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tv   Deadline White House  MSNBC  March 21, 2019 1:00pm-2:00pm PDT

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2020 presidential candidate elizabeth warren. you can find me on facebook, twitter, instagram, snapchat and linkeden. thank you for watching, "deadline: white house" with nicolle wallace starts now. hi, everyone, it's 4:00 in washington, d.c., where the nation's capitol and reporters who cover it represent vatican watchers anxiously awaiting the white smoke signal to indicate the report from robert mueller has been completed and handed over to the attorney general. the transmission, expected any day now, to the attorney general may not commence a public viewing of the findings but the early trump responses are coming into focus. it surprises no one before the white house has even seen the report is likely to describe it as an exoneration. the president's constant repetition of a no collusion refrain was designed to condition his base that in short of enurging a secret stash of
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selfies with trump and putin, no collusion occurred. thus the no collusion mantra. >> there's no collusion. no collusion. >> i did nothing wrong. there was no collusion. there was no obstruction. there was no collusion. no collusion, no collusion. >> mueller's investigation has already born fruits related to russian meddling and suspicious contacts between the trump campaign and russia. beyond the total of 26 charged so far, including konstantin kilimnik, paul manafort. there were more than 100 contacts between trump and his associates and russians. that in and of itself is highly unusual for any presidential campaign in transition. and even more alarming were the lies told by trump confidantes to federal investigators and prosecutors. those lies laying questions that still linger. we have never been offered an explanation, for example, why michael flynn lied over his
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contacts with russian and sanctions or talking to other trump advisers about conversations with russians. paul manafort and michael cohen are also known liars on the topic of russia. mueller's team said manafort's lies go to the heart of the special counsel's investigation. which brings us to another question at the heart of the mueller probe, the counterintelligence investigation into the president of the united states opened by then-acting fbi director andy mccabe -- >> the basic theory is, of course, if the russians know you're lying to your boss, which is the case of mike flynn, that's something the russians can potentially hold over your head to influence you to do their bidding essentially. is there that same possibility of compromise down the track? i think you have to answer that question in the affirmative. a possibility. can i tell you for sure that's happened? no. can i tell you for sure that's what director mueller has found
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or will conclude? absolutely not. but like all americans, i anxiously await the results of that work. >> and a brand-new piece in today's "the washington post" from former justice department attorney martin letterman lays out why it matters to us now that the mueller probe started its life has a counter-intel investigation. he writes, quote, it's important to keep in mind that the mueller report and barr notification aren't the whole ball game, not by a long shot. mueller was hired in the first instance to superintendent his ongoing fbi counterintelligence investigation, and virtually certain in this case that barr, mueller and fbi will at a minimum inform the intelligence committees about whatever evidence mueller has collected concerning whether trump is compromised with respect to russia. mueller's general conclusions on those questions and at least outlining evidence supporting them are not the sorts of things the justice department could
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realistically or should omit in its required reporting. a few moments ago, new comments from the official firing led to the opening of that counterintelligence investigation. james comey publishing a new op-ed in "the new york times" on what he expects from mueller's report, writing, quote, the interest of justice will best be served by maximum transparency about the special counsel's work. i don't know all of the considerations that will go into deciding precisely what to say about the completion of that work or when to say it but because the department of justice is guided first by the public interest, it should provide details about finished investigations when the public needs to know them as it traditionally has. that is where we start today with some of our favorite reporters and friends, harry litman, former deputy attorney general and executive producer of the new talking feds podcast. here on set associated press white house reporter jonathan lemire. nbc news national political reporter carol lee. matthew miller, former chief
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spokesman at the department of justice, and jean-pierre, senior adviser to moveon.org. it cannot be repeated enough how fast the mueller report was and 0 because sometimes how opaque it was we talk about the collusion probe, obstruction probe, but it was at its heart a counterintelligence investigation. >> yes, and you went through questions at the beginning and there are many more. did the president know about the trump tower? did the president direct an aide to get in touch with roger stone about ricky leaks? did the president himself talk to roger stone about wikileaks? these are all important for criminal reasons and counterintelligence reasons. often the two get jieneoined. counterintelligence investigations produce criminal charges. but at the heart this was opened as an counterintelligence situation and the underlying
