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

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reports," risks and rewards. president trump agrees to meet north korea's leader within two months, offering a chance to eliminate the threat of nuclear conflict. why would kim jong-un make such a bold move now? and is the united states prepared for the most challenging nuclear negotiations since the end of the cold war? >> it is a roll of the nuclear dice. in some ways the president kind of got boxed in here. he elevates kim jong-un, puts him on a stage next to him which is a huge concession, elevating the dictator without the dictator having to do anything. doesn't give up his nuclear program at all. >> how will donald trump avoid being played by a regime that cheated on nuclear agreements with barack obama, george w. bush and bill clinton, who hailed his deal as a breakthrough in 1994? >> this agreement will help to achieve a long-standing and vital american objective by ending the threat of nuclear proliferation on the korean
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peninsula. this agreement is good for the united states, good for our allies and good for the safety of the entire world. and the art of the deal maker. turning diplomacy upside down as staffers watch the president agree to a summit without preparation, blindsiding his secretary of state. >> we are a long ways from negotiations. i think we just need to be very clear-eyed and realistic about it. >> former national security adviser and u.n. ambassador susan rice and former chairman of the joint chiefs, martin dempsey, joining us this hour. good day. on this day of a lot of breaking news, i'm andrea mitchell in washington. as america's allies and adversaries alike try to assess the likely fallout from president trump's stunning decision to accept kim jong-un's offer of an early summit, after only 14 months, however, of mixed messages and very little
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preparation. let's get right to our team. nbc's kelly cobiella in south korea and kristen welker at the white house. kristen, the chaos in the white house as it was being rolled out with no preparation and you all were watching it in realtime. >> reporter: it was really a remarkable day. we were all writing our news stories for the evening broadcasts when all of a sudden, the president made a surprise appearance in the white house press briefing room. a number of us went running out by the time we got to the press briefing room, he had left but there were some reporters who heard what he had to say. he was of course teasing this big announcement, this major announcement, he said, by south korea that was going to take place at 7:00 last night. now, of course, what is so striking about that is that the white house would have south korea's national security adviser making the announcement against the backdrop of the
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white house and in fact, the announcement was historic. the fact that kim jong-un had extended an invitation to president trump. moments later we learned that president trump has accepted the invitation but now the details. when is it going to take place, where is it going to take place. both countries saying this will take place in the next few months. but to underscore your point, all of those fine details hadn't been worked through when that announcement was made yesterday. there are a lot of risks for this president. there could be some potential major rewards. the white house is saying look, sanctions will remain in place until these initial talks take place, they believe that is a significant part of this equation but you have critics who argue president trump is giving kim jong-un exactly what he wants, which is essentially legitimacy on the world stage without a real promise that he will get rid of his nuclear weapons which is, of course, the goal ultimately. so incredible high stakes as we prepare to drill down on the
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details. sarah sanders will brief in just a few hours here. >> just briefly, any word as to where this may take place? switzerland is offering their neutral territory. what are the other possible options? >> reporter: great point. will it be at a place, country like switzerland, would it be in south korea, could it take place at the dmz? these are all potential areas that have been talked about and again, those negotiations are still being worked through but it just underscores the extent to which this was really coming together in realtime and continues to be, as the white house, the state department really try to drill down on what these talks are going to look like. >> kelly, in south korea, president moon has wanted this to happen but we know he didn't expect it this quickly, because his foreign minister was in the white house briefing white house national security and intelligence officials when the president heard he was there. this meeting was supposed to be today, the meeting with the
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foreign minister from south korea briefing or debriefing from what had happened in pyongyang, and meeting the president today. instead the president said let me meet him now, and then said well, let's say yes to the offer and the foreign minister apparently said but i haven't even talked to my president, president moon yet, so let's call him now. all of this was happening in trump fashion. what's the reaction in south korea? they must be rather happy. >> reporter: very much so, on the part of president moon jae-in, who is calling this an historic milestone, a miraculous opportunity, these kinds of words coming from a president who has worked for this now, who has tried to get north korea to the table, for months. i don't think that he or really any of the powers in the region were expecting this to happen this quickly. in fact, a spokesperson -- sorry, not a spokesperson but an official senior official in the foreign ministry in japan is
