tv Deadline White House MSNBC March 26, 2019 1:00pm-2:00pm PDT
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we're learning details on the mueller report. a justice department official telling nbc news it will take, quote, week, not months, for barr to make a version of mueller's original report public. that official stressing there are no plans to give a copy of the report to the white house ahead of that public release. this critical update coming as we learn in brand-new reporting from the "washington post" new details about robert mueller's refusal to render any judgment on whether donald trump obstructed justice with his repeated attempts to thwart the special counsel probe.
from the report, "during a briefing at the justice department about three weeks ago, special counsel robert mueller made a revelation that those supervising his work were not expecting, the person familiar with the matter said, he would not offer a conclusion on whether he believed president trump sought to obstruct justice. the decision, an official on monday, said the special counsel's office came to entirely on its own, left a gap rife for political exploitation. after accepting mueller's report, attorney general barr and deputy attorney general rosenstein who were among those briefed on march 5th made the call that mueller would not, determining that the evidence was insufficient to allege that trump had obstructed justice." and it's the obstruction investigation that persists as the hanging chad of the probe. primarily, because mueller reached no conclusion and because the people who then took that decision into their own hands were the very people the special counsel regulation was designed to protect a sensitive
investigation from. as mike schmidt from "the new york times" explains today. >> part of the reason the special counsel is there is to give the public the assurance that an investigator who's not politically tied to the person under investigation is doing the work and following the facts. and in this case, that person, mueller, said, i can't come to a determination on this and kicked it up to the folks above him who are the political appointees. >> and now there's reason to suspect that the mueller report could contain an obstruction case that's damning enough that even with that incredibly high bar that an obstruction case against a sitting president must pass, robert mueller for his part refused to exonerate donald trump and brand-new nbc news reporting reveals it was the obstruction investigation all along that worried the president
most. "donald trump's lawyers including the ones who don't appear on television who practice federal criminal law, never worried their client would be --" for martin and jane raskin, a husband and wife duo from miami who came aboard trump's legal team last april, the real threat was on jbstructs of justice. that's where we start today with favorite reporters and friends. davlin barrett with the "washington post" with the great reporting we led with. matt miller, a former chief spokesman at the department of justice. former democratic congresswoman donna edwards. axios political reporter alexi mccammen. jeremy bash is back, former chief of staff at both the cia and pentagon. devlin, your reporting catching the attention of everybody here and i'm sure at the jus sttice department and white house. tell us about it. >> we're told, fairly recently, the mueller report will likely not be made public for a number
of weeks. that gives us a little bit of a window into how this work is going. obviously, there's a lot to review and there's a couple different steps they have to go through. first of all, being grand jury information, and so, but now we know that's likely to take weeks and, you know, that will be an interesting time period because people are going to keep trying to figure out what really happened until that document is out there. >> and from your reporting, we read this section where you take us inside the room, essentially, where robert mueller told the senior doj officials, the political appointees, the new attorney general barr, with a known point of view on obstruction, and rod rosenstein, a known witness in the special counsel investigation, that he would not reach a conclusion on obstruction. tell us what happened next. >> well, we're told that that was received with surprise by both rosenstein and barr. and that's interesting because barr is fairly new to this process, but rod rosenstein has been there from day one. rod rosenstein started this
process. he appointed the special counsel. so it's interesting to me that people who are talking to us say that rod rosenstein was also surprised by that statement by mueller. and the other part that's interesting to me, and i don't think we really understand enough to really know what it means yet is that mueller said he would not reach a conclusion on that. i'm very curious because that makes it sound like a deliberate choice on mueller's part. not that he was stuck. not that he was, you know, just at wit's end, but he would not reach a conclusion. >> you also -- sorry. >> no, i just -- >> you also -- sorry, keep going. you also add a little detail that was not clear yesterday. there's been some mixed analysis. some people saying that barr went in and did what mueller could not do. and it doesn't seem that that's the case. i think this is the distinction you're starting to make. it was that mueller would not do it. now, is there any -- you describe a gap that the political appointees went in and sought to fill. but mueller refusing to
exonerate trump speaks to what may have been a pretty devastating obstruction of justice case that they assembled and i know the barr summary, itself, references all of the obstruction in full view. even the barr summary acknowledges that there was obstruction that we don't even know about. >> well, that's true, but barr also is very forceful in his language, saying that the acts don't meet any of the three prongs legally necessary to level an obstruction accusation. barr is obviously very forceful in how he feels about this, but we really don't understand yet is mueller equivocating here, or does he see some more complex process that should play out that doesn't involve his office? that's what we don't know, and that's really what everyone's trying to figure out right now. >> i know robert mueller, robert mueller doesn't equivocate. >> yeah, he doesn't e ququivoca and doesn't shy away from hard decisions. i don't think he was afraid to make this hard decision.
