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tv   Weekends With Alex Witt  MSNBC  May 11, 2019 4:00am-5:00am PDT

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good morning from msnbc world headquarters in new york. 7:00 in the east. welcome to "weekends with alex witt." i'm phillip mena. alex is off. we are learning what the
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president wanted from his first white house counsel. and what changed his mind? she says she is the victim of the conspiracy. the feds she was a spy. we will hear from russia's bhutmaria butina. developing this hour. increasing political fallout offer reporting the president sought to have former white house counsel mcgahn declare he never obstructed justice. the second request came within days of the release of the mueller report. mcgahn refusing both times telling investigators that the president sought to have the special counsel removed in 2017.
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in a statement, his lawyer writes, we did not perceive the request as a threat or sinister. it was a request professionally made. the white house has directed mcgahn not release documents requested by house democrats. the chair writing this is why it is critical for mr. mcgahn to come before the committee and answer questions. the president cannot keep mcgahn from testifying. >> we subpoenaed mcgahn and we expect him to show up on the 21st. if he doesn't, he will be subject to contempt unless he has a court order. he has to respect the rule of law. >> not lost, mcgahn was the key witness. he cited 157 times, more than any other witness. new today, the chairman of the
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house ways and means committee subpoenaed the irs director for tax returns. richard neil has until may 17th to produce the tax records. >> i think the courts will be aware and mindful of the disruption of the democratic process. >> it sounds like you think the congress will get the tax returns this year? >> yeah. the other big story? trade talks with u.s. and china ending without agreement on friday hours after president trump doubled tariffs on chinese imports. michael viqueira is at the white house. mike, good morning. >> reporter: good morning, phillip. president trump said trade wars are easy to win. this negotiations with the chinese is not proving easy. the chinese delegation leaving washington empty handed on
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friday afternoon and heading back to china. no word on when the negotiations will restart. now a concern that many costs because of the tariffs war will be paid back or send back to the american consumer who is ultimately going to have to pay the price. the chinese delegation was here. there was a hope these talks would wrap up by the end of the week. according to the president and his top negotiators, the chinese changed their minds on the issues that they thought were settled. now the president is moving forward with raising tariffs yet again. there was already a 10% tariff on chinese goods. he is more than doubling that to 25% on $200 billion of chinese goods. 5,000 products used every day by americans. the president insisted tariffs are a good thing and china is paying into the treasury. that is proven false.
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experts say u.s. importers pay the tariffs. ultimately the costs will be passed on to the american consumer. phill phillip. >> that is mike viqueira. mike, thank you. joining me now is abigail tracy and kevin cirilli. kevin, i want to start with you. the president asserted the tariffs will bring in more wealth to the country and quicker and easier to do. is he right? >> it will impact the consumer when they go shopping and if it is clothing or goods or just the price of a soda can. these are impacted in a host of ways. the bottom line the consumer could face increased costs. a second point, when you look at the volatility on wall street within the last week, as wall street has been trading off every develop manimement with t
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and china. john deere and boeing, these are stocks where americans have stock retirement savings. they could be impacted as well. a lot of resources i talked with on wall street and sources working on the u.s. trade deal. say it is a marathon and not a sprint. hold the phone. wait until this is done. that said, i cannot find a republican on capitol hill. a republican on capitol hill who likes these tariffs. let alone a democrats. >> let's hear what voters have to say. let's play reaction from voters on this issue. >> it is frustrating. you know politicians are not familiar with what it is like to live in the middle class. >> you have to juggle what you can afford and what you can't afford. a lot of people can't do that. >> we don't know how the perceive china is paying for it. we're paying for it and it is passed on to our customers. >> abigail, the president has been riding the wave of economic success.
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how will this impact the momentum? >> i think one of the best things that is going for himself is the economy. when we look at the democratic field in 2020, what they have is time to figure out their economic message ahead of the election. for donald trump, what he has is time where the economy might erode or go down a little bit. i think when we are talking about what trump has, he really only has the economy and i think people have to wonder if that goes down what donald trump's chances are in the presidential. >> let's talk about the latest reporting on the efforts to have don mcgahn say publicly he didn't believe the president obstructed justice. abigail. how significant is that? >> it is significant. when we looked at the report, don mcgahn was a critical witness. his testimony provided a lot of the anecdotes we saw in the second chapter of the report about obstruction of justice.
