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tv   Andrea Mitchell Reports  MSNBC  July 19, 2017 9:00am-10:00am PDT

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reports," tet a tet, pulling up a chair next to the russian leader at the g-20 dinner. >> he has no problem showing off that the -- putin didn't come to him. he got up. he went around the table. he sits down next to putin. they're yucking it up. >> off the record, without a national security aide or u.s. interpreter, the president on his own relying on putin's translator. and no record of what was said. >> we should all be very worried that the president engaged in deep one on one talks with vladimir putin without any professional staff around. >> quite frankly president trump doesn't really know what went on in that meeting because whatever he said got translated by that translator and that translator's life in some ways is on the line. >> table for 52, the president setting the menu for his lunch with republican senators at this hour after the chief executive makes it clear the buck does not stop with him for the failure of
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the republican health care plan. >> i think we're probably in that position where we'll let obamacare fail, we're not going to own it, i'm not going to own it. the republicans are not going to own it. >> and good day, everyone. i'm andrea mitchell in colorado for the aspen security conference starting today. even as national security experts are raising red flags about a previously undisclosed one on one meeting between president trump and vladimir putin, with mr. trump relying only on putin's translator. that meeting took place just hours after the president's widely covered sit-down, the formal meeting which itself raised questions because of the way the president dealt with the russian hacking controversy. and it also is coming as putin is pressing for the lifting of u.s. sanctions against russia and the return of two diplomatic compounds that u.s. intelligence says were used for spying.
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kristen welker joins me now and will be with us throughout the hour as senators are boarding buses to head over your way at the white house for that luncheon to talk about whether to proceed or how to proceed from now on. you're seeing live pictures of them getting ready to come to the us who. so much going on there, but the meeting, the context. here is the president with the russian hacking issue, a big story. a briefing that was not held, didn't have his own news conference after the g-20. there was a briefing on air force one with rex tillerson and steve mnuchin and others telling the press corps on air force one what had happened from their version. no note taker, which was significant. and yet nobody mentioned that at the dinner there was this lengthy pull aside, not the usual five or ten minutes where people walk around at these dinners, but a lengthy meeting according to all accounts which really raised eyebrows among the other leaders. he was sitting next to prime
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minister abe from japan and got up and apparently walked down the lengthy table, sat down next to putin and stayed there, where all the others were so nonplussed by this, that it leaked out. first to ian bremmer of the eurasia room. >> the context of all of this, think about how much attention his meeting earlier in the day with president putin got, how much coverage of it, the facts that we just learned about it yesterday is striking. i got the sense that it caught some of his own staffers off guard, that they were not aware of it, they went in to ask the president what exactly had happened. this is what the white house is saying and then we'll do some analysis. bottom line, they say, this meeting took place after dinner, it was a part of a broader social event with the other g-20 leaders, they say the president was mingling with a number of the other leaders as well.
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as you point out, andrea, those in the room say the meeting with president putin was more substantial, some say it lasted up to an hour, the white house pushes back against that timetab timetable. but the bottom line here is what was said at that meeting? we just don't know. there was no official readout of the meeting because there was only a russian interpreter. and none of the president's aides were there to oversee the meeting. and when you think about it, president trump has a very minuscule amount of experience when it comes to this type of diplomacy when you compare it to president putin. that's why it raised alarm bells for so many on the foreign policy community, add to that, the fact there is this investigation into russia's meddling in the 2016 race and you have to wonder why the white house didn't just err on the side of extreme caution and read out that meeting when it happened, andrea. >> the president was tweeting overnight, fake news story of
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secret dinner with putin is sick, all g-20 leaders and spouses were invited by the chancellor of germany, press knew. ps, the fake news is becoming more and more dishonest, even a dinner arranged for top 20 leaders in jrmgermany is made t look sinister. let's talk about the meeting, though. here he is inviting all republican senators to come down for lunch. what is there to discuss given the fact that they had to give up on their repeal and replace plan and now mitch mcconnell so far doesn't have the votes to even go to the floor and try to do repeal only. >> that is the big question mark. what does the president think he can actually get out of this meeting when by all accounts the attempt to repeal and replace obamacare has failed at this point. and then as you say, they don't have enough votes to repeal it and then replace it further down the line. perhaps two years later, what