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quoted in local media as saying about these developments there, quote, a bit quick. japan clearly not in on the game before this big yes went out from president trump and shinzo abe wants to be part of this. >> kelly, thanks so much, from south korea. we will have a lot more on this coming up in just a moment. first, big breaking news. joining me, nbc chief white house correspondent hallie jackson. this involves new e-mails, e-mails newly revealed we have obtained showing connections between michael cohen, the president's personal attorney and the trump organization, connections he had previously denied on payments to stormy daniels. >> reporter: exactly right. to stormy daniels, a big headline which has been out this week after her lawsuit against president trump. here is what we know based on our reporting from our investigative team, sara fitzpatrick, that michael cohen, the president's long-time lawyer, used his trump organization e-mail while arranging to transfer this
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$130,000 payment to daniels. now, a source familiar with these discussions also tells us that cohen also regularly used this same e-mail account during these negotiations with daniels back in 2016. what you're looking at is one of these e-mails we have obtained. you can see that is a trump org e-mail there, in addition to michael cohen's personal g-mail account. we are also told clifford's attorney at the time, different from her attorney now, by the way, addressed e-mails, correspondence to michael cohen in his capacity at the trump organization and wrote specifically as special counsel to donald trump. now, this e-mail by the way you are looking at has been provided to nbc news by clifford's current attorney. so what does this mean, why does it matter. here's the deal. michael cohen has repeatedly tried to put some distance between himself and the trump organization and the trump campaign. remember he gave that statement awhile back saying that while he facilitated this $130,000 payment he was not reimbursed by
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either the trump administration or donald j. trump for president campaign but said nothing about whether he was reimbursed personally by donald trump himself. sarah sanders this week in the white house briefing room said the president had no knowledge of this payment but here you now have michael cohen, this undercuts to a degree the distance cohen had tried to put between himself and donald trump, saying the president has nothing to do with this, we don't know that that's the case, of course, but here he is using his trump org e-mail, getting e-mails from stormy daniels lawyer addressed to the special counsel for donald j. trump so his name is obviously connected to this here, in addition to cohen being his long-time lawyer. we have to note that neither cohen nor his attorney now has responded to our request for comment on this, although stormy daniels' attorney says we smell smoke. that is their response to this. as we have obtained this e-mail. so it is yet another development, i would say, in the
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story surrounding stormy daniels, a story that sarah huckabee sanders will almost certainly be facing questions about later on today in the white house press briefing room in just a couple of hours. >> that's for sure. we will of course be carrying that live. more new reporting from hallie jackson, thank you so much. back to the korea story, which some have suggested, susan rice is now with us, the former national security adviser and of course, united nations ambassador. there's been a lot of talk the president is trying to deflect from bad publicity about stormy daniels with this audible, but it seems likely as well that this is just donald trump being improvisational and impromptu when he had the south korean, when the south korean foreign minister was in the white house and said let me talk to him and all of a sudden, he's announcing a summit without frankly a lot of prior notice to the secretary of state traveling in africa. do you think it's a good thing
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no matter how it evolved, dr. rice? >> well, i am not of the view that a summit in itself is a bad thing. i think it matters entirely how we do it and as you pointed out a number of times already in the broadcast, summits, in order for them to succeed, have to be well prepared. this one was hastily agreed and it's questionable whether it can be well prepared in the time frame that we have. we also have the challenge of the fact that we have a president who hasn't conducted a successful negotiation dmoe domestically or internationally, who doesn't seem to like to prepare or be detail-oriented, and who has a quite hollowed-out stable of experts now both at the state department and elsewhere in the administration. so there's a real risk, i'm afraid, that if we dash into
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this without proper preparation, the president himself tries to conduct a substantive negotiation without the benefit of experts, that we could well fail and in the context of failure, i think the risk of conflict increases. but diplomacy in my judgment in most instances is better, certainly in this case, than the status quo where north korea has been able to pursue its nuclear and missile ambitions unchecked, and it's certainly better than a preemptive or bloody nose strike of the sort that i think some in the administration have been contemplating, unfortunately, and so now the question is how do we make this work. and i think there are a number of steps we could take if we were careful and thoughtful about this that could increase the chances that yield something beneficial. >> what steps do you think they could take?
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what would your suggestions be to this team? >> well, in the first instance, i think it's very important to frame this first meeting at the head of state level, not as a negotiation, but as an informal first set of talks. and i think secretary tillerson is trying to pivot in that direction. an informal set of talks that would then, if they are successful, hand off to experts on both sides who would have the mandates of their leaders to negotiate the substantive details of a potential agreement. and the president should hold out the prospect, in my judgment, of a formal summit meeting with more of the trappings of a proper summit in the event that those expert level negotiations yield a positive outcome. if they don't, that would be a one-off meeting that they had. i think that one-off meeting, the first meeting should happen in a very neutral location, some place like perhaps u.n.
