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tv   MSNBC Live With Hallie Jackson  MSNBC  March 28, 2019 7:00am-8:00am PDT

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where we have new battle lines in a familiar flight. the president previews his next 20 months and how he plans to use the mueller report to his advantage. going after the man he fired as fbi director. we're sharing a new piece of our exclusive interview with james comey and where he thinks this goes next. >> is this a case of question asked, question answered on the issue of collusion? is this over? >> our lester holt joins us live with more of that sit-down. plus, another investigation on capitol hill. not involving putin but paychecks and the elusive tax returns the president has never shared. the oversight chairman now wants a decade of financial records with one member of that committee here in just a minute. plus, that news breaking on jussie smollett. the feds reviewing the dropped case. but our pete williams has a context check on how big a deal this is or is not in a story that has captivated the country. we've got our team here covering all of it this morning. and on top of all of that, there's a ton happening on the
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hill starting this hour. education secretary betsy devos is again in front of lawmakers. and you know she'll almost certainly get asked about those controversial cuts proposed to the special olympics. you've also got the president's pick to lead the interior department in his confirmation hearings with critics concerned he'll gut the agency. those are just beginning right now. we'll bring you updates on those and updates from the house hearing on russia with a lot of fireworks already this morning involving adam schiff. we begin with the fallout in the russia investigation and the president now railing against a familiar nemesis after our nbc news interview with former fbi director james comey. he sat down exclusively with lester holt. you saw his confusion, his surprise. a little bit of indignation from comey about the attorney general's summary of the mueller report, the criticism of the russia investigation and the unanswered question of obstruction. >> the idea that a special counsel wouldn't reach the question and hand it to the political leadership doesn't
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make sense. i don't prejudge it, it just doesn't make sense on its face. >> he describes what he was thinking on the day after he was fired when the president told lester this russia thing was a made-up story. >> what did you think when you heard that? >> i thought that's potentially obstruction of justice. and i hope somebody is going to look at that. >> the president is certainly not saying silent about any of it with this new reaction overnight. >> i'm not going to fire him and everything goes away. it would be a bigger deal if i fired him, and i knew that. with a negative, not a positive. >> the anchor of "nbc nightly news" lester holt is joining us along with kelly o'donnell at the white house. we're so appreciatatie ativive the time for us. there's a lot to talk about when it ms. comes to your conversati with james comey. you asked him about the flng bill barr's letter. i want to play a part of that
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letter. >> the language was pretty clear. there was nothing between this campaign and russia. so on that basis, should he be breathing a sigh of relief? >> i don't know that i read the letter from the attorney general that way. i read him as saying the special counsel didn't find that the evidence established that there was any conspiracy between an american and the russians. >> so that reads like comey pushing back against this idea the president has been talking about of vindication. is that how you read it? >> other people take a different view of what was said in the four-page letter from barr on that very issue of collusion that seemed to be closing the door on it. he, obviously, takes the view the language isn't as specific as many of us think. but this idea of vindication, he as many noted, there are further investigations to come. but he says to the point of the investigation, it did reveal, and it was not a hoax that the russians were actively trying to tilt the election in favor of donald trump. and that is established and that is put in the barr letter. so on that level he says, you
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know, it does not fully vindicate anyone. >> one of the things that's come up in conversations sort of on my end in our other jobs covering the white house is this idea the president's attorneys were happy that the president never had to sit down with robert mueller. and why that is still remains another open question. and it's something you asked comey about. i want to play that. >> do you ask yourself why mueller did not subpoena president trump to try to get to the heart of this intent question on obstruction? >> yes, i do. and i don't know the answer to that. at the same question, i have about how the attorney general could resolve the question which he says in his letter turns upon the president's intent without the president having been asked what his intent is. >> and that's something comey references in your sprinterview that he doesn't know the president's mind-set or intent because he never spoke with robert mueller that we know of. >> never did i hear him fully
