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tv   MSNBC Live With Alex Witt  MSNBC  March 31, 2018 9:00am-9:30am PDT

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that is our show for today. be sure to watch "a.m. joy" tomorrow, same bat time, same bat channel. but now my good friend alex wkxt has all the news. >> that's fit to print or talk about. >> thank you so much. a very good day to all of you. i'm alex witt here in new york at msnbc world headquarters. here's what's happening right now. the president taking to twitter today with an attack on one of america's fastest growing companies. but it does not end with a swipe at amazon. there's more to this story. we've got reaction ahead. the epa chief under scrutiny for his d.c. leaving arrangements, reportedly causing tension among white house officials. stormy's strategy. her lawyer doubling down, saying
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the porn star is not going anywhere after appearing to briefly waiver. >> if they came to you with a settlement in this case, would you accept it? >> well, i think we would consider it. a number that would allow him to continue to hide the truth, is that the question? >> yeah, for you to go away. >> no, no. >> what is the ultimate goal behind her case? we begin this hour with new details emerging from president trump's latest feud with amazon and dragging "the washington post" into the battle, all of this happening on twitter today. while the president is spending the holiday weekend at his martin luther ki mar-a-lago estate. so we're going to begin with you, kelly, in west palm beach, florida. let's talk about this latest controversy regarding epa chief scott pruitt. what do you know? >> reporter: the epa chief took
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some period of time in 2017, new to washington, to rent a room, paying only for the nights where he stayed in that room in a capitol hill condominium that is owned in part by a woman whose husband lobbies for big energy. she herself is a lobbyist in the health care sector. and this arrangement was through a lease agreement. but what is notable is that if you were the average citizen trying to rent an apartment in that neighborhood you would pay more than likely a much higher rate and you would be typically required to pay for every night of the month whether you stayed there or not. so an unusual lease agreement for scott pruitt, the epa administrator. that has come to light. this was for a six-month period where he was paying about $50 a night. the epa says that this is within the guidelines, and it is not a violation of the federal ethics rules. and the key is, is it a gift? there's always a concern, if a federal official is given something of value beyond what the average citizen could get, and is that an attempt in some way to exert influence. the epa's legal team says they
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don't believe this constitutes a gift and therefore this is legal, this is his personal money he's spending, not taxpayer money. but it has the appearance problem of making it look like someone who is working for the government is getting something that the average citizen wouldn't and then the condo owned by a couple, owned in a corporation, but it's linked to this energy lobbyist who has had a lot of business before the epa, is there any potential for influence there. they have been friends over the years, that is what we are told. so it is a political problem more than a legal one at this point. but it's the kind of thing that when any type of cabinet official is in the headlines for spending, that can draw the president's fury over things like that. pruitt has raised some questions as well about first class travel and expenses at the offices of the epa, which would be taxpayer dollars. some of that has been discussed over the last recent weeks, and it has put him in the firing line right now in terms of is
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that a problem that the president would weigh in on, since he's promised to draining t -- to drain the swamp. >> kelly, let's talk about his tweets about amazon. >> reporter: he has done this before where he has cited amazon, saying amazon is not paying its fair share of state and local taxes as an internet retailer and that it is not paying the appropriate rate for the u.s. postal service which delivers a lot of its packages. that is certainly in dispute. at the same time, jeff bezos who owns amazon also owns "the washington post," and the president often has issue with the coverage of his administration and businesses and so forth by "the washington post." he did a couple of tweets again today where he talks about the post office losing $1.50 on average per package that it delivers for amazon.
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amazon has a contract with the u.s. postal service that is an agreed-upon rate. the u.s. postal service often has financial problems and runs in the red year after year. but to attribute that to amazon is certainly questionable. then he says, the failing "new york times" reports that the size of the lobbying staff has ballooned, then he goes on to say that does not include "the washington post" which uses a lobbyist. those are tip agitator comments from the president going against media. he is certainly swinging at amazon and "the washington post" today, alex. >> kelly o'donnell, thank you so much from west palm for us. alexi and erin, alexi, first to you on this whole amazon thing, what are the president's calculations on attacking amazon? does it play best with his base? >> so my colleague jonathan
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swann as axios reported earlier this week that trump is not really upset at facebook, he's upset at amazon, seeming to stem from jeff bezos and "the washington post." you're right that this does cater to his base and is also a lack of understanding of the issues of what's happening with big tech companies, and a narrow focus on amazon not only because it plays well with his base but advertise into this larger criticism that trump has of business deals he considers to be not great and the way he views "the washington post" and jeff bezos. >> the income from amazon helps the post office, it doesn't hurt it. the post office's fiscal 2017 annual report, the increase in growth was driven largely by the continuing gross of e-commerce. that's amazon. >> right, alex, that's what the data says.
