tv The 11th Hour With Brian Williams MSNBC March 28, 2017 8:00pm-8:31pm PDT
vague, but still better than the original title, the bureau of obvious nepotism. >> the preppy camp across the lake. stephen colbert gets tonight's last word. "the 11th hour" with brian williams starts now. tonight, the chairman of the house intelligence committee refusing to step away from this russia investigation amid questions about whether a key witness is being silenced. also tonight an nbc news exclusive on the manafort money trail tracking money from a russian kai couldn't to the trump campaign chairman. and tracking a high foon. "the 11th hour" begins now. here we go. the good evening once again from your headquarters in new york. day 68 of the trump administration. whatever the elements of their policy agenda may be, another day was dominated by this
investigation into russian ties and the kind of spy novel qualities it has taken on over time. chiefly, there are these two subplots. the first involves the california republican who is chairman of the house intelligence committee, devin nunes, after admitting two visits to the white house grounds last week, one to view intelligence from a source he will not name. the other to share intelligence with the president. nunes is ignoring increasing pressure, mostly from democrats, to step aside from his post. the list of lawmakers calling for it however now includes one republican, north carolina congressman walter jones. late today our capitol hill producer caught up with chairman nunes and he confirmed he has no plans to share his intelligence source not even with the members of his own committee. >> so you are not going to tell the committee who your source is? >> we never talk about sources and methods. i wouldn't expect you to do that either.
you guys are so infatuated with sources. >> and you are waiting to hear back from comey before you schedule yates? >> yes. look, we have a -- we have the witnesses that we want. but we don't know who the democrats want to bring in. >> okay. >> we're still waiting on them to -- >> can you tell us who signed you in at the white house. >> we are not going to ever talk about any of that. >> house speaker paul ryan also today resisting calls to remove chairman nunes. here he is taking questions from our own kasie hunt. >> two questions, if i may. one -- >> two? >> should devin nunes recuse himself from the russia investigation? and two, do you know the source of his information? >> no, and no. >> that was quick. the other story that unspoold a bit more today involves sally yates. she was the obama holdover acting as attorney general who was fired by president trump because she said the justice department would not defend the
trump administration's first travel ban. but just before she was fired, she was the very same sally yates who tipped off the white house to the fact that michael flynn wasn't telling the truth about his meetings with russia's ambassador to the u.s. yates also told the white house she was worried that flynn was further vulnerable to blackmail by moscow. sally yates was due to testify in a house intelligence hearing scheduled for today. here is what that testimony would have included, according to ranking member adam schiff. >> the chair did not want the hearing to go forward with sally yates because it would be very damaging to the white house. she has important information the public ought to hear about what led to the firing of michael flynn. that testimony involves flynn's secret conversations with the russian ambassador on the subject of sanctions. those sanction dealt with russian hacking of our elections designed to help donald trump.
sally yates can shed important light on that. i think for that reason the white house does not want her to testify. let's bring her in. let's hear what she has to say. >> today's open hearing was postponed by chairman nunes along with a closed hearing with fbi director comey, nsa director rogers. and today the "washington post" reported that the trump administration was in fact seeking to block sally yates from testifying on russia at all. the post report details the back and forth through both letters and meetings between the justice department and yates' own attorneys. the doj reportedly considers, quote, her public testimony including on the firing of former national security adviser michael flynn for his contacts with the russian ambassador to be offlimits in a congressional hearing because the topics are covered by attorney-client privilege or the presidential communication privilege. critical wording there. yates and her attorneys argue that the administration waved any privilege because of past white house statements and
pledged she would testify unless they heard back from the white house. in other words, yates wanted to know if the white house was bluffing or serious. in the briefing room today sean spicer responded to this story. >> i hope she testifies. i look forward to it. it was never -- let's be honest. the hearing was never -- was actually never notified. if they choose to move forward, great, we have no problem with her testifying, plain and simple. the report in the "washington post" is 100% false. but to suggest in any way, shape, or form that we stood in the way of that is 100% false. >> this is where it comes back to chairman nunes. he is the one who cancelled the hearing where we would have heard from sally yates. and he did so before the administration would have been forced to somehow forbid her testimony. the leader of the free world was back on twitter tonight. another version of nothing to see here on the russia story. another attempt actually to diminish our institutions,
