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tv   All In With Chris Hayes  MSNBC  February 22, 2017 12:00am-1:01am PST

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>> tonight, the evolving story from the president's lawyer over back channels to ukraine. more on russian government claims of contact with the trump campaign. and congresswoman maxine waters on the blanket denial from the white house. >> it's total garbage. >> then -- >> the president wanted to take the shackles off individuals in these agencies. the white house unveils its plan for what looks like mass deportation, just don't call it that. >> is one of the goals here mass deportation? >> no. >> the town hall showdowns continue. >> last i heard these coal jobs are not coming back and now these people don't have the the insurance they need because they're poor. and why in the world did it take this long for the president to denounce anti-semitism. >> we're not accusing you -- >> quiet, quiet. >> when "all in" stars right now. good evening from new york, i'm chris hayes, all over the country -- at this very moment, in fact -- lawmakers are facing angry crowds from constituents, town halls and meetings where one surprising issue seems to keep coming up over and over again.
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>> we need a transparent and independent investigation into the russian involvement into our election process that is the very core, the bedrock of our democracy. and if we aren't sure about that, then we can't be sure about anything else. >> that voter is at a town hall last night in virginia hosted by first-term republican congressman scott taylor, the man you see there, who was shouted down after responding there's no need at this time for an independent commission to investigate the russian issue. russia was the first issue to come up with this morning at a town hall with republican senator chuck grassley who chairs the senate judiciary committee, along with ranking member dianne feinstein, grassley is asking the trump administration for a full briefing on the circumstances surrounding michael flynn's ouster as national security adviser including any transcripts of flynn's intercepted calls with the russian ambassador. and that is just one of several
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probes into different aspects of the russia scandal. the house and senate intelligence committees are investigating russia's alleged interference in the 2016 election. the ladder receiving a classified briefing from fbi director james comey. overhe weekend, reuters reported the fbi is pursuing three separate probes into russia's hacking of the dnc and john podesta's server. now, one, trying to identify the people behind breaches of the democratic national committee's computer system, another who tried to posted e-mails stolen from john podesta's account and a third pursuing leads from informants and foreign communications intercepts. that comes amid mounting questions about whether the justice department can investigate the russia issue independently under the leadership of attorney general jeff sessions who was, of course, the very first senator to endorse donald trump, held a
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senior role in the campaign alongside michael flynn. in an op-ed for the "washington post" today, chuck schumer calls on sessions to recuse himself. >> i am worried that jeff sessions, the attorney general is so close to trump in so many ways that that investigation certainly won't have the appearance of impartiality and may not be impartial itself so i've called today on jeff sessions to recuse himself and if you agree with that, tv audience, tell your senator or congressman to do it. >> almost every single day seems to bring new questions about the possible connections between the trump world and the kremlin. yesterday we told you the strange tale of a back channel plan for ukraine and russia favorable to the kremlin and brokered by two unlikely trump associates. first is michael kohn and the russian-born businessman who's developed hotels with trump and had multiple run ins with the law. now the lawyer has now aof
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today told four different stories about his role in just this tale. his so-called peace plan that he hand delivered it to the white house, cohen denied having done so telling business insider he denies "even knowing what the plan is." the shifting stories from cohen are, frankly, a big red flag. we've seen this pattern of obfuscation before. it's the same way the white house responded when news broke about general michael flynn's contacts with the russian ambassador. similarly, president trump and his team have repeatedly denied having had any ties to russia during the presidential campaign but as the "new york times" points out today, that's a claim that russians themselves have contradicted at least twice. joining me now to discuss that, matthew rosenberg, national security reporter to the "new york times." one of the outstanding questions, we have high levels of confidence the intelligence agencies -- it was russian
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intelligence that carried out the hacks to benefit donald trump. there's a big question of was there any back channel, any communication which the trump campaign and the russian officials -- what do we know in terms of russian officials being on the record about that? >> i mean, we've got the deputy foreign minister two days after the election said he'd been in contact with the trump camp. he then a few days later walked that back saying well there were people close to trump, he was vague about it but he was there saying it. then the ambassador to washington, who michael flynn spoke with, he then said he'd spoken to trump. all diplomats do that, but it's one of these situations where it's not unusual to speak for foreign governments to speak to campaigns to get to know them. the denials, though, are very unusual. that's what's stranger. why deny what isn't a problem? >> this is a key point because
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it strikes me is there's an analog to the flynn situation. so in the flynn situation, if they had said flat out it may have been controversial, it may have been objectionable but if flynn said yes i called on sanctions day and we had a discussions which basically said what he told the daily caller, cool your jets, we'll review everything when we get in, that would be fine. some people would object to that. he denied he talked to the ambassador. here we have russian sources on the record saying they did talk to him. it wouldn't be weird if they did but the trump campaign and white house insisted "no, we never talked to them." >> it would have been untoward for flynn to be talking sanctions like he was, that's kind of not done. but, no, it's not criminal. you come out, say, okay, we did it, and move on. everybody gets upset but they live.
