tv MSNBC Live With Craig Melvin MSNBC May 17, 2018 10:00am-11:00am PDT
headquarters in new york city. an interview with the president. new details right now about negotiations between robert mueller and president trump's legal team as we enter the second year of robert mueller's russia investigation today. are we closer to president trump going under oath? plus, animals, that's how the president of the united states described some who come across the border illegally. his comments coming as a group of rogue republicans are standing up to party leadership to try and get a bipartisan deal on immigration done once again. we'll also be reminding you of some of the other incendiary and racist things this president has said. and breaking news right now. shelter in place. that is the order from emergency officials for many on hawaii's big island. a massive volcano has erupted from its summit, sending ash, shooting thousands of feet in the air. we will take you to hawaii live.
we start with some new details on negotiations between president trump's legal team and special counsel robert mueller. the president's attorney rudy giuliani just a few minutes ago telling nbc news the special counsel's office is now, quote, engaging us on several points where we could reach agreement. he added, quote, the last day or so, it's been more productive than in the last two weeks. these details coming as the president marked the one-year anniversary of start of the mueller investigation by doing what he's prone to do, tweeting, congratulations, america, we're now into the second year of greatest witch hunt in american history. the only collusion was that done by democrats who are unable to win an election despite the spending of far more money. meanwhile, a live look. where we expect sarah huckabee
sanders any moment now. we expect she'll be peppered with a number of questions about some of what the president has been tweeting and what his attorney has been saying. nbc's peter alexander is at the white house. peter, first of all, let's start with mr. giuliani. and those comments to nbc news a short time ago. do we know anything more about this president sitting down with robert mueller? >> well, we know we heard from rudy giuliani, the president's outside counsel, within the last couple of hours, indicating that the two sides, robert mueller's team and the president's legal team have now engaged on several points, making progress, in effect, as he described it, toward a potential interview. he said the details of the conversation were confidential. the conversation he said happened yesterday evening in some form. he says they've made more progress, been more productive in the past couple of days than they have been in the previous couple of weeks. the reason it's notable he talked about this potential for some form of agreement is to this point, it was sort of the understanding right now, as rudy
giuliani himself said within last 24 hours, that no lawyer could tell the president to sit down for an interview with special counsel. that would, in effect, be malpractice. it appears now he's leaving the window open, the potential for some sort of confined, some restricted conversation to take place, whether that's face-to-face or in the form of some written questions, it remains to be seen at this point. the bottom line, including this one most recently with nbc news, is that giuliani says the special counsel's team told the president's legal team it was their belief system they were following department of justice guidelines that said a president could not be indicted. if a president isn't indicted, does that mean president trump will be more kleined to sit down and answer questions in some form? at this point, it's a question without an answer. it's one we'll press sarah
sanders on. >> peter, while i have you, i want to ask you about the president's use of the word "animal" yesterday. it's drawn some heat. the associated press deleted a tweet about the remark because apparently there's been who he was talking about. what more are we hearing on that from the white house, if anything? >> i suspect it will be brought up in the course of this conversation with sarah sanders a short time from now. to be clear, yesterday, when the president was hosting a series of leaders specifically from california on the topic of sanctuary cities, he was reacting to another individual in the room who brought up the issue of ms-13 gang members and the president described immigrant, appeared to be referring to those gang members as animals. this is the type of language he's used before in reference to ms-13. broadly he has spoken unsparingly in terms of his criticism of immigrants who have
come into the united states from mexico in the past. remember the day this whole thing got started when the president effectively announced his campaign. he said many of those people who came from mexico were rapists. obviously this underscores the fierce language the president often embraces when speaking about topics like the legal immigration where he feels like he can really sort of flex his muscles and show his toughness. >> our man at the white house, peter alexander. thank you. let me bring in former federal prosecutor now, seth waxman, jill winebanks, msnbc contributor, former assistant watergate special prosecutor is with me. and so is presidential hiss store yarngs store historian, msnbc contributor and author of the new book "the soul of america, the battle for our better angelings. "jon meacham is with me as well. let's start with the news of the day here this assertion that rudy giuliani is making now.
he's talking to nbc news, saying they seem to be closer to having the president sit down with special counsel bob mueller. what do you make of that? >> the fact of the product he's going to have to do that. i think giuliani understands if he refused to sit down voluntarily, bob mueller and his team would issue a grand jury subpoena that would compel the president to participate in that process. ultimately if mr. trump and his team challenged that to the courts, he would ultimately lose. knowing that is how it would turn out, it seems they are now moving towards actually sitting down with mr. mueller. he's in a bit of a difficult spot. any criminal defense lawyer would tell their client not to participate in something like this. but the president if he were to plead the fifth, and that's the only way out, has the political ramifications no other criminal target or subject of an investigation faces. so while he's in a rock and a hard place, it sounds like they're coming to terms with the fact they have no choice but to deal with mr. mueller in this regard.
