tv MSNBC Live With Alex Witt MSNBC March 10, 2018 9:00am-9:30am PST
that's our show for today. up next, alex witt. >> all i can say is i wish we didn't have to end our conversation just because we got on air. we were having the best conversation during the commercial break. good day to all of you, i'm alex witt at msnbc world headquarters in new york. follow the money. new questions raised in the
stormy daniels lawsuit against the president. and where exactly did the $130,000 payout come from? we've got a new answer to that today. people say i had a meltdown on tv. i melted tv down that day. i wanted to show what this independent counsel, this independent investigation, does to people like me. >> the strange week for a former trump campaign aide ends with new proclamations from him. hear what he's saying now and what he said about a witch hunt. what's next? details on the behind the scenes efforts right now to make a face-to-face meeting happen between donald trump and kim jong-un. there are some new doubts today. plus defending jared. ivanka trump reportedly saying someone in the white house is embarrassing her husband, that word in an article out today. we have those details next. but we begin with new reaction from the former trump campaign aide at the center of a firestorm this week after his initial refusal to appear before a special counsel grand jury. here is sam nunberg earlier today in his first interview
since yesterday's testimony. >> i was there a long time. and they have a lot of questions. did i ever hear russian spoken in the office. and then they asked about why did president trump support putin in syria. people say i had a meltdown on tv. i melted tv down that day. i wanted to show what this independent counsel, this independent investigation does to people like me. >> do you think it's a witch hunt? >> no, i don't think it's a witch hunt. there's a lot "there" there. that's a sad truth. i don't believe it leads to the president. >> president trump's lawyers are seeking a deal with special counsel robert mueller. this to speed up the end of the russia probe. in the report, a person familiar with the discussion says the president's legal team might have trump agree to a sit-down interview with some parameters. one of president trump's personal lawyers telling nbc news the story is, quote, totally false. let's go right now to nbc news white house correspondent kelly o'donnell. kelly, there's new reaction from
u.s. attorney general jeff sessions on the russia probe, what can you tell us? >> reporter: good afternoon, alex. the attorney general was part of a day-long panel at georgetown university where there are speeches and topics on a whole range of legal issues. he gave his remarks and took questions. one of the questions posed to him by those attending, not by a journalist, was does he regret recusing himself from being a supervisor of the russia investigation. as attorney general he would have had that power if he had not recused himself, something that the president has effectively beaten up him up about for months on twitter and in comments the president has made. the attorney general explained what he feels and why he did it. >> no. i think that's what i had to do. i did not realize there is a specific regulation that says if you participate in a campaign, it explicitly says that, then
you can't investigate the campaign of which you were a part. pretty reasonable thing. and i was chairman of the national security committee on the trump campaign and participated in it. so i didn't feel like -- that's what i was advised by the professionals, career people in the department, and i felt like i had to recuse myself. >> reporter: and of course we've seen how the president has needled the attorney general about that for a long time. and also the president has been tweeting in the last 24 hours about a range of topics, including much-anticipated meeting he agreed to have with north korea's kim jong-un. this of course has huge implications around the world. he's also been making phone calls and taking phone calls from some of the international partners who have
a big stake in this, including the president talking about a conversation he had with the chinese president. he says the chinese president xi jinping and i spoke at length
about the meeting with come jong unof north korea. president xi told me
he appreciates that the u.s. is working to solve the problem diplomatically. the white house says the president spoke with president xi friday morning. we're not sure if this is a second phone call or the president reflecting on that call. it requires china's help really in the whole grand picture of dealing with north korea. the president has often said china was supportive. china is the closest ally in the world to north korea, so keeping them in the loop, working on this is important. one of the things about the surprise nature of the president's "yes" to north korea is the fact that not only did his staff not know, international partners didn't know in advance either, except the south koreans who were a part of brokering the conversation that brought the invitation from kim jong-un. >> kelly, before we let you know, the president is heading to pennsylvania for a rally this evening. >> reporter: late today he will
head to the pennsylvania 18th congressional district, exchange for rick saccone. voters go to the polls on tuesday. this is a special election. democrats, including joe biden, have been supporting conor lamb. this is one of those test cases about the mood of the country for the midterm elections. the president won this same area in pennsylvania by a big margin in 2016. so it's a trump supported area. and yet in the polling being done for this congressional race, it's either neck and neck, and democrats are feeling conor lamb may have a shot here. so it's important for the president to go and campaign but it's also a risk in that candidate doesn't prevail. >> absolutely. all right, kelly o'donnell at the white house, thank you, kelly. let's go to a new report about west wing intrigue. "vanity fair" is reporting that the president is going for a clean reset. jay newton-small and jereenginj
