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tv   MSNBC Live With Craig Melvin  MSNBC  April 3, 2018 10:00am-11:00am PDT

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something bottled up for a half century, to finally share it, it can be overwhelming. >> craig melvin, i know you're going to play all of that. it's an extraordinary interview. thank you so much for bringing it to us. >> thank you. thank you very much. craig melvin here at msnbc headquarters in new york city. trump's troubles. president trump's russia troubles. the first man sentenced in robert mueller's investigation learned he is going to be spending 30 days in prison. right now, the president meeting with baltic state leaders. you just heard him here. he went off about nafta, the post office, amazon as well. plus, job security. nbc news reports the president told his embattled epa secretary scott pruitt he's got his back. pruitt spoke publicly today without taking questions. and witness to history. andrea just played a snippet
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there. a woman who was working at the lorraine motel. the story for the very first time, 50 years later. what she remembers about the final moments. but we start with that breaking news on the first prison sentence handed down in a mueller probe. alex vander swan, a london-based lawyer. worked with paul manafort, robert gates. he was sentenced to 30 days in prison, a $20,000 fine. he pled guilty in february to lying to federal investigators who were probing russian interference in the 2016 election. white house lawyer ty cobb declined to comment on that sentencing. all at this hour, the president will face the appreciation taking questions when he hosts the leaders of three baltic nations. they're asking for the united states to provide military
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protection against what they see is a growing russian threat along their borders, as reports of tensions swirl around the president's relationship with vladimir putin. nbc's jeff bennett is at the white house. our justice correspondent pete williams is at the u.s. district courthouse in washington. also with us, msnbc national security analyst ned price. and our legal analyst danny cevellos will join us in a moment. president trump there just a few moments ago it sounded like to a lot of folks that the president was proposing militarizing the border. is that an accurate assessment? >> it appears to be an accurate assessment, craig. i'll tell you this, though, the president was saying a lot about a lot this last hour. in the cabinet room. to give you a sense of what was happening behind the scenes, our colleague peter alexander was in the room and white house hand handlers were trying to issue him and other reporters out of the cabinet room and every time they did, someone would ask a
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question and the president would engage. clearly the president had a lot on his mind there. a snapshot of just a few of the things. top of the list, this issue of illegal immigration, the thing that he's been talking a lot about ever since this weekend. take a look at what he had to say on the specific issue of militarizing the border. >> our laws are so week and so pathetic. you would not understand this because i know how strong your laws are at the border. it's like we have no border. we're going to be doing things militarily until we have a wall and proper security, we're going to be guarding our border with the military. that's a big step. we really haven't done that before. >> now, a team of producers has been looking into this to see if this is actually new, if the president is suggesting a new policy proposal, let's say. in the past, it appears he has referred to rounding up of undocumented immigrants as a military operation. as you well know, he's at least floated the idea of having the construction of the border wall
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that he's promised all these months funded in part through the pentagon budget. but look, the question of why the president is talking about immigration now, well, we know he spent this past weekend at mar-a-lago surrounded by aides and allies friends who were conveying to him the message that it appears his base is softening, getting angry, impatient, perhaps, about the sense that he's giving in on immigration. having just signed that spending bill that didn't contain the money for the border wall he says he wants. the other issue is trying to neutralize this issue of daca, these protections for the 700,000 or so dreamers across the country. so in the absence of having a deal in the midterm elections, he doesn't want democrats to be able to pin the blame for him on that. he's trying to head them off on the pass here. >> geoff, what did the president say about russia? >> he said probably nobody's been tougher to russia than donald trump. that is of course debatable.
