tv MSNBC Live With Katy Tur MSNBC March 28, 2018 11:00am-12:00pm PDT
that's going to wrap up this hour of msnbc. katy tur is standing by. >> we have breaking news. it's 11:00 a.m. out west and 2:00 p.m. in washington. news just broke about former trump attorney john dowd. "the new york times" is reporting that trump's former lead counsel on the russia probe raised the subject of pardons for paul manafortnd michael flynn last year. nbc news has not yet confirmed this story. our big question about what this story is is what is donald trump's legal team worried that paul manafort and flynn, michael flynn, might reveal? a reminder, this revelation comes six days after dowd resigned from donald trump's legal team. his exit reportedly prompted -- was prompted by disagreements
with the president. the white house is scheduled to hold a daily briefing any minute now. we'll bring you that live when sarah huckabee sanders begins taking reporter questions. let's go right to "the new york times" michael schmidt. he joins me now by phone. michael, great job as always. just walk me through what you and the times have learned. >> last summer has muller was building his cases against flynn and manafort, dowd went to their lawyers and broached the idea of a pardon with them. dowd has told people that he believes the case, particularly against flynn, is very flimsy. the president has long thought it was not a real case. and that there's no reason for these guys to plead as they should, you know -- that they did nothing wrong. now, the question is, is that was dowd speaking for the
president? people that know dowd find it hard to believe he would go out and free-lance on something such as important as this subject. it raises the questions about whether the president was trying to influence the investigation. there's been many questions from day one that have come up about the president's efforts to interfere with this investigation. this is yet another one. >> you also are talking about how the lawyers, mr. trump's lawyer, might have been concerned about what michael flynn and paul manafort could reveal. that's why they potentially wanted to cut a deal with them. what could paul manafort or michael flynn reveal that might worry the white house? >> well, the thing about manafort is that we don't know as much about manafort. he wasn't around for that long, only a few months during the campaign before leaving. flynn was obviously at the center of the campaign, involved in a lot of different things including meetings with the russians. meetings with the russian
ambassador, then coming into the white house. questions about the calls with the ambassador. flynn really understood how the campaign worked, was very close to the president and knows what the president knew about the calls with the ambassador. which is what the fbi picked up on a wiretap. flynn is fired for lying to the vice president about it. there's a lot of things flynn can answer. as we know, flynn has agreed to cooperate. and he is cooperating with muller. paul manafort when told of this pardon was telling people close to him said he didn't want to accept it. he's done nothing wrong and he wants to fight it. >> you write that john dowd was confused about why michael flynn would accept a plea deal? >> yeah, what dowd has said is that there's a question what did flynn do wrong. when comey briefed flynn's conduct with the russians that comey said that flynn it done nothing wrong. why is it that flynn accepted a
plea agreement. dowd says -- when i spoke to him today, he said what could we have even pardoned flynn for? he didn't do anything wrong. dowd, denying this story, just to make clear, saying none of this happened. >> when did this conversation happen between john dowd and the attorneys for manafort and flynn? >> these conversations happened last summer. last summer is before manafort is indicted and before flynn pleads guilty. this is as muller -- muller was appointed in may and he was investigating throughout the summer. that's when this happened. >> on december 15th on the south lawn, donald trump was asked about michael flynn and pardons. you have this in your piece, we pulled the sound. hopefully we can bring it up at some point. he's asked -- the president says i don't want to talk about pardons for michael flynn yet. we'll see what happened. i can say this when you look at what's going on for the fbi and with the justice department, people are very angry.