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the president has been pushing for. i think it underscores one thing that we know, andrea, that the president, this administration, acknowledged they were caught off guard when they realized that they didn't have the votes to get the repeal and replace bill passed through the senate because remember, president trump was meeting at the white house, having dinner with senators who supported the bill. he was trying to hammer out a strategy to get the bill passed, but he wasn't meeting with those senators who were still undecided. so he was caught flat footed. i think his message today at this lunch is going to be is there any possible way to revive it and even though in his public comments yesterday, andrea, which were so striking, he said the republicans aren't going to own this, democrats are going to own this, the bottom line is, and the reality is he has control of the white house, republicans have control of both chambers of congress so it is very difficult to make that argument and i think based on my conversations with white house officials he is determined to try to really go at this repeal effort and replace it fourth
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down t further down the line. you have leaders on capitol hill who say at this point it doesn't seem like a realistic option, andrea. >> this is the first time he's getting actively involved in the senate side. he was more actively involved in the house version, whether mcconnell didn't want him involved or whether he just was not that engaged. it was really notable that he spent the weekend at his -- at the lpga, at his golf course, he wasn't campaigning, didn't give a speech, didn't have a news conference. he wasn't -- you're lobbying for this before the votes took place. >> it was very notable. because compare it to what we saw in the final weeks and days before the house legislation to overhaul obamacare passed. you did see the president get more engaged. he talked about it at events. he did more arm twisting, inviting members of the house to the white house. this was very different. when i have asked white house officials on his legislative
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team what exactly the strategy was, what the thinking was behind not having the president engaged in that very public way, they say, look, the senate is a very different body. it is a much thornier, more complicated process, they felt as though leader mcconnell was the right person to take the lead publicly. they argue the president did have a role behind the scenes that he was working the phones, but the reality is it was vice president mike pence who took the lead from the white house's perspective. did the president wait too late? i think that's something they're going to be discussing at the white house behind the scenes. compare this to former president obama, andrea, he was trying to get obamacare passed in the beginning. you remember all too well, he traveled all across the country, campaigning for it, tried to get interest groups on board. this was a very different process. some have argued the president just wasn't immersed enough in the details. i think they're going to have a it tough after action report when they sit down and try to figure out what went wrong here, particularly as they look at trying to get other legislation
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like tax reform and infrastructure passed. >> kristen welker, all good points. we'll talk to you throughout the show. thank you, kristen. >> michael mcfall is the former u.s. ambassador to russia and joins me now from stanford. thank you very much for being with us. what is wrong with the president having this pull aside with vladimir putin one on one, using a russian translator at the g-20 dinner? >> well, generally i would say there is nothing wrong with the american president talking to the russian president, even using a russian translator. that happened once when i worked at the white house with president obama. but as you said at the top, andrea, it is the context that really makes this different and unusual. first, all the hullabaloo about him meeting with president putin, with very few people in the formal meeting, was the first strike. we wanted to know the content. we wanted to know the substance and there was only secretary tillerson in that meeting. but then secondly, at a meeting when there is 19 other leaders
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there, or 18, if you don't count putin, and he goes in and focuses on just one, not our allies, not the host to the best of my knowledge, i don't think he spent any time barely with angela merkel, not with president xi to talk about north korea, but just putin, that raises all kinds of alarm bells. why putin? why not these other leaders? and finally, of course, as you said, we don't have any idea what they talked about. and one thing i think people need to understand when the president says something, especially to a leader like president putin, it immediately becomes policy. it is almost impossible to walk back something that the president of the united states says and we don't know what he promised, what he pledged, how he made policy that night. >> let's just put on the table a couple of the things that putin wants. putin wants those compounds returned. and the state department has so far said no. putin wants the sanctions
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lifted. the ukraine -- other ukraine sanctions lifted. right now the white house is lobbying against a senate passed bill which is now stuck in the house for tougher sanctions against russia for the russian hacking. and also against iran. so there are -- there are so many issues that putin is pressing hard on, we saw it just the meetings with don jr. and all the issues that the russian lawyer was putting on the table, regarding the magnetski sanctions. it seems there is no record and no way to know what donald trump may have said to the leader who has been the leader of russia for 17 years and before that one of the most experienced senior kgb/fsb intelligence officials. >> exactly. i mean, you mention a series of different sanctions that the united states has put on russia and russians and companies over the last several years.