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but this kind of deny, deny, deny and when we can't deny anymore we'll kind of shift a little bit more, obfuscate some more and somebody has to get fired. it doesn't make sense. and that -- when you have reports of other contacts, when you have this russian hacking that's been going on and a campaign that was more than just cyber hacks where you've got information being put out, going out through wikileaks into the u.s., where you had other activities and that just raises a ton of suspicion. >> i wonder if there's a way for the trump folks to have some sort of definitive way of talking about this. so we have these blanket denials, there are a lot of denials that have been made that seem hard to credit because at least there's contradicting evidence on the other side. like how could they demonstrate they're telling the truth? >> i'm not really sure. i spoke to the trump campaign for that story today and i said, look, why deny what's not unusual and i got this response back, a phone call back that was like "it's a dumb question, we can't deny something that never happened." it was a stonewall, never happened and that's that. if that's the case, that's the case. but there's a lot of contradicting evidence and i think that's going to be a problem.
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>> well said. matthew rosenberg, thanks for your time. >> thank you. >> i'm joined by david cay johnson, author of "the making of donald trump," a man who has reported about the people at the center of the story we've been covering, the back channel, i talked to tim o'brien who had opportunity to chronicle him. what prompted in your mind when you sater involved in this back channel kremlin-friendly peace deal. >> that there's much more here than just smoke. one of the people sater was working with in this deal is right now, the "new york times" reports, under investigation for treason bauds he wants to replace the leader of the country with a putin puppet. so was donald trump wittingly or not helping vladimir putin recreate the old soviet empire in those areas with the majority of russian speaking people? and this shower looks like it. >> the fact that there's a man this guy's record who's at all communicating any foreign policy to the president of the united states itself is sort of stunning. >> yes, and remember sater got a get out of jail free card by telling the u.s. justice
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department he was going to intercept missiles that were on their way to terrorists. now the government says he provided valuable services but you have to ask three questions about that -- why and how did you know these people? did we get all the missiles that were intercepted or was there a secondary market he profited from? and how in the world was he connected with these people? felix sater is essentially, as tim o'brien said last night, a thug. and like many wealthy people who have been involved in criminal activity he's different in that he's been arrested and convicted. so we should be asking why is donald trump -- does he have this deep connection. donald trump says he doesn't know sater, wouldn't know him if they were in the same room. there are photographs of them, videos, you've put some of them on the air. he had an office right in the main suite of trump organization offices. and we do need to have a thorough inquiry into what's going on especially now that the issue of treason in ukraine has been raised involving one of these characters.
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>> the other character is michael cohen, another man you chronicled, the personal lawyer to the president. a story the daily beast wrote back early in the campaign about a since-retracted claim by ivana trump that trump raped her.
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that had been retracted but it was written about and he went crazy on the daily beast reporters "i will make sure you and i meet one day while we here in the courthouse. i'll take you for every penny you still don't have. i'll come after the daily beast and everybody else you possibly know so i warning you, tread very effing lightly because what i'll do to you will be effing disgusting, do you understand me?" that's michael cohen to a reporter. now he's changed his story four times in the 36 hours this came out. now this is one of the circumstances where i say to myself, i don't know, maybe they were weirdly freelancing a peace deal. but now i'm like what's going on? >> it's a basic principle in law enforcement that straight stories are easy to keep straight. it's lies that are hard to keep together.
