tv Meet the Press MSNBC July 29, 2018 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT
this sunday, turning against trump. the president's long-time personal attorney, michael cohen, is apparently prepared to say the president knew in advance about the infamous trump tower meeting with russians. >> it appears the president's former attorney and confidant is ready to talk. >> and cohen releases a tape discussing buying the story of a former playmate who says she had an affair with trump. >> what financing? >> we'll have to pay something. >> and we'll pay with cash. >> no, no, no, no, no. >> rudy giuliani attacks cohen. >> the man is a liar, a proven liar. >> not long after praising him. >> the man is an honest, honorable lawyer. >> just how big a threat does cohen pose to president trump? my guests this morning, former trump political advisor sam nunberg and republican senator rob portman of ohio. plus guns and poses. maria butina loves guns, cultivated conservatives and is
now in jail, arrested as a russian agent. does she hold the key to an nra/russia connection? and base politics. today marks 100 days until election day. it's democratic enthusiasm versus trump loyalty. joining me for insight and analysis are nbc news chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell, eddie glaude jr. of princeton university, "wall street journal" columnist peggy noonan and matthew continetti. editor-in-chief of the washington free beacon. welcome to sunday. it's "meet the press." >> announcer: from nbc news in washington, the longest running show in television history, this is "meet the press" with chuck todd. good sunday morning. perhaps nothing better illustrates how president trump wants his supporters to see the world than this moment from his speech to the vfw on wednesday. >> what you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening. >> that's right. what you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.
okay. despite his orwellian phrasing, one bit of news president trump does want people to know is happening is that the economy grew at a rate of 4.1% in the second quarter. it's the highest since 2014 under president obama. but beyond that, the news was not good for the president this week. there were increasing signs of a democratic blue wave in the midterm elections. now exactly 100 days away. we learned federal prosecutors are seeking to interview allen weisselberg, mr. trump's chief financial officer and someone who knows as much as anyone about how the trump organization and mr. trump personally has done business and with whom. but there were two other stories that got the most attention this week and they both involve the president's now former long-time attorney, friend and fixer, michael cohen. not only did cohen release a tape of him discussing hush money payments to a playboy model, he appears to be prepared to tell the special counsel that mr. trump knew about the infamous trump tower meeting with russians in advance.
if michael cohen tells that version of events and if he could prove it, it could turn out to be the game changer, even for members of mr. trump's own party. >> is michael cohen lying? >> for more than a year, president trump and his surrogates have denied that he knew of the june 2016 meeting with kremlin-connected agents at trump tower that included his son, his son-in-law, and his then campaign chairman, who is now behind bars. >> no, i didn't know anything about the meeting. >> do you tell your father anything about this? >> no. it was such a nothing, there was nothing to tell. >> the president said he became aware of it very recently, right before this came out, and that's when he was notified. >> and just this week, the president repeated, i did not know of the meeting with my son. sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam. that someone? the president's former personal lawyer and fixer, michael cohen, who is floating himself as a
possible witness, making it clear he is willing to tell special counsel robert mueller that mr. trump knew about and approved of the meeting beforehand. >> this is about truth versus lying, and ultimately donald trump is going to be done in by the truth. >> cohen is under investigation for bank fraud and possible campaign finance violations by federal prosecutors in new york city, who are examining his role in mr. trump's campaign as well. on tuesday, he released this tape through his lawyer, which appears to reference a hush money payment two months before the election to keep a former playboy model quiet about an alleged affair with mr. trump. >> we'll have to pay something. >> and we'll pay with cash. >> no, no, no, no, no. i've got -- no, no, no. >> just months ago mr. trump's lawyer, rudy giuliani, praised cohen. >> the man is an honest, honorable lawyer. >> but now -- >> he's been lying all week. he's been lying for years. he's lied all his life. >> mr. trump is desperately trying to keep the russia issue from consuming his presidency. just 26% of voters approve of his handling of the relationship
between the united states and russia. secretary of state mike pompeo was grilled this week even by skeptical republicans after mr. trump's two-hour private meeting and press conference with russian president putin. >> it's the president's public statements that create concern amongst senators on both sides of the aisle. >> some of these statements actually achieve important policy outcomes for the united states of america. >> some of them do. >> yes. >> and some of them are very damaging. >> and now mr. trump is ducking questions from the press more frequently, refusing to answer questions ten times since the release of the michael cohen recording on tuesday night. >> mr. president, will you go to moscow? >> let's get more insight into this relationship between the president and michael cohen. i'm joined now by sam nunberg, he was a political advisor to president trump before and then again during the 2016 campaign. welcome to "meet the press." >> it's an honor. >> so let's start with this. just a simple question, right,
which is you've seen these two interact quite a bit, president trump. help us understand the relationship between president trump and michael cohen. >> michael was one of the closest people i've seen with the president, highly devoted to him, a sense of loyalty that i thought, at least, until this week when i learned that he was taping him in person, a sense of loyalty that was, yes, he would take a bullet for him. he would do anything for him. >> and is it your sense that michael cohen basically just handles things? is that -- when you hear the term fixer, the president has a problem he handles them? is that how he was known around trump tower? >> yes. this was in michael's purview. issues like this were. these are michael's responsibilities. >> i want to play an excerpt of the tape that michael cohen's legal team released. here it is. >> i need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend david. >> yeah. >> you know, so that i'm going to do that right away. i've actually come up and i've
