Skip to main content

tv   Andrea Mitchell Reports  MSNBC  January 3, 2018 9:00am-10:00am PST

9:00 am
donald trump saw them after that meeting. >> it will be interesting to see how the soviet union uncovers anything. peter alexander, ken. i'm stephanie ruhle. my partner ali velshi will be back next week. i will see you back here tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. eastern. right now i hand you to andrea mitchell on "andrea mitchell reports." pushing buttons. president trump inflaming nuclear tensions with a tweet, taunting the unpredictable leader in pyongyang. >> i think this is very destabilizing. this is a tweet that could lead to confrontation and maybe even war. fire and fury. taking down the first
9:01 am
family. and changing faces. swearing in two new democrats. the veteran senator announces he's retiring end of this year, leading a staunch critic entering the ring. >> donald trump tells us he's very, very smart. i'm afraid, though, when it comes to foreign policy, he's very, very not smart. good afternoon on a very busy news day. in a stunning evolution, trump is reaching out to north korea. trump seizing on kim jong-un and saying he has achieved his goals and has a nuclear button on his desk. with a fiery response, trump responded, north korean leader
9:02 am
kim jong-un just stated that the nuclear button is on his desk at all times. will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that i too have a nuclear button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his, and my button works. michael lighter, former director of the national terrorism center, kristen welker, msnbc correspondent. trump saying his nuclear button is bigger. how unusual is this tweet? it certainly set off a firestorm overnight around the world. >> reporter: it certainly did, andrea. you have a number of foreign policy ald vizers who immediately expressed concern that this could escalate in already very tense, very volatile situation between the united states and north korea. of course, it comes as we learned about north korea and south korea poised to have diplomatic talks to try to resolve some of their
9:03 am
differences. i just spoke to a senior administration official who said, look, this is a very unconventional way of conveying conventional u.s. policy as it relates to north korea, essentially stressing that it was yet another message that if north korea were to take any action, if it steps up its nuclear program, its nuclear provocations that the united states is prepared to act, this administration official says this has always been u.s. policy. i spoke to another official, andrea, who said, look, tensions are already so high between north korea and the united states, it's hard to imagine they could get any more tense. still, bottom line, it is sending jirts throughout some course of a foreign policy community, and as it relates to those talks that we enjoy them happening. i can tell you the secretary of state spoke to his counterpart in south korea. i was told the me say sanl was very firm, that is we need to
9:04 am
stand together as one voice, andrea. >> the moment there in south korea with the south korean president encouraging this overture from the north, possibility of talks in the next coming days, and now this very provocative tweet from the president. >> reporter: yeah, that's right. we're not actually hearing any reaction from north korea at this point. of course, it's quite late here already, but there was no reaction earlier in the day, either. south korea's president moon jae inh has said in the past and reiterated today that he and his administration will not comment on trump. he said there is too much room for misinterpretation and misunderstanding. so no reaction there. really what people are focusing on here is that remarkable moment when these two swhid
9:05 am
haven't spoken for two years. not sub stantive, but still, the lines of communication are open. andre andrea? >> thank you very much. kristen welker, before i let you go, i want to talk about the implications of this new book. we'll get right to this in just a moment which deals with that critical june 2016 meeting. this is steve bannon's remarks about it, if you can bring us up to date on that. >> reporter: that's right. this is according to a book we're reviewing right now by michael wolf in which he talked to steve bannon. steve bannon made a couple really stunning comments about that meeting between donald trump jr. and the kremlin-linked attorney. he said bannon thinks is amounts to trees on.
9:06 am
the chance that john jr. did not walk these people to the 24th. he's essentially saying, andrea, that, did bring, introduce that attorney to his father, the candidate. of course, this comes after the president has really distanced himself from that meeting, not only saying he didn't know about it, but also remember it was. one more headline, i think fwhoon becau bannon, because of this book, says he is going through jared kushner. bannon battling for the president. we'll have more revelations
9:07 am
going through this book. joining me now is michael lighter. former head of the national trer richl center and nbc news. the tweet goes farther than any other one i know of in the united states, talking about his nuclear button being bigger than kim jong-un's nuclear button. first of all, there is no nuclear button. there is a procedure, but there is -- it is true that the commander in chief has ultimate authority over the nuclear arsenal. >> this is clearly infan tile dairn it a very odd where looking for the responsible ones in this.