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and by the way, ivana trump never withdrew what she said. all she said was that when her husband raped her she didn't mean to imply that it was a crime. she never denied he tossed her around the room and violated her. the statement she wrote was quite clear at the time. but this is the bullying you see in what michael cohen did. the one of the reasons americans don't have a proper understanding of who donald trump is is the intimidation and the bullying, the non-disclosure agreement for people around trump. even volunteers had to sign them in some cases so americans aren't seeing who trump is but this is, in fact, a story that's not going away. >> that certainly seems the case. david cay johnson, thank you for your time. let's go to congresswoman maxine waters, democrat from california. i wanted to have you on to respond to something said by the
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white house chief of staff reince priebus speaking about -- we've seen a flurry of activity on capitol hill in which james comey has briefed both the house and senate intelligence committee. that was briefing last week that everyone was lockstep silent out of. and the chief of staff is asked about what investigations are being pursued, what he's been told. here's what he said. take a listen. >> i talked to the top levels of the intelligence community and they assured me that that "new york times" story was grossly overstated and inaccurate and totally wrong. i know what the intelligence committees in the house and the senate were told by the fbi and what i was told and what i will tell you is that story is total bologna. >> the story is about the fact that four different people connected to the campaign spoke to senior intelligence officials. do you believe that when reince priebus says that? >> let me say this. reince priebus has been trying to clean up for donald trump for far too long. he's the one that stuck with him all during the campaign when he was making outrageous statements. when he was basically lying and
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so his time is going to run out. he can't continue to try to defend this president who is entangled with this kremlin clan of his while they are all seeking really to get rid of these sanctions that are placed on russia because all of them are connected to the oil and gas industry. just take a look at this. take a look at, of course, michael flynn, long history of ties to the russian government, including a paid speech at a party for r.t. paul manafort, trump's former campaign manager, paid lobbyist for viktor yanukovych, the pro-russian politician in ukraine who fled to russia in 2014, carter page, one of trump's foreign policy advisers during his campaign, frequent guest on russian state media, held a personal stake in russian
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oil and gas interest. roger stone who worked in the ukraine. wilbur ross, trump's nominee for secretary of commerce was a business partner of viktor. a major financial project involving the bank of cyprus and, of course, secretary of state rex tillerson who was the one who negotiate it, the multibillion dollar drilling contract with putin where they were going to drill in the arctic and it has been stopped because of the sanctions that were placed by obama and i want to tell you, i believe that tillerson's real job is to get in here and get those sanctions lifted. but all of them want them lifted because this clan, this kremlin clan is all about getting the oil and gas money and doing the drilling and they ed this president.
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they need this president to get these sanctions lifted. don't forget, the second executive order that was signed by the president that was 1504 which basically would undo the work we have done with dodd/frank and making these oil companies disclose the money that they were using to bribe these countries with in africa and other places. so 1504 was very important because exxon and others now will not have to disclose all of the bribes they're doing. but these people are all organized around oil and gas. why are they fall this administration? why are they all so close to them? and you alluded to and talked about what is going on with this proposal that is being pushed by michael cohen, the president's personal lawyer who delivered the document. felix sater, a business associate who helped mr. trump scout deals in russia and a ukrainian lawmaker trying to
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rise in political opposition movement shaped in part by mr. trump's former campaign manager paul manafort. can't people see what's going on? why do you think they hacked into our election? they hacked into the election because they have to make sure that donald trump got elected. so this that he could help them with what i think a huge deal. not only to lift these sanctions but to take over all of these soviet countries and pull them back into the soviet union so they can have access to all of these resources. it's clear to me and i just think the american people had better understand what's going on. this is a bunch of scumbags. that's what they are. >> those are strong words, congresswoman. >> they're all organized by making money. >> who do you mean that when you
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call them scumbags? >> all of these people that are organized with these oil and gas interest in the administration and friends of the president of the united states. this back channeling that you see. ese are a bunch of scumbags, that's what they are. >> you mean the secretary of state of the united states? >> well, i tell you this, tillerson is there to get these sanctions lifted. i believe it, just watch him. he's going to continue to work on it. this is important for him. he was there because he negotiated the deal for chon with putin. >> all right, well that -- there will be a big fight over that if that happens. congresswoman maxine waters, thanks for your time tonight. >> you're welcome. ahead, as lawmakers come face to face with outraged constituents, president trump shares his theory about the town halls. and the white house insists they have no plans for mass deportation. sheldon whitehouse joins us after the break.