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headquarters in geneva or vienna. it should not be preceded by rhetoric. it should not accompany much in the way of protocol or trapping. it should be low-key and informal. meantime, i think it's absolutely imperative that the president draw on the expertise that does exist in the united states on north korea. little of it remains in the administration, unfortunately, because we are hemorrhaging experts and diplomats. but i think it would be a very wise move for the president and secretary of state to recall our diplomats and experts who have negotiated with north korea on a bipartisan basis, and consult with them extensively, and to the extent he can impress them into joining a team that would advise the administration on how to approach this negotiation. and not to be afraid to learn
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the lessons of the past. as you pointed out earlier, these negotiations have typically failed. the north koreans are great at making agreements and turning around and breaking them so we shouldn't have outsized expectations. there shouldn't be jubilation or, you know, declarations of success by virtue of simply an agreement to show up at the negotiating table. we need to be very methodical, very careful in our preparation. we need to have in our own pocket a draft of the agreement that we think we could accept ourselves. we should consult with our allies in advance in detail on that potential draft agreement, and bring them on board. we should also have consultations with the chinese. all of these are critical steps. it's very important we frame these talks as initial informal discussions, not the negotiation. the negotiation should follow and in the event that it proved
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to be successful, then we could have a more formal handshake summit. >> but what you have described is a traditional, appropriate, diplomatic process. you are dealing with someone who is an outsized personality who likes to call audibles, who thinks he's a better deal maker than any of the pros, who has blindsided his secretary of state who has lost face over all of this. what is the likelihood they will go into it in a low key way? >> you asked me what i think should happen. you didn't ask me what i thought would happen. i'm making a distinction between the two. we should approach it the way i described it. go ahead. >> i'm sorry, we have a little bit of a delay there. if he does approach it as a big personality summit, you have these two leaders facing off with each other, untested, one
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clearly, north korea has a strategy. it's not clear the u.s. has a strategy. what is the down side, if there is this big flags waving, red carpet summit and then no results? >> i think it's very risky. it risks the president's credibility, the credibility of the united states and worse still, i think it increases the risk of conflict if they go into something with very high expectations, poor preparation and the president acting in his typically mercurial way, we could end up in a much worse place than we are today. so i do think it's high risk, but i think there are steps we could take if the president were serious and were willing to recognize this is not a one man enterprise in any circumstance, that a negotiation of this significance and complexity requires a team and a well-oiled team. he may not have the temperament to do that and you know, we have seen him on issues ranging from
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daca to guns to trade say one thing on a tuesday and a very different thing on a thursday, and that's quite worrisome and dangerous when you are dealing with a core issue of our national security with a very unpredictable and unknown leader as an interlocutor. i do think this is high risk, if it's executed in typical trumpian fashion. if, however, the president has the presence of mind and the confidence in his team to allow this to be done responsibly and effectively, then i think it's worth attempting and the down sides can be potentially mitigated. >> susan rice, former u.n. ambassador, thank you so much for joining us today. nbc news political director chuck todd, moderator of "meet the press" and host of "mtp
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daily" joins me now. lot of breaking news. we have been talking about north korea. let's talk about the subject that the white house does not want to talk about, which is this new connection that seems pretty apparent between the trump organization, trump's lawyer and the payments. >> look, it's yet another piece of evidence here that i think makes -- is going to make it that much harder. we'll see if it will be that much harder for the white house to stand by this sort of denial they have been trying -- this veneer of denial they have been trying to stand behind. this goes into the legal questions here. is this going to help convince this private arbiter, and every legal expert we talked to says as much as stormy daniels' team believes that they have more truth on their side, the agreement they signed gave all the power of who gets to do what in the hands of michael cohen. >> with or without a signature. >> yeah.
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i still believe that all of this is of more interest to mueller than any of us believe. >> why? >> because it's about looking at the patterns that the trump organization or perhaps donald trump and his lawyer, michael cohen, uses to move money around. working through these things, llcs. it is -- we're not saying mueller is investigating the stormy daniels affair. it is more this is going to be part of a pattern to see what role michael cohen may have played in any of these things. >> is this resonating politically? >> not at all. but i will say this. i don't think individually these things resonate, but i do think what you're seeing is sort of, and this is what i talked to some political strategists who say it's wearing people down. and the drama, one of the reasons why democrats have seen some success with candidates like in pennsylvania, they come across as no drama.
