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tv   The 11th Hour With Brian Williams  MSNBC  February 20, 2018 1:00am-2:00am PST

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it's time for "the rachel maddow show." tonight donald trump back at the white house after a florida weekend tirade in the wake of the mueller indictments during which he managed to link the florida school shooting to his own legal trouble. then he went after obama. meanwhile this was not a holiday weekend for the mueller investigation, and we've got new details tonight on the former trump campaign staffer ready to plead guilty. and do the surviving parkland students in their anger and grief represent the best chance to do something about the mass shootings that have become a predictable part of our american life? "the 11th hour" on a monday night begins now. well, good evening once again from our nbc news studios here in new york as we on this he'd monday begin this holiday shortened week for most folk. this was day 396 of the trump
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administration. the president has tonight returned from florida to what is very much a white house on crisis footing. multiple controversies now engulf this administration as the russia investigation itself intensifies. last weekended with special counsel robert mueller, of course, indicting 13 russians on charges they interfered in our election but didn't accuse the president or anyone in his circle of actual or active wrongdoing. the president latched onto that part of it, and was initially pleased with the news. but then he spent the weekend at mar-a-lago in florida. and he watched the news coverage before unleashing his anger in response to that indictment, 14 tweets just about russia in just over 48 hours. here's some of what the president wrote in this fuselage.
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quote, if it was the goal of russia to create discord and cay coswithin the u.s. then with all the committee hearings and investigations and all the party hatred they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. they are laughing their asses off in moskow. get smart america. this is not acceptable. they are spending too much time trying to prove russian collusion with the trump campaign. there is no collusion. get back to the basics and make us all proud. then there was this. "obama was president up to and until the 2016 election, so why didn't he do something about russian meddling?" >> the president even criticized h.r. mcmaster for russian election interference calling it quote, incontrovertible. as bloomberg's shannon pettypiece noted trump criticized everyone but russia
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for election meddling. russia is not the only issue confronting this white house. there are lingering questions about allegations of abuse against the top level aide, reports of cabinet aides billing taxpayers for luxury travel. allegations of extra marital affairs with the president, for starters. ashley parker and philip rucker report "the washington post," trump officials have felt under siege. they write that one official described the nation's focus on the issues raised by the school shooting in florida as quote, a distraction or a reprieve. a lot of people here felt like it was a reprieve from seven or eight days from just getting pummeled. "the washington post" philip rucker described the this way on this network earlier today. >> they had been under the bright light for the media spotlight for these numerous scandals which were growing in the days leading up to the shooting.
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and all of a sudden the media attention turned to florida people stopped asking questions and they got a few days to collect their thoughts, figure out what they're going to do, reset, if you will. but i don't think these scandals are gone. i think tuesday they're going to be faced with a lot of questions about all of it. >> let's bring in your panel. michael schmidt, shannon pettypiece, and msnbc political analyst eli stokels. the power of positive spin, telling the boss, no, this is good news story for you. he goes down to florida where he sees the contrary flipping around on the cable channels. he comes back to washington tonight, back on twitter he promoted the u.s. economy, a book and the senate candidacy of one mitt romney. >> yeah, and we haven't even started the week yet really. today was technically a holiday. so tuesday when the gates of that white house open, we have a lot of pent-up questions because we have heard very little, very
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few opportunities to and sarah huckabee sanders any questions. no opportunities to and the president any questions. he did not have any media availability really over the weekend. of course, they were trying to have him keep a low profile over the weekend out of respect for the shooting victims who were just 40 minutes away, who he went and visited with on friday night trying to keep the somber tone by keeping him off the golf course. but i don't know from a public relations standpoint which would have been better. having him golfing or having him tweet, as you pointed out, repeatedly over and over again throughout saturday and sunday. and in one case blaming the fbi's russia investigation for the shooting falling through the cracks. so it was just another weekend that could have been low profile, could have taken the temperature down but it didn't because of the constant barrage of tweets we've seen.
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>> michael, as memory serves you were a guest of a member of mar-a-lago when the president, you kind of ran into him after he had come off the golf course, received an impromptu interview with the president during which he mentioned no collusion a number of times. have you found his usage static or was this weekend frenetic by his standards? >> the interesting thing when i spoke with the president back in december i actually hadn't asked about collusion, but he had jumped on it on his own. you sort of saw that again this weekend where he took to twitter to try and turn the narrative in terms of russia back towards his favor. it's our understanding that the president initially saw the indictments that came out on friday as a good thing for him. there was no evidence of any collusion in there. there was nothing that referenced his campaign.
