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tv   The 11th Hour With Brian Williams  MSNBC  March 16, 2018 11:00pm-12:00am PDT

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but they have been bad in distracting us from this ridiculous bragging about lying to the prime minister of carbon neighbors to the north. there's so much other things of importance and the people of america can hardly keep track from day to day of what's important. >> jill gets the last word. thank you all. thanks for barry for joining us. "the 11th hour" with brian williams starts now. the breaking news on this friday night, the attorney general has fired trump nemesis andrew mccabe, the former fbi director. also breaking, in a new court filing trump's lawyer is going after $20 million from the porn star stormy daniels. that news coming hours after her attorney dropped a bombshell on
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morning tv. "the 11th hour" on a busy friday night gets underway. >> good evening once again. from our nbc news headquarters in new york, day 421 of the trump administration and we actually have two lead stories as we begin here on a friday night. the attorney general, jeff sessions, has just fired the former deputy fbi director, andrew mccabe a little more than 24 hours before mccabe was set to retire after over two decades as a federal employee. president trump was highly critical of mccabe, attacked him publicly a number of times and always "the washington post" points out, mccabe has become a lightning rod. it was about misleading investigators about
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conversations he had with the media about an investigation into the clinton foundation. additionally tonight we have a major development on the stormy daniels front as the president's lawyers have come out with an all-out attack looking for $20 million from the porn star, a first for a sitting president. but first, the dismissal tonight of andrew mccabe. it is very clear tonight he is not taking this dismissal lightly, nor is he going quietly. in a statement he says here in part, for the last year and a half my family and i have been the targets of a unrelenting assault on our reputation and my service to this country. articles too numerous to count have leveled every sort of false, defamatory and degrading allegation against us. the president's tweets have amplified and exacerbated it all. he called for my firing and striped of my pension after 25 years of service.
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and all along we said nothing, never wanting to distract from the mission of the fbi by addressing the lies told. no more, here's the reality. i'm being singled out and treated this way because of the role i played, the actions i took, and the events i witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of james comey. with that let's bring in jeff bennett, nbc news white house correspondent, danny zavalas, a legal analyst. former attorney general joyce vance. 25 years as a federal prosecutor. jeremy bass, former counsel to house intel. and importantly with us by phone, "new york times" reporter matt apuzo.
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he spoke to mccabe. matt, it's your byline on the story breaking the news. you have spoken to the acting director of the fbi. did we characterize it correctly that he does not plan to go quietly or softly? >> well, obviously he's -- you're seeing he's unequivocal and blunt. he's saying he's being fired as part of a career assassination in effort by the trump administration to under mine his credibility because -- and this is important -- because he is a potential witness in the special counsel's investigation into whether the president obstructed justice. that is a bold allegation. he's saying that this is part of the president's war on the fbi, war on the special counsel. and, you know, obviously we haven't seen the inspector general's report that we are told accuses mccabe of showing a lack of candor and that is a
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kiss of death at the fbi. lack of candor and official interview, there's really no coming back from this. this is all playing out under an extremely political backdrop, and andrew mccabe is upset obviously, and he is saying this was a political decision. >> matt, let's balance this out. what were the forces internal who had concurred with this firing? what are the mechanisms, career people, not trump appointees who looked at all the evidence and came to the conclusion that he should go prior to his retirement date? >> absolutely. there was an inspector general report again which has not been made public that was done by a holdover from the obama era that faulted him for a lack of candor. and that was taken by career people in the fbi's office
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of professional responsibility, that's the disciplinary office, those are career people. the recommendation was termination. under the rules he can appeal that to the attorney general, which we did. this played out -- i will say this played out unusually fast. the disciplinary process is not known for great speed at the justice department. one of the things that i'm quite interesting in is why did this happen so fast. and mccabe's lawyer said they were only given days to respond to this. it does appear that the justice department wanted to get this done quickly and i'm not exactly sure why. and so that -- while career people definitely were involved and they did the recommendation and that appears to have all been above board, the speed of it is certainly interesting. >> matt, please remind us has he yet been called in to talk to robert mueller? of course, their careers intersected at least once in life. >> yeah, we don't know if he's
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been in to formally testify but as an fbi agent and someone involved in the russia investigation before it was the mueller investigation, any notes that we had, anything that he wrote down, anything that would have corroborated fbi director comey's allegations that would would have belonged to the fbi and mueller would have had access to that. whether he's interviewed andy yet, i don't know, we do know he has access to all of the work product. >> matt, without going near editorialization, which i know is not a danger for you, what else as we try to let you enjoy what's left of a friday night in your life after having written this piece for "the new york times," what else in your experience should we know about andrew mccabe? >> i've known andy for a long time, he was a rising star of the bureau.