it always seems that there is a trump comment that can, if you were to argue it, bolster a lot of the reporting that comes out about the special counsel. how heavily is that comment playing? >> the thing about trump is that we often spend a lot of time trying to figure out things he did or said behind the scenes, only to figure out that he tweeted about them or said them in public. this is sort of another example of this, where he brings up the idea or discusses the idea of a flynn pardon and doesn't necessarily rule it out of hand. we know there had been discussions inside the white house last summer about pardons. we know that the president was explained by his lawyers how a pardon would work. the president, remember, has pardoned joe arpaio. that was his first pardon. you know, this is something that the president has considered. the president talks about many different things in regards to the special counsel's investigation, including firing
muller. >> did the president know about this, michael? >> that's the thing. you know, was dowd acting on his own or not? was dowd out there free-lancing and throwing this out here. was this something that the president told him to do? that's an open question. >> "the new york times" michael schmidt. thank you very much. >> thanks for having me. let's bring in chuck rosenburg, a former u.s. attorney. he's an msnbc contributor. we lucked out by having you with us today. this new reporting, lots of folks out there are wondering how could the president's lawyer have this conversation, if it's true, and not tell the president about it? >> that would seem odd. you would think that if a lawyer is speaking on behalf of his or her client he's doing it with the knowledge of his or her client. and to offer something to someone else that only the
president could grant, you would think the president would probably know about it. we don't know that. i don't want to get out over my skis on that one. >> the president does have the absolute power to pardon. can lawyers in the muller case use this as evidence of obstruction against the president if his lawyer was dangling these pardons as they were building a case against presumably two key figures in this investigation? >> i think that's a fascinating question. let me take a step back and try and give you some context. if the president wanted to convene a commission on gun safety and wanted to put you on it because you're an expert on gun safety, he could do that. nobody would argue with that authority. but he couldn't do it if you offered him a million dollars in cash for a seat at that table, right? that would be corrupt. that would be a bribe. a lot of smart people on either side of this question regarding whether or not the president has plenary or absolute authority to
grant pardons. some have said it's absolute and nothing stands in the way of the president's ability to grant a pardon. others have said if it's done for a corrupt purpose, it could be standalone charge of obstruction or evidence of obstruction. that's not resolved yet. we don't know the answer to that. >> could this be why paul manafort is holding out on making a deal? i've asked this before. he's got a ton of series charou charges he's facing. you said said he will be going on jail now or later depending on how long he draws this out. do you think it's possible to say that he's expecting a pardon and that's why he hasn't made a deal? >> i think it's plausible to say that. i don't think it's plausible to know that. and when i say that i believe that one way or the other paul manafort will be convicted and go to joail, the one big caveat is if he's pardoned. if he is pardoned, then he's not going to be a convicted felon
and he's not going to go to jail. i think it's exactly the right question to ask. i don't think we know enough to answer it. i can tell you this, whether or not constitutional scholars are on either side of this question about the authority a president has are right or wrong, prosecutors and agents are going to be looking at why the president or his emissaries are talking pardon to witnesses. >> what could this mean for the potential interview between robert muller and donald trump? >> well, it's another topic, it's absolutely another topic. i don't imagine this will be a short interview. i imagine that the muller team has lots and lots of questions. one of them is going to absolutely concern -- one topic is going to absolutely concern obstruction of justice in one area within that topic will be the granting of pardons. it's a logical question and he's
going to be asked about it. >> this is a mastercla class in constitutional law, white collar law. we appreciate your expertise. >> thank you for having me. kristen welker is at the white house. also with me peter baker, chief white house correspondent for "the new york times." and natasha bertrand, staff writer for the atlantic. is the white house commenting on this yet? >> no, not yet. we anticipate we'll hear from sarah sanders in short order. the briefing expected to get underway any minute now. but what's so striking about this revelation, of course, it comes amid a fair amount of turmoil within the president's legal team. john dowd just resigned several days ago. the legal team is eyeing on bringing on another attorney. they determined that two attorneys couldn't come on board
due to conflicts of interest. a 69-year-old prosecutor, someone who has a history in studying medieval history is an interesting addition to the legal team. they're trying to ramp up this legal team as they enter these final negotiations between the president's legal team and the special counsel about that potential interview with the president. a lot at stake here as we're learning about this new revolution that according to "the new york times" john dowd discussed the potential of pardons with these -- manafort and flynn. >> i talked about it with michael a moment ago. we also have the sound, because he said this on camera back in december. here is president trump talking about the potential to pardon michael flynn back in december.
>> would you consider a pardon for michael flynn? >> i don't want to talk about pardons for michael flynn yet. let's see what happens. let's see. >> there's not only that, there's a tweet from july 2017. while i agree the u.s. president has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is leaks against us. fake news. i don't remember who we were talking about when that tweet was sent out. we've talked about this subject a number of times in the past year. but if he does start granting pardons in this particular case, how do you think it's going to play politically, peter? >> well, i think that's explosive. it's an explosive idea if he were to pardon people who were seen as potential witnesses against him. it would be seen as being self-interested rather than an act of forgiveness. we've seen this in the past, pardons have been controversial in other administrations. rarely have you seen a situation where a president dangling out
the possibility of a pardon in the midst of an investigation that had him so clearly involved in it in the sense it's his campaign that is potentially imperilled by the investigation. it would be a very explosive idea if it happened. i think even the fact he has dangled it out there publicly, not to mention through this reporting that my colleagues have put up today through john dowd potentially. it's going to muddy the waters and can be interpreted as an act of trying to impede the investigation. >> natasha, we should mention you're also an nbc news -- msnbc news contributor. in looking at michael flynn and looking at paul manafort, there's a line in this times piece that says, dowd was concerned about what the two men could potentially reveal to robert muller. this was happening as the special counsel was building cases against both of those men. michael flynn was on the plane
every day with donald trump during the campaign. especially towards the end of the campaign. he was by his side almost all the time. the two shared a really close relationship. paul manafort didn't share the same closeness that michael flynn did. he was atop the campaign at a very critical time during the convention when they were trying to secure all those delegates. when that platform was changed. what could these two men reveal that could potentially worry this white house? unfortunately, you can't answer that question because sarah huckabee sanders is talking. >> he said i've only been asked about pardons by the press and i routinely responded on the record that no pardons are under discussion or under consideration at the white house. >> can you say that no one here has discussed pardons in this case? >> i can say that ty cobb is the person that would be most directly involved in this.