>> jill, i want to go back to what giuliani said last night. that a sitting president cannot be indicted. is that true? >> that is not true. it is an undecided issue. the supreme court has never ruled on it. a vice president was indicted. spiro agnew during the nixon administration. so if a vice president can, why not a president? we, during watergate, thought the president could be indicted, but janwarski was convinced indictment was the politically correct method. we had a congress that was already bipartisan and considering impeachment. we gave a report to that congress for them to use as a road map to impeachment. in this case, turning over a report to congress that showed the evidence that would justify impeachment does not necessarily result in any action. so in this case, an indictment
might be the only way to bring about justice, and i think that under the rules, this prosecutor can ask to be relieved of the rule of the department of justice, that there cannot be an indictment. it is not a law. it is just simply an office of legal counsel rule, and so it would be waived. >> jon meacham, this president has been consistent on his characterization of the investigation. this is what president trump said just after the start of the investigation one year ago, take a listen. >> was this the right move or is this part of a witch hunt? >> well, i respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt, and there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but i can only speak for myself and the russians, zero. believe me, there's no collusion. there was no collusion and
everybody, even my enemies, have said "there is no collusion." >> that's been the line from day one, john meacham. historically, presidents have resisted investigation, whether it's nixon, whether it's clinton. what is different about the way that this president has dismissed this investigation from the start? >> well, no one's been as relentless i think it's safe to say. has made such frequent assertions of his innocent as president trump has. we're in a fascinating stress test here. about the rule of law. about whether a president can be the subject of a criminal indictment. the interesting thing impeachment is the framers of the constitution never defined what high crimes and misdemeanors meant. gerald ford once said whatever the majority of the house and senate decide it is at a given moment. and so that's almost -- not
entirely different, but it's a pretty different creature than the wheels of justice as it unfolds. president nixon was the best evidence of his obstruction of justice, of his cover-up, came very late in the game. he actually resigned before that tape. it was a tape from 1972 where he had tried to have one agency block the work of another. that came out in late july of 1974. nixon was gone by august 9th. so to some extent, we're in an unprecedented grounds here. because the question of dealing with a foreign power is different in degree if not of kind in terms of obstruction and cover-ups than the clinton matter was. >> john, this report out in "the washington post" today. it looks at the mueller investigation. as it goes into its second year. and it contrasts the two teams.
the special counsel's team and the president's team. this is just an expert from the article. the mueller operation, like the former marine corps platoon commander who leads it is secretive and methodical. ten blocks west of the white house, president trump combats the probe with bluster, disarray and defiance as he scrambles for survival. as you look at the different styles of the two sides here, jon me chacham, what's your assessment of their approach to this? >> it's a little of "war of the worlds,," right? it's two entirely different planets. what a lot of journalists will tell you is the most leak-proof operation they've ever seen. in fact they're a lot of complaining about that. it's hard to get anything out of that office, if anything at all. the president is doing -- is carrying on, as he entered politics. he's blustering. he's making assertions. he's fighting a pr war as much
as a legal war. whereas mueller is fighting on legal time. there is this distinction between legal time and political time. legal time is more geological. it doesn't work neatly according to election cycles or news cycles. what the president's done and it may prove effective, is by calling everything fake news, by calling it a witch hunt. one thing we might think about is sometimes witch hunts might produce a witch. you know that's not unthinkable. is he has managed to create a great deal of chaos and an attempt to -- in an attempt i think to predelegitimize, if you will, not the most eloquent term, but predelegitimize anything that director mueller comes without. >> one of the things that's been fairly striking especially over the last 24 hours or so, the role that rudy giuliani continues to play here as the president's outside counsel. it seems as if he's no longer completely denying collusion.