i used to be a spokesperson for the justice department, did spinning on the justice department's behalf, including devlin. two major criticisms of what bill barr did, one, he inserted himself into the brprocess whene didn't need to. a decision that robert mueller declined to make for a legitimate reason. think it's safe to say it wasn't because he was afraid to make it. two, he did it hastily, over a 48-hour period when he got his report. the spin coming from the justice department, one, we were told this three weeks ago main not ve seen the report but had three weeks to think about it. two, this came as a surprise and that the line that they use in the letter was it left the decision to the attorney general. what we're not hearing from the justice department, i think it's telling that they can't tell us the answer to this, is what did bob mueller expect to happen? why didn't he make this decision? was he expecting the attorney general to make it, recommending someone else at the justice department make it or leaving it to congress? if the justice department had an answer to the question that didn't make it look like the attorney general had stepped in
to make the decision on his own, you can bet they'd be giving it out to reporters right now. >> and the barr -- look, barr undeniably has a perception problem. the special counsel, crafted, created, inspired by the idea you take the most sensitive criminal investigations, take them out of politics and put them in the hands of an unimpeachable individual. that was robert mueller. that investigation was walled off from political influence everywhere except from the oval office from the president who tweeted and harassed and cajoled. then at the very end, they hand the fragile pure baby to a political appointee in the attorney general very aggressive views on obstruction of justice and a deputy attorney general who's a witness in the investigation. >> so the reference you make to the very aggressive views is the critical point here. it's the memo that bill barr wrote before he was tapped for this job that he wrote unsolicited to the justice department saying the president shouldn't even be questioned about the lines of obstruction inquiry that he knew that bob mueller was pursuing.
it's always seemed to me quite a coincidence that of all the lawyers in the country who are qualified to be attorney general that donald trump picked the one who had taken that position and argued it to the justice department. he thought he was getting an attorney general who would help him out in this investigation and bill barr at the hearing said, trust me, i will follow the rules. i will follow the law. and at least republican senators were willing to trust him and what we saw last week is why a the of people on that sigh didn't want to trust him. they were afraid he'd do something like this. >> let's just call it, our viewers know enough about all the players to understand who we're talking about, no way donald trump understood the nuances of the obstruction statute. emmet flood probably did. the white house counsel went in with much more aggressive views than the people who had overseen the investigation before them and their biggest problem is don mcgahn, first white house counsel, spent 30 hours testifying in the obstruction of investigation. >> emmet flood understood the details. donald trump understood this is someone who took my side and hoped in the way he hoped jeff
sessions would intervene on his behalf and didn't, hoped bill barr would intervene on his behalf. up until last friday, bill barr hadn't given us any reason to think he'd do anything inappropriate. the last moment, we get him intervening, putting his thumb on the scale and giving the president a talking point that bob mueller wasn't able to and that's that he was cleared on obstruction of justice. bob mueller wouldn't give him that. bill barr did. >> jeremy? >> well, i think matt's exactly right and the sentence from the audition memo that bill barr authored before he was nominated that jumps off the page is the following. the constitution, he wrote, places no limit on the president's authority to act on matters which concern him or his own conduct. that's a statement from bill barr's audition letter. the constitution places no limits. now think about that. we live in a democracy. we live in a republic in which the president has limitless power. that's bill barr's view of the office of the president. and the context of presidential authority over his own conduct. so it should have surprised nobody that when he got the file from bob mueller, he said any
criminal intent impugn to the president is actually just presidential intent and under our constitution, presidential intent is limitless. so, therefore, no crime was committed. that is a massive power to the presidency and expensive doctrine in terms of presidential power and i think it needs to be scrutinized. >> we know bob mueller doesn't share that view because if he did, the line, "we do not exonerate donald trump," would not appear in the mueller report that was quoted in the barr summary. >> i've heard some analysts say actually rebellion, in some ways what he said was i can't make a finding about criminal intent because i haven't interviewed the president and let's put aside for the question of why he wasn't able to subpoena the president and get an sbrintervi with the president. he didn't and he didn't pursue that end. but therefore, he couldn't make a judgment on intent which is critical for the obstruction statute, but yet he was willing to say i cannot exonerate the president. h it's his way of i think
