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tv   The 11th Hour With Brian Williams  MSNBC  December 7, 2017 11:00pm-12:00am PST

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new low in the pew approval poll, all next on "the 11th hour with brian williams." and the new polling numbers just out on the president's approval, and what he managed to get wrong about a solemn day in american history. the 11th hour gets underway now. good evening once again from our nbc news headquarters here in new york. day 322 of the trump administration. and while the white house spent the day largely on defense in the russia investigation, the conservative wing of the republican party and associated
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media is on offense. they are taking on and attacking robert mueller's credibility. today press secretary sarah huckabee sanders took questions about the mueller investigation, about mike flynn, about donald trump, jr., specifically. she was asked about the president's son, invoking attorney/client privilege in not wanting to answer questions about a conversation he had with his dad. >> release him from any such privilege and allow him to speak to the committee? >> that's a question you would have to ask his attorneys. we believe that his lawyers had a legitimate reason and basis for not answering those questions, but that's something i would direct you to his attorneys to address more fully. >> can you explain to me how it could be attorney/client privilege and neither donald trump, jr. nor president trump are attorneys? >> again, that's something you would have to talk with don junior's attorneys about. >> i asked on monday when the president became aware that michael flynn lied to the fbi. you referred her to john dowd.
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john dowd is not engaging. that's a noble fact in this building. it's not a legal matter, not for the attorney to say. can you just tell us when the president became aware of ha? >> the attorneys feel differently and they feel this is a question that should be answered by them and i'll encourage them again to respond to you, but i'm going to have to refer you back to john dowd again. >> does the white house believe that the fix was in, that robert mueller's probe was biased from the beginning? >> look, we are fully cooperating through this process. we are going to continue to do so. as i said a few minutes ago, we certainly felt like some of the political leadership at the fbi was problematic. we're glad that director ray is there. we feel he'll clean up some of the messes left by his predecessor. >> in the meantime new poll numbers are out. pew research asked whether they thought trump had improper contacts with russia.
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59% said definitely or probably. 30% said probably not. they asked whether it would be conducted fairly. 56% said they were very or somewhat confident. when you break it do you know by political party, that made up 68% of democrats, 44% of republicans. as mueller's investigation progresses, a piece by vanity fair says republicans are keen to, as they put it, quote, play on right-wing doubts about the investigation, sowing popular distrust and priming the public for an eventual flynn pardon or even a mueller take down. that includes seizing on the news mueller removed a top fbi agent in his investigation saying he might have shared text messages that were critical of trump. here is what the effort to take down mueller looks like in terms of the coverage on fox news. >> mueller's credibility is in the gutter tonight with these new discoveries. his conflicts of interest, his clear bias, the corruption are on full display. mueller is frankly a disgrace to
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the american justice system. and has put the country now on the brink of becoming a banana republic. >> mueller should be dismissed. the entire staff should be fired, and a new special counsel should be appointed >> who should do it? >> and here's what it looked like today in a hearing of the house judiciary committee. members were questioning the new fbi director, mr. rey about the people who worked for him and their potential anti-trump bias. and history buffs will note the tone is familiar to the hunt for communists in our government and in our midst over 60 years ago. >> if he kicked everybody off mueller's team that is anti-trump, i don't think there would be nibble left. >> were you aware of any people allying themselves with the political bias expressed by mccabe or openly speaking against this administration? first carl gat is. >> going to quarrel a little with the premise of your question about deputy director mccabe.