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it was very clear that he was being groomed for big things. he's a lawyer, he's a duke undergrad graduate. was very well respected at the justice department and elsewhere in the intelligence agency. he had his -- he had his friend and he had his detractors among the line agents in particular because he did rise so quickly, and because he has that law degree. but he was also seen as a real -- maybe a new model for that number two position. not a sort of traditional line agent personality, somebody who is maybe a little bit more intellectual managerial than somebody whose lock them up, cops and robbers kind of guy. >> yeah, i heard him once described as a g-man but circa 2018, a modernized version. do you concur with that? >> yeah, i think that's right.
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the fbi is not the fbi of pre-9/11. they're not going after bank robbers. this is a key, complicated agency that is a big part of the intelligence infrastructure of the united states. and as the deputy attorney general he was in the front and center at the heart of that. >> tonight is why we always tell folks to look for your byline. matt apuzzo, who can at the cresting wave of this. if not a friday night massacre, certainly a friday night takedown in washington. matt, thank you so much for making time for us. >> thanks, brian. >> let's go to our panel. joyce vance, joyce, tell folks perhaps how they should feel about this news. >> i think matt makes a key assessment, which is the speed of this process is very troubling. i've watched this process
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happen before when people have been disciplined and it's never a process that moves at lightning speed. you never have someone interviewed by the decision maker and then have a decision the next day. so, we know that we have a president who's called repeatedly on twitter for mccabe's firing. earlier in this week in the white house press briefing, sarah huckabee sanders was also characterizing mccabe as a bad guy. on the other hand we have career people in the department, folks like michael horwitz, who although he's a political appointy, he's worked for both administrations, a straightforward kind of guy and the folks in the office of professional responsibility, people in the deputy attorney general's office who really look at these issues with the long view, consistency in the department across a long period of time. but what we have is a conflict
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of that professional process with this very political context. and there's no reason that the attorney general had to fire andy mccabe tonight on a friday night at 10:00 at night. in fact, you know, this whole idea that this firing was done this late on a friday night makes it look very rushed, very politicized. it might have been wiser for the attorney general simply to let the time clock run out to avoid making the justice department look like a place where the president can go to condemn his political opponents. it's a deeply troubling development. >> jeremy bash, if you need more proof we're in differing times, the story after we conclude this is a sitting president whose lawyers are trying to get $20 million out a of a porn star. we'll put that out as the background. before i show you this on the screen, think about the krmgtime that the mccade family had
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around their tree in their house, because on december 23rd, the president of the united states took to twitter to say this about andy mccabe. how could mccabe the man in charge of the leak b james comey of the phony hillary clinton investigation including her 33,000 illegally deleted e-mails be given $700,000 for wife's campaign by clinton puppets during investigation. let's go to the next one. andy mccabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits 90 days to go. question mark three exclamation points. jeremy bass, out in america, if a defendant gets a bad dose of publicity, a talented lawyer will try it in a nearby community. you can't go anywhere in this country with a president who has
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openly attacked a civil servant on twitter. >> that's right, brian. and for you to believe that andy mccabe's firing was on the level, you have to believe it was entirely coincidental that he was fired by attorney general jeff sessions 24 hours before he was able to retire after a career of distinction with honor and it is entirely coincidental that the two things are happening at the same time. nobody in america believes that. it is clear as day that the president of the united states directed the attorney general either implicitly or explicitly to fire andy mccabe to undermine him as a witness in any upcoming proceeding in which mccabe can corroborate the testimony that the president obstructs justice. >> danny, of course, it's mccabe and not trump who knows and has worked with comey and it's mccabe and not trump