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of course the reason why he mentioned it is because he was sitting across the table from the leaders of the baltic states who he's about to hold a press conference with. they want him to do more to deter russia, especially by supporting nato forces in the region. that's an issue that has been talked a lot about -- talked about a lot today, and of course the president saying that he's been the toughest yet on vladimir putin. >> pete williams standing by for us as well. mr. williams, let's turn back to the mueller probe here. what happened in court today? how does alex van der zwaan, how does he fit into the mueller investigation. >> peripherally i think is the best answer to that. what he lied about is not the question of whether the manafort and gates were helping the russians and the campaign. what the government says he lied about is work that his law firm did for the government of ukraine, a report commissioned by the former president about
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the -- about the prosecution of his predecessor, his law firm wrote that report. representing ukraine at the time. that's what the government says he lied about. his lawyers said, look, he initially lied to them. we admit that. he came back in december and tried to set the record straight. you have to give him credit for that. the government says yes, he came back, but he had a grand jury subpoena. that's why he came back. and he came clean only grudgingly. at the end of the day, the judge said i have to send a message with this sentence. i have to make sure that it promotes respect for the law. it eliminates sentencing disparity so he doesn't get a much sweeter deal than somebody else in his position would get. it reflects the seriousness of the offense. now, his lawyers had said they wanted him to try to be back in london wherein he lives with his wife, who's having a problem pregnancy and is expecting their first child in august. so at the end of the
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proceedings, the judge sentenced him to 30 days in prison, pay a $20,000 fine, so it seems quite clear he'll be back in time for prison. it's interesting that just before pronouncing sentence, the judge noted that several members of alex van der zwaan's family wrote letters to the judge, his wife, his mother, others, attesting to his good character and urging leniency. but the judge said that van der zwaan himself never did. his own expressions of remorse have been muted, craig. >> pete, let's also take a look at this newly released document that seems to underline the deputy attorney general rod rosenstein's role authorizing mueller to look into manafort's connections. what more can you tell us about this document? >> that i think is the part that seemed pretty unsurprising. we all assumed that's been mueller's job is to look at connections, whether any americans were helping the russians meddle in the
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elections. what's interesting about that document is two things. one is, it lists people by name. now, we only saw the manafort part of it. most of it is blacked out. but it's interesting that mueller's commission was to look at specific people. so they were already starting to look at. because of the fbi's work. bac basically giving mul earl his homework assignment on what he should be teed up to do. secondly, it's the commission from rosenstein to mueller specifically mentions this whole ukrainian business. and, remember, it had been manafort's contention that mueller was going beyond his brief by prosecuting mueller -- manafort and gates for the work in ukraine. no, no, the special counsel says, this is the order we got. >> pete williams for us there, pete, thank you, sir. jeff, stand by for me if you can. ned price is with us as well. and danny cevellos. ned price, national security analyst.
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danny, let me start with you, van der zwaan, 30 days, $20,000 fine. how unusual is it to send an attorney to jail for lying to federal investigators? >> attorneys are treated just the same as anyone else. the only major difference would be most attorneys aren't going to have a significant criminal history. sure enough this is an attorney who would have been what we call a zero, no prior criminal history so his sentencing guidelines were 0 to 6 months. a one-month sentence is squarely in the guidelines. i would have liked to have seen a probation only sentence if i was his attorney, and i think he had grounds for it, but this sentence was within the applicable guidelines. >> van der zwaan not just any attorney here. what more do we know about his family ties? >> well, not just any attorney indeed. he was charged and sentenced for lying to federal investigators. the interesting part of his case is something we know relatively little about. van der zwaan apparently knows
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about conversations between donald trump's former deputy campaign manager rick gates and identified russian intelligence officer, someone with ties to russian intelligence. we don't know precisely who that person is, but at least speculation suggest it's a man named constantine calamanic, who has tied to russian military unit, the same unit that was behind the attack in our democracy in 2016. there was another interesting part of the court filing issued today. in that andrew wiseman, one of the chief prosecutors, asked the judge to be very careful about access to records associated with this case. precisely because there seems to be a lot this individual has told prosecutors or that this individual knows that is not yet public. and so i think the full history of the van der zwaan case is yet to be known publicly. but there seemed to be some additional interesting nuggets in there. >> danny van der zwaan, one of
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five people so far to plead guilty in the special counsel's probe. paul manafort's been indicted along with 13 russian nationals. three russian corporations as well. we don't expect these russians to ever appear in court. what about paul manafort at this point? what does his future look like? >> this is a big revelation for me at least because manafort's argument, his complaint, that the mueller team exceeded the boundaries of their directive, was an interesting legal argument. it had some valid points. that may no longer be the case in light of the news of today. that maybe mueller always had that directive, that authority, go after manafort. but the fact that these -- that manafort is choosing to take his chances at trial reflects what a lot of criminal defendants often decide, which is i'm looking at so much in terms of sentencing there really is no point in not rolling the dice and seeing what happens. in addition, there's always the possibility of a presidential pardon.