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question, has the president been compromised is something they have to answer for the united states congress, at least the intelligence agencies, probably broader audience than that. >> when i interviewed james comey, he was very forthcoming but the one question he wouldn't answer was if mike flynn said to be someone whose alarm bells were young by sally yates, who came over and walked into the white house counsel -- it's amazing, sally yates gone, don medical began's gone, but he came over and said he could be a possible target for blackmail because he lied about his content with russians. he didn't give me the answer andy mccabe gave in that clip we showed, of course you had to take that into consideration. do you think robert mueller out to answer the question whether donald trump can be a blackmail for russians because of his lies told and his ongoing contacts
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and negotiations with trump tower moscow? >> no doubt about it. as matt says, you read the body of the appointment of mueller and that is any links between the campaign and russia, what he has been directed to answer. and it did begin and comey knows this as a counterintelligence operation that he first announced to the congress. that's what it says in the appointment of mueller. that's the one that's being continued. i think he wants to give mueller breathing room and not prejudge in any way, but all of the things we've been hearing that have been developed over the last year plus go to that question as much as criminal liability. and mueller certainly is about the task of answering it. i will just make one little nugget to add, and you heard andrew weissmann tell the judge the core of their inquiry, at the core of their inquiry is this meeting manafort had to pass polling information on to kilimnik. if that's at the core of their inquiry, than these questions of
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exactly what was going on in the campaign, including trump and russia, has to be at the center of what they're going to report about. >> carol, what are you looking for as this massive mother ship of the mueller probe prepares to not tie a bow on its investigation, but try to condense it, hand it off to the attorney general, having seeded all of these other investigations, criminal or otherwise in other offices? >> i think the thing that you're talking about here, which is the counterintelligence piece, to throw out there what andy mccabe did and first was reported in "the new york times" that there's a question about whether the president of the united states is compromised in some way by a foreign adversary. you have to answer that question. if not for any other reason then the american public deserves to know the answer to that question, and so as we all wait for the mueller report, and the question that we're asking is
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what's going to basketball publi become public, what will we know, what will we learn? and questions about james comey and the clinton investigation and him putting forward information that wasn't necessarily in traditional practice of the justice department. there's question whether that should apply here and i don't have an answer for that but i do think in terms of the counterintelligence investigation about whether the president of the united states h was compromised where that would need to rise to the level of the american people where you would have to say yes, no or maybe. whatever it is. >> you haven't answered that question. your answer yesterday at this table was that because we believe they're operating under the guidelines that you can't invite a president, you absolutely answer the questions. >> yes, exactly. you can't have it both ways that the president is above the law. if a president can't be indicted but you can't tell congress or american people about his misconduct, essentially he can
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get away with anything. so the president can't be indicted, that means the justice department has to turn over evidence of presidential misconduct to congress. even if the justice department concludes that the president committed a crime, they're not the arbiter in this standard, congress is by their own admission. they have to give the evidence they found to congress, so congress can decide, criminality is one question. high crimes and misdemeanors are another question with another standard. and that means all of the criminal questions, plus questions of abuse of power, plus questions of whether he's a compromised russian asset. >> so we tried to use this time this week before a report comes out -- again, we don't know when that report will be shared from the mueller probe with the attorney general, but we don't expect even when and if that happens for it to be made public. there will be a review process. we're talking about classified information. i was reminded by a former senior intelligence official that robert mueller had access