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but that's not what has lodged in the president's mind. we've seen him repeat this line over and over again that amazon is hurting the post office. if you want to take this from the 30,000 foot level, think about how president trump built his businesses, brick and mortar establishments, they had physical footprints around the country and the world. now think about amazon, emblematic of the startup, the new tech field, everything shaking up the old guard in the business community. so when looked at that way it's not surprising to me that the president might be resistant to some of the breaks amazon has been getting. >> okay. let's get alexi to the white house position on pruitt right now. what are you hearing? >> the interesting thing about scott pruitt is he's been in the news, as we've seen and as you've been reporting yourself, for spending and wasting taxpayer money on everything from travel to spending $43,000 on a soundproof phone booth for the epa, which is a significant amount of money for things he might not need and are currently under investigation.
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so the negative press is obviously bad for scott pruitt. but what i'm hearing is trump isn't necessarily upset with scott pruitt. and that's what adds a fascinating layer to all of this, because usually it's easy for trump to build sort of an attack campaign against someone in his administration who he doesn't like and wants to fire. we're not seeing that with scott pruitt and that's telling, in light of this necessary press coverage. that's not to say that all this negative coverage won't eventually get to trump. what could change all this is how conservative media handles this. what we're seeing is conservative media sort of defending scott pruitt and allowing pruitt to say things like, well, you know, the obama administration spent a million dollars on all these things and i've only spent $100,000. but that's not an equal comparison, obviously, it's been a year for scott pruitt and eight years for the obama administration. until conservative media points out the fact that scott pruitt is perhaps wasting taxpayer money which is something conservatives are against, i don't think trump is going to
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change his mind just yet. >> erin, have you seen any education that pruitt will resign or get fired? >> think back to tillerson, shulkin, mcmaster. you saw the president making negative statements, sometimes leaving them out to dry. sometimes they're fired more quickly but sometimes they're just left in that position, i'm thinking about attorney general jeff sessions and how he was dinged by the president publicly and on twitter all over the course of last summer. certainly people know what the rumor mill looks like in this white house. once it reaches a certain peak, it's evident what will happen next. but no, i'm not seeing that surrounding pruitt right now. >> here is something that's not rumor, alexia, hope hicks is out, she left on thursday. are there any updates on who will likely replace her? >> kellyanne conway is one of the names being floated,
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obviously she would want that job. it's not certain that it would go to her. another woman is mercedes shlapp. she's not favored by hope hicks. the interesting thing is no matter what number of names are on this list of who could replace hope hicks, there is no one who could immediately replace hope hicks in the weight and role she served for donald trump. he trusted her more than anyone else, he called her hopy and hopester. he would sort of compare his instincts against hers and really relied on her for top level decisions in a way we haven't seen him trust anyone else. and i think that is something that will not only worry trump because he's realizing he's suddenly surrounded by people he can't trust like hope hicks. but that will make finding her replacement incredibly difficult. she's the third communications director. i don't know who would want to come into this role knowing that this turnaround is so high for this position, and they could
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suddenly be out of a job, especially considering trump will never trust anyone like he trusted hope hicks. >> then again, erin, "new york magazine" describes a cutthroat battle in the race to be the next communications director. here is what the magazine writes. the race to fill the hicks void is a clandestine parade of all the worst human but also. the real story is the bloodletting between two early front runners, director of strooej communications mercedes schlapp and tony sayegh. do you think anyone will be able to have the president's ear? kellyanne conway has certainly been with the president an awfully long time. would she be the one to step into this role at least on a temporary basis? >> kellyanne conway is somebody who has been considered for this position before. and it's important to remember that she's been resistant to that. it's not the role that she was hoping for. i think you can read the tea leaves here, as we were saying earlier. remember, the president is his own best communicator, something
