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tv   Washington Week  PBS  March 2, 2019 1:30am-2:01am PST

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robert: president trump returns from vietnam with more challenges than when he left. i'm robt costa. welcome to "washington week." -- i'm robert costa. "washington week." president trump follows criticism following a report that he secured a top security clearance for his son-in-law jared kushner. overseas -- he t wanted the sanctions lifted in theirir ey and we couldn't do it. yobert: the president walks a from kim jong-un. and onol hill -- >> i own mistakes. i own him. >> remarkablestimony from president trump's former lawyer. >> the president ofhe united states wrote a check for the payment of hush money as part of a criminal scheme to violate
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campaign laws. robert: we covert next, next on "washington week." >> this is "washington week." ro funding isded by -- >> i was able to turn the aircraft around and the mission around and was able to save two men's lives that night >> my first job helped me to grui uply 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 as spanish, french, german, italian and more. basketball's 10 to 15 minute lessons is available as an app or online. more information on
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-- babble.m. funding is provided by ku and patricia you win, committed to bridging cultural differences in our communies. the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again from washington, moderator robert : good evening. president trump arrived from his summit in vietnam with kim ng-un with his presidency troubled by the collapse of the talks with the north korean leader. the "new york times" and "washington post" are now reporting that the president last spring overruled conce s flagged by intelligence officials and ordered top white house aidesur to s a high-level security clearance for his son-in-law and senior advisor jared kushner. just one month ago t president
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denied ever getting involved. joining me tonight peter baker chief correspondent for the "new york times." carol leoig for "the washington post." susan page washington bureau chief forus "today." and manu raju senior washington correspondent for cnn. carol, wt were the experience about kushner that led to all of this? >> you'll remember, bob, as everyone else at this wonderful table will remember that jared kushner had an ierim clearance. and the c.i.a. and the f.b.i. were looking at should he be able to get a permanent security clearance for top securityn informathat is always embeded in the presidential daily brief? and long about february 2018, you discover as a result of another scandal involving an advisor in the white house that a bunch of people have interim
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clearances without having the permanentnd decision jared was one of them. and at that moment, don mcgan and rod rosenstein the deputy g attorneral were discussing the fact that the c.i.a. wants to hold back this informaon from jared because we have intercepts in which foreign officials are talking about h ea it would be to manipulate him for a host of reasons, his financial debts, his inexperience i foreign policy, and hestly his attempts to try to get financing from foren banks. robert: peter, you sat with your colleague along withgi m haberin just about a month ago. the president said he wasn't getting involved at all in the clearance process. yet, he does have the authority to do so. >> : why did the story change? >> that's a really interesting reestion. thedent is the ultimate decider when it comes to things
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as security cleeances. if wants to overrule the recommendations of the people below him hd s entit do it. we asked about this. and my colleague asked about this during our interview, did you have anyme invol in your son-in-law's security clearance? and why heos didn't c to say it, i don't know. it's a good question. heyould have sim said, yes, i did and he could have owned it. but he chose not he chose to say something not true. it's interesting and telling that his own chief of staff john kelly felt the need to put it down in writing in a memo that the president hrdered him to do this becausely clee felt the need to memorial this record. therare two elements to the story, the decision itself. was it wise or not? and the decision not to tell the .uth about h robert: you were racing from the capitol. where congressional house democrats now in control be able to get those duments, the memo from john kelly and john mcgann?