telegraphing there's more to see here. >> alexi, the president has leapfrogged over what is likely an obstruction report that is at a minimum embarrassing, at a maximum, i think you're right, there may have been some dis-septembdissent inside the mueller probe about how to resolve this which is why they didn't. where do the sort of politics around the release of the report go? justice department making a point today of saying the white house won't see this before the public does. that seems to be an acknowledgement that they're digging a hole for themselves politically in terms of the optics here. >> right. it's no secret that donald trump obviously wants to see this thing and already feels vindicated by it claiming vengeance. i think that's the interesting part of the politics around this. he has gone from claiming vindication before any of us had even known what was going on at the mueller investigation, to having it end, having this very quick sort of victory dance which is now turning into -- the trump campaign released that list of people they want to bar from networks because they say they're so unfair to him. they're trying to shift the
politics of this by exerting more control over folks in a way that maybe he felt he was lacking throughout this entire investigation. and now that it's over, it's kind of a race to the bottom for him to say this is not just a witch hunt, you were all wrong, and we're going to set up this dichotomy in which democrats and everyone who supports them is not telling you the truth and i've been telling you the truth for two-plus years and i've done nothing wrong. and i think that is just a really bad sort of slippery slope for us to go into, especially heading into the 2020 election when there are so many senate democrats running who may have been an solbsolved frommih to talk about the mueller report. because they're in the senate, they have to talk about this mess for as long as donald trump drags it out. he loves a political fight. who knows how long this will last. >> i think, obviously, this has a phase two and the phase two is going to be the other ideal investigations out of the southern district of new york. it's going to be the attorney general investigation out of new york. it's going to be congressional scrutiny of other aspects of the trump organization and financial dealings. and it's ultimately going to be
congressional scrutiny of the actual report, the underlying documents after all, how fast did those fbi 302s in the hillary clinton e-mail investigation go running up to the hill as soon as jim jordan, other republicans requested it? there's a lot more investigating to do on this matter. >> donna, it would seem that if democrats had learned on sunday in the barr summary of the mueller report, and it's worth saying that that is all we have. the barr summary which does not quote a single complete sentence from robert s. mueller's two-year investigation, all that democrats have is the barr summa summary of the mueller report which in it has a nonconclusion around obstruction. it would seem that -- i think that -- you've said it, everyone, democrats have to walk and chew gum. they have to talk about health care. they have to talk about pocketbook issues. have to talk about the economy. they have to talk about donald trump's ongoing abuses of power. a trump alley told me today, if mueller didn't catch him in the russia probe, give him until the end of the week, donald trump is sure to abuse his power by then.
democrats, with an obstruction conclusion from robert mueller seem to have an obligation to at least look at that, vet it themselves and see if there's a political conclusion that robert mueller couldn't reach in a criminal context. >> well, i think that's exactly right, and it's why democrats have -- the chairmen have demanded this report by april 2nd. what happens after april 2nd and they don't get it, i mean, we might be into a subpoena phase in terms of the report. i think it -- barr's summary, to me, raised far more questions than we actually had with his original letter announcing that the report was available. and so i think it's incumbent on democrats to examine the report, the underlying documents, for the public to see that. robert mueller was reporting to the public, he wasn't reporting to barr to offer a summary of that report. and it -- really, a summary where we can't even test the details because we haven't seen the report. and i think, you know, whether
this comes out in one piece or in drips or drabs, it will come out and i think the president is digging a hole for himself because he's declared himself fully exonerated when clearly the report, even the half sentences that we have, show that he's not completely exonerated. >> it devlin, does your reporting -- i read your excellent story today, everybody should jump online to the "washington post" website and read it if they haven't, but does your story break nany new ground in terms of what it concluded? we talked about how the barr summary alludes to flashpoints reported by your news organization and others, the attempted firing of robert mueller, the efforts to get jeff sessions to unrecuse himself, the firing of jim comey. there's a reference in that summary to obstruction conduct we don't know about. has your reporting unearthed anything on that front? >> no, and i think what they wrestled with most were the
legal questions. what's been described to me so far is that it's not so much about the facts of the case. the facts of the case are largely understood, even if there are some incidents that we haven't heard yet. they're similar to others is what's been -- what's been described to me. but i do think that from everything we're picking up, it does seem as if there was a genuine legal debate that went on and on and on about obstruction and the president and clearly, you know, did not come to a clean answer, at least. >> didn't come to a clean answer, and, you know, all the sort of murmurings and language suggest it's anything but a clean bill of health in terms of the president's conduct, that a political resolution may be different. >> yeah, takes a lot of chutzpah to come out and claim exoneration when there's a report after a two-year investigation that literally sasa says it does not exonerate -- >> those words. the words had to be important to somebody to get the words in there and in the summary.