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maybe that's something that manafort is holding out for. >> if all of the roads so far, if they appear to lead to paul manafort, and i think we've got an interesting graphic here that illustrates some of the players and how they are all int interconnected. if all of the roads that the point appear to lead towards paul manafort, where does manafort lead, ned? >> well, that's the question. when manafort -- when an indictment against manafort was announced last year, you'll recall that the trump administration said at the time, look, this is not about collusion this has very little to do with russia. this is about paul manafort's double dealing. the shady business that paul manafort did on the side that had very little to do with us. what i think we learned today or at least what was confirmed today in the doj filing that was released overnight, is in fact no, there is a collusion element
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in the manafort investigation. despite the white house's best efforts to distance themselves from paul manafortmanafort, pau manafort led the campaign at a pivotal time, during the national convention. if there is an element to any collusion that pamanafort had wh the russians, that is a huge deal. it's not something the trump administration can walk away from. >> ned price, danny, a big thanks to you. i want to bring back geoff bennett. just a few moments ago, president trump, he gave his first public comments on embattled ed epa head scott pru. >> scott pruitt, sir, you support scott pruitt? >> i hope he's going to be good. >> i hope he's going to be good. among a wave of negative headlines, it seems the white house not cutting off ties, at least not yet, to administration officials, telling nbc news that both the president and chief of
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staff gave pruitt a call to offer their support. the president reportedly told him last night, quote, we've got your back. they urged him to keep his head up and to, quote, keep fighting. jeff what more do we know and would it seem that scott pruitt is safe now? >> it certainly seems that way. at the current moment. although one wonders what it's like to be scott pruitt, to hear the president say i hope he's going to be great. it's not quite a resounding endorsement. look, we know the president doesn't like cabinet members drawing negative headlines. he doesn't like unforced errors. what's different about scott pruitt is that people close to the president describe him as being one of the most effective members of the trump cabinet in terms of executing the trump agenda. he's of course overseeing the rollback of a host of obama era environmental regulations and policies. he supported the president's decision to ditch the paris climate agreement. he's an effective messenger. he pops up in conservative media all the time, talking about how
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great the president is. as you mentioned, raj shah, who is the deputy white house press secretary here, told us that the president spoke with poout yesterday. john kelly spell with pruitt today. another administration official says those calls were meant to be calls of support to pruitt. it would appear scott pruitt is standing on firm ground here, of course with the caveat that everything i just said is true, until it isn't true, because we know trump is the ultimate arbiter of this, and he can be described as a mercurial boss at best. >> before that exchange we just saw there with the president, with the three heads of states, lithuania, latvia and estonia, we saw the president doing what he's prone to do, hopping on twitter, tweeting this morning and over the past couple of days about a number of topics, illegal immigration, the media, his poll numbers, and amazon, he's spent a fair amount of time over the last few days talking about amazon.
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we heard that diatribe there as it relates to the post office and amazon. why is this happening now? especially this attack on amazon? how much of this is about jeff bezos? how much is about re-energizing his base? >> that's a great question. the president often conflates jeff bezos dual role as owner of amazon and "washington post," even though those are two separate entities. he's attacking amazon as a proxy for attacking "the washington post" for the coverage of his administration which he doesn't like. in reporting the story, i've reached out to amazon and they've made clear when the post office writes deals for package delivery, by rlaw, those deals have to be written in a way that it is profitable for the post office. postal service officials say yes, they are losing money year over year in part because of the huge retirement obligations they have to pay out, but that one of the bright spots of its financial picture is actually
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package delivery of which amazon contributes a great deal. on the merits, the president's arguments just don't hold up. so what we're left with is what you suggest, that he's trying to find something here to energize the base, again, as we head into a midterm election. >> amazon's even got the post office delivering on sunday which is, you know, that's a separate matter. geoff bennett. >> we're all grateful for. >> right. geoff, thank you. right now, we continue to keep a close eye on the white house. the president in the middle of that meeting with leaders of three baltic states who are facing pressure from russia. we're expecting a news conference to get under way we're told roughly 15 minutes or so. when it happens, we'll take you there live. first, a witness to history. i spoke to a woman who was working at the lorraine hotel in memphis that day when dr. king was assassinated. it's the first time she's sharing her story. she couldn't believe the moment she was witnessing.
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tomorrow marks 50 years since the assassination of dr. martin luther king jr. i sat down recently with an eyewitness to history for the "today" show. you've seen her before in this iconic photo, that one right
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there. but for a half century, she never cared the world didn't know who she was. for the first time she's talking about it publicly. the telling of a deeply personal, deeply painful moments from that day. i met her at the civil rights museum in memphis which stands on the grounds of the lorraine hotel, the site of dr. king's assassination. >> i'm standing on this side. >> reporter: mary ellen ford has stood here before. where is dr. king? >> on this -- in front of the 306. >> reporter: this picture taken in 1968 is the photo the world would come to know. on the balcony of the famed lorraine motel, three people point toward the sound of a gunshot. dr. martin luther king jr. lays dying at their feet. a small crowd can be seen gathered below. >> reporter: where are you in this picture? >> this is me right there. >> reporter: right there? >> yes. >> reporter: that young woman in white is mary ellen.