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but as far as executive assistant director gattis, as i said, he's been a complete professional. by that i mean to include a political -- >> himself with political bias against the trump administration? >> no. >> josh kabuki kool? >> no. >> marissa men'ser? >> i actually d'antoni know who that is. >> all right, thank you, fair enough. brian par man. >> no. >> thank you. >> i have begun to have serious doubts about some in the fbi, serious doubts about the integrity of some of the highest levels of the fbi. >> did bob mueller recruit people to his probe that had a bias against the president? >> so, that's what's going on in congress and in the media on this effort to diminish the mueller investigation and bob mueller. today former bush white house aide and mccain presidential campaign senior advisor steve schmidt in this studio called out these attacks on robert mueller with perhaps the most
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robust defense of robert mueller you will ever hear. >> prosecutors in this country have tremendous power, and they should not be beyond criticism. but this isn't criticism. this is a premeditated, deliberate, dishonest smear of robert mueller, a man who has spent his entire life in public service, who is known if nor nothing else his probity and his rectitude and we should talk about his war record. he's put himself on the line for this country and conducted himself taumts as an honorable servant of the american people. he is a recipient of the bronze star with the valor device. he is a recipient of the purple heart. he was wounded in combat for the united states. what you're seeing on fox news is indistant from the type of propaganda that you would be subjected to if you lived in
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belarus, or if you lived in russia. it is dishonest. it is purposeful. it is misleading. and to see republicans tie themselves to the mast on this, to bring such disrepute to the conservative movement, to the republican party, the assaults on the rule of law, on our institutions. this will get worse before it gets better. >> that's a friend of this broadcast, lifelong republican steve schmidt which brings us to our lead off panel on a thursday night. eli stokel is with us, matthew miller is back with us, chief spokesman at d.o.j., now an msnbc justice and security analyst. and jennifer rogers returns to our broadcast, former assistant u.s. attorney for the southern district of new york. these days an executive director at columbia law center for the advancement of public integrity. well, counselor, let's start with public integrity.
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and i suppose this calls for a personal opinion from you. how does it make you feel to see louie gull mert, the texas republican and others going down a list of career professional law enforcement people? you're a former fed. those are your former colleagues. >> well, it's not okay. i mean, professional law enforcement people, professional prosecutors are not subject to these kinds of attacks. i mean, you take an oath to uphold the law, to prosecute and to go where the facts lead you. it's not what you're used to. it's not what you should be facing. it's like nothing i've ever seen. >> how did it feel to wake up this past weekend and read the president attacking the federal bureau of investigation? >> well, that we've seen before, so that really wasn't much of a surprise, right? he's been doing that since shortly before he fired jim comey. so, i think that chris ray and his troops are kind of ready for that. it's disheartening. i mean, i think that director ray felt he had to send a very strong message to his people to buck them up when they're under
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attack from their own president. that's also relatively unprecedented. but, you know, look, they're professionals. they get up. they, you know, put on their boots and they go out to do their job. they try to, i think, ignore those sorts of things. they try to stay above the politics and just go about their business. >> and now for the lawyer in you, what do you make of this attorney/client privilege, and what should we -- is there something we're not understanding about this? >> well, attorney/client privilege is a very fact-specific inquiry always. so, you really do need to know the facts. it's not entirely clear to me whether this is a justified privilege claim or not. you know, one of the things you need to know is who the lawyers were. you need to know whether the conversation was actually seeking legal advice or not. you're not allowed to just carry a laura round with you to kind of always claim privilege when you don't want to give information about a conversation you're having. on the other hand, if the president and his son were truly discussing with a lawyer what had happened in this meeting
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with the russians for the purpose of seeking legal advice, then there could be a legitimate privilege claim. it's just a little bit too early to tell. >> matt miller, how concerned with you really about this effort on the right -- and we showed the clip from fox news. we showed part of that hearing in the house today -- to diminish, to attack, to take down robert mueller? >> it's extremely troubling for two reasons. one is the immediate impact. i think it's very clear what the president and now the entire republican par city is trying to do and that's undermine bob mueller with the long-term goal that when he finishes his investigation, if he comes back and makes any finding of wrongdoing that involves the president, that the president's base and the president's base in the country and his supporters in congress can either dismiss that finding or will support bob mueller being fired. that's one troubling aspect. but there is a more insidious long-term impact of this, and that is when you are constantly attacking law enforcement, attacking the fbi, the justice
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department in bad faith -- let's be very clear. the members of congress making these attacks know that they are dishonest attacks. you are undermining the credibility of those fbi agents that the prosecutors need when they interact with the public and that has r has long-term effects on the department of justice's ability to do its job and it makes this kind of cynical campaign that they've been launching so harmful to the country. >> eli, you get the blue ribbon for interesting reporting that you did today. i happen to know about some of it. tell us what you've gathered from talking to associates about the president's state of mind right now and, in particular, about his attitudes towards mueller and the investigation. >> well, the president hasn't tweeted much this week and has seemed sort of calm on the surface since the tweet storm over the weekend. but if you talk to people, the people who have been having conversations with the president this week, a lot of them have been communicating that he needs to be much more defensive and on