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a little boring but no drama. and the more churn there is of this messiness of the trump era, the more it helps the sort of hey, i'm just a former procedur prosecutor, just a former doctor, and people will gravitate to candidates like that. >> we have seen a week from tariffs to north korea and all of this swirling around him, where the president is juggling so much and -- >> i think this is the best week of his presidency in the view of donald trump. i say it this way. meaning from his point of view. we are sitting here going this is insane. every week we say we have never seen another week like this. in many ways, this is emblematic -- this week has everything we have become used to in the trump administration. they sort of fly by the seat of their pants on policy. they roll out new ideas without telling anybody. there's a scandal over here with sex, the mueller probe is progressing over there, there's
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people leaving the white house. that all happened in a one-week span. normally we only maybe have three of those four things. but this is the trump presidency in some ways that he promised. look at tariffs and north korea. this is exactly how he campaigned, that he was going to do things differently than the establishment. no doubt the establishment is not happy. you heard it in susan rice's voice. you hear it in rex tillerson's voice. what have you done? you have given the north korean leader one thing he's always wanted, legitimacy, a one-on-one platform. trump is sitting there going hey, i'm a great negotiator, i will handle this. i think he's got that kind of self-confidence. it's high risk but it is what people elected him to do. >> he could certainly argue with north korea that there's a credible argument kim jong-un is responding to threats of a bloody nose, limited nuclear strike, if there is such a thing, as well as rocketman and sanctions. >> by the way, i think the underrated part of this is the
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south korea aspect of this. this new president, president moon, there is -- they want peace. there are some that are concerned peace at any cost, but they want peace, and they seem to be the driver here. they are our chief ally. in many ways, if this is what they want, maybe president trump is obligated to give their path a shot. >> let me say there's nothing disconnected, though, just as he in his refusal to ignore the wall and make peace with pena-nieto, that led to the mexican leader canceling a trip, korea will be hit hard by these steel tariffs. they don't like that. we need south korea to be a full partner. >> would anybody be surprised if we talk, we talk, if we don't, we don't, we don't know, we'll see, it would be nice to talk, i'm ready to talk. suddenly this potential summit we are all fired up about, it
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wouldn't shock if in two days it looks like oh, they are a much longer way away from agreeing. where you going to hold it? i heard -- >> switzerland has offered. >> i say find an island in the pacific. find the pacific version of reykjavik or nome. alaska is a halfway point. >> chuck todd. we will see you on "mtp daily." >> we got a lot more to talk about. >> see you there. nbc chief legal correspondent ari melber will bring us more details on all of this in a moment after the break. you bought every day... earned you miles to get to the places you really want to go. with the united mileageplus explorer card, you'll get a free checked bag. two united club passes. priority boarding. and earn fifty thousand bonus miles after you spend three thousand dollars on purchases in the first three months from account opening
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try directv now for $10 a month for 3 months. no satellite needed. we have new developments now in that growing scandal surrounding president trump and his legal battle with porn star stormy daniels. nbc news has learned the president's personal lawyer, michael cohen, used his trump organization e-mail while arranging to transfer money into an account in a new york city bank before he wired $130,000 in hush money to daniels. nbc chief legal correspondent ari melber joins me now. ari, what is the legal implication of this? >> the legal implication, and this is a very interesting report here from our colleagues at nbc news, is that this documentation further goes towards the argument, the belief, that donald trump's lawyer was acting in his official capacity working for donald trump and the trump organization. this is the e-mail you see on the screen obtained by nbc news,
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and if you buy that argument, that's bad news for michael cohen and donald trump, who both have been effectively putting out the argument that this was some sort of rogue operation that didn't involve donald trump. >> and it certainly undercuts whatever sarah sanders had been trying to say inartfully or whatever the other day. joining us now also is stormy daniels' attorney, michael avenotti. thank you for being with us today. how does this bolster your case against michael cohen and ultimately the president? >> thanks for having me. i think this development is significant because it shows that at all times during the communication process relating to the negotiation surrounding this hush payment, that mr. cohen was utilizing his trump organization e-mail in those communications, not just when communicating with mr. davidson,
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miss clifford's attorney at the time, but also internally when he was communicating with the bank about the specific issue of transferring the money. they say always follow the money, and this goes directly to following the money, to show exactly where this money came from. so we think it's a substantial development. >> and where do we now think the money did come from, now that you've got the e-mails about the bank transfers? >> i think we are one step closer to showing that this was not personal funds that were never reimbursed to mr. cohen, quite honestly. >> just to be clear, because i think there may have been a double negative in there, where do you think the money came from? do you think it came ultimately from michael cohen's personal money or did it come from trump organization money or did it come ultimately from donald trump? >> we believe that ultimately we are going to be able to trace this back in one form or another to a payment from the trump organization or from the surrogate for mr. trump.