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frozen in time. april 4th, 1968. it's a day she's only talked about with the closest of family members until now. were you having a conversation with anyone? >> no. i was not. i was not. i was just standing there. like in shock. >> reporter: witness number 43. mary ellen norwood. this memphis police report lists her as female, colored, 21, and employed at the lorraine as a waitress and cook. what was it like working here? >> i loved it. i did. i really loved it. >> reporter: walter and lori bailey owned the hotel in the segregated south. it was a safe place to stay for prominent black musicians like bb king and aretha franklin. who's your favorite? >> isaac hayes is my favorite because he was always here and i got to see him every time. >> reporter: but the most famous guest of all, dr. king. drawn to memphis by striking
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sanitation workers. >> running around, get this room straightened up because dr. king is coming, dr. king is coming. >> reporter: mary ellen caught glimpses of king as he came and went from the motel. at one point delivering food to him and other civil rights leaders. >> they had hamburgers. all of them had hamburgers. when i took the tray in, i set it on the table. he was laying on the bed. >> reporter: dr. king? >> yes. smoking a cigarette because he smoked. >> reporter: on the evening of april 4th, mary ellen was cooking in the kitchen. >> at first i thought it was firecrackers, you know, people shooting off firecrackers. then we all ran outside to see what was going on. he was laying on the balcony. and i'm standing there. i'm just dumfounded, you know, shocked, like what just happened. this don't happen here.
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you know. this is not -- okay. >> reporter: when you keep something bottled up for a half century and finally share it, it can be overwhelming. after all these years, you still get emotional? >> yes. i guess because i never even talked about it. because i get so anguished. >> reporter: what were people saying? >> just yelling. just yelling. you know, they shot dr. king, they shot dr. king. somebody shot dr. king. and that's all you could hear. >> reporter: miss mary ellen did you know immediately? >> no, no. we didn't think he was going to die. >> reporter: you didn't? >> no. >> reporter: why not?
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>> he can't. >> reporter: martin luther king jr. was killed tonight in memphis, tennessee. >> reporter: mary ellen stayed at the motel for three days after dr. king was killed. as the country's spotlight turned to the lorraine. >> just plugged up the lines. because we kept getting calls from reporters. even the pay phone on the outside. did dr. king get shot? did dr. king get shot? >> reporter: while she'll forever be there standing in the blurry shadows of history, mary ellen chooses to remember a different moment. with the man that inspired so many. >> the thing that really stands out to me the most is seeing all these peoples sitting on the brick wall waiting to get a glimpse at dr. king. >> reporter: when people knew he was going to be at hotel? >> they were there. >> reporter: they would come? >> they would come. >> reporter: just to see dr. king? >> just to see dr. king.
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>> and at a time where so many spend so many of their time trying to insert themselves in history, in events, here's a woman who for 50 years didn't care that no one knew she'd been there on that day, a special thanks to her and her family for sharing her story with me. join us tomorrow for special coverage of the 50th anniversary of dr. king's assassination all day long here on msnbc and nbc news as well. we are about ten minutes away now from president trump taking to that podium at the white house. he'll be there with the presidents of three balkan nations who have really concerns about the man who is at the center of some of president trump's biggest problems, russia president vladimir putin. could this happen again? was my warfarin treatment right for me? my doctor told me about eliquis. eliquis treats dvt and pe blood clots and reduces the risk of them happening again. not only does eliquis treat dvt and pe blood clots... eliquis also had
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and sometimes, i don't eat the way i should. so, i drink boost. boost high protein nutritional drink has 15 grams of protein to help maintain muscle and 26 essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium and vitamin d. look for savings on boost in your sunday paper. in the next few minutes, president trump will take to the podium along with the leaders of the battlen states, estonia, lithuania, latvia. the four leaders shared a working lunch where president trump pushed for a better working relationship with russia. >> this is speaking with the baltic states. ideally, we want to get along with russia. getting along with russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. now, maybe we will, maybe we won't. nobody has been tougher on russia but getting along with russia would be a good thing not a bad thing. and just about everybody agrees to that except very stupid people. >> russia likely to be at the
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forefront of today's visit. formally under soviet control. that is, up until 1991. the nations that we have highlighted there for you are increasingly worried about the kremlin's power and influence along their borders. i've got a great panel here to break it all down. peter alexander, our man at the white house. nbc's national security and military reporter courtney cubee is at the pentagon. p.j. crowley, former assistant secretary of state, also author of "red line." michael mcfall, former u.s. ambassador to russia. and steve clemens, editor at large at "the atlantic." this is quite the panel. some days i say that and i don't really believe it but today i believe it. mr. alexander, let's start with you there at the white house. what should we expect from president trump today? >> well, craig, this is going to be one of those rare one, one, one, one news conference, which is to say one reporter from each of the four countries represented today will get to pose their questions to the presidents of these countries. president trump obviously is