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>> the president wanted to take the shackles off individuals in these agencies and say you have
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a mission, there are laws that need to be followed, you should do your mission and follow the law. >> the president made clear on day one of his campaign in the first paragraph of his first campaign addressed when he accused mexico of sending criminals and "rapists" to the united states. his disparaging view of unauthorized immigrants in this country. last month he signed executive orders detailing his plans for immigration and border security. today the guidelines are "prioritize removable aliens who otherwise pose a risk to national security." that gives immigration officers authority to decide who should be arrested. it also expands the 287-g program. it's a controversial program that had been discontinued that means local police officers can be deputized to detain and arrest unauthorized immigrants. the memos look like an expansion of policies that could lead to
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mass deportation. the white house doesn't appear to see it that way. >> reporter: is one of the goals here mass deportation? >> no. the message from this white house and from the dhs is that those people who are in this country and pose a threat to our public safety or have committed a crime will be the first to go and we will be aggressively making sure that occurs. remember, everybody who is here illegally is subject to removal at any time. that's consistent with every country. there's a provision that can ensure you could be removed. >> joining me now, democrat sheldon whitehouse who has a new book called "captured the, corporate infiltration of american democracy." i want to talk about that with
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regards to immigration. how are you making sense of what they are doing with these executive orders and memos? what is going on here? >> it's hard to tell. to a certain extent this might be theatrics for a base that expects them to do stuff and so this could be him doing stuff. when push comes to shove, i've served as our state's united states attorney, i've served as our state's attorney general. if the federal immigration folks want to get a warrant for somebody, we will arrest them. we honor a federal warrant. >> of course. >> and so when sean spicer talks about people who are either guilty or suspected of criminal
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offenses or a threat to public safety, all they need to do is to get a warrant for them and then people can go out and arrest them. >> right -- >> so you don't need to get into the business of deputizing. >> but they're clearly laying the ground work to massively expand the category of people that they are saying -- whether they're going do it or not. it seems the category has been expanded in the first month of this administration. >> we will see. there's a certain amount of theatrics this administration seems to do. they will bump into first the restriction that a lot of places are only going to enforce if you can get a criminal warrant. >> right. >> and second a lot of police departments and a lot of sheriffs have other priorities than an immigration enforcement that doesn't really affect public safety. so, i mean, i gave a speech recently to the major county sheriffs and the mayor city police chiefs and i made the point that they actually had law enforcement priorities, that the federal government shouldn't come in to try to trump -- to use the word in a different way. and i got a really good reception. and this is a fairly conservative bunch of folks. law enforcement gets that local priorities matter.
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and they get that working with communities they need to enforce the law in matters and you don't want to disrupt that to get somebody's grand mother who is crossing the street and you help her to the sidewalk and, oh, boy the way, how are your immigration papers? >> so here's where it seems there will be a big fight with you folks in the senate and the house. particularly with the senate, which is money. we've seen huge increases in the budget and staffing of i.c.e., customs and border patrol which doubled in the last second term of the bush administration. it went up even more under barack obama, we've seen huge increases in deportations, though they've tailed down a bit. one thing that seems clear is they'll want to give a lot of money to this agency. a lot of it is. that going to be a fight the democrats are going to have? >> well, they've got a mess on their hands because they want to give money to this agency, they want to spend money to build wall, they want to spend a lot of money on their infrastructure program, they want to spend a lot of money on the military and at the same time they have no
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plan for raising any of that money and they have a very strong deficit hawk caucus among the republicans. so before they even get to us, i'm not sure they can get through their own party. this could be like obamacare. their budget could be a situation where they simply can't get republican agreement on what to do. >> your book is about corporate infiltration in american democracy, the way that dollars operate on capitol hill and, and a lot of it -- the analysis was persuasive to me. i'm pre-disposed to find it persuasive but it was persuasive. immigration seems like an opposite example. all the money is on the side of comprehensive immigration reform. yet it hasn't happened. what is your theory of the case of why we have the immigration politics we do if it's the case big money talks and walks on capitol hill? >> i think partly it's that there's a very broad coalition of people who are interested in
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this. it everything from apple wanting good engineers to an almond farm in california wanting people to come and pick produce so you don't have the intensity of focus. >> it's too diffuse. >> plus you have a really strong counterpressure within the republican party to push back against immigration because there's been a lot of whipping up of people against immigrants so they're kind of tied in a knot on that. but i tell you what, if there's something wall street really wants, they have to wreck the economy for anybody to do anything about them. the fossil fuel guys just got one of the biggest tributes that has ever been paid to a pagan god in the form of scott pruitt sent in there. so -- >> well, we're about to move on to a tax reform bill that will be like that. senator sheldon whitehouse's book is wherever books are sold. coming up, republicans are coming face to face with their fired-up constituents.
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good stuff ahead.
