tv MSNBC Live With Alex Witt MSNBC June 2, 2018 10:00am-11:00am PDT
next, prepping for the summit, how is president trump getting ready for this upcoming one-on-one with kim jong-un? >> also pushing the envelope, can we be sure the president has finally read that letter from the north korean dictator? >> that letter was a very nice letter. oh, would you like to see what was in that letter. it was a very interesting letter. i have no idea. i haven't seen the letter yet. i purposely didn't open the
letter. >> why would the president comment on a letter from north korea that he had not even read? and going to extreme, one report suggesting a record number of candidates running on a white nationalist message. i'm alex witt here in new york. let's get going with it. we begin with the new reaction from capitol hill in the wake of president trump's decision to move forward and meet with kim jong-un on june 12th. here's what democratic karen bass who sits on the foreign affairs committee told me last hour. >> i think that he sees the summit almost as the goal. because the korean leader hands him a big envelope. he gets excited by that. he comes out and says that, you know, it was a very good statement. i don't think it makes much sense. and it just makes me wonder, what will actually happen in the summit. i think the sad thing is, though, world leaders know how to play president trump. and i'm sure there will be a lot of pomp and circumstance. maybe there will even be a big parade. and it's no telling what he will
agree to. i think from the vantage point of the north korea leader, he's won already. he got a major victory by having the president even agreeing to the summit. and who knows what will happen. maybe there will be two, maybe there will be three summits. i think it really raises his profile an his stature in the world. >> nbc correspondent kelly o'donnell is joining me now, kelly is the north korea summit on the bulk of the president's focus this weekend? >> well, at best, we can say that the president is at camp david and he told us he was going to use this as a working weekend including phone calls to foreign leaders. he's also been active on twitter. earlier today, a series of tweets and a variety of topics that do not directly pertain to the summit. accounting for the president's time is something that is a challenge because the white house doesn't give us say lot of insight into that. but the president himself said he intended to do work this weekend while at camp david with
some of his family there as well. the president really raised eyebrows in the way he described the letter brought from kim yong-chol the top envoy for kim jong-un. this letter was supposed to be a moment where kim is able to speak directly to the president, through the letter, to make that personal diplomacy. white house released the letter. you saw the oversized envelope. perhaps the letter was in that, i don't know. the letter itself would have needed to be checked in terms of security as all things sent to the white house are. and the reason why there is this question, the natural thought among reporters would be, what do the letters say beyond the hour-plus meeting he had with kim yong-chol. so, the president gave two distinctly different answers in a short amount of time talking to reporters. hard to imagine that he couldn't anticipate the conflict here. it's just really hard to explain. but this is what the president
did in describing the letter that was presented to him. >> the letter was given to me by kim jong-un. and that letter was a very nice letter. >> you can give us a flavor of the letter? >> it was a very interesting letter. >> what was your response to the letter? did you send anything back? >> no, i didn't. i haven't seen the letter yet. i purposely didn't open the letter. i haven't opened it. i didn't open it in front of the director. i said would you want me to open it? he said, you can read it later. i may be in for a big surprise, folks. >> now, on the surface it would fought be unusual to wait and read the letter. separately, that doesn't seem highly curious, but the president suggesting something was nice and interesting implies that he knew the content of the letter. later, when he was pushed for additional comments you saw that he said he didn't read it. the white house has told us he
did read it before leaving for camp david and there were no surprises, meaning nothing that would derail the plan to this point. joining me now laura bassett, director for the huffington post. and john, what i want to ask you about what you've written about regarding north korea the summit in your latest column. you say, quote, no sign of major breakflews anytime soon when it comes to eliminating pyongyang's nuclear program. is there a scenario where both sides can come to an agreement that does include complete denuclearization or is there all or nothing? >> no, there is lesser goals. in fact, the lesser goals are more realistic goals. i think most people, not 100% of them, but most people who follow north korea closely, believe they have no intention of surrendering all of their nuclear weapons.
