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tv   MSNBC Live With Alex Witt  MSNBC  August 18, 2018 5:00am-6:00am PDT

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no one has your back like american express. so no matter where you're going... we're right there with you. the powerful backing of american express. don't do business without it. don't live life without it. very good morning to all of you. i'm alex witt, it is 8:00 out east. john brennan has spoken on camera for the first time since his security clearance was revoked. >> he is drunk on power, he really is. security clearances are snag are solemn and sacred and they should not be used for political purposes. these are not normal times,
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these are quite frightening times. >> and his take on this "washington post" headline you see coming into view and what it could mean for the probe. and it's not just audio, the new report about omarosa and a staff stash of videos she has to support her claims in her new book. and president trump lashing out at john brennan once again. in an exclusive interview, he explained why he is critical of the president saying mr. trump may be drunk on power. >> i think this is an egregious act that it flies in the face of traditional practice, common sense, and national security. i think that is why there has been such a outcry from so many intelligence professionals.
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not to support me, but to support the principal that security clearances is something that is solemn and sacred and they should never be used for political purposes. to grant friends those clearances or revoke them if. >> are you considering legal action? do you have a legal right to exert against the president's actions here? >> a number of lawyers have reached out to say there is a very strong case here. not so much to reclaim mine but prevent this from happening in the future. i am thinking about what it is that i might want to do. at this time i'm trying to make sure the principal is what is defended and supported. i don't know what is motivating mr. trump to focus on me. i met him only once, early january of 2017 when we briefed him on the russian intelligence interference in the election. i have been outspoken.
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i'm sure my outspokenness and things i have said have irritated him. i wish i didn't have to say these things. it's one thing to have policy and substantive differences, and i had them in the past. what really gets under my skin is mr. trump's lack of decency, integrity, honesty, and his lack of commitment to this countriy' well-being. he is motivated by what is in the best interest of mr. trump. i know a former intelligence official should be viewed as not doing this, but i have never been political. i'm not democrat or republican. i feel a commitment to the country's security and i am the son of an immigrant, and we need to remember the privilege of being born an american citizen.
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when i see that mr. trump is trashing the reputation of this country worldwide, and treating fellow americans, the way he refers to them, the divisiveness. that is not what this country is about. >> afterhelsinki, you were a little scary in what you said, you said it was treason. >> i said it was nothing short of treasonous. >> do you stand by that consideration? can you explain and elaborate by what you mean? it is a very serious allegation. >> i know what russians did to interfere in the election. i have 100% confidence in what they did. for mr. trump to stand on that
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stage in helsinki with all of the world's eyes upon him and say that he doesn't understand why would the russians interfere in the election, he gives them a pass time after time after time. he refers to it as a witch hunt, as bogus, and to me this was an attack against the foundational principal of our great republic. the right of all americans to choose their elected leaders. and for mr. trump to cavalierly just dismiss that, yes. sometimes my irish comes out in my tweets and i did say that it rises to and exceeds the level of high crimes and misdemeanors and is nothing short of treasonous. it should not happen, and if russia tries to do it they will
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pay a serious price for it. i don't expect mr. putin to acknowledge it. but for the president of the united states to continue on this issue i think does a great injustice and a disservice to the men and women of the law enforcement community and a great disservice to the citizens of the united states. that's why i said it was nothing short of treasonous. i didn't mean he committed treas treason. the way he can revoke clearances and give pardons out, i'm not a lawyer, but i know about whether or not there is corrupt intent in terms of doing this. this is something that lawyers, courts, and others will be looking at in terms of whether or not mr. trump is doing any of this to obstruct justice or try to silence critics, whatever. the fact that he is using a
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security clearance of a former cia director as a pawn in his public relations strategy i think is just so refrektive of somebody that don't want to use this term many, but he is drunk on power. >> john brennan there in an exclusive interview with rachael maddow. the president says he is not attempting to silence brennan. >> if anything i'm giving him a bigger voice, many people don't even know who he is, now he has a bigger voice and that's okay, i like taking on voices like that. i never respected him. i never had a lot of respect -- >> joining us now, our guests guys, i want to go to malcolm first, with the president right now, do you think she giving him
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a bigger voice, a foil, the president likes to have fights and arguments in the public arena. >> you know you're absolutely right, he is setting him up as a foil. you know the first time i heard foim w foil was rocky and bullwieng nk. he is using john brennan as a target for his base and his animosity, and he needs that and he needs someone to do that. he loves to cut down people who have elegance and grace and all of what john brennan puts out. last night he had an extraordinary piece of media that will make donald trump even more up set.