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criticize the mueller report or even the four-page letter. but he did come back to that question of why wouldn't you talk with him? why would you ask him, hey, when you fired comey and you said the russia thing, what did you mean by that? when you asked about michael flynn, what did you mean about that? to the extent those questions weren't asked, he said it's very curious. and then to come to the conclusion that you couldn't prove this issue of obstruction. he found it very confusing in his words. >> and talk about that. that confusion over this piece of obstruction because that is something, according to the attorney general's letter, that robert mueller didn't come down on one way or another. >> and the principle that was married w made is this no underlying crime. there are plenty of cases where someone is found guilty of lying or obstruction where there's no underlying crime and, remember, he had prosecuted the martha stewart case. and that was a case where the
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underlying crime wasn't established, yet they got a conviction. >> can you give us a sense, sitting down with comey, he's been at the center of this for many, many years. i was thinking last night sitting in the briefing room when sean spicer then prepress secretary came out and said comey has been fired and ten days later the mueller investigation began. did he seem disappointed in the mueller investigation? did he seem angry? can you give us a sense of what you think his attitude was toward this? >> my first question was, were you stung? i was expecting he'd have a visceral reaction. he takes a very long view of the system worked. that they began an investigation, and he says you don't know where it's going to lead. but to the extent that investigation continued under mueller and was allowed to be completed, that it established the russians were, in fact, trying to tamper with the american election, he seemed to take some pride in that, and i further pushed him. did you feel like the fbi was
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rebuked, that your leadership was rebuked? he said on the contrary. this is what we do and to the extent all this investigation went forward, and it didn't find collusion, again, that shows the system was allowed to work. >> he did have tough words about the idea that the president spoke out so fiercely against the fbi and against some of these law enforcement officials. >> one of the things we talked about, was it worth it in terms of the damage that the fbi and the justice department suffered? and that's when he was quite critical of the president himself and some of the behavior and some of the charges. we also talked about republicans wanting to reopen investigations, perhaps have him testifying and he says, it's like going to the dentist. i don't like going to the dentist, but i go. and if he was called to testify, he would but only if it is out in the open. he says no back-room meetings. he'd want it all out there. >> lester holt, we appreciate you joining us. we'll see you tonight on "nbc nightly news" at 6:30 eastern.
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kelly o'donnell is at the white house north lawn. the president seemed to have watched or known about this interview as well because he had choice words for james comey overnight. that may continue at this michigan campaign rally where our sources are telling us, yeah, this mueller report is going to come up. >> imagine the pent-up enthusiasm from the president of getting in front of a live audience of his supporters. that's what is awaiting everyone in michigan where the president will have a chance. he has always talked about the russia investigation and the witch hunt, in his words, back away from that a little saying that robert mueller conducted himself honorably in the process of putting this together. but expect tonight in grand rapids, i think it's the 18th time the president has visited michigan. a key state for 2020. and we expect from our campaign sources, they will incorporate into the evening's event the big top headlines as they see them coming out of the barr letter
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from the mueller investigation of no collusion and no obstruction. the white house calls that full exoneration. it is more complicated than that in a legal sense. and we still will have democrats pressing for more. and that will be part of the going after democrats claiming they have an unwillingness to let this go. it gives the president a new adversary if you will. the democrat investigators going into 2020. and he also, in speaking on cable news last night on an extensive phone interview, was critical of comey who has long had an agitated relationship with. the president, of course, in his written answers to the special counsel may have given some insight about his intent as that played into the decision-making process. and, of course, in lester's original interview from may of 2017, there was a lot of his thought process sort of laid bare in the way the president just let it all come out about
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his motivation for firing comey. but tonight, expect it to be the kind of president who has been contained for a while, perhaps a bit combustible when it comes to this issue. hallie? >> yeah, lit is what i think the kids would call it. kelly o'donnell, thank you. let me bring in clint watts, national security analyst and former fbi special agent and heidi przybilla. clint, as somebody who knows this agency well, obviously, give me your sense of a reaction from what you heard from james comey. >> yeah, it's interesting because, you know, when you look back, even two years ago, i remember i was writing about how it looked like the president was just an unwitting sort of person who fell into this russia thing. it wasn't until james comey was fired that he then changed his story, right? he was fired because he had gone out and done that press briefing around the e-mail investigation. and then he jumps back and with lester holt says, well, there was this russia thing and then