he's got a statement on the record saying there's no consideration of those at this time. >> is the white house worried about what michael flynn or paul manafort might tell robert muller? >> as we've said pretty much every day since we got here because you guys have continued to ask about this topic every single day. there was no collusion. we're very confident in that and look forward to this process wrapping up. >> the attorney for stormy daniels filed a motion to depose the president of the united states. do you have a response from the white house's reaction to that? >> nope. we have addressed this extensively. we have nothing new to add. and for any new questions i would -- >> would the president sit for a deposition? >> i'm not going to get into a hypothetical question. i would refer you to michael cohn. >> we haven't seen much of the president. he said last week he was going to do a news conference and
ended up not taking questions -- >> he actually took a couple questions at the end. >> not formal questions. why haven't we seen so much of the president? would he commit to doing a formal news conference? >> look, the president's got a major speech tomorrow. he's been incredibly active all week long. we've taken major actions in trade negotiations, as well as expelling intel officers from russia out of the country this week. there have been a number of major things that the president has taken action on and been engaged on. he's giving a major speech tomorrow. >> is he too busy to take questions from the press? >> look, we take questions from you every day in a number of different formats. right now, i'm standing up here taking questions from you, which i did yesterday. which rog did on monday and the president is speaking to the american people tomorrow. >> the president has said that michael flynn is a good man. he said that paul manafort is a good man.
i'm wondering if the president believes he has the right to use the power of his office, the power to pardon to protect them from what he might see as unfair punishment down the road. does he believe he has that right? >> i would refer you back to ty cobb's statement. there not discussion or consideration of that at this time. there would be no reason for me to have had a conversation with the president about that. that is not being currently discussed at the white house. >> that wasn't about that. it was whether he believes he has the right to use the power of his office. >> the president has the authority to pardon individuals, but you're asking me about a specific case in which it hasn't been discussed. i would not have brought that up with him. >> thanks a lot. the president has the power of the pardon, not ty cobb. >> which is what i just said. >> not exactly. you talked about ty cobb's statement. the president has the power of the pardon. has he considered -- is he considering -- would he consider
pardoning paul manafort, michael flynn, or rick gates? >> as i said an on record statement from the president's attorney here on the white house on these matters have said there's no discussion or consideration of this. >> another matter, the trade deal that you spoke about at the very top of the briefing regarding the u.s. and south korea. as part of this new trade deal, each u.s. carmaker would be allowed to export 50,000 vehicles per year to south korea. it's right now capped at $25,000. but last year, if you just look at most recent history, no u.s. automakers sold more than 11,000 cars to south korea. what makes you think that demand is going to rise so dramatically as to benefit the u.s. auto industry? >> it also impacts the parts component, which is a major piece of this deal. we'll continue working with auto manufacturers in this country.