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au autocrats don't like when anyone is bigger than they are. >> that's what you think the security clearance is, malcolm? it is direct punishment? >> absolutely. all of the former directors have their clearances. to retain corporate knowledge of the new processes that the intelligence community needs, sometimes they need that information, and we need it as a nation. this is a man that hunts down the worst criminal in the history of the united states, osama bin laden and helped have him killed, so it is just punishment, and it will not john brennan. >> so dan any, he is considering
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legal action, he says not for me necessarily but to protect others, what are the legal options available here? >> in the past, historically, courts concluded they may not have the authority to review revocation of security clearances. depending on how he brings an action and states jurisdiction, maybe the courts can hear it. they have concluded this is outside of their power. this is an article two issue, it belongs to the president as classifier in chief to revoke or grant the security clearances. his power derives from the constitution and the executive order, and he can bypass the procedure if he wants to if
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there is a national security issue, which is why he has that language in his statement about it being a national security issue. or he claims that i just have the inherent power to do so. >> so based on what danny just said, the reasons for being able to do this, the fact that he says he never respected brennan, is that grounds? >> the president invested in many powers as the executive and the commander in chief. when george washington took that position, he did not take it and build this government so a president could act like a tyrant and use and abuse the powers. we're seeing a very clear abuse
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of basic administrative functions. next thing you know, he could say i want a review of john brennan's taxes. i want a review of whether or not he is working for the russians, let's put him under surveillance. they have never really been abused before in this way. this is not a slippery slope. we're down the slope now. anyone with a top secret security clearance or higher can be intimidated into speaking the way the president wants because he want its done. >> so danny, brennan -- rather the president told the wall street journal that brennan is on the hit list, if you will, because they are responsible for the russian probe which he calls the rigged witch hunt. >> potentially, if they're
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construed as another form of obstruction of justice, then yes. the corrupt intent behind security clearances is to protect the self. that is the kind of thing that makes the difference between a perfectly valid executive action, taken for a proper purpose, and an improper one taken for what the law calls a corrupt purpose. >> danny, how hard is that to prove? >> to prove intenth, you have two different -- >> intent and the corrupt interest. >> you two different arenas where it could come up. the criminal contest, it is important to know that the framers, when they define impeachable opportunities, it is not felonies and misdemeanors, the word high modified official. it means abuse of official
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power. so the high crimes and misdemeanors don't even require an actual crime like in the federal crimes code, but rather a severe enough abuse of official power, irrespective of perceived intent could potentially qualify. >> okay, very good to get your take on all of this. the new report at omarosa and her staff, what she calls proof to back up the claims in her new book. why it's not just audio the white house needs to worry about. -morning. -morning. -what do we got? -keep an eye on that branch. might get windy. have a good shift. fire pit. last use -- 0600. i'd stay close. morning. ♪ get ready to switch. protected by flo. should say, "protected by alan and jamie." -right? -should it? when you bundle home and auto... run, alan! get more than just savings. you get 'round-the-clock protection. alright guys let's go!