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>> we do not have a -- we should not have a government program that determines whether you're going to pull the plug on grandma. >> eight years later that infamous moment, senator chuck grassley finds himself on the other side of the equation. today at a town hall in iowa. >> his 23-year-old son has incurable immune disease. he's covered by his parents' health insurance policy under the affordable care act. what do you, senator grassley, have to say to my frightened friend? >> if it wasn't for obamacare we wouldn't be able to afford insurance.
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and with all due rpect sir, you're the man that talked about the death panels. you're going to create one big death panel in this country. >> more on the town halls taking place around the country. they're really remarkable. and for those lawmakers who aren't refusing to hold them next. ey release medicine fast, for fast pain relief.
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are these mints? given that 80% of kids who ever used tobacco started with a flavored product, who do you think tobacco companies are targeting? do we get to keep any? >> these coal jobs are not coming back and now these people don't have the insurance they need because they're poor. and they've worked their coal mines because they're sick, the veterans are sick, the veterans are broken down, they're not getting what they need. if you can answer any of that i'll sit down and shut up like elizabeth warren. >> that majority leader mitch mcconnell's first town hall meeting since president trump took office featured an overflow crowd of protesters outside the venue.
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republican lawmakers across the country who chose to hold town meetings instead of avoid them with met with similar passion. subjects were ride ranging. here's congressman steve womack of arkansas at the end of a rambling answer in a question to investigating russian interference in the election. >> you guys just want to investigate everybody. [ audience reacts ] >> how about benghazi? >> you guys spent a lot of mey on benghazi. waste a little on trump. >> joining me now, the "washington post" political correspondent covering town halls across the country. you've been to multiple town halls in a day, i've been tracking your travels. you also covered a lot of these in 2009 and i'm just curious what you're sort of -- what your take away from covering a bunch of these, what is going on out there. >> it's a good question because the comparison isn't glib at
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all. sometimes you harken back to an example and it's heart to find parallels, there are tons of parallels here. the organization, the angry reaction to people in conservative media. this is similar where people realize that they've been locked out of power, the election didn't go their way and they have found out the way to get accountability is to show up and ask questions that make people uncomfortable and tell personal stories so a big difference this time is simple, there are people who had theories of what obamacare would do to their lives in 2009, there are people who lived with obamacare and have stories that i have yet to see a republican member of congress -- i saw jeff grassley today, i have yet to see them answer in the a way that satisfies people. >> that's interesting. so you're dealing with what people have as opposed to the
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thought of what it could be. the president tonight tweeting out "so called angry crowds in home districts of some republicans are actually planned out by liberal activists. sad." that's not an inaccurate quote. it just doesn't strike me as there's a nefaous conspiracy here. activists and organizers get this thing done. >> well, anything is planned. the president's rallies are planned, with our money, unlike a lot of the indivisible rallies, tax payers are organizing the things the president does when he goes out in the country. these rallies are fairly ad hoc and maybe i'm not a good enough reporter to see the strings behind everybody but i've seen things before and after events, in iowa falls i went to the same cafe by accident as about 15 women who had been there. two of them knew each other, the rest of them said, oh, you were at this, too. they exchanged names, made plans. it's very easy for people to follow up. more so than 2009.
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l. i spent a lot of time in 2009 watching people get trained by americans for prosperity or freedom works or the groups trying to organize them top down from d.c. there's something similar this time but it's much more distributed controlled from one central location. so you think this is more bottom up in terms of the way it's organized in 2009? >> yeah, and that doesn't contradict what republicans are saying as they get angry as these people showing up. it's just hypocritical but they were/knowed by democrats saying by dint of you organizing before this, you were doing something wrong. i'll give jim jordan and chuck grassley credit. i asked jim jordan and chuck grassley questions, are these protests legitimate? and they said yes. i've noticed in the crowds when you talk to the conservatives showing up -- they're outnumbered but supporting their republican members of congress, they're very worried and paranoid that there is something nefarious going on. in iowa it's fun to watch because iowans have license plates that tell you what county they're from and in iowa falls, they're assuring me that everyone has driven an hour and a half in des moines and their
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license plate says they do not. i've met one or two people out of dozens of conversations who had ever been to one of these town halls before this year. >> dave weigel, thanks for your time, appreciate it, man. still ahead, what president trump learned on his visit to the national african-american history museum in d.c. today. plus tonight's thing 1 thing 2 starts after this break. i had frequent heartburn, but my doctor recommended... ...prilosec otc 7 years ago, 5 years ago, last week. just 1 pill each morning, 24 hours and zero heartburn. it's been the number 1 doctor recommended brand for 10... ...straight years, and it's still recommended today.