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if i were briefing the president for that meeting, i would have listed out a number of talking points for each of those, magnetski, versus ukraine, versus what the obama administration did with respect to our elections. and explained in those talking points to the president why we had the position. when you're just flying solo in an impromptu way, putin, of course, knows the details of all of those much better than president trump does and he's going to say, hey, you know, you took my -- you took my properties. that's illegal, donald. you got to give them back. and without the proper context, without the talking points in front of them, i worry about what kind of commitment the president might have made and once he makes that commitment, this is important, once he says that to putin, putin reads that out to his government, he then tells his negotiator deputy foreign minister this is what the president of the united states says, that makes it very difficult for the american
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diplomats to contradict what he might bring up in the meeting. i don't want to get ahead of my skis. i don't know what he said. but that's precisely the way it works. when i was in the government, when obama would go into a five minute pull aside, we were always nervous about what commitments might be made. these guys spent an hour together, one on one. >> and isn't it in putin's interest, people have been saying putin wanted to get trump one on one. >> yes. well, he always does, by the way. consistent behavior. he wanted to meet with president obama with small groups. with particular reference to president trump, he and his government has said many times, this is on the record, they think that president trump shares their world view, and wants to cooperate with them, the trouble is what they call the deep state. and by that, they mean the staff. right. they have used that phrase for years to say he wants to cooperate.
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and this goes back to the obama administration, by the way. but most certainly in the trump era, he wants to cooperate but it is his advisers getting in the way, the national secured adviser, the secretary of defense, his russia adviser. the idea he could talk to him one on one without any of those people around, that is in putin's interest. >> and you would think that the president would be even more cautious given the fact that going in and his news conference in poland he still expressed doubt about the russian hacking and is under the whole administration is under an investigation on that score as well. a lot to be considered. mike mcfall, thank you for your expertise, we appreciate it. and next, lost in translation, the dangers of dealing with putin without a translator of your own. we'll talk to a former hedge fund manager who once invested in russia and is now deemed by the kremlin to be a national threat. and we're keeping a close eye on the caravan in washington.
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the senators heading to the white house as the buses pull out going to a health care conversation over lunch. can imagine what they might be having on the menu. this is andrea mitchell reports, only on msnbc. here's to the safety first... i think i might burst... totally immersed weekenders. whatever kind of weekender you are, there's a hilton for you. book your weekend break direct with and join the summer weekenders.
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yeah, we are. no, you're not jimmy. don't let directv now limit your entertainment. xfinity gives you more to stream to more screens. and welcome back, everyone. we'll get back to andrea in aspen in a moment. right now, senate republicans are heading to the white house
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for a strategy session with the president to talk about their next move after the dramatic collapse of their effort to overhaul obamacare. you see the bus there, carrying all of the senators, save richard burr, the chairman of the senate intelligence committee. he has said he won't go to the white house while he conducts his investigation into russia's meddling in the u.s. election. president trump presumably going to try to revive his efforts to at least repeal obamacare for now. his strategy, he wants to repeal it, and then replace it. at this point in time, though, leader mcconnell just doesn't have the votes to get that past. casey hunt joins me now, tracking all the developments closely. casey, we as of yesterday understood that there just weren't enough votes to get this over the finish line. has anything changed, can the president actually revive this effort at this lunch? >> well, kristen, what we have
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learned today is that mitch mcconnell in fact wanted to proceed. it is a little bit complicated with senate rules here. but essentially if they want to vote on health care this week, they would have had to do it this morning. that was mitch mcconnell's original plan until we heard him go to the floor late yesterday and say, look, i talked to the president, i talked to the vice president, and so we're going to do this vote early next week. and then here you have, you see it there, the members of the u.s. senate heading down to the white house to talk to the president. so it seems like, i have talked to a couple of sources about this kind of privately behind the scenes, there is a sense that the president isn't ready to totally give up on this even though republican leaders have really reached an impasse and feel like there is not a path forward on a replacement plan. so, of course, they are saying, look, we'll do what the white house has been telling us they want us to do, vote on straight repeal. they have known all the way along the votes are just not there for a straight up repeal of obamacare without a
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replacement. so, you know, i think many of the senators i spoke to interested to see what the president's last ditch pitch would be here to figure out exactly where things might be headed next. i really do think that there is some fatigue setting in up here on capitol hill around this, that it has become a grind, it has gotten to the point where there is a lot of ideas being thrown out there, lindsey graham wants to talk about his separate plan with bill cassidy. but there just is not agreement and doesn't seem to be a path forward other than to basically declare this particular effort is over, and try to figure out how to move on to something else. i had ted cruz say that he's insisting that they should hold this vote anyway over the objections of some moderate senators, he said, look, we'll look like fools if we don't pass it. others have argued to me privately that they feel like it is already gotten to that point. and they would like to cut off the misery now.