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what we are seeing now with donald trump reaching out to don mcgahn to get him to come on his side and make statements on his behalf is a continuation of the behavior and patterns laid out by mueller. this is similar behavior to the anecdotes and episodes laid out by mueller that might amount to obstruction of justice. it is troubling and shows donald trump is not changing behavior in the post-mueller world. >> kevin, how is it more likely to have the democrats hold mcgahn in contempt? >> i can't keep up. don junior subpoenaed. the calls for ag barr in contempt. will that get a vote on speaker pelosi? now the latest issue with don mcgahn. it never stops. i talked to a strategist yesterday who told me the democrats have to have a strategy. they have to have a road map it is like whack-a-mole in the news stories that are coming on with
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this. i think speaker pelosi has really had to be, you know, the ring leader of sorts for all of this. i think you will notice according to sources i talk within the democratic party to have a more cohesive message to deal with the remarkable news flow. >> we all pay attention on a daily basis. it gets very hard to keep up. i want to get your reaction on the story about the president essentially reinventing the national fourth of july celebration. the washington post reporting he is moving from the usual location on the national mall to be closer to the practipo a pat river. what is a likely outcome is it turns into a donald trump campaign rally. obviously he is out there and taking advantage of this and seeking out the spotlight for
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himself, he will make it a partisan event. there are concerns about changing the historical celebration and really making it about donald trump and not about the fourth of july or not about the united states. >> kevin, you are in washington. it is a tradition from that perspective. >> a great tradition. >> is there any political upside for the president making that happen? >> i will say the washington, d.c. fireworks on the fourth of july, there is nowhere better with the exception of my hometown of philadelphia. that said, president trump has said he wanted to do something like this for some time. he said it to japan for example in the next couple weeks. why japanese prime minister shinzo abe said the ceremony will be bigger than the super bowl. his words. he said for a while he wants a large share money whether it is for veterans or the fourth of july. i totally agree with what everybody is saying. i think there is going to be
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criticism about the politics of it. i mean, republicans love this. >> the first trip to france and he was enamored by their celebration. tanks down the street. >> i forgot about that. >> it happened. kevin, thank you. abigail, we will talk to you later. >> thank you. she says she is a peacemaker not a spy. hear the interview with the russian maria butina next. marian . ♪ memories. what we deliver by delivering.
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new today, several
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neighborhoods in houston are still dealing with heavy flooding this morning after torrential rain pounded the gulf coast catching drivers off guard and in need of help of rescue crews. you can see from the chopper video, creeks and rivers spilling over their banks forces roads and schools to close. more rain is in the forecast. nbc's morgan chesky joining me now. what is the situation like this morning in houston? >> reporter: phillip, i can tell you any major storm system is enough to give people in houston serious pause. after a week's worth of rain, the ground here is so water logged it won't pay much from the upcoming storms to drive water out from behind me in the surrounding neighborhoods. this morning, houston on high alert. the city facing a flooding deja vu from the storm system stretching down the gulf coast. the swollen waterways seen from
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above friday when two barges collided in the ship channel causing a chemical spill. >> it is a weird feeling to not be sure. >> reporter: for maria, every major storm brings flashbacks to when her hoerm lome looked like. the city prone to flooding by design. densely populated area above sea level. it overwhelms drainage systems. one state over, the governor of louisiana has already issued a state of emergency. heavy rain prompting water rescues. this woman saved by road crews after driving into deceptively deep water. in mississippi, residents are rushing to clean up after high winds toppled trees into one home after another. back in texas, the first wave of storms are expected this afternoon. just days after a whole month of
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rain fell on thursday. >> rain, sleet or snow. stay safe. >> reporter: staying safe is the motto for everyone. with another round of unpredictable weather well on its way. and this morning, houston is under a flash flood warning until 7:00 p.m. tonight. storms expected mid afternoon as the storm system continues to make the way to the east. phillip. >> a lot of people there still dealing with the effects of hurricane harvey. morg morgan, thank you. new this morning, the only russian operative arrested after the interference of the 2016 election is speaking up about her sentence. in her first interview after being sentenced to 18 months in jail, maria butina adenying beig a spy. >> i did meet certain people. not all of them, but some of