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to the most sensitive intelligence, not just from american intelligence officials but if he wanted it from our allies, who would have access to other classified information. but some of the questions we have are born from the helsinki moment created by your question. and we've had to swim around in the stream of what has been publicly facing from this president. the public facing conduct certainly makes it legitimate to ask whether he's not acting on some information or some flow of information about what putin would like, a russian friendly american president to do and say? and that's what he did when responding to your question in helsinki. >> that's right. to carol's point, this is something the american public deserves to know. and if you're just simply watching his statements this goes back to the states in the campaign when from where they changed the public forum in cleveland and echoed talking points why russia was involved in afghanistan and most notably time and time again him siding with russia's assertions about
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the 2016 election over the conclusions every u.s. intelligence agency, yes, with helsinki being the sort of pinnacle of that. we're standing in front of the world. he decided to not pick the home team. instead he gave equal weight to what vladimir putin told him. and it is, taking a step back, it remains a remarkable moment or remarkable feeling that time and time again the president and people around him acted in a way that has not dismissed these questions. and here we are march of 2019 still wondering, still wondering -- >> get the answer. >> if this is still happening. bob mueller, we're ready. we're ready. but we don't know if that will be any time soon. whenever this is transmitted to the department of justice, and we believe it will be soonish, there may be another agonizing wait to recognize what he discovered and not just for us to figure out, but most importantly, the american people. >> here you can also include a
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painstaking review of classified information. i mean, coanswer some of the questions we're talking about. mueller could travel some distance towards offering some of what his investigation bore out on the counterintelligence front but that information could simply go from one very opaque, very protective corner of the justice department to another, and what would that review look like, as someone you operated from the highest levels of the justice department? >> it's really true. there's an extreme eye opening now, when is it coming? it's coming any second, coming any second. well, what happens after it does land on bill barr's desk and you have two categories of difg information, national intelligence, which we have to imagine will not be transmitted in public but will go to the leader of the intelligence committees. and then grand jury information. there's a little bit of precedent for revealing that. that is what happened in watergate. there's been some civil rights investigations where the
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department has talked about uncharged conduct. as comey said, public interest in the watch word. but, yeah, barr is going -- there's going to be a lot of constituents there, including the intelligence agencies are going to weigh in on what can be reve revealed and what can't. this will be a real boil-maker for barr because once we know it's there, every day, when is it coming, when is it coming? that's going to be tricky. >> so we're talking about the most sensitive parts of the mueller probe, counterintelligence investigation, the questions that may arise around conduct with russia. the obstruction of justice investigation, which we've also been covering sort of as a separate track, it seems there might be fewer reasons to protect that information. but that may be the most robust and some of the earliest information we learned. republicans are on the record around crimes of obstruction of justice, except pt president was a democrat. let's watch some of the republicans.
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>> he tried to paint himself as a victim when he wasn't. >> the president engaged in a specific pattern and practice of obstruction of justice. >> the law does not stop at 1600 pennsylvania avenue. in our constitutional democracy no one, not even the president, is above the law. >> the president turned the justice system upside down on many occasions for his personal gain. >> the allegations are grave. the investigation is legitimate. and asser takening the truth, whole truth and nothing but the unqualified, unevasive truth, is absolutely critical. >> i can watch that over and over again because i think every one of those men are going to eat those words for breakfast, lurj and dinner in the coming days if they come anywhere short not holding donald trump, a republican president who they serve second in servant, with obstruction of justice. i will be pleasantly surprised if they hold donald trump to the same standards they held bill
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clinton. >> i think from everything we've seen in the last two years, they're not. i think they have all bought it. >> why not? >> the things this guy has done, that donald trump has done and they have not moved on it. even with mccain, the weak type of tweet from mcconnell, just the response from lindsey graham. they don't have a backbone. i don't think they're going to come forth and say oh, yeah, we're going to hold this president accountable. i just don't see it. and the other thing too, another thing i was thinking about how to look at this report and why the public needs to know, a year from now we're going to have elections in 2020. let's not forget, this is a foreign government that interfered in our elections. free and fair elections, the cornerstone of our democracy. the public has to know what happened in 2016 or else how are they supposed to believe in the electoral process? and also the last part about this is mueller has surprised us at every turn. >> he really has. >> we have no idea what's going