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>> and casey, while you were talking, we watched the bus carrying the senators arrive at the white house complex, so we anticipate that meeting gets under way in a few moments from now. i think you bring up a critical point, though, which is about fatigue. the president not ready to give up, though, as you point out. let me read you his tweet from earlier today, i'll be having lunch at the white house today with republican senators concerning health care. they must keep their promise to america. the republicans never discuss how good their health care bill is and it will get even better at lunch time, the dems scream death as o-care dies. one thing fascinating to me is that tweet perhaps would have been helpful several days ago. while that initial bill to repeal and replace was hanging in the balance. is there a sense on capitol hill that the president really seated his role here in trying to get this piece of legislation over the finish line? >> i do think that there is a sense that the president ceded his role. i don't think anybody is unhappy
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with that. i think they were unhappy to have the vice president take the lead on putting the pressure on because they feel like the vice president understands the details. if you look at how the president has spoken in public about this, it is clear to the sources that i talked to, to the republican senators, that he's not read in on the kinds of policy details that are going to make or break their votes. they feel like he's disconnected. they feel like he doesn't understand what they're trying to accomplish necessarily. i do think there is a real disconnect. i don't want to go so far as to say they're dismiss of the president's views here, but it is bordering on that. and i think that has been a challenge here all the way along, that the president has said, look, we just want -- we want to win. and when you're trying to govern and you have to answer for the legislation for the consequences of what you do, politically, that's a really tricky place to be. and so i do think there say sense here that the white house
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is not necessarily helping this effort along. in the washington post this morning, there was a critical meeting over the weekend with governors and mike pence went there and was not met with the warmest receptions. those were people he really needed to win over. the best pieces of the white house effort came up short here as well. >> i think that's an important point as one lawmaker put it to me, the president is a big picture guy, wasn't exactly down in the weeds of the details. i think that did make a difference for some. casey hunt, great reporting as always, thank you. we'll turn back to russia on the other side of the break. when we're joined by a former hedge fund manager who invested in russia and wound up in vladimir putin's bad graces. this is andrea mitchell reports only on msnbc. tech: when you schedule with safelite autoglass,
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investigating possible fraud implicating top russian officials. magn magnetw magnetski was arrested and jailed. bill, thanks very much for being with us. there is a long story that led up to this -- long, sad story, tragic story that led up to this state of play. but what do we know now of the players? you know some of the players in the meeting with don jr. last june. what do we know about what putin and the oligarchs around him are trying to do to influence u.s. plib politics and get the sanctions lifted? >> so what you need to understand is that the -- in 2012, president obama signed into law the magnetski act it was named after sergi magnetski, my lawyer who uncovered this
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vast corruption scheme and was arrested and tortured and killed. it freezes at sets and bans the visas for russian officials who commit human rights abuses and the people who killed magnetski and why putin hates this so much is that we have been able to track some of the money from the crime that sergi magnetski exposed to a guy who was putin's nominee, a person exposed in the panama papers, a famous russian cellist named sergi roldugan. he got some of the money. he's known to be putin's money man. therefore, it puts putin's own wealth directly in the firing line of u.s. sanctions. so putin had a top, top priority since he came back into power in 2012, came back to power, he came back to presidency in 2012 to have the magnetski act repealed. and so what we know is that lots of different efforts have been expended by the russian
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government, but most recently, most relevantly, was this effort of natalia veselnitskaya and a russian former spy, current operator in washington, when they went to meet with donald trump jr. about a year ago in trump tower. and they went specifically with the objective of having the magnetski act repealed. >> and so when don jr. spoke initially as the story unfolded the drip, drip, drip has been described of only giving details when it is reported by other people and finally confirming it, when he spoke of the fact that it was only about a adoption, that's code for sanctions, because adoption was putin retaliating against american families trying to adopt russian children because of the magnetski act. that's what they were after, they were after the repeal of the magnetski sanctions.