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them are flown to mr. torshin. we know he did some reporting or some notes to the ministry of foreign affairs. we don't know if it ever went to any intelligence services and it feels for me that this was like all potentially possibly speculation which has no evidence so i do question the u.s. justice system and i think you should too. >> joining me to discuss this is danny cevallos and ashley merchant. danny, you admit passing information back to russia and claiming it wasn't spying. she tried to establish communication with russians to americans to benefit russia. is that not espionage? >> it is not espionage. that is not just my criminal defense attorney bias in the
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situation. the government would say maria butina was not a spy. she acted as an agent, but an agent in the sense of principals and agents. maria butina failed to register as a foreign agent. she was not accused of espionage and she was not accused of spying on behalf of the russian government. the information she transmitted back to russia, none was classified. there were no allegations it was. again, this may be a criminal defense viewpoint. maria butina was never accused of being a spy. they struggled to find the right sentencing guidelines to apply to conduct. this is not a traditional case. >> ashleigh? >> she has pled guilty in court. what motivation does she have to
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come forward? she is trying to paint herself in a positive light. is she setting up to continue this work once she gets out? is she lessening what the american people think of the connection between the trump campaign and russia? i think her motivation is suspect. i think that is what the important take is. why is she coming forward at this point? what does she gain? >> a former new jersey governor chris christie is defending the president. saying the president would have been charged with obstruction if he weren't the president. listen to that. >> the fact is they all have political opinions and those political opinions affect us in the audience. it effects their judgment as well. i would not sign on to that letter because i don't believe there is a crime of attempted obstruction. >> danny, mueller addresses attempted obstruction in volume
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2 on page 11 and again on page 87. clearly it is important. >> it is important. the fact you have several hundred former prosecutors signing on is compelling evidence, but at the same time, chris christie's argument is each prosecutor is an individual person. prosecution is a human process. it is not a subjective as we think. that is demonstrated in the fact you have christie and the attorney general on one side finding no obstruction. several hundred former prosecutors on the other side finding obstruction. it is an interesting study in how prosecution is ultimately a subjective process. >> let's talk about the star of the mueller report. ashleigh, the report reveals that the white house asked former counsel don mcgahn to release a statement saying the president did not obstruct justice. mcgahn refused twice.
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what does this tell syou? >> it tells me president trump has not learned his lesson. this is about punishment to curb behavior and teach people not to commit crimes. you have evidence that president trump committed obstruction. i know there is debate on this. lots of folks admit he committed the act of obstruction. because of political protections, he did not have to face prosecution. you have a man who committed a crime and escaped punishment and prosecution for now who is not learning. continuing this activity. whether or not his conduct with mcgahn rises to obstruction. it may not rise to obstruction, but it is a repeated behavior where he is not learning from the past from mistakes he made. that is a problem because that's the purpose of the punishment of the criminal justice system. it is unfortunate he hadn n'n't
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hea learned that lesson. it is tampering if he tried to get mcgahn to make the statements. he is trying to influence mcgahn and how he talks to the public and talks to congress. that's a problem. >> danny, i want to ask about the potential tampering. we know following the refuel to block mcgahn from testifying and ordering him not to comply with the subpoena. is that considered witness tampering? >> certainly. ashleigh makes a lot of good points. anytime you instruct a witness to give testimony, the government has a witness tampering or similar obstruction charge to make. there are seven or eight statutes to apply. in this case, however, and the challenge with president trump is he is the one person in the
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world in the galaxy who can wield this article ii power. it makes it complicated to try and apply the obstruction statutes to him. you look no further than division among former federal prosecutors and the attorney general about whether or not the president obstructs justice when he takes these actions. it is something that with each day as trump does additional strange things and ordering witnesses to comply or not comply, we have to struggle to apply statutes to the one person who may be able to violate. >> unique job. ashleigh, in an interview, the discussion with barr over probing the rival biden would be approprian proppropriate thing . >> it doesn't look like legal