9:08 am
we can't go for that kind of rhetoric. people saying this provokes war, i don't think that's the case. what it does do is show how completely disconnected the president is from current policy on north korea and how diverse the views are within the administration. and you have the state department at the u.n. allies in south korea who are sort of trying to control the drunk driver from driving a president's tweets for that. >> you have the secretary and secretary of state heading for lunch with the president. they have notably been calling for diplomacy. yes, kim jong-un chls possibly driving a wedge flum us and south korea.
9:09 am
they told nbc news there could be another ballistic missile launch that mayor may not take place, but now, according to evan oznus who was in there during a recent twitter storm. evan was saying his takeaway from talking to people in pyongyang is this leader is still young. he has to react to this. . let's reset the viewers and remind them that many. and it's gone much further than the missile front where the trump administration thought they would. but i think they started down the right tra tijuka i can path
9:10 am
which was corralling emplts of china to try to build up that pressure. but what we see again is this nrl. they had a goodwin before the end of the year on cutting off fuel to north korea. that's really positive. and now we you'llyie the u.s.'s leadership role and the north corals and the south koreans actually engaging. that happens, i think, when the president and others make statements that are fundamentally at odds with south korean interests. ultimately our sources there are to protect south korea and our homeland, and we have to walk hand in hand with the allies in the region. right now the president's statements are are making that harder rather than easier. >> in the last week or so, we've
9:11 am
seen two incidents at least of chinese smuggling and refueling of north korean ships at sea. you're a harvard lawyer. you've been in government and counterterrorism. i've got to ask you about these revelations we're going to drill down on more in a moment, but the revelations that steve bannon may well have met with the russians and the sequences of that important conversation on air force i on the way back from germany where they were devising the information about the russian meeting before it was first disclosed. but these are really significant statements about people's knowledge of public statements that are then used to try to defuse investigations, and that's a very big deal to any criminal prosecutor and criminal
9:12 am
it also, to me, highlights how important it is for the president to try to under. . i think we need to sit back and let the reaction happen. if even the small idea of it is true, that this is a red herring, that nothing was going on here, it is not really accurate. >> i take your warning of the beg your pardon and you remember there are high stakes for everyone involved. happy new year. >> happy new year. a historic moment has just passed on the senate floor. the swearing in of alabama's doug jones, the first democratic senator in more than two decades. and tina smith replacing al franken. we have 22 members of the
9:13 am
senate. it's not nearly representative, but it is 22. joining me now, nbc's von hilliard on capitol hill. vaughn, this is a swearing. in the old senate chamber and that will involve a number of z. you have vice president mike pence who you just saw on fot doug jones and tina smith, but now they're making their way to the subway that connects the two places there. they'll have that old swearing-in at the old chamber. doug jones, meanwhile, is going to be accompanied by. their relationship goes back 41 years when doug jones was in law
9:14 am
school, and doug joebz who actually went and introduced them. then he themd. he was the last democrat to serve the state here in the u.s. senate and he worked with joe biden at that point, too. as you saw in the last 10 minutes, you now have is a full senate. all 100 senators are sworn in. congress is back in session. you have the likes of tina smith, as you said, the 22nd woman to represent. now, she is going to be up for reelection just here in one year from now, in 2018. minnesota will be voting on two senators next november in a special election as well as for klobuchar. doug jones will be serving in this u.s. senate capacity until at least 2020. i just asked doug jones this morning, what type of senator are you going to be? you're a democrat and representi
9:15 am
representing. what are you going to do in termds of being there and the way doug jones ran his operation in the last two months. andrea? >> welcome back to alabama, and happy new year to you, vaughn. democratic congresswoman donna edwards, welcome both. a happy new year to you. a busy day. we see these noteworthy swearing-ins. michael steele, the steve bannon revelations to michael wolf, a well-known author of this new book, "fire and fury." we've got copies of the book and new excerpts from the publisher. it not only has legal implications, let's call it the fox news whatever you want to
9:16 am
call it, the echo of trump saying it was all a hoax. he's very much in a burn this village down in order to seve. this is an extraordinarily negative development for the trump administration. they've relied on a combination of the steve bannon nationalists and that base could be splitting. >> steve bannon in the book telling michael wolf the meeting with the russian lawyer in trump tower was, quote, treasonous and unpatriotic. again, to repeat that question, the answer that don jr. and. ilt. more witnesses have to be developed for a legal case to be
9:17 am
mad made. >> if it's true, it's probably the biggest bombshell in this investigation so far. >> we have a swearing in. a lot of liberal, progressive democrats who were fans of al franken, women included, concerned about this change in the minnesota seat, the senate seat, could now be vulnerable. tina smith has to run again in a year and minnesota was always a close -- or could well be a close call. >> it is, but remember that tina smith also, as the former lieutenant governor, ran statewide. she's well known. and i think that this really is a changing point for democrats. we now have another state with two women dem. she's going to have a if tough reelection. look at doug jones. he's got a tough haul because