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it was all, you know, rod rosenstein the deputy attorney general went as far to point out this at his press conference. but as the weekend wore on the president saw the narrative wasn't heading that way, that the narrative was there was russian meddling in the election. this was something that had helped the president get elected, and he went full force to do everything he could through his favorite medium, twitter, to make that argument. and i think that's why we saw what we did. >> eli, is there any magic for him to be back in the white house, or does it just mean when we see a calming in his twitter feed that he is back in the area of dominant influence of a chief of staff and perhaps a lawyer or two? >> i don't know even know if it means that. it means he's gotten a lot of things off his chest over the weekend and will go quiet for a short period. michael's use of the term narrative is important because that is something that consumes this president. he is the president and yet he
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is consumed by the reflected reality that he consumes that comes back to him from tv that he watches constantly. he was tweeting about 60 minutes interviews last night. seems like he spent most of the weekend watching television, being on twitter and making phone calls to people that he trusts outside. and the reality that is reflected back to him is what he acts on. he gets agitated when people stop believing that john kelly is a calming force in the white house. that's what bothers him about the rob porter saga. and with the information that came down about the russian indictments as maggie haberman of "the new york times" reported, he didn't hold onto what his own advisers told him when he saw it on television being portrayed differently.
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it aided him. this is a guy where his own lawyers have tried to belay tiz desires where the people around him are constantly trying to soothe and keep from these sort of freak outs like the one we saw this weekend on twitter. >> and shannon, let's take the narrative further. it was notable when the mueller story came out the end of last week his initial reaction was i didn't do it, not i will protect you my fellow american citizens. is there anyone in your view based on reporting who is explaining to him this is existential, this plot line is potentially -- for his presidency? >> i think those around him continue having a hard time of making this russia issue not
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about him personally and conveying the broader national security issue going on here. so many of the struggles this president has had throughout his presidency is his inability to step outside himself and see there's a bigger issue here beyond him. everything is about a personal slight. everything is about his election. we saw h.r. mcmaster try to speak in a broad term, addressing the national security threat to our democracy, not just ours but democracies in europe, all over the world that the russians would like to interfere. interfere. and, you know, it was a knee jerk reaction from the president that he had to respond to that and make it, again, about himself. so i think there is a much bigger threat here as the intelligence keeps raising about russian interference in the election. but i don't think there's any chance at this point, we're over a year in, that the president is going to be able to make this about the country and national security and not about himself and his own electoral victory. there's no sign that's changing. >> michael, by tomorrow it will be one week since our last white be one week since our last white house briefing. the folks who work for the u.s.
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taxpayers. what would your number one question on the russia matter be? >> well, i think you have to come back to the question about what has this administration done to try and prevent this going forward? that is a large question that continues to be unanswered. and they really haven't done much there. and the question is why. why is that that if the russians were so successful for bob mueller to lay it out in dozens of pages the way he did it on friday, why is it that nothing is being done on that issue? is it simply that the white
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house is afraid to confront and deal with that issue because the president hates that issue so much? and that's a larger thing. you don't hear a ton from republicans on capitol hill about that. you hear some of that, but there's not a large chorus behind that. but i guess in a broader sense that would be the question i have. why does this continue to be ignored? what is it that motivates that? >> eli, put on your predictive cap. we have by my count porter, kelly, porn stars, security clearances, guns. what do you think is the headline tomorrow out of this white house? >> don't forget the two cabinet secretaries flying first class all over the world. >> oh, there's that. >> but that is the problem is that all of that can take place in a week. there can all be questions about that in one briefing. the problem is how can the public focus on any one of those things. and we've been at this for over a year now with this administration. and most of the times it hasn't felt sustainable given all of
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the turn in the news. and yet this is the sort of norm now. and i think that's one of the things that almost enables this president to just keep going. because it's hard for the public to grasp onto any one of those things or to be outraged about all of those things. so there will be questions about all of it tomorrow. but i think, you know, the russia matter, that is like you said an existential crisis for this presidency. these other things are scandals that would be huge in a normal administration. but this is not a normal administration, so the fact this president was elected with claims of adullturous relationships and sexual abuse against him, and voters voted anyways, that's sort of baked in with donald trump. these cabinet secretaries would be a huge thing with any other administration. there will be a lot of noise around these things, but ultimately what the biggest thing is the russia investigation, and that's the thing that really agitates this president more than anything else. >> our view joining us, a sincere thanks. coming up for us, new reporting on a key figure who could plead
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guilty amid the mueller investigation. plus two men who know a thing or two about the russia threat. a former fbi counter intelligence agent, a former u.s. ambassador to russia, they weigh in on what president trump should be saying right about now. "the 11th hour" just getting started on a monday night.