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that hope hicks did expertly is she was able to translate the president's message especially that crucial period of time around tax reform. when it comes to the president making his own voice heard, it's something that he does want to do alone. you've seen articles come out that criticized both of the candidates here who are up for the job. that's not something that the president takes kindly too. remember, hope has never granted an on-camera interview during her five months at communications director. the president wants everyone to step back and give him his opportunity in the spotlight. that will be an important quality as he chooses who will fulfill this role. >> thank you, ladies, happy holiday weekend. 50 years after the assassination of dr. martin luther king jr., how far has this country come on racial equality and how much more needs to be done? martin luther king iii will join me with reaction to those questions and reflections on his
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more protests slated in sacramento just three hours from now, following the release of autopsy results in the police killing of 22-year-old stephon clark. [ crowd chanting ] last night about 200 protesters chanted clark's name, staring down police in riot gear. the autopsy report states at
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least six of the bullets entered through stephon clark's back. joining me is martin luther king iii, welcome back to the broadcast, good to see you, sir. we've seen unfortunately several incidents like the one in sacramento, overall the last several years. how do you explain it, what's your best assessment? >> i don't know, other than the fact that it seems police culture, and i don't want to say universally, but some police officers overreact quite often. maybe there's a great fear of african-american young men. this happens time and time again. and really, enough is enough. we have got to either do more training. we need sensitivity, human relations, diversity. and then we need civilian review boards to review these actions. people must engaged and want to be engaged. it is so, so tragic. and i don't know when our society is going to change on
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these issues. but it must change if our society is to become a better society. >> look, it doesn't even feel, sir, necessarily that any incremental steps have been taken to remedy this apparent unequal treatment of minorities by police. you look at a recent ap poll taken last month, it shows that three-quarters of african-americans say little to no change has happened since the era of your father in terms of police treatment being fair. so is there anything you can see that has changed? >> well, the one thing i can say maybe that has changed is, you look at police departments and you have african-american as well as women chiefs now that you did not have. that might be the only real change, real substantive change. i believe more, though, police departments are going to be engaging in community policing. and that might create a change.
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that's where it starts, i think. but unfortunately, that's probably true, most african-american young people run from police because police have historically terrorized then. again, i don't want to say universally all police departments, because many police officers do an incredible, phenomenal job every day and we're thankful to those women and men who protect and serve. but there's an element that we have to be concerned about in police departments. >> police also released the body cam video of the shooting of alton sterling who did have a weapon on him. it happened in louisiana a couple of years ago. in both cases, we get a sense of how the actual incidents played out versus the official versions. but that was all after the fact. we have body cameras now. but they are not serving as a preventive device. i know the conversations i had on this broadcast as they were just coming into play, being tested. that was one of the hopes, that
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they would be preventive. how useful are they, in your mind? >> well, i think it's important to have body cameras, even though we have not seen a different behavioral pattern by some officers. but the body cameras or body cams are still an important and useful tool. i think in this case, and overall, most people believe that i think people need to be able to held accountable. if an individual civilian is to shoot someone by accident, you don't have the same criminal process for you doing it premed itately. they say it was an accident, but there's no penalty. there has to be some consequence of how police will choose to academy. there may be a time to accelerate but oftentimes that is not the case and it feels
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that way in louisiana and some of the other cases we've seen around the country. >> most recently sacramento as well. let's move on to the 50th anniversary of the assassination of your father, dr. martin luther king jr. before i get to some of the broader questions, i would love to know what you remember of that day, april 4th, 1968. i know you were just 10 years old. >> yes. the day was a very solemn day. i think we as children -- i'm actually talking about the funeral, which was april 9th. april 4th, i learned of my father being shot by watching the evening news. my siblings and i were watching the news, right after we heard the news, obviously we were just in shock. and we ran back to mother and dad's room to get an understanding. and mom explained that dad had been hurt very badly and that she was going to be by his side.