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>> exactly. so because putin was so upset in 2012, he was looking for a way to retaliate and couldn't do various things. they understood that america would freeze assets of russian companies, looked at other -- they looked at preventing america from withdrawing military equipment from afghanistan, but then they realized that america would stop them from putting equipment into syria. and came up with this malicious idea which was americans were adopting disabled russian orphans. i stressed disabled because they -- the healthy ones weren't up for adoption to foreigners. they let the sick ones be adopted. children with hiv, with down syndrome, with spina bifida, were getting adopted by american families and they in retaliation for the magnetski act, the putin personally imposed this ban on americans adopting poor children. these children in many cases would not survive to the age of 18 in a russian orphan because
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they don't have the right medical equipment. so effectively putin was sentencing his own orphans to death to protect his own corrupt officials. and to the extent that anyone was talking about adoptions and i guarantee you in that meeting with donald trump jr., nobody was talking about adoptions, they were talking about the magnetski act and the only connection to adoptions is the fact that putin banned at adoption of russian children by american families. >> veselnitskaya in moscow today, apparently said, she's willing to testify to congress to explain her role. is that a positive step? >> well, she's not a truth teller in most cases. and i guess there is probably no consequence to her lying in front of congress since she's not an american. but i would be very interested in hearing her answers and having her in a situation where she could be probed on all the issues. so if she's willing to testify, i would imagine that there would be people in the senate that
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would be be interested in hearing what she had to say. >> and what about the fact that she was described by don jr. as just a russian lawyer, she has connections also, connections in fact to some very powerful people in moscow. >> well, it is complete nonsense she's just a russian lawyer. she's a russian lawyer, who represents a very powerful high level family in the putin regime. the patriarch of the family is a vice president to one of most important state owned companies, he use ed to be the vice governor of the moscow region, region bigger than france. and most importantly he's a real insider in the putin regime. he was paying the bills, paying huge bills to hire lobbyists to do this. this is a government sponsored putin directed operation, this is not some private initiative of natalia veselnitskaya. >> what about some of the other players who were present at that meeting who we now learned were present at that meeting?
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>> the main other suspicious character is a man by the name of rinat akhmetshin, former or soviet military intelligence officer, that organization has the acronym gru. if you remember back to the obama sanctions against hacking in december, the gru is one of the organizations that was sanctioned. rinat akhmetshin settled in the united states, received american citizenship and works on a number of russian government projects including this one. he was paid handsomely to go out in the corridors of power in washington to hire a number of very influential lobbyists at a high rate, for a lot of money to try to withdraw and repeal the magnetski act, he was the main washington insider that was working for natalia veselnitskaya, working for the russian interests in having the magnetski act repealed. >> thank you very much, bill.
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thank you for being with us today. >> thank you. we'll have much more on russia and foreign policy as we continue live from the aspen security forum just after the break. stay with us. whoooo.