he said that, you know, even if there was collusion, maybe it's not illegal. he also dismissed this doj report or actually cited this doj report that said a sitting president couldn't be indicted. the president continues to maintain no collusion, no obstruction. rudy giuliani's role, is he lending advice to this president or is he being deployed to do cable news, to muddy the waters, to convince the base that no matter the outcome, the fix is in? >> well, whatever rudy giuliani's role is supposed to be, he's not being effective. i would say he's doing a great deal of harm to the president. he has not been good on television in defending the president. he has said things that have forced disclosures. i would say the amendment in the may 15th release of financial information was because rudy
giuliani accidentally said well of course the president paid back michael cohen for $1930,000, that's not very good. but something he said, which is this is definitely not a witch hunt, proved by how much indictment, how many guilty pleas, how many cooperating witnesses. one is already in jail, serving time. if it is a witch hunt, it's a successful one because of those very numbers of how many people have been captured. so it can't be both. it's either a successful witch hunt or it's not a witch hunt at all. and i would say it's not a witch hunt, that this is a very proper investigation that started because an australian diplomat reported that pop doapadopoulos him that russia has compromising information on hillary clinton and was offering it to trump. so this -- we need to focus on what the facts are. we need to focus on what this is really about. >> 13 charges, three companies charged, five guilty pleas so
far. jill, thank you. mr. meacham, you're going to come back, we're going to spend some time talking about your book. we're also going to be talking a little bit more about the controversy surrounding the president of the united states, saying that some people who crossed the southern border illegally are not people at all. >> you wouldn't believe how bad these people are. these aren't people. these are animals. >> it's a topic likely to come up at the white house press briefing that's set to get started any moment now. we're waiting for sarah sanders to take the podium there. also, breaking news this afternoon. a massive volcano as expected has erupted from its summit in hawaii. the efforts under way right now to make sure that everyone there is safe, as ash spews thousands of feet into the sky. a shelter in place order has been given. this is a live picture. more on that, right after this. about what's next. i'm still giving it my best even though i live with a higher risk of stroke
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we've got some breaking news out of hawaii right now. kilauea volcano has erupted sending huge plumes of ash into the sky. just to let you know what you're looking at, this is a webcamera, these are still pictures that are refreshed ever 30 seconds or so. nbc's miguel amilgarr remains on duty. what's happening on the ground now? >> this eruption began just
before dawn so we didn't have a clear vision or clear sight of it, but we know it was a very loud explosion according to the usgs. we were told a plume cloud shot up 30,000 feet and that would be ash and other debris during our drive in here closer to volcano's national park. it sounded like small pebbles were hitting our windshield. that was something they were concerned about, ash and small rock raining down. we don't know if we've had that catastrophic steam explosion which could have sent boulders the size of refrigerators and cars into the air. we're still waiting for confirmation from the usgs. but local communities here have been warned of an ashfall event. they're told to stay inside, to shut their windows and close their doors as ashfall could certainly dissipate across a large area here. craig, as you know, this event has been unfolding for exactly two weeks today. it began with a series of earthquakes, including a powerful 6.9, and then more than 20 fissures, those massive
cracks in the ground have split open. many of them spewing lava. we were talking this morning when just behind me we were in front of a geyser of lava that was shooting several feet high into the air. it had been rolling around that area for several days. those toxic gas, sulfur dioxide is still seeping in the air. that remains a concern here. so this situation still developing, craig, as officials try to keep a close eye on kilauea which unfortunately right now, craig, it's very cloudy out here, we have rain, so we don't have a clear shot of the kilauea, but we were told plume is rising at this hour. >> behind you there's this emergency sign that's flashing "drive with caution," cracks in highway. i've heard at looft three or four cars driving behind you. the shelter in place order that's been given, who is it for, and do people seem to be adhering to it? >> it's for local residents in this area and could stretch as far away as hilo, which is about a 45-minute drive.
