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tv   MSNBC Live With Katy Tur  MSNBC  July 6, 2018 11:00am-12:01pm PDT

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and counting. the president's approval rating hovering in the low 40s, perilous territory for his party, but is it low enough for democrats to breakthrough and win back the house? those are the stakes in november. now the battlefield that campaign will be waged on is taking shape. a trade war with china. the showdown over a supreme court pick. immigration crackdowns at the border. relations with russia. major issues, major decisions, major consequences. what will voters have to say about all of it? at a rally in montana last night, the president previewing the message he will take to those voters. aggressive, boastful, belittling of his opponents, even members of his own party. in many ways, the same trump we saw campaigning in 2016. the president taking aim at the state's democratic senator jon tester. he mocked the me too movement. he resurrected a tax -- attacks
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on democrats, maxine waters and broke ronald reagan's 11th commandment, thou shall not speak ill of a fellow republican. >> jon tester showed his true colors with his shameful dishonest attacks on a great man, a friend of mine, a man that i said "why don't you run the va, you would be great," navy admiral ronnie jackson. she is a low iq individual, maxine waters. i said it the other day. i mean honestly, she's somewhere in the mid 60s i believe. let's say i'm debating pocahontas, right. i promise you i will do this. i will take -- you know those little kits they sell on television for $2? learn your heritage! we will take that little kit and say -- but we have to do it gently, because we're in the me too generation so we have to be very gentle. >> you all remember that
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evening. somebody came in with a thumbs down after campaigning for years that he was going to repeal and replace. you know, all of the rhetoric you see here, the thousands points of light. what the hell was that, by the way. thousand points of light. what did that mean, does anyone know? >> so the big question we're asking today is this. will trump's 2016 playbook work in 2018? nbc's kellie o'donnell is traveling with the president and joins us from berkley heights, new jersey. peter baker, the chief white house kporcorrespondent for nbc. in many ways what we have seen since he became president, he is returning to new jersey. what is his focus as he does that. >> reporter: while he is here in new jersey we are told you will be spending some time working on
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preparations for his nato visit next week, the annual summit where he will meet with a lot of his international partners. he has been critical of many, talking about nato in harsh terms that certainly distressed a lot of u.s. allies. at the same time we know that the president is indicating over the next couple of days he will have a final decision on his second vacancy to fill on the supreme court. down to a few finalists, the president having some interviews with them. we're waiting to see exactly how that will fall out over the next couple of days. will he make a decision early? will it leak? will it hold until monday when the president really wants to have that big, national audience to watch, as he did with neil gorsuch. but in montana it was vintage campaign president trump, and it was really ramped up in many ways, bringing the shock jock to the campaign rally, insulting, trying to make his audience laugh, going over lines that he hadn't crossed before. it was in many ways trump in
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technicolor, bigger, bolder, brasher than we sometimes have seen, and sort of our awareness of how far he would go got stretched further in montana. steve. >> yeah, peter breaker, on that pending supreme court pick, the announcement due monday, in terms of midterm politics, what is your sense of how that is factoring in, how midterm politics and calculations are factoring into his pick here? in looking at the nominees, is he trying to figure someone that resonates particularly with the republican party base, someone most likely to figure a fight with the democrats, something that might have a motivating effect? what is your sense much how the midterm elections factor into the decision he is making. >> that's a good point. one of the things that kept the conservative base with him through all of the controversies and all of these, you know, big furors over the last year and a half has been the idea he is replenishing the courts with conservative nominees at the lower levels and now once again
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at the supreme court level. you hear again and again from conservatives who are otherwise uneasy with donald trump. you hear them say, yes, but what about gorsuch and the courts? this is a chance to remind the conservative base why it is they stood by him in 2016 in the first place and why in his view they should stand by with him in 2018, that they're going to need to control that senate and even the house, even though they don't have a roll in the judges, because if he's going to continue to put those judges on the court he needs help in congress. >> another issue now poised to really i think take center stage this fall is trade, it is tariffs, it is china, it is this idea of a trade war. we have certain seen some indications on capitol hill there's republican leaders who don't want donald trump going down this road. it looks like he is still poised to go down that road. that dynamic of trump-on-trade versus what the party leadership wants, what is that going to like in the weeks and months ahead? >> steve, this is president trump refusing to back down on essential campaign promise of
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his. he promised to confront other countries including allies who he believes are -- or have given the united states a raw deal, that the united states workers are, you know, getting the short end of the stick on this. he is not backing away from this, and there are republicans in congress who are very nervous about this. there are some on capitol hill who believe it may cost them crucial house seats, crucial senate seats, especially if the retaliatory tariffs coming from china slam farmers in the middle of the country. there are key senate races in places like indian ah, missouri and north dakota where republicans have a shot of winning and wresting seats from democrats. but if the economy goes south as a result of this and republicans lose one of their best talking points, and if the republicans in those states are tied to president trump's trade policies that, you know, many of those voters there, even if they supported trump, are not fond of, this could be a liability for them in the fall. >> what is your sense of what that's going to look like? if republicans feel that way, have those fears, are looking at the midterms coming up, is it something they're going to be speaking out about publicly?