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we were in our dining room in the kitchen, family room. you just can't imagine what the trauma was to hear that your father had been shot. at that time we did not know if he would survive or not. a couple of hours later my mom came back home, because she went to the airport to head to memphis and of course found out at the airport that dad did not survive. she came back home to explain it to us, her children. >> what a heavy-hearted time. with regard to your father's legacy, i'm curious when you understood the full implications of it. you were probably a little older, right? >> i began to understand at the funeral. in the days before the funeral and up to the funeral, you had every political candidate who was running for office from
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robert kennedy and his wife to ted kennedy and his wife at the time to jackie onassis to richard nixon who became the president, to vice president humphrey, all of the political candidates were there. many entertainers were there. the tallest person was wilt chamberlain, he was seven -- >> i think he's 7'2". >> it was a very solemn period. it was the quietest i had ever seen. i think the numbers of people, the hundreds of thousands of people that were on the streets as we marched from ebenezer church to morehouse college and then to the cemetery where dad's remains were temporarily housed. >> i'm curious about the responsibility you felt towards that legacy and carrying it. has it ever been a heavy load for you?
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>> i would have to say of course it's been a heavy load. but what i'm thankful for is my mom's preparation of me by saying, martin, you don't have to be a civil and human rights leader, you don't have to go to morehouse college, you don't have to be a minister, just be your best self. and that's what i've tried to exhibit throughout the work that i've done over the years, whether it is in being involved in conflict resolution around the globe, in many places, from israel to kenya to south africa, just to name a few. back in the middle of 2000, we did a tour, poverty in america. my dad wanted to eradicate what he called the triple evils of poverty, racism, militarism, and violence. obviously we have not achieved those objectives. so we have a lot of work left to do. but i'm very excited, because we see a high school student-led
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movement to address the issue of guns. many people forget my grandmother was also killed, not just my father here in atlanta. we've been wrestling with the gun issue for many years. now it's being led by high school students. we haven't seen that since 1963 when 3,000 kids left the schools of birmingham and were arrested. so i'm actually very excited. the "me too" movement, very excited about what they're doing swells what black lives matter continues to do. my hope is that it always stays nonviolent. >> you are contributing with more than just your words to the support of the parkland students. your amazing daughter was part of the march for our lives event in d.c. let's take a look, for those who may not have seen her. >> granddaughter of martin luther king and coretta scott king. [ cheering ]
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my grandfather had a dream that his four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. i have a dream that enough is enough. [ cheering ] >> i think our viewers have just witnessed the smile of a very proud father. how did you decide to get her involved? >> we offered to be supportive in any way we could with the students. and then we talked about our daughter being a kid who has been talking about guns for a long time. we went in 2016, in the last year that president obama was in office, to visit with him, to see the bust of my father that was in the oval office. and my wife and i asked our daughter at that time, yolanda, come up with a question to ask the president. at that time, again, this was 2016, she asked the president,
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mr. president, what are you going to do about these guns? so this is not an issue that she came to just after parkland. this has been on her mind for some time. at that time she was 7 years old, she's 9 now. obviously we're so blessed and proud of what she purports and represents. >> look, i'm going to suggest it's in her dna. but were you at all surprised that she seemed so unfazed in front of that huge crowd? what are your hopes for her? does she talk about her plans, a young girl saying this is what i want to be when i grow up? she did some growing up last weekend, she was pretty spectacular. >> thank you. my hopes for her, i'm very optimistic about the future. not the current -- if we look at the current situation, maybe you could look at it in a pessimistic way. i always look at it as the glass is half full, not half empty. i think with yolanda and other young people coming on, we really don't -- while we need to
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be concerned, we don't have a whole lot to be concerned about, because, you know, when i was 5, 6, 7, 8 years old, i wasn't thinking about guns. i wasn't thinking about the environment. i was thinking about homelessness. these are things she's talking about right now as we speak, as a 9-year-old kid, that she wants to do something about. i believe her and her colleagues, there's a whole consciousness out there with young people that certainly we did not have. we should all be very proud. the kids are leading us, biblical saying, out of the mouths of babes come truths. >> martin luther king iii, thank you for joining us, sir. we'll be thinking of you and your family in the coming week. >> thank you so much. coming up, how potential pardons could shake up the mueller investigation and possibly bring about more charges. have you smelled this
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