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to happen. >> we have no idea what's going to happen but we know the president has sought to obstruct justice. even current and former justice department officials make no secrets that is obvious. what we don't know is what that will look like when mueller turns over the obstruction of justice probe. >> just the public evidence, firing comey, asking him to back off with mike flynn, trying to fire mueller and only failing because his staff refused to carry out a direct order from the president. we know enough to know he at least abuses power. it may not cross the line into a criminal statute. there's a question whether the president skiered his constitutional authority. it can be a crime but bill barr, the attorney general, doesn't think so. it is without a doubt an obstructive abuse of power. what we need to find out is a, any other actions he took, and what was he telling his aides? for example, when he fired comey was he telling people like steve bannon and jared kushner and others, if i get rid of jim comey, it will end this investigation. we know kushner, like trump,
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thought it would make the investigation go away. was trump talking about that as a reason for firing comey? that would be strong evidence of guilt. all of these eggs to be beated by mueller. and that's what we have not any evidence about what was produced and big answer to the report. >> we know he spent over 30 hours, and the justice department told me, robert mueller was never not interested in the obstruction probe. >> i think everything that matt just talked about in terms of how the white house cooperates on this, this is where you're going to see this white house step in and say this is privileged. those conversations are privileged. you can't let that out. so we're such a long way from having the full picture that we've all been really wanting to have for some time but there's not only the barr piece of things but this battle, intelligence review, battle with this white house. they're also saying they're going to do their own report so there's going to be a bigger
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battle for public opinion. even with whatever comes out. then you will have democrats on the hill who have this new power, and are going to ironically use some of the tactics that devin nunez used with the clinton investigation to get whatever information out of the justice department that democrats feel they're not getting. for instance, if there are no charges, they can say well, let's look at that discussion. we want documents that have everything to do with the discussions about not bringing any charges, things like that. i think you're going to see a white house in the meantime just completely dig in. >> is that what -- >> my reporting backs that up. if there's stuff in there they don't like, there will be kuf use of privilege -- >> would you guess people like emmitt flood and new white house counsel -- >> the latest white house counsel is where this will be centered. they're going to be very bullish as to what they can do. i also think beyond that we know from rudy giuliani and others they're preparing their counterrebuttal. they obviously haven't seen the
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mueller report yet but they're work wog alongside, a parallel report, they aim to release around the same time as mueller does to the doj. >> there will be rebuttal findings that were borne out of interviews with people like don mcghan, another white house aide. >> i think it's possible this is being relayed. something happened before the release of the report. the justice department was clear it would be released mid-may. we're past mid-may, i don't know if that was released. >> mid-march. mid-march. >> there were reports mid-february. >> i don't know if it's just taking longer because things often take longer at the yujuste department. it's a building full of lawyers. they like to check every box. but something is happening and it's possible the president is making those claims and bill barr is engaged in a fight over what gets released. >> harry, do you want last word on that? >> i think bill barr will have the final word.
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i think he will let him see it but i don't think he will stand too much in the way for executive privilege. point one. secondly, all of the fights including the one cummings is talking about, if they're waged in the court for congress, it will take a while and that puts congress at a disadvantage. third, just in general on the obstruction piece, if the narrative that mueller releases said there's obstruction, barr can't really counterman that. if there's a definite story that comes out and says there was obstruction, i'm not going to indict, that changes the dynamic overnight, i think. >> and we're going to turn to this other front after the break when we will bring you the latest on the congressional investigations into the trump white house and its advisers, including news today that could spell more trouble for jared kushner. also ahead, the president's war against war hero john mccain is getting panned across the board but trump shows no signs of letting it go. and the biden campaign contemplates picking a run mate.
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go online today. if you need any more proof that donald trump's problems extend well beyond the mueller, here you go. house democrats are not playing. late this afternoon elijah cummings sent a letter to the white house counsel accusing of administration of, quote, obstructing the committee's work, threatening, quote, alternative means to obtain information and demanding documents related to jared kushner and ivanka trump.