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are we going to see major public separation between republican leaders and the president? >> i don't expect to see major public separation, steve. i think they will walk the line. they will express some concerns, but republican legislators are very wary of taking on president trump directly. they know the republican voters have -- hold him in high regard. they hold their elected representatives in much lower regard. a confrontation with the president is not something the republicans especially who are on the ballot this fall have an appetite for. >> kelly, again we are setting the stage for the conversation we think is likely to be this fall. another major topic and the president touched on it last night, russia, putin, the meeting next week. what are you hearing heading into that? >> well, we know that the administration says that the president will raise again the issue of election meddling with vladimir putin when they meet in helsinki. at the same time they have other issues to talk about as well, the role of russia in syria, and the president has been conspicuously favorable in his
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public comments about vladimir putin. we heard it again in the rally in montana last night, where he sort of downplayed the fact that putin was associated with the kgb. well, he ran it and has been long associated with the covert operations mu operations of russia. the president is saying, no, no, he's fine, we all need to get along. there's a difference, of course, between countries having dialogue and appear to ignore the misdeeds of russia or somehow supporting putin in a way that goes beyond what the president will do with allies. he was critical of angela merkel in the same speech, and germany has been a good partner with the united states. so the helsinki meeting is something where we expect to have high-profile, high-interest. i will say that there are some senators including bob corker who was just in the region in finland, who is putting out a statement today cautioning the u.s. about the meeting with russia and being wary of giving too much either verbally or in
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terms of the statesmanship of that meeting. so there are republicans who are critical of the president on tariffs and on some of these issues, but they have to do it very carefully. of course, corker is not running for reelection. steve. >> all right. nbc's kaylie o'donnell in new jersey. peter baker, thank you both for joining us as well. let's turn to dean millbank and charlie psyches, con tributing editor with the weekly standard and an msnbc contributor. dana, let me start with you. we asked the question will trump's 2016 playbook work in 2018. there's a school of thought out there that the nature of midterm elections means it can't. the midterm election almost invariably goes against the president's party. there's a sort of buyer's remorse phenomenon. we've seen an energized democratic base out there. what is your sense of that. do you think trump can override the historical factors and the energy we see on the democratic
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side? is there something you can do to galvanize an equal reaction on his seed. >> i don't think so, steve. we have to say everything is utterly unpredictable. it seems to me the president is going back to the well, trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator does not work in this situation. the left is more motivated than it has been, that it conceivably really could be for -- it is impossible to imagine it could be more motivated right now going into the election. the president may be trying to fire up his own base, but, of course, in attacking the me too movement and sort of these vulgar things, even going after the 90-something-year-old president bush and john mccain, he is firing up the left and democrats even more when they see this, and his own supporters are not brought out by this, the vulgarity we are seeing here. so i think -- i don't think that
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play works. what people will be interested is in what is going on the ground. today you see another favorable jobs report. that works well for him. on the other hand, you see soybean prices absolutely going through the floor because of this trade war he start. so it is -- the question is what is the picture going to look like in early november. >> charlie, dana makes a very fair point, a very good point. look, the unpredictability of american politics right now, just by the fact that donald trump is president after everything we saw in '15 and '16, you got to keep it in mind. let me ask you about the mid terms from this standpoint then. talking about the potential to motivate and energize the republican base, the trump base, is the resistance movement we have seen on the left, the mobilization and energy among democrats, some of the rhetoric you see there, the marches, some of the stuff you see in culture, does that potentially have a motivating effect on the trump side, on the republican side to say, hey, look, we don't want