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form er v eer cia director brennan slamming those in the gop that are giving trump a pass about taking his security clearance. >> i'm very surprised. a lot of the members of congress that i know well, they are turning a blind eye and making excuses for someone that doesn't deserve to be given this type of leash. >> how desperate is he going to get? and do republicans really want to have to clean up after a disaster? or do they want to stop this before it becomes disastrous. it is their choice. if things become disastrous, it
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will be on their shoulders, on their conscious. >> joining me now, a congressional reporter for the hill, and blake, welcome to you both. ladies first, i want to go right to the point that director brennan is making there. he is criticizing brennan saying the actions are within his authority, do they just not see him as a sympathetic figure. is that why there is remarkable silence? >> i think there is a few things going on here. brennan himself has been very outspoke enand krit a of the president. that is one of the reasons that they have been more sympathetic to the president's actions. but they just don't want to poke the bear. they often face backlash on capitol hill, a nasty tweet or him coming after them in their
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primary races, initially paul ryan said the president is trolling here. the security clearance, brian's office had nothing further to add. i think if the president does continue to revoke clearances, it is under consideration, it could be more problematic, it is really uncharted territory. it is murky whether or not he has the authority to do that. it is seen as a political weapon, we'll have to wait and see what the reaction is when they return from recess. >> you're saying the republicans are afraid to draw this president's -- >> the president's officials, the dni coats, and at a time
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when bruce orr who is one of their own serving in the doj targeted by the president, we're not hearing from them. >> this is a pattern with this administration. they are not willing to question him publicly. they have declined to comment on this. i think director coats office put out word that he was not consulted on this issue. he distanced himself, but certainly not in public the way he did a few weeks back after the putin summit. >> let's get back to how white house officials are planning to use the letters like the one they wrote as part of a roll out to distract from negative stories that could happen at any
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given time. talk about the calculation of these efforts. >> the timing is no coincidence. omarosa is making the media rounds, promoting her book that has a lot of salacious accusations including that the president said the n word on tape during the apprentice. but look, i think the president is very energized. he is excited to do the same going forward. i would not be surprised to see this continue to be trotted out especially as we see more negative headlines and omarosa continues to make the rounds.
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>> so blake, talk about the thinking in the white house. the president is tieing these security revocations to person reasons and the russian investigation and personal matters. there is nothing out there that says he compromised national security by doing this or is aing -- saying this. is everyone on board with? >> he is implying that he knows some secrets. >> wouldn't we assume that he knows some secrets? that is a given. >> right, i think what the white house wants to say is that brennan is sort of implying that he knows things but he is making inferences based on what he sees playing out in the public severe. then you have the president saying out loud in an interview
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with the wall street journal, he says i went after him because of the russia probe. it reminds me of the lester holt interview where he says he fired james comey because of the russia probe. >> can we talk about the expensive military parade. the money that we put out there was our estimation. how because does this look? >> when he feels attacked, he punches back. he sent out that tweet the other day, but the truth is it was not just the mayor of dc, the pentagon was really worried about this, allocating resources, and congressional republicans were uneasy about
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tanks rolling around dc like dictators have them do. >> he attacked mayors of several cities. dc has a budget surplus, and it is a well run city after a number of years of problems. >> good to see you both, thanks, guys. next the trump voters that could help make a blue wave happen on capitol hill, a new report on the economy, robust growth for the rest of the year, and the states where your dollar ghost furthest. mississippi, alabama. and you get the least in ohihaw,
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new this morning, a washington post report that the white house drafted documents to allow the revoke of more
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security clearances. they expect them to be coming up, joining me now is a democratic congressman. does it matter if john brennan has his security clearance? >> of course it matters. we have over 60 security experts, officers, from both of the aisle come paining about this. he is not revealing can classified information to the american people, he is gives his pin about very important things across the world. this is just another attempt by the trump administration to
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sidestep the mueller investigation. it is the same as the mueller investigation. >> does it bother you that he sighs the revocation of the security clearance to the investigati investigation? >> there have been four charges, 25 russian nationals inincluding 25 russians, so the mueller investigation is moving ahead very vigorously. so there is a read hears and they're trying to divert tension. >> but the president says i don't respect this guy's opinion, does he have the right to, is it right, generally to
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say i don't want him to have access. >> i want to know what he thinks about north korea and russia. it is so troubling that russia continues to impact democracies across the world. i think that clearly there is a problem there. we want to hear from brennan. we want to hear from other experts as to how they feel we're moving forward with these problematic regions around the world. >> he is tweeting about this so-called witch hunt over 100 times. he wants to discredit the investigation but it is moving forward and of continues to
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charge and diet people. >> the way the white house is weighing in on all of this, saying it will honor border patrol, ice agents, and the like later this month. i know you lead the unsuccessful push in congress to abolish i.c.e. why do you think the white house is doing this. >> first we want to restructure i.c.e. and they go back to their original mission. >> not abolish? >> we want to restructure. 60% of the resources are being spraet thd to separaused to sep from her baby. that is not what ice was intended to be p.