9:18 am
he's got to balance a lot of competing interests in alabama. i will note that he did choose, as the only democrat chose an african-american chief of staff, the only democrat. so he understands both his base but also how he has to be a senator, rather, for the entire state of alabama. >> it's so interesting also with tina smith. the women of the senate have long had a relationship. i remember when there was a book "13 is not enough" when hillary clinton was elected, and robert mccloskey was the dean of senators and always referred to. now it's 22 and they've always had monthly dinners, they are very quietly working with each other across party lines as well, michael, but then there's a big story on the republican side which is utah. mitt romney very likely will be declaring there has been the death of the mormon leader overnight which is going to absorb a lot of attention in the next month as the death of the
9:19 am
leader of the mormon church is recognized p. but ooereventually mitt romney be announcing he'll run for the senate. >> i think we would be lucky to have him. we think of president trump and their contentious relationship, but if he's going to be the senator of utah, he needs to make utah his priority. he needs to be concerned about every streetlight in provo. i think he knows that i think that's how he'll run. >> even on the global stage, he understood utah. we saw his twitter page miraculously changed, his biography changed from massachusetts resident to utah. we're seeing it there. donna edwards on a busy day,
9:20 am
michael steele, thanks for joining us. bannon going ballistic. the former chief strategist accusing donald trump jr. of a treasonous act. stay right here on "andrea mitchell reports" on msnbc. special counsel robert mueller's criminal investigation has already shown why the president should be impeached. you can send a message to your representatives at and demand they finally take a stand. this president is not above the law.
9:21 am
no one burns on heartburn. my watch!
9:22 am
try alka seltzer ultra strength heartburn relief chews. with more acid-fighting power than tums chewy bites. mmmmm...amazing. i have heartburn. ultra strength from alka seltzer. enjoy the relief.
9:23 am
continuing with our breaking news, former white house chief strategist steve bannon ripping into the president's son in a new book by michael wolf, disagreeing sharply with the
9:24 am
president by denouncing that controversial june 2016 meeting that don jr. helped organize with the russians. bannon said, even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad, you should have called the fbi immediately. robert costa, national political reporter at the "washington post," washington bureau jeannie page. robert, first to you, i should have also mentioned host of "washington week" on pbs. veteran trump watcher throughout the campaign, this book exposes a lot. >> there is a lot of anger inside the white house today, talking to people close to the president. they are unhappy with steve bannon making these sorts of comments. at the same time bannon's comments have pent-up
9:25 am
frustration. there's always been a bannon banishment wing rather than the wing that has his son-in-law ji jared kushner and ivanka trump. those tensions existed before the book. >> you've got a number of excerpts here from the book. this is the michael wolf book. that the three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside trump tower in the conference room on the 25th floor with no lawyers. they didn't have any lawyers. he also adds a number of other issues which we pointed out earlier that he believes, bannon believes, that the chance they did not bring the russian lawyer vena venaskaya, to see the presidential candidate is zero. this is not proof in any kind of
9:26 am
presidential way, but it certainly isn't only damaging but disputes president trump's claim, first, saying he didn't know about this until they told him later, that he had no contact with russia at any time and that it was all a hoax. >> this is bad news not only for president trump but for his family and top aides. what makes it so extraordinary is the source of these quotes is someone very close to trump, very senior to his campaign and then a top adviser in the white house. it is quite extraordinary. there are some delicious political things here, but there are also disclosures that could add to the president's legal problems when it comes to the special counsel investigation. >> one of the other excerpts from the book, which is the reporting of michael wolf, that trump and his wife would go days at a time without contact even when they were both at trump tower. a notorious womanizer, trump liked to say that one of the
9:27 am
thi things that made life worth living was getting your friends' wives into bed. this is gossip reporting, but reporting from a veteran new yorker who have done a lot of other books that have stood the test of time. >> michael wolf's book, that we've been discussing, is a legal problem for the president, a political problem for the president, and now as a result of what you just talked about and other excerpts in this book, little vinettes involving ivanka and involving other people, it is a personal problem for the president. we learned a lot of things about the president, about his family, about his son-in-law, about the way they interacted with each other and related to each other that under normal circumstances would be embarrassing. but when you have an administration that, from the president on down, didn't expect to win, and now here they are having all of their business thrown out there into the street, the implications are huge. and just the excerpts that we've
9:28 am
read so far, were he not president of the united states, yes, it would be sola cc irk so it -- titillating in other places. shakespearen does not begin to describe the interpersonal relationships within the trump family. >> speaking of that, another excerpt from the book is when bannon and ivanka had a bitter, verbal confrontation in the oval office in front of the president in which bannon called ivanka -- an expletive deleted -- liar, the president said to his daughter, i told you this was a tough town, baby. you know about it being a tough town and a tough town for the trumps, but this is pretty ugly.