promote fox news, and deflect the attention to the clintons, quote. why don't fake news talk about podesta ties to russia as covered by fox news or money from russia to clinton? sale of uranium? our panel tonight, michael crowley is with us. beiana gold riga is here with us. and our friend charlie sykes. welcome to you all. michael we'll begin with you in washington. did spicer just take privilege off the table kpleeclearing the and guaranteeing yates' testimony? do we assume that was blessed before happened? and can you see why democrats are using the word cover-up for the first time since watergate with real seriousness? >> yeah. brian, it is a little hard to tell exactly what spicer's intention was there. i mean, i think in theory the
white house might be saying she's free to testify as long as she doesn't cover certain topic areas that they consider to be privileged. maybe that's the needle they are trying to thread here. but on your larger point this is one of those stories that becomes a metastory, brian. we all know the underlying allegations here and the very troubling charges that there was some potential coordination between the trump campaign and the kremlin as part of this demonstrated kremlin effort to interfere in the presidential election. but now there's this kind of ridiculous process that's playing out where devin nunes and the president trump white house and people around trump are denying distracting, delaying. and it really doesn't give you a sense that there's not an interesting underlying story. and it also just fuels people's interest and attention when there is so much theatrics and
diversion and frankly smoke being blown around it. so i do think they do themselves a disservice and you can understand why people are talking in those terms. >> charlie, there is another more serious married here. and that is that the people chosen for the intelligence committees in the senate and house, it's not being on the commerce committee. these are the keepers of our secrets. they oftentimes meet more than once a week to go over their business, intelligence. and by all reports, the house intelligence committee has ceased to function regularly. >> in contrast to the senate committee it appears to be completely dysfunctional. i agree with what michael is saying here. let's look at this from the point of view of trump world which is arguing there is nothing to see here, this was a fake story, there was no collusion, the trump administration, the trump campaign was completely innocent. in which case wouldn't they want to have a credible investigation, something that both sides would acknowledge that would exonerate them? except what do they do?
they appear to be obstructing it, appear to be playing political games. sally yates's testimony will now be exponentially more interesting, more dramatic than it was before. >> of course. >> so in they want to put this behind them, if they want to eliminate the distraction, if they want to be proved innocent they are going about it in exactly the wrong way. again, devin nunes is not their friend at this point, not an assess. >> and beiana smarter people than me have made the point, what charlie is saying, the president could with one statement, a end so much of thiy saying we are going to throw open our offices our books. i want to get rid of the whiff of russia. we are going to cooperate fully, talk to all of our folks if you want to. that's not happening. >> customs what anybody else would do. news flash to the president, he can tweet all he wants. the story is not going away. nunes is not doing himself or the president or anyone else any
favors as well. we have two investigations going on, one on leaks and one on connections with russia. for nunes on timing if you go back it seems to be shocking for him and a setback when he heard from the fbi director that this administration, the president was under investigation. we know these investigations last months, if not years. if the president wants to put this behind him then he would start to get in front of the story as opposed to reacting to it and calling it fake news. >> michael, i know you would agree two people to watch throughout this are mccain and graham. they are asked about nunes' behavior. and i want to run that sound. then we'll discuss it on the other side. >> do you think it was appropriate that he went to go view these so-called intelligence reports on white house grounds? >> well, i think there needs to be a lot of explaining to do. i've been around for quite a while and i have never heard of any such thing. >> i think he put his objectivity in question at the very least. if he is not willing to tell the
democrats and the republicans on the committee who he met with and what he was told, then i think he has lost his ability to lead. >> michael i've always made the pony that members of the house love hearing from members of the senate about their behavior, but these are two very important guys who will get a big role in this before it's all over. is there any talk where you are that nunes is in, indeed, an untenable position? >> i don't think it's untenable yet, brian, because what matters more right now is the house. and house conservatives. house republicans are a very conservative bunch who feel pretty safe in their seats. the republican base loves donald trump even though his overall national poll numbers are pretty weak. republicans are fired up. i think house republicans are basically rallying to nunes. walter jones is an exception, but he has always been a little bit idiosin accuratic as an early opponent of the iraq war and so forth.
