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tv   MSNBC Live With Ayman Mohyeldin  MSNBC  April 15, 2018 2:00pm-3:00pm PDT

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intervention and not taking in any of the country's refugees and giving them a place here. thanks for the thought-provoking share. i'm ayman mohyeldin. james comey versus donald trump. their feud reaching a fever pitch with the former fbi director's book coming out and trump's responses burning up twitter throughout the day. that's one item on a legal agenda that has the white house in a state of turmoil, and an upcoming court appearance for trump lawyer michael cohen and an apparent firing waiting game for rot rinosenstein and the always looming robert mueller investigation, some of the things that the white house is dealing with, as the president deals from the fallout from his air strikes in syria and i creasing questions about whether there's a coherent strategy in the region at all. we're going to talk about all of that straight ahead. but we want to begin with the president and james comey. their battle front and center.
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comey's book "a higher loyalty" offers new revelations on his dealings with the president. this morning the president fired off five tweets on comey alone calling the former fbi director a slime ball, among other things. this ahead of comey's first public interview since his firing, and that interview sure to further anger the president with material like this. take a listen. >> honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but i don't know whether the current president of the united states with prostitutes pooing on each other in 2013. it's possible, but i don't know. >> and the comey back is one issue the white house under siege. the president's personal attorney due in court tomorrow where he'll be met by a special spectator none other than stormy daniels. there's speculation he's ready to fire deputy attorney general rod rosenstein and new poll numbers out today on whether the president's legal drama couple
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pact the republicans come the mid-term elections. joining me now is the white house reporter for "the daily beast" and maria mca. former federal prosecutor and evan siegfried, a republican vat gist. in addition to the president's tweets in person, the white house and its surrogates, have really gone on an attack all throughout the day. watch this. >> comey will forever be known as a disgraced partisan hack. >> you know, i'm disappointed in jim comey. i'll be honest with you. this book should on the fixion shelf. >> you're a pompious egotistic patronizing holier than thou political operative. >> i think this book is salacious. when you read it he discredits him sdwlefl have you read it? >> no, i haven't read it. >> today a "washington post"/abc poll shows more americans find comey, believe it or not, more believable than the president. so let's talk a little bit about how effective you think this strategy has been from the white house against comey. how would you rate it?
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>> well, i'm not sure how i would rate it in terms from an a-plus to an f-minus but in terms of some of the footage you were showing there, within the white house and without it, if not under the direct direction from the president of the united states himself is done with his sometimes explicit blessing. that first clip you showed of sarah huckabee sanders at the friday white house afternoon press briefing, according to people i've been speaking to in the white house over the past couple of days, the president had a meeting with sarah sanders in the oval office shortly before she went on as he usually does, but what made this meeting in the oval office different from others is that president trump specifically told press secretary sarah huckabee sanders to basically tear james comb i apart when she got in front of the cameras, to mfa sympathize he is by their estimation, a
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leaker, a shameless self-promoter, someone trying to line his own pockets with this book and subsequent tour and basically get in the mud with the fired fbi director. >> seems like the president as well is getting into the mud with some of the terminology he's using like slime ball. >>an marie, let me ask you about former deputy attorney general sally yates because she had some strong tweets yesterday, at least one tweet i wanted to read. in it she says in part you can't fire a prosecutor because you're unhappy he approved a search warrant that relates to your own conduct. again, this was from the former deputy attorney general sally yates who president trump fired. i'm curious to get your thoughts on something. we tend to focus pay lot on the possibility that president trump may fire special counsel robert mueller, but in reality, would it be just as egregious to fire rod rosenstein? >> the reality is he can essentially fire any of them. he is the head of the executive branch and the doj reports into the president so he can get rid of sessions, can get rid of
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rosenstein. there's some questions about whether there are some conflicts as far as rosenstein was the one who actually wrote the memo saying comey should be fired, so if there's an obstruction of justice investigation around the fact that comey was fired and whether he should have been fired, then potentially rosenstein may have to testify which is a problem having him run an investigation essentially or oversee it where he's actually somebody who could become a witness down the line. >> up to this point he would have known all the various aspects of the mueller investigation to some extent. >> and he's the one mueller is reporting into and he's the one who picked mueller to be the special counsel and appointed him special counsel. >> even his firing would be extremely significant as sally yates has warned. >> it certainly would be significant, but, you know, the other thing that usually happens when a new president comes in is most of the top positions get replaced, and that didn't happen this time. it was -- he was left in that position, so -- i mean, it would be interesting to see, you know,