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those folks over there getting power, we better get out? >> oh, there's no question about that whatsoever. you know, about the speech last night, i mean it was -- even by trumpian standards it was remarkable to watch him attack john mccain and george h.w. bush, you know, and ridicule our allies and say that vladimir putin is a fine man, that he is fine. that was an extraordinary moment. but you are absolutely right. don't underestimate trump's willingness to basically do the political jujutsu of taking democratic progressive overreach and using that to motivate his own base. in fact, i think some democrats have given the trump white house a tremendous gift by talking about abolishing i.c.e., which, of course, now he is jumping on and saying they're against law enforcement, therefore open borders. if there's more talk in the next couple of weeks about packing the supreme court, that will play into the same hands. look, he has a chance really to unite republicans and conservatives and motivate him with the supreme court pick. but what you saw last night though was also his almost
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infinite capacity to go off message, to distract. for the president to begin openly mocking the me too movement, trust me, there's no talking point that anyone developed in the white house that thought it was a good idea. so, again, you know, there are so many imponderables and unpredictable elements in this campaign. >> we mentioned a couple of times the president as comments about putin in his speech last night. let's play a little bit of that. >> will he be prepared? will he be prepared? and i might even end up having a good relationship, but they're going, "will president trump be prepared?" you know, president putin is kgb, this and that. you know what? putin is fine. he's fine. we're all fine. we're people. will i be prepared? totally prepared. i've been preparing for this stuff my whole life. >> dana, let me ask you about that. the president's political vulnerability when it comes to
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putin, when it comes to russia and the vulnerability, frankly, with the uncertainty around the mueller probe, we know all about that. i do wonder, the fact of the meeting with putin, the one thing i have seen in polling -- we saw it with north korea, too. people liked the idea of trump or the american president, whoever it is, sitting down and talking with kim jong-un, and they do seem to like the idea when you ask them of sitting down with putin. could this meeting, do you think, produce something that the american people would look at and say, for all of the questions, what he is saying there has some merit, the idea maybe we should get along with vladimir putin? >> boy, i think that's a bit of a stretch, steve. americans don't focus at least at the moment a whole lot on russia or on foreign affairs generally. to the extent they are focusing, they're seeing it is not a matter of what is going to come out of this summit. our president has been rolled by putin already. you know, we have seen this over and over again, taking the line of defense of putin, seeking to
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get him reinstated into the g7. you have the spectacle of eight republican lawmakers going, essentially kowtowing in moscow on july 4th in preparation for the summit, which would appear to be more kowtowing. so, you know, putin has had his way in our elections. he's had his way in the middle east. he is destabilizing europe. he is launching cyber wars on us and the president of the united states is saying, "he's a great guy." i think to the extent people are thinking about this at all in the election, they're going to say it is a clear projection of american weakness. >> dana millbank and charlie psyches, thanks as always to both of you. as you today we are officially in a trade war with china. the president says it is a good thing. will the voters agree? for your heart... your joints... or your digestion... so why wouldn't you take something for the most important part of you... your brain.