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brings the russian ambassador and foreign minister into the oval office without u.s. media. that was just alarming. so i don't quo hknow how the fbs not begin a counterintelligence operation. i thought comey made that point. what i find change is we don't have resolution. i don't feel comfortable with the barr memo in the sense it doesn't really give me enough details to know one way or another, was this actually the results of the investigation. and did we come to a conclusion? you're seeing that play out today in the house of representatives. we still have this partisan fight going on in our country and that's the greatest victory to russia over the last three years. >> the political fight, right, as you talk about it, is developing as we speak this morning on capitol hill. adam schiff, the chairman of the house intelligence committee is in the middle of a hearing and real fireworks. i want to play for you a little bit of this back and forth between schiff and republicans on that committee. >> we have no faith in your ability to discharge your duties
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in a manner consistent with your constitutional responsibility. and urge your immediate resignation. >> my colleagues may think it's okay that the russians offered dirt on a democratic candidate for president. you might think it's okay that they concealed it from the public. you might think it's okay that their only disappointment was that the dirt they received on hillary clinton wasn't better. you might say that's just what you need to do to win. but i don't think it's okay. i think it's immoral. i think it's unethical. i think it's unpatriotic. and, yes, i think it's corrupt. and evidence of collusion. >> will the gentleman yield? >> i will not yield. mr. ambassador -- >> you just made -- >> i think we all should get the opportunity to -- >> i will not yield. >> heidi, what do you make of that? >> you can see here, hallie,
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that the republicans are moving ahead as if we've seen the details from this report. and while there may not have been a verdict on -- while there may not have been conspiracy with the russian government, adam schiff's point is that there was a whole lot in there that played out both in public view and there's a whole lot more to learn about the details of the conduct that took place that may not be a conspiracy, but may be wrongdoing. and democrats are in a difficult spot because they do only have that barr memo to work from which is so thin. we got an indication last night from the judiciary chairman that this is a really detailed report. we don't know the pages yet. but there's a fight to get even the most basic tenant of this report out before the public. >> and your reporting on what could be for some of these democrats what you call the nuclear option if you will. a kind of last resort which would be to subpoena robert mueller himself to get to some of what you're talking about. the underlying information here. can you bring us up to speed on
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your reporting? >> the democrats are talking about this nuclear option because, as you can see, they are having a really hard time getting any information out here. and just last night, chairman nadler of the judiciary committee was told by barr, no, we're not going to meeti your week-long deadline and wouldn't give information on when democrats would get that report. based on the reporting, what triggers the nuclear option? if barr produces this report and it's heavily redacted or blacked out and he continues to drag weeks and weeks along and turn into months, even though he said it wouldn't be months, democrats are very concerned about that. you have the president here and, you know, let's make no mistake. he will be using this in the rally tonight to set the narrative and to actually give false information to the american people that he's been exonerated of everything when, in fact, even barr's cursory summary says he drew no conclusion on obstruction but
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that specifically the president was not exonerated. so the democrats are consulting on multiple committees their lawyers about what they can do to try not only force this but force it as soon as possible. >> and clint, do you think it will have to come to the subpoena piece of it? >> yeah. i don't see any way that the special counsel mueller doesn't end up testifying in some way to congress. i kind of expected we'd have a summer of hearings one way or another. but i worry about those hear,s. as we just saw this morning, in the house of representatives with that intel committee, do we get anything from these hearings? do we understand more or with more information are we suddenly becoming dumber in many ways? and i think it really shows how far our institutions have fallen over the last two to three years that we can't come to what's best for america. i think a little more clarity in terms of this report isn't just necessary but essential to move past it. >> clint watts and heidi przybilla, thanks for joining us. also developing news to get
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to involving actor jussie smollett. president trump today saying this that the fbi and justice department will review that case. smollett's lawyer joined the "today" show this morning on that. >> you are probably aware of this breaking news that the fbi and department of justice are now looking into the circumstances of the dismissal of charges against your client. does that concern you? >> not at all. we have nothing to be concerned about because there was nothing on our end to request this, to do anything improper. and to my knowledge, nothing improper was done. >> i want to bring in justice correspondent pete williams. pete, what should we know about this doj review? >> i think it's important not to overstate it, hallie. there's two -- sort of two things the government could look at. one is the actual -- whether there are federal charges against jussie smollett involving this threat letter which the chicago police say he phonied up. but i get the impression that's