spoken to allen weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with -- >> so what are we gonna do? >> -- funding. >> that exchange, i know you weren't there for it. i'm not going to sit there and assume you were there for it. familiar, though, that style of exchange, back and forth between the president and michael cohen? >> once again, the idea michael was taping him in that office, when i heard that i felt like i was in the 26th floor of trump tower. remember, they never consummated this transaction so there's no idea there is an fcc violation. yes, these sound like the conversations you would hear in private. >> you said michael cohen was very loyal and devoted -- >> right. >> -- to mr. trump. did you ever see mr. trump be loyal to him? >> ultimately, i felt that he wasn't. i sympathize with michael. i understand the way michael feels. i have felt like that. with that said, chuck, with somebody like me who has defended michael publicly, when he takes lanny davis out of the
clinton crypt and decides to start talking about watergate releasing these tapes, it's a bridge too far. >> are you saying you no longer count yourself as a friend of michael cohen? you did just a couple of days ago you did? >> no, he is a friend of mine. i like him personally. once again, i feel bad for what his family is going through. but vis-a-vis his professional relationship with the president, it's highly unethical, if not -- if not getting disbarred for what he did. >> who's telling the truth? >> in terms of? >> who's telling the truth here? whose word should we take here, michael cohen intimating what the president knew about these various payments or the president's word that he knew very little about it all? >> but there was no payment. but let's say we hear this conversation, but ultimately if you're asking me who do i believe, the president or michael cohen with what michael cohen may say, for instance, what michael cohen says now that the president knew about the russia meeting in advance, i would believe don jr. and the president in light of learning that michael was taping conversations, the way michael was conducting himself behind
the scenes and in front of all of us. >> so you're saying -- you brought up this infamous trump tower meeting. wouldn't it be unusual if donald trump jr. never told his father about it at all? >> look, under normal circumstances, if you have -- in general i would think the president was told about it, especially because this was a relationship, everybody can understand this was done through the ogilarov family, they had hosted the president perfectly legally in moscow for miss universe and talked about a trump tower moscow for many years. with that understood, you understand trump tower, you worked through it. but the e-mail was sent directly to don junior from goldstone. it was not sent to then mr. trump's executive assistant, rona graff. so if you had to ask me specifically, and in light of learning that, one, michael was taping the president, two, he doesn't have a tape of this, i would believe the president. >> you say you're shocked that michael cohen was taping. michael cohen had this reputation among every single
trump person i've ever dealt with, oh, yeah, michael cohen, he tapes everybody. >> correct. i thought he was taping all phone conversations. you know, for instance, if he had an iphone and it just taped all conversations, he taped everything, you know, plays them back to the president, that would be something. but to tape people when you're sitting in the office with them? that was highly suspect. i never thought that. i never thought that if i was sitting across from him in his office i was being taped. >> why do you think the president -- some of this decision potentially by michael cohen may have to do with one of two things. number one, no one seems to be wanting to pay his legal bills and that is bothering him. the rnc is paying hope hicks' legal bills and is not paying michael cohen's. is that a motivation for cohen? >> remember, they were paying michael cohen's legal bills before it went to the southern district. i thought that was unfair and i even said that. i said -- remember, i was quoted by maggie haberman and said michael has the leverage here. meaning his legal bills. if they're not investigating
anything illegal vis-a-vis the trump org and this goes to michael's private businesses which the president gave him the latitude to conduct in trump org i don't think they should have and perhaps they even knew then or suspected he was taping conversations with the president. >> why do you think the president didn't want to offer him a pardon? >> i don't think the president has obstructed this investigation. he understands now that he cannot fire robert mueller, he cannot fire jeff sessions, he cannot fire rod rosenstein because that would go down the watergate model and that's what they're going down to ultimately get his impeachment. >> michael cohen ever tell you who knew about this trump tower meeting? >> remember, i was fired in 2015. i had not been in trump tower. i was sued earlier -- >> right, i understand. then you were brought back and forth. you've had a weird relationship in trump world. >> i never discussed this with michael or anyone, by the way, about the meeting after it was reported. what i did say, what i did say was when i saw that statement that was given initially to "the
new york times," i was like, oh, no, just please put it all out. i was happy to see when don put the entire e-mail chain out. >> you had a feeling the president had misled? >> i had a feeling they weren't being clear and were going to make a mountain out of a molehill. >> has the president ever lied to you? >> ever lied to me? directly about an issue, no. has he ever lied to me about whether or not where i stood within the trump organization, no. but there were -- obviously there were issues that i wouldn't ask him, so there was no reason for me, let's say, to explain this, there's no reason i would go in and ask him what about this accusation or that. it was none of my business and i didn't need to know. >> i understand. but as a character witness, at the end of the day, and i know what you said about michael cohen because you seem to think the fact that he would secretly tape someone, that goes to his character. would you be comfortable to say president trump tells the truth isn't. >> tells the truth vis-a-vis this investigation and ultimate collusion?