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who has worked with mueller who also knows the quality of his work product. if you're mueller and the 16 or so co-counsels on mueller's team, how are you looking at this tonight? >> there are a lot of implications from a firing like this. in every situation like this you have to think about obstruction of justice, just off the bat. to what degree could you make a case that the president by firing people, by removing anybody as he perceives as adversarily -- >> how about trolling them publicly on twitter? >> patrolling them publicly, which also could infringe on their free speech. anything. and if nothing else, exceedingly quickly in a situation like this because we know these investigations move slowly. there may have been a good cause to terminate mccabe but the speed at which it's done alone
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raises the specter of doubt. ultimately obstruction, even if it's not a criminal action, is always an impeachable offense. and you do not need an impeachable owe against to be a crime at all and these are things that special counsel is going to look at, especially with the shadow of obstruction hanging over this. >> jeff bennett, let's show our homework since you and i work for the same news organization. we have a broadcast done and dusted and it was in and our lead story was the legal case pending the president's lawyer against the porn star to the tune of $20 million. i had written something to say at the top of the evening like, we have made it through a friday night with no further personnel changes and, jeff, here we are, sir. >> and here we are. i'll tell you based on our conversations in the white house booth with white house officials
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they couldn't even tell us for sure if anyone would be fired by the end of the day or who that person might be. but i'll tell you, i was particularly struck by something in andy mccabe's statement where he mentioned the unrelenting assault that he was subjected to at the hands of the president. you mentioned the tweet the president sent back in december where he said time's running out for mccabe to leave with full benefits. joyce mentioned the fact that sarah sanders referred to mccabe as a bad actor during a press briefing without any evidence and as we reported earlier, the president directly in private asked mccabe who he voted for in the 2016 election. in a separate instance, the day aftered the president fired comey, he asked why comey was allowed to fly back to los angeles on a d.c. plane. when the president wasn't satisfied with mccabe's answer, he said ask your wife what it feels like to be a
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loser. she ran as a democrat and got during the process of that some campaign contributions from then virginia governor terry mccullough who is a friend of the clintons and the president often points to that as a fact suggesting that the fbi or mccabe is somehow biased in his role although the facts don't support the president's theory in that mccabe has often described himself to friends as a lifelong republican. >> joyce, same questions i asked danny. you know something about the dynamic in a building commandeered by mueller and his c co-counsel and his team and how everyone signs in and out. they have been free of any leaks, watching this unfold on a friday night, reading this statement from the very proper mccabe, what are you thinking if you're the special counsel? >> to go about it in a
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very deliberate way, they'll look at the inspector general's report. we haven't seen that yet so we don't know what's in it. we don't know how different that is from andy mccabe's version but they'll get that and they'll know and then they'll look at what andy mccabe says, his justification for his conduct and i suspect that they'll make a sort of baseline decision as to whether they think the firing was warranted. but it's important for so many people not to have noted that even if the firing was not justified, it's this political context that will force the special counsel to contemplate whether this is more evidence of obstruction. mccabe was the person that jim comey came back to and shared his impression and initial meetings with the president, with mccabe. mccabe will be a key witness in support of comey as the mueller investigation moves forward and if the president's drumbeat, the insistent twitter
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and just this constant press barrage against mccabe is seen by special counsel as an effort at the white house to marginalize a witnesses, to describe a witness' credibility this again will be another act of this obstruction that we watched play out over the past few months. >> jeremy, the last thing i knew the attorney general had recused himself, something that was actually applauded in the league community, had recused himself to the president driven to distraction from that decision for all things leading to russia. this against mccabe not only bumps up against this but is there anything big enough to supersede a recusal even if you're the boss? >> this is entirely in the discretion of the attorney general.