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consequences, but the problem is the president is continuing along the same path. he is continuing to probe people who are against him. and to try to get the people who side with him to change testimony or story. so this actually could go into the entire prosecution if he ever is prosecuted for obstruction of justice. this could be evidence used against him. what is called similar transactions or prior bad acts which show a pattern. while it may not rise to a prosecutable level of crime, but can be evidence to show it say p is a pattern and m.o. he tries to influence people to harm his opponents and influence people to paint him in a better light. that is the root of the issue. that is what he could be prosecuted for. >> ashleigh and danny, thank you. it is said that success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. is there a constitutional
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we talked for a long time about approaching a constitutional crisis. we are now in it. we are now in a constitutional crisis. >> i do agree with chairman nadler because the administration has decided that they are not going to honor their oath of office. >> stunning developments on capitol hill this week after u.s. attorney general william barr did not comply with subpoena for the unredacted mueller report. the house judiciary committee decided to hold the attorney general in contempt of court. joining me now is the previous deputy chief counsel and ned ryan. good morning to you both. >> good morning. >> good to be with you. >> chris, are we really in a middle of a constitutional crisis? >> i think we are approaching a constitutional crisis. you have to put the standoff with the attorney general and
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the president who doesn't president the branches. he is shifting money around to fund a border wall that congress hasn't approved. his treasury department won't release his tax returns notwithstanding a statute mandate. he won't defend the affordable care act. specifically on the issue of the mueller report, he is expanding executive privilege in a way that doesn't comport with any legal understanding. it is also probably likely been waived. while he is doing this as a negotiating tool to delay the proceedings for months and years. obviously, we have the news reporting overnight that he sees his justice department as not independent and something he can order to investigate his rivals. i think we are in a constitutional crisis. >> ned, in your perspective, what constitutes a constitutional chrrisis?
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>> certainly not receive iseven a redacted report that jerry nadler has the opportunity to read in private. a.g. barr send a 99.9% unredacted report. if they would go read it, it would help their case. at this point, zero democrats have read it. we hit an absurd moment. jerry nadler knows the laws. he basically gave the a.g. an you wi ultimatum. nadler knows if he doesn't like the rule, he can go to a judge and say unredact them or congress can basically add an amendment. he has done neither and said we will hold the a.g. in contempt and declare constitutional
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crisis. i would add, phillip, in this case of congressional oversight, it is implied and not in the constituti constitution. i'm not sure how you can say we have constitutional crisis. >> here is what the ranking member doug collins said over the idea of the constitutional crisis. >> chairman nadler created the crisis because he diminished the power of subpoena contempt. no matter if a democrat or republican is at the head of the committee. he is creating the crisis for our committee and all other committees by not doing a proper job of chairman and running his committee. >> chris, where do congressional powers stand at this moment? >> i think congressional powers are tenuous at this point. we have a system of norms and one of the norms is when a congressional committee issues a subpoena to the executive branch, they comply or reach an
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accommodation or that gets litigated in court. you don't get to a situation where the president openly defies the subpoenas. our systems may not be strong enough to withstand a president who is going to completely disregard not only congress, but poteenntially ruling of court. >> ned, is this being diminished across the administration? >> no, i don't. if you act in a more 30,000 foot level, phillip, i think this administration has decided to give more power back to the legislative branch in a broader sense. i will say this, phillip, it is tiresome. for the last two years, the mueller investigation and the tens of millions of dollars spent. i think what democrats are doing is projecting rage on mueller on to barr because they want to proceed with impeachment and
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they realized within the last few weeks they don't have what they want. they wanted mueller to hand down the fact there was collusion and wanted to hand down obstruction charges and he didn't. they are left hanging because this is the one thing that unites most of the democratic caucuses in the house is impe h impeachme impeachment. they are now trying to figure out which direction to go. i would say put up or shut up. go down the path of impeachment or don't. stop the muddy water. make a decision and stick with it. >> let's hear from the leader on this. i want to play more of speaker pelosi's remarks on thursday. >> the president is almost self impeaching because he is every day demonstrating more obstruction of justice and disrespect for congress' legitimate role to subpoena. sometimes people act. i'm not saying you. impeach or nothing. it's not that.