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well, it is day one of what is shaping up to be an all-out trade war with china. at midnight, the trump administration made good on its threats to slap tariffs on chinese goods worth $34 billion. china then hit back with its own duties on $34 billion in american imports. a lot at stake obviously, but the president and his white house say the u.s. will come out on top. >> the war was lost on trade many years ago. you know, when they are saying not a free trader, i said, no, no, the war was lost, but now we're going to win it because we have all of the cards. >> if you're worried about the short-run stress, you should
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understand that the long-run goal is an extremely worthy one. >> trump's fellow republicans aren't show sure about that though. one of the skeptics, utah senator mitt romney who said i hope the tariffs going into effect can be removed and replaced by a mutually trade agreement. trade wars are a tax on americans. the "t" word is one no one in the republican party likes too much. joining me david gura and matt gold, a former executive u.s. trade representative. he also teaches at law school. david, you were down at the stock exchange today. how is wall street, the business community, how is the economy as a whole responding to this? >> markets are muted in response. we didn't see a lot of market movement. as i talked to investors, to china watchers, to market strategists, a lot of them expressed optimism it would be sorted out. despite the fact we have the tariffs being implemented, we see retaliation, the president talked about another $16 billion
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and china would retaliate in kind. there's a hope, perhaps blindly, this will end. if you look at the president as calendar, whether there are meetings on the agenda of chinese and u.s. officials, there are none. we are at a point it could go on for a very long time. >> so far their thinking is this will be resolved quickly. interesting quote here. this is from nbc's bob popkin. talked to trump voters in the heartland, folks potentially affect by this, asking them in a negative what they think. a wisconsin dairy farmer saying i think it is fair, it is smart business. there will be a little pain and suffering. cranberry growing in wisconsin, even though it may be bad medicine, if the president is telling the truth he has a lot of experience with negotiation, he wrote a book on it. matt, the attitude you are hearing here, the idea that it might be something that might hurt at first, but, hey, there's something good or positive that could come out of this. is there something good or positive that could come out of this? >> no, i'm sorry to say nothing.
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president trump's mechanism for retaliating against china was the wrong mechanism. he should have gone through the global trading rules for retaliation and he didn't do that. that is designed to slow down the process, it takes a few years, and ensures another country won't retaliate against the retaliation. by going outside of the rules, which no leader has done in 70 years, he creptedated a situn where china had an open door to re-tal yalt against our retaliation and the thing happens quickly and we go into a downward spiral. >> if this is not a short-term situation, if this is not resolved in the next couple of days, if it remains the case for a while, a year from now let's say, what is the effect on life in america because of this? >> there are a llt lot of effec. it is hard to know where to start. prices on a lot of things will go up, manufacturing processes making their output less competitive, but president trump has undermined the global
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trading system which kprielss about 90, 95% of the international law in the world and that destabilizes the world on a global level. there are bigger global security implications of the moves. >> david, when you say the initial reaction is, okay, this will be resolved somehow, if it isn't resolved somehow quickly, when does that thinking start to change on wall street and what will that look like if it does? >> that's a great question. i would be a rich man if i knew, but it is something that investors have been having to weigh for a long time. there was dramatic market movement the night of the election, and since then there's been this, again, blind faith that the president isn't going to do anything that will really upset things. this president, his administration cares a tremendous amount about market reaction, to a degree we haven't seen in history before. there was a minor point of trade policy a couple of weeks ago. steve mnuchen tweeted about it and then peter navarro took questions and the president tweeted on it as well. mnuchen often comments on it. that's something unprecedented. perhaps things could change more
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immediately than they have if we were to see major market reaction, but who knows when that will come. >> it is interesting, the stock market, the state of the economy are major talking points for the president. any president with favorable market news would tout it. it is interesting that the president made a big deal in terms of his framing of things. thank you both for joining us. coming up, scott pruitt is out after months of scandal. what though was the final straw in the trump administration's asking for more time to reunite families separated by its own policy. that's next. this is a tomato you can track from farm, to pot, to jar, to table. and serve with confidence that it's safe. this is a diamond you can follow from mine to finger, and trust it never fell into the wrong hands.