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>> they're going to try. they had a discussion with the white house staff to try to getm the that john kelly wrote and another one that the white house council wrote. andccording to the democrats, they said that the white house would not confirm or deny the existence of that memo. now, elijah cummings is the chairman of the committee has actually sent -- he's been investigate this when he was in the minority. the white house ignored him for the past two years. the chairman. he sent a letter at the beginning of the congress demanding a whole host of documents and the issues that carol was referring. to why some people didn't g security clearances and jared kushner that deadline was february 6th. it's now the beginning of march. he's saying if he doesn't have the documents now i the wake of his reporting, then by mt'day then going to be subpoena time. we'll see how the white housema ully decides to comply or not. robert: i'm so looking forward toour book on barbara bush,
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the matriarch, you've been a student and reporters o presidents and their families for a long time. you understand those complicated dynamics. is this situation with jared shner and president tru unusual in history or not? >> it is unusual. and ahis isn example of why presidents often choose not to have their relatives in jobs as senior officials. now, there are exceptions. robe kennedy was an exception. ttorney general. but remember when he put his wife. they had questions about how he was proceeding. he w unable to fire her. it meant that people were more reluheant to say making a mistake we need to take a different course. it's complicated to be president. these issues are big. an when you're relatives are involved, it just makes them more complicated. robert: a quick follow-up. jared kushner is going tomi the
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le east and working on the peace process. what does it mean for di plow -- diplomacy? >> he's in charge of the middle east peace -- and he's been meeting with leaders trying to pitch the idea -- the idea is basically let's put the money forward and try to rebui the palestinian areas and make some politicalss conns to the israelis and finally come up with an agreement. i don't know how much they watch the security process or it matters. in general they watch these investigations broadly. and obviously it has an impact on their view of the administration's ability to deliver. that's what really matters. they don't care whether he did the right thing. they want toan know he deliver on what he or jared kushner is promising. >> they wanto know is f his presidency is underhreat. another vexing issue was the testimony of his former lawyer michael coe wen before thesiouse ovt committee. cohen leveled a number of accusations against mr. trump
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and talked about his businesses practices. >> to your knowledge did the president provide infted assets to an insurance company? >> yes. >> who else knows that the president didhis? >> allen wieslberg and andrew calamari. >> do you thi weeed to review his financial statements and his tax returns in order to compare them? >> yes, and you'd find it at the trump org. robert: carol, the cohen testimony, a reminder that the president faces so much beyond the mueller investigationtr southern dt of new york congressional investigations into his finances. how much of a challenge willor that be him moving forward? >> well, emoonally and mentally, it's a significant challenge. as for his presidency, we'll remember the report from robert mueller is expected any day. but the southern di york is bearing down. and we don't know every -- every
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avenue that if they're traveling. early they're talking to michael coe wen because several times heen refs, i can't talk about that because it's part of an open investigation with t southern district. there are several prosecutors that i've spoken to that have lots o old alumni pals in new york and they say this i is the most serious threat to the presidency and it's off in theh zon. we don't know what will happen. but they view it as the most dangerous tng. robert: republicans said michael coe wen was incredible. >> and they made a criminal referral, two of the very close allies to t president jim jordan, mark meadows and other close allies to th president, they said he lied under oath again to congress. th time they cited a number of instances, one of whh is whether or not he sought a white house job. he was pretty adant in the hearing that he did not seek a white house job.
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but there reporting or suggested he did. plus the southern district of new york had seenext messages saying he was interested in the job. he disputes how the prosecutors characterize that but nonetheless there are a number ofns allegat they have raised. their whole tactic is attack his credibility. attack him as a witness. we're not defending the presidt's actions, bu'll tell you, bob, afterwards, i talked to a number of rublican leaders rank-and-file members in the senate and the house, very few are willing to go after the president for what what was a pretty blatant scandal paying a check that michael cohen provided a copy of to the committee keeping these extr arital affairs right before the elections. republicans not raising any concerns really. this is all going to be driven by the democrats. elijah cummings was going to
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move forward on a hush money investigation. but at least five or six house committees led by democrats are going to look at all the different allegations that came out ofnesday's testimony. robert: let's remember, cohen l arn for more closed door hearings. he will begin serving a three-year sentence in may. one of the things that came out in the testimony was a warning to republicans who say cohen said if you continue to g this path of defending president trump, you'll end up where i am right now. >> i thought it was a sign of the weakness that republicans feel at the moment that attacked hout redibility w defending the president's honor. there was virtually -- i don't think there was a momentho said this is outrageous, the president i know would not have done any of these things. theyy attacked the credibility of the witness before them. one problem they' going to have, this is not going to be last explosive testimony in public in congress this year. we're going to haves a serf hearings with trump organization officials possibly.
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robert: what about his children? >> even his children could be called to testify in congress. this is not the end of this story. this is tng begin of a new face politically for the president. bert: impressions, peter, of the democrats? are they laying g theundwork for impeachment? >> they will tell you know. thleadership is very weary of that idea. they made very clear that they think -- there's not a basisigor it now to go forward politically. that there are -- there is aba s 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 susan was talking about may change that larger dynamic. today's hearing probably didn't itself. does succession of it change anybody's mind? does it change the mind of 20 republican senators? because if you don't tot, you're never going to convict him and get removal from office
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uestion of ises the why you proceed in the first place. >> what stood out to you, carol on the russian front from cohen? >> much of the hearing is the value of the hearing if you're a democrat is that chairman cummings brought together all of the story of -- o one man who worked for 10 years for a boss. and howhically compromised he viewed that boss. but on the russia front, there weee t interesting things from my perspective. one was that in june of 2016, he says, michael coh says he was present when don jr. wandered into his father's office and said,ou know, that meeting, it's all set and donald trump sponsdz then the candidate says, ok, good, let me know. 's around the trump tower meet ing where assian lawyer offered dirt on hillary whereas you know, donald trump said he didn't know. the other thingt is t cohen
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says he was present which is a much more direct piece of information. he said that i've just talked to roger stone. he just talked to julian assange and they're going to dump a bunch of e-mails pretty soon. again, donald trump has saidpu ic but also in written answers to robert mueller that he knew nothing about that. and he never talked about wikileaks with roger stone. th be are twoiggies. and finally one last thing, but r give me but the third -- there's a third. [laughter] i can't say three and not say the yes, the trump tower which is thisdea that donald trump was basically telling him here's our and i'm sticking to it. i'm paraphrasg all these cushion discussions ended in january 2016. but a lot of text messages, e-mails and evidence that michael coe wen brought that
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show it went on far longer into the campaign. robert a john dean moment when john dean testified about president nixon before congr s or not >> there was a john dean moment for john dean. but u look at this and there was like 17 of them. there were disclosures tha didn't even make the next day's paper that would have bee major scandals in some previous administration. robert: presiynt trump abrup walked away from the talks in vietnam this week and both sidee conflicting accounts in the aftermath. there was talk of potentialvi re some of the sanctions mantling partor d of the nuclear program but they could not agree on the terms. the president made when he was asked about the death of otto warmbier who spent m7 months in captivity in north korea. "tells me that he didn't know about it and i will take m at his word." after the family blamed the evil
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kim junk u.n. i got otto out. the previous administration did nothing. 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'm not sure but i think they do see the handling of the warmbier conversation e overshadowrything 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 criticized hillary -- bara obama that heould negotiate without preconditionsi with authoris the way the president is doing right now to kim jong-un. but the fact that he walked away from the talks without agreeing republicans want to praise him.