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hosting these guests from the baltic states, estonia, latvia and lithuania, to demonstrate his support for them and frankly his push against russia. as we heard in those statements and i was in that cabinet room a short time ago, the president said no one has been tougher on russia than donald trump. obviously that fly also in the face of some of the facts. at least in terms of the public persona, the way he's publicly presented himself. despite the u.s. now expelling russian diplomats in recent days, 60 of them being sent back home, president trump has yet to call out russia. he hasn't condemned vladimir putin on that topic. he hasn't condemned russia or putin specifically for moscow's interference in the last election as well. he said it's better to get along than it is not to get along. he said everybody agrees with that other than stupid people. so that's one of the topics obviously that will be the focus of the attention. i expect you'll hear the president focusing on how he thinks, he believes he deserves the credit for nato being reinforced in recent months,
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saying that all countries must give their due to support nations like those that will be up in front of us on this day. it's possible this is our first opportunity to press some questions the president hasn't faced yet about stormy daniels, about the idea that he requests or perhaps had conversations about pardons for paul manafort and michael flynn, that those conversations occurred between john dowd, his former legal counsel, outside the white house, and attorneys for those two men. we'll press him on that i suspect as well. but, again, only one question from american reporters so it remains to be seen whether some of those piercing questions will be asked today. >> courtney, what do these baltic leaders hope to get out of this visit specifically? what sort of assurances are they looking for? >> they are all worried about russian expansionism in the region. they watched what happened in 2014 to ukraine and they've seen there's still a battle going on there and russia continues to occupy crimea right now. they want the united states -- they feel the united states is
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the only way that they can be safe, support from the united states, safe from russia's continued efforts to expand throughout the region. one of their concerns is president trump and candidate trump both spoke very critically about nato on the campaign trail and then since he's come into office. they're concerned that the nato alliance needs to hold up. it needs to stay strong in the face of russia. one of the other things is, you know, president trump spoke a lot about nato and the nato partners needing to share more of the burden, primarily, the financial burden. i suspect that's something that would have come up in the meeting today. i suspect they would have asked president trump why is it that you aren't stronger in your rhetoric in public about russia? we did a story last week, my colleagues carol lee and kristen welker and i about how president trump's administration official, his senior advisers, really have to push him to take tough actions and to speak out against russia. that it's this continuous effort.
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it had been led, in part, by secretary of state rex tillerson. so it remains to be seen now that tillerson is out the door, what's going to happen next, craig. >> mr. ambassador, how likely is it the united states commits to some sort of permanent military presence there in the baltic states? >> well, first of all, i just want to put a marker down. i'm one of those stupid people. i guess. i'm a rhodes scholar. i'm a tenured professor. but i disagree with the president on this. the idea that we just need to get along with russia should be the goal of u.s. foreign policy. is in correct. the goal of u.s. foreign policy should be to protect our allies, to defend our national interests and sometimes that means getting along with moscow and sometimes it means containing russia and containing vladimir putin and, right now, we're in one of those times. with respect to your question, sorry, i just -- >> no, that's okay. >> stupid people, that is a
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very -- it just underscores how he just doesn't understand basics about international relations and diplomacy when i hear comments like that. with respect to permanent forces, i don't see that any time soon. i see a rotational basis on a 24/7 basis. that's what was put in place before the trump administration. i do not see the trump administration, including secretary mattis, undermining that any time soon. >> steve clemens, i want to play something that the president said just a short time ago here. he was talking about nato. he has been a frequent critic, if you will, of the north atlantic treaty organization. this is what he said in just the last hour. take a listen. >> nato has taken in billions of dollars more because of me, because i said you're delinquent, you're not paying. germany pays 1%. the united states is paying close to 4%. the united states, as you said, is paying 80% of the cost of
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nato. do you think that's fair? >> fact check, steve clemens, is that true? >> fact checker, 80%? it reminds me of those maps, with all due respect to my friends in new york, of new york city being the center of the world and everything else being a lot smaller. the united states contributes about 22% of nato's budget. germany, which donald trump bashed quite a bit during that meeting, contributes about 15% of nato's budget. and that leads about 63% of the rest of nato's expenses that are covered by all the other countries. so president trump needs to get a primer on this. he's just completely wrong on the facts. >> meanwhile, again, as we wait for this joint newser to get started, we're starting to see folks take their seats. i believe i see the secretary of commerce, wilbur ross, sitting next to energy secretary rick perry, then of course mcmaster and i believe that's kellyanne conway, special counselor to the president, at the very end. p.j., the president, as you know, of course, just got rid of one of his cabinet members,