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we mentioned before the break we're tracking new developments in the mueller
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investigation just days after they indicted 13 russian nationals for interfering in our presidential election. l.a. times reports former trump campaign aide rick gates will quote, plead guilty to fraud related charges within days and has made clear to prosecutors he would testify against paul manafort the lawyer dash lobbyist who once managed the campaign. this according to people familiar with the case. gates is manafort's former long time business partner in the political consulting field. both pleaded not guilty back in october to a number of charges including money laundering that are unrelated to the trump campaign. and the l.a. times said a gates person familiar with the guilty plea would place a cherry on top of the government's already formidable case against manafort. the same individual said he believed gates did not have
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information to offer mueller's team that would turn the screws on trump. the president has repeatedly calls the russia investigation a witch hunt. michael bennett for the l.a. times and jack sharman, these days financial services during the white water investigation. he is now a criminal defense attorney. jack, i'd like to begin with you. rick gates' guilty plea, what does that say to you, and what will you want to know from it? >> well, it says that obviously he is going to testify against mr. manafort if necessary. that is tool to put pressure on his co-defendant to work out his own deal. the indictment and presumably whatever he ends up pleading to are separate from any campaign related issues or russian interference issues. but they could conceivably, if they let mr. manafort who'd want to resolve his own case, that
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could lead to further revelations in that regard. >> and i can't remember the exact wording from the podium and president when manafort started getting so much attention. trump said, you know, he was here for a very short period of time. remind us the manafort-gates relationship and what these two gentlemen may have to offer mr. mueller. >> so paul manafort was donald trump's campaign manager from june 2016 to august 2016, which was a critical time because that's when the republican national convention happened. and rick gates was a long-time associate and business partner with paul manafort. particularly when manafort was working as an alleged paid
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lobbyist for putin-linked interests in the ukraine. and both rick gates and paul manafort have been charged with not registering as a foreign agent and also with money laundering charges. and what we have going on here is mueller is at the stage where he's trying to squeeze the little fish to get to big fish. so he is putting pressure on gates, trying to flip him, trying to get him to enter a guilty plea so he'll get out more information about his long-time business partner, manafort. and it may not bepler information he knows about the connections to russians, but if he could put more pressure on manafort and get manafort to be in an uncomfortable position, get a guilty plea out of manafort and get manafort to describe more about what he knows about any connection between russia and russian
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officials and the trump campaign during those critical months in the summer of 2016. >> jack, we're lucky to have you because i have a legal question that may come up and be germane as we learn more. paul mentioned, the president said he quoted a client in russia and so on and so forth. that would be, i guess, in the eyes of it law in other cases heresay. but i understand in a case like this heresay rules are different, is that correct? >> heresay is just a statement made out of court in court. so heresay is perfectly appropriate and used all the time in interviews with witnesses or defendants, in grand jury testimony. so there's nothing unusual about that. and then if two or more defendants are charged as co-conspirators and if they go
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to trial, then there's actually an exception to the heresay rule even at trial such that their statements if it's shown to be in furtherance and made in the course of the conspiracy, those are admissible. so that's a trial question, but certainly before then in interviews with agents and prosecutors, in any grand jury testimony mr. gates relaying what mr. manafort said or even what mr. manafort said the president said, which would be double heresay, that's perfectly fine up until try. >> that's going to be interesting. brian, what do you anticipate? is sarah huckabee sanders going to try to diminish -- she'll be asked about gates i guess tomorrow, the first briefing in a week's time. is it dangerous strategy? do you think she'll go there anyway to diminish his title and
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role and service? >> i'm sure she will. gates was campaign staff and liaison to the rnc. he also worked on the campaign committee. and this has been a strategy we've seen in the past where they try to diminish the role of the people who are linked to russian investigation have played. and i also would say that rick gates may not be an essential figure in proving collusion between russia and trump campaign managers and the trump campaign, but what mueller is trying to do here is put pressure on manafort and maybe get manafort to put pressure on other people to get to that critical question, which is yes we know that russia tried to sew discord in the elections, but
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was anyone in the trump campaign orbit helping russia do that and helping russia to help trump get elected? >> jack, few seconds left. who or what would you have us looking for next here? >> well, i would look at the amount of time, if it can be discerned, that they spend with mr. gates and if there's any indication there are discussions with other lawyers, if deadlines get pushed off, that sort of thing that allows the government to try to come to some terms would be things i'd look for. >> very able journalist and a very able attorney. thanks very much for joining us tonight. and coming up on our broadcast why it's what the president hasn't said since the mueller indictments on friday that may matter the most.