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but it's -- the president certainly could do it if he wants to. >> as you can imagine, all of this talk of firing, whether it's rod rosenstein or bob mueller, it has a lot of people on capitol hill nervous and despite all of that, we're not hearing too many republican lawmakers say that they want to see some legislation to actually protect the bob mueller investigation and the special counsel. take a listen to what paul ryan told my colleague chuck todd. >> i don't think he should be fired. i think he should be left to do his job, and i don't think they are really contemplating this. it's not in the president's interest to do that. we have a rule of law system and no one is above that law of system. i don't think he's going to be fired. i don't think he should be fired. >> you're hearing outgoing speaker paul ryan with the strong words that he shouldn't be fire. the investigation should go on. why are we not hearing more from gop members to want to ensure that the mueller investigation continues by putting legislation forth? >> well, first of all, we're on the verge of a potential
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constitutional crisis. if the president were to take any action against rod rosenstein or robert mueller or try to impede this investigation further, we would be in very serious uncharted waters, and it would be the duty of the congress to stand up. but why haven't republicans? >> it would be too late by then. >> it might be. >> they still have the impeachment proceedings which they would not do at least until summer is. we understand as republicans that the republican base isn't about the republican party anymore. 59% of republicans say they are more loyal to donald trump the man than they are the party or the party ideology, so if you are a republican congressman or senator who stands up to donald trump and says no, this is a line you should not cross, you know what ends up happening? you end up getting a primary challenger who is supported by the base and you get run out of office and you'll get somebody who is even worse and more on the trump train than somebody else. look what happened to jeff flake. he's gone. only people who are speaking up are the charlie dents, the trey gowdy who are saying lines that should not be crossed.
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bob corker as well. i think we need to see leadership that comes from people who are up for re-election. >> not those that are just simply walking away at the end of their term. >> let me ask you about mike rall cohen. expected to be in court tomorrow. he's hoping the judge will approve his restraining order to stop prosecutors from reviewing some of the material taken during the fbi raid on monday, and he won't be alone in court. take a listen to this. >> stormy daniels is going to be in court on monday with michael cohen, is that what you're saying? >> yeah. she will attend at 2:00 in new york on monday. it's intended to send the message that this is a very, very serious matter for her, and she wants to make sure that the american people know that she's behind efforts to bring to light as much information and documents as possible. >> so give us a sense in how concerned the white house is about this particular story. there are some reports in fact that some of president trump's advisers actually see the cohen case as a bigger threat now than
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the russia investigation. >> i believe you're citing a "new york times" report which actually correctly notes that many of trump's advisers both in and outside of the white house do seem to agree that at least in the immediate future this is more of an immediate threat if not to trump's presidency to trump himself than the mueller investigation because of how much michael cohen knows and everything he's been involved with and what potential dealings, whether untoward or not, that he most certainly has been deeply involved with over the past years and decades, and, look, i spent sometime talking and communicating with michael cohen. i and my former colleague at "the daily beast" wreath pretty long profile of him a month or two ago, and i must say that out of trump world is littered with like absolute abject sycophants. that's not a passing judgment
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here. that is just an objective truth to this situation, and i really -- and i know this is a high bar to clear. i don't think i've ever encountered anybody so gleefully willing to hurl himself on a grenade than michael cohen. >> let me ask you about another one of the president's tweets in which he climbed attorney/client privilege was now a thing of the past and said all lawyers are deflated and concerned. as a former federal prosecutor how do you analyze that president's accusation, that charge, with what you've seen in terms of how this case has developed? >> well, it's certainly very unusual to have an attorney's office raided by the fbi and have materials taken. and it is something that gives i think a lot of lawyers a moment of pause for thought to think, you know, that their files could be turned over at some point by court order to the fbi. so we don't know how much of it is attorney/client privilege. they are going into court