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i don't think there is. i think the career was recounted open with the fact that he began his career investigating russian organized crime and russian activities inside the united states so almost dangling a hint this was very much connected to the russian matter, the attorney general should not have ruled on this matter or not on the fashion he ruled tonight. again, i think it's just -- you have to believe in coincidences. brian, there used to be a show on tv that you and i watched called "that's incredible." you have to call that show "that's incredible" and believe that it has nothing to do with the events of the russian investigation. >> you were nodding your head as he spoke. >> absolutely. i have a theory that statement was drafted weeks ago because it was very well written to begin with. secondly, there are references, very direct references to russia and other things that are relevant today, even though they
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are how mccabe started out his career. i think those were not accident listing as his accomplishments and as his career russia and other things that we're talking about now. >> everything that we cover on this broadcast night in and out has to be considered against a backdrop of politics and against a backdrop of the contemporary history we are making and witnessing. there is one guy we wanted to talk to tonight since this word broke and that's bill kristol, an editor of "the weekly standard." bill, how do you feel about your country and this administration about this news tonight? say nothing of the story we have yet to get to. >> hi, brian, not great. this has been a very good discussion i think. let's assume sessions hadn't gone ahead and fired mccabe, despite a report
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that he lacked kang dhoore and the recommendation he should have been fired. i believe trump would have fired session and said look at this, the career people of the fbi and doj says mccabe should be fired i was right all along. totally captured by the building, by the deep state. i'm going to make pruitt or someone like that attorney general and then he fires mueller. i really wonder whether sessions felt and i'm not in the business of making excuses for sessions, i have a lot of issues with what he's done before, but it is at least possible to me that sessions felt he was doing what he had to do to prevent himself from being fired and mueller from being fired that he felt with the career officials recommending the firing. it may be unfair and unjust to mccabe, this will be litigated and maybe literally litigated and argued out in the next couple of weeks. we'll see in the report. i don't think it's impossible that sessions thought he was protecting not just himself but mueller at this point. i'm struck at one other thing in
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the reporting, was it yesterday on kelly's -- maybe today, time fly, kelly's off the record session with reporters and got on the record where it was apparently came out that kelly has called pruitt the epa head to tell him to stop campaigning for sessions' job. hard to believe he did it without talking to kelly, the chief of staff in the white house. i wonder if kelly and sessions and not defending either are basically trying to work together to prevent trump from firing mueller because otherwise i agree, the friday night at 10:00 p.m. looks ridiculous unless sessions really felt this was a moment of crisis and even if he felt -- i don't know what he felt about mccabe whether it was unfair and ungenerous that he had to do this to protect himself and protect mueller. i don't know if i'm being generous to sessions but it's generous butless worrisome in the sense it makes it clear if i'm right -- if i'm wrong, you know, trump is politicizing
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justice and sessions is carrying out his orders, if i'm right sessions and kelly are worried that trump desperately wants to fire mueller and are doing their best to prevent that or slow that down. >> jeremy bash and then joyce in order, your reaction to that theory. your thoughts on -- knowing my friend bill, he's not a paid spokesman of sessions, lord knows, but that cooler heads might have thought this was a reverse bank shot of taking a bullet for better things to happen in the country? >> no, that's totally unethical, that's totally unethical for an attorney to fire someone who's served with distinction because they wanted to protect themselves or insulate the president from doing something deemed politically damaging. >> joyce.
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>> you know i agree here with jeremy very strongly. the attorney general is not supposed to decide that the situation here is so unusual, so out of bounds that he has to break the rules somehow to head off danger. that's really a perilous road to go down. i think bill's comments is interesting one and may be something sessions is engaged in, if he did i think it was the wrong one. you follow the rules, support the institution. you fire someone if it's appropriate, you don't fire someone if it's not appropriate. and here with the president calling for a politically motivated firing, the support for the institution would have been let the clock run out and let mccabe retire on sunday afternoon. >> fascinating. jeff bennett, we note the president's public schedule is out for the weekend. he is in washington, he's not in florida. there's nothing on his publicly posted schedule. you've been at this a long time
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in your life, of course, reporting for npr before nbc news, what does it mean to you? >> what it means is we can expect the president to be up early tomorrow morning on twitter giving us realtime peeks into what is on his mind, probably a reflection of what he's seeing on cable news tomorrow morning. that's often what happens when the president spends time on the weekends, over the weekends when he's not in mar-a-lago holed up at the white house. i will tell you based on my conversations with die-hard trump supporters that the developments tonight will only embolden them as they take aim at their next target who happens to be the deputy attorney general rod rosenstein who was overseeing the entire special counsel russia investigation. and, remember, that gop memo that was released by republicans on the house intelligence committee detailed the purported abuses of the fisa