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>> and what would be the significance, if at all legally, in terms of either the special counsel, robert mueller, or any other issue of campaign funds? >> well, i'm not an expert on campaign finance, but i think it could pose a serious problem for the administration, serious problem for the president and serious problem for michael cohen relating to the source of these funds and where they came from. we are going to let people that are far more educated than i on campaign finance ultimately conclude as to whether this was legal or not legal. but i think what's important about this is that attorney cohen and the president, the administration, have made definitive statements that mr. trump knew nothing about the negotiation, knew nothing about the payment, knew nothing about the efforts to silence my client, and again, with each passing day, that becomes more and more outrageous and more and
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more absurd. they're not shooting straight with the american people. it's that simple. >> ari melber, do you have a question you want to jump in here? >> thank you, andrea. what's so significant about the way this story continues to unfold is obviously from what we have already learned, the trump administration has not been honest, has not been forthright about what's going on. as with every other story and scandal, that raises the question of what they are covering up or what they are hie hiding. my question would be when michael cohen uses lawyerly language to say he facilitated that payment, what does that say to you and have your negotiations involved any clues as to what their ultimate end game is? does your client fare better if mr. cohen is able to ultimately keep secret the original source of the funds? >> i don't know that it has a huge bearing as it relates to legal case for my client but as
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it relates to the word facilitated, i too find that word to be very, very curious. why not come out and say i paid it? the use of the word facilitate suggests to me, based on my legal experience, and common sense, quite honestly, that he was a go-between, between two parties. he facilitated a payment between his client, mr. trump, and my client, miss clifford. otherwise known as miss daniels. that would be the proper context in which to use the word facilitate, as opposed to simply saying i paid it. >> andrea, one other thought. >> please. >> one other thought for the lawyer here is there has been a lot of talk about arbitration and court, based on what's happened thus far, is your view mr. trump and mr. cohen here welcome going to court to get this resolved or basically are doing things to try to stay out of open court? >> well, i think it's crystal clear they are doing everything in their power to keep this out of court, and what does that
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mean. that means hidden from the american people. that's what they want to do. they want to adjudicate this, have it decided in private, in a conference room, behind closed doors, so no one knows the truth. that's what this is geared towards. it is geared towards hiding the truth. that's why we believe we want to be in an open court, in a courthouse that's owned by the people, so that the people can learn everything about this. the people can make their own determinations as to who is telling the truth and who is not telling the truth. >> ruth marcus joins us now as well from "the washington post" deputy editorial page editor, and ashley parker, msnbc political analyst. ruth, you are also a lawyer. i'm surrounded by lawyers. thankfully ashley is not. >> at least. >> at least as far as i know. ruth, what about the legal ramifications here, and then we will talk about the politics. >> so i actually do know quite a bit about campaign finance law
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because i used to write about money in politics when i was a reporter. the interesting question as a matter of campaign finance law, if the trump organization paid the money, which by the way, michael cohen has denied, took pains to deny, he said the campaign didn't pay it and the trump organization didn't pay it. the reasons he would say that would be if the campaign paid it, it should have been put on the campaign finance reports. if the trump organization paid it, and it were campaign expenditure which is a different question, then that would be an illegal corporate in kind contribution by the campaign. but the fundamental question remains, where did this money come from. it was not an accident that michael cohen used the word facilitated. so did the money come from president trump himself? did it despite michael cohen's statement come from the trump organization? did it come from someone else?
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i don't really have a huge interest in knowing what the president did or didn't do years ago with stormy daniels. but i do have an interest in knowing what his exposure to potential blackmail is from stormy daniels or anybody else and who is paying in his effort to make sure, didn't succeed very well, that their relationship or non-relationship, whatever it was, make sure that she did not go public with her allegations. >> ashley, what about the political fallout here, and so far, it has not become a big issue, but is it going to become increasingly difficult for the white house to try to claim that this is not something involving donald trump and a payment that has questionable origins? >> so far, it hasn't become a big political issue for two reasons. the first is that a lot of this, not the money stuff that ruth was addressing but just the
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president has had affairs or been accused of sexual impropriety was sort of baked in the cake before he became president. the "access hollywood" tape came out during the campaign, he weathered that and got elected. there is sort of a sense it seems from some voters and certainly within the west wing of how much of a crisis this is of the sense this really is sort of no new news. it's a new accusation but not something people didn't already know about the president. secondly, in recent weeks, as the stormy daniels news has come out, which again, in any other administration would be enough to take down a president, and even in theory in this administration should be more of a big deal, it has just come amid so much other news and chaos that it is often the third, fourth or fifth item on the news agenda each day. i will say it was striking this week, it was the first time sarah huckabee sanders was repeatedly pressed in that briefing about this and as this sort of makes its way through the courts, especially if it ever gets to open court, you can imagine it will be something the
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white house is actually forced to grapple with and affirmatively address. >> ruth marcus, you may have a question for stormy daniels' attorney. >> sure. i'm curious from your point of view what you think outside the question of the campaign finance implications, how significant would it be if, in fact, the trump organization which after all is not a publicly held company, would it be a problem if it had, in fact, made that payment? >> i think at this point in time, if that comes out, and we believe it will, it's a huge issue, because this is about telling the truth. this is about being honest with the american people. that's what this is really about at this point in time. >> i totally agree with you, but just to interrupt, whoever is making the payment to prevent stormy daniels from telling the truth as she understood it, is it more improper if the trump organization makes the payment than, say, president trump