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tomorrow. the allegation by the government is that he actually was not acting most of the time as an attorney, and that he had no other clients other than trump. >> yeah. >> so the question is if he was acting as an attorney they be the privilege hopefully will still be there, but for the materials that are not covered by attorney/client privilege, those will then be ostensibly given to the government. >> a chance to respond to that question, particularly with the charge if he's hiding criminal activity then attorney/client -- >> first of all, i want to point out the ridiculousness of donald trump saying that attorney/client is dead when donald trump jr. went before investigators a few months ago and said he couldn't answer their questions on the russia probe because he had attorney/client privilege with his father. there is no child/parent privilege, only spousal privilege and attorney/client privilege. judge kimba wood, the southern district of new york's judge presiding over this case is an incredibly well-respected judge and she's going to make sure all parties involved adhere to the
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rule of law and everything is done by the book. >> do you know if a decision will come out tomorrow or a few days afterwards? >> she's likely to take evidence and then make a decision after. >> all right, guys. thanks very much. great to have all of you with us this sunday evening. tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern, msnbc headliners takes an in-depth look at james comey. chris matthews hosts this special hour-long series providing insight into this controversial public service before the release of his revealing new memoir. the office of former president george h.w. bush about the wife of his health. mrs. bush, now age 92, has decided not to seek additional medical treatment land instead focus on comfort care. the former first lady spent much of the last year in the hospital dealing with copd and congestive heart failure. we're told mrs. bush is surrounded by her family. and we've got a lot more
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coming this up hour. the trump administration deeming the syria missile attack a complete success. the president himself declaring mission accomplished. two words he's defending today as critics ask what exactly is the mission in syria? more on that straight ahead. if you feel like you spend too much time in the bathroom
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we, of course, know that our work in syria is not done. we know that it is now up to bashar assad on whether he's going to use chemical weapons again, and should we use it
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again the president has made it very clear that the united states is locked and loaded and ready to go. >> that was nikki haley making it clear that the u.s. is ready to act again in syria if chemical weapons are once again used against citizens. president trump for his part defending his use of the term mission accomplished in the wake of the syria air strikes which immediately called to mind president bush's disastrous use of that very same phrase. president trump tweeting that he knew he'd be attacked for it, but thought it was such a great term that he'd bring it back. the bush connection isn't the only issue with the use of the phrase mission accomplished. the "new york times" pointing out that it raises the question what exactly is the mission in syria, so we want to break down some key issues surrounding that question. does the trump administration have a goal in syria when it comes to the president bashar assad. how did this missile strike impact the role of russia and iran in syria and how does this impact president trump's stated goal to get out of syria sooner rather than later?
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to discuss all of this i'm joined by ambassador robert ford, senior fellow for the middle east institute and former u.s. ambassador to syria and debra lee james, former air force secretary. great to have both of you with us. let's start with the term -- the impact of all of this. here's senator angus king today. take a listen. >> i think it's very difficult to say mission accomplished if the mission is to deter the use of chemical weapons. we hope that that will be the case, but we did a strike a year ago for that same purpose and it was deemed a success, but the chemical weapons have continued to be used, so i think it's impossible to say at this point that the mission has been accomplished. >> so secretary james, let me ask you about the stated objective of the trump presidency. they wanted to deter them from caring out chemical weapons. he's used it over the course of the year multiple times since last april when we carried out strikes. was this strike that we saw over
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the weekend a success in deterring president assad's fuse of chemical weapons. >> can you even measure that. >> time will tell on that. we don't know. i think the message was clear. the targets were selected because the targets destroyed, and by the way it was a successful mission in the sense that the targets were destroyed. they directly related to the use of chemical weapons, the development of chemical weapons and, of course, the u.s. military together were our allies, the french and the british, did get that job done, but my sense is it's happened before just as you said. if i were bashar al assad, i would lay low for a while. i would reconstitute my capability in secret, and i could bring brutality to my people through other means. >> as we've seen with the barrel bombs. >> as a former air force secretary, what did you make of the president's tweeting and kind of projection of the fact that he would carry out the strikes the days running up to it? if you were in the military and pentagon and planning this, do those tweets help you? >> they absolutely do not help.
