tv Morning Joe MSNBC April 16, 2018 3:00am-6:00am PDT
>> no, it's not the police. the president's lawyer michael cohen is here to see you? >> yes, finally. by all means, send him in. >> look, we have a real problem here, jeff. you know how much evidence i have in my office. i'm donald trump's lawyer. i got a whole hard drive labeled yikes. >> michael, the reason we brought you here today is that there's someone who would like to speak with you. >> oh, great, who. >> looking for something, mr. cohen? >> robert mueller? >> why don't you have a seat, mr. cohen. if you're innocent, you have nothing to worry about. i'll start with some easy ones. how did you like that pp tape? >> oh my gosh. good morning, everyone. it's monday, april 16th. >> isn't that something? >> yeah. with us we have national affairs
analyst for msnbc john heilemann. yes, he's here. john heilemann of the circus. president of the counsel on foreign relations and author of the book "a world in disarray "richard haass and david ignatius and heidi przybyla is with us as well. we have the circus with us here. are they going to take pictures of you drinking your coffee? >> no, of you drinking your coffee. >> that's the reason they're here. so the real michael cohen will be in court today in the wake of the fbi raid last week. it comes as the legal bills continue to mount for the president. nearly $4 million since he was sworn in. on that, i heard that is it true that he spent like 20% of all the money they've raised politically on legal bills? did you hear that john heilemann? >> is that true? that's a lot. >> big chunk. >> what a waste.
>> i wouldn't be surprised by it. >> a big chunk going to legal bills. >> i spent much of sunday on twitter railing against jim comey's media blitz and the president calls it, quote, mission accomplished in syria. we'll discuss whether there is a strategy following friday night's air strikes or maybe several strategies. but first, joe, we want to get your take on the newest nbc news wall street poll, 39% say they approve of the president's job performance, down four points since last month, 57% disapprove. there's also a difference in intensity. 44% of americans say they strongly disapprove of trump's performance while only 22% say they strongly approve. looking deeper into trump's approval number, he's at 79% among republicans, down five points since last month, 46% among whites, down 45% among men, down 5. 38% down 7 against independents.
36% among 18 to 34-year-olds up five points. down one point 34% among women and 7% down 3 against republicans. >> goes between 35%, 41, 42% if you look at likely voters will take up a couple more points. but the only thing that seems to ever be moving here are independents and maybe republicans to maybe three or four points this way or that. but mainly we've stayed in the margin of error through the first year, haven't we? >> we have. it's interesting i find myself reflecting in a strange way on president obama's poll numbers which we used to talk about all the time. he rarely got above 50. even after he killed sbaum he got up to 53, 54 and drop back down. we are now in a place in our
politics where the bases are so hardened and so robust that presidents rarely -- it's really hard for them to drop much below the high 30s and no matter which party they're in, it's hard to get much above 45. president trump's base is a little lower than obama's was and his ceiling seems to be lower, but they stay within that band no matter how bad things get for them, all the partisan fighting they have this irreducible core they can't lose or at least i find it extraordinarily hard to lose. >> richard, that's actually been good enough for a lot of presidents of late to win. george w. bush was a very divisive president as was barack obama and as was donald trump, but in the past they could rely getting the republican or democratic nomination and starting at 47, 48% and fighting for the last two or three percent. i think those days are long
gone. there are so many people with so much money or so much fame already talking about running as an independent. i think this is going to get split up in a way it hasn't been split up in a long time. >> we're beginning to take on qualities of italian politics where you have a much broader spectrum and the question is whether anybody can get a real majority. so long as his own party controls both chambers of congress and welcome to go along with him, he's able to govern. it's a difference of governing politics and intellectual politics. the question for you is why is the rasmussen poll much higher? what's going on with that poll? >> would you like to answer that? >> maybe heidi wants to take it. heidi? >> so, i'm pretty sure, fairly certain from some of the polling stuff i've done in the past, that rasmussen does not have conversations on all of its
polls. they can do these robo call-type polls which are less precise. i don't know what their sample is, but in years past, that has absolutely been a technique of the rasmussen poll that makes it less accurate. >> it's always trended republican, always. sometimes plus five, plus six, plus seven. it's always trended republican. so sometimes when you have a swing in the last couple days that goes republican, as it did with trump, they can say they're the most accurate poll, but you know, it's also that skews the real cue politics average. i don't know if they've changed this, but since rasmussen was tracking daily and you had gallop tracking daily, they would sort of balance each other out, but now that gallop is not tracking daily, sometimes that makes the president's average higher. >> all right let's get to the big headlines of the morning.
james comey spoke more about his short and turbulent time as fbi director under president trump. before he was fired in may of 2017 for what the administration said of his handling of the clinton e-mail investigation but comey said he knew there was something else motivating the president, even before trump told lester holt he was thinking of, quote, this russia thing when he decided to terminate him. >> day after you were fired, president is meeting in the oval office with the russian foreign minister, calls you a nut job, says that the pressure on him has been relieved. what did you think when you saw that? >> wow was my reaction. first of all what are the russians doing in the oval office, one, as a counterintelligence person i'm thinking that's crazy without any americans being present. one. and two, the pretense is melting away. the bit about you were fired because of how you handled the e-mail investigation is melting away. you were fired because of the russia investigation.
>> so a report in the washington post claims white house officials tried to distract president trump from what james comey would say. administration officials say aides were so concerned about comey's book that they scheduled trump to be at his mar a la lar go estate to be with shinzo abe at the same time the book's release. comey was the target of six of the seven tweets president trump sent before heading out to golf. >> shows commitment to allies. >> we are going to use japan. >> in one tweet, trump claimed james comey states that polls where crooked hilly was leading were a factor of handling stupidly the clinton e-mail probe. in order, he was making decision based on the fact that he thought she was going to win and he wanted a job. slime ball. that's our president. what comey was referring to was his decision to reveal new
evidence before the 2016 election i was operating in a world where hillary clinton was going to beat donald trump. if i hide this from the american people, she'll be illegitimate the moment this comes out and is elected. >> again, i just -- >> well, let's -- >> i just -- it needs to be repeated as much as possible that the president is claiming that he was the victim of a conspiracy that elected him president. >> exactly. >> james comey's letter did as much as anything, other than hillary clinton's bad campaigning, electing donald trump president. mccabe leaking about the clinton foundation being under investigation hurt hillary clinton. now, if you were at home and you don't understand that and you're buying into some stupid conspiracy theory at home that
somebody on tv is telling you, please step away from your kitchen utensils and knives and blenders. >> anything sharp. >> anything sharp because you will hurt yourself because you too incompetent actually to use any basic household appliances. let me state again the president of the united states won in large part because of james comey. >> are egg beaters okay? >> no. >> i don't trust these people to be a manual egg beater because you know what, they may go, wait, is this something that trims my nose hair and doing this and blood coming out all over the place. >> stop. >> stay away from it. stay away from it. you know what, put yourself -- >> president thinks you're that stupid. >> put yourself in bubble wrap and slowly walk back into your bedroom and put -- yeah. make sure you can breathe. then put the covers over your head. this is so obvious that -- i
really find it hard to believe that you are as stupid as anybody that's pushing these conspiracy theories. james comey did anything out of anybody to elect donald trump. so david ignatius, we move along. let's talk generally about the former fbi director james comey. and i will just politely say robert mueller the third he is not. you look back at his actions, the bizarre press conference after deciding not to indictment hillary clinton, the letter ten days out without language that bends over backwards saying i'm only doing this because it is my understanding i'm required to do this but no one, nowhere should assume that this means hillary clinton is guilty and then even in the book his explanations don't add up saying we weren't
looking at politics at all and then saying we were looking at the polls and looked like hillary clinton wasn't going to win. i mean, donald trump's attacks aside, james comey may be a friend of robert mueller but he sure seems far less let's just say. >> judicious. >> judicious is a good word. david, take it from there before i get in trouble. >> well, comey first speaks moral language that we don't hear very much in politics. he speaks about people's moral unfitness to be president. he calls someone a serial liar. he uses descriptive language to make his case that was describes a mob boss who was in the white house and his shock at that. i wrote back in june when he appeared before the senate intelligence committee in the big kind of circus of his
testimony this was pilgrim's progress meets house of cards. you know, you had this earnest moralest trying to make his case about a white house that by his own account was really out of good fellows. and i think that disjunction continues to this day. i don't think that comey has helped himself a lot with this book. he does deepen our picture of donald trump. president that really jumped the rails in american politics, but in terms of the fundamentals of this investigation, i would be surprised if the book makes as big a difference as we might have thought a month ago it would. there are so many new things that happened. all the days that opened with the raid on michael cohen's office and home. whole series of things take this story into different space. but comey remains will always be
in our national story of this, i think, the man who always talked in this language about donald trump, was shocked by trump, could never figure out a way really to communicate with him. >> here is james comey calling the president morally unfit to lead. take a listen. >> i don't buy this stuff about him being mentally incompetent, early stages of di mensa. she strikes me of a person above average intelligence and striking conversations and knows what's going on. i think he's morally unfit to be president. president who talks about and treats women who are pieces of meat and lies about constantly pieces big and small. our president must embody respect and adhere to the values that are the core of this country. the most important being truth. this president is not able to do that. he is morally unfit to be
president. >> john heilemann, the elliottness pose is good. i mean, if i understand what he's saying there and i think a lot of americans would agree with that. certainly a lot of law enforcement officers would agree with that. at the same time, he seems to cheapen that argument by talking about donald trump's orange skin, the white globes around his eyes that come from a tanning bed. the medium size of his hands. mocking his hair. if you're going -- if you are going to put yourself on a higher moral plane, should you not avoid all these same petty fights that donald trump engages in. >> well, you could argue that for sure. the interesting thing about that is that comey comes into this moment as sort of a man without a country, right? democrats are unhappy in 2016 with taken the election away from hillary clinton.