one of the other things we've seen is an increase in business across the board and people actually making things in america again due to deregulation. due to the tax cuts. we expect business in america to grow. therefore, the trade component to grow as well. >> as to the automakers, you believe the actual number of vehicles sold will increase dramatically as a result of this trade deal last year, 11,000 -- the new numbers now, you can sell up to 50,000 there. by next year will we see a dramatic increase in that number? >> this wasn't something that happened -- the problem wasn't created overnight. this is certainly the steps in the right direction to help remove the trade deficit we have. we're excited about the progress that's been made. not just with auto manufacturers but also in the agriculture sector as well. >> a report today on president trump and amazon caused the company's stock to tumble
roughly $53 billion. is the president, as that report said, looking for ways to go after the internet retail giant? >> look, we have no announcements and no specific policies or actions that we're currently pushing forward or considering taking. >> i'm not looking for an announcement. has the president been looking for ways to go after amazon? treasury secretary steve mnuchin has said the president does favor an internet sales tax. is that something the president is pushing for, even behind closed doors? >> the president has said many times before, he's always looking to create a level playing field for all businesses. this is no different. he's going to always look at different ways. there aren't any specific policies on the table. >> one more question, sorry. on kim jong-un's visit to china. when was the white house made aware of that trip? >> the ambassador from china came to the white house yesterday and briefed members of
the national security team who then briefed the president. >> alton sterling, the charges against the police officers -- >> can you speak up a little bit? >> there were no charges against the police officers in the alton sterling police shooting. what does the president have to say about that? particularly as he is a strong supporter of police. then you have the issue in the midst of that issue that happened, fatal shooting, of the young man in california behind his grandmother's house with a cell phone. >> certainly, a terrible incident. this is something that is a local matter and that's something we feel should be left up to the local authorities at this point in time. >> what does he feel about that? he was strongly behind police. he supports police, as much of america does but wants to weed out bad policing. what does he say about weeding out bad policing when you see these kinds of situations occur over and over again. >> we want to make sure that all law enforcement is carrying out the letter of the law. the president is very supportive
of law enforcement. but at the same time in these specific cases and these specific instances, those will be left up to local authorities to make that determination and not something for the federal government to weigh into. >> one more large case that's still lingering. eric garner that cried out 11 times i can't breathe. his mother is still looking for something, an indictment of the police officers in new york. does the president -- has he asked them what's the status? is something going to happen? >> i'm not aware of any specific action. these will be local matters that should be left up to the local authority. >> a quick one on north korea and maybe a fast follow on the census. on north korea, how would you characterize the administration's mood after the meeting in china between kim jong-un and president xi jinp g jinping? if we look back historically, when madeleine albright went over there, the north koreans
were sort of cheating the whole way through, so i would imagine there's skepticism. how would you describe the white house's sensibility right now? >> we're going to be cautiously optimistic. we feel like things are moving in the right direction. and that the meeting yesterday was a good indication that the maximum pressure campaign has been working. you saw him leave for the first time since becoming the leader of north korea, leaving his country from time to time for that meeting. we consider that to be a positive sign that the maximum pressure campaign is continuing to work. we're going to continue moving forward in this process in hopes for a meeting down the road. >> we were talking about may. that's still sort of the goal? >> certainly we would like to see this. obviously this is something of a global importance. we want to make sure that it's done as soon as we can. we also want to make sure it's done properly.
we're working towards that goal. as we've said before, the north koreans have made that offer and we've accepted and we're moving forward in that process. >> i was going to ask about -- title xiii, 221. it says you can be fined if you don't answer the census truthfully. no one's been fined dating back to 1970. would the white house support the idea of fining individuals that don't answer the census or fail to answer it honestly? >> look, the goal is to have data that we can use for specific things. we think that having accurate data is important. i'm not aware of a mass campaign to start fining individuals. but we certainly want people to follow the law. we want them -- whether it's the census or anything else. people should follow the law and the law should be enforced. >> ty cobb's statement deals with the president. i want to ask you, did the
president direct john dowd to talk to the attorneys of paul manafort and michael flynn about potential pardons? >> i'm not aware of any conversations of that nature. >> did the president have a reaction to these revelations by "the new york times"? >> again -- >> did you ask him specifically? >> i did not talk to him about it specifically. again, i've been in a number of conversations. it's never come up. ty cobb, who would be the lead representative for the white house on these matters, has gone on the record to discuss and declare that these conversations haven't taken place. >> can we just follow up if i could. you said these are local issues. with respect, this seems to be an issue that the entire country is grappling with. these tensions between communities of color and police departments. does the president not need to show leadership on this issue? >> look, we certainly -- when the president has talked about a number of issues, we want to find ways to bring the country together. certainly not looking for any