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guard against this mueller probe, and they are letting him know that they are going to be taking a message to the airwaves that is going to, as you laid out, start attacking bob mueller and his integrity and the credibility of this investigation because there is that sense that it could be moving toward some sort of obstruction of justice case. i asked one trump loyalist who is often a tv surrogate very close to bannon, close to hope hicks. i asked tonight, what is it about comey or what is it about mueller that actually they think is corrupt? and this person said to me, well, he's best friends with comey. i mean, newt gingrich is on tv saying that mueller is corrupt now. when mueller was appointed newt gingrich tweeted he was a superb choice, i am peck i believe credentials and congress should calm down. clearly what's changed? mueller has gotten closer to the president as this probe has gone on and although trump and sarah sanders, when they speak publicly on this matter say we're fully cooperating, they deflect all the questions about,
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you know, the legal questions to the legal team, they don't want to talk about it. but all around the president, his closest allies are starting to really go after bob mueller and i think that reveals some nerves as this thing gets closer maybe to an end game. >> jennifer, will mueller and i think the 16 associate counsels he's hired, will chris ray, the new director of the fbi all be able to fold themselves into their work and shut out the noise? because that will be essential to the work product they eventually submit to the american people. >> i think so. i mean, they've probably never had an investigation with quite this much public attention, but they're all used to high profile investigations and having to kind of put their head down and do their work. so, i think they'll be able to do that. i mean, one interesting thing here is, you know, they are working on legal issues, right? and they are working on counter intelligence issues. they are not working on political issues. this attack on mueller is just a political attack. i mean, it's not based on any
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law. it's not based on conflicts of interest provisions that actually govern moueller and hi team. if they stay focused on the law and ignore the political nonsense going on, they'll be fine and that's what i'm sure they are trying to do. >> matt and eli, i need quick answers because we're late for a break. give us a viewer's guide. matt, you're first on what you're looking for, mindful that careers have been destroyed with bad projections on this broadcast. what you're looking for in the next couple of days. >> i want to see what's coming next from what bob mueller has got from mike flynn. that's the big outstanding question. i don't know if we'll see it in the next few days or if we'll see it by the end of the year. certainly the information that mike flynn is going to guide bob mueller's next steps and they're going to guide his most important questions and the witnesses we know he's still interviewing, people close to the president like hope hicks. >> that's right. flynn is one of the few people who knows where this is going. eli? >> i'm watching the president and his twitter feed as we always are. when he's been backed into a
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corner, nervous and scared, he usually does things, he lashes out on twitter. sometimes he makes his own situation worst. they have them h i am him busy. he'll be in mississippi. the first thing you're watching is how does trump react because eventually that reaction always comes. >> great points all around. eli stokols, miller, jennifer. thank you for the lead off panel. coming up six major wildfires tearing across southern california. we'll go there live. and the ethics scandal continues its tear through congress. franken leaving the senate and tonight an arizona republican took himself out of the house because of some bad news that was breaking about him. we'll have all of it when we continue. ♪when you've got...♪
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today i am announcing that in the coming weeks i will be resigning as a member of the united states senate. i, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that i am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the oval office. and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the senate with the full support of his party. >> the intentionally ironic title of al franken's latest book is giant of the senate.
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al franken who once worked in this building, one-time saturday night live start who made the leap to successful politician, announcing today he'll be a former u.s. senator while firing a parting shot there at the president and republicans accused of sexual misconduct. franken, a second-term minnesota democrat faced the same accusations from at least seven women. the first emerging about three weeks ago now. 35 of his fellow democratic senators have called upon him to step down, and his announcement comes a few days after congressman john conyers, democrat from michigan, senior-most man in the house, ended his five-decade career on the hill over accusations of harassment. then just hours after senator franken's announcement today came congressman trent franks, republican of arizona. he also said he was resigning after admitting he had spoken with two former female staffers about his interest in finding a surrogate. it came after the house ethics
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committee began an investigation into this. congressman franks issued a statement late this afternoon saying, in part, i have absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff. and he said this. my wife and i have long struggled with infertility. we experienced three miscarriages. we pursued adoption on more than one occasion, only to have the adoptive mothers in each case change their mind prior to giving birth. this is all unfolding against the backdrop of roy moore's campaign to win a seat in the u.s. senate from alabama. tomorrow night the president will hold a rally in pensacola, florida, less than 20 miles from the alabama state line, well within media reach of many of the state's voters. this has presented what some might call an optics issue for the president and his party. our own kristen welker brought it up today in the briefing room. >> we see democrats forcefully
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call for john conyers and al franken's resignation happened today. do republicans and does this president risk losing their moral authority on this issue, which is a huge issue right now, by endorsing a candidate like roy moore which has now been backed by the rnc as well? >> look, i've addressed this in-depth. we think that allegations are troubling and that ultimately this is something that the people of alabama should decide. >> to talk about this tonight, two of our friends are back with us. jonathan allen, nbc news national political reporter, and coauthor of shattered, the story of hillary clinton's doomed campaign. also endear a is with us, columnist for the boston globe and chair of the journalism ethics at pointer institute. welcome to you both. jonathan, is this -- i saw someone on twitter tonight say to members of congress, batten down the hatches. is this to continue that metaphor, a c-change? >> absolutely it's a c-change.
