up the mess that he created from his comments, he also didn't -- wasn't actually truthful about thact that he was pretty blatant here. he was trusting a dictator -- bert: is that because the president sees everything in transactnal terms? >> yes. he's always been skeptical of u.s. intelligence agencies. we've seen that over and over again. he's a salesman.
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he's very compelling one-on-one. and in that moment. and he's making a deal. and he's convinced he can do that. and i actually think the north korean leaderam feels the way about him. two people who believe they have the ability to strike a dl no one else had been able to get and yet, they both failed. >> yeah, it looks like kim jong-un miscalculated. if he went into this meeting thinking that trump was going to roll over and give him what he d wanted let him key the appen.r sites, it didn't robert: we're going to have to leave it there, my friends. thank you very much forng joi us. our conversation continues on the "washington week" extra. eastern on youtube. .m. i'm robert costa. atanks for joining us.
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announcer: corpfunding is provided by -- >> i was able to turn the aircraft around and the mission e two and was able to s men's lives that night. >> my first job helped me to grow up pretty quickly tha will happen when you're asked to respond to a coup i 2001 i signed up for the air force. two days later, 9/11 happened. >> babble, a language program that teaches real life conversations in a new language such as spanish, french, german, italian and more. babble's 10 15-minute lesson is available as an app or online. re information on >> funding is provided b ku and patricia yuen through the yuen foundation committed to bring
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nltural differences our communities. the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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