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use as directed.
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thing 1 tonight, words matter. president trump made blatantly false statements during the campaign, including wild, baseless conspiracy theories. now he's in the white house, he speaks for the u.s. government -- at least to some degree -- those statements aren't forgotten as easily. including, for instance, president trump's claim earlier this month that thousands of voters were bussed into new
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hampshire to vote illegally which he believes kept him from winning that state. now, that did not sit well with the commissioner of the fec who called on the president to immediately share new hampshire voter fraud evidence. today after a conservative group called for an ethics investigation into the fec commissioner, she repeated her demand for evidence saying "i won't be silenced." the white house has vigorously defended trump's voter fraud bus theory. there is one trump loyalist who apparently got the wrong talking points and that's thing 2 in 60 seconds.
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donald trump's foreign campaign manager corey lewandowski, remember him? he was asked this week about the president's voter fraud claim. >> do you think the election turned in new hampshire on people coming across the border and posing as new hampshire residents? >> i live on the border, i didn't see buses coming across the line to say that, hey, we've moved up from massachusetts. so i don't think you have that. >> i don't think you have that. i didn't see buses. statements by corey lewandowski who, you'll remember, was trump's new hampshire delegation chairman. seems at odds with the white house position as outlined by the president's senior adviser stephen miller. >> this issue of bussing voters
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into new hampshire is widely known by anyone who's worked in new hampshire politics. it's very real, it's very serious. this morning on this show is not the venue for me to lay out the evidence. >> hold on a second. you just claimed again there was illegal voting in new hampshire, people bussed in from the state of massachusetts. do you have evidence to back that up? >> george, go to new hampshire, talked to anybody who's worked in politics there for a long time. everybody is aware of the problem in new hampshire with respect too -- >> i'm asking you as the white house -- hold on a second. i'm asking you as the white house senior policy adviser. the president made a statement saying they was victim of voter fraud. >> and the president -- >> by the people of massachusetts and new hampshire. >> and the president was do. >> do you have evidence? >> if this is an issue that interests you we can talk about it more in the future. we have a department of justice and we'll be looking at this very seriously and very hard.
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. . president trump toured the national museum of african-american history and culture in washington, d.c. this morning, taking in several exhibits about slavery and one
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exhibit on his hud nominee and touring companion ben carson. he also reflected on the history of race relations with our own craig melvin. >> why do you think those divisions exist in this country? why do you think they're still so deep? so persistent? >> well, i think it's just age old. there is something going on that doesn't allow it to fully heal. sometimes it gets better and then it busts apart but we want to have it get very much better, get unified and stay together but you've seen it where often times it will get much better and then it blows up. part of the beauty of what you're doing here with the museum and the success of the museum -- the success is very important because it's doing tremendous numbers. tremendous numbers of people are coming in. i think that really helps to get that divide and bring it much closer together. if not perfect.
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>> immediately after that, craig melvin succeeded where others have failed and actually got the president to comment on anti-semitism and anti-semitic attacks across the country. what he finally said next. so tell us your big idea for getting the whole country booking on choice hotels.com. four words, badda book. badda boom... let it sink in. shouldn't we say we have the lowest price? nope, badda book. badda boom. have you ever stayed with choice hotels? like at a comfort inn? yep. free waffles, can't go wrong. i like it. promote that guy.
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today yet another bomb threat was made against a jewish community center, this time in san diego. this week alone, bomb threats have been called into 12 jccs across the country prompting
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terror and evacuations. this jewish community center in birmingham got its second bomb threat in a month. parents and staff again forced to evacuate small children from day care. this year alone, at least 70 jccs have been targeted. that's not all. at a jewish cemetery near st. louis this week, grave sites desecrated in a scene reminiscent of the nazis. more than 100 headstones toppled over or damage. this morning hillary clinton tweeted directly to the president "jcc threats, cemetery desecration and online attacks are so troubling and need to be stopped. everyone should speak out starting with potus." president trump was asked last week about the rise of incidents and chose not to condemn them. first at a press conference with benjamin netanyahu and then again on thursday when he browbeat a sympathetic jewish reporter for simply raising the question. >> quiet, quiet, quiet. see, he lied about -- he was going to get up and ask a very straight, simple question. so, you know, welcome to the world of the media.