republicans now unhappy with him. he doesn't have a natural constituency. so in this book-selling world. this is what this guy is doing now, right? we talk about his role in the trump's current legal em battlements. that's important. this week the combination of comey's provocations and michael cohen in court today with stormy daniels. this wocould be the thing that pushes trump over the edge -- further over the edge. what i want to say about comey is that he's now in the business of selling books. he's going out to sell a book that's going to be number within on "the new york times" best seller list. he's in the book marketing business. if you're jim comey and know you don't have a natural constituency with the liberals or conservatives, i feel like he made a choice. he's going out and basically decided i'm going to decide i'm going to be the hero of the resistance. i'm going to attack trump in
this language you're talking about. i'm going to have my wife on abc last night provided video of how she was at the women's march and she talked about his wife and daughter being supporters of the hillary clinton. he tried to cast himself last night he had to make a choice. here is why i did to hillary clinton wasn't so bad, guys. trust me, my wife and daughter are big fans of hillary clinton. i'm going to basically rhetorically put myself in position where i have to claim a country. the country i'll be on is the anti-trump liberal side of the aisle trying to sell these books to. >> by claiming that country all he does is into feed into donald trump's narrative and make robert mueller's job that much more difficult. >> indeed. that's one of the most unfortunate things is that it's gone on. this was self interest not national interest. i thought the most useful thing last night, joe, was his
distinction between the legal grounds for challenging the president and the fitness grounds. i thought his weakest thing was we learned nothing about -- he did nothing to persuade us that his various interventions in the run-up to the election were justified. this seemed to me a guy who was just talking to himself. he was unmarred. who was he acting for? it just seemed to me he took on a disproportionate role in american politics without the mandate to do it. >> intellectually unmored is -- seems to be a great description of all the activities, heidi, that he was doing. again, if you were on either side, if you were a republican, you could look at, i think it was the july 3rd, 2016, interview say what in the world are you doing letting cheryl mills sit in there as her lawyer
when she's actually a player in this drama that should have been kept out of there and been deposed herself? she was going through deciding which e-mails to destroy and to keep. that was indefensible. >> right. >> and then if you support hillary clinton, that press conference after, absolutely indefensible, not only if you support hillary clinton but if you support the belief that neither you're guilty or not guilty or bring an i'm or can't bring an indictment. then in that letter, there were a thousands different ways to do that letter in a way that wouldn't have led to donald trump's election. >> to me, joe, one of the biggest contradictions was when he said it would have been brutally unfair for him to have brought to the american public's attention the fact that donald trump campaign was also under investigation for ties to russia because he didn't know if there
was anything there. well, what was his decision days before the election to bring to the american people the fact that there was anthony wiener's laptop which also by the way they had no idea if there was anything there, any kind of information that was worth anything. and yet he decided to bring that to the american public's attention. he said here i didn't want to make any calculations, any political calculations but on the other hand he says i was assuming that hillary clinton would become president. and therefore i needed to do this to protect her. you can read between the lines here. also he was wanting to protect himself and the institution of the fbi. there were a lot of contradictions in there. i did see partisans on both sides of the aisle, but i did feel the democrats continued to be incensed over the way that this was handled. >> so i think
completely look back at things. anthony wiener's lab top, that come out after, i think the republicans would have gone crazy. >> listen -- >> i'm not sure what type of position he was with that. hillary clinton's e-mails on them? >> as heidi was talking, if he would have said something like i'm notifying congress only because i'm required to do so by prior agreement. however, no one should draw any conclusions from this letter. it is simply a notification. the e-mails may be due licktive or irrelevant to the investigation. i'm only doing this because i am required to by congress. he didn't do that. there was nothing explaining why he was doing it and nothing that would stop voters from assuming what almost every voter assumed, which was he wouldn't have done this ten days before the
election unless it was really, really bad. >> let's bring in clint watts. what do you make of what we're saying here? i'm curious about anthony wiener's laptop and whether or not that should have been disclosed. >> yeah, it's very curious. the one thing i noticed about director comey is he was the most forward director. usually testimony kwib director is very rare. director comey was the opposite. very much out there. i always try to remember that comey was essentially between three polls. he had what he thought was influence from the clinton side with loretta lynch and had the trump side and also had the russian side. we forget he was one of the other one who knew about this russia disnrgs campaign and the
hacking. >> clinton, he had as you remember fbi agents who were just absolutely beyond themselves that the president of the united states, barack obama, twice interfered in the investigation by saying six months before he came out and said anything, hey, there's nothing to this. i'm confident that no national security issues were raised by her using this server. the fbi obviously couldn't believe the president of the eyes was trying to weigh in and did it again in the spring. >> it's interesting i see him as being alone. but the most remark m time is when the enemy or other american politicians -- usually we're talking about an fbi book about gangsters and terrorists. comey juxtapose in between the two, whether it's talking about trump or loretta lynch, he sees
himself as the moral compass for the nation. that's where he gets himself in trouble. i think there might have been other ways to go in a more collective way rather than putting himself out in front during a contentious election. that's looking back hindsight 20/20. he is going to be hated or loved by different groups inside the united states. and it will be curious to see how this plays out over time. there's never been an fbi director that i'm aware of that has been in this public spotlight in this way and caught between two competing camps. >> everyone, stay with us. still ahead on "morning joe," president trump calls it mission accomplished in syria. we're going to run through that straight ahead. you're watching "morning joe." we'll be right back.
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so richard, we were talking during the break. it seems that the president of the united states and his staff have finally figured out that allies can be advantageous. >> indeed. distractions. you want to get people not to focus on mr. comey, bring the japanese to mar-a-lago. it's good to see alliances are back to the core of american politics. >> he was going to go to latin america, decided not to. >> it was interesting that his schedule was supposed to have been this latin american trip followed by mar-a-lago and abe all during the comey rollout. if we can keep him away from american television, maybe he won't notice what's going on with jim comey. >> it's like homer and the donut. >> it's homer and the donut. it's so interesting how vice president mike pence can be in two places at once. it's just a white house picture. >> i didn't see this.
>> oh my lord. sarah sanders talking about we were all around in the situation room. >> this is the white house communications office. we were getting briefed on the syrian attacks. >> hard at work. only problem is mike pence was in the picture. >> which means -- she was using a stock photo. >> ouch. >> any way. >> painful. >> yeah. >> even the little things. even the simple things become tough. haven't we had enough. >> dumb. >> president trump says friday's air strikes in syria were successful. tweeting saturday morning, quote a perfectly executed strike last night. thank you to france and the united kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine military. could not have had a better result. mission accomplished. >> dear god. dear god. >> where do we begin? >> let's just stop right there. >> where do we begin? >> mission accomplished. you would think seriously why didn't he just -- >> could somebody be in there with a little insight?
>> why didn't he channel nixon and say i am a crook. there are phrases you don't use. mission accomplished is one. especially on the most complicated theater on the planet. we have such a long road ahead of us, not the united states, but the international community in syria. to say mission accomplished after dropping a couple missiles. >> if you use chemical weapons, you will pay a modest price. if however, you kill thousands or tens ofs of your own people using conventional am knewuations, that's okay. the president's language didn't get nearly enough attention is really an american walk back from the middle east. basically this part of the world is a problem and it's all your's folks. you fix it. we're out of here. >> so, you thought the president's speech announcing the attack was a walk back? >> absolutely. basically said middle east is a
broken place. it's a difficult place. and the future, it's up to our friends in the region to work it out themselves. it was a dramatic reduction. again, this strike was to me much more significant for what it wasn't than for what it was. again, it didn't say that the united states has any interest in preventing genocide. it didn't say the united states had any interest in the ultimate evolution or outcome of what goes on in syria. didn't give any hints those 2,000 soldiers there to fight isis. it didn't change american immigration policy about syrian refugees. again, it said it didn't articulate any interest about the future political evolution of syria. >> so let me bring in david ignatius. it's interesting, david, i actually listened to the president's speech and saw it as a positive in that it was a synthesis between where he was last week when he said we're
getting out and where i think most of the international community including secretary mattis and others would want him to be. he is saying we will stay there. we will continue the fight. but we want our regional allies to come in and eventually one day be able to do this on their own. what was your take away? >> i'm not as critical richard was. i think this was a classic option b speech where option a is go big, really destabilize the regime, rock them, big strike, option c is do very little. this was a version of b and c in the middle. i had a couple take aways. first, secretary of defense jim mattis plays a significant role in these decisions. his stature, which we feared had been significantly undercut by the departure of his friend rex
tillerson still in tact. he got the president to slow down, think about it, think about the targeting, think about the danger of conflict with russia. i thought that was important. second point, i think we're working together much more closely than this administration had in some other kri seize with allies. role of france and president macron saying he is responsible for shaping the policy. interesting not least because our allies feel a stake in what we're doing. they feel connected to it. i think that's an improvement. finally to richard's point, do we have a strategy for syria? the answer is no, but we're a little closer than where we were a week, ten days ago. we have nikki haley, i wish i was hearing this from the president, but nikki haley saying we're going to keep your troops in eastern syria for some long while. our goals there are complicated. we need to defeat isis. we need to enforce the norm on chemical weapons and we need to
stabilize parts of the country. i'm told that the president's decision to suddenly cut the 200 million for stabilization funding in eastern syria where he blew everything up has been delayed. we'll find that money somewhere. i take a little more, i guess, supportive view of this. i think he ended up about where he, mattis and his other advisers wanted him to be, where his allies wanted him to be. >> right. >> so i see a little more pathway going forward than richard does. >> see, i see more of a pathway. you are right, we had france, we had the united kingdom. most of the arab world is supportive of us and there is a possibility for us to get allies moving in to pick up part of this responsibility. i want to -- richard, feel free to respond to any of that, if you want to. i wonder for you and david to speak to i think a larger issue. over the weekend, after these
attacks, there were so many people in the far left, so many people on the far right and some in the middle saying we should not go -- we should not have attacked syria. the united states never learns its lessons. et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. can you explain why it is not an option for the united states and the civilized world to allow assad to cross a red line again, use chemical weapons against his own citizens and wash our hands of that episode? >> sure. yeah, both the left and the right were critical of what the president did, saying it was too much. people like me were from the other side questioning it was too little. it is essential that every opportunity we get we show to any use of any chemical weapons is unacceptable.
anyone involved in in that activity will pay. >> is that a position that is -- how universal is that position among nation states? >> well, if you look at the chemical weapons convention, look at the nonproliferation treaty, i think it's one of the few broadly held tenants. this is one of the few tenants -- >> exactly. what was the points, david, is important to make to americans saying what are you doing? what are you getting involved with another country's internal affairs? can you explain why the united states -- we can just talk about the tragedy that followed the last time we allowed assad to cross that red line. why must the united states, why
must the civilized world respond when any country uses weapons of mass destruction against their own people? >> i love the idea of the president saying we stand for certain basic values. one of them is that even in wars, even in these terrible conflicts there are weapons that will not be used and chemical weapons are high on that list, biological weapons. so, i think the president is speaking as a world leader, as the person who is doing nrn anyone to shape the rules. that's the kind of presidential leadership that i think that has been characteristic of the u.s. since 1945 and i would love to hear trump speak in that language because i think the world needs it. i thought taking the action that he did was -- it could have been tougher, more aggressive, but it was grounded in this idea we're going to enforce these norms. he did it a year ago.
he's doing it again. he has done in both cases more than barack obama did. and i just hope he takes -- he owns it and takes credit for it because the world needs to hear. this is important. this is the world we need to live in. >> this is one of those moments, mika, it is so important for policymakers, despite their feels about donald trump, to understand that the world does not see this as the actions of donald trump. this is the actions of the united states of america. and if we continue to turn a blind eye to assad's use of chemical weapons, that would have an impact not only in syria but in the region and across the world the united states of america and our al lice would pay for it like we did after the last time we allowed syria to cross a red line. >> very important for people to understand exactly what's going on. clint, talk about secretary defense mattis warned i think it
was late saturday night about series of disinformation campaigns, not naming russia but thicks like saying the chemical attack was done by the uk. talk about how dangerous and how much that's happening? >> yeah. i thought -- saw that as maybe one of the most positive signs of this that the secretary of defense is pointing this out immediately. over the weekend one of the dash boards we use the hamilton 68, 7 of the top 10 stories being pushed in terms of disinformation saying the united kingdom staged this chemical attack, a provocation to justify these actions. the u.s. is starting to take this into consideration. there's significant portion that the believe the uk did this attack and this disinformation campaign. we're really realizing around the world if we don't fight this or prepare for it at the outset, then we're going to be at a
significant disadvantage trying to move forward just beyond the simple cruise, missile strikes. >> i thought even in the united states there were some useful idiots that were doing russia's bidding. >> again, to me there's no serious intellectually critique we did too much. the only question is whether we did too little. this happened a year after he used chemicals again shows deterrence isn't easy. i think the legitimate or interesting criticism is what more could we have done in order to make the point this is really going to hurt you and cost you if you do this. coming up, lawyers on top of lawyers. president trump hires a new attorney to represent him in the case involving michael cohen. the president's fixer is under criminal investigation. and is due back in court this afternoon. "morning joe" is coming right back. whoooo.