place of division. i think you've seen that in the policies that he's put forward. he wants to grow the economy. he wants to do that for everybody. he wants a better america for every american. and that's been a repeat thing out of this white house. when it comes to the authority to -- on the rulings that have taken place in the past few days, those are things that have to be done at a local level and they're not federal decisions at this point in time. >> there are a lot of african-american moms who feel like their sons are dying. doesn't the president feel like he needs to do something about that? >> i think we should do every single thing we can every day to protect the people of this country. i ng the preside i think the president whether they're black, white, hispanic, male or female, we look for ways to protect the individuals in this event. particularly children. that's why you've seen the president take an active role over the last several months in school safety and looking at ways -- we want to do that across the board, whether a kid
is in a school, whether they're at home. no matter where they are kids should feel safe and that's why this president has focused on safety and security as a big part of the priorities of this administration both through securing our borders and stopping the flow of drugs, of gangs. stopping the number of school shootings by the stop school violence act. the background system. i'm not saying it's perfect. and until every child is safe we can always do more. we're going to show up every day for work trying to do exactly that. peter? >> the federal judge in maryland has refused to throw out an emoluments claim against the president, saying the washington and maryland have the right to sue. i'm wondering if the white house might have some comment. >> i can't comment on an ongoing litigation. we'll have to keep you posted on that. >> quick one on north korea and then if i might on something else. you told us last night in a
personal message thatt presiden xi had. >> i don't have anything to add. >> quick question on stormy daniels and the lawsuit that was offered overnight -- or the motion that was made overnight. you've said that you addressed these issues extensively. these are in response today. you haven't answered the question about whether the president was aware of the $130,000 payment that was paid in which he is explicitedly nam. you were asked three weeks ago and you said you were not aware. are you aware now? >> we've spoken about this issue extensively, i don't have anything else to add. anything beyond that i would refer you to the outside counsel. >> two questions. following up on the question
about amazon, the report said that the president is obsessed with amazon and its ceo jeff bezos. have you heard the president talk about amazon and are they currently competing on a level playing field right now? >> i've heard the president talk repeatedly about making business practices in this country level for everyone across the board. i've heard him talk about it privately and publicly. i know it's something he wants to see happen. beyond that, i don't have anything for you. >> thank you, sarah. is the president concerned that his immigration policies have kept away from the u.s. high tech workers, specialty workers that instead would go to canada for instance? >> i'm sorry, i'm not sure i follow. >> is he concerned with -- that is immigration policies have kept away from the u.s. specialized workers, hi tech workers that prefer to go somewhere else? >> not at all. the president is concerned that
we aren't doing enough to create a strong workforce here, which is why he's put a big emphasis on workforce development. it's something ivanka trump has been involved in. we have been pushing for very strong policy shifts to improving the workforce developments of people in this country so that we have a lot more skilled workers to fill some of those hi tech jobs. >> mitt romney said he's more hardliner on immigration than the president because he's opposed to citizenship for dreamers. would the president sign a bill that would give citizenship for dreamers? >> we've put out a number of solutions to fix the daca program. democrats have shown their unwillingness to do so.
we'd love to come up with a long-term solution if democrats decide to show up for work and be part of that process we'd love to do that. i'm going to take one last question. >> two quick questions for you. on sanctuary cities, is he encouraging other cities to join this doj lawsuit against the state of california? >> the president is encouraging people to follow federal lof. there the president expects that individual cities and states should follow the federal law. >> if i could ask you about the president's former lawyer, john dowd. are there any actions mr. dowd took while he was serving the president that president trump was uncomfortable with? >> i'm sorry? >> were there any actions that john dowd took -- >> not that i'm aware of. thanks so much, guys. have great rest of the week. >> sarah huckabee sanders finishing today's white house
briefing. a flat out denial from sanders about this new reporting from "the new york times" that donald trump's former lawyer, john dowd, had discussions with the lawyers for both paul manafort and michael flynn about potential presidential pardons as the muller probe was tightening on those two men. sarah huckabee sanders says there's no discussion or consideration on this. she also referred back to ty cobb's statement, one of the president's lawyers. i've only been asked about pardons by the press and have routinely responded on the record that no pardons are under discussion or under consideration at the white house. kristen welker is back with us in the white house briefing room. also atlantic staff writer and msnbc contributor natasha bertrand and peter baker. peter, because your paper is reporting this and i want to give you a chance on behalf of the paper to respond to sarah
huckabee sanders, she's saying this is flat out wrong. i know this isn't your reporting, but can you help our viewers understand the process it takes to get a story like this into "the new york times"? >> we've heard from this podium a number of times that stories weren't true that turned out to be exactly true hours or days later. the most recent example being the denial when they said they weren't about to fire h.r. mcmaster. strangely enough a couple days later he was gone. they said they were not having trouble finding lawyers for their legal team. they're having trouble finding lawyers for their legal team. denials are commonplace from the white house. sometimes they turn out not to be the case. in this case, a story was reported by five of my colleagues, five of the best reporters out there. they've spent a lot of time working on this. they have very good sources. the editor spent a lot of time going over the details before we ever put a story like this into
publication. we feel very confident about the story. we'll see where the story goes from here. i feel like the track record has been such that stories like this are, in fact, almost always turn out to be exactly right. >> we've seen a lot of that, especially lately. the by lines on this piece, the top reporters there at the times. not including, obviously, peter baker. >> that's the all-star team. >> talking about timing though. we mentioned a tweet from the president last summer talking about pardons and what he could do with pardons. he said while all agree the president has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is leaks against us. fake news. he's referring back we believe a washington post report where donald trump seeks to block robert muller's investigation. this is around the time that