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himself made the payment? >> quite honestly, i think that's one and the same due to the closely held nature of the trump organization. but one thing i do want to say is as follows. this is going to come out in the coming weeks. there was never any effort by my client to blackmail mr. trump or anyone else, period. i want to be as crystal clear as i possibly can on that issue. it never happened. there's no evidence of it. and when and if my client is able to publicly tell her side of the story, that will become apparent to the american people and they will pass judgment on what she says. >> can you just tell us why she agreed to the payment, then? >> why did she agree to the payment? >> yes. >> i think that's going to come out when she provides her interview and provides her statement. again, we will let the american people decide. again, i want to be really clear about this. crystal clear. our position is, let the public decide. let's lay all the facts and the
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evidence out on the table, both sides, our side, their side. let's let the american people decide. let's not go in some back room in los angeles with locked doors, outside public view, and have this decided. that's what mr. cohen and mr. trump want. we want an open setting, open court, owned by the people, period. >> may i ask, why did she agree to this arbitration procedure, which is so lopsided, so much in his favor, because if she were to speak, she has a huge liability. >> i think there's a number of terms within the agreement that are very, very onerous and we believe it's what's called legally unconscionable. the term generally means the courts will not enforce it because it is so one-sided. of course, our position is that he never signed the agreement so the agreement is not even worth the paper it's printed on but as it relates to this arbitration proceeding, there's been a lot of misinformation out there and quite honestly, some of it has
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been peddled by mr. rosen, mr. cohen's new attorney. the agreement never allowed mr. cohen, this is important, mr. cohen to proceed in arbitration. the agreement only allowed mr. trump to proceed in arbitration. and to the best of our knowledge, mr. trump never initiated an arbitration against miss clifford which is what makes miss sanders' statement on wednesday so ridiculous. >> could i speak? >> i want to also ask ashley parker about what josh earnest, former white house press secretary, of course, said on lawrence's show last night. he's one of our contributors. he was pointing out that he would, if something were coming up, bubbling up, he would get on the helicopter, say on his way to andrews air force base, and say to the president, to his president, this is what the press is likely to ask you or ask me about, so can i get your
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answers, how would you like me to answer these questions on these issues. one wonders from your vantage point covering the white house every day and sarah sanders, does she go to the president, can she go to this president and say how can i answer this, because it's been reported that he was very unhappy with the way she did answer these difficult questions the other day. >> well, two things. i have heard multiple reports on that. i saw the report that he was unhappy. i also heard from people in the white house that he actually spoke with sarah sanders directly after that day and praised her performance although i will say this white house does not always tell the truth. one thing sarah has done, though, that has sort of given herself some distance or de deniabili deniability, you see it in her public comments, it seems she's made a deliberate point not to speak to the president about some of this because when she's asked this question, she can say i haven't spoken to him directly about this or not that i have asked him and it sort of gives her another day or two to avoid
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the question. that said, just because she's not necessarily going to him doesn't mean that other people aren't and certainly, the president is deeply, deeply aware of this. first of all, he's intimately involved in what did or did not allegedly happen, and secondly, he is someone who watches cable news nonstop and even though it hasn't been the newsiest issue, it is breaking through and he's certainly aware of the allegations against him and the way the story is unfolding. >> do you agree with the proposition that one of the reasons we have seen all of these pivots on tariffs and the way that was rolled out as well as his impromptu acceptance of a nuclear summit with kim jong-un, that this had something to do with wanting to push the stormy daniels story off the front page? >> so in general, i personally don't subscribe to the theory that the president is a strategic genius of misdirection and sort of creates one chaotic problem to avoid another. i will say it certainly had that
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end result of overshadowing it but a lot of this, the trade stuff, the north korea, is just the president being who he is. he's impulsive. he likes to operate in chaos. he doesn't always consult his advisers. so sometimes one big controversy or scandal will sort of overtake another one. >> ari melber, where does this go now legally? is there a nexus with the mueller investigation as they look at other cutouts, potential cutouts? >> it's a great question. we have not been able to report or corroborate information that would tie this into the mueller probe, although in the backdrop, the notion of how credible or uncredible the idea of blackmail or sexual contact related blackmail hangs over all of this as many have observed. one other point to what you asked, where does this go legally, i think what is newsworthy both about the nbc report today, what mr. avenatti
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just said on your show, if we take a step back to how bizarre this is, to believe the trump side of this story, you would have to believe that there is a fight between stormy daniels as a client and her lawyers, and another set of lawyers who don't have a client anymore. there's a phantom client argument here, that michael cohen is spending vast sums of money, is going to arbitration proceedings in california, is doing all these things without a client for him. that's an odd claim. >> 100%. 100% accurate. >> well, thank you all very much. complicated story. i think we understand it a whole lot better thanks to you. coming up, about-face. how will rex tillerson handle his boss' stunning diplomatic moves? i ask former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, general martin dempsey, who has a new book out. that's next on "andrea mitchell reports."