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we saw just last week, i spoke to a number of senators on the democratic side who were basically saying they wanted to see the ethics process play out on al franken by wednesday. three dozen of them, almost three dozen of them called on him to resign. john conyers resigned earlier this week as well. there is absolutely been a c-change. this national reckoning we're having across all sorts of industries is now focused on the capital and focused on politics. i don't expect that this wave is going to break any time soon. >> endera, the question is where is d.c. and congress in relation to the wave? are they catching up? do they have like right about in the middle, or is any aspect of washington ahead alarmedly of societal change in this country? >> well, i would say that congress is probably a little bit behind the curve of what we're seeing in the media, which has really sort of stepped
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forward and had to take account. but that makes perfect sense. we in the media hold other people accountable and we have to hold ourselves accountable first. we haven't seen the same kinds of resignations in big pharma or business or universities quite yet. i'm sure that will be coming. but i want to say on congress, one of the things i think is most striking about this is that it was women led by senator kristen gillibrand of new york who has made sexual assault really her issue, who led the calls for al franken to resign. and i think one thing that we haven't talked enough about is the fact that one-third of the democratic caucus in the senate are women, whereas fewer than 1/10 of the republican caucus are women. and i think that this makes a big difference, you know, along with overall the party leaders' stance in why al franken was called on to resign and why you see the rnc and president trump still backing roy moore, not to
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mention blake farron hold in congress for that matter who used taxpayer money to settle a sex harassment complaint from one of his former staffers. >> endera, you're so right where senator gillibrand is concerned. she started with sexual assault in the u.s. military and reporting procedures and chain of command. and if you think about it, it's the same issues writ large now for all of congress. jonathan, the two parties are dealing with this, you could say, differently. i heard democrats today on television calling conyers and franken, in effect, human sacrifices because they need to have the moral high ground. do you buy that? >> i think that they are trying to get to the moral high ground on this. as endera points out there are more women in the democratic caucus and the house. what happened for the democrats as it became with their own
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constituents, certainly with the women in their caucuses, it became much more politically painful for them to stand by al franken and john conyers than it was to abandon them. i think the morality and the politics here are intertwined in a way that really can't be sort of disambiguated. to have the moral high ground or political high ground, they have to feel they have the moral high ground. sometimes occasionally, the political high ground and the moral high ground are actually the same thing. >> so, endera, this is the tough question. what are you looking for next? how broad does this get, and what's the chance that innocent lives get entangled in this? >> well, look, i mean, i want to say first of all in terms of representative trent franks' footage you showed of him and you talked about his and his wife's infertility, and we all feel for them in that, but i would also say i suspect there may be more to this story because if it were simply a question of discussing int infertility in his office, i
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doubt paul ryan would have asked him to resign over that. we see blake farenthold standing firm in his case. there may be more coming out on this. where i would look for the next steps, i would like to see how women in the republican party change their view and if they're willing to change their view. and i say that because as one of my boston globe columnist colleagues rene graham pointed out, it was white women who made the deciding factor or one of the deciding factors in donald trump being elected president, despite the access hollywood tape. in fact, white women in alabama are strongly a strong majority for roy moore. so, we may see here that it is actually women who may make a difference in bringing men who are accused sexual predators against whom there are many, many allegations, not just one, and very credible ones, you know, are they going to change their mind. because why should the party leaders be holding people accountable if the voters from their party are not holding
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those same men accountable? >> important point to end on. strong stuff, terrible topic tonight, gang. thank you so much to jonathan and indira for coming by the broadcast again. coming up for us, unforced errors from the white house as america marks a date which will live in infamy, when the 11th hour continues.