9:29 am
>> it is akcrimonious. between ivanka, her father and jared kushner see the world a different way than bannon who has a burn it down mentality when it comes to national politics. they were always at odds inside the white house and now bannon is on the outside at breitbart agitating in different races as we saw in alabama. he wants to do more this year, and that's going to be a force that the white house has to grapple with for the coming months. >> there's another excerpt, robert, that i draw to your attention about mark carollo. well-known justice department official, well-known aide to a number of lawyers here in town and prosecutors in the past. the spoerks person fkesperson f president's team believed that the meetings were largely
9:30 am
conducted by the president and kushner spokesperson josh rafael represented a likely obstruction of justice. corallo resigned shortly after, refusing to continue to work with the president and his family. this was when the president was reacting and taking personal charge of the statement that don jr. was going to release after the first revelation, seuss usa page, about that russian meeting from june 2016. >> the thing to keep in mind is these are things we're learning, details from someone who was there. we assume the special counsel has been talking to mark carollo trying to figure out in there was corruption, number two, if there was obstruction, using the excerpts to build that case. >> as we continue to go through
9:31 am
this book, more continuing on msnbc, susan page, john capehart and robert costa. the president and his tweets could launch the u.s. into an unavoidable war. i'll talk to democratic senator and vice presidential running mate tim kane. coming up. stay with us. >> tech: at safelite autoglass we know that when you're spending time with the grandkids every minute counts. and you don't have time for a cracked windshield. that's why we show you exactly when we'll be there. saving you time, so you can keep saving the world.
9:32 am
>> kids: ♪ safelite repair, safelite replace ♪ so we know how to cover almost almoanything.hing even a swing set standoff. and we covered it, july first, twenty-fifteen. talk to farmers. we know a thing or two because we've seen a thing or two. ♪ we are farmers. bum-pa-dum, bum-bum-bum-bum ♪
9:33 am
9:34 am
9:35 am
there is only one same policy for your country and mine to preserve our civilization in this modern age. a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. >> that warning from president reagan a reminder that of course led to gorbachev and a war. that was related to trump saying he has a bigger and better button than kim jong-un. this after he said he might be
9:36 am
on the brink of testing another ballistic missile. tim kane from the armed services committee, welcome. >> thank you, andreandrea. good to be with you. >> i'm wondering how you felt reading that tweet overnight. >> two thoughts. one, the president has had a steady pattern of undermining diplomacy, and if you do that, you raise the risk of unnecessary war, you make america less safe. so whether it's juvenile tweets, whether it's not even nominating an ambassador to south korea, whether it's undercutting secretary of state tillerson or secretary of defense mattis when they say the u.s. is never out of diplomatic options. over and over and over again what the president does is engage in provocative behavior that undercuts diplomacy and makes us unsafe. second, when he says he has a nuke ler button, he can't just fire nuclear buttons, he has to go to congress. no wars without congress.