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investigation for months. federal prosecutors are honing in on cohen's personal business dealing stating that the crimes being investigated involve acts on concealment. >> the news comes after that raid on cohen's home, office and hotel room exactly one week ago. attorneys for the president around cohen are trying to block investigators from reviewing some of the materials seized in that raid claiming they are protected by attorney/client privilege. last night the president's new attorney asked a federal judge to give copies of all seized materials to cohen to let him identify anything -- identify anything involving the president and then allow the president to determine what of that material federal investigators are allowed to see. >> yeah, that's not going to happen. >> i don't think that's how it works. >> attorney/client privilege is now a thing of the past. i have many, too many lawyers
and probably wondering whether their offices or homes will be raided with everything including their phones and kputde computes are taken away. the cohen called the president on friday to check in. bad, bad move. >> don't do that. >> donald trump's attorneys realize if they were not committing a crime or helping him commit a crime or part of a conspiracy, then the attorney/client privilege still goes. you said by 5:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m. tonight this will probably be the lead because a lot of -- let's just say a lot of things are coming together on those courthouse steps where cohen is going. >> what's happening? >> think about the scenes, this will be one of those moments down in courtroom down in the southern district far downtown new york you're going to have michael cohen, who the judge last week basically said you can't do this through your lawyer, you have to come in.
stormy daniels will come in. stormy's lawyer will be there. and almost certainly, not guaranteed but there's a high likelihood that michael cohen has to take the fifth in that courtroom. so the spectacle, the president's personal lawyer taking the fifth -- >> and the judge is kimba woods, is it not? >> i believe that's right. >> so you'll have that moment, i think the sight of the president's personal lawyer pleading the fifth will make this clear, this is not messing around. the southern district is one of the most serious districts in the country. >> you don't have to watch billions to know that. >> and the fact that they got these warrants, we saw them reporting over the weekend just to say this last thing the president clearly is obsessed with this case and the president and his team think that this case now poses as much political and legal threat in jeopardy to the president and maybe more than the mueller investigation and that just puts nus a kind of extraordinary place given these
twin legal embattlements he's facing and the pressure the president is under. >> danny, i've heard not only from people close to the president but have read some of the president's staunchest legal defenders are saying forget about mueller, that's not the threat. but what's happening in the southern district of new york is an existential crisis for the president. >> i agree. i think the southern district investigation is cause for great concern not just for michael cohen but for the president because keep in mind, they have now raided an attorney's office, which is a pretty rare thing, although the u.s. attorney's manual contemplates it, it's something that happens but not very often. >> it's interesting that rudy giuliani said is it uninsurable yes, is it extraordinary? no. >> it's not extraordinary, but what we'll see today is that both sides find that there is really not a lot of case law out
there on this specific instance. yes, sometimes attorney's offices are raided but the concern there is that you have a criminal defense attorney and the government is using it as an end around to get to their client's files. this is different. this is a case where michael cohen is primarily a civil attorney. the government says he doesn't have a lot of clients, and they're raiding michael cohen as a surrogabject, not his actual clients as target targets. >> yeah, bob costa, what's the level of concern among not only donald trump people in the trump administration, but also republicans and on capitol hill, that this, in fact, poses a far greater threat than any investigations into collusion. >> there's concern, because they know about the president's habits and they know about michael cohen's habits. for decades, cohen has been known as "the post" has reported to record audio conversations with people he's dealing with
leg legally, even politically. and those files were nin his office. and you see the president's attorneys along with cohen's attorneys trying to push federal investigators to allow them to choose what is allowed to be part of this investigation or not. but that may not be under their purview. so you have a lot of anxiety about what do the republicans on capitol hill, what do people in the white house not know? >> yeah, and what way is stormy going to be there? >> well, i think she's going to be there, with as michael avenatti has shown himself to be an extraordinarily effective troll of the president. she doesn't need to be there. >> but they are discussing her. >> yes, as part of the case relates to her -- her case is what triggered. >> we really don't need the photos. >> her case is what triggered a lot of this investigation into michael cohen. these payments and the mush money, that's at the core of the case. there's no reason for her to be there other than --
>> is she just coming to watch? >> to send a jolt of electricity and get michael cohen off his game, create more of a spectacle and get inside donald trump's head. danny, i want to ask you this question, just spell it out. the president's legal jeopardy here is what? why is it exactly that this is potentially more of an existential threat to the president than the bob mueller inquiry? >> i think the answer to that question is why is the president fighting so hard to avoid review of these privileged documents by the government. that's what the fight is about today. it's not about whether the government ultimately gets to those documents, it's whose eyes get to see those sets of documents and decide whether they're privileged or not privileged? and why, then is president trump now an intervener in this case? why take such an interest? why not allow cohen's attorneys to fight that battle? it must be so important to the president that this search warrant, the documents seized, are reviewed by the president that he is willing to intervene in a case that is of such high
profile that immediately, it's going to have people wondering, why so concerned, mr. president? >> so clint, obviously, if you're a prosecutor, you're going to want to get as much of this material and have use of as much of this material as possible. i'm wondering, though, wouldn't a judge be looking at this and looking at over piece of every file, every paragraph, every word as skeptically as possible? because it is. it is, again, not extraordinary, but unusual. it appears that veil of an attorney/client privilege. >> yeah, it's really extraordinary, in my opinion. you're talking about four levels. you're talking about going from mueller to rosenstein. rosenstein to the southern district, southern district to a judge. four people said, we need to move forward on this. that's pretty damning, i think, in terms of this investigation. the other part of it, which has
always been the biggest vulnerability for the trump administration is other crimes discovered in the course of investigation. once you start looking into these documents. it can open up another nest of leads that goes in a lot of different directions. and what's always remarkable about the president and his comments is he seems to think attorney/client privilege means, if you have a lawyer in the room, you can do anything you want and you can't be held responsible for your actions. and that's not the case. if there is a felony or some sort of conspiring going on, this is really damaging stuff. and i think the southern district of new york is the best place to pursue one of these kinds of cases and they always do it right. >> i want to go to bob costa and then heidi. bob costa on the president's state of mind and heidi on any movement among compliant republicans. bob costa, you go first. >> on the president's state of mind, based on my conversations with white house officials over the weekend, he is someone who is isolated in the sense that he's lashing out at former fbi director james comey, he's going to be manning twitter again
today, looking for possible opportunities to make different arguments. looking ahead also to mar-a-lago and the discussions with abe on trade in north korea. and still has all of the issues facing him with syria. so this is a white house that feels besieged, not only by comey, but fighting battles on multiple fronts, and that's making a president who doesn't have all of his confidants around him anymore, more in a position of a fighter. >> he's more isolated than ever, bob? >> a lot of his associates from over the years are just gone. and he's surrounded by people in the administration he somewhat likes, but they're little things like the vice president's tapping of john learner to be a national security adviser that was then spiked over the weekend. b little things and big things that have animated him behind the scenes that make him very n unpredictable at this moment. >> heidi? >> i spoke to an adviser who's close to speaker ryan late last week when this was all going down, and he said, look, if anything this almost takes from
their perspective the pressure off some republicans, because they feel like now that this case is moving ahead in new york, that no matter what happens with bob mueller, no matter what happens with rod rosenstein, this is going to go forward. i don't know if that holds muster with the american people, but i do know that is some of the thinking going on right now among republican leadership. they want to see this investigation taken to an end. and another thing i wanted to mention, guys, was about the dimension, the possible dimension here and the consequences of why the president is so nervous, is that michael cohen is also the gatekeeper to a lot of the trump business secrets. and when you tick down the list of shady things that ranges from everything from working with a money launderer close to the ron's revolutionary guard to the fact that the trump taj mahal was fined for money laundering violations. >> danny cevallos, robert costa,
hei hei heidi przybyla, thank you all very much. just ahead, john heilemann is just back from russia. plus, more from jim comey's first television interview since being fired. he claims the president lies constantly, treats women like meat, and is morally unfit to be president. "morning joe" is coming right back. ♪ directv now gives you more for your thing. your letting go thing. your sorry not sorry thing. your out with the old in with the new, onto bigger and better thing.
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i started telling them about the allegation was that he had been involved with prostitutes in a hotel in moscow in 2013 during a visit for the miss universe pageant and that the russians had filmed the episode. >> how weird was that briefing? >> really weird. >> yeah. james comey thought that conversation was really weird. and i will remind you that this is a man who has seen anthony weiner's e-mails. >> all right. welcome back to "morning joe." it's monday, april 16th. with us, we have national affairs analyst for nbc news and msnbc, john heilemann.
president of the council on foreign relations, richard haas. columnist and associate editor for "the washington post," david ignatius, and joining the conversation, chief white house correspondent for "the new york times," peter baker. former justice department spo spokespers spokesperson, now an nbc justice and security analyst, matt miller. and political rider for "the new york times", msnbc political analyst, nick confessore. joe? >> and i was going to say, mika, whale you were doing introductions, a "washington post" alert came across, democrats advantage in midterm election support is shrinking subpoena it's now down to 4% according to the "washington post". >> that's incredible. >> in a generic ballot test. >> so you have your choice this morning of that to start with. jim comey's book, stormy on the steps while michael cohen is in court, or the claim that we are completely done in syria, mission accomplished by the president. >> well, we have a lot to talk about. why don't we start, nick confessore with the fact that
the democrats, we're going to be talking about donald trump and his legal problems and how erratic he is and all the abuses of power and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. and yet, donald trump's approval rating sticking around 39, 40%, where it's been among registered voters, probably higher. and the democrats. democrats still, if you look at the generic ballot test that's just out, they keep getting drawn down -- drawn back towards the republicans. they still don't seem to have a defining message to take them through the summer and the fall. >> look, it's really important to membremember that hating tru the not the same thing as loving democrats. >> by the way, this is the nbc version of that, which also shows democrats losing three points since last -- >> yeah, look, it's very possible for voters to be disillusioned with the president while also feeling kind of okay about democrats, but not excited about them.
this is a party who isn't sure who it is and what it's about yet. they have a lot of unresolved issues from 2016. they have a bunch of good candidates and a favorable landscape, politically, from the retirements. but this is not a party who has figured out who it is today and who leads it. its party machinery is weak. its great fund-raising is all in the hands of some candidates, not the party. so it's not clear that voters are sure who the democrats are and why they should vote for them yet. >> and john heilemann, we've heard about trends, of the party pow in power in the white house always loses, but not always the case. and also, one of the most consistent trends in modern american politics is americans like divided government. and so, you would think that the democrats would be doing much better than they are right now. >> i don't want to dismiss the poll that they obviously still have a lead in a generic ballot. but there are a couple of rallies here. one is, historically thinking, the thing you just cited.