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they were injudicious. i think it was very fortunate. if anything the president boxed himself in. he got himself way out on a limb, and the only option alternate point was to strike because to do otherwise would have perhaps made him look weak. >> and not to mention he telegraphed to our enemies that we're going to possibly be carrying out these strikes, something he faulted president barack obama to doing when it came to some of the terrorist groups. >> ambassador ford, let me bring you into this. my colleague pressed a state department spokeswoman heather nauert on the trump policy in syria. take a listen to this. >> what do you say to those who say, look, there isn't a clear policy when it comes to the u.s. position? >> syria is a very complicated country with a lot of terrible actors involved in it that are making this situation worse. look, our policy is to be there for the defeat of isis. we've come very close. had it not been for russia assisting bashar al assad several years ago, that regime would not be able to control part of the country, large parts of the country like it has.
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>> so ambassador ford, your former boss president obama, his policy was regime change in syria or at least saying president assad has to go. it hasn't yet been asked clear what the policy is of this trump administration. we know he's not for regime change, but do you see a clear coherent syria policy on the civil war side at least in terms of what this administration wants to achieve? >> no, not yet. i think they are still trying to work it out. there are two things we know for sure. one, they are very clear that they want to go and totally defeat, destroy isis in eastern syria, and they have u.s. forced on the ground working on that. that's very clear. they have sort of changed the policy a little bit and now they have added chemical weapons to it, and they are -- they are saying they are going to sustain attacks. you heard locked hand loaded from ambassador haley. if they are now going to say you used chlorine gas, we hit you. you use a little bit of chlorine
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gas over there, we strike. that's new. that's different. that's something they need to explain to the russians to start with. they need to explain it to the syrian government. they probably need to explain it to a lot of countries. none of that means that they have figured out what to do about bashar al assad. i don't think they like bashar al assad, but how to get him out, it's not clear the americans can do that now anyway. >> you brought the issue of russia into this, and i wanted to pick up on that because today the syrian president was meeting with russian enadvice. how do you think the air strikes that we saw over the weekend impact russia's role at all in syria? does this incline them or push them to double down? does this make them somewhat reserved and staying supportive of the assad regime? >> well, they will be supportive of the assad regime whether or not we strike in order to deter chemical weapons. you know, the strikes actually have the perverse effect of
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increasing russian leverage and influence over bashar al assad. bashar al assad needs the russians more, and, in fact, there are reports today that the syrian government is asking the russians urgently for more modern updated air defense systems. surface-to-air missiles, show in a sense it may help the russians influence assad a little bit. they do not have full total control over bashar al assad. >> secretary james, i want to ask you about some internal dynamics between the new national security adviser john bolton and defense secretary jim mattis. there were reports there were tensions between them in the spectrum of where these strikes fell. there's such a stark contrast between two very key components of the national security team for the president. how does that ultimately play out and the fact that we saw this operationing? who do you think won out in terms of this round of the syria policy? >> i have no doubt that secretary mattis and the options
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that he laid upon the table ran the gamut, and, of course, it would be up to the president himself to approve which option to pursue. secretary mattis is i think amongst the entire cabinet extremely well seasoned, very judicious, counterintuitive i think to many americans, people who have seen war, they are the ones who are the most cautious of getting drawn farther in. so, again, time will tell. we're speculating here. we're going forward. the key question i have is are we going to evolve the strategy? just as the ambassador said, our strategy has been to defeat isis, very narrow and that's been for the last four years or so, but isis is almost defeated. are we really going to withdraw those troops fanned so do we think that's going to turn out better for us than it did in iraq because what we find over and over again is failed states with these many, many actors. >> havens for terrorist organizations. >> they become havens for new terrorist organizations.