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you know what's not awesome? gig-speed internet. when only certain people can get it. let's fix that. let's give this guy gig- really? and these kids, and these guys, him, ah. oh hello. that lady, these houses! yes, yes and yes. and don't forget about them. uh huh, sure. still yes! xfinity delivers gig speed to more homes than anyone. now you can get it, too. welcome to the party. we're a long ways from negotiations. i don't know yet until we are able to meet ourselves face to face with representatives of north korea, whether the conditions are right to even begin thinking about negotiation. >> we have been saying for some time we're open to talks. president trump has said for some time that he was open to
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talks, and he would willingly meet with kim jong-un when conditions were right and the time was right, and i think in the president's judgment, that time has arrived now. >> secretary of state tillerson caught up in diplomatic whiplash, doing an about-face in less than 24 hours after president trump's impromptu decision to meet with north korea's leader kim jong-un with little advance notice to his top diplomat traveling in africa. virtually none to the white house staff. joining me now, retired u.s. army general martin dempsey, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and his ko co-author and distinguished teaching fellow. your new book "radical inclusion, post 9/11 world should have taught us about leadership." welcome, both. general, let's talk about north korea and the way this was all improvised on the run yesterday. the pentagon was largely blindsided, certainly secretary
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tillerson was. some of our allies were. how does that affect the upcoming talks? >> i don't know that it will affect the upcoming talks because i'm not sure they have been framed yet. but you know, you pointed out that our allies are going to be playing allies will be playing some catch-up. the pentagon will be playing some catch-up, but we can do that. one thing we have to be clear about is when we do enter into discussion we have allies and partners in the region and can't make this just about the united states and north korea. militarily, you know, there's exercises that are planned and they'll have to be some decisions made about whether to continue with those or in some way to suspend them pending the outcome of the talks. there's some big decisions to be made between now and the talks. >> one of the things that came out in the south korean foreign minister's conveyance of what kim had said was that it's okay to have these joint exercises. how surprising is it that these exercises which he has railed
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against for years are going to be held as soon as the end of this month. >> that is a surprise to me. that would be a precondition for talks. but i think we're all trying to completely understand or at least partially understand what's going on. >> and in leadership, which is your new book, mr. broffman, what is the -- how does this match up against the traditional way when we saw bill clinton in 1994 talking about 16 months that were spent preparing for a framework. now it didn't -- it didn't work and that the north koreans cheated with a parallel nuclear program, secret program, but they did prepare well for the summit. >> we're seeing a changing of the rules. and we're seeing that today with the breaking news and it used to be that it was about debate and winning a debate. debates are about who is right and who is wrong. what we're seeing is rather than a debate over ideas is a war of
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narratives. and when you are fighting a war of narratives, the question really is, which narrative is more boring and which one is more interesting. and i think that trump is doing a very, very, ejective job at winning the war of narratives. the way you win a war of narratives is having enough voices, that inclusion talking about the same narrative. >> how credible is it that our combination of sanctions and threats, our military threats, general, actually persuaded kim jong-un that he wants to sit down with president trump? >> well, some combination of factors created this opening and it's probably more likely that it is economic sanctions. but you never know what's going on behind the scenes either with china or even with our south korean allies who, as you know, had an engagement with north korea during the -- on the margins of the olympics. i guess it doesn't matter how we
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got here. it's what we are going to do with the opportunity. and i hope that that includes back to the book. if we don't do this inclusively with allies and partners to gain their knowledge and gain their support, then whatever comes out of it won't last. this just can't be about two countries. >> and it's complicated. japan has one interest and south korea's president moon has clearly a greater interest in engagement. china, of course, to say nothing of russia and china and russia are both major players there. that's why we say, you know, to expand on what ori says. when you are in this -- when competing narratives are what's driving things, not necessarily the substantive issues of things, that's why leaders have to be adaptable in this environment which is why we wrote the book to give them some tools to do it. but to the specific issue of north korea, you know, this is the first step in what will be a
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very long process. probably the single biggest attribute we'll need with this particular issue is stamina. >> we'll wait to see whether we all have the stamina to deal with all of these new developments and a new way of leading the country. thank you both very much. the book is "radical inclusion" on leadership and to both of you, ori brafman and general dempsey, good to see you. we're waiting to hear when and where this summit will take place. will be it a summit, a meeting? joining me is mark landler from "the new york times," the white house correspondent who has had so much to write and say about all of this. and let's talk about your exclusive reporting about how this all came about. >> yeah, well, andrea, even by the standards of this white house, which is wild and woolly it was truly a day for the ages. president trump discovered that