donald trump, according to the post, was asking advisors about the ability to pardon aides, family members. michael dowd had this conversation with michael flynn's lawyer in the summer of 2017. around the same time these other news reports were coming out and had the conversation with manafort's lawyer prior to manafort being indicted in october. when you look at all of that timing, does it say anything to you? >> right. this whole thing is plausible because it fits in with the president's narrative that the fbi and the doj have been corrupted from the top. and in his efforts to undermine the muller investigation, he may also be thinking, well, are the indictments against michael flynn and paul manafort even, you know -- are they even legitimate? in terms of whether or not dowd was freelancing on this, that's
difficult to believe. we saw that dowd came out with a statement essentially saying the muller investigation should end. he got in a lot of trouble for that. not 12 hours later we saw the president come out with a tweet that echoed that exact sentiment. virtually the same wording, saying he believed the muller investigation should be over. this is at the end of the press briefing we saw sarah sanders saying to her knowledge dowd had never really taken action outside the president's direct orders. whether or not that was fr freelancing on this is something that remains to be seen. it's possible he wasn't have direct conversations about this with the president. but just in terms of everything we've seen about, you know, trump's determination to keep in touch with michael flynn after he left the white house about his asking the former fbi director james comey whether he would drop the investigation into michael flynn. of course, the conversations he had about potentially firing muller, they're all very significant. >> kristen welker, the white house, again, flatly denying
this. we should also note that john dowd is no longer on the legal team. >> he resigned several days ago . i put the question to sarah sanders whether the president was aware of this, whether he directed john dowd to have these conversations. take a look at that exchange. >> ty cobb's statement deals with the president. did the president direct john dowd to talk to the attorneys for paul manafort and michael flynn? >> i'm not aware of any conversations at all. >> did the president have reactions to the revelations of the "new york times"? >> i did not talk to him about it specifically. again, i've been in a number of conversations, it's never come up. ty cobb, who would be the lead representative for the white house on these matters, has also gone on the record to discuss and declare that these conversations haven't taken place. >> again, referring all of the
questions to ty cobb -- what is striking about that is i think it raises a number of questions about whether the president has been on the same page with john dowd on a whole range of controversial and questionable moments. one of them occurring days before dowd resigned in which he called for an end to the special counsel investigation. remember, that's when we saw those first tweets from the president taking on special counsel robert muller directly. it seemed like they were speaking on the same page in that instance. now, john dowd walked back from the statement and tried to back pedal again before he resigned. but it would be very striking if the president wasn't aware of or directing john dowd to have those conversations in some way, shape or form. i think that's where the focus will be as we continue to track this. >> it's also striking how infrequently sarah huckabee sanders seems to have conversations with the president
about the news of the day. she infrequently can answer questions from reporters about what the president is thinking, what his intentions are, what he's doing, what he's been reading. whether he has a comment on any given story. which is odd, because she's supposed to be speaking on behalf of the president. natasha, last question to you. and it's a question i asked you before sarah huckabee sanders came out. what could michael flynn, what could paul manafort reveal that could potentially worry the white house and initiate potentially the dangling of a presidential pardon? >> a lot. michael flynn, of course, was the president's right hand man during the campaign. paul manafort had a shorter kind of tenure on the campaign, but his deputy rick gates, who we now know was still in touch with someone with ties to russian intelligence during the election stayed on the campaign and in the transition period.
even after manafort left. manafort had ties to the campaign, even after he was ousted from it. in terms of what michael flynn could tell the special counsel that would be relevant to this investigation, it really all comes down to the transition talks that he had with the russian ambassador. why did he feel the need to lie about that to the fbi? why did he reashassure the ambassador that the sanctions would be looked at. these are big questions that flynn would have the answer to and that maufpaul manafort coul also provide some insight to as to the collusion question. >> michael flynn has pleaded guilty. paul manafort still has yet to do so. if he's going to do so. if he's going to cut a deal, that's unclear. he is facing a mountain of charges. nbc's kristen welker, natasha bertrand and peter baker, thanks
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better be prepared to know what your next step is going to be. and everybody knows the cataclysm consequences of a war on the korean peninsula in terms of loss of life. primarily korean loss of life. >> in an interview with my colleague andrea mitchell, former secretary of state james baker had some advice for president trump ahead of his potential meeting with north korean's kim jong-un. the president tweeted that chinese president xi told him the meet ing with kim went well and everyone is looking to the potential of the u.s. and north korea meeting. chinese state media reported that kim pledged to denuclearize the korean peninsula. but a readout from the korean official news did not include that pledge. "the new york times" published this satellite image appearing to show a new reactor at north korea's main nuclear complex. the north says it will produce
electricity. experts say the reactor could be used to produce newauclear weap. jeffr jeffrey, good to have you back. the news that kim jong-un went to china yesterday, meant with s s president xi, what was your reaction? >> their most important ally is still china, even if the two don't always get along. it was important for both the north koreans and the chinese that kim's first official visit be to china and not someplace else. >> is it a signal that china will have north korea's back or at the very least that america needs to go through china when it negotiates with north korea? or when it potentially plans to take action against north korea?