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>> they are extending to the deportation of separated families. 356 kids have parent that's are already deported. the reunification efforts, how are they going in your mind? >> the trump had min straadmini failed to meet the deadlines that were instructed by a federal court. there is over 360 parents that are deported. we don't know anything about the where abouts of their parent. we brought a mom together this week that she had to fly from los angeles to new york city to get back with her children. the trump administration has failed to meet this instruction. children under five should meet
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with their parents by july 10th. they have failed this now. i think we are a shame in how we separated them. >> let's get to midterms. there is a record number of women running for office. we have 40% of democratic nominees being women compared to 13% of republican nominees. what has made so many women come forward to say they're going to put their neck out there and run. >> it is a lot of encouragement that women come out. our government should be more like the determimographics of o
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country. >> thank you for joining me, enjoy the little league game in a you're going to. >> first, what late night makes of omarosa's media blitz. >> she has written a a salacious new wobook with details that yo already knew. omarosa says she walked in on trump eating a piece of paper. >> for a guy that says he always hires the right people doesn't really hire the have the right people, does he?
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discounted hotel rates when you add on to your trip. only when you book with expedia. is this stale normal day at the office? >> why are we learning this now? >> buckle up, stay with us. >> what happens if he wants to do something in terms of a military venture, right? this wag the dog scenario, a way to gain attention, as things get increasingly tough for him, how desperate will he become, what else will he do to distract attention. >> john brennan saying that top white house communication team staffers have discussed the
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optimum times to release documents to revoke security clearances from officials to distract from unfavorable media. our guests now include joe watkins and rick tyler. hello, kids, good saturday morning to all of you. good to see you, jill, i want to start with you, you worked at the white house. how much of a departure is this from standard practices there? >> this is very much a departure. the president for whom i worked revokes security clearances, we used them to provide information to folks coming in and to be an asset to them. so i'm not sure, president
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george h. bush or george h.w. bush did not revoke security clearances from officials, that is new. >> rick, listen to this audio. >> the fact that he is using a security clearance of a former cia director as a pawn in his public relations, i think it is just so reflective of somebody who quite frankly, i don't want to use this term maybe, but he is drunk on power. the country is in a crisis in terms of what he has done and is liable to do. are the republicans on the hill who have given him a pass, are they waiting for a disaster to happen before they find their ba backbones and spines? >> so they coupled that with republicans currently, do you think they're shurking their
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responsibilities to act as a check on the president here? >> i do, but it is a little unclear. first of all, the president has unequivocal supreme court decision to decide who has clearance or not, it is unprecedented that the president would take this action. and he told the press secretary to go out and put james comey's name on that list. james comey's clearance has been revoked when he was fired. so it was clearly intended to embarrass him. another was fred orr. his wife works for an organization that created a
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document against donald trump for the russian investigation. also a previous intelligence agent that add connections with the fbi, and he would have had some connection with christopher steel. he is in this horrendous conspiracy theory, and you would have to believe in them that bruce orr started the russian investigation. it is insane. >> i have yet to see proof that bruce orr's actions, a conversation reaching out via e-mail or anything that he did with christopher steel resulted in anything of substance. >> right, and the president calls this are rigged witch hunt. the witch hunt is orr and steel
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undermining the president to create this whole -- it is just absolutely false and not true. the russian investigation started back in july because ge papadopolos met with a russian agent. that started it. it had nothing to do with bruce ohr but he wants to create a boogeyman to fit into a narrative of a deep state out to get him. it's just -- so i think brennan's comments are wanted. that people should worry about what the president will do if he's willing to ruin an fbi agent's credibility because he needs someone to fulfill his political narratives. >> even more than that. last question about ohr to you. if he revokes his security clearance, does that not keep him from being able to do his job effectively. thereby face demotion or a complete firing from his job? >> yes.