they're asking people to stay inside, to keep their windows closed. the shelter in place doesn't really apply to many folks but there are many cars going behind us on our way here. many folks were driving through the roads here. the ash or plume event doesn't seem to be significant at least that the hour. that could of course quickly change. that's what officials are concerned about. they'll be holding a press conference. we hope to learn more information not only about that explosion but also the plume event and just how serious it may become. that may take some time for it to develop. imagine a plume shooting up 30,000 feet into the air. it could take some time for it to dissipate and spread and go in multiple directions so that's something we hope to find out in the coming minutes, craig. >> miguel, do stand by for me, just a few minutes, if you can. because i want to bring in seismologist lucy jones, the founder and chief scientist for the center for science in society. she joins me on the phone now. lucy, you know, we've been watching the smaller erussians
here over the past few weeks but now we're told it is erupting from its summit. what does that mean? >> this case, it's actually because the lava level at the summit has dropped below the water table. that's allowing water to mix in with the lava. it will immediately turn to steam. if the steam gets trapped, it provides energy for explosions. that's what happened this morning. what will continue to happen will depend on how much water continues to get in there and to what degree rock falls within the summit, trapped, steam, and give it the energy for the explosion. >> how long do we suspect this will go on? >> that one's hard to tell. previous events we've seen go on for weeks or even months. it's, you know, i think the sort
of crisis stage is going to be somewhat more limited. it depends on how it evolves and, you know, what gets moved around. >> we just heard miguel there describing the dangerous gas that's being released into the air, the sulfur dioxide. how dangerous -- how dangerous is that? >> poisonous gas is from volcanoes have historically been one of the big killer also out of volcanos. again, if they stay near to the ground, they dissipate pretty quickly as they get higher up, they can spread over a larger area. the main thing with the sulfur dioxide is it can turn into hydrasulfuric acid. it can damage plants, it can damage your respiratory system. it's not immediately kill you, but it's definitely something
you want to avoid and give it time to dissipate. >> lucy, as we watch this explosion, as we watch this eruption happen, what are you watching for here over the next few hours? again, there's this news conference in the next 45 minutes. we expect to get some sort of official update at that point. what should we be keeping a very close eye on? >> i'm watching what reports come out from the usgs. because the people who are there and actually running the monitoring instruments are what's really important. it's going to be a combination of how -- the level in that lava lake, in that column, the degree to which the water gets mixed in with it, i mean, compared to, say, a mt. st. helens, the lava at kilauea is thinner. it's less sticky. and so it's harder to trap gases that lead to the explosion. and it only happens in the
situation where it really starts interacting with the groundwater table. so the information they give us about what's happening about the lava lake level, how it's interacting and whether there's rock falls. i mean, i gather there was a -- have been more earthquakes. it sounds like the largest was only in the 4s. but was near enough to the surface to be doing damage and those types of earthquakes can be triggering more rock falls into the crater. >> okay, lucy, thank you. miguel, earlier this morning, we could hear the explosions or what sounded like explosions behind you during your report. it sounds like it's much quieter right now. is that fair to say? >> we moved about 30 miles away from where we were. we were in pahoa which is a residential neighborhood where leilani estates is. that's where fissures were. many of them have opened up in
residential neighborhoods. you've got this crater and then you've got down one of east rift zones about 20 miles, 15 miles away, a neighborhood. that's where these fissures have been erupting out of the ground and where we've seen those lava spiraling into the air and toxic gases shooting up. that's where we were this morning. so we moved from that location here to the crater to get a better view at some of the smoke that's been billowing up. we can tell you and as you saw this morning, you were with us when those geysers of lava were shooting into the air. that's been happening. we were told by local neighbors there, for two weeks straight. that continues to happen. as we were leaving there this morning, something that took place that lucy was just warning about, that sulfur dioxide gas is the reason we decided to pull our crew out of that area. the gas was certainly becoming more palatable. we could smell it, taste it in the air. we decided to retreat back for safety reasons. it's not just the fissures causing the damage.
we know that can take lives and destroy property. the toxic gas in the air is of course another major concern. many people were told to move even outside of the mandatory evacuation zone. when we moved past the mandatory evacuation zone, you could certainly smell the sulfur dioxide in the air. >> miguel, stay safe. lucy, stay close. we'll be coming back to you likely after we get that official update in the news conference roughly 45 minutes from now. meanwhile, president trump facing quite the backlash today after railing against undocumented immigrants at a white house meeting on wednesday. >> we have people coming in to the country, trying to come in. we're stopping a lot of them. but we're taking people out of the country. you wouldn't believe how bad these people are. these aren't people. these are animals. >> his comments were made during a roundtable discussion with california leaders on that state's so-called sanctuary laws. for more, republican congressman
carlos cab bello, florida, joins me now. he introduced a petition last week that would force the house to vote on some key immigration measures. it's gaining support. we'll talk about that in just a moment. but first, the president there in his own words branding some undocumented immigrants as animals. here is an opportunity to denounce it, congressman. what say you? >> i wasn't at that meeting. my understanding is this discussion was about ms-13 gang members. if that's the case, perhaps some people, especially those who have been vick timized by this violent gang, might agree with that characterization. it's not the way i speak, but if he was referring specifically to gang members, that's something i could understand. if he was just speaking about undocumented immigrants, a lot of the well meaning people who try to come to our country to work and make a better life for themselves, not that we encourage illegal immigration, but in that case, that