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at the end of the day today a former coal lobbyist will be in charge of the environmental protection agency. meet acting chief andrew wheeler. like scott pruitt who he is replacing, he is at least somewhat skeptical climate change is manmade. he worked for republican senator of oklahoma who once brought a snowfall to the senate floor to cast doubt on claims about global warming. he is temporarily replacing pruitt who announced his resignation yesterday, after countless accusations of improper behavior ranging from an improper apartment rende rental to a $40,000 phone booth, to say nothing of the 16
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investigations into pruitt's behavior. the question should be asked, what finally prompted his exit after all of that. with me, two reporter who have been all over the story, juliette isle, elena plott. let me start with you, julie. you have reporting that yesterday scott pruitt was told by the white house time to submit a resignation letter. as we say, it comes after all of this reporting, all of the revelations and it is only yesterday that that order comes in. what finally prompted the president to say, okay, he's got to go? >> well, white house chief of staff john kelly had been pushing really for months to try to see if there was a way for scott pruitt to exit, but really had encountered resistance from the president, who has a rapport with scott pruitt and was resistant to doing this. you had really an accumulation of stories in recent days, including obviously ones we have
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written here as well as at cnn and "the new york times" and elsewhere that really made the message clear this was not going to end, that there were more stories coming out, particularly because of the house oversight and government reform committee was meeting with some of pruitt's top aides and learning new details about what happened during his tenure. what you had was a combination of series of new revelations in the last week coupled with the flight that, frankly, there was a long flight from washington, d.c. to montana where the chief of staff had a chance to talk to the president, and it was in the course of that flight the president agreed to ask for pruitt's resignation. >> elena, there's another interesting element to this. one i think is that, you know, publicly we saw breaks here, we saw conservative leaders, republicans out there saying pruitt needed to go, folks who typically stand by this administration and this white house. but also, we saw folks from inside pruitt's inner circle at the epa coming out with their names on it in some cases and adding to this fire.
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>> right, steve. i think that's why it can be frustrating often as a reporter when you kind of face a barrage of backlash in the aftermath of an incident like this, you know, accusations that it was a coordinated attack on the part of the media. you know, you hear something like that, but then like you said my reporting suggests that, you know, multiple people inside pruitt's inner circle had been lobbying privately for his exit from the get-go. always i reported this morning, these were people who had been flooding johnnie destephano's office with requests to different agencies, but there were so many they ultimately couldn't be fulfilled. to suggest it is a conspiracy on the part of the deep state or mainstream media is to be willfully ignorant on what was happening on the part of officials inside the epa. >> juliet, what do we know about the relationship between pruitt
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and the president? was there much communication between the two of them? >> there really was. you had a relationship that went really from scratch. they didn't know each other before president trump was elected because, in fact, scott pruitt had initially worked on jeb bush's campaign in 2016, but they hit it off immediately the first time that they met when he interviewed for the job. once he got on there, not only was he pressing ahead with a number of policy rollbacks, but scott pruitt went out of his way to spend time with the president. he ate frequently at the white house mess. he spent time in the oval office. they talked on the phone, and while they certainly talked about policies that were under the epa's jurisdiction they talked about the russia probe. they talked about aides who weren't sufficiently loyal to them. they discussed trade, and scott pruitt made it clear that he considered, you know, in the words of my colleague josh dawsey's reporting that he considered trump brilliant, and he made it clear he was on the president's team and that was really what helped sustain him
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in recent months. >> elaina, when the president announced this, that he accepted pruitt's resignation yesterday on twitter, he made a point of saying that the successor would be the senate-confirmed deputy at the epa, andrew wheeler. that seems a key point just when you are looking at a 51-49 senate, a post as contentious as the epa administrator, a political climate where you have a supreme court fight that's about to come down. by putting somebody who has already been confirmed in there on an interim basis, is this administration essentially saying wheeler is the guy long term here? >> oh, absolutely. in fact, back in april when wheeler was going through his process of getting confirmed by the senate, i had a lot of sources in the epa speculating that pruitt might get fired that week so as to just immediately lift wheeler to that, you know, top spot. but i think, you know, i think it is another message on the part of this president, which is to say that andrew wheeler and scott pruitt ideologically are