so, one goal might be to freeze and diminish what they possess. or have some inspections or other ways of constraining the program. but i think that's one useful thing about the president's rhetoric yesterday. was taking expectations down. because if you go into a sum submit, making extravagant claims about what you're going to achieve and then you can't achieve them, you have the possibility that it ends badly and escalates tension. i do want to say one thing, alex, about what kelly o. was reporting on, the contradict forestatements from the president. tony fratwho works in president brush's white house typically in a situation like that the contentses of a letter delivered to the president by a foreign leader would have been read to the president by a representative of the foreign leader, or read to the president's aides so they are not surprised by what's in the
letter. so, it's possible that the president was referring to having been briefed on what was in the letter without having seen it himself. >> oh, okay. that's good to know. thank you for that, john. lau laura, with regard to the president, he's saying he does not want to use the word maximum pressure anymore. and he's also unilaterally put restrictions on a strunumber. this change in tone, how influential is it? >> i think it's very influential, basically giving north korea concessions in exchange for promise of words, rather than exchange of action. north korea hasn't promised to give up their nuclear warheads. they haven't promised to limit anything. they really haven't made any promises to us at all except for sitting down with trump in a meeting and he's already making concessions so i think it will be hard for him to negotiate from that standpoint. >> john, can i talk to you about
china giving ivanka trump's brand and raising conflicts of interest. is it just bad timing or does it amount to a level of special treatment by the foreign government? >> we don't know the answer to that. and this is why you try to have administrations avoid conflicts of interest of this kind, by having the president divest, and have people close to the president not pursuing this. this president has declined to do that. with the trademarks just like on the $500 million loan that the chinese government extended to a product in indonesia that the trump organization is part of, those raise questions that make you think are they somehow trying to buy off the american administration through these kind of financial concessions. or are these just on the level business transactions that would have taken place anyway? there's no way to answer that with any certainty. >> okay.
let's get to the president's newly imposed tariffs on allies. that includes canada. laura, why make this move and potentially derail a very strong economy. what is the strategy here? >> i would ask that question, alex. this move has been panned across the board by economists who say we're shooting ourselves in the foot. prices are going to go up. it's going to ding the economy. 2 could potentially erase all of the gains and growth that was generated by trump's tax cuts. so, you know, you'd have to ask the president what he's doing with those tariffs. >> so, john, let's look at it from political perspective, in terms of how this resonates with trump supporters. he's making good on promises but could this yield backlash because this could hit the economy? >> yes, it does. there are a couple thinks it will do. one, it can hit the overall economy as laura just indicated.
secondly, it can tiparticularly lit through the retaliation of the trading partners. agriculture is a big target for foreign retaliation, not to mention kentucky bourbon and harley-davidson motorcycles made in paul ryan's home state. the logic of this is, this is a president who has carried with him ideas since the 1980s about the united states somehow being taken advantage of. and trying to, then, as president, apply that to the situation he finds himself in. but, of course, the world has changed and this is a case where you actually hurt yourself by doing what the president is doing. >> i want to get to the issue of presidential pardons because i ask the former white house communications director scaramucci about the timing-take a listen. >> i understand why his
opponents are saying that. but i actually don't think that that's fair to the president. i actually think he's looking at these things on a case-by-case basis. i think when he was a candidate he basically looked at a lot of those cases and said, boy, those people were treated unfairly. or there was an unfair procedural process in place. i think what people don't like about it, frankly, he's actually using his power. he's not going through the protocols in the department of justice. or he's not leaning on people that prosecuted these people. as much as he's leaning on his own judgment and intuition. >> what's your reaction on that, laura? >> i think that's an absolutely ridiculous thing to say. there are 10,000 people who have applied for pardons. the few that trump has pardoned are his political allies who have outspoken against him and celebrities. especially letting his friends
out of jail to campaign for him. so to suggest that he's actually applying justice in these cases is simply wrong. it's clear for anyone to see. and i do think that the pardon process is problematic. i don't think anyone is suggesting that the president should never step around it and pardon who he sees fit. the problem is trump is not applying a just lens here. >> john, your thoughts on scaramucci's explanation, does it pass the smell test for you? >> not at all. look at the people he's pardoned. jor arpaio, the sheriff in arizona so antagonistic to the community there. dinesh d'souza who is a racially provocative person who described president obama as ghetto and talked about michelle obama as affirmative action student. those are things that send
signals to his base that is his base of white voters, i'm with you. and it is not, as laura said, it is not following the very well-established and well-grounded process that previous presidents, not just obama, but every president before him has followed. there's an order about these thing its. there's a logic to them. there's steps that you go through. he's not doing that. >> john harwood, laura bassett, thank you for weighing in. in the case, congressional candidates on a white nationalists issue. with topics of hate. coming up with one of those candidates. me ♪ ♪ but i always dreamed about living in your radio ♪ ♪ how do you like me now?! ♪