>> they knew with what the president was going to do at the enof this, made it clear he didn't have the ability to do. i doubt he thought his own boss was going to give the president the help he wanted. that's the thing that came toas surprise to them. i'm heartened to see the justice department saying it will be weeks, not months because the longer this goes, the longer this headline that the attorney general gave the president is allowed to stand because we can't see the underlying evidence and the congress can't see the underlying evidence. the thing that worries me is the white house has not taken off the table, in fact, sarah sanders raised it affirmatively yesterday, they may assert executive privilege over pieces of this report. the pieces of that report that would cover are the sbrir inter about the obstruction of justice inquiry. the attorney general gave it to him, it's the best headline he'll ever get. i would not be surprised at all if they assert executive privilege over that part of the report and drag out its release for months if not some time into next year. >> speaking of headlines, you have thoughts about the other big headline on the conspiracy. >> look, on the conspiracy
issue, i accept bob mueller's conclusion that no federal criminal law was broken by the president's own conduct. let's review that conduct. the president requested russian assistance. he receive ed russian assistanc. he benefited from russian assistance. maybe if you request a guy to rob a bank then you -- the guy robs a bank and you get the money, and you reward that guy, maybe that's not conspiracy. i don't know. it sure sounds like troubling conduct. and i think the key issue is the national security one. it started as a national security investigation. we now know that no federal criminal laws were broken, but i think we have to wonder, what are the national security implications of a president who requested, received, benefited from, and rewarded russian conduct? and what leverage does russia now have over american foreign policy? >> and do you think it's striking that robert mueller, and we're going to talk about this later in the show, makes a point even in the summary that we've seen of not exonerating vladimir putin, in fact, that two-year investigation yielded new and more detail with real specific detail about exactly
what the rugssians are doing. i have not heard a peep out of the white house about wanting to understand the russian interference campaign or the russian hacking effort. >> that's right. and bob mueller may have been thinking to himself, gee, i wish there were a federal law that criminalizes conduct because it's wrong and shouldn't happen, but i can't find one. and maybe this is an issue for congress. maybe there should be a law that criminalizes what the presidential campaign did and the reward they've given in foreign policy. >> all right, devlin, congrats on your scoop today. thank you for spending some time with us. when we come back, the only thing more dangerous than donald trump in a defensive crouch may be donald trump on an emboldened warpath. we'll go inside his war against his perceived political enemies. also ahead, robert mueller has the kboogoods on vladimir p as jeremy and i have been discussing. the russian president not spared by the special counsel, but donald trump yet to turn his fire on putin. so how's the mueller report playing in moscow? and donald trump's intelligence. this is a serious segment, folks. another top national security official who packed his bags and
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simple. easy. awesome. a source close to the president tells me if you think donald trump is dangerous to himself while he was under investigation by robert mueller, wait until you see how he behaves now that he believes he's been cleared by him. donald trump today sending out a menacing threat via twitter. "the mainstream media is under fire, being scorned all over the world as being corrupt
and fake. for two years they've pushed the russian collusion delusion when they always knew there was no
collusion. they truly are the
enemy of the people and the real opposition party." the president of the united states also threatening to investigate top national security and law enforcement officials. >> i think what happened is a disgrace. i don't believe our country should allow this ever to happen again. this will never happen again. we cannot let it ever happen again. it went very high up and it started fairly low, but with instructions from the high up. this should never happen to a president again. >> it's all part of a grand scheme. the "washington post" reporting, "the strategy currently loose and informal is still in its infancy but all signs indicate a trump operation seeking vengeance and accountability from critics it says maligned the president over the investigation into whether his campaign or associates conspired with russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election." an adviser who talked to the president said trump has an appetite, sure does, to see his