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cut from the same cloth, they favor the same kind of deregulation and, you know, environmental legislative rollbacks that pruitt has been championing this entire year. i think on trump's part it is a way of saying, listen, you know, this guy is going to continue the mission. just because you got out scott pruitt, you know, imaginary foes or what have you, doesn't mean that this agenda is going to grind to a halt. >> all right. juliet eilprin, elaina plott. a trump administrator asked a judge for more time to reunite children with their families. they have until july 26th to reunite the rest of the children in their care, but the white house says it is not enough time. meanwhile, we're hearing a number of emotional stories of reunification. according to a pbs report, a young boy was returned to his mother infested with lice. she says it appeared as though he hadn't bathed for his entire 85-day separation. and then, of course, there is
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this video first obtained by cnn of a tearful reunion between a mother and her child. with me now, nbc news national security and justice reporter julia ainsley. julia, what do we know? the bottom line, with the administration here looking for more time to get this done, with the reporting you had about dna testing potentially being performed here to match up children with their families. the bottom line question of how many children need to be reunited and how much of a grip this administration has on who those kids are and who their parents are, what do we know about that? >> yeah, steve. so there are a lot of questions that still remain and that's because the administration doesn't have the answers to these questions yet. we reported yesterday they moved the number of separated children up from what they had thought that they had to reunite, which was around 2,000, to nearly 3,000 children, and they say it is for a number of reasons but partly because they're actually going off the accounts of the children themselves. they're asking the children if they were separated from their parents, and some of those
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children don't know if they were separated along the journey or by someone with the u.s. government. so it seems to be clear that what we were told by secretary azar of health and human services at a senate hearing is not the case. he said that all he had to do was with a click of a key stroke, he could reunite all of these people because there were definitive systems to track parent and child once they were separated within the u.s. government. it appears now that is not the case and they're asking for more time because they say that it is an extreme mandate that has been put on them to reunite these children by those dates that you laid out there. they say one of the reasons why it is so difficult is because they're using dna tests to make sure that these are the correct parents, and sometimes those tests come back inconclusive. they also think that they're being overburdened by having to -- i can't believe this part, but they think they're overburdened by having to reconnect children in the united states to their parents who have been deported. they say it is too hard to find them after they've been deport. obviously as we reported earlier
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this week, many of the parents had to be deported because they had come up on that time and they deported and let their children stay here since they could have a chance at asylum. now the government is saying that may be too extreme to try to find those parents. >> yeah, that's an added wrinkle right there. of the 3,000 we're talking about here who need to be reunited, do we know how many are from parents who have been deported? >> we don't. we don't have that number. we also don't know how many children have been reunited with their parents at all. up until now, the only children who have been reunited are for those parents who said if they deported they wanted to be deported with their children. but hhs yesterday on a phone call couldn't even get us that number, steve. so there's a lot up in the air, and it is just clear that there was not a plan when they began systematically separating children from their parents in early may. we thought that this would be temporary. they told us it was temporary. they pushed back on our reporting that said some of these could be permanent, and now it is clear that there's no system in place. they're interviewing children. they're going through all of the records they have, but in a lot
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of cases they just don't have the records to connect the two. >> all right. nbc's julia anlsly wiinsley witf great reporting on this. thank you very much. >> thanks. >> next we head to thailand where rescuers are working against the clock to try to save the boys' soccer team that remains trapped inside a cave. ♪ stay in control. i need to shave my a1c. weekends are my time. i need an insulin that fits my schedule. ♪ tresiba® ready ♪ (announcer) tresiba® is used to control high blood sugar in adults with diabetes. don't use tresiba® to treat diabetic ketoacidosis, during episodes of low blood sugar, or if you are allergic to any of its ingredients. don't share needles or insulin pens. don't reuse needles. the most common side effect is low blood sugar, which may cause dizziness, sweating, confusion, and headache. check your blood sugar. low blood sugar can be serious and may be life-threatening. injection site reactions may occur. tell your prescriber about all medicines you take and all your medical conditions. taking tzds with insulins, like tresiba®, may cause serious side effects like heart failure. your insulin dose shouldn't be changed