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a disturbing trend ahead of the 2018 midterm election. the southern poverty law center said more white nationalists than ever are running on the opening message of racism. at least eight on ballots. my colleague morgan radford spoke with some of those candidates. it's extraordinary what some of them had to say to you. but i want to you share that with the voters. >> it was, they were open about it. i think that's pretty unique about this year's race. we've seen an historic number of white nationalists coming out running for national office. the question we have now, why are they feeling emboldened this year in these midterms. i do want to give you a warning
some things that you're about to see, some may consider offensive, take a look. >> hi, my name is art jones. >> reporter: arthur jones is running for congress in chicago's third district. >> i received over 70% of all of the votes from the republican party in the march 20th primary. >> reporter: once a member of the american nazi party who denies the holocaust ever happened. >> they're howling about 6 million jews, 6 million jews, ridiculous. >> reporter: he's also one of eight white nationalist running for state for federal office covering to the southern poverty center. he's campaigning to make neighborhoods 90% white. >> most white people want a white neighborhood. >> do you think -- >> the average i.q. of a black person is about 20 points lower than the average i.q. of a white person. >> i went to harvard. >> you got a lot of white blood
in you, too. >> some white blood. i'm african-american. >> that's where your intelligence is coming from. >> you think it comes from my white side? >> i think so. >> reporter: many can't believe he's on the balance. >> so see so much made interest -- >> that makes it mutual. >> reporter: many of them running on the republican ticket. we're seeing something we've never seen before. why do you think that is? >> well, i think we have a tone that's been set differing the campaign, and the presidency of donald trump that some would say creates a dog whistle, a signal, to these times of groups and individuals. >> reporter: like patrick little who running against senators dianne feinstein in california. did you vote for president trump? >> of course. >> calle >> reporter: why? >> because he dog whistled about
globalists, i didn't understand he was talking about jews until after the election. >> reporter: and seen here dragging and spitting on the israeli flag. the republican party says it doesn't want anything to do with little or jones. but the candidates' supporters say this is exactly what they think will make america great again. >> it's not because we're racists. it's because we feel mar marginalized and we're the ones oppressed. >> the number of hate crimes have jumped up 20% in major cities. and the number of people skilled by white screamists doubled in 2017. >> how do they feel when you're giving a national broadcast plat for for these guys? does it work or have detrimental effects? >> it's interesting when i first started researching this story that was my first question. and frankly, a question i wrestled with myself as a person
of color. you have to shine a light on these people so they come from the shadows, come from behind their keyboards. i think there's some reality to it, right? at least this gives people to know who exactly is it on the ballot. patrick little lists himself as a civil rights advocate. if someone like that is on your ballot and you vote a straight republican ticket, you may not even know exactly what he represents and who he is. i feel like my job as a journalist is to shine light on the truth, no matter how ugly it may be. but everyone else's job as a citizen is to decide. >> morgan radford, again, great job. let's bring in peter emerson. he worked in three republican administrations. and michael singleton, opinion contributor to the hill. i'm going to start with you, sir
michael. some of these are running on a republican ticket. does the republican party overall have responsibility to more than just disavow them? >> yes, yes, they do, alex. absolutely. >> okay. what do they knead need to do? and how much of the world has the president played in emboldening these candidates? you heard that from one candidate. >> if you recall, i think it was george h.w. bush at the rnc convention stated to david duke and folks we do not want folks like you in our party and we will do everything we can to make sure you don't have a place. the republican party in those respective states need to do more than just release statements. they need to find alternative candidates to run those folks, especially, off the ballot, if you will. unfortunately i think the president has set a tone,
unfortunate tone, that has indeed given these individuals if you will, the power to come out more emboldened than it was once before to say it's okay to be racist. and it's okay to hold a few that's counterintuitive to the progress that we've made thus far. when you think about trump what it shows me, these individuals represent something that's been undermined in this country for a very long time. and these are issues that we just have not addressed. perhaps maybe trump being in office, maybe these folks running for election will force us to deal with things we have tried to turn a blind eye to for too long. >> look, peter, these white national candidates, eight of them so far, they may be outliers, so is it fair to place the blame as a hole? how difficult is it to highlight these people or should they be
ignored? >> let me first say that miss radford did an exemplary, exemplary job of reporting. and most importantly i think showed a power and example of patience that i've never seen on television. it's extraordinary that she sat is there with that racism. he's not a white supremacist, he's a racist and took his vile language so patiencely. i think it's important to know that the president sets the tone. it's not just policy that comes out of the white house. it's the tone. he's supposed to be the moral authority of america. i agree with mr. singleton that that has been lacking. so, consequently, we have coming to the fore these issues quite rightly as mr. singleton said that have been buried for some sometime. a lost of them began to rise, the fear of marginalization, one is of the people that miss r
radford mentioned came back and i even wrote about it. but ultimately, we're all responsible. the permission for these people to come forward has been given by the oval office. >> stay with you. we're going to take a short break and discuss the discourse of america and the dueling controversies of roseanne barr and samantha bee. but first bill maher's take on it. >> her world came crashing down. the series of tweets put out on tuesday were so far of racism, conspiracy attacks they were described as abhorrent, boarding boardering on presidential.