peters join me. jeremy, the "vanity fair" article says, the first to go would be john kelly and h.r. mcmaster. it also says gary cohn had been lobbying to be chief of staff and quit when he didn't get the job. is there any indication that kelly or mcmaster are on their way out? >> nothing more than what's been speculated on for weeks and months at this point. this is one of the familiar rituals of chronicling the trump white house. aide, insert name here, is rumored to be about to depart. it's been going on with h.r. mcmaster for months. gary cohn of course finally decided he was going to go this week. what's happening with general
kelly is a little different, from my understanding of the matter. what's happened there is the people close to general kelly in the cabinet have told him that they don't think he should abide with the type of ritual humiliation that president trump subjects so many senior aides to like jeff sessions. so they have basically given him the green light to just quit if president trump humiliates him as he's done with so many of his other aides. now of course general kelly doesn't need their permission to go, but they've encouraged him, saying more or less you shouldn't have to put up with this, so don't. >> okay. what about gary cohn, jay? is he out of the white house for good? or as you heard the president say when he was holding that meeting and singing his praises on his way out, he says the door is open, you may come back and return to the white house. what's the likelihood of that happening? where would he go? >> like jeremy was saying, i think gary cohn has left the
door open very much to come back. i think he does want general kelly's job and he would be amenable to coming back for a big position like white house chief of staff or some other big position. i think the departure might be temporary. we never know. like everything in trump world, it's sort of a reinvolvivolvingf characters, you don't know who's going to be booted off the show this week. it will be interesting to see what happens. once people leave, they can easily come back, and there's nothing that people like more as viewers than to see a big comeback. so we'll see. >> what about the other targets in this article? they reportedly include the members of trump's own family. next on the departure list are jared kushner and ivanka trump. >> for months now president
trump has saying privately he doesn't think jared and ivanka should have come to washington. the growing inquiry by robert mueller into the possible misdeeds of the trump campaign are hitting very close to home for jared and ivanka. so it wouldn't surprise anyone, i think, who follows this white house, if jared or ivanka were to pack it up and go back to new york. but whether or not that's imminent, i don't think that's the case. >> does anyone know what the logic was for bringing them to the white house in the first place in these positions? was it so the president could have family around him, loyalists, that's pretty much it? in terms of job requirements they didn't necessarily check all the boxes for the positions they hold. >> no, they did not. and you continue to see that play out with the denial of jared kushner's security clearance. so no, they certainly were not qualified to be in these positions. but that has not stopped trump
from -- in situations like this in the past, he puts people around him he's most comfortable with. and experience is really a secondary characteristic. >> we certainly heard about the tensions between jared and advanta ivanka and the chief of staff. jay, do you think these three, this troika, will be able to last for any length of time under the same roof? >> there's just no predicting the trump administration. we've predicted the resignation of kelly, we've predicted the exit of rex tillerson, he's had one foot out the door for a long time and he's still there. so there's a lot of speculation that surrounds a lot of these issues where you just don't know
who will be staying and who going. if you cross his family, if you cross ivanka and jared, that's been a precarious position to be in, certainly steve bannon lost in those arguments and he was forced out of the white house. reince priebus is another one. we'll see what happens. to me, i had always thought coming into this they would be the last to go because they are so loyal and he loves having his daughter close to him. at the same time, as jeremy was saying, he doesn't like to see what's happening with them, how they're getting abused by the media and staffers and he wants to protect them from that. >> even one step further than what jay is saying, jeremy, does it appear to you that the president is in fact leaning towards choosing kelly over his family? would that be the smarter way to go? i bring it up because you think about donald trump saying that john kelly would be the one to figure out whether or not jared's security clearance would stay where it was or get downgraded, and look what happened. >> right, absolutely. president trump respects general kelly tremendously. he respects his judgment, his
life experience, the fact that he is a military commander. he looks the part. he acts the part. so yes, i think there is no doubt trump diverse to kelly on a lot of these matters. when you're talking about jared and ivanka, certainly they do not have the presence, the clout with the president on matters of policy. they have, as you know, lost many of the big policy debates in this administration. going back to the paris climate accords, when the president pulled the united states out of that, that was something jared and ivanka resisted mightily, to no avail. they're not usually on the winning ends of these debates. >> thank you so much, the two of you. we'll take a closer look at who stormy daniels is and what's behind her lawsuit against the president, coming up later this hour. ere.