characterization would really be something that the president should apologize for. but, again, if it was just about this ms-13 gang, i think there's probably a lot of people in our country who would agree with that, given all the violence that group has inflicted and the deaths they're responsible for. >> this is not the first time we've heard this president -- hang on one second, congressman. sarah sanders is starting to take questions during the briefing. >> do you think these throw in jeopardy the idea of a summit or is this just north korea doing what it does and trying to get the best deal possible? >> look, the president is prepare and will be ready to meet and we're continuing to move forward with the preparations at this point and if the north koreas want to meet, we'll be there, and at this point, there is not a lot of change beyond that and certainly not in our process. >> so what north korea is saying now about the joint military exercises after moon jae-in said
kim knows that these take place and he understands that they have to take place, what game is north korea playing? >> you'd have to ask north korea what game they're playing. i can tell you what we're doing. and we're continuing to move forward in preparations. the president, as we've said all along, will be prepared and ready to meet and there's really not a lot to add beyond that point, john. >> what leverage does the u.s. have as it relates to having this meeting take place on june the 12th? and to that meeting actually taking place, if it takes place, what dev raj does the u.s. have over accomplishing the american goal of denuclearizing the korean peninsula? >> we're continuing in a maximum pressure campaign. nothing has changed on our end. this was an invitation that north korea offered and we accepted and we're continuinging to move forward in those preparations. sorry, i'm going to keep going
because we're really tight on time today. >> what the north koreans also announced is they were stopping the dialogue with north korea. is it possible there con a meeting between the united states and north korea if the whole dialogue is on ice? >> the meeting that would take place on june 12th is between the united states and north korea. should it tack place. we're going to meet with president moon next week. again, there are no changes to our schedule. >> -- spy at one point inside his campaign? >> i haven't spoke within him directly about that, but certainly seen the reports. if there is any truth to that, it should certainly be looked into. >> following up on blake's question, if it is proven without a shadow of a doubt that there was a spy planted in the trump campaign, does that change the president's position on
firing robert mueller? >> i'm not going to speak about hypotheticals or get into a what could happen if. we'll move forward in the process and make a determination at that point. john. >> thank you, sarah. the iraqi elections are over. and it's very clear that the two big winner, the two top vote getters, were the party that was linked to maqtada al sadr, a sworn enemy of the united states, and someone aligned with the iraqi communist party and the second place finisher was the party aligned with mr. al hamry, a warlord who was once backed by iran. what's the u.s.' attitude on a government in baghdad having either of those individuals as the key player? >> i'll start with the fact i'm glad you said the names and not me because i probably wouldn't have gotten them right. but in terms of our policy, we
don't have any new policy announcements with a potential change there. >> you don't care if either of them -- >> certainly we care but i don't have any specific changes in u.s. policy. jeff. >> sarah what does the united states expect out of negotiations today on china with trade? and what are the president's intentions on helping or changing a policy towards chinese company's zte? >> in terms of the meeting, i'll start there. those are conversations that are ongoing when we have something from that, i'll be happy to share it with you. but right now, those are just discussions and there's nothing to add to that at this point since they're just now taking place. i can say that we expect that the president will meet with the head of the chinese delegation later this afternoon. >> sarah -- >> on zte, look the united states and china has a
relationship that has a lot of issues that we have regular ongoing conversations about, national security, trade, and zte is one of them. as we've said before and as the president has stated, he's asked secretary ross to look into the issue. and do whatever is consistent with the law and regulations. right now, it's something he asked them to look into. >> also on trade, the president said yesterday mexico does nothing for us especially at the border. we know there are talks today on nafta, today and tomorrow. i wonder if the administration is going to put any nafta deal on a, say, third country agreement with mexico or mexico stepping up to do more to absorb asylum seekers? >> i'm not going to get into trade negotiations at this point because they are ongoing and those are negotiations we're in the middle of. i can tell you the president does want to see mexico step up and do more. there's a lot that comes through their country and he wants them to be tougher and more
aggressive on that front. >> thank you, sarah. this morn, the president marked the one-year anniversary of the investigation. his own fbi director yesterday said it's not a witch hunt. why does the white house still believe it's a witch hunt? why did he cancel his news conference? >> the president knows that there was no collusion in the campaign. and he has been quite clear about this. it's gone on for over a year. they found no evidence of collusion. and still strongly believe it's a whiff hunt. i'm not sure how we could be any more clearer and certainly not sure how the president could be any more clear about his beliefs and his opinion. in terms of a press engagement, the president will have press at his event here shortly which is why we're going to have to keep it quick and short today. and likely take a few questions at that event, jordan. >> on immigration, there seems