the party that's in power, the white house tends to lose seats, especially when the president's approval rating is under 50. president trump's approval rating according to this poll is under 40. and if you look at the things we've been talking about for months, in actual elections, we just had a special election in pennsylvania, pennsylvania 18. democrats won that seat, you know, a rock republican seat for years and years and years. in alabama, we've seen it over and over again. when voters have been called upon to vote in the last six months, the signs of the blue wave have been overwhelming. could that change between november? yeah, and maybe if this poll turns out to be a leading indicator of democrats support slipping, that could be really meaningful. but at the moment, the hard evidence still suggests that democrats have in a prime position to do really well. >> peter baker, i remember john heilemann reporting back in may of 2012, barack obama's team masterfully framing who mitt romney was. so much so that it stuck across the midwest, among midwestern
voters. and romney never survived that spring onslaught. the democrats have so much to work with. we could talk about pruitt, we could talk about zinke, we could talk about corruption inside the white house. but do they have a message? do they have a leader? >> no, they don't. they don't have a leader at the moment. who is their leader? joe biden, perhaps, at age 70 something, or chuck schumer, nancy pelosi. they do not have a next generation emerging the way barack obama was emerging in 2006, 2008. and that's a problem for them, obviously. the message is anti-trump. that resonates, obviously, with their base. but broadly speaking, they are not articulating the message that a lot of their leaders would like them to. and there's a debate. a fundamental debate between the rahm emanuel, bill clinton, you know new democrat centrist part of the party and the bernie
sanders, elizabeth warren wing. that's unresolved. that may not be that big a problem in a midterm election, which is going to turn into a referendum on the president. but once they're trying to mount a presidential campaign in 2020, that's going to be a real issue. >> so it's, you know, obviously, we've met with a lot of democrats who talk about the kitchen table issues that they have been fighting for. yet it's such a difficult landscape to be talking about the economy, i think, as a democrat, because it would be simple. and? f it was, they'd be doing it. >> the principle explanation, why republicans are hanging in there is the economy. it's growing somewhere between 2.5 and 3%. unemployment is extraordinarily low. interest rates, even if they're creeping upward by historical standards are extraordinarily low. so you add all of this up, and people go, not bad. that to me is the great equalizer. so people can have negative
views of the president personally, but they look at their lives and go, okay, not bad, and maybe even better tomorrow. >> and does that go all the way down the line to middle class americans, poor americans? are they moving up? minimum wage issues. is it really changing for them? >> the real living standards haven't -- the last year, year f and a half, we'ring beginning to see a slight improvement in the standard of living for the middle class. after stagnation for two decades, you're finally beginning to see modest upticks. >> that may be what's keeping this close. at the end of the day, in off-year elections, though, so often, cultural issues matter. whether the president's seen as being out of step with the rest of the american people matters. bill clinton in 1994 had a good economy, as the democratic party got pounded. george w. bush in 2006 had a good economy. the republicans got pounded, all for different reasons. we'll see what happens. but i do agree with richard, that this economy is at least
keeping it close for now. >> all right. to our other big stories of the day. former fbi director, james comey's book, he said the president's conversation with him about former national security adviser michael flynn could be a crime. >> first of all, it's unusual for the fbi director and the president to be alone at all. but to kick out the vice president of the united states and the attorney general, who i work for, so you can talk to me alone, something was up. his words were, though, i hope you can let's it go. i took the expression of hope as, this is what i want you to do. >> the president says he didn't say that. >> yeah, well. what am i going to do? he did. >> was president trump obstru obstructing justice? >> possibly. it's certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice. >> matt miller, first of all, i loved your tweet this weekend about the most sdny thing to ever do is say a full-blown
investigation from the justice department is meaningless, but suddenly the southern district steps in and suddenly the world is coming to an end. >> the sovereign district. >> yes, exactly. what did you think of comey's interview last night and the rollout of this book? >> i think what we saw in the interview and what we see in the book is basically kind of a synopsis of his entire career. james comey has always been strongest when he's coloring inside the lines. you look at his time in the bush administration when he was asked to do something unethical and he said "no yt." look at his time in the trump administration when he was asked to do something unethical, back off the mike flynn, and he said "no," and the weakest when he colors outside the line and inserts himself in situations where he thinks there needs to be a savior and that savior needs to be him. >> matt, i'm glad you said that. talk about how different he is
in that respect, from robert mueller, who is all about staying within the lines. >> yeah, it is a classic difference. and people talk a lot about the two of them being similar, and in some ways they are, in that they're both very ethical, principled men, but when i talk about this impossible choice he faced when deciding whether to hold that press conference or send that letter in october, it all comes back in his mind to him, what choices he faced and what he had to do and his legacy. >> and it's not an impossible choice at all. if you do it by the book, it's the easiest choice, not indicting her, that's it. going to go back to work and work on other people who i'm going to be indicting. >> that is exactly right. it never would have crossed bob mueller's mind that he had an impossible choice, because the choice is really clear. these weren't hard calls in any of the events. if you're not going to indict someone, you close the case, do it quietly. now, i can see him holding some sort of press conference because of the unusual situation and just saying, look, this is
unusual, i want to assure the american people, i'll put my integrity and my reputation tonight line to let you know we did this by the book and it was the unanimous recommendation of everyone on my team not to go forward with the prosecution. >> it's hard for me even seeing robert mueller doing that. >> no. no. mueller never would have done. but let's grant that they're different people. but it was -- the problem was then, when he got outside those lines and started talking about her conduct. and you know, asking her to prove this negative over whether her private server had ever been hacked, even though the fbi found no evidence that it was. bob mueller would have never done something like that. and 99% of prosecutors would have never done something like that. that's what made it so unusual. >> by the way, john heilemann, while we're talking about this, for trump people who may be saying, that's right, he was -- yes, he was unfit in a way that was detrimental to hillary clinton and he was unfit in a way that helped donald trump become the 45th president of the united states. >> there's no question about it. and look, if you go back to what
matt was just saying a second ago, if you take comey's reasoning for why he did the press conference. he said, loretta lynch seemed compromised, because she got on the plane to bill clinton. there was one simple answer to that, which is to say, the attorney general needs to recuse herself and i need to take this to the deputy attorney general, sally yates and let her take over this case. the fbi does not indict anybody or not, they make a recommendation to the justice department. that is how it's supposed to work. and in a declination when you say, we're not doing to indict, you don't detail what leads were followed and what the investigation turned up. you say, we've looked at this matter and we've decided there's no basis to indict. that's the end. it's one sentence on a peeiece paper. and that would have kept you out of the problem of what happened in october. because it's july that gets comey saying to congress, well, if things change, i'll come back, and then he has a duty to reinform -- >> the only problem with that, and that is what you would usually do, but nick confessore, the only problem with that is, by this point, you've already
had the attorney general on the plane with bill clinton in an extraordinary lapse of judgment. i'm not saying she was unethical, but what an extraordinary lapse of judgment. and you've had the president of the united states, barack obama, twice weigh in on the investigation to the central issue of the investigation on whether there was classified material that actually harmed the national interest, national security. and barack obama, in the fall of i believe two2015 and again in spring of 2016, showing an extraordinary lack of judgment wagd weighed in and said, she didn't do anything wrong, in the middle of this fbi investigation. >> and on top of that, there's also evidence in the book that pressure was placed to downplay the investigation to the e-mails and say it wasn't an investigation, it was a matter, all this, you know, fighting over words -- >> by the way, while it was an investigation. >> it was an investigation! it was a criminal matter. that's what the fbi does. >> i remember "the new york times" actually getting hammered.
>> a lot. >> hammered because they were -- because michael schmidt and several other people wrote articling saying there was an investigation going on. the justice department was trying to call it a matter. the clinton team was pushing back hard and people like michael schmidt had their integrity questioned. and of course, we find out, oh, my god, there was an investigation. >> i also recall those momentum -- moments, joe. so the word -- this is important. >> nick has very vivid memories of those moments. >> for the last six months, comey has been this kind of remote person. he posts pictures of sunsets on twitter and what not. >> as one does. >> as one does. so now we're seeing who he really is. we're seeing him speak for himself. and his explanation for why he put that letter out and was so public about it is a bad explanation. he basically concedes -- >> we need to move on to syria, but how well do you remember those times? were you attacked as well?
>> you know, if it was branded into my forearm, it can be anymore vivid to me. no, no, no, look, it was a time when we were under a lot of scrutiny and mike schmidt, my colleague, was also under scrutiny and he was right. >> can say one more thing about jim comey. one thing i found very striking about all of this, the one thing he did last night was on the questions where he is a central witness now, on the question of did donald trump obstruct justice, he did not stray one iota from his congressional testimony. there is no, he's being very, at this point, he's like -- nothing he said last night to stephanopoulos, he provided color on a lot of things, but on his interactions with trump, the meetings, the dinners, all those things, everything he's written in the book and what he said in that interview is scrupulously consistent with what he said in
congress. this is the place that bob mueller would be most concerned. this is the thing that comey's most central to in terms of an obstruction of justice case. comey right now, at least, has not been led astray or allowed to drift. he's not allowed himself to drift outside the lines. >> that said, comey has done robert mueller no favors. >> i don't disagree. >> and peter baker, it almost seems like everything he puts out there just gives the president an opportunity to convolute the situation. >> look, you've seen the president go -- lash out the last few days, tweet after tweet. he's stewing about this book. he's stewing about the interview last night, stewing about jim comey getting out there and saying he's unfit. you know, he's using these terms, liar, leaker, and so forth. it's become a campaign. the republicans obviously have ginned up a lot of e-mails to go out and research to go out attacking jim comey, using the same complaints that democrats use and that has been given voice this morning on this program about his conduct during
the e-mail investigation to tear him down. it's interesting to have a person in washington right now who is hated almost equally by republicans and democrats, but, you know, the book is the book, and i think you got a sense of a man last night who wanted to unburden himself. who has held back, in effect, for the last year after he was fired and is finally having a chance to tell the story the way he wants to tell it. >> but matt miller, if he wants to unburden himself, should he not have waited? if he wants justice to be done, would he want a key witness in one of his cases going around, being interviewed, selling books, talking about the color of the skin, of the target being orange, his hands being mid-sized, his -- the moon -- the lunar white patches around his eyes because of his tanning bed. again, for a guy who wants justice to be done to this president, that is a strange way
to seek justice at this point in time. >> look, one of the things that the president got right about jim comey is that he's a bit of a show boat. that's always been true about comey. i don't think it was a good idea for him to write those passages in this book. i can only assume his goal is to sell books and it will probably help him. but when you go back to the central claims, koum comey is a witness when it comes to president trump's behavior. and when it comes to comey's credibility versus the president's, one thing you have to consider is comey's long history of telling the truth versus the president's less than stellar record -- >> he actually lies every day, quite comfortable lying every day. >> a bit of an understatement there. but jim comey has contemporaneous memos. whatever jim comey says about the president's appearance or how he colors the president's
behaviors, the facts of the president's behavior are still pretty well-laid out in those memos he wrote and in his testimony. and i think the testimony he gave to the senate intelligence committee is much more important. and actually more damning than anything in this book, because it is by the book, just the facts. if you go back to what i said in the beginning, gagain, an exampe of jim comey coloring inside the lines in that testimony. >> david ignatius, you've been a longtime adviser of powerful men and women inside washington, d.c. talk about the reputation of jim comey through the years, say, compared to robert mueller? >> well, i think mueller's really in a class by himself. there's something about being phi fbi director that makes many people think too much, i think, about themselves, about their institution, about their role in protecting the institution. j. edgar hoover epitomized that. louis freeh was an example of that. we've had many directors who
have spoken with this institutional eye and i think comey has that as well. mueller just keeps it zipped. everybody i've talked to who worked with him as fbi director says the same thing. he's extremely confident, has this extraordinary personal record of service and courage in battle. comey is someone who is speaking to explain, to justify, it's almost as if he's in an argument with himself about whether what he did husbawas right or wrong. and i don't think having the president attack him as a slimeball, i think the president comes out looking worse than anyone in that. so i don't think he's undermined his credibility as an ultimate fact witness in this story. there's just something odd about comey's behavior and it's so typical of people in that fbi job, who just take the bureau itself, their role as guardians of the bureau's traditions a little too seriously. >> all right. peter baker and matt miller, thank you both for being on this
morning. and still ahead on "morning joe," the u.s. objective in syria appears to be twofold, at the very least, sending a message to assad, and keeping russia at bay. that is mission accomplished, as the president declared? we're going to get military and diplomatic angles on this. >> and we have richard haas still with us. we will not be talking about red sox baseball with him, 13-2 right now have. the yankees, 7-7. and also david ignatius. i'm not even going to bring that up. you'll make my morning, but ruin my day. complicated relationship with milk? pour on the lactaid. it's delicious 100% real milk, just without that annoying lactose. mmm, that's good. lactaid. the real milk that doesn't mess with you. and try calcium enriched lactaid. 100% real milk with 20% more calcium. still no lactose.