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among the concerns, cummings said kushner revealed his client's use of the whatsapp messaging service as part of his official white house communications with foreign leaders. carol and the table are all back. carol, you've done a lot of reporting with this and entanglements with foreign leaders in the middle east. this seems like it was a looming crisis. >> yes, what we know is jared kushner not only used whatsapp but tried to establish other back channels. there's foreign leaders and been a concern before he entered the white house among intelligence officials there was going to be some sort of nefarious exchanging of whatever, whether it's information or that he would get caught giving classified -- having a classified exchange on an insecure line. what's interesting about whatsapp is everyone knows it's not necessarily the most secure one if you want to use an
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encrypted app. there's question why you would choose to use that one if you were going to go that route? and then in particular when it comes to the kushners' relationship with crown prince of saudi arabia, if you want to just look at one narrow relationship that he had where there's been concerns about him exchanging either messages on whatsapp or other channels of communication, you know. i think there's like a public records piece to this. there's like a national security piece to this. and there's an intelligence piece to it. it may sound i think to the american public like some small thing or who cares where he's communicating, but it's a big deal. >> it's a huge deal. carol just laid down sort of the anatomy of the scandal and she's right, this is a multilayered national security scandal. the intelligence community has had concerns about jared kushner since before the president was inaugurated.
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jared kushner was known to have tried to create a back channel for his communications with russia. his impulses, his instincts have always been to go around, not work through, the u.s. government. when the khashoggi killing took place and the white house was toeing the crown prince's line on the killing, at one moment donald trump even saying, it could have been rogue killers. there were questions about where the message rogue killers came from, because it came straight from the crown prince's pr operation. we now have information from jared kushner's own lawyers he's been chatting with him on whatsapp all along. . >> completely. this is 100 times more serious than the conduct that trump and michael flynn, for that matter, used to say on the campaign trail justified locking hillary clinton up. there's extra, much more brave aspect of the be possible motives and compromise of
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kushner. just combine this as you said was the fact everybody didn't want to give kushner security clearance, and there's real reason. we don't know what it is but it has to do with some kind of compromise or terrible judgment on his part, all the way up even knowing who he was, you had chief of staff and white house counsel saying we can't give this guy clearance. he got it anyway. combine whatever bond that must be with the fact he's doing this cavalierly and going around intelligence agencies, that's a scandal. >> yes, matt, it's worth pulling these different pieces apart and trying to understand how the now-democratic run committee may try to reassemble them. i remember this great reporting in "the new york times" from december 8th, the wooing of jared kushner, how the saudis got a friend in the white house and from david kirkpatrick, ben hubbard, mark mazzetti. this piece stuck out. i think i remember talking about it on the show at the time. they reported it was around the
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time of the white house visit in march 2017 that senior officials in the state department of the pentagon began to worry about the one-on-one communications between prince moexhammed, know to favor the online service whatsapp, and mr. kushner. the concerns at least in the intelligence community, i'm not as familiar with the specific concerns where the state department and pentagon, but i would imagine being the other sort of national security agencies who try to track and understand the relationship between a foreign power like saudi arabia and the united states that there was concern these messages were encrypted and they could be last forever. >> there's nothing inherently wrong with using whatsapp as a communications tool with a foreign government official if, number one, you're complying with the records act and sharing that information with others in the government. and number two, your motives aren't up for question. the two are related. if you're not sharing things with people in the government, if you're hiding things from the records, it might be because you
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have questionable motivations. and this story, this letter from cummings today, he said jared kushner's lawyer abbe lowell told him kushner takes screen shots of conversations and sends them to e-mails to preserve them. why is jared kushner's personal defense attorney saying that? this should be the white house counsel's office. >> that's a great, great point. >> especially a couple of weeks after kushner's attorney was out saying that jared's security clearance had gone through regular channels when that wasn't the case. it seemed like he said that because jared lied to him. how do we know jared didn't lie here? the second in terms of motives, one of the same reporters, david kirkpatrick who wrote the story, the story in "the new york times" today, at the same time jared was meeting with mbs, right before that his brother was at a saudi investment conference that mbs attended seeking investments for his personal business, a business jared used to be on the board of. jared's motivations are tangled up with self-ambition, with his
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own finances. there's a reason why they're questioned about whether he's sharing all of this information with the rest of the intelligence community and government. >> let me read from abbe lowell's letter to chairman cummings. and you're right about how bizarre it is that we're getting our information about a senior white house adviser, the senior white house adviser in charge of middle east peace, not for nothing, from his personal defense attorney. when you or staff asked about mr. kushner's use of any communications app, i specifically said i did not know that was a topic to be discussed at our meeting and the best place to ask your questions was to the white house. i never said his communications through any app was with foreign leaders or officials, i said he's used those communications with some people and i did not specify who they were. we're down the rabbit hole when the criminal defense attorney is protecting his exposure to the chairman of the now very powerful democratic oversight committee. >> that's not the most