>> be that specific, yes. >> yes, i would. >> tells the truth overall you're not comfortable saying? >> when i worked for him -- when i worked with him, he works people off everyone. that was his motivation and management style and, frankly, he enjoyed it, chuck. with that said, he never, ever lied about anything when it came to, for instance, business. and, for instance, when they call in allen weisselberg now and if they're calling him in because of the tape that lanny davis played, then their relationship with michael is certainly done. i would tell you very quickly everything was done on the up and up. the president would always say everything has got to be legal, i don't want a fine, i don't want anything going on here. >> you just brought up allen weisselberg, the cfo. how much does he know? is he the guy who knows everything? >> he knows every single financial transaction, he's responsible for creating the business system they had there. and i think in fact ultimately, and i've said this to everyone, i've said this to you if you ever asked me. ultimately he'll be a character witness for trump org and it will come out positive because
they have not -- trust me, donald trump knew he was under the limelight. he had -- you know, he had a contract with nbc. everything that was done was on the up and up. that's what i believe, at least. >> all right, sam nunberg, i appreciate your coming in and sharing your views and helping me out. thank you very much. now, let me turn to the elected side of things. joining me now is republican senator rob portman of ohio who sits on the foreign relations committee and was one of the senators who grilled secretary of state mike pompeo this week on the trump/putin relationship. senator portman, welcome back to "meet the press," sir. >> chuck, good to be on with you again. >> let me start with the michael cohen situation, because he is now contradicting something that donald trump jr. said under oath to congress. whether it was under oath or not, lying to congress is a crime. donald trump jr. told the judiciary committee that he did not tell his father about anything of the trump tower meeting before or after. michael cohen apparently is
contradicting him. should michael cohen be called before the judiciary committee and clear this up, sooner rather than later? >> i think the mueller investigation is probably the place this should be cleared up. but, you know, that's up to the judiciary committee. >> if this is something that -- let me ask you this. you as a republican senator, would you want to see the judiciary committee sort of clean this up since they have gone down this road, or you would say punt? you would tell senator grassley your advice would be leave it alone? >> well, i think it's going to be a he said/he said issue so i think it's probably better that this goes through the regular process, which is ongoing, chuck. i think the mueller investigation ought to be brought to an end also. i mean we need to have the facts lead to the right conclusion and so i support the investigation, i have from the start, but we do need to wrap it up and, you know, i'm not an expert on michael cohen, never met the guy. i have been on the judiciary committee, i haven't been
involved directly but i believe it's important for us to get to the bottom of it but do it expeditiously. we've got a lot of other issues. >> let me move to the subject you were grilling secretary pompeo on, on the issue of russia. it seemed to be that he wasn't -- his comments didn't satisfy many senators, and it was pretty contentious, particularly on the issue of policy. let me play a mash-up. >> policies are statements and statements are policies. >> no, that's not true. i make lots of statements, they're not u.s. policy. >> i want you to think about the suggestion that what the president says is not the policy of the united states. >> i misspoke. it is the case. the president calls the ball. his statements are in fact policy. >> are you as confused now as you were before the hearing about who's in charge of policy with russia, the president, the administration, are they contradicting him? do statements serve as policy? what was your interpretation of what you heard? >> well, first, i thought pompeo did a terrific job.
i was there for practically the entire hearing and it lasted several hours. what i liked about it is that he laid out very clearly and consistently what our issues are with russia, the fact that we continue to have policies in place that are very tough, tougher, frankly, than the previous administration, toughest sanctions since the cold war. we're arming the ukrainians, which is something as you know i pushed the obama administration and the trump administration on. we're finally doing it so they can defend themselves. we just gave them another $200 million. we're sending more troops to europe. we're doing exercises in eastern europe, not making the kremlin happy. and we're pushing back in other ways. we talked about the global engagement center, which pushes back on disinformation and propaganda coming from russia, which i think is long overdue and i commend secretary pompeo because he put that in place and is using it aggressively. so chuck, it's interesting, there are concerns, as i expressed after helsinki, of an inconsistent public posture as to russia, but in terms of policy, i think the administration is doing things
that are appropriate and very tough. i think that came out clearly at the hearing as well. >> i want to go back to the helsinki summit, because now you have vladimir putin saying he'd come to washington, he's offered another invite, he talked about the -- that they seemed to have a lot of constructive conversations. moscow essentially looks like they were pretty happy with the summit. you were pretty unhappy. what does that tell you? >> we don't know what happened behind closed doors so i don't know whether to be happy or not. my concern was about the public statements not being consistent and clear with our policies. you know, frankly, again, our policies are a lot tougher than previously and probably not making the russians very happy. but look, i think it's fine if we have these conversations. i think talks are appropriate. you need to be prepared for them, so the president chose to postpone the potential meeting here in the united states that he had talked about. that's -- you know, that's appropriate because i assume
that we were not going to be prepared to have those discussions. so let's be prepared. look, i supported talking to north korea as long as we were prepared. of course we should talk to them. we are two superpowers and have nuclear weapons and need to talk. if you're going to ending up with a better relationship, it's only going to happen about being consistent and clear and realistic about the issues between us. >> you asked an important question to secretary pompeo when you said how come the sanctions seem to be working, it hasn't changed russia's behavior. you want more sanctions. why do you think it hasn't worked, is it the president's rhetoric? >> well, it's a great question because we do have unprecedented levels of sanctions, certainly since the cold war, and we're talking about increasing those, which actually i support. but my question was very simple, which is they haven't backed off in terms of the illegal annexation of crimea. they haven't backed off in terms of what they're doing on the eastern border of ukraine, which is a hot war, as you know. they haven't backed off in terms of supporting the murderous assad regime.