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you know what's not awesome? gig-speed internet. when only certain people can get it. let's fix that. let's give this guy gig- really? and these kids, and these guys, him, ah. oh hello. that lady, these houses! yes, yes and yes. and don't forget about them. uh huh, sure. still yes! xfinity delivers gig speed to more homes than anyone. now you can get it, too. welcome to the party. all right. john heilemann, the new season of "the circus" appeared last night including a week of reporting from inside russia. and you sat down with russian ministry spokeswoman maria zakharova. and "morning joe" that has this bonus clip that was not inclu
included -- >> this is where she slapped him. >> came close. >> you had the president yesterday tweeting about the fact -- >> that was your president. in your eyes, this is a guy who was elected by russia, but actually, that was a person who was elected by american people. >> he's the president of the united states, so -- >> thanks god. >> and yesterday he sent a -- >> did you say "thank god"? >> yeah. >> why's that? >> that he's american president. >> why? why. you just expressed some gratitude to the almighty for the fact that donald trump is president. i'm just curious why you say that. >> because you admit the fact that he's an american president, because we're talking so much in russia, so-called involvement in your elections. and each time, i am very pleased to hear that somebody is admitting that president trump is the president of the united states of america. >> john heilemann, some of the worst spin -- >> oh, my god, that is incredible. >> that is what we would call a freudian slip.
>> i'm not that shocked in interviews that often. but hear to say -- >> i said, donald trump's president. and she said, thank god. >> your face is priceless. >> i will say, this is the end of -- i was there for nine days and my main impression, she was the capstone, the last thing i did before i came home. and really, it's an extraordinary thing. richard will back me up on this. if you -- you listen to r.t. and sputnik and anybody involved in the russian political class and anyone involved in the russian business class, it is like being on the other side of the looking glass. it's like, we did not -- we had nothing to do with the american elections, we did not poison the skripals, we had nothing to do with the chemical attack in syria. this chemical attack didn't even happen. not only were we not involved, it's a hoax. you feel as though you were at the epicenter -- and i know propaganda is a long-standing russian tradition, but really when you are there, you feel like you're at the epicenter of the global fake news industry. and the degree to which they are in profound denial about pretty
much everything that the west believes is just overwhelming, when you spend a little bit of time in russia. >> you know, richard, what's also fascinating is that donald trump actually, her attitude is the attitude of a lot of russians, but also, a lot of people in china. you read report after report that a lot of people in china, a lot of people in russia actually like donald trump, in part because he seems to be more like their leaders. he has this authoritarian streak. >> look, they like donald trump because, first of all, the united states is to a large extent abdicated its position of international leadership, which we have carried out for 70 years. we've raised questions about our alliances. and we don't lecture them at all about human rights or the lack of democracy. indeed, we now run an amoral foreign policy. and they like that, because we're essentially leaving them alone to do what they want to their own people.
>> if we can even define our foreign policy. joining us now, former nato supreme allied commander, now the dean of the fletcher school of law and diplomacy at tufts university, james stavridis. and here on set, dean of the school of international stoud sa and here on set, dean of the school of international stoudtu at the university of denver, former u.n. ambassador to south korea and former assistant secretary of state for east asia, christopher hill. good to have you both onboard. >> great to have you on set, mr. ambassador. let's begin with you. we've been talking this morning about the president's speech the other night and -- >> and his tweets. mission accomplished. >> but mainly focusing on the speech. it seems that the president is backing off a previous position, which is, quewe're getting out syria as quickly as possible and has suggested that we will stay there and have allies move in and hopefully take our place.
but richard says it's a retreat from past american position and was discouraged by the speech. what was your takeaway? >> first of all, i think we have a president who always thinks he can have it all and have it now. so i think he wants to get out, but he wants to show that he's buttressing the ban on chemical weapons. i don't think he has any concepts of limits in his life or limits in foreign policy. so he wants to stay for isis, but he wants to get out for the syrian crisis. and this is someone who simply doesn't understand the middle east and therefore says it's too complicates and we shouldn't be involved. in fact, we're creating an enormous problem with shia/sunni e enmity enmity, so we have a serious problem there. he has no team to deal with it, he doesn't understand, and therefore he says it's not important. >> the president has changed his position several times, admiral
stavridis, but he also does fall back on the line, "i like to keep people guessing." but what is then where, what is policy on syria? >> the biggest problem, mika, the people that are guessing the most are allies, friends and partners. they can't figure out what's going on. and frankly, i'm not sure we really understand what's going on. we've kind of got it backwards where telegraphing our tactics -- we have the president saying, here come the etomahawks, new, nice and smart, telegraphs the punch tactically, but strategically, we're very inconsiste inconsistent, as our good friend, chris hill, just pointed out. you can't have it both ways. you have to be engaged here. and we want to defeat the islamic state, but we have better objectives in the middle east, certainly declaring mission accomplished, which it certainly is not, is a very
foolish way forward. >> david ignatius, you've been out on the front lines, we're not only dealing with assad, we're dealing with putin's russian presence there. we're dealing, obviously, with the iranians. we're dealing with, well, if weapon don't want to call them our outright enemies, some of our toughest adversaries. is it -- i was thinking over the weekend, i was trying to draw parallels between where we are in syria right now, and how vital that region is, right now, to the cold war. and i'm just wondering if what we are facing in syria are a series of choices tha s that s truman faced in germany and kennedy faced in germany from 47 through '62, '63? >> patience is never a strong
suit for the united states. and patience is what's required in syria. a willingness to stay committed, to use american power, not necessarily to try to take damascus, but to work with our allies in that country, to check russian ambition. >> but how vital is it, david, to stay involved? because i saw conservatives and liberals asking, what is the vital american interest there? >> so, the way i would put it, joe, is, we saw the product of destabilization, of millions of syrians streaming out of the country, heading the toward europe and the effect on european countries, europe went through a panic about refugees and migrants. it affected european elections. it affected brexit. all of europe, really, was destabilized by a war that the united states and its allies couldn't seem to cope with. so my feeling about syria every
time i go there is, there is a part of the country where the u.s. has succeeded in working with allies to stabilize things. people are beginning to put their homes back together, getting electricity working again. bailing out of that, as president trump seemed to want to do, two weeks ago, i thought would be a really bad idea. and the one shred of good policy that i take away from that, from what's just happened, is i think that's less likely. i think that through the course of the bombings, to enforce the norm against chemical weapons, the president also has understood, this is not the time to be pulling troops out willy-nilly. we've got to stay the course a little longer. and all the things that come from a strong and reliable u.s. as leader of a global system, there are so many benefits that accrue from that. but take europe as the
centerpiece. europe really needs to know that the united states is going to help them keep these refugee flows down. otherwise, european politics is going to be swamped. note how france was crowing about its decisive role in helping the u.s. get its policy right in syria. that's a small illustration about how important it is to them. >> and richard, the united states abandoning the region saw the rise of isis and again, for people thinking that this is just limited to syria, david brings up, of course, the important point. that even today, europe elections have been impacted by the syrian refugee crisis that has altered the political landscape on the continent. >> absolutely. look, joe, the lesson the last 15 years is the united states gets in trouble when it tries to do too much in the middle east or too little. when we try to transform the middle east into this region of democracy, we had the iraq war, we lost the balance against
iran, we exacerbated sunni/shia ties. when we tried to do too little, look what fills the vacuum. it's isis, it's iran, it's russia. right now you have iran dominant in four countries from iraq through lebanon. you have the possibility of an iranian war with israel involving hezbollah. a saudi/iranian war. our interests will not be unaffected by this. so try to get it right. at the risk of a cliche, a middle path to the middle east, between trying to transform it and trying to get out of it. that's what we need to find. the president the still too close to getting out of it. >> mika, i think we found it. we have a sustainable policy right now in the middle east. there are 2,000 american troops. we have used allies there and have put isis back on their heels. they're not defeated. donald trump thinks they're defeated, they're not defeated yet. >> well, it's a complex problem. here's secretary of defense
mattis late last week talking about the syrian refugees. take a look. >> i've seen refugees from asia to europe, kosovo to africa. i've never seen refugees as trauma tooutized as coming out syria. >> wow, that's stark. >> ambassador? again, let's talk about syria and what's at risk and talk about the refugees. >> first of all, there's a lot at risk, but we need to be careful not to conflate the deployment of troops with having a policy. we don't have a policy. usually when you deploy troops or bomb something, you do it in pursuit of a political objective. i'm not sure what the political objective is. >> and david ignatius reports, even the troops that are in syria night now doing such a great job pushing back on isis don't know what the policy is. >> there are a number of metastasizing wars there. there's the war against isis. we're pretty clear on that. and frankly, we've made a lot of progress on that. the issue, though, is the syrian civil war, and that's where we need a policy.