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it's a path that is producing results and gathering information. >> chris, where is she going with that? >> i think, look, the president wants to dangle impeachment out there as a dare to democrats. this is not something that should be done lightly. it is not a political game. it has been only done three other times in our country's history. the speaker is right. in order to go down this path, you need to develop that case. that means gathering evidence. holding hearings. exactly what the judiciary committee is trying to do. this is not -- this should not be seen through the partisan lens that we looked at everything over the past two years. i think what is important to also understand is that the president is building that case on its own. when you go back and look at the articles of impeachment against bill clinton and richard nixon and defying investigations and subpoenas and not following a
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rule of law is an issue that is considered down the road. >> you get another striking moment this week as we learn the republican led senate intel committee subpoenaed donald trump jr. here is now mick mulvaney reacted to that. >> the fact that the president's son got a subpoena from a republican led committee. i have no difficulty with bipartisanship. to subpoena the president's son without head's up is bad form. >> ned, is this a sign of growing division within the republican party? >> it apparently does show that richard burr did not get mitch mcconnell's memo and said case closed we're moving on and issues the subpoena. i found it mystifying. it is not as don junior held back and avoided the testimony. he did testify. this shows a conflict and at the same time, people decided this
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is absurd and wearing moving on. i was surprised by richard burr to subpoena the president's son. as mitch mcconnell said in their minds, republicans case closed. moving on. >> chris, what did you think of the crossing of the party lines? >> it is attacking richard burr who has done the investigation in a bipartisan way. i splapplaud him for trying to up the loose ends. based on the mueller report, there is a reason to believe donald trump jr. may have given false testimony. >> thank you for joining us this morning. >> thanks. we are just getting started on this saturday morning. at the top of the hour it is "up with david gura." dave is here with a look. >> in the wake of the terrible shooting in colorado this week, a number of candidates are talking about gun policy. cory booker and eric swalwell. there is more of a conversation
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as a platform issue than we have seen in the past. we will dig into that. what is the latest polling? is there an appetite to change gun laws? we will look at the nra which is beset with in-fighting. we will look at the relationship with president trump and the u.s. economy. it is something the president likes to take credit for, but we saw negotiators from the u.s. and china unable to reach a deal on trade. the president on the one hand is running for re-election on the strength of the economy, phillip, and on the other hand, making decisions to put the economy in much worse shape. that's coming up. >> thank you, david. historic first for aoc. we will show you what happened on capitol hill yesterday. pnc bank has technology to help make banking easier,
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now to the morning headlines. several neighborhoods in houston dealing with heavy flooding this morning after torrential rain pounded the gulf coast for days. creeks and rivers spilling out over the banks from the downpours. rain and thunderstorms are possible today as well. mainly along coastal communities and flash flood watches are in effect until tonight. shots fired. shooting at officers. >> some frightening moments in los angeles on friday. a gunman leans out the passenger window shooting at pursuing officers. investigators say the unidentified suspect is wanted in a deadly attempted robbery.
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the driver and passenger were eventually stopped and treated at an area hospital. no officers were wounded. the house stands adjourned until noon on tuesday for morning hour debate. >> another first for new york democrat congresswoman alexandria ocasio-cortez. at 29 years old, aoc is the youngest woman to preside over the house of representatives. she sat in house speaker nancy pelosi's chairs on friday as part of the rotation and taking her turn with the gavel and running the chamber for an hour. new this morning, the trade war quickly escalating with u.s. and china. future negotiations now unclear after no agreement reached on friday as new tariffs crikick in chinese imports. we have vaughn with more.
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>> reporter: we drove down along the mississippi river here to waterloo, illinois and the constant theme and emotion we heard evoked from folks is frustration. frustration with the unknown of where the tariffs are headed and how they will bear the cost. the power struggle playing out with the world's two largest economies. hitting homes hard this morning. >> okay. will we buy the same amount with what we have budgeted for groceries? >> reporter: on friday, president trump raised the import cost of chinese goods by imposing massive tariffs on nearly 6,000 every day household products. >> are you concerned? >> hell, yes. who wouldn't be? >> what control do we have? >> reporter: americans are facing higher prices from fruit, vegetables and cereal and shampoo and big ticket items like furniture and television sets. >> i don't like raising my
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prices. i don't like to charge more. >> reporter: don is a fourth generation hardware store owner in st. louis. >> they are the biggest importer we sell. >> china? >> yes. >> reporter: the president meanwhile makeing the case the tariffs will force china's hand in the trade war. tweeting tariffs make the country stronger, not weaker. american farmers and workers feel the impact. kevin is a first generation soybean farmer. >> prices keep dropping. corn dropped 20 cents in the last week. >> reporter: last year, he struggled to break even. now this new tariff hike adding to a tough outlook for the next generation of farmers. >> i would like to keep it going, but in order to do that we need to fix the drop in price before they get any lower. >> reporter: the u.s./china trade war now 14 months old
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taking the toll on every day americans. the president has threatened another round of tariffs on more goods and no talks scheduled with the white house and chinese officials, it should be much more clearer in the weeks ahead the extent of the ramifications. >> vaughn, thank you for joining us on this saturday morning. why president trump would think it is totally appropriate to have the attorney general investigate joe biden. that's next.