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too many behind. maybe we pushed too far. maybe people want to fall back in their tribe. >> peter, what's your take on this idea that the president may have gone too far with globalism when many americans might have wanted to fall back to their tribes? >> most human beings want to fall back to their tribes. it's where there's safety, genetic coding that takes us back thousands and thousands of years when we were with our tribe, with our community. the point being, you want leaders, wise people to come forward, and lift us out of that self-centeredne self-centeredness. ronald reaugan had a great observation if the earth were invi invaded by aliens, all of the fractions of the war, all the skirmishes would cease, and we would be reunited. >> do you think tribalism was a
factor in the election of president trump? >> oh, i mean, absolutely. i think when you assess and analyze the people who voted for him including many folks who also voted for president obama we should remind the audience, alex, switched and voted for donald trump in 2016. a lot of people looked around their communities saw a lot of things changing, particularly economically and they blamed a lot of those on our global connectedness, if you will. i think a lot of those folks felt threatened. they felt their world as they saw it, at least as they saw it fundamentally changing. and here comes donald trump all of a sudden saying i'm going to protect those values. i'm going to maintain that culture. i'm going to bring back those jobs, that economic opportunity, if you will, that you believe has rooted you or given you a form of upward mobility. so, they voted for him. i'm not exactly sure that those promises are something that he's
able to deliver on in their totality. but i do believe those individuals find some form of help, if you will, from donald trump that he would argue a traditional politician has, quite frankly, failed eliver on. >> so, peter, president obama is going to headline a dnc fund-raisers and dcc fund-raiser in california this month. what role do you think he's going to play in the coming races? and do you think he'll be more vocal on the trump administration? >> i don't think he'll be vocal. there were opportunities where i thought he should have been vocal and demonstrated his compliment to america and the authority that america deserved in the world. along with the community that it serves. in terms of the fund-raising, it's basically money. money's not going to win this 2018 or the 2020. and unfortunately, i suspect that this will just give the trump campaign and the very right wing republicans an
opportunity to connect obama to pelosi. to all of the things that mr. singleton just pointed out which are all very, very accurate. i think it's going to have some very negative consequences. >> do you think, shermichael? do you think republicans will use obama's re-emergence on the public stage-e -- >> i don't think try, i think they will. when you look at the republican state in january, they were 12.9 percentage points ahead of republicans. that's now down to 3.7. you look at california, crowded primaries. you look at the fact there are five democrat senators running for re-election in states that donald trump won by 19% or above. and so, you look at those dynamics and you have to wonder what does obama bring to the table outside of raising money? it's going to be far more complicated than that. it's going to be a matter of
turning out your voters. who can turn out the most voters. and also who can convince those independents to vote for them versus the other party. i think the jury's still out son that. >> yeah, in the typically lower turnout midterm elections. guys, thank you for your appearance. coming up next, the president's power of the pardon and why, believe or not, robert mueller might want him to unleash it in the russia investigation. its multi-cloud complexity creating friction... and slowing innovation. with software-defined solutions, like hpe oneview, you can tame the it monster. hewlett packard enterprise. less complexity. more visibility.