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>> great to have both of you with us here on set. thanks. >> slime ball, liar, suggestions of jail time just some of the words president trump used when talking about fired fbi director james koji and his new book. so who is telling the truth? straight ahead i'll talk to the authors of best-seller "russian roulette" which covers some of the very same meetings that comey talked about his book. what they know about what really happened. we're finally back out in our yard, but so are they. the triple threat of dandelions, lurking crabgrass and weak, thin grass! introducing the all new scotts turf builder triple action. this single-step breakthrough changes everything. it kills weeds, prevents crabgrass for up to 4 months, and feeds so grass can thrive, all guaranteed. only from scotts. our backyard is back.
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james comey speaking out in an interview tonight for the first time since he was fired last may by trump and on tuesday comey's book "a higher loyalty" hit stores in which the former fbi director paints a picture of president trump as a mafia boss obsessed with loyalty and revenge. some portions of comey's book are familiar when compared to the book written by my next two guests, authors of "russian roulette,". joining me now are the book's authors david corn and mikealed izikoff. great to have you both with us here on set. i want to start off with some of the excerpts with both of these books. there's a lot of parallels with comey's meeting with the president, fresh, and that's where i want to start. this is when he was president-elect. talked about that infamous dossier and allegations about prostitutes.
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comey writes i explained i wasn't saying the fbi believed the allegations. we simply thought it was important that he know that they were out interest and being widely circulated are, but in your book you write trump and his team took it a little differently. your report after wrote comey writing trump ruminated some more and in his own mind figured it out. this was a shakedown, he said. comey was trying to blackmail him, letting him know that he had something on him. let me begin with you, david. that's quite a difference of perceptions of the same event. >> well, and what we're talking about is a moment that jim comey didn't experience, didn't witness. we describe in the book how comey and other intelligence chiefs of the u.s. government really thought long and hard about what to tell donald trump about this -- about the dossier which at that point was not public but was circulating, and they knew about it. they thought they could -- it was almost as a courtesy they would let him know after the end
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of an official jens briefing on the larger report about russian intervention in the election, so comey, you know, takes trump aside and says, that and then, you know, then comey leaves, but what we point out is what happens next. trump was, you know, wassagery, and he turned to his aides, his political aides in the room with him at that point, and said this is a shakedown. what he meant by that was that jim comey and the rest u.s. intelligence establishment was trying to blackmail him, to show him we have dirt on you, so if you don't do things our way, mr. new president, you're going to get it, and it was like -- the way he looked at the world in a very paranoid manner. it wasn't what they were trying to do, but that was the message he took away and i think it poisoned his relationship with comey from the get-go. >> one of the other things you both write about, both comey and you write about in your respective books was trump asking him for personal loyalty.