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a member of the rescue team, a retired thai navy seal, died from a lack of oxygen while on a mission to place oxygen tanks along a possible escape route. levels of oxygen in the caves have been dropping due to the number of rescue workers in the underground tunnels. another reason for the increased concern, the weather forecast. monsoons threatening more flooding over the weekend which could increase water levels in those tunnels and further hamper rescue efforts. nbc news correspondent janis mackey frayer is at the scene of the rescue efforts in thailand. >> reporter: steve, this is a critical period for officials making the decision on how they're going to get the boys out and, more importantly, when. there's this threat of the rain. we had a taste of it today, and there's the promise of heavy downpour come sunday. they're looking at what their options are. of course, there's the idea that they could bring them through the tunnel system. it is about a three-mile
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journey. parts of it is walkable now. there are other parts where they think the boys would be able to float or swim, but it is those areas where they would need to dive, to be under water. these kids just haven't had the swimming skills, and according to officials who updated us about an hour ago they do not have the diving skills either. they're also dealing with this new challenge of depleted oxygen in the cave system. there's been so much activity in there, the air has been reduced, so they're trying to pump more air into the caves while they continue to pump the water out. meanwhile, around here there are hundreds of people who have been looking for any other possible entry to the cave. they've been using helicopters, drones, anything where they would be able to find a crack or a chimney that they would be able to lower ropes and bring the boys out that way. one of the divers i spoke to earlier said that that would be the ideal situation, to bring the boys out when they're
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surrounded by air and not surrounded by water. steve. >> all right. that was nbc's janis mackey frayer in thailand. meanwhile, his list is down to three. on monday night we will finally meet the president as nominee for the supreme court. a former clerk to justice kennedy whose resignation triggered this drama joins me next. we're the most isolated population on the planet. ♪ hawaii is the first state in the u.s. to have 100% renewable energy goal. we're a very small electric utility. but, if we don't make this move we're going to have changes in our environment, and have a negative impact to hawaii's economy. ♪ verizon provided us a solution using smart sensors on their network that lets us collect near real time data on our power grid.
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co as you know there's now a vacancy on the supreme court. and if you tune in monday at 9:00, i think you're going to be extremely happy with the selection. all right. and they're all great. they're all great. >> well, at that rally in montana last night the president addressed monday's anticipated announcement of his pick to fill the vacancy on the high court. the names we keep hearing supposedly on his short list, brett kavanaugh, amy coney barrett and raymond kethledge. the president says he will be discussing his supreme court pick with the vice president, mike pence, and other white house officials while he's at his new jersey golf club over the weekend.
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pete williams and harry whitman, whos clerked fon anthony kennedy, the retiring justice who started this drama. pete williams, let me start with you. we're in the moment with all sorts of politicking by folks who want this candidate to get the spot, who don't want that candidate to get the spot. we've seen democrats go after amy coney barrett in particular. is your sense any of this is having any effect on the process here? >> i think it is baked into the process. think they fully expected the kind of reaction that they've gotten. they fully expected some members of the senate to push for one of their own, mike lee. that seemed a non-starter from the beginning. there's a fourth name we are starting to hear now too and that's thomas hardiman, a federal court judge from pittsburgh who as you may recall was probably the last finalist, down to the wire with neil gorsuch. the president likes to create drama. he liked the fact that his actual choice didn't leak out before the 9:00 announcement last year when he did it prime time from the white house.
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i think you're starting to hear different versions from different people in the white house on who the choice is, partly because i think the president just likes the idea of keeping people guessing before the big reveal. so i think to answer your question, steve, they fully thought they'd get the kind of response that they did. remember, a lot of these criticisms for these judges came up during their confirmation hearings. whether amy barrett's views as a catholic would be influential to her judicial decisions, whether brett kavanaugh's time working for the republicans made him too partisan, and so forth. >> harry, you have an interesting op-ed in "the l.a. times." trump's list of judges isn't a nightmare all-star team of neil gorsuch's. here's what dems can hope for. a lot of democrats say, hey look, these are all federalist society approved, they're on the list, they're all going to be basically cookie cutters here. why do you say that? >> well, what i'm trying to
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point out is, and i think we see this in the sniping and countersniping that's happening especially between the kavanaugh and barrett camp, what looks like a monolithic fungible group of 25, there are fault lines within them. i think the chief one that you're seeing here is between social conservatives and judicial conservatives. and by that i mean people who on the one hand are really concerned about outcomes, want abortion to be illegal, want affirmative action scaled back, want gay rights scaled back, the social conservatives, that's their lookout, versus judicial conservatives, they're really thinking mostly about judicial conduct in office, respect for precedent, stare decisis, stability of the court. that tends to be more champions of kavanaugh.