so are the sanctions effective or not? now, some would say they have been effective to get the kremlin's attention but they obviously have not resulted in the kind of actions and reactions that we would expect. so my question is how can we more effective and targeted in the sanctions. my sense is, chuck, that the better way to approach this is to actually go after folks in russia who are influential, including some of the oligarchs who support president putin and really to be more effective in targeting those sanctions. but i am interested in hearing back from the secretary for my question. >> let me ask you -- i want to move to the supreme court. i know we'll begin -- start the confirmation process beginning. there's a bit of a fight over what papers in the archives should be there. democrats believe republicans are asking for a limited amount, only looking at brett kavanaugh's time in the white house counsel's office. since brett kavanaugh himself has talked about his time as staff secretary in the white house, that that's important too. shouldn't the answer be release all the papers of his time in the bush administration?
>> well, i've served with brett in the bush administration. by the way, incredible guy, humble, a good listener, compassionate. i think he's going to do very well at the hearing. as you've probably seen in some of these poll numbers in some of these states that are red states where you've got a democratic senator, he's very popular. people want to see him confirmed. so i think in the end he will do very well. in terms of the issue on document production, it ought to be documents that are relevant. in other words, when you're staff secretary, which was his job, there are millions of documents literally that go through your office. you're the gatekeeper, you're the traffic cop. it's not substantive. so i think when he was associate counsel to the president certainly. his 200 opinions are important so those are the relevant documents. but to go on a fishing expedition into millions of documents that he had nothing substantive to say about i think would be a mistake. frankly, it's not in the democrats' interests to do that because it's going to postpone this even closer to the election, which i'm not sure that they want. >> rob portman, republican
senator from ohio, i'm going to have to leave it there. thank you for coming on and sharing your views, much appreciate it. >> thanks, chuck. thanks for having me on again. when we come back, the panel and what the breakdown with the trump/cohen relationship could mean for the russia investigation and the future of the trump presidency. and it turns out another employee of president trump's may pose an even bigger threat to the president. (vo) why are subaru outback owners always smiling? because they've chosen the industry leader. subaru outback holds its value better than any other vehicle in its class, according to alg. better than rav4. better than grand cherokee. better than edge. make every adventure a happy one with subaru outback. get 0% apr financing on the 2018 subaru outback.
money managers are pretty much the same. all but while some push high commission investment products, fisher investments avoids them. some advisers have hidden and layered fees. fisher investments never does. and while some advisers are happy to earn commissions from you whether you do well or not, fisher investments fees are structured so we do better when you do better. maybe that's why most of our clients come from other money managers. fisher investments. clearly better money management. need a change of scenery? the kayak price forecast tool tells you whether to wait or book your flight now. so you can be confident you're getting the best price. giddyup! kayak. search one and done. -we're in a small room. what?! -welcome. -[ gasps ] a bigger room?! -how many of you use car insurance? -oh. -well, what if i showed you this?
welcome back. the panel is here. eddie glaude jr., chair of the center for african-american studies at princeton university, peggy noonan, nbc news chief foreign affairs correspondent, andrea mitchell, who is celebrating 40 years at nbc this week and matthew continetti, editor in chief of the washington free beacon. let me put up president trump's tweet about the michael cohen situation. this is basically the only response he's given. i did not know of the meeting with my son don junior. sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam, taxicabs maybe. he even retained bill and
crooked hillary's lawyer. gee, i wonder if they helped him make the choice. cohen versus trump, peggy noonan, what do you make of this? >> i thought it was very interesting when you said to sam nunberg, so, who's telling the truth here? i think his answer was more or less i think trump. do you know what i mean? could that be a fair interpretation? >> it felt like he put a lot of caveats in there. felt like there were a lot, well, on this -- yeah. >> one of the things i'm curious about is where the heck does this go? you have a sense, as you watch the story, that more tapes will come, more testimony, more this, an e-mail, whatever, and we'll find out, yes, the president kind of knew about the trump tower meeting. someone wanted to share information against hillary clinton. he said sure, let me know how it goes. if that is true, where does that get you? what is our end point there? that doesn't prove criminality. it proves poor judgment. it proves a lack of
sophistication within his campaign organization. normally these russians would come in off the street and meet with extremely low-level people, not top level -- oh, my gosh, it's out of a daniel silva novel, it's so unsophisticated. >> that's high praise. >> which is what i keep -- yeah, it is high praise. but that's what i keep thinking of it as. but still if the moment comes where we find out trump knew about this meeting, what does that mean? >> you know, first of all, we've heard this kind of denial, right? so on air force one when he denied the payment to stormy daniels and then giuliani comes out and we realize he's lying. so he lies a lot, donald trump. so to ask who's telling the truth between cohen and trump is like asking who's the more trustworthy in the mob, right? sammy the bull or this guy. that's not really the issue. the issue is the evidence, that's the question, the evidence. what is being put on the table here. and what i think cohen's tape