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tillerson, secretary of state. how is that vacancy going to play into all of this? >> well, the president has seemingly invited vladimir putin, you know, to come potentially to the white house sometime in the foreseeable future. i think it just underscores the impulsiveness and discord within the president and his national security team and those divisionings are judivisio divisions are just going to get exacerbated as we see mike pompeo move from intelligence to the state department and john bolton replace h.r. mcmaster. it's going to be interesting to see how bolton and pompeo can impact the president's, you know, on his belief there's a constructive relationship out there between himself and vladimir putin. i think they're very clear eyed in terms of russia and the role it plays, the destructive role
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it plays in europe and beyond, and so that's going to be just one of those tensionings thats see as the president reforms his national security team. >> we're watching folks continue to enter the room as trump and the three leaders of these baltic countries are expected to make their way to the podium any moment now. i believe we just saw the delegation take their seats. quick moment to talk about something unrelated to the matter at hand there in the room. courty cubee, the president said something in the last hour that's caught a lot of attention here. i want to play it for our viewers and listeners on zsiriu. this is what he said about the southern border here in the united states. take a listen. >> i've been speaking with general mattis. we're going to be doing things militarily. until we can have a wall and proper security, we're going to be guarding our border with the military. >> is that something that's under serious consideration right now, courtney, or do we know? >> we don't know exactly how
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serious the consideration is. we do know that secretary mattis and president trump spoke about this issue last week. you know there is some precedent for this. in 2006 through 2008, the u.s. military, the national guard, was involved in some southwest border patrol. i'm sorry, border control. now, what that means is they were down there helping with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. they were trying to help the border patrol agents who were down there. they weren't actually involved in any kind of interdictions of people coming across the border. the national guard, they built some roads, they built some fencing. so they helped. they supported the mission. but they were not actually involved in any kind of law enforcement role. and that's because there's actually a law called -- it would be a violation of something called posse comitatus. which it does not allow any kind of federal troops, u.s. military, u.s. army, national, you know, federal troops to be involved in any kind of police
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action and any kind of law enforcement action. the national guard, however, if they are on state active duty. so if they're under the orders and authority of the governor of the state, can be involved in that. another time we saw that was during hurricane katrina when national guard troops were sent down to new orleans to help with, you know, when there was concerns about rioting and concerns about looting. but it has to be, again, on state active duty. so there is a precedent for the u.s. military, the national guard specifically being involved in the border patrol, border patrol mission, but we don't know if this case, if it's gone beyond any kind of initial conversation. the other big question of course is who would pay for it. whose budget would it come out of. how could they possibly do that? it would most likely have to involve congressional notification and authorization. all those questions are up in the air. we don't know how serious president trump and secretary mattis are about this idea. >> perhaps mexico will pay for
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it. as we wait for these leaders of state to hit the podium there in the east room, the president's last solo news conference, we have it as february of 2017, that's the last time the president had a solo news conference. how unusual is that? >> well, it is striking that there hasn't been a solo news conference now in more than a year but to be clear about this president, he's put himself in front of the cameras on numerous occasions. i was in the cabinet room a short time ago. even as i was literally being yanked away by the individuals called the wranglers who help bring in and out the reporters, the president responded to nine separate questions including on scott pruitt, the embattled epa administrator. i asked him if he still supports pruitt. he says i hope he's going to do great. separately he spoke publicly about amazon. that has been a familiar target for him in recent days. so it is right. he hasn't held a news conference solo in more than a year. and the reason that is significant, because not only is the precedent, past presidents
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have done the same, but in this environment it really allows for any question to be asked and an opportunity for us reporters to ask questions without interruption from wranglers, without the president's ability to ignore you but simply for the question to be heard and the president to in some way be forced to respond. however he so desires. as we've learned and people watching at home have witnessed sometimes the toughest questions for this president are sometimes the sell miimplicity questions. only one american reporter will be posing questions in the joint news conference. >> we've covered a number of these now. typically if there is one correspondent selected to ask a question of this president that correspondent, again, by and large, has been from, shall we say, a friendly news outlet, if you will. mr. ambassador, let me come back to you here. we expect this foursome to hit the podiums any moment now. what are you listening for from