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debate other than attorney general jeff sessions recusal with both steve bannon and anthony scaramucci weighing in. >> i think that rudy giuliani or chris christie or jeff sessions, anybody associated with the campaign would have had to recuse themselves before grassley's committee even voted them out to go to the floor for a vote. >> i think chris christie and rudy giuliani would disagree with steve on that. they don't think they would have had to recuse in that situation. >> so, which former staffer got it right? joining me now former fellow prosecute glenn kushner. who is right there, scaramucci or bannon? >> alex, thanks for having me. i have to say, steve bannon got this right.ors as i was for 30 years, we're taken recusal matters very seriously.
i have heard of people unrecusing themselves. rarely does that happen. i had a personal experience with recusal when i was prosecuting a murder defendant. and one of the criminal associates of that murder defendant we learned was a hit man who was following me. albeit fleetingly, but that was a bit too exciting for even this career prosecutor. so, i was instantly recused from the entire office. my entire office from the district attorney's office for district of columbia was recused from the case. and we had to bring a prosecutor over from the eastern district of virginia just to handle the prosecution because now i've become a witness. i actually had to testify in the trial against the hit man. and i couldn't possibly serve as both witness and investigators and prosecutor on the case. it's an obvious conflict. >> okay. thanks for weighing in on that. i'm sorry, that must have been pretty frightening for that fleeting period of time. >> not my favorite case. >> let's get to former attorney
general eric holder who says it potentially could be involved in the russia investigation. if the president offers pardons to those caught up in the mueller probe, does he then possibly but himself in legal jeopardy? >> alex, that's a great question because we all know that the president's pardon power is unferted. he can part when he pleases who he pleases. once he makes a decision to pardon somebody then the mueller team can use as evidence of his intent for what he's thinking. why did he pardon that person. was it for a corrupter. purpose which could feed into a collusion or conspiracy case. what i'll say, we've heard talk about who the president might pardon, michael cohen or michael flynn and i think we need to parse that out a little more specifically. because these two men are in
very different stages of the criminal proceedings. if he were to pardon michael cohen, then that could put a real stumbling block in front of the mueller investigation. because as it's been reported, michael cohen has not yet met with or assisted or cooperated with the mueller team. so the mueller team doesn't necessarily know what michael cohen can bring to the table. however, they certainly know what michael flynn can bring to the table. because before you bring a cooperating witness on board as a prosecutor, you have debriefed that person many times. you have likely put that person in the grand jury. and you have recorded in a proceeding, the sworn testimony of that person. so, guess what, if the president chooses to pardon michael flynn that is only going to help michael flynn. it's not necessarily going to help the people about whom michael flynn has given testimony. it's sort of like, you know, you're closing the barn door long after the michael flynn
horse is out frolicking in the field. and he will not be put back in that barn, pardon or no pardon. >> so, the fact that dinesh d'souza was pardoned this week, was that some sort of a test, a signal, of how the president would use his power. pardon and how that would go on? >> it sure does seem like the president is sending a signal. and unfortunately he is either pardoning or considering pardoning the wealthy, the influential, the connected. when there are so many people who are not wealthy, who are not connected and who are not influential who have their cases at this very moment sitting in the office of the pardon attorney at the department of justice, going through the process which is a long rigorous process, as well it should be. and yet, the president leapfrogs the d'souzas of the world over the top of all of those potentially worthier candidates.