to be we're moving closer to action in the house of representatives, and i'm wondering what bill the president would accept, anything short of the four pillars that he laid out earlier this month, something like border security and daca seems to be a proposal that is gaining steam. >> the president definitely supports border security as he's laid out multiple times. and again talked about some yesterday. he would like to see the border secured. he would like to see the loopholes closed. our priorities have not changed in the immigration conversation at all. >> thank you, just going back to north korea, you have said that the president will be willing to meet with north korea. does that put north korea in the driver's seat here? is it north korea that's going to decide whether a meeting takes place. and also have you heard anything since these calls -- these talk
s were called off? >> they're certainly not in the driver's seat, nothing could be further from the truth. they're the ones that extended the invitation. they accepted it. if they want to meet, we're happy to do that. we'll see what happens. we're going to continue the maximum pressure campaign. in the meantime, i don't know how they would be in the driver's seat in any capacity, form or fashion. >> is the white house setting the standard for "we won't meet with you unless you do x, y, z?" >> look, three americans are home now that weren't. the president has had some success in this process. and certainly we've given up nothing. and we are going to continue moving forward and we're moving into this with our eyes wide open. we're not naive in this process. the president is fully prepared to have the meeting. but if not, that's okay too. we'll see what happens beyond
that. >> i know he's asked this a few times -- >> that's okay, that's kind of what we do here, ask the same question over and over and over again. >> can you say yet when michael cohen stopped being the president's personal lawyer? >> i'm not going to get into anything on that matter. you'd have to reach out to the president's outside counsel. sorry. go ahead. >> thank you, sarah. why didn't the president disclose the reimbursement to michael cohen in last year's financial disclosure report? just to follow up on those questions on north korea, has any consideration been given at this point to potentially canceling those joint military exercises with south korea? >> on the first question, that was addressed within the financial disclosure. that's something that would be determined by white house counsel, how things would be categorized in the filings. on the second part, those are ongoing exercises that are routine and they're aware of, they're annual. at this point, we have no intention of changing. >> i just want to ask you because so many people in the country have been talking about
it. what did the president mean when he said some immigrants are not people, they're animals? >> the president was very clearly referring to ms-13 gang members who enter the country illegally and whose deportations are hamstrung by our laws. this is one of the most vicious and deadly gangs that operates by the motto of rape, control and kill. if the media and liberals want to defend ms machi ms-13, they' than welcome to. ms-13 has done heinous acts. too took an animal to stab a man 100 times. it took an animal to beat a woman they were sex trafficking leaving indents on her body. i think the term "animal" doesn't go far enough. i think the president should continue to use his platform and hefrg can do under the law to
stop these types of these horrible disgusting people. i'm going to take one more question, peter. >> thank you, sarah. chances of a summit less likely than they were a week ago before these statements? >> i'm not going to get into a percentage game. i can tell you we're ready and prepared. if they happen, they happen. if they don't, we'll see what happens. thank you, we'll see you in a few minutes with the president. >> sarah, has the president ever lied to us -- >> sarah sanders, press secretary for about 11 minutes there taking some questions from reporters. answering a handful of those questions. north korea, china, trade, dodging a question there on c n coh cohen, referring to outside counsel. did prepare to be prepared for what we were talking about a few minutes ago, president trump, doing a roundtable with leaders in california yesterday, referringing to some immigrants as animals.
sarah huckabee sanders clarifying that the remark itself was meant specifically for ms-13 gang members. sarah sanders appearing to read what was clearly a prepared response there to that particular question. also, at the beginning of the back and forth with reporters, also addressing something we heard about here. yesterday i believe it was. president trump or maybe it was this morning actually. president trump asserting that there had been some sort of fbi infiltration into his campaign that was actually yesterday. i want to bring in robert costa, national political reporter for "the washington post," and our man peter a lexen der is getting hooked up in the briefing room. for folks who have not been following that part of all of this closely, bob costa, walk us through the president's assertion. >> his assertion in terms of the investigation, in the witch hunt? >> no, no, this fbi agent
infiltrating his campaign. >> there's -- what "the washington post" has reported in the last couple of weeks and others have followed up in some respect is there's a lot of questions about the origin of the russia investigation. when we've reported that there are more than one source involved in this origin of the investigation, "the new york times" had a great story in today's paper about the origin of the investigation and there are questions about beyond the steele dossier, what was used as the foundation for this probe. the president appeared in his tweets to be speculating, not providing any new information. >> sarah huckabee sanders saying if it's true, it should be looked into. david jolly, we also heard sarah huckabee sanders there spend some time talking about mexico, doing more at the border as well. what were your takeaway from that 11-minute back and forth with reporters? >> yes, so listen this is a product of the president's rhetoric since the day he became
a candidate when it comes to immigration. this issue with ms-13, look it gives the president a concession on that. perhaps he was calling only gang members animals. in that case, ms-13 is a really bad group, maybe that's fair. the question in most american's mind though, this is a president whose policy separates families at the border. pull people out of their homes. deport them. and so the notion when the president talks about the border, i think the anxiety most people feel is one of a president whose policies is so hard line that it actually looks over part of the goodness of the country. and those questions will always linger with this president. >> ashley parker is with me as well. ashley parker with the "washington post." a fair amount of this q & a seem to be devoted to north korea and the upcoming talks between this country and that country in singapore. did you get a sense from sarah huckabee sanders that this is an administration that's starting to lower its expectations?