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this south korean envoy was in the west wing. he was meeting with general mcmaster and others, and he summoned him to the oval office. gathered his top aides around him and when mr. chung, the south korean, told him kim jong-un wanted to meet on the spot, the president said let's do it. and then he asked mr. chung to go out and tell the white house press corps. and that set off this very panicked kind of huddle among the president's aides about how you actually do that. i mean, this gentleman is an official of a foreign government to have him walk into the white house briefing room and announce something from the podium would be highly unusual so they sort of had this as the fallback position will send them out to the microphones in the white house driveway. and that's what ended up happening. so you have this rather extraordinary spectacle of the national security adviser of a foreign country announcing a major item of american foreign policy in front of the white
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house. >> and the president at one point saying to him, let's just do it and he's saying that his president had not agreed to it so they're dialing up the south korean president to get his sign-off. in the midst of this, tillerson had to be notified and they had to say something to prime minister abe of japan. >> that's right. and you know, president trump got to prime minister abe after the fact. he didn't get to president xi jinping of china last night at all. he finally did this morning. and you know, think about to go to the point that general dempsey was making a moment ago. japan is a key ally and, you know, an important partner in this whole process for shins's abe to hear after the fact there's going to be this high-level summit between north korea and the united states must have come as a shock and you can imagine the conversations in diplomatic channels about the fallout from this. and japan's level of concern. >> are you reporting anything on
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where this might take place? >> well, that was the speculation late last night at the white house was, you know, where it could happen. i think there was a belief the president would probably try to invite kim jong-un to the united states, and the guessing inside the west wing was that kim would say no. so then the question is, do you do it on neutral ground? do you do it in panmunjom on the border. does the president go to pyongyang? that seems highly unlikely. but this san all bets are off type of situation. i don't think the white house aides were excluding anything last night. >> i don't know how you can invite him to the united states with three americans still being held in north korean prisons. so there's a lot to resolve about -- >> seems totally implausible, yeah. >> mark landler, great reporting. great to have you on, our inside scoop which is what that was.
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now an nbc news exclusive with special counsel robert mueller having indicted 13 russians on charges of tampering with the u.s. election. nbc's megyn kelly went on assignment to russia to try to get some answers from russia's president vladimir putin. pushing him on what he knew about his country's role in election meddling and whether he had indeed ordered it. >> why would you allow an attack like this on the united states? >> translator: why have you decided the russian authorities, myself included, gave anybody permission to do this? nothing has changed since you and i talked last time in st. petersburg. some names have popped up. so what. they could just as easily have been the names of some americans who are sitting here and interfering in your own political process. >> but it wasn't americans. it was russians. and it was hundreds of people, a monthly budget of $1.25 million all designed to attack the united states in a cyberwarfare
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campaign. you're up for re-election right now. should the russian people be concerned that you had no idea this was going on in your own country, in your own hometown? >> translator: listen, the world is very large and very diverse. and there is a fairly complicated relationship between the united states and the russian federation. and some of our people have their own opinion about this relationship. you mentioned a number of names. some individuals. and you are telling me that they're russians. so what. maybe being russian they are actually working for some kind of american company. perhaps one of them used to work for one of the candidates. i have no idea. these are not my problems. >> not his problems, but megyn kelly certainly challenged him on that. you have to watch the entire interview. be sure to tune in for megyn's full interview with vladimir putin. it's a one-hour special tonight "confronting putin" tonight at 10:00 eastern on nbc.
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that does it for "andrea mitchell reports." remember, follow us online on facebook and on twitter @mitchellreports. craig melvin is up next here on msnbc. hi, craig. >> good to see you. we start with that breaking news we've been following. the saga of president trump and porn star stormy daniels. nbc news has exclusively obtained an e-mail that appears to poke a hole in that carefully calibrated story repeated often by trump attorney michael cohen that the $130,000 that he sent daniels prior to the election was totally walled off from president trump and his business empire. let's bring in kelly o'donnell. she has more on this. kelly o., what more do we know and have we heard from the white house yet about the newest chapter in this ongoing story? >> no response from the white house yet but this will certainly provide the basis for some new questions because michael cohen, a longtime personal attorney