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barely with angela merkel, not with president zi to talk about north korea, but just putin, that raises all kinds of alarm bells. why putin? why not these other leaders? >> just moments ago, former u.s. ambassador to russia mike mcfall, talking about president trump's side by side meeting with vladimir putin, not just a brief pull aside as has happened at these dinners. it was in fact we're told from many multiple sources, a lengthy meeting. joining me is jane harman, former nine-term member of congress, the president and ceo of the woodrow wilson center. and also with us, nbc news senior national security analyst ron zuradi. welcome, both. >> thank you. >> first to you, you've gone to many of these summits, you've seen what happens. 32 leaders and spouses, it is a
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social evening, a long table, we have pictures of this long table. you also have the head of the imf and others who were present. and all of a sudden the president gets up from his seat next to prime minister abe of japan, without an interpreter, all the way down on the table, next to vladimir putin, sits down and has what we're told was a lengthy, not just a pull aside, but a lengthy hour long conversation during this dinner. >> yeah. in the context of all of the russia debate it creates a stir and lots of questions as to what the discussion was about. in terms of the meeting itself, it does raise some interesting questions about the dynamics, those meetings are intended to help build relationships with leaders, also to help signal to the other leaders who are there, and i think the question of how much time he was spending with putin, vis-a-vis other leaders, in particular abe next to him, when we have the north korea issue boiling and all our other allies arnoound the table raisea
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question of why he would do this. and why give putin that advantage. in some ways it is also aggrandizing to putin. here is the president of the united states shifting physically to come talk to me and spend time with me versus angela merkel, abe or others around the table. there is a lot of choreography here that relates to power dynamics and relationships. and i'm not sure if the president played this very well based en what we know. >> can you see george w. bush, the president you served, doing this? >> i think at these kinds of things you have a lot of glad handing. lots of intermingle, like a wedding rereception, going arou talking to folks. i don't think you would have had president bush picking president putin in particular and spending so much time. i think former presidents would have been conscious of the symbolism of what they're doing physically and maybe president trump just didn't quite capture it. it is problematic. problematic from a u.s. perspective given all the
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suspicions and problematic geopolitically given all the challenges we have with russia in concert with our allies sitting around the table. it raises lots of questions and it is unfortunate because it is yet another sort of piece of the scandal and suspicion around russia. >> and here, jane, they just announced what we expected, they finally announced that jon huntsman will be the nominee, he has to be confirmed obviously, but jon huntsman has a big challenge ahead as the u.s. ambassador in russia as kislyak is being replaced. >> going back to the first question you asked, whether trump consulted with anybody about his move to do this. and if he didn't consult rex tillerson, think about ambassador to be if he's confirmed, jon huntsman, would he consult him about a move like this? my guess is maybe not. i think huntsman has a rough road ahead assuming he's concerned. i think the senate will use his
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confirmation hearings as a grievance board against president trump's policy on russia. huntsman has great experience as ambassador to singapore, ambassador to china, where the fit was great, he spoke fluent chinese, he's coming to russia where he so far as i know isn't first on those issues and doesn't speak russians and experts say if you don't speak russian, in russia, you have a big hill to climb, plus, his relationship with president trump and his views on issues, he's pro trade and pro bipartisanship, we're in different parties, here together advising -- advising the homeland secretary john kelly on nonpartisan, bipartisan basis in aspen. >> and that's one of the things that is lost in all of this. foreign policy has traditionally been bipartisan. this week we had an eruption over the iran deal where, you know, famously donald trump the candidate said i'm going to tear it up, the worst deal ever.
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now, reluctantly he's twice had to recertify that the iranians are complying with the nuclear deal itself. and his criticism and it is a criticism that others have this is that the nuclear deal was deliberately negotiated by the six powers to exclude iran's other misbehaviors. support for terrorism, human rights abuses, american prisoners, missile technology. so now we have just slopped new sanctions on some -- some irg iranian, you know revolutionary guard players, but not terribly damaging as i understand it, it is not going to affect for instance a boeing contract to sell airliners to. >> i think the interesting part of this is the trump administration is trying to thread a needle, trying to thread the needle of pressuring and confronting iran in a way they think the obama administration didn't while still adhering to and respecting the contours of the nuclear agreement, in part to preserve the diplomacy, because if we were to pull away unilaterally,
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you then not only have to confront the issue of what happens with iran, but it is a question of how do you deal with germany and the uk and france and china and russia. so i think they're trying to avoid that. i think ultimately what their strategy will be, we talked about this before, andrea, they will pressure as much as possible within the four corners of the deal and then pressure all around it. to your point, on issues of terrorist support and financing. issues of the ballistic missile program, proliferation, human rights abuses. they will pressure the irgc and iran as much as possible and confront iran where they can. >> i find it so hypotheticcriti here, pressuring iran, but not pressuring russia and even larger player supporting assad. >> i think this case is a pretty good example of diplomacy in the trump era. the russian case is a poor example of diplomacy in the
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trump era. two more comments on this thing. wilson center scholar rod lidbeck said this was a transformational deal. we hoped iran would become a good actor in the region. they reman a bad actor in the region and that's why sanctions need to be imposed, but the good news is trump is keeping the deal and should keep the deal. >> thank you so much. coming up, the drip, drip, drip, what do the new details about don jr.'s 2016 meeting tell us about russia? stay with us. (vo) more "doing chores for mom" per roll more "doing chores for dad" per roll more "earning something you love" per roll bounty is more absorbent, so the roll can last 50% longer than the leading ordinary brand. so you get more "life" per roll.