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warrant that could give the president a pretext if he so choses to fire rosenstein. >> and bill kristol, back to you for a moment. if tonight's story was reporting, say, the dismissal of rosenstein, the dismissal of mueller, question we all get asked a lot that you may have some wisdom on, do you trust that there is a common core in both houses of congress of commonsense republicans and democrats who would do something, switch mueller the next day to a special prosecutor statute, continue the work without dropping a stitch, would they save the day in terms of the investigation that a lot of people have said will speak to the future of our democracy? >> i hope so but i can't be confident based on their performance so far. i agree with jeremy and joyce that sessions may have been wrong if he calculated as i
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think he might have, i'm not saying he did. might have but i'm just saying that might actually have been what he was thinking. that did what -- my scenario is not a happy one because it means sessions and kelly are sitting there thinking trump is looking for an excuse and looks for a proximate excuse to file rosenstein and mueller. this is a moment for republicans on the hill to say it seems like there -- they're not going to opine on the deliberation, reports they haven't seen from the inspector general but would be a good time to say whatever attorney general interceptions did with mccabe we need to let the investigation go forward and what mccabe has been fired for is a lack of candor about something entirely irrelevant to this investigation. it's about matters having to do with the investigation of hillary clinton from october 2016. so i think this is a moment for republicans on the hill and for others to press republicans on the hill to say, the mueller investigation needs to be
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allowed to go forward, what has happened has happened. it's an internal department matter. it may be unfair and unseemly and wrong, but in any case mueller has to -- this is the moment people need to step up and say mueller has to be protected. >> for folks who have not gone near their devices for the last 40 minutes if may be hot to the touch when you get to it because as you can imagine social media is also blowing up, i'm going to ask all our guests to stay in place while we widen the conversation just for a brief moment and bring in another member and that's katherine lucy, white house reporter for the associated press. katherine, as i said, one of the things i wrote to say on this broadcast tonight earlier tonight in a far simpler time was that the west wing had escaped a friday evening and by midnight eastern perhaps had escaped the week without another departure. there have been several. they have shaken up a lot of what passions for the veterans who have been there since day one, what can you say about the
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stress, the chaos, the lack of cohesion and the staff kind of this ghoulish game wondering who is going to be next. >> the staff is anxious, the white house tried to push back on stories today that more departures are coming and obviously there was a lot of speculation that there would be firings or exits in some fashion today and obviously we didn't see that in the west wing during the day. but what i hear from people inside is that people are looking over their shoulders, it's nearly shakespearean as people wonder who is going to be out of there next. i know even younger staffers, some of the more junior staffers were rattled by the president's personal assistant being removed from his job so people at all different levels, you know, seem to almost be -- at some times joking in a macabre way who will
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go next. >> i knew three people in adult life who had that job as personal aide to the president. it's gender specific because so far they have all been men but loosely referred to as the body man and get to know everyone on the staff. a few get to know the president better or spend more intimate time. it's actually been gender specific because to put it in plain english they sometimes have to follow the boss into the restroom especially in a holding area on the road to keep talking or showing documents or getting something signed or hand them a phone so to see that person who is the kind of day-to-day go-between for all members of the staff as was rob porter in a similar job that must shake a lot of people to the core. >> yes, people are rattled. you're right. that's a person who is with the president a lot. can read the president's moods, you know, really often can access a conduit and let people
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know is this a good time, bad time to come in and so to see that person who is well liked by the staff go has left a lot of people feeling very shaky. >> the great catherine lucey of the ap, thanks for taking time to join our widening conversation. here's what will happen, 31 minutes after the hour. we will fit in our first break. when we come back as we've been calling it our other lead story as attorneys for the president of the united states are trying to change a court jurisdiction and get $20 million out of a porn star. we'll continue right after this. you know what's awesome? gig-speed internet.
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you know what's not awesome? when only certain people can get it. let's fix that. let's give this guy gig- really? and these kids, and these guys, him, ah. oh hello.
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that lady, these houses! yes, yes and yes. and don't forget about them. uh huh, sure. still yes! xfinity delivers gig speed to more homes than anyone. now you can get it, too. welcome to the party. we are back. let's reset our conversation and on to what is our second lead story this evening. also a legal matter, also surrounding this president and the people around him, members of president trump's legal team have now publicly engaged in a big way in what is at heart. they have chosen to fight hard to keep the porn star, stormy daniels silent over the intimate relationship she has alleged to have had with donald trump before he was president. the white house has denied that.