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reassuring statement. >> everyone's got a lawyer. >> yep. there are big concerns from the beginning. first in the early days, kushner was freelancing on this foreign policy stuff. that led to rex tillerson. some of these seem sanctioned internally but there are concerns in the intelligence agency about what exactly is he saying? in this whatsapp screen shot method i can't imagine is looked upon particularly favorably among those protecting the nation's secrets. it also points to again -- we can go on and on about hypocrisy we see in the white house but it's not just whatsapp communications, it's the home server ivanka trump and jared kushner used. let's remember the 2016 election, private e-mail server, that came up once or twice. >> her e-mails. >> i think it points to the cavalier behavior and double standard we're seeing from the white house in particular from jared kushner, who seems to have existed in a place where he can
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flout the rules time and time again. >> you have a family, a criminal family who thinks they're above the law. and here's the thing though i want to say about cummings, he's not a partisan warrior. he really believes in his constitutional duty and what we're seeing now is what the american public asked for in november, to be a check on this administration. and now kushner and the trumps and everybody else is learning they will not be above the law. >> harry, quick, last word, not for nothing, we know that the cia had grave concerns about jared kushner even having access to classified information and the only reason he has any information to chat about on whatsapp or anywhere else is because donald trump overruled the cia. >> that's right. there's a scandal here, by the way, that there was a whistle-blower who tried to put it straight, she got rolled by a political actor and then it went all the way and it was remarkable that knowing who kushner is the white house
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counsel and kelly, chief of staff, when that information comes out what it was that trump overruled, i think it will be eyebrow raising. >> to say the least. harry litman, thank you for spending time with us. after the break, has donald trump finally done it? has he at long last found an issue where even suck-ups and sycophants can't back him up? php
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he's not my kind of guy because he went to vietnam? he got shot down and wasn't to hell as a prisoner? that's not your kind of guy? who is your kind of guy, friends who falsified records so they didn't have to go? i think that's the answer. i think he sees all of us who went to vietnam as fools. we were the suckers. we were the stupid ones. we were the ones who didn't have resources to get out of the draft. he had resources and get out of it. show us your bone spurs.
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let's see those x-rays. >> add trump's x-rays next to the tax returns to the list of things public wants to see, powerful rebuke from bob kerrey, vietnam veteran himself. and while responses from sitting republican elected officials is not been as scathing, trump may be on an island, even within his own administration. politico -- for the most part don't want to touch this with a ten-foot pole. a current senior white house official said white house aides are making an effort not to discuss it in polite company. another white house official, bemoaned the tawdry distraction. it does not seem to be a good waste of time to talk about a dead man or former employee of the white house. i offered a theory. what's yours? john costa, why are they doing
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this? >> there are all of those examples of republicans gently walking away from president trump's comments. based in my reporting today, the reality is quite different. sure, is there grumbling about the president's comments? yes. there's also wide prevent acceptance. if you turn on fox news or go to different outlets and twitter on conservative personalities, they're saying president trump has a point and the republican leadership in their statement are not calling out the president by name, only praising senator mccain. it underscored the president's continued power in this party. >> be robert costa, it's maddening for people with souls and consciouses but whences, bue reality check when the president did what he did yesterday. >> is anyone stepping up to challenge him in a republican primary in 2020? he lost the room because some
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people in the military were unsettled, silent. some divorces, top republican officials, say the president is someone who's so popular and has the base in his hands, they don't see any political cost for him at this moment within his own party and in a general election, he has such a base-centric strategy, he may alarm general election voters but he obtains that republican base. >> just so sort of add another proof point to what bob costas is reporting, here's the president a few moments ago in an interview with maria bart roma. >> he said he can't punch back. i know you punch back. but he's dead. >> i don't talk about it. i just answered the question. i didn't bring it up. you brought it up. >> you talked about it this week. >> when i went out yesterday to the scrum, they asked me the question. when they ask me the question, i answer the question. you people bring it up. i'm not a fan. he was horrible what he did with repeal and replace. what he did to the republican
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party and to the nation and to sick people that could have had great health care was not good. so i'm not a fan of john mccain and that's fine. >> wow. he's so pretty, small and shallow. he can't let it go. it's all about him. yesterday when he was in ohio, he did bring it up. he brought it up on his own and went for five minutes talking to john mccain. >> we got that. let's watch that again. >> a lot of people are asking, because they love me and they ask me about a man named john mccain, and if you want, i can tell you about -- should i or not? yes? yes? >> they ask me because they love me. it's all about him. every time. and john mccain what, died seven months ago. he's not here to defend himself, like she was saying. you're punching down on someone who passed away. and the message he's sending to veterans is that your service doesn't matter, it doesn't matter if you're a war hero. and he's the commander in chief.