>> yes and no. from what she said today and from also what other people in the white house have told me is that they are expecting this summit to ultimately go on. but part of this is a negotiation. it's tactics and it's leverage and that's obviously what we're seeing on the north korean side with their threats. and that's something that the white house has told me is why they think this president is so well positioned. so you saw sarah sort of also publicly sending a message to north korea which is that, look, they asked for this. they're in no way in the driver's seat. we would love to make this happen. we're also absolutely fine with walking away from the table. now, is that absolutely true? i think the president would like to get a deal. i think he would like to have that summit. but the fact that he sort of is willing to publicly and privately say he's willing to walkway and nobody knows exactly what he'll do, the white house thinks strengthens their hand in
dealing with a country like north korea. >> peter alexander is also with me in the briefing room. peter, sarah sanders said the president himself will probably take a handful of questions here coming up at 3:00 during an event, is that right? >> he is. it's actually supposed to be happening as we speak. my colleaguings have headed upstairs to the oval office where he's heading the nato secretary-general in the oval office. tend of their opening remarks, it's likely the president will be peppered with questions. the takeaways are notable from this meeting. the white house effectively trying to cast the sort of pause as it were, this cooling in relations with north korea in the last 48 hours. they're saying it's effectively not a problem. the north koreans have shut down a nuclear test site. if it succeeds or fail, we just return to that maximum pressure
on north korea. yesterday, saying he is the best negotiator. of course his negotiating skills date back to his time as a real estate magnate, not to nuclear disarmament. so this is new turf it will be on. she said he's prepared and ready. we still haven't received any specific details about how exactly the president is preparing for this monument tus summit to come up now less than a month from today. she really said very little about this one year anniversary about the russia investigation. of course the president has spoken, saying congratulations, america, the president earlier said that it was illegal and unwarranted. but the bottom line is to this point there have been six indictments. there have been 13 russian individuals indicted, five who have already pled guilty. the bottom line is whether the white house likes it or not, this so-called witch hunt has found a lot of witches.
>> peter raises an interesting point there on this, the one-year anniversary of the special counsel robert mueller starting his investigation. the five guilty pleas. the three companies that were also indicted as well. how does this administration continue to say it's a witch hunt when the witch hunt has already produced a number of indictments and guilty pleas? >> the probe has two fronts. one's going tock the president conduct and a likely robert about that. and then the russia collusion aspect of the investigation which could go on for months, if not years, based on people who have been participating in those interviews and that process. you have the white house working with its new lawyer. really thinking through what's this next year look like. do they participate in the interview? if they do not formally agree to an interview. these are things that giuliani working with the president have been trying to map out.
they're signaling this is going to be more combative in the next year. even perhaps more so than it was in the first year. >> we heard sarah huckabee sanders there insist the president knows there was no collusion. david jolly, i want to pose this question to you that i posed to a number of my other guests off and on over the past year. is this an example of where we talk about something here on cable news and "the washington post," "the new york times," we're talking about something, but the average american, john q six-pack, just doesn't care about this russia investigation. is there a chasm between the two or is that an overstatement? >> no, i absolutely think there is. look it fuels the energy perhaps on the left if you're talking electoral politics going into november. is it an issue that democrats need to spend money on in their commercials? probably not. look, the highest percentage likelihood here is the mueller robert includes some type of wash, if you will that becomes a
political decision. the president probably has financial exposure, leverage to other foreign nation states. it may be a political question whether or not that compromises his judgment. if there's a smoking gun, we'll know it. in it. and in that case, all bets are off. but in this case the president's actual culpability will either be if there is a smoking gun or if through the process he commits perjury or obstruction of justice. ken starr said something in the 1990s he thought president clinton had a higher obligation as president to cooperating with that he had to sit for the interview, that he shouldn't have invoked so many of these constitutional protections. clinton's lawyer said that's absurd, he is entitled to every protection under the law . if there is a smoking gun, it is no longer a political question. it is cut and dry. >> sounds like a good spot to end this. bob costa, host of "washington
week" on pbs. >> thank you. >> david jolly and peter alexander, ashley parker. big thanks to all of you. as we have been discussing here, the mueller investigation hits the one-year mark. this country, more polarized than ever under president trump. a recent nbc news/"wall street journal" poll found fully 80% of those surveyed saw the country as mainly or totally divided. but my next guest insists that our current climate of partisan divisions is not new and history shows that the country will get through what feels like -- what feels like -- unprecedented challenges to a lot of folks. pulitzer prize winning presidential historian jon meacham is back with me now. of course, also an msnbc contributor and for purposes of this conversation, author of a new book, "the soul of america, the battle for the soul of our angels."