9:37 am
that's what the article i powers of congress include as probably our most solemn responsibility, and the fact that the president is sitting there tweeting, thinking he can just punch a button for nuclear weapons is not the way it works. that's why we are fighting back against him acting unlawfully. >> it is very clear in the chain of command that if he's responding to something, he does have that authority without going to congress. obviously if it's a preemptive action, he should be consulting, yes. >> and that is the case. a president, it's been understood since the beginning, can defend the united states against imminent attack, that's true. although we have never defended against an attack and used nuclear weapons in a first strike. that's not what we do. that's sort of been an understood pillar of american foreign policy after world war
9:38 am
ii was over from truman toward. but if he wants to do something preemptive, he's got to come to congress first, and the president doesn't seem to understand that. he fired missiles at syria in april without coming to congress and still hasn't given us any legal rationale for that missile strike. the thought that he could think his nuclear button is big and he has the power to do something without congress should trouble everybody. no works without congress and this president shouldn't be f t flitt around with a nuclear arsenal. he should be counseled to be more cautious than he is. >> in iran, we have spreading protests. they're smaller than 2009, but they're spreading nationally. you've got clear power struggle going on at the top of the regime. at this point the president is considering new sanctions, non-nuclear sanctions, sanctions in support for terror, which is
9:39 am
undisputed and missile proliferation. how do you feel about any congressional action on new sanctions? can he work unilaterally on that without executive authority? >> andrea, sanctions on iran for behavior whether it's missile or human rights, that's on the table and we ought to be having the discussion with the white house. the thing i'm worried about is the president is stepping back from the iranian nuclear deal, which according to the atomic energy agency and other partners to the deal, stulis actually working. if the president steps back from a deal that's working, why would north korea entertain getting into a diplomatic deal with the united states to limit its nuclear weapons program? they have to believe if we do a deal, we will stick to a deal, and i think the biggest danger of what the president is doing in iran right now is he's sending a signal to north korea that north korea could not trust the united states to live up to
9:40 am
a nuclear deal. we should be exhausting our diplomatic opportunities, and there are still opportunities, with north korea to limit their nuclear program, but the president's activities have basically been to undermine diplomacy. again, that makes america less safe. >> and i wanted to ask you about this new michael wolf book, "fire and fury" which quotes steve bannon and other insiders and also has a lot of reporting from inside the white house in the first 200 days, we understand. one of the quotes is from bannon. even if you thought this meeting with the russians was not treasonous or unpatriotic or bad, expletive deleted, and i happen to think it's all of that, you should have called the fbi immediately. this is the meeting with the russians in june of 2016 -- >> in june of 2016, yeah. >> it was the height of the campaign. obviously you were involved and about to be involved as the running mate for hillary clinton, but the president has denied any contact with the russians, he's called the investigation a hoax. what is your initial reaction to
9:41 am
the revelations in this book? >> well, that they're not surprising. they're of a pattern with the papadopoulos guilty plea, they're of a pattern with the criminal charges against flynn and others. there is obviously very, very serious wrongdoing at some levels in the trump campaign transition and administration over this issue of conspiracy with the russians. collusion, cooperation with the russians. the good news, andrea, is the director, former fbi director mueller, he's going to get to the bottom of it as long as president trump doesn't push some precipitous firing of or termination of the investigation. we're going to get to the bottom of it and we're going to know that degree of cooperation between the trump campaign and the russian government to hijack an american election. >> do you think the revelations in this book might undermine some of the efforts to cut off mueller, to cut off the investigation among your
9:42 am