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he wouldn't be able to worm his job, would probably lose his job or take on some role, and that's a clear abuse of power. we have checks and balances on the president. one is voters going to the polling place and believe me, voters historically love to check power. they love to check presidents and congresses by voting the opposite party in. we'll see if that happens in november. >> so you're well aware, many say the president's move to revoke john brennan's security clearance an attempt to silence critics and could have a chilling effect on free speech. a columnist for "bloomberg" with this quote. far from trying to silence brennan he's elevating him. a man who approaches politics like professional wrestling, happy to play the villain if it energizes his base and for trump brennan is a perfect adversary. what's your read on this? >> i think the president needs someone to fight with at all
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times, and i think the danger that it poses is the fact that it's distracting him. he seems to be always distracted, but particularly this is a distraction from the myriad problems going on in the country right now and in the world. right? just went to nato, fought with all nato allies. a horrible performance in helsinki. we still have 500 children on the border not reunited with their parents. i think the president likes to have these petty fights when he's facing challenges, real challenges, that he can't necessarily tackle. i also would add, though, in terms of bruce ohr. interesting here is you see the president calling him very, very harsh personal insaumults sayin bruce ohr is a disgrace. going back in recent memory and look what president trump said about rob porter, who had been allegedly, beat two of his wives. john kelly said that rob porter
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was a man of true honor and integrity and the president said he was a good man who worked really hard and rumors he wanted rob porter back in the white house. bruce ohr is a part of the deep state and a disgrace, rob porter a man of true integrity tells you all you need to know about how president trump views his political adversaries and allies. he's calling somebody who's been a career official a disgrace and that i think is very alarming. >> can we add, speaking of alarming, the way the president called omarosa a dog this week. beyond the pale. i want to get to omarosa. rick, start with you. the president wants to distract from stories out there. notably the drip, drip, drip from omarosa newman. not only audio recordings, videos, text messages and our
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documentations to support her new book "unhinged." the "new york times" reports could have as many as 200 audio recordings. say you're in the white house. how do you handle this? >> you'd have to read her book, assume everything in there, she has a backup tape on. look, if you are a critic of donald trump or say just not rooting for him, omarosa is not your best witness. it's really a mixed bag, but, look, he invited her into the white house, knew who she was and this is the result and it's coming back to bite him and omarosa is, i think, taking a lesson probably from michael avenatti, who learned how to dribble things out and capture media attention. the president also does this. plays this game. he decides, in fact is using the security clearances, he's going to revoke when necessary. they mean by when necessary, when they want to distract from something else. omarosa is also playing this
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game. sad, sad affair when so many things are happening in the world and the positive sense that we're dealing with a really childish trivia on a daily basis. >> joe, take a listen to how white house press secretary sarah huckabee sanders addresses the question that's coming out of omarosa's recordings. one in particular. watch this. >> can you stand at the podium and guarantee the american people we'll never hear donald trump utter the n word on a recording in any context? >> i can't guarantee anything, but i can tell you that the president addressed this question directly. i can tell you that i've never heard it. >> what do you make of that, joe? >> boy, unfortunate that that has to be said of an american president and that sarah sanders couldn't say unequivocally there would never be a tape with his voice saying that word, but she -- she was doing the best she could, i think, trying to be honest about it. unfortunate. unfortunate for the nation and also underscores the fact there
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are no people of color in the white house. again, you know, unemployment may be dropping for african-americans, in the white house absence has risen significantly. unfortunate. bad times. >> speaking of sad times, passing of the queen of soul and legacy there of aretha franklin. joe, you had personal connections to her. what did her life mean to you personally? >> she sang with her heart and her soul and it wasn't just a matter of having a great voice, because she had a great voice. the way she sang and the way the words moved you is what really meant something to everybody. certainly to me. if you ever had a chance to hear her perform in person, you couldn't help but be moved by every song she sang. sometimes even moved to tears. tears sometimes to joy and laughter. but you could feel it all in her voice when she sang. we will miss her. my friend, cissy houston was a
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backup singer for aretha franklin, loved her, and so did whitney houston for whom i used to work. she loved aretha franklin and she'll be missed. i still love her music and it's hard to listen to the music without being moved. she'll be missed. >> watches the television, kennedy center honors got up and performed, i started crying. half the people in the audience crying, standing on their feet. and what about her contributions? what did that mean to you? >> really my first feminist hero i think growing up. r-e-s-p-e-c-t, you can spell it at an early age and singing along not realizing what you're singing. she represented a strong black woman and vulnerability for me as a little girl growing up. i didn't have a lot of examples of black women who were excelling and reaching dreams. she was a big role model in my life growing up. >> i know she will be missed by
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all three of you, and so many of our viewers here this morning. good to see you guys, as always. thank you. >> thanks. coming deciding the fate of paul manafort and what this could mean for the president.
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