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today the president tweeted out a denial of that specific claim saying he hardly even knew the guy. michael, i'm curious to get your thoughts because obviously this is going to be a very important issue going forward. is there someone outside or anyone outside of these two americans president trump and comey who could corroborate what really happened so it's not just a matter of he said verse he shade? >> probably not because if you remember comey's account, this conversation takes place after trump asks everybody else to leave the room which comey thought was odd. in fact, he had asked the attorney general not to be -- the president had asked the attorney general sessions not to be in the room, and that in and of itself made comey uncomfortable, the idea that the president would want to speak to him without the presence of the people he reports to at the justice department, the attorney general and the deputy attorney general, but i think the important thing, and this is where the two books do track is
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that meeting between -- that initial meeting between comey and the president basically sowed the seeds for everything that would come afterwards. in fact, we write in the book that steve bannon who comes into the room afterwards says -- and gets quite agitated about the fact that the -- the synopsis of the dossier was given over to the president by comey and that -- and that the president accepted that. he's saying by accepting that it becomes an official record. you never -- then to priebus and others in the room, you never should have let the president take that, and bannon believes he planted the seeds for comey's firing in the exchanges after that meeting. >> that's an interesting point. i want to pick up on another thing that's related to the firing of james koji because in his book he also covers trump's attempt to get comey to make a public statement that trump was
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not personally under criminal investigation. in fact, comey wrote about that saying that he was the one who actually brought this up at the january 27th dinner at the white house. he wrote as he began to grow more defensive and the conversation teetered toward disaster on instinct i pulled the tool from my bag. we are not investigating you, sir. that seemed to quiet him down, but you and comey both write that the president quickly became upset that comey would not go public with that little piece of information, and you write trump was now obsessed with one goal, getting comey to publicly say he was not under investigation. the russia scandal was complicating his job as president. david, do you think, and michael brought this point up about the firing, if comey had said that publicly, do you think that he'd still be the fbi director? >> probably not, butecause i thk it was probably a doomed relationship.
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he couldn't say it because he didn't know where the investigation would go, and one reason he didn't want to say it publicly was because he felt he had the obligation that if he cleared trump and said he's not being investigated and then something came up that indicated that trump might be under investigation, he would have to come out and say that again and take back the first statement, and that would just get him a situation that the fbi director didn't want to be in. i mean, to me his book and our book, what we see again and again and again is that trump really cares about one thing, the allegations about himself. there's no consideration, no concern, no priority for the actual russian attack on the election, and it seems he never really had a conversation with boh copy about that hand what to do to not allow that to happen again. that to me is like a big dog not barking in comey's book. >> one of the other things that comey wrote about was his handling of the hillary clinton
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e-mail investigation. he admits that his belief that she would have won may have impacted his decision to go public with the information about potential new e-mails just before the election, but take a listen to this, because in his interview with abc jim comey says this. >> if i ever start considering whose political fortunes will be affected by a decision we're done? we're no longer that group in america that is apart from the partisans and that can be trusted. we're just another player in the tribal battle. >> so how -- michael, how do you square those two things? are those two things irreconcilable? >> they are a bit contradictory, and as you've no doubt noticed the white house is exploiting this to the hilt saying that comey has acknowledged that he let political factors and the latest poll numbers on the 2016 election influence his decision to write that fateful letter.
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this is -- this is something that i think comey is probably going to be asked a lot about, if not in tonight's interview in all upcoming interviews, and he's -- he's going have some explaining to do how he can reconcile that quote that you just played and what he says about how it did influence his decision-making. the polls influenced his decision-making. >> remember, aiman, he did something that was unprecedented going back to july 2016 when he announced that there would be no prosecution or was recommending no prosecution and took the extra step of chastising hillary clinton and pointing out what she had done wrong which never really happens so, you know, he -- he explains why he did this, but at the same time he took an unprecedented step in the middle of a politically charged environment, and it's really hard i think after the fact to see him skating clean of all of that.
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>> yeah. it will be interesting to see if any of those questions that you gentlemen brought up will be posed to james comey and, of course, what the white house is going to be doing all week long during this media blitz. guys, great to have you with us. david corn and michael will stick around to talk about syria in just a little bit as well. another reminder to tune into "head lipoers" james comey tonight right here the 9:00 p.m. on msnbc. we know what the u.s. and its allies think about the strike but what does the rest of the world think about the strikes? the assad regime is continuing attacks on civilians which have not gotten more attention. the real impacts of the u.s. strikes and whether it was effective in sending a message to syria and its allies. arrow fast food drive thru lane. but what a powerful life lesson. and don't worry i have everything handled. i already spoke to our allstate agent, and i know that we have accident forgiveness. which is so smart on your guy's part.