colleagues, might stiffen the backbone of some of the republicans who have been going after mueller? >> there's clearly been a concerted effort to go after mueller, but i can tell you this. i don't think the senate will stand for interference with the mueller investigation. i know no democrat will stand for it, but there are enough republicans here i've talked to about this who will also stand strong to make sure this investigation is completed. we have to hold people accountable if they've violated the law, and we also have to know everything that happened so we can guard future american elections against this kind of interference by a foreign adversary. andrea, you know this. the head of our joint chiefs of staff, dunford, have testified and others have as well, that we have troops on board with russia. when it was announced i was added to the ticket in philadelphia, president trump went to the microphone and said he encouraged russia to engage
9:43 am
in cyber hacking to help him win the election. mueller has to get to the bottom of it. i believe he will, and i believe the senate will protect the integrity of the investigation. >> senator tim kane, thank you very much. >> you bet, andrea. happy start of the new year. >> happy new year to you, too. we'll have more on this controversial new book exposing secrets from inside the trump white house and campaign, coming up. stay with us. .. so why wouldn't you take something for the most important part of you... your brain. with an ingredient originally found in jellyfish, prevagen is now the number one selling brain health supplement in drug stores nationwide. prevagen. the name to remember. with expedia, you can book a flight, then add a hotel, and save. ♪
9:44 am
everything you need to go. expedia
9:45 am
9:46 am
and continuing our breaking
9:47 am
news on this new michael wolf book, "fire and fury." let's go back to the white house with hallie jackson. there is one excerpt i note where michael wolf had been told by friends that it was not a good idea to take $45,000 from the russians for a speech. he said, it would only be a problem if we won. therefore it would not be be a problem. i guess they did not expect to win. but hallie, the revelations in this book about what's going on inside the white house, we're told by publishers that michael wolf had written another piece about donald trump that they liked in the past, so he was given the interior scheming and confrontations in the white house for 200 days. >> reporter: supposedly had done a couple hundred interviews here with people in donald trump's orbit, people in the white
9:48 am
house, people close to the white house and so on. you hit on a couple points that were noteworthy. inside the white house booth as you are, as your producers are, sort of reading through everything that's there. the new york post just posted what will be their cover story, including more details about mike flynn that you just mentioned, and the attitude seemed to be, the way wolf portrays it, hey, we're not going to win, anyway, lose sg winning, because donald trump felt, hey, he would run this campaign. he had elevated his profile to a very high degree. he could be this foil now for hillary clinton, so why not? there is almost a no lose proposition. then it describes, andrea, in this book sort of the revelation on election night that donald trump went through from sort of stunned to horrified to then sort of accepting and liking that he was going to be one of the most powerful men, if not the most powerful man, in the world. i will tell you that based on my experiences during the campaign, i think it's accurate to say there were not a lot of people who expected donald trump to win inside donald trump's orbit. now, i did have on election day
9:49 am
one conversation with a top official at the time on the campaign who was adamant the electoral college was going to swing their way, et cetera, and i think people in that orbit were dismiss sieive of it that obviously turned out to be ultimately correct. >> hallie, thank you for scrambling out there for us today. we appreciate it. we will be right back. i learned that my ten times great grandmother is george washington's aunt. within a few days i went from knowing almost nothing to holy crow, i'm related to george washington. this is my cousin george. discover your story. start searching for free now at
9:50 am
he gets the best deal on the perfect hotel by using. tripadvisor! that's because tripadvisor lets you start your trip on the
9:51 am
right foot... by comparing prices from over 200 booking sites to find the right hotel for you at the lowest price. saving you up to 30%! you'll be bathing in savings! tripadvisor. check the latest reviews and lowest prices. parts a and b and want more coverage, guess what? you could apply for a medicare supplement insurance plan whenever you want. no enrollment window. no waiting to apply. that means now may be a great time to shop for an aarp medicare supplement insurance plan, insured by unitedhealthcare insurance company. medicare doesn't cover everything. and like all standardized medicare supplement insurance plans, these help cover some of what medicare doesn't pay. so don't wait. call now to request your free decision guide. it could help you find the aarp medicare supplement plan that works for you. these types of plans have no networks, so you get to choose any doctor who accepts
9:52 am
medicare patients. rates are competitive, and they're the only plans of their kind endorsed by aarp. remember - these plans let you apply all year round. so call today. because now's the perfect time to learn more. go long.