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at the margins we have people who are pretty much of a like mind but not totally, and it will really matter going forward what brand of extreme conservative you have. that's the point of the op-ed. >> harry, i'm curious to ask you this too just because you clerked for justice kennedy and maybe have a better sense of him than a lot of us do. there's been some criticism from folks on the left of the timing of his retirement announcement, basically saying that he's giving in here to trump, he's giving in to the right, giving up this seat to conservatives in a way that could change this court. do you think that that criticism surprised him? do you think it registers with him at all? how do you think he reacts to that? >> i don't think it surprised him at all. i think he knows how divided the country is. i think he understands personally the antipathy that a lot of people have for trump. i do think, however, when people say couldn't he have waited until after the midterms that that would have been a nonstarter for somebody who
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cares about the court as he does. you can't really cripple the court in that way and keep it with only eight people for half the term. so he was looking at now or a year from now or a year later, and that's, i think, what influenced him. he also probably thought, and one of the points i try to make in the op-ed, is the people on the list anyway, they're very different from trump as a political candidate. as a political candidate, he's been a complete outsider, kind of deranged really. but the people on the list have been the sorts of people that you would see from any republican president. that probably mattered to him. >> pete, quickly, when you look at this list and throw hardiman in there too, is there one that jumps out? who can get through the senate. there's the issue with susan collins, maybe murkowski. does one seem any more confirmable than the others? >> i would think brett kavanaugh
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or raymond kethledge or thomas hardiman would have an easier time. kethledge, remember, was confirmed both in the judiciary committee and in the full senate on a voice vote. now, he's written some controversial opinions since then, since he's been on the appeals court, but i would think the toughest time and perhaps the most spirited time would be for amy coney barrett because of her -- the views that she's expressed in the past and the response to them. you know, when dianne feinstein asked her about whether her dogma was too strong within her, that produced a very, very strong backlash. >> we have gotten a preview in some ways of what these potential confirmation fights would look like already with their previous battles. nbc's pete williams, harry litman, thanks to both of you for joining us. we have one more thing after the break. the winter of '77. i first met james in 5th grade. we got married after college. and had twin boys.
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and one more thing before we go. last night in montana the president mocked the volunteerism campaign of one of his predecessors, george h.w. bush, thousand points of light it was called. but as that was happening in montana, a completely different headline about bush 41 was picking up steam online. it was about a touching gesture that he made to a dying friend. this despite his own public health struggles and the recent loss of his wife, the former first lady, barbara bush. here is the story posted by the ocala star banner down in florida. back in may, the paper reports,
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former president bush made a call to the hospice of marion county. waiting on the other end of the line was a fellow world war ii veteran named william donovan. he was in naval training with bush back in the 1940s. it turns out a photo of them was sitting in donovan's room. hospice staff noticed it and were able to set the whole thing up. donovan's daughter said when the president got on the line, all he said was how are you, bill? and despite being very weak, her father was able to acknowledge his old friend's voice. three days later, donovan passed away. he was 95 years old. his family thanks president bush for the call, calling it a poignant moment and a very kind thing to do. that wraps things up for this hour. i'm steve kornacki in for katy tur who will be back on monday. meanwhile ali velshi is standing by to pick things up right now. >> have a good afternoon and good weekend, steve. good afternoon to all of you. promises made, promises kept. fresh off his rally last night in front of these very banners,
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the president made good on his promise to impose tariffs on $34 billion worth of chinese imports. china made good on its promise too, imposing its own retaliatory tariffs on the same value of american products and accusing the united states of setting off, quote, the largest trade war in economic history to date. as of now there are no scheduled meetings between the largest economies in the world, so it is not clear how long this trade war is going to last. so far the markets don't seem too concerned about this, betting on the idea that this will be short-lived. but trump's trade moves are not the only controversies the president has stepped into. just hours before his tariffs took effect, trump spoke in front of his supporters at a rally in montana in which he mocked a list of enemies. the justice department, the media, hillary clinton, democratic senator elizabeth warren and now the me too movement. listen to trump's latest promises to his supporters.

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