>> yeah, i think it's absolutely a sign that china and north korea are close and that they're much closer than they have been in the past. this was about signaling that relations were better. if relations are better, that means that china will be an important part of any diplomatic settlement but it will be an important barrier to any military action. that's why you get the smiling photograph of kim and xi. >> how perilous is it now? the u.s. and the president are touting this is a sign that kim jong-un is going to want to denuclearize. that's what china is saying, that wasn't in the official release from north korea. there are folks out there that say donald trump's -- his behavior, his unpredictability, his forcefulness with kim jong-un work to the u.s.'s advantage and they'll be sitting down and there will be a
conversation about denuclearization. >> those people are crazy. what the north koreans have said they're interested in the high level goal of denuclearization of the peninsula. that's the phrase in the chinese readout. this is a little bit like when president obama went to prague and gave a speech about how the united states was going to seek the security of a world without nuclear weapons. it's a little bit like sloouvla putin deciding he'll come to washington to get the bombs. >> if they don't denuclearize, what options are we going to be left with? how perilous are these talks now? >> that's what i was going to say. what happens when the president r realizes he's taking it all wrong. this is not a conversation about giving up the bomb. is he going to blame himself for flying off the handle? is he going to lash out and blame everyone else? that's the scenario i worry about. i think that is quite perilous. what happens if this diplomacy
fails and then the hawkish voices use the failure to push for much worse, more aggressive solutions. >> remember, john bolton, incoming national security advisor has written his own op-ed in the "wall street journal" arguing the case for a first strike against north korea. jeffrey, thank you so much for coming on and being with us today. >> it's a pleasure. and remember this? >> i will build a great, great wall on our southern border. i will have mexico pay for that wall. mark my words. >> we're going to build a wall, folks. we're going to build a wall. we're going to build it. don't worry. we're going to build the wall. that wall will go up so fast your head will spin. >> and whose going to pay for the wall? who's going to pay for the wall? who's going to pay for the wall? i've never done that before.
that's actually cute. >> who is going to pay for that wall? 100%. they don't know it yet, but that doesn't matter. >> wait, i'm not not sure that entirely clear. who did he say was going to pay for the wall? >> mexico. >> mexico. >> mexico. >> mexico. >> apparently what candidate donald trump said mexico would pay for the border wall he meant the u.s. military. well that is what we think any way. take this tweet on the omnibus bill which the president said he to sign to fund the military. quote, because of the 700 and $716 billion got tone rebuild our military, many jobs are create and our military is again rich building a great border wall with drugs, poison and enemy combatants pouring into our country is all about national defense. build wall through m. and m. we
pre -- we presume is military. after a year there is no funding for the wall and let alone a plan for how mexico -- not america -- would pay for it. and it is not just a tweet. according to the post, he pushing the military to fund the project and presented it to house speaker paul ryan and defense secretary john mattis according to three people familiar with the meeting talks to the post. and four days later he is regretting signing of the $1.3 trillion omnibus package saying it was a mistake and he should have followed his instincts. the spending bill only give the president $1.6 million for the border and white house had been pushing for $25 billion. and nbc news national security reporter courtney is at the pentagon. can the pentagon pay for a wall? >> so theoretically yes, sort
of. but it would probably require some kind of congressional approval. so the military -- the pentagon can move some money around from account to account within the larger d.o.d. budget. but only if it is for the same basic purpose. so theoretically they could take some money from military construction and use it for something like a border wall. but there is a threshold on how much money they can take without congressional approval, over sight and approval. and there is the problem that u.s. military cannot build on non-u.s. military land without some sort of a memorandum of understanding perhaps or without some kind of work-around. so there is a precedent for something similar to this. in 2006, the national guard was sent down for something -- for an operation jump start. it was a southwest border patrol mission. there were several thousand guard soldiers who were involved there for more than two years.
and they did as part of that mission, they built about 30 miles of fencing. they also built places for them to stay and some roads and what. no b-- and what not, but that ws a border mission by the national guard. so there is a precedent for something similar to this but there could be so many hurdles to be jumped over in order for the u.s. military to be the one who would do this mission. >> is it going to happen? >> your guess is as good as mine. i've stopped predicting anything on this administration because i'm always wrong. i think that it is theoretically possible but all of the logistics that any agency would have to take on, the department of defense would as well, so it would be a hurdle. and that is a stretch. >> courtney kube at the pentagon. thank you. let's go to matt shlap from the american conservative union. and it doesn't look like mexico is paying for the wall. is that going to be a problem for the president?