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i think it shows he's not fit to be commander in chief. >> robert costa, what about sort of the compendium of questions this battle with the deceased american hero and now five-day-long war with george conway, the husband of one of his most senior advisers, are reupping questions about his mental competence, any concerns about that? >> mr. conway has raised those questions. we've seen in politics, i'm always careful as a reporter, to raise those sorts of questions because i'm not a medical professional, and we saw in 1964 with barry goldwater's campaign, these questions about mental fitness have been part of our politics for a long time. republicans though who are not medical professionals, they do wonder about the president's conduct and they wonder is this a president who could be controlled at all, can he be guided in any way? there's really a meekness, i perceive, in my conversations with republican officials. they don't know what to do. they don't know how to explain
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his behavior. they don't if anything they say will guide him towards the center or mainstream and they feel he's so popular, they will get dragged along with him to the riptide, however it winds up >> it's so interesting, when bob corker was in the senate, he made an effort to raise this issue. he held a hearing to try to limit the nuclear authority and powers of the american president. he talked about the white house's adult day care. he questioned donald trump's fitness and capacity to serve. but as robert costa is saying, the political reality kept others from seeing the same thing, from saying the same thing. >> that's right. look, there's some frustration in the white house and on his burgeoning re-election campaign team that he went to ohio yesterday, where the earl zwrajs of the re-election, ohio is a key state for him. his events tap the economy and the support for the military, but all of the headlines are john mccain. there is consternation in the
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building about that. but there is, as bob said, nothing going to change. he's exactly the same guy who came down the escalator in trump tower in june 2015 and honestly the same guy for years and years before that perpetuated birtherism and so on. he's not going to change or grow in the moment. he might be on good behavior for a couple of weeks, which he was in the final fortnight of the 2014 campaign, he largely stayed on message, but those moments are few and far between. until there was some sort of real uprising from the republican leadership, it's hard to suggest he would take that message. yes, right now we still have -- it's not bob corker anymore but we have mitt romney, we have a few senators who are willing to speak out on certain issues, more foreign policy than domestic issues but the base is still enthralled with this president and the republicans there are not willing to threaten him for fear of losing them. >> robert costa, the way this has sort of hurt the president is the insider account, the anonymous op-ed in "the new york
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times," the details provided to bob woodward and your league in his book "fear: fire and fury," the way these manifest themselves, bob woodward said the truth emerges. they are sort of due for another kind of inside hit. any concerns people inside disapprove of this conduct? >> there's always people inside who voice disapproval, yet let's be real, they still choose to work there, whether it's on the campaign or inside the white house. so private complaints really only go so far in any realm of life. you either choose to be there or you choose to go, depending on someone's conduct. what i do see as a real concern, nicolle, about possible obstruction of justice findings by be rot mueller, that report is on the horizon. they think the fight with george conway, the fights with the late senator mccain, those are distractions. the real conduct they're worried about is whatever mr. mueller may have found. >> tell me more about that, is
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that based on public reporting, about former white house don mcgahn spending more 30 hours, is that based on any indication they have from the justice department about what will be in this report? >> it's based on their conversations with friends, former officials, who have been witnesses, who have been interviewed by robert mueller and his team. that's their only window into the mueller investigation, talking privately to the lawyers who are familiar with the conversations mueller's had with different witnesses and they've pieced together a portrait of this mueller team that's certainly interested in how the president has handled the investigation from the start in 2017. there are less concerns whether it's right or not, about possible russian interference and collusion findings by mr. mueller. the president's actions with the attorney general at the time, jeff sessions, his tweets about robert mueller, the different exchanges he's had privately. those all have the antenna up inside of the white house. could those be a political problem if they're detailed? >> feels like a headline from a
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reporter who knows. robert costa, thank you so much for spending time with us. after the break, the rare move joe biden might be ready to make now just three months until the first democratic debate of 2020. mocratic debate of 2020 openturning 50 opens theuard. door to a lot of new things... like now your doctor may be talking to you about screening for colon cancer. luckily there's me, cologuard. the noninvasive test you use at home. it all starts when your doctor orders me.