reveals is intent. and the difficult part about the collusion claim is the intent claim. and if there's intent here, then which the tape suggests, then we have a stronger case around collusion. >> i talked to a few republicans this week who the combination of the disastrous helsinki summit with this news, matthew, is starting to make capitol hill republicans very nervous. i'm sorry, senator portman, he didn't like those michael cohen questions. he didn't want -- he didn't want to have anything to say. there are a lot of other republican senators, they don't seem to be as ready to just take the president's side as they were even two weeks ago. >> they like the trump administration would rather like robert mueller go away. and i think cohen's claim that the president knew about the trump tower meeting is basically a message to robert mueller and saying that this claim, given the evidence, if he has any, which he has not produced to date, would help you, robert
mueller, in your construction of an obstruction of justice case against the president. that's where it seems to me the mueller investigation has been trending for some time. this would be another bullet point in that eventual report to congress where robert mueller would say, yes, the president interfered with this investigation. >> but from what we know of robert mueller, he either has evidence already to corroborate this. he will not be relying on michael cohen as a key witness. one has to think that a lot of people, people including in the trump orbit, say, look, this meeting took place one floor in trump tower away from where the president was at that time, the candidate trump was that day at that time. he then went to a fund-raising lunch with don junior. the possibility -- the probability that the son did not tell the father before or after this meeting or both is just so hard to believe, plus the two blocked phone calls, one before, one after, that the republicans on the house intel committee
would not let the democrats subpoena. so mueller either has those phone records and a lot of other corroborating information or not. if this is going to go any place, it's not going to rely on michael cohen. >> just a small thought. in a funny way, i think the cohen stuff and the meeting and the payoffs, check or cash for the playboy person, that has had a funny way of obscuring the really big story of the moment, which was helsinki, a two-hour meeting about which we know nothing. no american note takers. >> exactly. >> and then an obsequious and fawning for me as an american to watch embarrassing joint press conference with president putin. that is huge historic and scandalous. >> what about the mike pompeo hearing after? i was surprised that senator portman thought that secretary pompeo did so well. >> in fact for three hours almost unanimously the members,
republican and democratic and not just bob corker who's retiring, went after pompeo because not on a personal level, but because he was giving the party line pretty much and not explaining what happened in that two-hour meeting. and their fear is that he does not know, that mattis does not know, that no one knows what happened. and they are saying do not -- and that's what the leaders said to the president when they went and got him to postpone the return visit right before the midterms. they do not want him going into another private meeting. first of all, no president, especially one as unschooled in foreign policy, the kremlin is putting out that he agreed to a referendum on ukraine, the kremlin is giving us the readouts. we don't know -- >> i thought susan glasser put it well. she said for hours pompeo insisted that trump's tweets and incendiary comments were not the sum total of those policies, but it's a tough argument to make about a prickly boss. the policy has not changed, pompeo insisted, but the real question remains what the policy is in the first place. >> yes.
>> and in this sense the michael cohen news came as a relief, i think, to a lot of republicans. >> yes. >> it's the case that when the spotlight is on russia, when the spotlight is on michael avenatti and stormy daniels, the president's base rallies to him. i was struck by the week that donald trump was elected president, his personal favorability rating according to gallup was 36%. last month gallup asked the same question. donald trump's personal favorability rating was 36%. nothing changes. >> that's what i always say about every week. everything happens and nothing changes. i'm going to pause the conversation here. when we come back, the curious case of a woman named maria butina. was she a russian spy and could she be the key to a connection between the russians infiltrating the nra?
your mornings were made for better things than psoriatic arthritis. as you and your rheumatologist consider treatments, ask if xeljanz xr is right for you. xeljanz xr is a once-daily pill for psoriatic arthritis. taken with methotrexate or similar medicines, it can reduce joint pain, swelling, and significantly improve physical function. xeljanz xr can lower your ability to fight infections, including tuberculosis. serious, sometimes fatal infections, lymphoma, and other cancers have happened. don't start xeljanz xr if you have an infection. tears in the stomach or intestines, low blood cell counts, and higher liver tests and cholesterol levels have happened. your doctor should perform blood tests before you start and while taking xeljanz xr, and monitor certain liver tests.