mccain and graham are at odds with the republican party in a lot of ways particularly on foreign policy and not fans of donald trump. however, they are quotable. they are good talkers. they are smart. let's be honest, the media -- you know, we enjoy hearing from them because they talk well and they cut to the heart of things. so they are not good enemies to have. nunes might be still on his feet right now, but it's ominous to hear them tucking that way if you are him. >> charlie sykes, life long loyal republican, think of what's not being talked about right now. >> well, there are so many things. this is a distraction, this is part of the problem. number one you have the house republicans who have, you know, some pretty significant heavy lifts coming up. >> tax reform. >> that, spending -- raising the debt limit, the spending bill, infrastructure. all of that stuff. they have obviously decided they are going to try to stay join at the hip with donald trump. paul ryan doesn't want to destroy that relationship. but the problem is how much political capital to they want
to invest in appearing to cover up something that may turn out to be scandal. people are making analogies to 1974. was that a good judgment call on the republicans to go all in? which is why i've argued from the beginning that the smart political move was for congress to push this off into an independent dependable commission to number one actually find out what the truth is which is a good by part san american thing to do but also not to have it distract from their agenda the way it is right now. >> one could argue jeff sessions recused himself. a lot of pressure on nunes to do the same if for no other reason the credibility of this commission going forward. >> mej imagine you were members of congress. how do you decide when you start your day how to react to what the top of your ticket is doing and what you are going to see. to charlie's point how deep are you going to go in defense of this guy and this crowd. >> especially when you hear more
and more about associates d jared kushner having met with a russian oligarch sanctioned by the united states, having met with him during the transition. why are we just now hearing about this? why on earth would he have met with him. what does this have to do with the american voters and the president. so many questions. again, if this has been laid out on the table maybe we wouldn't be talking about it right now. but it seems there is a cover-up and people are wondering what else we don't know. >> we'll take our first break. when we come back we'll be joined by a member of the senate intelligence committee on how they plan to conduct they very same investigation, only differently. and how both parties there plan to write their report together when it's over. imagine that. when "the 11th hour" continues. ! ho! ( ♪ ) it's off to work we go! woman: on the gulf coast, new exxonmobil projects are expected to create over 45,000 jobs. and each job created by the energy industry
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tomorrow we will hear from the chairman and the ranking member of the senate select committee on intelligence to update us on their investigation into russia's interference in american elections while the house investigation is taking over the headlines as the house committee implodes on its own. the senate investigation has been moving along largely under the radar with some members viewing evidence over at cia headquarters in langley. this evening, i spoke to senator angus king, an independent from maine, who caucuses with the democrats and personally sits on the senate intelligence committee. i started out by asking him whether he could make any pledges about how the practices of his committee will differ from what we've seen from his colleagues in the house intelligence committee.
>> well, brian, we are really working hard to make it bipartisan. et cetera a not easy but we are working at it. the committee is only -- it's eight to six to one, it's eight republicans, six democrats, and me, so it is a carefully balanced committee. we have got good members on both sides. and everything we are doing now is to maintain a by part san approach to it. and i'm homing that we are going to be able to come out with a unanimous report because i think that's important. what's disturbing about what's going none the house is when a report finally comes out from either their committee or ours it has to be credible. and that's why what happened last week i think undermines the credibility of what the shows doing. we're trying very hard to avoid that. >> the democratic leader, mr. schumer, from new york yesterday said that nunes should step aside from his job as head of the committee. do you agree? >> well, i think that's his decision and that's the decision of the house committee.