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president trump and what are you listening for from these four baltic leaders? >> well, the three batter leaders want to hear reassurance from their most important ally, that's the united states, that we are going to stand together against russian aggression. to come back what we talked about earlier, i'm not against, in general, a better relationship with russia, but it has to be for some concrete outcome. what i'm struck by with president trump so far is he keeps talking about getting along with putin, but that hasn't translated to any tangible gain. either on the economic or security side for us or our allies. and so i would be interested to hear what is his plan for achieving american national interest and the interest of our allies in dealing with russia, not just what is his plan for a photo opportunity with vladimir putin. >> steve what are you listening for? >> well, i mean, i'm very much along the same lines as michael
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mcfall, is you've got three leaders here from a very tense part of our nato relationships worried about russia's encroa encroachme encroachments, russian harassment. they want to see a greater u.s. troop presence. that's going to be a trip wire presence. that's not going to be a presence to really defend against russia, but it will tie the united states more deeply into their security. but as mike mcfall just said, donald trump's behavior thus far has tended more to reward russia despite its attacks on the united states. we need to understand that. russia has attacked the united states. it's attacked our election system. it's attacked our energy infrastructure by installing malware in some of our most important energy facilities around the country. russia is on the move and donald trump in contrast to what his comments on germany today, which were staggering, his swipe at germany was just in such contrast to the way in which he
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postures toward russia. that's confusing to everyone. that's confusing tofusing to am citizens. they don't understand why the american president has been so slow to keep up with other parts of his administration and the u.s. congress for calling russia out for its misbehavior. i want to see if donald trump binds with -- shows that we're bonded to these baltic leaders or whether he rolls over again for the prospect that russia, just by being nice, somehow vladimir putin is going to be, you know, kumbaya with the united states and i don't think that's going to be the case. >> p.j., it was last year when president trump addressed that nato gathering. the president broke with the norm and did not stand by this idea under the nato charter that we would of course rush to the defense of our allies. and since then, he's come under
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fire for some things he has said about nato. p.j., while i have you here, i want to clear up something. a lot has been made of these russian diplomats/spies that were kicked out of our country last week. is it true that russia is going to be able to just send back 60 more to replace them? is that your understanding? >> i don't -- it's unclear. you know, twice now vladimir putin has posetted a very large number of diplomats who will leave. in some cases, they may be foreign nationals working for an embassy or a consulate. so it remains to be seen, you know, how many of those really are american diplomats who do the business of american diplomacy day in and day out. you know, in russia. but just to follow up on your earlier point, you know, 20 years ago, we were talking about a new nato that would look at, you know, addressing concerns elsewhere. the baltic states are interested
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in the old nato. that's what they want to hear from the president that he will confront russia if need be. >> p.j., thank you. thanks to all of you as well. this is the east room with latvia's president, lithuania's president and the president of estonia. let's listen in. >> the president of estonia, the president of latvia and the president of lithuania at the u.s./baltic centennial summit. thank you all for traveling to the white house for these really important discussions. we've just spent a long time together. it was very interesting. this summit proudly displays to the world america's deep and lasting friendship with the baltic nations. on behalf of the american people, thank you very much. and we are going to have another 100 year, very long and beautiful relationship. this is your 100th year of independence.
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congratulations. for a century, the united states has stood with the people of the baltics in support of their independent sovereignty and self-determination. through the decades of brutal soviet occupation, theoccupatio states never ceased to recognize the sovereignty of the baltic republican republics. in our discussions today, i was proud to reaffirm america's commit to the wells declaration of 1940 and the u.s./baltic charter of 1998. these same principles lie at the heart of america's approach to world affairs, honoring the right of peaceful citizens and nations to protect their interests and chart their own wonderful destinies. all three baltic republics are committed nato allies. i want to express our gratitude to each of your countries for fulfilling your full obligations and meeting the 2% gdp benchmark for national defense this year.
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your commitment to burden sharing is an example, really, that other nato nations and partners all around the world will have to all get together and bear. some of them do not make the same commitment. hopefully, they soon will. when nations are committed to peace and to security, they have to pay their share and we will all enjoy a much more safe and prosperous future. baltic countries are also providing security assistance and training as part of the coalition to defeat isis. the coalition has liberated almost 100% of the territory once held by isis and syria and in iraq. and we will not rest until isis is gone. in economic matters, our cooperation continues to develop and grow, as you well know.