where she had recently graduate with a master's degree in international relations from american university. on paper she was a student and a gun rights advocate known around campus for having pride in her homeland and defending russian interests in class discussions. at the same time, investigators claim she was a covert agent funded by alexander torshin, a russian oligarch, with close ties to the kremlin. at his urging, investigators say, she worked to gain access to american political operatives, conservative politicians and political groups, including the trump campaign and more importantly in this story the nra. joining me now is someone who has done a lot of reporting on butina and russian intelligence efforts in this area, michael isikoff, co-author of "russian roulette." of course a former colleague here at nbc news. welcome back to "meet the press." >> good to be with you. >> all right. you are facebook friends with maria butina. >> that's true. >> i know you did it for your reporting. >> yes. >> so how did you first discover her? >> i started hearing about her during the 2016 election as somebody who kept showing up at conservative political events,
cpac conferences, national prayer breakfasts, nra meetings, conventions. she met with nra leaders when they went to moscow and hosted them. and it struck a lot of people as odd. what is this woman doing here? she was extremely flirtatious. she tried to maintain contact with a lot of influential republican lobbyists, activists. she had this very close relationship with this guy, paul erickson, conservative activist in south dakota. but what really got my attention was the alexander torshin connection. alexander torshin, who you mentioned, was a deputy governor of the russian central bank. he was a close ally of putin. most importantly, he was under investigation by the spanish national police for money laundering. in fact he had these ties to this organized crime money laundering gang in spain. the spanish national police had him on wiretaps --
>> he was going to be arrested. >> they were planning to arrest him. he was referred to by the organized gang leader as el padrino, the godfather. they were all set to arrest him when he was going to fly in for a birthday party in majorca. he got tipped off and didn't go. all this time he's flying in and out of the united states with butina meeting with nra leaders and republican activists. >> so in the criminal complaint against her when they decided because they thought she was going to flee, i want to read this e-mail. it's a bit -- some rough english but it's in her words. it's an e-mail they put in there that essentially explains i guess what her plan was. it says here that she has discovered the central place and influence, and they refer to in the political party one meaning the republicans, plays the gun rights organization here is nra. the nra is the largest sponsor of the elections in congress as well as sponsor of the cpac conference and other events. again, a little broken english from her but this was all part of this plan.
it was an e-mail she sent to paul erickson. this was an infiltration plan. >> exactly. that was very savvy insight. the way -- the goal here was to change the republican party's attitude towards russia. traditionally hostile -- >> but it was sort of the john mccain view of russia is what they assumed all republicans were. >> and the way to do it was through the nra. who has more influence with republican members of congress especially than the nra. they spend more money, they're the most powerful special interest group. so the idea was butina sets up this russian gun rights organization to forge this alliance with nra members as a way of influencing the republican party. >> let's go back to paul erickson. >> yes. >> she's been now romantically linked with him. i guess they lived together in south dakota perhaps or shared some sort of -- >> right. apparently not totally willingly on her part but she felt this was part of her obligation and duty. >> she wrote this e-mail to him
at the time to sort of like ask him am i wording this correctly? it was sort of to get his -- is he witting or unwitting here? >> we don't know. >> there's good reason to believe he's under investigation himself by federal prosecutors, and i think one goal is to get her to flip on him about what he might know. but i do think torshin is the key. i think he's the ultimate target here. he's been sanctioned by the u.s. one other thing we should mention, remember, butina, for all the work she's doing, did one big service for the kremlin. july 2015 just a few weeks after trump announces his candidacy, he goes to freedomfest, this libertarian event in las vegas, and takes a question from the floor from butina. what would be his position on sanctions that are damaging both countries, and trump gives this full-fledged five-minute answer in which he says if i'm elected, you won't need sanctions. i know putin, i can get along
with putin. not a top issue in the republican political debate at the time but very important for the kremlin. they had him on the record saying he would roll back sanctions. >> you've been doing investigations a long time, a couple of decades now. let's raise up to 30,000 feet. we'll focus sometimes on the russia/trump angle or the nra. this larger investigation is going to be known as what? it looks to me like a russian infiltration campaign on all levels of the conservative movement on this country. is that what happened? >> that's exactly what seems to be happening. this was every much as part of the russian influence campaign as the cyber attacks, the phony facebook ads, the twitter bots, all of that. i've got to say just one thing -- >> i know you have a hobby horse. i'll let you go. go. >> dereliction of duty on congress' part. why every major political scandal in the last half century, watergate, iran contra, you name it. public hearings by the congress, key witnesses testify under oath before the tv cameras. none of that has happened here.
all behind closed doors, including butina by the way. we should be seeing these witnesses. they should be hauled up. grassley and feinstein could call michael cohen up tomorrow, subpoena him, have him testify in public. >> don't let lawyers spin. let's see it for ourselves. it's a good point to end on. michael isikoff, thanks for coming on. good work, sir. don't forget his book, "russian roulette." when we come back, the democrats big blue midwestern wall came crashing down on them in 2016. are we seeing signs it's being rebuilt?
copd makes it hard to breathe. so to breathe better, i go with anoro. ♪ go your own way copd tries to say, "go this way." i say, "i'll go my own way, with anoro." ♪ go your own way once-daily anoro contains two medicines called bronchodilators that work together to significantly improve lung function all day and all night. anoro is not for asthma. it contains a type of medicine that increases risk of death in people with asthma.
the risk is unknown in copd. anoro won't replace rescue inhalers for sudden symptoms and should not be used more than once a day. tell your doctor if you have a heart condition, high blood pressure, glaucoma, prostate, bladder, or urinary problems. these may worsen with anoro. call your doctor if you have worsened breathing, chest pain, mouth or tongue swelling, problems urinating, vision changes, or eye pain while taking anoro. ask your doctor about anoro. ♪ go your own way get your first prescription free at anoro.com.