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this was pearl harbor day. if you're the leader of this nation, it's hard to screw up pearl harbor day. it's the day we salute the sacrifice of those killed in the sneak attack by japan. we mourn the dead. we salute the survivors. we mark the u.s. entry into world war ii. this day in history later defined america as the dominant power in the modern world. yet, despite all that i just said, the president and first lady both managed to get it wrong today. the first lady on twitter got the date wrong by a month, later corrected. the president got fdr's quote wrong. it was a date which will live in
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infamy. then came time for the president to host some pearl harbor survivors. >> as we remember that fateful day, it's an incredible honor to be joined here with surviving veterans of the attack on pearl harbor. and you'll be here for the next seven years with me, okay? all right? seven years. after that, who knows. you saw something that few people have ever witnessed before, right? >> right. >> amazing. thanks, mickey. you look like you're about 50 years old. you must have been very young. [ laughter ] >> it was pretty wild scene, you'll never forget that, right? one great battle cry could be heard by american friends and foes alike. remember pearl harbor. have you heard that before a couple of times? right, it's okay? >> here to talk about what we just witnessed, long-time gop
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strategist, mike murphy. different gop, he worked for john mccain and mitt romney and others. here in new york, gene robinson, pulitzer post and msnbc political analyst. gene, it's hard to screw up pearl harbor day. >> pretty wild scene, wasn't it? i've never heard pearl harbor described as a pretty wild scene. this is a ceremony, you know, annually we remember pearl harbor day. this is a ceremony that we will remember for all the wrong reasons. we'll remember it for donald trump, president trump in his way inserting himself, making himself the central actor in pearl harbor a seminal moment. >> it's hard to do. i saw the movie. >> you saw that ceremony today and he did it. and also, maybe it's just me, but there was something sort of off about not just the way he
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inserted himself, which was one thing, but also the way he read the proclamation as if he were encount encountering it for the first time. it was very unfocused and very sort of disjointed in an odd way. >> so, mike murphy, in the wake of these polling numbers from the pew poll, everyone acknowledges, it's not like larry's polling. these are some of the best number crunchers and consensus getters in the business. is it these small things that's bringing down these numbers? or is it waking up over the weekend and seeing the president of the united states attacking our federal bureau of investigation? what do you think is doing it? >> well, it's interesting. it is a very legitimate poll and i think it's a mix. i think part of it is kind of what i like to call the screw ball presidency of trump zig zagging around, nobody in
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charge, something eating up the news cycle, something that seems badly thought through, the policy, the whole tone of it. the hostility, reality show presidency is starting to take a toll. the numbers, democrats haven't changed. but he's down about 7 points, down to about a 32% approval rating, but among evangelical protestants who are a big group of the voters that elected him, he's gone from 78 down 17 points. that is a bone fracture, and that shows a real problem. he's also dropped 10 points down to a third of the vote with catholics which gets to those kind of blue collar workers he got in the great lakes states. finally among women, all women, his approval rating has gone from a third in february which is bad, to 30% which is in the dumpster. he may be seeing those numbers because today at the pearl harbor thing he kept making it about him in seven years, which i think kind of shows what's really on his mind, that
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bravado, that braggadociousness that he always responds to criticism with, or fear. >> gene, the previous event was the intention to move the embassy to the middle east. the violence on the middle east, the subject that emerged from that event was the president's health. we're going to show why, and then we're going to show the white house reacting today, and then we're going to talk about it. >> and finally, i ask the leaders of the region political and religious, israeli and pals, jewish and christian and muslim to join us in the noble quest for lasting peace. god bless the united states. >> i know there were a lot of questions on that. frankly, pretty ridiculous questions. the president's throat was dry, nothing more than that. >> gene, people got rattled watching that in real time. they get rattled watching it
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again. then suddenly one of the topics we did not expect to be jermaine to the trump presidency, the president's health is brought back in the conversation. >> do the thought experiment. if i started talking like that right now, you would be concerned. if uncle fred sitting on the couch next to you at home started talking like that, you would think about calling 911. i mean, you would be concerned. again, there is -- i don't think that -- i think the slurring of the words is something we haven't seen. what i believe we have seen is a loss of focus, as if he's very tired. reading from the prompt eras if he's really tired and isn't quite connecting the thoughts together. now, perhaps i'm projecting, but perhaps not. i do think i see this and i wonder if other people don't see it as well. >> mike murphy, a last word, do
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you cast modesty aside and tell the folks watching at home why you did the impossible and received a lot of love this week on social media because of a donation you made? >> well, i love the republican party and the conservative movement. i've worked for it since i was in college a million years ago. so, i made a small contribution to doug jones in alabama as did some of my old consultant operative colleagues from the old mccain 2000 campaign like john weaver and mark salter and young republicans too young to know better. we said, look, we're loyal republicans but we cannot have roy moore in the united states senate. he's a stain on the party, he's not qualified so we supported publicly and a natural act for guys like us who work for the party a long time, doug jones, the democratic alternative in alabama. it is the only honorable choice. >> terrific conversation, gentlemen. you know you're allowed back here any time. mark robinson and gene. thank you. the headline from your congress, the government has been funded and will continue to run for two more weeks.