do we want syria to stay as one country? do we have some notion of what kind of decentralization? if we have a policy, then you can consider the instruments of national security to pursue the policy. if you are not pursuing a policy, what are you doing? are you taking retribution against assad? maybe you are, but maybe you're also creating more refugees in that process. so let's have a policy. >> north carolina? >> admiral, are we seeing the influence yet of john bolton in this white house? he's often termed a hawk, narrowly, but i think his view of power is different than the president's perhaps more expansive. are we seeing his thumbprints a bit in the last couple of days? >> i think we are, although i would observe, he's just warming up. >> wow. >> he has said again and again -- >> is that a good thing or a bad thing? >> he's coming in from the bull pen. that's a comment for richard haas. how are those yankees doing against the red sox? >> yeah --
>> wow! >> right across the bow. >> he just did that. >> exactly. across the bow. very good image for an admiral. so, yes, we have got to, as ambassador hill says, develop a policy. but john bolton is one who is going to reach for that hard power instrument. of i would argue he's probably going to reach for it against iran. i think it would be a mistake, but i think we're beginning to walk away from the iranian deal. that will open up the opportunity for real conflict with iran, bad move. and i think the instrument of hard power in north korea, which has kind of diminished in conversational value over the last few weeks, but my sense is the fundamentals aren't good there. the odds are, we are going to not be able to cut a good deal, and john bolton is someone owhos going to push for pressure, that military instrument. i think ambassador hill has it exactly right. you've got to dial it in between
hard power and soft power. there are times you need hard power. we're not going to negotiate with the islamic state. but the long game has got to include the policy, the diplomacy, the economic piece that david ignatius just talked about. when you dial those two in, you have your best hope of resolving a situation like syria. >> all right. admiral james stavridis, thank you so much. ambassador christopher hill, thank you as well. now this. a spokesman for the bush family says after several recent hospitalizations, former first lady barbara bush will now be focusing on comfort care. joining us from houston, nbc news chief foreign affairs correspondent and host of "andrea mitchell reports," andrea mitchell. ran degr andrea, what more do we know about the first lady's health? >> reporter: well, we know that she's been in failing health from a variety of medical conditions. she has now decided to stop medical treatment as the family announced yesterday. she is, of course, one of the
most beloved first ladies in american history and the head of an historic dynasty. and now she's choosing to remain at home, surrounded by those she loves. this morning, an outpouring of support for former first lady, barbara bush, after a series of hospitalizations, the 92-year-old has decided to end medical treatment, after battling multiple ailments, including congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. in a statement, a family spokesperson says mrs. bush will instead focus on comfort care, adding that in the face of her failing health, she has been worrying not for herself, but for others. political figures from both sides of the aisle sharing their thoughts. the white house saying, the president's and first lady's prayers are with all of the bush family during this time. house minority leader nancy pelosi tweeting, as always, bashr bush is a comfort to her friends and family. and texas governor greg abbott is calling the former first lady's character as big, inspiring, and iconic as texas. >> i've been the luckiest woman
in the world, truthfully. >> the matriarch of a political dynasty, bush is the only woman since abigail adams to be the wife of one president -- >> president of the united states. >> reporter: and the mother to a second, marrying george h.w. bush while he was a naval aviator in world war ii. they are the longest married couple in presidential history. writing in her college alumni magazine, quote, i am still old and still in love with the man i married 72 years ago. >> i love you. >> i love you, too. >> a fierce defender of her family, mrs. bush was a popular first lady. >> i want to thank my entire family with this special emphasis on a woman named barbara. >> creating a foundation to promote family literacy, her love for her own family always on display. appearing several times with her granddaughter, jenna, here on "today". >> why do you think we call you the enforcer? >> well, because i enforce. if you do something bad, i point it out to you. >> her whit and wisdom in full force during this highly
regarded commencement speech at wellesley college as first lady. >> at the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. you will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend, or a parent. >> reporter: and mrs. bush was speaking with her granddaughters, jenna and barbara, the twins last night, so she is surrounded by, of course, her husband, bush 41, president bush 43 has been visiting, jeb has been visiting, neal and marvin, dorothy, their other children have been with her. and this is a very difficult time. we, of course, wish them our very best, our prayers and thoughts are with them, the whole family going through a very, very difficult time. >> absolutely. >> joe and mika? >> nbc's andrea mitchell, thank you very much. very sad.
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we want to tell everybody about this? what's happening today? >> no. heilemann, we could talk about it on "the circus." >> tell them what's happening today. >> my favorite of mika's chickens is known as baby bumbah and apparently today baby bumbah is being put down. >> it's got to go. >> and i believe that put down in your thing, you're going to take an axe and chop baby bumbah's head off. >> who else is going to do it? >> just to be clear, you are going to slaughter an innocent chicken? >> it's not the first time, heilemann. get over it. it's a chicken! >> by the way, the chicken is not innocent. >> i love her. >> not innocent. >> the chicken devastated by --
>> i don't like chicken -- >> i got to get out and -- >> a lot of suffering -- >> she's accusing a lot of suffering. democrats' lead over republicans on the generic ballot has narrowed. you're going to watch. >> no, i'm not. >> in the new nbc news/"wall street journal" poll. >> down three points since march. 40% say they want republicans to remain in power. meanwhile, 66 percent of democrats expressed a high level of interest in november's election, close to 49% of republicans. these numbers reflect polling data from 2010, a wave year for the gop. back then, 66% of republicans expressed a high level of interest compared to 49% of democrats.
>> do the democrats have a message? >> yes, they do. but the message has to be more than, we're not donald trump. the message has to tap into the anxieties of middle class voters, working families in key congressional districts. but here's the landscape. right now there are about 59 competitive districts in the country. of those 59 districts, six are held by democrats and 53 held by republicans. so, that's a pretty formidable battlefield. the issue that the democrats will have, and i think they're going to take the majority, the question is, by how much? the republicans built themselves this massive redistricting firewall, built for the exact environment we are in now. and some of those districts are going to be very difficult to take, because of that firewall. >> but what's -- what's the democratic message? >> it depends on the democrat that you speak to. and i have to be honest with you, i would shachaired the democratic congressional campaign committee for four years. the message is the message that works in a specific district. the fact of the matter is that
in a district in new york city, the message is not going to be the same as a message in iowa's first congressional district or second congressional district. so a good message, like a good suit, is tailored comfortably. >> all politics is local. let's talk about "big guns." i hear it's "thank you for smoking" meets the nra. >> meets the gun lobby. this week, today, actually, is the 11th anniversary of the virginia tech shootings. most people have forgotten. friday, 19th anniversary of columbine. most people have forgotten. i was in congress 15 years, 52 mass shootings and i couldn't take it anymore. the number one question i faced, i'm sure you faced also, joe, when you were there, when will congress do something about it? and i decided not to write laws, but write a book. and i answered the question in the best way i know, satirically from the inside, with a story about the mighty gun lobby and a small town in the hamptons, and
i do it from the inside. >> we've been watching these massacres in schools for so long and it's been devastating to the country. and nothing ever happens politically. and there's a fatalism that kind of sets in. and i wonder if satire was your response to that. the only way i can talk about this anymore is through satire and not actually being horrified. >> you're exactly right. i was trying to find a different angle. satire raises a point sharply without bludgeon people. and that's exactly what i was trying to do. and i ended the book with a note of possible hope, but i'm also pragmatic. i proven guilty. and that kind of hypocrisy just stunned me. this is the best outlet i came up with. >> can we talk about satire in the age of trump. i used to feel sorry for people
who write "veep" and these other shows, but how do you write satire that's different from reality? >> the two are blending. every tweet, everybody morning, could be a satire or it could be the reality of a president who woke up that morning in a mood. there's a discussion in literary circles, now i sound so sophisticated, now that i've left congress. this presidency, more than any i know, needs some objective satire. >> okay. well, the novel "big guns" is out tomorrow. it's amazing when you think about it, that we have a generation of children that have grown up with mass shootings a part of their daily lives. 19 years since columbine. former congressman steve israel, thank you so much. still ahead, much more reaction to jim comey's first interview of his new book tour last night. plus, stormy daniels is showing up at court as the president's personal attorney faces the fallout from the fbi raid of his
office. >> john heilemann predicts he may plead the fifth. >> bonfire. >> it is bonfire. >> yeah. >> what is she doing? she going to be speaking outside the courthouse? >> she's just a concerned citizen who has a stake in this case. >> i would -- my prediction that he'll plead the fifth is pretty certain, that she and her lawyer will be on the courthouse steps doing a press briefing, i would say that's a near certainty. >> avenatti, right. and as the administration was still explaining the american mission in syria, president trump was also declaring that mission accomplished. >> good lord. >> we'll talk about that and much more, straight ahead on "morning joe." how do you chase what you love with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis? do what i did. ask your doctor about humira. it's proven to help relieve pain and protect joints from further irreversible damage in many adults. humira works by targeting and helping to block a specific source of inflammation that contributes to ra symptoms. humira has been clinically studied for over 20 years.
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saving you time, so you can keep saving the world. >> kids: ♪ safelite repair, safelite replace ♪ i can't believe they raided michael cohen's office. what are we going to do, mike? >> the important thing is to stay calm. >> excuse me, mr. sessions. >> oh, no. are they here for us? i'll go peacefully. >> no, it's not the police. the president's lawyer, michael cohen, is here to see you. >> oh, finally. yes, by all means, send him in. >> we've got a real problem here, jeff. you know how much evidence i have in my office? i'm donald trump's lawyer. i got a whole hard drive that's just labeled "yikes." >> michael, the reason we brought you here today is that there's someone who would like to speak with croyou. >> oh, great. who? >> looking for something, mr.
cohen? >> robert mueller? >> why don't you have a seat, mr. cohen. >> if you're innocent, you have nothing to worry about. i'll start with some easy ones. how'd you like that pee-pee tape? >> oh, my god! >> that's so good. >> good morning, everyone. it's monday, april 16th. >> and isn't that something? >> with us, we have national affairs analyst for nbc news and msnbc, john heilemann. yes, he's here. he's john heilemann of "the circus." >> president of the council on foreign relations and author of the book, "a world in disarray," richard haas, david ignatius, and nbc news national political reporter, heidi przybyla is with us, as well. we've got the circus here with us today. are they going to take pictures of you drinking your coffee? >> you drinking your coffee. doing whatever else you like to do? >> that's the reason they're here.
so the real michael cohen will be in court today, in the wake of that fbi raid last week. it comes as the legal bills continue to mount for the nearly $4 million. i'd heard that is it true that he spent like 20% of all the money they've raised? >> did you hear that? >> is that true? >> that's a lot. >> a big chunk. >> that's a waste. >> a big chunk because some of them coming in and going into legal bills. >> the president scalls it quote mission accomplished in syria. we'll discuss whether there is a strategy following friday night's air strikes. but first joe, we want to get your take on the newest nbc wall street journal poll. 39% say they approve of the president's job performance. that is down 4 points since last month.
57% disapprove. there's also a difference in intensity. 44% of americans say they strongly disapprove of trump's performance while only 22% say they strongly approve. looking deeper into trump's approval number he's at 79% among republicans. down 5 points since last month. down 45% among men, down 5, 35% among independents. 36%s among 18 to 34-year-olds. up 5 points, 34% among women. down one and 7% among democrats down 3. what do you make of those numbers? >> more of the same. it really is. this president john hyalman goes between 35%, 41, 42%. if you look at voters it will tick up a couple of points. but the only thing that ever seems to be moving here are
independents and maybe republicans to maybe 3 or 4 points this way or that. but mainly we've stayed in the margin of error through the first year, haven't we? >> we have and it's interesting. i find myself reflecting in a strange way on president obama's poll numbers which we used to talk about all the time. he rarely got above 50. even after he killed osama bin lad laden, he dropped back down. we seem to be at a p place where the bases are so hardened it's really hard for them to drop much below the high 30s and it's hard for them to get above much of 45 president trump's is lower, but they stay within that ban no matter how bad things get for them and all the partisan fighting they have this reducible core that they can't lose. >> and richard, that's been good
enough for a lot of presidents of late to win. go w. bush was a very divisive president a as is donald trump but in the past they could always rely on getting the republican nomination or the democratic nomination and starting at about 47, 48% and then you're just fighting for the last two or three percent. i think those days are long gone. there are so many people with so much money or so much thaim fame that are talking about running as an independent. this is going to get split up there a way it hasn't been split up in a long time. >> you have a much broader spectrum and the question is whether anybody can get a working majority. that said so long as for the most part willing to go along with him he is able to b govern.