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i guarantee you, in that meeting with donald trump jr., nobody was talking about adoptions. they were talking about the magnitsky act, and the only connection to adoptions, the fact that putin banned the adoption of russian children by american families. this is a government-sponsored, putin-directed operation. this is not some private initiative. >> that was american hedge fund v vester who got on the wrong side of putin, fought to get his money back, until his lawyer,
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sergei magnitsky was i mprisone and many say tortured to his death. so great to have my two buddies with me. >> pleasure to be with you. thanks. >> so first of all, we are now learning that robert mueller is a step ahead of everybody. he's been so quiet about this, but with each new name that comes out, who was present at that don junior meeting, we are learning that mueller's people have already contacted these guys. >> that's what's really interesting, andrea. bob mueller's team knew the identity of this eighth person at the meeting before the news media, according to his lawyer, who said he got a call over the weekend asking whether this person would cooperate. and he's -- we're not really sure of the significance of his presence at the meeting. he has a colorful past. he appeared in a congressional money laundering investigation, although he was never charged and his lawyer said he did
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nothing wrong. he's a member of the agalarov family, with ties to putin. so it's just another layer of intrigue, and a meeting that don trump jr. told us he had disclosed everything about last week. >> and what he was also saying is in this is all about putin and his friends' money. they want to park their money overseas, but they don't want their money to be at risk of being seized under u.s. sanctions. so, you know, when you talk about following the money, this has been job one for putin, is to get those magnitsky sanctions lifted. and any talk that this was about adoptions is just completely folly. pete, you're here also because you're going to be interviewing john kelly, director -- secretary of homeland security later, and there have been so many issues of visas and waiting for the supreme court's final rulings on what the muslim ban really means. and how it's being interrupted. but it's being interpreted in practice in terms of severe
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vetting, whatever that means. >> so they call it extreme vetting. two things here, andrea. the first is the executive order the president signed and the revised one that came out in march that said a hold for 90 days on visa applicants and 120 days on refugees from the six designated countries. but beyond that, for all other countries that require a visa to come to the united states, the department has been doing what they call extreme vetting. which is to look much more closely at things like people's social media content. remember the two people who were involved in the san bernardino shooting, there was indication they were expressing pro isis views well before the shooting. so they want to look at social media, they want to look much more closely into their backgrounds. that's already going on, while in the meantime we wait for the supreme court to decide whether they're going to grant the government's request to put a hold on the ruling in hawaii the other day that federal judge out there who said you ought to let grandparents and other relatives
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be exempt, as well, and from those six countries. >> and the court in hawaii says i understand it is -- they disagree with the state department's definition of what a family is. >> yes. >> which said that some in-laws could qualify, but not grandparents, which are in -- >> grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. they were not covered by the exemption. in other words, they are now, or at least were until the hawaii judge's ruling, susceptible under the executive order. and what the judge said is that doesn't make any sense. >> well, turning back to the russia investigation for a moment, ken, what we heard from senator grassley and dianne feinstein on judiciary is that mueller has given them a green light to interview paul manafort and don junior in open session. that it won't conflict with any separate investigation. and i don't know what we can infer from that, but we know that they want to keep things clean so that we don't have situations as we did in iran contra where convictions get overturned because they were
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muddied up by congress. >> absolutely. that is very interesting, because it does suggest that robert mueller thinks there's many areas these people can talk about. they can shed light on meetings, interactions without jeopardizing any potential prosecutions. it doesn't foreclose the possibility there are areas mueller asked the congress to stay away from. >> remember, the only thing that would jeopardize the prosecution is if they get immunity from congress. they can say whatever they want in open session or to people on the street without jeopardizing the prosecution. only if congress gives them immunity to testify that it can boll locks up the justice department prosecution. >> a lot coming up in the next few days. thanks so much. >> thank you. you're watching "andrea mitchell reports" live from aspen. stay with us. boost. it's about moving forward, not back.
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