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now, as they turn to the tax bill as they say what could go wrong, that when "the 11th hour" continues.
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we're all here as a very friendly well unified group. it's a well knit together group of people. and we hope that we're going make some great progress for our country. i think that will happen. >> what a conciliatory tone from the president during that meeting at the white house just a day after commenting the government could shut down, and that it would be the democrats' fault if it did. chuck schumer, nancy pelosi in the oval office to talk about the year-end agenda. congress passed a continuing resolution today which avoids a government shut down this week. it also sets up a funding showdown, you guessed it, just before christmas. that bill will need at least some democratic votes to get across and republicans are hoping to get their tax bill passed before the new year. back with us, eli stokols
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who agreed to stick around, we welcome back darlene, reporter for associated press. so, darlene, they go down to the white house. was this, this kicking the can down the road which is really a washington export to the rest of the world, was this a victory for the dems? just thinking through this. because as you get close to christmas, you don't want to stand between capitol hill and national airport as christmas approaches. you'll get killed by the cars going out to the airport. does this force the republicans' hand to maybe make a deal they don't want to make? >> that's probably what democrats are hoping for. this happens all the time when we get around to the end of the year and congress is faced with budget dilemmas. they kick the can down the road for a week or two at a timer and we come back and do it all over again. >> and eli, washington post is reporting that the president's new york-based rich friends have made their displeasure about the tax bill known.
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it is apparently going to hurt new yorkers who have money especially. the president has apparently, quote, signalled he's open to making some changes. do you believe it? >> yeah, i mean, the president has always been open to responding to whoever the last person was to be in his ear. and clearly this is a bill that's written to do some harm to blue states, more so than red states. so, it's unable. trump has said that a lot of his friends are not going to like that bill. he said it's bad for him. we don't know if that's actually true. we know very little about his income and his tax returns. but, you know, this is also something in terms of the shut down and the politics of all that is being intertwined. republicans believe that whatever the flexibility the president has, whatever happens in the conference committee, that pushing this two weeks out does buy them a little time to make sure that they get that big legislative win that they're looking for by the end of the year. >> and, darlene, i won't ask you to make a personal prediction, but perhaps offer percentage
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chance that we actually see a signed into law tax bill by the end of calendar year 2017? >> i think there is a good chance for that. it's something that the republicans and the president both really want. and one of the advantages to the government not shutting down this weekend is that lawmakers can continue to work on trying to iron out differences between the house version of the tax bill and the senate version of the tax bill. >> eli, last word. did i hear they're actually going to put forth an infrastructure plan in january? >> their eyes are getting big. they think they're almost to the finish line on one thing and they can do anything next year. we'll see what happens with infrastructure. there is a lot of talk that is going to be the big focus in the early part of next year once they get passed tax reform. >> eli stokols, "wall street journal." forgive me, darlene superville associated press. thank you for coming. a first for us in the state of california this evening as 22
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million people have been warned of extreme fire danger where they live. we'll have a live report coming up.