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above all this rhetoric here, again, we're losing sight of what is it we're going to do about the threat posed by the russians? he never talks about that. it's all about himself, collusion or not. >> right there. when you hear thoughtful people talking that way it does focus your attention. that was former director of national intelligence james
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clapper this weekend criticizing the president's response to this now indisputable proof that russia meddled in the u.s. election and then some. it's been three days since we learned the depth of russian involvement. and in that time the president has gone after in no particular order fake news, democrats, national security advisor h. r. mcmaster, the fbi, the doj, congressman adam schiff, and oprah. notably the president has had nothing to say about russia or putin or protecting our nation from further attack. the intelligence community has been begging the president and his administration to take this threat seriously. former fbi special agent clint watts testified before congress almost a year ago now. >> part of the reason this has worked is because the commander in chief has used against his opponents.
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he denies the intel from the united states about russia. he claims that the election could be rigged. that was the number one theme pushed by sputnik news, outlets all the way until to the election. until we get a firm basis on fact and fiction and our own country gets some agreement about the facts whether it be do i support the intelligence community or a story i read on my twitter feed, we're going to have a big problem. >> that man, clint watts, is now with us, the former fbi agent who was attached to the joint terrorism task force and also our analyst. and michael mcfauls is with us as well. he's these days our russian
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affairs contributor. gentlemen, welcome. clint watts, you know your stuff. how should the president be talking to us as american citizens right now? >> he could come forward any day that he chooses since he's taken the oath of office and say, look, you know, i won fair and square but we've got problems with russia and we've got future elections coming up. let's get a commission together, which he could have easily done. let's come up with solutions, let's put a task force together. this was a 9/11 on information warfare we suffered and we don't want it to happen again. >> a lot of people point out the oath he took on inauguration day and as you put this, they put this in that category. >> and instead he then points at his own institutions and maligns
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them in the same way russia aligns them. we now see the russian foreign minister, president putin views the attacks as justification. and so our president is actually an advocate for another country's president against the american people. it's one of the most bizarre things that's ever happened. and the things we now look at is russia doesn't have to make fake news or falsehoods but amplify the ones already going on in our country. it's just one falsehood after another. the nunes memo being maybe the most devastating attack on a u.s. institution. >> i know your back from munich, a, where h.r. mcmaster spoke,
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and b, you picked up a lot from the folks you saw a met there. share your findings from that conference. >> well, the first thing i was in the hall when h.r. mcmaster spoke, and he only acknowledged what had happened in a direct question from a russian senator, by the way, brian, that was interesting. but let's be clear even what h.r. did. h.r. just diagnosed the problem like we've all done. the administration as a whole, not just president trump, has done nothing to respond to it. and there's some very simple things you can do.
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they sent people undercover to spy, to interfere in our election. we could throw out a dozen spies tomorrow. he could do that if they wanted to respond. and so i want to be clear. president trump first and foremost needs to be the leader. but the trump administration also is not responding to all this, and that was -- many people talked about that in munich. the one person that's responding, however, brian, is a guy named bob mueller. he's our chief foreign policymaker for russia today and that got the attention of russian. there's lots of russians at the security conference, and why is that so? because if you're indicted like that nobody expects vladimir putin to put them on a plane and send them to new york. but now they have to think about going to london, going to paris, that italian summer holiday they were plan, those are now dangerous places to go. that got the russians' attention. >> clint, the horrendous shooting at the high school in florida. number one i'm duty bound to and you about your beloved bureau and the fact there was vicinity a screw up that then gave ammunition to donald trump and others. but number two, i want to show you a headline because unbelievably russia played a role. here's the headline. after florida's school shooting russian bought army pounced.