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trump's lawyer michael cohen has accused daniels of violating a n nondisclosure agreement 27 times. he's seeking $20 million in damages from stormy daniels as a result. tonight stormy daniels's attorney michael after nationvei wrote on twitter quote, the fact that a sitting attorney is pursuing $20 million in a bogus damages against a private citizen who is trying to tell everyone what happened is remarkable. likely unprecedented in our history. we are not going away and will not be intimidated. how can president trump seek $20 million in damage against my client based on an agreement that he and mr. cohen claim he was never a party to and knew nothing about. as we've reported, daniels is suing to invalidate that agreement over an alleged relationship with the president that she contends that
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settlement is valid because donald trump never signed the agreement. the white house -- she's claimed its invalid, and thank you for that correction from our control room because donald trump's signature never appeared on it. tonight's developments come after an extremely busy 48 hours in this saga. among other things this week we learned that her "60 minutes" interview is slated to air an sunday, march 25th. just this morning her attorney made exclusive new charges she was threatened with physical harm to keep silent about her alleged relationship with donald trump. >> was she threatened in any way? >> yes. >> was she threatened physical harm? >> yes. >> was her life threatened? >> again, i'm not going to answer that. people will have to tune in to
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"60 minutes." >> can you tell whether it came from the president? >> i will not answer that. >> will you defy that the president of the united states threatened your client? >> i will not confirm nor deny. >> the brief came from the white house meeting as you might imagine with phil rucker leading things off with this question. >> attorney for the porn star stormy daniels said this morning on a television interview that she was physically threatened to stay silent about that. i'm wondering if you talked with the president about that. if he knows who might have threatened her and more generally if he has any concerns about women accusers being threatened in that way? >> obviously we take the safety and security of any person seriously. certainly would condemn anyone threatening any individual but i have no knowledge of that situation and would refer you to the president's outside personal attorneys. >> all right.
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so our panelists remain with us. jeff bennett, danny zavala, joyce vance and jeremy bass. my belated thanks to bill kristol for joining us and having an opinion there. dan, i'm going to begin with you here in new york. i've used the expression change of venue in a different context at the top of the broadcast. in a way this is a form of that i guess. what just happened today, why are they trying to move the court jurisdiction where this is going to be heard? >> this is a classic defense maneuver. i've removed cases, attorneys who have had them in federal court have removed cases and a law which allows defendants from different states and you have enough dollar amount and controversy, that's why there were so many millions alleged in this.
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if you have enough involved a defendant can drag it out of state court and up to federal court. it's automatic. this is not a motion, this is not a request. once a defendant files this notice of removal the case is now in federal court and it's incumbent upon the plaintiff to get it back down to state court, which is not an easy thing to do. why do defendants do this? strategy, home field advantage, take the plaintiff out of their choice of courthouse and bring them up to federal court. maybe they don't spend a lot of time there or there may be some chief advantage to federal procedure that makes the case better for the defendants in federal court. but sometimes, brian, it's as simple as the defendant sticking it to the plaintiff's attorney and throwing them off their game. >> joyce vance, we were led to believe that michael cohen from his home loan line of credit paid stormy daniels that money. there is a fictional name that
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is said to represent the president in court documents. but does this now out donald trump as being a participant in this case, there's no coming back from this? >> there are now court papers where donald trump has entered the fray here and has also been identified by the alias name that's used in the nondisclosure agreement for him. so, it seems that for better or worse he's bought this litigation and bought the the stormy daniels nondisclosure agreement. >> joyce, i heard some legal experts tonight saying this is probably a crafty move on the part of mr. cohen et al. because this may force this into arbitration and keep it from ever coming out into open court. >> that's their real strategy here. the way miss daniels' lawyer filed this case in state court was claiming that the nondisclosure agreement wasn't valid.