critics investigated. in the "the new york times," how norm busting this, "the approach if it lasts contrasts with those of other presidents who survived major scandals. after the iran contra affair, president ronald reagan happily dropped the subject and focused on arms control talks with the soviet union and other issues. after being acquitted at his senate impeachment trial, president clinton was just as eager to move on to social security and other initiatives." the panel's still here. don, he doesn't have anything else except vengeance. that's all he's got. what is he going to do? >> infrastructure week. >> right, let's go back to infrastructure week. this is all he is. >> it is. the president doesn't have the ability to let go. we already know that. so he'll continue and he's going to go down the list, nicolle, you'll be in jail, you know -- >> don't say that. >> the panelists, you'll all be in jail, too. but i think the president just doesn't have any self-control and he won't be able to hold back on going after people who he believes have maligned him
and the problem with that is the strategy is that the american public looks at it and say, where's my jobs, you're taking away my health care, and by the way, what about that infrastructure week? and, you know, so i think, you know, the president is going down the wrong path here but it's no great surprise that he's doing this. >> we also don't have to look too far to president's lack of negotiating skills. he doesn't even like negotiating or compromising with folks in his own party. why would he suddenly come across the aisle with democrats to work on legislation that the american people might want that democrats are putting forward that he thinks could be helpful maybe even in re-election if, as he's saying, after two years they've just been coming after him for something totally untrue? i cannot see him suddenly ext d extending an olive branch and saying, oh, let's get the middle class tax cut i promised the week before the midterm elections done by reaching across the aisle to democrats. i don't think he has any interest in legislating and that's something that congress often reminds him of and certainly something he's not really going to be focused on heading into the 2020 re-election campaign. >> one of the reasons that individual 1 has to adopt the strategy is because individual 1
is still under investigation. and so he has to be obstructee, has to throw sands in the gears of that investigation, whatever follow-on investigations there are in the congress. it isn't just him doing a victory lap or touchdown spiking the football, he's actually continuing to try to obstruct those follow-on investigations into his own conduct and he wants to stay on the offensive and i think that has to be viewed -- i think through the prism of whether or not that's appropriate presidential conduct. and i think we have to have a national conversation about whether or not a president can obstruct justice. that's sort of what was teed up in the barr audition memo and the barr summary memo and think it's still a very live issue. >> do you think that's why mueller left it unresolved so we would have that conversation? >> i think it does -- i don't know if that was his motivation but tees up a critical question, one which frankly congress has to opine on and weigh in on here. i hope republicans would as well because it goes beyond this president or this presidency. this goes to the institution of
the presidency, to our constitution. if we give a green light to presidents of the united states to obstruct investigations into their own conduct and say the constitution has no limits on a president, then we're going to have a democrat in that white house and republicans are going to be crying foul in a number of years. >> i want to ask you a serious question. people have likened his affinity when he goes around the world stage, he just, oh, he just happens to like the dictators, oh, why is that? he doesn't like the western leaders. he doesn't like, you know, clinton, bush, bush, obamas, former close friends and allies, people like merkel, the french, the british, the germans. he doesn't like any of them. he only likes vladimir putin, mbs. >> kim jong-un. >> kim jong-un. he sends him love letters. i've not heard of him sending any correspondence to any western leaders. is the other half of the serious national conversation is he's made an enemies list? i heard from former national security officials who are never
hype bo hyperbolic. they take a long view about the strength of the country. i heard from three of them in the last 48 hours that this in some way, the taunts, the sort of signaling that he's going to investigate the investigators, signaling that the enemies are the reporters that covered the republican-led, republican-instigated, republican-managed, republican-supervised, republican-ended investigation. i mean, should this also be a serious conversation? >> i worked at the cia and the pentagon. no nation can match the united states militarily. we have strategic overmatch over every potential adversary, but we can hurt ourselves, and the way we hurt ourselves is by trying to emulate the way autocrats run their country. fundamentally what makes us strong isn't the fact that there's a lot of power in the white house. what makes us strong is we're a democracy, we're an open society. we have freedoms. we have a bill of rights. if the president begins to undermine that through his conduct, he's going to weaken america. >> well, and this is where i've said that the congress really can't hold back on looking at the president's behavior.