and it does seem like the president is potentially sending messages. and i see this as sort of the jv team taking the team and playing before the varsity team is called on to the field. this seems like a trial and test run and perhaps a test to others. >> glenn, it's good to talk to you. look forward to speaking to you again. thanks for joining me. coming up in the next hour, reverend al sharpton weighs in on the power of the president. but first, a tony nominated play introduce itself to a trump crony. is there a link to donald trump's past here? alice is living with metastatic breast cancer, which is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of her body. she's also taking prescription ibrance with an aromatase inhibitor, which is for postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive her2- metastatic breast cancer
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and vision. boost optimum. be up for life. a broadway revival described as the "hamilton" of its time is back. "angels of america" picked up 11 tonis. best actor, actress. set, lighting, score, and design. that is the most nominations for a play ever. i'm delighted to have playwright tony kushner who won the pulitzer prize for "angels in
america." what is it, tony, that's resonating 20 years later? >> i don't know. i think it's a good time to bring it back. i think it's a time for remembering. that's resonating. it's been play appeared, which was about five or six years after the beginning of the aids epidemic, eight or nine years, and i think that a lot of people who are going to see it now are having the experience of remembering the very, very difficult time of the 1980s. the play is very critical of the political movement that began with ronald reagan, with reaganism, which has i think reached its malevolent, you know, ultimate flowering with the trump presidency, and i think the play is a hopeful thing but it's set in 1985, 1986 so in the middle of the reagan
years. and i think progressive people are feeling very besieged these days. it was a big hit in london last year right after brexit. we didn't plan it that way. the play has a spiritual aspect and i think people are looking to aspects of human experience that are more mysterious and maybe more uplifting and hope producing than the kind of dreadful gutter garbage that we're being forced to stare at every single day since 2016. >> there's a former actor from the play back in 1993 who said that this play is about the difficulties of creating democracies out of disparate peoples. >> that's nice. >> do you find that message, though, based on what you just were were saying, more relevant today even? >> it's a long play and there a
lot of things in it so there's a lot of ways to look at it. i think that's absolutely true of it. i think if you look at the history of any oppressed group of people being struggling for franchisement or emancipation, you're going to find the most relevant question of what constitutes democracy inherent in those struggles because those struggles are about, among other things, community and democracy is profoundly connected to questions of community. and at a moment when the democratic experiment feels imperilled, not just in this country but everywhere, with the consensus we're going tocohere n spite of our differences seems to be breaking down. it's, i think, very important to any kind of work of art or history that gives as you demonstration of strength of community and its ability to
endure. >> there's an interesting story line that involves the late roy cone, who was ame mentor to president trump. how much of what you wrote, the character that nathan lane plays here, how much of it is true? >> it's all true. he talks in the play only to made-up people, to fictional characters that i created. but i felt it was very important that i never have him claim to have done anything in the play that roy himself didn't actually claim to have done. so, for instance, maybe one of the worst things that he did was as an assistant u.s. attorney, he had out-of-courtroom meetings with the judge in the rosenberg case. it was interesting when the play first opened in the 90s, the
cold war and mccartyism felt fairly more -- he had a certain kind of reputation in new york city as fixers for people like the gambino crime company and the cardinal and donald trump, but he was not as well known around the country and certainly in the world at that point because people had sort of forgotten the mccarthy era. he's not having a big -- i sort of felt like he owed me one because i kept his name alive for one time, but now the president has certainly brought him back into everyone's consciousness. >> i'm curious, this run versus the first run, how different is it for you and how much does this run and the difference from the first one have to do with the director, marion elliott? >> well, the first one was directed by the very great george c. wolf, who has a magnificent production of
"iceman cometh" right now. george is one of the greatest directors alive. i've been comlpletcompletely fo in my directors. >> you have. >> it opened originally in london at the national in 1990 and the national came to me and said it's been 25 years and we'd like to do a revival of it and marion wants to direct it. i had seen "curious incident" and "war horse" and she seemed to me like a director like george. what you look for with a play like "angels" is somebody comfortable directing both spectacle but also working with actors. the play is finally 71 very intimate scenes between actors and it takes a lot out of that cast. and i knew with george back then and with marian now that i had directors who live to dive into things with actors and they're
both fantastic in that regard. this is a magnificent production. she pulled out all the bells and whistles. >> it's so good. powerful. >> she does everything it asks and more. >> quickly, "west side story" for steven spielberg. that's your next story. >> yes. i've always been lucky in film directing. stephen want to do a "west side story" remake and i think we're going to start filming in 2019. nice to see you given. >> ni -- again. >> nice to see you, too. >> robert mueller has a new target in the russian investigation that might make jared kushner a little nervous. we're going to explain that for you. hi, i'm bob harper,
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. hi, everybody, i'm david gura at msnbc headquarters in new york. with a lot going on right now, summit set, the much anticipated meeting is back on. but new questions today about kim jong un's personal letter to donald trump. >> i think it's going to be a process. >> the russia investigation shines a spotlight on a new person of interest. why jared kushner should be