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and he's asking the state court in essence to declare it's invalid and they're not bond by its arbitration proceedings. the president on the other side and of course his lawyer mr. cohen would like for this to occur outside the public eye. the way that they get there is by successfully proving that the nondisclosure agreement is valid, that its mandatory arbitration is valid so that to the extent miss daniels want to oppose the agreement in any way would be this arbitration that occurs, not like at the court's view in the public, but beneath the opaque veil where people won't know what's going on in the arbitration proceeding. >> jeremy bass, what do you make of this development tonight? >> i think we're seeing the negative inducement, the threat of a major lawsuit against the
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adult film actress but i think there may be something else going on which we're not seeing possibly an attempt to pay her off, settle the case and give her -- try to give her millions of dollars and hope she actually asks "60 minutes" to take down the interview and withdraws the allegations against the president. i wouldn't be surprised and nobody should be surprised if we wake up tomorrow and find that she has gone away. she's been paid off and told to keep her mouth shut. >> danny, i did hear that theory proffered that this could mean that the trump team is aware that she brought some things with her to the "60 minutes" interview already wrapped on tape. they're not editing the tape and seeing what it is they have that people have become aware of how much evidence there is in this case. >> they have implied that there is some very real concrete evidence and just reading the
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ten tenor, he seems confident he has the facts on his side and pounding the facts. the problem is for them that the law may be on the trump side. there is some pretty substantial law favoring in both federal and state courts arbitration clauses, when the parties agreed to arbitrate federal and state courts alike will send those cases right back down to arbitration. but in a case like this, trump's loss may not just be in court but if this information reaches the light of day. you simply cannot unring that bell. >> jeff, we were saying a few days ago that when the white house smokeswoman talked about arbitration that brought the story into the white house, well, nothing brings the story into the white house quite like this story tonight so are they just going to have to continue to try to deflect on this? >> it appears that will be the case but here's the thing, throughout his many scandals the
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president has used the media masterfully and developed a megaphone bigger than most to use as a cudgel and beat his opponents into silence but here you have stormy daniels who dare i say as a consequence of her profession cannot be shamed into silence and instead of shying away from the media attention it's clear that she and her attorney are really relishing it so as the white house continues to say over and over again that there was no relationship between stephanie clifford, her real name and president trump and the president wasn't aware of this $130,000 payment, they are dealing with this story that is salacious, yes, but could be legally significant and that there could be campaign finance issues at play here if this payment is deemed to be an in kind contribution to the trump campaign. remember, federal law only allows a person to directly contribute $2700 to a
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presidential campaign and this payment was never reported to the federal election commission, brian. >> so, jeremy, that kind of nicely dove tails into what i wanted to know from you, what if anything is robert mueller's interest in the case of the sitting president, the $20 million and the porn star. >> i'm not sure there is a direct connection. i think mueller will stay focused on the issues of the 2016 campaign and potential meddling. possible if there is a federal election mishandling it will come up. the trump organization's counsel, someone who has been the bag man for donald trump, someone who paid allegedly out of personal funds and negotiated land deals and skyscraper deals for the president in moscow and generally knows about more than anybody else about trump's financial and personal issues. >> our great thanks to the panel for helping us navigate through both of the topics that have
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served as our lead story tonight. another break for us when we come back, we're going to look at the explosive comments today by a man who at the time of his retirement was the youngest and most heavily decorated four-star general in the history of the u.s. army. it's what he has said about this particular president and what makes him that way that has him in the news tonight.
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we're back again and this next part is important as well. a wild week of russia headlines is prompting an uncharacteristic response from someone you will no doubt recognize from our on-air family of contributors. today retired four-star u.s. army general barry mccaffrey, a decorated combat of veteran wrote this on twitter, quote,
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reluctantly i have concluded that president trump is a serious threat to u.s. national security. he is refusing to protect vital u.s. interests from active russian attacks. it is apparent that he is for some unknown reason under the sway of mr. putin. this deserves a word here about barry mccaffrey. as his retirement as he said he was the youngest and most heavily decorated four-star general in the history of the u.s. army. four combat tours, a bronze star, three purple hearts, multiple combat wounds, two silver stars, two distinguished service crosses, a graduate of phillips academy and west point. he's the former commander in chief of southern command. he's the former u.s. drug czar. just this week great britain expelled 23 russian diplomats over that nerve agent attack on british soil prompting the uk's closest allies to formally condemn the kremlin. the white house announced it would finally impose sanctions on russia at the same time
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making the startling admission that russian cyberattacks threatened u.s. nuclear power plants and learned that robert mueller subpoenaed documents from the trump organization. the president has said little about any of these developments as he heads into the weekend as we mentioned with no public events scheduled. with us our white house correspondent from bloomberg, and jeremy bash has agreed to stick around and joining our conversation presidential historian and author john meacham. let's start with you, the viewpoint of the white house. it was said on this broadcast and elsewhere the u.s. was nudged into kind of appropriate behavior, behaving as we used to long ago, two years ago where it concerned russia. >> if you look at all of the various things that both president putin and the government of russia have done, attacking the u.s., meddling in