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welcome back, everyone. time now for we said they said. after a week of threats the u.s. and its allies finally punishing president bashar al assad for allegedly gassing his own people. >> there collective action sends a clear message that the international community will not stand by and tolerate the use of chemical weapons. >> the trump administration declaring the pre-dawn raid on syria's weapons depot a resounding success. >> it seems like everyone is celebrating, that's for sure. certainly everyone is declaring victory. >> canadian prime minister justin trudeau also congratulating the coalition on a job well done. >> also want to reiterate, as i told you directly last night, our support for the unfortunate
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but necessary u.s., uk and french actions in syria. >> but is this all misplaced optimism? defense officials say their main aim in syria is to defeat isis and cripple the government's chemical weapons infrastructure. no mention to end of civil war, regime change or even a solution to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in that country. the president has made it very clear u.s. troops aren't in that for the long haul. still, the white house touting this latest operation by saying mission accomplished but not everyone taking a victory lap with the president. anti-strike protesters taking to the streets around the world from greece to chile, gaza to jordan. >> we stand against this aggression and we stand with the syrian people, army, president and government. >> in moscow a furious kremlin fired backing a the u.s., uk and france for launching the military assault on syria. >> russia has slammed america,
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the uk and france over strikes on syria. >> as you can imagine, russian president vladimir putin, a staunch supporter of the assad regime, calling it an actch aggression. iran's supreme court leader branding the u.s. and its allies as criminals. syrian state tv broadcasting images of jubilation. supporters of bashar al assad out celebrating on the streets. as for syria's president himself, it was business as usual with briefcase in hand. he met with russian lawmakers a day after his country was bombed and was reportedly in a, quote, good mood. coming up, a discussion on what that strike means for the stability in the world's most dangerous neighborhood. stay with us.
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before the break we ran through many so of the international reaction to this weekend's strikes in syria. to discuss that further i'm joined by the executive editor and founder of syria deeply and the "new york times" correspondent who covers isis and whose work for the past year is the subject of a new podcast called califhate and back with us is michael izikoff, the last journalist to have sat down with bashedad. we showed you some of the images
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from state tv. i'm not naive enough to think that syrian state tv is the litmus test of the entire syrian population given how divided it is. give us a sense of how are the air strikes that we saw this weekend, how are they likely to be received in syria across the political divide? >> if you are a syrian who supports bashar al assad you're celebrating this weekend. you saw those scenes in the street. not only because he really survived this unscathed but because it's fair to say that even if you take the pentagon's word for the impact of this strike, it really didn't serve as a serious setback to assad or his military apparatus so he came out pretty much unscathed and frankly arguably even close thundershower russia and iran, his primary backers. >> let me pick up on that point. in terms of the deterrent that the united states wanted to send, particularly with the issue of the chemical weapons, the barrel bombs and other weapons also illegal but not on our radar, how much an impact
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will this have with assad's relationship with russia? does it make them double down horn the? >> according to my sources there was an involved back and forth between dod and the white house about the scope of the discuss going much bigger. were they going to hit military facilities in addition to the chemical weapons depots and the research center? >> they went to the measured approach, specifically, the military insulations have russians and possibly arraign n i -- iranian citizens working in them. we're reasserting the status quo. we are going to allow iran and russia to back president assad in the various crimes he's committing. at the same time, we are going to try to send a message about chemical weapons. >> one of the statements over the weekend that got attention was dana white, the pentagon spokesperson, saying this is going to help the end of the syrian civil war. a lot of people are scratching their heads, how it is going to happen. michael, you were the last american journalist to interview assad. what's your take or how he's
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likely to respond to these air strikes? we have the video there of the last time you met with him. you know his mindset better than any of us on set. how do you think he is going to view these strikes and respond? >> look, i mean, he had russian backing before. he's got it now. that plus iranian backing is what props him up. i don't see where he would perceive this as being any great setback to him. or, necessarily, cause him to change his calculus, which is the only justification for the raid itself. by attacking, by sending these missiles, the u.s. and its coalition partners would force the syrians to change their calculus about the next time they would use chemical weapons. remember, it was a year ago that the same scenario played out. use of syrian chemical weapons.