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in power, politics and paychecks, more help wanted signs. the labor department indicating there are now 1.2 million more unfulfilled jobs in this country. there's almost 7.5 million open positions. >> killer price here. >> a little scary when you're on a budget. >> gas prices this spring reached their highest average since 2011 but fall i a little
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bit. the average price dropping this more than half of the country. giving fodder for those predicting a retirement crisis, many folks are hoping to win the lottery instead of investing in their future. 40% believe playing the lottery is a good plan. worse yet. 60% of millenniums are putting stock in lady luck. if all else fails, there's marital bliss. 3% saying they will look for a rich spouse. and i suspect a little more than that. this morning rudy giuliani abandoned travels to return to kiev. he wanted to encourage the ukrainian investigation on robert mueller's investigation and the other on the involvement of former vp joe biden's son on
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an oligarch. >> i'm not going to go and walk into in many ways a enemy of the united states. i will just step back and watch it unfold. >> let's bring back abigail tracy from "vanity fair." he's following this story. how did this come about? >> i think the key is we've seen this ukraine area bubbling up the last couple of months. rudy giuliani chief among them but other allies of the president and individuals on different networks and realities, fox news, have been putting this era of huntser biden, joe biden possibly abusing his authority as vice president or all of this sort of big narrative around then, and this other narrative around the origins of the mueller investigation and clintons and paul manafort. i think we've seen this bubbling
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up. and you see rudy giuliani amping up this measure and you saw he was go to take this trip to ukraine to speak to the attorney general to reopen investigations into hunter biden and the origins of the investigation. >> what do you think was behind his cancellation? >> what i have is rudy giuliani backed out and he's really blauming the democrats for it. but the key is it was his interview that put this at the front. he told "the new york times" exactly what his plan was, he was going to meddle in an investigation and those are not my words, those are rudy giuliani words. he said this is all spin. i'm just now a victim of a political hit job. but, no, it was rudy giuliani was going to ukraine to push the general prosecutor to open these investigations against political enemies of the president. >> you he used the word meddling
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in an investigation. now, you hear the ambassador being ousted from her position. what is going on with that? >> she was supposed to stay until july and earlier this week there was an announcement made by the state department she's leaving early. her final day will be may 20th, months early. this is a huge career diplomat. she's been there 30 years, well respected by colleagues and many in the diplomatic community but she's gotten up r caught up in this rudy giuliani and republicans pushing for her ouster on fox news and elsewhere she's disloyal to president trump and speaking ill of president trump abroad. she's the victim of this new era for this, lack of better way to view it, viewed as an obama holdover, really operating against the president's agenda. >> what do you think we go from
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here? what's next? >> i guess we will see. rudy giuliani canceling his trip is a big step but we have this career diplomat whose career is being cut short on account of some of latest narratives being pushed by the president and some of his allies. >> we will see what the day brings. be abigail tracy, thank you so much for joining me. the subpoena surprise, what lies ahead to get donald trump jr. to testify before the senate intel committee.
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that will do it for me on this hour on weekends with alex witt. now it's time for "up with david gura." this is "up with david gura." we begin with new reporting on president trump's effort to get the former white house counsel to rebut what is in the mueller report. the president wanted don mcgahn to say donald trump did not obstruct justice. >> i think the problem is that mcghan is at the center of the most problematic episodes in the report. >> more subpoenas as the battle between the house and congressional democrats escalate. the treasury secretary and irs commissioner are on the receiving end. congress should know how irs performs audits of sitting presidents. he's defining

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