that's the one the white house constantly cites. what's going on with that poll? >> would you like to answer that? >> maybe heidi wants to take that. >> i'm pretty sure i'm fairly isern from some of the polling stuff that they did not have conversations on all of its polls. they can do those robo call type polls which are less precise and i don't know what their sample is, but in years past, that is absolutely been a technique of the poll that makes it less accurate. >> it's always trended republican. always. sometimes plus five, plus six, plus seven. i mean, it's also treated republican. so sometimes when you have the swing of the last come days that goes republican as it did with
trump they can say they're the most ok accurate poll but you know, it's -- it's also -- that skews the real clear politics average. i don't know if they've changed this but since moussen was tracking daily, they would sort of balance each other out. but now that gallup is not tracking daily sometimes that makes the president's average higher. >> james comey spoke more about his short and turbulent time as fbi director under president trump. before he was fired in maui of 2017 for what the administration said was his handling of the clinton e-mail investigation, but comey said he knew there was something else motivating the president before before trump told lester holt that he was thinking about this russia thing when he decided to terminate him. >> the day after you were fired the president is meeting in the oval offers with the russian foreign minister, calls you a
nut job, says that the pressure on him has been relieved. what did you think when you saw that? wow was my reaction. one, what are the russians doing in the oval office. i'm thinking that's crazy without any americans being present and two, the pretense is melting away. the bit about you were fired because of how you handled the e-mail investigation is melting away. you were fired because of the russia investigation. >> so a report in the washington post claims white house officials tried to distract president trump from what james comey would say. administration officials said aides were so concerned about comey's book that they scheduled trump to be at his march ra la estate at the same time the book's release. comey was the target of six of the seven tweets. >> we're going to use japan to distract the president from acting like --
>> we are going to use japan. >> this is where we are. in one tweet trump claimed james comey says that polls where crooked hillary were a factor in handling the stupidly e-mail probe, in other words he was making decisions based on the fact that she was going to win and he wanted a job. slime ball. that's our president. what comey was referring to was his decision to reveal new evidence. i was operating in a world where hillary clinton was going to beat donald trump. if i hide this she'll be illegitimate the moment she's elected. the moment this comes out. >> i just -- it needs to be repeated as much as possible that the president is claiming that he was the victim of a conspiracy that elected him president. >> exactly. >> james comey's letter did as
much as anything other than hillary clinton's bad campaigning electing donald trump president. mccabe leaking about the clinton foundation, being under investigation, hurt hillary clinton. now, if you were at home and you don't understand that, and you buy into something tup id conspiracy theory at home that somebody on tv is telling you, please, step away from your kitchen, utensils and knives and blenders. >> anything sharp. >> because you will hurt yourself because you are too imp competent to use any basic household appliances. the president of the united states won in large part of james comey. >> are beaters okay? >> no, i don't even trust these people to be near an egg beater.
>> not even a manual egg beater because wait, is this something that trims my nose hair? >> stay away gr it. just you know what, put yourself -- >> the president thinks you're that stupid. >> put yourself in bubble wrap and slowly walk back into your bedroom and make sure you can breathe and put the covers over your head because this is so obvious that you -- i really find it hard to believe that you are as stupid as anybody that's pushing these conspiracy theories. james comey did more than anybody in america other than hillary clinton to elect donald trump. >> speaking of jim comey he's ak thatting the president's behavior as undignified. why is he talking so much about hair and hand size? a look through the former fbi's book. >> massive hands. >> oh, my lord. >> just massive. >> when are we ever going to see
the sun. >> he's got huge hands. >> would be of the worst springs ever. let's take a look at the video tape from the weekend. we go to north carolina, one fatality at an elementary school. a roof was ripped off some mobile homes. some mobile homes were completely destroyed. and then our friends in minnesota and wisconsin, this will melt eventually but they had two feet of snow in green bay. second biggest snowstorm of all time. i said all time. not just in april. all time. so now that line of storms is over the top of philadelphia heading toward new york city. a lot of lightning strikes the last couple of hours. we've got 13 million people under a flash flood warning. 1 inch has already fallen and we've got that line of storms coming through. do we finally return to a normal pattern? a little but not quite.
so all that icy messy weather in new england exits today. new storm on the west coast. rain and snow depending on your elevation and then unfortunately another snow event comings through. winter storm watching. another 5 to 8 inches. then that will begin to exit heading to canada. by friday i like that word, a pleasant, typical storm heading for areas of the plains. our cameras around new york city, looks like it's 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. in the morning there. you're watching "morning joe." we'll be right back. i'm your phone, stuck down here between your seat and your console, playing a little hide-n-seek. cold... warmer... warmer... ah boiling. jackpot. and if you've got cut-rate car insurance, you could be picking up these charges yourself.
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after deciding not to indict hillary clinton, the letter ten days out without language that bends over backwards saying i am only doing this because it is my understanding i'm required to do this, but no one -- nowhere should assume that this means hillary clinton is guilty. and then even in the book his explanations just don't add up saying we weren't looking at politics at all and saying we were looking at the pollsnd it looked like hillary clinton wasn't going to win. donald trump's attacks aside, james comey may be a friend of robert mueller, but he sure seems far less let's just say j judicious. >> that's a good word. take it from there before i get in trouble. >> comey speaks a moral language that we don't hear very much in
politics. he speaks about people's moral unfitness to be president. he calls someone a serial liar. he uses descriptive language to -- he describes a mob boss who is in the white house and think shock at that. i wrote back in june when he appeared before the intelligence committee in the big sort of circus of his testimony this was pilgrims' progress meets house of cards. you had this ernest but moralist trying to make his case about a white house that by his own account was really out of good fellows. and i think that disjunction continues to this day. i don't think that comey has helped himself a lot with this book. he does deepen our picture of donald trump, a president who's really jumped the rails in american politics, but in terms of the fundamentals of this
investigation, i'd be surprised if the book makes as big a difference as we might have thought a month ago it would. there's so many new things that have happened. all the doors that opened with the raid on michael cohen's office and home, a whole series of things, take this story into different space. comey remains will always be in our national story of this the moralizer, the man who always talked in this language who was shocked by trump, never could figure out a way to communicate him. >> here is james comey calling the president unfit to lead. >> i don't buy this stuff about him being mentally incompetent. he strike mesoas a person with above average intelligence who's tracking conversations and knows what's going on. i don't think he's medically unfit to be president. i think he's morally unfit to be
president. a man who constantly lies about matters big and small, that person is not fit to be president of the united states on moral grounds. our president must embody respect and adhere to the values that are at the core of this country. the most important being truth and this president is not able to do that. he's morally unfit to be president. >> john, the elliottness pose is good. i mean, i understand what he's saying there and i think a lot of americans would agree with that, certainly a lot of law enforcement officers would agree with that. at the same time, he seems to cheapen that argument by talking about donald trump's orange skin, the white globes around his eyes that come from a tanning bed, the medium size of his hands, mocking his hair, it
says -- i mean, if you're going -- if you are going to put yourself on a higher moral plain, should you not avoid all the same petty fights that donald trump engages? >> well, you could argue that for sure and the interesting thing about this, that comey comes into the moment as a man without a country. democrats were unhappy with him for having taken the election away from hillary clinton. he's -- he doesn't have a natural constituency and so in this book selling world, this is what this guy is doing plow. he talk about his role in the trump's legal 'em battlements and this week the combination of comey's provocations and michael cohen in court today with stormy daniels, this could be the thing that pushes trump over the edge. that's important. he's not over the edge yet? >> well, maybe it will push him to do something else this week. we feel like we're on the
precipice of something. but comey is in the business of selling books. he's going out to sell a book that's going to be number one on the new york times selling list. if you're jim comey and you do have a constituency, i feel like he made a choice. he's basically decided i'm going to decide i'm going to be the hero of the resistance. i'm going to attack trump in this kind of language you're talking about. i'm going to have my wife on abc last night provided video of how she was at the women's march and he taukd about his wife and daughter being supporters of hillary clinton. he tried to cast himself last night, if he had to make a choice, here's why what i did to hillary clinton were not so bad. my wife and daughter are big fans of hillary clinton and i'm going to rhetorically put myself in a position where i've got to claim a country and the country i'm going to be on is the anti trump liberal side of the aisle. >> but in claiming that country
all he does is feed into donald trump's narrative and it seems to me makings robert mueller's job that much more difficult. >> that's one of the unforch natd things after owl fof all o this is happening. without adding to it and this was self-interest, not national interest. i also think -- i thought the most useful thing was the legal grounds for challenging the president and i think that's a useful description. i thought his weakest thing was we learned nothing about -- or he did nothing to persuade us that is various interventions that were run up to the election were justified. this was a guy talking to himself. almost without a compass and here he is trying to justify what he did, when he did it, what he didn't do and it was -- who was he acting for? it just seemed to me he took on a disproportionate role in american pole ticks without the mandate to do it. >> coming up on "morning joe,"
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the fbi raided the office of hi michael cohen this week. they first became suspicious when they found out that he was lawyer for donald trump. when the feds come kicking in your door, they got something. >> president trump's legal fees are mountsing as he contends with robert mueller's russia probe and the legal challenge from adult film star stormy daniels. newly filed federal election commission records showed that the president's re-election campaign has spent about $835,000 in legal fees so far this year. according to a breakdown by the woug post about 348,000 of that reportedly went to jones day, a
law firm representing the campaign in the russia investigation. another 280,000 went to two firms representing trump and his attorney michael cohen in the litigation brought by stormy daniels. the post points out that the latest figures bring the trump campaign's total spending on legal fees to nearly $4 million since president trump took office. cohen is due back in court today. attorneys for cohen and the president are trying to block investigators from reviewing some of the materials seized in that raid claiming they are protected by attorney client pruf ledge. the latest move came from the president last night. he's asking the judge to allow him determine what trump related evidence investigators can see and stormy daniels is expected at the courthouse today as well. all that with the backdrop of james comey's book tour. joining us now, former u.s. attorney and a former aide to robert mueller, now an nbc news
law enforcement editor. and a legal analyst and white house correspondent for bloomberg news and the new york times is back at the table as well. benjamin, i'd like to just start with the side issue of stormy daniels and michael cohen's office raid, home and office raid. can the president claim that he gets to look at the material first before investigators do at this point? >> well, he can claim it, but i don't think that a federal court is likely to be terribly sympathetic to that. look, normally in a normal situation when you want documents you issue a subpoena and the subject of the subpoena does what the president wants here to do, which is go through the stuff himself and figure out what's relevant and give you the stuff that's responsive to the
subpoena. you use a warrant when you have a lot of evidence that that process is not going to be adequate because you can't trust the person, the recipient to respond to honestly and so you know, federal prosecutors here went to a court and convinced a federal judge that there was some reason not to trust michael cohen to do this work himself, and i think it's very unlikely that either at michael cohen's request or at the president's request that a federal court is likely to second guess the magistrate on that. but you know, as trump would say we'll see what happens. >> president trump has just tweeted about james comey's interview last night writing this. comey drafted the crooked hillary exoneration long before he talked to her, lied in congress to senator g. then based his decisions on her poll numbers.