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joe biden is looking for his opening. his strategy is mulling options that would make his bid stand out in an already packed field of candidates. one of them would be picking an trern woman right out of the gate, the stakes for him are high, such moves would amount to a big play that would send a tigal that the seriousness of the election and could potentially appeal to vifts and voters. the football is back and i'm dying to know what you think.
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>> i have so many thoughts. i'm really biassed, i love stacy abrams. she did amazingly well in georgia, i think it was stolen from her and i think it is great that he is talking to her, i think every one of them should be talking to stacey abrams. black women and women in general will play a big role in the election, not just in the democratic primary, but also in the general election. this would be a bold move, an unprecedented move, but we're living in a time when donald trump is president, i think it is okay to have ease conversations. she is not a shrinking violet. she will make the decision of
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her own. >> i love stacy abrams. i think it would be rare, presump outand decemb anand des same time. i think it shows how worried he is about the concerns people have both about his age and his record, especially on criminal justice reform. i think if he is going to win the nomination he has to win it on his own. she would be a great vice presidential pick. i think if he says he would tap her it would raise some questions. >> do voters want something gimmickly. he has a lot going on, he
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doesn't necessarily need to do a gimmick. he is very out spoken. we have paid attention to him over the years. i feel like while we don't vote separately there is something in the primary where they're vetted in different ways. if he was to come out and have a vp pick with him at that time, who knows if that person will stand the test of time. it just seems out of the box and it under scores the point that they're very acutely aware of the weaknesses that he has as a candidate. but he is also questioned, you know, whether or not this type of thing, serving one term, is the right thing to do. >> let me just defend him a little bit here. in 2008, johnson campaign
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considered joe lieberman as a running mate. what we were trying to do at the time, and we were sensitive to everything you're saying, althoughly lindsey graham leaked it and the republicans went berzerk. in hindsight that would have been the best thing he could have done, but there is the idea of running differently is not terrible -- i applaud them. it would be a big risk, but no risk and no reward. >> ted cruz tried it in 2016. >> he is the wheeny of all wheenys. i do think there are a lot of concerns around this. >> are we being hand ringery
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media people? >> we might be, but -- >> but it has never been do before. not really, the cruz thing was so late in the game, it didn't really have an impact. and it would be, you're right, in the age of trump trying something new and different, instead of reassuring against his weaknesses, i think that will be the case. he is trying to diverse if i the ticket. it also does, he has questions with his record he needs to address. >> okay, we have to sneak in our last break, we'll be right back. . or their new friend. or your giant nephews and their giant dad. or a horse.
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my thanks today to my guests, that does it for our hour, thank you so much for watching, they're to our friends in washington for welcoming us here. time now for "mtp daily" with chuck todd. >> hi, nicole. did you bring the rain? >> i didn't bring the rain or the mueller report, either. >> no, you didn't, you can bring that tomorrow. >> if it is thursday, break out the slicker and t eer because w hurricane mueller watch. good evening, i'm chuck todd here in washington. welcome to "meet the press daily."

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