jon meacham, a man who can get a book mentioned in the span of an hour. this is what former secretary of state rex tillerson said yesterday. >> if our leaders seek to conceal the truth or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as american citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom. when we as people, a free people, go wobbly on the truth, even on what may seem the most trivial of matters, we go wobbly on america. >> "the washington post" fact checker has this president making more than 3,000 false or misleading claims since taking office. most recently said that kim jong-un is right now in the longest period of time without launching a ballistic missile. the north has seen longer periods. he said the iran nuclear deal wasn't approved by too many people. we know it was negotiated by britain, france, germany, russia, china and the eu.
this is a president that every day or two, maybe three, he says something that he either knows not to be true or should know not to be true. have we become desensitized to a president who lies? >> i don't think so because we're talking about it and we're counting the lies and distortions. i think one of the things that history teaches us is, in an ancient 18th century phrase, that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. protest, resistance, the people, the press, broadly defined, the courts, the congress, are in fact checks on presidential misconduct. and one of the things that i think we have to think about is, we have been in terrible pickles before. that's a technical historic cal term, "pickle." gibbon used it several times during the roman book. but we've come through it because we've listened ultimately to our better angels.
i know that doesn't feel like a likely outcome right now. i totally understand that. but it wouldn't have felt that way in the 1850s. it wouldn't have felt that way in the early 1950s when joe mccarthy was running roughshod over the american culture. it wouldn't have felt that way. if we had been talking 50 years ago on the 17th of may, 1968, 46 american servicemen would have died in vietnam today, and average of 46 american servicemen died every day in 1968. we have been in terrible spots before. what we have to figure out is how did we get out of them and what lessons can we take to get through this? >> in the book you talk about our best moments coming when voices far from power, when they force the powerful to take notice. in our current climate, who are those voices as you see them? >> i think you see the students at parkland, in parkland,
florida. i think you see the hundreds of thou thousands of people who have marched on different occasions. you think you hear it every day. you do this all day long. you talk to people who do not believe that the trump administration is truest to the best of american traditions. and what has to happen is, if you believe that -- and many, many people do -- the case has to be made. you have to stay in the arena. you have to remind people that, at our best, we believe in the rule of law. at our best we have more generously interpreted the jeffersonian assertion of human equality. we have understood that the stronger we have become, we have become strong, the more we've opened our arms. and that's what's dispiriting about the current moment. whether you're for the president or against the president. if you voted for donald trump, you were not happy about the way things were going in america. you may have talked yourself in the last 17 months to think that suddenly miraculously everything is great, but that's not in fact the case.
there are underlying issues we have to confront about the future of the middle class, about the nature of the kind of country we're going to be in a globalized world with a free movement of people and ideas and goods, and what i think -- what i regret most about this era is, this is a moment to have an incredibly important debate about what america looks like in that globalized context, but we've decided, briefly, to have -- i believe it is brief -- to have a president who's more interested in building walls than extending his hand. >> jon meacham. the book is called, "the soul of america, the battle for our better angels." he is hopelessly, perhaps, optimistic. mr. meacham, always good to see you, sir. thank you. talk to you soon. and we'll be right back.
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i do count on pg&e to keep our firefighters safe. that's why we ask for their help. that will wrap up this hour of msnbc live. katy tur picking things up right now. >> craig melvin, thank you very much. >> safe travels over the pond. >> you've just blown our cover. we were saving it for the end of the show. now everyone knows. >> sorry. >> just wait for it. wait for it. craig melvin, thank you. it's 11:00 a.m. out west and 2:00 p.m. in washington where today the president of the united states sarcastically marked the one-year anniversary of the mueller investigation, quote, "congratulations, america. we're now in our second year of the greatest witch hunt in american history. and there is still no collusion and no obstruction. and despite the disgusting, illegal, unwarranted witch hunt, we have the most successful first 17-month administration in u.s. history,