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what i said was i will answer every relevant question that relates to what this committee is supposed to be talking about, which is the russia investigation. i will sit here forever if that's what you want. but the bottom line is, that's not what they want to get to. they want to make this a circus. they did a very good job of making it a circus. >> that was former trump campaign manager corey lewandowski today explaining why he's refusing to answer certain questions when he testified before the house intel committee this week. joining me now, democratic congressman ted lieu of
california, a member of the judiciary committee and the foreign affairs committee. i want to get to your reaction to corey lewandowski. what goes through your mind when you listen to what he said there? >> thank you, alex, for that question. you can't have a real investigation if witnesses get to pick and choose what questions they want to answer. but this goes to a bigger point, which is if this whole russia thing is a hoax, why are so many people not answering questions? what are they hiding? what is corey lewandowski hiding from the american people? and i think that you're seeing is people not willing to answer questions because they know some bad things happened. >> ranking member adam schiff wants corey lewandowski subpoenaed because of his rough refusal to answer questions. do you think that's a far-fetched expectation given what's played out in this committee? >> i don't think so. i still trust my colleagues to look at the evidence and try to do the right thing. but ultimately, you do have republicans on the committee who
are blocking subpoena requests. if the american people want a real investigation, they're going to have to change the makeup of congress in november. >> one of the president's personal lawyers, as you know, is pushing back on the new "wall street journal" report that his legal team there is seeking a deal with special counsel robert mueller but trying to speed up the end of the russia probe. they want to have trump sit down to a -- agree, rather, to a sit-down interview with some parameters and then commit to a date for concluding at least the trump-related portion of the investigation. there is a suggestion that a deadline of 60 days from the date of the interview could be put into effect and then that investigation would have to stop. does any of this sound plausible? >> first of all, i think the president absolutely needs a sit-down with special counsel mueller's team and he needs to answer their questions. in terms of a timeline, i'm a former prosecutor, it's very hard to figure out when an investigation will end, because with every witness interview you might get additional leads, additional information. if you just look at the grand
jury subpoena that was given, there were a lot of witnesses they wanted information from. it's clear to me this investigation is not ending anytime soon. >> the article goes on to suggest if they agreed to a 60-day limit and somebody came into the office one day before that 60 days is up and says we have blockbuster information, do they really think robert mueller would say, we can't investigate it, we only have one more day? it doesn't seem plausible at all. >> it's also not practical. i can't imagine to special counsel mueller's team agreeing to any sort of timeline. >> no connection to the russia investigation, but "the washington post" is reporting today in a personal letter trump invited putin to attend the 2013 miss universe pageant. is that really a big deal, to want to invite the leader of a major country to an event that's being held in their backyard? >> in isolation, these facts are not. but when you put it together, it forms a suspicious view of what
actually happened. as we sit here today, donald trump still has not imposed the bipartisan congressional sanctions on russia. he still has not criticized putin for hacking american democracy in 2016 and he still has not directed his fbi or nsa to prevent another attack. when you add all this together, either that's coincidence number 2,451, or something bad happened in 2016. >> i also want to get your reaction to the new twist in the stormy daniels country since it's you as well as new york congresswoman kathleen rice asking the special counsel to look into this. the $130,000 cohen paid daniels were, quote, taken from my home equity line. so what do you make of this detail in light of how this story keeps unfolding? and i should think this detail would be easy enough to confirm, wouldn't it? >> yes. so my view is, there's only
really two possibilities. either michael cohen did this from his own funds, his own home equity line, in which case it was a massive in-kind campaign donation, that's a felony. or he was concealing the true source of the contribution. that's also a felony. so i think michael cohen is in trouble either way. >> there's certainly fallout over the president agreeing to meet with north korean president kim jong-un. it's been 48 hours now, we've had time to absorb this information. as officials are getting ready for the meeting purportedly in may. >> i served on active duty in guam. it's very clear we have zero good military options. so i support diplomacy.