you can't just sit back and say, well, let's let a next election take care of it. this has to be dealt with now because it's undermined every single institution that we know then it sets the floor at a different level for any successive presidency. >> again, president's allies have been in touch over the last 36 hours to say that the president is wrong if he thinks that all his problems are gone. the mueller report took up space from things like the investigation into jared kushner's background check. things like the investigation into aides using what'sapp to communicate with foreign leaders. things like the president being hellbent on undermining his own treasury department when it comes to sanctions for north korea. that the president's delusion extends to thinking if you take mueller away, the rest of the news is rosy. >> i'd extend that to the scandals that seem to pop up in every cabinet a agency day after day. >> right. >> not to mention the president's ability to create new controversies by opening his mouth or picking up his phone
every morning and tweeting. one of the things that has been up for debate since the beginning of the mueller investigation, really since this president took office, is what is the norm governing the president's relationship with law enforcement? is it appropriate behavior for the president to direct law enforcement to back off on investigations into himself, into his friends and conduct investigations into his political opponents? that's not necessarily a criminal law question. it to some extent is a question of norms, it's a question of what we think is the appropriate level of presidential behavior. and if at the end of this investigation we found that, you know, maybe the firing of jim comey and him requesting that the fbi back off of michael flynn wasn't a criminal violation, or at least the special counsel didn't make a decision possibly because he wanted to leave it to congress, if there's no sanction at all, that's not a norm anymore. the norm is no longer that it's inappropriate for the president to behave this way because this president behaved that way and there was no sanction. that doesn't mean that the remedy needs to be impeachment, removal from office, but if there's no sanction at all, if the congress doesn't say anything about it, there's no censure, that norm that has
governed our country for a long time, may no longer stand. >> i want to ask you about your reporting on health care. it's another aggressive move from this president, but i also -- you're the youngest person at the table. you're one of the best political reporters on the beat right now. i want to ask you what it's like. we're sort of old and grizzled and actually have, you know, defense attorneys' numbers in our rolodexes. seriously, do you feel -- you reported on the schedules. is it a chilling climate? is it weird? >> yeah. i obviously feel privileged to be sitting at tables like this with all of you and different folks all the time because i learn so much. >> it's the other way around. >> even hearing the comments just now, right, it is a really kind of insane time, but i feel lucky that i'm cutting my teeth at a time like this in a place like washington, d.c. but at the same time, what heartens me is that i'm young and new it doing this then everyone around me who's been doing it for so long is also confused and also waking up, what is this whirlwind of chaos we find ourselves in?
>> we read the e-mail, the e-mail this morning, the media is the enemy of the people. you're not the enemy of the people. >> right. the most i think about it, when my parents call, what are you doing, are you going to a rally? >> nicolle, let's be honest, it's less about what the president is going to do to people like alexi. it's what other people hear and we've already had attacks on journalists, on presidents' critics. we've had the maga bomber, had someone take the president's rhetoric on immigration, walk in pittsburgh to a synagogue and gun down 11 worshippers. that's what i fear. it's not so much about fearing what happens from 1600 pennsylvania avenue. it's that what people hear in the country from rhetoric like that that makes it unsafe and dangerous. >> yeah. i think that's sort of the existential worries i have, too, which sometimes feel a little too philosophical for this moment. i worry about the declining state of our ability to have conversations with one another, radical ideology that people sort of organize online then take into the real world. these different ways in which i'm seeing how conversations are
deteriorating. people cannot connect with one another. it feels like i'm talking to the void when we're really trying to talk to everyone, make sense of things. >> i promise it wasn't always like that. >> yeah. >> i was a white house press secretary during one of the most polarizing foreign policy debates in this country, the iraq war. i was on this network which was not a fan of that network, all the time. alexi, thank you for spending time with us. keep coming back. after the break, celebrating small victories. >> i don't think this was a win for trump, it was a win for everyone. it's a win for america because you know your president isn't a traitor. i mean, how many countries can say that? i mean, all of them, but you know what i mean.
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threat. the president has yet to hold them accountable. maybe we should get him a copy of mueller's full report when it comes out because as we mentioned, one person mueller does not fully exonerate is vladimir putin. quite the opposite. according to attorney general bill barr's summary, mueller details the two-pronged effort by russia to influence the 2016 presidential election, which includes disinformation and social media operations and computer hacking operations. a finding like this would force a normal white house to step up its actions to protect our democracy, but so far, crickets from this one. friend of the show, joyce vance, outlines what the response should be. writing, "the president should squarely concede that russia tried to manipulate the 2016 election and will continue to make similar efforts in the future. and he should immediately initiate an aggressive government effort to safeguard the security of the next vote. because of the shadow russia cast on the 2016 election, it is critical that everything possible be done to guarantee both the integrity of the election machinery and the