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mitch mcconnell said great job, mr. president. but the warmbier come met completely overshadowed what the message was. you asked mcconnell and he said i'm going to stick what i said on the floor which has nothing to do anything about the warmbier comment. i think he hurt his message w this comment. robert: how significant is this? >> with north korea?de the pre hoped to get a breakthrough that would take the attention away from the cohen testimony. north korea was a failure. and backon in washin almost no criticism even by democrats because there was s concern that the president would make a deal that was unwise. even nancy pelosi t democratic speak other of the house gave
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him aen backhanded co saying that he didn't take a backhanded -- an unespecial sble deal. 't >> he direak the relationship. he didn't go straight from we're in love to fire and fury again. we're not back to the hostility. he said i still want to work with this. i'm not giving up. so it's still in a better pla, he would argue, anyway, than about a year and a half ago. 's a rare thing where a failed summit does get you change.ha but for ae b people see him as having had a level headed approach. robert: stick with that for a moment. is there an upside in the region to contain north korea if you have that kind ofe dialo with kim junk u.n.? >> you keep him contained by some exten by not provoking him to do provocative things no missiles o,r jap no threats toward guam. at some point, though, you have
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to have push come to shove. what the americans walked away from that hearing in hanoi is that he's not ready. he's not ready to give up his nuclear weapons. ironically that's what they were deld by dan coats. and the presint 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 a pattern, carol? >> well, it -- it really struck me at how frequently the president chooses the words, you know, i take him at his wd of a strong man over his intelligence agencies. and in terms o a pattern, this reminds me of helsink with putin. he told me he didn't interfere in our election. i've got to believe him. "the washington post" family and for the family ofam khashoggi. he said he took the word of
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m.b.s., e crown prince of saudi arabia when he said he wasn't a participant when othering the hit of this man in a saudi embassy and cons late in turkey. yet, we have him from vietnam a railin saying that michael coe wen is not -- cohan is a not to be trusted. he -- >> he said that his remarks were misinterpreted. he beliefs kim jong-un at his word. and while he tried to clean up the mess that he createdrom his comments, he also didn't -- wasn't actually truthful about thee fact that h was pretty blatant here. he was trusting a dictator -- robert: is that because the president sees everything in transactional terms? >> yes. he's always been skeptical of u.s. intelligence agencies. we've seen that over and or
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again. he's a salesman. he's very compelling 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 leader feels the same way about him. two people who believe they have the ability to strike a deal n one else had been able to get and yet, they both failed. >> yeah, itks l like kim jong-un miscalculated. if he went into this meeting thinking that trump was going to roll over and give him what he waed and let him key the nuclear sites, it didn't happenw robertre going to have to leave it there, my friends. thank you very much for joining us. our conversaononnues on the "washington week" extra. it will stream 8:30 p.m. eastern on i'm robert costa. thanks for joining us.
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announcer: corporate funding is provided by -- >> i was able to tn the aircraft around and the mission around and was able to save t l men'es that night. >> my first job helped me to grow up pretty quickly that will happen when you're asked to respond to a coup >> in 2001 signed up for the air force. two days later, 9/11 happened. >> bble, a language program that teaches real life conversations in a new language such as spanish, french, german, italian and more. babble's 10 to 15-minute lesson is available as an app or online. more information on >> funding is provided by ku and patricia yuen through the yuen
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foundation committed to bring cultural differences in our communities. the corporation for plic broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers lik you. thank you.
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