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kind of a nonstarter. there's a principle that guides u.s. attorneys that say -- that says the feds don't step in after a case has been handled by local authorities unless there's a significant federal interest at stake and it doesn't seem like that's the case. but there is -- there is some talk about whether there's a role for the federal government looking at how the case was handled. there's some initial looking at that. the impression i get is the expectations are not very high that anything is going to happen here. nonetheless, they are talking about it, but i don't get the sense that there's going to be a lot of movement. >> okay. pete williams, appreciate that context check. we talk about the department of justice. this just in, on another figure tied to the mueller investigation. a federal judge here in washington has set a sentencing date of april 26th for alleged russian agent maria buttina at 10:00 a.m. she pled guilty to engaging in a conspiracy against the u.s. she faces a maximum of five years in prison. still to come -- how
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pressure from civil rights groups may have forced facebook to make a big move that critics say should have been done ages ago. next, the new fight for democrats to get their hands on a decade worth of donald trump's finances. mp's finances
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we're now learning the house oversight committee has requested ten years of the president's personal financial records. chairman elijah cummings is suspecteding insending a lettern accounting firm that's put together trump's financial records. they are following up on this lead from michael cohen last month. >> it was my experience that mr. trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes. and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes. >> the firm has until wednesday to turn over those documents. a member of that committee joins me now. democratic congressman steven lynch from massachusetts. thanks for being with us. >> thank you, hallie. >> let me start there. have you heard -- has the committee heard back from this accounting firm? are they cooperating? >> not as of right now but we gave them until next tuesday or wednesday to respond. so hopefully they are putting some documents together. >> okay. april 3rd is your drop dead date
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for when you need to hear back from them? >> that's correct, right. >> republicans on your committee have, call it clapped back on this. they argue the inquiry appears to depart from responsible and legitimate oversight and is intended, in their words, solely to embarrass president trump. do they have a point here? do you have a concern about focussing on president trump's financial records from before the time he was in office? did that give you pause? >> no, you have to remember, these republican members took a nap for two years so they should be well rested. they did no oversight. they enabled the president, i believe. what we're trying to do is be thorough. the president has made financial filings here offer the past two years, financial disclosures, and all of this, including what michael cohen brought to light, all of this points to whether or not she has been factually
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accurate with his financial dealings and his filings here in congress. which is all part of the same continuum. >> explain something to me. one of the big questions has been about president trump's tax returns. this is a topic i've asked the president about multiple times. his argument is americans don't care. the rejoineder is they do care and there is reason to see some of these financial records. what you are asking for n gand getting is separate from the tax returns, right? >> no, if you think this through, hallie, part of the difficulty in getting the tax return is there's no legal requirement, compelling legal requirement that gives us access to that. >> right. >> however, if there were false or we believe reasonably believe that there are false filings made by the president, and it can only be verified by examining his tax records, which should have been filed properly and correctly, then, you know,
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we had to go for a subpoena to get the president's tax records to settle that dispute regarding his financial filings in the white house. i think they -- a sitting federal judge would have to say, okay, they've presented a request, and they do have reasonable cause to have these documents. so there's a little bit of leverage there that might be gotten to get the tax returns by what we are doing in committee. >> i want to get you on other news of day topics, including what we're watching now with a colleague of yours on the intelligence committee. these calls from republicans for chairman adam schiff to step down. do you have confidence in chairman schiff to lead that committee? >> unequivocally. he's been a class act. very thorough. i'm very proud of the work that adam schiff has done. and so, you know, this is typical for those who wanted other elected officials to step down as well. so he's done a great job. and --