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we want to update the situation in southern california tonight. five major fires continue to burn. the winds are on the increase, and the los angeles fire department's so-called burn index, the likelihood of fire, is the highest it's ever been. over 300 schools are closed, don't forget. almost 200,000 people are out of their homes and on the run. and 23,000 homes remain in the path of the fires now burning. the largest of them in ventura county has torn through over 115,000 acres on its slow march to the pacific.. this is what visibility has been like. look at this. this is our knbc chopper coming in for a landing at the airport to refuel, at times because of the smoke. you can't see the ground until
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you're right up on top of it.. today california used the statewide cell phone alert system to notify 22 million people. they were in the extreme fire danger area. that encompasses seven counties along 300 miles of that state. we are for ttunate to be joinedy an important guy, very tired gentleman, ventura county fire chief mark l oren zen. thanks for being with us. to an audience of folks not in california, how do you describe these santa ana winds? >> well, first of all, thank you for having me, brian. the santa ana wind conditions is something we're faced with all the time here, but this has been a particularly strong wind. i mean, they're truly amazing. we've been faced with winds upwards of 80 miles per hour and it pushes the fire hard, hard. the winds push out of the east and push the fire hard to the west. >> we saw just tonight in san
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diegan an ember dropping from something, mostly a retirement community, houses close together, 20 of them went up before anyone could do anything about it. it's a truly helpless feeling to watch all this, especially out here in the east. and we look at air assets, knowing the special courage of those air crews and pilots, watching the flame retard ant, the water get dropped. do you have all that you need, if you could wave a magic wand, would you bring about 30 more aircraft overnight? >> we have what we need as far as aircraft goes. if i could wave a magic wand it would be to turn off mother nature's fan. that would truly be my wish. you're right, the acts are truly heroic, what the pilots do and our fire fighters do on the ground. our resources are certainly stretched thin, but right now we're making do with what we have and we're making sure that we evacuate out in advance of the fire and protect structures
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right now. >> i always say there is tired and there is fire fighter tired. tell me the shifts your men and women are working. do you have visiting departments coming in to fill in? and how are they doing? >> we do. we have 2600 fire fighters on the line. they rotate shifts in 24-hour shifts. in the beginning they were working 36 and 48 hours, so they were absolutely just exhausted. but you're right, there is that definition of fire fighter tired, and these men and women, they don't give up. they don't have the word quit in their dictionary. they certainly didn't on this fire, the thomas fire. >> you kind of have to be an optimist by nature in a job like yours as tired as you all are. if i forced you to tell us some good news tonight, has anything turned for the better? >> for sure the winds didn't materialize as we expected, so it's giving us a little bit of an opportunity and we're happy to take every opportunity we
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get. but it's always ironic when the east winds stop blowing, the on shore winds start it blows the fire right back into our face. >> chief, you and everybody in your county, everybody up and down the southern california coast line are in our thoughts and prayers tonight. can't thank you enough for the work you've all been doing. thank you very much for finding time to talk with us. >> thank you very much, brian. we appreciate you sharing our story. >> happy to do it. mark is chief of ventura county fire department. coming up for us, south koreans trying to sell the quickly approaching winter olympics are not getting much help from the white house. we'll explain when we continue.
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when you're clocking out. i'm the one clocking in... sensing your every move and automatically adjusting to help you stay effortlessly comfortable. i can even help with a silent night.
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does your bed do that? i don't actually talk, but i can tell you how you slept. i'm the new sleep number 360 smart bed. let's meet at a sleep number store. korean war memorial on the mall in washington, d.c. we're back and the last thing before we go tonight, though i'm not sure of this, i am guessing things got a little tense in the executive offices upstairs here at the network of the olympics today. after the u.n. ambassador nikki haley said yesterday in an almost offhanded way, that it was an open question whether american athletes would be attending the winter olympics, which start in 64 days. one tiny insignificant detail about these winter games, they're taking place 50 miles
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from the north korean border. so, there is some sensitivity surrounding these games in pyeongchang, south korea. things were not helped when sarah huckabee sanders at the white house briefing said from the podium that, quote, no official decision has been made on sending team usa to the games. she later clarified via twitter, quote, the u.s. looks forward to participating in the winter olympics in south korea. there is concern among cooler heads that a u.s. boycott would only hurt the host country of south korea, our ally, and would only give kim jong-un of north korea the satisfaction of having scared off the world's leading super power. so, there's that. that is our broadcast on a thursday night. thank you so very much for being here with us. good night from nbc news headquarters here in new york.
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terms of our justice system. >> from trump tv to the halls of congress. >> if he kicked everybody off mueller's team who was anti-trump, i don't think there would be anybody left. >> tonight the mounting offensive on the american justice system to try to stop robert mueller and save donald trump. >> are you aware of him openly aligning themselves with political bias against the trump administration? >> then, more trouble for the president's son. >> there wasn't really follow-up because there's nothing there to follow up. >> reports tonight there was follow-up to the infamous trump tower meeting. and a surprise republican resignation from congress, as senator al franken takes his parting shot. >> i of all people am aware that there is some iron

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