disgruntled he mccabe and the others committed many times. what? committed many crimes. >> not sure i know what that means. >> oh, i see, disgruntled, he, mccabe and others kmitded many crimes. it's just my inability to read it correctly. so chuck rosenberg, what do you think is the most fascinating or potentially impactful thing that has come out of james comey's book and is some of it destructive? >> the most impactful thing that comes out of the boork is the truth. you can fault jim for lots of things. he admits he's got a big ego, he can rush to judgment, he can be head strong. i agree. i like him, he's my friend, but like everyone else, jim has faults. you have faults and so do i. but i've always known jim to be a truth teller. i've read his book cover to cover over the weekend. it's a good read, but more
important it's the truth. and all the years i've known jim, faults aside he's always told the truth. he told the truth about what he did wrong, he told the truth about what he did right and he tells us where he sort of wrestled with things and you know, hopes he got it right. that's the most impactful thing. now, by the way mueller already has all of that. jim's book and jim's interview last night are not the first times we've heard this stuff. we've heard it in congressional testimony. it's in the memos he wrote and all this has been consistent throughout. >> we're so desensitized that we read the president's tweets and we don't even -- i mean, we don't even have much of reaction as we should. look at what he's saying here. look at what the president of the united states is doing in this one tweet. >> i mean, he's saying there's many crimes happening here, but what's really happening is two things, mika. first of all, the president i think is directing to comey his rage against the mueller
investigation. so comey partly is becoming a proxy. he's also a fact witness obviously. and then he's trying to link him to mccabe, but the facts are that mccabe was in disagriemt to some extent with comey on some of the investigations and more importantly, the big leak that mccabe is in trouble for was a leak about the clinton foundation probe which benefitted donald trump. so you know, there's a lot going on there and look. >> a lot going on there. >> all he can do is tweet. >> and he tweets away. shannon, what are you hearing about the president's state of mind given the mueller probe, the comey book and the apparent questions about multiple payoffs to women, stormy daniels being the one -- the most high profile one? >> well, it's been early quiet here this morning. i've tried to check in with some people and find out what's going
on. i haven't heard back from anyone. there was this tweet you just read now and there was another one that came out. i'll question some of my sources on whether or not he actually wrote that tweet that was just sent out because the language and grammar seems to be a bit different than some of the ones he tweets. i know he doesn't always write his own tweets but as of last week, he was incredibly angry about the michael cohen raid, as angry as some people had seen him. his advisors wanted him to focus on syria. this week his focus is on japan. so he will be departing for mar-a-lago in about half an hour or actually an hour. we'll all be out there shouting questions. i think that will be telling whether or not he stop to have a venting session or if he waves
and gets on that plane. i think that's will say about how effective his advisors were. >> and maybe taking the phone away and tweeting for him. it it does sound different though. it doesn't sound like his voice, some of the tweets. after facing criticism from president trump and questions about the fate of his job, nbc news is reporting that deputy attorney general rod rosenstein has been telling confidants he is prepared to be fired. three sources who have spoken to rosenstein say he has repeated the phrase here i stand, a reference to martin luther's faye mougs quote here i stand, i can do no other. one source who spoke to rosenstein tells nbc news that the deputy attorney general seemed fully aware he may soon lose his job and was at peace with the possibility. rosenstein has also reportedly said in recent private conversations that history will prove he did the right thing in the firing of james comey in may of 2017 claiming that the
american people do not have all the facts about what led to his decision to write the memo that led to comey's dismissal. ben, i'll start with you. what's your response to that? >> well, my response is that you know, if rod rosenstein has made his peace with what may be about to happen, i'm glad for him, but that doesn't change the fact that it would be an outrageous impropriety on the part of the president to fire rod rosenstein and rod rosenstein, you know, who look, there's -- chuck said earlier that you know, jim had made husbais mistakes but was a truth teller. rod also made some pretty cosmic mistakes and that said more recently than those mistakes he has behaved in a inhonorable
fashion to protect the special counsel and drape the special counsel in -- in the justice department's institutional fabric. he's talked about -- he's taken responsibility for the investigation before an angry congress and he's been the shield between the investigation and the president, and i think he has played a useful role that we should, you know, even those of us who are angry at him for what he did to comey and the role he played earlier right now he is playing a very important role, and i'm -- you know, i'm -- if he is at peace with where he is, i'm happy for him. that doesn't change the fact that it would be very, very wrong of the president to act against him. >> chuck, do you agree? >> i completely agree. i think ben's formulation is exactly right. here's why. i was privileged to hold a
position where i served at the pleasure of a different president, the second president bush. we always use that phrase, we serve at the pleasure. this president doesn't seem very pleased but he's not displeased with rod's performance. at least not in a sort of thoughtful analytical neutral way. he's displeased because things are happening that look bad for the president and his administration. i think rod made some mistakes at the outset. i think he's trying to get it right now. i sure hope he does. but if the president's displeegsed it's not with performance. it's with what is happening to the president and that is not a basis on which to remove the deputy attorney general. >> shannon, any echos from inside the white house that this might be on the way? >> people really say they don't know. and that's different than saying he's safe, there's no -- you know, there's no firing coming, stand down. people as of last week were saying they don't know what will
happen. they know the president is very angry with him and rosenstein doesn't have many defenders really outside of the justice department. on capitol hill, the president has been getting calls from republicans complaining about rosenstein not turning over document, not being cooperative with their investigations. he's hearing a lolt of it from nunes. there's no one saying he's doing a good job, he's the best person in this position so he doesn't have that many allies right now, so i think that puts him at risk when other people have gotten fired i feel like i see if they don't have protectors, you know, that's when you see them on the way out. if they do have protectors like scott pruitt they seem to last longer and can weather a storm. >> i understand the political calculus of that, but with that said pica, even donald trump understands that the firing of james comey has placed him right now where he is, a threat
politically, and legally as well. firing rod rosenstein is not the same asfi firing. >> still ahead back in 1999 senator orren hatch said the nation can tolerate a president who makes mistake but cannot tolerate one that breaks the law to cover it up. we'll read from the new piece next on "morning joe."
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presidency, put an evil really expletive stupid forest gump. if mr. trump goes against rosenstein, even those with misgivings about the president may fall into line. they may recent partisan attacks on mr. trump. the overwhelming majority of americans including most republicans want mr. mueller to keep his job, but many americans weary of the shouting in washington might dismiss the whole thing as another food fight. mr. mueller's investigation has already yielded great benefit to the country including the indictments of 13 russians and three companies for trying to undermine the presidential election. none of us can know if prosecutors will eventually point the finger at the president himself but should mr. trump move to hobble or kill the investigation he would darken rather than dispel the cloud of sus spugs around him. far worse he would free future
presidents to american injustice and that would be a great danger to every american of whatever political leaning. >> well, and the firing of rod rosenstein actually now goes well beyond the mueller investigation. >> yes, it does. >> if you were firing rod rosenstein you are actually firing the man who allowed the southern district of new york to open their investigations. so by firing rod rosenstein, donald trump actually opens up a second obstruction of justice series of charges against him because the firing would be to obstruct in the mueller investigation, but the firing would also be more readily attached to what the southern district of new york is doing. >> which i think is partly the reason that some people have said that the case is being distributed out to different districts it's the block chain strategy to protect the
investigation. the more prosecutors are involved in it and the more districts, the harder it would be to stamp it out and the more steps the president would have to take to stamp it out. so that's a way of protecting in part the investigation, but you're right. look. >> it also spreads out the legal jeopardy. you're firing the person that joes overseeing the mueller investigation and also firing the person that made possible the search of your attorney's offices. >> right. so after that do you fire the number two in new york? you can't do that can you? or maybe you can. the editorial i think has it right that what's at stake is the rule of law. and the point that he makes is precisely the same point in the editorial. we have to protect against a future abuse of power by a democratic president. >> right. that's what i always said during
impeachment i would say to my republican friends i'd say, you need to make sure that you apply the psalm standard to bill clinton that you are going to apply to a future republican president because there will be a future republican president and pay back will be hell. just like nick said, there will be a future democratic president who may want to fire a special prosecutor, republicans need to keep that in mind and protect this special counsel. >> absolutely. up next, u.s. markets appear to be shrugging off those air strikes in syria but european markets not so much. keep it right here on "morning joe."
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time now for business before the bell with cnbc's brian sullivan. the president says it's, quote, mission accomplished regarding freud's u.s.-led air strikes in syria. is wall street reacting to that? also, the new interview with former fbi director james comey? >> no to the latter, yes to the former. here's how. happy monsoon monday, by the way. the former with the syria thing, the market was worried it might be just a one off. some investors are happy it looks like this might have been a one-deal thing, one day thing on saturday and that's it. so if we see more, we could see more negative market reaction. here's the weird thing. about what's going on right now. all the things that are underlying the economy, right, are solid. but yet the headlines are
negative. syria, comey, mueller. corporate earnings, looking pretty good. record stock buybacks may help. corporations are lending again. this weird stuff right where -- >> wait, you say record stock buybacks. so oh, my gosh, the people that said those tax cuts weren't going to all go to employees but actually huge corporations were going to huge the money to buy back a lot of the stocks, did that actually happen? >> i thought that might get your attention. >> yes. >> that's exactly right. >> everybody knew that's what was going to happen. oh, it's going -- the working class is going to get money from this. no, people like you said they're going to get all this money and buy back their own stocks. it's happening, you're saying. >> it is happening. jpmorgan chase thinks we're going to go up, up, up. we're not seeing -- we're seeing high buy backs but we haven't hit records yet. there's some new data showing
wages maybe aren't growing as fast as we thought so right now, again, that sort of thesis you talked about, that we've talked about on set, where we got to wait and see. it is still early but yes, record corporate buybacks should be forthcoming. which could help the stock market. so there you go. take it or leave it. >> cnbc's brian sullivan, thanks a lot. and we're back in three minutes with more -- >> monsoon monday that sounds about right. jeff and susan are heading into retirement. and market volatility isn't top of mind. that's because they have a shield annuity from brighthouse financial, which allows them to take advantage of growth opportunities in up markets, while maintaining a level of protection in down markets. so they're less concerned with market volatility and can focus more on the things they're passionate about. talk with your advisor about shield annuities from brighthouse financial- established by metlife. we're on a mission to show drip coffee drinkers, it's time to wake up to keurig.
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in his memoir, a higher loyalty, james comey calls president trump ego driven and said he is untethered to truth. the book was could authored by captain obvious. president trump responded to the claims, calling him a leaker and a liar. which coincidentally is also the name of the video the russians have. >> ew, gross. >> oh, no. >> so i want to show you trump's
latest tweet. >> i can't wait. >> i'm not sure who's writing these. comey drafted the crooked hillary exoneration long before he talked to her. disgrunted, he, mccabe and others, committed many crimes. joe. >> yes. >> yes. he's accusing people of committing crimes, number one. >> a trump tweet or a trump lawyer tweet? >> it doesn't look like a trump tweet. >> it doesn't. a couple of them have not. >> yes, they're actually -- >> it's grammatically -- >> can we put that back up? >> disgrunted, comma, he -- but then the last comma, committed many crimes. the last comma doesn't need to be there. >> oh, the many -- >> actually, that last comma could be a giveaway. >> that's like trump going "more commas." >> no, i've got a fever and the only thing that's going to fix it is more commas. looks like -- so nick, wefires
starring at your local manhattan courtroom today. >> stormy on the steps. >> stormy on the steps with her lawyer who is trump's equal as a showman. he and stormy daniels have drawn this out. they've played their cards well. and what's different here is they have all the president's skills at creating a show and nothing to lose. so the lawyer and stormy daniels have all the cars. >> i will say, avenatti, as far as playing the media card right, donald trump has met his match. >> yes, that is true. i think overall, though, it's a lot like what madeleine albright talked about last week when discussing her book fascism, a warning, these tweets we're looking at today, among the many actions of the president of the weekend are like the chicken feathers being plucked at one by one and you don't really notice what's going on.
it's very bad for our democracy. >> the american people if you look at the polls, overwhelming, overwhelming of the americans want the investigation into the payoffs to continue, want the investigation into donald trump's business dealings to continue. we now that will continue even if mueller, rosenstein and jeff sessions is fired because the southern district of new york will continue their investigation. and firing rosenstein only making matters worse for donald trump. >> that does it for us this morning. stephanie ruhle picks up the coverage right now. >> thanks, mika, hi, there. this morning, we've got a lot to cover. we're just getting started with trading shots. james comey sits down for his first tv interview since his firing last may, calling the president morally unfit to lead and, no surprise, the president fired back. >> a person who