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our elections and in our infrastructure and our power plants and electrical grid and attacking one of our closest allies with the nerve agent attack in britain and we have not heard very much from the president in terms of a response. we finally did see some sanctions this week but even those were seen as a sort of very minor response given all of the various things that russia has done and both sides of the aisle, both republicans and democrats, are calling for the president and for the administration to do more to really step up to russia. this is a president who is willing to talk tough against our enemies and talk tough against some of our allies, but when it comes to putin, there seems to be this blind spot where he does not want to say anything negative about the president of russia or about the government of russia saying he wants to get along with them, saying that he thinks he can make deals with russia. but it's clear that whatever tactics he's using to try to get
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russia to act in the best interests of the united states have not worked so far and it's clear it's starting to wear patience thin of both republicans and democrats on capitol hill. >> thank you, toluse. jeremy, given your time in the structure of the u.s. defense community, if you don't know barry mccaffrey personally, talk about him representationally and what would have led a man with as many decorations on his chest, as many administrations as he has worked for to say what he did? >> on this program i've disagreed with him on some analytical points but one has to respect, one has to admire, one has to honor his dedication to country, his patriotism and his spot-on analysis of what's threatening american national security and his deep concern that the russian federation has unexplained leverage over the president of the united
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states and that's compromising his act to defend our country against russian attacks and to stand side by side with a critical ally when russia attacks that ally. we have to heed to his warning tonight. >> john meech chum, in earlier times you and i had the back half to have a thoughtful conversation about what it is we just witnessed. we'll have to put that off till 2019 but for now what have we just witnessed today in this administration and how it differs from any known norms? >> well, it does differ from any known norm. on general mccaffrey's point, i'm reminded of something i was associated with jim baker, the former secretary of state who said if it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck and swims like it duck, it just might be a duck. at a certain point common sense kicks in about the president and his relationship with putin. the one thing that i think links
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the stories, russia, director mccabe, the stormy daniels business is what the greeks taught as you long time ago. character is destiny. and as michelle obama said really brilliantly in 2016, the presidency doesn't change who you are, it reveals who you are. and the one thing that links all of these stories is that we have a president who is entirely running things on what is best for him and what he thinks will get him through a particular moment. he has raised brazenness to a governing philosophy. and that's the world we're living in. >> am i right to say that if not a friday night massacre, what we've seen with mr. mccabe is most certainly at minimum a friday night takedown? >> absolutely. and it's going to raise a huge number of concerns about rule of law. this is why presidents don't
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get into these things or are not supposed to get into these things. the justice department is like all institutions, it's a human institution, it's got its failings, but it really began its modern life as an arm of the federal government to fight the ku klux klan during reconstruction. it's an institution that was created to enforce law and to try to stay as removed from politics as possible. what the president's done, again because to him this is all paint ball, it's all media paint ball, then he's just decided that this is a useful target to him today. i must say it will stun me and whenever we make predictions at this point, we have to remember that donald trump is president so what the hell do any of us know but it will really surprise me if some evening we are not sitting here talking about some strike against bob mueller. >> in 30 seconds of brilliance, steve schmidt's favorite word is rigor. he keeps saying as a lover of
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words i know you will concur at some point, he keeps saying that the lack of rigor in public life right now from this administration right now is appalling to him. >> well, it's "mad max." it's not real, except it is. another way of putting it is washington seemed to be acting like a reality show, it didn't seem to be taking the concerns of the people as seriously as it should and so the right number of voters in the right number of states and electoral college system sent a reality tv star there. but be careful what you wish for. anyone who was paying attention during 2016 should not be surprised about what's happening right now. that doesn't mean it's acceptable. it means we have to stay as united as possible and try to insist on those norms against all odds. >> we're in your debt, john, jeremy, john meacham, thank you so much. this was an on-the-fly hour of television as we're reacting to these dual breaking news stories and then some. and that is our broadcast on a friday night.
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and to conclude this week, as always, thank you so very much for being here with us. have a good weekend and good night from nbc news headquarters here in new york. >> tonight on "all in." >> i have no deals in russia. >> as the mule ter investigation officially enters trump tower, a long-time figure in president trump's circle joins me live. >> i was working on a bunch of real estate transactions with donald trump of all people. >> tonight, my interview with felix sater on his time working with donald trump. the russia investigation. and his double life as an american spy. then explosive new allegations from the lawyer for stormy daniels. >> was she threatened in any way? >> yes. >> was she threatened phys

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