public's confidence in it." joining our conversation, nbc news national political reporter carol lee. i'm told that the president will do nothing of the sort. that he will never be able to separate feeling, like, to acknowledge any role, any untoward or illegal from the russians would be to take away from the size, the size-obsessed man, of his own victory. >> it's about him. that's just what it is and you're absolutely right, he won't -- he sees the two things as just linked together in a way that he can't separate in his mind and if he were to go aggressively at russia for this, that would somehow delegitimize himself and so he's not, and, you know, what's interesting to talk to people around the president, particularly since the mueller report's come out and russia's reacted how they have, he -- they don't want him -- they want him to stick with the policy where there isn't an outreach, where there's not an engagement, that they
have kind of held the line since he canceled that meeting in december in argentina with vladimir putin. even though he talked to him briefly. and so they're trying to keep him from doing that, but the thing that no one knows is whether he's going to actually stick with it. and, or if he will try on his own to do some sort of outreach in the way we've seen him want to do one-on-one with other world leaders. >> we know he takes calls on his cell phone. they're not secure. we know he destroys the notes. we don't know what we don't know in terms of his contact -- >> we know the russians are seeing -- are basically taking what the president and his allies are saying and saying the same thing. you know, they're criticizing the media. they're criticizing the investigation. you know, they're almost in -- you know, they're in the same kind of messages space here. and so the russians would very much like for the president, for this to be a moment where they can do some sort of reset. >> so the stunning thing is to look sometimes at the things the president says, the things the russians say and the things that
fox news says. and one thing they all have in common this week is celebration of the outcome of the mueller report. this is from julia davis' twitter feed, "russia's state tv concludes the mueller report findings cemented trump's odds of being re-elected in 2020." state tv host, you know, i can't speak russian, yet, i'm learning, guys. don't worry. "trump will win in this election with or without our help." a state tv host also saying we're starting to elect trump for the second term." they're now totally out of the closet in terms of their national security, foreign policy objectives and interest in electing donald trump. >> and one very disconcerting development is that the lesson that our adversaries may take from this whole episode is that you can interfere. you can attack american democracy. you can get away with it and there's nothing that's going to stop you. and, of course, there are a lot of things that would in an ordinary course stop an adversary nation from doing that including our intelligence agencies, including a
coordinated effort led by the white house, but if the white house says there was no russian interference, i take the word of vladimir putin, i'm going to confiscate the translator's notes, i'm going to meet with him in private, i'm going to exclude staff, stand next to him in helsinki and say he's right and my own intelligence agencies are wrong, what's the message to our adversaries? come on in, open season, attack us all you want. >> it seems that the democrats have an opportunity to say, nancy pelosi took impeachment off the table, robert mueller's weighed in on the criminality of the conspiracy. but we want to see everything. we want everything mueller learned about the russians so we can do our part to protect our elections in 2020, if the president won't do his. >> i think that's exactly right so we've talked about the other aspects of the mueller report, but this on russian behavior and russian interference in the election is really important for the public to see. so the that all of us can be on guard, whether it's on social media or, you know, on election day looking at russian interference and taking that into consideration. and i think then the congress
has an opportunity to act on that, to improve election machinery, to give resources to the secretaries of states and election officials for the way that they guard in the election. and that is all apart from investigating these other aspects of the president's behavior. >> once a spinner, always a spinn spinner, right? to me, one of the flaws in the doj response was they didn't pull out the russia findings and say robert mueller sat in a building and looked at the russian interference campaign. the russian hacking for two years. we're going to convene an emergency staff to take those findings and implement additional protections. we're going to come up and brief the foreign affairs committees, the state election -- i mean, why didn't the justice department take the stuff that should be beyond partisan politics, beyond debate, and try to use mueller's work to protect the country? >> well, i don't know for sure, but i suspect it's because the attorney general is trying to write a political document that would help the president and not write a document that was in the
best interest of the country. that's really been the case since the beginning of this administration. remember jeff sessions, the prior attorney general, went up before the hill once and was asked how many meet rings you'v been to to talk about election security after the russia attack. he had no answer. >> chris wray, no answer, now retired. admiral rogers. the byline said it all. slumped over his chair. none of them have been directed at the higher levels of the oval office, to protect the country from russia. >> right, because the president doesn't care and i think a cynical voice would say not only does h he not care, he benefited from the russian help last time, he'd welcome it again. when we come back, he was mad and couldn't take it anymore. another top national security adviser who nearly called it quits after seeing donald trump conduct foreign policy up close and personal. exclusive nbc news reporting from carol lee next.