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>> the president did finally condemn the threats today during a visit to the national museum of african-american history and culture, first in an interview with our own craig melvin the president denounced antisemitism generally though he included a rather odd qualification. >> i think you maybe have had it for longer than people think and maybe it gets brought up a little bit more but i will tell you that anti-semitism is horrible and it's going to stop and it has to stop. >> a short time later, the presidt was fully on script reading a condemnation of the threats from prepared, a. >> the anti-semitic threats targeting our jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil. >> joining me now, the editor and chief of the jewish focused media outlet the forward and msnbc contributor ben jealous, former president and ceo of the naacp. let me start with you, jen.
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how do understand this? the president had two opportunities to -- you could say rote condemnation and then finally said something. >> that means we can understand this president. it's not just that he didn't condemn anti-semitism last week, he had multiple opportunities to condemn it throughout his campaign. and he didn't. there were other times when he has really not acknowledged what's happened to jews, for example, in his statement about the holocaust remembrance day. so i think someone finally got to him or maybe his conscience pricked him a little bit. he did say the right things. he said in the the right place. i think it was important it came at the african-american history museum so we have to at least acknowledge that. >> so ben when i was watching this play out, it reminded me of the way he dealt with david duke during the campaign. david duke endorsed him, there were headlines and, again, politicians are not responsible for people that endorse them. they can't control that relationship. but what they can say is i
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denounce the klan, i denounce david duke and he wouldn't do it. he pretended he didn't know wh he was to jake tapper and there was like a weird similarity of what is it that he cannot do that is just the obvious first-order thing when it comes to extremist bigots? >> his brain, if you will, his chief strategist is steve bannon who is a big fan of white supremacists and so there's a problem with his brain but i think what's more troubling here is that we have a tradition of u.s. presidents going back to the very first, going back to george washington and his letter to the hebrew congregation of newport, rhode island saying we will give no sanction to bigotry, we will have no tolerance for persecution and donald trump ran a campaign that inspired bigotry, that inspired hatred and violence. last year was a banner year and
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the problem, of course, is that that tradition in this country of standing up against attacks on the jewish community really is rooted in the very idea that nobody should be persecuted because of their faith and we've seen in the first month federal judges say that the president has begun to target people because they are muslims. so this president has to really back up in a profound way and act like he is president and no longer campaigning, frankly, and get out of the groove his campaign cut, which was a groove of hate. >> you know, when you look at those images -- how do you understand what's going on with specific threats? i saw those images in st. louis and i had never seen anything like this but for footages of poland under the nazis, this is as horrific a desecration as you
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can get. what do you understand is happening right now specifically with the acts we've seen? >> well, trump was right when he said yes, anti-semitism is probably always there but it's been add report lows in america for many years now. jews are the most admired religious group. there was a survey that came out last week about this so i think this is a real shock to the system. i think the tacit acknowledgment his campaign gave, sometimes explicit use of anti-semitic tropes in the campaign unleashed something that is virulent and is looking for approval from the white house. that's why it's so important for a president to denounce it but he's now got to follow up and understand that words are very important, it's a first step but
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the next step must be policy but the policy is not just about jews, as ben said, this is also about the way this admistration has targeted muslims and mexicans and many other people becse of their race or ethnicity. >> and there's a continue tu any there. we should note a bunch of muslim americans put together a fund-raiser for that st. louis cemetery to raise money to restore it. >> and that's the -- that's what's beautiful if you will, the silver lining on this very dark cloud is that it's pushing people together. it's getting folks to really see what they have in common and unfortunately what they have in common is that the president is creating a situation where all of us feel more persecuted? >> jane eisner, ben jealous. thank you. >> thank you. that's "all in" for this evening, the rachel maddow show starts right now. >> good evening, chris. thanks to you at home. on january 28, eight days after the inauguration, there was a
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fire at a mosque in victoria, texas, we covered it on the show at the time. victoria, texas, not a huge place, a population of about 60,000 people and there are enough muslims who live in victoria, texas, to support one islamic center in that community. one mosque. on january 28, this year, somebody burned it down destroyed it completely. one of the things that was very moving in the immediate aftermath of that tragedy, that crime, was when the other religious congregations in victoria, texas came forward and offered the keys to their facilities, the keys to their houses of worship. they offered the keys to the imam from that mosque so his muslim congregation could have somewhere else to meet and pray, victoria, texas, is small enough

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