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u.s. military strike. design to change the syrian calculus. obviously, to the extent it made any change at all, it wasn't terribly long lasting because they used it again. >> i know that the white house, at least president trump, has been moved by the images of the young children affected by the chemical weapons attack, as we all have. in the broader humanitarian crisis, i want your thoughts. it was the legal basis for why it carried out this strike. it is hard to believe this administration cares about the humanitarian aspects of the syrian people when they haven't opened their doors to refugees. is that a fair assessment, that this trump administration, when it comes to playing humanitarian caretaker, caregiver for the syrian refugees around the world, it is mostly lip service? >> the obama administration was pretty much the same, to be fair. >> numbers were different. >> millions of syrians have been suffering since 2012.
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>> we have the numbers on the screen. >> that's just refugees. >> coming into the united states, just to be clear. >> being allowed in. did obama allow in more refugees? yes. under obama's watch, this conflict spiralled to a point where 11 million syrians are suffering out of their homes. you've seen untold suffering. dozens of chemical weapons attacks since the start of this conflict. president trump did take a different tact. actually, even launching symbolic strikes on syria, which obama hadn't done. so, it's hard to say that the u.s. policy has been particularly compassionate or consistent at any moment in the past seven years. >> michael, really quickly, a policy and strategy here. looking at the united states over the past several days, talking to the former air force secretary, she was saying it was a disservice for the president to tweet out what he was going to do with the smart, nice and new bombs and the missiles, and he sell gratelegraphed what he g to do in terms of policy. is that an effective strategy
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for the united states, to del gra -- telegraph what he was going to do, or did he box himself in? >> once he tweeted that, it would have been impossible for the president not to act. it would be a replay of president obama declaring the use of chemical weapons a red line and then not responding when the syrians used it. can i just make one last point on the refugees? >> of course. >> those numbers, i mean, when i was there in syria, went through the valley and visited some of the refugee resettlement centers, the numbers are staggering. upwards of 4 million syrian refugees. to put that in context, that is more than four times the total number of palestinian refugees from the conflict in 1948, a problem that still haunts the world. think about the long-term impact
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of what's going on in syria with the refugee crisis. it dwarves anythif vef vef ves >> let me finish up on two important aspects. iran and israel. the growing tension between the two countries in syria. iran sees syria as an existential lifeline to hezbollah. israel sees iran's presence as a major threat that it is not going to go unanswered. >> back to what we were saying earlier, the fact that the strikes were so targeted, only hitting this very small chemical weapons related facility, not going further, not hitting the many other military facilities that have been raining barrel bombs, et cetera, on the syrian people, which are backed by iran and russia, i think that that, in a way, is a statement of impunity. it says they can continue to back this leader without any real world repercussions. of course, that is going to make israel uncomfortable. >> as we've seen, israel has not
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shied away from carrying out strikes inside syria. >> iran has an extensive footprint in syria, and it is growing by the day, making israel very nervous. >> great to have all of you with us. michael, i appreciate your insights on both of the stories we covered today. >> thank you. that'll do it for this week. join me next sunday at 5:00 p.m. to break down the major stories of the week. you can reach out to me, of course, on social media. join my friend, kasie hunt, at 7:00 p.m., for "kasie d.c." then chris matthews hosts "headliners. he'll look at james comey. but up next, if it's sunday, it's "meet the press." bought a . okay. [ buttons clicking ] [ camera shutter clicks ] so, now that you have a house, you can use homequote explorer. quiet. i'm blasting my quads. janice, look.
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this sunday, attack on syria. >> i ordered the united states armed forces to launch precision strikes. >> the u.s. and its allies strike syria in retaliation for last week's suspected chemical attack on civilians. >> these are not the actions of a man. they are crimes of a monster. >> the president declares mission accomplished, but is it? what's the point of doing something if it accomplishes nothing? i'll ask republican senator joni ernst of iowa. plus, is mueller closing in? a new report says the special counsel has evidence confirming part of the infamous dossier that the president's lawyer may have lied about a trip to


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