>> no. i don't think anybody expected a check to show up with fedex. i think the real question with the president was saying that we'll have a change in the bilateral economic relatio rel relationship and we've seen american companies shelving plans to build in mexico and instead building their plants in america and i think with the nafta negotiations -- the real question is will the american economy grow or see gains of over $25 billion because if this change in posture with mexico. my prediction at the end of the trump presidency, you will see that. >> and just to be clear, nobody expected mexico to pay for this. i was on the campaign for 510 days. >> not on fedex -- did you expect to -- via fedex on the white house desk? >> i reported on the president saying mexico would pay for the wall repeatedly and i heard him say it with the crowd and the crowd had a calling and with a response. >> did you hear what i said --
>> and then talk about potentially making visas cost more. that is how mexico would end up paying for it. it was never talk about mexico losing money and in terms of plants or anything like that. there was some roundabout proposal out there but it didn't look like what you are talking about. >> look, i don't blame you for making the very clear case of looking at donald trump's words. my point is that there is something beyond those words in terms of the economic relationship between mexico and america. and in essence, the american economy has just been giving economic aid to mexico and as the president said, negotiating bad deals and we thought we could build mexico up by cavalierly shedding american jobs. and you have to admit, there is a change in those policies. we'll see whether those policy as crew to the benefit of the american worker and i think in many cases they will. >> here is what i will give you. i was talking to a man in ohio during the campaign and i asked him what if the president doesn't build the wall and his
response was, it's okay. i trust whatever he does. i trust his instincts. if the wall does not go up, will he pay for it politically or a problem for him come the 2020 election? >> i think it is a problem but also a problem for the democrats if they block any attempt to build that wall. and i think that is the problem here. president obama and hillary clinton, the other democrats at the national level all voted to secure our southern border and voted for fencing. you know this. you've covered this. it is all a silly word game. in the end we have a poor southern border and any politician who is smart will realize the benefit making sure we have security at the southern border when it comes to drugs and people entering our country illegally. that is something we should all agree on, any politician that stands up against that there will be consequences for that. >> do you not concede one thing, that it is a bit wild to say we shouldn't listen to what the president said? >> i absolutely think what you -- you should listen to what
the president says and i listened and i took that mexico will pay for the wall because i'm going to change our policies to the mexico economy and to the mexican government and there are people who know when he said that, that is what he meant. but i don't blame you for taking him literally. go for it. but i think the american people are smarter than that. >> i don't know. i talked -- maybe. i talked to a lot of folks who said when he said mexico was going to pay for the wall that they expected mexico to pay for the wall. not the american taxpayer or the pentagon. >> -- >> and the pentagon. when which is happening now. good to have you. and one more thing. today a wake is being held in sacramento for steven clark shot 20 times by police and killed. you heard sarah huckabee-sanders attempt to answer a question on this during the briefing a moment ago. he was killed as he ran away from officers in grandparent's backyard. the 22-year-old will be laid to
rest tomorrow. police officers responded after vandalism of car windows and they say it was justified because the officers feared for their lives but what they thought was a gun was actually a cell phone. clark was unarmed when he was gunned down. the officers body cams were muted. he don't know why. an independent investigation is expected to bear that out and whether or not the charges will -- these officers will face charges. since this happened, protests and calls for action have put sacramento into the national spotlight. last night those calls spilled over into a city council meeting. his brother stormed the chamber with hundreds outside chanting. protesters blocked the entrance to the sacramento kings arena and a few moments ago the white house was asked and the state of race relations in america. >> these tensions between communities of color and police departments, does the president not need to show leadership on
this issue? >> we certainly -- when the president has talked about a number of issues. we want to find ways to bring the country together. certainly not looking for anyplace of division. i think you've seen that in the policies that he's put forward. >> well leave you with these thoughts thoughts and the big question. here is stephon clark's brand mother who will bury her 22-year-old grandson tomorrow. >> what would you -- enter 20 bullets on a unarmed man. why would do you that? >> do you want to see charges in this case? >> yes. >> his grandmother right there. that will wrap things up for me this hour. dave picks things up. good to see you. >> thank you very much. well good afternoon. i'm david gura in for ali velshi. it is five days since we heard president trump speak on camera which sent reporters looking for
answers before today's press briefing, a bombshell reported that john dowd raised the 'pected -- prospects of pardon. listen to sarah huckabee-sanders had to say. >> i would refer you back to the statement from ty cobb in the report that you are asking about when which he said i've only been asked by pardons by the press and have responded on the record that no pardons are under destructi discussion or consideration at the white house. >> and the president is tweeting about other items, including a meeting with north korea president kim jong-un. but no word from the white house on when that meeting would happen. >> we would like to see this obviously -- this is something of a global -- of global importance and we want to make sure it is done as soon as we