i think it's -- i don't feel comfortable deciding what he should do. but i do think it was a mistake. and as i say, i think it's compromised the ability of their committee to come out with a credible report and he has to weigh that. >> are you making any pledges to folks about the amount of testimony you want to remain public, in open session, that we can look at, that we can televise as opposed to what really, because of secrets, must be in executive session? >> i think we you had at to have as much public as possible. in fact our first hearing is tomorrow. it's going to be an open hearing in two parts. probably about four hours. i think having it in public is part of the process of producing a credible report. if we go behind closed doors for six months and then come out with a piece of paper and say this is what happened, i don't think that's going to cut it with the american people. so -- and also, brian, a big part of this is educating the american people about what the russians are up to so that they
will know the next time that this is what the russians do. and i've talked to people in eastern europe. i said how do you defend yourself against this? they are doing it all the time over there. do you know what they said? they say everybody knows it's the russians. they say oh, yeah that's just the russians. we need to have our people understand, this isn't a one off. they are going to continue to do this. they are going to come after us in a variety of wooi ways. and that's why i think it has to be as public as we can possibly make it. >> you are one of the senators who took the ride over to langley to look at intelligence which we know you can't share. you have seen all the smoke signals, however. how much fire, in your view, granted, before your investigative work starts, how much fire do you think is here? >> well, i think there are three parts of it, brian, and i know what you are referring to. but the first part is what did the russians do in our election? and that's pretty well established. and there is a lot of fire there. i mean, i don't think there is
any doubt it was the russians. it went all the way to the top. they intended to interfere with our elections. that's part one. part two i think is what, you know, all the public interest is, was there some cooperation between the trump campaign and the russians? that is what we are going to be digging into, along with the first part. but there is a third part that hasn't gotten as much publicity that i think in the long run may be of great great significance. and that is the russians were also trying to probe and attack our state and local level voting systems, voting machines, registration rolls, and you know, and they were doing it as near as we can tell -- all the intelligence is it didn't succeed, they didn't change any votes, but they weren't doing it for fun. they were probing and experimenting. and they are going to keep at it. so i think that's something we are really going to have to work with the states and the localities, how to keep the kpeg right of the voting system. imagine, brian, if they had hagg
managed to change 100,000 votes in michigan and wisconsin and we could determine that. it would be chaos. and that's of course exactly what they want. that's a piece that i think is also very important. >> you probably don't agree with dick cheney on much. but did you agree when you heard him call this an agent of war at a conference over in india? >> i had not heard him say that but i said that about a week after it happened. that's -- it's pretty -- i don't know how you would define that term but this is an attack on the united states. another way to think of it is, what if they had dropped in six or eight paratroopers, broke into dnc, stole computers, put them on their arms and took off in a submarine? who would not have called that an act of war? that's effectively what they did. this is sear stuff. they are doing it in france. they do it in germany. they do it in eastern europe as a regular thing. they learned how to wage war on the cheap. that's what this is all about.
and that's why it's so serious and it's not going to stop. it is a non-partisan issue, brian. marco rubio, who is on our committee gets that. he keeps saying look, folks, next time, this could be us. putin is not a democrat. and he's not an republican. he's an opportunist and a bad guy. if it suits his purposes two or four years from now he could just as soon turn his guns against the republicans. that's why this has got to be, i believe, a totally bipartisan investigation because the stakes are so high. >> senator, have you determined how you are going to vote on the gorsuch nomination? >> i have not. i have really been working it, brian. i had a listening session up in maine, 600 people, four hours, 77 people spoke. everybody had their say. i went to his hearing even though i'm not on the judicial year committee. i have read many of his opinions, read articles about him. met with him. i'm still trying to figure this guy out. and i'm not -- i haven't decided
yet one way or the other. i'm going to wait and see. i -- a friends of mine on the committee put in some questions that i thought were important. i want to see the answer to the questions that he is going to file i think in the next couple of days. so, you know, this is a very weighty vote. most things we do around here can be amended and changed next year. this is a 30 to 40-year decision. he's going to be there for a long time if he's confirmed. and that's why i think we have really got to try to do our very best to understand what his philosophy and temperament is. and that's swhaernl i'm trying to do. and i'll -- you know, i'll reach a conclusion. but i'm not ready yet. >> senator angus king of the state of maine, we tried to find a louder hallway to put you in. but we were unable to find one. i hope this will suffice. >> welcome to my world. >> thank you snaermt i appreciate it. >> thank you brian. yes, sir. >> one piece of business coming out of that discussion, the
hearing he mentioned happening tomorrow is actually happening thursday. the senator's office e-mailed us after his comments to let us know. another break. coming up a white house consumed by the questions about russia and showing its prus administration from the podium. and later, is sean spicer just give melissa mccarthy a setup?
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how does this administration try to revamp its image? two and a half months in you have got this yates story today. you have got other things going on. you have got russia. you have got wiretapping. >> no, we don't have that. you -- i know. >> on capitol hill. >> i get it, but you keep -- i have said it from the day that i got here until whenever that there is no connection. you have got russia. if the president puts russian salad dressing on his salad tonight somehow that's a russian connection. >> welcome back to the 11th hour, sean spicer got increasingly hostile with reporters in the briefing room today. hear a bit more of the back and forth with april ryan there of american urban radio networks. >> at some point report the facts. the facts is every person who has been briefed on this has come away with this solution. republican, democratic i'm sorry if that