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>> democrat s on the judiciary committee, they are privately weighing some legal options including potentially a subpoena for robert mueller. is that something your committee would consider as well? would you? >> i would hope he'd come in voluntarily. there may be reasons he would prefer to be subpoenaed. i'm not sure. but in the first instance, we would ask him to come in voluntarily. and try to do it that way. i think a lot of people -- not unanimously, but i think most people here have very high regard for the special counsel mr. mueller. and i don't think it should be an adversarial relationship between us and them. >> very quickly, i have to ask you about the affordable care act and this legal battle now to invalidate it. you were one of three democrats still in office who voted no in the aca. what do you make of the push to scrap the law altogether. do you support that by the trump administration? >> first of all, i think the president is misreading any of
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the opposition to the aca. we certainly did not oppose retaining, you know, coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. and so he's trying to tear the whole thing down. i think we should fix it. i think it still has major problems because of -- we really didn't address affordability. didn't bring the prices down. now we have people who were supporting the aca that want to get rid of it and put in single payer or medicare for all. so it's ironic that i voted against it for some reasons and other people who voted for it are now trying to get rid of it. we have to figure that out. >> congressman steven listeynch probably the understatement of the morning. we're watching breaking news on capitol hill as well. the house has just started a vote where the congressman will head now on a resolution to reject president trump's ban on transgender service members in the military. this is a nonbinding resolution but could it send a message to the white house? we'll let you know the outcome of that vote.
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and we're talking more about that later in the show. we're also keeping up the conversation on health care. just ahead, with new reporting on the person behind the administration's new strategy that has the gop on edge. >> i understand health care now, especially very well. a lot of people don't understand it. they're america's biopharmaceutical researchers. pursuing life-changing cures in a country that fosters innovation here, they find breakthroughs... like a way to fight cancer by arming a patient's own t-cells... because it's not just about the next breakthrough... it's all the ones after that. this and even this.hark, i deep clean messes like this. but i don't have to clean this, because the self-cleaning brush roll removes hair, while i clean. - [announcer] shark,
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the republican party will be the party of great health care. you watch. >> and pre-existing conditions? >> all included. we're going to have pre-existing conditions, absolutely. and we already got rid of the individual mandate which was costing people a fortune. it was terrible. >> so based on that, president trump is certainly not backing off the new health care fight. but it's a fight that very few republicans want to have. and that includes some of his own advisers. four administration sources tell me while acting chief of staff mick mulvaney was pitching the president on this court fight to scrap the entire aca, others had some concerns. the vice president raising concerns about the political piece of the plan and lawyers like pat cipollone arguing about the viability of this.
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mulvaney rallied the troops around repeal and replace when he was in congress. ashley parker for "the washington post" and an msnbc political analyst. ashley, thanks for being here. >> thanks for having me. >> you write in this piece that mulvaney is trying to achieve what he never could as a conservative fire brand in congress. talk to us about that and pull back the curtain for us. what's going down? >> so mulvaney when he was a member of congress was a part of the house freedom caucus, and it was a sort of conservative, a little on the fringe group of members who were bomb throwers and fire brands and they were sort of stuck to ideological purity and they kind of relished frustrating and capac p pereighting republican leadership. he could never stop republican leadership from doing what they wanted to do but he couldn't enact policy from this far right
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fringe caucus. he has this dual stance. on the one happennd, he's letti the president do what he wants to do. he's not trying to be babysitter. he's not trying to cut off the people in the president's inner circle, but he has this very powerful perch and he's sort of helping push the president ideologically to where, a, the president does want to go but where mulvaney himself is very comfortable being. and now in the white house, he has a lot more power than as sort of a lone member of a smaller caucus in congress. >> and one thing i'm hearing from folks in and around the white house is that they think there is a sense this is going to be a politically advantageous fight for the president overall on obamacare. and mark short, the chief of staff for the president said that publicly on the driveway last night. but it's hard to forget that democrats won the house majority largely because of this blue wave that built based on health care. so how are your sources squaring that? >> it's kind of mixed. and the answer is both. you know, repealing obamacare is
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a very catchy and popular
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