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they were already sending out messages, a lot of them apparently about gun control. >> right. and part of the strategy about that information deluge is any time there's a fearful incident, they call them calamitous messages, they inject fear. and that almost always brings up a partisan divide or social divide which you can amplify and pit parties against each other. >> that's sick on top of what we've just suffered. >> right.
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and the other thing about is when you're scared you're also more vulnerable to whatever messages follow. so you tend to take on facts that don't turn out to be facts or fictitious narratives that don't turn out to be true. what did seem to be true is the fbi got a tip in and didn't follow up on it. at some point, though, they were numerous things that came up in law enforcement. i saw 20 different times they'd gone to call outs on this person, he'd been excelled. but we've never developed a process on mental health or examining how we keep weapons away from people who have mental health -- who are mentally disturbed. i will tell you having looked at a lot of terrorism cases there's a very fine line between what is an isis supporter and what is an active shooter. if the president want today be a leader he would go to the fbi and say what do we need to do to get on top of this. and i guarantee you the fbi would say we need about five times as many people and support. >> hey, ambassador, i can't believe we're living in an era where to use language quoting the president, we have to warn families with young kids in the room. but was he right for the wrong reasons when he said the russians were laughing their asses off? >> well, they're laughing at him. that's the part i don't think he understands. there's one thing i know about
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putin. i've dealt with him for many, many years, written about him for three decades. he does not respect weakness. and our commander in chief looks really weak when he does that twitter storm over the weekend. he looks like somebody who's not secure, not up to do the job. that's what they're laughing at. that's what they like to see, and he needs to reverse it. what the russians did on social media was sick. that's what the president of the united states should say as well. >> that's a note to end on. clint watts, michael mcfaul, thanks for being with us tonight. coming up, how the president marked this president's day holiday. that and more when we continue.
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i can be more presidential than anybody. i can be more presidential if i want to be. i can be more presidential than anybody. i can be more presidential, and i've said this a couple of times, more presidential than maybe the great abe lincoln. >> moderns president's day has since become an opportunity to remember all of our presidents and what they've done for this country. it has also given our retail realities of this age a good day to give a good price on a mattress.
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and as we've heard him say many time this current president thought he would stack up very well against the very best u.s. history has to offer. sadly for this president a new survey of more than 170 political scholars timed to coincide with president's day and releasedgist today tells a different story. not surprising the aforementioned, abe lincoln, george washington came in three four places. and donald trump has placed last on the list. when us to talk about what it should mean, michael beschloss. sadly in it i'm asking one of our guests how far is this from normal. i'd like to and you that very same question in light of just
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what we've been through this past weekend. >> totally different from normal and in a way that i think is ominous and very worrisome. because, you know, any normal president -- any president of let's say the last 70 years back to the beginning of the cold war, harry truman, if he had gotten the news on friday about that russian interference in the 2016 campaign he would know he had a job to do. one of the jobs would be to go to americans and say this is horrible thing. we're going to strike back at the russians so that they're deterred from doing this in the future. and the other thing is that this is what i'm going to do, i, as president to do protect you americans from seeing an attack like this again. not only did mr. trump not do that, but we had a weekend as
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you were saying, brian, of this tweet storm. this is not only abnormal. this is almost bordering on dereliction of duty. >> so when you take away that custodial function we've traditionally had in our presidents, the consoling function we've had in the best presidents, what is this day left to be about in 2018? what is it posed to remind us of or have us reflecting upon? >> it's supposed to remind us, i think, of the best in presidential leadership. as donald trump rightly said abraham lincoln would certainly be at the tom of the scale. someone who kept this country from slitting up and represented the best of our ideals. george washington who designed the presidency at the very beginning. one of the reasons the constitution is so vague about what it president should really do is because the founders new that george washington would be the first president. it doesn't help very much when you have a president like donald trump who says almost as a badge of honor i don't read books, i'm
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not that interested in history. >> a story in recent history had me thinking about you today. and that's robert strange macknumara. we learned years after the tumultithat during the protests in washington they put up a couple of kids, friends of their kids on their living room floor who were getting up in the morning and going to protest the vietnam war being run by the homeowner. it strikes me that there's a potential parallel in this campaign the students have started in florida. and there might have been potential parallels on gay marriage, the fastest moving public issue i've seen in my lifetime. that a lot of these lawmakers, even the guyess taking so much money from the nra, are going home at the end of the day to households and families and loved ones who are diameticically opposed.