you have administration officials now saying maybe this meeting won't happen. so it's these kind of mixed signals that affects u.s. foreign policy and makes our country weaker. then you have foreign leaders who now don't know if they can trust our president and that is not a good thing. >> that said, congressman, are you willing to give the president any credit for this development, whether it be because of his tough talk, the sanctions, whatever the reason, the fact is that potentially there will be at least discussions. as you said, without an absence of any sort of good military option, you do believe talking is good, diplomacy is good. >> yes, i support the president talking to kim jong-un. i simply do note that when obama had mentioned talking to the north korea leader, he was heavily criticized. i continue to believe diplomacy is a good thing, to try everything possible before we think about a dark and bloody war for which we don't know what the consequences would be.
>> it has been suggested by an expert on military arms and international diplomacy earlier on my broadcast that this is the start of potentially a very long road, that we cannot put too much into one meeting. >> absolutely. you cannot put too much into one meeting. but it is a good first step. any dialogue, any diplomacy is better. and you have to look at this and think, is kim jong-un rational? if you believe he's a rational person who knows that the united states has arrive overwhelming nuclear arsenal that could literally obliterate his country, hopefully i would think with these kinds of meetings he eventually gets to a place where he realizes that he can't help his country by building up a nuclear arsenal. >> congress ted lieu, thank you very much. stormy daniels announced her latest lawsuit against the president. the effect this legal action has had on her visibility and her income. at the marine mammal center, the environment is everything.
we want to do our very best for each and every animal, and we want to operate a sustainable facility. and pg&e has been a partner helping us to achieve that. we've helped the marine mammal center go solar, install electric vehicle charging stations, and become more energy efficient. pg&e has allowed us to be the most sustainable organization we can be. any time you help a customer, it's a really good feeling. it's especially so when it's a customer that's doing such good and important work for the environment. together, we're building a better california. welcome back, everyone. i'm alex witt at msnbc world headquarters in new york. we have some new reaction today to president trump's decision to take the unprecedented meeting with the leader of north korea. here is florida congressman ted
deutsche, members of the foreign affairs committee. >> what we've seen from this white house and from this president throughout the administration is an unwillingness to listen to anyone. and going into a meeting like this and essentially taking this as if it's just some sort of real estate negotiation that the president can negotiate, that's not the way to achieve the results that are necessary. >> "the new york times" is reporting some white house aides are skeptical that this meeting will actually take place. joining me now is david kane, director and chair of the korean studies institute. david, your thoughts. do you think this summit is a good idea? >> actually, i am. i'm surprised at the amount of skepticism. it could have been done, sure, with more planning. but given that we've been worried about a war, we should try diplomacy. credit to the president for taking a step forward. >> where do you think the
skepticism is come from? there are a lot of intelligent minds who are skeptical about this. >> the skepticism comes because north korea is not going to denuclearize. this is not going to be a one meeting where everything guess solved. so i think everyone is trying to lower the expectations, myself included. but we haven't made any progress with north korea for decades, with the traditional approach. so why not have the two leaders get together, maybe begin to start down a path that will be very long and very hard, but start down a path where you could find some way to manage what is essentially an incredibly difficult problem. >> but let's get that best case scenario from this president's perspective. an enduring series of discussions is one thing, but what do you think the best case is for the president coming out of this particular meeting? what will he have to claim? >> you know, this is -- part of the question is what north korea is willing to g