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>> you -- vladimir putin coming to the -- >> did i hear you? >> yeah. yeah. >> okay. >> yeah. >> that's going to be special. >> that exchange, which did not go over well with the president, is one of many instances that put a strain on the relationship between donald trump and that man, director of national intelligence dan coats. but according to brand-new reporting from nbc news, the tipping point for coats was the president's declaration that he would pull troops out of syria in december. "the country's intelligence chief is on the verge of resigning at the end of last year but was talked out of it by his closest ally in the administration, vice president mike pence." that's according to current and former senior administration officials. carol, this is your reporting here. take us through more of it. it's an incredible piece of reporting. >> well, so just to step back what we were trying to do was look at, if you look at dan
coats, he is next to mike pompeo the longest serving with trump national -- top national security official, and yet he's also had these moments, some of them like that one that we knew about publicly where he sparred with unlikely to denuclearize and praised nato. the under lying reason why is mike pence. >> trump after that flash point, he called it fake news. >> yes. and that's just what we have seen publicly and what we department know that was happening privately is basically the relationship has come to be the president's relationship with the intelligence community as a whole. it was fraught from the start and deeply strained at times. from the beginning, coates would go into these presidential daily briefings and trump would get off topic. he started 10 or 12 days after trump tweeted that president
obama wire tapped him and he would spend round and round and round where trump would say you need to find evidence that this happened. obama did this. coates would explain he didn't do that. >> this was an incredible moment. someone pointed me to that moment. donald trump got decent reviews for his first address to the nation. within 36 hours he accused president obama of tapping his wires. this was one of the first flashing yellow lights. >> it was i think for everyone one of the first real big jaw dropping moments in the presidency. it was early march and happened over a weekend. it was something no one was expecting. coates walked in when that's the president's posture towards the intelligence community that he is overseeing. the president wants him to criticize the intelligence and say publicly that they are
biased and against him and he was like that's not my job. i can't do that. it was in this box. our reporting showed he leaned on pence during these sorts of times to try to get a sense of what to do and how to relate to the president and pence would try to do the same with the president. the relationship is sort of stabilized now and the conversation he had in december with the vice president, he agreed to stay until the summer and told no decision has been made. it's getting close to summer. we don't know. >> the intelligence community careens from one crisis whether wire taps or believing the saudi spin about the slaughter and murder and rendering of jamal khashoggi over the intelligence community and whether it's believing i don't know if it's in the love letters between he and kim jong un or his gut, but
what he is believing on north korea's nuclear ambitions. this president never accepts the information and the facts from the intelligence community. >> most officers i speak to have their heads down doing the hard work to collect and analyze information and drown out noise in washington. when it reaches this decibel level, it can drain ma ral and decrease the effectiveness of our agencies because our leaders are distracted. when a leader like dan coates who has done an admirable job and spoken truth to power and testified publicly, he said isis was not destroyed. north korea wouldn't give up the nukes and russia attacked us in 2016 and iran was complying with the iran deal. he made all those statements and he gets a vote of no confidence and has to be talked into by the vice president to stay in his job. >> one of the more offensive things was donald trump telling
his intelligence community to go back to school. >> coates is facing the same tension that a lot of people face. you can either serve this president and keep your integrity or be loyal to him. you can't do both. the only person able to do both was secretary mattis and he decided he could no longer serve and be loyal to the president and he left. >> the only person to leave on principal. you see people like mulvaney and mnuchin who have been hacks and sacrificed their integrity. john kelly served well and made compromises on his behalf. dan coates decided he will serve with integrity and saying things the president doesn't like and if that means earning the ire of the president, so be it. >> free from worry from the mueller report, he is ready to pick up old grievances. new reporting on that, next. to pick up old grievances new reporting on that, next. g tw 2019 ford ranger, it's the right gear.
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a newly emboldened president trump reopening old wounds today. "the washington post" said president trump complained in a private lunch tuesday with senate republicans about the amount of disaster aid designated for puerto rico. as lawmakers prepare for a standoff over funds for the island still struggling to recover in the aftermath of hurricane maria. aid for puerto rico has long been a fixation for president trump who asked how much to reduce money for the island and
signalled he won't support any more aid beyond food stamps. this is an island that literally and figuratively were on their knees begging for help and now with an ax to grind, this speaks to someone george conway says day after day his state of mind. >> this is about him having been challenged over puerto rico. he never got over that. it wasn't clear from the beginning whether or not he knew puerto rico was part of the united states and he treats it like another country and we are giving disaster aid. >> wait, even then, shouldn't we help? i agree with you that it's unclear that he never knew puerto rico was the united states of america, but isn't it a window into a cold, dark heart? >> it is. the president has no empathy for people who are suffering. they were in a bad situation before the disaster happened.
this is again a demonstration that this president of the united states has no ability to empathize. he has no ability to reach out. he could claim a moment by helping puerto rico and he refuses even to do that. >> my thanks to you and to jeremy, carol, and matt that. does it for this hour. thank you for watching. "mtp daily" starts now. >> hi there, nicole. if it's tuesday, presidential pivot! i'm katie turr for chuck todd. breaking news. a justice department official told nbc news they will take bill war weeks, not months to make a version of mueller's report publicly available. we don't know what that version