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>> he see those protesters in his house because his son hated the war in vietnam that his father was such an architect of. and it took years of the american people to stop that war despite public will. and you're so right to bring up gay marriage. that was something that, you know, in the election of 2004, president bush backed an amendment preventing that, backed laws that would prevent full rights for gay people in america. and here we are a decade later. there is gay marriage. the thing is that things are moving much more quickly. and i think one of the more hopeful things of what we've seen this tragic weekend is we may depend on the millennials to make up for the mistakes we've all made.
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>> that's absolutely right and not far from what we plan to say in our closing segment tonight. what a treat always. michael beschloss, thanks for joining us. and coming up, what might be the best chance there is to change a country set in its ways. we'll hear from them when we continue.
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we call b.s. they say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun, we call bust. they say guns are tools like knives, we call b.s. >> just days after a gunman shot and killed 17 people at that florida high school, students began a vocal push for new gun
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legislation. president trump met briefly with some of the first responders and victims of the attack friday night, but saturday he took to twitter to criticize the democrats and the fbi for failing to preventive shooting. the same student leading that chant, emma gonzalez spoke on this network about how she's handling the president's tweets. >> i think the best way to deal with this is to ignore him. he's not being -- i think we can agree what he tweets, nothing has a lasting impact unless it's a negative lasting impact on the peel around under the circumstances when he brings up talk, he trying to blame somebody and we can't let him do that. so the best thing we can do is ignore him and continue fighting our fight. >> students at the marjorie stoneman high school have announce add march at the end of
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next month. they say the goal of the event is to demand a comprehensive gun bill be brought before congress. earlier today students from the d.c. area staged their own lie-in front of the white house to protest the lack of action on gun control. they may already be seeing results. monday morning the white house said president trump is open to bipartisan legislation to strengthen background checks. josh dossy and philip rucker wry the president, quote, surveyed mar-a-lago club members about whether he ought to champion gun control measures in the wake of the shooting in parkland telling them he was closely monitoring the media by some of the surviving students according to people who spoke with him there. congress is on recess, so there is unlikely to be any substantive progress this week, but the students of that high school already have plans to visit to continue their push for
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but i'm not standing still... and with godaddy, i've made my ideas real. ♪ ♪ i made my own way, now it's time to make yours. ♪ ♪ everything is working, working, just like it should ♪
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a draft card burning from 1971, the last thing before we go tonight as we mentioned earlier, it was the student movement that got the credit for turning the tide in the vietnam war. those students are senior citizens now. and it's lost on no one that it might be the student movement in 2018 that changes the way we view the ghoulish deadly and predictable business of mass shootings in this country. some of the students leading it aren't yet old enough to vote, but they will be soon. none of the students leading it had any way of knowing it a week ago that they would be leading a movement. of course, they also had no way of knowing they would lose 14 of their fellow students when an unbalanced kid with a gruj and an ar-15 walked into their school building. here once again is douglas high school student emma gonzalez. >> we are going to be the kids
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you read about in text books, not because we are going to be another statistic about mass shootings many america but because we are going to be the last mass shooting. [ cheers and applause ] if the president wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and it should never have happened and keeps telling us how nothing's going to be done about it, i'm going to ask him how much money he received from the national rifle association. >> high school student emma golden state, part of a powerful speech she gave in the wake of the mass shooting. that's going to do it on this holiday monday night. thank you so much for being here with us, and good night from nbc news headquarters here in new york. ♪
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♪ in the nation's capital, high schoolers stage a lie-in at the white house to protest the government's lack of action on gun control as fellow teens plan a march on washington in fellow schools aa cross the country. obama administration officials insist they took steps to prevent. >> and mitt romney, despite their relationship in the past. is endorsed by trump for senate. good morning, everyone. it


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