"meet the press" data download, brought to you by pfizer. we are back, data download time. president trump loves to mock the big blue wall that pundits said he could not scale to reach 270 electoral votes in the 2016 election. as we all know, he did. he won in places like wisconsin, michigan and pennsylvania. president trump forged a new path to the presidency for republicans in 2016, albeit a very narrow one, because he won michigan by the slimmest of margins, something a republican hadn't done since 1988. he clinched wisconsin by less than a percentage point as well, a state that hadn't gone red since 1984. in minnesota he got well within striking distance, losing the state by less than two points.
no one had gotten that close since ronald reagan in 1984. now, president trump's success in those midwestern states was fueled by his appeal with rural and working class voters. now new nbc news/marist polls show him slipping in the midwest. president trump's approval rating in those three states michigan, wisconsin and minnesota, deep underwater. he did not break 40% in any of those states and his disapproval is above 50% in all of them. this could be as much about tariffs, by the way, as it is about his overall job performance. tariffs are hitting those three states particularly hard. of course the president has two more years to make up for those numbers, but the midterm election is just 100 days away. republicans are facing uphill battles in elections for the house, senate and for governor. in fact in our poll voters in each of those states say they prefer democrats over republicans in this year's congressional races. and guess what, these states have a lot of big races to watch this fall. they're home to nine republican
held house seats currently listed as battlegrounds by our friends at the cook political report and there are four senate races all with democratic incumbents, one each in michigan and wisconsin and two in minnesota. plus each state has a governor's race. right now our polls show support for democrats in those races as well. president trump has traveled to all of these states but the numbers suggest democrats may be rebuilding their big blue wall, at least for the midterms. when we come back, president trump says he plans to spend six or seven days a week campaigning in the fall. why that could really help some republicans and really hurt others. >> announcer: coming up, end game and postgame, brought to you by boeing. continuing our mission to connect, protect, explore and inspire. and tank. and tiny. and this is laura's mobile dog grooming palace. laura can clean up a retriever that rolled in foxtails, but she's not much on "articles of organization." articles of what? so, she turned to legalzoom.
they helped me out. she means we helped with her llc, trademark, and a lot of other legal stuff that's a part of running a business. so laura can get back to the dogs. would you sit still? this is laura's mobile dog grooming palace and this is where life meets legal. we really pride ourselves on making it easy for you >> tech: at safelite autoglass, to get your windshield fixed. with safelite, you can see exactly when we'll be there. saving you time for what you love most. >> kids: whoa! >> kids vo: ♪ safelite repair, safelite replace ♪ tand, our adulte children are here. so, we save by using tide. which means we use less. three generations of clothes cleaned in one wash. those are moms. anybody seen my pants? nothing cleans better. put those on dad! it's got to be tide.
>> announcer: "end game" brought to you by boeing. continuing our mission to connect, protect, explore and inspire. >> back now with "end game." believe it or not, it's not still the 2016 election. we are 100 days till 2018. i know we'll be fighting the 2016 election for the rest of our lives at this point. but here's the president about what he says he's going to do in the last 60 days of this election year. >> i'll go six or seven days a week when we're 60 days out and i will be campaigning for all of these great people that do have a difficult race. >> all right, matthew, all these great people that have the most
difficult race. do you think they want donald trump campaigning for them? >> is it depends on where they live. the closer they are to a city or a suburb, the less likely they are you want the president to connell mcsha come campaign for them. he is less likely to cede to his opponents. i think he plans to take an active role in the mid terms. make the argument as it already is of the mid terms about him and the truth is that may actually lead to a republican advantage because the big danger for the republicans is, one, those never hillary moderates vote democrat, but two, the trump base doesn't show up. and his presence may actually inspire them to vote if he national eyes national izes the election. >> it's interesting, it does seem to be this intensity issue on the left and the right, less on the left, the trump intensity, gulf in the middle. right independents look like
democrats. >> it might be the tariffs. that so-called blue wall that didn't appear, collapsed for clinton, tariffs are hurting farmers, soy prices are down, wheat. end of october they'll see prices and other industries around them. john deere and others are all going to be affected by this. i was interviewing pat toomey from pennsylvania. with steel and aluminum, we have so many more manufacturing jobs that rely on the price of steel and aluminum than the steel woerkers. he's against them as are other republican senators. >> i just spoke to a government official in south dakota who said we're worried about our farmers here. however, one number we haven't said this morning 4.1% -- >> said it at the beginning of the show. >> all right, at the beginning of the show. but in this conversation here. you know, i know it's only one quarter. we had the last such quarter in 2014. but the white house made the most of it when people hear 4.1%
growth, maybe we're on target for 3% this year. people have a little more money in their pockets. consumer confidence is up. taxes are down slightly. when you've got all that, that's going to have an impact, too. >> it's a big bumper sticker. >> apart from tariffs, there is a certain amount of economic push up that's going on. >> perhaps wages have still flat lined. what's interesting to me is it's not so much the middle. it's those new voters, those folks that you don't ordinarily count. so you have an excited democratic base, folks who are motivated because of trump. and then you have folk that usually don't show up, usually don't show up to vote. was yo cortez was interesting not because she was a democratic socialist. it's who she got to the polls. 40% of georgia, many don't vote. her job is to get them out. >> that's a big job, getting them out. >> it's important. matthew, i want you to comment