9:53 am
in iran protests are now in their seventh day. former senior adviser to president obama joining us, dean of the john hopkins school of advanced international studies, and the former deputy national security adviser to president george w. bush. we have a regime divided, people in the streets, an economic impetus now morphing into the political? >> exactly. it's a whole new phenomenon in iran that you have the poor, upper class, and middle people demanding economic justice. they're angry. they're in small towns. it's difficult for the regime to deal with it because a lot of them are the base of the regime. they're the kinds of people in
9:54 am
small towns that they rely on and it's not as easy to crack down on them. >> the president was moving quickly, we had been told, towards more sanctions, nonnuclear sanctions, support for hezbollah, missile proliferation, trying to get congress to sign on to that as he walks away from the nuclear deal. >> this affords an opportunity for the president to do two things. one, right the wrongs of what he sees to be president obama's meek response in 2009, the green movement and the lack of voice from the american side but, also, to use sanctions, a whole wave of sanctions including those he announced and signed on human rights and corruption which fit neatly into the thee matti th street, expose their corruption which in a way i think the administration thinks will be helpful to fuel the protests and
9:55 am
the discontent with the regime. >> could it backfire, vali, if he gets too heavy handed on twitter or otherwise? could it backfire and give the regime a scapegoat to say this is all fostered by the outside enemies as the ayatollah said yesterday? >> i think that's already happened. he insulted the iranian people by saying they're finally wising up. he did open the door to say not only the united states and its allies may have instituted this but would like to benefit it to bring down the regime. and that allows the ruling elites to divide the population. there's a segment in population that may decide not to sympathize with the protesters if they believe it will create a national security crisis. i think to juan's point the president already played his hand that he was going to kill the nuclear deal regardless. a deadline was coming up in january for him to pull the trigger. it's not credible for him to say
9:56 am
he's taking this step now out of sympathy for the iranian people. >> i was going to say i don't think he necessarily has to pull out of the deal in order to use the sanctions especially the human rights and corruption angle. it gives him the ability to pressure. there's a way to add voice to the issue without making the u.s. the central character or protagonist. spotlighting human rights abuses, providing perhaps some communication support as iran cracks down on the internet, and galvanizing others particularly european voices to speak out on behalf of the protesters i think is important. >> they've said they're doing that but they've had trouble getting the europeans onboard because of concern that they don't agree with president trump on the nuclear deal, vali, and they don't agree with some of his more explosive tweets. >> the other issue is when is it that you do these things, with 20 deaths or with 2,000 deaths? and i think it looks like at
9:57 am
this point -- at this particular point in time revolutionary guards have not fully been deployed. police confrontation with protesters that have also turned violent. therefore, i think the administration has to calibrate this response in a way that it doesn't look like it's way ahead of events on the ground. >> just a final point here. what's interesting, too, about the protests, the protests morphed into the discontent from an economic perspective to the foreign adventures of the regime itself. one of the challenges for the trump administration is how do you push back in places like syria, yemen, et cetera, against iranian adventurism. that ties into this in terms of what the protesters are calling for as well. >> i want to ask you, juan, about this new book, michael wolff's new book "fire and fury." when stories first emerged jeff sessions had met with the russian ame russian ambassador, trump didn't see it as a problem.
9:58 am
when the president was shown the story, he didn't see its significance. so what. >> you can understand maybe that reaction. it's a sitting senator meeting with the russian ambassador. the president needed to be sensitive given the tableau of problems and suspicions around his contacts with russia. should have been more sensitive to that. then and now. >> the whole issue of the russian connection he is posed by steve bannon, at least, to michael wolff as something steve bannon thought was treasonous, hardly the hoax the president has claimed. >> those sensitivities internally suggest that there wasn't certainly enough sensitivity around the president's inner circle and certainly not enough discussion around this issue. as vali and i talked about earlier, amateurishness to leading up to the election.
9:59 am
>> not surprising given he was a nonpolitician but still has the same significance, vali. >> it's significant because steve bannon verifies for his base that all of this is true. so the president cannot just dismiss this as some kind of a democratic conspiracy against him. >> and when we go forward with all of the accusations against mueller and the questions of his credibility, this pushback in terms of the politics of it, as vali just said, the republican base. >> and the fact bannon felt that way at the time, or at least that's how he's construing it, adds credence, look, they were suspicious. these contacts should have been notified to the fbi. there was something wrong about all of this. i think that does add further fuel to the mueller investigation. >> juan zarate, vali nasr, great to have you both as we start the new year. that does it for a very busy day
10:00 am
on "andrea mitchell reports." stay with us here on msnbc. remember to follow us online at "mitchell reports." craig melvin here at msnbc headquarters in new york city. good afternoon to you. treasonous? the new bombshell claim from steve bannon about that infamous trump tower meeting with the attorney general, that donald trump was introduced to the participants and why he thinks donald trump jr. will, quote, crack like an egg. plus, senator romney. two sources now tell nbc news his announcement is a matter of when, not if, so how would he work with president trump after calling him, among other things, a fraud? and state of emergency, a winter storm from new england to florida with terms being thrown around like winter hurricane. our meteorologist will explain what the terms mean and what we can expect. we start with a bombshell new