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we're excited about several new opportunities for collaboration especially in science, medicine, and technology. immediately following this summit, the department of commerce and the u.s. chamber of commerce will host a u.s. baltic business summit to expand a mutual trade and investment between our nations. and they're all looking forward to seeing you. the baltic countries remain a key market for u.s. aircraft, automobiles, machinery, and medical equipment and we welcome increased bilateral trade with all three nations based on the principle of fairness and reciprocity. finally, we are enhancing our cooperation on energy security. we're all collaborating to diversify energy sources, supplies and routes throughout the baltic region, including expanding exports of u.s. liquefied natural gas, of which
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you become a bigger and bigger user. these are just some of the many wonderful opportunities we can seize together. to all three baltic leaders with us today, thank you again for helping to celebrate and this is really a very great celebration, because it's an historic milestone. our friendship will continue to grow closer and our cooperation will continue to bring about the greater security and prosperity for our citizens and you have done terrific jobs as leaders, as presidents of your countries. and we tell you that for your citizens, we are there for you, as we begin the next 100 years of our partnership, the baltic republics can trust the united states will remain a strong, proud, and loyal friend and ally. thank you very much. thank you. thank you very much. please. >> probably it's my turn.
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>> yes, whatever you like. >> it looks so. >> ladies first. >> so of course we're very thankful for the possibility to be here, especially here and not only because of our university in our legion, but because of alliance which we are affirming today with the united states by adopting the declaration. and when we said that article 5 is ironclad for all of us and the collective defense issues are important to all of us. and we understand how important nato is for all of us. and why we during our discussions talk so much about reforming, further reforming nato, their investments into our defense, the months of necessary to invest into our defense. and of course, together, where it is necessary, all of us and lithuania is with the united states on fighting the terrorists through all the world. we back in afghanistan, we in mali, we in central african
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republic, we in kosovo, we are in ukraine together. so we are partners, allies, and trustful allies. and because of that, we are assured that the reforms of nato which we are investing together and preparing together will be resultive, as it was before, but especially now, because we see in united states leadership, we've seen the willingness of united states to see different nato, different quality of nato. and i can be probably open. i talked to the president, we were joking about, we need leadership sometimes for decision making, and unpredictable leadership to make enough leverage and pressure for the rivals to believe that we can make a decision. and as we see this kind of leadership in president trump. and this is good because without the leverage and pressure, there will be no additional spending in our defense, in nato. there will be no additional
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decisions for rotating military forces of united states in our countries. there will be no willingness to look into the matter of air defense, which we need very much. so from all of this point of views, we trust that our partner and ally is investing seriously in future of our defense, not only our regions, but nato's territory of defense, and in the peace and security of the world, as it was before. of course, the businesses are coming together. ally in military cooperation goes with economic cooperation. and i am very happy today that today in our business form, we will sign agreements with two american companies on the liquid gas corporation. lithuania has liquid gas station and factory, so-called floating boat. but we can be independent all
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three baltic states on the gas supply because of that. and this gives us strength and possibility to make our own decisions, not to depend on one supplier and american liquid gas will come on time and will make us more independent in our decision making and diversifies our gas supply. and this is about a real friendship, about a real cooperation between our renal and the united states. and this comes also together with trade matters, where today we see some discussions on the world tour level, between the united states and european union. we are together with the decisions that the trade needs to be useful and equally fair to all sides. there is no sense to go to the wall, but decisions if there are disbalances need to be find. and this we will support as ally of the united states.
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so together with international obligations, in military, together with cooperation in economy, together with the united states and european union in solving the trade issues, we are standing with and together and we hope that as the president said next hundred years will be have been better, closer together and we will be able to achieve and make more. thank you. >> thank you. >> thank you very much. please. >> your excellency, president trump, my esteemed baltic colleagues, dear friends, the baltic u.s. president summits are a time of our shared commitment to fundamental values. our long-lasting friendship and the steadfast partnership that we have enjoyed for nearly a century. the united states of america is our closest friend and ally.
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i appreciate that we help each other's mutual support in our endeavors, as well as in the security challenges we are facing. today, reflected on our many achievements and set a course for our future undertakings. we have agreed to enhance our defense and security cooperation. the baltic states appreciate the united states' commitment to deterrence. policy in the baltic region and the military assistance provided to all our forces. we will continue to commit two persons of gdp towards the development of our military for the purposes of strengthening
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nato's posture in the eastern frank and contributing to international security. as a baltic states and the united states acknowledged the need to continue the successful existing cooperation we have encountered in modern day security threats, such as terrorism cyber and informational warfare and nuclear proliferation. today, all of us committed to placing greater emphasis on advancing our economic and trade and investment relationship. we recognize great potential in areas of innovation, modern technologies, and the digital economy. and

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