on something else, the koch network has been having a meeting this weekend. wow, i want to put up this quote from brian hooks, president of the koch foundation. the divisiveness the white house is causing long-term damage. when in order to win on an issue someone else has to lose, it makes it difficult to unite and solve the problems of this country. there was even some hints among some at the koch network meeting. you know what, maybe this partisan strategy isn't working. >> the kochs are philosophical libertarians greatly opposed to the tariffs andrea mentioned as well as to some elements of more hawkish republican policy donald trump embraces. it wouldn't surprise me there would be a lot of criticism at this meeting. this argument about the future of the conservative movement, where libertarians fit in, those moderate suburban republicans. the backbone of george w. bush coalition, are they still republicans? these are all questions that are going to be sorted out in the next two years. >> yes, and in the two years
beyond that. this is all evolving. >> we'll see how it plays out, if trump plays the culture war card. >> i don't know if the young people are going to come out, the new voters you're talking about are going to come out. productivity is platflat. that 4.1 is a a great number now. >> all right. finally before we go, we have a little anniversary to celebrate today. as i mentioned earlier one of us at this table is celebrating 40 years at nbc news. she's appeared at "meet the press" 211 times, not including today. >> joining me for our interviews, andrea mitchell, white house correspondent for nbc news. >> andrea mitchell of nbc news. >> nbc news chief correspondent foreign affairs. >> should clarence thomas take a polygraph test? >> senator, you said what you're for. >> with all due respect, gentlemen, there is a perception out there people in power, particularly in congress here washington, are a closed club. >> ms. mitchell, take a look at the e-mail trails. >> i cover the state department.
that is factually not correct. >> andrea mitchell. >> andrea mitchell. a >> if it's sunday, it's "meet the press." >> andrea mitchell, 40 years. >> started as a kid. >> how is it possible? >> high school reporter. >> yeah, i was going to say. how does it feel? >> it's been -- this show of all shows, above all programs, is the heart and soul of nbc news. and i have been proudest of appearing here. my folks always watched it. i watched it as a kid through all of our wonderful moderators. the legacy continues with you. >> some of the best uncomfortable questions you've asked male senators. it's been interesting, i'll say 2 this. you were asking questions about the culture before anybody else was doing it. >> the culture has been so toxic lately, we forget we've had previous difficult times here. the resilience of this country and of the news media is extraordinary and profoundly moving. but the fact that we've got big
problems still to solve in our society. >> which means you're not going anywhere. you have a lot more stories to report. >> thank you. >> and we have cake to eat. that's all we have for today. we have work to do on this cake. thanks for watching. we'll be back next week because if it's sunday, it's "meet the press." >> you can see more "end game" and "post game" sponsored by boeing on the "meet the press" facebook page. (vo) why are subaru outback owners always smiling? because they've chosen the industry leader. subaru outback holds its value better than any other vehicle in its class, according to alg. better than rav4. better than grand cherokee. better than edge. make every adventure a happy one with subaru outback.
get 0% apr financing on the 2018 subaru outback. your insurance rates a scratch so smallr you could fix it with a pen. how about using that pen to sign up for new insurance instead? for drivers with accident forgiveness, liberty mutual won't raise their rates because of their first accident. ♪ liberty. liberty. liberty. liberty. ♪ and i don't add up the years. but what i do count on is boost®. delicious boost® high protein nuritional drink now has 33% more protein, along with 26 essential vitamins and minerals boost® high protein. be up for life. boost® high protein. when you combine ancestry's with its historical records... you could learn you're from ireland donegal, ireland and your ancestor was a fisherman. with blue eyes.
just like you. begin your journey at ancestry.com in the movies, a lot of times, i tend to play the tough guy. but i wasn't tough enough to quit on my own. not until i tried chantix. chantix, along with support, helps you quit smoking. it reduced my urge to smoke to the point that i could stop. when you try to quit smoking, with or without chantix, you may have nicotine withdrawal symptoms. some people had changes in behavior or thinking, aggression, hostility, agitation, depressed mood, or suicidal thoughts or actions with chantix. serious side effects may include seizures, new or worse heart or blood vessel problems, sleepwalking or allergic and skin reactions which can be life-threatening. stop chantix and get help right away if you have any of these. tell your healthcare provider if you've had depression or other mental health problems. decrease alcohol use while taking chantix. use caution when driving or operating machinery. the most common side effect is nausea. my favorite role so far? being a non-smoker.
no question about it. talk to your doctor about chantix. ♪ ♪ welcome to "kasie d.c." i'm kasie hunt. we are live in washington from 7:00 to 9:00 eastern. tonight the president lashes out against robert mueller claiming conflicts of interest. plus russia gate travels to the worst airport gate in america. don junior and robert mueller treated to the lucid nightmare that is gate 35 x at reagan national airport. at the same time the president's inner circle is fighting it out in federal court and the court of public opinion. later we'll talk to senator chris